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“People do not walk there if they can avoid it”

Emma Duncan has written a piece for the Times with which I ought to agree. It has the title “The city of billionaires is a vision of hell” and has the strapline “San Francisco shows what happens when rent controls are used to tackle a housing shortage”.

Her article starts with a vivid description of San Francisco’s woes:

… San Francisco and its environs have the highest density of billionaires on the planet. It is also the most visibly poor place of any I have been to outside India or South Africa, and the horrors on show hold lessons for London.

As Tom Knowles reported in The Times yesterday, there are more than 8,000 homeless men and women on the streets of what is, with a population of less than 900,000, a small city. Every time we stepped out of our city-centre hotel, we saw homeless people slumped on the pavements or wandering aimlessly. In the Tenderloin district, a formerly respectable area a quarter of a mile away, there are homeless encampments on most blocks and shit on the pavements. People do not walk there if they can avoid it.

In the four days we were there, I went into maybe ten shops. In three of them, homeless people walked in, took stuff and walked out. In Starbucks, for instance, a homeless man swept a lot of biscuits and chocolates from beside the till into a bag. I started to say something to try to stop him, then looked at the woman behind the till who shrugged her shoulders. I asked the manager how often this happened; he said seven or eight times a day. I asked him what he did about it; he said he filed “an incident report”.

My son said that the police have given up on property crime because they are short of resources, because this sort of crime is so common and because there is a certain sympathy for the perpetrators. We took two buses when I was there; on one of them, the man in the seat in front of us peed on the floor. My son said it was a regular occurrence.

It then offers two possible explanations:

When you talk to San Franciscans, many take the view that homeless people are sent there from cities whose welfare provision is less generous than California’s. That seems implausible, since there is little welfare on offer in San Francisco, and surveys of the homeless population show that the vast majority are local.

Those who have studied the problem say that the main explanation is the price of property. The tech industry is so big and well paid that demand for property has pushed prices to insane levels. Average rents are about twice what they are in London. To pay the rent on a one-bedroom flat in London you would need to work about 170 hours on the minimum wage; in San Francisco, you would need to work 300 hours. As rents rise, people get turfed out of their homes and end up on the streets; combine that with negligible health provision for the poor and you end up with a lot of mentally ill people on the streets.

The response to rising rents in San Francisco has been rent controls. Nearly half the homes in the city are now covered by them. But they have made the situation worse, not better, because they discourage people from letting out property and thus reduce supply, pushing house prices up further.

The Instapundit co-bloggers talk about San Francisco often. Though I would guess that none of them would be reluctant on ideological grounds to mention rent control as the main cause of San Francisco’s problems, as far as I recall they have usually cited the explanation that Emma Duncan rejects, namely over-generous welfare payments that act as a magnet to homeless people from other states. Beyond that they speak of general bad governance, often mentioning that the last Republican mayor of SF left office in 1964.

Of course both causes could be operating. If a single shop has homeless people walking in and openly stealing from it without fear of punishment seven or eight times a day, then bad governance most certainly is operating. But is that the cause or the symptom? My reasons for wanting a more precise diagnosis than “socialism sucks”* are not entirely disinterested. Rent controls are one of the most popular policies offered by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. Apart from a few old fogeys who remember the deleterious effects of the Rent Acts, Brits love the idea of them. As Ms Duncan suggests, London may soon follow the example of San Francisco in re-introducing rent control. Lord knows the world is not short of examples that show this is a bad idea, but San Francisco might make that argument real to a British audience better than most places, as it is a city quite a lot of British people have visited recently and come away from with shit on their shoes. Do any American readers, particularly San Franciscans, have any observations to share?

*Two economists called Robert Lawson and Benjamin Powell, who seem to be more convivial than economists usually are, have written a book with this title that is currently nestling in my Kindle. My husband recommends it. He says it is about beer.

105 comments to “People do not walk there if they can avoid it”

  • bobby b

    Why do people want to be homeless there? Easy question.

    The climate is quite nice – year-round – for camping. You’ll find drier places in the fall, and slightly warmer places in the winter, but without having to move to match the seasons, SF is one of the most comfortable places to pitch your refrigerator box in the country.

    (Los Angeles might be marginally better – it’s warmer in the winter – but it’s more hostile. The police haven’t been told that their First Mission is serve the homeless, and so they move people along.)

    Plus, there’s so much money being spent in the area, the garbage there is better then the material most people aspire to buy.

    I’m heading out to Los Angeles next month. I’d normally detour up to SF for a few days to visit some people, but this time the SF people are going to come down to LA while I’m there. They no longer have the desire to try to entertain and dine out and keep up the pretense that they live in paradise. They can afford to insulate themselves from their surroundings, but that mostly means not leaving their homes unless it’s to get into their car and drive to underground guarded parking, and there’s not enough of that to make the city safely accessible.

  • Kevin B

    I occasionally walk from Leicester Square to Covent Garden and back. There are always homeless beggars impeding me – rarely aggressively – but always there.

    London isn’t quite as nice as SF for sleeping rough but I’m sure both cities share the two main reasons for homelessness:

    Drug addiction and mental illness.

    So the question becomes, what should we do with those afflicted by these conditions? Should we keep them away from polite society or should we let them piss off the rest of us as we go about our business.

    From the number and tenor of the articles about San Fransiscan homelessness it would appear to me that the problem has reached the stage where it’s pissing off the elite and therefore the homeless are about to get kicked out of their current, cosy position.

    Still, I’m sure the good burghers of San Francisco will find a way to blame Trump as they get rid of the poor sickos.

  • rheddles

    Rent control came second. The primary problems are zoning and land removed from development. NIMBYism originated in the Bay area. And then there was the closing of all the mental hospitals.

  • Agammamon

    The climate is quite nice – year-round – for camping. You’ll find drier places in the fall, and slightly warmer places in the winter, but without having to move to match the seasons, SF is one of the most comfortable places to pitch your refrigerator box in the country.

    Not in San Francisco its not. I’m biased (I live in a desert) but Samuel Clemmens once said that the “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”. I was there a few years ago and needed a jacket at night – in July.

    Its also pretty darn wet. At least until you get well inland. But that’s not where the homeless are.

    Its not the weather that’s bringing people in. LA – sure. That place’s got great weather year only – winter is their favorite *day* of the year. Same with San Diego.

    ‘Lured in by welfare’? Maybe from nearby areas. But this ain’t the summer of love and teh gays don’t need to flock to the bathhouses of The Castro anymore and the homeless are not known for travellign.

    What I would say it probably is, is that these people are the remants of those driven out by NIMBYism and greenbelt policies that make it take *decades* to get anything built. Unless you’re in with the right sets of ‘community activists’. Green belts are strangling the place, rent control makes it worse, but the core is city government zoning policies that mandate large setbacks, prevent multi-family housing being built in a lot of areas (even to the point of not allowing ‘in-law units – small, detached apartments where an aging parent might live out their days, close enough for the kids to watch over but still allowing privacy and dignity).

    There’s a story (in Reason) about a guy who’s spent FIVE YEARS and a million dollars in an attempt to convert an old laundrymat he owns into an apartment complex.

    https://reason.com/2018/02/21/san-francisco-man-has-spent-4-years-1-mi/

  • bob sykes

    It is a flat out lie that poor people get no health care. Hospitals are required by law to provide it to anyone who shows up. Poor people in America get as good health care as do people in Britain. As outcomes statistics show, especially for cancer, Americans get much better health care than do Brits. Brits get the worst health care in the developed world by far. You get Second World health care, or worse.

    The real problem is that the US shut down almost all its psychiatric hospitals a generation ago, and put all the inmates out on the streets. There are out patient treatment programs and shelters and halfway houses, but the great majority of the crazies would rather live free on the streets than submit to the rules of the shelters. Some shelters are also unsafe, especially for women.

  • Alsadius

    Rent control is one issue, but not the only one. SF makes it nearly impossible to build new housing. If you’ve got lots of supply hitting the market, rent control is nearly irrelevant – Seattle recently saw prices drop, despite a huge boom in the local economy, because of a huge wave of new housing construction. Rent control mostly serves to spread the misery of inadequate supply somewhat differently than it’d otherwise be spread, in that case.

    It’s different if it’s a city where construction is plausible but the economics are the issue – NYC a generation or two ago seems to have worked this way. Rent control damages the economics of rental construction, undoubtedly. But if you can’t build at all, disincentivizing building won’t do much.

  • Eric

    This is my neck of the woods, so I deal with it all the time.

    Only units built prior to 1979 are subject to rent control, so that’s not why developers aren’t building. San Francisco is cursed with a bunch of NIMBY rules which make any development drag on for ages, but that’s true in a lot of cities.

    There is something to the idea homeless people came from other places. At one point the city tallied up the money it was spending on services for the homeless, including housing vouchers, meals, and medical outreach. They decided “Heck, we’re spending so much we could just give them the cash and they would have enough to live on.” So they did, and for a few years the city handed out drug money to a burgeoning population of derelicts from all over the US. How they could have imagined that would end any other way is a mystery, and in fact the current very progressive governor of California made his political bones as a SF city councilman ending the cash grant system and transitioning back to the earlier model.

    If you have to be homeless somewhere, San Francisco isn’t a bad place. It doesn’t rain much, and gets cold enough to be uncomfortable but not cold enough for snow. The cops won’t hassle you, even if you’ve decided to force hundreds of commuters to walk into the street around you as you’re stretched out on a busy sidewalk. You can get away with some pretty aggressive panhandling, and even if you get caught stealing from the local shops the cops may not even bother to arrest you because they know there’s no room in the jails for nonviolent offenders.

    So of course there’s a general breakdown of law and order. There hasn’t been much violence yet, but that’s the progression.

  • bobby b

    Agammamon
    October 4, 2019 at 12:56 am

    “Not in San Francisco its not.”

    Maybe it’s all relative – it’s supposed to snow here tonight – but on a year-round basis, SF has great weather. I grew up in L.A., and we used to go up to SF to escape the heat (and bad air.)

  • Michael Taylor

    Well, Samizdata’s readers are unlikely to welcome this response, but surely the starting-point for any discussion about this problem must be the recognition that San Francisco is a city in which the experience of living in a social space – a society – has died.

    The fundamental question, then, is how and why the recognition of the social aspect of life has been allowed to die in a place which certainly has the material resources to allow it to live. I would suggest that the extreme belief in individual self-assertion and self-actualization is being bought at the expense of the death of the social.

    Libertarians would do well to wonder whether this is a necessary thing, or merely a conditional response that could have been avoided. If the latter, Samizdata’s readers have some hard thinking to do. If the former, the thinking’s going to be even harder, more painful.

  • bobby b

    “Libertarians would do well to wonder whether this is a necessary thing . . . “

    Sorry for maybe a dumb question, but it seems to me that you’ve left your ultimate thesis unstated, and I can’t parse out which way it goes.

    You’re saying there’s a cause and effect relationship between libertarianism and SF’s disintegration.

    What is it?

  • SB

    The effects of rent-control and NIMBYism in SF are both real, but have little to do with the explosive growth of the homeless population there. Similarly, while SF’s benefits for homeless policies may be a magnet for homeless from elsewhere, this too has a negligible effect, if any, on SF’s situation.*

    The growth in the homeless in SF, and in nearly every major city in the US, derives primarily from two causes: the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill and the decriminalization of drug use.

    * Some years back, cities in Texas got caught sending their homeless to Santa Monica, CA, just outside LA, which has phenomenal weather and the welfare and policing policies you’d expect from a far left city.

  • Rob

    Rent control came second. The primary problems are zoning and land removed from development.

    Yes, add in that it is constrained by the ocean anyway and you have a perfect restriction of supply. Funny how these places with vicious zoning laws and Sky-high property prices are often the most ‘Progressive’ in their politics.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Well, Samizdata’s readers are unlikely to welcome this response…”

    We might do if we knew what it meant.

    My guess is that by “social” you actually mean “socialist” or “socialism”. The bit about SF having plenty of material resources to loot suggests it. But I don’t know, and I might be unfairly misinterpreting you.

    If you’re not talking about socialism (redistributing material resources) but some sort of community spirit and respect for proper behaviour on the part of the homeless, making a positive contribution and not making things unpleasant for others, then I don’t see why you would need material resources for that (cultural and moral resources, maybe) and I don’t see why you’d think we’d disagree. We all give voluntarily to society in trade so that society will voluntarily give back to our mutual benefit. We all take care not to step on one another’s toes. It’s a community.

    “I would suggest that the extreme belief in individual self-assertion and self-actualization is being bought at the expense of the death of the social.”

    Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz?

  • Simon Gibbs

    I visited in 2010 and noticed a lot of homelessness. Asking a local about it they too said it was the generous welfare, she spoke as someone does when stating a conventional opinion.

  • neonsnake

    I would suggest that the extreme belief in individual self-assertion and self-actualization is being bought at the expense of the death of the social.

    Interesting.

    What if, on the other hand, I believe in extreme individual self-assertion and self-actualisation because I, as a moral standpoint, wish to live at my own expense, and not at someone else’s? Is that not helpful for society?

    And that, in particular, I believe in extreme self-actualisation because I believe it puts me in a better position to be able to help my neighbours, should they need my help? Is that not being social?

    What if I believe that such extremes will lead, inevitably, to an amount of specialisation in skills, which will lead to inevitable social and business interactions with other self-actualised individuals, who are better at, say, carpentry than I am?

    Less abstractly, we occasionally have conversations amongst Samizdata readers and commentators about the best way to help the most vulnerable in society. While we have lots of disagreements about how to help them, I don’t think I’ve seen someone disagree about whether to help them.

  • Surellin

    About 90% of the homeless (in the U.S.) are mentally ill and/or substance abusers. The notion that the problem is a lack of housing is originally a “patients’ rights” argument posited by anti-psychiatric activists such as the late Thomas Szasz. There’s a fine discussion of this in the book “Madness In The Streets”.

  • Richard A Heddleson

    Interesting conflation of two problems. Rent control is an economic problem for functioning people. Homelessness is a personal problem for non-functional people. One can find many homeless people in communities with low rents or no rent control.

    wrt rent control, I take a very libertarian position. Most of the problem is a result of interference in the market by government.

    wrt homelessness, my libertarian leanings are far less firm. I do not believe mental illness is a myth. It is real, and as a society we should deal with these people humanely. This means a combination of private facilities for those who can afford them and state institutions for those who cannot, as we treat the elderly today. Now we are left with only the private institutions and those who cannot afford them are left to the jungle of the streets. It will be a great badge of dishonor for our generation that we have treated those so helpless so poorly.

  • F

    I live in the area and there are homeless all over the SF Bay area: Berkeley, San Jose, and along the freeways and under bridges. Community has broken down, churches have lost 50% of their congregation over the last 30 years, it is nearly impossible to find a retirement community to live if you are old (I know, as my parents tried to move this year and they were rejected by three different places). There is a huge demand, but -like all housing – nothing is being built. We have had a large growth in jobs in the area and yet housing stock has hardly changed. Hundreds of thousands of people commute in from 50 to 100 miles away to work. The freeways are packed most daylight hours. Those who bought houses before 2000 have seen their wealth increase but the houses being sold are mostly going to people who are using Bay Area real estate as an investment vehicle. Fully 1/4 of Palo Alto housing is unoccupied, these 4 million dollar houses just sit empty on quiet streets. The solution is simple: build a million new houses and keep building. But there has been no change. Too many people gain by keeping the situation just as it is.

  • Michael Taylor

    I’m glad (happy, I have a smile on my face, my soul lifts) that a couple of people have picked up the challenge I hoped I had put down – ie, to raise the question of whether an ‘extreme belief in individual self-assertion and self-actualization is being bought at the expense of the death of the social.’

    My first response is that claims that you don’t understand the question are surely not plausible. Man is by nature a social (political) animal, as our daily experience of absolutely everything informs us. No man is an island etc. The claim that this is not understood by extreme individualists is silly, and I’m not going to entertain it.

    Similarly, acknowledging the fact that any expression of individual freedom is and can be made only in relationship to the society with which he interacts does not imply a sudden vertiginous collapse into socialism (that’s you I’m talking to, Nulla). There are ways and ways of avoiding the question, but shrieking ‘socialism’ at it isn’t the best.

    The question remains: how do you explain that in the city of the world which has brought us the libertarianism associated with the mighty-rich high-priests of the tech industry has also managed to degenerate into a state of pre-civic barbarism? To assume that this is solely the fault of, say, rent-controls, seems a wholly inadequate – indeed a laughable – response. If ‘San Francisco’ wanted to nurture civility (ie, maintain a society), then it plainly could do it (because its citizens certainly do have the resources to do it). That these citizens have chosen not to maintain a society, I suggest, is giving us a real warning about the problems of libertarians who act as if they really are ‘an island.’

  • Michael Gillespie

    Michael Taylor, there is one (to be generous) assertion of fact not in evidence in your question, and one massively unstated (likely unprovable but at least somewhat accurate) truth.

    Fact not in evidence: that anything about the technology sector in SFO is remotely libertarian. In support of that proposition, read Peter Thiel’s book and tell me that he (the closest thing to an actual libertarian I know of in Silicon Valley) is anything but another command and control freak. His idea of the perfect company is one that has sealed up the market to achieve another kind of rent control – he explicitly states that he views competition between companies as a massively negative thing that can only be tolerated on the way to total monopoly control of the market.

    Unstated truth: the leaders of the tech revolution are famously “on the spectrum”. Avoidance of the “social” is their default posture, and the platforms they have built and the working conditions in which those platforms are developed have a veneer of human interaction but ALWAYS mediated by some kind of literal, physical screen. Either your phone, your tablet or the windows of the free bus that takes you from your apartment to your job.

    As the more religious amongst us might have it, they live IN the world but are not OF the world.

    I posit that SFO is the logical, physical outcome of the virtual worlds the tech industry creates.

  • jmc

    Long term SF resident here. 30 plus years. The article is completely and totally wrong. On every level.

    Firstly, there are very few homeless people in SF, those who have lost their accommodation for one reason or another. There are many thousands of Street People. These people are drunks, junkies, drifter, petty criminals and the mentally ill. 50% of the street people have *zero* connection to the City. They have been around for a few months at most. Another 25%/30% have only minimal connection with the City. Maybe only the most transitory rental history of the City of a year at most. So 75%/80% of the Street People have no connection with the City.

    When the City hands out free stuff, lots of Street People. When the City enforces the law, far fewer Street People. Thats has been the cycle over the last four decades.

    Prop 47 and 57 put tens of thousands of petty criminals onto the streets. Prop 57 not only made robberies of up to $1000 un-prosecutable but also meant that street junkies no longer had to take rehab as a condition of parole. Thats were all the street junkies came from recently. Before 57, very few, a few months after 57 it was as bad as the 1980’s.

    Prop 47 and Prop 57 were financed by the rich friends of Jerry Brown, lots of techies, but also seven figure donations by billionaires like Steyer, Reed, Zuckerberg etc. Three Strikes back in the 1990s removed all the street criminals and collapsed the petty crime rate. Prop 46 and 57 released all these petty criminals again.

    As for the mentally ill on the streets. Thats because the mentally ill have a right to refuse to take their meditation in California. And every time they have tried to amend this obscenely cruel “patient rights” law since the 1970’s the usual suspects, “activists”, have stopped them with laws suites. Which is why I now have complete and totally contempt for anyone who calls themselves an “activist”. Little more than evil narcissists who never stay around to deal with the disasters they always create.

    So the current Street People problem has zero to do with rent control and zoning laws. Thats a totally different subject. Also created by “activists” who turned out to be little more than transitory residents over the decades.

  • Sigivald

    “As rents rise, people get turfed out of their homes and end up on the streets”

    Because, after all, there is nowhere else in California that one can live for any less.

  • neonsnake

    No man is an island etc. The claim that this is not understood by extreme individualists is silly, and I’m not going to entertain it.

    Hm. I would describe myself as an extreme individualist, in the sense of self-reliance, as can be attested to by others (also in the sense that I recognise other people as individuals in their own right, not just as members of class or race etc).

    Would you meet me halfway and define what you mean when you hear “extreme individualist” – stereotype or caricature if you find it useful!

    You’ve obviously got an idea in your head of what sort of people individualists are, with regards to “social” interactions, but it would be helpful to define what that is.

    libertarianism associated with the mighty-rich high-priests of the tech industry

    But we don’t necessarily associate libertarianism with the mighty-rich of any industry, tech or not. We believe that many of the mighty-rich have earned their wealth illegitimately; and/or that they are attempting to hold on to their wealth illegitimately by preventing others from entering their market.

    I don’t know enough about SF to specifically comment, but it doesn’t appear to be a problem that could be solved by a few mega-rich tech bros throwing money at it.

    I will also note that a cursory read of the OP and thread reveals many people, the OP included, are also not buying “rent control” as the sole cause of the problem.

  • jmc

    > Sigivald
    > Because, after all, there is nowhere
    > else in California that one can live
    > for any less.

    Actually in my experience the back story goes something like this. The people in question are never born in San Francisco. In fact all the ones I know personally are from back East. They moved to SF in their 20’s back in the 1970’s or 1980’s and locked in an apartment at a rent that has changed little over the decades. Say $600 for an apartment that now rents for $3600. At the moment.

    All of them either have a small private income and / or else just worked at some slacker type job that made enough to pay the bills but they really did not overly exert themselves over the decades. Then for one reason or another they lose their way below market rent apartment and now they dont have the income to support their previous life living in the City. Most move out of the City, eventually, very bitter at how unfair life is. Some hang around too long, end up in a shelter for a little while, then they eventually go back to their home town / state. Very bitter at how unfair life is. In all cases these people came from the comfortable middle classes.

    All the native San Franciscans who were priced out of their home town starting in the 1970s all moved down the Peninsula, up to north Marin, or out to the East Bay. Not terribly happy about being forced out of their hometown, but never really bitter. Pretty much all of the native San Franciscans I know who were forced out of the City are either working class or lower middle class.

    Which I think is an important part of the story you never hear. If you see local “progressive” politics over the last five decades as a way to force out working class whites then it makes a lot more sense. Such as destroying the local school system in the 1970’s

  • Nullius in Verba

    “My first response is that claims that you don’t understand the question are surely not plausible.”

    Nevertheless, they’re true.

    The idea of the “social” can be understood in hundreds of different ways, including “socialism”. Which one are you referring to?

    You say “Man is by nature a social (political) animal, as our daily experience of absolutely everything informs us.” Yes, true. But what does that have to do with the homeless in San Francisco? The homeless interact socially with other people in society. That’s not stopped. Politics hasn’t stopped in San Francisco. Everyone still experiences living in a society. We can even say that it is probably a better experience and a materially better existence than than that experienced by people over 99% of human history. Every historic society has had its beggars and destitute – it is modern Western society that is the outlier in having eliminated most of it, to the extent that we think it something odd and in need of explanation. So what do you mean by saying “the experience of living in a social space – a society – has died”?

    “Similarly, acknowledging the fact that any expression of individual freedom is and can be made only in relationship to the society with which he interacts does not imply a sudden vertiginous collapse into socialism”

    Didn’t say it did. I was guessing that by “social” you meant something like the usage of “social” in “social security”, and was talking about the well-off in society giving charity or taxes to support those less well off – i.e. socialism – and saying this had failed.

    But clearly not, since “social security” obviously has nothing at all to do with “acknowledging the fact that any expression of individual freedom is and can be made only in relationship to the society with which he interacts”. I’m not sure that it’s even true – we could talk about whether the freedom of a person living absolutely alone is a concept. But true or not, it’s another meaning of “social” that has no clear relationship to whatever we’re talking about. The homeless being free to shoplift and crap on the streets is spoken of in relation to the society that has to put up with it, that allows it. Society experiences crap on the streets and shoplifting. ‘The experience of living in a social space’ evidently continues.

    “The question remains: how do you explain that in the city of the world which has brought us the libertarianism associated with the mighty-rich high-priests of the tech industry has also managed to degenerate into a state of pre-civic barbarism?”

    There are half a dozen such explanations listed above. That homeless people are sent there from cities whose welfare provision is less generous than California’s. That the tech industry is so big and well paid that demand for property has pushed prices to insane levels. Rent control. Zoning. Land removed from development. Properties being acquired as investment vehicles. Drug use and mental illness. The closing of the mental hospitals. NIMBY rules. The weather being particularly congenial there. Past administrations handing out free money. Take your pick.

    None of those suggestions seem to bear any relation to any claim that San Francisco is particularly libertartian or individualistic – quite the reverse! Rent controls and zoning laws are opposed by libertarians.

    So I have even less idea what you’re talking about now than I had before. Would you care to explain further?

  • Plamus

    “Next to bombing, rent control seems in many cases to be the most efficient technique so far known for destroying cities.” – Assar Lindbeck

  • Eric

    The “mighty-rich high-priests of the tech industry” call themselves libertarians because they want legal recreational drugs. When it comes to the size and scope of government they’re mostly overweening statists.

    From what I can tell the institutions that used to comprise civil society – churches, fraternal organizations, bowling clubs, etc, have been shouldered aside by government. “Why should I join a fraternal organization that helps the poor? That’s the government’s job, and I pay a lot of money in taxes to that end.” This isn’t a problem of libertarianism; it’s quite the opposite. The growth of the welfare state has removed the moral imperative for charitable works.

  • bobby b

    “The “mighty-rich high-priests of the tech industry” call themselves libertarians because they want legal recreational drugs. When it comes to the size and scope of government they’re mostly overweening statists.”

    This. +1. I see very little evidence of libertarianism – of valuing liberty – in SF.

    Libertine-ism, maybe, but that’s not the same. That’s what makes the American Libertarian Party into the Legal Drugs Party.

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby +++.

  • Myno

    @Eric “The growth of the welfare state has removed the moral imperative for charitable works.”

    Certainly, plus the inherent distancing effects of the screen interface to the world, which dilute (if not remove entirely) the social subtleties that engender true charity. We know that the most effective charity is personal, where the giver and recipient know each other, over the time of the giving. That this bond is broken by government bureaucracy is obvious. That the tech interfaces seek to fool the human user into thinking that they’re (he’s/she’s/etc’s) getting the whole interaction… indeed improved interaction over face-to-face meetings… is due to the combined effects of hubris and laziness, on behalf of both developers and users.

  • I live in Minneapolis, with its mid-continental, mid-latitude climate. During pleasant weather we have people on certain specific corners (lots of traffic, traffic signal) with cardboard signs proclaiming their homelessness. I’ve never felt inundated, nor seen encampments, though at my age I am less likely to go to places where these might be. Winter might have something to do with it. Street people might be insane, drugged, or helpless – but they’re not necessarily stupid, and it takes work to be migratory. Winter is a harsh teacher, and you learn to pay attention. That, or leave school.

  • Michael Taylor

    First, I’d like to thank Samizdatans for their interesting responses to the challenge. Let’s have a look at the latest:
    Michael Gillespie & neonsnake: I completely agree that the high-priests of the tech industry are anything but libertarians, regardless of how they perceive themselves, and regardless of the Burning Man ethos. You don’t construct centralized top-down global behemoths like Google or Facebook by being libertarian. And I completely agree that their actions are obviously highly destructive of the ‘social’.

    Still, libertarian is how a) they perceive themselves and b) how many people are encouraged, successfully, to see them.

    But beware: your argument here threatens to degenerate into the equivalent of the ‘but the Soviet Union/China/Cambodia wasn’t communism’ type of excuse. Can we call it the ‘no real libertarian’ getout?

    Nullius: Essentially, you ask for a minimalist and/or maximalist definition of what I take to be ‘social’. Well, here I think the easiest, and probably fairest, response is to go all Wittgenstein and say ‘meaning is use’, and the writer of the original article to which I was responding was specifically about what he/she experienced as a collapse of the social. And I’ve got to say, when you’re in a situation in which shops can be regularly and freely looted, or when bus passengers feel free to pee on the floor, then I for one don’t feel the need to quibble with that meaning. I’m not sure that you’ll accept that as an argument, or even a strategy for an argument, because you continue to claim that you don’t know what I mean in the first place – something I continue to doubt. We could, at this stage, get into arguments about definitions (‘theft of public property’ would be a starting point), but, frankly, I’m not going to.

    Eric: I’m sympathetic to what you say (see above), particularly about the erosion of institutions of civil society. But when you say ‘This isn’t a problem for libertarianism: it’s quite the opposite’, then I think you’re actually wrong, since self-consciously ducking out of the problems of a corroding society will tend to make things worse, not better. Quite possibly, a libertarian has a proper and selfish interest in encouraging and participating in civic institutions precisely so that the sort of social corrosion which he/she must necessarily endure, will be at least moderated.

    jmc: the most interesting of responses, since the best-informed empirically. In your first comment: ‘So the current Street People problem has zero to do with rent control and zoning laws. Thats a totally different subject. Also created by “activists” who turned out to be little more than transitory residents over the decades.’ And in your second: Which I think is an important part of the story you never hear. If you see local “progressive” politics over the last five decades as a way to force out working class whites then it makes a lot more sense.’ And you can be absolutely certain these people saw themselves as ‘liberals’.

    And this is where, perhaps, the charge is laid: that the ‘liberalism’ which encourages the believe in individual self-assertion and self-actualization’, combined with the soi-disant ‘libertarianism’ of the tech industry has, in unholy combination, wrought the destruction of the society upon which it feeds. Hence my original question: is this mere happenstance (contingent), or actually inevitable (necessary). I still think it’s a question you’re going to have to think about.

  • neonsnake

    that the ‘liberalism’ which encourages the believe in individual self-assertion and self-actualization’

    You still haven’t defined what those things mean to you.

    You’re going to need to define that before going any further, if you want to be taken seriously, because there’s a few of us here that meet that description, and who I know from prior discussion to be enormously involved in the “social”, which I note you also haven’t defined – society? The wider world? Socialism? (evidently not from your previous accusation of “shrieking” directed at Nullius, who doesnt strike me as a “shrieker” 😉 ) Social media (“I admit I am lost in the age of the social” from Lady Gaga – sue me, it’s an absolute banger of a tune).

    Indulge me. I’m just a poor unsophisticated English boy. Have a glass of wine with me and do me the goodwill of defining your terms.

    And no, we can’t call it the “no true libertarian” get-out, since they aren’t libertarian, they’re corporatists.

    The world is full of LINOs, pretend Classical Liberals and free-speech enthusiasts for their free speech and theirs only. Not our fault, and we do what we can to correct the perception, even though we shouldn’t have to.

    I still think it’s a question you’re going to have to think about.

    Personally, I think we’ve given it a good deal of thought, and we have decided that we don’t like government using our money (and therefore our indirect consent), and our votes (also our consent) to ruin the most vulnerable members of our society.

    What’s your thoughts?

  • Bloke on M4

    Those who have studied the problem say that the main explanation is the price of property.

    If price of property is the problem, move to Memphis. Average house price below $100K. Or buy a $20 bus ticket to San Fernando where the prices are $400K.

  • neonsnake

    @Julie, @bobby b

    Guys, you know how you’ve always said that in the US, we’re considered “republicans that want to smoke weed”?

    In the UK, we’re considered “conservatives who don’t give a shit about poor people”. I’ve either outright said, or at least hinted as such.

    This lad, Michael Taylor, he’s a stunning example of such people. He obviously believes that, despite everything we’ve said above.

    This is why I take some pains to point out why I’m libertarian (and it aint’ coz I don’t give a shit about poor peeps 🙂 )

    How difficult it is for us when we’re so misrepresented?

  • Michael Taylor

    Neonsnake,
    I’d gladly share a glass with you, and doubtless we’d discover we didn’t absolutely need each other’s approval.

    I am aware that there is a tract of (English) libertarianism which is profoundly communitarian – it’s called Quakerism, and I have a great deal of time for it. But it is both libertarian and communitarian necessarily because at its heart it yearns to see that of god in everyone. If you start from that premise, not only does the divide between libertarianism and communitarianism dissolve, but you begin to recognize that you can’t have one without the other.

    But without that deep inspired pride/humility it is far too easy to slip into the ‘conservatives who don’t give a shit’ mindset.

    Trouble is, once you begin to venture down the Quakerist path, the attractions of ‘hard’ libertarianism seem very inadequate, whilst the hard demands of a proper ‘social democracy’ approach, tricky as they are, seem difficult to resist. If I were a better Quaker, maybe. . .

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Essentially, you ask for a minimalist and/or maximalist definition of what I take to be ‘social’.”

    No, I’m just asking for which particular definition of ‘social’ you’re using to connect the dots of your argument. You seem to see some sort of connection from libertarianism and individualism leading to ‘the death of the social’, whatever that means, to the reported behaviour of the homeless in San Francisco.

    But the definitions you cite are very general – that people interact socially – and they don’t appear to be fit the idea of ‘death’ of social interaction. The homeless and destitute have always behaved like that – Dickens commented on it extensively. Society has always had to deal with it. And there are social interactions galore, between the homeless, the shopkeepers, the pedestrians, and so on. It’s normal. And there are clearly problems in society that lead to its lamentable continuation, but those conditions existed long before libertarianism was invented, and are part of, not contrary to, the way humans normally interact.

    Now quite remarkably, over the last few hundred years, the Enlightenment brought about an unprecedented level of intellectual and economic freedom, which has led to an explosion in economic development, which has for the first time in 200,000 years of human history made us rich enough to – in many places – virtually eliminate that sort of poverty. We’ve got the point where most of us live lives where this sort of behaviour seems inconceivable, abberrant, something strange in need of explanation.

    And yes, it does. Our revolution hasn’t reached everyone, some people it hasn’t worked for. 90% of them the mentally ill, addicted, illiterate, innumerate, abused, abandoned, and thoroughly messed up. Yes, it’s a question in need of an answer. But you haven’t said anything so far to explain how it’s connected to individualism or libertarianism, or to any specific form of social failure in the generic ‘people interacting’ sort of ‘social’. Or why explaining it is a problem for us in particular.

    Maybe you have a point, I’m interested to find out if you do, but I’m not seeing it so far.

  • neonsnake

    I’d gladly share a glass with you, and doubtless we’d discover we didn’t absolutely need each other’s approval.

    Quite right.

    But let me give you a glass. Not share.

    Let’s sit down round a table, you, me, Nullius In Verba, and bobby b.

    Sit down. Drink my wine. I’m buying, brother. Smoke my fags (inside or outside, your choice), smokers.

    I’m an atheist. I have little idea of what Quakerism means.

    We libertarians believe that no one knows everything. It’s kinda key to our beliefs. We call it the “Knowledge Problem”.

    Most of us, we’re pretty concerned about bthe poorest, brother. We’re not “hard” libertarianism. Honestly, we’re not.

    Look, six months ago, I was you. These guys, that not that, ok?

    Have a glass of my wine. Smoke a couple of my fags. They care, alright?

  • Paul Marks

    San Francisco used to be the best city for ordinary families – in the world, bar none.

    Then, in the 1960s, the Progressives took over the city – and it has got worse-and-worse for ordinary people. It is not just rent control – it is everything.

    San Francisco is now a city of the very rich (the “dotcom” rich and their banker associates – both of whom combine great wealth with either socialist or semi socialist politics) and the very poor – the mass of homeless, often insane or on drugs (or both). Ordinary people are being forced out of the city.

    If you want to see what the Democrats would do to the United States if they win in 2020 then look at what they have already done to California, the “Golden State” now has the worst POVERTY (when one takes into account the cost of living) in the United States.

  • How difficult it is for us when we’re so misrepresented? (neonsnake, October 5, 2019 at 5:46 pm)

    I suspect Trump, Nigel and even Boris might each laugh long and loud at the idea we even knew we were born in that department. 🙂

  • neonsnake

    If you want to see what the Democrats would do to the United States if they win in 2020 then look at what they have already done to California, the “Golden State”

    Do you believe its “bad faith”, Paul?

    Or “unintended consequences”?

  • neonsnake

    Boris might each laugh long and loud at the idea we even knew we were born in that department. 🙂

    Don’t disagree. But I’m trying take the “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” crowd, and turn them to our way of thinking.

    Tricky.

  • bobby b

    “Still, libertarian is how a) they perceive themselves and b) how many people are encouraged, successfully, to see them.”

    So, your point is not that libertarians are responsible for any of the social breakdown, but that we’re being wrongly blamed for it?

    I don’t think people here are arguing with you so much as they are not understanding your point. I know I’m not getting it.

  • bobby b

    “I have little idea of what Quakerism means.”

    Just as a side note, because I can:

    Quakers are closely related to my friends (and chicken-sources, as I’ve said) the Hutterites and Mennonites. They’re all Anabaptists – a sect of Baptist Christians who believe that baptism should occur in adulthood, by informed choice. That’s the technical aspect.

    They live a rather hardy religious communal life, but meld that with the Confucian “improve thyself to improve humanity” credo. They just do it in service to a god instead of to the community itself.

    They are what libertarians are when libertarians treat a discrete group of associated people as “oneself.”

  • neonsnake

    Trump, Nigel and even Boris might each laugh long and loud at the idea we even knew we were born in that department. 🙂

    Niall, pull yourself back to say, 2003/2004. Imagine I’m interviewing.

    Now imagine a lad (an interviewee) makes sure he knows he’s gay. Me and my friend (straight) who are interviewing.

    What do you think happens now? (Knowing what you know about me?)

  • neonsnake

    but meld that with the Confucian “improve thyself to improve humanity” credo. They just do it in service to a god instead of to the community itself.

    I should certainly spend more time on Confuciunsm than Confucius himself.

  • Nico

    @neonsnake:

    If you want to see what the Democrats would do to the United States if they win in 2020 then look at what they have already done to California, the “Golden State”

    Do you believe its “bad faith”, Paul?

    Or “unintended consequences”?

    Not Paul, but I think the answer is yes. Some do it in bad faith, and others are just dumb/stupid/naive. There’s no doubt in my mind that some lefties are out to destroy western civ.

    As long as they had the Soviet Union, you see, they had hope. The Soviets were not against western civ quite the way lefties are today – they just wanted naked power, but they did also want scientific and technological progress, for example.

    But now that the USSR is no more? They can’t win elections, they can’t take power, and they don’t have a bastion. They have lost hope. They resent the West. They resent everything that keeps them from wielding naked power. They would destroy the West out of spite. They’re certainly trying.

  • Nico

    We libertarians believe that no one knows everything. It’s kinda key to our beliefs. We call it the “Knowledge Problem”.

    Is that so? Certainly not the Objectivist kind (do they exist any more?).

    I went to a Libertarian party convention once. The party people struck me as kooks. And I know enough open-borders libertarians who can’t see that before you can be for open borders you have to end welfare. Similarly the anti-war types. Libertarians seem to hold idealist positions as if they can have an ideal world if only given a chance, but it isn’t remotely feasible. It’s hard to support libertarian candidates. Sorry (not sorry).

  • neonsnake

    They would destroy the West out of spite. They’re certainly trying.

    I won’t speak for the US.
    But in the UK, it’s good faith.

  • bobby b

    “It’s hard to support libertarian candidates. Sorry (not sorry).”

    I would entirely agree with this if you had typed “it’s hard to support Libertarian candidates.”

    In the US, “Libertarian” means something different than “libertarian”, just as “Democratic” means something different than “democratic.” As I can be a democratic Republican, US Libertarians can be quite unlibertarian.

    Plus, libertarianism covers a wide range on the continuum between “huge, all-powerful, pervasive government” and anarchy – so wide that it’s really more of a trend than a position. Many here would be considered to be “libertarian-trending”, but not nearly at the continuum endpoint of anarchy. “Open borders” is one topic that lies outside the comfort zone of many libertarian-trending people.

    As for the idea of charity towards others? Nothing about it is contradicted by libertarian thought. Now, coercive charity by you with my money or labor is a different thing, but I can (and do) gift my own property as I see fit.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Libertarians seem to hold idealist positions as if they can have an ideal world if only given a chance, but it isn’t remotely feasible.”

    That’s what authoritarians always say, and use to justify their authoritarianism. Socialists say they would love it if everyone lived their system voluntarily, but it’s not remotely feasible, so people have to be forced. Yes of course we’d like free speech, but if you do that then bad people (e.g. racists and right-wingers) would gain popularity and power, plunging the world into war, so restricting free speech is the only practical and survivable approach. And so on.

    Now it may well be that what a libertarian purist considers liberty is not actually practical/feasible at a particular time in history. That’s an argument that can be reasonably made. (Electorally it has proved so.) But if it’s not, then what you’re proposing instead is just more authoritarianism – merely a different flavour of authoritarianism to the other lot. You’re justifying the need to fight, to abridge people’s rights, to prevent a dangerous opposing authoritarianism gaining power, and you’re doing so by seizing power for your own equally dangerous species of authoritarianism! And so are the people you’re fighting! It means you’ve automatically lost the real war before you’ve started. You can’t possibly win.

    It’s the mentality of the blood feud. Two tribes slaughter one another in an endless sequence of murderous atrocity and counter-atrocity forever, each act in revenge for the previous atrocity, with no way out of the cycle. Endless generations mired in misery and death, because each and every one of them will tell you that stopping it isn’t politically feasible, that if you stopped and laid down your arms you’d just get wiped out, that there’s no reasoning with those murderous bastards over there. And it’s true. Because they make exactly the same argument. They’re exactly the same sort of people.

    Libertarians are simply saying that life would obviously be a lot nicer if you could get the self-destructive blood feud to stop. Is it possible to get from here to there? Only if everyone understands and supports liberty as an abstract principle, not simply out of self-interest because you’re getting clobbered. And people don’t/won’t. And so the cycle goes on. And on. And on.

    “It’s hard to support libertarian candidates.”

    Very true, if you’re an authoritarian. Most people are (mild) authoritarians at heart.

  • bobby b

    “They have lost hope.”

    Sorry, forgot this part.

    I don’t think they’ve lost hope. I think they lost what they thought was the complete ultimate win, and they’re enraged.

    They were on top of the world. Between Hillary’s sure-bet election and Remain’s sure-bet win, and with most governments seemingly falling under the progressive umbrella, they finally thought they had it all.

    And then came Trump and Brexit and the upsurge in right-wing (or at least less left-wing) power all over Europe.

    They were sitting on a royal flush, and then some savages walked in with five of a kind and were awarded the hand, and they’re pissed.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Too much to say on these issues of libertarianism to say much of anything.

    At least not in the mere 6-8 hours before bedtime.

    . . .

    Well.

    Except that going by what I see in my American cyberspatial wanderings, the images of libertarianism abound. Some think of libertarians as far- or hard-leftists. Some think of them as “hippies of the right” (bobby got my 4 ++++ for calling the American Libertarian Party “the Legal Drugs Party,” though he wasn’t talking about all libertarians, just the L.P.), to quote She. [Yes, ungrammatical in the extreme, but “to quote Her” would look ridiculous.]

    Some think libertarians are greedy selfish (in the bad sense) bustards and next door to sociopaths. Some think they’re anybody to the right of, say, the Odious Bummer who used to shine his trousers on the seat in the Oval Office. Some think they’re almost anybody who usually votes Republican, or who used to be called a small-c conservative with some old-fashioned beliefs, such as that the traditional family is a Good Thing for society at large. [Topic for rumination on these pages some other time.] Some so-called libertarians* think you can be a Bleeding Heart Libertarian and still be libertarian*. Some have no use for libertarians because we’re all kooks, or hedonists who believe in unfettered license as a proper policy, or because we’re insufficiently Conservative, or because we’re too Conservative.

    *What this shows is that differently people define libertarianism differently, and mostly based purely on impressions, and often don’t really have a definition. But to me, a libertarian is one who believes that it is right and proper for all people to do as they choose for themselves, which already means that no one who attempts to co-opt by force, fraud, or coercion the self-determination of another is in the right, save only in a few well-defined cases.

    [To say a person “has the right to (do or have) X,” in the sense of “negative rights” — a dreadful misnomer — is no more and no less than to see that, given the circumstances — see below — no one is in the wrong to (do or have) X.”]

    And even so, there are times when libertarianist of libertarians may find himself in a position where the principle of “thou shalt not steal, though shalt not murder, thou shalt not lie/defraud” comes up against the principle that “thou shall defend first thyself and those about whom one cares most” [but this is included in the best defenses of libertarianism] and the simple fact that there are situations where there is no libertarian solution because no matter what one does or doesn’t do, someone will be wronged as a result. Example: The guy walking past the switchbox controlling the connection of train tracks, both with and without a stranger or a best friend in the path of the oncoming train. Example: The parent who has time to save one but not both of his or her twin infants out of the burning house.

    Thus my opinion. Good. Now the book is 1 1/2 pgs. shorter. Supper calls. :>)

    . . .

    P.S, dammit. Can anyone please tell me exactly where Kant gives the illustration of the parent who lies to save his child (or whomever) from the kid’s would-be murderer, and allegedly claims that this is verboten?

    I’d like to try (Kant!) to read it for myself and form my own conclusion. I suspect serious misinterpretation, but actually I have no grounds for an opinion. Just antennae sort of squirming in the background.

  • bobby b

    Julie – I think it’s in his Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, where he discusses his Categorical Imperative. And he did state that it was forbidden.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Thanks, bobby. I daresay you’re correct; I just wanted to see for myself.

    :>))

  • Nico

    NV: Denying that Libertarian Utopia is realistic cannot be the same as being authoritarian. That’s just silly.

    How about this: you can have open borders when you’ve removed the welfare state (which, incidentally, isn’t remotely likely at this point, and you know it). Dropping the welfare state is simply outside the current Overton window. If you want to achieve that, first you must move the Overton window. If you think “well, at least I can have open borders now, and no welfare someday” and so go for that, you’ll soon find your country is no longer yours. You know this – you must.

    Springing for this rather strange accusation of (mild, is it?) authoritarianism simply illustrates my point about libertarians (with or without capitalizing that ‘l’): the politics of most libertarians I’ve ever met, heard speak, or read, are suicidal by default! And their ideas utterly utopic, as if all the other utopias that have been attempted hadn’t failed miserably (maybe this one will work! but maybe we should be a wee bit suspicious). You yourself recognize that socialist utopias aren’t feasible because you must use force to get people to go against their own self-interest. What makes you think no one would violate others’ rights (to life, to property, etc.) in a Libertarian utopia?! Do you really think none of the people streaming across the various open borders will cheat, steal, assault, etc., or that none are going where they’re going to abuse their welfare state?!

    Oh, I suppose that not being in favor of open borders means I want to apply force to keep them closed. And this would make me authoritarian if, I suppose, wanting to enforce any laws at all were the definition of authoritarian (which fortunately it’s not). As if a Libertarian Utopia would have no laws because no one would break them because hey, it’s a UTOPIA, and its citizens must be perfect.

  • Nico

    @bobby:

    They have lost hope.

    Sorry, forgot this part.

    I don’t think they’ve lost hope. I think they lost what they thought was the complete ultimate win, and they’re enraged.

    They were on top of the world. Between Hillary’s sure-bet election and Remain’s sure-bet win, […]

    The way I see it the European Left lost hope somewhere between 1991 and 2002; the American Left finally lost hope in the aftermath of 2016, but had been in process for a long time. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly when because, well, we’re talking about the feelings of many people. The cause is certainly the fall of the U.S.S.R.

    That China remains communist doesn’t help the Western Left feel any better because the Chinese communists are not their brethren -they are not Western- and anyways, they’re not real communists, are they. North Korea and Cuba don’t count (too small).

    The Western Left had a spiritual home, a protector, a sponsor, a guiding light -hope!-, and now that’s g o n e gone. This is why the Western Left is so keen on destroying the West from within, by importing immigrants who hold views that are incompatible with Western Democracy and values.

    The Obama years may have given American Leftists hope, but European ones were already committed to destroying the West by then.

  • bobby b

    “This is why the Western Left is so keen on destroying the West from within, by importing immigrants who hold views that are incompatible with Western Democracy and values.”

    Sort of OT, but I get a kick out of thinking about this in the US. I grew up amongst Mexicans, and have known many all my life, and there really isn’t any homogenous cultural group that is more predisposed to capitalism and self-responsibility than regular Mexicans (except the woke college kids, of course, which is a hopeless demographic anywhere.)

    This is eventually going to come back and bite the D’s on the rear in many ways, mostly in terms of their expectation that they’re adding to their own party. It’s going to put a major crimp in the D’s abortion intentions, too – abortion is illegal by acclaim throughout almost all of Mexico save Mexico City, and few Mexico City people are coming over the border – as well as with their intentions re: substantive education (i.e., the Mexicans approve of substantive education. And law and order. And . . . )

    This is going to be entertaining as the D’s realize whom they’ve adopted as allies – especially in light of how they adopted economic positions in their new allies’ favor that worked harm on their other captive constituency, the blacks, whom they apparently decided were not as critical to woo anymore.

    In the early years of the border surge adjustment, there are going to be lots of uprooted Mexicans on relief just because they’ve hitchhiked here with their wives and kids and dogs and aren’t really flush, but they’ll mostly get off of the dole, and then . . . natural Republicans.

  • Michael Taylor

    bobby b,
    Just a very quick note on Quakerism (particularly, perhaps, in Britain). For now, I don’t think the historical connection with Huttites, Mennonites Anabaptists etc, if any (and I don’t think there is that connection in the Friend’s UK history) is useful in understanding what it actually is.

    The key thing about Quakers (or the Friends as they’re also known in the UK) is precisely that they reject the idea of creed, whilst sharing a praxis. The rejection of creed is really important, because it does leave the praxis open to many inspirations, including those who, like neonsnake, reject the idea of a god. After all, if the praxis is right, should we let an uninterepretable word ‘god’ get in the way. Hence you have Quakers of all sorts of denominations (christian, buddhist, theists) and none – including nontheist Quakers (one for neonsnake). But don’t be fooled, this does not empty Quakerism of content, because the experience of Quaker practice (or, perhaps even praxis) is both shared and very powerful.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “NV: Denying that Libertarian Utopia is realistic cannot be the same as being authoritarian. That’s just silly.”

    It isn’t the same. But it’s what most authoritarians do if you challenge them on their authoritarianism.

    “How about this: you can have open borders when you’ve removed the welfare state (which, incidentally, isn’t remotely likely at this point, and you know it).”

    How about: if you open the borders, people will soon see the need to trim the welfare state? Opening the borders would move the Overton window, when the consequences hit.

    Normally I argue for dealing with the welfare state first, and open borders later. But that doesn’t mean I stop arguing for open borders, or start arguing against it. I can argue for both.

    It’s like arguing for low taxes and a small state simultaneously. If we dropped taxes first without reducing the state, the government would have to borrow massively to pay for it. That’s not good! If we reduced the state first without dropping taxes, the bureaucrats would get rich, and we’d be paying huge taxes and getting nothing for it. That’s not good either. So we’re not going to argue in favour of low taxes or a small state?

    “Oh, I suppose that not being in favor of open borders means I want to apply force to keep them closed. And this would make me authoritarian if, I suppose, wanting to enforce any laws at all were the definition of authoritarian (which fortunately it’s not).”

    No, it’s not. Have you ever read JS Mill’s essay ‘On Liberty’? It gives a rather good explanation. The only possible justification for society to intefere with the freedom of individual members is to prevent harm being done to others, without their informed consent. Laws to prevent harm, directed precisely at only the harm itself, are fine. Laws to enforce or outlaw any other activities are not.

    And going to live in another country to work, and try to prosper, isn’t doing anyone any harm. By the same principle we use to justify all our other freedoms, we can’t disallow this one and remain logically consistent.

    Even going to another country to sponge off their benefits isn’t forbidden, if those benefits are paid with our consent. The only bit of the process that breaks Mill’s rule is extracting taxes to pay for benefits *without* consent, so that’s the *only* bit we should oppose. And we do.

    And we do whether it’s foreigners or natives seeking benefits. Nationality makes absolutely no difference to the principle. It’s just as wrong for native-born to abuse the welfare state, and if we’re going to exclude foreigners from our country for doing so, then we need to deport the native-born abusers too.

    And that’s where you usually find their argument going all wobbly and inconsistent. They’re a lot keener on excluding foreigners than our own, either because they’re comfortable claiming benefits themselves and don’t like the foreign competition (i.e. protectionism), or it was just an excuse because it’s the foreigners themselves they don’t like, and concern about welfare abuse is just a good excuse. I’m not accusing you of that – I don’t know. It’s just an observation on a lot of the people who make this argument to me in the past.

  • bobby b

    “The key thing about Quakers (or the Friends as they’re also known in the UK) is precisely that they reject the idea of creed, whilst sharing a praxis.”

    Just like Jerry Seinfeld described his TV show – “a show about nothing.”

    Yeah, the Friends are sort of the California hippie commune of Annabaptist gatherings. Same roots – we have Quakers here, too, and they go along with the Hutterite and Mennonite practices except when they don’t want to, so it’s like a strained holiday dinner with troublesome relatives.

  • neonsnake

    Yeah, the Friends are sort of the California hippie commune of Annabaptist gatherings

    Sounds quite appealing to me. Rather like how the folks who live in the various flats in my “block” (it’s a converted house) live (to a very very very tiny degree in comparison).

    Still unclear how that’s causing homelessness, mind.

  • Martin Keegan

    The Michael Taylor / social thread is interesting but could we have it an a separate thread rather than mixed in with the San Francisco stuff? Both discussions are hard to follow when they’re conflated, and I gave up.

  • Nullius in Verba
    October 6, 2019 at 9:54 am

    How about: if you open the borders, people will soon see the need to trim the welfare state? Opening the borders would move the Overton window, when the consequences hit.

    California. How many layers of the onion will you need to peel? What the people want is irrelevant (Trump, Brexit). In California, the Left really is trying to repeal the people and vote a new populace in – or at the very least, import one. The Deep State will do nothing good until the streets of Sacramento (where the government lives) are as bad as San Francisco.

    Even that might not work. Washington DC is hellhole-ish, and little is done about it.

  • It’s just as wrong for native-born to abuse the welfare state, and if we’re going to exclude foreigners from our country for doing so, then we need to deport the native-born abusers too. And that’s where you usually find their argument going all wobbly and inconsistent. (Nullius in Verba, October 6, 2019 at 9:54 am)

    While ‘they’, whoever they are, may have wobbly arguments, there is nothing inconsistent in deporting welfare tourists who can legally be deported while not deporting their native equivalents who cannot be legally deported. (Whither would you deport them?) If we refuse our government the power to “dissolve the people and elect another” then we must accept the limitations that come with that and do the best we can in the situation we are in.

  • +1 to Ellen (October 6, 2019 at 1:33 pm). David Deutch’s reason for voting ‘Leave’ was that British culture was more responsive (less unresponsive) than the EU’s to recognising and learning from errors. In San Francisco, each native who eventually starts to wonder whether the streets smell worse than the idea of voting for Trump risks be balanced by a vote harvested from some recent immigrant – or by several, if they take too long to start thinking, so SF’s city council never learns, regardless of how many people do.

    Burke repeatedly warned his contemporaries against the error of thinking that the French revolutionary government’s follies, self-purges, etc., would cause its collapse, or awaken enough of the French against it at any one moment to overthrow it. (He therefore predicted its eventual subjection to a capable general.)

    He used the example of the Ottoman empire of his day, amongst several others, to show how a political system’s vices can conduce to its never reforming them. The common saying that corruption is very hard to root out when it has become embedded is another example. And that of course, relates to its not being a good idea to open our borders and assume the public will thereby get wise. Most of those who will learn from that probably already have. More will, but the rate will slow; at some point, my SF example of its not being faster than the counter-effects will apply.

  • I holidayed in SF about 12 years ago. Loved it. If there were homeless on the streets then, it didn’t register, except one woman in the Chinatown area and she stood out mainly for having cats (beautifully well cared for) on leads!

    Awful to think if I went there now, what it’s turned into. I guess that’s ‘progress’…

  • neonsnake

    Is that so? Certainly not the Objectivist kind (do they exist any more?).

    I’ll defer to the scholars of Rand if I get this wrong, but my understanding is that they also agree. The railway company has the knowledge to run railways, but not the knowledge to create the steel to create the tracks, so they trade between the two, for the benefit of both.

    I know that’s simplistic, I’m not a scholar of Objectivism, but that’s my understanding.

    There’s others who know more about it than me though, so I’ll accept corrections happily.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “While ‘they’, whoever they are, may have wobbly arguments, there is nothing inconsistent in deporting welfare tourists who can legally be deported while not deporting their native equivalents who cannot be legally deported.”

    It’s inconsistent with the claim that ‘people sponging off benefits’ is what you’re really objecting to.

    “(Whither would you deport them?)”

    North Korea or Venezuela would be fun. But given that lots of other ‘asylum seekers’ cross other nations’ borders and demand to be made citizens, then why shouldn’t ours? All they have to do is say they ‘fear persecution’ if they go back. That would be pretty easy to arrange, right? You’re claiming that the problem is that international laws says that all the scum and riffraff from other countries can sneak across the borders illegally and we have to take them in, right? So the answer is obvious. Fair’s fair, isn’t it? We’ve got as much right to move there illegally as they have to move here.

    😉

    “If we refuse our government the power to “dissolve the people and elect another” then we must accept the limitations that come with that and do the best we can in the situation we are in.”

    I agree. If we grant the government the power to refuse welfare tourists or other undesirables, that’s precisely what we’re doing. We’re giving them the power to pick and choose who gets to be a citizen, based on the sort of people we want or don’t want in the population.

    If you don’t want the government to be able to import or export people selectively to get a more politically compliant population, then you can’t ask the government to import or export people selectively to get a more culturally homogeneous, or economically productive population. It’s the same power, just used for a different purpose.

    Conversely, if you want to grant the power to government to include or exclude citizens based on economic productivity or cultural compatibility, in order to encourage a more peaceful or economically productive population, then that reasoning and that power applies with equal force to those already here. If enforcing a productive and culturally conforming population is a legitimate use of government power, then it is for everyone, and for any other cultural norms the voters might like.

    No, I prefer sticking to the core principle: that society should not be able to restrict the freedom of any individual except to prevent harm to others without their informed consent. And you leave the rest to the free market. If they can get a productive job here, then fine. If they can’t, and don’t have a legitimate excuse, then they get no money. If they pay the same taxes to our government we do, then they get the same services. If you think that’s unaffordable, then you get rid of the services, not the principles of liberty. Nationality is irrelevant to economic arguments and justifications. Nationalism is just another species of Protectionism.

    That said, I’m not *very* bothered about it. I voted UKIP, even though I disagree with them on the subject. I’m just saying that if you ask my opinion about what *should* be, that’s still the goal. I’m willing to work with people who don’t agree on other areas where we have common ground, but I’m not going to pretend I don’t still hold the opinions I do just to fit in. That would by inconsistent and hypocritical. The idea is not to build a coalition where we all have the same opinion, but to build one where we are tolerant of differences of opinion, and are all free to express them.

  • Nico

    NV:

    Normally I argue for dealing with the welfare state first, and open borders later. But that doesn’t mean I stop arguing for open borders, or start arguing against it. I can argue for both.

    It’s like arguing for low taxes and a small state simultaneously. If we dropped taxes first without reducing the state, the government would have to borrow massively to pay for it. That’s not good! If we reduced the state first without dropping taxes, the bureaucrats would get rich, and we’d be paying huge taxes and getting nothing for it. That’s not good either. So we’re not going to argue in favour of low taxes or a small state?

    As it happens we’ve tried this on taxes and size of the state in the U.S. American conservatives have tried it for decades. It’s called “starving the beast” (look it up, or just click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starve_the_beast). You can see for yourself how well it’s worked. No, you already know how well it’s worked.

    It’s the same thing with borders.

    You have to do things in the right order, else it doesn’t work.

    It’s like playing chess and seeing a mating line and going for it while not realizing that you are half a move behind and your opponent is half a move ahead on their mating line. If you continue with yours you’ll get checkmated. Yes, you had a beautiful idea, but you couldn’t realize it, and trying meant losing. In reality it would only have been a beautiful idea if you already had the advantage. There’s no beauty in losing the whole match.

    However, like so many libertarians, you delight in the sense of moral superiority you get from being principled and sticking to maximizing (as you see it) individual liberty even if it ultimately means minimizing it. You can see this in your intimating that I just might be an authoritarian – if you don’t think I am, why even argue that not wanting open borders is something authoritarians would do? So I don’t side with them on one thing? Purity demands will not win you adherents.

    I’m bored. I’m bored of all the bleeping virtue signaling I get from Democrats and liberals, and yes, from libertarians. It’s not even entertaining anymore, let alone upsetting. It’s only boring.

    No, I’d sooner vote for a Democrat than than a Libertarian or even a libertarian. One wants my destruction, while the other doesn’t want my destruction but will damned well ensure it in their naïveté, so I might as well sooner join the ranks of the former and be part of their team and maybe blunt the blows.

    For example, Senator Rand Paul. He’s so good on so many things, and then he does incredibly dumb things like trying to block spending on the President’s wall on principled grounds. Great, just great, but have you noticed, Senator, that no Democrat would ever do that to another Democrat, and that you’re not trying to exact any kind price from Democrats in exchange for this paper cut you’re inflicting on the President – a President already being subjected to a thousand paper cuts?! What. The. Hell. Senator.

    How can I donate to politicians who act like that?!

    How can I campaign for them?

    How can I vote for them?

    Here’s what I like about this President: he’s the first non-Democrat, non-Socialist, who fights at every turn, who knows what to do and not to fall into the opposition’s traps, who knows their playbook and either wargames it or just has the right instincts and knows how to shred their tactics.

    And guess what, this President, yeah, he pisses off the libertarians who shake like leaves at the mere thought that he banned travel to the U.S. by people of six countries, or that he wants to build a wall on the border with Mexico. These are all libertarians who -predictably- can’t see two moves ahead.

    I too want to maximize individual liberty. But I won’t give the game up just to maximize it in the short-term. I don’t say this to feel more morally virtuous than you – there is no benefit in that because I need you on my side, I need you to maximize individual liberty not locally, but globally, I need you to help instead of hinder. Merely to preen about one’s moral superiority does not win one friends, or at least it shouldn’t. If I can win you over it’s got to be because this argument is bloody obvious. Things aren’t always obvious, but when they are, you have to act accordingly, otherwise you don’t stand a chance.

  • Nico

    @neonsnake:

    Is that so? Certainly not the Objectivist kind (do they exist any more?).

    I’ll defer to the scholars of Rand if I get this wrong, but my understanding is that they also agree. The railway company has the knowledge to run railways, but not the knowledge to create the steel to create the tracks, so they trade between the two, for the benefit of both.

    I know that’s simplistic, I’m not a scholar of Objectivism, but that’s my understanding.

    There’s others who know more about it than me though, so I’ll accept corrections happily.

    I’ve read almost everything by Rand. I think the only thing of hers I never read was Anthem. That’s… not enough to make me a scholar on Rand, not least because I’m not a scholar of anything. But I can tell you that strictly speaking, you’re right, she would argue that none of us know everything, yet strangely, she believed that one can be truly Objective, and that there’s a Truth waiting to be discovered.

    In reality she was dead wrong about objectivity. We can try to be objective, but precisely because we can’t know everything, we can’t be Objective. There are other reasons too, but that one should suffice for starters.

    And yet she persisted in this silliness. It’s… not unlike insisting on open borders and no welfare state, even explaining why the two together are suicide, yet insist that if they can’t end the welfare state then at least they’ll insist on open borders.

    Richard Feynman wrote about Rand, though never naming her or her theory. Feynman’s point was that we have to grapple with a great deal of uncertainty, so it follows we can’t be Objective.

    Her theory of love was simply insane.

    Her fiction writing was dreadful.

    However, her columns for the LA Times were often spot on. That’s because he columns weren’t about philosophy.

    Her description of how a might nation falls apart in Atlas Shrugged was absolutely on the money, though not how it recovers, or how to fight the fall. Venezuela is a perfect example, falling apart exactly how she described it. Venezuela even had its John Galts when the opposition boycotted midterm elections once, but then the government used its subsequent super-majorities to cement its hold on power. It turns out there’s nowhere for a Galt to hide for long. And it also turns out that fighting the fall would have been better than picking up the pieces. It took 70 years for the U.S.S.R. to collapse. Who knows how long it will take Venezuela to collapse. It would have been better for the opposition to not boycott those elections. It would have been better for the opposition to arm itself. It would have been better to have had a civil war even.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “You have to do things in the right order, else it doesn’t work.”

    So do things in the right order. I’ve got no objection to that.

    “However, like so many libertarians, you delight in the sense of moral superiority you get from being principled and sticking to maximizing (as you see it) individual liberty even if it ultimately means minimizing it.”

    It’s not about moral superiority. It’s about not winning the battle and losing the war, by doing to ourselves exactly what we’re fighting to stop our opponents from doing.

    “And guess what, this President, yeah, he pisses off the libertarians who shake like leaves at the mere thought that he banned travel to the U.S. by people of six countries, or that he wants to build a wall on the border with Mexico.”

    He doesn’t piss me off. I quite like him. I don’t agree with him on everything, but then I don’t demand total agreement before I can support someone. He’s much, much better than all the alternatives. But I’m not going to say he’s perfect when he’s not, or that he’s always right when he’s not.

    He gets support from voters by appealing to Protectionist thinking, and give no indication in his rhetoric that he understands why it’s a bad idea. But Protectionism is endemic to the political arena, it’s one that has proved incredibly difficult to educate people on, and he’s got enough fights as it is. I don’t blame him for doing what he’s doing. But that doesn’t mean that Protectionism isn’t still wrong, or that he isn’t being illiberal by supporting it.

    As for voting on the border wall – my argument would be that law and order are important, too. The correct approach is to advocate for *legal* immigration to be much easier, but in a democracy that has voted to make it illegal, then everyone ought to obey the law, or be willing to take the consequences. Like I would advocate for lower taxes, but don’t support breaking the law and not paying them by tax fraud. We enforce the laws set by the democratic process jointly agreed, even laws we don’t agree with, or that are illiberal and wrong. (Or why should our opponents obey the laws *we* pass and *they* don’t like?) So no, I don’t consider it required by libertarian principles to vote against the border wall.

    Government by consent has to include the consent of everyone, including non-libertarians! But I’m still going to carry on arguing to try to *persuade* them that they’re wrong.

  • given that lots of other ‘asylum seekers’ cross other nations’ borders and demand to be made citizens, then why shouldn’t ours? (Nullius in Verba, October 6, 2019 at 7:35 pm)

    Because in this hypothetical example,’our’ welfare tourists are not choosing to be tourists but want to be welfare stay-at-homes. They are going by state compulsion, not voluntarily, Nullius – a point whose relevance a libertarian should notice.

    These hypothetical British citizens, whom you imagine deported for the crime of exploiting the welfare state under some new law equalising their treatment with that of welfare tourists, are not illegal immigrants and have no claim to legal right of residence in any other country on earth (after the 31st – till then maybe the EU must take them, but under EU law, never mind our own, we cannot deport them). In that, they do indeed resemble illegals entering the UK – but they are not going voluntarily.

    Thus in order to make them take a step further into some intermediate country instead of stepping back over the border of their own, across which you have just shoved them, you will need to compel them, so you will need to exert extraterritorial power in that country or secure its complicity. The EU need only do nothing to let immigrants accumulate at the Calais camp, but they are going to have to do something – or let us do something – if British citizens whom you dump on the French shore are to do anything other than get on the first cross-channel ferry they can mooch the fare of.

    I could do a similar “get real” analysis with much else in your comment but it would be very tedious and I would rather ask you to address the more general problem with your line of argumentation in this thread. (I very much sympathise with Nico’s complaints about it.) You switch unclearly from wildest theory to practicality and back, but point-score when others make practical objections.

    there is nothing inconsistent in deporting welfare tourists who can legally be deported while not deporting their native equivalents who cannot be legally deported.”

    It’s inconsistent with the claim that ‘people sponging off benefits’ is what you’re really objecting to.

    Were I the omnipotent omniscient judge in one of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “courts of heaven”, it might be inconsistent in me to apply different punishments to the same moral flaw exhibiting in citizens and illegals – or it might well not be so, even then. A real court – as Holmes notes – must accept its real limitations.

  • Nico

    You have to do things in the right order, else it doesn’t work.

    So do things in the right order. I’ve got no objection to that.

    Well, that would be first getting rid of the the welfare state, then opening borders.

    As it happens, in Europe and the UK, getting rid of the welfare state is an idea that is well outside the Overton window, and will continue to be outside it for at least another generation or two. That means that in the interim, if you like your remaining liberties, not only must you tolerate closed borders, but advocate for them (yes, if you like, with the caveat that it’s a temporary position), ofr open borders will destroy your nations.

    (In the U.S. most people aren’t aware of the extent of the welfare state due to its transformation in the late 90s into a hodge podge of Social Security Disability Insurance fraud, food stamps, and other programs. The reforms of ’96 were just not far reaching enough – possibly on purpose.)

    However, like so many libertarians, you delight in the sense of moral superiority you get from being principled and sticking to maximizing (as you see it) individual liberty even if it ultimately means minimizing it.

    It’s not about moral superiority. It’s about not winning the battle and losing the war, by doing to ourselves exactly what we’re fighting to stop our opponents from doing.

    When you intimate that I might be an authoritarian you’re making an argument about your own personal moral superiority. And that loses you the argument. I’m not crowing. I’m sure I’ve made that mistake in the past myself, but neither you nor I should, because we do need to win these arguments.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Because in this hypothetical example,’our’ welfare tourists are not choosing to be tourists but want to be welfare stay-at-homes. They are going by state compulsion, not voluntarily, Nullius – a point whose relevance a libertarian should notice.”

    And the welfare tourists are not choosing to be deported, but are being deported by state compulsion. That a libertarian ought to notice this was precisely the point of my example.

    “These hypothetical British citizens, whom you imagine deported for the crime of exploiting the welfare state under some new law equalising their treatment with that of welfare tourists, are not illegal immigrants and have no claim to legal right of residence in any other country on earth”

    They would be if we made them so under the new law.

    The point I was really trying to make with my facetious example was that when advocating for a change in the law or the way we currently do things, it’s inconsistent to cite the existing law as a justification for keeping other bits.

    At the moment we permit mass immigration, by law. So it would be illegal not to let them in. People are arguing that we ought to change the law, because (we say) we have concerns about some members of our population either sponging off our benefits or being culturally incompatible with our social norms. So given that people are proposing a change in the law, in my example so can I.

    From my libertarian point of view, all I see are various people wanting to live and work in one place or another. Society is introducing rules allowing certain moves and banning others, based on the somewhat arbitrary criteria of birthplace and lines drawn on maps by historic wars. It looks to me like a clear case of Protectionism. We have passed protectionist laws to say only certain people can trade in certain areas, with the aim of keeping out competition. (Whether that’s competition for jobs, or taxpayers to leech off.)

    So suppose we take the position that such restrictions are compatible with libertarianism (I don’t, but you apparently do, so let’s go with it), and let’s suppose that the purported justifications – welfare sponging and cultural compatibility – are the real reasons. Then what set of rules would actually make sense?

    Birthplace and lines on maps are only indirectly and weakly correlated with our declared economic reasons. (As much as where you were when you were conceived, where you went to school, or where you were when you became an adult.) There are plent born here who are unproductive. There are plenty born elsewhere who are productive. So let’s grant citizenship only to the productive. The others are non-citizens, and therefore if they’re here without being citizens, they’re trespassing. A foreigner living here without permission we can arrest and deport. And it would be illegal to be racist! So it would be illegal to do otherwise with our native born wasters.

    My example simply proposed that we do to natives what everyone has agreed is morally justifiable and acceptable to do to foreigners. It’s against our laws as they stand now, but we’re proposing we change them, to fit our declared aims for them.

    And yes, very obviously when you do the same thing to native spongers that we propose to do to foreign ones, we can all see immediately that the result is obviously illiberal. We’re using state compulsion to exclude people from our territory. And I don’t see why the birthplace of the people we’re doing it to makes any difference at all to whether that’s OK.

    However, the whole thing was just a rhetorical thought-experiment to illustrate the absurdity of the principle by applying it rigorously, not a serious proposal. I disagree with *any* restriction on people’s freedom not based on preventing harm. However, if the world was to change it’s laws along the pattern I suggested, it would be no more illogical, no different in principle (and rather more consistent with our stated justifications) compared to the way we have it now.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “That means that in the interim, if you like your remaining liberties, not only must you tolerate closed borders, but advocate for them”

    I’d argue differently.

    It’s the same argument as on free trade. Protectionists argue that while free trade might be best in the long run, our economy is currently under threat from foreign competition, and if you like your job then you have to advocate for closed borders.

    The argument assumes that our culture isn’t stronger and better than the competition. (And I’d argue that if it’s not stronger and better, it doesn’t deserve to win.)

    And again it’s inconsistent to try to preserve our liberties by removing them. The principle is that society is only justified in restricting freedom to prevent harm. If you do this, and deny that principle, it’s not the foreigners threatening our liberty, it’s *you*.

    Just as the people who shut down free speech to stop the far right rising again and taking away all our liberties are. They’re fighting to preserve freedom against a dangerous threat, and to keep our freedom in the long run we must temporarily limit it. We had to burn down the village to save it.

    You can’t preserve liberty by banning stuff.

    “When you intimate that I might be an authoritarian you’re making an argument about your own personal moral superiority.”

    No, I’m trying to say that whether a policy is authoritarian depends on the content of the policy, not the person proposing it. Good people can propose bad policies.

    It’s not just bad people who propose authoritarian policies, or protectionist ones. Good, intelligent, well-meaning ones do too. Such thinking is based on seductive logical fallacies, and anyone can fall for them unless they’ve had training or lots of practice in recognising them. Bastiat wrote ‘Sophisms‘ 150 years ago, and even today virtually nobody in society knows about it, or is aware of his reasoning. You still see Protectionists arguments everywhere in the mainstream even today.

    However, I’ve said what I’ve said, and it’s clearly not going to change anyone’s mind, so I’ll leave it there.

  • neonsnake

    to stop the far right rising again and taking away all our liberties are.

    Who is arguing against the far right, on this site?

  • Paul Marks

    neonsnake.

    I believe it is unintended consequences as far as ordinary leftists are thinking about such things.

    But for the leaders of the left it is indeed BAD FAITH – they want poverty and societal decline. Because that brings them power – and power is what they want. Both power for its own sake and out of a demented dream of creating a perfect society – by destroying the existing society.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Life abounds with cases where we must put up with the less-than-desirable/good — even recommend it* in whatever the current situation might be — in order to achieve a desirable and good long-term outcome.

    *This does not necessarily preclude us from meanwhile continuing to argue for the long-term goal.

    Of course, I, as a hard-core libertarian, have an absolute principle that says “never allow wrong/bad to persist on the way to Good/Just. Plus, as a doctor whose specialty is oncology, I’ve sworn the Hippocratic Oath: “first, do no harm.” Therefore I cannot recommend surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy to my cancer patients. These are all Bad in themselves, as they are certainly harmful to the patient. So to my patients I suggest they try special diets, aromatherapy, talk therapy, adopting a pet, regular hour-long workouts at the gym, complete bed-rest, or any of several more.

    Perhaps the patient will get lucky.

  • SkippyTony

    My 2c worth. Firstly, a very large percentage of the homelessness you see in every city is about choices. When you combine mental health issues and easy access to drugs, every social worker in the world knows that a lot of people are going to prioritise getting out of it over food, health, hygiene or shelter. I’m sure SF is awash with agencies, departments, not for profits, religious groups who are all there to support “homeless people”. What, practically, can they do when their client would literally prefer to sell the food they have been given in exchange for more drugs? I’d be very surprised if the ratio of economic victims / homeless people (who are not mentally ill and or drug addicts) is different in SF to any medium to large city. Every study I have ever seen of people sleeping rough says basically the same thing. There are very few people who are forced to sleep rough due to lack of beds or access to resources. The vast majority are sleeping rough because they chose to. Again, everybody in the sector knows that the basic definition of mental health problems is patterns of poor choices. The same with everyone whose ever had to live with a drug addict in the family, there is no choice so poor that the addict won’t make it. Break into the family home and steal younger siblings money box? Doesn’t rate a seconds consideration.
    Want to clean SF in a year? Easy, just go full Singapore. Ok, it’s a police state, but there is no homeless problem. Next to no drug problem. Mess on the footpath? Not even chewing gum.
    Rent controls? Anyone who has lived in a city with rent controls knows it is a disaster. I grew up in Sydney and there were people living in rent controlled houses all through the inner city suburbs and they were the worst, most run down areas. Rent control was introduced in the 1940s and abandoned in the 1960s but people were grandfathered right up to the 1970s. As soon as they all moved on, BANG those areas went from dangerous to desirable over night. Rent control will do nothing for the homeless and nothing but harm for the poor people it’s supposed to help. Get rid of building controls if you want poor people to have homes. Want cheaper houses? Build more, doesn’t matter if its SF, London or Sydney, it’s a supply problem and rent controls are just a market distortion, not a solution.

  • bobby b

    neonsnake
    October 7, 2019 at 8:36 pm

    “Who is arguing against the far right, on this site?”

    If you mean the authoritarian right, pretty much everyone.

  • Julie near Chicago

    ++

  • Julie near Chicago (October 7, 2019 at 10:42 pm), may I congratulate you on your well-sustained irony. 🙂

    However, I’ve said what I’ve said, and it’s clearly not going to change anyone’s mind, so I’ll leave it there. (Nullius in Verba, October 7, 2019 at 6:40 pm)

    On that we can agree, at least as far as this thread is concerned – and at 83 comments and rising, we probably should. 🙂

  • Nico

    PM:

    I believe it is unintended consequences as far as ordinary leftists are thinking about such things.

    But for the leaders of the left it is indeed BAD FAITH – they want poverty and societal decline. Because that brings them power – and power is what they want. Both power for its own sake and out of a demented dream of creating a perfect society – by destroying the existing society.

    Exactly. Though some of my ordinary lefty friends almost certainly understand, and hide their understanding of this, but I can’t prove it.

    NV:

    And again it’s inconsistent to try to preserve our liberties by removing them. The principle is that society is only justified in restricting freedom to prevent harm. If you do this, and deny that principle, it’s not the foreigners threatening our liberty, it’s *you*.

    To respond to this I’d be repeating myself, as you have, so you get the last word.

    JnC:

    Good one! I actually can’t tell if the thing about chemotherapy is said in jest or seriously. You might be near Chicago, and it seems you aren’t British, but you have that British straight-faced humor thing going!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall, and Nico: Thank you, sirs. 😀 😀

    . . .

    Nico: the closest I’ve ever come to doctoring anything is trying to lessen the pain of the Young Miss’s (and my Honey’s, and so forth) hurt feelings. And here & there the application of alcohol (OUCH! MOMMY! That stings!) and band-aids to scraped knees and such.

    (I have a habit of “confessing” to my ignorance in law and medicine by speaking of “the day my class attended law school/medical school or did QM.” My idea of humour — we could surround the entire subject in a day, don’tcha see. *g*)

    Actually, I have a Bachelor’s in math from the U. of Chicago, and a Master’s ditto from the U. of Ill., Chicago, from back prior to the Jurassic. I’d wanted to go for my doctorate in math and then be Galois or some such, but it didn’t happen. My Career was in programming and datacomm, and in “Momming” and homemaking. On the other hand I’m still alive. :>))

    . . .

    Niall: +^4 for nailing it in one of your comments above.

    .

    Nico, October 6, 2019 at 8:23 pm — Very good comment in (almost) all parts. (There could conceivably be a libertarian worth voting for. Don’t know of one at the moment. My biggest problem with Randall* Paul is his resistance to the idea of military self-defence, and, of course, the illegal-immigration issue — the Wall. *Life would be so much easier if his nickname were “Randy” instead of “Rand,” which has nothing to do with Ayn Rand.)

    By the way, there’s virtue-signalling, but there are also Gotcha! addicts and people who love “winning” debating contests. There are also people who have trouble de-muddling themselves…especially in the heat of verbal combat.

    Anyway, thanks ter both of yez. :>)))

  • Nico

    JnC: still, good deadpan delivery!

    I too suppose there could be a libertarian worth voting for, but no Libertarian. No vote splitting please. We’ve seen that movie before (e.g., in Chile, and we’re seeing it in Israel as well). Selfishness might be good (cf Rand, say) but losing to be selfish certainly isn’t, and losing and causing the next best alternative to also lose to the worst alternative is decidedly a very bad thing. One might think “how else to realign?”, but first-past-the-post electoral systems lead to two-party systems.

    The alternatives to first-past-the-post are mostly worse. Aliasing cannot be removed, and it is in fact a feature. Instant runoffs in single-representative districts might be a decent alternative, but I’ve not studied it enough.

    Essentially, we must vote in the primaries of the two parties, or, really, the Republicans. I know many flinch at the thought (weren’t the Republicans against gay marriage?! well, kind of, yes, but so were the Democrats!). But in fact, the parties are not monolythic, and today we have more individual liberty than we used to (how quickly people forget at the nadir of individual liberty to which FDR brought the U.S., or that we’re not even yet fully recovered from that trough, with still too many price supports in place, for example) (though our rights to freedom of speech are being quickly eroded by non-State actors).

    The Republican party is much more friendly to individual liberty than the Democratic party, much much more, especially when it comes to political freedoms, which are those we need most as they enable one to argue for further increasing individual liberty.

    I don’t foresee voting for a Libertarian in the remainder of my life. When I die, like all Americans, I’m liable to become a Democrat, but I swear, it won’t be of my own volition.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nico, VERY good final para! 😆 But remain stout of heart. It may be that you’ll end up voting for harpists (rather than harpies). :>)))

    .

    As for the rest … how is one to disagree with any of it? Unless one is willing to consider crossover voting in the primaries. Brrrr…scary! For an illustration, see the penultimate photo at

    https://web.archive.org/web/20120111013442/https://www.samizdata.net/blog/photos3.html

    [My other two favorites are #3 and definitely #7. (Very artistic layout, beautiful contrast between the calm, perhaps blasé, opinion of McCain vs. the rather panicked opinion of #6. #3, of course, is how so many of us feel most of the time, both privately and politically.)]

    GREAT job, Perry, or whoever chose those cats and wrote the captions. And did the layout. Thank the Great Frog they’re still there on the Wayback Machine.

  • Nico

    Eh, I’ve come to learn that if you can’t vote the RINOs out in the primaries, sometimes you have to not vote for them in the generals (though, still, I could not bring myself to vote Dem). The reason is that, though “the Dems are coming” is the same as “the Huns are coming” (though sometimes more like “the Clowns are coming”), sometimes you need to purge. 2018 was such a time. Too bad I didn’t understand that then, and my very own House RINO made it in by the skin of his teeth. Now I’m stuck with him because the House must flip in 2020. So I suppose you’re right: 2018 was a good time to vote for a Libertarian candidate (supposing there had been one worth voting for at least as a protest vote).

  • Julie near Chicago

    No, I voted for Trump in the general election. (Would’ve voted for Walker in the primary, else Cruz, though in fact he’s not eligible, since not born here. — Odd how with Obama, “born in the U.S.” was the be-all and end-all for most folks [actually, I think to be eligible a person must also have parents who were citizens at the time of his birth, but relatively few seem to think so.] But with Cruz, and possibly a Dem or two, suddenly birthplace is immaterial. That frosts my jets.)

    But I wasn’t about to vote for Shrillary, nor any other Demwit, if for no other reason than Supreme Court appointments. And you better hope DJT gets another term, because we ARE going to lose Ruth B-G, and there are noises about Thomas also. Unless a truly electable Heffalump who’s also a genuine conservativish-libertarianish believer in the Constitution and has sense when it comes to defense comes along.

    The truth is, I still don’t know what I think of Trump as President. There are so many nay-sayers even on what we call the Right, and I believe no statistics on the economy, employment, etc., etc., “healthy” foods (I won’t eat wild carrot or rhubarb leaves but I was never stupid enough to avoid red meat, butter, or eggs), the climate, …. So it’s hard for me to figure out who on the “Right” has an opinion both informed and clear-sighted.

    But the country is still here and somewhat of a Republic. The key for me is still SCOTUS, national defense, with some attempt to curb The Gov at least peeping round the corner.

    I sure hope you’re right about the House. Pray to the Great Frog we keep the Senate too.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “No vote splitting please.”

    Vote splitting is how you move the parties. It’s how we got Boris.

    The Establishment hate him, regarded him as a joke, and installed bland centrists. Then Nigel Farage came in, offered the policy conservatives actually wanted, and split the vote. The Tories recognised that they were losing the vote and losing power, so to grab it back they first promised the referendum, then when the Establishment were fighting tooth and nail against the result, and Farage was again splitting their vote off with his newly formed Brexit Party, they finally installed Boris.

    The trick is to think more than one move ahead. Split the vote, and the first thing that happens is the better candidate loses and the bad one gets in. The second thing that happens is that the better candidate doesn’t want that to happen again, so shifts their position to reclaim the defectors.

    Of course, then there’s a constant struggle between factions supporting each party. Shift too far, and some other faction starts splitting off. Everything’s a compromise.

    You have to start off being a supporter for your splitting to be noticed. The better party needs to know they can get your vote with only a fairly small shift. You have to play hard to get, but not impossible to get.

    I’ve got no problem with supporting the candidate closest to your goal, even if they’re pretty far away from it, for the sake of gaining more influence on policy. I do with actually moving your goal to fit in with the crowd. Consistency and ‘purity’ is necessary in debate, but it doesn’t mean we can’t form practical coalitions with people outside our circle when it comes to voting. Greater tolerance of differences of opinion ought to allow us to form a broader coalition.

  • Nullius in Verba (October 9, 2019 at 6:32 am), you are right that vote-splitting was key to getting as far as we have but we should grant to our concerned US friends that we were lucky – or at least, not even to a mild degree unlucky.

    – Cameron won an absolute majority despite the UKIP vote in 2015: very probably, no absolute Tory majority in 2015 would have meant no Brexit referendum in 2016.

    – A coincidence of dates meant that delaying leaving the EU therefore had the euro-election, in which, promptly after the betrayal, voters could signal their willingness to realign the Tories in a risk-free way, and so get a degree of realignment that may make the next UK election more meaningful.

    You certainly lose if you take no risks but the risks are real. So far, every major electoral test in the last decade has (IIRC) helped us more than our opponents. (May this continue!) I would (and did) offer to bet a tenner on every such win but, save for the introduce-PR referendum losing and The Brexit party doing well in the Euro-elections, I would always have added (as I did about Trump winning), “not my life savings”.

  • Nico

    NK: Very well put. Indeed, in the U.S. it’s the midterms that one might vote-split in. As I see now, 2018 was the time to get rid of my RINO, but instead I even did some get-out-the-vote for him (sigh). Now I’m stuck with him because 2020 is not the time to get rid of him. (I did vote for his challenger in the primaries in 2018, of course.)

    JnC: I voted for Cruz in the primary and Trump in the general. If I’d paid attention to the debates and Trump’s speeches during the primaries (but I didn’t), I’d have supported Trump from the get-go. So far Trump has done not even one thing that pisses me off. He’s done things that I’ve had to decide to see how they go, and so far I’m pleased.

    For example, trade. Because I’ve been aware for a long time that the trade dynamics we have are not what you’d expect if we had free trade (thus, we don’t), I wasn’t as upset as many of my libertarian friends. Balancing trade, or at least removing the artificial incentives that lead to hopelessly imbalanced trade, seems like a very good idea to me. And you have all read my argument that the President has no control over the budget deficit, except in so far as anything they can do to reduce the trade deficit will cause serious pressure on Congress to reduce the budget deficit to match, and guess what he’s trying to do regarding the trade deficit!

    Also, I’m extremely impressed with the fact that Trump did not fall into any of the traps laid for him (or that where he did, he got out unscathed), and that he’s setting things up to wreck the dems with the facts of those traps! Bush/Cheney fell into the Plame affair trap, but luckily only Cheney’s chief of staff really fell in it. Now I’m wondering if Iran-Contra and Watergate weren’t setup by moles placed to destroy the respective (Republican!) Presidents! Reagan got lucky. There’s no evidence that Nixon ordered the break-in, but he was loyal to his people to a fault, so he went for the cover-up — it it was a trap, he dove head-first into it.

    I’m concerned that Iran will take Trump’s pulling out of Syria as a go-ahead for getting more aggressive. But then too, I think if Iran does get more aggressive and crosses a line with the American people, then Trump will fight with our will behind him, and that may make his pulling out now, and his resisting the temptation to respond militarily earlier, wise as far as electoral politics go.

    Trump’s also not unbearable in any way. I just could not stand to see Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, or Obama speak. Trump’s not constantly trying to figure out how to game an issue like, say, gay marriage (which he was for before any of those other Presidents or their opponents in their elections). He’s straightforward. Yea, I’d like him to speak in a somewhat different way, but the way he speaks connects him to his base — that seems like a good thing.

    So on the whole, I’d have to say that I don’t know that there’s any better President than Trump going back all the way to Lincoln (who was, hands down, the best ever), even though I quite like Coolidge’s and Reagan’s presidencies. Like Lincoln, Trump has done all that he has out of sheer personal will. Like Lincoln, Trump is despised by the elite and the media. Like Lincoln, Trump has few allies in his own party, with many waiting for the right moment to betray him.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nico, thank you very very much for your thinking on Trump; mostly, I agree. It’s just that I have trouble sorting out whom to take seriously, especially given my mistrust of the statistics for and against.

    I didn’t like Trump’s labelling Ted Cruz as “lying Ted,” based on I-don’t-remember-what. I do think that whoever decided to smear Ted by stating that his father was in on the JFK assassination (in whole or in part) ought to be strung up, assuming that the reports about the subject photograph — some of which state that it’s not even clear that the guy in the photo is Ted’s father — I’ve read are true.

    I too have my doubts about leaving Syria. And I’m so far from my former hard-core libertarian stance that I’m not necessarily against the China tariffs. I do not think that anyone is going to be better off if China gets to proceed unbridled on all fronts. (As it is, I can’t understand wot-the-‘ell the Israelis are doing with all this welcoming China’s large involvement in their own industries.) A few years ago, there was some beseechment from Australia for the U.S. not to go so far down the anti-interventionist damn-the-military rabbit-hole as to allow China to run things in the Western Pacific, because China had domination in all ways in mind, and if push came to shove, there was really no one but the U.S. who could effectively stand up or fight off the Chinese in any attempt to take over Australia and New Zealand militarily.

    I don’t really know much about the man except that he had problems getting elected, but the thing about Grover Cleveland is that reportedly, he went by the Constitution in a serious way (trying to avoid “convenient” readings) even when it told against his preferred policies. Now there are two sides to that argument, but it’s nice to know there was one such, once.

    I have hopes that he can rein in the EPA.

    Anyhow, too bad you can’t swing by for coffee and talk. ‘Twould be a pleasure.

  • Nico

    JnC: Speaking of the Constitution, Trump hasn’t done a single thing that could be said to violate, except perhaps make use of the national emergencies act if it can be said that it is unconstitutional (but under current jurisprudence, it’s not). What a breath of fresh air!!! (Compare to Obama’s many unconstitutional actions, including DACA.)

    The Lyin’ Ted thing was about Cruz denying that he was behind a push poll against Carson (which he had been). It’s Lion Ted now that Cruz is behind solidly Trump, and Trump campaigned for him when Cruz was in trouble. That shows that Cruz is a fair loser, and Trump a fair winner.

    The EPA mostly has been reigned in. I’m very annoyed that Pruitt screwed up and had to resign, but the EPA lost a lot of staff, and that’s really good news.

    China does not yet have a blue water navy, so they’re far from being able to invade Australia. They nonetheless have enormous soft power that us being there makes little difference to, and the only thing to blunt it would be to move enough manufacturing out of China that a) China cannot threaten our supply lines, b) it slows down China’s growth, and those are exactly the things Trump is trying to make happen.

    As to coffee, that’d be nice. My entire family is red-pilled, as we say, so we’d love to have you and yours over! Yes, it’s a-ways, and I never go to the Chi-town area. Maybe we could find a way to exchange email addresses without having to post them publicly? Maybe the site admins can do this for us?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ah! Did Cruz really do that? Then shame on him! -By the way, I was positively in love with the man (save only the eligibility thing) when I watched him talking with the Iowa farmer who was so against him because he wants to stop the farm/ethanol subsidies. (So does this former farm-girl. I think my granddad passed on Soil Bank, whenever that was.) And I thought his final speech to the Texas delegation at the end of the Primaries was truly excellent.

    For health reasons, and because I spend so much time hanging around this here dive, which also requires a good deal of time spent rooting around in the cyberstacks, I don’t spend much time keeping up with the news as such nowadays. :>(( So I’m glad to hear that the EPA has had its wings clipped. YAY!

    Now, maybe he can dissolve the D of Ed. 👿 Good for Betsey re the withdrawn “Dear Colleague” Letter, re Title IX. (For outlanders: This is about how colleges are advised to treat reports of, and suspects of, sexual assault on campus. The original 2011 Obama-Admin letter and the 2017 withdrawal letter are both, naturally, highly controversial. Speaking as one who is never ever biased about anything, I’ll vote for the withdrawal. For some of my reasons, see the article and at least the first 6 comment threads at

    https://townhall.com/tipsheet/christinerousselle/2017/09/22/dear-colleague-letter-withdrawn-n2385122 )

    .

    Nico, I don’t mind if actual Samizdata readers figure out my address. Take my first name, append krauss with no spaces, and keep it all lower-case. My mailbox is at yahoo. Would love to hear from you (and several others hereabouts), although due to lack of time as explained above, I might be a little slow to reply.

    I am delighted to hear that your people are all sensible, Nico. 😀

  • Nico

    Cruz is eligible. “Natural born citizen” means “born to a person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States”, just as the 14th Amendment doesn’t actually confer birthright citizenship except to those subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. This means that since Cruz was born to an American woman, he’s a natural born citizen just a child born in the U.S. to a non-U.S. person is not a citizen per the 14th Amendment (though statutorily they might be — that’s another story).

    As pecadilloes go, Cruz’ push poll, and then denying it when caught, are de minimis. Still, not a good idea when Trump is in the fray!

    The Education Department definitely has to go. It was only created in 1979, and Reagan promised to get rid of it (but Congress, of course, wouldn’t).

    Email sent!

    My peeps are sensible, but you know, it took a long time for some of them to come around 🙂

  • Julie near Chicago

    Vehemently disagree re Cruz, because “natural born citizen” has never been formally defined. The best we can do is to go by what appears to have been the general understanding of the term at the time of the Founding.

    Lots of people like to think that Wong Kim Ark defined the term in the Supreme Court’s opinion, but that’s not so.

    I’m interested to know the source for your definition.

    Mind you, I fully expect we’ll continue to disagree about this, and frankly I’m not all that interested in arguing the issue at the present time. I hope Trump will be such a shoo-in in 2020 that the issue won’t come up then. In 2024, perhaps my spirit will have to hang around to make sure some Bad Guy doesn’t get in. (Lord knows, I doubt the practical political efficacy of my present spirit, but who knows what the Great Frog does with us, if anything, After.)

    If Cruz were to run in 2020, would you vote for him in the Primary or for Trump? Just curious.

    Looking forward to reading your e-mail! I hope in an hour or two. Thank you! 😀

  • bobby b

    ” . . . “natural born citizen” has never been formally defined.”

    Good article in the Harvard Law Review – from back in 2015 – does a nice job with the issue.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Read it. Thanks, bobby. 😀

    I don’t want to get into arguing this issue because I simply don’t have the time to go back over my files and re-read sources I haven’t got filed away, in order to be able to conduct a proper argument. But right off the bat, Messrs. Clement and Katyal rest their argument chiefly on the Act of 1790. That act was amended later, In 1794 I think, and the “natural born citizen” language was taken out. As for Blackstone, he was not the only one relied on by the Founders; indeed, they weren’t entirely crazy about him. Another source common at the time was Emmerich de Vattel’s The Law of Nations, which provides a basis for arguing for the dual requirement, though people tend to trash this source nowadays.

    As for the rest of the piece, it’s just assertions.

    Laurence Tribe, back in the day, allowed as how in fact the Constitution if interpreted as written did make the Sith ineligible. But, as Randy Barnett put it, he (Tribe) said that that didn’t bother him, because he didn’t think the Const. s/b taken strictly as written. After all this is the 21st century. And he is a Living Constitutionalist.

    Meanwhile, Randy Barnett argued that the whole “sovereignty” issue is a red herring because the Founders’ whole idea was that each individual is to be sovereign. Therefore (IIRC) parental citizenship wouldn’t come into it. (Maybe not jus soli — birthplace citizenship — either. I forget.)

    Thanks for the note, though. Have you got your snow shovel and mukluks unpacked? Winter is icumen in, Lhude sing goddam, at least if you’re e.e. cummings or you love winter but aren’t into shoveling 24′ of the white stuff — like me. :>)))

  • Nico

    Well, it would be a bit perverse if having American parents was insufficient to be a natural born citizen, but not having American parents and just having been born in the U.S. was.

    Now, of course, if it were as simple as all that, Churchill would have been a natural born citizen… but actually being a citizen and a resident should figure into eligibility (and, it does).

    I don’t recall specific articles I’ve read about this, but it must have been the Volokh Conspiracy, which I used to read a great deal. However, my takeaway from what I recall is as below.

    Of course, “natural born citizen” is a term of art, but those areas where it’s unclear are subject to interpretation, either by Congress or the Supreme Court in the absence of statute. I do believe that current law either has it that Cruz is eligible, or ultimately that Congress would decide the matter (which seems utterly and most fair). Perhaps the law is wrong, and perhaps Congress should never accept a foreign-born-but-to-American-parents President. Perhaps the States and/or courts could deny eligibility a priori, though perhaps they ought not to as it seems like a political problem that belongs to Congress, though, of course, by the time Congress has to decide eligibility it’s a bit late, and it’s not likely to reject a President-elect.

    Certainly the easiest thing to do is not make a fuss when the issue is close, as in Cruz’s case, or Obama’s if he’d really been born in Kenya. Yesteryear I’d have been ecstatic to see Obama kept out on account of this, but now I thank our lucky stars that the 44th President was as incompetent as he was. To be sure, we’ll still be cleaning up after him for years yet, but we have an excellent chance to prevent -for a generation, as that’s all one gets to do- the fundamental national transformation (into a one-Party State!) that he had in mind.

    In any case, there’s no doubt in my mind that Cruz is a proud American, and I would vote for him, but not over Trump, not again. I don’t think Cruz has what it takes to win nationally, so I’d rather pick someone else in 2024). Whereas Obama was and is not a proud American.

    As to Lawrence Tribe, I’d discount out of hand anything he might have to say on this matter, or any matter for that matter 🙂

  • And I’m so far from my former hard-core libertarian stance that I’m not necessarily against the China tariffs. (Julie near Chicago)

    I always thought China tariffs sensible because about more than just trade (and thus also a good way of Trump doing sense and pleasing his voters), but recent events remind me (I’ve seen it before) of how crony capitalism can unite with the woke speech police to produce an ugly totalitarian mix. The way some corporations are cringing to China says much about the dangers China’s soft powers pose to our liberties, not just those in Hong Kong.

    FWIW I have always agreed with Nico’s reading of the 14th amendment and natural-born citizen clause. A common-sense principle of avoiding contradiction of law has been my guide; I am of course aware that consulting one’s common sense can be a dangerous guide to what the law is. 🙂

  • bobby b

    “Have you got your snow shovel and mukluks unpacked?”

    Depressing. I was just about to zip over a few state lines for a quick visit, and my destination gets 30″ of snow. I’m not emotionally ready for this yet.

  • Nico

    JnC, bobby: Be careful with the shoveling. You know full well, I’m sure, that it makes your hearts work extra hard to shovel snow.

    NK: Tariffs are a political tool, and in the U.S. they belong properly to Congress, but fortunately Congress delegated those to the President ~120 years ago. Miguel Pettis, who I respect a lot, says it would be better to tax capital inflows, but, of course, Congress could not delegate that, and the President usually can’t get Congress to do much of anything.

    Because our Congress is so useless (and, when useful, dangerous), I’m wondering how to improve the situation constitutionally. A Parliament seems better, provided it’s one MP per-district (else you get messes like Italy’s or Israel’s), except that four or five years is just too long… Mostly I’m jealous of the possibility of having early elections, but it can’t be too easy for either Congress or the President to accelerate the schedule of elections, else they’d do it all the time or use the threat to force the other’s hand – a feature as much as a bug.

    As to the 14th Amendment, of course, that was not an original thought of mine. And it needn’t inform the interpretation of the natural born citizen clause, but I think it’s sensible to see it that way. Like you, I’m aware of the danger of my own common sense being biased and wrong, but this is no hill worth dying on – it’s mostly academic, except for the 14th A, which is actually topical and very important.

  • Most readers will see this long discussion of SF’s problems because instapundit linked it, but it seems worth referencing here in case this discussion is revisited. Heather MacDonald’s conclusion is that rent control is a very small part of the issue. However her article superabundantly endorses the OP title.

  • bobby b

    “You know full well, I’m sure, that it makes your hearts work extra hard to shovel snow.”

    I should be safe. I’ve been told that, being a libertarian, I have a calculator in place of a heart.

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