Quotations

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Quotations

All the English were free men and most of them were serfs. All the English were self-governing in counties run by sheriffs appointed by kings, the descendants of foreign conquerors. England alone enjoyed the Common Law, handed down from Sinai by Moses, and dating from 1215 A.D. Secured by the Common Law, all men's property was inviolable, and all of it belonged to the king. The Common Law, also known as Natural Law and God's Law, only restricted conduct which harmed the person or property of another, such as swearing, fornicating, possessing weapons in the royal forests, converting to Judaism, or dreaming that the king had died. There was complete religious freedom, i.e., Roman Catholicism was the state church, attendance at services was compulsory, and heretics were executed. As perfect, as unchangeable as the Common Law always was, it got even better when free and prosperous Englishmen fleeing persecution and poverty brought it to America. They repaired there, as Garrison Keilor quipped, to enjoy less freedom than they had in England.
Bob Black, ""Constitutionalism": The White Man's Ghost Dance"
It may be laid down as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every Citizen who enjoys the protection of a free Government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defence of it, and consequently that the Citizens of America (with a few legal and official exceptions) from 18 to 50 Years of Age should be borne on the Militia Rolls, provided with uniform Arms, and so far accustomed to the use of them, that the Total strength of the Country might be called forth at a Short Notice on any very interesting Emergency[...]
George Washington, "George Washington, Sentiments on a Peace Establishment"
I don't like Narveson's "teutonic" approach (of purporting to build up a logically rigorous philosophical structure from fundamentals) because once the author makes a logical error in the exegesis (and every author I've ever read makes many) everything that follows is suspect... a teetering pillar which can too easily become a monument to folly.
Paul Birch, "A Critique of Narveson's The Libertarian Idea"
Though free market theorists are reluctant to admit it, capitalists are not fond of free markets, since open and fair competition forces them to invest in product development while they cut their prices. Monopoly and the destruction of competition is the ideal condition for the entrepreneur, and he will strive to achieve it unless restrained not by conscience but by an outside agency enforcing “anti-trust” laws.
Ernest Partridge, "A Dim View of Libertarianism, Part VII -- Some Concluding Questions"
The term "libertarianism"is distasteful to people who think seriously about politics. Both Dr. F.A. Hayek and your servant have gone out of their way, from time to time, to declare that they refuse to be tagged with this label.
Russell Kirk, "A Dispassionate Assessment of Libertarians"
Of society's old institutions, they would retain only private property. They seek an abstract Liberty that never has existed in any civilization -- nor, for that matter, among any barbarous people, or any savage. They would sweep away political government; in this, they subscribe to Marx's notion of the withering away of the state .
Russell Kirk, "A Dispassionate Assessment of Libertarians"
The worst enemies of enduring freedom for all may be certain folk who demand incessantly more liberty for themselves. This is true of a country's economy, as of other matters. America's economic success is based upon an old foundation of moral habits, social customs and convictions, much historical experience, and commonsensical political understanding. Our structure of free enterprise owes much to the conservative understanding of property and production expounded by Alexander Hamilton -- the adversary of the libertarians of his day. But our structure of free enterprise owes nothing at all to the destructive concept of liberty that devastated Europe during the era of the French Revolution -- that is, to the ruinous impossible freedom preached by Jean Jacques Rousseau.
Russell Kirk, "A Dispassionate Assessment of Libertarians"
The liberal tradition is about far more than questions of economics, as important as those questions are. Modern liberalism did not start with the New Deal and end with The War on Poverty. What my critics call modern liberalism is instead the logical and sociological outcome of classical liberalism. That is why Adam Smith is a liberal and twentieth century libertarians such as Hayek are not.
Alan Wolfe, "A False Distinction"
In most of economic theory, a job isn't treated as something inherently valuable -- it's just a conduit through which money flows from employer to employee... To most people, the idea that jobs give people dignity and a sense of self-worth seems laughably obvious... But among economists, there remains a relentless unwillingness to consider the importance of dignity and social respect.
Noah Smith, "A Job Is More Than a Paycheck"
I have heard a lot of people who call themselves "libertarians" say and sagely nod at others’ saying that utility derived from satisfying a taste for discrimination is a proper thing to include in a social welfare function—and they are often the same people who are outraged at counting utility from redistribution, envy, or theft.
Brad DeLong, "A Lazy New Year's Eve Morn on Twitter..."
[...] here in America "libertarianism" is a Frankenstein's monster that got its lightning-bolt juice from massive resistance to the Civil Rights Movement. Dismantling the New Deal and rolling back the social insurance state were not ideas that had much potential political-economy juice back in the 1950s and 1960s. But if the economic libertarian cause of dismantling the New Deal could be harnessed to the cause of white supremacy—if one of the key liberties that libertarians were fighting to defend was the liberty to discriminate against and oppress the Negroes—than all of a sudden you could have a political movement that might get somewhere. And so James Buchanan and the other libertarians to the right of Milton Friedman made the freedom to discriminate—or perhaps the power to discriminate?—a key one of the liberties that they were fighting for in their fight against BIG GOVERNMENT. And this has poisoned American libertarianism ever since.
Brad DeLong, "A Lazy New Year's Eve Morn on Twitter..."
I suspect most libertarians will respond that they can use coercion to protect their justly acquired property no matter what other reasonable people think. After all, libertarianism is true and statism is false. But that means that you, libertarian, are prepared to coerce your equal to do what you demand even though she has not agreed and will likely not agree were you to explain your reasoning to her. That is, you are prepared to subordinate your non-libertarian fellows to your will.
Kevin Vallier, "A Libertarian Rehabilitation of Hobbes"
This is why books entitled Economics in One Lesson must evoke from us the advice: 'Go back for the second lesson.'
Paul Samuelson, "A Modern Post-Mortem on Bohm's Capital Theory", Journal of the History of Economic Thought. V. 23, N. 3. 2001.
Far from denouncing coercion, libertarians celebrate it -- provided that it is deployed for the benefit of the possessors of property.
Rob Hunter, "A Philosophy for the Propertied"
Libertarianism’s veneer of rational detachment cannot conceal its reactionary results: an expanded sphere of private domination, facilitated by a contracting sphere of public authority and public oversight.
Rob Hunter, "A Philosophy for the Propertied"
If, say, Google Cayman Islands were to start GoogleCoin, and announce that it would always stand ready to buy back GoogleCoins at a fixed real value, it could make a (small) fortune and, I think, eliminate BitCoin’s business in a month…
Brad DeLong, "A Pick-Up Mini Internet Symposium: **More Than** Five Posts on BitCoin Triggered by a Question from Adrienne Jeffries of The Verge…"
Globalization’s cheerleaders do considerable damage to their cause by framing the issue as a stark choice between existing trade arrangements and the persistence of global poverty[...] In fact, the most phenomenal export-oriented growth experiences to date -- Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China -- all occurred when import tariffs in the US and Europe were at moderate levels, and higher than where they are today[...] Progressives should not buy into a false and counter-productive narrative that sets the interests of the global poor against the interests of rich countries’ lower and middle classes. With sufficient institutional imagination, the global trade regime can be reformed to the benefit of both.
Dani Rodrik, "A Progressive Logic of Trade"
But it’s also true that much of the elite defense of globalization is basically dishonest: false claims of inevitability, scare tactics (protectionism causes depressions!), vastly exaggerated claims for the benefits of trade liberalization and the costs of protection, hand-waving away the large distributional effects that are what standard models actually predict[...]Furthermore, as Mark Kleiman sagely observes, the conventional case for trade liberalization relies on the assertion that the government could redistribute income to ensure that everyone wins — but we now have an ideology utterly opposed to such redistribution in full control of one party[....]
Paul Krugman, "A Protectionist Moment?"
Our property is nothing but those goods, whose constant possession is established by the laws of society; that is, by the laws of justice.
David Hume, "A Treatise of Human Nature". (T III.2.2)
Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.
David Hume, "A Treatise of Human Nature". (T II.3.3 415)
It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.
David Hume, "A Treatise of Human Nature". (T II.3.3)
Security of property! Behold, in a few words, the definition of English liberty. And to this selfish principle every nobler one is sacrificed... But softly -- it is only the property of the rich that is secure; the man who lives by the sweat of his brow has no asylum from oppression...
Mary Wollstonecraft, "A Vindication of the Rights of Men", 1790.
The great demon of libertarianism -- environmentalism -- is actually about making sure that our collective property (Earth) is pleasant and habitable enough that you would want to own your own slice of it. The value of your home or land is increased if everyone sticks together to keep the world a clean, habitable place.
Amanda Marcotte, "A small round of applause for decent Time Magazine writing"
Without coming out and saying it, it’s easy to see how libertarianism, despite all the heavy-handed rhetoric about freedom, is fundamentally a right wing authoritarian philosophy... Getting the government out isn’t about rejecting authority, but making individuals of the proper sex (male), proper race (white), and proper socio-economic status (property owners and independent businessmen) the ruling classes of a series of small societies.
Amanda Marcotte, "A small round of applause for decent Time Magazine writing"
Slapping a few admirable ideas about legalizing vice crimes on top of a larger philosophy that’s about restoring “local” control—i.e. making it easier for white men to directly oppress everyone else in their community without interference—doesn’t make them pro-freedom. It just makes the cover story sound better.
Amanda Marcotte, "A small round of applause for decent Time Magazine writing"
There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man did not make the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue.
Thomas Paine, "Agrarian Justice"
Land, as before said, is the free gift of the Creator in common to the human race. Personal property is the effect of society; and it is as impossible for an individual to acquire personal property without the aid of society, as it is for him to make land originally.
Thomas Paine, "Agrarian Justice"
Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a continent to possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases, that where the former do not exist the latter cannot be obtained. All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man’s own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.
Thomas Paine, "Agrarian Justice"
If a minister, known for his piety, should declare that in his opinion a certain man was an unbeliever, the man’s career would almost certainly be broken. Another example: A doctor is skilful, but has no faith in the Christian religion. However, thanks to his abilities, he obtains a fine practice. No sooner is he introduced into the house than a zealous Christian, a minister or someone else, comes to see the father of the house and says: look out for this man. He will perhaps cure your children, but he will seduce your daughters, or your wife, he is an unbeliever. There, on the other hand, is Mr. So-and-So. As good a doctor as this man, he is at the same time religious. Believe me, trust the health of your family to him. Such counsel is almost always followed.
Alexis de Tocqueville
The absurdity of public-choice theory is captured by Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen in the following little scenario: "Can you direct me to the railway station?" asks the stranger. "Certainly," says the local, pointing in the opposite direction, towards the post office, "and would you post this letter for me on your way?" "Certainly," says the stranger, resolving to open it to see if it contains anything worth stealing.
Linda McQuaig, "All You Can Eat"
There are substantial parts of ordinary human activity that don't make sense if we think of rationality as egoistic maximization of utility. Collective action, group mobilization, religious sacrifice, telling the truth, and working to the fullest extent of one's capabilities are all examples of activity where narrow egoistic rationality would dictate different choices than those ordinary individuals are observed to make. And yet ordinary individuals are not irrational when they behave this way. Rather, they are reflective and deliberative, and they have reasons for their actions. So the theory of rationality needs to have a way of representing this non-egoistic reasonableness.
Daniel Little, "Amartya Sen's commitments"
There are no rich countries with small governments -- governments that spend and regulate little, governments that eschew public investment and keep the public sector’s reach to a minimum. (Okay, there are a few that are sitting on huge pools of oil.) A big government isn’t a guarantee of prosperity, but where we find prosperity, we find big government, too.
Jacob Hacker, "American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper"
There were some -- Frédéric Bastiat and Jean-Baptiste Say come to mind -- who believed that government should put the unemployed to work building infrastructure when markets or production were temporarily disrupted.
Brad DeLong, "American Conservatism’s Crisis of Ideas"
[...] the counter-mercantilist pattern imposed by Marshall's unusual Pax Americana favored transferring low level, labor intensive industries (e.g. textiles) en masse to poor regions around the globe in a cascade sequence that uplifted, successively, Germany and Japan, then Korea and Taiwan, then Malaysia and Singapore and so on, until right now this program of "foreign aid via WalMart" is raising up more than a billion people in China and India at the same time.
David Brin, "American Exceptionalism... versus what has made America exceptional"
People who think "free markets" work in healthcare or the Internet are just as functionally stupid about economics as the most hardline Communist who thinks that the government should exercise full control of the toothpaste market. Most of the world understands by now that the second guy is a dangerous fool. But we're at a weird point in history where the first guy undeservedly has more credibility. He shouldn't--and he won't for long.
David Atkins, "Americans: we love paying more for less"
Anarcho-capitalist, as far as I’m aware, have yet to answer exactly what a landowner is if not a de facto state. A state is defined over a particular territory, and (theoretically) has control over what happens in that territory. Ownership is also defined as having control over an object; in the case of land, this quite clearly leads to each land owner effectively being a sovereign state, however small. [...] any response that centered on how landowners would be competitively inclined to do Good Things could equally be applied to states, so would be an exercise in special pleading.
UnlearningEcon, "An FAQ for Libertarians"
Nozick suggests that if everybody at a basketball game volunteered to pay Wilt Chamberlain a small amount of money, the end result would be a vastly unequal income distribution, but since everybody had donated ‘voluntarily,’ there would be no problem regarding the justness of the outcome. But while it is true that everybody at the basketball volunteered to donate their own money, it is not true that they agreed to anyone else donating money, and it is certainly not true that they all agreed to everyone collectively donating a fortune. The principle is actually based on a subtle switch from individually voluntary choices to collectively voluntary ones, one which doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
UnlearningEcon, "An FAQ for Libertarians"
[...] public choice theory is simply refuted by the evidence, something that people do not note nearly often enough. Political scientists have known – and empirically confirmed – that voters and politicians mostly act in what they perceive to be the public interest, rather than for selfish gains. This isn’t to say that there is no truth to public choice theory, but evidence suggests it is more appropriate to model politicians and voters as public servants who are buffeted by special interest than as selfish maximisers who occasionally stumble upon a beneficial policy. The result is that democracy is far more effective a tool for translating collective interests into policy than libertarians might suggest.
UnlearningEcon, "An FAQ for Libertarians"
Saying ‘governments can’t create wealth’ is a sweeping, largely vacuous statement based on a superficial zero sum view of taxation as being ‘extracted’ from the private sector. In fact, taxation is just one prong of a symbiotic relationship that exists between the private and public sectors. If we take the definition of wealth as the creation of valuable resources, it’s clear that, say, teaching and infrastructure ‘create wealth.’ We’ve already seen just how large a source of wealth the government can be through its funding of research and development. Furthermore, many state-backed institutions are historically a prerequisite for substantial wealth creation to take place at all.
UnlearningEcon, "An FAQ for Libertarians"
How is property given? By restraining liberty; that is, by taking it away so far as is necessary for the purpose. How is your house made yours? By debarring every one else from the liberty of entering it without your leave.
Jeremy Bentham, "Anarchical Fallacies"
Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense -- nonsense upon stilts. [...] Right, the substantive right, is the child of law; from real laws come real rights; from imaginary laws, from laws of nature, fancied and invented by poets, rhetoricians, and dealers in moral and intellectual poisons, come imaginary rights, a bastard brood of monsters....
Jeremy Bentham, "Anarchical Fallacies"
Friedman ignores all the non-propertarian elements of that society such as common lands (the almennin), communal self-government (the things), a compulsory welfare system (the hreppr) and such like (as discussed here). It survived because it was relatively egalitarian (something which Rothbard proclaimed as being “a revolt against nature”). As wealth inequalities increased, so did social conflict and the rise of lords.
Anarcho, comment on Libertarianism, Property Rights and Self-Ownership
Since many of the people who take a similar position [libertarianism] are narrow and rigid, and filled, paradoxically, with resentment at other freer ways of being, my now having natural responses which fit the theory puts me in some bad company.
Robert Nozick, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia"
It will be implausible to view improving an object as giving full ownership to it, if the stock of unowned objects that might be improved is limited. For an object’s coming under one person's ownership changes the situation of all others. Whereas previous they were at liberty (in Hohfeld’s sense) to use the object, they now no longer are.
Robert Nozick, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia"
If I own a can of tomato juice and spill it in the sea so that its molecules (made radioactive, so I can check this) mingle evenly throughout the sea, do I thereby come to own the sea, or have I foolishly dissipated my tomato juice?
Robert Nozick, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia"
Bitcoin is Beanie Babies for Libertarian Nerds
Anonymous
My contacts with Libertarians always leave me with a certain amount of contempt for their philosophies, which all seem to rely on the assumption that, if you can string together enough vague and high-sounding rhetoric, you can ignore both (1) all of human history and (2) what everyone else on earth now wants.
Anonymous
Those who forget history are doomed to become anarcho-capitalists.
Lurgi (pseudonym), "Anything private enterprise can do, government should be able to do too."
... the entire modern American libertarian movement -- in principle, advocating a broad range of freedoms, but in practice focusing almost entirely on freedom from taxation and regulation. This is a shame. There are many more kinds of freedom than the narrow set embraced by the modern libertarian movement.
Noah Smith, "Are libertarians ready to embrace a broader notion of freedom?"
Propertarians hate freedom. They like private tyrannies.
Robert Vienneau, comment at "Are libertarians ready to embrace a broader notion of freedom?"
All Property, indeed, except the Savage's temporary Cabin, his Bow, his Matchcoat, and other little Acquisitions, absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the Creature of public Convention. Hence the Public has the Right of Regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the Quantity and the Uses of it. All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it.
Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin to Robert Morris, 25 Dec. 1783
Private Property therefore is a Creature of Society, and is subject to the Calls of that Society, whenever its Necessities shall require it, even to its last Farthing; its Contributions therefore to the public Exigencies are not to be considered as conferring a Benefit on the Publick, entitling the Contributors to the Distinctions of Honour and Power, but as the Return of an Obligation previously received, or the Payment of a just Debt.
Benjamin Franklin, Queries and Remarks respecting Alterations in the Constitution of Pennsylvania, 1789
Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.
Bertrand Russell, Sceptical Essays (1928), Chapter 13
It is really very satisfying to see the same idiots who call Social security a ponzi scheme lose thousands of dollars in an actual ponzi scheme. [bitcoin]
Righteousbros (pseudonym)
[...] Bleeding Heart Libertarians (BHL) -- a group of free-market apologists who have built a brand out of applying lipstick to the libertarian pig.
Jonah Walters, "Bleeding Heart Bullshit"
The fact is that the foundations of standard microeconomic models envisage people as hedonistic sociopaths, and theorists prevent mayhem from breaking out in their models by the simple expedient of ignoring the possibility[...] Arrow, Debreu and co. rule out by hypothesis any interaction between agents other than impersonal market exchange, but the specification of the agents shows that they'd have no objection to pillage, or any preference for obtaining their consumption basket by peaceful truck, barter and commerce rather than fire, sword and fear.
Cosma Shalizi, "Brad DeLong Makes a Wishful Mistake"
[...] the central analytical failure of libertarianism as a worldview: a total and disqualifying inability to measure or account for power as it exists in the real world.
Freddie deBoer, "Brief insights into the libertarian mind"
It's interesting how libertarians believe that racism can get enough public support to win a local election, but somehow not enough to maintain a local restaurant.
LRonPaul2012 (pseudonym), in comments of "Capitalism defeats racism. Government maintains it."
Right. If your slave gets sick, then it's in your financial self-interest to hire a doctor to protect your investment. But if your wage employee gets sick, you can leave him to die and hire someone else. Apparently libertarians oppose slavery because it was too humane.
LRonPaul2012 (pseudonym), in comments of "Capitalism defeats racism. Government maintains it."
They only call it class warfare when we fight back.
A popular bumper sticker.
"What was the worst libertarian outcome?" The Irish Potato Famine. Medieval Feudalism. That’s why libertarianism hasn’t been taken seriously. It’s not that it has been tried and only found to need a few adjustments at the edges. It’s that no one wants to live like that unless, of course, they’re the one who just happens to the wealthy person in the scenario, in the same way that everyone fantasizes that living in a monarchy would be great because they envision themselves as being part of the royalty.
'Tyro', "Comments at Matt Yglesias' "What Is Libertarianism?""
See, Cato Institute types that have huge blindspots when it comes to things such as the limited liability corporation (a creation of government), “intellectual property” (ditto), absentee land ownership (impossible without government enforcement), the range of voluntary exchange and cooperation (they assume that it begins and ends with for-profit business) and labor (they seem to think only one side of the labor/capital equation can organize for its self-interest) are wonderful for right-wingers to point at when they need a wonkish sounding justification for the status quo.
'b-psycho', "Comments at Matt Yglesias' "What Is Libertarianism?""
Libertarianism is not an intellectual movement, it is a cultural movement. Libertarianism is essentially: individualism, good; property, good; commerce, good; government, bad. It’s a historically/sociologically related set of sentiments.
Keith Ellis, "Comments at Matt Yglesias' "What Is Libertarianism?""
A more accurate version of libertarian theory is that it is based upon an idiosyncratic view of inherent (and arguably metaphysical) individual human rights that is strongly oriented to property rights and is extremely American in historical origin and flavor. Sitting atop this view of individual rights—which itself is sufficient and requires no utilitarian elaboration—is a whole bunch of utilitarian justification for a libertarian sociopolitical organization built around the notions that said organization results in the greatest overall material and psychological benefit. This theoretical basis has three great weaknesses: first, the notion of inherent individual rights is eminently contestable. Second, the almost exclusive emphasis on individual property rights is idiosyncratic and myopic. Third, the utilitarian arguments for the benefits of the resulting sociopolitical organization are extraordinarily simplistic and are as often as not disproved by empirical fact. In practice, libertarianism is a political philosophy which emphasizes the notion of virtue in selfishness and has as its historical genesis the exceptional American experience. As such, it appeals mostly to white American males who are moderately above-average in intelligence, economically secure, independently-minded, and prefer simplistic theoretical constructs for making political and moral decisions. It validates their own affluence/privilege not by group affiliation, but by inherent individual merit; and it likewise superficially validates the poverty and lack of privilege of others not on the basis of group affiliation, but inherent fault. In this it mimics a meritocratic view, which allows the libertarian to congratulate himself on his lack of bigotry; but, in fact, it is a facade behind which his true bigotry hides. In my opinion, sociologically it functions the same way that class-based theories of self-justifying privilege have functioned outside the US. It appropriates the American ideal of egalitarianism—indeed, that egalitarianism is so deeply buried in the American psyche is exactly the reason why libertarianism, and not a class-based theory of privilege, is dominant—as an integral portion of its self-rationalization of privilege. And, of course, it appropriates the American notion of individual human rights for the same purposes and then builds from this a theory that argues that the accumulation of wealth through commerce is the ultimate expression of human nature. It is the apotheosis of middle-class merchant political philosophy. It is, therefore, aggressively and without self-awareness deeply middlebrow and so very, very American in all the worst senses.
Keith Ellis, "Comments at Matt Yglesias' "What Is Libertarianism?""
BTW, libertarianism and Objecvtivism deeply intersect because they are two sides of a brightly-colored cereal box (with a prize inside!): epistemology on one side, political philosophy on the other. They’re intellectualism for bright twelve year-olds.
Keith Ellis, "Comments at Matt Yglesias' "What Is Libertarianism?""
The problem with libertarianism is that they tend to conflate liberty with possession of property. This made sense 200 years ago, when owning a small farm or business meant that you were secure in the means of your livelihood. This enabled you to be yourself. Longfellow’s village smithy, standing tall under the spreading chestnut tree, looking every man in the eye because he owes not a cent to any one, exemplifies this ideal. ( Contrast this with today’s world, where employer’s conduct drug tests; creditors demand credit reports, and everyone generally must be yes-man to the boss and conform to the PC opinion. ) This doctrine was encapsuled in Locke’s “Life, Liberty, and Property. However, due to economic shifts since then, owning property does not mean you therefore are secure in the means to your livelihood. Indeed, large property holders such as medical insurers are very much in the business of interfering with others’ means to their livelihood. This means that libertarianism now is, in practice, a misguided and often cranky ideal.
Duncan Kinder, "Comments at Matt Yglesias' "What Is Libertarianism?""
My summation: free-markets, free love, and the underpants gnomes will take care of the poor.
'David', "Comments at Matt Yglesias' "What Is Libertarianism?""
Most libertarians have benefited enormously from the modern liberal democracy and it’s institutions, but it hurts their pride too much to admit that to themselves. Their program is not only to pull the ladder up behind themselves, but to deny that the ladder ever existed in the first place. The true philosophy of most libertarians is that they should be the last people ever to benefit from the institutions of modern government, now that it’s time for them to chip in a few coins to help the next generation along.
'Craig', "Comments at Matt Yglesias' "What Is Libertarianism?""
Libertarians believe that the universe ought to reward and promote individual liberty and property rights as a first principle. The fact that it does no such thing changes nothing.
'Christopher', "Comments at Matt Yglesias' "What Is Libertarianism?""
The supposed intellectual underpinnings of libertarianism are ex post facto rationalizations of a cultural ethos that is in every sense, pure Americana.
Keith Ellis, "Comments at Matt Yglesias' "What Is Libertarianism?""
The “liberal” solution to the depredations of the wealthy and powerful is to seek redress through the law and the government. The libertarian will argue that the wealthy and powerful will just twist the law and government to their own ends. Maybe so, but the libertarian then doesn’t offer any solution to how to maintain human freedoms that the liberal offers.
'Tyro', "Comments at Matt Yglesias' "What Is Libertarianism?""
People have, and will, construct elaborate intellectual edifies rationalizing their favored political philosophy but, in practice, the larger group of people who hold that philosophy will adopt beliefs and positions largely independent of that rationalization and, more to the point, they will be quite often inconsistent beliefs and positions. Coherent theory has utility at some rarified level where the intellectuals and the powerful intersect—occasionally at pivotal moments—but, generally, comprehension of the politics of the matter is more greatly limited by ignorance of the sociological context of the political philosophy than by its theory. Those who write and talk about libertarianism (as distinct, I think, from those who merely adopt libertarianism as a felicitous set of political beliefs) are the type of people who have a great fondness for simplifying abstract theory and naturally expect the world to conform to it. In this they are quite like, say, Marxists. I am not like this. I have a great love for, and facility with, theory of all kinds but I see the world as a messy, complex place with theory as only the best approximation for something we probably don’t understand very well, anyway.
Keith Ellis, "Comments at Matt Yglesias' "What Is Libertarianism?""
More to the point, the Randians/Paulites and the vast number of people who casually call themselves “libertarians” form almost the totality of libertarianism -- Cowan’s utilitarian academic economist version, or Chomsky’s s-called “Left-Libertarianism”, or any number of idiosyncratic micro political philosophies which self-identify as libertarian or libertarian influenced are, well, inconsequential.
Keith Ellis, "Comments at Matt Yglesias' "What Is Libertarianism?""
[A blind spot]... a simply weird refusal to acknowledge the huge role played by money and monetary incentives promoting bad ideas.
Paul Krugman, "Conservative Intellectuals: Follow the Money"
Patriarchal control of women is found in at least three paradigmatic contemporary contracts: the marriage contract, the prostitution contract, and the contract for surrogate motherhood. Each of these contracts is concerned with men's control of women, or a particular man’s control of a particular woman generalized. According to the terms of the marriage contract, in most states in the U.S., a husband is accorded the right to sexual access, prohibiting the legal category of marital rape. Prostitution is a case in point of Pateman’s claim that modern patriarchy requires equal access by men to women, in particular sexual access, access to their bodies. And surrogate motherhood can be understood as more of the same, although in terms of access to women’s reproductive capacities. All these examples demonstrate that contract is the means by which women are dominated and controlled. Contract is not the path to freedom and equality. Rather, it is one means, perhaps the most fundamental means, by which patriarchy is upheld.
Celeste Friend, "Contemporary Critiques of Social Contract Theory"
The state needn't punish men and women for their heresies; the private sector will do it for them. That's why during the McCarthy years so few people went to jail. Two hundred tops. Because it was in the workplace that Torquemada found his territory: some twenty to forty percent of employees, monitored, investigated, or otherwise subject to surveillance for their beliefs. The ruling elites in this country have always understood what Hamilton wrote in Federalist 79: "In the general course of human nature, a power over a man's subsistence amounts to a power over his will."
Corey Robin, "The Personnel is Political"
Normally, conservatives extol the magic of markets and the adaptability of the private sector, which is supposedly able to transcend with ease any constraints posed by, say, limited supplies of natural resources. But as soon as anyone proposes adding a few limits to reflect environmental issues -- such as a cap on carbon emissions -- those all-capable corporations supposedly lose any ability to cope with change.
Paul Krugman, "Crazy Climate Economics"
Justice = Profit.jpg
Don McLenaghen, "Cultural norms is no excuse for sexism"
Thus despite, for example, the dogmatic insistence on “spontaneous order” as the exclusive result of market-based transactions -- transactions that in core neoliberal dogma are said to be the only permissible form of social planning -- the social policies pursued by the MPS [Mont Pelerin Society] and its outer shells [libertarianism, classical liberalism, etc.] are often exquisitely planned, anything but spontaneous, and have nothing to do with any market.
David Golumbia, "Cyberlibertarianism: The Extremist Foundations of ‘Digital Freedom’"
Neoliberals in the innermost shell (like the Koch brothers) use libertarians at farther removes (like the Tea Party) not always to realize their agenda directly, but to push political discourse to the hard right.
David Golumbia, "Cyberlibertarians’ Digital Deletion of the Left"
People seem to be faintly drawn to the idea that there might be more political dimensions than just "left" and "right". Bullshit. Being in favour of allowing other people to take drugs, shag each other or read what they want isn't a political position; it's what we call "manners", "civilisation" or "humanity", depending on the calibre of yokel you're trying to educate. The political question of interest splits fair and square down a Left/Right axis: either you think that it is more important to provide a decent life for everyone in the world, or you think it is more important to preserve the rights of people who own property. You can hum and haw as much as you like about whether the two are necessarily incompatible, or whether the one is instrumental to the other, or what constitutes a "decent life" anyway, but when you've finished humming and hawing, I'm still gonna be asking you the question, and your answer to it will determine whether or not we're gonna have an argument.
Daniel Davies, http://d-squareddigest.blogspot.com, December 31, 2002
But at base, the test of someone's politics is simple; if their political aim is to advance all of humanity, they're on our side, while if they have an overriding constraint that the current owners of property must always be satisfied first, they're playing for the opposition.
Daniel Davies, D-Squared Digest, May 21, 2003
On Hayek… in my view, there are four Hayeks, one good, and three of varying degrees of badness:
  1. The good Hayek of the price system as a discovery and information transmission mechanism, of the importance of entrepreneurship, and of private property and the rechstaat as guarantees of individual liberty.
  2. The bad Hayek who prefers Augusto Pinochet to Helmut Schmidt.
  3. The worse Hayek who had his head completely up his posterior on economic policy during the Great Depression.
  4. The worst-of-all Hayek. The one who when Keynes praises the Road to Serfdom and pronounces himself in "not just agreement, but deeply moved agreement with it" responds "no you are not!"
    Brad DeLong, "Daniel Kuehn: Maynard, Fred, Gus and Ralph on the History of Macroeconomics".
Ideology is not so much a way of seeing the world as it is a set of blinders designed to keep you going in the ‘right’ direction, even when you would normally bolt and run the other way from horror at the sight of the place your faceless rider, Ideology, is taking you.
Daniel Larison, "If History Is For Us, Who Then Is Against Us?"
Libertarianism is supposed to be all about principles, but what it’s really about is political expedience. It’s basically a corporate front, masked as a philosophy.
Thomas Frank in Jane Mayer, "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right" pg. 123.
Clayton Coppin, who taught history at George Mason and compiled the confidential study of Charles’s political activities for Bill Koch, describes Mercatus outright in his report as “ a lobbying group disguised as a disinterested academic program.”
Jane Mayer, "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right" pg. 150.
The funny thing is that whenever sensible policies produce episodes of full employment, as in the late 1990s, the long postwar boom, or the World War II economy, the supposedly feckless poor get decent jobs and their incomes go up.
Robert Kuttner, "David Brooks's Worst Column Ever"
There may be two libertarians somewhere who agree with each other about everything, but I am not one of them.
David Friedman
We are not, in any way, “men who owe no obligation to one another”. Our entire social system is founded on obligation and interconnectedness. This was likely true even in Smith’s time, but his genius was to have hidden it from view and in doing so to construct the founding myth of liberal individualism as it exists in modern times.
Philip Pilkington, "Debt and the Decay of the Myth of Liberal Individualism"
One cannot overstate the childishness of the ideas that feed and stir the masses. Real ideas must as a rule be simplified to the level of a child's understanding if they are to arouse the masses to historic actions. A childish illusion, fixed in the minds of all children born in a certain decade and hammered home for four years, can easily reappear as a deadly serious political ideology twenty years later.
Sebastian Haffner, "Defying Hitler: A Memoir", pg. 17.
John Stuart Mill spoke eloquently of liberty, but when it came down to it, he believed that some people are "more or less unfit for liberty" even if they "prefer a free government," and are incapable and undeserving of one due to their "indolence, or carelessness, or cowardice." Mill said that in the case of those people, "a civilized government... will require to be in a considerable degree despotic [and impose] a great amount of forcible restraint upon their actions." Mill deemed some "unfit for more than a limited and qualified freedom," giving as an example "the Hindoos, [who] will perjure themselves to screen the man who has robbed them." Probably best not to give much credence to Mill, then, on the subject of when to withhold democracy.
Nathan Robinson, "Democracy: Probably a Good Thing"
The actual case Brennan advances [in Against Democracy] can be devastated rather quickly, since it suffers from a central logical flaw that renders the whole core argument worthless. Brennan makes his case against democracy by pointing out all the ways in which people are stupid and fail to govern themselves well. Then, he makes the case for epistocracy by thinking through how smart people might make better decisions. All of this is very persuasive, until we remember that he is comparing “democracy as it actually exists” with “epistocracy as an abstract theory.” By comparing real democracy to hypothetical epistocracy (instead of epistocracy as it would actually be implemented), Brennan’s book doesn’t address a single one of the important questions around restricted suffrage: in practice, wouldn’t voting tests probably be used (as they have for their entire history) to disenfranchise the socially powerless? Wouldn’t such a system inevitably be abused, and wouldn’t “knowledge” just become a stand-in for “things powerful people believe”? (Brennan admits that wealthy white men will probably be considered the most “knowledgable,” but does not appear to have a problem with this.) By presenting democracy with all its warts, but giving no thought to how “epistocracies” work in practice, Brennan avoids confronting the difficult fact that his preferred system of government, if adopted, will almost certainly reinstate Jim Crow. Thus Brennan’s book is ultimately morally disgusting, since it amounts to a manifesto in favor of seizing a right from African Americans that took them centuries of bloodshed to win.
Nathan Robinson, "Democracy: Probably a Good Thing"
The actual case Brennan advances can be devastated rather quickly, since it suffers from a central logical flaw that renders the whole core argument worthless... By presenting democracy with all its warts, but giving no thought to how “epistocracies” work in practice, Brennan avoids confronting the difficult fact that his preferred system of government, if adopted, will almost certainly reinstate Jim Crow... But at least Brennan is honest in exposing the libertarian project as fundamentally opposed to the basic rights of human beings, its grand paeans to liberty being thin cover for taking the vote away from poor people.
Nathan Robinson, "Democracy: Probably a Good Thing"
Libertarians always insist that they are defending a philosophy of freedom, but what they are in fact defending is the freedom of a few to maintain their status privileges. The rest of us, without money or votes, always tend to remain distinctly unfree.
Nathan Robinson, "Democracy: Probably a Good Thing"
But at least Brennan [in Against Democracy] is honest in exposing the libertarian project as fundamentally opposed to the basic rights of human beings, its grand paeans to liberty being thin cover for taking the vote away from poor people.
Nathan Robinson, "Democracy: Probably a Good Thing"
Jason Brennan’s Against Democracy makes the most spirited and comprehensive attempt at a philosophically coherent justification of despotic rule. Brennan’s book also offers a useful insight into libertarianism: Against Democracy is a good illustration of how supposedly “libertarian” philosophy is often just a defense of oligarchy. Libertarians always insist that they are defending a philosophy of freedom, but what they are in fact defending is the freedom of a few to maintain their status privileges. The rest of us, without money or votes, always tend to remain distinctly unfree.
Nathan Robinson, "Democracy: Probably a Good Thing"
In a covenant...among proprietor and community tenants for the purpose of protecting their private property, no such thing as a right to free (unlimited) speech exists, not even to unlimited speech on one’s own tenant-property. One may say innumerable things and promote almost any idea under the sun, but naturally no one is permitted to advocate ideas contrary to the very covenant of preserving and protecting private property, such as democracy and communism. There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and removed from society.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe, "Democracy - The God That Failed" p. 218.
In primitive societies, people can accumulate only as much stuff as they can physically gather and hold on to. It's only in "advanced" societies that the state provides the means to socioeconomic domination by a tiny minority. "The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other," the writer John Berger said about the 20th century, though he might equally have said it of this one: "It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich."
Amia Srinivasan, "Dependents of the State"
They tried that back in the day. We got a lot of wonderful Charles Dickens novels out of it.
Katamariguy (pseudonym), "Did you notice the the people who seem to believe in the efficiency of voluntary charity alone to the needy tend to be the ones who don't need it by themselves?"
Over the past two and a half decades, the poor in privatized urban schools have been successfully harnessed to the delivery of reliable profits to investors and munificent salaries to executives.
Alex Molnar, "Dismantling Public Education: Turning Ideology into Gold"
"Let the Market Decide" Always Means "Let Rich People Decide."
Dale Carrico, "Dispatches from Libertopia: An Anthology of Wingnut Chestnuts and Democratizing Remedies"
Until unemployment no longer holds out the prospect of death or dishonor every employment contract is made under duress.
Dale Carrico, "Dispatches from Libertopia: An Anthology of Wingnut Chestnuts and Democratizing Remedies"
Taxes are not, however annoying they may seem, violations of our freedom so much as indispensable enablers of freedom -- and hence they are a precondition for the constitution of the very experience of the "voluntary" on which notions of the involuntary depend in the first place.
Dale Carrico, "Dispatches from Libertopia: An Anthology of Wingnut Chestnuts and Democratizing Remedies"
Those who would dismantle all democratic government and those who would demand good democratic government will point to many of the same instances of government abuse, corruption, malfeasance, and violence in making their separate cases, but it is only a fool who in noticing this would mistake them for allies.
Dale Carrico, "Dispatches from Libertopia: An Anthology of Wingnut Chestnuts and Democratizing Remedies"
People love calling libertarians "Idea Guys." It pays to remember that every single libertarian "Idea" is an ad campaign to peddle plutocracy to majorities it harms.
Dale Carrico, "Dispatches from Libertopia: An Anthology of Wingnut Chestnuts and Democratizing Remedies"
There has never once been an outcome attributed to the Invisible Hand of the Market in which the Heavy Hand of the State did not play an indispensable part, and in which all too many are not sure to discern the Hidden Hand of Conspiracy.
Dale Carrico, "Dispatches from Libertopia: An Anthology of Wingnut Chestnuts and Democratizing Remedies"
Initial regressive distributions of wealth are no less the product of government intervention than are subsequent progressive redistributions of wealth.
Dale Carrico, "Dispatches from Libertopia: An Anthology of Wingnut Chestnuts and Democratizing Remedies"
To those who say they would shrink government without end, who say they would deregulate enterprise without end, who say they would cut taxes without end, it must forcefully be said, in the end, that you cannot have a civilization and eat it too.
Dale Carrico, "Dispatches from Libertopia: An Anthology of Wingnut Chestnuts and Democratizing Remedies"
Those who declare taxes to be theft either forget or fail to grasp that it is taxes that pay for the maintenance of those institutions on which legitimate claims of ownership or theft depend for their intelligibility and force in the first place.
Dale Carrico, "Dispatches from Libertopia: An Anthology of Wingnut Chestnuts and Democratizing Remedies"
Consider four marvels of our age -- science, democracy, the justice system and fair markets. In each case the participants (scientists, litigants, politicians and capitalists) are driven by selfish goals. That won't change; not till we redefine human nature. But for years, rules have been fine-tuned in each of these fields of endeavor, to reduce cheating and let quality or truth win much of the time. By harnessing human competitiveness, instead of suppressing it, these "accountability arenas" nourished much of our unprecedented wealth and freedom. The four arenas aren't always fair or efficient! A good theory, law or commercial product may flounder, or else face many trials before prevailing. But remember that organic systems needn't be efficient, only robust. Likewise, our core institutions have to keep functioning despite individual incompetence, or the most everlasting human temptation-- to cheat. In achieving this, the four old accountability arenas have done pretty well by us, so far.
David Brin, Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competitiveness for Society's Benefit
Austin Petersen said that it shouldn’t be possible for someone to sell a 5-year-old heroin. He got booed. [2016 Libertarian Party USA Convention]
Grant Thompson, "Drugs, wizards, and trolls: The Libertarian Party"
It is unfortunate that the kind of computing Bitcoin pioneered has been given the name "cryptocurrency", and has been associated with all sorts of technofinancial scheming. When you hear "cryptocurrency", don't think of Bitcoin or money at all. Think of Paul Krugman's babysitting co-op. Cryptocurrency applications deal with the problem of organizing people and their resources into a collaborative enterprise by issuing tokens to those who participate and do their part, redeemable for future services from the network. So they will always involve some kind of scrip. But, contra Bitcoin, the scrip need not be the raison d'être of the application. Like the babysitting co-op (and a sensible monetary economy), the rules for issue of scrip can be designed to maximize participation in the network, rather than to reward hoarding and speculation.
Steve Waldman, "Econometrics, open science, and cryptocurrency"
It really looks from the anthropologists that Adam Smith was wrong--that we are not animals that like to "truck, barter, and exchange" with strangers but rather gift-exchange pack animals--that we manufacture social solidarity by gift networks, and those who give the most valuable gifts acquire status hereby.
Brad DeLong, "Economic Anthropology: David Graeber Meets the Noise Machine..."
Government may even be called the most beneficial of all earthly institutions as without it no peaceful human cooperation, no civilization, and no moral life would be possible.
Ludwig von Mises, "Economic Freedom and Interventionism"
[...] lacking the experimental method, economists are not strictly enough compelled to reduce metaphysical concepts to falsifiable terms and cannot compel each other to agree as to what has been falsified. So economics limps along with one foot in untested hypotheses and the other in untestable slogans.
Joan Robinson, "Economic Philosophy" , 1962, pp. 26-28.
Now let the reporter go undercover as a student in the professor’s advanced graduate seminar on international trade theory. Let him pose the same question: Is free trade good? I doubt that the answer will come as quickly and be as succinct this time around. In fact, the professor is likely to be stymied by the question. “What do you mean by ‘good?’” he will ask. “And good for whom?” The professor would then launch into a long and tortured exegesis that will ultimately culminate in a heavily hedged statement: “So if the long list of conditions I have just described are satisfied, and assuming we can tax the beneficiaries to compensate the losers, freer trade has the potential to increase everyone’s well-being.” If he were in an expansive mood, the professor might add that the effect of free trade on an economy’s growth rate is not clear, either, and depends on an altogether different set of requirements.
Dani Rodrik , "Economics: Science, Craft, or Snake Oil?"
[A]ll these economic theories are at least debatable and often highly questionable. Contrary to what professional economists will typically tell you, economics is not a science. All economic theories have underlying political and ethical assumptions, which make it impossible to prove them right or wrong in the way we can with theories in physics or chemistry.
Ha-Joon Chang, "Economics is too important to leave to the experts"
[...] the advantages of bigness have outweighed the disadvantages, and companies have been led, "as if by an invisible hand" to get big and take over.
Michael Goodwin, "Economix: How Our Economy Works (and Doesn't Work), in Words and Pictures"
[...] Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.
David Hume, "Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding", 12, "Of the Academical or Sceptical Philosophy" p. 176.
I have long entertained a suspicion, with regard to the decisions of philosophers upon all subjects, and found in myself a greater inclination to dispute, than assent to their conclusions. There is one mistake, to which they seem liable, almost without exception; they confine too much their principles, and make no account of that vast variety, which nature has so much affected in all her operations. When a philosopher has once laid hold of a favourite principle, which perhaps accounts for many natural effects, he extends the same principle over the whole creation, and reduces to it every phænomenon, though by the most violent and absurd reasoning. Our own mind being narrow and contracted, we cannot extend our conception to the variety and extent of nature; but imagine, that she is as much bounded in her operations, as we are in our speculation.
David Hume, "Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding", "The Sceptic" pg. 163.
The ideology of radical libertarianism is both mistaken and harmful -- not least, to legitimate free expression in the service of truth. The error lies in exalting freedom "to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values.... In this way the inescapable claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity and 'being at peace with oneself'" There is no room for authentic community, the common good, and solidarity in this way of thinking.
Pontifical Council for Social Communications, "Ethics in Internet"
Libertarian idea of freedom: Be born with nothing. In order to survive, work in whatever way the property owners command. Die with nothing.
Corey Mohler, "Existential Comics on Twitter"
Your tone is that of a theologian examining scripture, not a social scientist tackling existing institutions to improve them, or an open-minded analyst of partial improvements. You treat Hayek as if he didn’t understand the simple largely a priori principles of economic analysis that constitute your armory. Truth to tell, he was trying to analyze a far more complex reality than you are prepared to admit exists. There are indeed market failures, externalities, conflicts of “ultimate” values, ruled out by logic but not by imperfect human understanding. Every question does not have a simple logical answer.
Milton Friedman on Walter Block, "Fanatical, Not Reasonable: A Short Correspondence Between Walter E. Block and Milton Friedman (on Friedrich Hayek ’s Road to Serfdom)"
At George Mason University I saw Hoppe present a lecture in which he claimed that Ludwig von Mises had set the intellectual foundation for not only economics, but for ethics, geometry, and optics, as well. This bizarre claim turned a serious scholar and profound thinker into a comical cult figure, a sort of Euro Kim Il Sung.
Tom G. Palmer, "For Mises' Sake"
Hoppe's scholarship is so pitiful that one of his own colleagues -- who is still involved in the Mises Institute -- once remarked to me that Hoppe's book on ethics was a truly remarkable achievement; it was the only book he had ever read in which every step of the argument was a logical fallacy.
Tom G. Palmer, "For Mises' Sake"
Ideology is the curse of public affairs because it converts politics into a branch of theology and sacrifices human beings on the thoughts of abstractions.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., "Foreign Policy and The American Character"
We cannot simply say “Well, individuals have a right to do anything that does not harm another” because that answer simply dissolves into another value-laden debate about what counts as “a harm” in the first place.
James Boyle, "Foucault in cyberspace -- Chapter 2: Libertarianism, Property and Harm" pg. 16.
The more sophisticated libertarian philosophers -- Robert Nozick for example -- tend to build their libertarianism on extremely vague statements that command a high degree of acceptance in our society: for example, “individuals own their own bodies.” Now it is worth noting that, while this is a pretty uncontroversial claim in any Western democracy [...] Large numbers of people through history have believed, and still believe, that women, children, black people, kulaks, slaves and so on did not own their own bodies.
James Boyle, "Foucault in cyberspace -- Chapter 2: Libertarianism, Property and Harm" pg. 21.
Odes of praise to the common law, and mistrust of legislative modifications of it, allow libertarians to say that the true benchmark of rights is provided by the older rules, not the newer ones. Judged against this standard, of course, the rules that benefit employers, landlords and manufacturers simply define liberty and property rights whereas the rules that benefit workers, tenants and consumers are interferences with liberty. The rules one likes are the foundations of sacred property rights, those one does not like are meddlesome regulation. This is a nice trick...
James Boyle, "Foucault in cyberspace -- Chapter 2: Libertarianism, Property and Harm" pg. 19.
The bloodstained story of economic individualism and unrestrained capitalist competition does not, I should have thought, today need stressing. Nevertheless, in view of the astonishing opinions which some of my critics have imputed to me, I should […] have made even clearer […] the evils of unrestricted laissez-faire.
Isaiah Berlin, "Four Essays on Liberty"
Freedom for the wolves has often meant death to the sheep.
Isaiah Berlin, "Four Essays on Liberty" p.xlv.
Economics is luxuriant with fallacies, because it is not a natural science like physics or chemistry. Propositions in economics are rarely absolutely true or false. What is true in some circumstances may be false in others. Above all, the truth of many propositions depends on people’s expectations.
Robert Skidelsky, "Four Fallacies of the Second Great Depression"
Libertarians are a strange bunch. They are the most predictable of political thinkers since the answer to every social problem is the exact same thing: The cause of the problem is government and the solution is less government. Full stop.
John Jackson, "Frank Chodorov: Scrappy Libertarian, Crappy Oracle"
Libertarians have been Chicken Littling us about the road to serfdom for at least seventy years. It is about time we stop taking them seriously.
John Jackson, "Frank Chodorov: Scrappy Libertarian, Crappy Oracle"
… Libertarians’ delight in considering themselves rough-and-tumble, independent thinkers. I can’t help noticing however, that their fierce independent thinking often matches perfectly with powerful business and corporate interests.
John Jackson, "Frank Chodorov: Scrappy Libertarian, Crappy Oracle"
Now, there’s a whole intellectual industry, mainly operating out of right-wing think tanks, devoted to propagating the idea that F.D.R. actually made the Depression worse. So it’s important to know that most of what you hear along those lines is based on deliberate misrepresentation of the facts.
Paul Krugman, "Franklin Delano Obama?"
Why do so many more libertarians join the right wing instead of the left wing? Because they care more about maintaining traditional, private realms of power than anything else. And that translates to dominance over women in the home and workers in the offices and factories.
Digby, "Free Markets not Free Love"
All forms of society grant freedoms to, and impose unfreedoms on, people, and no society, therefore, can be condemned just because certain people lack certain freedoms in it. But societies have structurally different ways of inducing distributions of freedom, and, in a society like ours, where freedom is to a massive extent granted and withheld through the distribution of money, that fact, that money structures freedom, is often not appreciated in its full significance, and an illusion develops that freedom in a society like ours is not restricted by the distribution of money. This lecture exposes that illusion.
G. A. Cohen, "Freedom and Money"
There has been a good deal of confused controversy about the question of "value judgments" in the social sciences. Every human being has ideological, moral and political views. To pretend to have none and to be purely objective must necessarily be either self-deception or a device to deceive others. A candid writer will make his preconceptions clear and allow the reader to discount them if he does not accept them. This concerns the professional honour of the scientist.
Joan Robinson, "Freedom and Necessity" p.122.
All models are cartoons, but the standard model is particularly cartoonish, especially as it’s taught to students in Econ 101. They’re introduced to a fantasyland where perfectly rational people with perfect information in perfectly competitive markets come together in a beautiful dance of supply and demand -- with the “invisible hand” perfectly maximizing the welfare of society... The world of the standard model is a place where the free market is so perfect, government interventions only do harm; where workers are paid their marginal product, so exploitation doesn’t exist; where everyone is so rational, people are always best left to their own devices; where culture, history, institutions, identity, norms, emotions, and morals fall to the wayside, and human beings become cold equations narrowly maximizing their own pleasure (or “utility”). To critics, it’s a cocktail of fantastical ideas profoundly divorced from the real world—and textbooks force kids to slurp it up for crude ideological reasons... The fact that the standard model not only doesn’t accurately describe the world but also supports right-wing policies has led progressives to argue that the reason it remains central to Econ 101 is ideology.
Greg Rosalsky, "Freeing Econ 101: Beyond the Grasp of the Invisible Hand"
In the end, there is a deep contradiction in Hayek’s thought. His great insight is that individual human beings muddle along, making progress by planning, experimenting, trying, failing and trying again. They never have as much clarity about the future as they think they do. But Hayek somehow knows with great certainty that when governments, as opposed to individuals, engage in a similar process of innovation and discovery, they will fail. He insists that the dividing line between state and society must be drawn according to a strict abstract principle rather than through empirical adaptation. In so doing, he proves himself to be far more of a hubristic Cartesian than a true Hayekian.
Francis Fukuyama, "Friedrich A. Hayek, Big-Government Skeptic"
Hayek made the slipperiest of slippery slope arguments: the smallest move toward the expansion of government would lead to a cascade of bad consequences that would result in full-blown authoritarian socialism. If anything, however, the history of the past 50 years shows us that the slippery slope has all sorts of ledges and handholds by which we can brake our descent into serfdom and indeed climb back up.
Francis Fukuyama, "Friedrich A. Hayek, Big-Government Skeptic"
[S]ocial relations abhor a power vacuum. When state authority contracts, private parties fill the gap. That power can feel just as oppressive, and have effects just as pervasive, as garden variety administrative agency enforcement of civil law. As Robert Lee Hale stated, “There is government whenever one person or group can tell others what they must do and when those others have to obey or suffer a penalty.”
Frank Pasquale, "From Territorial to Functional Sovereignty: The Case of Amazon"
So much for the idea that so-called libertarians are uncompromising champions of freedom. In truth, they're tireless defenders of the idea that the people with the most wealth and power in our society deserve to keep it. This, of course, is hardly the subversive, counter-cultural brew that libertarians seem to think they're peddling--this is exactly what bought-off establishment politicians in Washington already think.
Tyler Zimmer, "Gary Johnson and the libertarian swindle"
Hoppe has done us the great favour of demonstrating that the logical upshot of Rothbard's system is not "a new liberty," but a totalitarian plutocracy that tolerates no dissent whatsoever.
Gene Callahan, "Do You Know About..."
As it happens, I was reading a book about my second-favourite period of UK history over the weekend. It’s amusing to note how many of the arguments of the kind “raising labour standards will close down the factories and send the poor into horrible scavenging”, are nearly word-for-word copies of similar arguments made in the 1830s against the child labour laws passed in England. They were wrong then …
Daniel Davies, "Globollocks, v2.0"
[Hayek] is not evaluating a mixed system, in which there is a degree of personal freedom but also a degree of imposed order. A mixed system is what we and our peer nations have, and I have not been able to figure out what help Hayek offers for evaluating such a system.
Richard Posner, "Hayek, the Mind, and Spontaneous Order: A Critique"
Hayek's greatest failure is his neglect of the problem of private power. All his efforts go into the denunciation of state power, but he has little to say about private coercion.
Andrew Gamble, "Hayek: The Iron Cage Of Liberty"
Between the strong and the weak, between the rich and the poor, between master and servant, it is liberty that is oppressive and the law that sets free.
Henri-Dominique Lacordaire, speech given at the 52nd Conférence de Notre-Dame, Paris, 1848.
But the 17th-century English landowning class had a problem. They had been busy robbing both the English peasant and the American Indian of their land. To their credit, they couldn't admit openly to themselves that they had been doing so. While the Athenians could just say to the Melians that it was natural for the powerful to dominate the weak, or the Israelites could simply claim a land as God's chosen people, these options were not open to 17th-century English Christians. They needed a good justification for their theft. And Locke's homesteading doctrine is formulated very precisely to give them one: only when a man "tills, plants, improves, cultivates" some piece of land does he actually gain ownership of it. So, there you go! Just because some English peasants had grazed a pasture for a thousand years, or some "naked savages" had hunted it for five thousand years, that land wasn't really theirs, because they hadn't done with it what a member of the landed gentry would, which was to enclose it and farm it (or at least the part not reserved for the folly and the decorative fish pond).
Gene Callahan, "Homesteadin' Is the Place for Me"
If there were any methodological justice in the world, neo-classical economics should have been relegated to the scrap-yard of theories long ago. True, the Arrow-Debreu model is, as Stephen Maturin would say, the elegant mathematical theory of the world, but as a description of how economies work it is incredible in the worst sense. The most telling criticisms, all valid, fall into three clusters. The first, and to my mind the most compelling, has been urged with great force by Herbert Simon (among others): people simply are not perfectly rational, perfectly prescient utility maximizers, and they couldn't be even if they wanted to. Second, the kind of economy assumed by neo-classical theory is a very special and recent phenomenon, originating in particular countries in particular epochs, and while it has since spread from there and seems likely to conquer the globe, the neo-classical theory is restricted to the places where economic life is conducted in markets with unrestricted, alienable private property, so it is not a general theory of economic behavior, something deeply desirable. Third, even in the countries with the appropriate legal-institutional framework, perfect competition is exceedingly rare, very important parts of the economy are manifestly oligopolies, and certain kinds of competition are even legally prohibited by e.g. intellectual property laws.
Cosma Shalizi, "Homo economicus on the Grand Tour, or, When Is a Lizard a Good Enough Dragon for Government Work?"
[Patri] Friedman is an outspoken critic of democracy. It is “ill-suited for a libertarian state”, he wrote in an essay in 2009—because it is “rigged against libertarians” (they would always lose) and inefficient.
The Economist, "Honduras shrugged: Two start-ups want to try out libertarian ideas in the country’s new special development regions"
[T]he market, as Hayek says, processes information and on that basis, determines, for example, the best way to organize production. But applying this logic shows that hierarchical economic planning may not be such a bad thing at least when combined with markets. The boundary of the firm -- how big it will be -- is determined by the answer to the question, should this component be produced inhouse or purchased? But this is also the boundary between organizing things according to the market or according to the hierarchical structure of command that has led capitalist firms to be termed (ironically) as ‘mini-planned economies.” The ‘verdict of the market’ in this case is that both markets and hierarchies have a place in the economy!
Sam Bowles, "How Hayek’s Evolutionary Theory Disproves His Politics"
[T]he information revolution in economics that Hayek kicked off well over a half century ago, ended up pointing to a larger public role both in rectifying market failures and in addressing the problem of unaccountable power exercised by employers over employees.
Sam Bowles, "How Hayek’s Evolutionary Theory Disproves His Politics"
[N]eoliberalism is a political strategy promoting the interests of big money that utilises the economist’s ideal of a free market to promote and extend market activity and remove all ‘interference’ in the market that conflicts with these interests.
Simon Wren-Lewis, "How Neoliberals weaponise the concept of an ideal market"
The non-aggression stuff is the most hilarious stuff I have ever dealt with in all of philosophy. Defined neutrally to mean initiating force against other people, it generates the conclusion that basically no theories of economic justice satisfy the NAP. Defined with reference to a theory of entitlement (i.e. to include not violating “property rights”), it generates the conclusion that all theories of economic justice satisfy the NAP, at least internally. It’s a comical absurd mess. I can’t believe libertarians still pretend it does anything.
Matt Bruenig, "How a reductio ad absurdum works"
You call it cancer, I call it freedom loving cells, throwing off the shackles of collectivism and trying to reach their full potential of growth. If every cell in the body just started looking out for itself and its offspring, the outcome for the whole body could only be the best one imaginable.
WKorsakow (Reddit pseudonym), "How do I bootstrap myself out of cancer?"
There is, however, no such thing as natural law and a perennial standard of what is just and what is unjust. Nature is alien to the idea of right and wrong. “Thou shalt not kill” is certainly not part of natural law.
Ludwig von Mises, "Human Action: The Scholar's Edition" p. 716.
The notion of right and wrong is a human device, a utilitarian precept designed to make social cooperation under the division of labor possible. All moral rules and human laws are means for the realization of definite ends. There is no method available for the appreciation of their goodness or badness other than to scrutinize their usefulness for the attainment of the ends chosen and aimed at
Ludwig von Mises, "Human Action: The Scholar's Edition" p. 716.
The majority of economic activity takes place without any direct connection to markets, undertaken in the household or government sector, or within large corporations that trade in the market sector, but use central planning to organize their own activities.
John Quiggin, "I Pencil: A product of the mixed economy"
Many of us hold onto beliefs simply because we lack contrary information, and then when it is given, we hold on because we don’t want to admit we were wrong about something. I think, though, that this is one of the biggest reasons we don’t change: We don’t want to explain why to friends or family who were ideologically similar. It’s tough to change directions, and let’s face it, when we do change we’re not often equipped to defend these new ideals against a barrage of criticism coming from our former ideological cohorts.
Matti Frost, "I used to be a libertarian. I'm sorry."
Every first-year graduate student learns the First Fundamental Theorem of Welfare Economics, which says essentially that provided a long list of conditions are satisfied, a market equilibrium is efficient in a particular way--that is, you cannot make someone better off without making someone else worse off. Now you can read the theorem in two, radically different ways. One is to say: "There you have it! We knew Adam Smith was right all along, but here it is stated in mathematically precise way and proved to everyone's satisfaction. Now let the government get out of the way and have the markets work their magic." The other is to say: "Wow, hold on! You mean we need so many conditions for markets to produce efficient outcomes? No externalities, no returns to scale, no market power, markets for everything and for every point in time... I better get my theorems of the second-best straight!"
Dani Rodrik, "If you are a progressive, you've got to love neoclassical economics"
Having no conception of a political society, libertarians have no conception of the common good, those basic interests of each individual that according to liberals are to be maintained for the sake of justice by the impartial exercise of public political power.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 149
I argue that libertarianism's resemblance to liberalism is superficial; in the end, libertarians reject essential liberal institutions. Correctly understood, libertarianism resembles a view that liberalism historically defined itself against, the doctrine of private political power that underlies feudalism. Like feudalism, libertarianism conceives of justified political power as based in a network of private contracts. It rejects the idea, essential to liberalism, that political power is a public power, to be be impartially exercised for the common good.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 107
Libertarianism is, in the end, not so much about liberty as it is about protecting and enforcing absolute property and contract rights.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 133
Jim Crow laws were not the primary cause of segregation in the South. In many places few laws, if any, explicitly restricted blacks from entry into desirable social positions, from purchasing property in white neighborhoods, from entering private schools and colleges, or from using hospitals, restaurants, hotels, and other private businesses frequented by whites. Still, these events rarely occurred due to tacit (often explicit) agreement among whites. Because of privately imposed restrictive covenants, discriminatory business practices, and blacks' abject economic status, there was little need for laws imposing segregation and discrimination. It could be left up to the invisible hand.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 135
The non-consensual constraints on conduct recognized by libertarians are quite extensive. Our duties to respect the lives and the physical integrity of others' persons, and their freedom of action and extensive property claims, our obligations to keep our contracts, avoid fraud, and make reparations for harms we cause, are not based in free choice, consent, or any kind of agreement (actual or hypothetical). These are natural rights and duties, libertarians claim, that people possess independent of social interaction. Despite their emphasis on consent, voluntariness, and contract, libertarians are averse to appeals to consent or social agreement to justify their preferred list of moral rights and duties.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 125
Libertarians of course deny the institutional conception of property. Fundamental to their arguments are ideas of noncooperative natural property and pre-social ownership. They assume the lucidity of these concepts, and take it as self-evident that property involves unrestricted rights to use and dispose of things.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 130
Having no conception of public political authority, libertarians have no place for the impartial administration of justice. People's rights are selectively protected only to the extent they can afford protection and depending on which services they pay for.
Samuel Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View" pg. 149
If the 1 percent are able to extract vast sums from the economy it is because we have structured the economy for this purpose. It could easily be structured differently, but the 1 percent and its defenders aren't interested in changing things.
Dean Baker, "Inequality By Design: It Is Not Just Talent and Hard Work"
The evolution of government from its medieval, Mafia-like character to that embodying modern legal institutions and instruments is a major part of the history of freedom. It is a part that tends to be obscured or ignored because of the myopic vision of many economists, who persist in modeling government as nothing more than a gigantic form of theft and income redistribution.
Douglas North, "Institutions and economic growth: An historical introduction"
What became increasingly evident to me was that the Austrian equation of preference and action is crude behaviorism. I know by introspection that I have preferences that I fail to act upon. And while I do not have telepathy, it is overwhelmingly probable that the same holds for my fellow human beings. Once you grant this principle, the most distinctive Austrian doctrines crumble.
Bryan Caplan, "Intellectual Autobiography of Bryan Caplan"
Contra Locke, property is not made by mixing labor: it is made by mixing coercion.
Mike Huben, "Interview With Mike Huben, Creator Of Critiques Of Libertarianism"
Alas, today's libertarians are (I grieve to say it) in-effect quite mad. They worship unlimited private property, even though it was precisely the failure mode that crushed freedom in 99% of human cultures. And they rage against a system that in general resulted in vastly more wealth, freedom and more libertarians than any other. This is a quasi-religious idolatry. It makes them complicit allies of the enemies of competition. It makes them murderers of the thing that they should love.
David Brin , "Is Libertarianism Fundamentally about Competition? Or about Property?"
Ah, Singapore: a city-state near the very top in the world when it comes to “number of police” and “execution rate” per capita. It’s a charming little one-party state where soft-core pornography is outlawed, labor rights are almost nonexistent and gay sex is banned. Expect a caning if you break a window. And death for a baggie of cocaine. But hey: no capital gains tax! (Freedom!)
Connor Kilpatrick, "It's Hip! It's Cool! It's Libertarianism!"
People who dismiss the unemployed and dependent as ‘parasites’ fail to understand economics and parasitism. A successful parasite is one that is not recognized by its host, one that can make its host work for it without appearing as a burden. Such is the ruling class in a capitalist society.
Jason Read, "How a USM professor became an Internet meme"
Libertarianism has always claimed to be scrupulously colorblind.... If the original sin of American history is slavery, then the original sin of conservatism and libertarianism is silence in the face of segregation.
Jennifer Burns, "Jennifer Burns' harsh review of Nancy MacLean's Democracy In Chains", pg. 644.
When men like that [ William F. Buckley, Jr. ] talk about "liberty", it's wise to watch your back if you don't happen to be a member of their club.
Digby, "Joe Scarborough skips the dirty parts"
I know there are those who genuinely believe in privatizing everything. They are called profiteers.
John Dingell
The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
John Kenneth Galbraith, "John Kenneth Galbraith on Conservatism."
The true liberal tradition is represented not by Locke, but by John Stuart Mill, whose wholehearted commitment to political freedom was consistent with his eventual adoption of socialism (admittedly in a rather refined and abstract form). Mill wasn’t perfect, as is evidenced by his support of British imperialism, for which he worked as an official of the East India Company, and more generally by his support for limitations on democratic majorities. But Mill’s version of liberalism became more democratic as experience showed that fears about dictatorial majorities were unfounded.
John Quiggin, "John Locke Against Freedom"
The book, as it stands, seems to me to be one of the most frightful muddles I have ever read, with scarcely a sound proposition in it beginning with page 45 [Hayek provided historical background up to page 45; after that came his theoretical model]... It is an extraordinary example of how, starting with a mistake, a remorseless logician can end up in bedlam...
John Maynard Keynes, criticizing Hayek's "Prices and Production" in "The Pure Theory of Money: A Reply to Dr. Hayek".
On the natural interpretation, shared by everyone in mainstream economics from Samuelson to Stigler, this book [ The Road to Serfdom ], which argued that the policies advocated by the British Labour Party in 1944 would lead to a totalitarian dictatorship, was a piece of misprediction comparable to Glassman and Hassett's Dow 36000. So what is going on in the minds of the buyers? Are they crazy? Do they actually think that Hayek was proven right after all? Is there a defensible interpretation of Hayek that makes sense? The answers are "Yes", "Yes" and "No".
John Quiggin, Hayek's Zombie Idea
More deeply though there's something about how the rhetoric of 'freedom' and 'liberty' appeals to the 'neo-Confederate' mindset which is paradoxical and considerably more toxic and corrosive than the ways many of us think about those terms. Freedom can also mean freedom from any check on my actions. My freedom. My group's freedom. A warlord who totally dominates his followers has a sort of perfect liberty and freedom. Just not quite the sort we think of in a civic context. It's the same authoritarian mindset of Stormfront and the militia crazies, just through this looking glass where it twists into 'freedom' and 'liberty'.
Josh Marshall, "Keeping It Real on 'neo-Confederate Libertarians'"
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.
Lee Atwater, "Exclusive: Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy"
All property rights necessarily infringe the liberties of others, as all entail reciprocal burdens on others, and in a world of scarcity, such burdens are often substantial.
Barbara Fried, "Left-Libertarianism: A Review Essay"
[Libertarians] are pulling some very thick conclusions out of some very thin premises, giving them the attitude to find in "self-ownership" whatever they were looking for.
Barbara Fried, "Left-Libertarianism: A Review Essay"
This notion, that the preservation of freedom sometimes requires the restriction of freedom, may induce incomprehension or apoplexy in the libertarian—but it should not. After all, [minarchist] libertarians are themselves committed to such a thought in their basic justification for the state: the coercion of the state frees people from the “wild” coercion of lawless individuals.
Chris Bertram, "Let It Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workplace"
Outside a unionized workplace or the public sector, what most workers are agreeing to when they sign an employment contract is the alienation of many of their basic rights (speech, privacy, association, and so on) in exchange for pay and benefits. They may think they’re only agreeing to do a specific job, but what they are actually agreeing to do is to obey the commands and orders of their boss. It’s close to a version of Hobbesian contract theory—“The end of obedience is protection”—in which the worker gets money, benefits, and perhaps security in exchange for a radical alienation of her will.
Chris Bertram, "Let It Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workplace"
You must first make a government, before you can have property. There is no such thing as property without government.
General William Sherman, Letter to H. W. Hill, Camp on Big Black Septbr. 7. 1863
If libertarians were simply to move to small-government societies, they would have to pay for the creation of their own infrastructure (ex. private roads and railroads), and would not be able to utilize the already finished, publically-funded, infrastructure of the developed countries. In this, the libertarians are trying to have things both ways -- they want to keep the infrastructure that was created by the “oppressive big-government taxation” on which to base their new libertarian paradise.
Josh Sager, "Libertarianism: A Luxury for Citizens of Developed Countries"
We live in the richest societies in history. We produce so many times more than past societies that we could abolish almost all poverty, as has been done in so many Scandinavian nations. We are at the point where we can ask what ALL people should have. All people should have the Four Freedoms. All people should have education, medical care, food, clothing, housing. Who should be excepted and why? Libertarians have no answer here: their obsession with property above all other values produces Procrustean solutions at best. Libertarians have no ideological guidelines for balancing property with other values, no way to go beyond "I've got mine."
Mike Huben, "Libertarianism Has Unbalanced Values"
The key to understanding this, and to understanding Libertarianism itself, is to realize that their concept of individual freedom is the "whopper" of "right to have the State back up business". That's a wild definition of freedom.
Seth Finkelstein, "Libertarianism Makes You Stupid"
Libertarians are for "individual rights", and against "force" and "fraud" - just as THEY define it. Their use of these words, however, when examined in detail, is not likely to accord with the common meanings of these terms.
Seth Finkelstein, "Libertarianism Makes You Stupid"
We have to start by decoding a whole system of intellectual distortion before you can even talk.
Noam Chomsky, "Libertarianism vs. American Libertarianism @5:00"
The essential unifying idea in this core of libertarian ideology is that the existence of rights and the propriety of liberty are either obvious, or matters of faith, or sufficiently explained by the word “natural”; accordingly, deeper moral or philosophic arguments in support of them are unnecessary. Why provide philosophic arguments for that which people can know by just opening their eyes, or closing their eyes, or waving their hands and saying “natural”? The fact is that people do not and cannot know anything about the nature of rights or the propriety of liberty by such means.
Craig Biddle, "Libertarianism vs. Radical Capitalism"
The only self-evident fact about rights is that rights are not self-evident.
Craig Biddle, "Libertarianism vs. Radical Capitalism"
From one of Paul’s newsletters: "Justice Brandeis said that the most important Constitutional right the Founding Fathers gave us was the 'right to be left alone.'” While traditional conservatives reject this right to privacy that Brandeis proposed in an early legal paper and much later Supreme Court dissent, libertarians love to cite it. Timothy McVeigh did so at his trial. Ignore for today that Brandeis as a crusading social advocate and firm believer in government regulation of private enterprise, represented in his intellect and public career nearly everything the libertarian disavows. Overlook that Brandeis wrote “let” alone, not “left” alone, and that one could tease out a treatise on a subtle and profound distinction, accordingly, between uninterfered with and isolated.
A. Jay Adler, "Libertarians: Call Them Irresponsible"
There are, for the libertarian, few more unloaded and provocative words than that of responsibility. The libertarian is so challenged by the word, in effect, as to suffer a kind of cognitive disability in the face of it. Libertarians, and the Tea Party conservatives who converge with them in this area of thought, frequently cannot distinguish responsibility as obligation, responsibility as the holding of another in one’s care, and responsibility as guilt, the last of which is what libertarians will always fear is impugned in any discussion of common responsibility, and all of which is always, as government policy, a tyrannical burden upon them.
A. Jay Adler, "Libertarians: Call Them Irresponsible"
To those of us outside the movement, the fact that libertarians are a proxy army has always been painfully obvious. The key piece of evidence was always the set of issues that libertarians chose to emphasize. Most Americans share the idea that civil liberties are good, war is to be avoided, and high taxes are bad. But the fact that our country's libertarian movement spent so much time fighting high taxes and so little time fighting the encroaching authoritarianism of conservative presidential administrations was a clear sign that some priorities were seriously out of place. Should we really be more afraid of turning into Sweden than turning into Singapore? The contrast between libertarians' continual jeremiads against taxes and their muted, intermittent criticism of things like warrantless wiretaps, executive detention, and torture was a huge tip-off that the movement was really just some kind of intellectual front for America's right wing.
Noah Smith, "Libertarians: Only now, at the end, do you understand..."
What’s amusing about libertarians and laissez-faire people (and the loose way certain economists talk) is that they will describe my choice to pay rent as non-coerced and voluntary while describing my choice to pay income taxes as coerced and involuntary. But there is no neutral construction of “coercion” that would ever support such a distinction. As Hale aptly demonstrates, coercion occurs when there are “background constraints on the universe of socially available choices from which an individual might ‘freely’ choose.”
Matt Bruenig, "Libertarians Are Huge Fans of Economic Coercion"
[...] it's clear that when the libertarians talk about not initiating force, they are using the word "initiation" in a very idiosyncratic way. They have packed into the word "initiation" their entire theory of who is entitled to what. What they actually mean by "initiation of force" is not some neutral notion of hauling off and physically attacking someone. Instead, the phrase "initiation of force" simply means "acting in a way that is inconsistent with the libertarian theory of entitlement, whether using force or not." And then "defensive force" simply means "violently attacking people in a way that is consistent with the libertarian theory of entitlement." This definitional move is transparently silly and ultimately reveals a blatant and undeniable circularity in libertarian procedural reasoning.
Matt Bruenig, "Libertarians are Huge Fans of Initiating Force"
Libertarianism is the One Weird Trick For Solving Any Issue, Politicians HATE Us! of politics. It reduces many of the most complex problems in the world to a set of answers concise enough that they can fit on the back of a business card (isolationism, tiny government, bare minimal taxation).
Kirkaine, "Libertarians are primarily concerned with feeling correct, not about real world results."
Libertarian capitalism... is a curious ideology in many ways... On the one hand, the sanctity of private property and private contracts is held to be a matter of inalienable natural right, guaranteed by the fundamental facts of morality, if not a basic part of Objective Reality; capitalism is the Right Thing to Do. On the other hand, much effort is devoted to arguing that unfettered laissez-faire capitalism is also the economic system which will produce the greatest benefit for the greatest number, indeed for all, if only people would just see it. Natural right therefore coincides exactly with personal interest. A clearer example of wishful thinking could hardly be asked for.
Cosima Shalizi, "Liberty! What Fallacies Are Committed in Thy Name!"
"Is the main difference between you and, say, Stephan Kinsella, that Stephan can give a long answer to the question, "OK, how do we define a just law?" whereas your answer is, "I don't know, but I know Nazism doesn't count"?" Close, but not quite. Stephan can give you a long and detailed answer because he has an ideology. The purpose of ideology is to do away with the need for practial judgment and replace it with rules. I could tell you, but not in the abstract. Imagine sitting between a really skilled NBA coach and some "average fan" at a bar. Your team is down 10 and falling further behind with 5 minutes to go. The fan is likely to have a rule like "They have to put in a three point shooter!" But, if you ask the coach, "I don't know -- it would depend, depend on who I have on the bench, how much I've played them, who is on the other team, how the game is developing, the crowd, and more." So, now Murphy says to the coach, "If you're so smart, how come he had a ready answer and you don't?" Essentially, in a series of posts in which I've been criticizing ideology, you're here responding, "Well, then, what is YOUR ideology?"
Gene Callahan, "Look at the Violence Inherent in the System!"
Libertarians need to actively combat racial prejudice instead of relying on assumptions that the market will work it all out on its own. If libertarians are going to maintain that government answers to racism are usually inappropriate, then libertarians must be among those leading the private, society-driven remedies to injustice. It is not enough to be passively ‘not racist’—libertarians must be actively anti-racism. To do anything else is to accept the status quo and hide behind the logic of markets, despite the deeply seated, inherent illogic of racism.
Jonathan Blanks, "Looking Back to Look Forward: Blacks, Liberty, and the State"
[T]here is a prevalent libertarian assumption that the dearth of black libertarians is traceable to black ignorance of the benefits of free markets, perhaps enabled by poor public schools. Yet one may argue that libertarians are largely ignorant of how exclusionary American markets were when its moneyed participants were left to their own devices.
Jonathan Blanks, "Looking Back to Look Forward: Blacks, Liberty, and the State"
The dominant libertarian assumption that rational economic self-interest would trump racism if government just got out of the way fails to reckon with more than 200 years of evidence to the contrary. Consequently, the strident libertarian argument against positive law and government writ large flies directly in the face of the historical black experience. The federal government protected the rights of freedmen and established schools during Reconstruction, only to abandon blacks to Southern white terrorism in the name of States’ Rights. Positive law destroyed Jim Crow, breaking up both formal and informal segregation in accommodations not just in the South where it was law, but throughout other parts of the country where it was standard practice within a supposedly free market. The federal government took an active role in criminal justice because local police often did not investigate anti-black terrorism and murders -- or, if they did, sometimes testified in the murderers’ defense. And today, governments offer jobs with security and benefits in a job market that still disfavors blacks. This is not to say that blacks are particular fans of Big Government, but all of these government actions addressed problems in private society -- ranging from indifference to murderous hostility—that should test anyone’s faith in an unfettered free market.
Jonathan Blanks, "Looking Back to Look Forward: Blacks, Liberty, and the State"
I would venture that many, if not most libertarians -- like the general American public -- haven’t come to terms with the widespread, systemic subversion of markets and democracy American racism wreaked on its most marginalized citizens. Consequently, libertarians have concentrated rather myopically on government reform as the sole function of libertarian social critique without taking full reckoning of what markets have failed to correct throughout American history.
Jonathan Blanks, "Looking Back to Look Forward: Blacks, Liberty, and the State"
But what do people mean who proclaim that liberty is the palm, and the prize, and the crown, seeing that it is an idea of which there are two hundred definitions, and that this wealth of interpretation has caused more bloodshed than anything, except theology?
Lord Acton, "Inaugural Lecture on the Study of History"
All ownership derives from occupation and violence. [...] That all rights derive from violence, all ownership from appropriation or robbery, we may freely admit to those who oppose ownership on considerations of natural law.
Ludwig von Mises, "Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis" Ch. 1, section 2.
… Economic doctrines always come to us propaganda. This is bound up with the very nature of the subject and to pretend that it is not so in the name of ‘pure science’ is a very unscientific refusal to accept the facts.
Joan Robinson, in Marx, Marshall And Keynes
I have always aimed to make my own prejudices sufficiently obvious to allow a reader, while studying the argument, to discount them as he thinks fit, though of course, this generally leads a reader of opposite prejudices to reject the argument in advance …
Joan Robinson, in Marx, Marshall And Keynes
The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.
Joan Robinson, in Marx, Marshall And Keynes
If Marxism is the delusion that one can run society purely on altruism and collectivism, then libertarianism is the mirror-image delusion that one can run it purely on selfishness and individualism. Society in fact requires both individualism and collectivism, both selfishness and altruism, to function. Like Marxism, libertarianism offers the fraudulent intellectual security of a complete a priori account of the political good without the effort of empirical investigation. Like Marxism, it aspires, overtly or covertly, to reduce social life to economics. And like Marxism, it has its historical myths and a genius for making its followers feel like an elect unbound by the moral rules of their society.
Robert Locke, "Marxism of the Right"
Paradoxically, people exercise their freedom not to be libertarians.
Robert Locke, "Marxism of the Right"
[L]ibertarianism has a naïve view of economics that seems to have stopped paying attention to the actual history of capitalism around 1880. There is not the space here to refute simplistic laissez faire, but note for now that the second-richest nation in the world, Japan, has one of the most regulated economies, while nations in which government has essentially lost control over economic life, like Russia, are hardly economic paradises. Legitimate criticism of over-regulation does not entail going to the opposite extreme.
Robert Locke, "Marxism of the Right"
It’s always worth remembering that when it comes to health care, it’s the private sector, not government programs, that suffers from stifling, costly bureaucracy.
Paul Krugman, "Medicaid on the Ballot"
We need a book like "Seeing Like A State" written about corporations. To a corporations, employees are like cows. Costly inputs to be milked and slaughtered for profit.
Mike Huben, "Mike Huben's Criticisms"
All political governments today behave as if consent to a social contract is tacit and implied: just as all libertarians behave as if consent to a system of property rights is tacit and implied.
Mike Huben, "Mike Huben's Criticisms"
Milton Friedman asks us to think of a tree, with leaves, in the sunlight. Consider the density of the leaves around different parts of the tree. “I suggest,” says Friedman, “that the leaves are positioned as if each leaf deliberately sought to maximize the amount of sunlight it receives, given the position of its neighbors, as if it knew the physical laws determining the amount of sunlight that would be received in various positions and could move rapidly or instantaneously from any one position to any other desired and unoccupied position.” And thus we are distracted from the fact that in real life whole branches die off to achieve this distribution. And other trees are killed as their light is cut off.
Mike Huben, "Mike Huben's Criticisms"
Libertarians do not want equal liberty, though they claim they do. Their liberty comes from their property; if the property is unequal, then so is the liberty. Hence, "I've got mine, fuck you."
Mike Huben, "Mike Huben's Criticisms"
It is a true slight that a man who occupies himself dissecting ten thousand mites gets the same pleasure of libertarians.
William Westmiller, email.
The invisible hand of the market makes a very good pickpocket.
Mike Huben
Anybody stupid enough to think education works like consumer goods markets should have to explain why there isn’t a McHarvard franchise on their block.
Mike Huben
People smoke in large part because they have been persuaded to. Persuaded by a tobacco culture carefully nurtured by the tobacco industry. Persuaded by an industry that suppressed hazards of smoking for decades after they were known. Persuaded by an industry that knew its product was addictive, and knew it had to addict juveniles to maintain the smoking population. This history is well known from internal tobacco company documents. You can pretend that the word "choose" absolves those corporations from all responsibility: but even libertarians shouldn't accept that. Otherwise, there would be no prohibition against fraud. People must make choices to be defrauded. The folks who invested with Bernard Madoff chose their investments, but that does not absolve Madoff. Nor are tobacco companies absolved because people chose to smoke. Those people were persuaded by an industry that spent enormous amounts on advertising, promotion, and disinformation. The amount they spent shows how critical they felt that persuasion was: that shows their responsibility.
Mike Huben, email July 26, 2009
"Let them eat liberty and secure property rights" is not an efficacious program for immediate famine relief, whatever its abstract and/or long term merits.
Henry Farrell, "Millian Liberalism and the Irish Famine"
... I think the Austrian business-cycle theory has done the world a great deal of harm. If you go back to the 1930s, which is a key point, here you had the Austrians sitting in London, Hayek and Lionel Robbins, and saying you just have to let the bottom drop out of the world. You’ve just got to let it cure itself. You can’t do anything about it. You will only make it worse. You have Rothbard saying it was a great mistake not to let the whole banking system collapse. I think by encouraging that kind of do-nothing policy both in Britain and the United States, they did harm.
Milton Friedman, interviewed in Barron's (August 24, 1998)
Both Misesians and Hayekians live in a fantasy world, with respect to the price system. Both are dependent on the notion of universally flexible prices created by the dynamics of supply and demand curves, tending towards their market-clearing values. Both have failed to grasp the widespread reality and significance of fixprice markets and price administration.
Lord Keynes (pseudonym), "Mises and Hayek Dehomogenized?: A Note on a Schism in Modern Austrian Economics"
The market economy or capitalism, as it is usually called, and the socialist economy preclude one another. There is no mixture of the two systems possible or thinkable; there is no such thing as a mixed economy, a system that would be in part capitalistic and in part socialist.
Ludwig von Mises, "Human Action" p. 259
[...] why holding up the Gilded Age as a libertarian utopia is wrong-headed. It’s not because the liberty was inequitably distributed. As roger was saying in the previous thread, it’s because America in the 1880s was not characterised by liberty, it was characterised by state capture. Having the government in their pockets gave the robber barons the “freedom” to adulterate meat and pollute rivers, but just as much the “freedom” to send Pinkerton thugs – or Federal troops – to break heads when they didn’t get what they wanted. The heads, presumably, of people who had the freedom to get their heads broken. As always, what minarchists imagine is a system lacking state intervention is rather a system of state intervention on behalf of a privileged class. Or perhaps minarchists realise that but have no problem with it, as they only tend to object when the state intervenes to protect the other fellow.
Weaver (pseudonym), "More Libertarianism Thread (Crooked Timber) comment 23."
Tens, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars, hundreds of millions of books, hundreds of journals, dozens of universities, tens of thousands of people and thousands of professorships, and so on in a network touching virtually everyone in the "Western Democracies" -- all of it centrally planned, all of it subsidized, none of it capable of existing by itself in the commercial marketplace or in the "marketplace of ideas" and all of it failing dozens of times until hooked into the river of cash produced by the simple subsidies of the rich designed to derail the "free" evolution of ideas as they were actually proceeding... is there any such example in all of human history of a "movement" so far at odds with its own self-proclaimed "principles"?
Anaxarchos (pseudonym), "Mr. Anonymous and the Not-So-Spontaneous Birth of the Libertarian Movement"
We are going to need a bigger and better government. The private unregulated market does not do well at health-care finance, at pensions, or at education finance. The private unregulated market does not do well at research and early-stage development. The private unregulated market does not do well with commodities that are non-rival, or non-excludible, or produced under conditions of greatly-increasing returns to scale. We are, in all likelihood, moving into a twenty-first century in which these sectors will all be larger slices of what we do. Thus in the twenty-first century a well-functioning economy will need a larger government share in the economy than was needed in the twentieth century.
Brad DeLong, "My Take on the Seven Things We Need to Focus on for Equitable Growth in America: Thursday Focus"
Anybody who knows the history of the timber industry knows that a lot of libertarian ideas have already been tried in the western US and were a disaster. For people, for the environment, and for markets. Private towns, company stores, "homesteading," the list goes on. It's already been done.
GhostofRFS (pseudonym), "My experience with private roads and why libertarians have no idea what they're talking about"
There are other reasons to think that Hayek went too far in his opposition to progressive tax rates. First, he assumed that earned income accurately measures the value of the incremental contribution to social output. But Hayek overlooked that much of earned income reflects either rents that are unnecessary to call forth the efforts required to earn that income, in which case increasing the marginal tax rate on such earnings does not diminish effort and output. We also know as a result of a classic 1971 paper by Jack Hirshleifer that earned incomes often do not correspond to net social output. For example, incomes earned by stock and commodity traders reflect only in part incremental contributions to social output; they also reflect losses incurred by other traders... Insofar as earned incomes reflect not incremental contributions to social output but income transfers from other individuals, raising taxes on those incomes can actually increase aggregate output.
David Glasner, "Neo- and Other Liberalisms"
Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.
George Monbiot, "Neoliberalism, the ideology at the root of all our problems"
I've heard this medieval Iceland stuff before. Being medieval it was neither capitalist, industrialist nor plagued by economic externalities. Being Iceland it was small, homogeneous and unimportant to the rest of the world.
Jeff Turner, Newsgroup: alt.politics.libertarian 7/19/1993
It seems to me that there are five areas in which government spending has a demonstrated superiority over the private sector -- health and disability insurance, education, old-age pensions, infrastructure spending, and military spending. It seemed to me that structural changes in our economy and society were driving the amount of money we ought to spend in sum on those five up, hence the enlargement of government.
Brad DeLong, "Nick Eberstadt and the "Takers" Once Again: More Reflections on the General Theory of the Moocher Class"
Every idiot who advocates shirking by chanting "taxes are theft" bloviates as to how they have no obligation to contribute to the common good from which they benefit.
Gene Callahan, "No, Plato Did Not Think Taxes Were Some Sort of Permitted Theft"
MarketThink is guaranteed to erode public space and public goods in the city.
Tom Slee, "No One Makes You Shop At Wall Mart: The Surprising Deceptions Of Individual Choice" pg. 63.
Competition and variety are also public goods: by their nature, neither can be provided by a single store. Jack never explicitly chooses to have a narrower choice of places to shop, and yet he and others like him contribute directly to the problems of the downtown stores. [That are failing due to big-box stores.]
Tom Slee, "No One Makes You Shop At Wall Mart: The Surprising Deceptions Of Individual Choice" pg. 59
What has been created by this half century of massive corporate propaganda is what's called "anti-politics". So that anything that goes wrong, you blame the government. Well okay, there's plenty to blame the government about, but the government is the one institution that people can change... the one institution that you can affect without institutional change. That's exactly why all the anger and fear has been directed at the government. The government has a defect - it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect - they're pure tyrannies. So therefore you want to keep corporations invisible, and focus all anger on the government. So if you don't like something, you know, your wages are going down, you blame the government. Not blame the guys in the Fortune 500, because you don't read the Fortune 500. You just read what they tell you in the newspapers... so you don't read about the dazzling profits and the stupendous dizz, and the wages going down and so on, all you know is that the bad government is doing something, so let's get mad at the government.
Noam Chomsky
Those who "abjure" violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.
George Orwell, "Notes on Nationalism" May, 1945
Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we'd pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we're only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we're considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that's a pretty narrow vision. It's not one that, I think, describes what's best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a "you're on your own" society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.
Barack Obama in "Obama and the Road Ahead: The Rolling Stone Interview"
Yet reason tells us that there is no property in durable objects, such as lands or houses, when carefully examined in passing from hand to hand, but must, in some period, have been founded on fraud and injustice.
David Hume, "Of The Original Contract"
There is a wearying familiarity to The Libertarian Mind; Hayek wrote all of this in The Constitution of Liberty, then Rothbard wrote it again in The Ethics of Liberty, then David Friedman in The Machinery of Freedom. Read one sentence of one libertarian book and you’ve read every sentence of every libertarian book... libertarianism ranges from people who support small governments and free market capitalism to… people who support small governments and free market capitalism.
Nathan Robinson, "Oh God, Please Not Libertarianism..."
The jump from the right to self-ownership to the right of property ownership always occurs hastily, as if the libertarian knows full well he’s fudging one of the most dubious steps of his proof. Boaz makes the unfortunate decision to choose John Locke’s theory of “labor mixing” as his preferred means of papering over the leap. This is the theory, dating from 1689, that when a person “mixes” her labor with a thing (say by turning a tree into a chair), she develops a property right in it. Why this should be so, nobody knows. What “mixing” even is, nobody knows either. Boaz doesn’t attempt to define it; its function is simply to jury-rig a rickety theoretical bridge that will suffice until the next deduction is made. So long as the reader blinks, she will fail to notice that the entire natural rights justification for property is built upon flashy prestidigitation.
Nathan Robinson, "Oh God, Please Not Libertarianism..."
Boaz has fully mastered Patronizing Libertarian Voice, with which (male) libertarians use highly irrational arguments to dismiss every other politics as the beliefs of a child, while loudly insisting on their faultless rationality.
Nathan Robinson, "Oh God, Please Not Libertarianism..."
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not just wrong but “impossible,” Boaz declares, because to declare education a human right mean that someone has to provide it, and since that’s not always possible, education cannot be a right. This weird little trick of language only works if you define a right to be a thing that can be provided at all times, instead of a moral obligation toward which all societies must aspire.
Nathan Robinson, "Oh God, Please Not Libertarianism..."
Liberalism [libertarianism] is not so foolish as to aim at the abolition of the state. Liberals [libertarians] fully recognize that no social coöperation and no civilization could exist without some amount of compulsion and coercion. It is the task of government to protect the social system against the attacks of those who plan actions detrimental to its maintenance and operation.
Ludwig von Mises, "Omnipotent Government"
Anarcho-capitalism, in my opinion, is a doctrinal system which, if ever implemented, would lead to forms of tyranny and oppression that have few counterparts in human history. There isn’t the slightest possibility that its (in my view, horrendous) ideas would be implemented, because they would quickly destroy any society that made this colossal error. The idea of “free contract” between the potentate and his starving subject is a sick joke, perhaps worth some moments in an academic seminar exploring the consequences of (in my view, absurd) ideas, but nowhere else.
Noam Chomsky, "On Anarchism: Noam Chomsky interviewed by Tom Lane, December 23, 1996"
What is wanting in many libertarian political theories is the recognition that property rights are coercive and so stand in need of justification to others.
Kevin Vallier, "On the Problematic Political Authority of Property Rights: How Huemer Proves Too Much"
You might say that neoliberalism borrows from economics only in the sense that astrology borrows from astronomy.
Simon Wren-Lewis, "Ordoliberalism, Neoliberalism and Economics"
Against nature man can claim no right, but once society is established, poverty immediately takes the form of a wrong done to one class by another.
Hegel, "Outlines of the Philosophy of Right", 1820, paragraph 244.
So how do you do useful economics? In general, what we really do is combine maximization-and-equilibrium as a first cut with a variety of ad hoc modifications reflecting what seem to be empirical regularities about how both individual behavior and markets depart from this idealized case. [...] But here’s the thing: economists have done their work this way for generations. So it’s really not a new paradigm. If anything, the true new paradigm was the attempt to justify everything with maximization and equilibrium -- but that’s the paradigm that failed.
Paul Krugman, "Paradigming Is Hard"
Medicare has its problems -- but all the evidence says that it is substantially more cost-effective than private insurance. Partly this is because it has lower administrative costs; partly it’s because Medicare is able to use its market power to negotiate lower prices. And the international evidence is overwhelming: single-payer systems are much cheaper than systems centered on private insurance.
Paul Krugman, Joe Lieberman’s Plan to Make Health Care Worse and More Expensive
Paul Ryan is an authentically dangerous zealot. He does not want to reform entitlements. He wants to eliminate them. He wants to eliminate them because he doesn't believe they are a legitimate function of government. He is a smiling, aw-shucks murderer of opportunity, a creator of dystopias in which he never will have to live. This now is an argument not over what kind of political commonwealth we will have, but rather whether or not we will have one at all, because Paul Ryan does not believe in the most primary institution of that commonwealth: our government. The first three words of the Preamble to the Constitution make a lie out of every speech he's ever given. He looks at the country and sees its government as something alien that is holding down the individual entrepreneurial genius of 200 million people, and not as their creation, and the vehicle through which that genius can be channelled for the general welfare.
Charles Pierce, "Paul Ryan: Murderer Of Opportunity, Political Coward, Candidate For Vice President Of The United States"
And today we see how utterly mistaken was the Milton Friedman notion that a market system can regulate itself. We see how silly the Ronald Reagan slogan was that government is the problem, not the solution. This prevailing ideology of the last few decades has now been reversed. Everyone understands now, on the contrary, that there can be no solution without government. The Keynesian idea is once again accepted that fiscal policy and deficit spending has a major role to play in guiding a market economy. I wish Friedman were still alive so he could witness how his extremism led to the defeat of his own ideas.
Paul Samuelson, "Don't Expect Recovery Before 2012"
The environment is the libertarian Waterloo: it reveals the flaws of the doctrine in a way that seems to ensure that no "answer" is forthcoming. Rather than hoping for a miracle that would preserve their fundamentally political self-conception, perhaps the best thing libertarians can now do is put their dreams of changing the world on hold while they attempt simply to understand it.
Jeffrey Friedman, "Politics or Scholarship?"
The pricing of environmental goods that is generated by free-market environmentalist devices relies on an initial political determination of how much a given pollutant should be reduced. A government must first decide which pollutants to control, then by what amount, before it can know how many emissions permits to issue. The market in such permits does not replace politics; it supplements it by providing the most efficient means for achieving politically determined ends... free-market environmentalism is statist at its core.
Jeffrey Friedman, "Politics or Scholarship?"
Without question, Pax Americana was the best and least hated of all grand paxes. [...] the U.S. defense umbrella has, since 1945, allowed most nations to spend far, far lower fractions of national income on warriors than at any time in history, allowing them to divert more to education and development. Look up the stats and be amazed! And Steven Pinker's proof that violence has plummeted under the era of Pax Americana.
David Brin, "Pondering Pax Americana and the government shut-down"
The more fundamental change that is needed is a revision of assumptions that are taken for granted, throughout the political process, that corporations are a natural feature of market economies, while unions are an alien intrusion[...] corporations, like unions, are social constructions, which could not exist except as a result of conscious policy decisions to change the rules of a market economy.
John Quiggin, "Predistribution: wages and unions (extract from Economics in Two Lessons)"
All that is spent during many years in opening the means of higher education to the masses would be well paid for if it called out one more Newton or Darwin, Shakespeare or Beethoven.
Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics (1890), p. 216.
In the particular circumstances of a given age or nation, there is scarcely anything really important to the general interest, which it may not be desirable, or even necessary, that the government should take upon itself, not because private individuals cannot effectually perform it, but because they will not.
John Stuart Mill, "Principles of Political Economy with Some of their Applications to Social Philosophy (7 ed.) Book V Chapter XI" pg. 606.
Most workplace governments in the United States are dictatorships, in which bosses govern in ways that are largely unaccountable to those who are governed. They don't merely govern workers; they dominate them. This is what I call private government.
Elizabeth Anderson, "Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives", p. xxii.
The relentless emphasis on property’s abstract positives distracts our attention from the less-appealing reality that many people may always and only be those “dutyholders” whose behavior is subject to systematic “constraints” in favor of the rights of others. Such persons can hardly be “self-directing” in the manner promised by these happy property stories... In the situation of “no property,” one’s abstract rights to speech and liberty, like one’s abstract right to hold property, do not provide much actual freedom in the real world.
Jane Baron, "Property And "No Property""
Extreme laissez faire capitalism of the kind extolled off and on over the past two centuries, and increasingly preached by economists, financiers and conservative thinkers over the past four decades, is a perverse distortion of human nature, foisted upon us by cold and demented thinkers captivated by inhuman notions of efficiency and domination. In the end, it is a system that reduces each human being to an object whose value is nothing beyond what it is worth in the market. We need to restore a social balance, in which private property, entrepreneurialism and commercial activity do not dominate our lives and set all the rules for our existence, but function within a democratic social order framed by a politically coherent and effective commitment to the public good. In a democratic social order there exists an activist public sector controlling a substantial store of social goods, and channeling democratic energies and intelligence into the ambitious perfection of such goods.
Dan Kervick, " Public Money for Public Purpose: Toward the End of Plutocracy and the Triumph of Democracy – Part VI"
[The Native Americans] didn't have any rights to the land and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using.... What was it they were fighting for, if they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their "right" to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or maybe a few caves above it. Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.
Ayn Rand, "Q and A session following her Address To The Graduating Class Of The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, March 6, 1974"
So what is it that differentiates the writing of Rand from those of classic academics and professional philosophers? It is simply that her work has every appearance of an extended and multi-faceted straw man argument that fails to meet even the minimum standards of scholarship. It has all the marks of what in science would be pseudo-science. If there is such a thing as pseudo-philosophy, this is it.
Gary Merrill, "Rand's work: style and quality"
As we know from history, the free market did not lead to a breakdown of segregation. Indeed, it got much worse, not just because it was enforced by law but because it was mandated by self-reinforcing societal pressure. Any store owner in the South who chose to serve blacks would certainly have lost far more business among whites than he gained. There is no reason to believe that this system wouldn't have perpetuated itself absent outside pressure for change. In short, the libertarian philosophy of Rand Paul and the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s gave us almost 100 years of segregation, white supremacy, lynchings, chain gangs, the KKK, and discrimination of African Americans for no other reason except their skin color. The gains made by the former slaves in the years after the Civil War were completely reversed once the Supreme Court effectively prevented the federal government from protecting them. Thus we have a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy and an indisputable conclusion: it didn't work. Freedom did not lead to a decline in racism; it only got worse.
Bruce Bartlett, "Rand Paul is No Barry Goldwater on Civil Rights"
I don't believe Rand is a racist; I think he is a fool who is suffering from the foolish consistency syndrome that affects all libertarians. They believe that freedom consists of one thing and one thing only--freedom from governmental constraint. Therefore, it is illogical to them that any increase in government power could ever expand freedom. Yet it is clear that African Americans were far from free in 1964 and that the Civil Rights Act greatly expanded their freedom while diminishing that of racists.
Bruce Bartlett, "Rand Paul is No Barry Goldwater on Civil Rights"
The state is the necessary but not sufficient pre-condition for capitalism’s development. There is no creative destruction, competition, innovation, and accumulation without the “shadow socialism” of the public sector and state planning.
Christian Parenti, "Reading Hamilton From the Left"
[...] a huge part of the problem is the Jeffersonian notion that “the government that governs best is the one that governs least.” While that is true as regards individual liberty, it is absolutely dangerous to think that way as regards the economy.
Christian Parenti, "Reading Hamilton From the Left"
And it is certainly true that a lot of that decline in infectious disease mortality occurred as a result of improved sanitation and water chlorination. A 2004 study by the Harvard University economist David Cutler and the National Bureau of Economic Research economist Grant Miller estimated that the provision of clean water “was responsible for nearly half of the total mortality reduction in major cities, three-quarters of the infant mortality reduction, and nearly two-thirds of the child mortality reduction.”
Ronald Bailey, "Refusing Vaccination Puts Others At Risk"
[H]umans are, at a very deep and basic level, gift-exchange animals. We create and reinforce our social bonds by establishing patterns of “owing” other people and by “being owed”. We want to enter into reciprocal gift-exchange relationships. We create and reinforce social bonds by giving each other presents. We like to give. We like to receive. We like neither to feel like cheaters nor to feel cheated. We like, instead, to feel embedded in networks of mutual reciprocal obligation. We don’t like being too much on the downside of the gift exchange: to have received much more than we have given in return makes us feel very small. We don’t like being too much on the upside of the gift exchange either: to give and give and give and never receive makes us feel like suckers. We want to be neither cheaters nor saps.
Brad DeLong, "Regional Policy and Distributional Policy in a World Where People Want to Ignore the Value and Contribution of Knowledge and Network-Based Increasing Returns"
This wish to believe that you are not a moocher is what keeps people from seeing issues of distribution and allocation clearly -- and generates hostility to social insurance and to wage supplement policies, for they rip the veil off of the idea that you deserve to be highly paid because you are worth it. You aren’t.
Brad DeLong, "Regional Policy and Distributional Policy in a World Where People Want to Ignore the Value and Contribution of Knowledge and Network-Based Increasing Returns"
The basic competitive-markets model dating back to Adam Smith has been modified over time by the inclusion, in rough historical order, of monopoly, externalities, scale economies, incomplete and asymmetric information, irrational behavior, and many other real world features.
Dani Rodrik, "Rescuing Economics from Neoliberalism"
Chile's neoliberal experiment eventually produced the worst economic crisis in all of Latin America.
Dani Rodrik, "Rescuing Economics from Neoliberalism"
Neoliberalism and its customary remedies -- always more markets, always less government -- are in fact a perversion of mainstream economics. Good economists know that the correct answer to any question in economics is: it depends.
Dani Rodrik, "Rescuing Economics from Neoliberalism"
The fatal flaw of neoliberalism is that it does not even get the economics right. It must be rejected on its own terms for the simple reason that it is bad economics.
Dani Rodrik, "Rescuing Economics from Neoliberalism"
Critics often point out that this emphasis on economics debases and sacrifices other important values such as equality, social inclusion, democratic deliberation, and justice. Those political and social objectives obviously matter enormously, and in some contexts they matter the most. They cannot always, or even often, be achieved by means of technocratic economic policies; politics must play a central role.
Dani Rodrik, "Rescuing Economics from Neoliberalism"
A journalist calls an economics professor for his view on whether free trade is a good idea. The professor responds enthusiastically in the affirmative. The journalist then goes undercover as a student in the professor's advanced graduate seminar on international trade. He poses the same question: Is free trade good? This time the professor is stymied. "What do you mean by 'good?'" he responds. "And good for whom?" The professor then launches into an extensive exegesis that will ultimately culminate in a heavily hedged statement: "So if the long list of conditions I have just described are satisfied, and assuming we can tax the beneficiaries to compensate the losers, freer trade has the potential to increase everyone's well being." If he is in an expansive mood, the professor might add that the effect of free trade on an economy's long-term growth rate is not clear either and would depend on an altogether different set of requirements.
Dani Rodrik, "Rescuing Economics from Neoliberalism"
There is nothing wrong with markets, private entrepreneurship, or incentives -- when deployed appropriately. Their creative use lies behind the most significant economic achievements of our time. As we heap scorn on neoliberalism, we risk throwing out some of neoliberalism's useful ideas. The real trouble is that mainstream economics shades too easily into ideology, constraining the choices that we appear to have and providing cookie-cutter solutions.
Dani Rodrik, "Rescuing Economics from Neoliberalism"
To be enslaved to the impersonal forces of the market is, in the final analysis, just as inhumane as being enslaved by the state or the party. Chains are chains and the Austrians and their American followers are not preaching authentic human freedom but its counterfeit.
Michael Sean Winters, "Review: Angus Sibley's "The 'Poisoned Spring' of Economic Libertarianism"
[W]e have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.
George Orwell, "Review of Power: A New Social Analysis by Bertrand Russell"
Right-wingers often express contempt bordering on seething hatred for silly liberal things that wouldn’t exist without government subsidies, like “Mime troops” and “accordion festivals” and “public libraries.” If the nation’s finest mime troupe can’t survive on ticket sales alone, who needs it! But relying on the kindness (and tax-deductible charitable donations) of the super-wealthy, on the other hand, is just how things are done, and always have been done, in much of political media and conservative academia. (The National Review, for example, cannot survive on advertising dollars or subscription fees alone, which is why each year it begs people to send checks, like common hobos.)
Alex Pareene, "Right-wing billionaires purchasing own professors"
Those of you who don’t want to flatter self-regarding billionaires for a living are advised to reconsider, because that’s the only job that will always be hiring in Tea Party America.
Alex Pareene, "Right-wing billionaires purchasing own professors"
What is the essence of libertarian crankiness? One can rhetorically and philosophically elevate the core expression by articulating it as a fundamental distrust of centralized government, or belief in an original, natural and unfettered personal liberty, but the cranky expression of the same ideas is “leave me the fuck alone.” I do not mean to diminish the feeling by going so basic on us. Any strong personality accustomed by individual nature to going his own way as he determines that way best to be, among whom I will tell you I number, will know the feeling of “leave me the fuck alone.” One has to be clear, though, that that is a feeling and not a philosophy.
A. Jay Adler, "Ron Paul and Cranky Libertarianism"
Mr. Coase’s work cannot be read as a case for minimal government. On the contrary, his message was more purely pragmatic: Because we can’t negotiate efficient private solutions most of the time, we must ask whether laws and other institutions can help steer us toward solutions we would have chosen if negotiation had been practical.
Robert Frank, "Ronald Coase, a Pragmatic Voice for Government’s Role"
"But who ever thought Rothbard was a serious philosopher in the first place?" you ask. Well, Rothbardians think he was; indeed, they regard him as a kind of "renaissance man," and their absurd overestimation of his significance in the history of thought is comparable to Objectivists' overestimation of Ayn Rand's significance.
Edward Feser, "Rothbard revisited"
Rousseau asks us to imagine someone who is not convinced of natural rights to property, at least as interpreted by the richer laborers in society. The responder has a rational complaint: who made you [the rich, the “haves"] judge of where your property rights begin and end? It’s a dangerous juridical power, one that can easily be used to keep people hungry and powerless. In light of the suffering of the property-less, why should they ever think that the claims of the rich and powerful are naturally legitimate?
Kevin Vallier, "Rousseau’s Challenge to Libertarianism"
That property violates the non-aggression principle is so obviously true that it is amusing anyone ever contends otherwise. The institution of property is the most statist, violent, aggressive, anti-libertarian, big government program in history. Through laws of one sort or another, people are violently restricted from nearly every single piece of the world around them. They do not consent to these restrictions, which are imposed from without, unilaterally and at the barrel of a gun. In the process, every shred of negative liberty and self-ownership is destroyed.
Matt Bruenig, "Salvaging Non-Aggression for Egalitarianism"
How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of the negroes?
Samuel Johnson, Taxation No Tyranny
...every discipline, as long as it used the Aristotelian method of definition, has remained arrested in a state of empty verbiage and barren scholasticism....
Karl Popper, "The Open Society and Its Enemies", 1950, p. 206.
My concern is that we’re dealing with an industry -- exemplified by creationism and climate change denial -- that has built up a body of well-funded propaganda which allows their believers to rear up and say, "Well, we are citizen scientists who have our own facts, and we say that the Earth is 6000 years old and global warming is just a natural cycle." They aren’t going to be impressed by published, verified facts about the natural world when they have something even more significant to them: validation of their biases, consilience with their holy book, resentment and paranoia about those damned ivory tower eggheads.
PZ Myers, "Science in America"
And deserts—the fact that some people deserve what they have and others do not? That idea never made any sense to Adam Smith, for he saw that the overwhelming bulk of our wealth is our joint product through our collective division of labor, rather than the individual creation of some Randite John Galt, who if truly left to stand alone on his own two feet without the social division of labor would soon have his bones bleaching in some Colorado canyon.
Brad DeLong, "Shrugging off Atlas"
Large-scale government social-insurance programs are the best way we have found to achieve major and important public purposes. There has never been a private marketplace offering unemployment insurance. The unemployment insurance program works quite well: It gets money to people who have previously paid for it when they need it. Edward Filene’s welfare-capitalist notion that defined-benefit pensions offered by employers and more recent hopes that defined-contribution 401(k)s could provide old-age pensions more efficiently and effectively than Social Security have not covered themselves with glory over the past generation: Too many defined-benefit private pensions have not been paid out in full as promised, and too much wealth invested in 401(k)s has been skimmed off to enrich the princes of Wall Street. In health care, despite extraordinary administrative inefficiencies and little ability to improve quality and cost-effectiveness, the private insurance marketplace works—unless you are old, sick (and happen to be out of a job), or poor. Yet it is the old, the sick, and the poor who need health insurance most—hence, Medicare and Medicaid.
Brad DeLong, "Shrugging off Atlas"
In any discussion about libertarians, the comments by libertarians will invariably make the stupidity of libertarianism clear.
PZ Myers, "So I invented a new law the other day"
To use one of Ayn Rand’s favorite words, this country is infested with looters: only they’re not the poor, they’re not the mythical “welfare queens”, they’re bankers and obscenely overpaid executives and corporations that demand the right to buy elections. And there stand the libertarians, the useful idiots who cheer them on.
PZ Myers, "So I invented a new law the other day"
Libertarianism as it exists in the United States is basically a mid-20th century American philosophy, at least in origin. [...] basically none of the big old philosophical names can rightly be associated with this mid-20th century libertarianism.
Matt Bruenig, "Sorry, John Stuart Mill Was Not a Libertarian"
[T]he people who insist on being armed as a "demonstration" or a "protest" are using the second amendment to quell dissent. And they are forcing unarmed law abiding citizens to behave in different ways toward them than they behave with others --- less freedom for them, more for the gun owners. Once you put convenient, lethal force in the mix, liberty becomes a zero sum game.
Heather Parton, "Speaking of guns"
No one ever considers the Carnegie libraries steeped in the blood of the Homestead Steel workers, but they are. We do not remember that the Rockefeller Foundation is founded on the dead miners of the Colorado Fuel Company and a dozen other performances. We worship Mammon....
Senator Harry Truman, speech to senate, December 20, 1937.
[...] the idea that people have full liberal property rights in their pre-tax income is unwarranted. They participate in a co-operative venture with others in society subject to certain conditions, and those conditions include one that part of “their income” already belongs to the wider society, via the state. This point, hated by libertarians, defeats the widespread view that people are having “their money” taken off them: it wasn’t theirs to start with.
Chris Bertram, "Squeezing the rich is good: even when it raises no money"
What’s curious is that conservative economists are well aware of the danger of “regulatory capture”, in which public institutions are hijacked by vested interests, yet blithely dismiss (or refuse even to mention) the essentially equivalent problem of democratic institutions hijacked by concentrated wealth. I take regulatory capture quite seriously; but I take plutocratic capture equally seriously.
Paul Krugman, "Sympathy for the Trustafarians"
We are willing to pay hefty premiums to private HMOs, but not the taxes to finance a national healthcare system[...] We tolerate the hardball nastiness of the private collection agency but work ourselves into a rage at the very idea that the IRS will get serious about tax evasion.
Robin Einhorn, "Tax Aversion and the Legacy of Slavery"
[M]ost libertarians would say that we have a non-voluntary responsibility to respect property, and would enforce that with violence. That’s the basic hypocrisy of voluntaristic ideas of libertarianism: everything is supposed to be voluntary and non-coercive BUT the basic principles of your ideology such as property are obviously not.
Mike Huben, in comments for "Taxation Is Not Theft"
You NAP idea is entirely vapid: EVERY political/moral system says "defensive force and properly-justified retaliatory force is not considered immoral": they just differ on what "defensive" and "properly justified" is. For libertarians, this bafflegab protects assertions that absolute property is the only morality.
Mike Huben, in comments for "Taxation Is Not Theft"
Non-initiation of force is a phrase which is used to hide the entire baggage of libertarian theory of entitlement. Since every culture has different theories of entitlement, using the same phrase just conceals the basic question of entitlements.
Mike Huben, in comments for "Taxation Is Not Theft"
As for whether I’m ideological, I don’t need ideology to rebut your arguments. Your ideology is YOUR weakness. It provides you with a bountiful supply of ready-made errors to spare you the pain of rubbing your own two brain cells together to come up with an original idea. Your ideology necessarily makes stuff up and ignores the real world where it is inconvenient. I don’t need ideology to spot such lies and omissions.
Mike Huben, in comments for "Taxation Is Not Theft"
Nobody agrees about what natural rights are any more than they agree on which gods to believe in. Because they are just made-up claims. Real rights require enforcement by society: we put our money where our mouths are.
Mike Huben, in comments for "Taxation Is Not Theft"
In its own way, the "No True Libertarianism" argument is very similar to the "No True Communism" of those on the far left, who argue that the fault of Communism lies not with the idea, but with the practice--despite the fact that no successful large-scale Communism has ever been implemented in the world. Neither ideology can fail its adherents. They can only be failed by imperfect practitioners. Both ideologies run counter to human nature for the same reason: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
David Atkins, "The "No True Libertarianism" fallacy"
Urban street gangs in under-policed neighborhoods, mafias in under-taxed countries, and groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon invariably step in to fill the void where government fails. When the Japanese government wasn't able to adequately help the population after the earthquake and tsunami, the yakuza helpfully stepped in to do it for them. The devolution of local authority and taxation into the hands of criminal groups willing to provide a safety net in exchange for their cut of the action is the invariable pre-feudal result of the breakdown of the government-backed safety net. It happens every single time. The people will want a safety net where utter chaos doesn't prevent it: they'll either get it from an accountable governmental authority, or from a non-governmental authority of shadowy legality. Both kinds of authority will levy their own form of taxation, be it legal and official, or part of an illegal protection scheme.
David Atkins, "The "No True Libertarianism" fallacy"
There’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years, and my class has won.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, in "The 85 Richest People On The Planet Now Have As Much Money As The Poorest 3.5 Billion"
Senator Aqua Buddha is a crank. More to the point, he's a crank without the charming crankitude of his father, Crazy Uncle Liberty (!). He's a grim, humorless little drone who is fully convinced of his own superiority and his own immutable destiny.
Charlie Pierce, "The Big Speech Of The Week"
Ideology means taking some idea -- often legitimate in its own sphere -- to the extreme... Ideology offers certainty -- clear cut choices between good and evil, truth and falsehood. It pretends to have scientific answers to complex problems and holds out one easy standard to judge all cases. It thus relieves thinkers of the tedium involved in making difficult distinctions. In Procrustean fashion, ideologues cut facts to fit their ideas, rather than ideas to fit the facts. More often than not, their claims to science turn out to be little more than manipulative quackery.
Walter Adams and James Brock, "The Bigness Complex: Industry, Labor, and Government in the American Economy, Second Edition"
I don't understand. How did this unregulated, imaginary currency invented by an anonymous hacker and backed by the full faith and credit of YouTube comments ever go wrong?
Stephen Colbert on Bitcoin, "The Colbert Report" 4/17/2013
Philosophers also distinguish between liberty and the value of liberty. Liberty has little value if those who ostensibly posess it lack the resources to make their rights effective. Freedom to hire a lawyer means little if all lawyers charge fees, if the state will not help, and if you have no money. The right to private property, an important part of liberty, means little if you lack the resources to protect what you own and the police are unavailable. Only liberties that are valuable in practice lend legitimacy to a liberal political order.
Stephen Holmes & Cass Sunstein, The Cost of Rights: Why Liberty Depends on Taxes, p. 20.
The most ardent antigovernment libertarian tacitly accepts his own dependency on govenment, even while rhetorically denouncing signs of dependency in others. This double-think is the core of the American libertarian stance.
Stephen Holmes & Cass Sunstein, The Cost of Rights: Why Liberty Depends on Taxes, p. 63.
David Hume, the Scottish philosopher, liked to point out that private property is a monopoly granted and maintained by public authority at the public's expense.
Stephen Holmes & Cass Sunstein, "The Cost of Rights: Why Liberty Depends on Taxes", p. 61.
At common law, only the sovereign is said to have an absolute interest in land: ordinary landowners 'hold of the sovereign.'
Stephen Holmes & Cass Sunstein, "The Cost of Rights: Why Liberty Depends on Taxes", p. 63.
Why do people on the right hate monetary expansion, even when it’s desperately needed? One answer is the power of truthiness -- Stephen Colbert’s justly famed term for things that aren’t true, but feel true to some people. “The Fed is printing money, printing money leads to inflation, and inflation is always a bad thing” is a triply untrue statement, but it feels true to a lot of people. And, yes, a tendency to prefer truthiness to more complicated truth is and pretty much always has been associated with political conservatism, and this tendency is especially strong in an era when leading politicians get their monetary theory from Ayn Rand novels.
Paul Krugman, "The Deflation Caucus"
Adam Smith used the phrase “invisible hand” only once in “The Wealth of Nations,” and he probably didn’t mean to say what most people now think he said. But never mind: Today the phrase is almost always used to mean the proposition that market economies can be trusted to get everything, or almost everything, right without more than marginal government intervention. Is this belief well grounded in theory and evidence? No.
Paul Krugman, "The Dismal Science: 'Seven Bad Ideas,' by Jeff Madrick"
So long as the State permits its subjects to leave its territory, then, it can be said to act as does any other owner who sets down rules for people living on his property.
Murray Rothbard, "The Ethics of Liberty" p. 172.
If the State may be said to properly own its territory, then it is proper for it to make rules for anyone who presumes to live in that area. It can legitimately seize or control private property because there is no private property in its area, because it really owns the entire land surface. So long as the State permits its subjects to leave its territory, then, it can be said to act as does any other owner who sets down rules for people living on his property.
Murray Rothbard, "The Ethics of Liberty" p. 172.
Lacking any really-existing libertarian countries to which they can point, the free-market right is reduced to ranking countries according to “economic freedom.”
Michael Lind, "The Failure of Libertarianism: Why Economic Freedom Alone Cannot Deliver a Better Future"
If socialism is discredited by the failure of communist regimes in the real world, why isn’t libertarianism discredited by the absence of any libertarian regimes in the real world? Communism was tried and failed. Libertarianism has never even been tried on the scale of a modern nation-state, even a small one, anywhere in the world.
Michael Lind, "The Failure of Libertarianism: Why Economic Freedom Alone Cannot Deliver a Better Future"
All Power to the Markets has never been too persuasive as a rallying cry.
Thomas Frank, "The God That Sucked"
The market is a god that sucks. Yes, it cashed a few out at the tippy top, piled up the loot of the world at their feet, delivered shiny Lexuses into the driveways of their ten-bedroom suburban chateaux. But for the rest of us, the very principles that make the market the object of D’Souza’s worship, of Gilder’s awestruck piety, are the forces that conspire to make life shitty in a million ways great and small. The market is the reason our housing is so expensive. It is the reason our public transportation is lousy. It is the reason our cities sprawl idiotically all across the map. It is the reason our word processing programs stink and our prescription drugs cost more than anywhere else. In order that a fortunate few might enjoy a kind of prosperity unequaled in human history, the rest of us have had to abandon ourselves to a lifetime of casual employment, to unquestioning obedience within an ever more arbitrary and despotic corporate regime, to medical care available on a maybe/maybe-not basis, to a housing market interested in catering only to the fortunate.
Thomas Frank, "The God That Sucked"
For all this vast and sparkling intellectual production, though, we hear surprisingly little about what it’s like to be managed. Perhaps the reason for this is because, when viewed from below, all the glittering, dazzling theories of management seem to come down to the same ugly thing. This is the lesson that Barbara Ehrenreich learns from the series of low-wage jobs that she works and then describes in all their bitter detail in her new book, Nickel and Dimed. Pious chatter about “free agents” and “empowered workers” may illuminate the covers of Fast Company and Business 2.0, but what strikes one most forcefully about the world of waitresses, maids, and Wal-Mart workers that Ehrenreich enters is the overwhelming power of management, the intimidating array of advantages it holds in its endless war on wages. This is a place where even jobs like housecleaning have been Taylorized to extract maximum output from workers (“You know, all this was figured out with a stopwatch,” Ehrenreich is told by a proud manager at a maid service), where omnipresent personality and drug tests screen out those of assertive nature, where even the lowliest of employees are overseen by professional-grade hierarchs who crack the whip without remorse or relent, where workers are cautioned against “stealing time” from their employer by thinking about anything other than their immediate task, and where every bit of legal, moral, psychological, and anthropological guile available to advanced civilization is deployed to prevent the problem of pay from ever impeding the upward curve of profitability. This is the real story of life under markets.
Thomas Frank, "The God That Sucked"
"Austrian theory" of the business cycle -- a theory that I regard as being about as worthy of serious study as the phlogiston theory of fire.
Paul Krugman, "The Hangover Theory: Are recessions the inevitable payback for good times?"
There are some men -- it’s almost always men -- who become enraged at any suggestion that they must give up something they want for the common good. Often, the rage is disproportionate to the sacrifice: for example, prominent conservatives suggesting violence against government officials because they don’t like the performance of phosphate-free detergent. But polluter’s rage isn’t about rational thought.
Paul Krugman, "The Id That Ate the Planet"
Free-market fundamentalists prefer rejecting science to admitting that there are ever cases when government regulation is necessary.
Paul Krugman, "The Id That Ate the Planet"
Well one of the main problems for students today -- a huge problem -- is sky-rocketing tuitions. Why do we have tuitions that are completely out-of-line with other countries, even with our own history? In the 1950s the United States was a much poorer country than it is today, and yet higher education was … pretty much free, or low fees or no fees for huge numbers of people. There hasn’t been an economic change that’s made it necessary, now, to have very high tuitions, far more than when we were a poor country. And to drive the point home even more clearly, if we look just across the borders, Mexico is a poor country yet has a good educational system with free tuition. There was an effort by the Mexican state to raise tuition, maybe some 15 years ago or so, and there was a national student strike which had a lot of popular support, and the government backed down. Now that’s just happened recently in Quebec, on our other border. Go across the ocean: Germany is a rich country. Free tuition. Finland has the highest-ranked education system in the world. Free … virtually free. So I don’t think you can give an argument that there are economic necessities behind the incredibly high increase in tuition. I think these are social and economic decisions made by the people who set policy. And [these hikes] are part of, in my view, part of a backlash that developed in the 1970s against the liberatory tendencies of the 1960s. Students became much freer, more open, they were pressing for opposition to the war, for civil rights, women’s rights … and the country just got too free. In fact, liberal intellectuals condemned this, called it a “crisis of democracy:” we’ve got to have more moderation of democracy. They called, literally, for more commitment to indoctrination of the young, their phrase … we have to make sure that the institutions responsible for the indoctrination of the young do their work, so we don’t have all this freedom and independence. And many developments took place after that. I don’t think we have enough direct documentation to prove causal relations, but you can see what happened. One of the things that happened was controlling students -- in fact, controlling students for the rest of their lives, by simply trapping them in debt. That’s a very effective technique of control and indoctrination.
Noam Chomsky, "The Kind of Anarchism I Believe in, and What's Wrong with Libertarians"
Well what’s called libertarian in the United States, which is a special U. S. phenomenon, it doesn’t really exist anywhere else -- a little bit in England -- permits a very high level of authority and domination but in the hands of private power: so private power should be unleashed to do whatever it likes. The assumption is that by some kind of magic, concentrated private power will lead to a more free and just society. [...] that kind of libertarianism, in my view, in the current world, is just a call for some of the worst kinds of tyranny, namely unaccountable private tyranny.
Noam Chomsky, "The Kind of Anarchism I Believe in, and What's Wrong with Libertarians"
But the Grab World baseline allows us to see that all economic institutions are restrictions and infringements on liberty. Property is the most liberty-destroying and all-encompassing of the restrictive economic institutions, but contracts, patents, copyrights, securities, corporations, and so on do the same thing. With Grab World as the actual blank slate starting point baseline, it's clear that all we are debating about is what set of liberty-infringing restrictions are the best ones (unless you actually advocate the Grab World).
Matt Bruenig, "The Lesson of Grab What You Can"
Authority and liberty are interdependent, not simply opposed. As Kant, among others, made dear, rights (including property rights) are defined and enforced by the state. Referring to "natural rights," Emile Durkheim convincingly wrote that "the State creates these rights, gives them an institutional form, and makes them into realities." To violate liberal rights is to disobey the liberal state. In a sovereignless condition, rights can be imagined but not experienced. In a society with a weak state, such as Lebanon for the past decade, rights themselves are weak or underenforced. Statelessness means rightlessness, as the story of migrating Kurds, Vietnamese and Caribbean boat people, and many others should by now have made abundantly clear.
Stephen Holmes, "The Liberal Idea"
[Libertarians] don't denounce what the state does, they just object to who's doing it. This is why the people most victimized by the state display the least interest in libertarianism. Those on the receiving end of coercion don't quibble over their coercers' credentials. If you can't pay or don't want to, you don't much care if your deprivation is called larceny or taxation or restitution or rent. If you like to control your own time, you distinguish employment from enslavement only in degree and duration.
Bob Black, "The Libertarian As Conservative"
Some people giving orders and others obeying them: this is the essence of servitude. Of course, as Hospers smugly observes, "one can at least change jobs," but you can't avoid having a job -- just as under statism one can at least change nationalities but you can't avoid subjection to one nation-state or another. But freedom means more than the right to change masters.
Bob Black, "The Libertarian As Conservative"
To demonize state authoritarianism while ignoring identical albeit contract-consecrated subservient arrangements in the large-scale corporations which control the world economy is fetishism at its worst.
Bob Black, "The Libertarian As Conservative"
Unlike side issues like unemployment, unions, and minimum-wage laws, the subject of work itself is almost entirely absent from libertarian literature. Most of what little there is consists of Randite rantings against parasites, barely distinguishable from the invective inflicted on dissidents by the Soviet press....
Bob Black, "The Libertarian As Conservative"
... the place where [adults] pass the most time and submit to the closest control is at work. Thus, without even entering into the question of the world economy's ultimate dictation within narrow limits of everybody's productive activity, it's apparent that the source of the greatest direct duress experienced by the ordinary adult is _not_ the state but rather the business that employs him. Your foreman or supervisor gives you more or-else orders in a week than the police do in a decade.
Bob Black, "The Libertarian As Conservative"
So the thing to look for when reading a libertarian theory of initial appropriation is how they choose to hilariously turn all of this on its head. All of a sudden, once someone unilaterally asserts ownership of something, moving about the world freely somehow gets recategorized as violating other people's liberty. Even worse, moving about the world freely is even recategorized as aggressively attacking someone!
Matt Bruenig, "The Libertarian Bizarro World"
... every public good problem [has an intractable second-best nature]. The only way to avoid the evident dangers and inefficiencies of government funding is to take the risk of private monopolistic behavior. No a priori answer tells us which loss is greater.
Richard Epstein, "The Libertarian Quartet"
Put another way, public choice theory turned the Marxist theory of the state on its head. As opposed to wishing to free the masses from a state controlled by the capitalist elite, Buchanan wished to free the capitalist elite from a state controlled by the unruly masses.
Andrew Hartman, "The Master Class on the Make"
Buchanan proposed that Virginia could finesse the question of full compliance with Brown and avoid leaving the impression that the state wished to revert to crude Jim Crow standards of race privilege. Buchanan’s innovative solution was the introduction of school vouchers... On paper, at least, Buchanan was advocating a market-based, seemingly race-neutral policy solution. In effect, however, it allowed for the continued perpetuation of segregation. For example, Virginia’s Prince Edwards County shuttered its public schools in 1959 while doling out vouchers to students who attended private schools that only accepted white children. As a result, black children in Prince Edwards County went without formal education for more than five years.
Andrew Hartman, "The Master Class on the Make"
Right and authorization to use coercion therefore mean one and the same thing.
Immanuel Kant, "The Metaphysics of Morals" pg. 26.
Theories of "natural law" and the "law of nations" are another excellent example of discussions destitute of all exactness. [...] "Natural law" is simply that law of which the person using the phrase approves[....]
Vilfredo Pareto, "The Mind and Society" p. 245.
In reality, the “free market” is a bunch of rules about (1) what can be owned and traded (the genome? slaves? nuclear materials? babies? votes?); (2) on what terms (equal access to the internet? the right to organize unions? corporate monopolies? the length of patent protections? ); (3) under what conditions (poisonous drugs? unsafe foods? deceptive Ponzi schemes? uninsured derivatives? dangerous workplaces?) (4) what’s private and what’s public (police? roads? clean air and clean water? healthcare? good schools? parks and playgrounds?); (5) how to pay for what (taxes, user fees, individual pricing?). And so on.
Robert Reich, "The Myth of the “Free Market” and How to Make the Economy Work for Us"
The appeal of the NAP [Non-Aggression Principle] lies in its apparent simplicity and intuitive plausibility (tautologies tend to be intuitively plausible), but it’s typically deployed in a way that amounts to a kind of shell game: I argue that socialism must be rejected on the grounds that it violates this one simple moral principle, and hope my interlocutor doesn’t notice that I’ve essentially begged the question by baking a theory of strong property rights incompatible with socialism into my conception of “aggression,” when of course libertarian property rights are ultimately backed by the threat of (individual or state) violence as well.
Julian Sanchez, "The Non-Aggression Principle Can’t Be Salvaged -- and Isn’t Even a Principle"
The problem is that this homesteading action is outrageously un-libertarian. It involves a single actor unilaterally deciding to eliminate the previously existing access every other person had to some piece of the world, doing so without the consent of those dispossessed of their access, and through the use of violence (i.e. if you try to access the object they now claim to own, they physically push you off or worse).
Matt Bruenig, "The Nozickian case for Rawls’ difference principle"
This is a point that Hayek and his libertarian followers fail to see: the Common Law may be a work of dispersed judges, but it would not have come into being in te first place, or been enforced, without a strong centralized state.
Francis Fukuyama, "The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution", p. 260.
Lin [Elinor Ostrom] is emphatically clear on a number of key points:
  1. Self interested behaviour in perfect markets can be highly destructive.
  2. Appropriate norms and rules will not rely on pure self interest, but instead build on the capacity of (many) actors for conditional cooperation and reciprocity.
  3. Norms rely on collectively mandated sanctioning mechanisms if they are to work properly.
These are not, as I understand Hayek, Hayekian claims.
Henry Farrell, "The Ostrom Nobel"
Working people are far, far freer than slaves or indentured servants, but they are not as free as their bosses and not nearly as free as they might be. [...] In a society that is forever boasting of its dedication to democratic ideals, employees are, however affluent they may have become, members of a subordinate, unmistakably lower, class.
Richard Cornuelle, "The Power and Poverty of Libertarian Thought", Cato Policy Report Volume XIV Number 1, pp. 12-13.
Libertarian thought is wonderfully sound as far as it goes, but there are two gaping holes in it that that are now taking on a decisive importance. For one thing, there is no very distinct libertarian vision of community -- of social as distinct from economic process -- outside the state; the alluring libertarian contention that society would work better if the state could somehow be limited to keeping the peace and enforcing contracts has to be largely taken on faith. Nor have libertarians confronted the disabling hypocrisy of the capitalist rationale, which insists that while capitalists must have extensive freedom of action, their employees may have much less. Their analysis of how an invisible hand arranges economic resources rationally without authoritarian direction stopped abruptly at the factory gate. Inside factories and offices, the heavy, visible hand of management continues to rule with only token opposition.
Richard Cornuelle, "The Power and Poverty of Libertarian Thought", Cato Policy Report Volume XIV Number 1, pg. 10.
As the dust settles on the ruins of the socialist epoch, a second crippling deficiency of libertarian thought is becoming more visible and embarrassing. The economic methodology that the Russians have lately found unworkable still governs the internal affairs of capitalist and socialist countries alike. An economy presumably works best if it is not administered from the top; a factory presumably works best if it is.
Richard Cornuelle, "The Power and Poverty of Libertarian Thought", Cato Policy Report Volume XIV Number 1, pg. 12.
Liberty and equality, spontaneity and security, happiness and knowledge, mercy and justice - all these are ultimate human values, sought for themselves alone; yet when they are incompatible, the cannot all be attained, choices must be made, sometimes tragic losses accepted in pursuit of some preferred ultimate end.
Isaiah Berlin, "The Power of Ideas" p. 27
The most effective way of making people accept the validity of the values they are to serve is to persuade them that they are really the same as those which they ... have always held, but which were not properly understood or recognized before. The people are made to transfer their allegiance from the old gods to the new under the pretense that the new gods really are what their sound instinct had always told them but what before they had only dimly seen. And the most effective way to this end is to use the old words but change their meaning.... Few traits of totalitarian regimes are at the same time so confusing to the superficial observer and yet so characteristic of the whole intellectual climate as the complete perversion of language, the change of meaning of the words by which the ideals of the new regimes are expressed.... If one has not one's self experienced this process, it is difficult to appreciate the magnitude of this change of the meaning of words, the confusion it causes, and the barriers to any rational discussion which it creates... And the confusion becomes worse because this change of meaning of words describing political ideals is not a single event but a continuous process, a technique employed consciously or unconsciously to direct the people. Gradually, as this process continues, the whole language becomes despoiled, and words become empty shells deprived of any definite meaning, as capable of denoting one thing as its opposite and used solely for the emotional associations which still adhere to them.
The Road to Serfdom, p. 157-159.
Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance — where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks — the case for the state’s helping to organise a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong…. Wherever communal action can mitigate disasters against which the individual can neither attempt to guard himself nor make provision for the consequences, such communal action should undoubtedly be taken.
Friedrich von Hayek, "The Road to Serfdom" p. 134.
... in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.
Bertrand Russell, "The Triumph of Stupidity", 1933.
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
John Rogers, Ephemera 2009 (7)
Class conflict is essential if freedom is to be preserved, because it is the only barrier against class domination.
Arthur Schlesinger, "The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom" p. 173.
The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens. The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.
Adam Smith, "The Wealth of Nations", last sentences in conclusion of Book 1.
The pride of man makes him love to domineer, and nothing mortifies him so much as to be obliged to condescend to persuade his inferiors. Wherever the law allows it, and the nature of the work can afford it, therefore, he will generally prefer the service of slaves to that of freemen.
Adam Smith, "The Wealth of Nations" III.2.10
It is really quite rare to find a buyer’s market for rented accommodation. Even if there is a slight oversupply of rental units for sale, time is almost always on the landlord’s side, because waiting is typically much more inconvenient for the party that has to wait without a house to do wait in. In general, when tenants and landlords are negotiating over the potential Pareto gain that could be made from renting the house, the landlord ends up capturing most or all of the surplus. The hot water and habitability laws are simply aimed at skewing things a bit in favour of the tenant and putting a floor on how bad a deal the tenant can end up accepting. It’s a standard game theory result that something which reduces your options can benefit you by reducing the number of bad options that you can end up agreeing to (most famously, the secret ballot has to be compulsory, because if you had the option to reveal your vote, you could be intimidated), and habitability laws are there for exactly this purpose.
Daniel Davies, "The correct way to argue with Milton Friedman"
To suggest social action for the public good to the City of London is like discussing the Origin of Species with a bishop sixty years ago. The first reaction is not intellectual, but moral. An orthodoxy is in question, and the more persuasive the arguments the graver the offence.
John Maynard Keynes, "The end of laissez-faire"
I believe that in many cases the ideal size for the unit of control and organisation lies somewhere between the individual and the modern State. I suggest, therefore, that progress lies in the growth and the recognition of semi-autonomous bodies within the State - bodies whose criterion of action within their own field is solely the public good as they understand it, and from whose deliberations motives of private advantage are excluded, though some place it may still be necessary to leave, until the ambit of men's altruism grows wider, to the separate advantage of particular groups, classes, or faculties - bodies which in the ordinary course of affairs are mainly autonomous within their prescribed limitations, but are subject in the last resort to the sovereignty of the democracy expressed through Parliament.
John Maynard Keynes, "The end of laissez-faire"
For my part I think that capitalism, wisely managed, can probably be made more efficient for attaining economic ends than any alternative system yet in sight, but that in itself it is in many ways extremely objectionable. Our problem is to work out a social organisation which shall be as efficient as possible without offending our notions of a satisfactory way of life.
John Maynard Keynes, "The end of laissez-faire"
Let us clear from the ground the metaphysical or general principles upon which, from time to time, laissez-faire has been founded. It is not true that individuals possess a prescriptive 'natural liberty' in their economic activities. There is no 'compact' conferring perpetual rights on those who Have or on those who Acquire. The world is not so governed from above that private and social interest always coincide. It is not so managed here below that in practice they coincide. It is not a correct deduction from the principles of economics that enlightened self-interest always operates in the public interest. Nor is it true that self-interest generally is enlightened; more often individuals acting separately to promote their own ends are too ignorant or too weak to attain even these. Experience does not show that individuals, when they make up a social unit, are always less clear-sighted than when they act separately.
John Maynard Keynes, "The end of laissez-faire"
I criticise doctrinaire State Socialism, not because it seeks to engage men's altruistic impulses in the service of society, or because it departs from laissez-faire, or because it takes away from man's natural liberty to make a million, or because it has courage for bold experiments. All these things I applaude. I criticise it because it misses the significance of what is actually happening; because it is, in fact, little better than a dusty survival of a plan to meet the problems of fifty years ago, based on a misunderstanding of what someone said a hundred years ago. Nineteenth-century State Socialism sprang from Bentham, free competition, etc., and is in some respects a clearer, in some respects a more muddled version of just the same philosophy as underlies nineteenth-century individualism. Both equally laid all their stress on freedom, the one negatively to avoid limitations on existing freedom, the other positively to destroy natural or acquired monopolies. They are different reactions to the same intellectual atmosphere.
John Maynard Keynes, "The end of laissez-faire"
The libertarian movement annoys me because I feel like it's sucked up a lot of mental energy, creativity, and idealism that could have been put to better use - like the communist movement did generations earlier. I think it did some good, but it's a maximalist, package-deal ideology, and like all such ideologies it's gone into la-la land. I don't think it's killing the country but I think it's done some damage. So there you go.
Noah Smith, "The libertarian solution to inequality"
I wouldn't confuse conservative libertarianism with a genuine philosophy, open to considering reasoned objections. Bryan Caplan is a libertarian, because that's his job! It is a completely synthetic ideology, deliberately manufactured by a cadre of full-time professionals. And, I don't think their employers intend to make the masses any smarter about the economy or society. In short, libertarians are a product of increasing inequality; of course, they are in favor of increasing inequality, and would prefer that no one draw attention to its deleterious effects; libertarianism is one of increasing inequality's deleterious effects!
Bruce Wilder, "The libertarian solution to inequality"
The cost of diversity is really just the cost of intolerance framed differently.
Unknown author, in comments to "The siren song of homogeneity"
There isn’t some a priori theory that tells us whether we are more at risk, relatively, of being busybodied by our neighbor or excessively nose-counted by the state. Or killed by a soldier of the state, or lynched by a voluntary local association of neighbors wearing pillowcases on their heads.
John Holbo, "Thinking About Groups"
While it is a moot question whether the origin of any kind of property is derived from Nature at all … it is considered by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no one has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land … Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society.
Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson, 13 Aug. 1813
"Agrarian Justice" forged a path to this modern, systemic understanding of justice. In it, Paine envisioned justice as requiring that the lowest rung be above poverty level. He recognized that achieving this required forging novel, positive (legal) forms of property rights--social insurance and stakeholder grants--that could not be deduced from local or "natural" principles of justice. He saw, if only partially, the limitations of market- and desert-based justifications of property rights that ignore social externalities. Most astonishingly, he stood at the cusp of a famous systemic principle of equality--a principle defining the limits of justified inequality. In the words of its most influential advocate, John Rawls, "social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are . . . reasonably expected to be to everyone's advantage."
Elizabeth Anderson, "Thomas Paine’s “Agrarian Justice” and the Origins of Social Insurance"
Hayek supported social insurance, even in The Road to Serfdom [...] He made clear that compulsory contributions to a system of social insurance were compatible with a free society. Hayek rejected laissez-faire capitalism and insisted that a free society was also compatible with various forms of economic regulation [...]
Elizabeth Anderson, "Thomas Paine’s “Agrarian Justice” and the Origins of Social Insurance"
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one.
Abraham Lincoln, "Timely Abraham Lincoln quote: Who defines Liberty?"
One incident above all impressed George and me. In the course of a spirited discussion of policies about the distribution of income among a group that included Hayek, Machlup, Knight, Robbins, and Jewkes among others, Ludwig von Mises suddenly rose to his feet, remarked, “You’re all a bunch of socialists,” and stomped out of the room.
Milton Friedman, "Tribute to George J. Stigler, Mont Pelerin Society General Meeting, Vancouver, Canada, September 4, 1992"
A Libertarian is someone who wants everyone else to lift themselves up by their bootstraps just like they didn't.
mrb (Twitter pseudonym, 7:27 PM - 9 Jul 2016)
In so far as I live in society, everything that I do inevitably affects, and is affected by, what others do. Even Mill's strenuous effort to mark the distinction between the spheres of private and social life breaks down under examination. Virtually all Mill's critics have pointed out that everything that I do may have results which will harm other human beings.
Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty"
I do not wish to say that individual freedom is, even in the most liberal societies, the sole, or even the dominant, criterion of social action. We compel children to be educated, and we forbid public executions. These are certainly curbs to freedom. We justify them on the ground that ignorance, or a barbarian upbringing, or cruel pleasures and excitements are worse for us than the amount of restraint needed to repress them.
Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty"
First things come first [...] individual freedom is not everyone's primary need.
Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty"
Almost every moralist in human history has praised freedom. Like happiness and goodness, like nature and reality, it is a term whose meaning is so porous that there is little interpretation that it seems able to resist. I do not propose to discuss either the history or the more than two hundred senses of this protean word recorded by historians of ideas.
Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty"
But we know God hath not left one man so to the mercy of another, that he may starve him if he please: God the Lord and Father of all has given no one of his children such a property in his peculiar portion of the things of this world, but that he has given his needy brother a right to the surplusage of his goods; so that it cannot justly be denied him, when his pressing wants call for it: and therefore no man could ever have a just power over the life of another by right of property in land or possessions; since it would always be a sin, in any man of estate, to let his brother perish for want of affording him relief out of his plenty.
John Locke, "Two Treatises on Government, Chapter 4, §. 42."
[...] the failure of the market to insure against uncertainties has created many social institutions in which the usual assumptions of the market are to some extent contradicted. The medical profession is only one example, though in many respects an extreme one. All professions share some of the same properties. The economic importance of personal and especially family relationships, though declining, is by no means trivial in the most advanced economies; it is based on non-market relations that create guarantees of behavior which would otherwise be afflicted with excessive uncertainty. Many other examples can be given. The logic and limitations of ideal competitive behavior under uncertainty force us to recognize the incomplete description of reality supplied by the impersonal price system.
Kenneth Arrow, "Uncertainty And The Welfare Economics Of Medical Care"
Many entrepreneurs hold the opinion that “I did it all on my own,” which may be well adapted to leadership success in certain situations, but it is objectively myopic. The entrepreneur relies on an ecosystem of venture capitalists, risk-taking purchasers, and so on. This ecosystem itself rests on a deeper foundation of collective, government-led enterprise. The delivery of our software, for example, depended on the existence of the Internet, which is the product of a series of government-sponsored R&D efforts, in combination with subsequent massive private commercial development. Government funding has been essential to much of the university science that entrepreneurs have exploited. Honest courts and police are required for functioning capital markets and protection of assets; physical infrastructure is required for the roads and running water without which we would not spend much time thinking about artificial intelligence software. At the absolute foundation, national armed forces protect the whole system against external aggression. All of our exciting technical and economic innovations ultimately require men to stand watch all night looking through Starlight scopes mounted on assault rifles—and die if necessary—to protect our commercial, law-bound society. Would you do this to protect a billionaire hedge-fund manager who sees his country as nothing more than lines on a map?
Jim Manzi, "Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society"
We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.
Ursula K. Le Guin at the 65th National Book Awards on November 19, 2014.
My goal, in the immediate stage, is to force libertarians to stop pretending that things like non-aggression, coercion, and force initiation do anything in the debate. They don't. Since the words get their meaning from an underlying theory of entitlement, the debate is always and anywhere about theories of entitlement. It is not about aggression or coercion or force. All arguments that turn upon those concepts are vacuous and question-begging. All of them.
Matt Bruenig, "Violently Destroying Liberty Is Important For Flourishing, Libertarian Argues"
[...] our economic life contains plenty of coercion; Nature coerces us, as a community, to provide ourselves with food, shelter, and other necessities; we mediate that coercion, reduce it with technology and self-organization, add to it with structures of power and authority, and apply it to individuals. Specifically, many individuals are coerced into labor. The curious nature of our economic system requires that this coercion take the _form_ of consensuality, but it is consensual only in the sense that a slave consents to slavery if she does not kill herself.
Gordon Fitch, alt.politics.libertarian Sat Feb 12 14:35:07 EST 1994
... all legal systems, including libertarianism, coercively enforce rules that assign the “ownership” of all persons and all bits of the world. Every legal system throws a net of coercion over the entire society it covers, prohibiting by force any deviations from its definitions of rights. Inasmuch as there is just as much of the world to be parcelled out under each system’s set of property rules, and the rights governing all of this property are just as coercively enforced in all systems, there is no difference in the “amount” of coercion -- or, conversely, the amount of (negative) freedom -- under different legal systems, including libertarianism... So, strictly in terms of negative liberty -- freedom from physical coercion -- libertarianism has no edge over any other system
Jeffrey Friedman, "What's Wrong With Libertarianism"
Amartya Sen has pointed out that all contemporary moral theories, including libertarianism, are essentially egalitarian; we can press on from this observation to ask why, if (as Boaz maintains) the liberty of a human being to own another should be trumped by equal human rights, the liberty to own large amounts of property should not also be trumped by equal human rights. This alone would seem definitively to lay to rest the philosophical case for libertarianism.
Jeffrey Friedman, "What's Wrong With Libertarianism"
To my knowledge, all libertarian philosophers (except Conway), from Hayek to Nozick to James Buchanan to lesser-known writers such as Antony Flew and Tibor Machan, reject the positive-libertarian alternative, preferring to rely on the claim that only negative liberty is “real” liberty. It may be surprising that, 700 years after the collapse of Scholasticism, there should still be philosophers who assume that there are “correct” and “incorrect” definitions of words. But it would be a mistake to underestimate how important to libertarian philosophy is the conviction that only negative liberty captures the “essence” of the word liberty. Even if negative liberty is “true” liberty (and even if liberty is intrinsically valuable), however, this cannot constitute an argument for libertarianism without the further assumption that negative liberty is either uniquely or relatively embodied in libertarianism. The assumption that liberty is embodied in libertarianism relatively more than in other systems is necessarily false, however -- unless we are speaking of positive liberty -- since, as we have seen, there is no difference in the amount of negative liberty afforded people by libertarianism and by competing systems of property law.
Jeffrey Friedman, "What's Wrong With Libertarianism" pg. 431.
In editing a journal that has received manuscripts from virtually every libertarian scholar, famous and unknown alike, I have long been struck by the consistent juxtaposition of what another observer delicately calls the “intermingling of positive statements and normative pleadings”: the coincidence of libertarian philosophical sentiments with weak empirical research, leaps of logic, and contempt for nonlibertarian points of view (of which the authors usually appear ignorant). The polemical tone and deficient evidence, however, and the tarnishing of often-good ideas by doctrinaire rhetoric and low scholarly standards, are only the least of it. The worst thing is not the waste of effort that goes into producing propaganda barely veiled by the robes of scholarship. The greater tragedy is what libertarians could produce, but do not.
Jeffrey Friedman, "What's Wrong With Libertarianism"
... libertarianism would simply be liberalism if not for its equation of “liberty” with private property.
Jeffrey Friedman, "What's Wrong With Libertarianism"
It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the modern gurus of libertarian economics – Friedman, Mises, Hayek, and their followers – were and are all basically intellectual McCarthyites, motivated by a visceral hatred of communism and, by association, of all forms of socialism. Their virulent loathing has driven them to embrace with uncritical enthusiasm the opposite doctrine. But it was the vices of nineteenth-century laisser-faire that inspired communism and socialism in the first place!
Angus Sibley, "What’s wrong with Milton Friedman’s economics?"
Despite the intelligence of many of its supporters, libertarianism is an instance of the simplest (and therefore silliest) type of politics: the single-villain ideology. Everything is blamed on the government.
Mark Rosenfelder, "What's wrong with libertarianism (Rosenfelder)"
We should wonder about this impulse of economists like Friedman and Hayek to theorize and write about the meaning of freedom and liberty. Why should economists be taken as the moral authority on what freedom and liberty mean? Are they our new priests? Indeed, Friedman is tipping his hand to a secret about economics as a discipline: economic policies are not value-neutral science.
Howard I. Schwartz, "What Color Tie Do You Vote For?"
Now that we have dug beneath the rhetoric we know that Friedman is really saying that “You are against freedom if you disagree with my theory of government and markets.” Such a claim certainly sounds suspicious for someone who is supposedly defending a diversity of values in the market place. Surely freedom should involve precisely the question of debating what the boundaries between government and markets should be. And surely that very boundary between government and market should be subject to debate and discussion?
Howard I. Schwartz, "What Color Tie Do You Vote For?"
We would say in contrast to Friedman that “Underlying most arguments for a free market is a mistaken assumption that free markets and freedom are one and the same thing.” They are not. The degree of the market’s freedom is always a question within a free society. But there are many gradations of free markets and there can be multiple ways to draw the line between government and the market and all of them can comfortably sit under the rubric of a free society.
Howard I. Schwartz, "What Color Tie Do You Vote For?"
[...] in Ayn Rand’s world, a man who self-righteously instigates the collapse of society, thereby inevitably killing millions if not billions of people, is portrayed as a messiah figure rather than as a genocidal prick, which is what he’d be anywhere else. Yes, he’s a genocidal prick with excellent engineering skills. Good for him. He’s still a genocidal prick.
John Scalzi, What I Think About Atlas Shrugged
Sociopathic idealized nerds collapse society because they don’t get enough hugs.
John Scalzi, What I Think About Atlas Shrugged
To tell a poor man that he has property because he has arms and legs -- that the hunger from which he suffers, and his power to sleep in the open air are his property, -- is to play upon words, and to add insult to injury.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, "What Is Property? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government", pg 61.
But under capitalism some are more equal than others...
Iain McKay, "What it means to be libertarian (Anarchist)"
"Libertarian"... was coined in opposition to the sexism of Proudhon, to note the illogicality of attacking the hierarchies of property and State while defending that within the home.
Iain McKay, "What it means to be libertarian (Anarchist)"
As with much libertarian posturing what they say and how they act are two different things. The libertarians are owned (whether they know it or not) by a group of super wealthy capitalists (Scaife, Koch, Walton, Coors, Mars, etc.). They get their ideologically motivated followers to spew things about "free" markets and maximizing profits, but all this is a cover for their true agenda -- making them even richer.
Robert Feinman, commenting in "What obligation? Maximise what?"
The key economic story of the last 70 years is the triumph of the mixed economy in growing both economic output and living standards. Only an anti-empirical approach to economics could lead to the conclusion that ideological libertarians want: that drastically small governments are better for the human condition than mid-size ones of the sort that exist throughout the advanced world.
Josh Barro, "Where I Learned All About Austrian Economics"
Williamson borrowed from Coase the concept of "transactions costs" the idea that the market price in any transaction may fail to incorporate the full costs to the seller or buyer because of the very conditions of exchange. In particular, whenever there is uncertainty or the need for long-term relationships, the parties to a transaction are unlikely to be able to write contracts complete enough to cover all the contingencies or hidden costs. Furthermore, incomplete contracts encourage one or the other party to behave opportunistically, deliberately withholding information or broadcasting disinformation to get a better deal. In such cases, the transaction is likely to occur under a single roof, inside a "hierarchy" (that is, firm). This solution "internalizes" or reveals to the decision makers those otherwise hidden costs. Williamson showed that there are, even in pure theory, situations in which the inefficiencies of bureaucratic organization are offset by the greater predictability of the outcome. This is showing quite a lot, at least to academic economists. It says that under rather common circumstances it is efficient (maximizing of profits, minimizing of long run average costs) for explicit rules, regulations, commands, organization charts, and social contracts to replace the invisible hand.
Bennett Harrison, "Where Private Investment Fails"
To solve the problem that few Americans are interested in small government, Rothbard argued that libertarians needed to align themselves with people they might not like much in order to expand their numbers. “Outreach to the Rednecks” was needed to make common cause with far-right Christian conservatives who hated the federal government, disliked drugs and wanted to crack down on crime.
Matthew Sheffield, "Where did Donald Trump get his racialized rhetoric? From libertarians."
Barry Goldwater, generally believed to be the most libertarian major party presidential candidate of the past hundred years, famously voted against the Civil Rights Act, the most liberating piece of federal legislation since the end of Reconstruction... This sort of adherence to principle at the expense of the tangible freedom of millions of African Americans sent a clear message of whose liberty received priority. Fairly or unfairly, holding such a man up as a hero of liberty sends a mixed message, at best.
Jonathan Blanks, "Why Aren’t There More Black Libertarians?"
Anarcho-capitalism exists; landownership just happens to be dominated by about 200 corporations called governments.
Karl Widerquist, "Why Do Philosophers Talk so Much and Read so Little About the Stone Age? False factual claims in appropriation-based property theory"
Libertarians think they own the word “freedom,” but it’s a word that often obfuscates more than enlightens. If you believe the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe quote “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free,” then libertarians live in a prison of their own ideology.
Edwin Lyngar, "Why I fled libertarianism -- and became a liberal"
Libertarianism is like Leninism: a fascinating, internally consistent political theory with some good underlying points that, regrettably, makes prescriptions about how to run human society that can only work if we replace real messy human beings with frictionless spherical humanoids of uniform density.
Charles Stross, "Why I want Bitcoin to die in a fire"
Here are some not-standardly-libertarian things I believe: Non-coercion fails to capture all, maybe even most, of what it means to be free. Taxation is often necessary and legitimate. The modern nation-state has been, on the whole, good for humanity. (See Steven Pinker’s new book.) Democracy is about as good as it gets. The institutions of modern capitalism are contingent arrangements that cannot be justified by an appeal to the value of liberty construed as non-interference. The specification of the legal rights that structure real-world markets have profound distributive consequences, and those are far from irrelevant to the justification of those rights. I could go on.
Will Wikinson, "Why I’m Not a Bleeding-Heart Libertarian"
There are just a lot of people out there exerting significant influence over the political debate who are totally unqualified. The dilemma is especially acute in the political economic field, where wealthy right-wingers have pumped so much money to subsidize the field of pro-rich people polemics that the demand for competent defenders of letting rich people keep as much of their money as possible vastly outstrips the supply. Hence the intellectual marketplace for arguments that we should tax rich people less is glutted with hackery.
Jonathan Chait, "Why I’m So Mean"
Further, there can be no such thing as “involuntary intercourse” for the female slave whose owner is a pimp. In her slave contract, she has already agreed to alienate her body for such sexual services. Yes, it is indeed, and only, rape if her owner does not consent to this sexual intercourse. And, if the woman in question objects, which she has no right to do, ask her if she really wishes she had not made the contract in the first place, and instead allowed her child to die.
Walter Block, "Why Libertarianism is Not a Liberal View, and a Good Thing Too; Reply to Samuel Freeman" pg. 551
Without exception the great thinkers of classical liberalism, like Benjamin Constant, Thomas Babington Macaulay and John Stuart Mill, viewed universal suffrage democracy as a threat to property rights and capitalism.
Michael Lind, "Why libertarians apologize for autocracy"
The dread of democracy by libertarians and classical liberals is justified. Libertarianism really is incompatible with democracy. Most libertarians have made it clear which of the two they prefer. The only question that remains to be settled is why anyone should pay attention to libertarians.
Michael Lind, "Why libertarians apologize for autocracy"
For that matter, where was the libertarian right during the great struggles for individual liberty in America in the last half-century? The libertarian movement has been conspicuously absent from the campaigns for civil rights for nonwhites, women, gays and lesbians. Most, if not all, libertarians support sexual and reproductive freedom (though Rand Paul has expressed doubts about federal civil rights legislation). But civil libertarian activists are found overwhelmingly on the left. Their right-wing brethren have been concerned with issues more important than civil rights, voting rights, abuses by police and the military, and the subordination of politics to religion -- issues like the campaign to expand human freedom by turning highways over to toll-extracting private corporations and the crusade to funnel money from Social Security to Wall Street brokerage firms.
Michael Lind, "Why libertarians apologize for autocracy"
Hayek’s critique of democratic government has proven to be the most monstrous blood libel of the post-World War II era -- falsely declaring that democratic government must end in tyranny and the mass murder of its own people.
Bill Black, "Why the Worst Get on Top -- in Economics and as CEOs"
Economists claim that their work should be evaluated based on predictive success. Von Hayek was made a Nobel Laureate in 1974, three decades after his prediction that democratic states were headed to tyranny and mass murder of their own citizens. In those three decades of experience in the nations he focused on (Western Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) – and the forty years since his award – this happened in zero nations. He is batting zero for 70 years in roughly 30 nations with, collectively, thousands of elections. What he claimed was inevitable has never occurred.
Bill Black, "Why the Worst Get on Top -- in Economics and as CEOs"
In essence, the Icelanders who compiled the Grágás manuscripts were doing the same thing as libertarian scholars who hold up Iceland as proof that a society with minimal government can work. They were creating a golden age that probably bore very little resemblance to any period of Iceland’s actual history. The society reflected in Grágás and in so many of the family sagas represents thirteenth-century Icelanders’ vision of what society should be like. In an age when they were beholden to powerful chieftains and made to pay tribute to a king, some bondi thought that a free and equal society looked ideal and played up these aspects of their laws and their history... If Grágás is meant to construct a golden age that never actually existed, its usefulness to libertarian scholars as evidence for a working stateless community must be called into question.
Thomas McSweeney, "Writing Fiction as Law: The Story in Grágás"
Pretax incomes are presumed just [in "everyday libertarianism"], the authors posit, for the same reason slavery was once the law of the land: pervasiveness makes legal inventions appear to be natural law.
David Cay Johnston, "You Can't Take It With You"
The market fundamentalists of Technology Liberation Front and Silicon Valley would love you to believe that “permissionless innovation” is somehow organic to “the internet,” but in fact it is an experiment we conducted for a long time in the US, and the experiment proved that it does not work. From the EPA to the FDA to OSHA, nearly every Federal (and State) regulatory agency exists because of significant, usually deadly failures of industry to restrain itself.
David Golumbia, "“Permissionless Innovation”: Using Technology to Dismantle the Republic"