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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13927/the-ignorance-of-the-new-yorker/

The Ignorance of the New Yorker

September 17, 2010 by

The New Yorker provides a textbook-quality example of what happens when you try to write about libertarianism in current events without having at least a basic understanding of the libertarian tradition. FULL ARTICLE by Jeff Riggenbach

{ 167 comments }

El Tonno September 17, 2010 at 8:45 am

I hope this is being sent by snail mail to the New Yorker for inclusion in their next issue.

Troy September 17, 2010 at 8:59 am

Great piece, but I am afraid that in many cases such as this one, it is a willful ignorance of libertarianism, usually accompanied by a willful obfuscation of the roots and historic consequences of their own ideology.

Reilly September 17, 2010 at 9:06 am

Adam Smith himself had a profound distrust of businessmen. Although he could hardly be called a libertarian.

Paul in Lakeview September 17, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Uh, Reilly, businesspeople have a profound distrust of businesspeople. Thus do so many of them demand from each other contracts in writing. Sometimes they even try to include stiff penalties for noncompliance (even though their lawyers tell them again and again that only the courts can punish.) In fact, it’s been more than 300 years since passage of “An Act for Prevention of Frauds and Perjuries”.

Why was that law passed? Probably because (1) businesspeople tended to be knaves just as much then as they tend to be knaves today–which is to say that they tend very much to be knaves, so there was a desire for written contracs, and (2) businesspeople ca. 1677 expected the state to socialize the costs that they should have borne themselves without the help of the state to make life easier for them, plunderers who will never be happy no matter how much they have.

newson September 17, 2010 at 7:27 pm

hence the desire on the part of the anarchist to eliminate the state, the enabler of socialization of losses.

Jack September 17, 2010 at 9:07 am

It’s always the same question: Are these ignorant critics of libertarianism just really stupid, or are they actually intentionally trying to do evil?

Ryan September 17, 2010 at 9:11 am

Great article. You know, this is a real problem for libertarianism, and any self-described libertarian should invest some time into thinking about how to effectively dismantle this smear job. Libertarians have been smeared as ultra-conservatives from the beginning. We should really address this comprehensively, in a way that goes beyond mere historical references, and fits in a soundbite that people can easily understand.

It’s a real challenge, not to be underestimated.

Russ the Apostate September 17, 2010 at 9:23 am

To a “progressive”, libertarianism and conservatism are the same, because they are against socialism. They don’t bother to try to understand any real distinctions, because they think the distinctions are unimportant. Libertarians and conservatives are both simply enemies of “progress”, who must therefore be crushed. There’s nothing you can do to reach socialist true believers, regarding the differences.

As for other people who are not true believers, are on the fence, etc., I think the kind of piece such as the New Yorker one only serve to hurt the “progressives” in the long run. It makes them look stupid, because they can’t see the distinctions. I don’t mind seeing pieces like this, because they show “progressives” for what they are; ignorant.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 10:19 am

Does the Koch machine support the Federal Reserve? The “Progressives” are close enough in this case: the *whole* progressive program, or nothing.

michael September 17, 2010 at 12:52 pm

“To a “progressive”, libertarianism and conservatism are the same, because they are against socialism. They don’t bother to try to understand any real distinctions, because they think the distinctions are unimportant.”

Russ, you’re saying progressives are ignorant because they can’t see the distinctions. But if we’re talking about David H Koch, there really IS no distinction. He is at the same time a conservative and a libertarian.

This is what Wikipedia has on him:

“David Hamilton Koch (pronounced “coke”,[4] born May 3, 1940) is an American businessman, philanthropist, political activist and chemical engineer. He is a co-owner, (with older brother Charles), and an executive vice president of Koch Industries, a conglomerate that is the second largest privately held company in the U.S.[6] Koch is the second richest resident of New York City, as of 2010.[3] He is a major patron of the arts and funder of conservative and libertarian causes.

“Born in Wichita, Kansas, Koch is one of four sons of petroleum industry innovator Fred C. Koch. He attended the Deerfield Academy prep school in Massachusetts, graduating in 1959. He went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), earning both a bachelor’s (1962) and a master’s degree (1963) in chemical engineering.

“He established an MIT record in basketball by scoring an average of 21 points per game over three years, and held MIT’s single-game scoring record of 41 points, from 1962 when he was captain of the team, until it was broken in early 2009 by Jimmy Bartolotta.

“Koch was the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate in the 1980 presidential election, sharing the party ticket with presidential candidate Ed Clark. The Clark-Koch ticket received 921,128 votes (1.06% of the total nationwide); a Libertarian Party national ticket’s best showing ever.

“Since 1984, Koch has been a Republican.

“Koch founded the conservative Citizens for a Sound Economy in 1984, a group that advocated for lower taxes and less regulation of business. He presently funds Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group that has close ties to the U.S. Tea Party movement and that opposes much of U.S. President Barack Obama’s policies and legislative agenda.

“Koch currently serves on the boards of directors of the libertarian Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation. His brother, Charles Koch, has also been active in organizing and funding foundations and think-tanks such as the Cato Institute.” etcetera

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_H._Koch

So where’s the ignorance? The Libertarian Party’s certainly libertarian… isn’t it? And Cato and Reason, they’re libertarian… aren’t they? What’s wrong with this picture?

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 12:58 pm

And Bob Barr’s certainly libertarian, isn’t he? And Augusto Pinochet?

- – - – - –

Thanks, Jon, you have a good weekend too, bud.

G8R HED September 17, 2010 at 1:17 pm

michael – 1) “To a “progressive”, libertarianism and conservatism are the same, because they are against socialism. They don’t bother to try to understand any real distinctions”

ig·no·rance noun ˈig-n(ə-)rən(t)s Definition of IGNORANCE : the state or fact of being ignorant : lack of knowledge, education, or awareness

If, as you yourself admit, they don’t understand then that is ignorance.

michael – 2) “He is at the same time a conservative and a libertarian.”

Then, if he is as you claim, he is not only ignorant but also self-contradicted.

michael September 17, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Both Koch brothers have impeccable libertarian credentials. They believe the same core beliefs, they have the same core values, they contribute heavily to libertarian causes… and in these areas they hold the same common ground characterised in much “conservative” thought.

Are you saying there’s a hard, fast line between the two, and that pro-business conservatives have absolutely nothing in common with libertarians? That would be a very hard case to establish.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 2:11 pm

You want to prove a silly negative that I just made up? That would be very hard to do.

Libertarians don’t have nearly as much in common with smart pro-business conservatives as Michael does; that would be they are to-the-death defenders of the FED.

michael September 17, 2010 at 2:21 pm

The article was about the Koch Brothers, very specifically. And it describes two people who are as much in one camp as they are in the other. They occupy the common ground between the two political philosophies.

If you’re not like them, tell me how you and they differ.

Idiot September 17, 2010 at 2:22 pm

You have a point Michael. The Koch’s are not consistent and seem rather fusionist. The contradictions are in part what motivated Rothbard, Mr. Libertarian, to split from them.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Criminy:

Michael: Major FED defender

Koches: Major FED defenders

Informed libertarians: Major FED opposers

I’m not responsible for Riggenbach’s article, I am loathe to criticize him, but I would have added how unlibertarian the Koches really are.

“They occupy the common ground”

Yeah, like how some Catholic Bishops occupy the “common ground” between Communion with God and pimping. Or like how Hitler occupied the common ground between vegetarians and genocidal maniacs (teehee).

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Common ground: lefties, righties and self-deluding righties are all firmly on the same FED ground. They only differ on what exactly should be done with all the funny money. This corporation, or that corporation? Strangle Iraq or invade Iraq? 500 billion for “the poor” or 350 billion? Romney Care or Obama Care…oh wait, same thing.

Russ the Apostate September 17, 2010 at 5:56 pm

“The contradictions are in part what motivated Rothbard, Mr. Libertarian, to split from them.”

I think the split was mainly caused not by the fact that the Kochs are so very conservative, but simply because the Kochs, being businessmen, wanted to get a return on their investment for a change. In other words, instead of supporting someone like Rothbard, and getting good theory and terrible strategy, they wanted their financial support to result in changes in election results.

Idiot September 17, 2010 at 6:25 pm

But didn’t Rothbard advocate for pragmatism too? Maybe it was when the Koch’s brought in a monetarist from the Chicago school. Rothbard understood this move to mean that it wasn’t just pragmatism, rather, core values were being altered. Though this fusionism would not necessarily be conservative, true. Good point.

Russ the Apostate September 17, 2010 at 6:28 pm

“Are you saying there’s a hard, fast line between the two, and that pro-business conservatives have absolutely nothing in common with libertarians? ”

Hard and fast? No. But I do see differences in the philosophies. Libertarians are not “pro-business” per se. They are pro-free-market; there is a difference. That difference is that they do not support corporate welfare.

I read a book not so long ago called “The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945″ by George H. Nash. The author basically lumps in all people who were opposed to the New Deal, and their descendents, as conservatives. He broke the “movement” down into three groups, who he called the libertarians (among whom he listed Rothbard and Mises), the social conservatives (such as Peter Viereck and Russell Kirk), and the anti-Communists (Buckley and James Burnham, for instance). While I admit that there were people who held beliefs in several of the different categories, what I found striking in the book is that most of the disagreements between strains were between the libertarians and the other two. Libertarians were more often opposed to the use of a big state to fight Communism (as the anti-Communists preferred) than the social conservatives were, since the social conservatives hated Commies for being Godless as much as the anti-Communists did for being Commies. Libertarians were also more often opposed to the use of the state to push religious agendas by social conservatives than the anti-Communists were. They are distinct schools of thought, even though there is some cross-over in real life. And libertarianism is more distinct than the others.

Long story short, I think that a lot of the confusion over conservatism and libertarianism by thinking people (who can account for the reasons why non-thinking people are confused?) is because although there were three different intellectual groups that had different beliefs, they all made common cause to a certain extent to fight their common enemies (New Dealers, “anti-anti-Communists”, etc.) . That’s why people associate the different groups as part of one big, inconsistent group. In reality, it’s not that conservatism is inconsistent so much as that there are three distinct schools of thought who unthinkingly get lumped together as conservatism.

Russ the Apostate September 17, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Idiot,

Like the name. Hehehe…. very modest.

“But didn’t Rothbard advocate for pragmatism too?”

Sure. He just wasn’t very good at actually being pragmatic.

michael September 17, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Good discussion, guys. But since I’ve been here there’s only one distinction I can see between big-business conservatives and austro-libertarians.

The big business guys all say they’re against big government but secretly use it to amass more wealth. While the austro-libertarians say they’re against big government and, well, we have no idea what they’d actually do if they ever attained power.

Otherwise the two could pass nearly any litmus test with near-identical marks. For example on our threads about global warming and about permaculture you fellows are entirely in the “big business” camp. Your positions are the same, your views are the same and your talking points, word-for-word the same. You read the same stuff. You feel the same way about it.

It walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

Daniel September 17, 2010 at 9:53 pm

micheal you are fucking dumb

I’ll lay it out for you: the fact that we “don’t know what we would do” is actually an indictment against statism, central planning, and you.

People who propose a free-market solution are often chided for not being able to explain with apodictic certainty what will emerge from the impossibly complex web of interactions that is the free market.

But of couse, this is is an argument against central planning and against the state’s monopoly on the provision of “justice” because it cannot be calculated.

Russ the Apostate September 17, 2010 at 9:56 pm

michael wrote:
“For example on our threads about global warming and about permaculture you fellows are entirely in the “big business” camp.”

No, we’re in the “property rights” camp. The “big business” camp, aka corporatists, are not really in the property rights camp. They are for their property rights, but not necessarily those of others. For instance, you won’t see GM complaining if the government gives them buttloads of taxpayers’ money to develop the Volt. GM, of course, mainly cares about themselves. Others in their camp buy into Keynesian fallacies, and think that such subsidies will “stimulate” the economy.

Neither of these positions are libertarian. The fact that you can’t see any distinction only goes to illustrate the fact that you aren’t really interested in learning anything about libertarianism.

michael September 18, 2010 at 8:12 am

“Neither of these positions are libertarian. The fact that you can’t see any distinction only goes to illustrate the fact that you aren’t really interested in learning anything about libertarianism.”

Russ, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t find the study of libertarianism fascinating.

I can certainly see the distinctions… but I also see the similarities. And the best way I can draw you out in conversation is to poke you a little and see what kind of noises you make.

I’ve noted in passing that your movement and the ordinary old big business conservatives only differ in a single category: one wants to manipulate government so that it works toward furthering its goals; the other just wants to destroy it. otherwise on nearly every topic, your social and philosophic opinions fall into the same pigeonholes.

I think the Koch Brothers are exemplary, for occupying the nexus between the two philosophies. And I note your telling comment that maybe they “wanted to get a return on their investment for a change.”

They are the second largest privately owned industrial conglomerate in America, only behind Cargill. They have a serious chunk of a half dozen industries. Are you saying these poor people wouldn’t be able to manage to make a living without attempting to take over the USG and run it toward their own ends?

I’m trying to point out to you that power does what power wants to do. Whether it happens to be more public or more private is in a very real sense immaterial. These guys are major players in the power game. It would repay you to keep an eye on their activities. They adopt sheep’s clothing but their real ambition is to control and operate the government just like any other of their spinoffs.

Maybe you could just read Reason Magazine and the many publications of the Cato Institute. Those are virtual Koch subsidiaries. Then you could keep an eye on their agenda.

gregw September 24, 2010 at 6:13 pm

mpolzkill> “they [the Koch fam] are to-the-death defenders of the FED”

Can I get a cite?

http://www.kochind.com/Perspectives/perspectives_detail.aspx?id=24

Jon Leckie September 17, 2010 at 9:17 am

Your final paragraph is precious little comfort, Jeff. I get tired of having to deny that I’m an asocial monster when I get talking to those of my friends who can still bear to speak to me about politics. It’s really depressing how we’ve been forced to surrender the moral high ground to socialists and statists.

To Jack at 9.07am, I don’t think they’re stupid or evil: just badly ill-informed and overwhelmed by the soft, shallow left wing rhetoric that dominates the education system and the media. Poeple are busy, trying to get by in their lives, and they don’t have time to stop and question the dominant narrative, despite the fact that things are getting worse and worse. All in all, a rather depressing end to the week.

I share El Tonno’s (at 8.45am) hope that this article be published in the next article of the New Yorker. If you’ve not submitted it, you should.

The Kid Salami September 17, 2010 at 9:23 am

“I get tired of having to deny that I’m an asocial monster when I get talking to those of my friends who can still bear to speak to me about politics.”

Ha – I now have precisely zero of friends who fall into that category.

J. Murray September 17, 2010 at 9:27 am

“It’s really depressing how we’ve been forced to surrender the moral high ground to socialists and statists.”

I don’t know why you can say this. I usually bring out the statistics showing that the advent of social welfare programs have effectively stopped the decline of poverty and ask them why they hate the poor so much.

Jon Leckie September 17, 2010 at 9:37 am

Very good JM, but I don’t keep the figures in my back pocket, and without the hard evidence such a statement is easily dismissed! I should learn and have ready some simple stats to throw out. But of course I’d imagine the accuracy of the stats would be denied.

The biggest hurdle that I come across is that identified by Jeff in the article: most folks believe that our current system, esp. that in the US, is representative of free market capitalism. They look around them and see the problems in our communities, and the free market is seen as the cause. It’s bullshit, but that’s a powerful perception.

People want to see themselves as good, and socialist planning appeals to that idealised self-image. You’re absolutely right to push your audience to follow the implications of planning through to its outcome and to ask them to accept those consequences as the natural result of their beliefs. But most people aren’t prepared to run the analysis, it’s too easily to dismiss the libertarian as a self-interested nut and a loony: a morally flawed being. Sigh.

J. Murray September 17, 2010 at 9:40 am

Well, I do have an Android phone that I can easily pull up the data on. I particularly love the chart showing African American poverty rates from 1900 through 2002 and how AA poverty rates declined year after year until 1964, where they flat lined. Then, as a little extra nudge, I call the progressive racist on top of hating the poor.

http://www.leftbusinessobserver.com/PovRace.gif

Jon Leckie September 17, 2010 at 9:43 am

Boy you must be popular at parties! Haha. Nice line from mpolzkill below (“That just means they have to try harder with our money”). A good weekend to both.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 9:38 am

That just means they have to try harder with our money, Murray.

You try this out on the average Joe and it erases these kind of images burned in their minds?

http://www.indypendent.org/wp-content/photos/Slums.jpg

Walt D. September 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Another good one is to show the average SAT score vs the dollars spent.(strong negative correlation -ok, I know that correlation does not equal causation). So next time someone complains that “They” want to cut funding to education, ask them why they are in favor of kids not learning?

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 9:32 am

Depressing is right. Tell the New Yorker audience all about Nock and Rothbard? That will be as quaint to them as a story on the only surviving Tasmanians.

And I really like this piece too, but the Koch machine *is* conservative, that’s why they torpedoed Ron Paul.

J. Murray September 17, 2010 at 9:34 am

I would torpedo Ron Paul, too, only because he doesn’t seem to think before he speaks. He comes off as a conspiracy theorist too much to be a good choice to trust to get enough people behind him to win elections, let alone get anything done.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 9:43 am

Shameful, Murray. Probably the greatest propagator of libertarian ideas in the history of the world. Misspeaks, can’t get anything done: you go out and give it a try. Try to talk about anything of any depth to a mainstream “journalist”, they’ll have you dressed as a conspiracy nut before you can say “Jack Robinson”.

J. Murray September 17, 2010 at 9:50 am

No, I actually think he comes off as a conspiracy nut when reading through his own writings. This isn’t filtered through journalist opinions.

The problem with RP is he doesn’t know when to stop talking, what’s important, and what comes off sounding poorly. He can get a ton of people behind him on the banking thing, but when he turns around and comes off as blaming the US on what happened on 9/11, he ruins his electability. It may be true, but the way he said it and the audience he said it to was ill chosen.

He has good ideas, but the man is not a statesman. There are better ways to argue for elimination of subsidies and applying a policy of non-interventionism. RP blew his chance at ever getting beyond his Congressional chair in a spectacular fashion during the 2008 campaign season.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 10:05 am

Murray, I like you a lot, you are super-smart, and really kick some internet-butt, however what you’re saying in these posts confirms to me that you’re living in la la land. What was spectacular was that he got any attention at all. He destroyed Giu91an1, he literally destroyed him in that moment you are bizarrely decrying. Only decent thing I’d ever heard from a politician*, and he lit a massive fire under possibly millions of kids 18 and younger. Incalculable, the good he did.

* before I was born, this was pretty great too:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiLV-Xeh8bA

* and after Paul destroyed Giuliani, this was pretty good, too:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dsXO8vxYQM

J. Murray September 17, 2010 at 10:44 am

No no no, *WE* think Ron destroyed Giuliani. *EVERYONE ELSE* didn’t. That’s the point. It’s not what *WE* think of RP, it’s what the other people who are not us think. It was fairly unambiguous that most people found that to be a stupid statement. To win elections, you need to convince 50%+1 of the voters to stamp your name (in American election terms, 20% of the total population). If he can’t convince approximately 60 million people to turn out for the polls and pull the Ron Paul name, he won’t win anything. It’s those 60 million, not the 1 million who are libertarians, that need convincing. Those 59 million + thought Giuliani destroyed Paul. It’s their opinion that matters.

Yes, Ron was right. Yes, libertarians thought he won that battle. But our opinion of it doesn’t change the fact that a group of people that overwhelm us in numbers though the opposite.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 11:13 am

You’re not getting this on so many levels. “We” can’t even recognize him as the leader, let alone get behind Paul, *or* any one of us supplant him in the lead. There isn’t any “we” for libertarians. It’s a miracle when one gets elected dog-catcher, let alone to the U.S. House.

I’m not going to write a dissertation on why Giuliani went down the crapper from the moment he made the massive political blunder of attacking the guy behind him (and how this event and its aftermath made it clear that he didn’t even know anything about his one issue), but to the other part: no, no, no, most people did NOT think what Ron Paul said was stupid. Deeply thoughtless and deep, deep liars like Giuliani flipped out; the more clever liars, the Bill O’Reillys, Tim Russerts, Rush Limbaughs, and even from the other side, the Keith Olbermanns, determined to keep ignoring him. And when some of them were forced to deal with him, they determined to treat him like a lunatic or someone with a social disease, because they knew damned well most people *could* understand the truth of what he was saying. Why do you think the moderators at the original event rushed by the only exciting thing to happen at a Republican debate in…well, forever. I guess you’ll say they feared for the poor doddering libertarian’s safety (you’re really pissing me off, you really should speak more respectfully of him)

Your incredible confusion on how that was improper before *that* audience reminds me of my very favorite moment of the campaign: at the ill-attended “Family Values” debate, when Paul was nearly booed of the stage by the “Christians” for calling Jesus “The Prince of Peace”.

J. Murray September 17, 2010 at 11:21 am

I’m not sure what you’re trying to argue. You just proved my point with Ron getting booed off the stage for his remarks about the war. Those are precisely the people he needs to convince, not us. He simply doesn’t have the right qualities to get a broad enough support base to back him up. All he will get are a small number of people who are already invested in the movement, nothing more.

Making the libertarian philosophy appealing is difficult. I can personally only do it in small groups and given plenty of time to explain everything. Thinking on major libertarian forces, few have the proper qualities. Rothbard’s personality was too caustic. Mises is too lofty. Mr. Riggenbach seems to have the right stuff, but I don’t know if he has political aspirations.

We live in a world where most people think in black and white terms. You’re either Republican or Democrat, “left” or “right”. Half of everything a libertarian stands for will offend one side or the other. Convincing people to reject half of what they believe in is a difficult task, one that requires finesse. Ron just doesn’t have what it takes and never will. This is evidenced by being booed off the stage from a very critical group required to win elections.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 11:39 am

I guess you would have him hem and haw around like his light-in-the-ass son?”

I’m not sure what you’re trying to argue”

You don’t? Apparently I have major problems with that, I try to speak plainly, really I do. No libertarian is ever going to be elected President or even Senator in this country, are you nuts? All Paul does is show how insane this country is. And he should make us ask ourselves, if people don’t want to follow their own rule of law, actually mock someone who stands for it, what are we doing in this mad house?

He’s playing to children disgusted by their disgusting parents. What he’s done is for the future. He got on National TV and said all the names these scumbag gate keepers kept out our entire lives. Damn, man.

* oops below: “skepticism”

Micah September 17, 2010 at 12:05 pm

I’m an anarcho-capitalist because of Ron Paul, because of what he said at that debate. Ron Paul’s the man.

Matthew Swaringen September 17, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Hey Murray, I wouldn’t write Paul off completely. Time and experience could change things.

I was one of those people who thought is statement was ridiculous only 2 years ago when he said it originally. I thought he was a complete nut and that his statement was “anti-American.”

I definitely don’t think that at all now, but I do realize that it’s rare to have that kind of transition, particularly among those who are older (I’m 29)

During the 2008 election cycle I was pretty disinterested in politics in general, so I didn’t watch the debates so much as the post commentary. I kind of wonder if I had heard the whole of the debates that had Paul if I would have been convinced to change my mind sooner.

I don’t think I would have “heard” it the right way then.

J. Murray September 17, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Matthew -

I’m the same age. I never completely write anyone off, but the Ron Paul as he is right now is in no position to make it beyond his Congressional seat. He has a lot to learn about being appealing while still forwarding the message along. But I don’t think he has. All we need to do is take a quick look at who is running his offshoot organization, Campaign for Liberty, to see that he still doesn’t get it. I used to be a part of that community, but when the paid organizers started doing bizarre things (like actively campaigning for a statist candidate), I called it quits. Ron has ultimate control over that group, which he set up to be his public face, and lets people with questionable understanding of public relations run it.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Yeah, there’s only one Ron Paul, I have no idea what the purpose of the Campaign for Liberty is. I was out of the whole thing before that though, when I went to the County Convention and really got the full sense of the incredible evil of the Republican Party.

So, Murray, it seems you do think a real libertarian could be a Senator or the President. And you are advocating that they be incredibly smooth and slick to the point of deviousness? Rand Paul tries (and when that doesn’t work, he’ll make nauseating compromises, obviously a better politician than his old man), but I imagine you find him lacking, too. Do you get the idea you’ll always find everyone lacking?

J. Murray September 17, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Not smooth or slick. I wouldn’t trust a libertarian equivelent of a Barack Obama, someone willing to lie just to get into office to do whatever he wanted. Frankly, I don’t know. Elections are won on 30 second sound bites. I have spent quite a number of years trying to figure this one out. How can libertarians distil the entire philosophy into a bumper sticker? That’s where the real victories are won.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 2:03 pm

You’ll spend all your remaining years on that one if you keep at it. There was never a libertarian President even before the Constitution was fully destroyed in 1863. This government was designed to be almost exactly as it is, and to be run by the Koches and Soroses.

Franklin September 17, 2010 at 5:52 pm

How can libertarians distil the entire philosophy into a bumper sticker?

“Don’t tread on me”?

Barbarossa September 17, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Ron Paul is not a conspiracy theorist–period. Stop flaunting your ignorance of him. While a sizable minority of his following ARE open-minded to conspiracy theories, Dr. Paul has NEVER stated that he believes any particular conspiracy theory. He was even asked specifically about his thoughts on 9/11 and stated explicitly that he does not subscribe to conspiracy theories concerning that event. Even if he did, so what? All that says is that he has an open mind, and it’s not as if conspiracies never happen. What you’re confusing–as that mindless neo-con Sean Hannity famously did–is Ron Paul’s statement that he believes that our FOREIGN POLICY over the decades has DIRECTLY CONTRIBUTED to so-called “blowback” events like 9/11. That’s not a conspiracy theory; I’d say that’s an educated opinion that is probably precisely true. And there are plenty of others (Chalmers Johnson is a good one) who believe the same thing yet do not subscribe in any way shape or form to what could ever be construed as a “conspiracy theory.” Even alleged statements by Osama bin Laden CORROBORATE THIS. You’re a very smart contributor to this blog, and I usually enjoy what you have to say, but you’re totally off base here.

Russ the Apostate September 17, 2010 at 9:44 am

Ron Paul just isn’t electable as President, given the current climate of political opinion.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 9:53 am

Of course not, he was running for the Presidency as laid out in the Constitution, not this product of mass psychosis so well described by Gene Healy in his “Cult of the Presidency”.

There’s more to it though. When I went to my first Ron Paul meeting I drew gasps from all the nice, naive supporters when I told them the entire effort could ever only be considered an education opportunity. I told them that given the choice, most Republicans would vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Doctor Paul.

Joshua Park September 17, 2010 at 11:10 am

If RP’s whole 2007/2008 election season was an education opportunity, then I’d hall it a success! It personally worked for me. Without his candidacy, I would have never found LvMI, would have never read Rothbard, Hazlitt, Mises, Hoppe, Tom Woods, de Soto, etc. In other words, Ron Paul turned me from my conservative (though sometimes liberty-minded) ways and into an anarcho-capitalist!

In point of fact, the video that did it was this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCM_wQy4YVg

Against the “journalists” who feed on interruptions and soundbites, I’d say he does a far cry better than I ever would, and has my respect for keeping level-headed, IMHO. And if RP’s writings make him sound like a conspiracy theorist, what then can we say about LewRockwell.com!

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 11:29 am

Damned straight, Joshua. If that has been me being attacked by George Snuffleupagus, I would have slapped that repulsive grin off his face, to be sure.

Sad, it was getting worse and worse, and then I had to completely stop promoting LRC after they posted fake moon-landing claims. I guess the idea is to promote extreme skeptisism, I don’t think that’s the way to go about it. Their choice though, and it’s still alway ridiculous for the libertarian peanut gallery to publicly attack Lew.

Joshua Park September 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm

And another thing! LOL

Lew may be off-topic, so let me first say thanks to Mr. Riggenbach: I always enjoy your articles, and this met the already high standard you’ve set.

On the subject of LRC, do I need to remind anyone that Lew is LvMI’s beloved Chairman? I’m not complaining, of course. It’s just that those of us who frequent mises.org can’t easily separate ourselves from the black helicopter crowd–not with articles as they appear today on LRC.

Then again, there’s something to be said for conspiracy theories. I.e.: John Taylor Gatto. I was homeschooled (praise God for decent parents!), so his subject matter interests me. But if you are used to a steady diet of statist propaganda, Gatto’s excellent The Underground History of American Education looks like a conspiracy theory against the Prussians and corporatist progressives! I tend to believe him–not everything that seems conspiratorial is wrong.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I didn’t mean to suggest you were complaining, Joshua, I was just making a dig at all the Lew-haters that appear here from time to time.Your parents for home-schooling you are right there in line with Dr. Paul deserving your thanks.

Ask the “anti-corporate” Michael here sometime how crucial public school is for breaking trouble-makers and molding narrow-minded technicians and submissive consumers.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 1:22 pm

[Whoa, I think I broke it. That was to Joshua]

I didn’t mean to suggest you were complaining, I was just making a dig at all the Lew-haters that appear here from time to time.

Your parents for home-schooling you are right there in line with Dr. Paul deserving our thanks. Ask the “anti-corporate” Michael here sometime how crucial public school is for breaking trouble-makers and molding narrow-minded technicians and submissive consumers.

michael September 17, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Michael is indeed anti-corporate and pro-humanist. And he readily concedes that one of public schooling’s primary functions is to make young people more malleable, able to sit still for very long periods of time and do mind-numbing work that appears to make no sense. In a word, school prepares them for their adult lives as cubicle dwellers.

Nonetheless michael sees genuine worth in public schooling. Because without it, children whose education is left to their parents often end up unemployable and even more limited in their outlooks than they would be if they’d graduated from high school. Michael sees the sense in the early 19th century realization that without education, democracy fails, autocracy rises and prosperity goes out the window. So what we have is better than none, but in dire need of improvement.

Inquisitor September 18, 2010 at 4:12 am

“Nonetheless michael sees genuine worth in public schooling.”

He ‘sees’ many things.

“Because without it, children whose education is left to their parents often end up unemployable”

Because with it*

“and even more limited in their outlooks than they would be if they’d graduated from high school.”

Guess what: with government mandated high school, it becomes necessary for someone to be employable to even have such a qualification. Far from making them employable, you force the bar upwards uniformly. And literacy rates were high before public education’s incidence even. You’ll need to prove that everyone needs public “education” to succeed, that is, without assuming it creates the very need for that…

“Michael sees the sense in the early 19th century realization that without education, democracy fails,”

Which does not require public education…

” autocracy rises and prosperity goes out the window. So what we have is better than none, but in dire need of improvement.”

Replacement*

JFF September 17, 2010 at 9:50 am

I disagree; as opposed to essentially all other public figures, the man is constantly thinking. Also, while he could easily fall into that trap, I think he handles questions and issues of obvious nefarious collusion with rationality and tact.

Rand Paul on the other hand… I wouldn’t trust him as far as I can throw him.

But let us not forget how much of a vendetta the Kochs have/had against Lew Rockwell and the LvMI.

J. Murray September 17, 2010 at 10:07 am

It’s not about him thinking about intellectual subjects, it’s about how he is a horrible spur of the moment speaker. Some people naturally know exactly what to say and how to say it. RP, well, catch him off guard and he will usually say something incredibly stupid. He would do better if he was given a minute to formulate what he wanted to say then let loose. That thinking pattern just doesn’t work in forums where most people are exposed to the candidate, where the time spent thinking basically uses up all the alotted time.

Franklin September 17, 2010 at 6:05 pm

mpol’s comment, “If that [had] been me being attacked by George Snuffleupagus, I would have slapped that repulsive grin off his face, to be sure.”
Right on.
Further, this is where I believe you and J. are on common ground. Because Ron couldn’t slap.

On another post you showed the George clip, at his most despicable “when is the next commercial so I can finish talking to this loser” smarmy condescending worst.
And we had good sport about how George needed the lapel grabbing (figuratively) smack across the head (also figuratively). Ron had such a chance to marquis-light the billboard and push George into the “sycophantile” corner of which he lived. Just give him the counterpunch! This was Ron’s chance for the most subtle, still gentlemanly theatrical retort, and to plaster the real problem across the sky — the arrogance, the flip disregard that the establishment media has for the principles of the Constitution.
But he didn’t. It’s not in him.
He’s too much of a gentleman, like many of us too often.

Libertarians hate government as it stands now. Rightly so. And this is the great conundrum.
Revolution or anti-civic evolution? No easy answers.

Barbarossa September 17, 2010 at 7:10 pm

I’ve seen him speak extemporaneously, and in my opinion he’s a reasonably good speaker; in fact, I’d say he’s better-spoken than most of the Congressman. He’s no classical Greek orator, but then few people are, and at least he has logic and facts behind what he says. Any ole slick can be a great speaker, but who cares if nothing they say makes sense? I’ve never seen Paul say anything “stupid,” either. Your only example of this is easily demonstrably false, so you might consider giving specifics before you continue to deride him as saying “stupid” things. And as far as your once witnessing him being boo-ed off the stage, I don’t see how a single anecdote constitutes “proof” that he is incapable of winning over people or being elected President. The whole point is that he comes from a minority position, so OF COURSE there will be instances of people disagreeing with him in that fashion, and the fact of the matter is that he HAS won over many people not already in his camp. Simply because he didn’t convince EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN last time around doesn’t mean he’s a “failure” or that he’s not a worthwhile contender in the next election. He’s not GOD. You have ridiculously high standards with regard to his results and his capabilities as a mere human being. I can’t believe the preposterous things that you’re saying. The more you have to say about him, the more credibility you lose concerning any beliefs that you profess to share with this site or its community.

By the way, Ron Paul purposely tries to say things in as friendly and accommodating and non-radical a manner as possible, so if he falters ever he can be forgiven. He goes after mass appeal without compromising his message, integrity, or his sincerity, and he tries not to offend people of other positions by resorting to emotion, condescension, or inflammatory speech. Confining oneself to being a gentleman in debate and conversation can of course add difficulty to one’s ability to speak off-the-cuff.

Sandre September 17, 2010 at 9:37 am

Jeff,
It is very well written. Meaty. You should write more often.

Regards,

mushindo September 17, 2010 at 9:56 am

I find much to agree with in this article. Particularly the universal lumping of libertarians with conservatives, neocons and fascists, usually under the catch-all label ‘right wing’ , which really galls me.

I have yet to meet a ‘conservative’ ( which includes the vast majority of ‘republicans’ ) who is prepared, on principled grounds, to support, for example,

- completely open borders and free movement
- the repeal of the myriad drug enforcement laws
- ditto for prostitution, and
- pacifism,

whether or not they personally approve or disapprove of any of these things as a matter of personal morality.

No , most conservatives of my acquaintance are invariably bigoted, one-eyed fascists who want to control and outlaw what they do not approve, including the suppression of ideas they they find repugnant, to cheerlead the State when it bombs other nations which happen to be located on top of oil they inexplicably believe is theirs, and yet, when it suits them, to have complete freedom for whatever it is they DO approve.

This is completely antithetical to the libertarian ethos, and to be classified in th esame bucket as them is something I find deeply offensive.

They way I like to see it was well described by Lew Rockwell some time ago, when he said ( words to the effect of, quoted from memory): The Left hates the State’s interference in social freedoms, but loves the States interference in economic freedoms. The Right is the exact opposite. It is the job of the libertarian to convince each side that the other is half right.

Which puts us exactly in the centre – So who said there is no middle way? ;-)

J. Murray September 17, 2010 at 10:04 am

Actually, the libertarian movement isn’t about pacifism. You’d be hard pressed to find libertarians that would state that if you get punched in the face, just take it until the other guy gets tired and goes away. It’s about non-interventionism and non-aggression. I won’t initiate conflict, but if it’s initiated against me, I’ll be sure to make the other guy regret the decision.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 10:23 am

That’s right, but if we’re still on about 9/11, here’s a better analogy: we’re all in a small playground with a kid who likes to poke sticks into beehives. My main beef is with that kid.

- – - – - – -

Mushindo, really good, except for the “P” word, reminds of another “P” word.

astier September 17, 2010 at 9:59 am

Amen! Let’s not forget that XIXth century Classical Liberals from France (Constant, Say, Bastiat, Tocqueville etc.) were center left; for the progress of mankind through freedom, against the conservative business lobbies robbing the consumer through tariffs, rules, edicts, decrees, and other laws on one hand; and against the communist barbarians on the other. There is a piece from Bastiat – “protectionism and communism”, demonstratrating apodictically (And breathtakingly one may say) « the identity of the communist principle and the prohibitionist principle ». This essay is an open letter to Mr. Thiers, a then prominent french pro-business conservative politician.
Thank you for this great piece indeed.

michael September 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Calm down, Jeff. You’re letting your imagination run away from you. This is a typical reference to libertarianism in the article:

“The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests.”

The statement is a correct one, according to any standard definition of libertarianism. The brothers believe in smaller government, fewer taxes, less regulation and fewer social services. Those ideas are all identified with libertarianism.

But you parody the article when you say “One can only shake one’s head sadly at such a grotesque panoply of misinformation and outright falsehoods.” There is no misinformation in the New Yorker article that I can see, nor are there any outight falsehoods. If there are, maybe you should have pointed them out instead of just smearing the author… while at the same time making no direct charges.

You tell us “But this level of ignorance is simply inexcusable in an intellectual journalist: a person who writes professionally for periodical publication about recent developments and events in the world of ideas.”

So do us a favor, Jeff. Point out the specific instances of inexcusable ignorance.

You go on to say the author “describes the libertarian movement as “a pro-corporate movement” (your quotes). But I’ve gone over the article in some degree of detail, and I can find neither that wording nor that sentiment. So where, then, did you find the material you appear to have quoted?

The Koch Brothers are certainly pro-libertarian– and they are on the other hand pro-corporate. But I can find no comment saying that the libertarian movement itself IS a “pro-corporate movement”. Could you please point to the source of your quote?

My challenge to anyone else, of course, would be to read the New Yorker article in sufficient detail as to uncover the quote I’ve apparently missed. I’m looking forward to your results.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 12:50 pm

“By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, keep[ing] us in touch with the ignorance of the community.”

Complete fulfillment. Nice work, Mr. Riggenbach. And thanks to Michael, he “is* invaluable.

This “calm down” tactic: oh, the most obnoxious one in the book. My all-time favorite for this one, a variation of it when Hillary was first running for the Senate: in one of the debates her male opponent came over to her side of the stage to hand her a piece of paper and she made like he was going to hit her. Killer.

michael September 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Sorry, I missed where you found the reference in the article that the libertarian movement is a “pro-corporate movement”. Please point it out in your short comment (I have no idea how I missed it).

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 2:06 pm

You requested something from *me*, government troll? Piss off.

Phinn September 17, 2010 at 1:11 pm

>>“The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation.”

The statement is a correct one, according to any standard definition of libertarianism.

No, it fits the standard definition of conservatism.

In fact, the author of the article repeatedly conflates conservatism with libertarianism. She says, for example, that “David and Charles had absorbed their father’s conservative politics,” and a moment later, says that their friend and fellow-traveller “DiZerega … eventually abandoned right-wing views, and became a political-science professor.”

Libertarians are not right wing. That’s a falsehood, if you are seriously looking for one.

The real story here is how the Koch brothers describe themselves as anti-government, and as libertarians, and as promoters of libertarian ideas, and yet, in their actions, they derive vast wealth from the oil business, which is as deeply statist as it gets.

Who is the single biggest buyer of oil products in the United States? The Pentagon.

Who keeps other refinery companies from forming and competing against the Koch refineries? I’ll give you two guesses. (Hint: It’s not the free market.)

I suspect the Koch brothers despise themselves, and despise their father, and despise their oil money, even as they continue to accumulate vast sums of money from Statist protections and subsidies.

The grandiosity of philanthropy is a transparent compensation for feelings of self-loathing and shame, which, given their rank hypocrisy, I am sure the Koch brothers experience constantly. After all, their actions and their lives are blatantly contradictory to their professed devotion to the virtues of economic liberty and non-aggression.

michael September 17, 2010 at 1:59 pm

See my comment above, to Russ. David Koch once ran for VP on the Libertarian Party ticket. I guess they didn’t know he wasn’t a libertarian.

The brothers are serious backers of the Reason Foundation and the Cato Institute. I guess that means they’re not libertarian.

They want smaller government. Nothing libertarian there.

The thing is, if there’s something you want to ‘disprove’, it really doesn’t matter what any of the facts are.

mpolzkill September 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm

“if there’s something you want to ‘disprove’, it really doesn’t matter what any of the facts are.”

Words Michael lives by…in fact, what’s better really is to forget any facts you’ve learned, or better still to make sure to plug your ears when any unwanted facts may come by.

Sandre September 17, 2010 at 3:11 pm

See my comment above,

I saw it. It is full of sh!+ and yet, Phinn gave you a polite and valid response, and the best you could do was to refer to your crappy comment above.

Dave Albin September 17, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Conservatives move towards libertarianism when out of power in politics – I think that’s where the confusion comes from. After they win, like in 1994, they regress to their old ways, like trying to get Democrats to switch to the Republican Party.

michael September 17, 2010 at 7:55 pm

George Bush came to power holding the banner of small government. Then look what happened. He turned the country around from beginning to seriously pay down the debt in the late 1990s to nearly doubling it in the following eight years. Government actually expanded in size during that time.

Reflex September 17, 2010 at 8:24 pm

So i guess George Bush disqualifies himself as a libertarian. That’ll disappoint some on the left.

Scott D September 18, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Your points are well taken and heavily documented on this very site. The neo-conservatives are no more our allies than the left. The problem is government itself, not the fact that the wrong people are in charge. FDR came to power on a platform of fiscal austerity, but he, too, greatly expanded government. So, what do these examples demonstrate other than to confirm that “yes, Virginia, politicians do lie”?

michael September 19, 2010 at 11:14 am

It’s laughably easy to point to the faults of our current two-party system, and to say that the system as it stands is incapable of giving us good government. But it’s quite another thing to describe what we need to replace it with.

I’m finding most anarchists and minarchists to be deficient in this area. Right now we seem to be approaching election time in the spirit of experiment. That is, we may be replacing a number of career professionals (“part of the problem”) with a bunch of ignorant dimbulbs with no idea how they intend to change government because they don’t really know what it does. It’s like having a bus driver who’s had so many accidents you have to replace him with SOMEone, anyone… and you decide on a nine-year-old who’s never been behind a wheel.

Let’s see some ideas. So far, the main one is that if we just eliminate government altogether and learn to live without a center everything will be hunky dory, and people will come together in a constructive spirit of entrepreneurial cooperation.

I’m not entirely sure about that. And I sure get a ration of BS for mentioning that. But I still haven’t seen anything like a plan for the future.

Jay Lakner September 19, 2010 at 11:32 am

Michael,

I see you have done very little reading on this subject.

The free market will work in unexpected ways to fulfill the desires of the people.
Attempts to plan society result in a less-satisfied population than if you simply leave them to their own devices.

The only “planning” we should be doing is working out the exact order in which to eliminate government agencies and regulations to allow a relatively smooth transition to anarcho-capitalism.

michael September 19, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Jay, I’ve been doing a huge amount of reading on this subject in recent weeks. And I’ve read a hundred times where this theory or that theory “proves” how the free market is going to make the future rosy for everyone. Or at least for the winners in the game. But all that is is a burst of collective schizophrenia. The facts don’t support any of it.

In demonstrable fact, when you leave investors to put their money on the square they want to put it on (as in our own system now), they don’t exhibit the slightest bit of wisdom as to how it might best be allocated. Instead they gamble that this or that wager will make them more money. And half the time they lose.

So periodically, with increasing frequency, we enter into those market-determined crashes where trillions of dollars in bets get lost at the table. And the overall economy goes into yet another decline.

To call this simply “the business cycle” is to trivialize the impact this constant loss in productive investment is having on society. It points, if anything, to a real need to have investments directed by disinterested technocrats with some sense of the bigger picture. ABCT seems wholly other-worldly and unrealistic to me. It’s based on magical thinking, and a basic misunderstanding of human nature.

Your “anarcho-capitalism” would quickly result in the destruction of all barriers to the accumulation of profits. We would end in short time with all the money in the country being in the hands of the few, and permanent underemployment would be the fate of the now unnecessary job-dependent working class.

Then it’s a jump-ball whether invading forces from some other nation or just revolution from an irate and impoverished American public would destabilize the whole mess. And once done, either disruption of order would result (as historically it always has) in the imposition of a dictatorship… to “restore order”. It would be loudly acclaimed by the citizenry.

We’ve seen all this before. I’m not for it.

Peter Surda September 19, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Michael,

despite the self-professed erudity you show lack of comprehension of the basic topics. For example, you have not defined “government”. But let’s not talk about that first.

Let us instead assume that your criticism of capitalism (or “capitalism”) is correct. However, it does not follow that involving government in the process improves anything. In order to do that, the government would have to have superhuman capabilities. Where does it get them? Are the government officials a different breed of people, less prone to error and with a higher respect for other people’s needs than the private sector? Is the government immune to the problem of economic calculation?

The distinctive factor of government/state compared to other human constructs is that it has a territorial monopoly on the initiation of force (that’s how anarchocapitalists tend to define it). Typically, it proceeds to eliminate market forces either by regulating the services and goods being traded or by outright monopolising the provision thereof. How does this cause an improvement of anything? On the market, the concept of private property ensures that greed can only be satisfied by benefiting others. What is the corresponding corrective factor of government? If anything, the absence of market forces causes a deterioration rather than improvement of services.

michael September 24, 2010 at 12:39 pm

“despite the self-professed erudity you show lack of comprehension of the basic topics. For example, you have not defined “government”. But let’s not talk about that first.”

Peter, you’re venturing into parody now. But back up… you’ve not yet explained “erudity”, “comprehension” or “topics”.

We do not have to believe that government must possess “superhuman capabilities” before we allow it to act. All we need do is to demonstrate that a lack of action leads to an undesirable outcome. That is sufficient to impel us toward making some attempt to do something about it.

I would refer you to the first axiom: Man acts.

The rest of your comment is a nest of falsehoods. For example “Are the government officials a different breed of people, less prone to error and with a higher respect for other people’s needs than the private sector?”

Ideally, yes. The private sector you laud is particularly full of selfish people whose only interest is how to gain at the expense of those they trade with. On Mises.org this ideal is upheld as man’s highest aspiration.

Whereas a properly functioning civil service should be full of people who believe government’s purpose is to serve their fellow man. They are not lavishly paid, nor are there incentives. They’re there to do their job, which is to create rules of the game that treat each of the players fairly, and to enforce those rules well enough to disincentivize cheating and theft. There are certainly many such people. You just don’t know any of them.

“On the market, the concept of private property ensures that greed can only be satisfied by benefiting others.”

Nope. The objective in many or most schemes is to get rich at the other guy’s expense. The world is run zero-sum much more than it is altruistically. Win-win outcomes are fairly unusual, where neither party gains a decided advantage.

“What is the corresponding corrective factor of government?”

A silly question. Government regulates activities that would serve neither the public good nor an orderly market were they to continue unregulated.

“If anything, the absence of market forces causes a deterioration rather than improvement of services.”

There is no “absence of market forces”. There are market forces, plus regulatory forces.

Peter Surda September 24, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Michael,

thank you for your reply, as it yet again demonstrates your work method. I see that a lot of people are annoyed by this, but do not comprehend completely why. So, first of all, I will explain how you do it.

Step 1: You present a tautology.
Step 2: You present a non-sequitur.
Step 3: People react and explain that you are wrong.
Step 4: You slightly modify the claims that have been made (either by you or by your opponents). Subtly so that it’s not obvious, but sufficiently for the arguments to lose original meaning, so you avoid admitting to be in error.
Step 5: You go back to step 1.

Sometimes, you follow this procedure in multiple threads in parallel within one post.

Now to the current iteration(s):

All we need do is to demonstrate that a lack of action leads to an undesirable outcome.

There are multiple problems with this statement. Most importantly, as I said in another thread (I believe yesterday) all actions altogether lead to an outcome that is undesirable for someone. Referring to my description of your methodology, this is the tautology (step 1).

That is sufficient to impel us toward making some attempt to do something about it.

As I have explained (and you almost agreed, but not entirely, because then you would have to admit you were wrong), government does not have any capability that other people do not have either. Therefore, it does not follow that in order to “do something about it”, a government is necessary. This is the non-sequitur (step 2).

Next one:

Are the government officials a different breed of people, less prone to error and with a higher respect for other people’s needs than the private sector?

Ideally, yes. The private sector you laud is particularly full of selfish people whose only interest is how to gain at the expense of those they trade with.

In this case, you switched the order and put step 2 before step 1. It does not logically follow that if people in private sector are “bad”, people in the government are “good”. The tautology regarding “expense” I explained in the previous paragraph, someone is always unsatisfied about something.

Whereas a properly functioning civil service should be full of people who believe government’s purpose is to serve their fellow man. They are not lavishly paid, nor are there incentives. They’re there to do their job, which is to create rules of the game that treat each of the players fairly, and to enforce those rules well enough to disincentivize cheating and theft. There are certainly many such people. You just don’t know any of them.

The tautology is that it would be nice if people believed they should benefit others instead of harming them. Unless, of course, you’re a masochist. The non-sequitur (which you did not explicitly phrase) is that the introduction of government promotes this.

The objective in many or most schemes is to get rich at the other guy’s expense.

Again “expense” (tautology) and the implicit assumption that this has something to do with the distinction between private and public sector (non-sequitur).

Government regulates activities that would serve neither the public good nor an orderly market were they to continue unregulated.

This is just a statement with the purpose of causing confusion. “Public good” and “orderly market” are features derived from individuals, they do not have separate existence or needs. If you remove the confusing filter from the statement then, you are saying that government (i.e. people representing it) would act in a way that is beneficial for some and detrimental for others. Again, a tautology. The non-sequitur here is that merely because you imagine government is supposed to act according to a certain normative scale, it does not follow that it must act according to it.

There is no “absence of market forces”. There are market forces, plus regulatory forces.

What I mean by “market forces” is voluntary social interaction. Absence of market forces is therefore is the use of force to create involuntary social interaction. Which is, by definition, a feature of government: a territorial monopoly on the initiation of force. Even if you rephrase it as “regulation”, it is still force, preventing people from using their own property and trading it voluntarily with others.

Hopefully, my post will allow others to avoid getting tricked by you into thinking that you want to argue and learn. You don’t. You want to confuse and win by endurance in playing games.

michael September 25, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Peter, it’s obvious we won’t be getting anywhere with this dialog… which is a shame. I had hoped to be able to bridge the divide between cultures. But the fact is, you are invested in a philosophy that upholds selfishness and despises the mere thought of any intervention in the name of fairness or justice. Toward that end you must use any argument, sensible or not, truthful or not, to maintain the supremacy of your ideal. Because if mine ever wins, you believe the Holy Cause will be lost.

So, true to your pattern, you must never give even an inch to the Devil, lest he take it all. While I, a liberal sort, am continually compelling myself to give you the benefit of the doubt and meet you halfway. It’s just not working.

In the contest between the reasonable man and the zealot, the most unreasonable one always has to have his way. And if you can’t win on the merits of your philosophy I expect you’ll next have to start yelling loudly and breaking things. So let’s drop the subject before we get to that point.

I came here to study your philosophy, and I’m coming to despise it. It’s not American and it has nothing to do with freedom. It’s insidious.

Peter Surda September 25, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Michael,

what I am interested in is logic. What you are interested in is illogic. It is pointless to debate whether illogic is moral or not, because it doesn’t exist.

I had hoped to be able to bridge the divide between cultures.

You cannot bridge the gap between illogic and logic.

You make the whole thing look like the difference between our opinions was on the ethical level. It is not. It is about logic and you being nonsensical. I avoid normative claims as far as I can. I’m a falsificationist, I’m interested in the coherence of theories, not in their ethical aspects. I prefer to leave ethical judgements to others.

In other words, I’m a scientist (or I try to be), you’re a preacher.

I came here to study your philosophy, and I’m coming to despise it.

What you despise is logic. You are afraid of being wrong, and instead prefer not to have a coherent opinion about anything. Sure, that’s an option. You won’t win any fans for it here though.

It’s not American and it has nothing to do with freedom.

I’m not an American, so what?

It’s insidious.

I find it regrettable that such a hatred for the scientific method is widespread.

michael September 25, 2010 at 7:34 pm

“Michael, what I am interested in is logic. What you are interested in is illogic. It is pointless to debate whether illogic is moral or not, because it doesn’t exist.”

I had hoped to be done with you, Peter. But I can’t let this pass. Too much of Austrian Theory is pseudo-logic designed to confuse the unwary. It’s a new bottle in which old wine has been poured.

Let’s take the idea that the very best way investment capital can be allocated is by free individuals, freely choosing where to place their investments. And any government meddling by this view would be a distortion of some immutable law someone made up.

There’s nothing logical about any of this. In fact when individuals have excess money past their immediate spending needs, the evidence is that they use it to gamble with, in search of maximum winnings. And demonstrably, they gamble very badly with it. And so, as more and more money leaves the consumer economy and enters the financial sector, what we find is a handful of people earning over a billion dollars each year (a terrible misallocation of funds) and a lot of losers who apparently didn’t understand derivatives quite as well as they thought they did. Meanwhile those small concerns that actually hire people are starved for operating capital. Because they’re not as sexy as something like credit default swaps.

In fact since the financial sector has been on top, failures have been coming more and more frequently, with each more calamitous than the last. First the S&L debacle, which people thought was huge. Then the Asian Tigers back in 1998, much larger. Then the dot-coms, a marvelous example of the wisdom of the markets. And now mortgage-based securities and all the rest.

Letting every Jack and Jim throw his money around like that is a worthless way to direct investment. It squanders capital every time a sum is gathered in one place. Far better, it would seem to me, to tax those excess profits and first retire the national debt with them. Then we could start to invest with a plan, giving the country an educational system capable of meeting the challenges we face, and putting our market-oriented sector back together so we could start making a profit again, not just running trade deficits to forever.

Our finances are being stupidly run, by our way of just letting the smart money crowd play with our capital in the Big Casino. There’s nothing logical about that. It should be invested carefully, in a national plan well devised by capable technocrats.

That’s the way China did it. And look where they’re going, and then where we’re going.

Peter Surda September 25, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Too much of Austrian Theory is pseudo-logic designed to confuse the unwary.

Well then, by all means, expose it! Being a falsificationist, I welcome being proven wrong.

The rest of the post, regrettably, is back to the same old pattern of tautologies and non-sequiturs. You know, like current financial system having to do with free market, the assumptions that if situation A is deficient in some manner, a different situation would be an improvement and so on. Therefore, in the absence of a coherent claim, there is nothing left to agree or disagree with.

Oh, and, the omnipresent royal “we” is just the cherry on the top.

michael September 26, 2010 at 10:16 am

It’s not the “omnipresent royal we”. Peter. It’s “we, the People”. I notice this idea seems threatening to many of you here… but many of us understand that building a society is a joint endeavor, while trying to take profit from it is a private one. So we consider ourselves a “we”, while you are just a “you”.

2. ” Being a falsificationist, I welcome being proven wrong.
“The rest of the post, regrettably, is back to the same old pattern of tautologies and non-sequiturs. You know, like current financial system having to do with free market…” etc.

Actually, no. Your sloppy reading of my comment may have bent your understanding in that direction, but my comment wasn’t about the current financial system. It was about the fact that in our society most of the allocation of investment money is performed by private individuals.

And in Austrian Theory, that is held up as being a great good.

However OF those moneys invested by private individuals, huge sums (more money than exists in the form of M1 by several orders of magnitude) get squandered on fruitless investments that do nothing for anyone’s productivity… OTHER than those bond traders who make commissions from them.

It’s a distortion of market forces that should function as efficient allocators of funds leading to our common wealth. That is, intelligent investment as that rising tide that lifts all ships. As time goes on, fewer and fewer people benefit from a system where investment decisions get left to people whose only intent is to maximize returns on investment. More and more, people’s best judgments on investing leads to their certain losses, and to losses among business leaders and workers alike. Recall Long Term Capital Management, Enron and Global Crossing, three of the many sure things that didn’t pan out for any of the people who pumped billions into them.

This last time around, eleven trillion dollars got put into schemes that didn’t earn a dime. And that has come to be the paradigm for our times, the essential hollowness of a national business plan that expects to make money solely within the financial markets.

We have to actually provide a product or service that people are willing to pay us for. We can’t continue making a living providing speculative air-ware to the world.

Peter Surda September 26, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Who is this we you arrogate to yourself the right to speak for? The people? What people? Am I inhuman?

It was about the fact that in our society most of the allocation of investment money is performed by private individuals.

There is nothing but private individuals. There are no aliens interfering with our economy. Government does not consist of a different breed. Another tautology.

And in Austrian Theory, that is held up as being a great good.

But michael, don’t you know that the Austrian school of economics is value-free? Surely you must have come across that by now?

We can’t continue making a living providing speculative air-ware to the world.

By “we”, you mean “me”. You don’t like something, and make up tons of empty phrases around it so that it appears that you have some sort of an argument. You don’t. Your words are devoid of meaning. It is a prime example of misuse of language and human mind.

Scott D September 26, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Michael,

I would take you more seriously if you would substantiate anything that you say about the state of the market and those within it with anything resembling facts. You are very good at repeating the currently socialist-leaning Democratic Party line as fact, when it is often very easy to disprove those assertions. You also have mistaken beliefs about the market and make many errors, showing that you can’t possibly have studied the matter in as much detail as you either profess or believe.

“In demonstrable fact, when you leave investors to put their money on the square they want to put it on (as in our own system now), they don’t exhibit the slightest bit of wisdom as to how it might best be allocated. Instead they gamble that this or that wager will make them more money. And half the time they lose.”

What is this “demonstrable fact”? I can’t for the life of me figure out where you’ve pulled this supposed fact from. It is a fact that the S&P 500 has had a positive inflation-adjusted total return for every decade since 1950 except the 1970′s and 2000′s (three of those decades had double-digit returns). Even the -3.4% return of the 2000s isn’t such a big loss when you realize that investing still worked to hedge against inflation. So a diversified portfolio is almost certainly going to provide a hedge against inflation and will probably net you a substantial return. As 70% of the total value of U.S. stock market falls under the S&P 500, these stocks have made a great deal of money for a large amount of people.

“So periodically, with increasing frequency, we enter into those market-determined crashes where trillions of dollars in bets get lost at the table. And the overall economy goes into yet another decline.”

The “increasing frequency” part, meant to imply that things are getting worse the longer freedom of choice in investments is the norm, is easily proven false. The current recession started in December 2007. The preceeding recession ended just over 6 years previously. Before that it was ten years. 7 and-a-half years, 1 year, 5 years, 3 years, 9 years, 2 years, 3 years, 3 years. The recessions of the 1950s and 1970s went up into the -3% GDP range. The frequency of the last few recessions isn’t particularly out of the ordinary, and its severity, as measured by a drop in GDP of 4.1%, is dwarfed by the Great Depression’s 26.7%.

“To call this simply “the business cycle” is to trivialize the impact this constant loss in productive investment is having on society. It points, if anything, to a real need to have investments directed by disinterested technocrats with some sense of the bigger picture.”

We could interpret this statement in a number of ways. You might be advocating a strategy of tax and spend, where the government directly confiscates the money that might otherwise go to this supposed multitude of bad investments and also “invests” it directly, whether by subsidising industries or just plain building stuff–with, of course, strict controls in place against corruption. You could be talking about some regulatory scheme where government employees oversee and approve all investments–with of course, strict controls in place against corruption. Or maybe we just have the government sieze the banking industry and control investment that way–with…you know the rest. I can’t see how any of these options would present an advantage over private investment, and no potential reason to believe otherwise besides question-begging and a desire to adhere to your particular worldview. “Disinterested technocrats” is a fantasy because of the reality that political power is won by trading future obligations for campaign support, and then, once in power, the politician is obliged to provide favors in exchange for present or future gain. It is impossible to insulate your technocrats from this process because of the immense potential for gain if they cheat. And that’s not even taking into consideration the Socialist Calculation Problem.

It is curious that you see self-interested investment as being somehow self-destructive. You see the desire to make money to be an evil one that inevitably leads to bad ends, and when an investor does lose money, you take it personally, as if the person had lost that money on behalf of, and to the detriment of, all of the poor people in the world. Also, in your world, everyone becomes suddenly very risk-loving when presented with the opportunity to invest, leading to investment bubbles, when we know from studies in psychology that people are predominantly risk-averse.

A different interpretation of events is provided by the ABCT, which tells us that tinkering with interest rates leads to a distortian in the information that those interest rates normally convey. This, in turn, leads to systemic investment losses when a large number of people invest, we see in retrospect, unwisely. Given the choice between “greed makes people stupid and/or crazy” and “lowering interest rates distorts information”, I’m afraid that the ABCT argument is a much more compelling one.

“Your “anarcho-capitalism” would quickly result in the destruction of all barriers to the accumulation of profits. We would end in short time with all the money in the country being in the hands of the few, and permanent underemployment would be the fate of the now unnecessary job-dependent working class.”

This is the most inane of all of your pronouncements that you repeatedly make on this site. You have nothing to back this assertion up but your own belief system, but I’ll attempt to show why this is wrong. An employer is going to seek out the best possible value in an employee while still meeting the requirements of the job. Similarly, a job candidate is going to seek out the employer that pays the highest amount possible while asking the candidate to take on labor, risks, and responsibility that he deems reasonable.

For example, my job requires a four-year degree, knowledge of database design, knowledge of several programming languages and some other applications. Someone who lacks all or at least most of those qualifications will not be considered for the job. This will elmininate a significant percentage of the local population from even being considered for my job. Also, many of those who are qualified for my position have additional education or experience which has qualified them for higher-salary jobs. Next, we must consider that the employer must undertake costs to advertise the job opening, and that potential employees must undertake costs to search out that opening. There are some people who might have applied for the job if they had known, but never took the time at the right moment and in the right place to search for it.

This leaves us with just a handful of people who are qualified without being already employed in a position of equal or greater salary, who live in the right area and who came across the advertisement for the job opening. When I was considering the job, I had in my mind a minimum salary that I would accept, given my debt load and living expenses. I initially asked for higher than this, but the employer countered with an offer that was in between and I accepted.

Now, my employer might have given a counter-offer that was lower than my minimum. In that case, I would need to either re-evaluate my expectations or decline the offer. In my case, I would have probably declined. From there, the employer would need to find another candidate that would take the lower salary, possibly requiring additional money and time spent searching, or re-evaluate their expectations of salary relative to qualifications. If there happened to be a large number of people with my qualifications relative to the number of positions open, salary would be pushed down by competition, which would serve as a signal to others that there are too many database developers around. Conversely, too few developers would result in rising salaries as companies competed for people with my talents.

I’m sure that, being a business manager as you claim, you have witnessed the effects of this process firsthand. What I don’t understand is why you think that it would cease altogether without government interference. Other than the government subsidization of my college education (which leads to increases in tuition, raising the overall cost of education), I am unaware of any legislation, taxation, or law that compels my employer to pay me the salary that I currently receive, and that in whose absence. The only law that applies here is the one of Supply and Demand.

“All we need do is to demonstrate that a lack of action leads to an undesirable outcome. That is sufficient to impel us toward making some attempt to do something about it.

I would refer you to the first axiom: Man acts.”

That is a worthless parody of what Mises was saying. Either you completely miss the point or you are trying to be funny. As Peter Surda keeps trying to get you to answer, who is hurt by this “undesirable outcome”? You seem to think that it is everyone, but I heartily disagree. The banking collapses of 2008 were an “undesirable outcome” for many people who didn’t want to lose their careers and investments. Yet, when the government decided to bail out those banks, they could only do so by creating more “undesirable outcomes” for other people.

The “superhuman capabilities” that you speak of only if you want government to do more good than it does harm, in other words, if you want its actions to result in a net benefit for all affected. This is because you are expecting the government to demonstrate better decision-making than the market, despite its insurmountable blindness to the immense amount of information that the distributed processes of the market handles easily. On the other hand, if all you are concerned about is helping out the state’s corporate cronies, not caring about who else is hurt, then it is a very reasonable proposition to simply do something.

“I came here to study your philosophy, and I’m coming to despise it. It’s not American and it has nothing to do with freedom. It’s insidious.”

No, you despised it from the beginning and came here to debunk it, and I don’t hold that against you. If I had the time and inclination to frequent Keynsian or Marxist economic sites, I might do much the same. As I said long ago, I come to these conversations having no illusions that I might change your viewpoint. Maybe, possibly, plant some seeds for doubt, but there simply isn’t the time or the dedication for someone like me to challenge a large and complex set of interlocking and reinforcing beliefs. Attack one part of your constructed reality and you find another part of it that offers ideas that contradict my assault. Some of these, such as your concept of the market as this random conglomeration of exchanges that are just ripe for the greedy to fleece, could not possibly correlate to reality, but you’ve backed up these crazy ideas with enough depth to make them look convincingly solid. That’s why many people have urged you to read Hayek, von Mises, etc. in the hope that you might start to build a new foundation for your thinking and come to realize that your current paradigm couldn’t possibly be true.

“Peter, it’s obvious we won’t be getting anywhere with this dialog… which is a shame. I had hoped to be able to bridge the divide between cultures. But the fact is, you are invested in a philosophy that upholds selfishness and despises the mere thought of any intervention in the name of fairness or justice. Toward that end you must use any argument, sensible or not, truthful or not, to maintain the supremacy of your ideal. Because if mine ever wins, you believe the Holy Cause will be lost.”

What these back-and-forth battles in the comments provide is the fantasy that one of us can crush your arguments, humiliate you, while at the same time bring you around to seeing that you are wrong. That’s simply not going to happen. People rarely express their opinion if they have any idea that it will be roundly refuted. This requires both that you are comfortable with the evidence supporting your side, and certain that the evidence on the other side is poor. It takes a huge amount of work to counter such a firmly-held opinion.

Much as we like to pretend that dispassionate argumentation is the norm, you believe what you do because of strong emotional attachment to those ideas. You feel rage at economic injustice and wish to see reprimands given and reparations made. You feel sympathy for the poor. We libertarians are angry with the continuing increase of government’s reach, its confiscation of our wealth, and its policies that inevitably hurt those they are supposed to help.

you are invested in a philosophy that upholds selfishness and despises the mere thought of any intervention in the name of fairness or justice.

I don’t deny that greed drives people to do horrible things. What you say here reveals, though, that you still hold in your head a caricature of what libertarianism is. Here’s my basic formulation of it: Greed exists. It can’t be legislated out of existence or punished to the point that altruism become’s humanity’s natural response to scarcity. You can force people to give to others, but you can’t make them stop wanting better for themselves. Without consequences, greed can and will drive people to do things that will harm others. I think that this is the point that you and I part ways. Your definition of what harms others (money and capital accumulation), differs wildly from mine.

Going further, political power greatly increases greed’s possible scope of harm by legitimizing violent aggression. Just the threat of violence is usually enough to allow a greedy person with political power to extract wealth from others. The market, on the other hand, allows for wants to be satisfied only by giving up something in return. By definition, the thing wanted must be deemed more valuable than the thing given, or there will be no exchange (absent aggression). Is this selfishness? Yes, to be exact, it is rational self-interest. Is it just? Also, yes.

Ah, but you seem to want to say that this is not good enough. What about the poor person who signs up for a credit card with a “predatory” interest rate and annual fee? What about payday advances? What about the sub-standard products imported from China? Low-wage jobs, etc. The implication is that these businesses prey upon the unintelligent, desperate, or helpless. Again, the only way to judge the merit of these things is through subjective value. Does the person value the extra spending cash from a credit card or a payday loan higher than the future income that will be consumed? Are the few dollars saved on a cheap, poorly-built product worth the risk of it breaking or wearing out early? Is the job that pays minimum wage not worth the time and labor the worker expends for it?

To claim that these questions can be answered en masse is to deny subjective valuation. It presupposes that removing or limiting choices for the consumer will result in a net benefit for those people. It reduces the reasoning that goes into selecting these denigrated products and services into pithy and derisive commentary about the stupidity of such consumers and the evil nature of entities who offer them. It has no basis in logic.

Phinn September 27, 2010 at 7:01 am

>>It’s not the “omnipresent royal we”. Peter. It’s “we, the People”. I notice this idea seems threatening to many of you here… but many of us understand that building a society is a joint endeavor, while trying to take profit from it is a private one. So we consider ourselves a “we”, while you are just a “you”.

What is your favorite quip/defense mechanism?

It goes something like this — “You ivory tower intellectuals with all your fancy theories, you don’t know anything about reality, and as far as I am concerned, whenever a theory doesn’t match up perfectly with my own idiosyncratic interpretation of my vast experience as a … whatever … , then I will discard theory altogether.”

Did I capture your attitude? Yes, I think I did.

Now, let’s apply it back to you.

Your usage of the term “We the People” is just a theory. It doesn’t exist in real life. It’s an abstraction. There is no “We the People.” In reality, there are only individuals, who either cooperate, or they don’t. Many don’t. Therefore, there is no such thing as a “We the People” concept that can be applied to everyone.

So, your pitiful insistence on clinging to this theoretical, imaginary abstraction of “We the People” must be discarded because it does not match up with reality, down here where the rubber meets the road.

Tu quoque.

michael September 27, 2010 at 8:12 am

“What is your favorite quip/defense mechanism? It goes something like this — “You ivory tower intellectuals with all your fancy theories, you don’t know anything about reality, and as far as I am concerned, whenever a theory doesn’t match up perfectly with my own idiosyncratic interpretation of my vast experience as a … whatever … , then I will discard theory altogether.”

Actually it’s not that. Intellectuals do tend, by definition, to get carried away with their theories. But the honest ones try to attenuate those theories in relation to reality. The people here, though, uphold the idea that theories take precedence over reality. And when forced to, they base them on fraudulent “facts”. That’s a fundamental dishonesty.

A small case in point, before I offer a larger one: Elsewhere on the blog someone offered as fact the comment that guns were being rounded up in California. So I asked that person for their source.

I got many responses. None offered any facts. All went the route of character assassination, reviling me for whatever, I suppose for just being me.

That’s not intellectualism. That’s a thoroughly corrupted thought process, when no one cares whether the “facts” they operate by are true or not. When people go after me they rarely if ever go the facts route. They always shout loudly, that their theory is the superior theory and that I should learn more about it.

That’s just recommending that everyone drink the Koolaid.

Here’s a more substantive case than the one about guns being rounded up: the axiom that productivity and markets are best served by money in private hands being invested without the government’s influence. And the corollary that any government influence amounts to a “market distortion”.

I’ve pointed out that private money being invested in this way tends to seek maximal profits in the short term, and so enters that part of the investment market that consists of a big financial casino. And that the pattern over the past thirty years is actually for that money to be malinvested in schemes that in time fall through. Bubbles of over-valuation are created by the actions of such “free” markets and in due time topple and collapse, losing trillions in investor value at every turn.

So if one looks at the evidence, these repeating series of misallocations are actually on the part of individual investors seeking maximum personal gains. I suggest that by the evidence, we might well be better served if the money was instead taxed. It would then do the necessary work of first retiring public debt, and beyond that the surplus could be used to restore America’s industrial capacity, educational primacy and position as a world leader in basic scientific research.

Those are priorities a well run, publicly oriented investment plan could achieve. Sadly, those needs don’t get met by private investors, who instead prefer to dabble in idiotic ventures like credit default swaps.

When I say something like this, neither you nor anyone else EVER engages with the actual point, that that is what the facts teach us. Instead the more polite ones just tell me I’m doctrinally faulty and should study the Austrians harder. The rest vilify me as being a troll.

In short, I’m very far from being impressed by your intellectual capacities. Everything about our dialog here screams “fraud”.

Phinn September 27, 2010 at 9:04 am

Let’s see what’s happening here, because it’s your M.O., and you do it every time — you trot out a trite, damn-near meaningless phrase like “We the People” and expect it to carry your water.

Then, I point out that (a) this phrase is merely a corporatizing abstract theory of action and interest that attempts to impose an artificial concept of collectivism onto hundreds of millions of individuals, and (b) the problems inherent in imposing broad, abstract theories onto “messy” facts is EXACTLY the kind of intellectual error that you prattle on and on and on about, day after day, week after week, on this site. I don’t care enough about you to look any of them up, but I am sure you know what I am talking about.

Then, having been called on your own bullshit, you change the subject. Naturally. I could have predicted this, because it’s what you always do.

So, instead of talking about how “We the People” is a broad abstraction that doesn’t fit the facts, and thus how much of a ridiculously-transparent clown you are, NOW you want to talk about some irrelevant crap about somebody somewhere rounding up guns, and then veer off into some self-lampooning diatribe about how it’s private investment that’s all about short-term gains, and “public” investment is clearly the solution to this non-existent problem.

>>So if one looks at the evidence, these repeating series of misallocations are actually on the part of individual investors seeking maximum personal gains.

You only see the “evidence” that you want to see.

>>When I say something like this, neither you nor anyone else EVER engages with the actual point, that that is what the facts teach us.

That’s because you misunderstand the facts, having either failed to understand what’s right in front of you, or you have selected whatever tidbits and factoids you need in order to justify your pre-selected conclusions about how “public” investment is the way to go.

Your core problems are not even with economics, but rather are psychological. You enjoy being attacked. You obviously invite it, deliberately. This pattern shows that you are annoyed and angry all the time, so you are normalizing those feelings by spreading annoyance and anger. I’m sure that the disquiet and hostility that exists inside your own mind at all times is absolutely horrible. I am sure you have alienated everyone in your life that might have mattered to you, so now at the end of your life, you are desperately looking for a context in which to stay stuck in perpetual, un-resolvable conflict, because you like it.

You will have to find another vehicle for the exercise of your psychological problems.

michael September 27, 2010 at 9:21 am

Phinn: “We the People” is hardly “a trite, damn-near meaningless phrase”. It’s the basis upon which our country was founded. We hold the right to run our own government to suit our own needs. We are in principle a representative democracy, and exercise power over our elected officials to the degree that we exercise the rights we’ve espoused in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

The passage begins with the word “WE”.

To suggest that the mere mention of this word “is merely a corporatizing abstract theory of action and interest that attempts to impose an artificial concept of collectivism onto hundreds of millions of individuals” is to emit a foul odor. It is, in a very real sense, subversive to the ends of the public’s interests.

The “irrelevant crap about somebody somewhere rounding up guns” was in response to one of your number’s having made an apparent statement of fact. I wanted to know where the fact came from. And no one has been able to give it to me. I only mention it as an example (one of many) of how your entire philosophy is gloriously free from any dependence on actual facts.

Phinn September 27, 2010 at 10:01 am

>>“We the People” is hardly “a trite, damn-near meaningless phrase”. It’s the basis upon which our country was founded. We hold the right to run our own government to suit our own needs. We are in principle a representative democracy, and exercise power over our elected officials to the degree that we exercise the rights we’ve espoused in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

There is no “our country.” There is no “we” that’s running “our government.” There is no “constitution” that has any actual authority over anyone. The “Declaration of Independence” is an old piece of paper written by a bunch of men long since dead.

These are all myths and abstractions that you have mistaken for factual reality.

Reality only exists in the form of the brain-dead zombies that adhere to these myths and abstractions as though they’re real. Zombies are a problem, of course, since they tend to swarm living, thinking people and overwhelm us with their numbers and resistance to thought and rational cooperation.

But mere force is not authority.

>>“We hold these truths to be …. blah blah blah

Yeah, I’m familiar with it. He was onto something until he got to the part about instituting governments.

>>To suggest that the mere mention of this word “is merely a corporatizing abstract theory of action and interest that attempts to impose an artificial concept of collectivism onto hundreds of millions of individuals” is to emit a foul odor. It is, in a very real sense, subversive to the ends of the public’s interests.

This is the part of the discussion where your rational brain is shutting down, retreating, and you are instead fending off any ideas you find uncomfortable with one of your many psychological defense mechanisms.

You’re throwing up a mental fog so that you don’t have to think about the idea that you have swallowed a load of feces all your life about this lie, this non-existent fantasy called “we” and the “public interest.”

There is no “public interest.” There is only a corporation calling itself the “United States government.” This corporation is like a mafia organization. Its main line of business is aggression, theft, and murder. To succeed in this business, its main work product is lies — deceiving people into believing it is legitimate and authoritative. It does this mainly through the forced indoctrination of children, but also through various forms of propaganda like fraudulent rituals and theatrical nonsense.

You fell for it, I guess.

>>The “irrelevant crap about somebody somewhere rounding up guns” was in response to one of your number’s having made an apparent statement of fact. I wanted to know where the fact came from. And no one has been able to give it to me. I only mention it as an example (one of many) of how your entire philosophy is gloriously free from any dependence on actual facts.

I have no “number.” A moment’s thought would reveal to you that it really doesn’t matter whether some other random person may or may not have said something about someone somewhere who may or may not have stolen guns from someone. You’re focusing on that because you are avoiding the topic of the basic lack of legitimacy of the corporate State.

I have low expectations that you will have the courage to push through the defense mechanism and the fog to even think about how governments, constitutions and the pretense of State authority and legitimacy is all smoke-and-mirrors, that badges and titles and costumes are just theater, that the power to steal and enslave doesn’t magically exist because someone wrote it down on a piece of paper a few hundred years ago.

By the way, I have another Constitution. It’s the Constitution of Phinnlandia. You may not know about it, but it gives me very broad powers. It was voted on unanimously, 300 years ago, before you were born. I am its current potentate, by the way. It calls for people like you, michael, to hand over everything you own to us, and to stop complaining, and do our bidding, which is your solemn duty.

You agreed to this, by the way, by merely breathing. Pinnlandia covers all the earth’s surface, and you are on the earth’s surface. You agreed. You are bound by this social contract.

You might find doing your duty as a citizen to be a little uncomfortable, since everyone over 50 is required to throw himself into a vat to be turned into fertilizer. Our records show that you have failed to comply with your public duty.

We have men with very fancy badges, titles and walkie-talkies coming to get you. They are acting under the authority of a High Court that has convened a very solemn proceeding about you, and you lost, I am afraid. The decision of the High Court of Phinnlandia is final.

So, get in the vat, fertilizer.

The public interest has spoken.

Scott D September 27, 2010 at 11:48 am

So if one looks at the evidence, these repeating series of misallocations are actually on the part of individual investors seeking maximum personal gains. I suggest that by the evidence, we might well be better served if the money was instead taxed.

Behavioral psychology teaches us that the vast majority of people are risk averse. We might imagine a scenario where someone offers you either $100 cash, or a 50% chance of winning $200. Statistically, the two options have an equivalent payoff. A 50% chance for $200 is the same as a 100% of $100. Most people will choose to take the $100. Even if we begin to up the ante, to $201, $220, people will still chose the sure thing, seeing the potential loss of $100 that is right there to the potential gain of another $120. Eventually, we will cross a threshold where the potential gain does outweigh the potential loss, but this will vary from person to person.

Knowing this, your theory about risk proclivity in investment is pure fantasy. You have presented it over and over as fact and apparently no one has called you on it until now. Sure, a minority of people like to gamble, and will take poor odds on a bet just for the thrill of it. I think it is obvious that such people will not last long in investment markets. In fact, they will find it difficult to accumulate capital at all. Those who make most money (the ones you despise) are the people who are very good at balancing risk against return.

As further evidence, we can look at the performance of the stock market over the last sixty years. The S&P 500 currently represents about 70% of the stock market. In all but two decades, investors got a positive inflation-adjusted return on their money. In those decades where the return was negative (70s and 2000s), the stock market still provided a significant hedge against inflation. Your comparing the stock market to a casino is a bit of folk economics often repeated by those with little understanding.

Those are priorities a well run, publicly oriented investment plan could achieve. Sadly, those needs don’t get met by private investors, who instead prefer to dabble in idiotic ventures like credit default swaps.

More ignorance of financial markets. Credit default swaps (CDS) and swaps in general are incomprehensible to the average person, probably moreso than futures, options and securities. A CDS serves a particular purpse: it is a hedge against a firm’s failure, meant, for example, to shield a lender from the firm defaulting on its loan. No doubt your introduction to the concept of CDS came with the media coverage of the collapse of Bear Stearns. At that time, there was a lot of hot air blown around about how this market lacked transparency, and some people blamed the collapse on the fact that a large number of investors had been taking out CDS protection on Bear Stearns, supposedly fooling people into thinking that the firm was in trouble. Well, the firm was in trouble. It had about 60% of its money invested in subprime mortgages. What the credit default swaps did was bring on the collapse sooner than it might have happened, ending the cycle of malinvestment before it could swallow up more money.

When I say something like this, neither you nor anyone else EVER engages with the actual point, that that is what the facts teach us. Instead the more polite ones just tell me I’m doctrinally faulty and should study the Austrians harder. The rest vilify me as being a troll.

The problem is that you are set in your beliefs that money accrues to bad people and the market is just one big random orgy of destruction. You assume the culpability of individuals acting in the market in every fault and mistake in the same manner that a person might blame vehicle tires for all auto accidents. You have no respect for the market’s distributed nature, its feedback and self-correcting mechanisms or the enormous amount of information that is handled by it and which producers and consumers make use of. It’s a bit like trying to change the ideas of a flat-earther, who is convinced that photos of a round earth are faked, that astronauts are drugged to make them believe they are in space, and who would stare blankly at you if you tried to tell them that engineers must routinely correct for the curvature of the earth when designing bridges of any notable size.

These ideas build upon themselves from foundational concepts, but you seem resistant to even the most obvious of these, the kinds of ideas that are accepted by all but the most fringe economists (ie. Marxists). I think that the reason is that if you accept these ideas as given, you might be tricked into having to admit a contradiction that will snowball until your entire false framework comes crashing down. You are therefore so frustrating in your intractibility that hurling insults quickly becomes the only means of deriving any satisfaction. I’ve probably deleted more posts in response to you than I’ve posted for that reason. That is why you get the abuse heaped on you.

michael September 26, 2010 at 2:25 pm

“There is nothing but private individuals. There are no aliens interfering with our economy. Government does not consist of a different breed. Another tautology.”

Peter, you point to the most basic distinction between people like you and people like me.

I’m a human being, and an American. I share a set of common values with a great many members of the American public as well as of the human race. We are indeed a “we”. We share a common humanity and a common set of understandings about the world. In saying so I’m certainly aware that opinions differ– today possibly more than ever.

But we are still a “we”. People who felt a very real kinship are the very people who created civilization. Whereas you, regrettably, will always be just a single individual battling an indifferent world.

“But michael, don’t you know that the Austrian school of economics is value-free? Surely you must have come across that by now?”

Oddly enough there are others of your persuasion here who believe that I am the one with no philosophic basis for my morality, while you fellows are the ones best armed with a full set of rational moral values. Someone is obviously mistaken.

Peter Surda September 27, 2010 at 5:00 am

Peter, you point to the most basic distinction between people like you and people like me.

Hear hear.

I’m a human being, and an American.

Whereas, apparently, I am not a human being.

We share a common humanity and a common set of understandings about the world.

Another tautology. It is hard to deny that humans share the ability to comprehend the world around them and come up with a value system. How this shows though that we are, apparently different, I am at loss to see. Let me guess: that’s the non-sequitur.

Whereas you, regrettably, will always be just a single individual battling an indifferent world.

Michael, michael. Now you’re presenting false dichotomies. To you, there are only two options. Being alone, and unifying in a state. Either you’re with us, or against us. Nice propagandist touch. Except you wouldn’t phrase it like that, you’re a soft breed of a propagandist.

Oddly enough there are others of your persuasion here who believe that I am the one with no philosophic basis for my morality, while you fellows are the ones best armed with a full set of rational moral values.

Your actual moral values are difficult to decipher, since you hide them behind voluminous talks about nothing. Those that seep through though, do not hint at a very nice picture, let me tell you.

Unlike you, I do not arrogate to myself the authority to speak for others. I only speak for myself. My arguments are amoral (or, at least I try hard for them to be). They do not require a specific set of moral values to be valid. I don’t therefore claim that my moral values are superiour to yours, rather I claim that your arguments are full of logical fallacies. However, you are not stupid either, because you are able to maneuver the direction of the debate.

Just like here. I pointed out exactly where the logical fallacies in your claims are, and what’s you reaction? You start talking about something else. That’s the Step 4 of the model that I presented to explain your behaviour. Whether you do this intentionally, whether it is a result of training or just a spontaneous reaction to cognitive dissonance, I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m not your therapist.

You know, two can play this game too. Or, better yet, knowing your work method, I can purposefully disrupt it, preventing others from being distracted by the diversions you launch.

michael September 27, 2010 at 8:44 am

Peter, it continues to be obvious that we have no common ground from which to discuss anything. What I’ve been commenting on is substantive issues that affect society, very specific and to the point. And your reply is this:

“Your actual moral values are difficult to decipher, since you hide them behind voluminous talks about nothing.”

That is, for you society does not exist. So anything I have to say about the public interest or about humanity is exactly “nothing”.

Instead, your interests are entirely academic. The only way you can make any sense of the conversation is to break it down like this:

“Step 1: You present a tautology.
Step 2: You present a non-sequitur.
Step 3: People react and explain that you are wrong.
Step 4: You slightly modify the claims that have been made (either by you or by your opponents). Subtly so that it’s not obvious, but sufficiently for the arguments to lose original meaning, so you avoid admitting to be in error.
Step 5: You go back to step 1.”

I’ve scrolled up and down this thread, and have no idea what you may be talking about. I think so far we’ve established the very definition of “talking past each other”. For you, mankind is of no importance. And for me, all these side trips into perceived tautologies, non sequiturs, etc. are just silly.

I assume you are being sincere. That’s the best I can say for you and your concerns. Would that then be step four? Step five? You have utterly missed the point.

Peter Surda September 28, 2010 at 8:26 am

Michael,

What I’ve been commenting on is substantive issues that affect society, very specific and to the point.

It appears my attempts at explaining the issue with your arguments have failed to reach you. So, I will put it short and simple: no matter how much moral outrage you might feel, or how much personal experience you might have gathered throughout your life, one plus one will not become three. It is really that trivial.

That is, for you society does not exist.

While you are interested in “humanity” (or, whatever you understand under that term), I’m interested in truth. Or, being a falsificationist, it might be more accurate to say I’m interested in falsehoods. That which is false, cannot at the same time be true. Since you see my interest as academic, I guess you could call me “Dr. No”.

So anything I have to say about the public interest or about humanity is exactly “nothing”.

What is curious is that from the point of view of social theories I am a strict individualist, and deny that groups of people (“public”, “humanity”) have rights or needs other than these of the rights or needs of the individuals belonging to the group. Or, to rephrase it without the use of normative assumptions, group rights/needs can only be defined at the cost of elimination of rights/needs of individuals. You, on the other hand, think that “society” has rights and needs, yet call your philosophical basis “humanism”. Another example of the poor respect to the scientific method, and the misuse of language.

Let me ask you something: does the society exist without the individuals? Isn’t it more accurate to say that society is an emergent feature of human interaction? You seem to be confused by these emergent features and anthropomorphise “society”. Just like in the past, our ancestors anthropomorphised other natural phenomena, such as thunder or death.

If you view humans through the lens of society, you logically must neglect the view through the eyes of the individual. These views are merely different interpretation of the same content. They are not complementary, they are contradictory. Your attempts to “better” the society necessitate violence perpetrated against individuals. Whether you consider such an action morally just or not, it is the logical conclusion: the truth.

Might I recommend you read some books that have nothing to do with economy and are more about human behaviour. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series provides great examples of anthropomorphising and something he calls “narrative causality” (which you appear to be performing very often). With regards to the state, Politics as Religion by Emilio Gentile is a good one, even though you could hardly say it deals with anarchy.

Dagnytg September 17, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Michael,

Most of the bloggers (myself included) are anarchists (anarcho-libertarians) and the antagonism you’re receiving stems from that libertarian family feud between the minarchists and anarchists. (small gov’t vs. no gov’t)

I don’t share the righteousness of some of my anarchist colleagues but I do enjoy their comments…

That being said I would agree with you. From a minarchist point of view,
the Koch’s appear to be Libertarian or at least sympathetic toward libertarian causes.

I find it interesting that many of the comments on this thread are as suspicious of the Koch brothers and their motivations, as Jane Mayer. That in itself should require some of us to do some introspection.

michael September 19, 2010 at 3:56 pm

“Most of the bloggers (myself included) are anarchists (anarcho-libertarians) and the antagonism you’re receiving stems from that libertarian family feud between the minarchists and anarchists. (small gov’t vs. no gov’t)”

With these revelations about the Koch Brothers, it now looks like a three-way feud between the anarchists, the minarchists and the conglomarchists (no gov’t vs. small gov’t vs. MY gov’t). :)

Dagnytg September 17, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Phinn,

Though I understand the source of your righteousness…I question your reasoning and its logical conclusion. You’re saying anybody who receives subsidies from the gov’t cannot be Libertarian.

I would say, in modern day America, it’s hard to find anybody who hasn’t directly or indirectly benefited from gov’t subsidies.

The grandiosity of philanthropy is a transparent compensation for feelings of self-loathing and shame, which, given their rank hypocrisy, I am sure the Koch brothers experience constantly. After all, their actions and their lives are blatantly contradictory to their professed devotion to the virtues of economic liberty and non-aggression

This statement is way off base.

Your conclusion:

If I run a business that creates jobs, produces a useful and necessary product that helps society, and generates wealth for me and my investors I should:

a) Not accept subsidies and …become less competitive, lay off my employees, stop producing a needed resource, generate less or no wealth for my investors and me.

b) I will no longer feel guilt and will not be compelled to “voluntarily” give my money to Libertarian causes, those horrible museums and the evil cancer research…Now that I am guilt free, I can spend what remaining money and time I have on some fine ass bitches, cocaine, pot, etc. and be as self indulgent as possible.

c) I will be accepted as a Libertarian

Phinn,

I’m sure your well intended but…

I believe your hatred of the Koch brothers is derived from a psychological hatred and envy of people who are rich and successful. If Ayn Rand were alive, she would spank your ass… Read some Rand, Rothbard, and Mises and then come back.

You don’t sound like an anarcho-libertarian…you sound like your garden-variety anarchist who hates the rich. That is not what Libertarianism is about.

Phinn September 17, 2010 at 10:35 pm

>>You’re saying anybody who receives subsidies from the gov’t cannot be Libertarian.

You would receive a more substantive reply from me if you refrained from constructing strawmen.

>>I would say, in modern day America, it’s hard to find anybody who hasn’t directly or indirectly benefited from gov’t subsidies.

Driving on government roads (by necessity, given the virtually complete governmental take-over of road-building, and all of the other forms of land-use central planning generally) is not remotely the same thing as inheriting and running a state-sponsored, heavily protectionist cartel with revenues of a hundred billion dollars a year.

The Kochs have the option not to do what they do, which is what ethics is all about. Ethics only exists where there is choice, and the Kochs have several billion dollars’ worth of options about what to do with their lives.

A person cannot ethically assert and profess a moral principle and then go about choosing to live his life in a way that is in direct contradiction to it. That’s a counterfeit morality, and it’s rightly dismissed.

>>This statement is way off base.

Your conclusion:If I run a business that creates jobs, produces a useful and necessary product that helps society, and generates wealth for me and my investors I should:

a) Not accept subsidies and …become less competitive, lay off my employees, stop producing a needed resource, generate less or no wealth for my investors and me.

b) I will no longer feel guilt and will not be compelled to “voluntarily” give my money to Libertarian causes, those horrible museums and the evil cancer research…Now that I am guilt free, I can spend what remaining money and time I have on some fine ass bitches, cocaine, pot, etc. and be as self indulgent as possible.

c) I will be accepted as a Libertarian

Yes, you should not run a business in a way that depends on a perpetuates subsidies and statist interventionism generally, particularly in the form of the massive protectionist cartel that is the oil business.

To do so is an active evil, and is harmful to everyone, regardless of whatever positive benefits you want to identify in the form of jobs for some relatively small number of people. If we had a more free economy, there are tens or hundreds of millions more people who are underemployed and unemployed as a result of statist interference in the economy who would be better off.

There is no ethical exception to the harm and violence of all forms of state action on the grounds that it made more money for you and your investors.

As for spending your money as you want, go ahead. Your feelings of guilt are not my concern.

>>I believe your hatred of the Koch brothers is derived from a psychological hatred and envy of people who are rich and successful. If Ayn Rand were alive, she would spank your ass… Read some Rand, Rothbard, and Mises and then come back.

I have read everything they have written.

You are absolutely wrong about me, but thank you for your concern. I believe that making a profit in a free market is the most ethical thing a person can do. It means that, by definition, the entrepreneur has provided a material benefit to a large number of people that is not being provided by anyone else.

>>You don’t sound like an anarcho-libertarian…you sound like your garden-variety anarchist who hates the rich. That is not what Libertarianism is about.

I am not a libertarian. Libertarian is a political ideology. It is necessarily minarchist, since all political ideologies presume the existence of a state.

There is no such thing as “anarcho-libertarian.” I am an anarchist.

Dagnytg September 18, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Phinn,

I appreciate your response and I admire the fact that you have attempted (intellectually) to provide an ethical basis for your arguments. If I wasn’t a realist or if I was a survivalist, I would be in complete agreement with you.

To accomplish your level of ethics would require a person to buy some land (with gold…not cash/loan) and live in a cave. Then attempt to live off the land using only tools provided from the land. (The way people lived 10,000 years ago.)

We cannot deny that we live in a socialist world. My statements about subsidies are not strawman arguments. It is an observable fact that you cannot live in this world and not be soiled by the hands of socialism. You seem to want avoid this inconvenient observation.

A person cannot ethically assert and profess a moral principle and then go about choosing to live his life in a way that is in direct contradiction to it.

I agree with this statement at face value but for anyone living in the real world being a libertarian is a contradiction. So, unless I want to live in that cave I mentioned above, I have to accept the contradiction and do what ever I can to subvert the system from with in. That could be something as simple convincing a co-worker of a libertarian ideal or donating millions of dollars to libertarian causes as the Koch brothers have done.

Phinn, you are presenting yourself as a moral absolutist. I am a relativist or as I use to say in college, I am a “relative absolutist”.

Point being, that the only moral value that I hold true is the respect of property rights and that simple moral value covers all the other moral values into one idea. It also does not dictate whom I engage with or for what reasons as long as they don’t violate the essential premise. From my perspective, the Koch’s have not violated any property rights. (My personal feelings about them are of no consequence.)

To achieve the level of purity and moral absolutism that you profess, can only be accomplished in the cave scenario or a monastery. On top of that, you do nothing to change the world (perhaps you need a day job). You can’t change the world unless you engage in it. Those of us who live with the moral contradiction do more to change the world than those who live in a cave.

Last, I question whether you are actually an anarchist (garden-variety or otherwise). Your moral absolutism and ethical purity seems at odds with a theory of chaos like anarchy. (Yet, historically, your moral absolutism is often an outcome of anarchy and in that sense, you are consistent.)

But…your absolutism will inevitably lead you to assume moral superiority. Once you accept your beliefs as superior, you then evolve into Fascism or modern day Communism. And we both know what happens to those who are morally contradicted (like myself, the Koch brothers and other readers of mises.org)… in those kinds of societies.

Phinn September 19, 2010 at 2:02 pm

>>To accomplish your level of ethics would require a person to buy some land (with gold…not cash/loan) and live in a cave. Then attempt to live off the land using only tools provided from the land. (The way people lived 10,000 years ago.)

What on earth are you talking about?

I’m an absolutist?

Please. All I am saying is that when a person goes to great lengths to take a moral stand, and promote it widely, the first place he should go about making changes in the world is with himself. Or, he will rightly be called a fraud and a hypocrite.

Pretty simple, really.

Is it so much to ask that the people calling for changes to limit government do something with their lives OTHER THAN working their entire lives to become the some of the richest people in the history of planet earth through the active subsidization and sponsorship of that very same interventionist government?

Really? Is choosing to NOT be among the richest beneficiaries of a quasi-fascistic, corporatist industry like oil, one of the most governmentally-collusive in the entire world, really the same thing as going to live in a cave? Do you really think it’s worth the time to explain the difference between the Kochs’ reality, the source of their income, the choices they make to thrive in their corporatist industry, and, I dunno, your average Joe who genuinely wants the government to be smaller and tries to live his life non-aggressively?

Come on.

Dagnytg September 19, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Phinn,

I’ve only taken your arguments to there logical conclusions…furthermore, you have avoided some the points I made in my previous post.

This statement is what opens a can of worms for you…

A person cannot ethically assert and profess a moral principle and then go about choosing to live his life in a way that is in direct contradiction to it. That’s a counterfeit morality, and it’s rightly dismissed.

I said, “I agree with this statement at face value…”
I hold people to this standard if they are gov’t or religious leaders or others who profess moral leadership. Elliot Spitzer would be the poster boy for your argument.

“…for anyone living in the real world being a libertarian is a contradiction.”
You refused to address this issue. I am curious, Phinn, how can you exist as an anarchist (in a socialist world) and not violate your moral code. If I follow your moral premise, the only way to achieve that is to live in a “cave” as I stated in my prior post.

Let me put it this way-I cannot live as a libertarian/anarchist in a socialist world therefore to achieve moral purity I must remove myself completely from that world.

On the other hand…
There are no moral values to libertarianism (except-property rights) and if you’re a true anarchist, there are no moral values period. You and I should not be in conflict with the Koch brothers because:

a) They have not violated property rights
b) They cannot be guilty by association (only by act-see (a))
c) They do not profess moral leadership
d) Their acts of philanthropy support anti-government causes

Phinn, I have enjoyed the discourse but I wonder… do you believe in property rights?

mpolzkill September 19, 2010 at 8:19 pm

“Their acts of philanthropy support anti-government causes”

Right. Ron Paul is in the government. Some of the hacks the Koches employ could only be considered charity cases. So when they paid their hacks to destroy Ron Paul this was anti-government philanthropy.

Anyone who doesn’t want to aggress on other people does the best he can in this world, and begs his neighbors to stop aggressing.

Why do you think Michael would love to better tie the Mises Institute to the Koches and Ronald Reagan, Dag?

Dagnytg September 20, 2010 at 6:17 am

mpolzkill,

To be perfectly honest I don’t follow the national political scene (for that matter any political scene) so the Koch brothers are not on my radar. Since I stopped being a Reason subscriber back around 9/11/2001 (due to their anti-libertarian take on 9/11and I out grew them)… that was the last time I kept any real assessment of the political scene. But from 1987 and through the nineties they were they my salvation in the dark recesses of Oakland and Berkeley and later during my self imposed exile to Phoenix.

You have indirectly prodded me to do some research (to be honest, I am totally befuddled at the resentment towards the Koch’s on this thread…)

So what did I find….a lot but this quote from Conor Friedersdorf from the Atlantic Monthly sums it up well:

The truth is that the Koch brothers help fund some of the most intellectually honest people in the libertarian movement, as well as some unapologetic hacks. This makes them much like almost every big donor in American politics, and it’s probably best to praise or criticize specific efforts they fund because dividing into antagonistic and supportive tribes doesn’t get us anywhere.

I agree with the last third of that sentence… dividing into antagonistic and supportive tribes doesn’t get us anywhere.

So when they paid their hacks to destroy Ron Paul this was anti-government philanthropy

I’m not exactly sure what your referring to but my guess (correct me if I’m wrong) is an article that appeared in Reason magazine… and unfortunately I found it…it puts into question not Ron Paul, but mises.org.

PS>Who cares what Michael thinks … I don’t engage him…you do and I love reading your responses…keep up the good work…but for me it’s a waste of time. (See my post below.)

I find someone like Phinn more engaging, he actually has core values, and I respect that-though I disagree with his application.

Dagnytg September 20, 2010 at 6:27 am

mpolzkil,
This is my take on Michael from a previous post…you may have seen this…

Tim,

I agree with your sentiment. But there is a big difference between someone who is interested but unsure of Austrio-Libertarian ideas (a newbie) and one who is not. I often look for the newbies to reply to but Michael does not fit the profile of a newbie. My assessment of Michael is this:

a) He is underemployed, unemployed, or retired (he has too much time on his hands)
b) Is not interested in Austrio-Libertarian ideas (he doesn’t come here to learn)
c) Has the intelligence to understand but rejects our ideas (a premeditated rejection)
d) He is nothing more than an opportunist or pragmatist (in other words, he lacks any philosophical or theoretical foundation. *

*It would be easier to hold a discussion with a Marxist or even a Fascist. Michael picks and chooses whatever is psychologically satisfying. If you’ll notice, Michael debates details not axioms or theories…why… because he has none nor does he care to understand any. This is why debating him is so tiresome and frustrating for most bloggers.

Bottom-line: Michael is mentally masturbating at the expense of the highly intelligent and well-intended bloggers of this site. If you wish to assist him in that exercise, then by all means do so…a case could be made that being his sparring partner might sharpen one’s skills (or dull one’s interest)…on the other hand, if you believe your going to change his mind and educate him then your woefully wasting your time.

Phinn September 20, 2010 at 8:58 am

You and I should not be in conflict with the Koch brothers because:

a) They have not violated property rights

Of course they have. They own and control and are paid a stunning amount of money by a conglomerate of companies that violates property rights on a daily basis, as its basic business model. I don’t have the time to summarize all the ways that the oil industry makes its money violating free-market principles, but feel free to look into it. Oil is not quite at the level of state-fused cartel that banking is, for example, but it’s close.

b) They cannot be guilty by association (only by act-see (a))

If by “associating” you mean actively participating, lobbying, designing, and profiting from a scheme to collude with a corporatist-fascistic State to exclude competition, foster dependence on their product, and to routinely invades countries and installs puppet regimes to secure access to oil fields, then yes, they can be guilty.

c) They do not profess moral leadership

Of course, they do. They sponsor a wide array of pundits, magazines, think tanks and other chatterers whose job it is to make ethical pronouncements about economic matters.

I have no problem with anyone weighing in on the ethics of economic liberty, any more than I have a problem with the application of ethical principles to non-economic issues of liberty. But it’s an unavoidable fact of life that when you pick up the sword of ethics, to distinguish between the right and the wrong, the first person it cuts is yourself.

d) Their acts of philanthropy support anti-government causes

OK.

I would venture to say that they have spent more than anyone else I can think of to promote the ideas of free markets, in word if not in deed.

It’s unfortunate that they have had to get in bed with the State in order to run their daddy’s business, but they did, and no amount of philanthropy or talk is going to re-write that history.

mpolzkill September 20, 2010 at 9:19 am

Thanks for your reply, Dag. I think your assessment of Michael is very good. I’m glad you enjoy my whimsical responses to him, but I *have* been trying to stop, haha.

Real quick final word from me on the Koches (I won’t go into their hit on Paul on the eve of New Hampshire): I just don’t have the skill to write what my problem with them is, I guess it’s related to my problem with some aspects of Mises.org. Politics is domestic warfare. Engaging in conventional warfare, while always corrupting ones-self, one can at least succeed in wiping out or enslaving ones enemy. In political warfare you both corrupt yourself *and* the harder you try, the more you just energize the perceived enemy: half your neighbors. The real enemy, the State really doesn’t care what your politics are, as long as a good number of us are political they have us all.

Pleasure talking to you and reading your discussion with Phinn (who I also really like). Take care, Dag.

michael September 20, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Dagny: You actually do a fairly good job of figuring out what I’m doing here. Much better than anyone else.

“a) He is underemployed, unemployed, or retired (he has too much time on his hands)
b) Is not interested in Austrio-Libertarian ideas (he doesn’t come here to learn)
c) Has the intelligence to understand but rejects our ideas (a premeditated rejection)
d) He is nothing more than an opportunist or pragmatist (in other words, he lacks any philosophical or theoretical foundation. *

“*It would be easier to hold a discussion with a Marxist or even a Fascist. Michael picks and chooses whatever is psychologically satisfying. If you’ll notice, Michael debates details not axioms or theories…why… because he has none nor does he care to understand any. This is why debating him is so tiresome and frustrating for most bloggers.”

A: Retired. Over my career I’ve been employed by others, I have employed others and I’ve been self-employed. So I’ve seen the picture from every side.

B: I wouldn’t waste my time here if I weren’t interested in austro-libertarian ideas. But I’m far more interested in the kind of people I find hold those sorts of ideas. They seem to me, more than anything, to be classic True Believers, much like the old-time Marxist-Leninists.

C: Correct.

D: I’m more like a grade school teacher, grading people’s answers. Most are wretched examples of logical extrapolation ad absurdum, and not grounded in any sort of observational data. It’s like the people here exist in some intellectual vacuum.

You would indeed find it easier to debate a committed Fascist or Marxist, because those people share your world view. Ideology is everything, and empirical observation nothing. It’s the triumph of the irrational, dressed up as impeccable philosophic logic.

I don’t address these trains of logic because they don’t lead toward good empirical conclusions. But I do follow them. So I actually understand you fellows better than you understand me.

Dagnytg September 21, 2010 at 4:46 am

Michael,

Thanks for the compliment of my psychological assessment…I’m even better when I get to observe people in person.

This is an intellectual site. This not a yahoo message board. Yes, we do exist in an intellectual vacuum-we’re all to some degree Libertarian. When you’re a Libertarian, you’re constantly challenging your beliefs and putting them under a microscope. I’ve done that all my life. I am assuming most of the people who respond to these blogs are doing the same-challenging, refining, and evolving as Libertarians -as well as human beings.

That being the case….

I don’t address these trains of logic because they don’t lead toward good empirical conclusions.

You don’t address these trains of logic because you don’t have a moral code. You don’t have a philosophy that you live by to give you moral guidance. Your looking for empirical conclusions but that is not what philosophy does… philosophy gives moral conclusions.

You would indeed find it easier to debate a committed Fascist or Marxist, because those people share your world view. Ideology is everything, and empirical observation nothing.

It’s not ideology…its morality and values…empirical observation only has merit when seen through the lens of a moral philosophy. Otherwise, it’s useless because it has no context. That’s what morality does – it gives context. The reason I would rather hang with a Marxist, Fascist, or even a Klansman is because they have a moral code and given the chance to talk with them… I know I can get them to question their values because their values are corrupt.

Michael-you’re an amoralist, you have no values, and there is no context to your empirical conclusions. Therefore, you’re no different than a savage, thug, or bully-people who cannot be reasoned with…sorry.

Have some respect for yourself and the people of this site. Present your moral beliefs or get out.

Dagnytg September 21, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Phinn,

I acquiesce and agree with you. From your moral axiom, the Koch’s are guilty of the things you state and I agree. You remind me of myself about 15 years ago. Unfortunately, that dogma left me frustrated and depressed for many years.

But you still have not answered the true essence of my argument:

How does a libertarian live in a socialist world?

A Christian only has only to avoid temptation. The Libertarian has to walk through the sludge of socialism. We are born into it.

Last,

In life, I have found that the actions of people have psychological origins and their pathologies are inherent. So, I am not so quick to judge. On the other hand, we need a moral philosophy to give context to our actions and those of others.

I don’t expect you to answer the question above but it is a requirement of any true libertarian/anarchist to pursue truth through contemplation and introspection.

I believe you already doing that…good luck in your journey:)

michael September 24, 2010 at 12:55 pm

“You don’t address these trains of logic because you don’t have a moral code. You don’t have a philosophy that you live by to give you moral guidance.” and “Michael-you’re an amoralist, you have no values, and there is no context to your empirical conclusions. Therefore, you’re no different than a savage, thug, or bully-people who cannot be reasoned with…sorry.”

I’m finding it hard to believe you’ve read many of my comments here and can say a thing like that. I’m a humanist. I hold human values, very strong ones. And I have overwhelming respect for something I never see respected here: life itself. Of course I have values.

That’s not at all what I was talking about. What I’m saying is that all the theories on display here are naked justifications for selfish behaviors. And they are shored up with arguments that don’t pass any empirical test. It’s like what Susan Jacoby had to say about pseudoscience: its “leaden heart is impervious to evidentiary challenge”.

So it may well be that for many people, philosophies don’t require any substantive foundation. But for me, if they aspire to describe reality, they must. They can’t just say anything about their chosen field of expertise and hide behind the claim that they don’t need evidence, because they’re a philosophy not a science.

And Austrian Theory only holds up if you refuse to seriously consider any body of evidence or any other line of reasoning. I’m finding everyone here to be extremely well read– among a handful of Austrian authors– but totally in the dark as to the rest of the human endeavor. Indeed, you all are actively hostile to outside information.

You may be a libertarian. But you would be greatly enhanced as a human being if you were also more than that.

The Kid Salami September 25, 2010 at 7:52 pm

I think that the time has come that a moderator should bar michael from these pages. His preaching about how generous he is and how selfish Austrians are while. among many other thigns, he argues for minimum wage laws and says such things as:

“Every large corporation, every labor union, every professional association and every less formal grouping of individuals exerts lobbying pressure on our federal government. Those with the deepest pockets and most generous spirits contribute funds that allow some of this disbursement stream to be diverted their way. Those with the least clout get the least amount of flow. That would be the ones among us with the least money. And even they get a pittance. Our society is a compassionate one. Were I in your position I would assess my chances of ever changing this arrangement. And I expect it wouldn’t take long before I concluded that I was unlikely to be able to alter tradition. Most of us have long since concluded that; so what we do instead is to get on the gravy train and divert some of the flow our own way.”

makes him just insufferable. And let’s just repeat that last bit:

“what we do instead is to get on the gravy train and divert some of the flow our own way”

He’s not alone in in disagreeing and of course dissenting voices are, in general welcome. But him turning every thread into “The michael Show” is now I think becoming a bit of a joke. Do ctrl + F and type “michael” – I just got 66 matches on this page alone – he is lowering the signal to noise ratio of this blog by a significant factor.

The amount of free time he has, his ego, his special brand of non-debate, the raw talent he has for bullshit and evasion, and his almost supernatural lack of shame, make him a special case. I really think he should be barred – he’s simply a spambot made of meat.

Beefcake the Mighty September 25, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Kid Salami writes:

“I think that the time has come that a moderator should bar michael from these pages.”

I agree. Apart from being obnoxious, it seems clear that “he” is in fact multiple posters. There’s some sort of triangulation going on here. That’s cool, that’s how the game is played, but no reason to put up with it either.

Dagnytg September 27, 2010 at 12:27 am

Michael,

I’m a humanist.

Describing yourself as a humanist is not a moral code. (Perhaps you should bling/google/wiki the term before you use it.) Humanism is a very ambiguous term and it has no moral context. Libertarianism could be defined as humanist. There is nothing more human than freedom.

And I have overwhelming respect for something I never see respected here: life itself.

Michael, this has to be the most revealing statement about who you are and how ignorant (by choice) you are.

There is no philosophy that values life more than Libertarianism. Respect of property rights includes that of self or “person”. We also adhere to the principal of non-aggression. Yet, you adhere to the State, which by its nature does not value life…it steals, kills, and imprisons life. I find it interesting you are incapable of seeing the difference. Even by your “empirical standards”, it is pretty obvious.

You may be a libertarian. But you would be greatly enhanced as a human being if you were also more than that.

How??? To be Libertarian is about as “enhanced” as you can get. (That’s why there are so few of us.) People who reject Libertarianism do so- not on an objective level but on an emotional level because it is difficult for most to come to terms with their own humanity. I suspect you may suffer from the same dilemma.

…you all are actively hostile to outside information.
Michael …get this through your head…It’s an intellectual site. Mises, Rothbard, and others are from academia…there’s no surprise here. If I posted on say, keynes.org why would I be surprised if they were hostile to me??? Hmmm…

I hold human values, very strong ones.

What are they???

(I would bet, after some deep introspection- if you wrote them down and were truly honest with yourself, you would find the majority of them are libertarian values.)

michael September 27, 2010 at 4:05 pm

“The amount of free time he has, his ego, his special brand of non-debate, the raw talent he has for bullshit and evasion, and his almost supernatural lack of shame, make him a special case. I really think he should be barred – he’s simply a spambot made of meat.”

Salami, you’d miss me if I ever left. You should remember what this blog was like before I showed up. Listless, repetitive and dull as dishwater. I’ve spiced it up to the point where in places it’s almost readable now.

newson September 17, 2010 at 8:15 pm

to phinn: if i sell product/service to the us government, does that count as political support for the institution of government? if i buy oil from saudi arabia, do i support the political regime of that country? that the pentagon may be the biggest buyer of koch oil says nothing to me.

as regards the refineries, do the koch’s actively promote the environmental regulation that makes competing refineries prohibitively expensive to establish? showing them as beneficiaries of regulation doesn’t make them guilty of promoting same. i’d like to see some evidence here, too.

Phinn September 17, 2010 at 11:23 pm

Would you do business with the Mafia? Would you be the vendor for, say, the leg-iron concession to a slave-dealer? How about the hypodermic needle supplier to an underage prostitution syndicate?

How much evil does an organization have to perpetrate before you refuse to associate yourself with it?

But that’s not even really the point of my comments. I am not surprised in the least that the Kochs sell their products to the Pentagon, nor that they count their protectionism-derived money with no notable public denunciation for the existence of the oil cartel. The corruption inherent in the source of their money is entirely commonplace and unexceptional, even if the magnitude of their wealth by such means is unusually large.

What I object to is being given ethical pronouncements about government by such a person. They sponsor all kinds of moralizing and contrived outrage, all of which necessarily depends on some ethical assertion, on some principle, even if its never openly articulated.

The first question to ask when someone asserts some point of ethics against you is, “What about you?” And it’s a fair question. Is the ethical assertion only applicable to others and thus counterfeit, or are you prepared to live your life in accordance with it? That’s not always easy.

I also don’t take nutritional advice from fat guys, or psychological-lifestyle advice from hard-core alcoholics.

newson September 18, 2010 at 12:03 am

what about you? have you ever bought oil without examining your conscience?

Phinn September 18, 2010 at 9:57 am

See? Good question. Now you’re proving my point.

As a purchaser of oil products (or a user of government roads, etc.), the consumer is the victim of the statist-corporate collusive violence, not the perpetrator.

If governments had not colluded over the course of the last 100-150 years to violently force urban development to follow a pattern of sprawl (which they did to the benefit of cronies, insiders, developers, railroad tycoons, the Rockefellers, the Carnegie clan, auto makers, and (of course) oil companies), then I wager that, in all likelihood, I would not buy nearly as much oil and gas products as I do in the course of my daily life. Cities would be more compact, more efficient, less organized around freeways, 8-lane artery roads, big-box retailers, and strip malls, and thus less car-dependent.

See, I am not the one forcing people to adopt a mode of economic behavior they do not voluntarily choose.

I am also not the one agitating for a (carefully-selected) set of reductions in the scope of (some types of) government involvement in the economy (while ignoring others), while simultaneously raking in a hundred billion dollars a year with the active collusion of that very same government, to the detriment of everyone else’s economic lives.

The degree of the oil industry’s fusion with the State is comparable to that of bankers and pharmaceutical companies. Listening to the Kochs’ version of “limited government” is like hearing a plantation overseer’s moral arguments for the reform of slavery.

Start with yourself, please.

newson September 18, 2010 at 6:31 pm

so i guess if your doctor smokes, one can discount entirely what he says.

Phinn September 19, 2010 at 6:28 am

First of all, smoking is not generally an ethical proposition. It is not a normative assertion. Except when smoking around others (e.g., children), the main problem with smoking is that you harm yourself, as you do through lack of exercise or excessive sugar intake. The health risks of smoking are a scientific assertion. The doctor’s assertions about it mean nothing compared to the scientific evidence and reasoning that led to the conclusion. The fact the doctor himself smokes does not alter scientific reality one single bit.

However, if (in your scenario) the doctor is telling me to quit smoking, while he himself smokes, then yes, his advice will be discounted, as you say. He is suggesting that I make a trade-off of costs and benefits that he is not willing to make himself. With his actions, he is telling me to smoke, while also telling me not to smoke with his words.

His main conflict is with himself, not me. Telling others what they should and shouldn’t do is most likely just a form of projection — a proxy for the self-conflict he experiences inside his own mind, as a result of telling himself not to smoke while continuing to do so.

newson September 19, 2010 at 7:31 pm

to phinn,
whilst you may be right on the hypocrisy of the koch’s, i don’t think one can ignore the positive impact of their financing think-tanks and intellectuals who advocate small(er) government, rothbard amongst others.

likewise, the smoking doctor who counsels you to quit might be a hypocrite, but the message may well be worth taking on board, despite the dissonance.

Scott D September 17, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Michael,
“My challenge to anyone else, of course, would be to read the New Yorker article in sufficient detail as to uncover the quote I’ve apparently missed. I’m looking forward to your results.”

It wasn’t hard:

Today, Cato has more than a hundred full-time employees, and its experts and policy papers are widely quoted and respected by the mainstream media. It describes itself as nonpartisan, and its scholars have at times been critical of both parties. But it has consistently pushed for corporate tax cuts, reductions in social services, and laissez-faire environmental policies.

Technically true, but with enough implicit and explicit omissions to turn it into a lie. “Corporate tax cuts” is bit misleading. It would be more accurate to say “across-the-board tax cuts” or even just “tax cuts”. But no, Meyer spins it to make it sound like Cato only favors tax cuts for corporations. “Reductions in social services” would be more accurately phrased as “reductions in government-provided social services.” And “laissez-faire environmental policies” isn’t even a coherent phrase, so I’ll leave it alone. Jane Meyer only mentions those parts of libertarian ideology that it shares in common with conservatism, leading the reader to conclude that libertarians are just extreme conservatives.

Franklin September 17, 2010 at 7:04 pm

“Jane Meyer only mentions those parts of libertarian ideology that it shares in common with conservatism, leading the reader to conclude that libertarians are just extreme conservatives.”

Nicely stated.
Anyway, perhaps they were deliberate omissions. An irony, eh, considering the title of her piece?
And if they weren’t, then it proves she’s just another boneheaded leftist. And as intellectually dishonest and journalistically lazy as most establishment liberal hacks.
As you highlight, lies via omission — oldest and most unsophisticated of reporters’ weapons.
Sadly, quite effective at times.

michael September 17, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Scott: I’m sorry, but I’m looking very closely at the snippet you’ve provided. And nowhere does it use the words “a pro-corporate movement” in relation to the libertarians.

Whereas the author of today’s article states that the author of the New Yorker article “describes the libertarian movement as “a pro-corporate movement””. He uses those quotes.

Is he using quotes correctly? Or is he making stuff up and attributing it to the opposition? There’s a word for that. In fact there are several words for that.

Reflex September 17, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Yeah, you’d know all about “lying for money”.

michael September 17, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Oh, no. That’s not any of the words I was thinking of. If you’ll pardon me, that’s kind of a reflex comment.

mr taco September 17, 2010 at 11:05 pm

michael I’m a American with a capital “A”

Scott D September 18, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Oh, I’m sorry. You wanted an exact quote. Not that what I quoted above is any less damning of Meyer’s deceptive journalism. I’m quoting at length so that the context is unmistakable. You, sir, are dead wrong and should be ashamed of wrongly accusing Mr. Riggenbach of lying.

The Kochs have gone well beyond their immediate self-interest, however, funding organizations that aim to push the country in a libertarian direction. Among the institutions that they have subsidized are the Institute for Justice, which files lawsuits opposing state and federal regulations; the Institute for Humane Studies, which underwrites libertarian academics; and the Bill of Rights Institute, which promotes a conservative slant on the Constitution. Many of the organizations funded by the Kochs employ specialists who write position papers that are subsequently quoted by politicians and pundits. David Koch has acknowledged that the family exerts tight ideological control. “If we’re going to give a lot of money, we’ll make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent,” he told Doherty. “And if they make a wrong turn and start doing things we don’t agree with, we withdraw funding.”

The Kochs’ subsidization of a pro-corporate movement fulfills, in many ways, the vision laid out in a secret 1971 memo that Lewis Powell, then a Virginia attorney, wrote two months before he was nominated to the Supreme Court.

Franklin September 18, 2010 at 1:39 pm

“…Bill of Rights Institute, which promotes a conservative slant on the Constitution.”

Oh, my, batten down those hatches! Scary cloak and dagger stuff!

Cripe, where to begin with a comment like this? She reminds me very much of that nitwit, oh, what’s her name… yes, Rachel Maddow. Senility moment there, sorry.
They are like 13 year old children, playing the role of teacher to 12 year old children, proudly giggling before the TV camera, with sophomoric understanding of the root causes of injustice, flailing away at symptoms, at the depth of personalities and sloganeering.
It was like witching-hour channel-clicking last night, seeing Arianna and Jay Leno chit-chatting over economics, with nary an of ounce intellectual comprehension between the two of them, play-acting for the many morons, wide-eyed pupils who sit in their audience chairs and lamely applaud the social justice of Obama stimulus. Hell, you can’t even keep the TV on for more than a minute these days.

The Kochs donated to libertarian think tanks…. Phew.
Thank you, Jane “Marple”, for opening my eyes to the Gulf of Tonkin-esque subterfuge. Next up, the sixty-family cabal.

“…promote a conservative slant on the Constitution.”
Pffft… It’s just too beautiful. You can’t make this stuff up. Children, I tell ya. And so many citizens are happy for these celebrity children to mandate, legislate, in the name of Watergate, all manner of policy concerning their own children’s lives.

michael September 19, 2010 at 11:41 am

Scott: The man you’re defending has put up a quote, attributing a clearly inaccurate opinion to someone he disagrees with. That’s a well-known disinformational tactic, and a sure sign of intellectual dishonesty. So I’m trying to say maybe I just couldn’t find it, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt.

Thank you for putting your finger on the offending words. I still don’t see that it proves Riggenbach’s point. The passage says that the Kochs fund “organizations that push the country in a libertarian direction.” True.

It goes on: “Among the institutions that they have subsidized are the Institute for Justice, which files lawsuits opposing state and federal regulations; the Institute for Humane Studies, which underwrites libertarian academics; and the Bill of Rights Institute, which promotes a conservative slant on the Constitution.” All true.

Note that early in the article, Mayer says this: “The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests.”

And this is true. Their libertarian views do dovetail with their corporate interests. At no point does Mayer suggest that they are typical, lockstep libertarians… or even that there can be any such thing. She describes people who “believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation”. Such views are in line with what most libertarians believe. And at the same time they are pro-corporate views.

Bottom line: the Kochs are subsidizing a number of pro-corporate movements. They are also subsidizing a number of libertarian movements… among them Reason Magazine and the Cato Institute. All these observations are correct. In fact it is correct to say they ALSO provide much of the funding behind the various groups known as “the Tea Party”. Which, as you know, is not a group exactly cognate with either orthodox libertarians or with standard, big business Republicans.

Mayer, in writing this article, is describing the full range of activities of a couple of people with complex motives. I can find nothing in the article that is a false statement of fact. And I will offer also that if the contributors to this blog are any example, I have never found two self-described libertarians who hold exactly the same set of views. Factional infighting seems to set the tone of the debate here.

But at least you’ve found the words “pro-corporate movement”, from which our Mr Riggenbach has come up with his view that Mayer “describes the libertarian movement as “a pro-corporate movement”. She doesn’t do that. She describes the brothers as being allied with the pro-business interests, with the libertarians, with the Libertarian Party (far from being the same thing) and with the so-called “Tea Party”. Their full range of interests are their own particular set of views.

Scott D September 19, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Michael,
Is there no limit to your dishonesty? Here is you, above:

You go on to say the author “describes the libertarian movement as “a pro-corporate movement” (your quotes). But I’ve gone over the article in some degree of detail, and I can find neither that wording nor that sentiment. So where, then, did you find the material you appear to have quoted?

The Koch Brothers are certainly pro-libertarian– and they are on the other hand pro-corporate. But I can find no comment saying that the libertarian movement itself IS a “pro-corporate movement”. Could you please point to the source of your quote?

My challenge to anyone else, of course, would be to read the New Yorker article in sufficient detail as to uncover the quote I’ve apparently missed. I’m looking forward to your results.

Judging by your tone, I don’t think you were giving Jeff the benefit of the doubt. You were pretty confident that he had lied and were crowing about it. I then quoted:

The Kochs have gone well beyond their immediate self-interest, however, funding organizations that aim to push the country in a libertarian direction….The Kochs’ subsidization of a pro-corporate movement fulfills, in many ways, the vision laid out…

Unless you forgot what you were reading about after the first sentence in the larger quote of that first paragraph, it is difficult to understand how you would not connect the fact that Meyer calls all of the activities and organizations that she outlines in that paragraph “libertarian” and then, in the next paragraph, calls all of that “pro-corporate”.

I certainly met your “challenge” in finding and re-printing the quote, so you changed tactics completely and fell for the exact same trap that Riggenbach accuses of Meyer. He has a nice bulleted list in the article that addresses the exact same misconceptions that you have written above. Essentially, you and Meyer are under the same delusions about libertarianism, about the free market and about the role of the federal government in shaping the market.

To help you understand the difference, here are some “pro-corporate” activities and interests to which libertarians are earnestly opposed:

- The military/industrial complex
- Subsidies, such as those which allowed the corn industry to foist inefficient ethanol on the public
- Protectionist tariffs and quotas such as those which helped engineer limits on sugar importation to make corn syrup competitive as a sweetener
- Lobbying, such as that which shoved the Medicare prescription drug bill down our throats in 2003.
- Regulations that create barriers to entry to small business, limiting the supply of goods and potentially allowing the growth of corporations beyond the point where economies of scale would provide peak efficiency

These are just a few examples of the “pro-corporate” aka mercantilist activities that advocacy groups have supported and continue to support. Jane Meyer wants you to believe (and apparently you are already convinced of it), that these pernicious activities and the loosening of restraints on trade and personal liberty that libertarians want are effectively one and the same.

Jon Leckie September 19, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Scott D, there is no limit to his dishonesty. This site should have a permanent reminder to all participants: “DO NOT FEED THE TROLL”. The best you can do is ignore his posts, don’t even bother reading them.

It is, however, worthwhile to read the replies that folks make to his inane lies, as there is a lot to learn in their patient refutations (for everyone, that is, except the troll himself). He is a broken person, a bad egg, a rotten apple.

michael September 19, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Scott: We could go on and on, and you will always be unhappy with my answer. But the point is, that in composing the concept behind this article, Riggenbach decided on trying to establish the theme that Mayer was trying to equate libertarianism with pro-corporate behavior. And that dog has failed to hunt.

I did not say that Riggenbach was “lying”. That’s an accusation that comes all too easily to people here, including you with your claim that I’m being dishonest. It’s a bit strong. I think Riggenbach was misrepresenting Mayer’s stance and trying to portray her as a willing promoter of disinformation about the libertarian movement as it is understood here. And in all honesty she wasn’t doing anything like that. She was describing the behaviors of two very rich people, powerful men who put their money behind pro-corporate activities, libertarian enterprises and groups like the “Tea Party” movement and the Libertarian Party. In doing so, she portrayed the Koch Brothers accurately.

So let’s leave it at that. Riggenbach used words he was certain would rile up the faithful and give them another demon to despise. It would appear that he was successful in that endeavor… although not especially accurate in his summaries of Mayer’s article.

From that article, again: “The Kochs have gone well beyond their immediate self-interest, however, funding organizations that aim to push the country in a libertarian direction….The Kochs’ subsidization of a pro-corporate movement fulfills, in many ways, the vision laid out…”

And elsewhere: “The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests.”

So let’s see… The brothers want lower taxes, like the libs and the pro-corporate interests. They want to cut social services, again like both groups. They want to eliminate regulations, again like both groups. So far there’s no difference between the groups.

In fact I only see one single difference: the desire on the part of some AUSTRO-libertarians to destroy the government, as opposed to the idea of co-opting it and using it toward one’s own ends. And that desire to bring down the goverment in fact is only espoused by a single (but very vocal) faction among professed libertarians. So I would say everything in Mayer’s article was accurate and well phrased. Generally speaking, the goals of all the above-named organizations (including an inchoate but very noisy Tea Party) are nearly synonymous.

The distinctions being argued amount only to factionalism. It’s akin to lumping Leninists and Trotskyites together under the banner of Communists. Where’s the big distinction?

Phinn September 19, 2010 at 1:51 pm

So let’s leave it at that.

Ha ha ha ha!!!! You lost this debate so very badly. You called Riggenbach a liar. You said, “Is he using quotes correctly? Or is he making stuff up and attributing it to the opposition? There’s a word for that. In fact there are several words for that.” Dance around your accusation all you want, monkey, but that’s what you said.

You demanded a quote from the article where the author describes the libertarian movement (as she interprets it) as “pro-corporate.” They were provided for you.

Now you are embarrassed, or should be, and so you naturally want to change your point, and pretend you can make your infantile brain-squib go away. Typical. Freaking hysterical, but typical.

I have been around the Internet for a long time, and rarely is someone so thoroughly trounced and humiliated as you just were. And your humiliation is so deserving. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

I’m going to bookmark this thread and go back and look at it every now and then when I need a chuckle, a lift to my spirits, at your expense.

michael September 19, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Phinn, why don’t I parse this thought again for you?

“The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation.”

That part is a true statement.

Mayer then follows with this: “These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests.”

And that part is also true.

Mayer at no point says that pro-corporate activities and libertarianism are identical. The article is about that very large part of the spectrum in which their aims coincide.

Nice try.

Phinn September 19, 2010 at 2:08 pm

>>Mayer at no point says that pro-corporate activities and libertarianism are identical.

If you think that your characterization of Mayer’s article, or the points you choose to make about it, or the standards of quality you pretend to apply to it, or your opinion on anything, matters in any way, in light of the way you be-clowed yourself here, go right ahead and keep spinning.

I am sure you will add even more material to your unintentional comedy routine.

michael September 19, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Here’s Riggenbach’s entire comment, Phinn:

“She describes several planks in the 1980 Libertarian Party platform, the platform on which David Koch ran for vice president of the United States, which she takes as emblematic of the larger libertarian movement of the time, and notes that “William F. Buckley, Jr., a more traditional conservative, called the movement ‘Anarcho-Totalitarianism.’” Then, in what can only be called a pièce de résistance of cluelessness, she describes the libertarian movement as “a pro-corporate movement.”

This statement is not true. None of the quotes that have been offered support this claim. In fact I can see nothing in the entire article where she references the libertarian movement as a whole. That’s not what the article’s about.

Maybe you could come up with a quote from her on the entirety of the libertarian movement, and how its interests are the same as those of the pro-corporate crowd.

But here’s the other thing. In defending Mr Riggenbach, Scott resorts to the same kind of intellectual distortion of the truth that I accused Riggenbach of. Here’s Scott’s reprise of the Mayer article:

“The Kochs have gone well beyond their immediate self-interest, however, funding organizations that aim to push the country in a libertarian direction….The Kochs’ subsidization of a pro-corporate movement fulfills, in many ways, the vision laid out…”

This looks a lot like a single connected thought. In truth it’s clipped from two different paragraphs. Here:

“The Kochs have gone well beyond their immediate self-interest, however, funding organizations that aim to push the country in a libertarian direction. Among the institutions that they have subsidized are the Institute for Justice, which files lawsuits opposing state and federal regulations; the Institute for Humane Studies, which underwrites libertarian academics; and the Bill of Rights Institute, which promotes a conservative slant on the Constitution. Many of the organizations funded by the Kochs employ specialists who write position papers that are subsequently quoted by politicians and pundits. David Koch has acknowledged that the family exerts tight ideological control. “If we’re going to give a lot of money, we’ll make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent,” he told Doherty. “And if they make a wrong turn and start doing things we don’t agree with, we withdraw funding.”

And here: “The Kochs’ subsidization of a pro-corporate movement fulfills, in many ways, the vision laid out in a secret 1971 memo that Lewis Powell, then a Virginia attorney, wrote two months before he was nominated to the Supreme Court. The antiwar movement had turned its anger on defense contractors, such as Dow Chemical, and Ralph Nader was leading a public-interest crusade against corporations. Powell, writing a report for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urged American companies to fight back. The greatest threat to free enterprise, he warned, was not Communism or the New Left but, rather, “respectable elements of society”—intellectuals, journalists, and scientists. To defeat them, he wrote, business leaders needed to wage a long-term, unified campaign to change public opinion.”

See? The two thoughts are separated by quite a lot of material. They are not closely connected.

Scott D September 19, 2010 at 6:38 pm

But here’s the other thing. In defending Mr Riggenbach, Scott resorts to the same kind of intellectual distortion of the truth that I accused Riggenbach of. Here’s Scott’s reprise of the Mayer article:

Nice, more lies–or perhaps it is simply a lack of reading comprehension. When your own honesty is called into question at your failure to admit a mistake, you make a petty attack on me. To quote myself above, after that paragraph where you accused me of employing intellectual dishonesty:

Unless you forgot what you were reading about after the first sentence in the larger quote of that first paragraph, it is difficult to understand how you would not connect the fact that Meyer calls all of the activities and organizations that she outlines in that paragraph “libertarian” and then, in the next paragraph, calls all of that “pro-corporate”.

Oddly enough, my quote almost seems to address what you wrote here:

See? The two thoughts are separated by quite a lot of material. They are not closely connected.

I removed the intervening sentences between the two paragraphs in my quote, and then explained the reasoning in the sentence I just quoted as being to draw attention to the relevant thoughts expressed. You’ll note that in my previous post I quoted at great length to ensure that the full meaning and context was clear. Then, when you tried to wiggle out of that evidence, I emphasized the relevant sentences. Your response was to point to my emphasis by omission as evidence that I am being dishonest, which is laughable considering that I had earlier given the full quote. I’m sure that explanation isn’t enough to stop you trying to slander me, so I’ll explain further.

Meyer speaks of the Koch’s funding organizations that “aim to push the country in a libertarian direction”. She does not say, “libertarian or conservative directions” or “libertarian and other directions that the Koch’s favor”. Nor does she, halfway through, change the thesis of her paragraph to talking about organizations other than those that “aim to push the country in a libertarian direction”. In the very next paragraph, without having deviated from her appraisal, she refers to a “pro-corporate movement”. From there, she talks about the Koch’s funding of Cato and the Mercatus Center. If the “pro-corporate movement” is something OTHER than libertarianism, I would like you to point out what that is and where Meyer referred to it.

In any case, I’m done. Anyone can see that I’ve made my point nearly to the extent of belaboring it.

Not Fooled September 17, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Well, looks like this think thank is funded by the Kochs too. I’m sure this will make libertarianism even more popular…

Scott D September 17, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Not Fooled,

If you think that Mises.org is funded by the Koch brothers, you are wrong. The smoldering animosity that began back in the 70s still exists. Jeff Rigenbach obviously chose to ignore that animosity to correct what he saw as an innacurate hit piece by Meyer.

Paul in Lakeview September 17, 2010 at 5:43 pm

It just so happens that Meyer’s article is not the rankest nonsense. Far from it.

All this is the rankest nonsense, of course. And it is so because it is based on ignorance of the libertarian tradition. It is clear that Mayer hasn’t the foggiest idea what libertarianism is all about.

Actually, ignorance wouldn’t be much of a base given that it describes an absence of what ought to be present, namely, knowledge. What doesn’t exist can be the cause of what does exist. An untainted argument from the bigotry of a social democrat would be far more plausible and convincing. But that’s not the part Jeff chose to emphasize with italics.

There is, however, not the slightest evidence to support the claim that Jane Mayer, the celebrated and award-winning journalist, has ever heard of, much less read,…or Rothbard.

Oh really?

Go read VOL. XVIII, NO. 8-12, September-December, 1984, of “THE LIBERTARIAN FORUM”.

Notice that Murray used the word Kochtopus sixty-two times in the article The State of the Movement: The Implosion.

Paul in Lakeview September 17, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Make that, “What doesn’t exist can’t be the cause of what does exist.”

So, sorry, Stephen Hawking. It’s not possibly true that “the Universe can and will create itself from nothing”, as you are being quoted all over the internet. If the universe didn’t exist, there’d be nothing, not even gravity, to do any creating. Maybe you should send copies of your resume to some Kochtopusians just in case you are fired from your current job. Kochtopusian conservatives like science and ever are striving to become more knowledgable about it.

Forrest Gump September 17, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Rothbard fell out with the Koch’s, that I get. What’s that got to do with The New Yorker piece? I do not understand your point.

I enjoyed Stephan Hawking in that Simpsons episode, too. One of my favourites.

Forrest Gump September 19, 2010 at 1:43 am

I don’t understand your comments. Care to be less cryptic?

Sean September 17, 2010 at 9:07 pm

“One can only shake one’s head sadly at such a grotesque panoply of misinformation and outright falsehoods. One is tempted to dismiss anyone who takes it seriously as delusional. Yes, of course, something like this is what most Americans think they know about libertarianism. But this level of ignorance is simply inexcusable in an intellectual journalist: a person who writes professionally for periodical publication about recent developments and events in the world of ideas.”

This all true, imo. However, intellectually accurate journalism is NOT what sells copies of The New Yorker to a mass audience.

One readily apprehends that most readers are comforted and assured, by Ms. Mayer’s nonsense, that their liberal ideology is, of course, still safe and sound.

Brian Cantin September 17, 2010 at 9:59 pm

I am willing to cut Mayer some slack when she conflates libertarians with conservatives. After all, we live in an age where anybody who wants to raise the speed limit by 10 mph calls himself a libertarian. We have advocates of the Iraq war, a blatant example of mass murder, who call themselves libertarians. You have the Libertarian party further muddying the waters by nominating a presidential candidate who once called for using RICO laws against people who advocate relaxing drug laws, and a vice-presidential candidate who is a war monger. Examples of this kind of thing abound. So, why should Mayer identify libertarianism with the pure Rothbardian strain, and all that means?
Where the article was dishonest was in its treatment of the Koch’s foreign policy views. The Koch brothers are hardly perfect, but they have been pretty consistent opponents of militarism and wars. The Koch brothers have also been good on civil liberties. None of the positions that the Koch brothers have taken over the years that contradict the picture of pure greed that Mayer paints are presented. In that sense the article is a hatchet job.

michael September 18, 2010 at 8:25 am

Good call, Brian. What we’re seeing is factionalism at its juiciest. The Koch Brothers are so self-identified as libertarians that one of them once ran for VP under that ticket. All their views but one mirror the typical opinions espoused here. What makes them so ideologically unacceptable is that Koch Industries is so big it aspires to taking over the USG, not just wiping it from the face of the earth.

On the plus side, they do fund Nova, an innocuous nature program many find to be both pictorially elegant and informative. Mayer neglected to mention that.

mpolzkill September 18, 2010 at 10:04 am

It’s probably true, the Koches, Bill Mahers and Sarah Palins of the world are doing to “libertarian” what the Michaels of the world already did to “liberal”.

Caley McKibbin September 18, 2010 at 1:30 pm

A journalist is just a fool that gets paid to share his foolishness. Anyone that believes the journalism professionism is about reporting facts is also a fool.

Not Fooled September 19, 2010 at 1:12 am

“Jeff Riggenbach is a journalist,” source mises.org

Walt D. September 19, 2010 at 3:01 pm

“How can libertarians distil the entire philosophy into a bumper sticker?”
I respect your right to life, liberty and property – please respect mine.

Mike D. September 19, 2010 at 3:41 pm

“I respect your right to life, liberty and property – please respect mine.”
Bumper Sticker – look what its stuck on! Walt – your Chevy Suburban is spewing CO2 into the atmosphere; the global warming you are causing is going to cause floods,droughts, famines, you will cause the Pacific Ocean to flood Al Gore’s high rise penthouse. To fill your gas guzzler, big oil and the CIA are conducting foreign wars, killing civilians, torturing people. You are the 5th horseman of the apocalypse. You are going to be responsible for more deaths that Rachel Carson, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Chairman Mao combined. Your car was built by union goons, in a car factory now partially owned by a government who stole bond holders money. The upholstery in your car was sewn by child labor in sweatshops in Indonesia … and you have the chutzpah to say “I respect your right to life, liberty and property”? :-) I said it before michael!

Frank G September 20, 2010 at 8:32 am

Here are a few bumper sticker ideas going the other way:
Progressivism, a nicer form of fascism.
or
Progressivism is corporatism on steroids
or
Progressivism – After more then 110 years of it, you’d think we had learned our lesson.
or
Progressivism – Keeping the middle and lower classes from infiltrating the upper.
or
Progressivism – the beautiful road paved in gold bricks that leads straight to hell.

J. Murray September 20, 2010 at 8:54 am

Progressivism – We have no idea what we’re progressing toward or how to get there.

Slim934 September 20, 2010 at 9:03 pm

So can anyone tell me the series of articles Rothbard wrote which Jeff mentions at the end of the article?

newson February 27, 2011 at 6:34 pm

search the irrepressible rothbard for “koch” or “kochtopus”.
http://mises.org/books/irrepressible.pdf

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