Saturday, August 6, 2011

Care to get a little more specific, Steve, or are we going to stay vague on this one?

I find this to be an incredibly presumptuous and condescending post. However, Austrians get a lot of crap that they really don't deserve so part of me understands the frustration that went into this (although there doesn't seem to be an immediate provocation). God knows I've been called some really nasty stuff, and it certainly doesn't put me in a charitable mood. Still - I'm trying to keep this short because I'm afraid of what I might say if I parse it in any detail.

What do you all think?


  1. You asked me what I think. I think that the post (Steve's) is incredibly idiotic . The problem with Austrians is that no matter what problems arise, they are always blamed on the lack of the "free market." But as they mindlessly repeat this phrase they can't even realize that their community doesn't even agree on what such a "free market" would look like. What kind of monetary system would it have? Some say gold, some say free banking, some say fractional reserve etc etc. Who would "enforce contracts?" Well, some of them say we should have a monarch (if you don't believe me look on the Ron Paul website forums). Some of them say we should have a "republic not a democracy" whatever that means. The fact of the matter is that their whole enterprise is founded upon a bizarre conception of human freedom, an adolescent a priori distrust of governance in any form, and a failure to engage substantively on any modern economic issues. You can be a libertarian, in favor of price stability, a relatively small public sector and low labor market rigidities, but you can't expect to be taken seriously if you blame any problem on the lack of something that has not and could not exist. Less polemically, I will note that Steve does not seem to be able to envision the counterfactual of what would have happened without the stimulus, something I find quite strange from an Austrian who adores Bastiat and his "What is seen and what is not."

  2. The policies of the soft left have failed; time to try something new.

  3. "The fact of the matter is that their whole enterprise is founded upon a bizarre conception of human freedom, an adolescent a priori distrust of governance in any form, and a failure to engage substantively on any modern economic issues."

    You failed to write one truth in what I quoted.

  4. "...a relatively small public sector..."

    I always love weasel phrases like this.

    "But as they mindlessly repeat this phrase they can't even realize that their community doesn't even agree on what such a 'free market' would look like."

    Surely the dumbest thing I've read all week. Libertarians are well aware of the disagreements between one another.

    "...a bizarre conception of human freedom..."

    The bizarre conception of human freedom that libertarians hold to does not imprison people for selling raw milk to willing and voluntary customers. Everywhere we turn the regulatory state is triumphant, and everywhere we turn people are subject to all manner of petty tyranny in the process.

  5. Simon -
    I agree with a lot of your criticisms, but I think one of the biggest problems here is the all-encompassing nature of the accusation (aside from the empirical problems that you raise). There are "interventionist" (a bizarrely vague term - I guess he means Keynesians) who are ideologues, and there are also Austrians that are ideologues (I've noted a few that I think are myself in the past). But this all encompassing accusation that Steve has and that you veer into in your comment isn't right, in my view. Steve Horwtiz, for example, is not a guy I consider an ideologue. It's disappointed to come to the realization that he thinks it's likely I am.

    Gary -
    re: "The bizarre conception of human freedom that libertarians hold to does not imprison people for selling raw milk to willing and voluntary customers."

    And do you know if Simon supports this? I already told you I don't. Stop acting like you can take everything that you don't like in the world and blame it on the group of people you've chosen to disagree with at the moment.

    It's like your absurd rant about police beating homeless people on facebook and its devolution into an argument against government.

  6. Daniel,

    I have no idea if Simon supports it or not; that really isn't the point. Simon is making a claim about the "bizarreness" of libertarianism; and my response is, what's so bizarre about a political philosophy which doesn't call for the jailing of people for selling raw milk? Grab a clue and hang on Daniel.

  7. And for those at home, this is what Daniel is referring to:

    My argument is this (that Daniel doesn't actually articulate isn't my fault): this is exactly what one should expect of from a police force; it isn't an aberration. Now if you think the costs like this are worth the benefits of having a police force fine; but very rarely is such a cost-benefit analysis ever done.

  8. Gary -
    Why do you think anyone finds that bizarre. There's nothing distinctly libertarian about that view, so if he's singling out libertarians for concern it's unlikely that has anything to do with what he's identifying as "bizarre".

    I hear a lot of libertarians like chocolate ice cream and long walks on the beach too. So?

  9. How a libertarian thinks and another example of our "bizarre" notions of freedom:


    Clearly a lot of people think the notion of raw milk is bizarre; otherwise cops wouldn't be raiding the purveyors of such and putting said persons in jail to await possible long-term prison sentences (multiple year prison sentences as I recall). That is the system in place right now; it is the norm. In fact, it is the norm created by liberals and progressives I will add. So there is something distinctly libertarian about such an idea.

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  12. All,

    Thank you for your remarks. Let me note in the second I have that if you look at my post I was referring to Austrians not Libertarians in general. Gary, with regards to Raw Milk, I would say that that specific prohibition is not arbitrary, but rather the consequence of living in a democratic society where elected representatives and the organizations they have put in place have decided that the utility of some people drinking raw milk is less than the overall risk to society. In fact, I feel this is the case for most regulations. If you want freedom from government, go live in the wilderness OR come out and say that you are unwilling to tolerate a democratic society.

  13. I'll add that I'm not saying that just because a regulation is the consequence of democratic politics is that it is correct, but simply that it is a good reason to not call them tyranny but rather note it as an inconvenience of living in a society of others.

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  15. And sorry for the bellicosity of my remarks.

  16. You are not among those calling me an ideologue Daniel and the post was really aimed at, or at least frustrated with, those who who HAVE called me (and others) those names even as their own policies keep failing and failing. You've argued in good faith for the most part and fwiw I think you're right in objecting to the use of the word "socialist" over at CP.

    That said, I ain't apologizing for that post.

  17. Daniel,

    Apparently Simon doesn't have much of a problem with the moronic raw milk prohibitions in the U.S.


    Your position would justify almost anything determined by a simple majority vote (indeed, it resembles almost a claim of might makes right); that sort of "democracy" slips right into the hands of critics of democracy going back to Plato and Aristophanes - you give them the field. So your argument indeed hinges upon what one means by "democracy." I suspect that if your ox were gored you'd be much less sympathetic to the sort of democracy you are proposing here.

  18. Steven Horwitz,

    There is no need to apologize; it was a good post.

  19. You're right. I don't think the moronic raw milk prohibitions are tyranny. There are a lot of places in the world that don't have those prohibitions, but they're usually worse places to live. (I do like Weston Price though and understand Raw Milk can have health benefits :) ). But as regards Democracy, I am familiar with Plato's criticisms, but don't find them powerful. It's still, as Churchill says, the best system as compared to all the others. Its actually funny you mention Plato, as perhaps the libertarian arch enemy Leo Strauss seized upon his arguments to give rise to neo-conservatism. Just come out and say it, you're in favor of tyranny as long as its your favorite kind!

  20. Simon,

    (a) Leo Strauss wasn't a neo-conservative; indeed, Straussians run the political spectrum (a great many of them worked in the Clinton White House after all) - except they are not libertarians (for fairly obvious reasons).

    (b) Democracy is the best system of government perhaps; it isn't the best system of human interaction - markets are. Since Churchill was an imperialist and a paternalist he was skeptical of markets.

    (c) I don't favor any kind of tyranny; it is rather weird for you to call choice in matters of diet (for example) tyranny though. How fucked up of attitude is that exactly? And it is just beyond bizarre to link that to Straussianism, which is in large part anti-choice and anti-market - the very anathema of libertarianism.

  21. Hey Gary,

    Although it might not be fair to call Struass a neo-conservative, his political philosophy does seem to have been more formative on that movement than on other points on the political spectrum. I'm obviously less familiar with him than you, and didn't know that Straussians were on the Clinton administration. Maybe friend me on facebook and we can continue that discussion!

    I never claimed democracy was the best system of human interaction, because I'm not exactly sure what that would mean. Its explicitly a system of government. I think, as most libertarians do, that there is a tension between democracy and market interactions (which I would agree are the best form of human interaction), and I'm content to settle for something like what we have, which is a predominantly market based society with some annoying (and some not so annoying) regulations and distortions introduced by the democratic process. Even if I would want a Lew Rockwell/ Anarcho-capitalist society, I havn't a clue how it would be put in place. What kind of governance would provide us with the kind of market you desire? I guess thats my critical question.

    I'm enjoying this conversation and hope there isn't any animosity!


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