God is on my side, not yours!

Andy Duncan of Samizdata.net claims that God is a libertarian. This raises the obvious question: WWRT? (What Would Rand Think?)

Hang on a minute, I said, forgetting all about the economic arguments of wealth creation and personal motivation. You're a Christian, right? Yes, you atheist monster and whore-master of Babylon! You want taxes to go up, to the point where people like me have nothing left except just enough to exist on? That's right. To each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities! But isn't the central pillar of Christianity, its ultimate source of moral strength, the Ten Commandments of Moses? Certainly is. Thou shalt have no other gods before me! But doesn't taxation break one of the most vital commandments of all, second only to "Thou shalt not kill", that "Thou shalt not steal"? In what way foul demonic fiend?

Because all taxation is theft.

Bang to rights. Following the two second pause in which the mad Christian, who possesses even madder staring eyes than me, adjusted their world view to defend themselves, I had taken the field. There then followed a subsidiary argument about how this Christian willingly paid all taxes. Good for you, I said. I don't pay a penny willingly, except perhaps a little for the Scots Guards, the SAS, and Her Majesty's after-dinner tipples. At least ninety-five percent of what the state takes from me, I said, is taken by duress. I pay it because if I don't, the state will kidnap me, slam me in one of its gaols, and refuse to release me until I pay off its ransom. If tax isn't theft, I said, desperately trying to remember the correct quote from one of Uncle Murray's books, you should try asking the UK population for state contributions, rather than taking them under duress, and see how far you get.

And if you want to break out a scriptural can o' whoopass, see II Thessalonians 3:10 ("If a man will not work, he shall not eat") and II Corinthians 9:7 ("Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.")

In general, though, I frown upon making political points using religious arguments. The government shouldn't enact laws according to any religious doctrine, nor should individuals base their electoral decisions on their religious affiliations. To do so would be to turn society into a game of winners and losers, where the religious group with the most numerous or most powerful members uses the force of government to impose its will on everyone else.

But in this case, where the religious argument for libertarianism is merely a response to a previously initiated socialist claim, anything goes.

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For my pennyworth, I reckon

For my pennyworth, I reckon Ayn Rand would have dimssed Andy's claims in short order. By coincidence, I have ordered a copy of Atheism, the Case Against God, by George Smith. What is interesting is how some atheists dislike religious belief because of the notion that one must submit to a "higher power", which is inherently non-libertarian.

This is tricky. I don't think Rand and her supporters always gave enough credit to Christianity in fostering the notion of individual salvation, free will and the idea that every person is valuable in the eyes of god; but clearly any Randian would object to the idea of a person achieving his values via irrational belief founded on faith rather than reason.

A vast subject, but that is my take. Regards

"The government shouldn't

"The government shouldn't enact laws..."

Just quit while you're ahead there, no qualifications are appropriate.

As far as I know ?God? is a

As far as I know ?God? is a Libertarian.

By the way, George Smith?s book is a joke. He?s great for explaining why all of the world?s animal specifies won?t fit onto a single wooden boat, but he doesn?t really address the actual issue of ?God?. The book would have more aptly been called Atheism: Overreacting to the Case Against Christianity.

"To do so would be to turn

"To do so would be to turn society into a game of winners and losers, where the religious group with the most numerous or most powerful members uses the force of government to impose its will on everyone else."

As opposed to what we have now, where the ideological group with the most numerous or most powerful members uses the force of government to impose its will on everyone else.

I think that God is a

I think that God is a libertarian, and freedom is the "Kingdom of God" on Earth that Jesus of Nazareth referred to. For that matter, look at Samuel 8. (It happens to be the first chapter in "The Libertarian Reader.")

Johnathan Pearce, I'm about

Johnathan Pearce,

I'm about halfway through the Case Against God. It's okay as a criticism of the Christian conception of God, but I wish he spent a bit more time addressing more general ontological claims.

John T. Kennedy,

Actually, in my original post, I included the disclaimer: "The government, if it is to exist at all, shouldn't enact laws...", but I removed it because I think it gets in the way of my more general point. Even if we tolerate the existence of government, we would still want that government to remain secular, or at least pluralistic, rather than become a theocracy.

John Lopez,

True enough, but at least we have one realm of our lives protected from democratic tyranny.

Micha Ghertner: Even if we

Micha Ghertner: Even if we tolerate the existence of government, we would still want that government to remain secular, or at least pluralistic, rather than become a theocracy.

I agree, although I wouldn?t use the term ?secular?.

In fact the real (true) problem with our government today is that it has become a Theocracy ? an Atheistic Theocracy.

Atheism is our national religion. In fact, by government decree it is the only religion any public official can acknowledge or openly support. It is the only religion that our government run public schools are allowed to instill into our children.

Atheism is nothing but an absurd double standard perpetuated at the expense of others.

Micha Ghertner writes: I

Micha Ghertner writes:

I frown upon making political points using religious arguments

So do I, Micha. Especially when christians do it to ram socialism down my throat. I just thought it might be interesting to see what it would be like if we put the boot on the other foot, on a counter-attack, and socked it back to them, to shut them up for a minute or two.

That, and it's nearly Christmas! *

Micha, A related issue we've

Micha,

A related issue we've talked about before -

Another point that Andy's anecdote illustrates is that different types of arguments for libertarianism are effective for different people. After all the consequential arguments failed, it was the *moral* argument that at least made a dent. Different strokes for different folks.

"Actually, in my original

"Actually, in my original post, I included the disclaimer: "The government, if it is to exist at all, shouldn't enact laws...", but I removed it because I think it gets in the way of my more general point. Even if we tolerate the existence of government, we would still want that government to remain secular, or at least pluralistic, rather than become a theocracy."

You wouldn't want that if you were persuaded God wanted otherwise. If you accept the state and such a God I see no reason in priciple to think you would have to favor a secular or pluralistic society. You need not fear losing if God is on your side.

John, In my experience, most

John,

In my experience, most people who want the government to reflect their personal religious doctrines don't truly believe that God mandates it; rather, they naively think that if God's mandate is good enough for running their own lives, it's good enough for running the government as well.

The best way to counter this argument is to put yourself in the position of the religious minority: how would you feel if your religious group made up only 2% of the population? Would you still support the principle that religion should guide politics?

This is similar to the criticism of democracy in general, which must inevitably lead to a criticism of government in general.

Though I've come to

Though I've come to understand that labels are simply a means of increasing the coercive yield of a particular group think, in the past I've postulated in a couple posts at my blog that God is an Anarcho-capitalist. As I've read and reasoned for myself, I've come to the conclusion that God, as we are speaking about him here and at Samizdata is, as Gabriel Syme hopes and posted in the comments at Samizdata, "an individual."
Coming from a long line of Dutch Christian Reformed folks, as I do, this has been a leap.
But, that is neither here nor there and why one should look to themselves to figure it out.

Many of the arguments presented in the comments both here and at Samizdata seem to err in that they rely on theological premises presented by various religions over the centuries. Each and every religion, their dogmas, creeds, codifications of canonical writings and what not are presenting arguments only to bolster their specific stance. Many even have some truth. But the fact remains that they propound their arguments for only one reason, to control groups of people. Just as governments do.

I am a sovereign individual, just like, if you are in the faith, their is a sovereign God. A dichotomy you say. Well indeed it is, as written, but I believe I am sovereign here, in this physical world within which I can reason. If I'm wrong I may end up in Hell, if you want to believe there is such a thing, but in this life, being coerced to provide for the benefits of others will remain, for me, an unmitigated injustice.

God could give a rat's ass what you call yourself. If you're coercing someone else to conform what you think is right or to do what you think should be done, you're doing it wrong.

"The best way to counter

"The best way to counter this argument is to put yourself in the position of the religious minority: how would you feel if your religious group made up only 2% of the population? Would you still support the principle that religion should guide politics?"

You're just used to watered down religion, the hardcore faithful don't care about the odds.

Micha Ghertner: In my

Micha Ghertner: In my experience, most people who want the government to reflect their personal religious doctrines don't truly believe that God mandates it; rather, they naively think that if God's mandate is good enough for running their own lives, it's good enough for running the government as well.

Political beliefs are always a manifestation of one?s (more fundamental) religious beliefs.

Religious beliefs being one?s notions regarding the origin and nature of reality (the universe).

Micha Ghertner: The best way to counter this argument is to put yourself in the position of the religious minority: how would you feel if your religious group made up only 2% of the population? Would you still support the principle that religion should guide politics?

You are assuming that the guiding religion would be a force of conformity. That is an erroneous conclusion (i.e. your own personal bias). The fact is that many religions promote individuality and work against the powers of conformity. If such a religion was the guiding force of government than the 2% minority in your example would have nothing to fear.

Micha Ghertner: This is similar to the criticism of democracy in general, which must inevitably lead to a criticism of government in general.

Yes, yes, I know this argument ? Since some handguns are used in the commission of a crime all handguns need to be banned.

John Venlet: Though I've

John Venlet: Though I've come to understand that labels are simply a means of increasing the coercive yield of a particular group think ?

Interesting conclusion. I?m guessing you are no computer programmer or mathematician?

John Venlet: ? in the past I've postulated in a couple posts at my blog that God is an Anarcho-capitalist.

?God? is a libertarian. What makes you believe She is an Anarcho-captalist? You do realize that ?Capital? isn?t quite the same to someone capable of generating ?matter?.

John Venlet: As I've read and reasoned for myself, I've come to the conclusion that God, as we are speaking about him here and at Samizdata is, as Gabriel Syme hopes and posted in the comments at Samizdata, "an individual."

Mr. Venlet, I couldn?t agree more. Inherently She is no different than you or I.

John Venlet: Coming from a long line of Dutch Christian Reformed folks, as I do, this has been a leap.

Maybe not so much as you think ?

Just out of curiosity, according to Christianity what was the Christian God doing before he created the universe (before Genesis)? Was He alone? Did any other entities aside from God exist?

John Venlet: But, that is neither here nor there and why one should look to themselves to figure it out.

Again I agree. No priests are required.

John Venlet: Many of the arguments presented in the comments both here and at Samizdata seem to err in that they rely on theological premises presented by various religions over the centuries. Each and every religion, their dogmas, creeds, codifications of canonical writings and what not are presenting arguments only to bolster their specific stance. Many even have some truth. But the fact remains that they propound their arguments for only one reason, to control groups of people. Just as governments do.

I disagree, and I think your personal bias on the matter is showing here.

Atheism ? whose adherents claim isn?t even a religion -- is the most conforming, controlling, dogmatic belief system in the history of mankind.

But not all religions are all that dogmatic. And of course there is always Deism.

John Venlet: I am a sovereign individual, just like, if you are in the faith, their is a sovereign God. A dichotomy you say. Well indeed it is, as written, but I believe I am sovereign here, in this physical world within which I can reason. If I'm wrong I may end up in Hell, if you want to believe there is such a thing, but in this life, being coerced to provide for the benefits of others will remain, for me, an unmitigated injustice.

What makes you assume ?God? would coerce you to provide benefits for others against your wishes? I think ?God? is more concerned that you are a compatible individual who doesn?t harm others for your own selfish benefit. As for benevolence, I would say that an entities power is directly proportional to his perceived level of benevolence.

In other words, you are far more likely to allow me to control you if I am benefiting you in the process of that control.

John Venlet: God could give a rat's ass what you call yourself.

By in large I agree, although I would say that ?God? doesn?t have your same lax attitude in regard to mislabeling.

John Venlet: If you're coercing someone else to conform what you think is right or to do what you think should be done, you're doing it wrong.

I agree, it is better to ?convince? instead of ?coerce?; however, I am sure you will also agree that if someone is trying to rape your wife it is probably best (most expedient) if you coerce them into conforming to the idea that it is not okay to force women (especially your wife) into having sex against their wishes.

You are assuming that the

You are assuming that the guiding religion would be a force of conformity.

No, I am not. I am claiming that people should not use religious doctrines to mandate their political actions, even if that religious doctrine mandates liberty. To do so is to admit that religious doctrine is a legitimate way to govern; it isn't. One of the best arguments for liberty as the ultimate political value is that liberty acknowledges the separateness of persons and their pursuit of various ends. To base one's political beliefs on religious doctrine betrays this principle.

Micha Ghertner: This is similar to the criticism of democracy in general, which must inevitably lead to a criticism of government in general.

Yes, yes, I know this argument ? Since some handguns are used in the commission of a crime all handguns need to be banned.

Wrong. Democracy is not just bad in some instances; it is bad in all instances. Except perhaps one: unanimous consent. But in cases of unanimous consent, one doesn't need politics in the first place, as politics is simply a way to deal with social conflict. In other words, Democracy is either a tautology or it is unjust.

?God? is a libertarian. What makes you believe She is an Anarcho-captalist? You do realize that ?Capital? isn?t quite the same to someone capable of generating ?matter?.

Anarcho-capitalism is the inevitable result of the noncoercion principle taken to its logical conclusion. The capitalism part isn't quite as important as the anarchism part; it is there simply to mark a distinction from anarcho-socialists.

Atheism ? whose adherents claim isn?t even a religion -- is the most conforming, controlling, dogmatic belief system in the history of mankind.

Um,... yeah. All those Crusades and Inquisitions in the name of atheism sure killed alot of people, didn't they? I just hate how atheists make their wives wear Burkas, ban books that they don't agree with, and support such coercive laws as the war on drugs, sodomy laws, blue laws, anti-gambling laws, anti-prostitution laws, among others, all in the name of atheism.

Wrong. Democracy is not just

Wrong. Democracy is not just bad in some instances; it is bad in all instances. Except perhaps one: unanimous consent. But in cases of unanimous consent, one doesn't need politics in the first place, as politics is simply a way to deal with social conflict. In other words, Democracy is either a tautology or it is unjust.
you should post a critique of democracy like this one so I don't have to hijack this message board arguing against it.

Serpent: Interesting

Serpent: Interesting conclusion. I?m guessing you are no computer programmer or mathematician?

John V: Good guess.

Serpent: ?God? is a libertarian. What makes you believe She is an Anarcho-captalist? You do realize that ?Capital? isn?t quite the same to someone capable of generating ?matter?.

John V: To the first part: I'm pleased She is for you.

To the second part: If you read my comment closely you'll determine that I recognized that as an error.

To the third part: Indeed "Capital" is a mere human folly.

Serpent: Mr. Venlet, I couldn?t agree more. Inherently She is no different than you or I.

John V: Gratuitous feather stroking.

Serpent: Just out of curiosity, according to Christianity what was the Christian God doing before he created the universe (before Genesis)? Was He alone? Did any other entities aside from God exist?

John V: First part: I am not overly concerned with any of their conclusions, only my own. I'm fairly certain you may have theories of your own.

Second part: As for if, I see we are back to He, was alone or if other entities existed aside from God, once again I have read many postulations but I subscribe to none.

Serpent: I disagree, and I think your personal bias on the matter is showing here.

Atheism ? whose adherents claim isn?t even a religion -- is the most conforming, controlling, dogmatic belief system in the history of mankind.

But not all religions are all that dogmatic. And of course there is always Deism.

John V: First part: I apologize for my personal bias, but I am not asking you to accept my personal bias, I simply expressing my thoughts. Do with them what you will.

Second part: I imagine Atheism could be as evil as you have described, if it is a dues paying club. I much prefer to consider Camus' thought expressed in "The Possessed." "The complete atheist is more respectable than the man who is indifferent. He is on the last rung preceding perfect faith."

Serpent: What makes you assume ?God? would coerce you to provide benefits for others against your wishes? I think ?God? is more concerned that you are a compatible individual who doesn?t harm others for your own selfish benefit. As for benevolence, I would say that an entities power is directly proportional to his perceived level of benevolence.

In other words, you are far more likely to allow me to control you if I am benefiting you in the process of that control.

The argument presented is well put, but I think the ability is in me to grasp the power. I don't think the power is controlling me or is attempting to, it is there for the taking and my constructive use if I can grasp it.

Serpent: By in large I agree, although I would say that ?God? doesn?t have your same lax attitude in regard to mislabeling.

I stand, decisively, with my initial statement.

Serpent: I agree, it is better to ?convince? instead of ?coerce?; however, I am sure you will also agree that if someone is trying to rape your wife it is probably best (most expedient) if you coerce them into conforming to the idea that it is not okay to force women (especially your wife) into having sex against their wishes.

Indeed. But I am not attempting to convince, I am only expressing my thoughts for others to consider or toss away like chaff. As to a rape scenario, such as you describe, in fact, I would dispatch such an individual with alacrity and extreme prejudice into whatever is beyond what I ken currently.

In time, matt, in time. I'm

In time, matt, in time. I'm too busy with finals right now to write a long entry on democracy.

Atheism ? whose adherents

Atheism ? whose adherents claim isn?t even a religion -- is the most conforming, controlling, dogmatic belief system in the history of mankind.
there's a lovely philosophical distinction between "strong athiesm" and "weak athies." With the former claiming that "god doesn't exist" (this being the "case against god" position as I understand it), and the latter claiming "uh, what the hell do you even mean?"

The first may be dogmatic, but that's hardly a refutation. I think they're a bit guilty of Nietzsche's famous "Yea, it findeth you out too, ye conquerors of the old God! Weary
ye became of the conflict, and now your weariness serveth the new idol!" Which is probably best characterized as "capitalism" or at least rampant consumerism- the "new idol" I mean.

Weak Atheism makes perfect sense, however, because we shouldn't forget that Athiesm is fundamentally your term, theists of the world. If a cult springs up about the star "Mizar" being made of green cheese, must we paint ourselves in the corner as being "anticheese" or "amizarcheesiests"? I doubt it. Instead the question is only meaningful if there's some good evidence. I don't have to prove that Mizar isn't made of green cheese, I can assume it because no other stars seem to be made of green cheese, and I've seen no convincing evidence that it is. That ios, show me why I should even accept the question as a meaningful/relevant one before I'll call myself an atheist.

I like the distinction

I like the distinction between strong atheism and weak atheism. George Smith, in "The Case Against God," uses a similar distinction, but instead uses the labels agnostic atheism and regular atheism (actually, I'm not sure what term he uses to describe gnostic atheists. Maybe just "athiests"). Agnostic atheists don't actively believe in God, whereas regular atheists actively disbelieve. He also distinguishes between regular theists and agnostic theists, where regular theists claim to know what God is and attempt to justify this position based on reason, evidence, etc. Agnostic theists admit that they do not know any positive qualities of God (what God is rather than what God isn't) and believe in God based on blind faith alone.

And I must ask: why rampant capitalism and rampant consumerism rather than rampant statism and rampant paternalism?

two reasons I'd say, though

two reasons I'd say, though let me clarify that I'm not trying to lend the ideas any extra credibility due to the Nietzsche quote. It's easy, especially with a writer like him, to see your own ideas in the writing.

a. statism as a new religion was a feature of nazi germany, in my estimation. Polls in the US show that people are profoundly suspicious of the government and politicians (as they should be) so I don't think statism is applicable. Also, depdning on how you define it, it has been decreasing.

b. Paternalism isn't increasing either, as far as I can tell. Again, it's a pretty broad term, but I think it's been present in society for awhile.

c. Capitalism has many religious features, which I'm sure Serpent would be glad to enumerate for us. The invisible hand doctrine is metaphysical, and so is the marginal productivity theory of income, as far as I can tell. Many of the arguments come from deontological first principles, as far as I'm concerned, and viewed that way many capitalist arguments paralell "Numbers 32:5 says x" arguments.

If free-market capitalism is the mythical eden, paralelling the "argument by design" for gods existence, then consumerism and selfish individual utility maximization are the commandments.

Overall I'd say there were two general reactions to "god's death" which both involved a new god. There was statism in Russia and Germany (along with other nominally communist states and fascist ones) and there was capitalism in much of the rest of the world. Interesting how Russia and Germany were the "Father" of the holy trilogy and Capitalism was the "holy spirit."

Polls in the US show that

Polls in the US show that people are profoundly suspicious of the government and politicians (as they should be) so I don't think statism is applicable.

You are certainly correct that polls show widespread suspicion, and even a general preference for smaller government. But when you get down to specifics, people refuse to get rid of or even reduce individual government programs. And every time there is a new social problem, the nearly unaninmous response of the general public is for government to provide a solution.

Paternalism isn't increasing either, as far as I can tell.

I think it is, especially in the realm of public health: smoking bans, lawsuits against fast food companies, increased vigor in the war on drugs, etc.

The invisible hand doctrine is metaphysical

Um, no. Even openly statist economists like Keynes and Galbraith admit that the invisible hand is true, as long as certain conditions are met. (zero transaction costs, perfect information, etc.) The dispute between economists is not whether the doctrine is true, but how close the real world is to meeting those conditions.

is the marginal productivity theory of income, as far as I can tell.

I'm not sure what you mean by this.

If free-market capitalism is the mythical eden, paralelling the "argument by design" for gods existence, then consumerism and selfish individual utility maximization are the commandments.

What's interesting about your claim is that free-market capitalism tends to make little or no claims on what individual people should do; rather, most of the claims are on what the government should not do. Economists in general, but free-market economists in particular, tend to take preferences and values as a given, and only then figure out what institutions produce the best results based on the given inputs of "human nature." Socialism, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite: the hope seems to be that with enough state intervention, human nature (or at least initial preferences and values) can be changed.

Therefore, "consumerism and selfish individual utility maximization" are in no sense "commandments"; rather, they are simply what many people choose to do.

The Serpent writes that

The Serpent writes that George Smith's book on atheism, to which I referred in the first comment above, does not refer to god.

Er, I don't want to be rude, but is the Serpent pulling my chain, or has he been smoking something illegal? The whole point of Smith's book is that he contests the notion of god as a concept, challenging the very arguments regularly employed to justify god's existence, such as the notion of prime mover of the universe, etc.

One can argue all over about the correctness of George Smith's book, which I read a long time ago and intend to read again. But to claim his book does not directly address god and the justification of religion is, to borrow the Serpent's word, a joke.

Separately though, I don't think there is a lot of point in trying to "prove" whether Christians ought to be socialists or libertarians. Ultimately the foundations for a liberal order need to be rational, ie, non-religious.

You are certainly correct

You are certainly correct that polls show widespread suspicion, and even a general preference for smaller government. But when you get down to specifics, people refuse to get rid of or even reduce individual government programs. And every time there is a new social problem, the nearly unaninmous response of the general public is for government to provide a solution.
I agree, generally, with this. But this shows that statism is not a religion at all, because there's no dogma, right? If you don't worship jesus or whatever, and are profoundly suspicious of him but still turn the other cheek, I don't think that makes you religious, just ethical. Obviously, I don't agree with state socialist programs in the long run, but I think they are a pleasant and rational alternative to corporate-dominant programs. People tend to respond well to slogans they get brainwashed with, like "free markets," "private enterprise," "taxation is theft," and even "democracy." The fact that they advocate programs running counter to these ideas, means propbably that they aren't dogmatic but pragmatic.

I think it is, especially in the realm of public health: smoking bans, lawsuits against fast food companies, increased vigor in the war on drugs, etc.
there's an element of it, for sure, though I don't think lawsuits against fast food companies are major problematic feature. I don'tknow if that's paternalism, though technically speaking. Paternalism is like faith in the father figure to do what's right for you. This is like the public excercising their ability to do what they think is right for them, or at least for bartenders. Some of this I don't agree with, like helmet laws and the war on drugs, but I don't reject these things prima facie.

Even openly statist economists like Keynes and Galbraith admit that the invisible hand is true, as long as certain conditions are met. (zero transaction costs, perfect information, etc.) The dispute between economists is not whether the doctrine is true, but how close the real world is to meeting those conditions.
Plenty of stuff on this:
a. "the invisible hand" seems metaphysical whether it's true or not, especially on Adam Smith's account of it.
b. Keynes rejected the "self-adjusting market" tenet of the invisible hand doctrine, so you're no entirely correct.
c. Given that the real world doesn't meet the conditions, how is it not metaphsical, or at least a mere utopian abstraction?

is the marginal productivity theory of income, as far as I can tell.

micha: I'm not sure what you mean by this.
That's not borne out by the evidence either. This ones sort of a joke though, because MP is a false theory, not a metaphysical one.

more in a second.

What's interesting about

What's interesting about your claim is that free-market capitalism tends to make little or no claims on what individual people should do; rather, most of the claims are on what the government should not do.
no way. The theory makes a big claim on what people should do, you just assume it rather than argue it: respect absolute property rights. Russia did the same thing- the people were perfectly free so long as they recognized the absolute legitimacy of the state over everything. You just divide up the russian state, think about it:
suppose microsoft made just a few purely aesthetic changes. Bill Gates was called the Secretary General. Stockholders were called "the party", and the board of directors were called the "politbureau." What would you have? A perfect science project replica of the russian government. As you increase the power of these institutions, you are basically increasing totalitarianism. But it's okay, because property rights are absolutely sacrosanct. The divine right of property, you might call it if you were religious minded.

Economists in general, but free-market economists in particular, tend to take preferences and values as a given, and only then figure out what institutions produce the best results based on the given inputs of "human nature."
I have plenty of disagreements on this, but I'm short of time, so only 2:
a. CBA is market paternalism with a stick. Efficiency is measured solely by market values, clearly not the way humans value things.
b. the preferences are made under circumstances which bias them. In a competitive society compeition will seem much more obvious and dominant as a trait. i.e. there is no control to this expiriment.

Therefore, "consumerism and selfish individual utility maximization" are in no sense "commandments"; rather, they are simply what many people choose to do.
under certain conditions.

I agree, generally, with

I agree, generally, with this. But this shows that statism is not a religion at all, because there's no dogma, right?

I think that although the dogma may be contradictory at times (like all dogmas tend to be), it is still dogma. In my previous post, Human Action, Not Human Design, I mentioned the similarities between belief in God and belief in the state, because most people have great difficulty accepting the fact that unguided and unplanned systems can and do produce order.

People tend to respond well to slogans they get brainwashed with, like "free markets," "private enterprise," "taxation is theft," and even "democracy."

In my experience, most people do not respond well to the equation of taxation and theft. At least most non-libertarian non-anarchists don't.

though I don't think lawsuits against fast food companies are major problematic feature

Just you wait. What happened to the tobbacco companies is now happening to gun manufacturers and fast food companies. I don't see how anyone who is not an abject paternalist can support or even tolerate this movement.

Paternalism is like faith in the father figure to do what's right for you. This is like the public excercising their ability to do what they think is right for them, or at least for bartenders.

But this is not the public exercising any choice; this is government bureucrats and judges excersing this choice for the unwashed, uneducated masses.

"the invisible hand" seems metaphysical whether it's true or not, especially on Adam Smith's account of it.

Not at all. It's simply an observation that markets tend to result in the socially optimal result as long as certain conditions are met. There is nothing metaphysical about this, even in Smith's characterization, just as there is nothing metaphysical about the planets and celestial bodies being in alignment (which is incidentally where Adam Smith first used the term, in a book on astronomy).

Keynes rejected the "self-adjusting market" tenet of the invisible hand doctrine, so you're no entirely correct.

But only because the market in his estimation didn't meet those conditions. I don't believe he ever rejected the premise that if those conditions were met, the self-adjusting market hypothesis would hold.

c. Given that the real world doesn't meet the conditions, how is it not metaphsical, or at least a mere utopian abstraction?

Because it outlines the problem before us. It gives us the structure of a market, and helps us determine which imperfections lead to which results, and how and why we might go about addressing those imperfections. Perfect competition does exist in some markets, just not all. Furthermore, even without perfect competition, there is not necessarily justification for government intervention, unless we can first determine whether or not intervention would make things better or worse.

Physicists do the same thing: they outline how a force would act on an object in a world with no imperfections (gravity, friction, etc) and only once the basics have been established, move on to more complex cases.

is the marginal productivity theory of income, as far as I can tell.

micha: I'm not sure what you mean by this.
That's not borne out by the evidence either.

Again, I'm still unclear where you are going with this.

The theory makes a big claim on what people should do, you just assume it rather than argue it: respect absolute property rights.

Nope, not at all. The Law and Economics movement, specifically Gary Becker, certainly does not assume this. Rather, it posits that if we as a society wish to protect property rights (because of the attractive consequences property rights bring), then the way to go about doing this is making theft less valuable to the thief than not stealing. This can be done by increasing the penalties for theft, increasing the number of prosecutions, or providing better alternatives in the job market. What it certainly does not assume is that people should act a certain way. Economists are not preachers; we could care less what people choose to do; we only care about the incentives that lead people to make these decisions.

CBA is market paternalism with a stick. Efficiency is measured solely by market values, clearly not the way humans value things.

Absolutely incorrect. Cost-benefit analysis is conducted according to whatever values people may have; a perfect example is taking into account people's existence values. Some people gain utility simply from the knowledge that something exists, such as an endangered species or a rain forest. CBA takes this into account.

the preferences are made under circumstances which bias them. In a competitive society compeition will seem much more obvious and dominant as a trait. i.e. there is no control to this expiriment.

But this criticism will apply to any possible social structure; the social structure will always bias people in favor of the status quo. This is not a criticism of capitalism; this is a criticism of society in general.

I think that although the

I think that although the dogma may be contradictory at times (like all dogmas tend to be), it is still dogma. In my previous post, Human Action, Not Human Design, I mentioned the similarities between belief in God and belief in the state, because most people have great difficulty accepting the fact that unguided and unplanned systems can and do produce order.
capitalism is a highly guided system first of all. Much is made of the non-intrusive "negative rights" that libertarians are always trumpeting, but as I've pointed out repeatedly, negative rights can be more intrusive than positive rights (in the case of bald guys.) Defending absolute property rights is as "guided" and "patterned" as redistributing income.

Secondly, I think you failed to resond to my essential argument:People often mouth the words "free market" or "democracy" but when it comes to policy decisions, they don't consistently apply them. This isn't because the state has them brainwashed- the state right now (closely aligned with the corporate sector) would like nothing better than to undermine social programs- it's because regardless of the free market pledge of allegiance they ricite all the time, they don't accept it. I don't pretend that this doesn't cut both ways either.

In my experience, most people do not respond well to the equation of taxation and theft. At least most non-libertarian non-anarchists don't.
yeah, you're probably right. Mainly because there hasn't been a conscious program to drill this in to their heads (whereas democracy and free enterprise has been.) Obviously because the state wants tax revenue, and the private enterprises that benefit heavily want it too.

Just you wait. What happened to the tobbacco companies is now happening to gun manufacturers and fast food companies. I don't see how anyone who is not an abject paternalist can support or even tolerate this movement.
this is a question of manipulation, not paternalism.

But this is not the public exercising any choice; this is government bureucrats and judges excersing this choice for the unwashed, uneducated masses.
I think there are elements of "social control" and power hunger in many of these regulations (some more than others.) Some of them I don't though, like smoking bans. I haven't looked into the matter very seriously, but have you seen evidence that smoking bans are unpopular?

It's simply an observation that markets tend to result in the socially optimal result as long as certain conditions are met. There is nothing metaphysical about this
the invisible hand? A hand that guides individual selfish utility maximizers, an is also invisible? A force that constantly acts on something in a certain way is not metaphysical. Gravity constantly pulls things. Sure. A magical force that guides every actor to act for the social good without them meaning to? That's a different beast altogether. It's a force that acts positively and negatively, and "leads people to promote the common good."

But only because the market in his estimation didn't meet those conditions. I don't believe he ever rejected the premise that if those conditions were met, the self-adjusting market hypothesis would hold.
I don't think this is correct. He rejected because he thought that
a. interest rates were determined on the money market, not the capital market, hence the famous "liquidity trap."
b. Investment is priarily a function of rational expectations for the future, not interest rates.
c. "In the long run we're all dead."

If one of the conditions that needed to be met was humans living for 1000 years so that the market's natural adjustment (if it even would occur) could occur, then maybe you're right. Otherwise, I see the differences as a result of keynes challenge of two fundamental presuppositions.

Physicists do the same thing: they outline how a force would act on an object in a world with no imperfections (gravity, friction, etc) and only once the basics have been established, move on to more complex cases.
not a good analogy. Free Markets just have different forces. This is why I refuse to be an economics major: I just can't devote my life to Bastiat and treat his theories as if any deviation from them is an "imperfection." Still an undergrad and you're already convinced that private property rights and utility maximization aren't forces at all; like a world without gravity or friction. Unfortunately, this is why so many of our discussion wind up coming back to origins of property and whatnot.

Rather, it posits that if we as a society wish to protect property rights (because of the attractive consequences property rights bring), then the way to go about doing this is making theft less valuable to the thief than not stealing.
I said "you have to respect absolute property rights,." You're not defending that, you're assuming it, with the exception of the small parenthetical assertion.

What it certainly does not assume is that people should act a certain way. Economists are not preachers; we could care less what people choose to do; we only care about the incentives that lead people to make these decisions.
It doesn't? It says "if we want to prevent theft we impose penalties on the thief"? Well that's so enlightening. If we want to prevent starvation, we make absolute property rights less attractive by taxing them then. And if we want to discourage the use of drugs, we punish severely anyone who deals them. Well thanks, professor.

Absolutely incorrect. Cost-benefit analysis is conducted according to whatever values people may have; a perfect example is taking into account people's existence values. Some people gain utility simply from the knowledge that something exists, such as an endangered species or a rain forest. CBA takes this into account.
I think you're thinking of pareto, which says "feels better off." CBA says "if the $ gains exceed the $ losses then the change is efficient." If we need to build a highway through this little old lady's shack, and it's market value is 5 bucks we can do it provided that the net $ gain of the highway not curving is at least 5.01. We don't even have to compensate her, actually. You're finishing up history of thought, right? Have you seen the devolution from Pareto to Hicks-Kaldor to CBA? It's amazing.

But this criticism will apply to any possible social structure; the social structure will always bias people in favor of the status quo. This is not a criticism of capitalism; this is a criticism of society in general.
don't get your undies in a bunch. I wasn't using it as a critique, I was using it as a counterargument. Any system that applies such significant weight to out current beliefs must consider this factor as potentially biasing, sure. That's why "human nature" arguments specifically for or against capitalism are bogus, since human nature is very much a function of circumstance. You said econ reacts to human nature, I'm saying that's problematic.

A better approach is to look at aspects of human nature which occur given certain circumstances (ala sociobiology) and figure out which society will maximize the most appealing traits.