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Dickens at 200: a Birthday Tribute

February 7, 2012

"Dickens' Dream" by Robert William Buss, left unfinished at the artist's death in 1875.

If Charles Dickens had lived until 1888, he might have been among the select group of British eminentoes who recorded their voices for Thomas Edison’s newfangled phonograph. Robert Browning did it, though the aged poet forgot his own verses in mid-recitation. Alfred Lord Tennyson, even older at the time, recorded “The Charge of the Light Brigade” for posterity in a wrinkled sing-song voice. Florence Nightingale blessed her old Crimean War comrades, Prime Minister William Gladstone sheepishly confessed that his voice wasn’t what it used to be, and Sir Arthur Sullivan saluted Edison’s genius while lamenting (with some prescience) that “so much hideous and bad music might be put on record forever.”

But alas, Dickens died of a stroke nearly two decades earlier, at the less-than-ripe age of 58, so the sound of his voice is lost to history.

Maybe we would have been disappointed by the recorded evidence. Even the many photographs of Dickens seem unsatisfactory: more often than not, they depict a starchy midde-aged Englishman with strange hair and an inscrutable countenance, his eyes fixed and expressionless. Was this the face of the genius who gave us Ebenezer Scrooge, Wilkins Micawber, Fagin, Uriah Heep, Aunt Betsey Trotwood, Wackford Squeers, Miss Havisham, Mr. Pickwick and dozens of other wonderfully named characters who leaped to life in his pages? Well, yes and no.

Photographic portraits of Dickens don't seem to capture the vivacious spirit of the man.

Apparently you had to see Dickens in the flesh to appreciate his riotous vitality. His contemporaries have left us some vivid depictions of the living, breathing dynamo that was Dickens…

“The most delightful of companions”… “ever buoyant, full of spirits and imagination”… “the very soul of enjoyment”… “From top to toe every fibre of his body was unrestrained and alert. What vigor, what keenness, what freshness of spirit possessed him! He laughed all over, and did not care who heard him!”

They spoke about his mesmerizing deep-blue eyes: “like exclamation points” that “mingled kindness and sharpness” with “a look of keen intelligence about the strong brow and eye — the look of a man who has seen much and is wide awake to see more”… eyes “unlike anything before in our experience; there are no living eyes like them.”

And yes, they gave us some sketchy descriptions of his voice and speech: “Deep, rich, cheery”… “genial-voiced”… “natural and unaffected” — though Mark Twain complained that he didn’t enunciate clearly enough to be understood in the balcony, at least by a man from Missouri.

That now-unknowable voice once entertained multitudes. Dickens was the literary equivalent of a rock star, something almost unimaginable in today’s postliterate culture. His dramatic recitations of famous passages from his works drove his audiences to frenzies of laughter, tears and terror. Those innocent Victorians would literally scream and swoon as he re-enacted the murder of Nancy from Oliver Twist with a wild homicidal ferocityIn fact, the heart-pounding intensity of those recitations may have driven him to his premature death. Dickens never did anything halfway. You might say he was a maximalist, in life as in his writing.

When he wasn’t funneling his furious energy into his novels, Dickens would find relief from his mental labors by walking 10, 15, even 20 miles at a clip. Sometimes he’d spend the entire night roaming the streets of London — always observing his surroundings, always absorbing fresh material for his next masterpiece.

He was a less-than-ideal husband and father. His wife, Catherine Hogarth, served primarily as a brood mare for their ten children. Dickens fell in love, chastely but feverishly, with her younger sister, who died in his arms and left him inconsolable. Eventually he abandoned Catherine and took up with the actress Ellen Ternan. Obviously Dickens’ reptuation as the patron saint of domestic felicity was overstated. But his reputation for kindness wasn’t.

Dickens never forgot the stings of his epically tumultuous boyhood: of watching his lovable but improvident father being carted off to debtor’s prison… of being yanked out of school and forced to labor in a rat-infested blacking factory… of being sent back to his labors by his mother even after Dickens the Elder won his freedom as the result of a timely inheritance.

A battle must have raged in the young man’s soul… a battle between cynical disillusionment and a warm, all-encompassing sympathy for the downtrodden victims of industrial-age Britain: the orphans, the urchins, the browbeaten and the unloved. Ultimately he managed to have it both ways, and his sympathies stopped where cruelty began: he channeled his latent cynicism into devastatingly memorable satirical portraits of tyrant schoolmasters, bosses, lawyers and step-parents. 

Dickens was no communist; he identified with the bourgeoisie and enjoyed his wealth. He populated his novels with good and wicked specimens from all social classes, though he seemed to reserve a special contempt for those who rise in society through stealth and avarice. Dickens probably wouldn’t have loved Wall Street investment bankers or dissembling American politicians.

We don’t read Dickens for his politics, but he seems more relevant than ever today. When I was in college, it was fashionable for professors of English to deride Dickens for his sentimentality and praise him for his “radicalism.” Where they saw sentimentality, I saw a warm heart. Where they saw radicalism, I saw a simple but unflagging insistence on fairness and decency in human affairs.

Was Dickens a radical? Only in the sense that anyone with an active social conscience is a radical. When you think about it, the mere presence of such a conscience shouldn’t automatically relegate us to the leftward fringes of the political spectrum. Charity should be mainstream

In the end, I’d label Dickens (if I were forced to label such a human whirlwind) as a radical moderate. He was one of us. He believed in serious reform, but  he wasn’t about to set up a new guillotine to lop off the heads of the money-changers. Remember that he gave old Scrooge a reprieve: he had the heart to understand the miser’s heart, and simply led him to rediscover the kind soul that was trapped and withering inside him for so many years.

It’s a sad commentary on contemporary American society that so many self-professed Christians and traditionalists scorn the charitable virtues exemplified by Dickens. It’s an ominous sign that so many Americans, Christian or not, seem to take wanton pleasure in the “epic fails” of their peers. What are our televised reality shows but social traffic accidents engineered for our amusement?

I feel the need for Dickens now more than ever. I enjoy and admire him for his wit, his incomparable imagination, and his ability to breathe life into the most implausible characters. I love him for the greatness of his heart, and I salute him on the anniversary of his birth two centuries ago today.

236 Comments leave one →
  1. Rob Anderson permalink
    February 8, 2012 12:17 am

    You should seriously try and get this published. Bravo!

    • February 8, 2012 12:50 am

      Thanks, Rob. Unfortunately this piece has an expiration date of February 7, but I might include it in my portfolio if I try to find work as a columnist.

      • February 8, 2012 7:34 pm

        Agree with Rob, disagree with you, Rick. I think this piece is eminently publishable through Dickens’ entire bicentennial year. We can’t hear his voice… true enough. But I swear I heard it in this post.

      • February 9, 2012 9:17 am

        Paul: Maybe I could keep the article current with a little editorial jiggling here and there. For me the most gratifying part of writing this post was digging up all those descriptions of Dickens by his contemporaries. I’ve always thought of Dickens as an enigma: we’re on intimate terms with so many of his characters, but we hardly know the man himself — aside from the basic biographical facts. I’d be more than thrilled to think that I helped him speak again. Thanks!

  2. February 8, 2012 12:12 pm

    What is a “social conscience”, is it different from the ordinary kind ?


    “At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

    “Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

    “Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

    “And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

    “They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

    “The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

    “Both very busy, sir.”

    “Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

    “Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

    “Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

    “You wish to be anonymous?”

    “I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

    Even in Dickens time, the efforts of government to benefit the poor were an abject failure.

    Though we think of them as incredibly draconian today, those institutions Scrooge is asking about were the epitome of progressive efforts to better the life of the poor of the time.

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 8, 2012 3:14 pm

      Dickens was appalled by what was, in his interpretation, a selfish philosophy, which was combined with materialist laissez-faire capitalism (Adam Smith the famous theorist of laissez-faire policy) in the education of some children at the time, as well as in industrial practices. In Dickens’ interpretation, the prevalence of utilitarian values in educational institutions promoted contempt between mill owners and workers, creating young adults whose imaginations had been neglected, due to an over-emphasis on facts at the expense of more imaginative pursuits.

      • February 9, 2012 12:49 am

        I will not presume to know what Dicken’s thought.

        But what I have read of him, is not irreconcilable with Lassez-faire – which is not by inherently materialistic.

        Because it is free, each individual choses their own values – within the constraint that they not infringe on the rights of others.

        Scrooge as an example would be a failure in Smith’s view – the purpose of production is consumption. Neither Scrooge nor anyone else benefits from his hoarding money. Essentially despite having lots of money he lives an incredibly poor life. He deprives both himself and others to accumulate coins whose real purpose is to trade for things that actually are wealth.

        By modern standards conditions in the industrial revolution were abysmal.
        Yet just as in the modern world where undeveloped countries undergo their own industrial revolution, the poor factory workers and poor child laborers, are better off than those without that opportunity, better off than the generation that preceded them.

        The potato famines and similar failures of aggrarian society drove people from starvation or bare subsistance in the country to seek their fortunae elsewhere. Early industrial conditions were often abysmal and opportunities small, but they were an improvement over the those of the preceding generation, and of most of those who did not seek out industrial jobs and often perished. From 1850 to 1900 life expectancy increased by 10 years. By 1930 it had risen another 10. Prior to 1850 there had not be a ten year improvement in life expectancy in all of human history.

        Between 1820 and 1870 the standard of living in the US doubled, and again by 1913. Again the standard of living prior to 1820 had probably not doubled in the entire rest of human history – half the 1820 standard of living was insufficient to sustain life.

        What Dicken’s viewed as an intolerable waste was not half as bad the norm for 99% of people a generation before (and so on until the modern era)

        Today’s poor live better in most every way than the wealthy in the 19th century. They are better fed, have better healthcare, have more create comforts, …..

        In 50 or 100 years we will be discussing the barbaric conditions of the 20th century – there are plenty of modern day Dickensian author’s.

    • February 9, 2012 9:33 am

      Dave: Ah, you quoted one of my favorite passages from “A Christmas Carol” (among many favorite passages). I’m sure the wretched workhouses were considered the ultimate in progressive thinking at the time. But life on the streets for the abject poor was, if possible, even more miserable. Government had to start somewhere in its efforts to keep the wretched refuse of society from starving.

      You’re right, of course, that most of today’s poor are better off than their ancestors in terms of material wealth. (In fact, I just read an article the other day that espoused the same idea…wish I could remember where I saw it.) Where we part company is over my response to the greater numbers of people today sinking from the middle class into poverty or near-poverty. I think this is shameful, especially when we see the corporations sitting on piles of cash, and the executives in those corporations living like old-time Oriental potentates.

      The remedy isn’t a simple redistribution of wealth… but maybe we need a redistribution of the means by which we achieve wealth. We need more middle-class jobs, affordable college tuition, higher interest rates on savings accounts. These used to be essentials in the path to middle-class prosperity, and they’re gone now.

      • Anonymous permalink
        February 9, 2012 10:28 am

        Progressives have spent nearly two centuries trying to figure out how to help the poor through government – and failed.

        The passage I quoted works on myriads of levels.
        Debtors prisons and workhouses were supposed to be an improvement from life on the street – but apparently the people they were supposed to serve did not think so.
        Even you wish to return to WPA style programs which are at best a better version of work houses.
        Whether intentionally or not, Dicken’s highlights that those progressive polices SUPRESS private charity. Private charity has its problems too – nothing benefits the poor more than the opportunity for business to profit by using unskilled labor. But charity is an improvement over government.

        You do realize you are quoting Marx with a redistribution of the means of production ?

        Worse still it does not matter. This has been tried repeatedly. You can take the resources of the world divide them evenly amount everyone and they will quickly redistribute themselves highly unevenly. This happens regardless of your political system. What is different is that the freer the system the greater the portion of those resources will actually get used improving things for everyone.

        We need and want what we chose to buy from the market – directly in proportion to the choice we make in the market.

        When you or government decides we need something else, you are taking choices away from people, you are saying you know better. You are not only saying it to the rich, but even more so to the poor.

        There is no free lunch. Having government mandate something does not make it free or even lower its cost. Because government is less efficient – it
        raises costs – not only on that good or service but on everything.

        Consumption is paid for by production. If we “need” something the only means to acquire it without giving up something else, is to produce more.

        Further this tells you why you can not “pay” for it by “redistributing wealth” because you are redistributing money not wealth. The “rich” are unlikely to reduce what they consume in response to re-distributive policies. But they are going to reduce what they invest.

        The major obstacle to upward mobility in the middle class today is taxes.
        Regardless the route to wealth is through entrepreneurship and investment, not employment. How is it you propose to move people up from the middle class when you are punishing people for engaging in the only activities that allow them to do so ?

        Further one of the myriads of fallacies in the income inequality argument is that we live in a rigid classed society with little mobility.

        The odds of a poor person rising to the middle class or beyond are excellent, the odds of someone in the middle class moving up are good. What is also true – and must remain true so long as we define are classes by quintiles of income, is that people must also move down (in relative terms). The lower class is the bottom twenty percent. They can have vacation homes on the bay and drive lamborghini’s – they are still the lower class if 80% of us are doing better.

        As to income redistribution, volatility at the top is great. We take note of the Buffets and Gates, but many of us make it unto the upper class, some of us make it many times, and many fall out – far more than remain.

      • February 9, 2012 10:33 am


        Why was the lower class in 1820 better than ever before ? And by 1850 twice as well off again ? and by 1920 twice again, and by 1990 twice again.

        Whatever merit charity might have, the improvement of conditions for the poor was not the result of charity. Nor can it be ascribed to progressive government policies or the government safety net – as all this improvement started long before the first progressive toeholds.

        What has improved the lot of the poor more than anything in the entirety of human history, is the very thing you are trying to kill.

      • February 10, 2012 1:09 pm

        You misinterpreted my last comment. I wasn’t callng for a redistribution of wealth or a redistribution of the means of production. Here’s what I said:

        “The remedy isn’t a simple redistribution of wealth… but maybe we need a redistribution of the means by which we achieve wealth. We need more middle-class jobs, affordable college tuition, higher interest rates on savings accounts. These used to be essentials in the path to middle-class prosperity, and they’re gone now.”

        Right now the system is depriving the middle and working classes of three essential paths to greater success and wealth: middle-class jobs, affordable education and decent interest rates on savings. (I would particularly note the obscene spread between interest paid on savings and interest collected on credit cards.) I’m calling on the private sector, not the government, to remedy these three issues in order to restore a level playing field (not the same as leveling, in case you were concerned). But if the private sector fails to do anything substantive, I’d welcome government intervention. In fact, I’d say it would be necessary.

        I don’t see how any decent person can justify a system that screws the life out of the middle and working classes — in the name of abiding by some bookish ideal of pure capitalism. Wake up! A vanishing middle class is no boon to capitalism, believe me.

  3. February 8, 2012 1:43 pm

    There has been a fair amount of research on happiness, wealth, government size, …. and overall happiness. This is one of the more recent papers, though it is inline with decades of past research.

    Within limits the overall wealth of a country does make a difference in “Gross National Happiness”.
    Inequality – including income inequality does not.
    Individual freedom does.
    The size of government negatively impacts happiness.

    This is essentially what I have been trying to tell everyone here all along.

    Wealth is NOT money. It is what we want and need – whatever that may be.
    We produce in order to have that weatlh – whether the wealth is dogs, vacations, children, diner out, theater, health, food, ….
    The greater our per capita GDP the better we are at giving ourselves what we desire.

    One of the errors of Hayek and Mises, and one of the astute observations of Adam Smith, is the economics is intrinsic to all our other values.

    Love, entertainment, children, are all subconsciously “priced”/ranked by each an all of us everyday, in what we will give up, or what we will produce in order to get whatever it is we want.

    The libertarian principles of individual freedom, and the economic principles of bottom up markets are intrinsically welded together. We produce in order to consume. Our economic freedom is our freedom to seek happiness however we chose.

    • valdobiade permalink
      February 8, 2012 3:26 pm

      Maybe wealth is not money, but wealth is surely about profits. Dickens attacked the profit motive as an incentive for individual entrepreneurship, a basic tenant of laissez-faire capitalism.

      I like Dickens writings. Indeed, in the times of Dickens, the efforts of government to benefit the poor were an abject failure. That’s why the poor took the government to erase the difference between rich and poor through Socialist thinking.

      Communism failed due to greed and thirst for power of a few. These are not unknown characteristics of Capitalist societies.

      BTW the anonymous above is moa.

      • February 9, 2012 12:16 am

        Wealth is whatever it is that people need and want.
        Each of us – the poor the rich, the middle class produce in order to get what we want and need.

        Money is just the means by which we exchange what we produce for what we want and need – otherwise we are trapped making everything we want and need ourselves or acquiring it through barter.

        Money also provides the means by which we measure the value of one want or need in comparison to another.

        Money only has value because we can exchange it for real wealth – whatever we want or need. Value is the measure of our want or need.

        Profit is when one exchanges what they produce for something of greater value to you than what it cost to produce – it is not only possible, but the norm for BOTH parties in an exchange to profit – because our ability to produce and our values are not exactly the same.
        If I can easily do something for myself and you can not, it is less valuable to me and more valuable to you.

        The “profit motive” is just our desire to better ourselves in whatever we do.
        If you want more pay for your employment you are seeking to increase your “profit”. If you are working extra hard to go to Italy for vacation – that is your profit.

        Because each of our skills, and values are different, we make different choices.

        When you complain about someone else’s profits, you are just either claiming your values are superior to theirs, or engaged in envy.

        Regardless, profit in one form or another is an essential part of survival. If every exchange is even for everyone, then everything slowly goes to hell.

        Government efforts to aide the poor failed in Dickens time as they have always and everywhere because that is a task government is not suited to.

        Communism, Socialism, corporatism, it does not matter what statist system you prefer, the greater the power you grant government the greater the corruption will be.

        Communism failed repeatedly – in myriads of places.
        Any system – socialism, or progressivism or … that requires human perfection to succeed is will fail. It is not greed that doomed communism, but the inability of communism to function in a world with real humans.

      • February 9, 2012 9:47 am

        Valdo and Dave: Dickens would probably be appalled by today’s corporations, which claim they exist solely to produce profits for their investors. We’ve lost any sense of mutual loyalty, or the sense that a good company is almost like a family where everyone is valued. When corporations can slice thousands of jobs so they can beat Wall Street expectations by a penny, that’s a violation of family ethics. When CEOs earn 300 times as much as their secretaries, that’s a violation of family ethics, too. We have to stop letting financial forecasters wield such influence over corporate decision-making. What difference does it make if a company beats quarterly expectations, as long as it’s making a profit?

  4. February 9, 2012 11:15 am

    Of course corporations exist solely to produce for their investors.

    That production is wealth, it is what actually pays for the retirement of most people in this country since an enormous part of corporate ownership is pension plans of one form or another.

    Further creating wealth requires production – and that benefits us all. To benefit investors a business MUST create something others value, and it must be something they value more than it costs to produce.

    When I was much younger I read and believed E.F. Schumaker’s Small is beautiful.
    Ultimately I have come to recognize that businesses are born, grow and die, just as people do. That bigger is neither inherently better nor worse. That in each situation we will decide how we are best served. That corporate giants will squash small businesses, and that tiny David’s will fell corporate Goliath’s, that we will all fair best when we are free to pick the winners and losers with our own choices.

    The sole purpose of the marketplace, of laisez faire is to give us what we want and need – in proportion to the extent we actually value it.
    That business that does that most efficiently will fair better – more than Schumaker’s 7 times better, than one that does not. I can not tell you precisely why Bill Gates has contributed more than Steve Jobs who has contributed more than Eli Manning, who has contributed more than Joe Doe. But I can tell you that Bill Gates has more because our free choices rewarded him more. He is worth umpteen gazillion times more than his secretary – because in our choices we have said so.

    As to what difference greater profitability makes – we are back to my debates with Ian.
    A 1% increase in the growth rate of GDP doubles all of our standard of living in less than a generation. Again the fallacy of the seen and unseen. You see lost jobs, you fail to see the benefits because though large they are greatly disbursed.

    I have never had to decide to lay of 10,000 people. But I have had to look at laying off 10% of staff. People who I had known for years. Good people. Arguably productive people. But I had failed – Revenue did not meet expenses, all other options for cutting costs had been taken, or would not produce results for month’s. The choice was between losing a few and losing everything and everyone.

    The existence of a business is dependent on producing something that people want and value more than the cost to produce it.

    The market purpose of any business is not profits, it is our consumption. But the invested money that makes that production and our consumption possible like everything else has a price – that price is profits.

    A business that does not market expectations, that does not produce the profits investors expect will see that investment move elsewhere – where it is more PRODUCTIVE. Productivity and profits are intrinsically related.
    Either business produces efficiently and profits, or it does not and goes the way of kodak.
    Either way it must constantly be more efficient.

    If you do not like how this works, then take your IRA’s, your pension, your life insurance, your …. and make choices that are different. Business will do whatever you require to attract your investment. If you change your demands from profits to something else, businesses will compete to meet your demands.

    But it still all loops back to growth. That relentless demand for increased efficiency, for producing more at lower cost, that is the engine for that growth that has multiplied the standard of living of the least by orders of magnitude.
    If as you imply that is really not sustainable, then you had better prepare for a return to the middle ages. Permanent conditions of zero growth are unsustainable. No one will invest for long without an expectation of getting more in return. The only alternative to growth is decline.

    • Jesse C permalink
      February 9, 2012 12:49 pm

      Hi Dave,

      I think you make a very cogent point about the purpose of the existence businesses and the relationship between investment, output, and profit.

      While I don’t disagree with any of that explanation, the problem that I always arrive at, is that this concept, while ultimately the most economically efficient, can cause a lot of collateral economic damage to individuals. In fact, this is probably the single biggest issue I have (and I believe most moderate-minded folks have) with libertarian-leaning, laissez-faire approach to big business and economic policy in general: “If we follow this approach, what are we to do, as a society, about the many people who could find themselves in (hopefully temporary) economic ruin as a result?”

      i know you don’t speak for all libertarians, but you’re a very intelligent person who speaks quite persuasively for the libertarian point of view. So my question is this: “What is your most realistically implementable solution for dealing with the adverse consequences of the policies espoused above?”

      • February 10, 2012 1:38 pm


        With few exceptions I do not beleive that getting government out of the business of entitlements, charity, or the economy would have adverse effects – atleast not in the long run.
        Or more accurately it would have less adverse effects.
        We will have poor always – by definition.
        And of course those businesses dependent on government would either have to find a new model or fail. I do not see that as bad, and I think jobs created would outweigh jobs lost.

        The norm absent government intrusion for societal re-adjustment to significant upheavals is 9 months to a year.

        I would take note of Andrei Shleifer – the most cited economist in the world’s observations
        “Seven things I learned about transition from communism”

        Basically, it is painful, but it works.
        Faster is better than slower,
        Now is better than later,
        Poorly planned now is better than well planned later.
        Get the government out and the necescary private institutions appear rapidly.
        There are always forces trying to co-opt the process and take advantage.
        The more quickly you move the less ability they have to weaken the transition.

        But in the real world the only way we are rapidly getting a truly free market economy is if government fails on a gigantic scale.
        I would have thought the current mess might have persuaded some, but somehow all too many – particularly here see government as the savior rather than the cause of our current mess. Do not get me wrong – business gleefully cooperated in this massive act of self destruction,
        But they did not cause it.

        We are facing several pending problems that I do not see how we are going to blame on the free markets – though I am sure that the editorial pages of the New York Times will enlighten me.

        We have a government debt crisis. It is not quite as imminent as is often portrayed, but we can not continue long with the deficits we currently have without courting disaster. At our current deficit rates we are bettween 5 and ten years from being Greece.

        Medicare is unsustainable. It is currently running 200B/year short and will likely do so or worse for the foreseeable future.

        Social Security is only a few years behind. Social Security is repairable in the sense that with some painful tinkering at the edges the impending crisis can be averted, but that would not address the fact that it is fundimetally unsound and incredibly economically destructive.
        It purports to be an investment, but it is essentially an anti-investment, and a gigiantic wealth transfer to an increasingly wealthy older generation from a poorer younger one.

        These problems are each huge, they are tsunami’s in comparison to the housing crisis ripple.

      • February 10, 2012 2:02 pm


        To be more specific:

        I would eliminate the minimum wage, and open the boarders to immigration. The fact that this would greatly increase income inequality, while almost all current citizens would be better off, should demonstrate the idiocy of the gini coefficient.
        I beleive that adding 5 immigrants to this country directly creates 1 additional higher wage job. Indirectly through their need for food, housing, healthcare, …. the results are even greater.

        I would like to entirely eliminate all forms of government aide and welfare – corporatism or individual – but this is unlikely to happen.
        Alternately all government benefits programs should be merged and only provide cash benefits – no food stamps, no subsidized healthcare, no school lunches, not heating assistance, no housing assistance, no loan guarantees, no …..

        If you are too disabled, old, decrepit, or otherwise unable to support yourself – then whatever public assistance you receive would be in cash. Do with it as you please.

        I think government assistance of any kind personal or corporate is destructive and a bad idea, but i we must do something then I would look more towards a guaranteed minimum income rather than the far worse system we have today.


        At the same time I would note that what I would propose is not particularly important.

        As Ron Paul has noted in the past, his election as president would actually change very little. The president does not have the authority to transform the federal government. At best he can tinker around the edges.

        And we are not going to elect Ron Paul.
        Despite Mr. Shleifer’s recommendations, like Europe and Greece, and like we have handled the current mess we are going to pretend than if we slit our bellies open slowly it will not hurt as much or cause as much damage.

        So what we will actually do is dismantle the so called safety net that is more a fishing net that has ensnared the poor and is threatening to drag the entire ship under, we are going to dismantle it in tiny steps.
        And we will stop at the earliest point at which we might possibly have solved our problems.

        We are not going to do anything radical or potential painful regardless of any positive consequences, unless our backs are up against a wall.

  5. Gadfly permalink
    February 9, 2012 9:06 pm

    From another writer:

    “I believe that we have a cultural obsession with things getting better. Corporate profits MUST rise. Gross domestic product (whatever the hell that is) MUST go up. Teenage pregnancies, smoking related deaths, the deficit and unemployment numbers MUST go down. Well, clearly no one else wants to ask the question, so I will. Why? Why MUST life constantly improve? When did we become so burdened with this need for things to always get better? I’m pretty sure that if we go back in time far enough we’ll find that our ancestors didn’t stress over it. Life was good, then it was bad, then it was the same, then it got good again, etc. For millions of years, things rarely got great and often got horrible. Which is why I believe our relentless drive to improve on the status quo is a fairly recent occurrence. Furthermore, I pinpoint its origin with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, which I believe mistakenly implies that it’s in the nature of nature to “get better.” We all know the deal, amino acids improve to amoebas, which improve to jelly fish, blah, blah, blah, homo sapiens (assuming evolution ends with us, which it doesn’t). But what about this progression implies better? I’ll grant you that evolution creates complexity, but better? Isn’t that really just the snobbery of the complex talking? Speaking from personal experience, I have a memory of being twelve years old, standing and watching nervously while my father looked over my report card. After a bit of frowning, he took off his glasses, looked down at me and said, “You MUST do better.” Boy, I showed him. Not only did my grades not improve, shortly thereafter I discovered marijuana and turned into a jelly fish. As a dear friend of mine likes to say, “God made us perfect and she never changed her mind.” “

    • Pat Riot permalink
      February 9, 2012 10:32 pm

      “…and turned into a jellyfish.”

      Excellent post, Gadfly!

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 10, 2012 1:18 am

      First lets start with simple math

      production = consumption.

      Both sides are our real wealth though typically measured in dollars.

      If we do not produce more we can not consume more.

      At the very best that means no change in standard of living.
      Our children with not be any better off than we are,
      Our own lives will not improve as we mature.
      If someone becomes rich, someone else must become poor.
      Redistribution will take on new importance as the only way you will be able to improve things for one group is at the expense of another.
      Innovation will have to cease – because that is an increase in productivity.
      Things will have to cease declining in price – that is the result of improvements in productivity,

      and on an on.

      We do not live in a zero sum world, the mis-perception that we do is one of the great fallacies underlying much of the bad policies advocated here. Kill off constant gains in productivity and we will live in a zero sum or worse still a negative sum world.

      At the moment growth is about 2%.year – that feels crappy. That is insufficient to bring unemployment down. It leaves us really fragile, both as individuals and as a nation.
      We have officially exited the recession but no one doubts that a tiny nudge would throw us back in. This is actually unusual for a recovery. By now we should atleast temporarily be seeing 7% growth. Regardless if this is what 2% feels like think of how bad no growth would be. That was the state of things for most of human existence.

      Do you really want to go back to our ancestors ?
      Most of us could not tolerate living without internet and cell phones, are you prepared to live without medicine, running water, sewers, toilets, electricity, ……..
      99.99% of human history had the vast majority of us barely surviving, and the “rich” living far worse than the poor today. Is that what you really wish ?

      As to the philosophical question of whether things are “better”. From the perspective of the earth – I doubt it matters at all. From the perspective of humans, that increasing complexity made us possible, it also means we get to live 80 years instead of 20. It means cars instead of walking.

      From the purely subjective perspective of me any the rest of modern humanity, even the poorest people in the least developed parts of the world are better off than their counterparts as little as 40 years ago.

      So yes, I will choose growth.

      Oh, and absent the complexities of the modern world, so much of your time would have to be spent in the activities necessary just to survive that there would be little or no time for that joint – atleast not if you wished to live out your full twenty year life span.

      A man said to the universe “Sir, I exist”
      The universe replied “that fact has not created in me a sense of obligation”

      And there we reach the other great fallacy – this unless list of human rights and entitlements. We have few rights, they are only those found in nature.

      Those we have are inviolable – or should be, and they include individual freedom.
      But they do not include a right to survival – much less food, shelter, health, ….

      Our very existence requires us to act to sustain. It is not a right.
      “By the sweat of your brow you shall earn your daily bread”

      The distance between non-existance and our complex lives today is growth.

  6. Pat Riot permalink
    February 9, 2012 10:29 pm

    And 200 years later it is still the best of times and the worst of times…

    …but that does NOT mean that “things are as they’ve always been” or that “things will continue to operate pretty much as they always have”…

    Children today can check in with their parents via cell phones like millions of Captain Kirks calling in to their respective U.S.S. Enterprises, and most of America’s low income folks take hot showers and can drink orange juice in the winter while crime rates are apparently dropping, to name a few random examples of prosperity…

    …but meanwhile ¼ of American homes are in foreclosure or “under water” (owe more than the house is worth), and the Income Gap widens between the Haves and the Have-Nots.

    Those who see the benefits of production and wealth creation are only seeing half-truths and relative truths. All wealth is not the same. There is such a thing as “perverse wealth” or “let them eat cake” wealth.

    There are poor who went faithfully to work everyday, on time, and then the job went away. There are poor who will absolutely NOT get a job because they have no car, no family support, no money for the rent that is due. Many of these situations have nothing to do with “desire to work.” The very real upcoming success or failure of a percentage of America’s poor have less to do with the functioning of markets, i.e. consumers wants and needs, and more to do with “social infrastructure,” if you will. There are social realities that operate largely independant of “the markets,” like fish stranded and trapped in little pools and backwashes when the river goes down.

    It is ironic that so many strict libertarian/capitalist/free market devotees, who despise “top down” government efforts, often unwittingly have an absolute top down view of social safety net programs and the plights of the poor. People’s wants and needs, if allowed to be free and self-regulate, will take care of everything! Ha ha! Such an insulated viewpoint. Let them go find work! Let them be entrepreneurs! Let them eat cake!

    No person is an island. No person got to where they are without some combination of parents, family, friends, institutions, roads built by others, sacrifices of others, laws, charity, et cetera—along with their own efforts.

    No company is an island, without workers, social institutions, laws to allow communities to exist so there can be consumers to buy products, et cetera. No company is an island, though they act like it when they focus exclusively on profit without a social conscience.

    Some wealth creation improves society and humanity. Some wealth creation causes a little collateral damage. Some wealth creation causes a LOT of collateral damage. Those who see the world primarily in economic terms believe it will all work itself out. Let them eat cake!

    Moderates know there can be too little, too much, as well as a range that will work better for given circumstances.

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 10, 2012 1:36 am

      One of the ironies of this entire “income inequality” rant, is that recent data – data since the recession started strongly suggests that the “disparity” has returned to 1970’s levels.
      It is funny what a recession will do to “income inequality”

      First, one reason the perceived inequality exists is that until 2008 we – particularly the poor were living in smaller and smaller families. Extended families were increasingly less common, and the poor particularly felt secure enough to go out and form their own family at a younger age. The income inequality statistics are based on family income not individual income. Extended families rank higher on the gini scale than smaller and poorer nuclear families – that came about by choice, and by relative gains in wealth at the bottom.

      But the recession has left more of those on the bottom unemployed and more and more of us are reforming extended families – and the income inequality statistics decline – but are we better off ?

      The recession has left the poor unemployed, but it has drastically slashed incomes for high wage earners – this alone has added hundreds of billions to the defict as the top 10%of us – families with incomes over 110,000 pay 70% of all federal income taxes. If the top ten percent see a 30% decline in come what do you think happens to the gini index, and to federal tax revenue ?

      Immigrants are a major factor in the gini index. There are 7 million more illegal immigrants since 1980, and probably atleast that meany legal ones. Most of these particularly the illegal ones are living in splendor compared to where they came from – but relative poverty according to our statistical measures. Removing illegal immigrants from the statistics alone would likely return the gini index to 1970’s levels.

      It is estimated that as many as 1M illiegal immigrants left the country as a result of the recession – again bringing the gini index back to 1970’s levels.

      Someone perceptive might ask if good times for all result in higher income inequality and bad times result in dramatic losses in income inequality, then isn’t high income inequality a good sign rather than a bad one ?

      The largest income inequality exists in two places – failed nations, and those with the highest standards of living.

    • February 10, 2012 2:03 am

      Of course all wealth is not the same – that is precisely what I am saying.
      Different wealth has different values – and each of us set our values ourselves.
      All the free market is, is each of us acting together to establish our own relative values for the wealth we want and need.

      Money is not wealth – but it is the way we measure wealth.

      Time off has a certain value – because we have set it that way. Vacations, children. All the things we pretend are priceless – but ultimately can not be are valued by us in the market.

      I would be happy to agree with you that in a perfectly free market – even one with a great deal of charity, people will still die, they will still get incurable diseases, some will even starve. Some will not be able to afford heat. Lots and lots of bad things will happen.

      I am not offering some top down perfection.

      HOWEVER there will actually be less of all of those bad things than there is with top down systems.

      Nor is there some libertarian proscription preventing you from helping your neighbor.

      Certainly we are all interconnected – but those connections are voluntary.
      Each of us is free to walk away from all the interrelationships of a free society – few of us do, but we are always free to. It is not necessary to exercise freedom to have it or benefit from it – but it is necessary to have that freedom.

      Certainly we get things from others. But ignoring family and charity, we pay for everything else. ALL consumption is paid for by production. Roads, restaurants, power, phones, … whatever all exist because we produce them.

      There is no such thing as a social conscience. I have one conscience – my own individual one. It is not the same as yours. Your rushing back into morality – and if you wish to live in a world where some impose their morality on others – then you should be very afraid of a President Santorum – because if elected his imposition of his morality on you has exactly the same legitimacy as your imposing yours on me.

      We each have our own morality, but there are a few minimal rules that are essential to living in society. There is no successful competing exposition of those rules beyond that of libertarians – as heirs to the Lockean social contract. I have no heard anyone argue that we should be able to murder our neighbors as we wish, so there is near universal agreement that libertarian principles are core to a functioning society. But there is nothing near universal agreement on any set of values beyond that – atleast not in anything more than the most abstract terms. We all want healthcare reform – but once it comes to actually deciding what that is there is not even close to a majority favoring anything – much less the near universal agreement that is required by the social contract.

  7. Pat Riot permalink
    February 10, 2012 9:38 am

    Economists have been compared to janitors or building superintendents maintaining the network of pipes of the heating and cooling systems in a big apartment building—flip this damper valve here and it sends more heat up this conduit and less over there, stop putting fuel into the furnace and everybody will soon be cold…lower interest rates and more companies will make capital investments…clean off the dirty filter (government over-regulation perhaps?) and the whole system will run more efficiently!

    I’m not denying the workings of the engines of our economy. I’m not denying the benefits of production, wealth creation, and growth, et cetera. What I keep trying to get across is that there’s more to what keeps us going than an economy, more to what holds us together than production and growth. (Even more than freedom.)

    Sometimes the production and growth itself become one of the problems. Yes, sometimes particular manifestations of freedom and capitalism—as good as they are–become their own problem. Often the system breaks down, over there and over here, spewing dangerous fumes, or the lower floors are freezing cold while the upper floors are wonderfully toasty, or we discover that the pipes are wrapped with asbestos and the lining is torn…

    Libertarian “purists” think the system will always run best by itself. They are enamored with the system—“See those pipes? Do you realize the hot goes down this one and the cold goes down this one? Let me show you more…”

    Good government is like the building superintendent that does his or her best to keep the system running. Sometimes they make it worse. Sometimes they order the wrong part. Often they use duct tape. Often they keep the system limping along until a new unit is installed by a qualified technician. Corrupt government is the building super who doesn’t answer his phone because he’s away on vacation all the time (using money from selling drugs.) OK I’m getting to that thin periphery that analogies usually get to! Time for me to go out to work!

    Government of the people, by the people, for the people. Let’s keep it alive, people!

  8. Pat Riot permalink
    February 10, 2012 9:45 am

    Here’s a more thread-appropriate way to put it:

    The reality that Adam Smith gave us in his writing is a subset of the reality that Charles Dickens gave us in his writing.

    Oh I like that.

    • February 10, 2012 2:12 pm

      I would argue the opposite.

      Dickens examines ta tiny slice of the world at a single moment in time. He (and we) chooses to remain ignorant of how we got there, and where we are going, and of whether conditions are improving or worsening and why.

      Smith ignores the lice in the poor childs hair, because he see the past and the future and grasps that complaining about lice is an improvement over the starvation that came before, and that soon enough the lice problem will take care of itself and we will move on to complaining because some need farther up Maslow’s heirarchy of needs is not being met.

      Dickens is seeing only a tiny portion of the world that Smith sees.

  9. February 10, 2012 1:26 pm

    Good posts, Pat. Sometimes I think the free-market capitalists, in their obsession with those marvelous pipes and ducts, lose sight of the tenants who have to live in the building. I wonder (and Dave, feel free to chime in) if there’s a moderate school of economic thinking. There has to be a middle ground between the Austrian school of economics and the Keynesian model. If there isn’t, somebody should start one!

    • February 10, 2012 2:42 pm

      There are myriads of choices besides Austrian. Though there is far less divergence in basic principles than you perceive.

      Keynes never intended to alter the basic foundations of economics. Despite being called the “general theory”, Keynesian economics only applies to governments. It has no bearing on individuals families and businesses – where we know it could not possibly work.

      Keynes primary divergence is in believing that you can manipulate the consumption side rather than the supply side to the benefit of the economy as a whole. And Keynes has failed. That aspect of his theory that managed unemployment by altering inflation failed unequivocally in the 70’s. That alone should have obliterated Keynes from the text books. If that did not work there is no reason to believe anything else does either.

      Keynes second divergence – shared by myriads of other economic schools is the faith in top-down management. As Governments necessarily and successfuly marshaled the entirety of society to a single purpose in conducting World War I and World War II this lead to a mis-perception among educated elite that this efficiency could be directed toward the peacetime world. A nation at war has a single purpose – the defeat of its enemy in order to survive. Everything can be measured against that purpose. Top down Decision making is relatively easy there is one value that is paramount. But in the peacetime world we have myriads of values all competing. Look at the recent private mess with Komen and Planned Parenthood. . We do not have a single primary purpose every top down decision must be measured against nearly infinite competing interests – something government is abysmally bad at, and something that nothing but the free market has ever done well.

      Austrians in particular diverge from the economic mainstream – not so much over the economic principles that TNM”ers seem to think are all radically libertarian and austrian.
      But over the means of analyzing economics. Austrians are essentially the economic psychologists and philosophers. They believe that the complexity of the marketplace is so great that you will never be able to discern its organizing principles, its laws, and rules by mathematical or statistical methods. There will always be too many variables you have to control for, and the best you can do is note correlation. The Austrian approach to discerning the basis of economics to study humans behavior. Mises seminal work is not called “Human Action” by accident.

      This last point is the fundimental point of disagreement between Milton Friedman/monetarists and the Austrians (Friedman was a member of the Mont Pelerin society (with 8 nobel prizes) with Hayek and Mises.

      Today there are myriads of branches of economics. despite vast disagreement on myriads of methodological issues, large parts of the basics are fairly well accepted.

      There are still a few truly idiotic schools of economics out there – but they are far more marginalized than the Austrians.
      It is also true that you can take a fairly competent economist with a reasonably good understanding of the basics, and move them into government or give them a newspaper column, and suddenly the entire body of their life’s work is discard-able to serve politics rather than economics.

      Even Marxists and socialists were eventually forced to reconcile themselves to property rights.

    • February 10, 2012 2:51 pm

      Outside Marxism I do not believe there is any credible economic school (including Keyenes) that does not start with Adam Smith.

      Here is the Wealth of Nations condense to 86 pages rather than 800.
      I have no read this particular condensed version, but you probably do not want to read WON directly as it was written as statistics were just evolving and graphs did not yet exist, so Smith uses hundreds of pages to say what could be accomplished in a single graph.

      If you understand Smith then you have down that part of economics that atleast 90% of all economists agree on.

      Part of what I am trying to drive home, is that the moderate school of economics you are looking for does not exist, because ultimately even Keynes is to the right of what you think moderate economics should be.

  10. February 10, 2012 4:08 pm


    It is not about pipes and ducts, ultimately it is not even about economics. It is about freedom. Without it the pipes and ducts ultimately fail, and the tenants freeze to death.

  11. Pat Riot permalink
    February 10, 2012 10:22 pm

    Asmith, I never thought I’d see you write, “ultimately it is not even about economics.”

    So very much in this world IS determined by economics, I’m there with you for significant portions of your rants, but I’m glad to see you can set economics aside. Also, I cherish FREEDOM and would die to help preserve it for my children specifically and for humanity in general, but freedom isn’t the foundation. It goes to something further that underpins freedom and economics, and that’s why I said that Adam Smith’s subject matter is a subset (or subcategory) of what Dickens and other literary writers touch upon. I have to figure a way to get to it adequately without verbosity.

  12. February 11, 2012 1:10 pm

    I have written much the same thing repeatedly.
    I would be arguing for individual liberty – even if it did not also produce the best economic outcome. There are structural reasons why it actually must, but that is a different matter

    When I say wealth is what we need and want, when I say it is not money, they are not only economic truths, they are assertions that it is not all about economics or money.

    But Sorry Dicken’s is still the subset.

    I have failed to adequately communicate that this is not about economics – because individual freedom, free markets, our wants and needs, the greatest good for the greatest numbers our happiness and pleasure are all intrinsically interconnected.

    I have only read some of Dicken’s but what I read does not contradict that.
    Scrooge’s problem is not greed. It is that he has confused what he wants and needs with money. Money is not wealth, in and of itself it does not make us happy.
    But what we do with it can make both ourselves and others happy.

    In a different context, does paying your taxes make you happy ?
    What about contributing to your favorite charity or helping someone else.

    Scrooge was abysmally unhappy until he started using his own money to do things that actually made him happy – most of those involve other people.

    Government does not make people happy.

    Once you grasp that the function of free markets is to enable our pursuit of happiness,
    to trade what we have produced – for whatever we wish, and that there is no other system in existence that is better able to allow even the poor to get as much of what they wish as is possible.

    If we do not receive the most happiness we can possibly attain in the free market, it either because we do not know what makes us happy, or because we do not wish to be happy.

    Government can redistribute money, and it can provide goods and services – but it is structured to give people what it thinks they “need”. Even that takes from those who dependent on it their right to decide for themselves what they want and need.

    My choices and yours are not the same. You do not know what I need to be happy, and I do not know what you need. I can not choose for you. So why can government choose best for all of us ? Or any of us ?

    If my resources are limited, I might cut back on food or clothing, or heat, or medical care, in order to take my family out to a fancy dinner each week, or to send my kids to a better school, or …. these might prove to be stupid choices depending on the risks I take and random chance – but they are my choices – and they also could prove wise.

    Depriving me of the ability to fail, takes away the ability to succeed.

    What the free market means is the freedom to:

    Produce as much or little as you wish,
    in order to exchange whatever you have produced, for as much of whatever you want as you choose to.

    It is the system that enables us to choose to maximize our production – in order to have more of the consumption choices we want. While leaving us perfectly free to say – I have worked enough – I am going to spend time with a book, my dog, nature, my wife, my children.

    The progressive alternative is to steal from one group to give to another.
    In taking they make us all poorer, because they take what is invested and creating opportunities. But even in giving they are still stealing. They are stealing the right of people to make their own choices – they are taking away the pursuit of happiness, and pretending it is something government can choose for you, package and deliver.

    We become entitled to healthcare, to school lunches, to food stamps, to public education, to whatever government deigns to give us – tied down with all kinds of strings – because we as government beneficiaries are certainly NOT entitled to chose to spend food stamps on lobster – much less caribean vacations, or drugs.

    All these myriads of strings, and laws and regulations – all of which sound perfectly reasonable – especially if you are the ones being forced to pay for government largess, they all come at the expense of freedom, at the expense of our choices to pursue happiness how ever we please.

    Last year I probably qualified for food stamps. This year so far I am doing better than I ever have in my life. I am suddenly up to my eyeballs in work – and as I am producing far more, I have far more to decide what and how I will consume.
    But even those choices are constrained.

    I want to finish my home. I can do the work myself – but I no longer have time.
    I can hire a contractor, but I am not quite that well off yet,
    Or I can hire a person to do the work. Not a particularly high wage job, and I can not afford someone full time. But I can be flexible about hours and many other things.

    But i am not really allowed to just hire someone for 10 hours a week. If I wish to do that I have to collect taxes, and file all kinds of tax forms. Having actually handled payroll and benefits I can tell you that the amount of work I would have to do to hire someone for 10 hours a week greatly exceeds the value that person can provide for me.
    I was supposed to be hiring them so that I would be happier, not so I would be more miserable. And the amount of taxes we are talking about is a pitance. The value of the taxes is far less than the value of my time to collect and report them.

    But if somehow I could hire help to finish my house, Then I would be thinking about hiring help so that my wife and I could spend more of our time doing the things that make us happy and less doing what we must.

    Even inside my business, the barriers to hiring the first employee are huge.
    If I have 10% more work than I want to do, I can suck it up, and do it and because I have produced more, I have more choices.

    But it is still not a free market. Because I did not really want to work harder, what I wanted was to hire help. But hiring help means they get to do the job I love, while I get to do taxes, and payroll and all kinds of tasks that do not make me happy

    Nature does not grant me whatever choices I wish. My freedom is limited to what is possible using what I have produced. But government artificially limits those choices further. Government says that even though I have produced sufficient to make a choice that would make me happier – and allow someone else to produce, that if I make that choice I will have less rather than more happiness. That in-order to trade the wealth I have produced for someone else’s assistance, I must either become a criminal, or become Scrooge leaning over a ledger counting taxes, and money and becoming miserable.

    In the real world, that is the first barrier to entry government erects to thwart would-be entrepreneurs, employers – there are many many more.

    One of the rights – a real right, rather than these misconstrued entitlements that progressives think are rights, is the pursuit of happiness.
    The purpose of government is to secure that right – something we are promised in the founding document of this country.

    Yet progressive ideology is to thwart the pursuit of happiness in the mistaken belief that happiness is something government can give you at a cost in freedom rather than something you must seek on your own.

  13. Pat Riot permalink
    February 11, 2012 2:00 pm


    In order to adequately communicate what seems to me quite clear about the nature of human survival and human development, specifically the relationships among production, freedom, economics, and the very things that undergird those realities, I’ve employed the dialogue between Emma Dickens, little-known sister of Charles and a self-proclaimed moderate, and Evan Smith, a stalwart libertarian and free-market devotee who just happens to share a common last name with a certain economist of Scottish descent. The woman and man occupy a spectral balcony from which they are the benefactors of a vivid and unbroken view of human activity from the 19th century to the early 21rst century. Occasionally they can also see activities from earlier periods of human history, but those glimpses are more ephemeral. I’m enjoying the dialogue greatly, but unfortunately it remains lengthy and is in want of summary, I believe, before it is sent along the telegraph lines to TNM.

  14. February 11, 2012 10:10 pm

    Pat: I must convey to you, indeed, my sincerest approbation of your endeavour to mimick the felicities of nineteenth-century prose, accomplished as it was in the spirit of fellowship and good humour. I must observe in passing, however, that certain of our companions in the cause of moderation have not lately frequented this site; viz., Ian, Priscilla and AMAC. I pray that they have not abandoned us to the mercies of the extremists, and that they will agree to favour us presently with their esteemed company.

  15. Pat Riot permalink
    February 12, 2012 12:29 pm

    Mr. R. Bayan, I feel compelled to extend a more than perfunctory thank you for inspiring me, with your post noting Dickens’ birthday, to retrieve from my den a few Dickens volumes, including a collection of Dickens short stories that had been, I admit, resting undisturbed upon a certain shelf for an extended time. For some unknown reason I had convinced myself that I had read all of the Dickens stories contained therein; but, alas, imagine my delight to discover a few narratives yet unexplored! I have you to thank for that!

    Also, your post reminds me of the importance of marking and remembering people and events (e.g. Dickens and Kokak). When I was an energetic and foolish lad I regularly scoffed at “markers” from statues and plaques and parades down to birthdays and solemn prayers. I was in too much of a hurry to get somewhere. And now in my middle age I see the importance of recording, marking, remembering, and honoring—lest we think our new routines are the only “normal.”

  16. Ian CSE permalink
    February 12, 2012 2:55 pm


    I’m not dead, I’m just resting after a prolonged squak or squack, or scwack, or something. I can’t spell rythym either. I plead Andrew Jackson.

    I gave Pat a chance to do battle by laying low.

    Pat, or (anyone) have you ever read Russell Baker’s autobiography, Growing up? There is a lot of good perspective in it on our past. I highly recommend it.

    “Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things.”

    I think we can all agree.

    • February 12, 2012 8:13 pm

      Sure we can agree – but I doubt we can agree on what it means.
      And I have not read Baker, so I may or may not agree in his context.

      Progress is something that just happens as a normal part of the free market.
      It often brings new problems – automobile exhaust rather than horse dung, but the new problems are almost always less significant than the old ones.
      But when we try to shape progress outside the market, when when try to plan what progress should be rather than letting it happen, when were are “progressive” then the results we get are often terrible, and at best mediocre.

      But I suspect that is not the meaning you intended.

      • valdobiade permalink
        February 13, 2012 5:30 pm

        It [progress] often brings new problems – automobile exhaust rather than horse dung, but the new problems are almost always less significant than the old ones.

        Writing on papyrus rather than Internet logorrhea…

        Also new problems are actually destroying the Earth, so the more progress you have the more significant problems are born. If Earth had a constant number of population like 1000 years ago, I would prefer horses than automobiles. Even before “modern time civilizations”, there were civilizations that were extraordinary.

        There is no freedom for progress, there is freedom to do whatever one likes to do creating the illusion of progress.

        Adam Smith does not represent a step toward progress, Adam Smith represent just one of many economic theories on how to have more material possessions. His spiritual orientation is vague or non existent. His “freedom” does not guarantee ethics and/or morals.

        Even if we can create an Adam Smith “pure” style society, it will still be full progress toward greed and egotism. I think Dickens described a “laissez-faire” society.

  17. February 12, 2012 5:47 pm

    Libertarianism is not about about individual economics. It is about individual freedom. The freedom to love whomever we chose – or hate whoever we chose. The freedom to say and beleive whatever we wish. The economic aspects of freedom are not distinct from the remainder.There is no bright line between economic freedom and political freedom, and any other freedom. When we fall in love, marry, chose to have a family, form friendships, play music, all the “non-economic” elements “values” in our lives, These are all intrinsically intertwined with the economic.
    Wealth and money are distinct – because wealth includes love, friendship, pleasure in all its myriads of forms. The economic truism that the purpose of production is consumption includes those forms of wealth that we do not typically associate with economics or money.
    Love, friendship, children are all typical win-win market free market exchanges. While these typically have economic precedents, and costs – we typically address ourselves to food and shelter before pleasure, whether “money” is on one side of the exchange or not, most everything we do is an exchange. And all are in the sphere of wealth.

  18. Pat Riot permalink
    February 12, 2012 10:12 pm

    Ok, I’m about to paste it. I had to omit fun parts and examples because it is lengthy. I’ve distilled it down as best as I could, but it’s still a monster. This is my argument why production and free trade and freedom are important but not at the heart or foundation of America’s survival and not at the heart of humanity’s survival. You can choose not to read it, as some will be turned off by its length. Here is the stripped down version…

  19. Pat Riot permalink
    February 12, 2012 10:30 pm

    “I have been involved in debate here at this site for some time. Perhaps this gigantic nuclear warhead will be my last offensive for my argument that free markets and freedom aren’t the foundation and aren’t the whole truth …Oh, what have I done…!”

    Emma Dickens: “How do we acquire the things we want and need to survive and thrive? I’m talking about food, clothing, medicine, pencils, laptops, tools, and the tools that make the tools…”

    Evan Smith: “From production and trade—work, know-how, processes, and also the freedom to produce and trade…government staying out of the way so that people can create the things that they want and need, as well as trade for the things that they want and need …”

    Emma Dickens: “Aren’t goods produced and services provided in totalitarian regimes and under cruel dictators? Didn’t humans survive and humans develop long before Locke, Rousseau, America’s Founding Fathers and what we’ve come to understand as freedom and liberty?”

    Evan Smith: “Well, yes, but when there is freedom and liberty then production and growth flourish, and therefore humanity flourishes. Look what the United States was able to accomplish in so short a time, how the standard of living was able to be raised for so many…”

    Emma Dickens: “Alright, look, I agree that freedom and liberty can unlock human potential, so I won’t argue against freedom and liberty. But what I want to get at is what enables such things as freedom and liberty –what maintains and preserves freedom and liberty and allows production to occur? What keeps chaos somewhat in check and allows freedom and liberty to exist in order to maximize production?”

    Evan: “I believe you’re driving at something we could call the ‘rule of law’”.

    Emma: “Yes, and what preserves or allows the rule of law to exist?”

    Evan: “Sometimes it is force, might, power, or the threat of force, from government and police and military, but I would have to say in the broadest sense it is institutions that are set up by people, including courts and governing bodies of various sizes and jurisdictions, and the like, as well as individuals who uphold the rule of law when they abide by the law and teach their children to live within the law.”

    Emma: “Fair enough for our purposes here. We are not saying which laws are good and which laws are bad here, but would we agree that we need some laws to exist in order for factories as well as individuals to be able to do the things they do and to trade and prosper?”

    Evan: “Sure, we can say that much.”

    Emma: “OK and you have already said that the rule of law is maintained and preserved by institutions and individuals. Institutions prescribe accepted behaviors and disallow other behaviors, and individuals follow or push against the prescribed behaviors, yes?”

    Evan: “Yes, I’d agree that this is the natural way of things.”

    Emma: “And why have people and institutions in different parts of the world, such as Iran or the United States or Somalia or ancient China or classical Rome, been somewhat different?”

    Evan: “Different cultures. Different ideas about what’s important. Different ideas about what is accepted behavior and what is not. Different knowledge. Different ideas that manifest themselves in their respective institutions and that are upheld or not upheld by the individuals of that particular culture.”

    Emma: “Yes, and we are not talking just about what is a crime or not a crime, but about all manner of behavior, little and big. In one culture it may be commonplace for a young man to lean against a tree and be idle for hours and hours, while in another culture someone would soon question the young man, demanding to know why he was not engaged in work or other useful activity. I submit that, so far in our discussion, culture is the lowest denominator of a reason that some nations produce more than others, why some cultures have enough of a the type of society to be able to produce, and why some nations are wealthy and some are not. This includes not just work ethic and morality, but also military capabilities and all sorts of elements of a culture—the behaviors prescribed, encouraged, enforced—cumulative over time, of a group of people. And it is why some nations are wealthy and some are not.”

    Evan: “Are you saying that culture is what it comes down to then? Is that the very foundation of human growth and development and survival? Your position could be misconstrued to be racist.”

    Emma: “I’m talking about culture in general, in its broadest sense, and not particular cultures, and anyway we are not stopping at culture. We’re going further. Where do the ideas of cultures come from?”

    Evan: “They are passed down in families, in tribes, in communities, in regions and nations. That is why people in India for example dress and talk and act somewhat differently than people in Scandanavia or wherever.”

    Emma: “Okay, but where did the ideas that are passed down come from originally?”

    Evan: “Hmm. The ideas came from the minds of individual people. Somewhere along the line someone decided to try the wheel for the first time, and the steam engine, and various religious thoughts, and organizational thoughts, etc., on and on. Some ideas like the printing press really aided human development while others we may now see as somewhat ridiculous, and others might have worked for a time but are now might be due for a change.”

    Emma: “We could say that the history of human development, which I’ll argue is now linked to human survival, is simply the story of human beings becoming less ignorant—of learning how to do things to survive and thrive. It occurs during the “aha!” moments, the realizations in the minds of individuals, whether it be how to cut roof rafters for a house or how to make MRI machines affordable enough to mass produce for them to be a part of almost all new home construction by 2025, and then those ideas are either brought into a culture or not, and then preserved by institutions and individuals, which allow those things needed for survival and development to be, to come into reality, so that we can trade for them, so that we don’t have to try to do everything ourselves as individuals, which is not practical

    Evan: “So, in summation, you’re saying the hierarchy is this:
    Things we need to survive and thrive,
    provided by production and trade
    allowed to occur by the order of law
    which is maintained by institutions and individuals
    which are created via a culture
    which is a result of ideas
    from individual minds.”

    Emma: “We could go further to show where the human mind originates, as well as the raw materials on Earth that humans manipulate in order to survive and thrive, which, like our breathing when we sleep and our other internal systems, are not things we developed ourselves by acts of will, but this is enough for now. Suffice it to say production and freedom are not the very foundations of human survival, growth, and development. Individuals should be excited and proud of this. It is validating. We can each of us be very important.”

    • February 14, 2012 2:58 pm

      I think it is quite interesting and creative. Any objection would be as to how well the views of your characters reflect the views of the ideologies i believe you intended they represent.

      As an example, all ideas existed and in some instances were practiced long before someone such as Smith or Locke were credited with putting them on paper,

      Natural Law, the mechanisms of evolution all predate man.Trade, division of labor, money, most of the necesities of the modern market existed in some form in the earliest societies.

      Neither Locke, Nor Smith (nor Newton) invented something new, they discovered something intrinsic. But in discerning it, and explaining it, they allowed us to better understand how it works – and how it does not work.

      Evan concedes myriads of minor nits that I would not.

      Further you confuse cultural differences with those values we universally share.
      “The Rule of Law” are those few universal values that society can not function without.
      They are supra-cultural. They are not even about morals or ethics. “The rule of law” is the sole purpose of government. It is the only thing that government can provide that can not be provided by purely voluntary relationships between individuals.

      The Declaration of independences assertion that governments were formed by men for the sole purpose of protecting their individual and natural rights, is probably the worlds most eloquent explanation of what the rule of law is (and is not). But every culture since the first cave men have been trying to divine, what are those rules necessary for social functioning.

      The rule of law is not defined by religion, morality, right and wrong – though our concepts of those often draw upon “the rule of law”. The rule of law is objective. While morality, religion and culture are intrinsically subjective. Like government the rule of law must be very narrow and limited – otherwise it does not remain objective.

      Beyond “the rule of law” culture, morality, religion, and any other accreted values – progressive or liberal are an impediment to rather than an asset for our improvement.

      I have no idea how you arrive at Emma’s final conclusion which is not only wrong but contradicts most of the rest of your dialog.

      Production is not a foundational value. Production is just the ONLY means by which society as a whole can create wealth.

      Freedom is THE core value. “The Rule of Law” are those few restrictions to individual freedom essential to the function of society. Everything else – production, ideas, …. is only possible to the extent that we are free. As we are never totally free, so too are we never totally unfree. But all our other values everything else we values waxes and wanes to the extent we are free.

      Regardless, I applaud your effort.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        February 14, 2012 10:25 pm

        Asmith, I’m glad you found my contrived dialogue to be somewhat interesting and creative. Yes, admittedly the Evan Smith character quickly became very “cooperative” with the dialogue (!) and that was for the sake of some brevity. My origninal version is about 4 times as large so far (now one of several books in progress) and Evan is a lot harder to convince of things. (Emma has to provide a lot more examples and refinement of what she is talking about.)

        I still maintain that people thinking and acting certain ways is the prerequisite of things such as freedom and rights and values. In other words, freedom doesn’t exist at all as a right or a value or a reality unless real live people know some things and act certain ways. Although physical laws such as gravity exist “out there” independent of people, much of the other concepts/realities we are touching upon (rights, freedom, values, core values, production, et cetera) don’t exist without people–and the right kind of people.

        Two of my favorite books treating the ssue of the rule of law and human rights not existing unless the right kind of people are present to make it so (novels originally encountered during adolescence but re-read many times) are Jack London’s Call of the Wild and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

        Anyway, not really be argumentative about above. I think many of our views are quite similar in a practical sense, then they get somwhat askew at a more philosophical level. The only thing I will argue right now is this particular point: there is only ONE Universe. By the definition of the word it is ONE, all-inclusive EVERYTHING. It can’t be plural. One of my favorite ideas is that nothing can leave the Universe because there is nowhere else to go. A lot of philosophy can proceed from that idea.

      • February 16, 2012 7:26 pm


        The Real Adam Smith would not be convinced – because there are no convincing arguments. Emma’s values are better accomplished used Adam’s means. Adam sees the world as it is, and recognizes not only that it is good, but that it is improving – on its own. Emma sees it as deeply flawed fails to notice that everything she deems wrong with it is an improvement over yesterday, and demands that those problems be fixed by turning the system that caused all that past improvement on its head.

        The dialog here has convinced me more than ever before that freedom is one of few things that is not in any way relative.

        Everything in nature is free. Constrained only by natural law.

        We all understand freedom – we can objectively distinguish between more and less free – regardless of our views of right and wrong, good and evil.
        We may have different views on what aspects of freedom are more important than others. We may chose to value things higher than freedom. But we are fair better able to discuss freedom – and each know what the other meant – than say fairness, which has no meaningful certainty in definition.

        As the Declaration of independence notes – we form governments in order to protect our freedom – sacrificing a small portion to preserve the rest.

        Whether we have done this well or poorly is unimportant. It is still inarguable that whether as tribes or nations we have gather in society sacrificing some freedom, in return for the protection of others.

        Progressives when they deign to discuss the matter do not accept this, and in rejecting it that are flying in the face of nature.

        I was not looking for a debate regarding the cosmology or semantics of universes or the universe.

        I was primarily arguing that no matter how relativistic your frame of reference is you are still stuck with us, here and now in our own fishbowl, that operates by a certain set of rules. Whether it is the only fishbowl, or someone else’s dream of a fishbowl is meaningless from the point of view of the fish.

        I will be happy to concede that you know more about universes and universe. That part of the argument was not directed at you.

        My primary point was that our individual absolute or relative metaphysical system does not alter what freedom is only what value we place on it.
        That is actually quite important – as both Emmas and many other arguments here are based on the fact that we do not share the same values – in fact many of my own arguments have been based on that.

        But freedom is different. It does not matter which gods we worship, or what our definition of right and wrong are. Given that we accept our failure as a species as a bad outcome, we can objectively determine that we must sacrifice certain very specific freedoms (exactly those limits libertarians impose) to exist in any social arrangement, and we can argue in non-relativistic terms about the gains and losses of sacrificing more.
        This is the Lockean Social contract and it is a total rejection of that of Rousseau – who would likely argue with you about the number of universes.

  20. Pat Riot permalink
    February 12, 2012 10:39 pm

    Oh well, I tried. It sounds pompous to me as I read it. I attempted to make it more digestable by putting it into dialogue, but I think it needs the support of the rest of a book and shouldn’t have been attempted as blog post. O well, there it is for argument sake.

  21. Ian CSE permalink
    February 13, 2012 9:24 am

    Pretty Brilliant attempt according to me, not that I will agree that it is any more universal than other attempts to find the ultimate truth, but we can call you ReneRiot from here on in.

    Not fairness, not freedom, not justice, not reality, and no other human word denote the ultimate truth. One’s complex or simple view of that ultimate question depends on the time and place they were born, nature, nurture, whether good or bad things have been happening lately to the person in question and their family, friends and society (and how much they drink or smoke).

    It keeps philosophers employed and ReneRiot (I’m referencing Descartes just in case I’m not being as obvious as I think) is as good as any I’ve read lately. Keep writing!

    Coming up soon, a deaf person will tell you what he heard you say, which will be determined by what he wanted to hear you say.

    • February 14, 2012 5:56 pm

      You confuse man’s impossible search for universal truth, with our need to determine what is core to our being able to function together as a society.

      If the norms necessary for society are subjective and unknowable, or sufficiently complex as to be beyond what even the simplest of us can understand – then man can not function as a social animal.

      I will be happy to agree with you that there is no objectively demonstrable truth.
      But even if we are all characters in the dream of some being existing on another plane, the rules by which we can successfully function as social creatures are core and objective – at-least inside of the framework of our own existence – which is all that matters to us.

      Gravity does not cease to exist nor does it cease to behave objectively predictably because there is no knowable objective truth.

      You are also confusing values and truth. Freedom is an incredibly simple value – as actually are natural rights. Justice is significantly more complex, and fairness is complex beyond imagining.

      We each may hold differing opinions with respect to the limits and merits of freedom – but we all (or atleast everyone but progressives) know what it is and outside of contrived situations we can usually tell more free from less free.

      While we are probably universally agreed that fairness and justice are good things, but nearly we do not agree on what they are.

      Even the deaf can tell that the sun light falling on his face at sunrise is objectively real, and the his happiness in response is subjective.

      We can play metaphysical games and turn the reality of human existence, into the shared dream of a thousand deaf monkeys watching television on another planet, in another universe on another plane of existence that does not alter in the slightest that the minimal rules necessary for society can be objectively established.

      Some of us are deaf, others are blind.

      • DeVille permalink
        February 14, 2012 6:13 pm

        I think you crossed the road with that one… but why?

      • February 16, 2012 6:55 pm


        I would be happy to explain if I could grasp what you meant.

  22. Pat Riot permalink
    February 13, 2012 9:11 pm

    I blog therefore I am!

    Ian, thanks for your encouraging reactioni. I was a tad embarrassed by the amount I tried to say, so appreciate your positive vibes.

    I neglected to mention how my discourse tied in to Dickens and other literary writers. I was trying to say It is about CHARACTERS, like Scrooge or Pip’s brother-in-law Joe, and how they influence the people around them. So in reality it’s characters like Ben Franklin or Bill Gates or just someone’s patient Dad or Mother, or Ron Paul speaking out against the grain, and all of us doing what we do, that push the threads of humanity…to what ends? To Be or Not to Be!


  23. DeVille permalink
    February 14, 2012 4:52 pm


    I give five words: supply, demand, rights, privileges, freedom.

    Make a short essay using above words that would reflect your opinion about individualism, government, and economy.

    • February 16, 2012 6:54 pm

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

  24. Priscilla permalink
    February 15, 2012 1:00 am

    Hey, I’m still here…at least occasionally. Hustling for work, I got a couple of gigs moderating comments on message boards/blogs. Interestingly, one is right, one is left…both are f***ing CRAZY. And both are high traffic, high profile sites. Enough to make one very depressed…

  25. Ian CSE permalink
    February 15, 2012 10:06 am

    Geez, that sounds educational in the worst and most painful sense of the word. But it must give you a world of perspective.

    I’ll bet i’m starting to sound civilized and reasonable by comparison with the crazies! (Damn me with faint praise).

    • February 15, 2012 6:07 pm

      Despite any criticism I may have directed towards you – and I do think your views are further to the left of center than you grasp, I do not consider you crazy, and that is what I am here.

  26. February 15, 2012 5:14 pm

    Priscilla: I was starting to worry about you. Glad you’ve found some gainful online employment, even if the commentators are obnoxious (you’re being paid actual money, I hope).

    Speaking of money, I’ve been busy with a long freelance advertising assignment — one of those gotta-do projects to help me meet expenses while my investments are going nowhere. I find it ironic that the system rewards me for blatantly hucksterish hackwork but I earn nothing for the wonderful, sensitive, finely crafted, spot-on columns that I write here (at least in my own warped estimation).

    Dave: See, the system pays no attention to the intrinsic worth of the product… it’s all a matter of who’s willing to pay for it. Arrrgghh! In a New Moderate utopia, essayists would earn more than investment bankers.

    • February 15, 2012 5:55 pm

      “The system” is paying attention – you just do not agree with the results.
      There is no “intrinsic worth”. The price of anything is whatever is necessary to result in an exchange. There is no “labor theory of value” no resource based theory of value, no energy based one, no green one. There is only that which humans agree to when they trade.

      Put differently your columns are worth less either because no one values them enough – or because you have not found those who do value them enough.

      I will be happy to agree that this system does not work perfectly – everything market is not aware of every product it would be interested in – hence the value of your “blatantly hucksterish hackwork” which I suspect serves the purpose of making some potential buyers aware of something they might want – and thus adds value.

      In the New Moderate Utopia you are looking to substitute your personal values for everyone else’s. You are essentially saying I will force everyone to pay essayists more for their work, than investment bankers.
      The market is made of humans – it is not perfect, we make decisions wrong all the time – but we make the overwhelming majority of our decisions far more right than wrong.

      We might occasionally overpay Mr. Perez. But CEO, and sports hero’s are ultimately paid pretty close to what they are worth – because what they are worth is what we chose to pay them

      The average price of superbowl tickets was $3600. If my math is correct that is $2.8B just in ticket sales. A 30s add spot cost $3.5M
      there was plenty to Pay Manning’s near $100M 6 year contract – and those of us who attended or watched decided he was worth that.

      If you feel differently, don’t buy came tickets, don’t watch games, and don’t buy merchandise advertised by celebrities.

      Exactly the same thing is true of investment bankers. If you do not like their salaries – put your money under a rock, or invest it with the cut rate guy.

      You do not control every price in the marketplace. But you do control what you will sell – including your effort, and what you will buy, and how much you will demand or pay for each.

      The market is not perfect – but it is the best approximation of our true values that exists. It is that by definition. What you are ranting about is not actually the market – the “system” but our values. And your remarks about moderator are a demand (one that ultimately must fail) that we all have different values than we do.

      You are free to advocate for whatever values you chose. You may even get people to change their values somewhat. But like them our not they are OUR values, not the systems values.

      • Anonymous permalink
        February 15, 2012 9:32 pm

        [] are ultimately paid pretty close to what they are worth – because what they are worth is what we chose to pay them.

        What if we are brainwashed to pay them?
        What is then worthwhile?

      • February 16, 2012 6:49 pm

        Are you really arguing that the entire country has been brainwashed ?
        Are you even arguing that brainwashing works – Communists tried it for the better part of a century.

        Properly done marketing works – of course we all market ourselves all the time. It is possible to get someone to try Wendys rather than Burger King.
        But they do not stay with a product that sucks.
        And no amount of advertising will make but a tiny percentage of us sacrifice our children or do something else we really do not want to do.

        Do you really beleive that ?

        Shareholders are brainwashed into the stocks they pick ?
        Sports fans would abandon their worship of their favourite celebrities but for some kind of brainwashing ?

        If we all all brainwashed then how is it that you can postulate that we are brainwashed ?

        Take a course in marketing. There are many things that advertising can do what it can not do is:

        Create customers from thin air.
        Create immediate sales.
        Cure poor or indifferent customer service,
        Create benefits that do not exist of sell products and services that nobody wants.

        All straight from a text on marketing.

        I would sugest that if there is any brain washing going on it is from progressives who have successfully convinced most of the people on this blog to disbelieve the evidence of their own eyes and their own lives.

        And finally if Brainwashing has resulted in the most successful society that has ever existed then I am all for it.

  27. Priscilla permalink
    February 15, 2012 11:43 pm

    Ian, rest assured that you are positively courtly compared to these folks.

    I have always liked this quote, attributed to Reagan, “The person who agrees with you 80% of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20% traitor.”

    In the eyes of extremists, a person that agrees with you 99% of the time is a 1% traitor.

    • valdobiade permalink
      February 16, 2012 1:46 pm

      I know people who agreed with me 100%, but that did not impede them to stab me in the back.
      Especially in politics, I don’t see any link between agreeing and being friendship/ally, or not agreeing and being traitor.

      In the whole period of Communism, presidents of Capitalist countries were not agreeing with presidents of Communist countries… however, that did not impede and impede Capitalist countries to get cheap products from Communist countries.

  28. Ian CSE permalink
    February 16, 2012 8:37 am

    Hi Priscilla, You made my day! Its a 100% sensible thought.

    I saw Reagan and John Lennon interviewed together once, by all people, Howard Cosell at a Monday night football game. They were perfectly civil and agreeable to each other and I don’t think you could find a much wider philosophical divide between people who are still decent human beings. (Don’t ask me what John was doing at a Monday night football game but there you have it.)

    Reagan made a decision to trust Gorbachov and the wall came down. Reagan made a decision to drink with Tip O Neil and things got done. THATs why something like 70%+ of Americans think well of his presidency, because he was not rigid, he compromised and reached out to the other side. Its not because 70+ % are inherently conservative and share his exact political philosophy.

    There is a big lesson in that.

    • valdobiade permalink
      February 16, 2012 1:24 pm

      Ian wrote: Reagan made a decision to trust Gorbachov and the wall came down.
      Kudos for Reagan, he defeated communism, which was already falling of it’s own weight.

      • Priscilla permalink
        February 16, 2012 3:40 pm

        Well, I think you’ll find a variety of opinions about what caused the ultimate downfall of the Soviet Union. Most of them would probably lean towards crediting a combination of politics and economics. And Reagan certainly read the signs correctly, so give him credit for that. (come on ,valdo, you didn’t need the sarc tag, we know you’re not a Reagan fan like me ;))

    • February 16, 2012 6:33 pm

      Reagan compromised away from bad towards good.
      Tip ONeil was mostly wise enough to read the tea leaves.
      You are demanding civility and compromise in the process back towards the same idiotic policies Reagan was able to a small extent to roll back.

      I and myriads of libertarians, and a significant number of republicans would be happy to compromise with you for a fraction of the cuts in government we beleive are necessary.
      I will be happy to agree with you to cut back any government program to any extent you wish. I will argue that it should be cut back far further, but i will be perfectly civil in compromising for whatever cuts i can get.

      But it is not compromise to call growth cuts. It is Orwellian idiocy.

      Compromise is moving from bad to less bad, not bad to less worse.
      It is the fact that you do not understand that, that proves you are not moderate.

  29. valdobiade permalink
    February 16, 2012 4:39 pm


    Please give whatever credits to Reagan, except the “mortal blow” to Communism. It is Republican propaganda that Reagan has an involvement in the fall of Communism. Republicans did not want the end of Communism and they did not want Osama bin Laden to be killed (especially under Obama’s Presidency).

    About “Arabian Nights”: Republicans wanted an unending war in the Middle East or at least as long as Osama bin Laden won’t be killed, so they can control the region.

    About Communism: US under Reagan had known a high unemployment rate because the cheap labor was in the Communist countries. I’ve been working since 1975 to 1989 in a Communist country and all the best products were made for export, USA and/or Western Europe. The Communist leaders parted the profit with the Capitalist Corporations.

    In the last years of Reagan presidency the situation in the Communist countries was turbulent, not because of Reagan, but because the Communist leaders had reached greediness like never since the Communist rising.

    Because of instability in the Eastern Europe in the last years of Reagan presidency, a lot of corporations moved the jobs back in the US. And Regan is credited for creating jobs *sarcasm*

    Credit Reagan with whatever you want, but not with the fail of Communism.

    • February 16, 2012 6:24 pm

      Unemployment peaked at 9.5% in 1982, Inflation was 10% in 1980, Interest rates peaked at 13% in 1982.The combination of high unemployment, high interest rates and high inflation in the 70’s was the first great failure of Keynesian economics – it was not possible for unemployment and inflation to be high concurrently according to Keynes.

      By, Unemplyment had dropped to 5.2% in 1989, inflation had dropped to 4%, Interest rates dropped to below 5%.

      Outside the left most sane economists understood that Communism must eventually fail. Mises noted that absent a price system communism was ultimately doomed.
      At best Reagan accelerated the failure of the USSR. It was doomed to failure from its inception.

      More importantly he demonstrated that economic policies counter to those of communists and Keynesians would be wildly successful.

      I can not speak to the intent of communists with respect to the products they produced – but I can assure you – no one in the US bought products from communist countries prior to the collapse of the USSR – they were unavailable – and they were inarguably crap.

      Communism is the perfect demonstration of the fallacious nature of progressive ideals.
      However you portray communism it was abysmally unsuccessful at pretty much everything.
      Even the top party aparatich who had all the power and all the wealth in communist countries had less real wealth than ordinary americans.

      I do not think you can find a single vaguely free market country that does not pale in comparision to the corruption, misery, genocide, of pretty much any communist country.

      The left repeatedly tells us that these progressive ideas will all just work – give the right leaders, the right people, …. But universally throughout the world that perfect socialist state has proven unattainable.

      Nations founded on freedom, have generally succeeded proportional to the freedom they allowed. None have been even close to perfectly free, but real failure has actually been rare, while with communist states it has been universal. Only Cuba and North Korea remaining as glowing examples of workers paradise.

      I will not pretend that any much less every so called free nations has been perfect. The mistakes of the US are numerous and manifest – yet we and most every free country remains, and nearly every communist country has failed – killing huge numbers of its own people along the way.

      Greece may well fail shortly – its socialist policies having failed. But it will be reborn, and in the unlikely event it is reborn communist or socialist, it will fail again and again until it finally embraces sufficient freedom, to be viable.

      Even the Totalitarian regimes of south America have faded more gradually and with less disruption than the communist regimes. in Argentia thousands disappeared, In Russia and china it was millions.

      Everything that you described as the state of the USSR and the cause of its failure from 1975 through 1989, is what the left claims has ALWAYS been wrong with the US.
      Yet greedy free market capitalists have yet to destroy the US or any other reasonably free nation. The evils that the left sees in free markets are OBVIOUSLY self regulating – or we would not still be here – yet the same factors thrive and destroy nations with less freedom.

    • Priscilla permalink
      February 16, 2012 6:25 pm

      Ok, then. Can we agree that it was the Invisible hand?

      • valdobiade permalink
        February 16, 2012 8:03 pm

        The Invisible hand that pushes the Man endowed by Creator in the arms of almighty Greed.

        No matter how perfect Adam Smith theory would be put in practice, all societies succumb under the greediness regardless if they are Feudalism, Capitalist, Communism or whatever name will have the future society (if there will be one)

        Well.. I am pessimist when I read Adam Smith…

      • February 17, 2012 2:01 am


        The actual title of Smiths work is “An inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” It is observation not theory.

        It has been in practice however imperfectly for more than 400 years. I am not aware of a nation with any reasonable approximation of free markets that has succumbed as a result of greed. Though myriads of statist nations have.

        And that is the point. Contrary to progressives – individuals acting freely are self regulating. Government is not. Because and to the extent government wields power, greed and corruption within it are incredibly dangerous and destructive. Because power in the market comes solely from pleasing the market, the power of even the largest businesses is limited, and greed and corruption are self destructive. they are also destructive in government, but businesses can and do fail frequently, the failure of government is catastrophic.

        Even if you can not find a way to agree with anything else I say – it should atleast be obvious that greed and corruption are atleast as prevalent in government (I would argue that they are actually far more prevalent, because government is far more powerful, and power corrupts), and that greed and corruption in government are far more dangerous.
        Given that alone – why are you fixated on business, and why aren’t you demanding far more reform of government ?

        I disagree radically with Rick’s means, but we are in complete agreement that we must diminish corruption in government. I just see Rick’s answers as doing more harm than good, and fixating on the wrong side of the problem.
        To the extent government has power it will be corrupted.

  30. Ian CSE permalink
    February 17, 2012 1:45 pm

    The dhili lama tells us that free individuals ( none of whom have ever or will ever exist in any meaningful sense) are self regulating but governments are not.

    I won’t presume to tell you Dave, what you mean by that, but to me a self regulating system implies a system with boundaries that is safe and under control in some sense.

    See History, individuals have boundaries exactly when they are NOT free. If all free actions were good and benign and helpful and altruistic your philosophy would have conquered the world long ago and we would live in utopia.

    Governments are not self regulating depending on where you place the boundary between a government and its citizens but in a democracy at least they are under some control, We have our hallowed checks and balances and separation of power.

    We want the illusion of a risk-free failsafe society. Governments can fail and will fail, due to their largeness and large impersonal forces. After they fail the survivors rebuild and try to avoid the mistakes and make other mistakes. I think it’s inevitable that nations will rise and fall, including ours. We will accomplish both greater good and greater evil by working together. Being social animals we will work together.

    We are having this perpetual argument: are individuals the dangerous ones, or is it business, or is it government? At the bottom of every evil government are evil individuals and evil ideas. As social animals by our human word evil we mean greedy and destructive, oblivious to pain of others when achiving a benefit for ourselves. Anyhow that’s what I mean by evil, you are free to mean something else.

    Humans as individuals and societies (or at least those among us with a working conscience) will not stop trying to devise systems that have the minimum amount of evil. We try to find ways to contain it, you can call it fairness or justice or regulation or whatever you like. We are not likely to ever succeed completely. It will always be easy to poke holes in the attempt.

    The Adam Smith world on the other hand, has no concept of evil or morality, only the short term triumph of individual business is its scope and the price and supply of products. Morality is absolutely absent.

    You have to attain a certain level of wealth and stability to afford the luxury of thinking about morality, and the growth of wealth via Smithian economic principle can create that opportunity, that is the benefit that economic success brings. But the hunger for more that drives the system is a double edged sword and always will be.

    If this were an easy question it would have been solved long ago. If fact there is no ultimate solution and its nearly impossible to even frame a realistic question. Sometimes we create Jazz or Schubert or Abbey Road, love, nature preserves, heroism, joy, societal good. Sometimes we bomb civilians in Mai Ly or Afghanistan because we rationalize that that is what was necessary for good to triumph. We muddle on.

    If someone asked me to try to imagine what the ultimate best possible human society would be like and what its foundation would be, I would say that only a universal morality that was horrified of harming others to benefit oneself could possibly be its basis. I will agree with the Smithian universe in once respect, without a sufficient level of wealth and stability its hard to imagine people having the luxury of such a philosophy. But that minimal sufficient level is not our fantastic greedy consumer society where there is never such a thing as too much and the more opulent your palace is the more people envy you and want what you have. .

    • valdobiade permalink
      February 17, 2012 2:40 pm

      Ian, thanks for the above observation! I liked it.

      I read also “dhili lama” 🙂 and I understand him very well.
      I feel his pain that he cannot have a world without governments meddling in business. In the whole History I’ve read, I’ve never seen “pure” business. It was either mixed with religion or politics (in our modern times).

      I’ve been working in the US for about 20 years and I’ve been working in companies that were manufacturing parts for “Defense”. Would Adam Smith approve that a free business will manufacture an atomic bomb for the use of the politics of a government?

      Can a free business refuse billions of dollars from government to build an atomic bomb?
      Maybe dhili will use another set of “observations that have been put [imperfectly] in practice for more than 400 years”. God forbid to call them “theories”!

      I don’t know what dhili is talking about “myriad of statist nations” that succumbed as a result of greed. I know there are a few hundred of nations in the world, but “myriads”?
      I know a few nations “of free market” that has succumbed as a result of greed: Germany, Italy, and countries allied with German Nazi that wanted an inquiry into the Nature and the Wealth of other Nations. Germany started the wars because they had no colonies like England and France so they used freedom of the free-market business to build weapons.

      A lot of corporations that build weapons or aided in the war of governments are still fluorishing today. But maybe Adam Smith would say it was worthy because we paid for it. Free business under Capitalism are not brainwashed… only Communists are brainwashing. *snicker*

      In a pure language of business, a government is a product of market.
      In a pure language of government, business is a branch that should be governed.

    • February 18, 2012 12:48 am

      You are confusing myriads of different things.

      Do you want government to decide what is good and what is evil – if you do then we need to abolish the first amendment ?

      Absent universal agreement of what good and evil are, absent universal understanding of what fairness is, what justice is what morality is – and we DO NOT have universal agreement on those. We are all sure we want greater fairness, less evil, more good, more of this and less of that – but once we actually sit down and try to implement those things we find we are actually very very far apart on what they mean.

      But we can reach near universal agreement on the minimums necessary for a functioning society. There is near universal agreement that the justification and purpose for government is to protect us from violence initiated by others. That is the one freedom we unequivocally surrender in order to live in society.

      You can argue other roles for government – but none are intrinsic, nor is there any particularly compelling reason why government and only government is best suited to them.

      Stringing words together eloquently does not make them so. Government is not a product of the market, nor is the regulation of business central to government. In fact the entire history of government regulation of business is essentially one of GOVERNMENT corruption.

      I am not sure i understand your remarks about businesses that produce weapons or aide in war – I thought we were upset with Ron Paul because he was to much of an isolationist, now we are shifting to pacifism. Regardless, as addressed before we can not reach consensus on moral issues such as pacifism. Presuming you are not a pacifist, there is nothing immoral about building weapons, and if you are, having been their I respect your values – but they are not shared by a majority of people. There are myriads of goods and services that businesses provide that someone thinks are immoral. There are even services that some think are exemplary that others think are immoral.

      You have argued – I think even in this thread, essentially that everything is relative, that there are no absolute truths. If there are not then you have no means of judging one business activity over another.

      It would help if you acctually bothered to read about fascists and Nazi’s before using them as an example. You do not have to accept my – or their claims that they were socialists, but if you bothered to read what the Nazi’s and fascists said about the role of business in society you would not be making ludicrous claims that they were free markets.

      I do not understand the atomic bomb reference. but absolutely a business can make its own choices based on its own perception of morality. Businesses – which are no more than people acting in voluntary association, are bound by the same social contract as the rest of us, no more no less.

      Of course there is no such thing as a “pure” business. Because business is not independent of people. There is not some arbitrary line where we are engaged in business or economic activity.

      You really really do not get the part where wealth is whatever we want and need – that is ANYTHING.

      Because people have different values, because business is people pursuing those values, business is not mixed with politics and religion, they are intrinsic to some businesses because they are intrinsic to some people. Anything any of us value, want, or need is the purview of business. Religion, Politics, Power, Sex.
      Whatever limits must exist – are only those limits we must place on what people want and need.

      While I will take the “dhlii lama” label as a compliment – I would note that buhdism is the religion of the middle way, of compromise, A laebl you keep trying to claim for yourself.

      You question whether people or business is what is dangerous. Again there is not only no line between them, there is no meaningful distinction. Everything we do is about our wants and needs, and what you separate out and call business, is just a artificial coral arround some aspects of our efforts to meet those wants and needs.
      But easily the greatest danger is government – that is where the real power is, and the extent of the danger is proportionate to the power.

      You speak of “hallowed checks and balances, and separation of powers”, and then rant about gridlock – which is nothing more than precisely what was intended by those very mechanisms. Regardless, the words are hallow, because that constitution you pretend to revere is a plan for limited government, yet on every issue you see no limits to government power. I actually beleive in a “living constitution” but i beleive that we fix it when it fails by ammending it not inverting its meaning.

      I do not think either Locke or Russeau equated greed and evil. Regardless, as you have commented before we do not have some universal code of morality. To the extent we recognize minimimums for society – lack of greed is not in the list. Greed is another of those things like fairness – that each of us is sure of the meaning of, but none of us agree. If you wish to define it I will be perfectly happy to shred your definition.

      i would have hoped for some more concrete observations with respect to the reasons for government failure. Rome was far smaller than the US – smaller than New York City, and yet it failed. And it was extremely personal – and still failed.

      Your arguments do not make sense and are self contradicting. You wish to use evil, greed, justice, fairness, as concrete terms conveying aabsolute truth – yet you insist thaat everything is relative and at the whim of the majority – one that usually does nto include you as sure as you are that it does.

      The comonality of evil is power – specifically the power at the expense of the freedom of others. Absolutely evil manifests itself on occasion in humans, and as you label many human actions “business” evil can appear there too, but by far the greatest power is government. I am not aware of a single business in aall of history that has murdered millions of people – yet I can name numerous governments that have.

      • Ian CSE permalink
        February 18, 2012 10:17 am

        I would be confusing myriads of things if we accept that your philosophical system is the correct and universal one.

        Which is the source of your own perpetual confusion about my remarks and those of other non libertarians. You continue to try to force a round block into a square hole,

        You may not have to conform to exactly my morality, but in many ways you DO have to conform to societies, whenever you pay your taxes or obey any law.

        This irritates you to no end, and yet you still perceive the benefits, as you have not chosen to go live by yourself in the deep woods or a cave.

      • asmith permalink
        February 18, 2012 6:45 pm


        I am not proposing a moral or philosophical system – at-least not in the majority of my arguments.

        There is no morality of philosophy associated with the minimums necessary for society to function.

        Given that we are going to exist in society, and that we ignore the the moral arguments against even that, the minimums necessary for functioning society are practical rather than moral questions.

        I do not grasp why you even chose to argue on that issue.

        Absolutely there are myriads of moral issues once we go beyond those minimums – and that is the point.

        You may not be willing to admit it, but I do not think anyone here is willing to argue that we can have a functioning society absent a prohibition against the initiation of violence. I think we can get near universal agreement that is a minimum. Where we disagree is whether that is THE minimum.

        And that is when we encounter all these moral dilemas

        You have tried to use the argument that morality is relative against me. I am just turning that back on you. I do not actually know whether a broader set of universal values can be established. I will be happy to listen to your arguments that some particular value is so fundamental it is essential to society. If you have made that argument – and I believe you have actually attempted to make the reverse of that argument, then so far you have been unconvincing. You bandy terms like fairness, and greed as if they have clear supra moral meaning, when obviously they do not.

        I am not the one trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

        The rest of your argument is nonsense.

        Please do not presume how I feel or project your own feelings onto me, overall I am quite happy, and even get pleasure from rebutting your non-arguments. If you are not happy I am sorry for you.

        Of course I have not gone into the woods or a cave – nor have you.
        Your argument is that I must accept things as they are – an argument even you do not accept. All I am trying to point out to you is the fallacy of your own argument.

        Essentially your argument is that society can be structured according to whatever moral rules the majority chooses – so long as it chooses mine.

        I am only asking you to examine your own precepts. Absolutely I have offered a set of libertarian ones as an alternative – because I am completely unaware of any other scheme for structuring society that still allows each of us the freedom to follow our own individual morals.

        You do not like that, you want more moral constraints, but the relativity of morality was your argument.

        You may argue that government should reflect the moral consensus – but then you are stuck with that consensus when it differs from yours.
        If you do not like that result, then you must find some supra-moral foundation for government – I have offered you one, but you do not like that either.

    • February 18, 2012 12:52 am

      I have not removed myself from the world of morality. I happily accept that I have very strong moral values. But they are my values, not yours. I am obligated to live up to them not you, just as I am not obligated to live up to yours. If I have not initiated violence against you or others – while you have every right to condemn any action of mine that offends you, you have no right to prohibit me from engaging in any non-violent acts – nor I you.

      It should be absolutely clear to everyone here that on numerous moral issues the people of this country do not agree. The do not agree on the morality of war, the death penalty, drugs, prostitution, abortion, birth control, gay marriage, and on and on.
      Whatever your views on whichever subject is most dear to your heart, do the majority have the right to impose their will on you ?

      You accept that there is no moral consensus on some of these issues – yet you are certain enough of your own views to impose them by force. On other issues there is atleast a consensus – and you are willing to impose that on everyone else.

      Which is it ? Is there some absolute right and wrong – that you keep arguing against, or is morality defined by consensus – even when you are on the wrong side of that consensus ?

      We hare having a great moral battle across this nation with its current epicentre in California over the right of homosexuals to marry. The limited government I advocate has no right to interfere in private affairs absent violence. i am not required to like what other people do to allow them to do it. But I can not see how your values provides any answer at all. Either there are is some absolute truth you beleive in but refuse to admit, or you are stuck with the fact that the majority of Californians voted to amend their constitution to prohibit gay marriage.

  31. Anonymous permalink
    February 18, 2012 1:54 am

    I am getting to love NBER.
    Another paper on government failure – from the government using the governments own data.

    “We find that the Title IV institutions charge tuition that is about 75 percent higher than that charged by comparable institutions whose students cannot apply for federal financial aid. The dollar value of the premium is about equal to the amount of financial aid received by students in eligible institutions, lending credence to the “Bennett hypothesis” that aid-eligible institutions raise tuition to maximize aid.”

    Or all that money government puts into educational financial aid – it is worse than wasted.
    It costs the government money, it increases the cost of education, and leaves students owing a fortune in loans.

  32. Anonymous permalink
    February 18, 2012 2:31 am

    This is what your wonderous government regulation has wrought.

  33. Ian CSE permalink
    February 18, 2012 4:28 pm

    Hmmm, Anonymous here is a quote from your link:

    ” After the crisis of 2008, finance plainly needed better regulation. Lots of institutions had turned out to enjoy the backing of the taxpayer because they were too big to fail. Huge derivatives exposures had gone unnoticed. Supervisory responsibilities were too fragmented.”

    Its always very easy to pick out the flaws in our attempts. But its really foolish to believe that we should not be making them, As well, if you really like a life of tilting at windmills, then invest your energy in stopping the regulatory process. Every once in a while the planets will align with you and you will win a battle and then following the ensuing crisis, the next set of regulations will be more onerous.

    Lets see, the correspondent wrote that the cost to one mega bank ( I already forgot which one) would be 400-600 billion!, which was then corrected to 400-600 million. Sounds like a lot of money! I forget, was this the particular investment bank that paid 15 Billion in bonuses following the meltdown using our money? Oh Horrors, smaller bonuses by 3% for everyone this year due to “excessive regulatory burden.”

    I found many if not most of the comments to the article encouraging, Here is one I like:

    “Normally I would agree with the Economist, but this is the banking sector that we’re talking about. I don’t care if it stifles “financial innovation.” The heavier the rulebook the bankers are weighed down by the better. Ideally they should go home by 3 pm every day anyway. Let the real creators of wealth create wealth, the bankers are just there to do a simple, boring role and then go home. They should not be “innovating.””

    • asmith permalink
      February 18, 2012 5:43 pm

      Normally, I would take the economist with a large grain of salt.

      I would not that the portion you decided to quote is essentially circular reasoning and essentially makes my case. Of course we have a right to demand controls on something if we are going to insure it against failure. That still does not address the huge moral hazard created by the bailouts and too big to fail, in the first place, and assumes that bailouts themselves were necessary. It is pretty trivial to invert the entire quote – “If we do not bail out banks and financial institutions, then we have no justification of regulating them”

      This is not about picking at the flaws of a mostly successful regulatory scheme. It is about noting once again the flaws of a mostly failed regulatory scheme. If we we have done has not only failed over and over again, but failed far worse than it could possibly have done on its own, then yes we should consider other alternatives and pretending that that regulatory failure is the exception rather than the norm is what is foolish.

      The banks melted down because of the failure of your mortgages.

      The entirety of Wall Street Bonuses for 2008 was $18.4B – according to the gray lady. That was down 44% from the prior year. Further those bonuses were paid to executives, brokers, traders in divisions that had been very successful in 2008 – the very people who kept this from being far worse. Because Sandusky diddled Kids we do not label every football coach a pedophile.

      Even excepting the premise that government regulation post 2008 was actually needed – which as the root cause was with government seems a highly dubious conclusion to me, the actual portions of the market – even wall street, even the banks was actually quite small.

      There were three primary wall street failures (as opposed to myriads of government failures):
      The ratings agencies – under pressure from government rated mortgage backed securities higher than they deserved.
      AIG after Spitzer drove Greenberg out failed to properly manage its risk as the primary insurer of Mortgage backed securities.
      Some banks (not all or even most) had far to much of their capitalization requirements in mortgage backed securities.

      For the vast majority of Wall Street this entire mess was independent and tangential to anything they do.

      If you want jobs, then you want businesses to take increase the risks they are willing to take. You want them to be willing to borrow, and you want lenders to start extending credit again.

      If you do not get these things then conditions will remain bad, as well as fragile. This is what 1%/year growth looks and feels like.

      Your commentor clearly does not get that the value of anything is what people agree to pay for it – nothing more. I have no idea of the value of specific financial innovations, but I do know that just like cereal they are worth what people are willing to pay for them – no more no less.

      Regardless, are you really trying to defend 1000 pages of incoherent financial regulation that goes to a great deal of trouble to regulate the crap out of everything that did not fail while mostly ignoring everything that did ? Is this your idea of successful government regulation ?


  34. Ian CSE permalink
    February 18, 2012 6:25 pm


    There you go again!

    You have no idea Whatsoever what my commentator “gets.” If you are really half the Libertarian you claim to be you are going to have to give up your habit of telling people what they think, what they don’t think, what they know, what they don’t know. Among educated people its not what a person knows, its how they weight the things they know relative to one another. Your habit is tyrannical and repressive, its mind control!

    You also have the annoying habit of driving your point into the ground that regulation, government, liberals, etc. are all complete failures.

    You want to know what really was a complete failure? Classical Liberalism in the libertarian sense! It left the stage over 100 years ago and never even achieved what its opposite extreme, Marxism, achieved, No libertarian nation ever even got the the point of existing so that it could fail disastrously, that is how large a failure classical liberalism is. Oh, some of its its ideas were held in high esteem by the intellectuals behind e.g., the French Revolution, but as soon as the old government was torn down and beautiful individual freedom and chaos reigned this idea immediately created its own demise and tyranny followed.

    Are there some important vestiges still alive the ideas behind the Age of Reason, Sure. But they have been adapted to the statism you are struggling so futilely with.

    I know perfectly well that you will claim that all we have in the way of wealth today is a product of Classical liberal principles but that is obviously false. Classical Liberalism, like communism is not a sort of thing you can have as “light”, you either have the whole extreme deal or you don’t.

    There is not a shred of altruism in lassaiz faire anti regulatory theory, altrusim and compassion are elements of the present day liberal philosophy you denounce and label as a failure. and they go just as far towards making our lives livable as the wealth and lower prices that the free market produces. Both the economic engine and the element of compassion are necessary elements of a decent huge modern society.

    • asmith permalink
      February 18, 2012 7:33 pm

      I do know what the commentor said. I believe I quoted it, and it is irreconcilable with what I said he did not “get”. Know, I do not know what other people “think” or “feel”, but I expect to be able to take them at their word. Besides – why are you arguing this. I think you have made it clear that you think there is some objective concept of value (odd considering you think moral values are subjective). Regardless, if I accept your criticism, either you agree with mean on the subjectivity of value, or the comentor does despite the clear implication of his comment that the financial markets have nothing to do with the creation of value.

      Regulation, and liberals are complete failures. Government fails to the extent it grows beyond its purpose. If that annoys you maybe you should ponder why ?
      You clearly disagree. I think you are wrong. Of course I am going to try to drive that point home over and over and over and over. I am particularly going to do so as it is so easy to do.
      Here is more.

      You are correct that there has never been a pure libertarian nation – and there likely never will be. Even libertarians can not agree on what that is. Of course there has never been a pure communist or pure socialist nation either.

      I will be perfectly happy to accept the US today as as representative of Libertarian, as the USSR was of communism.

      So contaminated libertarian ism trumps contaminated communism or contaminated socialism. Isnt that a good argument to try less contaminated libertarian-ism ?

      I do not recall offering the French Revolution as some libertarian ideal.
      If you really wish to debate the success and failure of different 18th century revolutions in relation to classical liberalism, I would be happy to oblige. I would note that Rouseaus version of the social contract – which most closely parallels your views – is the french view underlying the french revolution, and the socialism was essentially born from the french revolution – despite the libertarian sounding niceties of the french declaration of The Rights of Man.

      I think we are agreed that politics veered towards statism, progressiveness, and socialism after “The Age of Reason”. But everything outside of politics, how we meet our basic needs is most decidedly Smithean – and increasingly so throughout the world. And while progressive statist government has failed again and again, that classical liberal engine behind the rest presses on.

      You say it is “obviously false” that the wealth we have today comes from somewhere else – well atleast I have made sufficient progress that you accept that we are more wealthy today than in the past. But since you believe it has come from somewhere else – pray tell where ?
      It is incontrovertible that as the world has adopted classical liberalism it has become more wealthy. It is also obvious – both by comparing the past to the present and by comparing nations to each other, that the wealth of a nation grows more slowly the less free
      We have covered this ground before. I have presented lots of evidence – on occasion you have even accepted some of it.

      If altruism and compassion are stealing from one group to benefit another – then yes there is none in Classical Liberalism. If they are acheiving equality by impoverishing everyone – then Classical liberalism is opposed to compassion and altruism.

      If your compassionate/altruistic system is to be measured by the values you are holding most high – the ones you assail free markets over – then your statist system is an abysmal failure. With very few exceptions, the less free a people are the more abysmal their conditions are.. Even in nations such as our own the evidence is building – even compelling that your statist compassionate altruistic solutions have at best only mildly harmed those they are intended to help – while harming everyone else, and at worst have reeked havoc on the very people you intended to help.

      If that is charity, altruism, compassion – then yes I will reject it.

      I will happily chose solutions that actually help those in need rather than destroy them.

    • asmith permalink
      February 18, 2012 7:53 pm

      All that distinguishes government from any other voluntary organization is the right to initiate the use of force. Any task that does not require the use that right is better and less dangerously accomplished outside of government.

      Classical Liberalism and libertarian-ism are not opposed to or incompatible with charity, altruism or compassion. But they are incompatible with FORCED altruism and compassion – which is an oxymoron.

      Myriads of wealthy people have poured their fortunes into charity – their failures demonstrating how hard effective charity actually is, and how insignificant a part money plays in effective charity. At the same time their poor record shines in comparison of that of government.

      Helping others is extremely hard. it is impossible to accomplish with money alone.

      Myriads of studies and polls have shown that those greedy lassaiz faire capitolists you decry contribute three times more money, and time to charity than those compassionate liberals you esteem.

      I fully agree that we should be concerned about the less fortunate – that altruism and compassion are important MORAL values. But you have already told me that morality is all relative – certainly no basis for a government, nor can I grasp how one group compelling another to give to a third is compassion rather than thuggery – particularly from people notorious for their inability to help others themselves.

      Your means are evil, and they do not accomplish your ends.
      My means which you call evil and greedy better accomplish your ends and leave us free in the process.

  35. Ian CSE permalink
    February 18, 2012 10:10 pm

    Your arguments very illogical to me all around. Since morality is relative and laws and regulations are a form of dictated morality —> we must do away with laws and regulations. No, we won’t; we will just all have to put up with the fact that there will always be parts of the law, taxes, etc. that we don’t like or choose to move elsewhere or abandon society. What, are you still here?

    You have a dosage problem as well with your freedom argument. A glass of wine with dinner makes me happy, therefore several gallons will make me Really happy, right? Only if I’m destined to be happy in the after life. Some greed economic freedom are good and have a social benefit therefore total greed and deregulation will be even better and Really benefit society. No. Its a logical fallacy.

    You claim too much for your libertarian economic philosophy, your favorite dead Frenchmen discovered certain economic principles, which as you say yourself are inherent and natural and had always existed, therefore your particular economic religion claims that every benefit from those principles belongs to your ideas and without your ideas life would all but cease. Again, No. You simply take this principle to an extreme and then claim that every benefit from these principles is due to your extremely overweighted opinion of Smithite ideas. I’ll leave it to Valdo to work Smith’s finger into the conversation!

    Its as if there was another fanatical group, call them oxygenarians and they worship another set of dead frenchmen, scientists such as Lavoisier and they claim that only oxygen and nothing else is necessary for life and every time we breathe we honor them and admit to their correctness. Yes, we need oxygen like we need a free market but its insufficient. And both oxygen and the free market existed without your dead frenchman, so please stop trying to claim that we have wealth and life only due to ya’ll.

    Finally the idea that our corrupted libertarian USA won out over the Corrupted Soviet Communism is sort of catchy in its symmetry but not actually logical. Again, its dosage. If my car runs better running way rich (too much gasoline not enough air) due to a faulty sensor and pouring black smoke out the tailpipe just long enough to reach a mechanic, than you car runs when it has run out of gas can you then argue that the best thing would be total gasoline, just pour it straight down the intake manifold and the car should run even better? Are you really trying to argue that one defective example trumping another proves something? But it was a clever bit of sophistry.

    Instead of trying to confuse my ducts of thought by calling the US a corrupted libertairian state why not admit that the US is not communist and not libertarian, instead its that middling mix of government and individual freedom that you call progressive and constantly pile ridicule on. Progressive economic ideology was obviously the winner, for all its failures; it beat both communism and libertarianism.

    Like the bumper stick says, I may be slow, but I’m ahead of you!

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 19, 2012 12:37 am

      The argument that morality is relative came from you not me. It was intended as a criticism of my absolutist position on freedom. I have not taken a position on morality – aside from that different people have differing and strongly held views on morality, and that the Lockean social contract does not rest on a moral foundation.

      If you do not gather I do not accept that law or regulation is or atleast should be a form of dictated morality. It is possible to construe the entirety of the rule of law, and the core of western law – without ever considering morality.

      I am not condemning morality – my personal moral views are incredibly important to me – but I am also not trying to impose them on you or others by force.

      While I have argued that morality has no place in government or law, The specific argument you cite derives logically from YOUR expressed values not mine. I can not see how you reconcile your own views on morality and government with the reality that in numerous instances moral views often diametrically opposed to yours are held by many even a majority of people. If morality can be democratically imposed as law, then by your own reasoning you have no authority to complain about moral law opposed to your personal morality. Essentially you are saying that if Rick Santorum is elected president he therefore has the right to impose his moral values on you.

      Absolutely there are limits to freedom. Your freedom does not entitle you to initiate violence to others. Beyond that I will be happy to agree that an individual can use their freedom in ways harmful to themselves – but it is not my business to protect someone else from themselves. In my moral system it is evil to do so. But even absent any moral scheme there is no natural (or moral) right to interfere with another freedom absent violence to others.

      You keep fixating on greed – as if we have a shared understanding of what it means.
      We are back to this you want to be absolutists when it is convenient – and relative when that suits you better – with no rational explanation – or even consciousness of your own shifts.
      Greed is like fairness. We each have our own definition. I would ask you to provide an example of greed that is clearly evil that does not include either intentional harm or a high probability of harm through gross negligence. Lockean freedom does not include the right to harm others. There is no need for us to consider or define this greed you fixate on.
      If it is demonstrably harmful it is already proscribed. If it is not I doubt it is greed, though I really don’t really care.

      Regardless, you are constantly drawn to words and values that do not have clear or universal meaning – treating is if they are universally accepted. Yet the real meat of what you are opposed to is already proscribed absent even bothering to decipher what greed really is.

      Put a different way, whatever emotion or motive you wish to condemn – absent harm what gives you the right to proscribe it, when given actual harm you do not need to ?

      The societal benefits of freedom are real – we have been over that ground before. Sure I claim them because I believe they are beneficial, but there is no need for faith. Past myriads of dead and living philosophers and economists, there is real world data to support it.

      The fact is free outperforms less free. It does so by economic measures, and it does so by others. And it does so predictably and fairly uniformly. It does so as discovered by liberal and statist organizations such as the World Bank.

      Conversely your cherished statism and social safety net – fails, by all the same measures. The coefficient of failure is smaller than the coeficient of success for freedom, but it is real and equally robust.

      You accuse me of being blinded by religion, but you are the one who can not see the world as it really is. You argue that the human condition has not improved – when it clearly has, and at the same time you want to argue that the improvement you previously argued did not happen came about because of your beloved statism. Yet the facts are that the human condition – particularly for the least, has and continues to improve, that the improvement strongly correlates to freedom, and negatively correlates to social programs.

      Yes, it take a small amount of faith to get from strong correlation to causation – though given that in the 150,000 years of human existence, the improvement in the human condition during the short period of greatest freedom has dwarfed the improvement in the entire rest of human existence by several orders of magnitude – I do not think that is a leap of faith.

      But i can even figure out how to explain what you want us to believe – but it requires not just rejecting robust correlations – but believing that the inverse is true.
      And you accuse me of a blind religious fixation ?

      I have never claimed that only freedom is necessary for human improvement.
      Only that freedom is sufficiently essential that without it improvement does not occur.
      To use your analogy, life may require more than oxygen, but human life does not exist without oxygen.

      Beyond that that Lockean social contract requires sacrificing the freedom to harm others in return for the protection of government and society.

      Inarguably human success requires more than freedom – minimally it is affected by material conditions – though beyond certain minimums the importance of these does not appear to be great. But we are not arguing about material conditions, you are essentially claiming some moral conditions beyond limiting our right to harm others is necescary.
      Beyond wafting about some indefinable greed you have not even actually argued that anything else is essential.

      Economists, philosophers and scholars predicted the failures of communism and its less evil twin socialism before any nation actually tried it. It took longer in most instances to fail than expected – primarily due to the use of force.
      Regardless, we are not talking about the US outperforming the USSR we are talking about the performance of virtually every nation in the world correlating strongly to that nations freedom, not only do we know that insufficient freedom fails but that more freedom performs better than less – universally.

      And you are correct if we just pump gasoline down the carburetor with a fire hose that will probably fail – hence we limit freedom at harming others – which pretty much covers your failed African states. But in all instances where we have sufficient government to keep us from routinely exercising violence against each other – more freedom has outperformed less.

      Certainly the US is more progressive than it once was, and less libertarian. Though I would note that your precious progressive ideology is pretty close to entirely restricted to government – which despite wasting 45% of the wealth we produce, is only a small part of the entirety of our lives – the rest being pretty much libertarian – even if not consciously so. Regardless, the US is less statist/progressive than Europe, which in turn was less statist/progressive than communist countries.All but a few inconsequential communist countries have failed. The socialist countries are slowly failing. And the US is in danger of failing pretty much do all that progressive government you are so enthralled with.

      The lesson is that nations have succeeded to the extent they are free, and failed to the extent they are progressive, and even progressive organizations such as the world bank are slowly taking note.

      Right now we are watching Greece fail. We are watching its people in angry riots, because the rest of the world is unwilling to buy them another progressive fix.

      I have heard no argument that Greece is failing because it is too libertarian, too laissez faire. Pretty much the entire world grasps that it is failing because it has been too progressive that it has made demands that its capitalist engine could not deliver. If anyone is decrying Greek greed it is not of greek business, but it is of a government and people, that thought they could consume without producing. That someone else would pay for all their wants and needs.

      And those wonderful progressive social democracies that have you in orgiastic pleasure, are intent on imposing austerity measures – not just on greece but on themselves, that the very keynesian progressive value system you celebrate claim will lead to ruin.
      They have been their and done that. They have the hangover from your progressive bender. And some of them atleast grasp that the cure is not the hair of the dog that bit them.

      • February 19, 2012 12:38 am

        Argh; My browser keeps forgetting my details.

  36. Pat Riot permalink
    February 18, 2012 11:13 pm

    “A glass of wine at dinner makes me happy, therefore several gallons of wine will make me Really happy…”

    That was a direct hit into the stones of the ASmith castle.. YES, it is a DOSAGE issue. It is a weakness in the ASmith defenses. Asmith you often demonstrate that you think when something is good then MORE of it must also be good, but that is often incorrect.

    Other weaknesses in the ASmith castle walls have been exposed. The straight gasoline analogy was another direct hit.

    Ian, you have fought valiantly despite “myriads” of cows and other unrelated livestock being catapulted out of the castle. My army is camping to the North. If we concentrate on those repeated specific weaknesses, then we can perhaps get Asmith to emerge from his front gate and admit that his “Adam Smith principles” and free markets can’t exist without some blend of government (and more than just for defense from force) and some altruism in different forms, and that altruism and government do not automatically equate with his auto-extreme of “failed Progressivism.”

    This following is on the leaflets that I’m now throwing over the wall:

    Dearest Asmith,

    Most of us share your love for a vibrant, thriving, capitalist economy that is free from government overregulation. Most of us think goverment should be smaller and less invasive. We find you in violation, however, because you take it to the extreme. You see freedom and free markets as always good and government as always bad. You need to come out and admit that you are too extreme and too “absolutist.” You are surrounded. Do the right thing and come out with a white flag.

    A Moderate

    • February 19, 2012 1:36 am


      I will not argue that I am willing to take freedom farther than you.
      But you misrepresent both my position – and yours – or atleast Ians.

      I have offer defensible limits to freedom. I have yet to here a single argument beyond greed is bad for further limits to freedom.

      Conversely “Many of us may think government should be smaller and less invasive” is meaningless, when the knee jerk response to every problem is more government.

      When we absolutely no one besides me is honestly debating trying to make government smaller. Reducing the rate it which it grows is not the telltale of someone seeking a smaller less invasive government.

      You say I am extreme and will not compromise – but the idea of compromise here is compromising between bigger and much bigger government.

      I have been deliberately eschewing the language of markets more recently – not because there is anything wrong with the economic arguments or markets, but because wealth is about everything we value, and because everyone here seems to think that there is some distinction between economic political and other freedom, and that we can divide our lives between economic and other values and freedoms.Whether we pursue love, happiness, or an IRA, our values are individual values, each with economic emotional and other attributes. Our freedom in one is indistinguishable from that in another. If we can regulate our economic choices we can (and effectively have) regulated our choices in love, and other less economically identified values.

      Government is absolutely essential. I am a libertarian not an anarchist. The protection of government from the violence of others, is not just the primary but the sole purpose of government. It is the only task that can not be accomplished without the power we give to government.

      But no matter how good, how essential that role of government may be, every step beyond that is increasingly evil.

      I can easily be compelled to capitulate – all it requires is demonstrating a single logical flaw intrinsic in my values. Are you willing to surrender on the same terms – if so you should all be libertarians by now. Liberalism, socialism, statism, progressiveness do not work, they are internally logically inconsistent, and the have demonstrably failed – and not just on the whole, but specifically failed at precisely those things they value the most.

      The grand aim of all science is to cover the greatest number of empirical facts by logical deduction from the smallest number of hypotheses or axioms.
      Albert Einstein

      • Pat Riot permalink
        February 19, 2012 2:01 am


        We can consider everything at once and not separate things, and say they can’t really be separated, and some will conclude that the world is a big tangled mess, or we can logically separate things out, like the physician who separates the endocrine system from the digestive system, or the auto mechanic who separates out the engine from the drive train, and understand how the systems interact with one another.

        I have already agreed about the efficacy and importance of freedom, free makets, capitalism, wealth creation, supply and demand, and further that these “outperform” socialism, communism, and government in general. But the need for goverment is not limited to protection from force. I’ve demonstrated that with examples in past posts.

        You seem to sometimes confuse trends out there in the world with our debates here on this blog. Who here is knee-jerking to government as a solution for every problem? I’m with you that there’s too much knee jerking to government out there, but the posters here are typically Moderate in their views on government.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        February 19, 2012 2:09 am

        Besides GREED as a reason to limit freedom, there is also plain STUPIDITY and IGNORANCE, parts of the human condition. In New Jersey I remember the DDT trucks spraying into the neighborhood. That was just stupidity. I can think of myriads of examples of stupidity and ignorance needing to be governed, not by some evil top down entity, but by people coming together to improve methods and policies, which is also government.

  37. Pat Riot permalink
    February 18, 2012 11:47 pm

    In the 1960s, the largest chemical company in Philadelphia had its workers handling asbestos without protection. My grandfather, who worked for the company, died of “asbestosis of the lungs” (mesothelioma) in 1962 when I was 2 years old. Most all of his co-workers from that department also died of mesothelioma shortly thereafter. Company documents clearly showed that the company knew the risks of the asbestos, but company execs chose to hide the information and not inform their workeers. The big money of the company almost succeeded in squashing the backlash, despite the numerous deaths, until Ralph Nader and “Nader’s Raiders” got involved and publicized the case. Regulation often fails because big business pays off the regulators. Whistle blowers and other people driven by something other than money and profit are often the ones to steer our reality.

    When profits are the prime guide of companies, the rights and even the lives of people are often trampled.

    Whether morality has gray areas or whether people disagree about morality doesn’t negate morality or our need for it.

    Asmith, will you admit that companies in a free market system can tend toward corruption and violation of human rights because of profits, much in the same way that goverments can tend toward corruption from money and power ?

    Will you also admit that what keeps companies “less courrupt” is the morality/principles of its owners/ooperators?

    • February 19, 2012 2:55 am

      I will be happy to concede that we are human and make mistakes. That we do so in everything we do though most of the time we get it right.

      I am not arguing that people should not behave morally, only that we have a robust objective standard suitable for forming our law, and that morality has no business in government or law.

      We do not share precisely the same moral values. But we do have a have a system that does and excellent job of dynamically prioritizing all of our varying and competing values – the free market. Each of us is perfectly free to express our moral outrage – directly in proportion to all our other values. We can each decide if the treatment of veal calves exceeds our desire for veal. We get to “vote” economically on our values all thousands of times a day. And we are required to express those values in relation to our other values.

      We have polls that tell us the majority of us like the benefits of big government. We also have polls that tell us that the majority of us want smaller government. Pollsters still have not determined how to resolve that apparent contradiction because they have no effective means of measuring competing values.

      But that is precisely what we do in the market with every purchase. We rank the competing values of our personal moral scheme against our wants and needs.
      We make choices that reflect in each instance for each of us which value we hold more dear.

      The failure of statism is the inability to manage that task. We vote only occasionally for politicians we do not believe who we expect to represent the wishes of large bodies of us on myriads of issues. There is no other system by which we get to individually express with a high degree of precision our personal values and the relationship to each other.

      We have imposed myriads of regulations with respect to asbestos, and cigarettes and myriads of other harms – yet people continue to suffer and die from related problems.

      We went through the same things we coal. I was actually shocked to discover recently that the actuarial effects on life expectancy of cigarette smoking are approximately 6 months.

      BTW according to EPA the risks associated with asbestos exposure are less than cigarettes (though they combine exponentially)

      We did not know the effects of coal dust – until we did, or of myriads of other fibers.

      Absolutely everything is toxic (including oxygen) at a high enough dose, and everything is harmless at sufficiently low a dose.

      I have absolutely no problem with Nader or others taking an interest in some perceived corporate wrong and applying their resources to hold those responsible accountable. But that is fully consistent with everything else I have said and requires no government regulation, only holding people responsible for the harm they cause.

      Which has been more effective in altering the behavior of business, myriads of successful asbestos lawsuits, or a few government regulations ?

      I believe DOW is out of the breast implant business despite the fact that there are no regulations regarding silicon breast implants, because the FDA has repeatedly found no statistically significant difference (actually I believe they found women with implants were slightly healthier but that was probably because of selection bias) in the health risks despite decades of studies.

      McDonald’s (and as a result all other fast food resturaunts) has imposed stringent standards for the humane treatment of animals used to produce its food – and in this instance, no regulations, and not even any lawsuits. Just successful lobbying by PETA.

      Victoria Secret is in an incredible quandy because despite policies requiring fair trade processes – prohibitions on school age workers, it turns out that many of their garments are being produced by school age girls – with the complicity of the governments involved and fair trade certification by the NGOs that were supposed to prevent this in the first place.

      Our ability to punish and prevent the very “greedy” business decisions you decry increases as communications improves, the world grows smaller and global trade grows. Businesses are increasingly rapidly responsive to the whims of consumers – even when consumers are ill informed or just plain wrong.

      The US Military is still the worlds largest polluter. Municipalities are the largest source of water pollution.

      But ultimately no I will not concede that the problem in business is nearly the problem in government.

      Purportedly government does not have this profit motive that everyone here thinks is the root of all evil – yet I believe the human mistakes and evil acts of government are more common than business, and far less subject to redress.

      Separately lots of things work to prevent corruption – particularly outside of government.
      I can not answer whether the moral principles of business men, market forces, or fear of lawsuits are the primary factors driving businesses to make “moral” decisions. I can tell say that in aggregate those forces are strong and getting stronger.
      Regardless of the rants about corporate greed, the market vigorously punishes poor integrity.

      The overwhelming majority of corporate “crimes” – probably even the asbestos issue you note, do not arise from greed, or “profit motives”. The actual criminal behavior is the result of attempting to hide or avoid the consequences of relatively innocent failure.
      There was nothing illegal about Enron’s investments. But as these investments started to fail, Enron engaged in increasingly more immoral tactics to hide that failure.
      The same is true of MCI World Com. In a different way the issues of black lung, brown lung, assorted other carcinogens, emerged and businesses unable to confront the possibility of total failure hid as long as they could. Poor choices – certainly, immoral – probably. Greedy – rarely.

      Even in government greed is rarely the cause of “immoral” behavior.

  38. Pat Riot permalink
    February 18, 2012 11:56 pm

    Asmith, please do not launch cows and other livestock out of your castle by giving examples of how government has failed in the past or by extolling the virtues of freedom, or by employing other diversions and distractions, unwittingly or purposely, Will you answer the two questions:

    Do companies in a free market system tend toward corruption and violation of human rights because of profits, much in the same way that goverments tend toward corruption from money and power ?

    Is it the morality/principles of its owners/ooperators that keep companies “less corrupt?”

    • February 19, 2012 3:06 am

      As phrased the answer is no.

      Profit is the least common reason for corporate malfeasance, the most common is to hide mistakes.

      Money whatever the source is the least significant corrupting influence in government – power is far more important.

      It does not matter whether market forces – trust is the most important commodity in business, personal morality, fear of lawsuits, real and punitive damages for harms caused or other non-regulatory factors are the primary reason that business is far less corrupt than either individuals or government. What is important is that government regulation is a fairly impotent force for good and a substantial cost to all of us – every cost to a business is ultimately born by consumers. The cost of regulation is paid by us, not regulated companies, the benefits to us have to be sufficient to justify it – and they are not.

      But I so enjoy catapulting putrescent examples of failed government over the castle walls. There are so many, it is so easy, and the stench so odious.

      I would much rather have to defend Enron than say Charlie Wrangle, or Solyndra, or ….

      • Anonymous permalink
        February 19, 2012 4:28 am

        again, examples of failed attempts by government do not negate the need for government. Unfortunately, the failed attempts by government define your concept of government.

  39. Pat Riot permalink
    February 19, 2012 1:17 am

    An interesting case study:

    When I was a business consultant operating out of a public-private funded center housed at a University, there was a project out at a U.S. manufacturer of power-lift chairs, primarily marketed for elderly and disable persons. They are the motorized “lazy boy type” chairs.

    A group of industrial engineers mapped out the companies processes. I became intimate with the processes because I video-documented the processes: the line of workers that built the wooden frames, the line that wrapped the padding, the line that cut the fabric or leather, the workers that installed the metal frame, and finally to the workers that installed the motors and control device. The industrial engineers concluded that the company’s “core value” was the installation of the motors and control device. (Lots of other companies around the world made regular, unmotorized chairs.) The industrial engineers recommended that the company could increase its profits by outsourcing the contruction of the chairs and simply add the motors and control devices.

    The company owners response was this: When we started the company part of our goal was to become a productive part of our community. If we outsource everything but the motors and controls, then most of our workers will lose their jobs. We already make a profit. We don’t need to make MORE profit at the expense of being a productive part of our community. Besides, we like that they are OUR chairs.

    Alleluiah! (spelling?) All business decisions don’t have to be driven by increased profits. There is much more that holds us together at the seams (pun intended) than profits, growth, and wealth creation, though those things have their place too, in moderation. Amen.

    • February 19, 2012 3:34 am

      You have not actually provided sufficient information to evaluate the decision you have weighed in on morally.

      Kodak made poor business choices – and it is bankrupt. Service to the community, jobs, all the rest are dependent on profits.

      If the company in question outsourced the rest of the production of the lift chairs, resulting in the production and sale of more, better, and cheaper lifts, with a net gain in local employment – would outsourcing still be immoral ?

      What if there was a net gain of local jobs – but they were all higher skilled higher paying jobs and lower skilled workers lots their jobs – would that be immoral ?

      What if there were less local jobs, but more elderly people were able to afford lift chairs that benefited their lives – would that be immoral ?

      Ultimately businesses can only eschew profits during the rare instances they do not face serious competition. Otherwise you and I – the consumer will punish them by going elsewhere and like kodak everyone loses their job.

      We the marketplace relentlessly demand our wants and needs be met ever better ever cheaper. The effort to be more profitable, is fundamentally avoiding failure.

      There are no long term upward trends in business profits, temporary profits beget permanent price decreases.

      The entire marketplace from CEO’s to janitors demands continuous improvement in productivity just to stay even – but outside our role as producers, as consumers we benefit because we get more of what we want and need for less.

      Again I do not know the details of your Lift Chair manufacturer, but I know that business survival demands improved productivity, and that failing to deliver is a moral failure to both your consumers, employees, and community.

      I would suggest another possible explanation for the owners response – the industrial engineers were wrong. Outsourcing is itself a fairly risky process. The gains in profits are uncertain. The owners understood that their cor business was delivering value to their consumers. A less expensive, but unreliable lift chair is not a corporate benefit.
      Outsourcing nuts and bolts and washers may make sense – there are myriads of suppliers, but outsourcing an irreplaceable part of your product has enormous risk.

      Alot of US manufacturing has departed for china and elsewhere never to return – because they can reliably deliver goods and services substantially cheaper.

      But numerous past outsourcing efforts have failed, because cheaper is not the only factor in profits or value, and because often the labor has to be far cheaper to make up for other increased costs. Energy costs in almost all the rest of the world are substantially higher than the US, as is the reliability of energy and other resources.

      • Anonymous permalink
        February 19, 2012 4:31 am

        The point of the power-lift chair case study was simply that all business decisions are not driven by increased profit and “growth.”

      • February 19, 2012 12:26 pm

        And my point is that no business will serve any of those other interest long without a commitment to profit.

        You fixate on greed when you think of profit. I note that profit is the reward for providing what we want and need, and it is the incentive for competition. Ultimately business profits are proportional to risk. It is not possible to sustain long term high profits in low risk enterprises (absent government protection), because high profits lure competitors. Ultimately we benefit either from better or cheaper goods or both.

        Regardless, if your personal concern is for local jobs – you are free to pay more for locally produced goods. The market allows, and responds to whatever our wants and needs are. There are myriads of successful companies targeting customer values besides cost. The burgeoning locavore and organic markets come immediately to mind.

        Whether I share your values is irrelevant – express yours in the market place, and to the extent those values are shared the market will greedily rush to meet your whims.

        If local jobs is what you value – then by all means buy american, buy local, I will be happy to see you express whatever your values are in the marketplace.

      • February 19, 2012 12:32 pm

        Whatever the reasons for this chairlift manufacturers decision, it was done freely without regulation and the market – us, measured its congruence to our own values.

        Profit is the reward a business receives for meeting the needs of its customers. Sometimes you meet customers needs by reducing costs and prices. But myriads of businesses have been extremely successful selling goods and services for higher prices by meeting some value of ours besides cost Starbucks comes instantly to mind.

  40. Pat Riot permalink
    February 19, 2012 1:19 am

    P.S. The company is still very healthy and its workers are more loyal than ever.

    • February 19, 2012 12:49 pm

      Again, it is about value. I have had to hire and fire people. Many factors went into those decisions. loyalty, commitment, a willingness to do whatever was required, were major factors in deciding who stayed and who left when the choice was between reducing staff, and bankruptcy. Most employers are also well aware that is a reciprocal process. We looked at outsourcing certain aspects of our production to Australia at one point were labor costs in our filed were 1/2 what they were here. But total savings was much smaller with a significant increase in risk. Additionally it is very hard and costly to get back the skill and experience that results in high productivity of long term employees. Training costs for businesses are enormous. In the field of architecture it is usually considered excellent if you do not lose money on a new hire during the first year.

      As the president has discovered with his claim to be able to spur the economy with myriads of “shovel ready” projects. It is not all that easy. Ramping up skilled employment is slow and expensive. There are only so many engineers in the country and they can only design so much. Altering that number takes nearly a decade, and once you do you had better be able to sustain their jobs. One of the failings of the stimulus is that a huge percentage of those high skilled jobs created by stimulus projects were lateral moves of already employed skilled people away from one productive position and into another. The places they left could not easily replace them so myriads of private projects were stalled or killed by public projects. The fallacy of the seen and unseen once again.

      The only area of employment that can be substantially stimulated rapidly is unskilled labor, and only that to the extent that increasing the use of unskilled labor does nor require a proportionate increase in skilled labor – which it typically does.

  41. Pat Riot permalink
    February 19, 2012 2:38 am


    Above you said, “The protection of government from the violence of others, is not just the primary but the sole purpose of government.”

    Those are your exact words. I copied and pasted them from your post above. You have said that and similiar many times on this blog. I believe you adopted that thought with good intentions from your readings and it has become part of your dogma, but you are wrong about that, and it is one of your stones that blocks the light.

    I’m going to concentrate on that one point in your stone walled castle and batter away at it until the stones and the mortar are lying on the ground.

    Why do I do it? I think it is because the combination of your intelligence and passion with your blocked vision fascinates me. Also because this is a moderate blog and your extreme libertarian views, presented en masse, block what could be more constructive moderate dialogues. I wish you were channeling that intelligence and passion of yours into moderate solutions rather than being the nay-sayer. You’d be a great asset to the team once you see that some of your foundational precepts are illusory. I’m not attacking you. I’m attacking your statement, your view, that is in quotes above. I wish you well in your endeavors with your family and house.

    Next: a merciless barrage of examples of needed government beyond protection from force.

  42. Anonymous permalink
    February 19, 2012 2:58 am

    Statement to prove: government has a purpose other than protecting us from violence.

    Real life example 1:
    Certain counties in Washington State in the northwest corner of the U.S. are known for their apples. The apple industry there employs many people. Many apples were getting to market with bruises because the roads were bad and the trucks were bouncing in potholes and the apples were getting bruised and wasted.

    The local and state governments of Washington had finite resources/finite revenues. They couldn’t smooth every single road in the state. It was decided that the roads most travelled by the apple trucks would be the priority for re-paving. The citizens supported the decision because many business and individuals benefitted from the apple growing industry.

    OK, perhaps there was a furniture maker on a side street somewhere that would’ve liked his road paved. He didn’t influence the economy of the region as much as the apple growers, so he wasn’t the priority. Most people in the region agreed this was fair and wise use of collected taxes. Should the apple growers have to pave the roads? No, they’re growing apples and making apple juice and apple cider and employing people. Government is people coming together to solve problems.

    • February 19, 2012 3:43 am

      infrastructure has been developed an maintained privately by business to meet their needs throughout history and throughout the world – there are some amazing examples in china today.

      In most instances in this country services we tend to think of as government services were origanally provided quite successfully privately, government moved in assuring us all they could do so more cheaply, prices rose and failure increased.

      If the benefits of better roads for the apple growing industry are so broad there would be plenty of voluntary contributors to the project.

      Regardless, you claim to have an example of government providing a benefit that could not be done otherwise. You have failed to address why the only facet of government – its right to initiate force – in this instance confiscating money from all for the benefit of many, is necescary to your example. Absent the necescity of the right to initiate force to any example you come up with I can concoct myriads of different ways to accomplish the same purpose without government.

    • February 19, 2012 12:13 pm

      in 1792 the first publicly traded company on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange was the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike company, which operated successfully until the 20th century when it was bought out by the state

  43. Pat Riot permalink
    February 19, 2012 3:17 am

    Statement to prove: government has a purpose other than protecting us from violence.

    Wildlife management is a rather common sense, obvious role for government. For example If people are free to catch as many salmon as they want, pretty soon there will be no salmon to make more salmon. Restrictions have to be put into place to preserve salmon for next year and for future generations. How many animals have been brought back from near extinction because of legislation?

    Can such restrictions get out of hand? Sure, sometimes. Alligators in Florida were threatened, then protected for a little too long so that were soon wandering onto people’s driveways, so now they are able to be hunted again, but with restrictions. What if we left it up to the alligator hunters who get $100 or $200 per alligator. Would they self-regulate for the long term or focus on profit?

    • February 19, 2012 3:57 am

      Please research free market systems for managing wildlife.
      For broader counters to the fallacy of the tragedy of the commons consult Elinor Ostrom – 2009 winner of the nobel prize in economics. Much of what you think you know about “the tragedy of the commons” is false. Left alone people resolve those problems quite effectively on their own.

      I have no idea how many animals have been brought back from extinction because of legislation – and I doubt you do either. You presume that an animal that might have been threatened and might no longer be threatened benefited from legislation.

      There is also plenty of data on wildlife management demonstrating that if an animal has commercial value business will not allow it to go extinct – in fact it will do a better job of finding quickly exactly what that animal needs to survive and thrive. Cows and chickens are in absolutely no danger of going extinct because we value them.

      Even in the unlikely instance you could defeat all the above arguments.
      At best you would have an argument for the use of government power in order to thwart violence. I do not really want to get into a debate over the rights of animals versus those of humans, but I will accept that animals have rights inferior to those of humans and are entitled to inferior protection from human violence.

      • Anonymous permalink
        February 19, 2012 4:34 am

        Cows and chickens are domestic. We raise them. That is quite different than flocks of upland game birds or schools of wild salmon. You’re reaching.

      • February 19, 2012 12:09 pm

        They are domestic and we raise them because we value them. Anything that we value will will protect, and if we do not value it what are we protecting. Nor is there some requirement is purely economic, though I would note in Pat’s Salmon example the issues are economic. We already cost effectively farm raise enormous amounts and varieties of fish, with more to come. We are still far away from factory produced food absent living creatures in the normal sense, and what we can produce tastes bad – but it can and will be done, and all the issues including taste will get solved.

        South African Rhino’s have been protected by allowing private for profit ownership. The white rhino recovered from near extinction only because private owners were allowed to farm and protect them.

        There are numerous other similar examples. This is not even close to a reach, as various nations – particularly those without the resources of the US government have had to try to protect endangered species using government resources without any possibility of ever being adequeate to the task, they have in desparation increasingly (and successfully) turned to market solutions.

  44. Pat Riot permalink
    February 19, 2012 3:19 am

    Others please feel free to join in with examples of purposes for government other than protecting us from violence.

  45. Pat Riot permalink
    February 19, 2012 3:33 am

    Purposes of government other than protecting us from violence of others:

    When natural disasters strike, the need for help far exceeds local resources. As I’ve posted before regarding hurrican Andrew in Florida in 1992, all the roofers in the region soon realized they couldn’t handle the daunting need for installing new roofs. Homeowners can’t wait 3 years for a new roof. The government paid for volunteers to install new roofs. Did FEMA suck after Katrina? I think so. Many others think so. That doesn’t mean that government doesn’t ever perform. Who’s gonna rescue those people stranded on roofs? Did you drive down? I didn’t. The government went. Private groups went. It still wasn’t enough, but it would’ve been worse without the help that did arrive.

    • February 19, 2012 4:02 am

      See Johnston flood in comparision to Katrina.
      Even your Andrew example, if the government can pay volunteers to address a supply vs, demand need, why can new businesses form, or home owners paay volunteers, or insurance companies pay them ? The primary reason is government regulations preventing just anybody – like volunteers from passing themselves off as roofers – but because government is immune from its own rules it can circumvent the problems it creates.

      For the better part of human existence – pretty much until the mid twentieth century natural disasters were handled thoughtout the world with no involvement of government.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        February 19, 2012 4:42 am

        The volunteers were guided by experienced roofers. The volunteers provided the grunt work. Why did a bunch of businesses not suddenly form? People in the region already had jobs and careers. Did you leave yours to go put on roofs? Roofers from other states needed help to make it feasible for them to leave home and set up operations far away. Government helped make that possible. Government is often just an allocation of resources that has been collected. Minus corruption and gross mismanagement, you can’t see the benefit of applying resources where they’re needed? If you have debacles like Solyndra or ther failures in the fore of your mind, then you’re preventing yourself from seeing the many times that solutions are provided, disconnects are connected, bridges are built, literally and figuratively.

      • February 19, 2012 1:08 pm

        Again there is absolutely nothing in what you are saying that required government.

        I absolutely see the benefit of applying resources where they are needed – that is precisely what the free market does, and precisely what government does badly. It is an incredibly complex process, one that no single participant int eh market comes close to fully grasping it can only be solved top down in the rare instances such as war where every single other value becomes clearly subordinate rather than competing. Unless you are after perpetual war government is absymal at resource allocation.
        I will concede that though I really do not believe government functions well in disasters, and that most of the real work is done outside of government, that it is atleast arguable that natural disasters resemble war in that there is a more single purpose prioritization that has a better chance of being effectively served by a top down solution. That government rarely gets even disaster recovery done well and is atleast as frequently as not the impediment rather than the vehicle for recovery is pretty damning.
        You posit one of the best scenarios for government and still by your own arguments as in Katrina it atleast often fails.

        Unless you are telling me that government marched into other states and forcibly drafted unskilled workers and roofers, and dragged them to Florida, then every other benefit you claimed from government actions was inevitable.

        There was an increase in the demand for roofers and unskilled labor in Flordia. That change in demand creates opportunity, There will be a shift in supply – economics 101.

        At very best government suspended or turned a blind eye to the idiotic monopoly trade rules it previously enforced to allow a problem to solve itself.

        You rant that I fixate on Solyandra, but you are seeing government getting out of its (and our way) as a benefit of government, it is not, it is atbest government temporarily grasping its own stupidity.

  46. Pat Riot permalink
    February 19, 2012 3:49 am

    Imagine buying a house if electrical and plumbing codes were not enforced. Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass when you’re a contractor waiting on an inspection by a township, borough, or municipality, but it’s better than all of us not knowing what’s lurking behind the drywall. Such regulation needs to be by an “impartial” entity, like public government. Imagine if regulation were left up to the industry leaders. Pretty soon they’d make regulations that only they could pass, and they’d control their industry and monopolize their indudstry and soon make competition impossible.

    • February 19, 2012 4:15 am

      Virtually all building codes are drafted and maintained by private bodies.
      In addition we have myriads of private voluntary regulatory bodies like UL, Consumer reports, Good Housekeeping,

      In another perverted example of government going around itself FHA typically requires private building inspectors to certify code compliance before it will underwrite a loan.

      Plenty of home buyers demand private inspections – that address potential issues beyond codes.

      Atleast in my area termites are not covered by government in any way, yet you can not get a mortgage without a termite inspection.

      Do not assume that just because you are used to seeing a problem handled by government that that is the only or even most effective way to do so,

      Despite the fact that we live subject to more regulations that we can ever possibly comprehend there are myriads of facets of our lives that are untouched or lightly touched by government regulation that work perfectly well. I am so fixated on the evil that government does that it is often hard to grasp that much of our lifes are so far still beyond the grasp of government.

      Beyond egregiousness abuse and mandated school attendance we are mostly left alone to raise our children. Most of us are far worse at it than all but the most disreputable businesses engaged in far less important tasks, yet here is an enormous domain still mostly devoid of government regulation.
      Worse still when government does get into the act if fails miserably. A child victim of sexual abuse is more likely to be further abused inside the government system than left with the abusive parent.

      If you want your eyes opened on how evil government can get try reading “Weeping in the playtime of others” on old social work book on our state run child care system that produced such exemplary humans as Charles Manson.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        February 19, 2012 4:45 am

        Who is drafting codes is beside the point. They are policed and enforced by neutral bodies without a conflict of interest. When bribes are involved, then there’s a conflict of interest. When cronyism is strong, then injustice occurs. But those are the bad sides. You still really can’t see the good sides?

      • February 19, 2012 1:33 pm

        The local building inspector is far from a neutral body – I am gathering you have not had to deal with them. For much of my life I was part of a large family architectural practice – one of my personal areas of expertise was codes and code enforcement.

        i have friendly and excellent relationships with myriads involved in code enforcement. But it was universally an obstruction rather than a benefit.
        Ignoring the fact that people do not want to own or sell buildings that are dangerous or poorly constructed, architects, engineers, and contractors are legally responsible for the work they produce. We do not have codes and regulations covering every aspect of the production of every good.
        We depend on producers to deliver acceptable quality goods, When they do not at worst we sue them, and at best we buy elsewhere. In innumerable instances we rely of private standard organizations such as UL.
        Government regulation is the most costly and inefficient means of accomplishing safety it is necessarily an inflexible one size fits all solution.

        I have had to deal with bad and crooked contractors – the major impediments to dealing with them have typically been government. The worst contractors are atleast three times as common on public projects as private one – private building owners do not even allow disreputable contractors to bid.

        Regardless, the overwhelming majority of contractors are responsible and ethical people – you do not stay in business if you are not.. They are easy to deal with. I have no clue what you think the cronyism is in building construction. Everyone associated with building a building knows that unsafe and dangerous work results in lawsuits. I have been involved in approximately 3000 building construction projects over 40 years. I was on my first construction project when I was six. Every single instance of dangerous shoddy construction, every lawsuit, every disaster has occurred on a public project. In 3000 projects I have been involved in about 1/2 dozen lawsuits – all public projects.

        I am not sure you actually know what public code enforcement officers actually do. They do not supervise construction. They are rarely is ever onsite on a project. They have little to do with the project besides reviewing drawings – which very few are actually qualified to do, and issuing permits which is a paperwork task.

        On myriads of occasions I have had to design projects to be less safe to get them past code review – everyone knew precisely what was being done and why, but the code was rigid actively interfering with the safest design, but easily circumvented by altering the design.

        i have frequently had to make design changes to buildings purely to satisfy a code officer who had no clue what the code really required or why, but would not sign off unless they got what they wanted. Though in some instance I strongly suspect they knew exactly what they were doing and were really seeking bribes. My family was in the construction industry for 50 years and never once paid a single bribe – though several public officials were convicted of soliciting bribes on public projects we were involved with.

  47. Pat Riot permalink
    February 19, 2012 3:53 am

    I had a good nap today, so I’m wide awake. Do I need to go on? I could.

    Asmith, you’ve had many good posts and provided good and interesting data, but you are wrong when you say, “The protection of government from the violence of others, is not just the primary but the sole purpose of government.”

    My father taught me to play chess when I was five. On this point I say you’re in checkmate. With dignity you should turn your king upside down and concede.

    • February 19, 2012 4:39 am

      If what you have so far is your idea of checkmate – your father did not teach you very well.
      I was second board on my high school chess team. We were regional champions and played at states and nationals and won several out of region tournaments. I had an 88% win record as black.

      Just because you have not personally seen a service provided currently by government supplied privately does not mean that it has not been done successfully before.

      It is not checkmate to demonstrate that government does provide services that are not typically provided by the market today. That requires demonstrating that those services have not and can not been provided privately.

      I do not think you have even reach have not.

      i do not know if you are aware but when the US government was at risk of providing inadequate weather satellite coverage of critical regions in the Atlantic impacting the prediction of hurricanes the re-insurance market evaluated the possibility of building and placing their own private weather satellites.

      The best example I can conceive of an instance that does not involve protection form violence but does require government power would be in the area of eminent domain.
      Even there there is a strong argument that even in the best cases we would be better of even if a stuborn owner refused to sell impeding some project that had great public benefit.
      There is never only one way to solve a problem and the history of eminent domain is oddious – sufficiently bad that noted conservative Catherine Kennedy wrote extensively about it.

      But I will throw you a bone – despite the fact that I think we would ultimately be far better off if government only provided that which only it can legitimately provide, protection from the violence of others, even if Ron Paul – or worse still uber libertarian Walter Block were elected president tomorrow, we would not see the immediate demise of public utilities the interstate highway system, national parks, fire departments (oops, my fire department is actually still private – how did that happen ? Private fire departments, that is inconceivable),

      I will be happy to start slowly – say eliminate the FAA and TSA’s , the federal department of education, the department of energy – no just kidding, as much as i would like to at the moment I would be happy to stop government from growing further and work to fixing the horrendous messes that it is made that are risking bankrupting us.

  48. Pat Riot permalink
    February 19, 2012 5:24 am

    I too would like to see government departments closed and bureacracies shrunk. I too would like to see the U.S. government downsized. I like many of Ron Paul’s views. I have not argued against the capabilities of private enterprise. The points you make about failed government and capable free enterprise are extraneous to our debate. We were not debating whether government fails or how often, or whether private enterprise is capable. On the other hand, when businsess cannot solve the problem, and hasn’t, and didn’t, and when business causes problems, and when goverment provides solutions–those prove my point. I had only to show that government has purposes other than protecting us from violence, and I did that. I provided examples both real and hypothetical. I can provide more examples, but that would be overkill.

    • February 19, 2012 10:04 am

      You and I may not be debating whether government fails or how often – but that debate here is very real. Most here perceive the market as a constant fail that would destroy us all but for the intervention of government. Business does fail – though in comparison to government or even individuals that is rare. Business failures are painful and sometimes cause harm to the innocent. They are both less frequent and with larger consequences as the scale of the business increases – but systemic free market failure is actually impossible absent exogenous forces – government.

      In our current mess there are myriads of poor business choices that had some impact on this crisis, but the only impact of those was to control the scale and timing – and we should actually be thankful for business failures as the advanced the failure thereby decreasing its severity – again that is actually by design though not intent.

      Systemic failure requires government. Businesses do not all march together in the same direction off the cliff, the market always incentive’s some to head in a different direction.

      Whether the left likes it our not despite the blame of politicians and progressives there is no economic theory aside from communism that posits the means for business to trash the economy.

      Every economic failure in history has been attributable to government, through one means or another.

      As to your examples of the necessity for government beyond providing protection from violence, all suffer from the same problems
      Confusing what is in a narrow frame of reference for what has been or what must be.
      Any meaningful counter example must require the governments unique ability to use force, and must be unsolvable by any other means.

  49. Pat Riot permalink
    February 19, 2012 10:47 am

    No, my government examples don’t require force.They often just require a choice made by a group of people.

    Yes there are many people out there who expect and want the government to provide and do too much. Yes, if the government stayed out of the way then sometimes a private enitity would arise. Once again you and I agree most of the way down to a point. Then there’s the point where a private entitity won’t arise. In the situation in Florida after hurrican Andrew the newspapers and other media outlets pleaded for roofers from around the country to come. They didn’t come. New ones didn’t form. The sound of crickets. The same thing happens with job training sometimes. The companies need people with certain skills. People need jobs. The companiies can’t afford to do extensive training. The companies need to be conducting their business, doing what they do. They need people ready to hit the ground running. There’s a disconnect. The sound of crickets. Months. Years. The government of a region steps in and bridges the gap. I saw lousy examples of these bridges for people and wonderful examples where not much money needed to be spent, just caring individuals driven by altruism and .the “common good,” found ways to connect the dots and make it happen.

    Is it better when free people in the private sector solve the problems? Usually, but sometimes not, and sometimes it doesn’t happen.

    • February 19, 2012 11:45 am

      I they do not require force then those of us who do not agree or do not wish to pay for them can opt out ? Try it you will quickly find out that government is force, like Thoreau you will end up in jail.

      Sorry, everything government does involves the use of force.
      That is the point. What is not voluntary is forced.

      My argument is that if something really has value, it can and will be accomplished entirely voluntarily.

      When you buy gas, or milk or hamburgers, you are free to buy or not. You may starve, not drive, buy from someone else, demand a better deal which you may or may not get.
      Whatever you pay for whatever you get is based on its value to you in a voluntary exchange.

      None of that is true in any exchange involving government.

      I am not an anarchist, I do believe in the Lockean Social Contract. But countering your purported examples is not particularly difficult. Though I have not had to, there is more than two centuries of discussion of these same issues. You are not the first to have argued of the indespensibility of government in myriads of areas, nor I the first to refute that claim. There is even credible intelligent argument – farther back than even Thoreau that even that function we believe only government can provide – protection from violence can be accomplished safely and voluntarily in the market.
      I admit to being skeptical of that argument – but not for reasons any better than your skepticism of mine – with one important difference. I see it as irrelevant whether it is theoretically possible to construct a workable anarcho-capitalistic society. I would prefer to fight battles that are winnable. I doubt I can convince you or anyone here of my essentially minarchist views.

      But i suspect everyone here thinks more critically whether some task really needs to be done by government every time something is debated. If only one time in one hundred you decide that this time maybe using government might not be the right approach.

      If the only thing you do is become more cognizant of the fact that when you ask government to act for whatever good purpose you conceive, you are demanding that someone else who does not agree with you pay part of the cost. And you are accepting that a change in government can easily result in you having to pay for not just something you do not wish to, but something that violates your morality and beliefs.
      Thoreau refused to pay poll taxes over the mexican-american war and slavery despite the fact that government then was a tiny fraction of today’s an the relationship between his poll taxes and slavery and war was incredibly oblique at best.


  50. Ian CSE permalink
    February 19, 2012 12:24 pm

    Dave is correct on that one, force underlies government. But wrong that laws are regulations are not all based on some kind of morality. Every law is some kind of a moral statement that rests in the end on some kind of moral value.

    If Santorium wins he will be able to make me live under some of his moral principles yes, I don’t have to agree with them but I will have to live by them, but only after they have passed the congress and stand up to constitutional muster. If they are that bad I am pretty confident that won’t get that far or will be repealed after people consider. If I feel they are wrong, I am quite free to complain (contrary to another of Dave’s logical wrongisms), work against them, or move somewhere else.

    If it were so simple as Santorum just getting elected, then I would be worried, but there is a long route between being elected and forcing Ian CSE to do things he does not agree with.

    But I pay my taxes and don’t agree with many of the things they fund. I can still sleep at night and don’t feel violated. I’d call it being an adult and accepting that I can’t have everything I want.

    As to the idea that ASmith is not trying to use force on me, that does not pass the laugh test. If you vote Dave you are trying to use force on me. As well you are trying to use the force of logic. Its not working very often because I do not believe you are very logical, but that is another issue.

    Pat, if you believe that Dave is going to surrender one point or admit to one philosophical error, revise that dream! It will never happen. It would even be cruel to do it, his castle makes him happy.

    Now as to whether he will convince us of his basic absolutist premises, no, I don’t worry that will happen either. His logic only satisfies himself, there is no danger that it will catch fire with the general population to the extent that we are left without those government programs, beneficial or other wise.

    We all just like to argue! And I consider that wining an argument means actually learning, changing my mind about some ideas. By never changing one’s opinion in any way in such a discussion or conceding a philosophical point is not a win in my eyes, its a dead loss. But that’s just me. Your examples are all very relevant and make great sense but they will never work on Dave. Its OK.

    • February 19, 2012 2:20 pm

      Thank you for backing up the observation that government is force.

      To the extent that there is an actual choice between living inside of society with even the most minimal rules and entirely outside of it – free to murder, plunder and pillage at will then yes everything is entirely about moral choices.

      But the minimal requirements for a functioning society are objective and not rooted in any morality. It is only the choice to live in society or not that involves a moral issue.

      That said every single power you grant to government beyond the minimum is about morality.

      If you really wish we can have the great libertarian debate over the moral merits of total anarchy, but real anarchists seem to be pretty much extinct, at best a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent. If you want to accuse my of hypocracy for being willing to sacrifice the moral right to maim and murder of strict anarchists to the greater good – I plead guilty. Absolutely positively my definition of your rights and freedom ends with your natural right to kill or harm me if you please.

      And yes that is a moral value – at the same time it is still a practical and measurably objective one. Society can not exist – at-least not for long absent the communal right to use force against those who would use force to harm others.

      That is the social contract in its most minimal form. I think I can safely say there is not a single person here that does not accept that – at-least as an absolute requirement if not a sufficient minimum.

      But every choice past that is purely choosing to impose one morality rather than another.
      And that is not necessary.

      If it is essential for you to frame everything as moral choices and morality as relative, even if I do nto completely agree I think I can work with that.

      At worst the moral bar to violence is as close to universal as we are likely to get. Regardless it is still objectively essential to society. Virtually every moral system includes some form of that bar. The entirety of “the rule of law” and much criminal and civil law accross most societies can be derived solely from that.

      Beyond that there is not universal agreement. We can not define fairness or greed. even though nearly everyone uses the terms liberally.

      I will agree that the likelyhood of Santorum getting elected, and the even lower likelyhood of his being able to impose much of what he beleives is small but that is not the point.

      I can find nothing in your system of values that allows me to say that would be wrong. If Santorum were reelected in a landslide and government exercising the will of the majority amended the constitution to bring back slavery – your values would provide no way of condemning that beyond “I like my moral scheme better than yours”.

      Ignoring Santorum specifically there is a fairly high likelihood that after the next election republicans will have approximately the same control of government that democrats exercised in 2008. Democrats will be the party of no, the opposition, the brandishers of the fillibuster, unwilling to compromise, unaccepting of the will of the people.

      Are you going to be defending them then ? Does moderation and compromise only apply when democrats are in power ?

      I personally hope for more divided government, for gridlock for no compromise. Just as I do now, because that is the best alternative likely from either political party.

      Accepting that we can not have everything we want is adult – as is accepting that you can not give one group what is wants be stealing from one group to give to another.
      You can not because it is wrong and because it does nto work.

      • Ian CSE permalink
        February 19, 2012 2:50 pm

        But Dave, I can quibble and argue away even the definition of those few things you say government should prevent there never is murder only self defense, If I kill you then still I did not harm you, I Helped you by freeing you from the pain you were obviously in, I can make any of your few real offences disappear under a pile of rationalizations and bad logic just just as fast as you can exonerate cads like Arnal for his rapacious, dishonest sleazy harmful behavior or declare that 98% of the climate scientists are liars or idiots. Then we are left with nothing at all, which to my mind is what your philosophy of sophistry, smoke, rationalization, and illogical but firmly believed arguments comes down to.

        I think, therefore I am. There is not one other thing that one can know to be rigorously true. So to relate to each other we have to be reasonable and make some agreements to have a common ground. Your philosophy is based exactly on an unwillingness to concede any common ground. Its based on pure selfishness, you want all the benefits of society and none of the inconveniences. Its not reasonable. After many months of arguing with you I know your pluses and minuses well enough to be a family member and in the reasonable department you have earned a 0 score and are even proud of it I daresay.

        You will not influence the world much that way.

      • February 19, 2012 4:59 pm

        But there is a difference, to make all murder into self defense you have to reject or seriously warp reality or the laws of nature.

        I will agree that everything is morality if you abstract everything to meaninglessness.

        If we are allowed to reconfigure or reject any conception of reality – atleast the one we appear to live in i can trivially construct arguments that are always correct for my alternate version of reality – and that is essentially what you are doing. The principles I have offered objectively work in the version of reality most of use are constrained to operate in – presuming any aspect of our live exists outside our own heads.

        May argument against progressiveness is that it does not.
        If the world actually worked the way progressives claim it does, if the economy – which is really just humans manifesting their values could be made to conform as progressives presume it can, If every action was not followed by a reaction, if the only effects of progressive policy were the visible and predicted effects – in that reality it is a wonderful set of values.
        I have not condemned altruism and charity per se. Though I think they are far harder to accomplish than you,. But I do condemn it when practiced by government – because it starts with theft. There is no Robbin Hood in anyone’s bible, and even the quasi real one essentially stole from thieves rather than took from the rich to give to the poor.

        Regardless, in the real world, where survival requires effort and only eventual death is certain, Where we have the right to scream at the top of our lungs but not the right to live until tomorrow – much less rights to food , shelter, healthcare, … Where most of us instinctively cling to life as long as we can – without requiring contemplating complex moral conundrum first,
        In that world initiating violence against another is objectively a violation of the first and only principle for which society – government exists

        I think therefore I am brings yourself into existence, it still leaves you without society or others – and no basis for this debate. It may be all that you can conclude with certainty, But if we start from the position that the existence of others is uncertain, you have no foundation for any debate that requires government.

        I did not exonerate Arnal in the moral sense, he appears as much a cad to me as you – though atleast unlike you I grasp that he was far from alone, and at best a symptom rather than the disease, and treating symptoms is at best a temporary measure. Either you find and fix root causes or you hope they will correct themselves – which mostly they actually do.

        I am still having enormous problems following any stable thread in your argument – on one hand everything is relative and nothing knowable, on the other we must find some minimal common ground.

        If you are unable to accept the prohibition against the initiation of violence as the common ground justifying the existence of society – government, then you are the one rushing towards anarchism.

        As to common ground – I would refer you to the Einstein quote above.
        My exposition of the Lockean Social contract meets those terms. It is minimal, sufficient and logically correct, and consistent with the version of reality containing other people that most of us accept.

        I do not honestly believe you reject that, so much as you wish to argue that it is not sufficient. I believe it is. I am not sure whether that belief is provable. At the same time I have yet to see it falsified.

        Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

        I have repeatedly admitted willingness to compromise on implementation – I will agree to most any alteration of government as it is now, that actually diminishes it – I have taken odds with most proposals here because they actually strength rather than weaken government.

        “Those who seek power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Power does corrupt”

        I am not seeking to win some victory through persuasion.
        Ultimately freedom will succeed and overly broad government will fail. Not because I wish it so or because you wish it otherwise, but because in the reality we actually live in that is how things really work.
        We are unlikely to ever reach my version of libertopia, at the same time the entire world is sending the clear message to anyone with ears to hear and eyes to listen, that the progressive utopia – is a dystopia, and there is only one safe direction to head from here.

        “Turn back, O man
        Forswear thy foolish ways”

        We will get less government either by choice or by failure, your
        “Free to Choose.”

  51. Ian CSE permalink
    February 19, 2012 2:29 pm

    Hi Pat, having fun yet? Now, as well as telling us what we know and understand or don’t and what we must think and believe, our libertarian tyrant is telling you how well your father taught you to play chess. It seems that there is no sphere he does not consider himself an expert on!

    Since chess has rigid rules and one can objectively tell where the pieces are a clearcut checkmate is possible. In a philosophical argument there are no checkmates unless the checkmated party is able to see and admit that they were outgunned. If they won’t see it, it just continues forever. In a philosophical chess match the technique of telling one’s opponent where they must have logically moved their piece is devastating, its unbeatable because it is utterly illogical. But, while this game cannot be beaten it also cannot ever win. Stalemate! next opponent, the Black Knight is invincible!

    Actually its a bit like a game of club tennis where both parties call the lines on their own side of the court. Its best if everyone involved in meticulously honest. There was this Russian college professor I used to play with and I could never beat him, not that I was not a considerably better player, he was simply unable to see where my balls landed on his side of the court, he had a peculiar optical defect, my shots were always out if he could not reach them, even if they were in by a foot. At the end of the day I had the satisfaction of having played well, gotten good exercise and made lots of good shots and winners, I just didn’t get points for them. Its still quite possible to enjoy such an endeavor if you value practice and exercise.

    • February 19, 2012 5:55 pm

      I believe I was told there are more possible chess games than atoms in the universe.
      Chess is certainly more rigid and limited than the real world – yet at the same time it is still beyond computational certainty. Computers more recently have unseated humans but not because they can play chess deterministic-ally, but because they can reach smaller degrees of uncertainty than humans.

      Regardless, Chess like every game is highly psychological – study Fischer Spassky.

      My knowledge of Tennis is severely limited, malign me with whatever tennis analogies you wish.

      Separately you keep trying to make this philosophical – I lost interest in philosophy after college. It was great fun but provides no answers. As you have noted it does not even offer the certainty of existence.

      But most of us care about the would we inhabit. Where “A is A”. In that world logic works. Logic is not guaranteed to provide answers – all problems can not be reduced sufficiently to resolve purely with logic – but many can. Much of economics, and government can, or atleast can sufficient that tangents about alternate realities are just distractions.

      Most of what I have said here can not be proven with absolute certainty.
      But it is logically consistent, and consistent with the real world – it meets Einsteins requirements above. It has a high probability of being correct.

      Meanwhile the counter arguments have ranged from insufficently clear to even analyse – the greed postulate. Narrowly define greed if you can.
      To having a high probability of being false – anything close to a linear increasesing revenue from increases in investment taxes. The stimulative power of spending. Keynesian economics as a whole, …..

      I have made a few mis-statements – government does not always fail. But it does fail far more than even random chance would dictate. The odds of a government solution outperforming a private one on any task both can do are minuscule.

      Looking back over the debate with Pat, I also have to concede some ambiguity.

      Whether protection from violence is the “sole” purpose of government is either philosophical or can not be proven. It is opinion – possibly well supported opinion, possibly opinion with a high probability of truth, but still opinion.

      i would reference the argument with Ian over the divide between objective and morally relative. You can postulate any role for government you wish past protection from violence – just as Rick Santorum can. Your framework is no more or less valid than his.

      My opinion that protection from violence is the SOLE purpose of government provides a rational basis for rejecting the imposition of Rick Santorum’s moral framework – but at the cost of rejecting every other moral framework.

      At the same time Pat did not seem to be arguing about opinion, but actually attempting to prove that some other role was essential, and that was the posuatition I was arguing against – I believe very successfully.

      Restating my “opinion” as something more like a postulate, and subject to testing.

      The only purpose essential to society that government serves is protecting people from violence.

      Or a different broader formulation all government purposes beyond protection from violence are not essential to society, can be better provided voluntarily outside of government, and come at the expense of the rights of individuals in society.

      Another “sole essential” would also work.

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 21, 2012 10:38 am


      I have remarked before that I try not to use lots of what are typically called “Weasel words” in what I say.

      I do not say “I think”, “I beleive”, …..
      If I say it it is obviously what I believe. Often it is more than a belief, and somethings I will go to the trouble of buttressing what I write with citations, papers, or verifiable sources of information. But I am not writing research papers here and if you take issue you are free to provide your own rebuttal. Occasionally I engage in appeals to authority – but mostly authorities that I expect you to value. I personally do not care what Stockman or Bartlet or …. said if it flies in the face of facts, or is illogical. Though I am more likely to verify Stockman than Krugman.

      At the same time when I remark about your views these are my understanding of your views from what you have written here. I do not know what you think, and I do not think I have pretended to.

      I have not followed these rules religiously – I write most of what I post here fairly quickly, and the spelling and grammar certainly reflect that, and occasionally, I have been been less precise than I should have, or not digested what others have written nearly so well as I thought.

      I have also periodically tweaked you and others as not moderate – though there is a large grain of truth there.

      So much for my mea culpa’s. Are you honestly claiming that you have more accurately represented my views when you have attacked them.

      The composite that one would draw of me from various remarks here, is that I am a retired old geezer with too much time on my hands, suffering from asbergers (or something else I have forgotten), just slightly to the right of attila the hun.

      So if I am busy mis-perceiving and mis-representing others here I am far from alone.

      Further I did not actually say Pats father had not taught her well – the expression was conditional. It would have been more correct to have said
      If ……. then either your father had not taught you well or you did not learn”

      Regardless, it was more reasonable than some of the bizare analogies

      • February 21, 2012 10:42 am

        Sorry that was me.
        My browser – Chrome keeps forgetting who i am

  52. Anonymous permalink
    February 19, 2012 4:38 pm

    Ian, thank you for your analogies and your understanding of the frustration. My troops are spent right now. They need a square meal. The castle walls were comprimised, but the black knight is still intact.

  53. February 19, 2012 10:10 pm

    Global income inequality is dropping,
    Global wealth is increasing – and it is increasing for the poor more than anyone else.
    Povery it declining precipitously,
    Hunger is declining precipitously
    Violence is decreasing dramatically
    life expectancy is increasing
    Literacy is increasing
    80% of the families in the world have electricity,
    80% have tv’s.
    76% have mobile phones.
    10% have cars
    The report is at the Adam Smith institute, but the data is from the world Bank.

    The benefits directly correspond to increasing economic freedom.
    Three significant economic papers in the past 5 years have asserted that the relationship is casual rather than just a strong correlation.

    The benefits accrued to those nations with the greatest increases in economic freedom.
    For the 4th straight year economic freedom in the US has declined.

  54. February 19, 2012 11:11 pm

    Another dead old man for you to malign

    “Our legislators are not sufficiently apprised of the rightful limits of their powers; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.”

    Thomas Jefferson.

  55. February 19, 2012 11:24 pm

    “One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a Libertarianish right. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. That is not how traditional conservatives view the world. There is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.”

    Rick Santorum.

  56. Anonymous permalink
    February 20, 2012 9:56 am

    You guys are talking about “Chess” strategy. Try an even harder one “Wargaming” strategy.

    That is “Chess” not only with rigid rules, but each one brings a plus or minus to your advantage and you have to depend on luck by the roll of a die. That is life!

  57. Kent permalink
    February 20, 2012 10:02 am

    What you are saying is that “Wargaming” strategy is moving you pieces in a strategic position and each hexagon is modified by the “terrain” you moved onto. Then the strength of your piece vs. the other piece on the board game is recognized charted, die roll made and terrain you are in modifies the die roll result. That is strategy.

    You have to know where to move, who to move in strength, when to move, where best to defend and attack and roll a die (luck).

  58. Kent permalink
    February 20, 2012 10:15 am

    Israel needs to show it’s muscle, not the U.S. by saying that the Syrian Government crackdown on its own people is supported by Iran?

    Israel should be “stepping up” and saying they will stop the Syrian Government and free the Syrian people if given the permission by the Arab League and Turkey.

    Israel should be working to help the Syrian people as a goodwill gesture per an Arab League agreement. Israel needs to send envoy’s to Saudi Arabia to draw up the “battle plans/agreement forms”.


    The Sunni Muslims don’t like what is going on and they all are on Israel’s side to “bomb” any nuclear facility in Iran (Shiite Muslim).

    What is needed:
    Israel needs to get together closer with the “Arab brothers” and say “let’s get over this “Zion hate” and work together.

    If this was possible, and Israel did get permission to take out Syria’s Government. Iran would be pissed off. Russia would be crying because of lost weapons sales, China wouldn’t care either way.

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 20, 2012 12:45 pm

      The relevant question is what is our role in this ?

      Your thoughts on Israel are interesting and may even be right. But Israel’s problems are its own, and it needs to find its own solutions.

      We need to quit pretending that we are the policeman for the world.

      It may be in our interest to protect Israel and other nations from acts of aggression from others, but it not our business do make decisions for them.

      • Kent permalink
        February 26, 2012 2:03 am

        Well said, The U.S. needs to stop “pretending”. It doesn’t have time to “play”. Either we mean to stop aggressive nations or not. Nuclear weapons are a threat to everyone and dictator/authoritarian Governments are a threat as well because the people are neglected at some point. These Governments don’t change fast enough to please the populous.

  59. February 20, 2012 1:06 pm

    Some relatively low key political debate has been going on in some states regarding dental care. Apparently there is a shortage of dentists in many states. Most states regulate dentistry like many other occupations effectively limiting the supply of practitioners – and we get shortages.

    Anyway several states are actively considering mid-level dental programs similar to the nurse practitioner or Physicians assistant programs for doctors, allowing less well trained staff to perform procedures of greater complexity than teeth cleaning under the supervision of a dentist.

    This has the American Dental Association upset as it threatens their monopoly and their prices.

    So lets consider this:

    While I would prefer to eliminate mandatory professional licensing. There are myriads of market mechanisms that supply both opportunity and allow each person to find the skill level and price they seek.

    I am happy to compromise in ways that actually move towards less government and welcome mid-level dentistry.

    But I would note at the same time, like myriads of facets of the market – this is not an all upside choice.

    Broadening the base of dental practitioners means more care for more people.
    It also means poorer average care (for those already receiving care)
    It probably means better over all dental health.
    It even probably means fewer deaths and serious problems from untreated dental problems.
    At the same time it also means more instances of dental malpractice – and possibly more deaths from dental malpractice.

    This is the prefect microcosm of the seen vs. the unseen.
    Of the paradoxes of regulation.

    It is almost certainly true that the dental monopoly assures us that fewer people are harmed by poorly qualified practitioners – there is an easily seen positive benefit to regulation. There is a measurable way of establishing that an act of government has improved things.

    At the same time states would not be considering loosening their regulations if the very same regulations had not created a problem for them and their people.
    Despite the obvious benefits of licensing, the net societal impact is negative.
    Costs are higher, fewer people receive care (albeit better care). More people go without, and even though the quality of care across the population of people receiving care is higher, the quality across the entire population is lower.

    So where do you stand and why ?

    What should these states do ?
    Should they impliment dental assistants programs ?
    What about other possible solutions and why are these good ?

    If you believe a dental assistant program would be a good idea, are you prepared to accept that the tradeoff will be more instances of dental malpractice ?

    • Pat Riot permalink
      February 21, 2012 12:52 am

      The A.D.A., like the A.M.A. is smart to keep standards high. It is self-preservation. Making it difficult and expensive to “join the club” helps keep the club valuable. That is a manifestation of supply and demand. This is why the average carpenter can’t charge as much money as the average dentist or doctor–because so many folks can get a pickup truck and a few tools, a $50 state license and some $100/month liability insurance and suddenly they’re a legal carpenter. If carpenters were really smart they’d band together and make standards and regulations really tough–make it illegal for Uncle Harry to do your cabinets–then the carpenters could afford pretty assistants to hand them their tools!

      • Pat Riot permalink
        February 21, 2012 7:17 am

        P.S. That’s no disrespect toward dental assistants and nurses–just a poke at the stereotypical dental office and many operating rooms.

  60. Anonymous permalink
    February 20, 2012 2:01 pm

    Why flexibility and regulation/law are incompatible

    • Pat Riot permalink
      February 21, 2012 7:39 am

      That school sign with all the time slots listed is a bit ridiculous. However…muhahah…it’s a fitting re-start point for our endless debate about government/regulation vs. freedom.

      Other schools have the flashing lights that kick on when the kids will be about and it’s then the law to drive 15 mph through the school zone. In an area of Pennsylvania where I frequently work there’s a gung-ho crossing guard who waves his arms and points through the windshields at drivers who are ignoring the speed limit. Sometimes I find him very annoying and sometimes amusing. He’s been at it for years. (I suspect he’s a bit “touched.”) One time he caught me not paying attention (ZONING, pun intended). It’s a large road and normally the speed limit is 45 mph. A lot of people continue going 45 mph because they’re not paying attention, especially in the mornings.

      This leads me to my belief that a lot of libertarians who espouse freedom are believing that human beings are capaple and will do the right thing. It’s very likely that many libertarians are thoughtful blokes. I wonder how often they are projecting similiar thoughtfulness onto their fellow human beings when they imagine people “working things out.” Besides thoughtless people and “evil” individuals, there’s also the fact that even the most thoughtful of us have our ignorant sides, that each of us plays the fool sometimes. And therefore we have guiderails and rumble strips on our roads, institutions with policies, laws and police. We humans are capable of so much, and yet quite often we humans are quite a mess.

      • February 21, 2012 12:02 pm

        Actually the sign is an effort to recognize that an overly broad rule may cause more harm than good. Essentially the sign is saying there is no good reason to slow traffic down – reduce productivity when there will be no benefit to safety. The crossing guard is a similar response – but the guard must be paid, costs more than the sign, and ultimately the guard is a suggestion not the law. If he is given policing authority he can only arrest people who violated a law – not ones who drove too fast when he wished they would not (or he can transform either himself or his municipality into rent seekers by citing people arbitrarily regardless of whether they violated the law). The flashing school sign is another approach – but again we must alter the law – and the flasher is still just a sign, it is not cognizant of when people can travel faster or slower. We have just such a sign near my home.
        It is always flashing when kids are about, but it is frequently flashing when they are not. Either it goes on a clock – one that does not know about the decisions people have made that alter the schedule or a human must expend effort managing it.

        And just to be clear laws governing the speeds at which people can travel in a school zone when students are about are dancing fairly close to if not inside the domain of the rule of law. Libertarians would probably prefer they were cast differently – against actual rather than potential violence.

        Many of the very things you cite – guardrails, rumple strips, various signage etc. is rarely imposed rationally with regard to what actually works with respect to public safety. There is actually a great deal of research on what works and what does not with respect to highway safety – most of it runs counter to what we actually do. Our myriads of road signs distract us from the road – where our eyes belong. At dangerous intersections we add more and more flashers, signs, etc – distracting drivers from the road.

        We know as an example that planting trees near roads slows people down, as does markings and signs on the roadway.

        We place rumble strips on both sides of a curve – despite the fact that centrifugal force prevents us from veering off the inside of a curve by accident.

        There are highway safety experts that have been called in to address particularly dangerous or congested intersections that have vastly increased saftey and traffic flow, by eliminating signs and lights and structuring the environment to meet drivers expectations and norms.

      • February 21, 2012 12:23 pm

        Absolutely libertarians assume people are basically good – not entirely perfect, just on the whole more likely to make better choices – ones tailored to their specific circumstances than others make for them.
        We also accept that sometimes people will make bad choices – and that almost all the time the natural consequences are the appropriate punishment.
        We also grasp that rarely bad things will happen regardless of the quality of the decisions people make – that nature owes us nothing. That rights are limitations on the other humans, that nature will do as it pleases.
        That we can not compel people to be good only punish them for being bad – a common fallacy in regulation.

        Ultimately the core of both conservatism and liberalism is that people are basically evil. That absent a plethora of laws and the threat of government they get nothing right on their own.

        “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” Madison

        I would strongly suggest reading the entirety of Federalist 51

        It will give you a better understanding that the “mess”, gridlock, partisanship we see in washington today was exactly what our founders intended.

        they grasped the need for a powerful federal government (far less powerful than that today), at the same time they understood that whatever power the federal government had would draw powerful forces to bend it to their own ends.

        Whether rooted in altruism, our better nature or our self interest, We are far more likely to make good rather than bad choices.

        Unless you believe that man’s continued existence is the result of the mercies of some god, the fact that we have thrived is proof that man is basically good.

  61. February 20, 2012 5:09 pm

    The difference between social conservatives and libertarians, and why Grover Norquist is a libertarian.

    A small amount of enlightenment for those of you who think anyone that wants government to be fiscally responsible or smaller is an “Ultra conservative”

  62. February 21, 2012 10:52 am

    One of the central problems with progressivism.

    Is a parent’s responsibility to seek the best for their children or children as a whole ?
    Are all children better served when parents seek the best for their own children or when they act as a group.

    One of the many problems with statism – top down solutions, is that 1000 people in a group tend as a whole to make net worse decisions than the average of 1000 individual decisions.
    Partly because individual needs and wants are not identical, partly because the quality of group decisions is poor, worse than the average decisions of individuals.
    Some here may doubt the causes of the current mess. But there can be no argument that government policy was intentionally and strongly focused on significantly increasing home ownership particularly among those who had previously faced financial obstacles to homeownership.

  63. Anonymous permalink
    February 21, 2012 10:01 pm

    Lets see, we pass a law making it much harder for people to get safe over the counter cold medicine because that medicine can be used as a raw ingredient to produce methampetamines, and the results – no change in the use of meth as compared to the rest of the country or Oregon’s neighbors.

    Just increased costs to people with colds.

  64. February 22, 2012 12:56 am

    The left despises itself.

  65. February 22, 2012 12:59 am

    Alan Metzler

    “Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin. It doesn’t work.”

    Three Laws of Regulation:

    1. Lawyers and bureaucrats regulate, but markets circumvent regulation.

    2. Regulations are static. Markets are dynamic.

    3. Regulation is most effective when it changes the incentives of the regulated.

  66. February 22, 2012 1:00 am

    Weird you started up this blog within about a month of me starting mine. I was inspired by, for the first time in my life, one of these two disgraceful parties having total control of the federal government and running amok and crazy with all that power. I hope I NEVER see that sight again (from either one). Wonder what motivated you to get things up and running?

    • February 22, 2012 9:45 am

      To the extent that government has power, some political party will be running amuck with it.

    • February 22, 2012 10:14 am

      I actually started this blog twice: first was in 2007, when Bush II was in power, waging a pointless war and alienating nearly all thinking people. At that point The New Moderate wasn’t really a blog; it was a collection of 3-way debates on the issues (still available for reading on the current site). I launched The New Moderate as a blog, with semi-regular commentary, in response to the insanity that was growing on the right as a result of Obama taking office. The Tea Party was gaining momentum, making it impossible for moderate Republicans to win their own primaries.

      But the right wasn’t the only threat at the time; I remember feeling alarmed about the mass incursion of illegal immigrants from south of the border, how the new demographic shift would eventually turn us into a Latin American country… and the fact that nobody seemed to be doing anything about it.

      Then, of course, we had the recent financial crash to deal with… so, in short, the country was a mess and getting messier. I felt impelled to sound off, as you did. Glad we did, aren’t you?

    • AMAC permalink
      February 23, 2012 12:58 am

      Nice title. Sound’s like an alternative rock band.

  67. February 22, 2012 1:06 am

    Income: 24,700
    Expenses: 37,900
    New Credit Card Debt: 13,300
    Prior Credit Card Debt: 153,500
    Proposed sending cuts: 385

    Add 8 zeros and you have the federal budget.

  68. February 22, 2012 10:15 am

    More failed government traffic control.

  69. Adamovich Smithosky permalink
    February 22, 2012 2:37 pm

    Continued refusal to behave in a manner that pleases me will result in my unhappiness. This warning applies to people I love, people I work with, friends, relatives, strangers who wander through my personal narrative, and folks in faraway lands whose thoughtless actions cause me to become upset when I read the newspaper in the morning. As of this notice, all behavior will be required to pass an ASS test (Adam Smith Scholasticism test).
    Failure to do so will result in me having a bad day. And nobody wants that, right? Thank you for your consideration. You may now return to your regular activities.

    • Ian CSE permalink
      February 22, 2012 2:50 pm

      I Swear that was not me. But, funny, yes, I nearly peed. I dig the patrynomic.

      Now, who was it? I have one good guess but I’ll keep it to myself.

      Ivan Ivanovich

    • February 22, 2012 8:38 pm

      I never have a bad day, the world revolves around me and is ordered as I wish – but for those pesky progressives masquerading as moderates,

      I have no friends relatives strangers etc. to ruin my day – I have aspburgers and keeping the snakes and whoppers at bay keeps me to busy.

      The castle walls may have crumbled by the progressive Nee Moderates have been crushed by their Trojan rabbit.

      I don’t read the newspaper – unless they are on Al Gore’s inter-tubes.

      The Patronymic is clearly wrong I am a greedy, penny pinching Scott, not a Pinko Russian statist,

      And as compromise is a article of faith for moderates, it is only fair you meet me half way.
      Since I am now leaning towards pure anarchism – half way would be Rob Paul.

      You may not return to your regular activities as progressive you are obligated to save me from myself for the good of society.

  70. February 22, 2012 9:00 pm

    And what is happening to English tax revenues as a new 50% levy on the wealthy kicks in ?

  71. February 22, 2012 9:25 pm

    How long do millionaires stay millioniares ?

    How long do billionares stay billionaires

  72. Ian CSE permalink
    February 22, 2012 11:45 pm

    Dave, you get what you get from the genetic lottery. Choosing genes is as impossible as choosing parents. Mozart also had a peculiar brain and odd sets of habits and talents. Ah, to be Mozart, I’d take it.

    Aspbergers makes you an extraordinary, interesting, and odd duck. As we noticed!

    • AMAC permalink
      February 23, 2012 12:56 am

      That’s true. I was cursed with stunningly handsome features, sharp wit, and an unwaivering intellect. No wait, that’s what I wanted…

    • AMAC permalink
      February 23, 2012 1:00 am

      Motzart’s problem might have been more attributed to his stage mom of a father!

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 23, 2012 10:02 am

      Y’all accuse me of being too serious ?

  73. AMAC permalink
    February 23, 2012 12:52 am

    Some nice discussion, and much more of the same (from guess where). I have been very busy and have had to limit my blogging activities! Some very interesting disclosure. Asperger’s, huh. I have a cousin with a mild form of asperger’s. Rigidity, obsession, lack of empathy, and lack of sympathy were the characteristics we were told to expect. It makes sense now. My cousin is young, but has been a perfectly capable adult, so far. I expect she has a similar similar level of asperger’s to you, Dave. It does help to understand you, though. Thank you for sharing. Unfortunately, I am a rather boring person. I believe in the power of compromise, so long as it doesn’t come at the expense of my conerstone values and principles. That is what has made my marriage succesful! I know that making the comparison between marriage and government is a stretch (or is it?), but compromise is important. I don’t want either party to have ultimate control (that’s why I am against lifetime judicial appointments), but I don’t want gridlock in our government.

    Also, to comment on qualities of libertarians, I do believe people are basically good. I also believe that all people are not qualified to make certain decisions. When people seek out (intentionally) those people in order to legally exploit them, it should be a crime. Predatory lending is just the most recent example of this issue. Regulations are needed to protect these citizens not from themselves, but from those that seek to exploit them. I can give myriads (to use your word) of examples that call for regulation (in my mind) but we both know that it would be unproductive.

    I just had a minute and wanted to voice an opinion. I work in the public school system and believe it is very important to maintain a balanced and fair attitude towards anything political. I don’t think that I should influence young impressionable minds with my opinions and or bias. I would rather use math to train students in logic and reason so that they may make their own informed opinions/decisions. That is why I like to come to this site to let out some opinions. Thanks, Rick. Good story. I hope to be more active in the discussion in the future.

    Hi Ian and Priscilla. I miss communicating with you two also!

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 23, 2012 10:42 am

      If really really believe someone is incompetent to make their own decisions – then use the system to declare that person incompetent. I will probably fight you on that too – but atleast you would be consistent with your own values. Progressives do not beleive MOST people are competent to make their own decisions. When we regulate based on the presumed incompetence of some subset of the population we take away everyones freedom in order to protect a mythical group.

      What is “predatory lending” ? No one is forced to borrow. The only effect of rules on lending is less lending – particularly less lending for the specific groups you are concerned about.
      So long as borrowing is a voluntary act lending regulations are nothing more than attempts to “protect people from themselves”, you do not need protection from expoitation if you are competent to make your own decisions and free to do so. Of course your examples would be unproductive – unless the borrowers in question are either incompetent or acting at gun point then their free choices disprove your own claim.
      There is so much progressive self contradiction on this entire “predatory lending” meme I question the competence of the people proposing it.
      We are repeatedly told by the left that this crisis did not come about as the result of poor people borrowing for houses they could not afford. But the cure is to make it harder for poor people to borrow. This all came about because evil lenders refused to let poor people borrow – not because they were unqualified. Then suddenly – not because the government insisted, but purely out of greed, these same lenders decided to go whole hog lending to incompetent poor people. They lured them into lying about their income so that they would borrow gobs of money for houses they could not afford, where they were certain to default.
      I thought progressives claimed to be smarter than the rest of us – do you not understand how stupid this thesis is ?

      If you tax or regulate something – you get less of it. If you regulate lending to the poor – you will get less lending to the poor. If try to balance that with regulation to prevent discriminating against the poor in lending – you will get less lending.
      There are nearly an infinite variety of possible investments. Each investor will seek out their own preferred balance of risk and return. If through government you alter risk and return the market adapts.
      What you call “predatory lending” is the adaptation of the market to prior government lending regulation.

      I hope that you are doing a good job of instilling an understanding of logic in your students – nothing is more harmful to progressives than a well educated populace.

      • AMAC permalink
        February 23, 2012 10:06 pm

        I find it helpful for you to label me and then tell me what I believe. How helpful this has been. I also appreciate the jabs to my character. Very productive to the discussion. I have switched sides. I don’t want the government to tell me how to think, I have you for that. Thanks so much.

      • February 24, 2012 11:38 am


        You and everyone else are perfectly content to pile labels on me and tell me what I believe.

        I have reread my remarks and can not find an attack on your character.

        I have attacked ideologies – I do not know how you can have a debate without addressing the faults of the opposing position.

        I compromise as the slow surrender to evil.

        I can not make you think anything. My ideology does not demand that you share it, nor does it compel you to use your wealth to advance my values. But yours demands both of those from everyone else.

        If your values are so compelling let people chose them freely, There is no difference between the marketplace for goods and services and that of ideas and values.

  74. Pat Riot permalink
    February 23, 2012 8:41 am

    AMAC, I say your comparison of marriage and government is allowable. They’re reviewing it upstairs in the booth. OKay the Ref is trotting out onto the field:

    “The poster obviously recognizes the differences between government and marriage, but also sees the similarities of opposing viewpoints worked out to a solution via compromise. The ruling on the field stands.”

    Other comparisons that can be helpful include “the family unit” (diverse characters cooperating toward peace, prosperity, and quality of life), as well as “the neighborhood” that includes public concerns (and regulations) and private concerns (freedom).

    Unfortunately it’s been “the War of the Roses” with the Pubs and Dems.

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 23, 2012 11:04 am

      Our founders deliberately created a powerful federal government – though far less powerful than today, at the same time they grasped that a powerful government was extremely dangerous – particularly to the liberty of its citizens. These were intelligent people who scorned democracy, and did not trust even themselves. The deliberately created a government rife with competing special interests. They explicitly intended “The War of the Roses” as the normal state of affairs in government. They intended that vast government power they created to only be exercised when there was near unanimity of purpose across a spectrum of competing interests. They did not seek compromise they sought gridlock.

      Politics today is less vitriolic, more restrained, less filled with invective, and slander than that of our founders. Civility and compromise in politics are undesirable – they promote the exercise of government power when it is not truly necessary at the expense of our liberty and to the detriment of all of us.

      Libertarians may believe humans are basically good – but we do not believe they are perfect. Conversely progressives seem to believe that humans are basically evil – or incompetent and desperately need government to manage all their affairs – at the same time they hold the totally contradictory view that incompetent, and evil humans who can not be trusted with their own affairs, nor acting freely with others in ways where poor choices are self punishing – somehow these same people become infallible saints when then become part of government.

      If we trust AMAC to teach our children – we should trust AMAC to secure a mortgage.

      If we can not trust people to get a mortgage – how can we trust them to vote much less run government ?

      Government is not like marriage, or business, or much of anything else. The harm from a failed marriage is fairly small and contained. The failure of business may be more or less, but is still small in the cosmic scheme. When government fails most everyone suffers. Replacing or repairing government can be dangerous and bloody.

    • AMAC permalink
      February 23, 2012 10:09 pm

      Great. Do I get to keep my time out? Gridlock was not the intention of government. A government for the people does not mean petty fighting. That’s what blogs are for! I prize teamwork and competence, apparantly that makes me a progressive. That is some label, though. Is progress a bad thing? Thanks for the help, Pat. I was feeling Dave’s scorn and needed some support!

      • February 24, 2012 10:21 am

        You can argue that our founders were wrong as you wish.

        “Government for the People” was Lincoln’s remarks, and he was not born when the Declaration of independence and constitution were written.

        As to the actual intentions of our founders – read what they wrote – read the constitution, Read the Federalist papers – and the anti-federalists.

        I can not pretend to know there minds – but what they did and said is clear.

  75. February 23, 2012 6:21 pm

    All NYT economists are not brain dead

  76. February 23, 2012 6:27 pm

    A relatively short easy to read economic text that has sold over 1M copies and is now available for free. It is 23 chapters each on a single economic topic – mostly macro economics – i.e. the economics of nations. the chapters are all short 3-10 pages.

    Thought the entirety can be summarized as economics is noting the unseen as well as the seen consequences of actions.

  77. AMAC permalink
    February 23, 2012 10:31 pm

    I will take the gloves off for a few short moments. Some of the libertarian views are sensible. My problem is with the extent or degree to which they follow their dogmatic views. I suppose that these views would be very appealing to me if my only concerns was for myself. Unfortunately, I do care about THIS country and its citizens. I share views and values from all parties, which is why I have not joined one specific party. I reserve the right to keep an open mind, and decide how and when to cast my vote on a candidate by candidate basis. I have concern for people outside of my own inner circle. I do volunteer work and donate my money to causes I support (not political). I believe we (as a culture and as a country) have a responsibility to look out for the less fortunate, educated, capable, etc. I could be called a bleeding heart I suppose, or a progressive. If I have to make a decision to reduce the rights of some to protect the rights of the many, then so be it. I do not label myself and do not appreciate when others try to catagorize my beliefs for me. I know where I stand, and I am proud of it. I do not “speak down” to you, Dave; yet you continually “speak down” to me. I do not know if you seriously have a mild form of Asperger’s, but if it is true, I would suspect your lack of empathy and rigidity has seriously affected your views (for the worse). Feel free to think as you will, but do not continually tell me I am wrong and ignorant for what I believe. I will once again refrain myself from responding to your taunts, for as long as I can. I appreciate some of your views, so I will continue to read your posts, but save the sarcasm towards me for the “snakes and whompers”.

    Sorry to add to the venom. I will take a few days to regroup!

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 24, 2012 10:14 am

      I either agree or have no problem with much of what you say.
      There is no such thing as a dogmatic libertarian religion. If you would describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal – you are entitled to call yourself libertarian if you wish. But once you decide to start thinking logically about rights, freedom, economics and government that leads only one direction.

      Where we part is

      “If I have to make a decision to reduce the rights of some to protect the rights of the many, then so be it”

      It is quite simple – you neither have to make such a decision nor the right to – even in the most favorable way that you have phrased the question. In the real world you are force-ably taking rights from some for privileges for others – without reasonable expectation of even getting those privileges. This is the fallacy of the forgotten man. the presumption that A and B can by agreement determine what C will do for D. Done outside of government that is called theft, it does not become more palatable cloaked in democracy.

      I do not believe I “Speak Down” to you – or anyone else here. I argue strongly the truth as I see it – hopefully just as you do. I find your “Speak Down” language offensive – in your cosmology, neither I nor anyone else has the right to what is theirs – but you have the right to dictate even the form of discourse. You are free to speak up, down left, and sideways to me – and I to you.

      Asserting that what you claim is false is not taunting.

      You know nothing about my empathy. All you know is that I am unwilling to use government to do things that will not work to appear to care for others.

  78. Ian CSE permalink
    February 23, 2012 11:42 pm

    Hi AMAC. I think Dave literally can’t help himself from telling us what we think and believe. Its more of a burden for him than for us once you see it in this light, (not that I am telling you to do that!) I don’t think Dave was kidding about his diagnosis at all and I doubt his is the mild form your cousin has.

    Dave, I’m sorry to talk about you as though you weren’t in the room, I’m just putting in my own two cents about how one can view your output without getting frustrated, not that I never have gotten frustrated.

    Just out of curiosity, and you don’t have to answer if its an intrusion, but how many political sites do you participate in on a regular basis? Just TNM, a few sites, dozens, more?

    How objective can you be about how your particular chemistry affects your views, are you able to say to yourself, “I’m not wired for empathy, perhaps I would have a different set of views if I were?”

    • February 24, 2012 10:42 am

      Ian and AMAC;

      I find it odd that you are taking great offense at what I write.

      It is acceptable to parody me, as you please, cast me in monty python,
      Diagnose me with aspbergers, conclude I have no empathy and equate my values with those of social conservatives such as Santorum,

      Yet when i respond by parodying myself everyone flips out.

    • February 24, 2012 10:43 am

      I visit about 100 blogs and information sites on a regular basis – several times a week.
      About 10% of those are on the far side of the mainstream left – not actual communists, about 1/3 are progressive, about 1/4 are libertarian or conservative in the libertarian sense, I do not visit any truly conservative sites on a regular basis. The bulk of the rest are science, and economic sites.
      I probably do about 60% of my posting here.
      And that does not count any of the sites I visit strictly related to work.

    • February 24, 2012 11:05 am

      I do not know you – I would not dare accuse you of a lack of empathy. I am deeply offended that you and AMAC seem to feel entitled to do so.

      I have written probably more than I should have about who I am where I have come from and how I meet my moral obligation to others. I am not Mother Theresa, but I do go into the trenches with the poor and homeless.

      I would ask you how many homeless people have you fed ?
      Have you even been in a homeless shelter ?
      How many people who had nowhere else to go have you taken into your home ?
      How many poor people do you actually know – as friends, as close friends ?
      How many friends do you have that are not white ?
      Have you actually lived in a poor neighborhood ?
      Have you worked to teach someone English ?
      Helped someone find a job ?
      Helped someone immigrate ?
      Helped an addict ?
      Helped a convict ?

      I take

      “for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.'”


      But it does not say:

      When did you steal from others to cloth me, of force others to feed me, or vote to have others build me a home or provide me with healthcare.

      Rights, freedom – and our moral obligations as individual not collective.

      If you have not given your time, your effort – without payment, to benefit someone up close and personal then you have no right to complain about others.

      • AMAC permalink
        February 24, 2012 10:39 pm

        I don’t know why I have to respond, but I do. Is anyone familiar with the Christian Unity Mission in Kansas City. I helped (through my own sweat) to open an entire wing (room for 20-25) for the homeless, volunteer regularly in comvination with MHMR, Chaired 10 UW campaigns (local), worked with countless elderly assistance programs (clean up, meals on wheels, visitation programs, etc.) as well as have donated 11% of my salary over the past 9 years to non-faith based charities (this does not inclued tithes). I have and do walk the walk. I am no priest, myself, but do make a concerted effort to lead by example through actions. Of course, there is no proof I can offer without compromising my personal security to proove this is not a lie. I by christmas presents for the underpriveleged youth, work and donate with Project Thanksgiving, and I could go on and on. Somehow, by listing all this, I feel I have cheapened it. Does that satisfy you? Of course, I question many claims from random internet posters. I suppose you could infer that if I was trying to lie and impress with fake credentials, I wouldn’t claim to be a lowly public educator!

      • Anonymous permalink
        February 25, 2012 10:16 am

        I guess I am glad you “walk the walk”. but my anger was because you presumed that I or anyone else that does not believe government is the answer to the problems of those in need is devoid of empathy.

        I am not conservative and there are no studies on the charitable giving of libertarians – nor do I think money is the only or even best way to help others. But we do know that conservatives give on average three times more than liberals. And we know that when times get tough liberals reduce their contributions to charity, but conservatives don’t.

        Can we abandon the false argument that because someone does not believe that government is the solution to the problems of the needy, that they must be cold hearted and lacking in empathy – or do I have to go on to the argument that government charity has been so destructive of the very people it has been targeted to help that it is clear that liberals are looking to harm the needy and keep them in dependence ?

  79. valdobiade permalink
    February 24, 2012 7:42 pm

    AMAC and Ian,

    Shame on you for being offended by Asmith!
    Try to be like me, get bored by his posts. Sometime throw some wisecracks, parody, satire, etc.
    It may offend Asmith, but it is not our faults that he is so uptight and has not sense of humour.

    It seems that Asmith doesn’t even have respect for Adam Smith’s “Man is an animal that makes bargains; no other animal does this”.

    I guess Asmith doesn’t like to bargain, he wants to sell his opinions and buy nothing from others. He likes to extend his opinions on hundreds of posts and not even asking: “Do you buy it, am I just brainwashing you, or just dumping cheap products so nobody can see better opinions?”

    I do miss the variety of opinions, but when I see so many “Asmith”, I just believe that “No news is good news” is a good saying.

    • AMAC permalink
      February 24, 2012 10:54 pm

      I agree that it would be best. I think that Dave has been attacked plenty, but has started many more attacks. He does not outright name-call, but follows a rather passive aggressive dialouge. He makes sarcastice remarks ment to attack, but also ment to not appear as an outright jab. I don’t know him, he might be a great guy. His remarks make me picture a reclusive, ultra-egocentric man. I have fired as many shots at him as he has me, but I don’t disguise and then deny. He speaks for the founding father’s intentions, then claims not to know what they thought. Honestly, I am not overly concerned with the founding fathers’ intentions. That was a different world many lifetimes ago. I am more concerned with the now. I am not as well versed in economics as he appears to be, but I think I can still have an opinion (maybe).

      • February 25, 2012 10:23 am

        There is a difference between argument and personal attack.

        The closest thing I recall to attacking anyone’s character has been to offer that they are more liberal than they claim to be.

        If you do not like that arguments I make – rebut them. If you do not like the facts as I represent them – refute them. Or ignore me – you are free to do that too.

  80. Anonymous permalink
    February 25, 2012 1:58 am

    Sad commentary that the founding fathers’ principles are no longer considered relevant.

    Federalism, freedom of speech, checks and balances, equal rights (as opposed to “equal things”), property rights? All relics of a different age?

    • Priscilla permalink
      February 25, 2012 1:59 am

      Me, up there ^^^

  81. Priscilla permalink
    February 25, 2012 9:49 am

    I was actually pretty tired last night when I stopped by to see what was happening here at TNM. I think I misread your comment AMAC, so apologize for my own, which is not really on point.

    • AMAC permalink
      February 25, 2012 4:52 pm

      No problem. A lot to sort through. I do believe in so many of the principles that our country was founded on. I just think that trying to represent what each thought or wanted for our country can be overdone. The problems of the world were much different then, as were many other aspects of life. I suppose my point was not represented properly.

  82. Ian CSE permalink
    February 25, 2012 3:30 pm

    Dave, why is it that out of your 100+ sites you spend 60% of your efforts here?

    Are you expecting to convert someone here to your beliefs? It does not appear to have any realistic chance of happening with any of the regulars. And we are all pretty well saturated with the information on what Libertarians believe. This is not the New Libertarian.

    Why not start the New Libertarian instead of constantly harranging the New Moderate?

  83. February 25, 2012 3:50 pm

    Dave: Sorry that I’ve been absent for most of the current debate. I look in from time to time, then realize that it’s pointless for me to get caught up in the endless repeating loop. Still, I respect you for your knowledge and earnestness, your willingness to take on all opponents and ultimately your ideological purity. (I’m not a lover of ideologies, but I can understand the need to be faithful to them.)

    I suspected that you might have Asperger’s because your commentary on every one of my columns ultimately turns to a defense of free-market capitalism, even when the subject is Dickens or Christianity. It’s not a curse; some of the most gifted people fall into the Asperger’s camp, and I’ve read that the condition is being rethought in psychology circles.

    Last year, a school psychologist claimed that my son had Asperger’s because he talked endlessly (and with great authority) about ships and submarines. That diagnosis was later thrown out, but I trained myself to look for the signs.

    It’s a sliding scale, of course. My son probably has a touch of Asperger’s, and I used to fit the pattern to some extent in my teens and twenties. (On a trip to Ireland, I was so smitten with the scenery that I took only three photographs of the gal I loved at the time.) No need for you to worry about your own case… you’ve built a solid life for yourself and you’re obviously a decent guy.

    But I have one request (and this applies to everyone): let’s see if we can stay on topic (or close to it) in our comments. I’m flattered that our discussions run to 150 or 200 comments (I don’t know if the average Huffington Post article garners that many), but it’s becoming nearly impossible for me — or any casual observer — to cut through the dense thicket of commentary in order to write a response. When we feel a need to change the subject, can we try the Wild Card Debate page?

    Well… time for me to withdraw and get down to some writing for the first time in two weeks. My winter break was the result of a grueling freelance project (for actual pay!) and my son’s birthday. Now I have no excuse other than inertia.

    • February 25, 2012 7:07 pm


      Your blog is about politics – and the key political issue of the day is between a smaller and larger view of government – why would you expect that debate here would not go there ?

      We are in the midst of a recession, the first one of consequence in 30 years, and one that is resembles only the great depression. why would you expect debate here not to go there ?

      Your blog sets to identify a different way something distinct from that of the left and the right – libertarian-ism is the best identified alternative to those poles. Why would you expect debate here not to go there. ?

      Recent topics have been Dickens, Kodak Bankruptcy, Norquist, Republican primaries, Romney, & Iowa. Why would you expect debate here not to go there.

      Even on other blogs, today one can start a dialog on the sex life of gnats and discussion will inevitably end up at politics and economics. All that is unique here is that particular mix of the commentors.

      The debate here is likely to continue to go to much the same places – it is the debate of our times, of this moment in history. It has a slightly different texture because of the unique participants here – though not all that unique.

      More recently I have deliberately shifted my arguments from primarily economic to arguments about values. that has resulted in more vitriolic responses.

      My particular views are libertarian – and yes that is an ideology, but attacking progressiveness does not require advancing any other ideology. The progressive ideology fails. Its failures have been predicted more than a century ago, and continuously since. The attacks on and failure of communism was not due to some subtle flaw in the strategy of Lenin or Mao. Its collapse and the intellectual critiques predicting it were based on the concept that the few can plan for the many – the core fallacy of all progressive political structures. the failures of government are self evident. At best I am ask you to open your eyes and look around at the real world. To take note of what has worked and what has not – that is not ideology.

      I do not personally strive for ideological purity. There are questions I do not have answers too. But I have little tolerance for logical inconsistency – more in myself than others. The world we live in is not entirely knowable, but the behavior of the universe is not in logical conflict with itself. When our understanding resolves to a contradiction, our premises, our understanding of the world are wrong.

      I see this fixation an Aspbergers as a rationalization for discounting my remarks.
      Even presuming the diagnosis of this blog were correct – it would still be irrelevant.
      Further it undermines your own arguments. If we can be barred from speech that is offensive and harmful when based on attributes such as race and gender that are outside ones control – then all offensive speech about any attribute outside ones control should be barred. But I believe in free speech so insult and misdiagnose as you please. I have tried to confine myself to calling ideas idiotic rather than people.

  84. Pat Riot permalink
    February 25, 2012 10:10 pm


    It is my recollection that you suddenly volunteered the information that you have Asberger’s Syndrome. If you haven’t been officially diagnosed with it, I’ll bet you $5,000 and my Chevy truck that you have it. It’s consistent in your posts. You couldn’t fake it. Here are some characteristics that Wikipedia lists for AS:

    Intense preoccupation with a narrow subject, one-sided verbosity, restricted prosody (such as use of the word “myriad”)

    The lack of empathy (such as for different points of view)

    a person with AS may engage in a one-sided, long-winded speech about a favorite topic

    literal interpretations and miscomprehension of nuance

    Dave, the dialogue on TNM goes to Libertarian Ideology, disdain of progressivism, and debates about Free Markets because YOU always take it there. We could have been talking about our favoirte Dickens novels or characters or other 19th-century or 20th century writers. But always you take us to your favorite topics.

    I don’t think most other posters here want you to go away completely. Just try to control yourself and stay on topic. Some of us here can let you know when you’ve unjustifiably steered the thread to your own favorite topic. Maybe we can help you out.

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 27, 2012 12:32 pm

      I do not have, and have never said that I have aspbergers.
      Except a single very recent highly satirical self deprecating response I have tried to steer clear of most of the attempts to diagnose or label me. Aside from refuting the “ultra-conservative” label.

      I am not looking to be diagnosed.

      It is offensive. Frankly it would be offensive even if true. Do we discredit people because they are Gay ? Black ? have ADD ? Are paraplegic ?

      If you do not like what I post or do not want to bother to read it – don’t.
      If you think it is in error, and want to expend the effort to try to discredit it – go ahead.

      I have revealed a fair amount of my personal life – mostly to discredit a plethora of false presumptions that are honestly irrelevant to what I have argued.

      As an example I am actively involved as an individual and withing organizations in efforts to help those less well off. But whether I or anyone else is empathetic or not is irrelevant to the merits of the argument that government efforts to assist those less well off are ineffective and often destructive.

      Let us presume for the sake of argument that I do have AS – how exactly would that alter anything – except allowing you to discount whatever I say without bothering to evaluate whether it has any merit or not.

      I am not fixating on a single narrow topic. It is just the topic I address HERE.
      I have a substantial breadth of interests – if you wish I can expound at length on almost every aspect of computing, many aspects of cryptography, WWII, The military, architecture, building codes, art, philosophy, everything in anyway related to building construction, many areas of chemistry and physics, religion. I am not expert in most of these – beyond embedded systems and architecture – I am a licensed and Registered Architect, but I make my living today writing systems software for embedded systems.
      I am not seeking to toot my own horn here. Just note that I have extremely broad rather than narrow interests.

      I am aware that discussion here shifts as a result of my posts. But again, even this blog is a free market. There is no limit to the range and depth of opinion that can be offered here. Each of us are free to pick and choose what we wish to pay attention to.

      I can post as frequently as my time and typing speed will allow – and you can ignore everything that I say if you please. My freedom imposes negligible costs on you.

      I do grasp this is Ricks blog, and he is free to impose whatever rules, or censor however he pleases. If you or I do not like that – we can start our own blog, and make our own rules.
      That is how freedom is supposed to work.

    • February 27, 2012 12:56 pm

      This nation is more politically unsettled than I believe it has been since our founding.
      In 2008 Barack Obama had an opportunity to alter the political balance for decades. His party controlled the federal government. They were free to do as they pleased. The only requirement for near total annihilation of Republicanism was success – and the odds strongly favored that. No prior US recession lasted longer than 18 months.

      Less than 4 years later it is progressives that are on the ropes. If the GOP had a credible candidate they would be elected in a landslide. Various factions including Libertarians are in a bloody civil war over the heart and soul of the GOP. Libertarians are not going to win, but they are likely to emerge atleast equal in stature with neo-cons and social conservatives, and with better ability to form coalitions.

      No presidential candidate can expect to win without atleast 40% of the libertarian vote, no republican can win with less than 70% of it.

      Libertarian is a broad tent – encompassing even the tea party using the vaguest definition of libertarian. It is not a well structured cohesive group, but it is a group exceeding more political influence than anytime since the revolution.

      Conversely there is no emerging “moderate” power. OWS is significant but it is not moderate and more representative of the left 1% than the 99%. The voices of revolt Rick clamors for do not exist – or to the extent they do, they are on the greatly weakened left, rather than actual moderates.

      There is a “New Moderate” political movement in this country it is coming from libertarians in the broadest sense – not any of the other sources that have been suggested here.

    • February 27, 2012 1:20 pm


      This is a political blog, not a literature blog. Dickens was not offered for literary critique, but for the values he represents.

      The primary issues for political discussion today, are economic, fiscal, spending, taxes, role and limits.

      If i left this blog today – those issues would still be the focus of most of the posts – even if the proposals might differ. Absent labels this is a debate over placing our faith and trust in ourselves and others as individuals rather than an elite group of our purported betters. The debate is over ideas and values not labels.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        February 27, 2012 10:05 pm

        The New Moderate: Politics AND CIVILIZATION for the Passionate Centrist. It’s right there on the banner.

  85. February 27, 2012 1:20 pm

    Is the idea that individuals should have more control and responsibility for their own lives so unpalatable, immoderate that it can not be considered here ?

    It is the fact that almost every solution offered here is more government, less freedom, that deprives TNM of the pretense of “moderation”. An every leftward drifting sequence of compromises is not moderation, it is tepid progressiveness.

    I have actively worked to shift the debate on several occasions. More recently I have focused primarily on values rather than economics – and although that is a more fluid less concrete domain, my shift has resulted in an increase in the vitriol of the attacks.

    It is tolerable to advocate for lower taxes, lower spending, lower deficits, but arguing for freedom for stronger individual rights, arguing that rights come from nature and governments job is to protect them, rather than rights come from society and governments job is to define them is violating an enormous taboo.

    • February 27, 2012 2:49 pm

      Dave: Sorry if you got the impession that we were ganging up on you; I know it seems that way sometimes, but that’s not my intention.

      I could have sworn you admitted to having Asperger’s. (I can’t go back and check because it was probably 80 comments ago). Even if you do, of course it doesn’t invalidate your opinions; I didn’t suggest that. I was just looking for more insight into why you generally steer the conversation to free market / small government.

      As for my “progressive” politics… ah, me! If only you could see that my “radical” tendencies are simply aimed at wresting control of the economy and government away from the plutocrats, restoring the middle class through fairer taxation and job creation, and putting an end to the “winner take all” system that has propelled us into a second Gilded Age since the Reagan era.

      I wish you could see that, given the current conditions of our plutocrat-controlled economy and government, we’re headed for a two-tier society of haves and have nots, much like Latin America. This isn’t a healthy state of affairs for a country that has depended on a thriving middle class for the past century. And it’s certainly not healthy for all the college-educated Americans who will be finding themselves unemployed or scraping by on crappy jobs. What you don’t seem to grasp internally is the suffering caused by the system as it is currently run.

      I wouldn’t have us emulate the socialist countries; I’d have us emulate the U.S. under Eisenhower and Kennedy, but with a lower top tax rate than we had in those days. So unless you think Ike and JFK were flaming leftists, there’s no way I’d qualify as one. I’m a radical moderate — radical because it will take substantial reform to restore a more equitable system; moderate because I simply want to steer us back to a midpoint between socialism and unfettered, amoral free-market capitalism. Fair enough?

      • Pat Riot permalink
        February 27, 2012 10:35 pm

        10 posts down from his paste of a video regarding wind turbines, Asmith said:

        “I have no friends relatives strangers etc. to ruin my day – I have aspburgers and keeping the snakes and whoppers at bay keeps me to busy.”

      • February 28, 2012 12:32 am


        I do not care if you are ganging up on me. I can either successfully defend my opinions or they are not worth holding.

        My points were:
        Everyone is trying to diagnose me so that they have a reason to ignore me – and that is fallacious. My arguments are valid or not regardless of my race, creed, or …
        That this has stepped up as I have shifted emphasis from economics to values.

        Neither of these points say much about me – but they are in contradiction with the values you claim to hold.

      • February 28, 2012 1:03 am


        You see the ends as justifying the means.
        To some extent we agree on the ends.
        but your means will not get your ends, it will only make things worse, it is how we got here.

        When you propose a solution that requires more government power and a loss of individual liberty – maybe that does not make you progressive – I doubt anyone would call Santorum progressive, but it does put you into the camp of top-down statist/elitists.

        Kennedy not only lowered taxes, but made one of the earliest “supply side” tax arguments in doing so.

        Regardless taxes under eisenhower and kennedy are hard to compare. The rates on the rich were much higher but their were far more loopholes. I have seen arguments that the effective tax rates were similar or even lower.

        Regardless, you will be hard pressed to get one economist in ten today to tell you that increasing taxes on investment is not jut about the worst thing you can do – in either a good or bad economy.

        But if you really want “fairness” eliminate corporate taxes – as they are double taxation an then raise capitol gains and investment taxes to the same level as income.

        I believe I grasp how badly the system is currently being run better than you do. I understand that it is the past versions of your types of solutions that created the system you wish to fix with more of the same.

        The core of our disagreement is not over whether the system is screwed up, but how to cure it. You are proposing the drinking cure for alcohol, and I am suggesting AA.

        While I see the effects of corporatism somewhat different than you, it is still harmful. Whatever power government has will be exploited by one special interest or another at the expense of the rest of us. Giving government more power is through gasoline on a fire. Not only will it come at the expense of our freedom, but it will take all the problems you are trying to fix and make them worse.

        You do not like the european social democracies as models – but they are the best, most successful examples of what you propose. Where is this country that has a more powerful government than ours, yet more freedom, and less plutocracy ?

  86. Ian CSE permalink
    February 27, 2012 3:51 pm

    Well, I think we were ganging up on Dave, and that is how he likes it, he works feindishly hard to achieve that result.

    Its addictive, try to find some way of forcing to admit that he has not been logical or, regretably, honest.

    Its typical Dave to state that he has an syndrome whose every feature he completely exhibits and then claim that he never said it and that we are all labeling him. I completely believe he has a strong case of Aspergers and it gives me insight into his methods and his inability to be honest. I truly sympathize with him, it is an awful burden to not be able to admit to any faults in ones logic, beliefs, behavior, etc. If he does not have Aspergers, then I would look at him in a much less sympathetic light, as a conceited dishonest boor.

    Looking at the utterly flawed system of illogic Dave has built from truths half truths and utter concoctions, I can see a the moral of the story: lacking a self correcting ability one falls into extremism, laced with moments of greater than average lucidity perhaps here and there. It does provide a lesson to those who would be moderates, and we are only moderates in our own frame of reference, which is not universal.

    Most of his If–Then statements are false profundity, but I agree with one that went something like, If you don’t like my posts, ignore them.

    I’m tired, I wish to be free of arguing with a fanatic, I’m enough of a fanatic myself to be susceptible.

    It was inevitable that I would eventually have to resort to the argument sketch, sorry for the Length!

    • Pat Riot permalink
      February 27, 2012 11:06 pm

      ‘Ya know…I don’t care if a person is tall, fat, skinny, left, right, center, or has excess gas while participating on a blog, but it’s a different story when there’s a condition that is specifically related to flaws in communication and dialogue, and the person with that condition tries to DOMINATE every thread. It’d be different if Asmith just chimed in every once in a while, or if there was give and take with his posts, but, alas, that’s not the case.

      My longer posts were in retaliation to Asmith’s multiple-post onslaughts. I didn’t like his extreme opinions hanging out there as the final word, as if I should be intimidated by his sheer volume or self-serving statistics, so I foolishly attempted to debat using logic and consequently some of my posts were long…

      I think more people would test the waters here on this site if there weren’t strings of Asmith mines blocking the way on every thread.

      “Ah, the Argument Sketch! So fitting…”
      “No it’s not…”

      • Pat Riot permalink
        February 27, 2012 11:30 pm

        Dave, I tried being reasonable with you, but you just kept spouting your agenda. I tried being respectful, but you just kept spouting your agenda.

        Yes, we’re supposed to be discussing topics and points, and not eachother, but you bring attention to yourself because of the frequency and length and nature of your posts. You bring attention to yourself like those picketers at funerals–the message takes a back seat to the messenger because the delivery mechanism is out of place.

        Possible Asmith response to above: “I’ll have you know I am quite respectful at funerals. Picketing was a very effective strategy for Labor Unions. I will be happy to cut back government programs.”

        Dave, really, just shut up once in awhile.

  87. Ian CSE permalink
    February 27, 2012 3:53 pm

    A man walks into an office.

    Man: (Michael Palin) Ah. I’d like to have an argument, please.

    Receptionist: Certainly sir. Have you been here before?

    Man: No, this is my first time.

    Receptionist: I see. Well, do you want to have the full argument, or were you thinking of taking a course?

    Man: Well, what would be the cost?

    Receptionist: Well, It’s one pound for a five minute argument, but only eight pounds for a course of ten.

    Man: Well, I think it’s probably best if I start with the one and then see how it goes from there, okay?

    Receptionist: Fine. I’ll see who’s free at the moment.


    Receptionist: Mr. DeBakey’s free, but he’s a little bit conciliatory. Ahh yes, Try Mr. Barnard; room 12.

    Man: Thank you. (Walks down the hall. Opens door.)

    Angry man: WHADDAYOU WANT?

    Man: Well, Well, I was told outside that…


    Man: What?


    M: Yes, but I came here for an argument!!

    A: OH! Oh! I’m sorry! This is abuse!

    M: Oh! Oh I see!

    A: Aha! No, you want room 12A, next door.

    M: Oh…Sorry…

    A: Not at all!

    A: (under his breath) stupid git.

    (The man goes into room 12A. Another man is sitting behind a desk.)

    Man: Is this the right room for an argument?

    Other Man:(John Cleese) I’ve told you once.

    Man: No you haven’t!

    Other Man: Yes I have.

    M: When?

    O: Just now.

    M: No you didn’t!

    O: Yes I did!

    M: You didn’t!

    O: I did!

    M: You didn’t!

    O: I’m telling you, I did!

    M: You did not!

    O: Oh I’m sorry, is this a five minute argument, or the full half hour?

    M: Ah! (taking out his wallet and paying) Just the five minutes.

    O: Just the five minutes. Thank you.

    O: Anyway, I did.

    M: You most certainly did not!

    O: Now let’s get one thing quite clear: I most definitely told you!

    M: Oh no you didn’t!

    O: Oh yes I did!

    M: Oh no you didn’t!

    O: Oh yes I did!

    M: Oh no you didn’t!

    O: Oh yes I did!

    M: Oh no you didn’t!

    O: Oh yes I did!

    M: Oh no you didn’t!

    O: Oh yes I did!

    M: Oh no you didn’t!

    O: Oh yes I did!

    M: No you DIDN’T!

    O: Oh yes I did!

    M: No you DIDN’T!

    O: Oh yes I did!

    M: No you DIDN’T!

    O: Oh yes I did!

    M: Oh look, this isn’t an argument!


    O: Yes it is!

    M: No it isn’t!


    M: It’s just contradiction!

    O: No it isn’t!

    M: It IS!

    O: It is NOT!

    M: You just contradicted me!

    O: No I didn’t!

    M: You DID!

    O: No no no!

    M: You did just then!

    O: Nonsense!

    M: (exasperated) Oh, this is futile!!


    O: No it isn’t!

    M: Yes it is!


    M: I came here for a good argument!

    O: AH, no you didn’t, you came here for an argument!

    M: An argument isn’t just contradiction.

    O: Well! it CAN be!

    M: No it can’t!

    M: An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.

    O: No it isn’t!

    M: Yes it is! ’tisn’t just contradiction.

    O: Look, if I *argue* with you, I must take up a contrary position!

    M: Yes but it isn’t just saying ‘no it isn’t’.

    O: Yes it is!

    M: No it isn’t!

    O: Yes it is!

    M: No it isn’t!

    O: Yes it is!

    M: No it ISN’T! Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.

    O: It is NOT!

    M: It is!

    O: Not at all!

    M: It is!

    (The Arguer hits a bell on his desk and stops.)

    O: Thank you, that’s it.

    M: (stunned) What?

    O: That’s it. Good morning.

    M: But I was just getting interested!

    O: I’m sorry, the five minutes is up.

    M: That was never five minutes just now!!

    O: I’m afraid it was.

    M: (leading on) No it wasn’t…..

    O: I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to argue any more.

    M: WHAT??

    O: If you want me to go on arguing, you’ll have to pay for another five minutes.

    M: But that was never five minutes just now!
    Oh Come on!
    Oh this is…
    This is ridiculous!
    O: I told you… I told you, I’m not allowed to argue unless you PAY!

    M: Oh all right. (takes out his wallet and pays again.) There you are.

    O: Thank you.

    M: (clears throat) Well…

    O: Well WHAT?

    M: That was never five minutes just now.

    O: I told you, I’m not allowed to argue unless you’ve paid!

    M: Well I just paid!

    O: No you didn’t!

    M: I DID!!!

    O: YOU didn’t!

    M: I DID!!!

    O: YOU didn’t!

    M: I DID!!!

    O: YOU didn’t!

    M: I DID!!!

    O: YOU didn’t!

    M: I don’t want to argue about it!

    O: Well I’m very sorry but you didn’t pay!

    M: Ah hah! Well if I didn’t pay, why are you arguing??? Ah HAAAAAAHHH! Gotcha!

    O: No you haven’t!

    M: Yes I have! If you’re arguing, I must have paid.

    O: Not necessarily. I *could* be arguing in my spare time.

    M: I’ve had enough of this!

    O: No you haven’t.

    M: Oh shut up!

    (Man leaves the office)

  88. February 28, 2012 12:40 am


    10 posts down from his paste of a video regarding wind turbines, Asmith said:
    “I have no friends relatives strangers etc. to ruin my day – I have aspburgers and keeping the snakes and whoppers at bay keeps me to busy.”


    The first suggestion that I have aspergers came in a prior blog entry.

    This time I tried to defuse it with humor.

    For monty python enthusiats, apparently TNM posters have no sense of humor.

    Note – first I DELIBERATELY spelled it wrong – it is “aspergers” not “asp” “Burgers”,
    if that was not enough – snakes (asp) whoppers (burger) should have been a clue.

    Further the entire rest of that post was self parody and humor.

    You say I take things too seriously, so instead of being insulted, I respond with humor, and you miss every clue that it is humor – you do not even take it literally – because it makes no sense literally.

  89. February 28, 2012 1:24 am

    Rather than reading my posts – why don;t you all spend some time re-reading your own.

    I am occasionally embarrassed by my spelling and grammar, but not by what I was saying.

  90. Pat Riot permalink
    February 28, 2012 8:14 am

    Snakes (asp) and whoppers (burgers)…dude, that belies an intense focus on the word Asberger’s from a cat with Asberger’s, but that’s OK. As my daughter once said when she was four: Just do what you do. You have a gift–a super power–it is a forcefield around your mind. I won’t try to pierce it anymore. I only have some human logic and reason. My frustration with your posts has subsided. Post all you want, man. It’s still a somwhat free country.

    • February 28, 2012 11:54 am


      I am sorry if my efforts at humor are not up to contemporary professional standards.

      You will be happy to know that I do not find humor something I am expert or even often good at. Though I did not think my joke was that obtuse.

      What I hope for is your efforts to pierce my arguments – with reason and logic. Please do not stop.

      What I am arguing is restoring freedom, something we have surrendered one tiny bit at a time in return for benefits from government that have never lived up to expectations.

      The most difficult argument that I have to make is that even the minuscule portion of freedom we sacrifice, is more valuable than anything government can offer.

      “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Ben Franklin

      “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

      “A Republic, if you can keep it.” – Franklin.

  91. Ian CSE permalink
    February 28, 2012 8:59 am

    Heh, yep, as I knew.

    Dave, in these many months and hundreds of posts, thousands of points and facts and opinions and probably hundreds of thousands of words, I have managed to learn something, to admit I was wrong about facts and you were correct on occasion. I have altered my fundamental opinion on a few subjects based on information you have provided and said so in a loud clear voice.

    Show me ONE case where you have done the same, admitted that something you wrote was not correct and changed your opinion. Just one case. I say you can’t do it.

    • February 28, 2012 11:39 am

      There are atleast two occasions where I have retracted either overly broad generalizations, or ambiguous statements that I interpreted one way and others reasonably interpreted differently.

      Past that, I am getting told, I make this all about me. It is not. Though I have addressed claims that I have aspergers, or no empathy, or whatever. This is not about me. My arguments and values work or they don’t whether I make them or the man on the moon does.

      If it is important to you for me to admit falability – I have been wrong about many things in the past, and will continue to be into the future. I supported Gulf War II – though I had problems with the Bush pre-emptive war doctrine, and did not think its justification needed to hinge on Weapons of Mass Destruction. My views on that are different now. At one time I was a pacifist in the vein of Tolstoy. While I still strongly favor peaceful, non-violence and non-resistance solutions. Non-resistance does not work in the face of genocide.
      Once upon a time I was moderate – in much the way you are. I was wrong about that.

      Nor do I expect to have exactly the same views in ten years – or even one.

      This is a learning experience for me. I have been surprised at the ease with which I can often find left leaning sources to provide the arguments against progressive positions.
      At the same time I learn new things. I never even tried to distinguish between the effect of taxes and those of government spending – yet while the research does support the claim that taxes are economically destructive – particularly taxes on investment, government spending actually appears to be more harmful than taxes. That is not what I expected. That strongly suggests that the so called Keynesian economic stimulus numbers are not only not over unity which I assumed, but are on the whole mildly negative.

      There are numerous other instances where either your arguments either altered my views or pointed me to information that shifted them.

      In other environments I like most people, and capable of massaging differences of opinion. I generally avoid issues like politics with clients. Some of my ability to help in soup kitchens or homeless shelters means working closely with people farther to the left than most anyone one here.

      But this blog is about politics. It is about finding solutions to our problems, and confronting and fixing the failures that already exist. I wish from you your best arguments in support of your views – and your best arguments against mine.
      I do not want you to concede in order to be polite or avoid friction.
      I would like to persuade you as you would me. But I am expressing and testing my own views in a forum where I did not believe I had to censor them. Persuasion is not my primary goal.

  92. Anonymous permalink
    February 28, 2012 11:52 am

    OK Dave, You give generalities of changes in the long distnt past and one case where you shifted even further from my position because you talked with me but, unless I misread something in your post, you have failed to provide even one specific instance where I was correct and you wrong.

    So, let me not be egotistical, how about other posters, can you provide one specific case where you were incorrect and someone among us “progressives” was correct? Just one actual specific case, please.

    • February 28, 2012 5:21 pm

      I do not memorize specifically whose argument altered my view – whether here or elsewhere, just as I can not tell you whether Smith, Bastiat, Hayek, or Norstrom was the impetus on my views on say spontaneous order.

      I also care more about finding whatever portions of the truth are reachable, than the specific route or driver that got me there.

      I do not go to sleep at night thinking I have been right (or wrong) more than Ian or Pat, or … I do not think about it at all. If you or anyone else needs credit for something – take whatever you wish. I think more about the issues and arguments than trying to keep score. I am not trying to get you to capitulate.

      I will happily confess that progressivism is an appealing philosophy. But that does not make it work. Its flaws are real and “correct”, independent of my noting some of those failures. It is not egotistical if I am right about the weather. I believe – I think with excellent reason that individual liberty is superior to leadership by an elite in almost all instances – whether that is demonstrably true or false or even in-determinant has nothing to do with ego.

      Nor are you or Rick or …. inherently wrong in whatever matter you choose.

      Maddoff is a criminal. Arnal, Mozilo and Sorros are not people I would chose to be for any amount of money. They are immoral. it is possible they are even criminal – though so far I have not heard a credible argument for that.
      If you wish to heap moral Opprobrium on them – feel free. Though they are plenty more, and in the case of Arnal and Mozilo they conspired with the poor, they did not rip them off. It is not immoral or illegal for someone to lose something they only got through deceipt – even if they were at best co-conspirators.
      Regardless, I will be happy to agree with you that myriads of people are morally decrepit. It is only when you wish to turn morality into law that I am opposing you. At the very least if you can do so, then so can Rick Santorum, and it is increasingly looking like that may come about.
      You are right about many if not all the things you find wrong with government – that does not make your solutions palatable.
      You are right that actually cutting federal expenses by 1%/year probably for less than a decade will balance the budget and correct our financial woes.

      You are right about many many other things – am I only entitled to post here if I take note of every-time you are right about something ? We have myriads of similaritites – it is the differences that are interesting.

  93. February 28, 2012 11:56 am

    Blaming Capitalism for Corporatism

    Edmund Phelps – 2006 Nobel laureate Economics.

  94. February 28, 2012 12:11 pm

    The introduction to this Mr. Soling’s essay is uninteresting and I do nto really care about Santorums position. Nor am I seeking to debate abolishing public schools at the moment – though they are another excellent example of government failure.

    What I find most interesting is Mr. Soling’s argument with respect to slavery.
    Slavery is wrong – evil, even if the slaves are better off in slavery. I hope we all accept that. Giving up individual freedom in return for better quality of life is not an acceptable tradeoff.
    We know as an example that the overall treatment of slaves, was significantly better than the indentured servants that many of us descended from. Slave owners cared for their property, they had indentured servants do the most dangerous tasks, they provided medical care nearly equal to their own to their slaves – yet you can not rationalize slavery as superior to indentured servitude no matter the differences in conditions.

    So why are we prepared to give away our own liberty or worse still that of others in return for ephemeral benefit ? Even accepting as true the argument that the benefits of all these government programs are real – that argument is still no different from that of plantation owners that they treated their slaves well. In the end – they were still slaves. Some even wished to remain slaves – that did not justify slavery either. Sacrificing any freedom beyond the freedom to harm others is still slavery – regardless of how small the freedom or how large the benefit.

  95. Ian CSE permalink
    February 28, 2012 8:12 pm

    I appreciate the reply but it still boils down to the fact that you have no instance of any philosophical or factual point on which you had to admit that you were incorrect and one other person on this blog was correct. Not one instance in thousands of posts. Simply incredible, such perfection is not found in human affairs.

    I did not read every word you have written in our many conversations, but I can say that never once did I see you come close to admitting any error, even when you had made absolutely absurd claims (its generally admitted that England has the worst health care system in the world, The reputation the Nazi’s have is out of proportion to their actual crimes).

    You have defended Sen Inoyes list of Scientists that don’t believe in Global Warming as being solid and impressive although it contains a great number of scientists who have informed the idiot Senator that he has lied about their position on global warming and demanded to be removed, a request with which that moral midget has not had the integrity to comply.

    As well you are utterly unable to grasp why I should not be interested in the opinions of climate scientists on global warming who believe on a religious basis that God would not permit global warming.

    These are just the occasions I remember that were so howlingly off key that any reasonable person would just admit error and go on to better things, but you defended these ideas ferociously as absolute truth and will again I’m sure.

    You are so incredibly conceited that you can never ever admit any error, no matter how obvious, its not in your constitution to ever be be publicly wrong.
    So, continue your little chess game in which you take on all progressive comers and never lose a piece, even if you have to manufacture progressives out of moderates and put words in our mouths that we never said, The black Knight is invincible!

    But utterly unreliable if one want to get to the truth of any matter.

    The movements I most identify you with, Global Warming Denialists and Deregulatory zealots pretty are nearly identical to you in their logic proof behaviors , which is why those movements are headed for the trash heap

    • Anonymous permalink
      February 29, 2012 11:30 am

      If you wish to defend the English Healthcare system, I would be perfectly happy to attack it.

      We have been through the Nazi thing before. In the course of three years Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge executed between 800,000 and 4 million cambodians. They did so far more brutally and personally than the Nazi’s did. The execute between 1/7th and 4/7th’s of the population of Cambodia.

      In 1994 the Rwandan Hutu executed 800,000 to 1,000,000 Tutsi in a period of 100 days – nearly 20% of the population.

      I believe the estimated toll for Stalin’s purges are approximately 20M people, and Mao’s are 80M.

      The Japanese killed between 3M and 10M mostly Chinese during WWII, starting prior to the Nazi’s engaging in more torture, medical experimentation, …..

      My argument is not that the Nazi’s were not evil – but that they are not exceptional.
      The preeminence of Nazi’s in the catalog of horrors is primarily due to the fact that the Nazi’s are western civilized white Caucasians. We recoil in horror at the Nazi’s because they are us.

      Our fixation on the Nazi atrocities as unique is racist.

      I made a mistake using Sen Inhoffes list (Sen Inouye is a retired democrat and warmist)
      I picked the first list from a google search. I subsequently provided myriads of better ones.

      Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa.

      If you are going to reject everything Spencer has done based on his religious affiliation, then I guess we must through our NASAs AMRS-E, Aqua as well as the UAH atmospheric temperature records as they are Spencer’s work.

      “The fate of mankind, as well as religion, depends on the emergence of a new faith in the future. Armed with such a faith, we might find it possible to resanctify the earth.”
      Al Gore

      I try to decide based on the merits of the arguments rather than what someone has said on unrelated issues.

      I have inextricably tied my personal credibility to that issue.
      How about you – do you have the courage of your own convictions ? Are you prepared to stake your personal credibility on everything else on any single issue ?

      I am neither egotistical, nor conceited. Regardless, that is not an argument.

      It is irrelevant whether I made an argument or someone else did – what matters is the argument.

  96. Anonymous permalink
    February 28, 2012 9:35 pm

    Ian, be careful, don’t get lured in too deep!!!! It’s DANGEROUS !!

    Why do we care? Why do we want the Black Knight to say, “Well, yes, in those cases I can see your point…” and “Well, yeah, I suppose in those instances my ‘absolutes’ aren’t as applicable” and “Hmmm, I never looked at it like that before; I’d better re-evaluate slightly” ?????

    Be careful, brave warrior, you have a book(s) to write.

    • Ian CSE permalink
      February 28, 2012 9:46 pm

      My Wife already likes you Pat, thanks!

  97. February 29, 2012 11:48 am


    It is the proposed solutions in here that I have focused on.
    These nearly universally solve problems with more government.

    Even Ian’s 1% spending cut with a 1% tax increase while generically proposing less government than we have is still arguing that we should have more government than we are paying for.

    I have repeatedly made it clear I will agree to any proposal of any kind that reduces government at any level in any form, to any extent – where are these proposals ?

    I welcome your agreement that liberty is important, and the abstract agreement that government is often inefficient and ineffective.

    But when it comes to actually addressing any problem the Moderate” response is more government.

    I am purportedly unreasonable because I will not compromise – but there is no actual compromise offered.

  98. February 29, 2012 5:14 pm

    I confess to you my brother and sisters, that I have sinned, I am an ungrateful criminal. I have committed thought crimes against the people. I have arrogantly and egotistically presumed my own thought, logic, facts or reason had more significance than the policy pronouncement of my glorious superiors within the great progressive state to which we owe everything . I have been a selfish revisionist counter-revolutionary and I kow tow to my comrades at TNM for showing me my recidivist ways. I prostrate myself before my bothers confessing my lack of empathy, and thanking them for their lessons in compassion. I was seduced by my faults. I repudiate my greed and life of luxury at the expense of the glorious working class. I have become a class enemy, I have placed wealth and self interest above fairness and the needs of the people. I ask the workers and peasants at TNM to forget my misguided libertarian rantings and help me to fight against my corrupt soul and rectify my bourgeois behavior, forgive me my aspburgers and accept me back into the proletariat.

  99. Anonymous permalink
    March 1, 2012 11:21 am


    Well, your mea culpa is a small step, take more of them, it will benefit you and your credibility.

    Attack the british system, fine, just do not tell me that its generally agreed that its the worst in the world, because that is clearly false. You cannot defend the statement with facts showing that it is a your opinion is generally agreed upon.

    As to conceit and egotism, you say that you are not an example of those faults. If it were left to self assesment there would not be one egotistical or conceited person on earth, no one sees themself that way. We could just remove the words from the dictionary, there is no such thing. But there are such things as egotism and conceit and this matter is decided by others one interacts with. If I said you are the most egotistical person I have ever heard of that would clearly be rhetoric, you are not the most egotistical person I ever encounterd. You are simply tied for the lead along with Donovan and Newt Gingrich. You are correct its not an argument, but it is a factor that people weigh when you opine and grade the likelyhood that your facts or opinions have been skewed. Most of us do not have the free time to read everything we encounter, we have to apportion our time and read what is most likely to enlighten. The words of egomaniacs are rarely on that list.

    Now the worst part of your crap, the Nazis and their place in history. The Nazis were innovators. In their racism they decided to exterminate the jewish race, they invented a system for mass butchery and invaded most of Europe to sieze men, women, and children and transport them to death camps where they starved, raped, abused, performed medical experiments and finally gassed them. They also started the largest war in human history based on the idea that they were the master race and must displace inferior races. Only a Complete Fucking Idiot would attempt to play them down with some talk of statistics. It has never been more obvious that you have a genetically unusual brain than when you make this argument. If you have Aspergers I sympathize with you, you poor bastard, you alienate everyone and don’t know why. If you really do not have Aspergers and are a “normal” person who just likes to argue about Nazis according to what you think is a logical way, then I despise you, warmly, which is what you richly deserve in that case.

    • March 2, 2012 11:18 am

      Do you read what you say ?

      You clearly do not read what I say ? Nor do you appear to have a clue what satire or sarcasm are – no matter how blatant. I nearly litterally cribbed a moaist self-criticism in the hope that some of you might grasp the idiocy of making this about character.

      If you think my facts are skewed – argue that, find better ones – a significant portion of the facts and statistics I have provided are coming from the IRS or NBER, well known radical right wing institutions.

      The Nazi’s did not invent exterminating people. At the very best they made it more scientific. Primarily because their experience with the Einsatzgrϋppen proved to emotionally difficult for their troops. The difference between Stalin, Mao and Hitler is the specific means by which they depersonalized mass execution.

      The Jews have been the favorite victim of just about everyone for five thousand years. Estimates of victims of the Nazi Hollocaust range from 15-26million. Estimates of the number of Jews range from 3-6m.

      Stalin executed 6-11m between 1929 and 1933 well BEFORE the holocaust. And almost certainly more than Hitler in total. Nor was Stalin some particular friend of the Jews.

      Mao was responsible for the deaths of 40-80m of his own people – though most were through starvation – many were through deliberate starvation as opposed to the failures of the great leap forward.

      There are myriads of problems with all these numbers – the carnage of Hitler, Mao and Stalin was on sufficient a scale that we do not know the full extent.

      This will provide you with myriads of different numbers arrived at by different means.

      I am not arguing that Hitler and the Nazi’s were not heinous. Just that they are not particularly unique, original, and even the magnitude of Hitler’s evil is not distinctive.

      What distinguishes Hitler and the Nazi’s is that they were too close to us. They were European caucasions.

      Do you know anything about what some of the rest of histories great mass murders actually did ? Do you have a clue what the Japanese did in Japan BEFORE the Hollocaust ?

      Here is Wikipedia’s list of bloodiest historic events.
      I would note that WWII casualties include those of the Japanese – the death toll from the Japanese in China alone exceeds that of the Germans.

      European deaths in WWI significantly exceed those in WWII and approach the total fro all of WWII.

      Those damn statistics keep getting in the way of beleiving what we want to beleive.

      You have no clue who I am, you know little about me but what I post on this blog.
      While I know even less about you – I am not diagnosing you, attribution motives to you making claims about your social relations to others.
      If I have attacked you, I have argued with what you said, not made assumptions with respect to things about you I can not know. I have made no representations with respect to your character. I do not despise you – warmly or otherwise. I do not know you well enough to do so – and you do not know me.

      I am not “normal” – there is no such thing. I do not have aspergers or any other psychological defect of diagnosis – and my past work required indepth scrutiny of my psyche, and the rest of my life.

      The characteristic of my brain that causes you the greatest problem is that I think logically rather than emotionally. No amount of empathy in the world will over come the harm done to those you claim to care about by fallacious decisions.
      Hitler – like all other tyrants thought he was making the world a better place, the hardest forms of tyrany to escape are those that take freedom now in return for the promise of some future utopian schemes that never materialize.

      Open your eyes – look around at the real world that you live in. You should certainly see the flaws, but you see nothing, if you do not grasp that you live in the best most prosperous time humanity has every experienced – in most every way, for every single class in this country, in the world. Certainly things can and will get better and we should strive for that – but if you do not know how you got here, then you have no clue how to move forward. If you over estimate the significance of the problems we face, you threaten to destroy what brought us where we are.

  100. Ian CSE permalink
    March 2, 2012 1:54 pm

    In reply? Yet more numbers statistics! Amazing.

    Do I know of the rape of Nanking? Yes, I know of it and spent hours in the library reading a long book full of the pictures of smiling Japanese soldiers with Chinese babies on their bayonettes. I wondered how my Japanese and Chinese colleagues could work together, some of my Chinese colleagues just out and said it, they did not like the Japanese people. Those Nanking soldiers are long dead but I could not really blame my Chinese friends if they felt like that given their history.

    Where in heaven’s name do you get the idea that only you among all us heathen actually know anything about anything? I can tell you about the Tuskagee experiments and the British slaughter of unarmed Indian non-violent protesters, I can tell you of Mao and his Let a thousand flowers blossom so that I can execute them crusade, and on and on. I, like many, have a better than passing acquaintance with our sad human history. I can tell you of Napoleon’s ruthless troops raping and pillaging terrorizing civilians through Europe, not to mention William the Conquerer laying total waste to England. Perhaps the date would interest you, its a nice unemotional fact. The Huns, they were impressive killers and pillagers as well.

    But still, Hitler and Stalin manage to stand out in my mind atop the impressive history of human cruelty.

    I’ll say it again, I’m sorry to get all my swearing out of the way with in a short period, only a Complete Fucking Idiot would try to pass the Nazi’s off as nothing special. You have no idea when to quit trying to prove that you are right.

    Why do you constantly prefer to show off your knowledge and “lack of “emotion” and so-called “logic” rather than just being human and let others have their own feelings and valid opinions?

    If you had the brains God gave a grape you would not tell me why I feel the way I do about the Nazis, instead you would ask me. But that would involve you caring about the opinion of someone other than Dave, the great all-knowing genius,

    I’m going to have to take you at your word on Aspergers. apparently mother nature did not make you the piece of work you are, you did it to yourself, deliberately. Uggg.

    I’m sorry, but nearly everything about your values and the way you look at the wold is repulsive to me.

    I’m done talking with you Dave. Find another slave to your ego.

    • March 2, 2012 10:45 pm

      First Hitler and the Nazi’s were absolutely unique and everything else was incomparable.

      Now Hitler and and Stalin stand out – I guess Mao just did not make the grade ?

      Why does that fact that some Chinese have gotten past Nanking – and it si far more than just Nanking, every evil the Nazi’s concocted – all the biological experiments, torture starvation, genocide, …. was done on the same or larger scale by the Japanese prior to the Holocaust.

      Absolutely there are other instances of incredible evil in the past – many of which are sufficiently divorced from the present that we have no real sense of them or how they might compare to the Nazi’s.

      I do not recall saying the Nazi’s were nothing special – only that their evil was not entitled to the perception of uniqueness many of us give it.

      The only thing unique about the Nazi’s is that they have our hair, skin tones, eyes, and western cultural background.

      There is nothing wrong with emotion, nor did I claim to lack it – or empathy. Only that it is not a basis for making decisions. An emotionally appealing decision that is logically wrong – is still logically wrong. The outcome of a logically wrong decision will be failure – regardless of good intentions, emotions, ……

      And on with the character assassination. You do not like what I say therefore something must be wrong with me.

      Have i beaten up your grandmother ? Pissed on your children ? What is it I have done to you that deserves the vitriol you are spewing ? Is this how you respond to anyone who does not agree with you ? Who has values different from yours ? Who does not agree with you ?

      I do not recall insulting you or any individual here directly. I have accused specific ideas of being idiotic, I have maligned accused progressiveness as idiocy. If i have ever said Ian or Pat or Rick or … was stupid, evil, mean, unempathetic, had ADD, AHD, aspbergers, or …
      … that was a serious mistake – and I sincerely apologize. But I will not apologize for expressing a negative opinion of an ideology, or an argument – just as you are entitled to disparage my values and arguments – and I am entitled to rebut that.

      I have not asked you to be a slave to my ego – I have not expected anything from you. You are free, free to agree, disagree, or ignore me, you are even free to malign me. Just as I am free in exactly the same ways.

  101. Ian CSE permalink
    March 3, 2012 3:27 pm

    Apologies to all, I banged my head on a rock for so long that I lost myself. Quarantine for a month, blogging damages my moderation.

    Here I am, surrounded by Family, Love, Nature, Music, and I choose to get into pointless aggravating political arguments instead of enjoying what I have.

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