T Nation

Talking Libertarianism


#1

A thread for people who want to talk Libertarianism.

If any of you want to read John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, I would love to book group it with you. It’s free at Amazon for the Kindle, and through Gutenberg Project.

Any other suggestions on the topic of free societies and liberty appreciated. I’ve decided to stop reading so much fiction, and by fiction I mean escapist romantic comedies, the literary equivalent of When Harry Met Sally.

I liked this clip by Penn. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he says some good things about government and the dangers of crony capitalism. I like his basic thoughts about education, welfare, and infrastructure.


#2

I’ll bite. I should note before I get going here (and get called a libtard or retardican) that I am only critiquing libertarianism. I fully am aware that other system have their flaws, and there are no easy, obvious answers to any of these problems. I am not suggesting that any other system is “the answer” to any of the issues below:

In my heart I am a libertarian, maybe even an anarchocapitalist to a point (let the government build roads and keep the military basically). I love the idea of self-governance and responsibility, and the idea that whatever we work for we get to keep and use as we see fit, and generally agree with Penn when he waxes philosophical… but as I look around the world I just don’t see it working in practice.

The way I see it, in the real world (some amount of) regulation is a necessity because as the scales slowly start to tip in favor of those with money/resources, and money is viewed as the only thing that matters, that snowball grows of control. I mean hell, even with regulation you have tons of horrible stuff happening in the name of saving money like industrial disasters, known fatal car issues, etc… One need only look back at recent history to see that the rich have absolutely no problem taking advantage of the poor to whatever extent they can get away with, for as long as they can get away with it. You generally have to force them to do the right thing.

Crony Capitalism (and worker exploitation) is the inevitable end point without regulation. They arent aberrations or break downs of a system, they are built in and unavoidable. I’d even go so far as to say there is no such thing as Crony Capitalism, its just a word assigned to part of the system that we dont like, but it isnt some other form of capitalism.

I also think libertarianism only works on the “frictionless plane”, which is to say conditions need to be perfect. For example, everyone needs to be equally and correctly informed to make the correct decision, and its implied that everyone has equal opportunity to thrive and succeed.

The last point I’ll make for now, because this became more rambling than I thought, is that of Charity and heath care. Penn seems much more confident that I am that if only we gave rich people tax breaks they would magically start using all of that money to provide for the poor. Nope, if its one thing rich people have shown us, its that there is never, ever enough money. Even multi billionaires who could never spend their fortunes thirst for more money. Some people eventually do reach this conclusion, but they generally have to achieve levels of wealth an income that are almost beyond comprehension… Which they likely wouldn’t have acheived if they had paid their workers better or charged a lower price for their product (thus raising the amount of money in the pockets of everyone else). But they never would think of doing that, which is why you have to regulate stuff like a minimum wage.

I also don’t think health care should be a for-profit system. There is no reason that CEO’s of health care, insurance, and pharma corps should be making tens of millions of dollars. Yes, make a good living and live well even… but to live obscenely lavishly on the backs of peoples health who can barely (or not at all) afford it is, in my opinion, a disgraceful part of the system.

tl:dr - Libertarianism is awesome in theory, but breaks down in practice, and the worst parts of libertarianism are worse than the worst parts of other systems.


#3

Christ that got long… and that was the edited version. Yikes


#4

I’m like quasi-libertarian… I’ll add On Liberty to by backlist, though!


#5

Sorta related noted, I just picked this up:

Something that might interest you, Puff.


#6

That sounds interesting, let me know what you think. I just picked up this one: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/518tQo3+67L.SL300.jpg


#7

It was a good post, though. I agree with a lot of it.


#8

Lol, I’m pretty sure that is sitting on my nightstand…


#9

Ha, nice. What did you think? Insightful? did it let you know why those other idiots are so stupid and you are so smart like it will do for me :wink: ?


#10

As I’ve gotten older, my politics have actually gotten simpler. I can actually sum up my political philosophy as just “anti-coercion”. The best government is the government that minimizes coercion in society leaving individuals to make all decisions voluntarily. A government action is only ever moral when it prevents coercion and preferably more than it requires as all government acts require coercion.

While I am an ideologue and not a partisan the libertarian party is generally closest to that ideal.


#11

Lol, I haven’t picked it up yet. It looks really interesting, though. Ironically, I have this right next to it…


#12

Thank you. I will look at that, and please give me your insights once you get into it.

I’m really doing this to try to clarify my own thinking. I’m thinking about how we go forward in this country and how we walk this line between libertarianism and respect for personal freedom on one end, and socialism on the other.

@Lonnie123, I’m processing your thoughts. Thanks for chiming in. I’ll come back to them when I have a little more time to mull them over.

I’m hoping Doc P will chime in a little bit. I think he may be the most consistently Libertarian thinker in terms of how he’s thought about this over time.


#13

^I also land on this basic conclusion.


#14

Absolutely, I’ll let you know my thoughts on it.

One of the most interesting things I’ve read recently was actually by the economist Joseph Schumpeter.

In:

He talks about how Capitalism is so effective that it ultimately leads to socialism. It kinda blew my mind. I’ve read the Capitalism chapter a few times now and I’m still picking things up as I go along. It has forced me to re-examine a lot of my beliefs in free enterprise, which is a key component of Libertarianism.

It is not an easy read, though. I’ve struggled with it quite a bit.


#15

To which I respond, “so what?”

As longer as no coercion is used, why is it your business what rich people earn and why does them earning more give you more right to their property?

Do you honestly think adult working men and women don’t have the right to work for whatever wage they freely agree to? You don’t think a worker has the right to voluntarily work however they want? Because that’s the reality of a minimum wage, you short circuit the self determination of both workers and employers.

So again, somebody is way richer than you, so what? If they didn’t steal it, it’s not yours. Why do you and not they (both the worker and employer) get to set the line for what is reasonable for one person to earn?

I find it odd for anyone to denigrate an employer paying less than a “living wage” when those same complainers provide no money or jobs to the same workers. X rich guy pays Y person 5 bucks an hour. Z humanitarian pays Y person 0 dollars an hour and calls out X rich guy for not providing for person Y. It defies logic.


#16

This is one of the few areas I actually disagreed with. While I agree that many wealthy individuals seem to simply continue to increase their wealth, U.S. philanthropy is pretty significant. Individuals give something like $250 billion annually to charity, iirc.

You have to also remember, a lot of “billionaires” didn’t become billionaires because they sell products at outrageous prices. They inherited a lot of money that has grown over time (Trump), they created a product that was revolutionary (Gates), they went Public and investors gave them their wealth (Facebook). They could still spread the wealth so to speak, but there are issues here that we can get into if you’d like, but should probably be in a different thread (Supply/demand, ongoing labor costs, etc…).

I’m also against a federal minimum wage… It’s coercive, it hinders job growth, and, at the very least, is a state level issue for the vast majority of businesses, imo.


#17

But the position of libertarianism is that ALL charity and welfare service will be provided by those with means, if people with more money than they know what to do with aren’t doing it now why would giving them more money fix the issue?

Again I am just spit balling here, And am purposefully ignoring the faults in other systems to discuss libertarianism in isolation.

I have to step away for a bit but I will try to come back and reengage here.


#18

Is that similar to the idea of like robots taking over so many jobs there just won’t be enough work for people, so you will need a living wage?


#19

Well, there are a few issues here. One is that these same people are paying astronomical taxes that, to some degree, are used for welfare & charity. I think that it’s also predicated on the idea that the level of charity and welfare currently necessary would still be necessary if Libertarian policies ruled the day. I don’t think that it would be the case. There’s a certain level of charity/welfare needs, but I also think there is significant dependence on, specifically, welfare simply because it exists.

There’s a lot to unpack there.


#20

Yes I do think one of the major drawbacks of socialist/liberal Econ policies is that when you give people juuust enough to subsist on, it turns out many people seem to be okay with that, and it can kill would-be-motivated people’s drive to succeed

There is a reason you hear so many stories about people coming from nothing and clawing their way out. Something about not having a safety net creates that drive to work yourself to the bone to create/succeed/overcome