Liberty & Power: Group Blog
"Friedman was a brilliant polemicist. He had several highly original ideas about how economies work. Most have proved to be wrong, but at least he had them. And in the one area where he was proved correct, he exercised great influence on policymakers. But even in this area, Hayek's insights go much deeper and offer a better framework for the research programmes of the 21st century."
Read British economist Paul Omerod's thoughtful essay on the contributions of Keynes, Friedman, and Hayek here at Prospect online.
Roderick T. Long
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
My passing mention earlier this month of the possible merits of a Green/Libertarian alliance has raised discussion here, here, here, and here. Let me address some of the concerns that have been raised.
Much of the discussion has focused on the Greens ten key values which I claim are worthy goals, consistent with libertarianism, though often sought by Greens via un-libertarian means. But its worth keeping in mind that there is no canonical statement of these ten values. Each branch of the Green Party is free to tinker with the wording, and of course the result is that one groups specific formulation of a certain value will be consistent with libertarianism while another groups specific formulation of that value will not be. Its the values themselves, not any one specific formulation or implementation of them, that Im advocating, so we shouldnt get too hung up over wording.
Still, I think many of the libertarian criticisms of these values make the same mistake that many Greens make namely, envisioning only a statist implementation of values that in fact have perfectly good libertarian implementations.
Jason Kuznicki writes:
I take issue in particular with the following value:This is just the sort of egalitarianism that libertarians have always opposed. It is not merely dangerous to a libertarian politics; the two are antithetical.
All persons should have the rights and opportunity to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment.
What does it really mean, after all, for all persons to have the rights... to benefit equally... from the resources afforded us... by the environment? It means constant, massive redistribution of resources. It means an enormous and intrusive state to do the dirty work. It means the end of the free market and the beginning of socialism.
Well, its certainly true that thats how many Greens would propose to implement that value. But is that really what the value means? Is that the best, the most defensible interpretation of that value? Are statist means really the most effective way of realising the aspirations it embodies? I deny it.
In his Economic Harmonies, Bastiat argued that the irresistible tendency of the free market is to increase the common realm at the expense of the private realm because economic progress continually decreases the amount of human effort needed to produce a given result, and thus makes its benefits more widely available:
Wealth (taking this word in its generally accepted sense) stems from the combination of two kinds of operations, those of Nature and those of man. The former are free of charge and common to all, by divine gift, and never cease to be so. The latter alone possess [economic] value, and consequently they alone can be claimed as private property. But in the course of the development of human intelligence and the progress of civilization, the action of Nature plays a larger and larger role in the creation of any given utility, and the action of man, a proportionately smaller one. Hence, it follows that the area of gratuitous and common utility constantly increases among men at the expense of the area of value and private property. ...
[T]hat portion of utility which, as a result of progress, ceases to be onerous, ceases to have value, but does not on that account cease to be utility, and falls eventually within the domain called common to all and free of charge ....
What is free of effort is held in common, for all men enjoy it and are permitted to enjoy it unconditionally. ... What is acquired by effort is private property, because taking pains is prerequisite to its satisfaction, just as the satisfaction is the reason for taking the pains. ...
This recourse to pains implies the idea of an obstacle. We may then say that the result sought comes closer and closer to the condition of being gratis and common to all in proportion as the intervening obstacle is reduced, since, according to our premise, the complete absence of obstacles would imply a condition of being completely gratis and common to all.
Now, since human nature is dynamic in its drive toward progress and perfection, an obstacle can never be considered as a fixed and absolute quantity. It is reduced. Hence, the pains it entails are reduced along with it .... But the utility remains constant. Hence, what is free of charge and common to all is increased at the expense of what formerly required effort and was private property. ...
[I]t is characteristic of progress (and, indeed, this is what we mean by progress) to transform onerous utility into gratuitous utility ... and to enable all men, for fewer pains or at smaller cost, to obtain the same satisfactions. Thus, the total number of things owned in common is constantly increased; and their enjoyment, distributed more uniformly to all, gradually eliminates inequalities resulting from differences in the amount of property owned. ... A greater amount of gratuitous utility implies a partial realization of common ownership.
One can find a similar argument in David Schmidtzs Limits of Government, where he argues that the effect of private property is to prevent the public benefits of private resources from being depleted, and indeed to increase those benefits.
Is this what most Greens have in mind when they speak of peoples right to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment? No, usually not. But what I claim, with Bastiat and Schmidtz, is that economic libertarianism practically realises that ideal far more fully than any statist arrangement could. Thus the libertarians quarrel with the Greens on this point is, as I said, over means, not ends.
So anyway... If Kevin Zeese shows what wed get from a libertarian-Green alliance, I have to say Im not interested. Pot legalization is great; ending the war is great. If I were a legislator, Id happily vote with the Greens on those issues. But I cant go further than that.
Here I want to distinguish two issues. First, given Greens as they (mostly) are and Libertarians as they (mostly) are, what sort of political cooperation is possible between them? I would say that for the average Libertarian and the average Green, the benefits of cooperation will largely be confined to narrow, single-issue causes though I think even here the potential benefits could be considerable. (Im largely sympathetic to John Walshs proposal here for an alliance of Greens, Libertarians, and antiwar Demopublicans specifically on the issue of Iraq.)
But of course I also think we should be trying to change Greens as they (mostly) are and Libertarians as they (mostly) are. Libertarians have a good understanding of the value of private property, the effectiveness of competitive, for-profit modes of association, and the dangers of governmental forms of oppression; Greens have a good understanding of the value of the commons, the effectiveness of cooperative, non-profit modes of association, and the dangers of non-governmental forms of oppression. But each group tends to be weak where the other is strong; each group tends to see only the other groups shortcomings, and to cling all the more firmly to its own shortcomings by way of reaction. Each group thinks wrongly, in my view that a concern for values from one set automatically negates concern for values from the other set. The Green/Libertarian coalition for which I would ultimately like to work (and Im not talking just about the political parties here, but also the two worldviews in general) is a coalition of Libertarianward-moving Greens and Greenward-moving Libertarians. That coalition will be able to cooperate effectively on far more than single-issue causes, though it would have to be, at least initially, a much smaller faction or caucus (or, ideally, leaven) within the larger, more narrowly focused Green/Libertarian coalition.
Aeon Skoble runs through some more of the Greens key values and likewise finds them wanting:
Every human being deserves a say in the decisions that affect their lives; no one should be subject to the will of another.
This is self-contradictory. I agree that no one should be subject to the will of another, but thats exactly the objection to democracy, under which we are all subject to the will of another anytime were outnumbered.
Well, yes, but of course democracy is a contested concept, and among radical left-wing proponents of grassroots democracy and participatory democracy it has been a frequently emphasised theme that political democracy as generally practised amounts to the rule of some over others, rather than being an embodiment of self-government. The radical left conception of democracy is, for that reason, precisely not usually majoritarian; after all, minority rights has arguably been the lefts defining issue for the past half-century at least. (Its more often right-wingers, of the Borkist stripe, who are to be found extolling a majoritarian conception of democracy.) Now to be sure, left-wing democratic theorists have not reached agreement on exactly what a non-oppressive form of democracy should look like (will it require consensus? if so, does that mean unanimity? or can that requirement be avoided through decentralisation, letting each subgroup do its own thing? take a look at the history of the New Left for sustained discussion of these issues), but they are certainly asking many of the right questions.
Ive argued previously drawing on Mises, Rothbard, and David Friedman that libertarianism is the best embodiment of the left-wing democratic ideal, so rather than rehearsing those arguments here Ill simply link.
2. Ecological Wisdom
Human societies must operate with the understanding that we are part of nature, not separate from nature. We must maintain an ecological balance and live within the ecological and resource limits of our communities and our planet. We support a sustainable society that utilizes resources in such a way that future generations will benefit and not suffer from the practices of our generation.
Ok, but what are the resource limits? And what is the meaning of sustainable? Thats typically code for regulation and the precautionary principle.
to this end we must have agricultural practices that replenish the soil; move to an energy efficient economy; and live in ways that respect the integrity of natural systems.
Must have here seems to suggest (although I concede it need not) imposed rules.
Aeons objection here seems to be that this wording, while not inherently requiring statist methods, could be, and is indeed likely to be, interpreted by Greens as requiring such methods. Yes, of course. Thats not an objection to my position, it is my position: that Green values dont require statist implementation but are nonetheless thought by most Greens to require statist implementation.
3.Social Justice and Equal Opportunity
All persons should have the rights and opportunity to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment.
As Jason has noted, this economic outcome-egalitarianism is not at all consistent with libertarianism, or even Rawlsian liberalism for that matter, and reveals an underlying assumption that society is the true owner of all resources.
Aeon reads far more precision into this than I think is plausible. I doubt that the the author paused to ponder over the precise shade of difference between the Rawlsian equal opportunity to benefit and the un-Rawlsian right to benefit equally in constructing his or her hybrid phrase merging equality of opportunity with equality of outcome. And since every Green branch gets to word its key values as it chooses (one solution to the democracy problem), pondering the precise wording of this particular formulation as though it were some canonical text isnt very productive. Whats being expressed here is not a rigid rule but a general aspiration, and Ive already said why I think libertarianism in fact fulfills that aspiration.
We must consciously confront in ourselves, our organizations, and society at large, barriers such as racism and class oppression, sexism and heterosexism, ageism and disability, which act to deny fair treatment and equal justice under the law.
I know that this is the move Roderick wants to make about thick-versus-thin libertarianism, and I know that this is a key source of intra-libertarian dispute, even here at L&P. For now, though, lets just note that the way its expressed here is sufficiently vague that we cant tell whether it’s consistent with liberty or not.
I assume that in saying this principle is vague Aeon means that it could be implemented in either libertarian or un-libertarian ways (which of course it can). But I cant see that that makes it vague; it just makes it generic. Because being a mammal is compatible with being either a cat or a horse, does it follow that the term mammal is too vague for us to determine whether being a mammal is compatible with being a cat?
It is essential that we develop effective alternatives to our current patterns of violence at all levels, from the family and the streets, to nations and the world. We will work to demilitarize our society and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, without being naive about the intentions of other governments. We recognize the need for self-defense and the defense of others who are in helpless situations. We promote nonviolent methods to oppose practices and policies with which we disagree, and will guide our actions toward lasting personal, community and global peace.
This doesnt seem too bad, although again the vagueness is worrisome. Does demilitarize our society mean we stop invading other countries, or that the 2nd Amendment can be disregarded? Generic nonviolence positions are worthless if they dont make the moral distinction between aggression and defense.
Aeon writes as though in order to assess this principle we have to determine the original intent of the individual (or, more likely, committee) that drafted it. But I continue to think, with Spooner and Lyons, that what matters for meaning is not authorial intention but rather the intention of the instrument. The nonviolence principle is vague only in the same way that the Constitutions just compensation clause is vague, namely not at all. Once again its simply generic, and the right way of specifying it is not what the authors intended (if indeed all the authors intended the same thing, which is often unlikely) but rather whichever way of specifying it is objectively most defensible.
Centralization of wealth and power contributes to social and economic injustice, environmental destruction, and militarization.
Yes, largely due to the state and the ways in which wealth buys political power. In a radically libertarian society, this would be mitigated, and in any case, this conclusion:
Therefore, we support a restructuring of social, political and economic institutions
is radically inconsistent with liberty;
What? How? Dont libertarians support a restructuring of social, political and economic institutions? Gee, I thought we did!
again, there is the tacit assumption that markets are bad and that society is the proper owner of all resources, which may then be distributed in such a way as to achieve social justice.
away from a system that is controlled by and mostly benefits the powerful few,
Thats an argument against states, not wealth.
If Aeons claim is that most Greens are likely to think that the implementation of this principle requires coercive interference with the free market, then hes not objecting to my position, hes simply restating it, since in my original post I said The Greens ten values are perfectly consistent with libertarianism, though the means chosen to achieve them may not always be. So focusing on the already-agreed fact that Greens sometimes adopt statist means is a red herring. (A Green herring?)
On the other hand, if Aeons claim is that this principle could only have a statist implementation, that no defender of private property could endorse the concerns embodied in this statement, then his own comments seem to show otherwise.
In general, the chief problem with Greens is that often they cant think of any non-statist way of implementing their ideals. It seems rather self-defeating for Libertarians to agree with them about this and say Yeah, we cant think of any non-statist way of implementing your crummy ideals either.
First, as Ive argued, it is precisely in the free market that democratic decision-making and robust respect for rights can be reconciled. Second, nothing in the text entails any distinction between civil rights and property rights.
Decision-making should, as much as possible, remain at the individual and local level, while assuring that civil rights are protected for all citizens.
Well, thats the real trick, isnt it? Reconciling democratic decision-making with robust respect for rights (and here we see some artificial distinction between civil rights and property rights) has always been a tall order, and it only makes matters worse if you also think there should be egalitarian resource distribution.
I’m already lost. All economics is community-based. What theory of economics are we talking about here?
We recognize it is essential to create a vibrant and sustainable economic system, one that can create jobs and provide a decent standard of living, for all people, while maintaining a healthy ecological balance. A successful economic system will offer meaningful work with dignity, while paying a living wage which reflects the real value of a persons work.
Oh, now I see: a Marxist theory.
Oh really? So non-Marxists are necessarily for meaningless work, without dignity, at a nonlivable wage? If Aeon really believes that, hes just given a ringing endorsement of Marxism!
But Im afraid I dont share Aeons apparent enthusiasm for Marxism. I think one can be a libertarian and still favour meaningful work, with dignity, for a living wage. And I would add that the tendency among libertarians to react with knee-jerk aversion to such phrases is a large part of what contributes to the perception on the left that libertarians are cold-hearted shills for the ruling class.
economic development that assures protection of the environment and workers rights, broad citizen participation in planning, and enhancement of our quality of life.
Citizen participation in planning? Thats the market. Unless were talking about command-economy planning.
If Aeon is wondering what the authors of this principle were picturing in their heads when they wrote it, I would reckon that neither the free market nor the command economy was precisely in their minds. Instead I would reckon that they, or most of them, were envisioning some vague amalgamation of New England town meetings and café discussion groups. But Im not interested in what pictures were going through the authors heads. As Aeon says, properly understood theres no conflict between libertarianism and citizen participation in planning. My point exactly.
We support independently owned and operated companies which are socially responsible,
Socially responsible meaning what? Not, I presume, in the Milton Friedman sense.
I should hope not, since I think Friedmans position is indefensible. Even if Friedmans imaginary contracts with shareholders existed, they would not relieve the contracting parties of their moral obligations.
So then they must mean that companies are only permitted if they mesh with the politically correct set of values and outcomes.
How on earth do we suddenly get from we support X to only X is permitted? Not by any rule of inference I know.
Its important not to confuse the following two facts. Theyre both true, but theyre distinct:
(1) Left-wing political programs often propose governmental means for achieving goals that libertarians think should be sought only by nongovernmental means.
(2) Left-wing political programs often set out a wide variety of social goals and ideals to be sought by a variety of means, not confined to governmental means.
When libertarians see a given goal listed in a left-wing political program, they tend to assume that the meaning of this must be that the goal in question is going to be pursued via statist means. Now given (1), this is certainly a possibility; with the left as it (mostly) is, statist means are usually at least on the table. But given (2), the appearance of a goal on the list certainly doesnt entail that it is to be sought via statist means either. When such lists of lefty goals are drawn up, their authors usually dont pause to sort out which are to be sought via legislation and which by education or nonstate organising.
As libertarians we often tend to assume that everyone else is as obsessed as we are with the choice between governmental and nongovernmental means. But for those who are prepared to regard either sort of means as potentially appropriate which, alas, describes the left as it (mostly) is this question is bound to seem less salient. Thus when Aeon asks, concerning this point or the others, does this mean doing this by governmental means or nongovernmental means, the answer usually is that it doesnt mean either one. The leftist is generally open to either sort of means and since the left hasnt absorbed the libertarian understanding of the weaknesses of state provision and the strengths of market provision, the leftist will in practice tend to choose statist means fairly often but the statism isnt essential to the goal.
We have inherited a social system based on male domination of politics and economics. We call for the replacement of the cultural ethics of domination and control, with more cooperative ways of interacting which respect differences of opinion and gender. Human values such as equity between the sexes, interpersonal responsibility, and honesty must be developed with moral conscience. We should remember that the process that determines our decisions and actions is just as important as achieving the outcome we want.
Now if Aeon really thinks that the appearance of a goal on this list automatically entails that it is to be sought by statist means, then he shouldnt say Ok to this. (I suspect on this point Aeon was just thinking oh jeez, I dont want to get into another wrangle with Roderick about feminism; let it pass. ) Anyway, I here repeat my mantra: Is the average Green likely to choose statist means (or a set of means including some statist means) to achieving this goal? Yes. Is statism therefore essential to the concern expressed in this goal? No.
Incidentally, the line the process that determines our decisions and actions is just as important as achieving the outcome we want shows that Greens arent indifferent to questions about means; they just havent yet understood the libertarian case for one particular restriction on means.
8. Respect for Diversity
We believe it is important to value cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual, religious and spiritual diversity, and to promote the development of respectful relationships across these lines.
Sounds good, but lets see where they go with it:
We believe the many diverse elements of society should be reflected in our organizations and decision-making bodies
Ah, so if the society is 37% Minority A, then 37% of all CEOs and surgeons and Senators and college professors must be Minority A?
Well, that sort of rigid formulaic approach is certainly one way of implementing the goal in question. But one can certainly share a commitment to ensuring greater diversity without being committed to that sort of silliness. (Of course if one wants to achieve this goal by state-mandated means, then rigid quotas and so on are the only way to do it. But: repeat mantra here.)
we support the leadership of people who have been traditionally closed out of leadership roles.
I think they mean people from ethnicities other members of which have in the past been closed out of...
I very much doubt that. I dont see any Greens (despite their name!) plumping for greater representation of Irish people on the grounds that the Irish were previously discriminated against in the U.S. Their concern is pretty clearly for groups that are currently disadvantaged, discriminated against, or under-represented.
This is an anti-individualist way of thinking of people.
Why? If a doctor says she wants to help people with cancer, should she be labeled anti-individualist because she referred to a group characteristic? I dont get it. Its oppression and discrimination, not those who combat these things, that apply to individuals as members of certain groups.
We acknowledge and encourage respect for other life forms and the preservation of biodiversity.
While I think Spock was right not to want to kill the Horta, was not the Vampire Cloud also the only one of its kind? Some life forms are a threat to humanity. When respect for biodiversity becomes misanthropic, I draw the line.
I agree. But the passage Aeon is reacting to didnt say respect for other life forms and the preservation of biodiversity must take precedence over all other values including human life. And while some environmentalists would sign on to the latter formulation, the vast majority would not.
9. Personal and Global Responsibility
We encourage individuals to act to improve their personal well being and, at the same time, to enhance ecological balance and social harmony. We seek to join with people and organizations around the world to foster peace, economic justice, and the health of the planet.
Sounds good, but theres that expression economic justice again, which they seem to interpret not in free market terms but in terms of egalitarian redistribution.
Economic justice is of course a contested concept not just contested between libertarians and lefties, but contested within the left itself. On my own view economic justice includes, but is broader than, respect for libertarian rights. (Aristotles distinction between general and special justice is relevant here but getting into that would take a post of its own.) Most Libertarians would confine economic justice to libertarian rights alone, while most Greens would take economic justice to require departure from libertarian rights (sometimes because they build un-libertarian aspects into the concept of justice itself, sometimes because they regard un-libertarian means as necessary to achieve justice, and most often not distinguishing clearly between these two possibilities); I think both are one-sided on this question.
10.Future Focus and SustainabilityOur actions and policies should be motivated by long-term goals. We seek to protect valuable natural resources, safely disposing of or unmaking all waste we create, while developing a sustainable economics that does not depend on continual expansion for survival. We must counter-balance the drive for short-term profits by assuring that economic development, new technologies, and fiscal policies are responsible to future generations who will inherit the results of our actions.
Our policies? Command economy? And how do we assure outcomes as prescribed here?
Aeon writes here as though advocacy of collective action can only mean coercive or state action. But I doubt he can really think this, since he participates in the libertarian movement, which is precisely a group effort to get large groups of people to change their minds about how to behave.
As Charles Johnson and I wrote in our libertarian feminism article, theres a difference between forms of voluntary action that seek to address a question of social coordination through conscious action ... by calling on people to make choices with the intent of addressing the social issue and those in which the intent is some more narrowly economic form of satisfaction, and any effects on social coordination (for good or for ill) are unintended consequences. The latter is clearly market activity, while state legislation is clearly political activity; but the former might be described with either label. In any case, the former has no necessary connection with violence, and nothing in this 10th value says anything about violent means.
Thats 1 out of 10. I fail to see how this platform can even remotely be shoehorned into libertarianism. The author of this platform fundamentally fails to see how markets work, or how liberty is indivisible, or how democratic institutions are in conflict with rights, or what it means for rights to be compossible.
Well, if every time you see a goal listed that could in principle be implemented via statist or nonstatist means, you always interpret it so as to build the choice of statist means into the goal, then of course youre going to get something incompatible with libertarianism. But Im mystified as to why a libertarian would employ such a statist principle of interpretation. It would surely be more productive to use the decentralisation and nonviolence planks as wedges against statist interpretations of the other planks.
If Roderick can convince someone who holds all these views to actually respect individual liberty and not be aggressive, hes the best salesman since Ron Popeil.
Well, thats easy. I hold all those views, I subscribe enthusiastically to all the values on that list, and Im a libertarian. So Ive convinced at least one such person.
But moving beyond the first-person case, I can certainly say this much: I know plenty of people with broadly Green values who were initially hostile to libertarianism because they associated it with the knee-jerk anti-leftism prevalent among the only libertarians theyd encountered; and while they didnt necessarily become libertarians they became much more friendly and open-minded toward libertarianism once they found out about the existence of the flavour of libertarianism I espouse. Click here for an example of the sort of thing that is thankfully becoming more and more common.
In any case, its puzzling for Aeon to put up so much resistance to the combination of Green and Libertarian values when he shares with me an attachment to what might initially seem the still more daunting alliance of Libertarianism with Aristoteleanism.
Anthony Gregory writes:
Greens believe all sorts of things, with anti-conservatism being their main, unifying purpose. The ten core principles appeal to a wide variety of people precisely because they are so vague and even self-contradictory. You get more anarchist-leaning Greens as well as ambitious central planners, and, because of the culture war and obfuscatory left-right divide in American politics, they all get along relatively well with not much more of a common belief than that the Republicans are the root of all evil and the Democrats are not much better.
Some Greens will be open to libertarian arguments and are potential converts. Others are a lost cause.
As usual, I agree with Anthony (except for the part about the ten core principles being self-congradictory).
Gus diZerega writes:
A great many Greens/environmentalists who once were skeptical of market based solutions are much less so now. My own work made a difference for some, including some fairly important ones, or so they have told me.
On the other hand, orthodox libertarians and their allies such as PERC and so-called classical liberals have generally refused to enter into good faith dialogue with Green points of view.
My second example is the utter garbage published on the right about global warming. ... Rather than taking a nuanced view or seeking to find the least coercive approaches to adddressing the problem the general response among classical liberals has been to make ad hominem attacks on scientists' motives. Just as they do with enviromentalists.
Again, amen. On the issue of global warming I remain agnostic because I suspect both sides are taking their positions for the wrong reasons (see here and here), but Im sick of seeing each side malign the other sides honesty.
The common ground libertarians and greens can find will not be found in pushing pure market institutions because such institutions are geared to feedback entirely originated within the relations of consumers and producers, disconnected from natural cycles. But it is a strange definition of freedom that finds it beginning and ending there.
Where there IS common and fruitful ground to explore concerns institutions rooted in civil society, such as land trusts, community based watershed restoration groups, and other voluntary organizations that can make use of but are not subordinated to market price signals.
Here too I agree. Many libertarians will reach for their revolvers at Guss rejection of reliance solely upon pure market institutions, but remember the distinction I cited above between forms of voluntary association that aim at social coordination through conscious action and intent and forms that aim at profit and promote social cooperation only indirectly. There is a broad sense of market in which both these forms count as market forms, and a narrow sense of market in which only the latter does. Guss suggestion that we shouldnt rely solely on pure market institutions neednt be read as an invocation of the state; it need only mean that market approaches of the latter sort need to be supplemented by market approaches of the former sort and that I certainly agree with.
Of course Gus and I have a longstanding disagreement as to whether Madisonian democracy counts as a nasty state (says I) or a benign spontanoeus order (says he), so we would probably disagreement about the implementation of our area of common agreement; but disagreement about implementation doesnt negate the principle.
The real issue to my mind is that Greens are ultimately issue oriented which is why they are willing to entertain market friendly approaches when they hear them expressed in a way showing respect for their concerns whereas most on the classical liberal/free market/PERC side have little sympathy with Green concerns and seek only to make converts to their ideology by weaning them away from taking these issues seriously. Greens are not stupid.
Again, amen. And the point that Greens are ultimately issue oriented goes along with my claim that for most Greens, while statist means may be chosen in pursuit of their goals, statist means are not built into the goals.
Anarcho-capitalism depends on a legal system that relies on enforcing property rights being able to internalize all significant negative externalities. Otherwise some are aggressed upon by the actions of others against which they have no legal recourse.
It can be hard to do this well, but it can be hard for government to do this well too. I dont see why market anarchism is at a disadvantage in this area.
If the seriousness of the impact is what matters, it does not matter whether I am injured by the collective emission of one person with enormous power to pollute, or the collective emissions of millions, perhaps billions, of people each of whom has an insignificant power to pollute, but whom collectively can do real damage. They can also injure not only innocent others, they also can injure themselves. But if, knowing this, any individual stopped emitting CO2 pollution, it would have no impact because every individuals impact is negligible. This is the ultimate free rider problem. ... For the life of me, I can think of no solution to this issue in a anarcho-capitalist world.
Gus seems to assume that no market anarchist order would prosecute people for making tiny, incremental contributions to harmful results. But I dont see why not. Market anarchists disagree with one another as to whether such lawsuits would be legitimate; theres no orthodox or canonical position on this matter. And real-life stateless or near-stateless legal systems have often allowed for class-action suits, or suits on behalf of the public legitimately so, in my opinion. So assuming arguendo that drastic reduction of CO2 emissions is necessary to avoid catastrophic global warming, I dont see why an anarchist legal order couldnt handle the problem as well as government. Better, in fact, since with government theres only one legal agent that the polluter needs to bribe to escape accountability, whereas under anarchy there are prohibitively many.
Democracies are not states, except in a purely legal sense. This is why they do not act like states internationally. Most importantly, democracies do not fight other democracies, nor do they kill large numbers of their own citizens.
Well, democracies do a pretty good job of acting like states in their relations with non-democracies. One reason they dont attack each other as much is that democracies tend to be more prosperous than non-democracies so its riskier to attack one; I think Hoppe is largely right about that. Still, it happens; most of the non-democratic participants in World War I, for example, were in fact largely democratic. Many of the third-world countries in which the U.S. has intervened were also largely democratic, or at least more democratic before the intervention than after. And then of course theres the U. S. Civil War. If you regard the Union and the Confederacy as separate nations, then we have a war between two democracies. If you regard the Confederacy as an unsuccessful aspirant to separate status, then the Union was a democracy that killed large numbers of its own citizens. Also, a democratic regime can vote itself into non-democracy and then kill lots of its own citizens, as in the transition from the Weimar Republic to the Nazi regime. So I remain unconvinced by the democratic peace hypothesis.
Robinson Crusoe didnt need property rights till Friday came along.
Maybe he didnt need them, but that doesnt mean he didnt have them.
But if courts compete, why should both side to a dispute be compelled to agree as to which court they go to? Courts presumably need to dfifferentiate themselves to market their services, and in the differentiation, canny litigants can guess where they will receive a hearing most to their liking. Two canny litigants are therefore unlikely to agree as to which court to consult, especially if one benefits from the status quo. And if they do not agree, doesnt the possible aggressor win by default?
If they are forced to go to a particular court, isnt that the equivalent of a government? ... On what grounds can an accused person be incarcerated when he or she claims innocence, unless it be by the equivalent of government action that is indistinguishable from government?
For example, Murray Rothbards solution to air pollution was either too stringent (ban ALL pollution and thereby closing down industrial society because our bodily boundaries were violated by someones emissions) OR useless (ban only pollution where an individual polluter could be located and sued, making CFCs and auto pollution incapable of being effectively addressed due to prohibitive organizing and information costs.
Rothbards concept of the relevant technological unit (for discussion see B. K. Marcuss piece here) forestalls the first option; I dont see why the costs involved in the second are more prohibitive than in the governmental case, especially given the perverse informational and incentival constraints driving up costs in the latter sphere.
Otto M. Kerner says (to Gus):
[I]t sounds as if you want radical libertarians to moderate their positions. But, this is not the sort of alliance that Im interested in
Maybe Gus does want that, but I dont.
Okay, this is a very long post. Ill stop now.
The Independent carries John Freeman's interesting interview with Mark Kurlansky.
The book" culls the past two millennia, examining moments when non-violence flourished [and] ends with a list of 25 pithy lessons, from 'Practitioners of nonviolence are seen as enemies of the state' to 'A propaganda machine promoting hatred always has a war waiting in the wings.'"
"'Europeans are far more anti-war than Americans,' Kurlansky observes mildly, 'they've had more wars and they really just don't believe in it any more. But Americans do.' It doesn't help that Kurlansky has taken on three of the most sacred 'just wars' in the pantheon of US history: the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and Second World War."
The book"attempts to dismantle the idea of these wars in particular by dismantling the myths - quite powerful in the US still - that keep them sacred. Namely, that the Revolutionary War was cleanly fought and force the only option at the time; that the Civil War was a dispute over slavery; and that America entered the Second World War to stop the Holocaust."
"Against the odds, whether it is in Vietnam or Afghanistan, Kurlansky says that governments conclude force will work where diplomacy has not. To justify their actions, they often lean on religion."
"For all its discussion of the abuse of religion, Non-violence is actually a remarkably sanguine book about faith. Kurlansky goes back to the beginnings of the three major religions and argues that all of them began in the spirit of non-violence."
"From the increasing uneasiness of evangelicals to talk of war, to the continued pressure of Quakers, there are signs that non-violent resistance to the current war in Iraq is growing in the religious communities. It's also being felt by the armed forces."
"The problem with non-violence has always been how to demonstrate it. Looking backwards, the questions are even thornier. Should Palestinians have resisted non-violently in 1948? If so, what does that mean? Kurlansky doesn't have entirely clear answers to these questions. But he points to successes as a reason why it should be considered for the future. 'It takes very little imagination to be violent,' he says, 'but it takes a great deal of imagination to be non-violent.'"
A note for British readers. Next Monday at 9:30 pm Matthew Sweet talks to Mark Kurlansky on BBC Radio 3. And next Tuesday at 7:45 pm Mark Kurlansky discusses his book with A. C. Grayling, author of Among the Dead Cities: Was the Allied Bombing of Civilians in WWII a Necessity or a Crime? at the South Bank's Purcell Room, London SE1 (08703 800 400).
Kenneth R. Gregg
A lot of highly-motivated and principled people have put an incredible amount of hard work and money into getting thousands to voting booths for Libertarian Party (LP) and Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC) candidates when in most, certainly in all non-local, elections, there was no realistic prospect of election. The numbers show it and these friends of liberty should be justly proud of it. There may even be a state-wide candidate or two who received a majority of votes somewhere, although I have yet to hear of any. There will most certainly be a few local offices filled by some open, out-of-the-closet libertarian who will be touted as the latest poster-child for the LP or RLC, allowing them to point and proclaim, "Yes, You See! We've won again!" The totals may be lower, the popularity of the Great Libertarian Elect may not have been noticed as well as the last campaign, but it sure felt good to see that candidate gallop to the victory circle with the flowers, didn't it? I even had a twinge of pride for a moment. A fellow libertarian won! Even if it was only for garbage collector or animal control.
But did we?
It is therefore in a spirit of humility that I am reading Ludwig von Mises' The Theory of Money and Credit. Boldly -- or modestly, I can't decide which -- I plan to ask a series of questions as I go; perhaps some economists out there can enlighten me by answering them. I foresee this as a major blogging project, something that will go on for several weeks as I wend my way through Mises' dense, abstract, idea-rich prose.
I expect that most of the posts in this projected series will be short, simple, and hopefully helpful to other nonspecialists. To the best of my ability, I will include a synopsis of what Mises meant so that even those who have not read the text will be able to understand my questions and hopefully discuss them with me. (I understand, of course, that many of the questions will be the products of my own misunderstanding. I ask that you be kind to me when they are.)
Obviously, I intend the comments to be the most interesting part of the process. All posts in the series will be crossposted at Positive Liberty, but I will repost the most interesting and/or helpful comments at Liberty & Power as well. By commenting, you consent to letting me borrow your words in this way; I will keep attributions and links to the originals.
Archetypically, I'm aiming for twenty questions in twenty posts. The first is below the fold.
In the foreword, Murray Rothbard writes,
[N]eglect of the Cuhel-Mises theory of ordinal marginal utility allowed Western economists, led by Hicks and Allen in the mid-1930s, to throw out marginal utility altogether in favor of the fallacious"indifference curve" approach, now familiar in micro textbooks.
Rothbard, of course, did not use links to Wikipedia. But you get the idea. Here's my question: Why is the indifference curve"fallacious" in light of ordinal marginal utility?
Here is what I presume is a good concise definition of marginal utility, by way of Wikipedia. It seems consonant with Mises' own views, expressed later in TM&C.
In economics, marginal utility is the least urgent use of an object in satisfying a want - in other words, the use that is in the"margin." Marginal utility is subjective, because it depends on each person's wants and tastes. The same object may have different marginal utilities for different people.
For example, let us assume that a person has three wants and the satisfaction of each want each requires one gallon of water, so that satisfying all his wants requires three gallons of water. In descending priority, the most urgent want is to satisfy his thirst, the second most want is to give water to his dog, and his least urgent want is to water his roses. The least urgent use (the marginal utility) of one gallon of water when he has two is therefore to give water to his dog. If he has three gallons of water, then the least urgent use would be to water his roses. The"marginal utility" of any given gallon of water depends on how much water he has.
The concept of marginal utility is said to explain the"diamond-water paradox" most usually associated with Adam Smith. Smith asked, if water is more useful than diamonds, then why does water have a lower market price than diamonds? Marginalists answer that it is not the total usefulness that matters, but the usefulness of each unit of water. It is true that the total utility of water to people is tremendous, because they need to survive. However, since water is in such large supply in the world, the marginal utility of water is low. In other words, each additional unit of water that becomes available can be applied to less urgent uses as more urgent uses for water are satisfied. Therefore, any particular unit of water becomes worth less to people as the supply of water increases.
Unless I miss some subtlety (the curse of the autodidact is always to miss some subtlety), this definition seems adequate. Marginal utility is said to be"ordinal" because, in the context of a given good, it concerns the satisfaction of our most pressing want, followed by our second most pressing want, followed by our third, and so forth. Yet it is not absolute, and it cannot, as Mises argued, be reduced to any abstract unit of satisfaction.
The reasons for this are twofold: We cannot speak of units of satisfaction because satisfaction of want, insofar as it inheres in obtaining a good, comes always in the context of marginal utility. Satisfaction is a moving target, and quantified units of satisfaction have no fixed point to base themselves upon. It's all marginal, and therefore every exchange takes place at a different level of relative satisfactions.
We also cannot speak of units of satisfaction because while our wants are ordinal, there is no psychological method (yet?) of quantifying the difference in satisfaction that one takes between giving water to a dog and giving water to roses. While we may prefer one to the other, any quantity attached to this preference must be the product of our imagination (an ordinal preference, though, is not imaginary, since we can generally order our wants through introspection, and these, by definition, are actually what we want).
Now, here's an explanation of the indifference curve, which I also recall from my microeconomics textbook:
An indifference curve is a graph showing combinations of goods for which a consumer is indifferent, that is, it has no preference for one combination versus another, as they render the same level of satisfaction (or the same amount of utility) for the consumer. Curves are a device to represent preferences and are used in choice theory...
There follows a good deal of mathematical discussion which does not transcribe well into WordPress.
To repeat the question: Why is the indifference curve fallacious? I cannot see, simply by introspection, why such a thing should be fallacious in itself. On the contrary, it seems obvious to me that it is real -- and obvious even to the point of triviality. Nor can I see how the indifference curve stands in conflict with the notion of ordinal marginal utility: It might well be that I do not care about the change in quantity along a curve. One Coke? One Pepsi? Personally, I do not care at all, I can't tell them apart, even on a good day -- so an indifference curve certainly exists here for me. What am I not getting?
One question down, probably about nineteen to go. Stay tuned.
Robert L. Campbell
(1) Policy changes are expected by next semester. According to Teresa Hopkins, a spokesperson for the administration, faculty and students will be consulted before the new policy is put in place.
(2) Gail A. DiSabatino, the Vice-President for Student Affairs, wrote to Andrew Davis, chairman of the Clemson Conservatives, as follows:
I am removing the administrative and censure sanctions placed on Clemson Conservatives and directing the office of student conduct to destroy the file related to the discipline case.
DiSabatino was also the author of the statement that I quoted in my previous post, to the effect that the policy was under review.
So it looks as though the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has been highly effective in getting the Clemson administration to withdraw its"free speech zone" rules.
How Clemson acquired those rules remains to be accounted for. I have some hypotheses in mind, but no data yet with which to test them.
PS. My source for today's news is an article by Matt Wake,"Clemson Conservatives cleared of protest infractions," on the front page of today's Daily Messenger. The Messenger is a tiny newspaper published in Seneca, South Carolina.
"After 1990 many hoped that an age of stable peace might dawn. Rich nations might disarm and combine to help the poor, advancing the cause of global responsibility. Instead two of history's most internationalist states, America and Britain, have returned to the trough of conflict, chasing a chimera of 'world terrorism', and at ludicrous expense. They have brought death and destruction to a part of the globe that posed no strategic threat. Now one of them, Tony Blair, stands in a patch of desert to claim that 'world security in the 21st century' depends on which warlord controls it. Was anything so demented?"
"The Dutch cabinet has backed a proposal by the country's immigration minister [Rita Verdonk] to ban Muslim women from wearing the burqa in public places.
"The burqa, a full body covering that also obscures the face, would be banned by law in the street, and in trains, schools, buses and the law courts.
"The cabinet said burqas disturb public order, citizens and safety."
I’m not inclined to draw inappropriate analogies between contemporary events and the history of Nazi Germany, but I can’t help thinking this is pretty much what Hitler said about the Jews.
"Other forms of face coverings, such as helmets with visors that obscure the face, would also be covered by a legal ban.
"Ms Verdonk insisted the burqa was not an acceptable part of public life in the Netherlands.
"But the minister told the BBC that social interaction would be easier if faces were not covered.
"'It is very important that we can see each other and can communicate with each other. Because we are so tolerant we want to respect each other.'"
UPDATE: According to this article (scroll down), the burqa is outlawed in five Belgian towns, including Antwerp.
FURTHER UPDATE: Naima Bouteldja, a French journalist, explains here how the Dutch have reached a new level of authoritarianism and how across Europe, the campaign against the veil now has an established pattern; and it has nothing to do with integration.
David T. Beito
David T. Beito
The study tested two groups, infrequent cannabis users and regular users of cannabis matched for other factors such as age, gender, alcohol use, and other drug use. They were given both alcohol and placebo then tested on a standard computerized tracking system used to evaluate various drugs effect on driving ability. The participants were required to track a moving target while a variety of distractions appeared on the screen. Both groups performed much better on the placebo as opposed to alcohol.
Conventional wisdom holds that impairment would be increased in the regular users, “but alcohol caused a significant deterioration in performance among infrequent cannabis users relative to regular users.” The investigation concluded: “For psychomotor skills relevant to driving, chronic cannabis use (in the absence of acute administration) does not potentiate the effects of alcohol. In fact, the superior tracking accuracy of regular users relative to infrequent users after alcohol, and their lower scores for dizziness, suggest that chronic cannabis use may instead confer cross-tolerance to specific effects of alcohol on behaviour.”
Secondly, there is work done at Middlesex Polytechnic also looking at the cannabis drinking combination. Both marijuana smokers and nonsmokers were matched for alcohol use and then had their peripheral vision, an essential driving skill, tested. The authors discovered that the “cannabis users were less impaired in peripheral signal detection than non-users while intoxicated by cannabis and/or alcohol” and deduced that the “findings suggest the development of tolerance and cross-tolerance in regular cannabis users and/or the ability to compensate for intoxication effects.”
Cross posted on the Trebach Report
Aeon J. Skoble
David T. Beito
We have given the Iraqis a republic and they do not appear able to keep it.
This is a grim assessment but if anyone is expecting Krauthammer to shoulder part of the blame for his role in this disaster they will be disappointed.
Robert L. Campbell
It turns out that Clemson has been requiring student organizations to limit their demonstrations to a couple of fairly out-of-the-way"free speech zones." I don't know how long the administration has been at it, but the"free speech zones" have been mentioned in Freshman orientation for at least a couple of years.
The policy was kept remarkably quiet till last Friday, when the Clemson Tiger published a long front-page article on the administration's response to a protest by the Clemson Conservatives on October 30.
The Clemson Gay-Straight Alliance was scheduled to meet in Daniel Hall on the Clemson campus on October 30. The purpose of the meeting was to hold a rally against Amendment 1 to the South Carolina constitution, which if enacted would ban same-sex marriage in South Carolina, ban same-sex" civil unions" in South Carolina, and deny legal recognition to same-sex marriages or civil unions that had taken place in other states.
The Clemson Conservatives, who were in favor of Amendement 1, wished to protest against this particular (indoor) rally. They got permission to hold a rally of their own--in a"free speech zone" nowhere near Daniel Hall. They also got permission to put a literature table up near Daniel Hall (but under the university policy for literature tables, their representatives were not allowed to come out from the behind the table). Several of them decided to move their protest to the area in front of Daniel Hall, where they stood with signs and did some arguing with passers-by. (The Tiger Town Observer, an alternative campus newspaper run by the Clemson Conservatives, says that the demonstration was"peaceful." The only photo I have seen shows three members of the group holding posters and two others standing in front of the building without posters. Two members of the Gay-Straight Alliance told me that in their opinion some of the Clemson Conservatives were too close to the front door of Daniel Hall, but neither claimed that they attempted to block the entrance. The President of the Faculty Senate walked right through the protest on the way to her car, and was not hindered in any way.)
The demonstration was videotaped by a Campus Police officer. The Clemson Conservatives were subsequently given a written censure and told that a repeat offense would result in loss of their status as a student organization. Andrew Davis, the chairman of the group, was told that his academic career would be"in jeopardy" if he was involved in another violation of university policy.
The Clemson Conservatives have gotten the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education involved. In the face of an official letter for FIRE, and publicity in the local media, the administration declared Friday afternoon that the relevant university policies were under review.
Questions and concerns have been raised regarding the Clemson University Sales and Solicitation policy. Therefore, the University has begun the process of reviewing and considering revisions to this policy as well as other related policies. During this period of review, Clemson University affiliated individuals or groups may assemble, protest or demonstrate on campus as long as they do not disrupt the normal or previously scheduled activities of the University or University affiliated entities, violate the free speech, assembly or movement of other individuals or organizations, damage property, or create an unsafe situation for any individual, group or organization.
What is most striking about this case isn't the imposition of"free speech zones" --a number of other institutions have become notorious for that, and Clemson was probably late in climbing on the bandwagon--but the manner in which they were imposed. Obviously, the faculty weren't consulted. I doubt that anyone on the Clemson faculty, except a few professors who serve as advisers to political organizations, knew that such policies existed until the article in the Tiger appeared. I still have no idea when the policies were promulgated. Clemson acquired its"free speech zones" by stealth.
Chances are that its manner of getting rid of them will be more public.
Simon Jenkins concludes:
"Bush and Blair are men in a hurry, and such men lose wars. If there is a game plan in Tehran it will be to play Iraq long. Why stop the Great Satan when he is driving himself to hell in a handcart? If London and Washington really want help in this part of the world they must start from diplomatic ground zero. They will have to stop the holier-than-thou name-calling and the pretence that they hold any cards. They will have to realise that this war has lost them all leverage in the region. They can insult and sanction and threaten. But there is nothing left for them to ‘do’ but leave. They are no longer the subject of that mighty verb, only its painful object."
To read his essay, go here.
UPDATE: Here are obituaries from the The Independent and The Times. And here is Samuel Brittan's fine appreciation of Milton Friedman with some especially good stories about him.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
The new Fall 2006 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies has been published. The issue includes essays from contributors such as Steven H. Shmurak, Marc Champagne, Fred Seddon (two from Fred!), Algirdas Degutis, Susan Love Brown, David Graham & Nathan Nobis, Kirsti Minsaas, Greg Nyquist, Gregory M. Browne and Roderick T. Long. And I'm delighted to report that with this issue, Roderick joins the Editorial Board of JARS!
Read more at Notablog.
Charles W. Nuckolls
Why not use lotteries in elections to public office?
The reasons are obvious. All over the world, political parties face the problem of how to nominate candidates democratically. Democracy is less credible if the choices on the electoral ballot are not determined by truly democratic means.
The main mechanism of democratizing nominations, the mass primary, has a long and distinguished history. The primary has the advantage of mass participation, but it also has some limitations. Turnout is often low and unrepresentative.
Citizens who do participate do not always have the time or motivation to become properly informed about candidates' positions or topical issues. People often vote on the basis of name recognition and a superficial impression of sound bites broadcast through the news media.
So what is the alternative? In most countries,parties that do not use the mass primary usually leave the nomination of candidates to party elites. Democratic reformers face an unsatisfactory choice between primaries and elites - between politically equal but relatively uninformed masses, or better-informed but unequal party players.
Is there a way out of this dilemma? Is there a way to include an informed and representative public voice in the nomination process? A solution can be found in the practices of ancient Athens, where hundreds of citizens chosen by lot would regularly deliberate together and make important public decisions.
In ancient Athens, there were citizens' juries and legislative commissions of several hundreds, as well as the Council of 500 that set the agenda for the Agora, the public forum - all chosen by lot. Lottery provided for an equal chance to participate, while deliberation ensured an informed outcome.
Recently, Pasok, the socialist party of Greece, revived this ancient practice after 2,400 years and applied it to the selection of candidates in the municipal elections.
In the Athenian district of Marousi, site of the Athens Olympics, a randomly selected group of 160 citizens gathered to choose from among six candidates. All members of the group were sent briefing materials on 19 issues ranging from traffic and waste disposal to private universities and social services. After 10 hours of deliberation and direct questioning of the candidates, the participants voted by secret ballot; in the second round, Panos Alexandris won a clear majority and was therefore nominated as the Pasok candidate for mayor of Marousi.
This was the first time deliberative polling - a method developed by the Center of Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University - has been used anywhere in the world to select candidates for election. The concept and process was developed and managed by an international group of international experts, allowing academic and political experience to converge for the public good.
This experiment is a way of enhancing democracy at the party and national level. Deliberative polls will be integrated into other party activities also, as part of our efforts to create a more open party that reflects a more open, politically engaged society.
In Athens, where democracy was first developed, we have been drawing on the lessons of our forefathers to give greater legitimacy to modern-day democracy. Unless our politicians are accountable to their electorates, unless our citizens have equal access to accurate and balanced information, unless we take measures to improve public participation in decision-making processes, our democracies will always fall short.