Monday, January 21, 2008

The Ron Paul Affair and Libertarian Culture Clash

There are a lot of different things going on in libertarian reactions to Ron Paul in general and the quotes from the Ron Paul newsletters in particular. One of them, I think, is a culture clash between different sorts of libertarians, signaled in part by Virginia Postrel's use of "Cosmopolitan" and other people's reaction to it, in part by the language used by people on both sides.

Loosely speaking, I think the clash can be described as between people who see non-PC speech as a positive virtue and those who see it as a fault--or, if you prefer, between people who approve of offending liberal sensibilities ("liberal" in the modern sense of the term) and those who share enough of those sensibilities to prefer not to offend them. The former group see the latter as wimps, the latter see the former as boors.

Let me offer, as a simple example, possible reactions to the following sentence:

"According to FBI statistics, more than a third, perhaps more than half, of murderers are black, even though blacks make up only about 13% of the U.S. population."

As it happens, the statement is true; the "perhaps" reflects the number of murderers whose race is unknown. The question is how different people would react to it. The answer, I think, is that one group of libertarians would prefer not to state it and, if stating it, would be inclined to qualify their statement in order to make it clear that they were not racially prejudiced. A different group would state it with mild glee, in order to make it clear that they were not PC, not constrained by what they view as ideological commitments to shade the truth when it contradicts fashionable opinion.

I think this difference shows up in the strength of the condemnations of the newsletter quotes, a strength appropriate in terms of current conventions of what one does or does not say but exaggerated, I think, in terms of the literal content of the quotes. In that respect it reminds me a little of the flap some years ago over H.L. Mencken's diary, although that was a more extreme case—labeling an author racist for using currently unacceptable language despite evidence that he was less, not more, racially prejudiced than most of us.

In what sense were the quotes "racist?" While I may have missed something, I do not think any of them either asserted innate inferiority of blacks or hatred of blacks qua blacks. What they did was express a derogatory opinion of particular blacks--Watts rioters or muggers--in a gleeful fashion. They were thus likely both to appeal to racists and to offend liberals—more generally, to offend people who accepted current conventions of acceptable and unacceptable speech. My guess is that both effects were intentional

I myself have somewhat mixed feelings on issue of being deliberately non-PC. On the one hand, I find it disturbing that, in our society as it now exists, true statements about certain questions are likely to result in serious negative consequences for those who make them, with the forced resignation of the president of Harvard the most striking recent example. On the other hand, I think offending other people for the fun of it is both rude and counterproductive.

Which gets me to what I suspect is another difference between the two groups—for simplicity I will label them "wimps" and "boors"—their attitude to those who disagree with them politically. The wimps, I suspect, have friends they respect who not only are not libertarian but are well to the left on the political spectrum, hence wimps are likely to think of their opponents to the left as reasonable people who are mistaken. The boors are likely to see opponents to their left as stupid or evil. On the other hand, the boors are rather more likely to have friends who are conservatives, even kinds of conservatives, such as religious fundamentalists or neo-confederates, whom the wimps disapprove of. So in that case the pattern may reverse, with the wimps seeing those they disagree with as evil or stupid, the boors seeing them as holding some mistaken views.

No doubt all of this is an oversimplification of a complicated situation, and no doubt exceptions to the pattern I describe could be found in both directions. But I think it has a good deal of truth to it.

All of which reminds me of an old piece by Murray Rothbard, on crucial questions that divide libertarians, in which he accused me of failure to hate the state. He was correct. I don't view the state as a diabolical plot by evil people to exploit innocent victims, merely as an understandable and unfortunate mistake. In that regard, at least, I am a wimp, not a boor.

170 Comments:

At 12:49 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

David,

I think this is the best explication I've heard yet of the Ron Paul Affair. I swear I've thought the same thing but haven't seen it expressed anywhere else (and wasn't inspired enough to say it myself:). While I personally tend more towards "wimp" sensibilities, recognition that this is what was likely going on in the minds of the "boors" leads me to think it's not as big of a deal as those who are ready to throw Ron Paul overboard make it out to be.

 
At 1:08 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

And as someone who was once, by conversion rather than birth, a very traditionalist Catholic (Mel Gibson style), even though I've changed those friends for Quakers, I still consider myself "friendly" towards those people -- far more friendly than I've ever been with your typical liberal Democrat. I know from experience that us traditionalist Catholics would in social discourse amongst ourselves sometimes revel in our non-PCness. Those are the kinds of friends that the paleolibertarians have made, and I'm not inclined to fault them for it. Indeed, I'm of the school that thinks that a culture that emphasizes self-government of one's own life (through moral virtue and respect for the fundamental importance of family) is vitally important to the project of reducing the perceived need for government coercion and intrusion.

 
At 1:51 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger Leonard said...

Excellent analysis. I'm perfectly positioned to be a wimp culturally, and I find myself contra Rothbard vis-a-vis hating the state. I don't hate it with any passion.

As for the Ron Paul thing, I find myself arguing the boor side of it more than not. I see value in libertarian solidarity on matters of truth, trumping PC. I guess that makes me something of a boor. But it is remarkable how polarizing PC is to libertarians, and how predictable the fault-lines are.

 
At 2:05 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger libertarian said...

"liberal" in the modern sense of the term

so in Europe we are not modern? :P Don't call them like that, they are not liberals.

 
At 2:08 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger The Tulsa Atlas said...

I totally agree with you. In my latest blog, I tried to explain why the Libertarian Party will never win a presidential election. It is because different types of people want the government off of their back for different reasons. I tried to group libertarians in a somewhat humorous way.

 
At 3:03 PM, January 21, 2008, Anonymous William H. Stoddard said...

I'm reminded of an online discussion I fell into a few years ago, on one of the Heinlein fora. One of the regulars there, a woman, used the term "feminazi." I objected to this, saying that virtually all my women friends were feminists, and that I disliked seeing them labelled with a hostilely meant term that they would never use for themselves; that it was one thing to use such terms in a private conversation, but when you were speaking in public, you should bear in mind that you didn't know who might be listening. The reaction was fairly consistently hostile; they seemed to feel that I had attacked her.

I tend to call myself a "culturally leftist libertarian." I have gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered friends; I'm in a long-term nonmarital relationship and have a fair number of friends who are in nonmarital relationships, long-term or not; I've been an atheist since early childhood, and my friends are more often atheist, agnostic, or pagan than Christian; I detest the coercive imposition of culture on people who want to escape from it, but I value cultural difference as a source of flavor in life; and I have far more friends who are liberal Democrats than who are conservative Republicans. I'd call myself "cosmopolitan," without hesitation. And, naturally, I seriously dislike Ron Paul and don't regard him as a real libertarian.

I'm not going to comment on what arguments might be offered to validate my position; I'm simply offering it here as an autobiographical datum.

A year or so back, the mayor of San Diego, a Republican, announced that he had reconsidered his opposition to same-sex marriage: apparently his daughter is a lesbian and he could not avoid recognizing what the inability to marry meant to her. And this caused me to reflect on my out-laws, who mostly oppose same-sex marriage—and who mostly don't have gay and lesbian friends, either. Personally knowing people who are affected by something makes it more real to most people.

 
At 3:32 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

William:

And I'm not as culturally to the right or as culturally hardheaded as my comments may have suggested. My cousin, who I was raised with and regard as a sister, is a lesbian, and I have nothing but respect for her and the person with whom she's had a long-term relationship for many years. I lived with my present wife for several years before we recently got married. One of my very best friends, dating back from high school days, is an actor in L.A., and both he and his dad (who I am also friends with) -- certainly the dad -- would identify as Democrats.

Like you, I don't feel like justifying my cultural beliefs here, but I would have to say they're a combination of equal parts tolerance/understanding on the one hand and respect for the highest moral ideals on the other.

I had a long discussion with fellow Quakers about gay marriage here:
http://quakerphilosopher.blogspot.com/2007/12/double-standards.html

 
At 4:03 PM, January 21, 2008, Anonymous Steve Buckstein said...

As the first commenter states, I agree that this is the best explanation of the Paul affair that I've seen.

Count me as a public wimp and private boor (more or less).

 
At 5:29 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

"And this caused me to reflect on my out-laws, who mostly oppose same-sex marriage—and who mostly don't have gay and lesbian friends, either."

On the other hand, I knew someone fairly well--intelligent, educated, I think in his seventies--who took the position that gays should have the same legal rights as other people, but that same sex relationships should definitely not be labeled marriages.

And he took that position despite having a daughter who had been living with her female partner for many years. He got along fine with his daughter, treated her partner more or less as he would have treated her husband--but thought it was wrong to give such a relationship the label that belonged on a different sort of relationship.

 
At 5:51 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger montestruc said...

Facts cannot be racist. People who have a problem with statements of facts being made, have a problem with truth and honesty.

 
At 6:10 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger Dan said...

The newsletter quotes were more racist then you portray them. "A Special Issue on Racial Terrorism" starts out with the (perhaps distorted) facts: “The criminals who terrorize our cities — in riots and on every non-riot day — are not exclusively young black males, but they largely [sic?] are." It moves on to conclusions such as "our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists -- and they can be identified by the color of their skin", and "We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irrational." That such facts are used to draw such conclusions is perhaps reason to be wary of being a "boor".

Montestruc: Sure, the facts aren't racist, but to what purpose should one state them? If one is to advocate anything with facts about race, it must be race-based policies or attitudes. I generally disagree with both anti-minority (racial profiling) and pro-minority (affirmative action) policies, so in regards to race I'm a wimp.

 
At 7:21 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

Dan writes:

"If one is to advocate anything with facts about race, it must be race-based policies or attitudes. "

There is at least one other important reason to point out such facts--to rebut claims about outcomes as evidence of prejudice. If someone observes that blacks have (say) 90% of the average income of whites and takes it for granted that that is proof of racial discrimination, he is implicitly assuming that there are no average differences between blacks and whites that are relevant to income--such as differences in average intelligence. Similarly, how one views figures on what fraction of prison inmates are black depends in part on what fraction of criminals are black.

Gender differences present a much clearer example of the same point. If one accepts Darwinian evolution, one ought to expect behavioral differences between males and females; we have, after all, been "designed" for reproductive success, males and females differ precisely in their role in reproduction, hence it would be surprising if the same behavioral design was optimal for both. Yet popular discussions frequently take it for granted that differing outcomes can only reflect "sexism."

The fact that one cannot openly discuss some of these things means that bad arguments go without appropriate criticism. Both the Lawrence Summers affair and the more recent Watson affair demonstrate that certain arguments cannot be safely made in political discourse, not because they are false but because they are taboo.

 
At 7:47 PM, January 21, 2008, Anonymous Mark said...

Montestruc said:

"People who have a problem with statements of facts being made, have a problem with truth and honesty."

Fact: Libertarians are more likely than non-libertarians to be white men without many friends who play online fantasy games, work as low-level computer programmers and live with their parents.

I'm not trying to be offensive. I'm just stating facts. I'm sure you appreciate my brutal, non-PC honesty.

 
At 8:03 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger Audacity said...

I certainly agree that claims about the equality of unequal groups are also unhelpful, and perhaps also boorish - which would lead to a neat formulation of my position: be a boor only in response to boorishness.

 
At 8:05 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger John Markley said...

Great analysis. I would only add that I don’t think paleos are by nature boorish and cosmopolitans are by their nature wimpy; I think both groups are both boorish and wimpy in relation to different cultural/political groups. In their relationships to liberal beliefs, sentiments, and taboos paleos are boors and cosmopolitans wimps; in their relationships to conservative/traditionalist beliefs, however, the roles reverse, and the cosmopolitans become boors and the paleos become wimps. Reason magazine’s blog- and blog commenters- often attack and ridicule creationism, religion, conservative sexual standards, and the like, and clearly relish doing so. They’re not at all averse to offending other people for the fun of it, they just have a different set of people they enjoy offending.

 
At 8:09 PM, January 21, 2008, Anonymous Rex Little said...

Libertarians are more likely than non-libertarians to be white men without many friends who play online fantasy games, work as low-level computer programmers and live with their parents.

Hey, I resemble that remark. . .

 
At 8:21 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

John Markley --

Most excellent point!

 
At 8:33 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

Mark writes:

Libertarians are more likely than non-libertarians to be white men without many friends who play online fantasy games, work as low-level computer programmers and live with their parents.

I'm curious about both the evidence for the purported facts and the magnitude of the asserted differences. If I had to guess on the basis of casual observation, the "white men ... who play online fantasy games" is probably correct but I am less sure about "without many friends ... low-level computer programmers ... live with their parents."

 
At 8:41 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

Hey David -- against her better judgment, my wife broke down and got me and my stepson World of Warcraft as one of our Christmas presents. (We'd gotten tired of Dungeons & Dragons Online.) Do you perchance have an anarchist guild on WoW that takes newbies?

 
At 8:43 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

P.S. My gnome mage Neetrik is already level 24.

 
At 9:13 PM, January 21, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

John asks about an anarchist guild on WoW.

Only one of my characters is in a guild, and it isn't particularly anarchist. My first character used to reject invitations to join guilds by explaining that he was, by nature, solitary.

You can find me on the Feathermoon server. For the character I play most at the moment, look for a gnome who speaks entirely in rhymed verse.

 
At 10:32 PM, January 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there's another issue that divides boors and wimps. Words are weapons of political discourse. I find that either most boors use that instrument as a blunt hacking instrument or do not recognize or acknowledge the fact that words are the weapon of politics.

Many wimps believe that in order to make a political effect, one must choose the battleground and the weapons you wield carefully. They utilize non-PC discourse when it has a useful effect.

Of course, a boor would state that we should not live in a world where that is the case. We should not have to play by the PC rules. And they are right. We shouldn't. But a wimp would answer that we are not in that wonderful world.

Disclaimer: I am a wimp and nowadays refuse contact with most boor libertarians. Personal preference tells me to spend my time with civilized people and boors don't qualify. So read the above text with that grain of salt. I can't really make it even handed as I'm quite biased.

 
At 10:37 PM, January 21, 2008, Anonymous William H. Stoddard said...

I'm curious about both the evidence for the purported facts and the magnitude of the asserted differences. If I had to guess on the basis of casual observation, the "white men ... who play online fantasy games" is probably correct but I am less sure about "without many friends ... low-level computer programmers ... live with their parents."

White man: yes.

Play online fantasy games: No. I play games face to face, sitting in somebody's living room, around a table or on a sofa. In fact, I write them, mainly for Steve Jackson Games (itself a libertarian connection of sorts).

Without many friends: I'd say no. But hardly any of my face to face friends are libertarians; I find gamers and science fiction fans more fun to hang out with.

Low-level computer programmer: I'm a user, not a programmer. My main job is editing scholarly publications.

Live with their parents: Not since 1976. And now they're both dead.

But I don't think any of those stereotypes are particularly offensive, though they can be used offensively. On the other hand, they're a closer fit to "science fiction fan" than they are to "libertarian."

 
At 12:06 AM, January 22, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Facts cannot be racist. People who have a problem with statements of facts being made, have a problem with truth and honesty.

This is true: a fact, taken by itself, cannot be racist. But a person can reveal their own bias (racist or otherwise) by which facts they loudly trumpet, and which they stay silent about. If a person consistently cherry-picks only those facts that make racial minorities look bad, he may very likely be a racist.

If I just wanted to state a random fact, I could flip open the World Almanac and (say) tell you the GDP of Luxembourg. But people don't work that way -- they choose to talk about the things that matter to them. What does it say, then, if the facts that matter to someone are, disproportionately, bad things about black people?

 
At 12:23 AM, January 22, 2008, Anonymous Rex Little said...

those stereotypes are . . . a closer fit to "science fiction fan" than they are to "libertarian."
I'd say there's a pretty fair-sized overlap between those two groups. Myself included.

 
At 12:28 AM, January 22, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

"What does it say, then, if the facts that matter to someone are, disproportionately, bad things about black people?"

Three possibilities occur to me. One is that, as you suggest, the person is a racist.

A second is that the person disapproves of the implicit censorship in current attitudes, and is deliberately breaking the taboo--rather like an author who deliberately discusses taboo subjects in his work.

A third possibility is that the person believes that important facts are being suppressed and shouldn't be. Consider the case of Watson's comments. His basic point, I think, was that he believed a major cause of the problems of Africa was the lower average intelligence of its population.

I do not know if he was correct or even what the basis was for his opinion. But if he was correct—and he presumably thought he was—what he was saying was important; some hundreds of millions of people could have worse lives if other people base their attempts to help them on a false belief about the nature of the problem. Hence I regard the response to his statement as outrageous.

 
At 2:11 AM, January 22, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for drawing attention to "speech styles". often, but not always, different speech styles are at the root of these kind of debates. sometimes "boorish" speech is really an attempt to be direct and blunt. other times "wimpish" speech can be an example of "conspicuous sensitivity", this is a form of verbal ostentation and stroking one's own ego. It does nothing to reduce or eliminate social conflicts or injustices.

 
At 5:38 AM, January 22, 2008, Blogger Kirsten said...

David, I'm interested to know what your take is on the comments about homosexuals in the newsletters. For instance, one states, "I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities."

 
At 6:01 AM, January 22, 2008, Anonymous albatross said...

It's also possible that the facts being quoted are the ones you think the most relevant for some discussion. If we're talking about the price of corn, and you bring up the black/white IQ difference, I'm going to think you're obsessed with it. If we're talking about problems of public schools and NCLB and you bring up the IQ difference, I'd guess that's because you think it's relevant.

It seems to me that "boor" and "wimp" are directed at particular groups, and are strategies as much as sentiments. If you're trying to make common cause with some group, or you consider them an ally, you're likely to be a wimp toward them. If you're trying to attack them, you're likely to be a boor.

You can watch this with some paleoconservatives, who started out being wimps toward neocons, and over time became boors toward them. Similarly, many paleos seem to be wimps toward the white nationalist/white supremacist crowd, presumably because they see that group as at least potential allies.

 
At 6:21 AM, January 22, 2008, Blogger Dee said...

What was the heading AFFAIR used? At first glance someone might think something quite negative being associated with Ron Paul's name. In addition, why does the TRUTH have to be hidden but a LIE can be promoted without exception. The truth is Ron Paul would make a great President. The lie is the mass media avoiding him at every turn. People are not stupid and many are watching this election paying special attention to the lack of attention due Dr. Paul. Guess he has the establishment quite moved as they watch the huge support for his cause.

 
At 8:43 AM, January 22, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

David,

I created a gnome warlock named Midgick on Feathermoon (now level seven) but couldn't seem to find you anywhere! Feel free to add me to your friends list. Neetrik is on Norgannon.

Mark,

Don't knock online gaming. I won on FullTilt Poker a freeroll to the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2006 (not to mention $4k here and $2.5k there), where I then won close to $18k. But I also enjoy socializing with friends at our $10 buy-in weekly home game. Me and my friends back in the day were big fans of Steve Jackson's Illuminati card game, Titan, and various other games. These days I like to play Settlers of Catan. But don't let that color your picture of me: back in high school I also lettered in wrestling and won our sectionals all four years. True, these days I'm a lot less healthy, and playing online WoW or poker in a wreath of cigarette smoke probably isn't helping:)

 
At 9:07 AM, January 22, 2008, Anonymous A.B. said...

People making non-pc statement have to bear a high cost which makes them in my opinion heroes. Should most people reject the idea of political correctness, we would not have to veil the truth. The problem might be that in a non-pc world being pc is not a individual handicap while in a pc-world it is. To get out, not only must we reject political correctness for ourselves but we must condemn its use by others.

 
At 11:37 AM, January 22, 2008, Blogger Fabio Bossi said...

As a german non-partisan libertarian, I would be very pleased, if the American Libertarians, only hope of Libertarianism in the world, because the european community is almost inexsistant, could make peace and shout out loud for Ron Paul.
Please, all libertarians should be aware of their responsibilities and grasp that opportunity to popularize libertarianism with all their hearts.
And wimps and boors, don`t blame me to be "collectivist" for that. I talk to all of you as Individuals.

Cheerio

Fabio

europe4ronpaul.blogspot.com

 
At 2:39 PM, January 22, 2008, Anonymous William H. Stoddard said...

As a german non-partisan libertarian, I would be very pleased, if the American Libertarians, only hope of Libertarianism in the world, because the european community is almost inexsistant, could make peace and shout out loud for Ron Paul.

Not until he reverses his position on Roe v. Wade, at a minimum. Given the shakiness of the current Supreme Court, I don't want anyone who hold's Paul's views in a position to nominate Supreme Court justices in the next eight years.

 
At 4:15 PM, January 22, 2008, Blogger montestruc said...

Mark Wrote:
------------quote----
--Montestruc said:

"People who have a problem with statements of facts being made, have a problem with truth and honesty."

Fact: Libertarians are more likely than non-libertarians to be white men without many friends who play online fantasy games, work as low-level computer programmers and live with their parents.

I'm not trying to be offensive. I'm just stating facts. I'm sure you appreciate my brutal, non-PC honesty.
------end quote--

You forgot to quote where I said facts cannot be racist.

You do not cite any factual basis for the assertions you claim are facts.

Take myself for example. I am now the the 49 yo chief engineer of a manufacturing firm who makes a six figure income. I am of mixed Hispanic/native American and Mayflower descended New Englander white ancestry. I have been married, and had several girlfriends over the years, including one now. I have lived apart from, and supported myself independent of now deceased parents since I was 17.

I have never played online computer fantasy role playing games, however as a young man I did play them on paper around a table with friends, of which I have a significant number.

I know a lot of Libertarians and your statement to try and disrespect them is not in my consistent with my life experience which includes numerous association with large numbers of Libertarians.

Facts are facts dude if you want to disrespect me about something come up with some.

 
At 4:25 PM, January 22, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm amazed by the number of people who call themselves libertarians, but make the most horribly collectivist statements about race. From a libertarian perspective, what does it matter what statistics say about black crime rates or Asian intelligence averages or the size of the average Jewish nose? If we started thinking about people as individuals instead of members of groups, the inadequacy of all of these racial stereotypes would be obvious.

 
At 4:29 PM, January 22, 2008, Anonymous Mark said...

David wrote:

"I'm curious about both the evidence for the purported facts and the magnitude of the asserted differences."

There is no evidence (that I know of). These aren't facts, they're stereotypes. I just posted them to see if people who revel in making boorish "un-PC" statements about others (especially about minorities) would take the same attitude when they were the ones being insulted.

 
At 11:22 PM, January 22, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David:

You forgot a fouth possibility: people are infact trying to influence politics with their remarks, in order to overthrow racist policies such as AA.

Speaking for myself, the reason for bringing up such subjects is because i enjoy challenging people with the inconsistencies in their worldviews, including myself by the way. Not that i dare without the anonymity of the internet though, the truth will reveal itself in the long run, whatever it may be, so i have no intention of joining Watson in martyrdom.

 
At 12:43 AM, January 23, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The state may not be a diabolical plot by evil people to exploit innocent victims. It may be an unfortunate, although not possibly understandable (at least it is beyond me), mistake.

That does not make the state any less diabolical, however. I can hardly read a newspaper without my body tensing up in anger - every day the newspapers are full of stories of innocent victims whose lives are ruined by the state.

An "unfortunate" tragedy. Whatever the intentions of the people behind it, what option is there but to hate the state with a fiery passion?

 
At 8:15 AM, January 23, 2008, Blogger Michael Thomas said...

I think it is really sad to see all of this playground fighting during a major upswing in excitement over the ideas we have all been fighting for for so long. The different sects in "libertarianism" have a Gnostic commitment to their brand of doctrine. One of the major questions of the 20th century is how a group of classical liberals could be so right about the economy but yet loose every ideological fight leading the world at full gallop to central planning? How could advocates for good ideas continue to shoot themselves in the foot? After seeing some of the back and forth lately between the wimps and the boars, I am starting to understand.

Thank you David for once again applying your wit to a topic in desperate need of level thinking.

 
At 1:25 PM, January 23, 2008, Blogger montestruc said...

Mark,

A negative statement of fact need not be an insult or even IMHO boorish. Facts simply ARE, and when it becomes impossible to speak the plain truth for fear of insulting someone, or being called a boor, or racist. It is time to tear down the structure of this often called politeness or "PCness"

That kind of politeness leads to falsehoods that can kill.

Even if all the racist stereotypes you hear had a significant element of truth to them, so what? Those stereotypes do not necessarily define specific individual of any race.

 
At 1:56 PM, January 23, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Mark wrote:

“Fact: Libertarians are more likely than non-libertarians to be white men without many friends who play online fantasy games, work as low-level computer programmers and live with their parents.

“I'm not trying to be offensive. I'm just stating facts. I'm sure you appreciate my brutal, non-PC honesty”

Well… I do appreciate the honesty, but why on earth call it “brutal”?

What you said is probably accurate. Great!

Personally, I’m a white male, married with children; I do know how to program, and I had a summer job in college doing low-level programming. I haven’t lived with my parents since high school (unless you count one summer in college), and I’ve never had any interest in fantasy games, online or not.

But I’m certainly a nerd, which is what I think you were trying to imply – like DDF, I have a Ph.D. in physics.

So? Facts are facts. Why would any sane person be offended by anything you (or I) said?

I only wish Congressman Paul were putting some of this stuff into his campaign commercials – I think his vote totals would soar!

PhysicistDave

 
At 2:51 PM, January 23, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Dave Friedman:

Interesting analysis, but, at least based on my personal experience, I think you’re missing the boat here.

I lean towards your “wimp” side – I don’t like offending friends, and, if truth be known, I actually tend to think that men/women whites/blacks, etc. are pretty much the same, or, at least, that intra-group differences are much greater than between-group differences.

For example, on some occasions where I happened to be one male in a group that was otherwise female, I’ve noticed that “stereotypical” female behavior tended to diminish a good deal: I suspect that a lot of “typical” female behavior may be women choosing to accommodate what they think men expect.

I myself am a stay-at-home homeschooling dad, which certainly bends gender stereotypes. I’m married into a Chinese immigrant family; the kids and I are learning Chinese. I’m an atheist and a technophile (Ph.D. in physics with various patents in computer and communication systems). We’ve traveled to various foreign countries and continents.

By all logic, I should be one of the “cosmopolitan” libertarians, not one of the Paulistas. We’re the very model of a modern, multicultural, cosmopolitan family.

However, I’ve found I’m not welcome among the “cosmotarians”: I’ve never smoked pot, I’ve never cheated on my wife – I’m just not what they consider “hip.”

On the other hand, despite all my regrettably cosmopolitan traits, the Paulistas seem happy enough with me – I actually do favor peace, the Bill of Rights, and lower taxes, which is enough for them.

So, at least in my experience, the distinction seems to be inclusivists (Paulistas) vs. exlcusivists (the cosmo-libs) and cultural-behavioral criteria for membership (the cosmo-libs) vs. a political focus (the Paulistas).

Remember Reason’s famous “35 Heroes of Freedom” article (“Celebrating the people who have made the world groovier and groovier since 1968”) in which they hailed Madonna, William Burroughs, and Dennis Rodman as true guiding lights for modern libertarians? (http://www.reason.com/news/show/28959.html )

Yes, they also mentioned Rand, your dad, and, curiously, Ron Paul. Considering that Burroughs, just to take one example, “deliberately severed the last joint of his left little finger to impress a man with whom he was infatuated” and “shot and killed Vollmer [his domestic partner, to use a modern term, and the mother of his son]…” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_S._Burroughs ) I think it was rather insulting to Rand, Paul, and your dad to be included on the same list.

To me that article nicely sums up the difference. Yes, the cosmo-libs would like to get a little bit of the respect due to Rand, the Friedman clan, and even Ron Paul. But what they really admire is a mental basket case who killed his own wife (I use “wife” in the practical not legal sense) because, you see, he “helped to irrevocably loosen up Eisenhower's America [and] proved that you can abuse your body in every way imaginable and still outlive the entire universe.”

No, the cosmo-libs have no use for people like me, or ordinary middle-class Americans, at all. No wonder the libertarian movement has gone absolutely nowhere for decades under the leadership of the cosmo-libs!

The split is a great thing. There is no longer a libertarian movement – there are two separate movements now: the cosmo-libs and the Paulistas.

Clarity is a good thing.

All the best,

Dave

 
At 6:04 PM, January 23, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Dave,

I should have added that my own personal experience in the Libertarian Party here in Sacramento in the ‘90s does confirm the impression one gets from the Reason article I cited.

I witnessed the chairman of the local Libertarian Party assault and injure an elderly gent who had written a letter-to-the-editor of our metro paper that the chairman disliked. The vice-chairman of the local Libertarians blew his own brains out (at least he did not blow his wife’s brains out, like the hero of Reason magazine did!). The moderator of the local Libertarian Party cable TV show hung around local playgrounds looking for eight-year-old girls to seduce. Then of course there was the required druggie whose brains were addled by the years of recreational chemicals, the lesbian/bisexual who preferred to be addressed as “Goddess,” and all the other usual “mainstream” libertarian suspects.

I was told that the Sacramento group was comparatively sane compared to some other Libertarian Party groups.

I might be willing to consider the hypothesis that my own observations were a statistical fluke, except that I had already heard about such things (and been skeptical until I saw with my own eyes) before I got involved with the Libertarians.

And it all fits together so nicely with things such as the Reason article.

I, for one, am tickled pink to see the old “libertarian movement” split nicely in two.

Let the “cosmo-libs” focus on their unique, I’ll be polite, “lifestyle interests.” Some of us are interested in political change.

Dave

 
At 11:32 PM, January 23, 2008, Blogger Kevin Craig said...

I'm a radical state-hater like Rothbard, and I liked what PhysicistDave said. But I don't disagree with your statement, "I don't view the state as a diabolical plot by evil people to exploit innocent victims, merely as an understandable and unfortunate mistake." Rothbard speaks of the State objectively, while you're speaking about those who are in the state, or are not anarchists; a more subjective view.

Hitler was objectively evil, but subjectively thought he was doing good, as did those many Germans who carried out his orders.

So I'm a paleo-boor when I talk to people outside the State, if I think they can be radicalized, but I'm more of a cosmo-wimp when I'm talking to "liberals" who are inside the State, and the best I can hope for in this short conversation is just planting a seed.

Of course, if the statist overhears me talking like Rothbard about statists to those I feel can be radicalized (or who are already radicalized and I feel can be persuaded to tangibly contribute to my campaign), the statist will be offended by my rhetoric. On the other hand, if I'm building a relationship with a statist, hoping in the long-term to radicalize her, a paleo-boor may think I'm a wimp.

The Ron Paul newsletters were obviously not written to court those inside the State.

 
At 2:34 AM, January 24, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Kevin,

I have a friend who's a libertarian anarchist, say half-way between DDF and Rothbard, who just retired as an employee of the state of California!

And, Rothbard himself worked for a while at the University of Nevada.

I knew Rothbard personally, and I think it is fair to say, as you suggest, that he did not hate the state in the sense that Hitler hated the Jews or that most people hate cockroaches.

A better analogy would be the way (I would hope) most oncologists hate cancer: i.e., if I ever need an oncologist, I hope to have one who views cancer not simply as an interesting intellectual phenomenon but more as an horrible adversary that he hopes to defeat as often as possible.

Rothbard hated the state in the same way.

He did extend that hatred to some individuals who worked for the state, but definitely not to those state workers (which, after all, included himself) who were providing essentially legitimate services that happened to be provided, illegitimately, by the state. Nor, as far as I could tell, did he really hate most of the flunkies (DEA agents, INS agents, even IRS agents) who were basically “following orders” – while their behavior is morally blameworthy, somehow it seems a bit pointless to actively hate them (I except those, of course, who engage in obvious atrocities that would engender condemnation from any decent human). There is, to steal a principle from theology, some sort of principle of “invincible ignorance” here.

However, Rothbard did clearly hate those who were the primary architects of evil on behalf of the state – Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, of course, but also people such as FDR, LBJ, Tricky Dick, Dubya, etc. as well as the intellectuals and journalists that were willing boosters and enablers of such men. This was a sort of cold, intellectual hate, but I think “hate” is the word. These guys, after all, were not merely “caught up” in the system like some low-level cop, they largely created the system and the evils inherent in it.

I think he had a point here. Personally, I find it hard to hate Dubya, simply because he seems too small as a person to be worth much hate – I feel more contempt and disgust, and a bit of pity, for him. But I’d be hard put to argue rationally that Dubya did not deserve hatred.

I think Rothbard also had a more pragmatic reason for hating the state. I think he judged, as a matter of social psychology, that hatred of injustice and tyranny, and those who created tyranny, was a more powerful motivator of human beings than a mere abstract love of human well-being and welfare. If nothing else, even if one rationally concluded that human welfare could best be improved by abolishing the state, the primary emphasis on human welfare as the goal would tend, psychologically, to diffuse one’s focus. A profound hatred of the state tends to focus one’s efforts.

I.e., a purely rational utilitarian will best advance his utilitarian goals by trying to encourage others to be fiery hate-the-state natural-rights anarchists!

I think that there is much to be said for this, empirically.

Of course, Rothbard and David Friedman also simply have different personalities. On this issue, I am probably between them: officially, I am a fiery Rothbardian natural-rights anarchist, but I often find myself drifting into a more coolly analytical mode, more like David. I’ve learned from both.

David will probably never come down decisively into either the cosmo-lib camp or the Paulista camp. C’est la vie. Just as I don’t think that there should be one all-size-fits-all libertarian movement including both cosmo-libs and Paulistas, I also do not see why David should feel compelled to fit himself into the new bipolar libertarian order in any simple way either.

The ultimate goal is to deconstruct the idea of the state, to end the blind allegiance and worship of the state, and many different strategies may contribute to that ultimate goal.

Dave

 
At 11:35 AM, January 24, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

Physicist Dave wrote:

"I think Rothbard also had a more pragmatic reason for hating the state. I think he judged, as a matter of social psychology, that hatred of injustice and tyranny, and those who created tyranny, was a more powerful motivator of human beings than a mere abstract love of human well-being and welfare."

And I have a pragmatic reason to oppose Rothbard's approach. Once you strongly engage those emotions, it is very easy to see all questions as "which side are you on" rather than "what arguments are correct."

My chief objection to Rothbard is not our theoretical disagreement on the appropriate structure for an anarcho-capitalist society, nor disagreement on rights vs consequences as an approach to persuasion. My chief disagreement is that I think he was willing to use dishonest arguments as long as they reached the right conclusion.

One example was an exchange we had long ago. In a speech at a libertarian event, he argued that Reagan hadn't really reduced the size of government--which may well have been correct. The evidence he offered was the increase in nominal government expenditure under Reagan--although he, of course, didn't mention the word "nominal."

I pointed out that the comparison was misleading, since the dollars he was measuring expenditure with at the end of the period were less valuable than those at the beginning; the comparison should have been either in terms of real expenditure or of fraction of GNP or something similar.

Rothbard's response was that the inflation was Reagan's fault, hence there was nothing wrong with using its effects to make Reagan look worse.

The only interpretation I can see of that is that it is all right to deliberately mislead your fellow libertarians about the facts as long as you do it in the right direction.

"I also do not see why David should feel compelled to fit himself into the new bipolar libertarian order in any simple way either."

I don't.

 
At 1:23 PM, January 24, 2008, Anonymous Tim Starr said...

David, with all due respect, you're completely wrong. The newsletters were generalizing about all or almost all blacks & homosexuals, not just commenting about particular instances.

Furthermore, even true facts which could've been interpreted different ways were interpreted in bigoted fashion. E.g., the fact that most of the black males in D.C. had been arrested, and the fact that the police are highly inefficient, were used to suggest that the true number of black male criminals was even higher than the percentage that had been arrested. An equally possible conclusion is that the police had a high rate of false arrest, which would indicate that the true number of black male criminals in D.C. was actually much lower than the percentage that had been arrested.

Also, a good deal of what was included in the newsletters was just plain false, such as the claim that there's any significant risk of getting AIDS via casual contact/saliva, etc. A medical doctor like Paul ought to have known better than that by the 1990s, but his newsletter claimed that his medical expertise helped him see through an alleged cover-up about that.

Paleos are ex-Fascists, or neo-Fascists. When they say "Old Right," they mean "Old South," complete with segregation, lynchings, the Klan, & police brutality. That's why Rockwell has said that affirmative action is worse than segregation was & that the cops were right to beat Rodney King. That's why Paul has a Klansman running his campaign in Michigan, and takes money from & gets his photo taken w/ Don Black & Son, who run Stormfront.org & Stormfront for Kids, respectively.

 
At 7:18 PM, January 24, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

David,

Well… as I said, I’ve learned from both you and Murray, and even from quite a few folks who are not even libertarians at all.

It does sound like you guys did not get along well personally! Of course, the correct figure to look at in the debate you mentioned (obviously I cannot vouch for the details you relate) are inflation-adjusted figures – as I recall, even then, Reagan did raise spending, and by a fair amount. I’ve had discussions in which the other guy claimed you should also do a per capita adjustment: on that, I’m not convinced – after all, part of the statist argument is that government expenditures are “public goods” that are not specific to individuals.

At any rate, the current Reason vs. Ron Paul debate is not a Rothbard vs. Friedman debate – I’ve given some specifics about why I can’t and won’t be on the Reason side on this. As I indicated, a big part of it is simply that the other side does not even want me on their side. Nothing I can do about that, though it frankly suits me fine.

There is a division of labor issue here. You tend to like and be good at cool, calm, analytical style “utilitarian” arguments (I’m not claiming you are a utilitarian but merely that you are good at seeing the utilitarian implications of issues).

Great! Keep doing what you do best.

And, if you’d like to be friends with Kevin, me, and also with everybody at Reason and Cato, etc, that’s great too. I have no desire to tell you who to be friends with, what to think, etc. I can’t even force you to be friendly with me – however, I certainly think well of you, although I do not think too highly of some of the folks at Reason and Cato.

I do think that when some of the Reasonites/Catoites behave in a snotty/snarky/condescending way, it is fair game to give them a taste of their own medicine in return. For the same reason, I try to behave calmly and analytically in any discussion with you.

All the best,

Dave

 
At 8:59 PM, January 24, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Tim Starr,

With all due respect, you are completely wrong.

You wrote:
>The newsletters were generalizing about all or almost all blacks & homosexuals, not just commenting about particular instances.

As examples, you mentioned:
>Also, a good deal of what was included in the newsletters was just plain false, such as the claim that there's any significant risk of getting AIDS via casual contact/saliva, etc.

My wife is a physician, as well as holding a Ph.D. in cellular immunology. I’ve asked her opinion. She agrees with the sort of precautions concerning AIDs advised in the newsletter and actually follows similar precautions in her own practice (and she has explained to me the scientific reasons for doing so).

She has also told me that the medical community has been bullied into silence concerning the risks of transmitting AIDs – yes, it is somewhat unlikely without transmission of bodily fluid. No, it is not impossible.

I really think her credentials on this trump yours.

You also wrote:
>the fact that most of the black males in D.C. had been arrested, and the fact that the police are highly inefficient, were used to suggest that the true number of black male criminals was even higher than the percentage that had been arrested.

Yes, anyone who knows about the grotesque inefficiency of government law enforcement could reasonably draw that conclusion.

Of course, it is not apodictically true. It was also, obviously, a snide remark about the inefficiency of government police. That you wish to see this as somehow some sort of attack on “almost all blacks’ is just too bad.

I have not read every single newsletter, but I have followed a lot of the discussion on the Web. I liked most of the comments from the newsletters that I’ve seen: I thought they were insightful and funny. You don’t like them.

Cool.

But it is a huge jump to claim that these comments are unwarranted attacks on almost all gays and blacks. If you want to be taken seriously, you’ll need some examples that actually make sense.

Finally, you wrote:
>Paleos are ex-Fascists, or neo-Fascists.

All Paleos? Most Paleos? Or just one guy you met in the local Walmart?

I know a lot of these guys (and gals). I’m one of them. You’re being silly. Indeed, you’re lying.

You claimed:
>When they say "Old Right," they mean "Old South," complete with segregation, lynchings, the Klan, & police brutality.

No, when we paleos say “Old Right,” as we have explained over and over again (read, for example, the book by Raimondo, who happens to be gay, or by Gottfried, who happens to be Jewish), we mean Bob Taft, Howard Buffett, Albert Jay Nock, H. L. Mencken, Rose Wilder Lane, etc.

You committed libel with the statement I quoted. (Don’t worry, I’m philosophically opposed to libel laws!)

You also wrote:
>That's why Paul has a Klansman running his campaign in Michigan, and takes money from & gets his photo taken w/ Don Black & Son, who run Stormfront.org & Stormfront for Kids, respectively.

As I’m sure you know, political candidates shake hands with everybody who sticks out his hand and have their pictures taken with pretty much any random Joe who walks up and asks for it. If Paul has a current Klansman currently running his Michigan campaign (as opposed to someone like Sen. Byrd who dabbled with the Klan in his youth), then, yes, he should fire the guy. Given the outright lies from you about paleos like myself, I am frankly skeptical of whether you are telling the truth on this, either.

You say Rockwell claims that affirmative action is worse than Jim Crow. So? They’re both bad: who cares which is “worse.” You also complain about the King beating. Dear little Rodney led cops on a high-speed chase because he was driving while intoxicated and on parole and did not want to get caught. He deserved a beating – at least ( http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/lapd/kingarrests.html ) . But, yes, I would prefer cops not exercise such actions on their own authority simply as “street justice.”

Let me be blunt about all this. I am a paleo. I am old enough to remember Jim Crow and to have observed it first-hand as a child. I spoke out against it even as a child – I thought it was stupid and told the grown-ups I thought that. (I was a precocious kid – I had an argument with my grandpa about capital punishment when I was seven. I was, and still am, opposed to it, because I did not trust the government to make decisions on life and death.)

I despise Lincoln because he actively supported slavery in many ways and because he got over a half million people killed. My own sympathies have always been with the radical abolitionists – Garrison, and, to some extent, John Brown.

I am also old enough to remember when homosexuality was treated as a crime, as bad as rape – I thought that was bizarre. I have always opposed the outlawing of homosexuality. I have a couple of gays in my own family.

I have made detailed comments about some people on your side of this debate and offered detailed evidence to back it up – the link to Reason, the reference to wikipedia, and my own eyewitness testimony (I even have a report from our Metro paper about the Libertarian Party thug who assaulted an elderly gent).

You have offered a blatantly grotesque lie, “Paleos are ex-Fascists, or neo-Fascists” with no supporting evidence whatsoever.

You don’t have to support Ron Paul, you know. Frankly, I’d rather you don’t.

I think you’d be a liability as a supporter.

You ought to be of yourself ashamed for lying.

Dave

 
At 10:56 PM, January 24, 2008, Blogger Audacity said...

PhysicistDave:

Whoever wrote the newsletters was probably not foolish enough to make obvious mistakes. The one I read, however, is pretty clearly racist propaganda. See if you agree.

http://www.tnr.com/downloads/sponraceterrorism.pdf

 
At 11:32 PM, January 24, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

audacity,

I get a "404" error from the TNR website when I try to go to your link. Could you please check and post the corrected link?

Incidentally, I'm not claiming that there may not be something in the newsletters I disagree with: Paul has said that he himself disagrees with some of the comments. And, indeed, there are a number of issues on which I myself differ from Congressman Paul – he is, after all, not God.

What I do find unconscionable -- I am tempted to imitate Tim and say "fascistic"! -- is the incredibly blatant lies on Tim's part:

>Paleos are ex-Fascists, or neo-Fascists.
[snip]
>When they say "Old Right," they mean "Old South," complete with segregation, lynchings, the Klan, & police brutality.

These are basically what were once called “blood libels”: they are such incredible and debasing lies as to forever destroy the moral credibility of anyone, such as Tim, who propagates them.

What is wrong with the minds and consciences of the Paul-haters such as Tim?

I thought it was simply a cultural distaste for normal middle-class Americans, but I now realize there must be a deeper explanation for this level of depravity and hatred (and they accuse Murray Rothbard and the paleos of spreading hate!!??).

I look forward to checking out your corrected link.

All the best,

Dave

 
At 11:39 PM, January 24, 2008, Blogger Audacity said...

Try this:

http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=74978161-f730-43a2-91c3-de262573a129

It's the first linked newsletter. If that doesn't work, Google "Selections From Ron Paul's Newsletters".

My grandfather is prone to similar exaggeration, e.g., referring to the South as "the slave states".

 
At 11:39 PM, January 24, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

"Whoever wrote the newsletters was probably not foolish enough to make obvious mistakes. The one I read, however, is pretty clearly racist propaganda. See if you agree."

I don't.

The argument of that newsletter is that the ultimate fault is that of liberals who have encouraged blacks and whites to believe that the problems of blacks are someone else's fault and that blacks are entitled to use violence in response. I don't see any suggestion that blacks are criminals because they are black--merely the claim, probably a good deal exaggerated, that a large fraction of blacks are criminals or potential criminals because they have been taught by the white and black establishment to hate and blame whites.

The view may be mistaken, and is surely a good deal exaggerated. But I don't think it is racist--any more than the positive comments about Koreans are racist. Those are explained not by Koreans being racially superior to whites and blacks but by their being recent immigrants who have not yet been corrupted by liberal ideology.

Perhaps it would help if you would define "racist." To me, it means hating people because of their race, or believing that people are less than human--entitled to fewer rights, for instance, or inherently incapable of reason--because of their race.

What does it mean to you?

 
At 3:42 AM, January 25, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

audacity,

Thanks, that link works.

I read through the entire issue you refer to (I see no page one – I assume that it is blank?).

I see nothing at all wrong here.

Had I written it, I would probably have harped more on the public policy background, and I might have emphasized more strongly that I was referring solely to the black thugs who looted, murdered, etc., and of course not to all African-Americans. However, the author him/herself did make that point quite clearly.

Of course, I or DDF or anyone might disagree factually or analytically about certain points – for example, the nineties turned out not to be a decade of racial riots (but that was a reasonable fear at the time).

Frankly, I found the article a bit on the dull side, a great deal more restrained than some articles I have read over the years in “The New Republic” or in “Reason,” to name the two magazines that are all lathered up over this.

This strikes me as normal news commentary – the author does not like looters, murderers, or the welfare state. So?

Is the problem simply that the author again and again refers to “blacks”? Well, they were, by and large – no one could avoid seeing this on television. For obvious reasons, that is how everyone, as I recall, referred to the majority of the rioters. As the author notes, even people like Jesse Jackson and Maxine Waters did not try to obfuscate the fact that the rioters were largely blacks.

Everything that the author wrote does fit with my own memories of the events – I learned a bit from the article that I did not remember. Incidentally, it was from “paleo” (“Paulista”) sources at the time that I learned some relevant information about the Rodney King incident that does put the cops’ actions in a slightly different light than the initial assumptions all of us made when we saw the video. I was actually a commentator on a local public-access TV show at the time, and I remember my own views evolving as I slowly learned more about the whole mess.

Do I see some points that might be arguable or that might annoy some people? Sure, that’s what political discussion is about.

Do I see racism? No, I honestly do not.

Do I see any justification for Tim’s bizarre statements:
>Paleos are ex-Fascists, or neo-Fascists.
[snip]
>When they say "Old Right," they mean "Old South," complete with segregation, lynchings, the Klan, & police brutality.

That question answers itself.

Thanks for the link – I think it makes clear who the racists and extremists in this controversy really are.

Dave

 
At 7:35 AM, January 25, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something that gets lost is that Paul's political success (he's been elected to Congress many times) depends on attracting support from conventional conservatives. He's an exceptionally pure libertarian for someone who is politically successful. But if he were pro-choice on abortion, for example (as most libertarians are), then we wouldn't be talking about him, because he would be a political flop.

 
At 8:07 AM, January 25, 2008, Anonymous William H. Stoddard said...

Something that gets lost is that Paul's political success (he's been elected to Congress many times) depends on attracting support from conventional conservatives. He's an exceptionally pure libertarian for someone who is politically successful. But if he were pro-choice on abortion, for example (as most libertarians are), then we wouldn't be talking about him, because he would be a political flop.

Well, certainly. But at the same time, I am pro-choice on abortion, and I don't consider it a minor issue or one where a candidate's taking the wrong position is tolerable. So I don't expect I will ever vote for any presidential candidate who has had a successful political career in a state where they have to appeal to the "religious Right," whether they're running as a Republican or a Libertarian or any other party. They're just right out. If the only candidate who's pro-choice is a Democrat or a Green, I'll vote for one of them instead.

 
At 8:56 AM, January 25, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

One point which seems to be ignored in some of the commentary here is that Ron Paul has very nearly zero chance of being nominated, and still less chance of being elected. So the question to ask in deciding whether to support him or vote for him in a primary isn't "would the world be a better place if Ron Paul were President" but "what is the effect of Ron Paul doing a little better in the primaries or getting a little more publicity."

The answers to the two questions might be the same, but they don't have to be. In particular, the question of whether he is competent to do the job of President is almost entirely irrelevant to the second question. So is the question of whom he would appoint to the Supreme Court.

A more relevant question is "if the Republican party moved a little closer to Ron Paul's position, would that be a good thing?" The Republican party is already mostly anti-abortion, so moving closer to Paul isn't going to have much effect on that. On the other hand, votes for Paul will have some (very small) tendency to make candidates, Republican and Democratic less pro-war, and (probably) less pro-big government.

 
At 9:58 AM, January 25, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

Physicist Dave:

You dropped the names of some very great men, John Brown and Albert Jay Nock being especially great. (Lysander Spooner, one of the very greatest, was unfortunately missing.) But Albert Jay Nock was himself influenced by another great man who unfortunately is underappreciated in libertarian circles: Henry George. So long as we're being incrementalists on our way to pure anarchy, and realizing that taxes are rightly a huge issue for libertarians, why not emphasize Karl Hess' view that land value tax is the one tax to levy until the state can be abolished entirely, and Milton Friedman's view that the Georgist "single tax" is the least bad tax? My own view is that Georgism is consistent with theoretical anarchism. In George's words:

"The right of property does not rest on human laws; they have often ignored and violated it. It rests on natural laws—that is to say, the law of God. It is clear and absolute, and every violation of it, whether committed by a man or a nation, is a violation of the command, “Thou shalt not steal.” The man who catches a fish, grows an apple, raises a calf, builds a house, makes a coat, paints a picture, constructs a machine, has, as to any such thing, an exclusive right of ownership which carries with it the right to give, to sell or bequeath that thing.
But who made the earth that any man can claim such ownership of it, or any part of it, or the right to give, sell or bequeath it? Since the earth was not made by us, but is only a temporary dwelling place on which one generation of men follow another; since we find ourselves here, are manifestly here with equal permission of the Creator, it is manifest that no one can have any exclusive right of ownership in land, and that the rights of all men to land must be equal and inalienable. There must be an .exclusive right of possession of land, for the man who uses it must have secure possession of land in order to reap the products of his labor. But his right of possession must be limited by the equal right of all, and should therefore be conditioned on the payment to the community by the possessor of an equivalent for any special valuable privilege thus accorded him.
When we tax houses, crops, money, furniture, capital or wealth in any of its forms, we take from individuals what rightfully belongs to them. We violate the right of property, and in the name of the State commit robbery. But when we tax ground values, we take from individuals what does not belong to them, but belongs to the community, and which cannot be left to individuals without the robbery of other individuals."

By the way, what's the Cliffs Notes version on how Ron Paul justifies his opposition to immigration based on libertarian principles? It does seem that this peculiar deviance from traditional libertarian positions, alongside the tone of the newsletters, lends ammunition to those who suspect him of racism.

 
At 10:50 AM, January 25, 2008, Blogger Charles said...

Only because I think it's largely irrelevant, I'll posit that all factual assertions in the newsletter are true. IMO, there are still several things seriously "wrong here".

A riot is driven by mob psychology. To draw broad conclusions about the general psychology of the subgroup from which participants are drawn (or worse, of the population in general) is ridiculous. What analogous profile of whites can one construct based on the anti-Vietnam rioters who rampaged through Harvard Square, the anti-integration Ole Miss rioters, the Tulsa (Greenwood) race rioters, or a lynch mob; or of police based on the Chicago police riot in '68; or of Brits based on soccer riots?

The author mixes correlation and causation. Eg, (contrary to common sense) assume that the riots did subside coincident with the arrival of welfare checks. To assert causation reeks of prejudice. POs are open during the day and riots usually flare at night. It is certainly possible that the rioters were too dense or lazy to both pick up their checks and riot, but the author obviously has no way of knowing that. To assume the worst is close enough to racism for me to be reasonably comfortable with the term.

As with pornography, I perhaps can't define mindless ideological drivel; but "I think I know it when I see it". To suggest that this is equivalent to an article in any reputable magazine is disingenuous. No self-respecting person should allow even unequivocally true assertions presented in such a hateful and venomous tone to be attached to their name. Can those who "see nothing wrong" honestly say they would be comfortable having their position on an issue described thusly? I wouldn't.

As Prof Friedman notes, RP isn't going anywhere. So, if the point is to support him just because of his positions or the fact that he is the only libertarian candidate, fine. But then there is no need to argue whether he is a "real" libertarian, that he isn't a seriously flawed candidate, or that ideological vitriol published in his name is equivalent to mainstream journalism. A strategic vote need only be justified by it's presumed effectiveness.

- Charles

 
At 11:09 AM, January 25, 2008, Anonymous scofflaw said...

For a hilarious instance of the mutually boorish relations between cosmo-libs and paleos, see this comment thread on a Reason post by Kerry Howley titled "Toward a More Humble Modesty." It started with me saying that Kerry Howley on her recent Red Eye television appearance "came across as a slut with a lot of miles on her who's probably been passed around the Reason staff a few times." It resulted in that particular comment being deleted and me being banned, but not before making some substantive points that are still on the thread. Along the way, Reason contributing editor Julian Sanchez (co-author of the recent Ron Paul piece in Reason) posted: "Wow. You're a deeply disgusting human being. If you had the slightest shred of basic decency, you would have taken your own life out of self-revulsion long ago."

 
At 2:11 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Charles wrote:
> As with pornography, I perhaps can't define mindless ideological drivel; but "I think I know it when I see it".

That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

I doubt that anyone reading an article as long as the one being discussed here will agree with every single sentence (unless he wrote it himself and maybe not even then – I try to disagree with myself at least three times each day before dinner).

However, I (and apparently DDF) do not object in principle to discussing the issues discussed in the article and to the relatively moderate tone of the article. Yes, I know, it does not seem moderate to you. But strip away the subject matter (race riots) and look at the vocabulary and sentence structure, and I think it is a moderate tone: e.g., a nutjob could have breathlessly referred to “subhuman jungle bunnies not fit to share the company of higher primates” if he’d wanted an obnoxious tone (no, everyone, that’s not my view – I’m just demonstrating how a hysterical racist could write).

You object to the article, but your strongest objections are your “I knows it when I sees it” closing point and some relatively mild comments about social causation. Your comments about social causation are well-taken, but they would apply equally to most articles I have read in either “The New Republic” or “Reason” themselves, the two magazines that are hyper-ventilating over this subject, and, indeed, dare I say it, even to a page or two of “The Machinery of Freedom.”

Social causation is indeed complicated, and, for precisely that reason, if one is to talk about it at all with any sort of specificity, one is going to make statements that cannot be rigorously proven.

That everyone who is complaining about these newsletters does not apply the same high intellectual standards to TNR, “Reason,” the New York Times, etc. pretty much gives the game away.

In modern America, a minority, but a very pushy, noisy minority (not mainly blacks), of the population does not want honest and open discussion about the black underclass, and they label such honest talk “racism.”

As I’ve said before, I think this controversy is truly wonderful. It is splitting the fake libertarian “movement” into its natural pieces – those who are more concerned about social niceties than truth and those who are more concerned about exploring the truth than about social niceties.

I like the newsletter but I truly love the controversy.

Dave

 
At 2:29 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Scofflaw,

Well, Julian has not banned me yet, but he did say I was “precious” after I announced that I love the controversy and the ongoing split among “libertarians.” I don’t think he meant it as a compliment (although it did occur to me that it might be his way of saying he thinks I’m gay… never can tell with these young children like Julian).

As to you comment:
>Kerry Howley on her recent Red Eye television appearance "came across as a slut with a lot of miles on her who's probably been passed around the Reason staff a few times."

the really funny thing is that if they took seriously the magazine’s own editorial position (for example in the “35 Heroes of Freedom” article I cited above), they would have taken this as a huge compliment to Ms. Howley.

After all, you were merely comparing her favorably to their hero Madonna, although you did not imply that she was quite as magnificent as their fave Billy Burroughs – after all, you did not actually compliment Ms Howley for killing anyone.

One of the grand things about this controversy is that the cosmo-libs feel quite entitled to dish out really bigoted, nasty (they’d say archly humorous) bile against most of the country (Christians for example). But, if, as you did, someone merely turns around and congratulates one of them for living up to their own stated ideals, you’re scum. Incidentally, I’ve harshly criticized Christians in various fora myself: but then I don’t turn around and apply a double standard to things like the Ron Paul newsletters.

Julian and his little friends are such vulnerable little children that they can try to knock it around with the big boys, but, as you demonstrated so nicely, when somebody actually returns the serve, they run inside to mommy crying.

I truly love this – someone could get a research paper in social psych out of this whole thing

Let the games begin!

Dave

 
At 2:52 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

John Kindley,

Ron justifies his immigration position on Constitutionalist/legal grounds (it is the law, you know) and by noting that open immigration would be a real mess given the existence of the welfare state. He has taken positions on employer sanctions, etc. more restrained than most mainstream politicians.

It’s a complicated issue, you know. You can make a case that the “public land” (roads, etc.) have been “homesteaded” by the current citizenry and that, as the property owners, they have a perfect right to exclude foreigners. I realize that this is not a fully adequate position, but try to come up with a fully adequate position. Given the current political structure (welfare state, etc.) I doubt that you can.

At any rate, since only a very tiny fraction of the country are truly for open borders, if this makes Ron a racist, nearly the whole country are racists. When in Rome…

As to the single tax, I actually remember thinking this over when I was about twelve years old: I was mowing the grass, so I actually remember the specific occasion.

I realized that it was possible to escape the income tax by living a self-contained existence, living off the land a la “Jed Clampett” in his pre-Beverly Hills days (this was in the '60s). On the other hand, one cannot live without using land (at least to stand on) – so it is impossible to escape a land tax. I concluded that, as bad as a tax on monetary income is, it is not as bad as a land tax.

Of course, this is partially based on the view that giving money to the state is, on the face of it, a bad thing. I view it as just a simple, value-free fact of life that the state is a bunch of guys who do in broad daylight (theft, murder, etc.) what ordinary criminals usually do under cover of darkness. I realize that most people disagree with me as to this fact, but then most Americans disagree with me about the fact of evolution, and a lot of other things.

Granted the reality of government, I think that it is a reasoanble value position that letting the state get their hands on even a single penny is undesirable.

Perhaps you disagree with me.

Incidentally, the phrase “Old Right” that has poor Tim apoplectic refers to a specific time in US history: Spooner and George happen not to be of that time, which is one simple reason I did not mention them.

Dave

 
At 3:47 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger Audacity said...

I'll define a racist by contrast with a non-racist. To not be a racist is to believe that "All men are created equal". Not that all men are equal, or should be equal, regardless of the choices they make - that's the egalitarian idea of equality of results, which is incompatible with libertarianism. Rather, equality of opportunity: that every individual
deserves an equal chance to succeed, and therefore, that it is wrong to make judgments regarding individuals based on the actions of members of groups that they are part of by birth. Godwin's law has already been borne out (by Kevin Craig above), so I'll use the Nazi analogy. If Hitler was right that the Jews were undermining the German state, would that have justified the Holocaust?

Not all comments regarding race are racist. I admire those within the black community who are willing to address the decrepitude of African-American culture. I'm not sure that outsiders have as much authority to comment, but that's fine too. What I see in the newsletter is a discussion of blacks' problems as justification for whites' fear of them. There is certainly plenty of reasonable commentary about the foolishness of white guilt and the welfare state, suggesting that getting rid of these things will help the problem. But then there are sentences like "our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists -- and they can be identified by the color of their skin", and "We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irrational." I don't see how these sentences can be read as advocating anything other than treating blacks differently.

 
At 3:52 PM, January 25, 2008, Anonymous Tim Starr said...

PhysicistDave: Does Mrs. PhysicistDave, M.D., agree that sending your children to school with homosexuals presents them with a serious risk of getting AIDS via casual contact? That's what I was referring to. I'm well aware of the precautions taken by medical professionals against AIDS, since my mother tests blood and other bodily fluids for a living in the clinical lab at the University of California at San Francisco. Medical professionals are dealing with sick people a lot more than the average person, and thus have a much higher risk of exposure to contagious diseases. If they've been silenced about it, that would certainly be news to me, my mother, and all her colleagues.

As for the Fascist background of Paleos, while it's certainly possible for someone to consider themselves a Paleo without such a background, the leadership of the movement certainly has that background. E.g., Sam Francis, who was one of the founders of the John Randolph Club along with Rothbard/Rockwell, as part of their Paleo-con/Paleo-lib alliance:

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

Another leading Paleo is Chronicles magazine editor Thomas Fleming, who said at a conference he & Rothbard organized in his closing address that only white male Christians were fit for freedom; Much more dirt on Paleos was presented years ago by David Frum in National Review:

http://www.nationalreview.com/frum/frum031903.asp

Frankly, your "Them's fightin' words!" response to criticism of the movement you identify with indicates the sort of intolerance Fascism is known for. So, it's OK for Paul's newsletter to call blacks criminals, lazy, etc., & to pine for the days when homosexuals were in the closet, but not OK for me to call that bigotry? Fortunately, unlike you, I'm not an anonymous coward scared to use his real name.

Oh, and I'm quite familiar with the works of Raimondo, who I instantly knew was gay when I first met him in 1992, as well as most of the others you mention. Gottfried was full of praise for Sam Francis, the Klansman; Nock, Mencken, & Lane (not to mention Flynn) were ex-liberals, hardly true representatives of the Old Right; and Paul is hardly in the Taft tradition, as Taft supported NATO & US containment of the Communists in Asia.

As for candidates shaking hands with "everybody," Paul's campaign knew enough to let his picture get taken with Air Force Amy, of the Moonlight Bunny Ranch, when Paul appeared in Pahrump Nevada; but not enough to keep him from getting his picture taken with known neo-Nazis. How reassuring. Wanna get your picture taken w/ Paul? Sure, as long as you're a white supremacist, but not if you're a prostitute! Don't believe me about the Klansman? Fine, see for yourself:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/1/15/17443/1121

Saying that affirmative action is worse than Jim Crow is like saying that the common cold is worse than the Black Plague; it trivializes the evils of Jim Crow, like saying: "So what if blacks were subjugated, persecuted, & lynched for a century after the Civil War? What's the big deal?"

On Rockwell's defense of the King beating: Rockwell's defense wasn't that the cops applied proportionate force to apprehend a suspect; Rockwell argued that it was a generally good principle for cops to beat suspects upon arrest, because of their high time preference.

BTW, I notice that you said nothing about the comments of Hoppe & Raico that I personally witnessed about only permitting northern Asians into America. Why is that?

 
At 3:58 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

Physicist Dave (and David Friedman):

On the other hand, the Georgist "single tax" has a natural limit built in (i.e. the full rental value of the land), whereas income and other taxes have no such limits.

I suspect we probably do disagree on some fundamental issues. (Though keep in mind, despite the implicit redistributionism that you might find distasteful, that no less a personage and enemy of the State than Nock sympathized with these views.) For what it's worth, however, what follows are excerpts from a couple of my blog posts that explain how to my mind anarchism and Georgism are not incompatible and are indeed complementary. (BTW, "Scofflaw" is a good "friend" of mine;)

In an anarchist society like that projected by David Friedman private protection agencies and mutual protection societies would fulfill (probably more effectively) the police functions monopolized by government today, and would have the right to exact restitution and punishment for assaulting or killing one of their clients or members, assuming due process. To the extent that the present government merely does the same thing -- i.e. enforce the non-aggression principle -- there is no injustice. In an anarchist society one or several of the mutual protection societies or private protection agencies would likely attain, because of the mutual need for arbitration between such organizations and defense against large-scale invasion, a position at the top of a hierarchy of such societies and agencies. All that is needed to approximate now such a state of affairs is for the present federal government and more importantly the people who now prop up its pretensions and usurpations by their complacency and misplaced patriotism to begin to think of the federal government as having a status no more exalted and no more privileged than that of a private protection agency at the top of such a hierarchy, with no rights other than what it obtains by freely-entered contract and actual explicit consent.

The most fundamental way to prevent poor people from starving in the first place would be to restore to them what they have a right to in the first place and what government has taken from them: a free and equal share of the earth and the earth's natural resources, or its equivalent in the form of a "Citizen's Dividend," funded by a "Single Tax" on the unimproved value of land and other natural resources.

In these concepts is also found the only means by which this enterprise known as the government, which has non-consensually arrogated to itself the business of dispensing justice and protecting us, may legitimately pay itself for the "services" it bestows upon us. Since the unimproved value of land (even of that land which has improvements attached to it) belongs to every member of the society equally, the government is justified in collecting on behalf of society the "rent" associated with this value, in the same way that the government (like any private citizen in the state of nature) would be justified in recovering and returning to its rightful owner stolen property. (Inheritance taxes on property "owned" by a dead person and therefore by nobody could be justified on similar grounds.) Since this rent could not be collected and distributed in the absence of a government-type organization, the organization would be justified in skimming off the top its costs in collecting and distributing the rent, which presumably would include the necessary muscle to collect the rent and to maintain itself in existence against enemies foreign and domestic. Since that money would be coming out of each of our "Citizen's Dividends" to enable the collection of such Dividends, what we'd really be paying for is the protection of our property (and personal) rights -- and that's how a police, a military, and a "welfare" system (more precisely, a substitute for the welfare system grounded in justice rather than charity or policy) could be founded on a technically non-consensual but arguably just basis.

 
At 4:14 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger Audacity said...

I agree with Charles that the newsletter is propaganda. Many of the factual claims seem exaggerated (for example, that 95% of Washington's blacks are probably criminals, and that a similar ratio is true in other major cities). And the writing often sounds hysterical: "We now know, if we did not before, that we are under assault from thugs and revolutionaries who hate Euro-American civilization and everything it stands for: private property, material success for those who earn it, and Christian morality." The writer even appeals to the Communist threat: "In San Francisco and perhaps other cities, says my coin expert Burt Blumert, the rioting was led by red-flag carrying members of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Workers World Party, both Trotskyite-Maoist."

PhysicistDave: Can you give an example of hyperventilation by TNR? I've found them to be generally thoughtful.

 
At 4:18 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger Audacity said...

Tim and Dave, keep in mind that: http://carcino.gen.nz/images/image.phpi/463c5922/arguing.jpg?cb=1115204527

 
At 4:32 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger Audacity said...

This article (found through one of the linked blogs at the beginning) is a good argument against boorishness: http://praxeology.net/unblog01-03.htm#05

 
At 5:42 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

gjuzTim,

My name is David Miller -- given the number of "David Millers" in the world (try googling the name!), PhysicistDave is more distinctive as my handle on Google.

You are a proven liar. Pointing out that some of the people you hate were members of the John Randolph Club does not even suggest that they were "Fascists."

I've read a great deal by Sam Francis and Tom Fleming: I agree with them on some things, not on others. But to describe them as "Fascists" (with a capital "F" to boot!) betrays a lack of literacy in the English language.

As to your other points, I do not waste my time having detailed discussions with proven liars. I’ve tried that many times in the past – there’s just no purpose to it.

Sorry 'bout that.

I did google you and noticed that you use the word "hate" to describe your own feelings towards the paleos (e.g., http://www.no-treason.com/archives/2003/07/ “Lew Rockwell, the pseudo-libertarian crypto-fascist I love to hate”): I think it is indeed clear who the real hate-mongers are here.

For the record, I do not hate you and I doubt very, very much that Lew hates you. I do pity you; you appear to be a young man with no real accomplishments in life who feels a need to strike out at those of us who are older than you and who have actually accomplished something in life, like Dr. Paul, Lew, or me.

That is really sad.

I’ve known a lot of people like you in the “libertarian movement” (I described some of them above), which is one of the reasons I really welcome the splintering of the movement into two new movements.

I also found via Google that you were a very determined, noisy, and indeed abusive cheerleader for Dubya’s little misadventure over on the other side of the pond. Considering that the people you condemn as “Fascists” have almost all opposed this mass murder, and considering that the real Fascists loved invading other people’s countries, it seems more than fair to conclude that you are engaged in Freudian projection.

I truly do appreciate your comments though: you have provided me with a bunch of truly priceless quotes that I will be quoting over and over and over again around the Web to indicate how you cosmo-libs behave.

Dave

 
At 5:50 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Ah, but audacity, I am not trying to argue with Tim. I'm just encouraging him to speak for himself.

His own words are the strongest argument I need.

I seek not victory but clarity. I think you really do fit in Tim’s camp. Scofflaw and I really are on the same side.

Two new political movements are being born here; the old libertarian movement is, thankfully, dying. I just want everyone to understand the nature of the two new movements.

Tim is providing me with truly wonderful assistance with this: I’m not being sarcastic, I mean it.

I sincerely do appreciate Tim’s help.

Dave

 
At 6:09 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

audacity,

You wrote:
> The writer even appeals to the Communist threat: "In San Francisco and perhaps other cities, says my coin expert Burt Blumert, the rioting was led by red-flag carrying members of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Workers World Party, both Trotskyite-Maoist."

I take it you’ve never lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and been involved in the alternative political scene there?

I have been, for many years. That statement sounds extremely plausible to me, based on my own political experience: I’ve known a number of the Revolutionary Communists personally – weird people, though certainly amusing, and certainly more than willing to behave as Blumert described.

Of course, given the behavior of the RCs, it might be more accurate to say that they “led” the rioting rather than that they led it: all of them that I knew suffered from delusions of grandeur, rather like most “libertarians” I’ve known.

As to your other points, well… I could make similar comments, but I think it is pretty clear that you are not really interested in whether or not the newsletter is factually correct. It’s certainly politically incorrect, and no doubt you would be embarrassed if your girlfriends or boyfriends or classmates or colleagues found out that you were supporting a guy who said things that were so politically incorrect, whether or not they are true.

I am not going to change your mind on this – I don’t even want to change your mind.

You don’t belong in the Ron Paul movement. Not everyone does. For very different reasons, I don’t think David Friedman belongs in the Ron Paul movement – though if he decides he does belong, I’ll welcome him with a high five.

David Friedman and I have now gone into enough factual and analytical details about the newsletter to make clear that the basic ideas presented therein are defensible on rational grounds (which does not mean either of us agrees with all of those ideas personally).

I don’t think there is a single critic who would change his mind even if David and I were able to prove that every single sentence in the newsletters is factually true.

That’s not what this is about and we all know it.

The newsletter expressed utter disdain and contempt for a bunch of blacks who engaged in looting, assault, and murder, and it did so in a brash, forthright, and utterly unapologetic tone.

To do so, is politically incorrect.

That’s why I like the newsletter.

That’s why a lot of people don’t.

Dave

 
At 6:55 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger Audacity said...

Dave,

I don't think the factual accuracy of the newsletter is unimportant. It is, however, ultimately beside the point for me. I find the newsletter's racist overtones disturbing enough to far outweigh the value of any novel facts presented. So yes, even if every statement was factually true, I would continue to find the newsletter offensive, in the same way that I dislike articles like this one (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/29/business/29tax.html) that feature true statistics about the wealthy, but imply that something needs to be done to stop them.

I'm not embarrassed about my support of Ron Paul; I have a big RP lawn sign taped onto the door of my dorm room, and a bumper sticker wrapped around the frame of my bike. I am annoyed with him for publishing those newsletters, but I accept his dissociation of himself from them. Don't you think that the fact that he wishes to distance himself from them indicates that you are outside of the movement, at least in this regard?

I agree with your summation of the newsletter, though I would clarify that "The newsletter expressed utter disdain and contempt for a bunch of blacks as blacks who engaged in looting, assault, and murder, and it did so in a brash, forthright, and utterly unapologetic tone." I.e., the newsletter's focus was not on criminals as criminals, but as criminals as representative of black society.

 
At 8:21 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

audacity,

Well, I guessed right about your being a college student! I’m not always that perceptive.

Evidently, we also agree on your real concern here:
>the factual accuracy of the newsletter [snip] is, however, ultimately beside the point for me.

Indeed.

If Ron really disagreed with the newsletter, he would have taken much stronger action at the time and would have repudiated all of it when it first came up politically years ago – his critics are completely, one hundred percent right about that.

If you still support Ron, you need to face up to the fact that he finds it politically convenient to distance himself from the newsletter, but that he does not really have the same feelings you do about it as proven by his actions.

The Ron Paul movement, as Scofflaw demonstrated up-thread, is dominated by people who like this stuff. I do too.

In my personal behavior, as I’ve said, I actually lean toward David’s “wimpy” ideal type – except when someone like Tim simply lies through his teeth libeling other people. I have very little sympathy for people who do that.

I personally do find it interesting to interact with people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds. As I mentioned, I am married into an Asian immigrant family. But I share the Asian view that one should simply tell the plain, unvarnished truth about members of a particular ethnic group who behave in a barbarous manner. A significant segment of the American black community has deep and profound pathologies. It is not, of course, as the newsletter author rightly noted, every African-American. But it is more than a few individuals.

Yes, a segment of the African-American community is pathological. John McWhorter, a black professor at Berkeley, has noted this, as has Bill Cosby and even Jesse Jackson, who made the same point the newsletter author made about it being rational to fear many young black men.

I wish Ron had not apologized for this at all, but I do understand his half-hearted pseudo-apology, given political realities. But the newsletter represents the broad spirit of the Ron Paul movement.

I don’t think you are going to be comfortable in the Ron Paul movement long-term. But, you know, that’s for you to decide.

Dave

 
At 8:53 PM, January 25, 2008, Anonymous scofflaw said...

Physicist Dave:

Although I consider you a kindred spirit, I should clarify that I'm not part of the Ron Paul movement. I don't like libertinism, particularly the public celebration of libertinism, and so, after I'd seen Kerry Howley on Red Eye joking about performing abortions in the back seat of a moving car and then read her post mocking someone promoting sexual modesty, I got a wild hair up my ass and posted a comment saying she "came across like a slut with a lot of miles on her," etc. I wanted to see what the reaction would be if I tried to put some shame back in shamelessness. The reaction, as I should have expected, was prissy and hypocritical, and I got myself banned (but am still able to comment over there, because they only banned one of the two computers I use). I don't go out of my way to make those kinds of blog comments -- just when the occasion really seems to call for it.

I'm much less comfortable with the racial-leaning stuff, and think it's counterproductive, though I'm much more inclined than the cosmo-libs to give the newsletters the most charitable interpretation possible. I wouldn't say that I "like" the kind of stuff in the Ron Paul newsletter.

 
At 10:10 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger Charles said...

"I (and apparently DDF) do not object in principle to discussing the issues discussed in the article"

In your comments, you keep harping on this theme. I started by positing the content to be accurate. That would seem logically to suggest that I am not avoiding discussion of the "issues" but am focusing on some other aspect of the newsletter. To make it as clear as I can, I am not an apologist for bad behavior, by blacks, whites, space aliens, whomever. So, can we drop the self-aggrandizing "I'm not into PC" crap? Me neither - mob behavior is bad. Period, end of discussion.

"the relatively moderate tone of the article"

Well, I have to admit that I haven't read the NR for probably 30 years, so perhaps it has suffered the precipitous decline in quality of much public discourse. And I don't read Reason regularly enough to be familiar with their tone. If those mags currently are as strident as the newsletter (which I frankly doubt), then my criticisms apply to them as well. But I have read the NYT for years, and I have never read anything therein with the hysterical tone of the newsletter. So, at least in that instance, you are at best exaggerating.

"your strongest objections are ... some relatively mild comments about social causation"

If by "social causation" you mean something like "but they shouldn't be held accountable because ...", I don't know to what you refer. I made no excuses for the behavior, but only addressed some logical inconsistencies in the presentation. In fact, it was the author who kept inventing explanations for the behavior (liberal influences, communists, welfare dependency, etc.) Are you perhaps engaging in some kind of transference? Or did I misinterpret "social causation"?

"a very pushy, noisy minority ... of the population does not want honest and open discussion about the black underclass, and they label such honest talk 'racism'"

Again, the recurring theme, which if directed at me assumes facts not in evidence. If not, it's a non sequitor with respect to what I wrote. Ditto your next paragraph re niceties and truth. As for racism, I gave one example of a passage that IMO was arguably close to racism. Agree or refute, but spare me the "I don't do PC" mantra.

Other than countering my (admittedly subjective) complaint about the tone with the (equally subjective) response that the tone was "moderate" (frankly, laughable by the standards applied by me and a friend with whom I shared a page or two from the newsletter), you actually didn't address the complaints I raised. And you didn't answer the question that to me is key vis-a-vis the tone issue: would you feel comfortable having an article with that tone published under your name? If so, then there is nothing further to say since we simply have different standards of acceptable discourse.

- Charles

 
At 10:22 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

scofflaw,

Interesting. I think it’s fair to call the Reason/Cato crowd “libertine;” indeed, as you indicate, some of them seem to positively revel in it.

I think that’s a big part of the reason they have gone nowhere politically: they already have a natural political home in the Democratic Party, and cultural liberalism is more important to them than economics.

The “banning” thing is pretty funny: anyone who knows how to “spoof” an Internet address should be able to get around it. I suppose it is more of a “Scout’s honor” sort of thing really – basically, do not trespass. I’m kind of disappointed that Julian has not banned me yet.

The libertinism thing is one of the big reasons for the split: it is not simply that the “paleos” disapprove of the “cosmo-libs” libertinism but that the cosmo-libs can’t stand the paleos’ disapproval and therefore, as you found out, want to silence the paleos (or expel them, as you also found out). I’ve been watching this for over thirty years: I first started watching the libertarian movement in the early ‘70s.

Too bad the “racial thing” bothers you. As you know, I don’t think this is a racial thing – I think it is completely justified disdain and contempt for a large segment of a particular ethnic group. If it had been, say, a group of American Irish Catholics who had done this, they would be fair game, and no one would feel nervous about pointing out their ethnic commonality.

But American blacks are considered off-limits by the high priests of political correctness.

Personally, I object to this. But, you are of course entitled to your own opinion.

And keep ridiculing the cosmo-libs every chance you get. They have very thin skins – it’s really a joy to see them squeal.

Dave

 
At 10:38 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger Charles said...

" ... just a ... fact of life that the state is a bunch of guys who do in broad daylight (theft, murder, etc.) what ordinary criminals usually do under cover of darkness. I realize that most people disagree with me about this fact, but then most Americans disagree with me about the fact of evolution ..."

Let me see if I've got the logic here:

Those who disagree with me about evolution - the majority in the US - are typically ignorant vis-a-vis evolutionary biology (and related fields).

The majority also disagrees with me about my (arguably extreme) political philosophy.

Ergo, anyone who disagrees with my political philosophy must be ignorant vis-a-vis political philosophy.

OK?

- Charles

 
At 10:45 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Charles,

I didn’t answer your arguments because I saw no arguments.

As I said:
>But strip away the subject matter (race riots) and look at the vocabulary and sentence structure, and I think it is a moderate tone..

If the newsletter had been referring to al Qaeda or to the Nazis, I don’t think you would have found the tone inappropriate.

Maybe you would have, though; perhaps you object to contempt and disdain directed at any human being whatsoever, even Hitler, Stalin, Osama, etc.?

If so, you are a very unusual person indeed.

If not, well, I see no reason to treat these black thugs with any more respect than one would extend to Nazi thugs, Communist thugs, etc. And I also see no reason to be squeamish about mentioning the group of which such people are members, whether that be the Nazis, the Communists, or the black underclass (the author did make quite clear that he was not talking about everyone who was biologically black).

You don’t like this.

I like the fact that you don’t like it.

You seem to think that I am trying to convince you of my view. I am not. I do not wish you to change your views in the slightest.

I simply welcome the chance our host is giving us to each present our views so that we all (and anyone else reading this) will see the various different alternative positions.

I think that most people on this planet, and indeed most people in this country, share my view – although many Americans are nervous about saying so except in private conversations. I’m doing what I can to bring those private conversations out into the public square. The newsletter helps. So, does the current goofiness in the MSM accusing the Clintons of racism for perfectly appropriate and fair political attacks on Obama. Quite a few Democrats are starting to rethink this racial-sensitivity nonsense.

The times they are a’ changin’. I don’t think you’re going to like the future much.

Dave

 
At 10:56 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Charles wrote:

>Let me see if I've got the logic here:

>Those who disagree with me about evolution - the majority in the US - are typically ignorant vis-a-vis evolutionary biology (and related fields).

>The majority also disagrees with me about my (arguably extreme) political philosophy.

>Ergo, anyone who disagrees with my political philosophy must be ignorant vis-a-vis political philosophy.

You do have a funny way of reasoning, Charles. But you are entitled to your opinion.

For the record, I agree with what I wrote. I do not agree with your interesting form of logic.

Oh, and, no, I do not agree that the view I expressed is “(arguably extreme) political philosophy.”

I think it is obviously true political science. “Extreme” is, as the philosophers say, a “category error” when applied to matters of fact. E.g., the theory of relativity is neither “extreme” nor “non-extreme” just as the law of supply and demand or the velocity theory of money is neither “extreme” nor “non-extreme.”

I have never seen any serious argument against the view I expressed about the nature of government – unless you count the guillotine, gas chamber, etc. as “argument.”

You know, one can acknowledge the obvious factual truth of the statement I made about government and still choose to be on the side of the government. My statement was wertfrei.

Dave

 
At 11:05 PM, January 25, 2008, Blogger Kevin Craig said...

Audacity: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Godwin's Law applies to what I said. My understanding of the law is a statement of the probability that when an internet debater runs out of rational arguments against his opponent, the opponent will be equated in some desperate way with Hitler. I was not equating either DDF/Cato or Rothbard/paleos with Hitler; I was comparing how either of them would "evangelize" Hitler (whom both would agree is evil) if either had the opportunity. Would Rothbard emulate the boorish Jesus toward the Pharisees: "Woe to you, hypocrites! Whited sepulchres!" Would DDF be offended by Rothbard's rhetoric, and turn to Hitler to speak in more "cosmopolitan" tones? Or maybe Rothbard would cosmo-entreat Hitler in private and then publicly denounce him in intolerant newsletters designed to raise funds from benighted paleos?

 
At 12:18 AM, January 26, 2008, Blogger Audacity said...

Kevin,

I was going by Wikipedia's definition: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." I certainly agree that a Hitler comparison is not necessarily irrational or made desperately.

 
At 1:39 AM, January 26, 2008, Blogger Charles said...

"If the newsletter had been referring to al Qaeda or to the Nazis, I don’t think you would have found the tone inappropriate."

We are at an impasse on this. Despite my explicitly stating that criticism of rioters, black or not, was not the issue, you keep suggesting otherwise. You are wrong. As I tried to convey in my first comment (less than coherently, perhaps), my main objection was the shrill attribution of the riots to "the usual suspects" that right-wing "nut-jobs" routinely march out to explain every societal ill. Some are specific to blacks, others aren't. There were some things in the newsletter that struck me as arguably racist, but that wasn't my focus.

Rather than answering my questions - from which one might reasonably infer that I am trying to understand your position - you respond by speculating on what I think your objective in commenting is. You are wrong. I assume your objective is roughly what you said - to present your views and to get a reaction. But your objective is really not my concern.

"The times they are a’ changin’. I don’t think you’re going to like the future much."

You are probably right, although for reasons to which you are not privy. So, if you think you know them, you are wrong. They have mostly to do with economics and nothing at all to do with how polite public discourse is.

Given that track record, you might want to reconsider psychoanalyzing people over the Internet - you don't appear to be very good at it.

"You do have a funny way of reasoning"

Well, one of us may, just as one of us may have a funny view of what constitutes a "fact". But my way has served me well for over half a century, so I think I'll stick with it.

And you may be surprised, but we apparently agree on one thing. Although I have no doubt that all camps are courting the "race vote" as hard as they can, I have considerable doubt that there is any true "racism" in any camp. But given the current role of the MSM as purveyors of low-class entertainment thrills, they are driven to "find" it even if there is none.

- Charles

 
At 2:05 AM, January 26, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Charles,

Of course we are at an impasse -- that was obvious to me from your first post!

This surprises you?

We are in politically opposing camps. That happens in politics, you know. We will just have to agree to disagree.

I don't know if you've noticed, but most disagreements on the Internet either end that way or in a "flame war."

I don't like flame wars -- I'm a very quiet, shy, non-combative kind of guy.

You wrote:
>Rather than answering my questions - from which one might reasonably infer that I am trying to understand your position..

I have not seen any real questions from you. I have seen lots of opinions and a few insults.

Sorry.

It has been quite obvious from your first post that you had no interest in my thoughts or opinions at all.

That is your right. But you don't need to get so upset.

Oh, and we seem to be about the same age, since you mention the topic.

And in my fifty plus years, I have learned that sometimes two people just cannot have a meeting of minds. That is not a great tragedy -- no need to be distressed at all.

All the best,

Dave

 
At 2:09 AM, January 26, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Kevin,

The funny thing is that some people actually believe in "Godwin's law," which is of course a joke. Ah, if only everyone could grasp humor when they see it, the world would be a better place. Just think if everyone in Germany had actually seen Chaplin’s little dictator movie and gotten the joke.

I sometimes think the salvation of civilization lies neither with Rothbard nor DDF but with George Carlin and Jon Stewart!

DDF can speak for himself, but in the case of Rothbard, I am confident that he would have had the sense not to try to “evangelize” Hitler by any means at all. I’m pretty certain that Rothbard’s tack would have been to ignore Hitler himself if possible (and of course try to convince the populace to reject Hitler), shoot Hitler if you must. (I emphasize “must”: I doubt that assassination is usually an effective way of changing the behavior of the state.)

Incidentally, Rothbard’s attitude that the core creators and leaders of the state are evil is often misinterpreted. Murray did disapprove of these people morally (who wouldn’t?). But his more important point was a “public-choice” one. The creators and leaders of the state are usually not simply fools who fail to understand the consequences of their action. There is, after all, usually competition to lead the state (even under absolute monarchy there is potential competition, which is likely to prove actual if the ruler proves incompetent at the art of holding power), and the fools and morons are likely to lose that competition.

Of course, what the selection process will tend to choose are leaders who are skilled at the art of gaining and holding power and exploiting the populace for their own and their associates’ benefit, not rulers who have a farsighted concern for the populace.

Whether or not you wish to call such men “evil,” the fact that such men will tend to rule the state is a fairly straightforward result of economic analysis: this is not a conclusion depending on one’s moral or philosophical perspective – it is a wertfrei analysis. Of course, the details of how this works will differ slightly among democracy, dictatorship, etc., and every once in a while, the system may “malfunction” badly enough to put a well-intentioned guy at the head of the state.

Murray therefore concluded that social scientists who sincerely hoped to improve the lot of the people by giving "good" advice to the rulers of the state were deluding themselves. He also concluded that just maybe some social scientists thought that they could improve their own lot by giving the rulers the advice the rulers wanted, even though it did not help the people.

I always find it funny that people think that Murray’s analysis of the state was “moralistic” or even “emotional” when in fact it was based on impeccably wertfrei economic analysis.

Dave

 
At 12:32 PM, January 26, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

I've enjoyed the extended exchange that my post provoked, but thought I should probably say something more about my reaction to the particular newsletter being discussed.

I wouldn't want to have written it, over my name or otherwise. The reason isn't that it is racist but that it is demagogic. Without knowing much about the relevant factual details, judging simply by the writing style, I suspect that it presents as if it were simple fact the interpretation of the Rodney King events most favorable to the police, and similarly elsewhere. And its comment on criminals in D.C. simply ignore the fact that many of them are criminals for breaking drug laws which Ron Paul disapproves of.

On the other hand, I've read other investment newsletters, and their tone isn't all that different, even if the particular buttons they are trying to push are. They generally overstate their case, because they are trying to convince the reader that they are providing him vital information.

I think one can argue that it is discreditable to Paul that he was to some degree in a business which usually involves a certain amount of dishonesty. But that has nothing to do with racism.

And, of course, contenders for the presidency have generally been involved to a considerable degree in a business which usually involves a certain amount dishonesty, even if they haven't put out investment newsletters.

 
At 1:21 PM, January 26, 2008, Blogger Charles said...

"We are in politically opposing camps."

Yet again, wrong and on two counts. First, I'm not in a "camp" as far as I know. I don't like labels since none really fits. I try to stick to individual issues on which I am least somewhat informed (or possibly misinformed, which is why I love blogs frequented by those better informed than I). And that leads me to the second count. Here's a random tally of agreements and disagreements on various issues (although the positions in your last comment are actually MR's, I infer that you concur):

How to deal with "Hitlers" (ie, those with whom one has irreconcilable differences on major issues): I agree - ignore them if you can, fight them if you must (preferably at the ballot box or in court, of course). I also dislike violence.

Leaders of the state: since you will allow me to eschew use of "evil" (I avoid terms like "evil" and "moral" because I either don't know what they mean or disagree with their popular meaning), I'd say that I agree in essence, though perhaps not in detail or degree. I'm perhaps less cynical about leaders and more cynical about followers (ie, "the people").

Social scientists: I found this position (at least as you presented it) content-free. IMO, anybody doing anything is motivated by self-interest, even if that self-interest takes the form of the emotional reward of "doing good". And I don't know in what way social scientists advising leaders are 'deluded". I suspect that they are typically just technicians doing their job, not dreamers imagining that they are saving the world. I guess it's an "agree", though only because I don't see how one could reasonably disagree.

And to repeat yet again, I agree with your anti-PC posture (eg, I thought Larry Summer's treatment was contemptible). The reason I may have appeared (or actually been) a bit insulting is that even after I had said that explicitly several times, you kept irritatingly hammering at it. But "upset" would be a gross exaggeration. When I get upset with a fellow commenter, I simply retire. As long as I keep responding, you can be certain I'm not.

A possible point of disagreement is that I concur with the following from Prof F:

And I have a pragmatic reason to oppose Rothbard's approach. Once you strongly engage those emotions, it is very easy to see all questions as "which side are you on" rather than "what arguments are correct."

IMO this is a characteristic of any ideological commitment. I ignore it in most ideology-obsessed people because I consider it a sign of shallowness, but in libertarians it's confusing since those I have encountered on blogs are typically way beyond me in relevant measures of intellectual horse-power. Maybe their minority position creates a need for group coherence? I'm open to any explanations since I have none.

re questions or the absence thereof. From my comment at 10:10PM 1/25:

"Or did I misinterpret 'social causation'?"

In response, you discussed various aspects of "social causation" as you mean the term, but didn't address whether my interpretation is consistent with yours.

"would you feel comfortable having an article with that tone published under your name?"

- (tranquil) Charles

 
At 1:33 PM, January 26, 2008, Blogger Charles said...

"I wouldn't want to have written it, over my name or otherwise ..."

Well, I wish you had posted this comment earlier. You stated with coherence (and authority) the criticism of the style and tone that I was (apparently ineptly) trying to express. And this answer to my query is what I would have expected from participants in a blog of this caliber.

- Charles

 
At 1:47 PM, January 26, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

David,

Yeah, I picked up on the victimless-crime point (or rather omission of that point) when I read it too. Somewhere on the thread above, I mentioned that I would have taken more of a public-policy approach had I written the newsletter: that is an example.

On the other hand, while I think that drugs should be legal, even if most DC blacks who have been caught up in the criminal-justice system were caught because of victimless-crime laws, the crime statistics are a valid sociological point. As a practical matter, I would prefer not to live next to someone who was dealing cocaine (and I think it very unlikely that my next-door neighbors are doing that!) for a variety of reasons: for one thing, I don’t want the DEA breaking down my front door by mistake. (Of course, it is possible that many of those blacks were innocent by any standard at all.)

I myself, like you, do try (usually) to be a bit more fastidious about the “hypotheses” I toss out than the letter writer was, especially when referring to millions of other people (if someone is being a jerk to me personally, well, I think he deserves a random hypothesis or two).

I do still rather get a kick out of the newsletter and think that some of its points are valid and that it is obviously not racist. On the other hand, yes, I would not have written it, and, yes, some of your criticisms are also fair.

I’d add that it is routine for articles in the national newsweeklies and even the leading papers (think of Maureen Dowd!) to be, shall we say, lacking in carefulness in exactly the same way as the newsletter and often to a dramatically greater degree – except of course that they are rather careful not to touch African Americans. I have in mind their routine approach to foreign peoples (e.g., Muslims/Arabs), to economic affairs, etc.

Frankly, if everyone would dial back his or her level of hyperbole and conjecture merely to the level exhibited in the newsletter, I think that would be a huge improvement in public discourse!

I think that part of the discussion on this thread may hinge on an issue of “methodological individualism”: I think all the contributors agree that ultimately each of the rioters in the Rodney King riots was responsible for his own actions as an individual and that those actions were caused by his own individual choices, beliefs, etc. At least in a moral sense, his being black, male, or whatever was ultimately irrelevant.

What I think some of the discussants here may be missing is that it is nevertheless a fact, to which any sociologist or poli scientist will cheerfully attest, that people are influenced by the neighborhood and ethnic group among whom they live, etc. I think it is completely fair to talk about such matters, as social scientists do all the time, even if we hold individuals ultimately responsible as individuals.

Why are American Jews so much more successful academically than some other ethnic groups? I don’t know – I suppose a cultural ethos that encourages studying. But it is an interesting and reasonable question to ask: just think how educational standards would improve if we could figure out how to get everyone to perform academically at the level of American Jews!

I’m also curious if you have any comments on my summary of the “Rothbardian” argument about the “evil” of the state. The argument was not unique to Rothbard, of course; Gordon Tullock made it even more forcefully (and unemotionally) in his classic monograph, “The Social Dilemma.” And it goes back ultimately to Pareto, Mosca, Michels, etc.

It seems to me that you can make an interesting public-choice argument (and Murray did make this argument explicitly also) that only by encouraging a public passion and hatred of the state can you effectively counter both the self-interest of those who benefit from ruling the state and the externality problem (the paradox of voting, etc.) involved in getting the victims of the state to engage in collective action to rectify the situation.

To put it concretely, few of the people who run the state are likely to read “The Machinery of Freedom,” and even fewer are likely to say “Yeah, Friedman’s right – I’m going to give up all the power I’ve worked so diligently to attain and start dismantling the state!”

Similarly, while you and I may happen to enjoy physics, economics, etc., most of our fellow citizens would rather spend their time watching Oprah or Monday Night Football (there’s no accounting for taste!). There seems to me very little chance of getting most people to read and understand “The Machinery of Freedom” and then following through on the implicit policy recommendations.

On the other hand, getting people riled up against their own government on moral grounds has often succeeded historically. The goal of morally “deconstructing” the state seems to me, pragmatically, to have greater grounds for success than the let’s-teach-em-economics approach. (Incidentally, I think this is one of the few matters on which the post-modernists – at leas some of the smarter ones such as the poli scientist Anne Norton – have something useful and important to say.)

I don’t agree with all of Rothbard’s strategic views, and I hope I’ve made clear that I think this issue is ultimately a factual issue – which approach actually is more likely to succeed?

Temperamentally, I actually lean towards the let’s-teach-em-economics approach; in the real world, I do doubt that it will succeed.

What do you think?

Dave

 
At 3:34 PM, January 26, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

Physicist Davie said... "What I think some of the discussants here may be missing is that it is nevertheless a fact, to which any sociologist or poli scientist will cheerfully attest, that people are influenced by the neighborhood and ethnic group among whom they live, etc. I think it is completely fair to talk about such matters, as social scientists do all the time, even if we hold individuals ultimately responsible as individuals."

But I think that the government is much to blame, starting with slavery, for the so-called "black underclass," and for much of the non-black underclass, for that matter. Coming back to Georgism, I think that government confiscation through income and sales taxes of a large portion of the meager earnings of those on the lower end of the income scale, while simultaneously denying them their natural right to a free and equal share of the earth, is perhaps the biggest cause of poverty. If I had grown up in the poverty and despair of the projects, maybe I too would have been strongly tempted to become a drug dealer.

Maybe things would have been significantly different for black culture today if the government had not reneged on its promise to freed slaves of 40 acres and a mule, which is the least it owed them.

 
At 4:08 PM, January 26, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

P.S. Yes, I recognize that most of those in the projects are more likely to be receiving welfare than to be paying income taxes. I agree that welfare is another government action on whose doorstep we can leave much of the blame for poverty. On the other hand, as I'm sure you'll agree, if government were to stop taxing labor, there'd probably be more of it, by blacks and whites alike. Furthermore, while it's only right that people should pay for the building in which they live that someone else built, it's not right in principle that they should be forced to pay some landowner somewhere (which again, if they're poor, comes out of their meager earnings) for a piece of land on which to live and work.

 
At 4:30 PM, January 26, 2008, Anonymous Zog said...

I wonder, how many of you "would like" to see the state disappear and for how many of you is it an objective to see the state disappear?

Those for whom getting rid of the state is a passion will probably be more tolerant of academic dishonesty and "whose side are you on?" type behavior than those who view anarchism simply as an intellectual curiosity.

I think emotion, passion, is still to play a large role if this is ever going to go anywhere. That is not to say that I approve of academic dishonesty.

1. Plant Seed
2. Convert
3. Radicalize
4. Motivate

 
At 6:10 PM, January 26, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Michael,

I disagree with you on the land issue for reasons I have explained above.

On the black underclass issue – I blame it fifty percent on the government policies you mention, thirty percent on the cultural decay of the society at large (decline of the sense of individual responsibility, frugality, sobriety, etc. that was more prevalent – though certainly not universal! --in my great-grandparents day than today), and twenty percent on unknown causes. (I’m being facetious of course in assigning numerical values here, but that does give a sense of what I’d guess to be the relative importance of different causes.) The governmental policies and cultural issues are in fact deeply intertwined.

One complaint I have with our cosmo-lib friends is that I think they fail to see how deeply these issues are intertwined. For example, the level of single motherhood we now have, especially among the poor, will, for obvious reasons, increase the demand for welfare and government aid. And it is plausible that the “sexual revolution” so loved by our cosmo-lib friends has something to do with the level of single motherhood. I’m old enough (barely) to remember the sexual hypocrisy of the fifties, and I do not simply advocate turning the clock back, but I do think our cosmo-lib friends are too unwilling to look at possible connections.

So, yes, had I written the newsletter it would have focused more on the issues you and I have raised because those are the issues that happen to interest me. But the author had somewhat different interests, at least on the day he wrote the article, than I do, and I think the interests he raised are fair and valid, although, naturally, I would quibble with some details, as DDF and I both have.

Dave

 
At 7:58 PM, January 26, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

"I’m also curious if you have any comments on my summary of the “Rothbardian” argument about the “evil” of the state. The argument was not unique to Rothbard, of course; Gordon Tullock made it even more forcefully (and unemotionally) in his classic monograph, “The Social Dilemma.” And it goes back ultimately to Pareto, Mosca, Michels, etc."

Hayek put it as "why the worst get to the top." I think I would agree that highly successful politicians are likely to have some serious faults, as well as considerable talents.

But it isn't the handful at the top that make the state do what it does--they are simply maximizing against an existing environment, and if replaced the replacement would do roughly the same things. It's the pattern of beliefs that make people in general support the state.

Rothbard's argument, as I understand it, wasn't limited to the top politicians; he used the term "ruling class" to describe a much larger category of beneficiaries.

My response to that was the chapter in _Machinery of Freedom_ on the nonexistence of the ruling class--the logic of rent seeking, which I invented after Tullock but before Kruger, who coined the term.

Zog talks about being tolerant of "academic dishonesty," presumably in a good cause. I think my favorite discussion of that issue is still the Orwell essay where he talks about the argument that by telling the truth about Stalin one is "playing into the hands of" the Tories.

Once it is clear that people, especially on my side, are willing to lie to me in a good cause, there isn't much reason for me to pay attention to them--figuring out what part of what they say to believe is too much work. And once your movement disconnects itself from worrying about what's true, it can go bad in some pretty ugly ways.

 
At 11:05 PM, January 26, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

David,

I guess I’ll have to go back and read that chapter in “The Machinery of Freedom”: yes, the point is basically Hayek’s also (I read “The Machinery of Freedom” long before I read “The Road To Serfdom”).

My point is that given the public-choice problem with “converting” government officials and also the externality problem (the “paradox of voting,” etc.) with getting the populace to actually learn economics, isn’t pointing out the moral evil of state actions the most efficient way to get the public to act?

I’m of course taking for granted that common-sense morality – thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal, etc. – is actually correct. I.e., I think that acting in all honesty, without lying, one can either point to the economic/utilitarian problems with the state or to the moral problems with the state. It seems to me the latter approach is much more likely to work and therefore should be preferred.

Of course, these are not mutually exclusive approaches: pretty much everyone (definitely including Rothbard and you own dad) advocated both approaches. It’s a matter of relative emphasis and preferred use of scarce resources.

It seems to me that you tend to be positively opposed to “playing the moral card” (I may be misinterpreting you, I’ll concede in advance – maybe this is just a matter of your own personal style). It seems to me that “playing the moral card” is quite honest and is likely to be more efficient.

Am I missing something?

I agree with you about lying (which is one reason I truly was irritated with Tim Starr). I can think of situations where lying is not only permissible but actually required: the familiar Jews-hiding-in-the-attic-and-Gestapo-at-the-door kind of situation. However, in the sort of situation we are discussing here, a long-term political movement aiming to convince their fellow citizens to move to a freer form of political organization, I think lying is both morally impermissible and pragmatically disastrous.

People aren’t that dumb: they’ll figure out you’re lying.

Indeed, this is true almost by definition: it is not wise to start a movement towards a society of free and self-governing individuals by trying to trick those individuals. I’m sure you remember when Roy Childs made his famous statement: if lying helps, then lie. The proper response should have been: Roy, it won’t help, and it’s also sleazy and slimy.

The only legitimate issue is that people will disagree as to what specifically constitute lying. You’ve criticized some aspects of the newsletter article: I’m almost certain the author did not think he was lying on those specifics. And, indeed, I’m not sure any statement in there is actually false, although some are surely debatable and not as well-grounded as you would like. The newsletter statements were at least as well-grounded as many statements made all the time in the MSM: look at Maureen Dowd's columns, almost any of the pundits' election proedictions, at the current reporting of the fake bipartisan "tax rebate," etc.

Some statements can so grossly show a careless and reckless disregard for the truth (e.g., Tim’s weird “Fascist” accusations earlier in this thread) that I think “Liar!” is a fair response.

On the other hand, while I disagree strongly with those who think the newsletter is racist, I think many of them should not be called “liars.” In my opinion, they are mistaken, and I think some of them are mistaken because they have a political axe to grind. But I think there is a qualitative difference between their statements and Tim’s (no doubt Tim believes his own statements, but there’s no sign he really much cares if they are true – his focus is clearly on their serving his purposes). (Of course, a claim such as "anyone will see that the newsletter is racist" is a lie and quite obviously so.)

A failure to draw the distinctions, to offer the interpretations, to focus on the issues, etc. that one’s opponents might prefer is not lying, and I don’t think libertarians, or anyone else, can or should be held to that standard. That is, after all, the pragmatic argument for freedom of speech: adversarial discussion will bring out truths that one side or the other might prefer not to mention or emphasize.

It’s not our job to make our opponent’s case for him nor to make sure that we never make a mistake. It is our job, almost always, to not knowingly say something we know is false and also to recognize that we should have a reasonable concern with whether there is any evidence that the statements we make are true.

Certainty is rarely achievable; a reasonable concern for evidence is achievable.

Dave

 
At 12:44 AM, January 27, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

"isn’t pointing out the moral evil of state actions the most efficient way to get the public to act?"

I think there are two different questions here. One, which you discuss, is the relative effectiveness of different argumentative strategies. In that regard, I have two problems with "playing the moral card."

1. I don't have any really solid arguments to show that my moral beliefs are correct.

2. If I actually believed that eliminating state coercion had catastrophic consequences--as most people do--I'm not sure I would be willing to do it. My impression is that those who say "fiat justicia, ruat coelum" are in fact quite sure the sky isn't going to fall.

While I think it is sometimes possible to persuade people by appealing to their moral intuition, mostly it doesn't seem to work.

A further point is that if a sizable part of the reason why people won't apply conventional moral standards to the state is that they believe if they did the results would be terrible, persuading them that the results would not be terrible is one way of getting them to do it.

But there's a second question, relevant to my point about the ruling class if not to yours about styles of argument. A good deal of libertarian rhetoric assumes, implicitly or explicitly, that some substantial set of people is benefiting by the state--this argument is sometimes put, I think absurdly, in terms of net tax recipients vs net tax payers. Not only is there no reason to think that's true, there is no very compelling reason to think that any significant number of people benefit by the existence of the state--or that if some do, they are people who are engaging in coercion (rather than, say, tax lawyers using their expertise to help customers defend themselves).

 
At 2:12 AM, January 27, 2008, Blogger montestruc said...

tim starr wrote:
----quote---
Another leading Paleo is Chronicles magazine editor Thomas Fleming, who said at a conference he & Rothbard organized in his closing address that only white male Christians were fit for freedom;
------end quote-----

Tim, are you aware that Rothbard was jewish??

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

That quote above you give is a bit of a stretch huh? Given that not only was Rothbard their, but many other intellectual leaders/heros of this movement are jewish.

I think this points straight at the source of the comment, someone of the extreme socialist left persuasion making it up.

 
At 3:23 AM, January 27, 2008, Anonymous Zog said...

1. Sometimes, the state staying out of it does not lead to disaster.
2. Usually, the state staying out of it does not lead to disaster.
3. Usually, the state staying out of it makes us better off.
4. The state is evil and should usually stay out of it.
5. There are no proper functions of government.

 
At 3:31 AM, January 27, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

David,

You wrote:
>If I actually believed that eliminating state coercion had catastrophic consequences--as most people do--I'm not sure I would be willing to do it. My impression is that those who say "fiat justicia, ruat coelum" are in fact quite sure the sky isn't going to fall.

Well… let’s be honest: almost everyone, including Rothbard, really feels the same way.

I’ve actually always thought that the most important point to “consequentialist” arguments for libertarianism is simply to show that the consequences will not be disastrous.

Most normal people are willing to suffer a bit of inconvenience in order to “do the right thing.” But if the “right thing” will have, as an obvious consequence, all of us being subjected to brutal slavery, or all of us immediately dying, or the extinction of the human race after this generation, almost none of us will agree to follow through.

I knew Rothbard well enough to know that he of course felt the same way: e.g., while he viewed pollution as a form of trespass, he of course recognized that any system that defined our own exhaling as unallowable pollution would not (and should not) ever be enacted.

Frankly, I myself think that an attempt to immediately impose “anarcho-capitalism” on the American people would result in catastrophe: the people are not “ready” for it. But the same considerations that mean that it would not work also mean it will not happen: the people will not allow it. If and when people wish to have anarchy, I think they will have proven themselves able to handle it (maybe – nothing is guaranteed here, and I am none too sanguine about any political system, even the anarcho-capitalist lack of system).

So, yes, moral suasion without some consequentialist arguments will not work, at least not for advocating pure anarcho-capitalism. I would offer only two main caveats here. First, the consequentialist arguments need not be that anarcho-capitalism is the best of all possible worlds from a consequentialist viewpoint, but merely that it is not a disaster. Second, as a practical matter, consequentialism is repeatedly used to argue for horrific invasions of liberty (e.g., the War on Drugs) as absolutely necessary to avoid catastrophe even though anyone familiar with history knows that these claims are utter nonsense. A long chain of abuses and nonsense should create a very, very strong presumption against consequentialist-based arguments against liberty: they are almost always fraudulent or, at least, woefully misinformed.

The consequentialist arguments for Paulist-style minarchism are, I think, much less of an issue, since, after all, American government was once not that far from the minarchist ideal, and the sky did not fall way back then. So, curiously, although I think that a purely moralistic approach leads logically to anarchism, as a practical rhetorical matter, I think a purely moralistic approach works better in advocating minarchism.

And, I do think we should be completely free to choose the argumentative approach that works best rhetorically in the particular situation, as long as we are telling the truth. You always have to figure out how best to present your argument (even in a scientific paper): there is no obligation to intentionally hobble yourself, although there is an obligation not to lie.

You also wrote:
>I don't have any really solid arguments to show that my moral beliefs are correct.

Well.. I think you do.

Either morality is completely arbitrary and subjective or it is not.

If it is completely arbitrary and subjective, what’s dishonest about simply appealing to your own moral intuitions and to others’ intuitions to the degree they happen to be similar to your own? Sometimes this will work, sometimes not (i.e., their own moral intuitions may just be arbitrarily different from yours). We happen to know that there is in fact a significant degree of overlap among human’s “arbitrary" moral intuitions, and that a decent number of humans have at least a bit of an urge towards consistency. So, sometimes assuming they have the same moral intuitions as you will work.

Part of the proof of this is the enormous work (miseducation, propaganda, jingoism, etc.) that governments go to to subvert people’s normal moral perceptions. The real proof of the pudding is the anger that many governmentalists show when one simply presents wertfrei, factual information about the past and present actions of the state: the hard-core statists, at least, seem to assume that most people’s moral intuitions, arbitrary though they may be, will conflict with the needs of the state, unless the state obfuscates and lies about the reality of its actions.

To give what I think is a very tight analogy, if moral judgments are completely arbitrary and subjective, they are just like, say, tastes in food. If, for some reason, you enjoy lobster and enjoy seeing others eating lobster, what on earth is wrong with trying to appeal to our common taste and urging us all to eat more lobster? The worst that will happen is that you will find that, on this matter, some people have different tastes, and so you will fail (e.g., I happen not to be that fond of seafood, myself). But, since we all agree that taste in food is essentially subjective, you will have done nothing wrong: you will have violated no objective rule of taste. And, in fact, there is a large overlap in food preferences among different human beings, at least in one culture, so you may well succeed.

So, if morality is completely arbitrary and subjective, there is nothing at all wrong or irrational in making moral arguments, although perhaps the right word then is not “arguments” but “appeals to arbitrarily overlapping intuitions.”

Now, in my own case, I happen to reject that horn of the dilemma: the fact that there is a huge overlap among moral views among different cultures suggests to me that it is not purely subjective and arbitrary, that, indeed, in some sense morality must be based in human nature. And, it’s not too hard to see what that basis is.

Cultures differ quite dramatically in what bride-price is required (if any), what the appropriate initiation into adulthood is, what taboos apply to dead bodies or menstruating women, and on a host of other things that anyone might remember from Anthropology 101.

But I know of only one culture (the Iks) that routinely accepts killing of other members of the group, that routinely accepts theft, etc. Even the Iks seemed to feel this did not work real well (see, e.g., Edgerton’s “Sick Societies: Challenging the Myth of Primitive Harmony”).

It should be fairly easy for anyone familiar with economics, game theory, the property-rights literature, evolutionary reasoning, etc. (or indeed plain common sense), to explain this core commonality among human moral systems: without it, human life would be Hobbesian indeed, and almost everyone can see this.

All we libertarians (especially anarchists) want is to extend that common moral structure to include the state. All of the explanations as to why the state should not be included are pretty obviously either misguided or disingenuous: see, e.g., A John Simmons’ “Moral Principles and Political Obligations.” As Simmons notes, it is notoriously the case among political philosophers (and anyone else who thinks about the matter carefully) that centuries of attempts to provide a moral justification for the state have failed.

We anarchists need merely smile sweetly and add that this is because there obviously is no moral justification for the state (this is Simmons’ own conclusion).

We anarchists are eccentric only in that we recognize that the consequentialist-catastrophist arguments for the state are wrong, and, more importantly, in that, for some reason, we don’t buy in to the rather silly flag-waving arguments that try to exempt the state from the normal requirements of human morality.

If anyone thinks I am channeling Ayn Rand here, the two books which have most seriously affected my perspective on this are Alan Donagan’s “The Theory of Morality” and Mackie’s “Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong.”

I realize that I am making it sound as if most ethical philosophers for the last two centuries have been wasting their time playing with words when a bit of knowledge of anthropology, economics, etc. would have solved their problems for them, and that is indeed what I think.

If morality were that difficult to understand, half of our fellow citizens would be ax-murderers, and no one would feel guilty (or morally outraged) over adultery.

There are difficult, borderline cases (abortion, euthanasia, etc.), and there are specific problems inhering in a particular culture (e.g., we Americans have few moral dilemmas relating to bride-price or menstruation taboos, but we do have moral issues relating to interactions on the Web).

But, as you and I know so well, most humans find Newtonian physics far less intuitive than the common core of human morality.

So, yes, David, I actually think you know very well a morality that is pretty firmly anchored in the objective reality of human nature. It is not, of course, part of the objective furniture of the universe in quite the way that the laws of physics are. But so what? How could it be? Morality is for humans, not for rocks.

All that libertarians, especially libertarian anarchists, should aspire to do, in terms of moral argumentation, is to refute the nonsensical propaganda used to reify the state as some mystical entity exempt from normal human morality.

This will not convince everyone: psychopaths do not accept the usual norms of human morality.

But then we don’t need to convince everyone.

I realize that I have not answered every conceivable objection, but this post is, I think, long enough as is.

All the best,

Dave

 
At 3:37 AM, January 27, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

montestruc,

Murray was not only Jewish, he was ostentatiously, stereotypically, hilariously Jewish!

Anyone who really hated Jews would have been choking on his own rage when Rothbard walked in to the room.

I’m usually horrible at guessing people’s ethnicity, but with Murray, you couldn’t fail.

Dave

 
At 7:15 AM, January 27, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally have no objection to "adultery," that is, I have some trouble understanding sexual jealousy. I am usually monogamous myself (time constraints) but I will never demand that of my partner.

I think morality has a lot to do with upbringing and that person's experiences and view of the world. I don't think there is an objective moral code that would hold true for all people in all ages.

For this reason especially I favor an anarchist society. An anarchist society, much more than a democracy, is tolerant of diversity. It will allow a large number of different people with different cultural and moral backgrounds to live together - each keeping their own unique way of life.

 
At 11:08 AM, January 27, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

Davids Miller and Friedman:

I (not sure where you got the idea above that my name was Michael:) thought your [Miller's] last comment was well said, and I heartily concur.

There was recently an interesting post by Brian Doherty (who I think is one of the best over at Reason) about a libertarian anarchist (i.e. "Rad Geek," whose real name if I recall correctly is Charles Johnson) who now wants to hop of the "freedom train," insofar as it's a metaphor for anarchists and minarchists heading in the same direction and being natural allies. "Rad Geek" is concerned that if and when we ever reach the "minarchy" station the minarchists will then turn around and oppressively prevent their former anarchist allies from traveling further on down the line to anarchy!

Let me just copy here a couple of my comments to that post, since I think they're pertinent to both of your recent comments:

I consider myself philosophically an anarchist and pragmatically a minarchist. It's the theoretical anarchism (e.g. Lysander Spooner's demonstration that the Constitution is of "no authority") which justifies and enjoins the minarchism, rather than a mere unprincipled preference for less government. Thoreau's essay on Civil Disobedience expresses my attitude very well, especially the first and last paragraphs. I don't have a problem with government laws which merely forbid me to do something I have no right to do anyway, like kill or rob. I have a big problem with taxes, but wouldn't have a problem with a Georgist "single 'tax'" on the unimproved value of land and other natural resources, which is only fair. (For your own edification google "Henry George." The man was a genius, and a true friend of liberty.)

So anarchism is a state of mind, People. You can be there right now if you only think it. "The Truth will set you free." The Freedom Train has already arrived. Just be sure to avoid the thugs with guns (or at least the thugs with more guns than you) who wanna take your stuff, just as you would still need to do if the U.S. of A. collapsed into nothingness tomorrow. And do your best to lead others to the truth that those thugs who have both guns and government "credentials" have no moral authority over you. It'll make it that much harder for the thuggish minority to continue lording it over the rest of us.

[In response to a commenter who said "I don't think anarchists are going to stick with us when their goal could be much more quickly achieved by destroying the govt entirely."]:

Or the anarchists could simply, arguably more effectively, spend their time trying to convince the People (which arguably includes "mainstream libertarians") that the government has No Authority to, e.g., impose an income tax, or put people in jail for smoking marijuana. (In fact, it has no authority to do anything other than what conforms with natural justice, which everyone has a right to do anyway, whether they're "from the government" or not.) Even if on principle such anarchists don't participate in the electoral process, this would hopefully have an influence on the people who do.

Anarchism can and should be framed in a way that is much more palatable to mainstream sensibilities. Of course, the historical connotations of the word "anarchist" itself is a big part of the problem.

How radical really are the following principles expressed by the "radical" anarchist Lysander Spooner (from his The Unconstitutionality of Slavery [1860]:

If, then, law really be what this definition would make it, merely "a rule of civil conduct prescribed by the supreme power of a state " ‑‑ it would follow, as a necessary consequence, that law is synonymous merely with will and force, wherever they are combined and in successful operation, for the present moment.
Under this definition, law offers no permanent guaranty for the safety, liberty, rights or happiness of any one. It licenses all possible crime, violence and wrong, both by governments and individuals. The definition was obviously invented by, and is suited merely to gloss over the purposes of, arbitrary power. We are therefore compelled to reject it, and to seek another, that shall make law less capricious, less uncertain, less arbitrary, more just, more safe to the rights of all, more permanent. And if we seek another, where shall we find it, unless we adopt the one first given, viz., that law is the rule, principle, obligation or requirement of natural justice?
Adopt this definition, and law becomes simple, intelligible, scientific; always consistent with itself; always harmonizing with morals, reason and truth. Reject this definition, and law is no longer a science: but a chaos of crude, conflicting and arbitrary edicts, unknown perchance to either morals, justice, reason or truth, and fleeting and capricious as the impulses of will, interest and power.
If, then, law really be nothing other than the rule, principle obligation or requirement of natural justice, it follows that government can have no powers except such as individuals may rightly delegate to it: that no law, inconsistent with men's natural rights, can arise out of any contract or compact of government: that constitutional law, under any form of government, consists only of those principles of the written constitution, that are consistent with natural law, and man's natural rights; and that any other principles, that may be expressed by the letter of any constitution, are void and not law, and all judicial tribunals are bound to declare them so. Though this doctrine may make sad havoc with constitutions statute hooks, it is nevertheless law. It fixes and determines the real rights of all men; and its demands are as imperious as any that can exist under the name of law. [*15]

[Here's the paragraphs - the first and last - from Thoreau's Civil Disobedience I referenced above]:

I heartily accept the motto, — “That government is best which governs least;” and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — “That government is best which governs not at all;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government.

The authority of government, even such as I am willing to submit to, — for I will cheerfully obey those who know and can do better than I, and in many things even those who neither know nor can do so well, — is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it. The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose, if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow-men. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which also I have imagined, but not yet anywhere seen.

 
At 1:21 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger Charles said...

"If morality were that difficult to understand, half of our fellow citizens would be ax-murderers ... moral issues relating to interactions on the Web)."

This passage highlights the problem I have with the term "morality" as commonly used. Dave's examples span the range from violent homicide to (what I assume is subsumed under "web interactions") on-line gambling, an activity that has at most indirect victims (the families of losers). It would seem useful to have different terms for subsets of that range. The reason that the "immorality" of ax murder is so "intuitive" is that it is obviously unworkable to have a society that doesn't make ax murder a crime. So, I submit that what's "intuitive" is that such behavior is universally labeled "criminal", that other behavior the adverse effects on society of which can be assessed based on "knowledge of anthropology, economics, etc." needs a different label (say, "societally detrimental"), and that labeling other behaviors "immoral" is largely arbitrary and should have no legal effect.

The absence of such a distinction has practical consequences. In his Lawrence dissent, J. Scalia argues that the state has a rational basis interest in promoting "majoritarian sexual morality" and provides a list of behaviors the illegality of which is, in theory, at risk as a consequence of the decision. (And some are at risk, IMO, deservedly.) The essence of his argument is that it suffices for the state merely to label behavior "immoral". It's hard to refute the argument since some behaviors labeled "immoral" must be banned, and in the absence of the kind of distinction I suggest, it follows that all must be. But this seems a mockery of the implication of the expression "rational basis", which logically should be limited to behavior justifiably labeled "societally detrimental" .

Adultery is illustrative of how this might work. Not meaning at all to minimize potential subtle psychological effects of adultery on a marriage (or other committed relationship), it seems to me that one can for present purposes distinguish "victimless" adultery (eg, "open" marriage) and the usual kind (cheating, in the literal sense of violating mutually agreed to rules). Then the only the latter could be illegal, and only if it could be convicingly demonstrated to be "societally detrimental".

This appears to relate to the actual point of the present exchange. If one buys the distinction between behavior with and without mutual consent, can a democratic state (as distinguished from individual representatives, of course) really behave "immorally" vis-a-vis the "consenting" electorate? (I assume that in libertarian circles this is well-plowed ground, but I don't know the answer.)

- Charles

 
At 2:20 PM, January 27, 2008, Anonymous Tim Starr said...

Yes, "montestruc," of course I know Rothbard was Jewish. So was Frank Collin, the former head of the American Nazi Party--So what? The fact that someone is Jewish is completely irrelevant to the question of whether their words or deeds are anti-Semitic or bigoted in any other way, just as it is irrelevant to whether their words are true or their actions virtuous. To say that Jews can't be anti-Semitic is to enable Jewish anti-Semitism.

As for David Miller, I see that he's still firmly entrenched in "attack-the-messenger" denial, and I'm sure that he can find all sorts of reasons why I'm horrible person and therefore he doesn't have to seriously consider the possibility that he's wrong about anything.

However, I find it especially ironic that he calls me a liar so he can excuse himself from having to address any of the issues I raise or answer any of my questions, while then going on to accuse me of defending mass-murder in the Iraq War. As I wrote in a comment elsewhere:

'Anyone who believes the US has actually killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians is delusional, probably falling for the sort of dishonest statistical "studies" done by antiwar partisans, bought & paid for by George Soros, & published in once-respected journals like "The Lancet" that have been captured by the hate-America Left.

'They probably also suffer from the ideological blinders that make them incapable of distinguishing between _trying_ to kill civilians and trying not to.

'This also follows the white-supremacist template: Holocaust Deniers both deny that the Nazis tried to kill all the Jews, and claim that the Allies tried to kill all the Germans, citing "studies" like David Irving's fraud about Dresden.

'It's no surprise that the Paulestinians would do this, since so many of them were recruited by Rothbard/Rockwell as part of a strategy to fund-raise from Willis Carto's mailing lists. Nor is it any surprise that Rothbard would be part & parcel of this, since one of his favorite historians, Harry Elmer Barnes, was also a Holocaust Denier.'

 
At 3:39 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Charles,

My point, with which most libertarians would, I think, concur, is simply that, as individuals, each of us (not just libertarians) would think it completely sensible to use deadly force to protect ourselves against someone who was trying to murder us. Indeed, most of us would think it completely sensible to use deadly force to protect, not simply ourselves or our loved ones, but any other innocent individual against being murdered.

I hear there are a very tiny minority of pacifists who will not grant this – I’m not sure I’ve ever known any personally.

On the other hand, while we might understand someone who kills an adulterous spouse in a fit of rage, most of us would be, I think, a little reluctant to endorse that action, especially if it were calculated and pre-meditated. And, while most people I know disapprove of adultery, all of them would think it bizarre if *I* murdered *your* spouse because I found out she had committed adultery.

In short, common sense indicates that just because something is wrong does not mean that a particular punishment of that wrong is justified. I think there are overwhelming considerations that back up that common sense perspective – see the books on morality I cited above or any decent book on libertarian ethics (e.g., Rothbard’s “The Ethics of Liberty”). Libertarians sum up the various arguments in the shorthand expression “non-initiation of force,” but this is just short-hand for a longer discussion.

I, and most libertarians (at least most libertarian anarchists), simply want to apply the moral rules that we apply to ordinary people also to the state.

The reason for that is that the state is simply people!

This gets to your point:
>can a democratic state (as distinguished from individual representatives, of course) really behave "immorally" vis-a-vis the "consenting" electorate?

I’ve never consented to the democratic state and I never will. If you had asked me when I was ten years old, if I consented to it, I would have emphatically said “No!” (I started writing a novel, never completed of course, when I was ten about overthrowing the US government.)

Of course, the “democratic state” per se never really does anything. Only people actually do things. The “state” is a reification, a mystification, used to distort and obfuscate actions actually carried out by a bunch of individual people.

Of course, trying to point this out to statists -- democrats, socialists, conservatives, etc. -– is a bit like pointing out the obvious truth about transubstantiation to a traditionalist Catholic (it’s still just wine and wafers, folks!) -- it’s likely to engender a bit of anger. But, in my experience, most (not all) people find this easier to grasp intellectually than the utilitarian case against the state, simply because most (not all) people find economics and associated disciplines hard intellectually.

Let me put this in concrete terms. Was it okay for Dubya to send a bunch of his employees halfway around the world to drop bombs on a lot of people (most of whom were innocent), set themselves up as overlords of that land, now and then shoot people in that country who do not follow his orders, etc.?

Well, substitute “Bill Gates” for “Dubya.” Would it be okay for Bill Gates to do all those things? If not, what’s the difference between Bill Gates and Dubya (well, okay, Gates is enormously smarter, but I mean morally relevant difference)?

We all know the answers, of course: Dubya is “President” (well, maybe – there was the Florida debacle); the Constitution allows him to do this (well, probably it does not); he was elected by the American people (not the Iraqi people, though, and a plurality of Americans voted for Gore); etc.

Take out my snide comments in parentheses and grant that Dubya is the legitimate President, chosen by the American people, and acting in accordance with the Constitution.

Morally, so what?

Do the American people, acting as individuals, have the right to bomb innocent people half-way around the world? If you and I and a few other American people did this on our own, they’d lock us up or execute us.

So, why is it just swell to for us to do this if we label our little gang a “government”?

I hope this example makes my point clear. Look at any government from the viewpoint of a man from Mars and all you will actually see is a bunch of people doing a bunch of things to other people – the same is true for a Church, a corporation, a Rotary Club, al Qaeda, the Mafia, etc.

Nobody here but us people.

In my experience, it’s quite easy for most people to grasp this point. Indeed, they tend to grasp it and its obvious implications so readily that they tend to recoil in horror, because the obvious implications are the destruction of society as we know it. Take this perspective seriously, and you should only respect a “schoolteacher” if she actually knows her stuff and is good at teaching it – not simply because she has “teaching credentials” and an appointment as a “teacher.” A similar point applies to judges, cops, clergymen, physicians, psychiatrists, journalists, etc.

Specifically, this ”man from Mars” perspective just strips away all of the arguments offered over the years for respecting the state.

I think that this change in human society is ultimately inevitable -- just as inevitable as the invention of the printing press or the airplane or the decline of absolute monarchy or cannibalism.

In such a world, I would guess that there will still be farmers and parents and teachers and truck drivers. There will, I think, even be cops and judges, but as DDF explains in “The Machinery of Freedom” they will likely behave a bit differently when no longer cloaked in the mystification of “the state.”

But, I suspect, there will be fewer wars, taxes, and “Wars” on Drugs and everything else; and “public” school will mean a school serving the public, not a school run by and for the government.

Most importantly, the degradation caused to the human spirit by our pretending that murder is not murder, that theft is not theft, etc. will have been reduced.

To me, that’s the most important thing.

Dave

 
At 3:47 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Tim,

I called you a liar for labelling Rothabrd, Rockwell, and others as "Fascists":

>Paleos are ex-Fascists, or neo-Fascists. When they say "Old Right," they mean "Old South," complete with segregation, lynchings, the Klan, & police brutality.

You have offered no evidence for that lie and you have not retracted it.

You have, on the other hand, spent a very large amount of energy on the Web defending the attack and conquest of a country almost halfway around the world. As I pointed out, although the paleos have overwhelmingly opposed that action, the actual historical Fascists engaged in similar actions.

I think it is clear to everyone here who the real "Fascist" is, but personally I prefer not to label peopl in that way.

Dave

 
At 4:53 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger Audacity said...

I hadn't known any of that tiny minority either, until a couple of days ago, when I found out that both of my roommates would not use deadly force against a murderer. They also both believe that Germany would have lost World War II without U.S. intervention (making WWII another war that we shouldn't have fought).

 
At 5:21 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

audacity,

I'm inclined to agree with your roommates on WW II: Hitler lost the Battle of Britain and I don't think he could ever have fully taken Russia. Speculative history is, however, a rather speculative activity!

Of course, the bigger problem with WW II was that Hitler's loss meant Stalin's victory and Communist conquest of Eastern Europe. You can argue that there was a net gain -- at least France was liberated -- but it's a muddy issue. And, of course, Allied victory came too late to save most of the Jews: the unwillingness of the Allies to offer any aid to the Jews, before the War or during the War (e.g., by bombing the railroad lines to the death camps), is particularly despicable.

A broader issue is the American government’s motivation for involvement in the War. The Axis did not, after all, directly endanger the US homeland, and FDR had to famously provoke Japan (e.g., actually arranging to send US military fliers early in ’41 to directly fight against the Japs!) to even incite an Axis attack against a military base in an American colonial possession far from the American homeland.

Put in the broader historical context, from the unprovoked war of 1898 against Spain to the current unprovoked conquest of Iraq, I think it is pretty clear that the US involvement in WW II was part of a long-term process of expanding US power over the rest of the world. Indeed, the victory in WW II was probably more important than any other single event, even the defeat of the Soviets.

I know that even to take this sort of long-term geopolitical view is viewed as treasonous, blasphemous, etc. by most Americans, but I find that in discussing the issue with people from most of the world they find it amusing that anyone would doubt the obvious truth of this point.

The bid for world hegemony by the USG will of course fail. Personally, my kids and I are learning Chinese.

Of course, as a libertarian, I would have left it to the free choice of individual Americans in any case as to whether or not they chose to fight against the Axis or contribute funds to that fight.

Dave

 
At 6:25 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

audacity,

It occurred to me that I should go to the trouble to explain my last sentence above.

Suppose that there is a serial rapist/murderer loose in my neighborhood and that one night I hear someone trying to break into my house.

Am I entitled to ring up my next-door neighbor and tell her that unless she immediately gets over to my house to help defend me, my wife, and my daughters against the rapist/murderer, I will imprison her for years, take away her property, etc.

The cops really aren’t an option in this situation, by the way: I know from actual past experience that, by the time they get here, we might all be dead.

If, as I pointed out above in replying to Charles, you take the man-from-Mars perspective and see the government simply as a bunch of people, the WW II issue is really just the situation I have just sketched writ large. (Of course, my neighbor arguably has more reason to help me than the US had to help Europe.)

The usual response is that Hitler threatened many more people. True, but then many more people’s lives were wrecked (and ended) by being drafted to fight him. While only four people are being threatened in the case I’ve sketched above, I’m also only proposing to draft one person, my neighbor. The two cases appear to be proportionate: many fewer people threatened, many fewer drafted.

Of course, there are broader issues here: I actually do think that USG intervention in WW II had less to do with liberating Europe (and nothing to do with saving the Jews) and more to do with expanding USG domination over the planet. But even if you give the most positive spin to the USG’s actions, it then becomes analogous to my “drafting” my neighbor.

Anyone who opposes the latter but supports the former is, it seems to me, being a hypocrite.

Of course, the USG has spent billions to propagandize the US population to think otherwise. It is getting pretty funny though how the monsters that must be slain have shrunk in size over the decades: from Hitler to the USG’s own little puppet, Saddam Hussein, in just sixty years.

Dave

 
At 6:41 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger montestruc said...

to Tim Starr,

Well I can buy that a person might be an anti-Semite and still be a Jew, but, not and be very open and honest about one's Jewish heritage.

Hitler may have been an anti-semitic Jew, or thought he was of Jewish ancestry, but if he did, he hid it. What I do not buy is that "white Christian male" noise made in front of Rothbard and him approving of it and continuing to take part. I think your source is full of it, or that you are lying.

Do you have a source from Rothbard or others in that movement?

 
At 7:26 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

montestruc,

You're referring, I assume, to Tim's statement:
>Thomas Fleming, who said at a conference he & Rothbard organized in his closing address that only white male Christians were fit for freedom..

Since Tim is not quoting directly but is only paraphrasing and since the reference he provides is to the infamous David Frum (and the link seems to be dead), it's hard to know what he has in mind – par for the course.

Both Fleming and Rothbard did refer repeatedly to the fact that most of the cultural achievements of the West that are generally recognized as important were due to dead “white male Christians.” Of course, that is just a simple statement of fact, to which even post-modernists accede, and follows from the fact that almost all Westerners were both white and Christian and that women were not, until very recently, encouraged to participate in scientific or cultural advances.

I think Fleming really likes this and hopes it will continue (and fears it will not). As a Jewish atheist, Rothbard naturally had a rather more detached view, but he did recognize and acknowledge historical facts.

Incidentally, no one here is going to agree with Fleming on everything, but that does not make him “Fascist” as Tim insists. Fleming is particuarly eager to make clear, again, and again, that he is not a libertarian. If we were to go down a laundry list of issues, I would find Fleming to be a great deal more libertarian than Tim, though not a consistent libertarian, but I can see how Dr. Fleming wants to make sure than no one thinks he is a “libertarian” like Tim!

I suspect that if we ever find out the source for Tim’s rantings on this particular topic, it will turn out that Fleming is referring to the historical fact that natural rights theory, capitalism, modern democratic republics, etc. did indeed historically originate only among “white male Christians” and that there may be some cultural factors unique to the West that caused this to be the case. This is an academic discussion that has been rolling on for more than a century (vide Max Weber), but Tim lacks the education or knowledge or maturity to put the discussion in its historical context.

Oh, and did you catch Tim’s little gibe about “Paulestinians”? I suppose the problem is that we do not hate Palestinians as much as he does? Pretty clever.

As I’ve said before, my own perspective on all this is shown by the fact that my kids and I are learning Chinese.

Dave

 
At 8:22 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger Charles said...

Dave -

Thanks for the lengthy reply.

"The “state” is a reification ..."

The nature of "the state" from the perspective of libertarians (never mind Martians) always somewhat confuses me, and this statement is a good example. From my perspective, the state is a concept (defined in a constitution), so if there is any reification going on it's the state that gets reified in the form of it's employees. Which is why I distinguished between the state and the people's representatives. We hold all state employees legally responsible for their individual illegal deeds and the reps politically responsible for their "immoral" deeds (at least in principle - as you suggest, it doesn't always work that way, especially when it comes to military actions; and recently, it hasn't in other arenas.)

And here is where I lose the libertarian thesis. I see ultimate responsibility for the immoral deeds of a democratic state (as reified in the reps) as falling directly on "the people" for not holding their reps politically responsible. And if the people act irresponsibly by not replacing the reps who contributed to the immoral state action, why is it reasonable to expect them to act responsibly when there is no state? It's not that I "respect" the state, I just see some form of state as a necessary evil which in the case of a democracy will ultimately be no more or less moral than the people.

You raise the question whether behavior that is illegal/immoral for an individual is also for the state. There might be exceptions, but in general I'd agree that it is. In your specific example of the Iraq war, I think a good case can be made that there has been immoral (and probably illegal) behavior both individually and collectively by our reps. But the people chose in 2004 not to hold those reps responsible for that behavior, and apparently will continue not to, as indicated by a poll showing the Iraq war to be a distant third (IIRC) in importance as a campaign concern. Shame on us.

BTW, I once posed a question about transubstantiation in a blog comment, and the explanation was that it isn't the substance that changes but the "essence". Surely you see that that makes it completely logical. No? Me neither.

- Charles

 
At 9:09 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Charles,

You wrote:
> From my perspective, the state is a concept (defined in a constitution), so if there is any reification going on it's the state that gets reified in the form of it's employees.

Historically, very few states have had written constitutions. In the case of the US, the Constitution is really a big part of the mystification: why on earth should we be bound by a document a handful of men wrote over two centuries ago (and only a small minority of the human beings living in the country at that time voted to approve)? In fact, of course, the US government is not bound by it (it’s a “living” document, you know), but it does serve to help confuse people. You know, it’s not people who steal money from their fellow citizens: it’s the Sixteenth Amendment that “authorizes” the stealing. The Sixteenth Amendment is in concrete terms no more than some ink on some dead trees: it’s people that choose to appeal to that ink to justify stealing from their fellow human beings.

Again, pretend you’re a man from Mars, and it all looks remarkably silly, or remarkably clever if you assume the elite is getting what it wants. DDF seems to think the system does not even benefit the rulers: perhaps not, but they seem to believe it benefits them.

You also wrote:
>I see ultimate responsibility for the immoral deeds of a democratic state (as reified in the reps) as falling directly on "the people" for not holding their reps politically responsible.

Well, “the people” in this sense are make-believe, aren’t they? In reality, there is just you and me and Tim and DDF and so on 300 million times over. There’s no separate “the people” who can do anything, who can be held morally responsible, etc.

And, as a practical matter, our “representatives” pay rather limited attention to what most of us think or say: consider the Dems’ refusal to end the war. Yes, I know, the Dems are afraid they will lose the next election: so, they have purposefully and consciously chosen to have the killing continue rather than risk losing power. They bear responsibility as individual human beings for making that intentional choice.

What you have written is exactly what I mean by false reification. For our “representatives” to try to palm off responsibility for their actions on to “the people” is just one more con game (“I was just following orders,” “Jimmy made me hit him,” etc.). My kids are bright enough to try that sort of con on me sometimes; I’m bright enough not to buy it.

The problem is that, ultimately, there are no, to use your phrase, “immoral deeds of a democratic state”; there are only immoral deeds of G. W. Bush, and Richard Cheney, and Nancy Pelosi, and the flunkies who carry out their illegal orders, and people like Tim who support their murderous actions, and so on.

“The state” is a myth, an extraordinarily evil, malicious, and dangerous myth used to get people off the hook for very serious crimes.

You also wrote:
> I just see some form of state as a necessary evil which in the case of a democracy will ultimately be no more or less moral than the people.

Have you read DDF’s “The Machinery of Freedom”? He argues, convincingly in my judgment, that the state is not necessary. If you are careful to always think of the state as simply a bunch of people, it’s indeed hard to see how the state can be necessary. “The state” is not really there: it’s just a mask to hide some very vicious actions by some very real human beings.

Dave

 
At 11:10 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger Charles said...

Dave -

Of course the Constitution, the state, the exceptional "American people", et al are all fictions, meaningful only to the extent that citizens agree to play like they exist. But apparently, most folks find playing that game to be pretty satisfactory. I find it strange that some of the strongest objections to the game come from the winners - the "elite", which probably includes most libertarians.

"There’s no separate “the people” who can do anything, who can be held morally responsible, etc."

I really thought I made it clear that I meant "the people" in the real sense of a collection of individuals, not in an abstract sense. Like "the people have spoken" - a more poetic way of saying "more saps voted for me than for the other clown".

"And, as a practical matter, our “representatives” pay rather limited attention to what most of us think or say"

And here is where we really part ways. My understanding is that our system of representative government was designed specifically to keep the citizenry at arms length with the actual governing done by "elites". But with constant polling, instantaneous and pervasive communication, et al, IMO the reps now pay way too much attention to the (typically ignorant) voter. The reps don't necessarily do what better informed voters would prefer, but I think that they generally do what they think the majority wants. OTOH, I'll admit that there is a feedback loop (those communication channels go both ways), and often the voters get conned into wanting what the reps plan to do any way.

"The problem is that, ultimately, there are no, to use your phrase, “immoral deeds of a democratic state”; there are only immoral deeds of G. W. Bush ..."

I don't think we actually disagree on this. I just meant that as shorthand for "deeds done in the name of the state". In fact, an objection I have to some libertarian rhetoric is the implicit attribution of human characteristics to the inanimate and immaterial state. Eg:

“The state” is a myth, an extraordinarily evil, malicious, and dangerous myth ....

I'll accept "dangerous" as a possibility, but not the others.

I haven't read “The Machinery of Freedom” - perhaps I'll add it to my list. But based on your one-line synopsis, I'm skeptical. Suppose one views the state as just a bunch of people, some rules for how they will interact among themselves and with the outside world, and an enforcement mechanism. Which of these is dispensable? Don't we have "irreducible complexity" here?

- Charles

 
At 11:28 PM, January 27, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

"DDF seems to think the system does not even benefit the rulers: perhaps not, but they seem to believe it benefits them."

Not just the rulers. Almost everyone believes that the system benefits him--i.e. that he is better off with government than without--although of course almost everyone believes he should get a larger share of the benefit.

(By another poster)

"Suppose one views the state as just a bunch of people, some rules for how they will interact among themselves and with the outside world, and an enforcement mechanism. Which of these is dispensable?"

Certain features of the set of rules--specifically the rule that says that the usual moral rules binding on individual actions don't apply to actions taken by the group in certain ways--i.e. government actions.

At least, the closest I can come to defining government, as opposed to other forms of human organization, is that a government is an agency of legitimized coercion--it does the sort of thing that people view as violating their rights when done by other individuals, without provoking the normal response to such violations.

You can find a sketch of alternative set of institutions I proposed webbed at:

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Libertarian/Machinery_of_Freedom/MofF_Chapter_29.html

It's one chapter from my book.

 
At 2:04 AM, January 28, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Charles,

You wrote:
>Of course the Constitution, the state, the exceptional "American people", et al are all fictions, meaningful only to the extent that citizens agree to play like they exist. But apparently, most folks find playing that game to be pretty satisfactory. I find it strange that some of the strongest objections to the game come from the winners - the "elite", which probably includes most libertarians.

Well, I have never found that game satisfactory -- not even when I was a child. But if I simply decline to play that game -- i.e., if I refuse to hand over any money to the people who run the game -- they will imprison me in a rather unpleasant building and prevent me from leaving.

That is evil, or at least almost everyone would see it to be evil if they were not mystifying themselves with this little "game": i.e., if I were to do the same thing -- if I were to imprison you because you did not give me as much money as I thought you should (and you're really not giving me what you should, you know), few people would have trouble calling my action "evil."

I am also pretty sure that all of the Iraqis who have died at the hands of the players of this little game of yours find the game rather unsatisfactory.

And the people who are rotting away in federal prisons because they chose to use or sell recreational chemicals that are not approved (as opposed to the approved ones such as nicotine or alcohol) probably do not find this grand "game" to be "pretty satisfactory."

And, if you look at voter turnout, when you recall that even some of us who vote only do so to try to minimize the damage but not because we approve of the "game," it certainly becomes questionable how many people really find this nasty game "pretty satisfactory."

Slaveowners tried to convince people that the slaves really liked being slaves. But very few slaves chose to remain in slavery once they were given a choice.

So, let's run a similar experiment with your murderous little game. Let's give people a choice whether or not to participate in the game: let's stop imprisoning anyone who chooses not to pay taxes, fight in the wars, obey the drug laws, etc.

Of course if most people really find the game "pretty satisfactory," well, I suppose most people would continue to voluntarily pay their taxes, etc.

But, I think we all really know how long the government will last if people are actually given such choices, don't we?

Dave

 
At 2:45 AM, January 28, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

David wrote:

>Not just the rulers. Almost everyone believes that the system benefits him--i.e. that he is better off with government than without--although of course almost everyone believes he should get a larger share of the benefit.

I wonder if there is any way of finding out if that is actually correct or not – i.e., whether most people really think they benefit on net.

Most people know they are “supposed to" give that answer, and pollsters have found out that people will commonly give the “correct” answer even if that answer is at variance with their actual behavior and choices. This is, for example, a big problem in finding out how many people actually attend church services on Sunday: the number of people who claim to attend on average and the number of people actually in the pews seem not to gibe.

So, just asking people may not be a good way to find out.

And, of course, because people are not allowed to actually choose, it is not possible to employ the economist’s favored criterion, “revealed preference.”

The fact that almost no one thinks that, given the little experiment I proposed to Charles, the government would survive does suggest that most people think that lots of their fellow citizens do not view government as a net benefit. (I know there are more complicated explanations for this phenomenon, but this is one simple explanation.)

Perhaps almost everyone believes that he is benefiting but wrongly believes that most of his fellow citizens think that they are not, on net, benefiting?

I would have thought naively that it would be the other way around: i.e., “I’m being shafted, but all those other lucky guys are benefiting.”

Incidentally, as I mentioned, I recall details of my own beliefs about this from at least age ten, and I seem to have never believed that the government was a net benefit to me. I also never thought of myself as a super, self-sufficient Nietzschean Übermensch: on the contrary, I was actually legally blind as a child (not now, thankfully) – that means vision of 20/200 or worse, so that it was somewhat hard for me to function.

On the other hand, when I learned about stuff like public-choice theory, the iron law of oligarchy, etc., I really pretty much already knew it – perhaps I naturally thought about such things in a rather different way than most people do. My being a Ph.D. physicist would support that theory, though, of course, most physicists do not seem to reach the same conclusions about politics.

Dave

 
At 8:48 AM, January 28, 2008, Anonymous Zog said...

Some people are willing to pay their taxes, but only if everyone else does it too. Your experiment is therefore not entirely fair. Everybody will stop paying taxes since they are better off not paying taxes regardless of the choices of any of the others. Even if they considered government a net benefit.

When I ranted about government at work, one colleague responded saying that any government - even a horribly corrupt one - is better than no government at all. He's an immigrant, fled from Somalia some years back. I don't know the situation there well, but I think I can agree that government-produced order is better than no order at all.

Our biggest hurdle is, I think, that people (reasonably) fear chaos, and they're not quite sure Anarcho-capitalism would actually work. Everybody can see that government, with all its flaws, at least "works" in the sense that it can keep social order.

 
At 12:46 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger Charles said...

CTW: Which of these is dispensable?
DDF: Certain features of the set of rules--specifically the rule that says that the usual moral rules binding on individual actions don't apply to actions taken by the group in certain ways--i.e. government actions.

Changing the rules is choosing an alternative form of government, not eliminating it. I don't for a minute think our form of government is flawless. I'm only questioning the practicality - actually, even the possibility - of having no form at all.

Both DDF and PD imply a large disconnect between the "moral" rules binding individuals and those binding the state. I don't see as big a distinction in the rules - at least in principle - as in the enforcement. (And as suggested in an earlier comment at 1:21PM 1/27, I don't think "moral" rules - as distinguished from other kinds as defined in that comment - should be legally binding).

The rule (not a moral one by my definitions) that an individual shall not murder, ie commit unjustified killing, is legally binding on an individual and is generally well enforced, although with vigor and attention to detail that varies depending on the social status of the accused). The state, in its military avatar, is bound not to commit unjustified killing, although the justifications are different. Unfortunately, enforcement is woefully lacking. To repeat, I blame the people - in their individual roles as voters (and poll responders, congressional rep callers, etc, now that we to some extent make policy by referendum) - for not throwing the war criminals out and demanding prosecution. The recurring assertion that some apply different standards to government and individuals is true, but as to who does and who doesn't, no need to presume - just ask.

DDF: government is an agency of legitimized coercion--it does the sort of thing that people view as violating their rights when done by other individuals, without provoking the normal response to such violations."

Then according to Kelsen as channeled by Posner (LP&D, chapter 7), your objection is really to the rule of law. I doubt that's what you really mean, but if it is, I'll pass on the resulting society.

Thanks for the pointer to TMofF which I look forward to reading. It's not available in our library.; neither are the books suggested by PD. Apparently Fairfax County, VA - a DC exurb, is not a hotbed of anti-government libertarianism. Surprise!

PD: I have never found that game satisfactory.

I think we are actually of different generations - I started my "half-century" clock in late adolescence, not at birth. So perhaps you're a 60s rebel while I'm more of a 50s go-along-to-get-along type. Our "radicals" grew beards and hung around coffee shops (not ala Starbucks!) rather than trying to overthrow governments, even the relatively impotent ones at universities.

PD: I am also pretty sure that all of the Iraqis who have died at the hands of the players of this little game of yours find the game rather unsatisfactory ...

That's uncalled for gratuitous offense. I used "game" only because my style is to be somewhat light-hearted, not to suggest indifference to the plight of the victims of governmental malfeasance - abetted, of course, by the same "wise" voters you suggest would vote against government if given the chance. But of course they do, because they are. They vote for lower taxes (aka, smaller government), their taxes are lowered, government expands, the debt goes up, and they reelect the con-men. Save me from such "wisdom".

I opposed the Vietnam war from very early on, opposed the Iraq war before it started, and find the saber-rattling re Iran despicable. Don't blame me for what the warmongers - against whom I have consistently voted - and the bloodthirsty lapdogs who vote them into office have wrought.

There is a tendency for libertarians, even the most erudite - maybe especially the most erudite, since that can easily lead to arrogance - to attribute moral deficiency to people who don't share their fanatical disdain for the system which, although far from perfect, has afforded opportunity as never before in human history to people from modest backgrounds. I'm all for improving that unquestionably flawed society, but not for replacing it with an alternative that as far as I know has been extant only in the fantastic morality tale created by Ms. Rand.

Ie, to quote the philosopher Dwight Yokum: "Don't sit and judge me until you've walked the streets of Bakersfield".

Again, time to agree to disagree.

- Charles

 
At 1:06 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

Charles writes:

"Changing the rules is choosing an alternative form of government, not eliminating it. "

That depends on how you define government. I suggested my definition in my previous comment; what is yours? How do you distinguish governments from other ways in which human beings organize their affairs?

Charles suggests that my objection is to the rule of law. He is mistaken. A mechanism for enforcing law--as norms are quite commonly enforced--that doesn't depend on some people or organizations having special rights to enforce it isn't a government.

The Machinery of Freedom isn't webbed, since my publisher wasn't willing to allow me to web it, aside from a few selections. But my Law's Order is. You might want to look at the chapter webbed at:

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Laws_Order_draft/laws_order_ch_17.htm

for some examples of different approaches to law enforcement, one of which involves no government at all, one a "government" with no executive arm, and one a government where the prosecution of criminals was a private activity.

 
At 1:09 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

Charles is sceptical about the claim that different rules apply to governments. Two of the clearest examples are taxation and conscription. Private individuals are permitted to trade with each other, but not to provide services to individuals who have not asked for them and then require payment. Private individuals are permitted to employ others--but only with the assent of those others.

 
At 1:27 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

David F.:

Wasn't it your father who said the problem of national defense was the biggest consideration that kept him from being an anarchist? (I could be mixing up my libertarians here.) He also said that in his opinion a Georgist "tax" on the unimproved value of land is the "least bad" tax.

How terrible would it be, and how inconsistent with anarchist principles, if national defense, enforcement of property rights, and appellate adjudication were paid for by a "single tax" on the unimproved value of land?

In the absence of such a system, I can see some poor sucker turning 18 (or a whole bunch of em) who wasn't lucky enough to have inherited any money or land saying to himself, "I have as much of a right to be on this earth as anybody else, and I'll be damned if I'm going to pay some landlord somewhere just for a piece of ground on which to live and work. If you're not going to make room for me, I'll make room for myself."

 
At 2:31 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Charles,

You wrote:
>Don't blame me for what the warmongers - against whom I have consistently voted - and the bloodthirsty lapdogs who vote them into office have wrought.

Oh, Charles, I most assuredly do blame you. You may not vote for the particular warmongers (although did you vote for any Dems, e.g., Bomber Clinton, back when he was attacking Yugoslavia?).

But, you are an apologist for the “system” that accepts that it is “legal” for the warmongers to have the “authority” that lets them bomb away. If I could get you to openly concede that the government is just a gang of criminals – all the time – and to have the courage to say so publicly, then, maybe your moral responsibility could be reduced.

You also wrote:
>That's uncalled for gratuitous offense. I used "game" only because my style is to be somewhat light-hearted, not to suggest indifference to the plight of the victims of governmental malfeasance - abetted, of course, by the same "wise" voters you suggest would vote against government if given the chance. But of course they do, because they are. They vote for lower taxes (aka, smaller government), their taxes are lowered, government expands, the debt goes up, and they reelect the con-men. Save me from such "wisdom".

Of course, taxation is one of those activities that would automatically be condemned by all normal people if we were honest enough to view it as we view the same activity when carried out by ordinary people: then, of course, we just call it “theft.” I’m a hundred percent with the tax-cutters on the issue of cutting taxes. That we pretend it is not theft when carried out by the functionaries of the government, but only “taxation,” is one of the prime examples of the mystification to which I am referring.

And, without “taxation,” it’s hard to see where the mad bombers would get the cash to pay for their bombs.

So, once again, Charles, oh, yes, you are responsible.

You wrote:
>To repeat, I blame the people - in their individual roles as voters (and poll responders, congressional rep callers, etc, now that we to some extent make policy by referendum)…

I think part of your problem is this touching faith in voting. We do not make policy by referendum – surely, “the people” intended the ’06 election as a referendum on the War, but the Dems lacked the courage to even hold the line at present troop levels: the Dems actually increased troop levels (the “Surge”)! To just wring your hands and say that voting is not quite working right is a cop-out: this is how voting has always worked (i.e., to white-wash the crimes of those in power), for more than two centuries in the case of the US itself. This is how voting always will work.

To defend this evil “game” of government while treating its crimes as due to the way voting just happens to work out is to be deeply complicit oneself in the crimes that are committed.

You wrote to DDF:
>Then according to Kelsen as channeled by Posner (LP&D, chapter 7), your objection is really to the rule of law. I doubt that's what you really mean, but if it is, I'll pass on the resulting society.

DDF can speak for himself, but I most assuredly do object to the “rule of law” as conceived by Posner or Kelsen. If it is wrong for an individual or group of individual to do something (e.g., imprison someone for selling marijuana) then it is equally wrong for government to do that, for government is simply a group of individuals. There is no way that Kelsen would accept that proposition, and I doubt Posner would: they are both apologists for crimes carried out in the name of the “state.”

You also wrote:
>I don't think "moral" rules - as distinguished from other kinds as defined in that comment - should be legally binding.

All libertarians agree with that point. I myself stated it earlier in this discussion:
> In short, common sense indicates that just because something is wrong does not mean that a particular punishment of that wrong is justified.

I, for example, think it is morally wrong to use cocaine; I also think it is morally wrong to kidnap or imprison someone because he has used (or sold) cocaine. Most people would agree with me that it is wrong for you or me to kidnap or imprison someone for using or selling cocaine, but most Americans accept that it is okay for the “government” to do this. That is the point under dispute.

You also wrote:
> The rule (not a moral one by my definitions) that an individual shall not murder, ie commit unjustified killing, is legally binding on an individual and is generally well enforced, although with vigor and attention to detail that varies depending on the social status of the accused). The state, in its military avatar, is bound not to commit unjustified killing, although the justifications are different.

This again is where we sharply disagree. The “state” is a myth. My central point is that the exact same rules that prohibit you or me from killing someone do, morally, apply to G. W. Bush. He is a mass murderer and deserves to be put to death. Unfortunately, he has surrounded himself with a gang of bully boys who protect him from receiving his just desserts. But, since he is an individual who has murdered thousands, it is absurd for you to say “The rule…that an individual shall not murder… is generally well enforced…” unless and until G. W. Bush is brought to justice and put to death (I’d be happy to settle for life imprisonment without possibility of parole). The same applies to “Bomber Bill” Clinton.

I’m not engaging in hyperbole: this truly is the obvious way of viewing the mater if only you stop viewing the “government” as something more than a group of individual human beings.

You also wrote to me:
> So perhaps you're a 60s rebel while I'm more of a 50s go-along-to-get-along type.

Well, no. I was a Boy Scout in the ‘60s (literally), not a hippie – no long hair, tie-dye, or acid-rock for me!

I’m not reflecting my generation here (I actually thought the hippies were just the flip side of the Establishment) but rather I am simply insisting that we view all human beings, including those who clothe their crimes in the name of “government,” as subject to the same moral criteria.

You conclude:
> Again, time to agree to disagree.

Of course. You have the views oh-so-typical of most Americans, and no one expected you would flip on those views in the course of this discussion.

But I would urge you to try to understand, and I think you do not, the view I and many libertarians hold even though you do not accept it, just as I try to understand your view. I think you do not, for example, understand that I, before I had any significant income to speak of and when I was “legally blind” and had doubts about my ability to ever earn significant income, nonetheless viewed “taxation” as theft, simply because that is what it is if one does not allow a special dispensation for those acting in the name of “government.” I did not view taxation as theft because I expected to be rich, quite the contrary. I simply applied the same rules of judgment to those acting in the name of “government” as I did to everyone else, and then it is hard to avoid calling “taxation” theft.

I don’t think you are honestly trying to understand my perspective here.

And, for that reason, I do think you are indeed one of the “enablers” of W. Clinton, G. W. Bush, H. R. Clinton, and all of the other criminals, even if you may choose to disapprove of some of the specific crimes they carry out. As long as you and most people choose to play the “game” (your choice of words, though certainly a felicitous choice) that exempts “government” from the normal standards of human conduct, the crimes you claim to oppose will inevitably continue. Of course, eventually the rest of the world will have enough of this and will nuke a half-dozen American cities and thereby put our own home-grown criminal gang, the US government, out of business.

Personally, I’d rather we took care of the problem ourselves and thereby forego the mushroom clouds.

Dave

 
At 2:54 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

John,

At least by libertarian standards, there is a huge amount of unowned land in the US – once we get rid of the government and open up government lands, no need for anyone to feel he can’t get some land.

Admittedly, someday we actually will settle all the land. It does then seem fair to me for people to only have kids if they can arrange to pass on an inheritance to the kid which enables him to get the “land” he needs (I put “land” in quotes to indicate that I am using it in the broad economic sense). DDF has run some numbers in TMoF which suggest this should really not be much of an issue.

If we don’t take that approach, every baby that is born is a burden upon all of us, not just the parents: oh, darn, there’s another little one that’s going to cause the land-tax rate to rise even further! It seems to me a basic principle of equity that babies should burden their parents, not the rest of us.

Anyway, my main objection to the “single tax” is that it does give money to the state. I would rather take something of value and dump it in the sea than hand it over to the government: at least the sea does not intentionally murder human beings.

Even the limited income from a single-tax should be more than enough to run a little game of mass murder such as Dubya is now running in Iraq.

No, if there must be a “Single Tax,” let us hand over the money to the “Miss America” pageant or to the “Ice Capades.” But if the money is to be handed over to the government, I for one am dead set against it.

I also explained above why I long ago concluded that a property tax is harder to avoid than an income tax: that is another argument against the single tax.

At any rate, once we eliminate the state, we will not have taxes at all, and the problem is solved.

And, yes, of course, I favor any dramatic reduction in taxes as a half-way measure, even though it will not completely satisfy me. I am, after all, supporting Ron Paul, who makes no claim that he can eliminate all taxes.

By the way, sorry for dubbing you “Michael.” I started writing a reply to Michael, decided that replying to you was more interesting, and welll…

Dave


Even the limited income from a single-tax should be more than enough to run a little game of mass murder such as Dubya is now running in Iraq.

No, if there must be a “Single Tax,” let us hand over the money to the “Miss America” pageant or to the “Ice Capades.” But if the money is to be handed over to the government, I for one am dead set against it.

By the way, sorry for dubbing you “Michael.” I started writing a reply to Michael, decided that replying to you was more interesting, and welll…

Dave

 
At 4:26 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger Charles said...

"How do you distinguish governments from other ways in which human beings organize their affairs?"

Rather than getting into a definition war (in which vis-a-vis poli-sci, I am in the position of the unarmed man in a battle of wits), let me just give two reasons why I am skeptical of the "privatize everything" approach.

First, it's my impression that the history of human organizations has been pretty consistently to expand in size, scope, and power. You are defining government as an organization that doesn't apply the "usual moral rules binding on individual actions ... to [itself]". Since the private service providers will be corporations (well, in the absence of government, maybe not literally - but similar) which will presumably follow the pattern of other organizations, why won't they in time evolve into something that behaves much like a "government"?

Second, one service provided by government is the "super-service of aggregation of individual services. I pay property taxes and in exchange get police, fire, schools (atypically, very good ones), water, garbage ... well, the last two are lies - we have a well and have to contract for garbage). I don't want to be bothered with contracting for every single service, so I "contract" with government to do many of those. In the all-private system, I could, of course, contract with an aggregator, but such a super-service would be a step toward the expansion of size, scope, and power addressed above.

I skimmed your book chapters, all very thoughtful discussions of difficulties with some libertarian concepts. I especially appreciated your chapter on (essentially) sloganeering. My most frequent encounters with libertarian "thinkers" have involved such thoughtful insights as "taxation is theft", "conscription is slavery", "war is murder", none of which is, I believe, accurate if the terms are used in their formal sense. Which relates to the problem I have with "immoral" - condemning an action with that epithet adds nothing to the expression of disapproval except perhaps a patina of emotion.

"Two of the clearest examples are taxation and conscription"

We no longer have conscription, so wouldn't it be easier and no less likely to succeed to militate for repeal of the 16A? And I don't mean to be flip. It really does seem to me that the likelihood of correcting flaws in our current system, as low as it is, is no lower than that of converting the populace to an alternative system.

- Charles

 
At 4:32 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger Charles said...

dave -

When a discussion degenerates into "my moral system is better than yours", it enters the realm of religion. I don't do religion, so I have nothing further to add.

- Charles

 
At 5:05 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

John asks if it was my father who said it was the problem of nation defense that kept him from being an anarchist.

I don't remember any such statement by him. His basic view was that the sort of anarchy I described might work but probably wouldn't. Mine was and is that it might not work but probably would.

It's possible that you are thinking about my describing national defense, in _The Machinery of Freedom_, as "the hard problem," and saying that if one couldn't defend against foreign enemies without a government one should tolerate a government until one could.

John also writes:

"How terrible would it be, and how inconsistent with anarchist principles, if national defense, enforcement of property rights, and appellate adjudication were paid for by a "single tax" on the unimproved value of land?"

There are two problems. The first is that your system leaves the government with the business of creating law. I can see no theoretical or empirical reason to think they will do a good job.

The second is the usual problem with the single tax--how, as a practical matter, to distinguish site value from all other components of value.

 
At 5:14 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

"First, it's my impression that the history of human organizations has been pretty consistently to expand in size, scope, and power."

I think you are mistaken. Compare, for instance, the map of Europe in 350 A.D. with the map of Europe in 1000 A.D. Or compare the concentration of the steel industry after U.S. steel was created with its concentration now.

At some times, for some reasons, some human organizations get bigger, at other times smaller. The idea that capitalism automatically leads to monopoly was fashionable in the early 20th century, but it isn't supported by the actual history.

In the case of anarcho-capitalism, the critical questions are ones of economy of scale in the rights protection industry. In my book I suggest some modest evidence suggesting that they aren't very large.

"We no longer have conscription"

We no longer have military conscription. I quite recently received a letter informing me that I was being conscripted for jury service.

 
At 7:50 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

Dave F. said... "There are two problems. The first is that your system leaves the government with the business of creating law. I can see no theoretical or empirical reason to think they will do a good job."

My view of law is that expressed by the following passage from Lysander Spooner's The Unconstitutionality of Slavery. Many people think that because people disagree about the content of natural rights that such reliance on natural justice would be unstable and uncertain, but this passage suggests that positive law is inherently more unstable and uncertain than natural law. At least if we're arguing and disagreeing about natural rights and natural justice we're arguing and disagreeing about realities rather than shadows of realities. Moreover, if the national government truly limited itself to national defense and arbitrating legal disagreements that were not resolved at a lower level, it seems that in theory there would still be plenty of room for the private defense agencies and mutual protections societies (with choices of legal systems determined on the market) you describe in The Machinery of Freedom, between which the national government would arbitrate. When it comes to national defense, simply relying on private protection agencies does seem to present a "free-rider" problem. I'm intrigued by the notion that it would be more difficult to conquer a country consisting of thousands of city-states, mutual protection societies and private defense agencies (not to mention the occasional heavily-armed family compounds) rather than simply toppling a central organization (which leaves a well-developed machinery for oppression in the hands of the conquerers), but am not convinced that this would be the case.

I guess my idea, which I suggested in a comment above, is that the kind of society you envision in the Machinery of Freedom can be approximated and is more likely to come about through a gradual (but the sooner the better!) reconceptualization and transformation of our existing forms of political organization than through the total collapse or overthrow of the existing forms (and the latter avenue would surely have much more bloodshed attendant upon it).

The most fundamental difference between the conception of society you lay out in The Machinery of Freedom and where we're at now is that now the government believes it has the right to force us to purchase services and systems of law that we may not want, indeed that we may find totally repulsive. I find the Georgist "single tax" to be fundamentally different, because I agree with George (and Thomas Paine, and John Woolman, et al) that we all have an equal and unalienable right to the earth, though the right to possession of land must be secure so that people can securely enjoy the fruits of their own labor. As I suggested by imagining the thoughts of a hypothetical poor young sucker embarking on his life and facing the prospect of paying somebody just for a place to lay his head at night, this strikes me as a pretty "anarchistic" (meaning grounded in the reality of freedom) outlook:

"And the sign said anybody caught trespassing would be shot on sight
So I jumped on the fence and yelled at the house, Hey! what gives you the right
To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in
If God was here, he'd tell you to your face, man you're some kinda sinner"

[now, I hope in the context of this comment that it's clear I don't share this song's precise attitude about fences!]

In the Georgist system, "government" could legitimately fund its costs in protecting property rights (including protecting the property rights of the landless, and also including national defense) by skimming of the top what it's "redistributing" (and I know as libertarians we've been conditioned to hate that word) in furtherance of what Thomas Paine called "Agrarian Justice." The land or its equivalent in cash would never be collected in the absence of such an organization, so it would be legitimate for the organization to recover its cost before giving the remainder (if there be any) to who it's due.

Ultimately, if our society were to achieve far more distributive justice (which I think itself is vital for freedom) than is present today, perhaps the perceived need for any such organization would fall away. But in our progress towards such a state of affairs, I think that Georgism has much to recommend it. (Incidentally, as a practical matter my understanding is that appraisers today don't have that much trouble distinguishing between the value of improvements and the value of the land to which the improvements are attached.)

From Spooner's The Unconstitutionality of Slavery (1860):

If, then, law really be what this definition would make it, merely "a rule of civil conduct prescribed by the supreme power of a state " ‑‑ it would follow, as a necessary consequence, that law is synonymous merely with will and force, wherever they are combined and in successful operation, for the present moment.
Under this definition, law offers no permanent guaranty for the safety, liberty, rights or happiness of any one. It licenses all possible crime, violence and wrong, both by governments and individuals. The definition was obviously invented by, and is suited merely to gloss over the purposes of, arbitrary power. We are therefore compelled to reject it, and to seek another, that shall make law less capricious, less uncertain, less arbitrary, more just, more safe to the rights of all, more permanent. And if we seek another, where shall we find it, unless we adopt the one first given, viz., that law is the rule, principle, obligation or requirement of natural justice?
Adopt this definition, and law becomes simple, intelligible, scientific; always consistent with itself; always harmonizing with morals, reason and truth. Reject this definition, and law is no longer a science: but a chaos of crude, conflicting and arbitrary edicts, unknown perchance to either morals, justice, reason or truth, and fleeting and capricious as the impulses of will, interest and power.
If, then, law really be nothing other than the rule, principle obligation or requirement of natural justice, it follows that government can have no powers except such as individuals may rightly delegate to it: that no law, inconsistent with men's natural rights, can arise out of any contract or compact of government: that constitutional law, under any form of government, consists only of those principles of the written constitution, that are consistent with natural law, and man's natural rights; and that any other principles, that may be expressed by the letter of any constitution, are void and not law, and all judicial tribunals are bound to declare them so. Though this doctrine may make sad havoc with constitutions and statute books, it is nevertheless law. It fixes and determines the real rights of all men; and its demands are as imperious as any that can exist under the name of law. [*15]

 
At 7:55 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Charles wrote:

>When a discussion degenerates into "my moral system is better than yours", it enters the realm of religion. I don't do religion, so I have nothing further to add.

Ah, but Charles, I don’t think you are trying to understand my and DDF’s moral systems. Indeed, I think you are willfully trying not to understand them.

And, I also think you are being grotesquely hypocritical about your own moral system: the problem is not that you have the wrong moral system but that you do not apply your moral system when it comes to individuals who try to cover their crimes by calling themselves the “government.”

Indeed, you are actively complicit in and morally responsible for those crimes.

You should be ashamed.

Is this a difference of “religion,” as you claim?

Well, I am not trying to get you to join any political party or accept any political label or engage in any sort of political activism. I have no magic solution for the problems of the world, and I offer no “anarchist” system that I am confident will create some Utopia.

But, yes, I am trying to shake the religious-like faith you have in the government. I am encouraging you to stop believing in the government and to just start viewing the government as a bunch of people and nothing more.

If you do that, I am confident that you will come to abhor their behavior as much as I do.

For most Americans, and most especially for you, their religious faith in the government is clearly much more important than their faith in their nominal religion.

Try pointing out that “Honest Abe” was a viciously murderous racist, who actively tried, on more than one occasion, to force freed blacks back into slavery, and who killed half a million human beings in order to extend his own power and maintain the flow of tax revenue, and you will outrage far more people than if you denounce St. Paul, St. Francis, or other key traditional religious figures.

The poli scientists call it “America’s civil religion,” and you are clearly a faithful communicant in that faith.

But, if you are implying that I offer some alternative religion, no, Charles, I offer nothing at all. I do not want you to substitute for your current political religion any new political religion.

I am an atheist as to traditional religious faith, and I am similarly atheistical in the political sphere.

Eventually, the human race will grow up and will stop worshipping either priests or governments.

I don’t think you are going to like the future, Charles.

Dave

 
At 8:17 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

John,

You wrote:
>Ultimately, if our society were to achieve far more distributive justice…

John, to me “distributive justice” = “theft.” Indeed, I would urge anyone arrested for theft to plead that he was just pursuing “distributive justice.”

You wrote:
>In the Georgist system, "government" could legitimately fund its costs in protecting property rights (including protecting the property rights of the landless, and also including national defense) by skimming of the top what it's "redistributing"…

Well, at all the places I’ve ever worked, “skimming” was another synonym for “theft.”

What gives the “government” the right to “skim” other people’s money?

But there’s a more basic problem: who agrees on exactly which group is the “legitimate” government? As we saw in Florida in 2000, this is a more difficult problem than people commonly realize.

I have a compromise proposal: I’ll agree to your single-tax proposal if you will agree with me that the “government” overseeing the single-tax shall consist solely of me and my heirs forever -- if it will make you feel better, you may address me as either “King PhysicistDave” or “President PhysicistDave” as you wish.

Or you could just give up on the idea of a just government.

You also wrote:
>I guess my idea, which I suggested in a comment above, is that the kind of society you envision in the Machinery of Freedom can be approximated and is more likely to come about through a gradual (but the sooner the better!) reconceptualization and transformation of our existing forms of political organization than through the total collapse or overthrow of the existing forms (and the latter avenue would surely have much more bloodshed attendant upon it).

Has anyone here said otherwise? I explicitly pointed out above that an attempt at present to impose market anarchy on the American people would fail. Neither I nor, as far as I know, DDF has suggested that a bloodbath is an appropriate, or even possible, route to a libertarian utopia.

But because perfection cannot be achieved immediately (maybe not ever) is no reason to endorse as a positive good something that we see as seriously flawed. Given a national referendum between the current system and your system, perhaps I would vote for yours. But I would not pretend that I agreed with your system, merely that I thought it was not as bad as the current system.

Telling the truth is usually a good thing.

Dave

 
At 9:49 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

Dave M.:

We have a fundamental disagreement about the land question, which colors all the other questions. It's indeed a perennial question and a perennial source of disagreement. But if government were to go away tomorrow, by what natural right could, say, a Texas oilman laying claim to thousands of acres continue to maintain his right to his thousands of acres against all other persons? Perhaps an argument could be made (e.g. he inherited it from his granddaddy, who in turn gave the previous owners tons of cash for it), but in a state of anarchy the rightness of his claim would be less than glaringly obvious. The strength of his claim would seem to ultimately depend upon the strength of his private defense agency.

I probably could have thought of a less "boorish" word than "skim," and I'm having difficulty in thinking of a realistic analogy, but how about this: in an anarchist society I'm a bounty hunter and have read in the newspaper that someone stole $10k from you. Now, what I should do is call you up in advance and agree on a price you will pay me if I recover the money. But say instead in the course of apprehending some other mongrel I catch with him the guy who stole your money and he's got your money on him. I call you up, give you the good news, and request 10% for my trouble. Now, you could say no thanks, in which case I'm liable to uncuff the desperado and wish him godspeed. The Georgist system would work similarly. The money that's being skimmed would be money the organization has recovered and theoretically proposes to give to you. (Though I would be satisfied with a system in which the organization does not take the full rental value of the land but merely enough to fund its operations and defend the country, so that there's nothing left over for a so-called "citizen's dividend," although for the reasons previously stated I think such a dividend would be justified.) You can say no, don't skim my money, but in that case the organization simply doesn't recover it on your behalf. If the organization is not taking enough for a citizen's dividend but only enough to fund it's operations and defend the country, all you'd really be saying no thanks to is the protection from enemies foreign and domestic which the organization proposes to give you for "free." (In reality it's coming out of what would otherwise be your citizen's dividend, but you would never see that dividend without the organization's efforts anyway.)

Now, if you're that Texas oilman sitting on thousands of oil-rich acres, the organization would naturally come calling and demand that you pay a relatively hefty price (i.e. a percentage of the full rental value of the land) for the privilege of excluding the rest of the world from "your" land and your "oil." And what would you pay (i.e. what would the organization "skim") for the organization's help in enforcing your exclusive right to possession of valuable land against enemies foreign and domestic? The same price that the landless dude "paid." From that perspective, it doesn't sound like a terribly bad deal for the Texas oilman.

You may not like the idea of the organization showing up and "demanding" a percentage of the rental value of the land from the oilman, but if it's just, it's just. I realize we disagree on that point. But I definitely think it's better than demanding from rich and poor alike a great big chunk of the fruits of their actual labor through the income tax, and demanding that people provide a full accounting of their financial activities to the government every year on a tax return.

I don't see the issue of which organization would have the "authority" to administer the "single tax" as a big one. In a state of anarchy, the dispensation of justice would ultimately come down to private defense agencies, or the arbitration firms they've contracted with to resolve disputes with other private defense agencies. And more ultimately, I think in the words of Lysander Spooner that "there is, and can be, correctly speaking, no law but natural law."

If we're incrementally moving from where we are to where we should be going I think the most natural administrator of the "single tax" would be a drastically-scaled down version of the present federal government, with it's pretensions appropriately deflated. Such a thing would be quite different than what we have today, and not nearly as evil.

 
At 1:36 AM, January 29, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

John,

You asked:
>by what natural right could, say, a Texas oilman laying claim to thousands of acres continue to maintain his right to his thousands of acres against all other persons?

Well, if he simply bought the lease from the current government, he could not claim ownership in a libertarian society. He’d have to homestead it. If he did homestead it, he’d have the same right as any other homesteaders.

You wrote:
>The Georgist system would work similarly. The money that's being skimmed would be money the organization has recovered and theoretically proposes to give to you.

It’s this “organization” thing that really bothers me! As I said before, who decides which “organization” is *the* organization, the one that gets to grab the money. Now, if you can agree to my compromise proposal that I and my heirs get to be the “organization” forever…

Incidentally, this is one of the perennial problems with government: since governments generally are not real fond of competing governments within the same territory (in effect, that would be libertarian anarchy as proposed by DDF, Rothbard, etc.) and since no one has ever come up with a criterion that satisfies most people for establishing which among different would-be governments is the “legitimate” one, we end up fighting wars to decide which government should rule which territories.

Some people actually think this is a good way to run the world!

You wrote:
>If we're incrementally moving from where we are to where we should be going I think the most natural administrator of the "single tax" would be a drastically-scaled down version of the present federal government…

That’s my point – you’d be granting the existing government a cash cow that would never die. I want to starve the beast not feed it. Until the Pentagon brass is having a bake sale to raise funds outside the local Wal-Mart, I’m not satisfied!

As DDF pointed out, you also have the problem of deciding how high the single tax should be: there seems to be no objective way to work this out, so in practice, we would, I suppose, have to have elections with a Soak-the-Landowners Party vs. a Protect-the-Landowners Party – i.e., pretty much our current system. Of course, you could just have the state grab all of the earnings from the land, in which case the state would, in effect, own the land – a form of state socialism. Indeed, when you remember that the Georgist argument applies logically to anything taken from the land – metal ores and metals, and indeed any natural resources, it’s hard to see how the state does not end up owning everything.

I don’t like socialism.

You keep insisting that a Single-Tax regime is a path to anarchy, but, for the life of me, I see no such path. On the contrary, you yourself concede that you would basically start up with the “present federal government,” and you have not given any reason to expect that we would somehow move towards the extinction of that government.

Indeed, although you keep insisting that at least your Georgist government would be smaller than the current government, you have not even given any reason why that would be true. The federal government could, after all, set the single tax at any level it wished, high enough, if it desired, to maintain its present level of revenues.

Knowing what we all know about the behavior of governments, it seems nearly certain that it would do just that.

I honestly can see no improvement at all.

And of course my ethical objection remains:
>It does then seem fair to me for people to only have kids if they can arrange to pass on an inheritance to the kid which enables him to get the “land” he needs (I put “land” in quotes to indicate that I am using it in the broad economic sense).
>If we don’t take that approach, every baby that is born is a burden upon all of us, not just the parents: oh, darn, there’s another little one that’s going to cause the land-tax rate to rise even further! It seems to me a basic principle of equity that babies should burden their parents, not the rest of us.

I just don’t like a system in which we all have reason to hate the fact that someone just had a baby!

One final point of confusion: you seem to think that DDF and I should support your Georgist program even though each of us thinks it has serious flaws. Now, if the only choice were between your program and the current system, and your system had some chance of winning, I can see why we might reluctantly champion your system as some improvement over the status quo (though I’m doubtful it is an improvement, as I explained above).

But the Georgist system has no more chance currently of being enacted than, say, DDF’s version of anarchy. So, why on earth would he give up on his own proposals and switch to your proposals, which he disagrees with and which have no more chance of being enacted than his own?

That makes no sense at all to me.

As I’ve emphasized, my own central concern is slightly different from DDF’s: I’m deeply appalled ethically at the bad faith that causes most Americans to apply different moral standards to those acting under cover of “government” than they apply to other human beings. I think this idolatry of the state is a rotting of the soul that, of course, has horribly inhumane consequences, such as the War in Iraq, the degradation of the underclass, etc.

Your proposal offers nothing to discourage this worship of the state – indeed, as you’ve said, the initial implementation of the proposal uses the existing state apparatus.

Why should that not appall me?

My kids and I were watching part of Dubya’s “State of the Union” address tonight (by accident, I assure you). Afterwards, we were working on history (we’re homeschooling of course), and we started discussing the behavior of the Democrat Quislings compared to the courage shown by the Russian Parliament when the hard-liners tried to seize power back in 1992.

Why did the Democrats not stand up and yell out at Dubya, “Get out of here you killer, you mass murderer! Leave this building, leave this country, and let none of us ever see you again!”?

The answer of course is that the Democrats are people just like G. W. Bush.

Your Georgist system will be run by people like G. W. Bush. I want to live in a country where people like G. W. Bush are afraid to show their face in public.

I just can’t see any reason to support your system, when it is really just a slight modification of the status quo.

Dave

 
At 12:42 AM, January 30, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

I promised on the "Rad Geek" comment thread to provide a devastating refutation of your last comment. That was of course all in fun and hyperbole, but I'll do my best to provide one last explication of my previous comments and a response to yours, and then will let you have the last word.

First, from a strategic, incrementalist perspective: there's been a lot of "talk" (and alas it thus far hasn't amounted to much more than talk) about "tax reform." People have periodically gotten excited about the "flat tax" or the "fair tax" or various other proposals, whereas I see in the Georgist "single 'tax'" a once famous and still elegant proposal that far exceeds in merit and natural justice our current system of extortion as well as any of the alternatives that have been proposed. Properly conceived, the "single 'tax'" is not a tax at all but merely the recovery from individual land holders of what does not rightly belong to them but rightly belongs to everyone in society equally, while leaving in the hands of everyone what most certainly and clearly does belong to them -- namely, the fruits of their own labor. Now, we disagree on whether Georgism would still have a place in a perfectly free society, but I think that from an incrementalist and strategic perspective it would still represent a dramatic advance along the "freedom train" rail line from where we are today.

I think a Georgist organization could be conceived and implemented to conform merely with the kind of "mutual protection society" that David F. describes as a viable and legitimate form of defense in an anarchist society. My suggestion that the present federal government would be the most likely natural candidate to be transformed into such a legitimate society may stick in your craw because of this government's long history of abuse, but you did seem to agree with me in a previous comment that a likely path to a just anarchist society would be through the transformation of our existing forms of political organization (alongside, perhaps, the rise of alternative forms of organization).

In any event, let's start from scratch by imagining such a mutual protection society in a state of anarchy, disconnected from any historical connections with our present "government." I take it as a given that everyone in society has a right (though not necessarily a duty) not only to defend their own natural rights and the rights of those with whom they contract to provide for mutual defense, and to "do justice" in their own case, but also to defend the rights of anyone else in society who is being wronged. We want to be prudent about it and to avoid unnecessary meddling, but if in a state of anarchy our neighbor (with whom we perhaps had no previous contract) comes and asks us to join his posse to track down the rustlers who stole his cattle, we are well within our rights to do so (so long as we don't get carried away and assure ourselves that the rustlers are in fact guilty and that we're not just carrying out some personal vendetta of our neighbor's), and this indeed will make it more likely that our neighbor will come to our aid in the future should we need it.

Now imagine a mutual protection society in a state of anarchy with say a 1000 founding members who've taken it upon themselves to do "agrarian justice" throughout the territory of the former State of Indiana. That is, they note that some people in the territory are laying claim (perhaps through virtue of their previous prerogatives supported by the recently expired State) to large areas of land which natural justice does not seem to entitle them, and that on the other hand newcomers and would-be newcomers to the territory have no choice but to pay rent to a landlord because all the land in the territory is claimed by somebody. (And after all, "newcomers" are not necessarily a bad thing and are often seen as a positive economic good. Witness the occasional advertisements and efforts by present-day cities and states that encourage people to move or stay there.) They recognize that it would be a very unsatisfactory and unjust solution to dispossess people of land to which they currently lay claim (most especially if they've improved the land and mixed their labor with it), and they propose instead to enact a Georgist solution, and apply it both to themselves as founding members and others within the territory (which they've judged to be the extent of their competence and concern). Again, I take it as a given that people are entitled to do justice on behalf of others as well as on their own behalf, so long as they've assured themselves that they're really doing justice. If I see somebody snatch an old lady's purse I don't need to ask the old lady's permission before trying to chase down the purse-snatcher and return her purse to her. Why would my hypothetical "gang of 1000" be motivated to do justice on behalf of everyone in the territory? For a couple of reasons. One, they might realize that a society in which economic justice is done is a naturally more equal and hence freer society. (Note that I'm not saying that equality should be enforced at the expense of justice, but that justice naturally leads to more equality, and that a society which has reduced through justice unnatural inequalities and vast concentrations of wealth has thereby reduced a major threat to freedom.) Two, they may recognize in the "single 'tax'" a legitimate way to fund not only the protection of property rights in the territory but also the defense of the whole territory, which, depending on the nature of external threats, may best be accomplished by the ability to muster a large force as needed (though not necessarily by a standing army).

Just as people are not obligated to intercede on others' behalf to do justice but are within their rights to do so, the mutual protection society would not be obligated to demand on behalf of everyone in society (including of course landowners themselves) the full rental value of land, although they could do so consistently with natural justice. Suppose the founding members determine that they're only willing to take the amount needed to fund the mutual protection society's operations (including protection of property rights and the common defense) and that this amount is fifty percent of the rental value of land. In theory, they've collected all this money and the normal disposition of this money would be to everyone in society equally, but the costs of collection and protection have consumed what would otherwise be disbursed. In reality, therefore, everyone in the society (including the founding members of the mutual protection society) is contributing an equal amount to the mutual protection society and therefore are all equal members and "joint owners" of the mutual protection society. Everyone therefore in the mutual protection society should have an equal say in what percentage of the land rental value is taken, what percentage of the amount taken is spent on operations and defense and what percentage (if any) is disbursed in the form of a "citizen's dividend," who the officers are going to be, etc.

The mechanics of how such an organization might be run, and the ever present possibility of corruption, would seem to present no more of a problem than the problems of any other such conceivable organization or "mutual protection society" in a state of anarchy. It can be objected that what I'm proposing, in contrast to the kind of mutual protection societies that Dave F. et al have envisioned, is not a purely voluntary organization. But if my notion of natural justice and property rights is correct (and I realize you disagree with that premise), while you can refuse the citizen's dividend or the protection that the mutual defense society proposes to give you and decline to exercise your right to participate as an equal member in its decisions, the mutual defense society nevertheless would not by violating natural justice by simply taking from you part of what does not belong to you exclusively but naturally belongs to everyone in society equally (i.e. the value of the land you claim and from which you propose to exclude everyone else in society).

 
At 5:54 AM, January 30, 2008, Anonymous Zog said...

The crucial point is that participating in your plan is not voluntary. Your organization steals, and you call it justice. There is no reason for this government of yours not to behave as governments always have.

The reform we need, incrementally or otherwise, is moving tasks performed by government-monopoly into free market competition. Instead of public schools, we need private schools. Instead of public police, we need private police.

And instead of "national defense," we need to just leave other people alone. It won't pay Russia to waste a billion-dollar nuclear weapon destroying my home-town if it knows we won't be paying any tribute either way.

The proper response to such a threat, rather than paying tribute, is to build nuclear shelters and tell Russia to get lost. There is no way that anyone would cooperate in raising the funds for tribute anyway.

 
At 7:40 AM, January 30, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

"The crucial point is that participating in your plan is not voluntary."

But if in a state of anarchy you steal someone's cattle and his posse or private police catch up with you, your participation in their plans for you is not voluntary either, and no one thinks it needs to be. It all comes down to a fundamental difference in how we view the status of land which God (or Zeus, or what have you) has given to all. I think a man who lays claim to exclusive possession of valuable land (as opposed to the fruits of his labor on the land) is in a real sense acting just like a State with respect to that land and "stealing" from everyone else in the society who might want to make use of that land (whether we're talking about oilfields or a city block in downtown Manhattan), whereas you think that demanding on behalf of those thus excluded monetary compensation in exchange for disclaiming their interests in the land is "stealing."

 
At 2:24 PM, January 30, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

John,

You wrote:
> It can be objected that what I'm proposing, in contrast to the kind of mutual protection societies that Dave F. et al have envisioned, is not a purely voluntary organization.

That’s putting it mildly!

You use the phrase “mutual protection society” but what you have in fact described is an old-fashioned monopolistic, territorial government, one that has an eternal source of funding, and, in principle, unlimited power.

You have no provision for competing “protection agencies,” and it’s hard to see how you could make such provision: on what basis would different protection agencies split up the loot you’re taking from the landowners? Of course, you could give the landowners a choice of which protection agency to sign up with – but then any landowner would sign up with the new “Landowners’ Friendship and Mutual Protection Agency” that promised to rebate nearly all of the loot back to the landowners, and you would no longer have your “Single Tax.” So, you can’t do that – you have to have your monopolistic government.

I realize that in principle your government can only grab money equal to the rent on the “unimproved” value of the land. But the market does not separate out the rent from the “unimproved” value of the land from the rest of the rent, and there is no market for “unimproved” land under your system, so there is, even in principle, no way to know how much money your government can grab. In practice, therefore, your government will just decide what it wants to grab (and, of course, it will never take more than a small amount, because we know that governments never have an inclination to grow bigger, right?).

All you have done is explain in detail how your Georgist system logically leads to a typical, present-day sort of government that happens to fund itself by a sort of property tax.

This is what I’ve been hammering away at: thanks for making my point.

Personally, as I explained above at length, I’ve always disliked property taxes even more than I dislike income taxes. Others will have different tastes.

But if you expect anarchists or any sort of libertarians to get all enthusiastic over what is simply a change in the specific manner that taxes are levied. you’re misunderstanding where we are coming from. Unless someone happens to share your idea of “justice,” which very few people and almost no libertarians do, you have given no reason at all for anyone to find your system appealing.

You seem to think that DDF and I and other libertarians or anarchists will of course recognize that your system is better than the status quo, but simply that we think it is not quite perfect.

No, John, it seems to me slightly worse than the status quo.

More than that, as you know, there is currently almost zero popular interest or enthusiasm for your scheme.

Now, if it actually seemed to me somewhat of an improvement over the status quo and if there were some public interest in it, I might back it provisionally to try to make things a bit better. But since there is no popular interest in it, and since I think it would make things slightly worse, why on earth would I even consider supporting it in any way at all?

I’m not sure how to say this more politely: as far as I can see, your scheme as is close to DDF’s proposals as Hillary Clinton is to DDF’s proposals.

Am I getting through, here?

Somehow, you seem to think that those of us who are criticizing your scheme really only disagree on a few minor points but basically agree with it: I guess we have been too polite in our criticisms!

Can you see that this is not so, that your own argument proves that your own system will lead precisely to the sort of political system which we deeply abhor?

You also wrote:
> One, they might realize that a society in which economic justice is done is a naturally more equal and hence freer society. (Note that I'm not saying that equality should be enforced at the expense of justice, but that justice naturally leads to more equality, and that a society which has reduced through justice unnatural inequalities and vast concentrations of wealth has thereby reduced a major threat to freedom.)

Again, John, you are appealing here to a value that few libertarians or libertarian anarchists share: equality.

I hate equality, always have, always will. It seems self-evident to me that justice always leads to a substantial degree of inequality.

I like that.

I won’t go through the argument here: see Bob Nozick’s classic “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” for a detailed explanation. Nozick did not discover this fact, of course – it has been discussed for centuries by both libertarians and their opponents. It’s one of the few points on which libertarians and statists agree: liberty and justice, in the libertarian sense, will lead to quite a lot of inequality.

I really like that.

Let me, just for the record for anyone who has not read this whole monster thread, reiterate my own fundamental ethical objection to a Georgist-style land-grab:
>It does then seem fair to me for people to only have kids if they can arrange to pass on an inheritance to the kid which enables him to get the “land” he needs (I put “land” in quotes to indicate that I am using it in the broad economic sense).
>If we don’t take that approach, every baby that is born is a burden upon all of us, not just the parents: oh, darn, there’s another little one that’s going to cause the land-tax rate to rise even further! It seems to me a basic principle of equity that babies should burden their parents, not the rest of us.
>I just don’t like a system in which we all have reason to hate the fact that someone just had a baby!

As you said to Zog:
> It all comes down to a fundamental difference in how we view the status of land which God (or Zeus, or what have you) has given to all.

Exactly right. Someone who is determined to impose your concept of “justice” on everyone else will have to have a government, a potentially unlimited one, as you have explained in so much detail.

Since anarchists do not wish to have a government at all, it follows logically (law of the contrapositive) that any anarchist must reject your concept of “justice.” QED

You can’t get a better proof that that even in mathematics!

I hope we are all now in agreement: you happen to have a set of fundamental political views that are almost diametrically opposed to Zog’s, DDF’s, mine, and all libertarian anarchists.

You’re entitled to your views.

But you’re simply confused if you think there is even a close family resemblance between your views and ours.

Dave

 
At 3:44 PM, January 30, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

Concerning Tim Starr's claim about Thomas Fleming. Tim wrote:

"who said at a conference he & Rothbard organized in his closing address that only white male Christians were fit for freedom"

By Googling around I found what I thought might be the source--not Frum--and Tim has now confirmed it in email. It's a comment by Charles Steele on Tom Palmer's blog. Steele, describing an event he attended somewhat more than ten years earlier (if I worked out the chronology correctly), writes:

"Thomas Flemming spoke on how it was foolish to try to build a political system on the rights of the individual -- only white christian males are fit to rule, definitely not blacks or women."

I observe:

1. Tim has converted "fit to rule" into "fit for freedom." They don't mean the same thing, or even anything very close. Quite a lot of us believe that practically everyone is fit for freedom and no one fit to rule.

2. So far as I can tell by the post, Steele is reporting, by memory, a statement he heard more than ten years earlier. That isn't a reliable source, or anything close.

I don't think it's fair to label Tim a liar on that basis, since he presumably didn't check the actual wording of what he was quoting from memory, but he isn't being very careful to make sure that what he says is actually true, which doesn't inspire much confidence in his more general conclusions.

 
At 6:16 PM, January 30, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

David,

At some point careless and reckless disregard of the truth becomes lying. For example, if I were to declare that you brutally murdered your first wife, that this is known by the police in Rumania, but that they do not know that you are now resident in California, and so have not yet apprehended you, I would be making statements that I do not know for a fact to be false.

However, since I have no evidence that they are true, I think most people would agree that for me to make such statements would indeed constitute “lying,” indeed blatant, malicious, and bizarre lying!

I’ve just gone through this thread and specifically my own postings, and, as far as I can tell, the one point on which I have accused Tim of lying is his statement:
>Paleos are ex-Fascists, or neo-Fascists. When they say "Old Right," they mean "Old South," complete with segregation, lynchings, the Klan, & police brutality.

That is indeed a lie. Incidentally, in the paragraph in which Tim stated that lie, he did not even mention Tom Fleming; he did explicitly mention Rockwell and Paul.

No one who has read Rockwell’s or Paul’s stuff (or even Fleming’s) could honestly call Tim’s statement which I have just quoted truthful.

I did suggest that there was a good chance that Tim was mixed up on the supposed Fleming quote:
>Since Tim is not quoting directly but is only paraphrasing and since the reference he provides is to the infamous David Frum (and the link seems to be dead), it's hard to know what he has in mind – par for the course.

From what you’ve written, it appears that I was right to be doubtful. However, I don’t see anywhere that I accused Tim of lying on that.

The quote you give:
> "Thomas Flemming spoke on how it was foolish to try to build a political system on the rights of the individual -- only white christian males are fit to rule, definitely not blacks or women."

may or may not be something Fleming said – I wouldn’t put it past him! As I said, I disagree with Fleming on many things. (I am more skeptical about the “blacks” part of the quote than the “women” part – but unless we can get Tom Fleming to weigh in on this, we will probably never know. I also suspect that if we knew the truth, it might turn out that this was a rather more nuanced remark than the quote you give: perhaps, for example, Fleming was suggesting that the blacks in Zimbabwe will never govern themselves well or something of the sort – again, we’ll probably never know. Fleming tends to be even more long-winded than me and to speak in complicated and carefully qualified phrases. The quote sounds a little too brief and unqualified to be from old long-winded Tom.)

At any rate, nearly all of the Founders of the United States, of course, apparently agreed with the gist of that quote allegedly from Fleming – few seemed to wish to extend the franchise to women or blacks. I doubt that Tim wants to thereby conclude that the Founders were “ex-Fascists, or neo-Fascists” (which would certainly be anachronistic, among other things!).

Now, of course, exactly when careless and reckless disregard for the truth becomes lying is a matter, in some cases, for the application of judgment. But one simple technique for making that judgment is reciprocity. I’ve seen Tim call out “liar” elsewhere on the Web for far less than this. And, if I had written of Tim that he is obviously an “ex-Fascist or neo-Fascist” with not a shred of evidence, I think he and others would be rather ready to label me a “liar” even though, by objective criteria, his views seem much, much closer to the actual historical Fascist Party than Paul’s, Rockwell’s, or even Fleming’s.

I realize of course that we simply have a case here of a young man of no accomplishments in life mouthing off because he has no better way to spend his time: he clearly does not even completely grasp the proper use of capital letters in English! If he thought about it a little, he’d at least admit that he should have said “ex-fascists” instead of “ex-Fascists” since the latter means they were actually members of the Fascist Party, which I don’t think even Tim really wishes to claim. His statement would still be a lie of course, but not quite so ludicrously so.

Frankly, I can think of no reason not to call him a liar. If he were a reasonably nice person, I might be inclined to just bite my lip and not point out the obvious truth about him, but since anyone can use Google to find out that he is an extremely obnoxious and unpleasant individual (and an apologist for mass murder to boot), I see no reason to refrain from calling a spade a spade.

By normal English usage, Tim Starr is indeed a grotesque and bizarre liar, in my own judgment, a pathological liar.

I know you are a thoughtful man who generally tries to avoid strong statements that may annoy others, and I am certainly not trying to insist that you endorse my judgment. But I think I have accurately stated my and Tim’s exchange: I appear to have accused him of lying for the one statement I quoted above (not for his confusion about Fleming’s remark), and I think my accusation is more than borne out by the facts.

All the best,

Dave

 
At 8:22 PM, January 30, 2008, Anonymous Zog said...

An outlaw has no choice in what happens to him. He will have to negotiate arbitration contracts with every other protection agency, or sign up with one of many protection agencies that have done just that (to make his life easier).

Once he does so, what happens to him will be precisely what he negotiated. He chooses his own government voluntarily. Of course, he is limited in his choices by what other people will accept, but he is significantly less limited than he would be under monopoly government.

Which is only natural, as free market competition tends to improve every service.

 
At 8:23 PM, January 30, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

"Now, of course, exactly when careless and reckless disregard for the truth becomes lying is a matter, in some cases, for the application of judgment."

The definition of "lie" that I am familiar with is "an untruth told with intention to deceive." However careless someone is about finding out whether something is true before he says it is, it isn't a lie as long as he himself believes it.

My guess is that Tim believed that both the statement of his you questioned and the statement I questioned were true, although I doubt he had good reason for either belief.

 
At 1:58 AM, January 31, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

David,

You wrote:
>My guess is that Tim believed that …statement of his you questioned..

You really think so? He wrote:
>>Paleos are ex-Fascists, or neo-Fascists. When they say "Old Right," they mean "Old South," complete with segregation, lynchings, the Klan, & police brutality.

For him to truly believe this, he would have to believe that Rothbard, Rockwell, I, Tom Fleming, etc. are actually former or current member of the Fascist Party. I doubt he really thinks that. He’d also have to believe that we all truly admire the Klan, etc. I also doubt he really thinks that.

Since Tim has no evidence for either of those propositions and since they would be true of very few people nowadays (after all, none of us is old enough or lived in the right country to make it likely that we were really members of Mussolini’s party!), I think the overwhelmingly most likely hypothesis is that he threw those statements out simply because they served his rhetorical and political purposes without his having any belief in them.

To assume that Tim truly believed what he said is to assume that he is extraordinarily, unbelievably stupid: Rockwell was really a member of the Fascist Party? Far more likely, Tim is just throwing out accusations without concern for their falsity.

Politicians do that, you know, and Tim’s behavior, if you Google him, is certainly typical of politicians.

Of course, there is, in principle no way we can know with logical certainty what someone else’s true inner beliefs are.

That’s one of the reasons I prefer a more “operational” definition of lying as “showing careless and reckless disregard for the truth.” Take a paradigmatic case of such action, such as the hypothetical that I presented in my preceding post, and you do come up with a case in which I think most people would be quite comfortable saying “Liar!” It does therefore seem to fit common usage.

Here are a couple of dictionary definitions of “lie”:

> http://www.thefreedictionary.com/lie
lie - tell an untruth; pretend with intent to deceive;

> http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary
1 : to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive
2 : to create a false or misleading impression

Well… Tim certainly created a false impression. He did tell an untruth. We could argue about the “intent to deceive” -- I’m confident that he had that too, but at any rate that is only one of the alternatives given by each of the two dictionaries.

So, calling Tim a liar seems to be justified even by these dictionary definitions. But, in any case, as any competent lexicographer will testify, dictionaries do not dictate usage, they report it. And, I think my example in my previous post makes more than clear that people will indeed call someone a liar who shows, as Tim surely did, extraordinarily careless and reckless disregard for the truth.

If I called you a convicted felon, even though I admittedly have absolutely no evidence at all for that, few people would have qualms about saying that I lied. Very few people would bother to worry about the possibility that I am so idiotic that I actually believed it even though I had no reason to believe it.

Tim’s accusations against paleos (i.e., they are “neo-Fascists” or “ex-Fascists”) that I have repeated several times are in the same category as falsely calling someone a felon. Those accusations are serious, he apparently has no evidence at all for them, and they are patently absurd on the face of it.

I see no evidence at all that Tim actually believes this nonsense, and the principle of charity encourages us to assume that he does not. Indeed, we all know that there are human beings on this planet who routinely spout out nasty statements about other human beings that they know are not true, simply because it serves their own personal or political purposes.

Sadly, a fair number of human beings routinely make serious statements about other human beings which they know to be false.

On the face of it, Tim seems to be one of these people. And, like so many of these people, if you Google him, you unfortunately find that he has been getting away with this for rather a long time.

But, even in the unlikely event that he really does believe this, he certainly showed extraordinarily careless and reckless disregard for the truth. In my book, that makes him a liar.

Incidentally, my experience in the last thirty-five years in the libertarian movement has shown me that there is a much greater tolerance for serious, malicious lying among “mainstream” libertarians than among the public at large. To return to the original topic of your post that started this thread, this is one of many reasons why I am very pleased to see the split in the libertarian movement.

I don’t want to deal with people like Tim and all the other “Tims” I have known among mainstream libertarians. I will not allow people like that in my house or on my property, and I do not wish to be in any political movement dominated by people like Tim. Fortunately, Tim, with his hatred of Ron Paul and his deep love for the ongoing War, seems to reciprocate my sentiments.

Clarity is a good thing.

All the best,

Dave

 
At 6:01 AM, January 31, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

David Friedman:

I'd be interested to know how heretical you think my views are?

Physicist Dave:

I realize I promised to give you the last word (though you seem to enjoy arguing enough that I'm sure my breach of promise won't bother you:), but let me just make a couple of observations on ancillary points.

Georgism (or essential principles thereof) in its heyday was extremely appealing to a whole lot of people, including, to name a few, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Leo Tolstoy, Winston Churchill, Albert Jay Nock, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Ford, John Dewey, Bertrand Russell, Louis Brandeis, Clarence Darrow, FDR, and William F. Buckley. Milton Friedman, while declining to embrace Georgism wholeheartedly, did say "In my opinion the least bad tax is the property tax on the unimproved value of land, the Henry George argument of many, many years ago."

The decline in popularity of Georgism is not due to any dimishment in the merits or refutation of Georgist principles, but simply due to the circumstance that today fewer and fewer people have even heard of the Georgist argument. If more people were aware of it, I believe it would be more popular.

Even many anarchists (Spooner comes to mind) believe that society would be more equal if it was more just, and that much inequality is caused by the unjust intervention of government. Spooner was concerned about unjustly-caused poverty, and I think we should be too.

You may not care what leftists think about equality, but if we're talking about potential appeal among a broad base of society, I think Georgism has much to recommend it to both leftists and rightists, as my list of historical supporters of Georgism suggests. There's potential common ground there. Perhaps if leftists were persuaded that Georgism would reduce poverty, they might be less insistent on illegitimate measures such as welfare.

As far as your observation that the land "tax" would go up with each new birth: the reason it would go up is that the land value has gone up, which is generally considered a good thing. Increasing population drives up the rental value of land, because it's good for business. This is important to the Georgist argument: why should a land speculator benefit from value that not he but the community has created? That said, I think it would be sensible to only recognize an equal right to "land" for those who have reached the age of emancipation. This would leave the burden of raising children on the parents who choose to have them.

Note that in theory my "system" is only concerned with the protection of land rights. (E.g. It doesn't suggest the need to fund a local police force, but does suggest the need for an ability to prevent permanent invasion of an individual's right to possession of land and to demand restitution for temporary invasions.) As noted above, this would seem to leave room for private defense agencies, market-based legal systems, etc. Note also that I share Spooner's view that "there is, and can be, correctly speaking, no law but natural law." In other words, my Georgist "mutual protection society" would have "no authority" to conduct a war on drugs, etc. So whatever else you might say about my overall system, it still leans decidedly libertarian, and to my mind is not inconsistent with theoretical anarchism.

 
At 10:14 AM, January 31, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

P.S. See this article, titled "A Landlord is a Government: The Libertarian Basis for Land Rights," which explicitly makes the connection between the thought of Lysander Spooner and the ideas about land I've been talking about.

 
At 12:38 PM, January 31, 2008, Anonymous Tim Starr said...

As I emailed David privately, my paraphrase of Fleming's statement, as reported by Steele, is accurate. To say that blacks are unfit to rule is to deny their right to equal participation in democratic government, which is the standard definition of political freedom. "Unfit to rule" includes self-rule, especially in the context of a statement saying it's foolish to base your political system upon individual rights.

What would an American political regime based upon the notion that only white Christian males were "fit to rule" look like? It would look a whole lot like the South under Jim Crow, where juries were all-white & all-male, where blacks couldn't vote or hold public office, etc.

Here's a simple recipe for denying everything said by someone:

1) Pick a single statement by that person in which you can "find" a single discrepancy;

2) Point out that alleged discrepancy;

3) Then accuse the person who made that statement of being so careless as to make such a statement as to cast doubt upon anything else they've ever said;

4) Presume everything said by anyone else they've ever cited in favor of their position false until proven true, with unspecified standards for proving things true.

These 4 simple steps are a foolproof method for immunizing your position against refutation by anyone else.

Montestruc: There are plenty of openly Jewish people who take anti-Semitic positions, such as Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Israel Shahak, etc. It is not only "secret Jews" who can be anti-Semitic.

Two verifiable facts about Rothbard are:

* One of his favorite historians, Harry Elmer Barnes, was a Holocaust Denier. Barnes translated the works of Paul Rassinier, the French godfather of Holocaust Denial, into English, got them published in America, and glowingly reviewed them in "The American Mercury," which was controlled by the neo-Nazi Willis Carto at the time.

* Rothbard blamed Israel as the aggressor for the Six Day War.

Are these two verifiable facts sufficient unto themselves to prove that Rothbard was anti-Semitic? Probably not. However, the fact that Rothbard held these views, which views frequently get those who hold them called anti-Semitic, indicates that Rothbard wasn't terribly concerned about being called anti-Semitic for holding such views.

 
At 5:05 PM, January 31, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

Tim,

You are a pathological liar.

You wrote:
>Paleos are ex-Fascists, or neo-Fascists. When they say "Old Right," they mean "Old South," complete with segregation, lynchings, the Klan, & police brutality.

That is not simply false; it is obviously and patently false, and you know it.

Aside from the lie about “ex-Fasicists” and “neo-Fascists,” anyone who wishes to do so can find out what paleos mean by “Old Right” by reading books or surfing the Web.

On that too, you are lying, and you know you are lying.

You also wrote:
>However, the fact that Rothbard held these views, which views frequently get those who hold them called anti-Semitic, indicates that Rothbard wasn't terribly concerned about being called anti-Semitic for holding such views.

Or, perhaps, it merely shows that Rothbard did care about being called an anti-Semite but cared much more about telling the truth.

This appears to be one more example of the “blood libel” in which you are so eager to engage.

Frankly, I am beginning to suspect, very strongly, that you are indeed an anti-Semite.

Israel, after all, did in fact start the fighting in the Six Day War (
http://archives.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/04/14/me101.tuchman.1967/ ). I know how fond you are of wars, but what happened really did happen. I’m old enough to remember it.

And Harry Elmer Barnes simply was not a “Holocaust Denier,” at least not if those words mean what they would appear to mean – i.e., someone who denied that the Holocaust happened. For example, even a Website which tries to attack Barnes (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/denialbrief.html ) is forced to concede:
> Stopping short of denying the Holocaust, Barnes attempted to connect the "exaggerated" atrocities with German reparations to Israel.

“Stopping short of denying the Holocaust,” Tim. You and your friends may love war so much that you wish to call Barnes a Holocaust Denier because he came to hate wars. But, as even that Website concedes, he did not deny the Holocaust.

(I hope I need not state again, what I know others have tried to teach you on other Websites, that the fact that I am pointing out your falsehood about Barnes does not mean that I necessarily agree with Barnes on any matter at all. I am not a Barnes defender – I am simply someone who enjoys toting up Tim Starr’s lies.)

Since you are once again being untruthful on this subject, as you have been untruthful on most of the other things you have posted here, I think we can all safely ignore whatever you say.

For anyone who wishes to check out the extent of your lies, I suggest they check out the following statement:
>There are plenty of openly Jewish people who take anti-Semitic positions, such as Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Israel Shahak, etc.

There are many topics on which I disagree with Chomsky and Finkelstein, but I have read a lot of their work, and to call them anti-Semitic, especially given the evidence that you yourself may be anti-Semitic (why are you attacking so many Jews, Tim?) and the fact that Finkelstein himself is the son of Holocaust survivors, is another example of a “blood libel.” Chomsky and Finkelstein may disagree with you (who doesn’t?) and, indeed, even with me, but that does not make them “anti-Semites.”

You are a proven pathological liar, Tim, and anyone who reads this thread knows it.

You can no longer hide the fact, you can no longer evade it, the truth is there.

Now, I just need to post everything you have said here all over the Web, so that everyone can know the truth about you.

It’s gonna be a lot of fun.

I really love publicly exposing liars.

Tim, you are helping so much in exposing what I so hate about the “mainstream,” anti-Ron-Paul libertarian movement: I could not have found a better specimen than you!

Dave

 
At 6:26 PM, January 31, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

John,

No, somehow I did not really think you would honor your statement to give me the last word.

Of all the people you mention who found Georgism appealing, I find almost all of them quite appalling: to wit:
>Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, John Dewey, Bertrand Russell, Louis Brandeis, Clarence Darrow, FDR, and William F. Buckley.

If those monsters (several of them actual mass murderers!) found Georgism appealing, that’s almost a good enough reason in and of itself to oppose it. Specifically, are you not aware that Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, and, above all, FDR are abhorrent to any true libertarian or libertarian anarchist???

Or to take another example, don’t you know about Bill Buckley’s declaring decades ago that “we have got to accept Big Government… a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores..." in order to carry out the militarist foreign policy Buckley and his friends so love? (At least Buckley is more honest than our friend Tim Starr, who also loves war, but calls himself a “libertarian.”)

I don’t doubt that Buckley might like Georgism – Georgism is big governmentalism and that’s what Buckley is for.

I am truly mystified (though I do appreciate it) as to why you choose to keep giving more and more reasons for libertarians to reject Georgism.

You may or may not be right about Georgism having declined in popularity: frankly, I think you greatly exaggerate the popularity it ever had – I’m interested in the history of political ideas and know something about this.

But, at any rate, Georgism is now not popular, and, since you keep trying to convince anarchists that they would advance their cause by hooking up with Georgism, I am merely pointing out that this is obviously silly. You do not advance one cause that is not popular (anarchism) by hooking it up with another cause that is also not at all popular (Georgism).

If you were suggesting that anarchists get Oprah on their side, perhaps you would have a point! But trying to convince anarchists to accept Georgism because it will make anarchism more popular is a waste of time: very few anarchists are quite that stupid.

The biggest problem, however, is what you have basically conceded yourself: the Georgist system needs a government. You called it “the organization” in your 9:49 PM, January 28, 2008 post, but explained that “the organization” collects the Single Tax (whether the landowner wants to pay it or not), uses some of the money to provide “national defense” (one more of those weasel phrases governmentalists like – why do so many foreigners end up dying in the name of US “national defense”???), and uses some of it to be “redistributed” to the citizenry.

Compulsory taxation, “national defense,” and redistributive policies by a monopoly organization – exactly what most people would call a government.

John, no anarchist in his right mind can possibly agree to this – whatever else it is, it is not anarchy. It is government.

I think you really need to see that, unless you forthrightly address that point, you are wasting your time.

I get the impression that perhaps you think that anarchists really do not wish to eliminate the state. You talk about funds from the Single Tax being available to the state for national defense as if this were a positive.

Do you understand that to anarchists this is a big negative?

Frankly, I think “national defense” has a decent chance of getting me killed. It did get over three thousand Americans killed on 9/11, not to mention nearly sixty thousand Americans killed in ‘Nam, hundreds of thousands of Americans killed in Europe and the Pacific during WW II, etc.

Anarchists are not people who kind of get a kick out of state-bashing rhetoric such as Lysander Spooner's (personally, I find Spooner almost unreadable) but who are really looking for a way to keep the state going with adequate funding under another name (e.g., “the organization,” as you put it).

We want to slay this beast. We want to starve the state; we want to end its life.

Realistically, this is not going to happen tomorrow. But, we are not looking for some “solution” such as Georgism that actually offers to prolong the state and give it a firmer basis for existence and a perpetual source of funding.

I’m supporting Ron Paul because I think a Paul Presidency would shrink the state a bit (at least decrease the level of “national defense”!) and because, even if he does not win the nomination, I think he is helping to sow some distrust and hatred for the government among the populace.

You keep waving your hands and insisting that Georgism will shrink the state and that it will even lead to anarchism. But whenever we get down to the small print, it turns out that the Single Tax is compatible with a state just as big as the one we have now, that there is no reason that the Single Tax will shrink the size of the state at all, and, most importantly to anarchists, that the Single Tax is obviously and emphatically incompatible with actually eliminating the state. Of course, the last point really is obvious: how can you have a tax without the state???

My dad taught me to read the fine print, John.

The Single Tax, when you look at the details as you have so clearly and articulately presented them, is the exact opposite of anarchism.

Dave

 
At 11:52 PM, January 31, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

Just one more comment, which if anything is in the way of a caveat or even a concession. It occurs to me that my "Georgist mutual protection society" really could be more voluntary than I've made it out to be. A certain landholder declines to pay compensation to the members of society he's excluding? Fine. But in a truly anarchist society, on what basis must those thus excluded respect that landowner's claim to exclusive ownership of that land? By what natural and self-evident right does he claim it? It seems that that landowner will want to be quite sure he's paying top dollar for a very effective private defense agency. It might have been cheaper to join the "Georgist mutual protection society," particularly if most of those in the surrounding society have joined it and are not inclined to respect his dubious claim to be the exclusive owner of the land which he tenuously holds by no right other than his own strength.

By the way, I do recognize that in large part this has been an academic exercise, though such an examination of principles may not be totally useless (just as contemplating how an anarchist society might work is not totally useless, even though the likelihood of it coming about in the foreseeable future may be extremely remote). If nothing else, Georgism provides a basis upon which to critique the existing society (especially with regard to the income tax, and even more especially with regard to the income tax as applied to people who own no land and are forced to pay rent to landlords), with the hope that it may in some way influence public opinion in a positive direction. (Is that not what we hope to do by advocating anarchism, even though we don't expect it to come about anytime soon?)

By way of further concession, I unite with these reflections from Nock's Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, which he wrote a couple years before his death:

One reformer of the period presented himself in a double
capacity. He was a very great social philosopher who had
trained himself into a first-class polemist, crusader, campaigner;
a strange combination, the strangest imaginable. I do
not recall another instance of it. This was Henry George. I
never saw him, though I might easily have done so, but his
days were ending just as I was emerging from the academic
shades. C. J. once spoke to me of his philosophy, saying with
a nod of his wise head, "That's the real thing." He never
mentioned it again. Undoubtedly, as I discovered later on, it
was the real thing. As Robert Lafollette said to me, George's
social philosophy and his fiscal method, taken together, made
a system "against which nothing rational has ever been said,
or can be said." As a social philosopher, George interested
me profoundly; as a reformer and publicist, he did not
interest me, though I tried hard to make the best of him in
that capacity.
George and his followers carried on a tremendous countrywide
campaign to force George's fiscal method into politics.
I knew many of his disciples, some of them quite well; among
them were Louis F. Post, C. B. Fillebrown, Bolton Hall, Daniel
Kiefer, Charles D. Williams, George Record, A. C. Pleydell.
Outside the movement, or on the fringes of it, some of the
ablest men in the country were "under conviction," as the
old-time Methodists used to say. Newton Baker and Whitlock
were in this group; also Lawson Purdy and William Jay Gaynor,
who impressed me as by far the ablest man in our public life.
Few know that he might have had the Presidency instead of
Wilson if he had consented; he was mayor of New York at the
time... I have often wondered what course the country would have
taken after 1914 if he had been in Wilson's place.
I did not follow George's campaign attentively, and was
neither astonished nor disappointed when it came to nothing.
George's philosophy was the philosophy of human freedom.
Like Mr. Jefferson, Condorcet, Rousseau, and the believers in
progressive evolution, he believed that all mankind are indefinitely
improvable, and that the freer they are, the more they
will improve. He saw also that they can never become politically
or socially free until they have become economically free,
but if they gained economic freedom, the other freedoms
would follow automatically; and he offered his fiscal method
as the most natural, simple, and effective means of securing
them in economic freedom. All this appeared to me sound
enough, but the attempt to realise it through political action
seemed the acme of absurdity. The only result one could expect
was that the philosophy would be utterly lost sight of, and the
method utterly discredited; and precisely this was the result.
Socialism and one or two other variants of collectivist
Statism were making considerable political progress at the
time. When I met some of their proponents, as I did now and
then, I would put the one question to them that I always put
to George's campaigners. Suppose by some miracle you have
your system all installed, complete and perfect, it will still have
to be administered,—very well, what kind of people can you
get to administer it except the kind of people you've got? I
never had an answer to that question. In a society of just men
made perfect, George's system would be administered admirably
and would work like clockwork. So would Socialism. So
would any other form of collectivism. In such a society "the
dictatorship of the proletariat" would be a splendid success
for everybody all round. The trouble is, we have no such
society,—far from it. Although I was,—and am,—a firm believer
in George's philosophy and fiscal method, I decided
that if progressive evolution was to make them practicable
in fifty thousand years, it would have to step a great deal
livelier than there was any sign of its doing.
So in the ranks of the militant single-taxers, as they were
called, I knew I should make a poor soldier. Convinced that
the surest way to lose that war, like all other wars, was to
win it, I should be a superfluous man. Now and then I published
a line or two by way of showing that I was on the side
of the angels, but took no further part. To console myself
for my shortcomings I pondered the example of the great
social philosophers of the past who had never crusaded for
their doctrines or presumed upon mankind's capacity for
receiving them; not Socrates, not Jesus, not Lao-Tze, of whom
Chi-Yen had said that "he was a superior man who liked to
keep in obscurity." What wisdom! "If any man have ears
to hear," said the Santissimo Salvatore, "let him hear." That was
all there was to be expected. I admired the reformers, George
in particular, for the splendid intrepidity which one admires
in the leader of a forlorn hope. Yet I could not resist reminding
myself of Montaigne's great saying, that "human society goes
very incompetently about healing its ills. It is so impatient
under the immediate irritation which is chafing it that it
thinks only of getting rid of this, careless of the cost. . . .
Good does not necessarily ensue upon evil; another evil may
ensue upon it, and a worse one."

 
At 5:33 AM, February 01, 2008, Anonymous Zog said...

Are you looking for a utilitarian defense or a natural rights defense?

The other people ought to respect his claim to that land because he homesteaded it. If you find this unconvincing, then probably your idea of natural rights differs from mine.

Let's try a utilitarian defense. The other people ought to respect his claim to that land, because strong private property, decentralization, and free market competition (capitalism) tend to be the best ways to make us all better off.

There are very few good reasons to think that instituting a government can improve matters in any way. There are a lot of reasons to think that it would sooner make matters worse. Look at history.

Why WILL they respect his claim to his land? Because it's cheaper than to fight over it, that's why. Every protection agency and insurance company will arrange, amongst themselves, some method of arbitration. Law, order, and justice is the result.

 
At 7:39 AM, February 01, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

But anarchists themselves have often disagreed amongst themselves about the homestead principle. Many of them, such as Tucker, adhered to the idea of "occupancy and use." In fairness, my hero Lysander Spooner disagreed with Tucker et al and adhered to the homestead principle. However, Spooner, who detested wage-labor and advocated for a society in which everyone was self-employed, advanced a very different vision than the anarcho-capitalism of, say, Rothbard. I highly recommend in this (these) connection(s) the last 7 paragraphs of the AnarchistFAQ at http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/1931/secG7.html.

But the point is that this disagreement among anarchists, as well as the well-known ambiguities inherent in both the homestead principle and the "use and occupancy" principle (e.g. How much labor must one mix with the land to make it one's own? What if one hires 100 people as your agents to go out and do nothing but fence off thousands of acres of virgin land? As far as "use and occupancy," if one goes to Europe on vacation for a year does that count as abandonment? How about 3 years?), highlights the uncertainty and insecurity of claims to land in a state of anarchy.

Note that under my new formulation I really don't think you can call my "Georgist mutual protection society" a government. It simply declines to provide protection for claimed rights to exclusive possession for those who don't voluntarily join the mutual protection society. The mutual protection society should not itself lay claim to those lands or invade them, but as far as it would be concerned the person claiming right to exclusive possession of that land (who has not paid for the privilege vis-a-vis other people and has not paid for the protection of the mutual protection society) would have no more right to that land than anyone else in society.

I grant that in a state of anarchy a common sense of justice should prevent someone from trespassing on the land on which someone's actual house (and other actual buildings) stands. But the status of other land claimed by the putative landholder (e.g. oilfields; hundreds of acres of farmland which other people -- who may have no other way to earn a living -- would like to farm a few acres of?) would be more ambiguous, and could well lead to legitimate fights, which will only be won by the putative landholder if he invests in more "defense" than other people (or groups of people) interested in "his" lands are willing to invest. As suggested above, it seems that it would likely be cheaper and more effective for the putative landholder to voluntarily join the hypothetical "Georgist mutual protection society" (assuming it has attained prevalence in the area) rather than pay a private defense agency or police force.

 
At 11:54 AM, February 01, 2008, Anonymous Zog said...

The homesteading principle is just to create a first owner. So long as the owner still claims ownership on that land, even if he does not use it, it's his.

After there is an owner - any rational owner -, self-interest will get it into the hands of the person that can make the best use of it. If somebody really has no use for his land, he is clearly better off selling it, and thus the land will change hands.

War is expensive. Ambiguous cases of ownership, and other likely disputes, will be negotiated over in advance (in so far as they can be foreseen). Even in a new case, emergency diplomacy is generally more profitable than war, so war is an unlikely outcome.

For the same reason, it will pay every member of your mutual protection society to make an arbitration agreement with my defense agency, so my defense agency never has to fight anyone (just has to be capable of a believable threat to fight). It will therefore easily be half as cheap as joining your protection society (as per Friedman's law) even if all your organization did was offer the same services.

 
At 2:11 PM, February 01, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

But so far as my mutual protection society is concerned, you do not have a right to the exclusive unconditional ownership of the land that you claim to have. On what natural basis must it recognize your title? Therefore, it could not in principle agree to an arbitration agreement whereby it would allow your defense agency to punish a member of the mutual protection society who you think "trespassed" (or is "trespassing") on "your" land. Indeed, once the member began making use of what you think of as "your" land and began paying the mutual protection society the designated percentage of the rental value of that land, the mutual protection society would presumably be obligated to defend that member's right to possession. (Of course, appropriate procedures for granting recognition of a right to possession conditioned on payment of the "single 'tax'" would need to be put in place.) Obviously, things would probably come down to the relative strength of your defense agency vs. my mutual protection society (even though both would of course have an incentive to avoid all-out war). This in turn would likely depend on the numbers of people within the geographical area (that the mutual protection society has made the limit of its competence and concern) who have joined the mutual protection society, which in turn would likely depend upon the popular appeal of the "Georgist" conception of land rights relative to the "homesteading" conception of land rights.

I'd note also that your private defense agency (which is supposed to be like an insurance agency, right?) would presumably charge you based on the value of both the land and capital improvements you're asking them to protect, whereas the mutual protection society would only be "charging" you based on the value of the land, so it seems that your private defense agency would likely be at least as expensive as the mutual protection society. (This might be less true to the extent the mutual defense society votes to take more than protection costs in order to disburse a citizen's dividend -- up to the full rental value of the land.) In the Georgist system, those who're making the best and most efficient use of land would be getting the best deal, the most protection for their money.

 
At 4:21 PM, February 01, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

John,

You wrote:
> I'd note also that your private defense agency (which is supposed to be like an insurance agency, right?) would presumably charge you based on the value of both the land and capital improvements you're asking them to protect, whereas the mutual protection society would only be "charging" you based on the value of the land, so it seems that your private defense agency would likely be at least as expensive as the mutual protection society.

No, not at all.

First, there is no reason at all to assume that they charge the same rate ad valorem.

Suppose, hypothetically, that my land is valued at $100,000 and my building at $200,000.

If the Georgist agency charges a fee of $5 per year per $1,000 of valuation of the land and the libertarian agency charges $1 per year per $1,000 of total valuation, then I’d owe $500 per year to the Georgists but only $300 per year to the Friedmanite agency.

Guess who I’d pick!

I’d actually expect something roughly like this to happen, since the Friedmanite agency would be driven by market considerations and the Georgist agency by ideological considerations. Market forces tend to result in lower prices.

Of course, if you are so enamoured of Georgism that you wish to pay an extra $200 per year to be redistributed to the landless, by all means be my guest.

I’m pretty sure most people won’t.

Second, do you know how insurance companies now figure rates on autos, homeowner insurance, etc.?

They have an army of busy-beaver statisticians who carefully take into account all the demographic, geographic, etc. info they can to figure out the expected cost you pose for them (they are, sadly, constrained somewhat by law in all this). So, an elderly retried woman in rural Texas with a spotless driving record is likely to have much lower auto rates than a young male living in Los Angeles with repeated accidents – even if they are both driving identical vehicles.

Insurance is not simply ad valorem.

Market forces would impel protection agencies to work similarly: i.e., the protection agency fee for someone owning an eighth of an acre in Harlem might well end up being higher than for someone who owns a hundred acres in the middle of nowhere in Texas, even if the Texas land is worth more in total than the Harlem land.

Incidentally, you write:
> This might be less true to the extent the mutual defense society votes to take more than protection costs in order to disburse a citizen's dividend -- up to the full rental value of the land.

Why are supposing that there would be a “vote”? I suppose someone could organize a protection service this way, but I would certainly prefer to sign up for one run as a business, not as a democracy. In the real world, this does seem to be what the market prefers. We have a “home monitoring” service, a limited form of protection agency, and we checked out a number before we chose ours. All the ones that we heard of were run as conventional businesses, not as democracies.

If I understand your “new formulation” correctly, you are now allowing free competition among Georgist and Friedmanite protection agencies.

Cool.

Personally, I doubt that the Georgist agency will even get enough customers to maintain itself at all once its customers see the premium they are paying for their ideological purity. But perhaps there is a small niche market it could successfully serve.

But the basic Georgist idea of a broad Single Tax on land used to pay for national defense and for redistributive purposes is then dead. All you will be left with is a small charitable society with rather limited funds that it can use to help a small number of the poor.

I’m certainly not opposed to helping the “deserving poor” (let the “undeserving poor” rot, for all I care), but I do think this is a rather complicated and quaint way of setting up a charitable organization.

But since it would only be the private affair of a small number of people who admire Hank George, and since it would not affect most of us at all, well, if that’s all that Georgism boils down to in the end, it really does not matter at all, now does it?

Dave

 
At 7:11 PM, February 01, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

I realize that neither insurance rates nor presumably an anarchist protection agency's rates will be determined simply ad valorem. Nevertheless, full coverage on a $50k vehicle will generally cost you more than full coverage on a $20k vehicle. My point was simply that it's not so obvious that the private defense agency would cost less than the Georgist mutual protection society (especially if, as in my hypothetical above, the land to be protected by the private agency is in the middle of a society which for the most part does not recognize that putative owner's unconditional right to the land).

The reason that the mutual protection agency would presumably be run on an equal vote basis is because, as I explained in an earlier comment, each member of the society, whether they owned land or not and however much land they owned, would all technically be contributing an equal amount to the operational expenses of the mutual protection society, and therefore would all be equal "owners" of the society.

You don't see a reason why a landowner would ever voluntarily join a Georgist mutual protection society. But I think you may not appreciate the very real anarchy (in the vulgar common sense of the word) with respect to putative land rights that would result if government as we know it were to be abolished. Neither the "homesteading" theory nor the "use and occupancy" theory are going to be very convincing for very long to "roving bands" of the dispossessed (who may themselves organize) who see that Oilman Rick has thousands of acres and Farmer Joe has thousands of acres while they have nothing. They're not going to be impressed by the argument that Oilman Rick inherited his thousands from his pappy, when they reflect on the fact that they have as much of a right to be here on God's green earth as Oilman Rick. (And such common-sense resentment will not depend upon them being schooled in the fine points of Georgist ideology.) You may think that Oilman Rick's wealth and that of his well-heeled compatriots may be enough to pay for enough defense to keep the dispossessed at bay, just as the government does now. But two points: one, Oilman Rick et al will no longer have the benefit of the superstition of government "legitimacy" to support their "titles" that now cowes the unwashed masses; and two, justice is the most secure and lasting basis for peace.

Good businessmen who are not mere land speculators generally make good use of the land that they own and have improved it significantly. They would have a particular interest in ensuring that the surrounding society respects their right to possession of the land upon which their improvements have been made, and arguably the best way (and arguably better than mere force of arms) to secure that respect in a truly anarchist society and protect their investment would be to compensate fairly other members of society for being excluded from the city block on which their skyscraper stands, with the explicit understanding that those other members recognize the skyscraper owner's right to possession so long as such compensation is paid. A Georgist tax would fall lightest (relatively speaking) on the owner of a downtown skyscraper, while it would fall heaviest on the owner of a downtown parking lot.

This suggests to me that the skyscraper owner, who has more to lose if he loses his land, and whose total property value consists more in improvements (which the Georgist "tax" leaves untouched) relative to the land on which the improvements rest (though the value of downtown land is certainly high), might be a natural ally of Georgist ideas. The parking lot owner not so much, but the parking lot owner has lost much less than the skyscraper owner if he allows (because the tax on land makes his parking lot financially unviable) his downtown land to revert to someone who might make better use of it. It seems to me likely that the skyscraper owner, because of his greater interest (not to mention the fact that he's probably wealthier), is likely to have a greater influence on the way public opinion shakes out than the parking lot owner. The true capitalist should be a friend of Georgist ideas, because, again, Georgism leaves real capital untouched.

You seem to revel in the notion that Georgism is some obscure anachronism that will never have any appeal to anybody. (BTW, many modern day "Georgists" have taken to calling themselves "geoists," which is a more descripive title and emphasizes that the philosophy is timeless and not tied to any one man. Thomas Paine in his essay "Agrarian Justice" espoused the same fundamental principles as George more than a century before George.) But I suggest that if we ever achieve a true state of anarchy the relevance of geoist ideas will manifest itself strongly and unavoidably. Moreover, I bet you $100 that if we took a poll of 1000 people and explained to them briefly the principles of geoism and also the principles of anarchism, that far more (perhaps even a majority) would find geoism appealing than would find anarchism appealing.

David Friedman: What do you think?

 
At 2:53 AM, February 02, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

John,

You wrote:
>You seem to revel in the notion that Georgism is some obscure anachronism that will never have any appeal to anybody.

I certainly do!

I also revel in the fact that the flat-earth theory is an obscure anachronism, and I hope the day will come when everyone recognizes “Creationism” to be an obscure anachronism. Indeed, I hope that the day will come when religion, government, Scientology, Freudianism, and a whole host of other things are viewed as obscure anachronisms (one can only hope!).

It’s sort of natural to oppose ideas that one opposes, you know.

You wrote:
>Moreover, I bet you $100 that if we took a poll of 1000 people and explained to them briefly the principles of geoism and also the principles of anarchism, that far more (perhaps even a majority) would find geoism appealing than would find anarchism appealing.

Perhaps. I’d guess that, if explained fairly, most people would see Georgism as simply the status quo with a slight, superficial change in the means of allocating the tax burden (whether the real incidence of taxation would change much is a separate story).

But, John, that was not my point. My point was that Georgism is not popular enough to give anarchists any reason at all to give up their own ideas and get on to the Georgist train.

There is no Georgist train. You offer nothing appealing to anarchists at all

Quite the contrary – you have given us a quite horrifying list of people who have sympathized with Georgism, and you have explained in detail how Georgism would lead to and perpetuate the state.

Anarchists have every reason, simply trusting in your own words, to view Georgism as a deep and profound evil, worth risking our lives to fight and destroy. Except – praise be to the Universe! – we don’t need to, because Georgism is insignificant and therefore no real threat at all.

You wrote:
>I realize that neither insurance rates nor presumably an anarchist protection agency's rates will be determined simply ad valorem. Nevertheless, full coverage on a $50k vehicle will generally cost you more than full coverage on a $20k vehicle. My point was simply that it's not so obvious that the private defense agency would cost less than the Georgist mutual protection society…

John, you are making an analytical error here, of the sort that would get you marked down severely on an economics (or physics) test. Your initial argument was that a Georgist agency would charge less because it was only counting land value and that other agencies would charge more because they were counting land and improvements.

You’re comparing apples and oranges. Suppose that one homeowners’ insurance company figures insurance based on home square footage and another on the home’s market price. The fact that a 2700 sq. ft. home might be worth $540,000 does not mean that the second insurance company would charge twenty times as much as the first! Market forces would compel the two companies to arrange their multipliers so that they ended up charging about the same actual price.

The same is true for a Georgist or a Friedmanite protection agency, as I explained in an earlier post. Since the Georgist agency is figuring on a smaller base (land only), they would need a bigger multiplier or they would just not get enough money to pay their costs and they would go out of business – an outcome to be welcomed, of course.

I’m sorry, but this is just Econ 101.

As to the Georgist agency pursuing a democratic procedure, I did not deny that you could do this. I just indicated that this is one more reason I will not make use of your services.

I hate democracy, although it does amuse me in a macabre way – watching elections is my favorite spectator sport.

Finally, you wrote:
>Neither the "homesteading" theory nor the "use and occupancy" theory are going to be very convincing for very long to "roving bands" of the dispossessed (who may themselves organize)…

Well, if “roving bands of the dispossessed” attempt to steal my land, I guess my protection agency will just have to get out the fully automatic weapons and mow the hoodlums down by the thousands. This honestly does not faze me, you know. One of the things I really love about the Ron Paul newsletter that started this thread is the praise it heaped on the Korean-Americans who shot or killed looters in the Rodney King riots.

I’m opposed to capital punishment once we have a criminal apprehended and safely under lock and key. But if we cannot easily apprehend him, I’m a “lock-and-load” kind of guy.

Frankly, I doubt that we will really face roving bands of the dispossessed: market economies tend to help everyone, quite dramatically, and market anarchy should do even better than the hobbled market economy we have now.

And, if we do have huge bands of desperadoes roaming the land, I very much doubt that they will be appeased by Georgism – if they are determined to expropriate the expropriators, I imagine they will be shooting for a bit more than just the Single Tax.

So, the only solution is “lock and load” and hope we can slaughter them before they slaughter us.

But there is no reason to think that it will come to that. Most humans are a bit more reasonable than you give them credit for.

Dave

 
At 2:56 AM, February 02, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

John,

I should of course have written “two hundred times as much,” not “twenty times as much” above.

The argument remains the same.

Dave

 
At 11:31 AM, February 02, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

Frankly, you're giving yourself too much credit if you think I've really cared about persuading you to "come over to my side." I really could care less. Judging by the insular way you carry yourself, I doubt that you influence many people now ideologically or that you would in an anarchist society, so it wouldn't be that important to get you "on my side" even if that was what I was trying to do. As I acknowledged above, this discussion really has just been an academic exercise. Frankly, I find Friedman to be far more reasonable than you. Not that I would take what he said as gospel either, but I regret that he hasn't really responded to my comments.

You seem to imagine fallaciously that if an anarchist society was acheived this would imply (as a condition for anarchy to come about in the first place) that most people in the society would be agreeing essentially with your Rothbardian anarcho-capitalist views. No, I don't think it's necessary or likely that this would be the case.

My "roving bands of the dispossessed" was intended not necessarily literally but primarily as a figure of speech to signify the very real uncertainty and insecurity that would attend putative land rights in a state of anarchy. Now we have government to tell us what people's land rights are. In a state of anarchy we would not. Geoism would provide a reasonable and just way to settle that uncertainty. The fact that it's relatively unknown now doesn't change that. I should have been more careful with my figures of speech, because I should have known by now that you are not overly concerned with responding to arguments in good faith, but that your primary concern is to denounce what you perceive as heretical deviances from the very narrow orthodoxy apparently instilled in you by Rockwell et al.

You've made it clear that you are a "boorish" kind of guy. I'd suggest, however, that your boorishness is making you far more irrelevant than you'd like to think. I find that I'm able to engage reasonably with a wide spectrum of people that care about both liberty and justice. My thoughts about things have changed with time. I wouldn't have described myself as an anarchist as little as one year ago. You no doubt will perceive in this circumstance ideological wishy-washiness. Fine. Truth, though, is bigger than your little Rothbardian cocoon.

By the way, did you read what Nock (who is probably the most well known representative among libertarians of the "Old Right") had to say about Henry George? I suppose you think he's an idiot too.

 
At 12:29 PM, February 02, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

P.S. As far as your point about insurance and the likely price of private defense agencies versus a Georgist mutual protection society: of course I recognize that the Georgist agency using the smaller base (land) would need a bigger multiplier to fund the same level of protection. My point was that this would tend to work out to the advantage of the downtown skyscraper owner but not so much to the advantage of the downtown parking lot owner. Both would be paying to the geoist mutual protection society the same amount, even though the skyscraper property is far more valuable than the parking lot property. Parking lot owners theoretically would get a better deal from a private defense agency, but here's the rub: if a majority of the people in the surrounding society don't really respect the parking lot owners putative right to his land ("Homesteading? Use and occupancy? Right to inheritance? What are those?"), the cost of defending his putative right will go way up, out of proportion to the value of his property. And it's not just poor peons who might want to put up a fruit stand on the parking lot that the parking lot owner and his defense agency would have to be concerned about. What about the wealthy and powerful developer who wants to make a better and more efficient use of the land on which the parking lot now sits? And it's likely that there would be popular support for the developer's plans vis-a-vis the parking lot owner as well, since it presumably would benefit the community, create jobs, etc.. You might say, well the developer should just pay the parking lot owner for the land. But if the land is valuable, that will be expensive (and developers are always interested in avoiding avoidable expense), and here's where the Georgist critique of land speculation would seem to have special appeal to developers and the wider society that would like to encourage development. (The owner of a downtown parking lot is typically engaged in land speculation and counting on the value of his land to go up with increasing population, etc..) Why should value that the community and not the parking lot owner has created go into the private hands of the parking lot owner / land speculator? The developer, assuming he's a member of the geoist mutual protection society, will still be paying for the value of the land or a portion thereof, but now he's paying it to the community to which it belongs (more precisely, the individual members of the community) rather than to the private "owner" (and again, there's much truth to the idea that "a landlord is a government"), and the community in turn will recognize in light of that payment the justice of his right to possession, and will contribute to the protection of that right. Again, if after he's developed the property most of the value is in the improvements rather than the underlying land, he'd likely be paying a very reasonable price for the amount of protection he'd be getting.

 
At 1:49 PM, February 02, 2008, Anonymous Zog said...

Most people are familiar with private property. So, given our current culture, it is likely that a threat "trespass and you will be shot" is believed, and a threat "pay us rent or we won't respect your property rights" isn't.

I could always make the counterproposal that instead of me paying you rent in exchange for your recognizing my property, you pay me rent in exchange for me recognizing yours. The obvious compromise solution is that neither of us pays tax, and we each just recognize the other's property.

 
At 3:06 PM, February 02, 2008, Anonymous nick said...

John Kindley:
It occurs to me that my "Georgist mutual protection society" really could be more voluntary than I've made it out to be...in a truly anarchist society, on what basis must those thus excluded respect that landowner's claim to exclusive ownership of that land? By what natural and self-evident right does he claim it?

Zog:
The other people ought to respect his claim to that land because he homesteaded it.

This sequence of argument commits a non sequitur of the kind which, alas, Rothbard committed quite often. The argument slips seemlessly from suggesting that a system "could" work to what people "must" do to what they "ought" to do as if these were logically equivalent phrases. In some abstract system of ethics one "ought" to respect the property rights of this unprotected landlord, but real-world incentives strongly suggest that in equilibrium other people often would not respect such unprotected rights.

This is why one needs economic analysis (of a kind that does not already assume enforceable property rights) and historical analogies to figure out what actually probably *will* happen, without fallaciously intermingling arguments that, as Kindley and Zog have done here and Rothboard often did, a system "could" work or people "must" do something simply because they "ought" to under anarcho-capitalist ethical principles.

 
At 3:24 PM, February 02, 2008, Anonymous nick said...

John Kindley:
I'd note also that your private defense agency (which is supposed to be like an insurance agency, right?) would presumably charge you based on the value of both the land and capital improvements you're asking them to protect, whereas the mutual protection society would only be "charging" you based on the value of the land

The propriety of initial acquisition is a red herring. The rational charge to protect various kinds of property would be based on the actual costs and benefits of protecting that property (assuming the security service is actually provided competitively and without extortion), not on ethical principles about whether initial acquisition had been proper or not. Capital improvements clearly increase the benefits of protection, and as more tempting targets probably also increase the costs of protection. Thus more would be charged for the protection of improved than of unimproved land.

 
At 3:48 PM, February 02, 2008, Anonymous nick said...

John Kindley:
Now we have government to tell us what people's land rights are. In a state of anarchy we would not.

Actually, property deeds (drafted by the grantor when property is transfered, and defining the basic characteristics of the property) and private title companies (services that check chains of deeds for historical integrity and against neighboring deeds for mutual consistency), not government agencies, usually play the dominant roles in the process of keeping track of property titles, boundaries, easements, covenants, etc. ICAAN, a non-governmental organization, handles property titles to domain names. The process of tracking property titles can even be reliably distributed so that no single third party need be trusted.

 
At 5:49 PM, February 02, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

Nick said... "Capital improvements clearly increase the benefits of protection, and as more tempting targets probably also increase the costs of protection. Thus more would be charged for the protection of improved than of unimproved land."

This is well said. In fact I was trying to say the same thing in an earlier comment, though I dare say you've said it more clearly. You could argue that a geoist society would deviate from what this suggests, because a member of a geoist mutual protection society who owned a parking lot occupying one city block of land would presumably be required to pay to the society the exact same amount as a member who owned a skyscraper occupying the adjacent city block of land. To my mind, however, this result would not be inconsistent with natural justice, because people are clearly entitled to the fruits of their labor (including improvements made to land), whereas the underlying value of land belongs to everyone in society equally. The justification for the mutual protection society retaining from the "single 'tax'" its costs of operation (which in essence amount to protection of land rights, for the landless as well as landlords, which necessarily implies protection of improvements made to land) before distributing any excess in the form of a citizen's dividend is that the value of the land would not be distributed to its proper recepients in the absence of those operations. Therefore, it would not be "just" to force people to pay more for protection of their right to possession of land (or rather "usufruct," to use the term used by Thomas Jefferson) just because they happen to have made improvements to their land.

On the other hand, I don't see where I've committed the fallacy of jumping from "ought" to "is" or "will happen" that you've attributed to me, zog, and Rothbard. On the contrary, I've tried to suggest (with admittedly unsophisticated economic tools), for example with my hypothetical of the developer who wants to make better use of a downtown parking lot alongside society's natural interest in encouraging development, that in a state of anarchy natural financial incentives might tend towards the very things I think justice supports.

 
At 6:23 PM, February 02, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

Note also that the overall amount of actual protection afforded by the geoist mutual protection would most likely be determined by an equal vote of the mutual protection society (because even though members are paying different amounts of the "single 'tax'" depending on the value of the land they hold -- and those holding no land are paying nothing, each is in theory contributing an equal share of the citizen's dividend to which they would otherwise be entitled to fund the operations of the protection society). I myself would prefer that such a society not fund local police forces, but instead concentrate on defending against major foreign and domestic threats (in other words, I'd prefer it confine itself to something analogous to an army -- or better yet an army reserve -- and to appellate adjudication for resolving disputes involving land rights that parties weren't able to resolve through arbitration). This would seem to leave plenty of room for parallel private defense agencies and mutual protection societies that could co-exist with the geoist mutual protection society. Indeed, owners of major capital would likely want to avail themselves of such supplementary protection if the geoist mutual protection society limited itself in the way I'd prefer. For my part, I'd want to see as much of the "single 'tax'" distributed in the form of a "citizen's dividend" as practically possible.

 
At 2:58 AM, February 03, 2008, Blogger PhysicistDave said...

John,

You win the endurance test.

I’m sure you’re entirely right when you write to me:
>Judging by the insular way you carry yourself, I doubt that you influence many people now ideologically

and also when you said that my
> primary concern is to denounce what you perceive as heretical deviances from the very narrow orthodoxy apparently instilled in you by Rockwell et al.

(There is the minor point that I held to that "orthodoxy" before I had ever heard of Lew Rockwell and also that my "orthodoxy” was significantly influenced by, and a wee bit similar to the views of, our host here , DDF…)

And I’m sure you’re quite correct when you helpfully inform me:
> I'd suggest, however, that your boorishness is making you far more irrelevant than you'd like to think.

Although, in truth, I do not think I am relevant at all, indeed I actively strive for a lack of contemporary relevance.

Most of all, John, I really admire your determination in never resorting to ad hominem attacks!

I’m also sure that you are absolutely right when you tell us of yourself:
>I find that I'm able to engage reasonably with a wide spectrum of people that care about both liberty and justice.

You are, indeed, quite the charmer.

All the best,

Dave

 
At 11:00 AM, February 03, 2008, Blogger John Kindley said...

All the best to you, too, Dave. Perhaps my comment to which you refer was a bit of an overreaction to yours, but I don't think my reaction was groundless. Overall, I've enjoyed the discussion. I agree with you about many things, and as I said many comments ago upthread, view you as a kindred spirit.

 
At 1:05 PM, February 06, 2008, Blogger Dr. T said...

My wife didn't want me to comment at all on the recent hubbub on race and genetics because she was afraid that someone at some point would use it against me, even though I would have in no way said anything racist in my post. That's where PC has gotten us. Turns out being a libertarian with a Ph.D in the humanities is enough to prevent one from getting a job anyway, regardless of whether or not you're PC.

 
At 1:04 PM, June 11, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kindley says :

(For your own edification google "Henry George." The man was a genius, and a true friend of liberty.)

Yeah,

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

actually comrade george was a third rate [i]politician[/i]

 
At 9:18 AM, January 22, 2009, Blogger 海賊王 said...

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