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Bloggingheads 10-09-2011 11:28 PM

Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 

Don Zeko 10-10-2011 12:42 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
The Winston-Salem DMV is pretty decent too, for what it's worth. you stand in line for a minute or two, describe your reason for visiting and then get a number. When your number is called you go to a desk and talk to people that are reasonably polite and helpful.

chiwhisoxx 10-10-2011 02:19 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Don Zeko (Post 227796)
The Winston-Salem DMV is pretty decent too, for what it's worth. you stand in line for a minute or two, describe your reason for visiting and then get a number. When your number is called you go to a desk and talk to people that are reasonably polite and helpful.

is winston-salem located in a parallel universe?

miceelf 10-10-2011 05:49 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by chiwhisoxx (Post 227798)
is winston-salem located in a parallel universe?

Meh, I had a similar experience at a DMV in downtown Chicago.

TwinSwords 10-10-2011 06:46 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 227800)
Meh, I had a similar experience at a DMV in downtown Chicago.

Same here, in Michigan. All my life, the services provided by the Secretary of State (we don't have separate DMV), in offices throughout the state, have been excellent. It never takes more than a couple of minutes to renew a license, transfer a title, buy a permit, or whatever.

For a few years after college I lived in Ohio, where these services had been outsourced to the free market -- and they were terrible. First thing I needed to do in the state was get an Ohio driver's license, and the process was so poorly managed and byzantine that I eventually gave up. I was dating a girl from Kentucky at the time, so after a few weeks of fighting with Ohio's disastrous free market system, I went across the river, walked into a Kentucky DMV, and used my girlfriend's address to get a Kentucky license. It took about five minutes to go in, get a license, and walk out. This was typical of all the other DMV-type activities I needed to perform while I lived on the Ohio/Kentucky border.

The slam on the DMV is like the wingnut attacks on the post office: fact free and motivated by ideology.

Ocean 10-10-2011 08:04 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
I've had driving licenses in three states. NY was the first, it was very crowded but not a problem even when I was trading a driving license from another country. That was many years ago. The other two licenses, NJ and WA were easy and uncrowded.

Now if we want to talk about bureaucracy, we could talk about getting a license to practice medicine in the State of New Jersey... The other two (NY and WA) were a piece of cake.

ledocs 10-10-2011 09:17 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
I would like the dvers to have spent more time talking about the economic questions raised by the culture of expensive suits. I thought Frank was too quick to concede there. One might have talked about luxury goods in general, talked about Veblen. I would have thought that an excise tax on luxury goods is the kind of thing that would appeal to Frank. It’s not even clear that such a tax would reduce demand, since I gather that there is some evidence that the more expensive a luxury good is, the more the target market wants it.

Nor is it obvious, pace Welch, that the licensing of lemonade stands represents government overreach. There was recently a case in France of several people dying from some honey they consumed. The honey was packaged in bottles with labels, but the producers of the honey, a couple in the countryside, had completely bypassed the health regulations that are in place for commercial producers of honey and they had neglected to implement some necessary precautions. I guess one would distinguish between Charles Schulz's Lucy selling lemonade to people in her neighborhood and a vendor of lemonade on the streets of a city. But it would only take a few deaths from Lucy’s lemonade in order for people to demand that there be no unregulated lemonade sales.

Note to Bob Wright: Frank is of the left, in American political discourse, but this was pretty tepid leftism, making every possible concession to incentives, pricing, and consumer choice.

bkjazfan 10-10-2011 09:30 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
The DMV's in the urban areas of California are cumbersome. This has been exacerbated by the state budgetary problems. It's with every Friday or every other one they are closed. Often when I drive by the local one there are lines leading out of the doorways.

The one good experience I had was going to one in Hemet which is a smaller retirement type town in south Riverside county. I was in and out of there in 5minutes.

miceelf 10-10-2011 09:47 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TwinSwords (Post 227801)
Same here, in Michigan. All my life, the services provided by the Secretary of State (we don't have separate DMV), in offices throughout the state, have been excellent. It never takes more than a couple of minutes to renew a license, transfer a title, buy a permit, or whatever.

Although, to be fair, I have had bad experiecnes with the DMV in suburban chicago.

In that case, though, the issue wasn't so much the workers, as it was the idiot other people trying to get their licenses. (I think the complaints about the quality of public services often- not always- have more to do with the other customers than with the services themselves. See my recent post on boarding planes.

If you want an actual example of a horrific and kafkaesque government bureaucracy run amok, try applying for permanent residence and dealing with USCIS.

bkjazfan 10-10-2011 11:10 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
In their discussion there was a de facto acknowledgement that half of the schools in public education K-12 are lousey. That is quite an indictment of the schools that 45% of the children attend. Why this is not given higher priority is bewildering to me.

If I had to reason why this is so it's common knowledge that many higher income people send their kids to private schools and don't have to deal with the complexities of government run educational facilities. So the movers and shakers may endorse public education but in fact would never send their own to such places.

Something I have noticed in Los angeles over the years is growth of private education. I would venture to guess in the past 40 years they have quadrupled in number. Also, there is the phenomenon in California of public school teachers sending their children to private schools. I have seen stats of up to 40% of them opting out of the system that they are employed by.

Still I just don't get why it's tolerated to have so many bad schools in this country and seemingly nothing is done to correct it.

chiwhisoxx 10-10-2011 11:11 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 227807)
Although, to be fair, I have had bad experiecnes with the DMV in suburban chicago.

In that case, though, the issue wasn't so much the workers, as it was the idiot other people trying to get their licenses. (I think the complaints about the quality of public services often- not always- have more to do with the other customers than with the services themselves. See my recent post on boarding planes.

If you want an actual example of a horrific and kafkaesque government bureaucracy run amok, try applying for permanent residence and dealing with USCIS.

Very bad experiences in suburban chicago.

anyway, the moonbat defenders of DMV's are just like all liberals: fact free and whatever else TS said! See, I can do it too. Simply because you have a few anecdotes of good experiences at DMV's does not mean they're great across the board. It's not like the complains about DMV's come just from conservatives, it's an across the board phenomenon.

ginger baker 10-10-2011 11:34 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Despite their occasional Social-Darwinian pretensions, ("rhetoric" as Frank rightly calls it,) libertarians believe in the smooth functioning of markets, and thus in social order. They are petty bourgeois crowd seekers, and turning civil society into either an outdoor mall or a gambling casino well patrolled by security guards and surveillance cameras is their little ideological trade.

Florian 10-10-2011 12:01 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ginger baker (Post 227811)
Despite their occasional Social-Darwinian pretensions, ("rhetoric" as Frank rightly calls it,) libertarians believe in the smooth functioning of markets, and thus in social order. They are petty bourgeois crowd seekers,and turning civil society into either an outdoor mall or a gambling casino well patrolled by security guards and surveillance cameras is their little ideological trade.

:D That is pretty funny, but note that Matt eschews expensive suits.

miceelf 10-10-2011 12:06 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by chiwhisoxx (Post 227810)
anyway, the moonbat defenders of DMV's are just like all liberals: fact free and whatever else TS said! See, I can do it too. Simply because you have a few anecdotes of good experiences at DMV's does not mean they're great across the board. It's not like the complains about DMV's come just from conservatives, it's an across the board phenomenon.

The difference is that one is making a claim about how DMZs are across the board and the others are talking about their own anecdotal experiences that counter those generalizations. It's on the ones making the generalizations to back up their claims, not the ones whose experiences are inconsistent with those generalizations. I and Don Zeko reported the facts of our experiences. Those who are critics of DMVs generally are claiming that they are bad across the board without having any facts to back this up.

ginger baker 10-10-2011 12:40 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 227812)
:D That is pretty funny, but note that Matt eschews expensive suits.

damn that matt welch!

stephanie 10-10-2011 02:02 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 227800)
Meh, I had a similar experience at a DMV in downtown Chicago.

I think we did this rollcall thing once before, but it similarly describes my experiences at the DMV (perhaps the same one, at the Thompson Center). Like I said then, I used to go along with the everyone hates the DMV thing, based on the one I got my license at, but since then I've never had an issue. Sure, people can have crappy experiences, but I could similarly go on about my being jerked around by the bank that used to hold my mortgage when they managed to screw up my escrow/property tax. (In that case I instantly assumed it was the County that was to blame. Turned out not to be true.)

miceelf 10-10-2011 02:45 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 227822)
I think we did this rollcall thing once before, but it similarly describes my experiences at the DMV (perhaps the same one, at the Thompson Center).

The very one.

TwinSwords 10-10-2011 02:50 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 227807)
If you want an actual example of a horrific and kafkaesque government bureaucracy run amok, try applying for permanent residence and dealing with USCIS.

I've heard that, as well, from all my Canadian friends who became Americans.

But bureaucratic inefficiency isn't a feature of government. It's a feature of large organizations, including -- gasp! -- those in the free market. I work for a massive, Fortune 40 corporation and the bureaucracy is just as bad as anything anyone can find in government.

TwinSwords 10-10-2011 02:56 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 227813)
The difference is that one is making a claim about how DMZs are across the board and the others are talking about their own anecdotal experiences that counter those generalizations. It's on the ones making the generalizations to back up their claims, not the ones whose experiences are inconsistent with those generalizations.

Yep.

And it's not quite accurate to say we're depending on "a few anecdotes of good experiences." What I have is a lifetime of experience over a period of decades. I go to the Secretary of State 2-3 times a year, and have for about 25 years. That amounts to more than "a few anecdotes."


Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 227813)
I and Don Zeko reported the facts of our experiences. Those who are critics of DMVs generally are claiming that they are bad across the board without having any facts to back this up.

Those who are critics of the DMV aren't basing their critique on fact; they're basing it on ideology. It's the same with the post office. The US Postal Service is amazingly effective. I've never had a lost piece of mail in my life. Delivery speeds are consistently impressive. But wingnuts attack it because their ideology demands it, whatever the truth.

stephanie 10-10-2011 03:11 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TwinSwords (Post 227830)
Those who are critics of the DMV aren't basing their critique on fact; they're basing it on ideology. It's the same with the post office. The US Postal Service is amazingly effective. I've never had a lost piece of mail in my life. Delivery speeds are consistently impressive. But wingnuts attack it because their ideology demands it, whatever the truth.

I think there's a slightly different explanation. Large institutions and bureaucracies are often annoying to deal with. As a result, many people have had bad experiences with government offices. I'm sure many people have also had bad experiences with representatives of large companies (insurance companies are a good example, but my bank one is another), as well as with low-level employees who don't care much about their employer more generally (retail clerks at certain kinds of stores). But in the US we also have a lot of anti-government rhetoric, so it's easy to fit the individual bad gov't experiences into this model without necessarily thinking about the full range of experience, both the more positive governmental ones and the negative business ones.

Plus, to a certain extent, these kinds of interactions with the government are ones that are required, that one generally has to deal with as a price of exercising certain privileges vs. ones that you choose. For example, the staff at Best Buy may irritate me and give crummy service, but chances are I want something there, so aren't as irritated as when I have to deal with the IRS or fight a ticket or mess around with the DMV or jump hoops at INS or whatever. That's why examples like my bank one or the insurance company ones are better parallels.

Anecdotally, my sense is that across the board most of these kinds of interactions are improving, including the formerly dreaded cable company dealings and even ComEd.

miceelf 10-10-2011 04:20 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TwinSwords (Post 227829)
I've heard that, as well, from all my Canadian friends who became Americans.

But bureaucratic inefficiency isn't a feature of government. It's a feature of large organizations, including -- gasp! -- those in the free market. I work for a massive, Fortune 40 corporation and the bureaucracy is just as bad as anything anyone can find in government.

I think there's something else at work wrt immigration; a certain ambivalence about whether it's a good thing or bad thing, etc.

Romanized 10-10-2011 07:48 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
I see nobody wants to discuss this inane book.

But on the DMV, I grant that if the government pours enough money into the system they can produce a decent branch here or there. The question is of value. On the whole the DMV hasn't been a good one.

miceelf 10-10-2011 07:58 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Romanized (Post 227854)
I see nobody wants to discuss this inane book.

But on the DMV, I grant that if the government pours enough money into the system they can produce a decent branch here or there. The question is of value. On the whole the DMV hasn't been a good one.

You can say that, but on what basis? What should a DMV do that DMVs (typically) don't do?

Have you recently dealt with customer service for (say) American Airlines? Chase Bank?

TwinSwords 10-10-2011 08:22 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 227832)
I think there's a slightly different explanation. Large institutions and bureaucracies are often annoying to deal with.

Well, okay. I think for non-ideological people there is some truth to this. But how often do you hear "the DMV sucks" from non-ideological people, outside of the context of an attack on the very idea of government efficiency? Speaking for myself, I would say "never," or maybe "almost never." I don't think it's what Matt Welch, or Newt Gingrich, mean when they talk about the DMV.

I mean, I *do* hear normal, non-ideological people express annoyance that they have to even bother getting their license or plates renewed in the first place, but this strikes me as categorically different from what we're talking about here: a critique of government vs. private enterprise. The attack on the DMV in the context of government vs. private enterprise seems to me to always be part of some rightwing or libertarian argument about the inherent inefficiency of government -- just like the fact-free attacks on the post office. It has been a standard right wing talking point as long as I've been alive, and probably longer. It doesn't matter to the right how efficient the post office is in reality. Reality is beside the point. They don't need to understand reality, because at the level of abstract ideology they have pre-determined that no matter what, anything the government does is automatically inefficient relative to the private sector.

The problem, as always, with the right in this case is they are impervious to reality: to the efficiencies of government, and the occasional inefficiencies of the private sector.


Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 227832)
But in the US we also have a lot of anti-government rhetoric, so it's easy to fit the individual bad gov't experiences into this model without necessarily thinking about the full range of experience, both the more positive governmental ones and the negative business ones.

I think this is a great point. People in this country have been exposed to so much right wing propaganda for so long that they have been conditioned to believe certain lunatic notions of the conservative movement, so that, as you say, one bad experience is immediately understood as part of the phenomenon they have been conditioned to believe after a decades-long propaganda effort.


Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 227832)
Plus, to a certain extent, these kinds of interactions with the government are ones that are required, that one generally has to deal with as a price of exercising certain privileges vs. ones that you choose.

Another very good point. Where I work we used to have a corporate help desk that was a model of efficiency. I work for a global corporation with employees on every continent (okay, not Antarctica), so the help desk has to provide 24/7 support in multiple languages.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was enormous concern for "client satisfaction," so a lot of money was spent on a help desk that provided high levels of service. Then the outsourcing started, and "cost control" became the most important thing. Now the whole operation sucks, and employees absolutely hate having to call the help desk for anything. Whole parallel, informal processes have sprung up throughout the company (kind of like a black market for tech support, you might say) because the quality of the official help desk is so poor. I think it's important to recognize that the private market, in its drive to control costs, often trades good service for very bad service.

This is what we saw in Ohio when the DMV was outsourced. The system ran fine until it was handed over to private enterprise, costs were cut, and efficiency went out the window.

uncle ebeneezer 10-10-2011 08:32 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
John Cole on post office:

Quote:

Another day, another piece on the financial troubles of the Post Office.

Folks, it is time for a paradigm shift. We need to stop thinking of those as losses, but the cost of a service. I have no idea why people have decided the Post Office needs to run like a business, with profits each year or be damned, but it is insane. This is a basic service that government can and should provide. And it is an amazing service. For the price of half a soda, you can mail anything you want, and in a day or two it gets there. EVEN ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY. You can drop a letter in the mailbox in New York, get in the car and drive nonstop to California, and odds are the letter will beat you. I know we’re all in the age of the internet and expect everything instantly, but that’s still pretty amazing.

If you ask me, if it only costs us 9 billion a year (which is what the estimated losses are this year) to have the mail delivered to everyone in the country, then that is pretty damned good.

*** Update ***

You really need to see the staggering idiocy on display here.

brucds 10-10-2011 08:36 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
I've had good experiences at the DMV in recent years, and used to consider it like spending a day in East Germany. They changed...for the better. And do a good, efficient job. Knee-jerk glibertarian government haters are douche-bags, as "fact-free" as anyone on the planet.

Unit 10-10-2011 10:20 PM

Don't know much about Hockey
 
I like a lot of what Frank is saying but his examples leave my indifferent. For instance, why exactly should *not* wearing a helmet be an advantage? I would think that if you're not afraid of being severely injured you would take bigger risks and play at a higher level, no?

Unit 10-10-2011 10:22 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TwinSwords (Post 227801)
Same here, in Michigan. All my life, the services provided by the Secretary of State (we don't have separate DMV), in offices throughout the state, have been excellent. It never takes more than a couple of minutes to renew a license, transfer a title, buy a permit, or whatever.

For a few years after college I lived in Ohio, where these services had been outsourced to the free market -- and they were terrible. First thing I needed to do in the state was get an Ohio driver's license, and the process was so poorly managed and byzantine that I eventually gave up. I was dating a girl from Kentucky at the time, so after a few weeks of fighting with Ohio's disastrous free market system, I went across the river, walked into a Kentucky DMV, and used my girlfriend's address to get a Kentucky license. It took about five minutes to go in, get a license, and walk out. This was typical of all the other DMV-type activities I needed to perform while I lived on the Ohio/Kentucky border.

The slam on the DMV is like the wingnut attacks on the post office: fact free and motivated by ideology.

My DMV is pretty good too, but there's no denying that the post-office is bankrupt and loses money.

Cincinnatus 10-10-2011 10:28 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
I guess since we're all contributing our DMV anecdotes, I would like to say that I've dealt with both publicly and privately run DMVs in multiple states. My experiences in one system were equally as shitty as my experiences in the other.

TwinSwords 10-10-2011 10:53 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer (Post 227864)
John Cole on post office:

Thanks, Eb. Good post; John Cole is definitely right.

The post office is a clear example of the private vs. public model. The public model is open to anyone, the private model is open to whomever the hell the private powers want it to be open to.

What's the difference between a private park and a public park? Anyone can use a public park. You can only go to a private park if they let you in, and if you have the money.

What's the difference between a private school and a public school? Anyone can attend a public school. You can only attend a private school if they agree to take you and you can afford it.

The public Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid models are the same: everyone gets to participate, no matter what their means. The Republicans favor private systems that would deny coverage to millions of people, even if this means they will die of homelessness or untreated medical conditions.

Same with the post office: the post office will deliver mail anywhere there's an address. The private systems, which the conservatives laud, will only deliver where a profit can be made.

uncle ebeneezer 10-10-2011 11:16 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
I recently sent something via UPS* and found that the experience was only marginally better than the USPS (and WAY more expensive.) Warning: use your own packing! Otherwise you will pay a fortune.

Another interesting comparison (I think) is AAA vs. DMV. I love AAA for DMV services (renewals etc.) but I think the biggest reason the experience is more pleasant at AAA is because they only offer about 1/5th of the services that the DMV does, and thus have a much smaller line of people. The biggest issue as I see it for the Post Office or DMV is that they deal with a volume of people that is impossible to handle without large levels of annoyance. Throw enough people at ANY organization (public or private), and it will have it's hands full. Just ask stadium concession sales, airlines, etc. etc.

As you say, the problem is that conservatives don't care about efficiency except as a tool for profit. Libraries, public universities, the Vet hospitals, the New York subway...they can't be good!! Where's the profit??1?

*Note: this was at a UPS store. Apparently the fleecing is lighter if you go to an actual UPS distribution center. The UPS Store (tm) is where they REALLY get you.

TwinSwords 10-10-2011 11:55 PM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer (Post 227878)
I recently sent something via UPS and found that the experience was only marginally better than the USPS (and WAY more expensive.) Warning: use your own packing! Otherwise you will pay a fortune.

Another interesting comparison (I think) is AAA vs. DMV. I love AAA for DMV services (renewals etc.) but I think the biggest reason the experience is more pleasant at AAA is because they only offer about 1/5th of the services that the DMV does, and thus have a much smaller line of people. The biggest issue as I see it for the Post Office or DMV is that they deal with a volume of people that is impossible to handle without large levels of annoyance. Throw enough people at ANY organization (public or private), and it will have it's hands full. Just ask stadium concession sales, airlines, etc. etc.

As you say, the problem is that conservatives don't care about efficiency except as a tool for profit. Libraries, public universities, the Vet hospitals, the New York subway...they can't be good!! Where's the profit??1?

Heh.

Speaking of UPS, a couple of weeks ago I was having something delivered and it was damaged in transit and sent back. The order was cancelled, so I had to go back to the online retailer and reorder.

In my life, by contrast, I've never had the post office lose anything. I've never even seen a delay in mail delivery with the US Postal Service.

Obviously I'm not saying they're perfect. But the reality is 180 degrees from the wingnut hysterics.

T.G.G.P 10-11-2011 12:12 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
I was disappointed that the initial discussion of the "darwin economy" was so short. Matt seemed about to prod Robert into discussing why we should care about what MBAs spend on their suits, and then suggested they talk about something they agree more on. No! Disagreement can spur people to elaborate on their positions and the justifications for them. Dare I say there is a dialectic process?

And I say that as someone who thinks Frank is wrong about a lot, such as the income-happiness link, home envy, and within-firm inequality.

Any libertarian who complains about introducing congestion fees should be kicked in the shins, and yes I know that is a violation of the non-aggression principle we can pay a small fine in reparation later :P. A congestion fee is a kind of user fee, and libertarians should always advocate that the government finance its operations with user fees as much as possible. That's how a private sector market would work, and if you think those work better than the government it only makes sense to say that the government should be forced to ask What Would Markets Do :). That's also the way to formulate proper monetary police, ask how a free banking system would work. As long as there is a central bank there is no such thing as "not doing monetary policy". The latter point is one a lot of libertarians haven't yet grasped, but the congestion fee objection is relatively new to me.

Stop signs may be a bad example for Frank's cause.

I don't see how the ordinary worker disregarding safety regulations is analogous to the hockey player. The hockey player is playing a zero sum game against other players. If they all wear helmets there is basically no cost (I am assuming fans don't care, I don't know that for a fact but nobody brought it up). Ordinary workplaces are not zero sum games. In fact, the more money available the more employees that can be hired. And adhering to safety regulations costs more than hockey helmets. I suppose he might argue that the workers are bidding down safety, but the same logic applies to wages (with the complication that I'm not so sure safety costs increase with the number of workers). That's not considered a market failure, although some advocate unionizing workers so as to form a monopsony.

I think he has something of a point about schools. It is actually an indictment of a system that assigns people to schools based on where they live rather than letting them choose, which in turn leads to not only bidding wars over real estate but attempts to lock undesirable families out of school districts. But I don't think that's pure waste, some people like those without children or who were going to homeschool or private school anyway don't care about local school quality and can choose to live in other neighborhoods.

He mentions a consumption tax at the end. In as far as we can't fund the government with user fees (and would a head tax count as a user fee?) consumption taxes are vastly superior to income taxes. Mostly because income is one of the last things you want to tax, and sometimes supply curves are pretty inelastic so we wouldn't lose much.

Unit 10-11-2011 12:22 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by T.G.G.P (Post 227892)
I was disappointed that the initial discussion of the "darwin economy" was so short. Matt seemed about to prod Robert into discussing why we should care about what MBAs spend on their suits, and then suggested they talk about something they agree more on. No! Disagreement can spur people to elaborate on their positions and the justifications for them. Dare I say there is a dialectic process?

Chapter 8 of The armchair economist (by Landsburg), should be the starting point. Traditional general equilibrium economics already responded to Frank's position, by saying that prices is what makes us different from birds of paradise. I think an interesting discussion would ensue, because of course this overly mathematical model of the economy has its problems as well.

rfrobison 10-11-2011 08:58 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
With all due respect to both you and Mr. Cole, this quote is straw man:
Quote:

Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer (Post 227864)
John Cole on post officeAnother day, another piece on the financial troubles of the Post Office.

Folks, it is time for a paradigm shift. We need to stop thinking of those as losses, but the cost of a service. I have no idea why people have decided the Post Office needs to run like a business, with profits each year or be damned, but it is insane. This is a basic service that government can and should provide. And it is an amazing service. For the price of half a soda, you can mail anything you want, and in a day or two it gets there. EVEN ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY. You can drop a letter in the mailbox in New York, get in the car and drive nonstop to California, and odds are the letter will beat you. I know we’re all in the age of the internet and expect everything instantly, but that’s still pretty amazing.

If you ask me, if it only costs us 9 billion a year (which is what the estimated losses are this year) to have the mail delivered to everyone in the country, then that is pretty damned good.

*** Update ***

You really need to see the staggering idiocy on display here.

The question isn't (or shouldn't be) whether or not $9 billion a year is a bargain for mail service. The question is whether it would be possible for the private sector to do the same job for zero public dollars, or at least a lot fewer than are spent at the moment.

Canada, the U.K., Germany, New Zealand, Japan (sorta) -- these are just a few countries that have privatized their postal systems and to my knowledge, they haven't had their societies collapse. Nor are they Randian hellholes where only the rich get the mail. The bidding should be on a public utility basis (e.g., for universal service) and subject to periodic competitive bidding.

There is no reason to believe that companies like FedEx or UPS couldn't do exactly what the USPS does, better and/or more cheaply than Uncle Sam. Heck, set the USPS free and it will do better too, I'd wager. The same could be said of Amtrak, the air-traffic control system, public broadcasting-- the list is endless. One could point to Sweden's (Sweden!) privately administered pension system as another big area where public provision could be handled better by the private sector.

Given that the fiscal shape the U.S. is in, we all need to think about exactly what the government should and shouldn't be doing in the economy. The standard answer on the left, namely, "Everything that the private sector might conceivably do less than perfectly," is no answer at all--unless you want to see the U.S. start looking like Zimbabwe.

badhatharry 10-11-2011 09:37 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ledocs (Post 227804)

this was pretty tepid leftism, making every possible concession to incentives, pricing, and consumer choice.

and what would un-tepid leftism entail? no concessions to incentives, pricing or consumer choice?

badhatharry 10-11-2011 09:41 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 227909)
The question isn't (or shouldn't be) whether or not $9 billion a year is a bargain for mail service. The question is whether it would be possible for the private sector to do the same job for zero public dollars, or at least a lot fewer than are spent at the moment.

This is the problem with all government services. Once they are established and entrenched, folks just don't see how they can do without them.

randian hellhole...clever.

miceelf 10-11-2011 09:49 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 227909)
Canada, the U.K., Germany, New Zealand, Japan (sorta) -- these are just a few countries that have privatized their postal systems and to my knowledge, they haven't had their societies collapse. Nor are they Randian hellholes where only the rich get the mail. The bidding should be on a public utility basis (e.g., for universal service) and subject to periodic competitive bidding.

Canada?

When, exactly, did this happen?

ledocs 10-11-2011 10:56 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
On Bob Wright's theme of libertarians recurring to first principles, here is a good example of this in this dv:


http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/39215?in=48:25&out=48:59


So I thought the general idea with libertarianism was to minimize governmental interference in the contractual process among free individuals. But I either did not know, or need to be reminded, that the view of human nature undergirding the schema is highly sanguine, or Rousseauian. "Human beings, if left to their own devices, will not generally rape and pillage one another." I am a Hobbesian on this point. What is the empirical evidence that human beings, even speaking about in-group behavior only, will not generally "rape and pillage" one another? Put another way, it is in the natural order of human things that the strong will attempt, and often succeed, to dominate the weak. One of the functions of modern "liberal" government is to offset this natural tendency. Another function of government, or of civil service bureaucracies, is to attempt to substitute meritocracies of competence for other kinds of hierarchies based upon brute strength or family/clan relationships, for example. And what I cannot fathom is how libertarianism, which is commonly thought to be about defending markets, could possibly cleave to this sanguine view of human nature, a view which is completely at odds with the real world of the US and international market economy, in which actors typically seek their own advantage at the expense of counterparties. It's all a state of governed warfare.

rfrobison 10-11-2011 10:58 AM

Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 227913)
Canada?

When, exactly, did this happen?

Ah, wasn't sure about Canada. If that was in error, I stand corrected. The others have, in fact, been privatized.


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