Why I Am Not a Libertarian II

Positive and Negative Liberty

The second major reason why I am not a libertarian has to do with the social safety net – programs like public education, universal health care, food stamps or unemployment pay – that are funded by redistributive taxation. Hard-core libertarians decry these programs as theft or even slavery, arguing that it is unfair to tax them to fund programs from which they derive no direct benefit.

In reality, however, these programs do benefit all members of society. Consider universal health care. Though libertarians regularly decry such programs as wasteful government giveaways, there is a sound self-interest argument for establishing a social safety net. Even if a libertarian, through hard work and intelligent economic decisions, has guaranteed their own access to quality medical care for life, what will happen to people who lack that access? Since the poor aren’t under regular medical supervision, any new infectious disease that appears will be likely to flourish among them. By the time it spreads out of the have-nots and begins to infect the rest of society, it may have become far more virulent and dangerous, putting many more people at risk. On the other hand, if an epidemic is detected early, it is far easier to stop it. This is not a hypothetical scenario: we see it happening around the world right now with diseases like tuberculosis or avian flu, where virulent, drug-resistant strains emerge first among society’s underclass.

A similar argument holds true for anti-poverty social programs, such as welfare, food stamps, subsidized housing and job training. Certainly we should not indefinitely support people who refuse to work, and the emphasis should be on helping recipients return to the workforce as soon as possible. But eliminating these programs entirely would be a foolish idea. Eliminating these programs would not make the need for them go away. If people cannot support themselves through legitimate channels, they are far more likely to turn to crime and the black market, again posing a risk to the rest of society, as well as imposing the greater costs of police and incarceration.

Finally, consider public education. Any rational libertarian would value science, since it produces a great number of inventions and discoveries that directly benefit every member of the public. Therefore, it’s in everyone’s interest to live in a society where science is valued and supported by the public, as opposed to, for example, a society where powerful religious groups block scientific advances that are contrary to their beliefs. But to create a society of the former type, rather than the latter, we must commit to educating the public. Abdicating that responsibility creates a vacuum where all types of superstition and pseudoscience can rush in.

All of these social programs benefit us in one further way. By committing to educate people, giving them job training and housing, and providing medical care when they are ill, we help them to become productive, valuable citizens – people who contribute to society, rather than being a drain on it. A study by Columbia University, for example, found that an increase of $82,000 per student in public school spending would actually provide a $127,000 net gain to the economy over the lifetime of that student. Again, by helping people live up to their full potential for productivity and innovation, we can create a wealthier, more prosperous society than would otherwise exist, and this directly benefits everyone.

It is wrong to think of these programs as free giveaways to the undeserving. Instead, the proper paradigm is to think of them as investments. Like any investment, the spending for these programs can and will be repaid with interest if distributed wisely. Education is one example; here is another:

The US spent $32 million to fight smallpox over ten years, achieving eradication in 1977. Now we save that sum every two and a half months in reduced spending on vaccines and health care. Total savings have been $17 billion, plus 45 million lives around the world, and as an investment that $32 million has yielded a return of 45 percent per year.

The notion of social programs as an investment in society leads into an important point. There are two different types of freedom which any society must trade off between. One type is negative liberty, the absence of external restraint or coercion. But there’s a far more important type, positive liberty, which is the ability to do what one wants to do. For example, I may want to secure an influential, high-paying job, and no one will actively stop me from doing this (negative liberty). Yet I may still be unable to get that job, because I lack access to the education and other resources I would need to pursue it (positive liberty).

Negative liberty is a necessary prerequisite for positive liberty, but is not sufficient for it. Any reasonable person, I think, would agree that positive liberty is the more important of the two. It does me no good to be free of restraint if I still lack the ability to achieve what I desire. Yet a libertarian state, where private property is the most fundamental right and there are no redistributive schemes such as taxation, goes too far in maximizing mere negative liberty at the expense of positive liberty. Rather than seeking to boost one at the expense of the other, we should want to combine the two in the highest proportion. Often, the best way to do this is to pass laws that somewhat decrease negative liberty, but produce a greater, more-than-compensating gain in positive liberty, both for the individual and for society in general.

Libertarians say that we should only concern ourselves with negative liberty – as long as people can choose freely, then everything is as it should be. But it does you no good that you can freely choose if all your options are bad ones. Consider the following horrible dilemma:

Nhem Yen’s eldest daughter, who was twenty-four and pregnant with her second child, promptly caught malaria. There was no money to get medical treatment (effective drugs would have cost less than $10), and so she died a day after giving birth. That left Nhem Yen looking after five children of her own and two grandchildren.

The family had one mosquito net that could accommodate about three people. Such nets are quite effective against malaria, but they cost $5 — and Nhem Yen could not afford to buy any more. So every night, she agonized over which of the children to put under the net and which to leave out.

“It’s very hard to choose,” Nhem Yen told me. “But we have no money to buy another mosquito net. We have no choice.”

This is not an isolated instance. As the Times article points out, impossible choices like this are very much the norm in conditions of extreme poverty. People become trapped in cycles of suffering that are all but impossible to escape because they cannot afford to provide for all their needs simultaneously. They have more than enough negative liberty; it is positive liberty they lack. A society that truly sought to maximize liberty would provide the help needed to lift people out of these cruel dilemmas.

It benefits no one for people to remain trapped in situations like this. Private investment and charity have a role to play in lifting people out of poverty, but they will not accomplish that task all by themselves – especially since many of these programs may not see a payoff within the lifetime of an individual investor. Public investment that is driven by moral considerations, rather than short-term profit, is also needed if we are to break the cycles of poverty and dependency. By doing this, we can create a society where the maximum amount of both prosperity and liberty is available to all.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Jim Baerg

    This website
    http://www.holisticpolitics.org/Home/PageOne.php
    has a lot of ideas on how to maximize both of what you are calling negative liberty & positive liberty. (I don’t see him using quite those terms)

  • Jim Baerg

    This website
    http://www.holisticpolitics.org/Home/PageOne.php
    has a lot of ideas on how to maximize both of what you are calling negative liberty & positive liberty. (I don’t see him using quite those terms)

  • Darren

    This is the second time I’ve said this in as many days, but I recommend reading “United States of Europe” for a useful comparison of the European social model versus the American way, as viewed by an American. The author is T.R.Reid.

  • http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com tobe38

    Excellent post. I particularly like your points about education. It reminds me of a wealthy Englishman I saw in a public debate on TV (sorry, can’t find a link), arguing that because his children attended a private school and not a state school, he shouldn’t have to pay his taxes towards the education system. What someone else had to point out, is that we don’t just pay for ourselves or our families, we pay our contribution for everyone. Because everyone benefits from a society where education and healthcare are free.

  • http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com tobe38

    Excellent post. I particularly like your points about education. It reminds me of a wealthy Englishman I saw in a public debate on TV (sorry, can’t find a link), arguing that because his children attended a private school and not a state school, he shouldn’t have to pay his taxes towards the education system. What someone else had to point out, is that we don’t just pay for ourselves or our families, we pay our contribution for everyone. Because everyone benefits from a society where education and healthcare are free.

  • StumpyUK

    If social health care and education, funded by taxes and provided by government are the fairest way of providing them, then why don’t governments provide more basic
    needs such as food and housing on the same basis. As they don’t, surely they are
    being “unfair” in the provision of food and shelter, based on the argument above.

    The trouble is that when you fix the price of anything to zero it inevitably leads
    to waste and rationing. Those of you lucky enough not to have experienced the icy
    soviet grip of the British National Health Service probably won’t appreciate this
    point. Nor will you be able to comprehend a health service that infects 1 in 10 of
    it’s patients with potentially fatal infections or commits nearly 30,000 medical
    errors each year, many leading to death or serious injury. That is the other side
    of the coin to the “free treatment for all” argument. I can think of no modern
    instances of the hypothetical epidemics amongst the poor in countries (such as
    the U.S) that don’t provide universal health care. The issues surrounding the NHS
    in the UK are not hypothetical, they are all too real. The system means that I
    cannot escape such a poor and deadly service. My disposable income after the
    compulsory contributions to the Health service and other taxes mean that I don’t
    have enough money to put my family in a private health care scheme. The biggest
    private health care provider in the UK had ZERO MRSA infections across it’s
    hospitals last year…yet “fairness” dictates that I cannot put my family in the
    care of a safe and reliable health care provider, instead I am compelled to gamble
    on them not being the 1 in 10 that ends up with the potentially deadly infection.

    Similarly with education, nearly a quarter of adults in the UK are functionally
    illiterate.

    Government funded and adminstered enterprises invariably fail, the free market
    almost always drives down prices and produces better outcomes. When you have had
    to endure a stay in a filthy state hospital or seen a relative (who has dutifully
    paid into the government health scheme all of their lives) die because they
    lost out in the “postcode lottery” of drug rationing, then you might have a
    different view of what “fairness” is.

  • StumpyUK

    If social health care and education, funded by taxes and provided by government are the fairest way of providing them, then why don’t governments provide more basic
    needs such as food and housing on the same basis. As they don’t, surely they are
    being “unfair” in the provision of food and shelter, based on the argument above.

    The trouble is that when you fix the price of anything to zero it inevitably leads
    to waste and rationing. Those of you lucky enough not to have experienced the icy
    soviet grip of the British National Health Service probably won’t appreciate this
    point. Nor will you be able to comprehend a health service that infects 1 in 10 of
    it’s patients with potentially fatal infections or commits nearly 30,000 medical
    errors each year, many leading to death or serious injury. That is the other side
    of the coin to the “free treatment for all” argument. I can think of no modern
    instances of the hypothetical epidemics amongst the poor in countries (such as
    the U.S) that don’t provide universal health care. The issues surrounding the NHS
    in the UK are not hypothetical, they are all too real. The system means that I
    cannot escape such a poor and deadly service. My disposable income after the
    compulsory contributions to the Health service and other taxes mean that I don’t
    have enough money to put my family in a private health care scheme. The biggest
    private health care provider in the UK had ZERO MRSA infections across it’s
    hospitals last year…yet “fairness” dictates that I cannot put my family in the
    care of a safe and reliable health care provider, instead I am compelled to gamble
    on them not being the 1 in 10 that ends up with the potentially deadly infection.

    Similarly with education, nearly a quarter of adults in the UK are functionally
    illiterate.

    Government funded and adminstered enterprises invariably fail, the free market
    almost always drives down prices and produces better outcomes. When you have had
    to endure a stay in a filthy state hospital or seen a relative (who has dutifully
    paid into the government health scheme all of their lives) die because they
    lost out in the “postcode lottery” of drug rationing, then you might have a
    different view of what “fairness” is.

  • Alex Weaver

    Certainly we should not indefinitely support people who refuse to work,

    This is half of the argument by which, in my experience, libertarians justify their opposition to social welfare programs. The other half is usually left unstated: “…and everyone who is poor is poor only because they refuse to work, or made bad decisions, or…” The supporting evidence seems to be that believing this helps them sleep at night.

  • Curiosis

    The problem with positive liberty is that is must take from someone. Negative liberty costs nothing. It is the government getting out of everyone’s way. In order to provide the “freedom” afforded by positive liberty, you must force someone else to sacrifice.

    Ultimately, freedom means the freedom to succeed or fail. Liberty doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be dire consequences. You seem to want a world where everyone gets a trophy, even if we have to saw all the winner’s trophies in half in order to make sure the losers come away with something.

    In the past, friends, familes, and communities banded together to help the less fortunate. Today, we have lost that and in it’s place gained the inefficient, power-hungry state. How is this an improvement?

    I find it interesting that out of all the poor in this country, you had to go to Cambodia for an example of poverty. Clearly, libertarianism will only work in free societies. I wouldn’t categorize Cambodia as such.

    It’s funny that an article on an atheism website sounds so much like something written by a christian. It is not enough for the christian to worpship their god, you must do it, too. Ebonmuse, if you want to give your money to help the poor, then, by all means, do so. But that isn’t enough for you. You want to dig into my wallet in order to do what you think is best. And if I don’t want to join your little Robin Hood scheme, why then, you’ll just make sure that the government puts me in prison. How is this in any way consistent with freedom?

  • Curiosis

    The problem with positive liberty is that is must take from someone. Negative liberty costs nothing. It is the government getting out of everyone’s way. In order to provide the “freedom” afforded by positive liberty, you must force someone else to sacrifice.

    Ultimately, freedom means the freedom to succeed or fail. Liberty doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be dire consequences. You seem to want a world where everyone gets a trophy, even if we have to saw all the winner’s trophies in half in order to make sure the losers come away with something.

    In the past, friends, familes, and communities banded together to help the less fortunate. Today, we have lost that and in it’s place gained the inefficient, power-hungry state. How is this an improvement?

    I find it interesting that out of all the poor in this country, you had to go to Cambodia for an example of poverty. Clearly, libertarianism will only work in free societies. I wouldn’t categorize Cambodia as such.

    It’s funny that an article on an atheism website sounds so much like something written by a christian. It is not enough for the christian to worpship their god, you must do it, too. Ebonmuse, if you want to give your money to help the poor, then, by all means, do so. But that isn’t enough for you. You want to dig into my wallet in order to do what you think is best. And if I don’t want to join your little Robin Hood scheme, why then, you’ll just make sure that the government puts me in prison. How is this in any way consistent with freedom?

  • StumpyUK

    This is half of the argument by which, in my experience, libertarians justify their opposition to social welfare programs. The other half is usually left unstated: “…and everyone who is poor is poor only because they refuse to work, or made bad decisions, or…” The supporting evidence seems to be that believing this helps them sleep at night.

    Yes, of course the inevitable straw man…nasty selfish, greedy libertarians blathering on in the face of the deeply concerned and socially conscious masses. It is the libertarian principles of trade and free markets that lifted more people out of poverty than any number of social warfare programs…which actually have the effect of extending or prolonging poverty. Look to China, India and the far east, decades of “wealth redistribution” simply prolonged the grinding poverty that they lived in. It is the introduction of markets and capitalism that has started lifting millions out of that grinding poverty. More often than not the poor are poor because of the state (democratically elected or not), providing lousy education, hopeless “planned” economic policies and general ineptness…yet people wish to see the dead hand of the state, the cause of poverty (in most cases) extended! How does that work, then?

  • Curiosis

    Alex,

    First, I sleep fine. I already give to charity, first volutarily through donations of goods and money and, second, at gun-point to the government. I’m saying that the first is good and noble and the second is tyranny in action. I can only assume that you sleep better knowing that you support the state in taking money by force from your fellow citizens.

    Please, provide me a modern example of someone in America who worked hard and made good decisions and remained in poverty. Apparently, all these poor people are working their butts off and doing all the right things, and yet still fail. If only those lousy rich people weren’t keeping them down, right?

    I have simply read too many stories of people who pulled themselves out of poverty and made a difference in society. Look at those success stories and tell me what the difference is.

  • Jeff T.

    My mother did not leave me with many tidbits of wisdom, but one of the few that she did leave me with was, “The best way to help poor people is not to be one.”

    I think that attitudes change with age. You come out of college feeling the coffers of wisdom overflowing and that humanity could be great ‘if just…’
    Then you begin to realize that the ideal world that is conjured in your mind or other people’s minds is not the same as the real world.

    To have a community pot of gold with all chipping in with smiling faces and then partaking the rewards of maximum communal effort sounds fine in theory. But, people have this tendency to make any given system benefit themselves regardless of the consequences. Some people would start slacking off, some people would protect their inherited wealth regardless … add infinum.

    The ideal model would fall apart in a suicide bomb and then where would you be? Held at gunpoint while your money was taken, by the strongest bully in line…

  • Alex Weaver

    Yes, of course the inevitable straw man…nasty selfish, greedy libertarians blathering on in the face of the deeply concerned and socially conscious masses. It is the libertarian principles of trade and free markets that lifted more people out of poverty than any number of social warfare programs…which actually have the effect of extending or prolonging poverty. Look to China, India and the far east, decades of “wealth redistribution” simply prolonged the grinding poverty that they lived in. It is the introduction of markets and capitalism that has started lifting millions out of that grinding poverty. More often than not the poor are poor because of the state (democratically elected or not), providing lousy education, hopeless “planned” economic policies and general ineptness…yet people wish to see the dead hand of the state, the cause of poverty (in most cases) extended! How does that work, then?

    You’re absolutely right. Just look at the 19th and early 20th centuries, where lack of taxation and government welfare programs, coupled with unfettered pursuit of profit, created a safe, orderly, and prosperous society where everyone willing to work could find and keep a job that kept a living wage, was allowed to work and could afford to live in safe and sanitary conditions, and could reliably feed his or her family. Unfortunately, that all fell apart with the imposition of social welfare programs and restrictions on businesses, to the detriment of the people and leading to the devastation of the nation’s economy during the Great Depression brought on and exacerbated by excessive government regulation of the economy.

    Hey, wait a minute…

    Curiosis:

    There will always be exceptions. The burden, however, is on you to prove not just that, in theory, any one person or family is capable of pulling themselves out of poverty, but that the opportunity is in fact there for every person willing to work to do so and that those who fail simply aren’t taking advantage of it. Demonstrating that there are a number of positions with reasonable job security and a living wage available which either do not require more than a high school diploma, and/or a number of open enrollment spots at educational or training institutions coupled to sufficient scholarship funds to pay for each, equivalent to even half of the number of impoverished Americans would go a long way. I won’t hold my breath.

  • Alex Weaver

    Incidentally, Stumpy, having read Curiosis’ arguments, and knowing that he is nowhere near the first or only person I have seen arguing this angle, would you seriously contend that my characterization of them is unfair?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I’ll address some of the comments one at a time. First, StumpyUK:

    If social health care and education, funded by taxes and provided by government are the fairest way of providing them, then why don’t governments provide more basic needs such as food and housing on the same basis.

    They should, and most do. You’ve never heard of food stamps? Subsidized housing?

    The trouble is that when you fix the price of anything to zero it inevitably leads to waste and rationing.

    This shows a total failure to understand the economic basis of the social safety net. The price of these goods is not being “fixed to zero”, as if the people who provided them had to work without pay. These goods have a definite, non-zero price which is set by market forces of supply and demand. The difference is that the cost is distributed among all members of society.

    Nor will you be able to comprehend a health service that infects 1 in 10 of it’s patients with potentially fatal infections or commits nearly 30,000 medical errors each year, many leading to death or serious injury.

    30,000 medical errors per year? That sure sounds like a lot. But to lend some context to your rather one-sided use of statistics, let me point out how many medical errors occur each year in the glorious free-market health care system of the U.S.: 1.5 million.

    Oh yes – and what are the relative populations of the U.S. and the U.K.? About 60 million for the U.K., 300 million for the U.S. If my calculations are correct, that works out to a medical-error rate of 1 in 200 for the U.S. and 1 in 2000 for the U.K. Apparently, socialized medicine beats free-market medicine by a factor of 10. Which side of this debate were you arguing for again?

    Similarly with education, nearly a quarter of adults in the UK are functionally illiterate.

    I’d love to see some evidence for that. What are you comparing this to, in any case? Don’t forget that any simplistic comparison between public and private schools is bound to fail for the simple reason that private schools can select their students.

    When you have… seen a relative (who has dutifully paid into the government health scheme all of their lives) die because they lost out in the “postcode lottery” of drug rationing, then you might have a different view of what “fairness” is.

    Excuse me, but I think there’s something you’re not grasping here. If people truly are dying due to drug rationing, then it means that there are not enough drugs to go around. That is not a problem created by a system of universal health care. This problem would not magically be solved if we switched to a free-market system – it just means that people’s access to those drugs, rather than by a random lottery, would be determined by their ability to pay. In fact, in such a scenario, increased demand would drive up the cost and might mean that even more people would die than otherwise might have. I find this scenario even more morally abhorrent than the one in which access to lifesaving drugs was allocated randomly, as bad as that would be.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Curiosis:

    In order to provide the “freedom” afforded by positive liberty, you must force someone else to sacrifice.

    No one is being forced to sacrifice anything, any more than my employer is forcing me to work at my job.

    And if I don’t want to join your little Robin Hood scheme, why then, you’ll just make sure that the government puts me in prison. How is this in any way consistent with freedom?

    Because no one is forcing you to stay. Isn’t that the whole point of libertarianism – that as long as you can choose freely, everything’s okay? Well, you are choosing freely. You’re choosing to stay in a country that charges taxes in exchange for the social services it provides. That is the flaw in all your histrionic rhetoric about being robbed at gunpoint: you are choosing to participate in that scheme. You are consenting by your continued presence. Don’t like it? You’re welcome to move to somewhere else. I personally guarantee that the Iron Curtain of Socialism is not going to stop you at the airport.

    Clearly, libertarianism will only work in free societies.

    Interestingly, I find that the various libertarians replying to this post are contradicting each other. Curiosis says that libertarianism only works in free societies. Meanwhile, StumpyUK cites China’s upwelling of economic success as an example of libertarianism working – yet China still isn’t a free society.

    I’m hardly going to argue that any totalitarian state has enjoyed economic success. Yet socialism (that dreaded “S” word) certainly seems to work quite well in free societies also. Many of the European nations with the most socialistic economic policies are also, by numerous objective measures of well-being, the healthiest countries on earth.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Curiosis:

    In order to provide the “freedom” afforded by positive liberty, you must force someone else to sacrifice.

    No one is being forced to sacrifice anything, any more than my employer is forcing me to work at my job.

    And if I don’t want to join your little Robin Hood scheme, why then, you’ll just make sure that the government puts me in prison. How is this in any way consistent with freedom?

    Because no one is forcing you to stay. Isn’t that the whole point of libertarianism – that as long as you can choose freely, everything’s okay? Well, you are choosing freely. You’re choosing to stay in a country that charges taxes in exchange for the social services it provides. That is the flaw in all your histrionic rhetoric about being robbed at gunpoint: you are choosing to participate in that scheme. You are consenting by your continued presence. Don’t like it? You’re welcome to move to somewhere else. I personally guarantee that the Iron Curtain of Socialism is not going to stop you at the airport.

    Clearly, libertarianism will only work in free societies.

    Interestingly, I find that the various libertarians replying to this post are contradicting each other. Curiosis says that libertarianism only works in free societies. Meanwhile, StumpyUK cites China’s upwelling of economic success as an example of libertarianism working – yet China still isn’t a free society.

    I’m hardly going to argue that any totalitarian state has enjoyed economic success. Yet socialism (that dreaded “S” word) certainly seems to work quite well in free societies also. Many of the European nations with the most socialistic economic policies are also, by numerous objective measures of well-being, the healthiest countries on earth.

  • lpetrich

    It would be interesting to extend libertarian arguments to military and police forces. Here is my stab at that:

    If military and police protection are offered for free, that means that people will call the cops for every little thing, and will not develop a sense of responsibility for protecting themselves. In fact, the only people who become victims of criminals and other enemies are those who are too lazy to protect themselves or who have made bad decisions which have led to their vulnerability.

    If you want protection, then either do it yourself or hire some guards to do it for you. You deserve only as much protection as people are voluntarily willing to give you. If you want the government to do it, then you are a lazy bum who wants the government to finance your protection by stealing from those more willing to protect themselves.

    Government military and police forces have failed to stop enemies both at home and abroad, and sometimes commit atrocities and brutality and other such misdeeds, while mercenaries and vigilante posses and hired guards never do such things.

    Etc. etc. etc.

  • StumpyUK

    Reply to Ebonmuse

    They should, and most do. You’ve never heard of food stamps? Subsidized housing?

    I am not familiar with “food stamps”, no, however we do have social housing in the UK.
    In fact we have a lot of social housing, which probably goes someway to explaining the chronic housing shortage that we are currently suffering. In any event the provision of social housing and I dare say the provision of food stamps does not reflect the “universal” provision of goods that you seem to be arguing for. If food were allocated on the same basis of the health care in the UK, then EVERYONE would pay a percentage of their income and have their food allocated to them by the State. State allocated food would become more-or-less the only game in town, only the very wealthy able to buy their own food. However, putting aside the wealthy few for a moment, do you believe that such a system is the “fairest” and most sensible way to allocate food or housing for that matter?

    This shows a total failure to understand the economic basis of the social safety net. The price of these goods is not being “fixed to zero”, as if the people who provided them had to work without pay.

    With respect, I believe that you are confusing the concepts of COSTS and PRICE. Of course there are COSTS involved in the supply health and education in the UK system, however it doesn’t change the fact that the PRICE of them is fixed to zero at the point of consumption and that this price fixing leads to waste and rationing.

    These goods have a definite, non-zero price which is set by market forces of supply and demand. The difference is that the cost is distributed among all members of society.

    Again, they have a non-zero COST and that cost isn’t set by market forces because there is no market! The NHS has a monopoly on state healthcare. The failure is all too apparent in that demand for healthcare has risen but supply has decreased. The Labour government has dumped billions into the system, that system is more-or-less broken and certainly not fit for purpose. Again, if distributing cost among all
    members of society i.e a universal system, is so fabulous, why not have a UNIVERSAL system of more basic necessities such as food, housing and energy?

    But to lend some context to your rather one-sided use of statistics, let me point out how many medical errors occur each year in the glorious free-market health care system of the U.S.: 1.5 million.

    I wasn’t aware of these figures and acknowledge that they vastly trump those in the UK. However, I would point out that the U.S system is not free-market, it is certainly a freer-market than many, but still suffers far too much politicisation through a small number of providers having too much influence over politicians.

    I’d love to see some evidence for that.

    This concerns my assertion that a quarter of UK adults are functionally illiterate.
    Evidence can be found here and Here.

    Excuse me, but I think there’s something you’re not grasping here. If people truly are dying due to drug rationing, then it means that there are not enough drugs to go around.

    No, sir…that isn’t the reason behind drug rationing. In a market based system supply rises to meet demand, where the market does not exist, rationing is inevitable. There are more than enough drugs to go round, the reason they are being rationed is because health authorites are denying them to patients on the basis that they don’t have enough money to pay for them, not that there aren’t enough drugs to go round.

    Understand that it is the “have nots” who suffer the indignities of the NHS as much as the “haves”. Certainly, prior to the NHS the poor did have concerns about being able to pay for their health treatment…but they DID get health care nevertheless. Now their concern is not about payment, it is whether they will get the life-saving treatment they need or if they do, whether they will survive their hospital stay.

    This problem would not magically be solved if we switched to a free-market system – it just means that people’s access to those drugs, rather than by a random lottery, would be determined by their ability to pay. In fact, in such a scenario, increased demand would drive up the cost and might mean that even more people would die than otherwise might have.

    In a free-market system it is the PRICE of drugs not the COST that matter to the consumer. Since when does increasing the supply of something drive up its cost? The opposite is true!!!

    Meanwhile, StumpyUK cites China’s upwelling of economic success as an example of libertarianism working – yet China still isn’t a free society.

    No, as I stated above, China’s economic success is based on opening up markets and moving to a capitalist system. Such systems are championed by Libertarians but capitalism on it’s own is capitalism, not libertarianism.

  • Alex Weaver

    There are more than enough drugs to go round, the reason they are being rationed is because health authorites are denying them to patients on the basis that they don’t have enough money to pay for them, not that there aren’t enough drugs to go round.

    And this is different from the situation with US healthcare…..how?

    Incidentally, a national healthcare system that actually denied people drugs they need on the basis of inability to pay would indeed be no better than privatized healthcare. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Adam’s advocating. What was that about strawmen earlier?

    Understand that it is the “have nots” who suffer the indignities of the NHS as much as the “haves”. Certainly, prior to the NHS the poor did have concerns about being able to pay for their health treatment…but they DID get health care nevertheless. Now their concern is not about payment, it is whether they will get the life-saving treatment they need or if they do, whether they will survive their hospital stay.

    Then why exactly was the NHS adopted, and why do many people in the US, which has a system like the one you adore, still NOT get the care they need?

    Your statements, if true, are a very strong argument that the NHS in Britain is horrifically mismanaged. It does not follow that no other nationalized healthcare plan could possibly do any better, which is what you seem to be arguing.

  • StumpyUK

    And this is different from the situation with US healthcare…..how?

    My bad, I see that my statement was ambiguous. When I said that “they” don’t have
    enough money I was referring to the NHS not the patient. This despite the fact that
    £Billions have been dumped into the system to improve health care. Once again, it is INEVITABLE that fixing the PRICE of a commodity to zero will lead to waste and rationing…show me where this isn’t so.

    Incidentally, a national healthcare system that actually denied people drugs they need on the basis of inability to pay would indeed be no better than privatized healthcare.

    Our national healthcare system denies people drugs they need on the basis of inability to supply them. I “need” food before health care, once again…why aren’t they supplied to me (and everyone else) on the basis of the Marxist principles advocated by Ebonmuse?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I was wondering how long it was going to be before I was accused of being a communist. This shameful and dishonest attack is totally at odds with what I actually advocate, however, so I’ll let readers work out the difference for themselves.

    No, I do not advocate that the government provide all food or energy, because these commodities, unlike education or medical care, can be hoarded. The costs of these should be imposed on the consumer to discourage people from taking more than their fair share. Society should, however, commit to providing a fixed, bare minimum level of these goods to people who cannot otherwise afford them.

  • StumpyUK

    I was wondering how long it was going to be before I was accused of being a communist.This shameful and dishonest attack is totally at odds with what I actually advocate…

    If this outburst is directed at me, then you are in error, sir. Better that you comment on what I actually said, rather than what you THINK I said.
    In terms of what you advocate, correct me if I am wrong, you seem to be saying that certain services such as health and education should not be allocated on the basis of the ability to pay, but on the basis of need? Is that correct?

    …actually, the sinking of the thread from an interesting discussion into ad hominem
    fest, has me eyeing my “home” radio button. Have been here waaaaaayyy too often to know that thread will only downhill from here. Good-day!

  • Curiosis

    Alex,

    You are incorrect. The burden is on you to prove the it is just to take the money that I have earned and give it to someone else. And not just take my money, but threaten me with incarceration if I don’t. Good luck with that.

  • Curiosis

    Ebonmuse,

    “No one is being forced to sacrifice anything, any more than my employer is forcing me to work at my job.”

    So that money that I have to pay to the government is voluntary? Great! How to I opt out? Positive liberty creates a right to take from someone else.

    So your answer is that if I don’t want to fork over what I have earned, the only answer is to leave? How asinine! So I suppose that if the US became more theocratic, you would just shrug your shoulders, pack up your things, and take the first plane out? You want to curtail my freedoms and then say “see ya” when I object. You truly have no idea what freedom is.

    When I say that libertarianism will only work in free societies, I am referring to complete libertarianism, not various parts of it here or there. Libertarianism can work on a small scale, but to be truly successful, it must be part of a free society.

    “Yet socialism (that dreaded “S” word) certainly seems to work quite well in free societies also.”

    This is a contradictory statement. Socialism is wholly at odds with a free society. Socialism requires the ceding of freedom and rights in order to obtain some measure of economic security. There’s a famous Franklin quote that applies well here.

    Yes, many socialist countries are healthy. And if health is more important to you than freedom and personal responsibility, they serve a fine examples. But for myself, I prefer liberty.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    If people truly are dying due to drug rationing, then it means that there are not enough drugs to go around. That is not a problem created by a system of universal health care. This problem would not magically be solved if we switched to a free-market system – it just means that people’s access to those drugs, rather than by a random lottery, would be determined by their ability to pay.

    In a market economy, such shortages create price rises which are signals which tell producers to produce more, alleviating the shortage. So a market economy would save lives in that case. State-run systems operate by fiat, and often bureaucrats ignore shortages because they have no incentive to do anything about it. It’s not their relative dying from the lack of drugs. If you are poor in a market economy and drugs are high-priced, you might take extraordinary measures to afford them, (selling possessions or taking a second job) saving your life. In a system of state-run health care where drugs are available only by lottery, even that option is closed.

    I think you are going to have to acknowledge at some point: the “unfairness” of the market is actually a paradox, which creates a better society than could exist under the most stringently mandated utilitarian regime. This is not to say that there is no place for government regulation–specifically in the area of making sure people pay for the externalities they create. This is all to the goal, however, of making the information the market provides to producers and consumers as accurate as possible.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    If people truly are dying due to drug rationing, then it means that there are not enough drugs to go around. That is not a problem created by a system of universal health care. This problem would not magically be solved if we switched to a free-market system – it just means that people’s access to those drugs, rather than by a random lottery, would be determined by their ability to pay.

    In a market economy, such shortages create price rises which are signals which tell producers to produce more, alleviating the shortage. So a market economy would save lives in that case. State-run systems operate by fiat, and often bureaucrats ignore shortages because they have no incentive to do anything about it. It’s not their relative dying from the lack of drugs. If you are poor in a market economy and drugs are high-priced, you might take extraordinary measures to afford them, (selling possessions or taking a second job) saving your life. In a system of state-run health care where drugs are available only by lottery, even that option is closed.

    I think you are going to have to acknowledge at some point: the “unfairness” of the market is actually a paradox, which creates a better society than could exist under the most stringently mandated utilitarian regime. This is not to say that there is no place for government regulation–specifically in the area of making sure people pay for the externalities they create. This is all to the goal, however, of making the information the market provides to producers and consumers as accurate as possible.

  • lpetrich

    By libertarians’ standards, government military and police systems are socialist, because they are doing what mercenaries and guards and vigilante posses might otherwise do. So they therefore necessarily suffer from poor performance and must therefore be abolished.

    Libertarians have a double standard. They loudly yell “Your job: love it or leave it!”, but then they whimper “Why should I have to love it or leave it about the government and the taxes it demands from me?” It sometimes seems to me that they think that employers ought to have more rights than governments, which is a form of feudalism — private property owners being the government. In fact, I think that a libertarian would enjoy living in a company town, because such a town would have a government that they would find ideologically acceptable.

    Yet there are some countries where you can legally pay $0.00 in taxes, like Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. So why haven’t libertarians been moving en masse to the UAE? Given what great workers they think of themselves as, I’m sure that employers there would be glad to hire them, and would be more than willing to sponsor their residency in the UAE.

    Of course, the UAE government cheats, by using oil and bauxite revenues (How dare the government deprive poor honest business leaders of oil and bauxite revenues that are rightfully theirs!). Every good libertarian knows that if the government makes money off of something, then it is robbing people, while if the government loses money on something, then it is revealing how inefficient it is.

  • Alex Weaver

    You are incorrect. The burden is on you to prove the it is just to take the money that I have earned and give it to someone else. And not just take my money, but threaten me with incarceration if I don’t. Good luck with that.

    You have made a positive assertion about the character and circumstances of an entire social class, and your argument is largely dependent on its accuracy. Support it.

  • Alex Weaver

    You are incorrect. The burden is on you to prove the it is just to take the money that I have earned and give it to someone else. And not just take my money, but threaten me with incarceration if I don’t. Good luck with that.

    You have made a positive assertion about the character and circumstances of an entire social class, and your argument is largely dependent on its accuracy. Support it.

  • Alex Weaver

    Our national healthcare system denies people drugs they need on the basis of inability to supply them. I “need” food before health care, once again…why aren’t they supplied to me (and everyone else) on the basis of the Marxist principles advocated by Ebonmuse?

    -StumpyUK

    I was wondering how long it was going to be before I was accused of being a communist. This shameful and dishonest attack is totally at odds with what I actually advocate, however, so I’ll let readers work out the difference for themselves.

    -Ebonmuse

    Hmm. Nope. No logical connection between the above statement and his response. None at all.

  • Curiosis

    lpetrich,

    You seem to be confusing libertarianism with anarchism. Libertarians recognize that there should be government. Government exists to protect the rights of its citizens, nothing more and nothing less.

    If I am robbed, I have no power to compel the robber to pay for his crime or provide restitution. This power is vested in the government.

    I am happy to pay for this protection from others. It helps ensure that I have the freedom to pursue what makes me happy.

    Governments don’t have rights, people do. Governments only have powers, which should be as limited as possible.

    I shouldn’t have to move away from my home in order to avoid having the government take what’s mine and give it to someone else. The answer is that we both be given the freedom to do what we each think is right so long as we don’t harm anyone else. I recognize your right to give as much as you want to help the poor. I would admire your generosity. The problem is that you refuse to give me the same freedom. You want to decide for me. That is not freedom.

  • Curiosis

    lpetrich,

    You seem to be confusing libertarianism with anarchism. Libertarians recognize that there should be government. Government exists to protect the rights of its citizens, nothing more and nothing less.

    If I am robbed, I have no power to compel the robber to pay for his crime or provide restitution. This power is vested in the government.

    I am happy to pay for this protection from others. It helps ensure that I have the freedom to pursue what makes me happy.

    Governments don’t have rights, people do. Governments only have powers, which should be as limited as possible.

    I shouldn’t have to move away from my home in order to avoid having the government take what’s mine and give it to someone else. The answer is that we both be given the freedom to do what we each think is right so long as we don’t harm anyone else. I recognize your right to give as much as you want to help the poor. I would admire your generosity. The problem is that you refuse to give me the same freedom. You want to decide for me. That is not freedom.

  • Mrnaglfar

    If it’s so unfair that the government can tax it’s citizens for public commodities, then I suppose that makes roads unfair infringements on citizen’s money. Public schools should all go too, along with police, military, firefighters, garbage pickups and parks. etc etc.

    Universal Health care would be a fantastic idea in my mind, but a quick point first. I’m really tired of hearing the “poor people are poor because they’ve made bad life choices and can undo it anytime they want” line of thought. That’s far too much of an over-generalization. Sure, some people are poor because they made bad life choices, some are poor because being poor can be a self-repeating cycle. For instance, take two people of equal intelligence and ability and give one $10,000 to start off with and the other $100. Which would you predict would be able to go farther in life? Likewise, no, not all poor people can rise out of the system that depends so heavily on their existence. There are a lot of shitty jobs that do need to get done, and without people to do those jobs, the upper class wouldn’t enjoy such a nice lifestyle; the upper class are only the upper class because the lower class is supporting them. In simple terms, there isn’t room for everyone at the top.

    But getting back to health care, with all the money our government wastes on trivial things, I don’t see why their wouldn’t be room to redirect that spending to health care. Of course, relying on the government to get the job done isn’t always the best option, but the other alternative is saying to the poor who can’t afford health care “too bad buddy, but you have to suffer/die, even though you could be helped if you had money”

    So yes, the system is far from perfect because of the people who will inevitably be running and using it. That’s a given for everything. However, Health care is an important enough matter to do our best in providing to all citizens. I’m not saying it’s going to be “fair”, but it is important (and people said the same thing about providing lawyers to all citizens, regardless of whether they could afford it or not, and we all see how that worked out).

  • Mrnaglfar

    Curiosis,

    If I am robbed, I have no power to compel the robber to pay for his crime or provide restitution. This power is vested in the government.

    I am happy to pay for this protection from others. It helps ensure that I have the freedom to pursue what makes me happy.

    You want to decide for me. That is not freedom.

    And you want to decide for me that I need police protection. Suppose I don’t feel I do, that I would rather take that tax money and buy a gun or hired a bodyguard to protect me. Telling me I need police because you feel you need police isn’t freedom either.

  • Curiosis

    Alex,

    “You have made a positive assertion about the character and circumstances of an entire social class, and your argument is largely dependent on its accuracy. Support it.”

    As I said before, my support is represented by all the people who were born into poverty but ultimately made something of themselves. They did something that others did not. You seem to think that only luck determined the difference in outcomes. I’m saying that these individuals are characterized by their hard work and good decisions. If that is all that sets them apart, then those qualities must be absent from those who remain in poverty.

    I’m still waiting on just a single example of someone who worked hard and made good decisions and still remained in poverty.

    Let me be clear. I don’t look down on the poor. I don’t think that they are all lazy, worthless people. I myself have made some stupid decisions in my life. I have failed to work as hard as necessary to achieve my goals.

    The difference is that I don’t think you owe me anything for that. Those actions were my own. My sole responsibility. You are not here to provide a safety net for me. If I fall on hard times, I would, of course, appreciate your help. But I refuse to force you to give it to me.

    Some here have said that welfare helps reduce theft by those who are in need. The problem with this is that welfare is theft. Instead of the individual taking money from someone against that person’s will, they are letting the government do the exact same thing. The government is just doing what we consider illegal for a citizen to do.

  • Curiosis

    Mrnaglfar,

    “If it’s so unfair that the government can tax it’s citizens for public commodities, then I suppose that makes roads unfair infringements on citizen’s money. Public schools should all go too, along with police, military, firefighters, garbage pickups and parks. etc etc.”

    Welfare is not a public commodity. You are literally taking money from Paul and giving it to Peter. This cannot be compared to building a road that Paul and Peter are both free to use.

    I dislike public schools because the are a monopoly of the state that have proven their inadequency. If you can’t afford to pay for your child’s education, don’t have that child.

    Police and the military protect our rights, a legitimate function of government. Firefighters are kind of a middle ground for me. I’m not sure that the government should be in the business of protecting our property from natural disasters. But because of the potential loss of life if the fire spreads, there is a case to be made.

    Because the poor don’t prosper doesn’t mean that they can’t. You seem to be the one saying that, no matter what, these people are doomed to a lifetime of failure. I prefer to believe that they all have the potential to be successful.

    The government has proven time and time again that is sucks at almost everything it does. Health care would be no different. We have posting here a British subject who has first-hand knowledge of universal health care. And yet you still ignore his testimony.

    Someone else’s health is not my responsibility. I may choose to help them. My wife and I gave money recently to help a boy who was injured and was having trouble with medical bills. But that was my choice. You have no right to take what I have earned and give it to someone else.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Welfare is not a public commodity.

    If it can help reduce crime it certainly can be.

    If you can’t afford to pay for your child’s education, don’t have that child.

    I believe education is important, so I guess we differ over the importance of school for everyone (which just might help make some of the poor make a better life for themselves huh?)

    Police and the military protect our rights, a legitimate function of government

    Protect our rights by taking my money by force (in the form of taxes to do so). That’s still not freedom.

    But because of the potential loss of life if the fire spreads

    What about the much higher potential loss of life from illness?

    You seem to be the one saying that, no matter what, these people are doomed to a lifetime of failure

    No, I’m saying that the upper class depends on the lower class. I don’t see anyway of arguing otherwise. I too like to think people can rise out of poverty, but I know not all of them can; the system wouldn’t support it unless it was a very well tuned socialist system. The top need to come down for the lower to come up.

    The government has proven time and time again that is sucks at almost everything it does

    Agreed, but what’s the alternative? No government would suck just as bad, probably far worse, government it’s perfect, but it’s the better than no government in matters such as this.

    Someone else’s health is not my responsibility

    You have no right to take what I have earned and give it to someone else.

    The same could be said of all taxes, and thus any tax related product. Of course, the system breaks down too fast that way. The government has no way of protecting freedoms without means or when people don’t agree what freedoms they want to have and whether they feel like contributing money to protecting them.

    Of course, that argument isn’t the best to begin with because apparently the government DOES have the right to take taxes from you. In every country, in one way or another, the government does just that. If not from you, from someone else. The government needs to take taxes in order to be able to do or protect anything.

  • Alex Weaver

    As I said before, my support is represented by all the people who were born into poverty but ultimately made something of themselves. They did something that others did not. You seem to think that only luck determined the difference in outcomes. I’m saying that these individuals are characterized by their hard work and good decisions. If that is all that sets them apart, then those qualities must be absent from those who remain in poverty.

    Adam provided at least one.

    And what you STILL fail to grasp is that the fact that any one person may be capable of pulling themselves out of poverty does NOT mean that everyone is capable of doing so. Like a surprising number of libertarians, you seem to be unable to grasp that resources are finite. For example, most jobs that pay a living wage require a college education, or at least specialized training, which many people in poverty can neither afford to pay the tuition for nor take the time off work needed to pursue. I’m not sure what the qualifications are for a student loan but a poor person may not be able to get one or, upon getting one, may struggle to pay it back under such a huge debt burden that they remain fairly poor even after graduating and getting a job. What would you suggest, scholarships?

    Ok. Let’s say there’s about $100 million available in the form of various private scholarships. Now, let’s say that there are about ten million people in poverty who work as hard as they can but are still impoverished because the only jobs they can get without a college degree or technical training are minimum wage. Now, let’s say the minimum tuition needed for the degree or certificate required to get a job that will pay the bills and provide adequate food, housing, clothing, and medical coverage costs about $1000 (a very, very low estimate). What this means is that while there are ten million people who NEED more education to get a job that pays a living wage, scholarship funds are only available to provide about 100,000 with the education to get those jobs. What are the other 9,900,000 supposed to do?

    The numbers are purely arbitrary, of course, but the concept is important. So, care to provide evidence that there are enough scholarships, etc. to go around?

  • Alex Weaver

    As I said before, my support is represented by all the people who were born into poverty but ultimately made something of themselves. They did something that others did not. You seem to think that only luck determined the difference in outcomes. I’m saying that these individuals are characterized by their hard work and good decisions. If that is all that sets them apart, then those qualities must be absent from those who remain in poverty.

    Adam provided at least one.

    And what you STILL fail to grasp is that the fact that any one person may be capable of pulling themselves out of poverty does NOT mean that everyone is capable of doing so. Like a surprising number of libertarians, you seem to be unable to grasp that resources are finite. For example, most jobs that pay a living wage require a college education, or at least specialized training, which many people in poverty can neither afford to pay the tuition for nor take the time off work needed to pursue. I’m not sure what the qualifications are for a student loan but a poor person may not be able to get one or, upon getting one, may struggle to pay it back under such a huge debt burden that they remain fairly poor even after graduating and getting a job. What would you suggest, scholarships?

    Ok. Let’s say there’s about $100 million available in the form of various private scholarships. Now, let’s say that there are about ten million people in poverty who work as hard as they can but are still impoverished because the only jobs they can get without a college degree or technical training are minimum wage. Now, let’s say the minimum tuition needed for the degree or certificate required to get a job that will pay the bills and provide adequate food, housing, clothing, and medical coverage costs about $1000 (a very, very low estimate). What this means is that while there are ten million people who NEED more education to get a job that pays a living wage, scholarship funds are only available to provide about 100,000 with the education to get those jobs. What are the other 9,900,000 supposed to do?

    The numbers are purely arbitrary, of course, but the concept is important. So, care to provide evidence that there are enough scholarships, etc. to go around?

  • Vicki Baker

    I myself have made some stupid decisions in my life.

    Me too. I also had many people who did their best to make sure I didn’t make stupid decisions (parents, teachers, mentors) And when I did screw up, their were people willing to help me pick up the pieces and encourage me to do better next time.

    I think if we’re honest, most of owe some credit for the fact we’re not on welfare to the choices others made for us.

  • Vicki Baker

    I myself have made some stupid decisions in my life.

    Me too. I also had many people who did their best to make sure I didn’t make stupid decisions (parents, teachers, mentors) And when I did screw up, their were people willing to help me pick up the pieces and encourage me to do better next time.

    I think if we’re honest, most of owe some credit for the fact we’re not on welfare to the choices others made for us.

  • lpetrich

    Some people seem to think that there is no such thing as “working poor”. But large numbers of people stay poor no matter how much they work. Rags-to-riches is RARE.

    And the value of subsidizing education is recognized by the armed forces, which subsidize the training of their personnel. I’ve never heard of anyone paying tuition for going through boot camp.

    Also, there is sometimes good economic reason for governments to provide certain services or at least to grant exclusive franchises.

    Natural monopoly.

    That is when only one producer can reasonably exist in a certain economy.

    This is typically the case for roads; how many city streets can run by a single spot like the front of your home?

    And that is often the case for utilities — multiple electricity and water and land-line telephone distribution infrastructures are very wasteful.

  • Alex Weaver

    Natural monopoly.

    That is when only one producer can reasonably exist in a certain economy.

    This is typically the case for roads; how many city streets can run by a single spot like the front of your home?

    And that is often the case for utilities — multiple electricity and water and land-line telephone distribution infrastructures are very wasteful.

    On that note, I believe New York at one point had something like 30 different fire brigades. I don’t remember the details but I don’t think that worked out too well.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    So your answer is that if I don’t want to fork over what I have earned, the only answer is to leave? How asinine!

    Curiosis, you seem to be under the delusion that freedom means always having your own way, and that the state is doing you an injustice if it refuses to cater to your every whim. This is juvenile. We have this thing called a social contract where people who live in a society and make use of the benefits it provides agree to pay their fair share toward the cost of those services. As I said, if you don’t like it, you’re free to leave. That is perfectly in keeping with the libertarian viewpoint: as long as you’re not being coerced, everything is fine. Well, no one is coercing you. You can pay your share, or you can go.

    Socialism requires the ceding of freedom and rights in order to obtain some measure of economic security.

    Socialism requires the ceding of no rights. There is nothing one can do in a capitalist society that can’t be done in a socialist society. As my post explains, a society that guarantees the basic needs of all its people actually is more free than one that throws people to the wolves if they are unable to support themselves. You persist in defining freedom purely in terms of negative liberty and nothing else, and that is the wrong definition.

    I shouldn’t have to move away from my home in order to avoid having the government take what’s mine and give it to someone else.

    Again, this is a completely erroneous view of what the state does. It’s not as if you make your money all by yourself, through the sheer strength of your dauntless individual willpower, and then the government steps in and unfairly takes some of it. On the contrary, the government is what makes it possible for you to make a living at all. The very infrastructure that you rely on to make a living, the services you depend on whether you realize it or not, are provided by the state. Taxation is what you pay in exchange for those services. It is a trade of value for value.

    I’m not sure that the government should be in the business of protecting our property from natural disasters. But because of the potential loss of life if the fire spreads, there is a case to be made.

    And the very same argument applies to providing health care, as I explained in my original post. I note that no libertarian posting in this thread has attempted to answer my argument on this point. New epidemic diseases always begin among the poor who lack adequate health care and access to medical oversight.

    We have posting here a British subject who has first-hand knowledge of universal health care. And yet you still ignore his testimony.

    As I showed, StumpyUK’s own statistics demonstrate that the terrible socialized British health care system is superior to the American system by an order of magnitude. You seem steadfastly determined to ignore this.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    So your answer is that if I don’t want to fork over what I have earned, the only answer is to leave? How asinine!

    Curiosis, you seem to be under the delusion that freedom means always having your own way, and that the state is doing you an injustice if it refuses to cater to your every whim. This is juvenile. We have this thing called a social contract where people who live in a society and make use of the benefits it provides agree to pay their fair share toward the cost of those services. As I said, if you don’t like it, you’re free to leave. That is perfectly in keeping with the libertarian viewpoint: as long as you’re not being coerced, everything is fine. Well, no one is coercing you. You can pay your share, or you can go.

    Socialism requires the ceding of freedom and rights in order to obtain some measure of economic security.

    Socialism requires the ceding of no rights. There is nothing one can do in a capitalist society that can’t be done in a socialist society. As my post explains, a society that guarantees the basic needs of all its people actually is more free than one that throws people to the wolves if they are unable to support themselves. You persist in defining freedom purely in terms of negative liberty and nothing else, and that is the wrong definition.

    I shouldn’t have to move away from my home in order to avoid having the government take what’s mine and give it to someone else.

    Again, this is a completely erroneous view of what the state does. It’s not as if you make your money all by yourself, through the sheer strength of your dauntless individual willpower, and then the government steps in and unfairly takes some of it. On the contrary, the government is what makes it possible for you to make a living at all. The very infrastructure that you rely on to make a living, the services you depend on whether you realize it or not, are provided by the state. Taxation is what you pay in exchange for those services. It is a trade of value for value.

    I’m not sure that the government should be in the business of protecting our property from natural disasters. But because of the potential loss of life if the fire spreads, there is a case to be made.

    And the very same argument applies to providing health care, as I explained in my original post. I note that no libertarian posting in this thread has attempted to answer my argument on this point. New epidemic diseases always begin among the poor who lack adequate health care and access to medical oversight.

    We have posting here a British subject who has first-hand knowledge of universal health care. And yet you still ignore his testimony.

    As I showed, StumpyUK’s own statistics demonstrate that the terrible socialized British health care system is superior to the American system by an order of magnitude. You seem steadfastly determined to ignore this.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    For BlackSun:

    State-run systems operate by fiat, and often bureaucrats ignore shortages because they have no incentive to do anything about it. It’s not their relative dying from the lack of drugs.

    Are you saying that people in general can’t be bothered to save another’s life unless there’s profit in it for them? What a low and sorry view of human nature that is!

    In a capitalist system, there are plenty of people who die because others have no incentive to help. Consider the many different diseases that continue to claim thousands of lives each year in poorer countries, but are largely ignored by major pharmaceutical companies because there is little profit motive in curing them. There are many more diseases that are easily and cheaply treatable, but, again, are mostly ignored because there is little profit incentive to do so. The free market is very good at allocating resources in response to specific types of demand, but it is not a panacea that solves all problems.

    In particular, the problem with for-profit medicine (as Michael Moore’s new film Sicko points out) is that providers of medical care have a direct incentive to deny treatment to as many people as possible. The more treatment you deny, the more money you save. This is the very definition of a perverse incentive. I do not want my medical care to depend on the decision of a person to whom I am, literally, worth more dead than alive! Imagine a firefighter being told not to extinguish a house fire because he’d already put out too many fires this month and it was costing his company money, and you’ll have some idea of the insanity of this situation.

    In any case, there’s no reason why a system of universal health care, or any government-run system, must necessarily be inefficient. This is not a law of nature. You’re worried that there’ll be insufficient incentive to see to people’s health? Then set up the system so there is such incentive. Again, there’s an example in Sicko: doctors in the British system can receive bonuses based on how much preventive care they dispense, such as convincing people to quit smoking. This is at least as much of an incentive as anything that exists in a free-market system.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Ebonmuse,

    The discussion of human nature is too broad for the comments section. But I will say that it is realistic to expect that people care far more for themselves and those in their immediate circle than people they don’t know. Most people will not pay to save someone else’s life they don’t know.

    Think about this: every time an American buys a Starbucks or an ice-cream cone, for that same $3.00, 10 children could have been vaccinated against preventable diseases. Does that mean everyone should stop buying treats or going to the movies? I don’t think so. But some forms of utilitarianism would say yes.

    You are correct that the health care system is totally broken. I haven’t seen Sicko but plan to. You are correct that the financial disincentive for care to the health insurers is corrosive to any sense of ethics.

    But we cannot separate the health care problems from the decision by the government to allow juries to award huge verdicts in medical malpractice cases. This fact alone has basically led to the spiraling healthcare costs, people’s inability to pay, and ultimately to the broken health-insurance system we have today.

    I’ve been a big proponent of abolishing juries and this is only one of many of my reasons.

    I’m not saying that a government-run health care system couldn’t work. I’m not saying good incentives couldn’t be designed in. The question is, will they? Such a system would still have to face the same need to get costs and damage awards under control. This would be the difficult political challenge.

  • Oz

    I’m afraid the problem at hand is not the one being so intensely examined. Socialist programs might run rings around private sector ones, but even stipulating that, I would oppose them. The question is a matter of purpose. Central to the libertarian political philosophy is a stingy concession of the purpose of government. The government’s role is to protect the rights of its people. That’s it.

    Good enough. However we then run up against the question of what is properly counted among “the rights of the people”. Adam et. al. would no doubt claim that food and health care are part of that set. People more aligned with my views do not. I suspect that these views are closer to a priori assumptions than we all would like to admit.

    Police and military organizations are operated under a properly functioning government since they operate in support of rights protection. Crime, properly defined, is the violation of an individual’s rights, so it makes perfect sense to have government-run police. Military forces offer protection from foreign oppressors in an analogous manner. Not that the people should rely on either of them, of course. The continual existence of any free society demands that its people take ultimate responsibility for their own protection (the basis of the American 2nd Amendment). Government is simply a way for the people to delegate some of the responsibility and to allow expansion into other productive areas.

  • Oz

    I’m afraid the problem at hand is not the one being so intensely examined. Socialist programs might run rings around private sector ones, but even stipulating that, I would oppose them. The question is a matter of purpose. Central to the libertarian political philosophy is a stingy concession of the purpose of government. The government’s role is to protect the rights of its people. That’s it.

    Good enough. However we then run up against the question of what is properly counted among “the rights of the people”. Adam et. al. would no doubt claim that food and health care are part of that set. People more aligned with my views do not. I suspect that these views are closer to a priori assumptions than we all would like to admit.

    Police and military organizations are operated under a properly functioning government since they operate in support of rights protection. Crime, properly defined, is the violation of an individual’s rights, so it makes perfect sense to have government-run police. Military forces offer protection from foreign oppressors in an analogous manner. Not that the people should rely on either of them, of course. The continual existence of any free society demands that its people take ultimate responsibility for their own protection (the basis of the American 2nd Amendment). Government is simply a way for the people to delegate some of the responsibility and to allow expansion into other productive areas.

  • ex machina

    I’m afraid the problem at hand is not the one being so intensely examined. Socialist programs might run rings around private sector ones, but even stipulating that, I would oppose them. The question is a matter of purpose. Central to the libertarian political philosophy is a stingy concession of the purpose of government. The government’s role is to protect the rights of its people. That’s it.

    Watch this.

    The government’s role is to protect the rights of it’s people and, when necessary, invest in their prosperity with social programs at the people’s expense.

    TA-DA!

    You can’t win this argument by just saying the governement is responsible for basic rights alone. It’s clearly plausible that it could do more.

  • ex machina

    I’m afraid the problem at hand is not the one being so intensely examined. Socialist programs might run rings around private sector ones, but even stipulating that, I would oppose them. The question is a matter of purpose. Central to the libertarian political philosophy is a stingy concession of the purpose of government. The government’s role is to protect the rights of its people. That’s it.

    Watch this.

    The government’s role is to protect the rights of it’s people and, when necessary, invest in their prosperity with social programs at the people’s expense.

    TA-DA!

    You can’t win this argument by just saying the government is responsible for basic rights alone. It’s clearly plausible that it could do more.

  • ex machina

    I’m afraid the problem at hand is not the one being so intensely examined. Socialist programs might run rings around private sector ones, but even stipulating that, I would oppose them. The question is a matter of purpose. Central to the libertarian political philosophy is a stingy concession of the purpose of government. The government’s role is to protect the rights of its people. That’s it.

    Watch this.

    The government’s role is to protect the rights of it’s people and, when necessary, invest in their prosperity with social programs at the people’s expense.

    TA-DA!

    You can’t win this argument by just saying the government is responsible for basic rights alone. It’s clearly plausible that it could do more.

  • Alex Weaver

    Furthermore, you also can’t win this argument by, as most Libertarians I’ve met seem to, defining “basic rights” and “just” as antonyms of “inconvenient to me personally.”

  • Oz

    I don’t intend to win this or any argument on the subject. Like I said, our models of government come from a priori assumptions and it’s foolish to try and talk each other out of them.

  • Oz

    I don’t intend to win this or any argument on the subject. Like I said, our models of government come from a priori assumptions and it’s foolish to try and talk each other out of them.

  • joe in oklahoma

    Libertarianism was tried before in this country, during the era of robber barons and monopolies. it gave us factories filled with child labor, unsafe labor practices, rampant poverty, no vacations, no pensions, and 60 hour work weeks. (anyone who thinks the average person in those days lived in a society known for living wages, sanitation, full employment, and no hunger is living in an ideological bubble.

    Stumpy thinks anything run by a government is a failure.
    i wonder if he thinks our roads are a failure? would he privatize police and fire departments? the military? city parks? or public education (thus educating only those who can afford it)? would he abolish the weekend, the 40 hour work week, etc?

    O and the UK’s NHS may not be the best example of government run healthcare, being a treatment centered system, unlike the prevention centered systems in Denmark, Germany, and elsewhere…..but it works, and delays in optional surgeries are no longer than insurance-imposed delays in the USA. besides, Stumpy, you may have to face up to the fact that the brits may not be as good with social policy administration as the the swedes, the danes, the french, the italians.

    Curiosis apparently thinks poor people are dumb. the difference in stories Cur, is sometimes intelligence, sometimes the breaks, sometimes friends helping out. there is no such thing as a person who ‘made it on their own’, since all things are contingent.

    taxes are not theft, they are the rent you pay to live in a community. but then, libertarians seem to have real difficulties with community.

  • joe in oklahoma

    Libertarianism was tried before in this country, during the era of robber barons and monopolies. it gave us factories filled with child labor, unsafe labor practices, rampant poverty, no vacations, no pensions, and 60 hour work weeks. (anyone who thinks the average person in those days lived in a society known for living wages, sanitation, full employment, and no hunger is living in an ideological bubble.

    Stumpy thinks anything run by a government is a failure.
    i wonder if he thinks our roads are a failure? would he privatize police and fire departments? the military? city parks? or public education (thus educating only those who can afford it)? would he abolish the weekend, the 40 hour work week, etc?

    O and the UK’s NHS may not be the best example of government run healthcare, being a treatment centered system, unlike the prevention centered systems in Denmark, Germany, and elsewhere…..but it works, and delays in optional surgeries are no longer than insurance-imposed delays in the USA. besides, Stumpy, you may have to face up to the fact that the brits may not be as good with social policy administration as the the swedes, the danes, the french, the italians.

    Curiosis apparently thinks poor people are dumb. the difference in stories Cur, is sometimes intelligence, sometimes the breaks, sometimes friends helping out. there is no such thing as a person who ‘made it on their own’, since all things are contingent.

    taxes are not theft, they are the rent you pay to live in a community. but then, libertarians seem to have real difficulties with community.

  • joe in oklahoma

    o i forgot, the argument that government exists only to protect individual rights ignores a clause in the US Constitution that says something about promoting the general welfare.

  • Alex Weaver

    I believe that’s the preamble, not a clause per se.

  • http://goddesscassandra.blogspot.com Antigone

    And even if the British system is “broken”, it still runs circles around the US in terms of people being healthy, less mistakes, and more access.

  • http://boomerbuddies.ninng.com Mike Schau

    Oh pah-leeze. Why is half the Earth trying to imigrate here then? We have not become a nanny state like the UK and most of Europe, at least. Personally my health coverage is just fine. Universal health coverage is NOT a right. Face it, the Canadian model is broken, just ask them or read their papers. We do not want to go there, no matter what the Democratic presidential candidates say.

  • joe in oklahoma

    you are right, Alex, yes, in the preamble…
    a clause in a sentence in the preamble,
    which as a preliminary part of the constitution,
    helps set the interpretative framework.

  • Alex Weaver

    Joe: By that I meant that it’s not a “clause” in the sense of “establishment clause” or “free exercise clause.” Something to avoid because in a debate some right-wing weasel will be more than happy to pounce on that misunderstanding and run with it, that’s all.

    Oh pah-leeze. Why is half the Earth trying to imigrate here then? We have not become a nanny state like the UK and most of Europe, at least.

    A combination of lingering hype and the fact that things are worse in many ways where they live. So what? Why does the fact that things could be worse here excuse them not being better?

    Personally my health coverage is just fine.

    It must be awfully lonely being the only person on the planet.

    Universal health coverage is NOT a right. Face it, the Canadian model is broken, just ask them or read their papers. We do not want to go there, no matter what the Democratic presidential candidates say.

    Evidence, plsthx.

  • lpetrich

    Mike Schau is like all too many American right-wingers; he seems to think that the U.S. of A. is the only country that people ever try to immigrate to. Rich countries get LOTS of immigrants, both legal and illegal; Canada gets a lot of immigrants, Western Europe gets a lot of immigrants, Australia gets a lot of immigrants, etc. If those places are such socialist hellholes, then why do they get all the immigrants that they get?

    Furthermore, there’s a common anti-immigration argument to the effect that immigrants want to stick their snouts in the public trough and live off of welfare.

  • http://asmalldarklight.blogspot.com/ Matt

    I’m afraid I’m not knowledgeable enough in political science to join in on positive and negative liberty.

    But as for Libertarianism…
    Republican economics is NOT an accurate portrayal of Libertarianism, even if it borrows the term from time to time. Libertarianism is alot less simple that that. Libertarians prefer to avoid Governmental intervention not because of morals and political theories, but because it’s usually economically inefficient.

    If an interventionist policy is not inefficient, not all Libertarians are going to oppose it. For example, governmental correction for externalities is economically optimal. And, as the post said, good health is a positive externality.

    Perhaps I’m agreeing with the original post, which (despite the title) drew a distinction between true Libertarianism and conservative economics.

  • BhodiTree

    Hello All

    This post is primarily aimed at : Curiosis, lpetrich, Mrnaglfar, Ebonmuse

    I was not keen to post this but I believe my viewpoint has merit.

    I am a White, Male, South African now moving to the UK – where I have lived for the last 18 months. I lived through a peaceful regime change and have witnessed some truly spectacular rhetoric in the name of freedom. No more so than displayed here.

    I believe that the view expressed on Libertarianism have all left one particular factor unexplored.

    CURRENT DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH and SOCIO-ECONOMIC FACTORS

    Why does this have such important value. Let me outline some key points.

    Role of Government in a fully Libertarian State.

    1. To provide each citizen individual liberty.
    2. To only engage the citizen at his bequest or in the protection of individual liberty.
    3. To provide said liberty the governments requires a method of resisting attempts to interfere with individual liberty
    4. To gather these funds – taxes will be required.

    This is the ultimate in negative freedom. The very founding root of Libertarianism, minimal interference. I argue that in a fully established, educated, small community this is clearly sustainable.

    However as the size of the citizenry grows, the physical distance between citizens grows and the difference in wealth grows so does the apparatus necessary to govern the populace. As the factors mentioned above grow so does the risk of outright anarchy or separation into microstates.

    Examples : South Africa – Population ~48 Million, one of the 50 Biggest countries in the World, with massive difference between rich and poor.

    1. One of the most forward and Liberty enforcing constitutions in the world today.
    2. A predominantly free market
    3. A massive underclass
    4. Insufficient jobs for the uneducated
    5. Moderate Taxes.
    6. Minimal public housing
    7. Minimal public healthcare
    8. Are not engaged in any foreign disputes (Wars/etc)
    9. Are surrounded by slightly unstable countries
    10 High immigration.

    The result of these factors is such that the government requires a massive outlay of funds just to provide basic governments functions. Distances being the size they are it is near impossible for a central body to efficiently handle all the distributed regions in any coherent fashion.

    The poor rise up against the rich taking by force what cannot be gained by labour. The police are overcome by numbers. Private security firms guard property against theft and murder. And hi-jackings at gun-point are common.

    There is no self defence against crimes committed with military precision.

    We claim negative liberty and are heading progressively towards a libertarian state, however in this case socio-economic factors lead to Anarchy. Right by might.
    Even the wealthy would rather use their wealth outside of the country as it is too risky to use it here. It has becomes a dog eat dog, exploitative state where only the strong survive.

    Even though I have liberty. I am completely free to do many things. I have almost no choices to make as it is a race to the bottom of choices. Choose the lesser of evils.
    In the end the only alternative is to leave.

    The point most people miss here is that massive funds are required to offer an attractive alternative to crime. Desperate people will do desperate things and a no social-safety-net creates more desperate people.

    Now most Libertarian discussion is being made from the the view of the US or UK.

    And my point comes down to this: Assuming 100% efficiency and an accurate enforcement of Game Theory, Libertarianism WILL win. If all were fully invested to make the best of themselves and strive for the betterment of the state the outcome would certainly be favourable.

    However Libertarianism is an extreme doctrine, it makes assumptions that given observable human behaviour are not valid.

    As an ATHEIST site, I would assume that all here are fully aware that using extensive scientific data, and observation of the environments and the interaction between the elements that make up a culture would be paramount.

    When the dichotomy is as stark as it is now and growing the expectation of people to improve in the fashion you expect is as idealistic as Communism. Working for the betterment of all among 220+ Million people is statistically improbable. The poor do not work to make the rich richer. When there are more lucrative alternatives. There was a reason for the various revolutions of the last century.

    So, fundamentally to avoid a revolution or regime change you need to convince the populace that you are at least TRYING to keep them safe. And that even the weakest member will be protected from the wealthy. That the poor supporting the wealthy will result in some of the funds of the wealthy supporting their social support structure which they alone could not afford due to education or financial situation.

    Simply put Libertarianism has a week social-contract and none of the protections offered to protect the wealthy from the poor and vice versa. Game Theory forces the wealthy to maximise the value from the market which is forced to exploit those who cannot defend themselves – the poor. It breeds a new aristocracy which leads to greater dichotomy which leads to 2 possible outcomes.

    Corporate Feudalism (Corporate mini-states) or Revolution into Anarchy. Neither of which offer any incentive for the lofty goals of global emancipation from poverty and universal education.

    Please remember that this is a multi generational plan. Something humans are (to my knowledge) unique in achieving.

    As long as the Greater Freedoms exists – Freedom to life, expression and association from which all other freedoms stem then paying the price to raise the lowest common denominator so that the weakest members of society are forced into basic level of capability until their age of majority. Through adequate food, education, housing, health and social support until they are ready to take part in society in a contributory fashion you extend the society and increase the potential for contribution later. Over very few generation this society would be well placed to improve humanity as a whole.

    To the zealously Darwinian this may appear counter intuitive. Libertarianism would be fine if we were tigers or bears, animal that after birth are equipped to survive with rudimentary support from our elders showing us the basic of survival and then leaving us to roam free (negative liberty). Allow for us to exact from the environment as much as life can provide. Brilliant – but tigers and bears though individually powerful suffer horribly under rapid environment changes they have no social-security-net.

    I simply advocate extending the human tendency to band together and extend on that in an intentional fashion. Success through raw competition is no longer viable – Game Theory and Corporate Collusion have already demonstrated that in a truly free market the rich will get richer a lot faster than the poor will emancipate themselves.

    Pardon the long ramble and this is where I may become slightly inflammatory. Quite often the ones advocating Libertarianism are from one of two backgrounds.

    1) A wealthy established family, hoping to perpetuate there wealth through minimal through reduction in the taxes.

    2) A poor neighbourhood, where cunning, skill and exploitation of there peers have made them a founding member of background 1.

    Although I was lucky enough to be a 3rd generation of background 2, through some hard times and some exposure to people living through all manner of hardship I have come to realise social responsibility will be undermined by Libertarianism.

    Rant – Over

  • BhodiTree

    Hello All

    This post is primarily aimed at : Curiosis, lpetrich, Mrnaglfar, Ebonmuse

    I was not keen to post this but I believe my viewpoint has merit.

    I am a White, Male, South African now moving to the UK – where I have lived for the last 18 months. I lived through a peaceful regime change and have witnessed some truly spectacular rhetoric in the name of freedom. No more so than displayed here.

    I believe that the view expressed on Libertarianism have all left one particular factor unexplored.

    CURRENT DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH and SOCIO-ECONOMIC FACTORS

    Why does this have such important value. Let me outline some key points.

    Role of Government in a fully Libertarian State.

    1. To provide each citizen individual liberty.
    2. To only engage the citizen at his bequest or in the protection of individual liberty.
    3. To provide said liberty the governments requires a method of resisting attempts to interfere with individual liberty
    4. To gather these funds – taxes will be required.

    This is the ultimate in negative freedom. The very founding root of Libertarianism, minimal interference. I argue that in a fully established, educated, small community this is clearly sustainable.

    However as the size of the citizenry grows, the physical distance between citizens grows and the difference in wealth grows so does the apparatus necessary to govern the populace. As the factors mentioned above grow so does the risk of outright anarchy or separation into microstates.

    Examples : South Africa – Population ~48 Million, one of the 50 Biggest countries in the World, with massive difference between rich and poor.

    1. One of the most forward and Liberty enforcing constitutions in the world today.
    2. A predominantly free market
    3. A massive underclass
    4. Insufficient jobs for the uneducated
    5. Moderate Taxes.
    6. Minimal public housing
    7. Minimal public healthcare
    8. Are not engaged in any foreign disputes (Wars/etc)
    9. Are surrounded by slightly unstable countries
    10 High immigration.

    The result of these factors is such that the government requires a massive outlay of funds just to provide basic governments functions. Distances being the size they are it is near impossible for a central body to efficiently handle all the distributed regions in any coherent fashion.

    The poor rise up against the rich taking by force what cannot be gained by labour. The police are overcome by numbers. Private security firms guard property against theft and murder. And hi-jackings at gun-point are common.

    There is no self defence against crimes committed with military precision.

    We claim negative liberty and are heading progressively towards a libertarian state, however in this case socio-economic factors lead to Anarchy. Right by might.
    Even the wealthy would rather use their wealth outside of the country as it is too risky to use it here. It has becomes a dog eat dog, exploitative state where only the strong survive.

    Even though I have liberty. I am completely free to do many things. I have almost no choices to make as it is a race to the bottom of choices. Choose the lesser of evils.
    In the end the only alternative is to leave.

    The point most people miss here is that massive funds are required to offer an attractive alternative to crime. Desperate people will do desperate things and a no social-safety-net creates more desperate people.

    Now most Libertarian discussion is being made from the the view of the US or UK.

    And my point comes down to this: Assuming 100% efficiency and an accurate enforcement of Game Theory, Libertarianism WILL win. If all were fully invested to make the best of themselves and strive for the betterment of the state the outcome would certainly be favourable.

    However Libertarianism is an extreme doctrine, it makes assumptions that given observable human behaviour are not valid.

    As an ATHEIST site, I would assume that all here are fully aware that using extensive scientific data, and observation of the environments and the interaction between the elements that make up a culture would be paramount.

    When the dichotomy is as stark as it is now and growing the expectation of people to improve in the fashion you expect is as idealistic as Communism. Working for the betterment of all among 220+ Million people is statistically improbable. The poor do not work to make the rich richer. When there are more lucrative alternatives. There was a reason for the various revolutions of the last century.

    So, fundamentally to avoid a revolution or regime change you need to convince the populace that you are at least TRYING to keep them safe. And that even the weakest member will be protected from the wealthy. That the poor supporting the wealthy will result in some of the funds of the wealthy supporting their social support structure which they alone could not afford due to education or financial situation.

    Simply put Libertarianism has a week social-contract and none of the protections offered to protect the wealthy from the poor and vice versa. Game Theory forces the wealthy to maximise the value from the market which is forced to exploit those who cannot defend themselves – the poor. It breeds a new aristocracy which leads to greater dichotomy which leads to 2 possible outcomes.

    Corporate Feudalism (Corporate mini-states) or Revolution into Anarchy. Neither of which offer any incentive for the lofty goals of global emancipation from poverty and universal education.

    Please remember that this is a multi generational plan. Something humans are (to my knowledge) unique in achieving.

    As long as the Greater Freedoms exists – Freedom to life, expression and association from which all other freedoms stem then paying the price to raise the lowest common denominator so that the weakest members of society are forced into basic level of capability until their age of majority. Through adequate food, education, housing, health and social support until they are ready to take part in society in a contributory fashion you extend the society and increase the potential for contribution later. Over very few generation this society would be well placed to improve humanity as a whole.

    To the zealously Darwinian this may appear counter intuitive. Libertarianism would be fine if we were tigers or bears, animal that after birth are equipped to survive with rudimentary support from our elders showing us the basic of survival and then leaving us to roam free (negative liberty). Allow for us to exact from the environment as much as life can provide. Brilliant – but tigers and bears though individually powerful suffer horribly under rapid environment changes they have no social-security-net.

    I simply advocate extending the human tendency to band together and extend on that in an intentional fashion. Success through raw competition is no longer viable – Game Theory and Corporate Collusion have already demonstrated that in a truly free market the rich will get richer a lot faster than the poor will emancipate themselves.

    Pardon the long ramble and this is where I may become slightly inflammatory. Quite often the ones advocating Libertarianism are from one of two backgrounds.

    1) A wealthy established family, hoping to perpetuate there wealth through minimal through reduction in the taxes.

    2) A poor neighbourhood, where cunning, skill and exploitation of there peers have made them a founding member of background 1.

    Although I was lucky enough to be a 3rd generation of background 2, through some hard times and some exposure to people living through all manner of hardship I have come to realise social responsibility will be undermined by Libertarianism.

    Rant – Over

  • thinker

    This site has posts on critical thinking that are very valuable. This post and all the comments shows good critical thinking by mnany, and a lack by a few. I hope I can contribute a bit by jumping in on comments about when things are better provided by government or the private sector EbonMuse’s replies about food stamps and subsidized housing are good, but could go even farther. What makes food and housing ‘more better’ to be provided predominately by free market rather than social investment? Is it because food and housing are one-on-one exchanges, easily dividable and available; whereas education and health care are not commodities but things that only work if they are “coordinated” and cannot be scaled down or divided up beyond a certain level? Road systems and many parts of other infrastructure and utility systems are even more that way – they must be coordinated, or the whole system will suffer tremendous inefficiencies. Several posters commented along this line.

    Coordination seems obvious enough, but that doesn’t necessarily determine ownership – for instance, a system of coordinated roads could be privately owned or government owned. Why have generations of voters chosen public ownership? Because we can predict what market forces would do with some of these bigger systems of products or services that benefit from coordination (like roads, education, health care, railroads, electrical distribution, national defense). I can certainly describe advantages of aprivate ownership and disadvatages with government ownership or control, or the opposite, but here is what I feel to be the more accurate picture for these big systems: Competition mostly (not always) means the opposite of coordination, and costs associated with the inefficiencies would be borne by the consumer, not the producer. Even though a producer isn’t bearing that cost, they might see it as an opportunity to profit by providing a better (bigger, more coordinated) road system to consumers, but that’s not as easy to achieve in a competitive environment than if it were a noncompetitive government system. In addition, when there is one or a few dominant providers, they suck out all the profit, not letting consumers benefit as much as they would with a lower cost government road system. Compare the two situations: the private provider likely takes the profit and uses some to pay their workers, some to blow on lavish lifestyles and pass on to their kids unearned, hopefully some to charity but no guarantees, some to political action to reinforce their position as a winner, and probably some to other investments which may include new enterprises to create new products or perhaps just to money-grubbing investments that do nothing to make the world any better; right? The government system forgoes sucking the profit out and devoting it to those things, instead leaving private firms and individuals to reap the benefits of the lower cost system and use it as they will; a much wider and diverse distribution that is arguably likely to do better at sustaining our whole economy. I think the vision of the government system of roads better provides a more level playing field of opportunity, and results in more winners and probably a higher cumulative level of winning.

    But that doesn’t mean I think the vision of government ownership should apply to all things – some of the stupidest things I hear from political zealots are their ‘all or nothing’ arguments – my philosophy works perfectly, your philosophy will never work. The reality is that generations of American voters and elected policy makers have shown their general preference for a capitalistic economic system but have created many exceptions to that where it makes sense to do so. Collectively, the world’s nations have experimented enough to realize that a pure, libertarian, market system for everything would be utterly stupid and harmful, just as it would be if everything were owned and run by the government. So let’s stop wasting time engaging with idiots who only want the extremes and focus more on thoughtful public policy experimenting and measuring our experiments, to keep things in balance and avoid the drawbacks of ‘all or nothing.’ Cause and effect in public policy is difficult to figure out, but should be where our efforts go. These efforts should not be diverted by passionate but misguided beliefs caused by anecdotes and uncritical thinking, and certainly not by giving in to greed or fear.

  • Pedantic Speaker

    “A society that truly sought to maximize liberty would provide the help needed to lift people out of these cruel dilemmas.”
    With all due respect, the proper term is not ‘dilemma’, it is ‘Sophie’s choice’.

  • Deanjay1961

    Yet libertarians who are not ‘hardcore’ do not advocate eliminating the social safety net, so it’s a curious reason not to be a ‘small l’ libertarian. I would be willing to spend more on social programs that are outcome-based and aimed at helping people who are able to become more independent. There is so much waste in other areas of spending, we could cut spending by a third without touching public asistance.
    The author has no more reason to not be a libertarian than people have to not be Democrats or Republicans. People identify with the party that most resonates with their values and not everyone has the same values. It’s not objective, it’s psychological.

  • Ryngeaux

    Adam, you are a great writer, I wish I had your talent! While we share some views, I am in disagreement with the reasoning in this article and have only a single little huge issue with your reasoning.

    In essence, I understand that your position is that a government (we disagree about the necessity of having one) may use force (take the property of some people) IF the people taking the money reason that it will be better in the long run for the person from whom they are taking the money. Staying consistent with that premise, I ask that you explore what the loss of that negative freedom could develop into using that standard.

    Even more important than the slippery slope argument is the morality of the premise? May some people, based on their claim of support from “the majority”, who is sometimes right and sometimes wrong, initiate violence (theft, imprisonment, fining, taxing) against other people?

  • Deanjay1961

    These sound like good reasons to not be a hardcore libertarian. They don’t sound like good reasons to not be a ‘classic liberal’ libertarian who are most representative of libertarians in real life, if not on the internet. Isn’t this a bit like citing the beliefs of the Westboro Baptist Church as a reason to not be a Christian?


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