Why the Libertarian Party is Not Compelling

This started out as a comment, but as my comments are wont to do, it turned into something of a mini-essay.

A newcomer to BlueNC, savvysooner, showed up in my old My Dinner with Munger post with an impassioned, if qualified, defense of the Libertarian Party.

This offered me an opportunity to explain where I think the Libertarian Party is failing to meet the political and philosophical needs of people who, like them, are not content with the two-party system.

***
Things started from my (implied) assertion that government-administered social welfare programs are not a categorical evil.

savvysooner wrote:

By social welfare programs you mean government administered and tax financed rationing of selected goods and services, is that correct? I will assume, for now. it is.

The LP is opposed to one class of people ( government officials) confiscating the resources of another class of people (non-officials) and re-directing those resources in ways and to people who the officials regard as preferred. The LP position is the modern application of the classical liberals objection to feudalism and aristocracy.

Libertarians predominantly do not object to voluntary welfare programs or actions. A few militant Objectivists oppose most anything other than token gift-giving as irrational altruism.

This is where you and I part company, though I suspect we're on roads that don't diverge too greatly.

I'm familiar with the traditional analysis of coercive government confiscation, which you neatly summarized. I discern a few problems with it.

First, let's consider externalities (positive and negative) and free-rider problems. Bryan Caplan's paper, "Why I Am Not an Austrian Economist", raises a positive externality scenario that, to me, is novel and insightful.

The negative ones are perhaps more familiar, though, so let me give you an example. Pegasus Gold, a private mining corporation, not only massively polluted the ground water at its sites in several western states, but went bankrupt, leaving the taxpayers to foot the very large bill for environmental cleanup. (More information can be found in this Seattle Post-Intelligencer article and in Jared Diamond's book Collapse, which is what first brought Pegasus Gold to my attention.)

Pollutants are a textbook example of a negative externality, but look here at how many problems this real-world scenario exposes not just in current policy but in those proposed by laissez-faire capitalists and LP libertarians.

I don't hear any LP libertarians railing against the universally (if wrongly) held dicta of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. Maybe in some cases this is for philosophical reasons ("yes, of course a corporation should be treated as a natural person, and the government shouldn't be taxing either one"), and in others it's for pragmatic ones (if you think the LP can't raise money now, wait until they add this plank to the platform).

Next, corporations have limited liability and their principals can just walk away from situations like this. We may agree the sins of the father should not be visited upon the son, but should the sins of the corporation not be visited upon the executives and major shareholders? LP libertarians and Objectivists who sass and blather that there's "no such thing as 'the public'; only individuals have objective existence" seem pretty quick to forget this principle when the socially constructed concept of the corporation comes into play. (To add another layer of hypocrisy, actual community co-operatives appear to be viewed by the entire economic right as some disgusting form of proto-communism. So much for tolerance and voluntarism.)

So, in the LP libertarian wold-view as I understand it, the answer to the groundwater contamination problems is "tough titty".

It would beggar my belief if there weren't actually some LP libertarians who have big problems with the concept of limited liability, and who also think co-operatives are hunky-dory. But they're not controlling the LP narrative. The parts of the LP philosophical corpus that aren't occupied by Rand and Rothbard are being squatted on by the disciples of Leo Strauss (as Professor Munger pointed out in reference to the Liberty Fund, in another thread).

I do not see where there is any room left in the LP for people who have, in their own individual rational judgment (you know, the thing one was supposed to simultaneously celebrate and abandon as a member of NBI), come to identify problems that LP libertarian philosophy doesn't appear to solve.

The bottom line is that, you—the embodiment of "the government"—either let the (man-made!) environmental disaster sit there and wreak its havoc, you chase down Pegasus Gold's principals and make them pay for it—while hoping that the none of the grizzled old geezers dies off before you can collect on the meticulously calculated fair share you assessed against them—or you coercively extract money from some segment of the population and distort the market in environmental cleanup services for a while (either by contracting it out or entering the field as a competitor by establishing an agency to do it).

There are more nuanced arguments to be made, perhaps, about what should be done in the wake of natural disasters like an F5 tornado, or Hurricane Katrina, or Western wildfires, or record-setting floods along major rivers. The primary LP libertarian response appears to be "you're fucked". But there is no place on the planet that is immune from disaster, so even the usual glib advice of "so just relocate yourself and your family" (with the obligatory provisos that a relocation of any distance is a trivial expense and that a near-perfect market in transport services exists) will not stand. There's no place to relocate to that enables you to check out of the risk game.

I think we must begin from the relationship of parenting as a social welfare program. Parents must 'subsidize' the children they are responsible for creating. But there are limits to the demands that children can make on parents just as there are limits on what parents can demand of children. Where those limits should be vary greatly over time and cultures. Libertarians tend to be very permissive about the scope of such limits.

I do agree that it can be useful to think of parenting as a social welfare program. Chomsky does something similar to this, in fact, but in so doing he assails the principle of non-aggression, so beloved by LP libertarians (and so spectacularly rejected by their allies of convenience in the GOP). If your child is about to run out into oncoming traffic, you don't stop and reason with him. You snatch him up and ensure he or she remains in a place of safety until the danger has passed. From a puritanical perspective, this is assault and battery (and possibly some form of criminal confinement). From a practical perspective, this is not only good parenting but nearly instinctual. (Anyone who cries out "naturalistic fallacy" here loses their discussion privileges for one year. :-P)

Still, the fact that the principle of non-aggression shows flaws when adopted as an absolutist position doesn't mean that coercion is something to be blindly embraced. One thing I think libertarians of all stripes, even those way far on the Left like myself, agree upon is that voluntarism and volition are virtuous. (Sorry, just watched V for Vendetta on Blu-Ray last night.) Aggression and coercion are to be guarded against more vigilantly than perhaps any other human activity.

So, let's get back to governmental social welfare programs. I submit that it is LP libertarian theory that must flex on this, but I'll admit that I don't have a well-developed alternative to offer. If empiricism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, I will reveal my handlebar moustache now by pointing out that Western democracies generally possess generous social welfare programs, that their existence is negatively correlated with military adventurism, and that their presence, despite the disgusting "welfare queen" rhetoric peddled by Ronald Reagan and his australopithecine acolytes, does not measurably rob psychologically healthy individuals of their drive to achieve. I cite Sweden (IKEA), Finland (Nokia), the former West Germany (Mercedes-Benz), and Japan (no one needs my help on this one).

(What about Britain and France? Consider the fact that they, unlike all of the foregoing examples, have had colonial obligations since the end of World War II, and continue to have much larger military budgets than their European neighbors. Ergo, they sit farther towards the "warfare" end of the welfare-warfare public spending continuum.)

It seems basically unjust to the libertarian that a person with no children should be compelled to subsidize the children (minors or adults) of other people.

This is an interesting point, but I disagree. We are stewards of this planet and it is our descendants who will inherit it. I am passionately sympathetic to the goal of getting the hell off this rock on a permanent basis, but our species has not achieved it yet. My sense of solidarity with my fellow human beings compels me to conclude that I should advocate policies that will maximize our chances of future success in that endeavor. Viewed from that perspective, it is perfectly sensible that the childless should subsidize the children of others. We are all subject to—coerced by, if you will—the dictum of our genes: "Get busy breedin', or get busy dyin'."

(Relatedly, I suspect the lessons in environment conservation that we will have to learn in the coming decades will be even more critical to successful space colonization. Ayn Rand exhorted her followers to check their premises. Like J. Michael Straczynski's Shadows, I ask people "What do you want?" Do you want an L5 or Lunar colony by 2015 or do you want a society compatible with the platform of the Libertarian Party? Sure, you want both. Which is more important to you? You're entitled to say that it depends on what kind of society exists on that colony—a Lunar gulag for Osama bin Laden's driver and other NLECs would be a profound squandering of the space-colonization dream. But just as in real markets, you may have to make tradeoffs. You may not be able to buy the product you want at the price you want. You'll have to make decisions.)

No one can know how much distortion of the social order (poverty and broken families) results from these coercive reallocation among favored and disfavored persons. The rent-seeking behavior rewarded by such coercive allocations is inherently corrupting of all involved - confiscatees, official confiscators, and recipients of the loot.

I'll agree with you here. But the lesson I take away from history that we are all ethically delicate beings. I'm not sure there can exist a world with no sources of corruption, and if it could exist it might not be a very happy place. I submit that we need to measure just how corrosive social welfare programs are to one's moral compass. Then let us compare that to the bombing of Dresden, My Lai, Abu Grahib, and so forth. Again, I must point out that by giving ideological cover to the Republican Party, especially over the past seven years, the LP exposes itself as willing to tolerate a hell of a lot of moral corruption—just so long as its source is militaristic and (socially) authoritarian.

Private or interfamilial welfare can also induce rent-seeking behavior, but it can be quickly and easily limited unless there is some element of extortion involved.

I'm glad you brought this up. I once got into a humdinger of a fight with some "I lifted myself up by my own god damned bootstraps" conservatives when I pointed out that by opposing estate taxes they were aggressively seeking to deny their own offspring a similar opportunity for virtue.

It can be quickly and easily limited? How? If you tell me the LP (or you personally) supports estate taxes I may need some smelling salts. :)

So we are all welfare recipients.

I agree with this, too. Every one of that lives in a community does so through the sufferance and forebearance of our neighbors, who refrain from slaughtering us on the spot.

This is why I lament the disappearance of frontier societies on this planet. There are way too many goddamned people who falsely ascribe a self-made status to themselves; they all need to experience some real frontier life. I submit that a high percentage of these pasty GOP voters would be dead within a week.

The leap to make here is that the Rothbardian Robinson Crusoe scenario is, well, bullshit (to be more generous, of greatly limited applicability). We did not evolve as solitary creatures, but as tool-users in highly organized societies. If only LP libertarians weren't so tolerant of dope-smoking and titty magazines, the party would be a happy home for young-Earth Creationists. Has anyone ever heard of a Libertarian primatologist or anthropologist? (And no, the speculative forays of David Friedman, the economist, into Icelandic history do not constitute anthropological scholarship. If they did he could get published in the relevant academic journals.)

It much easier to be a benefactor to another if one has not been mugged in advance. A system of public mugging makes private beneficence harder to practice.

This metaphor just does not persuade me in the least. Before I paid a cent in taxes in my life, I was the beneficiary of public roads, public utilities, the regulatory efforts of the Food and Drug Administration (they fuckin' well were not and are not perfect, but the fact remains that I did not die in childhood from tainted food or medicine, and that my parents had neither the equipment nor the training to independently provide a comparable service), and so on and so forth.

I haven't been mugged, but I have paid taxes, and I have bitched about paying them. Were I to be mugged, particularly in the company of my wife, I can imagine which experience I would prefer.

Are there undesirable things about taxation? Abso-frickin'-lutely. We should watch the hell out of our watchers. But I am going to be much more impressed with a political movement that A) has a plausibly implementable alternative to offer, and B) in the meantime, performs the public service of improving oversight of tax collection and public spending processes.

Yes, admittedly, by doing B), the LP might undermine its hopes of achieving A). If their palliative efforts towards reforming taxation are successful, the electorate might not have the stomach to implement a new revolutionary policy.

But I trust I do not need to call out the numerous negative examples, in history and in art, of self-proclaimed saviors who rode to the rescue when a polity faced a crisis, and left misery in their wake. Mikhail Bakunin saw what would happen if Revolutionary Marxists got a hold of real political power, and when they did, many years later, they did their damnedest to prove him guilty of understatement. Why would the Libertarian Party do any better? (Remember, Marxist theory was also highly skeptical of the State.) Would you trust Bob Fucking Barr, of all people?

So my advice to the Libertarian Party is this: do people some good. Today. Only then will you earn their trust, and their votes.

I know the deck is stacked against third parties. Kenneth Arrow proved it mathematically. Between ballot access laws and the First-Past-the-Post election method, the LP's prospects are grim no matter how much good they actually do. That's why I think the best vehicle for reform in the real world at present is the Democratic Party. I freely admit that the Democrats have a lot of shit (and blood) on their hands, and this attitude constitutes a compromise.

But I have trouble imagining how the Libertarian Party could be an even less compelling alternative than they actually are. I guess they don't want to reach out to people like me. That's fine. They have better things to do. Texas LP chairman Patrick Dixon, for example, evidently sees further growth in Republican Party control of all government apparatus as preferable. Good for him. I hope you can understand why I want to keep a lot of daylight between myself and that sort of fuckwittedness.

Comments

Beneath the details

It may be that the lust for political power entails a lust for expiation by humiliation. I offer as a specimen for study - Sen. John Edawards.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Return on Investment

If that's all the response I'm gonna get from you for that lengthy post, I'm gonna feel rooked.

Get back in the ring when you have an opportunity—mud wrestling provides even more entertainment to spectators than to participants.

--
recently transplanted from Indianapolis, IN to Durham, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

--
Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

More? You want more?

"Always leave them wanting more." Somebody said that. Which may lead to Hollywood sequelmania - give them more since they didn't walk out on the first one. Yeah, I'll be bach.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Well done

The Libercontratrians have raised excuse-making to an art form. There is always something (anything!) standing squarely in the way of them doing whatever they consider the "right" think to do. Like petulant children they lament the hard reality that most normal people won't drink their kool-aid even though they give it away for free.

The matter of corporate persons is of great concern to me. I find myself increasingly in favor of a new kind of public policy that would eliminate all rights, privileges and responsibilities of corporations completely. They simply should not be allowed to exist in any legal sense.

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Jesus Swept, this December

Eliminate corporations?

Sounds like subversive classical liberalism - libertarianism. Corporations are a throwback to royal grants of monopoly and inherently feudalistic. While we're at it abolish patents and copyright too. What say you?

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don't mind corporations. I

I don't mind corporations. I just don't want them to have any legal standing.

Does that lead to the abolition of patents and copyrights? Different concept, less clear-cut. (But I predict I'll eventually reach that conclusion.)

_____________________________________

Jesus Swept, this December

Corporations

I want them to have legal standing - just not the same legal standing or rights as individuals. It isn't fair to individuals.

They don't need it

Most of the legal standing companies have involves shielding them from responsibility. There's no reason I can see that they need legal standing. Nor should they make or lose money. Money should be tied to owners who should individually responsible (in a legal sense) for everything their companies do.

_____________________________________

Jesus Swept, this December

So - no shareholders.

Is that what you're saying? Or that if there are shareholders, they should be held responsible for the actions of the company? Help me understand what you mean.

I have many reservations

about how a (true) Libertarian government would affect our society, but my prime concern is summed up by Ludwig von Mises himself:

No civilized community has callously allowed the incapacitated to perish. But the substitution of a legally enforceable claim to support or sustenance for charitable relief does not seem to agree with human nature as it is... The discretion of bureaucrats is substituted for the discretion of people whom an inner voice drives to acts of charity.

History has shown that our "human nature" and "inner voices" will, more often than not, lead us to act in our own self-interest. Yet, when we associate, we become interested and invested in the greater good of said association. There can be no greater association than one that encompasses all peoples, regardless of race, gender, religion, wealth, etc.

That association is, for all of its imperfections, manifested in and represented by our National (Federal) government. The belief that (all) people will be better off relying upon a hodge-podge of local governing bodies and the inner voices of an indeterminate number of charitably-minded citizens is not only foolishness, it's a selfish denial of social responsibility.

Even Hayek was not a conservative

Neat. I wasn't aware of that Mises quote.

I do know that Friedrich von Hayek, certainly a face on the Mount Rushmore of the modern Right, wrote an article entitled "Why I Am Not a Conservative" (the title of which Bryan Caplan riffed on, supra).

The older I get and the more I encounter primary sources, the more I come to find, and even expect, than the hallmark of a great thinker is that he or she does his or her best to avoid having followers. The later writings of Marx exhibit great concern with the things done in his name (too bad he didn't achieve such a mature perspective early enough to permit the Second International to benefit from anarchist input).

Two other famous examples are Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which has been abused beyond recognition by postmodernists, post-structuralists, academic feminists, and intellectual nihilists of all stripes, and—I must qualify with "reputedly" here because I have not yet waded through the 1,000+ pages myself—Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations.

--
recently transplanted from Indianapolis, IN to Durham, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

--
Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

A very good point

Thick books are hard to stay with. Thick lovers are easier to tolerate. I propose that economists and philosophers include porn to illustrate literally their logic. Historically, porn was used to subvert the social order and was potent propaganda in the French Revolution.

Today it lacks its old subversive power, perhaps, but it could help readers to turn the page. However, the web offers possibilities around copyright. Place the 'good stuff' adjacent to the dismal stuff and relate the two. No example will be offered at this time.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Is there a moral inverse square law?

wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverse-square_law

Could it also be that the further removed a from a personal relationship, the more useful it becomes to substitute an abstraction by which to politically manipulate the benevolent impulse. In short, long distance charity is at risk for scamming. I hope Bill Gates is not getting scammed in his attempts at philanthropy.

OK. What if he is? Who's he gonna call? The government, of course. And who's gonna pay to redress his incompetence? You know who.

I sometimes wonder if philanthropy ought to be more random. I mean just set up a lottery to give money away. Apparently, such acts are not emotionally satisfying or politically expedient to plutocrats.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The art of misusing science

Your reference is faulty on a few levels, that anyone with even a meager understanding of human behavior could figure out pretty quickly.

To translate your point into something people can chew on: if you had two ten-dollar bills, and you wanted to give one to each of two different neighbors, the one you (personally) hand the ten to has all ten bucks, but the neighbor whose money went to DC and back only ends up with $6.50. Thus, some of the "energy" of the money that traveled so far was used up along the way.

First off, you're working from the assumption that the resource in each scenario is equal. Well, they're not. Chances are, if you were not required (by the government) to give up twenty dollars to help your neighbors, you'd probably pick one of them to give ten bucks to, while keeping the other ten. That's if you gave any at all. (I hope you know I'm not talking about you personally, I'm just using "you" as a reference)

The second thing is:

Could it also be that the further removed a from a personal relationship, the more useful it becomes to substitute an abstraction by which to politically manipulate the benevolent impulse.

Neighborhoods in this country (and most others) are composed of families within the same (general) economic tier. Sure, there's a pecking order within each niche, with a family or two that are on the verge of dropping to a lower tier for one reason or another. But the value you place on "personal relationships" being the best conduit for charity would amount to the rich helping the rich, the middle class helping the middle class, and the poor helping the poor.

I'm sure there would be some crossovers like housekeepers that are "part of the family" or church members from the other side of the tracks. But they would be the exception.

In short, long distance charity is at risk for scamming.

Sure it is. But short distance charity is at risk for never being born. That guy is better off with his $6.50 than if he got nothing at all.

Now, if you want to take the position that (may be) really on your mind, which is: charity is rarely appropriate or helpful because it keeps people from "standing on their own" and increasing their personal wealth, then say so. But don't try to use some light/energy diffusion formula to infer that local (voluntary) philanthropy would produce even more money for the needy, because that's either naive or purposely deceptive.

Re: Misusing science and quality shopping for relief

Analogy is a legitimate technique of explanation and rhetoric. It means that one thing resembles another and MAY indicate that at one of them can be understood better by comparison with the other. Analogy cannot validate anything, but the path to many valid insights began by analogical analysis.

Since no one is omniscient, we must begin the acquisition of knowledge using whatever crude comprehensions we have.

The inverse square law may be a useful crude starting point for discussion of socio-economic phenomenon. At least, it ought not be dismissed out of hand.

Taking “something people can chew on: if you had two ten-dollar bills, and you wanted to give one to each of two different neighbors, the one you (personally) hand the ten to has all ten bucks, but the neighbor whose money went to DC and back only ends up with $6.50. Thus, some of the "energy" of the money that travelled so far was used up along the way”, I have chewed on it. In your example, I never had two ten-dollar bills at my disposal. One of them has already been taken from me and sent to DC. I have only one ten-dollar bill left in my demand schedule for charity. Now I can only give it to one person and the other person I would have equally preferred to give a ten-dollar bill must remain at the mercy of DC for any possible left overs. We will accept that DC just happened to choose the same person I would have chosen and does kick back $6.50. Who was the third beneficiary of $3.50?

It is possible that neither I, nor either one or both of my intended recipients would have voluntarily donate $3.50 to that third party – DC. If we assume that the demand schedules for charity of my intended recipients was zero (indifferent) or negative – meaning “needy” - then how do we compute a net social gain from this? DC getting the $3.50 has violated the Pareto optimum of not making anyone worst off. Proviso, from the POV of the three original persons – Me and the two recipients of my largess. Quite obviously, the people working in DC are always better off if they can get a slice of my pie – the pie I wanted to share with others.

About “the second thing”, it does not follow that the rich will only help the rich. On the contrary, why would, for charitable reasons, one rich person give up wealth just to make another rich person more wealthy. That would seem to be taking altruism to an absurd extreme. On the other hand, examples of the “poor” helping one another are not uncommon. Could there an inverse square law at work within the “pecking order”? That is, so long long as one does not have a negative or zero demand schedule for philanthropy, then one will give to those less well-off rather than to those equally well or better off so long as the less well-off are in proximity.

Is “short-distance charity” at risk of never being born unless it is preceded by an tariff or fee? Where did the $6.50 come from? It came out of my demand schedules for giving to A and to B ten-dollars each? What is more likely to happen is that after $3.50 is taken from me by DC, I would rebalance my demand schedules between A and B such that B will get something and A will get less than ten-dollars. This might occur even though I estimated that giving $10 to A would make him better off than giving $6.50 to B would do for B. How is it possible for DC to make these distinctions such that they would correlate with my own? It is obviously highly improbable. Instead my demand schedule for charity must be sacrificed and the demand schedule of DC (politicians) substituted. So their self-interest is substituted for mine at my expense and at the expense of A and B. The politicians have no choice either. They cannot expected to allow me to “earmark” my charity for beneficiaries of my own choosing. To do so would diminish their self-importance and reveal their non-usefulness to social welfare.

Lastly, for now, perhaps, I have no idea when private charity helps a person to “get on their feet” as a “hand up” instead of a “hand out.” It's a speculative venture. Some charitable speculators seem better at picking “winners” than others. Governments and politicians have a demonstratively poor record in such matters and some very notable disasters – like aid to people affected by the Katrina and Rita hurricanes.

Your claim that “to infer that local (voluntary) philanthropy would produce even more money for the needy, because that's either naive or purposely deceptive.” on my part needs more work on your part. You need to show us how it is possible to get a lunch by coercion that has no costs to anyone, or less costs to everyone than, alternatively, allowing the costs to be accepted voluntarily by some in a decentralized aggregative social welfare budget without excessive collective overhead imposed on everyone wealthy and needy alike.

But why do I refer to a demand schedule for charity-giving rather than a supply schedule? The demand schedule, depicted graphically as the demand curve, represents the amount of goods that buyers are willing and able to purchase at various prices, assuming all other non-price factors remain the same. The demand curve is almost always represented as downwards-sloping, meaning that as price decreases, consumers will buy more of the good.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supply_and_demand

Charity givers are making a purchase. They are giving up money to purchase something. What is that something? Relief. The giver is exchanging money or goods for relief from anxiety or sadness or guilt or pain at some level. The giver may also be purchasing an expectation of esteem from others from acting charitably. The giver values the giving as greater than the value of keeping. Conversely, the needy have supply schedule for receiving gifts.

How is giving and receiving priced? Can it be the costs of the transaction itself? Handing a buck to a beggar on the street is a very low cost transaction. If transaction costs dominated pricing of giving, then the giver should give more the lower the cost of making the gift. One would give the beggar a twenty-dollar bill or a hundred-dollar bill because it is economical. But typically people do not do this. Instead people incur additional costs to make a larger gift to the largest number of people. People are willing to pay more for a better quality of relief that comes from giving. This explains why philanthropy is an industry. For the giver it is the best possible bargain because one can buy relief in bulk at wholesale prices.

Obviously, the wealthy can afford to purchase more relief than the poor. The poor or needy or 'less fortunate' have an infinite supply of potential relief for the wealthy to buy. There is no scarcity of need. It is a virtually free good. But demand schedules of the wealthy for relief are finite. They can afford to purchase so much relief.

What do we expect to occur when supply is virtually unlimited relative to demand? Demand will be channeled into making qualitative distinctions between alternative sources of supply. Supplies of high quality relief will be bid up relative to lower quality relief. One gets what one's pays for in quality. The givers will seek out the most abject and hideous forms of need – like diseases and disasters – and purchase relief from those suppliers over the common, but conveniently accessible street corner panhandler. The panhandler will have to sell relief to less discriminating buyers who can only afford to purchase retail relief in small quantities and low quality when it is available. This doesn't mean that retail selling of relief cannot be lucrative for a panhandler. Good marketing of relief means good packaging. Shabby, but non-threatening. Dirty, but not obviously contagious. Courteous service and exclamations of gratitude give the buyer a quality shopping experience.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don't need to show this:

You need to show us how it is possible to get a lunch by coercion that has no costs to anyone, or less costs to everyone than, alternatively, allowing the costs to be accepted voluntarily by some in a decentralized aggregative social welfare budget without excessive collective overhead imposed on everyone wealthy and needy alike.

because it is common sense that, if the government stopped collecting revenue for social programs, the amount of (private) charitable giving would be a small fraction of what had been available for said programs.

That's the core of my argument. Forget about supply and demand and shopper's gratification. Most people won't give up (voluntarily) enough of their money to replace what the government is now taking from them, and the difference will make that overhead look miniscule in comparison.

You know that, and I know that. But I'm the one addressing it, while you come up with formulas and metaphor to disguise the fact.

The core of the argument

Some people's altruism is deficient in the opinion of other people. Therefore, the deficient must be make to pay up to the standards of their moral superiors.

Seems to be a rather arrogant sectarian POV to me. How do we know the superiors are not lining their own pockets? What is our redress if they do?

Why just allow the needy to rob a bank once a year and cut out the middle men? But why bother with such dramatics? Why not just print money and give it to them?

Oh! We already do that. Why doesn't the government just print more and the problem will be solved? There must be a free lunch somewhere, somehow.

Or, instead of a flame war why not back track and ask why people are morally defective by your standard? Is it the people or the standard they are held to that is defective?

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yep, this is pretty much it:

Some people's altruism is deficient in the opinion of other people. Therefore, the deficient must be make to pay up to the standards of their moral superiors.

And in case you're wondering, I'm one of those deficient ones.

There must be a free lunch somewhere, somehow.

Nope. No free lunch. You live in America, you give a percent of your earnings to keep this country great. That greatness includes social safety nets, which you may someday need.

Or, instead of a flame war why not back track and ask why people are morally defective by your standard?

Because they're human. America has (by far) the highest rate of charitable giving. But it's still not enough.

Never will be enough

I wonder how the machines when they take over will cope with scarcity. Probably just deinitialize the envy variable.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most LIbertarians...

...that I know personally (granted this is purely anecdotal evidence), think socially liberal and financially conservative thoughts, and then vote republican because they value economics above all. That pervasive attitude amongst anyone who has every tried to sell me on libertarianism is the reason I haven't found it compelling. But I still feel they deserve an equal seat at the table in terms of being on voting ballots.

Absolutely

Hell yes they deserve an equal seat at the table in voting ballots. It's a terribly valuable metric of the quantity of nutjobs in one's community. (Which third parties constitute "nutjobs" is left as an exercise for the reader.)

--
recently transplanted from Indianapolis, IN to Durham, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

--
Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

Economics above all?

Those libertarians who "value economics above all" and vote Republican deserve what they get from Republicans - neither wealth nor security nor personal freedom. More intransigent libertarians like me would rather boycott an election when the only choices are D or R.

But you have a valid point about those LINOs (Libertarians In Name Only) when they vote Republican and there is a libertarian candidate on the ballot even if running under the Independent label.

I am a Libertarian of long standing and long in the tooth who will not, and probably will not be allowed to legally vote for the LP Presidential candidate in 2008 because of ballot access restrictions. But I would still prefer that the State did not arbitrarily impair my choices. So rather than vote Republican or Democrat I will simply skip down the ballot and vote randomly for one or two candidates since my intentions are irrelevant to the established political order. The only reason I vote at all is because I do not wish to be defined by the MSM into the category of the apathetic lumpen-proletariat.

Generally, all voters vote strategically. And usually the strategy is irrelevant to actual policy outcomes because politicians are unreliable and any voter's strategy is a crap shoot. But we should still vote just to let them know we are still breathing if not too freely. Or maybe we should vote just to spite the MSM, as I do.

Perhaps one day voters will go on strike a refuse to vote at all until elections mean something that matters to us, but that day is not yet.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Letting Libertarians vote!

Why that's like them marry your daughter. Scandalous!

It is amusing to me that many who oppose corporate privilege support licensing access to the ballot and rationing raising expense money to conduct campaigns. Regulation, like patriotism, is also a refuge for scoundrels.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hang on now

I'm not aware of a single person on this blog who supports ballot access restrictions.

I suspect that the area of campaign finance is much more fertile ground for argument, however.

If money equals speech, why compel the disclosure of contributions at all, under any circumstances? Isn't that like being hauled before HUAC and being compelled, on pain of contempt of Congress, to reveal the identities of Communist Party members of one's acquaintance?

If I have a right to speak in absolute privacy to my confidants, surely I must also have a private right to contribute as much money as I want to any candidate for office, or fund advertising for or against a candidate behind a veil of legally-protected anonymity.

--
recently transplanted from Indianapolis, IN to Durham, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

--
Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

Campaign finance and ballot access

Balloting on non-trivial questions is usually done anonymously. So political contributions for non-trivial offices should also be anonymous.

What? If the politician should not be permitted to know who voted for her, then why not deny her the knowledge of who gave money to get her (or her opponents) elected?

If the politician doesn't know who gave the money (for or against), then what is the rational basis for limiting the size or number of contributions or contributors?

What if we conducted elections by rationing votes and forcing all voting to be open - no privacy?

On the other hand, if the consequences of such elections were trivial, why not abolish the secret ballot, but keep contributors secret? Or simply charge for ballots and pay for the costs electioneering from those proceeds?

I am not prepared to defend all of these alternatives, but I raise them to suggest that too much about about the political system is taken for granted as the only and best possible arrangement. But unless someone wants to go there, I'll drop it for now.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson