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posted by David Friedman @ 9:16 PM
YES!!! you know for a libertarian u are keen to give stuff away!!! i am sorry to bring this up if this really annoys you by your dad charged for his stuff like lectures and stuff!!! like in iceland for example.
Thanks for doing this. It is an incredible resource for so many people.
Anonymous: Being a libertarian neither implies that one should nor that one shouldn't give stuff away. Sometimes I get paid for giving lectures, sometimes I give them for free, and similarly for other activities.
Interesting, though, that one popular perception of libertarians is that they're Ferengi-like, never doing anything for free and putting profit before all other concerns. (Maybe something to do with that one famous economist who popularized the saying "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch"?) It seems plausible that the Ferengi themselves are based on Gene Roddenberry's concept of libertarians.
i think star trek is a fine body of work but i think it does not comment on humans correctly in every episode. i think its take on profit and capitalism is not so good. but that is not to say that the rest of star trek doesnt have many many many things to teach us.
Right, I wasn't advocating for [what I allege to be] Roddenberry's view of libertarians as profit-worshiping, I just wanted to point out that this view seems fairly widespread. In pointing this out, I was inviting others to comment (especially David Friedman, whose father--one of the most prolific libertarians of all--popularized the saying "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."*) It would be interesting to hear whether others find this observation true, and even whether anyone has thought about addressing in some concerted way the image of libertarians as miserly, exploitative, and uncharitable.*My source for this is Wikipedia, so others are welcome to correct me on it.
PS. I may have been unclear: when I said "whether others find this observation true," the observation I was referring to was the one about many people having an image of libertarians as profit-worshiping--not the image itself, which I personally don't find to be accurate, but do find to be interesting.
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I never understood how it is possible that so many people misunderstand the line "there is no such thing as a free lunch". It does not mean that you should require (monetary or other) payment for everything you do, only that no thing is costless - always there is someone who bears the cost. There is a czech saying that means roughly the same and literally translated it goes like this:"Without work, there are no pies"("Bez práce nejsou koláče")Essentially, you cannot costlessly conjure anything out of thin air.But for some reason, a lot of people understand Milton Friedman's quote as "don't give anyting to anyone for free".Which sounds like something Ayn Rand might have said...
Well, it is rather profound to realize what goes into making things. You may consciously know, for example, that someone had to assemble your burger at McDonald's, but the typical person doesn't invest any mental energy into deciphering and adding up all the costs and then tracing them backwards, I, Pencil-style.Such profundity is beyond the average person's normal mental operating range, probably for good evolutionary reasons. The unfortunate side effect, however, is that Milton Friedman ends up looking like Damon Bok to a lot of people--and Milton Friedman was well above-average in his ability to convey libertarian principles clearly in a way most people could understand! Imagine how libertarians with only average skills in this regard must appear! (Not to imply that David Friedman is average, by the way.)
Milton Friedman wasn't really a libertarian. he did advocate for minimal welfare state and he was very pro government control of money, just as long as it was done in the way he advocated. and i think he said very little about foreign policy apart from advocating free trade. he was certainly extremely against any kind of natural rights based arguments for a liberal society, and i think if he could have been shown substantive arguments that communism could work effectively he might have even preferred it (i think he said something along the lines that communism sounds nice but the only workable system is free market). and i doubt he would have been too interested in real life implementations/pilot projects of anarcho-capitalist society.i think a more appropriate label would be classical liberal, or liberal conservative.
there must be extremely strong purity tests for libertarianism otherwise its no fun.
@anonymous:Regardless whether you think Milton Friedman was a libertarian--what the heck, even if he wasn't one--he did try to convey many of the principles that are the basis of libertarianism. My point was that it's interesting that even someone as eloquent and likeable as he was unable to prevent the formation of a popular view of libertarians as hunched profit-worshipers who rub their hands together and talk about how much they'd like to charge for everything.
Some questions this post and ensuing commentary makes me think of:-Is it inevitable that advocates of capitalism and voluntary exchange will be seen as greedy profiteers?-Is there another way to say "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" in a way the typical WalMart shopper would appreciate?-Why might giving stuff away (or not charging for lectures) be widely considered antithetical to libertarianism?
i am the original anonymous. i was just making fun with the original post!!! however, the peasants/plebs get a bit feisty when someone really rich begins to advocate libertarianism because people think the rich person just wants to keep his money to himself instead of sharing it. also the mob might be upset if during a natural disaster a person starts advocating charging money for things like ice and water.
Power Child:Well, the other way to say that is quite roundabound and not so catchy:"There is always someone who has to do the work in order to achieve anything for anyone". That czech saying is also close, but not quite as it mostly means "if you want to eat, you have to work"...which may not be true. You could convince someone that subsidizing you is a good idea. Or you could force him to subsidize you. But the "no such thing as a free lunch" holds even in this case.I think the view of libertarians as "greedy profiteers" stems from a couple of things. First is that a lot of people don't differentiate between libertarians (or classical liberals if you will) and objectivists, who in fact seem to be advocating just that (but I might be misunderstanding them). This is why I am not so sure whether Ayn Rand's contribution was really positive from the standpoint of libertarians (it obviously was from the standpoint of objectivists). Still larger problem comes from the way most people view markets. They see it as a struggle, a zero-sum game. That is natural enough - most of the time throughout the history of man, most interactions actually were a zero-sum game. The only way to make yourself (or your tribe) richer was to fight and win over the other guys. Trade is not "natural" in this sence, but is often understood as such. And the macho rhetorics of some company managers about crushing competition and generally war metaphors in business don't help that either.I think this is in fact a reason a lot of people who are otherwise very "libertarian" (in a broad sense of the word) reject free trade. George Orwell said that "the problem of competition is that someone has to win it at the end". Thus his objection against capitalism was not radical egalitarian (which actually is at odds with free capitalism, although I would say that a moderate egalitarian who not only cares about relative but also about absolute welfare should still prefer it to the alternatives as long as he agrees on the economics), it was just a misunderstanding about how the (free) competition on the (free) market works. If you see the free market as a zero-sum game, then it is easy and natural to see its proponents as "greedy profiteers", it is natural to see giving things away for free as antithetical to being a "greedy profiteer"...and to misunderstand a quote such as the one about the free lunch if you think its author is such a greedy profiteer.There is a quite funny comic strip on smbc about how quotes change their meaning based on who is, or more generally how you perceive, the author:http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3136#comic
actually you should look at socialism by mises and Bryan Caplan's book on the myth rational voter.
@Tibor Mach:This is interesting, because I get a slightly different flavor from the "free lunch" quote. In my interpretation, the "no such thing as free" part applies to the party getting the free lunch (he still must invest some time to go to the lunch counter, and he may have to withstand some pressure from the bartender who tries to get him to buy a drink), whereas in yours it applies to the party providing the free lunch (the establishment must risk the cost of providing the lunches just to get people in the door).Of course, I already understand both interpretations and you probably do too, but it's interesting that we apparently don't default to the same one.
A few points:"and he was very pro government control of money"I don't think so--can you point to somewhere that supports that? I would have said that he observed that money was produced by government and had opinions about how it should be done.I once pointed out to him that a competitive market for privately issued money would, at least in first approximation, produce the behavior of the money supply that he argued was optimal in his "The Optimal Quantity of Money" essay, and he didn't disagree.So far as "There is no free lunch," there problems with that as a claim--one might argue that consumer surplus and producer surplus qualify as free lunches. He later amended it to "Always look a gift horse in the mouth."
I think the point of the Orwell quote, in context, was that he thought competition led to monopoly.So far as Rand, it's worth noting that she chose to subsidize the schooling of a female relative. It's pretty clear from her published letters that she thought it was proper for her to choose to do so but would be improper for the relative to claim that Rand was obliged to help her.
David: About Orwell: Yeah, I guess I've kind of mixed that with another "way people misunderstand economics". One idea is that "competition leads to monopoles" and another is that "an economy is a zero-sum game". But the point holds - I believe that a reason that so many people are so much hostile to libertarians is that they misunderstand crucial points in economics. That is not to say that all libertarians understand economics perfectly (although some might feel that way even if they don't) or that all economists are libertarians. But that people who understand that are likely to be, if not quite libertarian, then at least more friendly to its ideas...perhaps even for very different than the usual libertarian reasons (such as my example of a "reasonable egalitarian").I should add that I don't consider myself to be knowledgeable about economics, at least not yet. But the economical arguments for libertarianism I have heard seemed far more clear and far more presuasive than the very hazy world of moral philosophy. On the other hand, I am, probably, in the minority among libertarians as for most the moral philosophy, NAP and so on seem to be paramount. My biased opinion is that it is because it is easier to embrace a simple principle such as "we should always minimize coercion" (even though it has many problems once you think about it a little bit) than to understand more complex ideas of economics. But as I said, maybe that is just my bias.about the free lunch quote:what do the terms consumer and producer surplus mean? If it is in the Price theory book, simply tell me it is there, I will get to the relevant chapter eventually (I'm reading it in my spare time) :)about Ayn Rand:This is interesting. Maybe the problem then is not with Rand herself, but the way she gets interpreted even by quite a lot of objectivists. My way of seeing her may be influenced by that. So maybe I am doing the same mistake as some other people make when they label libertarians as "greedy profiteers"...based on rather superficial knowledge and sometimes even outright misinformation.
by the way my uni econ library (which isnt that good and isnt that big) actually has MORE DAVID Friedman books in it than MILTON Friedman books in it...
Anonymous who saidMilton Friedman wasn't really a libertarian. he did advocate for minimal welfare state and he was very pro government control of money, just as long as it was done in the way he advocated. and i think he said very little about foreign policy apart from advocating free trade. I will never understand why these claims are so popular among libertarians. I'll quote from an interview:Milton Friedman: I've always been in favor of abolishing the Federal Reserve and substituting a machine program that would keep the quantity of money going up at a steady rate.same interview, he later elaborates:Milton Friedman:But that's why what you want—if possible—is a mechanical system. If there was any virtue to the gold standard, it was that virtue. Maybe you could create the same thing now. My favorite proposal really is a little bit more sophisticated—or less sophisticated if you want to look at it that way—than a straight increase in the quantity of money. I would—if I had my choice—freeze the amount of high-powered money. Not increase it....High-powered money is the currency plus bank reserves....I would freeze that and hold it constant and have it as sort of a natural constant like gravity or something. Now, you would think that that's a bad idea because there would be no provision for expansion; however, high-powered money is a small fraction of total money and the ratio of total money to high-powered money has been going up over time. So the economy would create more money and on average, you would have a pretty stable money growth and a pretty stable monetary system....No, I don't think it'll happen unless there is another catastrophe like the Great Depression. But other than that, it's not going to happen. I think the real danger of this [the current monetary system] breaking down is there's no danger of it breaking down into a Great Depression. The real danger is it'll break up into an inflation....When I see in the Federal Reserve reports that the inflation anticipation for 10, 20 years is on the order of 2 percent a year, I find it very hard to believe it. Sooner or later, the government's going to get out of hand.Source:http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2006/Friedmantranscript.htmlPossibly got carried away there. In other words, he wants the monetary base to be constant. Expansion of the money supply would occur via deposits and such. Where's the government control?
yeah, this exactly highlights what i've said. Friedman wanted a government backed monetary system (the legal tender is USD and its enforced by government thugs) but how it was to be run was Friedman's interest. he wanted a rules based FED where the rule was absolutely stable growth of money, a kind of extreme Taylor rule which didnt take into account unemployment, growth or inflation. but he did not advocate free banking or anything of that kind. thus not a libertarian. a classical liberal maybe...
@Anonymous of 4:09 AM, October 23:I don't know if you're the same Anonymous who said "there must be extremely strong purity tests for libertarianism otherwise its no fun," but if simply not advocating free banking is a disqualifier, then only people with select opinions on that complicated and rather esoteric subject could be eligible as libertarians in the first place.It seems to me the litmus test for libertarianism can be fairly rigorous without requiring specialized knowledge. Also, for libertarianism's own good--and by its own logic--it's probably a good thing to allow room for significant disagreement.
" for libertarianism's own good--and by its own logic--it's probably a good thing to allow room for significant disagreement." maybe, but that's no fun at all."only people with select opinions on that complicated and rather esoteric subject could be eligible as libertarians in the first place." yes indeed. the monetary system is VERY crucial for a free society. because it is so crucial you cannot have serious arguments about how a liberal society make look like if you do not know monetary economics to at least MSc level. its like being a science fiction writer without any engineering or science background and then arguing about serious aero-space engineering issues. "It seems to me the litmus test for libertarianism can be fairly rigorous without requiring specialized knowledge." strongly disagree. people who do not hold at least an MSc in mathematical economics have no input to make on arguments about the economy and economics, and libertarianism always comes down to economics questions. i am afraid a bachelor's level intro to economics module does not cut it for me.
"Friedman wanted a government backed monetary system"I don't think that follows from the quotes. He was discussing how a system where money was created by government should function. Neither the question of legal tender laws nor the choice between government issue and free banking is mentioned.
"Friedman wanted a government backed monetary system"yes we ought not to put words into someone's mouth especially when they unfortunately cannot answer back. but that was the impression i got from Friedman's academic writings, at least the stuff i studied in MSc level monetary...
Anonymous: Would you say that in order to be a libertarian one must hold a degree (or have knowledge of it equivalent to someone who does) in economics? Quite a few prominent libertarians would not qualify. George Smith, Wendy McElroy, Roderick Long are ones that come to my mind. Tibor Machan probably as well (but I don't know his work very much...I once skyped with him by accident which was quite funny since initially I thought he was a spam bot, his name looked suspicious to me for obvious reasons...anyway, he is a moral philosopher as far as I know).But perhaps I misunderstood you.Also, why does having a certain set of opinions that can be best described as libertarian have to be fun? It's not like it is a club (like freemasons :) ) or anything.
@Tibor Mach"why does having a certain set of opinions that can be best described as libertarian have to be fun?" well its always fun to argue and have a bit of drama. i think the biggest cause of such drama in today's libertarian circles are purity tests because they are so easily used to highlight differing opinions."Would you say that in order to be a libertarian one must hold a degree ... in economics?" i do think so and here is why: all questions in libertarianism eventually face consequentialist arguments, even natural-rights based arguments at their heart are consequetialist. consequentialist argument is one which show how policies will actually play out instead of simply stating the designed outcome. to really understand such arguments and to contribute to them on behalf of libertarianism one simply must know modern developments in economics and the mathematics which goes along with them. some of these developments are modern Decision Theory (rationality research, ambiguity aversion, prospect theory etc.), Behavioural Economics, modern Stochastic Differential General Equilibrium theory, stochastic finance, mechanism design, econometrics. often i listen to libertarians, in particular the "austrians", lamenting how modern economics does not understand some topic, but in actual fact it is that they simply have not read any serious academic economic paper published in the last 60 years. for example they often strawman modern economics and say that modern economics thinks of perfect competition as homogeneous firms producing homogeneous goods in a static market. but that is not at all how modern economics views competition, there are thousands of papers which explore dynamics of industrial organisation with plethora of different assumptions. i mean these "austrians" probably don't even know what a Bayesian equilibrium is. how can they criticise modern economics if they dont know it...
all questions in libertarianism eventually face consequentialist arguments, even natural-rights based arguments at their heart are consequetialist. [...]to really understand such arguments and to contribute to them on behalf of libertarianism one simply must know modern developments in economics and the mathematics which goes along with them.There are plenty of issues people can discuss and argue about from a libertarian perspective (or in my case, from a formerly libertarian perspective!) which do not require more than a fundamental understanding of basic economic concepts. The war on drugs is one example. Other examples can be found in comments to posts on this very blog.
i dont agree with that at all. to argue about the drug war you have to construct a counter factual about what the world with legalised drugs might looks like. you have to answer questions such as how the prices might change from now, what is the elasticity of demand, i.e. how many people would go out and buy drugs because they are legal, how much the drug war is currently actually costing (not at all a simple question, especially when talking about costs in terms of opportunity costs). i certainly would not even listen to a person on this topic unless they at least know basic OLS.
I think that puts you in the minority, then. I've seen people with economics degrees say things about the war on drugs that are patently false. I know from personal experience that the answers to many of the questions you listed can be estimated pretty well by looking at history, by looking at comparable problems or situations, by finding a medium between two extreme answers, or by simply referring to already-available data, which does not require a bachelor's degree in econ to interpret rationally.By the way, why stop at a bachelor's degree in economics? Why not a master's or doctorate? And shouldn't those degrees only be from certain top tier schools?Why stop there either? After all, not all who hold doctorates in economics, even from top tier schools, have an equal understanding of the subject. How about only econ professors with doctorates from Harvard and who teach at Oxford? Or only such econ professors who have also won Nobel prizes? Or only these Nobel laureates who are over 65 years old and have an IQ over 160?By the end, you can't really have a debate with anyone, least of all someone who's never taken a class for credit in economics.
i dont stop at bachelor, i think one needs at least an MSc in suitably hard-core mathematical economics program. i dont listen to bachelor econ people.
Why stop at MSc? Don't they just basically give out MScs in cracker jack boxes these days? Why are your standards so low? If I were you I wouldn't listen to (or argue with) anyone.
because a suitably rigorous MSc program is enough to familiarise the student with the latest economics without requiring him or her to do research, which is what PhD is about. an MSc in europe is very different from a masters in USA
See, you mention a "suitably rigorous" MSc program, but you don't specify which ones meet this requirement. I offer that none are rigorous enough.Furthermore, I disagree with the premise that we can stop at MScs at all. Research is essential to a deep understanding of new, possibly experimental concepts in economics and how they are applied--of which the relevance to libertarianism is obvious. Therefore only people with doctorates in economics--nay, multiple doctorates!--are eligible to even be considered as libertarians. But in fact that does not go far enough either, since many of those multiple-doctorate-Nobel-Laureate-economists are just hacks anyway.There is only one libertarian, and he is a hypothetical being named Urff who is understood by no mortal soul.So, you should discount anything said by anyone, including yourself, and just not have any arguments or even think about libertarianism ever again.
some such MSc programs include Bonn, Toulouse, LSE, Mannheim, Free University Berlin. i would know because i gotten mine from one of those.
How can you claim any of those two-bit Mickey Mouse programs are rigorous enough to facilitate an understanding macroeconomics worthy of arguing for libertarianism, since making such arguments clearly requires much more advanced expertise than what is provided therein?An MSc from any of those "schools" is hardly worth the paper it's printed on, and I don't see any reason why I should be impressed with it. I am fully confident that Urff would laugh at what the graduates of these programs dare to call their "knowledge" of economics.The bar must be set higher, or else you really can't trust any argument for libertarianism--or anything else--at all.It is as I said: no mortal human can be trusted to argue for libertarianism, because no mortal human is capable of attaining the requisite wisdom and profound understanding and then receiving the golden-glowing paper document which certifies he has attained it. Your puny and meager credentials--if you can even call them that with a straight face--are an insult to the hypothetical libertarian Urff, and by extension to libertarianism itself.By the way, I am honestly not trying to troll you, I am merely taking your own reasoning to its logical conclusion.
those programs are not mickey mouse.to put it simply how can you have an opinion on the economy without knowing the basics of a dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model? how on earth can you expect to argue against Krugman if you don't know what he is actually talking about? how are you going to argue against Cass Sunstein without having read all the relevant decision theory and behavioural econ papers???the point is that all the economics questions and "doubts" a layman has the economics profession has seen and thought about a great deal already, and went far beyond the layman. before you can critic economic arguments or modern economics itself you have to know it.
Anonymous:I partially agree with you about your view of (some) "austrians". But you yourself called them libertarians, didn't you? I think you are confusing holding certain opinions with holding certain opinions and having very solid arguments why you do so. I would even say most libertarians care more about moral philosophy than about economics (I too don't think it is very fortunate, I'm not a big fan of moral philosophy as it is very hazy...which does not mean I am a nihilist, just that I don't think you can make a solid theory and arguments that are convincing -to people who actually are not convinced already- based on that).I think your criterion about who can be considered a libertarian is similar as if you only considered people who have 5 platinum albums to be musicians (alternatively, only people who graduated at the Berklee college of music or something like that).
@Anonymous:To make your point consistent, you would also have to argue that nobody ought to be eligible to argue for or against any political viewpoint without first having an advanced degree in economics.If you can't be a libertarian or a liberal or a conservative or a monetarist or an anarchist or a populist without an advanced degree in econ, why would a Krugman, a Sunstein, or a Friedman bother writing anything for non-economists to read and respond to? Why give talks to the general public after which they field questions from the audience?Also, if I'm not allowed to agree or disagree with an economist unless I perfectly understand everything he may say or write about, then what is the purpose of his specialization?In fact, what's the purpose of any specialization at that point? I can't decide when to water my plants because I'm not a botanist. I can't decide whether to add more pepper to my marinara sauce because I'm not a chef. And you must not be allowed to write any more, because you're not a linguist or a seminologist.
David Friedman wants to privitise stuff http://youtu.be/S4CcannofnYBUT WHO WILL BUILD THE ROADS???
@David Friedman. Could you comment on Hans-Hermann Hoppe? is he really a racist?
I don't know if Hoppe is a racist, and am generally skeptical of charges of that sort, since "racist" can mean anything from "hates members of other races" to "has different opinions about differences among racial groups than I do."For my view of the more important question of whether Hoppe has good arguments for his general position, see:http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Libertarian/On_Hoppe.html
ThrockmortonDIRECTION OF THE THREAD: I strongly suspect someone is being playful here.TANSTAAFL/THERE AIN'T NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCHI did not know Milton F. had a book by that name but I knew that Heinlein made a big deal of it.Someone asked if there is another way to say it. This might come close...The Japanese have a saying "There's nothing more expensive than free" which seems to mean two things: "free things come with strings attached," or "free things are shoddy."Throckmorton
Very neat, David, thanks.
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