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Mar 14

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Glibertarians, MRAs, Alt-Right, Oh My!

Libertarian Party: Just Kidding, We're Republicans!We’ve been getting a lot of comments, apparently, from the crew that runs Glibertarians.com. Most of the comments have made me rethink my definition of glibertarians: people who don’t think about politics but have a vaguely libertarian mindset. I can see how the word does apply to people who think themselves libertarian but who have never taken it seriously enough to learn about it from even a basic philosophical perspective. I see that I’ve generally been mixing with a better class of libertarian in recent years. The comments are so filled with talking points that’s they’re hard to argue against because the people don’t take the political issues seriously. And looking at the site, there’s little more than a patina of libertarianism.

I did receive one reasonably thoughtful comment. I started replying and eventually decided to turn it into this post. So this is a mishmash of thoughts, but it does get to the heart of why talking to these people is a waste of time. How do you teach astronomy to people who not only believe the sun circles the Earth nightly, but who don’t even realize that this is an assumption. And I am getting tired of dealing with people of all political stripes who have no recognition of how thoroughly American propaganda has defined their world view. I don’t take it as given that private ownership of land is right. Thus it’s kind of hard to have conversations with people who think the only proper role for government is to protect a principle I find debatable.

The Liberal Straw-Man

What’s most annoying is being straw-manned constantly — having to answer for the beliefs of mythical hate-radio-created “liberals” who despise freedom and love big government. The whole thing started off with an exchange with someone who goes by the name of Sloopyinca who knew, despite my repeated denial, that I was in favor of luxury taxes. Why? Apparently because it’s the only example anyone on Glibertarians.com can come up with to illustrate the evil unintended consequences of taxation. It’s an extreme example, but like libertarians big and small, all these people assume I don’t know much about economics.

One person pointed out that taxes on one income group can affect others. Yes, I know the economy is complex and that a tax on one group is not limited to that one group. A related example of this is the EITC; estimates indicate that about one-quarter of it goes to employers because it allows them to suppress wages. Economics is very complicated indeed. That alone should stop people from being libertarian. Libertarianism is based on the most basic — “I got a B- in Econ 101” — level of economic thinking.

Deficits and Debt

However, there are many things that our Glibertarian.com friends think that just aren’t true. For example, “Deficits cause inflation.” This is one that most people find irresistible. It seems to be obvious: the economy has a certain value. Thus, the value of money is that value divided by the total amount of money that exists. If you “print” more money, the money has to be worth less. There are several problems with this. One is that the US government doesn’t print money. It does what all individuals and businesses do when they need extra money: it borrows it. This is done by issuing bonds, which are bought; the government then pays them back.

The reason deficits can be bad is because they can crowd out private borrowing. But this is only true when the economy is running at full capacity. This pretty much never happens anymore because of our excessive level of inequality. Regardless, it’s a mistake to get too focused on the deficit. If the government wanted to pay off its entire debt, it could just sell off some its many resources — or tax more.

Discussions of the deficit are almost always disingenuous — whether from the left or the right. People use them to justify cutting government expenditures that they don’t like. We should just talk about that and end the nonsense. My problem with military spending has nothing to do with the deficit. And conservatives’ problem with Medicaid has nothing to do with the deficit.

Interest Burden

Regardless, if there is a problem with government debt, it is the interest burden. And right now, the interest burden is less than half of what it was when we had a budget surplus in 2000.[1] There was nothing to worry about then and there is nothing to worry about now. Most people who have purchased a home have debts that are far greater than their annual salary, but they don’t get upset about them. They are simply focused on whether they can make the payments.

Taxation

Another issue brought up was that regardless of the various changes to the top tax rate, the average rate of federal tax revenue has been about 18 percent. This is pretty much right. The total federal tax rate as a percent of GDP has bounced around between about 16 and 20 percent with an average of roughly 18 percent. What this has to do with anything, I’m not sure. I think the implication is that I think we can fix our funding needs by soaking the rich. Like the luxury tax, this is not my position.

But there is something interesting about our tax system: it isn’t fair; it is managed by and for the rich. They have a low baseline and the Republicans might decrease it a little and the Democrats might increase it a little. I think our federal tax rate should be higher, but more than that, I think what we get for our tax dollars should be better. Despite spending as much on our military as almost every other nation on Earth combined, we are told we don’t spend enough, and that we are in great danger. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands die early because we don’t provide healthcare for everyone (this is usually justified by the “fact” that we just can’t afford it).

Local Government

Unlike most libertarians, I’m interested in taxes (and laws in general) at the state and local level, where the rich have even more power and where taxes are actually regressive. But libertarians are mostly laser-focused on federal taxes. Libertarians talk about the rich like they are some poor minority group that needs to be coddled. There are libertarians (I used to be one) who criticize the government because it is corrupt and helps the rich at the expense of the rest of the country. But this is a tiny minority. Most libertarians exhibit an almost religious admiration for the rich. And this is why they fit right in with the Republicans.

Let’s look at Rand Paul for a moment. Is he a libertarian when it comes to drugs? No. He’s for the legalization of cannabis, but not drugs that he deems too dangerous. That isn’t a libertarian position; that’s a paternal position that is simply on the liberal side of American politics. Like all prominent libertarians, tax cuts are his top priority.

My Own Liberty

I care a great deal about liberty, but taxes have never been a major impediment to my liberty — and I say that as a successful freelance writer and editor who pays a lot of money in taxes. (In 2011, I paid a higher percentage of my income as federal tax than Mitt Romney — and 2011 wasn’t a very good year for me.)

When it comes to regulation, it has always been the local government that’s been my biggest pain — not the federal government that libertarians love to claim is so bad. In general, liberty is harmed far more often by the local than federal government. (And don’t get me started about the ways that the private sector decreases my liberty.)

But libertarians always tell me local government is better. Why is that? Part of it is the neo-confederate roots of American libertarianism. But regardless, the belief that local government is necessarily better than federal government is not based on evidence; it’s just a faith-based belief. It seems like local governments would be more responsive to their citizens. But I don’t think that much matters when it is so much easier for the rich buy off the local government.

Libertarians vs Glibertarians

I still find it interesting to discuss politics with serious libertarians. But the people at Glibertarians.com are not interesting. I fear it is mostly due to ignorance. In their About page, they claim, “America would do well to return to the ideals of our founders as they pertain to our government’s relationship to us.” Really? They were men who disagreed about just about everything. And one of their prime ideals was that dark skinned people were not only inferior, but so inferior that they should be considered property.

So it is hardly surprising that the people who hang out on the site would not understand much about politics and economics except in as much as they justified their existing faith-based beliefs. The more thoughtful ones might eventually get past their glib approach to politics. But I rather doubt it. The more I look at it, I see it’s more MRA and alt-right than it is libertarian.

Glibertarian? MRA? Alt-Right?!

When this whole deluge of Glibertarians.com comments started, it was Sloopyinca, telling me, “You know nothing of glibertarians.” I guess that’s true in as far Glibertarians.com doesn’t seem to know what libertarians are. Or maybe this is always what libertarians were. Everything else is affect. It was always just an intellectual facade covering frightened white guys who can’t deal with a changing world.

Afterword

As always, I’m interested in comments. But I’d be especially interested to see comments from Glibertarians that have something to say other than repetitions of your usual talking points. You might even — Shock! — engage with the material. You could respond to the fact that poor people are taxed more than rich people at the state level. Or you could explain how the liberty that is created by public libraries is more than canceled by people having to pay taxes to support them. Or you could show how monopsony in labor markets doesn’t make them unfair. I don’t plan to respond to anyone, so this is your perfect chance to show that your support of “glibertarianism” is something more than just a sociopathic hatred of the weak and a general lack of empathy.


[1] Note that this graph stops at 2013. The only ones I could find with more up-to-date data showed that the interest burden has actually gone down since 2013. But I didn’t use them because they were focused on their own models that show that the interest burden will rise sharply in the year ahead. These same models have been predicting this same thing for the last 8 years. The truth is that as the economy improves, the interest burden should increase. This is not a bad thing and certainly is nothing to panic about.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/14/glibertarians/

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44 comments

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  1. I see wood chippers

    I don’t take it as given that private ownership of land is right.

    There are no a priori political philosophies. But libertarian ones based on private property are arguably the most simple (in a good way) and the most in line with human nature; not to mention, probably the only philosophies that are applied with logical rigor (excepting the trivial philosophy of moral nihilism). Debt, interest, taxation, federalism, and equivocation about the word “liberty” are pointless topics of debate if you don’t agree with the underlying premises. You want to argue with private property libertarians? Then argue about private property.

    ..the US government doesn’t print money. It does what all individuals and businesses do when they need extra money: it borrows it. This is done by issuing bonds, which are bought; the government then pays them back.

    Debt monetization is real. It’s simply camouflaged by fake bond purchases.

    And conservatives’ problem with Medicaid has nothing to do with the deficit.

    You’re straw-manning conservatives as liberterians here. Most conservatives don’t have a fundamental opposition to Medicaid. If they did, they might be libertarians. They just disagree with leftists on how much funding Medicaid should receive.

    And right now, the interest burden is less than half of what it was when we had a budget surplus in 2000.

    Who said that the interest burden in 2000 was acceptable?

    But there is something interesting about our tax system: it isn’t fair; it is managed by and for the rich.

    Define fair.

    ..I’m interested in taxes (and laws in general) at the state and local level, where the rich have even more power and where taxes are actually regressive.

    From your linked article:

    For example, when I lived in Oregon, there were only two marginal tax rates: 7% and 9%. And that’s saying nothing of other advantages the rich have, the the regressivity of other less visible taxes.

    Paying 2% more is an advantage? I’ll read the rest of the article after you fix that statement.

    The more thoughtful ones might eventually get past their glib approach to politics. But I rather doubt it. The more I look at it, I see it’s more MRA and alt-right than it is libertarian.

    The more thoughtful ones are often the most glib. It’s how we stay sane in a society that would lock us up for suggesting that the ends don’t justify the means, even when the means fail to produce their stated ends.

    Or you could explain how the liberty that is created by public libraries..

    Apparently my comment about equivocating with the word liberty wasn’t thoughtful enough for you to read.

    1. James Fillmore

      Your previous comment suggested that libertarians accept a harsh, unpleasant society as the price of freedom. But here you appear to be backtracking somewhat. By stating “the means fail to produce their stated ends.” Is that to say government programs which are successful are acceptable? Or that, because no government program operates with 100% efficiency, it is an impingement on your freedom to pay taxes for it?

      Because it seems to me that your ideal would be a society in which everything is managed via the profit motive. Despite the fact that there are things private companies do terribly, and government does more effectively.

      Take Medicare. Its administrative costs are substantially lower than private insurance. Americans under 65 pay the highest medical costs in the world. And our level of care is beneath Cuba’s (not, as you know, a wealthy nation). There are many more examples. (By the way, conservatives absolutely do want to get rid of both Social Security and Medicare. They’ve wanted to since the programs began. Few will say so directly, as these programs are hugely popular, but they would love to privatize both.)

      Which brings up a central issue. The libertarian concept of “freedom” means very specific freedoms adherents want. It doesn’t allow other people their freedoms. Such as the freedom to choose which laws my democratically elected representatives enact. Medicare is hugely popular; since a few people do not wish to pay for it, it should go.

      How about the “free market”? I suppose libertarians love that. Well, it’s enforced by law. Islam in the Middle Ages didn’t allow debt collection. The government stayed out of financial transactions, but banned violent crimes against others. So if you lent money to a startup business, it was in your interest to see that business succeed, so you would be paid back. If the business failed and the person could not repay this loan, too bad for the lender. (This version of the marketplace, much more “free” than what we have today, was enormously successful.) I wouldn’t mind such a system. Most “free market” believers would consider it anathema. Again, definining “freedom” by what certain people want, not any universal moral truths.

      How do libertarians propose to solve the problems of business collusion? Of monopoly? Of pollution? Greenhouse gases? Don’t these things all threaten my life & livelihood? Why can I not use collective action to limit the harm they do?

      Essentially, all I see here is the Republican Party platform minus Jesus. It’s “I got mine, so screw you.” That’s exactly what the GOP has stood for my entire adult life (since the 1980s). Anyone is certainly entitled to hope for this platform to become law. But putting the label “libertarian” on it does not change that it’s the GOP platform. Any more than Bush II’s “compassionate conservatism” was different from the standard brand.

      1. Frank Moraes

        “How do libertarians propose to solve the problems of… monopoly?”

        Somewhere around here is an article about this. The libertarian answer to monopoly is that if a monopoly abuses its power, another company will come in and undercut its prices. There are various reasons why this is ridiculous. But so much of libertarianism takes it for granted that it’s just fine to allow people to suffer for years before the market works its magic. And note that in the case of the monopoly, it wouldn’t work anyway.

        Consider the following. Company A has monopoly and gouges customers. Company B sees market opportunity, starts competing. Company A uses its advantage in the marketplace (existing factories, supply chains, etc) to cut prices and thus drive Company B out of business. So what you would get is long periods of price gouging and short periods of competitive pricing. Of course, you wouldn’t even get that because most business people are smarter than libertarians. So the people at company B would see what Company A would do and not enter the market in the first place.

        Also note: the whole libertarian narrative doesn’t work if the gouging isn’t excessive. So if Company A is overcharging by 10 percent, it wouldn’t be to any company’s advantage to take the risk.

        1. James Fillmore

          That’s the thing which puzzles me — what kind of society do they imagine living in? One in which there’s constant tension and terror because everyone has to keep a wary eye on everyone else? It’s like the pure pacifist position — if all weaponry is banned, one person who violates the ban is suddenly powerful. Well, the NRA dream where everyone is armed to the teeth sounds equally horrid to me.

          So we don’t need government to stop monopoly or collusion. We’ll just do it through consumer choice. What do these people think they’re buying, beer? Wading through phone hell getting a financial company to honor its terms of service agreement, an insurance company to cover your doctor visit, a manufacturer to honor their warranty, all these things are a royal pain in the ass. Pardon me if I’d prefer a few pennies of my tax dollar to pay public employees who bust these companies when they try to cheat customers. I don’t have unlimited time everyday to spend in phone hell. If phone hell is your notion of liberty and public regulators your notion of tyranny, fine. It sure ain’t mine.

          I suspect these folks are all people who believe a “free rider” is cleverer than the average dope who pays a fare. And they don’t think hard enough to understand how free riders undermine the whole system. They’re just “the smartest guys in the room.”

          1. I see wood chippers

            ..all these things are a royal pain in the ass. Pardon me if I’d prefer a few pennies of my tax dollar to pay public employees who bust these companies when they try to cheat customers.

            This is the kind of statement that frustrates libertarians. You’re not just spending pennies to bust cheaters. You’re also taking pennies from us to forcibly prohibit us from engaging in voluntary transactions.

        2. Jurgan

          My favorite example of magical free market thinking went something like this:

          “Drug Company A is the main source for a specific drug. Eventually, someone at Company A decides to start cutting corners, diluting the drug with cheaper, dangerous additives. A number of people die from the new drug. When it’s discovered what is killing people, consumers flock to the more trustworthy Company B, and Company A goes out of business. Now Company B is the main source for the drug until they start cutting corners. Repeat ad infinitum.” “Ad infinitum” was an exact quote, and someone else responded “You just described the death of an infinite number of people as an acceptable market correction.”

      2. I see wood chippers

        No, my previous comment only suggested that people might view libertarianism as harsh and cold. And, for a deontological liberterian like myself, the harshness isn’t an issue. It might be the price. It might not. But that doesn’t mean I can’t accept utilitarianism for the sake of argument and point out that statist solutions are often failures.

        I don’t care, ethically, about the profit motive. I only care about rights. Voluntary socialism is entirely compatible with libertarian anarchism, though absurdly unlikely.

        Take Medicare. Its administrative costs are substantially lower than private insurance.

        That claim and all of the others in that paragraph need some serious citations. It’s antithetical to your implied condemnation of the profit motive. Assuming your claim is true for the sake of argument, there’s no fundamental reason that private insurers couldn’t reduce their administrative costs to the same level and make more profit.

        By the way, conservatives absolutely do want to get rid of both Social Security and Medicare.

        What about all of those conservatives who get made fun (rightfully so) for their “Hands off my Medicare” signs? Conservatives are paternalists too.

        The libertarian concept of “freedom” means very specific freedoms adherents want.

        Yeah. Very specific. Hence my earlier use of the word rigor. Read about negative vs. positive rights.

        Medicare is hugely popular; since a few people do not wish to pay for it, it should go.

        One, how could it be “hugely popular” if conservatives, who make up a large portion of the country, oppose it? And if it really is so popular, why do you need force the small number of opponents to participate? Libertarians don’t really care that much if Medicare exists, as long as they don’t have to be part of it.

        I’ll be here for hours trying to address every sentence, so I’ll only do one more:

        How do libertarians propose to solve the problems of business collusion? Of monopoly?

        Again, admitting for the sake of argument that those would exist, they’re not problems that justify government. You aren’t owed anything by any business. If they choose to collude or have a monopoly and that drives up costs or limits access, yes, that might suck. But it doesn’t justify using force to stop them. Ethically, a business can change it’s prices and production simply to screw with people for fun.

        1. James Fillmore

          So what do libertarians justify the use of force for? I presume it’s debt collection courts and military power. I highly disagree with the way both of these matters are handled. Anyone who says, “well, government should pay for those, but not libraries,” has no grounds to talk moral-sounding gibberish like “negative rights.” Their position is, quite simply, “I want certain social benefits and I would prefer other people pay more for them than me. Ideally, the poor will pay most, as I expect to be rich.”

          Call it libertarianism if you like. It’s been straight-up GOP policy since Reagan. None of this is new.

          I may have been unclear on “conservatives” and Medicare. Yes, most conservative voters support Medicare. Almost all conservative politicians do not. They hate it, but most are too savvy to say so directly. They will talk about “saving Medicare” in their proposals to destroy it. Again, old stuff.

          As for Medicare’s administrative costs being lower than private insurance — this is also old news, fairly common knowledge for decades. The costs are not even close. You presume private insurers can do better. Than, why haven’t they? They’ve certainly had enough time to innovate and be cleverer than our dastardly liberty-killing government. Strangely, they have not produced these magical innovations, and Medicare is run much more effectively. (The VA is a mess, but the reasons for that are complex. I’d just put all veterans on Medicare.)

          There is, in libertarianism overall, a faith-based worship of the profit motive, and faith-based loathing of government. I suspect most libertarian acolytes have very little experience with how either business or government works. They may have been successful, via blind luck, at hitting some jackpot idea at the right time, a la Peter Thiel (Who wants to build a floating libertarian island, and for the sake of entertainment value watching utter foolishness in action, I hope he does.)

          Every large, complex organization is very tricky to run. Some people are good at running them, some are not. There are brilliant people in government and the private sector. There are idiots in both. Saying one should not exist is no magic fix. In a sane society, Barbie dolls and booze are not manufactured by the government. In every country which has a government-run health care system, costs are lower than here. In every single case. We pay more than anyone. And we routinely rank around #25 on the rankings of care quality.

          Anyone who’s worked in health care knows that there are good and bad hospitals. In every city which has more than one hospital. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the neighborhood. Where I live, the poor-district Minneapolis hospital is fantastic, and the hospital in super-rich Edina is famously horrid. These are institutional problems. If you are a good nurse or doctor, and you work at the crappy hospital, other people will despise you for how hard you work and your level of compassion towards patients. So, as soon as possible, you will quit that crappy hospital and get a job at the good one.

          Institutional problems are difficult to change. I notice that while defending monopoly and collusion, you did not make a moral argument for defending pollution and the murder of neighborhood residents via corporate negligence. Our kindly blog host has permitted me to post a little article on a nuclear mishap along these lines: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2016/07/05/yanosuke-hirai/

          The latest estimates from that minor corporate slip-up suggest the cleanup process will take, at least, 40 years. Remote-controlled robots they send into the nuclear sludge break down from the radiation much faster than expected. At this point, the company has absolutely no clue how to clean this funk up. Oh, and it’s seeping into the groundwater. And making the meat of wild boars (a Japanese delicacy) toxic.

          How about the “negative rights” of people who lived in that town? Fuck ’em, they shoulda predicted the future and lived somewhere else, amirite?

          I’d prefer it if libertarians just joined the Republican Party. They could help undo its religious chauvinism and extremely racist drug laws. Meanwhile, the two groups have economic policies which are almost exactly the same. I’ve heard that “negative rights” silliness (it’s purely a justification for picking/choosing preferred policies) for ages. The GOP has a lot of evil in it, especially at the upper levels, and I believe libertarians could make it slightly less evil.

          1. I see wood chippers

            Libertarians justify the use of force only in response to aggression, which is a reasonably well defined term based on reasonably well defined individual rights, not a word I’m using colloquially. Note that I’m talking about deontological libertarianism here, not utilitarian. I’m not a utilitarian, though I’m happy to argue from either perspective as long as my opponent doesn’t strawman one using the other, which is what you’re doing here. If you want to discuss the non-aggression principle in the detail it requires, great. But it’s too much to do outside of its own dedicated thread.

            I want certain social benefits and I would prefer other people pay more for them than me.

            You realize that’s pretty much the definition of welfare right? You’re condemning libertarians for wanting for themselves (even though they don’t) exactly what you’re demanding they provide for others…

            Yes, most conservative voters support Medicare. Almost all conservative politicians do not.

            Unfortunately, a lot of libertarians have the same misguided notion you do that politicians do a poor job of representing their constituents. Most conservatives want Medicare and believe (just like liberals) that government should handle it. But because both sides have very different ideas about how government should handle it, both sides are hyperbolic about the other side’s attempts at change.

            If you can’t explain why Medicare’s administrative costs are lower, then it doesn’t matter. The most plausible explanation is that it’s riding on the back of the rest of government. If that’s true and there aren’t any downsides to it, why isn’t it true for every industry? Why not nationalize food production? Why not nationalize Hollywood? If it’s not riding on government’s back, then there is absolutely no reason that the private sector can’t reduce it’s administrative costs equally and make more profit, which you claim they do mercilessly.

            ..faith-based loathing of government.

            People tend to loathe things that are forced on them. And don’t try to counter that statement with something like “Libertarians want to force everyone to live without government.” That’s blatant equivocation.

            I’m skipping to this next statement, because it’s exhausting to refute every sentence.

            I notice that while defending monopoly and collusion, you did not make a moral argument for defending pollution and the murder of neighborhood residents via corporate negligence

            Libertarians accept pollution as aggression. They’re fine with laws and courts treating it essentially like assault, vandalism, etc. That’s not practical you say? Well, practicality isn’t relevant. But if I take off my deontological hat, I’ll argue with you that there are many cases (possibly all) in which it actually is practical, at least to the extent that it does as good a job as our current system.

            As for “murder of neighborhood residents via corporate negligence”, I’m going to need some clarification. That’s a pretty loaded statement.

            1. Frank Moraes

              Sorry, but I caught your first sentence, and it made me laugh. Non-Aggression Never Does Any Argumentative Work at Any Time.

              Otherwise, I really am trying to avoid being drawn into this nonsense.

              1. James Fillmore

                Sorry, homes. I find the intellectual Twister yoga fascinating. “But I didn’t mean … ” It’s like defending swamp gas. I wasn’t defending swamps, or gas. Merely the principle of swamp gas. Obviously, I prefer land to be less gassy/swampy, and I’m scared of all the Everglades pythons set loose by private snake owners when the snakes got too big, but libertarianism will somehow fix the snakes, and then the swamp gas, and be so much better at it than any government agency employees could ever be.

                This is so nuts it has its own stark interest. “What awful corporate thing will they defend, next?”

                One never knows. It’s the Magic 8-ball of political discourse; who knows what comes next?

                Sorry, Mr. woodchipper guy, but it’s hard for me to take this seriously. I appreciate the lack of troll-ness, though.

              2. I see wood chippers

                Bruenig is simply wrong when he writes “many libertarians actually think non-aggression is a theory of entitlement. They think it can tell you who is entitled to what. But clearly it can’t. You can’t figure out what is and isn’t aggression unless you first establish (without any reference to aggression) who is entitled to what.”

                Maybe there are a small number of such libertarians. But there at least a few adherents to every political philosophy who don’t understand the philosophy they’ve embraced. His entire article is like one of those videos in which someone interviews voters who turn out to have no idea what their candidate supports. All it does is show that you can find the ill informed in any group. And in Bruenig’s case, he doesn’t even have evidence. He simply ends with “To be clear, not all libertarians do this. But a massive chunk of the online, Ron Paul, mouth-breathing crowd does.” As an assertion, rather than a citation, that last sentence completely invalidates the whole article.

                I’ve never seen a libertarian refer to the NAP without the underlying assumption of private property rights. We use it as shorthand.

          2. James Fillmore

            I’ll go backwards through your paragraphs. I enjoy these debates more than our super-hard-working blog host does. But I’m on my day off! I don’t know if he has a day off.

            In any case, I thank you for responding politely, and not being a rude jerk. We will not agree on these issues, but you are helping me to see how libertarians view the world.

            Murder of neighbors is straight from the link I posted. Nobody knows how many Fukushima residents are going to die early from radiation poisoning. It’ll, horribly, be very many. We don’t know how many yet.

            I still don’t remotely get how libertarians can justify pollution. Those paragraphs are nonsensical to me. Because I don’t think there’s a way to balance “negative rights” and “liberty” with toxic shit poured into the air and water.

            Why is Medicare so much more efficient than private health insurance. I have no clue. I really don’t know why. It’s an established fact it is, that other countries pay far less for healthcare, and have far healthier populations. Including the Danes, who seem to live on pork, squid skins, and booze. Others who know more about healthcare policy can examine this issue better than I.

            What’s only certain is while various government-run health care systems everywhere have their ups and downs, the American for-profit system is a complete disaster.

            Again, fine if you accept that libertarian principles create a vastly more unpleasant society. If you’re valuing means and ends, though, any society which does not allow voluntary associations of people (unions or governments) wanting to curb abuses by private power is going to be constantly terrified of private power. Tell me, exactly, how worrying about being a day late on your taxes is more anti-liberty than worrying about being killed by a Mafia thug.

            And honestly, I don’t give a darn. I simply find it ridiculous, and unproductive, that libertarians don’t join the Republican Party. You agree on everything economic. You could help them be less racist and religiously biased. Why not sign up?

            1. paintedjaguar

              “Why is Medicare so much more efficient than private health insurance. I have no clue. ”

              Really, James? Of course a Libertarian can’t let himself admit it but here’s a clue: PROFIT. Government doesn’t have to do that, so you can achieve cost savings even after accounting for more generous payouts as well as better compensation for those who administer the program (leaving out the CEO class). Besides, cheaper isn’t the same as “more efficient” to begin with — money isn’t the measure of all things.

              1. James Fillmore

                My understanding was that the administrative costs are far lower for Medicare than private insurers. Like, way, way lower. Obviously not having to make a profit is part of that. Also, I suspect, is not having to find as many reasons to deny coverage, not as much paperwork, better employee morale, etc. So lots of different savings.

                So don’t get me wrong — I want government-run insurance for all. It’s my most important issue! We know it would save thousands of lives, every year. And we know it saves money, because it does so in every country that has such insurance. I was only admitting that I know virtually nothing about the nuts and bolts of insurance billing procedures.

                1. I see wood chippers

                  Deontological (real) me: It doesn’t matter if Medicare has lower costs or better outcomes. It requires stealing from people.

                  Utililogical me: If Medicare is so great, why require 100% participation? If every single libertarian opted out (maybe 1% of the population), you’d have no idea.

                  Utilitarian me: I read multiple sources last night to try to back up your administrative costs claim, including the Medicare trustees 289 page 2010 Annual Report. It does claim that the administrative costs for Medicare Part B are only 1.5% (pg 110), though it doesn’t provide much explanation. However, Part D had 12+% administrative expenses (pg 270). I think the onus is on you to provide more detail for the 1.5% claim and to decide whether 12% is really that impressive.

                  1. James Fillmore

                    I quickly found several articles about Medicare being far more efficient and several (from standard conservative Republican sites) which dispute the claim. You’ll believe what you want to believe.

                    The reason for requiring participation is because otherwise vast numbers of people, not just libertarians, would opt out, bankrupting the program. Most people want as little as possible withheld in tax from their paychecks, even though it means they owe money every year when filing income tax.

                    I agree Part D is terrible. That’s why liberals hated it from the start. It does not allow government to negotiate with drug manufacturers for a volume discount, which every other government agency can do for items they buy (paper, road that, etc.)

                    We’ll just have to agree to disagree in what’s “theft.” You don’t believe in democracy and I do. We’ll never convince one another. I consider military spending theft and would like it reduced. I consider unnecessary patents on pharmaceuticals theft and would like them removed. (Dean Baker has written extensively on this.)

                    Good luck in your efforts to convert others, and while we will never agree, I still encourage you to vote for the libertarian candidates who represent your beliefs.

                    1. I see wood chippers

                      I mostly believe the trustee’s report. Nothing else matters because it is the source of all information about Medicare spending. But it’s woefully lacking in details about administrative costs, which means that administrative costs aren’t a good point of argument.

                      The reason for requiring participation is because otherwise vast numbers of people, not just libertarians, would opt out, bankrupting the program.

                      That means it’s not popular. Period.

                      Whether Part D allows negotiating with drug manufacturers is irrelevant in an argument about administrative costs.

                      What does the definition of theft have to do with democracy? Democracy defines theft? In that case, military spending isn’t theft. Nor are parents. Democracy aside, if you consider military spending theft, then I have to assume that by reduce you mean eliminate?

                    2. James Fillmore

                      As I said, this conversation serves no useful purpose anymore. But do continue having them with those interested in this debate, and vote your conscience in elections.

                    3. I see wood chippers

                      It only fails to serve a useful purpose if you’re unwilling to be introspective.

                    4. Frank Moraes

                      Because if only other people understood your position, they would agree because you have The Truth™. Right?

                    5. James Fillmore

                      You won the internet and I am a moron. Go on your merry way and have a happy life.

                    6. I see wood chippers

                      Speaking of glib.

                    7. James Fillmore

                      No, I was quite serious. I wish for you to have a better life than the misery you would inflict on others, out of some ridiculous pretension that your emotionally damaged bullying instincts represent some sort of philosophical high ground.

                      Now, I will be glib. Or something rather worse. “Agree to disagree” is my STOP NOW phrase in online discussions. I attempted to only attack your arguments, not you personally, and sign off by encouraging you to vote and continue pursuing your persuasive efforts elsewhere. I still honestly believe these things, and while I will not continue this discussion, I do hope you never face serious suffering.

                      You persist in being rude. Now I shall be rude.

                      What sort of pathetic, whimpering simp of an nonentity needs Internet interaction, not for the joy of sharing ideas with others, but the malevolent pleasure of demeaning them? And doubles down by demeaning them for not embracing cruelty to the same extent?

                      I doubt this mental malignancy is something professional therapy could help address. For one thing, the therapists would be terrified to meet you without a loyal Rottweiler in the room and a handy stick hidden within arm’s reach.

                      Dear bleeding Gods, I hope you don’t have any children. If you do, I hope they discover the internet and realize they can escape into the military at 17 and never look back. If you have a spouse, domestic partner, or ongoing romantic relationship of any kind, please do them the courtesy of going to bed dead drunk one night. Before you securely fasten their ankle shackles.

                      Continue your quest to spread the Holy Truth. It is equally noble as deciphering the Voynich manuscript, or tracking Bigfoot. Feel free to continue rudeness to liberals, who will feel deeply sorry for you, and be amused by throwing insults your way once they’ve tired of being polite.

                      Win all the internet fights you can (which is none — you want the fights, not actual human interaction). Do try not to sever any body parts from underage protistutes and keep them as trophies. If you do, buy a separate refrigerator for this. You don’t want your nipple collection stinking up your leftover pizza.

                      BTW, “this conversation … no purpose” is slightly altered from a famous movie quote, so I was chuckling when I typed it. I was already losing patience with your reluctance to leave me alone. Being a member of the human species, and not a chatbot imitation with less ingenuity, I chose to keep my chuckling to myself and my life partner. (Who, immediately, got where the quote was altered from.)

                      I choose so no longer. You are a rude person, and as such are not worth an iota of politeness. I will still pay for the Medicare you will almost certainly need, and gladly. I cannot damn you, much as you’d damn others, to the shallow existence to which you have already damned yourself.

                      Glib enough?

                      Know this — you’ll read this post, and I will never read your response to it. Never. I won’t click on this thread ever again.

                      Have the last word, if you like. I’ll never see it. I’d have happily let this drop a few comments ago. You couldn’t.

                      So be as rude as you like. (Frank: please let him do so.) I’ll forever think of you as another, deeply broken person, who clings to shreds of shallow moral superiority because our society has failed them.

                      Also — wood chipper? Please. Be from Minnesota if you want to use that tag, then realize how ironic “Fargo” was meant to be.

                    8. I see wood chippers

                      Ah. Emotion. The true underlying principle of statism. I was optimistic at the start that you’d be better than this.

  2. Jay

    The debt burden is manageable because interest rates are historically low. With debts as high as they are (Federal, state, and individual), even quarter-point changes in interest rates have large effects on the debt burden. In practice, this greatly reduces the usefulness of monetary policy. A chainsaw makes a worse surgical instrument than a scalpel.

    Having said that, the biggest single reason for high debts and low interest rates was the pension “reform” of the 80s. Moving from pay as you go pensions to defined contribution plans pumped a lot of money into the markets. As the law of supply and demand demanded, interest rates crashed and equity P/E ratios soared.

  3. Colin Keesee

    I’ll leave the wading through the economic issues to someone else, I’ve taken plenty of economics classes in my life and had these discussions enough times for this lifetime.

    For me, I believe in the idea that people’s ideal social organization is the foundation of one’s political beliefs and every thing else flows from that. One the one hand, we have the conservative Strict Father Model (SFM) which emphasizes hierarchy and dominance. On the other hand, we have the liberal Nurturing Parent Model (NPM) which is skeptical of hierarchies and emphasizes equality and collaboration.

    In my experience, a lot of young people, especially guys, get into Libertarianism. You go to college, you leave your parochial and narrow world of high school, pick up trucks and cul du sacs, you come into the bright and vibrant and cosmopolitan world of the University and you are open to all sorts of new ideas. Whether you abide by the SFM or the NPM of political organization, libertaria ism seems so enticing. For the former, it is a way of justifying hierarchies and painting any attempts to level them as being contrary to some sort of natural law. For the latter, one can see how (in theory at least) libertarianism can make people more equal.

    If one does not think too critically, the libertarian social justice argument makes sense. It essentially argues that society is deeply unjust and it is the result of centuries of government and that while progressive have good intentions, they want more of the very thing that created social injustice in the first place.

    So in my experience, there are plenty of younger libertarians who are neither racist, singe issue drug voters or embarrassed Republicans. Early in your civic adult life, it is is possible to be a NPM libertarian. Over time, however, the NPM libertarian realizes that unfettered markets would not enhance social justice and in any case, there will never be unfettered free markets because those with money get to write the rules (absent revolutionary acts by the masses) so we just end up becoming social Democrats, who usually know quite a bit about economics (as Frank talked about in a different thread, a youthful flirtation with libertarianism or communism will force you to think deeply about the role and nature of capital and that cannot be said for village style moderates).

    Meanwhile, our SFM libertarian classmates go on to become staunch conservatives but they are too intransigent to stop claiming that they are libertarian. They also like having some nominal distance between the racism and sexism that animates conservatism. They can wield notions of “makers and takers” and leave the n word to their coarser sort of conservatives.

    So in my experience, libertarians who always believed in dominance and inequality will always call themselves libertarians even as they fully adopt doctrinaire conservatism. Meanwhile while social justice oriented libertarians just ditch the title altogether.

    1. Elizabeth

      Someone’s read their Lakoff.

      1. Colin Keesee

        Oh indeed, I’m not clever enough to fashion a theory as elegant and expansive like his on my own. The theory explains so much about conservative (and liberal) idiosyncrasies and apparent contradictions.

        The SFM and the NPM form a sort of watershed and any sort of cultural and ideological, racial or religious rain can fall on it and those ideas will ultimately end up in totally separate oceans.

        One of my most poignant examples is that of Victor Davis Hanson, a truly brilliant classicist and military historian. The man can look at the same 27 centuries of Western History that I am and he ends up a fascist and I end up a socialist. Those bedrock assumptions of an ideal society just seem to determine everything.

        1. paintedjaguar

          What Conservatives conserve is Heirarchy. This maxim will clarify a lot of seeming contradictions. Not to mention the actual roles of “centrists” and “pragmatists”.

    2. James Fillmore

      Fascinating. I’m not familiar with Lakoff, but I am with Chomsky, and he uses an interesting analogy. (IMO, it should be known as Chomsky’s Law.)

      That when using power to coerce someone, the burden of proof is always on the one using power. Take a kind parent. A kind parent won’t hit their child to enforce obedience (there are more effective ways, as every good teacher knows!) Yet if the child is about to run in front of a moving car, the kind parent will yank that child back with all the force they can muster. Burden of proof justified; you’re saving the child from injury.

      Now, the libertarians who’ve recently been contributing to comment threads here have a similar-sounding notion about coercion. In their case, the coercion of a democratically-elected government granted authority to pass laws. Yet, to them, the outcomes of these laws are meaningless. The very fact that they are laws makes them unjust coercion. Except laws which favor lenders over debtors, mandate taxes for the military budget, and so on. AKA — coercion is never justified… unless I’m the one doing the coercing.

      How do we end up leaning more towards Chomsky’s Law or the SFM? It can’t all be genetic, although I’m sure that plays a role. Some of it has to do with how we change over time. Do we get to choose the experiences which change us?

      Thanks for sharing those comments. Very thought-provoking stuff!

      1. Colin Keesee

        James, you’re asking a great question because it drills yet one more level deeper. Why are people SFM or NPM?

        I do not have a very satisfying answer but I think I could posit three big factors.

        One would be be region, neighborhood and family. We are social animals and the behavior of other people around us does have a big effect. I think of Colin Woodard’s map more and more when I see American politics play out. To go a step beyond Woodard, I can almost imagine American political history as a never ending, a see saw battle between Anglo-Puritan utopianism and Scotch-Irish clannishness.

        One’s views have to also be shaped by relative levels of privilege. Generally, more privileged people have a greater and greater reason to support strong hierarchies. But obviously that cannot be the only explanation. You look around and some of most revolutionary people I have known are the sort whose family come over on the Mayflower and some of the most reactionary folks that I have met are women, first generation immigrants, persons of color and poor people. I think that last place avoidance causes a lot of people near the bottom to support the SFM because if hierarchies soften, those folks near the bottom will fall to the very bottom.

        The other factor that I can guess at is how anxious a person is. If you imagine that you could lose your privileges to sort of a calamity, you will probably support the NPM out of self interest. It is sort of like Rawls’ ideas being put into action. If you do not know what your status will be next year, you will want a more egalitarian society. If you, on the other hand, believe that things will be better off in the future, why not support a rigid social hierarchy? Once you start your own plumbing business, you’ll be a millionaire in no time and you’ll want lots of respect for being rich and you want lower marginal tax rates so why not support the current group of “haves”, since you’re a “soon to have”?

        1. James Fillmore

          “Last place avoidance” made me think of an old “South Park” episode. In it, Damien, son of the Devil, is the new kid in school. Being hellspawn, he lights other kids on fire with his mind and such. This makes him something of an outcast. Poor little Damien! Until he learns a secret trick — become popular by picking on a kid even less popular than yourself. Now Damien is cool!

          I used to work for H & R Block, which is essentially a payday loan ripoff joint, and the customers were not wealthy. I can’t tell you how many times I heard about “tax breaks” and “free cars” and whatnot which went to “Somalis” or “Mexicans” or whomever. (No such breaks or cars exist, of course.)

          There’s a really beautiful film, “Sweet Land,” written by an Egyptian-American, Ali Selim. It’s set in the immediate post-WWI era, in rural Minnesota. The landed French-Canadian gentry sneer at more recent Scandinavian or Irish immigrants, and everybody hates the Germans.

          I think you’re right about regions, too. I couldn’t imagine saying a good word about government or Democrats in rural Minnesota farm country. In the cities, it’s a perfectly normal discussion topic. And, 100 years ago, these regional identities were reversed! North Dakota, now as addicted to fracking and horrible alpha-male behavior as a place can get, has the only state-run public bank system in the country. (It survived the 2008 crash quite nicely, as it didn’t make stupid subprime bets.)

          The whole small-business owner who HATES taxes thing is a perfect example of irrational self-interest. Or the “free rider” syndrome. My boss owns a liquor store. He’s a rabid libertarian. Yet he receives so many benefits from being in a liberal neighborhood. There is less poverty, hence less theft. Higher prevailing wages, so more customers with more money to spend. Rules banning the sale of strong liquor in supermarkets (that’s a local law) drive business his way. Sensibly, he should be a raving liberal. Nope! Hates “government.” Because cops send teenagers in to buy without ID as a sting. (Um, suggestion? Pay your clerks better, and they might have more attention to detail. My coworkers are pretty much constantly high.)

          I believe less and less these days in the concept of free will. What determines your religion? Your experience (positive or negative) with the beliefs you grew up in. What sports team do you like? Either the local one, or the team in the town you moved from. We’re not as independent as we all like to think. And libertarians have a truly loony need to consider themselves independent, when they’re just Republicans with a bow on.

  4. Elizabeth

    What I find funny about libertarians is that they forget: rights may be natural but they aren’t free. There is a cost to any right you have-a system that has to be put in place to protect it. And that system costs money. Which means that money has to be obtained in some way.

  5. Heroic Mulatto

    Dear Frank,

    I just stumbled across your post, I apologize for being late to the party but this was posted a day before my 40th birthday and I was more concerned with celebrating with family and friends.

    That having been said, allow me to introduce myself. I am Heroic Mulatto, a founder and contributing editor of glibertarians.com. I find it ironic your mendacious attempt to smear us as a group of misogynist racists that you failed to acknowledge the existence of people like me, as your own disgusting racism lead you to the assumption that every single individual involved with our site are “frightened white guys who can’t deal with a changing world.”

    For your information, my nom-de-blog is both descriptive and a wry play on the term “Tragic (Hero) Mulatto”. I am an individual of mixed-racial heritage, my mother being of European Jewish heritage and my father being of mixed African, Indian, Chinese, and Scottish heritage by way of Trinidad. Additionally, my wife is of Southeast Asian heritage and we are raising a daughter who represents all of this ancestry. Your own bigotry limits your thinking to render someone like me invisible. I couldn’t possibly exist in your world. My cafe-au-lait complexion must entail the political ideology you feel people who look like me “should” hold. Your lazy attempt at smearing us with the label of racists and misogynists do rankle, and I would ask that you apologize for your unwarranted accusations.

    1. Frank Moraes

      I wrote 3 articles about your site. You didn’t read the first two — just the last so you could comment on my exasperation. The bottom line is that your site and movement are not serious. You don’t defend yourself except about that comment at about “white guys.” Given that “race” is just a human created concept, you clearly don’t understand what I’m getting at. For one thing, the person you describe yourself as would likely be considered “white” in the US. But I don’t have the time to go through Introduction to Racial Politics in the US with you.

      And I don’t smear your group about that anyway. It was me at the end of my 3rd article saying, “You have nothing to say so as far as I can tell. You’re just another MRA, alt-right type website. You take one off-hand line and run with it. What about “local control”? What about “federal taxes”? You would have to read those other articles. You would have to know something about economics and politics generally and libertarianism specifically. You looked at the last of three articles but couldn’t be bothered to read the other ones to discuss the more interesting analysis. I suspect that it’s because you have nothing to say for your vacuous ideology. I thought the other commenters from your site were without substance, but you make them look learned.

      Please go away.

      1. James Fillmore

        I’d forgotten this ugly comment thread.

        I’m beginning to think of libertarianism more and more as the Jack Nicholson character in Burton’s “Batman.” Getting beat up by Batman, the Joker dons spectacles and says, “you wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses on, would you?” (Batman then hits him, instead of using his BatMace or some such effective tool, because it’s a superhero movie.)

        You can say and advocate things which are purely foul and mean-spirited, basically for the joy you take in cruelty. Then, if anyone calls you on the cruelty, you immediately shift gears. Go for some utilitarianism, or advocate the moral principles of non-coercion. If it’s pointed out that your positions are neither useful nor moral, pull out those Joker glasses and complain how others are being unfair to you.

        My libertarian boss pulls this constantly. He shoves his rancid opinions down everyone’s throats, even when others have told him “you’re entitled to your viewpoint, I simply do not wish to hear it.” As he possesses The Truth, he naturally considers it his sacred right to force others to listen. And if anyone pushes back, he starts telling stories of his woefully stressful upbringing. How dare anyone question his hard-won wisdom?

        This is being a human interaction free rider. You claim the right to profess selfishness and rudeness, because you enjoy seeing others be appalled by such brazenly rotten behavior. Yet, if they back you into a corner, you express your humanity others should have empathy for. Empathy you do not extend to anyone besides yourself.

        If this were a Western, the libertarian (or Republican; there’s no longer any difference) would always insist on face-to-face duels at high noon, as only cowards shoot an enemy in the back. Then yell, “look over there, it’s a child in danger” and shoot their enemy in the back. Then congratulate themsef for being so much cleverer. At least Al Swearengen had the seriousness to scrub blood from his own fucking floors.

        1. Heroic Mulatto

          Dear James,

          I’m sorry that my ethnicity has proven so problematic for your narrative.

          1. James Fillmore

            I didn’t mention your ethnicity (my boss is white), but since you did, it actually does fit my comment. There is nothing new or original in persons claiming their ethnic heritage makes them immune from accusations of bigotry. In fact, colonialism used this all the time. The British would get sycophantic Indians to deride the unwashed hordes of beggars in Bombay.

            And it’s interesting that the “I can’t be a a bigot! I have X % blood from Y background!” defense only works one way. Those who considered Obama a threat to the primacy of European civilization’s legacy never gave him a pass for having a Caucasian mother.

            If you aren’t a bigot, good for you, I’m glad. But you’re rude. No-one here is going over to your site and telling your readers they are wrong. If you persist in doing so here, you are being a troll for the jolly pleasure it gives you to be rude. While claiming that those who discuss libertarianism here are not giving your brilliant philosophy the respect it deserves to get everywhere, on every forum.

            Again, free rider. Demanding a courtesy you do not show to others.

      2. Heroic Mulatto

        Dear Frank,

        I must admit some confusion as to the thrust of your spit-flecked jeremiad in response to my observation as to the utter false nature of your accusations. Why would I address the content of your other articles when what I took umbrage to is the fact that you called me and my compatriots racists and misogynists with no evidence to support your claims? And let’s be clear: to call someone a racist or a misogynist is not merely an insult, they are shaming words not to be thrown around lightly. It is reflective of your character that you would choose to do so.

        Equally offensive is your arrogant and presumptuous tone in regards to my heritage. I know damn well about the nebulousness of race and ethnicity with lived experience that you could never hope to comprehend. And your assertions about my identification are completely false. I have lived the majority of my 4 decades on this planet in the United States and I have been called the “N-word” enough to assure you that, no, someone with my phenotype is not considered “White” in this country. All you have done is proven yourself to be a pompous ass. And a racist one, to boot!

    2. Elizabeth

      Let me sum up the vast reaction of people reading your pretentious comment: Who gives a shit?

      1. James Fillmore

        To the point as usual.

        The author clearly gives a shit, and self-defines as someone far too clever to fall for Conventional Thinking. Politeness is an outdated bourgeois construct. True Intellectual Giants seek not to debate or communicate, but to issue doctrine — the more anyone recoils from their arrogance, the more correct they are proven to be.

        I suspect that during your time in politics & on the bench, you might have met one or two individuals of this nature. Just a guess.

      2. Heroic Mulatto

        Dear Elizabeth,

        It’s pretentious to be upset when someone calls you a racist and misogynist? Well, I wouldn’t expect any less of a reaction from a group of animal-torturing pedophiles*.

        *See how that works? ;)

  6. John Titor

    What’s most annoying is being straw-manned constantly

    *Proceeds to strawman and name-call opponents like a child*

    A healthy dose of self-awareness might undercut that self-righteousness Frank, but I assume you’re far too up your own ass to recognize it.

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