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  • matt b

    For another devastating take, see Ron Bailey’s article in Reason Magazine which also takes the bulldozer of logic to Lind’s comically weak arguments. It’s also worth noting that Lind, who styles himself as a champion of the poor and vulnerable in contrast to Grinch like libertarians, is one of the most obstreperous defenders of our closed borders world. He has been quite explicit in saying that open borders threatens the welfare state (a dubious argument so long as we’re talking about a reasonable welfare state) and that we should resolve the conflict in favour of already wealthy first worlders.

  • The last paragraph asks,

    A better question we might ask Lind and Dionne: if the intrusive state is so great, why does it need to retain its clients by force, rather than letting them peacefully opt out?

    I could ask the same question is another form. If the rule of law is so great, why do we need to enforce it? My re-phrasing of the question speaks to the enforcement of rules on those who commit actions that deliberately break those rules. The average criminal might prefer to remain exempt from the law. But, even in a private society, this would be absurd. There has to be some use of coercion to enforce rules.

    But even re-phrasing it in this manner doesn’t get at some of the possible justifications of state coercion. This is me thinking out loud. Take the free rider problem, for instance; if there is some benefit to having the state, enforcing tax payments might be desirable from an institutional perspective. Note that here the taxpayer may enjoy all the benefits derived from the state, and may consider the benefits greater than the costs, but they know that by evading taxes they can force the cost on to others. In some sense, there is a strengthening of property rights, because enforced taxation helps internalize the costs (to some extent). (Edit: This reminds me of a something Coase wrote. He notes that many competitive actions by firms were mistaken as attempts at monopolization.)

    Also, in the post you bring up a number of examples of bad policy. I don’t think anybody will disagree with you that there is a lot of bad policy. I don’t think many people would disagree with the proposition that institutions of governance can improve, even if many people don’t think about it often. But, policy has improved over time, and the constraints on policy-making have improved over time. What I’m getting at is that if there is a justifiable set of things that are best resolved through collective action, then we need a state (broadly defined). I think Lind’s post was bad; I also wrote a response, that goes down a different route. I just think you’re exploring a totally different topic: is their any justification for the state.

    Tangentially, I think this is plain wrong,

    As contemporary market anarchist Kevin Carson observes, “advocates of the regulatory-welfare state must pretend that the injustices of the capitalist economy result from the unbridled market, rather than from state intervention in the market,” since otherwise “they could not justify their own power as a remedy.”

    There’s no doubt that economic intervention assumes certain inadequacies in the market. But, I don’t think there’s any “pretending” involved. Honest, reasonable people disagree on things, including the efficiency of the market.

  • Les Kyle Nearhood

    Good rebuttal, although I do not agree with your characterization of the
    Tea parties. They were primarily about taxes and tax policy. Some have been coopted by other groups but the original parties were organic anti-tax assemblies.

    Lind is being too clever by half. We don’t have a libertarian nation in the world because the statists, primarily the Marxist statists, as well as Islamic religious totalitarians, have gained control of nearly the entire world and fight tooth and nail to hold on to their control and privilege. People like Lind and Dionne are good little
    aparatchiks who enthusiastically prop up the existing order.
    Now it is certainly true that the modern mixed economy democracies have created a pretty good life for most of their citizens. This is possible because the limited amount of free market capitalism which they allow is so productive there are huge surpluses which can be used to line the pockets of cronies and for bread and circuses for the masses. This is not, however an optimal situation. Things could still be much better with more personal liberty.

    • matt b

      I agree with much of what you say though I don’t think the Tea Party is a force for liberalism properly understood as a philosophy of free minds and free markets. It always had a large number of people who were reactionary Buchanites within its ranks though I fully agree that many people, when it first started and still today, are very much committed to individual freedom. It’s kind of the ultimate mixed bag.

    • I don’t think it’s a fully satisfying answer to say that we don’t have libertarian societies because “statists … fight tooth and nail to hold on to their control and privilege”. After all, absolute monarchs and aristocracies similarly fought to hold on to power, and yet here we have modern representative democracies. I also think we can’t simply say “well, people haven’t gotten the libertarian message yet”.

      Here are my off-the-cuff answers for why more libertarian societies don’t exist: First, unless a country can live under another country’s security umbrella it’s going to have to have some level of military expenditure, and that distorts things in various ways antithetical to libertarianism–especially in large countries like the US that have a history of major military engagements. Second, in clan-based societies (a good portion of the world) government is a valuable prize to be captured: it’s a way for some clans to prosper at the expense of other clans. Third, a lot of countries don’t have a (classic) liberal political tradition, but tend to be more collectivist, for whatever reason. This leaves a fairly small set of countries as candidates for potential libertopias, with the top ones being small ethnically homogeneous former English colonies.

      Another point is that opposition to intrusive states is like opposition to slavery: Slavery didn’t go away just because people considered it immoral, but because economies evolved to produce general prosperity without the need for a slave class. Similarly, if (say) a future “robot revolution” greatly minimizes problems of material want and if (big if) the benefits of this are shared relatively equally among all people, then I think the general population would be much more willing to consider the virtues of a minimal state.

      • Les Kyle Nearhood

        But also because the people themselves, (not just the elites) hold on dearly to their own desire to control their neighbors. This is what I learned looking at the polls which have been done concerning drugs and other vice laws. The mass of people have no trouble imposing their moral views upon others, that is true both of the religious right and the seular left.

        • This is true, lots of people have a desire to recruit government to enforce social norms (in some cases widely held norms, in other cases not so much). The norms being enforced might change, but the desire is ongoing.

  • martinbrock

    “Libertarianism” names a political ideal, many ideals in fact, not a specific political system. Lind’s argument applies to any conceivable political ideal and is not particularly relevant to libertarian ideals.

    Lind might as well ask why, if a world without crime is so great, no countries without criminals exist, or why, if a world without a powerful, wealthy elite turning the knobs of a state’s most central authority is so great, no countries without political cronyism exist.

    No ideal, libertarian country exists because weapons of mass destruction and weapons of more targeted destruction exist and because people will submit to a hierarchical, authoritarian state seeking to monopolize control of these weapons to impose its iron will in the name of protecting people from everyone outside of the monopoly while doing to people in its own interests as much of what people fear from these weapons as it can manage while maintaining the putative monopoly.

    That’s the answer to Lind’s question, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out, which makes me wonder why he doesn’t just plainly state the answer instead of conflating hypothetical worlds imagined by philosophers, that everyone knows to be imaginary, with reality while ignoring the answer.

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