Leon Kass Hates Ice Cream

Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone--a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive. ... Eating on the street--even when undertaken, say, because one is between appointments and has no other time to eat--displays [a] lack of self-control: It beckons enslavement to the belly. ... Lacking utensils for cutting and lifting to mouth, he will often be seen using his teeth for tearing off chewable portions, just like any animal. ... This doglike feeding, if one must engage in it, ought to be kept from public view, where, even if we feel no shame, others are compelled to witness our shameful behavior.

- Kass, quoted by Steven Pinker, via Hit & Run

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Fine as long as he just wants to cut funding

As long as all Kass wants to do is cut government funding for ice cream licking, I really have no problem with his opinions.

Even cutting funding is problematic

Even cutting funding is problematic, if it is done selectively. The government shouldn't be in the research grant business, or in the medical insurance business, or in the marriage business, or in any other business. But once it does get involved in those businesses, and inevitably crowds out the private sector, it shouldn't be able to pick and choose based on non-pluralistic, Christian fundamentalist criteria, thereby excluding stem-cell research, abortificants and contraception, and gay marriage.

Disagree

I've already had this argument when the topic was targeted tax breaks, so I'll refer you back to that discussion, on this blog.

Link? I assume you defended

Link? I assume you defended targeted tax breaks?

Link

Yes I did. Here's one large fragment of I think a larger discussion. I also believe that Arthur speaks for me on the topic of tax breaks, or at least did at the time.

The topic of what to fund (as opposed to what to tax) is not exactly the same. (In fact, Arthur may well disagree on this topic, so I don't mean to drag him in on my side here now.) I however think that the principle is the same.

Is the principle the same?

I won't get into the tax break discussion, since you've already been there and done that, but is funding really the same? Once you've been forced to pay into the system, don't you have some claims on what you can get out of it? Think Social Security. No one is "entitled" to have their retirement paid for by current workers, but are we really comfortable with denying SS benefits to some segment of the population that paid into it while keeping the rest of the system in place? If the government socializes health care, isn't it adding insult to injury to then deny access to birth control to people who were forced to pay into the system ?

Social Security is theft

Social Security isn't savings. When we pay into Social Security, we are robbed and our money is being used to fund retirees. When our turn comes, we are not getting our own money back. Rather, a fresh robbery is occurring. Nobody has any right to that money but the taxpayer from whom it is taken.

"Paid into it" is a misleading terminology. Suppose that Kyle ass-rapes Scott, and then Scott argues that he's paid into the ass-rape system and it would add insult to injury if Scott were not allowed to ass-rape you.

To Be Fair

Scheule isn't my type.

Bullshit

I'm everyone's type.

Rape Isn't Fungible

Rape isn't fungible, retirement savings is.

I think this issue touches on Jim Henley's sequencing objection to removing the shackles and crutches of the state in the wrong order:

Most libertarians would agree that it’s a messed-up state that:

* Creates a massive crime problem in poor minority neighborhoods with a futile, vicious and every more far-reaching attempt to prevent commerce in popular, highly portable intoxicants that leaves absurd numbers of young men with felony records, making them marginally employable.

* Fails to provide adequate policing for such neighborhoods.

* Fails to provide effective education in such neighborhoods after installing itself as the educator of first resort.

* Uses regulatory power to sharply curtail entry into lines of business from hair-care to ride provision, further limiting the employment options of people in such neighborhoods.

* Has in the past actively fostered the oppression of said minority, up to and including spending state money and time in keeping its members in bondage.

* To make up for all of the above, provides a nominal amount of tax-financed welfare for the afflicted.

But it’s a messed-up libertarianism that looks at that situation and says, "Man, first thing we gotta do is get rid of that welfare!"

So mugging is okay

Rape isn't fungible, retirement savings is.

So I suppose mugging is okay, as long as (a) the mugger takes only the money from my wallet and (b) the mugger himself was previously mugged and an equal or greater amount of money was taken from him.

I do not think so.

I don't see how your quoted material argues against my position. My position is not, for instance, that the drug war should be sustained until welfare is abolished.

Mugging isn't fungible, retirement savings is.

We are talking about how, once they have already been coercively taken, stolen funds should be disposed of. We are not talking about increasing the level of coercive takings.

You say that you do not see how the quoted material argues against your position. Do you see any merit in the claim that there are sequencing priorities when deregulating, or is any form of deregulation desirable, regardless of how it is done? Is opposition to certain forms of deregulation on sequencing priority grounds morally equivalent to support for regulation?

Suppose the government currently owns and operates a hydroelectric dam. It currently spends $10,000 each day operating the dam. Come the libertarian revolution, all public property is to be returned to the people in the form of private property.

How is this to be done? One could deregulate and privatize gradually, perhaps by auctioning off the dam in its entirety to private bidders, or deconstructing the dam piece by piece. But both of these methods may take a while and will require spending $10,000 each day on upkeep until the chosen process is finished.

Alternatively, the government could just stop all upkeep at once, avoiding any further burden on taxpayers, but at the cost of the dam rupturing and flooding the nearby county, causing millions of dollars in property damage and risking thousands of lives.

Paying for upkeep even one more day is the moral equivalent of rape and mugging, says the radical deregulationist. Do you agree?

You want, I want

We are talking about how, once they have already been coercively taken, stolen funds should be disposed of.

The stolen funds of last year were already distributed. They are gone. They cannot be returned. Stolen funds taken this year can morally be returned to the taxpayers of this year. What you propose doing is that they be distributed to Social Security recipients (i.e., taxpayers of years past) in some manner that you purport to be fair.

Fungibility isn't a magic property that makes robbery not robbery.

Paying for upkeep even one more day is the moral equivalent of rape and mugging, says the radical deregulationist. Do you agree?

How is a dam fungible? How are the materials being used to keep up the dam fungible? How is your if-they-stop-a-disaster-will-occur argument in any way related to your argument from fungibility? Okay, money is used to buy materials and labor, but let me put this question to you: suppose we lived in a barter economy, one without money. Suppose furthermore that the dam is maintained by slave labor. How is your if-they-stop-a-disaster-will-occur argument affected in this scenario? It does not seem to affect your argument, since it remains true that if they stop a disaster will occur. This key fact, which you seem to think decisive, does not depend on the fungibility of the dam or its upkeep. If you still maintain your position on the continued upkeep of the dam in this scenario, then your argument from fungibility is revealed to have been a distraction, concealing the real issue as you see it.

Here are a few facts worth keeping in mind:

1) People living under the dam presumably are aware of how the dam is being maintained. In general, people owe it to themselves to keep abreast of these things, in case of a slave revolt at the dam if nothing else. Those who choose to ignore the danger of a slave revolt have made their choice.

2) It does not take all that long to evacuate the town.

3) It takes a while for a dam to break down after a slave revolt.

My view is that the slaves have a right to revolt at any time, without giving advance notice. I think that one way that libertarians can help people to avoid being caught under a breaking dam is to remind them that the slaves indeed to have the right to revolt and any time without giving notice, and may one day do so. The more keenly people are aware of this, the better they will be able to prevent themselves from being caught in the deluge when the slaves do what they all along had the right to do. Libertarianism is not useless, after all.

How is your

How is your if-they-stop-a-disaster-will-occur argument in any way related to your argument from fungibility?

It isn't. I'm offering two different arguments, one from fungibility, the other from consequences.

Re: Fungibility. A thief steals $100 from Abraham one year and steals $100 from Jacob ten years later. The thief later squanders $100 of the $200 he stole. The thief is then caught and is asked to pay compensation to his victims, but does not have enough money to compensate all his victims fully. What does libertarianism have to say about who and how much the thief must compensate?

You seem to imply that compensation should be biased in favor of the most recent victims. Why?

Those who choose to ignore the danger of a slave revolt have made their choice.

It's not as if everyone is able to freely choose, unless you are assuming that the government first constructed the dam and only then did people choose to move there. What about the people that were living there before the dam was constructed? What about cases where the dam was initially privately owned and then later seized by the government? Are the potential flood victim's property rights any less valuable than the property rights of tax payers forced to pay upkeep costs?

My view is that the slaves have a right to revolt at any time, without giving advance notice.

I don't disagree with that, but there is still the question of prudence regarding how best to revolt.

Retry

Got disconnected, lost my comment. I'll be brief, hopefully complete enough.

You seem to imply that compensation should be biased in favor of the most recent victims. Why?

Property claims fade over time. But furthermore, when a thief steals a first time, and then spends it all, the first batch of money was spent. If the thief steals a second time from someone else, that second batch of money does not become partially the property of the first victim.

This holds to varying degrees even if not all of the first batch was spent.

What about the people that were living there before the dam was constructed? What about cases where the dam was initially privately owned and then later seized by the government? Are the potential flood victim's property rights any less valuable than the property rights of tax payers forced to pay upkeep costs?

The slave has a better claim on himself than do the dam villagers, regardless of what the villagers do or do not know, regardless of what they can reasonably be expected to know, regardless of what offenses the government has committed against the villagers and what dangers it has placed them in the path of, regardless of how great a catastrophe would befall the dam villagers if the slave escaped.

And likewise, the taxpayer has a better claim on himself, regardless. The key factor you seem to care about is the degree of the catastrophe. Let us look at an analogous situation between two individuals: I have ten thousand dollars which I am about to spend on gold-leaf covered ice cream, which I will buy, look at, and then throw away. You have no money and are about to die (because the government has exposed you to a toxin), but you will live if the money that I am about to spend on ice cream, is instead spent on an antidote for you.

I still have the better claim to the money. To believe otherwise is to believe that need is primary in deciding who gets what. Many people believe this. They are called communists.

I guess that makes me a communist

Maybe it's just me, but I would certainly steal your gold-leaf covered ice cream if my life depended on it, libertarian principles against theft be damned. And if we lived in a world where enshrining theft systematically into social policy was necessary for decent and desirable consequences, then I wouldn't be a libertarian. But we don't live in such a world. We live in a world where theft as general policy usually leads to terrible outcomes.

Unfortunately, the distortions created by statism do sometimes result in situations where not all forms of deregulation are desirable. Think California electricity deregulation. Freeing the wholesale side of the market without freeing the retail side of the market led to a worse outcome than if no deregulation had taken place at all. Partial deregulation, in the wrong order, not only led to terrible consequences, but gave deregulation in general a bad name, making the public less likely to favor free markets over government planning. I don't recall any libertarians in retrospect supporting that kind of partial deregulation even over the status quo of continued total regulation. Do you?

I might too

I guess that makes me a communist

You could well be.

You can take what I'll call a moral communist, by which I mean here one who adheres to the communist precept of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" as the core moral idea, and you might be able to convince him that as a matter of fact free markets and private property both maximize production and maximize the benefit to the needy as compared to the alternatives and therefore maximize the degree to which society adheres to Marx's precept.

So some libertarians might be communists. And you can tell who's who on those occasions when it's not obvious that liberty maximizes adherence to Marx's precept.

I would certainly steal your gold-leaf covered ice cream if my life depended on it, libertarian principles against theft be damned.

I might steal your money if I could get away with it, even if I didn't need it for anything in particular. I don't identify "what I would do if I could get away with it" with "what's right". I think that most criminals are well aware of the difference between right and wrong, and choose wrong because they think they can get away with it, not because they really believe it's right.

And if we lived in a world where enshrining theft systematically into social policy was necessary for decent and desirable consequences, then I wouldn't be a libertarian.

Sounds utilitarian. But even utilitarianism may come down on my side of the gilded ice cream dispute, because the long-term consequence of a rule that strongly protects private property regardless of the frivolity of its use may be to the overall benefit of everyone even if it means the occasional person will die for lack of money which is being spent elsewhere on trivialities. For instance, if I fear that someone may steal my gilded ice cream to pay for a toxin antidote, I may not bother to produce enough to earn that money in the first place, in which case you would still die and I wouldn't have my ice cream.

Think California electricity deregulation. Freeing the wholesale side of the market without freeing the retail side of the market led to a worse outcome than if no deregulation had taken place at all. Partial deregulation, in the wrong order, not only led to terrible consequences, but gave deregulation in general a bad name, making the public less likely to favor free markets over government planning. I don't recall any libertarians in retrospect supporting that kind of partial deregulation even over the status quo of continued total regulation. Do you?

I don't really know enough about what happened to state a position on it. However, generally speaking, the sudden freeing of the enslaved often creates terrible consequences in the short term to various people who weren't planning on it. I would be surprised if the freeing of the slaves had no negative consequences for anyone. I would be surprised if opportunists did not appear who took advantage of the confusion to enrich themselves at the expense of the unprepared. And it may indeed be true that, as a matter of political strategy, the long-term goal of liberty might be best served by judicious violation of liberty here and there. For instance, a libertarian might secretly murder another libertarian and blame it on a statist, thereby winning sympathy for the libertarian cause. However, the question of what is the best strategy to bring about the libertarian revolution, is not identical to the question of what is right. I admit that I am no political strategist and largely limit my comments to the easier question of what is right.

I don't identify "what I

I don't identify "what I would do if I could get away with it" with "what's right".

I think there is an important difference here, in that I would look at someone who stole without any extremely pressing need simply because he knew he could get away with it very differently than I would look at someone who stole because she had no other option to save her own life or the life of her family. I would say the first person did the wrong thing, but the second person did the right thing. If the second person refused to steal a gilded ice cream out of an anti-theft principle even though doing so meant letting herself or her family die, I might even look at this person as a fool or worse: a bad wife and mother, and a poor steward of her own body.

I admit that I am no political strategist and largely limit my comments to the easier question of what is right.

What good is a conception of right if it makes everyone (or nearly everyone) worse off?

Come now

What good is a conception of right if it makes everyone (or nearly everyone) worse off?

Surely we've had enough utilitarian-Kantian debates to eliminate the viability of feigning ignorance.

Maybe

Maybe he thinks it's time for another one. It has been a while. I wish, though, we had more people for it.

Someone call John T.

Someone call John T. Kennedy!

Teehee - you got me

Honestly, though, it's still something I've never really understood about Kantianism - why in the world should you tell the truth to the inquisitive Nazi officer that Ann Frank is hiding in your attic?

What???

I don't know if that comment was aimed in my direction, but in case it was...

I recognize no moral obligation to tell the truth to a Nazi pursuing innocent victims, any more than I recognize a moral obligation to refrain from killing a Nazi who is about to kill an innocent victim. If you want an explanation, the defense of innocents reduces or removes the usual moral constraints (e.g. against killing) when dealing with aggressors.

No, it was in response to

No, it was in response to Scott's comment above about Kantianism. This threading system gets a bit confusing when the indentation gets too deep.

Think so?

This threading system gets a bit confusing when the indentation gets too deep.

Think so?

To Get To The Other Side?

Though the question is neither fair nor un-silly, the argument boils down to:

Teleological ethics presumes that what is good is defined in terms of some other quality--e.g., utility.

The Kantian denies the premise: what is good cannot be defined in terms of some other quality. It's irreducible. I believe this is G.E. Moore's tactic, though I'm sure Rad Geek can correct me. So, assuming it's right to always tell the truth (which it isn't) the answer to your original question is, you tell the inquisitive Nazi the truth because it's right to tell the truth, full stop.

I use Kantian in the colloquial sense of "deontological ethics"--not in the sense of the categorical imperative (I think this is an acceptable usage, but I apologize if not).

If the deontological guy wanted to be snarky, he'd ask why in the world should we maximize utility? Which leads the teleological guy to give the same question-begging response: we just should, it's an irreducible fact that utility is good. This is how the deontological guy brings the teleo-guy down to his level, and I believe is the source of the claim that all ethical systems are deontological in some fashion--the inviolable premises are just buried deeper in the teleological ones.

Ultimately, it's more likely that either system's wrong: our ethical hunches don't make any kind of systematic sense, so this is all one big snipe hunt--even if it's a fun one--justified by nothing more than the widespread taste we have for coherence and rationalization.

I think this is a good

I think this is a good comment by me, but it's ruined by the indents. On the other hand, the indents do serve a purpose. They're like the slow hand of death, creeping up on the comment thread, peacefully murdering our arguments as they move too far from the original topic and into more senile quarters.

Full width

Each comment can be read at full width by hitting the "reply" button. And so those who are fully engaged in the discussion receive preferential treatment.

You seem to be equivocating

What good is a conception of right if it makes everyone (or nearly everyone) worse off?

There are some ambiguities in your rhetorical question. Are you implying that my conception of right invariably makes nearly everyone worse off? Or are you merely implying that my conception of right might, in certain circumstances, make nearly everyone worse off? And are you saying that my conception of right makes nearly everyone worse off (i.e., that the possession of this conception makes nearly everyone worse off sometimes/always)? Or are you saying that what I conceive as right makes nearly everyone worse off (i.e. that right action, as I conceive it, makes nearly everyone worse off sometimes/always)?

I think, furthermore, that your argument is based on those ambiguities. For, your argument evidently takes the form, "What good is X if X makes people worse off." This reasonable argument is reasonable only if we interpret it as meaning that X itself makes people worse off, and moreover, usually or on average makes people worse off.

But if you want to apply your argument to my conception, then it must take the following form:

"What good is a conception of X if X itself might sometimes make people worse off?" At most you have shown that the good as I conceive it might, in certain circumstances, lead to disaster. The same can be said of the concept of friendship. Friendship itself might sometimes make people worse off (friends can have a painful falling out). But the following rhetorical question is twice silly: "what good is the conception of friendship if friendship itself may occasionally be painful."

But suppose we can come up

But suppose we can come up with an alternative conception of friendship that has all the benefits of the first conception with fewer drawbacks? Why hold on to the first conception and not replace it with the second?

(Interpret my question as implying that your conception of right might, under certain circumstances, if put into practice, make nearly everyone involved worse off.)

Okay, then how about this

Let's redefine the term "friendship" to mean "friendship that is free of painful moments." Thus, any seeming friendship that has painful moments is, by definition, not friendship.

Surely you do not prefer the new definition of friendship to the old one.

Moreover there is a problem with the idea of "putting [something] into practice". It implies the existence of an entity which can choose to put [the something] into practice, and moreover it addresses itself to that entity, since it is mere idle talk for anyone but the empowered entity to talk about that entity putting things into practice. In the case of something like "the good", what is being put into practice is universal adherence to a rule, so the concept of "putting [a conception of the good] into practice" addresses itself to a god-emperor of humanity.

A human who is trying to make his way in the world as an individual in a large mass of individuals, rather than to shape it as if he were its divine ruler, needs to recognize the difference between right and wrong as the reality that it is, which presents itself to him from outside of him. That human has good reason to want his conception of the good to reflect that reality, the reality which is already there whether he prefers it or not. He has little reason to want his conception to match the most nearly perfect vision of utopia dreamed by a philosopher king.

In particular, there is a distinction between the rules imposed and enforced by the state, and the rules that are, willy nilly, imposed and enforced without any central plan by society everywhere. Rules such as, "don't steal." No state or king or priest made up "don't steal", they all adopted it and then pretended that it came from them, when in fact it did not, but rather, it is natural law.

I love that a brief quote

I love that a brief quote about ice cream gave birth to this thread. Also, "Rape isn't Fungible" sounds like--bear with me here--a great title for an upbeat Broadway song. What rhymes with fungible?

Spongeable

?

While welfare isn't high on my reform list...

Henley's quote implies that welfare is a net positive for the people to which it's given. I'm not convinced that's the case.

Carry on with the ass-raping, ice-cream licking, and mugging.

Scott's musical

Carry on with the ass-raping, ice-cream licking, and mugging.

The results may not be fungible,
But let's at least hope that they're spongeable...

Ha!

Ha!

True, Charles Johnson makes

True, Charles Johnson makes the same caveat:

When we’re setting our strategic priorities, one thing that we need to keep an eye out for is the fact that not all of what the government passes out as a crutch really is one; the enemy we’re fighting, after all, is a consolidated mass not only of force, but also of fraud. Lots of so-called crutches really have a secret shackle attached to them — welfare per se is a crutch, but remember that welfare comes with a professional busybody social worker attached. Moreover, lots of so-called crutches are themselves crowbars; they’re the tools that the State uses to break your legs, and then have the supreme impudence to claim that they’re helping you to walk by doing it.

Since you mention socialized

Since you mention socialized healthcare, it raises the same problem as social security, you can't comfortably get out of it .

If the organizations

If the organizations receiving grants are receiving less than the organization is paying in taxes, then it is not a grant, merely the state not stealing as much money as it could.

I suspect in this cases the research being funded is not for profit, thus the laboratories are net tax receivers. In this case, they should not accept the funding, or better, they should accept it and secretly give it back to taxpayers.

There's nothing wrong with selectively starving people of stolen money. There is no right to be fed stolen money, and in this matter, equality is certainly not morally relevant.

Re: Okay, then how about this

The discussion indentation is getting to deep and narrow, so I'll respond to Constant's latest post with the above title here.

Let's redefine the term "friendship" to mean "friendship that is free of painful moments." Thus, any seeming friendship that has painful moments is, by definition, not friendship.

Surely you do not prefer the new definition of friendship to the old one.

Because it wouldn't meet the criteria I listed earlier: this new conception of friendship does not have all of the benefits of the first conception with fewer drawbacks.

Conversely, if our initial conception of friendship had been "friendship that is unconditional; no matter how hateful, conniving, or exploitive an acquaintance might be, you still remain friends with him", then an alternative conception of friendship that allowed for certain conditional escape clauses would be superior.

Moreover there is a problem with the idea of "putting [something] into practice". It implies the existence of an entity which can choose to put [the something] into practice, and moreover it addresses itself to that entity, since it is mere idle talk for anyone but the empowered entity to talk about that entity putting things into practice. In the case of something like "the good", what is being put into practice is universal adherence to a rule, so the concept of "putting [a conception of the good] into practice" addresses itself to a god-emperor of humanity.

No it doesn't. A conception of the good can be put into practice through individual human action (if you believe it, practice it), through persuasion (if you believe it, convince others to believe it), and through the creation of social institutions (if you believe it, take part in the creation and maintenance of institutions that promote that belief and/or promote incentives that structure behavior in accordance with that belief). One can work towards an ideal without necessarily being a god-like central planner able to implement that ideal with a single press of a button.

On the other hand, you do touch on an important point, one that Randy Barnett also mentions in this essay; namely, that natural rights deontology generally operates from a first-person perspective while consequentialism operates from a third-person perspective.

A moral rights analysis, by which I mean rights derived either from teleological or deontological methods, is salient because it takes seriously the individual. Properly defined moral rights protect the highly valued “private” sphere. Put another way, moral rights analysis views the actions of individuals (and associations to which they consensually belong) from the perspective of the individual. The specialized evaluative techniques it employs are conducive to elaborating this individualist perspective. Because we all are individuals, the idea of moral rights has wide appeal. We have a natural interest in the protection of our rights, and our empathy causes us to be concerned about the protection of the rights of others.

In contrast, consequentialist analysis is salient because it takes seriously the wide-reaching and highly dispersed effect that the actions of individuals and their associations may often have on others. Consequentialist analysis can be seen as protecting a “public” sphere. Although consequentialist analysis is often couched in terms of how “society” views the consequences of individual actions, this anthropomorphic metaphor can be avoided by saying that consequentialist analysis views the actions of individuals from the perspective of the other persons with whom they live in society. Because we are all affected by the actions of others, the consequentialist perspective also has wide appeal. We are concerned about the consequences to us of other people’s actions and our empathy causes us also to be concerned about the consequences of such actions for others.

One can be a consequentialist - that is, concerned with how the actions of individuals effect other people living within society - without having to invoke a "god-emperor of humanity." To ignore the social ramifications of human action is to give in to the false anti-libertarian critique that libertarianism is "atomistic", unable to say anything useful about humanity outside of rudimentary Robinson Crusoe scenarios.

More than one non-atomistic conception

One can work towards an ideal without necessarily being a god-like central planner able to implement that ideal with a single press of a button.

Sure one can make the world more perfect - by becoming a doctor or a scientist - or for that matter a merchant. However, if you are working toward an ideal universal rule of behavior by implementing in your own person what you envision being implemented across humanity, then you are in all likelihood confusing the part with the whole. Just as a lowly gas station owner cannot halve the market price of gasoline by steadfastly charging half the market price of the gasoline he sells (market mechanisms compensate for his foolishness: maybe smart resellers buy up his cheap gasoline and resell it at market price), neither is a saint likely to make everyone a saint, nor even to pull the world in the direction of sainthood, by himself being a saint.

Even the god emperor himself is limited in what he can do. Even the god emperor can't really change the market by fixing the price at half of what it was. The market reacts badly even to the command of the emperor. And similarly, there are limits to the perversions that the state can subject society to by means of the instrument of positive law.

To ignore the social ramifications of human action is to give in to the false anti-libertarian critique that libertarianism is "atomistic", unable to say anything useful about humanity outside of rudimentary Robinson Crusoe scenarios.

One does not need to subscribe to your conception of right and wrong in order to think about social ramifications. You write as though all thought occurs inside the boundaries of a single concept, requiring the concept itself to involve social ramifications in order that we be able to think about social ramifications. Besides which, my own conception of right and wrong is no more atomistic than the economist's conception of market price. The latter conception in principle takes into account the preferences and behavior of every member of society. And similarly with my conception of right and wrong.

However, if you are working

However, if you are working toward an ideal universal rule of behavior by implementing in your own person what you envision being implemented across humanity, then you are in all likelihood confusing the part with the whole.

Well, sure, but why conceive of morality narrowly as a set of rules by which you as an individual should live your own life, and not more broadly as a set of rules by which everyone should live their lives , and also a set of rules by which everyone should try to influence others to live their lives?

Questions of personal life ethics are interesting and important, but not generally what I consider to be libertarianism. I think of libertarianism as a predominantly - if not entirely - social ethic.

Realism

My point is that if you, as a consequentialist, define the rule of right and wrong in terms of what the consequences would be if the rule were universally followed, then you are failing to take into account what is likely or even realistically possible. Contrast these two questions:

1) What would happen if we were all to follow rule X? This is the question that the rule utilitarians ask.

2) What rules are strongly likely to arise spontaneously in society and be sustainable indefinitely without the constant reinforcement of a tyrant? X? Or Y? This is the question that I ask. (Or one of the questions, anyway.)

These are logically distinct. If X is not an answer to (2), then as an ideal of human behavior X is a pipedream regardless of what the answer is to (1). I tend to think that the range of answers to (2) among humans is narrow (at least, as regards to certain categories of rules - I think that rules about what counts as "robbing a merchant" will tend to be more constant throughout the world and easily recognizable to tourists visiting foreign lands than rules about what counts as "greeting someone politely").

My point is that if you, as

My point is that if you, as a consequentialist, define the rule of right and wrong in terms of what the consequences would be if the rule were universally followed, then you are failing to take into account what is likely or even realistically possible.

But that is not how I define consequentialism. I define it as a mechanism for analyzing rules and institutions first and foremost, and only secondarily (if at all) as a mechanism for analyzing an individual's behavior.

So I see no distinction between your two questions. The question rule consequentialists ask is not "What would happen if we were all to follow rule X?", but "What would happen if rule X were to be implemented?

Now obvious questions follow from this. What does it mean for a rule to be implemented? Who does the implementing? Can rules be implemented without the constant reinforcement of a tyrant? Is there any point in trying to implement a rule if it cannot be implemented without the constant reinforcement of a tyrant?

You and I are asking exactly the same questions.

There appears to be at least one difference

The question rule consequentialists ask is not "What would happen if we were all to follow rule X?", but "What would happen if rule X were to be implemented?

Define "implemented".

For my part, I don't ask what would happen if the rule were "implemented", but rather ask, what rules have arisen and will tend to arise and stabilize willy nilly from the conflicts between people and their various resolutions? If you like, you might call a rule that has arisen this way "implemented", but once it's "implemented", once it has arisen and stabilized, then any further consequences beyond that ("what would happen if"), while they are doubtless of interest in themselves, constitute a separate topic.

Consequences are of course involved in the process of rules arising and stabilizing. If somebody smacks somebody else for doing something he doesn't like, this smack will have consequences - it might, for example, earn the smacker respect, or it might get the smacker smacked. And these immediate consequences will themselves have consequences (e.g. smacking the initial smacker might earn the second smacker respect, or it might get the second smacker smacked). And so on. So there is a network of consequences and this network of consequences will determine what rules will arise and stabilize.

But beyond its role here, beyond its role, that is, in "implementation" itself, the consequences constitute a separate topic. I think, then, that conflict resolutions tend, in the long run, to fall into certain patterns, and the language that meanwhile evolves around these patterns is moral language. I'm not just arbitrarily labeling it moral language - if you look at the language that people use as they participate in conflict resolution, it's what they themselves consider talk about morality. E.g. "That's not yours. You were wrong to take it without permission. I want you to apologize."

If you like, you might call

If you like, you might call a rule that has arisen this way "implemented", but once it's "implemented", once it has arisen and stabilized, then any further consequences beyond that ("what would happen if"), while they are doubtless of interest in themselves, constitute a separate topic.

But arising and stablizing is on ongoing, never-ending process. There never comes a point when we can say, "ah, now the rule is finally permanent and we can enshrine it into stone without the possibility of circumstances changing that might lead us (correctly) to modify it."

But beyond its role here, beyond its role, that is, in "implementation" itself, the consequences constitute a separate topic.

Implementation, in a certain sense, never ends, and therefore consequences are always, to a greater or lesser degree, relevant.

I think, then, that conflict resolutions tend, in the long run, to fall into certain patterns, and the language that meanwhile evolves around these patterns is moral language. I'm not just arbitrarily labeling it moral language - if you look at the language that people use as they participate in conflict resolution, it's what they themselves consider talk about morality.

I agree completely; language, morality and law are all very closely tied together, and we can learn much from analogizing them as well. A Wittgensteinian approach to language as a communal activity always in a state of flux and never permanent is how I understand law and morality as well. That doesn't mean that there is no permanence at all, however; if the flux was too widespread and too frequent, there would be no use for the system.