NemoUtopia on May 09, 2010, 01:45:12 pm
Libertarianism ... it's an idealized system ... other idealized systems (see ... Communism and ... Fascism).
I don't know what you mean by this.  I can think of several possible meanings of "idealized system", some that might apply to libertarianism and some others that might apply to communism and fascism, but none (other than an uninteresting linguistic meaning) that might apply to all of them.

If you think the term is useful, please explain.

'Idealized' in the sense that is based on an ideal of human behavior, and even the best human doesn't always live up to their own ideals.  As you state below, Communism's problem is leader-centric because it relies on an ideal leader. Libertarianism relies on ideal people, but one of the reasons I prefer it to other pure-ideals is that it does somewhat account for real human behavior. Communism doesn't.



Quote
the same problems with (surprise!) Communism and other systems: the bad apples

You use "bad apples" to mean any people who (for whatever reason) disagree with the "system" they live under.  If a large enough fraction of the people disagree with the system then it will change.  This is true for any system, not just libertarianism.

However, most people would use "bad apples" in this context to mean a small fraction of people who (for whatever reason) clearly harm those they interact with--criminals and such.  Under most political systems, bad apples can obtain political power (or work with those who have political power) and greatly increase their opportunity to do harm.  Libertarianism tends to minimize the harm that may be done by bad apples (in this sense).

The fundamental problem with communism (and similar systems such as fascism) is not bad apples.  Even assuming that it is possible to keep Hilters and Maos from obtaining power, those systems inherently lead to conflict, waste, stagnation, and misery.


You've misread or misinterpreted. My 'bad apples' isn't about those who disagree with the system, it's about those who use interpersonal coercion and/or believe it is the best way to handle personal interaction for immediate personal benefit. Put simply: bullies, thugs, what people generally think of as 'violent criminals' although crime barons and other sociopathic behavior falls under this. As you state, this is always a problem in human society, which is why it's a problem with all systems of human governance that are based on any form of ideal behavior. Usually I'm inclined to avoid accusations of not reading what I typed, but since you then segue into a defense of Libertarianism (which my post is a theoretical SUPPORT of) and to make the same arguments against Communism implied in my post, I find myself making an exception. The core problems with communism are actual two-fold: it requires the perfect leader, and it requires human behavior based on working as though incentivized by Captialism for the benefit of others. Even the most enlightened self-interest folk aren't inclined to give it ALL away. You also clearly have no concept of true fascism, which is based primely on national pride and identity, turning the nation into one giant corporation with the means to defend itself by willingess to use force. The primary problem with fascism is the heavy military/violence focus, inherent problems with corporate structure (nepotism, department conflict, poor resource allocation), and lack of expression at the individual level.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2010, 02:06:56 pm by NemoUtopia »

Brugle on May 09, 2010, 02:02:34 pm
Libertarianism relies on ideal people,
On the contrary.  Libertarianism does not give power to rulers, because (among other reasons) rulers (and those who select rulers) are not ideal people, and giving people power does not make them ideal people.

Most people would agree that everyone is (to some extent) ignorant, irrational, short-sighted, forgetful, biased, and imperfect in other ways, and that some people are malevolent, fanatic, power-hungry, insane, and harmful in other ways.  There is nothing in libertarianism that assumes otherwise.  What most people want is to take advantage of the strengths of other people and avoid harm done by the worst people.  As far as we can tell, we can best accomplish that by being free to interact for mutual benefit, which is one reason to be a libertarian.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2010, 02:11:26 pm by Brugle »

NemoUtopia on May 09, 2010, 02:15:12 pm
Libertarianism relies on ideal people,
On the contrary.  Libertarianism does not give power to rulers, because (among other reasons) rulers (and those who select rulers) are not ideal people, and giving people power does not make them ideal people.

Libertarianism assumes that everyone is (to some extent) ignorant, irrational, short-sighted, forgetful, biased, and imperfect in other ways, and that some people are malevolent, fanatic, power-hungry, insane, and harmful in other ways.  What we want is to take advantage of the strengths of most people and avoid harm done by the worst people.  As far as we can tell, we can best accomplish that by being free to interact for mutual benefit.


I respectfully disagree, because Libertarianism assumes that the malevolent, fanatic, power-hungry, insane, and otherwise harmful people and behavior are essentially an insignificant minority compared to mostly reasonable, average people. One of the reasons I support Libertariansim for the most part is that it DOES account for this kind of human behavior, and the short-sighted and imperfect average person. Consider, however, why frontier and clan states have failed in the past. People have consciously moved to State systems. Libertarian societies in the real world have not been taken over by conquest from outside (although some of been simply eliminated by war), but were conquered from inside. So again: my personal philosophy and the above stated don't even come into effect, because the focus is on preventing this internal shift. I think it's been pretty clearly shown that degenerative anarchy is not the norm, after all.

Brugle on May 09, 2010, 03:39:24 pm
Libertarianism relies on ideal people,
On the contrary.  Libertarianism does not give power to rulers, because (among other reasons) rulers (and those who select rulers) are not ideal people, and giving people power does not make them ideal people.

Libertarianism assumes that everyone is (to some extent) ignorant, irrational, short-sighted, forgetful, biased, and imperfect in other ways, and that some people are malevolent, fanatic, power-hungry, insane, and harmful in other ways.  What we want is to take advantage of the strengths of most people and avoid harm done by the worst people.  As far as we can tell, we can best accomplish that by being free to interact for mutual benefit.


I respectfully disagree, because Libertarianism assumes that the malevolent, fanatic, power-hungry, insane, and otherwise harmful people and behavior are essentially an insignificant minority compared to mostly reasonable, average people. One of the reasons I support Libertariansim for the most part is that it DOES account for this kind of human behavior, and the short-sighted and imperfect average person. Consider, however, why frontier and clan states have failed in the past. People have consciously moved to State systems. Libertarian societies in the real world have not been taken over by conquest from outside (although some of been simply eliminated by war), but were conquered from inside. So again: my personal philosophy and the above stated don't even come into effect, because the focus is on preventing this internal shift. I think it's been pretty clearly shown that degenerative anarchy is not the norm, after all.

I was of the impression that Ireland was fairly libertarian for many hundreds of years until it was conquered by the English,  but I could be wrong.  Also, I would hesitate to say that a frontier society is conquered from the inside, if it accepts rule by a state when the only other option is being conquered (or eliminated) by that state from the outside.   But I don't want to argue definitions.  Thanks for the explanations.

Even if we accept your assertion that all more-or-less free societies have degenerated into statism, why think that that will always occur?  Chattel slavery abolitionism was once less popular than libertarianism is today, but eventually it came to be accepted by most people.  I hope that voluntary cooperation will one day be similarly accepted.

NemoUtopia on May 09, 2010, 04:29:29 pm
Even if we accept your assertion that all more-or-less free societies have degenerated into statism, why think that that will always occur?  Chattel slavery abolitionism was once less popular than libertarianism is today, but eventually it came to be accepted by most people.  I hope that voluntary cooperation will one day be similarly accepted.

Actually, I'm with you on this one, and your point about Ireland is well taken. I think a large part of fall-to-statism situtations is a misinformed public, and the idea that life as a state is somehow more secure or would provide a better standard/situation of living. Another factor is probably a nearby, expanding state of force. This is the big conundrum of the West, for me...I would be lying to say I have a real idea of how much was inevitable takeover and how much was expectations of statehood and inclusion in Washington's governance. After all, the families moving West were probably very mixed in terms of those moving to escape old life, those going to make way for the nation, and those who didn't have strong guiding thoughts either way but just held hope for a better life.

A lot of this has nothing to do with political theory but just human nature and facts of life, especially in terms of cultural norms and the idea of what a better life was. If your idea of 'perfect living' is living like a noble or wealthy merchant in Britain as a member of high society, you have probably [been indoctrinated/brain-washed/internalized-your-culture and] not given much thought to how such living affects others. From the American life perspective, the Old Country (not strictly Britain) always holds a certain refinement and mystique. Victorian ideals of nobility and the idea of 'classy British' has been a staple in the culture...which I still find immensely confusing, all things considered. I think one of the keys is breaking these ideas...I don't give much credence to full blown educational conspiracy theories, but it's impossible to deny the values that modern education instills or the notions it reinforces.

So I hate to say 'spread the word', but...information. I suspect that Libertarian ideas will at the very least be a strong influence on future societies that place an emphasis on real education. So...really, I wouldn't say that statism is the inevitable state of being governed by a State is inevitable for any society, only that history has a lot to teach us about what has and hasn't worked before. Unfortunately, a highly armed and motivated super-power seems to be a common theme.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2010, 04:33:31 pm by NemoUtopia »

terry_freeman on May 10, 2010, 01:11:55 am
The Amish society can fairly be described as about as libertarian as one can get within the borders of the United Socialist States of America. The Amish do not extort from others; they do their utmost to avoid entanglements with the State. They are, as far as I know, exempt from Social Security taxes for religious reasons. They provide for their own. They educate their own children. Much is made in some circles of this education being "only" to the 8th grade or so, but their 8th grade education is superior to the high school education of most government-educated students.

The Amish live a simple life, free of much of modern technology, but they are not primitive by any means. I was fascinated by some of the technology used by the Amish. In Lancaster, PA, I saw a variety of ingenious mechanical contrivances; many tools driven by compressed air; fans driven by compressed air; wind-driven pumps, using wires to transmit kinetic energy hundreds of yards. Amish carriages have hydraulic brakes.

They also have an interesting custom. When a child reaches a certain age - sixteen or so, I think - they have what are called "running-around years." The young adults throw off the Amish strictures, and do whatever they please - wear "English" clothing, drive automobiles, ride bicycles, fly airplanes, whatever they wish. When they choose to formally join the Amish congregation as adults, they put aside these pursuits and voluntarily conform to Amish norms. I am told that about 80% of Amish, after a few years of living as they please, choose to formally join the Amish and conform to their norms.

I'm not advocating the Amish ways - two items of technology I'd really miss would be the computer and the bicycle - and I cannot see myself adhering to the pacifist ways of the Amish; self-defense does seem to be an appropriate use of force.

However, it must be admitted that the Amish have managed to live a very libertarian lifestyle for hundreds of years, so it can be done. If the State were not so meddlesome, they'd live an even more libertarian life; they appear to have no interest in using the State to benefit themselves.

There are other tightly knit communities which do not abjure technology, but are similar to the Amish in that they do not rely upon the State for dispute resolution, nor education, nor a "safety net." Certain Jewish sects come to mind; their beliefs prevent them from turning to the State courts for dispute resolution. These communities also have persisted for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.

It is a mistake to think that a libertarian society must live physically apart from a State. Such societies can and do exist within the "borders" demarcated by the State. What is a black market, if not a working example of libertarian ideas functioning outside of the State? In some countries, if it were not for the black market, nothing would get done.


 

quadibloc on May 13, 2010, 09:44:31 am
It is a mistake to think that a libertarian society must live physically apart from a State. Such societies can and do exist within the "borders" demarcated by the State. What is a black market, if not a working example of libertarian ideas functioning outside of the State? In some countries, if it were not for the black market, nothing would get done.
This may well be true, but the discussion you seem to be criticizing is neglecting this case for a reason: the point at issue is whether or not a libertarian society can successfully carry out all the functions of a State, not whether it can exist as what might be categorized as a parasite on a State.

Brugle on May 13, 2010, 11:08:25 am
the point at issue is whether or not a libertarian society can successfully carry out all the functions of a State,
There is only one function of a state: to enable one group of people (the politically powerful) to live at the expense of the populace.  If you interpret that function strictly, a libertarian society cannot carry it out, since there wouldn't be any politically powerful people.  But I'd expect that there would be criminals (although probably many fewer than in a statist society), some of them successful, so if you interpret the state's function a little more broadly then a libertarian society could carry it out.

States often do other stuff, sometimes even useful stuff, but there's no reason to think of that stuff as "functions of a state".

sams on May 13, 2010, 12:01:10 pm
the point at issue is whether or not a libertarian society can successfully carry out all the functions of a State,
There is only one function of a state: to enable one group of people (the politically powerful) to live at the expense of the populace.  If you interpret that function strictly, a libertarian society cannot carry it out, since there wouldn't be any politically powerful people.  But I'd expect that there would be criminals (although probably many fewer than in a statist society), some of them successful, so if you interpret the state's function a little more broadly then a libertarian society could carry it out.

States often do other stuff, sometimes even useful stuff, but there's no reason to think of that stuff as "functions of a state".


Do you really believe that you can have good education, roads and television without a State ? I can't imagine a world Without the BBC !

Only the BBC can do a documentary saying at the beginning : ''Classical Liberals were right, socialism sucks'', then at the end : ''Classical Liberal sucks, because we are all socialists now'' .... and who will tax me for watching this high quality channel without a state ? who will collect the much needed Licence TV tax ? we need a state for this !

NemoUtopia on May 13, 2010, 01:08:41 pm
Actually, Terry's point is a very good one, and I wouldn't classify such existance as parasitic since they only utilize portions of the state provided for all regardless of citizenship, as in the case of US roads. Their seperate property ownership and choice to not utilize societal tools means they aren't leeching resources without paying taxes, but are instead more of a Libertarian enclave, similar in many respects to a legally defined Reservation or an Embassy.

At first, I had a lot of trouble coming to terms with certain issues NOT being 'functions of the state' because of a life consisting of military-brat leading into middle-class American existence. Things like roads, for instance, are the sorts of thing it took me a long time to see a solution other than the one America has implemented for the national highway system. It just seemed intuitive that such a literal public resource would be funded from a public pot. For this example, there are quite a few ways to look at it. The least desirable is obviously that those needing the road build it on their own and then others freely use it, which conventional thinking presented as the only other solution.

One of the most important things here is the conept of barter instead of simple currency exchange. Consider, for example, the following family system (which I've seen in action): there is a chore schedule with a pay-out for the child doing the chore, and privileges such as T.V. time are paid for or the child can keep the money to do with as they please (save up for clothes, buy candy or soda). This system makes sense, but if anything it's very easy and simple to cut currency out of the equation like when I was growing up. Instead of itemized tasks, the child's willingness and promptness for chores were literally day-by-day barter for other things. ('You've been lazy and grumpy, no T.V. tonight' vs 'You were very helpful today, you can have a candy-bar for desert and extra T.V. time').

The differences may seem cosmetic, but they are really profound. I have no trouble envisioning a 'modern West' with today's technology setting up a system of road maintenance related directly to labor time...in fact, it sounds suspiciously Amish. You use it, you either do upkeep or you pay someone to do it for you. There could actually be a community pot that is voluntary but carries certain expectations of people. Some peple do, others pay someone to do for them, and everything from roads to the town park to a sewer system and electric grid (assuming you're not using per-bulding generators or something) are able to exist. One person might devote their entire expectation to a single aspect [say, the park] or divide their time between multiple community projects [fixing the lights half the time, maintaining the roads one sixth of the time, and helping at the park one third of the time] as a simplistic equation. Even I don't think people are fundamentally so lazy as to allow degeneration of these kinds of things. Then you have the privitization options of entrepeneurs who think they can maintain such things more cheaply, and the people either choose to use such a group or maintain their own. For a somewhat humorous and slightly skewed look at such a system, read Buck Godot by Phil Foglio and look at the New Hong Kong system of taxation.

As another example, American television and British television are fundamentally different not so much because of level of government involvment as how the government meddles. Britain publicly funds television, while America regulates television (through a very conservative group) and maintains the right to fine the companies for breaking regulation. There is money in news and entertainment, and if the technology exists people will use it!  Using a fairly literal pay-per-view/access model, people can fund what they consider entertainment and good news while overly offensive or timid programming goes out of business. This isn't to say that such systems won't have their own problems and free-rider attempts (much like the current ones), but that such systems can feasibly exist.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2010, 01:15:47 pm by NemoUtopia »

terry_freeman on May 13, 2010, 01:21:10 pm
It is the State which is parasitic upon libertarian societies, not the other way around. Small-l libertarianism is our default choice; it is what we do when nobody is using force to restrict our free, voluntary actions. Voluntary exchanges happen when both parties benefit; otherwise, why bother trading? Because both parties benefit, each voluntary exchange increases total value, even though we cannot possibly create a metric to measure total value as an aggregate. This is based upon the Pareto principle of optimality - each party gains, no party loses.

The State, on the other hand, rests upon involuntary transactions. Come April 15th, the State does not permit me to decide whether to fund X dollars of murder and mayhem, Y dollars of kidnappings, and Z dollars of propaganda; it simply declares that my bill is such-and-such, and if I don't pay, the State will seize it by force, or even throw me in jail.

NemoUtopia on May 13, 2010, 04:03:32 pm
Ah, my fault for reversing the subject/object. There are a large array of problems a representative democracy poses, but to borrow from my father many of these problems can be seen to stem from career politicians. Seriously, the idea of politics as your career in a system that is not a monarchy/oligarchy but based on democracy? We're not talking about the idea of living as the King's advisor, but making it your personal, daily paid job for life to represent people of a certain locality? From the other perspective, your job is just getting elected and staying in office while vying for higher office. This dichotomy between public servant and public savant would undoubtedly disturb the Founding Fathers. Even the 'for life' Supreme Court is 'until death or resignation.' I've got my own crazy reform ideas within the current system I'm happy to discuss through PM (including the discussion of income tax itself), but back to how this affects the current discussion: indeed, you don't choose where your taxes go or how they are spent. This is really where the JudeoChristian moral Socialism (feed the poor, cure the sick, etc.) and American Authoritarian (the wars, much of daily government and politics, global econimcs) come into play.

(As a side note, I find it highly amusing that Socialism is the new [USSR] Communism in American political language because of the level of socialism that goes into daily American life and its very structure of government interference in the market. Seeing as this is a case of wealthy Reds conning the middle-class and every day Reds out of realizing how much their lives are based on being a Socialist Republic and how much the 'Moral Majority' requires said structure to exist and all.)

More simply put, our system of representative democracy doesn't sufficiently represent the constituents. Also, while are laws are theoretically based on fairly libertarian principles of property ownership and defense the proof is in the pudding...

Looking back to the pre-Constitutional U.S. I don't consider a true look at honest libertarian society for a couple of reasons. The first is that the Libertarian ideals applied to the States (Confederacy) as the individuals interacting, not the individuals living in those states. Each state had their own currency, their own set of laws, their own economic considerations...in short, their own beurocracies. It's true that many of the original colony towns were essentially Libertarian in their function despite their beurocracy by using a mix of direct voting to determine community issues, communally elected arbiters of disputes, and living lives essentially free to interact without interference. It's certainly not a true AnCap model, but considering the sensibilities, realities, and education of the educated at the time it was an extremely Libertarian setup. This is the point where I think education and expectations most directly changed history, assuring the failure of the Confederated States and the rise of United Representative-Socialist-Democratic States of A. The idea of representation and a central government based on at least a nominal king figure [President, executive powers] was assumed. Modern thinking of AnCap just wasn't there, it was a mix of Federalists vs Anti-Federalists, Wigs vs Torries, and Loyalists vs Revolutionaries. Yet it is one of a few critical moments in history. Whether this led in the right direction or not, and to what degree, is for each individual to decide...but I think posts in this thread alone show where each of is on that scaling metric. For the record, I haven't really decided yet.

SandySandfort on May 13, 2010, 05:01:17 pm
I have no trouble envisioning a 'modern West' with today's technology setting up a system of road maintenance related directly to labor time...

NemoUtopia (love the name, by the way; "No one, nowhere"), yes you could do it that way. However, there is no reason not to use a money payment system. Money, arguably, is one of the ten greatest invention of mankind.

Also, what really seems to happen is that such things are provided for "free" by private individuals and businesses. When you park on the street in a city, you have to feed the meter or park in a commercial garage. In a privately owned shopping center everyone parks for free and nobody pays for the the Muzak, air conditioning, decor, water fountains and restrooms. Nobody, that is, except for the merchants through their rent to the mall. It is in everybody's best interest not to nickel and dime customers for such things. Ditto for gated and other private communities. The roads, landscaping and common areas are free to visitors. When you go to an all-you-can-eat restaurant, nobody counts the potatoes on your plate.

There are many situations where it makes economic sense not to charge individuals for individual service. My guess is that people  who are free to be creative will come up with many innovative ways to provide services and make money.


terry_freeman on May 14, 2010, 04:01:39 am
With all the theorizing about "can public goods be provided without the use of force?" it is well to ask a related question "have public goods been provided without the use of force?"

Fred Foldvary is one of many researchers who have looked into the question. He has written an excellent book, Public Goods, Private Communities, which discloses many ways in which so-called "public goods" have been provided by private communities. One of the classic examples is Disney World, which provides roads, sanitation, security, education, food, without collecting taxes. In fact, the land to build Disney World - about the size of San Francisco - was amassed without the use of eminent domain; Disney simply set up a hundred dummy corporations and bought options on each parcel of land, then executed those options when they reached their goal.

The "free rider" problem is not the major obstacle that many state-worshippers think it is. Let's take a classic example, that of local defense. America has discovered, by the process of liberalizing concealed-carry and home-defense laws and arming itself, that the more people own and carry, the safer neighborhoods become. There are people in such neighborhoods who are "free riders" - they live in safer neighborhoods because a) their neighbors are armed and b) would-be criminals don't have enough information to pick and choose the unarmed homes. Should the armed neighbors tax the unarmed neighbors, to collect from the "free riders?"

Why bother? The armed homes obtain most of the self-defense directly. Any criminal entering their home will face serious risks, which usually end the confrontation right there, and serve as a serious de-motivational device. It is no more important that neighbors obtain an incidental benefit than it is of concern that neighbors might enjoy the sight and fragrance of the flowers in your garden. You plant because it pleases you and it increases the value of your home. The same applies to education - it does not qualify as a "public good" since it is excludable and rivalrous. ( economic terms of art - please don't bother to argue until you understand the language ). People inside the classroom learn; the people outside do not. That's an excludable good. Adding a hundred more students to one classroom reduces the quality of the experience; this makes it a rivalrous good. This matters because, to qualify as a "public good" , something must be non-excludable and non-rivalrous; the classic example is a lighthouse - every ship entering a harbor benefits; adding more ships does not reduce the benefit.

But, interestingly enough, Coase discovered that there were times in history when lighthouses were owned and operated by voluntary associations. They collected voluntary donations from ship owners. Why did this work? Partly because the value ( not being wrecked ) is more to the ship captain than the cost. Partly a matter of social norms - these funds were often named "Sailors Widows Association" or something equally heart-tugging. A captain would feel bad if he did not pitch in a fair share.

Through large periods of history, organized police forces did not exist. People defended their own neighborhoods. The first professional police saw themselves as simply people who were paid to do what everyone already did on a volunteer basis; the police had no special authority over others. They were not hired to enforce zillions of mala prohibitum offences, but simply to keep the peace, to prevent muggers and thieves from taking advantage of others. Mala in se laws, by contrast, are almsot self-enforcing - nobody wants to live in a neighborhood where rape, murder and theft are not punished.


 

sams on May 14, 2010, 07:00:42 am
It is no more important that neighbors obtain an incidental benefit than it is of concern that neighbors might enjoy the sight and fragrance of the flowers in your garden. You plant because it pleases you and it increases the value of your home. The same applies to education - it does not qualify as a "public good" since it is excludable and rivalrous. ( economic terms of art - please don't bother to argue until you understand the language ). People inside the classroom learn; the people outside do not. That's an excludable good. Adding a hundred more students to one classroom reduces the quality of the experience; this makes it a rivalrous good. This matters because, to qualify as a "public good" , something must be non-excludable and non-rivalrous; the classic example is a lighthouse - every ship entering a harbor benefits; adding more ships does not reduce the benefit.

Very interesting Terry, if I could add this is like what economist call Positive Externality ... or the positive effect of one's action over the surrounding or the contrary of the negative externality which is an excuse for government wackos.

There is no ''free rider'' problem with positive externalities, which are a kind of public good, since the fact that you benefit for it doesn't bear a an increased cost to the person who is footing the bill, just like a garden, lighthouse, road, a smart coworker or nice house in the neighbourhood : You can admire and enjoy the benefit it bring to your surrounding but you don't increase the cost on the person who provide it.

Then you can say '' so when the cost is increased who is gonna pay ?'' I say let the market decide. If you build a road and let other people use at condition they don't interfere with you, then you are a great man ... if their traffic become heavier and you cannot use the road at will, requiring them to pay a user fee will make you a wise man and people will decide wether to take the road or not