Comment Rescue: A Priorism in Libertarianism

Avatar

Jaybird

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

Related Post Roulette

350 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    (If you don’t like the art, let me know)Report

    • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Jaybird says:

      Love the art. Thanks Jaybird.

      Really, I am so honored that anyone would think the random beeps and boops coming out of my voice synthesizer would be interesting.

      The whole paper is a good one, IMO.Report

  2. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Awesome post Jaybird. I have to read the linked paper and re-read your post but this seems to address lots of the problems I’ve mentioned and puzzled over on these very Ordinary pages.Report

  3. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    In other words, the empirical data we have about different societies does not say that that laissez-faire markets are best universally, in all contexts.

    The empirical data categorically proves laissez-faire markets, especially financial markets, are the worst of all possible options. I resort to Hayek for my argument.Report

    • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Yeah, the evidence says mixed markets with government interference work well.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        It’s finding that sweet spot of how much interference that is the thorny bit.Report

        • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

          Does the evidence suggest that we should have far less regulation and government entitlements than we do here in the U.S.?Report

          • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Shazbot3 says:

            No idea. Maybe we should have more, or maybe we need to reduce in some areas & increase in others (most likely scenario).Report

            • Avatar Patrick in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              Probably this.

              One of our problems is that we have a tendency to make everything monolithic. I don’t think a dude with a hot dog cart needs the same level of health certification as a restaurant. The cart’s right there. If there’s a dead rat floating in with the dogs, I’m probably going to see it when I get my order. A restaurant, on the other hand, there’s a kitchen, back there, where I’m not allowed to go and things I’m not allowed to see.

              Similarly, farms. If I can walk onto a small family farm and order a fryin’ chicken and they butcher it to order right there in front of me, I don’t really need a Board Certified Health Inspector sweeping through the guy’s coop once every 90 days.

              What we really, really need to do is make sure our regulation is affixed firmly to appropriate risk and oversight. Having a regulation without enforcement just gives discretionary power to organizations that may have partisan or self-interested motivations resulting in disparate impacts.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Patrick says:

                I agree.

                But the claim “We need more regulation in some areas, and maybe less in others” is not consistent with even a very loose definition of “Libertarianism,” is it?

                At the loosest, “libertarianism” is a commitment to less regulation and very minimal regulation, not more regulation in some areas and less in others.

                Or is libertarianism indistinguishable from neo-liberalism?Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                I think a lot of people who claim the label “libertarian” don’t look much like each other. They’re usually people who moved towards libertarianism either from their starting position of conservativism or liberalism, and their flavor of libertarianism is going to be quite different from others.

                Lots of the naive libertarians you see want to start by abolishing large swaths of government. They’re usually raised from fairly privileged backgrounds that they don’t recognize as privileged, and they’re already pretty well off. They’re very smart and fairly self-sufficient, and there’s lots of go-getters in this group. (These people suffer when they try to put themselves in the Rawlsian experiment, because they don’t get it). I think a *lot* of the public perception of libertarianism is driven by this cadre.

                But I don’t think there’s any of those folk here. And much as I disagree with a lot of the stuff that comes out of CATO and some of the other libertarianish-blogs around, I don’t think there are many of those folks at any of those places, either.

                Those folk usually show up as gadflys at places like Volokh or they inhabit sites like RedState or Powerline; they’re not libertarians, they’re a certain type of conservative who like to dress like libertarians when they’re talking about dismantling the parts of government that they don’t like, which usually *starts* with welfare.

                All the non-naive libertarian guys I read usually want to start with the drug war and the military-industrial complex.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Patrick says:

                “I don’t think there’s any of those folk here”

                Well, as I am often reminded, there is a spectrum of libertarians. I think you’re understating how much some of the libertarians here are against redistribution. This comes out when we discuss the rampant inequality here in the U.S.

                But I think we are very close to agreement, anyway.Report

  4. Avatar Francis says:

    Personally, I see two big problems with Intrinsic Libertarianism:

    1. In an urban environment there’s really no such thing as purely negative rights. Most every action you take, be it lighting a fire on a cold night, or pumping water from your well, or getting on the freeway to go to work, adversely affects the community when aggregated across all the members of the community. (Gee, I wonder why I picked air pollution, water demand and traffic as examples.) Politics matters because it’s how we resolve these kinds of disputes. The absence of the State as vehicle for resolving the dispute won’t make the dispute go away.

    2. Who really wants to live that way? We voluntarily agree to form a government that can’t help us? What about the endless examples of market failure? Since my professional life has revolved entirely around dealing with government regulators, I’m well aware that they are as prone to human failures and foibles as anyone else. But there’s a good reason that the IRS, SEC, FCC, EPA and FWS all survive Republican administrations — at the end of the day enough people like the services they provide.Report

    • Avatar Fnord in reply to Francis says:

      In an urban environment there’s really no such thing as purely negative rights.

      As I ponder the negative/positive rights dichotomy, I come to wonder how valid it really is. Or, if there is a real distinction, if perhaps the right to own property turns out to actually be a positive right.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Fnord says:

        Can you elaborate on that? Sounds very interesting.Report

        • Avatar Francis in reply to Stillwater says:

          As a practical matter, I’ll bet that in most jurisdictions it is. Landowners are going to tend to own single family detached housing or live in certain types of apartments. As such, politicians and cops know who are landowners (and taxpayers) and who isn’t. I’ll bet that the right to make (a certain amount of) noise, to pollute, to vote without impediment, to be free from hassle from the cops etc. is strongly positively coordinated with property ownership.Report

        • Avatar Fnord in reply to Stillwater says:

          What distinguishes a positive right from a negative right? Generally, the distinction is that a positive right can compel a specific action, whereas a negative right cannot: negative rights can only compel inaction. But who is compelled, whether to action by a positive right or inaction by a negative right?

          Sometimes we consider only the state to be compelled. That’s what people mean when they discuss, for example, Freedom of Speech as a negative right. Freedom of Speech compels the government not to take certain actions (actions that punish or restrain speech). Freedom of speech doesn’t compel private citizens at all, even to inaction; they may take any action they like to punish or restrain speech, provided that that action isn’t barred for some other reason.

          Now, sometimes positive rights are also framed this way, as only compelling the state to act. But libertarians make a valid criticism: the only way for the state to act is through the actions of people. Thus, a right that compels the government to act will ultimately result in compulsion on people to act.

          So, whereas compelling the government to inaction does not affect people, compelling the government to action does. Hence, this particular notion of negative versus positive rights, considering negative rights to be only those rights that bind the government to inaction, is reasonable and coherent.

          But is the right to own property is not a right of this sort. Unless we are discussing a very limited right state takings, it clearly acts to compel private citizens.

          We might still attempt to make a meaningful distinction based solely on the action/inaction distinction. In a follow-up post, I’ll discuss why that distinction is less clear that it’s often made out to be, and how as a result attempts to cast the right to own property as a negative right as opposed to supposed positive rights like state-provided welfare don’t work.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Fnord says:

            Yeah, this is especially obvious with ownership of natural resources.

            When 2000 new kids are born, why don’t they stary of life owning an exactly equal portion of all the oil and gas resources and land in the U.S.?Report

        • Avatar Fnord in reply to Stillwater says:

          So, are ownership rights negative rights? Well, what are ownership rights?

          The right of property ownership of thing consists of the right to exclusive use of that thing. That is, it is the right to use that thing, and it is the right to exclude others from that thing. Which can, on the surface, be stated in terms of compelling inaction: others are compelled not to interfere with your use of the thing, and to refrain from use of the thing.

          An oft-cited reason to prefer negative rights to positive rights are that negative rights cannot lead to conflict. Which is precisely true for negative rights in the sense I used in the last post, like Freedom of Speech. It’s logically impossible for government inaction to interfere with another type of government inaction. But that only works because all rights are only binding upon a single entity, the state.

          Hence, property rights as negative rights, binding upon multiple entities which each have rights of their own, runs into trouble in this area. Because property ownership rights can conflict with each other. One entity has a right that compels all other entities not to interfere with its use of a thing. Another entity has a right to compel all other entities to refrain from use of the thing. Obviously, those rights are in conflict.

          But what does this problem of conflict have to do with the distinction between compulsion to inaction and compulsion to action? Well, it turns out that the things conventionally called positive rights, like the right to education, can ALSO be stated in terms of compulsions to inaction. Such a right would be the right to use resources (things) towards a specific end (like education); hence, others are compelled not to interfere with the use of those things towards that end. In parallel to how the property right to use a thing means that others are compelled not to interfere with the use of that thing.

          And the conflict between conventional positive rights and property rights is also in parallel. When conventional positive rights conflict with property rights (and they do conflict with property rights), it’s not a matter of positive rights conflicting with negative rights. Rather, that conflict is no different than the conflict than can occur between two different sets of property rights. The conventional distinction between property rights and positive rights is not coherent.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Fnord says:

            Man, this is some dense argumentation. I’m not sure I’m getting it. In fact, I know I’m not.

            It seemed to me you were going to go in the direction that a negative right (which compels inaction on the part of others) compels the government to action (positive obligation to prevent others from conflicting with the expression of that right). But that doesn’t seem to be where you ended up.

            Do you think you could rephrase the main argument in language perfectly tailored to my own idiosyncratic language use, intuitions, cognitive abilities and suchlike. In other words, can you dummy it down?Report

        • Avatar Fnord in reply to Stillwater says:

          So, what does this mean (aka MORE WORDS SRSLY R U KIDDING?!):

          This idea is not in any way, shape, or form a criticism of pragmatic libertarianism. Any practical or empirical arguments for the importance of property rights are completely independent of the abstract question of whether property rights are negative rights.

          What it is is a claim that a certain variety of a priori libertarian, working from a certain idea of rights, is reasoning from flawed priors. There’s also a related set of ideas that address much the same issue regarding state of nature/Lockean social contract libertarians (drawing a distinction between possessions or personal effects and property).

          I also hope that elucidating the parallel between property rights and conventional positive rights in general might help clarify some arguments. Particularly regarding the occasional attempts to connect statism and slavery (and the somewhat rarer but not unknown attempts to claim slavery is implicit in property rights): both types of rights deal with “things” in a very similar way; slavery is the fallacy of supposing that those “things” include people, in either case.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Fnord says:

            I think the criticism of what you call pragmatic libertarianism is empirical. The empirical evidence is that left-leaning, somewhat socialist institutions make society better.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Fnord says:

        Or, if there is a real distinction, if perhaps the right to own property turns out to actually be a positive right.

        My question is always some variant of “how do you get from ‘you don’t have the right to X’ to ‘therefore I have the right to take X from you’?”Report

        • Avatar Jason M. in reply to Jaybird says:

          I imagine by means every bit as illegitimate as the means used to acquire them in the first place. Then yet another generation gets to hit the reset button and pose the same question just you did.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Jason M. says:

            Yeah, Jason is right.

            1. Property rights of the Lockean sort have a problem with inheritance. Why don’t I have a right to sell all that oil? Why don’t I have a right over the the land I was born and raised on? Because my parents were renters?

            2. It is really unclear why property rights carry more moral weight than positive rights. I have a right to a good education. I have a right to healthcare if I am sick. If I am blind, I have a right to assistance. Libertarians deny those positive rights carry normative weight, but someone else (an old school Commie, maybe) will deny that negative property rights carry weight.Report

        • Avatar Fnord in reply to Jaybird says:

          It doesn’t, all by itself. Even if the right to property is a positive right, that doesn’t imply the right to take property just for the hell of it. It merely means that pragmatic balancing against other concerns is appropriate (hence, for example, taxation).Report

          • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Fnord says:

            And also the balancing with equality of opportunity, which means giving the poor, the disabled, the mentally ill, the unlucky, and the sick help in terms of resources redistributed from the rich.

            Are libertarians okay with that?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Shazbot3 says:

              For my part, I prefer a straight transfer. You make X dollars a year. We, as a society, agree that everyone should have at least Y dollars a year.

              When X is less than Y, we send payments to make up the difference.

              No, not “food stamps”, no, not “housing assistance”.Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The problem I have with philosophical libertarianism a la Boaz is this, what rights are self-evident? Philosophical libertarians believe that negative liberty as they define it are the self-evident rights and positive liberty is not. I and many other people look at the world and determine that positive liberty rights like the right to healthcare and education are self-evident because without them you get some rather horrible social situations and unfree society. I’m a firm believer in FDR’s dictum that a necessitous person is not a free person and that great inequality is part of the path to dictatorship.

    However, despite my belief that positive liberty is self-evident; I also believe that private property and relatively free markets are also a necessity. While I think that the evidence shows that government is good at providing services like healthcare, education, transport, and certain forms of recreation, its absolutely horrible at providing consumer goods and many forms of entertainment to people. Since people like consumer goods and entertainment, you need markets and commerce to give them to the people. You need private property rights to protect individual rights and privacy. There are plenty of people who do not think that this is self-evident and that the market and private property can be eliminated.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Good lord, the government has a vital role to play in the production of consumer goods. Regulation of these markets, especially in perishables and drugs, has taken us from caveat emptor to the modern supermarket. Point this out to any libertarian, of any stripe, and they will squish like a marshmallow. They know perfectly well what happens without those regulators and still whine about it, for all their much-talking about Fraud.

      I want the beady eye of a regulator on every scrap of food in my refrigerator and medicine cabinet, so we can have some of that Private Property of a Perishable Sort. And that’s just the start.Report

    • Avatar Reformed Republican in reply to LeeEsq says:

      The general libertarian opposition to positive rights, such as healthcare or education, is that someone else is required to provide them. It is a claim on someone else’s labor. These rights only exist if people can be forced to provide them, either by forcing someone to pay or forcing someone to provide the labor.

      On the other hand, the right to free speech does not require anyone else to do anything. It just means that a person is free to say what they want. It is not a right to an audience or even a place to speak from. Negative rights are essentially the right to be left alone.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Reformed Republican says:

        This is nonsense. Most of the positive rights like education or healthcare are provided through taxes and people become teachers and healthcare providers on their own volition. Public housing is also funded through taxation and built through contracts in the construction business and designed by paid architects. The government does not force anybody to provide labor for positive rights, it pays them to provide labor. Even in a libertarian system, some taxation and labour is necessary for things like the courts and the police. A libertarian government is not entirely without services.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Wrong. You have a right to acquire an education. You can not be prevented from seeking an education. The government has decided to provide education as a service to it’s citizens.

          If education was truly a ‘right’ (as I understand ‘rights’), then teachers who went on strike would be violating the rights of their students & could be charged accordingly. Same with nurses, etc.

          You are guaranteed access to education, healthcare, etc, but you can not demand your right that a doctor treat you or a teacher educate you absent a fair market exchange of value.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

            No, when teachers go on strike the government is failing to provide an education to kids because they prefer to not pay the workers who are bargaining collectively.Report

            • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Shazbot3 says:

              But if education is truly a right, then it is something government must protect (since the democratic ideal of government is that it exists to protect rights).

              Ergo, either the government must pay teachers whatever salary they demand, or teachers are obligated to provide education to all who demand it.

              However, if access to education is the right, then government merely has to not interfere with the quest for individual education. E.g. The government can not enact a policy that white farm boys from Wisconsin can only go to school for Ag Sciences.

              Hypothetical: The government is broke, it has barely enough money to maintain the pay of the elected officials, police, & the military. No one will lend it money, and the economy can not sustain a tax hike. How does it enforce the right of people to get an education?Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                No, you’re argument is unsound.

                The government tries to protect my negative property rights by putting police on the street and judges on benches. If the government ran out of cash and couldn’t pay police and judges (or if they went on strike), that would be a case where the government (for whatever reason) is failing in it’s obligations to ensure my negative rights.

                I might forgive the government for this failure if the police were demanding too much or if events outside of the government’s control caused the problem.

                So too with teachers. Whether through public schools or some kind of subsidy or demands that kids be home schooled, kids have a right to an education that is enforced by the government. If the government fell into problems, they could fail at enforcing that right, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a right.

                If it isn’t a right just because a government might struggle to provide it, then negative rights aren’t rights when governments struggle to protect them, too. (The negative right to not have the air polluted is a good example here. We have the right even if the government fails to provide it because of the economic and political power of polluters.)Report

        • Avatar Reformed Republican in reply to LeeEsq says:

          What part of my comment is nonsense?Report

        • Lee, RR wrote:

          “…These rights only exist if people can be forced to provide them, either by forcing someone to pay or forcing someone to provide the labor.”

          Providing positive rights using taxes is forcing people to pay. I’m not one to argue that taxation=theft, but taxes aren’t voluntarily given.

          For essential services, governments often take away the right to strike, which is pretty close to forcing someone to work (they could quit of course, but that’s a crappy alternative).

          Please note, I’m not arguing for or against these sorts of government actions, just noting that RR’s comment was valid.Report

  6. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    Just for the record, Friedman is something of a professional critic of libertarianism. He does not approach it objectively, but with the (a priori) intent of refuting it, or as he would say, subjecting it to “critical review.” That doesn’t make him wrong, and it doesn’t mean his arguments don’t demand a response, but it’s worth being aware of his particular bias.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      That doesn’t make him wrong, and it doesn’t mean his arguments don’t demand a response, but it’s worth being aware of his particular bias.

      I’m curious. If it doesn’t make him wrong and it doesn’t mean his arguments don’t demand a response, then why is his “bias” worth being aware of?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        For example: was Chomsky “biased” against Behaviorism when he wrote papers which utterly destroyed the theory? Would knowing that (if it were true) have helped a person form better opinions about Behaviorism?Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Stillwater says:

          Ya know, behaviorism has made a major comeback since the 80s, though in a cleverly disguised, and significantly more sophisticated form. (This form also brings back spatial models, which were thought to be utterly destroyed in the 70s, though also in a cleverly disguised form.)

          I think this is a pretty good analogy for both the form of libertarianism that Friedman is critiquing* and the critique itself. Friedman (and Shaz) are critiquing a form of libertarianism that presents a very simple model of the world, one which, admittedly, we see here (Roger and BB are the most straightforward examples), but it does nothing to prevent it from coming back in more sophisticated forms.

          *It’s been years since I read that essay, when I first saw libertarians talking about it online, but I don’t think Shaz has actually presented anything like a critique from it here. I don’t remember finding it compelling, but then again, I’m not a social democrat and I think ultimately they’re both of the same species of materialist social philosophies anyway.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

            I liked this part of the link:

            Over the centuries, philosophers have struggled to understand how our concepts are defined. It is now widely acknowledged that trying to characterize ordinary notions with necessary and sufficient conditions is doomed to failure.

            LVW FTW!Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to Stillwater says:

              Witt has arguably been more influential in cognitive science than in Anglo-American philosophy. He is probably one of the most cited people in papers on concepts and categories, and no one can write a general review of those topics without citing him.

              [I deleted the rest of this comment because it wasn’t at all relevant to the OP, and was entirely too revealing of my super-secret identity. Suffice it to say that Witt has been a big influence on my thinking, and I’m never far from a copy of PI.]Report

          • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Chris says:

            “I don’t think Shaz has actually presented anything like a critique from it here.”

            ???Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to Shazbot3 says:

              By this I mean that the sections you quote don’t really present a critique, or an outline of a critique, of libertarianism, they just assert that there is one (or two, one philosophical and one empirical). That’s not to say that the essay does that. It’s pretty damn long, one would hope it contains a critique. I don’t remember exactly how it plays out, but I don’t remember finding it particularly compelling, so I’m not going to bother reading it again to find out what that critique was.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Chris says:

                My critique is that there is no empirical or a priori justification of principle libertarianism. When confronted with the fact that there is no empirical justification, libertarians will switch to a priori justification, and when the fact that there is no a priori proof is pressed, they will switch back to the bad a postereriori arguments.

                Libertarianism straddles a priori and a posteriori justifications, but when you examine the justifications, they both fail.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                Except that’s not a critique, that’s an assertion. I mean, they have arguments for the empirical and a priori justifications, right? A critique would counter those.

                I mean, I can say “there is no empirical evidence in support of the Standard Model,” but that doesn’t mean I’ve critiqued the Standard Model. I’d have to actually look at the data that is said to support it, and show that there are cases that it doesn’t predict correctly, etc.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Chris says:

                No, you mean that my argument does not counter all the possible counter arguments that libertarians could give (and maybe in print have given).

                I wrote the post to see which of those criticisms would be offered here.

                If you read the whole paper, Friedman considers a number of possible objections that libertarians would or could give.Report

          • Avatar PPNL in reply to Chris says:

            Yeah, I’m struggling to understand the difference between the connectionists here and the classicalists. For example:

            On the classical account, information is represented by strings of symbols, just as we represent data in computer memory or on pieces of paper. The connectionist claims, on the other hand, that information is stored non-symbolically in the weights, or connection strengths, between the units of a neural net.

            Feldercarb. A neural net is every bit as symbolic as a classical program. Indeed almost all neural nets are implemented as a classical program. Very few are implemented in hardware.

            Neural nets are a cool programming paradigm that is very useful for solving some kinds of problems. But it is a program. A net is a finite state machine. Computer programs are what you use to explore these things.

            At the core of this criticism of “classicalism” is a perverse misunderstanding of what a computer is.

            Well the article does sorta imply this but get it wrong. For example:

            On the face of it, these views seem very different. However many connectionists do not view their work as a challenge to classicism and some overtly support the classical picture. So-called implementational connectionists seek an accommodation between the two paradigms. They hold that the brain’s net implements a symbolic processor. True, the mind is a neural net; but it is also a symbolic processor at a higher and more abstract level of description. So the role for connectionist research according to the implementationalist is to discover how the machinery needed for symbolic processing can be forged from neural network materials, so that classical processing can be reduced to the neural network account.

            But it is far easier to go the other way. Symbolic processing can be forged from neural nets but it is easier to forge neural nets from symbolic processing. In fact neural nets are a limited form of symbolic processing anyway.

            The power of neural nets is that it offers an architecture for fine grained parallel programming. Like all computer architectures it is subject to Church/Turing and so cannot do anything that any other architecture can’t do. It just may be better suited for a limited class of problems. It is just another tool in the toolbox.

            I could go on on but… Anyway I doubt this ultimately has anything to do with behaviorism anyway. Or libertarianism so probably off topic.Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to PPNL says:

              This is a common reply to the anti-representationalist claims of connectionists and dynamic system theorists in cog sci (e.g.).Report

              • Avatar PPNL in reply to Chris says:

                Yeah, I found it hard to get past this point:

                The basic idea is that mediating states are internal states of a system that carry information which is used by the system in the furtherance of its goals. (Not all system states are information states; some are goal states.)

                Head, table, bang. Repeat.

                I strongly doubt there is any utility in defining some class of mediating states and goal states.

                Clear your mind. All programs can be seen as patterns of charging and discharging capacitors. These patterns have mathematical properties that do not depend on language and language is not the best tool for understanding them. Shut up and program.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to PPNL says:

                Have you read David Marr’s Vision? Chapter 1 is a must read for anyone discussing models of cognition or behavior.Report

              • Avatar PPNL in reply to Chris says:

                No, I have not. I just read the general introduction and the writing seems crisp and precise. He seems to really get it. That is sadly lacking in most of the more philosophical commentary.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Stillwater says:

        A biased person is more likely to be unfair than an objective one. That’s why it’s worth being aware; so one can be alert for unfairness. That’s why it’s worth being aware of. But even an unfair person can sometime make points worth responding to, and being biased doesn’t necessarily mean the person is unfair, which is why I’m not claiming upfront that he’s necessarily wrong (i.e., not saying he shouldn’t be read).

        For the record, I read Friedman some years back, didn’t find his arguments that impressive, and have mostly forgotten them. I find the project of trying to disprove ideology X on philosophical grounds rather stupid and not worth the time. Hell, Marx was fundamentally wrong in critical ways, but I still take Marxism seriously and understand why people would be Marxists, and think it would be ridiculous to try to argue philosophically that Marxism in whole is wrong. And I don’t trust people who do set out to do such things.Report

        • Avatar Patrick in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

          The real thing of note about bias is in framing.

          One example, it’s generally established that humans tend towards loss-averse. So if you frame an exchange as a loss instead of a potential gain, people are more likely to be against the idea. There are other pretty basic processing problems with the grey matter that make “how you make your argument”, from a persuasion standpoint, almost as important as the argument itself.

          Not that anybody on the masthead at the League is particularly vulnerable to this sort of stacking of the deck, but everybody needs to fight against the tendency.

          Anyway, I’ve found since reading a decent chunk of psych (not that this wasn’t informal knowledge already, Cicero certainly had figured some of this stuff out) that it’s pretty common for pundits to frame all their stuff in the ways that make it easiest to get behind. You see this in position papers from AEI and Brookings, Cato and other ideological institutes.

          Friedman does it. As long as you turn his phrases around in your head while you read his stuff, it’s pretty easy to get past it.Report

        • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

          But the question is why would you say he is “biased” just because he is critical of a position?

          Or did I misunderstand? What is the evidence for his being biased? Did he take cash from non-libertarians or something?Report

  7. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I agree with LeeEsq. How do we determine what rights are self-evident?

    As an American, I’m rather fond of the First Amendment. But I know a lot of Americans and a lot of non-Americans who are shocked about how radical a doctrine Free Speech is and are a bit shocked that we don’t have regulations against hate speech. I can argue with them from until the end of time about how hate speech regulations are largely useless and it is better to let bigots and crazy conspiracy theorists shoot themselves in the foot but they disagree. In fact, most of the world decided that the American approach to speech is still possibly too extreme.

    Also I second the concept of necessitous people not being free people. I was reading an article at the Atlantic about how a bunch of conservative big-wigs met at a Hoover Institution Symposium in 1996 and were appalled at the state of marriage and came up with a variety of solutions including ending welfare for single moms (because it encouraged them not to get married)? What result? Americans are still not getting married and all that welfare reform did was making things significantly harder for single mothers especially working-class single mothers.Report

  8. Avatar NewDealer says:

    The short and glib version of this (from a non-Libertarian prospective) is:

    Libertarianism can’t fail, it can only be failed.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

      Is there any ideology of which this is not true?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to NewDealer says:

      My answer, from a Libertarian perspective, is this:

      “There are a lot of things that you have said were matters of morality in the past that turned out to be matters of taste. Before we start making the world a better place in your name once again, let’s hammer out whether we’re dealing with matters of taste and whether your proposed solutions aren’t going to make things worse (or turn a matter of taste into a matter of immorality).”

      The best part is that you can say that to people on the Left and have it be as true as when it’s said to people on the Right.

      And then you get to watch them puff themselves up and claim special knowledge of morality. Extra points for if they do this in such a way that you can’t tell if they’re on the left or on the right when they’re done making appeals to the social contract, mass opinion, and/or the children.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Jaybird says:

        I agree that there are things that used to be matters of morality but are now correctly considered matters of taste and preference. And there are things that the past considered moral but turned out to be immoral.

        Where I seem to disagree with libertarians is that just because the past was wrong about morality in the past does not mean that all morality is wrong or suspect. Nor does it mean that they were wrong on all things or things that we consider issues of morality today will be considered issues of taste in the future.

        Also it does not really matter, I don’t live 300 years in the future. I live now. Why should I care if the future considers me wrong on my morality? I will be dead and gone and I’m agnostic on the afterlife.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to NewDealer says:

          Where I seem to disagree with libertarians is that just because the past was wrong about morality in the past does not mean that all morality is wrong or suspect. Nor does it mean that they were wrong on all things or things that we consider issues of morality today will be considered issues of taste in the future.

          And I am not arguing that all morality is wrong or suspect. Nor am I arguing that you’re necessarily wrong on issues of morality today.

          I am, however, arguing that the burden of proof is on the person telling the other person how to live, rather than on the tellee.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

            Why? I mean that question seriously. Why?

            If person A wants to live in a world like X, and person B wants to live in a world like Y (which makes impositions on person A), why does person B bear any more (or less) burden of proof than person A?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

              I mean, I could provide potential answers to that question. It’s apriori knowable. It’s demonstrated by objective empirical evidence. It’s a “preference” that most people adhere to. There are others, I suppose.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

              Person A wants to live in a world like X.
              Person B wants to live in a world like Y.

              Fair enough. I think we get to say that there’s no way to tell the difference between Person A and Person B.

              Person A tells Person B how to live.
              Person B does not tell Person A how to live.

              I’d say that in the second example, there are no burdens of proof. Person B is silent. Person A is, presumably, silent.

              For the first example, can we agree that there is a burden of proof somewhere? And if there is a burden of proof, its existence is dependent upon the action of Person A’s telling Person B how to live?

              And, in the same way, if Person B told Person A how to live, that act would be the act that brought a burden of proof into existence?

              As such, it seems to me that the person who brings the burden of proof into the game ought to be the one to shoulder it.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Person B does not tell Person A how to live.

                But that person is telling A how to live. They’re telling them allow B to do X. That’s essentially telling them how to live, no?

                On what grounds – a priori, a posteriori, intuition, mystical – is the claim that A gets to dictate to B how to live justified?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Is there any way to interpret “Person B does not tell Person A how to live” as “Person B does not tell Person A how to live”?

                Because I’d like to use the phrasing that gets us to that particular interpretation as my example.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                If person A tells person B to allow X, then person A is telling B how to live.

                I don’t see any other way of interpreting it.Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to Stillwater says:

                That all depends on how broadly or narrowly you want to define “telling me how to live”.
                Some people may define it so broadly as to “any restriction on my actions, no matter how slight or negligible, is TELLING ME HOW TO LIVE!”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                That all depends on how broadly or narrowly you want to define “telling me how to live”.

                Yeah it does. The most common response is based on “negative rights”. But that just begs the question: why do negative rights hold a privileged place in the “burden of proof” hierarchy? Doesn’t the primacy of negative rights require an argument? And what type of argument will it be – a priori, a posteriori, mystical…?

                Another type of argument is opposition to government, but that just slides right into the statist’s wheel-house since even libertarians believe gummint of some form is necessary. And how are the limits of gummint determined? By preserving negative rights? That just sets us off on the carousel again.

                Problems….Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Stillwater says:

                But that just begs the question: why do negative rights hold a privileged place in the “burden of proof” hierarchy?

                Well, one can certainly just punt and say, “That’s a pretty foundational part of the governing philosophy of the county”. It’s an appeal to tradition, of a sort, but it’s kind of hard to argue that freedom of (fill in the blank) was kind of a big deal, historically.

                If we assume that agency is important at all, then something that requires agency is pretty much by definition more important than something that does not require agency.

                If we assume that agency isn’t important at all, then it’s really unclear how you can argue that slavery isn’t okay.

                Now, how important agency is… that can be up for debate, of course. But any way you slice it if you’re in-between the two goalposts above, the burden of proof is going to fall on the person who wants to constrain the other person’s choices, not the other way around.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Dude, we’re using generics here.

                But we can fill in the blanks:

                Person A tells Person B how to live.
                Person B does not tell Person A how to live.

                Let’s have Person A be a Nazi and Person B be a Jew.
                Let’s have Person A be Cortez and Person B be an Aztec.
                Let’s have Person A be a Slaveholder and Person B be a Slave.

                Are you seriously going to argue that the burden of proof will equally fall on the slave as the slaveholder?

                I can provide examples of things that Person B might say to Person A in each case that you could triumphantly crow are examples of Person B saying “PLEASE, PLEASE DON’T DO THAT THING YOU ARE GOING TO DO!!!” and thus explain how, seriously, everybody tells everybody how to live.

                Honestly, I’d rather stick with generics and establish, if not a binary choice between “telling someone how to live” and “not telling someone how to live” a gradient of “okay, we agree that this version of telling someone how to live is 100 on the 45 to 100 scale, where someone can never get to 44 because everybody is always telling other people how to live” and “okay, technically, this might be a 45 on the 45 to 100 scale, where someone can never get to 44 because everybody is always telling other people how to live.”

                Because I’m interested in the difference between the 45 and the 100.

                And it seems to me that the burden of proof is on the 100.

                Which is not to say that the 45 is always right and the 100 is always wrong… That’s not what the burden of proof means, after all.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                If A tells B “don’t tread on me,” A is telling B how to live. Does the claim require justification? It seems to me that it does and that A bears a burden of justification in establishing the truth of the claim. Similarly, B’s claim – “I’ll tread on you” – bears a burden of justification. Each person thinks in their own case that they’ve met the burden for their respective beliefs (since they actually hold those beliefs) so from their pov it’s the other person who bears the burden of justification. It’s the other person who needs to establish why they get to tell another person how to live.

                So, how is the burden met? A priori reasoning, or aposteriori reasoning or appeal to sentiments or intuitionism or etc.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                I’m willing to accept “I’m not even talking to the other person” as an example of “I’m not telling the other person how to live”.

                For the record. Would you accept “someone who doesn’t say anything” as an example of someone who isn’t telling the other person how to live?

                Or, at least, as a 45 on the 45 to 100 scale?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                “someone who doesn’t say anything”

                Do you mean a person stranded on a deserted island? Or a cave dwelling Buddhist monk? Or a person who lives in a complex social structure while trying to realize a behavioral ideal of non-interference? If it’s that last one, then that person clearly bears a burden of justification for their views, eg., why those views are better than any other set of views.

                But maybe more importantly, I reject the suggestion that simply holding (accepting, etc) the view “I won’t tell you how to live” justifies in any way the view that others are wrong to tell you how to live. I don’t see any obvious logical connection between those two things, so teasing it out will require some work. I mean, holding that belief certainly isn’t causally sufficient for not being fucked with. And it’s not conceptually sufficient for justifying not being fucked with since person A might be doing bad things.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

                Still,

                “Don’t tread on me” isn’t necessarily dictating how the other lives, as much as it is defining how one wants to live his own life: untread upon.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                Kazzy, In fact it is telling other people how to live. It’s telling other people to not tread on the speaker of phrase.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Do you mean a person stranded on a deserted island? Or a cave dwelling Buddhist monk? Or a person who lives in a complex social structure while trying to realize a behavioral ideal of non-interference? If it’s that last one, then that person clearly bears a burden of justification for their views, eg., why those views are better than any other set of views.

                A slave who has had his tongue cut out, perhaps.

                But maybe more importantly, I reject the suggestion that simply holding (accepting, etc) the view “I won’t tell you how to live” justifies in any way the view that others are wrong to tell you how to live.

                Stillwater, that’s not what I’ve been doing. What I’ve been doing is arguing that there is a burden of proof here and the person who must shoulder it is the person who is doing the telling rather than shrugging and saying that there are a lot of burdens of proof out there and who can say whether slaves shouldn’t shoulder them just as much as slaveholders.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                What I’ve been doing is arguing that there is a burden of proof here

                I realize that. I’m disputing two things. The first is that your conception of who bears the burden is question-begging since the person who wants to act on principles you reject thinks that you have the burden of proof. The second is that a priorism doesn’t (and I think can’t) justify your claim that the person who wants to fuck with another bears the burden of proof because from that person’s pov your suggestion is effectively telling that person how to live.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

                Still,

                I’m jumping in mid-convo here, so forgive me if I’m treading on already trampled ground…

                But, if the question is whether an individual has an inherent right to be self-determinant insofar as it involves his own physical person, I think the answer is obvious.

                But looking back up a bit, perhaps that is exactly what y’all are exploring.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                I mean, look, Jaybird, I get that from you’re pov getting people to adopt a principle of “don’t tread on me” moves things in the direction you want to go. Pragmatically – from your pov – the truth of the belief will be realized if people act on independently of that beliefs justification. I get that. But I’m not as worried as you are about the “politics of belief”, so I focus on the belief itself that means justification and all that.

                So, I think we’re in some sense talking past each other here. As we often tend to do.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                The first is that your conception of who bears the burden is question-begging since the person who wants to act on principles you reject thinks that you have the burden of proof.

                No, not at all.

                If Person P says “I am not going to be gay” then there is no burden of proof issue. Person P can not be gay all he wants.

                It’s when Person P says “You should not be gay” to Person Q that I say that the burden of proof falls on Person P.

                The second is that a priorism doesn’t (and I think can’t) justify your claim that the person who wants to fuck with another bears the burden of proof because from that person’s pov your suggestion is effectively telling that person how to live.

                My argument is that there is a burden of proof issue in any given “you should not live like you are, you should live elsewhat” and it’s on the person saying “you should not be gay” rather than on the gay guy.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                But looking back up a bit, perhaps that is exactly what y’all are exploring.

                Yup.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

                My apologies for butting in. As you were…Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Stillwater says:

                Kazzy,

                The government has to decide what it should do and how it should treat people. Even if it decides “We should immediately disband because all government is evil” it does so because that is how it thinks people should be treated.

                The question is why is the principle “Respect other’s negative (especially property) rights” a binding principle when principles like “Improve the conditions of the worst off” are not binding.

                Jaybird’s answer is, ultimately, “That is just how it is and you can’t prove otherwise.”Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Stillwater says:

                Patrick

                “f we assume that agency is important at all, then something that requires agency is pretty much by definition more important than something that does not require agency.”

                As you seem to recognize, a system that respects positive rights (like the right to healthcare) creates more agency. So appeals to agency don’t favor libertarianism.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Stillwater says:

                As you seem to recognize, a system that respects positive rights (like the right to healthcare) creates more agency. So appeals to agency don’t favor libertarianism.

                Oh, yes… but, IMO, that’s the right approach to arguing with libertarians about agency, rather than talking about positive v. negative rights. Libertarians are all about choice and agency. To the extent that your argument is about improving agency and choice, you’ll get somewhere (look at Murali, for an example). To the extent that your argument is about “no, the government has a *right* to infringe upon your liberty” you’re going to dive right down into rights-weeds and never get anywhere.

                FWIW, I accept the classical liberal (not libertarian, not modern liberal) contention that when it comes to the specific case of the government, we ought to assume that the citizenry has the right to do whatever the fuck it wants to do unless we can make a credible claim on communal action being needed to solve a particular problem. So I’m more or less on board with Jaybird’s assertion that “the people who want A to do X” have the burden of proof, in the case of government action.

                When we confuse “we want somebody to do X” with “we want the government to do X” with “we want some subset of people to be constrained by the government from doing Y to encourage X” is where we’re getting into trouble.

                If we start with X, and we all agree that it’s an important thing to do, and we can demonstrate that there’s a communal action problem with getting X done, we can discuss whether or not that X can be handled by social opprobrium or social institutions or the government or heck, maybe in this case we can agree that X would be awesome but it’s not time yet (colony on Mars).Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Stillwater says:

                Person A is against gay marriage
                Person B is gay

                A wants to tell B how to live
                B wants A to do whatever they want, but would prefer that A not interfere in B’s life without meeting a burden of proof as to why A should be allowed to do soReport

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Stillwater says:

                Patrick,

                “Libertarians are all about choice and agency.”

                I would say that this is actually really questionable. (One thing for sure, libertarianism is about maximally protecting negative rights. But the connection between that and maximizing agency is unclear.) If we have progressive taxation and union protecting laws and child safety laws, it seems to me that people have more agency not less, yet the bulk of libertarians are against the bulk of these things.

                Do people in Sweden have that much less agency than here? Or more?

                “we ought to assume that the citizenry has the right to do whatever the fuck it wants to do unless we can make a credible claim on communal action being needed to solve a particular problem. So I’m more or less on board with Jaybird’s assertion that “the people who want A to do X” have the burden of proof, in the case of government action.”

                Look, I also agree that we should accept that the government should respect negative rights, like property rights.

                However, I also accept that there are other competing normative principles of justice that must be weighed against the respect for negative rights, e.g. positive rights, Rawlsian fairness, duties to the community, etc.

                Why should we assume, without argument, that negative rights take precedence over the other considerations? That is, is there an argument for that or not? Because most people don’t believe that negative rights are everything in justice, and that is why they aren’t libertarians. Aren’t most people right in this instance?Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Stillwater says:

                MRS,

                I am pro gay marriage because I think gay people have a positive right to have the government recognize their marriage.

                Suppose someone says “Gay people can say they are married and they are free to have a ceremony and call it a marriage. But I don’t want the government telling my private hospital that they really are married and I have to treat them that way.” Do you agree with that claim?Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Stillwater says:

                Indeed, I think libertarians almost have to say that the state shouldn’t sanction marriages at all, but should allow people to enter into whatever contracts they like.

                But we do sanction marriages and those sanctions come with protections for married couples and requirements that married couples have to be treated certain ways by private entities, e.g. private hospitals are forced (at gun point, those evil government Nazis!) to treat gay couples as being able to visit each other, even if the religious directors of the hospital don’t want that.

                Visitation rights are positive rights.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Jaybird’s answer is, ultimately, “That is just how it is and you can’t prove otherwise.”

                No. My answer, at this point, is “That’s just how it is an it is on you to prove otherwise.”

                The counterargument seems to be “Jaybird is saying (insert something that Jaybird is not saying here).”Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Stillwater says:

                If government wishes to provide a boilerplate set of legal conditions & protections to married couples, then yes, the government is obligated to extend that boilerplate to all who wish to partake of it.

                Now, how are visitation rights positive? They require nothing of anyway except to stay out of the way. Seems to make them negative to me. The right for a spouse or parent to deny access to a sick person, that is a positive right, because it obligates the hospital/law to take action should the prohibited person try to visit.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Stillwater says:

                Indeed, I think libertarians almost have to say that the state shouldn’t sanction marriages at all, but should allow people to enter into whatever contracts they like.

                Yes, that would be the libertarian stance.

                But we do sanction marriages and those sanctions come with protections for married couples and requirements that married couples have to be treated certain ways by private entities

                Yes, but…

                Visitation rights are positive rights.

                No. Equal protection under the law is a negative right. If you pass a law that has a constraining effect on me, it has to have a constraining effect on everybody else, too.

                That doesn’t make visitation rights a positive right. That makes the exclusion of gay people from the institution of marriage an infringement upon their equal protection right.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Stillwater says:

                Patrick,

                “No. Equal protection under the law is a negative right. If you pass a law that has a constraining effect on me, it has to have a constraining effect on everybody else, too.

                That doesn’t make visitation rights a positive right. That makes the exclusion of gay people from the institution of marriage an infringement upon their equal protection right.”

                But don’t private hospitals have a right to say that they don’t think gay couples are spouses?

                This may be controversial, but I think if you believe in only negative rights, there is no good reason to legalize gay marriage whatsoever.

                Suppose Scalia says (which he will), “The law treats everyone equally. It allows every man to marry a woman and every woman to marry a man.”

                You can respond by saying:

                1. No, men have a right to marry each other (and women too).

                To which Scalia could reply:

                2. People have the right not to have their body injured, their property stolen, their privacy intruded upon, and a right not to be treated unequally. But marriage (per 1) is offered equally to all men and women.

                Now, I think 3. is true, but you can’t unless you believe in positive rights:

                3. Two men who love each other have a right to have their union recognized under the law, just as a man and women do.

                Another way to put the same thing: who is being bodily injured, enslaved, or coerced if the state doesn’t offer the benefits of marriage to gay couples.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Stillwater says:

                But don’t private hospitals have a right to say that they don’t think gay couples are spouses?

                In a world where the government doesn’t recognize marriages at all, but it recognizes contractual visitation rights, the hospital has no right to say that one couple has visitation has those rights and one doesn’t on account o’ they think that couple is squicky.

                In a world where the government recognizes marriage, the hospital has no grounds to be involved in deciding what is or isn’t a marriage, because the government is doing that (note: I’m okay with the “the state shouldn’t say you’re married” crowd, in principle, but in practice we have the legal relationship and as long as we do, equal protection stands).

                Suppose Scalia says (which he will), “The law treats everyone equally. It allows every man to marry a woman and every woman to marry a man.”

                I would argue that this is incorrect framing, and Scalia is wrong, because when it comes to “everything that spouses gain, both in terms of responsibilities and powers”, is not sex-linked. There is no real functional difference between me having a male spouse or a female spouse; both couples can raise children, inherit property, make medical decisions for each other, have one operate as a head of household, etc.

                In other words, his distinction is arbitrary and likely based upon his dislike of homosexual activity, and moreover, his distinction is enforcing a lack of equal protection, and thus is incorrect by the principles of the document he defends.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Stillwater says:

                “In a world where the government recognizes marriage, the hospital has no grounds to be involved in deciding what is or isn’t a marriage, because the government is doing that (note: I’m okay with the “the state shouldn’t say you’re married” crowd, in principle, but in practice we have the legal relationship and as long as we do, equal protection stands).”

                Just to be clear, I believe in the right of gay people to marry.

                But if the state says, we are only affording the privilege of such and such to a man and woman who come and sign these papers, what negative rights are being violated? Certainly not bodily rights as the state isn’t killing or injuring anyone. Certainly not property rights, as the state isn’t taking any money.

                It is true that the state would be not offering gay couples something that it offered to straight couples, but that it is a violation of the positive right to get something from the state.

                If we wish to count ensuring that everyone gets the same benefits from the state as a negative right, libertarianism will look a lot different. Maybe better. Maybe worse.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Jaybird says:

            This is where you go wrong Jaybird.

            You assume as a normative axiom that each person’s negative liberty should never be violated, unless it is proven that there is some reason to do so.

            But maybe that axiom has exceptions. Maybe negative rights aren’t the starting point. Maybe there are more important, fundamental axioms like this: Each person has a right to an equal opportunity at success, regardless of the wealth of their parents, and the only way to achieve this is through redistributing resources (wealth) from rich to poor.

            What you are calling an argument for libertarianism is just an assumption.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Shazbot3 says:

              You assume as a normative axiom that each person’s negative liberty should never be violated, unless it is proven that there is some reason to do so.

              Heck, I’m willing to run with that.

              It seems to me that the failure to even admit that you might need a reason to violate someone else’s negative liberty is one of those things that helps me nod and further entrench myself in my position.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Jaybird says:

                What do you say if I assume that the disabled have a right to get the help of the wealthy.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                I assume that a pretty decent society to live in is one that provides some sort of offsetting for the cruelties of nature or nurture that result in disabled people having disabilities. To the extent that “offsetting for the cruelties of nature or nurture” is a communal action problem, I’m okay with structuring things to help solve that.

                But I don’t think of it as a “right”, myself, and I think “the disabled have a right to get the help of the wealthy” in particular is, well, fraught with problems like the same problems we were talking about on the other thread.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Patrick says:

                What is the mistake if someone calls it a right?

                Moreover, it doesn’t matter what you call it. The question is whether there are other normative principles of justice other than “protect property and bodily negative rights.”

                Once you accept that there are, or that there is good a reason to believe that there are as that there is a negative rights axiom, you are moving away from libertarianism.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                The question is whether there are other normative principles of justice other than “protect property and bodily negative rights.”

                Sure. I mean; yes, I believe that there are other normative principles of justice other than “protect property and bodily negative rights”. (I’m only actually certain that negative rights are “rights” in very limited circumstances, actually.)

                Once you accept that there are… you are moving away from libertarianism.

                Eh; you’re moving away from philosophical libertarianism, anyway.

                But I don’t really have a problem with that; I’m not libertarian.

                Also, it’s not clear where you’re moving, or how far away from philosophical libertarianism you’re going.

                I can think “having enough to eat” isn’t a “right”, but I can still think it’s a good operative underlying condition for a society to have for all its citizens, and still not think that the government is the best vehicle to provide that (I don’t think that, but I could).Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                Well, you think government has a moral obligation to make sure that everyone has enough to eat, even if that means taking money from the rich, violating their negative rights.

                You can say that you don’t want to call that a negative right, but there is certainly a duty there.

                And aren’t libertarians against the idea that the proper role of government is not to feed people like a nanny?

                At a certain point, some people aren’t libertarians even if they self-ascribe as such. At any rate, we’ve proven that a certain form of political philosophy that commonly goes by the name of libertarianism is philosophically and empirically unjustified.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                Well, you think government has a moral obligation to make sure that everyone has enough to eat, even if that means taking money from the rich, violating their negative rights.

                You jumped ahead.

                Governments can’t have moral obligations.

                People can.

                I think that people have a moral obligation to make sure that everyone has enough to eat.

                I think one contributing solution to that problem is to leverage social structures. I think another contributing solution is to leverage technology to make food cheaper. I think a contributing solution in our current problem space is using part of the tax base to subsidize food for the poor.

                But I don’t think “tax the rich to feed the poor” is really the right way to look at that. And I think, given our particular version of government, we do a pretty damn inefficient job of feeding the poor through government intervention (although we do do a hell of a lot of market manipulation via ag subsidies).

                Would I recommend getting rid of WIC? No. Do I think it’s a net good? Yes. Do I think it’s a long-term least pessimized solution? No.

                It might be the best thing we have for a while. That doesn’t make it good, it just makes it “currently necessary”.

                I’m still going to object to you trying to get poor people to stop smoking by putting conditions on their WIC funds, though 🙂Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                “Governments can’t have moral obligations.”

                Not sure I agree. But doubt it matters.

                —-

                We will need resources to feed the poor and help the least off. That means redistribution.

                Empirical evidence in successful suggests the most successful ways of meeting the needs of the least off and growing the economy are met by a capitalist system with government interference.Report

            • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Shazbot3 says:

              So you are OK with the police searching your home without a warrant?Report

      • Avatar Jason M. in reply to Jaybird says:

        And what exempts Libertarian notions of morality (the intrinsic evil of government coercion) from also being a matter of taste?Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jason M. says:

          Apriorism?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jason M. says:

          Who says that government coercion is intrinsically evil?

          I’m just saying that if you’re going to argue that you have the moral right to tell me how to live, you’re going to have to demonstrate that rather than assert it.

          Or, I suppose, you could threaten me with violence but I’d see that as a moral victory in and of itself.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

            So, apriorism.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

              So even saying that you have the burden of proof before I’ll accept your authority over me is apriorism?

              Could I ask you how you know that you’re authorized to tell me how to live rather than knowing that I’m one of the people authorized to tell you how to live?

              Is there some sort of post prior book that has this information in it? (Is it a best seller?)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                So even saying that you have the burden of proof before I’ll accept your authority over me is apriorism?

                That’s not the point I’m making at all. It’s this: from your pov the other person has the burden of proof. But from their pov, you have the burden of proof. Burdens are easy to come by. And easily shifted.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Every argument is like the argument about God’s existence, anymore.

                It’s like everybody knows that there is no foundation for their own beliefs, there is only the burden of proof. If you accept the burden of proof, you’ve lost the argument before it’s even begun.

                So, instead, there’s the meta-argument over who has the burden of proof. So long as it’s not you, you’re golden.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Jaybird says:

                But why does the claim “Negative rights exist” get to be accepted without argument when other claims like “There is a positive right to education and healthcare, etc.” shouldn’t be accepted until proven?

                What is good for one principle of justice is good for another.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                Everyone has a positive right to found a hospital or school. It starts to break down if everyone else has a right to go to said places and demand unlimited free service.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                Slippery slope fallacy penalty.

                5 yard penalty. Repeat first down.Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                Because without the negative rights, you can not truly hope to have positive rightsReport

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                Not sure about that.

                Maybe it would be difficult, but not conceptually impossible.Report

          • Avatar LWA in reply to Jaybird says:

            As if morality consists of nothing more than “telling people how to live”.

            As if we only get to choose between the twin poles of “I can do what I want” or “You have to do as I say”.

            As if people haven’t spent the past 500 years trying to determine where the line exists between personal choice and communal responsibility.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LWA says:

              Dude, at this point, I’m just trying to establish that we have a burden of proof problem here and trying to solve it by saying who has it.

              I’m not even trying to get to “NOBODY GETS TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!!”

              Well, not yet.

              At this point, I’m just trying to get you (the general you) to say “if I am going to outline things that you can or cannot do, the burden of proof is on me to explain why rather than on you to explain why I can’t.”Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to Jaybird says:

                Hasn’t this already been done?
                The various writings over the centuries that establish the purpose of government and law, which generally assert that the goal of government is to establish and protect a civil society?

                Your question sounds like we are standing here, on Day One, Year One, trying to decide what this thing called “government” is.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LWA says:

                Well, if the foundations of our government happen to be white supremacy, male supremacy, and heteronormativity, I’d kinda like that hammered out before I start asking where I can buy a ticket to Somalia.Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m just saying the burden of proof has already been raised, discussed, argued, and resolved decisively, in a non-libertarian direction.

                Can the government confiscate your land? Under certain circumstances, yes.
                Can it compel you to serve on jury duty? Under certain circumstances, yes.
                And so on.

                In order to maintain the status quo, all we need do is nothing. Right now, you pay taxes, serve on jury duty, observe speed limits, and in general comply with all the non-libertarian policies you dislike. Even if the “burden of proof” has not been settled to your satisfaction.

                In order to move towards a libertarian policy, you need to convince 50% plus one of us to agree.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to LWA says:

                I would argue that “resolved decisively” is an… exaggeration.

                You know, the Supreme Court docket is pretty full of undecisively unresolved issues.Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA says:

                “Resolved decisively” means that the broad outlines as I described above are not seriously in question.

                That government should exist, and that it should have sufficient power to do anything up to and including killing you, under certain circumstances, is not being questioned.

                The only argument is what “certain circumtances” consist of, and how they are applied.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA says:

                How do you guys view the long term trend worldwide?

                Toward more freedom and property rights?

                Or more interference and coercion?

                In other words, what is your take on the longer sweep of history?Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to LWA says:

                Generally, I’d say that the long-term trend has been that as my ability to get what I want without putting forth too much effort has been increased, my likelihood of shooting you in the face to just take it away from you has gone way down. (Generic “me” and “you”, there, I have no desire to do violence upon your person, Roger) 🙂

                Yay technology.

                The disturbing microtrend that I’m noticing, in the current short term, is that a bunch of people have taken the relative wealth around them as a reason to stop worrying about whether or not they need to shoot people in the face to get stuff away from them, which is good… but instead of decreasing overall world suck, it has led them to take their idle time and start thinking about ways in which those people are acting that they don’t like and coming up with new reasons why they should shoot you in the face.

                I don’t know if this is transitory or indicative of “people just can’t give up on the idea of shooting other people in the face”. Evidence is mixed.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA says:

                How about everyone else? I am wondering how Jaybird and LWA (and anyone else) thinks about the longer term sweep. Sometimes LWA seems to have a reverse Whig version of history playing out… that there is a natural progression toward a more powerful and benevolent state.

                Patrick, doesn’t the longer term global trend point to marked and continuous decreases in ”face shooting”? Consider, for example, Pinker’s latest book.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to LWA says:

                Patrick, doesn’t the longer term global trend point to marked and continuous decreases in ”face shooting”? Consider, for example, Pinker’s latest book.

                I think technology intersected with face shooting back between 1938 and 1945 and generally speaking well established sociopolitical groups (those things we affectionately call “first world nations”) have developed an aversion to getting around to serious face-shooting with each other. We’ve gone back to chest thumping in the playground for the most part.

                I’m not sure that this lesson has been universalized. The ability to engage in mechanized warfare is finally really trickling down to people who were tangential battlegrounds in WWII instead of players.

                We’ll see. We could maintain the downward trend of face shooting, or we might be in the middle of a dip in a oscillating function, right now. I don’t think anything is a reliable predictor for upcoming face shooting probabilities.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA says:

                Cool, thanksReport

          • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Jaybird says:

            If you have the right not to have your property taken away, you’re going to have to prove it?

            No?

            At a certain point, you can’t justify rights. You just say we have these rights. You say that for negative rights like property rights. So why not say it for positive rights, like the right to healthcare and education?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Shazbot3 says:

              If you have the right not to have your property taken away, you’re going to have to prove it?

              So let’s hammer out the dynamic.

              A little Mexican farmer, toiling on his land, a bandit rides up and steals the hat of the little Mexican farmer. “No, my hat!”, the little Mexican farmer says.

              “You can’t justify rights, you just assert them”, the bandit says, before killing the farmer.

              Does that about size it up?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yes, of course Jaybird. Shazbot is arguing that the mere fact that property rights claims require justification is enough to justify murder. You’ve broken the Code!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                If the murder bugs you so much, let’s not make the bandit a bandit but have him be a policeman.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Stillwater says:

                I am bothered both by violations of negative rights and positive rights.

                Are you only bothered by violations of the former?Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                I’ll chime in here and say, “Are you only bothered by violations of the former?” gets us very close to back to the well-tread ground of, “Why do you hate babies?”

                James, Jaybird, Jason, et. al. have all (I think) made it pretty clear that they’re bothered to some extent or another about people being bad to each other.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Patrick says:

                So the case for negative rights is exactly in the same position as the case for positive rights.

                Yes?Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

                Which case, the moral case, or the philosophical case, or the legal case… ?

                I don’t think they’re the same. And I don’t think that rights discussions are terribly useful to begin with except as establishing your own political framework’s operational axioms.

                To that extent, if you distinguish between positive rights and negative rights that’s important information to have, because it informs how the whole superstructure sits on top of the thing you’ve got built.

                But asking someone else to move their axioms usually isn’t terribly productive.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Patrick says:

                I have absolutely no clue what you guys are talking about with all these rights.

                What the F is a right? Where do they come from? Are they built into the fabric of the universe? Are there like leptons, hadrons and rights?

                How do you prove a right? Is it like proving how many fairies dance on a pinhead?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick says:

                It’s an emergent property.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Patrick says:

                It’s not emergent! Rights are supervenient.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

                Roger, at some point you have to have some sort of axiom underlying your political philosophy.

                The axioms are the “rights”, really, whatever your framework is. Don’t really matter where they come from, everything else is built on top of it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick says:

                They’re epiphenomena!Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Patrick says:

                Jaybird, tell me more how they emerge…

                Patrick, do you discover them, make them up, or what? Are all axioms rights? If not, why are some and not others?

                Chris, how do we know they are supervenient (foundational?)Report

              • Avatar Reformed Republican in reply to Patrick says:

                Don’t really matter where they come from, everything else is built on top of it.

                I think most political disagreement comes from disagreement over those axioms. To that extent, it does matter where those axioms come from. If the axioms are whatever we choose, then all systems are equally valid.

                Is there a way to discuss politics that does not come back to rights in some fashion?

                I consider myself to be a libertarian. My reasoning for that comes from a belief in the rights of self-ownership and property. However, I find myself unable to justify those too rights. The right to property I find even harder to justify than the right to self-ownership.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Patrick says:

                Roger, I’m being silly. When I hear someone say a property is emergent, I think of philosophical debates on consciousness, which led me to counter with supervenience, and Jay to counter with epiphenomena.

                Next up, eliminativism: there are no rights, and all this folk political talk of rights is merely confusing. We need to talk about the behaviors, and only the behaviors! Then someone will counter with a property (but not metaphysical) dualism. Then…Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

                Patrick, do you discover them, make them up, or what? Are all axioms rights? If not, why are some and not others?

                Signs point to “people make them up”, for me. Everyone claims to discover them, though. Eh, the important thing when building a framework of political theory is that you declare something and get started building off of that (you get a structure that you don’t like? Probably your foundation is effed, start over.)

                If I’m sticking with the math analogy, all of the axioms are basically rights… or descriptions about how rights interact when they’re in conflict.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick says:

                Well, observation in myself, mostly. I watch my agency grow from childhood to adolescence to myelinated young adult to something approaching middle age and noticed how my intelligence and agency changes.

                Um… it’s probably an essay I’m no longer smart enough to write.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

                I think most political disagreement comes from disagreement over those axioms.

                I don’t know about “most”. Not honest disagreement anyway. Most political fury comes over those axioms, but that’s because most political fury comes from arguing about why the other guy is terrible, not about policy or outcomes.

                To that extent, it does matter where those axioms come from. If the axioms are whatever we choose, then all systems are equally valid.

                Let me put it to you this way… I don’t have any particular reason to accept that negative rights are the only “real” rights. I don’t have any particular reason to accept that positive rights are “rights”. I don’t have any particular reason to accept that anything was endowed upon us by our Creator.

                Hey, I like it when people talk about this stuff because it helps me suss out what’s axiomatic in their political theory and what is contingent. That’s helpful. As long as we’re having these conversations and they’re descriptive instead of being pejorative or accusatory, I think that’s a good thing.

                Is there a way to discuss politics that does not come back to rights in some fashion?

                If people would stop getting so effin’ fixated on why the other guy is such a horrible person and instead stick to talking about outcomes and failures, the government would probably function a lot better.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Patrick says:

                From all the answers, it seems this journey down the path of rights is a dead end. Can’t we move on without them? Or is even the belief that I don’t believe in rights an illusion?Report

              • Avatar kenB in reply to Patrick says:

                If people would stop getting so effin’ fixated on why the other guy is such a horrible person and instead stick to talking about outcomes and failures, the government would probably function a lot better.

                And it’d probably cut out about 80% of the comment volume here.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Patrick says:

                Yeah, Roger rights are either consequences of human rationality (Kant) and so we discover them a priori.

                Or they are determined by the social contract.

                Rights don’t have to be objects that have the same ontological status as tables and chairs for there to be objective truths about them. Numbers aren’t objects like tables and chairs, but there are objective truths about them, too.

                When someone takes a bunch of slaves that is a violation of their rights.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Patrick says:

                “…rights are either consequences of human rationality (Kant) and so we discover them a priori.”

                How is that working for us? Do we have a consensus yet? Or is it still work in progress? In other words, this seems like a dead end.

                “Or they are determined by the social contract.”

                Ah! So these rights can be agreed upon between rational actors? Kind of like really important foundational expectations and obligations?

                So is the dispute between Jaybird and others an issue where you just have not agreed yet? If he does not agree, I take it that it is not a contractual right then? It has not yet come into existence?

                I reject the whole subject object metaphysics paradigm, so I am totally on board that rights don’t have to be things to be real. I don’t even think things are really things. I am not sure I would go along with your “objective truth” line, but that would just lead us astray.

                “When someone takes a bunch of slaves that is a violation of their rights.”

                Assuming all parties agreed to the social contract, yes? If not, there is no rights violation (unless Kant says so). Or can we bind people to contracts they don’t agree to? How do we decide who and what gets into the contract? What is to keep everyone from projecting their personal laundry list of duties and obligations on others? Can the clan get together and determine that we have an obligation or right to enslave certain classes? Why not?Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Patrick says:

                Roger,

                I think I get your drift. I will try to address this when I also address Brandon’s worry that we can use Friedman’s reasoning to show all political philosophies are unjustified (as I reference below). It will be a long comment.

                In brief, the idea is that we don’t agree what our rights are or what is and isn’t moral or what the proper role of government is. But even so, we need some procedure for weighting our different views on the good and the just and coming to an agreement that is “fair” to all parties. (Define fair however you like for now.)

                This is where Rawls will come in.

                Not sure I will be able to explain this cause I dumbz.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Patrick says:

                Not to jump ahead, but I am hunky dory with a Rawlsian contract. Totally. Indeed, it is pretty much what I would recommend. We should pursue voluntary constitutional agreements on what we consider “rights” and the rules of the game. Preferably unanimously agreed to.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Patrick says:

                Roger, I just wanted to say that I really like just about everything you’ve written on this thread. I know we pretty agree on this and some pretty closely related topics, but even I’m benefitting from what you’re saying.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Patrick says:

                RR,
                “Is there a way to discuss politics that does not come back to rights in some fashion?”

                I think so, or hope so, because I just see rights as useful, yet really special, conventions. As such they are foundational and important, and can even be considered things that we “should do”. They just are not Platonic essences.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                The moral and philosophical cases.

                The legal case will be irrelevant unless it is itself backed up by philosophical or empirical reasoning.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Jaybird says:

                Note that you didn’t prove the existence of negative rights. You just appealed t intuitions.

                So the fact that I can’t prove the existence of positive rights, like the right to healthcare, is no objection to me, unless it is an objection to you.Report

          • Avatar Damon in reply to Jaybird says:

            Well, government coercion is backed up by the threat of force/violence, it is evil.

            Outside of gov’t action, that same threat/force done not by the gov’t, is a criminal act-which I’ll re-define as evil. Redefining a group’s actions to call it gov’t doesn’t change the fact that it is wrong / evil.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

        I have nothing against Libertarians trying to implement their ideas in the democratic market place. What I have problem is when they try to implement them in perpetuity.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        Is polluting upstream of others a matter of taste or morality? Is regulating minimum safety regs for workers or for food just a matter of taste?. Is health care simply taste?Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to greginak says:

          Regulating minimum safety regs for workers is an attack on the additional workers who could be employed without the associated expenses, and likewise an attack on consumers who are forced to pay for that safety through higher costs. Likewise regulations against water pollution are coercive compared to giving those who live downstream the option for monetary compensation for their situation.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to greginak says:

          All morality is a matter of taste. There are no laws handed down from God—only preferences about what kind of life you’d like to live, and what kind of society you’d like to live it in. “Morality” is just a word people use in an attempt to elevate their tastes above others’.

          That said, all serious libertarians* agree that pollution of commons should be regulated in some way.

          Safety is very much a matter of taste, even beyond the sense in which all morality is. What is the war on drugs, but a disagreement between the government and some citizens over taste for safety versus pleasure? People are dying, or at least denied a fighting chance, because the government won’t let them use medicines it hasn’t blessed. If you want to privilege government to decide for us what is and isn’t safe enough, you have to take the good with the bad.

          Of course health care is a matter of taste. How much you want, what kind, how much you’re willing to pay for it—those are all matters of taste. So is how much you want to force people to subsidize it for others.

          By the way, apologies—to Kazzy especially—for bailing on the “mansplaining” thread, but I have limited free time during the week, and a couple of the other participants thoroughly exhausted my capacity for suffering fools.

          *This isn’t so much a “no true Scotsman” as me saying that no one who disagrees should be taken seriously.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            If you want to privilege government to decide for us what is and isn’t safe enough, you have to take the good with the bad.

            Incidentally, “If you want to give the government the power to do X, you have to take the good with the bad” is one of the key arguments for libertarianism. I readily concede that a government of angels could improve upon real, or even ideal, markets with a set of well-designed, perfectly executed interventions. This is of essentially no practical relevance, because interventions we actually get from our decidedly non-angelic government are terrible, both in design and execution. Markets survive contact with reality far, far better than governments do, and consequently intervention can improve on market outcomes only in cases where there are especially egregious market failures.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            More or less have to +1 this. Realistically, we’re stuck setting policy without knowing what is or isn’t really morality rather than just preferences, and in any case why wouldn’t we want to make policy in regard to the preferences of the people who are going to live under it? No, everyone can’t have their preferences catered to in policy, but there’s no way to make policy if you give every last living man and woman a single-person veto over it. So you set something up that approximates a test for public acceptance at a majority or super-majority level, maintain a culture of public justification for proposals and policies, and go from there. Meaning, in all likelihood you legislate some preferences and you legislate some morals (as some might see them), and you do so explicitly. Generally, you argue about what will produce the best outcomes, but you don’t flatter yourself to think you can pass only laws that will be seen as enacting Morality by everyone subject to them.

            As I think Brandon suggests he is, I’m more comfortable in a world where we don’t think we have to justify all legislation to the point of being shown to be the codification of a point of True Morality. That engenders a quite rough politics. Let people say what kinds of things they think might produce better-in-this-way outcomes, and let people think over those proposals and give them a vote. It doesn’t work to think you’re going to be able to satisfy every last person that a proposal’s impact on them is entirely morally justified: every policy creates winners and losers, and the losers don’t always “deserve” their losing entirely. You still need to set policy. So long as there’s a plausible justification that’s received procedural blessing, I’m inclined to be cool with it (as a matter of not being morally-civically outraged at the presumption of these tellers-how-to-live to tell me how to live, even if not as a matter of it being my preferred policy), given that 1) there’s always going to be a vote upcoming where problems can be dealt with or whole efforts ditched if they’re not working out, and 2) generally public administration happens in such a way that where policy produces egregious injustices in a few outlying cases (as policies inevitably do), relief is usually readily available in the first instance, and then downstream those egregious cases usually get a lot of attention and produce quick adjustments to policy to account for them.

            I prefer this process to… I don’t have any idea what the process is for figuring out how to enact only policies whose effects seem fully morally obligatory and justified to everyone whom they come into contact with, but that.Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Michael Drew says:

              Well, at least we can agree on a meta level.

              I believe the alternative you’re looking for is direct theocracy.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Indeed. I was going to respond to your expansion by saying something like, “of course, on particular matters or even overall philosophy, you’re going to have diagreements, but that only serves to illustrate how forlorn the hope for universal moral consent to policy is… and that’s why we give ourselves votes that are roughly equal to each other in power,” but I thought it was kind of implied.

                I’d agree that having to take the bad with the good is one of libertarianism’s best arguments… it’s just that it’s also a key mechanism for progressive liberalism. There’s too much bad already around for the progressive, so the progressive wants to try things (in private life as well as using government as a tool to scale efforts), build on the good, and use the bad to learn and improve on those efforts. The thing is, though, it doesn’t seem to me that libertarians actually have a problem with this basic methodology, rather they only find it to become problematic when employed by those willing to use government to try to help people or to help the overall situation faced by everyone. Perhaps that’s a misapprehension.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Michael Drew says:

                The more I think about it, the more I like this “direct theocracy” idea. The best-case scenario is that we get God to run things. Yeah, the whole omniscience thing is kind of creepy, but the omnibenevolence somewhat negates it, and we don’t have to worry about problems of secession. Besides, He’s already omniscient, so He’s spying on us anyway in addition to our mortal government. At least putting Him in office eliminates the latter.

                Worst case scenario, He doesn’t exist and the government doesn’t do anything. Which is probably still an improvement on the status quo.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Yeah, I was rather surprised to find myself able to agree with your view that so much of what we inevitably are going to seek to legislate on admits only or mainly of distinctions relating to preference, and that the fact that clear moral imperatives can’t be distinguished in them doesn’t constitute a moral bar to legislative tinkering. If nothing else, Jaybird’s formula does offer an effective bar to government action, even if one with no basis in objectivity, reality, or practicality. I was surprised you were voicing opposition. It speaks to your intellectual honesty.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Are there no objective facts about what is safe?

            To say something is a matter of taste, usually means you think there are no objective truths about it.

            Was the Transatlantic slave trade not objectively immoral? The Holocaust?

            BTW, don’t confuse moral relativism with the denial of moral realism.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Shazbot3 says:

              You can’t squeeze “objective” in front of “morality” without forming a self-contradiction. You can have “objective”, in which case, we can dispassionately point to some demonstrable goal, desirable to all. Or you can have “morality”, an axiomatic statement of guiding principle.

              I could try to convince you the transatlantic slave trade was wrong. Wouldn’t take much evidence, really. Who would not be moved to anger by the disgusting reality of it? But axiomatic excuses taking the form of morality were made for the practise. Why, some folks around here have made this point, loudly and often, including you, if memory serves. Christians made all sorts of excuses for slavery: the Bible mentions it fairly often. The Book of Philemon even tells slaves to return to their masters. Of course, St. Paul also tells the master to treat the returning slave as his brother, but let’s put that aside for a bit: the Bible countenances slavery and it is a book of moral instruction.

              Moral realism would tell us a moral claim is true. Proving such claims is impossible on a practical basis. We may have objectivity, in which case, the truth of slavery condemns itself: slavery is a systemic problem which brought down every culture which permitted it. Or we can have morality, which asserts one man ought not own another man. Morality is more than a mere matter of taste, though that’s where it starts. Morality forbids us even the smallest taste of the Tree of Knowledge.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Moral realism is the claim that there is a distinct object or property that exists in the external world (out there with the atoms) that serves as the “truthmaker” for our claims like “Charity is wrong.

                But you can deny that there is such a real thing and still believe that there are objective truths about morality.Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Shazbot3 says:

              Are there no objective facts about what is safe?

              There are objective facts about the trade-offs that we face with respect to safety—risk and severity of possible adverse outcomes versus cost savings or other benefits—but no objective facts about which side of a trade-off you should choose.

              Was the Transatlantic slave trade not objectively immoral? The Holocaust?

              Can you describe to me precisely what you mean when you say that these things are objectively immoral?Report

  9. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Echoing a question above in a slightly different context, is there any ideology to which this same general critique does not apply equally well? There’s no compelling empirical argument for the superiority of, say, Swedish-style social democracy. There’s no compelling a priori moral argument—just assertions that everyone has the right to get certain things for free. So its supporters try some synthesis of the two, and no one who isn’t already on board finds it particularly compelling.

    All well and good, and a good critique of ideological rhetoric generally. As a critique of any particular ideology, though, it’s pretty weak.Report

    • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      “There’s no compelling empirical argument for the superiority of, say, Swedish-style social democracy”

      Except the existence of a very well off place called Sweden. That Swedish policies work well is evidenced by Sweden.

      That libertarian policies work is evidenced by libertopia, which doesn’t exist, and so isn’t empirical evidence.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        The existence of Sweden demonstrates that Swedish-style social democracy can work reasonably well, at least for a few generations, in a small, first-world nation full of Scandivanians. All well and good, but extrapolation beyond those parameters is speculative, and it certainly doesn’t prove the superiority of the Swedish system, which is what I said. For example, per-capita GDP in the US is 16% higher than Sweden’s, and Singapore’s is 46% higher.

        While it’s true that there’s no working example of libertopia, there is empirical evidence to suggest that on the margin we could benefit from becoming more libertarian. Now, we can’t extrapolate from that to libertopia, but libertopia is off the table anyway for political reasons.Report

        • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          The U.S. with the New Deal safety net and Keynsian interference and public education (including massive college subsidies during the GI bill era) and environmental and workplace safety and road safety and health safety regulations has been very successful indeed.

          So let’s not create less government interference, thereby making the system look less like things that are empirically shown to work like Sweden, and the U.S. under the New Deal regime.

          To be really, overly blunt. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Especially don’t fix it by making it look like something that has never been empirically shown to work well anywhere. Or if you do that, do it because you think some other way of doing things is intrinsically, philosophically better. Don’t claim there are empirical grounds for doing so, when there are none.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Shazbot3 says:

            The U.S. with the New Deal safety net and Keynsian interference and public education (including massive college subsidies during the GI bill era) and environmental and workplace safety and road safety and health safety regulations has been very successful indeed.

            Compared to the performance of the US in a parallel universe where we never had the New Deal or Great Society? That never happened, of course, so you have no control. Yeah, things worked out okay, more or less. But that’s hardly a ringing endorsement of the status quo.

            Empirically, countries that have more economic freedom tend to be wealthier. Singapore is wealthier than the US, and the US is wealthier than Europe. The economic freedom gradient goes the same way. You know what the three wealthiest countries in Europe are? Luxembourg, Norway, and Switzerland. Luxembourg is a weird outlier—the explanation I’ve heard is that a bunch of workers commute in from other countries, so they contribute to GDP but aren’t counted in the population. Norway is resource-rich. Switzerland just happens to be #5 on the Economic Freedom Index, and it also has the lowest level of government spending as a percentage of GDP in Europe (excluding former communist countries).

            I’m not just cherry-picking countries. In general, the economic freedom index correlates surprisingly well with per-capita GDP. This doesn’t prove that moving in a more libertarian direction would improve economic performance, but it provides empirical support, which coupled with the theoretical economic arguments (capital formation, incentives, deadweight loss, etc.) combine to make a pretty good case for libertarianism on the margin. More extreme forms of libertarianism are of course more speculative.Report

            • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              “Singapore is wealthier than the US”

              Such an invalid comparison.

              Singapore is really only a city-state. Cities are wealthier than rural areas. If Singapore were a full country, surrounded by rural areas, it wouldn’t be that wealthy.

              It is, I think, the 20th wealthiest city per capita.

              Moreover, as I’ve often heard remarked, you can have one or two countries get rich the way Ireland did, by being a tax haven and low regulation paradise, but not all countries can get rich that way at the same time. It is very likely that Singapore’s GPD is misleading because of that effect.

              “Compared to the performance of the US in a parallel universe”

              Right. The evidence of the success of libertarianism exists in another possible world. And as Kripke says, possible worlds aren’t things we see as through a telescope; they are stipulated.

              “I’m not just cherry-picking countries.”

              Yes you are.

              “In general, the economic freedom index correlates surprisingly well with per-capita GDP.”

              First remove city-states like Hong-Kong and Singapore (which should be compared with cities, not countries) from the list. What is left? Here are some the top performers on the Economic Freedom Index:

              Australia
              New Zealand
              Switzerland
              Canada
              Denmark
              The United States
              Finland
              The Netherlands
              Sweden
              Germany

              How many of those countries have (or hava had) Keynsian banking systems, worker safety laws, free or heavily subsidized public education, progressive taxation, subsidized or socialist healthcare, etc?

              All of them.

              The Economic Freedom Index is kind of a joke, IMO.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      I agree with the limitations of ideological rhetoric. Anyone can come up with a romantic theory on how we can make the world better.

      In the end, what makes it empirical is that it is”based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.” As such, we have a preponderance of evidence on various mixed, real world societies.

      The evaluation of these depends upon our values and context (Is Sweden better or worse than Ireland? Why? In what ways? How are they codependent and how do they interact?)

      Progress usually occurs in a familiar process. We tend to start with what we believe has empirically worked the best among various iterations. We then examine patterns, develop hypotheses and test them. Some of us see success more like Sweden, some more like the US, some see it as having more of a particular property (such as more freedom or more redistribution). Over time we try various things, we evaluate results, we revise theories, we try to convince others, we make mistakes, we learn from some, repeat others.

      Of course what I just wrote is not Libertarianism. It is Classical Liberalism. I support this discovery process, and believe progress will come about in a direction which fosters more freedom and less coercion and exploitation. But I truly believe I could be wrong. That is why I trust the process, not the ideological rhetoric.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Roger says:

        But you also believe that you are justified in your claims that laissez-faire markets work better than mixed markets, yes?Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to Shazbot3 says:

          What do YOU mean by laissez-faire?

          I do not believe markets can work absent rules.

          I do believe these rules can be mutually agreed to, or they can be handled by the state. They can even be universally agreed to AND handled by the state.

          I do believe the empirical evidence is that states can handle this responsibility reasonably well in some cases. Not so well in others. Over time, they seem to degrade and become sclerotic, but this is true of most organizations.

          I DO agree that some things are handled by institutions other than markets. Some are best handled by the state. For the record, my list is much smaller and narrower than yours, and I think it is in general a good thing to minimize this list for reasons elaborated in the comment below.

          I would probably be fine living in Sweden. Frustrated perhaps, but fine.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Roger says:

            So, from a utilitarian/consequentialist point of view only, using only empirical data, which form of government works best:

            A.) Nordic-style Social Democracy
            B.) American-Style New Deal Capitalism, with MW laws, Keynsian finance rules, etc.
            C.) American Style Capitalism prior to or without the New Deal
            D.) A form of American Style Capitalism that involves a lot fewer regulations and dismantling of the new deal social safety net.

            Which libertarians aren’t in favor of D?

            Aren’t you in favor of D?Report

            • Avatar Roger in reply to Shazbot3 says:

              Shaz,

              I do not want to be evasive, but I cannot answer that question. Like I said before, I would probably be happy in Finland. From what I saw briefly last year it was awesome. Lots of gorgeous blonde stewardesses.

              The difficulty I have is I cannot separate the government from the context, nor do I think that I should. In addition you made some of them one step forward and two back. I am interested in just the steps that are net forward.

              I want a world where people, including my family, are healthy, happy, prosperous, wise and free. Thus I pursue policies and institutions and paradigms which I believe move us in these directions.

              The most critical feature of them all is cumulative growth (in prosperity, science, technology). Long term, this eats everything else for lunch. The reason we are healthy, wealthy, happy and wise is that about 250 years ago Western Europe stumbled upon some cultural institutions which allowed us to, for the first time in history, grow at about a two percent annual rate. The rest is details.

              This is the big event. Everything about me is aimed at understanding this transition, continuing it and preserving it.

              The reason my views align so well with libertarians is that I see the path to prosperity to be constructive institutional competition in the direction of solving problems for each other. Coercive activities often lead to zero sum, destructive relationships which subtract from human well being.

              That said, there is a wake to technological and economic progress. Everyone does not have to be at the leading edge, and those that are not can and do draft on those at the lead. Thus a state can follow your recipe and still progress by drafting on those places which do not. This is a valid choice, and I respect it.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Roger says:

                Roger, I know you’re not being evasive, but I think you’re failing to see how the belief that more “economic freedom” is better for society could only be justified by looking at how actual countries have performed, and when you look, the countries with the amount of “economic freedom” they have in Nordic countries or the U.S. during times of higher tax rates and regulations, what you see is a lot of happiness and growth in countries that don’t have that “more economic freedom.”

                You then shift to the philosophical statement that more freedom is better. But when I realize that you mean “lower taxes” and “no minimum wage” when you say freedom, I disagree. You owe me an explanation of why you think (a priori cause there is no a posteriori evidence for this) that the country would be more ideal and free without minimum wage laws and progressive taxation.

                I’ll give you an example. In Canada, with socialist healthcare, I was much more free than I am here. I was free to start a business and not have to worry about getting sick. But that freedom comes from more socialism. More government interference. This is a looser way of saying that positive rights are rights, too.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                “…I think you’re failing to see how the belief that more “economic freedom” is better for society could only be justified by looking at how actual countries have performed”

                It is supported both empirically and in theory. We have 50 states, thousands of major communities, over a hundred nations, thousands of industries and thousands of years of experience. Lots of data points, all supported by the tenants of basic economics.

                I could go on for hours with industry by industry, state by state, city by city, era by era and explain how master planning, over-regulation and socialism has gotten its ass handed to it by relatively (not perfectly) free markets.

                “…the countries with the amount of “economic freedom” they have in Nordic countries or the U.S. during times of higher tax rates and regulations, what you see is a lot of happiness and growth in countries that don’t have that “more economic freedom.””

                All things considered, I think the Nordic countries DO have high levels of economic freedom, I am no expert on any of them, but are you really sure they aren’t in MANY WAYS less over-regulated than the US? In addition, I never said we shouldn’t have high taxes or redistribution. I said it should be voluntary. To the extent that all Swedes want high taxes and lots of redistribution, I sincerely hope they get it.

                Does this make sense? To recap, if they unanimously or near unanimously want mandatory taxes, then I believe they should be free to tax each other. Really.

                “You then shift to the philosophical statement that more freedom is better.”

                I could explain this, but it would take a post more than a comment. Freedom is not always better, and when it is it is primarily due to instrumental reasons. In brief it aligns the outcomes with the decision maker and introduces variation and selection that is open to more local and contextual knowledge, and which introduces a wider range of experience and values into the system.

                ” But when I realize that you mean “lower taxes” and “no minimum wage” when you say freedom, I disagree. You owe me an explanation of why you think (a priori cause there is no a posteriori evidence for this) that the country would be more ideal and free without minimum wage laws and progressive taxation.”

                If everyone agreed to a minimum wage I would support their right to impose it on themselves. That said, if significant, it tends to be a stupid idea. Significant distortions in the price mechanism destroys the efficiency of the system to allocate resources efficiently. I am not an economist, but I do believe a grad student could prove this mathematically. As I argued in the prior post, significant interference in the supply and demand of wages will distort the market, will lead to systemic unemployment and will lead to unfair privilege of those with jobs and skills against those without. Minimum wages are only one of countless ways to interfere with the algorithm of markets. In total, the more interference, the worse the market will do its job.

                “I’ll give you an example. In Canada, with socialist healthcare, I was much more free than I am here. I was free to start a business and not have to worry about getting sick. But that freedom comes from more socialism. More government interference. This is a looser way of saying that positive rights are rights, too.”

                You are exploiting others, dude. Someone has to pay for your health care. Someone has to produce your health care. What happened to that person’s freedom? If you all unanimously agree to socialize everything, I support your freedom to do so. However, you are not going to get me to go along. Socialism was tried quite a few times, and does not have a good record at producing much of anything. Again theory and reality make a convincing case against socialism.

                I need to add one other point. Markets are creative. And once they create something, it is easy for non creative societies to import, borrow or copy the solutions. Not all societies have to be relatively free. The ones that are not, can draft off those that are. Europe, Russia, China and the developing nations have done so for a long time. The same is true of health care. It is quite possible for many states to socialize medicine. It will be totally different when they all do so. They can no longer draft off the knowledge and creativity produced by the market process.

                Socialism is a total disaster where universal. It is much less of a disaster on a smaller basis, as it can free ride on the progress of those with functioning markets.Report

    • Avatar LWA in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      “There’s no compelling a priori moral argument—just assertions that [thisthatandtheotherthing]. So its supporters try some synthesis of the two, and no one who isn’t already on board finds it particularly compelling.”

      That is exactly true of every single political/ moral theory in existance.

      What, you are hoping for some theory that, in its brilliance, compels everyone to agree?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LWA says:

        Personally, my hope is for the person who screams “IT’S TWO PEOPLE ABOUT TO KISS” to see the goblet.

        They can go back to asserting that they see the two people about to kiss, of course, but I want that moment of the goblet to haunt their certainty. (Or swap the goblet/kissers around. It’s all good.)Report

        • Avatar LWA in reply to Jaybird says:

          What makes you think they haven’t already, long ago?

          It has been centuries since anyone asserted that morality, God, and reality was something concrete that could be proven. At least since the enlightenment philosophers and theologians have understood openly that the entire edifice is constructed atop postulates.

          You seem to want to continually question these foundational assumptions, about government, about morality, about society, yet the discussion never goes anywhere other than, as I said before, the John Cleese moment of “Of Course we need roads!”
          You agree, Hanley agrees, Roger agrees, everyone agrees on the foundational assumptions that:
          Government should exist;
          Government should handle certain tasks such as defense, property claims, and needs police powers to do this;
          it all needs to be paid for somehow in a non-voluntary form of revenue collection.

          So why does it always come back, Godwin-like, to comments about government murdering people?Report

          • Avatar Patrick in reply to LWA says:

            It has been centuries since anyone asserted that morality, God, and reality was something concrete that could be proven.

            I think lots and lots (for lots >= billion with a “b”) of people believes this right now, or something similar.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to LWA says:

            Plenty of people are not down with the enlightenment. It could be just a passing fad.

            “So why does it always come back, Godwin-like, to comments about government murdering people?”
            Rhetorical habits and styles. It’s best not to play into it, since, as you acknowledge, everybody is pretty much fine with some gov. The philo debates just lead to some of the same pointless flourishes and abstract statements.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LWA says:

            So why does it always come back, Godwin-like, to comments about government murdering people?

            Eh, I’m fine with it coming back to comments about government imprisoning them. (You are aware of our world standing when it comes to percentages of the population in prison, right?)Report

      • Avatar kenB in reply to LWA says:

        What, you are hoping for some theory that, in its brilliance, compels everyone to agree?

        Are you responding to Brandon? If so, I’m pretty sure his answer is No, since he’s saying the same thing you’re saying, in response to someone criticizing Libertarianism specifically on this basis.Report

  10. Avatar Roger says:

    As I responded on the original comment, along with the recommendation to promote this to a post of its own, I do not in any way believe that “the utility of property rights is so nearly universal that all government intervention with them is bound to fail, when judged against the standard of human happiness.”

    I am a consequentialist, and as I wrote here:

    https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2012/06/economics-property-rights-and-surfing/

    I view property rights as very good conventions which, in appropriate contexts, help humans coordinate their actions in constructive ways. In general, I see limited government enforcement of property rights in the appropriate contexts as a well supported, proven process, albeit one which often generates problems of its own.

    In brief, I too would disagree with anyone holding either of these beliefs. My only real concern is that Shaz used my name as an example of a belief which I thoroughly reject and publicly refuted on this site.Report

    • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Roger says:

      So you are fine with taking from the rich to give to the poor?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        I would recommend getting the rich to agree to it. I have lots of suggestions on how to do so, but fear it is either a broken record or something everyone ignores or glosses over. Probably all three!Report

        • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Roger says:

          But if some rich person X doesn’t agree?Report

          • Take all their money, then they won’t be rich!

            Any more worldly problems I can solve for you mortals?Report

          • Avatar Roger in reply to Shazbot3 says:

            If the person does not agree, then you have a win/lose situation. These tend to devolve into negative sum processes that destroy utility. As such, I recommend pursuing voluntary and non coercive processes which avoid utility destruction and which foster utility creation.

            Examples:
            1) voluntary insurance mechanisms,
            2) philanthropy
            3) social pressure
            4) voluntary state supported safety nets (universal health insurance with an opt out provision)
            5) agreement at the constitutional level (to be a citizen in good standing you must agree to pay 5% to support the poor) with ease of exit and alternatives (preferably easier than move to Somalia)
            6) competing institutional alternatives (choose which redistribution institutions you wish to contribute to, this one drug tests, this one doesn’t)
            7) mutual aid societies

            If NONE of these work, then I will settle for a supermajority democracy, preferably at a local level, with sunset provisions.

            I am NOT suggesting we can always find a non coercive solution. That would be silly. I am suggesting that we can go a long way in this direction. The path to doing so is via cultural exploration, competition and evolution. Over time we will never be perfect, but we can be a hell of a lot better than what we have today.Report

            • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Roger says:

              I can agree to some of this. But some of it has no empirical basis that suggests it has any chance of working.

              I know you’re not a libertarian, but this is where we start shifting back to the a priori. A priori there is a better way of doing things than Nordic style social democracy. But there is no empirical evidence of that. And on purely philosophical terms, I’m not sure if your system sounds that much more ideal than something that takes away negative rights a little more.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                I am sure I can find billions of examples of these things working. Lots of billions. Or am I misreading you? Do you really believe that private insurance, philanthropy, mutual aid societies, social contracts and such have not been proven empirically to work in countless situations? Please clarify. You cannot possibly be stating what I think you are.

                And the accusation of “a priori” is total philosophical gibberish. I am completely willing to grant the remote possibility that the current state of affairs in Sweden or Norway is perfect in all possible ways for all time for at least one person (just as Prussia was for Hegel). However, I think this is a pretty feeble assumption, especially when multiplied out to all people. To be clear, I do believe it is a reasonable assumption that the world could be improved upon. It is an assumption, and it is one which I would revise based upon consistent empirical data that we are unable to solve new problems.

                You then explain that you are not sure my system is more ideal. But I have already told you that I think it will be more ideal. So here we are back to Jaybird’s issue. You think I am wrong, and I think you are wrong. I recommend a system which encourages us to pursue our separate paths and both seek out and create a world that we believe is ideal. A win win. Voluntary. Maybe even Pareto optimal.

                You and LWA want to kill Jaybird and me if we do not agree with you.

                So, to recap. Your ideal system involves creating a Nordic paradise, taxing the rich and coercively forcing Jaybird and I to go along? Again, I find this too morally reprehensible to even fathom. So, I must misunderstand you.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Roger says:

                “to reprehensible to even fathom” Query: On the scale of reprehensible things where does a Nordic style system rank. If 10 is genocide and 1 is reality tv, where does it rank. Is the Nordic system and you being “forced” to go along a 8, a 9, a 10? Is it just as bad as genocide or just equipment to a small war?

                I’ll grant that reality tv might rank much higher on the scale of reprehensible things so come up with your own 1 if you need.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

                Of course, some cities and states have highly coercive redistributive tax regimes and individuals seems to derive net-positive utility from living in those locations as well as realizing ever increasing property values due to the relatively higher demand from folks to live under that type of gummint coercion. I think Tod wrote a post about that not too long ago.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Stillwater says:

                And those states tend to have *more* income inequality.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                Kolohe, linky no work.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Stillwater says:

                You are assuming I am suggesting nobody would choose a more redistributive society. You would. LWA would. Shaz would. I value your choice.

                In addition, by choosing where we live and which institutions we live within, it forces us to make real world trade offs. If redistributive states become better places to live, like San Diego, then we can expect lots of people to choose them. If they look more like Detroit….Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to greginak says:

                I thought 1 was the most reprehensible because you said 1 was reality TV.

                Roger,

                You and I have a difference about which system works best by utilitarian, consequentialist standards. But questions about what works the best always have answers that need to be determined empirically, i.e. by looking at the evidence.

                So, the evidence says that the Nordic style countries are very well off. And the U.S. has been very well off under a system that involves: progressive taxation (sometimes at high rates indeed), public schooling, sometimes massive higher education funding as in the GI bill, environmental regulations, work place safety regulations, consumer goods regulations, and a whole lot more government intrusion.

                The empirical evidence is clear that government intrusion into markets works best. We do not need a lot less intrusion. That is what the empirical data says. And that is what libertarians deny, i.e. libertarians want less government intrusion than we have in the U.S. But there is no empirical case for that being better.

                You then might respond and say it is just better as a principled matter for people to be less coerced than they are in the U.S. with it’s progressive taxes and regulations and forced social security and medicare payments. But there is no reason to think that the principle you are appealing to -negative property rights- trump things like a right to equal opportunity, a right to healthcare, etc. that a more “coercive” system (one that respects negative rights less) is proven to provide.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

                Yeah, hyperbole. I would much rather live in sweden than watch reality TV. It is the principle of the thing!Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to Roger says:

                “Your ideal system involves creating a Nordic paradise, taxing the rich and coercively forcing Jaybird and I to go along? Again, I find this too morally reprehensible to even fathom.”

                The status quo is morally reprehensible; yet you can’t point to anything superior, except in abstract hypothesis. For that matter, how do you reconcile your moral foundations with Brandon’s claim that they don’t exist? Or for that matter, your own claim that we shouldn’t force our morality on others?

                This is similar to my comment to Jaybird above, where instead of discussing why we imprison so many people and trying to find ways to imprison fewer, we are retreating to first principles and Godwinning about governmental murder.

                Because, about 100 comments later you and I would be agreeing that “Yeah, we need government, and coercive taxation, and a social safety net, but just a little less than now.”

                So why not dispense with the moral hyperbole?Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA says:

                Dude, I pointed to some very, very specific courses of action (and then ruined it with hyperbole).

                Let me be real clear. You and, to a lesser extent, Shaz are making an illogical argument. Every real society has a complex mix of coercive and non coercive activities. Thus every state has trillions upon trillions of activities and interactions which meet the libertarian/Classical Liberal smell test. Every society also has nested hierarchies of coercion and mandates.

                When Brandon and I look at history and compare states, we see a strong empirical correlation, backed by rigorous theory, between the extent of voluntary interactions and long term human prosperity. In addition we see a negative correlation between the use of force and human well being.

                Thus I recommend careful, deliberate, voluntary experimentation in the direction of more mutually voluntary interactions. Baby steps. If in four hundred years this leads to libertopia, so be it. I doubt it will. My guess it will just take us to a better mixed society.

                By the way, you never answered my question on whether you see the sweep of history as toward more freedom or more state control.Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to Roger says:

                I don’t know that there is a “sweep of history”. History runs in different directions at the same time in different places.

                I also don’t think the word “voluntary” is as positive as you make it seem.
                Voluntary means “severable at will”. Increasing the numer of engagements that are “at will” only increases risk and uncertainty.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

                I also attempted counter some of your others criticisms. How did I do there?

                On the sweep thing, I just sometimes hear a “progressive march” tone to your comments. Nothing wrong with this. I was just asking if it was correct inference on my part.

                Voluntary does indeed imply exit rights. This does indeed lead to creative destruction and insecurity. Absolutely. Chris and I tried to have a conversation on the importance and pros and cons of this last week. He exited, voluntarily, I might add, thinking I was a monster.

                A coercive monopolist can reliably count on having a steady supply of customers and no threat of competition. In a voluntary situation there is always a risk that you will lose your customer or supplier or partner to what they perceive as a better deal. There is in effect an arms race toward better cooperation with those not raising their game forced to play a different game. This is the engine of progress in a nutshell.

                Everyone rationally wants to free ride on the engine of progress while not paying the dues of insecurity and uncertainty. It is kinda like a giant prisoners dilemma game. The rational move for each party leads to catastrophe for all. the solution is the same as well — build and agree to institutional incentives which discourage ”defection” or free riding.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                I know you’re not a libertarian

                Roger is very much a libertarian, Shaz. He just doesn’t fit into the standard mold.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Stillwater says:

                I think he says he isn’t.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                According to your post I am not, as I do not agree with either position.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Roger says:

                Maybe you are a communist.Report

  11. I’d say that conflating “philosophical” libertarianism with a property rights-focused libertarianism is a bit of a stolen base (as is conflating libertarianism with a philosophy that wants to eliminate government). I seem to recall reading some libertarian around here arguing that property rights are an illusion (https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2013/02/property-rights-are-imaginary/ if you missed it).

    (Oh, and why do I never get name-checked when we’re going through the list of the site’s libertarians. That’s it; I’m taking my ball and going home.)Report

  12. Avatar Citizen says:

    Jaybird,
    what is your thoughts on it being a barter instead of a burden of proof?
    Under their own rule of law person A and person B agree to not shoot each other over hats?Report

  13. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    One important criticism that I failed to address is Brandon’s claim that Friedman’s point is a good criticism of any political philosophy, including liberalism.

    I have a long set of thoughts and this and will try to post it.

    Have enjoyed this all.Report

  14. Avatar ktward says:

    So the is no empirical and no philosophical good argument for Libertarianism.

    Wait. This is Jaybird’s conclusion?
    Okay then. Good enough for my time-constrained, non-Libertarian self.Report

  15. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    So there is a worry that all philosophical accounts of justice (including liberalism) ultimately suffer from the problem of having axioms that can be doubted and thus no account of justice can be proven to be true in a way that would guarantee that everyone agrees about what a just outcome would look like.

    Along the same lines, it is true that people have competing visions of what a good world would look like: some believe that only negative rights should be enforced by the government, others believe in equality of outcome, others believe in wholly utilitarian principles, some believe in theocracy, etc. This is part of Jaybird’s view.

    But the conclusion that the government should ONLY enforce negative rights (like the right to free speech) or enforce them without exception does not follow from the premise that people have different conceptions of the good. After all, some people think the government should only enforce negative rights others think that would be wrong.

    So what does follow from the premise? Or more basically, how do we create a just society when people have different accounts of what the society and the government should look like?

    Well, I think Rawls tries to answer that question. What we need to do is imagine a scenario where everyone in society comes to the table with their own competing accounts of what a good world looks like and hashes out an agreement about how to arrange society. Not one person might think the resulting agreement is ideal (ideal would be if you were king and didn’t need to get an agreement), but it will be the best agreement possible that is fair to each person’s point of view about what the world should look like.

    Well, in order to create such an agreement, we have to imagine ourselves not accepting a point of view about what the world should look like. So imagine that you know that there are different people who have different points of view, but you don’t know which person you are. (Veil of ignorance.) Then imagine what would be in your best interests, rationally.

    Whatever you decide about what is in your best interests will treat each member’s point of view fairly. By analogy imagine using the “divider-chooser” method of cutting cake. If you don’t know which piece of cake you will get, and you want cake, you will cut the pieces evenly. A fair distribution of cake is one that would be in each person’s interests if each person didn’t know which person they were.

    So, what would we choose from behind the veil of ignorance, not knowing what point of view we had about the world, whether we were libertarians or theocrats, solely out of self-interest?

    Well, according to Rawls, in short, we would choose either a pretty lefts social democracy like Sweden or a “property owning democracy” where each generation got an equal share of wealth. But forget that.

    We wouldn’t choose libertarianism because we would be worried about being born one of the worst off who would be benefited by redistribution of wealth.

    That was a long post. Not sure if I got across what I wanted to.

    In brief, the Rawlsian original position gives you a decision procedure for figuring out how to arrange society given that people don’t agree about what is ideally just. But that decision procedure doesn’t yield a libertarian society. It yields a redistributive liberal one, that is “libertarianish” about social matters.”Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Shazbot3 says:

      The interesting thing is that Libertarians, Public Choice theorists and Classical Liberals are extremely attracted to Rawls.

      I agree completely that the appropriate and fair way to decide this is via choice and consent. If you look at my seven specific recommendations, all of them lean toward introducing more consent into our institutions, great and small.

      In brief, the problem with your conclusion is that you and Rawls are attempting to tell the rest of us what our choices will be. You are violating the spirit of the idea. You also assume libertarians don’t believe in safety nets, which is just silly. Finally, you misunderstand the power of compound growth.

      1) I strongly recommend we build choice and consent into our institutions. One upping Rawls, I suggest competition and benchmarks, so people can make informed decisions on how the various alternatives actually play out over time. This makes our choices empirical rather than pie in the sky. The existence of alternatives (where possible) also recognizes that people may have different values, and thus may make different choices based upon their rankings.

      2) Personally, I will choose the institutions which best balances three factors. Overall median utility, downside risk, and long term creative potential. In economics terms (though the choice will in absolutely no way be purely economic) I would choose a state which fosters prosperity, rapid economic growth, effective safety nets and minimal conflict and negative externalities.

      I need to emphasize that any short term selection of higher redistribution that has negative effects on creativity and economic growth will undermine itself over the long term. Cumulative growth kicks redistribution’s ass over the long haul. Two percent annual per capita growth rates will lead to those states achieving it with poor people richer than millionaires given sufficient time. They in effect pay for the ability to afford safety nets and redistribution. Thus I strongly caution against redistribution which interferes with growth (ie poorly executed safety nets which foster dependency and bureaucratic parasitism).

      Thus, I accept your challenge and disagree with your conclusions.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

        When does the laudable Safety Net become the awful Redistribution? The basic problem with capitalism is capital itself, which tends to coalesce around a few gravitational loci, as stars and planets form. Without some way to harness it, capitalism only tends to makes the rich richer. Which is okay, if you don’t mind everyone else lying prostrate on the Safety Net, which nobody wants, least of all you.

        We don’t have to call it Redistribution. That’s Communist nonsense and is the idiotic inverse of Pure Capitalism. At least Capitalism redeems itself by making at least a few people rich. Maybe if we viewed it as Investing in People, it might be more palatable to some folks, though really it’s just Redistribution by another name.Report

        • Avatar zic in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Investing in People +1.

          I grew up in poverty. My family was lifted out of poverty when my mother enrolled in a CETA program that trained her how to be a lab tech, and then went on to specialize in histology. With that investment in her, she went from needing the safety net to survive to a tax payer who, in part, contributed to the safety net.

          The problem now, however, is lack of jobs; to invest in people, we need to invest in things that create jobs (infrastructure?).Report

          • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

            WE don’t need to create jobs. Individuals and private enterprise need to see opportunities to invest in jobs. This means they need to have reasonable expectations of creating a profit. That they have a reasonable opportunity to start the business without interference and red tape and obstructions built by the crony capitalists that came before them. That they have the freedom to allow supply to meet demand by lowering wages and benefits to the point that is justified according to marginal productivity.

            WE built the barriers to full employment. The solution isn’t more enlightened master planning, it is to get out of the way and tear down the walls we built.Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to Roger says:

              But doesn’t building infrastructure and investing in sci research lead to jobs now and in the future. It has certainly worked that way in the past.Report

              • Avatar Citizen in reply to greginak says:

                Have you seen whats happened to infrastructure coding and the PE monopolies formed around it? Infrastructure is not what it used to be.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Citizen says:

                So building roads, bridges, trails, etc is out. Got it. Can’t see why we need those things.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Citizen says:

                You can say that again. Crumbling schools, court houses, highways, parks are what makes the US a destination.

                People come from all over the world to gawk at our freedom to decay.Report

              • Avatar Citizen in reply to zic says:

                Have you walked a major infrastructure project through its paces? My current local model shows 168 events that have to occur in specific order and thats not including the construction phases or change orders.
                Welcome to the land of the free and the fished up.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Citizen says:

                Yes, Citizen, I have.

                Ironically, much of that ‘stuff’ you decry is the stuff necessary for proper public vetting; you know, so that projects happen in the sunshine, not smoke-filled back rooms.

                Freedom does have a price.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

                On infrastructure…

                Yes, infrastructure adds jobs and adds to prosperity. But only to the extent that they are invested in efficiently. Politicians are great at doing so inefficiently (see California and bullet train to nowhere). My suggestions to deal with that are already public record.

                Second, this is one of the fundamental responsibilities of government. If considering current share of economy taken in by Uncle Sam they can’t handle this well, why exactly am I supposed to give them more?

                Third, are our highways and infrastructure crumbling? Compared to what? The past? Somewhere else? The perfect ideal? Interesting anecdotes? This just loops back to efficiency and voluntary solutions though.

                Fourth, and this is aimed at Zic, do you not notice that the crumbling of which you despair is the stuff the bloated government has been given ( or more accurately, TOOK)? Give me an industry American progressives have saved and I will give you one which is pathetic. Schools. Check, least efficient on earth. Health care. Check. Least effective anywhere.

                You guys have the reverse midas touch. And LWA thinks we lack empirical support!Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Roger says:

                How in the heck do you find that our schools are the least efficient on earth??? That is way over the top and unsupportable. Health care…do you think the current system is a liberals wet dream? Even the ACA isn’t what liberals want, its just all we could get. You want to see a better HC system, well i could suggest where to look but, frankly, its to obvious to need to.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

                Spending per student. I googled it.

                To be honest, I don’t think Progressives ever accomplish their wet dream. They operate under invalid foundational assumptions and as such their dreams and visions are never realized. They cannot be, as their rationale is faulty.

                Thus we see the familiar pattern. Little bit of interference — let’s say minimum wages, and hiring firing standards. Leads to slight unemployment, So more interference. This leads to less efficient markets. So more interference. Then the only solution is to socialize the whole industry because for some crazy reason “free markets just don’t work” in health care, education, home mortgages, auto insurance, or whatever.

                Lather. Rinse. Repeat.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

                Heh. Aside from producing the most powerful engine of prosperity in the history of the world instead of some Banana Republic, Progressivism didn’t do anything of substance.

                So old John D. Rockefeller is out playing golf with his buddies, fellow captains of industry, all of whom were whinging about the Wicked Old Government’s breakup of Standard Oil. “Buy every share of Standard Oil you can, boys” said John D. The market cap after breakup was triple the old monopoly’s.

                Our visions have been realised. You’re the beneficiary of those visions given life in all sorts of sound regulations. And so have the Libertarians — one word, one number, actually. 2008.

                No, it’s back to the drawing boards for you Libertarians. It was the Progressives who created this greatness. You lot seem intent upon turning us into a Banana Republic. Now you must prove otherwise.Report

        • Avatar Citizen in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Have we seen a safety net outside the parameters of rule by law? For that matter have we seen capitalism working outside the rule by law?

          To me it looks like a fresh coat of injustice has been applied over the last weathered coat of injustice and the tired painter is standing back looking at the new coat saying “Damn it still looks like injustice”Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Roger says:

        “In brief, the problem with your conclusion is that you and Rawls are attempting to tell the rest of us what our choices will be.”

        As Stillwater said above somewhere, this is inevitable. We all have different ideas about how the government should run. An anarchist (of some sort) might say that the government is violating her rights to enslave or kill you. Government restricts choices. The libertarian believes that the government should only enforce protection of negative rights and not positive, but there is no good philosophical or empirical reason to believe this.

        Instead we need a decision procedure for balancing different accounts of what the state should look like.

        “You are violating the spirit of the idea.

        Disagree. If anything, I have the details messed up, but the spirit right.

        “You also assume libertarians don’t believe in safety nets, which is just silly.”

        Some libertarians don’t believe in them, including many of the most famous and definitive libertarian intellectuals.

        It is unclear to me how libertarianism is logically consistent with safety nets and redistribution being just.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Shazbot3 says:

          Instead we need a decision procedure for balancing different accounts of what the state should look like.

          I can’t quite tell if you’re attributing this view to Roger or it’s an expression of your own views. Nevertheless…

          In the US we actually do have a decision procedure for determining what the state should look like. A), it’s fundamentally constrained (in theory anyway) by the Constitution. B) flexibility within Constitutional constraints permits legislation which is (in theory anyway) a reflection of the “will of the people”. C) the “will of the people” is determined by propaganda, social engineering, threats of violence or public shame, appeals to resentment and fears and morality, and sometimes – rarely – rational argumentation.

          That’s in practice.

          In theory, there are lots of decision-procedures which would yield a determinative answer to the question “what should gummint look like?” Libertarians offer one (often a very a priori-based type of reasoning but it’s important to note that Roger is not an a priori-type libertarian). Liberals offer another (often a haphazard, somewhat random and unsystemized attempt to redress perceived wrongs). Conservatives offer another (I really don’t know what the hell they’re getting on about). And so on thru the more marginal views.

          The thing is, tho, Roger’s view of a what counts as an effective decision procedure for determining the shape of government is – as a matter of fact – radically different than yours. Maybe not in terms of the outcomes, of course. Where he disagrees with liberals, it seems to me, is the type of institutional arrangements that are most likely to achieve “best” outcomes. And that’s true even if liberals and Roger agree on the meaning of “best”.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Stillwater says:

            Hey Still,

            Well, given that you have a solid background in philosophy, and we seem to share some intuitions, and I haven’t explained it well enough to you, I haven’t got my point across very well, which I suspected I hadn’t anyway. The whole thing is muddled.

            I’ll have to hope someone wiser and smarter than I will do it for me one day.

            I think I simply agree with the rest of what you’re saying, though.Report

            • Avatar Roger in reply to Shazbot3 says:

              Still and Shaz,

              I think Stillwater is representing my views fairly.

              Shaz, your point is that it is “inevitable” that we must tell others what to do. Stillwater elaborated on the institutional mechanism of how we do so.

              Juso clarify, I believe telling each other what to do violates the spirit of fairness as defined by Rawls. If we take the idea seriously, we will try to foster fairness in institutions by allowing people wherever possible to select among competing institutional arrangements. I laid out 7 ideas that move us , with baby steps, pragmatically, in this direction.

              If someone wants a more serious defense of the idea, they could read Buchanan’s Calculus of Consent. I also have suggestions for free internet articles summarizing the issue.Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to Shazbot3 says:

          “It is unclear to me how libertarianism is logically consistent with safety nets and redistribution being just.”

          Let me try again. They (and I ) generally oppose coercive safety nets and redistribution. We are HUGE fans of voluntary, unanimous and non coercive safety nets and redistribution. I am not sure why you assume either has to be coercive. I gave 7 examples.Report

    • Avatar Citizen in reply to Shazbot3 says:

      I think you entirely missed my point and I think half of Jaybirds. There is a distance between rule of law and rule by law. One is a barter and one is a telling. The telling is void without the barter.
      It is not a valid social contract and in this I think Jaybird is correct, there is a burden of proof, but also there has to be acceptance.
      There is another problem with rule by law. There are people who are so engaged in society that they want rule by law up to everyones neck: Full control of the behavior of other men. Others less engaged in control would rather see rule by law up to their ankles only and have more degrees of freedom in unwritten rule of law.
      My view in this is that government should be involved much less and people should be much more respectful of how to barter with each other directly on the way they would like to govern themselves.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Shazbot3 says:

      When I took a political philosophy course, we had a whole packet of responses to Rawls from the literature. I remember that in one of those responses, the author of which I do not remember, a question was posed: if one day I learned that a painting I owned was worth a fortune, would it be fair for you to take me to court to get me to sell you the painting for the price I would have sold it to you on the day before I learned that it was so valuable?

      For whatever reason, anytime somebody acts as though the original position is anything more than a way of highlighting certain considerations that we might want to (and perhaps should) take into account when trying to figure out how to order society, I’m reminded of that.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

        If you don’t know which piece of cake you will get, and you want cake, you will cut the pieces evenly.

        I think this claim begs some questions. I’m not sure which ones. Personally, I don’t see any reason why a person couldn’t bring the gambler’s mentality into the original position, one where they trade equality under the law against the probability that they would be the beneficiaries of unfair laws. That’s not a new criticism of the OP, of course, just one that strikes me as pretty compelling, in part because it focuses on an implicit circularity in conceptualizing the original position.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Found it! My Google skills are improving, finally.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Chris says:

        Is this a criticism of my claims? (No time to read the link)

        I am saying that the OP is a sort of way of highlighting the fact that we all have to get together and decide how to live together given that we have competing accounts of what an ideal world and an ideal state would look like.

        But this highlights the fact that we would be very concerned about the worst off and what we are calling their positive rights from behind the veil.Report

  16. Avatar zic says:

    Off topic for Roger, per our discussion on ‘leisure’ time and rising income the other day, I hope you’ll read this:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/06/how-did-work-life-balance-in-the-us-get-so-awful/276336/

    It makes my point nicely; that the group of persons in question — single mothers — have more work, less leisure, and lower incomes.

    Please forgive the derail, comments there are closed.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

      Thanks this is awesome. Great data.

      It provides data on the significant trend toward more leisure.

      It reinforces the point that leisure is increasing most in the lower income groups (though it nicely parses that out more toward males).

      Do note that the sources I linked to previously did count both housework and work work on the trend. We are getting more and more real leisure. Not that leisure is necessarily a good thing. Too much is probably not (says the retired guy)

      I agree with the trend that a shift toward single mothers is a problem. Single moms have to do all the chores, raise the kids and bring home the bacon. The US has a problem compared to other countries with growing numbers of single moms.

      But this is a weird thing for a progressive to bemoan, no? I suspect George and the conservatives at this site would place progressive policies at the forefront of the cause of this trend. I would not argue with them or Charles Murray on this conclusion.

      When we lower the shame of divorce, the shame of unwed motherhood, indeed when we stand up and celebrate both, we can expect more of both. When we run inner city schools as a monopoly aimed at the welfare of unions rather than the wisdom of minorities and less advantaged kids, we will get tens of millions of young males who graduate without the skill set a woman and her kids can depend upon. We then compassionately subsidize single motherhood with income transfers. We effectively are promoting girls not marrying guys. And we are receiving it, in abundance.

      I agree with the article. Leisure is increasing for all except the wealthiest and single moms. The latter is a problem, and the solution is to focus on why we are creating more single moms. Perhaps because of worse progressive institutions?Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Roger says:

        There are a lot of factors that lead to ‘single motherhood’ beyond divorce, etc. Incarceration rates in certain demographics. Domestic violence.

        If you want to start with the shame game; let’s start someplace besides women. Just for fun.Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

          Fine. I will join the bandwagon in attacking the drug war (as Patrick noted). I will stand beside you against domestic violence. I will join you in condemning deadbeat boyfriends.

          And for the record, I will join you in support of investments in people. Investments need to be rationally constructed though to avoid creating dependency or encouraging that which we hope to discourage. I am a fan of enlightened safety nets, not progressive ones.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Roger says:

        How do “we” lower the shame of divorce or unwed motherhood. There isn’t exactly a government program to make them less shameful. Attitudes have certainly changed about those things but that is more about the immense shifts in our culture over the last decades then anything any mythical “we” have done.

        Shame is an interesting topic. People like it when it prevents “them” from doing things “we” don’t’ want. But should gays be shamed for being gay? What are the consequences to gay people for that? The power to shame does tend to concentrate in people with money or control over the local church. With that comes an immense amount of social control, but i guess that is the good kind of social control by elites.Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

          Huh?

          “We” certainly is not a synonym for the state. My point was that conservatives and Murray have been warning us on this since at least the 60s. Maybe we should begin to listen, or at least consider that there is some glimmer of reasonableness to their concerns. And yes, “we” in this sense does mean broad based, widely shared cultural paradigms.

          Of course the point of shame is a social mechanism to keep people from doing what we don’t want them to do. The fact that I need to make this point explicit to a progressive pretty much makes my case. And of course any social punishment can be abused, the same could be said about laws against being gay.

          Well functioning societies (such as ones without a single motherhood crisis) need to have well functioning punishment systems that punish the right (actually the “wrong”) things the right way.

          And the power to shame really comes from your friends, neighbors, peers and coworkers. The powerful have a much more direct set of mechanisms.

          The fact that progressives abandoned an essential social control mechanism is really strange. Apparently related to the fact that it tended to be used more by your political enemies.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Roger says:

            l’etat c’est moi.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Roger says:

            Well yeah i know “we” doesn’t mean government but “we” is a sloppy term. Who is it? Who did it? It happened, there wasn’t any “we” doing it. It was part of the huge changes we have gone through.

            Social punishments can and have been greatly abused. Liberals have generally championed the causes of those people who have been screwed over by a lot of social punishments: gays, women who didn’t want to stay with drunks or abusers,etc. The people who have power to shame in a community often, very often, are the ones with all the other power.

            I’ve had a several clients that fit a this mold but one comes to mind. She was from a very religious conservative rural community here is AK. Here husband was a heavy drinker and at least somewhat abusive ( he didn’t dispute this in general, he admitted to drinking a lot at times and only being a bit rough with her. she said it was a bit more) Her community leaders told her they and God wanted her to stay with the drunken abusive lout. Her options were to stay or leave. If she left she could get some gov aid and medical care for their kids. She left her community to be pretty much forever shunned by them. Yes this is one example and not every possible way this can work out. But she is much more free with help from the gov and away from the domination of her group.

            It seems you are a little to sanguine about the pitfalls of social control and who gets boned by it. It seems like you are for the kind of power that has no oversight from law, is often entrenched in bigotry and bias and can be just as overweening as anything gov can do. I’ll assume you will point out that people have the freedom to exit such institution. Which is a fair point at best since it is often a gov safety net that will allow someone to leave such a sitution and social control can make it very hard to use that freedom.Report

            • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

              “….”we” is a sloppy term. Who is it? Who did it? It happened, there wasn’t any “we” doing it. It was part of the huge changes we have gone through.”

              Well, in this case we is you. You are doing it right now.

              I already agreed that any punishment can and has been abused. Be careful of throwing babies out with your bath water. If we choose to not listen to the conservatives advice, that is OK too, but then perhaps we shouldn’t wonder why we have a single mom and bad boyfriend crisis. Or is it lack of infrastructure spending?

              “It seems you are a little to sanguine about the pitfalls of social control and who gets boned by it. It seems like you are for the kind of power that has no oversight from law, is often entrenched in bigotry and bias and can be just as overweening as anything gov can do.”

              Your entire argument is aimed at wanting to believe I am supporting shame against women that won’t leave abusive husbands, or shame for wanting to kiss people of the same sex. Why not add shame for not joining the KKK? If you want to make up softball arguments, then go for broke. To repeat, I am against dirty bathwater and am pro babies. I am not against throwing things out due simply to the risk of baby disposal. Clearer?

              Do you NOT feel people should be ashamed of being dishonest? Of abusing their wives? Do you not believe anyone should ever be ashamed of anything? I am asking, not accusing. I am pretty sure you do agree with the use of shame for something… perhaps shame at not recycling? (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

              If you agree with the use of shame in some cases, then we are not too far apart. If you don’t, then I am not willing to lend you any money or allow you to date my sisterReport

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Roger says:

                I don’t think i can be a we since i’m only an I. But “we” and “they” are nebulous terms people throw around that suggest a cause and someone is responsible but when they can’t actually name that personal.

                I am leery of putting to much weight on shame as a means of getting to a good society. The shamed have no recourse to the law nor is there an open discussion on who is going to be shamed and by who. Does shame serve a purpose? Well humans are social creatures i can’t imagine there has ever been a human social group without it. Shame has a role, but it is not nor should it take the place of law or government.

                The conservative advice was at least partially to keep gays in the closet and women at home where they belong. Right?Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to greginak says:

                I don’t recall any conservative outrage about my dad not paying child support; that didn’t come around until Reagan went after Welfare Queens, and Democrats said, wait a minute, why are so many of these women on welfare? Because they’re not getting court-ordered child support?

                But I was grown by then, and the outrage was, in part, from people like me who know what it was like to grow up with a single mother and next to no help with even basic necessities. This was such a strong presence, that economic need, that I put up with a pedophile for years because he kept the washing machine, furnace, water pump, & car going. I was the price paid; he fixed stuff for access to me, and I feared the consequences if he didn’t continue to fix stuff.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                Your first comment seems to be a vote for more shame, not less.

                But more importantly, I am very sorry for your troubled childhood.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Roger says:

                No, it was a vote for laws requiring absent fathers to pay for the children they sire. That’s pretty new; my dad didn’t have to.

                And I don’t need your sorrow. All I want is for you to remember that these are real people; they’ve been through unspeakable things, and often face unbearable odds. It’s pretty easy to blame women for being single mothers. It’s not so easy to actually walk in their shoes and understand why they might be single mothers.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

                Thanks. Of course they are real people..

                You compassionately brought up the problem of a rising problem with single motherhood. I agreed it was a problem and suggested numerous ways that conservatives suggest progressives inadvertently encourage the problem. That means, to the extent these criticisms are valid, that you and Greg and those that think like you are actively, with the best of intentions, promoting single motherhood. Not in the abstract, but in the flesh. We are talking real people here.

                I suggest both empathy and some rational change of course. Don’t you agree?Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Roger says:

                Roger, it’s not binary.

                Being a single mother is better then being a beaten mother.

                Being a daughter of a single mother, it would have been better if there was enough support coming in that I didn’t feel we needed a sexual predator around.

                But when you start slut shaming the single mothers, which is pretty much what happened before it became okay to get a divorce, you force those things on women.

                So while I agree that some of the problems stem from loosening social mores, others stem from not holding men accountable for their own awful behavior; we had to pass a freakin’ law to make deadbeat dads pay child support; and there wasn’t this huge outcry about how they were awful fathers, how they were mooching off the system until Republicans wanted to kick those Welfare Queens in their Pink Caddies off the system.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Roger says:

                Rog- One thing i think is missing from the way you are looking at blaming liberals and the change of social mores is the massive increase in physical mobility in the last 50 years. In 1920 most people would live in the same small town or neighborhood most or all of their lives. If they moved it wouldn’t likely be to far. That made social pressure a lot easier and more effective. Once people could pack up everything and move a continent away to start a new life for the second or third or fourth time social pressure becomes much less effective.

                It might suck if everybody in the town you came from in Penn thinks you are a dbag, but you live in LA and nobody knows anything but what you tell them. Don’t want to pay child support,move a few states away. That really was vary common until the last decade when computerized records started to catch up whit people. Mobility has advantages and disadvantages just like everything.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

                Greg,

                “I” can indeed be a part of a “we.” And “you” is about as personal and specific as it gets. wouldn’t you say?

                I agree that shame is not a replacement of law or government.

                As to the ” keep em in the closet” jab, again my response is baby… bath water. You would not be impressed with a libertarian who said some regulations are stupid therefore there should be no regulations….right?Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Roger says:

                Let me put it this way, everything has a good and bad side. Nothing is perfect. I am concerned about putting to much weight on shame to do societies work. Shame will happen because that is people and in some cases in might even work towards a good end. The people who are most likely to spend their time shaming others are the ones who are likely to be the most judgmental, most self-righteous, most sure they know what is best and are willing to deploy painful sanctions to bend others to their will.Can that lead to a good outcome sometimes, well sure of course. But when i think of what a good society looks like empowering the people most likely to shame isn’t really looking all that good to me. We can all point out examples of when shame might work and when it doesn’t. But that doesn’t really address why it is good to let the hope of good society rest on people deploying harsh emotions in service of their own power.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to greginak says:

                Thanks, I understand. I obviously lean more toward decentralized and informal processes built up spontaneously among networks of friends and family.Report

    • Avatar Reformed Republican in reply to zic says:

      Single mothers have more work and less leisure than others. That makes sense. However, how does the quality of life for a single mother today compare to that of a single mother 50 years ago?Report

  17. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    Have greatly enjoyed this thread.

    I greatly respect you all despite the fact that you don’t see that you should just agree with everything I say and applaud me.Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *