Liberals and Libertarians

The Libertarian Wing of the Conservative coalition has started to peel off from the Limbaugh-Beck-Fox News-Tea Party wing. Here’s Julian Sanchez(Cato Institute) last week. Sanchez accused the Red meat wing of “epistemic closure”. Here’s how Sanchez now defines what he meant.

One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!)  This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile. Think of the complete panic China’s rulers feel about any breaks in their Internet firewall: The more successfully external sources of information have been excluded to date, the more unpredictable the effects of a breach become. Internal criticism is then especially problematic, because it threatens the hermetic seal. It’s not just that any particular criticism might have to be taken seriously coming from a fellow conservative. Rather, it’s that anything that breaks down the tacit equivalence between “critic of conservatives and “wicked liberal smear artist” undermines the effectiveness of the entire information filter.

We don’t get any teabaggers on this site, but we get our fair share of libertarians like Julian Sanchez. The teabaggers totally suffer from epistemic closure, but the libertarians are different. I continue to believe that there is some coalition to be formed between classic Lockean liberals (I count myself as one) and the more enlightened libertarians. We both are against the Wars in Asia. We both believe in liberty. We both trust technology to continue to make media distribution cheaper and more democratic. Where we have trouble on this site is the battle over the role of government as regulator. Liberals say the people need some protection from the power of corporations, and so the government must provide balance against fraud, monopoly, and political favor-buying. Libertarians say the marketplace will police these corporations that try to game the system. They cite the fact that Enron collapsed before Ken Lay could be brought to court.

But it is so obvious to me that without an FDA, FAA, FCC, FTC, and EPA , the people would have no control over corporate power. There would be more lead toys, more polluted water, more air crashes, more poisoned drugs. If we can win the Libertarians over on that one, then there is a new coalition to be formed.

This entry was posted in California, Interregnum, reform and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

91 Responses to Liberals and Libertarians

  1. len says:

    Liberals arguing with Libertarians reads like rhythm sections arguing with horn sections over the same kicks. As long as they get together in real-time, it’s practice room noise.

    Liberals want everyone to enjoy the gig. Libertarians want to get rich playing it.

  2. Hugh says:


    Honestly, what use would you have of liberals? Principles without testicles? Makes me hurl.

  3. Fentex says:

    Liberals say the people need some protection from the power of corporations

    Liberals arguing with Libertarians

    This is an example of a separation between me and U.S writers through a common language.

    Liberal describes support of personal liberation. The idea that it’s about supporting government is succesful propaganda by right wing authoritarians wanting to undermine individual liberties.

    It’s confusing for me to read liberal used as a label for supporting increased authority.

  4. Hugh says:

    Fentex that’s fresh breeze. Thank you.

    Substantively, liberals. Never was one; worked for them for ~20 yr. Down in the States, Sorensen makes a good case for that breed. But he’s a lawyer. Liberalism, in mine own, makes sense in theory, but as such it’s a ridiculously fond disguise of pure powerlust.

    Your version of “liberal”, much better, then.

  5. JTMcPhee says:

    Coalition, my aching patoot.

    In the end, it’s all simply about power, over resources and over the lives of people.

    Coalitions? I played with a bunch of other Political Juveniles in the liberal-coalition sandbox for a while. I recall many “organizing meetings,” like a Sierra Club function locally where “the issue” was a plan by the County commission to open up a major public asset, Fort Desoto Park which is miles of near-perfect beach mostly, to the “best” of pop culture– beer stands, sleazy restaurants, eventual condomizing. Various speakers, notably the keynote, one of the more realistic and acerb of our local columnists, giving his best to shine his little twice-a-week spotlight on all the Evil That Men and Women Do in his little corner of the world. The other speakers, and various Town Hall Meeting-savvy participants, all “asking lengthy complex factually packed questions” by way of making pitches for “everyone in the room, and all their coalition partners too” to join with them in “protecting” this or that little patch of grass or third-growth scrubland or threatened species.

    [The Grand Opening of Ft. Desoto to Further Revenue-and-Campaign-Contribution-Producing Despoliation went down in flames, that time around at least, mostly because there was a critical mass of people who go there for simple picnics and fishing and swimming and walking their dogs, in between already drunken parties with robust young males pissing in the road and beer-swaggering around. The “business people of reputation” and their benefactor-benefactees on the Council have already been secretly and oh so quietly nibbling away at the burned-out edges of that exhausted outrage, and eventually the Moneyed Interests will kill off or co-opt the objectors, and we’ll have wall-to-wall Development, and the Public will be paying, inter alia, for new Access Bridges and Causeways because that Produces Revenue, and the Sisyphean futility of “beach renourishment” (oh how the language is debased by euphemism and that other kind of fraud) as Mother Nature continually re-makes the beach contours without due respect for human-implanted Property Lines and structures.]

    I, at least, have never “seen” a coalition that actually accomplished anything significant and lasting. Other than argue picayune polemical points about Grand Notions of Threatened Interests and Personal Property and who’s the most put-upon Victim deserving of the biggest share of Whatever Is Left after the Right side of the scale, which is where most “libertarians” find their True Loves, takes its cut.

    As to libertarians being against those Big Foreign Wars, that smacks of illusion and hypocrisy to me. These folks hold investments in Things the Way They Are, and their efforts are more in the nature of turning “business” looser than it is already — happy to take the income that comes from taking a trillion productive dollars out of the tax coffers and T-bill proceeds and dumping it into war materiel and mercenaries and protecting the flow of the oil that lubricates the whole freakin’ creakin’ machine as it grinds toward its inevitable breakdown, no matter how much oil is applied.

    People who glue the “liberal” label proudly on their foreheads too often have no, or insufficient, notions about how you build not a coalition but an obedient structure — like a nation of CONSUMERS, not of “citizens,” with economic conditions such that young people (and now not so young) have incentives to populate the uniformed “services” in a self-augmenting feedback process. Kill a non-combatant tribal towelhead, or even an actual warrior of whatever eth “we” happen to be practicing on this year, “they” kill a couple of “our boys,” “we” “retaliate,” they asymmetrically up the ante using our own munitions, and the idiots at home, staring into 3-DHD (is that a DSM-IV recognized mental defect yet?) 86-inch-class flat screens, keep buying into the bullshit that keeps the general officers in perks. Anybody care to tell “us” what the Invasion of Iraq and the Invasion of Afghanistan and all those new “sites” in Central and South America are still about? What possible “protections” of “our national security” all those oath-takers and un-oathed mercenaries are providing for Our Sacred Freedom to Spend Money We Don’t Have At The Mall By Way Of Doing Our Duty To Make The Recovery Happen?

    Liberal, shmiberal. Hugh thinks liberals (in his frame) have “pure powerlust.” I would say we got a definitional problem, one where the discourse, such as it is (mostly nyeah-nyah name-calling and chest-poking and finger-wagging and -giving) is based on false premises and fraudulent categories.

    LBJ and JFK got credit for being “liberal.” Because the squishy end of the bench and the steely end of the bench both profit in their way from maintaining the made-for-TV soap opera that fills the airwaves and bitstream every minute, while closer to the front of the cave, the Cro-Magnons are busily sneaking up and spearing and clubbing the Neanderthals (by recent accounts, a much gentler and more empathic branch of the tree) until they’re dead.

    So good luck with that “coalition” idea. As ought to be recognizable from the “libertarian” participants here and anywhere else you want to look, you got a bunch of sneaky little wonks over there, Shakespeare’s “lean and hungry men,” who are as drawn to, and as fascinated with the operation of, the actual levers of power as any self-avowed oligarch who already has a good grip right at the heel of the bat, and “invite coalition” with “liberals” only as a means to increase the quantum of Homo biomass the “libertarians” can move around in advancing their own power plays.

    Good, kind, self-effacing, empathetic people, not poisoned by the impulse to Lord it over others, just ain’t got a prayer in this Holy Sepulchre. Stab, stab, club, club. And yeah, JP, I know you say this is not what you and other “libertarians” believe. What are you actually doing to pry the Dead Hands that are killing the rest of us off those Levers of Power? And who and with what motivations would you nominate to fill the void that will inevitabley attract SOMEONE to grab?

    Not that Change is really possible, since humans seek their pleasure pretty much first, foremost and always, and the pursue the interests that are wired into us, and altruism is pretty low on the scale of McPhee’s Hierarchy of Greeds.

  6. Morgan Warstler says:


    You think far too much about the “levers of power,” to ever get rid of them.

    YOU are the one who wants to get his hands on them and is pissed he won’t. YOU are the one who wants to take from those at the top INDISCRIMINATELY. If they have it, fuck ’em they stole it anyway.

    Bouncing words off each other doesn’t make up for non-critical thinking and animosity.

    Meanwhile, who exactly are these, “Good, kind, self-effacing, empathetic people, not poisoned by the impulse to Lord it over others.”

    Again you?

    I’ve never met them, not at least by your definition. ANYONE I’ve ever met, even winners of the lottery… people with ability to make a difference, spend some money, move the mountain – they do it.

    The issue you have is that don’t like what they like, they want to see a condo built, they want to sell t-shirts, they want to fuck on on your beach, or any other thing.

    It isn’t about lording power over other people, dude, its just about building shit, making stuff, selling stuff, serving customers.

    Yes yes, you don’t like consumers and customers, you like citizens.

    That’s bullshit, you want to OWN the beach, you want to consume it YOUR WAY, you want to control it with your vote.

    It’s ugly you can’t own up.

  7. John Papola says:


    As a collaborative, compassionate guy that works in entertainment, I see the same connecting threads that you do (I think). Here are the areas where I think you and I and those who broadly fall along our mutually different ideological lines can agree:

    #1. Ending corporate welfare (business and farm subsidies)

    #2. Undermining and hopefully ending the so-called “war on drugs” (aka the war on poor black brown people)

    #3. Working to maintain and expand liberal (as in open and free) immigration and international movement.

    #4. Standing together in opposition to wars of aggression and occupation.

    These are the areas where I get in arguments with conservatives and find agreement with progressives (even if they are mostly counter the historical Wilsonian progressive agenda). These are the areas animating Ron Paul’s young supporters. I’ve met many of them. They’re animated by the above and not at all conservative (with a small c).

    Here’s the areas where we SHOULD find common ground:

    #5. School choice. Black urban leaders will pull the left onboard here. They are leading the charge in places like Newark and New Orleans. See The Cartel for my home state’s mess. The teachers unions are a force for evil in many states. They are parasites. It’s time for progressives to ween off their campaign largesse and stand up for our kids. Alan Wolfe, author of “The Future of Liberalism” agrees.

    #6. Monetary Reform. The Fed is a tool for enriching the banking elite. It is a defacto cartel with a printing press. Where progressives part ways here is in the desire to finance big government with that printing press (see Krugman/DeLong/Blanchard). Inflation has always been a tool for the financing of wars. It is an insidious, immoral way to tax a people without their consent. Inflation destroys the middle class and those on fixed incomes. It is the worst. Change is desperately needed here.

    #7. Consumer culture. The systematic culture of consumerism is at it’s heart, Keynesian. “Consumer Confidence” is a Keynesian animal spirits indicator. Focus on Christmas sales is Keynesian. All of this is anti-growth and anti-wealth. Consumption is the DESTRUCTION of wealth, not the creation of it. If you want to be “green”, you can’t be on board with keynesian demand-side management where savings and conservation is viewed as a destructive “paradox” and war or ditch digging is “stimulus”.

    Here’s where you and I will likely NEVER agree:

    “without an FDA, FAA, FCC, FTC, and EPA , the people would have no control over corporate power.”

    We are just on opposite sides here. I stand on the side of the 1970’s Teddy Kennedy and Jimmy Carter when they took on the ICC and CAB: the regulatory state is a tool of industrial cartels and is fundamentally anti-consumer, anti-competitive and pro-incumbent. It’s economic fascism. It is a magnifier of corporate power. Always has been.

    We share the desire to see corporate power regulated. We truly do. I’m no corporatist. But Obama is just as Bush was. The regulatory story state isn’t “regulation” at all. It’s a power machine for the powerful. REAL regulations are, as I’ve said many MANY times, failure, reputation, competition and the courts. To believe in your statement above is, in my opinion, to close your eyes to reality and construct a fiction in your head. The FDA and USDA are tools of big companies. The FCC… well… duh. EPA? It’s a sham. FTC? Yeah… they’re 100% pure crooked and pointless. Just look at them going after Intel. Nobody can say that the market for computing power is anything other than ultra competitive. FTC is trash and a complete sham.

    You’ll likely never agree with me. That’s fine. So why bother. You and I can seek out people on the fence and see who wins at the margin. If we’re to find common ground, this is not the place. I we can work together on 1-4 and begin talking constructive on 5-7, that’s a big agenda. There’s plenty of work to do together there.

  8. EGrise says:

    JTM, that was sheer poetry.

  9. John Papola says:

    “As to libertarians being against those Big Foreign Wars, that smacks of illusion and hypocrisy to me. These folks hold investments in Things the Way They Are, and their efforts are more in the nature of turning “business” looser than it is already — happy to take the income that comes from taking a trillion productive dollars out of the tax coffers and T-bill proceeds and dumping it into war materiel and mercenaries and protecting the flow of the oil that lubricates the whole freakin’ creakin’ machine as it grinds toward its inevitable breakdown, no matter how much oil is applied.”

    JT, this is pure BS. Truly. Ron Paul was one of the only REAL anti-war candidate and his 200,000+ campaign for liberty is expressly anti-war. So is the Lew Rockwell/Mises Institute/Anarcho set. Go to and see who’s driving that. They are hardcore libertarians all.

    You can disagree with them on any number of fronts. But you can’t say they’re war hypocrites. Nope. That distinction clearly goes at this point to the now-nearly-silent progressive anti-war movement. Jon has been on the right side with this, and I commend him for it in every anti-war post. But a quick trip around the once-fervent anti-war left blogosphere finds a sudden love of the bomb now that Obama is the one aiming it.

  10. JTMcPhee says:

    Anti-war, or anti-MICC?

    Anti-war, yes, some libertarians, maybe. In the sense I guess I was thinking, the notion that Bidness is going to regulate itself out of using that great Satanic word “defense” as the magical incantation to scare everyone into feeding Moloch more of our babies in the name of “national security,” well… As should be clear from the partisanship for certain weapon systems that have no real battlefield utility but are “jobs programs,” there is the sentiment called “anti-war,” and there’s the other thing that tacitly accepts the profitable virtues of the military-industrialization of the planet.

    And you get no argument from me, who “benefitted” from an earlier round of The Inevitable Behavior, that our “liberals” with nothing at risk of a personal, immediate nature (even if collectively their economy and culture are in a really nasty toilet as a result of all the linguistic and mechanical and monetary impacts of the World of War) have done what humans do — accommodate to the level of violence. Like the people of Belfast and Beirut and Baghdad, living under and amidst bombardment and sniping and house-to-house combat and still needing somehow to go out and buy bread and find a clean source of water and a place to discharge their excrement. All the while, the “combatants” are getting off on their real life war sim and the people who supply the bombs, bullets and battle dress just keep working on their “reputations” and raking it in…

  11. Hugh says:


    For my money you’re right, about all of it. I especially enjoy your description of the Sierra Club aping Mecha or the AFL-CIO. A little taste of power can stoke a whole mob. You gotta watch out for the Bogarts, though.

  12. JTMcPhee says:

    Warstler, I’ll make it easy for you:

    Feel like familiar territory? Help explain your impulses to you? But I am always happy to accommodate your need for a whippin’ boy.

  13. John Papola says:

    JT, Those I mentioned are both anti-war and anti-MIC as am I. Ron Paul’s record stands in that regard.

  14. Valerie Curl says:

    JP, I’m on board with you on the first 4 items of your list as well as #5. #6 I’m not sure of, mainly because of the international consequences. But this subject would take days upon days and many, many discussions to resolve. On #7, yes, we, as a society, do need to stop believing in consumerism as we have in the past.

    But the main reason for this comment is to ask you to read my blog post from yesterday. I think you’ll agree with me regarding illegal immigration.

  15. Jon Taplin says:

    @John Papola-I found a remarkable amount of harmony in your post about what we do and should agree upon. As to whether there is regulatory capture by big cartels, that goes without saying–just look at the FDA. But that doesn’t mean we should just eliminate the FDA. Hayek and even Adam Smith’s concept of capitalism may work in some abstract model in an economics lab, but the fact that almost every major American business sector displays the characteristics of oligopoly, plays havoc with their models.

  16. Hugh says:


    Probably this locution, “anti-war”, bothers you as it does me. What American except Curtis LeMay ever has been pro-war? Even Abraham Lincoln, who killed more Americans than Hitler and Tojo combined, hated war. Even Lieutenant Commander Richard Nixon hated it, and he was not more than an earthworm with a law degree.

    Joking aside, do you see what I mean? “Anti-war” is to passive to pass for pacifism. I greatly prefer the term “peacemaker” (though the Colt kicks like an Army mule). With the Quakers (did I mention Nixon?) I feel that we’d do better to keep the words in active syntax, to keep them active, to keep acting. Surely you are doing this. But let our language match our deeds.

    Sorry to sound like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who for all I know tunes into Jon’s blog regularly and might be belly-laughing at this silly pretentiousness…

  17. Hugh says:

    @JTM, I don’t want to know, in e.g. The House, is “anti-war”. It means nothing to me. If I ever hear that my Member on the Hill is anti-war then I’ll want to pull her down and replace her with a peacemaker such as you or any of a great many persons like the ones you and I have known.

    Anti-war is too candyassed.


    I totally agree with you on J.P. Valerie spoke my mind when she both checklisted and pleaded for more time. Could you set up a separate structure for such a discussion of John’s analysis? If so, would you please do so? I promise not to be boorish come such an event. I’d just really like to see what folks have to say.

    JP’s telling a whale of a story, but in the present format we’re reduced to biting off hunks of blubber, and that’s not fair to him.

  18. John Papola says:


    “Following the passage of NAFTA, American agri-businesses began exporting to Mexico our cheap food products, particularly corn. Mexican farmers are unable to compete with the cheap U.S. grown products, driving these farmers out of business and causing them to lose their farms. Unable to support their families, these farmers head to the U.S. border to find work.”

    I think this post and the circular flow story in Food Inc is almost entirely incorrect. With all due respect, this is absurd. Rather than hijack this thread, I’ll respond in your blog. But you’re wrong, and I think I can respectfully convince you of that fact if you give me the chance.

  19. John Papola says:

    Hugh, you are quite complimentary. (blushing)

  20. John Papola says:


    Excellent. Let’s join arms on our areas of agreement. Ideas matter. Parties are nonsense (unless they’re the drinking and dancing kind).

    As for so-called “oligopoly” in “almost every major American business sector”… nonsense. This can only be said if you start from the synthetic world of textbooks where “perfect competition” is a market with infinite competitors selling indistinguishable products and have no individual pricing power whatsoever. If THAT ridiculous baloney is your model of what “pure” capitalism is, of course you’re going to see so-called “oligopoly” everywhere.

    I don’t analyse things in such a way. You can have a very innovative competitive market with only a handful of competitors. Purely private, unaided by government, monopolies are very short-lived. The list of unstoppables that have been stopped is too great and the list of companies hit with so-called “antitrust” for charging LOW PRICES is too long.

    We need not litigate this point here, since, as I said, I don’t expect either of us to move on it. If we focus on that giant world of common ground, we could make this world a much better place with greater liberty and peace on so many fronts.

    I’ll end with a joke:

    Three men lay shackled in the gallows. Man #1 turns to man #2 and asks “so what are you in for?” Man #2 responds “I charged higher prices than my competitors and was hit with monopoly pricing”. Man #3, chuckles and with irony says “ha. My prices were the lowest around and they threw the book at me for predatory pricing”. Man #1, stunned by both answers replies “boy, you can’t win. My prices were the same as my competitors and they hit me with collusion”

    And there you have it. When power is concentrated in the hands of unaccountable “regulators” anyone can be a criminal. It’s no different than empowering Arizona cops to determine for themselves who “might be” an illegal immigrant. Monopolies of force should have as little discretion as possible.

  21. JTMcPhee says:

    Discretion and force: JP, you ever been stopped for a moving violation and “let off” with a warning instead of a ticket? Had your kid brought home at night by the po-lice instead of having them allow the drunken youngster one call from the station house after arrest and charges? There’s a necessary degree of “slack” in any system — if all the laws on the books were actively and without-discretion enforced, we would all be in jail. And yes, there’s a load of idiot laws on the books, but you got a remedy that will clear out the dead wood and not, given human nature, just lead to more badness?

  22. Hugh says:

    yeah, and I’d add that even the Bench can be pretty fair and sensible, should things go as farad to court trial. Just giving the Devil his due. That young punk who tried to derail the last presidential election by hacking into Palin’s emails? That case comes downn to sentencing. Watch. The judge is going to mete out something Solomonic. They can, and they do.

  23. Rick Turner says:

    What happens in the Libertarian world when something like the latest oil rig blow out happens? Does BP pay every last cent of the cleanup costs? What if BP (or any other responsible party) goes belly up half-way through the clean-up? Do tax payers have to kick in? Is the government responsible for having granted off-shore oil leases in the first place? What if an oil rig blows in international waters?

    And this cuts straight to the issue of nuclear power plants where the corporate liability has been capped by US law. If San Onofre blows up and the wind is from the north, who takes care of all the folks in North San Diego County?

    We are getting to the point in the use of extractive and other technologies where corporate responsibility can’t cover all contingencies.

    Yet the BP execs aren’t going to have to see salaries and bonuses clawed back to help cover the clean-up. PG&E execs would do their mea culpas and move on in the case of a China Syndrome in Southern California.

    It is obvious to me that on the one hand, federal regulation is not strong enough…with coal mine disasters, oil rigs blowing up, etc. you see the “free market” causing great harm, and on the other hand…the cap on nuke liability…federal regulation has been misused to tilt a free market into favoring potentially dangerous technologies.

    Let’s not forget that some of the hottest growth industries in the US have historically benefited hugely from government hand-outs, oil, nuke, and railroads being just three. What would the US look like if not for all that? Might be better…

  24. Hugh says:


    Jon’s a fair person. He’ll take care of it. The problem is the blizzard you’ve thrown out so consideredly.

    You’re supposed to just sound off, so we can dismiss you more easily. Dammit, man, why raise serious and productve matters? Don’t you know that my beloved People wish not to think?

  25. John Papola says:

    “but you got a remedy that will clear out the dead wood and not, given human nature, just lead to more badness?”

    No, I don’t JT. There is no “remedy”. There is no “solution”. We are in the rocky stream of life and it’s all about paddling to keep our little boat from capsizing. None of us have the power to calm the stream. Those that claim to are selling snake oil.

    I come from a place of first principles and emanate out from there cautiously. We need fewer, better laws. No question. But that “slack” you’re talking about, which is indeed always present in any human system, cuts both ways. The answers to your questions vary greatly from person and place for the same incident. A white kid in Greenich, CT gets a slap on the wrist and a drive home while a poor black kid in Newark, NJ gets hit with a felony that wrecks his life for the same offense. There’s slack, and then there’s arbitrary tyranny. We have too much of the later for my liking.

  26. John Papola says:


    Nuclear power appears to be a government boondoggle. It’s a socialization of risk. If companies can’t secure private financing due to the risks involved in nuclear power generation, that means it’s not viable in my book. If you need government backing, that means you’re probably a social parasite.

    My fellow libertarians have been on the case with this.

    “In fact, a recent report by Scully Capital Services, an investment banking and financial services firm, commissioned by the Department of Energy (DOE), highlighted three federal subsidies and regulations — termed “show stoppers” — without which the industry would grind to a halt. These “show stoppers” include the Price Anderson Act, which limits the liability of the nuclear industry in case of a serious nuclear accident — leaving taxpayers on the hook for potentially hundreds of billions in compensation costs”

    Screw nuclear power. Please lets just use the damn price system! Politics can’t allocate resources. We get Nuclear power and corn-based ethanol from Washington. That’s an F. Game over. They’re expelled.

  27. Josh says:

    Rick…perhaps those are extractive technologies we shouldn’t be using then, eh?

    I live in a big city with a nearby environmental sacrifice zone. Who pays for the pollution the mills and refineries dump in the big lake nearby? Not the mills or refineries, those are externalities that you and I pay for with lung disease and eventually when the mess can’t be ignored anymore, Superfund cash.

    These are legacies from the last century, but now we are getting so desperate that there is much more at stake—tar sands, oil shale, natural gas from the Marcellus, mountain top removal… Our regulators have failed to appropriately deal with the toxic legacy already accrued from these bottom of the barrel fuels—but if we had no regulators, my gosh, every river would be burning like the Cuyahoga in the 70s (thankfully, I don’t live in Cleveland).

  28. Josh says:

    …ummm…and to finish the point… If company’s like BP and Exxon cannot prove they can pay the bills for cleanup, we shouldn’t be giving them permits…

  29. Rick Turner says:

    These answers are exactly why I asked the questions…

    The “free market” has been sold as a concept to those who are now Tea Bagger Party types. They don’t have any idea how not-free they are, and that what they see as individuality is just a Marlboro man, Hollywood bullshit. They seem to support the very people who have pulled the wool over their eyes.

    If BP can’t pay every cent of the cleanup costs, I can only hope that Libertarians and Liberals alike will find this to be the biggest teachable moment of the century so far. If this isn’t a crime against the people, I don’t know what is.

    Morgan, got your lawyers working on this one?

  30. Morgan Warstler says:

    CATO doesn’t stand four square against nuclear.

    There’s actually quite a bit to be done with the new reactors that have very little by product.

    We don’t need the subsidies, but we shouldn’t assume we’re not getting closer on tech…. we’re still in the early stages of this stuff, we’ve got lots of low hanging fruit still coming.

    The real issue is the regulatory side. If someone’s able to acquire private land and establish a place to store spent fuel (there’s lots less coming) they should be able to, the next issue becomes distance of plant to live able areas.

    So yes, put a price on everything, but be ready for $250 a barrel oil to make mining tar sands and nuclear A-OK.

  31. Rick Turner says:

    What price a nuclear wasteland? Private land…your back yard or mine? How far does radiation extend past your acreage? Yeah, your place or mine? So my lawyers get to sue your lawyers, right?

    Morgan, the cost you are proposing for oil makes the plummeting cost of solar look pretty good. We’re down below $3.00 a Watt now. That, and the fact that dispersed production of electricity makes a lot of sense. Solar on every south facing roof is my mantra.

  32. Rick Turner says:

    Ahh, we now know that a miner’s death is worth three million bucks. Good. That’s probably less than the cost of maintaining a maimed miner.

    Do you think the preachers mention that in the marriage ceremonies in coal country? “Sickness and health (that’s five million), death in an accident (that’s three million for you, dear…), it’s a free market for un-protected labor…”

  33. Hugh says:

    Hi Rick,

    How’s Port Arthur?

  34. Hugh says:

    Nicely put, Rick, yet I fear the answer ever will remain. You’re screwed, but a fond nation loves you enough to drive you to Tasmania.

  35. JTMcPhee says:

    JP — if you had a prescription for how to deal with this:

    “There’s slack, and then there’s arbitrary tyranny. We have too much of the later for my liking,”

    your notions about making things better by what, getting rid of “dictate” in favor of “market,” might have a better chance of catalyzing, bringing about, or at least getting a seat at the table in, the Coalition of Effectiveness.

    Noting the existence of arbitrariness in a complex hodgepodge of a whole lot of self-interested people, including government which is obviously both slightly “of laws” and mostly “of men,” is old news. Having worked a bit as a prosecutor, I know only too well how arbitrary “the system” is. The only questions I put, other than the rhetorical “how pure are you really” ones about whether you would want your kid or yourself to be able to benefit from that “discretion” you decry, was whether you have a prescription for how things could be made any better, as in less arbitrary. And since the disparity of wealth that “free market” free-for-alls produce just grow wider, the black kid in Newark might just get shot dead by the po-lice if he looked to be driving toward the equivalent of Simi valley. And the kid from Cos Cob would get bragging rights for getting away with murder.

    Just so it’s clear, we are on common ground in the distaste for arbitrary tyrrany. Not that us in our little coracles, paddling like hell, will make any difference in the flow of the river.

  36. Al says:

    My problem with nuclear power is, who are we to think we are entitled to bury (or whatever) the waste that will be toxic for many thousands of years.

  37. Morgan Warstler says:

    “And since the disparity of wealth that “free market” free-for-alls produce just grow wider”

    Not true. This disparity is caused by government’s finger on the scale.

    Lastly, disparity means nada morally. Hobgoblin, nothing more. What matters is the poor’s standard of living relative to all other systems.

    How much the rich guy has isn’t an issue, the question is how much the average poor guy has. Does he cable tv? Broadband? two bedrooms? is he able to eat in abundance? What kind of schooling can his kid get? Etc.

    Notice here that suddenly the poor’s rights eat into each other.

    The children of the other poor are more mis-behaved, so the schools in your neighborhood are worse.

    No amount of extra money spent on the bad school will solve for this problem… what do we do?

    What the real solution JTM? To aid one upstanding poor family, do we limit the bad poor family’s kid?

  38. Morgan Warstler says:

    When Nobel Prize-winning libertarian economist Milton Friedman was asked about unlimited immigration in 1999, he stated that “it is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. And you cannot have both.”

    Love this quote.

  39. John Papola says:

    I’m opposed to any government subsidy of private enterprise or private risk-taking period. End of story. If Nuclear can’t stand on it’s own two legs with voluntary investment, it’s not viable. The price system works. It transmits our dispersed knowledge. It’s a crowdsourcing engine. If you can’t sell nuclear bonds at any price, that means there’s no economic value in Nuclear power. Period.

    Any libertarian that believes otherwise is, in my opinion, violating core principles. They’re reaching for some other value scale than the price system when non exists for this particular kind of choice.

    Morgan, your quote from Milton is correct and it highlights why the social welfare state is so fundamentally immoral and counter to natural human liberty. If a social system REQUIRES the restriction of movement on this planet in order to remain solvent, it’s trash.


    You’re playing the violin. Lovely. It’s a tragedy that those men were died. It may even be a crime of neglect. But the implication that freedom of choice in the marketplace is to blame and that some regulatory superstate can do better is comparing reality to fantasy. In reality, bad things happen, regardless of who is regulating. We don’t have a choice of a perfectly safe world, no matter how many crooked politicians claim they’ll make us “safe” in absolute terms. That option doesn’t exist. It’s all shades of less safe to more safe. So far, I have more faith in decentralized, adaptive systems to respond to the millions of issues that confront us.

    The great insane irony of the regulatory state is this:
    They install systems that enable people to relax their guard against risk and reputation, then, perversely, claim that people need these systems because they inadequately guard themselves against risk and reputation.

    It’s the equivalent of blasting a patient with anti-biotics for years and then claiming that people have naturally weak immune systems in the face of all these super-bugs.

  40. Rick Turner says:

    John, in our corporate state…the oiligarchy (spelling intentional) aka. the corporation is a legal entity and it is responsible in cases like this BP/Transocean/Halliburton disaster off of Louisiana. But do the execs get to take a walk on responsibility? Do they get to collect their paychecks and bonuses and simply hide behind the corporate entity which takes the hit?

    This will turn out to be another “mistakes were made”…passive voice…bullshit deals.

    How does Libertarian philosophy deal with corporate and personal responsibility in cases like this? What I’m reading you say is like a shrug of the shoulders and “shit happens”.

    I totally agree that if industrial practices are too risky for the private sector to handle, then such practices should not be pursued. But I also see Warstler flogging the nuke option with all these “there’s safe nuke technology” claims. Oh, yeah? Well, take the cap off of liability and see if anyone will finance these “safe technologies”. Like off-shore drilling was supposed to be all OK now… NOT!

  41. John Papola says:

    “Oh, yeah? Well, take the cap off of liability and see if anyone will finance these “safe technologies”. Like off-shore drilling was supposed to be all OK now… NOT!”

    I agree completely.

    As for MY opinion on responsibility, that should be pretty straight forward. If a you made the mess, you clean it up. If you’re found to have broken the law in a court, you deal with the sentence.

    Accidents happen. When there’s an accident, the people responsible need to make it right as best as possible. If it’s proven that they broke the law, they should be criminally punished. I don’t see how any of this is “libertarian” or not. It’s not hard stuff. It’s not some libertarian mystical answer.

    If we want to get into libertarian stuff, we have to ask about the property rights on the ocean and whether that regime is socializing the cost and masking the responsibility for its use. I don’t know enough to do much besides pose those questions. I don’t even know if those are the only or primary questions. There’s likely more.

    But built into your question is this idea that chaos and anarchy is the only order that would exist in the absence of government monopoly of order. I see no reason to believe that. Order emerges on many fronts. People find ways to live together and police anti-social behavior.

    As for this corporate “personhood” hobbyhorse that so many on the left like to ride, I don’t know enough about the REAL implications of what this alleged “personhood” ACTUALLY involves, but it does seem to be seriously overblown. If you and I want to engage in private collective action, we form an organization that aggregates our efforts and agreements. That entity is the corporation. It’s nothing more than a bundle of individuals who seek to work together without constant negotiating the price of every interaction and transaction with each other. I can’t go into the legal status of this stuff. I just don’t know enough.

  42. Rick Turner says:

    The problem is that the “people” tend to be non-human…it’s a corporation, and the real people get to hide behind the corporate shield.

  43. JTMcPhee says:

    You ever worked for a corporation, or founded one, and made tha tinitial filing with the Sceretary of your State that lets you personally escape liability for anything you do or fail to do acting in your guise as a Corporate Leader? You are always talking about how “Rule of Law” is going to fix and punish and deter all those things that are “not legal.” Any idea why the corporation laws of the State of Delaware look the way they do, and why, over 50 or 100 years, that the notion of corporate governance has devolved to a snicker and a sneer? Or how Rule 23b of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the same parallel provisions in almost 50 states, have been Changed to make it ever harder for actual little shareholders to file a “derivative action” (and that is not but a bad pun in the current situation) to make a court make a corporation (via its directors, officers and employees) Do The Right Thing in one of the minuscule fleabites of “activism” that used to provide at least a small corrective to short-term profit maximization, manufacturing externalities, and all the stuff of life of modern Corporations that have attracted Really Smart and Shadily Corrupt Management to bring us the World of Business constantly negotiating the price of every interaction and transaction with each other on the way to Soylent Greenland?

    You want “private collective action” with an honest chance of honest results in the larger survival-of-the-species context? At the very least do away with the corporate form and make the collectives all be partnerships. (Not gonna happen, of course, but a nice thought experiment.) THERE’s an incentive to “protect reputation,” and it’s why until very recently law firms (the traditional collective noun for a bunch of attorneys is “a conspiracy of lawyers,” did you know that? as with crows, where it’s “a murder of crows”) were required to be partnerships, so there was a check on abuses by the total mutual vulnerability to PERSONAL LIABILITY to the full extent of the various partners’ resources, as between the partners. That limited “growth,” the same way lymphocytes limit cancer, but in this imperfect world it also limited a lot of batshit bullshit crazy greedy destructive but oh so personally profitable stuff of the kind you see today. Where the entity form is now a LLP or LLC, Ls standing for “let them collectively out of jail free.”

    What does your man Ron Paul have to say about the virtues vel non of the personal-liability-limiting corporate form? It is not by any stretch of your imagination just a “left-wing hobbyhorse.” Put the notion of “incorporation” in front of a bunch of Bidnessmenandwomen and you get more salivating than Pavlov ever got ringing that bell for his dogs. It is an invitation to plain old evil. Ask yourself what happens to “whistleblowers” who dare, DARE, to shine a light on the actions of their employers, the few actions that the corporate money-piles have not lobbied out of actual or effective existence. The damn do-gooders end up dead, figuratively or literally.

    You sell the notion of the wonders of viruous bidnesspeople just “making free markets.” Maybe it might do you some virtuous good to at least take a bidness law course. and get a little of the flavor of how amorality works itself out in even the most carefully circumscribed “free marketplace.” You always have human nature to contend with. If you want to start from First Principles, maybe the earliest First Principle was knowledge of or belief in Free Will, followed by that question Cain asked God, “What? Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain’s spawn are alive and living in the Hamptons and the penthouses of the world.

  44. Fentex says:

    …flogging the nuke option with all these “there’s safe nuke technology” claims.

    There are perfectly safe Nuclear power plants, they just aren’t cost effective compared to burning high density carbon fuels.

    There are going to be a lot more nuclear energy plants in the worlds future as it’s unlikely engineering technology will provide sufficently large reliable energy sources (even though we know what sort of things we want to build) between now and some time after the supply of oil significantly dwindles.

  45. Rick Turner says:

    With solar at well under $3.00 a Watt why do we need to go with “safe nuclear”? And who says they’re safe? And where does the waste go? To some Al Quaida operative?

  46. Valerie Curl says:

    JP, I read your argument on my blog post. Frankly, it’s so full of holes, I’m surprised that someone of your obvious intelligence failed to see them.

    I’m awfully tired right now [long work day]…and get all my mental cylinders working in harmony. But tomorrow I’ll be able to show your economic errors. Meantime, think about a rigged game of Chess.

    ‘Night all. [yawn!]

  47. John Papola says:

    I look forward to your rebuttal, Val, with an open mind.

  48. Hugh says:

    Rick and McPhee, how can you so easily dehumanize and dismiss people? In all honesty I’m surprised at you both.

  49. Hugh says:

    Valerie and John,

    Hope you reconcile your dismalities. This is a really fun way for me to learn more about your Social Science. It’s pretty peculiar, honestly, but I guess it amounts to a lot. I wish you people were better at steering us from the shoals.

    Maybe someday.

  50. Hugh says:

    OK. So I invented the word, “dismality”. I hope the humor helps you two along. Economics tend to bring out the shy jester in me.

  51. Fentex says:

    As for this corporate “personhood” hobbyhorse that so many on the left like to ride, I don’t know enough about the REAL implications of what this alleged “personhood” ACTUALLY involves

    This is a confusing thing to hear from a self described libertarian because libertarian ideology should stand against the idea of corporate personhood.

    The libertarian ideal of personal freedoms and responsibility is undermined by corporate personhood that defuses responsibility among people making it impossible to affix responsbilities and denys the incentives for responsible behaviour libertarians expect.

    Who was to blame for Bhopal? The designers for underspecifying equipment, the maufacturers for building bad tanks, the management for underfunding maintenance, the engineers who overlooked flaws, the operators for over utilising equipment? Surely not someone named ‘Union Carbide’, because punishing that fictional identity lets the others go free.

    Even if a corporation is treated like a person in some contexts there are others it never can be treated as such – a corporation cannot be executed, it cannot be imprisoned as retribution, it’s victims can never take comfort in knowing it experiences (because corporations have no conciousness) regret or frustration in it’s cell.

    This reveals more reasons why people distrust libertarians – railing against an idea because it’s ‘left’ when the idea seems wholly consistent with professed libertarian ideology just leaves people suspicious, again, that libertarians are more motivated by expected personal priviledge from ownership of untrammeled corporate assets than their professed ideology of liberty.

  52. Fentex says:

    With solar at well under $3.00 a Watt why do we need to go with “safe nuclear”?

    That appears to be a price per watt capacity of a photovoltaic panel, it isn’t the cost per kilowatt hour of generating reliable power.

    One of the major problems the smaller scale, hopefully cleaner, power sources have is they don’t produce large amounts of power whenever you need it. The storage and regulation of power is a non-trivial problem.

  53. Hugh says:

    Prof. Taplin,

    The illustrative photograph you’ve employed. Were it to comprise Fox with the rest, I’d agree. They could throw in the sacred PBS and I wouldn’t surrender a bolus.

    Now you teach this kind of thing. In my opinion it’s important to teach rhetoric, communications, journalism–gawdawmighty, whatever we’re having to call it these days–but I return to the newspapermen, to their expressive efficiency and their principled fearlessness. They’re drowned now, and I fear that even the Journalism students are ignorant of them.

  54. Dan says:

    That photo sums up the problem. I think there are very few (as in virtually no) people who would agree that the other networks tell The Truth, while Fox tells Lies. But the Tea Partiers are largely in agreement with that sign. If Fox says it, it’s true. If it’s true, Fox says it. Fox = Truth.

    You can debate things with those people about as well as you can debate with Moonies or Star Trek nerds.

  55. Hugh says:

    That’s funny, Dan. Your Orwellian arithmetic.

    I’m a bit like Winston without Julia. I can’t find a dependable source. I mean, Jon calls them as he sees them–THANK GOD FOR THAT!–but otherwise I’m bloody hard-pressed for an earnest, hardworking source of what we used to call news (afterward, some sort of Frenchified nieuws, or nyooz, or something. I dunno where journalism went. Ask those bobbleheads on ABC. Or Shep Smith in his paisleys and pinstripes.)

    Seriously, Dan, the air is all let out. Something–I don’t know what–that Jobs and Gates did caused journalism to implode. We’re left with the Washington Post and the WSJ. Every other paper is either paper is dead or dying. I’m crestfallen. Honestly. I went to school with journalism scholarships, very thankfully. (Come think of it I owe a nod to the LAT on that account.). When I was a college editor, and then later worked for politicians, it was not only my pleasant practice but also my positive duty to read through five newspapers every morning. You have to wash the print off your hands following an exercise like that, excepting on account of the Journal, in those days printed on expensive book stock–a rather odd gesture for flinty Republicans.

    It was like the pulse of da Peeps, every day. On time. I remember when Chicago was still hot. Gawd, how they loved to shellac California. I don’t begrudge ’em. Wish they were going strong. But they’re not.

    Something very good is passing from our experience. Is it possible to fight? If so, I would do, after checking with my copy editor.

    For years and years, the most pleasant part of my job (I don’t drink coffee) was to unfold those compact compilations of intel. Every day! Trendspotting from LAT, hilarious columns from San Francisco and Chicago, and, from the NYT, the frickin’ Library of Congress.

    I’m just so sad to see them all going down. It’s a naval emotion, I guess. We all hate to see a craft sink.

  56. Josh says:

    The ongoing fascination with “safe” nukes is interesting. Have any of you looked at the safety records in France and Japan lately? No Chernobyls, sure. But plenty of small-scale leaks, dumping of cooling water, and hundreds of irradiated workers. Here is a small taste from BBC, noting what a crappy year 2008 was for French nuclear power plants:

    No doubt Cape Wind will not go perfectly. But a disaster there is on an entirely different scale…and one its developers should be able to pay for…

  57. Fentex says:

    The ongoing fascination with “safe” nukes is interesting. Have any of you looked at the safety records in France and Japan lately? No Chernobyls, sure. But plenty of small-scale leaks, dumping of cooling water, and hundreds of irradiated workers.

    These aren’t even the scary ones – the famous incident at Browns Bay where a lit candle used to test for air gaps in insulation started a fire that had nearly catastrophic effects, or the many, many errors at Windscale that caused the British government to rather pathetically change it’s name to Sellafield to try and obsfucate it’s history.

    Doesn’t really matter, because when people talk about safe nukes they aren’t being ‘fascinated’ by any illussion. There are, and have been for a long time, ways to build perfectly safe nuclear plants. They just involve a trade off in efficiency that makes them uncompetitive in a market that does not price environmental damage (another flaw in the untrammeled markets – people now will not roll future costs to others into their pricing).

    Besides which nukes aren’t that dangerous, especially if you’re enamoured of cost/price analysis. Again it’s another thing free market proponents ought be right behind because peoples fears of nukes are wildly exaggerrated by decades of outrageous fantasies about what radiation is and does.

    Even Chernobyl (which, as a total beside the point anecdote, I happened to ride on a bicycle holiday unknowingly through the the greatest reported concentration
    of fallout in western europe) hasn’t begun to do as much damage as an equivalent coal fired plant to the health of people – if you add up the entire chain of supply from mining, transport and pollution. Coal is much, much more vicious than nukes even when nukes have spills and fires.

    But today people price their fear of nukes more highly than they do the lives of coal miners, so coal looks cheaper to most.

  58. Josh says:

    I live in Chicago where an Exelon nuclear facility has poisoned a far suburban water system with tritium. They denied it for years. Eventually, when they could deny no more they began a campaign to minimize public perception of the damage and drinking water delivery.

    Fentex, I know, I know. That’s one of those old nukes. The new ones are much safer…

    …just like our deep sea oil rigs…

    And even if my concerns here are as unfounded as you are likely to say, rapid expansion of this technology is a nonstarter until you figure out an environmental sacrifice zone for the waste. If it can’t happen in the Utah desert, where can it happen? If nukes aren’t cost effective in our current system (and I agree that you are right in that regard), how on Earth can we afford the bunkered and shielded train system mentioned in a previous comment? And at that point, nukes simply won’t be able to compete with renewables which don’t have the inherent problem with potential annihalation.

    Don’t get me wrong. I actually think there might be a place for nukes. But the head in the sand rhetoric around the technology makes me crazy.

  59. Fentex says:

    The new ones are much safer

    Well, yeah modern designs are safer than older ones in so much they are designed with passive safety systems (they ought remain safe in the absence of operator intervention) but they aren’t completely failsafe.

    No one is making failsafe nukes, they aren’t cost effective. All current operational designs are susceptible to maintenance failures (though the latest generation of passive systems are orders of magnitude better than those built in the seventies).

    Even if the reactor is failsafe that doesn’t make pollution from ill handled run offs and waste dispersion go away so issues such as tritium pollution remain.

  60. MS says:

    One may hope that the libertarians will ‘spin off’ and halt the progress of the teabaggers.

    I’d also thought that the Reganites were loonies, and sadly, their notion of ‘government as enemy’ and ‘taxes as unfair’ have taken hold, leaving us all – starting with California -with no funds to take care of citizens.

    Post prop 13, California is now LAST in the amount pd per student, the vaunted university system is letting in double the number of out of state students for their higher fees.

    So much for services for citizens.

  61. John Papola says:

    First of all, the historical record on pollution and voluntary action is pretty good. There are ample documented examples of polluting firms working with those effected to capture the costs and reduce their pollution. The world was getting cleaner and cleaner long before there was an EPA. Common law and property rights work. See

    So this “unfettered markets lead to mass externalization of environmental costs” strawman is as based in disconnected theory as any libertarian utopia.

    Is it too much for us to want the government to refrain from aiding and abetting the externalization of costs onto taxpayers through corporate subsidies and bailouts? Look at the role government intervention has played in financial markets, agriculture and energy. In each case, they support and encourage bad behavior and then stand at the ready to bail out the inevitable failures with our money.

    This may indeed be “capitalism” where such a system is defined as “encouraging the accumulation of capital”. But that’s not the free market of voluntary civil society. I want the free market to kill capitalism.

    As for the so-called “teabaggers”, what is the deal? Why denigrate a large decentralized group? This is more class warfare nonsense and it really wreaks of fear. People have every right to be angry at what’s going on. We are in unprecedented times. This movement seems to be fairly narrowly aimed at our fiscal issues, which I see as a very positive step. The broad-strokes bashing of this movement is totally illiberal and wrong.

    And when I see articles like this, it makes me fear for our future too:

    We are looking into an unknown future of sovereign debt and fiat money expansion that is simply unprecedented. If you’re not scared, something’s wrong with you.

  62. Rick Turner says:

    John, “effected” or “affected”.

    And what the hell are you smoking these days? Effluent from Love Canal? It’s not affluence from Love Canal…

    The historical record on private firms polluting the public sector is utterly dreadful. I’ll bet you could find polluted groundwater within ten miles of your house. Try any gas station with leaky tanks. Try PG&E…did you read or see Erin Brockovich? How ’bout those coal mines? You like fly ash? The burning Cuyahoga River? Remember DDT? As in “Silent Spring”? or do you avoid books like that?

    John, I now see you not as uninformed, but as a bald faced liar. You’ve tipped your greasy fingered hand.

  63. Fentex says:

    The historical record on private firms polluting the public sector is utterly dreadful.

    Maybe, but if someone posits that the anecdotes seen in popular and widespread media (such as Erin Brockovich) are misleading because even if true they only highlight individual events rather than the total, and thinks to accompany that contention with some references ( it’s a little presumptious I think to proclaim it lies without checking a few facts.

    I visited that link curious to see what argument there was to support the idea that private action was successfully cleaning up the U.S before the EPA was established but didn’t find anything prominent. Perhaps JP could provide more detail?

    On a day in 1985 I came across a monitoring station under a bridge in Manheim that was displaying real time oxidation, acidity and similar measurements of the river Rhine the bridge crossed.

    It had a chart going back some twenty years of the measurements beside it and a poster explaining the history and public policy concepts about trying to clean the much abused river up.

    The results were pleasing, fish numbers were climbing and the overall health of the river improving. Some of the moves that encouraged this were simple regulations such as industrial intakes from the Rhine had to situated immediately downstream of their companion outflows – thus providing strong incentive for the outflows to be as clean as possible.

    It was a pleasant thing to find, it was encouraging information both about the future of the Rhine. Where fish had disappeared and it was considered unhealthy for people to enter (I had contemplated trying to swim the width of the Rhine but was discouraged more by the river traffic and impenetrable filth that would hide drifting threats than thoughts of disease) the fish were returning.

    In 1986 a pesticide spill in Basle Switzerland killed all the fish in the Rhine and set back it’s rehabilitation by years.

    It’s a big river, to clean it up took organizing the cooperation of many businesses and jurisdictions through several countries and it takes only one mistake to upset the result.

    Now I don’t think anecdote is strong evidence, but my experience leads me to be sceptical of claims that pollution which increased without regulation happened to decrease at the same time regulations were improved because the polluters reversed their effects and not because of improved regulation.

    It’s not entirely implausible that the increased ecological awareness that motivated the regulations also motivated private action through various associated mechanisms, it’s just not entirely credible that such was as effective as strong regulation.

  64. John Papola says:

    Wow. Greesy bald-faced liar, huh? Classy rebuttal.

    I didn’t day that private firms don’t pollute. What I said is that there is a history of private action to improve. I’ll dig up the links tomorrow, not that you really deserve respect after that childish, unjustified attack.

    I’ll do it for fentex.

  65. Rick Turner says:

    John, show me private action to improve on a significant basis that didn’t have either an outraged public (which is “the people” which is essentially government) or the threat or actuality of large lawsuits or actual official government action behind it. You’ll find very little other than some nice flower planting on a very local level.

    Show me a river in an industrial area that hasn’t been used as a sewer until the companies were made to clean up. Show me a smoke stack that got a scrubber added voluntarily to make the sky bluer. Show me a fly ash dump that isn’t a danger to the surrounding area. And on the local level, show me a gas station that has replaced a leaky tank without being required to do so.

    I’d love to see altruistic environmentalism on the part of private industry. I can only find it on a very local level. The industrial track record isn’t as good as might serve the devious minds of would-be social activist libertarians. It’s lies, more lies, and self delusion.

    And that’s how it really works. The Bush-leaguers keep promoting this illusion of freedom in order that those who think Libertarianism might be a good idea will vote for Republicans. It’s utterly misguided. The golden symbol of freedom that is the Lib idol has been co-opted by the right and has been twisted into a profit over people hegemony.

  66. John Papola says:

    “that didn’t have either an outraged public (which is “the people” which is essentially government) or the threat or actuality of large lawsuits”

    Um… both of these are private collective actions. They are consistent with a libertarian social order. I’m in no way opposed to either of these activist approaches. It’s just a shame that these groups often ruin their efforts by subjugating their role to an instantly-captured gang of state monopoly crooks. I love Erin Brockovich. She’s part of the solution. She’s not the regulatory state. She’s private collective action.

    Links to come.

  67. John Papola says:

    And no, the government is not “the people”. That’s nonsense. Too much aggregation.

  68. John Papola says:

    Quick case-in-point about government not being a useful proxy of “the people”: EPA is planning to go ahead and regulate CO2 even if our “democratic” process can’t get a bill passed.

  69. John Papola says:

    Listen. Read the transcript. Yandle is not a hack or a shill. He’s not even advocating a hardline, libertarian, end the EPA approach. He’s a serious scholar that has documented the history of common law, private collective action and property-rights solutions to pollution and externalities.

    All of these issues boil down to competition with local knowledge and aligned incentives vs. command-and-control central planning and monopoly of power that leads to corruption and capture.

    For example, the EPA REQUIRED catalytic converters to meet reduced emissions standards. Why? Because GM the American companies developed this expense solution while Honda had already improved their engine to a point where it complied with the new standard. The new standard put the American cars at a disadvantage, so the EPA forced Honda to raise their prices by adding a redundant, costly item.

    I want a cleaner world. I want an activist population that holds big companies accountable. Government monopoly doesn’t do that. Romantic ideas of a government that could do it if only we had the “right people” is ignoring the incentives and reality of a political monopolist.

    Now, let me go wash my “greesy” hands. (still trying to figure out if that was an Italian slur).

  70. Rick Turner says:

    My point, John, is that corporate profits ALWAYS seem to come first, and it takes damage…real human damage…to get the corporations to come around. You’d have us believe that there is altruism in the libertarian ideal. That companies clean up their messes voluntarily for the good of us all… It’s utter bullshit. They will always be out ahead of us figuring out how to screw us, poison us, or kill us, figuring that their free market profits will easily cover the expenses of fighting us…and besides, their legal bills are tax deductible, so we tax payers get to subsidize the corporate lawyer teams. It’s win/win for the corporations even when they lose. The game is rigged against us, and you Libertarians have this “small business and the free market will save the world” idealism without understanding the amorality that seems to be in the air in corporate boardrooms. John, and Morgan, I do believe that you two are moral crusaders unwittingly doing the work of virtually Satanic forces of the greater corporate world in which deaths, maimings, and loss of livelihood among the plebes is merely seen as a tax deductible cost of doing business.

  71. John Papola says:

    “You’d have us believe that there is altruism in the libertarian ideal.”

    People are altruistic. That’s reality. Altruism is a great, nobel thing. Altruism, by definition, can only be voluntary. Libertarian ideals are about VOLUNTARY action. They aren’t about some narrow concept of “self-interest”. You are setting up a strawman, Rick.

    ” They will always be out ahead of us figuring out how to screw us, poison us, or kill us, figuring that their free market profits will easily cover the expenses of fighting us…and besides, their legal bills are tax deductible, so we tax payers get to subsidize the corporate lawyer teams. “

    You are correct. Adam Smith understood this when he said that “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

    What you leave out of this is that everything above applies equally to politicians. Everything. No institution has killed more people than the state. It is the most murderous creature in human history. You compare business in the real world to government in a fantasy land. It is the same preposterous nirvana fallacy at the heart of Keynesian economics and marxism.

    Businesses are crooked because people are crooked. So is government. The difference is that business must attract a voluntary customer. They face competitive forces and creative destruction. Government doesn’t. It uses the gun. It IS the gun.

    So long as you talk about business as evil and government as a “regulatory” exogenous force, it is you who is living in the fantasy land.

    I totally agree with you that the system is rigged. I am equally disgusted that big corporations work with Big government to rig it. The historical record, especially recent financial history, points entirely in the direction of government being the primary maintainer of this relationship. The market wanted to kill most of these wall street firms with their toxic balance sheets. There was and is an army of smaller, better firms that could have stepped in. But greedy, crooked uncle sam stepped in to help his buddies. Obama brought in Geithner and Summers and Bernanke. Crook Dodd is leading the charge on empowering them further under false “reform”.

    I don’t understand how you can believe in the state after this. It’s cognitive dissonance in the extreme. People literally are the market. Government is not. If it were, it would have killed these firms. It wouldn’t have passed TARP.

    Speaking of cognitive dissonance, I’ll end with the ultimate example of it

    “We need to stand up to the special interests, bring Republicans and Democrats together, and pass the farm bill immediately,”– Barack Obama.

    Replace “Farm Bill” with any of the other boondoggles this president is trying to sell and you have the very definition of crooked, lying hypocrisy.

    Libertarians don’t believe that businesses are “good”. We believe that voluntary competition directs the bad so that it’s more likely to have a good outcome immaterial of intentions.

    Judging intentions is a fools game. It’s impossible and pointless. Actions speak louder.

  72. John Papola says:

    “John, and Morgan, I do believe that you two are moral crusaders unwittingly doing the work of virtually Satanic forces of the greater corporate world in which deaths, maimings, and loss of livelihood among the plebes is merely seen as a tax deductible cost of doing business.”

    Lastly Rick, I can’t really take you seriously. Sorry. I’m a good person. You don’t know me. Throwing around these insipid, infantile attacks just make you look small, angry and ignorant.

    Show me the angels, Rick. Where are you going to find them. How? You position is just so inherently, internally contradictory. “People are horrible, that’s why we need the rule of man”. It’s absurd on its face.

    But you’re not evil. You’re not working for satan. I’m sorry. I’m laughing just typing “working for satan”. It’s ridiculous. Grow up, dude.

  73. Rick Turner says:

    So let the corporations kill through negligence…can you say coal mine disaster and oil rig?…and then sue them? Is that the Libertarian ideal? Wait for another Chernobyl and then sue the company out of business because you don’t have the balls to regulate safety? How ’bout we do it some other way. If the CEO of a nuke plant won’t live next door to it, it’s probably not safe. If the boss of the coal company doesn’t go down in the mines at least once a week, it’s probably not safe. If the president of BP wants to know what’s really going on, maybe he should live on a platform several months of the year. These guys are so hands off that they have no idea what’s going on. Kill and pay off. Offer the Gulf Coast residents 5 grand to sign a no-sue document. I sure hope none were desperate enough to do so.

    Look, these guys are like Mafia dons…wonderful fathers and husbands to their trophy wives (unless caught doing the Tiger Rag…). They believe in their own stinkless shit. But good citizens of the earth they are not.

  74. Rick Turner says:

    The truth of the need for regulatory action is a tough one for a capitalist to deal with…

  75. John Papola says:

    “Wait for another Chernobyl”

    That’s right. Because Chernobyl is the product of a competitive, laissez faire economic order. Give me a break.

    You’ve still offered no answer from where these angels will come to rule us in benevolence.

    Do I need to remind you that I don’t believe in any government support for any of these firms? How do you answer for the fact that these enterprises get BILLIONS from the government in subsidies and special so-called “tax credits”.

    You want a government that cannot exist, Rick.

    Again, the problems of humanity apply to all of humanity, including government agents. There’s nothing special whatsoever about the “public sector”. It’s driven by just as much craven self interest as every other human endeavor.

    Google “nirvana fallacy” because that is the extent of your criticism. It’s the market (with oodles of regulation already, btw) compared to a fairytale notion of government intervention as “regulation”.

    The REALITY of government is that they subsidize oil companies, mandate and subsidize corn-based ethanol (the worst alternative fuel option) and commit countless other vile contradictions all out of the same grotesque self-interest you seem to believe only exists in the heart of mustache-twirls “businessmen”.

    You look to dishonest ideologues like Elizabeth Warren and praise her stated intentions. Meanwhile, this very administration is EMPOWERING Wall Street. They’re BANKROLLED by wall st. They ARE WALL ST!!!!

    Sorry Rick. You’re wrong. A freer market would have delivered more justice to Jamie Dimon than a powerful Fed or Chris Dodd. The facts are on my side. All you’ve got is hope for angels. Reality is here on earth.

  76. Fentex says:

    “that didn’t have either an outraged public (which is “the people” which is essentially government) or the threat or actuality of large lawsuits”

    Um… both of these are private collective actions. They are consistent with a libertarian social order

    The outraged public encouraging companies to clean up is obviously consistent with the libertarian ideal of markets at work, but lawsuits have enforceable laws as a prerequisite which presumes a legislature and coercive enforcement that isn’t neccesarily consistent with Libertarian ideals.

  77. Fentex says:

    so I went and read some of this guys tohughts, at

    This quote ends one of his articles…

    The only way we can preserve and nurture other and more precious freedoms is by relinquishing the freedom to breed, and that very soon. “Freedom is the recognition of necessity”–and it is the role of education to reveal to all the necessity of abandoning the freedom to breed. Only so, can we put an end to this aspect of the tragedy of the commons.

    The implications of that opinion will win few friends for his supporters.

  78. John Papola says:


    yeah, that’s a pretty gross view, though totally consistnt with the Malthusian left on the (false) concern about “over-population.

    It’s also not relevant to his historical work on voluntary and common law base environment progress.

    As for legal recourse inherently requiring a legal system… Sure. I don’t recall advocating anarchy and not all libertarians are anarchists (though some surely are). There is no state in heaven, but who cares. Even in an anarchist framework, Murray Rothbard laid out a concept of a competitive legal system. There are great benefits in joining a club based on shared rules. This is the nature of prite arbitration.

    In fact, since there is no enforced international law, many international trade dispute are handled (I believe) through mutually agreed private arbitration.

    In any event. The assumption of a legal system is not inconsistent with being against proactive, intervention by govenment agents. Societies develop rules. The best rules apoky to everyone. Discretion is opposite of rules and it the nature of government intervention. See the past two years for an example of the rule of man gone wild.

  79. Fentex says:

    Societies develop rules

    Once upon a time it was the strongest who made the rules, made themselves monarchs, invented religions to justify and quiet opposition.

    Today we struggle to create institutions to avod such direct priviledge but get gamed all the time.

    Does an advocate for libetarian philosophy have a suggested improved framework for how societies of hundreds of millions are to develope rules and law (better than ongoing horse trading by elected representatives)?

    What’s a policy to improve how the U.S does it now?

  80. Rick Turner says:

    What’s the Libertarian position on gun control? Use two hands?

  81. John Papola says:


    Federalism was a real advance. One could argue that it is America’s most important contribution to liberty (and hence it’s a maligned scourge of the progressive era).

    Competitive governance with an institutional/rules/priority bias toward local problem solving is a good goal that I think would be the right step toward more liberty. People should be able to move freely and choose the governance rules under which they’d like to live. That’s why I’m for no quotas or limits on immigration whatsoever. It’s a human right. And it’s good for liberty.

    Competition works. Rules that force self-interest politicians to fight with each other are good. It seems to me that the Senate was better as a body elected by state legislatures. That was good for federalism and the balance of power between the states and the fed.

    Let’s restore that. Get states invested in their local power and have a means to retain it.

    But there should be an institutional bias toward liberty in general, not “states rights” unto themselves. The Civil Rights Acts was a libertarian act even though it violated “states rights” or whatever.

    A balanced budget amendment to the constitution would be a win. Something needs to be done about public sector unions. They aren’t really unions at all. They’re just parasites. REAL unions don’t control the company purse strings. It’s a negotiation with real unions. In the public sector, it’s fraud. They pay off the politicians who then pay them back, all of it with our money. It’s pure theft and needs to stop. They are literally going to bankrupt the country at the state level. And with Federal employees now making more than the average private sector worker, the parasites are on the verge of killing the host.

    The number one policy change that would be a win for liberty is a shift in monetary policy. A gold standard with redeemable private notes appears to be the best solution. Hayek wrote about private fiat money, but I’m skeptical of that. Inflation is the greatest force of destruction in history. The booms and busts it creates lead to a crisis-leviathan ratcheting up in state control.

    End the war on drugs. That’s a huge one. We can do it. We must.

    Thats all for now.

    As for “gun control”… seems like a sham. Seems like more prohibitionist nonsense. Obviously the criminals don’t get their guns legally. If you’re worried about crime, end the war on drugs, don’t layer on more tyranny on the rest of us.

  82. Fentex says:

    Things like ending the war on drugs and re-adopting specie currency are policies of a governmnet but not policies about governance, which is what I was curious about.

    Federalism is however about the structure of governance, and I get the idea of cutting national governmnets purse strings and returning power to states, but that would still leave the question of how states would be governed.

    If the Republican model of elected representatives ends up with pork barrel politics and state intrusion in individual liberty how do libertarians suggest avoiding it?

    What I’m curious about is whether people advocating libetarian policies are developing a model for governance that protects the ideal from exploitation.

    Currently if a governmnet proclaims libertarian ideals what they likely mean is reducing the regulation of wealth without enforcing responsibilities (either directly or by allowing markets to do so – exactly the problem with ‘too big to fail and the bailouts).

    What form of governance would avoid libertarian ideology from being co-opted into a mask for theiving the public treasury?

  83. Rick Turner says:

    John, I for one am all for drug being de-criminalized if not fully legalized. But the fact remains that a preponderance of murders are of and by family and friends. I am, in fact, in favor of reasonable concealed carry permits. They should be harder to get than drivers’ licenses. Those on the “no fly” list should not be permitted to buy firearms of any kind. But for those like me…who live in what is actually a dangerous neighborhood and who had a friend murdered a couple of months ago by an asshole who knew what he did for a living…same stuff as me…I’d like a concealed weapon permit, and I’ll gladly take the courses and do the target shooting required to earn such.

    That said, I’m absolutely with Fentex’ questions about the subversion of lib thought and action by those whose greed knows no moral bounds.

    And my problem with Federalism is that we had a lot of “states’ rights” in the 1950s and earlier, and such rights seem to have been central in prolonging Jim Crow racism. I don’t trust the states in having that power.

    And our policies re. immigration are so totally fucked up that we have a Federal policy of doing nothing right and an Arizona policy of doing even worse by doing something wrong. We’re clearly in bed with the worst of Mexican high society. They want to export their excess population whom they will not employ in meaningful labor (Libertarians in Mexico?), and they’ve got their bought and paid for government working to do that export job.

    I don’t know who is worse down there…the Mexican aristocracy/oligarchy or the pope.

    Time to sterilize a bunch of people, if you ask me… And start at the top, not the bottom of that society.

  84. John Papola says:


    “What I’m curious about is whether people advocating libetarian policies are developing a model for governance that protects the ideal from exploitation.”

    I think you need to expand on your definition of “exploitation” in order for me to try and respond. I’m totally unqualified to represent the current collective state of libertarian political theory. Hayeks “Constitution of Liberty” was, I believe, his great effort to answer your question. I intend to read it. Big questions don’t get pithy answers of any real value.

  85. John Papola says:


    “Time to sterilize a bunch of people, if you ask me… And start at the top, not the bottom of that society.”

    See, Fentex. I told you that Yandle’s writing would appeal to progressive malthusians. Rick, I’m going to assume that’s a weird joke, because it’s scary.

    Federalism is value-neutral. Trying to smear it because of the 50’s is just that, a smear. It’s currently being used via the 10th amendment for nullification in cased of state Marajuana legalization because the vicious, fascism Federal policy is out of control. Tom Woods is about to release a book documenting the use of nullification that should be very interesting. On balance, it sounds like Federalism been a force for liberalism.

    But as I said “States Rights” aren’t the point. Competitive government aimed at preserving HUMAN rights is the point. Constructing a governance that always biases towards human rights is our challenge.

    I don’t even understand what you’re trying to say with the Mexican jab. I honestly don’t think you understand what a libertarian is. You’ve got some truly cockeyed mutant vision in your head.

    And finally…

    Who isn’t in the group defined: “by those whose greed knows no moral bounds.”

    By any account, the political class falls entirely into this category. Look at these people. Look at Chris Dodd. Charlie Rangel. Dick Cheney. You name it. They are undeniably driven by craven self interest. It’s even worse than a greedy businessman, because these crooks STEAL their means (unless the businessman is working with them to do it, in which case, they are one-in-the-same). So is the arm of parasitic public sector unions. Just look at the violence erupting in Greece as their utterly unsustainable parasitic state is forced to deal with reality. Look at the protests that occur in France by welfare recipients seeking even more benefits.

    Repulsive greed that knows no boundary in morality finds no boundary in the state.

    So, one more time… where are you going to find the angels that will operate this powerful “regulatory” state you seem to desire? Democracy isn’t finding them, especially in an age when almost half of the population pays little to no net taxes and votes based on who promises the most free goodies.

    Show me the angels, Rick. Until then, I’ll remain more convinced that the Butcher and Baker are best left competing with each other to serve me lunch then competing for patronage from a regulator.

    Believing that “greed” is our problem is like blaming airplane crashes on gravity.

  86. Fentex says:

    expand on your definition of “exploitation”

    Politics as practiced in the U.S is a lot of horse trading between elected representatives that use public money taken in tax or directed by regulation to fund their deals.

    This seems to inevitably produce outcomes distateful to Libertarian ideology because those representatives leverage state coercion in their dealing. Libertarians demand removal of state coercion.

    I’m curious if people arguing for libertarian policies in government work on answers to peoples objections that address how what they want can be made to work without the evils opponents expect to arise being encouraged.

    When libertarian argument acknowledges the need for organised laws and enforcement it begs the question of how a demand for an absence of coercion is consistent with the recognition of a need for social institutions enforcing laws.

    In the absence of a new way to select, refine and implement social contracts and law the selective adoption of Libertarian ideals appears to most to be exploiting the theory to be selfish and destructive of society by withdrawing from the established system and not providing a working replacement.

    I’m not talking about simple policies any governmnet, coercive or not, can adopt (less taxation, less war fare, less corporate subsidy, freer immigration etc), I’m talking about how to reorganize social representation so that state coercion is minimised according to libetarian ideals.

    People don’t believe that implementing libetarian theory in the U.S today will work because the U.S isn’t organised to assign responsibility as the theory dictates. So when taxes are dropped, regulation removed, the wealthy enjoy the benefits but do not feel the desired market pressures to be responsible because the existing power structures protect them (‘to big to fail’, bailouts et al).

    I feel that were I to go out into the world and argue for an ideology I thought would improve the lives and opportunities of my fellow citizens that I would need to be able to describe how it could be realised in response to scepticism.

    The answer that “if it were like this (free markets, individual liberty and responsibilty free of non-financial coercion) we would be better off” doesn’t convince people who see it stop short of “and here’s how we make that happen”.

  87. John Papola says:


    Honestly, my personal belief, and maybe it’s just my own personal hobby horse, is that sound money is the only good foundation for a free society. Inflation and monetary tinkering is the ultimate enabler of big government and corporate bailouts.

    I’m home with the family, but I do want to try and address your thoughtful question with more depth. I will try.

    In the meantime, let me put it back at you. The utopian belief that government will act in the interest of the “public good” leads progressives to advocate all manner of power for the state. That power is demonstrably used in the self-interest of politicians and their cronies and NOT for the goals that progressive reformers hope. Look at the Fed. It’s a tool of the establishment. So is the FTC and the regulatory machinery.

    So the flipside of your question is: how can progressives build a regulatory state that isn’t instantly captured (or designed from the outset) to be a tool of powerful corporate interests? Given the balance of power in the past 100 years, I would argue that the onus is on progressives to answer this question moreso than for libertarians. The state has been powerful for a long time… and that power has been widely seen as captured and abused for the entire duration (save for the fallacious nostalgianomics that the 50’s and 60’s was some magical era).

  88. Fentex says:

    The utopian belief that government will act in the interest of the “public good” leads progressives to advocate all manner of power for the state.

    I deny the premise.

    A part of democratic election is making the overthrow of onerous government routine and non-destructive.

    A person supporting regulation does not require a utopian belief that governnment be perfect but may be satisifed with the regular opportunity to refine it.

    But don’t confuse me with a person who calls themself a Progressive and wishes to defend an ideology. I think Progressive is an attempt by Socialists to avoid being labelled Communists in the U.S. (by Socialist I mean the Social Democrat variety common around the world and not the one party state sort described in Communist manifestos, so it’s no insult for Progressives in the U.S to try and avoid the confusion).

    I don’t think ideologies work. I think they are a demand that the world constrain itself to a persons design and satisy their wishes.

    I think principle is important because of the integrity of each principle and not it’s service to an ideology.

    And principles must be weighed against each other in context. That one should not kill is sensitive to threats to ones life.

    So when I discuss politics my interest is in the straining of principles against each other, not advocacy of ideology.

    Thus I’m interested in policy and how I can measure principles enacted, not litmus tests of ideological conviction.

    I think the U.S is behind the curve in how it organizes it’s democratic institutions, but I’m poorly placed to argue the point. I think Proportional Representation would improve the U.S citizens lot considerably.

    how can progressives build a regulatory state that isn’t instantly captured

    How can anybody protect their plans from subversion by the powerful? It’s that exact question that people have for Libertarians.

    Given that the powerful will act to subvert any state for their own interests why should people trust a state designed to represent them less (as they identify Libertarian options)?

    Building strong institutions seems to many to buffer against the weak suffering at the hands of the strong by putting their political wealth on par with others cash wealth.

    Think of votes as cash and elections as the market. The masses buy insurance against the rich, why do you argue against this economy?

  89. John Papola says:

    It’s all about the scope of choice and alignment of the chooser with responsibility. The sham of “democracy” In America is that massive swaths of our government are utterly unresponsive to it. The state is too large, it’s scappe is too all encompassing and the amount of people it purports to serve is preposterous.

    We have one nationally elected figure, the President. He’s treated like the commander of everything but in practice cannot be even a tiny fraction of that. He man an executive branch that is so enormous it would take two terms just to truly familiarize and restaff it and which is charged with executing a US code that is 26 feet long on small print.

    One election every four years based on looks and empty speeches is a pathetic excuse for accountability to such a machine. it is a top down mess where the election changes the top but the institution’s size and inertia make that change all hut irrelevent.

    Never mind the unaccountable, unelected federal reserve which makes a complete mockery of our so-called democracy.

    Meanwhile, the private social order decisions are made by the millions with individual agency and accountability. Do people and markets fail? Of course. But failure in private life results in change.

    So I reject your leaning against democracy as
    am answer. It’s insufficient. It’s a failure at this level. I’m not saying do away with democracy. I’m saying that it’s unfit for this kind of government at this soW and scope. We need smaller government serving fewer people.

    That gets us back to federalism which is how I stumbled into being a regular here. The US had a great concept in competitive governance. It’s dying. We need it back.

    As a policy matter, nullification under our 10th amendment sounds like a good way to go. Again, repealing the 14th amendment would be good too, which would result on Senators being appointed by state legislatures. Supermajority in the senate is a good thing as well, though it is always demonized by those in power. There’s nothing better than seeing the current leadership scorn supermajority now only to see the clips in which they praise it as essential to our republic when they were not in power.

    Your concerns about tradeoffs, constraints and policy are good. They’re the right approach. I’m not arguing from a position if ideology as a team-sports game. I argue for principles because they are what I believe and becuase they are anfairly small set of concepts with wide applicability.

  90. Fentex says:

    I’ve always thought that size, er, matters in democracy. I think my own nation benefits from it’s small scale and the U.S suffers.

    In a big country governments disburse huge amounts through complex heirarchies making the reward for subverting their budgeting both large and easier to obsfucate.

    Not so easy to hide in a small jurisdicion – especially because citizens being actually closer to the government feel closer to the budget and it’s abuses more personally.

    So I’m personally supportive of shrinking the U.S federal government in favour of the states, but again I live at a remove that leaves me ill suited to consider such details of U.S politics.

  91. John Papola says:

    Then we are in agreement.

    The American federal government is too big to succeed. Too big and too remote from the issues and people it claims to serve.

    Here’s a great signal which, as an advertising guy, I personally appreciate. Watch election ads in the states. The more local the election, the more the ads focus on issues that actually affect your life. That sounds tautological, but there’s important knowledge in that date.

    What causes so many on the left pause about Federalism is the memory of “states rights” as an argument for localized tyranny and segregation. I understand that concern. The problem is that the empowerment of the Federal government may in one instance overturn a state tyranny, only to later impose a federal tyranny using that very same power. At least state tyranny can be escaped. People can move with relative ease in the US. That’s voting with your feet. I see that as a potent regulatory force against state tyranny, and we’re seeing it happen in the bankrupt, progressive disasters of California, New York and New Jersey.

    But the more we grant to the Feds, the less we can vote with our feet and thus the less responsive our political institutions at the state level become.

    New Deal progressives love the Feds because they are a big redistribution and social engineering engine with deep pockets. That’s obvious. But the costs of such systems are making themselves plainly apparent in Europe now. Societal stability demands an institutional arrangement that isn’t corrosive to private incentives. Socialism is just that, so it may start with a zero-sum redistribution of resources but it ends with a decline and death spiral as incentives break down and entitlement grows.

    Back to federalism, we can have the states as laboratories. Massachusetts has tried Obamacare already, for example. It’s a failure. It’s an inflationary disaster that’s bankrupting the state. So while it may have increased coverage in the short term, it’s headed for major pain for those dependent on state aid in the long term. Federalism makes it so that you can move to New Hampshire or Montana or Colorado to enjoy a freer system of governance and escape Obamacare Jr.’s failure. But federal Obamacare will be inescapable.

    That’s the best I can do for now. Democracy has limits. We should work to understand and respect them, rather than lazily idolizing this means as if it is an ends.

Leave a Reply