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The bleeding heart of Dominic Frisby

Many of us libertarians complain about how our anti-libertarian adversaries seem to do so appallingly well in attracting support from celebrities, and most particularly from showbiz performers. I agree with what Johnathan Pearce said here about this yesterday. Showbiz people are and should most definitely remain entirely entitled to express their opinions about politics or about anything else. But, they must then be willing then to be criticised by those who don’t agree with what they say, just like any other opinion-monger. JP makes a point of mentioning by name some showbiz people whose thinking he admires, which is also good. But I often hear other libertarians indulging in blanket condemnations of the thought processes of all showbiz people, declaring them to be inherently less capable than others of thinking clearly and arriving at wise political ideas. They then go on to curse the world for paying so much attention to these terrible people.

Quite aside from the obvious fact that many showbiz people are very smart, this is a tactically very silly way to think and talk. Showbiz people have at the very least demonstrated their expertise in communicating, in engaging with audiences. Many of the curses aimed by libertarians at showbiz people whose political views they do not agree with sound to me more like sour grapes than serious argument. Most such complaints would surely cease if we libertarians were to start attracting showbiz people to our cause in serious numbers. Meanwhile, if we think that showbiz people typically proclaim bad political ideas, then our task is to persuade such people to think better and to proclaim better ideas, rather than us merely moaning that such people somehow have no right to be heard opining at all, about anything except showbiz. Maybe it is in some ways true that celebrity opinion-mongers shouldn’t be paid attention to, as much as they are. But they are, if only because being paid attention to by lots of people is the exact thing that these people specialise in being very good at. Maybe people are foolish to get their foolish political ideas from politically foolish showbiz people. But many do. Whether we like it or hate it, recruiting at least a decent trickle of showbiz people is a precondition for us achieving any widespread public acceptance of our ideas.

I also believe that showbiz people may have quite a lot to teach us about how to present our ideas persuasively.

The above ruminations being all part of why I find Dominic Frisby such an interesting and appealing individual. He is an all round actor and entertainer and voice-over guy, and he is in particular an experienced and successful stand-up comedian. He is also a libertarian, and he has recently written a book called Life After The State, which I have recently been reading. I think it is very good, and I have already given it and its author a couple of admiring mentions here.

On the back cover of Life After The State, Guido Fawkes says:

Things are so bad that in our time only a comedian can make sense of an economy based on printing money.

This makes Frisby sound like a British P. J. O’Rourke, which is to say a writer who uses politics to get laughs, and laughter as a way to think about politics. But although it is true to say that Frisby is a comedian who writes about politics, he does not write about politics to get laughs, or even make much use of laughter to get attention for what he writes. The comedy experience that Frisby has brought with him to this new and distinct task is the experience of having to make himself clear and to hold the attention of an audience. If a comedian’s audience loses track of or interest in what a comedian is saying, it won’t get his jokes and it won’t laugh. But what Frisby wants with this book is not laughter, but to be understood. There is plenty of wit. There are plenty of felicitous phrases and nail-on-the-head, SQotD-worthy sentences. But a laugh a minute this book is not.

So, if Frisby is no longer playing the comedian when writing his book about the state of the world and about why the state of the world would be better if there was less statism in the world, what kind of arguments does he present, and how does he present them?

There was a big clue in the talk I recently heard Frisby give at the Institute of Economic Affairs, the one I mentioned here in this earlier posting. In the course of this talk, Frisby described himself as a “bleeding heart libertarian”.

Now there’s a phrase to raise Samizdatista hackles, to cause rats to be detected, red rags to be charged at. The suspicion here will be that anyone who self-identifies as a bleeding heart libertarian is not really any sort of libertarian at all, and probably more like a traitor in our midst. I have not read enough from other self-identified bleeding heart libertarians to know how true or fair such accusations are. (That link is to a piece at Counting Cats, but it is by a regular commenter here, “Julie near Chicago”.) What I definitely can report is that the particular bleeding heart libertarian who is Dominic Frisby is definitely not guilty in the way that this label might here cause him to be charged.

Frisby starts out, in Life After The State, by describing what is wrong with the world, the kind of sufferings it contains, the kind of wrongs in it that ought to be righted. There is huge inequality, not just in matters of what people get paid for the work they do, but in things like healthcare and education. What the wrong kind of bleeding heart libertarian presumably argues, or is accused of arguing, is that because poverty is terrible and because poor people ought to get better healthcare and education than they do now, and because all decent people want the best not just for themselves but for people generally, and especially for the poor and the unlucky, well, that means that we need to soften our line on such things as state welfare, state education, the national health service, and the like. But what Frisby says is that because people at the bottom of the heap ought to get better chances in life than they now get, that is why unswerving and principled libertarianism is the absolute right thing, no ifs no buts. He doesn’t word it quite as belligerently as that. He does not constantly italicise, the written equivalent of banging the table. He is Dominic Frisby. I am merely me. But I trust I am clarifying the distinction that I am trying to clarify.

All of which is central to the project of persuading people generally, and showbiz people in particular, to become libertarians. Showbiz is full of people who want all that is best for everyone, but who are, as part of all that, very wary of aggressively eloquent rationality. (Typically, this is how their villains talk.) What they want to know is whether your heart is in the right place. Do you even have a heart? If you do, does it ever bleed? Yes, yes, we hear what you think. But what do you feel, and what do you feel about what others feel? Do you want the best for everybody, or do you merely want the best for your nasty, boring little self and your nasty, boring friends?

For well over a century now, that particular brand of collectivists called socialists has done a brilliantly successful job of convincing people generally and showbiz people in particular of socialism’s niceness. Socialism, say the socialists, is about wanting what is best for everyone. Socialism’s opponents may be all very clever and rationalistic and skilful at advancing their own arguments and interests, but they are all of them heartless, uncaring bastards, at best deluded. As a result of this relentlessly successful line of argument, millions of people who really do want the best for everyone have flocked towards socialist banners. Yes, many socialists have been cynical and manipulative, and more like the kind of people that most socialists complain about. But, say the other socialists, bad socialists like that are bad because they betray socialism, they fail to do socialism. They are traitors to the cause. Socialism could never have had the colossal and colossally damaging impact that it actually has had, if the leading socialists had all come across as mere schemers and contrivers and arrangers with no hearts, and still less if all the other socialists attracted to the cause were like that also.

Dominic Frisby’s father was the noted playwright Terence Frisby, and Terence Frisby was himself a socialist. But the thing that is wrong with socialists like Terence Frisby is absolutely not that their hearts bleed. They want a kinder, more generous, more fair, more comfortable and more entertaining world, especially for those who are now very poor and very unlucky, and good for them. Their folly is in supposing that the way to contrive these outcomes is for socialism to be inflicted upon the world, and for freedom to be done away with.

In short, Dominic Frisby is both a nice guy and a clever guy, and a notably effective and significant contributor to the libertarian cause. When some of his many showbiz friends take a look at his book, as some of them surely will, they may find themselves surprised at how much they agree with what it says.

Learn more about Frisby and his ideas by exploring his website, by reading his stuff, and watching some of his video performances and creations.

Or, be at my home in a week’s time, on the 28th of this month, when Dominic Frisby will be giving a talk on the subject to which his second book will be devoted, namely Bitcoin, crypto-currencies, etc. Confusingly, a lady called Dominique was to have been my speaker that evening, but she had to postpone and will now be speaking at my last Friday gathering on May 30th. Meanwhile, February 28th turned out to be a date that was just right for Dominic, because he is now eager both to find further readers for his first book and to sign up members of the crowd which will be crowd-funding the publication of his second book.

The crowd-funding of books, especially of books intended to persuade rather than just to entertain, being a subject that deserves an entire posting to itself.

41 comments to The bleeding heart of Dominic Frisby

  • Patrick Crozier

    I would very much echo what you said about niceness. Indeed it was you who pointed out to me how important it is to, er, point out the inherent niceness of libertarianism. I have found that statists of all stripes really, really don’t like it being pointed out that their niceness depends on violence.

  • nemesis

    Getting celebrities on side because they have power and influence may be a good thing, but the real power lies in the editing suite of media outlet. Perhaps a better place to start.

  • Alastair James

    You say Terence Frisby was Dominic’s father and was a socialist. I can assure you that he is still very much both of those things. I recently sat next to him at a dinner for some of those who had funded the writing of Dominic’s book (via an interesting crowdfunded publisher called unbound). Terence was a nice and interesting man who thinks his son is nice and interesting but profoundly mistaken. We got talking about crony capitalism. Terence view was that the core failing of libertarianism was a failure to recognise that under all political systems, Democratic socialism included, many nasty people would become rich and powerful (including politicians) but only under democratic socialism was there any possibility of tipping the balance slightly back in favour of the downtrodden and disadvantaged. Under anarcho capitalism he reckoned smart nasty people would soon create monopolies and cartels and very likely things that looked like little (to begin with) states. A depressing view of human nature but that doesn’t mean it’s incorrect

  • Peter H

    I would say He is more of an anarcho-capitalist than a libertarian which to me is a good thing.
    Regarding the book i’d say firstly that the definition of socialism which appears in the glossary is actually a description of fascism. Maybe if it was hammered home that the policies which most British politicians advocate have their origins in fascist political discourse it would give them pause for thought. Secondly he mentions once or twice something he describes as ‘socialism without the state’. This is, of course, impossible. Socialism is, if it is anything at all: Organisation. Without the coercive power of the state no organisation is possible.

  • jerry

    ‘the obvious fact that many showbiz people are very smart…’
    Um, if you’re talking about actors / actresses, at least on the west side of the pond, that has not been my experience. Most of them seem unable to construct a coherent sentence !

    What actors / actresses ARE good at is pretending. Pretending emotion, expressions, actions etc. all based on someone else’s directions, ideas, words etc. Most comediennes are also in the same situation, the very good ones having writers etc.
    Sounds like a politician doesn’t it ? Obama is a very good teleprompter reader but is, IMHO, dumb as a stump having heard him on those rare occasions when his teleprompter was ‘down’ !
    If you want to call the ability to pretend to be someone else or pretend to be somewhere else using someone else words and ideas, being a good good communicator, go ahead but I won’t.

    ‘ Showbiz is full of people who want all that is best for everyone, but……….’
    Simply a recycling of the same old tired idea that ‘socialism works if it’s done ‘correctly’ by the ‘right’ people !!
    No it won’t. It’s been tried again and again and always fails because of something called human nature. It’s great that there are some people who will work their lives away for nothing more than the self satisfaction of helping others. If the entire human race was that way, socialism MIGHT work, but sadly those types of people are very rare. Most of us are selfish, to varying degrees, at heart and as long as that is true, socialism will NEVER work.

    If you wish to try and convince the ‘showbiz’ people to become libertarians, go ahead. I’m afraid that you’ll find most of them are too full of guilt ( hence their continual whining about helping the poor and down trodden with YOUR money but not theirs – at least not ENOUGH of their money so that it affects them as much as it would you ! ). That guilt, I have long suspected, is from being, in many cases, vastly overpaid to do something ( act etc. ) that is essentially worthless !

  • Tedd

    For well over a century now, that particular brand of collectivists called socialists has done a brilliantly successful job of convincing people generally and showbiz people in particular of socialism’s niceness.

    And of the nastiness of the straw men they have put up as socialism’s opposites. I’m currently reading Smith’s “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” and it’s quite the eye opener. I had known for some time how opponents of free markets had misrepresented Smith’s economic arguments. But TTMS makes it clear the extent to which Smith’s economic ideas were built on moral ground, and just how badly he has been straw-manned over the years.

    In that sense, one could describe Smith as a bleeding heart libertarian — or a bleeding heart liberal, anyway. I have no problem describing myself as bleeding heart in that same way. Given that the term “bleeding heart” tends to convey as sense of false or misguided sympathy, though, it’s necessary to use the term with a dash of irony.

  • K

    As the NSDAP showed, if you want artists and celebrities on your side, you need both a stick and a carrot. IOWs, either subsidize or ostracize. Which also explains why Hollywood is far left these days.

  • Paul Marks

    Well one can be a “Social Justice” supporter and still oppose monetary expansion (credit bubble finance).

    Hunter Lewis (in “Where Keynes Went Wrong”) points out that Karl Marx mocked what we now call “Keynesianism” before Keynes was born.

    And neither Stalin or Mao were Keynesians – neither thought that printing more money would solve anything.

    All that being said…..

    If Mr Frisby really is a “Social Justice” person (which is what the “Bleeding Hearts” say they are – they even endorse a “Theory of Justice” by John Rawls, the main work of establishment academia – and FALSELY claim that F.A. Hayek endorsed it) then I will not be rushing to listen to him.

    And if he is not a “Bleeding Heart” – then he should not say that he is one.

  • I seriously doubt that all showbiz people have the same influence when it comes to public matters that have nothing to do with showbiz. I’d argue that stand-up comedians have the most influence (if or when they choose to discuss such public matters), followed by singers-songwriters (again, if or when they choose to address such issues in their lyrics), the last being actors. I seriously doubt that all that many people who like watching Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt in a latest flick even know, let alone care, what issues these actors support and on what side of said issues. I agree with nemesis above that it’s the news media people who have the greatest political and ideological influence, especially those in television. In the entertainment media – movies and TV shows – it is the writers who have this power, not the actors.

  • Sam Duncan

    Owing to being run off my feet by a family crisis, I’ve been stuck about three-quarters of the way through the book for the last two weeks, but exactly the same thoughts struck me.

    I really like his approach that market anarchy, or something approaching it, is “real socialism”, in that it actually achieves the ends that socialists promise but consistently fail to deliver. Not that I’d ever put it that way myself. Having spent most of my life recoiling at the very sound of the word, it goes against the grain to suggest that I’m “really” more of a socialist than the actual socialists. But that’s just it: I’m not a socialist who needs convincing of the error of his ways.

    You don’t win people over by telling them they’re stupid. In accepting many of the Left’s concerns but showing, very convincingly, that their methods don’t work, and that a smaller state could make the world a better place by their own definition, I think he could change a lot of minds. Or at least render them less hostile.

  • CaptDMO

    For well over (half)a century now, that particular brand of collectivists called socialists (amongst other self titled identities)has done a brilliantly successful job of convincing people generally and (extorting)showbiz people in particular, of socialism’s niceness (cover).

    Joe McCarthy; Blacklisted by history
    Current trends in threat of blacklisting via. “peaceful protest” of employers.
    (also see: RACIST! Homophobe! Sexist! SCAB!, and oddly, Capitalist!)
    “Approved” reviews/unmerited hype from “other” media outlets.

    Because in THAT brand of Socialism, EVERYBODY get’s to pay “windfall” union dues while MOST continue with their day jobs, while SOME manage to get fat on an astonishing wealth in apples.

  • Paul Marks

    Of course, as Blacklisted in History mentions (in passing) Joe McCarthy was not really interested in Hollywood and so on (much to the frustration of Hollywood leftists, and academics, ever since – who try everything to try and associate SENATOR McCarthy with the HOUSE UnAmerican Activities Committee).

    As for Black Listing – the LEFT invented that (back in the 1930s – and “the spike” also for scripts that were not “Progressive” and did not stand for “Social Justice”).

    In the late 1940s and early 1950s there was a half hearted effort to use the tactics of the left against the left (Black Lists and so on).

    And it backfired – as efforts to use leftist tactics usually do.

  • Paul Marks

    “real socialism”?

    Socialism is the state control of the means of production, distribution and exchange.

    An example of “real socialism” is North Korea.

    If someone likes the collective control of the means of production, distribution and exchange – fair enough.

    If they do not like it, then they should not call themselves socialists.

  • Julie near Chicago

    My posting at Counting Cats to which Brian links is, I think, pretty self-explanatory.

    In common parlance, a “bleeding heart” is someone whose excess of sympathy has caused him to take leave of his reason. Bleeding Heart “Libertarians” are people whose excess of sympathy overrules whatever rational understanding they have of the moral basis of a libertarian political order, which is that you don’t get to tell other people what to do with either themselves or their stuff, including their money, except in the name of protecting them or their stuff from the predations of other people.

    You can’t be a libertarian and still be in favor of expropriation. But that is the circle that the Bleeding Heart L’s are trying to square.

    In this particular case of circle-squaring, my posting links to several pieces by alleged libertarians on the topic of what I’ll call a Guaranteed Basic Income, in which the State in its munificence will give to “each and every citizen” a sum of money each year. They don’t discuss the somewhat obvious fact that this would require the State to help itself to even more of our money–a fact which one would have thought any libertarian would have pretty much in mind at all times. (Yes, we can discuss The Varieties of Libertarian Political Orders, but not just now.)

    As an example of this, I make reference to a podcast interview by Cato of Matt Zwolinski, a philosophy prof at the University of San Diego, who founded the “Bleeding Heart Libertarians.” Per their masthead, they stand for “Free Markets and Social Justice.”

    At Cato’s http://www.libertarianism.org/columns/libertarian-case-basic-income , Prof. Zwolinski posted a piece about the interview. It begins thus, but note that the first paragraph is Cato’s introduction to Zwolinski’s posting:

    The Libertarian Case for a Basic Income
    by Matt Zwolinski

    Guaranteeing a minimum income to the poor is better than our current system of welfare, Zwolinski argues. And it can be justified by libertarian principles.

    . . .
    This morning, I did a short interview with the Cato Institute about the libertarian case for a Basic Income Guarantee. The immediate stimulus for the conversation was the recent Swiss proposal to pay each and every and every citizen 2,500 francs (about 2,800 USD) per month. But conversation quickly turned to the question of whether some form of basic income proposal might be compatible with libertarianism. Some of my colleagues at Bleeding Heart Libertarians have certainly expressed enthusiasm for it in the past. [ ... SNIP ]

  • Julie near Chicago

    As to the topic at hand, I’ve never heard of Mr. Frisby before. So I don’t have the slightest idea of whether he’s a member of the regular “Bleeding Hearts” clique or whether the term just strikes him as a good way to describe himself.

    Anyway, one can certainly be soft-hearted without being completely soft-headed (although I admit it’s tough), and libertarianism–genuine libertarianism, in which government does not practice extortion or worse–is, according to our understanding, the best way to help the poor to become less so. If that important side-effect is some part of what draws a person to libertarianism, that’s hardly cause for complaint.

  • Mr Ed

    When I hear the term ‘Bleeding Heart’, I think of Senator Joe Lieberman, it’s just an association, not an accusation, perhaps mental shorthand.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Ed – Senator Liebermann has some sensible things to say about the Islamic threat, but his domestic policy views are rather bad.

    Ironically I suspect that Matt Z. (and co) would oppose Senator L. on the sensible things he says – and support him when he says foolish things (such as that the Federal government should give everyone money).

    Julie.

    Yes Speenhamland-R-Us.

    To be fair Milton Friedman went for that also (under the name of the “Negative Income Tax”) – but he did not claim to be a libertarian (neither did Richard Nixon who was the President who originally proposed this idea – now called “the earned income tax credit”, mostly paid to people who do NOT pay the Federal income tax).

    The scheme (just handing people money) is supposed to help people retain their dignity whilst getting help from the government.

    And (as was worked out in 19th century England and Wales) is one of the major things WRONG with the scheme.

    Hence the Act of 1834. The indignity of the Workhouse was intentional (you do not like – do not go there). As Ben Franklin said (in the 1700s) government should not seek to make people “comfortable in their poverty” (unless one wants more and more poor people).

    Matt Z. and co declare themselves to be “consequentionalists” (misspelt or whatever) – yet they are seem to be indifferent to the consequences of their policies (known consequences – as Athens under Pericles or the fall of the Roman Republic we know where a policy of government handouts leads, Speenhamland being just a more recent example, as is the growth of the easy-money-if-you-poor American government Food Stamps and “disability” pay to the fit and healthy – because testing people would be “degrading”).

    Of course in most of Scotland there was no compulsory Poor Law at all till 1845.

  • Paul Marks

    Normally when I compare places people say it is unfair (because they are too different or whatever).

    So if I said (for example) – California is ……. and South Dakota is ………. Matt Z. would simply reply that they are totally different places.

    How about what people in the SAME State?

    In South Dakota it is difficult to get welfare – you have to fill in “degrading” forms and so on.

    Unless you are an Indian on a Reservation……

    If you an Indian on a Reservation welfare is just handed to you. And there is free healthcare and so on (just as there is in prison – and one day soon will be for everyone in America).

    Also (and Henry George would be overjoyed) there is no “exploitation” by private landlords – as “the people” (the Tribal Councils) own the land – just as “left libertarians” demand.

    No landlords – and few “bosses” (private employers)- an end to the “exploitation” of the landlords and the “corporate big business bosses” the dream of “freedom” of Rousseau (with “the people”, the tribal council, being in charge). Rousseau believing that private employment was a form of slavery – but being employed by “the people” was freedom (as one was part of the people).

    Now Matt Z. says he is interested in consequences (not this nasty-abstract “non aggression principle” which he OPPOSES) – so let us look at the consequences of the Reservations.

    Matt Z. says he admires “A Theory of Justice” by John Rawls (and it is the central text of the establishment academics – so supporting it would have the consequence of helping Matt Z. in the academic world, getting a doctorate, getting jobs and so on) – but let actually apply an element of the method of John Rawls (in a way, I admit, that John Rawls would have HATED).

    Would you rather be a random person in South Dakota from the population that does not get the government aid, or a random person from the population that does get the government aid?

    I suggest that most leftists would rather be a random person in the population that does not get the special help

    However, (yes I know) the left has a final card to play…….

    The Indians are poor because of white “racism”.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I don’t understand why Cato implicitly endorses the BHL’s, and especially the ones like M.Z., by labelling them “libertarians.”

    If they’re interested in posting stuff by people whom a child of four can see are not really libertarians — why don’t they just say, “Here’s a piece by Joe Schmoe, teacher of philosophy at Point Barrow U., in which he explains what he thinks is wrong with libertarianism.”

    (I have a conjecture about that, but I’d really like to know what other folks think.)

  • Sam Duncan

    Well, Paul, I did say it wasn’t terminology I’d use myself. Having thought about this since my last comment, I think the best way to explain what Frisby seems to be doing is that it’s actually the opposite of the likes of Rawls and Matt Z. Almost.

    Where they disguise socialism with libertarian terms, Frisby is… not exactly “disguising”, but let’s say dressing up his libertarianism in socialistic clothing. And he’s doing so purely, as far as I can see, to avoid scaring the socialists. Certianly there’s been nothing in what I’ve read so far to suggest that he’d give basic income the time of day; it’s totally contrary to his analysis of what’s wrong with the world.

    As always, I may be wrong. I only have three quarters of a book to go on.

  • Tedd

    Julie:

    Perhaps we’re witnessing the evolution of the term “libertarian,” particularly in the U.S. It seems to be common to use the term to mean everything from classical liberal to anarchist. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, because that range of views does have liberty as its core value, putting it at odds with all other political views, and it therefore seems reasonable to have a word for it. “Libertarian” might not be the word you’d choose, but it’s at least reasonably descriptive. (Unlike, say, how Americans tend to use “liberal.”)

    Paul:

    I’m risking blasphemy here, but at least some of the negative income tax proposals I’ve seen here have a lot of merit in comparison to present tax regimes. If we accept for the sake of argument that redistribution of some form will remain a political reality in at least the near future, NIT has the following benefits. It automates redistribution, thereby making a huge part of the bureaucracy redundant. It eliminates the high marginal tax rates that people who received redistribution now face, thereby eliminating the disincentive to work and encouraging compliance. By shifting the point at which the tax curve intercepts the income axis it automatically creates “progressive” taxation — not a selling point if you’re oppod to progressive taxation, but definitely a selling point if you’re trying to convince someone who is to support it. And in some ways the most important benefit is that it simplifies the income tax regime to two variables, the slope (tax rate) and intercept (zero tax income level).

    So within the realm of what’s likely to be possible in the near term a negative income tax can be regarded as an improvement.

  • Julie near Chicago

    This is interesting. It’s the first comment to the article whose link I posted at CCiZ (and now, here).

    By the way–note that the article’s headline has “Libertarians” in quotes. *Applause*

    U.S. “Libertarians” debate basic income

    COMMENT:

    Tackling the libertarians will be the biggest challenge for the basic income movement. I want a basic income that makes good on the ideals of egalitarianism. But there is a big risk that we instead get a watered down, minimal libertarian basic income as an excuse to tear apart all welfare state institutions.

    Posted by Dee
    December 6, 2013, 1:21 pm

  • veryretired

    I don’t know the guy either, Julie, but I like anybody who could invent such a cool toy.

  • Paul Marks

    Tedd – it depends what you mean by “anarchist”.

    If you mean someone who waves a black flag and blames everything on “the bosses” (“the rich” and “the corporations”) and goes along (to steal, smash and rape) to their local “Occupy” event. Then, no, they are not friends.

    If you mean anarcho CAPITALIST (who denounces the evil that is “Social Justice”) then they are friends (and better libertarians that I am – I have a dark longing for the Sword of State, or the push in front of a moving train state).

    As for a Negative Income Tax – as Milton Freidman found out with Richard Nixon, such a scheme is never INSTEAD OF other Welfare State schemes, it always ON TOP OF those schemes (that is what the “earned income tax credit” – which is not “earned” and is not a “credit” is).

    Milton Friedman made an honest mistake and found out it was a mistake many decades ago now.

    If Matt Z. comes out with the same sort of thing (or, rather worse things) now, I am not going to assume he knows nothing of recent history.

    That he does not know about the failure of Speenhamland – perhaps he does not. But that he does not know of recent American history in this area of policy?

    This does not seem likely to me.

    So, no, I do not believe it is an honest mistake.

  • Paul Marks

    Sam – as you have read Mr Frisby (and I have NOT) I must accept what you say.

    So I will confine myself to saying that I wish he did not use “socialist terms for libertarian concepts”.

    I do not think it will fool any socialists.

    I think the error is to assume that it is just their TERMINOLOGY that socialists love – that they actually have noble intentions, but are stuck with this weird terminology (so if we use their terminology for very different policies……).

    I do not agree that they have noble intentions – I think the polices are not a means-to-an-end (I believe that power is the objective).

    After all – these are the people who spend their time informing on others (indeed even on each other) as “racists”, “sexists” “homophobes” and so on.

    They are not some hard working factory worker types who have just got the wrong idea in their heads that things would be better if the state owned the factory.

    They are Frankfurt School (Critical Theory) students and academics (officials and media types).

    Not nice – not nice at all.

    We are not dealing with Robert Owen types – we are dealing with Saul Alinksy types (the intentions are vile).

    Therefore I fully accept your account that Mr Frisby is as you say he is – and I hold him to be wasting his time.

    As for socialists of the old school – i.e. people who support socialism because they think it will produce higher material living standards.

    Yes appeal to them – but appeal to them straight.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yeah, VR, but I think that guy used two “e’s” instead of a “y.”

    Our dorms were three 4-storey buildings connected in a “U,” with a fourth building, slightly detached, closing the “U” and containing the lobby, cafeteria, switchboard, and the “fishbowls” — LOL, no kidding, three large, roomy nooks with one side open, each containing a couch that would seat three good friends, each facing a 100%-window wall, walls on both sides, no wall behind the couches. From around 7 p.m. until shutdown (10 on weeknights, IIRC) the couches were usually occupied by couples passing the evening sitting in front of those very large plate-glass windows and necking for all they were worth.

    . . . So, quite a large grassy lawn enclosed by the four buildings. When Frisbee Fever hit, everybody went outside to throw Frisbees in the warm air of Spring. :>))))

    Heh–first half of the ’60′s. Sure beats spending the day Sitting In, or intimidating the Ad(ministration) Building into shutting down, or trying to build up enough Rage to try to discombobulate the cops, but not Hizzoner, several years down the road.

    Ah, sweet memories of youth! Anyway, from Wikipedia, which also tells us that Wham-O Toy Company has issued an edict saying that we may not call them “Frisbees” any more: No, they SHALL BE known as “flying discs” henceforth. Cheez, some people need to get a life!

    In June 1957, Wham-O co-founder Richard Knerr decided to stimulate sales by giving the discs the additional brand name Frisbee (pronounced “friz’-bee”), after learning that Northeastern college students were calling the Pluto Platter by that name,[6] the term “Frisbee” coming from the name of the Bridgeport, CT pie manufacturer Frisbie Pie Company.[7] “I thought the name was a horror… terrible,” Morrison told The Press-Enterprise of Riverside[this quote needs a citation] in 2007. In 1982, Morrison told Forbes magazine[this quote needs a citation] that he had received about US$2 million in royalty payments and said: “I wouldn’t change the name of it for the world.”[8]

  • Julie near Chicago

    Tedd, yes, a lot of Conservative-ish people and free-market people have decided they’re really libertarians, and with Paul’s proviso that the “anarchists” among them are the anarcho-capitalist-individualist types, that’s fine with me. But there’s some unease down here that the left seems to be trying to do what it always does, which is to mouthe some vaguely libertarian-sounding rhetoric and then hijack the name for themselves, so that yet again our Name has been taken.

    I don’t know what percentage of the BHL’s are really leftists who either don’t realize it or know it perfectly well but won’t admit it publicly. But Paul is right: How can people like M.Z. not know the basic economic record of the last 40 years or so?

  • Paul Marks

    Julie I have learned to be very careful about stuff from Cato – and even more careful about stuff from “Reason”.

    Charles and David Koch tried to clean up Cato (and got called all sorts of dreadful names for trying to clear up the place) – but I am uncertain how well they succeeded, sometimes Cato produces wonderful (really wonderful) stuff, but then…….

    Reason is even more unreliable.

    I recently (confession time) recommended a Reason attack on Obamacare – because it said various good things.

    However I had (in my rush to get on) jumped over the first paragraph.

    And there it said that conservatives were telling “whoppers” (i.e. LYING) about Obamacare costing millions of jobs and about Death Panels.

    But Obamacare WILL cost millions of jobs and Death Panels (although under a different name) are central to the Obamacare idea.

    No “whoppers”.

    So why was this leftist paragraph doing there?

    I suppose so they can say “we attack conservatives as well as Progressives”.

    But it was such a B.S. attack on conservatives – and it undermined everything else the Reason article had to say.

    I remember back in 2008 when both Reason and Cato turned out to have Obama supporters in them.

    So did the conservative National Review – the son of William F. Buckley (sorry but he must have been given that job on the basis of who is father was – the young man never had any other merits, he even exploited his own mother’s death).

    What happened at Cato and Reason seems to have been less vile than that – but still wrong headed.

    People come from the universities – knowing all the clever-clever academic language and saying they are libertarians.

    Wonderful! Give them jobs!

    Dumb – bone dumb.

  • Laird

    The term “bleeding heart libertarian” seems to belong* to the blog of that name, and I long ago stopped reading it because I found it invariably infuriating. Those people are not libertarians, and I suspect that (as others here have suggested) they are merely trying to dress up socialist/communitarian ideas in libertarian garb. I suppose that could be seen as a compliment, but I find it distressing to see the name so corrupted and perverted to a meaning nearly the opposite of the correct one. It’s a typical leftist tactic, and I don’t condone acceding to it.

    Which brings me to Mr. Frisby. I don’t know anything about the man (other than what is in this post) and haven’t read his book, but taking as given that he’s a Generally Good Fellow and his book is chock-full of truly libertarian ideas, I have a problem with his adoption of the BHL description. He has to know what it means; I’m not aware that the term is in general use other than on (or with relation to) that execrable blog. By assuming it he appears to be either yet another socialist in libertarian clothing or a true libertarian affecting a socialist-lite persona in order to seduce real socialist to our cause. Hopefully it’s the latter, but as Paul Marks has already said that’s a waste of time. In his talks, and future editions of his book, he would be wiser to coin a less loaded term to describe his desire to better the lot of the poor. What’s the point of alienating existing libertarians in his quest to attract converts?

    * Not to imply that it’s copyrighted or anything like that (they generally oppose the idea of intellectual property), but they seem to have invented the term and so have the right to define it.

  • Paul Marks

    Laird.

    Well we have both read stuff from the Bleeding Hearts – till we could read no more(without danger of a stroke).

    But neither of us have read Mr Frisby’s book.

    So all we can say is that we wish Mr Frisby would not use the same language as the B.H.s do – but we can not say he is no good (as they are clearly no good).

    As for the B.H.s – they will dismiss any opposition from either of us as “angry middle aged white men”.

    In my case I simply can not argue with that – because I am male, white, middle aged, and (yes) angry.

    I do not regard their counter attack as relevant, but it is true – and so I have to admit that it true.

    And they can attack me as a “reactionary” – as that is true also. After all I first got into politics (when I was between 5 and 10 years of age) partly because I opposed the Soviet Union, but mostly because I hated the things going on around me.

    Whether it was the government subsidised development schemes in my home town (back in the 1970s they were busy destroying Gold Street – and I lived, above the shop, in Gold Street) – which are still happening (the latest twist is government “loans” for roads and drainage for the new “East Kettering” – so I have been a total failure) or at school……

    Not just the non-existent teaching of basic skills (I did not even learn to read at school), but also the endless Progressive propaganda.

    For example, “bring food to the party to share with your friends”.

    So my parents gave me food to “share with my friends” – the food was taken (by violence) by the teachers and given to my enemies (I still have scars on my body that these children, and others, gave me over the years although, in spite of lack of coordination, I can not remember a single occasion when I was a attacked one-on-one).

    The food was considered rightfully collectively owned you see – to be “distributed” under the principle of “fairness”.

    So I do not need Matt Z. to tell me what a wonderful person John Rawls was – as already expressed the ideas of John Rawls (and his Social Justice tradition) before either I (or Matt Z.) had even heard his name.

    I entered political life (broadly defined) to send these people on a one way trip to Hell – not to make friends with them.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I agree, Paul. I’ve never been much of a Cato fan (nor anywhere else, for that matter, but Cato set up red flags for me a long time ago).

    I’ve also read articles saying that the Incumbent’s campaign, the Dems, or at least the official Progressives (as opposed to the Republican ones) and Hard Left, did purposely infiltrate Cato and other institutions, not to mention the Tea Party itself, in order to demonize the latter.

    Although Randy Barnett used to be at Cato. Don’t know if he still is. I still like him, although I think he’s not quite the Messiah after all. :>))

    As for Reason, the good thing there is the 8-minute video interview of Richard Epstein, by Nick Gillespie. But then, a polliwog could interview R.E. and it would turn out to be interesting.

    Laird — it’s very difficult to disagree with your description of the BHL weblog, so I think I won’t try. :>))

  • hennesli

    I have not read the BHL blog, however it makes no sense to talk about the term Libertarian being ‘hijacked’ by the left when Libertarianism has always had it’s roots not in conservatism but in radicalism. I suggest reading Left and Right: The Prospects of Liberty by Murray N. Rothbard, it details how the political ancestors of Libertarianism were invariably counted on the left.

  • Paul Marks

    hennesli – Rothbard (at various times) tried appealing to everyone, from Marxists in the 1960s and early 1970s, to Southern Neo Confederates in the 1990s. Each time history was altered to serve his current purpose.

    Also please define “radicalism” and “the left”.

    If you mean people who blame “the rich” and “big business” for most problems – then you are just wrong in associating this with libertarianism, flat wrong.

  • Laird

    Hennesli, I never used the terms “left” or “right”. I very carefully used “socialist.” Most other people here have, too.

    We libertarians sometimes refer to ourselves as “classic liberals”, so there’s no attempt to deny our liberal roots. (Or, if you prefer, our “radical” roots, provided that you’re using the old literal definition of that term.) In fact, we also decry the “hijacking” of the word “liberal” by socialists once they had damaged that word beyond all repair (as they have now done with “liberal”, and so have moved on to “progressive”). The common thread in all this is that socialists/communists/Marxists have a long history of debasing the language and corrupting the meaning of previously useful words.

    And none of which refutes the fact that BHLs have turned the meaning of “libertarian” on its head.

  • Paul Marks

    Julie.

    There is a lot of good from both Cato and Reason.

    On the matter of infiltrators – in a way it is a complement (the left do not bother with things that are not important).

    It is not difficult to spot infiltrator – a few questions and they show what they really are (no thumbscrews are needed).

    One trick they do pull it to give “joke” answers (with a little crooked smile) – but once one knows that trick, it is useless.

    Another problem is not “infiltration” (such as people turning up at Tea Party events to say racist things for the media creatures), but permeation – the spread of bad ideas.

    A classic example of this is when Rothbard urged young libertarians to associate with Marxists (“left and right join hands”) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He hoped that the Marxists would be converted to libertarianism – instead (of course) the youngsters were converted to Marxism.

    The reason? He (Rothbard) had not explained to them that what the left teach is FALSE (he just tried to twist the ending to give a libertarian twist to the conclusions).

    For example, Rothbard (and co) just accepted the (FALSE) history of G. Kolko (that big business dominated American government policy in the 1900s – the time of “Teddy” Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, he just added the libertarian conclusion and-this-means-that-government-is-bad.

    Actually Kolko’s history is as false as the standard history (that “anti trust” and so on is a good thing – the sort of good-intentions-automatically-lead-to-good-results history that one finds even in Andrew Roberts’ “History of the English Speaking Peoples”).

    Sending in young people filled with Kolko, and other leftists, but just with the conclusions tweaked, was no good – no good at all.

    Of course they (the young people) ended up socialists (or communal “anarchists” – Black Flaggers).

    In practice it makes no difference if someone is a Red Flagger (a Marxist) or a Black Flagger (or COMMUNAL anarchists) – both will go round smashing and burning (and attacking people – even there own kind, as with the rapes among the “Occupy” vermin).

    Neither (not Red Flaggers or Black Flaggers) has any respect for private property in the means of production, distribution and exchange – because they have been taught to love only “fairness”, “social justice”.

    When they see the life of (for example)Jon Huntsman – they feel no admiration for his achievements, they see only a “rich fat cat”, part of “big business”, so they feel only envy and the desire to destroy.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Laird – I should not use the word “left”, it is too vague. And some people “on the left” (such as Bastiat) were historically good guys.

    I should say “those who think there is something wrong with some people being vastly better off than other people”.

    Which covers not just “socialists” but other nasties also.

    However, “those who think there is something wrong with some people being vastly better off than other people” is a bit longwinded.

  • “because people at the bottom of the heap ought to get better chances in life than they now get, that is why unswerving and principled libertarianism is the absolute right thing”

    This is what I have been trying to say. And also what I thought Bleeding Heart Libertarians were, when I first heard the term.

  • Paul Marks

    Rob Fisher.

    “I support the nonaggression principle (libertarianism) because it gives the poor the best chance in life they can get” might indeed be a consequentialist reason to support the nonaggression principle.

    The trouble is that Matt Z. has ATTACKED the non aggression principle. He does not say “I support the non aggression principle because……” he opposes the nonaggression principle.

    Of course you cover that when you say “when I first heard the term” – i.e. before you learned what they really were.

    I had no trust in them right from the start – but I am nasty person (filled with suspicion and always suspecting motives).

    It is not good to be like me.

    Your approach (give people the benefit of the doubt – till they let you down) is better.

  • […] a kind of benign spacial variant of the original Parkinson’s Law. Last Friday, for instance, Dominic Frisby looked like he might be stretching my infrastructure beyond its limits. But then I emailed people […]