Quote of the Day

In reality, the case for libertarianism is based on the flaws of government as well as the virtues of the market. To justify the modern activist state, it’s not enough to show that the market has shortcomings; you must also prove that the government can A) solve those problems, and B) do so without introducing worse problems of its own. Libertarians contend that government is systematically inferior to the private sector despite the fact that latter has significant flaws. In my view, for example, there is good reason to believe that government is likely to fail more often than the market because the quality of government is greatly undermined by the widespread and rational ignorance of voters; by contrast, market participants have stronger incentives to become informed about the goods and services they purchase and are therefore less likely to make serious mistakes.

Ilya Somin

22 thoughts on “Quote of the Day”

  1. For me, a true libertarian would not take anything the govt might offer: social security, insured bank accounts, and the military to defend their free market…anything less, is, well, hypocrisy…I recall Harry Browne, the archtypal libertarian said one ought not involve oneself in govt or politics. And then he ran for president as the Libertarian candidate. Ok.,..,now hi me with your comments. But remember rule number one: issues and not name calling,.

  2. Joseph: Libertarianism (f/k/a Liberalism) is a political theory. It is a theory about the best way to run a society. It contains no theory of ethics or personal morality. Indeed, it explicitly eschews such theories. It is hard to see how anyone, who believes in Libertarian theory, can ever be accused of hypocrisy based on his actions in the real world.

  3. When it comes to actual voting, the one votes for the GOP or the Dems…being a libertarian is a nice thing to claim but how one votes is what one really is. Unless one does not vote at all. Pick one.

  4. “but how one votes is what one really is.”

    I think that is far to much to claim for the rather simple and non-costly act of voting.

  5. let me clarify: let us say you are a “libertarian,” defined as above, a view as to how society ought best be governed.Fair enough. Now it is time to elect a president and members of Congress. I assume libertarians believe in as little govt as possible,as little govt spending as possible,as much privacy and individualism as possible etc. Now you must vote. The GOP as of now has a huge deficit, the largest govt we have ever had, and more constraints on privacy than previously had. Will you vote (1) for the Libergtarian party (2) the GOP who
    gave us those things, (3) or not vote at all?(I assume that never would you vote for the Dems)

    Incidentally, afew posts down I objected to the idea that we ought to hve fired upon Iranian ships..Guess what? http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,,2240533,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=networkfront

  6. Political philosophy and voting behavior are two different things.

    Remember rule number two: if you want to be taken seriously here, don’t keep changing the subject.

  7. Is there any representative democracy in which government power has been held in check? It does appear that over time, government is parasitizing society,but that this has been disguised or compensated for by technological progress, otherwise people would be angry at the declining quality of life. Gov’t agencies have an interest in infantilizing their clients and creating problems to be solved; where would poverty pimps be witout poverty? The problem is that our representatives represent us only as a legal fiction, de facto they sell us out for sound bites and pork. To stop this we would need another way of exercizing civic responsibility. Much of the institutional bloat would not withstand a deliberative process of a jury of intelligent laymen. Electoral politics is not the answer precisely because of rational ignorance. The proof of that is in the world around us.

  8. Joseph Hill,

    For me, a true libertarian would not take anything the govt might offer:…

    That’s like saying that someone cannot call themselves a pacifist if they chose to pay taxes that support the military instead of going to prison for tax evasion. It’s childish. Nobody can live up to their stated ideals in the real world. I know the kind of world I would like to live in but I don’t actually get to chose my reality.

    On a moral level, if the government forces me to pay for something on the pain of death or imprisonment, why shouldn’t I accept any benefits that entitles me to even if I disagree that the thing is a good idea? It’s not like I have a choice whether to participate or not. I am paying social security whether I would prefer to invest privately or not. Since I am forced to pay 14.5% of everything I make up to $88,000 a year why should I not accept the social security benefits. I argue in the democratic process that such a program isn’t the best plan. The rest of my fellow citizens disagree and tell me to cough up or go to jail.

    …how one votes is what one really is.

    I vote for democrats and republicans depending on the circumstances. My states has open primaries so I never have to register one way or the other. What does that make me?

    I personally, and for that matter, every other grownup, merely votes for the lesser of two evils. Holding ones breath and stomping one’s feet until one gets the absolutely perfect candidate is a childish exercise in futility.

    The GOP as of now has a huge deficit…

    Which would be smaller under the Democrats only because they would have taxed more. More likely, the Democrats would have have piled up even higher spending, especially higher future entitlement spending, which would have dwarfed the Republican deficit.

    …the largest govt we have ever had…

    Again, what makes you think it would have been smaller under the Democrats?

    …more constraints on privacy than previously had…

    Really, can you name one actual person who has had their privacy violated? I didn’t think so. Even so, what makes you think it would be different under Democrats? After all, it was Clinton and Gore who created Echelon.

    The real question isn’t which party is perfect, the real question is which party is the least threatening to libertarian principle. Ask yourselves this:

    Can you name one area not involving sex in which the Democrats support greater individual decision making than do the Republicans?

    I can’t. If I want to maximize individual liberty not related to sex then the Republicans are usually the better choice.

  9. There’s a good chunk of the ‘libertarian’ tag who are just a manifestation of the absolute fear of the existent parties to offer voters a ‘none of the above’ choice. What do you do when ‘none of the above’ gets a plurality or even a majority?

    As for the ‘quality’ of government, it’s no different than capitalism, you get what you pay for. We have a multi-trillion dollar budget, multi-billion dollar international defense system, multi-billion dollar programs that do make the wheels of commerce and society function for 300 million people and, by impact, billions worldwide and we pay the people we put in charge comparative squat. For the price of a few pork barrel appropriations, we could pay every member of Congress, SCOTUS, and the President and Vice President, a clean million a year. Based upon various entertainment venues, it would definitely attract a much larger pool of candidates from which to choose from. In that expansion, there will be more ‘qualtiy’ than you’ve had access up till now. However, we’d rather live in our mythology of the citizen legislaturer serving for the ‘common good’ and bitch about the real world consequence of that mind set. Of course we’ll argue in the same real world that good salaries commiserate with the challenge justifies in the open market of supply and demand the higher pay for athletes and corporate management and technology. In our own parsimony, we pay cheap, we get cheap.

  10. I have not the time to answer a lot of well-put arguements. Suffice it to say that under the Dems, Eschelon might have begun but it was regulated by oversight, the FISa court now underminded by–yes, the GOP. If you are not aware of how the FBI has gone into new areas of spying at home, or NSA, then do a bit of research, and you might begin with James Bamford, Body of
    Secrets. Name one person? yes: my brother.Greater decision making? No need to make the outdaed claim that the Republicans stand for this and that. I recall not long ago the Dems were the party of war, big spending, and large govt. Now, what do we have?

  11. Futile to argue here but suffice it to say that one ought not argue things would be s worse under the Democrats when the Dems are not in power. When they were, just before Bush, there was a suplus, not a deficit. And the War? that is what drove us into this massive debt, plus, of course,huge tax breaks for the very wealthy. Govt got bigger under Bush than it had been.So why imply thing would be worse under the Democrats when in fact they were better on those issues herein discussed?

  12. Joseph Hill,

    When they were, just before Bush, there was a suplus, not a deficit.

    The controlling factor in government spending is control of the house, not the presidency. Deficits were small in the 90’s because the economy was growing after the reform of 80’s, taxes were raised a little and, most importantly, a Republican house kept spending increases far lower than what the Democrats publicly stated they wanted far more spending and far more taxation than they got. If times were good in under Clinton it was only because he was restrained from doing what he really wanted.

    My model of how Democrats would run things if allowed is the 1970’s, when they did run everything and a time to which the current generation of democrats looks back upon as a golden age. High tax rates, low collection, regressive taxation, explosive spending and raging deficits controlled only by more raging inflation.

    Frankly, deficits do not concern me anywhere near as much as entitlements and legal expansions of government power. We paid off the deficit from WWII in the 50’s but I am still on the hook for Social security set up in 1935. More importantly, entitlement programs take away my ability to chose for myself. Debts I can pay off but I cannot escape the limitations on my freedom imposed by government programs and regulation.

    I would rather the government took more of my money and just spent it on booze and hookers than they take more of my freedom to chose how I wish to live.

  13. Did you have more freedom prior to Patriot Act? Without FISA court? with allowed wire taps etc? cliche answer is to blame Dems on war, spending, large govt when in fact all three have become touchstones of Bush administration. Housing market? Deficit? jobs? why so many people feel need to cut back on spending? Why so many GOP elected congress folks quitting to become lobby people?

  14. FBI wants instant access to British identity data (Guardian article for today) and world-wide spy stuff…

    I can recall when the FBI was limited to our nation and other forces were doing external intel stuff…things change and, as they do, so too various departments compete with each other.

  15. Forgive me for giving into my emotions and having to respond to hill.

    Hill: Do you feel any more secure when Democrats… oppose laws protecting American Citizens from Litigation Jihad when alerting authorities of suspicious activity?

    Do you feel any more secure when the Democrats want to purposely blind our intellegence activities on terrorists?

    Do you feel any more secure when Democrats want to provide access to Courts to the enemies who wish to kill us

    Do you feel any more secure when Democrats align themselves with front groups for the Muslim Brotherhood

    Do you feel any more secure when Democrats deliberately keep themselves in ignorance about the scale and scope of the problems we face

    Do you feel any more secure when Democrats want to silence the one part of the media where discussion of the Jihad threat is thriving… Talk radio

    Do you feel any more secure when Democrats want to ensure that terrorists are not subjected to any sort of pressure that owuld get them to confess information that would save lives?

    [Insert a personal insult here indicating total contempt for your narrow and craven blame politics]

  16. Careful, Vince – he will file a case against you in Alberta Human Rights Comission…or wait until such Comissions will be an American reality under Democrats.

  17. to note what the head of all intel programs says in a very long piece in this issue of the New Yorker: intel is a zero sum game: either you get security or you get privacy. Ok: you choose security.You are for what a top general has saild was torture: waterboarding? ok…be clear. In fact, confessions–they know this from middle ages and that is why we have 5th amendment–can be obtained whether they are true or false…I would look more favorably toward torture were it shown it truly worked. This has not been the case, despite what a few of its users have claimed.

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