Saturday, April 02, 2016

My Response to a Non-Libertarian FAQ

A long time ago, a blogger I think highly of wrote a non-libertarian faq. When I came across it, some years later, I responded by email, he replied, I replied. I eventually got around to converting the exchange to a web page.

I recently came across a blog post which commented on the non-libertarian faq, remarked that he thought it was basically right but also that he would like to see my response. Since his blog does not permit comments or provide the author's email but he apparently reads my blog, I thought providing a link here would be the easiest way of showing it to him.

Others may also find it of interest.

Someone else wrote and webbed a much longer reply.


Eli said...

Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised a smart guy like Alexander would throw around the term "trickle-down economics" as if it's cogent. Goes to show that ignorance often trumps intelligence.

Daublin said...

It's a great train of posts.

I would welcome the people participating to focus on issues that are politically relevant in modern times. Stopping lake pollution is theoretically interesting, but does not seem to be something where the ideal libertarian solution, with best possible assumptions, would be much better than where we are now.

Several other areas seem better to focus on:
- Consumer protection, as is being discussed I see. I really don't buy that the government is playing a strong role on protecting consumers in practice. Note the movie ratings system as a positive example of a private initiative to give consumers what they want and protect them from what they don't.
- Efficiency regulations, e.g. CAFE and Energy Star. These strike me as transparently crony-ish.
- The Export-Import bank.
- Minimum compensation laws, including the minimum wage and the new mandated health insurance. These are very harmful and have no obvious upside to them.
- Discrimination law. These have been around a long time, and the effects do not look that great in practice. There's a powerful argument that in a market economy, non-discriminators will simply beat out the discriminators on a multi-decadal time scale.

Power Child said...

I liked the non-libertarian FAQ and found I agreed with much of it until I realized that "ze" wasn't a typo but a politically correct gender-neutral pronoun. Then I had to stop reading, because I'm a sexist chauvinist.

J Storrs Hall said...

Scott Alexander is quite glib and fairly smart... I've read him since you've pointed at his blog.
He is quite clearly an NF type (Myers Briggs) and thus susceptible to all the useful idiot traps
of the emo left.

Bear Nichols said...

I think one thing that is difficult to sort out is how long a regulation gets credit for either a rise or fall in accidents. For example, because automobile manufacturers are creating more and more technology designed to prevent user error, the number of accidents will presumably go down, unless users adjust their risk calculations. Because many people tend to think statically, they would look at some regulation as the causation and not the technological improvements. If we're honest, it could be both. An automobile manufacturer could try to stave off future regulation by inventing tech that prevents future accidents or the regulation itself caused the reduction in accidents. However, a much simpler explanation would be that they simply want to brand their products as the safest on the road for the price. Or perhaps it's a mix of all the above. What it shows is that the equation law X leads to result Y is not so simple at all. It is a naive view at best, since it is entirely possible that the industry lobbied for the law in the first place, knowing it would increase the costs of doing business.

Power Child said...

@J Storrs Hall:

Did Scott Alexander write that FAQ? I never noticed him using PC pronouns on his blog...

David Friedman said...

Power Child:

Same author, different name, and written a fair while back. I didn't name him in the post because he prefers not to make the connection to his real name easy to find, although anyone who wants to do a little research can probably manage, and doing it from the older pseudonym might be even easier.

Anonymous said...

Responding to a point in the FAQ, an anecdote.

In the 50's my uncle, returning from leave to his US Navy post, fell asleep while driving (after his passengers dozed off), and drifted off the road into a tree. As this was before collapsible steering wheels his chest was fatally crushed.

Arguably the steering wheel was a dagger, so that's been tried.

Power Child said...


Understood. So, did he become less PC over the years? I've been reading SSC for about a year now, maybe a little more, and I never noticed him using those weird gender-neutral pronouns.

chriscal12 said...

Scott is certainly on board with gender nuetral pronouns. His girlfriend identifies as gender-queer and prefers "they" or "zer" (though doesn't mind the term "girlfriend" as far as I can tell). On the other hand, Scott has been VERY critical of certain strains of the social justicey left. I don't think he's easy to classify as PC, or un-PC.

Joe said...

I'm fond of something I heard from you long ago, which says that the purpose of arguments is not to convince someone to your viewpoint, but to give them arguments that they later convince themselves with.

Was just reminded of it while reading Haidt's "The Righteous Mind". If you haven't discovered it yet, it is similar to "Thinking Fast and Slow". It tells us that nearly everyone bases their conclusion to moral (including political) questions on their initial gut reaction, and works out the justification for the conclusion afterwards, ad hoc, even if they have to go to an extreme length to justify it. Though, leaving them with a good argument, and forcing them to delay themselves before deciding their conclusion, can help change their mind.

To top it off, Scott Alexander linked to Scott Adams talking about Donald Trump being a wizard. And it seems really obvious that from reading this psychology stuff that Adams is right, that Trump and his advisors really do know what they are doing. I keep seeing links between the research and people who are good at being popular and charismatic.

I have no actual point to make, just finding it neat how one can go from reading about libertarianism to learning profound knowledge about how the average person thinks.

Steve Witham said...

The URL for the non-libertarian FAQ seems to be obsolete now. The last chronological copy on seems to be: here.

David Friedman said...

The non-libertarian FAQ has been reposted at: