TCS Daily


Why Be a Conservative Libertarian?

By Arnold Kling - February 6, 2007 12:00 AM

"In short, if Democrats hope to continue appealing to libertarian-leaning voters, they are going to have to up their game. They need to ask themselves: Are we content with being a brief rebound fling for jilted libertarians, or do we want to form a lasting relationship? Let me make a case for the second option."
-- Brink Lindsey, "Liberaltarians"

The purpose of Request for Ideological Comment is to reset the terms of the alliance between libertarians and conservatives. Why not, instead, follow Brink Lindsey's suggestion and try to forge a common bond between libertarians and liberals?

Briefly, my answer boils down to two points.

1) The Republican base is more naturally favorable toward limited government than is the Democratic base.

2) I find it a challenge trying to persuade religious conservatives to loosen the relationship between their religious beliefs and their political agenda. However, I find it even more of a challenge to deal with the Left, where their political agenda is their religion.

Single Moms and Government Employees

Analysis of voting patterns seems to show that married couples tend to support Republicans, and single moms tend to support Democrats. My guess is that of those two constituencies, married couples are more likely to resist calls for big government. While I imagine that there must be some single moms who lean libertarian, in general single mothers are more likely to look to government as a substitute for the missing father.

In addition, the organizational and financial base of the Democratic Party consists largely of government workers. Steven Malanga has documented the growth of the public-sector union movement and its control over urban politics and the Democratic Party.

Religious Liberals

In a column called "Two Strategies for Avoiding Truth", I pointed out that those of us who pride ourselves on intellectual ability often use our cleverness to hold on to ideological biases. We systematically dismiss facts and analysis that go against our preferred point of view, while eagerly embracing anything that supports our ideological beliefs.

For this reason, I rarely find myself making progress in discussions with those on the Left. For example, consider this response from a liberal to my request for comment:

[Kling writes,] "When foreign leaders issue threats against us, we take them at their word and act accordingly."

The only problem with this principle is that it's totally nuts. For one thing, is there a reason we take threats at face value but not other kinds of statements? Presumably we don't, as a rule, take all statements made by foreign leaders at face value. We don't do this for the same reason we don't, as a rule, take all statements made by people in general at face value: Sometimes it serves people's interests to lie...

To take an example, when George W. Bush promised to "end tyranny" as a general phenomenon around the world, should the People's Republic of China took his threat to overthrow their government at face value?

I think that for an American President to promise to end tyranny as a general phenomenon is very unwise for many reasons. I think that China is entitled to ask the President if he plans to use military force to accomplish this task. And I would hope that the President would back away from such a suggestion.

It may be unwise to take political leaders at their word in many instances. However, I think it might be best to take them at their word when issuing threats.

Many of the commenters on the blog post who agreed that my proposal is "nuts" suggested that we need instead to use our intelligence resources to ascertain the seriousness of threats. I see at least two problems with this approach.

First, it gives enemy leaders a "free pass" to declare war without suffering any consequences. That is what Osama Bin Laden did well before 9/11. It is what Iran did when they took our diplomats hostage in 1979.

Second, it puts the decision about whether or not to confront our enemies in the hands of the CIA or other intelligence services, based on their assessment of the "true" intentions of foreign leaders. Our foreign policy becomes an exercise in long-distance psychoanalysis.

My point is not that the liberals have no case for an alternative approach. What disturbs me is that they are issuing rhetorical put-downs as a substitute for laying out an alternative and thinking through its consequences. Unfortunately, this is an all-to-typical modus operandi.

The Left's religion often comes dressed up as science. Marxism is one example. The eugenics movement of the early twentieth century is another. The Global Warming crusade is probably another.

I think that Brink Lindsey's overture will fall on deaf ears. I think that rather than attempt a fling with the liberals, libertarians would do better to go into counseling to try and save their marriage with conservatives.

Trying to Persuade Conservatives

The recent Conservative Summit sponsored by National Review featured a number of "debates" in which I disagreed with the side articulated by National Review's partisans. On immigration, they appealed to people's fears and resentments. In my view, we are too great a nation to be frightened by a bunch of Mexicans who want to earn a living.

On the war in Iraq, the National Review partisans demanded victory rather than defeat. I would love to see victory, but I do not know which side we are fighting on. At this point, I am fed up with the Iraqis. I see them acting like siblings who won't stop fighting, coming up to us saying, "He did it! Punish him!" Until they learn to act like adults, I see no point in fighting their battles for them.

On social issues, I differ from the National Review partisans in that I am not a social conservative politically. I favor keeping government out of issues of sexual conduct. Nonetheless, in terms of behavior I am quite conservative. (So are all of my liberal friends. Their politics may be from Woodstock, but their lifestyles are from "Ozzie and Harriett.") I think that if my preferred policies were to induce many fewer people to behave conservatively, I would be willing to rethink my position.

Looking at these disagreements, I see hope for progress in nudging the conservative movement in a libertarian direction. One consistent theme of the Conservative Summit was the need to return to the principle of limited government. This represents a real change in thinking, because, as Michael Tanner points out in Leviathan on the Right, the conservative movement in recent years has embraced many ideologies that favor government expansion.

Save the Marriage

The typical libertarian shorthand is that we are with the Democrats on social issues and with the Republicans on economic issues. In recent years, the Republicans betrayed us on economic issues. However, my sense is that many in the conservative movement are anxious to repent. On foreign policy, I think that we can gradually persuade more of them to come to their senses on the challenges of the Natural State.

Meanwhile, the Democrats seem to be completely dug in to hard-left positions on economics. They lack any vision for foreign policy. I think we should stick with our marriage to conservatives, and try to make it work.

The Request for Comment is an attempt to push forward a discussion about how the marriage will work going forward. So far, many interesting comments have been made -- see in particular Tyler Cowen and Steve Postrel. I am eager to see what else people have to say.


Categories:

285 Comments

Giuliani
So that makes Rudy Giuliani the perfect candidate. The news media will call him a "moderate", but his positions fall pretty much in line with your essay. An foreign policy, he gets it and isn't afraid to explain it, despite the seemingly "overwhelming" sentiment that we should just retreat. Personally, he is much more engaging than W. I bet they're both similarly intelligent, but Rudy comes off smart while W doesn't project his intellect convincingly. His story is compelling, especially how crime in New York plunged as he was mayor.

As to NR, that crowd is about as relevant as the Reason crowd is, i.e. not terribly. For every thoughtful and hip thing that Jonah Goldberg contributes, contributors like Mark Krikorian pipe up enough to make movement conservatives look like tribalistic, troglodyte morons. If economics are important policy, NR is out of it. To the extent that they even explore economic issues any longer, they're not terribly thoughtful.

Pay up on Social Issues
Let's face it: Americans don't like government telling them what to do with their naughty bits. Even so, they don't hesitate to forward the bills for their self-awarded sexual license to government. Worse still, government is thrilled to get them because financing costly vice requires creating an immense bureaucratic apparatus along with a captive constituency utterly dependent on the same (Kling: Talk to Johnny Munkhammar about Timbro's new book, "Up to 40% Free" for the extreme case of a politically captive constituency - Sweden's).

The very idea that morality can be kept out of the political debate strikes me as being beyond stupid; it's the equivalent of combining a low IQ with schizophrenia. (Joan of Arc married Tony the Tiger, and together they had Cindy Sheehan, who talks truth to power while passing out bread to starving children in Calcutta. Dennis Kusinich for Generalissimo!)

OK, I'll get to the point: You either slap a risk premium on vice by politically opposing it or you finance it through government. I (better than any of you) understand that virtue can't be legislated. But opposing vice politically is a prerequisite to refusing it public financing, and accordingly, Big Government, medium government, or psuedo small government.

Get it?

Nothing More Than Feelings...
I would suggest why single mothers prefer Democrats is because women in general base their decisions upon emotion, not reason.

Clinton 'felt your pain' (and anything else he could grab). "If it feels good, do it."

That is the ultimate issue of politics and humanity, reasoning vs emotion.

Reason has brought us far in the past few centuries, but emotions will return us to the stone(d) ages if we permit it.


Successful libertarians need to somehow convince emotional people to embrace reason.

And I can only think of one way, don't help emotional people fix their bad decisions. Hold them accountable. Tough love.



Let's take a closer look
Arnold, you're making a fundamental mistake to characterise the distinction between Right and Left as being one between Big Government and Little Government. It's between big and bigger.

Under Clinton-- actually not a leftist but a centrist-- we were living within our means as far as federal spending was concerned. But since Bush has been in office government spending has gone haywire. How come no one of your ideological bent is willing to acknowledge that?

The difference is that Ds think the money should go to social programs-- help for those who can't afford health care, for those displaced when their jobs leave the country and so forth. They think the economy is best served by allowing lower and middle class families to keep (and spend) more money. And they think those who have benefitted the most from the American economy should be called upon to pay a greater share for its support.

The Rs on the other hand spend far more public money. But they spend it on wars, a bloated military and on huge windfalls for rich friends in industry. They think the economy is best served by keeping the money at the top, where it can go to inflate stock and investment prices beyond their actual worth. And they think those who make their money from investments rather than from wages should pay taxes at a cheaper rate.

Be honest. Look at the numbers on federal spending. Then try tell us the Ds have been spending more of our money than the Rs. Give references.

I don't get it
I've read your complaint all the way down to where you say "Get it?" And it's obvious you think you've scored a big point. But I have no idea what you are talking about.

It may be that you're referring to something that's self-evident to everyone in Sweden. But we don't get your newspapers. Is the American government somehow failing to properly tax sin? Tony the Tiger? Dennis Kucinich? Starving children in Calcutta? Sexual license?

Either you've failed to include your point in this message or you've been getting into the expensive dope and incautiously hit the "send" button. How about tying some of these loose ends together for us, so we can follow your train of thought while it goes off the tracks?

King, I wish you luck
King, you’re right! Conservatives are the better hope but not by far. In general I find fault with the left, conservatives, and utopian libertarians.

I’d like to encourage the social conservatives to privatize their religion and personal morality but I haven’t had much success. After two weeks posting at one conservative website I was told I wasn’t welcomed. I hope you have better luck.

Yes, we Libertarians should remain with Conservatives
Excellent article. You are entirely correct. It's almost an absurd notion to think that we'd have anything in common with Liberals. The Liberals are even bad on civil liberties issues these days: Smoking bans, Bring back the Draft, Seat Belt Laws, Gun Restrictions, Affirmative Action Quotas, Opposition to School Choice, ect... They are pure Nanny-Staters on Individual Liberties issues.

Yes, there was a time back in the 1970s and early '80s when Liberals were the Marijuana Dudes and Rock 'n Rollers, and pretty cool on civil liberties. But those days are long gone. As they've gotten older, they've become the ultimate Prudes!

Stick with the GOP. The Republicans are even coming around on Civil Liberties issues these days. Look at all the Republicans that are now supporting Medical Marijuana.

Eric Dondero, CEO
www.mainstreamlibertarian.com



You break society, you bought it.
The point is obvious, rb: To the extent that the gubmint encourages, facilitates and allows the society it governs to engage in vice, it will eventually finance that vice from public funds. I offer two exhibits to sustain this proposition, although a multitude are available:

1. The feds and several states built huge housing projects while paying the families who lived in them to (a) not work and (b) split up their families. Today, most of the victims of this criminal progressive enterprise are either dead, in prison, soon to be in prison, etc. All of the above destinations except the dirt nap continue to cost American taxpayers billions of wasted dollars.

2. Around about the 60s the feds began creating a morality-free zone in public schools on the theory that morality is a religious thing, and religion has no place in public schools. The result? Today, too many American kids get their moral education from TV, movies, the Internet and video games. Oh, what's that news flash ... another Columbine just happened? Gee whiz, rb, whooda thunkit? I woulda thought by now that our progressive federal education policy requires every American school to have metal detectors, armed guards, drug dogs and SWAT teams on standby; you know, all that really expensive security stuff that costs American taxpayers billions of dollars?

Do you get it now, rb? As the gubmint assumes the role of financing the consequences of progressive morality, whose centeral tenet is that the difference between success and failure is social victimhood, the glue that held society together disintegrates, leaving gubmint to pick up the broken pieces and put them back together. This the gubmint is only too hapy to do, for the political issues arising from this Frankensteinish exercise promise to generate dizzying sums of political capital on both sides of the fence.

Cheers.

Frankly, I'd Sooner Trust Video Games than Public Schools to Teach Morality
After all, the public schools are dominated by the Left. The 'morality' they teach would be the relativist multiculturalist variety.

Whereas GTA aside, most video games that have a moral message tend to favor "The good guys need to stand up to the bad guys," at base.

As To 'Fed Up With Iraqis'
There are three strategies at work in Iraqi. And apparently off-limits to discussion. (1) The USA and its allies seek to stabilize Iraq into a workable nation of self-determination -while- (2) we're establishing a group of formidable forward bases between Israel and Islam, meaning Syria, Iran, etc who are nothing more than hyenas and stooges for a nearly century long Communist end-game -while- (3) civi war serves our interests. So long as they're consumed with faction slaughtering faction, they cannot focus effectively on us. A neat, tidy bundle of sanity is never going to happen in Islam, so to even imagine our War Planners do not know this far better than 99% of the USA population is to ignore both History and common-sense. They know full well, and they're using the genetic insanity of the Muslim against himself. Unless we become more ruthless than the Ottoman Empire, the Romans or any empire known for its extreme cruelty, there's no chance we can either coerce, cajole or force sense into viral violent nonsense. Our war gamers know this better than any of us. To the timid and easily offended, tolerating a civil war in Iraq will seem the worst possible cyncisim, but better they expend their rage upon one another inside the cage of Islam, than break out and wreak their madness on our shores. Rather than curse the Iraqis for not straightening their kit and acting immediately adult in Western Civilization terms and means, we should analyze their civil war as quite the acceptable outcome for our national security.

Liberal = religion??? But libertarian doesn't?
Thank you, Arnold, for rounding up all the usual suspects.

The accusation that liberalism is somehow a religion, while other tendencies keep politics and faith in separate boxes is one that commentators like to repeat, but where's the back up for it?

Specifically, when I think faith based politics, I don't just think of funadmentalists wanting the American state run like Saudi Arabia or Taliban Afghanistan; I think of libertarians. They base their entire politcis on a single, simpleminded and unprovable belief that "the market" will solve any and all problems better than governent.

There's no evidence for this as a general rule in history, unless you adjust your definitions so it's circular. But nevertheless, on virtually any issue or any subject, without examination, without thought, the reflex is 'no government.'

The more honest libertarians are at least able to come out in favor of getting government out of bedrooms. But the rule remains.

But somehow liberals - who only ask the question, how can government help? are the religious ones here??

What pushes this over the top into ridiculousness is the charge that liberals use of science to decide questions of fact and policy is somehow a religious response - but (for example) listening to tobacco companies on the question of 'do cigarettes cause cancer' is free thinking market-based policy. No, Gimme a break.

You're a good example.
“They base their entire politcis on a single, simpleminded and unprovable belief that "the market" will solve any and all problems better than government.” - L

Both you and utopian libertarians show the same faith that problems can be solved. Neither government nor the market solves problems. People have problems and when they are free they may or may not solve them. But it’s their problem and not mine.

You just don’t get liberty. It’s not about solving problems but respecting people’s right to own their own lives, define their own character, and tackle their problems as they so decide.

Not everyone exploits the posibilities that liberty provides. People do fail. But it is their failure. You want to saddle me with their failure because of your faith.

I think that you have to weigh one side against the other in each election
I think that you have to weigh one side against the other. I have always said that as much as I despise and find stupid the democrats, that if their candidate promised a true and complete end to the war in drugs that I would not only vote for that candidate, I would work for his election.

On the other hand Bush got elected by pushing so far left that to be left of him the remaining democrats had to take up absurd positions. Some are now more conservative than him and are now talking about a balanced budget.

And for all his leftist rhetoric Clinton governed far more conservatively than Bush. Although I must say that was very disappointed with Clinton’s failure to close our military bases in Germany, Japan and other places in acknowledgement that the cold war was over. He should have started a policy of post cold war normalization as did Warren G Harding. And yes I have come to believe that if you cannot get a principled conservative like Ron Paul, we may be better off with a corrupt politician like Bill Clinton (or Warren G. Harding) who will say what the people want to hear and then govern conservatively so as to not upset the apple cart.



Well Said Judge.
The parties have flip/flopped and no conservitive I have talked to wantes to admit it.

They say the same things Dem's used to,

"But we SHOULD spend more..."

Ahhhh so you have no moral structure at all?
Is Pain good or bad?

If you say bad, then you agree to socialized medician. I will expalin the philosophy if you wish.

For the record I am Athiest.

Depends
That, of course, is the essence of the Epicurean school of philosophy. Stoics would note that sometimes honor requires the endurance of pain. I reject pain as the criteria.

Ahhhh you are a student.
How can you reject pain? Do you claim that it doesn't exist? Please explain, because I can find no valid argument to reject it.

Giuliani
Yes. I agree.

I think Giuliani has the charisma to pull off the presidency. He's got some skeletons, but I think he'll shrug them off. Against a Clinton or Obama he'll skate into the white house. Edwards might be a challenge.

Now he just has to get nominated. I think that's where the real fight for Rudy is.

How can government help? GET OUT OF THE WAY!
Government has few regulations for the computer industry. It has been primarily driven by market forces. Computing power and sevices have exploded in recent years creating great wealth around the world.

Government regulates and controls the medical industry and education in the USA.
Complaints abound regarding the cost and quality of education and medical services in the USA.

Do you want to make education better? Do you want medical services to get better and cheaper?

What has been the governments track record of making anything better, faster or cheaper?

Reject?
Pleasure and pain are information … but not the only information.

Oh, THAT kind of vice
Wow, you're really stuck in a time warp, aren't you?

So what's griping you is the way the government once tried to help poor families by giving them programs like AFDC, so they could live in public housing instead of on the street. The proof of their sin is in their destitution.

A very Calvinist world view. Tell me, do they "deserve" their fate?

Silly question. To you, of course they do. Well, it's off to perdition for them. They've failed to become competitive.

And I'm sure in your world it would be a sign of a government's moral flaw to assist poor people in any way. It would be going against the Laws of God, who hath decreed that to the righteous it shall be given, while the ungodly shall be punished. Is this what you're talking about?

I can see where you would disapprove of something like unemployment insuyrance. To you the cold, hard gravel of the street would be a bracing stimulus to find fresh work. While the temptation of unearned money would just soften a man to a life of sloth.

I've got news for you. The person getting a pink slip through no fault of his own has already paid for his unemployment-- through his employer's contribution to workmen's comp. The deduction forms a part of his total compensation package. So he earned it, he paid for it and he deserves it. It's like any other insurance policy.

Additionally it is overwhelmingly the case that working men and women don't like it when they've been thrown out of work. They try as hard as they can to find new work. That is the case whether or not they have a stipend from the government to tide them over that thin spot in the road.

All people don't think the way you do. We appreciate our jobs, and try to keep them to the extent that we can. When we're thrown out, we try very hard to get new jobs. We're not feeding at the government trough but are only drawing on a rainy day fund to which we contribute out of every paycheck we earn.

Ah! I see. "Liberty" solves everything
Liberty!!! I want to make money so I'm going to put some stuff I found in the backyard into a pill and tell people it'll make them live longer. Liberty! I like to drive but I don't like speed limits! Liberty. I could make a lot more money if I could charter children 8 years old and work them 15 hours a day - I'd pay their parents, of course. Liberty!!

Liberty without specifics is utterly meaningless. Everyone is in favor of it. So let me enthusiastically agree, let's have more liberty.

No Subject
"since Bush has been in office government spending has gone haywire."

haywire is a subjective term but it would be completely fair to say that it has increased a lot more than it should under a 'conservative' leader. this is, however, aknowledged directly in the article where it mentions our (libertarian's) betrayl by the 'conservatives.'

"The difference is that Ds think the money should go to social programs-- help for those who can't afford health care"

subsidizing health care has done little more than make it more expensive for those without subsidies, the number of people that are uninsured is rising while the number of people covered by the government is also rising. the trends are moving in the same direction, not opposite directions.

"They think the economy is best served by allowing lower and middle class families to keep (and spend) more money. And they think those who have benefitted the most from the American economy should be called upon to pay a greater share for its support."

wow, loaded language much? lower and middle class families get to keep their money but uppper class families only have money because they exploited the economy? the fact is everyone is better off when everyone gets to keep everything they earn to the greatest extent possible.

"The Rs on the other hand spend far more public money. But they spend it on wars, a bloated military and on huge windfalls for rich friends in industry. They think the economy is best served by keeping the money at the top, where it can go to inflate stock and investment prices beyond their actual worth. And they think those who make their money from investments rather than from wages should pay taxes at a cheaper rate."

agree on everything, Rs cater to much via subsidies and assigning contracts. that's why the government needs to be smaller. would have to dissagree on money from investments and wages, however, wages is just normal working but investments actually fuel the long term growth potential of the economy. it's not as if you earn money on one or the other and it's not as if you need to be in the upper class to invest. anyone that earns more than they spend can invest everything they don't spend, anyone, and we should encourage people to do so because without investments there is no growth.

"Be honest. Look at the numbers on federal spending. Then try tell us the Ds have been spending more of our money than the Rs. Give references."
the numbers on federal spending disgust me but i would much rather see a bloated military budget than a bloated budget full of entitlements and social programs. why? because the government is supposed to defend us from foreign threats, not redistrubute income. that said i think every budget item could use some trimming.

So Both Democrats and Republicans Think the Voter is Stupid
Democrats prefer the Big Government solution and Republicans prefer the Big Business solution each paid by the taxpayer because Big Government and Big Business are so much smarter than the people.

Ronald Reagan (Happy Birthday !!!) trusted people to make the best decisions with their money over government or business. What party represents the responsible working man? Libertarians? Other?

The Federal government is currently responsible for 55% of total government, State is about 30%, and Local is about 15%, to me that is upside down. Instead of arguing over bigger or smaller government we need to find a way to return spending authority to the Local communities so that your voice is more than one in 300 million and solutions are local.

Simple Taxation, Equal Revenue Distribution, Simple Law and Order will create a better government in which everyone can participate.

Thanks,

Kevin

As a matter of fact...
"I want to make money so I'm going to put some stuff I found in the backyard into a pill and tell people it'll make them live longer."

and since people are free to test the properties of your product themselves they won't buy it, you won't make any money, and then you'll do something else. liberty solves this problem.

"I like to drive but I don't like speed limits!"

and after you get in an accident by driving recklessly and have to replace your car, at least, or face the consequences of taking a life, at worst, the problem will quickly solve itself. that's assuming, of course, you think people are capable of making value judgments. of course if you don't think they are i'd be curious to know who would be quialified to make a speed limit in the first place.

"I could make a lot more money if I could charter children 8 years old and work them 15 hours a day - I'd pay their parents, of course."

what about the parents liberty? would they not also have a choice in the matter?

"Liberty without specifics is utterly meaningless. Everyone is in favor of it. So let me enthusiastically agree, let's have more liberty."

liberty, when only applied to half of the equation as in every one of your examples, isn't really liberty at all. no one is in favor of it, no one is even suggesting it, you just keep bringing it up because it's easier to refute that way.

Hu?
Of course, everything is information. That doesn't doesn't explain why pain isn't bad.

I mean what is your argument?


Fear-mongering
"On immigration, they appealed to people's fears and resentments"

Way to use a leftist tactic. If someone has a different opinion they're espousing you don't like, you resort to the old fear-mongering line. Reminds me of Reverend Al Gore spitting "THEY PLAYED ON OUR FEARS."

It couldn't be as simple as something like the people would like our laws enforced. I thought Libertarians were big on the rule of law, guess not.

I think you are entirely correct Arnold
I was your basic unthinking Newsweek-reading liberal till college, then became a movement conservative when I encountered very persuasive conservative arguments I'd never seen or considered before. When I began reading blogs, I found arguments from libertarians or classical liberals like yourself, Glenn Reynolds, Jeff Goldstein, Bill Ardolino, etc. more convincing and consistent than the well-thought-out but sometimes tendentious tenets of conservatism. Over time, it seemed more and more obvious that the places where conservatism faltered logically or morally were also the places where they didn't place freedom at the top of the agenda.

So if my experience is at all exemplary, conservatives can be amenable to the idea of a "freedom first" libertarianism.

because it is necessary
pain cannot be bad in and of itself because pain is just information presented by a stimulus. you touch the hot iron, you experience pain, and you come to the conclusion that touching the hot iron is bad.

if people experience no pain after undertaking something that should cause a harlmful result they will have no reason not to do it again. thus, insulating people from the pain of their own actions only serves to remove their ability to choose an appropriate course.

but thats the point.
If you experience pain it is bad and you do what you can to avoid it. You didn't make an argument that this isn't true. Infact you made the argument again. Its not the specific, its the general that creates the condition of pain.

Also, people are hard wired to stop to help those around them in pain. As long as this doesn't harm them selves.

Am I wrong? I am willing to be forgiven.

Laws vs. Legislation
"I thought Libertarians were big on the rule of law, guess not."

Small-l libertarians know the difference between law and legislation. For a primer, listen here:

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2006/12/boudreaux_on_la.html

A good example is the speed limit. If everyone was "obeying the law" 24/7, SoCal freeways would always be at a standstill.

even a fool...
the reason things appear as without examination, without thought, and reflexive to you is because you have not been educated enough. for example, education in calculus enables an individual to observe that y=2x^2 + 3x + 5 and immediately come to the conclusion that this is an equation for a curve and that its slope at any point can be expressed as 4x+3 (i hope, my calc is more than a bit rusty). this is a conclusion anyone with the right education can draw from a moments observation. you ask for the proof because you don't understand how the conclusion was drawn.

granted you don't actually want to know how the conclusion was drawn. knowledge of the process would be tantamount to conceding the relevance of the conclusions it draws. if you knew how it worked you could not simply dismiss it as simpleminded and improvable.

if you are willing to listen i, and perhaps many others here, would be more than willing to review the basic principles of the study of economics for you. this would go a long way towards illuminating the conclusions it draws that you find so puzzling. i would be surprised, however, if you took anyone up on this offer.

Now that you asked
Pain is an animal mechanism that plays an important role in bringing potential problems to one’s attention. Pleasure and pain play crucial roles in sentient living organisms. However, one remains on the infantile level if one doesn’t move beyond them.

The first thing to notice is that they can be subjective in the sense that some people will overrate a danger because of the feelings of pain or overrate the health of that which produces pleasure.

The second thing is that beyond raw appetites most pleasures or pains are a response to learned or assumed valuation. Some people take pleasure in productive activities, some find the greatest pleasure in being a ‘coach potato,’ and still others take pleasure in inflicting pain and humiliation.

One has to cultivate a proper character to be worthy of dealing with reality and living with civilized people if one is to survive and survive with the dignity and well-being appropriate to the human level of living.


The high cost of free government services
I think one factor in why married women tend Republican and single women tend Democrat is that married women have a better understanding of the hidden costs. For example:

Free Public Education: Public education is not anywhere close to free. You pay for yours every day of your adult life in either property taxes, sales taxes or income taxes (and the stupid tax if you play the lotteries). If you add up what you've spent over your life, and expect to spend in the future, you'd likely be appalled.

Withholding Income Taxes: How many of you have met Bob? Bob tells you on April 16th (a) dejectedly that he owed the government $100 in income taxes; or (b) happily that the government owes him $100. You take Bob aside and tell him (a) that because of the withholding throughout the year he actually paid $5100 in taxes; or (b) that because of the withholding throughout the year he actually paid $4900 in taxes. Bob looks at you with his mouth agape, Bob didn't get full value from his "free" Public Education.

My Employer pays half my Social Security Taxes: Some people actually still believe this. They don't understand that whatever the employer pays to them or anyone on their behalf is part of *their* wages and compensation.

My Employer pays for my health Insurance: Some people actually still believe this. They don't understand that whatever the employer pays to them or anyone on their behalf is part of *their* wages and compensation.

It seems to me that a great deal of the above is simply intended to hide the real cost from the consumers. Since the consumer doesn't know the cost they don't make demands for accountability (after all, what do you expect for "free"?) or make more informed choices that might lower costs (as in health insurance). Many people evidently do believe that the lunch is free.

Persuading people to adopt the conservative view is really fairly simple. Show them what they're spending and ask them if they receive equitable value in return. Show them their tax burden with all the hidden taxes versus the tax burden of their parents and grandparents (Cautionary Note: first have them verify that their Life Insurance Policy covers them for "Tax Bite Induced Fatal Apoplexy" as some carriers might consider this suicide.). Or, just extrapolate the Federal Budget ($1.9 trillion in 2001, $2.9 trillion 2007) 15 years into the future and see if you have any takers. Oh wait, that's the problem... we've got a bunch of takers.

Yes, leftists tend to simply act on political faith, ignoring facts
For decades, many continued to act on the belief Communism was going to create utopia, even as it murdered tens of millions and impoverished billions. They gave Duranty a Pulitzer for telling them what they wanted to hear.

Even after welfare was demonstrably making poverty worse by creating dependency, welfare reform was opposed by most leftists. Remember the Clinton cabinet resignations when he finally gave in and passed it?

Even as socialism strangled economic growth in Europe, leftists insisted the answer was more socialism.

That's not to say fundie righties don't do the same thing; they do. But at least they're occasionally honest about following a dogmatic non-empirical philosophy.

not a conservative
Bush is a Republican of the countrly-club variety - this does not mean conservative. As a self-described Libertarian/Republican I've been thoroughly disgusted by W's inability to stop government growth (in bureaucracy or economics), tax cuts are nice - government down-sizing would be even better. But, some of you on the left need to slow down, I wouldn't even want to start pulling out instances of dems carping about how republicans have drastically slashed programs and funding (ie. an agency getting only a 6% increase when they had asked for an 9% increase, etc.).

information is information
i don't do what i can to avoid pain, i do what i can to avoid situations that cause unnecessary pain. there's a very big difference. information cannot be good or bad in and of itself.

pain can be necessary. working out is not always enjoyable but for many the results are worth it.

pain can be good. endurance of pain can lead to a greater sense of accomplishment. would the civil rights movement be viewed the way it is today had its supporters not endured the pain they did?

interesting
>Pain is an animal mechanism that plays an important role >in bringing potential problems to one’s attention. >Pleasure and pain play crucial roles in sentient living >organisms. However, one remains on the infantile level >if one doesn’t move beyond them.

So at an elemental level pain is bad. Can we be clear about this?

>The first thing to notice is that they can be >subjective in the sense that some people will overrate >a danger because of the feelings of pain or overrate >the health of that which produces pleasure.

>The second thing is that beyond raw appetites most >pleasures or pains are a response to learned or >assumed valuation. Some people take pleasure in >productive activities, some find the greatest pleasure >in being a ‘coach potato,’ and still others take >pleasure in inflicting pain and humiliation.

>One has to cultivate a proper character to be worthy >of dealing with reality and living with civilized >people if one is to survive and survive with the >dignity and well-being appropriate to the human level >of living.

For the record I agree with what you are saying here, but unfortunatly this can not be used to influence the higher truth that Pain is in Bad.

So we are abliged to take care of people when they are in pain, that equals socialized medician. But, in no way are we abliged to take care of people if it causes US harm. This would include people being stupid.

But the point is we are required and bound to a set of morals because pain is bad, there are just exceptions.

Out of work, are you, rb?
I noticed you made insincere and passing reference to AFDC, skipped over the catastrophe of public housing, and then dived straight into a rabid defense of unemployment insurance, even when I failed to mention it.

Your reply implies, no, it screams that you're out of work. Is this so, rb? Moreover, is this the true source of your progressive moralizing - naked self-interest? Or, heaven forfend, you're merely cherry picking around the strawman, reeking of red herring because you lost the capacity for reasoned debate around about the same time you began thinking AFDC was a good idea. How pathetic.

Redeem yourself, rb. Explain to me what's fair about a universe that gives most people average talent, average looks, average self-command, and average parents but rewards none of it, instead severely punishing every weakness while parsimoniously compensating the Herculean efforts required to transcend average endowments. Does anyone deserve to be merely average, rb, or worse, freakishly above or below average? If not, what can you do about it?

Oh sure, the Robin Hood gag. But we've already seen that doesn't work, and worse, it leads directly to social disintegration. So what's next on the Progressive menu, rb? Designer societies applying the latest techniques in soft paternalism? Wheel-of-Fortune social entitlements? Heaven on earth? Oh, that's right; Progressives have already tried all of this stuff, whose failures monument the Progressive road to perdition via the New Deal, the Great Society, the War on Poverty, and Serfdom. You go ahead, rb, but I'm getting off at the next station with (I hope) the rest of western civilization.

How is it that you Progressives can even claim continuing license for government to continue failing society? What evidence can you possibly introduce to convince anyone of sound mind that the next gang of crooks and thugs you'd put in public office will do any better? If you were capable of being honest with yourself, rb, you'd see that the audacity of belief this proposition requires exceeds anything most Calvinists can conjure up on the subject of God. But I suppose the condition precedence fails.

OK: For the sake of argument I'll stipulate to your Progressive doctrine that poor people, especially the brown and black ones, are mere children to be lovingly cared for by the state, housed in crumbling soviet-style appartment blocks ensconced in urban blight, shuffled through prison-like institutions called "schools" but in no way resembling them, then stored in prisons or, granting you another of your Progressive articles of faith, shipped off to Iraq. Is this how you Progressives want to go about "helping poor families"?

In that case, I'm justified in politically opposing you on behalf of the poor families you'd like to help. For no poor person deserves the Progressive fate you have in store for him, rb. Really, it's your kind of statist immorality that provokes me most.

Cheers.

forgot a big one
pain is also good because it helps prevent excess. when insulated from any pain caused by decisions i might choose to eat ice cream every meal of every day. eventually, in a world with pain, i would become malnourished and it would hurt and in spite of the fact that consuming ice cream makes me feel good i would eat something else. without pain i'd go right on with the ice cream blissfully ignorant of the death that awaited me.

this is a very loose metaphor for most government funded social programs. when there is no apparent cost to something people consume more of it than is actually 'healthy.' preventing them from feeling the pain of excess is not helping them.

of course.
But still, even if there is "gain", "pain" is still bad at an atomic level.

What you say is of course true. But pain is still bad.

That isn;t the argument.
You can argue the benifits of pain, but that is outside the discution. We are talking about physical pain that is experienced by some one who stops the behavor begause it is bad.

I am sorry I should have been more clear.

You slipped that in nicely
Let’s move beyond your criteria “pain is bad” and my criteria “what is life-harming is bad.” Your next tacit assumption is that whatever is “bad” is my responsibility regardless if it is my life or another’s life.

I stated that pain (or illness) is important to the life of the organism and signals the organism that it may have to act to protect its life ... that has no implication for the actions of others. It is part of the organism’s survival mechanism. It becomes a social concern if I invite others to become involved. But I have no right to compel them to become involved.

still no
again, the information itself is neither good nor bad on its own. you can come to the conclusion that a behavior is bad because it causes pain and you want to avoid it. you cannot say that pain in and of itself is bad unless you are also saying that it would be better to not feel pain even in situations where we normally should. if you do feel that way you should look into infecting yourself with leprosy since that is roughly the effect the disease causes. it is also why most lepers are missing limbs and have large areas of heavily damaged skin.

at the atomic level pain doesn't even exist, atoms cannot feel pain. pain is a physiological interpretation of a stimulus delivered to your brain. perhaps you meant to say that the anatomical level.

Of course.
No one has the right to force someone to help them, out side a contractualy agreement.

The pain argument looks at this issue EXCLUSIVLY from the other point of view. We are ethically required to OFFER AID if we are able, when some one else is pain.

No I meant logically.
There is a simple binary trueth involved. Pain is bad
Pleasure is good.

simple things first.

Except that's not the way it's played out
I mean, these aren't random fictions, they're based on historical incidents.

>nd since people are free to test the properties of your product themselves they won't buy it, you won't make any money, and then you'll do something else. liberty solves this problem.

Except it didn't, for decades. the Pure Food and Drug Act didn't completely solve the problem but it made the problem more maneageble.

>and after you get in an accident by driving recklessly and have to replace your car, at least, or face the consequences of taking a life, at worst, the problem will quickly solve itself.

How about, you get into an accident because a drunk without a license or insurance puts you in the hospital for life. He has no assets and is dead.

>that's assuming, of course, you think people are capable of making value judgments.

the drunk guy who crippled you thought he was capable of making value judgements. And was. You'll live with it the rest of your life.

>of course if you don't think they are i'd be curious to know who would be quialified to make a speed limit in the first place.

Gee. Maybe traffic engineers in consultation with public officials, after public hearings and consideration of local conditions. But wait!!! this would mean less liberty.

>>"I could make a lot more money if I could charter children 8 years old and work them 15 hours a day - I'd pay their parents, of course."
what about the parents liberty? would they not also have a choice in the matter?

And that was exactly what was said when laws against child labor were proposed. But you're fine with the parents selling off the kids as cheap labor, because that's Liberty. As parents do today in Africa. I guess the USA is just behind the curve on this.

>Liberty, when only applied to half of the equation as in every one of your examples, isn't really liberty at all. no one is in favor of it, no one is even suggesting it, you just keep bringing it up because it's easier to refute that way.

You keep it floating out in the wild blue yonder because you're avoiding all the hard questions that way. Again: we aren't dealing with speculation but real history. Which you're ignoring.

pronouns
"We are talking about physical pain that is experienced by some one who stops the behavior because it is bad."

you have to be really careful with your pronouns here and knowing what is actually happening. behaviors are chosen, physical pain is experienced, when physical pain is experienced someone stops whatever behavior is causing it because the behavior is bad. it would not be accurate to say that the pain itself was bad because if the pain was bad then we would have stopped the pain, not the behavior.

furthermore this is not an accurate assesment of everyone's responses to pain. some seek out the experience of pain activly and enjoy engaging in behaviors they know to induce it.

Get out of what way??
> Government has few regulations for the computer industry. It has been primarily driven by market forces. Computing power and sevices have exploded in recent years creating great wealth around the world.

Expansion predicated on the idea that if someone had an idea, they could license it and preseve its profits for themselves - that is, that government would step in and protect their intellectual property rights. Which it has done. That is not government getting out of the way: that is government making the market possible.

>Government regulates and controls the medical industry and education in the USA. Complaints abound regarding the cost and quality of education and medical services in the USA.

And that's because nobody needs to buy a $25,000 computer or car. But if someone without $25,000 has a disease they need $25,000 worth of treatment for to stay alive, the market can't supply it. You can say, fine, let 'em die, but I think you'll find othrs that disagree.

>Do you want to make education better? Do you want medical services to get better and cheaper?
Sure. and the market can play a role. Getting government totally out of these areas is not going to make things beter.

>What has been the governments track record of making anything better, faster or cheaper?

You mean besides financing the basic research that has led to American technology leading the world? Except now it's slowing down because ideologues here are yammering free market while the Chinese are doing basic research.

Of course there are Off the Wall exclusions.
What percentage of people are are going to screem in pain if I stick thier hand in fire? Compared to those who go "Please do that again"?

Please be honist about this point and stop the logic chopping.

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