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Problems with Libertarianism (1 Viewer)

Maurile Tremblay

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This is why I've always liked David Friedman:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuYt6X2g0cY

It's an hour-long video, but rather worthwhile if the topic interests you.

Friedman is about the most extreme libertarian I know of, but he's intellectually honest enough to acknowledge the problems underlying his own views, and to acknowledge that his ideological opponents are not evil or stupid and in fact have well-considered reasons for holding their positions.

I'll have more to say about this later, but I think this kind of criticism is invaluable. Criticism of a movement from within that movement is likely to have a bigger (and more beneficial) effect than criticism from the outside.

"The Problems with Liberalism" written by a conservative, or "The Problems with Conservatism" written by a liberal, are likely to be biased and kind of stupid, but even if they're not stupid, they are likely to be largely disregarded by the people who most need to read them (namely liberals and conservatives, respectively, in those examples).

On the other hand, I think it's very helpful for a devout theist to explain why young-earth creationism is wrongheaded, or for a liberal Democrat to point out some of the problems with Obamacare, or for a respected Republican to draw attention to the imbecility of the Birthers, and so on.

In this case, we have an extreme libertarian explaining why the fundamental tenets underlying the views of many libertarians are without merit. I think it's a very good talk.

 
I got about 20 minutes through it and I will try to finish it later.

Philosophically, I am pretty Libertarian, although I am not a party member.

I think it is instructive that Libertarians can have this type of discussion on purely philosophical grounds because their philosophy has not been compromised or diluted by politics to nearly the extent that Liberals and Conservatives have been. If we had any power we probably would be as compromised as they are.

 
Funny that Libertarianism and Communism can't work for the same reasons. Neither acknowledges what pieces of #### human beings actually are.

 
I will say this. I firmly believe the two party system is broken. A vote for either Republican or Democrat is a vote for the status quo. If third parties never had a chance, we'd still be voting for a Tory or a Whig.

 
His argument around 37:00 (give or take) about how libertarians sometimes kick up dust by making arguments based on what they wish was the case under the guise of principle is spot on IMO. Only it's not just libertarians who do this. You see people make this exact same side-step dozens of time per day on this board, from people of all political persuasions. That's mainly just because of sloppy thought and laziness. It's not unique to any particular political philosophy.

 
That was an interesting listen overall. I think part of the takeaway from this is that it's really hard to derive a consistent political philosophy from first principles.

One issue I have with Libertarians (big-L) is that they place too much emphasis on intellectual purity. That would make it impossible for these folks ever to govern in real life. One of the things I like the most about Milton Friedman is that even though he was clearly a libertarian (small-l), he understood society and he understood how the political process works, and he was willing to work within that system to achieve policies that are friendly to human liberty even if they still violate some fundamental libertarian principle. The Negative Income Tax, which eventually gave us the Earned Income Tax Credit, is a good example. So are things like voucher programs for public education. I'd much prefer that folks like that get active in public service and move us incrementally toward greater freedom rather than worrying about whether it's okay for landowners to obstruct tanks who are trying to defend the landowners in questions.

 
His argument around 37:00 (give or take) about how libertarians sometimes kick up dust by making arguments based on what they wish was the case under the guise of principle is spot on IMO. Only it's not just libertarians who do this. You see people make this exact same side-step dozens of time per day on this board, from people of all political persuasions. That's mainly just because of sloppy thought and laziness. It's not unique to any particular political philosophy.
Yeah, I'm really not sure how most of it was specifically about libertarians.

 
His argument around 37:00 (give or take) about how libertarians sometimes kick up dust by making arguments based on what they wish was the case under the guise of principle is spot on IMO. Only it's not just libertarians who do this. You see people make this exact same side-step dozens of time per day on this board, from people of all political persuasions. That's mainly just because of sloppy thought and laziness. It's not unique to any particular political philosophy.
Yeah, I'm really not sure how most of it was specifically about libertarians.
Well, Libertarians do spend a lot of time coming up with first-principles justifications for property rights. 99.99% of people out there would be completely untroubled by his "How come you can't stop someone from emitting photons onto your property?" example, but that ought to be troubling for a certain brand of Libertarian who holds that property rights are absolute and that only the property-owner can determine what counts as "harm." Stuff like that was Libertarian-specific.

 
I saw the first 20 minutes (will try to watch the rest later) and like what he's doing. I thought about starting a thread where people would argue against what they believed (me against liberalism, etc), but figured no one would be interested.

My first thought here is that I think he's missing the forest for the trees and is defining "the problems with libertarianism" from a starting place that doesn't challenge the ideology's basic premises.

Specifically that some of his examples (the draft, nuclear weapons) were all individual cases of the bigger problems, but that by tackling them one at a time he wasn't addressing the larger issue. (Or maybe he does this later on and I just haven't seen it yet?)

 
I thought about starting a thread where people would argue against what they believed (me against liberalism, etc), but figured no one would be interested.
That's a good concept, but it would face two problems:1) Many people fail to see the problems with their own beliefs, and that's why they are more drawn to those beliefs than other beliefs where they more readily diagnose the faults.

2) Your concept requires enough intellectual honesty to critically dissect your belief system, and not many people have that level of intellectual honesty.

If someone can get over those two hurdles, and many posters here likely can, then it would be an interesting read. Hell, it would also be interesting to see who's so dogmatic that they're incapable of spotting their belief system's faults or are incapable of being honest about them.

 
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I like the idea of an ideological Turing test (which is close to what wdcrob and Jewell are getting at).

If we take a few liberals and a few conservatives and tell them all to anonymously argue for the liberal position on some issue, would the rest of us be able to spot the conservatives? Then if we asked them all to anonymously argue for the conservative position, would the rest of us be able to spot the liberals?

I think there's a lot of value in being able to argue the other side's position well enough to pass such an ideological Turing rest. I'd be more willing to trust the conclusions of someone who could pass it than I would to trust those of someone who couldn't.

 
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I like the idea of an ideological Turing test (which is close to what wdcrob and Jewell are getting at).

If we take a few liberals and a few conservatives and tell them all to anonymously argue for the liberal position on some issue, would the rest of us be able to spot the conservatives? Then if we asked them all to anonymously argue for the conservative position, would the rest of us be able to spot the liberals?

I think there's a lot of value in being able to argue the other side's position well enough to pass such an ideological Turing rest. I'd be more willing to trust the conclusions of someone who could pass it than I would to trust those of someone who couldn't.
It would be possible to intellectually pull this off on a lot of issues, though there are some that I'm sure I'd fail. But it might be hard to fake the emotional content on some of them.

 
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His argument around 37:00 (give or take) about how libertarians sometimes kick up dust by making arguments based on what they wish was the case under the guise of principle is spot on IMO. Only it's not just libertarians who do this. You see people make this exact same side-step dozens of time per day on this board, from people of all political persuasions. That's mainly just because of sloppy thought and laziness. It's not unique to any particular political philosophy.
Yeah, I'm really not sure how most of it was specifically about libertarians.
Well, Libertarians do spend a lot of time coming up with first-principles justifications for property rights. 99.99% of people out there would be completely untroubled by his "How come you can't stop someone from emitting photons onto your property?" example, but that ought to be troubling for a certain brand of Libertarian who holds that property rights are absolute and that only the property-owner can determine what counts as "harm." Stuff like that was Libertarian-specific.
To me, it seemed to all boil down to: Where do you draw the line? I don't see that as being just a libertarian issue.

Maybe the national defense question is the big one in my mind when it comes to libertarianism, but I think it's probably a pretty small percentage of libertarians who would actually advocate for doing it in a much different way in such a large society. It did appear, though, that maybe he was speaking directly to that small percentage.

It almost seemed like he was addressing issues more relevant to anarchists than libertarians.

 
I think the author is right seven out of seven times in this article:

Seven Ways Libertarians Sometimes Run Off The Rails

01/19/2014

Warren Gibson

I’m a dedicated libertarian but my first allegiance is to accuracy. It pains me when I see libertarians making arguments that are inaccurate, irrelevant, or just plain wrong. When they do so, they do themselves and our movement a big dis-service. I list seven such arguments here. More could be added.

1. The Fed is privately owned. This is true only superficially. Member banks own shares of stock in one of twelve district Federal Reserve Banks and they receive dividends on those shares. But they have little in the way of genuine ownership privileges. They cannot sell their stock and their voting rights are very limited. The President of the United States appoints the Board of Governors. Just because a legal arrangement is given labels that suggest private ownership, that doesn’t make it so.

2. The Bureau of Labor Statistics disguises the true unemployment situation by excluding workers who are “discouraged,” i.e., not seeking jobs. This is true of the U-3 unemployment figure which is the most widely cited figure, and the one the Fed says it is targeting. That figure is currently about 6.5%. The BLS also publishes its U-6 figure, which includes discouraged workers and currently stands at around 13%, down from about 17% at the height of the Great Recession. The BLS is not covering up anything here, although politicians may certainly choose to emphasize one figure or the other depending on what ax they’re grinding. Which is the “true” unemployment rate? There’s no such thing. The figures are what they are and observers can make of them what they will.

3. “Chain-weighted” versions of the Consumer Price Index are politically motivated. These adjustments are intended to recognize the substitution effect, the classic example of which is when the price of beef rises and the price of chicken doesn’t, people eat less beef and more chicken. Peoples’ cost of living rises less than it otherwise would. CPI increases as measured by a chain-weighted formula reflect this fact, and the resulting price inflation estimates come out lower than under the old approach. That flashes a green light to some conspiracy theorists. While these adjustments are tricky business, substitution effects are real and the attempt to compensate for them should not be impugned.

4. The Consumer Price Index is politically manipulated by excluding food and energy. There are many versions of the CPI. One of them excludes food and energy because those prices are usually very volatile. That figure may be useful to economists who want to filter out volatile effects and focus on secular trends. Again, the figures are what they are, and politicians or for that matter we bloggers can use or misuse them as we wish.

5. “Banksters” control the U.S. government. There is a grain of truth in this one. The big banks are both victims and beneficiaries of government dominance of banking and finance. The reality of government regulation is that regulated firms employ many very smart and very well paid individuals who are constantly finding ways to manipulate or sidestep the regulations to which they are subject. The fact is that the regulators and the regulated are very thick. Banking and finance are controlled by a cabal of government and Wall Street firms and individuals. It’s a mistake to say that either group totally dominates the other.

6. Global warming is a myth and a scam. Ron Paul, whom I admire very much, blotted his copy book when he said on Fox News, “The greatest hoax I think that has been around for many, many years if not hundreds of years has been this hoax on [...] global warming.” A few basic facts are beyond dispute: (a) carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, (b) CO2 levels are at an all time high, and © human activity is the primary cause of the increase. Beyond that, the evidence starts to get sketchy and incomplete. We do seem to have melting polar ice caps, record high temperatures in some places, droughts, etc. But overall there has been almost no temperature increase during the last ten years or so. Projections of rising temperatures and rising sea levels appear to be too pessimistic. This is a very complex issue and one where biases can overwhelm us if we aren't careful. Statists are prone to accept the global warming thesis because they see it as a way to increase state power. Libertarians want the issue to go away for the same reason. This would be a great time for all parties to step back and exercise some epistemic humility. There’s a great deal about this issue that we just don’t know.

7. Let’s get rid of the state entirely, and all will be well. Given the present primitive degree of evolution of our species, a new state will pop up wherever an existing one is overthrown. The key to peace and prosperity is not anything so simple as abolition of the state, but to convince enough people, thoroughly enough, of the advantages of long-term cooperation. Good institutions will follow.
 
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