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Libertarian Democrats?

The Daily Kos has an article about the notion of Libertarian Democrats which attempts top square the circle of favouring government regulation with that of personal liberty. Now before you all snort with derision, at least ‘kos’ attempts to essay a way to avoid the inevitable problems that result from trying to legislate everything.

And that said, the article falls pretty much at the first fence.

The problem with this form of libertarianism is that it assumes that only two forces can infringe on liberty – the government and other individuals. The Libertarian Democrat understands that there is a third danger to personal liberty – the corporation. The Libertarian Dem understands that corporations, left unchecked, can be huge dangers to our personal liberties.

And there you have one of the classical error of the left: the idea that corporations have great power to coerce in and of themselves. Now it is true that corporations often behave disgracefully (no one has ever accused Samizdata of being soft of corporate wickedness or being reflexively well disposed towards Big Biz) but the overwhelming way they do this is by using their vast wealth to manipulate the power of the state in their favour. When the state uses the power of eminent domain to take land from people so a wealthy corporation can profit from it, that is an example of state power. When corporations get subsidies and regulations which make it harder for new market entrants to compete with them, that is an example of state power. When corporations use laws to bust unions and restrict reasonable rights of workers to organise, that is an example of state power.

Large corporations can coerce people because they can manipulate excessively mighty state power. The problem is the amount and scope of coersive power that the state has been allowed to accumulate. Make the state’s power to do things less and you make large corporations less able to coerce people as an inevitable consequence. It is just a variant of the notion that the only way to stop corruption in high places is to get rid of high places. Kos does not have to agree with that (and he surely does not) but then that is one the main notions underpinning what makes a libertarian a libertarian.

And thus it shows that ‘kos’ truly does not understand what ‘libertarian’ really means and so his use of the word is simply a category error. You can coerce a society out from under tyranny (i.e. you can shoot tyrants and hang their retainers) but cannot coerce a society into liberty by just using the power of the state to impose it via state mandates (i.e. the roads and healthcare and all the rest that he advocates, showing that his notion of what ‘libertarian’ means involves large amounts of coercive taxation in no way different to what prevails right now).

In short, ‘kos’ can call himself a Libertarian Democrat if he wishes. He can also call himself a horse if he wishes. However saying it does not make it so.

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95 comments to Libertarian Democrats?

  • Quenton

    The notion of a far-left Democrat (i.e. Socialist/Communist) being anything close to a Libertarian is laughable. The crux of the argument presented is that anyone with enough power to influence the State is a danger to society and should be pulled down off their ladder. Essentially, this is all just re-hashed Communist propaganda with some different clothes on to try to appeal to the unwary.

  • Mike Lorrey

    It is a current fad of the left to engage in entryism into the libertarian community, whether it is Greens, Georgists, Mutualists, or, worse yet, the so-called “National Socialist Green Libertarians” who are attempting to fuse the moonbat left with the moonbat right by taking them both so far around the bend that they meet (their problem being they go in the wrong direction around the bend, to authoritarianism rather than libertarianism).

    Kos, Bill Maher, among others are concerned that while there is always a certain sect of the Republican party that considers itself Libertarian and traditionally “whiggish” (Given that both the GOP and the US Democrats originated as Whigs, as opposed to Tories who remained loyal to Britain), while the Democrats rarely have the courage to do so, and then only as a “civil libertarian” (based on their idea that Government is the grantor of rights), when they aren’t running scared of being tarred for being “soft on crime”, “soft on defense”, etc. They worry that the GOP gains more traction as the only real protector of the constitution, while at the same time they worry about being supplanted by the growing LP.

    I’ve often responded to this mistake that Kos, like so many other left libbers make, in assuming that corporations posess power independent of the state. I would cut the knot by suggesting that rather than being fixated on big bad big-C Corporations, per se, they should see that the only real problem of corps outside of their state-granted powers, is the problem of groupism in general allowing collectives to suppress individuals or smaller groups by sheer numbers.

  • veryretired

    While bizarre, the effort makes a certain oddball sense from a political point of view. One of the frequent talking points of liberals in the US is that they support civil rights and protect diverse lifestyles and views. I’m not going to get into any long dissection of this position, so I will just note its prominent place in liberal mythology.

    Meanwhile, liberals have lost several major elections, and are searching for ways to expand their coalition. It must be very clear to any practically minded liberal that their support in the population at large has not improved, even if Bush’s administration is in trouble in the polls.

    What to do, what to do? Let’s reframe the message (remember all the talk about the need for that after the last election?) to emphasize the “liberal Dem as protector of the little guy” myth, and see if there’s a way to make regulating everything possible turn into a mechanism for being “for” individual rights.

    And, viola’, the argument presented here.

    It has all the buzz words—equality, power, oppression, freedom from coercion, etc., etc.

    All one has to do is allow the concept of “bigness is evil” to be applied to business entities, and allow the influence they have in society to be equated to the use of force by the state.

    If anyone can swallow that, it’s doubtful they were ever thoughtfully involved with libertarian ideas much to begin with. But, of course, it’s the appearence of libertarianism that is sought after here, not any actual incorporation of libertarian ideas or principles into policy proposals.

    Like so much of the political posturing found all along the spectrum, this is all smoke and mirrors. What’s funny is the fact that they all talked about doing it very openly in various blogs and political journals for months, and now expect that no one will notice how contrived and phony the whole operation actually is.

    It strikes me that this kind of cynical ploy is a very good example of one characteristic belief of the liberal elite—their contempt for the intelligience of the average citizen.

  • Mutualists and Georgists are indeed libertarians.

    While Perry is right, few libertarians realise just how much big government is driven by corporate interest. If Libertarian Democrats bring that issue to the forefront, so much the better for all of us.

    – Josh

  • The Last Toryboy

    Some breeds of Anarchism are essentially left wing though, no? At least, the anarchists themselves identify themselves as such. The anti globalisation nutters for example, the anarchist Green types, that sort of political grouping. The Spanish anarchists of the civil war era seemed to be almost communist to me – taking over factories and such – which presumably is why the USSR supported them.

    But yes, I would have thought socialism and libertarianism were at opposite ends of the spectrum.

  • Midwesterner

    TLT,

    “Some breeds of Anarchism are essentially left wing though, no?”

    I think there are some anarchists here who are pretty far anti property. Certainly there is a strong contingent that doesn’t believe in IP. But there also seems to be a few ‘libertarians’ who frequently use ‘for the greater good’ to justify property rights.

    While I personally believe that recognizing individual property is for the greater good, that’s not why I support it. It stands on a philosophical (hense moral) foundation, not a pragmatic one.

  • Uain

    This ploy comes ’round historically when the democrats start to worry that they aren’t popular. They assume that the typical rube of a voter will not know really what a libertarian is, so they lay hold to claim they are, well… actually quite libertartian themselves. Not many are fooled by this and it is only a matter of time until the Kos-sacks rise up in anger when it gets out that tolerance of gun rights more often than not figures into libertarian views.

  • CFM

    This is nothing new. The Left has only one methodology when not in power:

    Sophistry.

    CFM

  • flushingmemos

    I’m a leftie, not a libertarian as such, but I certainly toy with the idea of a green-libertarian alliance, not because there is such great agreement between the two, but because what agreement there is could be a powerful platform.

    I want to actually change things, and to my mind that means making a real third party, which means teaming up with people you disagree with.

    Do libertarians understand the idea of the corporate-government complex, how institutions with money buy politicians who then give them subsidies? If not, there can be no alliance.

    The corporate-government complex means that to limit government we have to restrict corporate access to it. That means regulating corporations.

    With the current state of affairs, there are many lefties who don’t care about redistributing wealth, they just want to clean up the government. We don’t want to take anyone’s money or “pull down” people who rise to the top, we just want to keep them from shitting all over everyone in the process.

    Do libertarians understand how making enviromentally damaging practices illegal can be as important and valid as making murder illegal?

    Do libertarians notice that we’re spending more money than ever on a war we didn’t need to fight? A war started by people who move from government to business and back again?

    How do propose we eliminate the government power businesses abuse?

    This is the possibility that I, as someone looking for practical ways to actually change things, dread: that libertarians are so out of it they think we can have a global empire and shrink the government, as if defense were such a small part of our budget, or needs to be that big.

    These are questions I honestly wonder about. I’m not trolling, just trying to have some discussion, whatever. Sorry for butting in to your echo chamber.

    PS – Judging from the wikipedia entry, that national socialist green thing HAS to be a joke.

  • Not necessarily. The Nazis and the Greens share a common political ancestor from the 19th century, I believe.

  • but the overwhelming way they do this is by using their vast wealth to manipulate the power of the state in their favour

    abso-bleedin-utely! And the Left’s answer? MORE control, which means the need for MORE manipulation of government by businesses to mitigate it, MORE corruption and MORE infringement of the rights of individuals. Look right now in the UK with PPP and other fiascos – all it means is the corps woo the state and the state takes our money to hand over to Capita or somesuch parasite§ to make a profit off us without consent.

    The Left is like a hammer – all it can see are nails all around.

    § who would never have prospered so otherwise.

  • flushingmemos

    Forgive me for being a nazi sophist who only sees nails, but I still haven’t heard how you’re going to limit government power without regulating corporate behavior. Just a bunch of lefty-trashing. Who’s the sophist?

  • A Green-libertarian alliance makes as much sense as a Dracula-Van Helsing alliance. Green policy goes far beyond environmental policy. The US Green Party, for example, supports: government subsidy and rationing of media coverage for political candidates, voting rights for prisoners, the primacy of UN resolutions, the legitimacy of the Int’l Criminal Court, abolition of nukes and land mines, massive government intervention in world trade, the concept of hate crimes, rent control, progressive taxation, and socialism and welfare statism galore. What kind of alliance could a libertarian forge with that???

  • flushingmemos asks some reasonable questions that deserve reasonable replies:

    Do libertarians understand the idea of the corporate-government complex, how institutions with money buy politicians who then give them subsidies?

    That was pretty much the subject of my article.

    The corporate-government complex means that to limit government we have to restrict corporate access to it. That means regulating corporations.

    It is not an issue of access to power, it is an issue of the power being there at all. It is a question of people tolerating the state doing whole categories of things rather than what they do within those categories. I am not prepared to argue for or against a given education policy or a given transportation policy because I do not want there to be any state policies regarding those things at all. None, nada, zip. I do not care as much who is getting corporate back-handers whilst they run the Department of Trade and Industry, I do not want there to be a DTI at all. THAT is the only way to limit corporations influencing government… by making less for them to influence. It is not who has the power, it is that such power over others is tolerated at all.

    With the current state of affairs, there are many lefties who don’t care about redistributing wealth, they just want to clean up the government.

    But that is where you have more in common with reformist Tories and Republicans rather than libertarians. Libertarians do not want reformed government (and the last thing they want is more effective ‘cleaned up’ government) they want less government. They want social solutions to problems rather than political ones wherever possible (and sometimes it is not possible).

    We don’t want to take anyone’s money or “pull down” people who rise to the top, we just want to keep them from shitting all over everyone in the process.

    There at least we are pretty much in agreement, but the solution to most libertarians is quite straightforward (in concept at least) – limit the power of the state to do things and you by definition limit the power available to be used by anyone to shit on anyone.

    Do libertarians understand how making enviromentally damaging practices illegal can be as important and valid as making murder illegal?

    In a word, no.

    Do libertarians notice that we’re spending more money than ever on a war we didn’t need to fight? A war started by people who move from government to business and back again?

    I guess that rather depends who the question is directed to. If I was an Iraqi under Saddam Hussain’s regime your question would seem pretty strange and the fact the people who presided over the death of psychopaths like Uday and Qusay moved between Big Biz and Government might strike me as rather arcane.

    My general notion is that it is usually a good idea to shoot at tyrants whenever a suitable opportunity presents itself. I will not get into a long discussion here as to whether or not it was a good idea to overthrow the Iraqi Ba’athists specifically but as a general matter of principle, the lesser evil destroying the greater evil is sometimes the least-worse option. I have seen a war up close and I am not, to put it mildly, a pacifist. I wish this could be done via protection agencies and PMCs but in the real world of the here and now, that is not currently an option.

    That said, please do not mistake my views for blanket approval of US foreign policy (far from it)… but this thread is not the place for that discussion.

    How do propose we eliminate the government power businesses abuse?

    By refusing to accept that most of what states do is morally valid and proceeding on that basis. The whole point of (viable) constitutions are to limit the powers of the state, so the basic notion that political power (which means using the collective means of coercion to make people do things) is something that has to have limits is hardly radical. That needs to be built on.

    This is the possibility that I, as someone looking for practical ways to actually change things, dread: that libertarians are so out of it they think we can have a global empire and shrink the government, as if defense were such a small part of our budget, or needs to be that big.

    I agree empires are a Bad Thing, but I also take a less USA-centric view than your question seems predicated on when doing the cost-benefit analysis of when it is a good idea to start shooting at people. Moreover most coercive taxation is not spent on the military, even in the USA. If all the USA state did was spend on tanks and bombs, the state would be a great deal less corrosive to civil society than it is at the moment.

    These are questions I honestly wonder about. I’m not trolling, just trying to have some discussion, whatever. Sorry for butting in to your echo chamber.

    No, those are all entirely fair questions.

  • Paul Marks

    I do not know about “libertarian” Democrats, but there used to be Democrats who had some understanding of the problems the United States (and the world) face.

    For example Senator Bob Kerry (not to be confused with Senator John Kerry) understood that government “entitlement programs” (the welfare state) was exploding out of control – and unless such things as were rolled back the Republic would be desroyed.

    However, I doubt there is a single Democrat in House or Senate who understands such matters today. Of course most Republicans, even if they understand such matters, tend to keep rather quiet about them (Ron Paul and a few others aside) for fear of losing votes.

    As for corportations.

    If someone knows in advance that they are dealing with a limited libility company they have no right to complain that “they went bust owing me money – yet I see the shareholders in big cars and with nice houses”.

    Errrr you knew there was chance of that when you did business with the organization – that is why it was called “Incorporated” (if in the United States) or “Limited” (if in Britain). Such limited liability (i.e. the shareholders not putting all their assets on the line – as if they were “Names” at Lloyds) is, in fact, far older than the limited liabilty statutes of the 19th century (there were various legal ways of setting up a limited liability enterprise).

    However, corportations do have advantages in tax law over individually owned companies – and these advantages should be eliminated.

    Here we come to the key point. Democrats in the United States are the last people to be in favour of getting rid of the taxes that undermine individually owned enterprises and hand over the economy to the corps.

    There are three main taxes that do the damage in this area.

    The income tax (especially at the higher rates). Corps pay corportation tax instead (at a rather high rate in the United States), but high rate income tax still undermines individually owed enterprises.

    And who is against flat taxes (or even reducing the top rate of income tax) – the Democrats.

    Inheritance tax – individuals pay it and corps (not dying in the normal sense) do not. Thus people have an incentive to turn their children into “trust fund kids” (whose income is protected from the tax) – rather than OWNERS (most of the decadance of the young rich is due to the fact that their income, as it comes from a trust fund not how they mange a business, is not connected with their behaviour).

    And who is in favour of bringing back the death tax – the Democrats (and clever-clever media friendly Republicans). Thus undermining family tradition that (for example) has allowed German manufacturing to survive terrible burdens. People who attack “short termism” in business and then support inheritance tax are trapped in a contradiction.

    And Capital Gains Tax – individual share holders are undermined, and even ownership of corportations is handed over to other corporate bodies (such as pension funds).

    So both owner-manager business enterprises and individual shareholders go into decline.

    And who is against getting rid of the Capital Gains Tax – the Democrats.

    Indeed today the British Liberal Democratic party (ironically as part of a package that is being presented as a roll back of their “progressive” tax ideas) has announced that it is favour of INCREASING Capital Gains Tax.

    They either do not understand or do not care that this means yet more undermining of individual ownership – and yet more power to the corporations.

    What can one expect from a party whose leader says that the thinker who has had most influence upon him was J.S. Mill (a man who certainly was not the free market person that some libertarians think he was).

  • ‘kos’ truly does not understand what ‘libertarian’ really means and so his use of the word is simply a category error.

    It doesn’t matter what ‘libertarian’ really means, there is no authority in language. Its best to simply ignore the labels and stick to offering criticism of the arguments. People are in thrall to false ideas not conceptual confusion.

  • It doesn’t matter what ‘libertarian’ really means, there is no authority in language

    No, semantics matter. No intelligent discource is possible if you just redefine the meaning of words to mean their opposite when it suits you tactically. Read Orwell’s 1984 to see someone who understood why it is a mistake to let anyone make an argument by inverting the meaning of words which already have meaning vested in them.

  • rob

    last tory boy, have a read of anthony beevors book about the spanish civil war. stalin was no fan of the spanish anarchists. the communists and the anarchists actually fought a civil war within the larger civil war at one point.

    the anarchists didnt actually do too badly in the areas they controlled; they didnt confiscate absolutely everything, and their communism was on a (largely) voulntaristic basis. i personally would have preferred them to either the communists or fascists. anyway, history lesson over, sorry for going a bit off topic!

  • steves

    “The corporate-government complex means that to limit government we have to restrict corporate access to it. That means regulating corporations.”

    Apologies if I am repeating other comments, but surely the above as been inversed, to limit the power of corporations use of state coercion take away the power of the state.

    A typically statist response, no matter the size of the company if politicians were unable to supply influence why buy them.

  • flushingmemos, I think Perry has said it. It is not leftie-bashing but just the forthright explanation of Reason. Without control the government cannot stop or divert things, so companies do not need them…bless.

  • No, semantics matter. No intelligent discource is possible if you just redefine the meaning of words to mean their opposite when it suits you tactically. Read Orwell’s 1984 to see someone who understood why it is a mistake to let anyone make an argument by inverting the meaning of words which already have meaning vested in them.

    No, this is an essentialist fallacy. People are mislead by false theories not confused by semantics. Orwell overrates the potency of newspeak just as modern leftists overrate the power of advertising. Words are just tools we use in formulating and criticizing theories and we can use a spanner to knock in a nail if we can’t find a hammer.

    “Never let yourself be goaded into taking seriously problems about words and their meanings. What must be taken seriously are questions of fact, and assertions about facts: theories and hypotheses, the problems they solve and the problems they raise….

    In my opinion, words also play a merely technical or pragmatic role in the formulation of theories. Thus both letters and words are mere means to ends (different ends). And the only intellectually important ends are: the formulation of problems; the tentative proposing of theories to solve them; and the critical discussion of the competing theories.”

    Karl Popper, Unended Quest

  • No, this is one of those areas where Popper was completely wrong and Rand got it completely right (it is not often I say that).

    I think it is naive to think that appropriating words with a one association to get people to incorrectly consequentially associate that with something else is not both effective and a well know tactic.

    The reason people who in Europe would call themselves socialists call themselves liberals in the USA is that whereas associations with liberality are seen as’ good’ in the USA, associations with socialism are ‘bad’… so the S word is replaced with another word with ‘good’ associations.

    The political calculus is something like this:

    “Those kooky libertarians are too radical but they do strike a chord with all that ‘liberty’ and ‘individual rights’ and ‘get the state of my backs’ stuff that spout… so we will give people the impression that we also care about that stuff too by calling ourselves ‘libertarians’ as well but then add ‘democrat’ (or ‘socialist’) to let people know that you can have that good stuff as well as nationalised healthcare, a regulated economy and a big government.”

    If you doubt that then just read some of the comment on that Kos article.

    Kos is NOT engaging in an intellectual debate and it is preposterous to think otherwise. He is engaged in developing a political tactic and you appear to have fallen for it. Semantics matter a great deal in politics, not to mention making coherent discourse of any sort possible.

  • veryretired

    A very informative and cogently argued discussion. My thanks to Perry and Paul especially for taking the time to clarify some significant issues.

    Anytime there is a claim made of libertarian status, one question will clarify the validity of the claim: How do you propose to dismantle the entitlement structure in the state and federal governments’ budgets?

    “The Pentagon is spending all our money” is an old and reliable leftist line and, like most of their lines, completely false. The great majority of the money consumed by the state at all levels is redistributed in various entitlement and subsidy programs.

    The most significant of these is the massive transfer of money taken from middle class working families and given to aging, wealthier, non-productive senior citizens whose lobby is the most powerful political force in the country. The teachers’ unions are second.

    Perhaps fish whatever could give us his plan for minimizing the influence of those ultra powerful lobbies, unless he is too worn out from actually having to deal with real ideas here at the “echo chamber” to construct any further condescending and insulting posts about what we don’t know and can’t seem to understand regarding the left’s wonderful committment to saving us from the evils of big business and private commercial activity.

    I don’t think I’ll hold my breath waiting for a coherent answer.

  • Chris Padfield

    Large corporations can coerce people because they can manipulate excessively mighty state power.

    This is not a necessary condition for corporations coercing people. All a corporation needs is a natural monopoly; in some situations a strong oligopoly will do.

    Market failure is the cause of most corporate “evil”. The problem is that you sometimes need government to correct that market failure.

  • Sark

    Dig deep enough and you will aways find regulations are at the core of all monopoly. And as regulations decay along with political power, no monopoly can survive for long.

  • toolkien

    1) I’ve exhausted myself debating with Dems/Progressives that, even if there is something to fear from Big Business, there is something much to fear in government that is 100 times bigger than any corporation (which really means something given the relative size already).

    2) I’ve always felt that Big Business owes its existence to the growing State which preceded them. Without government intervention going back to Hamilton, the Louisiana Purchase (for the US obviously) and Manifest Destiny, Big Business could not have been incubated. Big Railroad was a direct consequnce of Big Government.

    3) verytired,

    It is amazing just how selective people are when it comes to large influence at the State level. There is obviously an a priori bias for and against certain groups. Libertarian Democrats choose only those which fit their preconceptions. I guess the same went for me when I styled myself a Libertarian Republican, they just don’t seem to fit. There are a lot of folk who style themselves Libertarian, but when examined, have their own weaknesses when it comes to State intervention. At the end of the day, I think most people really just want a reduction of State that affects them negatively and the same or increased amount of State for those things which concern them. But of course it is the sum total of what people think is necessary that has led to the leviathan we already have. It is simply annoying when one style themselves as such champions of liberty when the amount of State they find adequate is still stiffling, just not to them (as far as the percieve).

  • Agreed, Perry. In fact, I just linked up your argument over at my place.

    Worse than that, Kos does not understand the fundamental conflict between positive and negative liberty. You sort of brushed on that in passing, but that, to my mind, is by far the more damning assessment of the article — Kos literally does not “talk the talk” or understand any of the intellectual grounding for libertarianism in the first place.

    I don’t recall whether you covered that one in the libertarian socialist post, so if you did, then I’m getting all excited over the discovery of warm water. But I think it deserves more than a passing reference.

  • Kim du Toit

    “He can also call himself a horse if he wishes.”

    I myself would only refer to Kos as a specific part of equine anatomy, but let me not lower the tone of the debate.

    I agree, Perry, that he who controls the language, controls the polity, especially if conditions are attached to the use thereof (in defiance of our First Amendment, Over Here).

    One has only to refer to ZimPres Robert Mugabe in polite company as a “murderous nigger” to see the consequences thereof — even though there might be a strong case made that he actually deserves the epithet.

    Speech codes, on (of all places) university campuses only reinforce the importance of control of the language, and of refusing to let the other side redefine terminology to their purpose.

  • veryretired

    Toolkien—obviously you think I am exhausted also.

    Someone pass the Geritol.

    very(re)tired

  • I just want to quickly address the issue of the harm done when certain terms are ‘redefined’. Take, for example, the highly regulated and controlled economy that we have in the U.S. and notice how it is called a “free market”. The corporate-state alliance leads to increasing wealth inequality and huge disparities. Add to that a monetary system desinged to leach the real wealth of this country away from the middle class and up towards the wealthy and ‘free trade’ agreeents (BTW, if it is free trade, why do we need an agreement?) that are anything but free trade. Now we have progressives decrying the loss of the middle class while blaming it on ‘free market’ and ‘free trade’ that are neither. It is this misunderstanding that has led to the modern backlash against business and has duped so many people into believing these are ‘market failures’ that can be corrected if we simply get the right people in power and increase government power over corporations.

  • R C Dean

    The corporate-government complex means that to limit government we have to restrict corporate access to it. That means regulating corporations.

    Not at all. In fact, that approach is doomed to failure, because you cannot keep money from the seats of power. Can’t be done. Never has been done. Never will be.

    Its R C Dean’s second Iron Law of Human Behavior: “Money and power will find each other.”

    The only way to attack the corporate-government complex is to limit government power. Once government has the power, money will find the government.

  • Paul Marks

    The “natural monopoly” argument for statism.

    Such natural monopolies may exist (for example one water source in a given area), but they tend to be rare.

    Nor is government regulation going to make things better (it will make them worse).

    As for “market failure” – this is often a denial of markets (i.e. property rights) – as with pollution.

    And, of course, there is “government failure”.

    When the government sticks its fist in it makes things worse.

    The market (human civil action) will not provide perfection – such is not to be had in this life.

    But statism makes things worse than they otherwise would have been.

  • Foobarista

    The more powerful the government is, and it matters little who the “target” of the power happens to be, the more important it becomes for other power blocs to influence it and try to control it. One can talk about “government regulations of corps” as somehow a Good Thing for The People until one is blue in the face, but the truth is that many big corps _want_ regulation, for completely rational business reasons: they want to raise barriers to entry to competitors. Or they want regulatory regimes that enshrine one business model and effectively forbid others: telecom and radio/TV spectrum regulation is an excellent example of this sort of thing.

    There is nothing a big, established corp fears more than a truly free and open market, where competitors and new, disruptive business models crush established players daily. The proof is in the history: highly regulated countries have very little busines turnover among the big corps in the country, while more lightly regulated countries have lots of corps that come and go.

    There is a myth that corps are fanatic disciples of Adam Smith and have some sort of “pro-business” ideology. The reality is that corps exist to perpetuate themselves and make money – in that order – and they don’t institutionally care how it is done.

  • When the state uses the power of eminent domain to take land from people so a wealthy corporation can profit from it, that is an example of state power. When corporations get subsidies and regulations which make it harder for new market entrants to compete with them, that is an example of state power. When corporations use laws to bust unions and restrict reasonable rights of workers to organise, that is an example of state power.

    Eh, no.

    It appears to me that you address symptoms, not causes. Your point here can be distilled down to, “if there’s a law, it’s entitled to be abused”. No one forces the corporations to abuse legislation anymore than Allah forced nineteen men to spectacularly attack America in late 2001 by using America’s freedom against it.

    Many corporations are good citizens. Many aren’t, and they wouldn’t be better citizens if we removed the laws that constrain them.

  • ArtD0dger

    “Liberal” was co-opted by leftists. “Libertarian” is not immune either.

  • Simon Lawrence

    People are the cause of corruption, that much is obviously correct, but rather than getting rid of the cause – as you say – I prefer to get rid of the bad effects i.e not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • kchiker

    I am an outsider here but would be fascinated to know if (and why or why not), most who describe themselves as libertarians would be tempted to vote for a democrat who:

    a) had no appetite for gun-control
    b) who viewed the marketplace (of ideas and of commerce) as an arena in which the govt should usually resist interference

  • asg

    To answer flushingmemos’ question about how to limit government power without regulating corporations: the answer is that the political culture must change such that people clearly see the linkage between giving the government vague and unlimited powers to do whatever looks and feels good in the short term and the inevitable abuse of those powers to favor powerful nongovernment interests. Lefties can’t accept that. They WANT government to have vague and unlimited powers. That is why they will always prefer to regulate political activity with laws that are unenforceable right up to the point when a police state is needed to prevent corruption.

    The political culture has no chance of changing in this way. “That power will eventually be abused” is not a convincing reply to a person who wants, e.g., disaster response and flood insurance to be totally federalized, or for the government to fix prices for expensive cutting-edge prescription drugs. It is that person — and there are a lot of them — who is responsible for the government we have today.

  • Eh, no. It appears to me that you address symptoms, not causes.

    I suspect you did not understand my article or many of the comments.

    The ’cause’ is that the state offers itself as the mechanism by which you gain advantage over others, rather than the inconvenient give and take of civil interactions such as markets and persuasion.

    If you want the state to do what you think are ‘good things’ above and beyond just defending you from collective threats (i.e violence and plagues), say such as providing jobs, subsidising roads, regulating businesses, preventing people buying Cuban cigars, subsidising healthcare, enforcing educational conscription, deciding the manner in which you can build a house on your own property or whatever else, why should you complain when others with interests different to yours use the same political system to pass laws they like (i.e. controlling the collective means of coercion) to advance their interests? If you can do it, why not them?

    THAT is the cause.

  • Warmongering Lunatic

    No, Chad.

    The position is not that “if there’s a law, it’s entitled to be abused”. It’s that “if there is a law, it will be abused.”

    So, regulate the corporations? That will not just fail to solve the problem (corporations, among others, will still abuse, say, eminent domain), it will multiply the problem (as corporations, among others, will abuse your regulations through rent-seeking, bribery, influence peddling, and regulatory capture).

    Because the problem is that power always corrupts. The only way to reduce corruption is to strike at the root, by reducing power.

  • Jim C.

    Kos is just casting around for a label that will make the left’s policies look good. Par for the course for the left. Re-labeled excrement is still excrement and still stinks.

  • Shelby

    libertarianism is that it assumes that only two forces can infringe on liberty – the government and other individuals. The Libertarian Democrat understands that there is a third danger to personal liberty – the corporation

    When I read that, I just thought, wait, the corporation (a) consists of individuals, and (b) exists only as defined by the state. Don’t like corporate powers? Change the state’s laws. Don’t like what the corporation does? Go after the people making and executing its decisions.

    Kos is pretty smart, but he wears awfully snug blinders.

  • nic

    That particular sort of democrat you posit sounds like a Libertarian-friendly candidate to me. I don’t think Libertarians are particularly tied to the Republican party, it is more that the Democrats constant love-affairs with group identity politics drives Libertarians in the opposite direction. A democratic candidate that was happy to let ideas develop naturally rather than in state-influencing groups, unions and corporations, would be a great candidate.

  • cow

    An honest question I would like to pose to the libertarians here. You are not anarchists so you believe that there is some necessity for government power and authority (some form of defense and crime prevention at least). I’m wondering where it begins and ends.
    How about things like roads? How does a libertarian envision roads being built if not by government?

    What do we do about severe national disasters like Hurricane Katrina? Does a libertarian government work to rebuild a devastated coastline or should it be left up to the locals?

    Lastly, should government be able to compel children to be schooled up to a certain age? That certainly seems to go against the principle of individual freedom, but does the future interest of both civilized society, and the child (even unrealized), override that concern?

    I know some basics about libertarianism, but I’d like to know how real libertarians would answer these questions.

  • Nathaniel Tapley

    Another non-trolling interested socialist here, with questions.

    I would argue that, if we read Proudhon and Saint-Simon, libertarianism, anarchism and socialism all had similar origins and had, as starting points, similar intentions. I think it’s a shame that Hayek has so coloured the argument that the similarities in these positions are now disregarded, and they each regard each other as inimical.

    I also think it’s a shame that the one person who seriously sat down and addressed the argument from the left seemed to wilfully miss the point of your article. However, it does rest on the fallacy that the only way in which a corporation can exert excessive influence on citizens is through government. This is quite clearly untrue. Money helps, and the best way to preserve individual liberty, and to prevent infringements of it, is to recognise that ‘all property is theft’.

    However, that’s probably not going to happen.

    Unfortunately, we live in a Hobbesian world, and have come to the conclusion, so far, that government is a necessary evil. We have decided to infringe our own liberties to provide for our own security. Corporations represent, in this scheme, socialism for those who can afford to be shareholders: the redistribution of the wealth of the many into the hands of the board. This is done, to a great extent, through the means of government.

    In a country where taxes are used to subsidise and promote private enterprise, a socialism for shareholders, the only rational response is a socialism for everyone else. It should also be noted that, at this point private enterprise is private enterprise no longer. Given the intent of some citizens, through subscirbing to companies, is to, thorugh accepting government contracts, enrich themselves…Oh. I’ve ranted way off the point again.

    Anyway, my point is that, as long as government exists, we should use it to empower the weak, the poor, those who cannot empower themselves.

    Money is, or rather, buys, power. And there is no power that is not power over other human beings. It is surely the role of government to limit the ability of any citizen to exert that power over any other.

    The difference between power exerted by a government and that exerted by a corporation is that a government can be held accountable, even given an imperfect governmental system. The problem with corporations is that they cannot until a perfect market exists. I hate to burst any bubbles, but a perfect market cannot exist, and, unfortunately, an imperfect market is more dysfunctional and less perfectible than an imperfect governmental system.

    Socialism is, of course, only necessary until we band together (or apart) in anarchism. Until then, I wish you all well, and look forward to not seeing any of you on the barricades, because you don’t have be there unless you want to be.

  • Nathaniel Tapley

    Oh, just to clarify, today I’m a socialist, tomorrow I’ll find myself being a libertarian or a progressive (whatever that’s meant to mean). Weekends, I’m an anarchist. The problem is, I’m just trying to work out the answers, and no one philosophy seems to have all of them yet. Being a human is awfully confusing sometimes…

    And I agree. A libertarian Democrat is almost definitely a contradictory and non-existent beast. If you were to find one it would probably be weeping in a corner, wracked by inner demons, shredding its face with well-tended nails and praying for a quick and painless death.

  • Praxis

    However, it does rest on the fallacy that the only way in which a corporation can exert excessive influence on citizens is through government.

    But that is not quite what he said. He said that is usually how they do it and he gave examples. Perhaps you should do the same.

    There are other ways a company can lean on you but unless they cross the line into criminality (and if they get away with doing that, that makes Perry’s point) there’s a limit to what they can do as they cannot arrest you or just take what is yours (again, unless they have bought the protection of the state for their actions which again makes his point).

    Companies can do nasty things like buy property you rent and evict you or buy and close shops in an areas to try to get people to move out, but that is all a hell of a lot harder to pull off than just paying a municipality to condemn land they want. So nasty people will always find ways to be nasty but it is a whole lot harder if they do not have access to force (and force almost always means having the state on your side).

  • Nathaniel Tapley

    My point is not that corporations are nasty, nor was it that their shareholders are. My point was that the aim of a company is to appropriate money, yours and mine.

    Ideally, in Hayek’s world, they will stop this money being yours and mine through the provision of something for which we are willing to exchange it. However, in a world where my physical needs can be satisfied without spending all of my money, it is a company’s job to try and get it from me anyway. A company’s interests are always inimical to your own. The problem is that the company’s resources, the pooling of its shareholders’ resources, give it the advantage in the game of ‘who is to own my money’. A corporation is nothing more than a middle-class Soviet, and no more or less laudable.

    My advice to everyone who is not a part of such a plutarchic Soviet, then, would be to form one of their own.

    Let us take an example. Tesco, Britain’s largest retailer can afford to buy the leases of commercial properties in the vicinity of its stores and refuse to renew them if they are for businesses which might ‘compete’. Given that Tesco sell everything from DVD players to pineapples to children’s clothes, it is difficult not to compete. This is clearly an anti-competitive practice which is detrimental to the consumer. It reduces choice, diversity and community participation in local commerce.

    This is neither nasty nor illegal. It is what a company is meant to do. Companies do not like the market, and the only reasonable response for someone who is forced to interact with them is to use the power we might have (which can be expressed through givernment) to skew the market back in our favour.

    The Utopia of perfect markets is a lovely, yet unrealisable, dream. Until we come up with something better than government, or no government and an imperfect market, I’m going to keep on trying to use government to restrict the powers of citizens over other citizens.

  • Fenrisulven

    Anyway, my point is that, as long as government exists, we should use it to empower the weak, the poor, those who cannot empower themselves.

    No. We should empower the weak, the poor, those who cannot empower themselves. Turning that responsibility over to the government is an abdication.

  • Dwight

    I am a centrist, whatever that is, trolling from Instapundit, but since there seem to be some articulate libertarians here, maybe you can help me with how we respond to business big or small who put nasty things into our air and water, not so much CO2, but let’s say PCB’s and Diauxins and those who sell us drugs to cure our ills, drugs which turn out to include some nasty, even lethal side effects.
    It has always seemed to me that this is a place for some governmental oversight. Who can say what the correct amount is…but some. Would a free marketplace solve these “problems?” Maybe this is a fat one, right down the middle of the plate. If so, take a whack at it.
    As for teacher’s unions, I worked hard in an affluent community, teaching and department heading and our school helped a lot of kids slide off to Ivy league schools (I also attended one) and continue the comfortable lives of their parents. I was
    paid a moderate salary to provide this service. It seems to me that the system worked. I made about the same money as a policeman working a fair amount of overtime. Was I overpaid because of our “powerful union?” Lucky me, I guess. 🙂
    Dwight

  • RK Jones

    Dwight, the free rider issue is one that often surfaces. An answer is that when PCBs and Dioxon or what have you are released, it has traditionally been into land or water areas which were owned by no one. This is just the tragedy of the commons writ anew. One can make the case that if an area, Boston Harbor for example, is owned by everyone, it is owned by no one. Which generally means it will be kept as clean as a public toilet. So, in theory, if there were clearly defined property rights in water, this sort of thing might be averted.
    As for your point about drugs, this is a libertarian site, not (for the most part) an anarchist site. I suspect that most of those here support a minimal government which would include a system of laws, if nothing else, for contract enforcment. So, a drug manufacturer who was either dishonest or negligent could be expected to dissolve under a mass of lawsuits.
    As for me, I believe government should courts, a navy, and on Mondays and Fridays, roads. (the rest of the week I demand the flying car I was promised)

    RK Jones

  • I think the big thing that is being missed is that it is a forerunner of the break up of the Democrat Party.

    The current coalition can’t win elections. Period.

    This is the beginning of a search for a new coalition.

    Socialism has died.

    I think we will eventually wind up with two parties. A evangelical (spread liberty) libertarian party strong on civil liberties and a more (very) religious leaning Republican Party.

    The anti-war folks and the socialists/Marxists will wind up on the fringes.

    The two parties will agree on war and economics. The fight will be for civil liberties.

    The pulling apart and reforming is taking longer than I expected. It is moving in the direction I foresaw.

  • ResidentAlien

    Simple labels like “libertarian” do tend to mean different things to different people but, I am not insulted to be called a libertarian. I believe that government should be kept as small as possible because it is inevitably corrupted. Rather than use the government to empower the weak (compensating for its empowerment or subsidy of corporations) I would rather keep it very small and prevent it from empowering or weakening anybody.

    In response to the questions from various commenters:

    Core role of government is to maintain a judicial system (at least for criminal matters – civil disputes could be settled by private arbitration services.)

    In the absence of global peace governments should also be charged with providing for a defence of their constituents.

    I can accept that “public” money should be used to provide things like roads and policing but these should be funded at the lowest organisational level possible, ideally by voluntary compact betwen people. I live in a “deed-restricted community” I pay a fee for upkeep of roads and parks and for some extra security patrols, the community association has legal powers to control what I plant in my garden, how long my grass is and what colour I paint my house. If I don’t like this control I can move

    A police force should have no more powers than an individual citizen. If a citizen sees a crime in progress he should have the power of arrest. The police’s role differs only in having greater training, numbers and organisation.

    As for major national disasters I see no problem in diverting an otherwise idle army to help rescue people, shore up levees or distribute emergency food aid. The government should give absolutely no financial assistance to those who lost property; this should come entirely from insurance in which government should not be involved. If you have no insurance – tough luck.

    School leaving age is a tricky one. I really don’t know if the state has an interest in the education of its future citizens – I cannot accept that children “belong” to their parents but they certainly don’t “belong” to the state. I guess on balance my libertarian instincts tell me that just because the government insists that children stay in school until a certain age there is no guarantee that they will learn anything, so we may as well not bother making that type of law. I would say that parents who fail to provide their children with a basic education are guilty of child abuse.

    Pollution is a fairly simple one. Sue the person or corporation that you believe is injuring you. If a certain procedure or substance is proven to be hazardous then companies will cease that behaviour for fear of being sued and insurance companies will not issue policies to companies that operate in that way. Letting government get in this process means that companies abdicate their own financial responsibility to act in a safe way. This might sound imperfect and slow but compare this with how long it takes governments to get round to banning substances now and the moeny wasted on lobbying politicians to vote one way or another. Make the corporations completely financially responsible for their actions and don’t let them hide behind the government.

    Companies should be free to sell any substance they want so long as it is accurately and clearly labelled and all facts about it are publicly disclosed. Private third-party labelling and testing companies (a privatized FDA competing with others) would emerge to sign off on the claims made by the manufacturers. If you are dumb enough to buy a bottle of “Dr. Marvel’s magic Cure-all as approved by he University of Cyberspace” you deseve what you get.

    Driver’s licenses could also be issued by private authorities and accepted (or not) by insurance companies. The only legal obligation would be to have liability insurance to drive.

    The Utopia of perfect markets is a lovely, yet unrealisable, dream. Until we come up with something better than government, or no government and an imperfect market, I’m going to keep on trying to use government to restrict the powers of citizens over other citizens.

    The biggest obstacle to “perfect” markets is the power of government. I choose to reduce government substantially. I would guess to around 10% of the economy.

    I can see some potential for short-term left-libertarian alliances to do things like end subsidies and flatten tax breaks but in the long term there can be no compromise over the fundamental role of the state.

  • Some of us are anarchists. 🙂

    Tapley is right about our similar origins. The state socialists beat out the libertarian socialists for control of the movement, but there was (and is) considerable overlap between the voluntary socialism of the 19th century and the voluntary market.

    For a “lefter” libertarianism, try http://www.mutualist.org.

    – Josh

  • Deamon

    I would also note that Nathanels point on Corporations existing solely to seperate you from your money/accumulate money is illustrative of an anti coporate bias by couching his formulation in negative terms.

    It would be like saying an organisms purpose is to accumulate/appropriate food, and that this is inimicable to other organisms. This may be accurate in the vaugest sense, but it is hardly proof that life is in need of pervasive regulation (and I’ll call invoking “soviets” a value judgement. If not, you might have as easily called them “New England townhall meetings”. Beware the Newspeak.)

    While a corporation may exist to conduct large scale bussiness more efficently, and it will often prey upon human fraility to illicit demand beyond pure material worth, the key moral issue is willfull exchange. Where I may willfully, if unwisely, give my money to a corporation, that is entirely different from being mugged by the taxman at the point of a gun (the states police power). (Value judgement terminology employed for empahsis, YMMV)

  • His (Kos) description of a Libertarian Democrat sounds pretty much like…well, a Democrat, or at least a typical blogosphere Democrat.

  • Its ridiculous to associate the word libertarian with Democrat.

    I think Kos tries to define a position which evolves from pure libertarianism, by.. well.. rejecting libertarian and free-market principles and welcoming regulation and socialist principles !!

    Kind of like saying Michael Jackson is a “white black”.. nope, he aint black anymore.

    Since when do corporations use coercion against people ? When can they actually get away with using force, violence or theft against individuals ?!

  • My point was that the aim of a company is to appropriate money, yours and mine […] A company’s interests are always inimical to your own

    Nathaniel, do you want a hamburger? I am prepared to acquire property for a restaurant, hire a chef, buy a refrigerator, contract for electrical and water supply, purchase insurance, contract with people to pick up meat from a butcher and bring into me on a regular basis… and then provide you with the hamburger that you want. Exactly how are my aims as a company owner inimical to yours?

    In truth, even though you are not shareholder, you have an indirect interest in my commercial success as you want there to be a place available to you that will provide you with hamburgers whenever you get the urge to buy one (to use the fashionable term of the moment [that I hate], you are a ‘stakeholder’).

    I am not trying to insult you but you do not seem to have the most basic understanding of economics or even social interaction within an extended social setting (as opposed to pre-extended familial), because trade is a social, not a political or familial, interaction.

    By seeking to get you to give him money for his own selfish benefit, the ‘greedy capitalist’ restaurant owner provides you with VALUE (namely hamburgers that you will sometimes want and a place to eat them on demand).

    Inimical?

  • If a free market is deemed to be necessary for liberty (as many libertarians suggest), is it allowable for a government to take action against an individual or association of individuals in order to liberate an unfree market?

    It seems that many libertarians seem to believe that markets will be able to free themselves, under all conditions. I find this belief to be especially prevalent among libertarians who work in the computer software industry. This industry, due to low startup costs and few physical constraints, is by its nature a particularly difficult market to capture. However, I am not a computer programmer. I am a geologist. I worked for several yaers in the diamond industry, which is one of the most manipulated markets around.

    Someone else here mentioned in passing that anti-capitalists use a very different definition of capitalism than pro-capitalists. Pro-capitalists generally refer to the competition of private business in the free market when they refer to capitalism. Anti-capitalists generally use ‘capitalism’ to mean the use of capital to restrict a market. While it is true that corporations that act in an anti-competative manner often use government regulation to do their dirty work, market strangulation tactics are not restricted to government regulation. There are other economic and social tecniques that are available for the right price. So my question stands:

    Is government action to break up cartels, monopolies, and other market-suppressing organizations libertarian, or anti-libertarian?

  • wolfwalker

    “And there you have one of the classical error of the left: the idea that corporations have great power to coerce in and of themselves.”

    It may indeed be an error … but it’s one that’s well-supported by American history. I suggest a review of the history surrounding the railroads and other great “trusts” of the late 1800s, a time in which an excessively weak regulatory atmosphere led to tremendous power lying with the mega-corporations. They fixed the prices of raw materials extremely low and finished products exorbitantly high, and their CEOs built vast personal fortunes based entirely on these artificially maintained price advantages. Attempts to control them by legislative means were struck down by the courts; attempts to break their power by other means were futile. Anyone who attempted to cross them was simply eliminated. Not for naught is the term “robber baron” an indelible part of the American political landscape.

  • Midwesterner

    wolfwalkder,

    Far from “weak” regulatory, the railroads depended on very strong regulatory interference for their survival. They received huge unbelievable land grants simply because the land was near a railroad line they built. This skewed the entire function and purpose of a railroad company into a government handout acquisition company.

    Their history is so intricately woven into big government that it is completely inextricable. Here is a PDF(Link) explaining various types of property. I picked out a telling paragraph describing one type.

    “Another type of fee land is the railroad land grant, which is a grant from the federal
    government to promote the creation of transcontinental railroads. These grants are
    usually for every other section of land for 25 miles on both sides of a railroad’s planned
    right of way. Much of this land was then sold to settlers to help pay for the construction
    of the railroads. Minerals were reserved to the U.S. in most grants, but generally coal and
    iron were classified as non-minerals. More than 127 million acres of federal land,
    primarily west of the Mississippi River, were granted to the railroads. Today these grants
    make up the so-called ¨checkerboard lands,¨ with alternate sections of private and federal
    lands in many western states and on many National Forests.”

    This is quoted from a BLM page(Link). It is referring strictly to western Oregon. The pattern held almost everywhere the railroads went, west of the Mississippi, though.

    “The 2 million acres of BLM public lands in western Oregon, which lie west of the Cascade Range, are unique because they are located in a checkerboard ownership pattern near the wildland-urban interface. Many of these BLM lands are commonly called O&C lands, named after the Oregon and California Railroad land grants. They contain some of the most productive forests, as well as some of the most vital fish and wildlife habitat, found anywhere in the world”

  • Ranald

    I don’t think Kos is claiming to be a libertarian, per se. He’s claiming to be on the libertarian wing of the Democrat Party, at least on matters of personal rather than commercial freedom, to differentiate himself from the more statist Democrats like Hilary Clinton and Joe Lieberman who are more pro-gun control, anti-violent video games, pro-flag burning ammendment etc. Attacking him for not actually being a libertarian is kind of beside his point.

  • Jim Bruskin

    To describe where kos is as a “libertarian wing” of anything is rather like saying Nazis who only wanted to ship Jews off to concentration camps for forced labor rather than extermination camps to gas them, formed a “libertarian wing” of the Nazi party.

    Call him “less extreme” (compared to the Lieberdroids for example) if you want (not sure I would agree), but to think that makes him in any way “libertarian” is screwy. There is nothing libertarian whatsoever about kos’ views. Like an earlier comment said, it’s a tactic, not an intellectual position.

  • Ranald

    “To describe where kos is as a “libertarian wing” of anything is rather like saying Nazis who only wanted to ship Jews off to concentration camps for forced labor rather than extermination camps to gas them, formed a “libertarian wing” of the Nazi party.”

    Wow. That’s… incredibly offensive.

  • That is a rather extreme analogy but the point is valid. If kos wants to differentiate himself from other Democrats, he needs to use a term which makes some sense unless it is (as I suspect) a cynical tactic.

    ‘Libertarian’ is not a synonym for ‘a bit less statist’ than the alternative, it is a term applied to people who are strongly opposed to the idea that state is the axis around which society must be forced to revolve. They are anti-statist (though not necessarily to the point of being anarchist, though many are) and so even if kos is less statist than HR Clinton or her ilk, that is not the same as being anti-statist.

    To be anti-statist, you need to at least think the state is usually the wrong solution to problems, not just sometimes the wrong solution, which is the most kos seems to be saying.

    There are a wide variety of fractious hyphenated libertarians that can still reasonably be called libertarians, but Kos ain’t one of the them.

  • Nathaniel Tapley

    Perhaps the term Kos was looking for was: Liebertarian? A truly nauseating thought.

    Again, i don’t wish to be provocative, but am enjoying a free and frank exchange of views, but…

    In answer to Mr de Havilland, I think you are wilfully misrepresenting my argument, adding words like ‘greedy’, and ‘selfish’, where I had been clear, I had thought, to distance myself from terms like those. My point was not, as I said before, that corporations were ‘nasty’ or ‘greedy’ or ‘selfish’. My point was simply that it was their natural and legitimate function to accrete capital to themselves.

    I also made the point that: “Ideally, in Hayek’s world, they will stop this money being yours and mine through the provision of something for which we are willing to exchange it.” Perhaps I was not clear enough in stating why I thought that this was an ideal, and not representative of the way in which transactions work.

    In addition to the anti-competitive practices I listed, it must be recognised that I do not have the option of choosing anything I would like at any time I would like. No, I don’t want a hamburger, but a hamburger may well be all that is on offer. The theory that if enough people like me demand things other than hamburgers then a seafood restaurant will spring into being, is, in my view, wishful thinking. The need for capital expenditure as well as other barriers to entry of a market ensure that the market remains imperfect.

    I’d like to ask libertarians where advertising fits into their view of corporate practice. Does it not, by creating demand, actually have a fundamental role in shaping the market? If it does not, why do companies spend so much money on it? If it does, does that not have implications for the value of the knowledge as to the value of product generated by the market?

    I am glad, Mr de Havilland, that you didn’t wish to insult me. I have no real wish to be insulted. However, you are right. I have no idea what ‘pre-extended familial’ means.

    Yes, I accept, and never denied, that a hamburger might be nice. Unfortunately, most of humanity never got to eat a hamburger. Were they less happy for it?

    Our incomplete knowledge of the options (do any of us know what that Roman delicacy – a grilled dormouse – tastes like? Nicer, or less nice, than a hamburger?) means that the market is of limited value in fulflilling the desires of humanity.

    This, of course, is all a disraction from my point. My point was that, whatever benefits you may get from a transaction with a corporation, their function is the accretion and agglomeration of capital, and the use of that capital to distort the market in their favour. This is not greed, this is not selfishness, this is not nastiness. This is what a well-run company is intended to do. A company that does not accumulate capital for its shareholders is not a very good company.

    My point that, given corporation’s willingness to use the engine of the state to redistribute wealth, individuals should be no less hesitant in doing the same.

    In other news, my Soviet analogy was obviousy just that, an analogy. I was not intending to deceive anyone into thinking that corporations are actually intending Menshevik Revolution, and their shareholders are busy penning manifestoes to be sent to the Ninth All-Russian Party Congress. I was attempting to highlight the similarities between a group of people owning a business, and running it for their own benefit and…a group of people owning a business and running it for their own benefit. Whether those be the people who work in a factory, or the people who paid the money to build the factory, I was suggesting, makes little difference in how we should analyse its actions. To categorise any figurative speech as ‘Newspeak’, when it was an obvious and clear analogy, suggests either a misunderstanding or a wilful misrepresentation of Orwell’s farm. You probably shouldn’t read Animal Farm.

    It’s is also interesting to hear some ‘libertarians’ here arguing for the continuance of drug laws. Fortunately, some seem to have realised that that is an intellectually indefensible position:

    “Companies should be free to sell any substance they want so long as it is accurately and clearly labelled and all facts about it are publicly disclosed. ”

    However, this, then raises more questions. All facts? How are all of the facts about a product to be disclosed. Are all facts even knowable? Who is to decide what is an accurate definition? Who is to decide what is a clear label? What counts as public disclosure? Food labelling in Europe is to very different levels than that in the USA. Who decides which is clearer? Who checks? Who enforces it?

    All of this seems to be an argument that we need government, as is the imprecation to sue those who pollute the environment. Under what laws, in a government-less world could we sue?

    Also, the idea of retroactively suing for the cutting down of a forest, or destruction of a site of historic or scientific interest seems like an odd remedy. Also, given that a large corporation will be able to hire better (or, more expensive, and, in a perfect market, the more expensive ones should be better) lawyers than an individual.

    If we aim to keep others from intruding into our lives and liberties, government represent the way in which we can collectivise our wishes. I say again that government is more perfectible than the market.

    Government should be nothing more than the expression of the will of its citizens collectively. I am more than willing to join in calls for the state not to be a self-perpetuating entity.

    I’ve probably forgotten to answer lots of points, and in my rabid frothings have probably left out lots of what I wanted to say. the comments on a blog posting are probably not the right place to have an extended discussion of this kind, but it’s been lots of fun.

    I wish you all less interference in your lives.

  • Nathaniel Tapley

    And again, sorry for cluttering up your board, and on rereading, giving in to occasional bursts of spleen. I’m here because I do think that there are real issues that are worth discussing.

    Also, please forgive my beginning that last bit with a weak pun. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa…

  • I’d like to ask libertarians where advertising fits into their view of corporate practice. Does it not, by creating demand, actually have a fundamental role in shaping the market? If it does not, why do companies spend so much money on it? If it does, does that not have implications for the value of the knowledge as to the value of product generated by the market?

    I confess I don’t understand why advertising is as ubiquitous as it is. For example, sports television is dominated by car and beer advertisements. Funny thing is, when I bought a car, I did so after extensive research. I didn’t care who advertised during what. For beer, I don’t drink much of it, and that which I do drink never advertises during sports. Most of it is regional stuff.

    Having said that, advertising does affect the market. So what? If I say to all my relatives, “Don’t drink Coke, drink Pepsi,” I’ve affected the market, too. And since most people have experience with most of what’s advertised, much of that advertising is wasted. I wouldn’t push a Ford, let alone buy one, so Ford’s incessant advertising is wasted on me. Furthermore, no amount of advertising can save a shitty product. See Coke, New.

    – Josh

  • Foobarista

    Basically, the question boils down to this: what is more responsive to the citizenry: government or the market? The answer is … it depends, but my personal bias is that the market, particularly small markets, is more responsive than government, especially as the government does more and more *stuff*. Having all levels of government service provision directly accountable in an effective way to its clients starts to look dangerously like … a market.

    Other ways, ie through many layers of indirection via legislatures, are far more indirect and more often result in the government getting captured by the bureaucracy and responding to *it*, not the citizenry. As the government owns more and more roles, it gets less and less accountable, simply due to the bureaucratic distance from the direct service provider to senior elected officials that theoretically have the power to do something about it. In practice, they don’t have the bandwith to hande it all – just the things they care about. So, much of the machinery of governance passes into the hands of bureaucrats.

    The danger is that large corps start acting like government bureaucrats as well, except they have more money and more interest, and can start affecting legislation in small, difficult to see ways that, in aggregate, give them large advantages over competitors. This is why countries with powerful governments have entrenched, unchanging corps.

  • Nathaniel Tpaley

    Thank you for your responses. I must say I agree with most of them, and I agree that: “Basically, the question boils down to this: what is more responsive to the citizenry: government or the market?”

    My personal bias, as you have probably seen, is the opposite to yours (although I’m willing to be convinced), although I’ll accept that my opinion about what a government is and how it operates is probably as idealised as some contributor’s opinions of the market.

    And I agree with Josh, too, although my point is that, unless I join my efforts with many other people, the resources of a company to affect the market far outstrip my own.

    Thanks again for all the interesting debate, and I hope to rant with you all some time in the future…

  • Rusty

    Except in rare instances corporations and governments don’t work hand in hand to further the states goals. If anything the state is an impediment to corporate intentions. However(there’s always a however) Given enough reources any corporation will tend to become a monopoly and as a monopoly it will have a tendancy to act like the state. Just as it is the tendancy of any state to eventually enslave its citizens. It is part of human nature. The left fears what it doesn’t understand. Economics, wealth. Enron was run badly. It doesn’t mean that it’s corporate goals were bad.
    Wealth is the power to impose change that can’t be controlled by the state. And we all know that it is the liberal belief that only the state should control change.

  • dwight

    Good discussion; there is no question that government can be heavy-handed and/or manipulated by corporations, but I have’t heard anything yet that convinces me that we would be better off without the government between us and the big boys.
    I certainly believe that the market CAN and SHOULD change things, but with another big brother looking on, one who has a more ambiguous bottom line.

    Dwight

  • I have’t heard anything yet that convinces me that we would be better off without the government between us and the big boys

    But Dwight, government isn’t standing between you and the big boys, it is standing next to the big boys and they are both facing in your direction.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    I think part of the confusion for some of these guys arises from their lack of understanding about how monopolies operate in the real world, especially when they are not natural monopolies and the state had yet to butt in, particularly for areas where economic activity is new and recently established, for example the IT industry.

    No surprise, since traditional economic texts rarely mention the role of the state in non-natural monopolies, in creating barriers to entry, subsidising, and other hanky-panky.

    TWG

  • Nathaniel. Mostly asked and answered already really. You did not use the word greedy, that is true, you used the even stronger word inimical, so I hardly think I have willfully misrepresented you. And I feel I have already demonstrated why this corporations aims are far from inimical.

    Also you state the obvious that companies want to accumulate money, but do not really explain why that is a bad thing, particularly as they do it by producing value.

    As you did not really address the central issue of the company with the ‘inimical aims’ inexplicably providing value, at least as far as I can understand what you are saying, I do not have much to add.

  • Uain

    Quite an interesting thread….

    I see some rants on how “evil” corporations are, but in my sheltered life, these blokes tend to be those living on trust funds and have no idea that the Trust invests in corporations to er, umm obtain capital gains. I don’t know about you all but I have my 401K invested in ….. corporations and bonds that are floated by umm, corporations and even municipalities. Oh, and corporations create jobs for myself, and my family and neighbors and….. How again are corporations supposed to be so evil that we need to expand government to protect (tax) us?

    … just wonderin’….

  • Nathaniel Tapley

    The horse is dead. I shall restrain my flogging arm, and thank you again for the thought-food.

  • Corporations are evil for the same reason that people are evil. They occasionally infringe on other people’s liberties for the sake of profit. In fact, most of the little, day-to-day limitations on our liberty (no skateboarding; no ice-skating; no swimming in the fountain; don’t lean on the glass) are imposed by the insurance companies that give liability protection to public and private lands and buildings. The insurance companies impose these restrictions because it allows them to be more profitable and competitive, as the cost of restricting activity is minimal. The result is that people who frequent parks, malls, and other places of association are artificially limited in the activities in which they may partake.

    BTW, what is a “natural” monopoly? Is that an OPEC marketing term, or a whole foods cartel?

  • Brett

    Word to liberals: unless one repudiates all government regulation of personal behavior, one isn’t within shooting distance of libertarianism.

  • Merovign

    A few quick things, partly focused at Nathaniel (but not exclusively):

    1) This will require a little research. Find out what the current and 1980 US and World GDP figures. Compare the price of, say, 10 resources from a variety of fields (a basic business suit, an economy car, a simple calculator, pine boards, eggs, etc.). This should allow you to gauge the size of the economy. Then ask yourself, since the economy is all about taking from some people, and the newer numbers are much bigger than the older ones, who did the world take all that money from?

    It’s called wealth creation, and it appears to be absent from your philosophy. You can’t understand economy at all without it. And that is one error of many.

    2. As has been mentioned, reading the “Robber Barons” meme as a lack of regulation is as risorial as it is common. I know, they taught me that in school as well, I had to find out for myself that I was lied to. Go do your research on how those “robber barons” got their monopolies, and who competed with them and with what effect.

    3. “Anarchy” is the most abused term in politics. Those WTO protesters smashing windows and burning cars are about as anarchistic as an orange slurpee. They’re nihilists and, more importantly, jerks. Anarchism grows out of a (Pollyannish) foundation of ultimate individual responsibility.

    4. I think another factor in this “attempted alliance” is the realization that the far left and “institutional libertarianism” have both been infected with “Bush Derangement Syndrome”, for different reasons. Libertarians have a tendency to oppose whomever is in power. I’m a former commentator at Lew Rockwell and The Libertarian Enterprise (a long time ago), but I’m no longer “at home” there. It’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference (in rhetorical terms) between Kos and Lew as days go by, much to my chagrin.

  • I’m a former commentator at Lew Rockwell and The Libertarian Enterprise (a long time ago), but I’m no longer “at home” there. It’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference (in rhetorical terms) between Kos and Lew as days go by, much to my chagrin.

    I know exactly what you mean. I started samizdata in no small measure because I made a similar observation that a section of libertarian opinion had been demented by the fallout from 9/11. “Bush Derangement Syndrome” indeed!

  • Uain

    “….impose restrictions because it allows them to be more pofitable…. ”

    I dunno Lab Lemming, we my have a chicken and egg situation here. Does the insurance company impose restrictions to reduce claims and increase profits? Or are they compelled to require this because bottom feeding lawyers will sue the insuree for not sufficiently warning the mentally halt and lame not to do stupid things that could result in personal injury?

  • merovign

    I know exactly what you mean. I started samizdata in no small measure because I made a similar observation that a section of libertarian opinion had been demented by the fallout from 9/11. “Bush Derangement Syndrome” indeed!

    I’ve often wanted to go back and have “that conversation,” but I haven’t sufficiently girded my loins (and cleared my schedule) yet. 🙂

    BTW I’ve lurked here several times and seen many insightful things flow from your keyboard, I thought I’d mention.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    “BTW, what is a “natural” monopoly? Is that an OPEC marketing term, or a whole foods cartel?”

    Uhm, I can’t tell if you’re being serious here. Just in case though, you can look up any reasonable economic textbook for the meaning of the term, although it appears that there are two interpretations of it.

    The first is the traditional one that relates to marginal and fixed costs. The second one, I think, defines it as a ‘monopoly’ stemming from restricted natural resources, for example, oil.

    I find it slightly amusing that people who don’t understand economics would deign to comment on the evils of corporations.

  • flushingmemos

    I know it’s taken me a long time to get back to this discussion, but there is a lot of new ideas for me to muddle through.

    Veryretired wrote:
    The most significant of [the money consumed by the state] is the massive transfer of money taken from middle class working families and given to aging, wealthier, non-productive senior citizens whose lobby is the most powerful political force in the country. The teachers’ unions are second.

    The defense budget of the US is 55% of the total – less than lefties think, but definitely more than you guys think. This is NOT including all the emergency spending bills for Iraq. This money is welfare for the wealthy. It fuels a culture of war, domestic surveillance and a huge penal system that eats a good portion of the non-defense spending, too (“War on Drugs”). The libertarian argument that the state only has the right to make war and enforce laws, but not redistribute wealth, runs into this brick wall, at least in the US, because war is about redistributing wealth to contractors, and opening markets.

    And what are we left with? No minimum wage, no environmental protection, no workplace safety. These aren’t redistribution, these are laws limiting public harms. Restrictions on harmful behaviors. Proven through history to be necessary for decent wages, for livable environments, for safety, because POVERTY IS COERCIVE and makes people accept the unacceptable. So the people agitated and the state made regulations.

    If you could see your way to keeping these regulations, many lefties would be willing to slash the rest of the stuff, if it means ending the corporate welfare. This is essentially what I have been proposing. We form an alliance that can overpower the AARP, the Teacher’s Unions, and the defense contractors. We end corporate welfare along with public entitlements. While it will cause domestic hardship it will also lead to a more peaceful nation and more equity.

    ——————

    When I talk about ending corporate welfare, I mean removing the artificial legal personhood the US granted them at the beginning of the industrial revolution, when the state began corporate welfare by giving railroads public lands. This artificial legal personhood has blossomed (lobbying) in the wake of WWII, and has led to repeated military interventions. See the Eugene Jareki film “Why We Fight,” available on google video, for more info. Even domestic spending will often come in the form of corporate subsidies. It’s huge, at least in America.

    I come here proposing that the left compromise on it’s love of redistributive social justice, so that we can really clean out government, but you guys don’t want to hear practical ideas. You say we should just “refuse to accept” “government coercion,” but give no way to make changes. I’m proposing serious compromise on both sides to create a movement that would fundamentally change the way we (at least the US) run things.

    Ultimately, why do we need the state for protection either? Why is the natural monopolies of the armies and police OK but the natural monopolies of power, water, roads etc. not? It seems totally artifical. The whole ideology seems like willful ignorance in the pursuit of the almighty buck. A serious denial of the effects of unregulated commercial behavior.

    And so I hear a lot of disconnected griping about taxes here. I see greed wrapped in ideology, but divorced from reality (the military-industrial complex) and history (unregulated businesses and the horrible squeeze they put on society’s lower rungs). I have read about the sweatshops and lived through the market manipulations caused by deregulation of electricity markets that led to the California blackouts.

    By saying that regulations cause such behavior, Libertarianism simply denies reality, and from what I can tell Libertarianism is just an arm of the conservative movement that makes hay promulgating an ideology that favors a radical social-darwinistic society, militarism and vigilantism, and wraps this brutal state of affairs in language of being free of “illegal coercion;” libertarianism thus has no interest in practicalities or movements, its only purpose is to shear idealists away from progressive politics, a cynical creation of powerful conservatives.

    I suggested a compromise that could bring us together on our desire to curtail government spending and power. But if you want to sit around bitching about taxes and polishing your guns, that’s fine too. The anarcho-communist future will be built on pacifism and technical progress, and it doesn’t need you.

    Sorry for getting heavy there, but that’s the way it seems to me. If you guys could point me to some evidence that regulations cause corporate abuses, I’d be happy to read it.

  • Woozle

    flushingmemos:

    The libertarian argument that the state only has the right to make war and enforce laws, but not redistribute wealth, runs into this brick wall, at least in the US, because war is about redistributing wealth to contractors, and opening markets.

    An excellent point, if a completely misguided one. Classical libertarianism is pacifist to the core: read any of Murray Rothbard’s articles on interventionism and nation-building (many are available on Lew Rockwell’s site). Or check out the statements made by the Libertarian party presidential candidate Michael Badnarik about the war back in 2004. A libertarian government has no “right to make war”, it only has the right to protect the life, liberty and property of its citizens (including through a defensive war, if absolutely necessary). It is impossible to justify the Iraq war on libertarian grounds, although some enthusiastic Bush supporters among us did try for a coupla years.

    And what are we left with? No (1) minimum wage, no (2) environmental protection, no (3) workplace safety.

    1. Good riddance.
    2. Environment (our rivers, forests, air) is public property, and I certainly will not allow any organization to damage MY property, including that which I own only partially. Environmentalism, in its saner forms, is perfectly compatible with libertarian philosophy.
    3. Workplace safety is very important to virtually all workers, who will willingly surrender some of their potential income in exchange for a safer environment. Excessive numbers of poor workers, who depress not just wages, but safety standards, in our day and age signify not “exploitation”, but certain irresponsible government policies, like mass unskilled immigration.

    When I talk about ending corporate welfare, I mean removing the artificial legal personhood the US granted them at the beginning of the industrial revolution

    I am not sure what is meant here by “artificial legal personhood”. I am certainly opposed to making corporations (i.e. innocent and unsuspecting shareholders) financially responsible for the crimes committed by their employees: punitive damages are a form of coercive income redistribution (i.e. theft) and corporate agents must be held personally responsible for any and all corporate wrong-doing (which includes being held responsible for murder, should any CEO knowingly release an inherently unsafe product into the market without the full disclosure of its dangers).

    However, if “legal personhood” is meant to be a criticism of the concept of limited liability, it is certainly a misguided attack. Limited liability is a simple contractual agreement between potential creditors and potential debtors, which should be available to private proprietorships, as far as I’m concerned. As long as creditors are willing voluntarily to lend money to limited liability proprietorships, partnerships and corporations, there’s no reason for the government to interfere.

    Why is the natural monopolies of the armies and police OK

    We do not have “the natural monopoly of the police” in this country. There is such a thing as citizen’s arrest you know: the fundamental idea here being that the police are not an instrument of power and oppression. It is merely an organization that HELPS the citizens defend their life, liberty, and property.

    The founders were likewise wary of the concept of a permanent federal army as a monopoly armed force, and therefore extolled the concept of “well-regulated” militias.

    I have read about the sweatshops and lived through the market manipulations caused by deregulation of electricity markets that led to the California blackouts.

    Sweatshops are a blessing to Third World countries. California blackouts were caused by government interference in the markets (severe restrictions on new power plant construction), not deregulation.

    The anarcho-communist future will be built on pacifism and technical progress, and it doesn’t need you.

    and… I’ve wasted my time on another loon. Sad.

  • Woozle

    Nathaniel Tapley:

    Libertarianism is a political philosophy founded upon the idea of the primacy of personal freedom. It is not free market fundamentalism, which is what you seem to be attacking. The notion that “the market is of limited value in fulflilling the desires of humanity” in no way contradicts or disproves liberatian philosophy. No. What we libertarians defend is freedom, freedom to pursue one’s own happiness. You can drop out of the ‘market’ to become a subsistence farmer and grow potatoes in your back yard. You can join an Amish community. You can pool resources with a group of friends, buy some farmland, and initiate an experiment in agrarian communism. You can restrict your economic interactions to barter or join some urban cult that uses sexual favors for currency. We, libertarians, don’t really care. The only two things we want from you are (1) that you don’t force your lifestyle upon us and (2) pay your taxes (although the Fairtax proponents among us want to eliminate property taxes entirely, in which case you won’t have to do even that).

    However, since the majority of libertarians are enthusiastic proponents of (and participants in) free market capitalism, I feel it is our responsibility to respond to some of Nathaniel Tapley’s criticism. Much of it is silly, I will just try to respond to individual points.

    Our incomplete knowledge of the options.. means the market is of limited value in fulflilling the desires of humanity.

    I’m not sure if that’s an attack on free markets or economic interactions in general. When it comes to fulfilling the economic “desires of humanity”, free market economies have demonstrated again and again that no better system for satisfying the quirkiest (or most perverted) of human desires has been invented yet. Certainly not central planning. Certainly not traditional economies. Certainly not agrarian communism (heh).

    Moscow in the Soviet days didn’t have even a single seafood restaurant. If dormouse restaurants are ever to exist, they will be found only under capitalism, I am sure.

    I’d like to ask libertarians where advertising fits into their view of corporate practice. Does it not, by creating demand, actually have a fundamental role in shaping the market?

    “Shaping the market” is not a crime, last time I checked.

    If it does, does that not have implications for the value of the knowledge as to the value of product generated by the market?

    Freedom of speech is the best cure for imperfect knowledge ever invented. It’s not a miracle treatment by any means.. yet it’s the best we have. Centrally planned and traditional economies certainly have nothing better to offer.

    My point was that, whatever benefits you may get from a transaction with a corporation, their function is the accretion and agglomeration of capital, and the use of that capital to distort the market in their favour.

    I’m not sure what’s wrong with the accretion and agglomeration of capital, but the point is wrong. The raison d’etre of any business is to maximize the return on investment, not to accumulate capital.

    I have no idea what “distort the market in their favor” means. If you mean “use imperfect knowledge to manipulate gullible consumers into decisions they wouldn’t otherwise have made” than I would like to remind everyone that fraud is a form of coercion and thus misleading advertising can certainly be a punishable offense under libertarianism. If the advertising is not misleading but the consumers still don’t know any better, this is no reason to take away their freedom and make all their decision for them at the State level. No matter how clueless people are, they still know what they want far better than anyone else. The legacy of the Soviet economy should be proof enough for that.

    My point that, given corporation’s willingness to use the engine of the state to redistribute wealth, individuals should be no less hesitant in doing the same.

    Wow.. out of nowhere, came this despicable attitude. When you see a robbery going on, your first impulse shouldn’t be to rush in and grab a few banknotes for yourself in the commotion. The taxpayers are being robbed by corporations and special interest groups. Our job is to stop all thieves, not demand a piece of the action for ourselves.

    All facts? How are all of the facts about a product to be disclosed. Are all facts even knowable? Who is to decide what is an accurate definition? Who is to decide what is a clear label? What counts as public disclosure?

    Fraud IS a form of coercion. Doing a drug trial and disclosing that the drug tested cures cancer (and concealing the fact that it has a 50% fatality rate.. just an example) is obviously wilful deception, which, like all fraud, and like all coercion, is a punishable offense.

    KNOWN facts must be disclosed fully when a drug is advertised. That is all. What libertarians don’t want is the government making decisions FOR us and for our doctors on borderline-safe drugs that have tremendous benefits.

    Also, the idea of retroactively suing for the cutting down of a forest, or destruction of a site of historic or scientific interest seems like an odd remedy.

    This should win some sort of a quote of the week award. Of course, we shouldn’t retroactively sue anyone. We should only sue people for the crimes they will commit in the future.

    Government should be nothing more than the expression of the will of its citizens collectively.

    Er.. in North Korea and Cuba, perhaps. In the US, “we the people” established the government to protect our lives, liberty, and property (although Jefferson replaced Locke’s “property” with a cutesy “pursuit of happiness”), not to collectively express anyone’s will.

    But you see, you don’t even have to move to Cuba and North Korea. Just join an appropriate community and “collectivise your wishes” to your heart’s content. Just leave me alone and don’t use the government to force your collective wishes upon the rest of us.

  • I was going to reply but Woozle has pretty much said what needed saying. I do not entirely agree with all his points but close enough that I feel no great urge to add anything.

  • Z

    Monopolies are not the only place where the government can exercise a positive role on freedom against private tyranny (to the contrary of marginal revisionist historians). Look at the early history of workplace safety. People 100+ years ago in the cities had no choice but to work in the very dangerous factories of the time. The factory owners had no incentive to increase workplace safety because there was nowhere else for the workers to go. Government was able to step in and force changes to improve safety. You can quibble about present-day OSHA all you want, but the main goal of safety was achieved by the government forcing the hand of private companies.

    Environmental regulation is another place for this argument. Before CERCLA was passed in 1980, companies were able to leave toxic sites and avoid liability by changing from one corporation to another. People got sick off lead and other toxics, but there was no one who was liable. CERCLA in effect got companies to internalize the externalities of environmental pollution.

    And while we’re talking about corporations, remember the a corporation is an entity that exists only because there is a government that says it does. Perhaps to carry the argument given by Perry to its logical concluson, perhaps a libertarian should believe that this form should be abolished, and everything done in the form of a partnership.

  • You speak of coercion, and say that corporations have limited ability to coerce. OK, let’s forget the power of money to market and advertise, coercing psychologically.

    Kos wasn’t talking about coercion: he specifically refers to infringing on liberty. Corporations do that when they mess with the commons by spewing pollution or abusing labor. Regulation is the only thing that fixes this, policing corporate misbehavior the same way society polices individual misbehavior.

  • OK, let’s forget the power of money to market and advertise, coercing psychologically.

    No, let’s not forget that seeing as you bring it up. If advertising actually worked and could ‘coerce’ us, we would all have been driving Edsel and drinking ‘New’ Coke. I assume you watch TV. Are you in the thrall to their siren song? Do you find yourself walking into shops in a walking dream state and buying things against your will? If not, why are you different to the supposed zombified masses of lumpen proles?

    Or are you ‘coerced’ into fretting about “ring around the collar” and “how white your teeth are” by shock-prod armed corporate thugs who come around to your house if your purchasing levels do not match corporate marketing outlays?

    Kos wasn’t talking about coercion: he specifically refers to infringing on liberty. Corporations do that when they mess with the commons by spewing pollution or abusing labor.

    Of course Kos is talking about coercion. Politics without coercion is like music without instruments. Laws are coercion because they are backed by the threat of violence without prior concent: “you must behave this way or the boys in blue will drag you off”. Such coercion may sometimes be reasonable but that does mean it is not coercion.

    I have no problem with courts getting involved to sort out what is a reasonable amount of pollution (it is after all a question of private property (your lungs)), but regarding labour conditions, unless a company is using violence, if you do not like the conditions, quit. Or organise a union. As long as neither side is using violence, ‘liberty’ is not an issue. You are free to quit and they are free to fire you.

  • Perhaps to carry the argument given by Perry to its logical concluson, perhaps a libertarian should believe that this form should be abolished, and everything done in the form of a partnership.

    Yes indeed, a great many libertarians and free marketeers think exactly that.

    At the very least decision-making liability for damages has to be decoupled from the financial (and useful) aspects of limiting liability. When the two get overly conflated, bad things happen as they always do when power and liability are decoupled by state intervention.

  • hipster

    We must not forget that the largest infiluence on the socialist-communist agenda is the public school system. The focus for evaluating student achievement is the ability to follow any and all directions without question or thought. Fill out this worksheet and read this assignment, even science classes have taken thinking out of the experiment. There is no longer an interest in individual learning and allowing students to reflect on their studies critically. Once a lesson has been tested it is essentially over and the next lesson is on the table. Students do not get the advantage to understand aspects of a lesson they missed. Students then learn that you only get one chance to learn something and if you don’t get it the first time you never will. Only a few self-motivated students will take the time to review the things they didn’t master the first time. Is that the type of population we really wish to have, one where only the few are thinkers and the rest are followers? And good luck trying to implement a class on teaching thinking skills to students. At the very best, college will be the first experience for actual thought to be a requirement of a course. This trend must end or there will be fewer and fewer thinkers in the country to recognize the loss of freedoms weather it be through governmental or corporate means.

  • Well folks we have a problem, and I’m surprised no one has mentioned it.

    Not long ago John Kerry asked John McCain to run with him.

    McCain is clearly not a Goldwater Conservative. Or a Reagan one. Not does he seem to care for Friedman, and he talks about how much we all owe this country. ( Anyone smell a draft)?

    Frankly, McCain trying to enact failed Democratic policies and the GOP taking the blame is not something I care to see.

    We now know RFK was a believer in Joe McCarthy as was JFK. We now know both were anti-communist. Going into the Democratic Party as a free market wing at this point, I don’t think can do any harm.

    And it will certainly shock Democrats!

  • The problem is bigger than I thought.

    Naomi Klein has just discovered that Obama’s economic advisors are followers of Milton Friedman and that he backs a free market.

    Unlike McCain!