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

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

Samizdata quote of the day

None of the arguments against rent controls are new. You can already find them all in Verdict on Rent Control, a book which the IEA published in 1972. The book is actually a collection of papers on the subject, some of which are much older than that. It contains one paper by Milton Friedman and George Stigler on wartime rent controls in the US, which were still lingering after the war had ended. It was first published in 1946, but they were already having the same arguments then that we are still having today.

The oldest contribution is a paper by Friedrich Hayek, on rent controls in interwar Vienna (which he obviously did not call “interwar”). Hayek shows how rent controls do not just lead to shortages of rental properties, but have all sorts of secondary effects that distort the wider economy, for example the reduction in labour mobility. This was first published in 1929, and yet, the parallels to today’s situation immediately stand out.

Economic papers often end on the more cautious note that “more research is needed”. You would not do this in a publication on rent controls, because the situation is too crystal clear. No more research is needed. We know – or rather, could know, and should know – everything there is to know.

What we need to do is finally accept it.

Kristian Niemietz

25 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Stonyground

    Surely this applies to all kinds of price controls. Something doesn’t suddenly cost less to produce just because the Government declares that it does. The business that is providing the product would need to cheapen it or go out of business.

  • Plamus

    Prices are communication of information about supply and demand. Price controls are censorship. People are unfortunately often unhappy with the message (“There is scarcity/glut here!), so the messenger has got to go.

  • Jacob

    Rent control and price controls is part of the belief of lefties that anything can be solved or achieved by power. That the only thing that matters is power, not creativity, not invention, not interaction, not trade – only power. The power to control prices and force people (providers) to accept it.
    They imagine an utopia world where things are as they wish, there are no constraints, no processes, no limits, you just apply enough power (brute force) and thing turn out as you dream them.

    Rent is expensive – give us power – we will fix it, inequality? more power and all we be equal; racism? give us power and we will re-educate the bastards by force. Climate change – give us power – we will stop it… Coronavirus? give us power and we will stop it. (If it rages on – that’s because the rules have not been strictly enforced…

  • The Pedant-General

    Can I just point out that this is Samizdata quote of the day “1337”?
    Fitting indeed

  • Rent control and price controls is part of the belief of lefties that anything can be solved or achieved by power.

    My disgust with the left comes from their preponderance in academia. You can point out all sorts of fallacies, historical illiteracies, dishonest tactics, etc. for which “both sides are to blame”. However, when they’re on the left, the very professionals whose job is to correct them will avert their eyes, whether for a specific hidden agenda, a vague greater good, or just a biased underestimation of the severity of the problem.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Rent control and price controls is part of the belief of lefties that anything can be solved or achieved by power.”

    That’s the authoritarian/libertarian axis you’re talking about, not the left/right axis.

  • Flubber

    #yawn NiV, don’t your knees ache from all that arse kissing you do gor the left?

  • “Rent control and price controls is part of the belief of lefties that anything can be solved or achieved by power.” (CayleyGraph, August 22, 2020 at 3:20 pm)

    That’s the authoritarian/libertarian axis you’re talking about, not the left/right axis. (Nullius in Verba, August 22, 2020 at 3:42 pm)

    Rightists who like authority are more likely to defend the authority of landlords, not pander to tenants. By contrast, a lefty must indeed discover an inner libertarian to resist their desire to pander to tenants and ignore the laws of economics. So I quite see CayleyGraph’s point.

    Obviously, an authoritarian can be trivially defined as someone who believes that “anything can be solved or achieved by power”, but that is hardly saying anything, just replacing a word with a (possible) definition or vice versa. By contrast, saying how it maps, statistically, to the tendencies of a political axis in a given culture is saying something.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “#yawn NiV, don’t your knees ache from all that arse kissing you do gor the left?”

    Like I said, it’s not about kissing the arse of either the left or the right. It’s about knowing who your enemy is.

    The enemy isn’t the left, or the right. It’s the authoritarians.

    “Rightists who like authority are more likely to defend the authority of landlords, not pander to tenants. By contrast, a lefty must indeed discover an inner libertarian to resist their desire to pander to tenants and ignore the laws of economics.”

    I don’t this this is an issue of left/right. I think it’s a question of not understanding the laws of supply and demand. The price of any good is pushed by competition towards the point where the supply curve and demand curve cross. If you want to move the price, you have to move the supply/demand curves. Attempts to force a different price – whether that’s above or below the equillibrium – result in shortages, gluts, black markets, smuggling, and crime.

    There’s nothing at all wrong with “pandering to tenants” in the sense of seeking to make housing more affordable. The problem is how you go about it. A left-libertarian would do it by building more houses. Increasing supply reduces the price. A left-authoritarian would do it by forcing a lower price. Setting the price causes an increase in the demand and a reduction in the supply.

    Price fixing doesn’t work, and thus works *against* the interests of the poor, and *contrary* to the expressed goals of the left. It’s not about whether you’re on the side of the landlords or the tenants – what we might loosely call left/right (although I think that’s arguable) – it’s about whether your solution to economic problems is to understand and change people’s motivations, or to impose a ‘solution’ by force – the authoritarian/libertarian axis. The left should be no more pleased at the devastation wrought by rent controls on the poor tenants than the right are pleased at the devastation imposed on the poor landlords.

    “By contrast, saying how it maps, statistically, to the tendencies of a political axis in a given culture is saying something.”

    Statistically, I think the sampling here is biased. But that’s a different argument.

  • Just a note: The quote Niall Kilmartin attributes to me is part of a blockquote of Jacob.

    Yes, I should have put in the full attribution. It was only two comments up, back when there were only four; I thought I could get away with it!

  • The enemy isn’t the left, or the right. It’s the authoritarians.

    — Nullius in Verba
    August 22, 2020

    Good luck finding a way to simultaneously

    1) Identify authoritarians quickly & reliably enough to withhold support
    2) Support people who oppose authoritarians effectively enough to keep said authoritarians from gaining power
    3) Advocate policies that satisfy your countrymen, at least enough that they’re not willing to risk voting/staging a coup for a potential authoritarian…
    4) … Without being authoritarian yourself

    If you’re a moral philosopher, you can probably get by with just point (4), subject to other conclusions you’ve reached. If you’re talking politics, those four points are necessary, and not even sufficient.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Good luck finding a way to simultaneously…”

    Thank you. And good luck to you persuading your fellow countrymen to vote against rent controls.

  • And good luck to you persuading your fellow countrymen to vote against rent controls.

    Nullius in Verba
    August 22, 2020 at 6:33 pm

    As foolish as rent controls are, as much as I detest them, I’m willing to ally with people who endorse them as long as my opponents are no less likely to support them, and my allies advocate other important/urgent policies.

    As it happens, I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to persuade my fellow countrymen to vote against rent controls, and against protective tariffs, and against censorship, and…
    I think I might be able to figure out which factions are in a position to institute the most destructive policies, and support the faction best positioned to prevent them from implementing them. Of course, this means the factions I support eventually inevitably implement their own destructive policies. And if I go gardening, I eventually inevitably end up with weeds, and if I use an internal combustion engine, I inevitably lose energy to useless heat.

    These factions I have to chose from are too ephemeral to have precise definitions I can know well, mostly for the same reasons that centrally-planned economies can’t set prices. However, at present, they cluster into “left” and “right”, even though at various times throughout history the factions with those names have opposed many things supported by the present factions.

    Of course, I understand deciding that opposing the left in academia seems completely futile. Granted, as long as lefties hold their academic dominance, persuading my fellow countrymen to vote against rent controls by explaining how they’re a terrible idea is also doomed to fail. After all, who has the time to even listen to someone who’s not an official teacher, let alone consider the things they say without simply dismissing them for having no academic credentials?
    … Well, I mean besides losers like us, who spend our time arguing anonymously on political blogs. 🙂 But we’re not really a coherent faction for either of our purposes anyway. 🙁

    Fortunately, sometimes the aforementioned “left” and “right” end up opposing bad policies for completely inscrutable reasons. If I support the faction that opposes the worst of them, I have the chance to live under fewer terrible policies, even if I have no chance of persuading my fellow countrymen to vote against rent controls.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “As foolish as rent controls are, as much as I detest them, I’m willing to ally with people who endorse them as long as my opponents are no less likely to support them, and my allies advocate other important/urgent policies.”

    I tend to think of this in the same light as Churchill being willing to ally with Stalin so long as he was willing to support Churchill in the more urgent/important fight. In the short term, perfectly understandable. But in the long term, as we saw at Yalta, you often just end up replacing one tyrant with another.

    The question for me is: do you want to form an alliance of right-libertarians with left-libertarians? Or do you want to form an alliance of right-libertarians with right-authoritarians, arguing that the right-authoritarians are more numerous and more powerful and far more likely to seize the power needed to crush and defeat the left-authoritarians? What do you suppose happens next, in the war for liberty, if we ‘win’ that battle?

    Of course, practical politics requires that we always get into bed with the least-bad option. But I’d still at least try to persuade my political bed-partners of the merits of liberty for all, even if I have little hope that many will be persuaded. What else can you do, and retain your principles?

  • Paul Marks

    One does not need to tell Senator Harris what harm Rent Control does – the lady is from San Francisco, she ALREADY KNOWS what terrible harm Rent Control does. And explaining supply and demand curves to a lady whose father was a professional economist and who studied economics herself and was he President of the Economics Club at her university….. well it is silly to explain to the lady what she ALREADY KNOWS.

    Just as Senator Harris already know what terrible harm the government handing out money to poor (hello “Basic Income”) does – again the lady is from San Francisco, California she ALREADY KNOWS what terrible harm such policies do.

    Which is why the lady wishes to spread such policies ALL OVER THE UNITED STATES – in order to deliberately do as much HARM as possible.

    The husband and wife Marxist team Cloward ad Piven wrote extensively about this in the 1960s – how both welfare payments and regulations (such as Rent Control) could be used to undermine civilisation (which they called “capitalism”) – destroy society in order to make way for a perfect Marxist society that was supposed to magically appear in its place.

    The Marxist economist father of Senator Harris thought on very similar lines – and naturally so, as this is the way Marxism had developed by this time.

    Yes Senator Harris (like Senator Barack Obama and others) is corrupt and cynical – but that does NOT mean that the lady does not still have an ideal in that space inside here where her soul once was – technically STILL IS, as although mutilated, the lady still has a soul. And that ideal (as it is for Mr Obama and others) is to destroy “capitalism” (i.e. civilisation) with endless welfare payments and regulations – such as Rent Control. Once they thought it would take them many years to destroy “capitalism” now they can see their goal (the destruction of civilisation) is within reach. It must be a very exciting time for them – although I believe they are mistaken about a wonderful new society magically emerging from the ashes and dried blood of the old society.

    The great mistake of F.A. Hayek was his assumption that the left were doing harm unintentionally – that if he could explain the consequences of their policies to them, they would change their policies.

    On the contrary – they know perfectly well what terrible harm their policies do, that-is-the-point of the policies.

    The point is to reduce the present civilisation to ashes and dried blood – with the expectation than then the wonderful new society arrives.

    One of the reasons I am not on the left is that I lack their faith that a wonderful new society would emerge from the ashes and dried blood.

    The “authoritarianism” is not for its own sake – there is an objective. And he left are partly CORRECT – in that their policies of spending and regulations will, if carried on to their logical conclusion, destroy the society the left wish to destroy.

  • Paul Marks

    Dick Barton, Special Agent, quietly works to get his arm loose from the ropes as both Jock and Snowy lay knocked out. Dick Barton listens as the Professor descries his plan to utterly exterminate the population of London – he must foil the plan, but first Dick Barton must get free of the ropes……

    The Professor is not ignorant, actually he has far more knowledge than Mr Barton does, telling the Professor that he will destroy London if he does X is a waste of time – as destroying London is the objective of what the Professor is doing.

    Nor is the Professor stupid – of course he could have killed Mr Barton and he does not have to explain his plan to Mr Barton, but he feels an incredible need to do so – the need for an audience.

    Cloward and Piven were not ignorant or stupid either – there were quite well aware (as all leading leftists were aware) what terrible harm the Great Society schemes would do – indeed THAT WAS THE POINT.

    Nor did they actually need to openly publish their ideas “listen up you at the back there, do not fall asleep or look out of the window, our evil plan to utterly destroy you is……”

    Ludwig Von Mises in the last part of his book “Socialism” (written before Hayek wrote anything) called such spending and regulation schemes “Destructionism” – because they are designed to destroy the existing society (for example “Rent Control” and “security of tenure”, forbidding the eviction of tenants, is designed to DESTROY PRIVATE RENTING).

    Contra Hayek – explaining to the left that their policies do harm will not help at all, as their policies are INTENDED to do harm.

    They sometimes even admit this – like the evil Professor with his need for an audience.

    It is much more fun to TELL people how you are going to destroy society, for example pervert their children, and then watch them in helpless horror as you destroy their families and their society – in front of their eyes, with them knowing exactly what you are doing.

    For example, if anyone really thinks that the savage and subhuman creatures (utterly perverted and twisted) that are smashing up Portland Oregon and other cities are accident – you are quite mistake.

    These creatures were born human beings – it took many years of conscious work to turn them into what they are now. Slowly perverting and twisting them via the education system, the mainstream media, and other cultural institutions.

    In much the same way that Orcs were made from Elves – by the power and long patient work of Morgoth and his servants.

    If one reads the works of the Progressives they are often fairly open about their methods (their methods to corrupt) and their objectives.

    After all it is much more fun if some other people KNOW the evil they are doing – the left can revel in the agony and helpless despair of those who would stop them, but do not know how to stop them.

    And the wonderful new society that is supposed to emerge from the ashes and dried blood?

    Sometimes I wonder if even the left truly believe in it.

    Sometimes I suspect that the destruction and suffering are an end-in-themselves.

    But it may vary – with some leftists believing in it, and some not.

    Still – bottom line….

    Such things as Rent Control, Security of Tenure, handing out STOLEN money from the state to “the masses” (the “bread and games” of Ancient Rome – or the handing out of such an income in some of the cities of Ancient Greece which Aristotle rightly called pouring liquid into a container with no bottom in it) are not just “economic mistakes” they are MORAL EVILS – which must be fought root-and-branch.

  • Paul Marks

    “But Paul – but stupid Conservatives (not just leftists) follow most, if not all, of these policies of DESTRUCTIONISM, if we explain to them the terrible effects of these policies they will STOP following them”.

    Well good luck with that – I tried for 40 years.

    The assumption, which I now think possibly false, is that the people in such places as “Conservative Central Office” do not KNOW that the policies they push, handing out money to “the masses”, forbidding evictions when people do not pay rent, exterminating Freedom of Speech, and on and on, are destructive.

    If they do know that the policies they push are destructive then explaining it to them will not achieve anything.

    In short the real problem may be that they are NOT stupid or ignorant.

    P.E. Moore, the American tutor of T.S. Eliot, came over to Britain in the 1930s (partly to visit his former student – who had decided to turn himself into an Englishman).

    P.E. Moore was at first utterly charmed by England and the English – but then he made a discovery that horrified him to the depths of his soul.

    The “Conservatives” in Britain, at least the elite among them, had the same basic philosophical political assumptions as the socialists.

    The difference was not a matter of political philosophy – but that the British “Conservatives” wanted to protect their personal wealth and status and that of their family and friends – they had no basic difference of PRINCIPLE with the socialists. In short in the American sense, the British Conservatives, at least the elite amongst them, were not conservatives at all.

    I read that in the works of P.E. Moore many decades ago – but I mentally buried it, as it is too terrible to think about without danger of total despair.

    In recent months the suppressed memory has risen to the surface of my mind – events (both what has happened to me personally, and what has happened to this country and the rest of the West) have made it impossible to keep down.

    Ignorance is not the same thing as stupidity – an ignorant person may be highly intelligent, just lacking information.

    If the problem with “Central Office” types was ignorance then one could solve it by giving them information….

    “Now listen up – this “Diversity” stuff is really the Frankfurt School of Marxism, the plan is as follows….”

    And one could do the same with “Social Justice”, “Minimum Wage Laws”, “Basic Income”, “Rent Control”, “Security of Tenure” and the rest – provide the information to people who lacked it. Explain what terrible harm these things do.

    Even if the problem was not just ignorance, but was stupidity on top of ignorance – it would still be solvable. One would just have to explain over a longer period of time and with simpler examples.

    But what, as P.E. Moore and others have claimed, the problem is not ignorance or stupidity – but rather a fundamental difference in moral principle, at least with the elite within the Conservative Party?

    That is the point at which the mind recoils in horror – for at that point the Conservative Party, or at least the elite within it, goes from being a misguided friend to being part of the Enemy itself.

  • And the wonderful new society that is supposed to emerge from the ashes and dried blood?

    Sometimes I wonder if even the left truly believe in it. (Paul Marks, August 23, 2020 at 6:27 am)

    Burke thought not, albeit that it was shown most in their behaviour – that they had not honest-enough habits of thought to be perfectly clear in their own minds. I quote from memory (probably not word-perfect):

    When they pretend good to the public, they are content to let any quack try his nostrums. When they pursue power, they use the tried and trusted old-fashioned methods because there they are in earnest.

    Or, reasoning from Hayek’s remark that …

    The probability of the people in power being individuals who would dislike the possession and exercise of power is on a level with the probability that an extremely tenderhearted person would get the job of whipping-master in a slave plantation.

    … it follows: the more drastic the proclaimed change, and the more it is supposed to be a change to a new society merely imagined, never previously experienced (‘real socialism’, for example), the more power will be demanded to effect it – and so the more Hayek’s quote applies. Slave overseers will become the revolution’s leaders even before the successful revolution becomes the overseer of slaves.

  • Or do you want to form an alliance of right-libertarians with right-authoritarians, arguing that the right-authoritarians are more numerous and more powerful (Nullius in Verba, August 22, 2020 at 7:44 pm)

    In your dreams, Nullius – or your nightmares. As Paul has explained above, at length ( 🙂 – but I am so not entitled to comment on the length of anyone else’s comments 🙂 ), right-wing authoritarians are not much in evidence in positions of power in the Tory party – or anywhere else in the UK today. The Brexit fight purged some of the worst, but from Theresa May, still Member of Parliament, to London-PC-bubble people, still in central office, the left-wing authoritarians who so recently ruled the Tories remain unpurged – unlike Paul. (Our threads have also seen some remarks on Boris. On certain issues – e.g. climate change, ChiComCold – that freedom-focus and contempt of ‘experts’ that Brexit required have been less in evidence than could be wished.)

    So, as regards allying with an organised powerful political group of right-wing authoritarians in the UK – chance’d be a fine thing! (On the upside, that particular source of possible threat to freedom need less concern us in the UK for now.)

    Out in the real world of disorganised oppressed voters, there is no such either-or as Nullius suggests. Cancel culture and hate speech law are great arguments for preaching first-amendment-style libertarianism to any who start by disliking that they themselves are silenced. The left’s leaders moved fast from “we must be free to be as offensive as we like” to “no-one must be free to offend us”, so now is a good time for preaching the value of being unlike them in that (and will encourage left-libertarians, who have less power over the left than right-libertarians over the right, but are often more able to be heard in the public domain).

    I’d still at least try to persuade my political bed-partners of the merits of liberty

    Me too, and I see now as a propitious time, but as regards voters – real people who do not divide binary-wise into authoritarian or libertarian, I see no call for OR. As instapundit likes to say, “embrace the healing power of AND”.

  • neonsnake

    A left-libertarian would do it by building more houses. Increasing supply reduces the price

    Surely, so would a right-libertarian? And would (broadly) agree that there are difficulties in doing so, mostly due to state regulations of various kinds?

    (or is your point less about the “left” part, in this instance, and is more tied to your broader point about libertarian/authoritarian splits?)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Surely, so would a right-libertarian?”

    I’m in danger here of grossly over-simplifying, but I would think a right-libertarian would certainly agree that legal obstacles to building new houses should be removed, but would be more likely then to leave it entirely to the free market to decide how many more houses to build, and if after that they were still unaffordable to some to accept that as a consequence of the disparity in skills that led to the disparity in wages. Offering education and training, yes. But directly subsidising the poor without fixing the reason they’re poor is just as much a distortion of the labour market as the housing market.

    Living in a community always requires compromises and trade-offs between competing goals and interests, and the optimum trade-off depends on our values and priorities. An undistorted market is most efficient, but harsh and merciless for those who fall through the cracks. Creating a safety net costs wealth, it makes society poorer. How much are we all willing to pay for that safety net? Opinions differ.

    As a libertarian, there’s nothing wrong with charity so long as it is voluntary. And if society collectively *chooses* to pay, that is its right. It’s *our* money. And if people were to make an effort to provide more housing, contributing their own time and money, I don’t think libertarians should object. The ‘Big Society’ was associated with Conservatism, but I think it was always intended as a way to include the left-liberal sentiments of voters who combined economic realism with caring.

    And although it contradicts a *purist* liberatarian stance, there are those who support a limited, voter-voluntary welfare state, along with social and economic freedoms, and who could for example propose having the taxpayer build council houses to subsidise the poor. Certainly far less damaging than rent control! If we’re going to compromise politically, you would get a lot more popular support compromising in that direction than you do compromising with racists and nationalists and survivalist paranoids and so forth. [Or for a more directly comparable example, consider law-and-order conservatives who support state-funded police and prisons to ‘crack down’ on criminals, (despite all the evidence arguing that prison is no more effective and no less damaging to society than rent controls). The strength of opposition to state-funding depends on what you’re doing with it.]

    The left/right differ on their goals and priorities, the authoritarian/libertarian differ on their methods. Helping the poor is more of a priority for the left, but there are more libertarian ways to do it.

  • neonsnake

    but would be more likely then to leave it entirely to the free market to decide how many more houses to build

    I will also grossly over-simplify!

    So would a (very!) pure left-libertarian. They’d see the issue as being inability for the “market” (ie. those who need houses) to build them themselves (as a voluntarily co-operative exercise, not in the sense of going into the woods and building a log-cabin), due to regulations preventing entry into the market, difficulty in accessing the required capital, etc.

    A left-minarchist, on the other hand (“those who support a limited, voter-voluntary welfare state”) would advocate for socially provided housing, I agree.

    And yes, I agree with your example of the law-and-order conservative, who has no issue with reaching into my wallet for taxes for police/prisons and so on and so forth. I would happily eradicate the word “conservative” from that example, as well, and say that the same is broadly true of right-minarchists in general, even the most socially liberal – even while their reasons for doing so are different (property protection etc)

    An undistorted market is most efficient, but harsh and merciless for those who fall through the cracks

    I agree with the first half, but not entirely with the second. I believe that a truly undistorted market will so significantly reduce the number of people who fall through the cracks, that to look after the remaining number becomes a trivial matter, and one that “human nature” is more than capable of dealing with through voluntary means. I also think that the costs of “whatever it is” that is needed in each specific instance would be so low, that it will be much cheaper to look after them as well – which I hope would further a more charitable outlook.

  • neonsnake

    (and will encourage left-libertarians, who have less power over the left than right-libertarians over the right, but are often more able to be heard in the public domain).

    I would love to agree with this statement, from a self-serving point of view!

    This won’t be particularly well-developed, so have at it with constructive criticism, but:

    I would say that “most people” believe in a pure left-right dichotomy.

    On the left is fairness, equality of opportunity, social freedoms, progressiveness (all good things, which most of us people agree with) – all of which must be forced upon us by a benevolent government, and markets must be constrained, regulated, wealth must be redistributed downwards, and we should trust the central planners as they have our best interests at heart.

    On the right is freedom to trade, freedom to contract, de-centralised economies, the ability to make something of yourself, to turn your dream of Candice’s Cupcake Cafe into a reality without being crushed by nanny-state regulations because there’s too much sugar in your icing (all good things, which most people agree with) – all of which must be supported by anti-LGBT legislation, racism, oppressive police actions, laws made in accordance with old religions, and an acceptance that money flows upwards and that we should doff our caps to the elite.

    (I’m looking at those two paragraphs, and while I made an attempt not to be biased, I’m very aware that I’ve failed. I’m going to leave them as is, though, and take any flak it earns me)

    So, obviously, both of the descriptions are wrong, and contradict themselves on their own terms. Depending on where you sit, you concentrate on the first half of each description for your own side, and then play up the second half (the “all of which” part) for the other side.

    If you’re lucky, you get exposed to things like the Nolan Chart, or the Political Compass. I don’t think the Political Compass is perfect – far from it – but it’s a very useful tool for those people first starting out on the wider journey beyond pure “left vs right” and into “authoritarianism vs libertarianism”. My descriptions above (deliberately faulty) only take into account the top half of the Political Compass – but unfortunately, I believe that that’s all that most people can conceive of!

    (I also think it’s easier to grasp at first blush than the Nolan Chart, maybe for no other reason than it’s not on a diagonal, and we’re used to X/Y axes…)

    I said this elsewhere, but I personally believe that “most people” on the right consider that the only two boxes are the “authoritarian-left” and the “libertarian-right”, and cheerfully put all of their opponents in the “auth-left”. On the other hand, I suspect that “most people” on the left consider the only two boxes to be “authoritarian-left” and “authoritarian-right”, and cheerfully put all of their opponents in the “auth-right”. That’s my sense, anyway – I may well be wrong, of course. But I’m thinking here of our old friends, Mark from Purchase Ledger who reads the Times, and his girlfriend Sophie from Marketing who reads the Guardian.

    You can see which group is missing, of course – the left-libertarians. It’s considered an oxymoron by the right-libertarians, and by the left-authoritarians.

    I think it’s pretty rare. Over the last year, I’ve re-evaluated some stuff, and resolved some contradictions in my own thoughts, and in what I’ve seen stated by others, and I *think* I could be safely put in the “left-libertarian” box.

    (the reason I’m keen to say that I’ve “re-evaluated” is that I know what Niall Kilmartin’s memory is like, and I’m convinced that if you go back a year, it would not be difficult to find me saying stuff that contradicts my current position)

    ——————

    I’m going to put words into Niall Kilmartin’s mouth, I’m afraid.

    I think that what he means, is that I, a “left-libertarian”, express views that are Politically Correct? I’ve expressed views that fit that bill, arguably I am SJW or whatever? I’m not likely to get “cancelled” anytime soon?

    Whilst all true…I’ve also had to have this argument: “Sure, I know that certain words are really f*ing hurtful…but if we legally ban them, what happens when ‘someone’ bans other words?”

    (the word in question was “queer”. The “someone” was Jacob Rees-Mogg. I trust you to understand why I picked those two examples, even if you’re tempted to disagree)

  • On the left is fairness, equality of opportunity …. (neonsnake, August 23, 2020 at 5:31 pm)

    I’m guessing these lists are intended as descriptions of the left and right as typically perceived today by those who think of a simple left-right dichotomy. But of course they also reflect history, your own present and past opinions, etc., so it swiftly gets complicated about whose ‘right’ and whose ‘left’ we are talking about. My remarks below will will go beyond that now and then but will try to focus back on the binary dichotomy view of today.

    On the current (very pre-dominant part of the) left is (officially) fairness of outcome, which therefore denies equality of opportunity (as normally understood – SJWs would say it includes allowances for the past and the systemically-biased present, whose impacts they assess at their whim). Officially, the mere absence of statistical symmetry in whatever categories the SJWs regard (measured with their usual incompetence) proves the need. Actually, as some ratios reverse (student sex-ratios at universities, for example), diversity officials preserve their jobs and continue their activities. By contrast, the current right are very much about equality of opportunity, which they do not expect to show immediate equality of result.

    Go back to the origin of the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ in the late 1700s and things are somewhat different.

    – The left then and later proclaimed equality of opportunity (‘careers open to talent’), but those who rule the left today turned against it when achieving it did not give the results their theory said it would. So arguably, they were always about results, not process, the fact merely becoming obvious when they gained power. (However, since we’re talking generations here, those who lived and died proclaiming equality of opportunity will have included some who, like maverick lefties of today, would have remained dedicated to it if alive today.)

    – Burke condemns closed castes but notes without criticism the fact that those (like himself) who enter the charmed circle of the British ruling class from without had to clear a threshold – which he commends for being a low bar to clear but also tolerates. By the time he wrote that, Burke was moving towards leaving the Whigs and allying with the Tories in Parliament, but he remained liberal (old sense). And of course, the UK was such an effective opponent of the French Revolution precisely because it offered a lot more equality of opportunity than its ‘ancient regime’ allies.

    our old friends, Mark from Purchase Ledger who reads the Times, and his girlfriend Sophie from Marketing who reads the Guardian.

    sound rather white to me (and heterosexual). Thus Mark has not an intersectional leg to stand on and Sophie is on the very bottom-most rung of the woke hierarchy. I imagine both will avoid like the plague saying anything anyone could call *ist or *phobe where HR can hear them, but, in their hearts, how do they feel about a modern left that could under-promote them or displace them for a significantly less able candidate because, 250 years ago, someone not of their colour sold somone else not of their colour to someone of their colour. Perhaps they try to avoid thinking of it like that – and hope that taking the diversity training assentingly will mean it won’t be them. But how is their faith in the left as the party of equal opportunity holding up these days?

    ASIDE: so far, neonsnake, I have discussed a few words from early in your post. The problem with writing a long comment (a problem I have experienced too) is that any reply will likely also be a longish discussion of some small parts of the original – parts of interest to the replier but possibly not the core of interest in the view of the original commenter. We’ll see. Continuing…

    On the right is free trade …

    Go back far enough and free trade is liberal. (The contrast between old and new meanings of liberal is a recurring problem – read Burke’s ‘An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs’ if you doubt we’ve been here before. 🙂 🙁 ) But from Thatcher till recently, free trade has indeed been seen as Tory – till recently. Brexit tweaks things; I think the Tories’ new voters, as much or more than their old, hope we’re not going to be trading freely with China.

    religions

    Not Islam, which it is islamophobic to criticise – just Christianity (and Judaism). Christianity warns us against nailing a man to a cross for saying something offensive to the fashionable beliefs of his time – which did not of course, prevent some later Christian times from doing things that looked suspiciously similar, any more than the US constitution prevents some very strange supreme court rulings. But it is a much greater obstacle than a religion whose name means ‘submit’ and which permits taqqiya. Centuries of Europeans taking ‘lunatic’ risks rather than violate their biblical beliefs – and their inquisitors finding it tedious that Christ, unlike Mohammed, omitted to provide supportive remarks – are where our idea of freedom of conscience came from.

    But such history is not in the minds of Mark and Sophie, I guess. To them, ‘religion’, in any right-wing context, means Christianity – and may well also mean a ‘mere prejudice’ causing ‘prejudices’. I’m guessing that, like the ‘equality of opportunity’ I mentioned above, Islam(ophobia) would be their most immediate point of uncertainty about the narrative. When no-one from HR is listening, how comfortable are they with PC’s intersectional reconciliation of the religion it says you must never be prejudiced about versus the one you must always be prejudiced against? The very things listed under ‘right’ and ‘religions’ would seem to be especially of islam – and so being protected by the left, not the right.

    As you say:

    both of the descriptions are wrong, and contradict themselves on their own terms.

    but some contradictions seem more innate than others – though, of course, for that very reason unmentioned in the media.

    “most people” on the right consider that the only two boxes are the “authoritarian-left” and the “libertarian-right”, and cheerfully put all of their opponents in the “auth-left”. On the other hand, I suspect that “most people” on the left consider the only two boxes to be “authoritarian-left” and “authoritarian-right”, and cheerfully put all of their opponents in the “auth-right”

    I would like to agree – but I feel I must check that you mean exactly that text and did not mistype. Decades ago, the Labour party was about statism but the counter-culture peacenik druggie left (and others on the left personally undeserving of such harsh labels) saw themselves as the freedom-oriented ones and the right as authoritarian. These days, the spiritual descendants of both act very authoritarian indeed, but as to explicitly putting themselves without equivocation into the “authoritarian-left” box, I’ve seen some astonishingly frank statements to that effect from lefties, but wonder if Mark and Sophie have caught up.

    (My thoughts on limitations in the Nolan chart / Political Compass)

    I think that what he [Niall] means, is that I, a “left-libertarian”, express views that are Politically Correct? I’ve expressed views that fit that bill, arguably I am SJW or whatever? I’m not likely to get “cancelled” anytime soon?

    That’s a fair summary: on the one hand, my comment above rated the chances of people like you persuading the Labour party to adopt free speech, or just become milder in their war against ‘hate speech’, as worse than the chances of people like Perry persuading the Tories, but on the other hand I rated higher your chance of being permitted to finish your sentences in the public domain.

    HOWEVER no sooner do I write that than I recall other things I also believe. Cancel culture may particularly target those who identify as left – because they are there in the circle, in the chatroom, known. Cancel culture may tell particularly hard on those who identify as left – because it threatens their identity. You, neonsnake, have other places to go (e.g. samizdata) if a left-PC site that you comment on suddenly bans you, but consider people who neither have nor want such web acquaintance, or its face-to-face equivalent. From the shallow-left knitter who was bullied into cringing for her “cultural appropriation”, through the gay diversknitty guy Natalie posted on more recently who attempted suicide, up to the university professor (an anti-racist freedom-rider of the olden days) who committed suicide after his university’s diversity department spent $100,000 on lawsuits to prove he was a racist, there are ways in which cancel culture can hurt the not-quite-woke-enough more than the couldn’t-care-less. A right-wing friend of the professor said at the time that he [the right-wing friend] knew to gut his lectures of even the most wildly-misrepresentable content lest some AA student in the back-row catch an out-of-context phrase between web-surfing and make a complaint. He did not say – but I think it was so – that being called a racist by the PC would not hurt him in his own mind the way it tortured his friend, because, while he wasn’t a racist either, not being one was never such a big part of who he was.

    I know what Niall Kilmartin’s memory is like,

    My recent football error reminded me what my memory combined with my typ(o)ing ability can be like. 🙂 (When I say ‘quoted from memory’, you can trust the gist but take the qualification seriously as regards the exact words.)

    and I’m convinced that if you go back a year …

    It would arguably be more embarrassing to you, to me and to samizdata if either of us could say we had spent years here (in my case, a good many), yet learnt nothing from it. As neoneocon put it, “A mind is a difficult thing to change” but sometimes, very slowly, it evolves.

    the word in question was “queer”. The “someone” was Jacob Rees-Mogg.

    I kind-of assumed you were not having to defend the creator of “Queer as Folk” from having conceived its title. 🙂

    John Stuart Mill wrote, “He who knows only his own side of the argument knows little of that” – and Mill stressed the importance of hearing counter-arguments presented by those who believed in them, not just as an exercise by those who did not.

    Burke likewise wrote that “Our antagonist is our helper” and spoke of the ‘amicable conflict’ with difficulty that forced deep knowledge of a subject and guarded against a superficial pretend-solving of a problem that actually solved little or nothing.

    At this point, your ‘helpful’ antagonist may mockingly quote Nietzsche – “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” – followed by snide insinuations about where this seems to be going. 🙂

    Another quote is Karl Popper’s: he asked his students whether, if they had a clear concise worked-out proof that national socialism was false, they would offer it to a Nazi? Hearing their calm assured ‘yes’es, he then asked, “And when the Nazi yells, ‘I shit on your proof’ and shoots you’, what then?” I trust the the outcomes of a free speech society. I am also alert to those who would destroy free speech, since that which kills me does not make me stronger. 🙂

  • neonsnake

    I’m guessing these lists are intended as descriptions of the left and right as typically perceived today by those who think of a simple left-right dichotomy. But of course they also reflect history, your own present and past opinions

    Yes, they were intended to be an unbiased view of what I *think* people mean when they talk about a pure left-right. I wasn’t able to be unbiased, and decided against trying to re-word them, party out of a sense of trying to show how difficult it actually is (particularly when I don’t subscribe to either view myself).

    The left then and later proclaimed equality of opportunity (‘careers open to talent’), but those who rule the left today turned against it when achieving it did not give the results their theory said it would.

    I actually mean this, but I’m so aware of the inevitable comeback that I’m going to stick a ” 😉 ” in first: “it’s never been properly tried” 😆 (all of the various regulations/tariffs etc etc conspire to make it very difficult to compete on even grounds). That’s not to say that things couldn’t be a lot worse (they clearly could), but things could be better. I personally think that equality of outcome is neither 100% possible, nor is it desirable (unless you start playing silly buggers with words by saying “what it means is that everyone gets what they desire, not the absolute material same goods”) since it would imply a uniformity which I think would be a bad thing, an indicator of repression of desires. I do think it would reduce inequality of outcome to more…”acceptable”…levels.

    I largely agree with the next few paragraphs. You already know which bits I don’t agree with, but a rehash of how we feel about Muslims would be a boring sideshow 😉

    This, however, could prove fruitful:

    I feel I must check that you mean exactly that text and did not mistype.

    I did mean exactly that – but interestingly, I actually changed “libertarian-left” to “authoritarian-left” at second draft. What I meant by doing so, was an admission that a majority on the left cannot conceive of a left that isn’t “statist.”

    The word authoritarian has connotations of leather, jackboots and tanks, which of course no-one – or few people – will self-identify with, so I perhaps should have said “statist-left.” With a nod towards your view on the Political Compass, I believe that most “leftist” would feel no shame in being “statist” to one degree or another, and that there are precious few of us in the left-libertarian box.

    So, take rent-control.

    Our Mark and Sophie might agree with it – prima facie, everyone knows well and good that landlords (or to use the non-gendered term, “leeches”) are awful, and charge far too much for mouldy horrible closet sized rooms in slums. So, rent control seems like a wonderful solution – it can only be imposed by the state, but that’s okay, because nothing can be done in the pursuit of fairness unless done by the state, right? (I’ve possibly overdone that one!)

    I don’t agree with rent control. It’s difficult to articulate why I don’t (from a libertarian perspective) when I’ve been vocally supportive of, say, UBI, but UBI is more about “facilitating”, whereas I think rent controls are restrictive, I suppose.

    From a strictly practical perspective, most reports I’ve read indicate that they benefit the longer-term tenants – the ones already in rental property (at least they benefit them in the short-term), but they hold out the newer tenants, and there appears to always be ways around it that leads to gentrification – as far as I can tell, they appear to always ending punishing the worst-off. So from a “left” perspective, they’re difficult to advocate for as well.

    You, neonsnake, have other places to go (e.g. samizdata) if a left-PC site that you comment on suddenly bans you,

    Agreed, but the places that would harbour people who would ban me are not places where I hang out.

    Maybe I was too harsh in placing our Marks and our Sophies in the top-left (auth) box. Agreeing with rent control is a long way from wanting state-communism and central planning, in fairness. And, to be even furtherer fairerer, when *we* talk about Auth-Left, we jump straight to Stalin, Mao, Castro etc. And, I’d add in Blue Labour (I think you would too), and we already agree that the BNP sit to the left as well.

    Where I *do* have an advantage, is that because a *lot* of what agitates or animates me are considered “social justice” issues (for now, don’t @me with the quote about how there’s no such thing 😉 ), I have an amount of “good-will” stored up, amongst people to whom that matters.

    What that means is, if I say “I don’t really think the government enforcing regulations on timber procurement is the best idea ever – look, listen…hear me out, right?” – I’m more likely to be listened to, because no-one rolls their eyes and thinks “Yeah, but we all know that’s because you’re happy for big corporations to make enormous profits at the expense of indigenous peoples, you running dog for the capitalist class”. I’m more likely to get a confused, but reasonably attentive “Um. Ok? Wasn’t expecting that, but go on?” which at least gives me a chance to talk about Consumer Advocacy Groups – the metaphorical “being allowed to finish my sentence”.

    I kind-of assumed you were not having to defend the creator of “Queer as Folk” from having conceived its title. 🙂

    LOL! No, but I wish I’d thought of that at the time – the empowerment angle. Emotions were running high at the time, though.

    It was with a young bisexual woman, who had just had that word thrown at her for knocking a fella back. So, a delicate discussion, and I assure you I was as gentle as I possibly could be, given the circumstances. She believed that people shouldn’t be “allowed” to use that word. I noted (very gently) that the, uh, “visible disapproval” from me and a couple of large mates was enough to discourage further discussion from the gentleman in question, but that legal sanctions weren’t the way to go. When you go there, you give Jacob Rees-Mogg (the boogeyman!) reign to outlaw approving talk of, uh, “non-traditional” partnerships.

    I’ve no idea if he would or not, but as a practical point, it serves the intended purpose, given how he is viewed.

    blockquote>“And when the Nazi yells, ‘I shit on your proof’ and shoots you’, what then?” I trust the the outcomes of a free speech society. I am also alert to those who would destroy free speech, since that which kills me does not make me stronger

    That’s why we shoot the Nazi first.

    I remember when I first read that bit, from Popper, it gave me some pause. I reluctantly concluded that there are some philosophies which have been so roundly disproved, that they are absolutely impossible to defend in this day and age; given how much “sunlight” has been used to “disinfect” them, that it’s time to move to bleach. I vaguely alluded to this a few weeks back, when Perry brought the ban-hammer down because of (I think I’m remembering correctly?) an ongoing discussion on “race-realism” which he’d had enough of. I applaud him, frankly.

    There’s no reasonable way, in 2020, that someone who believes in, say, “race-realism” hasn’t already noted all the arguments against it, they’re just ignoring it – they’re your Nazi shitting on your proof – so the free-speech discussion (sunlight is the best disinfectant) becomes null and void – they will to try to shut down your free speech with violence, at which point…well, shoot the Nazi (or, at least, punch).

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>