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David Simon: 'There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show' (theguardian.com)
323 points by patrickk on Dec 8, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 363 comments



This is a remarkably sensible speech.

The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile. It's a juvenile notion and it's still being argued in my country passionately and we're going down the tubes. And it terrifies me because I'm astonished at how comfortable we are in absolving ourselves of what is basically a moral choice. Are we all in this together or are we all not?

I see a lot of libertarian and anti-government sentiments expressed on HN. People like to construct arguments like "more government vs. less", "higher taxes vs. lower", "less regulation vs. more", but those debates are missing the forest for the trees. The question - and only question - should be what David Simon asks: are we all in this together or are we not?

To me, the answer is blindingly obvious. It's demonstrated by what societies are flourishing - with high economic and social equality, healthy democratic government, protected personal liberties, well-cared-for populaces, and resilient economies - and what societies aren't.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordic_model


The libertarian and anti-government sentiments aren't saying that we shouldn't be all in this together, but that we shouldn't be forced to be all in this together. That difference is what the entire argument is about.

Few people are saying saying "let's not do this" for some value of "this", they're saying "let's not force everyone to do this".

That's a very profound difference, it's why having the government make anything its business anywhere in the world is always controversial.


That argument is tiresome.

Many libertarians want to enforce a very particular and ahistorical version of property rights, one dictated from above and with a studied blindness for the reason we've invented the group of rights we think of as property. They want to subject everyone to a society where state violence is used for and only on behalf of people who in the past were granted monopoly access to some material good.

Force seeps through everything we do in a society, because it's a good like any other. Many libertarians demand everyone be forced into a machine of their own invention. And that's not any more damning of them than of anyone else, but they should own it. They're not hoping for a world where people aren't forced into things, but a world where people are forced into their own narrow vision of what's moral and righteous.


I used to freak right wing libertarians out by following this like of thought with them when I was politically active. I had one in tears during a break in a debate because I was there representing a Marxist party, yet I agreed with him about most issues. He could not understand why, and he saw it as destroying his credibility.

I pointed out that to me, as a marxist (some would argue the term libertarian socialist, or left communist would be more descriptive), his arguments for individual freedom was the right starting point for evaluating most policy, but the only logical conclusion is to limit government recognition of property rights too, as a large portion of the laws to protect private property takes away more rights from the public at large than what it offers to the public as owners:

I may gain exclusive rights to a small area, but I lose access and even limited rights to most of the world.

And In fact most countries do recognize that property rights must be limited to various extents to safeguard the rights of the population as a whole, through things like guarantees of access to land areas held in common (or owned by the government) that will not be sold, or legal protections for access to beaches or wilderness that often extends to granting legally protected public access to privately owned land.

The question is not whether or not property rights must be limited, but where to draw the balance. Yet somehow right wing libertarians tends to want to want to tighten property rights, while at the same time they argue for reducing government intervention in pretty much everything else. The inconsistency is glaring to me.


What I'm pointing out really has nothing to do with libertarianism, for what it's worth it's not a political position that I personally adhere to.

I'm pointing out that whatever your political leaning you don't "just" get the government involved. Even if you think you should have a larger government than you have now the question is what kind of larger government, and once you make the wrong choice there's a huge inertia in the system that makes correcting that choice very hard.

So even people that agree that government should do more aren't easily brought on the bandwagon of the something the government wants to do being the right version of that "more".


My point is this: the concept of a larger government is very murky, so we should be very careful when we're talking about it. The stereotypical libertarian will propose universal, strict enforcement of violence used to protect people to whom the State has granted monopoly access to material goods. I don't recognize that as a smaller State than someone who proposes that except annually taking some proportion of it and redistributing it.

One state may be better than the other, but it's still all pile of violence, configured in a different way.


>> My point is this: the concept of a larger government is very murky, so we should be very careful when we're talking about it.

The US government is pretty fucking large right now, is it not? In fact, it's an Empire, and serves as a great warning example of what a minimal government can/will become.

>> One state may be better than the other, but it's still all pile of violence, configured in a different way.

Exactly. So how about no State then? They say that the difference between a Minarchist and an Anarchist is "about six months". The period of time in between is irrelevant. The point is that a lot of Libertarians end up going all the way once they start seeing reality for what it is.


> Even if you think you should have a larger government than you have now the question is what kind of larger government, and once you make the wrong choice there's a huge inertia in the system that makes correcting that choice very hard.

To quote Theodore Roosevelt,

> The citizen must have high ideals, and yet he must be able to achieve them in practical fashion. No permanent good comes from aspirations so lofty that they have grown fantastic and have become impossible and indeed undesirable to realize. The impractical visionary is far less often the guide and precursor than he is the embittered foe of the real reformer, of the man who, with stumblings and shortcoming, yet does in some shape, in practical fashion, give effect to the hopes and desires of those who strive for better things. Woe to the empty phrase-maker, to the empty idealist, who, instead of making ready the ground for the man of action, turns against him when he appears and hampers him when he does work! Moreover, the preacher of ideals must remember how sorry and contemptible is the figure which he will cut, how great the damage that he will do, if he does not himself, in his own life, strive measurably to realize the ideals that he preaches for others. Let him remember also that the worth of the ideal must be largely determined by the success with which it can in practice be realized. We should abhor the so-called "practical" men whose practicality assumes the shape of that peculiar baseness which finds its expression in disbelief in morality and decency, in disregard of high standards of living and conduct. Such a creature is the worst enemy of the body of politic. But only less desirable as a citizen is his nominal opponent and real ally, the man of fantastic vision who makes the impossible better forever the enemy of the possible good.

tldr: don't make perfect the enemy of good. This comes several paragraphs after the famous "Man in the Arena" bit.


One might say that socialists want to enforce an oft repeated history of slavery and theft.


... if one was trying to grandstand and spout meaningless platitudes.


Or one could stop looking to the extreme as an inevitability in either case.


One might say the conservatives are doing the same (in the name of capitalism).


> Few people are saying saying "let's not do this" for some value of "this", they're saying "let's not force everyone to do this".

And while this makes sense from a naive perspective, it always rapidly breaks down in reality. That's why Simon, and others, call it juvenile. The complexity isn't hard to see: just use one level of meta.

Given an action or policy or whatever S, have the policy S' of "Do not force everyone to do S". Now take S' as the policy S, and have the new policy S'' of "Do not force everyone to not force everyone to do S."

This isn't contrived. The paradox of tolerance has been a major problem in liberal philosophy for a long, long time. The simplistic notion of "Don't force them" just refuses to engage with any kind of depth, and in doing so, perverts and defeats itself.

This is also assuming that the relevant species of libertarianism under discussion isn't purely economic fundamentalism; that is, it has actual concerns for social libertarianism rather than vapid one-off claims that permit oppression by failing to oppose it.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance

[2] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/toleration/


>> The paradox of tolerance has been a major problem in liberal philosophy for a long, long time. The simplistic notion of "Don't force them" just refuses to engage with any kind of depth, and in doing so, perverts and defeats itself.

Nope, the idea of not forcing anyone to do anything is rooted in the Non-Aggression Principle, which stipulates that any initiation of force (violence/coercion) is forbidden. The flipside of this is that everything should be voluntary.

It makes sense if you allow yourself to think about it for a moment. Never mind "but self-defense is violence too!!" - that is clearly seen for the distraction it is, when you draw the line at initiating violence. The aggressor is always in the wrong.

This fits together perfectly with The Golden Rule too: don't do anything to others that you wouldn't want done to yourself.

In reality, there are no "victimless crimes". Whenever someone gets thrown into jail for being in possession of a certain plant, there is no victim, and no crime. Laws represent coercion one way or another. It's either: 1) don't do this or you will be punished, or 2) do this or you will be punished.

Now, when people get punished for attempting to keep their property, something is very wrong. Who's the victim of you trying to keep your property? -No one. OK then, who's the victim in taxation.. ? -Why it's you, of course.


The NAP is pretty useless, because it doesn't define what 'force' or 'initiation' means. People have very significant disagreements about these definitions.

Furthermore, it only makes sense in an alternate reality where we're re-set to zero. The NAP doesn't really provide a means from getting from where we are today to a world 'without force,' as if that was even possible.


>> The NAP is pretty useless, because it doesn't define what 'force' or 'initiation' means.

Do you also need a definition for, say "rape", "kill", "steal", "rob"? What does it mean to "force someone to do something"? Have you got an inkling, perhaps?

>> The NAP doesn't really provide a means from getting from where we are today to a world 'without force,' as if that was even possible.

Why would it need to? It's not a system of social organization, it's a principle. But if everyone adhered to it, the world would be a lovely place. Sure, not everyone does. But even their choices and actions have consequences, and that's not about to change either way.


I specifically mean that libertarians don't view property rights as forceful, but the left does.

> But if everyone adhered to it, the world would be a lovely place.

If it's not a possibility that can happen in the actual world, then the statement is basically meaningless.


>> I specifically mean that libertarians don't view property rights as forceful, but the left does.

I don't know what kind of libertarianism you're referring to, exactly. But property is based on property rights, is it not? It makes no sense to think that you have no rights in the absence of a government. Think about it. If there's no government, would you not have the right to defend yourself or your property against an aggressor? -Of course you would. Governments have nothing to do with that.

>> If it's not a possibility that can happen in the actual world, then the statement is basically meaningless

The statement means what it means, even if only as a sentence.

But look, I already acknowledged that not everyone adheres to the NAP. That can't be helped now, and it probably can't be helped ever. But the number of people who aggress against others can sure be reduced through peaceful, sensible, consistent parenting, for example.

The fact that not every single goddamn human being out there is good is not a reason to dismiss libertarian/free-market/anarchist ideas. You'll have to do way better than that, but ultimately, you'll find that reason, logic, and evidence should / can not be dismissed at all.


>> If there's no government, would you not have the right to defend yourself or your property against an aggressor?

You're claiming a piece of land as your own but I don't see how you have any more right to it than any other human born on this earth. You initiate force to remove me from what you see as your land. Who's the aggressor? Where does your right to land derive from?


Generally, improvements and occupation make it your home. Somebody coming in to take land containing a house you built, a barn you raised, cattle you bred on a crop you are growing, are taking what's yours.

Take this away and nobody would use land at all. Been done in history again and again; result always the same : collapse of farming, which means collapse of the govt.


>> Generally, improvements and occupation make it your home. Somebody coming in to take land containing a house you built, a barn you raised, cattle you bred on a crop you are growing, are taking what's yours.

So nobody should be able to own land they aren't using for anything and I should be able to just go and occupy it? Cool.

>> Take this away and nobody would use land at all. Been done in history again and again; result always the same : collapse of farming, which means collapse of the govt.

And now we've moved onto a pragmatic rather than moral absolutist argument, which I agree with entirely.

Now that we're in this territory, let's talk about a bunch of other human-friendly pragmatic moves we could make as a society that might improve everyone's lives, eh?


You are actually right. Unused land you occupy can eventually be yours, to some degree. Its called 'squatting' and while it has issues it can correct some imbalances.

I agree moral absolutism is tricky. But think of it as first principles. You have to argue from something or its all situational ethics, which depend entirely upon your point of view.


Deriving from a first principle that's so broken and so subjective seems to me basically pointless. Moral absolutism is only useful if you have an absolute. We don't have one, not one we share anyway (him and me, no idea on your views really), so berating me for not joining in when you start deriving from it seems a bit off. It's one of the things about objectivism that really gets me -

"we're the only philosophy based on objective reality!" "But these things are highly subjective?!" "Shut up you sociopath/leech/parasite!"

The squatting thing is interesting, most people hate it instinctively but I'm unsure where I stand.


>> So nobody should be able to own land they aren't using for anything and I should be able to just go and occupy it? Cool.

Why would the same rule not apply to you? In other words, you can't just "occupy" land, you'll have to use it, just like everyone else.


>> Why would the same rule not apply to you? In other words, you can't just "occupy" land, you'll have to use it, just like everyone else.

Who's saying I wouldn't use it? It's pretty radical for a hard-property-rights libertarian to concede I could just go up and take someone's land if I judge it's not in proper use!


I mean all those that subscribe to the NAP: minarchists, 'right libertarians,' voluntaryists, and 'anarcho-capitalists.'

> Think about it.

I have thought about it, and so have many others. This argument is pretty old and tired, and goes way beyond this thread. There have been many criticisms of the NAP by anarchists. The actual, original strain of anarchists: 'left anarchism.'


>> I mean all those that subscribe to the NAP: minarchists, 'right libertarians,' voluntaryists, and 'anarcho-capitalists.'

What exactly is your claim about them, then? I should stop guessing at ideas to refute and let you make a claim first.

>> This argument is pretty old and tired, and goes way beyond this thread.

Which argument? "Think about it" doesn't constitute one, so it seems you wanted to quote something other than what you were supposedly addressing. That's kind of weird.

>> There have been many criticisms of the NAP by anarchists. The actual, original strain of anarchists: 'left anarchism.'

Sure. It's certainly possible to complicate things to no end. But is it worthwhile? Moral rules are not absolutes, but that's alright. The point is to get close enough, and there are often several sensible ways to view ideas, such as "property" for example.

But bickering about the exact definitions of words your opponent happens to use is just a bullshit distraction, intentional or not. I've wasted way too much time on that road already. We both use and understand the English language just fine. There are no obstacles to our communication besides the ones intentionally put up.


I did make a claim. The claim is that without specifically defining force and initiation, the NAP is useless. You re-asserted a particular definition, and said 'think about it.' I don't find that to be particularly convincing.


>> The claim is that without specifically defining force and initiation, the NAP is useless

And I pointed out that you don't really need any specific definitions for "force" or "initiation" (and that bickering about the definitions for everyday words is a bullshit distraction).

But suppose "force" meant "violence or coercion", and "to initiate" meant "to start" (there's no real confusion about that, at least). With these definitions, what's your problem with the NAP?


> With these definitions, what's your problem with the NAP?

Those aren't definitions.

Is it force for someone to own a gun? Is it force for someone to reveal that they're carrying a gun? Is it force for someone to draw a gun? Is it force for someone to fire a warning shot? Is it force for someone to point a gun?

Is it initiation for someone to attack a third party? Is it initiation for someone to attack a friend?

Is it force to covet your property? Is it force to touch your property? Is it force to enter your property? Is it force to illegitimately acquire your property? Is it force to manipulate your property? Is it force to develop your property's uses?

Is it initiation for someone to threaten you? Is it initiation for someone to threaten you abstractly? Is it initiation for someone to threaten your property? Is it initiation for someone to threaten your friends?

That's off the top of my head. Gimme a bit, and I'll "think about it".


As I mentioned already, it's certainly possible to complicate things to no end. But what exactly do you think you've accomplished with this message, besides prompting me to refute bullshit distractions?

>> Is it force for someone to own a gun?

Is it force for you to own shoes?

>> Is it force for someone to reveal that they're carrying a gun?

Is it force for someone to reveal they're not wearing a bra? No, it's not. Coercion requires an intent, a choice, and an action. Why are you flashing a gun? -Has someone just threatened to attack you? -Or have you just demanded money from someone?

>> Is it force for someone to draw a gun? Is it force for someone to fire a warning shot? Is it force for someone to point a gun?

Intent, intent, intent, etc.

>> Is it initiation for someone to attack a third party? Is it initiation for someone to attack a friend? Is it initiation for someone to attack you?

Of course. The one who attacks, ie. initiates, is the aggressor.

>> Is it force to covet your property?

Is it force to covet a woman?

>> Is it force to touch your property?

Is it force to touch a person?

>> Is it force to enter your property?

Is it force to enter Wal-Mart?

>> Is it force to illegitimately acquire your property?

I don't think so. But it depends on stuff.

>> Is it force to manipulate your property?

Is it force to open a door?

>> Is it force to develop your property's uses?

What do you even mean? .. Oh, but don't actually answer that. I have a feeling we're not about to get anywhere in this discussion.


> it's certainly possible to complicate things to no end

You're missing the fact that I'm accepting the NAP for the purposes of this discussion. The question isn't whether or not the NAP is valid; it's what the fuck I actually do in real life.

> But what exactly do you think you've accomplished with this message, besides prompting me to refute bullshit distractions?

I offered you a chance to define your terms. A definition is a boundary in meaning where, inside, the term is applied, and outside, the term is not applied. By asking these questions, you learn what the definition is.

You can do a similar series of questions for defining, say, a banana. You might do that by pointing to a series of objects and asking, "Is this a banana?" That's all I'm doing: I'm pointing at a series of situations and asking, "Is this force? Is this initiation?"

> Coercion requires an intent, a choice, and an action.

Like this. This is important. Nothing in the Non-Aggression Principle points this out.

Which categories of intents, choices, and actions may be combined to constitute coercion, which constitutes force? As our understanding of neuroscience develops, how might we gain nuance into understanding what constitutes coercion?

I know the complexity of reality is scary, but unfortunately, I am doomed to live in reality, which is sorta complex and infinitely various.

> Questions related to property and force.

Yeah, I clearly failed to frame the latter three sets as well as I did the first.

This is a question about the definition of violence. For instance, let's say you're carrying a glass sculpture that you like. While arguing with you, I knock it from your hand and it shatters. That obviously constitutes initiation, but does that constitute force? I didn't hurt you, nor did I coerce you, but that nevertheless seems like aggression.

With questions like "If you own" or "If you covet", my intent was to give you a clear place where you could have a fairly simple "no", but still actually have room to say "yes" if that's what you believed.

>> Is it force to develop your property's uses?

> What do you even mean?

This is a reference to Locke's definition of property. If someone cultivates the land and produces value from it, then they own it. If you gain ownership, and then someone else cultivates and produces value, is that force?


>> The question isn't whether or not the NAP is valid; it's what the fuck I actually do in real life.

What a particular person does in real life has no bearing on whether a particular moral principle is a good idea. You may be a sociopath who doesn't give a fuck about the NAP, or you may be a gentle person who wouldn't hurt anyone. That's beside the point.

The NAP is a reasonably well defined moral principle. You either think it's a good idea, or you don't. If not, perhaps you'll suggest a better one. Either way, these are just ideas, and then, as you pointed out, there's the real world.

But so what? In fact, the vast majority of people already automatically adhere to the NAP, without ever having even come across the idea. What you're doing here, is preventing the conversation from progressing, preventing us (or yourself) from getting anywhere with this. I've expended months of effort in debating with a couple of staunch Statists, and their favourite bullshit distraction is complicating everything.

See, there really are countless different "lifeboat scenarios" or edge cases you could keep coming up with and bringing up, but they have no bearing on the sensibility of the rationale behind the NAP, or the principle itself. What matters is not the countless edge cases, but the general principles themselves, and most of all, whether they are rational and consistent.

There is no all-encompassing, absolute, 100% objective moral system, but that's alright. Since the best we can do is "close enough", that's what we should aim for. Even the Golden Rule by itself is enough, and not only that, we actually have a "biological moral system" - your conscience is a manifestation of it. We're biologically inclined to behave in a moral way. No, bringing up sociopaths is not necessary here.

>> I offered you a chance to define your terms

Not really. You came in claiming that my definitions weren't definitions. But that's yet another issue that's better left un-bickered. Then you threw various unrelated questions at me, and I responded to them, trying to get you to see that the answers to most of your questions depend on various circumstances etc that aren't known.

>> You might do that by pointing to a series of objects and asking, "Is this a banana?" That's all I'm doing: I'm pointing at a series of situations and asking, "Is this force? Is this initiation?"

Sure, but to what end? You can figure out the correct answers to all of your questions with a moment's thought, at least hopefully. For example, owning a gun is no more "force" than owning a pair of socks. It's about what you do with the gun. Besides, you can strangle someone to death with a pair of socks, but for some strange reason, someone possessing socks is not a problem.

>> Like this. This is important. Nothing in the Non-Aggression Principle points this out.

That's because you can figure this stuff out as necessary, as it comes up. Reasoning is enough.

>> Which categories of intents, choices, and actions may be combined to constitute coercion, which constitutes force? As our understanding of neuroscience develops, how might we gain nuance into understanding what constitutes coercion?

Again, there are endless options for preventing a discussion from getting anywhere. You're just needlessly complicating things. I get it. It's difficult to process this stuff.

But here's a simple question: Does anyone have the right to take someone else's property by force? Now, if you're thinking of asking for a definition of "property", you're just proving my point. "Property" can be defined in several, compatible, sensible ways, but we all intuitively know what it means anyway, and act accordingly. We all know it's wrong for me to take something from you against your will, and vice versa.

Next, since the answer is clearly "No", the next question is: "So why would a human being working for the government have the right to take your property by force then?".. Feel like answering that? -Bear in mind that we're all just people, all part of the same human race, all just individuals, with the exact same rights as every other human being, and the answer should be obvious.

>> This is a question about the definition of violence

No it's not. It's a question of common sense. Yes, the definition of "violence" gets murky when you start digging through it, but that's irrelevant. For example, everyone knows that punching someone in the face for no reason is wrong, and that it constitutes violence. Again, the aggressor is always in the wrong. It's a very simple, but extremely effective rule, and one that actually does fit the way we naturally behave and the kind of things we naturally consider immoral.

>> If someone cultivates the land and produces value from it, then they own it.

Sure, that makes sense. It's roughly the same as Murray Rothbard's idea of "mixing one's labour" with something, eg. land.

>> If you gain ownership, and then someone else cultivates and produces value, is that force?

I'm assuming you meant the same piece of land. Clearly, if the land is already reasonably considered your property, then no one else is allowed to interfere with your control over it.


>> The NAP is a reasonably well defined moral principle.

Therein lies the problem though, even if we accept the NAP, we can never agree on what is force or violence and what is the initiation of force. Particularly where it concerns libertarian dialogue in which anything and everything can be and is construed as violence, with the bizarre exception of property rights. It's not reasonably well defined, it's vague and facile.

>> What matters is not the countless edge cases, but the general principles themselves, and most of all, whether they are rational and consistent.

Actually I value pragmatism and social utility well over consistency when it comes to my society. If a society is entirely rational based on a narrow vision of rational morality but ends up worse for the majority of people than one that is morally corrupt from top to bottom... well you'll find me in Corruptopia.

>> There is no all-encompassing, absolute, 100% objective moral system, but that's alright. Since the best we can do is "close enough", that's what we should aim for.

But we should definitely aim for one that respects your morals (property rights) over anyone else's (equal access to land, food etc) ?

>> Does anyone have the right to take someone else's property by force?

Yup, in some circumstances. For instance if your property is radioactive and near my house. There are many other exceptions as you yourself have mentioned.

>> everyone knows that punching someone in the face for no reason is wrong, and that it constitutes violence. Again, the aggressor is always in the wrong

That must be why the good guys in movies are always non-violent pacifists and never, ever punch someone in the face for saying something they don't like about their girl (for instance).

I'm sorry, but you start with an ill-defined premise (the NAP), admit there are hundreds of holes or grey areas, and then try to tell us that we should build our entire moral outlook and society on it anyway. It's rather funny really.


>> Therein lies the problem though, even if we accept the NAP, we can never agree on what is force or violence and what is the initiation of force

No it doesn't. You're only making a problem where none really exists. Complaining that the definitions of everyday words are unclear is just a bullshit distraction. If that were the case, we simply could not communicate at all.

>> Actually I value pragmatism and social utility well over consistency when it comes to my society.

Yes, well, now we're in the territory of collectivist thinking, which is just completely ass-backwards considering we're all just individuals, not part of The Borg. Collectivism is one of the supporting pillars of States. We're bombarded with the idea that we must all be subject to a ruling class for the common good, that we need to pay taxes to help poor people, and so on.

And before you go there, wanting to keep your property does not mean you want poor people to die. You just want everyone's property rights to be respected.

>> If a society is entirely rational based on a narrow vision of rational morality but ends up worse for the majority of people than one that is morally corrupt from top to bottom... well you'll find me in Corruptopia.

In case you haven't noticed, you already find yourself in Corruptopia. Seriously, dude. Bailouts ring a bell? Campaign contributions (=bribes), etc? You know your politicians are thoroughly corrupt and lie just about every time they open their mouths, and you insist on holding on to that?

>> But we should definitely aim for one that respects your morals (property rights) over anyone else's (equal access to land, food etc) ?

Not "over" anyone else's. Obviously, everyone has the exact same rights as everyone else. That means no one is allowed to take my property, and I'm not allowed to take anyone else's property. It all works out just fine. Oh, and rights can't be in conflict - that would break our notion of rights. Just like black is black and not white at the same time, the right to take someone's property cannot exist while people have the right to keep their property. Get it?

>> Yup, in some circumstances. For instance if your property is radioactive and near my house. There are many other exceptions as you yourself have mentioned.

The obvious answer was "no", and that's enough. We're not talking about edge cases here, because there are countless, and wading through them is pointless. There are even more circumstances where it takes zero effort to adhere to the NAP.

Here's a good rule of thumb: any time you don't want to aggress against anyone, you'll automatically adhere to the NAP, and if you're sane, you'll realize that this is pretty much all the time. See, in reality, there is no problem with the NAP, even if no moral rule can "cover" every possible situation ever. That just can't be required. As mentioned, the best we can do is "close enough", and the NAP certainly is.

>> non-violent pacifists and never, ever punch someone in the face for saying something they don't like about their girl (for instance).

Right, and what fucking sense does it make to physically assault someone for saying something bad about you or your girlfriend? Insecure much? Feeling violent?

>> I'm sorry, but you start with an ill-defined premise (the NAP), admit there are hundreds of holes or grey areas, and then try to tell us that we should build our entire moral outlook and society on it anyway. It's rather funny really.

Dude. You haven't got much to go by here. See above. You know that the NAP works just fine.

Besides, when you say "we should build our entire moral outlook and society on it", who exactly is that we you refer to? What should we do? What should you do? Who's anyone to tell you what you should do, as long as you don't harm others? You're thinking in collectivist terms again, which is understandable, since we've all been brainwashed to think like that. But you need to wake up and realize that we're not The Borg. We're not parts of some collective consciousness. We're all just individuals, and make our individual choices. Choices have consequences, and everyone is responsible for his own.


> Insecure much? Feeling violent?

YES. Absolutely yes. BECAUSE I AM HUMAN, motherfucker. Will hitting you in the face repeatedly persuade you that people are naturally violent? Probably not, but at least it MAKE ME FEEL BETTER. I know this is true, because I've done it. It feels great.

Come on. See if you can explain to me how my natural pacifistic soul is not inclined to slam your skull against a brick wall. If your NAP allows you to hit back? Fuck that. It just means I need to hit you so hard you can't hit back. That's my choice, and the consequences are awesome. I get an adrenaline high; I get to assert my animal dominance; I get to feel the crunch of your bone. It's obvious and natural; you pissed me off, so you made me hit you. I didn't start it; you just shouldn't have pissed me off.

What do I get out of following your stupid NAP? All it means is that I don't get to watch you double over when I kick you in the balls. What good is that to me? If I have a baseball bat, then I really ought to cement my ownership of it by cultivating its usage as a knee breaker. Maybe knock out a few teeth.

You go on. You follow your NAP. Maybe we'll meet someday. And maybe I'll get to watch you cry like a bitch. Maybe I'm insecure. But as the childhood lesson goes, if someone calls you names, you get some sticks and some stones and you go to town. I hope you feel superior. Maybe I'll get lucky and we can see some piss and vomit in addition to blood and tears.

Come on. Wish me away again. If you call on your fairy godmother, maybe you'll see me coming and you can run away in time.


Wow :D

I've seen quite a few outbursts brought on by cognitive dissonance, but yours definitely takes the cake. Maybe you'll eventually wake the fuck up in some kind of gulag near Seattle.


It's not cognitive dissonance to admit to insecurity and an interest in violence, dear child. Cognitive dissonance is believing that people are naturally non-violent while having your face punched in.

Telling me I don't exist does not, in fact, make me go away.


>> No it doesn't. You're only making a problem where none really exists. Complaining that the definitions of everyday words are unclear is just a bullshit distraction. If that were the case, we simply could not communicate at all.

It is indeed very hard to communicate with people like yourself who insist on seeing everything as violence and aggression, but we must try.

And we absolutely can (and do) disagree about definitions. Have you never heard the old socialist line "all property is theft"? Now if I understand you correctly, theft is a form of violence, so to some people property itself is a problem of violence and aggression.

>> Yes, well, now we're in the territory of collectivist thinking, which is just completely ass-backwards considering we're all just individuals, not part of The Borg.

And we all live on a shared planet and all of our actions impact on other people, you do not live on an asteroid with no other people around. Get over it.

>> Collectivism is one of the supporting pillars of States. We're bombarded with the idea that we must all be subject to a ruling class for the common good, that we need to pay taxes to help poor people, and so on.

Nobody I know says you must be subject to a ruling class, though many do say we must be subject to a set of rules that we come up with collectively. Many of them may be covered by NAP, many are not. Otherwise I don't disagree - taxes are generally a good thing, though we should fight inefficiency where we can. And I speak as an earner in one of the 1% highest earning households in my country.

>> In case you haven't noticed, you already find yourself in Corruptopia.

I know, right? And just look at us! Highest standards of living in the world and highest standards of living in history! And look at those places where there's little or no government, they collapse into tribalism, violence, warlords and total social decay! Corruptopia is pretty sweet right?

I'll not deny we have problems (it's Corruptopia after all), but not the sort that I see being solved by adherence to a bizarre, simplistic and flawed moral (non-)axiom.

>> The obvious answer was "no", and that's enough. We're not talking about edge cases here, because there are countless, and wading through them is pointless. There are even more circumstances where it takes zero effort to adhere to the NAP.

No, the obvious answer, and the one you explicitly agreed with is that it depends on the circumstances. It's almost as if there were other moral principles at work that you allow to override your NAP from time to time. How odd!

>> See, in reality, there is no problem with the NAP, even if no moral rule can "cover" every possible situation ever. That just can't be required. As mentioned, the best we can do is "close enough", and the NAP certainly is.

A rule that is as full of holes as that, as disputed in definition, is not a good rule to use as the basis of society.

>> See, in reality, there is no problem with the NAP, even if no moral rule can "cover" every possible situation ever.

If no moral rule can cover every possible situation then how about we don't try and structure society about one rule eh?

>> Right, and what fucking sense does it make to physically assault someone for saying something bad about you or your girlfriend? Insecure much? Feeling violent?

Me, no, but you said everyone knows it's wrong. I was giving the counterpoint that pop-culture is filled with violence and aggression, even amongst the 'good guys'.

>> You know that the NAP works just fine.

I know that it's not the be-all and end-all of the basis for a good society.

>> Who's anyone to tell you what you should do, as long as you don't harm others?

Where the line of harming others starts is entirely subjective. A lot of people deny the anthropogenic global warming/climate change is real, and so continue to wantonly fill the air with greenhouse gasses. They don't see it as harming anyone yet scientifically speaking they are harming everyone for multiple generations.

It's just not as simple as you like to think, and the results of a balanced mix of property rights and collectivism has so far resulted in the best societies the planet has ever seen. Sorry if I seem reluctant to throw that away based on a platitude.


I start digging in "your" backyard, and you shoot me. Who "initiated" "force"?


By the way, voluntarists and anarcho-capitalists are one and the same.


To me, I agree, but I've heard some of them draw a distinction I don't fully understand and I try to be respectful of identifying people in the way they choose to be identified.


I'm not sure what that distinction might be, and I doubt it would be real anyway. Basically the idea is that everything should be voluntary, which is really hard to disagree with whilst being sane.


Not with their definition of 'voluntary.'


This is their definition of 'voluntary': http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/voluntary

done, made, brought about, undertaken, etc., of one's own accord or by free choice

- Coincidentally, it's also yours.


the NAP is in effect. it's just me and you in the forest, and there's one apple tree. you "own" the apple tree. I am starving, and I "steal" an apple from your tree.

who initiated the aggression?


There's no need to quibble about "lifeboat scenarios". You can come up with countless scenarios where there needs to be an "exception" to the NAP, but that's pointless, and a waste of time. It changes nothing about NAP itself, or its basis.

You'll break a rule when you have to, and that's it. It's very simple. If you're in the desert, dying of thirst and someone comes along and starts trying to force you to pay a ridiculous price for some water, then of course you'll do whatever you can to get some. But no sane, independent, objective "court" would punish you for that.

For a clearer picture, start coming up with scenarios where you could adhere to the NAP with zero effort at all.


>> You'll break a rule when you have to, and that's it. It's very simple. If you're in the desert, dying of thirst and someone comes along and starts trying to force you to pay a ridiculous price for some water, then of course you'll do whatever you can to get some. But no sane, independent, objective "court" would punish you for that.

Then the NAP is not the whole of the law, or necessarily even a useful starting point.



I was already building a reply to that. What it seems to boil down to is "I know that I can't define my terms and I know that we don't agree about morality but god-dammit my one moral principle should still be the basis of everything".

Needless to say, I disagree.


>> I know that we don't agree about morality but god-dammit my one moral principle should still be the basis of everything

Ah yes, "we just disagree on morality" is a classic avoidance-technique for a Statist that refuses to accept reality. But actually, no we don't. Not if you're sane and not a sociopath. We've both got a conscience, and it usually warns us when we're doing something even somewhat wrong.


>> But actually, no we don't. Not if you're sane and not a sociopath.

Ah yes, "if you disagree with my interpretation of morality you must be a sociopath" is a classic avoidance technique for a libertarian that refuses to accept reality.

>> We've both got a conscience, and it usually warns us when we're doing something even somewhat wrong.

Not everyone's conscience tells them the same thing, neither does everyone's conscience tell them that the NAP is the root rule of the universe. Even yours doesn't as you've admitted in a variety of places.


my assertion is that this is not a "lifeboat" scenario. property "rights" are, at their absolute core, a use of force.

to be a true libertarian, you can't believe in property rights.


>> my assertion is that this is not a "lifeboat" scenario. property "rights" are, at their absolute core, a use of force.

Nope. Our "rights" are an idea, but one that's aligned with our "intuitive morality". Force only comes into question when someone is violating your property rights. If no one ever does, then no one will ever have to forcibly defend his property rights.

In other words, if someone grabs your iPhone and starts running away, you have the right to try and stop him because he has no right to take your property. It's all very simple when you allow yourself to see it.


> "intuitive morality"

> It's all very simple when you allow yourself to see it.

there's your problem. you're refusing to truly reconsider property rights as a use of force, and appealing to instinct rather than actually thinking about the problem.

to take something out of the public domain and not allow any other people to make use of the object is force, plain and simple.


>> you're refusing to truly reconsider property rights as a use of force, and appealing to instinct rather than actually thinking about the problem

You're skirting around having to actually hear what I'm saying and let it sink in. Do I have to repeat myself? "Property is force" is a nice little distraction, and I've been through this with someone else before. Really, property is not "use of force" even though defending it may require some.

But even if you do view property rights as a "use of force", so what? -What do you think that implies? Well, this will probably just get lost in our comment histories, so I won't expend any more effort on this.


> But even if you do view property rights as a "use of force", so what? -What do you think that implies?

that a philosophy that is founded on "there are only two rules: property rights are The One True Right, and initiation of force is The One True Wrong" is impossible to take seriously.

> Well, this will probably just get lost in our comment histories, so I won't expend any more effort on this.

nice way to try to take the higher ground while forfeiting. it's okay-- I know thinking is often hard for libertarians.


The minute you institute property rights, you're forcing everyone to recognize and play along with certain rules. Classic libertarians have no opposition to government intervention when it comes to violently preventing poor people from taking their property. They deem it perfectly legitimate to coerce someone with economic threats but not physical ones. Its wonderfully self-serving for an educated class that tends not to have much in the way of physical strength to force everyone to abide by these rules that devalue physical strength.

To me, the only thing that needs to be said in this debate is that people, given the freedom to structure their society as they wish, have gravitated toward social democracy all over the West. They want everyone to be in it together not just when it comes to certain rights like property that libertarians like to pretend are handed down by God, but also when it comes to taking care of the poor, sick, and disabled and ensuring social mobility through education.

In my view, its immoral to create government to force everyone to follow certain rules, then deny people the right to decide for themselves what those rules should be. But that's the whole premise behind libertarian limited government.


> The libertarian and anti-government sentiments aren't saying that we shouldn't be all in this together, but that we shouldn't be forced to be all in this together. That difference is what the entire argument is about.

That's the kind of facile, juvenile argument the OP decries in this article. To make an analogy, I could equally say, "I shouldn't be forced to be in a family. Families are great and everything, but why do I have to have one?"

Well guess what, I have one because I'm a human being and got born into one. You're an American (or a Canadian or a Briton or whatever). You are part of a society and part of a nation whether you like it or not. So let's make it work for everyone.


This is kind of a funny analogy, perhaps better than you realized. Families and governments compete directly with each other for power over society. The English-speaking countries are way, way out on the government end of the continuum; here, you don't have to be in a family if it's not to your taste. Compared to the rest of the world, Americans, Canadians, and Britons already have only the most tenuous connection to their families anyway.


Fun fact: Engels actually wrote a whole book about this: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1884/origin-famil...


> You're an American (or a Canadian or a Briton or whatever). You are part of a society and part of a nation whether you like it or not. So let's make it work for everyone.

Regardless of which lines one did not to choose to be drawn around them, not everyone has an affinity for them, and if history is any example of such, blood will be drawn for those to fight for their will to reconstruct such lines to their choosing…


>Regardless of which lines one did not to choose to be drawn around them, not everyone has an affinity for them

Yes -- there are always selfish pricks, who think that they should have a say in if they'd have affinity to their family or society or fellow humans.

It's like seeing a child drowning and saying, "well, I don't know this kid or feel anything for this, so why should I do anything to help it?" -- instead of just jumping in just cause it's a fellow human.


Yes -- we can all pick examples at the extremities that may exemplify how one feels and throw names about in order to convince or deride the fellow human being into a lockstep of some sort.

Yet such men (and women), who stand on the pillars of history, who have helped create the social constructs we find ourselves living by to some degree today, were "selfish pricks" to those who apposed them and died in their wake.


>You're an American (or a Canadian or a Briton or whatever). You are part of a society and part of a nation whether you like it or not. So let's make it work for everyone.

"{Nature|The State|Society|Some other abstraction} is the only thing we all belong to, so better get used to it."


> Few people are saying saying "let's not do this" for some value of "this", they're saying "let's not force everyone to do this".

There are four guys in a crippled spaceship. They have 7 hours of oxygen left if they continue to breathe normally. If they all make a concerted effort to breathe slowly they could extend the oxygen to 8 hours. The rescue ship arrives in 8 hours.

They are all in it together. There's nothing that can be done about that.

Now the libertarian astronaut insists that he won't be forced to change his breathing pattern. No way is he going to be forced to do anything different. He's not going to be forced to be in it with the other guys. No amount of cajoling, threatening or reasoning will get this guy to give up his "one-man island" philosophy.

But he is in it with the other guys. Sticking his head in the space-sand doesn't change the hard facts of 7 hours of oxygen and rescue in 8.


Do you have a permit from the EPA to burn all of that straw?


It's a contrived analogy, mainly because - as Simon points out in the article:

> Their eyes glaze...It's too much. Too much to contemplate the idea that the whole country might be actually connected.

It seems to me that people struggle to deal with this issue when scaled out to a population beyond their immediate social circle. That's one of the problems.

The other is, as soon as you scale it back to a comprehensible size, people shout "straw man!" and the debate goes nowhere.


Contrived example time?

What is the political system on the spaceship that allows three of the four to hold a vote and kill off the least popular guy on the spaceship?


It's contrived but it highlights a real problem: free markets are very poorly suited to the task of avoiding tragedies of the commons.

Unless you think tragedies of the commons don't happen in real life, the contrived example is relevant.


The problem with the example is that it doesn't illustrate the tragedy of the commons. Self-interest alone will lead the astronauts to do the right thing, because they're rational actors who are fully aware of their situation, and who are not in competition with each other. There's no incentive for the "libertarian" astronaut to consume more oxygen than the others.

In your example, only stupid astronauts (or, I suppose, mentally impaired ones) would fail to conserve their oxygen. It's better to structure your economic views to encourage and expect rational behavior among fully-aware actors, even if this ideal is rarely approached in practice.


>It's better to structure your economic views to encourage and expect rational behavior among fully-aware actors, even if this ideal is rarely approached in practice.

Why?


Because otherwise you end up allowing naive, irrational, and dishonest actors to determine how your system functions for everyone. It's like airport security.


Let's use your contrived example to highlight a new problem:

The three astronauts Yuri and John elect Markus to be the new commissioner of oxygen, while Markus votes for Ronald and Ronald abstains. Everybody delegates total control to Markus, who unfortunately turns out to be a psychopath and kills the whole crew.

What were we talking about again?



> No amount of cajoling, threatening or reasoning will get this guy to give up his "one-man island" philosophy.

That's an unreasonable assumption. If he doesn't breathe slowly, he dies. As CamperBob2 also points out, it would be completely irrational for the libertarian astronaut to refuse to cooperate, so he'd go along.

The problem most libertarians point out is that we're sometimes forced (by society) to contribute, without receiving anything in return. One-sided trades are the problem, not mutually-beneficial cooperation. When you pay 40% of your income so others get welfare, you're arguably not receiving anything in return.


How do you define what the "return" is? Perhaps it's not an immediate causal relationship, but a much more complicated, interrelated set of returns -- like a more cohesive, inclusive, better functioning society.

Paying more for welfare to others might pay off in being able to walk the streets at night without being mugged, for example.


Actually, I think this is a really great example, and how you view it says a lot about your philosophy. Let's call the libertarian astronaut Ayn. Ayn is rational, and she happens to really like breathing normally. There's no biological reason requiring her to do so, but breathing more slowly seems inconvenient to her. So she just keeps breathing normally. Since she assumes the other three astronauts to be rational, she expects them to moderate their breathing even further to account for her normal breathing.

At first, this is what happens. The other three astronauts breathe even more slowly to make up for Ayn's normal breathing, keeping them on pace for 8 hours of oxygen. But the other astronauts think this division isn't fair--there's no reason that Ayn should get more oxygen than the rest of them. They decide that they have a couple of options. First, they could all start breathing normally in the hopes that Ayn would start moderating her breathing in response. It would turn the spaceship into a contest of who blinks first, and if no one blinked soon enough, all of them would die. Second, they could kill Ayn, but they believe murder is immoral. They think Ayn's behavior is unfair, but killing is worse, so they don't do it.

Instead, the other three astronauts come up with another option. They vote on and accept the moderated breathing policy for everyone in the spaceship. Ayn refuses to participate in the vote. The other three astronauts unanimously elect one of them--we'll call him Big Brother--to regulate the use of oxygen. Big Brother keeps track of everyone's breathing and can slap people in the face if they don't breathe at the agreed-upon rate. The rules allow any three of the astronauts to vote out the oxygen regulator if he doesn't do a good job, or doesn't comply with the breathing regulations himself. Ayn might not like breathing slowly, but she likes getting slapped in the face less, so she moderates her breathing.

But now Ayn is upset. She argues forcefully that she's a bold risk-taker and that society should incentivize her risk-taking. She took a risk and breathed normally, taking what she wanted even though it created a possibility that the other astronauts would do so as well, which would kill them all. She points out that Big Brother has made some mistakes--he's miscalculated the breathing rate a couple of times and slapped people when they didn't deserve it. She argues for the deregulation of oxygen and the return of the free market. Who's right: Ayn or Big Brother? Neither is perfect, but I'll take Big Brother. The alternative is a game of chicken where the stakes are everyone's lives.

As for this example being contrived, let's change it slightly. Let's say 7 billion people are born onto a planet. This planet has limited drinkable water, breathable air, arable land, and combustible material. We can either let people use those resources however they please, risking the resources' eventual pollution, overuse, and depletion, or we can establish systems to regulate use so that they will be available to everyone for for the foreseeable future. If we don't regulate their use, we can get iPods at slightly cheaper prices, at least in the short term. The point is that people will take what they want and cut corners to make money, even if endangers the health of the human race. Yes, we're all in it together. Personally, I'll take the sustainability of the planet over cheaper iPods.

This doesn't mean that I think the government should regulate everything, that all regulation is good, or that our current system of regulation is optimal. But I think it's inarguable that some things need to be regulated, and that there is a role for government. Can government be inefficient, corrupt, or just plain wrong? Sure. It's fallible, just like any human creation (including private entities). But we need it.


Take this as sampling bias if you will, but most of the well-reasoned argument that I've heard from libertarians or anarchists are really just arguments that we should go back to building societies on the scale of city-states, and stop having them on the scale of the US.


Scale is where the comparison between those two will break down. The first is power-assertive on an small scale (usually individual). The second has no scale, because the driving motivation would be the questioning of any power structure (not necessarily destruction, as it's usually stereotyped). But I'm describing the textbook version here, not everyday interpretations.

(Edit: i was trying to keep this out of quick searches, but to be clear, lib-----ian vs a-----ism ;)


I just made a very long post that tried to say exactly that. Kudos for your more elegant and succinct answer that captures in four sentences what I'm not sure I did in eight paragraphs.


I'm torn here. If you insist everyone make every moral choice for themselves, then we will be unable to maximize the "right" choices. For example: If I want to buy ethical foods, I'd rather shop at a place where all these criteria are enforced. It would be mind-numbingly draining to have to make all these choices myself. Frankly, I would tune out. In a libertarian society, every person would need to be educated on food systems, why some are ethical and why some aren't, etc. And only then could we have an equitable system that is supported by choice. But people don't want to invest that much into understanding the thing that keeps them nourished.

This is the problem I see with libertarianism. Without some form of, hopefully mild coercion, people just tune out based on gut feeling. If they don't want to participate and contribute to something after the quick-and-dirty explanation, then they're out -- nevermind the 3 year study and expert panel that analyzed the issue and recommended process/measure/regulation X.

I agree that our legislation and regulations need to be more responsive and aligned with reality, but gunning for everything to be "opt-out" does not seem sustainable.

Sorry, I go back and forth. I'm not libertarian by any means, but being so highly involved in open source community, I see the value of properly structured voluntary communities. Basically, I'm really torn about everything I've said above :)


>> I'm torn here

That's good. You're sensing that something is wrong.

>> If you insist everyone make every moral choice for themselves, then we will be unable to maximize the "right" choices

Why would "we" need to "maximize" the right choices? Who's we anyway? Aren't we all just individuals, with our own goals and desires that are constantly changing anyway? Who's anyone to "maximize" the "rightness" of your choices, as long as you don't harm others? How bad should you want that bar of chocolate tomorrow at noon? What about in the evening?

See, economies consist of exchanges between people, and whenever an exchange is voluntary, it leaves both parties better off.

There's no "optimization" necessary there. It's all based on each individual's subjective preferences. If you want an apple, and have a dollar, you can give that dollar to someone in exchange for an apple. If you do this, it means you valued the apple higher than your dollar, and the other guy valued your dollar higher than his apple! -Bam. Both are better off. No "maximizing" necessary.

>> In a libertarian society, every person would need to be educated on food systems, why some are ethical and why some aren't, etc

Really? Is it really unclear to anyone that treating animals well is better than treating them horribly? Why would anyone prefer the meat that's produced through treating animals horribly, or even badly, compared to a more "organic" alternative?

Sure, prices are a factor, but just about everyone would like to support treating animals well, right? So if organic production is increased, those prices will fall. It may still be a bit more expensive, but organic, non-GMO food comes with the additional benefit of not being harmful to your health, and that's quite valuable too.

>> nevermind the 3 year study and expert panel that analyzed the issue and recommended process/measure/regulation X.

Who are the "experts"? -Where do they come from? What are they affiliated with? Who paid for the study? What kind of regulation are we talking about? Why would it be good? What's the alternative? How often is coercion better than no coercion? (Pro-tip: never)

.. And so on.


How about when someone doesn't support treating animals well. Or values your apple more than your life? Or decides they have this million tonnes of toxic gunk and decides that instead of paying someone who knows how to deal with it he's just going to dump it all in your lake? Or when someone realises that you value organic produce more, and decides to lie and say that their produce is in fact organic?

What happens when someone realises your house is on top of a nice mineral deposit but can't give you sufficient value to vacate your property and decides to burn it down in the middle of the night?

What happens when one person pays another to kill you? It's a free and voluntary exchange. And you're dead. Everyone is better off, right? Right?


>> What happens when one person pays another to kill you? It's a free and voluntary exchange. And you're dead. Everyone is better off, right? Right?

I'm sensing a reluctance to process ideas here. Bad stuff is going to happen regardless of how our societies are organized. That doesn't mean it's alright to take someone's property by force, nor that voluntary, "market solutions" to real problems would not emerge.


> That's good. You're sensing that something is wrong.

Please stop coercing him using appeals to emotion and false authority. It's paternalistic and condescending.


>> Please stop coercing him using appeals to emotion and false authority. It's paternalistic and condescending.

Tell me, do you think that when say, 330 million people are systematically punished for attempting to keep their property, something just might, in fact, be wrong?

What about 7 billion people?


Still with the emotional arguments. Which part of "don't force me" was unclear?


Still with the mental gymnastics. Which part of "taxation is extortion" was not clear?


The part where you have to do semantic contortions in order to make it a true statement. If anyone's guilty of butchering everyday language in order to make an obscure academic edge case, it's your redefinition of extortion to include taxation. Common sense does not make people think "extortion" when they hear "taxation".


>> The part where you have to do semantic contortions in order to make it a true statement. If anyone's guilty of butchering everyday language in order to make an obscure academic edge case, it's your redefinition of extortion to include taxation

Actually, the definition of "extortion" is not controversial, and needs no twisting to fit taxation: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/extort

to wrest or wring (money, information, etc.) from a person by violence, intimidation, or abuse of authority; obtain by force, torture, threat, or the like.

When a mafia threatens people with violence to make them pay "protection money", it's clearly extortion and clearly immoral.. but when governments threaten people with violence to make them pay taxes, that's.. perfectly fine?

>> Common sense does not make people think "extortion" when they hear "taxation".

Actually, it's brainwashing that prevents people from connecting these dots.

Wake up.


> Actually, it's brainwashing that forces people into making up connections between these dots.

> Wake up.


There is a simple way to address the libertarian argument, IF that argument is honestly about being "forced" to act as a group: Devolve political power until you start being able to say "we" enough of the time to act together.

If you can't agree there is such a viable grouping that enables consensual government action, that's anarcho-capitalism, not libertarianism.

Big nation states make big mistakes, like multi-trillion dollar wars. Smaller governmental groupings are not capable of mistakes on that scale.

The world also needs more diversity of social, economic, and legal systems - the opposite of the monoculture of IP laws treaties like TPP want to create.


So everyone should be able to consume resources on this earth but not be forced to give anything back? I fail to see how this will give us a viable future when some people will be able to "opt out" of society?


The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing

Is this idea actually being implemented anywhere? Isn't education, even in the US, almost wholly sponsored by the government? People talk about student loans but those are also guaranteed by the government, right? And then the government grants those loans special status by preventing you from ever discharging them in case of bankruptcy.

I don't know if the market could remove divides but neither does anyone else because it's a completely untested hypothesis.


In Sweden private for profit schools and schools run by the municipalities compete with each other. All of them are funded by the tax payers and they get a certain amount of money for every student.

The system is a disaster, with a lot of for profit schools slashing costs to maximize profits regardless of what the consequences are for the students. And that's just one of the many failures of the system.

Basically, the problem is that markets don't necessarily generate the best solutions from a social perspective, markets generate the solutions that create the largest profits. You have to some how get the markets to stop chasing profits, which is easier said than done.


Profits ~= value of product - resources consumed

There is nothing wrong with firms making profits, it is a sign of efficiency, and a sign of where resources should be allocated; with time, the least efficient firms are eliminated, and only those which create the most value at the lowest cost remain. The problem is that the product (and its value) may not reflect the objective(s) of the policymakers and the public, and the chief goal of those creating any system should be to properly align rewards with desired outcomes.


Easier said than done. I think it's probable that some problems are so difficult to translate into proper market motivations that the cost of the perverse incentives inevitably produced by your attempts will consistently exceed the potential for increased efficiency and miraculous innovation that the market promises.


You are neglecting to examine the counter-factual. The current system is abound with perverse incentives and flaws. As to the difficulty of designing a new system; we have thrown money at a poorly designed system for many years with little success, perhaps a redesign would be worth it.


>> In Sweden private for profit schools and schools run by the municipalities compete with each other. All of them are funded by the tax payers and they get a certain amount of money for every student.

How the hell can a school be "private", while being funded by taxpayers?


They call these "PPP" public private partnerships. What happens is cronies of the ruling party are given money to avoid risk and get to run the business extracting all profits for themselves. The taxpayer is told hey this would cost 10x as much if we ran it.


Yep, bullshit as usual.


The privatization of rewards while the public bears the risk is a pretty well established business model these days.


Right. I wasn't actually confused about what's going on, just wanted to point out it doesn't make sense :p


>You have to some how get the markets to stop chasing profits

There is another solution. You could set up the markets so that the way to maximize profits is to create the best solution. For example, imagine if we had a perfect measure of student outcome. You could make the school's pay dependent on their outcome, then the market will find a way to maximize the f(outcome)/cost.


Doesn't work in practice, though - you end up with schools "teaching to the tests", to the detriment of other unscored qualities.

The obvious solution: more tests, and more bureaucracy. By the time you've got enough tests you might as well have a state-run school.


What do we need the market for then?


To minimize cost. A better example than education would be carbon emissions. Suppose we want to reduce our carbon emission to X tons per year. If we auction off X credits permitting 1 ton of carbon each, the market will find the cheapest way to reduce our emissions to X. Simply being able to measure emissions would allow us to reduce emissions (say, by requiring all companies to reduce by Y%), however, this is almost defiantly going to be more expansive.


If you stop chasing profits then there is no incentive to produce a quality product. The US public schools are a great example of that.


But are profits the best way to measure a "quality product" when it comes to something like education?

I would argue not, or at least that externalized costs need to be internalized somehow (regulation or taxation are the typical means).

That is to say, if we have for profit public schools, I'd want their profits to be tied to the long term effects of results of their students, not to yearly test scores.


Are you suggesting that I can't determine for myself if a particular school is providing a good long term education for my child? Or that I shouldn't be able to choose to take them to a different school?


>if we have for profit public schools, I'd want their profits to be tied to the long term effects of results of their students, not to yearly test scores.

This is a great idea! Why not do the same for government-run schoolteachers? This may help attract and retain high quality staff, as well as providing low-skilled teachers an incentive to leave.


There's no inherent incentive to produce a quality product when chasing profit either, just one that people will give you money for. Sometimes this aligns with quality, other times, it does not.


Unless schools somehow got paid for good outcomes then this is a specious argument.


Why do Americans always insist on conceiving of children as products? Why do they always insist that schools produce children? Last I checked, we disallow reproduction at schools.


Other incentives are available. Public pressure, for example.


Well, there's a rising number of for profit schools and colleges. These are different in that they still get government funding but are run by private companies (as opposed to private schools, which are funded by tuition).

http://chronicle.com/article/Annual-Portrait-of-Education/12...


People convince the government to defund public schools, they then complain public schools are failing in order to get more private schools built.


I think it was a good speech, but because it was so emotional, and not rational. In fact, he was dismissive of any arguments as anything other than his own. To call all other forms of thought juvenile, and simply say "we are either together or not" sounds like the content of a great political speech, not a well articulated debate.


O, if only he had linked to the Mises Institute a few more times!


I'm not entirely sure what point you're trying to make, but for what it's worth, while agreeing with lots of the speech, I found myself thinking that it was pretty good opinion, but not a great argument.


> The question - and only question - should be what David Simon asks: are we all in this together or are we not?

I can't agree. This is just another way to tell the world at large "you're either with us or you're against us". Posing the question is a good way to convince me that I'm against you.


When the someone questions my resolve, I question their aims.


To me with us means whether I care about my extended families - city, state, nation, World - and how they are doing. Not just taking the view that everybody fends for themselves alone.


I am not in this together. I am here for myself and my family. To use the famous example of a pencil: no one knows how to produce a pencil. It takes expertise (and infrastructure, i.e. private property) to cut and process wood, to mine graphite and iron for a band, etc etc etc. If some social engineer like David Simon comes in and says "we need to produce pencils together", nothing is going to be done. Because inevitably social engineering means that he (or the bureaucrats that share his ideology) will decide how to shift resources and someone's private property to better produce pencils.

Let's also not forget that founder fathers consistently looked at this and came to the conclusion that an attack on private property is an attack on liberty. That's the reason for a limited gov't.

The big question is why at a time when we have unprecedented size and reach of gov't, and liberty is tramped, we hear these desperate calls that things are not working well?


>Are we all in this together or are we all not?

Vague drivel capped by an appeal to emotion. 10/10.


> The question - and only question - should be what David Simon asks: are we all in this together or are we not? To me, the answer is blindingly obvious. It's demonstrated by what societies are flourishing - with high economic and social equality, healthy democratic government, protected personal liberties, well-cared-for populaces, and resilient economies - and what societies aren't.

And the blindingly obvious answer is?

Here's my simple model: large, diverse countries are more unequal than small, culturally homogeneous countries. Just like densely-populated, cosmopolitan regions are more unequal than bland suburbs. Just like world is more unequal than the US.


Then don't look at different countries but at the evolution of inequality in a particular country. The rise of inequality in the US since the 1980's is an indictment of the current system. Here's an animated map showing this evolution:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/09/19/w...

And this article has a chart illustrating the inverse relationship between inequality and well-being in the US:

http://aeon.co/magazine/living-together/peter-turchin-wealth...


Sensible? He points at miles of Baltimore housing projects where "fathers" consider themselves responsible only for impregnating women and the state to be entirely responsible for the child after that as the fault of libertarians. Neighborhoods where everyone assumes from birth that they are permanently exempt from any responsibility for supporting themselves, because that is and always will be the state's responsibility, and are free to spend every day doing what they feel like, are blamed on libertarian ideas.


You are talking about areas where often the only (semi) viable form of income is the drugs trade, and the education system does not work.


Yet several million people born far away in Mexico with even less education have managed to find viable forms of income in the US without resorting to the drug trade. They didn't have the same welfare system, though.

Before the welfare system made housing entire communities in Baltimore the permanent responsibility of the state, the residents of those neighborhoods worked in construction and built homes for each other. Before the state made feeding themselves and their families from cradle to grave the job of state, they cooked for each other, worked in grocery stores, ran restaurants, drove delivery vans, repaired appliances, did the plumbing.

Before the state permanently eliminated the need to find ways to support themselves and provide for their offspring, the residents of those neighborhoods spoke of hard workers with admiration not derision. Before preparation for supporting themselves was made completely irrelevant, they didn't hold teachers and school work in contempt. Parents used to paint their small schoolhouses and do what they could to scrape together money for schoolbooks that their kids would need to share. Now, painting the much larger school is job of the state, and the kids amuse themselves by destroying the books that nobody they know had to pay for.

This is said to be the fault of the "system" for not taking even more responsibility for the community, without a hint of irony. Yet back when the state did even less and the community supported themselves, they had fewer smart phones but more loving fathers, had fewer schoolbooks but better readers, had less financial stability but far more physical safety.

Yet the article proposes that it is post-war libertarian influence that produced "the horror" of these blighted Baltimore neighborhoods, as if the decades since have been characterized by a rapidly shrinking government.


Where exactly does he say that?


The question - and only question - should be what David Simon asks: are we all in this together or are we not?

I think this question is frankly naïve. Humans have functional limitations on how much we can care about other people, aka Dunbar's number. This is not something you can improve (maybe by .0001%) or create policy around, it's a hard limit.

The fact that, at least in the United States, virtually everyone lives in a place with more than a few thousand people in it, ensures that there will be a conflict between the needs of the group of people around us and our own reactions to those needs.

Add on to that the reality of scarcity of both needs and desires and you have a clear answer: No we are not all in it together.


>Add on to that the reality of scarcity of both needs and desires

Yes! And when people have more than 2.1 children, thus increasing global population, things get even scarcer. So no, your 19 children are clearly not 'all in it together' with my 2, to whom I would like to feed grass fed beef as God - not Monsanto - intended*. But lets all overlook population growth.

[1] Actually I would prefer fish, but lets be realistic - the oceans are now a mercury filled shithole.


Dubar's number not remotely established as a factual 'functional limitation on how much we care about other people'.


That's not what Dunbar's Number means.

Dunbar's Number is "a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships."

Having a social relationship with someone != caring about their fate.


Having a social relationship with someone != caring about their fate.

I think you aren't understanding the mechanism of the theory - which goes beyond the original paper. It has less to do with being able to "be social" (a broader function) than it does with being able to empathize with someone. Empathy is directly related to size and activity within the neocortex.

[1] http://www.pnas.org/content/100/9/5497.long


> The question - and only question - should be what David Simon asks: are we all in this together or are we not?

I don't understand: Do you mean that to be a rhetorical question, or do you actually want to debate whether we're "all in this together?"


I believe you were being rhetorical jpttsn; but in any case, Simon assumes no one would ever debate his collectivist query.


Replace "juvenile" with "a straw man" and you get a much more accurate statement.

I believe in redistribution of wealth, but I call it what it is: redistributing money from rich people to poor people.

The author dresses it up in fancy sounding (though completely outdated) concepts of "labor" and "capital". Economists also believe in Labor and Capital, they are the variables L and C in macro models. However, we don't believe that there is some eternal battle between the two, because, while people who only own labor would like a better deal for labor, and people who mainly own capital would like a better deal for capital, there is no "deal" to be had. Labor and Capital receive their marginal products, because at the highest level we live in a free market and there is almost nothing the government can do to prevent this. What the government can do is redistribute money from rich to poor. But this probably sounds a bit too socialist for some, so people come up with ways to dress it up in outdated economics.

So I would tentatively answer "yes" to the question "are we in this together...?" but with the condition that answering yes does not imply I support the author's bogus economics.


I upvoted you, but I think I disagree largely with the sentiment you expressed. As one of those wacky libertarians, I'd like to defend (what I think is) the default liberty-oriented position. Disclaimer, the following is a series of value judgements, and not necessarily steeped in fact.

The argument isn't necessarily one based on 'more' vs. 'less' government, but 'Constitutionally prescribed' government size. The Constitution speaks of a small federal government, whose purpose it is to defend the rights of individuals from potentially abusive state governments. The Constitution places a higher value on individual liberty than efficiency of government. We see this reflected in separation of powers, an adversarial Congress, limited terms of office, etc., etc.

For many, we see the Constitution as the central governing document of our nation. We don't see it as perfect, in any sense, and we will readily admit to its flaws and faults. Some of us (self included) will even concede that we aren't adept enough at examining social policy to be able to say assertively that a Nordic model of government wouldn't be objectively "better" at granting citizens the liberties they desire. What we can say, fairly definitively, is that we can't have a Nordic model of government with the Constitution as it exists.

That isn't necessarily horrible, or untenable. We can get there from here. We can ratify, amend, and hell, even rewrite the Constution, using Constitutionally prescribed measures. There are, as I stated, many faults with the Constitution, but this is where it excels. Where public sentiment changes broadly enough that there is a clear consensus, it should be easy to ratify the Constitution to get us where we need to be. Where we don't have a clear consensus, it should be very hard -- and indeed it is.

The faults we see with the existing government are generally the faults we see where they have deviated from adhering to the Constitution. The Constitution prescribes transparency in law-making, and to that end, we have a generally open Congress, whereupon we can interact with our legislators and make our opinions known. However, to circumvent that, the president has recently been exercising "Executive Order", and/or delegation to agencies, who have lawmaking authority, but without the same degree of transparency has. If the FDA decides that they want to impose a regulation, for example, they can do so without the passage of a law, despite the fact that the regulation may have _de_ _facto_ authority as a law.

Similarly, executive order bypasses this process. That isn't to suggest it is inherently evil, as we've seen it used for both good and ill, and with varying effectiveness. Regardless, it circumvents (IMO) Constitutionally prescribed law-making procedures.

I think that most people, left, right, center or fringe, that the bill of rights, generally, should be treated as sacrosanct, especially where those provisions relate to the first amendment, religious exercise, etc.. People disagree on others, and that's fine -- where there's a clear consensus, it should be easy for the second amendment to be repealed. There isn't, so it hasn't been, so the government has taken half-measures (again, IMO) in an attempt to side-step the bill of rights in lieu of ratification, to appease their political base. The other, major flaw, is that people's beliefs are fungible. They believe that freedom of speech is sacrosanct, and would point to the first amendment as evidence of that, but so often, they would turn around and suggest that the second amendment is outdated, or relegate its provisions to 'muskets', without similarly acknowledging that first amendments should then not be applicable to digital media, telephones, or whatever other implements did not exist in the late 1700s.

As pertaining to capitalism, our stance is that true capitalism hasn't ever really been tried -- almost as certainly as we've had capitalism, we've just as readily had crony capitalism. In tech, we can readily speak to the abusive power of patents, and we all know for how long they've stifled innovation, been used to discourage new competitors and free market competition. Why we aren't all able to agree that most regulations imposed by government are done to similar effect is always slightly baffling to me, because they absolutely are. An early entrant to a new market is often able to transfer some of their economic might into political sway, making it harder and harder for new entrants to take either from them, widening the income disparity as well as the ability to narrow it using the free market.

That isn't to suggest that we shouldn't all act more communally -- we absolutely should, and it should be encouraged at every step, though never forced. I recently co-established a 501c3 charity to help mitigate the out-of-pocket spending that our teachers often undergo so that they can ensure their children have supplies. They're already underpaid, more often than not, and on average, they spend, out of pocket, up to $2000 a year on supplies that aren't being provided by parents or the school systems. In researching this, I've found what seems to be common advice that "the government is required to provide supplies, so you shouldn't buy any of them," and while that's said, I'm able to see both sides of this argument -- if the government is taxing us, and that taxes goes towards the foundation and operation of schools, then we've already paid our part, and weren't given much of a say in the matter. Contrarily though, I'd want to encourage more voluntaryism in ensuring that teachers aren't operating at a loss in order to educate our children; we should free them from as many burdens as we're able to enable them to be more effective at educating, which is their job, not procurement.

So, what's the answer? Clearly, we should be more communally minded, but many feel that since that communality has been mandated, and that their contributions to society have already been forcibly taken, that they are contributing, whether they like it or not.

Probably, the answer is somewhere in the middle, and I don't claim to know where it is. I agree that we don't currently have it, and our politicians (on both sides) pandering to their political bases isn't actually making us any progress. I don't know that necessarily a reversion to a smaller government gets us there either, nor do I know that a Nordic model does -- both have worked in isolated instances, but I haven't seen anything convincing that either would work well for us, here, with the people that we have. So, to the libertarian, what we're left with, generally speaking, is the Constitution... the rule book for how the nation is supposed to run, and it isn't being followed, and things are poopy. If we want to change the rules, the Constitution lets us, but instead, politicians on all sides are just cheating instead, and that clearly isn't working.


Appealing to the Constitution isn't really a valid line of argument, though. The Constitution isn't the Bible. It cannot, and should not, prescribe morality, which is what should drive law-making; nor should any part of it, including the Bill of Rights, be sacrosanct. The Constitution, and its derivates the US Code and state constitutions, are authoritative only to the point that they usefully represent their constituents' morality.

> it should be encouraged at every step, though never forced

I think you'll find that most of your "wacky libertarian" buddies don't see the distinction between these two methods.

> Probably, the answer is somewhere in the middle, and I don't claim to know where it is.

I'd recommend reading this book: http://www.amazon.com/Talking-Strangers-Anxieties-Citizenshi... One of the things it helps do is explain how and why we should negotiate the middle.


> Appealing to the Constitution isn't really a valid line of argument, though.

I disagree. Right or wrong, it is the document against which we supposedly make all laws. I'm not suggesting that we appeal to it as it is, rather, appeal to its defined measures for ensuring that it is kept current. Put simply, in football, they have a rule book. That rule book is what we consult on matters of the rules. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong, and sometimes the rules need updating -- but suggesting that we disregard the rule book while playing football seems naive. The rules are necessary.

The Constitution is that rule book. Either follow the rules or write new ones. Why is that so untenable?

> The Constitution isn't the Bible. It cannot, and should not, prescribe morality, which is what should drive law-making;

I disagree that law-making should be driven by morals. The Constitution, in theory at least, should work as a bulwark ensuring that minority opinions are upheld. Just as homosexuals are fighting for equal rights under the law because their moral values aren't shared by enough people, the Constitution is their prescriptive measure. They have equal rights because they are people, and deserving of equal rights, regardless of their or others' morals. We're still niggling over the details of it, but ultimately, I have hope and faith that gay rights will eventually achieve parity in law that the rest of us enjoy.

> nor should any part of it, including the Bill of Rights, be sacrosanct.

... until it is ratified, I disagree.

> The Constitution, and its derivates the US Code and state constitutions, are authoritative only to the point that they usefully represent their constituents' morality.

Perhaps I'm misinterpreting the statement, but by your argument, gays shouldn't have rights if the majority of constituents agree they shouldn't? I disagree here, and I would expect that every minority group should. It's very possible that I've misconstrued your intent though, so please feel free to correct me if I'm in error.


> The Constitution, in theory at least, should work as a bulwark ensuring that minority opinions are upheld.

That's not what pluralism is. The key is in ensuring that minority opinions are heard and reasonably considered, not "upheld".

> They have equal rights because they are people, and deserving of equal rights, regardless of their or others' morals.

And yet, that's not actually what the Constitution says. Nothing in the Constitution actually says that people have equal rights. That's why, when they tried to write an amendment to ban gay marriage, they didn't have to include any deletions, because it would have contradicted nothing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Marriage_Amendment

This is the example you chose; it's not helping your case. :P

Edited to add:

> suggesting that we disregard the rule book while playing football seems naive

That's not what I'm doing at all. I'm saying that "because Constitution" is not the right reason to write law. Gays shouldn't have rights because the Constitution says they should; it doesn't. Gays should have rights because we say they should, and if the Constitution doesn't, then maybe it fucking should.

> Perhaps I'm misinterpreting the statement, but by your argument, gays shouldn't have rights if the majority of constituents agree they shouldn't? I disagree here, and I would expect that every minority group should. It's very possible that I've misconstrued your intent though, so please feel free to correct me if I'm in error.

Your error is that you think moral opinion is static.

If the majority is wrong, then we (1) act to protect the minority and (2) convince the majority that they are wrong. Not sure if you noticed, but the last several years have been full of "LOOK! GAY PEOPLE ARE NOT EVIL! ISNT THAT GREAT!". This is part of the process.


> That's not what pluralism is. The key is in ensuring that minority opinions are heard and reasonably considered, not "upheld".

I disagree, but only slightly. Civil liberties are upheld on Constitutionality, on strict (or in today's society, intermediate) scrutiny. This means that the rights of minorities are to be upheld, unless there's a really damn good reason why they shouldn't be. Religious freedom is held fairly paramount in this country, but if I established a religion that allowed me to kill others, it would not be, because of its conflict in relation to the rights of others; it wouldn't uphold even strict scrutiny. However, in regards to gay marriage, the Winstead case was upheld because the state could not even issue plausibility of a rational basis for why the rights of gays should be curtailed. In short, it didn't harm anyone, and as such, the state could not curtail her civil liberties on grounds of Constitutionality.

> Nothing in the Constitution actually says that people have equal rights.

The fourteenth amendment says exactly that, actually. "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

> That's why, when they tried to write an amendment to ban gay marriage, they didn't have to include any deletions, because it would have contradicted nothing.

That's not really why. I've got another very long argument on here about this subject, but in short, the legal theory behind that is implied repeal, or "leges posteriores priores contrarias abrogant", which means that newer laws supersede older laws where they conflict with each other. As a result, a new amendment needn't specifically repeal a prior provision of the Constitution to have full weight.

> Gays should have rights because we say they should, and if the Constitution doesn't, then maybe it fucking should.

I disagree that it doesn't, but if it should (and I agree that it should), there's a ratification process for that, which means that it can.

> Your error is that you think moral opinion is static.

Respectfully, I disagree there completely.

> but the last several years have been full of "LOOK! GAY PEOPLE ARE NOT EVIL! ISNT THAT GREAT!"

And the problem is that the Constitution has been inequally applied for so long that we even had to. It should have been de facto applied as a matter of course that of course they have the right to marry. The problem is that, for too long, people weren't advocating for gay rights because they had moral objection to homosexuality. Whether or not someone is uncomfortable with someone else's sex life should not give them the authority to disallow them from exercising that behavior in whatever they see fit.


> The fourteenth amendment says exactly that, actually.

Depressingly, I actually checked. And I somehow kept skipping over the Fourteenth and reading the Fifteenth, even after I didn't believe it and double checked.

Welp, that kinda fractures my response. :P


There's a lot to be said that the fourteenth wasn't included in either the original Constitution or the original bill of rights, so your point isn't entirely without merit, nor does it go unheard.

There's no person alive who could seriously suggest that the Constitution, either as originally written or as it currently exists, is a perfect document. Anybody suggesting otherwise should be immediately disregarded, IMO, but as I said, it prescribes its own medicine, so where it does fail, the remedy has, at least historically, been fairly straightforward.

It is precisely because it has been amended so well in the past, and that amendments like the federal marriage act have failed, that I hold so much faith in it is a document that can persist.

That said, I think it speaks well of the validity to the Constitution's "living document" mantra that it was indeed added when it needed to be.

It's also another point on original intent, because if you look at other documents of the era, it gives the impression that it was tacitly included, if not explicitly. My (entirely baseless) suspicion is that it was either accidentally omitted, or withheld due to the conflict of slavery its express declaration would have posed.


His point (as I read it) isn't that the Constitution as written is sacrosanct, but that it is extremely useful to have a document whose rules are 1) executed as closely as possible in the present, and 2) changeable in the future. Otherwise there are no rules, and people are just making things up as they go. I tend to agree that this is the situation we currently find ourselves in, but I think a lot of the blame for it can be placed at the feet of the Constitution being too hard to amend, forcing the kind of (arguably) extra-legal pragmatism we see.


That is indeed exactly what I meant. That said, I think the difficulty found in the amendment process is an indicator that the founders intended the government to move far more slowly than it does, which leads one to believe they wanted less laws than more.

Just an opinion there, but it is (I think) a fairly well supported one.


I think you're probably right about the founders intentions, but I think they were wrong about the speed at which government should be able to move. It's not an easy balance, and there is a real danger of government being too reactive, but I think (like you, just an opinion) that the Constitution is too far the other way for our current society.

edit: wording


> an indicator that the founders intended

This is exactly the mistake I'm trying to point out. "The founders intended" isn't a valid line of argument. "Why do we eat bananas?" "Because the founders intended it." "Why aren't you eating a banana?" "Because the founders didn't intend for me to eat bananas."

> they wanted less laws than more

This works for you because you want less laws than more.

I think that the amendment process is difficult because there are a fuckton of Americans and because the founders didn't trust the states. (Which is also why they had a House of Representatives.) They couldn't foresee the consolidation of federal power that came later, which may have justified an easier process to them.


> "The founders intended" isn't a valid line of argument.

Well, it is though. That isn't to suggest that it's the definitive argument or standard to be held to, but it's definitely valid. Justices sitting on the Supreme Court agree, though not all of them. There are definitely competing beliefs, but just saying that isn't valid doesn't invalidate it.

Regardless of whether we agree that it should be the prevailing theory, there are ramifications for its applicability. The House just passed (rather, extended, but same difference) that would, if enacted, ban the manufacture of undetectable firearms. So, we're in a legal morass right now that it is legal for me to manufacture guns at home, and it is legal for me to purchase undetectable firearms, but it is not legal for me to manufacture undetectable firearms at home. What does that mean? Well, presumably, the intent is to prevent me from being able to smuggle home-grown guns onto airplanes. By that metric, if I manufacture a gun that is made of plastic, but that has some metallic (detectable) components, am I in the clear? By the law, yes I am. If, however, those metallic components are detachable, such that I could still effectively smuggle the weapon through TSA screening, does that change the matter?

> This works for you because you want less laws than more.

Who said that I want less laws? I acknowledged in my original diatribe that more individual freedom may not prove to be the most effective outcome, and ultimately, the most effective outcome to win. I don't know what that is. Perhaps it is an application of less laws, perhaps it is an application of more consistent laws, or perhaps it is a more consistent application of law? My biggest gripe, for what it's worth, relates to the latter of those. I believe that the largest problem in our nation relates neither to the relative wealth or dearth of laws, but of their corrupt application. I would wager that many on either the right or left would share this interpretation, whether they know it or not, though I don't know how many would agree on its prioritization.

> They couldn't foresee the consolidation of federal power that came later, which may have justified an easier process to them

This is the statement with which I most disagree. I think that they very gravely foresaw this, and even went so far as to challenge later generations of Americans with the task of preventing it. Hamilton even advocated for this, on matters of efficiency, but ultimately lost out on the argument, though I'd argue that conflict accounts for much of the vagueries of the Constitution that we have now.


> Justices sitting on the Supreme Court agree, though not all of them.

Are you the person I previously had a discussion about originalism with on here? I linked Posner for someone a month or two ago; might have been you.

/does search

Yeah. We didn't come to any agreement. :P


Was it me? Link me. I don't remember it.

Just so it's said, neither of us has to be right for our opinions to be equally valid. And regardless of whether or not we agree, originalism certainly has validity in arguments of law, we're just disagreeing with whether or not it should be the standard we hold highest.

I'm not saying that necessarily we should.



Thanks. I remember it now. I don't know what to think of the idea that "political corruption" apparently comprises a non-negligible portion of my HN postings, and your pointing it out makes me aware that it is.

Probably time for a self-imposed moratorium.


There are 'less laws'. It just so happens one of those laws is "FDA has final say on drug stuffs"...

And then they decide on the real laws. After all, congress already gave them approval.

Yep. Real transparency.


if the government fails to follow its own rules, then there will be a time when the people come to realize that they should not follow any of the government's rules, either.


> Appealing to the Constitution isn't really a valid line of argument, though.

Fully agree - because it's only valid in the USA. Assuming libertarianism has some value outside of the States, the fact that the Constitution (and the Founding Fathers) may or may not back it up is irrelevant.


> As pertaining to capitalism, our stance is that true capitalism hasn't ever really been tried

In some sense, when I hear this argument, I'm reminded by the claim of some Marxists, that you shouldn't conclude that communism doesn't work just becuase it failed in so many countries, after all they didn't implement the communist ideal properly!

As you say, I think neither extreme will ever work well as long as we humans are who we are.

When corporations pour money into politics like they do today, couldn't you say that it's just true capitalism working its way as "intended"? Would this problem become worse or better if we removed campaign funding regulations and?


> that you shouldn't conclude that communism doesn't work[...]

I haven't concluded that, and as I think I conceded in the original post (or at least somewhere anyway), I'm not entirely convinced that we've discovered what the true path forward is. Regardless, I agree that there hasn't been a fair application of communism, where both its recipients and its administrators were all held to equal benefit.

> couldn't you say that it's just true capitalism working its way as "intended"?

Well, no, and for two reasons. Either the money shouldn't matter, and no amount of money poured into democracy shouldn't have any bearing on legislation, or the results of said legislation shouldn't contradict the tenets of the Constitution, and would be subject to the same degree of public scrutiny that all laws do.

The former is obviously not true because politicians are corruptible, which is a situation that is potentially not fixable. The latter is obviously not true because it isn't primarily legislation that money buys, but regulation. The regulations imposed by the hundreds of federal agencies aren't done in public, they're simply bought, paid for, and then enacted without public input or scrutiny, to the advantage of those that paid for them.

In short, I think what you implied is that the problem with communism is its unfair application. I would agree with that, and further assert that unfair application, or put more bluntly, corruption, is the only big problem with capitalism as well.


My implication was that the problem with both communism and capitalism (at their extremes) can only work well under circumstances that aren't met in real life (because humans are what we are). As you say, there are no easy answers, especially so when we face problems that require global cooperation.


I don't think I stated myself well. I understood your point -- Mine is that I don't think there's any system that's necessarily going to work better than either of those so long as there are irrational actors, so we should pick one (we already have chosen capitalism, within the constraints of a federal republic) and try to enforce fairness at every step.

We aren't doing a good job of that now, but ultimately, I see that unfairness as the graven flaw in any system, and more responsible for fault than the system itself (usually).


>>The Constitution speaks of a small federal government, whose purpose it is to defend the rights of individuals from potentially abusive state governments.

The Constitution was written at a time when this country was a much smaller and simpler place. As such, its suggestion regarding the size of the government cannot be taken as prescriptive for the country we live in today.


Incidentally, I think a lot of those questions are missing the trees for the forest - speaking in broad terms like "more government or less", "more regulation or less" is not terribly useful. There are tremendously bad ways to add more government and more regulation, and tremendously bad ways to remove them. One may have some bias in one direction or the other, but policies and proposals should be considered, and implemented or scrapped, on their merits. If we're going to be speaking in vague platitudes, then it probably makes sense to stick to a high enough level that it's not divisive, but it's not terribly useful for making decisions either way.


To defend the free market position though I don't agree with it, an evil party can be elected in those countries who could purposely mismanage the welfare state and destroy it. Then they point to the ruins and say look this doesn't work adopt our new evil system. Canada and UK try to do this whenever an ultra conservative local or national gov is elected. They can purposely fuck it all up with a wave of the hand which is why relying on government is risky.

Nordic countries also have strict speech controls and censorship which is why a lot of artists leave those countries. Banning films and literature is common


Huh? When was the last film or book banned in a Nordic country?


2011 a serbian film. They only reversed 300 film bans in 2003. It is illegal to 'insult' religion there so if you're a critical cartoonist or author expect to go to court and defend your art from censors. The last book censored was Flemming Rose’s book “The tyranny of silence" and in 2009 they censored a stand up comedian for what was silly satire.


Did that cartoonist ever get to court? And how was "The tyranny of silence" censored?


Can the Nordic model work in every country, though? All of the Nordic countries have trade surpluses, especially when you look at the per-capita numbers. How would this work in a country of large trade deficits like the US?


Its not really to do with trade surpluses. They have not always had trade surpluses, indeed they mostly had huge banking and deficit crises a while back, the surpluses are more recent (Finland's started with Nokia, which at one point dominated the economy and trade).


I was talking about trade surpluses in real goods. Banking (and other financial activity) is just a form of rent-collection that masks this effect.


I think we are all in this together, whether we acknowledge it or not. Bombs fall on enemy and sympathizer alike.

To me the question is, "Who decides the allocation of the burdens and benefits?"

That answer is obvious. And it's not impartial.


Nordic model works if you have a ton of oil.


I assume you're referring to Norway, when you speak of tons of oil? Norway is the sole proprietor and large extractor of oil amongst the Nordic countries for what I know.

Neither Sweden, Denmark or Finland extracts any oil - or so little, that it's almost none.


We have that in the US, its called Massachusetts. Ever notice how no one argues for the European model?


I see a lot of libertarian and anti-government sentiments expressed on HN.

And I see a lot of leftists on HN that are surprised that this is the case. Why is that?

The question - and only question - should be what David Simon asks: are we all in this together or are we not?

Because all of 310+ million are not in this together. We, as individuals, all have our own dreams, ambitions, interests, and goals.

I see a lot of leftist sentiment expressed on HN - sentiment for the same old failed ideas that was the cause of the so much misery in the last century and to this day.


>>Because all of 310+ million are not in this together. We, as individuals, all have our own dreams, ambitions, interests, and goals.

And as a society you have roads, schools, hospitals, public safety, public health etc. Acknowledging common interests in public goods and following through on the implications of that acknowledgment is not the road to Stalinism that you seem to think it is. Life is not an XOR gate.


> And I see a lot of leftists on HN that are surprised that this is the case. Why is that?

Heightened expectations of intelligence, probably. I wasn't surprised that it was the case, but I used to be a libertarian programmer until I got an education, so unfair advantage there.


Not just the Nordic model, but even the achievements of some European countries (notably Germany) and Japan, would have been possible without US security guarantees?

Essentially the US/Nato is the main protector of Western interests, and American taxpayers ( + deficit financing ) essentially props up these 'regimes' - granted they are more democratic, and there is a great deal of autonomy than a traditional vassal states arrangements.


That is a remarkable interpretation of what, in reality, is a situation where the US demands tribute in the form of onerous intelligence tie-ups that lost their purpose when the Soviet Union dissolved and treaties that spread bad US IP laws to places that have no desire to be screwed up that way.

We now pimp the "Global War on Terror" as a substitute, but some guys in caves with a few kilos of explosives just isn't as compelling as an industrial superpower with h-bombs.


Alternatively, NATO provides legal and moral support to the centuries old concept of buffer states - the US provides military support to stop the spread of communism, which is left unchecked would have reached the US isolated in a hostile world.

As a European (with a keen interest in history) I'm not ungrateful for US aid, but to suggest that aid was entirely selfless is incorrect. (You may wish to draw parallels with the French support that made the American revolution a success, a similar situation...)


Very good speech and an important national dialog to spark. I'd like to call attention to one thing though:

"I don't believe that a state-run economy can be as viable as market capitalism in producing mass wealth."

This demonstrates a basic confusion that we Americans have about ourselves, even most "lefties" and "libertarians": The false belief that we live in a free market economy.

The truth is, the state plays a massive role in our economy.

This is especially true for us Silicon Valley entrepreneurial Americans. Because the government's hand is especially strong in high tech.

The Internet. Microcomputers. Lasers. Jets. Robots. Siri. You name a major high-tech innovation, and it's probably got DARPA or NASA behind it in the earliest, highest-risk, most capital-intensive stages. Look again and you'll probably find lots more government support in bringing the technology to market through procurement.

This is all the more damning for our system's poverty. The rich and powerful are fully in favor of a strong, powerful state-run economy that serves their needs. That's why it's done under the rubric of military spending -- "we have to spend trillions of taxpayer dollars on this because we have to defend ourselves" sounds better than "because we need it to produce the Silicon Valley economic miracle."

Because the latter would suggest it's fair to direct major taxpayer support for other economic investments like education, health care and housing.

Instead, the state-supported rich and powerful can claim we live in a "free market economy" that just happens to have trillions of state-sponsored investment, for them.


"So you -- whoever you may be -- you have to learn responsibility, and be subjected to market discipline, it's good for your character, it's tough love, and so on, and so forth. But me, I need the nanny State, to protect me from market discipline, so that I'll be able to rant and rave about the marvels of the free market, while I'm getting properly subsidized and defended by everyone else, through the nanny State. And also, this has to be risk-free. So I'm perfectly willing to make profits, but I don't want to take risks. If anything goes wrong, you bail me out."

Noam Chomsky, "Free Market Fantasies: Capitalism in the Real World": http://www.chomsky.info/talks/19960413.htm


This pseudo-libertarian confusion is largely due to the neoliberalist movement >1970s, where the government touted laissez-faire markets as the ultimate goal - with the caveat it needs a little bit of state intervention to protect all of us from the downsides of capitalism.

This was implemented quite effectively and was largely based on legitimate economics. But it has a giant flaw in implementation: the state intervention part over time becomes a tool for those with power and not for the entire representative population, from where it draws power to intervene.

For example, take economic stimulation during recessions, which are often the only time direct economic corrections happens for the average person. The goal is to increase "consumer spending" during downward market trends. Meaning the continued purchase of things they don't really need (new cars, houses, and bank loans). Revenue keeps flowing to the large organizations who would often be hit the hardest during recessions. Plus a few special organizations get direct bailouts from a central bank.

We're told in the long run this is better than a complete recession/depression and we'll recover faster. If we just hold on and keep spending, things will get back to normal and everyone in the economy benefits. But if you look at it from a higher-level, the top-end of the market is easily the biggest beneficiary of this policy, while consumers are largely still left with very little ability for upward mobility.

The same trend exists in almost all state interventions. Those who come out on top as the result of the policy are almost always those already at the top. It is neither the invisible-hand of free markets nor equal-distribution of state power at work.


Actually this was the one statement that was correct in the entire article.

I don't deny that the government plays an important role in funding science and tech, which in turn is essential for silicon valley. But it is still completely wrong to characterize Silicon Valley as "state-sponsored investment". Take Google. The original algorithm was developed at Stanford, but it didn't involve any fancy math that required a DARPA grant. The founders came up with the idea of using commodity hardware for servers. All the other technologies they later built (MapReduce, BigTable, etc.) were the company's own inventions, involving no help from outside sources.

Similar things can be said for Apple, Microsoft and also much of the Open Source movement.

The fact that the government played some role does not mean all the value generated really belongs to the government.

And in case anyone was tempted to make some false assumptions about my viewpoint, I'm not arguing that there should be no redistribution of wealth. I'm just arguing that claiming that we don't live in a market economy is wrong, and a poor basis for arguing for redistribution of wealth.


Your parent made the point that without the government Google and others may not have launched in the first place.

This modern world has already invented the cheesegrater, what remains to be invented really is -for most part- too complex to be conceived from thin air with a stroke of inspiration.

I would have to study for a decade to have a chance at success in quantum physics, and I'd be relying on an enormous amount of gathered knowledge in doing so, much of it coming from state-sponsored work. That would be a tremendous effort on my part, but it pales to the effort of the society as a whole in making my future available to me. In such a light I have a hard time seeing how wealth distribution currently is "fair".


I think silicon valley is much closer to the cheesegrater than to quantum physics. Just because the industry is characterized as high tech, doesn't mean that the actual content requires a huge amount of scientific or mathematical knowledge.

As a philosophical point, I agree that the fact that all of society is needed in order to produce our wealth, is a good argument for redistribution. But imagine that somehow this wasn't the case. I think the redistribution would still be justified on the grounds that the imposition on people's rights (paying taxes) is very small compared with the benefits. In fact, forcing people paying taxes is the least restrictive way for the government to implement any policy.


Silicon Valley started in the 1950s when there was a lot of government involvement. It didn't become the private sector's innovation center until the 1980s or so, and even then, government played a massive but unaccredited role. Defense contractors rarely innovate-- at least, not intentionally-- but the competition against them for top talent requires startups to compete on interesting work, autonomy, et cetera, which makes better startups. Silicon Valley's era of innovation (ca. 1957-2001) existed in a time (now sadly ended) during which labor had unprecedented leverage. To support Simon's thesis, you don't get innovation if labor or capital has all the cards; you need a balance between the two.


The 2012 US GDP was 15.68 trillion. The 2012 Federal government expenditures were 3.54 trillion. Right off the top, the Federal government accounts for 22.6% of the economic activity in the country. Depending on how you measure, you can quibble with this exact choice of numbers, but no matter how you fiddle you're not getting out of the Federal government being a huge part of the economy directly. State and local governments still not counted in that number.

The Federal government also controls the Federal interest rate and its centralized currency directly. It extensively regulates every major financial industry; to the extent that this fails to produce sufficient "regulation" for a liberal's purposes, it is, generally speaking, not for lack of statutory power, and a concerned liberal should probably be looking at the (almost always) liberals exercising the statutory power, rather than complaining about the few people whose meager voices suggest that perhaps the power shouldn't exist at all, lost in the sea of those screaming for more.

Indeed, it extensively regulates every major industry. It produces thousands of pages of new regulations every year. It taxes nearly every economic transaction. You can't hardly do anything without the government being involved. It already engages in huge wealth transfers every which way (even some really crazy stupid ones, like Obamacare's transfers from the young and healthy to the on-average wealthier older crowd).

This is not necessarily and automatically a bad thing. I'm just mentioning this stuff to show that the idea that we live in some sort of libertarian nightmare is ludicrous nonsense. The state has the power already, today. It's not theoretical, it's a done deal. If you don't like the outcome we're experiencing, take it up with the State.

Personally I can't help but observe that we keep giving more power to fewer people under the rubric of "better government", and, lo and behold, our society has ever more power and wealth concentrating in fewer and fewer hands. Why, oh why ever could it be? Somehow some people manage to convince themselves this is all the libertarian's fault. I'd suggest looking at the people who keep putting more and more power in fewer and fewer people's hands and then acting all confused about the outcome where more power ends up in fewer people's hands. There might be a connection there. We might want to consider, you know, not doing that more if we don't like the outcome we're getting.

Much of the reason why I am a libertarian is that I actually think it's a good thing for society, in precisely the ways that David Simon is complaining about. With the bloated Federal government taking all the power, the government not only doesn't solve "the problem", for whatever problem we're talking about, but it also often prevents you from solving the problem. It can do this either legally, where it claims for itself exclusively the power to solve the problem, followed by it either doing nothing or doing the wrong thing, or perhaps more poisonously, it convinces you that it is its responsibility to solve the problem, followed again by not doing so or doing the wrong thing.

A couple of days ago I happened to flip by the Canadian Broadcasting Channel's news hour, and there was this guy standing in front of a children's playground, complaining that the city wasn't taking care of it. Scattered on the playground were about 30-40 bagged piles of doggy-doo-doo. It otherwise appeared to be a fine playground; it was modern, the paint was cared for, the swings were all there, it did not show obvious wear. He's standing there talking to the reporter and complaining that their part of the city needs more money. My crazy, socially-evil, society-hating, collective-despising libertarian anwser was "Dude, in the amount of time you spent complaining to the reporter, you could have just cleaned up the playground." Seriously, all that was wrong with it appeared to be scattered piles of, and again I emphasize, bagged doggie-doo. This is how the government can corrode away the very social consciousness that people so desparately try to use governments to create. Yeah, it's a small example, but it happens everywhere, for all kinds of things.

(Yes, I realize that cleaning it would then mean the guy couldn't complain, so he's putting on a show. I further realize that it's really quite likely that the doggie-doo receptable probably had all the doggie doo piled up in an somewhat unsanitary pile, and the guy probably deliberately scattered it before the video shoot, because really, scattered bagged doggie poo is a rather unlikely scenario. However, I'd suggest this just further emphasizes the point I was trying to make here. You can't create "social responsibility" by telling everyone that somebody in $GOVERNMENT is going to take care of "it". You create the exact opposite. If you want more social responsibility you need less government.)


It's an often repeated libertarian mantra that the 22.6% of the US economy under state control is responsible for ~100% of the inequity. Unfortunately, the network effect ensures that a "government node" in the economic graph is always nearby, and the coplexity inherent in the system makes it easy to form a plausible argument assigning blame to any node within distance 2 or 3 of a problem, making the mantra non-falsifiable.

It deserves mention that this game can be played in reverse just as easily.

The only way that I know to introduce an ounce of objectivity into the discussion is to pick a single topic and dive so deeply into it that you are no longer fooled by the false but plausible statements hurled around by either side. Unfortunately, this is a very difficult task. I don't know how to scale the approach.


22.6% of the US economy under state control is responsible for ~100% of the inequity.

Inflation has a compounding effect of screwing the poor and transferring that wealth to the rich. It shouldn't be surprising that in 1970 Nixon unpegged the dollar and let inflation float and since 1973 the income inequality in this country has gradually become unhinged.

we keep giving more power to fewer people under the rubric of "better government", and, lo and behold, our society has ever more power and wealth concentrating in fewer and fewer hands. Why, oh why ever could it be.

Rich and wealthy liberal economists keep prescribing more government(which they may or may not realize contributed to their cupidity) to 'help out the poor' with 'stimulus' (which gets subcontracted to politically connected, wealthy people - did we not just throw 650 millon dollars at already-rich people to build a broken healthcare website?), while stabbing them in the back with inflation


Inflation is most damaging to those who save but do not invest. The poor are near 100% consumption, so it has essentially no effect on them.

A person whose average cash balance is $100 is not vulnerable to inflation.


No, inflation is most damaging to people whose spending is close to their salary. To simplify the math, I will use 'easy numbers', obviously the magnitudes are off, but you should plug your own numbers to verify that this is still true:

if a poor family is spending 90% of their income on day to day expenses, and a rich family is spending 20%, and there is 10% inflation, then the poor family will then be spending 99%, which is a 90% reduction in margin of safety/ability to invest. The rich family will then be spending 22% which is a 2.5% reduction in margin of safety/ability to invest.

Now, you might argue that wages catch up. For starters, many poor are on fixed incomes. BUT even for the employed, liberal economists routinely argue for screwing the poor out of their wages (of course they don't put it that way):

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/13/the-case-for-hig...

It goes like this: even in the long run, it’s really, really hard to cut nominal wages. Yet when you have very low inflation, getting relative wages right would require that a significant number of workers take wage cuts.

Think very carefully about what that means.

Ironically, it was keynes himself that warned:

By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth. Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become 'profiteers,' who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat.


You can exploit the fact that the utility of money has an asymptote (steep rise, in real systems) near the threshold of survivability to justify welfare policies too.

Libertarians whine about arbitrary confiscation of wealth by the government, but they have no problem when competition drives the price of labor down to (or below!) the price of survivability, even though from the point of view of the poor person both justifications for taking their money are equally arbitrary. The government promises to use the money to help people (translation: to fill rich peoples' pockets). The market promises to use the money to increase efficiency (translation: to fill rich peoples' pockets). The question is which party is better at delivering on their promise. You have noticed that the government isn't great at delivering on their part of the bargain. I would like to add that the market isn't stellar at this either. I believe the market tends to be worse (i.e. that "trickle down" is less realistic than "bubble up"), but I must admit that this belief is the product of my political beliefs rather than the other way around.


There are two reasons to believe that the market is better. One, market transactions are voluntary, so they are generally speaking "positive-sum games". Government transactions are not necessarily so (think Kelo vs. City of New London). Secondly. In order to wield economic power, you have to be willing to give some of it up. This is not necessarily true of political power. For these reasons, government tends to vectorize power in the upward direction; markets tend to flatten them out in the long run.

Again, it is worth also considering that the nordic countries, which have favorable income distributions, have had extremely low headline inflation rates over the last 50 years.

You make an false analogy: The government promises to use the money to help people (translation: to fill rich peoples' pockets). The market promises to use the money to increase efficiency (translation: to fill rich peoples' pockets)

But consider: Who is the market? It's everyone. Who is the government? A select few. So let's say indeed both systems are not "great" at delivering on their part of the bargain. Given that the market is everyone and the government is a select few, which one do you suppose will be a bigger failure at serving society's needs in a just fashion?


> One, market transactions are voluntary, so they are generally speaking "positive-sum games".

Nope. Suppose a robber puts a gun to your head and demands your wallet. You give it to him because you value your life more than your wallet. According to naive market theory, this is a positive sum transaction with consent from both parties! Obviously you didn't consent to getting held up, but it wasn't a market transaction. Restricting your attention to market transactions is the ridiculous simplification that allows markets to trivially triumph in thought experiments.

Generally speaking, "create the sickness, sell the cure" is a perfectly good business model. We make the obvious ones illegal (pointing guns and demanding money), but more sophisticated versions riddle our economy. For instance, the Goldman Sachs Artificial Aluminum Shortage applies the same basic principle.

> markets tend to flatten [power] out in the long run.

Are you kidding me? This is almost objectively untrue (unless you cherry pick "long run" or invoke timescales over which attribution to democracy vs capitalism is impossible). Are you sure you didn't mean to make the "rising tide lifts all boats" argument instead? It's a base rate fallacy, but at least it sounds reasonable.

> Who is the market? It's everyone. Who is the government? A select few.

The market is "everyone" in name only, just like a democratic government. The reality is that the biggest players get to make the rules. Sometimes they do it via regulatory capture, which you can correctly blame on the government. Sometimes they do it by collusion, undercutting, or some other anti-competitive practice that must be attributed to market failure. Sometimes they do it by taking advantage of arbitrary existential facts (we have an excess of workers -> workers can, collectively, be paid less). Nobody consented to their need to eat, breathe, and house themselves, nobody consented to have a certain amount of competition, yet the market has historically had no problem exploiting these facts to extract obscene concessions from people, even when the fundamental resources were abundant. Whatever the market does represent, it's certainly not the free will of the people.

Look, I generally agree with you that markets are usually more flexible and better at self-regulating. I think that most sectors of the economy function better under market control than state control. But I also think there are glaring exceptions (healthcare) and that libertarians jump too quickly and eagerly to the point of view that deregulation is the answer, even in the presence of abundant historical or comparative evidence to the contrary. They like to pretend the free market's shit doesn't stink (it's a feature, not a bug that unskilled labor consistently gets the crap beaten out of it at the negotiation table due to the fact a single person creates marginally more labor supply than demand). They don't take responsibility for messes the market creates (they are convinced it's not the market's fault our healthcare is 2x as expensive as in single-payer countries), and instead of basing their decisions on comparing strengths and weaknesses of different systems (markets are good at X, bad at Y, governments are good at Y, bad at X) they trumpet facile arguments from the rooftops.


Nobody here is claiming that markets are perfect. However, the claim is that economic redistribution on the part of government will over time fail to help the very constitutents they are supposed to protect and instead enrich the rich. This has happened time after time and shows no sign of stopping because of fundamental problems, which you partially hit on when you talked about regulatory capture (and goldman sachs, which uses so much state privilege that it's not entirely clear how much 'free market' there is in that company). The point is, that regulatory capture is inevitable.

"[The socialists declare] that the State owes subsistence, well-being, and education to all its citizens; that it should be generous, charitable, involved in everything, devoted to everybody; ...that it should intervene directly to relieve all suffering, satisfy and anticipate all wants, furnish capital to all enterprises, enlightenment to all minds, balm for all wounds, asylums for all the unfortunate, and even aid to the point of shedding French blood, for all oppressed people on the face of the earth. Who would not like to see all these benefits flow forth upon the world from the law, as from an inexhaustible source? ... But is it possible? ... Whence does [the State] draw those resources that it is urged to dispense by way of benefits to individuals? Is it not from the individuals themselves? How, then, can these resources be increased by passing through the hands of a parasitic and voracious intermediary? ...Finally...we shall see the entire people transformed into petitioners. Landed property, agriculture, industry, commerce, shipping, industrial companies, all will bestir themselves to claim favors from the State. The public treasury will be literally pillaged.

And here is the clincher (think very hard about the last sentence):

Everyone will have good reasons to prove that legal fraternity should be interpreted in this sense: "Let me have the benefits, and let others pay the costs." Everyone's effort will be directed toward snatching a scrap of fraternal privilege from the legislature. The suffering classes, although having the greatest claim, will not always have the greatest success."

In other words. It's perfectly reasonable for society to want to do things that go against the precept of "profit first". But if society should want to do such a thing, it should do it through private charity and not through the coffers of the state.

I practice what I preach. I volunteer every week feeding sick people and personally run a non-profit scientific corporation.


> This has happened time after time and shows no sign of stopping because of fundamental problems

Maybe in the US but it's not a fundamental of governments generally.


Libertarians whine about arbitrary confiscation of wealth by the government, but they have no problem when competition drives the price of labor down to (or below!) the price of survivability

With unemployment low, people would switch to jobs with more favorable conditions. That's one of the reasons Ford paid (relatively) much more than other employers. In a world with high unemployment, the employers dictate the conditions.


That's what I said. My point was that libertarians assume there is inherent justice in this situation. I don't.


Please provide your definition of "justice". Libertarians are averse to coercion, but they do not assume the results of liberty-enhancing policies will always favor their priorities. For example, I like the opera, but I do not think the government should be coercing the citizenry into subsidizing La Traviata.


Inflation is a way to silently lower wages without pissing off workers.

See more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/business/economy/in-fed-an...

Key quote: "Rising prices allows companies to increase profit margins quietly, by not raising wages"


Your réponse (and dnautic's much longer response) are both based on an unsupported assumption: that employers in a zero inflation environment wouldn't trim wages.

The change in inflation would impart no change to the balance of power, so there's zero reason to believe that employers would become more generous in the alternate condition.

We already see employers trimming employee wages even today. It would simply be more common in a zero-interest environment.


Keynesian stimulus is often justified by 'wage stickiness', which is a theory that nominal wages are very slow and unlikely to adjust down; the stimulus causes inflation and devalues real wages, by increasing the money supply.[1] Please note that this is not my belief, but it is supported by some empirical evidence, and is widely held in some circles.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keynesian_economics#Wages_and_s...


Actually, "that there's all dem inequality" is not really my point, though I'll take full responsibility for the failure to communicate. My point is more like, the government that keeps promising to save us already has tons of power. Tons of it. It's got the direct control of a fifth of the economy, massive power over the rest, etc etc, which is what I was trying to say.

My point is that if giving the government more power was going to solve all of our problems, it should have by now. We've been giving it more power. Us libertarian types are thoroughly outnumbered by conventional rightists and leftists, who both agree that the government should have more power, they just disagree what it should use it on and who should use it, but when it comes down to the compromise vote, the government almost always ends up with more power. It has been a monotonic ratchet since at least the New Deal.

We've been promised nirvana if they just have more power, and yet, lo, we've given them all this power and apparently the situation is worse than ever, if you listen to them. Is it really such a crazy idea that these two things might be connected? Is it really such a crazy idea that maybe the fact that we keep centralizing power so we can experience a less centralized power structure is a completely nonfunctional solution? One that requires a rather extensive propaganda campaign to make sure people think in the Right Way so as to avoid noticing this rather simple question?

(I note I've now posed it on HN three or four times, and I'm yet to get even a smidge of a response to it. I find this often Means Something.)

I'd suggest the sheer opprobrium shot at libertarians is itself just the dominant power structure trying to prevent you from being exposed to ideas that may result in them having less power.

(I am simplifying a bit such that power == money; it's a pretty decent approximation.)


> My point is that if giving the government more power was going to solve all of our problems, it should have by now.

Nobody's responding to you because, most likely, if you're going to have silly notions like this, then what's the point? You've already chosen a side, presenting rational for that decision based on arguments that nobody is making.

Binary thinking does not make for even the slightest bit interesting of a debate.


Well, I'd respond in kind. People have the deeply in-built assumption that we can simply solve all our problems by giving all the power to the thing that fits in the "tribal leader" slot in our instincts.

But we've given our "tribal leader" (government) more power than any single entity has ever had in history, and our problems are getting worse, not better. If you prefer a less binary argument, if giving more power to the government is going to improve the problem of inequality, inequality already ought to be getting better, not worse. If inequality is getting worse, and we've been giving more and more power to our government for decades, it seems irrational to conclude that the only way to "fix" inequality is to keep giving the government more power.


US Federal, State, and Local spending is nearly 40% of the US economy. (See: http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/total_spending_2014USpn)

This number seems to shock my conservative and liberal friends alike.


The reason this poster spends so much energy setting up his naive socialist straw man to burn it with glee is because libertarianism offers no solutions. David Simon is not prescribing a solution, but at least he argues we must agree to one.

Blithely hoping voluntary donations by the greedy will eliminate the systemic Apartheid of class is the worst kind of snake oil medicine. He needs a straw man to burn to hide his elephant in the room.


I agree with your views regarding less government being a good thing. Just in case some take pride in the number you provided I want to take a moment to put it into some context.

> The 2012 Federal government expenditures were 3.54 trillion. Right off the top, the Federal government accounts for 22.6%

We thankfully have a canonical example that exposes just how bad government can be: Obamacare.

Government is the only organization on the planet that can take a website that could not possibly cost more than one to five million (as a ridiculous maximum) and turn it into a disaster costing upwards of a billion dollars. Think about THAT for a moment. It took government A BILLION DOLLARS just to make a website that the private sector could have delivered for A THOUSAND TIMES less money and in a third of the time. And, of course, it would have worked as required on day one.

I am not going to propose government money utilization is a thousand times less efficient than in the private sector across all domains. If I had to guess, based on my direct experience selling to various government agencies and seeing just how convoluted the process can become, I'd say the private sector is 50 to 100 times more efficient at everything. The exception, of course, is killing people and spying on the population.

I'll go with 100 times for easy numbers. This means whatever government accomplished with 3.54 trillion could have been done privately for a mere 35 billion. Even if I am off by a factor of ten this is still a major difference.

This means that this 22.6% participation is mostly money being burned. The actual real impact of government is probably somewhere in the the 2% or less range.

To use the lovely Obamacare canonical government-incompetence-and-waste example. Ask yourself this question: What could we have done with a billion dollars if instead of letting government burn it to try to build a website we had given five million of that to a qualified private entity to build the site and devoted $995 billion to, say, medical research or other massively valuable causes? Right. They just burned money that could have funded the discovery of a cure for Cancer and who knows what else.

You have to consider this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Federal_Spending_-_FY...

and then this:

http://nationalpriorities.org/budget-basics/federal-budget-1...

Hard to argue that the money is being spent with both discretion and intelligence. I point you to the 57% in military spending our many wars, pointless foreign aid, Solyndra and the inability to even manage the development of a website as proof.

No. Less government is better for all of us.


>Think about THAT for a moment. It took government A BILLION DOLLARS just to make a website that the private sector could have delivered for A THOUSAND TIMES less money and in a third of the time.

Well, I don't know.

The private sectors seems willing to pay 3 BILLION DOLLARS for a BS message/photo sharing app (Snapchat) that one could have built in 6 months with 2-3 man years of effort.

Compared to the trivialness of that, the healthcare website is rocket science.


Could be argued that, when a company like Facebook acquires something like Instagram (which is itself a pretty straightforward service that wouldn't be difficult for a team of competent developers to build), they aren't really buying the app. They're buying the user base.

Anyone can build a Snapchat, but not anyone can have millions of active users.

Sorry, just had to point out my opinion that that argument isn't too relevant to the discussion.


> It took government A BILLION DOLLARS just to make a website that the private sector could have delivered for A THOUSAND TIMES less money and in a third of the time

Source? AFAIK not even the craziest right-wing conspiracy blog out there claims healthcare.gov cost a billion dollars to create.

The Washington Post has the best reporting on it so far. It puts the figure for the website development and support itself at $174M and casts doubt on the wildest one out there ($600M). Also, there are significant costs on the IRS side of things that by definition couldn't be delivered by the private sector.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2013/10/...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2013/11/...


I have been working for government contractors / subcontractors / sub-subcontractors / military-industrial complicators for a few years now.

For the last year, I have been working with a team of 20+ to accomplish only half of a task that would have been absolutely trivial in comparison with my last job in the fully private sector. It could have been accomplished by one person working for 6 months, or perhaps 2 working for 4 months.

The government pays for 20 times the personnel, quadruple the required time, and gets a quarter the quality in return. And this team is rated very highly by the government's idiotic metrics.

Since the contractor companies also skim off the difference between what the government pays them for the labor and what they actually pay their employees, I can easily believe from my anecdotal experience that government is capable of wasting 99% of everything that it spends.

While waste does not disappear entirely from the economy, it is not directed into useful production, which is the basis of a healthy economy. What it does is build a human ecosystem around absolute fraud and purchasing political favors and influence.

That doesn't account at all for the things that government does to destroy the wealth-building activities of others, such as requiring barbers to spend thousands of dollars to get licensed to cut hair for $10 a pop, or demanding that 8-year-old kids selling lemonade buy business licenses.


Yup. Pretty much my experience working with government agencies. They'll pay two to ten times more for half the product and the ability to shift blame elsewhere in case things go wrong. It's sad that making comments like these --which are factual-- are often met with comments characterizing the poster as a right wing extremist of some sort. Sad. Open your eyes folks. You have been so utterly brainwashed by the liberal machine you'll bend over backwards to justify the most ridiculous things and ignore the damage this ideology is doing our country. I find it really telling that someone, in response to my billion dollar claim regarding the obamacare website, came back with a number in the $150 million range. And that justifies supporting the incompetence, fraud and thievery this represents? In other words, it's OK they spent $150 million for something that should have cost one to five, at most, because these are "your people". Well, you know what, you pay for it with your money. Not my money. Yours. I don't want to pay for the product of incompetence and fraud. That's just me.


Some of the state sites were launched successfully.

It would appear the Federal site project was poorly managed.

This is not a failure of ideology, and it's definitely not limited to the public sector.


Your argument only addresses money/economy. Your conclusion is not warranted.


Really? Without money/economy you have, I don't know, Afganistan? Like it or not prosperity isn't driven by government programs. It is driven by private sector economic activity. Unless we are talking Start Trek utopia this is how the world turns today and will continue to do so for quite some time.

My conclusion is supported by fact, data and experience beyond what could be covered in a twenty line HN post. Government, as currently devolved in the US, is very much the problem. The solution is less of it. Radically less. Everywhere.


Afghanistan's poppy production amounted to $4 billion in exports in 2007[0].

[0]http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_production_in_Afghanist...


Supply some data please.

The only "data" you've attempted to provide so far was off by a factor of around 7.


This mirrors the argument in Albert Jay Nock's book "Our Enemy: The State" (1935). He argues that expanding government crowds out non-governmental social activity, giving the example of hurricane response. In his time he already saw the shift in the public mind from treating a disaster as a problem for the entire community to something that the government should handle.

If Nock is correct, there is a darker thesis that follows. Over the generations, dependent thinking becomes ingrained. It becomes impossible to think otherwise, as the examples we have of civil society solving problems fade into the past. In short, we become domesticated humans.

It was also the thesis of Marx that for socialism to succeed, a new Socialist Man would have to be raised, that human nature would have to be changed. This began in America with the reign of FDR, which coincided with the birth of the third American Republic - the Bureaucratic Superstate.


>> He argues that expanding government crowds out non-governmental social activity,

And yet if you look to the past you see that when government does nothing people die in the streets because charity in no way covers what government can now. Particularly for those on the fringes of society, those considered immoral or sinners in some way.

Private social activity absolutely does not do all we need it to.


I find Nock's book more convincing than Nursie's comment, but good try.


Thanks for your confidence.

FWIW I don't disagree with the premise, state intervention may well crowd out social activity.

But you'd have to be deliberately blind to hundreds of years of human history to make the claim that the social activity did anything like the job our current welfare models (for all their masses of imperfections) do.


Opt-in disaster relief led to farmers burning their excess crops to force "Okies" to move on in 1935. The New Deal was a response to the age-old prevailing attitude that it's only kin you should look out for.

It's one thing to think it inappropriate for the state to ensure that disaster relief happens (even clumsily), but the idea that the private sector would otherwise be picking up the slack is unprecedented and and far from plausible. Charity has always been more a symbolic gesture than a real influence.


>He argues that expanding government crowds out non-governmental social activity, giving the example of hurricane response

My house was ruined by Hurricane Sandy, I am grateful that our Republican governor went against the grain and backed a relief fund program.

Fuck you and your advocacy of disaster capitalism. Towns were wiped off the map, if you think the solution is a bunch of vultures looking to profit from a tragedy and not government intervention, you've been blinded by your ideology.

Here's a hint: despite locals' efforts to help one another out, all of our shit was wrecked, but we still did it. Everyone's everything was gone, we can only help ourselves so much given the fact most people didn't have a home, electricity, or running water.

We must be the domesticated humans you're going on about. What does that make you? Who benefits from such an disgusting ideology? Only people who are infinitely more wealthy than you'll ever be.


First off, I can tell you've never read Nock and have no intention to do so. I'm disappointed by this level of discourse.

Secondly, why do you assume that the only two institutions in the world are the government and the market? That itself is emblematic of the erosion of the social fabric in America.


Very well put. Mariana Mazzucato talks about this idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3r1IPsldbBg and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPvG_fGPvQo


that is a crazy video. You can either take her thesis at her word, or you can read between the lines and realize that this is an incredible outline of how government transfers wealth to the already wealthy. Her suggestion is that the reason why the US is such a dynamic economic system is because the government underwrites it; but this is a flawed concept. In the era 1860-1920 the US government did not underwrite very much scientific or technology or provide SBIRs or any such thing, and you would be hard pressed to argue that the US did not undergo major economic improvement.


Re 1860-1920, have you heard of the railroad land grants? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Railroad_Acts

These were tremendous gifts to private companies to induce investment in what was one of the high tech industries of the time.


true. However, there were fabulously successful railroads (e.g. great northern) which were entirely privately funded, even down to securing property easements (which these days would be done using eminent domain). IIRC the great northern was really one of the few railway that didn't suffer a downturn and shutter itself during that era... It's now a part of BNSF.


It seems remiss to talk about how the Great Northern didn't need any government help when it bought all its land from the federal government after the federal government had acquired control of it by slaughtering most of the land's previous residents.


> The rich and powerful are fully in favor of a strong, powerful state-run economy that serves their needs. That's why it's done under the rubric of military spending -- "we have to spend trillions of taxpayer dollars on this because we have to defend ourselves" sounds better than "because we need it to produce the Silicon Valley economic miracle."

Why don't we go back to funding moonshot projects instead, then? Let's see Apollo Program/Human Genome Project-level spending on Next-generation sequencing (protein and RNA included), novel propulsion engines for deep space probes, battery research, materials, etc. If we spent the same money on pressing problems, we could support the science and tech sectors all the while doing incredible societal good.


Instead, the state-supported rich and powerful can claim we live in a "free market economy" that just happens to have trillions of state-sponsored investment, for them.

Corporatism (the current system) is neither socialism nor capitalism. It's designed to give a well-connected elite the best of both systems and the rest of society the worst of both. It's like suburbia, which delivers the best of both worlds (urban and rural) for the rich and the worst of both to the poor.

The truth is that the elite of our society do not meaningfully compete. They serve on each others' corporate boards, arrange jobs for one another in event of adverse circumstances, and have generally set up their own private welfare system (see: EIR gigs). The competition rhetoric exists because they intend for us to compete-- against each other, thus ignoring them.


When I see arguments like this one, I always remember the little known fact that Adam Smith was a moral philosopher before he wrote about economics. A fundamental principle for capitalism is that people will behave morally and be compassionate. Without a moral society, no matter what system you're talking about, that society will always collapse.

I think David Simon, and many other modern critics of capitalism, have forgotten this and/or are too afraid of sounding "preachy" if they were to advocate for a more moral society.

I'd also like to point out that Simon seems to be making an emotional argument when he says there's a whole portion of people in our society who are useless when it comes to making the economy work. Perhaps it's because their skills don't match the needs of the workforce today. It's simply supply and demand.


As well as Smith, I am reminded of Bastiat:

“Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”

-- Frédéric Bastiat, The Law

The problem in the US isn't capitalism, it's that the government interferes extensively in the economy. It is rational, if not moral, for the wealthy to expend effort and resources to gain political power rather than spending the same effort and resources on providing goods and services.

Building a society is the responsibility of each individual who values it. Using government force in pursuit of that goal leads only to the co-option and disenfranchisement Simon complains about.


If government were not as influential as you claim, there is absolutely no reason the wealthy would use the resources they buy power with to provide goods and services, especially to the poor and needy who cannot afford them as is. In fact, you completely ignore the robber barons and a time when less regulation DID exist, and society was even less free and equal.

There is NO such thing as a truly free market. Free markets are an ideal simplification, like calculations done in a frictionless vacuum. The role of government in the economy is to regulate in such a way that a sort of free market is created. That competition exists and everyone benefits.

Unfortunately that power is not always used correctly. Regulation is difficult, oftentimes it doesn't work as expected. But that does not mean the problem is regulation itself. The problem is specifically the regulations that exist today. That makes sense, when you realize that half the government is trying to prove that the government is terrible. I really wouldn't trust them with regulating anything.

The greatest time in recent American history was created by socialistic, big government programs and regulations. Period. The massive amounts of wealth generated during that time went to every American, not just the few, because of those policies. Removing government is not the answer, we need to fix it.


The problem is that too many people reach for government power as a first response instead of the last resort it should be.

Government force is always going to result in unintended, negative consequences. Those socialistic programs you laud, with the high taxes, intrusive regulations, and government debt, are a net drag on the economy.

Working together voluntarily is vastly superior to being compelled by force, however well intentioned.


> The problem is that too many people reach for government power as a first response instead of the last resort it should be.

If we are reaching for government power, then we have encountered a problem which has not or cannot be solved by the free market as is. I have not seen many people saying "hey, we should socialize the software industry, Google just isn't doing well enough." It already is a last resort.

> Government force is always going to result in unintended, negative consequences.

I rarely use the word always because all it takes is a single counterexample to disprove the point, and I can name a few: Firefighters, police, military, are all "markets" that would not be easily regulated by the free market and the government has done instead (and done so quite well, in most cases.)

> Those socialistic programs you laud, with the high taxes, intrusive regulations, and government debt, are a net drag on the economy.

Lumping ALL those programs together (again) invalidates your point. There are some programs that work very well and have more benefits than costs. I agree that this is not true for all programs/regulations, thus my point: Fix what's broken.

> Working together voluntarily is vastly superior to being compelled by force, however well intentioned.

This argument could be used to support ANY form of government. Communism would work wonderfully if we all worked together voluntarily! Fact is we live in a world of game theory. Sometimes people work together, sometimes they don't. Capitalism works because in theory, even if you are working only for yourself, you are working for society as well. But that is not always true, and so we need to pull together to make sure that those who would abuse the system can't. We need to pull together so that everyone, or at least the majority, benefits from our society.


You should read more about the "robber barons", as they did a lot of good, by increasing competition, decreasing costs to consumers, and breaking state monopolies.


I disagree with you wholeheartedly on the political front, but I'm right with you on what we're actually debating.

Hearing fellow liberals claim that conservatives want the poor and disadvantaged to suffer is like hearing conservatives say that liberals just want to take money from the rich and give it to people who don't deserve it. Both arguments are shitty, and both either imply that the speaker isn't listening or doesn't want the audience to listen.

If you don't even try to figure out your opponent's assumptions, you should probably shut up and start listening.


Here's the thing you don't understand: Yes, conservatives do want the poor to suffer, because they think the poor are poor because they're too lazy to work hard and overcome their poverty. Making them suffer is the only way to make them contribute to society, in their view.

Also, yes, as a liberal, I do want to take money from the rich and give it to people who don't deserve it. That is exactly what I want to do. What do you think social welfare is? If you only give money to people who meet some arbitrary moral standard, you aren't helping everyone who needs help. I believe in universal income, universal healthcare, universal education, universal pensions, etc, etc. It has nothing to do with deserts.


One of the most honest comments in the entire thread. The problem is, both sides don't want to admit this. The conservatives because it makes them out to be assholes (and they'd never win another election again). The liberals because they think they'll lose the argument if they say they want income redistribution--everyone will jump on them and call them (unfairly) socialists or communists (yes, I know they're different), and they whither under such attacks.

Fundamentally, conservatives are people that are angry someone is getting something for nothing, and liberals are people that want to help the least privileged among us.

Until we can all come to terms with this, and logically come to terms with the idea that raising up the poor to a certain standard helps everyone, we're doomed.


No, in fact his comment and now yours are some of the only ones that dishonest about what the conservative position really is. It's a lot easier to paint people who disagree with you as fiends than it is to understand their point of view, which was the grandparent's entire point, which you and the parent have willfully missed.


So, what's your hypothesis? Instead of bitching, why don't you contribute?

Second, you seem to like his (our) position on liberals. Pot meet kettle.

Lastly, I came to this conclusion after many years of talking with conservatives (and watching them in action on TV programs) and reading their own words.


Reading your comment, I was reminded of a quote that I read quite recently: "If you don't even try to figure out your opponent's assumptions, you should probably shut up and start listening."


> I do want to take money from the rich and give it to people who don't deserve it

And what give you the right to take what belongs to others?


That's exactly the question I have for the rich. ;)

But no, seriously, that's the argument for wealth redistribution: the rich only are able to amass such wealth because of advantages they've accumulated for various reasons. If you're full-blown communist, it's due to the appropriation of the surplus labor produced by the proletariat. Therefore, you're just taking back what they took in the first place.

Now, you may disagree, but I figured since you asked, you might want an answer.


Nobody. But in the end, the disadvantaged will give themselves that right of their own accord if they have nothing left to lose.

Why do you think poor people resort to crime? They've made the calculation, and as far as they are concerned, that is their best option at the moment.

It should be in everyone's interest to at least provide the poorest members of our society with enough support so that they don't get that desperate.


What gives the rich the right to decide what belongs to others?


Have an upvote, you socialist bastard!


Thank you for this! As someone with mostly liberal friends and mostly conservative family, the willingness of both sides to judge and belittle the other while making no effort to understand their perspective drives me batty.


> The problem in the US isn't capitalism, it's that the government interferes extensively in the economy.

Well... maybe the problem is that the economy interferes extensively in the government.

> Building a society is the responsibility of each individual who values it. Using government force in pursuit of that goal leads only to the co-option and disenfranchisement Simon complains about.

Individuals have to band together to accomplish things because at some point one individual isn't enough. In democratic society such a banding, supported by the people and for the people, is called a government.


>Well... maybe the problem is that the economy interferes extensively in the government.

Well... maybe the government shouldn't have so much power that when influenced it can cause so much harm.


If the government does not have power, someone else will. The governments power is meant to balance out the power of individuals, so that a few do not control society.

I would argue that with that amount of power, government necessarily has the ability to cause harm to the economy/society. Otherwise it fails as a government.

Stripping the government of power will do nothing. We must fix it.


If the government hadn't such power, no one would try to influence it.


> In democratic society such a banding, supported by the people and for the people, is called a government.

Only when the people banding together claim a monopoly on the use of force to achieve their goals. This is exactly the distinction that Bastiat describes.


I'll assume you live in the US: doesn't your constitution grant you the rights to bear arms and didn't one of the founder said it's the people's duty to throw away the government when it gets corrupted ?

On a more "scholar" note there is the notion that a leviathan is needed.

Moreover, I think private companies and individuals can be as violent, or more, than any government that claim monopoly on its use.

Be it physically or symbolically.


> Individuals have to band together to accomplish things because at some point one individual isn't enough. In democratic society such a banding, supported by the people and for the people, is called a government.

Individuals who band together to accomplish things can also be called a corporation.


No, because you missed "by the people, for the people" and the voting part.

Do you genuinely fail to see the difference or is that comment just for the sake of that (weak) argument ?


The interferes, IMO, is only in the area of personal freedoms. The drug war being the #1 offender. Corporations have record profits and few regulations on them (thanks to the GOP over the last 20 years). The financial services sector has imploded twice in that time, largely due to lack of controls.

If you are arguing for further erosion of checks on corporations, I see the US becoming more like China and will, at some point, have the same air quality they have there. Remember, the GOP want to do away with the EPA.


Back in high school I had one of the standard required classes on Government, the majority of which I've since forgotten. But there was one bit which has stuck with me in the years since. The teacher drew a box on the board and put the label "government" inside it. He then drew a much larger box around it, which he labeled "economic system". This illustrated two things I think are fairly important - first, that the government is a small piece of the economic system overall, and second, that attempts by the government to interfere with the economic system would have a much bigger return effect on the government.

For an example, lets say the government bans the use of some inexpensive material in building houses due to health concerns, requiring companies to use some more expensive material instead. This has a direct economic impact on those construction companies, which, when you consider them all as one group, would add up to something significant. These companies in their efforts to make money could now do two things: use the new material, costing them x, or spend money lobbying to repeal the change, costing y. It seems almost inevitable that the money it takes to repeal the law will be cheaper - because the government (or, at least, the relevant portions) are effectively fighting against not one or two companies but an entire economic sector. This case naturally grows worse against sectors that are large/concentrated/powerful, such as finance and medical (which in my view would be the reason it is so difficult to have serious financial reform - even after a disastrous crash like 08).

But there's something more to be taken from this, I think - and that's that the economic system we have does not place value on health, or safety, or environment. Capitalism encourages a very "not my problem" attitude. Got a factory putting contaminants in a river? Not my problem. Worker loses his arm using dangerous machinery? Not my problem. An efficient and rational actor in a capitalist system doesn't worry about these things. This is where you get tragedy of the commons type effects, where someone (or people) seeking to maximize personal gain - as you should, under a capitalist system - damage or ruin something not just for themselves but for everyone.

In short, this idea that "Building a society is the responsibility of each individual who values it" runs directly contrary to the principles of capitalism, near as I can tell. I would be interested in hearing why/how this is not the case.


Hardly. We make clear distinctions between the State and society. But also know that "government" isn't always a State.

A State exists if there are class divisions, with the more powerful class holding the power of the State.

Since the resources and infrastructure to begin a society without want exists, we support taking control of the State (still a State but with the class holding the power reversed) to use it for those goals.

End goal being no State due to no classes.


> The problem in the US isn't capitalism, it's that the government interferes extensively in the economy.

Government controlled by a bunch of capitalists...


>> We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality.

Without state enforced equality, there is no equality.

Many of the other things he says may well be true, and I'm not socialist, but that one has been shown over and over and over.

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