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Bloggingheads 03-24-2010 03:08 AM

What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 

bjkeefe 03-24-2010 04:35 AM

ACTUAL VIDEO LINK
 
Here: http://apollo.bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/26977

nikkibong 03-24-2010 11:12 AM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Bloggingheads (Post 155632)

Recorded: December 29 Posted: March 24



we at least talking december 2009?

jimM47 03-24-2010 11:55 AM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
This diavlog was beset by numerous technical difficulties. I'm told that it was delayed in an attempt to fix one of them.

Don Zeko 03-24-2010 12:58 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Well it's good to see another Apollo DV, even if it was even more absurdly delayed than my DV with PMP.

PreppyMcPrepperson 03-24-2010 03:19 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Don Zeko (Post 155694)
Well it's good to see another Apollo DV, even if it was even more absurdly delayed than my DV with PMP.

And no warzone-technology-impairment excuse.

hamandcheese 03-24-2010 03:57 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
The classic example of the advertisement collective actual problem which I forgot to mention was the tobacco industry. When tobacco advertisements in the US were banned their revenues universally increased. Joseph Heath's The Efficient Society has a good discussion of it.

dieter 03-24-2010 05:48 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
This was the first apollo diavlog I enjoyed as much as the better regular diavlogs. (insightful, fluent and cogent conversation)

I haven't seen status goods, collective action and taxation put together in this way.

@hamandcheese:
Are there any estimates about the volume of non utility status spending?

My moderate libertarian argument for specific taxes is that you need to tax some things anyway. Given constant spending, you can easily employ Bastiat's classically liberal concern about the seen and the unseen. The unseen being the tax that would have to be levied instead in this case.

Most libertarians are truly arguing like anarcho-capitalists. They always list all of the problems with a specific tax or tariff to protray themselves as being more free market and non interventionist and to feel good about themselves.

JonIrenicus 03-24-2010 06:55 PM

It is a good thing we are not so rational
 
In terms of consumers and purchases, the more rational the less margin and profit. Meaning fewer jobs, meaning even less capacity to purchase.


Anyone who buys a mac has paid more than would they could have paid for a comparable specced pc in most cases. But is that a bad thing for society? Would it be better than people only ever bought pcs with the most razor thin margins, only what they needed and nothing more?


That may be more rational, not sure that would be better.


So long as basic needs are a good chunk less than peoples total income, failing to create value in things other than basic needs would seem to retard the flow of capitol from people to the economy instead of hoarding it in their accounts.



On who cares about environmentalism, irrelevant. Who can afford to DO the most about environmental issues is the wealthy.


In another example, it may be true that people who donate money to aid programs may care more about the problems of people who are less fortunate, but the people promoting trade and industry in those countries actual DO more. Inherently more selfish in scope, and yet it does more actual good.


edit (again)

incidentally, I am not philosophically opposed to a tax if it leads to a better outcome. Anyone who is either for or against a policy solely due to principle and not results is a slave to principle over reality.

I look at principles more as preferences, there are probably many different solutions to a problem, but some are more preferable to others depending on the individuals issues inside peoples heads.

JonIrenicus 03-24-2010 07:13 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hamandcheese (Post 155734)
The classic example of the advertisement collective actual problem which I forgot to mention was the tobacco industry. When tobacco advertisements in the US were banned their revenues universally increased. Joseph Heath's The Efficient Society has a good discussion of it.

And how does he propose minimizing that effect?

There will not be a ban on generic advertising on non controversial and negative health products, put a tax on advertising?

hamandcheese 03-24-2010 07:34 PM

Re: It is a good thing we are not so rational
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JonIrenicus (Post 155771)
There will not be a ban on generic advertising on non controversial and negative health products, put a tax on advertising?

Exactly. Unfortunately I don't have the book in front of me, but he proposes an adjustment to the way ad. expenses are tax deductible.

There is nothing inefficient with advertisement generally, it's just a matter of returns for the scale. A small tax on advertisement costs wholesale, however, would become a big tax on humongous advertisement budgets, especially if the tax was progressive.

Quote:

Originally Posted by JonIrenicus (Post 155767)
failing to create value in things other than basic needs would seem to retard the flow of capitol from people to the economy instead of hoarding it in their accounts.

This is a good point. Given the fact that virtually everything denotes some social status, I'm definitely not arguing that "status taxes" are at all practical, and they would muddle with the flow of money pretty significantly, outside of a handful of obvious cases.

The example of a country club is pretty clear cut, though, such that if you ask why the owners why their fees are high they'll more or less say "to keep the peasants out" (or something like that). By imposing a tax the country club gets what it wants (an upper-crust membership). The fees are not to finance anything; only to create a barrier to entry, so why would they miss them?

But the point wasn't to advocate this as a good source of tax revenue. I was just trying to give an example of a tax which is not particularly coercive, in rebuttal to the idea that taxes are definition-ally coercive.

Quote:

Originally Posted by dieter (Post 155753)
Are there any estimates about the volume of non utility status spending?

Not to my knowledge, but I imagine its quite high. I also imagine that it would be very hard, if not impossible, to measure precisely. But if you or anyone else find studies on the subject I would be very interested in reading them.

Thanks for the nice comments!

JonIrenicus 03-24-2010 07:42 PM

Glad I will never be this efficient and rational
 
http://www.engadget.com/2010/03/24/g...ity-hip-again/

Don Zeko 03-24-2010 10:00 PM

Re: It is a good thing we are not so rational
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hamandcheese (Post 155783)
The example of a country club is pretty clear cut, though, such that if you ask why the owners why their fees are high they'll more or less say "to keep the peasants out" (or something like that). By imposing a tax the country club gets what it wants (an upper-crust membership). The fees are not to finance anything; only to create a barrier to entry, so why would they miss them?

Wouldn't this fail to account for competition between country clubs? After all, I don't think that cc's have particularly absurd profit margins, so they're clearly spending the money on something that increases the club's attractiveness to wealthy potential members.

jimM47 03-25-2010 06:17 AM

Re: It is a good thing we are not so rational
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Don Zeko (Post 155825)
Quote:

Originally Posted by hamandcheese (Post 155783)
The example of a country club is pretty clear cut, though, such that if you ask why the owners why their fees are high they'll more or less say "to keep the peasants out" (or something like that). By imposing a tax the country club gets what it wants (an upper-crust membership). The fees are not to finance anything; only to create a barrier to entry, so why would they miss them?

Wouldn't this fail to account for competition between country clubs? After all, I don't think that cc's have particularly absurd profit margins, so they're clearly spending the money on something that increases the club's attractiveness to wealthy potential members.

I didn't press Sam on the country club example in the diavlog, because it was useful shorthand for veblen goods, which do indisputably exist. A true veblen good isn't subject to the normal pressure you describe because, at the margin, it has a positively-sloped demand curve, meaning an increase in price, unrelated to any underlying change, causes an increase in demand.

But as to the specific example, I agree with you. None of the country clubs I have ever been were even remotely veblin goods (though I suppose there's a selection bias at work here, since I would be kept out of any that were).

But this is part of a larger point! There are multiple types of status goods. Rather than a veblen good, a country club membership is more apt to be a highly positional good. That is to say, there are a limited number of membership spots available, so if I get a spot, that's one less available for you. Prices get bid up high, and it may appear there is a strange relationship between price and demand, but what is really going on is scarcity.

But of course I've committed a basic fallacy in that last paragraph by assuming that the number of spots in country clubs is static. But in fact, high prices induce greater supply. New country clubs with new spots become viable when profits are driven up by scarcity unless, of course, those high prices paid aren't passed on to suppliers as high payments received, say if there is an intervening luxury tax.

And that's important for understanding the effects of what Sam is proposing with respect to status goods that are not veblen goods. The tax he is advocating effectively functions like collusive action by status-seekers to actually increase the positionality of high status-goods. The tax makes the supply more inelastic, preventing high prices from yielding a normal increase in the availability of the good. This means that getting into that prestigious country club will mean more in terms of relative status because there won't be that other less-prestigious country club out there giving the Joneses something nearly as good. But it also necessarily increases the degree to which status-seeking money creates only relative gains, rather than absolute gains.

As I understand Sam's position, he tends to think that in many consumer choices the desire to achieve relative gains in living standard from the purchase already overwhelms the goal of absolute gains. Therefore, with the actions he proposes you can induce lots of people to simply drop out of the relative status game and behave more "rationally."

My opinion is that absolute gains are, if not the only factor at least a significant factor, in nearly all consumer choices, and so it is not so easy to get people to drop out of the status game, to the extent it forms part of the motivation for purchases, because there is still the absolute component. Instead you only increase the resources that go to relative status and reduce absolute gains to the mass of society. Which is why I bring up my concerns that social progress may be jeopardized by things that inhibit absolute gains from reaching broad distributions in society.

jimM47 03-25-2010 06:55 AM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by dieter (Post 155753)
Most libertarians are truly arguing like anarcho-capitalists. They always list all of the problems with a specific tax or tariff to protray themselves as being more free market and non interventionist and to feel good about themselves.

To be clear, my objection to the form of taxation Sam is proposing isn't especially an market-oriented objection. To the extent that there is really an economic rent present as Sam describes it, and such a phenomenon is reliably identifiable, this sort of tax is, from an economic perspective, the best kind.

My objections come more along the line of wariness about 1) the cultural judgments that appear to motivate a condemnation of certain spending as 'luxury' and 'irrational' and 2) the ability to be certain that the tax won't actually distort things. Obviously you have to pay for government somehow, but simple taxes spread across a large base (i.e. general income and sales taxes) are thought to be more desirable because they are more reliable, more stable across time, less prone to corruption and rent-seeking, have more uniform effects on the market, and they require less information to administer.

hamandcheese 03-25-2010 04:31 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Those are some very insightful responses, Jim, and I'll have to take some time to consider them, but in the context of the original premise of our discussion, the merits of a generic libertarian view of coercion, I regret bringing up these specific hypothetical examples instead of sticking to the issue of coercion.

I think I've found a way to express my argument in 3 sentences:

1: Just like State-endorsed slavery + sweatshop wage-labour are extreme examples of coercion, one legal, one economic, an 8% sales tax + Walmart undercutting your mom-and-pop store are obviously not as insidious or violent.

2: Libertarians (the more extreme the better) evaluate coercion based on the source of coercion, as oppose to the strength or effects of the coercion.

3: Rather, I say we should group types of coercion and draw moral equivalence in the way I've done with underlines above, if we are truly serious about liberty.

JonIrenicus 03-26-2010 12:51 AM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Another thought on these two, Jim seems to be playing the role of the Comedian to Hams Ozymandias.


(Need to have watched the Watchmen movie for that to have the slightest chance to make sense)


It was MUCH more extreme in the movie, but The comedian was skeptical and doubtful about the capacity of Ozzy to manage the ups and downs of conflict from on high.


Ozzy in the end had a more "State" coercion style approach. And in the movie, it looked like it was going to work, for all the downsides, save that wrinkle at the end. The Comedian won in the movie, but maybe Ozymandias is better for real life in some areas.



Please someone tell me some of this makes sense (lie if you have to)

themightypuck 04-03-2010 04:18 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Isn't the classic coercion argument like this.

Libertarian: Coercion is wrong as a matter of natural law.

Socialist: It is perfectly natural for a group of people to gang up on an individual. Real laws are created by people to prevent such things.

Libertarian: OK fine, even if you don't agree with my natural law arguments let me put it in terms you understand [bunch of consequentialist arguments].

Socialist: But your arguments give too much weight to future generations. What about people today?

Libertarian: With your logic we'd still be living in grass huts.

Socialist: (wistfully dreaming of grass huts) Sorry what did you say?

Libertarian: This is the problem with you socialists. Always with the dreaming. Try the real world.

Socialist: NO U!!!

Libertarian: No Yer Mama!!!

Socialist: Don't talk about my Mama. *takes a swing*

Libertarian: *ducks* Now we see the violence inherent in your coercive system.

**violence ensues**

themightypuck 04-03-2010 05:05 PM

Re: It is a good thing we are not so rational
 
If you accept that free markets occasionally produce bad outcomes--like peacock tails--the question becomes whether intervention can produce better outcomes. This generally devolves into arguments about what is a better outcome. In all the arguments I have about this sort of thing, the philosophical bedrock of libertarians is that freedom is a value in and of itself. Consequentialist arguments are always tactical. I know there are a number of libertarians who don't appear to think this way (Will Wilkinson or Brink Lindsey among the BHTV crowd) but I tend not to meet such people in the wild (surely a failure on my part).

jimM47 04-04-2010 09:57 PM

Re: It is a good thing we are not so rational
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by themightypuck (Post 157518)
If you accept that free markets occasionally produce bad outcomes--like peacock tails--the question becomes whether intervention can produce better outcomes. This generally devolves into arguments about what is a better outcome. In all the arguments I have about this sort of thing, the philosophical bedrock of libertarians is that freedom is a value in and of itself. Consequentialist arguments are always tactical. I know there are a number of libertarians who don't appear to think this way (Will Wilkinson or Brink Lindsey among the BHTV crowd) but I tend not to meet such people in the wild (surely a failure on my part).

Two responses:

1) I think that if you accept that free markets sometimes produce bad outcomes which I do accept *there are two questions that result: the question whether an intervention will produce a better outcome, and the meta-question how certain you can be of your answer to that first question.

2) The position that freedom has value in and of itself is not at all incompatible with consequentialism. Far from it, the degree to which a system produces meaningful freedom can be (ought to be) one of the consequences by which the system is judged.

It's hard to know what your claim that consequentialist arguments are merely tactical means without a more concrete example. Is there something in this diavlog that you are referring to?

themightypuck 04-04-2010 10:48 PM

Re: It is a good thing we are not so rational
 
Good point with 1 although I think it folds into the value discussion. All action is under some level of uncertainty and that always has to be part of the calculus. On the other hand, there is no natural order of things to fall back on.

I agree with 2. The question is whether a libertarian cares at a philosophical level whether freedom leads to better outcomes when you take freedom itself out of the outcome calculus. This is what I meant when I said things devolve into arguments about how to value outcomes. I probably shouldn't have said "devolve" as it implies that there is something wrong with these arguments.

As for all consequentialist arguments being tactical, I overstepped. It has been my personal experience that many libertarians use consequentialist arguments even though, by definition, there exist no consequentialist arguments that could defeat them. Neither you nor hamandcheese did anything like this and I didn't mean to imply it. Mea culpa.

hamandcheese 04-05-2010 12:47 AM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
In response to Jim, I whole heartily accept the knowledge problems in all forms of government policy. Like I say in the video, an argument for libertarianism will have to be made on a practical level. My main arguments were a rebuttal to ethical rejections of state solutions on the basis that they're operationally non-voluntary, or the irrelevant moral distinction between the centralized and decentralized.

In some cases I do think are there places that the knowledge required to act with precision is quite ascertainable by bureaucrats. States are big fans of insurance schemes precisely because they yield a high level accuracy with a minimum level of reflex.

The strength of the Libertarian we're talking about really determines my examples. I know many anarcho-capitalists who would be opposed to even the state creation and auctioning of property titles, preferring all property arrangements to be spontaneous. In other words, depending who I'm talking to the definition of "intervention" ranges dramatically.

I would, however, propose an action principle to philosophical scepticism. You may be familiar with the stories about the ancient Greek sceptic Pyrrho. He was so sceptical that, reportedly, if he saw a man drowning in a river he would walk by, unconvinced that the man was really there or really drowning, and if so whether his intervention would be of any use. The mistake Pyrrho made is that decisions without perfect knowledge are inevitable in life, and, as the Rush song goes, if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice. How much money should have been spent on stimulus to restore employment? I have no idea. But standing back and musing over the uncertainty of human action is itself an action that has consequences and deserves its own evaluation.

On consequentialism:

I'm not a consequentialist or strict utilitarian, myself, though I lean that way. I think those philosophies miss huge swaths of human nature in favour of a sleek scientific morality. I do, however, propose a kind of consequentialist filibuster.

To illustrate, suppose you could establish a deontological basis for absolute property and contract rights, as some Libertarians and Anarchocapitalists think they have. I think if it were the case that the dialetics of such a society were to invariably deteriorate into monopoly or depression then that would in effect discredit and filibuster it morally.

A clarification on the Great Depression point I made in the video:

Its not an issue of whether the GD would have happened without the government or not. My point was that the violence of the great depression was decentralized and effected people through the dynamics of economic systems, and was, I think demonstrably perpetuated by a reluctance to meaningfully intervene. This is only to highlight the fact that "violence" is not necessarily interpersonal. It was an attempt to anticipate the Libertarian rebuttal that real violent coercion requires a human agent.

Unit 04-05-2010 06:17 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hamandcheese (Post 157653)
In response to Jim, I whole heartily accept the knowledge problems in all forms of government policy. Like I say in the video, an argument for libertarianism will have to be made on a practical level. My main arguments were a rebuttal to ethical rejections of state solutions on the basis that they're operationally non-voluntary, or the irrelevant moral distinction between the centralized and decentralized.

In some cases I do think are there places that the knowledge required to act with precision is quite ascertainable by bureaucrats. States are big fans of insurance schemes precisely because they yield a high level accuracy with a minimum level of reflex.

The strength of the Libertarian we're talking about really determines my examples. I know many anarcho-capitalists who would be opposed to even the state creation and auctioning of property titles, preferring all property arrangements to be spontaneous. In other words, depending who I'm talking to the definition of "intervention" ranges dramatically.

I would, however, propose an action principle to philosophical scepticism. You may be familiar with the stories about the ancient Greek sceptic Pyrrho. He was so sceptical that, reportedly, if he saw a man drowning in a river he would walk by, unconvinced that the man was really there or really drowning, and if so whether his intervention would be of any use. The mistake Pyrrho made is that decisions without perfect knowledge are inevitable in life, and, as the Rush song goes, if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice. How much money should have been spent on stimulus to restore employment? I have no idea. But standing back and musing over the uncertainty of human action is itself an action that has consequences and deserves its own evaluation.

On consequentialism:

I'm not a consequentialist or strict utilitarian, myself, though I lean that way. I think those philosophies miss huge swaths of human nature in favour of a sleek scientific morality. I do, however, propose a kind of consequentialist filibuster.

To illustrate, suppose you could establish a deontological basis for absolute property and contract rights, as some Libertarians and Anarchocapitalists think they have. I think if it were the case that the dialetics of such a society were to invariably deteriorate into monopoly or depression then that would in effect discredit and filibuster it morally.

A clarification on the Great Depression point I made in the video:

Its not an issue of whether the GD would have happened without the government or not. My point was that the violence of the great depression was decentralized and effected people through the dynamics of economic systems, and was, I think demonstrably perpetuated by a reluctance to meaningfully intervene. This is only to highlight the fact that "violence" is not necessarily interpersonal. It was an attempt to anticipate the Libertarian rebuttal that real violent coercion requires a human agent.

Ham,

first the distinction between centralized and decentralized is not as irrelevant as you might think. For instance when govt doesn't act, a lot of people still act, so "something gets done". The whole point is to decide between decentralized action and authoritarian solutions. The trouble with bringing up historical examples is that one runs the risk of comparing some "ideal" authoritarian solution to some "messy" and "real" turn of events. Note that authoritarians decisions can be taken at various levels: Federal, Fed Reserve, states, etc....so it's not enough to look at what the president says.

On a practical level, the objections to authoritarianism are multiple. There's the slippery slope effect: you give the govt the job of correctly (ideally) identifying and taxing negative externalities and pretty soon the govt will take this as an opportunity to bail-out friends and punish enemies. There's the ratchet effect: it's not just the size of govt that is worrisome, but its scope as well. Add to this that voters in the voting booth only really worry about "ideals" (there is no immediate feedback) and you see how the system is biased towards authoritarian solutions ("there outta be a law!"). One sensible proposal (Hayek) is that the higher up the legislative body the more general the character of its laws should be, i.e., it's safer not to give too much discretion to highly centralized powers. Unfortunately, we're going in the opposite direction, e.g. now people want the Fed Chairman to be in charge of assets prices as well, etc...Places like Canada are more insulated from this "little-Fuhrers" model: often their boards are populated by anonymous figures whose names are known to almost no one. During the Great Depression Canada had no bank failures and yet it didn't have a Central Bank. Yet it's counter-intuitive to say that in order to have a more stable economy we need more decentralization. People are natural control-freaks. This may very well be a god trait in their private life, but it's disastrous when you try to apply the same philosophy to systems of huge, oceanic, complexity.

Flaw 04-08-2010 02:20 PM

Twice was enough
 
I found it annoying that hamandcheese would switch topics when he was losing an argument. I found it to be "logically rude". I wish Jim would have insisted cheese stay on topic and make his point inside an area of shared knowledge.

hamandcheese 04-08-2010 09:39 PM

Re: Twice was enough
 
Flaw:

Are you particularly referring to this part? Because that clip bothered me too. The excerpt I linked to is Jim summarizing my view after several minutes of trying to clarify it, and even though I seemingly ignore him, what he says is exactly what I was arguing, and my reply would have been better-off if it had started with "Precisely, Jim" and then my elaboration.

There is also a moment when Jim corrects me by pointing out that all intervention into a market is distorting. He's right. What I meant to say was coercive, and that makes sense in context. The purpose of the golf club case, and the whole reason to bring it up (and I did find golf clubs, for example, that require you purchase a 13million dollar house off the fairway just for membership) is to rebut the libertarian line that tax is always violent and coercive theft. The ritzy golf club, however, is premised on there being a meaningless and unnecessary premium. By replacing that premium with a tax no one is being coerced, because the members want to pay it and the owners want it applied. Like I wrote above, I regret that discussion switched from ethical philosophy to public choice theory, a subject of feasibility, not morality, but which was nevertheless stimulating.

If this isn't what you were referring to, I would like you to please give the specific instance when I switched topics to avoid losing an argument so that I may address the point. Far from feeling I was losing any argument, I scarcely considered what Jim I did as arguing in the first place. He rightfully pushed back at times but I nonetheless get the feeling that Jim and I predominately agree. Indeed, his notion that Libertarians should be on board with Employment Insurance, certain regulations, etc. accepts that governments can do things right, some of the time -- my only fundamental claim. My arguments are specifically a reaction to the Ron Paul and Austrian wing.

wreaver 05-06-2010 01:30 AM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
I just started watching this (and about 6 minutes in), but wouldn't it make the conversation more productive to have at least one libertarian in the debate?

At about 6 minutes in it looks like there are 2 people debating about libertarianism, but neither seems to actually understand what libertarianism actually is.

I.e., they seem to be creating straw man arguments.

wreaver 05-06-2010 01:51 AM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
@hamandcheese:

When libertarians are talking about coercion they are talking about physical coercion. I.e., punching someone in the face, or stabbing someone, etc.

They are not talking about a person going and getting a job because that person wants a certain life style.

If you conflate the two, then you will not "get" libertarianism.

AemJeff 05-06-2010 08:48 AM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by wreaver (Post 161324)
I just started watching this (and about 6 minutes in), but wouldn't it make the conversation more productive to have at least one libertarian in the debate?

At about 6 minutes in it looks like there are 2 people debating about libertarianism, but neither seems to actually understand what libertarianism actually is.

I.e., they seem to be creating straw man arguments.

I think Jim might have something to say about whether he himself to be a libertarian. If you think you see a fallacy, wouldn't it be helpful to indicate what you believe to be fallacious?

jimM47 05-06-2010 02:43 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 161339)
I think Jim might have something to say about whether he himself to be a libertarian.

You can't truly be a libertarian until at least one other person claiming to be a libertarian purports to evict you from the movement. I believe it's in the by-laws somewhere.

Don Zeko 05-06-2010 03:19 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jimM47 (Post 161351)
You can't truly be a libertarian until at least one other person claiming to be a libertarian purports to evict you from the movement. I believe it's in the by-laws somewhere.

Libertarians have by-laws? That sounds dangerously close to letting Leviathan into the Libertarian organization. You, sir, are no Libertarian.

jimM47 05-06-2010 04:09 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by wreaver (Post 161326)
When libertarians are talking about coercion they are talking about physical coercion. I.e., punching someone in the face, or stabbing someone, etc.

That distinction between coercion that is or is not backed by the threat of physical force is actually more difficult to flesh out than it appears to be at first blush, and it makes the pursuit more pragmatic than some care to admit.

First, most coercion is physical coercion only in an attenuated sense. If I get a speeding ticket, the physical coercion forcing me to pay it exists only at the end of a long causal chain. I have to refuse to contest the ticket, refuse to pay it, refuse to pay it again, get arrested, and resist arrest or incarceration before I am gonna get anyone punching me in the face. When we count that as being physical coercion we need to remember to follow the same chain for everything. When we do, we run into two problematic cases: economic coercion and social coercion.

At base a lot of economic coercion can be reduced to saying, 'you can't come on my land, use my things, or eat my food unless you have my permission, and if you do, I'll get the state to come in and punch you in the face.' In order to distinguish this from physical coercion we need a concept of property that will define the initial transgression as the coercive act. Naturally, we will have some concept of property, and its broad outlines are easy to define, but it turns out that the classification of individual cases of economic coercion can turn on the precise details of our property definition. Some libertarians simply stipulate this and move on. Other libertarians make consequentialist arguments for how we should define property rights. (In both these cases you move from coercion being what you are really talking about though).

Still other libertarians try to keep a rigid focus on coercion by asserting that some definition of property rights is natural and inherently true. i.e. that state isn't engaging in coercion by defining and enforcing property rights because the definition of those rights is independent and pre-existant of the state. The problem with this argument is that good property rights are notoriously hard to define. There is a danger in making rights too flexible and allowing people to agree to unconscionable bargains, or allowing people to fragment property between so many hands that it cannot be reassembled toward productive uses. But there is also a danger in making rights to rigid and preventing people from working out deals that would benefit everyone.

This difficulty is reflected in actual legal history. Even in the halcyon days when the Natural Law position was the dominant force in American jurisprudence, and radical Positivism was just a shadow lurking over the horizon, property law was considered a matter of positive law, defined by the sovereign. The most famous natural law cases out there tend to involve property rights; they simultaneously assert a natural and inviolable right to acquire, hold and keep property while at the same time asserting that the scope and definition of those rights is a matter of state law.

The second case is social coercion, and if you trace it back far enough, much social coercion can be recast as 'do this, or the next time you need help there will be less chance I'll give it.' You can certainly draw a principled distinction between acts and omissions, but where does that get you? If I say to you 'conform yourself to my oppressive conception of a woman's role, or the next time someone tries to carry you off and rape you, I won't stop them' I am probably not limiting your freedom less than if I was threatening you with harm myself. Yes, that's an extreme example, but I think it shows generally how we can conceive of a great deal of social coercion as being more attenuated of a threat, but not different in kind.

You can try to overcome this by distinguishing between 1) omissions where there is no duty to act and 2) overt acts plus omissions where there is a duty to act. But this kicks the can down the road and runs into the same problem as property. It's very hard to define what sort of duties to act we hold toward other people, and which people we owe them to.

Now, as I indicate in the diavlog, I am much more optimistic about social coercion being escapable than state coercion, and I am more optimistic about social coercion trending toward better outcomes than state coercion. But given the rather pernicious social institutions that have at times prevailed in this country in the past Jim Crow is the most obvious example I don't think it is misguided to recognize a continuum between social coercion and physical coercion and stand vigilant there.

Quote:

If you conflate the two, then you will not "get" libertarianism.
As I think I say in diavlog, "coercion" as it is used in libertarian discourse is a term of art. Some privately-emergent economic realities can be more constraining on freedom that some laws backed by a state monopoly on the use of force are. So when we call something coercive, in the libertarian sense, we are talking about the kind of coercion, not the magnitude of it.

As I understood his argument, Sam isn't denying that this is the distinction Libertarians make, he is trying to present his argument for why it is not a valid distinction: why one should look to the magnitude of coercion, not it's source.

I think it is an argument worth hearing over, because in fact many libertarian thinkers do acknowledge and worry about forms of coercion that are of a high magnitude but which do not originate in the state. Oppressive cultural norms are one example of this (though often they come up in the context of government action fostering bad cultural norms).

jimM47 05-06-2010 04:14 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Don Zeko (Post 161353)
Libertarians have by-laws? That sounds dangerously close to letting Leviathan into the Libertarian organization. You, sir, are no Libertarian.

Thanks, Zeke, but it doesn't count when you expel me. It has to be someone who knows the secret handshake.

AemJeff 05-07-2010 09:02 AM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jimM47 (Post 161358)
Thanks, Zeke, but it doesn't count when you expel me. It has to be someone who knows the secret handshake.

Which one?

wreaver 05-08-2010 10:50 AM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jimM47 (Post 161351)
You can't truly be a libertarian until at least one other person claiming to be a libertarian purports to evict you from the movement. I believe it's in the by-laws somewhere.

My apologies. I just didn't get the impression that you were a libertarian (at 6 minutes into the video).

hamandcheese 05-10-2010 12:00 AM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
I fully endorse and agree with Jim's post, the one that begins with "That distinction".

If you ignore the causal chain then the state is only ever coercive on the margins -- on those civil disobedients and criminals who defy the law. The other 99 out of a 100 people pay their taxes and smoke their weed in private, only occasionally feeling as if they're being "forced" to do anything, it's in our human nature to simply go with the flow.

My arguments were addressed specifically to the crowd who think the only legitimate way to organize society is in a way altogether voluntary -- not those libertarians who simply say "well, a smaller government just works better." And I did so by trying to point out that their constant focus on government interventions ignores the huge anti-libertarian forces of, say, cultural homophobia.

Ireland has blasphemy laws, for example, that any good libertarian should be opposed to. But if one removes those laws to reveal beneath a society that ostracizes and boycotts anyone who heresies than by what measure has one increased the liberty in a society? Perhaps culture is more malleable, as Jim suggests (thats dubious at best. its certainly easier to pass a law freeing the slaves then it is to eradicate racism). But what of the here and now?

Depending on the situation we might need more adamant norms, in the form of laws. The first amendment comes to mind. Modest social safety nets are also important, in my opinion, not only to minimize the perversities of an occasionally arbitrary and volatile market place, but also to place economic security in a more solid and egalitarian foundation, not subordinate to the whims of private charity.

In short, I want to argue for a more robust understanding of both liberty and coercion.

Don Zeko 05-10-2010 12:39 AM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hamandcheese (Post 161539)
If you ignore the causal chain then the state is only ever coercive on the margins -- on those civil disobedients and criminals who defy the law. The other 99 out of a 100 people pay their taxes and smoke their weed in private, only occasionally feeling as if they're being "forced" to do anything, it's in our human nature to simply go with the flow.

I agree with your overall point wholeheartedly, but I'd be a bit more careful with language here. In an ideal state, as designed by you, myself, or most other Liberals, this is true, but most states as they actually exist do exert coercive power on more than just the margins, not to mention unfree states that coerce on far more than the margins of society.

hamandcheese 05-10-2010 10:51 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Don Zeko (Post 161540)
I agree with your overall point wholeheartedly, but I'd be a bit more careful with language here. In an ideal state, as designed by you, myself, or most other Liberals, this is true, but most states as they actually exist do exert coercive power on more than just the margins, not to mention unfree states that coerce on far more than the margins of society.

Actually I would argue that even comparatively repressive regimes are only coercive by a casual chain. That is, their populations self-regulate and self-censor because of fear with very little direct coercion exerted on them.

In this sense even state coercion is, for the majority, a type of social or cultural coercion. Bare in mind that I'm not using this to justify state coercion, but to scold the libertarians who fall for the idea that only direct coercion counts. Pulling in the chain is a must.

Unit 05-12-2010 01:25 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hamandcheese (Post 161575)
Actually I would argue that even comparatively repressive regimes are only coercive by a casual chain. That is, their populations self-regulate and self-censor because of fear with very little direct coercion exerted on them.

In this sense even state coercion is, for the majority, a type of social or cultural coercion. Bare in mind that I'm not using this to justify state coercion, but to scold the libertarians who fall for the idea that only direct coercion counts. Pulling in the chain is a must.

But where do you stop? Suppose you're willing to pay no more than a dollar on an apple and yet it costs 1.05, so you forgo the apple. Is that coercion? I mean, we do live in a society, my action influences everyone else's actions, even if marginally so.

hamandcheese 05-13-2010 01:41 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Unit (Post 161685)
But where do you stop? Suppose you're willing to pay no more than a dollar on an apple and yet it costs 1.05, so you forgo the apple. Is that coercion? I mean, we do live in a society, my action influences everyone else's actions, even if marginally so.

If you want to say the 5 cent difference is on a spectrum of coercion, I'm fine with that, I just don't think its warranted much moral concern, in the same way I wouldn't consider a 5% sales tax to be very morally egregious either, especially if its used to provide useful services. This is the point I'm making.

So yes, you could consider it coercion (it's ultimately up to which semantics you choose) but I don't consider it to be immorally so. Why? Because the consequences are not having an apple, as opposed to death or alienation. And the cost of avoiding the consequences are, as you point out, extremely low.

The gist of it is to question the notion that there is the state, and then there is freedom; and to posit that non-governmental forces, including peers, can be just as detrimental to our liberty as g-men. The exact formulation of how and why this is so is of secondary importance to me.

AemJeff 05-13-2010 03:37 PM

Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hamandcheese (Post 161765)
If you want to say the 5 cent difference is on a spectrum of coercion, I'm fine with that, I just don't think its warranted much moral concern, in the same way I wouldn't consider a 5% sales tax to be very morally egregious either, especially if its used to provide useful services. This is the point I'm making.

So yes, you could consider it coercion (it's ultimately up to which semantics you choose) but I don't consider it to be immorally so. Why? Because the consequences are not having an apple, as opposed to death or alienation. And the cost of avoiding the consequences are, as you point out, extremely low.

The gist of it is to question the notion that there is the state, and then there is freedom; and to posit that non-governmental forces, including peers, can be just as detrimental to our liberty as g-men. The exact formulation of how and why this is so is of secondary importance to me.

That was well said h&c.


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