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Dr. B

Libertarianism Is An Intellectually Shallow And Morally Bankrupt Philosophy

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[quote]And yet one that is compelling to a huge swath of the population (in at least some of its ideas, or related ones), and can even seem logical on a surface analysis.

I bring this up because I've seen a lot of libertarian or libertarian-influenced posting in the Library lately, and I wanted to talk about it by presenting an alternative view, but not one that lies in the typical domains of socialism, democratic socialism, communism, communitarianism, anarchism, or any other single "cohesive" model of social organization, for that matter. Also, following this more surface-level post will be a second post in which I delve more deeply into the underpinnings of the argument laid out in this post.

First, let me say that my worldview may be summarized fairly as "go where the data lead," or "govern as evidence instructs." Essentially, governance, social organization, these things can only be sanely approached on a case-by-case basis, with each instance of purposive social action carefully and uniquely examined before action is taken. Where data can be gathered, the data drive decision making.

So, how is this relevant to libertarianism? Well, first I am skeptical of all models of social organization that claim to be complete answers, because really with the possible exception of some planned economies (and those sure worked well), no actual mode of human organization has been created from the ground-up, or with consistency. We create our existence by patchwork, and I am skeptical of all panaceas. This applies too to socialism and related forms of governance.

Second, libertarian philosophy rather blatantly contradicts the data. It is really that simple. In this, socialism/leftist philosophies are at least closer to being data-driven (if perhaps only by accident).

How to justify such a statement? Well, I will ask that you consider the entire course of human existence from the advent of our species in pre-agricultural times. What we know of pre-agriculture is limited, but what we can discern from the few societies of this type that survived into modern times enough that records may be kept, we know that life was both brutal and oppressive. Oppressive in the sense that there was little opportunity for individual decision making, or variation in lifestyle. Specialization, after all, is something that depends on agriculture. One was limited to the hunter-gatherer mode of living, one which offers few chances for differentiation. Also, it was oppressive in the sense that in most of these societies, violence was so prevalent that anyone without the physical means to defend themselves was often oppressed in a more literal sense.

We were, essentially, slaves to our biology. Living out existences that were evolved, not chosen. It was a brutal existence in that we died young and unpleasantly, of disease, starvation, and violence. In the hunter gatherer societies of Papa New Guinea, for instance, the chance that a man will die by the hand of another man is nearly one in three. As time has gone on, from a both global and temporally broad perspective, human existence has trended rather uniformly in a positive direction.

The world is the most peaceful, richest, healthiest, most educated, most rational, most collaborative, most innovative, most ethical, most equal, and freest it has ever been. Some of those assertions may be contentious, but we have reasonable data to extrapolate at least some of those claims with great confidence (health, peace, wealth, and education in particular). Well, what other trends can we identify that seem to fall in line with this upward curve?

One rather notable trend I would point out is government. Governments, on average across the world, have only ever become larger, more intrusive, more pervasive, and more regulatory. The welfare state has only ever grown. The police state has only ever grown. We are more regulated now, as a globe, as a species, than ever in our history.

And also in a state of greater well-being.

In fact, most of the most institutional/bureaucratic/regulated societies on earth (let us delineate this clearly from autocracies and dictatorships, which, while not free, are often actually very unregulated societies, lacking in institutional infrastructure or a competent bureaucracy) are in Western Continental Europe, which has the highest standards of living on earth, spread more equally across its population.

Yes, in the abstract, the arguments of libertarianism may seem compelling, or even rational -- but why yet obsess on the abstract? Why obsess on what is, bluntly, non-existent? This is the problem with our debates on governance, and on society. We argue the same arguments again and again, always in the abstract. Always over morals and using emotional responses -- speaking of what is earned, or what is owned, what rights we are entitled to, and so on.

Frankly, who cares? The answer is in. The data have been collected. Government does not stifle humanity. All signs indicate that government nurtures us.

This is surely a simpler explanation than the idea that we have somehow been gifted with constantly growing well-being all [i]despite[/i] an inevitable and rising tide of regulation, institution, bureaucracy, and government (And indeed, there is a fundamentally sensible conceptual framework from which we may understand how institutions and government nurture us (and how the market fails to) which I will go into in the post following this one).

Libertarianism is a philosophy of the individual, in the sense that it seems sensible only because the individual advocating it bases it on his own personal gain. Rather than taking in the broad, established, evidenced realities, the individual only knows that he does not wish to be taxed. He does not wish to be told what to do. He does not wish to be arrested, ordered, regulated, or controlled.

This is evolutionary -- all humans desire status and dominance, in the way that all social mammals do. This dates back to an era when we lived in tribes and dominance was something a single person could achieve through dominance contests (dominance contests, in the sense of animal behavior, are not literal contests, but acts of competition between social animals which aim to establish or alter the social hierarchy. In many animals, these are simply physical fights [also common in humans -- think of the hierarchy of New Jersey Shore, or frat brothers, for instance] but can be more varied in many species, including our own). Status -- a higher place in the hierarchy -- meant more resources (material, parental. and reproductive) and more successful offspring.

So, the libertarian resists government, as his primate brain sees it as a threat -- a dominating interest that prevents him from attaining greater status and resources. This is a simplistic, emotional, selfish, and inaccurate understanding. It is intellectually shallow, and morally bankrupt in its selfishness.
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Now, onto a deeper conceptual underpinning to my argument. This piece may be considered optional, but recommended as a stronger footing for some of the assumptions contained within my first part of the post.

There is a "genetic self" and a "conscious self." These entities are not entirely discrete but it is useful to conceptualize them as separate to an extent. The conscious self is what we commonly refer to as the self, the mind, consciousness, and so on. It is the part of the mind/brain that is self-aware. The genetic self comprises many different pieces of the mind which may contribute to conscious experience but may not be considered conscious themselves -- commonly referred to as the unconscious, or the id. The reason I refer to it as the [i]genetic[/i] self is to emphasize that this part of the mind is driven very directly by our genes, by our evolution. In a fish, there is only the genetic self. A fish may even be plausibly conceptualized as not an individual creature, but as merely one expression of an underlying genetic framework -- one among millions, like flowers stemming from the same root structure. The genes are the primary "actors," in that they clearly drive behavior.

Now, self-awareness, or consciousness -- the conscious self -- is really just another evolved adaptation, the same as the immune system, the stomach, or our emotions. However, unlike these other adaptations, it is self-aware. It is, to an extent, an individual. And, most importantly, it wishes for experiences of well-being.

This experiential well-being is often called many things -- happiness, utility, fulfillment, etc. However, we now have a framework from cognitive science that can help us better define it. If you've read much Lakoff, what follows will be redundant, but essentially, all human discussion of morality relies on similar metaphors -- all of which are rooted in physical experiences of well-being. These include but are not limited to: wealth, nurturance, health, strength, purity, and wholeness. We have all experienced these things. It is better to feel rich than poor. It is better to feel nurtured than to feel neglected, to feel healthy than to feel sick, to feel pure than to feel defiled, to feel whole than to feel broken.

What this implies is that our underlying, unifying purpose for morality (regardless of our individual or cultural conceptions of morality) is that of promoting all these forms of well-being. It also seems to imply that there is a finite number of categories of well-being, and that these categories are knowable. Thus, the question always shot at the utilitarian or the consequentialist -- Who determines happiness? Who determines utility? -- is rendered with an empirical answer. It is experiential well-being, as humans themselves define it. It is wealth, it is joy, it is health, it is wholeness -- it is all the (finite) categories of experience which we use to conceptualize well-being.

There is a problem, though. The genetic and conscious selves are in conflict. After all, the genetic self is built not to make us happy -- not to give us experiential well-being. It is built to be reproductively successful. And we know that this is not congruent with happiness for the very fact that we are often miserable -- misery is evolutionarily useful. After all, the humans who survived are the ones who are often miserable.

So, we have the genetic self, which seems [i]inherently structured[/i] to make us unhappy much of the time, in order to shepherd us towards genetic success. It regulates our emotions. This should be fairly obvious, but is also evidenced in our neuro-biology -- the parts of the brain responsible for processing emotion are distinct from the cerebral cortex, and much older, evolutionarily speaking, such as the amygdala. Thus, while the conscious mind does [i]experience[/i] our emotions, it doesn't really own or control those emotions. They seep in from another part of the mind, and another part of the brain. This should also be fairly obvious. You don't control whether you feel love when you see your spouse or your child -- you simply do. You don't control whether you feel anger when you are insulted or hurt -- you simply do. These are not decisions made in the conscious self, and yet they are felt by the conscious self and influence the conscious self.

This is problematic because the genetic self's responses -- our very emotions -- are built to guide us towards a measured amount of misery, in order to make us reproductively successful. What we desire -- closely linked with our emotions, and also similarly unconscious -- is not necessarily what will make us happy. In fact, mounting evidence and the logic of this argument suggests it is [i]inherently[/i] not what will make us happy. This is supported by growing mountains of evidence that humans are quite bad at weighing risk and reward, and we behave irrationally with great predictability, across our species. Behavioral economics is one of many fields beginning to explore this territory of universal irrationalities.

So, what then? Well, it seems if we wish to be happy, we must excise the genetic self -- our emotions -- from the process of decision making. We wish to still feel, of course, because without feeling then the conscious self is left rather barren, and incapable of feeling well-being. However, if we make our decisions emotionally, then we will surely encounter misery, as that is what we are built to do. We may become genetically successful, and have many reproductive offspring, but that is not indicator of happiness. Misery is programmed into us.

But how to rectify this? The genetic self is, compared to the conscious self, both ancient and powerful. Our emotions, for the most part, [i]do[/i] control our decision making. We are victims of our biology, slaves to what is undeniably a much more powerful urge than rationality. Our frequent and documented irrationality is the evidence of this. And all of us have felt this. Think of one time, any time, when you wanted to do the thing that you knew would make you happy, in the long run (or even in the short run), and could not. Or think of the time you made the same poor decision again and again, even in the face of mounting evidence your rational mind could not deny.

Addiction is the most extreme example of this. Many addicts wish to quit, but are unable to. The conscious self wishes to quit, because it knows the misery of addiction, but the emotional brain (and its circuits, co-opted by the drug) is too powerful and overrides our conscious decision making. I was a smoker, and even months before I quit, I had ceased to enjoy tobacco, nor did I have any desire to smoke, generally speaking. And yet, each time I lit up, I thought "maybe this will be the one that I like again. Maybe this time will be different." And each time I came out coughing, dry-mouthed, and feeling unpleasant.

However, this can be more mundane than addiction -- the person who eats Taco Bell again and again despite getting the shits, and vowing to never touch the stuff while glued to the porcelain. Or perhaps the person struggling to slim down, knowing the misery of ill health and stigma of fat, but unable to resist the momentary temptations that add up to a diet that can only lead to obesity.

The libertarian conceives of these transactions as ones made willingly, by someone who weighs the risk and concludes that they prefer the immediate pleasure even if it brings long term pain. But this is a hollow argument. We know that people often decide to do that which makes them unhappy -- we have studied many such instances. We know that people who exercise and eat well are happier than those who don't (other variables being equal), by their own reports! We know even that those who [i]begin[/i] to exercise or eat well are happier than they were previously, in the same human being! And these are underpinned by neuro-biological evidence. Exercise and diet can alleviate anxiety and depression, all due to measurable neurological effects. We know, both physically and from self-reporting, that these things [i]make people happier[/i], by any reasonable conception of the term.

And yet many of us in the Western world fail to do these things, despite all rational knowledge to the contrary. Is this the knowing act of a human being who says that they prefer higher incidence of mental illness, depression, anxiety, and general unhappiness, as well as tremendous physical health costs, to the simple act of eating less processed food and exercising? We even know that exercise releases neuro-transmitters that make us feel happy, and we know that once one forms a habit of exercising, it becomes easy, or even discomforting if we are without it. And what exactly are we sacrificing? One can eat in a way that will at least make you reasonably healthy, mentally and physically, without going vegan or eating nothing but raw food. In fact, nearly every diet on earth except the Anglo-American diet (high in heavily processed carbohydrates and industrially-produced food) seems to manage just fine. And really, I'm not sure what argument can be made that eating a traditional home-cooked French, Italian, Moroccan, Indian, or Japanese meal (five among literally hundreds of diets which seem not to make people obese or depressed the way the Anglo-American diet does) is rationally less preferable than eating McNuggets.

Or perhaps think of the Wall Street banker leveraging his company 30 to 1, only to see it collapse. The investor buying houses in the bubble, or conversely, the companies laying off workers to the point of lowering demand throughout the economy. Keynes, and now behavioral economics, explain boom and bust in the terms of human irrationality, now increasingly supported by cognitive study. Irrational exuberance and irrational panic. Are these the knowing, informed choices made by self-determined individuals merely acting on their own preference for immediate wealth and long-term poverty? I find that unlikely.

We know that, when making decisions, what we "prefer" is often not at all in line with what we prefer when we actually reckon with the experiences that come from our choices. The reality is that the human ability to make decisions -- in light of our emotions, our genetic self -- is a very poor one, even by our own subjective experience. Even by our own barometers, even by our own preferences, even by our own reports, what we choose is often not what makes us happy -- not what give us well-being. We know even many of the particular ways in which the human brain brings this about -- one of the most notable being that the brain is highly inertial. We do not like to change, or to exert effort if we don't [i]feel[/i] the need to. We accept the default wherever possible, even if the default makes us experience misery. If we are asked to opt-in to organ donation, only 10-20% of us donate. If we are asked to opt out, 70-90% of us donate. Regardless of this, we all benefit from an abundance of donor organs in the event that we ever need one. Is that the act of a rational species, making conscious choices for our own well-being? Or is that a species that operates largely on older, evolved cognitive mechanisms (including our emotions) other than rationality or consciousness?

But, again, how to excise the genetic self from decision making? It seems we are doomed, at first glance. We continue to behave irrationally and to our own (individual and social) detriment with great and predictable regularity. We all know the experience of being captive to our desires and emotions, in the face of evidence, even in the face of our own memories of our misery the last time we made those decisions. The genetic self can seem impossible to overrule, or at least impractically difficult.

And yet, we are not the same base creatures we once were as hunter-gatherers. We are less violent. We have more of nearly all our measurements of well-being (globally speaking) than we once did. How have we seemingly, as a species, managed to fight back against our genetic selves?

The answer, in short, is through institutions. Be it government, or the scientific method, or law -- we have created social systems which emerge as properties from groups of conscious minds. These entities are too large for any one person to control, and yet exert a discernable pressure on all those subject to them, incentivizing and disincentivizing our actions. The emergent property of institutions is necessary in allowing us to be free.

At the risk of sounding Orwellian, this is because coercion is necessary to be free. That is, we must coerce our genetic selves -- we must suppress them, or failing that, guide them -- to make decisions that will make our conscious selves happier. Consciously, we want to live in a less violent society -- we recognize the value to all of us in that -- so we introduce laws and punishments. Each of us is coerced, undeniably, by the law. Or, perhaps more accurately, our genetic selves are coerced. The threat of punishment helps us weigh risk and reward [i]accurately[/i] and [i]constructively[/i]. When we feel anger, we do not resort to murder, for fear of punishment. And as a result of this great institution of coercion, we all live able to breathe easier and act more freely in a peaceful society -- a society that coerces us, regulates us, controls us.

But, again, perhaps it is more constructive not to see it as coercing [i]us[/i], but coercing our genetic selves, so that [i]we[/i] are able to make better decisions that will bring us well-being.

Institutions, governments -- these things are born of conscious minds gathering together and pooling their resources of rationality into a structure far more capable of regulating our emotions than any individual conscious mind. It is a way to amplify our rationality and exert pressure upon all of us to obey that rationality, to obey our consciousness. It gives [i]us[/i] -- the self-aware [i]us[/i], the conscious [i]us[/i] -- the power to fight back against our broken emotional minds and do something that will truly bring about our well-being.

Institutions, then, are necessary for our well-being. They are [i]inherently[/i] more capable of making choices that will make us happy than any individual human being, as we are individually [i]built[/i] to be unhappy. Only an institution, lacking emotions, can adequately and correctly apply pressure to provoke rational decisions.

Now, of course, not all institutions measure up. There are good and bad institutions. The scientific method is one of the best. By adhering to it, and professionally and socially penalizing scientists who fail to abide by it, it exerts pressure on all humans under its influence to produce verifiable results that tell us about the empirical world. It is something that was consciously planned and established for the express purpose of fostering rationality and empiricism.

An autocracy is, on the other hand, one of the worst institutions. This is because it lacks the fundamental character that makes institutions beneficial -- a lack of emotions. This is because an autocracy is nothing more than the genetic and conscious selves of one individual projected onto others. He uses the coercive power of institutions, but in order to enact his own genetically-influenced agenda.

The best institutions then, are those that keep rationality most clearly at their heart, and are most clearly beyond the influence of any single person. The scientific method, again, being the prime exemplar.

The market, you will note, does not meet the criteria of a good institution. While it may be beyond the control of a single person, it can be significantly influenced by one, or relatively few, acting on their emotions (see: the recent implosion of the American financial sector, and its effect on the entire globe's economy). And, unlike these other examples, it is not designed, nor built. It is not a product of conscious minds designing something to coerce themselves into rational and beneficial action. There is no visible hand -- indeed this is what its supporters trumpet. This is to the point that one questions if it can even be called an "institution" at all, in the same sense as the others I have mentioned. And even if so, it is one that amplifies emotion, not rationality.

Money, after all, is a proxy for status/dominance. I say this because money entitles us to resources, and this is the same function that status/dominance served in the ancestral, hunter-gatherer environment. And status/dominance is something that we desire on a deeply animal, deeply emotional basis. Any decision made with regard to status is likely to be highly emotionally-driven, and highly irrational. The market, not being a designed entity, does nothing to counteract or inhibit this. And, no, the misery of failing economically is not an effective inhibition for irrational action. One need only look at how often people fail economically due to poor decision making -- for instance, the current level of consumer debt in America, or one of any number of bubbles and busts. Coercion must take place at the moment of decision-making, not afterwards, if it is to be successful. The fear of punishment must occur before the decision to act illegally is made. The cost of cigarettes must be elevated by taxes before the purchase, not afterwards when you're paying your chemotherapy bills. Our brains are simply not built to evaluate long-term risk very well, so the threat must be imminently felt. And clearly, from gambling to stocks to housing markets, we can see that humans are generally quite poor at evaluating risk and reward in an economic setting.

Even a small chance at tremendous wealth, even carrying with it a great likelihood of some loss, is often taken. In a hunter-gatherer tribe, these impulses were ones that made us successful, because they were limited by the environment. There was a limit on how much status one could accrue. No such limit exists on wealth. Most contests probably carried relatively low amounts of risk (though, in societies particularly prone to violence, this may not have been the case), and again, no such limit exists in the financial realm.

The market, then, [i]amplifies[/i] the effects of our emotional pursuit of status. We have since used government to impose regulation on markets for this very reason. This reason is also why the market can be so appealing in principle -- because it represents an outlet for individual interest, for selfishness, for the desire for status/dominance. That is why people invent rationalizations to justify the market -- because it is emotionally satisfying, it is desirable on an emotional level. It is an arena to fulfill all our primate dreams of status, and better yet there is an established sheen of moral justification added to it. And the human brain is quite talented at using consciousness to invent justifications for emotion -- to layer that sheen of rationality over our fundamentally emotional decisions.

So, to conclude:
(1) The genetic self is powerful, and built to make us unhappy (to not experience well-being), at least some of the time

(2) The conscious self wishes to be happy (to experience well-being). This presents a conflict.

(3) In this conflict, our emotions (as pieces of the genetic self) usually prevail, as the brain is built to weigh emotions more heavily in decision making.

(4) Institutions are the only proven method by which we have ever managed to successfully or widely coerce our genetic selves into submission, or guide them to make us desire beneficial actions.

(5) The lack of successfully rational coercive/regulatory institutions leads to a lack of well-being in accordance with an escalation in emotional decision making. This can be seen broadly in terms of the correlation between rationally constructed regulatory institutions and standards of living. All failed states lack effective regulatory institutions.

(6) The market, not being coercive to the genetic self or designed rationally, and being a mechanism of emotionally driven decision making, does not meet the criteria for a successful, rational regulatory institution. Most nations with the highest standards of living are the ones that most successfully regulate it.

Thus, institutions are necessary for us to have well-being and for our conscious selves to be free to act rationally. Thus, institutions should grow and become more powerful, more pervasive, but also should be constantly refined to be as rational as possible, and to be diffuse enough that they are difficult for any one person or few people to control. Market regulation that fails to produce more rational decision making or better outcomes of well-being should not be pursued merely because they are more regulation. However, the failure of an instance of regulation does not amount to a failure of regulation itself.

Institutions, then, are our noblest endeavor as a species. Government, regulation, and coercion are the key to our happiness and our freedom, and any feelings otherwise are nothing more than the resistance of a genetic self that recognizes its own demise.
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Please don't attempt to debate this without having read the quote in its entirety - I don't have the patience to reiterate parts of the article. That being said, I can sympathize with this person's contentions and have been amassing a canon of contentions to defend my similar beliefs.

Discuss, oh brave soldiers.

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I'm not buying this article. I simply can't accept the fact that the government telling me what I can and can't do, and then taxing the shit out of everything I do, is going to make me happier.

First: "[color=#5D5D5D][font=tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif]One rather notable trend I would point out is government. Governments, on average across the world, have only ever become larger, more intrusive, more pervasive, and more regulatory. The welfare state has only ever grown. The police state has only ever grown. We are more regulated now, as a globe, as a species, than ever in our history. [/font][/color][color=#5D5D5D][font=tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif]And also in a state of greater well-being. "[/font][/color]
[font="tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif"][size=2]This makes the overall assumption that correlation directly means causation. Just because the two increase with each other over time, does not mean that one is a direct cause of the other. It ignores the fact that maybe humans, as societies, have gotten themselves into a state of greater well-being on their own. Only after achieving greater states of well-being, does the governments seek to control everyone's lives. Will we get to a point where we are born with government implants telling us that our lives are perfect? And then we will think we are happier than ever? Does this constitute a greater state of well-being? I don't think so, I call that slavery.[/size][/font]
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[font="tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif"][size=2]That brings us to the articles thesis: "[color=#5D5D5D][size=3]So, the libertarian resists government, as his primate brain sees it as a threat -- a dominating interest that prevents him from attaining greater status and resources. This is a simplistic, emotional, selfish, and inaccurate understanding. It is intellectually shallow, and morally bankrupt in its selfishness."[/size][/color][/size][/font]
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[font="tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif"][size=2]This is not accurate. The article assumes that the government has only done good, and excuses the government of any problems that arise in society. Almost every single economic problem in society, that has set people back, can be connected back to some government regulation or law.[/size][/font]
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[font="tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif"][size=2]I'll use the articles own example against it: "[color=#5D5D5D][size=3]While it may be beyond the control of a single person, it can be significantly influenced by one, or relatively few, acting on their emotions (see: the recent implosion of the American financial sector, and its effect on the entire globe's economy)"[/size][/color][/size][/font]
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[font="tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif"]It was Congress who pushed laws forcing banks to make home loans easier. It was Congress who established Freddie and Fannie. It was the Fed (government) who lowered interest rates prematurely after 9/11 to start the housing bubble. It was Congress who blocked all attempts at putting a limit to Fannie and Freddie's lending practices. Finally, after all the actions by the GOVERNMENT, the financial markets collapsed. This was not caused by ordinary citizens, this was caused by the government. And now we are under the illusion it was OUR faults and NEED the government to get us out, when in reality we would have been better off if they have just butted out in the first place.[/font]
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[font="tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif"]Now, the article is structured fairly well, and there are some interesting points. However there are a few key arguments that they make that are completely flawed. The article seems bias and fails to make any opposing viewpoints. It seems like it was written BY the government to further convince us that we can only exist with more government.[/font]
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[font="tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif"]Now, those are just the few spots of the article I have an issue with. Which leads me to the most important belief I have, that I think the author fails to take into account.[/font]
[font="tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif"]We do need Some form of government. Without ANY government, society would be unorganized and fall back. However, I don't think an unlimited, uncapped expansion of government is healthy and can eventually lead to the oppression of humanity, under the illusion of well-being and utopia.[/font]
[font="tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif"]Extremism is bad no matter what your ideology is. Extreme libertarianism is bad, extreme conservatism is bad, and extreme liberalism is bad. I think its unfair to generalize every libertarian as an anarchist, which this article appears to do. I would argue that most libertarians believe that an unlimited expansion of government threatens their freedom. These people don't care if smoking makes them unhealthy, they already know this. These people just don't want the government to TELL them what decisions to make. Hell, I don't want the government to tell me what decisions to make, even if it costs me 5 years of life. The central philosophy is that they want to be FREE to make decisions that directly affect their life. Sure, go regulate corporations that pollute and what not. But don't stick up a red light camera in my face to just take my money. I believe THAT is the actual philosophy at discussion here. I think its unjust to tell someone that they aren't allowed to make their own decisions, because they are inherently too stupid to make the right ones. I'd rather have that freedom, than the idiots in Washington making decisions for me.[/font]

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This article also, I get the impression, incorrectly classifies all libertarians as anarchists who are anti-government. This is incorrect. I would argue that libertarians simply wish to uphold the Constitution and ensure it doesn't get walked on. With that said, they would believe that the federal government has been drastically overstepping the lines of power outlined in the Constitution. They would argue that many of the laws and regulation US Congress passes meddles with and steals away state powers. I don't think someone believing states should have more power is immoral or shallow. I would think someone who believes we should blindly follow everything the federal government says is intellectually shallow.

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It seems the article begins with some misconceptions and then proceeds to build on these; so essentially the value of the article's applicability is nil.
Much as if, I were to describe people who enjoy hookahs as generally being aficionados of drug culture or perhaps desired ties to radical terror groups, who also have members who smoke hookah-then built an argument about why hookah should be banned or monitored based on these [false] assumptions.

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[quote name='johnp' date='29 January 2010 - 11:10 PM' timestamp='1264828241' post='448500']
It seems the article begins with some misconceptions and then proceeds to build on these; so essentially the value of the article's applicability is nil.
Much as if, I were to describe people who enjoy hookahs as generally being aficionados of drug culture or perhaps desired ties to radical terror groups, who also have members who smoke hookah-then built an argument about why hookah should be banned or monitored based on these [false] assumptions.
[/quote]

misconceptions such as?

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in response to lz22:
It's hard for me to defend this article being that I have nothing to do with the minutia of its points - but i can sit back, smile, and say that I appreciate that the article at least encourages scrutiny. regarding your second post: I think you ought to differentiate between libertarianism as a philosophy and the libertarian party of America.

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[quote name='Dr. B' date='30 January 2010 - 02:58 PM' timestamp='1264885137' post='448588']
[quote name='johnp' date='29 January 2010 - 11:10 PM' timestamp='1264828241' post='448500']
It seems the article begins with some misconceptions and then proceeds to build on these; so essentially the value of the article's applicability is nil.
Much as if, I were to describe people who enjoy hookahs as generally being aficionados of drug culture or perhaps desired ties to radical terror groups, who also have members who smoke hookah-then built an argument about why hookah should be banned or monitored based on these [false] assumptions.
[/quote]

misconceptions such as?
[/quote]

I believe johnp is referring what I mentioned in my first comment about how correlation does not equate to causation. Thus, just because the rise of more government and the rise of the peoples well being are positively correlated, does not mean the government is the reason for the rise in well-being. Thats like me saying the pollution in the atmosphere increases positively with greater well-being with people, thus pollution is the reason why more people live better. Its slightly flawed.


And as for your second response, ya sorry I got very political with that one ha

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First off I would like to state that I myself would probably fall under the classification of a Libertarian. The original author seems to believe that there is a certain criteria for what happiness is. That he (I'm just assuming that the author is a man I apologize if it isn't) quit smoking because he was addicted and didn't like that feeling of sheer need. But he forgets to tell us that it was his choice to start smoking in the first place. I highly doubt that there was someone with a gun pointed at him saying "You smoke until you're addicted or I'm going to kill you." Second he states that we need to tax tobacco up front (something I would think this forum would be against) because we don't have the foresight that if we do this now it make some back to us in the future in some way or another. I think it's safe to say that pretty much everybody knows that smoking can cause significant health problems, alcohol can too, as well as pretty much anything in your house can kill you. 

Next I would like to tackle the authors hate for the free market. "[b]Government does not stifle humanity. All signs indicate that government nurtures us.[/b]" Innovation is one thing The United Sates does very well. When the first computers come out the French government gave out massive amounts of money to fund research. While at the same time people in the US were using their own hard earned money to research and improve computers. I'll give you three guesses who was more successful. It was Americans who had their own money on the line, which provided incentive for them to work harder because they didn't have unlimited money from the government. There is a reason Silicon Valley is in the US.

The author also seems to have a notion that all wealthy people do is hoard their money in their huge houses and let it collect dust. This is completely false. First it is probably in a bank somewhere, you might say it's not doing any good there either. But in fact the bank actually loans it out to people to make purchases such as houses, cars, businesses, and many other things, provided they have sufficient collateral (At least that's how it's supposed to work). Then That person eventually pays back the bank the money they borrowed plus payment for using the money "Interest", the bank also pays back the person who put their money in the bank with this same payment of interest. The second way someone does good with their money is through stocks. Which allows companies to become bigger and creates jobs in which people are paid for their goods, ie. labor.

Lastly, this will be my last point because I really am too lazy to go through a rebuke every point the author makes, how does an institution have have a right to tell me how to use my body. As long as I do not encroach upon you or your property why can't I smoke crack, shoot heroine, and drink copious amounts of alcohol?

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First off what a read!

Hard to sum up that beast!

Well first off I consider myself a libertarian. What that means to me is: I believe I or anyone else should be able to do whatever they want as long as they don't violate the innate rights of anyone else. I fail to see how this is morally bankrupt. I think it is morally bankrupt to force ones own views, opinions and beliefs onto others. Which is exactly what governments do.

Now to get into the whole brain thing... Humans are greedy and their instinct is to survive, people will put beliefs and ideals aside to survive. Its been proven. Lets use the Donner party lunch buffet as proof of that. Collectivism and social working together of humans in the past was mainly done for survival sake, groups had to work together to hunt down food and the like, one alone couldn't do it. So in other words, humans own greed required them to work together. In today's society individuality is more prevalent because one doesn't need a tribe to hunt a mammoth, or make ones clothes. Of course humans are still social animals and love attention and to be liked, but that has less to do with survival today then ever. Denying humans greed and ability to do whatever they can to better their own situation is dangerous and that leads to my next point.

You say that humans need more government controls because their conscious and subconscious minds are odds, and government makes things stable. But isn't government just made up of people, so don't they have the same problems. You assume that government always have the best interest of the people in mind. This has been aptly disproven throughout history. Life and human nature is chaos, therefore government as a product of humans is only as stable as the people in them. Libertarians identify this and see that a government that has less control is essential for the liberty of all, As a government with powers is one that can easily repress anyone it sees fit, for their own benefit. Assuming the people in government don't look out for their own well being is just dangerously ignorant.

Now no political ideology is perfect because of the chaotic nature of life, but anyone that leaves people alone, allows the them to live their lives however they wish as long as they are not harming others can not possibly be morally bankrupt.

If you ask me strong governments have been the tools of people to put themselves above the pack more then anything else in history. That is why all fail, human nature. Sooner or later someone takes too much control, pisses off the rabble and declines. How about we just let the rabble live their lives!

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Ideally, the strongest facet of government is that it exists as an expression of the wanton-less desire to reap the benefits of interdependency. The economist would cite the benefits of trade, for instance, as the evidence to support a case for the reliance on others. This, I feel, is what the author of the article is championing - that we are better off leaving some things up to others for sake of our own betterment. True, this could be easily explained by examining the motivation which we share: greed; but I feel like the article was a long-winded, smug defense of the opinion that governments, for whatever reason (the article attempts to justify one reason in its entirety), are the enablers of our better quality of life. I do not disagree that governments, in any regard, are practically and theoretically a necessity to coordinate affairs of interdependency, but I do not necessarily champion the same reasoning the author used in his publication.

To address concerns regarding the cause-and-effect hypothesis surrounding government and quality of life: I am assuming the author is aware of the lack of evidence to support such a relationship necessarily but is speculating that governments may be the catalyst of increases in quality of life, if for no other reason than that they are the single common denominator in his observations; and thus his skepticism of libertarianism is justified, I feel, on the grounds that our admittance of the capabilities of organized collaboration stands in direct contrast to the ideals of limited coordination championed by libertarians.

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[quote]To address concerns regarding the cause-and-effect hypothesis surrounding government and quality of life: I am assuming the author is aware of the lack of evidence to support such a relationship necessarily but is speculating that governments may be the catalyst of increases in quality of life, if for no other reason than that they are the single common denominator in his observations; and thus his skepticism of libertarianism is justified, I feel, on the grounds that our admittance of the capabilities of organized collaboration stands in direct contrast to the ideals of limited coordination championed by libertarians.[/quote]

Governments are needed to have a good quality of life, someone has to be there to protect a persons rights, whether it be property rights or the innate rights all of us are born with. We need to be protected from foreign threats. This is all valid role for government. Libertarians are not for the abolish of government, they want a limited role government. One that doesn't mettle in the economy and try to pick winners and losers, one that makes sure justice is blind and equal to us all. What you seem to be arguing against is anarchy, stating that government is the catalyst of increase in quality of life. It is an ingredient when used properly. Without someone protecting our rights its hard to have a good quality of life. But government can just as easily become the tool that denys people that quality of life. This too has been proven throughout history. Like I have stated in my other post government is a tool and its only as good as the people who are in it. You are dealing in black and whites, absolutes. Governments are not always the cause of increase in quality of life, look at the USSR that government did very little to increase the quality of life of its people, in fact it forcefully starved millions. What did Hitlers Nazi Germany government do to increase the quality of life for its people. Sure it helped pull it out of the economic quagmire it was suffering after WW1 but it also killed millions. And after the war Germany was left hurting, especially the Eastern side that was taken under the communist wing.

Libertarianism is not morally bankrupt, especially when it opposes big government that is used to oppress.

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[quote name='Crafty' date='01 February 2010 - 04:03 AM' timestamp='1265014993' post='448872']
[quote]To address concerns regarding the cause-and-effect hypothesis surrounding government and quality of life: I am assuming the author is aware of the lack of evidence to support such a relationship necessarily but is speculating that governments may be the catalyst of increases in quality of life, if for no other reason than that they are the single common denominator in his observations; and thus his skepticism of libertarianism is justified, I feel, on the grounds that our admittance of the capabilities of organized collaboration stands in direct contrast to the ideals of limited coordination championed by libertarians.[/quote]

Governments are needed to have a good quality of life, someone has to be there to protect a persons rights, whether it be property rights or the innate rights all of us are born with. We need to be protected from foreign threats. This is all valid role for government. Libertarians are not for the abolish of government, they want a limited role government. One that doesn't mettle in the economy and try to pick winners and losers, one that makes sure justice is blind and equal to us all. What you seem to be arguing against is anarchy, stating that government is the catalyst of increase in quality of life. It is an ingredient when used properly. Without someone protecting our rights its hard to have a good quality of life. But government can just as easily become the tool that denys people that quality of life. This too has been proven throughout history. Like I have stated in my other post government is a tool and its only as good as the people who are in it. You are dealing in black and whites, absolutes. Governments are not always the cause of increase in quality of life, look at the USSR that government did very little to increase the quality of life of its people, in fact it forcefully starved millions. What did Hitlers Nazi Germany government do to increase the quality of life for its people. Sure it helped pull it out of the economic quagmire it was suffering after WW1 but it also killed millions. And after the war Germany was left hurting, especially the Eastern side that was taken under the communist wing.

Libertarianism is not morally bankrupt, especially when it opposes big government that is used to oppress.
[/quote]
well you guys have said everything I was thinking while reading this article so I am just gonna say "yeah,What they said"
I am not an anarchist I am a government minimalist. If we stick to the constitution and stop making government a full time job we would be much better off. my .02 cents
Ray

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I think us not educating ourselves and letting the government handle everything is the issue. The fact that our closest contact with Gov officials is a letter, email or phone without citing law is hurting us, we can't hear the buffalo coming if we don't have our ear to the ground on this one.

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[quote name='jaytoo3' date='02 February 2010 - 03:04 PM' timestamp='1265141087' post='449208']
I think us not educating ourselves and letting the government handle everything is the issue. The fact that our closest contact with Gov officials is a letter, email or phone without citing law is hurting us, we can't hear the buffalo coming if we don't have our ear to the ground on this one.
[/quote]
And this is where the problem lies. Socialism is popular not because of how well it work but because people are willing to give up individual rights to "feel" safe. If you know you will never be hungry, the police will always protect you (army as well) and Big government is going to make sure no one screws you over,you feel safe. But at what cost? What are you going to have to give up so someone else feels safe. Does the government have the right to tell you that your are too good at what you do and this guy is too lazy to work so you give him some of your stuff?
Some say the government is responsible to redistribute wealth because they see a needs and if we won't give voluntarily they will take it from us. I for one have been and will continue to be very generous to people in need but I decided who to help. A family out of work in my church among others. I do not feel like I should be picking up the tab on a baby factory who has figured out babies mean bigger check.
Ray

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I haven't read the entire article yet as I'm studying for an Income Taxation midterm that's tomorrow (and procrastinating a little) but what I've read so far (about 1/3) is a little ridiculous.

A great majority of Libertarians are not anarchists that would be happy with the abolition of government in its entirety. Most Libertarians will agree with me that government (I'll be using US government from here on out in my references of government) exists because it was established by the people. No one denies the incredible usefulness of the government and its inherent right to tax the people fairly for everyone's benefit (Sixteenth Amendment). Infrastructure is built by the gov't and is maintained by so. A standing army wouldn't exist if not for tax revenue garnered by gov't. This is assumed by those who know what they are talking about. This article is primarily written as a rant against those who pomp around puff-chested claiming less gov't and less taxes.

The basics of Libertarian ideals run under a conservative economic school of less regulation and less taxes. Although anyone that claims themselves Libertarian and believes JUST those aforementioned ideas with not concrete foundation is obviously not well educated in Economics. Never has a country EVER in history succeeded under a planned economy due to imperfect information (such as consumers' wants and needs) however, no economy has ever existed that is pure capitalist as this article is suggesting (from what I've read so far). Would Einstein have ever come up with his theories of relativity under a government commission? Would Henry Ford invented the assembly line as we know it under a gov't commission? No! Self-interest (NOT GREED!!!!!) has been the motivating factor for innovations and successes in the world today. Call it greed if you like or manipulation of a "corrupt" system but think of it this way: what politician has ever been elected solely because of their prowess and not because of their political clout or interests? Chicago is known to have some of the most corrupt politics in the US but that city is run like a submarine, everything works and works damn well. Their mayor isn't a saint by any means but he gets things done.

Socialism is a form of planned economy because a gov't essentially taxes to a point where your own leisure time is worth more than the extra money you earn from working an additional hour or two. Taxes will get to the point where everything is essentially a redistribution of wealth. What motivation is there to do anything BETTER than before if you're just gonna get the same as before? May as well stay how things are. Everybody (unless it's some sick minded person) wants healthcare for everyone, wants free education for everyone, wants everyone to be happy. I sure do. But I'm not gonna let a system of socialism that has proven to be inefficient to fester. It's not right if we want to advance and become better, it's going to fail while wasting my hard earned money. I don't mind paying taxes if it's fair (still gonna grumble about it of course) but a leaner, more efficient system of government is required to put my money to work instead of wasting it on failed projects or money pits (universal healthcare and social security).

I have to get back to studying for the time being. I'll finish that article some other time and post some more. Don't fret about some of my views in this post so far, they can and will be explained.

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I think the last few posts have defined socialism inaccurately - at least in its most simple and just form. Yall may be referring to Marxism, or rather Karl Marx's suggestion for implementing communal socialism, rather than the theory of socialism per se.

I'm just kind of stoking the fire in this thread instead of being as actively involved as I typically am; but for the purpose of having you all express your sentiments surrounding the acceptance of (efficient) government as a positive social force.

Carry on :good2:

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[quote name='Dr. B' date='03 February 2010 - 02:53 AM' timestamp='1265183626' post='449385']
I think the last few posts have defined socialism inaccurately - at least in its most simple and just form. Yall may be referring to Marxism, or rather Karl Marx's suggestion for implementing communal socialism, rather than the theory of socialism per se.

I'm just kind of stoking the fire in this thread instead of being as actively involved as I typically am; but for the purpose of having you all express your sentiments surrounding the acceptance of (efficient) government as a positive social force.

Carry on :good2:
[/quote]
I think I have a pretty good handle on what socialism is. When I make 250,000 the government taxes me 36% of that income. They then give that income to a women in NYC who has 4 babies with 4 different babies daddies, That is a pretty good explanation of redistributing of wealth.
Socialism also dictates how my son is educated regardless of my personal or religious views. Socialism tells me it ok to smoke in my house but not where I work...for the greater good. Socialism give government more power that the people who put it there in the first place. Socialism allows blackwater mercenaries the right to take the guns of law abiding citizens in new Orleans because they MIGHT hurt someone,leaving them unprotected form those that did not give up their illegal gun. I have more examples if needed.
Ray

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Socialism is an ideology within a capitalist system, a system of self-interested, utility-seeking independent decision making, that advocates a lower rental rate paid to capital in the face of apparently under-compensated workers. It merely favors a "redistribution of wealth" towards the factors of production in industry. I use the term "redistribution of wealth" in quotes to imply that this is the mantra that is most typically distorted and used as a premise to arrive at inaccurate conclusions about socialism per se. It is only a redistribution when juxtaposed to the current practices of affording capital a high real rental rate: for within a socialist economy this is not the inherent practice.
What you are talking about is authoritarianism in the form of conscripted communism. These, while not mutually exclusive in practice, are separate philosophies. Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto are two different books and champion two different philosophies. Edited by Dr. B

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please, feel free to post more examples.

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[quote name='LZ22' date='25 January 2010 - 11:15 AM' timestamp='1264446905' post='447612']
[font="tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif"] It was the Fed (government) [/font]
[/quote]




The Fed is actually more or less privately owned. Please dont let that derail the arguement. 


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[quote name='dozyproductions' date='05 February 2010 - 01:00 AM' timestamp='1265353223' post='449830']
[quote name='LZ22' date='25 January 2010 - 11:15 AM' timestamp='1264446905' post='447612']
[font="tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif"] It was the Fed (government) [/font]
[/quote]




The Fed is actually more or less privately owned. Please dont let that derail the arguement.



[/quote]

Is this statement a joke of some kind? Do you actually believe the Fed is privately owned? Do you even know what the Fed is?

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[quote name='dozyproductions' date='05 February 2010 - 01:00 AM' timestamp='1265353223' post='449830']
[quote name='LZ22' date='25 January 2010 - 11:15 AM' timestamp='1264446905' post='447612']
[font="tahoma, arial, verdana, sans-serif"] It was the Fed (government) [/font]
[/quote]




The Fed is actually more or less privately owned. Please dont let that derail the arguement.



[/quote]

First off, why can't we edit posts? Sorry for the double post...

Okay, I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you...

Taken from wikipedia:
"According to the board of governors: "It is not 'owned' by anyone and is '[b]not a private[/b], profit-making institution'. Instead, it is an independent entity [b]within the government[/b], having both public purposes and private aspects."[sup][url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Reserve_System#cite_note-9"][10][/url][/sup] In particular, [b]the US Government[/b] does not own shares in the Federal Reserve System nor its component banks, but [b]does take all of its [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Profit_%28accounting%29"]profits[/url] after [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salary"]salaries[/url] are paid to employees[/b], a [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dividend"]dividend[/url] is paid to member banks that is 6% of their capital investment, and surplus is put in a capital account. [b]The government also exercises some control by appointing its highest-level employees and setting their salaries.[/b]"

The Fed was created BY Congress with the Federal Reserve Act. The Fed's leadership is appointed BY the government. That leadership then decides the countries monetary policy and adjusts interest rates. The Fed is the central bank of the US. It is quite different than regular banks which are private institutions. It is independent, but that does not mean that it is private. It just means it does not have congressional oversight like many other Congress-made agencies.

I think you are confused, while the Fed branches are private branches, the whole system is headed by public officials appointed by the President. The fact remains that the Fed was CREATED by government, and that it plays a huge role in causing economic disasters.

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Sorry, wrong wording. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol3mEe8TH7w




It was made by the government but it doesn't answer to anybody for the most part. The federal reserve act in 1913 was concocted by big bankers of the time while most of congress was away for holiday session.  

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[quote name='dozyproductions' date='09 February 2010 - 03:42 PM' timestamp='1265751777' post='450631']
Sorry, wrong wording.

[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol3mEe8TH7w"]http://www.youtube.c...h?v=ol3mEe8TH7w[/url]




It was made by the government but it doesn't answer to anybody for the most part. The federal reserve act in 1913 was concocted by big bankers of the time while most of congress was away for holiday session.


[/quote]

The Federal Reserve Act had to pass through Congress to even get started. It didn't come in to being when those Congressmen were away. It might have been drafted while Congress wasn't in session, but it sure didn't just pop up all of the sudden without Congress knowing about it. I would research it some more before jumping to a conclusion.

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