RJ Eskow: 11 Questions to Ask Libertarians to See if They Are Hypocrites

Yves here. It is all too easy to goad libertarians, since their ideas are internally conflicted and they get prickly when you point out the flaws in their dogma. They’d like to get rid of the state as much as possible, and pretend that people and businesses can deal with each other fairly based on contracts. But they ignore how numerous factors (such as network effects, economies of scale, and barriers to entry) mean that in many field,s businesses will have far more resources than their customers, employees and suppliers, which enables them abuse their power (there are boatloads of examples on this blog alone). Information asymmetries produce similar power imbalances.

And the reality is that the “shrink the state” ideology has provided perfect cover for new and improved looting. As Jayati Ghosh stated:

For much of the 20th century, it was easier to talk about an overarching socialist framework, a “grand vision” within which more specific debates were conducted. While there were many strands of socialism, with fierce and sometimes violent conflicts between them, they shared a common fundamental vision. At the risk of oversimplification, they all saw the working class as the fundamental agent of positive change, capable (once organized) of transforming not only existing economic relations but also the wider society and culture.

More recently, the very idea of a grand vision has been in retreat, battered first by the failings of “actually existing socialism” in various incarnations, and more lately by the ferocious triumphalism of an unfettered “free market” capitalism. Indeed, the only grand vision that dominated the late 20th century was that of the market as a self-regulating and supremely efficient mechanism for organizing economic life.

Despite the “anti-government” rhetoric associated with it, “free market” or “neoliberal” capitalism was never really about reducing the role of the state in economic life. Rather, it was about changing the nature of state intervention—away from its ameliorative and regulatory functions (as exemplified, in the global North, by the U.S. “New Deal” and western European social democracy), and towards an open defense of the interests of large capital. The “close partnership of capital and the capitalist state,” to quote the great Marxist theorist of the state, Ralph Miliband, was never really all that disguised. With the government responses to the global crises of the last half decade, however, it has become too overwhelming to conceal. The supposed ideology of free markets has been laid bare for all to see as a cover for the ever-greater concentration of capital, and the use of the state to accelerate that process.

By RJ Eskow, who has worked as a consultant in public policy, technology, and finance, specializing in healthcare issues. Cross posted from Alternet

Libertarians have a problem. Their political philosophy all but died out in the mid- to late-20th century, but was revived by billionaires and corporations that found them politically useful. And yet libertarianism retains the qualities that led to its disappearance from the public stage, before its reanimation by people like the Koch brothers: It doesn’t make any sense.

They call themselves “realists” but rely on fanciful theories that have never predicted real-world behavior. They claim that selfishness makes things better for everybody, when history shows exactly the opposite is true. They claim that a mythical “free market” is better at everything than the government is, yet when they really need government protection, they’re the first to clamor for it.

That’s no reason not to work with them on areas where they’re in agreement with people like me. In fact, the unconventionality of their thought has led libertarians to be among this nation’s most forthright and outspoken advocates for civil liberties and against military interventions.

Merriam-Webster defines “hypocrisy” as “feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not.” We aren’t suggesting every libertarian is a hypocrite. But there’s an easy way to find out.

The Other Libertarianism

First, some background. There is a kind of libertarianism that’s nothing more or less than a strain in the American psyche, an emotional tendency toward individualism and personal liberty. That’s fine and even admirable.

We’re talking about the other libertarianism, the political philosophy whose avatar is the late writer Ayn Rand. It was once thought that this extreme brand of libertarianism, one that celebrates greed and even brutality, had died in the early 1980s with Rand herself. Many Rand acolytes had already gone underground, repressing or disavowing the more extreme statements of their youth and attempting to blend in with more mainstream schools of thought in respectable occupations.

There was a good reason for that. Randian libertarianism is an illogical, impractical, inhumane, unpopular set of Utopian ravings which lacks internal coherence and has never predicted real-world behavior anywhere. That’s why, reasonably enough, the libertarian movement evaporated in the late 20th century, its followers scattered like the wind.

Pay to Play

But the libertarian movement has seen a strong resurgence in recent years, and there’s a simple reason for that: money, and the personal interests of some people who have a lot of it. Once relegated to drug-fueled college-dorm bull sessions, political libertarianism suddenly had pretensions of legitimacy. This revival is Koch-fueled, not coke-fueled, and exists only because in political debate, as in so many other walks of life, cash is king.

The Koch brothers are principal funders of the Reason Foundation and Reason magazine. Exxon Mobil and other corporate and billionaire interests are behind the Cato Institute, the other public face of libertarianism. Financiers have also seeded a number of economics schools, think tanks, and other institutions with proponents of their brand of libertarianism. It’s easy to explain why some of these corporate interests do it. It serves the self-interest of the environmental polluters, for example, to promote a political philosophy which argues that regulation is bad and the market will correct itself. And every wealthy individual benefits from tax cuts for the rich. What better way to justify that than with a philosophy that says they’re rich because they’re better—and that those tax cuts help everybody?

The rise of the Silicon Valley economy has also contributed to the libertarian resurgence. A lot of Internet billionaires are nerds who suddenly find themselves rich and powerful, and they’re emotionally and intellectually inclined toward libertarianism’s geeky and unrealistic vision of a free market. In their minds its ideas are “heuristic,” “autologous” and “cybernetic”—all of which has inherent attraction in their culture.

The only problem is: It’s only a dream. At no time or place in human history has there been a working libertarian society which provided its people with the kinds of outcomes libertarians claim it will provide. But libertarianism’s self-created mythos claims that it’s more realistic than other ideologies, which is the opposite of the truth. The slope from that contradiction to the deep well of hypocrisy is slippery, steep—and easy to identify.

The Libertarian Hypocrisy Test

That’s where the Libertarian Hypocrisy Test comes in. Let’s say we have a libertarian friend, and we want to know whether or not he’s hypocritical about his beliefs. How would we go about conducting such a test? The best way is to use the tenets of his philosophy to draw up a series of questions to explore his belief system.

The Cato Institute’s overview of key libertarian concepts mixes universally acceptable bromides like the “rule of law” and “individual rights” with principles that are more characteristically libertarian—and therefore more fantastical. Since virtually all people support the rule of law and individual rights, it is the other concepts which are uniquely libertarian and form the basis of our first few questions.

The Institute cites “spontaneous order,” for example, as “the great insight of libertarian social analysis.” Cato defines that principle thusly:

… (O)rder in society arises spontaneously, out of the actions of thousands or millions of individuals who coordinate their actions with those of others in order to achieve their purposes.

To which the discerning reader might be tempted to ask: Like where, exactly? Libertarians define “spontaneous order” in a very narrow way—one that excludes demonstrations like the Arab Spring, elections which install progressive governments, or union movements, to name three examples. And yet each of these things are undertaken by individuals who “coordinated their actions with those of others” to achieve our purposes.

So our first hypocrisy test question is, Are unions, political parties, elections, and social movements like Occupy examples of “spontaneous order”—and if not, why not?

Cato also trumpets what it calls “The Virtue of Production” without ever defining what production is. Economics defines the term, but libertarianism is looser with its terminology. That was easier to get away with in the Industrial Age, when “production” meant a car, or a shovel, or a widget.

Today nearly 50 percent of corporate profits come from the financial sector—that is, from the manipulation of money. It’s more difficult to define “production,” and even harder to find its “virtue,” when the creation of wealth no longer necessarily leads to the creation of jobs, or economic growth, or anything except the enrichment of a few.

Which seems to be the point. Cato says, “Modern libertarians defend the right of productive people to keep what they earn, against a new class of politicians and bureaucrats who would seize their earnings to transfer them to nonproducers.”

Which gets us to our next test question: Is a libertarian willing to admit that production is the result of many forces, each of which should be recognized and rewarded?

Retail stores like Walmart and fast-food corporations like McDonalds cannot produce wealth without employees. Don’t those employees have the right to “coordinate their actions with those of others in order to achieve their purposes”—for example, in unions? You would think that free-market philosophers would encourage workers, as part of a free-market economy, to discover the market value for their services through negotiation.

Is our libertarian willing to acknowledge that workers who bargain for their services, individually and collectively, are also employing market forces?

The bankers who collude to deceive their customers, as US bankers did with the MERS mortgage system, were permitted to do so by the unwillingness of government to regulate them. The customers who were the victims of deception were essential to the production of Wall Street wealth. Why don’t libertarians recognize their role in the process, and their right to administer their own affairs?

That right includes the right to regulate the bankers who sell them mortgages. Libertarians say that the “free market” will help consumers. “Libertarians believe that people will be both freer and more prosperous if government intervention in people’s economic choices is minimized,” says Cato.

But victims of illegal foreclosure are neither “freer” nor “more prosperous” after the government deregulation which led to their exploitation. What’s more, deregulation has led to a series of documented banker crimes that include stockholder fraud and investor fraud. That leads us to our next test of libertarian hypocrisy: Is our libertarian willing to admit that a “free market” needs regulation?

Digital Libertarians

But few libertarians are as hypocritical as the billionaires who earned their fortunes in the tech world. Government created the Internet. Government financed the basic research that led to computing itself. And yet Internet libertarians are among the most politically extreme of them all.

Perhaps none is more extreme than Peter Thiel, who made his fortune with PayPal. In one infamous rant, Thiel complained about allowing women and people he describes as “welfare beneficiaries” (which might be reasonably interpreted as “minorities”) to vote. “Since 1920,” Thiel fulminated, “the extension of the franchise to (these two groups) have turned ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.”

With this remark, Thiel let something slip that extreme libertarians prefer to keep quiet: A lot of them don’t like democracy very much. In their world, democracy is a poor substitute for the iron-fisted rule of wealth, administered by those who hold the most of it. Our next test, therefore, is: Does our libertarian believe in democracy? If yes, explain what’s wrong with governments that regulate.

On this score, at least, Thiel is no hypocrite. He’s willing to freely say what others only think: Democracy should be replaced by the rule of wealthy people like himself.

But how did Peter Thiel and other Internet billionaires become wealthy? They hired government-educated employees to develop products protected by government copyrights. Those products used government-created computer technology and a government-created communications web to communicate with government-educated customers in order to generate wealth for themselves, which was then stored in government-protected banks—after which they began using that wealth to argue for the elimination of government.

By that standard, Thiel and his fellow “digital libertarians” are hypocrites of genuinely epic proportion. Which leads us to our next question: Does our libertarian use wealth that wouldn’t exist without government in order to preach against the role of government?

Many libertarians will counter by saying that government has only two valid functions: to protect the national security and enforce intellectual property laws. By why only these two? If the mythical free market can solve any problem, including protecting the environment, why can’t it also protect us from foreign invaders and defend the copyrights that make these libertarians wealthy?

For that matter, why should these libertarians be allowed to hold patents at all? If the free market can decide how best to use our national resources, why shouldn’t it also decide how best to use Peter Thiel’s ideas, and whether or not to reward him for them? After all, if Thiel were a true Randian libertarian he’d use his ideas in a more superior fashion than anyone else—and he would be more ruthless in enforcing his rights to them than anyone else. Does our libertarian reject any and all government protection for his intellectual property?

Size Matters

Our democratic process is highly flawed today, but that’s largely the result of corruption from corporate and billionaire money. And yet, libertarians celebrate the corrupting influence of big money. No wonder, since the same money is keeping their movement afloat and paying many of their salaries. But, aside from the naked self-interest, their position makes no sense. Why isn’t a democratically elected government the ultimate demonstration of “spontaneous order”? Does our libertarian recognize that democracy is a form of marketplace?

We’re told that “big government” is bad for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is too large to be responsive. But if big governments are bad, why are big corporations so acceptable? What’s more, these massive institutions have been conducting an assault on the individual and collective freedoms of the American people for decades. Why isn’t it important to avoid the creation of monopolies, duopolies and syndicates that interfere with the free market’s ability to function?

Libertarians are right about one thing: Unchecked and undemocratic force is totalitarian. A totalitarian corporation, or a totalitarian government acting in concert with corporations, is at least as effective at suppressing the “spontaneous order” as a non-corporate totalitarian government. Does our libertarian recognize that large corporations are a threat to our freedoms?

Extra Credit Questions

Most libertarians prefer not to take their philosophy to its logical conclusions. While that may make them better human beings, it also shadows them with the taint of hypocrisy.

Ayn Rand was an adamant opponent of good works, writing that “The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves.” That raises another test for our libertarian: Does he think that Rand was off the mark on this one, or does he agree that historical figures like King and Gandhi were “parasites”?

There’s no reason not to form alliances with civil libertarians, or to shun them as human beings. Their erroneous thinking often arises from good impulses. But it is worth asking them one final question for our test.

Libertarianism would have died out as a philosophy if it weren’t for the funding that’s been lavished on the movement by billionaires like Thiel and the Kochs and corporations like ExxonMobil. So our final question is: If you believe in the free market, why weren’t you willing to accept as final the judgment against libertarianism rendered decades ago in the free and unfettered marketplace of ideas?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Brent Eubanks

    The author misses the best one of all.

    First, make them affirm that they believe that all human relationships should be non-coercive in nature. This should be an easy win, since that’s THE basic libertarian principle.

    Second, explain to them the economic concept of externalized costs, and provide a few examples. Mountaintop removal mining for coal is a good one.

    Ask them to reconcile their principles with the reality of externalized costs.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘At no time or place in human history has there been a working libertarian society which provided its people with the kinds of outcomes libertarians claim it will provide.’

      Until Frank Roosevelt rolled (literally) into the White House, the U.S. fedgov spent only 3 to 5% of U.S. GDP, as it had since the 1790s.

      Which was pretty damned close to a working libertarian society, until permanent war finance entered the picture in the annus horribilis of 1913.

      Starve the state!

      1. dw

        so i guess being invaded by Nazi germany was ok? or being invaded by Imperial Japan was also ok? and of course every one prior to 1930s was so much better off, without exception. there were people dieing from starving. and every one of course got a long just fine. sure. maybe i can seell you some land in Florida thats only a little bit wet?

    1. Carla

      “The Golden Age of Libertarianism in this country was known as “The Robber Baron Era“.”

      And that was different from 2013, uhm, how?

      1. Dave

        Garry Kasparov pointed out that, unlike Russian oligarchs a century later, America’s so-called “robber barons” (a term coined decades later by Marxists) couldn’t just plunder their nation’s resources and sell them on the world market. Men like Rockefeller and Carnegie had do the hard work of figuring out how to produce oil and steel in unprecedented quantities at high quality and low cost, while others invented new uses for these commodities.

        They were and are hated because the least of them did more to raise America’s standard of living than all the world’s socialists put together.

        BTW this is the best deconstruction of libertarianism ever written:


        1. Ben Johannson

          Libertarianism is not now, nor ever was a product of the right. it is always and everywhere a phenomenon of the left.

          1. Massinissa

            Are you talking about the anarchist kind that modern right libertarians stole the term from? Or are you meaning something entirely different? Please explain.

            1. Goin' South

              Exactly. In the rest of the world, “libertarian” equals “anarchist” which is both anti-State and anti-Capitalist.

              These Randians are better called “Propertarians.” They don’t care about human liberty. They care about property rights.

            2. Ben Johannson

              Soon there developed in Western Europe two great political ideologies, centered around this new revolutionary phenomenon: the one was Liberalism, the party of hope, of radicalism, of liberty, of the Industrial Revolution, of progress, of humanity; the other was Conservatism, the party of reaction, the party that longed to restore the hierarchy, statism, theocracy, serfdom, and class exploitation of the old order. Since liberalism admittedly had reason on its side, the Conservatives darkened the ideological atmosphere with obscurantist calls for romanticism, tradition, theocracy, and irrationalism. Political ideologies were polarized, with Liberalism on the extreme “Left,” and Conservatism on the extreme “Right,” of the ideological spectrum.

              Libertarianism (real libertarianism) is devoted to equality, the ending of social authority and abolition of hierarchy, which is why anyone who claims to be a right libertarian or claims to be primarily concerned with property rights is a bullshit artist or very confused. Libertarianism holds that any concentration of power must be continually challenged and justified, whereas the right simply wants to transfer all power to the capitalist class, i.e. they desire a neofeudalist order with powerful “nobles” and a weak centralized state sufficient only to enforce their privileges. Note the number of self-professed “libertarians” in this thread who focus entirely on their money and how it is being stolen by someone who exists beneath them.

              These people want to be lords; their definition of freedom is the right to enslave everyone else.

        2. Massinissa

          Oh puh-lease. Rockefellers monopolization of oil refining by buying out other oil refineries and then shutting them down (putting thousands of men out of work in the process) ‘produced jobs’ and ‘made the world better’? Bullshit!

          Furthermore, on Carnegie, tell that to the folks who died at Homestead, killed by Pinkertons.

          I call bullshit.

        3. UnlearningEcon

          Locke’s essay looks good on the surface but is actually quite shallow, and there is a good rebuttal here:


          I also find this Eskow article to be incomplete. First, most libertarians are not opposed to unions per se, only to government involvement with them (such as preventing employers from firing striking workers).

          Second, libertarians do not generally approve of the actions of the financial sector in its current form, the bailouts, the fed and so forth, and will tell you that this is a result of government cronyism. You can disagree with their ‘governments versus markets’ perspective on this, as I do, but I doubt many can be said to be in league with the banks.

          Third, it is easy for a libertarian to object to your chain of logic linking spontaneous order to political movements – they will simply yell “but if it rests on the law (coercion) it is not the same as voluntary exchange!” Again, you can disagree about what is and isn’t ‘voluntary’, or similarly with ‘coercion’, but you have not provided much that a libertarian does not have a stock response to.

          I try not to self promote too much, but for any who’s interested I have written an FAQ style post on my problems with libertarianism, which addresses some of the points I raise above:


  2. American Slave

    It just goes to show you how successful the damn corporatists/monopolists were at high jacking the libertarianism movement.

    Libertarianism can come in many shapes and forms including mutualists and commutarianism which is anti capitalist.

    All in all for whatever progressive people call themselves whether tea party or libertarian of radical left, they are getting real tired of the ugly corporate and big business monopoly bureaucracy especially the oil companies and big food when we would rather our energy come from local wind and solar and food from small local farms and not this ugly mess of toll collection by fake executives who could give a damn about us or even the country or planet.

    You cant put a price on local energy and food.


    1. ohmyheck

      From your wiki link:
      “While certain libertarian currents are supportive of capitalism and private property, such as in land and natural resources, others reject capitalism and private ownership of the means of production, instead advocating their common, collective or cooperative ownership and management.”

      How can two competing, if not just plain contrary, beliefs occupy the same ideological label? This is the perfect illustration of the obvious truth that there in no real “Libertarian” philosophy. It is an add-on to a multiplicity of core beliefs, strewn together by an individual, who has cherry-picked a few “Libertarian” principles, tacked on their own personal beliefs, and then label themselves “Libertarians”.

      Where is the Platform? At least the Green Party has a platform. They may not stick to it, but if you wish to be a member of the Green Party, you know what they represent.

      It seems Libertarians are “Rugged Individualism” in extremis.

      1. American Slave

        Im not sure most libertarians are for “Rugged Individualism” but they certainly are local and regional based with the local community having lots of power where everyone knows everyone and maybe the community being in a federation with many communities at large.

        Its kind of like asking would the world be a better place with a one world government, some people will say yes and others will say no.

      2. Goin' South

        “Libertarian” has historically meant–and still means in the rest of the world–“anarchist.” The cry of the anarchist CNT/FAI that prevented the Fascist coup in Catalonia and established a society where one could–as Orwell wrote–“breathe the air of freedom”–was “Viva communismo libertario!” They relied on self-organization: worker-run enterprises; democratically run utilities, etc.

        In the 70s, Randians stole the term because it made for better marketing than calling themselves what they really are: Propertarians. As Eskow’s questions do a good job of exposing, Randians care nothing about human liberty, for example, the right to organize into unions. They care only about property rights. Real libertarians, like the anarchist historian Murray Bookchin, insist on calling the Randians “propertarians.”

        There is not an internal conflict among “libertarians.” Rather, there is intended confusion and misdirection resulting from the Randians’ deceptive marketing.

        1. Banger

          I would put it a little differentlly. Ayn Rand would, from my POV be a radical Satanist. Those attracted to it are those that are either actual or perpetual adolescent boys who are attracted to Death Metal, Satanism, and what Anthony Burgess called “ultraviolence” as a way of life. There is no reediming value in this philosophy. It is also not even a right wing thing. The right, traditionally championed some form of communitarianism whether it is fascism or fuedalism or spiritual/religious based communities.

  3. Dr Duh

    Strawman much?

    I’m guessing I could do the same thing w socialism using Stalin, Map and Hitler. But that would be a waste of both of our time.

    The question is not what the most pure version of libertarianism would entail, but whether a move toward libertarianism would be good on baquasarlance.

    Let’s look at the low hanging fruit, stuff Ron Paul advocated
    End the war on drugs/mass incarceration
    End government spying
    End intrusive searches at the mega-border
    Liberalize immigration
    No bailouts for Wall Street

    For what its worth I probably agree with you on most issues, unions, ows, the danger of large corporations to name a few. But trying to solve problems through an increasingly powerful government invites abuse.

    1. American Slave

      Ron Paul is a volunteerism libertarian. The worse kind of libertarian but still a libertarian, and anti-war which is a good thing.

      1. cwaltz

        Ron Paul is/was a hypocrite. He wants government just large enough to fit inside a woman’s uterus or big enough to fit in the bedroom closets of gays.

        With him libertarianism was all about protecting his interests and promoting his own belief sets while calling it liberty(nevermind that it would impede on the rights of others to make decisions on their lives.) In Ron Paul land corporate entities whose primary mission is profit(and who lack a single conscience) would be unregulated, however individuals and the right for them to make choices that impact their ability to pursue happiness would be restricted to “Ron Paul approved” choices(because everyone knows that Ron Paul has the inside line on what constitutes moral behavior. He and God are twins separated at birth.)

        Furthermore, his followers are dangerous because they treat the guy like they belong to his cult. They don’t question him or his motives. They don’t critically examine his actions and compare them to his words. They don’t criticize the guy at all, even when he clearly belongs being critiqued. They’re downright scary in their devotion to the guy. I saw the same thing with Obama supporters. Any attempt to discuss “concerns” was met with scorn and derision. You couldn’t carry on a rational conversation with them at all. If it didn’t fit into their narrow world view they’d pull the proverbial “lalalalalalala I can’t hear you” or “my goodness how could you believe such a terrible thing even when the evidence leans that way, he would never-(rolls eyes.)

    2. Carla

      Gosh, you missed maybe the BEST thing Ron Paul is FOR:

      END THE FED.

      Now, about what to do after, I don’t expect I would agree with Dr. Paul one bit. But about ENDING THE FED … I couldn’t agree more.

    3. Carla

      I am amazed that one of Dr. Ron Paul’s most important initiatives was not included your list:

      END THE FED.

      In this year of 2013, the Centennial of the Federal Reserve System, it’s time to ditch that den of thieves and take back the monetary sovereignty of the United States of America!

      1. Dr Duh

        Sorry for leaving that out, writing on a smartphone is terrifically annoying.

        One of the central arguments of libertarians and RP is that government has been captured by large corporations that are using it to loot the public purse and crush individual competitors.

        The Federal Reserve is but the most egregious example of this.

        1. Sign

          Libertarians wouldn’t do anything to those corporations but give them more power over small localities. The ‘ties’ to the government are nothing more than paper work.

          The “FED” itself existed long before the FED system became reality and will exist after its so called “abolishment”.

          1. Guest

            This of course assumes that we’re talking only about 100% pure libertarians, of which there are probably roughly zero on the face of the earth.

            Libertarians aren’t robots any more than liberals are. Nobody is 100% ideologically pure in their beliefs, and trying to reduce people like that is unfair.

    4. Guest

      Not just straw man but poorly written and rambling as well. So much so as to be almost completely incoherent.

      Anyone who wants to convince others of the rightness of their views needs to be able to present their arguments in a more structured way.

  4. XO

    Reminds me of an old Onion headline:

    “Libertarian Reluctantly Calls Fire Department” (with a pic of his house in flames in the background).

    1. psychohistorian

      The libertarians that I am familiar with are Tea Party folks with inheritance….as in trust fund “children”.

      Children = they never have had to grow up and be responsible for themselves.

      Being the mercurial character that I am (grin), a local one that ran for office as a libertarian filed a harassment lawsuit against me…that was later withdrawn but cost me to show as harassment.

      1. KnotRP

        Might even be a volunteer fire department.
        Is the straw man toast yet?

        I was actually waiting for someone to say
        “yeah, but they like fire departments because
        those are really volunteer property protection

        When this thread is over, can we argue about
        whether Unicorns use their sharp horns for good or
        evil? Why not, since Naked Capitalism seems to
        have gone all Jerry Springer on some ill defined
        stereotyped political bullshit term that fails
        to describe real people and complex issues even
        more than economists fail to describe anything
        resembling real human trade, if that’s possible.

  5. American Slave

    As far as Communism and Socialism goes, what country has existed that the economy was run by democratically elected worker and community councils.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, capitalism has many flavors, and some are more socialist than others (Swedish model, Japan, plus German with its two board system, one of which has heavy union representation).

      1. American Slave

        Only after being a union member have I realized what a compromise it was and my proof is what happened to Detroit.

        Vs a real Socialist or Communist society where the workers would have simply voted no.

        1. Yves Smith Post author


          Ownership of a business consists of rights to control its operations and derive the financial and other benefits of its operation.

          The more you curtail those rights, the less influence the owner/shareholders have and the less profit they derive from the operation of their business.

          I said “more socialist”. This is not either/or. Private ownership with considerable government influence on how the business is run and significant required payments before shareholders get theirs (taxes, social insurance, etc) is very different that the more “free market” oriented system in the US. Non-owners effectively have meaningful property rights by having priority claims on the corporation.

          In other words, this isn’t binary, as you suggest.

          1. Ned Ludd

            When News Corporation, led by Rupert Murdoch, bought Dow Jones from the Bancroft family, he promised to give representatives of the family some say over how it was run. There was even some sort of advisory board set up. However, he didn’t share ownership with the Bancroft family. He owned it; they didn’t.

            • Socialism – social/worker ownership of the means of production.
            • Capitalism – capitalist/investor ownership of the means of production.

            The question of socialism is a bit more complicated with state-owned companies.

            Workers in several Venezuelan state owned companies have launched protests against what they call “bureaucratic” management, instead advocating that the companies be run under a worker control model. […]

            Lacteos workers further proposed to the executive that the company be run under a model of worker self-management, or “worker control”. On Thursday workers were set to debate this in a workers’ council meeting, aiming to propose one of their own to occupy the position of “worker president” at the company. […]

            However workers sent a message to President Maduro that they do not regard recent incidents in Lacteos Los Andes, PDVAL and Diana Industries as isolated, warning the president against a “fifth column dressed in red” in state companies.

            “We’re going to lose the revolution, Maduro, if we don’t get organised,” said one worker, according to Aporrea.

    2. XO

      Seems to me that the high point of our (“our” being the USA) own system of government was run by “democratically elected worker and community councils.”

      Society and Community are the basis of any stable culture.

      Name me one country that was run on Libertarian principles, even for a moment.

      Maybe I misunderstand your comment.

      1. American Slave

        “Seems to me that the high point of our (“our” being the USA) own system of government was run by “democratically elected worker and community councils.”

        Society and Community are the basis of any stable culture.

        Name me one country that was run on Libertarian principles, even for a moment.

        Maybe I misunderstand your comment.”

        What I meant was we’ve never seen a real socialist country on earth.

        1. Stock Bear

          > What I meant was we’ve never seen a real socialist country on earth.

          Which probably means socialism is not achievable in reality, no?

            1. Alex

              Because there have been multiple attempts at a communist/socialist society and all have failed within a generation.

              There has been no failed attempt at a manned Mars mission yet.

    3. Maju

      The USSR for example.

      Don’t get me wrong: I know perfectly that it was a single party system… but that’s exactly like the USA (among many others): the twin-party system allows exactly as much choice (or less) than the more simplistic but equally undemocratic single-party one.

      Otherwise the soviets were democratic institutions and Cuba is indeed a democracy today with quite reasonable levels of popular participation in decision-making.

      Of course democracies can be improved and I’m all for it. In Cuba as in the USA.

      1. Bapoy

        Do you know any Cubans?

        If you don’t I would not make the comment you made, it’s laughable. USSR? No need to comment…

    1. Ned Ludd

      Ever reviled, accursed, ne’er understood,
      Thou art the grisly terror of our age.
      “Wreck of all order,” cry the multitude,
      “Art thou, and war and murder’s endless rage.”
      O, let them cry. To them that ne’er have striven
      The truth that lies behind a word to find,
      To them the word’s right meaning was not given.
      They shall continue blind among the blind.
      But thou, O word, so clear, so strong, so pure,
      Thou sayest all which I for goal have taken.
      I give thee to the future! Thine secure
      When each at least unto himself shall waken.
      Comes it in sunshine? In the tempest’s thrill?
      I cannot tell–but it the earth shall see!
      I am an Ⓐnarchist! Wherefore I will
      Not rule, and also ruled I will not be!

      – John Henry Mackay

  6. nobody

    Let’s say we’re reading a piece by RJ Eskow, and we want to know whether or not he’s hypocritical about his beliefs. How would we go about conducting such a test?

    Well, we might start by seeing whether he’s talking about Pete Peterson and the Koch Brothers, or whether instead a crucial part of the picture has been airbrushed out of it.

    This piece should be read against Matt Stoller’s on “Why Ron Paul Challenges Liberals.”


    1. Dr Duh

      Actually this is an indirect response to the ideological challenge issued by Stoller’s piece. It functions much like the accusations that Ron Paul is a racist, it warns progressives off from leaving the herd.

      I am not a doctrineaire libertarian, much less an Ayn-hole, but I’ve come to appreciate that nothing is free. The cost of a strong central government that can right injustice is the ability of the people to resist an injustices government. I saw this in Spain where young people who refused their draft were threatened with being locked out of education and government jobs which were a huge part of the economy. The government could easily have escalated this to denying healthcare.

      Now you can say that government programs are the key to a decent and humane society but I would argue they are but one approach and perhaps only the most superficially effective. Perhaps by reducing our obligation to our neighbors to paying our taxes we strip out the moral heart of community and reduce them from individuals into abstractions, setting the stage for later cruelty.

      1. Sign

        Libertarians think everything is free to the contractional property owner.

        This is your problem. You think of the government as a “independent” organism. That if far far from the truth. Somebody is always in control and different parts of the beast can be handled by very different people.

        In otherwords, the government is a very “anti-independent” organism. It is always controlled by some part of society. Which part is thus the issue.

        1. Dr Duh

          On the contrary, I think libertarians are very aware that government is not an “independent organism” but rather always in the thrall of some sector of society. (Currently finance in the West)

          The libertarian revelation is that you are *not* the sector that is pulling the strings. Thus if you know that government is an excellent tool for dominating the people and extracting rents from them, then the logical choice is to impose structural limitations on the power of government. In this country we call it the Bill of Rights.

          The theory is that by limiting the means available to government, even in the service of certain ‘good’ objectives, we will increase the central good, liberty.

          A current example might be, by constraining the executive’s ability to use the military without a formal declaration of war we are limited in our ability to achieve the ‘good’ objective of preventing civilian massacres in Syria, but we prevent a whole host of other ills, including a wider middle east war, increasing militarization of our society with its attendant attacks on civil liberties, decrease the likelihood of future military adventures, wasting of resources on bombs instead of food, diverting attention from domestic issues such as surveillance and Wall Street looting, etc.

  7. Hugh

    Libertarians don’t want government interventions, except where they do. This is the exact opposite of other groups who want government interventions, except where they don’t.

  8. Hugh

    If Ron Paul is the standard bearer for libertarians, how do they reconcile his stands on abortion (against), the gold standard (for), the Civil Rights Act (against), the right of proprietors to deny service to those of other races (for), and Social Security (against).

    1. Dr Duh

      Abortion is extremely difficult because banning it is a very powerful infringement on individual choice and would have severe social consequences. However, it is nonsensical to deny that a fetus, from a biological perspective at least, represents a human life. Once you admit that you are left with trying to make an ontological argument for why certain humans have rights and others don’t. This collapses on its own as it is very difficult to come up with logically consistent morally acceptable criteria that could reduce a fetus to chattel without also being applicable to a critically ill person, for example. (Personally, I find the question very troubling and I think the libertarian answer would be to leave it to each community to set its own standards, but you could make a strong case that much as in the need to end slavery, partial solutions are immoral)

      The Gold standard is mostly a means of reducing government’s power, particularly the power to wage war and then inflate away the debt. If war is to be waged then taxes should be paid, if people don’t want to pay for it overtly and openly then it’s not really what the people want. (Based on what I’ve learned about MMT on this site, the economic wisdom of a gold standard is questionable)

      The Civil Rights act is complicated because it is a dog whistle to racists. But the actual libertarian argument against it is about means, not ends. Ron Paul opposes racism as a collectivist impulse and would similarly oppose the canonical lunch counter discrimination. However, using the commerce clause was an obvious stretch and this empowers government to interfere in people’s private lives in ways not imagined by the Constitution. Presumably these objections would not apply to over-turning government sanctioned discrimination in schools, city buses, etc. If this were sincere then RP should have been in the front lines of the Montgomery bus boycott. On a more practical level, one can argue that using government coercion instead of moral psuasion and a broad social movement to achieve these goals hardened the opposition and has created more not less civil discord. (Personally, I again find it hard to be doctrinaire here but I wish it had been achieved a different way.)

      Social Security is also hard to argue against as it demonstrably reduced poverty among the elderly. Libertarian answers begin with criticizing it as unsustainable (which are overstated but not completely unfounded as there will eventually be a demographic crisis) There is also an argument that the SS surplus has enabled deficit spending that otherwise might be rejected, e.g. defense and social transfers. Ultimately, I think the libertarian argument against it hinges on 1) undermining personal responsibility to take care of yourself and 2) undermining family and community responsibility to take care of their own.

      1. Hugh

        “However, it is nonsensical to deny that a fetus, from a biological perspective at least, represents a human life.”

        And by the same logic it would be nonsensical to deny that an acorn represents an oak tree, or that the glimmer in your father’s eye does not represent you. You are equating potentiality with actuality which is a dangerous thing to do. If you see someone who is good with their hands and said they have the potential to be a good surgeon, that would not make them a surgeon, and I would strongly recommend that they not operate on you.

        “The Gold standard is mostly a means of reducing government’s power”

        In Europe, we see a quasi gold standard in action. Government power is not reduced. It just is used for the benefit of the wealthy.

        The commerce clause is the primary mechanism through which the federal government can legislate on economic issues for the nation. If the federal government can set a minimum wage for workers, if it can prohibit dangerous products for customers and working conditions for workers, if in other words it can set the minimum conditions for a market, then as part of those conditions it can tell employers not to discriminate with regard to workers and customers.

        As for Social Security, it is sustainable for as long as our society has the resources to sustain it. And we do have the resources. They are concentrated in the hands of an unproductive rentier class. That wealth should be taxed out of those hands and used for many socially good things, like Social Security. In more pedestrian terms, the income cap should be taken off Social Security and the tranfers of wealth to the rich from gains in productivity over the last 35 years should be returned to workers.

        The 1983 Social Security Reform was masterminded by Ayn Rand groupie Alan Greenspan. The surpluses were always a scam, a backdoor tax on workers. But don’t blame Social Security for that. Blame its looters.

        As for “Ultimately, I think the libertarian argument against it [Social Security] hinges on 1) undermining personal responsibility to take care of yourself and 2) undermining family and community responsibility to take care of their own.”

        We live in an urbanized technological society. It is a fiction that anyone can “take of themself”. We all depend on each other. There is no reason for an economy to exist outside of the social purposes it fulfills. Take care of yourself is just another way of saying you are on your own. This is a very useful argument for the rich and elites who loot us because it splits the economy from its social purposes. The inequalities that come from their looting and manipulation of the economy for their own benefit translates into they are taking care of themselves, and the rest of us who are looted, well, we should just man up and stop whining. Or we should look to a sense of community that has not existed in this country in a hundred years, and was limited and partial when it did.

        1. s spade

          Excellent points. The only intelligent approach to the problem of government is to ask ‘what should be done and for whom’? You cannot get anywhere arguing a libertarian position, which is why you don’t meet many intelligent libertarians. But this doesn’t mean that the government we have makes any sense. Mostly, our government is used like jujitsu against the interests of most of the people.

        2. Bapoy

          Choice, I see.

          What about the choice to stop and think before the penetration? I bet the acorn did not have that “choice”?

          Very neat argument though, socialists are so giddy about humans not being animals, but are now comparable to an acorn. What a terrible argument.

          1. Hugh

            You are presenting a false dichotomy. Choice does not end with penentration. Nor is it always present before as witnessed by rape and incest.

            We are both human beings and physical processes. A cancer, for instance, is a physical process, not a human process. Only our reaction to it is. The human and the physical often overlap and where they do we often treat the physical as irrelevant or incidental. But at the margins it becomes difficult to agree upon where the human ends and the physical remains. So broadly speaking we can agree on where life begins, that is in terms of the physical process, but this is not the same as saying we know or agree upon where “human” life begins.

            1. Dr Duh

              You are engaging in intellectual sleight of hand…

              you are redefining “human” as deserving of rights rather than using a standard biological definition founded in phylogenetics.

              The bottom line is that a 23 chromosome egg from a human + and a 23 chromosome spermatazoa from a human = 46 chromosome zygote develops into fetus develops into cute baby develops in NK poster

              No one would argue that spermatazoa or eggs were human combine them, i.e., fertilization and you get something new and human. Everything else is largely development.

              This is very upsetting to pro-choice people because it threatens their moral raison d’etre. So you insist on calling the fetus non-human. If it is not human than what is it? A monkey, a frog? Obviously not.

              Now you can decide that we don’t give fetuses rights, just like people can decide they’d rather drive SUVs than worry about global warming, but please don’t engage in the equivalent of climate change denial.

              Just say, merely being biologically human does not entitle you to rights, you have to… then fill in the blank and give a reason why.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                IMHO, it takes years of civilizing for most people to belong to the human race, and I see a lot of cases where the training didn’t take all that well.

                1. Dr Duh

                  Serious question Yves,

                  Why don’t you distinguish between Koch Brothers Libertarianism and other flavors when you make clear distinctions between Obama progressivism and ‘real’ progressives?

                  I believe that the party nomenklatura is actually threatened by the prospect of libertarians uniting with and perhaps peeling off progressives and that the attacks on libertarians are essentially political and in bad faith.

                  But I’ve read your site for six years and I have the highest respect for your intellect and integrity. I have no doubt that you are sincere, I just don’t understand why you portray libertarian as synonymous with the Koch Brothers and self-serving bad faith arguments, rather than as a social movement that the Koch Brothers are trying to hijack?

                  Is it because you don’t see a difference? Or is it because you think that they are all on a continuum? Or that libertarianism is such a powerful trojan horse for the looting interests that it must be destroyed?

                  1. Yves Smith Post author

                    Because the type of libertarians exemplified by Cato (recall that this post started from the Cato list of libertarian ideas) is widely considered in political circles in the US to be the most moderate (read least crazy). So if anything, starting with the Cato list is actually being charitable. All sorts of establishment liberals treat they Cato types at people they can do businesses with, unlike the Tea Party types (who are also a Koch creation, but another flavor).

                1. Dr Duh

                  So that’s actually an interesting question. The toenail clipping has human genetic material but obviously isn’t on the developmental path to become human. (They also aren’t actually alive, they’re dead keratin, but putting that aside and consider a piece of living tissue)

                  The canonical example is cloning the Leader’s nose in Sleeper.

                  Clearly the nose isn’t going to develop into a human on its own, but I could imagine a future when it could. Would then any person’s body parts have a ‘right’ to life, to be cloned and grown back? Would this activate the obligation to rescue?

                  1. Lambert Strether

                    Hmm. So now we have “a developmental path” to being human, and genetic material can be on that path, or not. So why do you feel that a fetus is human, and not just on the “developmental path” to being human?

                    1. Dr Duh

                      You’re right… sorry for being sloppy.

                      The difference between the fetus and the nail clipping is that the fetus is on the human developmental path. It is an organism that develops from zygote to fetus, to newborn to KOSack to NC reader.

                      There’s no fundamental biological difference between any of them they are merely different stages of development. So the question is why don’t we give it the rights we customarily give to NC readers?

                      A nail clipping cannot make that claim as it is not properly thought of as an organism.

                      The leader’s nose, wouldn’t normally be thought of as an organism either, but the idea that we could turn it into one through cloning is disruptive.

      2. cwaltz

        “However, it is nonsensical to deny that a fetus, from a biological perspective at least, represents a human life. Once you admit that you are left with trying to make an ontological argument for why certain humans have rights and others don’t.”

        What’s nonsensical is suggesting that being anti choice isn’t arguing that WOMEN don’t deserve rights. Ultimately a pregnancy represents TWO lives that are intertwined. In order to bring life into the world a female risks her life. Pregnancy was the leading cause of death for most of history. It still is in parts of the world where they deny women access to family planning. The truth is a fetus is a parasite. The fetus takes its vitamins from a woman’s body. The fetus shares HER body. Sometimes sharing that body comes at considerable cost to a woman. Gestational diabetes, seizures, having your kidney blocked off or used as a kickball are all conditions that occur as a result of pregnancy. Yet somehow or another all of this is glossed over and all that is talked about is the “right” of a fetus. Anti choicers don’t want to admit it but essentially THEIR argument is that certain humans shouldn’t have rights- it’s just that the certain human they don’t believe deserve rights are WOMEN. Essentially their argument is that if you get pregnant that you should be required to donate your body to the well being of the fetus inhabiting it – nevermind if it costs you YOUR well being.

        1. Dr Duh

          Gee that’s funny, I don’t think I said anything about women not having rights. The question is, is a fetus a human or property? I challenge you to offer a biological definition of human that excludes a fetus, but not someone in the ICU.

          I’m well aware of the health risks of childbearing, but let’s be honest shall we? First you’re overstating the risk. And more importantly, that’s not what drives the majority of abortions in this country. I don’t think you would agree to a ban except in cases where carrying to term represents a threat to the health of the mother. While I’m pretty sure the majority of anti-abortion activists would gladly accept that.

          Pro-choice activists typically dance around and deny the humanity of the fetus because the implications are disturbing to them. They are privileging one individual’s economic and personal rigths over another’s life. What would you say if the only intensivist in town refused to come in to see a patient in the ICU because they couldn’t pay or the doctor decided they wanted to do something else with their weekend. I think you would demand that the intensivist sacrifice some of their well being for the patient.

          As I said, I think it’s a very difficult question. I’ve been firmly pro-choice my whole life, but with my wife having lost two babies (not PARASITES) to miscarriage, I’m much less sanguine.

          1. reslez

            The fetus uses another person’s body as their life support. Without that other person, the fetus dies. Even if you view the fetus as having the same standing as a human person, the fetus’s rights do not outweigh those of someone else.

            Let’s say you suffer from a health condition and will die unless your father gives you his kidney. Even though both you and he are persons in the eyes of the law, the law doesn’t force your father to sacrifice his organs to you. Socially speaking, we might hope he would do this for you, but we do not mandate it.

            Your argument is in essence that (1) fetuses have the same rights as others, and (2) the fetus’s rights are more important the woman’s. The confusion you have on this issue is telling.

            1. s spade

              Of course, the whole “fetus as person” argument begs the essential question: the right of the pregnant woman to choose. The same ideologues who wax eloquent over fetus rights spent half a century outlawing birth control, deny adolescents essential sex education, etc. How many of them rule children with an iron fist, beat their wives, demand the public schools support their own religious superstitions? Funny how these things tend to mesh together. What all this is really about is control. God forbid people should actually decide how to live their own lives. All antiabortion arguments are cant.

              1. Dr Duh

                Is there a reason why you engage in ad hominem attacks instead of discussing the actual question?

                Do you think ascribing mens rea is actually legitimate? Or is it merely intellectual laziness?

                Why does an intellectual challenge to your dogma enrage you? (versus say a legislative challenge)?

            2. Dr Duh

              That’s close

              My argument is the fetus is human
              Humans have a right to life
              The right to life generally takes precedence over other claims, particularly economic or autonomy claims.

              So, if say a woman had an ectopic pregnancy, that would be a clear threat to her life and there would be no moral prohibition against aborting that pregnancy.

              Alternatively, if a woman did not want to carry a pregnancy to term because raising a child costs $200k, then that would not outweigh the child’s right to life. Much in the same way no economic or social consideration would make it permissible to strangle a newborn and throw it in a dumpster.

              What you are saying is that society has no right to demand that people make sacrifices for others. If this is the case than you are a far more hardcore libertarian than I am.

          2. Benjamin Figgins

            A fetus isn’t a person. Period. And before it’s even a fetus it’s a zygote. Neither has a brainstem, let alone a true brain. These two stages are also when the vast majority of abortions take place, contrary to what fear-mongering photoshopped images of baby skulls being crushed with pincers may lead you to believe. The only possible way to view these things as people is if you believe souls exist, and are attached to the material flesh from jump. Those are opinions, and unprovable, and thus have no place in scientific or medical discussions.

            Now if you want to talk about abortion later in the pregnancy, after the brain has formed, that’s a discussion worth having. Although the reality is that it has already happened and the issue resolved. The entire concept of trimesters is a legal fiction invented precisely to deal with this issue. You would also be hard pressed to find many pro-choicers who advocate late-term abortion, except to save the life of the mother, again counter to the propaganda of murdered babies.

            On a closely related issue, no, the man should have no say in the matter of abortion. While I would hope any couple would discuss it and reach mutual agreement, the fact is that while it takes two to tango the burden of actually bringing the fetus to maturity is entirely on the woman. She’s the one who has to carry what amounts to a parasite around for the better part of a year and then painfully expel it from her body. The idea that anyone other than her should have a say in the matter is actually offensive.

            It amazes me how invariably stupid and ignorant anti-abortion advocates are. A fetus not having a brain and thus not being a person is basic biology, and yet they seem to miss this point entirely, perhaps because they’re too busy flat-out making up nonsense (like fetuses masturbating) rather than doing any kind of legitimate research.

            1. Dr Duh

              @Benjamin Figgins

              So are you saying a brain makes you human and entitles you to rights? I’m curious as to why that is where you make the distinction. Is it the mere ‘fact’ of having a brain or is it a ‘function’ performed by the brain or a ‘potential function’ performed by the brain.

              If it is the ‘fact’ of having a brain then I’d like to know how you define a brain. I ask because the neurodevelopment starts very early in embryology (about day 18 when the neural groove forms) and continues well after birth. Is there some morphological standard?

              If it is ‘function’ then I’d be interested in knowing which functions define a brain (and by extension rights) and whether losing that function would then deprive you of those rights. I’m guessing you would say ‘potential function’ rather than ‘actual function’ since you probably wouldn’t withdraw the rights from someone who suffered a traumatic brain injury unless they were unlikely to regain them.

              Then I’d like to hear how this would play out in someone who permanently lost that function. Would they then revert to mere property, to be disposed of as the next of kin felt fit? Could they be sold? Would their contracts (like health insurance) be then void?

          3. cwaltz

            You are missing the point. Any person that abortion should be outlawed is arguing that women do not deserve the right to body autonomy. They are arguing the right to determine inherent risks involving pregnancy belong with government not with the individual required to sacrifice nutrients from her body or risk her organs while sharing her body.

            You act as if the fetus is a separate human entity. It is NOT. The nutrients it derives to eventually become a living breathing person come from a HUMAN BEING. In order to bring a fetus to fruition it requires a HUMAN BEING to undertake risk and sacrifice. That risk and sacrifice should be their CHOICE. The government should not have the right to tell me that I have to risk gestational diabetes because my rights are secondary to the potential life inside of me.

          4. cwaltz

            Overstating the risk?

            According to the WHO every single fucking minute a woman dies from pregnancy and pregnancy related complications.

            You’ve had zero pregnancies. Your wife had two unsuccessful ones(and YES those fetuses were parasites, they lived off the nutrition YOUR WIFE provided to them; They may have been WANTED parasites but they were parasites nonetheless. Read the definition of the word.) For the record, I’ve had 5 pregnancies and 5 deliveries. My last child almost killed me after I developed a post delivery infection that spread to my kidneys which were weakened by my son using them as kickball practice during my final months of pregnancy so don’t tell me about how I’m “overstating” risk.

            1. Dr Duh

              Never let facts get in the way of feeling aggrieved…

              Maternal mortality ratio in the US 21 deaths per 100,000 live births
              (CIA World Fact Book)

              Acute Kidney Injury in Pregnancy 1 in 20,000 pregnancies
              (Gammill HS, Jeyabalan A. Acute renal failure in pregnancy. Crit Care Med. 2005;33(10)(Suppl):S372-S384.)

              Etiology of AKI in pregnancy is divided into pre, post and intra-renal causes. This article provides a nice review. Spoiler alert being kicked by the fetus is not a known cause of renal failure. Though post delivery hemorrhage and pylonephritis are there.

              And while you’re right I’ve had zero pregnancies, I’m guessing that I’ve published more peer reviewed articles than you have.

              So spare me the pseudo-science. The fetus is genetically human. No (real) biologist would call it anything else.

              Make a moral argument about why “body autonomy” trumps the right of the fetus to live.

              Explain how a newborn is not a parasite but a fetus is.

    2. Sign

      Considering the gold standard was heavily controled by the Catholic Church for years, that is a major clue about “Ron Paul”. Ron imo, is a major internationalist. His real ideals would be to liquidate all nations and pave the way for a global market state with political control by the owner’s of property(capital). These properties would control the worlds land. Don’t buy this “market state” myth. A stronger Federal Government=stronger state and local governments because they can fight off business and commercial takeovers.

      Paper money and credit were a Protestant invention, especially used by Calvinists like John Law.

    3. washunate

      Hugh, I generally agree with you, but it’s the Dems who are wacko on abortion. Ron Paul (and most pro-lifers) genuinely believe that personhood begins before birth. Therefore, laws against killing should apply before birth. That’s as consistent as it gets.

      It’s the Dems who speak out of one side of their mouth about reproductive rights and science and protecting women and so forth, and then out of the other side of their mouth about how abortion isn’t a healthcare issue, that are disgusting on the matter of abortion.

      I can respectfully disagree with Paul’s position. Obama doesn’t have a position.

      The same is true of the gold standard and social security – one can disagree with Paul’s stance because Paul has one. The Dems, by contrast, are all over the place on monetary policy and the safety net. What is indisputable is that despite Dems being in power, our safety net sucks, from healthcare to unemployment insurance. And our financial system sucks too.

      The other two items show how racism still exists in our society. It’s a good thing no Democrats support racist policies! You know, like the the drug war and bombing (and torturing) foreigners and arresting immigrants and sending prisoners hundreds of miles from home and denying offenders the right to vote…

      1. reslez

        Ron Paul’s position as you describe it is equally incoherent. Even if you view fetuses as having equal human rights, their rights do not override those of other people. We don’t mandate that parents donate their organs to their sick kids. We don’t mandate that compatible donors give their kidneys to the terminally ill. The right to life has limits where it impinges on someone else. No one has the right to force someone else to be their personal life support system, yet Paul, so-called believer in libertarian “non-coercion”, contemplates this without apparent irony.

        The truth is matters of reproduction have roots deep in the psyche; when it comes to these subjects most people don’t fully understand their own motivations for believing what they do. People give logical reasons to support one side or another but we are fundamentally guided by self-interest and prejudice.

        1. cwaltz

          You really have to appreciate guys who have zero chance of ever dying in childbirth weighing in on the issue though.

          (tongue firmly in cheek)

          My personal opinion is when the first guy dies in childbirth then guys can get back to me on pregnancy. Until then they should sit down and shut up on the issue. They don’t hand you prenatal vitamins or tell you to take multivitamins with plenty of folic acid if you are of childbearing age for no reason. A fetus leaches the body of vitamins to grow and NO ONE should be forced to give up their bodies nutrients involuntarily.

          1. Dr Duh

            By that “logic” women should have had no say in going to war until they were admitted to the combat arms?

            The North should have had no say in the peculiar labor practices of the antebellum south?

            Laws should only apply to the ethnic group that made them?

            Try again…

            Lack of subjective experience is not the basis for a moral argument.

        2. Dr Duh


          Gee that’s funny, turns out my self interest and prejudice are in favor of being pro-choice. In fact, that’s the way I’ve voted based on essentially a harm reduction argument. But I believe could make a pretty compelling argument from an economic standpoint on how increased access to abortion is beneficial to men. I bet I could also make an argument about how increased access to abortion favors the Democratic party and how they represent the greatest hope for curtailing climate change and ensuring my children’s hope for survival.

          But I pride myself on being able to think logically. And I find that when I apply moral logic to the abortion debate, the answers are very troubling.

          Remember this argument started with the question how can libertarians countenance Ron Paul’s stand on abortion. Abortion just happens to be one of the great moral inconsistencies of the left. The right has it’s own delusions.

    1. psychohistorian

      Ding, Ding Ding!

      Absolutely true. They have exceptionalism on their side. If is good enough for Amerika it is good enough for them.

  9. Paul Tioxon

    All libertarians are total hypocrites because they all participate in language. If they were truly free, they would have their own private language that only would communicate with others who accepted the terms of agreement of their individual language. This would be drawn in a iron clad liberty generating contract of personal rights written in the private language that the party of the second part would then have to learn to communicate with the party of the first part. If you agree with these terms please click agree or else go away so I can talk to myself.

    1. Banger

      I think that is a good question. I would answer it this way: people are free to create voluntary organizatios, collectives, communities within a structure of a “free market” (there actually is no such thing so I’m assuming a relatively “open” market that allows for diverstity). In my view, the left in order to expand its influence ought to try to create alternative institutions and not expect people who are fundamentally hostile to socialism (the majority of the population) to take part in something they don’t want. Once the left can establish an example of communities that work then progress is possible and left-wing cooperative ideas can spread.

  10. paul boisvert

    There are three basic moral desires we have for others, because we have them in regard to ourselves, and we understand that others are like us. They are desires for liberty, fairness, and happiness. The problem is that they often conflict–my freedom may impinge on your happiness, what is fair for both of us may limit your freedom, etc. Thus, adjudication between them, and prioritization of their conflicting results, is needed.

    Standard (economically conservative) Libertarians claim that of the three, we need, with very few exceptions (though they do admit some), only focus upon (or maximize) liberty. They believe that in doing so (for all), we will somehow also maximize some combination of fairness and happiness (again, for all–remembering that if some are made unhappy by the results of freedom, it may be because they don’t deserve that happiness, and thus shouldn’t have it, in all fairness.)

    Libertarian socialists, on the other hand, realize that because liberty constantly conflicts with fairness and happiness, particularly when those holding previously gained economic power (often obtained by unfair means) are free to use that power to unfairly limit the freedom and happiness of the powerless, liberty must be conceived differently from the notions held by standard libertarians.

    Chomsky is a typical libertarian socialist, for example, and would point out that children raised in ghetto poverty and violence (because of economic power held by others, and exercised upon the children’s parents–or even just because their parents are intrinsically shiftless criminals) are not “free” in any meaningful sense of the word, and grow up to lead adult lives that are highly constrained by their childhood impoverishment–lives that are, thus, again, not free. If we choose to allow capitalist societies, like the U.S., to exist, in which one out of five children grow up in poverty, we cannot claim to be maximizing (meaningful) liberty for such people. Hence, by libertarians’ own standards, we must oppose such societies.

    Marx was a libertarian socialist, at heart–he realized that humans aren’t truly free under capitalism–free to maximize their happiness, free to fairly share the fruits of their collective labor, free to lead just and meaningful lives. Thus, there is really only one question needed to expose the hypocrisy of libertarianism: how are children growing up in deprivation and poverty equally “free” to achieve fair, happy, and, yes, liberated (from want and despair and disease and exploitation) lives as those who grow up in wealthy households and neighborhoods.

    Every libertarian I’ve ever asked that question has instantly begged it–they evade it or change the subject or sigh and say life isn’t fair or call me a radical…because deep down, they know the answer, as do we all: Libertarians must, to be consistent, insist that all children are given equally affluent and meaningfully liberated opportunities to reach a fully empowered adulthood without deprivation, just as the children of the rich are. That is, they must be egalitarian socialists… :)

    1. skippy


      Study’s have shown conclusively that the first two years are pivotal in a humans future prospects, all of them, health, mental, emotional, etc.

      skippy… sadists, hell all one needs to do is view their blog pages… ZH?

    2. s spade

      Libertarians believe in the primacy of property. Balzac told us ‘money has no stink’. Inevitably some people have more property than others, and a few have a whole lot more, but all those property owners need the services of other people, which provides opportunity for those with talent and no property at all. Libertarians claim that this gives everyone a chance, and they believe that talent can overcome any obstacle, including poverty. They marshal anecdotal evidence that this can be true, but it ignores the fact that most poor children fail and most rich children do just fine. This doesn’t bother libertarians, because they don’t think government really redresses the balance in practice, regardless of what it might do in theory. They focus on anecdotal evidence of counterproductive governmental fuckups, and there are more than enough of those.

      Most of those who find libertarianism repellent are consumed by ideas of ‘fairness’, as though the world is some sort of ball game in which everyone ought to play by the same rules. They ignore the fact that this has never been true anywhere at any time in any civilized society. In peaceable barbarian societies perhaps it has been true.

    3. Bapoy

      “Libertarian socialists”

      I don’t think they conflict with anything. What’s fair to you is unfair to me, what you eat, I cannot eat, what I eat, you cannot eat, what I own you cannot own. Is this that hard to understand?

      This fairness and equality stuff is all BS. I’m going to stop saying nothing is free. Instead I will say this. What you are eating a poor soul close to dying cannot eat.

      What’s “given”, the government extorts from someone else. If you think this is “good”, than perhaps we need many more mobsters hanging around.

      Libertarians are thinking of society. Socialists think of themselves.

      1. Paul Boisvert


        I’m not sure you have a good understanding of the meaning of the words “conflict” and “fair”.

        First, if you are correct that “what’s fair to you is unfair to me”, then obviously those differing notions of fairness “conflict” with each other. Thus, if even various notions WITHIN the overall conception of of “fairness” conflict with each other, then certainly the (very different from each other) overall conceptions of liberty, happiness, and fairness will often conflict with each other.

        More importantly, while it is true that people disagree on what’s “fair”, the whole point of the conception is that within any one person’s view of fairness, what is fair for one MUST be fair for all. When I claim something is fair with which you disagree, I do not simply say, “oh, well, of course you won’t find it fair, naturally only I will find it fair for me.”

        Instead I will invite you to consider our positions switched, each “in the shoes of the other”, and to see if you don’t agree that the outcome is indeed one you would advocate if you were in my shoes, as I will advocate it if I were in your shoes.

        You seem to confuse fairness with naked self-interest, as if there were no difference between the conceptions. Let’s consider an example: if I say “we both work the same hours at the exact same type of job at our company, but you are paid $2000 more than me, and that isn’t fair”, you would not say “oh, yes, that is fair, because what’s fair for me is unfair for you”.

        Instead, you would say, “you’re right, if I were in your shoes, I would be very unhappy at that outcome, so this outcome is unfair for BOTH of us. It’s unfair for you to be paid less than me for the same work, and therefore I agree it’s unfair for me to be paid more, since IF I WERE IN YOUR SHOES, I would agree it’s unfair to be paid less.”

        That’s the common understanding of the conception of fairness–by definition, an outcome must be fair for BOTH parties. The one whose naked self-interest is gratified by an unfair outcome must, unless they are lying or an idiot, still agree that it is unfair, since if the positions were switched, they would agree that it is unfair from the other point of view.

        The one getting more of their naked self-interest gratified is free to say, “I don’t care that this outcome is unfair, because I’m greedy, so screw you”, but they’re not free to say “I deny that it’s unfair that I get an outcome that I would object to if the situations were reversed.” At least, if they utter the latter sentence, we will think they are lying, or an idiot who does not understand the meaning of the word “fair.”

        Thus, I have to disagree with you that “this fairness and equality stuff is all BS.” Fairness is a crucial moral consideration in all aspects of human life (and, actually, for most animals with relatively highly developed mental functionality as well, including primates and cetaceans, as the scientific evidence increasingly indicates.)

        1. Bapoy

          I think you mis-understand my argument above.

          The majority of people I know care about the well being of others. The majority of people are good and want good for others. That is not my argument above.

          My argument is similar to Milton Friedman’s argument about the do gooders. If your main focus is the “good” or the end goal, you will miss what it takes to reach that end goal.

          It’s ok to say you want to end world poverty. Are you willing to sacrifice taking on 3 jobs, leisure time with your family, your energy, your effort, your life to make sure people get something to eat – or will you fantasize about how the government can create these things out of thin air. I bet nobody would take option 1?

          You see, the wealthy are the ones asking for the subsidies and the social programs, nobody else. And this is all because do gooder focused on the goal, rather than how do you get there. To the wealthy, this means a guaranteed income stream via these subsidies.

      2. Maju

        What you “own” as in physically using it, like a farmer who ploughs his/her own land? That is posession and nobody questions it. Or what you “own” as in a deed certified by the state like a landowner with aristocratic dreams who has others working for him/her and paying them with paper money certified by the state? That is (obviously illegitimate) property and that’s what socialists, libertarian or not, stand against.

        “Owning” is a very ambiguos term: someone may own (posession) his own home and someone else may own (property) a dozen houses he does not use at all. Society should not tolerate ownership beyond what is legitimate posession, that’s why we say we are against “property” (state-guaranteed unlimited control of things you do not actually posess). This kind of property is contrary to the natural meaning of ownership.

        Also you and I are part of the same society and live in the same planet, you can’t think of us as strictly different subjects, we are part of the same collective subject: Humankind (same thing at local, regional or ethnic level). Nobody is an island, although some people may manage to be tyrants in control of an army and impose their selfishness to the rest manu militari.

        So the only democratic solution is to destroy that kind of aristocratic or burgeois power, which is clearly against the most basic human rights and the social nature of human beings.

        1. Bapoy

          Ownership is what separates a democracy from a non-democracy. I don’t think you are for monopolies, are you? What do you think is a “state” that owns everything? So I suggest you re-think your idea of what a state should do and own.

          Second, you confuse rights with force. You have the right to pursue (PURSUE) a happy live. Nowhere in that sentence does it say you are entitled to anything. This means you have to work on pursuing your dreams, not the government.

          Next, socialists have the tendency of making the other argument look anti-poor, anti-people, whatever. Yet, re-read your comment above. You want to force property out of anyone you or some other politician deems “wealthy”. You want to force property out of someone because it’s not fair.

          I would not be surprised if we get a Hitler repeat some time soon. At least the socialists are asking for one.

  11. Jimi

    Forgive me my friends as I must confess to being more of a Libertarian than most here @ NC. so i’m going to throw out some ideas on this,

    Is it right,as a social whole, to allow sloth amongst us? The hippy communes of the 60’s and 70’s failed not from too many druggies but from 53% of the people doing 100% of the work to sustain it. Knowing that eventually we all will need some help we also need to know that it’s temporary – Not generational welfare.

    Is it right that 13% of your income is taken for social security under the guise of “Insurance” only to tell you when you need it that sorry we spent it on all sorts of things and it really is, per supreme court ruling, a tax.Or should it be ingrained in you that you need to save,if not invest, that money in your community so at the minimum the cash is in a STATE BANK (per North Dakota)and NOT Wall Street?

    Should the FED RESERVE exist,contrary to Black Letter Law,Or should we insist on following Black Letter Law? BTW, how’s the current method working out for you?

    Should we be building our own communities,friendships, our families or mailing off to out of touch entities 50% of our earnings to do as they wish which is going to P.O. at least half the population at ALL times. Why not individually mail your cash to whatever you want/support? We currently make enemies amongst ourselves by FORCING one to do what they don’t want to. And then we fight each other. How’s that working for ‘ya?

    One person-one vote. Public finance of elections. NO shady donations. (pacs,et al) We do all realise,don’t we, that our candidates for prez are spending 1,000 Million dollars (1 Billion dollars) to be elected to a position that pays 400 thousand per year! That’s insane. You don’t suppose a few palms are getting greased do you? To your (societies) detriment. These same people who want to climb the professional ladder thru favorable legislation for them then want to pull up the ladder to stop you.

    It’s sad that Ayn Rand is the barometer for Libertarians as what she espoused her whole life came crashing down on her later in life when her health failed and she needed MEDICARE.She did not walk the walk.

    I truly believe that socialism is close to Libertarianism in the context of helping your community,families,and friends. Where we part ways is Socialists insist on having an oppressive ineptocracy enforce,thru force,their ideology.

    How’s that working out for all of us?

    But hey, what do I know,right?

    1. Ben Johannson

      Very little, it would seem. First is your conservative mindset toward anyone poor as a moocher and taker, based entirely on moral sentiment. Second is your assumption that if you don’t like social security, then no one else does (I think programs which reduce poverty among the elderly by two thirds are “workin’ out” just fine. Third is your ludicrous assertion that government taxes anyone at anywhere near 50%; learn the difference between nominal and effective tax rates.

      You aren’t a libertarian, you’re a conservative.

      1. Jimi

        Ben, I see reading comprehension is’nt your strong suit.
        NOWHERE did I say that people who need help are a moocher. It is the approach being used that,to me, is the problem.

        All the issues of today to me are how they are administered.
        This money could and should be helping people. Instead it’s wasted.

        If the current system is so great why is the country and the vast majority BROKE?

        One last thing,If my taxes paid truly are’nt helping things why are you FORCING me to pay them?

        I will not divulge to you my current life situation but if you knew it you would be dumbstruck. @ that point you would start calling me names and throwing insults.

    2. RanDomino

      The current system is awful, but what arch-capitalists (aka propertarians aka “libertarians” in the US only) propose would be even worse.
      It’s not enough to simply take away social security, medicare, welfare, the fire department, etc. Government programs are problematic in many ways but they also provide important services that a lot of people rely on. In order for a libertarian society to exist, alternatives that solve those problems in a libertarian manner must first be created.

  12. ian

    I found this post really silly.
    Libertarianism is a lot like a religion. Does the fact that parts of the New Testament are a bit hard to believe literally make christianity worthless? Similarly, libertarianism is a belief in a pure ideal, which is very hard to achieve in the real world. To me, the worthwhile parts of Libertarianism are the beliefs that activities between people should be informed and non-coercive, that given a choice between a private enterprise doing something and the government, it’s better that private enterprise should do it, that constenting adults should be free to do things that don’t involve force or fraud.
    It’s a bias – not absolute. Those who criticize libertarians for wanting to abolish government are erecting a strawman.
    If you don’t like libertarianism, could you summarize the ultimate goals of your political philosophy as succinctly?

    1. skippy

      What you fail to realize is neolibertarianism was never a grass roots – organic – bottom up affair. It was a top down, trickle down, marketing campaign and it was payed for.

      skippy… yeah… yeah… I know its not force if someone pony’s up the money.

  13. Banger

    I don’t buy this approach. Yes, there are internal contradictions the what passes nowadays as Libertarian philosophy. And let’s drop Ayn Rand as a libertarian–she is not, she is to be blunt, a Satanist who would make Aleister Crowley blush–in fact Crowley has something to recommend him Rand does not.

    Political philosophies cannot be internally consistent “systems” they are trends. Libertarians, in their modern incarnation are attempting to counter what I call “bigness” by presenting a counterforce to that. The corporate types you mention, like Koch are not libertarians so much as neofuedalists and we can dispense with them right away. Yes, the idealistic libertarians who are anti-authoritarian, in the end, don’t buy into Koch and his minions.

    Libertarians are a force for change and liberal values more than the left. The left itself appears stuck in the mud and unable to move. The fact most of the left supported and still supports Obama is an abomination I cannot grasp. The Democratic Party uses the left and gives nothing in return other than promise not to appoint a Supreme Court Justice that favors the regular eating of babies and kittens. The left was once a force for openness and free-inquiry yet gauleiters on the left (I think of Daily Kos) refuse to tolerate or entertain non-official positions. The left has also bought into the mainstream media narrative and these guardians of doctrinal purity castigate those of us who believe who stray from orthodoxy. I remember once writing about illegal immigration and the fact is was, in fact, illegal and being called racist etc. The left has become so obsessed with political correctness that I submit to you, as a dynamic force it is dead except in the mind of some academics and bloggers. The reason for the growth of the right is that only on the right are there real agents of change who are open to new ideas, who wish to consider possibilities and explore the imagination. The left failed, as a political movement to counter Koch and the corporatist neofuedalists. Instead it, to the extent it exists, chants “it’s not fair” and that’s the end of it. Occupy, was all about process and 99% well it was unable to appeal to the 99% and Occupy and its defenders never managed to ask why–other than that they were attacked by the media (not really, the media gave it good press on the whole) or the police did this and that. Well the police just flat out outmaneuvered and outthought the movement and it disappeared into thin air. Meanwhile the libertarian anti-authoritarian right continues to grow.

    Does the left have anything left? We’ll see. But the first thing we that those of us on the left ought to be doing is to make friends and have dialogue with the anti-authoritarian right which, in many cases, also distrust the corporate right.

    1. washunate

      Well said. Libertarianism as it exists today is basically just trying to grapple with some way of opposing that Bigness, which has become the greatest threat to liberty and prosperity in our country.

      The left seems utterly stuck, unable even to articulate the problem, let alone develop solutions.

      Or as I like to say in the age of Obama, Democrats owe George Bush so many apologies…

    2. Jimi

      Banger,thank you for your thoughts on this subject.
      Articulated very well.
      If I heard that Banger needed help I’d jump on it and do what I could to help.
      If Banger shows up @ my door w/the equivalant of a gun forcing me to do as he says or else he takes by force my life energy we got a problem.

  14. efschumacher

    But few libertarians are as hypocritical as the billionaires who earned their fortunes in the tech world. Government created the Internet. Government financed the basic research that led to computing itself. And yet Internet libertarians are among the most politically extreme of them all.

    Whereas every Internet developer I know is fully committed to the Open Source ecosystem, and no Internet ‘start-up’ could possibly survive without it. To build fortunes off the back of Open Source and then trumpet about ‘freedom’ and ‘individuality’ is a peculialy ostrich-like aprreciation of what it is that made you rich.

    If I have seen further it is because I stood on the back of Giants” — Isaac Newton, an early appreciator of Open Source mathematics.

  15. Hugh

    Reposting a response to Dr. Duh at 11:08 PM here because my nested response has not shown up in an hour.

    “However, it is nonsensical to deny that a fetus, from a biological perspective at least, represents a human life.”

    And by the same logic it would be nonsensical to deny that an acorn represents an oak tree, or that the glimmer in your father’s eye does not represent you. You are equating potentiality with actuality which is a dangerous thing to do. If you see someone who is good with their hands and said they have the potential to be a good surgeon, that would not make them a surgeon, and I would strongly recommend that they not operate on you.

    “The Gold standard is mostly a means of reducing government’s power”

    In Europe, we see a quasi gold standard in action. Government power is not reduced. It just is used for the benefit of the wealthy.

    The commerce clause is the primary mechanism through which the federal government can legislate on economic issues for the nation. If the federal government can set a minimum wage for workers, if it can prohibit dangerous products for customers and working conditions for workers, if in other words it can set the minimum conditions for a market, then as part of those conditions it can tell employers not to discriminate with regard to workers and customers.

    As for Social Security, it is sustainable for as long as our society has the resources to sustain it. And we do have the resources. They are concentrated in the hands of an unproductive rentier class. That wealth should be taxed out of those hands and used for many socially good things, like Social Security. In more pedestrian terms, the income cap should be taken off Social Security and the tranfers of wealth to the rich from gains in productivity over the last 35 years should be returned to workers.

    The 1983 Social Security Reform was masterminded by Ayn Rand groupie Alan Greenspan. The surpluses were always a scam, a backdoor tax on workers. But don’t blame Social Security for that. Blame its looters.

    As for “Ultimately, I think the libertarian argument against it [Social Security] hinges on 1) undermining personal responsibility to take care of yourself and 2) undermining family and community responsibility to take care of their own.”

    We live in an urbanized technological society. It is a fiction that anyone can “take of themself”. We all depend on each other. There is no reason for an economy to exist outside of the social purposes it fulfills. Take care of yourself is just another way of saying you are on your own. This is a very useful argument for the rich and elites who loot us because it splits the economy from its social purposes. The inequalities that come from their looting and manipulation of the economy for their own benefit translates into they are taking care of themselves, and the rest of us who are looted, well, we should just man up and stop whining. Or we should look to a sense of community that has not existed in this country in a hundred years, and was limited and partial when it did.

    1. Banger

      Much of the reason libertarianism is so appealing to so many is that it is one way of rejecting “modern industrial society” that is “safe.” I think our current system is not emotionally sustainable–parts of this order work pretty well we have a fairly stable and robust system but it is not very satisfying to those of us who believe there is more to life than self-interest and commercial life. But we are in a minority though that seems to be changing.

      Of course we are interdependent–human civilization and, indeed, nature is interdependent but we are stuck with an ideology that states that each individual, each country, each society and each category is discrete. Even the idea that there are “winners and losers” is an assumption that is, when looked at closely, kind of silly if you assume interdependence. Human beings are hard-wired for compassion and eventually that need will assert itself when Americans find out that the virtual life really is not life but some half-life. I expect a new cultural re-birth in the coming years where we will move away from selfishness and embrace the virtues of celebration and love–I’m still an old hippy and remember how that felt and then–what followed was a long period of repression or displacement not so much by the state but by ourselves.

      1. Jim

        Banger says

        “I expect a new cultural re-birth in the coming years where we move away from selfishness and embrace the virtue of celebration and love–I’m still an old hippy and remember how that felt and then–what followed was a long period of repression and displacement not so much by the state but by us.”

        Your sentiment touches, by implication, on many of the reasons why the left is in crisis (i.e. apparently no longer capable of effective mobilization).

        I agree with you that our future expectations/visions need to be centered on a cultural re-birth. Unfortunately the traditional left has always had an extremely narrow definition of revolution encased within its outmoded fixation on class.

        For the traditional left the base (the economic) is supposedly more real than the things that are supposedly only superstructurally added (like culture).

        The left (see for example the writings of Bourdieu) has been content with discussing, on a psychological level, only those dimensions of the individual which could be integrated into their vision of the base or simply being satisfied with attempting to identify the supposed class within each of us.

        The hippies largely seemed to make a rhetorical attempt at changing themselves but failed in actually changing themselves or American society. They never developed a coherent vision, message or practice as to how such twin goals might actually be possible– but such a cultural /political message could have huge potential in the United States.

        The traditional left has created its own inertia through its endless narratives of domination, repression and privilege.

        It must now move beyond such tired and boring rhetoric and make an attempt at mobilizing the real potentials of individuals in our society.

        1. Banger

          What you say makes a lot of sense. As for your comments on the left–it is dead–most leftists don’t know it but the whole movement is done there is no vitality because the Gauleiters and fuss-budgets have killed of the imagination–political correctness which means, essentially, that there is only one way of viewing things and yes endless cliche after cliche.

          The only fresh movement to be vaguely on the left is the Zeitgeist movement which believes in open ideas, open imaginations and open hearts–mind you, I don’t agree with everthing about it–there are many flaws in some of the main people there but they don’t suffer from the failure of the imagination that the left in the West has been suffering from for some time.

          I will give you a short vignette of how a successful left-movement works. In the early seventies I was living in Italy and got to know some Communitst politicians. At the time the Party was really a social democratic/collectivist party. It ran many of the cities in the northern part of Italy and ran them fairly well by Italian centers–much less corrupt than the Christian Democrats. What the Communists did in Italy was they delivered tangible benefits to the people with a minimum of corruption (always a big deal in Italy). Just as the Communists were about to become part of government for the first time events ocurred that completely discredited the CP and the left. I believe most of these events were staged but that is another story.

          1. Benjamin Figgins

            You mean the Zeitgeist movement founded by Peter Joseph, a man whose films contain either a flat-out lie or a gross distortion of the truth virtually every five seconds?

            1. Banger

              Yes, Peter Joseph’s films, particularly his first one does give me a lot of problems. But his last two are, in my view, better. But Joseph is no longer the movement there are many others who have varying views and approaches. On balance I’m neither for nor against Joseph and do not consider myself part of the movement. However, they are not suffering form the chief fault of the left–failure of the imagination. They are explorers and are open, unlike most of the left to thinking across boundaries and I like that very much.

              Give me a choice of following Obama and the mainstream narrative or Josephy I’ll vote for Joseph any day.

  16. william

    Alternet was daily reading a couple years ago, but the sloppy writing and poor editing caused me to quit the web site. Their writers seem not to be held to any journalistic standards. This article is representative of that kind of “journalism.” Alternet is like Fox News for radical minds or those who only love to hear their own views reinforced.

  17. washunate

    I don’t really understand the hatin’ on libertarians, other than that they reveal the utter bankruptcy of liberalism and the left in the US, so it must be pretty embarrassing to the corporatists in both major parties.

    When Ron Paul and Milton Friedman have positions that are to the ‘left’ of the Dems, I suppose it’s no wonder Dems are quick to demonize. Heck, even on some wedge issues like abortion, it’s the Dems who are the hypcorites. They’re the ones enabling the assault on reproductive healthcare.

    How on Earth can a piece be written without even using the words war or spying or drugs? The only thing I can conclude is that this isn’t a serious exploratory piece. It’s just preaching to whatever is left of the choir of make fun of libertarians to make liberals feel better. That bullying mentality is part of where liberalism has gone wrong – it is supposed to embrace diversity of opinion, not mock it.

    1. Paul Boisvert

      Two points: First, it’s again crucial to distinguish between the three moral desires humans hold: those for liberty, fairness, and happiness. Utilitarians prioritize happiness, libertarians prioritize liberty, and (for want of a better word) “egalitarians” prioritize fairness–although fairness is the least well-defined of the three, and hence everyone thinks their “ism” is “fair”, pretty much by definition.

      But they conflict–so the mistake is to think that (almost) ALL issues in society should be resolved by appeal to only ONE of the three moral desires. Prioritizing happiness in ALL cases leads to absurdity–what if 70% of the population will be made very happy by lynching me just because I’m bald? It conflicts with fairness and (my) liberty to allow them their (great) happiness.

      Thus, the mistake Libertarians make isn’t that for some issues they (absolutely correctly) advocate liberty as the moral framework–being antiwar, anti-heterosexist, anti-criminalizing drugs, etc. Libertarians’ positions on many issues are wonderful–but those are issues with regard to which one person’s liberty does not impinge on the rights of other to fairly lead happy lives. In such cases, there is no (relevant) conflict between liberty and fairness and happiness. Go Liberty!

      Rather, the mistake Liberarians make is that they claim that liberty is (almost) ALWAYS the moral solution–even for issues where allowing those (with power) their liberty clearly impinges unfairly on the happiness of others. The mains such issues are of course economic ones.

      No one participates in societal labor as a “free” person, unaided and unabetted by millions of other people whose labor creates infrastructure and inputs and whose choices (should) establish the socioeconomic relations that define a person’s ability to share in the economic product they HELP create. Thus, economic participants CANNOT be granted nearly as much liberty as libertarians want, without greatly violating our moral desires for fairness and happiness.

      Secondly, the “left” and “liberals” are not the same. The Democratic party is (barely) liberal, but the “left” has to really be considered to be those who are anti-capitalist (i.e., pro-socialist, in some sense.) If, as socialists believe, capitalism IS the problem (in that it greatly limits the happiness, liberty, and fairness available to most people in society), then “liberal” solutions (like reforming capitalism towards more “Swedish” scenarios) are ultimately inadequate (unsustainable in the long run, and/or still too unfair and immiserating, even if sustainable).

      The conflation of the left with “liberals” and/or the Democrats is understandable, but leads to a lot of misunderstanding and confusion–better to keep the two separate. Many NC participants (including Yves, as I see it) have their hearts in the right place–they want to enhance the liberty, fairness, and happiness of our society. But they still hold out hope that capitalism can be “reformed” to satisfy those moral desires (often because they feel socialism, which could theoretically do a better job of it, has “failed”. I would just point out that every attempt to reach either Pole or climb Mt. Everest also failed–until the ones that succeeded.)

      I think to hope for “reform” is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of capitalism, and more importantly, of democracy, which is the only political system that can possibly satisfy our moral desires. Capitalism is one dollar, one vote–democracy is one person, one vote. Until every worker in every job has an equal vote in how her company is run, we don’t have democracy–and once we do have that, we won’t have capitalism… :)

      1. Maju

        How can someone be “happy” without freedom. Sure: my freedom ends where yours begin and vice versa but a reasonable degree of freedom is necessary for happinness, just look at the immense sadness that caged animals or prisons transpire.

        So there is no real opposition between happiness and freedom but rather complementariness.

  18. Ready2gonow

    Seems like there is plenty of hypocrisy to go around “The bankers who collude to deceive their customers, as US bankers did with the MERS mortgage system, were permitted to do so by the unwillingness of government to regulate them.” So where was/is the state in this, and many many other instances? Libertarianism isn’t about screwing over your nieghbor – its about not stealing 50% of our money to give to the state so THEY can screw over our nieghbor.

  19. Samuel Conner

    Capital in alliance with the State. That sounds a great deal like late ’30s Germany. Is that where we’re headed?

  20. TomDority

    It is important to make the distinction clearly, while reading the above article, between wealth and money.
    Wealth can NOT be created without labor.
    Additionally, labor (humans) can not exist without land (earth). Neo-classical economics was a deliberate plan/economic teaching devised by the plutocrats of the time (landed wealth/ land barrons/rentiers) to enable the extraction of wealth created by labor. They did this by erasing the distinction between labor and land.
    The inequality of money distribution in our country was a known outcome of neo-classical economic operation – to achieve this extreme mal-distribution – the plutocrats needed only to destroy the laws designed to prevent this imbalance from happening… Glass Stegal et al. and, one step further, eliminate the taxation upon plutocrat economic rent extraction activities – this explains the huge political investments in undermining public financing, health care and push for privatizing all things public by these very same predators- the neo-classical framework gives them cover.
    The only effective cure is to tax (not bail out) those destructive activities back into the public domain – this would have the effect of allowing the public to vote upon how and where this public investment should go (as opposed to having no say because, this money now falls into the hands of private corporations/ the owners of private corporations hands) – By taking back what should be public from those who wish to privatize, public finance could be directed at things desirable to the community as a whole….poverty, infrastructure, energy, schools….

    I will leave it their for now

  21. TomDority

    “We, the People, are the rightful masters of both the Congress and the Courts. Not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who have perverted it.” – Abraham Lincoln

    As Woody Wilson ruefully wrote:
    “A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men who, even if their action be honest and intended for the public interest, are necessarily concentrated upon the great undertakings in which their own money is involved and who necessarily, by very reason of their own limitations, chill and check and destroy genuine economic freedom.”

    The overwhelming influence of great private monopolies in both legislatures and courts cannot continue if we are to maintain popular government. If we fail to regulate grants of public powers properly, invasion of private rights by those powers will be our proper and certain reward.

    “We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
    They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
    Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.”
    Election eve speech at Madison Square Garden (October 31, 1936)
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    1. s spade

      You’re quoting arch hypocrite Woodrow Wilson? The Morgan stooge who pushed through the Federal Reserve Act and the Income Tax and finagled America into WWI to save the Morgan loans? The guy was a Presbyterian public relations man!

      1. tomdority

        Sure – he may be a hypocrite on an issue- I doubt anyone can claim to be above hypocrisy always and forever – to do so would expose hypocrisy.

        The dog that may be your best friend still shits in your yard.
        The bird, with such sweet song may dump into your cocktail yet, the song is still sweet.

        A broken clock is correct twice a day.

        So what is your point….. that one must in all things be perfect and,if this stricture is ever broke then all good done is cast down, all thought discredited.

        Oh no…; such a self imposed jail that life would be?

        I suppose all men would be discredited for leaving the seat on the toilet up.

  22. clarence swinney

    (PER YEAR)
    Clinton–2.9 Million
    Bush I——-.625
    Bush II——.375
    Wall St Journal–Presidential Job Creation Chart (10/2012)
    Obama from Barack Obama.com

  23. Chmee

    Yves, I think that Eskow is focusing too narrowly onto the worst of libertarianism and then painting a broad brush. Yes, there are plenty of extremists in the bunch, just as there is in any political ideology. CATO maybe the largest and most obvious place to look at what it means to be a libertian, but certainly not representative of us all, and maybe not even a mojority. I could easily point to certain people and/or groups on the progressive or conservative side and then use that to expound on what would look like a logical argument to state why they are representative of all people who identify with a certain label. And I would not be accurate. What I would be doing in this case is marginalizing and demonizing the entire group without taking into consideration that they truly are not representative. There are a broad spectrum of opinions about what it means to be libertarian, and not all of us agree on every subject. But as Eskow say, the common theme that unites all of us are the ones of personal liberty and the rule of law.

    My personal thought is that Ayn Rand and the Koch Bros are extremists, not representative of the whole. CATO has some very fine articles, but does not resonate with me entirely, and often not at all. Perhaps that’s due to the unfortunate influence of the Koch Bros themselves who have a controlling interest in the organization.

    There is an excellent article at Libertianism.org written by Trevor Burris that sums up what I would believe rather well.


    As Burris points out, there are also other “brands”, if you will, of libertarians. I tend to fall into the minarchist philosphy for the most part, but I also have a socialist/left leaning side of me (yes, there are libertarian socialists, and ‘cosmotarians’s which are rather similar). A great site that I follow often is Bleeding Heart Libertarians, which is a moniker that I would have to call myself is I were so inclined to be pigeon holed, although I don’t necessarily agree with all that they say either.


  24. Tito

    I spent months attempting to obtain the answers to the questions that you ask on Libertarian sites.

    I never received any.

    Judging from the comments so far, neither will

    Libertarian thought is not very useful in the real world.

    1. Chmee

      All parts of libertarian thought? If so, are you then of the opinion that the concepts of personal liberty and the rule of law are meaningless and have no place? Should I not be entitled to the quiet enjoyment of my personal property free of unnecessary coercion? Should I not have the right to be free of government (or another persons) intrusion in my personal life so long as it doesn’t interfer with or another’s own rights or do harm to another?

      Did you read Burris’ article I linked above? Perhaps you should.

      1. Tito

        I’m of the opininon that of the parts that matter, the one’s running the show in the U.S., when we speak of Libertarian, it has little if anything to do with the side show you and others are running along this thread in which yuo tell us what you think should be t he definition rather than the one being used.

        This is why I say you aren’t answering the article. You simply retreating into “Well real Libertarianism is…”

        That was also the game when they bothered to answer. Its a game because like with Communism, whatever the dictionary definition you may be using is, it has little to do with what is done in practice in terms of those in powere and how they use it.

        I am not interested in your definition.

      2. Tito

        Here’s a basic question that they, and you, won’t answer:

        You aren’t entering the world tableau rasa. Power positions are in place whether the government exists or not. What do you intend to do about those power positions? Pretend they aren’t there? Because that’s what you arguments requires. That we pretend the Kochs of the world do not exist. In other words, your entire argument rest on ignoring historical and current power structures.

        Once you re-enter the real world, where power exists in more than one form, there’s little that your argument can do as far as dealing with that reality other than retreating back into fantasy.

        1. Chmee

          Bottom then is that you want to discredit the whole of anyone’s philosphy if it doesn’t fit into your own world view, and no negotiations or compromises are permitted.

          The answers to your questions are out there, you just don’t like or want to accept the answers. It’s actually quite normal for people to refuse to accept ideas that conflict with their own world view, so no need to be defensive about it.

  25. Tim Mason

    Ayn Rand’s writings are not a strange deviation from mainstream anarchist thinking, but a strong current that springs from the same source. Read what Liebknecht had to say about ‘the Anarchist Question’ in 1896 :

    “Let no one say, “The Anarchists are not enemies.” Who says so does not know them, or is fascinated by the magic word “liberty.” I know them, in the Old World and in the New World, and, leaving aside the dreamers and ranters, I have not known one Anarchist yet whose principal aim and business is not, and has not been, to throw mud at our heads and obstacles in our way! The capitalist papers and authorities appreciate this, and in all countries the Anarchists are petted by the bourgeoisie. Did not Andrieux, the French Prefect of Police, cynically confess in his “Memoirs” that he paid the Anarchists out of the secret funds because he thought the only means to resist the Socialist tide was to mix Socialism with Anarchism, to disorganise the workmen through frantic appeals to their passions, and to discredit the Socialist movement by making it responsible for the follies, misdeeds, and crimes of the so-called Anarchists?

    There is, in fact, nothing in common between Anarchism and Socialism. Anarchism – if it is not altogether a senseless phrase – has individualism for its basis; that is, the same principle on which capitalist society rests, and therefore it is essentially reactionary, however hysterical may be its shrieks of revolution. And, far from being a new idea, Anarchism is a very old idea, which in all its phases has already been poetically developed by Schiller (in his “Robbers”) 120 years ago – twelve years before the storming of the Bastille – and which has been scientifically developed more than fifty years ago by Max Stirner, in Berlin, compared with whom Bakounin, Proudhon, and the latest day saints of Anarchism are mere pigmies. And Max Stirner, the father of modern Anarchism, has also been the father of German Free Trade. Eugen Richter, the big chief of the “Socialist-killers” and the Don Quixote of Free Trade and All-blessing Capitalism in Germany, is a pupil of Max Stirner, the Anarchist! ”


    I would also draw Yves’ attention to how Liebknecht addresses the question of ‘state capitalism’/’state socialism’. The use of the state as a purveyor of welfare is not to be lightly equated with the ideology of socialism. As to how far state welfare is or is not a factor in the liberation of working people, I can recommend, for the United States, the old, but still relevant, work by Fox-Piven and Cloward, ‘Regulating the Poor: the Functions of Public Welfare.’ Fox-Piven herself continues to believe that Welfare can be benign, but it’s arguable that no such system can be liberatory under captialism.

    1. Massinissa

      Bro, im a socialist, and I think Liebknechts rant is untrue. He just still had hard feelings from the Bakunin-Marx split.

      Socialists arnt as bad as he says. Further, at the very least, Anarchists claim to be anti-capitalists (if Liebknechts BASELESS claim is true), and Libertarians are not only capitalist, but the most naked and brazen capitalists.

      A pervert with clothes on is at least preferable to one who strips them off publicly.

    2. RanDomino

      Every single one of these arguments is false.
      Rand’s ideas come from her early life of privilege, and the shock of being reduced to the level of regular people.
      Anarchism and Capitalism have individualism in common in the same way that Hitler being a vegetarian discredits all vegetarians.
      The Egoist tendency (Stirner) has always been distinct from the Anarcho-communist tendency (Bakunin, Kropotkin, etc).
      Liebknecht’s lack of understanding of rupture and other anarchist ideas would directly lead to him helping to squander Germany’s chance for revolution 20 years later and cost him his life.

    3. Banger

      Rand’s philosophy is not really anarchistic but, rather, a form of nihilism or Satanism. Anarchism, as I know it, has in common with socialism the belief in community as much or more than “individuals” in fact, as modern research has shown, we are deeply hard-wired for connection with others. Radical nihilism/egotism is simply perverse imagining that people are independent which is like saying the Earth somehow simply “chooses” to go around the sun but could, at any time, go to some other system.

      I am basically an anarchist because I believe that people, when left to their own tendencies rather than being continually threatened by people who have a need to control others because they are deeply afraid and/or angry and controlling will come together in healthy community without a need for an ideology or coercion. One sees this in action during emergencies disasters and so on–if you’ve ever been in those situations I can tell you that is the hear of anarchism. Socialism, which I sympathize with because it is possibly a necessary stage, still relies on coercion and fear but, ideally, encourages compassion and community. There is a passage in N. Katzenzakas’ book *Report to Greco* (I think) where K describes his feeling being part of a huge international crowd listening to Lenin in Moscow or something like that–he felt part of something incredibly large–very similar to Malcom X beautiful experience of going to Mecca and experiencing his connection with others of all races and nationalities. It is power and fear that mess us up.

      1. Montanamaven

        I’m with you, but my friend begged me to say I’m a “Left Libertarian”. He couldn’t get past the image of the guy with a round bomb. Dimitry Orlov has some nifty ideas about anarchism. He has a three part series called “In Praise of AnarchY”
        Anarchy is about horizontal non-hierarchic organization. You come together to work on a project like build a barn or a software program. Someone may take the lead on it but he is not Der Leader. Just for that task. They do not rely on the State but rather in mutual aid. The Reformation was an attempt to get rid of hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Wikileaks is about open and free distribution of information. The difference between left and right libertarians says Colin Ward is in their view of private property. Left libertarian don’t believe in it. You can have personal property, but owning a lot of land seems wrong. That’s where the libertarians around here get fierce. They love their land and they want more of it.

  26. Jim


    You also stated that “human beings are hard-wired for compassion and eventually that need will assert itself.”

    This sentiment appears to be a key assumption in your thought.

    How exactly will this need assert itself? Certainly the 250 year-old message of the left—only interested in mobilizing class hatred/rage/anger– is incapable theoretically and practically of paying much attention to the possibility of mobilizing compassion.

    Is there some discipline or practice which can be engaged in that would eventually result in movement towards that type of personal change–which might eventually lead to profound institutional change as well?

    1. Banger

      Jim: To put it in fairly simple terms, I’m a follower of Aldous Huxley’s notion of the Perennial Philosophy. I believe what is called mysticism is key to healing society–why? The source of our problems, our failure of the imagination is fear. Fear is what authoritarians use to manipulate populations without addressing the source of that fear we will be f!cked. Mankind was just fine being silly and knocking people around with clubs, swords, bows and arrows. People could burn cities down, chop down trees to build masts for ships and change the climate of Italy but, at the end of the day, the earth just shrugged it off.

      Today this species is potent and like gods-we can cause some serious damage and are causing very, very serious damage to the earth and to each other both on the physical and psychic level. In the 1960s we had the psychedelic revolution–as soon as it began it was shut down—this was more threatening than any political opposition and is the road not taken that we must take. Not necessarily with drugs though we ought to be free to do that—but through spiritual work.

  27. Benjamin Figgins

    One thing that constantly annoys me about Libertarians is the laying claim to people like Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was a states rights defender, and the central conflict between him and Federalists like Adams was over how much authority the government in Washington should have and how much should be left up to state legislators. But the last time I checked, local government is still government. It’s very hard to tell where people of that era would have stood on issues like socialism and corporate personhood since so much of what is part of political discussion today simply didn’t exist yet at the time (the invoking of the Founding Fathers supposed support happens in all parts of the American political spectrum, with wildly varying degrees of plausibility), but I’m pretty sure a guy who championed public education wouldn’t be supporting the guys who are gung-ho for private schools uber alles.

  28. anon y'mouse

    wow, abortion around here again!

    people who debate on the consistency of their position vis a vis science, law, religion and so on should actually try to relate to someone who has had to make the choice for themselves, and truly understand why they did so.

    for many, they already have children and are trying to juggle their responsibilities to them with many other “irons in the fire”–jobs, abusive relationships, trying to escape bad situations. daily life is a trade off, and in order not to sacrifice longer term goals, they make a decision to preserve the ability to provide for themselves and their families which are already here and need their assistance.

    others get pregnant in the wrong circumstances, or at the wrong time in their life and they judge that having a child under those circumstances would make both their own and the child’s life much worse, and not better.

    many of these women do go on to eventually have other children in the future. they simply decide that, given present circumstance, it is not the right time at that point in time for them or their families.

    every woman that i’d ever meet who chose to have a child which they subsequently gave up for adoption was mentally scarred by it in some way, even as they knew that the situation was one of necessity and better for both the child and them. I’ve heard that this also happens to some women who have had abortions as well, but of the situations that i’m familiar with, most women viewed it as a very unfortunate set of circumstances that they regret had to occur. I have yet to meet someone who would go back and change their actions, although am sure that they do exist.

    these lovely abstractions are fine, but one should meet the people whose lives will be or would have been affected by the outcome of these debates, and understand their positions prior to adopting any hard stance.

  29. Mike

    I always wonder why people are so scared of Libertarian thought that they stay up into the small hours of the morning writing things like this. I would categorize myself as Libertarian and I simply want a world where government has the smallest realistic footprint. Fire departments, roads, passports etc all clearly benefit from a social model.

    The minute we want government to do more than this we get atom bombs and the NSA reading your email. It is impossible for this NOT to happen when we want government to do more than the basics.

    1. JTFaraday

      “I simply want a world where government has the smallest realistic footprint. Fire departments, roads, passports etc all clearly benefit from a social model.”

      I think we can shrink it down even more than that. If all you want the government to do is fire departments and roads, I can’t think of any possible reason why you would need a passport.

  30. Code Name D

    Are unions, political parties, elections, and social movements like Occupy examples of “spontaneous order”—and if not, why not?

    While all emphatically say no, the reasons I encounter do vary. The low brow answer is that workers or mostly liberals, aren’t smart enough to form such organizations without corruption and thus aren’t aloud to organize because of the probation against force or fraud.

    The more sophisticated answers try to hinge on the observation that these organizations do not attempt to make a profit. Apparently, the profit motive is a prerequisite before you can claim an organization is the result of “spontaneous order.”

    Is a libertarian willing to admit that production is the result of many forces, each of which should be recognized and rewarded?

    Obviously, the answer is an emphatic no.

    I have debated this point at length. Heck, I have a hard time even convincing them that production is a necessary function of an economy. I even had a local economics professor insist that in order to advance our economy further, production must be supplanted by information technologies. We should shut down all of our factories and replace them with server farms. Not sure where the servers or computers will come from after that.

    The answer is no because they see only one relevant force and that is the desire for profit, period. All of the other perceived forces that liberals like to throw at them, things such as empathy, generality, patriotism, fear, biological necessities such as hunger or thirst, are actually all variations for the desire for fiscal profit. We are nice to people because we believe a better public image will result in larger profits later on.

    If you encounter this response, ask them to explain suicides or chemical addictions. That usually stumps them. I had one guy so turned around that he tried to argue that the science of bio-chemistry was obviously wrong and he chunked bio-chemists into the same basket of those “evolutionists.”

    There is another interesting observation here. Not only is their definition of production rather had to nail down, but so is their definition for “profit motive.” I find that Libertarians will say that workers, you know those guys who schlep forty-hours a week for a meager pay-check. Well it turns out they are NOT motivated by the desire for profit. I have never been able to get them to explain why this is, or what motivates a worker is not for the weekly paycheck. I think Antebellum Slavery may still be rattling around in the typical Libertarian brain, but that is just my guess.

    Is our libertarian willing to acknowledge that workers who bargain for their services, individually and collectively, are also employing market forces?

    This one is something of a mixed bag. I have had Liberians argue for both yes and no. I don’t know what the academic level response is, which would probably explain the confusion I encounter.

    Some will emphatically state that the right of individual bargaining for wages and safety is a tenant of Libertarianism, but then insist that there is no right for collective bargaining because collective bargaining is antithetical to free markets. This is so because if workers are permitted to demand higher wages, then this will only end up in destroying jobs and creating high unemployment. One guy even hit me with a mathematical proof for this concept that I couldn’t respond too at the time.

    (A tip for debating with Librarians, learn the PHLOSIPHY of mathematics. All mathematics, from simple addition and subtraction, to advanced trigonometry and calculus are actually philosophical endeavors, and not scientific ones. This means that a mathematical proof is not scientific proof, and that proving something with mathematics, even if the math itself is sound, doesn’t mean that the concept has been proven. Ptolemy once PROVED mathematically that the sun revolves around the earth.)

    Others will attempt to argue the true nature of markets. Markets are the result of collective decisions, and thus by definition all individual negotiations for wages are in fact a form of defacto collective bargaining, rendering unions and even individual bargaining as obsolete. So even if you don’t have any rights to bargain for your wages at all, you still are… through the labor market.

    But usually the argument gets hung up on the concept of what a “right” is. Librarians have some strange notions here that are still something of a mystery to me. A Librarian notion of a right behaves a lot more like privileges or even status. A CEO has rights not afforded to workers because he has more responsibility, or more money, or something.

    Is our libertarian willing to admit that a “free market” needs regulation?

    I kind of gave up debating with Librarians before the housing crash, so I never had the opportunity to bring up these more relevant or current points. But there is no shortage of free market failures out there. In fact I find I can’t throw a rock without hitting a free-market failure. I would lead out with this long list of free market failures, things such as Enron, the California Electrical Crises, the New England Fishery Collapse, just to name a few.

    Just getting them to admit these are free market failures is a bit like tilting at windmills. The common mode of thinking is that all free market failures are in fact the result of government regulation. So Enron’s collapse must have been the result of government regulations, even if these regulations have not yet been identified.

    A more recent argument in regards to government functions in general hinge on the concept of the government’s only legitimist role is the prohibiting of force or fraud. So any government regulation or enforcement towards this end is deemed as being acceptable and even necessary. But good luck on nailing down what force or fraud actually means.

    Again, this also seems to hinge on the definition of a right. I don’t have the right to steel $20 from a local vender as this is an example of force. So the government is obligated to commission a police force and judicial system to run me down and take the $20 back, at gun point if necessary, and even justifying billions of dollars to fund such agencies.

    But a CEO apparently has the right to defraud his clients of billions of dollars because this theft is codified by contract or something. If it’s theft by fountain pen, it is neither nether force nor fraud, and thus the government has no right to intervene. Some have tried to rescue this by arguing that the CEO is constrained by the free market, while a burglar is not. Thus it is not necessary to regulate CEOs.

    Does our libertarian believe in democracy? If yes, explain what’s wrong with governments that regulate.

    HA! Ask a Librarian if he believes in democracy and he will always say no. “We are not a democracy, we are a republic!” is the common refrain I encountered. It then usually degenerates into the definitions of democracy verses a republic. Apparently that makes all the difference.

    Does our libertarian use wealth that wouldn’t exist without government in order to preach against the role of government?

    The answer always seems to be no, because the government can only destroy wealth; through taxation, and not create it.

    If you attempt to argue that the government created the streets, roads, and freeways over which shipping companies to make a profit, they tend to respond that it’s still the shipping company that makes the profit – not the roads.

    A more current argument is that government infrastructure is still an example of wealth destruction because the government is providing this infrastructure for free, when it would be better provided by the free market. This argument tends to pop up with debates involving the privatization of schools and even parking meters.

    Does our libertarian reject any and all government protection for his intellectual property?

    I never argued to the nature of intellectual property in this way, so I can’t offer any observations. But once again, intellectual property rights seem to fall into that gray area of what a right is. A street musician for example can copyright a song he wrote, he can then sell his copyright to the music industry. Thus it is now the music industries right to profit off of the musician’s creation.

    I suspect they would say that yes, a government should protect his property and intellectual rights… from force or fraud. Pirating movies for example, as forgers are harming corporate profits when they do so. But the CEO appears to have rights that our street musician doesn’t have.

    Does our libertarian recognize that large corporations are a threat to our freedoms?

    I have had some Libertarians agree to this. Corporate power and abuse is simply getting to be too hard for them to ignore. It’s the nature of that abuse they have difficulty grasping. They tend to say that corporate abuse is the result of government regulations.

    But bizarrely the conversation always turns back to the nature of rights and freedoms. Librarians usually bristle with the NSA spying taking place. But they appear to oppose the government spying on them, not that they are being spied on. If it’s the corporations that are doing the spying, they don’t see this as an intrusion at all. Academic level Libertarianism even argues that corporate spying would actually be a liberation, not an injury of freedom.

    1. JT

      “The more sophisticated answers try to hinge on the observation that these organizations do not attempt to make a profit.”

      Well but if I recall, at one point Occupy did “make a profit”–and, best of all, it did so spontaneously!

  31. Barutan Seijin

    Perhaps i’ve missed it, but no one has mentioned that capitalist liberationist fronters are 100% against freedom at work. What the boss man says goes. The Golden Rule & all that. Because Property Rights.

    There’s nothing in the least bit liberating about that for 99.9999999% of humanity. Hence the need for Pinochet, the night watchman state.

    I see no need to debate the “finer” points of “libertarian” “philosophy”.

  32. Bapoy

    Are unions, political parties, elections, and social movements like Occupy examples of “spontaneous order”—and if not, why not?

    May be, may not be. It depends.

    Is a libertarian willing to admit that production is the result of many forces, each of which should be recognized and rewarded?

    Is this supposed to be a “trick” question? Terrible job Yves, you can do better than this.

    Is our libertarian willing to acknowledge that workers who bargain for their services, individually and collectively, are also employing market forces?

    Yeah, everyone bargains with politicians (who would conveniently do anything for votes and nothing for tax payers) – NOT. Sorry Yves, WEAK….

    Is our libertarian willing to admit that a “free market” needs regulation?

    Of course it does. Fed regulations make markets more efficient – while creating bubbles (oops), regulations make housing more affordable (oops), EMLATA lowered medical expenses – NOT (tipple oops), removing the gold standard increased the standard of live of people (quadruple oops). Thank you government for implementing regulations to protect all those monopolies Yves.

    Does our libertarian believe in democracy? If yes, explain what’s wrong with governments that regulate.

    One simple word that’s hard for socialists to comprehend. Nothing is free. Elevator goes up, another comes down. Teachers get a raise, either taxes go up or milk goes up for the population. And since the population does not have bully power over politicians – they get screwed. That’s what wrong. The question is, do socialists believe in democracy or just democracy for themselves?

    Does our libertarian use wealth that wouldn’t exist without government in order to preach against the role of government?

    They would exist without the government’s involvement. The moon, the sun too, maybe even TV and radios..

    Does our libertarian reject any and all government protection for his intellectual property?

    Apple is not going away if the government stops bullying Samsung. Last time I checked the private industry has tons inventions on their belt.

    Does our libertarian recognize that large corporations are a threat to our freedoms?

    Sure they are. That’s why they hire a bunch of people, pay them, produce things that others can consume. Just like the government – oh wait – the government only takes either by taxes or inflation and gives crap.

    Does he think that Rand was off the mark on this one, or does he agree that historical figures like King and Gandhi were “parasites”?

    Yikes, I thought parasites gave people belly aches. No human is a parasite Yves. Some are “good” and too stupid to figure out they are being used as tools and some are good and know that the market works. Individual people have hearts, governments DONT.

    If you believe in the free market, why weren’t you willing to accept as final the judgment against libertarianism rendered decades ago in the free and unfettered marketplace of ideas?

    And than you have the nerve to ask Libertarians about democracy. Socialists are nothing but a bunch of Nazis who shield themselves behind the pretense of “caring” for the poor. You don’t care about the poor or anyone else, you care about yourself. You talk about democracy but want to force your ideas on people either by conning them or by forcing them. How do you talk about democracy in the same post, while wanting to isolate other ideas.

    At the end of the day you have to be in piece with what you believe in. I am, I doubt you are Yves.

  33. anonymous

    The only three questions I usually ask hypocrite libertarians are the following:

    1) Did you graduate from a public elementary school, high school, and or college?

    2) Are you employed by the government?

    3) Are you taking advantage of the benefits offered by your union?

    Most of the time the answers to the above questions are “yes.” That’s what makes libertarians a$$holes when they whine about big government and unions and complain about paying taxes to fund public schools.

    1. Bapoy

      How would any of these make a libertarian a hypocrite?

      Libertarians are for taxes which paid for the school he attended, and the job while keeping some politician or union thug rich.

      A large chunk of union members are forced to be part of it. How democratic, just like the post.

  34. Isabel

    As a moderate libertarian I was dissapointed reading it: building a straw man political baloney.
    BTW: Ayn Rand was not a libertarian, some of her ideas had libertarian roots. The Church of Satan adopted many Ayn Rand views.

  35. skippy

    Question… Why do so many Ranoid-Libertarians obsess with gold, an artifact created by the coercive power of some deity backed mono authoritarian ruler that welds deadly force to keep everyone in line.

    Seriously… imbuing an inanimate object with special freedom powers… when from its antithesis… it purpose was quite the opposite.

    Skippy… Should we all have thermonuclear WMD in every house to feel the – true state – of – Freedom – on an individual level?

    1. Bapoy

      Something tells me ol’ wise skippy knows the answer. But here it goes anyway.

      You know the talk about how a few countries will get together (bric), and end the dollar hegemony? Guess why it hasn’t worked?

      Let help you, the PEOPLE decide which currency they use, and they will use it whether Russia or Cina or anyone else doesnt like it. How is this related to gold? Well, it’s people that chose gold every single time in history. Go ask the Indians if they would prefer the Rupee over gold these days and I bet the hypocratic government will steal their gold at some point anyway. You tell me skippy, if gold is not the ultimate currency, than why does the indian government wanted?

      Aside from gold, you need to end FRL and the fed. Gold is better than what we have, but can be made much better.

      One last thing, if you leave a thieve in your house – what can you expect?

      If you leave them and tell them there cameras in every room and the cops are watching – what would you expect? Gold enforces honest principles.

      1. F. Beard

        Gold enforces honest principles. Bapoy

        Inexpensive fiat is the ONLY ethical money form for government debts. The only ethical place for gold as money, assuming it could survive fair competition from other money forms, is the private sector for private debts only.

        How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver. Proverbs 16:16

        Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; and all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth. Zephaniah 1:18

        Oops! It doesn’t seem like CO2 or resource depletion is what we should fear.

  36. Ep3

    Another great post yves.

    One thing, in response to mr. Thief, I mean thiel. His form of libertarian sounds very ayn rand. As the article says, he has benefitted tremendously from govt services (he probably even has govt contracts, thats how many start a business. Thru over billing the govt, they are able to expand their business, their fortunes, and their political clout to then grow their business.). But his libertarian beliefs sound as if he believes those govt systems are set up for exploitation. And that ppl like him are smart enough to figure out how to exploit those programs to make themselves wealthy. Like ayn rand said: if a charity is handing out money, you should be smart enough to take advantage of the charity to financially enrich yourself (I am not quoting, nor am I using a good example. I just recall that she often said that even tho social security was bad, smart rich ppl were stupid if they did not take advantage of it.)

  37. Mike

    JTFaraday says:
    “I think we can shrink it down even more than that. If all you want the government to do is fire departments and roads, I can’t think of any possible reason why you would need a passport.”

    This is exactly my point. A lot of peoples reaction to Libertarian thought is pure hysteria. What does this sentence even mean?!
    I cannot fathom why people with a liberal mindset are so fearful of the world around them. The real reason big government exists is to siphon cash into the pockets of the connected and provide almost unlimited military funding. Large governments radically extend the power of so called Libertarians like the Kock brothers but people actually think they want less government!
    As a foreign born citizen the level of programming in Americans heads is frightening. I hear “I’m a Democrat!” or (less frequently) “I’m a Republican” said with such a level of pride it is profoundly depressing.

    1. JTFaraday

      “This is exactly my point. A lot of peoples reaction to Libertarian thought is pure hysteria. What does this sentence even mean?!”

      What do you think it means? It means exactly what it says.

      Not only do you not need a passport, but you have no need for documents of any sort if all you want the government to do is fire departments and roads.

      If that’s what you really want, then I’m all for it.

    1. the College non-entity

      The biggest argument against the welfare state is that it turns the poor of one country against the poor of another. With no welfare state, there is no reason (other than racism) to oppose migration.

      Actually, come to think of it, even with the welfare state there is no reason other than racism to oppose migration – why do people of one race have the right to steal my money while other races don’t?

  38. the College non-entity

    > Are unions, political parties, elections, and social movements like Occupy examples of
    > “spontaneous order”—and if not, why not?

    > Is a libertarian willing to admit that production is the result of many forces, each of which
    > should be recognized and rewarded?
    This is a ridiculous question. How do you propose to “reward” gravity for helping to produce hydroelectricity?

    > Is our libertarian willing to acknowledge that workers who bargain for their services,
    > individually and collectively, are also employing market forces?
    Yes, so long as they don’t use violence (e.g. sabotage of machinery or intimidation of workers who do not participate in strikes)

    > Is our libertarian willing to admit that a “free market” needs regulation?
    Yes, but a monopolistic regulator which enforces that monopoly through violence will inevitably be captured and turned against those supposedly being “protected” by the regulation. Far better to have charitable or even commercial watchdog agencies, class-action lawsuits and other forms of private regulation.

    > Does our libertarian believe in democracy? If yes, explain what’s wrong with governments
    > that regulate.
    Voting is an excellent way to make decisions in *voluntary* associations, where those who don’t agree with the majority decision can leave without having to give up their job, their home, their family and friends and everything else they would have to give up when leaving a government’s jurisdiction at the moment (even assuming another government will let them in).

    > Does our libertarian use wealth that wouldn’t exist without government in order to preach
    > against the role of government?
    Where I live, until not too long ago, the government maintained a monopoly on telecommunications – anyone who tried to build a private network would be thrown in prison. Even now private providers need approval from the government regulator, which results in a batrier to entry for new firms or cooperatives. It’s therefore not surprising that I use a government-built communications network. If there had been no governments anywhere for the last 100 years, there would still be electronic communications networks.

    > Does our libertarian recognize that large corporations are a threat to our freedoms?
    Large corporations like Lockheed Martin or BAE are threats to our freedom, but only because they have big government customers. Large corporations like Google and Microsoft are threats to our freedom because big government enforces their “software patents” on trivial non-innovations and because they cooperate with big government spying. Large corporations like Goldman Sachs and RBS are threats to our freedom because they are supported by big governments who protect and subsidise them because they are “too big to jail” and because they offer the regulators thinly-veiled bribes of cushy revolving-door jobs.

    > Does he think that Rand was off the mark on this one, or does he agree that historical
    > figures like King and Gandhi were “parasites”?
    Someone who steals, or advocates stealing, from some people, takes a sizeable cut for himself and his cronies, and distributes the rest to other people is a parasite. Someone who produces more than he needs and voluntarily gives the surplus to others is not.

    > If you believe in the free market, why weren’t you willing to accept as final the judgment
    > against libertarianism rendered decades ago in the free and unfettered marketplace of
    > ideas?
    I prefer reading to watching television. The fact that most other people prefer watching television does not mean that I am wrong when I choose to buy a book. The free market allows me to buy books and other people to buy televisions. Even assuming that the market for ideas is free (it’s not – the government imposes its ideas on the most susceptible segment of the population through schools and spends huge amounts of stolen money on propaganda and deception) the fact that other people don’t support libertarianism does not mean I am wrong to support it.

  39. bh2

    “Government created the Internet.”

    This continues to be one of the great urban myths passed along from one ignoramous to another. It’s just as absurd as Al Gore’s claim that he invented it.

    “Leonard Kleinrock of MIT and later UCLA developed the theory of packet switching, which was to form the basis of Internet connections. Lawrence Roberts of MIT connected a Massachusetts computer with a California computer in 1965 over dial-up telephone lines.”


    Technically, the “internet” is only a particular transfer mechanism for interconnecting computers, and certainly not the first one. It defines NONE of the services people commonly consider as “internet” services — email, web, etc.
    The assertion that government was “inventor” of the internet (or any services it provides) is risible based on factual history rather than imaginary narratives based on knee-jerk worship of government as a fountainhead of anything but exclusive license to arbitrarily inflict violence however it sees fit.

    Government certainly did not invent the idea of individual ideas being electronically transported as “postings” to be shared with others without restriction. That occurred over private networks using uucp protocol and modems. This network was known as USENET. In daily traffic volume, it overwhelmed what was then known as the INTERNET.

    The resources supporting these networks were privately owned and volunteered to this purpose ONLY by private persons and organizations. UUNET was not sponsored by government. It never could have been….

    Had it been left to “government” institutions (mostly universities and think tanks associated with profiting from research performed for the military-industrial complex), the internet would still offer only primitive services reserved to the backwater of the staid academic world, whence enormous objections arose (back in the day) to the idea of “commercializing” the internet — a possibility ivory tower academics more or less universally viewed with horror and loathing.

    Indeed, management of government-funded entities were entirely hostile to the idea of hooking up with private networks and anyone suggesting such an idea was ridiculed for expressing such impure thoughts. Some of the hottest flame wars on USENET arose on this topic (a supreme irony). The academic cabal resisted any such “sharing” of network traffic to private interests not engaged in “research” to support the military-industrial complex.

    The problem for the university crowd was that their users desperately wanted access to the entirely private and rapidly expanding USENET posting services but couldn’t have it without allowing impure private USENET traffic to flow over their precious internet. Oh, the injustice! These sanctimonious academics finally gave way owing to irresistable internal user demand. The rest is history.

    The rise of USENET is a clear case study of a voluntary, non-coercive, collective libertarian enterprise soundly thrashing government attempts to restrict participation in a free market which was spontaneously created. That it was a “libertarian” enteprise was well understood and discussed at the time. It is no wonder, therefore, that this libertarian heritage has passed down in the tech community.

    Open Source is another purely voluntary, libertarian enterprise spontaneously arising with absolutely no funding or sponsorship by government.

    These historical realities are also, therefore, an embarrassment to enthusiasts for government “regulation” who deny a voluntary free market is possible at all, or cl;aim it must inevitably result in consequences too horrible to imagine.

    In fact, both of these examples have resulted in unlimited benefit to everyone but corporate and government interests aligned against it — and are hateful of it. Anarchy is absence of the dead hand of government. That does not mean it must be chaos.

    BTW, this entire article is a bit of a fraud since the fundamental premise of libertarianism rests on the principle that coercive force isn’t legitimate except as a necessary and limited function of government to protect property rights of citizens against abuses.

    Among those property rights are ownership of one’s own body and work product, which libertarians would say the state has no implied right to hijack for its own benefit under color of law.

    In plain language, ending the draft and barring government prohibitions against abortion would be essentially consistent with “libertarian” doctrine. Another would be restraint against use of force to compel other nations to submit to our will. Hint: think Syria.

    So what’s not to like?

    This screed apparently is in very desperate need of a straw man by proposing Ayn Rand to have been a ‘libertarian’. That’s pretty funny. She specifically distinguished herself as an ‘objectivist’ and dispised libertarians, to wit:

    Q: What do you think of the libertarian movement?

    AR: All kinds of people today call themselves ‘libertarians,’ especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies who are anarchists instead of leftist collectivists; but anarchists are collectivists. Capitalism is the one system that requires absolute objective law, yet libertarians combine capitalism and anarchism. That’s worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology.


    I don’t agree with Ayn Rand’s characterization, but it’s absurd to associate her with libertarianism.

    “All kinds of people” nominated in this article as libertarians are not — and never will be until pigs can fly.

    The author owes readers a retraction.

      1. bh2

        The claim was made (and is often made) that the internet was invented by the government. This is provably untrue. The claim was made (and is often made) that Ayn Rand was a libertarian. This is also provably untrue.

        Apparently, however, you prefer made up flap-doodle to verifiable facts — likely strengthening the case against schools operated by the government.

        1. Lambert Strether

          Please show me where your personal brand of libertarianism — there are so many, so pick yours — would permit a state to fund ARPANET, thereby allowing inventors to “create” the Internet. Thanks.

          As for Rand: Yeah, no true Scotsman. Wevs.

Comments are closed.