Monday, December 26, 2011

The liberty of local bullies


I have not been surprised by any of the quotes that have recently come to light from Ron Paul's racist newsletters. I grew up in Texas, remember, and I know from experience that if you talk to a hardcore Paul supporter for a reasonable length of time, these sorts of ideas are more likely than not to come up.

So does this mean that Ron Paul's libertarianism is merely a thin veneer covering a bedrock of tribalist white-supremacist paleoconservatism? Well, no, I don't think so. Sure, the tribalist white-supremacist paleoconservatism is there. I just don't think it's incompatible with libertarianism.

I have often remarked in the past how libertarianism - at least, its modern American manifestation - is not really about increasing liberty or freedom as an average person would define those terms. An ideal libertarian society would leave the vast majority of people feeling profoundly constrained in many ways. This is because the freedom of the individual can be curtailed not only by the government, but by a large variety of intermediate powers like work bosses, neighborhood associations, self-organized ethnic movements, organized religions, tough violent men, or social conventions. In a society such as ours, where the government maintains a nominal monopoly on the use of physical violence, there is plenty of room for people to be oppressed by such intermediate powers, whom I call "local bullies."

The modern American libertarian ideology does not deal with the issue of local bullies. In the world envisioned by Nozick, Hayek, Rand, and other foundational thinkers of the movement, there are only two levels to society - the government (the "big bully") and the individual. If your freedom is not being taken away by the biggest bully that exists, your freedom is not being taken away at all.

In a perfect libertarian world, it is therefore possible for rich people to buy all the beaches and charge admission fees to whomever they want (or simply ban anyone they choose). In a libertarian world, a self-organized cartel of white people can, under certain conditions, get together and effectively prohibit black people from being able to go out to dinner in their own city. In a libertarian world, a corporate boss can use the threat of unemployment to force you into accepting unsafe working conditions. In other words, the local bullies are free to revoke the freedoms of individuals, using methods more subtle than overt violent coercion.

Such a world wouldn't feel incredibly free to the people in it. Sure, you could get together with friends and pool your money to buy a little patch of beach. Sure, you could move to a less racist city. Sure, you could quit and find another job. But doing any of these things requires paying large transaction costs. As a result you would feel much less free.

Now, the founders of libertarianism - Nozick et. al. - obviously understood the principle that freedoms are often mutually exclusive - that my freedom to punch you in the face curtails quite a number of your freedoms. For this reason, they endorsed "minarchy," or a government whose only role is to protect people from violence and protect property rights. But they didn't extend the principle to covertly violent, semi-violent, or nonviolent forms of coercion.

Not surprisingly, this gigantic loophole has made modern American libertarianism the favorite philosophy of a vast array of local bullies, who want to keep the big bully (government) off their backs so they can bully to their hearts' content. The curtailment of government legitimacy, in the name of "liberty," allows abusive bosses to abuse workers, racists to curtail opportunities for minorities, polluters to pollute without cost, religious groups to make religious minorities feel excluded, etc. In theory, libertarianism is about the freedom of the individual, but in practice it is often about the freedom of local bullies to bully. It's a "don't tattle to the teacher" ideology.

Therefore I see no real conflict between Ron Paul's libertarianism and his support for the agenda of racists. It's just part and parcel of the whole movement. Not necessarily the movement as it was conceived, but the movement as it in fact exists.

50 comments:

  1. Probably the biggest barrier to local bullies is dignity and morality. Why do many libertarians feel comfortable with citing MLK and Rosa Parks as heroes? Because — with the Federal government essentially complicit in segregation — they had to wage grassroots campaigns against local bullies like Bull Connor, etc.

    The same principle applies across a wide range of scenarios. While the state is slapping GE, Koch, etc, on the wrist with environmental regulations (pay a fine, do the damage) people like Erin Brockovich have to wage campaigns appealing to dignity and morality in beating off the infractions of bullies.

    Ultimately the reality of regulatory capture is the big problem statists need to address. Just as segregationists controlled the Federal agenda 50 years ago corporatists have captured it today. For all the good the state could do (and for whatever good it is) the reality is that the only way to beat the local (and national and supranational) bullies is to organise against them at a grassroots level.

    Of course, the problem with libertarianism is that even with current economic conditions and a widespread hunger for radical change, libertarianism is just too scary to a large proportion of the population for it to realistically be adopted as a governmental philosophy. The right want national security statism, and the left want welfare statism. But I don't think we can realistically say in light of the status quo that this statist combination has been particularly effective at stopping "local bullies". Perhaps libertarianism would make this worse, or perhaps it would force grassroots organisers to finally get a knack for fighting for their causes. I don't know, and it doesn't look like we'll get to find out.

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  2. The problem i see with libertarianism is that to get to a Libertarian world which might be ok (who can say) we need "Libertarians" leading the way.

    And all of them seem to be ideologically mad to the point of seeming to be quite happy to apply their principles at the point of a gun.

    If you don't think i'm right try lurking o the von Mises blog site for a while - most of the posts and comments lead me to think that they are extremely bigoted and probably violent people.

    proponents of any "ism" seem to be as dangerous and unappealing as any other "ism" nuts.

    I suspect that a harmonious state of civil life can only be achieved by evolutionary processes - not revolutionary ones.

    That of course and there being enough resources and space to go around.

    pop

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  3. Yves Smith had a series run on her web site in late November and early December on the "Libertarian Utopia!" http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/11/journey-into-a-libertarian-future-part-i-%E2%80%93the-vision.html

    Actually, it is a journey into the past, a new feudal age where there will be a class of merchant nobles, soldiers, a small class of appartichiks, and mass of servants who will sell themselves into slavery and serfdom to save themselves.

    I also reading Page Smith's multi-volume history of the United States,the volume name "The Nation Comes of Age." It covers the pre-civil war United States. One chapter has us follow a Charles Pancoast, a Pennsylvania pharmacist, and is adventures in the Missouri and Arkansas frontier of the 1840s. His account, under the chapter title "A Modet Competence" in part describes his stay in the Missour frontier town of Warsaw. It was a town where justice was enforced private vigilatnte groups. Pancoast describes 30 murders, not one punished by the law during his stay there. The periods of weak Government, both in the U.S. and throughout the world (see Somalia), should give one pause about the restraint local bullies will feel on them from "dignity and morality" since our current Galtian overlords already feel free of accountability for their actions.

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  4. I think much of the anger at the Federal Government dates to the 1960s and 70s when it acted against local bullies and interests to protect the rights of minorities, particularly Blacks. More anger has come up from homophobes because the Government is extending civil rights protections to gays. Just look at the Ron Paul newsletter to see the real attitude and anger to those considered "lesser breeds."

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  5. Anarchism is a political philosophy that places liberty of individuals at the apex of the value system in terms of which policy is determined. There are many flavors of anarchism on both eft and right. Contemporary Libertarianism is a congerie of various flavors of anarchism of the right, which are also called anarcho-capitalism and individualist libertarianism, Economically, this is laissea-faire capitalism. The left has its corresponding flavors, called anarcho-socialism, for example. Outside the US, this is called libertarian socialism.

    We are going to be hearing a lot more about anarchism in the coming years, since lies at the heart of both the Tea Party, which has already positioned itself politically and garnered a modicum of power, and the Occupy movement, which has not yet coalesced as a political force.

    Anarchism is essentially opposed to institutionalism. Strict anarchism rejects institutions in all forms, holding that institutions are loci of power, and politics is essentially competition for power among vying groups, which inevitably leads to the attempt of one group to control other groups and individuals.

    The challenge for strict forms of anarchism is to explain how the local bully problem can be avoided in the absence of some form of institutional governance. The challenge for loose forms of anarchism is to explain how minimal institutionalism can be contained.

    In a complex world with a global economy this is a daunting challenge indeed. It would seem that both the strict and loose forms of anarchism required some policing power to prevent abuse. And that introduces the potential for both violence and the capture of a monopoly on violence by some individual or group.

    Many contemporary LIbertarians and anarcho-socialists have not really though this through. As a result their nostrums are not only unconvincing but also if followed, counterproductrive on their own terms.

    This can have extremely untoward consequences. For example, Mikhail Bakunin presciently warned that Marx and Engel's notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat would result in tyrannical dictatorship. On the other hand, laissez-faire capitalism tends toward monopoly capitalism and unbridled rent-seeking, as we are already witnessing in the US and other developed countries, where business has managed to remove government regulation, oversight and accountability.

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  6. Very nice analysis. I have long thought that libertarian arguments against coercion were rather bogus for this very reason.

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  7. Just one example, though arguably rife with implications: in Libertopia, privately-circulated blacklists would not be illegal, and there's no reason to suppose they wouldn't be ubiquitous.

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  8. Personally, with the exception of how much tax I paid, I would be subject to exactly the same level of coersion from the state in a libertarian society as I am in our present.

    What is it that you (who read this) would do in a libertarian society which you are not allowed to do (or simply do anyway) in the present ?

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  9. But that's the libertarian dream: feudalism. The aristocracy not of money, but of the sword. The near future of a merchant aristocracy is just a transition state. This is because it is impossible for a business to internalize the cost of protecting and maintaining long range transport. Implicit coercion will gradually, or perhaps quite rapidly, be replaced with the naked force of local bullies, as the global economy fragments.

    A government you can drown in your bath tub cannot protect property rights.

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  10. Anonymous1:01 AM

    libertarians want a feudal society? can't see how. it is true that, as Leonard Liggio's research indicates, the roots of democracy (and "liberty") were present in some areas of all pre-imperial european cultures. Local democracy was supported by some religous orders, and thus was part of the "vernacular" cultures (Ivan Illich) displaced by "modernizing" imperial cultures. See Liggio's description of the various tendencies amongst the french philosophers, some were in favor of "liberty" (supporting the spanish peasant revolts), others in favor of empire and suppressing local and regional "representative" institutions such as the cortes and fueros.

    the main features of feudal society that libertarians would oppose would be slavery and serfdom.

    all imperial systems require war and enslavement.

    american fully became an imperial power when it defeated Spain in the SPanish-American war, 100_ years ago. The imperial impulses that were "imported" from Spain were combined with the economic power of industrialization to create modern state-capitalism.

    the modern american plutocratic empire has its "slaves". Its war schemes aren't worth commenting on since they are obvious.

    have libertarians really thought about what a non-imperial america that no longer provides huge public support for industrial monopolies would consist of? probably not as much as they should.

    What would presumably be crucial would be cleaning up the court system so that the legitimate role of local police in enforcing laws that protect people's liberty could be returned.

    The current system is increasingly corrupted by absurd drug laws designed to further impoverish poor communities and enrich fat cat lawyers, judges, prison guard unions, etc.

    The national security apparatus is now capable of accusing any dissident of being a "terrorist", and removing them from the justice system. This is teetering on the brink of fascism.

    If you think that pulling back from that brink is a return to a feudal society, I don't know what to say.

    how is the analysis of Alexis de Tocqueville, given in 1840, not relevant? de Tocqueville stated that because america was a polyglot society with no grand unifying belief system (other than in acquiring money), that the american people would become increasingly "weak and servile" to the "last institution standing" - an increasingly powerful central government? American's would hate such a government because of culture history, but would become increasingly dependent on it.

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  11. Anonymous5:03 AM

    Noah,

    Please read Keith Preston's anti-statist "Attack The System" blog for an intelligent, anarcho-libertarian critique of the role that progressives and establishment liberals play in the Imperial system known as american state-capitalism.

    Here is why one of many reasons I see no reason to mindlessly support the liberal establishment:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/12/daniel-ellsberg-richard-nixon_n_875484.html

    "Daniel Ellsberg: The Crimes Richard Nixon Committed Against Me Are Now Legal" [under Obama]

    Ellsberg states that Obama, a liberal, has engaged in just as many crimes against internal critics as did Richard Nixon, their historical arch-enemy!

    Nixon was no friend of Wall Street, but I doubt that the same can be said of Obama.

    Obama also refused to stop the appalling "espionage" prosecution of Thomas Drake, a NSA (military intelligence) whistleblower!

    Under Obama's "liberal" watch, it is now legal for the government to throw any dissident in jail as a "terrorist".

    I fail to see how any of that is justified by the suppression of "local bullies".

    On the contrary, the liberal establishment is perfectly comfortable with the widespread use of local bullying when it suits their purposes! As in creating a public education system that is destroying the culture by promoting viciously intolerant forms of political correctness and thought policing. In academia, liberals have been complacent in the sweeping aside of academic freedom (and other ideals of the classical liberal tradition) and the creation of a system of low wage teaching at the urging of pro-corporate think tanks!
    (cont.)

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  12. Anonymous5:06 AM

    (cont.)
    Liberals have played a central role in the creation of the imperial system of state-capitalism in the USA, its various war schemes, and the destruction of the tradition of populism and political independence.

    Rabbi Michael Learner (arrested as a 60s anti-war protestor) developed a spiritual criticism of liberalism several decades ago.

    So no, it isn't apparent that your real purpose in accusing libertarians of promoting "local bullying" is a real concern about "local bullying" at all (otherwise you would have mentioned "mobbing" and other pernicious forms of ideologically inspired bullying common in "liberal" academia!?!), rather it seems more likely that you are simply engaged in polemics, and a such are willing to wildly "make stuff up" to smear libertarians.

    What many libertarians come to learn is that many liberals/progressives are seething with hatred of anyone that refuses to conform to liberal ideology. This hatred is compatible with hatred of white people, a taboo subject that Ron Paul's newsletters dealt with in a clumsy manner.

    re: Fashionable nonsense in PC/left academia:

    The classical example of how anti-masculine/anti-white postmodern deconstruction polemics went widly wrong at the end of the "culture wars" in the 90s:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair

    excerpt:

    Higher Superstition argued that in the 1990s, a group of academics whom the authors referred to collectively as "the Academic Left" was dominated by professors who concentrated on racism, sexism, and other perceived prejudices, and that science was eventually included among their targets—later provoking the "Science Wars", which questioned the validity of scientific objectivity. Academic journals in the humanities were publishing articles by writers who, scientists argued, demonstrated little or no knowledge of science. Per the introduction: "A curious fact about the recent left-critique of science is the degree to which its instigators have overcome their former timidity, of indifference towards the subject, not by studying it in detail, but rather by creating a repertoire of rationalizations for avoiding such study.
    ...
    ---

    Also see:

    http://physics.nyu.edu/sokal/weinberg.html

    The hoax was accepted only because "(a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions."
    ---
    (cont.)

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  13. Anonymous5:07 AM

    (cont.)

    Zen philosopher Ken Wilber developed a similar critique of what he calls the "mean green meme", or "boomeritis" that became controversial for its criticisms of the left from a counterculture spirituality viewpoint!

    http://www.integralworld.net/mgm2.html

    excerpt:

    ... that important differentiation of the [Weberian] value spheres [art, morals, science] went too far into dissociation of the value spheres, which eventually resulted in the Habermasian "colonization of art and morals by science"--that is, the domination of the interior realms of I and We by a scientific materialism of Its: by any other name, the mean orange meme.
    ...

    As for the healthy and unhealthy green memes, I always start any discussion of the MGM by pointing out the HGM's many accomplishments to date: the civil rights movement, feminism, environmental protection and ecological sensitivity, health care reform, political awareness of marginalization in all forms, etc.

    But I have focused on the damage that the MGM has caused, mostly because that is where the action is in the cultural elite. The MGM is the driving force of boomeritis, and it has dominated academia, liberal politics, and the humanities for three decades. Its damage is staggering, and only made worse by the smug self-satisfaction of these particular Inquisitors.
    ...

    ---end excerpts---

    For anyone that was around during the culture wars, especially those people that became casualties of the liberal thought police (and their corporatist overlords), there is going to be a very high standard that "liberal" ideology has to meet for objectivity and impartiality.

    That said, I personally advocate for the Transpartisan values, and any other form of work toward the common good and political alliances that serve the common good.

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  14. Anonymous5:25 AM

    (Preston, cont.)

    ...
    The phrase “means of acquiring credit” ... is a particularly significant one as the purpose of state control over banking and the issuance of money serves to narrowly constrict the supply of available credit which in turn renders entrepreneurship inaccessible to the majority of the population at large. Indeed, Murray Rothbard argued that bankers as a class “are inherently inclined towards statism” as they are typically involved with unsound practices, such as fractional reserve credit, that subsequently lead to calls for assistance from the state, or derive much of their business from direct involvement with the state, for instance, through the underwriting of government bonds. Therefore, the banking class becomes the financial arm of the state not only by specifically underwriting the activities of the state,

    [***] such as war, plunder and repression,

    but also by serving to create and maintain a plutocracy of businessmen, manufacturers, politically-connected elites and others able to obtain access to the narrowly constricted supply of credit within the context of the market distortions generated by the state’s money monopoly.

    The process by which “capitalism” as it is actually practiced in the modern countries developed-by means of a partnership between the forces of state and capital, rather than through a genuine free market-has already been very briefly described. There remains the question of how this relationship has subsequently been maintained over the past two centuries. Gabriel Kolko’s landmark study of the historic relationship between state and capital traced the development of this symbiosis from the “railroad government complex” of mid-nineteenth century America through the supposed “reforms” of the so-called Progressive Era to the cartelization of labor, industry and government by means of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.6 At each stage of this development of American state-capitalism, members of “the capitalist class”-bankers, industrialists, manufacturers, businessmen-adamantly pushed for and were directly involved in the creation of a state-managed economy whose effect would be to shield themselves from smaller, less politically connected competitors, co-opt labor unions and generate a source of monopolistic protection and cost-free revenue from the state. Similar if not identical parallels can be found in the development of state-capitalism in the other modern countries.
    ...

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  15. What's most infuriating to me about most Libertarians is their refusal to acknowledge a large part of what makes regulatory capture and other things like it a big problem is those with resources essentially buying off our elected officials. There's no one solution to this problem, but removing the incentive for politicians to respond only to those who fund them in significant ways would go a long way towards making such issues easier to deal with. No doubt there are legitimate questions about how to enforce bans on money, both theoretically and practically--how can we stop someone from printing up fliers with his own money, and do we even want to do, for instance? But whatever free speech issues arise from potential restrictions on spending, nobody will be prevented from writing on a blog, attending a rally, or volunteering at a phone bank. Not even the Koch brothers.

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  16. Larry Headlund10:41 AM

    The very first comment by azizonomics.com says:
    Probably the biggest barrier to local bullies is dignity and morality. Why do many libertarians feel comfortable with citing MLK and Rosa Parks as heroes? Because — with the Federal government essentially complicit in segregation — they had to wage grassroots campaigns against local bullies like Bull Connor, etc.

    This is a good illustration of a argument that ignores history. The Montgomery bus boycott did not end with the bus company surrendering to the power of the boycott but rather when a Federal District court (in Browder v. Gayle) invalidated the Alabama laws enforcing segregation on buses and enjoined Alabama and Montgomery from operating segregated bus lines.
    Indeed, the entire "civil rights era" had a stream of Federal actions against local and state segregation practices. This is the birth of "activist Federal judges."

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  17. Larry:

    You missed the point. Nothing was forthcoming from the Federal level without the people at the grassroots making a damn big fuss. That has tended to be true whether power is held locally, nationally or internationally.

    It is a total myth to assume that the big bully will be benign and will fight local bullies in the interests of the people. Look at contemporary regulatory capture, for example of finance. Where are all the great progressive regulatory initiatives? Where's the reinstatement of Glass Steagall? Where's the open and transparent vanilla derivatives exchange? Where's the financial transactions tax?

    Nowhere, nowhere, nowhere. That's because the industry effectively writes their own regulations. The Obama administration is shot with ex-Wall Street and ex-Goldman people.

    In this case (as was the case for most of the segregation era) the big bully is siding with various local bullies against the people.

    Now that Occupy is doing some good work in standing up against the 0.001% perhaps there will be some progress, but maybe not.

    Statists have to address this reality of regulatory capture.

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  18. Nozick abandoned libertarianism later in life and, in any case, made an exception to his philosophy in cases of restitution -- ie, capital resources obtained as a result of theft, fraud, etc. Without examing the issue he assumed these were small. However, a knowledge of history shows otherwise. Capital, society's total stock of it, is the accumulated crime and sacrifice of centuries, plus interest. This is conceptionally a tautology, but leaves open the question of composition: how much is a result of crime, how much of sacrifice (willing, Christian), and how much interest (ie the management of existing capital)?

    What you end up with is that businessmen and the wealthy ingneral, who have power over the management of capital, are morally to be viewed as its custodians; who deserves fruits of capital is an open question. The moral status of stolen goods legally acquired is the issue.

    Sorry. This is not well put. And I forget the term Nozick uses -- restitution isn't correct.

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  19. Is this benevolent state that is protecting me from all those bad things the same one that is locking up hundreds of thousand of innocent black people under the banner of the war on drugs, has killed similar numbers of iraqis under the banner of war on terror and whose alliance with the big banks cost us hundreds of billions of dollars and a long, deep recession ?

    I'm sure glad those guys are here to protect me from the local bullies.

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  20. Libertarians are free to move to some place where they can be truly free from the constraints of group imposed rules and taxes. By definition they cannot claim a birth right to being an American citizen - that is they cannot claim any rights from the group as a group.

    I suggest Somalia as the appropriate place where Libertarians could be happy. Any Libertarian not willing to relocate to Somalia in search of his ideal is just a poseur.

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  21. Very well done.

    You may be too good at blogging for your own good. We'll see. It's hard to see how exactly this will all develop.

    But be very careful to not risk not completing your dissertation. It's a very nasty system and world today. The safe and perhaps easily best bet to really do something with your blogging is to first make sure you get tenure at a good school.

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  22. Libertarians consider pollution to be a property rights violation.

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  23. There is a big difference, in a libertarian's mind, between violent coercion and non-violent coercion. Robbing a bank with a gun does seem a lot different than walking in a convincing the teller to give you money in some way, does it not?

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  24. Larry Headlund12:08 PM

    azizonomics.com responded to me:
    You missed the point.
    We shall see.
    Nothing was forthcoming from the Federal level without the people at the grassroots making a damn big fuss. That has tended to be true whether power is held locally, nationally or internationally.

    Irrelevant to your statement: Probably the biggest barrier to local bullies is dignity and morality.

    It is a total myth to assume that the big bully will be benign and will fight local bullies in the interests of the people.

    But that was precisely what happened in the modern civil rights era, the example you chose. The "big bully" of the Federal government was called in the service of obtaining civil rights. If you don't like the history, don't cite it.

    Look at contemporary regulatory capture, for example of finance. Where are all the great progressive regulatory initiatives? Where's the reinstatement of Glass Steagall? Where's the open and transparent vanilla derivatives exchange? Where's the financial transactions tax?

    Nowhere, nowhere, nowhere. That's because the industry effectively writes their own regulations. The Obama administration is shot with ex-Wall Street and ex-Goldman people.

    In this case (as was the case for most of the segregation era) the big bully is siding with various local bullies against the people.

    For most of the segregation era the Federal government primarily committed sins of omission, not opposing local governments and not interfering with non-governmental segregation. When, during the civil rights era, it changed this policy what was the response from libertarians? Why they were happy to complain about these federal actions.

    Now that Occupy is doing some good work in standing up against the 0.001% perhaps there will be some progress, but maybe not.

    Statists have to address this reality of regulatory capture.

    Right after libertarians address historical reality.

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  25. Larry:

    But that was precisely what happened in the modern civil rights era, the example you chose. The "big bully" of the Federal government was called in the service of obtaining civil rights. If you don't like the history, don't cite it.

    The big bully was called in after the best part of a century of Dred Scott bullshit — a precedent created and accepted by the... the Federal government. That's hardly a "sin of omission".

    If you want to talk about "historical reality", we have to start out by talking about regulatory capture, and ways in which that can be prevented, and how the big (and distant, and anonymous) bully can be reliably held to account.

    Direct democracy? Transparency & freedom of information? Wikileaks? Smaller government? Localism?

    Because we know the status quo — government by corporatists like Geithner, Obama, and Corzine — isn't working.

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  26. azizonomics: "The big bully was called in after the best part of a century of Dred Scott bullshit — a precedent created and accepted by the... the Federal government. That's hardly a "sin of omission". "

    Wrong. That precedent was set by slavers, who dominated the government. It was maintained by post-slavers. When they could use the federal government, they did. When they needed state governments (against the feds), they used those. When neither worked, they used non-state terror.

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  27. Larry Headlund3:28 PM

    azizonomics.com

    The big bully was called in after the best part of a century of Dred Scott bullshit — a precedent created and accepted by the... the Federal government. That's hardly a "sin of omission".

    I see you leap back a whole century from the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956 to the Dred Scott decision of 1857. Does this mean you are abandoning your original contention?

    But on to Dred Scott: The decision was superseded by the XIII Amendment (1865) and XIV Amendment (1868) so giving it a century of influence is a stretch. But what did the decision say? It said the Federal government could not ban slavery in Federal territory nor could it free slaves brought into the territories. That is, it restricted the power of the Federal government, it prevented it from taking actions.

    Hence it could only require omissions, not commissions.

    Hence "sins of omission" not "sins of commission".

    The Federal "sins of commission" with respect to segregation (segregation in D.C., segregation of the Armed Forces, etc.) were ended before the civil rights era.

    If you want to talk about "historical reality", we have to start out by talking about regulatory capture, and ways in which that can be prevented, and how the big (and distant, and anonymous) bully can be reliably held to account.


    Historical reality has to start with history, all of it, and reality, not just your preferred topics and perspectives.

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  28. I see you leap back a whole century from the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956 to the Dred Scott decision of 1857. Does this mean you are abandoning your original contention?

    Not at all — in discussing and examining this topic we have to consider the full view of African-Americans and slavery in the United States. As I have pointed out, the era includes a plethora of examples of regulatory capture of all levels and branches of government by racists, segregations and slavers. Dred Scott merely exemplifies this, and points to the fact that statists makes themselves look bad by whining about libertarianism when the pressing issue — both today and historically — is addressing regulatory capture.

    Plus, if you want to look at a "full view of history" (as opposed to "just the topics you prefer") on the issue of local bullies vs bigger bullies, I hate to invoke Godwin but what about Hitler and Stalin and Mao? Heck, why not throw George Bush and his million dead Iraqis into that mix...

    They all exemplify the real danger that libertarianism points toward — the danger of putting a lot of power, (specifically the legitimate use of violence) in the hands of a select few. That's the nth degree of "regulatory capture".

    Now I am not really a libertarian, and I recognise that some degree of statism is necessary (e.g. infrastructure, defence (not attack), judiciary, environmental regulation, countercyclical macro) but I want to use this examine how we can tone down some of the bad aspects of regulatory capture.

    Shrieking "libertarians are dumb and should go and live in Somalia!" will not make these statist downsides go away.

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  29. Wow, this comment page is rather different.

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  30. Anonymous5:56 PM

    Sorry, but this is flawed.

    The argument is that it will become "local bullies". But it is the job of the federal government to protect the citizens.

    For example, the civil rights movement. That is a valid use of government.

    If the government is not doing that job, then it's an entirely different issue.

    Now how in the world is the only way for the government to do that job, is for it to do all the other stuff as well?

    That's an extreme jump in logic.

    You are claiming that the federal government for some reason won't be able to do it's small and specific job, as reason why the federal government should be giving many jobs - including the small job that is being claimed it can't perform under libertarianism.

    It's like claiming a man can't build a birdhouse, so lets let him build the Empire State Building.

    Please correct me if I'm missing something here.

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  31. All I need to know is that in Ron Paul's world companies don't have to serve blacks and that includes the electric, gas, water, and oil companies. It also includes supermarkets, shop, diners, bars, etc. You get the drift. It would be perfectly legal to starve blacks to death.

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  32. It's really much more simple than all of this. Libertarians are not exactly anti-state. Libertarians like myself are interested in discouraging aggressive violence and fraud as much as possible, whoever does it. It's called the non-aggression principle. It's really all there is to libertarianism, though the implications are great.

    Libertarians also generally recognize that changing the terms used to describe actions do not change the morality or reality of what those actions are. Taking what is not yours with threat of violence is stealing, even if you call it taxing or protection, even if you have the letters IRS on your business card or the approval of the local Don. Killing someone you've never had any dealings with is murder even if you call it a hit or even if you're wearing a camouflage outfit and have been ordered to by someone else.

    Fortunately, the non-aggression principle is winning. The clear, overarching trend of history has been the empowerment of the individual vs. the hierarchical group types that presume to rule. And, like we do now with slavery and other blots on humanity's record, we will one day look back with shame that we ever used such barbarism to organize society as government.

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  33. In the abstract this is essentially an argument for imperialism -- and one with which I agree, being an imperialist. I'm guessing you might only favor a sort of democratic imperialism, in which the provinces have a say in how the empire is governed. But when I look at the US after the Civil War, it's not clear to me that democratic imperialism is better than regular old-fashioned imperialism. Within a decade, the local bullies in the South were able to effectively vote the empire out of their provinces and go on with their bullying. There is much to be said for a setup in which the Romans make the rules and everyone else just has to follow them.

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  34. I get very angry at that card which the propertarians love to play: "the tyranny of capitalists is nothing compared to the tyranny of the state, so let's give the capitalists a break", or, "capitalists only bully people because they get all sorts of handouts from the state". What I would ask them is, if capitalists were able to bully the crap out of people without using the state, would they agree that the private tyranny should also be fought against?

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  35. John Kenneth Galbraith once wrote "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

    I appreciate that there are principled libertarians out there but, to be honest, it seems to me that for most right wing libertarians their primary motivation is much more in line with the one Galbraith attributes to conservatives than to any coherent underlying philosophy.

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  36. I get very angry that those that presume to rule others (the state) murder hundreds of thousands of innocent people with disgusting regularity.

    I'm no fan of corporations (an immunity to consequences that _wouldn't exist_ without the state's help!), nor am I an Ayn Rand style business over humanity type, but how many governments have brutally slaughtered thousands of innocent people? ALMOST ALL OF THEM. What companies, acting without help and sanction from a state have? NONE.

    Libertarianism and anarchy are not selfish as they seek to stop the practice of putting a group of people into a ruling class and calling the horrible things they do justified. We seek equality of power for ALL people. All people should be the sole rulers of their own life and should be exploited by no other, public or private. I am not defending capitalism, if by capitalism you mean the current state/corporate favoritism/corruption/welfare/warfare system. There should be a fair, free market because it's moral, peaceful and just and it's the only way to empower, equally, all people. I think because this way to organize society is peaceful and just it also works better than any other to raise the comfort and wealth and health of more folks than any other. No violent state agents required.

    What is truly selfish and arrogant is thinking that you or your favorite rulers or "representatives" and their agents should have the power of life and death over your fellow man.

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  37. Even with all of that, on rereading Julia's question, I don't feel I've really answered the question.

    YES. I do, absolutely agree to fight against private tyranny. That's what I love about libertarianism. It doesn't give anyone a pass because it's not based on party politics or anything but idea that people should not use force and violence to solve social problems, or at any other time (except in extremely rare cases of personal self defense). It's called the non-aggression principle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-aggression_principle). I love how close this is to Ahimsa, the second basic concept of Satyagraha or Gandhian nonviolence, which is non-injury in thought, word, and deed; non-violence; non-killing; harmlessness. (http://www.dfong.com/nonviol/basicsat.html)

    Violence and fraud is wrong, no matter who does it, even if they're behind the corporate veil, or blue costume with a shiny badge, or got a majority of votes, etc. NO ONE has a right to steal from or hurt their fellow man. THAT is libertarianism.

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  38. the original libertarians, and the people who actually coined the term were actually anarcho-communists. Abolishing the state whilst maintaining private property is a nonsense, as it is the latter far more than the former that actually controls our every day lives.

    Capital absorbs 40 hours a week of my life, come rain or shine, and that's with me being lucky enough to form part of the western working class and not the majority of it.

    The state? I've been arrested once in my life and let off with a warning, I get more off the state than I pay in taxes. The state ain't shit to me, next to capital. (not that the two are seperate in any meaningful way)

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  39. The Ministry of Truth would like to thank you for believing our story that those in government are your servants while ignoring how much your standard of living has been held down by the government's ridiculous spending, borrowing and oppressing.

    Please ignore how totally perfectly reality and evidence is explained and predicted by the idea that you are really just livestock to us and we are exactly like a mafia that runs a "protection" racket.

    tl:dr Obey. Consume. Die.

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  40. Anonymous8:22 PM

    Well done, libertarians are a pox upon the modern American intellectual landscape. Defenders of libertarianism on this comment page clearly do not understand your objection - they are a cult and nothing more.

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  41. I absolutely agree with this, but I think the libertarian definition of "freedom" that empowers local bullies stems from a contradiction at the heart of libertarianism, one I have never seen answered properly. It is that on a fundamental level absolute private property and the state are the same thing at different scales (at least if you include absentee ownership). And it is unrestrained land and capital ownership that would empower local bullies in a libertarian society.

    You mention covert coercion, but it isn't even that covert. Libertarians usually claim to support a society in which you can do what you want so long as you don't harm other people, but for them 'other people' includes not just harm to individuals but using any property in a way its owner dislikes. This is why I see it as dehumanising, it seems to see no difference between property and people, even when the connection between the property and its owners is not personal at all - as in the case of the institutional shareholders of a large corporation. In these cases libertarianism would defend the use of coercion for any reason, because to them it is just defence.

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  42. "...the freedom of the individual can be curtailed not only by the government, but by a large variety of intermediate powers like work bosses, neighborhood associations, self-organized ethnic movements, organized religions, tough violent men, or social conventions." Indeed. This observation is reminiscent of Corey Robin's claim that "[t]he priority of conservative political argument has been the maintenance of private regimes of power—even at the cost of the strength and integrity of the state." Regarding libertarianism, Robin remarks, "Such a view might seem miles away from the libertarian defense of the free market, with its celebration of the atomistic and individual. But it is not. When the libertarian looks out upon society, he does not see isolated individuals; he sees private, often hierarchical, groups, where a father governs his family and an owner his employees." All this is consonant with my own observations as a child raised and schooled by Christian fundamentalists. These people's devotion to the notion of small government was matched by their devotion to intensely authoritarian churches, schools, and families.

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  43. How many billions of working-class wealth extorted and given to the 1%, how many millions of innocent lives need to be cut short around the world, etc. etc. will it take for you to question the benevolence of the state?

    And, let me make it personal from me; I am not so scared of having to drive on gravel roads or suffering local bullies or whatever, that I could possibly support the modern state. I would immediately welcome the tyranny of local bullies to myself and my family (because I think nice , free people can come up with brilliant solutions), if it would end the harm done by the state to so many lives.

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  44. Anonymous9:40 PM

    I would add that exclusion is often worse than exploitation in destroying the soul and the social and economic well-being of individuals.

    Millions of people in this economy are effectively being excluded from our social and economic fabric of society through unemployment. A little more "freedom" like this and we'll all be in the poorhouse.

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  45. Dagny Mouch12:14 AM

    Nothing for it but to make us all rich, immortal, and impervious to command. The state will oppose this, as will those who enjoy being able to give commands through private violent or economic power, and also there are many who enjoy the secular equivalent of the Abominable Fancy---part of the joy of being Saved is composed of watching the Damned suffer.

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  46. Dagny Mouch12:19 AM

    ...and speaking of Hell. I'm reminded of the Christian who gushed about how wonderful it was that we might suffer eternal torment because God had left us Free Will.

    They make a desolation, and call it Freedom.

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  47. The problem with using governments as protectors against local bullies is that they tend to be in league with them, and as laws proliferate an ever-larger proportion of said laws actually prevent self-defense or otherwise serve the bullies' interests. Firefighters and lifeguards have lost their jobs or been reprimanded for saving lives, while taxpayers can be forced to subsidize immoral actions. The concept of "corporate personhood" came from the government and is maintained by the government. Governments have hunted down runaway slaves, brought fleeing prostitutes back to pimps and punished parents for trying to protect their children from damaging, experimental, dishonest curricula. The US government is the nation's biggest polluter, and no one intimidates whistleblowers like governments do. Therefore, relying on a mega-government to protect us from bullies is putting the fox in charge of the henhouse and then tying rocks to the hens' legs.

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  48. Is that a joke? Bullying is not a liberty, it's the use of force against another human being. Any self-respecting Libertarian understands the non-agression principle. Non-violent parenting, better education, and the unrestricted purchase of weapons for self-defense makes such instances of such bullying trivialized.

    "Not surprisingly, this gigantic loophole has made modern American libertarianism the favorite philosophy of a vast array of local bullies, who want to keep the big bully (government) off their backs so they can bully to their hearts' content."

    How many people use unprovoked violence in their day-to-day life. Did you use violence today in purchasing anything? How about with your relationships? How about with random people you saw today? I'm guessing the answer is no. Most people aren't assholes, and to say that without a central planner providing coercive monocentric law that we'd be bullied more is a ridiculous notion. People are more protective of their property without government and have the means to do so, making a "neighborhood bully's" method of acquiring property extremely unlikely. No person or group has killed more, stolen more, or intimidated more than government. I'd take a neighborhood bully over government any day of the week.

    There are so many fallacies and erroneous, sweeping claims in this article that it would take about 10 more paragraphs to address.

    Bullying bosses:
    work for another boss, employ yourself, or invest

    Polluters polluting:
    Strong property rights induce a conservation of resources and land to maintain property value and efficiency. They also give the legal right to an owner to file a tort against a polluter from acts of "aggression," i.e. air, water, land, biological pollution.

    Racists to curtail opportunities for minorities:
    forced association is not better than voluntary association. Free market capitalism places an incentive to higher the most productive workers, not the most racially homogenous. Racism decreases with education and interconnectedness anyway.

    Religious groups to make religious minorities feel excluded:
    What. The. Fuck. Religion allying with the state is MUCH more detrimental to religious minorities. If they feel excluded, there is nothing government can do to fix this. What? Will they force them to interact with each other? Will that generate peace? Religiosity decreases with rising standards of living and education anyway, while religious moderation and toleration increases.

    So much derp in one article.

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  49. It is understandable that "known devil is better then unknown angel", that's why people think of 'local bullies' which are much lesser evil than current situation of one big bully.

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  50. Anonymous3:47 PM

    Oh boy.

    Libertarians like me are actually leading the anti-bullying change in our culture...so therefore quote purported Libertarians like Hayek or Paul to show they don't.

    The Libertarian International has info on the real movement at www.libertarianinternational.org

    Wake up people and get informed.

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