Idiocy, Week One


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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224 Responses

  1. Avatar Damon says:

    Society continues to spiral down to totalitarianism and eventual collapse. That is all you need to know.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      @damon, sincere question, how do some of the more purist libertarians reconcile the fact that something even remotely resembling Anglo-American libertarian thought never appeared or occurred in most of the non-Anglophone world including most other European and European derived societies? Even countries that embraced capitalism over socialism in the post-colonial world believed a lot in non-libetarian things when it came to non-economic questions like government enforcement of traditional morality.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Reconcile that fact with what?Report

      • Avatar James K says:


        I’m unsure as to what proposition you are trying to refute. I don’t think libertarianism is a natural concept, but then neither is democracy or the scientific method or any number of other good ideas. Every good idea is considered radical before it becomes mainstream.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          @james-k, what I meant is that besides a very specific demographic set in a few countries, nobody else seems to have selected libertarianism as the solution to their nations economic and social problems.

          From what I can tell, there aren’t any Lebanese libertarians who think that you could solve the inter communal problems of Lebanon and get it’s economy jump started by having minimalist government with strong separation of religion and state plus free market capitalism. You can find an advocate for practically any other ideological solution but something like libertarian minimalism has not seem to occurred. At least some Lebanese people with internet access probably heard of libertarianism because of indirect exposure. The same goes with say African countries or Asian countries.

          Even in countries where there are libertarians, it seems to be limited to a specific demographic. Libertarians are ostensibly for criminal justice reform and minimalism should at least somewhat help minorities in the United States from police harassment. There do not seem to be any prominent people of color libertarians in the United States though. The main political advocacy organizations by and for people of color do not advocate are standard progressive in their orientation or even further to the left.Report

          • Avatar Damon says:

            I’m not sure to what “demographic” you ascribe to libertarians, but I will take a shot at answering our question about other countries. This is me just speculating…I have no actual data..and is pretty much stream of consciousness.

            I think there are multiple factors depending upon what region you’re talking about, but some common factors that transcend location. I’ll address both. For the common factors, I’d put
            1) Most folks really aren’t all that interested in “doing for themselves” when they can get someone else to do for them. Whether this stems from self-interest or the belief that the group should do stuff that the individuals can’t/won’t isn’t relevant to the end position. I generally view the average person I run into as being much more statist than I am.
            2) Humans being tribal, they tend towards group outlook vs individual action from an evolutionary perspective. This makes sense when it’s a village of 30 when you’re fighting off the neighboring tribe, but not necessarily the best outlook in a technologically advanced country.
            3) Someone is always (politicians) willing to tell party A that party B should pay for something party A wants and party A should vote for them because that politician will make that happen. People LOVE power and if getting other people to pay for something gets you the goal of power, so be it.
            Location related factors:
            1) I also think that given how the US was settled plays a role. I think that there was some self-selecting in the types of people who were willing to come here and start new lives, the types of things they were fleeing from, etc., that in many cases, influenced people’s outlook on individualism vs group behavior.
            2) Additionally, how people grew up here their family/ethnic histories are a factor as well. That the Appalachian area, that was populated by the Scots/Irish, and which was a major moonshining area during prohibition seems to have some correlation.
            I think some or all of these are reasons why there is less “libertarianism” is the rest of the world.Report

            • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

              The myth of the pioneer. Our Rugged Individualist ancestor loads the wife and kids into a wagon and heads west into the wilderness to chop down trees to clear fields and build a cabin. He succeeds through hard work and personal initiative without help from anyone else. Or so goes the myth. This being how it happened doesn’t hold up to any but the most superficial scrutiny, but it holds a strong place in the American psyche.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                Maybe because my ancestors landed in New York City and stayed there for generations is why I acquired immunity to the pioneer ethos. Fred Clark of Slacktivist fame noted that he was very surprised to learn that his ancestors migrated from England to what is now Delaware during the 17th century and did not move up until he was born.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Actually comments were more about the types of people willing to up end their lives in their current place of residence and travel to a new country and start from scratch all over again in a land unknown/foreign/different from what they knew.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                How is it a myth? Were the wagon west trains a myth? You want it to be a myth b/c it doesn’t fit in with your liberal narritive.Report

              • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

                How is it a myth?

                It is the “without help from anyone else” part that is a myth. There was a massive infrastructure, both public and private, supporting the guy chopping down trees in the wilderness.

                You want it to be a myth b/c it doesn’t fit in with your liberal narritive.

                I didn’t learn history from David Barton. This helps immensely for knowing what is and is not a myth.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                What happens to high-trust communities when a sub-community of the community starts to be seen as engaging in “defect” behavior?Report

              • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

                Was this comment misplaced? Because I’m not following the thread here.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                The movement West was very real but it would be impossible without the Federal government maintaining a series of army forts to keep the settlers safe from Native Americans and take their land in the first place to give to the settlers, railroad, and mining corporations.Report

              • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

                There is even more to it than that. The transportation infrastructure was supported by the government. The National Highway and the Erie Canal are examples where the government did this directly. The later railroads depended on indirect government subsidies.

                Even Mississippi steamboats benefited. Read Life on the Mississippi and there is a lot about pilot licensure. There also were some attempts at safety regulations. Of course the libertarian narrative is that this sort of thing is burdensome government regulation, but it provided a structure whereby boat owners, shippers, and passengers could have reasonable confidence that the boat would probably get where it was going without blowing up: a clear gain for commerce.

                Without government support of transportation infrastructure, our rugged individualist would have a hell of a time getting produce to market, which, after all, was the point of going out there in the first place.

                Before this infrastructure was in place, the rugged individualists had to stick to high value items with limited weight and volume and durable enough to maintain their value through long transport times. In practice this meant the fur trade, but they had a bad habit of over-trapping, necessitating going ever further afield.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Nature itself establishes hierarchies all the time.

                All government is is humans self-organizing into a hierarchy.

                Ideally, this hierarchy is established through meritocracy.

                But to pretend that some people aren’t better at telling others what to do and other people aren’t better at being told is willful blindness.

                Also: gender is a social construct.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                According to the best contemporaneous observations – for instance from de Tocqueville – the expropriation of land often occurred in the exact opposite order: Settlers would produce “facts on the ground,” often despite or against official policy, and the diffident federal government would be called in to protect and consolidate gains/thefts/expropriations achieved “spontaneously,” without guidance – which would have been a practical impossibility anyway given the distances involved. The effect was to replicate a pattern from colonial times, when the Crown was often on the side of the natives against disruptive, trouble-making, expansionist colonists – as noted in the Declaration of Independence, including but not limited to the dramatic concluding item from the list of “repeated injuries and usurpations”:

                [The King] has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

                Those trying to justify the indictment of libertarianism, as racist authoritarianism in disguise, ought to prefer this interpretation, since freedom to “go west” and be a “rugged individual” would equate with “freedom to perform genocide” – just as in the South it meant “freedom to enslave.” The small problem with this perspective is that it defines the American project itself as an exercise in mass murderous criminality, and defines the country and the world as we know it as unsurpassed world-historical evil.

                Them’s the breaks. I think the truth is that the settlers were the swinging leg, the government (such as it was) the standing leg, in the great game of new immigrants, in alliance with the microbes that immigrated along with them, seizing North America from the descendants of a prior set of immigrants, for successful exploitation. Retrospective moral judgment is something performed in the luxury our judged ancestors provided for us.Report

              • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

                …the expropriation of land often occurred in the exact opposite order: Settlers would produce “facts on the ground,” often despite or against official policy…

                It depends on when and where. I am currently reading a book about northern Mississippi in the 1830s. The northern third of the state had been Chocktaw country. The federal government rounded them up and shipped them to Oklahoma, and auctioned off the land. In theory this was to prospective settlers. In practice many buyers were speculators hoping to flip the land for a quick profit. The land was ideal for cotton production, so there was a real economic basis for this, but a bubble predictably formed, with the results you would expect. (Oh, did I mention the role of weak banking regulations in that bubble?)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Or the reversie of that, Lee. Often enough state powah showed up after the settling and mining to defend – by expanding – the borders. (To include what was “rightfully” “ours” all along. So the mythology goes.)Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                Stop staying what I said more economically durnit.Report

              • Avatar rmass says:

                This is going to sound cold but based on my 2 years of reading your one written flaw is that you’re long-winded.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                You should ask for your money back,Report

              • Avatar rmass says:

                I would but you give such good value on a word to idea basis, and I shudder to think of where else I could find such courteous opposition.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Speaking to the (very large) region that contemporary historians refer to as “the American West”, which runs from roughly the center of the Great Plains to the Pacific… (1) Most of the common historical memes are myths in the sense of having been blown out of proportion. Eg, Texas cattle drives were a thing for all of 20 years, from the period when eastern-financed railroads got close enough to make them practical to the time when eastern-financed railroads were extended far enough to make the drives unnecessary. (2) If one were to pick the plucky individualist who made a difference, it’s the prospector, not the cowboy or rancher or farmer. Of course, prospectors are a terrible role model for many different reasons. (3) The American West’s population has, for almost its entire history, been very non-rural*. Today, the West is the second least-rural region after the Northeast. Four of the ten least-rural states are western (in recent censuses, California and New Jersey go back and forth as the leader).

                * Census Bureau’s definition of non-rural, the details of which have changed often over the years, but the statement is true for all of the definitions. Certainly from 1880 or so, if you lived in “the West” chances were good you lived in town, relatively close to one of the few cities.Report

              • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

                If one were to pick the plucky individualist who made a difference, it’s the prospector, not the cowboy or rancher or farmer.

                My vote goes to the fur trapper. Those were the guys who really were going into uncharted wilderness, only to periodically pop up at the edge of civilization. They were the guides for the prospectors, when that time came.

                Of course the fur trappers weren’t actually going into terra incognita. They typically hooked up with Indians, who knew the ground perfectly well.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                My vote goes to the fur trapper.

                Those guys were French, Richard.Report

              • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

                I try to be open minded and not hold that against them.

                But seriously, these things always depend on when and where. Kit Carson was, among other things, a fur trapper, and not the least bit French.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Of course most fur trappers depended on long distance trade networks to sell their good. The mountain west fur trappers sold most/many furs to Europeans due to a hot fashion for fur. So those complete and total individuals were actually integrated into and partially caused by the global economy.

                They also trapped out most of west for generations so even if the fashions hadn’t changed they destroyed their own livelihood and damaged the environment.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Impact. To pick an example that’s near me, the Colorado Gold Rush starting in 1859 and the Silver Boom twenty years later shaped the state in ways that are still important today (the claim that turned into the Gold King mine of recent orange river fame was filed in 1887). The fur trappers before that, almost nothing. Even the near-extinction of the bison didn’t happen until the railroads arrived and made it practical to ship a million hides per year.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                To be fair varieties of this myth to exist in one way or another in many other immigrant/frontier countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the South African Whites, Israel and formerly among the Pied Noirs of French Algeria. The other varieties aren’t as big into capitalism as the American version but the basic sort of self-reliant and rugged individual mythos without the help of others is present.Report

            • Avatar LWA says:

              This illustrates why I find the libertarian concept of human nature so preposterous, literally not-believable.
              It proposes that society- modern, highly advanced complex society would somehow be better off if people were to be autonomous and more independent.
              Yet acknowledging that people universally prefer the opposite. That there is a revealed preference, a spontaneous order if you will, for groups, interdependence and semi-autonomy.

              Conservatism and liberalism express different but very real aspects of human desires; tradition vs. innovation, hierarchy vs egalitarianism…
              But the New Libertarian Man, like his Marxist doppelganger is a wholly fictitious concoction.Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                So the universal truth is that everyone wants to be a collectivist and pack into the liberal box of unity. So why hasn’t it happened?Report

              • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

                Go back and read the last paragraph of LWA’s comment.Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                Just typical LWA BS in that last paragraph:

                liberalism is great!
                conservatisms sucks!

                At least the conservatives see liberalism for the religious statist dogma it is and not some pie in the sky innovative egalitarianist utopia.

                The views here are leaned so far in that direction, reading it is often like chewing on glass.

                Liberalism is just another faction.Report

              • conservatisms sucks!

                You really do need to read that paragraph again,Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                This illustrates why I find the libertarian concept of human nature so preposterous, literally not-believable.

                There is no libertarian conception of human nature. Libertarianism is a set of policy preferences that are consistent with a wide variety of beliefs about human nature.

                Yet acknowledging that people universally prefer the opposite. That there is a revealed preference, a spontaneous order if you will, for groups, interdependence and semi-autonomy.

                Yes, many people like being able to externalize the costs of their lifestyles. This isn’t something that we just never noticed or have been living in denial about all this time. The point is not that this preference doesn’t exist, but that indulging it has bad long-run consequences.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Yah, “EVERYONE” thought that the only way to govern was a heredity monarchy, “endorsed” by a deity too. So what. People gradually concluded there was a better way to run their affairs. Now, “EVERYONE” believes that some form of “democracy” is the way to run things. Again, so what. Times change and so do people.

                I’d be very happy being left the hell alone. This is not some ideology I I took up in college to piss off my parents, it best reflects my personality and political view points. Frankly, I don’t give a damn what other people think or want about how they should govern their own lives. But no…YOU can’t tolerate that. YOU think I should behave as YOU want.

                *”YOU” being defined as society. I reject that idea in all but the most basic amount.Report

              • Avatar LWA says:

                But…you don’t want to be left alone.

                Speaking in libertarian terms, you want to reach in my pocket, and coercively extract my wealth and spend it on a regime of property defense and contract adjudication towards your benefit.
                I am not allowed to say no, or resist, or else men with guns will put me in a cage.

                I am not allowed to decided for myself whether or not someone’s property claim is valid- I am not allowed to assert any agency or control over the contracts which I pay to have enforced- if two people who I have never met make a contract, I am forced to adjudicate it and enforce it, whether I like it or not.

                See, if libertarians were merely asking to withdraw and form their own society, we wouldn’t be having any discussion. Instead libertarians are proselytizing, urging conversion and adoption of their set of policies and norms.Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                FTR, I have never seen Damon request/ask for the services you are saying he is requesting.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                1. Damon doesn’t need no stinkin gummint in his life.
                2. Generalize 1.
                3. Therefore, noone needs no stinkin government in their life!Report

              • Avatar Damon says:


                Trust me. Follow me as your new leader, nay…YOU’RE GOD!

                I am as generous as I am divine……I require only that you kneel.Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                I think Damon and I are the only ones who have a lawnchair and popcorn in reserve for the bon-fire of the precious.

                Where is jr anyway, he (i think jr is a he) brings alot more class to these discussions than I can muster.Report

              • Avatar Dave says:


                Where is jr anyway, he (i think jr is a he) brings alot more class to these discussions than I can muster.

                Come on. It’s good to have class. Today marks the 10,000th time I’ve had to suffer through this shitstain of a discussion. Yay us!!!Report

            • Avatar rexknobus says:

              Lots a great replies below, but I feel the need to chip in a bit, point-by-point, on @damon ‘s notions.

              1. Totally anecdotal, but in 65 years I have yet to meet anyone, anyone, who “(wasn’t) all that interested in ‘doing for themselves,'” unless you mean specific tasks and/or public service things like police work, trash collection, etc. Everyone I know desires autonomy and takes pleasure in personal accomplishment, however large or small. (Is this just some sort of veiled reference to “welfare queens”?)

              2. It is, indeed, a continual struggle to get a large, technologically advanced country to behave as a cohesive (and hopefully somewhat intelligent) tribe, but it’s hard to see how that isn’t still a desirable result. Isn’t that the purpose of the Constitution, etc?

              3. “People LOVE power.” How does that not negate your first point?

              “Location related factors”

              1. What percentage of people came to the Americas as opposed to were born here? In other words, we can count the Pilgrims on the “Mayflower” of 1620, but how many descendants did they have? (i.e., people who did not choose to come here). Also, as far as the colonization of the American West, you’ll find far fewer “first-borns” than you will find “seventh sons” among those wagon trains. Those who stood to inherit Dad’s farm stayed East. Those with less attractive choices took a shot Out West. The migrations west weren’t so much a “Spirit of Adventure” or “Rugged Individualism” as it was often “the Lesser of Two Evils.”

              2. Oh, so their communities and sense of community did have an important effect. O.k., then.

              To my (perhaps ill-informed) eye, an awful lot of libertarianism seems to come from reading “Shane” as a child (the cowboy mythos), graduating to John Galt (the egoism mythos) in one’s youth, and not bothering to move on to stuff that actually happened and is really possible.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “People LOVE power.” How does that not negate your first point?

                It doesn’t necessarily.

                One of the things that attracted me to libertarianism was that it was a constant reminder that I know myself best and I think I’m an alright guy, all things considered, and I also know that I ought not be trusted with power over others.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                I never read “Shane”.Report

              • Avatar rexknobus says:

                If you’ve ever read or watched a story where a gunman with a past comes to town, tries to clean up his act, is driven to righteous anger by the predations of some bad guy, and then shoots ’em all down…you’ve read “Shane.”

                (by the way, I recommend reading “Shane.” It’s a good one.)Report

              • Avatar rexknobus says:

                (sorry…idle afternoon)

                Actually, a nice little look into the mid-20th Century American psyche can be had by reading the novel and then watching the Alan Ladd movie version. Both classics. Both easy and fun, but the differences between the two can be very interesting. And, for me, very revealing of how post WWII America evolved.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            So…libertarianism is bad because it’s not popular, especially in highly dysfunctional countries?

            There do not seem to be any prominent people of color libertarians in the United States though.

            I’m not really dialed into movement libertarianism, but off the top of my head, I can think of Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder. Russell Means was fairly active in the Libertarian Party as well, though he died a few years ago. There was also a surprisingly large libertarian movement in Costa Rica about 10-15 years ago, winning several seats in the national parliament, though I’m not sure what happened with that.Report

            • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

              So…libertarianism is bad because it’s not popular, especially in highly dysfunctional countries?

              I think the argument is that libertarianism, like Marxism, ignores human nature. It is a beautiful system that elegantly solves the world’s problems, flawed only by the necessity of involving actual people. Hence my observation that when I look at today’s libertarians, I am reminded of the campus Marxists of my youth. Not in the content of the ideology, but in the personality type that is attracted to elegant solutions divorced from how real people act.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Libertarianism, like Marxism, requires a high-trust society.

                Libertarianism, like Marxism, has somewhat skewed upside/downside reward/punishments for cooperate/defect behavior that erodes the high-trust society that made Libertarianism, like Marxism, possible in the first place.

                This makes Libertarianism, like Marxism, unsustainable in the long run.

                There are a lot more Mass Graves in Marxism, for some reason. Graves caused by Libertarianism tend to be single plots.Report

              • Avatar James K says:


                That is required for the society to be functional in any sense, I don’t think there’s anything atypical about libertarianism.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It’s all about scale. You can have a small community that is high-trust and it’ll be “functional” even though the larger community consists of many small groups that mistrust each other.

                Libertarianism makes sense in a large high-trust community.

                Small tight ones? There are too many interconnected relationships.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think the argument is that libertarianism, like Marxism, ignores human nature.

                Just to be clear here, Richard, are you saying that that’s Lee’s criticism, or are you expressing your own criticism?

                For my part, I don’t think it’s that libertarianism ignores human nature – it’s heavily invested in maximizing wants and desires, minimizing pain and suffering, protecting individuals from the humanly-natural tendency to use power for personal gain, etc. – as much as it adopts (or requires) citizens to possess a type of human psychology that’s different than the one we have.Report

              • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

                Just to be clear here, Richard, are you saying that that’s Lee’s criticism, or are you expressing your own criticism?

                It is my criticism, but so far as I can tell it is consistent with Lee’s.

                For my part, I don’t think it’s that libertarianism ignores human nature – it’s heavily invested in maximizing wants and desires, minimizing pain and suffering, protecting individuals from the humanly-natural tendency to use power for personal gain, etc. – as much as it adopts (or requires) citizens to possess a type of human psychology that’s different than the one we have.

                It is hard to make general statements about libertarianism, as these discussions are rife with No True Scotsmen arguments. But in my experience, libertarians are terrible on the issue of protecting individuals from others’ use of power. They are obsessed with this in those circumstances where we call this use of power “government” but totally OK when we call it something else. Fictional libertopias gloss over this with a bunch of unstated assumptions that simply don’t ring true to how real people behave.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                To make myself clear, I was responding to the claim that libertarianism ignores human nature. I don’t think it does, as I said upthread. I think it tends to focus on only certain aspects of human nature.Report

              • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

                I think it tends to focus on only certain aspects of human nature.

                …while ignoring the rest, resulting in a theoretical construct that cannot possibly work with real people. Are we actually disagreeing, or are we in violent agreement?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                We’re agreeing so violently we’re in danger of mutually assured view destruction.

                Adding: My earlier comment could be viewed as a nitpick, I suppose, by taking a wide scope view of the meaning of “ignore”.Report

              • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

                I approve of what you say, and will defend to the death (though not necessarily mine) your right to say it.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “[Libertarianism] adopts (or requires) citizens to possess a type of human psychology that’s different than the one we have.”

                A type other than “people will always lie, cheat, and steal”?

                You’ve got this idea that libertarianism is about “people are basically good so stop messing them about and we’ll all be better off”. It’s actually about “people are basically bastards so stop letting people boss other people about and we’ll all be better off”.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Richard! Over here! This is an example of what I think we both mean by only focusing on bits of human nature and ignoring the rest.Report

              • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

                {examines the specimen through his monocle} Wot wot! By Jove, I do believe that you are onto something!Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                People boss others around just fine without the government. Most of Northern segregation was accomplished without much actual legislation but through private action.Report

              • Avatar James K says:


                That’s a better argument to make, but like most things about libertarianism it depends on the libertarian. I do agree that there are a lot of utopian libertarians running around, and I think they are missing something important about how people work. It’s not surprising that most libertarians have shallow political ideas because most people have shallow political ideas.Report

              • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

                It’s not surprising that most libertarians have shallow political ideas because most people have shallow political ideas.

                Yabbut, that really only works for upholding a conventional position. It is one thing to vaguely support one of the two parties, and vote pretty much party line if you happen to remember to vote. It is another thing to adopt a daring–even radical–political philosophy, but only shallowly. That is simply hipster bullshit.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If you’re not going to tow the lion, you better sure as hell be an orthodox non-lion tower!Report

              • Avatar James K says:


                I don’t have much respect for either group, but I don’t see following a stupid popular idea as being nay more or less creditable than following a stupid unpopular idea.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                Doesn’t following a stupid popular idea have some kind of Bayesian support? e.g given a large enough set of people, each of whom is on average X% likely to be right, some subset which is X% of that size will arrive at the correct view. Thus, for any given idea, if we have no independent reasons to think it good or bad, The fact that a lot of people endorse it is some reason to think it more likely to be true (at least if we think that our reference class of people are more likely than not to get things right)Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Please don’t insult libertarians by associating them with hipsters. That’s just an insult too far. Hipsters are WAY more annoying that libertarians.

                F’ing hipsters.Report

          • Avatar James K says:


            Again, I’m not sure what you’re getting at. I don’t evaluate policy ideas based on how many people think they’re a good idea, argumentum ad populum is a logical fallacy after all. And libertarianism is ultimately an outgrowth of the Scottish Enlightenment so its not that surprising it takes root in the countries most closely associated with the Scottish Enlightenment.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq says:

              Its more than argumentum ad populum. You can go to a non-Western country like Egypt and find people advocating a variety of solutions for the countries problems. Some argue for return to the roots Islamic government, others for socialism, others modern progressive democracy, and yet others military dictatorship or nationalist fascism. What never seems to happen is like somebody arguing for something like libertarianism as a solution. It just never occurs to them.

              Another way to put it is that libertarians sometimes argue that wouldn’t European Jews preferred to have lived in a non-state environment because there wouldn’t have been the administrative capacity for the Holocaust. Other libertarians argue that segregation would not have existed under minimal government so African-Americans should be libertarians. Neither group seems particularly naturally drawn to minimal government, free market politics even though the benefits should be obvious to both.Report

              • Avatar James K says:


                Yeah, I see that I just don’t care. People glom onto the political systems they can see, its availability bias, pure and simple. People debate the merits of the US healthcare system – a system that no one would attempt to build from scratch. Does its popular support in the US mean that it’s a good idea? No, it just means that people aren’t really thinking about solutions, they just look at what is in front of them.

                Furthermore, the idea that things shouldn’t be decided collectively is counter-intuitive because our intuitions evolved for communities of 50 people or so. The same used to be true of freedom of religion. Would LeeEsq circa 1775 be arguing against a secular republic because in the whole of history no one had seriously suggested trying it?

                I really do understand that libertarianism is counter-intuitive, but I don’t see how that relevant since intuition is not a reliable guide to truth, especially in environments that are very different to the ones in which that intuition evolved.Report

              • Avatar LWA says:

                There is more to it than simply “No one has ever proposed this”.

                Libertarians are proselytizing for a set of moral norms- i.e., This is important, that is less so, and the world would be a better place if everyone adopted this framework.

                And the same criticism that is leveled against religious missionaries can be stated here. That “things would be better if you embraced my ideas” is really just privileging the missionaries norms when it is asserted in the absence of honest and equal dialogue, when the targeted heathen’s ideas and worldview is not respected and given a hearing.

                Think of all the myriad cultures and stakeholder groups existent in our society- the things which are considered sacred or taboo, then things that are considered important and worth fighting over-how does libertarianism address or even recognize them? Or does it merely dismiss them in favor of its own unexamined intuitions?

                Associating it with “classic liberalism” illustrates this, even if unintentionally.

                The modern critique of Enlightenment era liberalism is that they trotted around the world blithely assuming that the abstract concepts of property and contract that made sense in England made sense in North America- and that conversely the concepts of property and contract held by say, the Native Americans could be dismissed without consideration.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “when it is asserted in the absence of honest and equal dialogue”

                What if I told you that libertarians were big fans of honest and equal dialogue?Report

              • Avatar LWA says:

                I would ask for evidence.

                Just to be clear, since I am using the language of theology in describing them as “proselytizing for a set of moral norms” let’s continue in that vein.

                Honest and equal dialogue means to listen to the cultural and moral frameworks of the other, without judgement or dismissal.

                If the attempt to “make better ” the other ones life is premised on a refutation of the others most sacred notions then the attempt at conversion is self serving and dishonest.
                If it doesn’t address and seek to advance the others cherished goals then it isn’t an attempt at betterment, it is an attempt at conquest.

                When a libertarian asserts that “the world would be better if X”, whose version of “better” is referenced?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The comparison I make is not between “people who believe things” and “people who don’t believe things (at least not enough to advocate for them” but between “people who are willing to tolerate/entertain opposing viewpoints” and “people who are not willing to tolerate/entertain opposing viewpoints”.

                And to be perfectly honest, I don’t understand why in the heck you’d see the former as more useful than the latter in this discussion (and, doubly unable to understand, when looking at the historical context of what the absence of honest and equal dialog has entailed).Report

              • Avatar LWA says:

                Sorry, I don’t see what you are getting at here.Report

              • I’d point to the comments section at Reason and laugh at you.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                While it’s true that a handful of folks have gotten bans, it’s mostly due to some serious abuses of the forum.Report

              • I meant the ones who haven’t been banned, and their penchant for bullying, abusing anyone with even slightly differing views, and turing the comments into an echo chamber.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:


                “bullying, abusing anyone with even slightly differing views, and turing the comments into an echo chamber.”

                I’d classify that behavior, at least on this forum, as coming from those I’d identify as being on the left side of the fence, given that’s the greater proportion of posters.Report

              • It must not be effective, since you’re still here and unrepentant. (Both very good things, by the way.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                given that’s the greater proportion of posters.

                I’m not sure I understand this. The easy way to make sense of it is that you’re saying there’s a logical entailment between being in the majority [edit: or having greater numbers] and engaging in bullying behavior. Is that right?Report

              • Avatar Damon says:


                Still, what I was trying to say is that, given the majority of poster’s political outlooks, “bullying, abusing anyone with even slightly differing views, and turing the comments into an echo chamber.” is coming from them, if only because they are the majority of the posters, not necessarily that ALL of those actions are coming from that segment.Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                @ Damon
                They don’t see the multitude of little snarky jabs as being anything (if they are seen at all). I must say you and jr were a breath of fresh air when you showed.

                The many times you have clearly stated the view that you want to be left alone, as a basis of non-aggression, has rarely if ever been respected by many leftists here. Just repeatedly attacked, ‘we can’t leave you alone because x’.

                There is almost no pushback against the left here, that’s the general flavor and they like it that way. I thought it may get better over the last couple of years, but it is what it is, and I probably don’t belong here.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Jo, @joe-sal

                You belong anywhere you damn well want to belong. I stay around because the posters on this forum are generally respectful, argue better, have more intelligent points, and are more accepting / tolerating of outlying opinions. It’s not my purpose to convert, but it’s always good for the majority to be reminded that theirs is not the totality of thinking, regardless of how poorly I express those points.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                One of the problems with Damon’s view is that it creates a default veto-power over the implementation of presumably any policy. If D doesn’t agree to policy P, then P is unjust and can’t be implemented. As stated, I find that to be a pretty thin rationale for not only opposing, but rejecting, gummint, myself. But let’s go down the rabbit hole…

                In the best of circumstances, such a view can be defended by arguing – as some libertarians have done – that government is not and cannot be justified. A less radical thesis is to circumscribe some set of necessary services which government has the legitimate authority to provide – NightWatchmen and all that – and so taxing structures and laws are justified in only that limited scope. Moving out even more, some libertarians think that redistribution of wealth by gummint is actually justified (negative income tax, for example) for pragmatic as well as perhaps principled reasons. Still others think certain types of collective action problems justify government action in areas that go beyond the NightWatchmens state.

                So, the fact that Damon says he wants to be left alone exists on the outside edge of the libertarian spectrum, one which requires establishing that government activity cannot be justified in any form whatsoever.

                Or were you understanding his claim as something less radical?Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                “One of the problems with Damon’s view is that it creates a default veto-power over the implementation of presumably any policy. ”

                Dear God, if only it were true! If I had that kind of veto power, the world would be a vastly different thing. But that’s silly talk after all, the “majority” want what they’ve got, so I really don’t have a veto do I?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                No, course not. But I was supposing, perhaps incorrectly, that both you and Joe Sal are talking about these issues at the level of justification: ie, that since you oppose policy P gummint is not justified in compelling you to act consistently with P.Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                His position is a hell of alot less radical than mine. If egalitarianism was truly about ‘sacred notion’ then the system built around it could have an anarchist happily living next to a statist with no problem.

                There are 7 billion ‘others’ out there and to even construct mandatory policy under any umbrella of consent is ignorance in the flesh. To that context the veto argument is a false argument.

                Not only that, but to continue to subscribe services to something I would consider a institution that has been repeatedly proven to cause such a significant quantum of damage domestically and abroad is just profoundly uncreative.

                If that falls outside the optics of libertarian, I don’t know what else to call it.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Joe Sal,

                I’m not being glib here, but I don’t know how to respond to that comment. There are both principled and practical reasons many libertarians support a state (a minimalist state, no doubt, but a state nonetheless), and you seem to be on the other side of even that view. I mean, I disagree, but I can only say why by challenging the reasons you’ve provided for that view. And what you’ve said so far (seems to me) is that universal consent is impossible (which is what I’ve been saying all along!) and that states have caused harm domestically and internationally (which I agree with!).Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                Is there not a reason that a state could be produced to some reasonable extent to meet LWA or other statist preferences that doesn’t aggress against non statists?

                One of the reasons I get upset about this discussion is that its not a fist stopping at the end of a nose proposition.

                The statists knuckles are already bloody. Its a matter of the need to stop swinging ‘valid’ government into noses before they drawing back a bloody stump.Report

              • Avatar LWA says:

                Forget about my preferences-

                Do you think your hypothetical non-statist can live within a minarchist state without being the victim of aggression?Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                Damn skippy.
                (that means yes)Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                Putting this in the vein of the religion sounds like:
                Do you believe if you don’t go to church you will go to hell?Report

              • Avatar LWA says:


                See this is what I honestly don’t get.

                The most basic thing a minarchist state does is say,

                Here is what constitutes property and contract. There can be no other competing definitions allowed. Those who object will be ignored, and any resistance to these definitions will be crushed with violence.”

                Right? I mean, its not like the state can say, “Everyone just make up your own mind as to what the property boundaries are.” Because if so, I got dibs on Central Park.

                Even if this set of definitions is erected via near-unanimous acclamation, there will always be dissenters. Who will decry their oppression as you do.

                For a practical example, think of the competing definitions of property between the Europeans and the Native Americans.
                They had two wholly incompatible concepts of what property was, how it could be divided, and handled.

                How could a libertarian minarchist state have handled this, without aggression?Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                Ah, your using a fairly specific definition of minarchist state. I was assuming a definition of state with the minimal amount of scope/service that could still function without a monopoly of force and property services. (or at least property that would fall outside the state defined control mechanisms)

                FTR I never went through a minarchist or anarcho-capitalism stage. Warren anarchy was the only ground I found desirable. Even that had to be modified to account for subjective value.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                The politics on this site reflect (rather generally) my real life interactions, so it’s nothing new. I’m used to being told, when I honestly speak about my political outlook, “I can’t believe you think like that.” I view my purpose as one to remind others that not everyone thinks they way they do.Report

              • As I said, I’m glad you’re here, even if you do annoy me at times. (I’d like to say “because you annoy me at times”, but I’m not that evolved a person.)Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Thank you 🙂Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I’m glad you’re here too, Damon. Ala Burt’s prior post, you’re a perfect idiot.*

                *That is, a person who expresses views that are individual, personal, private, and distinct.

                Adding: Do I need to smiley face this? I feel like I need to smiley face this…Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                No emoticons needed. Please forward cash instead..Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Are the behaviors you’re describing different than the one’s that LWA is describing? Or, at least, do you see how someone might say “one might be a subset of the other, but the two sets are nowhere near co-extensive”?Report

              • They’re quite different, I think, but I was responding only to “big fans of honest and equal dialogue”.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, from what I understand, the attitudes and intuitions that helped forge the First Amendment have evolved since the days of Voltaire.

                xkcd explains.

                I don’t know that “big fans of honest and equal dialog” necessarily entails there not being private spheres, let alone a private sphere with a door to be shown nor that interlocutors never be shown it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “Evolved” might be the wrong word.


              • I don’t know that “big fans of honest and equal dialog” would engage in bullying to the point where they never have to engage with ideas they might disagree with rather than living in the comfort of an echo chamber where they’re never challenged. But perhaps I have the wrong idea of what “honest and equal” means; it might exclude statism, or at least require it be preceded by a trigger warning.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                There are the behaviors that one has in “the public sphere” and the behaviors that one has in one’s own little hugbox.

                The position that says that people who claim to respect free speech shouldn’t be allowed hugboxes is an interesting position.

                I do not know whether I would agree with it, though.Report

              • Of course they’re allowed them. (Is it generally a libertarian thing to assume that if a liberal criticizes something, he’s eager to ban it?) Just as I’m allowed to disrespect the way they behave within them. When it comes to echo chambers, Reason is even worse than LGM, and that’s pretty bad.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Is it generally a libertarian thing to assume that if a liberal criticizes something, he’s eager to ban it?

                I think that the assumption is that every single time that liberals ban something, they lay groundwork first by criticizing it… and so the criticism ought to be responded to as if it were a precursor to the something that ought to be done in response to the thing that needs criticism.

                Much like with police abuse, it’s a case where a few, non-representative, bad apples ruined it for everybody.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Well that is at least honest. But really that is a pretty jaundiced view of liberals by libertarians. It’s a like a strawman come to life. Like if you think that is how liberals generally are, then they don’t know squat about how liberals actually think. Yes i know here comes specific data points that prove that is what liberals are like, which mostly will show the narrow foggy lens libertarians look at liberals through.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Eh, all the data points would prove is that it’s not a strawman and then you could say that those data points are not TRUE data points and then I could engage in some special pleading and then you could get all tu quoque and then when I said that you were getting all ad hominem, you could get all personal incredulity on me.

                But maybe I’m begging the question here.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                And you have to do it in a Scottish accent.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                “all the data points would prove is that it’s not a strawman ” Umm bingo thanks for proving me right. Really that is just silly. So liberals are trying to ban everything? Or every complaint turns into a “ban”? Nonsense. If you want to get into the “some liberal somewhere said something sort of like that” than that is fine. Then we can just go with all conservitives want people without health insurance to suffer ( which i’ve heard out of real people mouths) or all libertarians ( insert strawman here, but i’ll bet i can find some one, some place who said it).

                This doesn’t seem much different from back in the day when liberals supporting the ACLU made us all commies and pro crime. I guess now we know that no liberals ever supported the ACLU or they weren’t real liberals.

                And really, “all the data points” you have set yourself up with a huge task to back that up.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Actually, Greg, restating my argument into an argument that I have not made and then attacking that argument *IS* to argue against a strawman.

                This is one of those things where you and I have butted heads before. If there are only a few examples of something, it’s better to say that those examples are not representative of the whole (and, thus, that I’m using the fallacy of composition) than to say that I’m arguing against a strawman.

                If the examples exist, then they exist. They’re real. You need to argue that the examples that are real and exist should be ignored rather than that people who argue against them are arguing against positions that no one holds or arguments that no one has made.Report

              • Avatar Dave says:


                I think that the assumption is that every single time that liberals ban something, they lay groundwork first by criticizing it… and so the criticism ought to be responded to as if it were a precursor to the something that ought to be done in response to the thing that needs criticism.

                If there’s going to be a ban or some other form of regulation or restriction on an activity, there should be a reason why said activity should be banned or regulated. I see nothing wrong with that.

                However, to suggest that we respond to criticism as if the person will suggest a ban is taking it too far.

                For example, I know we’ve discussed CEO pay on this site a number of times, and I also know that I’ve seen the strongest criticism of high CEO pay coming from the more liberal commenters. However, I’ve never seen a fully developed argument for caps on executive compensation, which by your thinking could be the next step.

                Not only that, but by responding the way you suggest, you risk arguing against a position that person may not hold. Would you like it if someone did that to you?

                I think @greginak is right. Consider this. People like @mike-schilling , @greginak , you and me have been here since the beginning (I did depart for a bit). If that’s the approach you choose to take with people, it is what it is but it’s not just holding a tone deaf view towards political opponents. You’re also making assumptions towards people you ought to know things about.

                I really like you Jay, but this comment really puzzled me. At some point, we need to step back from what positions we hold and recognize that we’re talking to people on the other end of these devices.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I was more attempting to describe a phenomenon than hold it up as an example to be followed.

                Also, Brother Carr wrote this about capping CEO pay. The comments get into the theories more than Carr did, of course.

                To deny your specific example is not to invalidate the criticism, however.

                I will say that there are a number of examples of “there oughta be a law!” following criticisms of any given thing (from either one of the two real parties… from pants sagging to discussions revolving around how best to address obesity) to allow for understanding why there are people who leap to the conclusion that complaints about any given social/cultural phenomenon are about to be followed by something being done.

                If all we’re doing is complaing about the kids these days listening to Miley Cyrus, well, allow me to join in.

                But if Tipper Gore starts complaining about it too, then I would certainly understand if people thought that her complaints were building up to something else.

                As I said, it’s like police abuse. A few, non-representative, bad apples ruined it for everybody.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                But jay, you keep just pointing at that example and saying it holds for all people who define as liberal. If lots and lots of people in a group hold a view then that might be reasonable. But, if you remember, Tipper ( oh man her parents must have hated her to name her that) and the AlBot were considered on conservative side of D’s and they were southern. That could prove that people from the south like to ban things. And of course there were also plenty of liberal types who criticized the hell out of the Tippster. This also led to a great Mojo Nixon song but that is a digression. You point to only the data point you want and say it proves your point.

                Simply many liberals could be described as ACLU liberals. That may not fit what you want to see, but doesn’t mean it isnt’ there.

                This link does not actually mean i truly support arson or the banning of anything. Really i mean that.


              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                (oh man her parents must have hated her to name her that)

                That’s Mary Elizabeth “Tipper” Gore to you.Report

              • If she were a Bush she’d be Meg.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                But jay, you keep just pointing at that example and saying it holds for all people who define as liberal.

                No I did not.

                I said, and I’ll cut and paste it again, “it’s like police abuse. A few, non-representative, bad apples ruined it for everybody.”

                To argue against my position as if it were “it holds for all people who define as liberal” is to argue against a strawman as I have not argued that.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                and so the [liberal’s] criticism ought to be responded to as if it were a precursor to the something [ie., passin a law] that ought to be done in response to the thing that needs criticism.

                Seems to me you’re trying to escape on a technicality, since you’re conceding that from a functional pov your suggestion is to treat every liberal complaint as if it entailed a desire to pass a law.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Adding: which is even more extreme than the claim Greg is challenging you on. Seems to me you’re denying that you think every liberal’s complaint is accompanied by a desire to pass a law, yet what you’re effectively saying is that irrespective of whether or not a particular liberal’s complaint expresses a desire to pass a law, we ought to treat it as if it did.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                yet what you’re effectively saying is that irrespective of whether or not a particular liberal’s complaint expresses a desire to pass a law, we ought to treat it as if it did.

                No, not at all. I’m not arguing that “we” ought to treat it as if it did. I am more arguing that “we” ought not be surprised to find that the response to a “liberal” (or a “conservative”, for that matter) complaining about a cultural phenomenon will include pre-emptive counter-arguments against legislation.

                To be honest, it strikes me as a situation where the best response would be something like “nobody is suggesting that we pass a law against sagging, keep your pants on” and then get back to complaining about sagging. (Or whatever cultural phenomenon you’d prefer.)

                But my saying that should not be read as prelude to me talking about passing a law.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I am more arguing that “we” ought not be surprised to find that the response to a “liberal” (or a “conservative”, for that matter) complaining about a cultural phenomenon will include pre-emptive counter-arguments against legislation.

                Well sure. That’s the front line you exist on! You’re the one who lobs the preemptive counterarguments! It’s your basic (and frankly, tired and tiring) schtick.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Which is why a counter-argument of “no, we’re not arguing that cultural phenomenon ought to be regulated, we’re just complaining about it” ought to be okay.

                Perhaps people should wait before someone says something to the effect of “our culture has a compelling interest in the issue this cultural phenomenon represents”. Sure. It’s not fair to assume that a song will be a three chord song just because you’ve heard two chords. It might be a Burt Bacharach song and he’s going to jump around all over the place and do all kinds of chord progressions.

                I’m just saying that there have been enough three-chord songs to provide a basis for why someone might jump to the conclusion that any given song’s next chord is going to be A.

                Whether there is going to be enough evidence for an inductive argument with firm footing is, I suppose, going to focus on defining “firm footing”.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, let me flip it around for a moment.

                Let’s say that there were a 50-year old complaining about those kids these days wearing their pants around their knees. Walking around with their boxers hanging out. It’s obscene, it looks stupid, I don’t know why they’re doing that sort of thing. Is it because of criminal culture because I heard that you can’t wear belts in the joint. Seriously, pull your danged pants up!

                Do you see how or why someone might respond to that not with arguments about fashions changing and how, when you were a kid, people wore parachute pants and thought that they were cool and how grownups were complaining about that but, instead, respond with “well, they should be allowed to do that”?

                It’s not my argument that all 50 year olds who complain about the kids with their pants on the ground, pants on the ground, looking like a fool with their pants on the ground want to pass a law.

                But that there’s enough precedence out there for someone to get ready for that argument despite the fact that all the old guy was doing was complaining about teens having their pants on the ground.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Vectors! Even if irrational!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                My argument is that it’s fuzzily rational.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Three value rational…Report

              • Avatar aarondavid says:

                I once spent 2 hours trying to explain Mojo and Skid to my wife (all of 3 years younger than me…) and I still get blank stares when ever I sing “Elvis needs boats!”Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                I hope you don’t sing about stuffin martha’s muffin. Nothing good would come of that.Report

              • JB’s only here because I’ve been too busy to get around to banning him. Maybe after the baseball season ends.Report

              • I think that the assumption is that every single time that liberals ban something, they lay groundwork first by criticizing it

                Unlike other groups, that ban things they like.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Oh, they’re not unique! Not by any means!

                Social conservatives complain about gay marriage and abortion, fiscal conservatives complain about high taxes, hawks complain about a lack of democracy.

                And while it may be completely unfair to jump to the conclusion that any given social conservative ranting about the problems of abortion will shortly be talking about the need for a law…

                I’d like to think that we’d understand why someone might respond to such a rant with arguments that change the subject to a woman’s right to choose.Report

              • Yeah, SoCons who’ve been saying for years that they want a specific thing to be illegal is a perfect analogy for people in general saying “this sucks”.

                Seriously, you usually make a lot more sense than this.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, I figured that if I used the complaint about the obesity crisis and mentioned… well, you-know-who and his attempt to do you-know-what… it’d get the response of how you-know-who isn’t representative of anything (and wasn’t he a Republican?) and, besides, he failed.

                I’ll grant that it would have been a better comparison, though.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Oh yeah…that thing, which was dumb, but hasn’t spread any place else is clearly an example of what a large group of people all believe. So therefore all Christians believe in going to jail to prevent gays from marrying because of you know who. Take that Christians, we know what you all think. This is easy.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I saw greginak’s comment in the sidebar, but not what he was referring to. I’m going to guess it’s the large cup of soda ban, you know the one that other than never going info effect was pretty much the end of the world as we know it.

                Did I win?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Yup that was the thing that ended moral panic that ended freedom for ever.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Actually the “soda ban” did have legs. My local county instituted something similar for all public property and county events. That created such a ruckus that the new admin revoked it, but the county commission is diligently working to reinstate it on public property again.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                or at least require it be preceded by a trigger warning.

                “The following essay contains references to government that aren’t wholly unfavorable…”Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                @lwa this gets to the heart of my criticism. Libertarianism presents itself to be a universal solution to a lot of the world’s problems. It does not appear to be solution that occurs naturally to a lot of people or make sense to them once it is explained to them.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          Credo quia absurdum.Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

        The discussion reminds me of the observation that makes a certain kind of libertarian bristle, along the lines of: If you want minimal government and unrestricted right to bear arms, you could try Somalia. I’m sure we’ve had some variation of it in these parts one time or another. I might even have been involved.

        The claim, however, that “something even remotely resembling Anglo-American libertarian thought never appeared or occurred in most of the non-Anglophone world including most other European and European derived societies” is flat wrong and deeply uninformed, unless Austria was transplanted when I wasn’t looking. Contemporary Anglo-American libertarian thought is arguably an Austrian import, or anyway is a vehicle with substantial “foreign content” under the hood.

        There are some other interesting issues raised by the initial observation, but can we get the silliness out of the way first?Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          Note that said most rather than all. I’m well aware that many of the intellectual ground work of modern libertarianism, especially on the economic front, was done by Austrians like Hayek and that the metaphysics was provided by a Russian, Ayn Rand. Still, the majority of libertarians seem to come from Anglophone countries. Hayek and more influence in the English speaking world than on Continental Europe.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            How come Asian and South American communism killed so many people but Northern European and Jewish communism killed so few?Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq says:

              Sarcasm on:

              The lower population levels in Northern Europe and Jewish communities gave Communists in those communities less people to kill. You need masses for mass murder.

              Sarcasm off.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              This may just be a terminology/geographic nitpick, but the USSR was sort of “Northern Europe”, by my lights. I mean, yeah, it was “Eastern” also, but..

              At least, I didn’t consider it “Asian”; even though it spanned much of that continent as well.Report

          • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

            If “Libertarianism” refers to a specific political-intellectual movement named and founded in the period roughly coinciding with World War II and the victory of the welfare-warfare Roosevelt-liberal state, and formed in relation to it, then of course it tends to be articulated, both intellectually and practically-politically, in and in relation to the Anglosphere.

            It “libertarianism” refers to the political-economic ideas of so-called “classical liberalism” traced in particular to Adam Smith, and as eventually expanded upon by Hayek and others, then it was effectively the consensus ideology of the European powers from the 19th Century through the European catastrophe – as free market liberalism. (Read Polanyi, really, you’d like him! – just be aware that some of his anthropology is now considered obsolete.) Incidentally, Germany sustained a “major-minor” party, the FDP – Freie Demokratische Partei – very much in this tradition. A frequent coalition partner of for the larger parties, it only just recently fell out of the Bundestag with <5% of the national vote, for the first time since 1949. Under whatever name, libertarianism/liberalism of this type arises again wherever that political-economic model is being advanced or re-created – often as “neo-liberalism” (under the generally in use definition, not the fanciful ones sometimes adopted by liberals who like to think they’re trying something “new”).

            If “libertarianism” refers most essentially to political philosophies developed from a set of observations about human nature and the nature of existence, among other things emphasizing the rights of the individual against any state, as “liberty,” then it is arguably the core ideology of the Modern Era, with a lineage directly and consequentially traceable to ancient sources in religion and philosophy. Obviously, when we discuss “libertarianism” and “libertarians” here, we mean something much narrower than “those stressing the liberty interest,” but determining the scope of libertarian influence according to the appearance of recognizable Murray Rothbard clones in exotic locales is still highly misleading.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Good comment, CK. I’m not sure I completely agree with what you’ve said, or agree that what you’ve said is complete, but it’s a very good starting point for further discussion. Unfortunately, by breaking things down so narrowly you’ve made the topic so complicated we can no longer make pithy comments cleverly reconfirming our own narrow views, which is the death of the internets.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          You know who else was an Austrian import?Report

      • Avatar El Muneco says:

        I have been kicking this around on spare processing cycles in the back of my head for a while, and there are a couple thoughts that I haven’t invalidated yet:

        (1) Libertarianism is a great way of organizing things when you’re at the capstone of the Maslow hierarchy already. It’s not a great way to get from one level to another. The same is probably true for state communism.

        (2) It only works if you already self-organize to deal with the State as an individual. Even in the USA, this demographic is largely confined to cis white males upper-middle-class or higher. Most other constituencies either deal with the State as a group, or (for e.g. teenage Muslim science students) the State deals with them as a group.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Out of curiosity, where would you place the historical high water marker from which society has been downwardly spiraling (Or markers if you believe it’s been zigzagging).Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          We should just leave the place to the dolphins.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            Actually, they will be smart enough to get out before us. They tried to warn us, but the message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double-backwards-somersault through a hoop whilst whistling the ‘Star Spangled Banner’; in fact the message was this: “So long and thanks for all the fish.”

            (You really should read the book. It’s very short, you can knock it out in an afternoon or two, and it’s very very funny).Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              I’ve read all of them, first when I was a teenager, and again 4 or 5 years ago (which is actually the first time I read the 5th). I even had the text-based game in the 80s (I still have the “Don’t Panic” button that came with it, though I misplaced the bag of pocket lint long ago). Because I loved them so much as a teen, they had an outsized influence on my personality. The number 42 is everywhere, I make dolphin and mice jokes frequently, I use the method of flying (forget the ground) as a metaphor, Zaphod is a name I give to characters in video games, as is Ford Prefect, and I always remember a towel.

              I also like the Dirk Gently books, and have been known to use the Dirk’s navigation method.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Its usually when FDR was first elected President.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          I thought I’d ask rather than assume.Report

          • Avatar Damon says:

            Nah, it was the Whiskey Rebellion. 🙂Report

            • Avatar North says:

              If you actually thought it was the high water mark then I’d assert with confidence that some 50-60% of the population (Women, Blacks, Gays) would heartily disagree with you.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                You mean like how they all disagree with me on almost every other issue? Why should I be surprised?Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Well since those various groups together are the majority of the people in this nation I’ll say that their opinions should have a certain weight and I’ll add on our behalf that if the gains we’ve achieved since then represent spiraling then here’s hoping for more and more spiraling.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Tyranny of the majority. Yes indeed. Whether or not the majority is correct is not relevant. Everyone is just supposed to confirm and obey because obviously the majority should be deferred to since the majority thinks one way.

                Sounds like a good argument to support all kinds of sins, past and present.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                A good point, likewise when one looks at the majority and says “Sure you were respectively: enslaved property, near enslaved chattel and a terrorized and despised minority but taxes and regulations were low on the rest of us during that golden age we have lamentably lost!” one should not be surprised if the reception is unsympathetic.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                @north, amen brother.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Here is my attempt to bring you back, back to the pleasant mélange of the somewhat less important than presidential politics:


  3. Avatar Morat20 says:

    Here’s my joyful attempt to bring you happy, shiny distractions: Due to some nagging issues when jogging, I am undergoing physical therapy, which I highly recommend to anyone with biomechanical problems and a love of having very fit, cheerful, competent people inform them of the painful exercises they’ll be doing for the next month.

    Which should make you happy because in a land with the crazy politics we have, there are cheerful, happy, optimistic professionals out there who want nothing more than to see you healthy and happy.

    And also bill you, because they gotta eat. But that aside,, they seem eager to help people and it’s a very nice atmosphere and it’s a nice reminder that not everyone is a nutball and that not everything is rubbish.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Well, do your PT and get better soon!Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        I am! My back already feels better. It’s all simple stuff (although my family finds it hilarious that I am at a ‘sports medicine facility’ given my history of not being one for sports).

        Stiff ankles, weak hips. Causing both my calf cramps when jogging AND my lower back pain, so we’re killing two birds there.

        Anyone would feel better about life if you met some of the folks that work there. Very nice people!Report

    • Avatar Dave says:


      Now this is a conversation I can get into.

      Good PT people are good to know, and they are exactly how you describe. I hope therapy goes as well as it sounds like.

      I’ve done less jogging recently and used a rowing machine for HIIT sprints. 30 seconds active, 1 minute rest. I ended up getting shin splints doing 400 meter sprints. Oops.

      What are you going to do about hip strength?Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        Marches (on your back, do a bridge, and then lift each leg while keeping your hips level) and clamshells (side, hips vertical, ankles together and knees drawn up, then separate knees while keeping hips stacked). They’re adding resistance to the marches — which will increase over time. I also do the marches at home, twice a day.

        Clamshells found another small problem (range of motion issue on my left side), which added in another fun exercise. I can still do the clamshells though, they just do some manipulation of the hip and thigh to loosen it up first.

        There’s a lot of manipulation or the ankles to increase mobility, plus exercise at home to keep the increase range of motion. (Just got a new home exercise for my left leg for that hip thing).

        There’s a few other things like a warmup on a bike, squats (which I apparently do wrong), left lifts on a machine, balance stuff (each side), some body weight stuff (one foot on the ground, lift up onto your toes), etc.

        It’s about 70% ankles, 30% hips because the marches are hitting the weak muscle group, and they don’t need to do manipulations. I have plenty of flexibility.

        It’s pretty cool, actually. I’ve only had 2.5 sessions (the half session was partly eval) and I’ve seen a noticeable improvement in my ankle motion and my back pain has vanished. I didn’t think the manipulations would do much. I’m also very good at doing my home exercises too, because back pain sucks and I’d like to start jogging again.

        I honestly never noticed ANY of these problems, especially not the ankles thing. But once they started loosening them, I could really tell. I didn’t know they were supposed to move any further than they did, you know? That was just normal.

        All because I went in complaining of shin and calf pain when jogging! Turns out it’s all stability — ankles that don’t flex enough and weak hips = wobbly jogger, which means your calves and shin muscles (especially the outside ones) do a TON of work keeping you stable. Work they’re not supposed to do.

        I have high hopes for when it’s all over, even though I’m giving up some ground — it’ll be three or four weeks before I can get back on the horse, as it were. But I’m not dumb enough to try it without being told I can.Report

        • Avatar El Muneco says:

          I’ll add these to my off-day weight/stretching/calisthenics workout…

          I really need to see my PT – I’m having terrible soreness/flexibility issues at the attachment point of both Achilles. But my PT always makes me stop playing soccer during therapy, so I’m going to try to keep doing pain/swelling maintenance until the weather turns.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            Achilles stuff can take a long time to heal and is really easy to irritate again.

            The marches are pretty good for the lower back, as long as you keep your hips level. Add in a resistance band if it gets too easy (around your thighs). I do 30 2xday.

            I get the impression Pilates works in a LOT of these sort of exercises. You might look into some of their moves.Report

        • Avatar Dave says:


          I wouldn’t call it giving up ground. You’ll have a better chance of sticking with it and making gains in the long run. You’ll also have a better base to work off of. Best of luck with it!Report

  4. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Poor Burt! Look what we did to his no-politics thread.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Holy crap. There must be 100 comments in this recapitulation of the “libertarians argue like THIS” exchange, which even in non-political Lent times I enjoy as much as the recapitulation of the “white people dance like THIS” joke at the local Har-De-Har Auditorium. Fortunately, I’ve not read any of it and may now assign it the same level of concern I do to Kim Khardashian’s shoes.Report

  5. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    CK MacLeod: The discussion reminds me of the observation that makes a certain kind of libertarian bristle, along the lines of: If you want minimal government and unrestricted right to bear arms, you could try Somalia.

    Somalia is, of course, not what most libertarians are arguing for. It is to some degree an argument against anarchism, though I’m not really an anarchist and can’t tell you how an anarchist would respond. What it most assuredly is not is an argument against scaling the government back to a minimal night-watchman state, because a huge part of Somalia’s problem is that there is no night watchman, leaving a power vacuum to be filled by warlords.

    It should be pretty clear that Somalia’s problems have jack-all to do with the lack of a gargantuan welfare state redistributing 30% or more of its GDP. We have examples of actual governments in Asia (Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) that function quite well on budgets that are less than half the share of GDP spent by most western European governments—so well, in fact, that they’ve come from far behind to reach and surpass European levels of development in the space of fifty years or so.

    But sure. When we get government spending from 35% of GDP down to 17%, we’re going to have to think long and hard about how much lower it should go.Report

    • Avatar Joe Sal says:

      One aspect of Mogadishu was there was no traditional concept of a secular market for a night watchman. That and the fact that they desired their justice system be partially built around the morality of religion (in an attempt to keep the judges from being corrupt).

      Anarchy faded because the preferences were something else.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      Hong Kong was a British Crown Colony without much in local self-government until 1997 when the PRC set a somewhat sham-self government for Hong Kong. The residents of Hong Kong had very little say in how it was governed between 1945 and 1997 and still have little say. If Britain actually democratized Hong Kong after 1945 than we might see more social spending.

      Taiwan was self-governing but it was a sham democracy to. If it became an actual democracy after the Chinese Civil War rather than an autocracy, there might be more social spending to,

      I’ll grant you Singapore has a self-governing democracy, in theory, without much GDP spending. However, some aspects of Singapore law are highly authoritarian and contrary to libertarian thought even if the economics line up with what libertarians want more.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        I would like to think that no one needs it pointed out that none of the nations mentioned, maintain 800 military bases around the world and act as the defacto global policeman.

        Were that the case, I bet we would see spending tick up a notch.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Chewing on this all night. The fallacy isn’t as much a strawman one as much as it is the slippery slope one.

    The pattern:

    Social Cultural Phenomenon. Let’s call it P.

    We have here P.

    There are complaints about P.

    Some complaints about P might be aesthetic in nature. Sure, fine. Whatever. You can’t argue about matters of taste, after all.

    Some complaints about P might be moral arguments. (And these can take all kinds of flavors. From “God said this about P” to “P is/is not natural” and so on. There is some potential to make moral arguments that include the next category.)

    Some complaints about P might be, for lack of a better term, economic in nature. Something where the benefits to P are localized (or individual benefits) and the costs to P are socialized (the costs/benefits need not be monetary). (There can be overlap with moral arguments but there don’t necessarily have to be. There can be a dispassionate version of this argument in its own right.)

    Some complaints smoosh some (or all) of these together. (For example, I could see complaints about The Superhero Apocalypse using complaints about aesthetics at the same time as complaining about what it means that our culture is, on a massive scale, catering to adolescent male power fantasies rather than to more serious pursuits.)

    Historically, when there has been sufficient arguments establishing that there is not only a moral issue at play but also an, for lack of a better term, economic one, this has led to a call for something to be done (it helps branding somewhat if there are aesthetic problems as well… an ugly problem can get a full head of steam faster than a similiarly moral/economic pretty problem (but it’s certainly not required)).

    And, historically, when there have been a sufficient number of calls for something to be done, something has been attempted to be done. Not necessarily out-and-out prohibition (though there are precedents for that sort of thing) but regulation would also be a something that might follow from a sufficient number of calls for something to be done.

    The conclusion that someone is building up to suggesting regulation does not necessarily follow from someone complaining about a moral issue. It doesn’t necessarily follow that someone complaining about socialized costs/localized benefits will lead to them suggesting regulation.

    So someone who sees a person complaining about Social Cultural Phenomenon P and then concludes that the discussion will take a turn toward “Something Ought To Be Done!” is fallacious.

    But when you look at all of the Ps out there, it’s downright surprising at the sheer number that have social costs and localized benefits.Report

  7. Avatar Kim says:

    Shame on you. People are working really really hard to provide entertainment, and you’re ignoring it!
    [yes, dry humor is dry]Report