terry_freeman on January 05, 2011, 10:41:14 am
quadibloc, I am convinced that you law awake nights, looking for the most idiotic and false anti-capitalist propaganda you can find, just for the pleasure of regurgitating it.

In reality, Great Britain was never a laissez-faire country; there were vast impositions of force involved. Read about, for example, the Enclosures - the stealing of land from peasants and enclosure into "private" land "owned" by nobles. This was roughly equivalent to today's use of "eminent domain" to seize property and award it to Donald Trump and other wealthy "developers."

For all that, workers during the Industrial Revolution were treated better than the peasants - this is why people left the farms to work in the factories. Standards of living did improve; people were able to afford cheap clothing. Many anti-market regulations ( such as strict control on wool products ) were repealed or relaxed, enabling a great spurt in the economy.

Fundamental to free-market theory is the notion of a voluntary exchange - which improves the well-being of both parties. A free economy comprised of voluntary exchanges is Pareto-optimal - no exchange reduces public welfare; every exchange either leaves things as they were, or improves it.

quadibloc on January 05, 2011, 03:56:09 pm
A free economy comprised of voluntary exchanges is Pareto-optimal - no exchange reduces public welfare; every exchange either leaves things as they were, or improves it.
This is true. Inequities of market power, however, can still lead to the increase in public welfare being received in what some might subjectively perceive as a lopsided manner.

You are right that it's incorrect to view England in the past as a true libertarian-style society. But because it resembled that in some superficial ways, that's still the bogeyman AnCap advocates will have to very carefully and thoroughly demolish to get their message across. Maybe I'm saying stuff you already know, but it has seemed to me that many people on this forum have spent so much time speaking to the converted that they're not quite as aware as they should be of just where they will have to start in getting the message out.

GaTor on January 05, 2011, 06:41:12 pm
Well I'm a bit confused I linked to that site several times and when I did a translation it involved a story about people abandoning their pets when moving.  It also touched on rabies.   Did a few cursory searches and came up with nothing regarding the original premise of this thread.   Moving on. 

Animal cruelty, Michael Vick comes to mind.  I thought it totally inappropriate that Vick was tried in court and sent to jail.   That he suffered personal and financial losses to his career was pretty much in line.  What should have happened was this:

NFL Boss me Ga'Tor: Come on in Mike and siddown.  Not going to beat around the bush, you're fired.
Vick:  WTF!!??
Me:  See I like animals Mike and particularly dogs.  Been hearing more and more about how you run your dog fighting ops and it sucks.  I also got a lot of complaints from fans and their wives, plus most of the team thinks you're an asshole because of it.  So, you're out.
Vick:  You can't do that, I'll sue. 
Me:  Heh, good luck with that, AnCap rules plus your contract says I can fire you if you fart in my general direction.   Don’t bother with any of the other teams ‘cause they feel pretty much the same way.   Now look kid, you’re a damn fine quarterback with a lot of potential.   So here’s the deal.  You clean up your act,  work with those PETA mooks,  see a shrink and  get your head right.  You come back in a couple of years  and we’ll talk.   
Vick:  &@!!*$/
Go forth and do good.

terry_freeman on January 06, 2011, 07:53:17 am
Regarding that lame-o "inequity" argument. Let us ask two questions. First, can everything be magically distributed equally? Second, can that equality be maintained in a free society?

To distribute everything "equally", we'd have to ignore major issues. Which is of more value, an acre of land in the desert, or a '57 Chevy in good condition? How do you compare all of the various forms of wealth? How do you divide them equitably? What do you do with items of large value which are indivisible - such as, for example, the original Mona Lisa painting? How do you deal with different values held by different people? Remember what happens on Christmas, when your great Aunt finds "just the right gift" ( in her eyes ) and it's a useless bit of junk in your eyes? This redistribution scheme would be a thousand times worse.

But suppose we pull it off - the equity mooks are finally satisfied, their horrible fears are laid to rest, this once; we are all equally wealthy. Then what?

Imagine that Ricky Martin hosts a concert. This requires the organization of a few hundred people, tons of equipment, a venue, and so forth. 5000 people value his performance enough to shell out $100 apiece. Darn, that's inequitable, $500,000 has shifted from 5000 people to, for example, 200 people. Even if Ricky Martin is a perfect socialist and distributes $2500 checks to each of the 200, including himself, the carefully equal distribution is out of whack.

Multiply this by millions of voluntary transactions, and you'll realize that perfect equality is a) not possible to accomplish even once, and b) not possible to sustain, absent some forcible redistribution.

There is a third objection: the process of preventing inequity removes the incentives which otherwise cause people to do good things on behalf of each other. As Adam Smith famously put it,  "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages."

Or as Walter Williams put it, "Do you think that a farmer in Iowa goes out in the middle of a blizzard to bring a calf home in order to provide steak for New Yorkers out of love for New Yorkers? The farmer does it in order to improve his life. New Yorkers are able to enjoy steaks because of the farmer's greed."

Likewise, New Yorkers send money to the farmer, to help maintain the outbuildings and equipment and to send his kids through college, not out of love for the farmer, but out of love for his steaks.

The desire to improve one's life is the spur for a productive economy. Prevent that, and the economy augurs into the ground. This is why Communist China and Soviet Russia were unable to feed their own people, in spite of having vast tracts of fertile land which - before and after their collectivist episodes - produced abundant food.

Life Magazine published a picture of Soviet soldiers helping bring in the harvest. It showed a long line of soldiers, each carrying one or two large melons, walking to some destination. No wheelbarrows, trailers, tractors, trucks - not even a beast of burden; just man reduced to the role of slowly carrying food from one place to another. In short, this was a picture of a capital-free society - which starved millions.

Productivity requires the accumulation of capital; redistribute everything "equitably", and the ability to accumulate capital is destroyed.

SandySandfort on January 06, 2011, 08:48:13 am
Regarding that lame-o "inequity" argument. Let us ask two questions. First, can everything be magically distributed equally? Second, can that equality be maintained in a free society?
...

Excellent post! It brought to mind a curious double standard of modern liberal, anti-market hypocrites. This is especially true for the Hollywood types and their fans. They complain bitterly about executives making million-dollar annual salaries, but there was never a peep out of them when the cast of Friends demanded, and got, a million dollars per episode. Nobody ever said, "That's excessive. Nobody is worth a million a week!"

I got a good laugh when during some award show, Jim Carrey brought this home by saying something like, "I come from an alien planet where the minimum wage is $20 million." He only got nervous laughter. I saw him say it, but I cannot find the quote anywhere. Wonder why...

J Thomas on January 06, 2011, 09:00:43 am
Regarding that lame-o "inequity" argument. Let us ask two questions. First, can everything be magically distributed equally?

No, not without magic. Maybe with the right spells Albus Dumbledore could do it. We can't.

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Second, can that equality be maintained in a free society?

If we had a way to do it, maybe we could do it over again every 30 years, or every generation or something. Since we can't do it at all, I can't guess whether we could maintain it if we could do it.

You have ably described the problems with the extreme approach of trying to keep everybody somehow equal. Now let's consider the opposite extreme.

Say we got a world where one person owned everything and everybody else lived at his service. Is that acceptable?

You go up to him and say "How come you own everything and I have nothing?".

And he laughs tolerantly and orders a scribe to look up your records. "Here we go. Nine generations ago, my grandmother-nineth was married to the guy who owned everything and he left it to me. But your grandmother-nineth was just somebody he saw on the street and decided he wanted, so he left you nothing. That's how come."

By law you are totally dependent on his mercy. Every breath you take is his air, there is nothing you can own that doesn't already belong to him. You owe him your life many times over and by god you ought to be grateful!

Is there any reason you and your friends shouldn't boot him out and set up a more equal system, if you can get away with it?

If we agree that the endpoints are neither of them ideal, is there something inbetween that might be better?

mellyrn on January 06, 2011, 10:18:55 am
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Regarding that lame-o "inequity" argument. Let us ask two questions. First, can everything be magically distributed equally? Second, can that equality be maintained in a free society?

If there were something like a magic spell to do that, we'd probably die off from sheer boredom.  Whether I do, or I do not, I neither gain nor lose.  Gee, thanks.


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Say we got a world where one person owned everything and everybody else lived at his service.

I don't even have to consider the problem.  What it's fishing for is a principle that will solve all problems (of its type) ahead of time, so we can all go back to sleep knowing everything is settled.  That ain't life.

I already own everything and you all live at my service.  My service is so good, you don't even know that I own everything.  Look, I alone can't take care of it all; that's what you are for.  Thank you, good job, to some of you.

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You go up to him and say "How come you own everything and I have nothing?"

Oh, wait -- you guys don't believe I own everything.  The hypothetical guy "owns everything" because everyone believes that he does.  His ownership is only as strong as the belief of his community.

Plane on January 06, 2011, 10:54:28 am
Say we got a world where one person owned everything and everybody else lived at his service. Is that acceptable?

You go up to him and say "How come you own everything and I have nothing?".

And he laughs tolerantly and orders a scribe to look up your records. "Here we go. Nine generations ago, my grandmother-nineth was married to the guy who owned everything and he left it to me. But your grandmother-nineth was just somebody he saw on the street and decided he wanted, so he left you nothing. That's how come."

By law you are totally dependent on his mercy. Every breath you take is his air, there is nothing you can own that doesn't already belong to him. You owe him your life many times over and by god you ought to be grateful!

Is there any reason you and your friends shouldn't boot him out and set up a more equal system, if you can get away with it?

If we agree that the endpoints are neither of them ideal, is there something inbetween that might be better?


That isn't so hard,  you can have a world like ours , where new stuff is more valuable than old stuff, people who write new music or computer programs , people who grow new vegitables or build new cars will sell their skills even if they start with no capitol at all.

J Thomas on January 06, 2011, 11:48:24 am

Say we got a world where one person owned everything and everybody else lived at his service. Is that acceptable?

You go up to him and say "How come you own everything and I have nothing?".

And he laughs tolerantly and orders a scribe to look up your records. "Here we go. Nine generations ago, my grandmother-nineth was married to the guy who owned everything and he left it to me. But your grandmother-nineth was just somebody he saw on the street and decided he wanted, so he left you nothing. That's how come."

By law you are totally dependent on his mercy. Every breath you take is his air, there is nothing you can own that doesn't already belong to him. You owe him your life many times over and by god you ought to be grateful!

Is there any reason you and your friends shouldn't boot him out and set up a more equal system, if you can get away with it?

If we agree that the endpoints are neither of them ideal, is there something inbetween that might be better?

That isn't so hard,  you can have a world like ours , where new stuff is more valuable than old stuff, people who write new music or computer programs , people who grow new vegitables or build new cars will sell their skills even if they start with no capitol at all.

You can't grow new vegetables when he owns all the land and will only give you access if you are his employee and whatever you produce belongs to him. Similarly you can't make computer programs that belong to you using his computers. You can't build new cars without his factories, or his tools, or his raw materials, none of which he has any obligation to sell to you. If he hires you to make cars he can give you everything you need to do it but the cars will belong to him.

If you discover iron ore and smelt it yourself, and make your own plastic, and build all the tools yourself to make cars, you are still doing it with his land and his iron ore etc and he didn't give you permission to take all that.

You can make new music, but you can't copyright it with his legal system and people who like it can't pay you with his debit cards. But if he likes your music he can gift you with whatever consumables he likes, or even lend you a house and a refrigerator and so on.

If you steal anything he doesn't want to lend you, his police will carry you off to be subject to his justice etc. As long as they do their jobs, you don't have a chance. If enough of them get the idea they don't have to work for him, then all bets are off.

quadibloc on January 06, 2011, 09:23:11 pm
They complain bitterly about executives making million-dollar annual salaries, but there was never a peep out of them when the cast of Friends demanded, and got, a million dollars per episode.
I remember, many, many years ago, a letter to the editor appearing in my local newspaper by someone complaining about how it was wrong that a pro hockey player was paid more money than a doctor. After all, doctors save lives, and what the hockey player did was less important.

I thought that viewpoint was bizarre and laughable. Yes, a doctor saves lives. But he can only save one life at a time, while a hockey player entertains millions of people at once. And so the hockey player sells TV commercials that are worth a lot of money.

If there is any unfairness, it is that the hockey players get only a small fraction of the money that comes in, with the team owners who aren't actually the ones doing the work getting most of the money. Surely in all industries, the proportion of money spent on worker salaries should be bigger than the part that is the return on capital - even though capital legitimately does deserve a return!

Now, maybe I was under the influence of socialist brainwashing for thinking that. But the letter-writer was also viewing things in a non-free-enterprise manner, based on a much older mind-set (basically, feudal) currently very unfashionable.

Executives are still workers, even if they're supervisory workers. So, if they're worth high salaries to the people hiring them, then there's no unfairness. News stories about high CEO salaries and golden parachutes and the like make one suspect that something is wrong in some industries - basically, companies are being run by their executives, and the Board of Directors is just sitting around looking pretty instead of pinching stockholder pennies. But that's rooting for capital, not rooting against it.

A person works for a living, and saves some money, and buys himself a cab or a set of power tools or a hot dog stand. Since he bought those things with money he earned, it's not sensible or fair to say that the addition those things make to his earning power ought to be shared with the whole country rather than belonging to him. There's nothing inherently immoral or wrong about "private ownership of the means of production", which is the aspect of capitalism the Marxists wish to abolish.

What makes socialism seem attractive is that a few people seem to own everything while most people own almost nothing in comparison. That tended to originate historically with a lot of government help - especially in Europe. Not quite as much so in the United States. The "robber barons" in the United States were a figure of speech - many business owners in Europe are descended from the real thing.

Of course, as the Soviet Union or the French Revolution demonstrated, following demagogues does not lead to the poor profiting at the expense of their former masters, but rather their new masters replacing their old masters. That shows that socialism is not the solution. But while AnCap talks about individuals having greater freedom to go into business for themselves without needing permits, and about big corporations only growing big because of government... basically, it gives the impression of not being directed at the perceived problem that is the impetus demagogues take advantage of.

mellyrn on January 07, 2011, 07:06:10 am
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You are right that it's incorrect to view England in the past as a true libertarian-style society. But because it resembled that in some superficial ways, that's still the bogeyman AnCap advocates will have to very carefully and thoroughly demolish to get their message across.

I think you run with an unusual crowd.  I work with some seriously overeducated people, and apart from a handful, most of them are only dimly aware that England had a past (and even that, mostly by inference), much less what it was like.  Joe Sixpack, the same.

I think the big obstacle is the "better the devil we know than the devil we don't" motto.  People can put up with an awful lot of familiar before they'll seek <shudder> change.

And there's the "if it didn't happen to me, it didn't happen" challenge.  Maybe as more people get groped or otherwise offended, there will be a more receptive audience growing.

terry_freeman on January 07, 2011, 10:08:41 am

You have ably described the problems with the extreme approach of trying to keep everybody somehow equal. Now let's consider the opposite extreme.

Say we got a world where one person owned everything and everybody else lived at his service. Is that acceptable?


Thanks for conceding my point.

Now I must ask under what sort of circumstances would this hypothetical be even remotely possible.

In a free society, every transfer of property is the result of a voluntary exchange. What manner of fools would choose to simply give away all their property?

Are you positing some form of story which begins "18 generations ago, my grandfather-to-the-ninth slaughtered all opposition and took all property, and left it to his son, who left it to his son, and so on and forth?


J Thomas on January 07, 2011, 11:39:30 am

You have ably described the problems with the extreme approach of trying to keep everybody somehow equal. Now let's consider the opposite extreme.

Say we got a world where one person owned everything and everybody else lived at his service. Is that acceptable?

Thanks for conceding my point.

Now I must ask under what sort of circumstances would this hypothetical be even remotely possible.

You and I have agreed that the society where everybody is forced to be equal would not be a good thing, and that it would not be possible.

I'm now interested in the question whether this opposite situation would be a good thing. I don't care whether it's possible at the moment, and it may not be possible.

I don't expect we could start from an AnCap society and get to that without any force being applied, but of course we couldn't get from an AnCap society to enforced equality without force either.

quadibloc on January 07, 2011, 12:47:30 pm
Don’t bother with any of the other teams ‘cause they feel pretty much the same way.   Now look kid, you’re a damn fine quarterback with a lot of potential.   So here’s the deal.  You clean up your act,  work with those PETA mooks,  see a shrink and  get your head right.  You come back in a couple of years  and we’ll talk.
Now, for Michael Vick to be fired from pro sports because the audience for pro sports disapproves of animal fights, and thus his presence would diminish ratings, is legitimate and not unfair.

But your little story did suggest to me that an AnCap society could replace animal cruelty, or other evils, by something worse.

While the kind of government regulation that requires businesses to prove they aren't discriminating is oppressive, it is also oppressive if social norms are allowed free reign - that, basically, your neighbors are not only free, but are in fact likely, to refuse to trade with you if they disapprove of something about you (such as legal activities on your part that don't violate the ZAP).

The proper cure is the presence of a diverse population, so that the only things that almost everyone disapproves of - instead of just a minority you can safely ignore - are things that really are bad. This helps if the recognition that people are dependent on the ability to trade creates a social norm that says that too many reasons to shun people is a bad thing, because it deprives people of privacy, it creates a society that isn't in practice what an AnCap society was supposed to be - a place to be free.

And, of course, people who shun others for too many reasons put themselves at a market disadvantage. So one could hope that it would be self-correcting, although history has shown this doesn't work that effectively in practice (secondary shunning, refusing to trade with those who trade with taboo-breakers and not just the taboo-breakers themselves, is a significant reason why).

I know that raising this point makes it sound like I'm demanding that AnCap solve every possible problem. But I think it's worth pointing out that expecting social norms to solve those problems that the free market might not solve by itself... is relying on an instrument that leaves a lot to chance.

J Thomas on January 07, 2011, 02:16:02 pm

While the kind of government regulation that requires businesses to prove they aren't discriminating is oppressive, it is also oppressive if social norms are allowed free reign - that, basically, your neighbors are not only free, but are in fact likely, to refuse to trade with you if they disapprove of something about you (such as legal activities on your part that don't violate the ZAP).

The proper cure is the presence of a diverse population, so that the only things that almost everyone disapproves of - instead of just a minority you can safely ignore - are things that really are bad.

That is the situation that's most likely to give you a lot of freedom. I don't know if it should be called a "solution". Except that when you hear about places which have a lot of diversity, you could arrange to move there -- increasing the diversity that much more -- and then it's a temporary solution for you personally.

But yes, if social norms say that people shouldn't trade with you because of who you are, then you are worse off than you would be if all those people weren't even there. Because they own pretty much everything. If they didn't, you'd have whatever unimproved resources were lying around that you could claim and use. But when there's very little that's free and nobody will trade with you, you'd better be real good at recycling what you've already got until you can leave.

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I know that raising this point makes it sound like I'm demanding that AnCap solve every possible problem. But I think it's worth pointing out that expecting social norms to solve those problems that the free market might not solve by itself... is relying on an instrument that leaves a lot to chance.

Social norms are presumably good for the people who create and maintain those norms. If you want to change those norms then you are putting yourself up against the biggest movers and shakers in the society, the people who had the clout to establish norms which favored them and which hurt you. Good luck with that.

You can't expect a philosophy to overcome that sort of thing. Once the local social norms declare that you are that place's equivalent of a palestinian, there isn't much you can do to improve it.

So anyway, there's no particular reason for AnCap societies to all fit your preferences. So what if a bunch of racists make an AnCap society where they completely avoid force on each other, and shun the people they're racist against. A racist AnCap society will probably be a lot better than an otherwise-similar racist government society. Similarly with all the other stuff you disapprove of that doesn't involve obvious coercion. An AnCap society of pederasts who don't actually rape anybody would probably be better than an otherwise-similar government-run society of pederasts.

If you agree not to damage or coerce anybody, you still aren't obligated to do business with somebody you hate -- unless you've agreed to a contract that you will. But what if they'll die without your transaction? You have extra air, they don't have enough, they'll die unless you sell them some. Would people think you have an implicit contract to sell in that case? What if you demand something they normally would never give you. Say it's a woman you hate, and (for no reason connected to you) she'll die unless you sell her air, and you demand something utterly degrading.... Does that count as coercion, that she'll die unless she does what you want?