The problem with libertarianism in a nutshell

I’ve previously written about how I’ve gone from being draw to the “libertarian” label to being comfortable calling myself a liberal. But lately, I think I’ve been putting together some pieces about what, exactly, is wrong with libertarianism.

The basic problem, as I’ve come to see it, is that we have a lot more options when it comes to government policy than “yay regulation!” and “boo regulation!” and when libertarians see things in those terms, they end up spending a lot of time sparring with non-existent opponents.

Or, to be more concrete, shredding beneficial environmental regulations does nothing whatsoever to solve the problem of incumbent businesses lobbying for regulation to keep out competitors.

I think I may have first noticed this reading Scott’s Non-Libertarian FAQ and Sarah’s reply. Early in his FAQ, Scott writes:

1.2: Are you a statist?

No.

Vikings believe the universe is dominated by the great cosmic battle between the Gods and the Frost Giants, and naturally place their support behind the Gods. I don’t follow Thor or Odin, but it would be unfair to describe me as pro-Frost Giant. I simply reject the Gods vs. Frost Giants dichotomy as one around which I want to shape my life.

Likewise, libertarians believe in the great cosmic battle between the State and the Individual, and naturally place their support behind the Individual. I don’t think this philosophy makes sense, but not because I’m hoping the cosmic battle is won by the State. I just think there are more important dichotomies to deal with.

To which Sarah replies:

You can make anything sound silly by calling it a great cosmic battle.

If you’re an open-source programmer, are you engaged in a great cosmic battle against Microsoft? Of course not. You might have friends who work at Microsoft. You might have seen a PowerPoint presentation you liked somewhere. But you think there are systematic reasons why software tends to be worse when it’s not subject to constant tinkering and improvement by the public.

Okay, sounds fair enough. But now look what happens when Scott deals with the claim that we don’t need environmental regulations and the possible bad effects from not having them would never actually happen because, “individuals and corporations, free from government regulation, would come to an enlightened, mutually beneficial solution.” Scott replies:

You lose. Fishing Atlantic cod used to be a highly profitable industry. Despite decades of warnings from scientists and environmental groups, fishing companies overfished the cod, stocks collapsed, and the industry no longer exists.

If not for knee-jerk resistance to government regulation, the American and Canadian governments could have set strict fishing quotas, and companies could still be profitably fishing the area today. Other fisheries that do have government-imposed quotas are much more successful.

Here is the entirety of Sarah’s response:

Yeah, true. You don’t always win in absolutely every way with the free market. Life’s not that convenient. See http://lesswrong.com/lw/gz/policy_debates_should_not_appear_onesided/. Even when a policy is good on the whole, there will usually be some cases where its consequences hurt people. We have to choose between imperfect options, and find the least imperfect one.

…which gave me a “WTF moment.” The problem is that no actual drawbacks to regulating cod fishing are given. It’s just lumped in to the broader category of “government regulation,” and because lots of government regulations are bad, this is given as a reason to reject regulation of cod fishing. This kind of “reasoning” from libertarians (and conservatives) is distressingly common.

Granted, sometimes putting broad restrictions on government power makes sense. For example, the US Constitution’s First Amendment seems like a good idea, and not just for the sake of preventing hypothetical tyranny, but also for preventing some of the actual difficulties you see in countries like the UK with respect to libel law and copyright law. But the First Amendment is a much narrower restriction than, “no regulation ever,” and even though it’s fairly sweeping in the areas it covers, the courts have still interpreted it with some nuance.

Once I noticed the basic pattern, I started seeing it everywhere. A couple months ago, liberal blogger Matt Yglesias wote a post about what a pain it is to get a license to start a small business in Washington DC, and a bunch of conservatives who obviously had never read Yglesias before decided this was some kind of victory. Yglesias’ response was brilliant:

The way I would put this is that the American economy is simultaneously overregulated and underregulated. It is much too difficult to get business and occupational licenses; there are excessive restrictions on the wholesaling and retailing of alcoholic beverages; exclusionary zoning codes cripple the economy; and I’m sure there are more problems than I’m even aware of.

At the same time, it continues to be the case that even if you ignore climate change, there are huge problematic environmental externalities involved in the energy production and industrial sectors of the economy. And you shouldn’t ignore climate change! We are much too lax about what firms are allowed to dump into the air. On the financial side, too, it’s become clear that there are really big problems with bank supervision. The existence of bad rent-seeking rules around who’s allowed to cut hair is not a good justification for the absence of rules around banks’ ability to issue no-doc liar’s loans. The fact that it’s too much of a pain in the ass to get a building permit is not a good justification for making it easier to poison children’s brains with mercury. Now obviously all these rules are incredibly annoying. I am really glad, personally, that I don’t need to take any time or effort to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s new mercury emissions rules. But at the same time, it ought to be a pain in the ass to put extra mercury into the air. We don’t want too much mercury! We don’t want too much bank leverage!

Business licensing is different. “This city has too many restaurants to choose from” is not a real public policy problem—it’s only a problem for incumbent restaurateurs who don’t want to face competition. But in other fields of endeavor—telecommunications, say—theabsence of regulations can lead to an uncompetitive outcome. Partisan politics is pretty simple, since there are only two parties to choose from. But the underlying structure of reality is quite complicated, and it’s worth your time to try to understand the issues.

Also involving Yglesias was this exchange in Twitter, which I found telling. But perhaps the most-emblematic example of this point that I can think of occurred to me while I was in the process of re-reading some of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s old blog posts, particularly Blue or Green on Regulation? which begins:

In recent posts, I have predicted that, if not otherwise prevented from doing so, some people will behave stupidly and suffer the consequences:  “If people have a right to be stupid, the market will respond by supplying all the stupidity that can be sold.”  People misinterpret this as indicating that I take a policy stance in favor of regulation.  It indicates no such thing.  It is meant purely as guess about empirical consequences – a testable prediction on a question of simple fact.

Perhaps I would be less misinterpreted if I also told “the other side of the story” – inveighed at length about the reasons why bureaucrats are not perfect rationalists guarding our net best interests.  But ideally, I shouldn’t have to go to such lengths.  Ideally, I could make a prediction about a strictly factual question without this being interpreted as a policy stance, or as a stance on logically distinct factual questions.

Yet it would appear that there are two and only two sides to the issue – pro-regulation and anti-regulation.  All arguments are either allied soldiers or enemy soldiers; they fight on one side or the other.  Any allied soldier can be deployed to fight any enemy soldier and vice versa.  Whatever argument pushes one side up, pushes the other side down.

Eliezer concludes the post by saying:

So am I Blue or Green on regulation, then? I consider myself neither. Imagine, for a moment, that much of what the Greens said about the downside of the Blue policy was true – that, left to the mercy of the free market, many people would be crushed by powers far beyond their understanding, nor would they deserve it. And imagine that most of what the Blues said about the downside of the Green policy was also true – that regulators were fallible humans with poor incentives, whacking on delicately balanced forces with a sledgehammer.

Close your eyes and imagine it. Extrapolate the result. If that were true, then… then you’d have a big problem and no easy way to fix it, that’s what you’d have. Does this universe look familiar?

In the context of Eliezer’s other writings, this ending takes on a distinctly utopian flavor: since the universe we live in presents us with such big problems and no easy solutions, we need to radically change the universe.

But until we achieve that utopia, we need to avoid being Blue or Green in a different way, that is, by accepting that complicated problems require complicated solutions, solutions that can’t be boiled down to “pro regulation” and “anti regulation,” solutions that recognize that sometimes the problems with regulation mean we shouldn’t regulate, but that also recognize that sometimes regulation is needed and we should therefore try to give regulators better incentives and finer tools.

And the thing is, I think there are very few US liberals who don’t grasp that on some level, whose entire position could be boiled down to “regulation is great.” This leaves libertarians as regulatory Blues who think they’re fighting against regulatory Greens when the regulatory Greens don’t actually exist.

Another way to look at this is that libertarianism has a superficial ideological coherence: “conservatives don’t want the government interfering in the economy, but want it interfering in our personal lives, liberals are the other way around, but only libertarians are consistent about opposing government interference!” I’m embarrassed to say that there was probably a time in my life where I heard such an argument for a libertarian and nodded along in a way that felt wise.

But wanting the same solution to every problem is actually a pretty strange kind of “consistency” to demand. It’s not like there’s anything logically inconsistent about sometimes regulating and sometimes not. It makes much more sense to have a consistent goal–like making the world a better place–and adopting complex means to achieve that goal when reality demands it.

  • smrnda

    I think libertarians just like having a consistent ideology. Many of the libertarians I talk to say they support totally unregulated economies and zero government social services EVEN IF it results in total social chaos.

    I think it’s wanking by people who can be *for* something extreme (because it makes them feel defiant) as long as the option isn’t realistically on the table. It’s easy to say “people will starve, but that’s the price of freedom” when we’re nowhere close to the libertarian paradise they imagine.

    I think the ‘individual vs. the state’ is silly too. It’s individual vs. state, individual vs. corporation, corporation vs. state, corporation vs. corporation, individual vs. individual, community vs. corporation etc. Those aren’t the only forces at work.

  • http://brian.carnell.com/ Brian Carnell

    I consider myself a libertarian and I agree completely with smrnda.

    Many “libertarians” appear to be naive deontologists who will insist on following principles (such as the non-aggression principle) to the point of absurdity and beyond.

    Alas, just as I have met too many ideologically pure libertarians to discount the above, so have I met too many liberals and conservatives who are pro-regulation qua regulation. That overregulation doesn’t just emerge from nothing. Some of it is due to regulatory capture, but much of it is aided by both conservatives and liberals who appear to genuinely believe that society will fall apart if every area of life is not heavily regulated in some way.

    • smrnda

      Wow, your the first one! I think both both consequentialist and deontologist ethics have problems, and the best way is to not be too invested in ideological purity.

      On regulation, I think whether or not a regulation appears necessary of excessive depends a lot on how it affects you or someone you know personally. The problem is that a lack of good regulation doesn’t really cause society as a whole to collapse – it might just end up with some group of people being pissed and shat. One example where I think we don’t have adequate regulations are protections for pregnant workers – I’ve known a few women who were fired for throwing up on the job while pregnant – one just for just doing it during her break, and one for taking too many bathroom breaks. It wouldn’t have cost the companies much to cut them some slack, but perhaps the intrinsic rewards of being asses was high for whatever supervisor. When I hear people go ‘nanny state’ it’s usually regulations that would be in effect here they’re complaining about, but they’re usually not proles (professionals are always treated better _ I know, I am one) or else they’re male, they’re just not people who the regulation would affect.

      A case of excessive regulation that couldn’t possibly be justified are the states that are wanting to drug test welfare recipients. That costs money, and unless the vast majority of welfare recipients test positive, there’s no way to justify that policy through a cost-benefit analysis. Even if a case can be made that you shouldn’t give aid to people using drugs, a policy that costs more money than it can save just for the sake of that is a deontology run amok. “No public aid for drug users” : is it worth a million dollars of taxpayer money? Of course, I’m pro drug legalization so i don’t think using drugs should hold this kind of stigma to begin with.

  • PhysicistDave

    Chris,

    You need to read some intelligent libertarians for a change!

    Probably the most radical libertarian of the last half century was the late economist Murray Rothbard: he really hated the state (I can attest to this from personal interactions with him).

    But, I learned about the issue of over-fishing from Murray. Pretty much everything that you mentioned were issues that Murray acknowledged and discussed at one time or another.

    For example, to take one of the things you cite from Yglesias, “banks’ ability to issue no-doc liar’s loans,” Murray was intensely critical of the banking industry: he actually maintained that fractional-reserve banking was per se fraudulent. However, he also did point out that much of the malfeasance in the banking industry was due to special privileges, subsidies, and cartelization of that industry created by the government.

    As a free-market economist, he was willing, like most economists, to play the game of trying to figure out how to set up institutional structures so as to produce optimal (or at least livable) results. But, he also emphasized, again and again, that, to take one of his favorite examples, privatizing lighthouses is essentially a trivial issue: maybe private lighthouses would work better. Maybe not. It really hardly matters.

    What does matter, he emphasized, is handing over billions to special interests while pretending to help the poor, feeding an educational mafia that destroys the spirit of students while claiming to educate them, and, above all else, engaging in that nasty game of mass murder that we euphemistically call “war.”

    It was the issue of war that caused the big split between libertarians and conservatives in the late ’60s: I’m old enough to remember.

    I know that “libertarian” has often come to mean simply someone who wants lower taxes so that he will have more money to spend on legalized pot (and, of course, all libertarians do indeed favor lower taxes and oppose the War on Drugs). The leveling force of the Internet has come to trivialize libertarianism as it has trivialized so much else.

    If you read Rothbard (who passed away in the mid-90s) and the younger members of his group, I can assure you that you will not agree with everything they have to say: I didn’t and don’t, even though I considered Murray a friend. But, I think you will see a form of libertarianism rather more substantial that the economic illiterates who favor a free-for-all in fisheries, which was the exact opposite of Rothbard’s views.

    (If you want to read anything by Rothbard, try Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays, For A New Liberty, or The Ethics of Liberty).

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

    P.S. I’ve taken to calling myself a “Thoreauist” rather than a “libertarian,” so that I will not be confused with those who do not understand “the tragedy of the commons” in fisheries! And, maybe I can thereby encourage someone to actually read the brilliantly libertarian and anti-war Essay on Civil Disobedience.

    • ACN

      “who passed away in the mid-90s”

      Notably, not before he got a chance to throw his lot in with the truly bat-shit insane Pat Buchanan presidential campaign, the Lew Rockwell “paleolibertarian”-crock, and general right-wing populism.

      Didn’t he also say some horrible things about the police beatings of Rodney King?

      Admittedly, I think any reasonable person would say that his later views…diverged…somewhat far to the right from his views in the 70s.

      • ACN

        Ah! This is the one!

        http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/ir/Ch5.html

        “””
        l. Slash Taxes. All taxes, sales, business, property, etc., but especially the most oppressive politically and personally: the income tax. We must work toward repeal of the income tax and abolition of the IRS.

        2. Slash Welfare. Get rid of underclass rule by abolishing the welfare system, or, short of abolition, severely cutting and restricting it.

        3. Abolish Racial or Group Privileges. Abolish affirmative action, set aside racial quotas, etc., and point out that the root of such quotas is the entire “civil rights” structure, which tramples on the property rights of every American.

        4. Take Back the Streets: Crush Criminals. And by this I mean, of course, not “white collar criminals” or “inside traders” but violent street criminals – robbers, muggers, rapists, murderers. Cops must be unleashed, and allowed to administer instant punishment, subject of course to liability when they are in error.

        5. Take Back the Streets: Get Rid of the Bums. Again: unleash the cops to clear the streets of bums and vagrants. Where will they go? Who cares? Hopefully, they will disappear, that is, move from the ranks of the petted and cosseted bum class to the ranks of the productive members of society.

        6. Abolish the Fed; Attack the Banksters. Money and banking are recondite issues. But the realities can be made vivid: the Fed is an organized cartel of banksters, who are creating inflation, ripping off the public, destroying the savings of the average American. The hundreds of billions of taxpayer handouts to S&L banksters will be chicken-feed compared to the coming collapse of the commercial banks.

        7. America First. A key point, and not meant to be seventh in priority. The American economy is not only in recession; it is stagnating. The average family is worse off now than it was two decades ago. Come home America. Stop supporting bums abroad. Stop all foreign aid, which is aid to banksters and their bonds and their export industries. Stop gloabaloney, and let’s solve our problems at home.

        8. Defend Family Values. Which means, get the State out of the family, and replace State control with parental control. In the long run, this means ending public schools, and replacing them with private schools. But we must realize that voucher and even tax credit schemes are not, despite Milton Friedman, transitional demands on the path to privatized education; instead, they will make matters worse by fastening government control more totally upon the private schools. Within the sound alternative is decentralization, and back to local, community neighborhood control of the schools.
        “””””

        • Reginald Selkirk

          6. Abolish the Fed; Attack the Banksters. Money and banking are recondite issues. But the realities can be made vivid: the Fed is an organized cartel of banksters, who are creating inflation, ripping off the public, destroying the savings of the average American. The hundreds of billions of taxpayer handouts to S&L banksters will be chicken-feed compared to the coming collapse of the commercial banks.

          He had a glimmer of a clue there, but I cannot assign causation for the disaster of 2008 to too much regulation. Instead, I suspect we are getting far enough away from the Great Depression that many people are forgetting why we needed all that financial regulation, like Glass-Steagall.

      • PhysicistDave

        He was also allied with the New Left, Stevensonian Democrats, Perotistas, and a host of other groups during his career: he thought it was a good thing to form any and all coalitions you could where you could find some common ground. Think of it as analogous to Obama’s connection to Bill Ayers.

        On some of these I agreed with him (for example, he supported Buchanan in the GOP primary because Buchanan opposed Gulf War I, so this was a way of opposing Bush, Sr.’s militarism, even though Murray differed with Buchanan on trade policy and a host of social issues); on others I disagreed with him.

        Murray did eventually admit that he had generally been too sanguine about forming a coalition based on a specific common view while still keeping at arm’s length on issues where there was strong disagreement. I myself have always been less willing to join coalitions than Murray was.

        Murray was certainly not God: he made many mistakes and admitted that. I am merely pointing out that he is an example that libertarian ideas are not limited to the sort of naive, vulgar libertarianism common on the Web (or, for that matter, at Reason magazine or the Cato Institute).

        Dave

  • Reginald Selkirk

    There’s a piece in the May/June Skeptical Inquirer you should check out.
    Vol 37 #3, p 54-55. Barry Fagin, “Valuing science with differing values: let’s broaden the debate in skeptical movement.” I don’t think he’s particularly successful in making the case for Libertarianism, but you should read it yourself because I don’t think i can objectively assess his argument.

  • MNb

    “the claim that we don’t need environmental regulations”
    In theory Suriname has such regulations in its interior. They aren’t enforced though because of the relatively weak government (which libertarians would like to weaken even further as it’s relatively big). So in practice there aren’t environmental regulations in the interior of Suriname.

    “individuals and corporations, free from government regulation, would come to an enlightened, mutually beneficial solution.”
    Falsified. See for yourself:

    http://www.jeugdjournaal.sr/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/goudkoorts.jpg

    This used to be ur-jungle. If you want to see more google on “goudwinning Suriname”.
    Predictably the indians and marroons living there prefer to be saved from this kind of enlightment.
    Libertarianism has something in common with communism. It sounds nice on paper but as it is based on a twisted look on human nature it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to work.
    In my experience libertarians, much like WL Craig on the Problem of Evil, display a complete lack of empathy when confronted with observations like the picture I linked to. If I have learned one thing it’s this: if a worldview, religious or not, sacrifices empathy for consistency then its presuppositions are wrong and it deserves the highest suspicion.
    Which doesn’t make me a fan of an ultrastrong government.

  • qbsmd

    “And the thing is, I think there are very few US liberals who don’t grasp that on some level, whose entire position could be boiled down to “regulation is great.”

    All political labels are fundamentally cognitive shortcuts used by low information voters. I think my political philosophy might be closer to libertarian than anything else, but I think that certain environmental regulations and regulations of buisnesses are beneficial. I generally avoid any labels altogether.

    There might not be many liberals whose position is “regulations=great”, but there are liberals whose position is “corporations are bad” or “conservatives are racist” or “conservatives are anti-woman” just like there are conservatives whose position is “liberals are anti-christian” or “liberals want to take our guns away so we can’t defend ourselves from criminals”.

    As a result, there are many liberals (I would guess most) who have little understanding of or respect for the power of free markets and prefer regulation of things that the market would be better suited to solve just as there are many (likely most) libertarians who believe a free market has basically supernatural powers to solve any problem.

    As a side note, I have for a long time been amused by the fact that the “invisible hand of the market” is basically a form of evolution by natural selection, yet many people who claim to believe in evolution discount free markets while many people who want to eliminate regulations in favor of market forces claim not to believe in evolution.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com M

    I’ve learned a lot about libertarianism and Objectivism, one of the intellectual underpinnings of libertarianism. And it really does come down to “I’ve got mine, screw the rest of you”.

    1. Slash taxes. We use taxes to pay for things that private corporations and/or citizens simply can’t or won’t provide. You know how companies buy in bulk in order to get a discount? Government does that too. Progressive income taxes also help prevent massive, destabilizing wealth inequality. The US is already at a level of inequality that is … shaky. Slashing taxes would be a really bad idea. And if the revolution happened, who would pay for the army to put it down if we had no/extremely low taxation?

    2. Slash Welfare. Because feeding poor children so they can learn in schools is a bad idea. It’s far better to have a permanent, starving underclass with minimal or no job skills or any way to rise from poverty than to pay some money for minimal living standards for all in the richest country in the world. We know what societies with no social welfare look like- they are pretty horrible places to live. We also know what societies with strong social safety nets look like- they look like Iceland or France. A more equal society is better for everyone, including the rich.

    3. Abolish Race/Group Privileges. This one is much tougher. There is a lot of historical racism and sexism in US history. There’s also a whole lot of unconscious bias going on. Study after study after study shows that men with the exact same resume as women are offered jobs more often and at higher salaries. People with stereotypical African-American names like Shanequa or Jamaal are deemed less qualified or competent than people with stereotypical Caucasian names like Sarah or James. Until that stops happening, I have to come down on the side of privileges, because they help even out an uneven playing field.

    4. Crush Criminals. We know that punitive policing doesn’t work terribly well. What we wind up with is 2.3 million people, mostly non-white nonviolent offenders, in prison. It guts communities and destroys people’s lives. There are a heart-breakingly large number of neighborhoods in which an African-American boy is more likely to go to prison than graduate high school. Instead of “crushing criminals”, prevention and rehabilitation makes more sense. And why should white-collar criminals get a pass? The amount of damage done by the bankers is tremendous- should they not be punished appropriately to grand theft for billions of dollars? For homes stolen from families in flawed foreclosures? For the whole freaking recession and the fact that millions are unemployed, and some have been for over a year, and will never recover financially? Why is crime done in a suit less bad than crime done in jeans?

    5. Take Back the Streets. Get rid of bums? How? Imprison them? That seems a big imposition of government for a libertarian. What’ll you do if a homeless female veteran with two children refuses to leave her sheltered doorway? Not care if she lives or dies? Not care about if her children live or die? People are homeless for reasons; drug-addiction, organic mental illness, PTSD, CTE or other brain illness, eviction due to loss of minimum-wage job due to recession. Veterans, especially, have an extremely high rate of homelessness. Basic ethics suggests that since it was their service that fucked them up enough to land them on the streets, we-the-people owe them services to try to get them back on their feet. After all, programs to house and retrain homeless people make them productive members of society, while harsh policing just causes starvation and death by exposure.

    6. Abolish the Fed/Attack Banksters. The Fed is the only reason we didn’t fall into a depression deeper than the Great Depression in the 1930s. They lowered interest rates and loosened monetary policy to get money flowing again in the economy. Attack the banksters though? Absolutely! Do it with regulations. Put Glass-Steagall back in place. Require high capitalization. Break up the too-big-to-fail banks, since they’re too big to exist. Illegalize liar loans, bubble mortgages, and other egregiously abusive banking practices. Require hedge fund managers and other investment managers to act in the best interest of their client instead of themselves or their firm (no, that’s not currently a requirement). All of these are regulations; they’re the heavy hand of the government, but they’re absolutely necessary to make a functional society.

    7. America First. Do you realize how little of our money goes into foreign aid? Most Americans think it ought to be about 10% of our discretionary budget. It’s actually less than 1%. The goodwill that money buys is priceless, and if we actually spent anywhere close to what we should it would be much higher. The reason we have some goodwill in many African nations? We provide money for clinics, doctors, medications, and schools. The reason many nations have been able to make progress on literacy rates, dropping HIV/AIDS rates, and maternal and infant mortality rates is international aid. Crudely put, we’re buying friends. It’s putting America first to buy influence and goodwill in nations that hold vast natural resources and underdeveloped human capital. It would be a waste and a shame to put that money into tax cuts instead.

    8. Defend Family Values. Sure. Which ones? The Pearls’ family values, which include beating children with plumbing line when they’re infants? The Schaibles’, which include praying over their children instead of taking them to a doctor, causing two children to die from easily treatable ailments? The Quiverfull movements’ family values, which includes submissiveness for women and discourages women from any higher education at all? Parents don’t always act in the best interests of their children, and sometimes neighbors won’t or can’t intervene. Is it your stance that government still has no say and ought, instead, just let these children be beaten or killed by their parents?
    Public education, for all its flaws, is still the best way anyone has found to achieve near-universal literacy rates. An educated workforce is a productive workforce, but at a time when all too many areas are trying to shove creationism into schools and deriding literature and actually putting a plank into a party platform against the teaching of critical thinking (go Texas GOP!), you need a force greater than the local community to enforce basic standards. Children should not be punished by inadequate education just because their families or communities are full of anti-science, anti-freethought bigots.

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