False Conventional Libertarian Wisdom

Below, Patri asked what false Conventional Libertarian Wisdom we still hold on to. The following was my response in the comments, with a few modifications.


1) The belief that libertarians are playing on a level field against statists in the political arena. This gives rise to the naive belief that if we put forth a better effort, get better candidates than theirs, we’ll win. Just like in high school. Get the most votes, simple as that.

When this doesn’t happen, libertarians fall into despair. Contrary to this bit of CLW, the dynamics of the political marketplace heavily favor statists. Sure Blue Guys don't help, but Blue Guys aren't fundamentally the problem. Elections are won with money, and money is given in return for favors of special privilege - the exact opposite of libertarian policy prescriptions. It’s not a contradiction that a country with so many people who define themselves as “socially liberal and fiscally conservative” has no libertarians in major political offices. That isn't to say that I don't appreciate the efforts of libertarians to enact political change. I just hope they realize the magnitude of the odds stacked against us in the political arena.

See also Hypothetical Answer On Political Parties

2) The belief that things only and always get worse. If that’s the case, how was progress ever made? How did we get to where we are now? Why do I feel reasonably sure (though not completely) that I won't end up living in a cage somewhere during my life even though over a hundred million did during the last century?

3) The belief that liberty has to be respected for it’s own sake (libertarian morality) for people to prefer it. Liberty merely has to be in people’s self-interests. Not everyone finds the moral argument against taxation convincing, but make it easy and profitable to evade taxes, and nearly everyone will take advantage of it.

4) The belief that collective action is the same thing as collectivism. The market itself is a collaborative endeavor. So is civil society. So are the network effects that maintain any political structure, whether one that favors big government or one that favors limited government.

5) The belief that governments never do anything good. Governments often do horrible things, and they may be ultimately immoral, inefficient, and lack the knowledge needed to plan economies, but they sometimes do good - great - things, like feed the poor, chase down terrorists, and defeat Nazis.

6) The belief that every ailment anywhere in the world is the fault of the US government, somehow, some way. The argument usually goes that some time back in the 1970's, an arms dealer with close ties to the CIA sold some AK-47s to some locals in a country halfway around the world, and thus "we" created and are responsible for the tyrant that is currently in power, nevermind the extant cultural, historical, and sociopolitical factors, nor the rarity of Anglosphere-style cultures of liberty and positive-sum meta-contexts through history.

7) Epistemological Dogmatism (article by Michael Acree) - strange behavior for marketists.

8) The belief that anything less than instant and complete phase-change is a failure. Societies evolve and change slowly. Appropriate institutions, worldviews, and entrepreneurial solutions have to develop first. There is no magic button to push.

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You do realize that some of

You do realize that some of these positions aren't compatible.

For example, someone who believes in statment #1, is your typical L.P. statist who favors foreign wars, is anti-immigration for reason other than property rights, enrolled in the "Free State Project" (a blatant oxymoron!) and so forth. This same fellow would disagree with statements #5 & #6, as he probably considers himself a patriot who is proud of his country.

I would suggest one more C.L.W. though- "All unions are bad". Like your "all collectivism is bad" statement, there is nothing inherently wrong with unions, only when it's compulsory unionism.

Iceberg, The typical LPer is

Iceberg,

The typical LPer is against all of the things you mentioned. There has been, in fact, a widespread, zealous, and largely successful effort since 2001 to purge the Libertarian Party of anyone who was not absolutely anti-all-foreign-war, as well as dissent around other planks like immigration, etc. I think you'd be hard pressed to find any current LP member who believes as you described.

I think you're confusing the Libertarian Party with the (almost as mythical) libertarian wing of the Republican Party.

Hard-pressed? Isn't Neal

Hard-pressed? Isn't Neal Boortz isn't your typical LPer?

BWAHAHAHAHAAH Neal Boortz?

BWAHAHAHAHAAH Neal Boortz? The man booed and ridiculed and reviled at the LP convention? The one that was the subject of the "Boot Boortz" campaign? The one that no LP party maven will have *anything* to do with these days? That guy is the rank and file average member of the LP?

Surely you jest. The LP, aside from being a farce, is a rather militantly orthodox hyperpacifist (that is, step out of line about the hyperpacifism and we're gonna have to throw down, son) organization now, and Neal Boortz is explicitly unwelcome.

Sometime, can you (or

Sometime, can you (or another Libertarian) explain to me please how you would react if I were to erect a building or start a business next door to yours which had the effect of halving the value of your property. I "have the right", surely, to do what I want on my land?

Thinking about that kind of problem might give y'all a clue as to why Libertarians will find it hard to win at the polls.

There is a case in point here in NZ at the moment, with the Government (in the form of the Corrections Department) wanting to build a prison for teenage boys in a fairly remote rural area near Rotorua. They have bought the land - an open sale, the property was on the market.

Now try telling the locals (who are objecting through the defined legal process) that they can not establish a pig farm in an urban suburb without allowing others the same right of objection and they would get p'd about the restriction of development and their rights to do what they want with their land...

Mr Econotarian, As an

Mr Econotarian,

As an aspiring Wertfrei economist, I'm going to disaree with your implied argument that economic growth is desired and good, as that would constitute an invalid value judgement into a scientific subject. Every person should be able to decide for themselves how much savings and investment they want instead of immediate consumption, hence there can be no objective scientific measure showing how much growth is good.

Also, others such as Kevin Carson have pointed out, that measures of positive GDP in developing countries can be very misleading since they have immeasurable barter economies, and when they are forced by government to contribute to the economic growth, their immeasurable subjective utilities are usually worsened in the deal.

Probligo, Neither statist

Probligo,

Neither statist political variety in power (blue or red) endorses any sort of "existing property rights veto" when it comes to commercial enterprises, nor do they respect arguments of property holders when it comes to reduced value due to X, Y, or Z gov or NGO action/regulation. In fact, I dare say the only people that will have any sympathy for your argument are, ironically, libertarians.

Now, of course, in some situations hither or thither, in an ad hoc fashion, one of the two statist parties might side with property holders, but in those cases it is neither out of principle or regular action, but pure political calculation wholly contingent on the specific context.

It is specifically libertarians that bring up Coasean bargaining and the idea that competing claims can be subject to mutually advantageous negotiation for resolution.

But ultimately, *no*, nobody is entitled to stasis and if the rules as established are both liberal and followed in good faith, the extant property holders need to either deal with it or negotiate/work on an alternative solution.

Granted, when the gov't comes in, it is usually not even remotely interested in negotiating with prior interests...

John boy, you're alright in

John boy, you're alright in my book. :grin:

Mr. Econotarian: something to consider is old societies, like Medieval Iceland, which was practically anarchic and quite prosperous (as far as prosperity went in those days). In time, Somalia might also morph into something prosperous. At this very moment, though, I agree, although I think this leads more into questions of the stability of anarchic vs. statist societies, which is a whole nuther messy can o' worms.

Many of Somalia's industries

Many of Somalia's industries (like telecommunications) have blossomed under anarchy. Of course, doing better without a crappy government doesn't prove that getting rid of a democratic Western govt. is a win.

Sometime, can you (or

Sometime, can you (or another Libertarian) explain to me please how you would react if I were to erect a building or start a business next door to yours which had the effect of halving the value of your property. I “have the right", surely, to do what I want on my land?

Sure you do. I would try to get you to leave of course, but if you want to run a whorehouse next door to me I can't legitimately threaten you or physically destroy your stuff. Freedom, man, freedom.

Thinking about that kind of problem might give y’all a clue as to why Libertarians will find it hard to win at the polls.

I don't think polls are going to get us a free society.

1) The belief that

1) The belief that libertarians are playing on a level field against statists in the political arena. This gives rise to the naive belief that if we put forth a better effort, get better candidates than theirs, we’ll win. Just like in high school. Get the most votes, simple as that.

I find that libertarians more often subscribe to the opposite fallacy: that the "playing field" is biased, and that is the main obstacle to widespread adoption of libertarian agendae.

The fallacy I'd add is:

0) That the majority, or even a large minority, of human beings prefer responsibility over authority.

For example, someone who

For example, someone who believes in statment #1, is your typical L.P. statist who favors foreign wars, is anti-immigration for reason other than property rights, enrolled in the “Free State Project” (a blatant oxymoron!) and so forth. This same fellow would disagree with statements #5 & #6, as he probably considers himself a patriot who is proud of his country.

The Free State Project is entirely compatible with #1. It's an effort to decrease the skewed incentives of politics by lowering the size of the government jackpot by bringing politics closer to the local level and allowing people to choose their legal jurisdiction by "voting with your feet". In the limit, such as with federalism, seasteading, or market-based law, this reduces to polycentric law. To believe that the FSP is an "oxymoron" is compatible with #7 and #8.

I have nothing against "foreign wars" per se.

I'm not proud of the US government, but am proud of American culture and society. This distinction is often lost among libertarians.

The reality is that there is

The reality is that there is no country with poor or ineffective government institutions that have high levels of economic growth.

The literature clearly shows that only countries with effective government institutions can have high levels of economic growth.

On the other hand, economic growth is also related to the level of economic freedom in a country.

So there does need to be a minimal, yet strong government, enforcing things like property rights, handling non-Coasian issues like non-point pollution, etc. But the government must otherwise allow maximal economic freedom.

I'm more in favor of "Econotarianism" rather than "Libertarianism" for many reasons, but one is that economics can point to real scientific results (cash!) from government policy.

I find that libertarians

I find that libertarians more often subscribe to the opposite fallacy: that the “playing field” is biased, and that is the main obstacle to widespread adoption of libertarian agendae.

That sounds rather tautological; you're saying libertarians blame the obstacles they face on the obstacles they face?

I find that libertarians

I find that libertarians more often subscribe to the
opposite fallacy: that the “playing field” is biased, and that is the main
obstacle to widespread adoption of libertarian agendae.

That sounds rather tautological; you’re saying libertarians blame the obstacles they face on the obstacles they face?

Stefan, I think what he's saying is that Libertarians pesimism, (sp? or "negitivity") about the "biased playing field" is the main obstacle to adoption of their agendae.

At lest, that's the way I read it...

Jonathan Wilde on the CLW An

Jonathan Wilde on the CLW
An impressive contemplation of Libertarianism's rather lint-filled navel. Elections are won with money, and money is given in return for favors of special privilege - the exact opposite of libertarian policy prescriptions. It?s not a contradiction tha...

Jonathan, the distinction is

Jonathan, the distinction is an important one, but is it truly missed by most libertarians?

probligo - This would be a

probligo - This would be a good place to start.

Sorry, the link I included

Sorry, the link I included in the last post is no good.

Use this instead.