We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

And yet here’s the thing about that freedom. Why does, why should they, anyone need a licence from the government to export LNG? Note what this isn’t. It’s not a licence saying “and sure, your plant now meets standards.” With something as explosive as natural gas that’s fair enough perhaps, to require one of those. No, this licence is the government taking upon itself the power to regulate who you may sell your own produce to. Which isn’t actually freedom, is it?

Tim Worstall

39 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • bobby b

    If I thought that Trump and his people had a sense of humor, I’d say that this announcement (for Freedom Gas!), made at the CEM being held in Vancouver, was a not-so-subtle goad at Trudeau and his anti-energy and anti-pipeline agenda, and his US-Canada trade difficulties.

    I know Canadians who, having seen their own energy exports throttled, are rolling on the floor right now.

  • CaptDMO

    No you may NOT export bicycles, and rocket propellant, to the North Vietnamese to use in their Tet offensive!
    No you may NOT import inferior drill presses made in China, to “look like” their superior competition, routed through Canada, with a “Canadian sounding” name and Maple leaf pattern stamped on it!

  • pete

    The government isn’t taking the power upon itself. It has a mandate from the people.

    If US citizens want totally unregulated LNG trading they can make it an election issue and vote accordingly.

  • The government isn’t taking the power upon itself. It has a mandate from the people.

    Oh right, I had no idea it was that simple. Now about that Brexit thing…

  • Runcie Balspune

    Isn’t the export of various products subject to government regulation anyway? I would assume that having a license to manufacture and sell a restrictive product is an easy way to enforce government export regulation, i.e. “if you export to someone you are not supposed to then we will rescind your license to manufacture it”.

    I don’t really get what the argument is here, even if you believe in free international trade there is always going to be circumstances when it cannot apply, and even if you believe in freedom to manufacture produce there are always going to be circumstances where it should be regulated and licensed.

  • Ian Bennett

    if you believe in freedom to manufacture produce there are always going to be circumstances where it should be regulated and licensed.

    Not really freedom, then. A bit like “free speech, but not THAT speech”.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Not really freedom, then. A bit like “free speech, but not THAT speech”.

    No, more like “the freedom to build a nuclear power plant in your shed stops when the radiation starts mutating my pet rabbit”, which may sound funny until it isn’t.

  • neonsnake

    A question, then, I guess; should I be allowed to manufacture medicine that is poisonous in large doses, with no regulations requiring me to make that fact clear to customers?

  • bobby b

    Well, in fairness, I think he was noting the irony of the name – Freedom Gas. On a libertarian blog.

    But still – if the license requirement was gone, one could still complain that you can’t exchange your Freedom Gas for raw opium – which isn’t actually freedom, is it?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Fascinating, Runcie. I knew that there had been a teenage boy who built a “nuclear reactor in his basement,” but none of the details.

    Kid is a genius of sorts, I’d say, and I hope he’s found a métier in science that will be of benefit to everyone someday.

    Of course, from the article it seems that the Right Folks had their own troubles with their reactors, as at Clinch River.

    As to the immediate topic, I don’t know what Pres. Trump had in mind; but it does seem to me within the bounds of national security to prohibit sales of certain equipment and materials to folks who are open about their intentions vis-á-vis one’s country.

    .

    Meanwhile, and O/T but speaking of enemies, I see that the Supreme Leader of North Korea has executed a bunch of his favored minions who failed to get the President to settle for whatever was Kim Jong Un’s idea of a deal.

    https://www.foxnews.com/world/north-korea-executes-5-officials-over-failed-kim-trump-summit-south-korean-media

  • Surellin

    This ban goes back to the 1970s, Jimmy Carter and the War On the Energy Crisis or whatever the hell it was called. It was a time of bad ideas – Jimmy Carter and disco for two.

  • llamas

    Julie near Chicago – I actually knew David Hahn slightly, via his father, and I’m sorry to tell you he is no longer with us. After a hitch in the Navy, he came back to SE Michigan and unfortunately fell for the siren lures of methamphetamine. He died of an overdose, five or six years ago.

    However, he never lost his interest in nuclear power and kept trying to experiment with it. He ran afoul of the law more than once for stealing or possessing things containing radioactive materials and precursors.

    One of my former neighbours was his teacher in grade school, I don’t recall which grade. He was much in our thoughts at the time 😳 since we all lived just the other side of Union Lake Road from the Golf Manor sub. Her opinion was that he was a very bright kid who was chronically underserved by our school system – not a genius, but a kid who thrived on in-depth research and study.

    Wasted talent.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Julie near Chicago

    llamas,

    That’s a shame. Genius or no, he was clearly gifted.

    Thanks for telling us.

  • Paul Marks

    Pete – if you think that the people determine policy by voting, then I have a nice bridge to sell you. Most of the important policies of my lifetime were imposed on a baffled population that did not want them.

    The “educated” “liberal” elite (who have dominated the political parties since the end of the 19th century) decide policy – they then “educate” the people to accept it. Andrew Marr and other BBC types think this is a jolly good thing.

    The people may vote against the policies of the “liberal” establishment in a general election, but normally (NOT always – but normally) they find that the party that comes into office just carries on the “liberal” agenda.

    What is the point of voting for party X rather than party Y – if the parties both follow the “liberal” agenda.

    The vote for independence (let us please say independence when we mean independence – not use made up words) was supposed to break through the monopoly control of the establishment elite (of all parties) – but it has been BETRAYED.

    What actually is the “liberalism” that the establishment elite believe in?

    It has nothing at all in common with the Classical Liberalism of Prime Minister Gladstone – a devout Christian, a passionate patriot and supporter of the national independence of peoples, and someone who supported the total abolition of Income Tax (no income tax at all).

    So what tradition are the modern establishment come from?

    They come from the tradition of such people as Sir Francis Bacon (the “New Atlantis” man who regarded every principle of law as UNDER the throne, NOT as limitations on state power), Thomas Hobbes and Jeremy (13 Departments of state) Bentham – to the modern establishment the state is all-in-all, there is no concept of the nation as something distinct from the state, and as for individual rights AGAINST the state – that is just “nonsense” or “nonsense on stilts”.

    Of course the establishment license as much as they can – to the establishment everything should be under the control of the state. They have no time for Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke or Chief Justice Sir John Holt (of the Glorious Revolution and all that) – any more they have for the Ulster Covenant of 1912 (how DARE the people stand against Parliament!), or Old Whig tunes such as the one that once introduced the BBC World Service. The case of Dr Bonham (1610) which denied that there was any such “crime” as conducting a trade or profession without a “license” means NOTHING to the establishment elite.

    As for the people – as Perry said, the people voted for the independence of this country from the E.U., let us see if we get what we voted for.

    The “New Statesman” says that independence is “undeliverable” – a nice way of saying they (the establishment) refuse to give us the independent country we voted for. The “Economist” magazine demands “compromise” – by which they mean the total surrender of the people to the establishment elite. The “liberals” have no intention whatever of giving up their power – they intend their boot to remain on the throat of the people.

    Would an election solve that? Perhaps it might be one of those rare elections (for they have happened in history) where the people will NOT be betrayed by whoever they vote for – but that remains to be seen.

    It is POSSIBLE for voting to defeat the establishment – but it is rare. The people having real influence DOES happen sometimes – but it is not the norm.

    Remember the establishment control the Civil Service and all other levers of power – they control what elected politicians see.

    Mostly politicians actually start out as “educated” “liberals” – there is no need to corrupt them, because they are already corrupted.

    But should a politician be elected who is not “educated” – they must also have a will of iron, to resist the presentation of endless distortions (and actual lies), by those who seek to control what they see and hear.

  • neonsnake

    What actually is the “liberalism” that the establishment elite believe in?

    What do you do for a living?

  • Clovis Sangrail

    This is a good one. I’m with Julie (as so often).

    To coin a phrase: “the bounds of freedom may be circumscribed by considerations of the security of the polity”.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Clovis — Likewise, I’m sure. 😀

  • Agammamon

    pete
    May 31, 2019 at 7:28 am

    The government isn’t taking the power upon itself. It has a mandate from the people.

    If US citizens want totally unregulated LNG trading they can make it an election issue and vote accordingly.

    That’s funny – I don’t remember being asked about this. In fact, it looks very much like it wasn’t a ‘mandate from teh people’ but a group of bureaucrats deciding for themselves – and they only get away with it because its actually incredibly fucking difficult for ‘the people’ to mandate *anything*.

  • Agammamon

    Clovis Sangrail
    May 31, 2019 at 9:12 pm

    This is a good one. I’m with Julie (as so often).

    To coin a phrase: “the bounds of freedom may be circumscribed by considerations of the security of the polity”.

    Shorter version – you are property.

    IMO, there is no ‘polity’. There is just a collection of individuals. To treat the collective as having more control than the individuals that make it up is to say that the individual members are all slaves of the collective.

  • Julie near Chicago

    No. It’s to say that in certain circumstances, to fail to hang together is to invite — or ensure — hanging separately.

    It’s a case of joining together for mutual defense.

  • neonsnake

    Julie, can I read that as being in favour of regulations where the alternative is failure to protect from harm?

    (Ie in accordance with the Harm Principle?)

  • Clovis Sangrail

    @Agammon
    No, you are not property. And how you got that from what I said is beyond me.
    I’m making the rather trite (in this place) comment that if you band together then your freedom is constrained by your membership of the band. In particular, your fellow members are entitled to say “if you do this then you are no longer a member”.
    In particular, they might say “fueling our mortal enemies is a bad idea, don’t do it if you want to enjoy the benfits of membership of the band”.
    That does not seem unreasonable to me.

    Now if want a rant about the overmighty state I’m happy to provide (or jump up and down shouting “yes” and “what he says” while you do it), but I don’t think there’s too much wrong with the principle above.

  • bobby b

    If a bunch of people in a lifeboat establish a rule that no one should punch a hole in the floor, power has been ceded to the collective, but that power benefits each individual member of the collective along with the collective itself.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Neon: No.

    What Clovis and bobby said. Besides:

    The word “harm” is far too broad, as is the whole sentence. Every attempt must be made to get both the necessary and the sufficient requirements stated as precisely as possible; and even then, like almost everything in life, the thing requires judgment.

    And there is always the fact that in real life there will be disagreements, although in real extremities they might be few.

    Still, my own far more general statement would be in this paraphrase of Richard (Epstein): “Regulation last.” And even then, there are times when a regulation must or might reasonably be flouted.

    .

    O/T: — His actual statement is always, “Redistribution last.” He’s not a fan *g*, except perhaps around the farthermost edges. You can listen to some of his many interviews, lectures, and panel discussions on the Tooob or at “The Libertarian” at Hoover.org to get a broad understanding of where those edges might be. One video that I highly recommend is the Federalist Society panel discussion on “Redistribution of Wealth,” recorded on Nov. 12, 2009. Panellists:

    Richard Epstein (Prof, NYU Law School; Prof Emeritus, U. Chicago Law School; Senior Fellow and regular columnist and interviewee at the Hoover Institution)

    Steve Forbes (CEO, Forbes Magazine)

    Andy Stern (President, SEIU — Service Employees International Union)

    Jed Rubenfeld (Prof, Harvard Law School)

    11 interesting parts. Part 1 is at

    www. U OF THE TOOB .com/watch?v=wGai6lXq4LA

  • Agammamon

    Julie near Chicago
    May 31, 2019 at 11:10 pm

    No. It’s to say that in certain circumstances, to fail to hang together is to invite — or ensure — hanging separately.

    It’s a case of joining together for mutual defense.

    Its to say that if I don’t hang with you then you’ll shoot me.

  • Agammamon

    Clovis Sangrail
    June 1, 2019 at 8:22 am

    @Agammon
    No, you are not property. And how you got that from what I said is beyond me.
    I’m making the rather trite (in this place) comment that if you band together then your freedom is constrained by your membership of the band. In particular, your fellow members are entitled to say “if you do this then you are no longer a member”.
    In particular, they might say “fueling our mortal enemies is a bad idea, don’t do it if you want to enjoy the benfits of membership of the band”.
    That does not seem unreasonable to me.

    Now if want a rant about the overmighty state I’m happy to provide (or jump up and down shouting “yes” and “what he says” while you do it), but I don’t think there’s too much wrong with the principle above.

    Clovis – your statement specifically says its permissable for the collective to constrain actions of individuals if its in the collective’s benefit. The only way that constraint happens is through violence. So sure, I’m not ‘property’ – but If I don’t do what I’m told I’ll be destroyed.

  • Agammamon

    bobby b
    June 1, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    If a bunch of people in a lifeboat establish a rule that no one should punch a hole in the floor, power has been ceded to the collective, but that power benefits each individual member of the collective along with the collective itself.

    Do people in a lifeboat *need* to make that rule? Are there murderous people on that lifeboat that will accept self-destruction as long as it allows them to kill others?

    And what about people not on the lifeboat? Do they need to allow the people on the lifeboat to make rules governing their voluntary trades?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Gosh! I’ve been driving for quite a bit longer than half a century, but I guess somehow I never got the memo telling me that I would be shot if I failed to observe the regulation and drove on the left-hand side of a public two-lane, two-way road! ‘Course, this is the U.S. Maybe we’re too lax about these things in the Provinces.

    .

    Being legally prohibited from selling gas to, say, NK, would probably not require execution should one flout the regulation — if there were such a regulation.

  • Julie near Chicago

    At least not in the U.S. I don’t speak for what Kim would do.

  • neonsnake

    The word “harm” is far too broad, as is the whole sentence.

    It’s a bit all-encompassing, of course, but something I’ve been wondering about recently – where is the line?

    I recently had to complete a mandatory course on “Think 25” in the UK, which is a rule that says “If someone is attempting to buy any of *these broad range of potentially dangerous products* and they look less than 25, you must ID them.”. The actual legal age is 18, not 25, so make of that what you will. If they don’t have ID, and in the UK we have no requirement to carry ID, and they’re 24 and look it, then they can’t buy them – and the person who sold it will get into trouble. To me, for many reasons, that regulation seems particularly stupid.

    On the other hand, there’s a regulation that says I have to label white spirit as potentially explosive. This does not seem stupid, nor would it seem to me to breach any of “our” principles. But I have some eye-rolling moments sometimes when new “but that’s just obvious” regulations come in…I’m genuinely curious to know where other people think the line is (in the spirit of this thread), or even whether any regulations should be required at all.

    (I’ll try to make time to look at the tube link you provided)

  • Julie near Chicago

    neon,

    Is the “must ID” anyone who looks to be younger than 25 a legal requirement rather than just a rule of the employer? Because if it’s legal, then the UK laws would seem to be in conflict. Also, some people aren’t so good at telling age. And some people look a lot older or younger than they really are. Or is this like one of our presently-(in)famous “Guidance Letters,” that various governmental agencies send out to various groups, such as for instance colleges receiving Federal funds either as grants or indirectly, that suggest “guidelines” for college administrators to follow regarding acceptable speech, or matters that might suggest there is “discrimination” against racialreligiousethnicunderprivilegedfemale&c. minorities (yes, I am in a Minority Victim Group, despite that we ladies outnumber the laddies by some percent)?

    What a long sentence! Are you still there, or have you fallen asleep or gone off to walk the dog? *g*

    But the main question — there is no absolutely hard-and-fast set-in-stone Bright Line. I think each person must arrive at his own conclusion, and even then I think the line will be wiggly around certain cases. For instance, I daresay most libertarianish and also conservativish people are against murder. But what is “murder”? Let’s pretend everyone agrees that it means “unjustified killing.” But then, what makes the killing (of a human) unjustified? Etc. I’m sure you know the drill. In the last analysis, you decide for yourself, perhaps at the instant, if at that point you’re capable of rational self-control.

    It would take a book, and it’s way past bedtime. But the Harm Principle just doesn’t work if taken at face value. The physician who took that literally as THE first principle of medicine would never treat a patient, because “all courses may prove ill,” as The Professor more-or-less put it; and because even if the patient recovers absolutely in the end, the chemo or the surgery certainly harms the patient at the time of the doing, even if it instantly fixes the root problem (as for instance in a C-section).

    I know that’s unsatisfactory. But in the end I think most of us set up guidelines for ourselves that we try to follow, though often with only mixed success.

    .

    I just listened to the Redistribution panel again for about the 435th time. I do wish Richard didn’t always pin his arguments to economics and overall “social improvement,” and I’m not fond of “Pareto optimality” as I understand it from him. But everytime I hear one of these panels or lectures I come away with a little bit better grasp, I think, of what was really said and of the pros and cons of the arguments of each speaker, and also of what the terminology means to different people. In that video ‘Rich rakes the dreadful Jed Rubenfeld naked over a hot coals, a joy to watch truth be told, and it makes clear the difference between “positive law” — manmade law — and so-called natural law. Randy Barnett makes a masterful presentation of the latter in one of his videos, also.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “It’s a bit all-encompassing, of course, but something I’ve been wondering about recently – where is the line? […] On the other hand, there’s a regulation that says I have to label white spirit as potentially explosive. This does not seem stupid, nor would it seem to me to breach any of “our” principles.”

    Mill’s example was poisons with medicinal uses.

    “If poisons were never bought or used for any purpose except the commission of murder, it would be right to prohibit their manufacture and sale. They may, however, be wanted not only for innocent but for useful purposes, and restrictions cannot be imposed in the one case without operating in the other. Again, it is a proper office of public authority to guard against accidents. If either a public officer or any one else saw a person attempting to cross a bridge which had been ascertained to be unsafe, and there were no time to warn him of his danger, they might seize him and turn him back without any real infringement of his liberty; for liberty consists in doing what one desires, and he does not desire to fall into the river. Nevertheless, when there is not a certainty, but only a danger of mischief, no one but the person himself can judge of the sufficiency of the motive which may prompt him to incur the risk: in this case, therefore, (unless he is a child, or delirious, or in some state of excitement or absorption incompatible with the full use of the reflecting faculty,) he ought, I conceive, to be only warned of the danger; not forcibly prevented from exposing himself to it. Similar considerations, applied to such a question as the sale of poisons, may enable us to decide which among the possible modes of regulation are or are not contrary to principle. Such a precaution, for example, as that of labelling the drug with some word expressive of its dangerous character, may be enforced without violation of liberty: the buyer cannot wish not to know that the thing he possesses has poisonous qualities. But to require in all cases the certificate of a medical practitioner, would make it sometimes impossible, always expensive, to obtain the article for legitimate uses. The only mode apparent to me, in which difficulties may be thrown in the way of crime committed through this means, without any infringement, worth taking into account, Upon the liberty of those who desire the poisonous substance for other purposes, consists in providing what, in the apt language of Bentham, is called “preappointed evidence.” This provision is familiar to every one in the case of contracts. It is usual and right that the law, when a contract is entered into, should require as the condition of its enforcing performance, that certain formalities should be observed, such as signatures, attestation of witnesses, and the like, in order that in case of subsequent dispute, there may be evidence to prove that the contract was really entered into, and that there was nothing in the circumstances to render it legally invalid: the effect being, to throw great obstacles in the way of fictitious contracts, or contracts made in circumstances which, if known, would destroy their validity. Precautions of a similar nature might be enforced in the sale of articles adapted to be instruments of crime. The seller, for example, might be required to enter in a register the exact time of the transaction, the name and address of the buyer, the precise quality and quantity sold; to ask the purpose for which it was wanted, and record the answer he received. When there was no medical prescription, the presence of some third person might be required, to bring home the fact to the purchaser, in case there should afterwards be reason to believe that the article had been applied to criminal purposes. Such regulations would in general be no material impediment to obtaining the article, but a very considerable one to making an improper use of it without detection.”

    Personally, I’ve always thought the only proper limit for buying alcohol (or other instruments of self-harm) is demonstrable competence. Do you understand the consequences of what you’re doing? Can you describe the medical harm it does? Can you quantify the effect it has on your judgement, your coordination, your ability to look after yourself? And do you freely choose to accept those risks? We limit access based on age rather than competence because it’s easier to test, and easier to draw a clear line on. You’re either over 18 or you’re not. But really you ought to be able to administer a test to see if the person truly understands the consequences of what they’re doing, and are capable of maturely balancing the potential for harm against the benefits in their own interest. If they can, then it shouldn’t matter what age you are, and there would be no need for ID.

    And I suspect that if they had to sit an exam on the subject, a lot of people older than 18 would be stopped from drinking, too!

    “(yes, I am in a Minority Victim Group, despite that we ladies outnumber the laddies by some percent)”

    🙂 I think it’s the power imbalance they’re really talking about when they talk about ‘minorities’. Although in the case of the ladies, you could argue about that one too!

    “But the Harm Principle just doesn’t work if taken at face value. The physician who took that literally as THE first principle of medicine would never treat a patient, because “all courses may prove ill,” as The Professor more-or-less put it; and because even if the patient recovers absolutely in the end, the chemo or the surgery certainly harms the patient at the time of the doing, even if it instantly fixes the root problem (as for instance in a C-section).”

    That’s why surgeons need informed consent, where the patient is able to give it. A physician is indeed ethically not allowed to treat you without your knowledge and permission. Informed consent bypasses almost all such ‘First, Do No Harm’ restrictions.

  • neonsnake

    But the main question — there is no absolutely hard-and-fast set-in-stone Bright Line.

    I know that’s unsatisfactory. But in the end I think most of us set up guidelines for ourselves that we try to follow, though often with only mixed success.

    Actually, it’s not unsatisfactory at all; I’m in much the same camp. I don’t believe in a hard-and-fast “Zero regulations!”; nor do I think that over-regulation is sensible – to a point where it’s impossible/improbable that new players can enter markets where regulations increase the start-up costs to unreasonable levels. The answer, like many things, lies somewhere in the middle. I wouldn’t want to be the one tasked with working out which regulations are sensible and which are not – the line would indeed be very fuzzy.

    Mill’s example was poisons with medicinal uses.

    I used the same one upthread – it seems a good example.

    I assume that the counter-argument would be “Yes, but the unregulated proprieter could still be charged with manslaughter, so no regulations are needed!”?

    (which in my mind doesn’t help the poisoned innocent, ergo some level of prevention is not a Bad Thing)

  • neonsnake

    Is the “must ID” anyone who looks to be younger than 25 a legal requirement rather than just a rule of the employer?

    Law in Scotland; advisory in the rest of the UK. As a company with stores all over Great Britain, we apply the same rules, to save confusion, to everyone.

    …which may or may not save confusion! I’d guess that many people view it as the law in England, Wales, and NI, so apply it unquestioningly.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I see. Thanks, Neon.

  • Nico

    The story as I understand it is that way back in the 70s, during the oil crises, Congress banned exports of hydrocarbon projects as a “see, we’re doing something” measure that had no possible impact on anything because the U.S. had no hope of producing enough to be a net exporter again.

    So now we have a useless law on the books limiting a freedom we weren’t expected to be able to enjoy (which is why limiting that freedom was seen as having no cost).

    It’s all stupid. Democrats gave us this. Of course, so did Republicans — we mustn’t forget that Hoover and Nixon gave us a raft of interventionist, statist policies like price and wage controls.

    And yet, on the whole, I feel freer here in the U.S. than anywhere else that would have me. Part of it is that we have a very robust Constitution, with a very robust Bill of Rights. Were I a British subject, what good would it do me to be able to invest in LNG export terminals if I had no freedom to speak, no right to a jury trial that might flip the bird at the State should it torment me for saying things it finds disagreeable??

  • Paul Marks

    Neonsnake “what do you do for a living?” – I work at an amusement park, although I was sent home today because of the rain (which is rather annoying considering the efforts I had to make to get to work today – my flight was three hours late leaving Belfast and when I got back to England from Northern Ireland there were no trains).

    As for J.S. Mill – in his “On Liberty” he draws (very briefly – so I may be misinterpreting what he meant) a distinction between regulations that control buyers and regulations that control sellers – arguing that the latter are not violations of liberty (I disagree).

    Mr Mill also makes the general claim (from which so much harm has come) that economic freedom is a different thing from such things as freedom of speech – again I do not think his argument holds up.

    As for the word “harm” – yes it is horribly vague. The non aggression principle of the Common Law is much better than the “harm principle”.

    Philosophically J.S. Mill never seems to have totally freed himself from the flesh-robot view of humans (humans as NON people) found in Thomas Hobbes, David Hume (although Mr Hume was much more polite about it than Mr Hobbes) and Jeremy Bentham.

    It makes no sense to be concerned with the freedom of people – if human BEINGS (moral agents – real choice) do not exist. There is no moral value to the “freedom” of water to gush out after a dam has been blown up – the value of liberty is in existence as the capacity for moral CHOICE (Free Will – Agency), if human BEINGS do not exist (just flesh robots whose actions are predetermined) then talking about political liberty is a waste of time.

    As I (and others) have often said in relation to F.A. Hayek – the effort to keep the politics of the “Old Whigs” whilst rejecting the philosophical foundation of that politics (human personhood – moral agency) does not work.

    If humans are NOT beings (if humans are just flesh robots whose actions are predetermined – i.e. not persons) then talk of “freedom” or “liberty” is worthless.

  • neonsnake

    I work at an amusement park

    Paul, I appreciate you answering my question, but I confess – I no longer recall why I asked it!

    Vaguely, I have an idea that you (as a politician? I think?) might be in a better place to answer the question (what is the liberalism that they believe in) than most?

    I don’t think you’ve misinterpreted Mills. I might be wrong, but I don’t think so. I think you’re correct. I think he draws a distinction between regulations for buyers and sellers.

    This isn’t a “gotcha” thing, I promise, I’m genuinely interested.

    I’m more in the camp of Mills. I sell stuff that is dangerous. Regulations prevent me from selling to underage, etc.

    I’m curious to the distinction between “non regulated” sales of knives, explosives, etc., and what regulations that “we” should be comfortable with.

    (i’ve never read Hume, Hobbes et al. I’ve read Lao Tze, Chuang Tze, Confucious at al. There’s a point where you need to stop reading cookbooks and just crack on and make dinner, if that makes sense)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “As for J.S. Mill – in his “On Liberty” he draws (very briefly – so I may be misinterpreting what he meant) a distinction between regulations that control buyers and regulations that control sellers – arguing that the latter are not violations of liberty (I disagree).

    Mr Mill also makes the general claim (from which so much harm has come) that economic freedom is a different thing from such things as freedom of speech – again I do not think his argument holds up.

    As for the word “harm” – yes it is horribly vague. The non aggression principle of the Common Law is much better than the “harm principle”.

    Philosophically J.S. Mill never seems to have totally freed himself from the flesh-robot view of humans (humans as NON people) found in Thomas Hobbes, David Hume (although Mr Hume was much more polite about it than Mr Hobbes) and Jeremy Bentham.”

    That sounds interesting. Do you have references for those statements?

    I think chapter 5 of ‘On Liberty’ discusses trade, and buyers and sellers are treated differently, but it seems to me only because their roles in the efficient prevention of harm are different. He appears to be applying the general principle, and doesn’t appear to be making any exceptions in one and not the other. What do you mean, exactly?

    Where does he draw a distinction between economic freedom and free speech?

    There is the following section in chapter 5:

    “But it is now recognized, though not till after a long struggle, that both the cheapness and the good quality of commodities are most effectually provided for by leaving the producers and sellers perfectly free, under the sole check of equal freedom to the buyers for supplying themselves elsewhere. This is the so-called doctrine of Free Trade, which rests on grounds different from, though equally solid with, the principle of individual liberty asserted in this Essay. Restrictions on trade, or on production for purposes of trade, are indeed restraints; and all restraint, qua restraint, is an evil: but the restraints in question affect only that part of conduct which society is competent to restrain, and are wrong solely because they do not really produce the results which it is desired to produce by them. As the principle of individual liberty is not involved in the doctrine of Free Trade so neither is it in most of the questions which arise respecting the limits of that doctrine: as for example, what amount of public control is admissible for the prevention of fraud by adulteration; how far sanitary precautions, or arrangements to protect work-people employed in dangerous occupations, should be enforced on employers. Such questions involve considerations of liberty, only in so far as leaving people to themselves is always better, caeteris paribus, than controlling them: but that they may be legitimately controlled for these ends, is in principle undeniable. On the other hand, there are questions relating to interference with trade which are essentially questions of liberty; such as the Maine Law, already touched upon; the prohibition of the importation of opium into China; the restriction of the sale of poisons; all cases, in short, where the object of the interference is to make it impossible or difficult to obtain a particular commodity. These interferences are objectionable, not as infringements on the liberty of the producer or seller, but on that of the buyer.”

    He appears to be saying that there are restrictions on trade for legitimate puposes of preventing harm to consumers – which the doctrine of Free Trade opposes but that of individual liberty does not. And other restrictions on trade that are indeed infringements on the individual liberty of the buyer.

    Is that what you mean?

    The word “aggression” is horribly vague, too.

    And where does he refer to a “flesh robot” viewpoint? I have no idea what you’re referring to, there.

    Thanks.

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