Hayek II!

Russell Michaels

Russell is inside his own mind, a comfortable yet silly place. He is also on Twitter.

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119 Responses

  1. Oscar Gordon says:

    Social Justice ain’t justice.

    It’s not that cut and dried. Yes, SJ does require treating people unequally, specifically because in the past people were treated unequally. That historical, unequal treatment has undermined opportunity for a lot of people. Toss in the fact that those people still face some degree of unequal treatment, we can’t even pretend that treating them equally will make things better.

    That said, how SJ is implemented is a solid question. IMHO, we need to be very careful what we insist on from government* (beyond “Stop treating people unequally.”), but private orgs should be free to take whatever action they see fit to right the ship. If Harvard wants to adjust their admissions standards, I’m fine with it, as long as they are upfront about it.

    *The one change I would make is that fines and fees, criminal, civil, or otherwise, should be weighted to income.Report

    • Russell Michaels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      It is that cut and dried.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Russell Michaels says:

        Cut & dried in the sense that SJ requires unequal treatment? Sure, it is. Anyone who pretends otherwise is trying to sell you something.

        That doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary to some degree. It’s a question of inertia. Or maybe plastic deformation.

        Let’s stick with inertia.

        No one can honestly deny that our systems have historically treated certain demographics unequally. How unequally depends on the demographic, but be it racism, or classism, unequal force has been applied to those demographics. Their trajectories of their opportunities have been consistently bent away from the course of other demographics. Now, if we were to magically stop applying an unequal force to those trajectories and let them carry on unimpeded, they would (because no analogy is perfect…) probably eventually adjust course and align to the mean.

        Eventually. Maybe. If all forces stopped trying to push them off course. Because magic.

        The reality is that we are still trying to not only figure out all the forces acting against those demographics, but we can’t even convince a plurality that the forces we have identified exist, much less need to be corrected (because oddly enough, people who are strongly convinced that economics is not a zero sum game, suddenly find economics to be a zero sum game when other folks want to try and improve opportunities for marginalized demos).

        So, Social Justice. Apply an unequal force to bring the trajectory back on course, so it happens a bit faster than eventually.

        Obviously we can have vigorous discussions about how to implement such things, and how to avoid over-correcting, or knocking some other demographic off course in the process.

        But in the end, the unequal treatment is meant to bring everyone back on course, after decades of pushing them off course. Unequal force is required, because unequal force was used.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      According to the classical approach to definitions, they contain a broad category and then the trait that distinguishes the particulars within that category. So I have no objection to the construction of the term “social justice”, any more than I would “bad hotel”.

      The question is whether the things being described as social justice are legitimate parts of justice. Justice may be defined as the virtue of giving to each that which he deserves. If social justice is justice allocated despite social groups (in other words, treating people equally), then it’s a part of justice. If it means treating people differently based on their social groups rather than on their due, then it’s not justice.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Pinky says:

        IMHO, Social Justice is a bad term, in that it implies “Justice” in the classical sense. It is appropriating the term for it’s own purposes (which, hey, language is fluid, such things happen) and that is going to rub people the wrong way.

        But “Normalizing Opportunity” doesn’t roll off the tongue the way SJ does.Report

        • Pinky in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          OK, if a policy can’t properly be classified as a part of justice, doesn’t that indicate something?Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Pinky says:

            That’s the rub, isn’t it. Redlining was corporate and government policy, and had no basis in justice. For decades, unjust policy was implemented against people, damaging their ability to thrive, limiting their opportunities. Even if the policy is no longer in place, the damage will take decades to repair itself.

            Is it justice to do nothing & let innocent people continue to struggle because of the sins of the past?

            Like I said in my reply to Russel further up-thread, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to have government doing the repairs, because government is supposed to apply things equally, even if it always hasn’t. Making government policy to start treating things unequally is… well, I don’t trust that it will be done competently, the incentives aren’t there.

            But private orgs can and should do what they can to fix things. If that means Google is hiring, or Ivy League schools are trying to graduate, more women and/or POC, great! Private schools and enterprises benefited from a lot of those older policies back in the day, they can pay it back.

            Does that mean my son will have a more crowded field when he’s an adult? Probably, but competition is a good thing, right?Report

            • InMD in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              It’s not so simple. Doing what you’re suggesting would in many cases violate the CRA, numerous similar state laws, and in certain spaces jeopardize government funding. Where we’re talking government actors, which most schools and universities are, it could also violate the 14th amendment.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD says:

                I recognize that public schools could not behave like that (I thought I was clear in making the distinction between public and private actors). To the extent that private schools can, I’m not sure what the limits are, but they strike me as having a lot more flexibility.Report

              • InMD in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                In theory they may have more flexibility, in practice not so much as long as they want to recieve federally backed student loans, participate in other government programs, and be tax exempt. There also could be breach of contract and fraud claims, depending on the facts.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD says:


                Although this reminds me of another part that makes all of this such a mess, how does one guarantee that they are applying unequal force in the correct direction, rather than simply gaming a system for their own benefit.Report

            • Pinky in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              I’m all for specifically addressable injustices being addressed. I don’t know how to quantify the effect of redlining in any specific case. It’s next to impossible to prove specific cases of it, and then putting a price tag on it that everyone can agree upon? Yikes.

              It takes a couple of generations for a new wave of immigrants to get to the US average in earnings. And generally a pile of inherited wealth doesn’t make it past three generations. We haven’t had redlining in 50 years, so I’d say we’re near the point where its impact is indistinguishable from the other vicissitudes of life.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Pinky says:

                Redlining was just a specific example of something that was actual policy that was not based in any concept of justice.

                Closer to the mark, perhaps, and still in play today, is disparate CJ impacts. A criminal record, no matter how minor, or deserved, impacts the ability to get a job, or aid for school, etc. That one is even thornier to untangle, for a lot of the reasons DarkMatter often brings up, and our systems strong desire to punish, rather then rehabilitate. But there is the fact that certain minorities are more likely to get more serious charges, more serious convictions, and receive harsher sentences.

                Even something like that, where charges and sentences were normalized, ideally towards leniency when the harm is minor, would go a long way.

                Justice is not served by being applied unequally.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Your example on the table is 50+ year old redlining. That is the typical example, and that we don’t cite something more recent should be concerning.

                If you’re going to cite CJ, what specifically are you citing?

                Justice is not served by being applied unequally.

                True, but it’s awkward to combine a desire for equal outcomes with a desire for equal treatment.

                There is a strong tendency to assume you can have both and also to assume a lack of the former should prove the latter.

                If we count corpses, we should expect very different “justice” outcomes in various subcultures. We should also expect different justice systems surrounding those messes and that the factors creating it will also cause other inequality.

                Big picture the level of complexity of these problems is very high and it’s not clear to me we know what we’re doing.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter says:

                My example was off the top of my head. These days, it’s mostly about how the CJ system impacts things, and how certain social hierarchies play out.

                As for the CJ, I posted a link in here about that.

                And yes, it is awkward to demand equal treatment and expect equal outcomes, which is why I don’t want the government trying to manage outcomes, only treatment. Private actors can then work on managing outcomes to whatever manner satisfies their philanthropy.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                As for the CJ, I posted a link in here about that.

                Your link to Swami was “The C-suite job of the future: Chief purpose officer”

                Are we missing a post?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter says:

                I think we are.Report

    • Swami in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Interesting comment, Oscar.

      I would even suggest that income weighted fines would be fair and just, as long as they applied equally to all at whatever income stage they were at.

      Does your suggestion that private orgs should be “free as they see fit to right the ship” apply to an org which discriminates in favor of non blacks because, just spitballing here, they have been disproportionately harmed by black crime or violence? Or does your exception to justice only apply to certain defined or officially protected categories?Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Swami says:

        As I note up-thread to InMD, that kind of determination is itself can be messy.

        I mean, ideally, if the name of the game is to un-feck that which was fecked up by our ancestors, we’d want to encourage private actors to works towards the un-fecking of things in an agreed upon way.

        It’s the “agreed upon way” that still has trouble.

        Still, you raise a point, in that any org that discriminates for runs the risk of discriminating against. That’s why we employ representation targets. You can easily over-correct if you are too zealous.

        But to answer your question, no, your hypothetical wouldn’t fly. Because black crime/violence is not an official policy meant to keep an un-preferred business from thriving.

        Now, if some level of government actively employed extra legal gangs of black people to damage businesses not belonging to that demographic, you would start heading into the territory you need to be in.Report

  2. LeeEsq says:

    Again, you can’t just remedy past persecution and desperate treatment by reversing the laws and saying “me bad, okay?” In fact a lot of people think that even reversing the old bad laws and policies is a bridge too far. A lot of this reads as but “I don’t wanna” when it comes to doing things to correct past persecution and atrocities. We might as well put on “That’s Just The Way It Is.”Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to LeeEsq says:

      So, if I get you correctly, it won’t be enough for the Communist government of Cuba to stop its repressive practices, because al long as it holds the levers of power like land ownership and health care and schools, it will always be able to remain in power even though it doesn’t have majority support?

      Hmm, that sounds like a critical theory.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Critical Theory is for everybody, even Hayekians.Report

        • Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

          I know you’re joking, but it’s probably worth noting that both Hayek and the folks in the Frankfurt School, or Berlin, or Popper would have seem themselves as doing something very similar, right down to their views on the differences between social and physical sciences. The idea of critical theory something very different from social theory as Hayek or Popper or whoever was doing it, rather than as a way (or set of ways) of doing social theory, is a contemporary, (American) political conservative one that results mostly from having read neither Hayek nor any critical theory. In some cases, even the situational or historical motivations are the same (e.g., understanding the failure of Soviet Communism, and the resulting horrors of Stalinism on the one hand, and the rise of the German far right, and the descent of the German people into an unprecedentedly destructive militarism and genocide on the other), even if the conclusions are very different.Report

          • Chris in reply to Chris says:

            I say this is worth noting, by the way, because it helps us to understand both Hayek and other 20th century thinkers if we situation them both in their historical context and in a dialogue, even if rarely explicit, between the different schools of social theory.Report

      • Russell Michaels in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Liberty would not exist in the system, so it would still be a failure.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Russell Michaels says:

          Good observation.
          Systemic injustice is the worst sort of injustice because it is invisible. Everyone just assumes that if the protocols are followed the outcome must be just but as we can see, sometimes the entire system is stacked in favor of an elite few.

          The laws and structures themselves must be critically evaluated and where necessary, changed to achieve a just outcome.Report

          • Russell Michaels in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            Or liberty could just exist and we could let people do what they want, even if we don’t like it.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Russell Michaels says:

              Oh of course, that goes without saying that we just let people do whatever they want*.

              *Sensible and obvious exceptions excepted.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Russell Michaels says:

              As a libertarian, I’m right there with you.

              As a realist, I recognize that isn’t how the world works. People have been trying out fun and exciting ways to limit liberty since the first tribal chief beat the hell out of all the other guys in the tribe.

              The systems are almost always fecked, and you can not simply un-feck them and call it a day. Things that the fecked up system managed to also feck up tend to stay fecked up until those too are actively un-fecked.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Russell Michaels says:

              When you talk like this you sound like the Communist who is genuinely shocked that the majority of the world’s population disagrees with them and doesn’t want to live in their system. There is both this touching innocence and annoying arrogance in the Libertarian belief that once everybody experiences “true liberty” (TM) than everybody will happy. It never occurs to them that the Libertarian concept of what a good or just society should look like is heavily based on modern Western norms and that there are literally billions of people that want nothing to do with it because their cultural and philosophical heritage says something different about how society should be organized.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Even if we take it at its own terms, in the most generous light, American libertarianism struggles with what I call the 3rd Party Agency problem.

                They envision a world where engagements have two parties who can be “left alone”, but the reality is that almost all engagements between any two parties has three parties- Party A, Party B, and the Enforcing Agency which is in almost all cases the government.

                What libertarians struggle with is the idea that the Enforcing Agency has agency, an agenda of its own, and that this actor can negotiate terms for its own involvement.

                This is troublesome especially because the Enforcing Agency is by necessity a monopoly; It can be negotiated with and its powers enlarged or reduced, but only by collective agreement.
                So in essence the collective body is an interested and assertive party to every engagement between any two individuals.

                This results in a very sharply reduced sphere in which the free person envisioned by libertarians can operate.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                “This is troublesome especially because the Enforcing Agency is by necessity a monopoly…”

                This is not true. Having the enforcing agency be a monopoly is useful, and in our current state, convenient, but it is not a necessary condition of being able to enforce contracts.

                The rest of your post is true (that every agreement has a 3rd party). The fact that the 3rd party that is acting as enforcement has it’s own agency and goals, etc. is a problem, regardless of who the 3rd party is. The fact that said party is a government with political concerns that fluctuate makes the government a potentially unreliable enforcer of said contracts.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                This is what I mean about the struggle, that the agency of the 3rd party is “a problem”.

                For example, Party A and B choose to enter a contract using Chip and the rest of the collective body as the enforcing agency.

                The idea that Chip may say “No” or at least place stipulations and conditions on his involvement is seen as problematic;

                What is the premise here, that Chip is just supposed to jump and enforce the contract, without having any other choice?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                If Chip is the monopoly enforcement (and prefers to be that monopoly), then yes.

                Chip is, in essence, a public utility, one that provides enforcement of contracts, rather than electricity or water.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                But you can see how “My idea of liberty is that you have none” isn’t really attractive?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                That’s the thing about a public utility though, isn’t it. You trade agency for monopoly.

                At least in theory. In practice, those monopolies are always trying to wiggle out of the deal and regain their agency without giving up the monopoly.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Who is trading monopoly for agency

                Is this a normative claim like of what you wish to see?

                If so, why on earth would the taxpayers agree to surrender their control over how the state enforces rights and contracts?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                The same reason there weren’t a whole lot of riots before George Floyd.

                “But there were a lot of riots. Michael Brown! You’re ignoring a *LOT* of what happened!!!!”

                “Am I? It doesn’t matter. Answer the question anyway!”Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                The agency of the taxpayers =/= the agency of the entity with a monopoly over X.

                Don’t conflate the two.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                This is certainly true in some instances, but when the two diverge, we call that a problem.

                When the two are aligned, we call that “representative government” and is generally considered a good outcome.

                In that instance, is the agency of the third party still “a problem”?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                It’s a problem if the agency of the 3rd party is ‘fluid’. From my perspective (which is admittedly not always aligned with libertarian orthodoxy), the most important part is that the agency of the enforcement party can not over-ride the terms of the contract it is enforcing.

                For instance, say a contract is signed between two private parties to provide 100 Tons of whale blubber a year from the whalers to the lamp oil company. The contract is in dispute over some detail, and it goes to court. The fact that the entity responsible for examining the contract and deciding the dispute is openly (or even privately) opposed to whaling can not be a factor in deciding to rule against the whaling company. That is what I mean by the agency of the entity.

                Now, if the voting public, through their representatives, decides to exercise that collective agency and outlaw whaling, and legislation is passed to that effect, with no grandfathering. Then the contract in dispute is now null and void (because the whalers can not possibly legally meet their end of the contract).

                But in either case, the individuals in the enforcement entity are not allowed to exercise their agency with regard to the contract dispute. They have to follow the will of the voting public.

                In a lot of ways, this is the problem we are having with public sector unions, especially things like LE or Prison Guard unions, where the union actively attempts to exercise the agency of it’s members over the agency of the voting public, especially when they engage in political lobbying.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Yes, in a contract with three interested parties, one of the parties can refuse to enter into the contract.

                The central premise to liberty is the right to say no yet you’re here telling us that the voters are not allowed to refuse to provide the service, or even stipulate the terms of their involvement.

                Why would any voter agree to this?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Why would any voter agree to this?

                If they don’t like it, they have the option of moving to Somalia.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                What the hell are you on about? The voting public can stop enforcing contracts at any time it chooses to. What they can not do is decide not to enforce contracts, and also decide no one else can enforce contracts either.

                Not if they want a functioning economy, anyway.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                But now you’re conjuring up a scenario where the third party is not the state.

                How would such a thing work?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Let’s ask organized crime…Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Which is a perfect example.

                Organized crime functions as a government does, by erecting a monopoly control over property claims and enforcement.
                And yes, the monopoly party has an agency, and is a third party to all engagements.

                See, this is why I describe it as a struggle; You want to free the two parties from the third, but the marketplace itself was the creation of the third party, precisely because of its monopoly power.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                The idea of a third party is, itself, not an issue. It’s only when the third party exercises agency beyond the previously agreed upon parameters that it becomes a problem.

                For instance, libertarians have no problem with the concept of Escrow, which is the involvement of a third party in a transaction. The escrow company just keeps everyone honest specifically by being a dis-interested third party (or rather, their only interest is getting their fee for services).

                Now, if escrow companies started keeping the money put in escrow, or started to make value decisions regarding the transactions they guarantee (e.g. cancelling a transaction for whale blubber because the escrow agent doesn’t like whaling), they would very quickly get a reputation as unreliable and they would go out of business.

                Now, if the escrow company advertised, or disclosed, ahead of time that they will not process transactions for the whaling industry (even though our hypothetical economy allows for whaling), so customers knew up front that was the case (because the escrow company turned down their business), that’s fine, because they are not the only escrow company in the market.

                If, however, there is only one escrow company in the market, and they have a monopoly (either because they are granted such by the government, or because they are the government), then they are a public utility and they can not behave as such. They have to allow for any and all legal transactions. They surrender their agency for the monopoly.

                How would this work for contracts?

                Assuming the government maintains a monopoly on force, your contract enforcement firms would simply be able to present a finding of breach of contract to law enforcement, and law enforcement would enforce the terms of the breach.

                Alternatively, the contract firm would accept collateral (or legal claim to collateral) to be used to settle a breach.

                Yes, ultimately, the government can be involved, but only because the government has the monopoly on force (which is generally agreed to be the correct thing). But in this case, the government makes no value judgements because it can’t, it only responds to the finding of breach and only acts according to the terms of the breach.

                Why we don’t do this is because our government is stable enough that the contract firm is not needed, and our legal system is very conservative.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                then they are a public utility and they can not behave as such

                Who’s making up all these rules?
                Who has agreed to abide by them?

                Most importantly, who enforces them?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I know you think you have some rich ‘gotcha’ here, but you don’t.

                You have this grandiose idea that ‘we the people’ can just decide whatever we want our government to do, and it will work like that because we want it to.

                But that doesn’t actually work any more than a physicist can decide to alter the equations that govern gravity and have gravity conform to them.

                I mean, ‘we the people’ decided that drugs are bad and should be outlawed, and, well, that’s been a shining example of the will of ‘we the people’ now hasn’t it?

                You know who makes the rules, you know who enforces them, and you know why most everyone abides by them, whether they agree to or not.

                Your problem is that the only alternatives you can envision are the ones that satisfy your priors, and all other alternatives are doomed to failure in your imagination.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I’m expecting him to ask why the so-called Libertarians never gave a critique against corrupt establishment power when they had their cultural moment.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                The conundrum you keep bumping into is that you want to strip the third party of agency except the third party is sovereign.

                And the marketplace can’t exist unless it is.

                Only the sovereign can assign and defend property rights which are the indispensable prerequisite for markets.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                It’s a huge leap from “the state must exist to defend property rights” to “the regulatory state optimises human good” much less “the state should ensure equal outcomes even if it means unequal rules”.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                It doesn’t have to be sovereign. It can, instead, be *TRUSTED*.

                This gets into the whole “trust/collaboration” thing.

                I don’t have to trust you, you don’t have to trust me. If we both trust Rocco and, by extension, his associates? He can act as guarantor for a deal between you and me.

                We don’t need to trust each other. We just have to trust Rocco and his associates. We don’t even mind that he needs to skim a little off the top to keep guarantoring in the future.

                We don’t even need to start trusting each other at any point in this! We merely need to trust Rocco… who, might I add, is trustworthy.

                That’s why we picked him as guarantor.

                He knows everybody.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:


                And if Rocco starts playing favorites, then the trust in Rocco is diminished. Which is fine, because everyone also trust Lou, so if Rocco isn’t trustworthy anymore, Lou gets extra business.

                It’s only a problem when Rocco shoots Lou and anyone else who tries to muscle into his territory, and forces everyone to keep using Rocco, even though he’s no longer trustworthy.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                This is what’s called a “thought experiment”; If you want to develop it into an idea, that’s great, I’d like to read it.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                The new block-chain currencies are “trust without government enforcement”.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Here’s how it worked (in theory).

                The place that seems most notable to me is “coinciding with Sicily’s transition from feudalism to capitalism”.

                My emphasis would not be “feudalism to capitalism” but “feudalism to liberalism”. The whole “rule of law” probably provides a better pre-req for “capitalism” than “post-feudalism” does.

                If you don’t have liberalism? Well, it’s nice to have someone you trust that everybody knows and everybody trusts.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                Who hasn’t seen The Godfather at least twice? But here’s a relevant scene anyway.


              • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                The Sicilian Mafia, like Mexican cartels as I said upthread, provide a strong example of a sovereign entity having an agency of its own.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Given their extra-legal status, I question your use of the word “sovereign”.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird says:

                :a supreme ruler, especially a monarch.
                :possessing supreme or ultimate power.

                They don’t have a country, but I think there’s a strong argument they’re “supreme” in some cities.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Do go on. I can’t think of one.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                What conundrum are you imagining? Libertarians are minimalists, not anarchists.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                The conundrum is what you stated; that you see the agency of the sovereign third party as “a problem”.

                I use the word “sovereign” to emphasize that in the world we live in, the people, the collective body is sovereign- there is no power above the collective body of citizens, no possible appeal to anything higher than them.

                This doesn’t negate the idea of strong individual liberty- but for most libertarians, this is what I said at the outset- something they struggle with.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                It’s not a struggle, per se. It’s an acknowledgement that the collective sovereign can hurt itself if it’s not careful.

                I’ve always thought of libertarianism as less a political party or movement and more of a philosophy. One that tries to get people to look at the full implications of what they would like to do in the face of what typically happens.

                If we are supposed to make sure we fully understand the purpose of that fence as we consider tearing it down, so should we fully consider the immediate and long term effects of erecting a fence in the first place.

                So while yes, the agency of the collective can be expressed in the enforcement of contracts (or other such things), doing so will likely have unintended consequences. The old, ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’.

                At the very least, I want to see that you’ve done your homework and thought it through.

                If anything, what libertarians struggle with is not that the collective has agency, but that it too often has the agency of a 5 year old in a candy store with a pocket full of cash and no parent.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                What libertarians struggle with is the idea that the Enforcing Agency has agency, an agenda of its own, and that this actor can negotiate terms for its own involvement.

                You’re describing part of public choice theory, an idea which feted charlatan Nancy McLean called a racist libertarian conspiracy. The only part of that that was correct is that libertarians talk about public choice a lot.

                Also, this seems to boil down to “the problem with libertarianism is that authoritarians hold power,” which I can assure you is another thing that libertarians spend a lot of time talking about.Report

          • Swami in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            So the invisible injustices are the worst? If they are so invisible, who gets to define which invisible actions or externalities count or don’t count? What keeps out imaginary injustices from joining our list of invisibles?

            Should we form a special court of experts at identifying and quantifying these invisible harms?

            Seems like a convoluted excuse to replace a decentralized and primarily fair system with a master planned system run by people who think like Chip.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Swami says:

              I was talking about Cuba, and its structure of injustice where the entire system is rigged to favor the Communist Party against all challengers.

              Like for instance, you are free to run against the Communist party boss, but your landlord (the State) may decide to terminate your lease and your employer (the State) may choose to dismiss you, and the park where you want to have your rally needs a permit from the State which mysteriously denies it.

              The structures of society are invisible because they are facially neutral (you were dismissed for lack of work, and your apartment is reserved solely for the employees of your work) yet somehow always work to the benefit of the ones who hold power.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                And this is an analogy for our society how?

                You’ve described a heinous structure with “invisible-but-everyone-knows-it” ways to enforce it. This does not mean every “invisible” thing you describe exists in reality.

                For Cuba there is an obvious solution. The communists let go of the various levers of power (which has been done in many countries).

                For the US, the obvious solution is… what? For that matter, what is the problem we’re trying to fix? Inequality?

                Poland’s Communists were kicked out in 1989. It’s only been 32 years. Expand that to 50 and their influence fades to something pretty close to zero.

                History’s influence has a half life. Current inequality really should be explained by the current influences.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq says:

      At the end of the day, a lot of libertarianism seems to be “Humans suck. Changing them is really hard. I don’t want to. I benefit or at least am not affected by the status quo.”Report

      • AnnabelleLee in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        One should listen to more libertarians then.
        Here’s one: We should stop using our government to force our goods onto other sovereign nations.Report

      • AnnabelleLee in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Humans are deliciously easy to infect with fear.
        Let me tell you how that works in a free market…Report

      • Pinky in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        You and Lee can imagine bad motives behind libertarianism. Well, so what? If I could ascribe bad motives to people who agree with you, would it invalidate your arguments or override your data?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Oh, I would love to change humans, Saul.

        I would love to change the ever-living hell out of them.

        And it is because of this that I do not trust, for one mister falcon second, anyone who wants to change them.


        What the hell? Read what you read again.Report

      • Swami in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I am not a libertarian, but I would summarize this branch of libertarianism as such…

        1. Humans are morally flawed (though better than any known alternatives)

        2. Changing them by force is really hard, and will lead to unexpected results, most of which will be worse than intended, and often worse than where we started

        3. Therefore change should be gradual and experimental, allowing maximum of freedom and choice with minimal interference/force and direct harm (details)

        4. This will be the best course for the most people considering the spectacularly good current status quo (when compared to literally any society anywhere. ever since the advent of agriculture)

      • Russell Michaels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Government is the problem in that change. Government is a terrible change agent.Report

  3. Would any Republican have invaded Iraq and normalized torture? For McCain, I’d say yes (hell, yes) and no.Report

  4. InMD says:

    This idea that objectivity has been proven impossible has become one of the most over-sold, over-exaggerated premises in modern discourse. Now in a certain cosmic sense there’s some truth to it. We can’t get inside the head of another. There may be planes of reality where the laws of physics as we understand them don’t apply. The universe is vast and mysterious and there are many, many things we don’t know and will very likely never know.

    But down here on Earth, every time an apple comes loose from the branch with nothing to prop it up, it falls. Using certain principles of logic and the scientific method we’ve figured out a few things, with massive jumps in the last few centuries alone. The evidence is literally all around us in the modern West, every day. It’s not just like, an opinion, that your car starts, tv turns on, and AC lowers the temperature in your house. Whatever Hayek ‘proved,’ if anything, it ain’t that there’s no such thing as objectivity.

    And yet people take the existence of some unfalsifiable assertions as proof that actually we don’t really know anything at all so any dumb ol’ thing someone thinks is just as good as anything someone else thinks. It’s BS and I’m at a total loss as to why people base so much on a premise so obviously faulty.Report

    • Pinky in reply to InMD says:

      Agreed, it’s a miserable premise. Miserable as in low-quality, but also miserable as in causing misery. A person can’t function with that idea in his head. I’m pretty sure that Hume and Locke would agree, although I’m not as well read as I should be.

      Humility can accomplish the same task that skepticism performs here, and it doesn’t destroy anything in the process.Report

      • InMD in reply to Pinky says:

        I think you’re right, and I think a lot of the reason the premise has the appeal it does is the self-flattery of it. It’s narcissism posing as thought.Report

        • Pinky in reply to InMD says:

          It’s more that it’s permeated our culture. You see it in the libertarian right, the lazy middle, and the Foucauldian left. It becomes something you have to consciously reject. And as you noted, it can look like it’s true without closer inspection.Report

    • Chris in reply to InMD says:

      Hayek in no way believed that there is no “objectivity,” or no “objective truth.” He was a subjectivist, to be sure, as all the Austrians are, but it is a subjectivism that argues that in order to understand economic/social activity, you have to understand subjects (that is, you can’t explain it by observing material objects alone, even human bodies), not that there are no objective truths.Report

      • InMD in reply to Chris says:

        I’ll take your word on his work. My response was to the assertion that Hayek ‘determined that objective truth was impossible.’ I would hope that it is a bad/misleading characterization of Hayek’s work but I don’t think it changes my point about the premise in the OP, or how common it seems to be.Report

        • Chris in reply to InMD says:

          Oh yeah, I saw what you were doing.

          Probably worth noting that “There is no objective truth,” as in “there is no truth verifiable independent of individual subjects” is not really a position anyone has taken ever.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

            College freshmen.Report

            • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

              And the dude who wrote this post, it seems.Report

              • Russell Michaels in reply to Chris says:

                The issue is what objective means. And you take a far more kind definition of it than I do. Objective truth does not exist because it can change at any time.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Russell Michaels says:

                “Objective truth does not exist because it can change at any time.”

                Huh? A traffic light can change at any time, but it exists. When something is defined as objective truth, it is assumed to be for the given x, y, z, and t coordinates. If you’re using the statement as a bridge to get you to the idea that a policy prescription won’t always work, or a government official won’t fully understand a situation, you don’t have to use a statement with so many implications.Report

    • Russell Michaels in reply to InMD says:

      It is true, though, no matter what you say otherwise. Objective truth among more than one person is functionally impossible.Report

      • Chris in reply to Russell Michaels says:

        We’re all livin’ in our own little worlds, huh?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

          “Everything is subjective,” you say; but even this is interpretation. The “subject” is not something given, it is something added and invented and projected behind what there is.—Finally, is it necessary to posit an interpreter behind the interpretation? Even this is invention, hypothesis.

          In so far as the word “knowledge” has any meaning, the world is knowable; but it is interpretable otherwise, it has no meaning behind it, but countless meanings.—”Perspectivism.”

          It is our needs that interpret the world; our drives and their For and Against. Every drive is a kind of lust to rule; each one has its perspective that it would like to compel all the other drives to accept as a norm.

          –That German Guy

          (Granted, this was from his “Nutso” phase.)Report

          • Pinky in reply to Jaybird says:

            Just did a 5 minute search to figure out who the Nutso German Guy was. Since I was just talking about definitions, I have to say that the phrase “nutso German philosopher” doesn’t narrow things down much.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Pinky says:

              Oh, the other ones are Jerkface German guy, OCD German Guy, and… Leibnitz, I guess?

              (“Obit anus, abit onus” is some *HARD* shhhhh right there.)Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                A brief history of German philosophy:

                The dude who invented calculus.

                The dude no one reads anymore whose name is the ancestor of dogs.

                The dude everyone is following.

                The dude no one understands

                The dude who hates the dude no one understands.

                The dude who flipped the dude no one understands on his head.

                The God is dead dude.

                The epoch guy.

                The guy who told philosophers they’re all just fooling themselves.

                The Nazi.

                A buncha commies.


              • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                Nobody reads those guys anymore.

                (I’m actually kind of shocked that nobody reads Nietzsche anymore. And not just in the “nobody reads anymore” sense of the term.)Report

              • Pinky in reply to Jaybird says:

                Nietzsche grapples with the things that later philosophers gloss over. Less effort, same payoff.
                Also, Hitler connection. (Never mind that many modern philosophers would be more palatable to Hitler.)Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                When I was in grad school, half the grad students in philosophy departments wanted to be Nietzsche scholars, and the schedule at SPEP looked like Nietzsche and everything else. Now it really does seem like the kids find him uninteresting. I’m not THAT old. This was a really rapid change, in academic time.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                It’s like reading Shakespeare, I guess.

                “He’s nothing but clichés!”Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                I always think of Kaufmann calling him “The last world-historical philosopher.” I guess we’ve moved on from world-historicalness. Even Kant seems to have a pretty bad rep among the young philosophers.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                The whole world used to be mad.Report

              • Darryl in reply to Chris says:

                Huh. When I took a philosophy class, it was all about Artificial Intelligence.
                (At least my professor didn’t do magic tricks with Terrible Towels. Ya, srsly. That was from the GOOD philosophy department, too.)Report

              • Chris in reply to Darryl says:

                What sort of philosophy class? You’re unlikely to get much Nietzsche in any but upper level undergraduate courses (possibly an intro ethics course, if you have a brave professor).Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Chris says:

                I had The Genealogy of Morals in an intro ethics class, but then again Nietzche and I are roughly contemporaries, so it was hot new stuff.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Epoche… sorry, my phone doesn’t speak Husserl.Report

          • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

            The best way to refute the idea that there is nothing objective is to eliminate the subject-object distinction, to be sure.Report