Freedom and Right vs Left

It is apparently a self-conceit of progressives/liberals that they are friendlier to notions of liberty than are conservatives. While Libertarians (who are concerned with matters of liberty) disagree with that, today in a comment this was offered:

Name a liberty or freedom other than “the freedom to not be taxed” or “the freedom to screw over others” and progressives support it. (Guns is the only possible exception, but I’d argue that progressives who oppose gun rights generally throw it into the “freedom to screw over others” category.)

Just this week, I was inquiring at my daughter’s middle school whether I could get her excused (for the year) from gym class. She spends 20+ hours a week outside of school training at gymnastics and doesn’t lack one bit for physical exercise. What she does lack is time for homework. I had a nice chat with the school principle who informed me that he would love to do that, but state laws prevent that. It seems that somebody decided that there is a problem with childhood obesity and to help with that they’ve put a stop-gap to anyway of getting dismissed from gym class. He told me that another parent of a gymnast has been trying for 2 years to find a loophole unsuccessfully. Just another example of progressive nanny-state legislation snip snip snipping your freedom away. 

From the wiki article on “nanny state”:

For example, politically conservative or libertarian groups in the United States (especially those that support the free market and capitalism) object to excessive state action to protect people from the consequences of their actions by restricting citizen options.

Liberals on the other hand have used the term to describe the state as being excessive in its protections of businesses and the business class —protections ostensibly made against the public good, and the good of consumers. This usage applies to the international context as well, where the “public good” is used to refer to people in general, and where the state is viewed as being excessive in its protection of native business over foreign (rival) businesses

[Emphasis mine]

I’d point out I have not ever seen the liberal usage noted above, however the point in question in the above is that liberals in fact (as viewed by non-liberals) continually push state actions which prevent people from the consequences of their own (voluntary) actions. This is a restriction of freedom which does not fit into the “not to be taxed” or “screw others” category. The sorts of actions which this includes are countless and continually pushed and have been pushed more and more over the years. Apparently progressives (like JA who offered the above comment orginally) are not even aware that these sorts of regulations and laws are a restriction on our freedom. 

If you ask a Libertarian about the differences between the right and left regarding liberty they (and bloggers Shannon Love at Chicago Boyz and Timothy Sandefur at Freespace) who are both self-professed libertarians assert that while conservatives fall short of liberals regarding freedom in two categories of liberty (sexual and procreative) in all the other matters the left either falls short  or is the same (e.g., religion) and in both of their estimation when these were weighed together all in all the right was either more favorable for liberty than the left. 

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23 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    For what its worth I would excuse your daughter from gym class given the circumstances. However you’re describing less a failure of the nanny state, rather a failure of burearacy (sp). Compulsory education IMO is a good thing. Compulsory gym is likewise a good thing. Childhood obsity is a serious problem and contrary to nanny state claims you only have to hang out a beach or shopping mall fo a few hours to see Americans are suffering no serious infringement on the right to junk food and a sedentary lifestyle.

    I wonder how much of the reluctance to excuse your daughter really has to do with ‘nanny law’ as much as it does with the system’s reluctance to accomodate deviation from uniform scheduling.

    For what’s its worth have you tried the medical route? I seem to see plenty of people who get their kids excused from gym for months at a time with medical excuses (when I was a kid no one did that, gym was fun…maybe if you broke your leg you’d be out of gym class but that was it). Have a doctor just assert that your daughter is already at her peak amount of physical activity from her gymnastics and any more could put her in danger of fatigue and muscle injuries.

  2. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    She’s not trying to get out of gym because its “not fun” but because she has too little time to do homework.

    I wonder how much of the reluctance to excuse your daughter really has to do with ‘nanny law’ as much as it does with the system’s reluctance to accomodate deviation from uniform scheduling.

    I can only assume the school principal is not flat out lying. He said he’s being trying to find a way for two years for another parent to get her daughter out of gym for similar reasons and that “he would like to excuse her from gym class” but state law prohibits that.

    But stepping back a moment. You are conceding the main point.

    Compulsory education IMO is a good thing. Compulsory gym is likewise a good thing.

    And (as you conclude) therefore the state should make it required and compulsory. This is one (small) example of how the progressive/left infringes on freedom, “because it’s a good thing” and reduces freedom by making it illegal or impossible to make what they see as “bad” decisions. Look there are thousands of other examples, I chose this one because it came up this week.

  3. Boonton says:

    Except on net we all have more freedom because of compulsory education and on net even compulsory gym. I’m not really seeing why the solution wouldn’t be to just keep gym but let your daughter get excused.

    Look there are thousands of other examples, I chose this one because it came up this week.

    True if freedom is defined as ‘having trouble coming up with things to whine about’ I agree we have a lot less freedom. But I think a better definition of freedom is the ability of people to whine about things, in which case the US is great. Whining in North Korea, for example, is quite minimal.

  4. Shannon Love says:

    Boonton,

    You are missing the point. In the political context, freedom means having the legal authority to make a decisions. A person has “freedom” in a particular circumstance if they have the legal authority to make a decision in the circumstance.

    In this case, the circumstance is his daughter’s PE class. A decision needs to made whether the PE class is the best use of his daughter’s time. If Mark had freedom in this context, he could decide what was best for his daughter. However, he can’t do so because the state has made a law that says that Mark does not have the legal authority to make that decision. The state has decreed that no parent, no teacher and no administrator has the legal authority to decide whether a particular student does or not take PE. That authority is invested in solely in whichever government entity created the law.

    Mark’s only recourse is to game the system by lying or to remove his daughter entirely from the public education system. Mark has lost freedom of choice over the most important thing in his life, his children.

    I’m not really seeing why the solution wouldn’t be to just keep gym but let your daughter get excused.

    I’m not really seeing why the solution wouldn’t be to just let the parent make decision about whether a child takes PE or not. On net, as you say, parents have the greatest interest in the good of their children so it follows that, on net, they would systematically make the best decisions about what is good for the children. Therefore, the legal authority to decide whether a child takes PE should be invested in the parent and not some far removed government entity.

    Parents should have the freedom to make decisions about their child’s own education.

    The only reason not to invest such legal authority with the parent is if you believe that far removed government entities systematically make better decisions about the welfare of any particular child. The only reason you would believe that is if you believe an elite group exist which has such superior intellect, knowledge and morality as compared to most parents that the elite will almost always make the better decision.

    I seem to see plenty of people who get their kids excused from gym for months at a time with medical excuses

    Your blithe suggestion that Mark lie about why his daughter should not take PE class also demonstrates one of the major harms of the nanny state. When people are denied the ability to choose in matters important to them, they seek to game the system such that they can make the decision anyway. In doing so, they lose respect for the rule of law and the rules. Personal freedom and success progressively begin to come from one’s ability to lie and manipulate the system and not one’s ability to create good for others. Soon it becomes accepted to game the system and any good the system might have produced has been lost.

    The nanny state causes not only a loss of freedom but also cynicism and disdain for the rule of law. After a few generations, people come to believe that there are no rules that individuals should feel morally compelled to follow.

    As a parting thought, name one area of life, besides issues pertaining to sex, in which the average person has more legal decision-making authority today than they did say 50 years ago. I’m talking about employment, business, housing, transportation, education, medical care etc. I believe if you sit down and really think about it, you will be shocked at how little freedom we actually have.

  5. Boonton says:

    If Mark had freedom in this context, he could decide what was best for his daughter. However, he can’t do so because the state has made a law that says that Mark does not have the legal authority to make that decision.

    The question here, though, is what is an increase to freedom and what is a zero sum game. What you’re talking about is a transfer of freedom from one entity to another. In this case moving from the school back to Mark. Of course Mark’s freedom is increased in this ‘context’ but is net freedom increased? If Mark was legally allowed to own slaves his freedom would likewise increase but society as a whole would see no gain in freedom as Mark’s expansion comes a the expense of those unlucky enough to be enslaved. In fact, I think you’d agree such a law would be worse than just a zero sum rearrangement of freedom. If Mark could enslave some people the benefit he would enjoy would probably be less than what would be given up by the unlucky slaves as well as everyone else.

    In the case of children the issue is not as clear cut as you would have it. First just about everyone these days recognizes that children are basically denied most freedoms. Second, children are not considered personal property of their parents. They are not like, say, pets for whom owners have a great deal of freedom to more or less dispose of as they please (animals, though, do have some minimal protections so you can say neither children nor pets are, like, a person’s comic book collection which a person is free to either protect in special sleeves or use as toilet paper).

    I would say in general compulsory education does increase net freedom for some PC and non-PC reasons. The PC reasons you can probably guess. Children can grow into independent adults with diverse experiences and intellectual tools to exercise the most of their freedom in society. The rest of us get the benefits of an educated population which makes communication and coordination both market and collective less costly. There are non-PC benefits too. Basically children tend to be very bad and parents tend to be blind to the evil their own kids do. Schools serve a highly useful function as a type of jail where kids can be bad with minimal risk of harming themselves and others until they grow out of it. Yes there are exceptions but they are exceptions. One kid being homeschooled by his eccentric parent in all the classics and free to explore in the afternoon is fine. One thousand is not. This situation is quite analogous to vaccination.

    Personally I had this reality driven into me as I once lived with my sister-in-law and her five kids. She had a habit of being very loose about sending them to school as well as a bad habit of undertaking large projects only to drop them as soon as something else came along. Once, after a long period of her 2nd oldest skipping school, caused her to announce to us that she would be homeschooling him going forward. (Let me point out here we were living in a house that had a population of 12-13 people in it) The next Monday she was visited by the principal and a police officer. Tuesday her son was on the school bus. You may bemoan her ‘freedom’ being infringed but I can assure you you know nothing about loosing freedom until you’ve lived in a house with five roudy kids, multiple ‘friends’ and then watch the school bus take off Monday only to leave a house…still filled with kids. A brief period in my life but a useful microcasm of what would happen if we combined the idea of large scale homeschooling with ending compulsory education.

    The only reason not to invest such legal authority with the parent is if you believe that far removed government entities systematically make better decisions about the welfare of any particular child.

    Far removed? The public school, esp. in the US, is probably the closest people ever get to gov’t. Public schools are run by local boards and unlike a lot of local gov’t people actually do come out to the meetings. They tend to know their teachers and princpals and supers…..today more than before.

    As for legal authority, I think its pretty clear that parental authority is and has always been shared. A parent’s kids are not like a collection of Star Wars action figures. Hence legal authority is shared. I have no objection to deferring to parents as the default but yes there will be times when the two clash and no the parent should not always win.

    Your blithe suggestion that Mark lie about why his daughter should not take PE class also demonstrates one of the major harms of the nanny state.

    I didn’t blithly suggest he lie. His daughter is doing 20 hours plus a week of physical exercise. Unlike most kids nowadays who are far removed from any medical danger of being too active, it is a very real consideration for her. is it a medical certainity that her 20 hours plus whatever PE class is will harm her? No but it’s hardly a lie for a doctor to suggest she is getting more than enough activity outside of school & adding PE class will likely not yield her much benefit while increasing the risk of harm. It is no different than, say, substituting a private language immersion program for the local school’s requirement for a foreign language.

    You talk about freedom but I notice you tailor your hypotheticals to the very special good case. What about the parent whose kid is grossly overweight, highly inactive, at real risk for developing early onset diabetes but who has a parent who wants to tell the school ‘no gym please, I’d rather he goof around in study hall like I did when I was a kid’. I think you’d be less eager to embrace this as ‘freedom’ even though you technically have to admit if it should be solely the parent’s choice then bad choices can’t be taken off the table. After the law doesn’t care if I want to trash my Bobba Fet circa 1989 action figure.

  6. I withdraw my statement. I am personally a pro-freedom progressive, but there are certainly progressives who are more authoritarian.

    It all comes down to the fact that authoritarian-libertarian is an orthogonal spectrum to conservative-liberal/progressive. One can be an authoritarian progressive just as one can be a libertarian conservative.

    Still, to imply that progressives are somehow worse than conservatives on freedom (again, with the exception of guns) in America is ridiculous. All the progressive nanny-state stuff is small potatoes compared to the conservative nanny-state stuff (the drug war, torture, extraordinary rendition, detention without trial, etc.) It’s “you have to go to gym class” or “you have to wear a seat belt” on the left as opposed to “you’re going to jail for years because you had some marijuana in your house” or “you can’t get married because you’re gay” on the right.

    (Granted Obama’s been an enormous sell out on many of those authoritarian-conservative issues at least to this point and has shamefully followed in Bush’s footsteps, but the majority of actual progressives disagree with him strongly on these issues.)

  7. Boonton says:

    A person has “freedom” in a particular circumstance if they have the legal authority to make a decision in the circumstance.

    So if in 2015 the Federal gov’t enacted a law mandating the death penalty for faster than light space travel that would be a huge blow to freedom. If in 2016 it reduced the penalty to a year probation that would be a dramatic increase in freedom. if in 2017 it fully legalized faster than light travel that would be perfect freedom.

    But since faster than light travel is impossible to most people this would all be moot. However making the panalties for pot a bit less draconian would actually have a real life impact on what most people could do. Yet using Shannon’s metric pot’s legality pales in comparision against the loss of freedom by enacting the death penalty for hyperspeed travel.

    Talk of freedom should incorporate not only what is legal and not legal but what one can and can’t do in the real world. The law against you playing your music very loud needs to be compared to the ability of everyone else not to have to engage in a ‘volumn war’ with their neighbors.

  8. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Uhm, I’m not sure where you’re going with notions of making things impossible legal or not and discussions of freedom, but it’s quite the straw man. Nobody anywhere is talking about that.

    More the point, your discussion as defense of the policies in question are ultimately serving to make my case. I’m not arguing that Progressives don’t have defensible reasons for not preferring liberty. The claim is that they indeed have reasons but put personal freedom (liberty) lower down in their estimation of what is best than do Libertarians (and as it turns out … the conservative/right).

    I don’t think you can really make the argument (without being dishonest) that my daughter would be overtraining if you kept her in gym class. First, gym class in the public schools are not that taxing and vary their activities frequently. Second, I’m was (and perhaps will be again) a competitive cyclist. Endurance athletes in their training cycles are pretty intimately familiar with over-training.

    Look, the crux of the matter is it is a infringement on personal liberty to take out of the hands of individuals the ability to make decisions (even bad ones).
    JA,
    I disagree with your notion that personal freedom is orthogonal to progressive … because it really seems that the majority of progressives (including yourself) come repeatedly down on the non-liberty side. Consider your views on unions, close shop union towns are not a personal liberty “thing”, and I don’t every recall you defending limiting the scope or spread of union authority. School choice, seat belt/helmet laws, smoking in public spaces, … do you want to continue. Let me ask you this … I quite frequently link libertarian blogs … how often do you agree with them except on sex and the public square?

  9. Mark,

    Considering you don’t even understand my views, I find it unlikely that you have your finger on the pulse of “a majority of progressives.” I’m not sure which view of mine you’re talking about regarding unions — the only argument I remember making here is that the purpose of unions is to balance the negotiations between employees and employer, since if the employees are not organized, the employer always has the advantage. E.g., you say that teachers’ unions don’t improve education and I respond that that’s not their job — their job is to make sure teachers are treated well by the state. Of course there’s a conflict between treating employees well and spending less money (or making more profit, in industry.) But that doesn’t mean unions are wrong, it just means that employees usually get the short end of the stick when not unionized. I certainly do not support any abuse of power by unions.

    School choice isn’t a liberty issue since you are free not to attend. The problem with school choice is that it lets the rich, involved parents send their kids to better schools while the poor kids get stuck in crappier and crappier schools and the voters have no incentive to improve the crappy schools. It’s just another application of the Free Market faith that doesn’t work because it doesn’t take into account how human being actually think and act.

    As for seatbelt laws, I get the infringement of liberty, but I have to make an exception on that one. The infringement is so small and the upside so great (so many saved lives) that I think it’s probably worth it.

    I think I probably agree with libertarians on most non-economic issues, in that I think people should be free to do whatever the hell they want that doesn’t hurt other people. Where I differ from (many?) libertarians is that I think government rules and regulations are necessary to prevent people from taking advantage of each other. Libertarians usually claim that the right to extend your fist stops at my nose, but in reality, they seem to have a huge blind spot when it comes to corporations externalizing their costs or mistreating their workers or when it comes to private parties discriminating on the basis of race, religion, sexuality, gender, etc.

    Your confirmation bias is huge. You note smoking bans but seem to miss the right’s much much much much much worse war on drugs which has millions of people literally locked up for voluntarily possessing and selling substances the government doesn’t approve of. You note seatbelt laws but not the right’s (and Obama’s, to be fair) opposition to gay marriage. Hell major Republicans are against gay ADOPTION. Against repealing DADT.

    Not to mention the right’s war on pornography and blue laws and the Ground Zero mosque fiasco and any number of other issues.

    Oh, and ABORTION.

    Not to mention the whole immigration debate, where non-Americans are talked about like subhumans by the right. A real libertarian would be pretty much open-border. But you guys are just libertarians when it benefits straight white male Christians, aren’t you?

  10. Mark says:

    JA,
    War on drugs … uhm, get real. The right and progressives are both “for the war.” There isn’t much of a split there. Ooops. It’s like religious freedom, there isn’t a real difference in the stand taken by right and left on that issue.

    Look at your stand on school choice, it’s quite informative. Your position is (a) defensible (you have an argument for your position) and (b) exactly what I’m talking about. You prefer equality over liberty. That is exactly what I’ve been arguing.

    Gay marriage is, uhm, matters concerning sex in the public square, which as noted above repeatedly is the one venue in which libertarians side with progressives. Libertarians will point out that as noted, and also note that on virtually every other issue the right is more friendly toward liberty and therefore taken as a whole is more friendly toward their viewpoint than the left.

  11. School choice has nothing to do with liberty (outside of taxation, which I agree I support.) Nobody is forced to go to a public school, so it’s not a question of liberty. IF you choose to accept public education, then you have to go to this school.

    War on drugs … uhm, get real. The right and progressives are both “for the war.”

    I don’t think that’s true. Again, it comes down to the orthogonal axis, but the right is more for it than the left is. It’s one of many issues where the Democratic presidents are far to the right of progressives, but even so, Republicans are much more gung-ho about locking people up for owning and selling drugs. Harsher sentences, opposition to medical marijuana, etc. etc. etc. Remember it was Nixon who started this fiasco and Reagan who added to it. Democrats all over the country are winning medical marijuana victories, and I’m damn sure you’ll find a correlation in california between being progressive and voting for legalizing marijuana.

    Also, abortion, you avoided unless you’re considering it a “sex” issue, which is something most on the right are careful to avoid admitting. And immigration which has nothing to do with sex at all.

  12. Shannon Love says:

    Boonton,

    If Mark was legally allowed to own slaves his freedom would likewise increase but society as a whole would see no gain in freedom as Mark’s expansion comes a the expense of those unlucky enough to be enslaved.

    Ooow, just had to go to slavery, didn’t you? 😉

    In this case, however, the argument at the extremes serves to demonstrate what I am talking about. Cut down to its essence, freedom is defined as the ability to make choices without fear of violence from either state or private entities. You have freedom of religion if you can worship as you choose without fear of attack from the state or an angry mob. Conversely, you are unfree if someone uses violence or the credible threat of violence to compel you to make a choice you otherwise would not.

    Therefore, you increase “net” freedom when reduce the number of decisions made because of the credible fears of violence.

    Slavery clearly requires violence to force people into and keep them in a condition of involuntary servitude. When this occurs in the domain of the state, it requires that state to supply or acquiesce to the use of the physical force necessary to keep people enslaved. Slavery ends when individuals or political entities are prevented from using violence to keep others enslaved.

    We of the liberal-democracies have culturally grown so used to the lawful and relatively rare application of state violence that we have lost the intuitive and visceral awareness that all state power depends on the state’s ability to direct overwhelming, lethal violence upon any citizen. People obey laws they do not agree with because they know they will be hurt if they do not. If you refuse to obey any law, no matter how trivial, you trigger a chain of events that will lead to your death. In liberal-democracies, the government will impose an ever escalating series of harm upon you to try and induce to comply without having to kill you. However, if you resist you will be killed. If you don’t pay your fine for jaywalking, armed police will come to imprison you. If you resist imprisonment or try to escape from imprisonment, you will be killed. Period.

    Although Mark would never take things so far, he could in principle be killed if you tried hard enough to prevent his daughter from being forced to take PE class. That my sound extreme but every year in America, several dozen people are killed for refuse to obey the state over some seemingly trivial matter. For example, every year someone refuses to surrender their property for taxes or eminent domain. A SWAT team is sent to forcibly remove them. When the person resist the SWAT teams attack, they are killed.

    The state has to do this because the law is for all or none. No, matter how seemingly trivial the law, if an individual breaks that law, the state must force compliance by any means necessary.

    This why it is dangerous that we have grown complacent about using the law to impose our wishes on others because we have grown complacent about using violence to impose our will on others. Instead of using violence to counteract violence, we are using violence to stop people from taking non-violent action that we believe to be suboptimal.

    In this case, it might be a very good idea that all children take PE but is it such a good idea that we should kill someone if they don’t make children take PE?

    I find it revealing that you make the enormous leap from “universal education benefits everybody” to “it is in everyone’s best interest if the state has complete power to dictate the specifics of each individual child’s education.” The two are in no way linked. That is exactly equal to saying, “law and order benefits everyone,” and leaping to, “the police should have spy camera’s in everyone’s house.” Scale matters, especially in state power. Since state power is the power of violence, it makes a huge difference how much of that violent power gets applied. The application of violence itself causes harm even when that violence is absolutely required. If we are to cavalier in the use of state violence, the harm caused by state violence overwhelms the good it causes.

    I would also point out that even if things like compulsory, universal education are great goods in abstract, they may not be in every actual case. Totalitarian states are quite keen on universal education but they want to use it as a tool for indoctrination and control.

    I didn’t blithly suggest he lie.

    Yes, you did. Mark explicitly stated that the only reason he didn’t want his daughter to take PE was that (1) she didn’t need the additional exercise and (2) she had a better use of her time. Besides, 20+ hours of physical exertion a week is in no way taxing on a healthy child. It used to be common for children for children to perform 40+ hours/week of manual labor and when left to their own devices, children play that hard in the summer.

    What you were clearing saying is, “Yeah, the law is kinda excessive in this case but instead of asking whether the state should be making that decision at all, why don’t you just game the system?”

    You talk about freedom but I notice you tailor your hypotheticals to the very special good case.

    And you base your entire argument on very special BAD cases. The vast majority, say 95%, of parents will make good decisions about their children’s education and health. Why should we build a system around the 5% that won’t? Why do we have to coerce everyone just to manage that 1 in 20 irresponsible parent?

    You are clearly using a highly abstract either or model to think about this problem. Its is either no government support and oversight over education OR the government coercively micromanages everything. Why don’t we have a system that invest the parents with almost all decision making authority about their child’s education but reserve the right to intervene in extreme cases of mismanagement?

    The fact that you think it good idea that a parent cannot remove their child from PE for any reason of the parents choosing, says a lot about your blind trust in the state.

    People who default to state micromanagement do so because they do not trust the judgment of the vast majority of parents. They don’t trust the judgement of most parents because at heart they have an elitist view of society in which a small subset of the population automatically makes better decisions about almost everything (except sex) and therefore they should have the power to impose their superior decision on everyone else by the violence based power of the state.

  13. Shannon Love says:

    JewishAtheist,

    …the purpose of unions is to balance the negotiations between employees and employer…

    That is a self-serving and romantic view of unions. That is what they say but what they actually do is quite different. Union “balance the negotiation” by using either explicit violence themselves or the implicit violence of the state to prevent other workers from competing for union jobs. When unions cannot use that violence to prevent competition, such as in a Right To Work state, the union cannot function. Unions only cost employers money when that employer has non-union competition. If the union controls and entire industry, the employer can pass the increased labor cost onto consumers. In that case, the unions are economical a state granted monopoly that extorts above market prices from consumers.

    This is why everybody can’t be in a union. If they are, there are no consumers left to steal from.

    School choice isn’t a liberty issue since you are free not to attend

    School is compulsory. You can either attend state school or pay for private school but the state mandates that all children be educated. Even if you pay for private school, you still have to pay for public school. In the case of the poor, private school is not an option. Compulsory spending and attendance is a liberty issue.

    If you do not satisfy the state that you children are receiving an education that the state deems sufficient the state will take your children from you. If you resist, the state will kill you. That is a liberty issue.

    As for seatbelt laws, I get the infringement of liberty, but I have to make an exception on that one. The infringement is so small and the upside so great (so many saved lives) that I think it’s probably worth it.

    That is the argument for all state intervention. Yes, it cost freedom but the tradeoff is worth it. That is literally the argument used by every totalitarian state and is the historical source of Orwells, “Freedom is Slavery”. Unfortunately, when you get cavalier about making that tradeoff you rapidly evolve to a condition in which you’ve made hundreds of thousands of such tradeoffs and people find themselves highly constrained, “for their own benefit.”

    You never seem to stop and ask whether you have the right to tell another person what risk they can take. Instead, you treat people like livestock and like a farmer, you decide what is in their best interest.

    Oh, and ABORTION.

    Abortion is a special case. The argument in the case of abortion isn’t over whether the state has the right to regulate a medical procedure but instead an argument over what a human being is.

    As LIncoln said about the Dredd Scott case, “No one argues that if a man takes his pig from a slave state to a free state that he doesn’t still own the pig. The question is: Is the negro a pig?” In the case of abortion, no one is arguing that individuals don’t have the right to make decison their own medical care, the question is: Are they making decisions about ONLY their own medical care or are they choosing to kill someone/something else?

    As I am a materialistic agnostic, I don’t believe a fetus is anything deserving of state protection until up to about 6 months. However, it is quite clear that the vast majority of pro-choice people are talking right past right-to-lifers. You don’t have a choice in killing another human being. If we define a human being as coming into being at the point of conception, then the legal argument ceases to be about personal freedom and becomes one about the what limits exist on one individual’s right to kill another.

    This is an axiomatic definition. What is and is not a legally protected human being is purely subjective and has varied wildly over the course of history and across cultures.

    In terms of liberty, either side has a claim to protect the liberty of someone depending on the definition of human used. There is no easy answer but it would help if we would actually have the real conversation.

    Where I differ from (many?) libertarians is that I think government rules and regulations are necessary to prevent people from taking advantage of each other.

    No, where you differ with libertarians is that libertarians don’t believe that (1) the real-world political system can either define “taking advantage off” nor realistically use the states violent power to prevent such exploitation with causing more harm than the first place and (2) that non-violent, non-state mechanism exist that better mediate the harm long term.

    The violence of the state is very seductive. It is so overwhelming that it compel almost everyone to do anything. If you are so impressed by your own understanding of the world that you think you know what is best for everyone in all circumstances, then it easy for you to rationalize using state violence to compel everyone to act as you see fit. Libertarians do not believe that they or anyone else possess that knowledge.

    they seem to have a huge blind spot when it comes to corporations externalizing their costs or mistreating their workers or when it comes to private parties discriminating on the basis of race, religion, sexuality, gender, etc.

    Ironically, all those things you list actually result from violence based power of the state. Corporation, in fact everybody, could pollute water and air in the past because the state prevented any type of ownership over those resources. This produced a “tragedy of the commons” (which actually has nothing to do with real commons btw) in which everyone has the incentive to maximize their use of the resource. The solution is not to fix the problem with more micromanaging state power but to create a property system in which the market will manage the resource automatically without immediate recourse to violence. Emission credits, which were fought like death by most leftists in the beginning, have proved very successful, in managing the tradeoffs inherent in managing resources of air and water.

    History is also clear that discrimination is only a problem when the discrimination is enforce by the violence of the state. Without such state force, the market automatically punishes bigots. This why there were Jim Crow LAWS. Business in the South bitterly resisted being told they had to lose black customers or that they had to hire only whites. Likewise in the North, racist unions enforced by private or state violence, were necessary to reserve jobs for whites. Telling, all-hogs-to-the-trough free-market capitalism of the North from 1965-1933 had a staggering record of integrating Europeans who had been at each others throats for centuries.

    Honestly, 90% of the time when a leftists see some great evil of “society” or business, they are really seeing the negative consequences of a previous generations do gooders who turned to the state violence to “fix” something.

    All the progressive nanny-state stuff is small potatoes compared to the conservative nanny-state stuff (the drug war, torture, extraordinary rendition, detention without trial, etc.

    That depends on how you count your potatoes.

    Firstly, the Drug War is not a Left versus Right issue. The Drug War has its roots in the idea that the state has the both the right and ability to dictate what people can do to themselves. The Drug War is the result of the idea of technocratic centralism that dominated both sides of the American political spectrum from roughly the end of WWII to 1980. Leftists are just as likely to support the Drug War because they will not admit there is any major harm that the government might mitigate.

    Secondly, although the actions taken by the right (and now embraced by the left) in the War on Terror are extreme, they are of a small and limited scope intended (rightly or wrongly) to prevent violence.

    The prevention of violence is the core function of the state. If a government can’t do that, you really don’t need the government.

    Most importantly, the absolute number of Americans directly affected by these extreme actions numbers in the dozens. Even if they are entirely unjustified (which their embrace by the anti-war Obama administration suggest they are justified). The number of people whom they can hurt is very small.

    By contrast the left supports the use of the violence of the state against virtually all Americans not to counteract violence but to coerce their fellow citizens into what the left believes is optimal behavior. In fact, when the left complains about military spending, they are usually upset that the spending directs violence towards foreigners and not the leftists’ neighbors.

    As I said above, the left wants to control your water, food, shelter, jobs, income, communications, education, transportation, medical care etc. There is not area of your life that the left does not believe they can make better decisions for you than you can.

    The left gets away with this by reducing your choices before you even see them. You think you can buy any car you want but in reality, you can only choose from the cars the state allows to built. For example, the CAFE regulation force millions of people to buy small less safe cars than they would otherwise by forcing manufactures to sell a certain number of small cars for every larger vehicle. There simply isn’t enough large vehicles left to go around. LIkewise, you can only buy the houses the government lets be built where the government lets them be built. You can only choose the medications the government decides are safe for you and so on.

    I am not a big fan of the Rights use of the violent power of the state to impose what we might call cultural-socialism on everyone. On the other hand, when you look at the sheer scale of the left’s use of violent state power, it dwarfs that of the right.

  14. Hi Shannon,

    That is a self-serving and romantic view of unions. That is what they say but what they actually do is quite different.

    I’m not defending unions who do bad things, nor denying that they exist. You can choose to look for the worst examples of the worst behavior from the worst unions and pretend that they are representative, but I don’t think they are.

    School is compulsory. You can either attend state school or pay for private school but the state mandates that all children be educated. Even if you pay for private school, you still have to pay for public school.

    Isn’t homeschooling allowed? And we already established that I differ from libertarians on taxation. Note that you have to “pay for public school” even if you don’t have kids.

    That is the argument for all state intervention. Yes, it cost freedom but the tradeoff is worth it. That is literally the argument used by every totalitarian state and is the historical source of Orwells, “Freedom is Slavery”. Unfortunately, when you get cavalier about making that tradeoff you rapidly evolve to a condition in which you’ve made hundreds of thousands of such tradeoffs and people find themselves highly constrained, “for their own benefit.”

    *eyeroll* I’m not cavalier. I’m making an exception for seatbelts, because the “infringement of liberty” (to not wear a seatbelt!) is so ridiculously small and the reward of seatbelt laws so ridiculously big, that it’s… yes, ridiculous to value some abstract principle over literally millions of lives. That’s the problem with idealogues of all stripes — you’re willing to let tons of people literally die because to do otherwise violates some principle. Use some common sense.

    Abortion is a special case. The argument in the case of abortion isn’t over whether the state has the right to regulate a medical procedure but instead an argument over what a human being is.

    That argument only works if you’re one of those loonies who thinks that abortion is literally murder and so is unacceptable even in the case of rape and that doctors who perform abortions and women who have them should be charged with murder. Most people against legal abortion, though, don’t believe that, so they really don’t believe that fetuses are people, they just pretend to when it’s convenient.

    The violence of the state is very seductive. It is so overwhelming that it compel almost everyone to do anything.

    *eyeroll* Nobody’s advocating violence here.

    Corporation, in fact everybody, could pollute water and air in the past because the state prevented any type of ownership over those resources.

    So corporations should be able to just own THE AIR and then we won’t have to worry about pollution? You’re being ridiculous. Corporations externalize costs because they can, in the absence of anybody policing them. And nobody can police them (IN PRACTICE, not in pie-in-the-sky libertarian dreams) but the government.

    History is also clear that discrimination is only a problem when the discrimination is enforce by the violence of the state. Without such state force, the market automatically punishes bigots. This why there were Jim Crow LAWS.

    Again, stupid blind faith in the free market. People are not rational. They will be bigots even when it’s not in their rational self-interest. Anyway, if the group being discriminated against is small or hated enough then the market rewards bigots, doesn’t it? Like if you can win more customers in your bar in Red Statetopia by banning gay people than by allowing them, the market would reward you for banning them. Right?

    Honestly, 90% of the time when a leftists see some great evil of “society” or business, they are really seeing the negative consequences of a previous generations do gooders who turned to the state violence to “fix” something.

    Spend ten minutes and try playing devil’s advocate to this argument. It’s a silly just-so story that isn’t remotely true.

    The prevention of violence is the core function of the state.

    This is libertarian mantra, but it’s not a priori true. I think the state’s core functions involve laying the framework for a society. Infrastructure, research, regulating the market, etc. etc. Things that the free market can’t provide (again, IN PRACTICE, not in libertarian dreams) but that governments can and do.

    By contrast the left supports the use of the violence of the state against virtually all Americans not to counteract violence but to coerce their fellow citizens into what the left believes is optimal behavior.

    This is bullshit. The left almost never supports the use of the violence of the state in an area where the right does not also support it (e.g. locking up violent criminals.) You’re just making stuff up.

    As I said above, the left wants to control your water, food, shelter, jobs, income, communications, education, transportation, medical care etc.

    This is just propaganda, hinging on the word “control.” It seems often like libertarians are just black-and-white thinkers who can’t tell the difference between being fined 50 bucks for not wearing a seatbelt and being sent to the actual gulag for speaking out against the government. The left isn’t trying to “control” any of those things.

    You think you can buy any car you want but in reality, you can only choose from the cars the state allows to built.

    So you should be allowed to pollute the air I breathe because you want a louder or bigger engine or don’t want to manage the emissions? How is that fair?

    LIkewise, you can only buy the houses the government lets be built where the government lets them be built.

    So greedy developers can just ruin areas by building wherever the hell they want to, regardless of consequences? How is that fair?

    It seems you just trust the free market to sort everything out as if it’s both omniscient and benevolent, but it isn’t. It’s efficient, for sure, but it’s also brutal and uncaring. A developer makes an extra million by building six houses in a crummy layout, but he screws over everybody else’s traffic patterns, housing prices, and ability to draw enough water. The market’s going to punish that guy? No, he’s laughing his way to the bank. We need government to keep that guy from dicking over the rest of us to make an extra buck.

  15. Mark says:

    JA,
    Shannon’s point about the violence of the state is the consequence of ignoring a statute or regulation, i.e., the state enforces it ultimately with violence.

    Step back a second and review your last two comments. Notice that you never highlight liberty as the primary reason for regulation or laws. This is the point I’m making. Your overriding principles of what comprises good government puts liberty a ways down the list. From the libertarians perspective the right does this too … but that the left’s notions of good government is more intrusive than the right’s.

    Again, stupid blind faith in the free market. People are not rational.

    So? Neither are government officials and regulators. The government does no better at deciding best interest than do individuals is the crux of the thesis rejected by the progressive left and accepted as axiomatic by libertarians.

  16. Shannon’s point about the violence of the state is the consequence of ignoring a statute or regulation, i.e., the state enforces it ultimately with violence.

    Yeah, it’s a point I’ve heard a million times from libertarians. It’s just sophistry that doesn’t add to the discussion.

    Your overriding principles of what comprises good government puts liberty a ways down the list.

    Not at all. Actual liberty is first on my list, too. I just differentiate between actual liberty from faux-liberties like being able to pollute my neighbor’s air or insignificant liberties (compared to the costs) like not wearing a seatbelt.

    The government does no better at deciding best interest than do individuals is the crux of the thesis rejected by the progressive left and accepted as axiomatic by libertarians.

    Straw man. It’s not the government vs. the individual, it’s the government protecting individuals from other individuals. You want to look the other way while the right locks up millions for hurting only themselves or wants to torture and indefinitely detain people the president SAYS are terrorists while at the same time pretending regulations, seatbelt laws, and second-hand smoking bans are far worse, it’s ridiculous. (Yes, Obama has continued many Bush anti-liberty policies. No, progressives do not support them.)

    What libertarians don’t realize is that if government doesn’t stop individuals from infringing upon each other’s liberties than the only people who have liberties are the very powerful.

  17. Also, you can’t just wave away “sex and the public square” as if it’s some minor detail. It’s pretty frickin’ huge. The right wants to censor t.v. and other media, throw people in jail for pornography, outlaw (variously) contraception, the morning after pill, abortificants, specify that only straight people can marry, etc. etc.

  18. I thought of another example where right is usually more anti-liberty than left: gambling. From the Republican Party platform, ’08:

    Millions of Americans suffer from problem or pathological gambling that can destroy families. We support legislation prohibiting gambling over the Internet or in student athletics by student athletes who are participating in competitive sports.

    Nanny state much?

    I know this issue like the others isn’t straight right/left, but the right is worse.

  19. Shannon Love says:

    [Sorry this went so long. I use blog post to sort out thoughts for other writing JewishAtheist just provoked a lot thoughts, probably because he is so typical.]

    JewishAtheist,

    I’m not defending unions who do bad things, nor denying that they exist.

    You misunderstand. This isn’t about how some unions have acted badly it is about the fact that unions can’t function without violence at all. Unions work by restricting competition from workers outside the union. They implement that restriction with violence. In the early days, union members would knock heads themselves, later to control violence, the government stepped in to enforce the unions monopoly.

    Since a job requires both an employee and an employer, the government simply threatened to kill any employer who hired non-union workers thus locking non-union workers out of jobs. Unions cannot function in Right to Work states because the governments there refuse to coerce either employers or employees into using the union as their sole source of labor.

    Economically, unions are government enforced cartels and like all cartels they extract higher than market prices by restriction of supply. Unfortunately, the unions forgot that all cartels are unstable. As soon as people have choices, they buy from non-cartel sources. Like all cartels, unions led to fat, sloppy, weak organizations that cannot compete outside the cartels hothouse.

    Isn’t homeschooling allowed?

    All states require that homeschooling meet stringent guidelines. In many states, the guidelines are clearly punitive as they exceed those of public schools. I would also point out that homeschooling is only “allowed” because the Right fought for it. If it was up to the left, all children would attend politically managed schools.

    Note that you have to “pay for public school” even if you don’t have kids.

    True, but if want to have any say over your child’s education you have to pay twice, once for the public school and then for the cost of private or homeschool (which can be considerable.)

    Why not just have a system in which parents are given vouchers and then let them spend those vouchers as they see fit within broad guidelines set by the state? Elitism is the only reason someone would think such a system would not work.

    That’s the problem with idealogues of all stripes — you’re willing to let tons of people literally die because to do otherwise violates some principle. Use some common sense.

    If I may quote Benjamin Franklin, “Those who trade a little freedom for a little security will soon have neither.” He was talking about military matters but it appllies to economics and all other parts of life as well.

    The problem with the idea that the real-world political system can handle the tradeoffs is because people rapidly fall into the same rationalize you originally used, “Since government action Z saved a lot of lives, therefore government action Y,X,W… will save lives as well.”

    Concrete examples: The CAFE fuel efficiency standards caused many people to have to drive much smaller cars than they would have otherwise. Owing to physics, small cars are inherently less safe per passenger mile driven than larger vehicles. Estimates of excess deaths per year range up to 3,000. When airbags came out the government originally made it illegal for people to deactivate them resulting in unnecessary deaths of adults to small to withstand the impact of an airbag. There are many, many more examples just in cars alone.

    More to the point, you skip the question of who decides what safety persuasions and individual can take. There is no firm line. Some “extreme” sports like rock climbing are fantastically dangerous per capita, much more so than driving without a seatbelt. Can the state outlaw them on such sports or is the decision whether to take the risk solely the individuals?

    If you look at the history of state enforced risk mitigation, you see a pattern in which those opposed to the mitigation make “outrageous” claims about how the mitigation will create a slippery slope to more invasion of personal choice. Look at cigarettes. Go back and read some of the debates in the 60s over cigarette labeling. Back in the 60s the idea that the government could tell individual businesses whether to allow smoking was unthinkable. Now people like you consider it perfectly normal.

    That argument only works if you’re one of those loonies who thinks that abortion is literally murder…

    Given that 40% plus of the American population believe that that an embryo or a fetus is something alive that deserves at least as much protection as a lab rat, I don’t think you can describe the stance as “loony.” They believe what they believe and it dishonest to pretend otherwise.

    Most people against legal abortion, though, don’t believe that, so they really don’t believe that fetuses are people, they just pretend to when it’s convenient.

    And I think that is just a way of avoiding debate. I agree that most people who oppose to abortion aren’t willing to kill over it but then again most people opposed to animal cruelty won’t kill a human being to save an animal. I think most people who oppose abortion on demand do peg the unborn in a kind of grey area much like animals like dogs and cats. You can’t balance the life of a dog against the life of human but on the other hand it is a moral outrage for someone to casually kill a dog and to do so with no government oversight. Given that 80% of abortions are instigated by the 5% of all women who have serial abortions, you can see how pro-lifers might be upset are how causally the unborn are killed.

    Leftists have long history of inventing rationales to explain why everybody else can’t recognize the genius of the leftists and agree with them about anything. This is just another case. This to is elitist. “My ideas are perfectly rational and absolute true but yours spring from emotion, psychological disfunction and lies.”

    So corporations should be able to just own THE AIR and then we won’t have to worry about pollution?

    No, I am saying that the right to emit into the air should be managed with a property system just like we manage land. There is a long practice of managing communal resources with a rights based property system. The pre-industrial commons were managed for centuries using that mechanism as were fishing grounds. In fact, the disruption of such rights based property system by the state usually lead to destruction of the resource e.g. overfishing.

    BTW, why do assume it is just evil capitalist who pollute? There are many cases when it is the collective action of individuals that cause the problem. E.g. Aspen had to outlaw wood burning fire places because there was so much smoke trapped under the Aspen inversion that it poised a serious threat. Family farms can create dangerous runoff just from animal manure.

    And nobody can police them (IN PRACTICE, not in pie-in-the-sky libertarian dreams) but the government.

    Well, you are wrong. We have been using an emissions rights system for many pollutants for nearly twenty years now. Most environmentalist fought it tooth and claw back in the late 80s but it has proved a resounding success. By gradually restricting the amount of pollutants that can be emitted each year along a predetermined curve. Companies can find their own tradeoffs and solution to reducing emissions.

    The best part is that it is auto enforcing. If a company A pays a great deal for emission rights, they will view company B’s emission without rights as theft. (It works just like water rights.) Company complains to the state or sues. Instead of having an entire industry trying to escape regulation, you have an entire industry watching their competitors like hawks trying to bust them for cheating.

    Again, stupid blind faith in the free market

    No, it is based on the historical evidence. Do you deny that prior to 1930 free-market North had a more open and tolerant society than the anti-free market South even though there were no anti-discremnation laws back then? Have you ever examined the legislative record of Jim Crow laws? Do you know how hard businesses in the South resisted segregation laws? Have you even wondered why some Southerners felt the need to use the violent force of the state to compel businesses to drive away customers?

    People are not rational. They will be bigots even when it’s not in their rational self-interest.

    That is true which is why its best not to let them pass laws that force others to bear the economic cost of their irrational bigotry. That is exactly what happened in the old South and the unionized North.

    Since leftists believe only in the articulated rationality of an elite, they assume that advocates of the free-market must base their use of the free-market in the idea that all humans are perfectly rational. We do not. Instead, we believe that the built in feedback mechanism in the market punish irrational behavior and in long term alter people’s behavior.

    Anyway, if the group being discriminated against is small or hated enough then the market rewards bigots, doesn’t it?

    Only if others in the culture are willing to pay the price.

    Like if you can win more customers in your bar in Red Statetopia by banning gay people than by allowing them, the market would reward you for banning them. Right?

    Well, yes but in a free-market you just go to the gay bar down the street.

    What makes you think that people have the right to use violence to compel others to interact with them? Do you think gay bars should have to serve raving homophobes. Do think a bunch of hetero truck drivers should be able to take over a lesbian bar? Wouldn’t the better system to be to let people associate and interact with whom they want and to pay the immediate personal consequences of doing so.

    Can you provide one real-world example of discrimination in the free-market that persisted over long periods? By that I mean discrimination not enforced by threats of violence from the state or with the state turning a blind eye to private violence? No, you can’t because it has never, ever happened. The market forces are to strong.

    As a practical matter, how can you count on a democracy to seriously combat bigotry. If most people share the bigotry, then the laws will enforce that bigotry. If most people don’t, then it is most likely a minor problem. The only reason to believe that the state can improve the irrational behavior of the people is if you assume that an a bigotry free elite exist that can use the violence based power of the state to enforce their enlightened view on the ignorant masses.

    Spend ten minutes and try playing devil’s advocate to this argument. It’s a silly just-so story that isn’t remotely true.</i.

    Well, almost all of the systematic and persistent discrimination in America resulted from the government actions of the previous generations. Remember, the civil rights movement was directed against primarily unjust LAWS. Almost all racist laws where supported by the progressives of their day. Remember it used to the "for the common man" Democrats who supported racist laws and not the Republicans who supported the fat cats.

    I get the very strong impression that you really don't know much about evolution of American political ideologies or how those ideologies wound up reflected in law. The history of scientific racism and eugenics is very revealing.

    If we were having this conversation a century ago, you would be arguing that the government needed to intervene in the market to protect the intellectual superior but physically inferior white worker from unfair competition from the intellectual inferior but physically superior (more animalistic) non-whites. I know this because I have read the debates concerning just that issue. Free-market advocates a century ago, often representing big business, argued against racist laws while the anti-free-market advocates argued for them.

    I think the state’s core functions involve laying the framework for a society.

    Which it can’t do unless it controls violence. I was not making a moral argument, I was explaining the practical way governments function. The state functions by using violence. It can only function if it has an overall monopoly on violence. A citizen must believe that if they comply with the state, they will not be hurt. If they will be hurt anyway, why accept the cost of complience? Therefore, the state has to prevent others from using violence in order to bring this about.

    A practical example would be getting people to testify against the mob. The state has to be able to prevent mob violence against witnesses if they want witness to stay alive long enough to testify and they must be able to protect people after they testify to induce them to testify in the first place. When the state cannot do this, the mob runs free.

    What do think happens during a civil collapse? The state cannot prevent violence and so everything goes to hell. What do you think happens when a country gets invaded. Do you imagine that a country’s laws continue to operate against the wishes of the invaders?

    Things that the free market can’t provide (again, IN PRACTICE, not in libertarian dreams) but that governments can and do.

    There are things the free-market cannot provide. The free-market cannot function unless there is a property system that creates feedback to individuals between their choices and the consequences of those choices.

    I don’t think the free-market can deal with violence especially not mass-violence. Neither can the free-market route all the resources necessary for childrearing because children are not property. On the other hand, if you just giver parents the resources directly, such as with educational vouchers, the free-market could handle all the other task without much goverment input.

    50+ years ago an emissions based pollution control system could not function because we did not have the technology to quickly and precisely measure emissions but 20 years ago we did develop the technology.

    If the government was restricted to ONLY those functions that the free-market had proven it could not handle, we would be having this discussion. However, the opposite is true. People jump immediately to using violence to solve the problem instead even thinking about the market. The market is judge to have “failed” if the world doesn’t look exactly like someone’s theories. The cost of government intervention is ignored.

    For example, the free-market “failed” to make home mortgage loans to enough people. The free-market “failed” to provide such loans at “affordable” rates. The free-market “failed” build houses where people wanted them that were as big and fancy as people wanted them. So, the government stepped in and corrected the market “failure” by using several mechanisms to drive interest rates down. This corrected the market “failure” and home ownership went up from 55% to nearly 70%. Hurray!

    Unfortunately, the interest rate was the mechanism the market used to communicate the risk of making any particular loan. When that mechanism was jammed, the market began making ever increasingly risky loans. Money flooded in from all over the planet. Shieks in Dubia gave money for mortgages in Des Moines because the government removed all risk for doing so.

    It took nearly 30 years for the distortion to reach the critical threshold necessary to crash the market but when it did, oh boy.

    Had we simply never decided that the market had “failed” and let the entirely voluntary system work as it had for the first 200 years of America’s history, we would not be in the pickle we now face.

    This is just propaganda, hinging on the word “control.”

    No, it is reality. Are you under some impressions that there are not laws that restrict your choices in all the areas I mentioned? Did they not just pass a law requiring every America to demonstrate to the IRS that they had purchased a medical insurance policy that provided the exact benefits mandated by the law. I assume you know what happens to people who don’t obey the IRS. How is that not “control”?

    It seems often like libertarians are just black-and-white thinkers who can’t tell the difference between being fined 50 bucks for not wearing a seatbelt and being sent to the actual gulag for speaking out against the government.

    I can tell the difference just like I can tell the difference between a punch in the nose and a serial killer. The accumulations of the casual application of violence to solve problems leads to serious harm. The more laws you make, the more likely you are to hurt people unintentionally.

    Take seatbelt laws. My grandfather had been driving for nearly 50 years before the laws became mandatory. He could never remember to buckle up. He was fined repeatedly and in principle the judge could have yanked his license (he didn’t because it was small town.) If that had happened his business would have been destroyed and we would have lost everything all because of a well intentioned law and absentmindedness. Should people lose their businesses, livelihood, homes and careers just because they didn’t buckle up?

    When you pass a law you cannot predict the harm you will do or how that law will evolve overtime. 30 years ago, drunk driving laws were aimed at people who were repeatedly driving blind drunk. Today, in many states, the level of impairment is lower than that of someone driving home from a 12 hour shift. Moreover, the penalties have increased. When the state mistakingly convicts someone, the harm they do to that individual is much greater than it used to be. It’s not just a fine. It’s prison and loss of professional license and bond. How many people’s lives should we destroy just to eek out a fractional improvement in safety?

    So you should be allowed to pollute the air I breathe because you want a louder or bigger engine or don’t want to manage the emissions?

    I should be killed in a car wreck because you forced me to buy a car smaller than I wanted. How fair is that? Remember, every action has positive and negative tradeoffs. No libertarian says that things that directly impinge upon others should be allowed nor do they say that people should be allowed to destroy a common resource like air.

    You have a very simple binary way of looking at problems. You think it is always a choice between immediate, micromanaging coercions or utter complete chaos and exploitation.

    So greedy developers can just ruin areas by building wherever the hell they want to, regardless of consequences?

    Define “ruin” because all to often “ruin” means “destroys some rich guys view of property he doesn’t own” How ever did we manage for two hundred years without the government micromanaging everyone’s construction?

    How is it fair, that I have to subsidize the roads, water, sewage and power for people who build houses out in the country. How it is fair that I as a renter have to subsidize people’s mortgages? If I buy a property that I can legally build on and on which have paying taxes based on the government valuation (itself based on the idea the property can be developed), how is it fair for you waltz in and tell me I can’t build while providing no compensation? I’ve just lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on your whim.

    So, it seems to me that the steps to solve your problem would be (1) make everyone pay the ALL actual cost of construction including the cost of capital. That alone would significantly reduce the ability of “greedy” developers to “ruin” virgin areas. (2) Establish a rights management property system to automatically handle the consequences of new construction such as run off. (3) If some new, unanticipated harm emerges, pay property owners a fair price for not building. (4) If the millionaire wants to preserve his view he can buy the land himself and keep it wild.

    This is a prime example of how government can produce perverse results. Once you take the government out of a market, a large number of problems resolves themselves.

    It seems you just trust the free market to sort everything out as if it’s both omniscient and benevolent, but it isn’t.

    No, I think the free-market sort many things out the same way that evolution does without an omniscient and benevolent creator. I want people to understand that the government act via violence and that therefore the government should be the last and not the first solution to problems.

    It’s efficient, for sure, but it’s also brutal and uncaring.

    So is the government. The government unjustly destroys the lives of tens of thousands of people every year. Often it does so by accident just by virtue of being so big, so powerful and so invasive. There are so many laws today that anyone can become an accidental criminal by breaking a law they didn’t even know existed. Not even the IRS can tell you what the tax code says.

    The government can destroy your life while trying to help you. It can protect you right out of job. Ask fishermen. Grandiose welfare projects can destroy communities and families. Intervention designed to create “affordable” housing can increase housing cost. The earnest to desire to give more people home ownership can wreck the financial system.

    If government was systematically benevolent, caring and effective Detroit and other government intensive cities would be paradises.

    We need government to keep that guy from dicking over the rest of us to make an extra buck.

    Nice in theory but all to often the big guy just uses the government to dick us all over. The rich have more influence over the government than any body else. It’s no coincidence that developers make political donations like mad. Developers use zoning and environmental lawsuits to screw over the competition. That happens in absolutely every single area of the interaction between the government and the rest of society.

    Your problem is that you have been seduced by the allure of violence. You look at the government and think, “The government can force anyone to do anything so that means the government can fix any problem.” When the government tries something and doesn’t fix the problem you think, “Hmmmm, we need to use violence to force more people to do what we want.” You never stop to think if perhaps the government simply can’t pull off what you want it to do.

    You never stop to think if there might be a non-violent way to get what you want.

  20. Look, we clearly live in different realities. I have on my side the existence of every industrialized nation on Earth and you have.. what, Somalia? It’s easy enough to pretend that government is the cause of all your problems or to cherry-pick every example of an unintended consequence or worst-case scenario. Ignore what really happens where governments are weak (hint: gangs & warlords) and go on about how government is using “violence” to enforce seatbelt laws.

    For the record, I oppose smoking bans. But you wouldn’t know that because you live in the reality inside your head.

    Let me just make one final point. Take an America with seatbelt laws and the same America without them. In the latter, tens of thousands of people are dead. In the former, tens of thousands of people have had a few $50 citations. You keep on defending your libertarian paradise. I’m just glad that your ideas will never rise beyond the fringe of even the Republican party.

  21. Mark says:

    JA,
    Sometimes you seem to lose track of what has been said. Mr Love clearly pointed out that a necessary use of government force was control violence in a society.

    How would he know that you oppose or support smoking bans? You hadn’t mentioned it prior.

    As you know, last April I got my FOID card and purchased a handgun (.22 Ruger) and a rifle (.22 bolt action) for my daughters and I to get familiar with guns and to learn a new skill (shooting). My eldest daughter was surprised that the state required no proof or certification from me that I knew how to handle or care for such thing but depended only on my assertion that did. Similarly for a hunting license. Why did this strike her as odd? Here’s why. Because this is at odds with today’s expectation that certification, regulation, and control by the state is the norm. The progressive nanny state has progressed to a level at which citizens are assumed to be children. You can’t take responsibility for yourself and your actions is the default. It’s not just seat belts and smoking. You are closely regulated in almost every activity in which you engage.

    You might note that in many places the assumption that I am an adult regarding handguns is not the case and classes/certifications are indeed required.

  22. How would he know that you oppose or support smoking bans? You hadn’t mentioned it prior.

    The point wasn’t that he didn’t know, but he assumed he did know and he was wrong.

    The progressive nanny state has progressed to a level at which citizens are assumed to be children. You can’t take responsibility for yourself and your actions is the default. It’s not just seat belts and smoking. You are closely regulated in almost every activity in which you engage.

    You can label “assumed to be children” and, like a child, rebel mindlessly at rules you don’t understand. Or you can ask how many lives have been saved by simple, common-sense rules and regulations. (Or, knowing you, you can cherry-pick every example you can think of of bad rules or unintended consequences.)

    Note that throughout this conversation, nobody has disputed the fact that an America with seatbelt laws features countless SAVED LIVES at almost no significant cost to anybody. You just talk and talk about liberty this and freedom that and your precious principles, but you’re willing to basically sacrifice how many lives to prove to Big Government that you’re a big kid who can decide whether or not to wear a seat belt yourself.

    I agree with you that if everybody were personally responsible, we wouldn’t need a lot of these laws and regulations. But the reality is that a lot of people aren’t, and we shouldn’t just close our eyes and ears and pretend that they are out of some principle when we know that friggin’ thousands of people a year are going to die without a silly little law that hurts nobody.

  23. Hmm it looks like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any helpful hints for beginner blog writers? I’d definitely appreciate it.