Power Imbalance: The Difference Between Liberal and Libertarian Philosophy

My new column is up at Forbes, and it is one of my favorites I have written for a while  (at least it seems so with my current scorpion-induced double vision).  It begins with Krugman's recent statement that the Left understands the Right and libertarian positions better than the Right and libertarians understand the Left.

I first demolish this as a pretentious crock, but then wander to more important topics

But I do understand the leftish position well enough to identify its key mistake.  As I mentioned earlier, we libertarians are similarly concerned with aggregations of power.   We have, at best, a love-hate relationship with large corporations, for example, enjoying the bounties they can bring us but fearing their size and power.

But what the Left ignores is that there is absolutely no power imbalance as large as that between the government and its citizens.    After all, you may get ticked off when Exxon charges you $4.00 a gallon for gas for reasons that aren't transparent to you, but you can always tell Exxon to kiss off and buy from someone else, or ride a bike, or stay home.    Because Exxon does not have armies and police and guns and prisons.

Every single time we give the government the power to right a perceived imbalance, we give the government more power than the private entity we are trying to contain.  In effect, we make things worse.   Because we want the government to counter-act the power of oil companies, Congress now has the power to dump large portions of our food supply into motor fuel, to the benefit of just a few politically connected ethanol companies.

One of the reasons the Left often cannot adequately articulate the libertarian position is that the notion of bottom-up emergent order tends to be difficult for many to understand or accept (this is mildly ironic, since the Left tends to defend the emergent order of Darwinian evolution against the top-down Christian creation vision).

The key to much of libertarian economics is not that libertarians trust private actors, but that libertarians trust natural correction mechanisms in free markets far more than it trusts authoritarian power of the government.   When, for example, large corporations become sloppy and abusive and senescent, markets will eventually bring them down.

In fact, when government is given power, nominally to correct such imbalances, they tend to use it to protect those in power as often as they do to protect the disenfranchised. Government restrictive licensing of hair dressers, interior designers, and morticians; bailouts of GM, Chrysler, and AIG; corporate welfare to GE and ADM; and use of imminent domain to hand private property to favored real estate  developpers -- all are examples of finding government cures for perceived private power imbalances that are worse than the disease.

Isacc Asimov, in a book called Foundation that Paul Krugman recently rated as one of the most influential on his life, related this fable:  Once there was a man and a horse, who were both imperiled by a wolf.  The man approached the horse, and said that if the horse would put its superior speed at his disposal, he could kill the wolf.  And so the horse agreed to take the man's saddle and bridle, and helped the man kill the wolf.  The horse said, "great job, now remove your saddle and we can both be free," and the man said "never!"

I hope the moral of the story is clear.  In trying to deal with the threat of the wolf, the horse gave the man so much power he became an even bigger threat.  So too when we look to government to solve our problems.

Read the whole thing, as they say

  • http://tjic.com TJIC

    Just read it. Excellent. I particularly like this bit:


    Readers as old as I am will remember the old Tootsie-Pop commercial where the owl can never lick the candy more than three times without biting into it. This is my experience with the Left attempting to mimic the libertarian position. They can never get more than three sentences into free markets and smaller government without saying “because all libertarians just want to see everything polluted and everyone get poor and die.”

    Indeed! A good point, well conveyed.

  • http://tjic.com TJIC

    For example, teenage girls are smart enough to make decisions on abortion without parental involvement but strict state controls are needed to keep them out of tanning salons. The rubes out there can make good decisions about their sexual practices but can’t be trusted to eat the right foods. They can be trusted to consume violence and sex in the media intelligently but are incapable of accurately parsing political or product ads. Frankly, I can’t figure out the decision rule at work here.

    I hate to come off sounding like a law-and-order conservative, or a bible-thumping conservative, but the rule of thumb "if it undercuts the family, the church, or traditional practices, then people should be allowed to do it" has good predictive power for mimicking leftist positions.

    * abortion - undercuts traditional respect for pregnancy, family, and procreation - ALLOW IT!
    * tanning salons - does not smash the patriarchy - FORBID IT.
    * ad-hoc / random / transgressive sexual practices - undercuts traditional respect for chastity, family, and procreation - ALLOW IT!
    * eating Big Macs ? - does not smash the patriarchy - FORBID IT.
    * violence and sex in the media - may undercut traditional ideas of propriety - ALLOW IT!
    * watching product ads from big companies - does not smash the patriarchy - FORBID IT.

  • Damon

    Warren, this might be the best article I've ever read. Period.

  • Andrew Hofer

    I know you are suffering from your bite, but you should proofread that otherwise great Forbes column. It's "Eminent Domain" not "Imminent", and the "to" in the last sentence should be "too".

    I hope you are feeling better, Warren.

  • kebko

    Reading that rotten slate article earlier this week made me realize a big disconnect between libertarians and progressive critics. The notion that libertarians are all about selfish rugged individualism has always seemed awkward. It's just not a notion that I hear libertarians themselves pushing. Why do progressives think this is the central motivating idea?

    I think it's because libertarianism is radically pacifist. The problem we have with progressivism is the violence inherent in coercion. By making it about individualism, progressives can avoid the central libertarian criticism of their ideology.

  • Ted Rado

    Excellent piece! The greatest threat we have to our individual liberty is from within. In my 82 years on this planet, I have seen us go from a small government and very few regulations to a smothering, overwhelming, rediculously expensive bureaucracy. Many have been corrupted by the government with the ever-present giveaway programs. "Just vote for us and get a lifetime of freebies". The obvious falacy is that if the government uses youn money to buy me, and my money to buy you, we both lose. Meanwhile, we lose our liberty.

    Unfortunately, once half the people have been bought and pay no taxes, they vote for those who will perpetuate the system. My God! What have we got ourselves into?

  • joshv

    "One of the reasons the Left often cannot adequately articulate the libertarian position is that the notion of bottom-up emergent order tends to be difficult for many to understand or accept (this is mildly ironic, since the Left tends to defend the emergent order of Darwinian evolution against the top-down Christian creation vision)."

    I think that the anthropomorphizing of emergent phenomenon is a very fundamental quirk of human psychology, and the cause of all religions (traditional or political).

    Our puny brains aren't designed to grock cause and effect at the grand scales of emergent phenomena. We see cause and effect through the very narrow lens of our paleolithic upbringing - 100k+ years of experience with simple tools and small social groups. Effects were simple, and each had a distinct causer. The arrow was created by Grog. Grog was killed by the lion.

    Effects caused by the interactions of millions or billions of causers were entirely outside our ability to model from our simple day-to-day experience, so they were forced into the simpler cause-effect paradigm by creating external intelligent man-like actors - "Gods".

    As we've only very recently come to grips with emergent phenomenon, we have no intuition for their effects, other than to fall back on our evolutionary heritage - if the behavior that arises looks organized, it must have a simple intelligent causer, whether a god or a board of experts.

    So if markets move in a positive direction, it can only be because of the central bank's intelligent control of the markets. If the massive herd of wildebeests hangs out in your hunting grounds for a month, the big man in the sky must have willed it.

  • John Moore

    The notion that libertarians are all about selfish rugged individualism has always seemed awkward. It’s just not a notion that I hear libertarians themselves pushing. Why do progressives think this is the central motivating idea?

    Because the loudest libertarians are young, fanatic Ayn Rand'ites who are pushing selfish rugged individualism,

    Furthermore, most libertarians push an individualism that is often at odds with some aspects of civilization - as THC sort-of discussees in the area of personal libertinism.

    Don't forget that Bill Mahr thinks of himself as a libertarian, because of the strong associating, encouraged by libertarian views, on libertine liberties.

    This is one of the reasons libertarian-conservatives exist - liberty but not destructive liberty.

    There's always a balance, although trusting the government to find it is very dangerous.

  • Dr. T

    Ayn Rand repeatedly gets blamed for promoting "selfish rugged individualism." She didn't. In "Atlas Shrugged" Rand promotes a community of libertarians who interact continually and behave ethically without a paternalistic government.

    In "The Fountainhead," Roark destroys the housing complex he designed not out of selfishness, but because the government violated its contract with him and abused its power to prevent him from enforcing the contract. Ayn Rand believed that it is ethical to oppose a government that will not enforce contracts and violates the contracts it signs. That isn't surprising, since the inviolability of contracts is one of the main principles of libertarianism.

  • kebko

    John Moore:

    Every progressive I've ever met has a libertarian friend who they insist confirms all their worst fears about libertarianism.

    But, if you look through the writings at a place like reason.com, Cato, Virginia Postrel, etc. what you instead will find a celebration of human diversity and tolerant association. I can't remember ever reading anything from those sources that had the stereotypical "man as an island", "I've got mine, you get yours" attitudes that progressives claim they have. Ayn Rand has probably set back the conversation by allowing the conversation to go in this direction.

  • Not Sure

    "... the stereotypical “man as an island”, “I’ve got mine, you get yours” attitudes that progressives claim they have."

    That's because progressives believe people have to be forced to cooperate with each other.

  • IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society

    A problem so old it's defined in Latin:

    Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

  • IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society

    >>>> ...* abortion – undercuts traditional respect for pregnancy, family, and procreation – ALLOW IT!...

    I prefer the libertarian position of "What the hell makes it any business of yours?" in response to pretty much all of those listed.

    If your answer is based on religion, "ANNNK!" go back to the drawing board and search for nonsectarian ideas to support your answer.

    If it's based on some moral claim to "fairness", "ANNNNKK!!" go back to square one, there's no such object in THIS universe.

    In general, the final ruleset you should wind up with is pretty much a matter of, "Does it hurt what is inarguably another human being?"

    If the answer is no, then it's not the proper venue for a government solution.

  • http://stopthebreathing.blogtownhall.com astonerii

    "But, if you look through the writings at a place like reason.com, Cato, Virginia Postrel, etc. what you instead will find a celebration of human diversity and tolerant association. I can’t remember ever reading anything from those sources that had the stereotypical “man as an island”, “I’ve got mine, you get yours” attitudes that progressives claim they have. Ayn Rand has probably set back the conversation by allowing the conversation to go in this direction.
    June 24, 2011, 5:17 pm"

    Pray tell, when, where and who has ever had such a society?

    Diversity and tolerant together? Why, I think that would require coercive measures to accomplish. Balkans? Nope, totally disintegrated. Africa? Yeah, dream on. Old west United States of America? What "history" books did you read.

    Diversity = conflict. More diversity = more conflict. It is how the world turns young one.

    Tolerant = subjugating your own freedom in order to grant that freedom to another. In other words, outside of strong coercive measures, why would someone "celebrate" tolerance?

    Libertarian is simply a closed society (protected by a government with a standing army and borders to be defended) with anarchy, everyone make your own rules, with almost no limit, sans the libertarian defeating ones that libertarians claim to support, thus destroying the whole concept of libertarianism.

    I would proffer that Sodom and Gomorrah were perfect examples of a libertarian society. Ruled by kings who levied minimal taxes, provided defended borders to the extent they could, and allowed the citizens to define their society as they wished. While I do think that the opposite effect could happen with a libertarian society, it would require that each citizen is given the power to defend their inalienable rights, and that would actually include the right to live and prosper in a non diverse society. Thus, when someone steps outside their cultural mores, they can be subjugated through coercive measures up to death to keep that right.

    Libertarians are a myopic bunch of people who are even more deluded than liberals. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is their motto, along with property rights and "personal accountability". They stop thinking right about there. They do not wonder why the founders stated explicitly, "that among these are ...". They did not detail out all of them. Why? I am sure they wanted to, but those inalienable rights are actually infinite in number. They figured that if the government sits back, and sets rules that allows the people these particular rights, that the people would be able to fight it out amongst themselves to create the society they want. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Anyone see "diversity" in this statement anywhere? Anyone see "tolerance" here either? Diversity and forced tolerance are a recipe for creating an immoral and non religious people.

    I would be all over the idea of libertarian government if I had the following rights. When someone gets in my face and makes fighting word arguments to me, I can pull my gun out and blow is head clean off. When someone pulls their pants down in front of my immature daughter, I can blow his head clean off. When someone rapes one of my family members, I can call up a gang of friends and family and string the mother f$%^er up. Sans those inalienable rights, I would prefer a government that coercively forces degernates to remain behind closed doors or face punishment from an overbearing government force.

  • Not Sure

    "When someone gets in my face and makes fighting word arguments to me, I can pull my gun out and blow is head clean off."

    Not trying to start a fight, but I'm wondering if you would support the right of someone else to blow your head off if he didn't like an argument you made.

  • http://stopthebreathing.blogtownhall.com astonerii

    Not sure.

    It would require the fighting words to be spoken. Similar to the old west. You call the man out to the street, and you settle it all gentleman like. If he has that strong of conviction in his argument, he will fight. If not, he will back down.

  • Not Sure

    But would you accept being killed by someone who thought you were calling him out, even if you weren't?

  • jhc

    "But what the Left ignores is that there is absolutely no power imbalance as large as that between the government and its citizens." That puts it in a nutshell.

    My simple questions for those on the left: Why do you want to give more control over your property (or others' property - i.e., the market) to the same people who already have complete control over the armed forces & police? Doesn't that create the worst kind of monopoly you can imagine?

    The responses I usually get to those show that people think governments can never do wrong. The built-in bias seems to be that governments are *always* a force for good. There's a lot of naivete there... either real (sometimes) or assumed for the sake of argument.

  • http://stopthebreathing.blogtownhall.com astonerii

    Maybe my argument is not perfect.

    Here is the deal, along with everyone being able to have their own moral laws to live by, each person also has the right to live their life in a social setting that is appeasing to them. Pursuit of happiness is just not going to happen if you are a religious and mild mannered person, and there are 5 out 5,000 people in your town that like to go down the street naked nailing each other. Walking up to your property line in view of your windows, and having orgies. They are not really doing any harm to anyone, how can they be, they are consenting adults. Thus, they would not be someone you could have the libertarian government take care of. Of course, if you resort to violence (which by the way, because they are deviant thugs, is the only thing that will stop them) to prevent them from doing what they are doing, the (non) libertarian government that people always propose would take care of you (for causing harm to them). I have issue with this concept. Harm is not just simply property crimes, physically hurting you, and other physical only activities. These people would be causing significant harm to the community and many individuals. I could not for the life of me imagine anyone being allowed to act as the 5 people I have outlined in any government form other than, they are relatives or friends of the monarchy or tyrant, or the libertarian idea of government. "Fight bad speech with more speech" BUNK, fight bad speech with a good ass whooping. "Fight bad morals by being a good role model", no, you put your foot down, and in no uncertain terms you make the deviants stop what they are doing or things are going to get mighty unpleasant mighty fast for them. That is what the argument is meant to signify, but because I was holding my daughter at the time, I had limited words to use.

  • Not Sure

    I'm sure my argument isn't perfect, either, but...

    "Pursuit of happiness is just not going to happen if you are a religious and mild mannered person, and there are 5 out 5,000 people in your town that like to go down the street naked nailing each other."

    how often does this actually happen?

  • http://stopthebreathing.blogtownhall.com astonerii

    It will happen precisely as often as society allows it. People are not all good by nature. When unconstrained by coercive forces, either inner moral compass, biblical moral compass, or coercion by the society at large, those who are not good by nature are free to do as they please. As is happening in our society today, it is a persistent race to ever more immoral activity and there are always deviants who are willing to push the envelope one more step. Society has been hampered in its ability to self police these deviants into the closet where their activities do no harm to anyone other than themselves and perhaps their close friends and family through coercive acts by the states. So, how often does it happen today? We do not live in a libertarian nation do we, so it is irrelevant. The fact that the philosophy would allow such a thing to occur ever is the problem. I am sure the libertarians will come up with an argument that would work, taking yet more freedom away from the individual, and not celebrating that particular diversity and we do not have to tolerate that particular activity. When an activity is so repugnant that they cannot defend it, they decide that the government can control that particular case, but nothing more, but it is all subjective upon who sees what as repugnant enough. They have a problem with murder, but no issue with abortion. Hell, they even argue that two people could not have an old west style duel, why? Because it is unpopular enough that they decide that in order to seem sane that they have to draw the line there. Libertarianism, the every person a law unto themselves, except when he isn't, government. There is no factual lower or upper limit to the laws or lost freedom allowed under libertarianism, as is all things philosophical and not based on long learned truths over millenia, they are simply subjective to each individuals desired current outcome.

    Note that when the mob descended upon Job's home, they only made a bunch of noise. Nothing a libertarian would consider worthy of turning to violence over, and they were able to attain two virgin children of the house. All for a bunch of racket. Funny how in libertarian societies, it is the deviant mobs that rule. African nations are primarily libertarian, I do not see any of them prospering with over abundance of good moral character. I see a large number of people living under the tyrannical hands of the deviants and thugs. Most of the areas in the middle east are also pretty much libertarian, I really do not think most of the people there feel free, as they are pretty much slaves to who ever has the guns and the highest respected Imam on their side. Libertarian society is not going to make a place prosperous unless the people are almost to the man woman and child morally good. Particularly when the libertarian government is only going to step into an argument once violence has become the only method left to determine the outcome when two diverse groups of cultures collide and are not willing to tolerate one another. Libertarian society, forced tolerance. Live and let live, or we kill you. Make life as bad as possible on those you oppose without resorting to violence and force them to confront you with violence, call up the libertarian government to punish them. I can just see the prosperous society we get with that as the method of conflict management.

  • Not Sure

    "Hell, they even argue that two people could not have an old west style duel, why?"

    Personally, I don't have a problem with duels. But that's not what you initially said:

    "When someone gets in my face and makes fighting word arguments to me, I can pull my gun out and blow is head clean off."

    Does that sound like a duel to you? It doesn't to me.

  • John Moore

    kebko:

    John Moore:

    Every progressive I’ve ever met has a libertarian friend who they insist confirms all their worst fears about libertarianism.

    But, if you look through the writings at a place like reason.com, Cato, Virginia Postrel, etc. what you instead will find a celebration of human diversity and tolerant association. I can’t remember ever reading anything from those sources that had the stereotypical “man as an island”, “I’ve got mine, you get yours” attitudes that progressives claim they have. Ayn Rand has probably set back the conversation by allowing the conversation to go in this direction.

    First, I'm not a progressive. I'm a recovering Libertarian - now conservative.

    Second, I came by my views honestly, as a registered Libertarian, a reader of Rand (way back when), and by spending a long evening with one of Rand's close associates. And, of course, for those who celebrate Rand, they should look at how she personally treated people: horribly. So either she wasn't a libertarian in her life, or she epitomized the worst of the movement.

    Third, I catch the libertarian line a lot - Fox News has a few libertarians, and Ron Paul is apparently one. Coyote is one, and his ideas on immigration (and only immigration, I think) are (respectfully) irrational. What comes across from these sources, in addition to an appropriate concern about the power of government, is an impractical isolationism, a religious belief in the power of liberty to solve all ills (similar to the belief of Liberals that they can reform human nature), and such a deep distrust of government's *necessary* functions (police, military) as to render our society a suicide pact if these people got what they claim to want.

  • John Moore

    >>>> …* abortion – undercuts traditional respect for pregnancy, family, and procreation – ALLOW IT!…

    I prefer the libertarian position of “What the hell makes it any business of yours?” in response to pretty much all of those listed.

    And I prefer the more nuanced libertarian position that if there's any excuse at all for having a government with coercive powers, it is to protect the innocent and weak against those who would kill them.

    I used to know a strongly libertarian attorney who did a lot of pro bono work for the pro-life cause. There is nothing anti-libertarian about protecting unborn life - the only arguable issue is when the fetus/infant's right to life exceeds the woman's right to avoid major inconvenience.

  • Not Sure

    "What comes across from these sources, in addition to an appropriate concern about the power of government, is an impractical isolationism..."

    As a general rule, libertarians are not isolationists. They're non-interventionists. There's a difference.

  • emma

    Great stuff as usual.

    I think it is interesting what has happened in the last week, Greece problems, Bernanke admiting US is crappy, and oil problems too. A crazy week, I am guessing there is a bigger move coming on the market.

    Been following this guy for a while, his trading advice is killer and is very accurate.... latest video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKP90DrpfzQ

  • Mesa Econoguy

    Brilliant essay.

  • Gil

    Gee, should article really be entitled "The Difference Between Imbecilic and Correct Philosophy"? After all, Libertarians equally contend that the Righties also use government to impinge on Libertarians' freedoms. Then again were Libertarians the cult-followers of the "V" remake? The way the Libertarian question of "who do you trust: government or the free market?" really sounds like "who do you trust: reptilian aliens or fellow humans?" (Or the "V" marketing gimmick: "whose side are you on?"). Sure extreme-Lefts make Left-Centrists look bad just as Environmentalist who advocate creating a human-culling virus make those who merely want to conserve species of natural beauty from development look bad. Libertarians have their own extremists with their own bait-and-switch debating. They start off hearkening to low-level government intervention, letting the free market work its magic for economic activity, greater personal responsibility, etc., (so far so good) to anti-government, anti-law, anything and everything goes "unless it hurts you" for which the burden of proof will on you, sex with animals, etc. . . .

  • astonerii

    Not Sure:
    I am done talking with you. If you factually read what i wrote, outside of a statement of "sorry, my argument was poor and wrong" I admited it was a poor communication, and expounded it fully, as I had time and fingers available to do so.

    Since you are one of those people I would rather not have in my community, one that is rude, I will not read your tripe any longer.

    What a jerk.

  • frankania

    What would make an individual tolerant of others unlike himself? The expectation that if we treat others well, they will treat us well--it happens all the time in every social situation.

  • Mary

    @astonerii: I didn't think much of your argument from the beginning, but you really lost it when you started the name-calling. Unless some of Not Sure's posts were deleted that I'm not aware of, his debate style was totally appropriate. Disagree with his points if you will, but HE was not the one being rude.

  • Ronsonic

    Professor Jonathan Haidt actually studied this. Or rather found from his studies in moral philosophy that conservatives are far better at understanding and anticipating liberal positions and opinions than the other way around.

    Liberals do indeed have a complete and complex strawman construct of conservative and libertarian thought. Unfortunately, they are almost completely wrong.

  • Ted Rado

    Some interesting ideas from my military history library which read on the subject of our political discussion:
    Clausewitz, Moltke, von der Goltz, and many others say: Searching eternally for the perfect solution accomplishes nothing, as total inactivity results. An adequate plan carried out with determination will usually accomplish the desired end. Scharnhorst is quoted as saying: "never are moral forces at rest; they decline as soon as they cease to mount upwards".

    We seem to have niether an adequate program nor the will to carry one out with determination. (Just watch the effort, or lack thereof, to deal with the govenment debt.) We seem to be heading toward being a nation of deadbeats, all on the dole, led by a tyrannical bureaucracy. I am sure this is not what our founding fathers had in mind. If we don't return to our moral compass of old (hard work, honesty, individual responsibility) soon, we will be in the glue.

  • JW

    The point the good Herr Doktor seems to miss that most libertarians came up as either progressives or conservatives before becoming a libertarian and thus are able to spot their snake oil philosophy a mile away. Their ideas are rusty noises we're quite familiar with.

    From my own experience, libertarians seem to be the ones who, as they grew and acquired knowledge and wisdom, sought to look outside the tribal box and challenge their own views and conclusions (or have others challenge them). The older progressives I know are still spouting the same drivel 20+ years later, with no perceptible change in tone or content. Some have mellowed a bit, but the clumsy, sledgehammer concept of force remains central to any thesis, as does mocking strange ideas, such as choice outside the reproductive cycle.

  • Jerry

    By example, how far are the people of Syria getting with the speaking truth to power meme? If ever there was an argument for smaller government, it's there.

  • http://www.salientsolutions.biz John Wilson

    I love your positions and comments but can't stand spelling errors.

  • Zach

    "From my own experience, libertarians seem to be the ones who, as they grew and acquired knowledge and wisdom, sought to look outside the tribal box and challenge their own views and conclusions (or have others challenge them).:

    That's what happened to me. Used to be a pretty staunch liberal. My house of cards came crashing down once someone in an online forums somewhere essentially said "explain how it's OK for the government to tell someone how to run their business, and to take their money, but not OK to tell two men they can't get married." He was the same person who would rail about the PATRIOT act and airport screeners and due process, so it wasn't like I could just package him up with the Bush-likers and mentally toss him aside. Throw in a self-made appeal to my own ego: "hey, these guys have real world skills and actually do things, my liberal friends on this board are a bunch of whiny high school kids or have worthless majors, the kind of majors I made relentless fun of in college while majoring in computer science" and it was all over.

  • http://stopthebreathing.blogtownhall.com astonerii

    "Jerry:

    By example, how far are the people of Syria getting with the speaking truth to power meme? If ever there was an argument for smaller government, it’s there.
    June 25, 2011, 10:24 am"

    How big is that government?

  • http://colson@cogfactory.net colson

    Astonerri - I would suggest starting with:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rights/

    You can skip down to the section: 2.1.8 Negative and Positive Rights

    For all the ills you attribute to libertarianism, it might do you well to determine how much of this is consistent with a strong negative-rights view of the world. Many of your arguments attribute, what libertarians see as, ills that require the exertion of positive rights beyond the limits of the libertarian view. You single-handedly destroy your own arguments with those items you use to bolster your claim.

    The only half-way coherent argument you make is that libertarian ideals lead to people with different moral and ethical values doing consensual things that you believe to be deviant, can happen without the force of government to stop them. And that is the cost we libertarians are most happy to pay - a society where we can pursue whatever we wish, and express our (negative) rights however we want, standing only in judgement of our own ideals and values. The cost I mention is that I have to accept that others might have varying degrees of ideals, morals, ethics and values and express them in ways I might consider deviant behavior.

  • http://stopthebreathing.blogtownhall.com astonerii

    Astonerii: "Maybe my argument is not perfect." Revised my argument. Explained that when first written I had limited attention and ability to type much. June 24, 2011, 8:16 pm
    Not Sure: "Does that sound like a duel to you? It doesn’t to me." June 24, 2011, 9:29 pm

    So, yeah, rude. Unless you got a constructive argument, "I didn’t think much of your argument from the beginning," is a pretty worthless critique. Have some courage and actually do something that Not Sure was willing to do, state exactly why he did not like my argument.

  • http://scottgrannis.blogspot.com Scott

    Congratulations, Warren, and many thanks for such a well-written and well-thought-out article!

  • Not Sure

    Mary:

    None of my posts were deleted. astonerii assumed rudeness when none was intended. He made numerous arguments before saying "Maybe my argument is not perfect." Without clarification, I have no way of knowing if that meant one of them, some of them or all of them.

  • John Marvin

    Great article, Warren.

  • http://stopthebreathing.blogtownhall.com astonerii

    Not Sure:

    It should have been easy to figure out what I was replying to, you only picked one of my arguments to criticize, and I think you picked the strongest one against me.

    Sorry, I guess maybe you replying to my previous post, but I did not verify. Yeah, just pulling a gun out and shooting someone for simply arguing is not likely beneficial to society, but protecting the culture of a society overall is worth killing the few bad apples over, as they taint many, who will again taint more. Thousands of years of human learning has shown this repeatedly. When you allow one person to partake in immoral activity, it is a green light for more people to do the same, and they lead to more and so forth.

  • Not Sure

    astonerii-

    I'm sorry if I didn't make myself clear in previous posts. No rudeness was intended. But anyway... this:

    "... protecting the culture of a society overall is worth killing the few bad apples over..."

    Don't you see that this attitude puts you (and your loved ones) at risk of being killed by others who believe that they're protecting their culture against you?

  • Stan

    Warren you make me feel pretty good showing me how much better I am at spelling than an Ivy-leaguer. Seriously, a wonderful article! Have someone proof-read next time however. I'd be happy to do it free.

  • waxmat

    I can't stand people who can't stand spelling errors.

  • astonerii

    Not sure:

    1) This is only if your going to take away the arbiter of the government. In this case, there must be a mechanism in place to allow communities to defend their culture against outside cultures non violently running rampant through them. If our community does not was a bunch of faggots running around with wedding bands, naked on the streets, poking each other for good measure, our community should have access to powers which prevent this from happening. That power should extend all the way up to defending our soverign culture with the threat of death upon those who would invade and destroy it.

    This is why I will never support libertarian ways. It takes away the arbiter of government that allows different groups to live side by side, not amongst one another. I am not happy with our current situation where the government is abdicating that duty, and far more so when it decides to get out all together.

    There are plenty of third world nations that a group of Libertarians could go to, invade or buy out, but take over, and make a libertarian state, and prove that it can function. Go have fun, enjoy yourselves, good luck surviving. Prove it works as you say, and I might entertain the change. Until then, I know that the old west way of dealing with diversity worked just fine.

  • astonerii

    Not sure:

    Also remember, Libertarians are firm believers in private property. Does not the idea that inadvertantly stepping onto some other person's property by accident, or forced by circumstance giving the land owner the right to kill you give you any pause?

    In a world where you have no idea what the culture of another person is, I would imagine shoot first, ask questions later would be prevailent.

  • Mary

    @astonerii: While your continued rudeness and name-calling hardly deserve a response, I am loathe to let your ignorance of the issues persist. You, like so many others, appear to confuse libertarians with anarchists. The lib credo roughly translates to "Do not unto others that you would not want done unto you" (thank you Rabbi Hillel), rather than the perverse, strong-armed "Might makes right" that you propose.

    Libertarians espouse non-violence (do you not listen to Ron Paul wax on about non-intervention?) We do not condone fraud or coercion. Perhaps this line will make it easier for you to understand. "Your rights end when they infringe upon another's."

    That you think the model of the Wild West is justice is frightening. Below is a link to help enlighten you to real libertarian thought. Go ahead. It's safe.

    http://deathby1000papercuts.com/2011/03/top-libertarian-40-sites-march-2011/