Comment Rescue: Once More, with Feeling

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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  1. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    Dear Jason, I agree with just about every one of the *compromised* policies you lay out above.

    ***
    End the War on Drugs.
    Empty the prisons of nonviolent drug offenders.
    For the hard stuff, do like Portugal did, and adopt a public health approach.

    End the War on Terror.
    Rescind the president’s free-floating warmaking power,
    Bring the troops home and put these smart, talented people to work in the United States instead, in the private sector.

    Close Gitmo and the secret prisons, end the extraordinary renditions, the military commissions, and the assassinations.

    Let the court system do the job it was intended to do, to separate the guilty from the innocent the best we know how.

    Simplify the tax code, simplify zoning and land use requirements, simplify occupational licensing and business regulations. (Note: here is likely to be where we disagree. But only in terms of what “simplify” ultimately ends up meaning–that is, I’m totally for all of these things in theory, even if we disagree in how that should shake out in practice, which isn’t too bad really).

    Shorten copyright and patent terms, and restrict the range of patentable “innovations.”
    ***

    If I could get half of those things, I would give up ACA in a heartbeat (which is why I didn’t vote for Obama).

    Of course, since we agree on most of these things, it’s unlikely we’ll ever have much reason to discussm them, which is why it might appear that we spend more time disagreeing about, say, the nature of “rights,” and the merits of negative income taxes.Report

    • Avatar Roger says:

      Ethan and Jason (and Jaybird),

      Everyone knows I lean classical liberal, and obviously have no love of a war on drugs. However, I am not sure a free market in crack, heroin or meth leads to a better world. My guess is the optimal approach is somewhere in between.

      That said, what has Portugal done that you are recommending?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        It’s more that I see this being a complaint about everclear in a market where beer and wine are not legal.

        I deeply suspect that if there is a real market for beer and wine, the market for everclear will collapse. Yes, there will still be some people who drink it, but a lot fewer… and, I suspect, fewer than find it a viable choice in a market where beer, wine, and pretty much all alcohol have spotty distribution, spotty dealers, and spotty availability.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          Thanks guys. I support Portugals decriminalization of use. Totally.

          It still appears they have a war on distributers though.

          Another point. In a free markets anyone selling an addictive substance like crack or meth should be subject to lawsuits for gross negligence. When my kid died from overdose, I would sue them for everything they have. Where would this system end?Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            “In a free markets anyone selling an addictive substance like crack or meth should be subject to lawsuits for gross negligence.”

            It’s just like how Jack Daniel’s was sued out of existence after–oh wait, they’re still in business and doing great? Welp.

            Or maybe it’s like how we still have so many people going blind from drinking methanol or formaldehyde–oh, that’s the barest fringe of problems, both by percentage and by absolute numbers? Um.Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              Not sure what your point is. Jack can be drunk responsibly. Do you agree that we should be able to sue marketers of highly addictive drugs? If not, how do you recommend handling them?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Jack can be drunk responsibly.”

                Just like crack can be smoked responsibly.

                “Do you agree that we should be able to sue marketers of highly addictive drugs?”

                Just in case you’re honestly not getting it: No, I don’t agree, because “highly addictive” applies to a lot more than drugs. Should we also sue Cisco because people spend lots of time on the Internet?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Just like crack can be smoked responsibly.

                The evidence doesn’t show that.

                However, we can probably get agreement that decades-old laws that based the severity of mandatory sentencing on whether they were being used by poor blacks (crack cocaine) or trust-fund teenagers and upper class rich folks and rock stars (powder cocaine) are probably wrong.

                Just like we can look back and on the basis of the marijuana laws being, in as many words, to target blacks and hispanics, say we should rethink that policy.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                MA,
                I have on good authority that a ton of highfalutin lawyers use crack responsibly (don’t hire one. they tend to be asses. find one that does pot instead).

                In NYC during the 80’s, crack was something that a LOT of people did, even your high flight folks. (talk to a few folks on dailykos, if youdon’t believe humble old me).

                It’s the same as booze or anything else. some people get screwed up, most don’t.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          I am not convinced that the world will be a better place if we can buy crystal meth at the local circle K.

          I am all for stopping the war on drugs. My guess is the better world exists somewhere in between where we are today and Needle Park.Report

  2. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    Jason, I think the answer to “why do conservatives trust libertarians, while liberals don’t” is that both liberals and conservatives think that the economic issues where you guys side with the right–taxes, spending and health care are the big ones–are more important than the stuff where you agree with liberals. Which makes sense. When you look at the biggest political fights of the last 30 years, they revolve around just a few issues–health care, from Clinton’s proposal to Obamacare; tax cuts vs. tax increases (Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush); levels of government spending (basically nonstop, but especially the Gingrich Revolution, Tea Party, etc). The Iraq War would probably round out the list. But all the stuff you mentioned–copyright terms? Zoning? Even civil liberties and the drug war? I’d bet that most people, including the politically engaged, consider them less important than taxes, spending and entitlements. You can tell, because the political system spends a lot more time arguing about taxes/spending/entitlements than it does about almost any other subject besides a major war. If you side with conservatives on the stuff that government spends most of its time, money and attention on, liberals will feel a natural sense of disconnect even when it comes to issues on which we agree.

    I’m not 100% convinced of this thesis, but I think it has some good explanatory power.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller says:

      Also worth pointing out that until very recently, the prospect of national action on taxes/spending/health care was a lot more realistic than on the liberal/libertarian overlap zone.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

        That may be so. But I would rather free 100,000 drug offenders than cut marginal tax rates for 100,000 millionaires.

        I think both are increases in liberty, but there can’t be any serious dispute about their relative magnitude.Report

        • Avatar Dan Miller says:

          I don’t think it’s indisputable. The top 100K taxpayers are (very roughly) equivalent to the top tenth-of-one-percent, which is a group of 137K tax returns, who earn about $1.5 million or more, according to Wikipedia. Of all the income taxes that flow into the Treasury, about 17% is paid by these folks, for a total of over $100 billion per year. That’s serious money, and adjusting it up or down by 50% would be a serious change. If the choice is “release 100K drug offenders, or fully fund insurance subsidies for that will provide coverage to 30 million people”, that’s a tough choice, at least for me.Report

          • Avatar Dan Miller says:

            (Or to do the equivalent from a libertarian perspective, “release 100K drug offenders, or reduce the burden of taxation by $50 billion per year”).Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

              You’re suggesting — if I’m reading you correctly — that the rest of the nation gains in liberty when we tax the very richest.

              I’d disagree. I’d say the rest of us may gain in material holdings, but not in liberty.

              The richest people seem clearly to be coerced when they are made to pay higher taxes, but that coercion is tiny compared to what drug offenders experience when they’re thrown in prison. Yes, I know “how much coercion?” is a difficult question, and there aren’t units to measure it by. But some calls are easy, and this ought to be one of them.

              And anyway, we could trim $100 billion (or even a whole lot more) from our defense budget and still have a vastly larger and stronger military than anyone else, and a vastly larger and stronger military than we need. We should do that.Report

              • Avatar KatherineMW says:

                I think there’s a good argument that taxing the richest more increases everyone else’s liberty.

                Firstly, even if we weren’t doing anything useful with that tax money, concentrations of wealth tend to produce concentrations of political power, since a very rich person has more ability to influence the political system (not just by supporting candidates, but by hiring expensive and skilled lawyers and lobbyists to push the political system towards actions that favour them). I would argue that a country with more income equality therefore has, all else equal, a higher degree of democracy. If you wanted to increase freedom while keeping revenues constant, increasing taxes on the very rich while lowering them on people with less income in a revenue-neutral way would be one method of doing so. (It would also increase overall well-being, since a poorer person gets more utility out of an additional dollar than a rich person, in keeping with economic theories on marginal utility.)

                Secondly, since we are in fact not taking that tax money and throwing it into the sea, it funds things that increase the freedom of others. Improving schools and funding universities increases access to quality education and thus the freedom to expand one’s skills, upgrade the quality of one’s labour, and thus increase one’s life opportunities. Increasing access to health care gives one increased freedom by increasing, though better health, their capacity to pursue whatever activities they choose. Improving public transit gives people who can’t afford or don’t want a car more freedom to get around.Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                Democracy is anathema to liberty, at least on an individual by individual basis.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Isn’t that just an instance of a truism: government is anathema to liberty?

                And isn’t the absence of government also anathema to liberty?

                Isn’t the trick to maximize liberty according to a certain metric?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                It’s good to see “liberty” being discussed by liberals and libertarians.

                I think there’s a good argument that taxing the richest more increases everyone else’s liberty.

                OTOH, it gets frightening at times. This is FDR’s conflation of “freedom” with liberty, Freedom from Want, a perversion of the concept of liberty.

                The argument for liberty is that’s it’s a self-evident good, or at least a utilitarian one. Otherwise it’s just one more civil commodity. “Freedom from Want” comes with beaucoup strings attached, and it should.

                God bless the child who’s got his own. That is liberty.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Freedom from Want, a perversion of the concept of liberty.

                Oh really?

                Someone who can act to create a small business, clear from fear that one simple illness can utterly destroy them financially because they won’t have health insurance if they quit their day job to start the business, has liberty in that sense?

                Someone who’s living hand-to-mouth, caught in the (relative) expense of living poor, has the same liberty as someone living middle class or higher?

                No. That’s where strict-libertarianism falls down. It fails to look at the scope of ensuring a maximum amount of liberty for ALL parties and ignores the problems, coercive forces and diminishment of liberty created when liberty for the upper end is maximized first.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                You’re using the same words like “liberty” and “freedom” but the meanings are a universe apart. What you describe isn’t liberty atall, each of us in thrall to each other via the state.

                What you describe is nice and might even be desirable, but it is not liberty.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                You’re using the same words like “liberty” and “freedom” but the meanings are a universe apart.

                Exactly, but I’m using real meanings that apply in the real world.

                God bless the child who’s got his own. That is liberty.

                To paraphrase: “FYIGM.”Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                I’m not a libertarian, but you just showed the absurdity of these “discussions.” Liberals simply do not discuss liberty in any meaningful fashion, and libertarians just want to be liked by the liberals who despise them so tend to avoid the concept as well.

                Liberty as a self-evident good that enhances human dignity and eudaemonia, and as a utilitarian good ala the “invisible hand” and the self-organizing system is the essential way for the libertarian to argue, not mere indictment of the status quo.

                For the modern liberal, the irony is his emphasis more on the “order” part of the “ordered liberty” part of the classical liberal equation, for “fairness” as a cardinal civic virtue is achievable only by near-total coercion and imposition of a new “order.”

                At least the conservatives are unapologetic about the “order” part, and indeed are far more libertarian in the economic liberty department, willing to trade a bit of unfairness for the robust economic plenty created by true liberty, as opposed to the constipating quality of FDR’s version of “freedom.”

                God bless the child who’s got his own. That is liberty.

                Like it or not.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Liberals simply do not discuss liberty in any meaningful fashion,

                No, we discuss it in quite meaningful fashion, it’s you who perverts the meaning. Liberal thought is about maximizing liberty for all concerned, which often means assisting those who are economically so far down the ladder that their liberty is curtailed by other forces.

                Liberty as a self-evident good that enhances human dignity and eudaemonia, and as a utilitarian good ala the “invisible hand” and the self-organizing system is the essential way for the libertarian to argue, not mere indictment of the status quo.

                Oh goody. Magical Market Fairies.

                the irony is his emphasis more on the “order” part of the “ordered liberty” part of the classical liberal equation

                Not in the slightest. I’m concerned with liberty, the ability of each person to act with maximum agency and choice. EACH, not just the fish-holes at the very top.

                for “fairness” as a cardinal civic virtue is achievable only by near-total coercion and imposition of a new “order.”

                Your premise is invalid. Fairness does not require maximal coercion and imposition of “new order”, it requires a set of rules and an appropriate enforcement of those rules.

                The problem with your entire theory is that you want to create a system that is not and cannot be self-stabilizing. Libertarianism’s magical market fairies can only move the ball one way, towards a situation of maximal disparity.

                The entire tenet of Liberalism is to create a situation tending towards, not away from, stability. The system returns to the same level, hopefully an appropriate and sustainable level, of disparity which maximizes liberty throughout the system.

                Libertarianism and “free market faeries” conservatism create a system of absolute instability; it cannot hold.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Freedom from Want, a perversion of the concept of liberty.

                The argument for liberty is that’s it’s a self-evident good

                Freedom from Want (as FDR meant it) sure strike me as a self-evident good. I think everyone should be free from want. Don’t you?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Stillwater,

                I don’t think it’s self-evident. I think it’s a desire, not an a priori right. That is, I don’t think any of us can make a claim on others to provide us with what it takes to be free from want. That’s the essential problem libertarians have with positive liberties. Negative liberties don’t demand that you do anything for me, they just demand that you leave me the fish alone. So they don’t give me a claim on you. Positive liberties demand that you do something for me; they do give me a claim on you. It’s that idea that any of us can make such a claim on others that libertarians reject.

                Without trying to argue that you should agree with me on it, I think that’s a pretty fundamental level difference between liberals and libertarians.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Stillwater said it was a self-evident good not a right. I don’t think I can argue with that.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Well, do you think libertarians would argue that it’s not a good in its own right? But if the question is whether it’s relevant to liberty, that’s a lot less self-evident, isn’t it?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Katherine,

                I would suggest that the income tax should be set up impartially to reduce the inherent tendency for people to lobby congress as winners and losers. Asking someone else, especially someone who pays WAY more than their proportionate share today, to pay more, seems inherently antagonistic. Said another way, I think it is immoral or at least dangerously leaning toward abuse for me to demand that someone else pay more for collective benefits. I suspect a bad dynamic.

                Instead I would argue for something like a set tax of 25% of all wages subject to a large personal deduction, of lets say $25,000. This would make the income tax both progressive and more fair. We could then argue about raising or lowering the rate for everyone or the deduction, but stop the rationalizing, demonizing and politics of envy that we have today.

                I also believe that higher incomes left in personal hands leads to private capital investments. Thus the argument for more money for public goods is coming out of more money for private goods, which is invested substantially more efficiently than public spending.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                (Jumping in mid-thread so I apologize if I am off base but, here goes…)

                I have a theory that all tax rates should change proportionally. An example…

                Assume three tax brackets, 10%, 20%, and 30%.

                Taxes need to be raised. Everyone’s tax RATE goes up 10%. So 10% becomes 11%, 20% becomes 22%, and 30% becomes 33%. Everyone pitches in more, a relatively equal amount.

                But then taxes can be dropped. Everyone’ tax RATE goes down 20%. So 11% becomes 8.8%, 22% becomes 17.6%, and 33% becomes 25.4%.

                The ideas behind it:
                A) Everyone’s taxes go up or down together. This also means it is REALLY important to get those initial brackets/rates correct.
                B) It remains progressive.
                C) No one must lose so that others gain. I’m not raising YOUR taxes so I can LOWER mine. We’re ALL having our taxes go up or down; it’s just that if you make more, yours goes up more or down more, etc.

                Now, there might be mathematical reasons this breaks down and I’m sure folks can poke all sorts of holes in it but, assuming we can get the basic brackets in order (and I don’t suggest 10/20/30 as realistic brackets), I see no reason not to strive to lower or raise everyone’s taxes together.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Kazzy,

                I like the spirit of what you say. It seems like a better approach.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Roger,

                Definitely some kinks to work through (including the basic math error up there… should be 26.4%) but the broader idea that most broad based changes should be universal is a sound one.

                My solution to the debt ceiling “crisis” was that, absent an ability to come up with a sustainable solution, everyone’s taxes go up X% and everyone’s spending gets cut Y%. Apolitical, yes, and not necessarily fair but, hey, if we’re all fucking up, we all pay the costs. A “We’re all in this together” mentality works both ways.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                K,

                I like the way we all get in the same boat.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Congrats Kazzy, you just outlined the Romney tax plan. But it’s good now, cause a liberal thought of it.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Ward,

                Did Romney have a tax plan?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                The problem with this is that static costs and minimum costs move more than the costs for the upper level.

                Where would you move the line? If economic indicators said to move it 3%, but the static costs of living that everyone has to use (electrical bills, water, gas, basic food) went up by 5%, you’ve just screwed the poor.

                In fact, this is a lot of what’s been going on even now. The Bush tax cuts and EITC are interesting cases that haven’t kept up with inflation even as they made it so the right wing complainers can kvetch and whine about the percentage who pay no “income tax” (ignoring all the other very real taxes, many quite regressive, that are also paid).

                And all the while, this happens.

                A rising tide isn’t lifting all boats equally or even nearly equally; it’s only lifting the very wealthy at the expense of everyone else, in very real terms because the immense pull of those top 1% who are now controlling not just almost 20% of the income, but a much higher percentage of the raw wealth already collected in their hands, which crowds out and minimizes the purchasing power of the working hours of economic actors lower down.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Yes. invested in China. Are you okay with that?Report

              • Avatar KatherineMW says:

                Asking someone else, especially someone who pays WAY more than their proportionate share today, to pay more, seems inherently antagonistic.

                The rich don’t pay “way more than their proportional share”. Their share of total tax payments is roughly proportional to their share of total income, and I think that’s excluding capital gains (which are taxed at a much lower rate, and which make a larger share of wealth people’s money) and sales taxes (which make up a larger share of lower-income people’s costs).

                Our economic system is not remotely impartial. The amount you make is not proportional to either the amount you work or the degree to which you contribute to society. The way the economic system is set up benefits certain people over others. Either that system can be completely deconstructed and a more equitable one set up, or as an inferior but less disruptive alternative, the people who benefit the most from the way the current one is set up should pay more into maintaining it in a way that’s at least minimally functional for everyone.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Katherine,

                The top one percent make 17% of total income and pay over double that share in income taxes. The top ten percent make 47% and again pay almost double that in share of income taxes. What data are you using?

                I suggest we pray they start making even more. Right now, you and I appear to be free riding on these people. If I write the thank you note, will you sign it?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Roger,
                you’re looking at weird data. You look at the top 1% of income tax payers, and then say, “look the rich pay a lot” — of course, you just made a tautology.
                I look at the 100,000 cap on SS & medicare, PLUS the capital gains “tax” and I say, “the megarich don’t pay jack shit.”

                Increase the cap on SS&medicare, and tax capital gains as income, and I’ll be a happy camper.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Once you throw in largely regressive state, local, and other taxes, the tax burden is actually remarkably flat. Also, if the top 1% had less of the total wealth in this country, they’d pay less taxes. To quote the ole’ Willie Sutton line, that’s where the money is.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                The top one percent make 17% of total income and pay over double that share in income taxes. The top ten percent make 47% and again pay almost double that in share of income taxes. What data are you using?

                The bottom 50% are earning a maximum of $33k/year. Doesn’t even matter if you are filing single-no-dependents at that point, you’re not making a lot of money and you are not going to pay a lot of taxes thereby.

                In 1986, the top 1% only took in 11% of the income. They’re sucking up more now than they did then.

                All you’ve done, Roger, is lie with numbers. You don’t want to discuss real income disparity, you don’t want to discuss the ever-growing problems that prevent mobility and that stagnated the earning power of most so that your happy upper crust can take ever more.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                What about if you include payroll, medicare, and sales taxes, Roger?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Critics from the left,

                I stated that those making higher income pay a disproportionate share of the income tax today and thus it is problematic to ask them to pay an even higher income tax burden. It is antagonistic and reeks of envy. I supported the underlying fact when questioned.

                I also clearly suggested a process which is both fair and less antagonistic. Kazzy added on to the idea. Thus your comments on SS and such miss the point.

                Yes, we are all going to have to pay more taxes to pay for our inability to spend wisely. Let’s move forward in a way which doesn’t degrade into tax warfare and envy.

                Remember also, we depend upon the wealthy both for their taxes and for their reinvestments in the capital infrastructure that makes us well off. The wealthy are not in general making money by stealing it from others. They are creating wealth, and in most cases are enriching us via positive sum interactions. There are exceptions to this, but you an I already know what they are so please don’t bother snarking me with them.

                PS would you guys please help police MA? He embarrasses you.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Roger,
                MA’s rather upset. I was too when I got here. He does a better job of summoning facts than I did.
                I’d sacrifice a lot for a 90% inheritance tax. It’s not the entrepreneurs I worry about, it’s the Romney’s. The people who have never worked a day in their life (other than being a shyster)Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Would you guys please help police Roger? He embarrasses you.

                Yes, we are all going to have to pay more taxes to pay for our inability to spend wisely. Let’s move forward in a way which doesn’t degrade into tax warfare and envy.

                Ooh, I hit my Conservative Bullshit Bingo Card!

                “tax warfare and envy” – because after you add up the fact that the bottom 50% are making crap wages to start with, the fact that they are inordinately hit by regressive state taxation schemes and fees, the fact that they are inordinately hit by the broken medical system and regularly bankrupted should one member of a family have to spend even one night in a hospital, the fact that they live paycheck to paycheck…

                Remember also, we depend upon the wealthy both for their taxes and for their reinvestments in the capital infrastructure that makes us well off.

                And that makes them morally better? Hardly.

                There was plenty of reinvestment – arguably more – in the 1950s when tax rates were much, much higher than they are today. It is trivial to show that lower tax rates on the wealthy increase income disparity and thus, by decreasing the purchasing power of the lower rungs, cause there to be less jobs for those lower down on the ladder.

                Multiplier effect has shown time and again: tax cuts to the wealthy have a negative effect and suck money out of the economy, rather than encouraging economic activity.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Kim, why were you upset? Seems like a good forum to learn from others.

                I agree tax rates and SS need to go up, but I don’t feel right demanding Romney’s kids pay. Their inheritance is theirs, not Congresses. Furthermore I suspect they will do more good with it than the average congress person.

                Do you guys not see the dangers of asking, no strike that, demanding that someone else pays more? Someone who already pays more? Do you not see the benefits of what your fellow leftie Kazzy suggests as a more collectively responsible way is?

                Let me put it another way. If some of us can get government goodies while passing the bill to others, we are going to establish a self destructive dynamic. I find this approach distasteful and counterproductive.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Would you guys please help police Roger?

                THIS IS HOW LIBERALS ACTUALLY THINKReport

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Jaybird, I’ve provided sources, you’ve provided… what, exactly?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Roger,
                I actually agree with you. That’s why I advocate against 0% capital gains taxes.
                The most inventive people I know aren’t wealthy, though they’ve started a lot of businesses/non-profits/collaborations.

                As to why I was angry? I still am, actually.

                Watching smart people die even with insurance, because they couldn’t afford to actually get diagnosed with anything. And then watching people whimper and whine about how Obamacare infringes on their freedom.

                Watching economic terrorists (Bush’s treasury sec’s term not mine) stage a takeover of congress, and threaten to collapse our entire economy, not to mention Breton Woods II!

                And I’m not even going to get into the stuff of a more personal nature, other than to state that grassroots is not astroturf.

                Watching everyone who wasn’t part of the elite lose money, lose their retirements, as the elite made a profit? Gets me steamed.

                Watching people sing the praises of a vulture capitalist conman who’s never had to deal with contradictory opinions? Gets me steamed.

                So pardon us if folks like MA and me want to shout and be a little unproductive. It’s called stress relief.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Oh… I didn’t see how Roger pulled that card out first.

                I apologize, M.A.

                Roger: Don’t pull that crap.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                MA,
                Jay’s providing a JOKE, intended to defuse hostilities.
                I suggest you laugh, it was quite funny to me.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Roger you’re fighting the good fight, but your opponents have zero concept of Queensbury rules. Being “liberals” they can and will claim the moral high ground while simultaneously kicking you in the nuts. It is an old song, what with the one note and all.

                Meantime to deconstruct all the crap in here let’s look at some other stats.

                1) More than 3 million Sub S filers today, a number which has been growing every year since the designation was first modified. Hence digging up old statistics won’t help because they refer to a time before the Sub S corp existed in its current guise. There was a time when it would have been absolutely INSANE to organize as a Sub S corp because the tax laws totally attacked high income earners. When Reagan turned that around intelligent people flocked to the “new” designation.

                2) 137K “millionaire” filers are made up of 112,340 Sub S filers representing over 20,000,000 EMPLOYEES. Let’s hammer the Sub S owners so they can get rid of those stinking employees and see how high our taxes get. Whoops.

                3) Raising tax rates is not an algebraic formulation. Because businesses and individuals modify their behavior accordingly. Therefore saying, “We’re taking in $100B today, let’s raise the tax 50% and we’ll have $150B tomorrow” has NEVER worked. But since the definition of insanity is trying the same thing again and again expecting a different result, well it is no wonder the libs embrace such a mechanism.

                4) Stealing from Peter to pay Paul will invariably result in the support of Paul. A neat summary of our last and all future elections. We have already crossed the threshold between the makers and the takers Roger and you’re arguing against ignorance and blindness in the way of the world. The only “equality” possible will be when everyone is “equally” miserable and poor. Except the plutocrats “managing” things, they’ll manage like the plutocrats in China to accumulate vast wealth, all the while claiming they have the best interests of the plebeians at heart.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                Once you throw in largely regressive state, local, and other taxes, the tax burden is actually remarkably flat.

                The regressivity of state and local taxes is a myth, largely an artifact of the fact that income tends to vary far more over the course of a lifetime than consumption. If we were to look at the relationship between lifetime income and lifetime payment of state and local taxes, it would likely be somewhat progressive. It only looks regressive on an annual basis because people who are spending down their savings, like retirees, have no income but pay sales and property taxes.

                And can we please stop with this “Social Security is regressive” bullshit? If it’s so regressive, then the you’re all in favor of abolishing it, right?

                I didn’t think so.

                The truth is that paying Social Security taxes isn’t like paying income taxes. When you pay Social Security taxes, the government credits you with the payment and increments your scheduled benefits accordingly. As the tax is capped, so are the benefits, and the formula is such that the less money you make, and the less you pay in, the better a deal it is for you.

                Until you’re ready to call for the abolition of Social Security, stop with the crocodile tears.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Kimmi,

                Can those of us trying to have a discussion get a list of those trying to pursue stress relief? Maybe we could get color coded name tags.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Roger,
                people who aren’t trolls tend to mix their stress relief with their actual content. you did it yourself upthread.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                “Secondly, since we are in fact not taking that tax money and throwing it into the sea, it funds things that increase the freedom of others. Improving schools and funding universities increases access to quality education and thus the freedom to expand one’s skills, upgrade the quality of one’s labour, and thus increase one’s life opportunities. Increasing access to health care gives one increased freedom by increasing, though better health, their capacity to pursue whatever activities they choose. Improving public transit gives people who can’t afford or don’t want a car more freedom to get around.”

                That’s an interesting concept — the more we tax rich people, the more freedom that generates for others. I suppose we haven’t taken enough from the rich, yet, since public education isn’t producing skillful, economically liberated students, and the more that government interferes with healthcare through Medicaid, the more doctors are turning down Medicaid, creating less access. Given how much government has spent already on education and healthcare, how much more do they need to take from the rich to generate this freedomn of which you speak? And, how much more public tansportation do we need? I see empty city buses riding all over this town.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                So you’d be okay with more public transportation if people are kept waiting for hours because the buses are full? Because that’s what it looks like around here, on the college routes…
                ‘sides, everyone knows public transportation is cheaper than private vehicles (less road usage).Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                That’s an interesting concept — the more we tax rich people, the more freedom that generates for others.

                Well, it’s true, if you mean “free” as in “free lunch.”Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                HAHAHA.
                Remind me to tell you about some of the free lunch that the rich folks get. In montana, where they build unmaintainable roads (like there’s any other kind?) solely for the purposes of giving a few people a better road out to a resort.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I do believe America gains in liberty when we tax the very richest more than we tax the least of us. For one thing, it means that we can tax the very richest less.

                Having a robust social safety net means less stress for the lowest of us, which means better health outcomes. Which means we have to spend less on health care, which means that we can have the freedom to more efficiently allocate our economic dollars towards More Cool Stuff! (and everybody likes cool stuff, don’t they?)

                And the person who is suddenly able to catch a public bus to work has gained a lot of liberty, vis not being able to get to that job (or half a dozen others outside of walking distance).

                Would you support taxing the richest of us more, if I could show that it would increase liberty for the least of us?Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                I think the disagreement between Kim and Jason here points out a major fault line between libertarians and liberals. When libertarians insist on a rigid negative liberty, liberals immediately start to wonder whether libertarians aren’t just crypto-conservatives, defending privilege with the language of equality and liberty. It’s hard to think of what could be more frightening to a liberal.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                When libertarians insist on a rigid negative liberty, liberals immediately start to wonder whether libertarians aren’t just crypto-conservatives, defending privilege with the language of equality and liberty.

                I have ceased to wonder. There are no real Libertarians on this blog from what I can tell, just crypto-conservatives by your measure.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Roger will defend a social safety net, when the mood suits him (which, apparently, is not when he’s talking with you).
                I suspect his notion of what it is differs from yours, but it isn’t completely radically different.

                And if you needs must find a real Libertarian, I am at your service.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I’ll ask you this then, Kim – I asked the question once way back when I first submitted a guest post long time ago, but you might not have been around.

                Is there, within (your concept of) libertarianism, a possibility of any scenario in which the restriction of “liberty” to one person or a few persons might serve to correspondingly increase liberty for many others?

                I ask this un-facetiously, as it’s one of my biggest complaints with Libertarianism; they will commit to never decreasing the “liberty” of someone who is already immensely high (through whatever means, legal or ethical or not-one or neither) on the economic ladder, while simultaneously insisting that the coercive forces those high on the economic ladder can bring to bear on those much lower down do not count as “true force” because “only government has a monopoly on force.”

                And this seems quite odd to me. “Liberty” is surely curtailed by many larger corporations, those who have become part of oligarchies or monopolies in their field, offering nothing but “take it or leave it” deals at increasingly tilted terms to truly individual actors. The fact that the best deals are reserved for the rich, while being poor can be extremely expensive when expressed as a percentage of what the poor’s income is, is ugly and harmful to society as a whole from where I see it.

                So: is there a point where we can say that yes, the “liberty” of those high on the food chain must be curtailed at least to some extent, in order to increase aggregate liberty throughout society?Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                I mean, I appreciate when libertarians point out how government welfare measures can actually have a detrimental effect on the poor (e.g. Social Security taxing poor and middle classes but mostly funding middle-er class people who live to age 65), but it’s frustrating that this is so often accompanied by Pollyannaish beliefs that property rights are all you need. The libertarians here are pretty unwilling to theorize about structural poverty, and are instead content to wave it away.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I don’t find that unreasonable. Particularly in a society where the rich have far more ability to leave it than the poor.

                And where do the rich flee from? Aruba, Bahamas, places without much in the way of limitations, back to places like Pittsburgh.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                The libertarians here are pretty unwilling to theorize about structural poverty, and are instead content to wave it away.

                Libertarian theory on poverty is that if we removed all government, removed all of what they see as “restrictions”, that somehow the Magical Market Fairies would make all problems go away.

                Take, for example, their insistence that minimum wage is “harmful.” It’s very intriguing to look at. They insist that if the floor price of labor were to be dropped, there would be more jobs – and I have to question what jobs they would be? If they’re expecting a deflationary effect on prices, that’s an economic disaster all its own. If they’re expecting that more people will come out of the work to take those “jobs”, working long hours a week at $4/hour while also working on today’s prices, we’ve just put more people on the poverty rolls anyways.

                The logic fails but that’ll never stop libertarians from insisting that the minimum wage is a “moral wrong” for “impinging on the liberty of the employer to offer whatever wage they want” or similar argumentation.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                MA,
                their theory is that these people will be teenagers, and not newly divorced “outof the workplace for ten years” single moms. And that $4 an hour is better than zero, when your rent is free.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                Actually, I have more time for that kind of argument, M.A.. And I should have been more specific: libertarians are pretty unwilling to theorize about structural poverty outside the context of what they view as “government interference in the market”. Libertarians theorize plenty about how government actions can hurt poor people, and I think this is great and often accurate (there’s some pretty interesting empirical evidence about the minimum wage thwarting economic opportunities for the poor, actually).

                I’m just upset that libertarians stop there and don’t question the ways that government protection of property claims can have distorting effects of its own. I would like to see right-libertarians engage articles like this one, for example: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2154069Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                And where do the rich flee from? Aruba, Bahamas, places without much in the way of limitations, back to places like Pittsburgh.

                I can’t tell if that was meant facetiously or not.

                Currently, there’s a great “sucking sound” in many of the communities in the US. Communities where median income doesn’t meet a certain threshold continually have what little value’s there sucked out of them.

                Going and visiting an older, mostly-black neighborhood in my city, I’m amazed at how many otherwise well-built houses have patched-broken windows and are desperate for a coat of paint. Why? Because the folks living in those houses are mostly elderly. The majority of them didn’t have much income to start with and scraped and saved to get that house and try to do better for their kids. For some it kind of worked, for some it didn’t.

                Try out the same sort of people in a smaller town, where Wal-Mart moved in? Many of them are doing the same job in Wal-Mart that they used to do running the local feed store, the local gas station, the local grocery. The difference? Wal-Mart is paying half the wage and pocketing the rest, a lot less stays local and the few people in town that don’t work at Wal-Mart just making ends meet are now the only people who may have any non-subsistence wages left.

                Ask them why the neighborhood appearance is down? Fixed incomes, the fact that it was the house or the savings but not both. Can’t afford the cans of paint, much less some money to hire someone with a stronger back who can handle the physical labor and time; a 70-year-old woman or man has trouble holding up to the day of painting (not to mention potentially needing access to a 25ft ladder if the house is 2-story).

                It’s not a pride issue, nor are they lazy – many of these people look far older than they are because of how hard they worked and how hard they sacrificed in their younger days.

                Libertarians think these people “got what’s coming to them”, that it’s a natural “market forces” problem. Market forces aren’t going to fix this shit, market forces NEVER fix this shit.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Not facetious at all, MA. I keep my eyes open.
                After all, the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy lives
                just a handful of blocks from me.Report

              • Avatar Major Zed says:

                Hey, Robert Greer

                government protection of property claims can have distorting effects of its own

                I downloaded that paper and started reading it – um, could you save me some time and point me to a page where this is discussed in relatively concrete terms? Up to page 7 it was pretty abstract and I couldn’t see the connection….Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Kim, not if you have a Skype phone number. Then you get those calls. And how.

                (Well, we have Ooma and not Skype, but I suspect it to be about the same as far as that goes.)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                When libertarians insist on a rigid negative liberty, liberals immediately start to wonder whether libertarians aren’t just crypto-conservatives,

                Pretty funny, considering that negative liberty was originally a liberal idea.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                If I may, I just read a student paper saying that in China, all children have a right to a compulsory education. That’s a pretty accurate depiction of how liberals often appear–to me–to think.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Do you really think that this is how dumb or self-contradictory liberalism is?

                Maybe you are more extreme than I thought. (I thought you were in favor of some market regulation, say for large markets, for example.)

                Or maybe you are joking or making a point that I don’t get?

                It seems to me, though, that you’re sending out the sort of attack at liberalism that I think that you don’t think is fair when it is levelled at libertarianism.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                Eh, the socioeconomic landscape is a lot different now than in the time of the classical liberals. It’s easy to argue that modern American liberalism is consistent with the concerns and ideals of classical liberals, albeit tweaked for a different environment.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                It seems to me, though, that you’re sending out the sort of attack at liberalism that I think that you don’t think is fair when it is levelled at libertarianism.

                Funny how that suddenly bothers you.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

                I’m trying to be conciliatory.

                Lord, I’m trying.

                Your claim makes me think Libertarians -even the putative moderates- sometimes talk like extremists. “Anyone who wants regulation of markets, protections for unions, forcing polluters t pay for externalities, a equality of opportunity (construed broadly), and any kind of progressive taxation believes in crazy things like “a right to be compelled.” Down with all regulations and all liberalism! Destroy the new deal, don’t just modify it!

                I know you don’t think all of that (do you?), but the attack on liberalism seems to be an attack on any attempt to justify moderate policies.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Shazbot,

                What distinguishes an over-the-top comment about liberals by a libertarian from an over-the-top comment about libertarians by a liberal?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Look, it’s just this simple. Libertarians take a dim view of government. Liberals don’t. We’re never going to reconcile this dispute: the power to help is also the power to harm. It’s just power, as abstract as the forces of nature. It’s a matter of who holds power and how it’s used.

                The Libertarians don’t understand what they’re asking for and the Liberals seem unwilling to acknowledge the nature of power itself. The Libertarian diktat against government is patently insane, taken in isolation. The Liberal trust in government is misplaced, taken in isolation. Libertarian trust in market solutions is idiocy, taken in isolation. Liberal mistrust of the power of capitalism to improve the world is equally stupid, again, taken in isolation.

                There is a synthesis, but I don’t see the Libertarians willing to offer any ground without a knock-down, drag-out fight. But mostly, I’m sick of the Libertarians constantly redefining every word in the dictionary to suit their purposes. That which annoys us in others annoys them in us. Either we’re going to come to terms, literally, and admit men are not angels, in which case we do need government — or we’re going to go round and round this prickly pear, only growing angrier at each other’s insistence on definitional constraint.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                “Either we’re going to come to terms, literally, and admit men are not angels, in which case we do need government — or we’re going to go round and round this prickly pear, only growing angrier at each other’s insistence on definitional constraint.”

                I admit men are not angels, and I also admit that government is filled with men and women who are not angels. When these men and women who are not angels are given power to control all the rest of us who are not angels, we get corruption, authoritarianism and incompetence. When we create limits on government power, retaining the power to enforce rational laws that protect individual rights, because government is filled with men and women who are not angels, then we set the peaceful structure within which we can work together to solve problems to the best of our ability.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Blaise,

                Your first two paragraphs were great; I’m in perfect agreement. Then in the third you shift to laying the blame all at the feet of the libertarians again.

                For a while there, I thought we actually were making progress.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                When we create limits on government power, retaining the power to enforce rational laws that protect individual rights,

                I wonder how many liberals will actually notice that a libertarian is explicitly arguing for giving government power to enforce laws, and how many will ignore this and continue to repeat the refrain that libertarians are simply opposed to government, period.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I did say that which annoys us in others, etc. You can cast aspersions on my goodwill but I’m telling you plainly, we’re either going to arrive at common definitions or we’ll be forever talking past each other. I wrestled with you about the definitions of markets. You didn’t give an inch. You’re going to believe the cleaner fish are running a market no matter what I say or what the dictionary says.

                And while you continue in this, you’re part of the problem. Maybe we can just call my linear function wherein risk varies directly with the need for regulation the BlaiseP Function. Below a certain threshold, we enter the Hanley Limit, wherein no regulation is needed.

                Until you Libertarians can come to terms with your constant and ongoing problem with specious redefinitions of everything, you’re lost souls. I’m offering you a chance to recognise this is a problem. Either accept it or reject it, as it suits you.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                But mostly, I’m sick of the Libertarians constantly redefining every word in the dictionary to suit their purposes. – BlaiseP

                God bless the child who’s got his, for that is liberty. – TvD

                I say again: Libertarians pervert the meaning of the word liberty.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Are you aware that TvD doesn’t call himself a libertarian? And that we libertarians would agree, he isn’t?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Blaise,

                Set aside the cleaner fish for a moment. For the sake of discussion, I’ll drop that as an example; I’ll give that one to you.

                Here’s my issue. I gave a definition of the market that came right out of the dictionary. And then you claim I am redefining the word, without regard for the dictionary. You, on the other hand, never gave a specific definition, and disagreed with the definition I pulled from a dictionary.

                Can you see why this troubles me?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                the power to enforce rational laws that protect individual rights

                Defined by the Libertarians as “thou shalt not impinge one iota on the liberty of the privileged rich.”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                We’re fortunate that we have M.A. to tell us Muslims libertarians what we really believe. Now we need to just stop lying and admit that we actually are all terrorists really do love the rich and want to help them screw over the poor.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                The problem with you talking in code, Hanley, is that you started and now we have to assume everything you say is in the standard libertarian code.

                I don’t think any of you are really libertarians no matter what you call yourselves. Crypto-conservatives is about right.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                When we create limits on government power, retaining the power to enforce rational laws that protect individual rights, because government is filled with men and women who are not angels, then we set the peaceful structure within which we can work together to solve problems to the best of our ability.

                Sure, not-angels game and abuse the government. The thing is, when you substitute the market for government, and they abuse the market, too! Perhaps if people actually were rational utility maximizers, this wouldn’t be a problem because the market would fix it. The thing is, people aren’t, even people whose job it is to be!

                Look at the post up-thread about the derivatives market and the kind of destruction that unregulated greedy behavior caused. These markets had all of the credit evaluation, short selling, and other market-based mechanisms in place libertarians say will prevent this problem. And yet, it didn’t.

                Most people are really bad at understanding risk, or think that it doesn’t apply to them, even people whose job it is to understand risk!. People who understand risk better can (and do) use this to their advantage to become fabulously wealthy, but it generally hasn’t enough to prevent that behavior from happening.

                That’s why liberals *want* a hybrid system with a well-regulated market. We’ve seen the destruction unregulated markets cause because the people’s inability to really understand risk. We’ve seen plenty of government failures, too, be it of central planning or other governmental systems. So we’ve settled on using market mechanisms when possible and regulating them to make sure risk in them is well managed.

                I actually think that many libertarians probably agree, but when they spend so much time talking about the evils of government and so little time recognizing the shortcomings of markets, it’s sometimes hard to tell.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Here are the societies that seem to be doing really well, by my way of thinking:

                Australia
                Canada
                Hong Kong
                New Zealand
                Singapore
                Switzerland
                United States

                Which one is a “third world” country? (Is this some kind of liberal code?)Report

              • Avatar Crypto-James Hanley says:

                M.A., all I can say is that it’s a good thing we pseudo-libertarians have you around to determine who is and isn’t a real libertarian. You’ve done us a great service through your ability to understand us better than we understand ourselves.

                And to think that I was so foolish that I didn’t realize that supporting SSM, decriminalization of all drugs, and to our policy of invading every country that thumbs their nose at us, and elimination of subsidies for big corporations are actually all conservative policies.

                Wow. It’s so good to start the day off with a hefty dose of enlightenment.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                When you say “end corporate subsidies,” you really mean “support corporate subsidies.”

                Just like we learned earlier — when you say “Kelo was awful” you really mean “Hooray for Kelo!”

                War is peace, freedom is slavery. That kind of thing.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                The thing is, Hanley, when MA interprets MFarmer’s language that way, you have to understand that that’s probably how it comes across to most people who’ve spent time talking politics with libertarians. (And no, I’m not saying MA is representative of the average person or average liberal. Thankfully.)

                So much libertarian talk of government is focused *just* on enforcing property laws and contracts as opposed to other things that we need government for, for example regulating markets, that non-specific talk about government law enforcement still comes across as “make sure I get to keep my stuff”.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                elimination of subsidies for big corporations

                Quick question:

                Are you aware that most big corporation subsidies come in the form o f tax breaks or tax exemptions?

                Are you, or are you not, in favor of lowering corporate tax rates and capital gains rates both?

                “I’m not for subsidizing corporations I’m just for taxing them less”, which is the usual Libertarian line, is just doubletalk.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Kinsella is making a narrow, federalist case. He’s also knowingly being a contrarian, much like the occasional leftie who opposes gay marriage. That’s why he’s got these very, very severe qualifiers right up front:

                The one uncontroversial aspect of this case is that takings of private property by governments — whether at the State or federal level — are unjustified. Period. Takings are flat-out theft. States claim to have the power to seize private property under so-called “eminent domain” or condemnation proceedings. However, such power is usually conditioned on or limited by at least two other requirements: (a) that the taking be for public use (and not merely to benefit some private party); and (b) that the taking be compensated by paying the “fair market value” for the property to the owner. If the taking is uncompensated, or not for public use, it is viewed as illegal.

                What is the libertarian view on takings? In my opinion, anarcholibertarians and minarchists alike should all oppose the state’s power to condemn private property, by recognizing that it is theft and therefore unjustified.

                I understand his federalist argument against Kelo as a decision on purely procedural (not substantive) grounds, but I disagree. By far the most common opinion among libertarians is the one shared by Randy Barnett, Richard Epstein, Ilya Somin, the Libertarian Party, the Institute for Justice, the Cato Institute, and many others. Kelo was an appallingly bad decision.

                The fact you can find one or two voices dissenting just proves we’re a group of individuals. Not much more than that.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Are you aware that most big corporation subsidies come in the form o f tax breaks or tax exemptions?

                When I recommended eliminating those, you said you didn’t believe me and that it was “bullshit.”

                Are you, or are you not, in favor of lowering corporate tax rates and capital gains rates both?

                Not right now.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                @ James, there’s no need to abandon the cleaner fish. We put them below the Hanley Limit, which I’ll attempt to define as a symbiotic and self-regulating relationship.

                But even in nature, there’s an attempt to game that system: there’s a species of blenny fish which impersonates the cleaner fish: the unsuspecting grouper who comes to the cleaner fish’s market floor opens his mouth for a nice cleaning, only to have this bastard blenny fish bite a chunk out of the grouper.

                Caveat Grouper.

                Here’s a more elaborate definition of a market:

                A market is how a product or service flows from producer to consumer. Someone has to want a product. Some will have the resources to obtain that product. The product must conform to some mutually-agreed-upon set of standards: sell-by dates on gallons of milk, weights and measures.

                Buyers and sellers must also conform to standards, both internal, as in being a member of an exchange, with validated credentials and confirmed margin accounts, or external standards, such as legal requirements for lawyers, banks, physicians and the like.

                But the most important aspect of risk markets and concomitant regulation is the separation of buyer and seller. Markets close at the end of day or upon agreed upon limit swings, buys are matched with sells, accounts are settled, disputes put to arbitration, cheaters arrested or expelled, everything we’d expect from rational markets, all to ensure winners win and losers lose.

                But the cleaner fish, beer for lawn mowing, kids running a lemonade stand, that sort of thing, how much regulation is required? Very little, if any. And why? Because there’s very little risk. These are all below the Hanley Limit.

                The Libertarian shibboleths about government, constantly presuming the worst of regulators, are incoherent. If regulators and judges are corrupted, who corrupts them? Those who would pervert the separation of winners from losers. In point of fact, when Singapore went about eliminating corruption in bureaucracy, their first step was to pay the regulators enough money to remove the temptation of corruption.

                Even government obeys market principles. That’s the last nail in the coffin of the Libertarian Diktat.

                Over-regulation damages markets and faith in government, such as we see with officious little bureaucrats shutting down lemonade stands and making little kids cry. In such an example, we see a transgression of the Hanley Limit. Likewise, all these insane drugs laws fill our prisons: yet another violation of the Hanley Limit: drugs should be merely regulated and not prohibited.

                But some transactions should be prohibited. I really don’t want to hear anyone defend the sale of nuclear weapons to terrorists.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Blaise,

                For discussion purposes I can accept most of that, except your insistence upon focusing on winners and losers. In market exchanges there normally aren’t losers. That’s the positive sum win-win. Even in a stock trade there’s usually not a loser in the sense of the winner having beaten the loser. If I buy a stock expecting the price to rise, and instead it falls, yes, I’ve lost. But the person who sold it to me didn’t take advantage of me and didn’t beat me–they just made a more accurate prediction than I did.

                This really does work as a roadblock to communication, because it at least appears that we view markets as very different things. Where I see them as effective means for you and I to both improve our standing through a value-for-value trade, I get the impression that you see them as a competition in which someone necessarily wins at the expense of the someone who necessarily loses.

                And yet you support markets over communism wholeheartedly, so far as I can tell, so that understanding of markets doesn’t seem reflective of what you really think. So I’m not saying you do view markets as zero-sum exchanges; I’m only saying you often give that impression, but at other times you give a contradictory impression, so that in the end part of my problem in communicating with you is that I just don’t get what you’re actually saying.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Are you aware that most big corporation subsidies come in the form o f tax breaks or tax exemptions? …
                Are you, or are you not, in favor of lowering corporate tax rates and capital gains rates both?

                I don’t really care one way or the other about corporate tax rates. Corporate taxes are likely to just get passed on to the consumer anyway, to the extent the corporation can manage it, so I don’t see raising them or lowering them as having as much to do with how much we directly tax corporations as it is how much we indirectly tax consumers.

                But let me ask you this. If lowering corporate tax rates and cap gains rates were to be the necessary political price to pay to eliminate the tax breaks and tax exemptions, with the end result being that net corporate/capgains tax revenues are increased, would you take the deal?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                No losers? Surely you jest. Of course there are losers in markets. That’s why people try to cheat. To make any money, you need to buy low and sell high. With short sales the sell can precede the buy, but the rule’s the same.

                In a real market, you know, one beyond the Hanley Limit, the world I know, regulation makes sure I get a margin call and get stopped out of my positions when my margin reserves reach Zero Dollars. That’s called Losing. When I’m in the money and my counterpart suddenly claims he didn’t take my bet, that’s a problem. That guy made a bet and he lost and I am entitled to collect. Promises made must be promises kept, even if they don’t work out in my favour.

                Feel free to comment on anything below the Hanley Limit. Out here in the real world, where markets involve risk, this is my territory and I’d appreciate it if you’d accept the notion that Winners must be separated from Losers. Your 401K might make money or lose money. Your house might appreciate or depreciate. Quit living in the world where every market transaction is mutually beneficial: most aren’t.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “No losers? Surely you jest. Of course there are losers in markets.”

                You’re talking about two different things. In any market transaction, the buyer and seller are agreeing on an exchange. The buyer gives up what the seller wants in return for the seller giving him what he wants. If it wasn’t beneficial for both, then they wouldn’t be making the transaction. Two winners, no losers.

                Now, if it turns out that what the buyer bought loses value, then, yeah, you could call him a loser. But unless the seller had deceived him, it was a fair exchange at the time it was made. If what was bought lost value due to some sort of fraud, then yes, there’s an issue and we can talk winners and losers. But it’s logically incorrect to say markets require losers.

                When you buy in at the Blackjack table and then lose, are you really going to blame the casino?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Blaise,

                Once again you want to restrict the term “market” to the stock market. Color me bored with that game.

                As to your “losers,” that depends on how we define the term, right? They didn’t lose through an exchange that was unfair in any sense, they lost through making bad predictions. Of course they have to pay up, if that’s the rules of the game. Who here has ever argued against that?

                But that’s not the same as losing through an exchange, where you give me, say, $100 worth of value and I only give you $90 worth of value. You’re conflating different things which only serves to confuse the issue.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                I would love to see Blaise or anyone agreeing with him answer James and Brian’s questions.

                There are no expected losers in a voluntary, non fraudulent market transaction. Both parties expected to improve their position compared to the base case. That is why they agreed to the exchange.

                Certainly every libertarian agrees people make mistakes, and later regret voluntary transactions in both the market and other domains. Certainly we agree that cheating or fraud cannot be allowed. The policing of cheating and coercion can come externally or internally, but absent controls for these factors, I will agree that you do not have a free market.

                So, can anyone agreeing with Blaise lay out a clear, honest rebuttal of this argument? It would be massively appreciated.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                James,

                >But that’s not the same as losing through an exchange, where you give me, say, $100 worth of value and I only give you $90 worth of value. You’re conflating different things which only serves to confuse the issue.

                Okay, so my verizon bill. That’s an example of me paying out more than it’s value. I am getting ripped off with the transaction.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Once again you want to restrict the term “market” to the stock market. Color me bored with that game.

                Friend of mine recently bought a used car from a dealership. Had it die completely two months after.

                Found out? The shady car dealership KNEW it had a busted head gasket. What did they do about it? They disabled the check-engine light (completely removed the bulb itself) and sold the car claiming it had no problems for $5000. Poof, they “win” and my friend loses.

                Is that another good example? The stock market is just one area where shady deals and bad actors go on.

                But let me ask you this. If lowering corporate tax rates and cap gains rates were to be the necessary political price to pay to eliminate the tax breaks and tax exemptions, with the end result being that net corporate/capgains tax revenues are increased, would you take the deal?

                If that were the case – not that it is – then that’s a deal I’d be hard-pressed not to take.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “Okay, so my verizon bill. That’s an example of me paying out more than it’s value. I am getting ripped off with the transaction.”

                Then why are you doing business with Verizon?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Brian,
                1) It’s a quasi monopoly
                2) I lack the interest and resources to start my own company.
                3) It is eminently bribeable.
                4) Its rather permanent mangling of my name makes it more convenient to screen out junk mail as “sold by verizon”
                5) I rather prefer a company whose biggest enemy is squirrels.

                This does not make up for its failures, but does make “better than nothing” a possibility. If you had a better deal, I’d switch.

                Verizon has broken irreplaceable machinery of mine, it wouldn’t have to be that much better of a deal.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Heh. About as soon as I can get the Libertarians to agree on the definition of markets, we’ll be all set to ride. All this hooey about Everyone’s a Winner intrigues me greatly. I’d love to find out where that’s true.

                (musically)

                Take the last train to Marxsville and I’ll meet you at the station
                You can be be here by four thirty ’cause I made your reservation
                Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Based upon the responses and Monkey’s songs I am going to say that Brian’s point stands.

                Kim admits that she prefers having the phone to the base case of not having it, and the dark necromancer provided an example of fraud.

                Oddly, nobody brought up externalities, which do need to be accounted for, but can we all just agree Voluntary, non fraudulent market interactions are expected positive sum moves for both parties?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                @M.A.,
                If that were the case – not that it is – then that’s a deal I’d be hard-pressed not to take.

                So we agree on at least that.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue says:

                Verizon is in no way a monopoly. Half of a duopoly maybe. Part of an oligopoly. But Verizon does have to compete for its business. They actually even sell resources to help people afford cheaper options if they want to pay less.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Kim,

                I’ve hated my cell phone provider as much as the next guy, but it’s hard to argue that cell phone service isn’t a glowing example of a free-market success. Even with the moderate level of competition in the cell provider market, the quality and quantity of service we get for our dollars has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years.

                Coverage? Major improvements. Phone quality? Obviously a big win. Data speed and availability? Huge. We’ve gone from cell phones with limited, high-cost, voice-only plans being a specialized item for the rich to ubiquitous data plans with huge monthly usage allowances for the average person. Almost everybody has a cell phone now. In fact, it’s killing the land line market. How is this not a win? Because the phone company knows what the plan is worth to you and is able to get you to pay very nearly that amount?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                To add to what Frog is saying, Verizon provides 4G LTE coverage in Twin Falls and Butte. That’s pretty remarkable, when you think about it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                What T-Frog said. I have a friend who was having trouble with dropped calls, and became (reasonably) irate. He claimed that cell phones were not an improvement, and that the old landline system was better because his phone always worked. I argued that it didn’t–it didn’t work in his car, it didn’t work when he was at the grocery store, it didn’t work at the airport, etc. He got the point, but still wasn’t persuaded, feeling that somehow things actually had gotten worse. So I suggested he ditch his cell phone and return to a landline. He actually wondered if that was possible, and I pointed out that not only did our employer rely on landlines, but that his apartment had a phone jack. If he really thought landlines might be superior, he should give it a try.

                After some thought, he never gave it a try.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                M.A. — “Defined by the Libertarians as “thou shalt not impinge one iota on the liberty of the privileged rich.””

                It’s useless to answer you because you don’t read and comprehend well, but in a Libertarian world, the privileged rich would likely not fair too well unless they started competing and succeeding on merit, but in most cases the bad habits and the bloated companies the privileged rich have developed would probably put them at a disadvantage as small, innovative, nimble economic actors win market share from them. In a Libertarian world, one of the first actions would be an end to all corporate welfare and all favortism, by limiting the power of government to favor anyone over others.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Troublesome frog, et alia,
                I was talking about my landline service, for which Verizon quite rightly thinks that they have a captive audience and can charge over market value. (and continue to waste my dollars sending me mail about FIOS that they haven’t put in on my street yet!! grr….)
                My cell phone is with AT&T.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                James,
                oh, no doubt about it, cell phones are surprisingly more useful than landlines. Useful for assassinations, for finding missing people, for pranking people… (can you use them to make cars drive in circles? ;-P I think that stunt was with wireless, actually.)Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Kim,

                You can ditch the landline, though! Very easily, if you have broadband.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Will,
                the true missing voters are those who use skype. They’re nearly impossible to poll using conventional methods. And people whine and bitch and moan about cell phone users… 😉Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I haven’t had a landline for years. It amuses me that my house was built before telephones were invented, and still exists in this post land-line era.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Can’t ditch the landline if you want a centrally monitored alarm system.

                Personally, I don’t think we need it, but Zazzy really appreciates the piece of mind. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I do as well.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                You can’t have an alarm system with VOIP?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                You *can* use a VOIP but it has to meet a bunch of standards, which most providers don’t meet. As a result, you have to pay for a cell-service based monitoring device, which is an additional monthly fee. Combined with the installation fee, you outpace whatever savings you may have gotten from dropping a landline. Couple that with the cost savings (including accessing literally thousands of free wifi hotspots our provider has that are only available to tri-bundled subscribers) we do get by bundling our landline with our internet and cable and it is a clear win to keep the landline.

                I don’t know the technical details, but my guess is that VOIP doesn’t provide the constant, dedicated, uninterrupted signal that a hardwired landline does and that this is pretty crucial for a properly maintained, centrally monitored security system.

                We also get a discount on the service itself via my wife’s veteran status and having the system knocks a bit off our homeowner’s policy. It doesn’t pay for the service by any means but it certainly makes it easier to swallow than if we were paying full freight and not getting the insurance discount.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                we could trim $100 billion (or even a whole lot more) from our defense budget and still have a vastly larger and stronger military than anyone else

                I bet we could cut $100 billion from our defense budget and actually spend more on actual defense, if you know what I mean.Report

    • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

      “I think the answer to “why do conservatives trust libertarians, while liberals don’t” is that both liberals and conservatives think that the economic issues where you guys side with the right–taxes, spending and health care are the big ones–are more important than the stuff where you agree with liberals.”

      Moreover, on issues of “personal liberty”, like SSM or the like, support seems to be half-hearted at best, whereas on issues of “economic liberty”, the guns are blazing full-force. Sales tax instead of income tax? Really?

      Liberals and libertarians are in agreement on both the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. We disagree about what to do about the first, though, I’m sure.Report

  3. Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

    Jason, I think part of the problem for me, at least, is that a lot of the standard libertarian tropes (taxation is theft, government is coercion, I didn’t agree to be governed) have been shoved at me so many times by hard-core libertarian minarchists who aren’t nearly as thoughtful as many of the more realistic libertarians here. As a result, though, when they’re off-handedly mentioned by more moderate realist libertarians, it puts our hackles up and pushes the arguments to extremes.

    The whole scene reminds my of something I saw on Chris Hayes’ show a few weeks ago when Avik Roy and Ta-Nehisi Coates were on. They were talking about racism and the response to the election, and started talking about a Romney supporter who had hung a sign on his business door about us abandoning the heritage our forefathers left us. The following conversation then ensued:

    ***
    COATES: The heritage and tradition is racist. I just hate — it is.
    ROY: This is the problem is that if the heritage and tradition of
    America is racist, then conservatives are all racist, because —
    (CROSSTALK)
    COATES: Because the heritage is also a lot of other things too. It`s
    not just racist. There are a lot of other things you can believe in too,
    but it is racist. That`s part of it, and you can`t really deny that –
    ***

    Coates wasn’t wrong about the heritage and tradition of this country being racist, but those kinds of statements don’t facilitate discussion. When said that way, many people think he’s saying that the most important part of this country’s heritage and tradition is racism, not just that *one component* of it is racism.

    Similarly, when I hear libertarians emphasizing that “government is coercion”, my experience arguing with minarchist libertarians makes me think they’re saying “government is only about coersion and therefore bad”. On the other hand not that “an important element of government is about coercion, but it has a useful and necessary role to play in society.” Now, I’m not saying this is libertarian’s problem – maybe it’s mine and there’s adjustment on my part to make when I discuss things here. However, I think it’s also important for libertarians to understand how their messaging is coming across to many of the people they’re talking to.

    Likewise, I’m sure there are arguments that liberals make that set libertarians on edge and derail productive conversation. Identifying those to us would also be helpful.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Excellent comment. From my pov as a liberal, anyway. I think that gets to the heart of one of the very sticky issues we’ve been dealing with over the last few days. A libertarian and a liberal can agree that a specific instance of government policy or power is unjust or bad. But all too often the libertarian makes gestures that the reason he feels this way is because all government is bad. Government, for the libertarian, is a necessary evil. For the liberal, on the other hand, government is sometimes an unqualified good. SO the liberal hears the libertarians as advocating – either in principle or (unfortunately) in practice – for the dissolution of government. And so it goes.

      It’s a matter of perspective, it seems to me, and I’ll say this from the pov of a liberal and how I think liberals view libertarianism: Liberals think that libertarians view all government as inherently bad when compared against an ideal in which government would be unnecessary. But the ideal is unrealizable. (Even on the libertarians own terms!). So … why does the libertarian persist in thinking that all government is inherently bad – a necessary evil! – instead of being an unqualified good?

      That takes us down to psychology, and an effort to understand or attribute various reasons to the libertarian for holding what are quite obviously crazy beliefs. (From the liberal pov, of course.)Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        {{Which isn’t to say, of course, that the libertarian doesn’t view liberals as holding wildly crazy beliefs, and etc., and that our craziness doesn’t contribute to the communication breakdown.}}Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I’d put it down as “government’s a necessary evil”– and I’m a liberal (or at least I’m pretty sure that’s what someone else might call me).Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          But only according to an idealized model where human behavior was so radically different (maybe even logically impossible) where government would be unnecessary. TO me, the analogy would be like saying the rules which define the game of football are a necessary evil. It just makes no sense.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            I think you’re mistaking me. To me, the rules are relatively flexible, and smart people generally break a good few of them during a day.
            I wish everyone were smart enough that government wouldn’t be necessary.
            It’s a rules versus guidelines perspective.
            still…
            “eight years old, dude!”Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        SW,

        On why so many of us you-know-whats lean more right than left…

        The right’s take on evolution, science, religion, homosexuality, abortion, borders and drugs are all distasteful to us. However, most of these issues are kind of irrelevant or of minor importance.

        Abortion is legal and thus a moot point.
        Evolution is a fact and failure to teach it is just sad, but not earth shattering.
        Science is best when private, so unless the right actively interferes with private science, it is no big harm.
        Drugs and borders are areas where the left isn’t really aligned either.
        Gay marriage just isn’t that critical of a factor to heterosexuals. I certainly wouldn’t vote just on this issue.

        That leads one area where I clearly disagree with the right in a meaningful way, wasting money on defense and wars.

        The real action for me comes in the economics and the role of government. In a room full of college educated republicans, there is little problem getting them to agree to the importance of free enterprise, minimal government interference, the role of competition, decentralized institutions and creative destruction, free trade, market wages, decentralized dolutions to climate change, right to work and so forth.

        In a room full of college educated democrats, I would be lynched for bringing these up.

        The most important issue for the plight of humanity in my opinion is our prosperity. I can see eye to eye on the recipe for prosperity with those on the right. They get it and can be persuaded I know for a fact that my recipe is viewed as evil bullshit by the left. Stupid, Evil, BS.

        Thus many of us lean right, politically.Report

        • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

          “The right’s take on evolution, science, religion, homosexuality, abortion, borders and drugs are all distasteful to us. However, most of these issues are kind of irrelevant or of minor importance.”

          These are all VERY important to liberals, especially this one — and should be to libertarians, since they all impact “personal liberty”. But then we get “process is more important than outcome” and similar — what sounds like nonsense to us, and all in favor of the Right’s “fewer taxes and fewer regulations”.

          And you wonder why we can’t talk to each other?!Report

          • Avatar Roger says:

            I explained why they are less relevant. Abortion will still be legal. Gay people will still live with gay people. Evolution will still be true and anyone smart enough to understand it will be able to learn all about it. Science will operate the same or better. And the other issues are not really handled better by the left.

            They may be important issues, but practically speaking they matter less than the prosperity of the human race…to me.

            And no, I do not wonder why we cannot talk to each other. This website makes it abundantly clear. Libertarians and college educated liberals have VASTLY different takes on economics and institutions of progress.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Science is the engine that drives our economy. Any precious second spent not teaching kids how to make thermite, or other fun science games, is a second we are making ourselves poorer, statistically speaking.

              America’s economic prosperity comes not from Engineers, nor Farmers, but Scientists.Report

            • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

              “They may be important issues, but practically speaking they matter less than the prosperity of the human race…to me.”

              Right there. The Left makes a big deal out of privilege, and this is why. As a straight, white male, these issues aren’t important … to you. They aren’t important personally to me either, but they are important to others, and we on the Left think they’re important too.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Jeff,

                I think prosperity matters even more to those that are not prosperous than those that are. That said, many of the other issues aren’t really in play at all. They are just poster topics for voting blocks.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Again, Roger, you aren’t getting it. If a woman gets pregnant, it doesn’t matter if she’s making 25k or 50k – abortion is still illegal. Same thing with gay marriage and a host of other issues. Not every human cares most about their checking account.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Obviously I don’t get it because I thought women had a right to choose.

                I am not talking about paychecks. I am talking about long term economic prosperity and well being of the human race. See the difference?Report

              • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

                No, you really don’t get it. Clinics are closing or are being forced to close. Doctors, nurses and clinics are under attack. “Right to chose” means nothing if there’s not opportunity to chose.

                I’m talking about the well-being of people right here, right now. In the long term, we’re all dead anyway.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Jeff,

                Got it man. The overriding issue of importance is how convenient we make it to have abortions. Ok…. Cool.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                No, Roger.

                A “right” that exists in theory only, impossible in practice, ceases to be a right.

                Mississippi only has one clinic left that will perform the services women have a right to receive. Mississippi’s government has enacted a crazy, impossible-to-follow law requiring any physician performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, then promptly threatened all the nearby hospitals with being shut down if they gave admitting privileges to any doctor known to perform abortions.

                A law that “looks” reasonable, but was just a pretext; and that’s the kind of fishing nonsense we get from your side all the time. Lies, doublespeak, and worse.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Don’t get me wrong I am pro choice…. Oops, my bad. I didn’t realize the new PC term is pro convenient choice.

                Indeed I am gonna start a petition or whatever it is you kids call it today for mobile drive by abortions. Kinda like taco trucks. But better.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Roger: shut the fish up. Your misrepresentations of the situation are duplicitous and dishonest.

                A legal right with no way to exercise it, ceases to be a right.

                I have examined the hurdles many states have already attempted to place on abortion (South Dakota passed a law requiring doctors to LIE to their patients; North Dakota has tried three shady laws in the past two years, and then there’s the Mississippi thing).

                The relevant precedent is Planned Parenthood v. Casey , 1992. The standard for a law is that it may not created an “undue burden”, which is to say, may not have “the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

                Now, if you are really going to argue “well this is all convenience, they can drive 1000 miles to wherever the last few remaining abortion clinics are after the right wing firebombs and shutters the rest”, then I think we’re done here. You wouldn’t know an undue burden if it walked right up and smacked you.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Roger,
                You’ve read the theories raised on how abortions killed the American Crime Wave (TM)? I’d say you can make a pretty decent argument that “long term economic prosperity” is tied, both primarily and secondarily to abortion (primary in that teens getting pregnant reduce their income earning potential, secondarily in that the subsequent stress decreases their health outcomes, so we all end up paying for someone’s baby that they can’t afford).Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                I am ashamed to admit that I am not a fan of proactive eugenics. Perhaps Jeff is right, I just don’t get it.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Roger,
                Eugenics is a thing. An enforceable by law thing, in America, as it so happens.I stand against that, in all manifestations.
                And I don’t actually think that people having abortions is very eugenic. It does delay when they actually have babies until they can afford it… (which causes its own problems! Autism if you catch my drift).Report

            • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

              The climate thing matters for the human race, I think.

              Also, the New Deal set an example for how to organize society happily and peacefully and stably (SP?), and every country that has copied it has prospered. This is what liberals gave to the human race and what they want to continue to give to the human race: a model for how to maximize overall happiness, autonomy, and equality.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Which parts of the new deal? Are you referencing safety nets? Or government management of the economy? The data on the second is not encouraging to prosperity. I agree with good safety nets though.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                The new deal model of safety nets is also not prticularly efficient either. There are better ways to construct safety netsReport

        • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

          The real action for me comes in the economics and the role of government. In a room full of college educated republicans, there is little problem getting them to agree to the importance of free enterprise, minimal government interference, the role of competition, decentralized institutions and creative destruction, free trade, market wages, decentralized dolutions to climate change, right to work and so forth.

          In a room full of college educated democrats, I would be lynched for bringing these up.

          That’s just because you try to talk to them on your terms, not on their terms. Any good speaker knows that you have to take into account the audience you’re talking to. So, just as the lesson the GOP needs to talk to the young and minorities in terms of the problems they really care about, libertarians need to talk to liberals about providing meaningful solutions to the problems they actually care about.

          Start by talk about how ineffective the government is at actually reducing poverty, actually providing good schooling to low-income americans, and providing high-quality health care and housing to the poor. Then tell them you want to give every permanent resident or citizen $10k/year (including for dependents) to use as they will. They would be able to use all of this to pay for job training, healthcare, housing, and the school of their choice for their kids. Tell them you also want a progressive income tax starts at -35% and caps at 35% to help low-income Americans get meaningful pay out of their jobs. You do that, and they might even agree to end SNAP immediately, and would probably agree to wind down other anti-poverty programs over time, too.

          Throw in ending the drug war, the war on terror, and all the other things you have common cause with on liberals to close the sale.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:

            Good advice, PB

            The problem though is I am not really trying to win their vote or avoid getting strung up. I am really hoping to get those on the left to understand the importance of free markets, free trade, profits, competition, experimentation, non coercion and choice. I can’t do it. They do not as a group see eye to eye with me at all. A sizeable portion are absolutely convinced I am selfish, naive, and either deceptive, exploitative or both. In nine out of ten discussions with the far left on this forum, the conversation ends with just such an accusation. Feel free to review yesterday’s threads for examples. I can provide several hundred more examples.

            The notable exception is those on the left that are well educated in economics or various fields which involve designing or managing complex adaptive systems. Indeed, I may be closest aligned politically and philosophically with this subsection.

            On the right, I can usually get the majority to see eye to eye. They are capable of getting it, almost intuitively.

            The reason this is so interesting to me is I am researching the nature of progress. Progress in culture, in economics, science, technology and so forth. As such, I like to play back my thoughts on the issue to an audience. There is an audience from the far left that just flat out stares back in complete and total disgust.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Naive, yes, and only occasionally right. Blaise is right when he says you have to have rules to play a game. Markets are just another game, and sometimes, just like monopoly, a market can get into a really bad state.

              In an ideal market, competition reigns supreme. But there are surprisingly few honest markets around.

              One side says “government corrupted the market” … and the other side says, “Government’s just another tool in the game”

              I know an economist, he’s learned a lot from Roth. He talks about the dangers of the super-rich. Now, there’s some stuff that I’ll keep off this blog, but let it not be said that the super-rich are folks just like you and me. Their psychology is different, due to them never having to shoulder any risk in their lives (not Gates and other self-made men, to be clear).

              If you want to learn something about progress in culture, you might check out /b/ on 4chan. Fascinating stuff that. Or study the differences between Redstate and DailyKos.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                We tried a totally free, unregulated market recently? We let the players play; set their own rules, with absolutely no government intrusion. None.

                Their position [the traders] was that markets were self-regulatory, that this market was taking care of itself, there were no risks in the market, and they thought there was no need for any government oversight or regulation.

                And then it collapsed. Yes, we’re talking about the derivatives market.

                That’s Brooksley Born, former head of the CFTC talking.

                We had no regulation. No federal or state public official had any idea what was going on in those markets, so enormous leverage was permitted, enormous borrowing. There was also little or no capital being put up as collateral for the transactions. All the players in the marketplace were participants and counterparties to one another’s contracts. This market had gotten to be over $680 trillion in notional value as of June 2008 when it topped up. I think that was the peak. And that is an enormous market. That’s more than 10 times the gross national product of all the countries in the world.

                $680 trillion. In a market that did not exist before the 1980’s. From zero to $680 trillion in just 15 years.

                And depending on private property rights to regulate doesn’t work out so well, this market shows:

                while the CFTC had exempted the market from most of our regulation, … my predecessors had retained fraud and manipulation prohibitions against the market. And I, when I got into office, thought, well, how can we detect these malfeasances? How do we deter them? And I realized there was no record-keeping requirement imposed on participants in the market. There was no reporting. We had no information. The only way the CFTC found out about the Bankers Trust fraud was because Procter & Gamble and others filed suit. …

                Yet it had all the proper bells and whistles. The rating agencies rated it, and the insurers insured it. And it was good. People made loads of money. The economy grew. And then collapsed.

                In a world where this is possible, freedom means being safe from the consequences of people who would risk economic stability in the name of profit. This is an illness, and it’s catching.

                The other thing it showed me, which I hadn’t really been aware of before, was the risk from tremendous contagion. Not only did these instruments, which supposedly are useful for managing risk, it multiplied risk and spread it around throughout the economy, but because of counterparty risk, one institution’s failure could potentially bring down or adversely affect a large number of our biggest financial institutions.

                Because this is a market that can impact each of us. It’s AIG’s collapse. It’s the toxic assets on the books of many of our biggest banks that are over-the-counter derivatives and that caused the economic downturn that made us lose our savings, lose our jobs, lose our homes. We can’t face repeated harm like this from a totally black market, a dark market.

                Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                the worst part is? the rich got richer when it all came crashing down. They’re the type to do it again.Report

              • Avatar Major Zed says:

                “with absolutely no government intrusion”

                Interesting choice of words, intrusion. But how about involvement? Backstopping it all was the implied and then realized TBTF protection of the government. Wall Street is driven by greed and fear. Fear took a holiday on this one.

                I like what Simon Johnson had to say about cleaning up after the financial crisis. Is this bank bankrupt? Then go bankrupt, already. Risk-taking should have consequences. I think this is perfectly consistent with libertarian thought on the matter.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Had we actually let Bear and Lehmann go bankrupt, we would have had to use martial law.Report

              • Avatar Major Zed says:

                We did let Lehman Brothers go bankrupt.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                We bailed out Goldmann and most of the counterparties. That’s not actually letting the stupid people get poorer because of their stupid fucking decisions.Report

              • Avatar Major Zed says:

                As I said, I like Simon Johnson’s prescription that the FDIC should have put all the underwater banks into receivership. Throw out the management, clean up the balance sheets. Zero out the equity shareholders and give the bondholders whatever haircut was needed. Break up the big ones (reserving my opinion on that) and sell the cleaned-up remains back to the private sector. That would have provided some lessons to the banking oligarchy! You should read the article – he talks about our banking system as if it were a 3rd world banana republic (my words – he was more polite using “emerging market”).Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Major,
                Pardon, but I still believe that fixing the problem before it starts leaking is the best way to fix things.
                And that martial law ought to never be a good solution to anything.Report

              • Avatar Major Zed says:

                Kim,

                I agree that prevention is preferable to cure. Going forward, part of the prevention should be to make the risk-takers shoulder the risk by removing TBTF guarantees. Behavior will change! Instead, we are moving in the opposite direction, allowing banks to get bigger and reassuring them that failure will not be an option.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Kim,

                Just to clarify, JH and I (among others) argued that you have to have rules. Blaise argued that the rules absolutely have to be enforced by external agents.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Your rules are not my rules. My rules say that one ought to start out “reasonably equal” and then have the opportunity to accumulate money from there. No Reward Without Risk.
                Free Riders are more dangerous on the upside than on the down.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Actually according to my definition of a fair game, they are only fair rules if we both agreed to them before we started playing.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Then no game is ever fair. Because when we play, we play for keeps.
                And half the rules you have, in reality, are biologically based.

                Did anyone get folks to agree that chocolate is a mind-altering substance? How about coffee? Did anyone get folks to agree that using our sex drive is a good way to “popularize” products (including the aformentioned chocolate)?

                How about Victimware (the deliberate engineering of clothing so that a guy has an easier time getting into a girl’s pants — while not bothering to disclose this to the girl, thus giving her a false illusion of safety)?

                So, Sir, you say that fraud is a reasonable thing to prosecute someone for? How about someone creating victimware? If a woman has non-consensual sex, due, in part, to the clothing she was wearing, is she entitled to damages from the manufacturer?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                And therein, Kim, makes you a fundamentally different libertarian than any other type I’ve seen before.

                I have yet to see another Libertarian who noticed that while Wall Street took all the value from everything they did, when it came time that the markets crashed grandma’s retirement fund became worthless while the Wall Street bankers were all nicely protected from the fallout and experienced only the barest hiccup.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                they made a profit while robbing grandma. I pay attention to these sorts of things. It’s why I couldn’t in good conscience vote for hillary…Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Good luck getting the crypto-conservatives like Hanley or Kuznicki to ever admit the truth of that statement.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Wait, what? You think Kim is a libertarian?

                No wonder you’re so confused. This may help:

                A short, incomplete list of folks I’d call libertarians around here:

                Me
                Jaybird
                James Hanley
                Brandon Berg
                James K
                Brian Houser

                A short, incomplete list of people who are definitely not libertarians around here:

                Kim/Kimmi/Kimsie
                Tom Van Dyke
                DensityDuck
                North

                I really do hope this helps. I mean it.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Hold up Kuznicki!
                You don’t get to have James K. AFAIK he’s self identified as neoliberalish with libertarian sympathies (so pretty close to me). Stop trying to kidnap my commonwealth cousins!

                Also have you ever heard the kiwi accent? Like Australian but smoother. You can have him when you pry him from us neoliberals cold dead hands (or if he clarifies that he considers himself libertarian of course).Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                If memory serves, I think Kim self identified yesterday. Granted she hasn’t learned the secret hand shake yet.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Roger,
                Yeah. stripes and spots make even the black panther shine.
                I think it was finally hearing that to build an ordinary house in some cities, you need to hire lobbyists.
                I’ve always been more of the school of thought of “numbers first, test everything, and go with what works” rather than trying to force everything to fit under one ideology.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                I think it was finally hearing that to build an ordinary house in some cities, you need to hire lobbyists.

                [Citation needed.]Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                I feel left out. Which list am I in?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Kim may (or may not) have been referring to my reference to a woman in Steuben County, Indiana, who couldn’t get a building permit because she wanted to build only an 800 square foot house, and that was below the minimum size allowed. But by her own estimation she not only didn’t need, but couldn’t afford to build, a bigger house.

                Steuben County is lake country, and Republican territory, and they want to keep their property values up. Can’t have somebody making their lake homes less pricey by building a small house somewhere out in the country.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I think it’s hilarious that M.A. calls me a crypto-conservative while my brother (a liberal) swears I’m really a liberaltarian. I guess my own brother of nearly half a century doesn’t know me as well as this anonymous guy on the internet who’s “known” me for only a few months.

                Can anyone please tell me what the secret crypto-conservative handshake is? Or is it the same thing I’ve been doing, thinking all along it was the secret libertarian handshake?

                I just don’t know anymore. M.A.’s thrown me into a terrible identity crisis.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                awww, I don’t get to be in your club? 😥Report

            • Avatar M.A. says:

              I am really hoping to get those on the left to understand the importance of free markets, free trade, profits, competition, experimentation, non coercion and choice. I can’t do it. They do not as a group see eye to eye with me at all.

              No, the problem is that your underlying assertions and underlying presuppositions are wrong. If that’s not “seeing eye to eye”, I guess that’s how it works.

              “Free” markets, as libertarians describe their ideal, tend not to actual freedom but to oligarchy or monopoly in any given field, followed by hostile takeovers by oligarchy players into other fields. That’s only temporary freedom.

              “Free” trade, as libertarians describe it, is likewise a canard. Trade between relatively equal partners is one thing, the sort of “free” trade libertarians describe looks more like the the days of colonial economic rape than actual freedom.

              profits, competition, experimentation

              Profits, competition, experimentation – in many sectors, good things. Not uniformly in all sectors, but in many sectors and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Liberal who disagrees. But we Liberals are going to say you can have all three while still having a well-regulated, actually FREE market rather than an oligarchy market.

              non coercion and choice

              And here’s where your whole line of argumentation breaks down, not that you can ever seem to see it.

              Those on the lower end of the economic spectrum live in a constant state of coercion. Many of their “choices” are really no choice at all, or at best a choice of a raw deal with lube and a raw deal without lube.

              Economic coercion is just as much a factor as the “monopoly on coercive force” that Libertarians constantly claim only exists for government. Moreover, it’s a function whether or not government actually exists.

              Libertarians think that economic coercion would go away if government didn’t have power to do certain things, but Libertarians at the same time want government to enforce contract law and liability law. And even absent a government that lent itself to that, those with coercive economic force would just hire leg-breakers instead.

              On the right, I can usually get the majority to see eye to eye. They are capable of getting it, almost intuitively.

              Do they really “get it”, or are you just starting in agreement to them and engaging in a nice back-patting circular effort of philosophically masturbatory nature?

              There is an audience from the far left that just flat out stares back in complete and total disgust.

              And you can’t step back a moment in order to think about why that is and understand their perspective on it.

              I’m reminded of a friend of mine who’s been suckered into the “gummint budgit should be run like a home budgit gawddamnit” austerity-madness of the more extreme Tea Party wing, who can’t understand that “austerity” of the type he is advocating is a death spiral plan.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                You can explain to your friend the sucker that when he bought his house, as a sound fiscally minded person was, he put himself in debt, to the tune of at least 3x his income. This is a HELL of a lot more than The Us gov’t’s current debt, as a ratio of GDP.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

              Again, then show how to use these ideas to solve problems liberals care about. As you’ve seen here, many liberals think that *all libertarians* just want to burn down the government and start over. They think that, in terms of the economy, you don’t care about the things they care about *at all*, and so everything you say comes across as crypto-conservatism, as someone else said up-thread.

              So pick your favorite poverty topic that you think libertarian ideas can solve better than current government programs. Talk about the practical problems with the government-run program in terms that the listeners will care about, say poor management and maintenance in public housing, or people not being able to take jobs for fear of losing access to medicare for their kids. And then show how some particularly libertarian approach to solving the problem might work, and *that* is when you talk about choice, and free markets, and such. Telling them that you want to guarantee them a basic income to give them the choice of how to solve these problems themselves and get housing and health care from the free market will get their attention.

              Sure, they’ll be skeptical. Sure some may think you’re trying to pull something over on them. Building bridges to the left on economic policy is going to take time and energy and hard work. The first step, though, is convincing them that the problems they care about are problems you care about, too, and you have ideas and meaningful things to say there.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                …everything looks like a nail.

                Regardless of the adequacy of the status quo, life isn’t fair and men are imperfect: there is always room for improvement.

                And so, the hammer of government is always at the ready to pound on something, or someone.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                “adequacy of the status quo” Adequate for who?
                Its easy for those aren’t affected directly by a problem to not see a problem at all.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Exactly, Robin Hood.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Wow no substance to that response at all. Thanks for exactly meeting my expectations.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Griswold v. Connecticut isn’t enough; you have to force others to pay for contraceptives as well! Go for it, brother, all the substance you can handle is right there.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Conservatives didn’t seem a contraceptive mandate a few years back. Hell, Alabama Republican’s voted for it.

                http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/15/nation/la-na-gop-contraceptives-20120216

                “Four years later, the Arkansas law easily cleared that state’s Legislature, with help from Republican lawmakers, including two GOP cosponsors. Huckabee signed it in April 2005. … like the original federal regulation proposed by Obama, the Arkansas law did not exempt church-affiliated hospitals and universities. It exempts only “religious employers” that are nonprofit organizations whose primary mission is “the inculcation of religious values,” and primarily employ people who share the same religion, a standard few Catholic hospitals meet.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                *I* would have argued how far we have come from Giswold vs. Connecticut… we’ve gone from “it’s none of your business if I take birth control!” to “It’s your responsibility to see that I have it!”Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Next thing people will be saying health insurance should cover chemo therapy or broken legs. I mean come on HI covering medications….its like so socialist.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I think it’s more that using health insurance for a product that costs four bucks a month is to misuse insurance.

                There are discussions one could have over first-dollar coverage… most of them involving cost.

                To have first dollar coverage for something that costs four bucks a month?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                And it’s been gone over multiple times that many women can’t use the $10 birth control prescription, but for some reason, conservative and libertarian men can’t get that through their skulls.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                JB. Like pregnancy/contraception isn’t one of the biggest health-care issues women face.

                For most healthy women between like 15 and 55, it’s pretty much the ONLY reason they see the doctor. Really.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Prescribed contraceptives cost a bit more. This was covered in a thread. They can be a bit pricey, certainly as much as other meds. As has also been noted contraceptives are often prescribed for other reasons than just preventing pregnancy.

                A follow up question is how much input does your employer have in your health care? I understand the religious issue even though i don’t think much of it. But the corollary to the people advocating the religious exemption is that your employer can decide what medical care you can and can’t receive. I can find the bill some R’s were pushing allowing employers to be able to opt of paying for just about any medical care they didn’t want to pay for.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                many women can’t use the $10 birth control prescription

                And we’re probably no longer talking about birth control at that point, but issues involving pain, hormone regulation, and the ever elusive “other”… and if you want to talk about first-dollar coverage for those drugs, I’d be happy to.

                The problem is that if we’re talking about “birth control”, the majority of women can, in fact, take a 4-dollar/month, 10-dollar/3 months pill and, like Griswold vs. Connecticut says, it’s none of my freakin’ business.

                What I object to is it being made my business *AND* being told that I’m not allowed to have an opinion about it afterwards (unless it’s supportive, of course).

                If it’s my business, it’s my business.

                If it’s none of my business, it’s none of my business.

                Quit trying for all of the upsides of it being my business and all of the upsides of it being none of my business. That’s irritating.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                You can have any opinion you want. The decision about what BC a woman uses should be between her and her doc.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Actually, it’s none of your business what your employee uses in their health care plan any more than it’s any of their business what they use with their paycheck.

                And again, as I linked, a contraceptive mandate was such a controversial idea that the _Alabama_ legislature passed it and _Mike Huckabee_ signed it. I guess the death of religious freedom started in Birmingham.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                What if health care becomes a nationalized kinda thing? Can I have an opinion about it then?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                And we’re probably no longer talking about birth control at that point, but issues involving pain, hormone regulation, and the ever elusive “other”… and if you want to talk about first-dollar coverage for those drugs, I’d be happy to.

                And in this level of fishing dishonesty is where you find companies trying to make their employee swear on penalty of perjury that they are using a BC product for “other” reasons other than birth control, and giving the company right of refusal anyways if they don’t “believe” the employee.

                Lie about the cost: check. Lie about the real objections: check.

                “Waah we’re being forced to pay for it.” No, actually, it’s a very small part (but important to the women involved) of a comprehensive healthcare insurance plan.

                Whether a woman chooses to use hormonal BC, or a diaphragm, or has a tubal ligation, or asks her significant other to get a vasectomy, or has any other medication or operation that may in some way involve the operation of her vagina, you conservative fishtards want to get in the middle of it. And that’s something I don’t understand.

                But woe betide the one who says that maybe you 60-70 year old senile wrecks shouldn’t be getting your viagra subsidized by the same plans.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Jay- Both Jesse and i have specifly mentioned employers. The R view on this and what you seem to be sharing is that EMPLOYERS can pick and choose the HC their employess recieve. I have no qualms about saying that is wrong. Its also a road i doubt many conservitives really want to go down.

                If and when we can get nationalized HC than everybody can and will and should have opinions. And again the choice of HC should be between the doc and patient. The payer can decide what they pay for preferebly based on the best science about what works.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                The R view on this and what you seem to be sharing is that EMPLOYERS can pick and choose the HC their employess recieve. I have no qualms about saying that is wrong. Its also a road i doubt many conservitives really want to go down.

                The R view is that employees become chattel of the employer, and I’m sure that’s Jaybird’s view too. Anything can be withheld, and the employee can dictate pretty much any lifestyle choice or non-choice of the employee under threat of firing.

                These are the people who supported Chick-Fil-A’s right to fire a woman because CFA’s manager thought she should “be a stay-at-home mom” even though the woman thought different, so it’s no surprise they want employers to have say-so over womens’ reproductive choices too.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                These are the people who supported Chick-Fil-A’s right to fire a woman because CFA’s manager thought she should “be a stay-at-home mom” even though the woman thought different

                There’s a conception of Libertarianism under which that type of activity ought to be prohibited by government, it seems to me.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                MA- No that is not where Jay is going. I’m pretty sure i know where he is going and i don’t agree with him if he goes where i think he is. But he won’t be saying employees are chattel. Now some R’s are going essentially go there.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                But woe betide the one who says that maybe you 60-70 year old senile wrecks shouldn’t be getting your viagra subsidized by the same plans.

                I poop you not: I have had this conversation and someone (on the left even) argued against me because: sex is a human right.

                Anyway, I think that you guys need to be a *LOT* more careful about what is in the private sphere and what is in the public. Like it or not: if someone else is paying for it, they’re going to have an opinion on it and you’re going to find yourself hard-pressed to pull the “It’s a privacy issue! It’s none of your business!!!” in one minute and “We need more taxes to pay for these things!!!” in the next.

                You might find that you, seriously, preferred when these things weren’t anybody else’s business.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                the _Alabama_ legislature passed it and _Mike Huckabee_ signed it

                How does the Governor of Arkansas come to be signing Alabama legislation?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I got two Southern states that start with A confused. I humbly apologize.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Complete nonsense and a perversion of the concept of liberty.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                I would just like to point out that Patrick could be describing a moderate libertarian platform or a neoliberal (neoclassical liberal) platform. It’s Matt Yglesias’s platform.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                PB,

                I would really value continuing this type of discussion with you. Very much so.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                I’d be delighted to, Roger. If you want to continue offline, Google of my name finds my home page easily, which has my email address linked from there.Report

        • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

          “The solution to all your problems is to give the other side what they want in the short term, because in the long term, you’ll be better off. And on the stuff where I agree with you? It’s not important, so just let it go.”

          I can’t imagine why anyone would object to that.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          Science is best when private, so unless the right actively interferes with private science, it is no big harm.

          Funny, I don’t see a lot of privately operated particle colliders….

          Fundamental science is by nature publicly funded. The most important discovery of the past 50 years is a gigantic, multinational collaboration.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:

            Nob,

            According to The 2003 OECDs Sources of Economic Growth, the net effect of state funded R & D is to crowd out private R&D and to have a net damage to economic growth.

            That said, I do agree that the optimal mix of science would include a mix of private and public. I could be wrong of course, and would value data rither way. The fact that universities are blended private and public further confuses the issue too, as does the mess we have made with patents in recent years.

            Terence Kealey’s book on Sex, Science and Profits is a good summary of the issues.

            Let me just step back though and say that I do not see the GOPs anti science wing as a major threat to the advancement of science. If it was I would be very, very concerned.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superconducting_Super_Collider

              I think not funding projects like the SSC have been a net loss for science and for the US outside of economic impacts.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Syphilis research was halted because of these ignorant sunsofbitches.
              Stem cell research was severely crippled in America because of these folks. And that’s the only thing that stands a prayer of keeping our Pharmaceuticals competitive.

              Public research is great for “basic science”. Private research is great once we’ve got something figured out (cat ears that read your brainwaves and react accordingly! — no way you would get EEG out of a private research lab, it takes too long to show that it’s safe, let alone profitable.)Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Roger,
              are you aware of NOAA? Bush appointed some yahoo to run the hurricane response down in Florida. NOAA basically started a (civil) insurrection.
              Read up on it, it’s a good bit of history.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                This would be a really good thread someday. The role of private vs public funding of science and the pluses and minuses of conservative and liberal interference in the process.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Big time. I think some of the effects of liberal interference are… interesting, to say the least.
                And then I gotta throw in the effects of libertarian interference…Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        It’s a matter of perspective, it seems to me, and I’ll say this from the pov of a liberal and how I think liberals view libertarianism: Liberals think that libertarians view all government as inherently bad when compared against an ideal in which government would be unnecessary. But the ideal is unrealizable. (Even on the libertarians own terms!). So … why does the libertarian persist in thinking that all government is inherently bad – a necessary evil! – instead of being an unqualified good?

        I always think of it all this way: Government is a lot like fire, incredibly useful, & incredibly dangerous.

        Say, Society is a bunch of people living in a house. Government is the 200 year old gas furnace. The furnace is rickety, it’s been maintained, repaired, upgraded, but not always by the smartest technicians or in a consistent manner. It’s operation can be… problematic.

        When it gets cold out, Liberals want to turn up the furnace, Libertarians think you should just put on a sweater, & lately I can’t decide if conservatives think everyone should pray for warmer weather, or build a bonfire in the living room.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          Fish it, forget to close out the tag!Report

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          When it gets cold out, Liberals want to turn up the furnace, Libertarians think you should just put on a sweater, & lately I can’t decide if conservatives think everyone should pray for warmer weather, or build a bonfire in the living room.

          When it gets cold out, Liberals realize that there are 20 people and only 5 sweaters, so maybe we need to turn the furnace up anyways.Report

          • Avatar Brian Houser says:

            Liberals think the furnace runs on cold fusion (i.e., free energy).

            Libertarians point out that you need to use those 5 sweaters and most of the rest of the clothes (or furniture) to burn as fuel in the furnace. You’ve got to take to give.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Liberals believe in empiricism so cold fusion is out. Cold fusion is a great theory. That the theory doesn’t work should be a stern warning to those who propose basing policy on theory without proof. The liberals believe things are “free” as in free health care is one of the tiredest and stupidest misstatements by libertarians and conservatives.Report

            • Avatar M.A. says:

              No, not at all.

              Ever noticed how the groups that Liberals have said we need to return to sane tax rates on (I deliberately use this wording because our insanely LOW tax rates at present are a historical aberration) would, if they were paying a double marginal tax rate and double capital gains rate tomorrow, barely notice any impact?

              It’s true. Despite the cries and lies of the right wing, higher tax rates on rich people do not hurt the economy or make lazy people out of the lower brackets. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the top bracket income tax rate was over 90% – and that’s the period the right wing otherwise wants to go back to.

              Nothing of that high tax rate prevented actual businessmen from investing, creating new businesses, working harder. NOTHING.

              Entrepreneurs get this. They don’t care about high tax rates, it just means hey, if they pay taxes, they go out and keep building the business and making more money.

              On the other hand, Wall Street executives, banking group scammers, and groups of vulture capitalists that exist by exploiting legal and tax loopholes and dodges in order to make otherwise suicidal gambits into cash flows? THEY are the ones crying to keep tax rates low.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Something to think about:

                Super-low tax rates on rich people also appear to be correlated with unsustainable sugar highs in the economy–brief, enjoyable booms followed by protracted busts. They also appear to be correlated with very high inequality. (For example, see the 1920s and now).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It’s true. Despite the cries and lies of the right wing, higher tax rates on rich people do not hurt the economy or make lazy people out of the lower brackets. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the top bracket income tax rate was over 90% – and that’s the period the right wing otherwise wants to go back to.

                Nothing of that high tax rate prevented actual businessmen from investing, creating new businesses, working harder. NOTHING.

                Well, there were also “expense accounts” that a lot of workers of a certain level-and-up had access to. Going out to lunch? Expense it! Going on vacation with the wife? Expense it!

                It wasn’t considered taxable income, and didn’t fall under the 90% tax rate. When Kennedy passed his tax cuts, he started collecting a lot more of the taxes he wanted.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Yes; as people have pointed out, the “massive increase in executive compensation” was more of a bookkeeping issue.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        For the liberal, on the other hand, government is sometimes an unqualified good.

        If it’s only “sometimes” an unqualified good, isn’t that a qualification of its goodness?Report

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          For the liberal, on the other hand, government is sometimes a better alternative than the others.

          There you go, MUCH more accurate.Report

        • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

          We don’t actually worship government and insist that all of its consequences are ipso facto the best possible outcome. Unlike (I don’t really need to say it, do I?)Report

          • Avatar LWA (liberal With Attitude) says:

            You don’t make a daily sacrifice at your Obama shrine?

            SOMEONE is itching for a one way trip to a FEMA camp. Just sayin’.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Christ, here we go again. Sometimes is specific to certain types of actions, not a partial critique of it’s totality.

          But you confirm my earlier view by what you say: that libertarians view government is inherently bad. Necessarily so.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            You took a comment on linguistic logic as confirmation that I think government is necessarily and inherently bad?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Based on tone, texture and context, yes. Your comment missed the entirely of the point being made and instead focused on nutpicking … just to score some cheap points.

              It seems to me.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                It’s a blog, dude. Sometimes we just like to make jokes.

                But I get it that there’s bad blood, so things are likely to be viewed through that filter right now.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                By the way, what was the texture of my comment? I’m hoping it was soft and gooey. I’ve always liked soft and gooey things.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Definitely soft and gooey. More like an ooze, really.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Ah, slimy. Perfect. With any luck I can market it to the kiddies.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                We’ve got to get back on track, you and I. I apologized for the “bad guys winning” thing. I was wrong there; I should have answered the question asked more directly and clearly than I did. When it comes right down to it, our views, in general, aren’t separated by that many degrees. We’re hung up on something. I’m not sure what it is. If it’s the Jesse thing, I take full responsibility for that.

                I just hope it isn’t something worse, like my liberal privilege. There’s no coming back from that 🙂Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                And for my part I realize I mis-read what your point was in critiquing my definition of markets, and apologize for that.

                I’m just really tired of the liberals here who love to announce what libertarianism is, then get all shocked when we tell them they’re wrong, and then get all huffy when libertarians turn the table on them. Don’t be that guy, or his variants, and we’re cool. (So, yeah, maybe it is that liberal privilege thing. Sorry.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                More like when you tell them they’re wrong. There are all sorts of crazy libertarians roaming the wilds. Liberals too. Conservatives? They’re all in the wilds these days. If the only problem we have is my liberal privilege from here on out, I’m alright with that. I can live with that.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think I had one of the OIC moments. When you say “liberal privilege” you really mean “liberalsplainin”, yes?

                That’s different, isn’t it?

                {{Now I have to reconsider…}}Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And if you don’t get the distinction, that’s OK. You’re not a liberal.

                Here, I’ll explain it to you…Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Sure there are crazy libertarians, and not many libertarians here mind you saying so. It’s when you, any of you, imply that the craziest libertarianism is “the” libertarianism, when you conveniently choose not to differentiate, that we–I–say you’re wrong. Because it’s just as wrong as someone defining all liberals by their most whacked out extremes. Liberals want to shut down free trade because it’s bad for workers and the environment, want to ban the eating of meet, think we should only take herbal remedies because big pharma is trying to poison us, and think it’s government’s job to provide each of us with a living. You’d be suitably pissed if I started saying that’s what liberalism is (see Shazbot’s none-too-happy response to me plating that game above) but that is exactly what a lot of liberals do here in reference to libertarianism.

                I honestly wonder if you really get that. There seems to be a sense here that liberals really do get libertarianism (so who do those libertarians think they are telling them they’re wrong), combined with a sense that of course libertarians ar wrong about liberalism (so of course we liberals are justified in telling them they’re wrong).

                Either you recognize that and understand the problem it poses for reasoned debate, or you don’t. I maintain hope that you do, or will. Others I’ve written off.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Excellent comment James. I’m admonished and in agreement at the same time. And thanks for saying you think I can – and maybe even do to a certain degree – understand libertarianism. I like to think I do, and in the places I don’t I try to be honest about it. {{FWTW, or course.}}

                I think there’s a big difference between liberals and libertarians that liberals in general are probably not ina position to see all that clearly, namely, that libertarians are looking at what constitutes good policy, and liberals are looking at what constitutes good policy in a context, usually a political context. But – and here’s the problem – libertarians aren’t looking at policy thru the lens of politics. They’re just looking at policy, granted from certain starting points that liberals might be reluctant to accept, but policy nonetheless.

                For the most part, I don’t think liberals disagree with libertarian arguments as an ideal to strive for (in general!). I think the stumbling block is that achieving those ideals requires playing the game of politics, and as I said upthread, libertarians are sort of predisposed to reject political solutions to problems, or to try to minimize the effect of politics on policy decisions.

                So, that, I guess, is one – maybe the biggest – reason why a moderate sane liberal and a moderate sane libertarian are going to disagree about things. And end up talking past each other.

                On the flip side, the above reminded me of Jason K’s comments (not stated in this thread, I don’t think) that dismantling existing institutions to achieve more libertarian friendly policies and practices is something to be inherently cautious about. I say that to suggest that even a staunch libertarian is making a concession to the context of policy as it exists and the institutional structures which have evolved out of specific policies.

                The normative ideal of libertarianism is a goal worth striving for. I think lots of liberals agree with that. So the resistance, and in-fighting, and name calling, comes from some other place. And that’s the best I can do to explain what the place might be.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                +1 StillReport

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                – libertarians aren’t looking at policy thru the lens of politics.
                I’m not entirely persuaded, but I think I get what you’re saying, and I think it’s a common enough thing that you’re justified in making that argument.

                I get very impatient myself with idealistic arguments. I was talking to my environmental politics class the other day about fishing quotas that were imposed in Maine fisheries in the last decade. Instead of being individual transferable quotas, which most libertarians would probably find the best solution, the quotas were given to local fishing co-ops which parceled them out among their members. Locals were concerned that with ITQs the permits would eventually be sold to big corporations, and the traditional fishing culture of their villages would disappear. As I told my students, that’s not an economists ideal market solution, but it’s a solution that more easily elicited political support because it took account of other values, not easily priced in the market, that people cared about. A smart libertarian would take account of that and, in my opinion, say that this policy is–if not an ideal solution–nevertheless a good solution.

                For the most part, I don’t think liberals disagree with libertarian arguments as an ideal to strive for (in general!).

                I’m afraid that a number of liberals on this board cast doubt upon that. I guess it depends on whether they constitute the “most part” of liberalism or whether your type does. I hope it’s your type, but I’m pessimistic.Report

              • Avatar N.Elias.Kelly says:

                Hanley-

                I have gotten so used to parsing League-Slang that I at first thought you were giving a very profane lecture to your student’s on Maine’s fishery policy.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Don’t be too certain I wasn’t!Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      Good point. No liberal will ever be willing to agree with a libertarian, because no libertarian will ever say “laws making certain kinds of speech illegal? Sure, that’s a good idea!”Report

      • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

        Uh, this card-carrying ACLU member liberal is for pretty maximal free speech, including things I regard as stupid, offensive, and awful. Just how maximal free speech? IMO Citizen’s United was correctly decided.

        Yelling ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater should still be illegal, though, but not because it’s bad speech, but because it’s incitement to riot – it’s not the speech that’s illegal, it the intent to cause chaos, mayhem, and the harm that results from that.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          I am not a card-carrying ACLU member, but I *am* a liberal who also concurs with the CU decision.

          More interesting than yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater is yelling, “Down in front! The movie is starting!” in the middle of a fire. A whole different chaos can ensue.

          Seriously speaking, I think any limits on free speech should be handled through the civil court system when direct harm can be demonstrated. Repeat offenders might eventually justify a criminal action. I’m also a bit out there in thinking that we should be willing to consider demonstrable emotional and/or mental harm as we do physical harm; it seems off to me that I can’t physically torture you with my fists but I can mentally torture you with my words. But that just might be the crunchy PreK teacher in me…Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            And I disagree: Citizens United was definitely wrongly decided.

            But I also disagree about corporations having “legal personhood” in other senses.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              I think everyone should be free to spend their money as they see fit.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Had everyone started with an equal amount of resources, perhaps.

                Since that’s not the case, and since disparities have increased dramatically, no sale.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Interesting. So if 10 million poor people each have a dollar to contribute and rather than waste 42% of that dollar mailing in an individual contribution, they choose to pool their money and send $9,999,999.58 to their preferred candidate, you think they should be barred from doing so?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                How are they pooling their money otherwise? How do they get all 10 million dollars together with no overhead to start with?

                And 10 million poor people each contributing a dollar is still chump change compared to what the billionaires spent this election cycle, so I think my point is made.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Even before CU, it seemed odd to me that there were limitations on speech and spending surrounding campaigning. I realize the concerns of not having those limitations; I just find the limitations themselves more concerning.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              A political cartoon is your evidence that the Supreme Court decided CU wrongly? There is a difference between policy analysis and constitutional analysis which you may be overlooking.Report

        • Avatar Dan Miller says:

          Yeah, my problem with the libertarian approach to speech is that they tend to say, “Well, Citizens United was correctly decided, and now we don’t have to worry about campaign finance anymore”. There are real problems with campaign finance, and you can’t jump from “freedom of speech” to “the current system works fine” (or even “disclosure is all we need”).Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            Except that libertarians didn’t, actually, say that. They said “CU won’t cause the problems that critics say it will”, and it turned out that they were right.Report

            • Avatar Dan Miller says:

              Here is “Campaign Finance Reform: A Libertarian Primer”, written by the Chairman of Cato. A representative quote: “The proper answer to large expenditures for speech is either more speech or, if the existing system proves unworkable, a constitutional amendment. As for money, it’s just a symptom. We have a big money problem because we have a big government problem. By restraining the regulatory and redistributive powers of the state, we can minimize the influence of big money. Restoring the Framers’ notion of enumerated, delegated, and limited federal powers will get government out of our lives and out of our wallets. That’s the best way to end the campaign-finance racket, and root out corruption without jeopardizing political speech.”

              So basically, the only legitimate choices are either a) stop worrying about the corruption that could result from unrestricted donations to campaigns or b) adopt a radically limited government. How…convenient for libertarians, but for the non-libertarians in the audience, you’ll hopefully realize that this isn’t exactly convincing.

              There’s a long history of libertarians ignoring the problems caused by our campaign finance system, and it can’t be ignored.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                So what he’s saying is that campaign finance is a problem, but that laws about campaign finance won’t solve the problem, because campaign finance isn’t where the problem starts.

                That’s not “campaign finance isn’t a problem”. That’s “you don’t cure tuberculosis with Advil Cold And Sinus”.Report

      • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

        Skokie, OH, dumbassReport

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          That would be Illinois.

          Also, please try to be respectful. One never knows when an arrogant attitude may later give cause for regret.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          no libertarian will ever say “laws making certain kinds of speech illegal? Sure, that’s a good idea!”

          Skokie, OH, dumbass

          And of course the Supreme Court ruled that the Nazis had a right to march in Skokie. And they did. And now their protest is nothing more than an interesting case in law textbooks. Evidence that prohibiting their speech would have been a good idea? Nil.Report

    • Avatar Brian Houser says:

      “…a lot of the standard libertarian tropes (taxation is theft, government is coercion, I didn’t agree to be governed) have been shoved at me so many times […] As a result, when they’re off-handedly mentioned by more moderate realist libertarians, it puts our hackles up and pushes the arguments to extremes.”

      Good comments, and I do try to avoid using those temper triggers as much as possible. But sometimes they slip out in a desperate attempt to find some agreement on basic concepts to use as a starting point for debate. Much of the time, I just want the person on the other side of the discussion to show they understand why libertarians feel the way they do (even if he doesn’t agree with it).

      Consider this: when I pull out the “taxation is theft”, “government is force” stuff, this is what I usually get in response:

      “You libertarians are insane!”, or at best, “Please stop talking now; you’re just trying to insult me rather than having a real discussion.”

      The response I’m hoping for is:

      “OK, fine. Taxation is theft and government is force. But so what? Aren’t those things necessary in order to achieve the society we want when we can’t get everyone to participate voluntarily?”

      There we’ve built a common ground of sorts on which we can proceed with the debate (e.g., how much force is justified in what situations?).Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        But lots of us don’t think taxation is theft. If you accept taxation is theft that is far from a neutral place to start. If its theft, then its wrong and not something we should anyway just because it works. Its not theft and is also part of having a working country (at least to me).

        Gov is force among many other things. That force is a good thing at times when it legitimately provides for common defense and locks up rapists. Its bad when it does all sorts of bad things we likely agree on.

        Building common ground is a good idea. My guess is a lot of liberals are trying to do the same thing with establishing the need for some sort of social safety net.Report

        • Avatar Brian Houser says:

          OK, see so we’re in agreement already on the force part.

          The most constructive response on the theft part would have avoided using the word “wrong” and instead said something like this: “the definition of theft is ‘unlawful taking’. Last time I checked, there are laws allowing taxation, so it can’t be considered theft.”

          So then I would know why you disagree with how I’ve used the word, and I can either agree to use some new term or phrase (which I will gladly do), or we can continue by debating on whether it’s actually legal or not (many libertarians would, but I find those arguments mostly pointless).

          (sheepish grin on) In the interest of fruitful discussion, I hereby declare I will no longer use the phrase “taxation is theft”. Instead it will be “taxation is the involuntary transfer of property from an individual or group to an organization which has been granted a monopoly on the ‘legal’ use of force.”Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Yay, a definition that only works in America. There are countries in this world where more than 50% of the men own assault rifles. There are places in this world where the government lacks the manpower to actually stop corporations from waging their own wars. Some of these places are quite nice to visit, actually.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:

            Brian,

            I agree the second definition of taxation is much better than the first. The taxation is theft line is unproductive and divisive.Report

          • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

            I take “Taxation is theft” to be a verbal no-op. It’s certainly true for some definitions of theft. You could just as well say that “Taxation is marklar” for some definition of marklar. It’s the definition of marklar that makes the statement interesting or philosophically useful.

            If your definition of theft implies that taxation is always immoral and cannot be justified, then your philosophy isn’t very useful. If your definition simply implies that paying taxes isn’t fun and we should design our system such that tax-paying is minimized subject to certain constraints, then your philosophy is trivially true and not very interesting.

            If there’s something else in there, I’m interested, but you’d have to do better than simply using the word “theft.” Normally when I read, “If we could just agree that taxation is theft…” I hear, “If we could just agree to use emotionally loaded terms that favor my position, we could really find some common ground.”Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer says:

        How about a response of “Government IS force, especially when it protects the property claims of people whose privilege is based on prior atrocities”? I think liberals have a legitimate gripe when they say that libertarianism waves away thorny historical problems.Report

        • Avatar Brian Houser says:

          That’s all fair to say.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          Robert,

          I disagree. I do not support past atrocities, and support penalizing living transgressors and requiring them to compensate living victims. Are we thus in agreement. Or do you mean something else?Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            I wonder, if we can trace back current inequalities to past injustices, should those injustices be rectified even if the people who committed them, and the people against whom they were committed, are dead?Report

            • Avatar Robert Greer says:

              I wonder this too, and my experience is that right-libertarians bristle at even voicing this question.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Wrong-Libertarian scope on this is “they are dead, I’m not them, I may be descended from them but so what.”

                Wrong-Libertarian thought on the matter is that every generation somehow starts off on a “level” playing field, which ignores reality yet again. If everyone actually DID start off on a level playing field every generation that’d be one thing but they don’t.

                The irony is that if you start to talk about inheritance taxes, or tax rates that would serve similar purposes and force those of the next generation of the upper crust, you’ll find out that Wrong-Libertarians will never go for it. And that’s not surprising, because the people bankrolling Wrong-Libertarian “thinking” are people like the Kochs.

                They’re not in it for the rights of everyone, just for the right of the oligarchy, and Libertarian “thinking” fits perfectly for that while simultaneously trying to deny doing so.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Wrong-liberal thought is that past injustices echo down through the ages for eternity, so that we all have corrupted blood, and must have everything taken from us to compensate the descendants of those who were harmed.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                Liberals don’t think everything must be taken from those noble, pure classes. I don’t know why you’re so acerbic and uncharitable (mendacious) tonight, but it sure ain’t flattering to your credibility.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                Meant to put a ? after “mendacious.”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Robert,

                Why single out my statement and not M.A.’s?Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                Because I pushed back against M.A.’s uncharitableness elsewhere in this thread and I don’t see a need to repeat myself.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                +1

                And M.A. does need to tone down the rhetoric and be more charitable.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Robert,

                Sorry, I didn’t see your pushback.

                But please understand my comment wasn’t meant to be serious at all. It was meant to be ridiculous. And that ridiculousness was mean to highlight some other ridiculousness.

                I’m not sure the highlighting worked.Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              Chris and Robert,

              How do you suggest rectifying for sins of the grandfather?Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                Government can’t rectify sins, Roger. Redistribution isn’t going to solve all the ills of historically-oppressed populations. All I’m asking is that libertarians and conservatives stop using facile arguments in favor of using government force to protect their privilege.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                perhaps how the people wnat it to be handled… given to the communities that were victimized…Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Roger, I dunno. Maybe the same way we’d rectify the sins of our fathers.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Seriously…. I am asking the same question I did of Kazzy the other day ( he answered). What are you suggesting?

                How do you suggest we improve the system today to compensate or adjust for past abuses?

                I am only half way through the paper you suggested Robert, so if the recommendations are there just let me know.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                I have utopian ideas about not using violence to enforce property claims, but while I think this would mostly prevent perpetuation of past abuses, I’m not in favor of mass looting because I favor evolution over revolution. So my prescription would be multi-pronged: there should be increases in private charity and in integration of class groups, and right-wingers should stop kvetching when historically dispossessed groups happen to win a little something for themselves through the political process.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                I agree with the first two, Robert.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Roger, sorry it took me a while. I was away, and came back, and there were like 700 comments here, so I’d lost track of this one.

                My answer is in the form I’ve already given it: what happens to the children of a man or woman who makes his or her fortune illegally? Do you not take the money because it will harm them even though they aren’t responsible for the actions of their father or mother? Why stop there? If we can trace current inequalities to past injustices, why not rectify them in a similar way?

                Of course, my ideal answer would be, do away with property altogether. But I’m trying to be at least slightly more pragmatic.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Thanks Chris,

                Patrick and Kazzy and I discussed the same issue elsewhere in this mega thread and landed on a process of using impartial rules which are biased at the outset to the disadvantaged.

                Coercive redistribution is prone to self amplifying into a Hattfield McCoy situation.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                what happens to the children of a man or woman who makes his or her fortune illegally? Do you not take the money because it will harm them even though they aren’t responsible for the actions of their father or mother? Why stop there? If we can trace current inequalities to past injustices, why not rectify them in a similar way?

                Because at some point it becomes impossible to say how much of the current generation’s wealth is attributable to what their ancestor’s stole, and whether the victims’ descendants would actually have ever inherited any of their ancestors’ wealth had it not been stolen. It’s a purely pragmatic problem, from my perspective.

                Perhaps there’s also a statute of limitations type concern, as an ethical issue. I don’t know about that myself, but I can see someone making such an argument.

                Of course, my ideal answer would be, do away with property altogether.
                I’d really like to see you write an OP on this someday, and explain to me why it’s wrong for me to own my house and yard. It’s a mysterious thought to me.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Coercive redistribution may be prone to devolving into feuds, but I wonder, what are the current affects of inequality that traces back to injustice? Are they not also something to consider.

                I’m fine with everyone living by the same rules. I’m just not particularly fine with those rules being implemented in the middle of the game, after some people have already scored enough points to make a comeback impossible.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                what are the current affects of inequality that traces back to injustice?

                That’s a tough question, isn’t it? On the one hand, my ancestors came here as religious refugees, driven out of Switzerland. They thrive pretty well, and although I think I’d have preferred to grow up in the Alps, I can’t say the oppression of my ancestors has done me any harm.

                On the other hand, a kid who grows up in the projects is far less likely to see real prospects for anything else, because kids just know what they see around them. And that means their kids are more likely than mine to also have to grow up in the projects. And their kids.

                So it can have no effect over generations, or it can have a huge effect over generations. But I think we need to look for specific effects, instead of just assuming them. And I think we need to be able to trace those effects fairly clearly generation by generation. As our ability to trace an effect weakens generation by generation, it becomes more difficult to say with certainty that it was the original oppression/inequality that caused today’s problem–there are, at that point, so many other variables that plausibly play an even bigger role.

                That’s not to dismiss it and try to lump everything into that latter category. It’s just to say that it’s a tough question.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                James, you’ve said elsewhere in this thread that for you, as for someone else (Blaise maybe? Damn, this is a big thread), equality of opportunity is the goal. Is it possible to have equality of opportunity, even with “impartial rules” (whatever those may be — I’m not sure they’re not a pleasant fiction), if everyone is starting on a different rung of the ladder? And is this not even more unlike “equality of opportunity” if the run on which one finds oneself is, at least in part, and perhaps in large part, a result of injustices at some point prior to the implementation, or at least equal enforcement, of those “impartial rules?” These questions, of course, are not unrelated the the ethics of you owning your house and the land on which it stands.

                I’ll put it another way. The general idea, I gather, is that in a market system with “impartial rules” (I’m going to have to keep putting that phrase in scare quotes, because I’m not sure I can utter it seriously otherwise), “a rising tide raises all ships.” But what if, when the tide begins to rise as a result of those rules, everyone starts out in different sized ships? Or if many ships are already well above the ships currently on the water line, and somehow they continue to rise too? This doesn’t look like equality of opportunity to me. It looks like a great inequality of opportunity that is excused because, for most people, the quality of life is greater now than it was before the tide started to rise.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Chris,

                I don’t think perfect equality of opportunity is possible, and I don’t think trying to create it would actually result in desirable outcomes. Perhaps it’s not the best term for me to use. What I really mean is that I want everyone to actually have a reasonable opportunity. Poor people can have reasonable opportunities; it’s not lack of wealth itself that destroys opportunity–too many poor people have succeeded for that to be the case. It’s certain conditions that are strongly correlated with poverty that destroy opportunity, like growing up in the projects, having shitty schools, not having food in your belly, suffering the stress of constant worry about being shot or assaulted, and so on.

                I grew up fairly poor at times. I remember going down to the fire station to get the government cheese we qualified for. I remember my mom near tears in the grocery store trying to figure out how she was going to feed her kids. I remember my parents worrying about how they were going to manage the house payment. And I remember my dad being ecstatic when he found a $20 bill tucked away in his wallet (the ’70s, when $20 meant something), because that tided us over until his next paycheck.

                But none of that limited my opportunity, because it never got worse than that, I lived in a safe small town, and I went to a reasonably good school. I have friends who grew up upper middle class and lower upper class, had far more than we did, and went to top tier private Catholic schools. Was my opportunity equal to theirs? No. Was it good enough? Yes.

                But right now I’m dealing with some African-American students we recruited from an impoverished place from a southern state I’ll not name. They’re driving me crazy, because despite having college diplomas they are not remotely prepared for college. Was their opportunity good enough? I don’t think so.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                James, I see that we’re going to head down different paths at this point, so let’s take a step back and talk about these “impartial rules.” What if, because the present inequalities are, to an extent, perhaps to a large extent, a result of past injustices, and since we’re interested in some approximation of equality of opportunity, even if they weren’t, we chose to make the rules less than impartial? What if, for example, we attached a certain amount of privileged status to certain disadvantaged groups? For example, along the lines of what Young argues. Can we start there?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Culture does a lot of heavy lifting. The most important thing you can do for your children is read to them.

                You can redistribute everything on the planet but, in, oh, two generations, the kids who were read to will be doing a *LOT* better than the kids who weren’t.

                In four, we’ll be 95% back where we started.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Chris,

                I can’t access the article until I’m back on campus, which won’t be until next Monday.

                But if you want to focus on impartial rules, I guess I need to know which ones in particular we’re talking about. I don’t know that I’m wedded in binding holy matrimony to the concept of nothing but impartial rules, but I’m certainly not open to ending all impartiality in rules.

                And I think that upfront we’re in agreement that we oppose non-impartial rules that specifically exist to benefit the better off?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                James, no, I don’t mean to make the rules 100% partial. I just mean to make them tilt a little in certain directions to counter the fact that the playing field, as it currently exists, tilts in others.

                I’m certainly opposed to existing structures that are biased towards the rich and powerfulReport

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Jay, argh, I meant to include this in my response to James, because the last thing this thread needs is more comments (someone write a new post so we can start a new thread!).

                Yeah, I know your position on the cultural aspect of it. My response here will be the same as it’s been elsewhere: the economics, politics, and cultural aspects of these inequalities, these imbalances of privilege, exist in a dynamic system in which the relationships are non-linear and operate over multiple time scales. Parents reading to their children is great, and will undoubtedly help, but a.) it will only go so far, and b.) getting to the point where parents can and will read to their children enough to make a difference is not simply a cultural issue.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Chris,

                I’m in agreement vaguely and generally. I don’t know if I’m in agreement specifically, because I don’t know what the specifics are.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                James, once we’ve agreed that “impartial rules” are not ideal in the current context, we can start to work out the specifics of how to tilt the rules based on the tilt of the playing field. So at least we’re there.

                One of the first steps I’d proposed would be race-based solutions. Also, a transfer of money to not just schools but the entire educational system of poor areas.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Oh, and free health care.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Ah, race based solutions. Tricky. I don’t like them. I think coal miner’s kids in Appalachia are lacking in opportunity every bit as much as the kid in the projects in the city. And I have friends from Appalachia who tell me that. But on the other hand, every time we make a program that’s not race based enough, it ends up serving the needs of whites much more than the needs of minorities, instead of the needs of whites and minorities. From a policy perspective, it’s very frustrating.

                But let’s say for constructive discussion purposes that I agree. How many generations does the program run? If Adam is the first generation of African-American kids to get the benefit of the program, I’m cool with that. Do his kids get the program, too? They shouldn’t need it, or at least as much, right? Do we disqualify minority kids whose parents benefited from the non-impartial rule (I wanted to write partial rule, but that reads wrong), so we can focus it on those who haven’t benefited (indirectly, through mom and/or dad) from it? Do we allow two generations but disqualify those who parents and grandparents benefited from it? Or do we just base it on race and keep it in place for….well, what’s our standard for deciding when the non-impartial rule has overcome the problem of the inter-generational effects of past inequality?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        The response I’m hoping for is:

        “OK, fine. Taxation is theft and government is force.

        Well, on a very simplistic level, yes that’s true. But consider a scenario in which government is addressing only legitimate and real collective action problems. Eg, suppose a minimalist society in which criminals exist, and they violate rights and disrupt markets and just do bad things in general. What’s the remedy to that problem? Create disincentives to bad behavior by rounding up criminals and incarcerating them (or whatever). Who funds this entirely justified activity? Well, that’s a collective action problem that requires a solution, yes?, since it’s in every individuals self-interest to free-ride on everyone else’s contribution to a “police force”, yet it’s in everyone’s self-interest to have a police force.

        The options available to people in this society are to a) agree to a police force to ensure payment of the tax to fund the police force or b) not have a police force, which is inconsistent with the initial conditions. IF we opt for a) we’re now in “taxation is theft” land. But the tax is entirely justified by the society’s desire to prevent theft. So, open question: is requiring the payment of a cop-tax theft? Only on a really broad meaning of the term, one that isn’t standard, it seems to me.Report

        • Avatar Brian Houser says:

          My point was that all along, I was just wanting a response like the one you just gave rather than “go away, you insane libertarian.”

          I’m not looking to get into a debate about libertarian solutions in this thread (although you certainly ask important questions). I lean more toward the minarchist section of the libertarian spectrum, so I don’t have much of a problem solving the problems you mentioned with courts and police and such (although I’d prefer they be kept localized as much as possible). If there are any pure voluntarists here, perhaps they can chime in.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            My point was that all along, I was just wanting a response like the one you just gave rather than “go away, you insane libertarian.”

            This is bidirectional.

            If “taxation is theft” pushes buttons that drive people to say, “go away, you insane libertarian”, then perhaps you ought not to start the conversation off thumbing people in the eye, that way.

            In the spirit of charitable debate, using language that encourages other people to participate constructively is better than using language that encourages other people to participate destructively. You want to listen charitably, but you also want to speak in such a way that you demand as little charity as possible from your reader.

            Generally.Report

            • Avatar Brian Houser says:

              Certainly. We are in agreement on this.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                FWIW, while I’m not a libertarian, I do think that you guys have to put up with a lot of shit that is unjustified. One of the problems with being part of a relatively small political unit is that the nuts shine all the more brightly, and it can be very very tiring to feel like you have to say, over and over, “That guy over there isn’t me. I don’t even think he’s a particularly good exemplar of the label I’ve chosen for myself. And he’s an ass.”

                I don’t really have a good answer for that.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                +1 on this good buddy.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        The problem is that the standard method of argument these days is to define the things you don’t like with negative terms; and then the argument doesn’t even need to happen anymore because, well, who can argue in favor of negative things?

        I mean, is someone really going to argue in favor of theft by force?Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        Taxation isn’t theft.

        Taxation, per Oliver Wendell Holmes, is the price we pay for a civilized society.

        It’s not theft. It’s the cover charge to get into the nightclub that is America.

        So when you say “taxation is theft”, damn right I think you’re a nutjob.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          “Taxation is the price we pay for a civilized society” is rather simplistic in itself, since it doesn’t even begin to address the issue of what things we are taxes for (nuclear weapons, mass imprisonment and torture experts, how civilized), or what levels of taxation are and aren’t justified. You only think it’s a more sophisticated claim because it’s your own simplistic claim instead of someone else’s simplistic claim.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      Patrick, I understand what you’re getting at here:
      Coates wasn’t wrong about the heritage and tradition of this country being racist, but those kinds of statements don’t facilitate discussion. When said that way, many people think he’s saying that the most important part of this country’s heritage and tradition is racism, not just that *one component* of it is racism.

      Coates was clear, that racism is a part of the heritage, not all of it. Misogyny is a part of the heritage, not all of it. Genocide. But here’s the problem I’m struggling with, and I tossed and turned thinking on it last night — the people most likely to be discomforted by these facts are the people most likely to embrace the charm of the past without dealing with the pain; without realizing that the present doesn’t start from year zero, but is built on that past.

      For the libertarian/liberal argument, that distinction actually matters. I step into my daily life as a woman and encounter a system that’s often rigged against me in very subtle ways. I’m married to a musician, have spent much of my adult life in places where musicians work, and see first hand the weirdness black musicians face. And the progress that I see, that makes those things subtle instead of overt, is the result of government coercion; it’s emancipation and civil rights, suffrage. But — and here’s the essential thing — that coercion is us, it’s not foreign, it’s not imposed by anything or anyone except the people and the lawmakers they’ve chosen, working to make a more equal nation by ending the coercions of the past.

      This nation is still built on a foundation of racism, of misogyny, and those, too are forms of coercion. While those traditions are distasteful and discomforting, they ought be recognized to help keep their coercive hooks in our day to day dealing. So when I hear talk of ‘big government,’ of ‘coercion,’ of ‘taxes as theft,’ I’m most left feeling like I’m looking at someone unwilling or incapable of recognizing the coercion the government has ended, the theft of labor, of liberty, of rights while claiming they’re being treated as slaves were, as women were.

      They’re not.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

        +1Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          PB and Zic,

          This comment started fine, but may I offer a different end point?

          Exploitation of others has been the dominating narrative of human history (pun intended). Racism, misogyny, xenophobia, privilege and rent seeking, and the abuse of the weaker by the stronger. This was true in Mesopotamia, China, Rome, Japan, Central America and everywhere else since the advent of agriculture. Defining the problem as a US issue, is misleading. It was a historic part of our nature which had to be overcome.

          The institutions and philosophy of the enlightenment pointed tentatively to ways out of this. The Netherlands, Great Britain, America and others began experimenting with more inclusive institutions. See Acemoglu, Pinker or Douglas North for multiple takes on these processes.

          The solution set seems to be a central monopoly on the use of coercion focused on using fire only to fight fire, along with inclusive, impartial institutions which encourage constructive competition and cooperation and discourage needlessly destructive processes.

          As a classical liberal, this is what I propose. My fear is that if the government takes too active of a role in using coercion to adjust outcomes (rather than stopping other coercion) that the history reveals it gets captured by competing interest groups and zero sum, us vs them rationalizations . Neither side wins, as the game shifts from positive sum to zero sum. If you all think I am wrong, please point out why.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

            The problem is that this lets the bad actors walk away with the spoils of their bad acts. African Americans and women still face a lot of discrimination in this country. African Americans and Hispanics still suffer disproportionately from poverty, and the poorer quality schools that going along with poverty in this country. And the poorer job advantages that result from that, and so on.

            Let me use an analogy from control systems. Proportional control is the basic tool in linear control systems, and provides stability in dynamic systems in the face of unwanted disturbances. Proportional control on it’s own, though, has its flaws – it can take a long time to stabilize, and it can permit long-term steady-state error for certain inputs. Adding a small amount of integral control to a proportional control system (a PI control system) can greatly improve the responsiveness of the system, and remove unwanted steady state error from the system, but too much integral control can lead to overshoot and instability. Derivative control can be added, too, (PID control) to compensate for the problems that come from integral control.

            We have a political/economic system in which a past disturbance has caused a steady state error that proportional control (the market) hasn’t been able to fix. And you’re saying we shouldn’t be allowed to use a small amount of integral control to fix it because a large amount of integral control is a bad thing. Color me unconvinced.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Let a parabola labeled Market exist in the first quadrant with its zeros upon the X axis. Let the zenith of that Market parabola represent an optimally efficient amount of regulation upon that market. That regulation may take two forms, both internal and external.

              Proceeding along the X axis, the first zero represents no regulation at all. The market cannot exist: buyers and sellers have no confidence in it. It is anarchy. As we approach the second zero we see the formation of a totalitarian state economy. Markets cannot exist at either zero.

              The real world never actually reaches either zero. Black markets form to compensate for too much regulation, ad-hoc barter markets appear to compensate for too little regulation. Neither are truly efficient market structures. Market efficiency lies between these two zeroes.

              But in like manner, regulation is never optimally efficient. Recently, a fraud was detected against Citigroup’s ATM system. The lag time between an ATM withdrawal and the recalculation of the available balance allowed for the thieves to simultaneously withdraw money within the sixty seconds to balance the accounts.

              In the real world, optimal regulation is equally impossible, as impossible as total anarchy or total statism. You can bet Citigroup’s security crews are pretty embarrassed about this lapse.

              If the Libertarian complains about the right hand descending side of the parabola, correctly pointing out how over-regulation creates inefficiencies, the rest of us, who look at the ascending curve, believe external regulation are a necessary adjunct to efficient markets. Both are equally true.

              I don’t believe I’ll ever get a Libertarian to agree with what I’ve written here.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Let a parabola labeled Market exist in the first quadrant with its zeros upon the X axis.

                Of course its zeros are on the X axis! THAT’S WHAT FISHING MAKES THEM ZEROS!

                Sorry. Carry on.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                they could be on the y axis.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                No.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Heh. The Libertarian parabola would be placed with the zeroes on either side and the zenith exactly on the Y axis. Which would, of course, lead them to conclude NO REGULATION is best.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Hmm. What is negative regulation?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                when the regulators actively participate in what they’re regulating…profiting outsize others because they’re the regulators and they write the rules to suit ’em.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Oh, it’s all negative. Even when it’s the only thing which makes markets work. The Libertarians hate it all, even when they grudgingly accept its necessity and boy howdy, that’s like trying to milk a bull around here.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Blaise, you’re proposing points in the second quadrant, where the X value (the amount of regulation, not its effect) is negative. What does that mean?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I specifically excluded such points in the second axis. Markets will never actually reach the X axis: some form of barter or black market will emerge as X approaches 0. Absolute anarchy is practically impossible, so is absolute totalitarianism.

                In the real world, market participants will start demanding some sort of regulation. Even the most ardent Libertarians, for all my joking about them, do insist on some sort of sanction against Force ‘n Fraud. They’re quite serious about it, too. They’re not anarchists.

                And on their side, even the Liberals get angry with a totalitarian state. The zenith is sorta like Goldilocks’ porridge, not too hot, not too cold. Just right.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Heh. The Libertarian parabola would be placed with the zeroes on either side and the zenith exactly on the Y axis.

                On either side of the Y axis, i.e. one with positive X, and one with negative X.

                Never mind, the answer “what did you mean?” has been answered quite well.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                I’m having a little trouble visualizing that graph, but I think I get your point. Here’s where I think we’re having difficulties: libertarians (most) aren’t suggesting you can’t have any regulations; the question is who does the regulating. I contend the people in the marketplace are best suited to choose which regulations they want (they’re the ones that need to trust the market, after all). I go back to the eBay example: it manages to be pretty successful based on regulations it imposes, not the government (mostly).

                I agree there are other considerations when the market has external effects (pollution, etc.), but when those don’t exist or have little consequence, why not let the market regulate itself?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Ebay managed to be successful by manipulating the fourth estate. It wasn’t the best business model, but it didn’t have to be.

                A self-regulated market leads to one which necessarily exploits information-deprived folks. (okay, not really. you can be fair, it’s just not in your interest to be).

                An example: I show up with a credit rating of 700, and you do as well. We get signed up for two different loans (in fact, they don’t even bother telling me that I qualify for your loan, which is far better than mine.) You’re white, I’m black. There’s an information deficit here, wherein my friends all get the same loan rate, and so do your friends. Nobody sees the problem.

                So, Joe Consumer wants regulations.

                Joe Cheat does not, because he’s not going to abide by them in the first place.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                I see your point about how there may be an incentive for the seller to hide the truth.

                However, in this day and age, isn’t that relatively unlikely? Won’t the news quickly get around?

                And how does eBay demonstrate this problem? I’m not seeing it. And, just out of curiosity, how did it become successful by manipulating the “fourth estate”?

                I think the much better arguments to be made for external regulations are the ones that counteract the problem of people not being able to enter the market in the first place. For example (yes, I’m giving you one here), Obamacare’s requirement that insurance companies include members with pre-existing conditions. But this is a slippery slope (“um, I’m feeling left out of the market for private jets!”).Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                It took years for there to be a court case (North Carolina, in case you’re interested — also one of the blue states up on the northern coast.)

                I cited Enron, I cited lead-based paint on toys. The second is particularly egregious, as anyone who’s taken chem lab knows that yellow is only from lead. These are things that you could take millions to the bank on, if only you bothered to read a few publically available documents.

                Insurance Companies are another: since you have relatively few folks getting hurt in a given year, you can free ride on brand name for ages, without a problem. Hell, that’s Sears whole business model these days, with their repairmen (who used to be really something!).

                I could write a whole book on people cheating. I just bought some potting soil this year. Well, it SAID it was potting soil, at any rate. That was a flat out lie. I had it tested by a friend of a friend, and it turned out to be poorly composted newspaper, plus miracle gro. Aka HORRIBLE to grow carrots in.
                Now, that’s actual fraud. What they claimed to be selling isn’t what they actually were. But it won’t be detected by most people, because most people grow flowers in the stuff, and miracle gro works decent nearly by its lonesome for selling that.

                Ebay spent 75% of its original capital on advertising. Then their advertisers wrote up news articles, and got the Washington Post to publish them (the Post predictably whined for graphs so that they could frontpage the article). The Post ran the articles as is, no changes, no research.

                I’m not saying that demonstrates market failure, it’s just that most libertarians seem to think that a market will always produce the bestest most awesomeness and better products too. Which is ridiculous. I’d rather write some rules to make a “bestest awesomest and cool stuff too” market, rather than going with one on FIRE, and bound to go bust.

                General Aviation costs about $100 an hour. No TSA for you! 😉
                (something that’s reasonable, imnsho).Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                But I don’t understand how you think regulation would have solved these problems. How would you have done things differently if you were given free reign over setting regulations? You act like all these problems magically make themselves known before they occur. These things all tend be reactions, not preventative.

                Horrible things happened on 9/11, so at great expense and inconvenience, we beef up Homeland Security and implement the TSA and all that, and have we really prevented anything? It didn’t bring back the thousands that died that day. And do you really think any terrorist worth his weight in oil is going to really try that again, even without the TSA?

                Libertarians don’t claim free markets are the magical saviors of the universe; just that the more you interfere with them, generally the fewer outcomes they produce, and those outcomes may have included some pretty great ones. Do you really have the conceit to think you can magically dream up the best outcome better than the market can figure it out by trying things?Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Brian, this is the second (and I may have missed others) time you’ve brought up the issue of regulation not initially preventing things.

                That’s because there are free markets. Typically it’s not until harm’s done — until we see that lead paint lowers children’s IQs, that dioxin pollutes rivers, that drunk driving leads to frequent accident and death, that we regulate. Liberals don’t go around anticipating stuff that might go wrong and try to regulate that, they examine what has gone wrong and try to come up with a frame work for preventing it in the future.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                I guess what I’m asking is, is regulation really all it’s cracked up to be if it really mainly prevents things after the fact–things that would probably be prevented by the market anyway? I mean, you’re not giving consumers much credit for paying attention to those bad things that happened. Once the dangers of lead paint are exposed, are companies really going to keep on using it, and if so, why will consumers keep buying it?

                It seems to me that a lot of problems are avoided if the responsibility is kept with the producer and the consumer for making wise decisions. I can see a better case made for government services that attempt to educate rather than regulate, because this still leaves choices open. In that case, government is providing information rather than making value judgments.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Brian,
                a market is simply a game. Sometimes it makes “good outcomes” (herein defined as “lots more cool shit”), sometimes it makes really fucking stupid outcomes — building houses that need $90,000 worth of work within the first five years of life.

                In an ideal market, I regulate stupid outcomes. Do my best to break up oligopolies, and where oligopolies form, at least consider making the whole thing a governmental thing.

                A whole LOT of regulations come about after the fact. People die, and then rules get made. Because 50 people died in a building in Georgia, we have mandatory fire escapes. Saved millions of lives since.

                I want to let the markets have the free-est possible hand.

                Yanno what I want? A damn high inheritance tax (after the first $6million). Because the worst person to play a game against is someone who has no fear.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Brian,
                I love EnergyStar too. That one regulation saved billions of dollars, by showing people exactly where their financial interest lies. Are there other places we could do the same thing? As Efficiently?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                And that’s exactly where Libertarianism fails. Yes, you’re right, on your side of the graph, external regulation attenuates efficiency.

                But you’ll never, effing EVER, admit the other side of the parabola. It doesn’t fit into your worldview. The people in the marketplace will not trust each other to work out what’s best. They will always turn to a third party trusted by both, with the ability and mandate to enforce those regulations.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Picture the Laffer curve, with the X axis being amount of regulation and the Y axis being, say, wealth creation. Blaise is proposing that Y goes to zero at the endpoints (no regulation or completely suffocating regulation) and reaches it maximum in between.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Here’s where I think we’re having difficulties: libertarians (most) aren’t suggesting you can’t have any regulations;

                Yes, that strawman is his constant companion.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Okay, but what is the difference between “libertarianism plus regulation” and “neoclassical or right-leaning liberalism”?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I can’t directly answer that question because there’s too much of it I don’t understand. My response is that it’s a mistake to think libertarianism means an opposition to all regulation. Libertarians almost all believe in, at a minimum, a legal system where those who are harmed by violence, theft, or fraud, can seek recompense. To me that’s a form of regulation.

                For my money, the key is just that libertarians are far more skeptical about any further regulations, and would set a higher bar for finding them justified than would liberals. So we’re more likely to say no to a particular regulation, and we’re more likely to demand more in the way of justification of particular regulations. It seems that that comes off as just being opposed to all regulations, but it’s not really.

                To me it’s just exactly the same as the way liberals behave when it comes to regulation of our private lives. It’s not that you all will say no to any and every possible regulation of our private lives, but you set a very high bar for justifying such regulations. And then conservatives accuse you of all just being libertines who favor having children snorting coke off the cocks of gay hookers on Main St., and you think, “What? Where the hell’d you get that idea?”

                And we libertarians are right there with you, every step of the way. The difference is that when the talk turns to economics, we keep acting exactly the same way, and you guys apply a different decision rule.

                Maybe you’re actually in the right. Maybe the two domains are different enough that different decision rules should be employed. But I don’t believe so (although I do think economic regulations are more likely to pass the bar than regulations of our private lives).

                So when you find us puzzling, just say to yourself, “they treat the economic realm the same way they treat the civil liberties realm,” and you’ll mostly have it. That doesn’t mean you’ll agree, of course, and I’m not demanding agreement. But I think you’ll understand us more readily and accurately.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I think you got it right when you said that liberals think different rules should be applied. A person with no morals in the bedroom at absolute worst, may give some a few hundred people diseases. A person with no morals in the boardroom can literally destroy economies and end the livelihoods of whole regions.

                So yes, we say, as liberals, for the well-being of society, you don’t have complete economic freedom. It’s more important you pay a decent wage and follow these rules than the maximum amount of money possible.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Jesse,

                That’s fine. I’m not arguing that point here. I’m happy for you to hold that position against any arguments I might make.

                I’m only talking about how liberals can better understand libertarianism, and I worry that by jumping too quickly to arguing about those positions you’re missing that point, so that next time around you’ll once again misunderstand us.

                Instead of seeking just to refresh the argument, please just listen for a moment.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                It seems fair to summarise the Libertarian perspective as a necessary check to over-regulation.

                I might also add a fairly innocuous addendum to the BlaiseParabola, see if you can agree with this, too. Purely external regulation trends toward statism and purely internal regulation trends toward anarchy. At the zenith, market participants enjoy a bare minimum of regulation and bystanders (read taxpayers) are glad enough to see sufficient regulation, lest the market go apeshit again.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Purely external regulation trends toward statism and purely internal regulation trends toward anarchy.

                I hope you’ll allow me some time to mull that over.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                The zenith is the point of optimal possible efficiency at that point in time, which again is dynamic.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                A fellowship at the Cato Institute? 🙂Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Damon:

                “All you do is insert yourselves into MY life, telling me what I can and can’t do:”

                That’s what I wind up getting from Damon, from Brian. And I’ve even gotten it from you.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                James,

                “the key is just that libertarians are far more skeptical about any further regulations, and would set a higher bar for finding them justified than would liberals”

                So both liberals and libertarians believe economic (and personal) autonomy is -other things equal- intrinsically good. And both liberals and moderate libertarians believe that it is sometimes justified to limit a particular economic freedom (speaking loosely), e.g. to break up a monopoly, enforce patents, regulate pollution, provide a safety net of some sort, etc.

                Extreme libertarians (Nozick, say) do not believe that limitting economic freedom is ever just.

                So therefore, isn’t it true that 1.) moderate libertarians and liberals agree on principles, while moderate libertarians and extreme libertarians disagree on principle? And isn’t it also true that 2.) names like “libertarian” or “liberal” are best thought of as names for political philosophy’s, i.e. labels for sets pf preferred principles of justice?

                Well, if you agree with 1. and 2., then -and there is a deductively valid argument here- then you have to agree that you and Jason and all other so-called moderate libertarians ought to call yourselves “liberals.”

                In simpler terms, you agree with the essential claim of liberalism -and disagree with the essential claim of extreme libertarianism- that we need to balance worries about maximizing autonomy with other goals: especially a minimum of utility and a minimum of equality.

                So why not describe yourself as a liberal who favors markets and market-like structures (what they call “neoliberalism,” or like what Matt Yglesias accepts) with a minimum of gov’t structuring?

                If you did this, you wouldn’t get attacked for being an extreme libertarian anymore. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Also, is this a simpler way of stating your disagreement with what most liberals believe: You believe that markets should be regulated (in all or almost all cases) less than they are and this would create more equality, overall utility, and economic autonomy. While most liberals want more regulation in too many economic spheres.

                Of course, Yglesias et al want charter schools and the end of all sorts of licensures and housing regulations. So you aren’t alone as a deregulation loving liberal. You just have to argue -which you often do or try to do- that deregulation is a good liberal policy. This would be easier if you identified as philosophically liberal.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Now what I’m secretly hoping is to make some logical (at least algebraic) synthesis of Libertarian and Liberal thought processes, so’s the worthy Jason can write it up in Libertarian-ese.

                The Progressive Liberals, (though this is a gross generalisation) tend to push for more regulation, or to rephrase it more charitably, more effective regulation of markets. This can be carried too far and is a distorted view of capitalism, witness all the nonsense about Greedy Capitalists and 99%ers. Fatuous nonsense with just enough of the glue of truth to make for dandy sloganeering.

                Capitalism works, folks. But as with any force we wish to control, we must regulate it. That’s so obvious it’s a goddamn tautology. The Libertarians want to reduce regulatory friction and that’s a useful goal. Capitalism needs to evolve and regulation must evolve along with it.

                Where more risk appears, we need more regulation. Where we can reduce risk, we can reduce regulation. The first step to effective regulation is the effective and timely promulgation of accurate information to all parties involved.

                All this is so obvious, I can’t believe I’m saying it: but as surely as the market participants rely on that information, they rely on the bare minimum of regulation to give them confidence in that market, that promises will be kept, that secret collusion can be prevented, that corrupt regulators can be detected and punished, in short, that markets can be kept competitive.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Shazbot,

                One of the things that distinguishes us is that I don’t worry about whether less regulated markets would create more equality. Equality in economic outcomes is a distinctly liberal goal, whereas libertarians are pretty neutral about it. If it happens, that’s fine. If it doesn’t, that’s also fine. Our goal is improved well-being for all, and if my economic status improves next year, I don’t really care if Bill Gates’ economic status improvement once again outstrips mine by unfathomable amounts.

                And for my money, the effort to define us out of libertarianism is a shell game. I’m not at all interested in telling others how to define themselves, and I’m even less interested in having others tell me how to define myself.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                James,

                I mean a mimimum of equality of opportunity. (Which all liberals believe in, not equality of outcome, which only few liberals believe in.)

                Surely you’re overstating your apathy about inequality. Surely you care about some minimum of equality, especially if we mean equality of opportunity.

                Imagine a world where fair, unregulated market transactions result in one super-corporation (owned by a few hundred people) possessing all the wealth in the U.S. Let’s call it Mother-Corp. (You may think such a thing is implausible, but this is a hypothetical, designed to test whether you care about equality at all, just as Nozick’s Wilt Chamberlain case is a hypothetical.) Everyone else owes Mother-Corp money and Mother-Corp uses those debts to control virtually everything. The owners of Mother-Corp live like kings and everyone else lives in abject poverty. The owners send their children to a special business school that is very expensive and no other child of regular parents can afford it. To earn enough money to get out of debt or prevent going into debt would require going to that school.

                Is this a just society? (Nozick would say yes, BTW, because any result of free trades is always just.) My guess is that you would say no, on grounds of equality. It isn’t fair that the poor children can’t go to the school that would allow them to succeed only because of their parent’s economic station in life. If you agree with that you believe that considerations of equality (especially equality of opportunity) at least can trump a set of individual’s right to not be taxed or have their wealth redistributed.

                I get that you think in the actual world, as a matter of fact, redistributive measures are not helping or are making the problem of inequality (especially of opportunity) worse.

                But my guess is that you believe children who are born into poverty who are blind or disabled should be given economic assistance (to help them become educated, which can be expensive for disabled children, and to help them compete in society).

                And the money for such programs has to be transferred from somewhere. So, you do believe in taking money from the rich to help the poor have equal opportunities to succeed. No?

                If not, you are an extreme libertarian like Nozick, who won’t redistribute resources society to help the blind and the disabled wo are born poor have a fair shot at success.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I mean a mimimum of equality of opportunity.

                Not of outcome? Then, again, why are you not a libertarian? Because it sounds like you want just what we want.

                As to your hypotheticals, I’m not going to engage them because you seem to want to draw where only extreme libertarians count as libertarians. If I don’t pass the Nozick test, I’m not a libertarian. I reject that idea.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                MotherCorp would collapse under its own weight. Because it faced no competition, it would never respond effectively to changing consumer demands for this ‘n that. It would start issuing loathsome Five Year Plans and suchlike.

                The Economic Barons of MotherCorp would need to build castles with moats. Their own standard of life would quickly plummet, however grand it might seem in comparison to the serfs. Since MotherCorp could stifle all the competition aborning, innovation would start looking like the Book of Kells, beautifully done work but almost completely illegible.

                And soon enough, as with all monocultures, a plague would arrive to sweep it away. Or like the dodos, a few sailors would arrive and eat these fat, flightless birds and I’ll bet my life they were pretty damned tasty and we’d never hear of MotherCorp again.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Shazbot,

                Another way to respond to your hypothetical is as such…

                If free enterprise led predictably and consistently to bad results, pragmatic libertarians would not support it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Roger,
                If I understand what Shazbot is arguing (and of course I may be wrong, and I welcome him to correct me), I think your response demonstrates that these so-called “pragmatic libertarians” must actually be liberals.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Re: Blaise at 5:22 p.m.

                I’m on board with that. I think we’ll still argue about which specific regulations are valuable or not, but as a general–but not uselessly vague–statement, I’m totally on board.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                James,

                I can’t get your link for some reason. (Probably my bad.)

                We could choose the term “liberal” or “libertarian” for the philosophical principles we believe.

                But given that a.) the vast majority of Americans (and English speakers more generally) associate the term “libertarianism” with what we are calling “extreme libertarianism,” or Nozick’s view; and b.) given that the majority of English speakers associate “liberal” with a belief in economic and social autonomy that is limited occasionaly for the sake of utility or equality of opportunity; and c.) we won’t be able to change how most speakers use the term only how we use the term, isn’t it true that it is wiser to fit our use of terms like “liberal” or “libertarian” to society’s use.

                I mean you could call yourself a “theocrat,” too, but that isn’t how society uses the term.

                In general, you agree with liberals that economic autonomy is not the only principle of justice. You think utility and equality of opportunity are also important. But “liberalism” is the name that society uses for a broad family of views that try to blend acceptance of those three principles together. (Rawlsian liberalism is one such blend. There are others.) So why not choose a term that other users of the terms “liberalism” and “libertarianism” will be able to hear and correctly glean information about your principles? (If you use the term “liberal” like others do, you might find that people stop misunderstanding your views. Indeed, maybe it is partially your fault -sorry that sounds aggressive- that people keep misunderstanding your position. Maybe you are using labels differently than society.)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Shazbot,

                Here’s the URL.

                As to your question, I regularly consider dropping the term libertarian, not because I think it’s inappropriate, but because, as you note, society’s an ass. (I may have paraphrased there.) Please allow me to say that it’s particularly frustrating when folks like you appear to use society’s tendency toward being an ass to excuse your own misuse of the term.

                But if I dropped the term, I most assuredly would not start calling myself a liberal. Once upon a time, 20 years ago, I did, and the term fit. Today it’s like putting on one the suits I had 20 years ago; it just doesn’t fit at all. (I lie; I didn’t own a suit 20 years ago. But today I have 4 suits, and none of them fit.) Sorry, I’m with liberals on civil liberties, but on most other things you can all go to hell as far as I’m concerned (and I mean that in the nicest possible way, as someone who doesn’t believe in hell).

                If I chose another term it would by polycentrist. And I’d spend just as much time explaining it.Report

              • Avatar Turgid Jacobian says:

                I mean a mimimum of equality of opportunity.

                Not of outcome? Then, again, why are you not a libertarian? Because it sounds like you want just what we want.

                So was the opportunity really equal between Barbara Pierce Bush and, say, my wife, born to an ordinary Joe and Jeanne?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I don’t know what a “polycentrist” is, but the term sounds like something I would want to identify as.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Tod,

                Ironically, it’s an idea originally developed within communist theory. Essentially it means having multiple, and potentially overlapping, centers of political authority. It’s really a form of federalism, in which policy decisions are made at the level of all affected stakeholders (rather than being imposed from above). That would leave a lot more local authority than is currently the case. And so I often get liberals sneering, “so you’d allow southern cities to re-enact segregated schools.” No, we have a Constitution that guarantees certain fundamental rights, and I’d stick with that. But that doesn’t stop the liberal sneering, I’ve found. And it means you have to allow other communities to do things you personally find very distasteful. For example, Jessie gave me the impression that he’s so opposed to vouchers for private schools that he would try to ban it everywhere, even if the people in that school district overwhelmingly wanted it. I’d allow it, even if it turned out to be a phenomenally bad idea, because the stakeholders should get to make the choices that affect them, and I’m not a stakeholder in their community.

                But here’s the thing, it wouldn’t be wholly honest for me to call myself a polycentrist and pretend that I don’t think of myself as libertarian, because polycentrism is very compatible with libertarianism. If a bunch of people want to start a commune, that’s fine with the polycentrist and fine with the libertarian. My community wants to ban strip clubs, street parking at night, and business signs bigger than 3 feet by 5 feet–I’m dubious about whether any of those is necessary, but I’m fine with letting my community have the authority to do so, and not letting either the state nor the federal government make that decision for us.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Thus, revealing another difference liberals and libertarians, James. You put the possible educational future of thousands of children on the same level as whether or not a business can have a sign that’s x inches tall outside of their office.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                We also think it’s like some kind of job where it’s possible to judge whether someone’s doing a good job or not.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I think you can measure teachers fine, but not based on BS standarized tests and business school metrics I think don’t really apply to other peoples jobs either. The difference is the people in the cubicles took the BS business school “systems” lying down and the unions are actually fighting against them.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Good lord, Jessie, you really aren’t interested in a discussion, are you? There are any number of ways you could have phrased that, but you chose to phrase it in the “you don’t care at all about the children!” way. So you leave no real opening for discussion because you’ve already put the worst spin on it.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Won’t somebody pleeeeeeeaase think of the children!

                Sorry, had to be said.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                We libertarians think of children all the time. Sweet, tasty, children. Some like free range children best, but I like mine plumped up in a small cage for maximum tenderness.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                James, that comment just earned you an extra beer… er, ale.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Alan Greenspan, 1994: “there is nothing involved in Federal regulation which makes it superior to market regulation.”

                Alan Greenspan, 1997: “There appears to be no need for government regulation of off- exchanged derivative transactions.”

                Alan Greenspan, 2002 post-Enron: “We do not believe a public policy case exists to justify this government intervention.”

                Alan Greenspan, 2008: “Bank loan officers, in my experience, know far more about the risks and workings of their counter parties than do bank regulators.”

                Alan Greenspan, 2009: “Oops.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Blaise,

                Your parabola sounds right to me. An unregulated market as you define it here is an absurdity. I also agree that the optimal amount of regulation is probably constantly changing due to feedback effects on the success of regulation at discouraging cheating vs the costs of the regulations.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Nunc dimittis! Many thanks, Roger.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                I’m pretty sure I agree with it as well. I haven’t seen it put in quite those terms before, so I don’t want to endorse it without thinking about it for a while. But I like it at first glance.

                Exchange is a strategy with hoped-for benefits, some of which can be positive-sum, that is, when an exchange produces a more efficient allocation of goods. The likelihood of that happening reaches a maximum at some point between zero regulation and totalitarianism. I think I can agree.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Gee, but Blaise said no libertarian would ever agree to it. How is it possible that we have not one, but two libertarians in good standing agreeing to it?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                By God, I did get y’all to agree to my vision of optimal regulation. And that’s worth any amount of good-natured scoffing from y’all.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                At no point did Hanley ever say that regulation was never required, or that all markets would function better without it.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                STFU Duck. The smart people are talking now.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                What’s funny, Blaise, is that you seem to think you have change anyone’s mind, rather than presenting a model with which they were already in agreement.

                Nobody here’s in real disagreement with the general model. The disagreement is in the details of the parabola’s shape, who’s doing the regulating, and what form the regulations take.

                It’s like arguing about the Yankees. We all agree they suck; we’re just arguing about whether they suck as bad as Hitler or only as bad as bin Laden.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                It’s funny, Blaise, that you tell Duck to STFU in response to one of his rare clear and inarguably factually true arguments.

                I urge you to go back and re-read it. He’s exactly, 100%, right. And half our disagreement would disappear if we could just get that fact squared away.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                James now uses baseball metaphors. I thunk my work here is done.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                The Yankees are a baseball team? I thought the word was just a hate metaphor.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Truth is, I brought this parabola up before. Some months back. Never got anyone to agree with it. All I got from your argumentative ass was something about Billionaire Arsonists. So excuse me for remembering that moment. It was easily google-able.

                But memories are short around here and wit is in short supply.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Yeah, your parabola argument wasn’t interesting enough to elicit a response. The billionaire arsonists claim was.Report

              • Avatar Major Zed says:

                Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a good discussion of what we mean by “regulation.” A broad agreement in principle, but I’ll bet a lot of disagreement lurking. When are price controls justified? How much power should an administrative board have to decide what the rules mean? Etc.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Roger’s comment is really profound. 😉Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              PB,

              Excellent response as usual.

              First, I will answer as I did to Kazzy and Robert earlier that actual sins need to be rectified. Exploiters should be punished where practical and victims compensated by the transgressors.

              But your model reflects the truth that there are wakes from earlier actions which have lasting effects. The debate then goes to the coerciveness necessary to correct this. To grossly oversimplify, I suggest we agree to institutional rules which inherently tend to correct for this. My metaphor to Kazzy was the NFL draft. The rules are set up impartially that the worse teams get first pick. An example of how this could work is to provide larger vouchers to poor parents. Another is where we agree to a flat tax with a large deduction that is structurally progressive. Another is to develop social insurance programs that are means tested.

              I could go on with all the caveats I normally do about competing institutions, responsibilities for those getting aid, opt outs, local vs national, supermajorities and such, but the point I want to make is that rules can be impartial, non coercive and self correcting.

              I would also be very reluctant to structure this racially. It should be based upon actual standing, not skin color. My grandson does not deserve special treatment just because his birth certificate says black and Hispanic. There are truly disadvantaged kids of all races out there and they should be treated fairly and impartially based upon their standing, not their race.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                +1. And when you pitch this to most black folks out there, they think it over for a moment, and say “so I get to keep my piece of the pie, share with some redneck from WV, AND get the conservative racists off my back? Good Deal!”

                I really wish such things were possible.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                To grossly oversimplify, I suggest we agree to institutional rules which inherently tend to correct for this.

                And funny thing is, we used to have them. But they look like the tax rates we had in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

                And watch the Libertarians howl when Liberals point out how taxes are at an all time low and say hey, maybe we should go back to some of the earlier rates…Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                I find approaches like you suggest that bias based on outcomes appealing, too. Part of Zic’s point is that a lot of those sins continue today, but are hard to quantify or prove and thus prevent. You could argue this as *more* reason to bias on outcomes, not less – while we cannot see the sins themselves, we can see their impact in aggregate, and correct based on that.

                I like minimum incomes, EITC, progressive income taxes, and negative income taxes (as Jason suggests, IIRC) for exactly that reason. I’d prefer a system that was much stronger there than today, even at the expense of reducing direct assistance programs somewhat. Finally, I’ll note that many, particularly conservatives but also some libertarians, complain about rewarding bad behavior, welfare queens, and socialist Kenyan anti-colonialism when some suggest biasing government assistance based on outcomes.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Patrick,

                I think your concern about bad incentives is always valid, but would address them with my various listed caveats. As Blaise has pointed out quite well, there is no perfect system.

                I wonder if the other libertarians agree with this position on correcting for past imbalances?Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Roger, it’s not just ‘past imbalance.’ It’s imbalance that, like kudzu vine, grew roots nearly impossible to eradicate long before we decided there was an imbalance. We can pull the vine, but the roots remain, and eventually sprout new vines. That’s why I said we can’t start at year zero.

                The imbalances factor into the assumptions we make. Think of a movie from the 1950’s, where it’s presumed okay to make fun of a woman’s driving or to presume there are jobs she cannot do. That’s why folks get offended at ‘dog whistle’ language like food stamp president. That’s why the Willie Horton ads worked. That’s why Hilary Clinton and Condi Rice have to spend two hours getting dressed for public, while their male counterparts can simply get dressed. Institutionally, we see it in incarceration statistics for black men, in pay disparity for women, in poverty rates for Latinos. Isn’t it possible that this is a continued and ongoing form of coercion that takes time to work out of our assumptions? And if we don’t work it out, then it perpetuates without check.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                zic,

                Is working it out of our assumptions more dependent on government action or more dependent on social action?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                Andrew Sullivan just linked a few very interesting articles on this subject, for example: http://www.techyville.com/2012/11/news/unemployed-black-woman-pretends-to-be-white-job-offers-suddenly-skyrocket/#

                I like the idea of replacing race or gender targeted programs with outcome-biased approaches, but it would have to be *much* more progressive than anything we have today and, I suspect, than most conservatives or libertarians would be willing to plausibly entertain.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                @James: How would you suggest we address this problem? Just let the market work it out in the long term, eventually while minorities and women continue to pay the real price of ongoing discrimination and bias?Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                James, I think it depends on both. It took government action to give my grandmother the right to vote. It took social action to put Margaret Chase Smith in the Senate. But I still had to battle for pay equity in the 1980’s and 90’s. I still found I got paid less for freelance writing then male writers.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Patrick,

                Does government operate independently of social action?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                Uh, I’m not sure what you’re getting at, James. As numerous studies and anecdotal links (like I’ve shown above) illustrate, there are still huge problems with discrimination that bias the market – all hail – against women and minorities. Decades of social action, market forces, and government action have reduced that, but by no means eliminated it.

                Are there policies you’d advocate to lessen the impact of the biases in the market on women or minorities, or do you think should we should ask them bear the burden of that bias them while those the bias in the market favors (like me!) continue to acrue the benefits of that bias in the market?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Patrick,

                We have a democratic government. Does it make any social progress that is not desired by a large segment of the demos? Does it make sense to talk about government being progressive on these issues independently of people outside of government taking the lead and pushing them to do so? And if not, then any time we talk about government doing these things, aren’t we really implying that the motive force for these progressive things is already happening….out in the private world outside government?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                Generally, of course in a democratic government, government action proceeds from a large number of the relevant population pushing it to do so. That’s not always the case, however. To cite two examples, I imagine most of the population of Louisiana would still love to have teacher-led prayer in public schools, and Ole Miss didn’t desegregate itself based on the wishes of the majority of the local or state populace.

                Real discrimination and bias still exist and still bias the markets today, decades after women and minorities became “equal” citizens in the market. Do we do nothing about it and let the market “eventually” fix it while real people are penalized by this bias? If not, what should we do about it?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Sure, the change is spotty, but would Louisiana have had change forced on them by the government if the populace of a number of other states had not changed its views?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes the courts are out in front of the populace.

                Your turn.


                394 Patrick Bridges November 20, 2012 at 8:24 pm
                @James: How would you suggest we address this problem? Just let the market work it out in the long term, eventually while minorities and women continue to pay the real price of ongoing discrimination and bias?

                397 Patrick Bridges November 20, 2012 at 10:01 pm
                Are there policies you’d advocate to lessen the impact of the biases in the market on women or minorities, or do you think should we should ask them bear the burden of that bias them while those the bias in the market favors (like me!) continue to acrue the benefits of that bias in the market?

                399 Patrick Bridges November 20, 2012 at 11:23 pm
                Real discrimination and bias still exist and still bias the markets today, decades after women and minorities became “equal” citizens in the market. Do we do nothing about it and let the market “eventually” fix it while real people are penalized by this bias? If not, what should we do about it?
                Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Gotta go to bed now, but I’m with Peter Finley Dunn, “th’ Supreme Coort follows th’ election returns.”

                More seriously, in my former life as a student of constitutional law, I was deeply influenced by this book.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                I look forward to your answers to my questions.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “I imagine most of the population of Louisiana would still love to have teacher-led prayer in public schools.

                Ooo, that would be a delicious assertion of states’ rights if they went ahead and did it (in effect nullifying Everson v. Board of Education and consequently incorporation doctrine).Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                If you’re talking state’s rights and Louisiana, the case you should probably keep in mind is Plessy v. Ferguson.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                Hmmm, that may have been a little edgier than I meant or you deserved, Brian. Talk about state’s rights and nullification, particularly w.r.t southern states, makes me a little punchy. :/Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                Touché.

                Yeah, I’m not going there. Not tonight, at least. [insert maniacal laugh]Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Patrick,

                I’ve been a bit oblique, but my point is that relying on government to fix things because the private sector is failing isn’t really so straightforward. If the private sector is failing, that means there’s little public demand for whatever good social outcome you want; if there’s little public demand, then there’s little pressure on government, and little incentive for a democratically responsive government to act.

                So thinking government takes the lead in these things is to buy into a myth. Government will only act on these things once there is sufficient demand among the citizens; i.e., in the private sector.

                My point is that government and market are ultimately based on exactly the same foundation–the mass of the public. So if the market isn’t making any strides towards solving a social problem, government isn’t likely to, either, because there is insufficient public demand for a solution.

                That’s not to argue that government doesn’t have a role and should never act. It’s to argue that assuming government will act when there’s insufficient demand to move the private sector at all misunderstands the basic foundation of both arenas of activity.

                And let’s not forget that it’s government itself that has often been the worst perpetrator of these problems. Segregation in public schools was a government policy; and it wasn’t only southern states that discriminated that way–the federal government ran a segregated school system in D.C. Baseball broke the color barrier a year before the federal government integrated the armed services. And it’s governments that still maintain discriminatory policies towards gays, while businesses increasingly realize that being gay-friendly is good for their bottom line.

                That’s not to say the market solves all problems and gov’t has no role. As long as some people remain biased, there will be segments of the market that cater to them. And although government will not play a role until there has been some forward movement in public opinion, government can then play a role in helping public opinion to continue moving forward, and in enacting rules that constrain those ugly market segments that remain.

                The whole picture is just a lot more complicated than either market bad/government good or government good/market bad. And to phrase a question as “rely on the market or rely on government” overlooks that complexity.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:


                The whole picture is just a lot more complicated than either market bad/government good or government good/market bad. And to phrase a question as “rely on the market or rely on government” overlooks that complexity.

                Hmm. I never said anything vaguely resembling market bad/goverment good or vice versa, nor did I say “rely on the market or rely on government.” I really don’t have any idea why you think I did. Are you unintentionally channeling MA or something, James? 🙂

                Seriously, though, I think we’re talking past each other here. I’m not talking about issues where many people would think there’s not a problem. I’m talking about things that most people *agree* are problems, but we haven’t fixed, *despite* the market and past non-trivial government action that people agreed to.

                As I said up-thread, real dynamic systems, even very simple ones, can admit for systematic steady-state error and bias unless you specifically combat it. This is true even if it that bias is unwanted and the system acts against it (i.e. P vs. PI linear control). That’s the situation we have today – despite the system (both the market and the government) acting against discrimination, we still have real undesirable bias in the outcomes.

                So the question isn’t whether or not to address it – it’s how best to address it. Perhaps that discussion is best continued down-thread where you and Chris are discussing something similar?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                PB,

                We tend to be able to meet in the middle, but let me push back nicely on a few things.

                First, I am totally unconvinced that systematic discrimination explains disparities in wages for women. We had this thread a few weeks ago, and the data is pretty clear that gender disparities can be explained via the types of fields and the number of hours and other career choices that are made.

                Markets “want” to penalize irrational discrimination. If a manager hires a less qualified candidate due to irrational bias, then he is harming the profitability of the firm, all else equal.

                Most importantly though, I want to clarify that most of the classical liberals on this site strongly support well engineered social safety nets that correct for cycles of disadvantage. And this is exactly what we have today. The poor are supported by the non poor in tax rates, paying for education and infrastructure. The middle class and above built these. We all benefited.

                Furthermore, we pay out almost a trillion dollars a year in means tested income redistribution each year. Divide this number by the number of disadvantaged families, and you get a mind blowingly large number per family. I encourage each of you to do the sums.

                In summary, we do support basing society to help the less fortunate. Society is massively supporting them right now. So, to paraphrase Jaybird, when is enough, enough? Two trillion?

                My guess is much of what we are spending today is going to the wrong people or is structured in ways which adds fuel to the problem rather than solving it. The discussion shouldn’t really be about stepping up more for the poor, it should be about using what we are spending on them now wiser.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                You want to know the magnitude of steady-state error we’re facing? In 2011 dollars, the difference between mean African American per capita income and mean White Not Hispanic per-capita income has been holding steady at about $14,000/year for the last two decades with a mean annual per-capita income in this country of about $28,000/year in 2011.

                How to do better than we’re currently doing, be it market or government based, is exactly what I’ve been asking. I want proposed solutions not theory, as this problem is real, it’s systematic, it’s not getting fixed, and real people are suffering as a result, not just numbers of spreadsheets. I don’t care whether the solution is government-based or market-based; I just want a solution that works and I don’t care where it comes from.

                You proposed an approach, Roger, that’s great, I really appreciate it, and we should discuss it more. Same for Brian’s proposal for dealing with poverty and retirement among the elderly – I may doubt it will work, but it’s something meaningful to discuss. I find that much more useful and responsive than dancing around with oblique questions on theories of social change so that you can avoid answering specific questions about how to solve real problems.

                And people wonder why libertarians sometimes have trouble talking to liberals and vice versa?Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        So when I hear talk of ‘big government,’ of ‘coercion,’ of ‘taxes as theft,’ I’m most left feeling like I’m looking at someone unwilling or incapable of recognizing the coercion the government has ended, the theft of labor, of liberty, of rights while claiming they’re being treated as slaves were, as women were.

        It’s more to it than that.

        The Conservatarian fringe – amply represented in this blog – has within it a group that is incapable of recognizing how many of the banners they have taken up (such as the “states’ rights” banner) existed for and continue to exemplify a desire to put some of those practices back into existence.

        We see this when Jaybird and others whine on about how we are “forcing them to pay for someone else’s birth control.”

        Or similar sentiment.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          We see this when Jaybird and others whine on about how we are “forcing them to pay for someone else’s birth control.”

          M.A., I’d ask that if you use quotes, you cut and paste what I actually said.

          Because if I say “you don’t understand my argument”, you’ll come back with something like “I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND HOW YOU’RE A RAPE APOLOGIST!!!” or something equally obtuse. Instead I’ll just ask you to do the courtesy of actually quoting me when you quote me.

          Thanks.Report

          • Avatar MFarmer says:

            M.A. has made it clear he doesn’t want to discuss matters reasonably or to debate fairly — he wants to attack, smear and spin. I just reponded to one of his obtuse comments, and I regretted it as soon as I hit sent.

            These people who are attacking Jaybird and James for being conservatives are simply dense. It’s amazing how they can overlook so much just to protect their worldview from any form of critique, even the mild ones from Jaybird and James and Jason. Talk about a closed system of thought.Report

  4. Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

    (My own preferred setup would be a no-deductions negative income tax with a substantial guaranteed minimum income, minus the entire welfare state, but I digress.)

    I’m no expert on political philosophy though probably am closest to being a Rawlsian high liberal from what I’ve read, not a libertarian. Interestingly enough, though, a system like this would probably be my preference, too, assuming reasonable progressive negative, zero, and positive income tax brackets.

    This is exactly why I think discussions of actual policy proposals are more interesting – labels between liberal, conservative, and libertarian are grey enough that we end up talking past each other when we talk abstractly in slogans and principles. I think there’s a lot more room and potential for agreement when we talk actual policy and ideas.Report

    • Avatar Matty says:

      I’d prefer such as system as well, unfortunately there are two big obstacles to it.

      1. It is so different from existing systems anywhere in the world that there may be no way from here to there except leaping in one go, which just isn’t going to happen.

      2. For a lot of people it is important to stigmatise the non-working poor, having them labelled as part of a different set up to you is part of that. It is harder to whine about those in the ‘negative tax/benefits’ system when you’re in the same system.Report

      • Avatar Matty says:

        I should add that despite my dislike of that attitude it does have a point. There really are good reasons to give incentives to work rather than not and shaming is one of those incentives.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        1. It is so different from existing systems anywhere in the world that there may be no way from here to there except leaping in one go, which just isn’t going to happen.

        I don’t think this is quite right, actually. The “from here to there” issue never really arises wrt anything specific Jason K is advocating in the OP. Each item on the list is just a change in policy. And each one in isolation can happen without any radical revision of our society or major institutions. Think of it as incrementalism, I guess.Report

        • Avatar Matty says:

          The from here referred specifically to a negative income tax replacing both existing tax and benefits systems. The actual proposals in Jason’s post, yes they can be done. Hell we could open the cell doors for non-violent drug offenders tomorrow and nothing much else would change.Report

  5. Avatar Robert Greer says:

    I think the problem is that lefties are fighting for the same political space as libertarians: Both groups are competing for voters who dislike the major parties. Conservatives haven’t had much to lose from engaging libertarians because their ideology is so much more dominant, although I’d argue this will change soon.Report

  6. Avatar Robert Greer says:

    http://praxeology.net/RTLreachleft.pdf

    This piece does a great job explaining why libertarians and leftists fight, and charting a possible rapprochement.Report

  7. Avatar Tim Kowal says:

    Even as a conservative, I’ve always disliked incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. I’ve simply been against creating a “right to do a wrong,” a concept that goes to the heart of the conservative/libertarian divide. But I’m even willing to move off that position on the drug issue for the sake of limiting government and developing sensible policy, even while I would not put the thing in terms of a “right” to use drugs.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Are there any limits to your jurisdiction? In theory, I mean.

      Do you just need more manpower?

      Let’s pretend that the Democrats aren’t in power, if that helps you answer the question. Let’s pretend we’re in the heady days that followed November 2004.

      Are there any limits to your jurisdiction?Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        or booze, cigarettes, tattoos, extreme sports, running with the bulls, etc.Report

      • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

        Jaybird, not sure what you mean by jurisdiction here?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Areas in which you have the authority to put your nose and say “you’re doing it wrong, you need to change, we’ll put you in jail if you don’t”.

          Are there any areas in which you will find yourself saying “you know what? That’s none of our business.”?

          Any at all?Report

          • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

            One of my law professors used to refer to a concept in Roman law, “law without a sanction.” I never was able to find much literature on it, but the idea always held true for me. It is my belief that man has a certain nature, and that part of his nature sees certain conduct as having a moral component. I assume that even some libertarians recognize that they make moral judgments on things even if they stridently believe their moral judgments have no place in the law except for certain narrow domains. I respect that about libertarians and libertarianism, but I don’t believe the law has no place whatsoever when it comes to nonviolent, noncoerceive yet immoral conduct such as drug use. I’ve also felt it falls into some middle category in which the law should be against it, yet not carry a sanction, at least not any stiff sanction.

            From an old blog post:

            “The evolution of laws criminalizing suicide and assisted suicide, as a more modern example, was based on long-standing history and tradition carried over from England’s common law as contemptible evils, punishable by confiscation of the offender’s property by the state. Later developments in the law, however, recognized that any purported punishment against the offender’s “lifeless clay” was, in reality, a sanction inflicted against the offender’s hagridden offspring. And yet even today, the act itself is still criminalized.

            “And rightly so. Suicide is a deeply profound, private, moral affair bearing on the order of the human soul itself. But it is precisely for this reason that a state purporting to govern human souls cannot fail to recognize it and share in and reflect its governed’s contempt for the act.”

            With all that said, I’m “soft” on what I’ve referred to as this “middle” category in the law: conduct that isn’t good, but doesn’t pose any exigent risk to the public safety. That these positions undermine my advocacy of limited government is also troubling. So I’m liable to equivocate on these issues.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I made a joke offline about whether raising children into a particular religion is a violation of the child’s First Amendment rights.

              Now I’ll ask you seriously:

              Is how you raise your child my business? Does it fall under my jurisdiction? Does your lying to your children about a caring God that looks out for them rise to the level of my having a responsibility to step in?

              Is there any corner of your life that you are willing to say “this is not your freaking business, Jaybird. Butt the hell out.”?

              Because, seriously, I think we both know that there are.

              But it’s a lot less obvious when I ask you about your jurisdiction into mine, for some reason.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              a state purporting to govern human souls

              I think, Tim, that’s the heart of your disagreement with libertarians. The state can govern my actions, but they can’t government my soul.

              As a Christian I believed the state had no jurisdiction over my soul, and as an agnostic I believe the state has no jurisdiction over whatever might pragmatically qualify as my soul. The state may indeed purport to govern my soul, but it’s well to remember that I also purport to be tall, dark, handsome and charming.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      What makes nonviolent drug use a “wrong”?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Letting your children starve because of it.
        *note: this is not a strawman, even though my example is quite a bit older than I am*Report

        • Avatar Matty says:

          Hmm, I wonder how many things we can list that people could spend money on when they ought to be spending it on feeding their children?Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            In practice? Not terribly many.
            Women and booze are the two classics, and why women kept pennyjars to feed the family. (chime in with more if you can)
            I said it wasn’t a strawman!Report

            • Avatar Matty says:

              Gambling, smoking (arguably this and booze belong in the drugs category anyway), tickets to sports events, religion, donating to charity.

              If you want to argue that addiction is different go ahead but then you have to face the reality that there isn’t a category of addictiveness that catches all illegal drugs and nothing legal.Report

          • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

            I knew a guy who had a kid that desperately needed to go to a special private school (local public couldn’t handle him). He could afford it, but he would have to stop spending money on his hobby race car that he easily spent $10K on & ran for $1K purses.Report

      • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

        I can’t fully articulate it here, but at bottom it undermines man’s purpose, calling, flourishing, telos. That can be defined in many ways, of course, and not all drug use undermines all of them. This makes line-drawing often approach arbitrariness, which is why I said I’ve never been strongly in support of incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders. Instead, my tepid support for outlawing had always been in supporting society’s values against using substances that cause people to become detached and generally worse off to their own lives, families, and communities.

        I may be off here, but I think this view about drugs is mainstream. I also think that the discomfort about drug laws is also mainstream: They’d generally prefer to mind their own business but at the same time don’t want to adopt a public policy that endorses drug use. Seems to me that framing the issue in terms of limited government rather than rights sums up that attitude about nonviolent drug use.Report

        • Avatar Robert Greer says:

          If this is your problem with drugs, it doesn’t seem like you’d be able to easily distinguish between laws against drug use and laws against watching too much television or eating too much junk food, both of which exhibit very similar enervating effects. (Addiction to refined carbohydrates actually works on the same dopamine neurological pathway as cocaine, for instance.) So how would you separate these laws?Report

          • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

            They’re much harder to write for one thing. Harder to enforce for another. And that’s saying something given how well the War on Drugs has gone. And with each example we find it harder and harder to place limits on the scope of government, which was already a trouble spot for drug laws. To get a rough roadmap on these issues, conservatives could just watch Mike Bloomberg and do the opposite.Report

            • Avatar Robert Greer says:

              It wouldn’t be hard to draft and enforce laws prohibiting, say, advertising refined carbohydrates to children. And it wouldn’t be difficult at all to ban powdered sugar or large candy bars with a high sugar content. It would just be draconian and paternalistic, but then that doesn’t distinguish laws against marijuana use either. So I guess I’m still at a loss.Report

              • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

                You said “laws against watching too much television or eating too much junk food.” Those would be hard to write and enforce. What’s “too much”? How do we know when someone has watched or eaten “too much”?Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                The same way you know when someone smokes too much weed or does too much cocaine, Tim. You DON’T know, and so you just lock up everyone who does even a little bit. Pretty crazy, right? But that’s exactly what you favor in the context of drugs.

                What’s your opinion of my proposed limits on advertising refined carbs to children, or banning large candy bars? I’m genuinely curious.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Except this isn’t how the system, As Currently Constructed works.
                The poor get locked up, the rich have “classy parties”. And the governmental officials get blackmailed.Report

              • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

                Robert, I’m not in favor of “lock[in] up everyone who does even a little bit.” Probably not even in favor of locking up those who do a lot. Locking up is for people who are a harm to society.

                As for your proposals, I’m willing to listen. There’s a point obviously where eating too much unhealthy foot is morally wrong, e.g., gluttony, sloth. The slippery slope you’re trying (not unfairly) to catch me on is why I’d make drug use unlawful but not eating too much unhealthy food. At the end of the day, maybe I’m just following the tide of public opinion on this point. Public opinion doesn’t change whether I view those things as wrongful, but it does change how we react to them. I don’t think people are changing their views on drug use so much as they’re changing their view that criminalizing it and locking people up for it is an imprudent response. As for eating too much bad food, we’re currently experimenting with this, aren’t we? Calorie counts are being put on more and more menus, organic products are more and more prevalent, many people are calling for more labeling of certain kinds of suspicious ingredients or GMOs. Like the sentiment against drug use, the sentiment against unhealthful foods is in the right place. I think it’s probably ok to experiment with how we express that sentiment, though being mindful of the potential of winding up with an uncomfortably large “nanny” state.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                I apologize for making assumptions about your position, Tim. I also apologize for mischaracterizing your position here.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                At a certain point, targeting the most vulnerable ought to be seen as a problem, yes.

                We don’t allow advertising cigarettes to kids. If there’s enough evidence tying refined carbohydrate “snacks” to the childhood obesity epidemic we have (and the generalized obesity problem that creates a problem in the commons), maybe there’s something that needs to be looked at.

                The Magical Market Fairies sure as fish aren’t fixing the obesity problem.

                It would just be draconian and paternalistic, but then that doesn’t distinguish laws against marijuana use either.

                The funny thing is, Libertarians enter a discussion under the idea that everyone is “just like them.” Would always make the “right” choices, always be an intelligent actor, etc.

                And it doesn’t work out that way. There are some people who will sit there and eat an entire party-sized popcorn bowl full of M&M’s just because it’s sitting in front of them; they can’t help themselves. (I actually try not to have candy at my desk for this reason, I’ll eat it all and not realize consciously that I’m doing it).

                When you start getting kids young on this stuff, what are you expecting them to be as adults?

                “Waah, but why should I be punished, why should you assume I’m going to make a bad choice” is the wrong cry. The answer is, statistically, enough people are going to make a bad choice that impacts us all later via the commons.

                Obesity, impacted by years of kids being marketed to in the junk food arena, now impacts us in healthcare costs. And like it or not, we all pay into that. Just one example to think about.

                Am I, now, advocating the banning of sugar snacks and penny candies, or a complete ban on sugary sodas? No. Would I like to see Sugar Coated Gusher Bombs or Chocolate Frosted Candy Canes never allowed to be advertised in the commercial breaks of My Little Pony? Yes.

                Do I think that maybe, a slight ban on endless-refill soda offerings and 66-ounce “drink your weight in nectar” sodas might be worthwhile to contemplate? Jury’s out but I’m open to argument either way.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                I’m not one of these dipshits that gets incensed at bans on 48-oz sodas, but there are still some pretty epic pitfalls to this kind of paternalism.

                If you accept that the government is likely to be steered by powerful corporate interests, then you have to worry that those interests will lobby for laws that benefit themselves. So for example the government’s dietary recommendations have for the past few decades been to eat way more grains, meat, and dairy than is actually healthy, because the livestock and industrial farming industries had a disproportionate voice in government. This is only starting to change very recently.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                This strikes me as enormously off M.A. and I’m not even a libertarian. For instance opponents of this kind of paternalism (liberal and libertarian) would pretty readily point out that there’s a lot of paternalism already in the society that is encouraging this childhood obesity we’re decrying here. State subsidies of corn and barriers against cheaper imported sugars, for instance, are a fundamental subsidy of the fattening corn based snack foods you’re decrying here. Nimby zoning laws are preventing the very kind of dense walkable urban or near urban neighborhoods that could non-paternally encourage physical activity and are also promoting the food deserts that encourage the consumption of these subsidized snacks. In this case a pretty good argument can be made that the “magical market fairies” aren’t the only ones at work here.

                Are libertarians and other opponents of paternal interventions off base by demanding that we should try removing or altering the state interference that is promoting obesity before we instead lard a new layer of state program onto the problem that is at least partially being caused by state programs? Maybe before we start painting on our ban the snacks paint with our left hand we should consider stopping our right hand from applying the promote the snacks paint?

                I mean heck, there’s a good liberal position to be staked out against this paternalism. The snack promoting things the state does is mostly held over protectionism from an economically less literate era and flat out corporate welfare. The local Nimbyism is one part individuals protecting their own narrow interests and the other part meddlers enforcing their aesthetic preferences onto neighborhoods either ignorant of (or indifferent to) how their preferences hammer the welfare of the most disadvantaged among us. I mean this kind of self defeating non-reflective turning to paternal state power is pretty bad for liberals in a big picture way; it discredits state involvement in general including in areas where state involvement is likely the objectively optimal outcome.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                What North said. I’d add that offering education to people about diet is a more valauble asset then limiting cup size.

                Take a persons cup for a day and you’ve saved them calories for that day. Teach a person how many calories a bucket of Coke has and they are able make better decsiosn forever.

                Unless we are going to truly control all products in supermarkets and kwik e marts and fast food joints and resturants people can always make crappy eating choices. People can only improve their eating if they want to and know how to.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I’d add that offering education to people about diet is a more valauble asset then limiting cup size.

                Psychological research says you’re wrong. People think in units. You offer them the “standard” size of a 24-ounce cup which is really 3 servings, they guzzle it down and internalize it mentally as only having one serving.

                Unless we are going to truly control all products in supermarkets and kwik e marts and fast food joints and resturants people can always make crappy eating choices. People can only improve their eating if they want to and know how to.

                If someone’s going to guzzle 8 servings, then I suppose we can’t stop them. We can, however, make it so that people are reasonably aware of what constitutes an actual serving.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                The funny thing is, liberals enter a discussion under the idea that everyone is “just like them.” Incapable of making “right” choices for themselves, never be an intelligent actor, etc.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                The funny thing is, liberals enter a discussion under the idea that everyone is “just like them.” Incapable of making “right” choices for themselves, never be an intelligent actor, etc.

                The funny thing is, Libertarians like Hanley are too dumb to realize it’s not that way.

                Do I think everyone is like me? Hell no. For one thing I could never be a gym rat. I probably will never have the crazed discipline to be a vegan, or even maintain what some call an “optimum” diet.

                I recognize full well there are sorts of temptation I need to keep out of my sight as much as possible on that front, like not keeping candy at my desk.

                I can be an intelligent actor in many respects. On the other hand, you fishing ignoramus, I’ve done the research on some common grocery items (on a bet from a real Libertarian, someone a lot more intellectually honest than you) and determined how amazingly difficult it is to be a “fully informed consumer” on all the things I encounter for possible purchase in just the course of one week.

                So, you megalomaniac twit, I choose not to expect of others the things that I have, so far, found it incredibly hard to become in even minor respects.

                My experience, that it is very difficult to be making the “right” choices all the time and be an “intelligent actor” by the impossibly high standards the disgustingly dishonest Libertarian fringe claims all actors innately are, follows well from the statistical behavior of existing humans elsewhere in the system. The Libertarian model, on the other hand, is something that you have to constantly make excuses for. “If Only” more people were ‘intelligent actors’ (like you imagine yourselves to be but most likely, as I imagined myself to be before taking the bet, I found out I really wasn’t). “If Only” some set of mythical anarchic rulesets could replace the entirety of modern society in order to create Libertopia.

                It quickly becomes a joke, and all the funnier for the fact that you can’t see what a joke Libertarianism really is.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                M.A. this is totally over the line. I appreciate that you’re a passionate liberal (and appreciate that you’re about) but you’re starting to really badly damage our cause with all this baseless name calling. People have been remarkably tolerant with your aggression as well as your completely unfair and facile mischaracterizations of libertarianism (a complex and sweeping ideology which I’m beginning to fear you have a very poor understanding of) but with these “Dumb” and “megalomaniac twit” bits are not only offensive but they’re flagrantly in violation of the League’s culture and its official commenting policy.

                So on behalf of the local liberals and the commentariate at large: good on you for your passion but knock off the misbehaving because dude you’re making us all look bad and you’re lowering the discourse.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Thank you, M.A., for demonstrating my point.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                North, I’m going to disagree with you somewhat.

                Comments like these are a warning to me. I haven’t been doing well here, clearly, and I should be seriously reconsidering either how I make my case, or else the case itself.

                When many people think you are evil, the chances are that they are picking up on something, and maybe they are actually right. This is probably not the kind of criticism I would want to stifle. Especially if I am an unwitting advocate for evil.

                So I think he should stay, and I think he should continue. And I will consider carefully the implications of his comments.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                When many people think you are evil, the chances are that they are picking up on something,

                Assuming it’s not mere tribalism.

                I’m wondering if it’s actually possible to write in a way that enables communication with people who make a point of not listening. Look at the number of Republicans who are truly, sincerely, stunned that their predictions of a big Romney win didn’t come through. Was there any way of presenting the Nate Silver data that actually would have penetrated their refusal to listen?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I’ve been accused of not being here to discuss in good faith numerous times by Hanley, and it’s downright tiring.

                I’ve been accused of far worse by Roger, who has yet to render so much as an apology.

                And then there are those who insist I am making “completely unfair and facile mischaracterizations of libertarianism” and yet the very next reply will prove my points about libertarianism perfectly.

                We get Brian Houser who insists that he shouldn’t be “punished” by taxation or regulation that comes in dealing with markets that do NOT function according to the Libertopia theory, because enough actors are irrational or ill-informed enough to screw up the system.

                I’ve watched more FYIGM nonsense, more “me me me why do I have to put up with this” BS, in the past two days than I really care to. Including TvD’s absolutely insane “god bless the child who’s got his, for that is liberty” nonsense.

                You want to know what I really think? Libertarians don’t understand the first thing about Liberty. They use the word, but they pervert its meaning so far that it doesn’t resemble real liberty.

                I’ve watched libertarians insist, via handwaving magical market faerie logic, that their proposed system would have no unintended consequences. I pointed out mathematically that their proposed system only leads towards greater inequality and the result? Not a peep, they ran away from it.

                I’ve challenged them to take a look at their own policies and examine for second- and third-tier effects and unintended consequences and the insistence is always that they don’t want to be bothered because “Markets RAWR.”

                Standard libertarian responses to real questions of the unintended consequences of their policies? “OWS had cell phones.” “We can’t perfectly rectify for the sins of parents or grandparents so we shouldn’t try at all, we should just pretend everyone is starting on a level playing field right now.”

                I’ll say it again: Libertarians don’t follow the idea of liberty, they pervert it and stick it into such a narrow and small definition that it becomes worthless. That’s how you get Libertarians taking up the banner of “states rights”, up to and including Ron and Rand Paul’s commentary about how the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act were abominations because they “took away states’ rights [to pass Jim Crow laws]”.

                I refer you to my post that the Libertarians all ran away from here.

                Point out the necessary consequences of libertarian “thinking”, and you get the same two responses: they either run away shouting “that’s not what we really think” or they start shouting “Markets RAWR lalalalalalala” and insisting that the necessary consequences don’t matter.

                Jack and John both start with equal resources. They wind up in a “positive sum” interaction in which John gets 90% of the benefit and Jack gets 10%.

                At the end of 40 years, John is living in a mansion, Jack’s situation has barely changed. Then they pass this inequality to their kids and repeat the process.

                End result? “Libertopia.” Which is the economic version of Divine Right Of Kingsville.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                M.A.,

                If if I had doubts about your good faith before, that last comment has certainly dispelled them.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Jack and John both start with equal resources. They wind up in a “positive sum” interaction in which John gets 90% of the benefit and Jack gets 10%.

                At the end of 40 years, John is living in a mansion, Jack’s situation has barely changed. Then they pass this inequality to their kids and repeat the process.

                To be perfectly honest, as long as basic non-economic liberties remain intact, and with a few footnotes here and there, what you have just described is the recommendation made by one John Rawls. (Incidentally, if we iterate a 10% gain even a few times over, Jack’s situation is vastly improved, not “barely changed.”)

                So anyway, it’s clear that your beef isn’t entirely with libertarians. You’re a relatively strong egalitarian of some form, and modern liberals aren’t necessarily so.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                That’s ok, Hanley. I gave up hope in your coming with any remote semblance of desire for honest conversation or even ability to present honest discourse without lying about libertarianism some time ago.

                You did exactly what I expected. You ran from the point.

                This is you, Hanley:
                http://www.hark.com/liar-liar/its-devastating-to-my-caseReport

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I know how you feel. I get sick of Muslims lying to me about Islam, calling it a religion of peace when I know it really isn’t even a religion, but just a terrorist ideology. I’m doing my best in good faith to teach them the truth, but they don’t have even a remote semblance of desire for honest conversation or even ability to present honest discourse without lying about Islam.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                To be perfectly honest, as long as basic non-economic liberties remain intact, and with a few footnotes here and there, what you have just described is the recommendation made by one John Rawls. (Incidentally, if we iterate a 10% gain even a few times over, Jack’s situation is vastly improved, not “barely changed.”)

                Untrue, Jason, but at least you’re discussing honestly.

                Inflation will happen. That will cut into John’s situation far less than Jack’s.

                The unequal resource allocation will allow John to “crowd out” Jack at any point.

                The end eventuality is that John’s descendants become the slumlords, the Ebenezer Scrooges of the world, while Jack’s descendants become the class of people locked into a servitude role living in the slums. As mentioned in another part of this thread, the benefits of any technological advancement in the society will accrue to them both last and least.

                Libertarianism is how we get right here. It doesn’t solve poverty traps, it CAUSES poverty traps because it is in the rational economic interest of the privileged rich to do so in order to cement their economic dominance.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Address the point Hanley. That’s twice you’ve run from it now.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                You mean I should address your point. But I’m making my own point, which you reciprocally are not addressing.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                The end eventuality is that John’s descendants become the slumlords, the Ebenezer Scrooges of the world, while Jack’s descendants become the class of people locked into a servitude role living in the slums. As mentioned in another part of this thread, the benefits of any technological advancement in the society will accrue to them both last and least.

                Libertarianism is how we get right here. It doesn’t solve poverty traps, it CAUSES poverty traps because it is in the rational economic interest of the privileged rich to do so in order to cement their economic dominance.

                If inflation happens, but if it’s less than 10% per iteration of your mechanism, Jack’s still doing okay and possibly very well. Compound interest and all.

                It also happens to be the case that great fortunes are both made and lost. Turnover among the elite is real, and I suspect it would be greater in a world that restricted corporate privilege along the lines I have suggested.

                As to “poverty traps,” I’m not sure what you mean. I look at this and it seems obvious to me that the way to escape poverty is to have a relatively free market. We can obviously argue about individual cases, and I would entertain the possibility that the trendline might reverse itself shortly after right where we are. But I wouldn’t say that the way to more wealth is obviously to enact greater economic controls.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Address the point Hanley. That’s twice you’ve run from it now.

                And while you’re at it, you can explain why you’ve stopped beating your wife. Because the “point” is equally a strawman.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                There you go again Kuznicki. Heritage Foundation. Are you really a “libertarian”, or are you just a Conservative stooge?

                Heritage Foundation documents are worth precisely the paper it would take to print them out and use the printed version as toilet paper.

                Poverty traps are real. And they happen WORSE in your third-world Libertopias around the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_trap

                The situation I described is the Libertarian ideal, and it’s also a poverty trap. What you are missing and refuse to acknowledge is the crowding-out effect. Jack and his descendants are crowded out of technological advancement except for the dregs that trickle down. Meanwhile, the production of society begins gearing more towards those things John’s descendants want to see and less towards those that Jack’s need – after all, Jack’s got relatively less and less resources to offer.

                When I spoke of visiting a neighborhood in my city that’s predominantly poor blacks, this is exactly what has happened. Many of these people “own” their homes, but lack the resources to maintain them. They worked at what Libertarians would laughably call “positive sum” work all their lives and for what?

                Most of their kids are stuck in the same poverty trap. And it’s not because of “government aid programs”, it’s not because they WANT to be in that position, it’s the “market forces” you Libertarians worship that put them there.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                your third-world Libertopias

                Because we just love us some brutal dictator/war-lord action. In fact I’m busy signing secessionist petitions on the White House website because I can’t wait for southern Michigan to become a lawless state ruled by the Michigan Militia. It’ll be paradise!Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                M.A., what is frustrating about your comments is that I never get any sense whatsoever that you’re trying to consider the points made in what you respond to. With the majority of the other commenters, it feels like they are at least reading what we type, thinking about it at least a little, and making an attempt to respond based on that thought. With others, I usually feel like we might actually be sitting at a table having a debate (sure, sometimes it turns into a shouting match, but at least we’re listening to each other). With you, it’s like an interview with a zombie. In fact, sometimes I feel like right after I post a comment, I should just go ahead and post your response, because I know what it’s going to be.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Jason, I’m not even remotely an official moderator or anyone with any power here at the League so obviously I have no power for banning or anything like that (nor am I calling for it). I’m protesting on two angles: A) he’s actually violating our commenting policy with the name calling and B) he’s making liberals look bad with his behavior.

                M.A. is fine with some of his arguments and he’s abrasive and perhaps counterproductive on other of his arguments. I’m just throwing a yellow flag over the name calling. The offending sentences could have been left off his comment and would have changed his argument not a whit except that some name calling would have been absent. I’m not asking M.A. to change his positions or arguments; I’m just asking his to raise his courtesy level a notch and leave off some of the gratuitous name slinging at individuals.

                For his mudslinging at libertarianism itself, well the ideology can take it. It’s tough so he can go nuts.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                MA,

                I’ve hardly been here long enough to consider this my home, but I have to agree with North here. You’ve made the point that the things a lot of people here believe are upsetting to you. The point we’re making is the way you’re behaving is upsetting to a lot of us. The sheer volume of unnecessary vitriol is off putting, and I’m usually pretty good at skipping over it.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Thanks North,

                His constant name calling and posts starting with “fish you”, are not acceptable behavior according to league standards.Report

              • Avatar kenB says:

                Yes, the League prides itself on forcing commenters to come up with more artful and imaginative ways to imply “Fish you”.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’ve had fun in the “you’d think Libertarians would support galactic genocide” kinda threads with many (if not all) of the pinkos on the board.

                M.A. isn’t fun.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                You know, you can model this. It’s not hard.

                Program a bunch of agents, give them a rationality factor (because not all humans are rational, of course), give them a set of rules and a closed system, and run it. And then run it again for a different spread of rationality factors, and again, and again, and again.

                I will predict that what you will find after 100,000 iterations is that the wealth distribution varies *astronomically* wildly.

                Now the liberal will choose the x% of them that wind up with a small number of agents having most of the money, and they’ll claim that there’s the problem. And the libertarian will chose the other 100-X% of them that wind up with a relatively equitable wealth distribution, and they’ll claim that no, there’s the answer.

                Fact is, we run an open system, not a closed one. And what happens after repeated iteration is highly dependent on stuff that isn’t tightly connected to our system, at all.

                Which maybe should teach everyone the lesson that this system is not so easily modeled by their first principles and they ought not to put so much faith in them, but apparently not.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                I’d hate to see M.A. banned when I haven’t lost all hope in him yet, although, granted, I’m a relative newcomer here and may not know all the history. So let me offer some constructive advice, M.A.

                There’s a chronic caller to the libertarian radio show Free Talk Live whom the hosts have dubbed “Scott the Bigot”. Like many callers, he calls in regularly to complain about government abuses and the ills of society. But before Scott’s call is over, he always manages to blame the world’s problems on the Blacks and Jews. Time after time, the hosts try to help him get past his bigotry, but he always eventually lays the blame on “the lazy Blacks” or the “evil international Jewish bankers”.

                Your comments here sound a lot like “Scott the Bitgot’s” if I substitute the word “Jew” for “libertarian”. Other commenters here have a (at least somewhat) rational fear of free markets. But I suggest yours are often irrational (if they’re not, you haven’t convinced me).

                Their advice to him is the same I offer to you: try real hard, just for a moment, to forget about whatever incident or series of incidents happened in your experience that made you so distrust the free markets and personal liberty. And then carefully re-read the things we’ve said here while avoiding any collectivising or labeling. Think of each of us as a person rather than as part of a group. Anywhere we’ve claimed to speak for libertarians as a whole, substitute “I”. Put aside your preconceived notions.

                I’m pretty sure you have an important perspective to bring to the discussion, and I’m worried it’s going to be lost because we can’t find it amidst all the bluster.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                James,
                Take away the government, and you still have market forces for banning sugary softdrinks. You still have market forces for making bicycle helmets a permanent fixture on kids’ heads.

                The fact that the market appears to be using the government indicates that the government is the most efficient way to create a healthier (more profitable) society.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “The fact that the market appears to be using the government indicates that the government is the most efficient way to create a healthier (more profitable) society.”

                Interesting suggestion, but you’re making big assumptions on “most efficient”, “healthier”, and “more profitable”. None of those things have been definitely proven–and the “healthier” part concerns me the most (remember the food pyramid, where the government told us we need lots of refined carbs–sugar–and proceeded to make sure that’s what our kids ate at school!?). I’m certainly not the first to suggest that government programs were (are) actually a significant factor in our current obesity epidemic.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Take away the government, and you still have market forces for banning sugary softdrinks. You still have market forces for making bicycle helmets a permanent fixture on kids’ heads.”

                Congratulations, you’ve invented Public Choice Theory.

                I look forward to your warm acceptance of how “market forces” are making same-sex marriage illegal, and how “market forces” are making it okay to demand that nonwhites carry proof of citizenship, and how “market forces” are OK with pervasive surveillance and monitored communication.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                The “Food Pyramid”, being reviled by Brian, isn’t as evil as they say.

                http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/Fpyr/pmap.htm

                Here’s the thing: humans suck at serving sizes. A single serving of breakfast cereal – not ” sugar” as he calls it but carbohydrates, true – is only one ounce.

                A “serving” of bread is about one slice. Your sandwich at lunch gave you two of those.

                2 ounces of cereal, two slices of bread on a sandwich, and one cup of rice is not a lot of food to most people’s mind. But that’s the bottom edge of the recommendation from the food pyramid.

                The problem wasn’t the pyramid. The problem was, people are idiots who operate by quantum rather than by quantity. They’ll fill a 4-ounce bowl with cereal and think they only got one “serving” of grains.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                M.A.,
                Or is the problem that the government rather arbitrarily defined what a “serving” is, without much reference to how much people actually eat?

                There’s no natural constant that determines the size of a serving–it’s a purely human artefact, and the legal definition is under government’s control. And setting the serving size too low (or allowing producers to set serving sizes lower), misleads people into thinking they’re getting less sugar, salt and fat than they really are.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Brian,
                I remain open to different ideas.
                The “healthier” part is the fun part, actually. My employer researches that one (among other things). We may not have the science right just yet, but we’re working on it.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “The “healthier” part is the fun part, actually.”

                And that’s why we should keep it fun and keep the government out of it. When we ban soft drinks, we risk killing the market for innovation around that product and putting a damper on the potential future branches of that market.

                I picture society A where Coca-Cola goes out of business (substitute tobacco companies if that makes it easier), leaving millions of people out of work or at least with less pay (consider the whole supply chain).

                I picture society B where not only is Coca-Cola booming, but we have thousands of new jobs because a company discovered a pill that counteracts the negative effects of simple sugars on the body.

                Society B is substantially less likely to occur in a society with a soft drink ban.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Brian,
                again, market forces. If you want to write a guest post on why we should get rid of health insurance, be my guest.
                What pisses me off about certain libertarians is that they think their enemy is government, when it’s really insurance companies.
                It’s easy to knock over pawns, but it don’t do you much good.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        I don’t think use is wrong, but I do think that creating a business model that takes advantage of addictive properties of a drug and relies upon roughly half of your business coming from habitual, heavily addicted users is plain evil.

        And yes, that essentially means I think tobacco and liquor industries are immoral.Report

  8. Avatar zic says:

    Jason, this is a wonderful post, thank you.

    I want to explore this:
    We have a state because we are flawed, ignorant, cruel, and short-sighted. But those flaws apply to the state as well. Often more than to individuals. Necessity does not make virtue, and the appealing fiction that we all consent to everything won’t get us there either.

    I don’t necessarily agree with the counter argument I’m about to offer, I want to consider the it. You’re suggesting the flaws of individuals are amplified in groups, the group here being ‘the government.’ (I refuse to subscribe to language that makes government a ‘them’). But there’s an alternative: that aggregating the individuals into government also has the potential to smooth those flaws, to flatten the flawed spikes individuals have. That does not mean a bunch of flaws won’t clump together and amplify the spike.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      I think both things can happen. Sometimes governments do well, and sometimes they do badly.

      I would not use language suggesting that the government is simply “us,” because that language suggests to me a transparent enactment of the collective, consensual will. It sweeps aside all dissenters, libertarian and otherwise, and it tends to conflate the majority with everyone.

      I would also not use language suggesting that the government is simply “them.” Such language suggests that not only are they different individuals from me (true, but possibly quite trivial) — it also implies that they have different psychologies or fundamental values, and that isn’t at all the case. They’re just as shortsighted and ignorant and cruel as I am. But, like me, they aren’t demons or devils, either.

      Ultimately, I think the language of principal-agent problems is the most accurate way to go. We can speak of the government acting as an agent that either does or does not reflect the wishes of any particular constituency without seeming to infer anything too problematic about actors’ psychology or morals.Report

  9. Avatar M.A. says:

    I’ve got some ideas, some suggestions, and here I am, making them. Let’s end the War on Drugs. Empty the prisons of nonviolent drug offenders. Marijuana, mushrooms, peyote, the other “soft” drugs — legal for sale to adults. For the hard stuff, do like Portugal did, and adopt a public health approach. The sky didn’t fall, only the crime rate. We all know the War on Drugs hurts the poor and racial minorities disproportionately, which makes it even less excusable. Just be done with it already.

    You’re saying exactly the same thing Liberals have been saying for a long while regarding the drug war hurting minorities primarily. The problem is, the best we’ve been able to get the Conservatives to agree to is to start breaking apart some of the mandatory-sentencing baloney that was targeted deliberately towards those drugs commonly used in lower income areas (crack vs powder cocaine for instance).

    End the War on Terror. Rescind the president’s free-floating warmaking power, which he has enjoyed for way too long (I take for granted that this would end much if not all of our drone warfare as well. But if it doesn’t, just end that too.). Bring the troops home and put these smart, talented people to work in the United States instead, in the private sector.

    Which was the policy of Obama running for office, and has been worked on for 4 years, and is coming to fruition. But it takes time to turn around a juggernaut like that and pull out of places we were in without just leaving a giant mess behind us.

    What’s the old camper’s motto again – leave it as good as, or better than, you found it?

    Close Gitmo and the secret prisons, end the extraordinary renditions, the military commissions, and the assassinations. Let the court system do the job it was intended to do, to separate the guilty from the innocent the best we know how.

    I’ll remind you it was Republican filibusters and outcry, including outcry about “letting terrorists step one foot on American soil”, that blocked all this from the start when Obama tried to implement it.

    Simplify the tax code,

    This always comes down to the specifics and you know it. “Flat Tax” scammery? No thank you. Romney campaigned on “simplifying” the tax code but wouldn’t say what loopholes and favorable rate programs and other exceptions he’d actually close.

    Absent a concrete plan, “simplify the tax code” is wankery not policy.

    simplify zoning and land use requirements, simplify occupational licensing and business regulations.

    Depends what they are. There are a hell of a lot of occupational licensing and business regulations that function as intended. Where I live, builders have to be licensed and certified, and you’d be a fool not to make sure they’re bonded, but the roofers’ union got themselves exempted from this requirement, and a lot of people wind up with bad roofs as a result. There are so many fly-by-night roofing companies, and a lot of time if you’re in a rebuild situation they roofers are subcontracted by your builder, which makes it impossible to tell what you’re getting.

    Shorten copyright and patent terms, and restrict the range of patentable “innovations.”

    I’d love to see this, theoretically. How do you get there? What range do you advocate we go to?

    Liberals don’t even give us half credit. “It’s not worth talking to you. You never do anything right, or when you happen to do something right, it doesn’t count, because you’re too small a group. And also you’re evil. And you’re insane. Oh, and by the way, why do you always seem to tilt conservative? Because I find that suspicious.”

    Guess what? Libertarians do themselves no favors with Liberals.

    Screaming about how tax money is “stolen from us at gunpoint” doesn’t make you sound sane.
    Screaming about how any government regulation is inherently morally bankrupt doesn’t make you sound sane.
    Screaming about how individuals will “always” make the right choices and those will “always” aggregated better to a magical-thinking market that will create Libertopia… is not sane.

    http://www.spectacle.org/897/trust.html

    And final point: when have Libertarians ever tried to come to the table with Liberals? When have they, really, ever put the social issues question above the “big government bad rawr taxes evil rawr starve the beast rawr” standard tropes of what passes for Libertarian “thinking” of the past 4 decades?

    Look at that seriously. You declared that Liberals will never give you “half credit” and come to the table with you. Seriously I want to ask: WHEN have you ever tried to come to the table? I don’t see Libertarians talking about moral issues. When it was time to stand up and say “enough is enough” to Dubya, you cowered and hunkered down. When it was time to stand up and say “enough is enough” to the freak sandwiches from the GOP who were grandstanding about closing Gitmo, where were you and why were you not standing with us?

    You don’t get “half credit” because you talk a minor game and you never fishing show up when it matters. And then you whine and moan about not getting half credit.

    Show up. Ask for a seat at the table and act like you fishing mean it, rather than acting like Liberals are the devil and cozying up to the GOP/CPAC/”Values Voters” crowd every chance you get, THEN you can have half credit.Report

    • Avatar Zach says:

      “Screaming about how individuals will “always” make the right choices and those will “always” aggregated better to a magical-thinking market that will create Libertopia… is not sane.”

      Do you in any way grasp how condescending and arrogant you sound when you declare that you are in a better position than me to tell me how I should live my life? Who are you to decide what are the right and wrong choices for anybody? How attractive do you think modern liberalism sounds when the tagline is ‘we will make your choices for you’?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        It sounds like you don’t have a financial adviser. They can be quite condescending, but they’re also quite helpful.Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        http://www.spectacle.org/897/trust.html

        This is the longer version of it. Try a little reading comprehension. I’ll even bring out the relevant section:

        An apparent paradox of libertarianism is that humans can be trusted individually but not in groups.

        A democratic government consists of humans acting as a group. The government carries out the will of the group. In Rousseau’s terms, it carries out not only the will of the majority, but in a sense, even of the dissenting minority, who despite their disagreement with the particular action, endorse the majority will by continuing to participate in the society.

        Libertarians believe, therefore, that we are singularly inept as a group. Assuming for a moment that the proposition is true– there is a lot of evidence for it–a cynic would propose that the reason we are collectively incompetent is that we are individually incompetent as well.

        Libertarians, however, are optimists. I cannot fault them for this; I have written elsewhere about the importance of optimism in any human scheme, even to the point of self-deception. Nonetheless, libertarians assume, as most people do, that there is a way out of any given dilemma; their self-deception may consist of believing that what we cannot accomplish collectively, we can more effectively do individually.

        Let’s take a look again at the Pennekamp reef example. Testing the proposition that commons should not exist because they will always be mismanaged, let’s try a thought experiment. Who would you rather have manage the Pennekamp coral reef so that it will remain alive, clean and available for future generations: fifty randomly picked people, or one?

        Libertarians would say that fifty people, if they were acting as a government, will inevitably destroy Pennekamp, while one person, following a profit motive, is more likely to regard it as being in his self-interest to preserve it for the long term. But I think there is substantial reason to look at this the other way. Any one person you pick from the street may wish to break up the coral and sell it to souvenir shops, make a quick million and retire. If you randomly pick fifty people, chances are much greater that most of them will appreciate the benefits of preserving Pennekamp for the future. Thus, acting collectively has a smoothing effect: recognizing that we really do share some agreements as a culture which we may call values, the more of us we involve in the Pennekamp decision-making the more likely it is that we will make a decision reflecting these common values. In fact, in the classic tragedy of the commons, the tragedy happens because the villagers are not deciding collectively how many sheep to add. The tragedy happens because each individual using the commons has the right to think selfishly–exactly as an individual who owned the land might do.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          See, the problem is that you think you’re arguing for collective responsibility, but what you get looks like gridlock and partisan refusal to compromise. There might not be a majority of those fifty people who want to grind the reef to dust and sell it; but there also might not be a majority who wants to raise their taxes to pay for garbage collection.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            Prior to idiots like you in the mix, “partisan gridlock” wasn’t nearly as bad as it is today.

            Reagan compromised. Clinton compromised. Nixon? “Only Nixon could go to China.”

            What we’ve lost thanks to the Tea Partier crowd is that ability to compromise.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      The problem is, the best we’ve been able to get the Conservatives to agree to is to start breaking apart some of the mandatory-sentencing baloney that was targeted deliberately towards those drugs commonly used in lower income areas (crack vs powder cocaine for instance).

      Are you aware that you’ve been kicking down the doors of medicinal marijuana dispensaries?

      Which was the policy of Obama running for office, and has been worked on for 4 years, and is coming to fruition. But it takes time to turn around a juggernaut like that and pull out of places we were in without just leaving a giant mess behind us.

      How many secret assassinations did Bush pull off? How many drone strikes did he have? How many democrats wrote essays explaining how the world works and drone strikes aren’t that bad, really? (I can find you a handful from this very site!)

      I’m very busy today and can’t finish this but the general thought I’m having is that you’re not lying to me, dude… you’re obviously lying to yourself. You shouldn’t be surprised that others notice it, though.Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        How many democrats wrote essays explaining how the world works and drone strikes aren’t that bad, really?

        The problem with Libertarians is that they are batshit absolutists.

        Is that what you wanted me to say? Because that’s how you’re acting. The inability to see “X is less bad than Y” as itself a moral assessment is a function of absolutism only.

        Precision strikes beat the hell out of firebombing Dresden, morally speaking. It’s a fact. That you personally have a problem even with precision strikes is a separate argument you’ll need to make. If you’re unwilling to meet us halfway on that, but you’re perfectly ok with Dubya getting us into wars he kept off the books and wasting our money invading at least one nation we had no business invading, a mess Obama was left to clean up, then you are in fact useless to any reality-based conversation.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Great. Let me know when it hits you that we aren’t forced to make a choice between precision strikes and Dresden.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            It’s my hope that eventually we won’t be.

            At the moment? I’ll take “less harmful” and “more strategic”, to the limits of as-least-harmful-and-most-strategic-as-possible, when I can get it.

            Would I ideally not like to be in the situation we are in right now? Yes. But that ship has sailed. You and your friends, the pals of the conservative movement, got us into it and bitching about it after the fact saying we “don’t have to” be in the current conflict isn’t going to get me on your side.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              So the President is ordering the death of people in countries we aren’t at war with, and not bothering to inform those countries of his actions or get their permission…

              but it’s actually George W. Bush’s fault. So it’s okay. It’s not, like, me pushing this button that launches this missile that kills that guy.Report

            • Avatar Zach says:

              ” You and your friends, the pals of the conservative movement, got us into it and bitching about it after the fact saying we “don’t have to” be in the current conflict isn’t going to get me on your side.”

              It’s funny how fast the collective ‘we’ is dropped when it comes to blaming someone for something that happened after January 2001 and before January 2009.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Precision strikes beat the hell out of firebombing Dresden, morally speaking. It’s a fact.

          It is?

          Because I look at Dresden today and I see a pretty workable place. I mean, I could go there and hang out and get along with people and generally feel about as safe as I do in Pasadena.

          On the other hand… all those limited war places? The Korean DMZ? Iraq? Libya? Afghanistan? Israel/Palestine? Well, you’ve got Vietnam, I hear it’s nice there. Guam, if you consider that a war.

          If “making it better, long term” is a moral good, limited war is – at best – a very mixed bag of results.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Umm when we bombed Dresden we killed tens of thousand of innocents. Drone strikes certainly kill far fewer innocents. That is an improvement. Does that make precision bombing moral, no of course that does not automatically make it a good thing to do solely on killing less children. But less collateral damage is good in general.

            There is a big difference between total war and limited wars. both suck but many millions were killed in the two big total wars. that doesn’t make either good of course.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              Umm when we bombed Dresden we killed tens of thousand of innocents. Drone strikes certainly kill far fewer innocents. That is an improvement.

              An improvement, sure.

              But if the situation doesn’t actually improve, long-term, all you’ve done is determine that it’s your job to occasionally kill a couple dozen civilians in another country somewhere because the situation never gets better.

              That’s not an improvement. That’s actually worse, in terms of long-term stability.

              If long-term stability is a part of the issue, then we need to keep that, yanno, on the table. If long-term stability is not part of the issue, then… well, take that logic where it takes you and get back to me.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                I’d say the least amount of violence is always best. If we have to blow something up i’d sooner have precision strike then carpet bombing. The long term goal should always be to stop needing to use violence as soon as possible.

                It seems the problems we are having is we see the need to get involved in blowing up too many things and in places where there is no strategic solution or way out. Total war is about achieving total defeat of the other side. Those aren’t the wars we are in. I’m not sure of the point you are trying to make. The use of a weapon or tactic should be based on achieving our strategic goals. Part of many problems is our tactics aren’t suited to our strategic goals nor do our strategic goals seem all that achievable.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’d say the least amount of violence is always best.

                The long term goal should always be to stop needing to use violence as soon as possible.

                There is a credible amount of evidence to say that signs point to these being orthogonal goals.

                Grant me that for a second?

                Now, if you had to pick one, which one would you pick?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                urr…ummm…I’d say violence, if it has to used, should be that which meets our strategic goals as best as possible.

                PS Violence meets strategic/ political goals far less often then people believe. See East, Middle.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                I guess just to be clear, if that means carpet bombing gets the job done best, then carpet bomb. If precision strikes works best than that, etc.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            Dresden today is pretty workable.

            Dresden after being firebombed, with many thousands of civilians dead, not so much.

            By your logic, we’d be better off if Israel had just firebombed Gaza into complete ruin and killed just about everyone there some time ago. I think we can pretty much all agree that nobody wants that option, no matter which side of the argument you’re otherwise on, right?Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              By your logic, we’d be better off if Israel had just firebombed Gaza into complete ruin and killed just about everyone there some time ago.

              Who’s “we”?

              If you’re talking about “America’s Best Interests”, oh hells yes. If Israel had firebombed Gaza into a complete ruin forty years ago by now most all the perpetrators would be dead of old age and there would not be the prospect of another 40 years of low-grade continuous warfare in the Middle East, which would be great for us. We could even be clucking our moral disapproval at them the whole time. Granted, the inhabitants of Gaza would have thought it sucked.

              I think we can pretty much all agree that nobody wants that option, no matter which side of the argument you’re otherwise on, right?

              I’m not really sure what anybody “wants” out of the continual Israel/Palestine affair. I’m not sure that people really even have an end-goal in mind.

              I object, generally, to getting involved in another nation’s business (or another pair of nations) without knowing what the end-game is supposed to be.

              (Get back to me in 10 years and let me know if you still think getting involved only to the extent we did in Libya was a good idea).Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Do we get to compare Libya to other counter factuals?

                Like say Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Why wouldn’t the rules we use for Obama using drones against people on his list also apply to Israel using drones against Hamas?Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                “If Israel had firebombed Gaza into a complete ruin forty years ago by now most all the perpetrators would be dead of old age and there would not be the prospect of another 40 years of low-grade continuous warfare in the Middle East, which would be great for us.”

                That seems really false to me.

                1. You still have the West Bank conflict. Which might be worse if there were even greater anger over even more violence aimed at Palestinians.

                2. Arab anger in the region would have been worse over the years, which might’ve made the treaties with other countries, especially Egypt, not happen. And that could’ve lead to all sorts of awfulness, even worse than what we’ve seen.

                But really, these counterfactuals are hard to judge as true or false. Just my opinion. Neither of us seems to have evidence about what would have happened, just plausible-sounding guesses.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Granted, we’re talking counterfactuals. Fair enough, this isn’t a clean problem space.

                I look at cases of total war, post industrial revolution, and it seems to me that in all of them there was a clear winner and a clear loser. Indeed, it seems like the one time that it didn’t really resolve the situation was when there was a clear loser and then everybody decided at Versailles that the next thing to do was make the loser eat dirt for forty years. Barring that one case, which made everything worse in the long run, it seems like bombing the shit out of somebody, entirely, crushing their will to ever be involved in conflict for another two generations, and then cleaning up seems to work out for the losers okay (at least, granted, the ones that survive).

                I look at case of limited war, post industrial revolution, and it seems to me that in very few cases was there a clear winner or loser, and in almost all cases the conflict continued, in various degrees of “low- to mid-grade” for decades, and it always seems like the loser’s situation gets worse, instead of better (which is probably the reason why the conflict winds on interminably).

                Note: this is why I’m not big on war. The first is abhorrent to anyone with a moral sense. The second really ought to be as well, in fact moreso because it is persistent.

                But that’s me.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Well yeah. Limited war usually means some sort of guerrilla war and hearts/minds and rebuilding. Building is always harder then breaking. Also countries can piddle along with little bursts of limited war since they don’t have to risk total defeat. Or like in the Israel/Palestine, neither side can actually win a limited war but they feel they can try to accomplish some objectives with violence. That doesn’t bring them closer to winning anything though.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                What is a “total war”? Is it just a war with a winner and loser? Because then your claim that all total wars have winners is a truism.

                I’d say there are situations throughout history where total war (defined how you see fit) made things worse long term and partial war made things better.

                Also, Israel doesn’t have the ability to win what I think you are calling a total war in Gaza. They can easily take it, or bomb it, but holding it (or continually bombing it) gets too expensive, monetarily, in terms of life lost, and in terms of international pressure.

                Gazans have nowhere to go. Killing 10% of them indiscriminately (a nearly genocidal act) wouldn’t solve anything now, so how would it have solved anything then?

                The situation is not the same as WWII, where you can break the will to fight of a wealthy nation (by making their lives shitty, so they will surrender to get back to their wealthy lives), or where you can kill their leaders and win by eliminating their governmen, or where you can take away a country’s industrial capacity to wage war at a high level.. Gazans have no wealth to get back to by surrenduring and no industrial capacity with which they fight. And the Israeli’s can’t hold all of Gaza and the West Bank the way the Nazi’s could hold France. (Israel is small and too poor to engage in real conquest, and even the U.S. couldn’t protect them diplomatically if things get really bad.)

                There is no military solution in Gaza and the West Bank, anymore than there was a possible military solution in South Africa. (I am thankful, because a “military solution” would almost certainly be a moral tragedy worse than what we are seeing.)

                The solutions are all political, but average people on both sides don’t seem to want them.

                IMO.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Total war usually refers to when the opponents have fully mobilizes their military and economy all towards winning as defined by the opponent surrendering. you’ve hit on the problem in the I/P conflict. Neither side can win a war but they still see violence as a way to achieve their goals. But the violence just puts off a long term solution and makes it more difficult to achieve.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Neither side can win a war but they still see violence as a way to achieve their goals. But the violence just puts off a long term solution and makes it more difficult to achieve.

                Right, this.

                That may be because they’ve adjusted their goals from, “Win the war” to “Get X, Y, and not Z”.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                What is a “total war”? Is it just a war with a winner and loser?

                That’s a good question. No, it’s not just a war with a winner and a loser.

                I’d say there are situations throughout history where total war (defined how you see fit) made things worse long term and partial war made things better.

                Such as? I’m interested as to your take.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Hey Patrick,

                I’m not able to answer your question. I thought I knew what I was talking about, but am unsure what to say. I’ll think about it and maybe get back to you. Sorry.

                It’s all best saved for a more relevant OP. This is supposed to be about libertarianism, not Israel-Palestine,Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I thought I knew what I was talking about, but am unsure what to say. I’ll think about it and maybe get back to you. Sorry.

                Are you kidding? No need to apologize, my friend.

                Any time… any time anybody of any persuasion on this blog says, “Hm, I need to pause and reflect on that” when talking to somebody else? That’s a magic moment, right there.

                If you go away and come back thinking something else, awesome. If you go away and come back with something that makes me think something else, that’d be awesome, too. If you come back and say, “I thought about it, and I think you might have a point, but I disagree still and I’m not sure why”, heck, that would be an interesting conversation, too.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                “I object, generally, to getting involved in another nation’s business.”

                We are so involved and have been for so long, that the (correct) principle “Don’t get involved” is out the window 50 miles back.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                We are so involved and have been for so long, that the (correct) principle “Don’t get involved” is out the window 50 miles back.

                To paraphrase elsewhere on the thread: “How do you suggest rectifying for sins of the grandfather?”

                At some point, you have to recognize that what you’re doing is digging a hole, and then filling it up again, and then digging another hole in the same spot, and filling it up again… all the meanwhile, the two guys arguing over what ought to be in that spot are getting progressively more irritated at you for digging holes (if they want them filled up), or filling them up (if they want the hole there).

                It might feel real good to just stop.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        Jason, I neglected to give you the kudos you deserved for this excellent OP and the intelligent points it addresses, and furthermore this particular comment pointing as it does to /so many/ thoughtful opinion pieces done by your group over the last decade is eminently bookmarkable.

        That said, I’m guessing M.A. is going to pretend you never posted it.Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        Great. Position papers.

        Now where were you guys in the last election cycle?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Now where were you guys in the last election cycle?

          Arguing for the guy who opposed the drug war, secret kill lists, and wanted to bring everybody home from Iraq and Afghanistan, like, yesterday.

          Where were you?Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            I was working to get something done, something positive, and not making the perfect the enemy of the good (or in this case, the pot-addled the enemy of the good).Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I’m sorry that the libertarians won a handful. For what it’s worth, I’m sure you’ll still have the satisfaction of seeing some feds kick in some doors and maybe even shoot some dogs!Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Oh no. I’m just fine with the marijuana legalization laws that passed.

                On the other hand, Gary Johnson, the GOP’s Hand-Me-Down Sweater Vest, as your candidate? Hardly a good way to get people to take your party seriously.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I was hoping Badnarik would come back and start slapping the taste out of people’s mouths but he’s not been the same since his heart attack.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          Now where were you guys in the last election cycle?

          As an organization, the Cato Institute is legally prohibited from supporting candidates, laws, or ballot initiatives.

          Individual scholars can do so, on their own time, but even that’s fairly rare. The biggest exceptions I can think of from the past cycle were several Cato scholars who worked in support of same-sex marriage in Maryland, all on their own time, not Cato’s. But there is always the worry that we will lose our tax exempt status, which we would prefer to keep.

          If you insist on reading something sinister into that, then I’m afraid I just can’t help you. (Speaking of Cato’s time, it’s been a very slow day for me, but even so… I’ve probably got some “real” work to get back to…)Report

          • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

            “As an organization, the Cato Institute is legally prohibited from supporting candidates, laws, or ballot initiatives.”

            Like that stopped ANYONE else!

            (This is meant as a somewhat frivolous comment in an overwrought thread…)Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      I’m going to add at this point:

      If you want us to take you seriously, how about nominating your own candidates once in a while? Or even find some Liberals who might match enough on issues to come over?

      On my ballot, every Libertarian candidate running was somebody who started out running for the GOP nomination but lost in the primary. From Johnson on down.

      It’s hard for those of us on this side to take you seriously at all when all you do is run the other side’s hand-me-down candidates as your own.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        There is no excuse for Bob Barr. I refused to vote for him, actually. I voted for Charles Jay that year. Gary Johnson is the type of politician we’d actually *WANT* running. The fact that the Republicans didn’t want him is an indictment against the Republicans, not the Libertarians.

        As for Badnarik, Browne, Marrou, Paul, Bergland, Clark, MacBride, and Hospers… well, we can discuss Paul and those damned newsletters again if you want, but the rest of those guys stand up as guys who would have been preferable to the guy who did win.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Adam was in love with Barbara, but Barbara had a crush on Charlie. Charlie, though, made it clear that he was repulsed by Barbara, so Barbara went out with Adam and found out that they were actually quite compatible.

          Stupid Adam.Report

  10. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    For your last point, I think the main thing is that symbols matter.

    And for much of the last 50 years, libertarians have consciously or not taken on symbols that are more anathema to liberals than conservatives and had an overt focus on emphasizing economic liberty over other sorts of liberty. The early political proponents of the movement (insofar as one exists) has usually allied with paleo conservatives and regionalists to the point where there’s a lot of messaging that simply does make it seem suspect to liberals.

    Perhaps as a petty example is the name of the institution you work at. Cato the Younger, for whatever his virtues was also a staunch defender of the entrenched system of privilege and inequality that symbolized the late Roman Republic. He and his fellow optimates were no fans of the plebes. I ask how you would be likely to react to an institution that named itself the Gracchus Institute. Would the populism of Tiberius Gracchus be swept aside when they advocated for market reforms?

    This is magnified with more popular libertarian symbolism: the emphasis or even worship of “states rights”, the veneration of the Founding era to a notorious degree, and a tendency to defend economic institutions that are at best, morally dubious. (The common defense of sweatshop labor, for example)Report

  11. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    I am, reluctantly, a liberal. I can agree with the libertarians on a number of things: the War on Drugs, the War on Terror, the imperial executive. But my fundamental positions are determined by being part of a society, and I want that society to be stable. Not stable in the sense of unchanging, but stable in the sense of not collapsing. My reading of history leads me to believe that providing stability means that you have to consider outcomes and inequality. If too many are denied the benefits of a society’s technologic reach for too long, Bad Things happen. Namely, the poor will tear the whole thing down. At least for me, believing that excess inequality matters means that a certain amount of coercive redistribution is necessary. I also think that (wild hand waving here) the higher the level of technology, the more redistribution will be required.

    Which leaves me in bed with the liberals, the only group that seems to think as a fundamental part of their position that inequality matters and has to be addressed. I disagree with many liberals about how much inequality is too much. I disagree with most of today’s liberals about ways and means. I’m in favor of markets; I’m in favor of individual liberty; but both have to be restricted in various fashions to ensure that the society survives.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “If too many are denied the benefits of a society’s technologic reach for too long, Bad Things happen. ”

      OWS had iPhones. If the problem with inequality is that the less-rich have crappy lives that suck, well, what happens when the less-rich don’t have crappy lives that suck?Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Its just adorable Duck that you think “OWS had iphones” is a trenchant comment. That just so really is the big concern about inequality.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          I guess you didn’t read Michael Cain’s post where he complains about “too many” being “denied the benefits of a society’s technologic reach for too long”.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            I did read it. I didn’t read what he was saying as a goofball conservative trope that the biggest issue for OWS or with liberals regarding inequality is yuppie kids not having enough iphones. Ask MC was his tech statement referred to if you are curious. I would be more concerned about poor people having access to advanced tech like MRI’s, medications, etc.Report

            • Avatar M.A. says:

              Poor people are far more likely than the upper class to lack internet access.

              In days when many companies put their application process online, that’s a killer.

              The USA’s broadband, at-home internet penetration is stupidly poor compared to other nations. When nations like South Korea and Vietnam beat us, something is really wrong.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              “Ask MC was his tech statement referred to if you are curious.”

              Maybe you should have just waited for him to respond. But hey, I can understand that the urge to white knight just overcame you.Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain says:

              I use “technology” broadly. For the US, a large subset of the following. Climate-controlled living space. Clean water. Modern plumbing. Ready access to MRIs and cancer treatments. Broadband. 500 cable channels. Personal transportation. Long-distance transportation. Access to strawberries on a year-round basis. Higher education. Productivity sufficient to have two weeks or more of paid vacation per year.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Michael Cain, you realize your list is nothing less than heaven on earth for the 96% of humanity who /don’t/ live in the US?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Yes, and life in NYC in 1896 was better than 95% of the world as well. Didn’t mean we still didn’t try to make it better.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Don’t you understand that whatever remains after we’ve crushed the unions, done away with any protection for labor, and eliminated workplace safety rules still leaves you better off than anyone living in 1200 AD? Even Frederick II. King of Sicily and Holy Roman Emperor. had to wait for one of his court historians to laboriously research questions you can answer instantly using Wikipedia. And moreover, that it is our sacred duty to rid the world of these things, because they interfere with the freedom of the market?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Moses should’ve stopped bitching about being in slavery in Egypt. He was better off than Homo Erectus after all.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        some of them did, at least.
        DD, we live in a society where retirement is a fool’s dream for most 20soemthings. Where JOBS are a fools dream for most people of color.
        Are you truly trying to tell me that our lives don’t suck???Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          “Are you truly trying to tell me that our lives don’t suck?”

          I quote the man: The poor will always be with us.

          “retirement is a fool’s dream for most 20somethings”

          um okay bro retirement for most 20somethings is FORTY YEARS AWAY. If you go back forty years we had only just invented microprocessor computers. You go back forty years from that and we didn’t even have jet engines. I don’t even think it’s worth planning that far ahead, beyond “put money in a retirement account”.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            you mean so that the rich folks can steal it?
            god, how I hate dealing with idiots.
            “fool me once, shame on you…”
            “fool me twice…”Report

          • Avatar wardsmith says:

            Density, to quote another part of the Bible Proverbs:
            When arguing with fools, don’t answer according to their folly, or you will become as foolish as they are

            Remembering this has stood me in good stead and is why I never, never never will answer another comment of Kim1’s.Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        To paraphrase: it’s not that they are rich, it’s how they got rich..

        It’s not that they are rich, it’s the fact that their rising tide DID NOT lift all boats.

        Wages for the top 1% skyrocketed while wages for the rest stagnated.
        Purchasing power for far too many relied on credit. Poof.

        Those at the top have been insulated from the very real effects their economic malfeasance had on the rest of us.

        “OWS had iPhones” is a crappy, dishonest-conservative response. Those who don’t have a job; those who are working multiple part time jobs wishing they could get a full time one for health insurance (a number of my friends in that boat); those who wish they could get a better job but are crowded out by the din of so many people applying for so many jobs; those who would start their own business and are stopped, NOT as the lying conservatives and libertarians always claim by “government regulation” but rather because they can’t get a small business loan, can’t get other backing, and can’t take the risk of being without the healthcare insurance they currently have from their existing job.

        I bet you’ve never lived paycheck to paycheck.
        I bet you’ve never tried to squeak by between jobs, looking for work while still supporting family or friends who are in worse-off shape.

        In fact I know you’ve never been there, because you’re the sort of jerk who accuses people in that situation of being “lazy” and “looking for handouts.”Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          The original comment was about access to technology.

          If you want to have a discussion about income inequality, you can do that. But that’s also a different conversation. It’s not entirely unrelated, but it is different.Report

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          “Most people who are on public assistance don’t have a character flaw, they just have a tough life.” – Lindsey Graham, yesterday.

          A few Republicans still get it. A few of them realize that their rhetoric of demonizing anyone who’s had a tough time of it, of equating wealth with morality, goes nowhere.

          The rest? Soulless at best.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          Why am I even replying to you? I’ve been down that rathole before.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith says:

          Only a moron, or Bill Maher (but I repeat myself) would conflate Venture Capital with Private Equity. But so long as that fits into your moronic narrative, rock on.
          Meanwhile your hero Bronco Bama has squandered $80Billion on failed “ventures” such as Solyndra and A123 and several more that haven’t quite left the frying pan. “Venture Capital” indeed.

          Fact: Venture Capital (and Private Equity) have done more to raise the GDP in this country and the world than ALL other forms combined. Bain gets a black eye because they gave money to companies NO BANK WOULD TOUCH and that makes Bain the bad guys? What about the banks? Proverbs says don’t join a fool in their folly but it also says reproach the fool /for/ their folly.

          I bet you’ve never lived paycheck to paycheck.
          I bet you’ve never tried to squeak by between jobs, looking for work while still supporting family or friends who are in worse-off shape.

          Wrong, wrong and wrong again. I’ve been there, done that. Unlike YOU, I’ve formed a company and made sure every one of MY employees received their full paycheck AND made damn sure the government received ITS paycheck while paying myself absolutely nothing, and this while I had absolutely nothing in the bank. I’ve scrimped and saved like nobody’s business, I know how to do things like make a loaf of bread from scratch not just because it tastes better but because it is 10 times cheaper than buying a loaf at the store. I’ve made my own yogurt, tofu, wine, beer, canned fruits and vegetables, you name it. Unlike those who sit on street corners (making $200/day) with their “will work for food” signs, I’ve physically gone to farmers and offered to weed their gardens so I could take home enough gleanings to eat when I had not one thin dime to my name. I’ve lived in my car for months at a time and had to cobble together enough change to buy the gas I needed to move the car so it wouldn’t get towed. So don’t talk to me about being poor, or knowing the plight of the poor. I’ve been poor as hell, but one thing I’ve never been is envious.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            If there was a reasonable way that we could give you, and folks like you, money, and take it away from those who never earned it, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

            Oh, wait, there is. Increase the estate tax (above $6million only), and increase the capital gains tax. Voila!Report

  12. Avatar Shazbot5 says:

    As the author of the first quoted sentence in your post, I feel that I should respond.

    Liberals believe that autonomy is imtrinsically good, too. We agree on that. And we agree that any limiting of autonomy is, other things being equal, unjust.

    But we believe that there are certain cases where, say, someone’s right to keep 67% of their income as opposed to 75% can be violated to insure, say, that everyone has access to nearly equal education.

    It seems to me that so-called moderate liberatarians that there are lots of practical considerations that trump comsiderations of autonomy. Thus, it appears that they agree with liberalism in principle and disagree (in only some cases) about the best policies to meet those principles.

    So why call yourself a libertarian? After all, we are talking about how you should name your political philosophy, i.e. your principles. But you seem to agree with liberals on principle. And you seem to agree with some right-leaning liberals on policy.

    I think that so-called libertarians run into a lot of trouble with liberals, only because the name libertarian suggests a disagreement on principle. The confusion is only compounded by the fact that there are libertarians who do disagree with liberals on policy.

    Do join the dark side and accept the liberal label. You know you want to.

    🙂Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      These are excellent questions, and I will want to respond in more detail soon. They deserve more than just a comment at the tail end of a very long comments section.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

        Thanks Jason.

        I should also say that I feel like my comments come across too aggressively. (Apparently, I speak too meakly and write too aggressively.)

        Our goal, I think, should be to find some sort of truce or agreement between classical and neoclassical liberals and moderate libertarians on principles. Then we can focus on disagreeing about which policies (the ones that are plausible) are most likely to make good on our agreed upon principles.

        I think ending the drug war and criminal penalties for drug use, but leaving some sensible regulations on drugs and medicines (you don’t want every medicine and drug to go over the counter, IMO), is a good start. A more dovish foreign policy is also good. Ending certain things like cab medallions and hair-styling licenses is fair game, too.

        I think liberals might be sold on scrapping or reducing the income tax in favor of something else (VAT, added to capital gains, inheritance tax on big money, financial transaction taxes, energy taxes to pay for externalities, amd maybe even a wealth tax) too, as long as it was guaranteed to improve or at least do no harm on inequality.

        Moderate libertarians can give ground on health policy, maybe accepting Obamacare or something close enough. (The penalty for not paying insurance or for healthcare taxes is justified, because you are always covered by emergency rooms and hospitals, even if insurance can’t pay.) Also, healthcare is necessary for the worst off to compete, and the worst off can’t afford it.

        Moderate libertarians can agree that laws that offer union protections increase the autonomy of workers to bargain for higher wages. Moderate libertarians should be natural allies of unions, IMO.

        Liberals can agree that some charter schools and privates are okay as long as there are scholarships and public subsidies, and as long as their is public oversight and a strong public-school option.Report

        • Avatar Brian Houser says:

          I like everything you just said. I would be a much happier person if we could manage to come together to make something like that happen in 2016.

          I’d advocate for a national sales tax (specifically, the FairTax–which makes it progressive) to replace corporate, income, and payroll taxes. I’m fine with unions except in the public sector; unions need the market to provide limits over their power.

          And of all the social programs, universal healthcare is the one I’ve come to be most open to. It’s easier than the others to make a case for as a “right”, and we’ve messed up the current system so bad (mostly due to government interference, mind you), I’m having trouble finding a practical path back to a free market solution. Maybe we could trade universal healthcare for agreeing to move education toward a voucher system?

          Oh, and regarding “I should also say that I feel like my comments come across too aggressively,” I suspect many of us feel that way (I know I do much of the time). I was thinking about how it’s a little odd that, given the technology we have today, that we aren’t doing these sorts of things as videos since with those, it’s so much easier to convey tone.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            The superrich see vouchers as just a gateway to letting the Catholics take over schools… so that the superrich don’t need to pay for it. You’d have your Tony public schools (British sense), and then you’d have the rest. And the rest wouldn’t learn evolution, and would totally suck, and you’d never let them into the good colleges.

            And the rich would have more money, and that would make them happier.

            Remember, folks, veterans benefits are the new welfare.

            Playing the have-nots against the have-littles is an old, old game…Report

            • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

              Yeah, the vouchers would have to be well regulated if they’re going to work. The top schools could price out the poor kids who have little money to add to the voucher. Top colleges and employers will hire from only the rich kid schools. Then you’ve got an unequal playing field again.

              Not sure if it can work and, at the same time, be a whole lot different than a non-voucher system.

              Also, our schools are very good. Relatively poor students here (and world wide) drag down overall test scores. And we have too many poor kids compared to the rest of the world, so our scores are lower than they should be.

              Reduce inequality and the problem goes away.

              In the mean time, school busing would work, but racism prevents it from happening.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                +1

                Cut child poverty by 20% before you bust the union and give away the store to charter schools.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Unions are awesome. Just love what they did to Hostess.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                There is far more to Hostess going belly up than the union.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

                Thanks TVD,…

                I mean Hanley.

                Sorry, I got confused there.

                🙂Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

                Also, I hate what those teachers unions did to the kids in Canada and northern Europe. Damn unionization is killing our smart kids.

                Oh well, at least the little idiots will have a sweet union job waiting for them making Ho-Ho’s…

                Nooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                If only they’d agreed to earn negative salaries, Hostess could totally have afforded the management raises and paid off the debt.at the same time.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Why haven’t we reconsidered the company shop as a neoretrosolution? Those workers could have been paid in scrip redeemable only for Hostess products. They’d still have their jobs and Hostess would still be solvent. Win-win!Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Imagine trying to get insurance for a group that lives on Twinkies and Ding-dongs.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Aw come on prof. Libertarians should be entirely enthusiastically in favor of private sector unions. If anything statist regulation is probably a major accomplice culprit in the death of private sector unions in the US.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Hey, I’m a union member.

                But even the Teamsters tried to talk the Hostess employees out of striking.

                They are like any other institution, useful but highly problematic.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                +1.
                Verizon’s union did a better job than the scabs they hired (they accused the union of sabotage because the union workers WERE the best folks to hire for the job, so the scabs couldn’t get anything to work right).Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Sure prof but if we’re painting any association of human beings with the colors of their worst examplars where does this put us? Did Enron discredit corporations everywhere for eternity? Did Arthur Anderson discredit partnerships? I don’t think so, thus I don’t think Hostess’ dumb ass unions discredit unions everywhere.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Did Enron discredit corporations everywhere for eternity?

                No, but Enron+MCI+Worldcom+LehmannBros+(alltheothers) did put a major hole in the libertarian “if we let the markets self-regulate everything will be fine” theory.

                And the damage Enron did can’t be cleared up satisfactorily by Libertarians’ worship of liability law either, since by the time Enron was done much of the “value” they stole was already frittered away and unrecoverable.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Blind trust in anything is fucking stupid.
                Yes, let everything be a bit discredited (especially our dear scab Ralph Nader). Be wary folks, and caveat emptor with everything you see.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Did Enron discredit corporations everywhere for eternity?

                Citizens United would give Lay and Skilling the absolute right to use Enron’s corporate checkbook to buy elections. That’s enough for me.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                M.A. there’s an error in your reasoning here. In order for Enron+MCI+Worldcom+LehmannBros+(alltheothers) you would have to demonstrate that these incidents occurred in a libertarian market system. They didn’t, the market is heavily regulated with significant state intervention. If anything the Enron+MCI+Worldcom+LehmannBros+(alltheothers) suggests that liberals may not be correct that a regulated market can prevent these problems.*

                *Mind some liberals would say that the market simply needs more regulation but most libertarians would say, fairly in my mind, that the market would need to be much more free before its scandals could be laid at libertarianisms feet.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Sure prof but if we’re painting any association of human beings with the colors of their worst examplars where does this put us?

                Precisely the point I’ve been trying to make lately. But of course you were never one of the folks who had trouble grasping it.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                North,
                there was plenty enough information publically available to show that Enron was a pyramid scheme. They were required to report it.

                Likewise with the lead in toys scandal.

                I think the onus is on the libertarians to explain this obvious inefficiency in the market, as to why these were allowed to persist for a relatively long period of time, despite being really worthwhile things to debunk.

                I think the answer is obvious: people are lazy. And this is why pure libertarianism fails.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                North,
                see Stiglitz for the opacity and unregulatedness of Lehmann/Bear Stearns.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Kim,

                Considering the four examples North gave, in highly regulated markets, which force had the better track record of eliminating the offender, markets or regulators?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Roger: you can take the regulators out of your enumeration. The regulators, to wit, CFTC, were out of the picture by virtue of deregulation. Enron was allowed to play both sides of the card table, as both dealer and player. When Enron didn’t like the cards in the hand it was playing, it would throw them into the trash can hiding under its own table.

                Accounting regs changed. Enron built up an incestuous group of corporations to puff smoke in the faces of what little regulation remained and hired in Andersen to run the smoke machine.

                The markets didn’t eliminate Enron. The markets crashed.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Blaise,

                I think we can agree that Enron was in a highly regulated industry. They were the most fraudulent company in the room, and when it came to light, bankruptcy was the result. Markets got them and Andersen, and all the other companies on the list that went bankrupt.

                Another place we can agree is that stupid deregulation helped cause the launch of Enron. Enron thrived playing the games created by stupid regulations and just as stupid deregulation.

                I am all for a responsible layer of regulation and rules. I am against situations where success and failure in the maket is determined by how well one games the market and the regs. Even LWA and I were able to agree on my examples of this in P&C insurance.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Enron was once a highly regulated industry. It was deregulated with a bit of underhanded chicanery. That deregulation allowed Enron to create the accounting nightmare which followed.

                The CFMA would also set in motion the Catastrophe of 2008.

                Upstream, I said a symptom of bad deregulation was barter markets. Enron was able to play an incredible game: allowing people to bet on its future stock price — on its own market floor!. What an interesting scam, eh? It wasn’t real money in that market.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Excellent comments Shaz, in the whole subthread. I think what you’re highlighting here is workable solutions vs. ideal solutions. Ideals have to be put on hold for a bit, until people become better than they are. But a workable solution that both solves problems and leads people in the right (towards the ideal) direction have lots of merit.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

                Thanks Still.

                And back at you.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Yeah, the vouchers would have to be well regulated if they’re going to work.

                Every metric that is used to measure public school efficacy shall be used for any school that accepts a voucher.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Including how well they do with the disabled? 😉Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                Reduce inequality and the problem goes away.

                This is pure speculation, isn’t it?Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                It’s worth noting that Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai topped the PISA rankings in 2012, and they have more income inequality than the US. Well, Singapore and Hong Kong do, anyway. I’m fairly confident that Shanghai does as well, but I can’t find city-level data.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                2009, not 2012. There are no 2012 PISA rankings, as far as I know.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                The Chinese data can’t be compared to the world wide data. Only the Kids in the good schools take the tests.

                Imagine how well NYC would do if poorer kids just didn’t go to school at all (and not take tests).

                Surely the data from Europe (and across states in the U.S. as well) implies a strong correlation between equality and high test scores. There is also a correlation between strong teacher’s unions and high scores. Certainly, there is no correlation to suggest the opposite,

                I am too lazy to link to Ravitch.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                What’s your evidence for the claim that Chinese data aren’t comparable because of sampling bias? Obviously this would entirely invalidate the rankings, and I’m not seeing any kind of acknowledgement of this in the official reports. In fact, unless I’m misreading, the PISA committee selected the schools themselves using a random sampling weighted by number of students.

                Let’s be clear: The US scored low on the PISA tests because black and Hispanic students drove down the average. For reading scores, at least (the only ones for which I could find a racial/ethnic breakdown), Asian American students scored better than students in most Asian countries, and non-Hispanic white American students scored better than students in most European countries. Here’s an international comparison adjusted for race and immigration.

                Why American blacks and Hispanics tend to underperform academically is not entirely clear, aside from the fact that a sizeable chunk of the Hispanic population did not learn English as a first language. But there’s no evidence that using redistribution to smooth out inequality will fix this.

                I’m eyeballing it, but I’m not seeing any real correlation between PISA rankings and Gini coefficient within Europe. The European countries with the least income inequality are, starting from the bottom, Sweden, Montenegro, Hungary, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Malta, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Kazakhstan (not European, but a great example of the problem with Gini obsession), and Finland. Of those, Finland was the only one ranking in the top 20 across all three subjects in the 2009 PISA rankings.

                So I’m guessing that your assertion of a correlation is just based on a comparison between the US and Europe. The problem is that the US is sui generis in a lot of ways. You can’t just pick two that you don’t like and say that one causes the other.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Brandon,

                For one thing, it’s not the U.S. vs. China. It’s the U.S. vs. Shanghai (just one city, and amongs China’s wealthiest).

                If they compare, say Palo Alto, with all of China (including rural China where poverty is high and test scores aren’t published for fear of embarrassing the Chinese government) you would see the opposite. Both Shanghai and Palo Alto are cities that are magnets for success and education. (Hong Kong, too.)

                In the U.S. poor children -whose parents moved to some place just to get a job to get by- attend public schools and -on average- drag down the test scores. In China, the children of migrant workers who have moved from rural areas often don’t go to school at all. They certainly don’t take the PISA. Moreover, I can’t find a link, but I have heard that lots of the most affleunt families in China will send their kids to Shanghai for schooling. (Imagine we compared all of China with some town, say in Connecticut, that had a lot of elite boarding schools where the best American students came to study.)

                “The plight of migrant Chinese children living in burgeoning urban areas in many ways exemplifies the momentous challenges facing the world’s most populous nation. China has traditionally denied public schooling to migrant children, most of whose families were drawn to the cities by economic opportunity, and only recently (in 1998) did it begin to allow the children access to for-profit city schools, most of which are operated by migrants themselves. But that access ends after middle school, as the government often prohibits migrants from entering high school in their adopted cities.”

                http://www.hks.harvard.edu/news-events/news/students/migrant-china

                So yes, comparing the U.S. to just Shanghai is misleading. Adjust for poverty and the U.S. system is excellent.

                Also, there is no doubt that the Chinese system gets kids to work hard on test prep. (The longer school day, longer school year, greater work ethic, and the threat of low test scores completely ruining your entire life are the main factors here, IMO.) But all that test prep is driven by and habituates students into rote learning, which isn’t all great. (While I was in China, all the teachers and admin knew the college system had a problem with too much rote learning, but college is too late to fix anything.)

                Also, this:

                “Researchers for the National Association for Secondary School Principals disaggregated the PISA results by income and made some stunning discoveries. Take a look at this link (“PISA: It’s Poverty Not Stupid”). It shows that American students in schools with low poverty rates were first in the world when they were compared with students in nations with comparably low poverty levels.

                http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2011/01/dear_deborah_i_have_been.htmlReport

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Also, having taught college students in China, I can report that yes they are hard workers (but not as much as you think), but really bad at a lot of things our students (who ain’t great) are better at: analytic writing, giving professional presentations, and generally planning, managing their own time, and organizing their own work. Rote learning with high stakes (we’re talking how happy you’ll be forever) isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

                European students on average -I haven’t taught there, only taught their student’s here- kick butt on all measures, IMO.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Not what I hear from physics profs, on grad students. They’ll take a C American student over an A+ from Romania OR China. And the C Student will do better too…Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                Evaluating foreign grad school applicants is hard and a bit of a crapshoot. Pure grades and GRE/TOEFL scores are not particularly reliable or good indicators. In computer science, we have Asian schools that we know are reliable and from whom good grades are really meaningful, but for a lot of other schools, an A+ student could be great or awful.

                The real reason to prefer American and western european students is you actually know what you’re going to get. You know how to evaluate the school, you know how they likely calibrate the grades, you know the GREs are generally meaningful.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                PB,
                I love the eval of Chinese grad students
                “they love assembly language, but they can’t program well in it, because it takes a lot of imagination to do it right”
                (note: this comes from someone who writes self-modifying code, so…)Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/23/your-homework-berliner-on-education-and-inequality/

                That’s a start. I might be wrong, but I’m not making this up out of whole cloth.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Liberals can agree that some charter schools and privates are okay as long as there are scholarships and public subsidies, and as long as their is public oversight and a strong public-school option.

          And libertarians can agree on that strong public oversight since there are public monies involved. And while some are total privatizers, most of us can agree on keeping the strong public school option because we just want to create competition for, not eliminate, public schools.Report

          • Avatar Brian Houser says:

            Just for the record, I’m only part of that “most of us” as part of a transition plan. You have a decent chance of getting me to support public assistance for education, but I have a really tough time seeing how government-run schools are a good thing.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              I’m less interested in the outcome than the process. Let it be competitive; i.e., let the parents choose. If the aggregate choices are all voucher-supported private schools, that’s fine. If the aggregate choices are all voucher-supported public schools, that’s fine. If–as I suspect would happen–the aggregate choices are a mixture of voucher-supported public and private schools, that’s fine as well.

              Set up a good process, and the odds are that the outcome will be good (enough). Focus on achieving a particular outcome, and we’re likely to screw up both the process and the outcome.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Nah, I’d rather not once again profitize the commons for the well-being of the few. If rich people, libertarians, and neoliberals truly believe private or charter schools are better, fine. Use your own money and set up a no-charge private school.

                I know, I know, what about the taxpayer money you’ve already spent? Guess what, your property taxes aren’t tuition you’re paying directly to the public school district for your kids. It’s simply funding the school district, whether your kids are there or not.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Jesse,

                That’s a fairly shallow response. Let’s keep those tax dollars exactly the same. Childless people, those whose kids have already graduated, they still have to pay to support the education system.

                It’s still their tax dollars, and it’s still going to fund education for all kids. It’s still a public education system, because there’s public provision. But public provision doesn’t require public production. In the same way, our roads are public roads; publicly provided, but usually privately produced.

                Now here’s what you’re saying. “Those people using public tax dollars to educate their kids should all have to do it my way. None of them should be allowed to use those public tax dollars to educate their kids in a way they think is better.” It’s not good enough for you that your preferred option still exists for those who prefer it; in addition you want to deny others their preferred option.

                And here’s the real kicker. The only way actual public schools disappear in my proposed scheme is if the vast majority of parents don’t want to send their kids to them. And your response to this is, “Don’t let that overwhelming majority have that option.” How very democratic of you.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Oh, and public education is not a commons. What I take out of it does not detract from what you take out of it. It’s really a private good with extensive positive externalities (and the presence of positive externalities suggests the market will not supply it optimally, so some public subsidization is indicated).Report