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Libertarianism

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#1 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 12:20 PM

The error at the heart of all libertarian thought is that the individual is the smallest and primary unit of society.  The libertarian consistently frames social and moral imperatives in terms of individual needs and desires and freedoms.  He posits that society is the sum total of individuals pursuing self-interest.

This is not true.  The smallest unit of society is the relationship between two individuals.  One, two, or a thousand individuals do not comprise a society until there are relationships connecting them to each other--agreements, customs, laws, values.  The connecting relationship, not the individual, is the atom of human society.  It is impossible to have a society of one man.
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#2 Frontier

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 12:46 PM

Marxism of the Right
Robert Locke

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...libertarianism is basically the Marxism of the Right. If Marxism is the delusion that one can run society purely on altruism and collectivism, then libertarianism is the mirror-image delusion that one can run it purely on selfishness and individualism. Society in fact requires both individualism and collectivism, both selfishness and altruism, to function. Like Marxism, libertarianism offers the fraudulent intellectual security of a complete a priori account of the political good without the effort of empirical investigation. Like Marxism, it aspires, overtly or covertly, to reduce social life to economics. And like Marxism, it has its historical myths and a genius for making its followers feel like an elect unbound by the moral rules of their society.

I could copy-past the whole thing, really.  It's great.

Here's a paragraph buttressing the OP:

...

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The most fundamental problem with libertarianism is very simple: freedom, though a good thing, is simply not the only good thing in life. Simple physical security, which even a prisoner can possess, is not freedom, but one cannot live without it. Prosperity is connected to freedom, in that it makes us free to consume, but it is not the same thing, in that one can be rich but as unfree as a Victorian tycoon’s wife. A family is in fact one of the least free things imaginable, as the emotional satisfactions of it derive from relations that we are either born into without choice or, once they are chosen, entail obligations that we cannot walk away from with ease or justice. But security, prosperity, and family are in fact the bulk of happiness for most real people and the principal issues that concern governments.

I was watching a bit of Stossel for lol's, and he had Gary Johnson on as a guest.  He gave the usual bullshit about "loving liberty" hating Democratic regulations, and then started in on Romney for being "anti-gay, misogynist and anti-immigrant." Gee, Gary, can't imagine why even John Huntsman did better than you in the primaries.  :rolleyes:

#3 Lord Bigot of Hatepost

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 12:51 PM

True believer libertarians are not particularly interested in society.  The end of libertarianism--totally free markets with open borders--insists upon a stateless society.  The results are remarkably similar to communism, as are the adherents' dedication to the idea that "true libertarianism" has never been tried.  Though that may be true, it has not been tried because it is impossible to implement.  Libertarianism is an ideology of spherical cows: supposing that we have a free market and supposing that everyone respects everyone else's property rights and supposing that everyone is John Galt, this society would work.

But we can never have a totally free market, and people don't respect property rights, and most people aren't Aryan capitalist ubermenschen who post on Reason.com in a haze of pot smoke.
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#4 Frontier

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 01:01 PM

Libertarianism is not compatible with Christian philosophy, either.  Aquinas discussed the subject briefly, IIRC, where he asked if if the was no Original Sin, would we still need government?  That question, of course, addresses the very real problem of crime and war, which are two principle areas of government concern, but libertarians see no other area of concern for the government.  As the autistically put it, the government is there solely to "enforce contracts."

Well, Aquinas answers, yes, we would still need a government in the same a ship would still need a captain.  Someone has to set out guidelines and rules and act as a central clearinghouse for public works, like roads and bridges.  Moreover, there are other spiritual concerns and projects that require a government of some kind to organize.  In Aquinas' time, these were usually religious projects, like cathedrals, but in our time, we have things like space and sea exploration and other scientific endeavors, as well publc houses for theater and sports.  Now, a libertarian could argue that these things could be done privately, and perhaps that's so, but never on a very large scale, and they'd never suffuse the public with the sort of national pride and goodfeeling one gets from larger projects.

#5 tommy

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 01:47 PM

Over at SpergLog, I've been arguing that libertarianism isn't compatible with the evolution of social primates:

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To paraphrase E.O. Wilson, "Marx had the right idea, he just picked the wrong species." Marxism is a better match for ants, bees, or naked mole rats than it is social primates. There is too much intra-group competition to make Marxism feasible among humans.

The same could be said for libertarians. They should have picked cougars or bears or other creatures that live alone or with offspring and that have a simple idea of territory. There is too much of a demand for cohesion and a shared moral space in human life to make all out libertarianism feasible among humans.

You'd think a guy who wrote the "The Myth of the Rational Voter" would understand that the emotional life and cognitive biases of humans aren't likely random, but an adaptive product of evolution, and they cannot be safely be ignored. It appears that libertarians, likes Marxists, still haven't come to grips with the fact that we're, in fact, social primates and that excessively spergish, legalistic libertarianism is not highly congruent with a communal human nature.





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Yes, you are legally entitled to have recently released ex-convicts from San Quentin over at your house every weekend for barbecues just because you like to hang out with guys you perceive as tough and cool. If you should exercise such poor judgment, then don't be surprised if you get your teeth knocked or you get a bullet in your head if one of your dinner guests decides to rape your neighbor's daughter. It may not be right and it's certainly not legal, but get a clue.


And don't be too surprised if other people in your neighborhood, on getting wind of your hobby, would act to prevent your weekend gatherings, their possible outcome, and the subsequent retaliation by any legal means afforded to them, even if rather underhanded. Surprisingly, social primates seem to believe that there are some risks and conflicts taken by individuals on behalf of the entire community that are worth preventing when the perceived benefit belongs to the individual alone, and especially when the benefit appears very small or like no benefit at all. This may not be in line with austere ideological tendencies, but it makes a lot of sense from an evolutionary perspective, and it wasn't the relentless pursuit of untainted ideology that made our species or built civilization. Rather than pursue libertarian ideals to an extreme from which humans naturally shy away, might it not be better to formulate a more pragmatic program that argues the benefits of libertarianism and is sustainable for more than the blink of an eye?

If not accepting an immigration stance that would invariably shift the country in the direction of California makes one a socialist, then I plead guilty.




Quote

Forget the public infrastructure argument, that's an obvious objection, lets restate the libertarian case: if your next-door neighbor wants to synthesize and store a few tons of explosives, highly sensitive or otherwise, in his house, and he's got reasonable hazardous waste disposal and ventilation protocols in place so that you're not harmed in the event it all goes as planned, whose rights is he infringing upon? It's his house, damn it!

I suppose only a socialist could argue that society ought to prevent such a risk. (We must, of course, exclude any middle position between libertarian and socialist as ideologically unsound, as there is nothing more important than maintaining such purity.) Besides, if it all goes wrong, and you don't make it, your estate can always file a lawsuit so no big deal.

Yet, sadly, social primates are, for reasons we can't begin to fathom, big into this collective risk mitigation stuff. It's just not very rational.


#6 Corky

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 04:04 PM

Libertarianism has its flaws, but it exposes the tyranny of liberalism.

#7 Dr. Thunder

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 04:40 PM

Libertarians make a false idol out of the free market.  Like God, the market has a divine plan and we are all just pieces of the puzzle.  We cannot fully understand how it works or why, but so long as we follow its laws everything will work out just fine.

Libertarians have a bizarre concept of individual liberty where the only real threat is from the state and if we could just get rid of that and be left to our own devices we'd be living in a more harmonious society.  Of the top 100 largest economic entities in the world I count 44 as being corporations.  The idea that the state threatens your liberty but that you have nothing to fear from an anarchic, market-driven society is patently ridiculous.  Some of them recognize that globalist corporations are not very good either, but handwave it away as just another result of failing to adhere to free market principles.  "Well the problem is that the state is feeding these corporations!"  Corporations are bureaucracies too, and they come with their own special set of problems.  That's another bizarre thing about libertarians.  They seem to have this concept of the marketplace as this Ayn Rand-style system where inventive and free-wheeling entrepreneurs are building a dynamic society, constrained only by the accursed state.  Anyone who has ever had to deal with their HR department is fully aware of the bureaucratic inertia of the modern corporation, a fact of life that was inevitable as industries grew larger.  Globalism, including the free trade and open borders libertarians love, is feeding this beast.

#8 Frontier

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 04:43 PM

Actually, there is one anarchic government-free marketplace: the world itself.  There are about 150 different nations, plus assorted autonomous regions.  How many are "libertarian"?  Answer: Zero.

Libertarianism: MARKET FAIL :smug:

#9 Mannerheim

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 04:51 PM

This is a point worth emphasizing:

Quote

Libertarians rightly concede that one’s freedom must end at the point at which it starts to impinge upon another person’s, but they radically underestimate how easily this happens. So even if the libertarian principle of “an it harm none, do as thou wilt,” is true, it does not license the behavior libertarians claim. Consider pornography: libertarians say it should be permitted because if someone doesn’t like it, he can choose not to view it. But what he can’t do is choose not to live in a culture that has been vulgarized by it.

One hears a similar argument for fag marriage: "I don't understand why straight people are against it, it's not like it affects them at all". But of course that's not true: tolerate homosexuality and it becomes part of the public sphere, and you will come across it often. If you resent having orgy clubs and bondage gear shops pop up in your neighborhood, or having your kids propagandized with absurdly wise and sympathetic fag characters on TV, sorry but you're SOL. The question of what does and does not constitute the proper boundaries of public morality is open to debate, but to the extent libertarians acknowledge that such a thing even exists they define it down to murder and breaking contracts. It's not so much that everyone needs to be John Galt for it to work, as everyone needs to be shut-in nerds.

#10 Mannerheim

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 05:02 PM

Also: the libertarian response to problems of regulatory capture and monopoly is to make the state so weak that corporations have no incentive to try to influence it. One might ask who exactly will prevent the politicians and bureaucrats from working to increase their power (other politicians? A helpless piece of paper?), but fortunately they are well known to have the consciences of saints and the humility of Socrates, and will be content to sit idle and let society evolve without their intervention or guidance (to be on the safe side we may want to make them swear some kind of oath).

#11 Corky

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 05:04 PM

View PostMannerheim, on 12 November 2012 - 05:02 PM, said:

Also: the libertarian response to problems of regulatory capture and monopoly is to make the state so weak that corporations have no incentive to try to influence it. One might ask who exactly will prevent the politicians and bureaucrats from working to increase their power (other politicians? A helpless piece of paper?), but fortunately they are well known to have the consciences of saints and the humility of Socrates, and will be content to sit idle and let society evolve without their intervention or guidance (to be on the safe side we may want to make them swear some kind of oath).

What alternative do you suggest?

#12 Mannerheim

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 05:30 PM

View PostJDrozen, on 12 November 2012 - 05:04 PM, said:

View PostMannerheim, on 12 November 2012 - 05:02 PM, said:

Also: the libertarian response to problems of regulatory capture and monopoly is to make the state so weak that corporations have no incentive to try to influence it. One might ask who exactly will prevent the politicians and bureaucrats from working to increase their power (other politicians? A helpless piece of paper?), but fortunately they are well known to have the consciences of saints and the humility of Socrates, and will be content to sit idle and let society evolve without their intervention or guidance (to be on the safe side we may want to make them swear some kind of oath).

What alternative do you suggest?

Cultivate a cohesive society of limited complexity so that whoever winds up with power (and someone will, whether CEO's of major companies or politicians) will hopefully feel some sense of noblesse oblige and not just f**k over their fellow citizens for power and profit. I am long-term bullish (though short term is hard to read) on countries that have protected their valuable ethnic character in the face of international pressure to join the multikult, like Finland, Japan, and Switzerland.

#13 mlad

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 09:10 PM

Libertarianism is applied autism, as C Van Carter once wrote. They cannot imagine that society is any more complex than an Excel spreadsheet, or that it functions like an organism rather than a mathematical model. All they have to do, they think, is plug in the numbers and voila -- it turns out that open borders and individualized morality maximize the efficiency of the market, so end of story.

Of course they neglect the fact that efficiency comes at the cost of rigor -- as someone else mentioned, there is a reason why we have two lungs and two kidneys, despite the fact that it would be more 'efficient' from an energy standpoint to simply do with one of each. There must be a certain amount of redundancy and 'slack' in any system, in other words programmed inefficiency, to buffer any radical contingencies which may occur. That is why traditional societies may appear inefficient to the libertarian, but are in fact highly stable, while over-efficient systems like our own managerial state are fragile and highly vulnerable to changing variables.
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#14 tommy

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 10:07 PM

View PostJDrozen, on 12 November 2012 - 04:04 PM, said:

Libertarianism has its flaws, but it exposes the tyranny of liberalism.

It's fair to say that libertarians often make some very solid critiques of government intervention and point out externalities that liberals would prefer to ignore, but it's unfortunate that libertarians are just as prone to ignoring externalities that come into conflict with their principles.  Caplan is the perfect example of taking it to absurdity: he'd abandon 80% pure libertarianism for 80% real-world adherence to libertarian ideas and settle for100% pure libertarianism with 0% real-world adherence to those ideals.  That's the Ivory Tower for you.

I see the market as an end to general happiness and not an end to itself.  I recognize that interventions frequently do more harm than good.  In this I'm closer to a libertarian than a socialist but I'm very skeptical about ideologies that try to skirt around human nature.  Humans exhibit the whole range of social behaviors: group cooperation, group competitiveness, individual cooperation, and individual competitiveness.  Ideologies that ignore this by starting with a few presuppositions and working out a body of law as though humans were the merest of mathematical constructs are doomed to failure if carried to their logical conclusions.  I believe that humans and societies are neural networks that, in  complex ways, balance multiple competing interests in making decisions rather than simple variables that are easily explained and managed by rudimentary, if politically satisfying, axioms.  I believe that as the sociobiological revolution unfolds, as it impacts sociology and economics as it has started to impact psychology, there is going to be less and less ground for ideological purists of any stripe to stand upon.

#15 Horrendous Thinspiration

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 09:55 AM

Who was the first person who said that libertarianism is a philosophy that works in no organization larger than an Internet start-up?
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#16 Dixiecrat

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 09:25 PM

Libertarianism is an impossible ideology because it is predicated on the idea that humans are rational. To the contrary, humans are confusing mixtures of biases, emotions, prejudices, experiences, and reason comes in distantly behind all of these.

Also, libertarianism is based on the falsehood of individualism, as opposed to the reality of personhood(shorthand: persons are defined by their context- origin, environment, relationship to other persons, etc.). The wholesale embrace of the Enlightenment heresy of "individualism" is why we suffer the terrible things we do-- if the individual is an atomic unit, free to define every aspect of his/her existence, then all things which constrain that "freedom"-- gender, race, family, nation (socio-ethnic tribe)-- are evils which must be destroyed and overcome. Hence gay marriage, LGBTQ-garbage, etc.

Edited by Dixiecrat, 14 November 2012 - 09:26 PM.



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#17 Literally Cawkasion

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 12:24 AM

I am a business owner who started and runs a business employing people in Australia, which has a highly regulated market and is a union country. What people dont understand is that regulation actually reduces competition because it raises the barrier to entry for the little guy. It also means that once you are established and you have overcome your growing pains, you capture a lot more of the market because its so difficult for competition to spring up. The bigger you get, the more this becomes the case. All the regulation or efforts to create equity fail, because all it does is create systematic road blocks for the little guy, and loopholes the big guy can navigate. The best way to create opportunity and competition is to open things up.

The belief that monopolies form in unregulated markets is based on nothing more than fact that people assumed we actually used to operate during periods of little regulation in the past. Its not really true. You will always see some players dominate, but politicians are paid off to pass legislation as often as they are to remove it. The free market is not the problem, its that people in authority are paid to manipulate the market to the benefit of others. The belief that we can legislate equal outcomes is what causes the problem in the first place. Just like with social causes, the belief that you can legislate or force equal outcomes is based on a false premise.

Zero regulation is not the answer, but legislation trying to force level playing fields is not the answer either. You cant have companies polluting or selling harmful products, but you also cannot tell them who they should employ either. You also cannot tax the crap out of specific groups and expect society as a whole to benefit from it.

Libertarians get more right than they do wrong, but like everything the moderate approach rather than the extreme one is almost always best.

#18 Dixiecrat

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 12:57 PM

View PostAussie Mackey, on 15 November 2012 - 12:24 AM, said:


Libertarians get more right than they do wrong, but like everything the moderate approach rather than the extreme one is almost always best.

This is why true conservatism (not the Enlightenment drivel that parades as conservatism) is so hard to get people to embrace. We're built to want simple answers. Every "ology" and "ism" proposes an answer that is easy and simple. On the contrary, the conservative/reactionary outlook on life is not one with a list of easy answers. There isn't a list of solutions that are applicable to every circumstance regardless of context ("Haha! Free-market and deregulation will fix every problem in 2012 America, as well as in 1919 Djibouti!), because each age, nation, and people are coming from different histories and are headed to different destinies.


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#19 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 02:22 PM

I disagree that libertarians get more right than wrong.  My assessment of their failings is as follows:

  • their faith in unguided economic processes is naive
  • their skepticism of organized human behavior is dogmatic
  • their understanding of social behavior is almost nil
  • their understanding of social hierarchies is nil
  • their attention to risk and to second order effects is severely deficient
  • their understanding of political behavior is grossly deficient
  • their conception of morality is limited and inflexible
  • their understanding of entropy, decay, and fragility is severely deficient
  • they do not appear to understand non-economic drives

In addition to this, libertarians seem affected by innate mental problems:

  • their psychological development is stunted
  • they exhibit no loyalty outside immediate personal relationships
  • they are glib and argumentative
  • their personal tastes are crass and childish
  • they are hedonists
  • they appear to be completely lacking in genuine altruism

Everything libertarians say is distorted through this prism of shortcomings and defects, so that when a libertarian opens his mouth about regulations, what comes out is usually seriously wrong.  Even the basic assumption that the primary obstacle to economic well-being is overregulation or other "inefficient" side effects of governance is based on erroneous thinking.  I have never once seen a libertarian address the reality that as human activity scales up it requires more and more effort to put into order (hence regulation)--this absurdly obvious fact goes unmentioned, or if it is mentioned is immediately dismissed.

The libertarian usually assumes that without regulation (or most of it) we'd be living in the best of all possible worlds--he is a stupid modern day Candide.  Libertarians love to cherry pick regulations or ignore context--I remember John Stossel pulling a stunt where he setup a lemonade stand in a city and then wouldn't let anyone buy lemonade because regulations forbade it.  This was supposed to show the silliness of overregulation, but it only showed the silliness of Stossel.

Libertarians are mostly wrong, and proof of their failure is that despite overrepresentation in the media they are politically ineffective.  They are incapable of advertising their ideology in ways that do not ultimately repulse most serious people.  (More galling is that despite being anti-conservative, they are used to speak on behalf of conservatives.)  They aren't even noble failures, they're just fools.
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#20 gaffible

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 03:39 PM

Have you noticed that libertarianism has supplanted peacenik anti-corporate leftism as the go-to ideology for rebellious middle class teenagers?  It's appealing to young people because the libertarian response to most social problems is "mind your own business," a mantra that's endlessly appealing to a generation taught that it's wrong to care how your neighbor behaves, because having standards is bigoted

libertarians scare me more than most liberals, to be honest.  at least most liberals understand intuitively why unlimited immigration is a bad idea, and most liberals aren't knotted up enough in their ideology to make an argument as disingenuous as "union busting is good for workers"





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