Community versus collectivism

Community and collectivism are opposites. Community is valuable and powerful; it is individuals freely choosing to cooperate and identify with each other to achieve more than they can individually, as we do in the open-source community.

Collectivism is a fraud. It pretends to be about community, but it is actually about the use of force. Collectivists want us not only to bow to their desire for power over others, but to thank them for coercing us and praise them as our moral superiors.

Compassion is a duty of every individual. Groups of people organizing voluntarily to achieve compassionate ends are deserve admiration and support. Collectivists pervert compassion, speaking the language of caring but committing the actions of criminals.

It is a crime to rob your neighbor. It is a crime to use your neighbor for your own ends without allowing him or her a choice in the matter. It is a crime to deprive your neighbor of his liberty when he or she has committed no aggression against you.

These crimes are no less crimes when a sociopath (or a politician – but, I repeat myself) justifies them by chanting “for the poor” or “for the children” or “for the environment”. They do not cease to be crimes just because a majority has been conned into voting for them. The violence is just as violent, the victims just as injured, the harm done just as grave.

Valid ethical propositions do not contain proper names. What is criminal for an individual to do is criminal for a community to do. Collectivists are not the builders of community, as they pretend, but its deadliest enemies – its corrupters and betrayers. When we fail to understand these simple truths, we board a train to genocide and the gulags.

(This was originally a comment I left on Google+)

252 thoughts on “Community versus collectivism

  1. Regarding the so called “moral superiority” of the collectivists, a friend of mine put it best: “As soon as I hear the words ‘Higher Moral Purpose’, I know you’re fucking somebody.”

  2. So was there a point to this post other than to achieve a bit of pithy-sounding rhetoric? You seek to invent your own category of people (“collectivists”), and redefine community to fit your own ideology. This is of course followed by a bunch of assertions about “collectivists”, including the supposed fact that if we don’t buy into your ideology then we’re on the road to totalitarian government. Sounds like religion to me.

  3. @Roger Phillips

    It’s to clarify terminology. A favorite tactic of the enemy is to pervert language. Thus we get gems like “gun control” and “collective rights”.

  4. The word “collectivist” is not some neologism that esr invented just now, Roger.

    The difference between “collectivism” and “community,” at least in my mind, is that collectivism seeks to promote the goals and rights of the collective over the rights of the individual, while “community” is exactly the opposite — it seeks to promote the goals and rights of the community’s individual members, sometimes even at expense to the community itself.

  5. Morgan: And that is a definition that comes out of your ideology, not language usage. A community that restricts or redistributes, for example, property rights is still a community. All communities have restriction, and this is nothing more than an attempt to appropriate the term community for specific world views.

  6. >It’s to clarify terminology. A favorite tactic of the enemy is to pervert language.

    Inkstain has this exactly right. It is what I was thinking as I wrote; I’m trying to undo the perversion of language that serves the enemy so well.

  7. >A community that restricts or redistributes, for example, property rights is still a community.

    It is a community that has been perverted by collectivists. That was the point of my OP.

  8. It is a community that has been perverted by collectivists. That was the point of my OP.

    This shows how ignorant and ideological you are Eric. A very sad point of view for someone of your age.

  9. @esr
    +1

    @The Cob
    +1

    @esr:
    Even if collectivists did not betray the community, they would still destroy it, because they take away the mechanism by which a community communicates with itself.
    The right of exit provides checks on a community that gives it feedback at the margin. Collectivists often claim that voting would provide the necessary checks, but it does not. It isn’t sensitive enough as the information from voting comes from various variables measured at the median; its completely insensitive to marginal changes. Furthermore, voting doesn’t measure strength of convictions, exit does measure them.

    This

  10. Even if collectivists did not betray the community, they would still destroy it, because they take away the mechanism by which a community communicates with itself.

    If that is your definition of “collectivist” then the term is irrelevant in the United States at the federal level, since you have the right to leave the country.

  11. @ Roger Phillips
    The us has very high barriers on leaving. For example, we are the only country that charges taxes on overseas income, and has special taxes when someone renounces citizenship.

  12. The us has very high barriers on leaving. For example, we are the only country that charges taxes on overseas income, and has special taxes when someone renounces citizenship.

    I hadn’t considered taxation. However, the United States was only an example. It is indeed troubling if the US seeks to limit freedom of movement. I doubt the OP is made with regards specifically to the right to leave the United States.

  13. @Roger Phillips
    When the whole of the available real estate has been taken over by collectivists of various sort, your right to leave becomes purely theoretical.

  14. When the whole of the available real estate has been taken over by collectivists of various sort, your right to leave becomes purely theoretical.

    So they’re only collectivists because there’s not enough space elsewhere?

  15. If that is your definition of “collectivist” then the term is irrelevant in the United States at the federal level, since you have the right to leave the country.

    Sure. Renunciation of citizenship is about as easy as jumping off of the planet.

    A person wishing to renounce his or her U.S. citizenship must voluntarily and with intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship:

    appear in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer,
    in a foreign country (normally at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate); and
    sign an oath of renunciation

    Renunciations that do not meet the conditions described above have no legal effect. Because of the provisions of section 349(a)(5), Americans cannot effectively renounce their citizenship by mail, through an agent, or while in the United States. In fact, U.S. courts have held certain attempts to renounce U.S. citizenship to be ineffective on a variety of grounds, as discussed below.

    Source: http://travel.state.gov/law/citizenship/citizenship_776.html

  16. Funny/Strange how Roger and esr are around the same elephant, yet tend to describe them quite differently. However, the elephant I’m observing looks a lot more like esr describes.

  17. A problem with social contract theories that allow taxation (and other forms of institutionalized conscription) in the name of some collective good is that they purport to bind people not yet able to participate in the decision-making process (future generations). This is especially pernicious when future resources are allocated for current consumption through government debt and deficit spending. Generational indentured servitude is incompatible with personal liberty, and it’s just one of the milder consequences of collectivist philosophies.

  18. @Roger Phillips

    “All communities have restriction”

    Yes, but “restriction” does not necessarily equate to “Men With Badges And Guns”.

    One of the identifying characteristics of collectivism is the failure to distinguish between transactions and relationships entered into freely by all the players from those imposed upon one or more participants by force. Collectivists see certain things as good, and increasing the distribution of those good things is even better. It follows then that using the power of government to better distribute good is about the best thing possible.

    People do not need to be coerced into doing something they believe will benefit them, so voluntary communities enhance the condition of their members, making them healthier, wealthier, and/or happier. Voluntary transactions leave each party with more value (as that individual measures value) than before the transaction, but coerced transactions can leave one or more parties with less value. Collectivists either are either unaware of this difference, or give it less weight than The Greater Good* they expect to achieve with their schemes.

    I say “expect to achieve” because it’s nearly guaranteed that they won’t actually reach their goal: Because coerced transactions so often leave people worse off, they act to avoid the coercion. Tax rate increases never bring in as much money as their proponents project via their “static analysis”, which fails to take into account that behavior is changed by the rate modification. But somehow this never deters the collectivist. They double down and insist that they just need a little more of the original policy to get to the goal. But raising tax rates or regulatory complexity further leads to even more coercion-avoidance on the part of the productive people who are expected to somehow find a way to survive with ever-greater burdens upon them.

    If this sounds like what happens when a star runs out of hydrogen in its core, and starts fusing helium, then runs out of helium, … at each stage the returns diminishing until it’s producing iron and no more energy can be wrung out of fusion… it’s because it’s a similar process, leading to the economic equivalents of supernovae, nebulae, white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes.

    _____
    *In addition to “Greater Good” and “Higher Moral Purpose”as Inkstain noted, I add the adjective “Social” as a red flag indicating that the word that follows is being negated:

    “Social Security” is insecure.
    “Social Justice” is injustice.

  19. Also, US government housing subsidization (of housing ownership not rental) increases barriers to movement, by attempting to tie people to their land.

    Many zoning laws prohibit construction of new housing which increases barriers to movement (slightly).

    Also, you can move then have your land taken over again, as many people who left incorporated cities for the unincorporated countryside found out to their dismay.

    Also, the NLRB can (and does) block a companies from moving to a different state.

    These are just a few examples on how government attempts to restrict movement, but there are many.

  20. It’s not ‘community vs. collectivism’, it’s community and collectivism. Any viable community has to be a mixture of both. The argument is generally about, ‘How much of each do we need in order to solve this particular problem?’ Sometimes individual people simply have to be drafted for the sake of the community, as in wartime. We vote, and the minority becomes bound by the will of the majority, with the Bill of Rights there to keep this process from getting out of hand. It’s coercion, but it’s necessary.

    A problem identified by earlier commentators is the one where a small group thinks that they have the keys to societal happiness, and we all should obey them for our own good. We need a strong enough society to coerce them back, good and hard. The collectivist police and the collectivist army exist for good reasons.

    One final note on those who complained about the barriers to leaving the United States for good. Hey! My grandparents really worked hard to leave the places where they were born and come here. It’s not too much to expect you go through the trouble of buying a plane ticket and filling out some forms. If you want to go, good riddance!

  21. @LS
    “A problem identified by earlier commentators is the one where a small group thinks that they have the keys to societal happiness, and we all should obey them for our own good. We need a strong enough society to coerce them back, good and hard. The collectivist police and the collectivist army exist for good reasons.”

    Wow, there is so much fail here.
    The “small group thinks that they have the keys to societal happiness” usually ends up working in the system and using the police. The police don’t stop them from coercing you. The police work FOR them.

  22. @esr
    “It is a community that has been perverted by collectivists. That was the point of my OP.”

    I agree with Roger Phillips: There exist no community that has no restrictions. And there is no community that does not enforce their restrictions, one way or another.

    Your definition of community is empty. Search history on every population in the world, and every group that deserves the name of community (they actually lived together in some organized fashion) had rules it enforced.

    There was some American that said “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” And he was right. As certain as people died over history, they paid taxes. Tax either in kind (work and time) or as money. If there were no formal laws, there were informal rules which were just as zealously guarded.

    So, this collectivism in the OP is just political posturing. As you write it down, it just is empty rhetoric.

  23. Once again, the dissenting comments are primarily driven by ad hominems.

    Winter:
    “Your definition of community is empty. Search history on every population in the world, and every group that deserves the name of community (they actually lived together in some organized fashion) had rules it enforced.”

    1. Is/ought fallacy. ESR is discussing “ought” right now.
    2. So you are, by your own fiat, definitionally ruling out the example of the open-source community, who often have very interdependent livelihoods?

    “There was some American that said “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” And he was right. As certain as people died over history, they paid taxes. Tax either in kind (work and time) or as money. If there were no formal laws, there were informal rules which were just as zealously guarded.”

    This is just lunacy. Are you attempting some sort of “argumentum ad bon mot” here? But then, it IS a popular belief that the more “elegant” something is, the more likely it is to be true…

  24. Winter:
    I agree with Roger Phillips: There exist no community that has no restrictions. And there is no community that does not enforce their restrictions, one way or another.

    The difference is between communities that enforce restrictions based on non-violent coexistence and voluntary cooperation vs. collectives that enforce a group right to co-opt the time and possessions of individuals at the whim of some smaller decision-making unit whether it’s a majority or a ruling elite. From the perspective of an individual the enforcement activities in the former are rights-preserving while those in the latter are rights-destroying.

  25. Generational indentured servitude is incompatible with personal liberty, and it’s just one of the milder consequences of collectivist philosophies.

    You erroneously conflate collectivism and taxation with government debt. One can have strong “collectivist” leanings and believe the government should balance its books.

    Yes, but “restriction” does not necessarily equate to “Men With Badges And Guns”.

    Okay, “men with spears”. Collectivist societies have survived tens of thousands of years without any of the issues you present even being relevant.

    productive people

    Another special category. So now we have “collectivists” versus the poor “productive people” who are being drained by taxation. Maybe the Us has a culture of welfare laziness. I don’t know, since I don’t live there. Almost everyone who can work does work in Australia, and yet we have an arguably more collectivist system than yours. Our citizens have more money invested per person than any other country, because we have a “collectivist” enforced savings policy. I think this policy has its dangers, but simply being “collectivist” does not factor into my judgment. Arguably, this policy protects individual freedom by enhancing the solvency of the government and preventing the paying out of welfare to people who don’t bother saving for retirement. I hope you can see your dichotomies are inventions of your own mind and not a basis for categorical thinking.

    Voluntary transactions leave each party with more value (as that individual measures value) than before the transaction

    Only in your rationalistic model of humanity does this idea of “value” have any usefulness. People get ripped off all the time, fraud or not.

  26. @The COB
    “The difference is between communities that enforce restrictions based on non-violent coexistence and voluntary cooperation”

    And these exists where? Not some community that can go to the police when thing go wrong, but a people/nation/tribe that lived independently according to your rules.

    @esr
    “ESR is discussing “ought” right now.”

    Fine, then I would say that extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. Have there ever been communities that could live purely on voluntary non-violent cooperation?

    I know there have been. Hunter Gatherers have such tribes or groups. Their capital punishment was ostracism (expelled with force). Which was, indeed, the death penalty at the time. So even these hunter gatherers have rules they enforce. And if you do not like them, you could find another tribe, with other rules.

    In short, all communities have rules they enforce. And there is little room to go elsewhere if you don’t like them. As elsewhere, there will be enforced rules too.

    Any “ought” should be humanly possible. And I have serious doubts that this completely non-violent voluntary community that does not use force to enforce their rules is beyond the human possibilities. Sad but true. (I do not have to like reality)

  27. From the perspective of an individual the enforcement activities in the former are rights-preserving while those in the latter are rights-destroying.

    Therein lies the crux of the argument. You choose to redefine “community” to suit your individualist outlook. It’s a myth that man started out libertarian and was later corrupted by the apple of collectivism.

    Look, I don’t think the government should be allowed to run roughshod all over people’s lives and businesses. I think you should be able to reap the benefits of running a business or working for someone else’s business. That’s my opinion, and I’m sure there are some people who disagree. However “freedom” (even in a modern, individualistic sense) doesn’t equate with no taxes, or even flat taxes or any other libertarian pipe dream. Trade has been regulated virtually for the entirety of its existence.

  28. Mr. Raymond: every day, you use and rely on technology incubated by DARPA, the University of California, MIT as funded by the US Department of Defense, and other capital outlays for basic research that no modern company would even dream of funding. You use an operating system created by a former Finland resident whose childhood and University education were aided and funded by the Finland social system.

    Every day you rely on public services, such as ground transportation (including associated traffic and laws) and water systems where decisions were made by social constructs for society at large. And they work.

    Every day you live a life in which you were born without your consent into a society and location without the consent of you or anyone else in this world. You will likely die without your consent. Your very existence creates impacts on other people and the shared world environment — both positive and negative — in terms of resources consumed and eliminated.

    Every day we live in a world with no sustained libertarian society in the world, There will never be a sustained libertarian society in the world for the simple reason that, like communism, it is based on a fantasy and not the reality of human behavior and interaction. In Japan after the tsunami, there was little looting because of relative wealth and collective resources, strong social institutions and laws (such as automatic rewards for found money and lost items), not individual compassion. In Haiti, looting was prevalent for precisely the opposite reason. The very reliance on the “duty of compassion” as a postulate for libertarian society alone makes it a fantasy as it disregards the empirical evidence of human behavior.

    Sometimes I think libertarianism is so appealing to geeks and introverts precisely because they don’t naturally grok how social groups work. Hence they don’t trust society and seek as simple a social order as possible (individual to individual), despite the fact that humans act in groups and collectives naturally. But it is fantasy, not a practical method of governing the interactions of the 6+ billion people of this earth.

  29. “The “small group thinks that they have the keys to societal happiness” usually ends up working in the system and using the police. The police don’t stop them from coercing you. The police work FOR them.”

    @Doc Merlin: That is NOT a small group. That’s our government. We elected them. You don’t agree with them, you think they are riding rough-shod over your rights and are stealing from you, etc. Too bad. Convince a majority to change government policies and elect different people and they will stop. Otherwise, it will go on. Too many of this blog’s commenters think that they speak for a large majority of the people. They are wrong.

    The small group I was talking about are the purveyors of Marxism/Socialism. It’s a religion much like militant Islam, with its own jihadists. We can deal with them.

  30. I’m going to go with Roger and Winter here. The New Libertarian Man is a harmful myth. The New Soviet Man was much worse. But both deny the essential nature of people. We aren’t brown bears or ants. We are a rule making and rule enforcing species.

    Yours,
    Tom

  31. @Tom DeGisi:

    “I’m going to go with Roger and Winter here. The New Libertarian Man is a harmful myth. The New Soviet Man was much worse. But both deny the essential nature of people. We aren’t brown bears or ants. We are a rule making and rule enforcing species.”

    This is a (probably unintentional) strawman.
    Ancaps and libertarians aren’t against /rules/ they are against rules that initiate force.

  32. I think the definition of community by ESR is correct Roger insist in deny but its his rigth. I agree most of the time The community sense of pertinence through the history not always has been done by freely chosen.
    The sense of moving freely from countries if your fatherland don’t satisfy your expectation is relative new (thanks tourism)

    After the falling of Communism in the 80 the political activist take banner for other activities in order to promote his *Utopic* idea of Community for example Ambientalist (Ecologist), and some social workers that pretend to protect the people with no look in our society, feminist (island is free of striptease dance and prostitution)

    For example an argument to stop any change about any political view Market, Political Freedom, Economic Freedom in Cuba is show statistics for example of nutritiousness in children, Cuba is free of children desnutrition so loose some economic and political freedom is allow.

    In the Ecologist side protect ‘our only one Ship’ allows the State to restrict freedoms (New house Construction, birth control, raise taxes, limit land, extend Estate Protected Areas )

    So I think the way Ecologist, Social Scientist , Unions Elites are working against the sense of community in the classic liberal or libertarian way of thinking (Say thank you to the wall falling).

    But I also believe American society has already leave these way for his own for example for me is unbelievable that some states of the Union act against prostitution, most markets are hard regulated.

    Army is allow if it defend the people but outside the US most armies are used against his own population Latinamerica is an special example

  33. Hmmm. How are these rules that don’t initiate force enforced? Most places go with police and courts paid for by taxes. Taxes required by rules that initiate force. I’m going to go with the idea that most places do it this way because it’s what works best for actual, not theoretical, human beings.

    Yours,
    Tom

  34. Productive individuals frequently desire a community to reside within, because this allows them the freedom to pursue their interests while also providing access to community resources (such as a voluntary labor pool). Collectivists, on the other hand, tend to value government about all else and seek power as an end in itself. In this way, should a collectivist discover that he/she is unproductive, then they can resort to the power of government in order to confiscate the wealth of others and ensure their survival, an acceptable standard of living, and continued dominance. Productive Individuals and unproductive collectivists cannot coexist in extremis.

  35. Roger tells us, “It’s a myth that man started out libertarian and was later corrupted by the apple of collectivism.”

    Were you there, sir?

  36. They do not cease to be crimes just because a majority has been conned into voting for them.

    Nor do they cease to be crimes just because a majority, no matter how large, voted for them of its own fully-informed free will. That just makes the majority willing accomplices in the crimes that they voted for.

  37. My understanding was that esr’s preferred vision of society was one where the community’s restrictions are literally “enforced by men with guns”.

    Here’s a reductio, loosely based on Sen’s takedown of Nozick:

    Suppose some syndicate, through a long series of voluntary transactions, manages to acquire property rights to the entire planet. The syndicate charges every child born in this scenario rent equalling one lifetime’s labour. Has the syndicate done anything morally wrong?

  38. ‘Suppose some syndicate, through a long series of voluntary transactions, manages to acquire property rights to the entire planet. The syndicate charges every child born in this scenario rent equalling one lifetime’s labour. Has the syndicate done anything morally wrong?’

    Suppose by hard work and dedication I happen to eat the entire moon.

    Your example is absurd, because of how markets work, no one can own the entire pie, it just doesn’t work that way.

  39. @Winter

    Their capital punishment was ostracism (expelled with force). Which was, indeed, the death penalty at the time.

    If you cannot see the difference between

    1) Ejecting someone from the group and allowing them to either fend for themselves or find some other group to join for the benefits thereof

    2) Physically causing someone fatal injury, drowning, suffocation, etc

    then it is pointless to discuss the matter further with you, as you’ve moved the goalposts out of the stadium and into orbit.

  40. Go back and read what Eric wrote. Wherein did he say that communities had no rules, and did not exclude people for violating those rules?

    THINK, people, THINK. I know it’s hard, but please put up the effort. You will be richly rewarded.

  41. There is a relevant book to this subject, written by (in my view) the finest political anthropologist alive, James C. Scott, who is at Yale when he’s not in the field. His book is “The Art of Not Being Governed,” and is an investigation of the stateless peoples of Southeast Asia. Just as much, it is an investigation of the strategies used by tyrants to rule peoples, following on Scott’s earlier book “Seeing Like a State.”

    I highly recommend it, not least for its discussion of how intensive grain agriculture is linked to tyranny and the state project, as well as the role of slavery.

  42. “Libertarians are selfish.

    News at 11.”

    Collectivists are generous…with other people’s money. News at 11.

  43. From Wikipedia

    Collectivism is any philosophic, political, economic or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of every human in some collective group and the priority of group goals over individual goals.

    From the OP:

    It is a crime to rob your neighbor. It is a crime to use your neighbor for your own ends without allowing him or her a choice in the matter. It is a crime to deprive your neighbor of his liberty when he or she has committed no aggression against you.

    These crimes are no less crimes when a sociopath …. justifies them by chanting “for the poor” or “for the children” or “for the environment”. They do not cease to be crimes just because a majority has been conned into voting for them. ”

    And here a comment that seems to sum up the underlying sentiment:

    The difference between “collectivism” and “community,” at least in my mind, is that collectivism seeks to promote the goals and rights of the collective over the rights of the individual, while “community” is exactly the opposite — it seeks to promote the goals and rights of the community’s individual members, sometimes even at expense to the community itself.

    The OP seems to take the meaning of collectivism to the extreme. How to make sense of these Community against Collectivism arguments. I admit that I had to take earlier writing of Eric into account to be able to understand the OP. For a non-USA person, the OP leaves a lot of holes in the argument and a lot of jumps in the logic.

    The OP and many comments seem to think that Property is sacred and The Rules Of Property are given by $DEITY to humankind once and for all. Eric speaks of “rob your neighbor” and the examples of excuses are all used for wealth redistribution and taxes. So the antagonism seem to be Exclusive Sacred Property versus Forced Membership Dues. Taxes seem to be the ultimate in evilness.

    But what can be owned, by whom, and what rights follow from ownership are cultural constructions.

    For instance, settled people who farm tend to have a concept of individual land ownership. Nomadic people do not. A good part of the world population considers it their birth right to have access to the proceeds and wealth of relatives. There is no single rule to determine what “to rob your neighbor” actually means in most cultures. We simply cannot give a single rule that can tell us what actually is the exclusive property of your neighbor, what he can do with it, and who else might have rights to it.

    To be even more precise, the OP talks about property that can be robbed. But property itself is nothing but a set of rights enforced with violence. Whether it was land, a harvest, a house, a knife, or a shirt, it is all nothing but rules, laws, and rights. And all cultures I know of will persecute breaking these rules with violence, even if the rule-breaking itself was non-violent. I expect that Eric will advocate using violence to prevent theft too.

    When we go one step deeper, this is about Freedom. More specifically, Perfect Freedom. The idea that a man (M/F) has no formal obligations towards his neighbors. Everything a man does, he should do out of his own Free Will. Collectivism in the OP would then be any formal, non-voluntary obligation put onto your neighbor. That is, where you can require your neighbor into doing something with the forceful backing of “the community”, or “society”. Most notably, an obligation to pay taxes.

    Basically, the real antagonism seems to be between some ideal of Perfect Freedom and Social Obligations. This is a fake antagonism. Because there is no Perfect Freedom. All communities and societies that have ever existed have put formal obligations onto their members. Hey, a very good case can be made that a community only exists in as far as the members have mutual obligations. And as it is next to impossible to live without belonging to a community for a prolonged period, that is the human condition: To have formal obligations towards other people.

    To paraphrase the OP. The fact that we are neighbors limits our freedoms and puts a lot of obligations on our shoulders. And our mutual neighbors will enforce these obligations in some way. So the “No Collectivism” of the OP reduces to a religious ideal that never has existed, and that I think never can exist. Now, if the subject is how far these mutual obligations go, then we are back in the normal, day to day political discussions.

    @The Monster
    Yes, ostracism is an active punishment. Leaving a person behind in a desert, rain forest, steppe, or ice shelf is considered murder in most parts of the world.

  44. I agree with esr on this one, however, Ari Consul is also making valid points. They are both correct, many activities flourish in the community world while many other things work best in the collectivist world, at least currently.

    I won’t strain my brain with too much thinking just to piss Russel Nelson off and I will just give the example that esr gave: open source works best in a community world. However, given the current mindset and living conditions of the people all over the world it is not a good a idea to rely on the community when it comes to natural disasters, killings or other crime for example. Currently you can’t trust people to just get along and work together, to maintain order. Rules must be made and rules must be enforced until people learn to look at the big picture of things, until they learn to respect each other, to have compassion and until they learn to effectively work together toward any common goals they may have. This will only happen when people are educated enough, when they have enough security and predictability in their lives and when they are richer in terms of material wealth and positive human relationships.

    The ultimate goal is a society based on the rules of the community, and open source software development, being such a huge and complex activity, is a sign that we have started moving toward that goal.

  45. esr, as long as you’re trying to unpervert the language, some day you might take a stab at the word “capitalism”. It is a word coined by collectivists to make freedom sound bad. In truth, what collectivists call “capitalism” is just what naturally happens when people are free. Nobody ever needed to be sent to a concentration camp to learn to act like a “capitalist”. It takes an extremely perverse mentality to see freedom and name it “capitalism”.

  46. If the language had not been perverted, the market could be seen as the ultimate form of collectivism. The division of labor is enabled and people are allowed to be more interdependent. The beauty of the market is that it is based on personal choice and voluntary exchange. There is tyranny in the market. The tyranny of efficiency. The tyranny of marketability.

    Many leftists I know fall into one of several categories:

    1.) They provide a “product” or “service” nobody really wants.

    2.) They are jealous people with a sense of entitlement.

    I find it offensive that they have the gall to call me selfish as they help themselves to the product of my efforts from the other side of a gun. They do this offering nothing in exchange, except a lot of hollow rhetoric about duty, obligation, and the greater good. We are to bend to their will and view of the world. It’s for our own good. Never mind, that all empirical data says they are totally wrong. This would require objective thought. Something they are incapable of. They cannot distance their own selfish personal interest from the equation. This has been illustrated to me several times when leftie acquaintances were presented with a large tax bill. The wailing and gnashing of teeth was truly something to behold. The cognitive dissonance was astonishing. In order to maintain their feelings of moral superiority, they have to rationalize their naked aggression somehow, thus all the high minded bloviation.

    They hate anything that gives you the ability to resist their “attentions”: Guns, Privacy, Freedom of travel, Freedom of choice of any kind threatens the flow of blood from the host.

    They are both dependent on you and hate you at the same time. You can never win the argument. Their mental construct is too broken. You can only distance yourself from their twisted, self destructive influence. This is getting harder to accomplish. They will never give you the right to leave voluntarily. A parasite will not willingly allow the host to leave.

    I have no desire to argue with them.

    We are fundamentally incompatible.

    I want an atomic space yacht.

  47. There are several classes of obligations created by communities: ethical, social, legal, etc. Only some of these mutual obligations necessitate police intervention in the event of a breach. The point of contention revolves around whether the duty to contribute to the furtherance of the community is a moral obligation of individuals or a legal right of the community. If it’s a moral obligation as I believe it is, then police enforcement is inappropriate and social pressure and censure should be preferred. I think taxation through user fees is ethically sounder than income taxation because it generally leaves open the option of non-ruinous nonparticipation. If one takes the opposite stance and holds that communities have this collective right, how do you prevent the collective from becoming a utility monster that draws all rights to itself?

  48. Let’s consider something concrete, like mountain top removal operations in West Virginia.
    Are these actions the result of healthy communities working to improve their lot or a more
    corporate collectivist mindset?

  49. @The COB
    “how do you prevent the collective from becoming a utility monster that draws all rights to itself?”

    That is an empirical question.

    There are a few millenniums of historical data on how people tried to do that in the past, and even more on modern day societies. Ample data to see what worked and what not. So, you could go to, say, a Swede, Swiss, or German, and ask how they do it?

    On the other hand, I cannot help you to empirical data on non-violent Libertarian Societies. So the empirical question whether Libertarian societies are able to flourish non-violently using only moral obligations is still open. Unless someone else can help you to such empirical data.

  50. Leaving a person behind in a desert, rain forest, steppe, or ice shelf is considered murder in most parts of the world.

    I question the wording of this. What do you mean by “Leaving a person behind”? If you’re talking about taking someone away from the comforts of home and putting them in a harsh environment alone, I can easily imagine a legal code calling that (attempted) murder, because of the positive actions taken to deprive the victim of the means of survival. But the reason it can be called that is that $person[1] has no moral or legal authority to force $person[0] into that environment, only to evict $person[0] from $person[1]‘s own property, and $person[0] does have the moral and legal right to his liberty and property.

    If $person[0] freely goes into the harsh environment with $person[1..n] a contract, either express or implied, may be created, obligating each of the group to take reasonable actions to assist in returning the others to civilization. However, if $person[0] breaches that contract by taking action that harms or endangers others, they may well be justified morally (even if the law doesn’t agree) in expelling him from the group. In some cases, they may be justified in actively killing him in their own mutual defense.

    If a group of people goes into a harsh environment, and encounters a stranger to whom they have not created any prior obligation, and refuse to allow that stranger to join their group, have they committed (attempted) murder?

    Any time we use the same word (“murder”) to conceptualize two different kinds of concretes, my epistemological red flags go up. Doing so may well be antithetical to sound conceptual thinking, creating instead an anti-concept. Anti-concepts defeat the entire purpose of grouping concretes and naming the groups, because the group is so diverse that nothing can be meaningfully said about it that cannot be also said about a larger group of which it is a subset, or about smaller groups that are subsets of it. Imagine someone grouping together “red things” and “square things”, naming the group “$foo things”, and then trying to reason using the idea of $fooness. Red triangles and blue squares have no $foo-nature.

    To avoid anti-conceptualizing, one must understand the criteria that require the mental separation, such as the coercive power of a government or organized crime syndicate vs. a voluntary community. Grouping the Rotary Club together with the Crips, or Oprah Magazine subscribers with The Islamic Republic of Iran as examples of “communities” is anti-conceptual.

  51. @The Monster
    “Any time we use the same word (“murder”) to conceptualize two different kinds of concretes, my epistemological red flags go up.”

    A very nice sophistry and play with words. From the top of my hat, I cannot think of a legal system that will fall for it. The population of the world will not be inclined to consider your definition of “murder” authoritative. But I know a number of jurisdictions where leaving someone alone in a harsh environment makes you responsible for any harm he encounters. The exact legal terms might be some degree of murder, or equivalent criminal negligence, depending (as always) on circumstances.

    @The Monster
    “What do you mean by “Leaving a person behind”?”

    During most of human history, people were nomadic. After farming arose, the equivalent treatment would mostly be, say, driving someone from their land. But Boycott actions and declaring people “outlaw” were also very popular. Outside modern nation states, ostracism is generally deadly.

    @The Monster
    “a contract, either express or implied, may be created,”

    Given that most humans have no or a completely different conceptualization of the word “contract” than the one you use, that is a complete non-sequitur. Obligations will be felt to arise under completely different circumstances than those you present.

    @The Monster
    “Grouping the Rotary Club together with the Crips, or Oprah Magazine subscribers with The Islamic Republic of Iran as examples of “communities” is anti-conceptual.”

    I agree. I limit my discussions to communities where people actually depend on for their livelihood.

  52. “because of how markets work, no one can own the entire pie, it just doesn’t work that way.”
    -See John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil

    Socialism doesn’t work. Raw Capitalism doesn’t work. We just have to muddle through as best we can.

  53. Winter, it’s interesting that you chose to include Germany in the list of countries that have avoided utility monsters. I think that individualists have ample empirical support for the position that collective rights eventually (or even suddenly) destroy communities. I lean libertarian because I’d rather have thousands of small failures because of excessive individualism than a few large failures from run-away collectivism.

  54. @The COB
    You asked what worked.

    The Germans have experience with what worked and what didn’t. The Swedes and Swiss have less experience with what did not work.

    But looking back t a few thousand years of history, it seens rather shortsighted to build your support for Libertarianism totally on 3 decades of 3 countries in the 20th century.

  55. Right. Confederated constitutional republics (like Switzerland and America) are better for individuals than most other governments precicely because they provide checks on collectivist impulses and safeguard individual rights. That seems to me to be the primary lesson from history.

  56. @The COB
    The kingdoms of the Netherlands and Denmark started less (civil) wars than the USA. They also did not do more genocides.

    But I am not concluding that royalty is better.

    I would say it is chance and “events” that cause accidents. Evil and stupidity help. But I think it is mostly chance.

  57. Russell Nelson,

    > Ari Consul, you’re an idiot. Please shut up. Sheesh.

    Only if by idiot you mean: One whose devotion to the truth will not allow him to be seduced by beautiful libertarian myths.

    Ari Consul,

    Say more. Much more.

    Yours,
    Tom

  58. Joe Niederberger,

    > Let’s consider something concrete, like mountain top removal operations in West Virginia. Are these actions the result of healthy communities
    > working to improve their lot or a more corporate collectivist mindset?

    Answer: healthy communities working to improve their lot. There is no difference between my removal of the top of a hill so I can have a basement in my hilltop house and removing the top of a mountain for the coal. I don’t worship mountains.

    The COB,

    > Right. Confederated constitutional republics (like Switzerland and America) are better for individuals than most other governments precicely
    > because they provide checks on collectivist impulses and safeguard individual rights. That seems to me to be the primary lesson from history.

    This is a good idea. We can improve the technology of government. We cannot eradicate collectivist impulses. Collectivist impulses are, in fact, good. We need people who are concerned about the collective good. I bet no one here wants to suppress the speech of someone who is urging people to sacrifice of their own free will for the collective good. That is a completely healthy collectivist impulse. However, we must moderate those concerns for the collective good which too drastically impinge on individual rights. Drawing that line to reflect the true breadth of humanity is not easy.

    Yours,
    Tom

  59. @Winter

    The population of the world will not be inclined …
    But I know a number of jurisdictions…
    Given that most humans have no or a completely different conceptualization of the word “contract” than the one you use…

    Argumentum ad populum.

    I am not moved by the failure of the majority of the world to adhere to my standards of conceptual rigor. I am painfully aware that most people think that spelling, grammar, and punctuation aren’t all that important, and that using a word to mean different things at different times (some of which are contradictory and not immediately clear from context) is no big deal. The problem with such shifting definitions is that a statement that uses one of these words may well be true under one definition, gain acceptance, and be used to validate a “fact” about entirely different meanings of those words. Such verbal shell games are indeed sophistry, of which I find it odd to be accused when I’m the one fighting against it.

  60. Individualism and collectivism need not be thought of solely as ideological absolutes at opposite ends of a spectrum. These ideas also embody mindsets that influence our day-to-day lives. For example, when life puts a problem before us, an individualist will first seek to address this problem using his/her own resources and then, if need be, hire or persuade others to help. A collectivist’s first instinct is to demand that the government (or hive equivalent) be responsible for solving an ever-growing list of social problems, and they are also very comfortable with government power being used to enforce this “shared” responsibility. The individualist brings his labor to bear on the problem quickly and directly, while the collectivist rants and riots for government action, which may come at some distant time in the future or not at all.

  61. @The Monster
    Nice to make a precise definition of murder to align with your personal morals. Other people have different morals and laws. They will put responsibilities for other peoples lives at different points. That cannot be defined away.

    That is my point. You, and Eric, try to redefine word meanings to fit your morals. But that does not change the morals of these other people.

  62. @Winter

    That is my point. You, and Eric, try to redefine word meanings to fit your morals.

    And I say that you collectivists have succeeded (by capturing the info-edu-tainment industries) in redefining word meanings to fit yours.

    Even you alluded above to some legal regimes distinguishing between “murder” and “negligence”. Even if a legislature decides that the penalties for an overt act that directly ends someone’s life should also be applied to negligence that indirectly leads to one’s death, if they use different words for the two, they have recognized a difference in their character, and made a conscious decision to apply those penalties to negligence, rather than an unconscious choice that automatically triggers the penalties based on the definition of the word.

    But the validity of my arguments does not rest upon whether others adopt my definitions or not. You may feel free to treat them as being made in a foreign language superficially resembling English, but requiring translation. If, for instance, you choose to include in the definition of “murder” ostracism from a group, then tell me what word you like to use to refer to committing an act that terminates someone’s life, and I can use it instead.

    —–
    When I asked you to clarify what exactly you mean by “leaving a person behind”, I specifically asked for this point of clarification (by which I meant to determine whether the existence of some prior relationship established the positive obligation violated by abandoning the person in question), which I note you have failed to answer:

    If a group of people goes into a harsh environment, and encounters a stranger to whom they have not created any prior obligation, and refuse to allow that stranger to join their group, have they committed (attempted) murder?

    The group in question did not at any time agree to admit the stranger as a member. Do you hold that they are guilty of (attempted) murder for failing to do so?

  63. @The Monster
    If you are in a boat and see a drowning person, and you ignore him?

    Replace sea by desert, ice field, rain forrest. In all cases your are as good as dead. Being abandoned by your tribe too is a near certai n death for no.madicc people.

    And I am pretty sure I have personally done of those “mind blowing” acts you accuse me of.

  64. @The Monster
    “And I say that you collectivists have succeeded (by capturing the info-edu-tainment industries) in redefining word meanings to fit yours. ”

    What. The. Hell.

    Seriously?

    The meaning of a word is arbitrarily defined by its users, and the use of language is communication. Communication is at it’s best when people are using the same (arbitrary) rules of language. Therefore, the whole “oh noes people have perverted language” argument is a bit ridiculous. Words cannot objectively be considered ‘perverted’, as they are – I repeat – an arbitrary construct.

    Ergo, you can scream all you want about collectivists (or whatever other group people might be thinking of) having done this or that to language, but in the end, you just have to either a.) deal with it, b.) get a large enough group of followers to change the language in a way you consider to be much better, or b.) start making up your own definitions of words, (as ESR appears to be doing here) and make Wittgenstein roll over in his grave (i.e. a private language).

    In the end, I find this post and discussion to be of very little value, as there is very little argument over whether X is actually better than Y – which is understandable, seeing as that does not appear to be the main point of the OP in this post, but a lot of nasty talk about whether ‘all those people who disagree with us’ should actually be saying X when they mean Y.

    [/rant]

  65. @LS:
    “@Doc Merlin: That is NOT a small group. That’s our government. We elected them. You don’t agree with them, you think they are riding rough-shod over your rights and are stealing from you, etc. Too bad. Convince a majority to change government policies and elect different people and they will stop. Otherwise, it will go on. Too many of this blog’s commenters think that they speak for a large majority of the people. They are wrong.”

    1) It is a small group. Only about 30% of people vote. That leaves about 15-16% of people making decisions for everyone else.

    2) Elected representatives don’t wholly represent people in their district in a broad sense. They can’t, its impossible to due various inconsistencies and information problems. Instead they represent a small number of special interest groups.

    3) Sigh. This is my disagreement with conservatives. I don’t believe it should batter if anyone is a majority or not, there is nothing morally magical about being in a majority. Its better than having a dictator but its an inherently flawed way of aggregating preferences. If you still want to discuss this, I can point out how flawed.

  66. @Doc Merlin:

    It is a small group. Only about 30% of people vote. That leaves about 15-16% of people making decisions for everyone else.

    Sadly, sir, it’s worse than that. Only 30% of the people vote and 30-40% of those always vote blanket Republican, another 30-40% always vote blanket Democrat, leaving elections largely decided by the remaining 20-30%, meaning only 6-9% of the elegible voters actually decide a given election — maybe 10 or 12% in presidential election years.

  67. ESR’s use of the word “collective” does not stretch the generally accepted understanding of the word.

    The noun is defined on TheFreeDictionary.com as:
    An undertaking, such as a business operation, set up on the principles or system of collectivism.

    and collectivism is defined as:
    The principles or system of ownership and control of the means of production and distribution by the people collectively, usually under the supervision of a government.

  68. @Doc Merlin: OK. You know that only a small portion of the population can swing an election. Go and convince those people to see things your way. Win some elections and you’ll have made society better for yourself (and other like-minded people). This is called ‘politics’. It’s how things work when you are away from the computer keyboard. If you want change, you have to get involved. It’s MUCH better than having a dictator.

  69. I’m interested in the legitimacy of these govts – what is the basis of their “right” to restrict me?

    Suppose that ESR readers form a govt and that govt pass an excise tax which says that Winter owes 10k euros/year as long as he lives wherever it is that he lives.

    I’m pretty sure that Winter would object, that he’d ignore the edicts of the ESR reader govt. But why? Why does he think that he’s subject to whatever govt he’s under and not the ESR govt.

    We let him vote, he can leave, and there are many other govts that don’t have roots in a watery tart throwing a sword, so he can’t object on those grounds.

    So, what makes the ESR reader govt illegitimate?

    One answer is that the ESR govt lacks the means, or at least will, to force compliance.

    Are there any others?

  70. The meaning of a word is arbitrarily defined by its users, and the use of language is communication.

    This is a surprisingly hard point to get across. The world seems to be full of essentialists who are proud of their misguided approach to language. Ethics is no different; many people confuse convention with truth. There are parallel panics here, as though if people were left to decide their own laws and language they would start spontaneously killing one another and language would degenerate until nobody could understand one another. Thank God the rationalists and essentialists are here to save us from our own instincts!

  71. I find myself in the disturbing position of mostly disagreeing with Eric and mostly agreeing with Roger/Winter/LS. I find disagreeing with your host rarely a good idea, especially when he is as smart as Eric, however, I find that as he mercilessly dismembers my argument, I often learn something useful. So enough with the sucking up, and on with the disagreeing.

    To say that taxes are robbery assumes a meaning of “robbery” that most people simply don’t share. I think it is kind of like the word bingo that politicians use all the time. For example, President Obama wants to “increase revenue” when he means “raise taxes”, or President Bush talks about “compassionate conservatism” when he means “increase transfer payments.” To call taxes robbery is to take your meaning of the word, impose it on others and expect to drag all the semantic and emotional baggage along with it.

    As it happens I largely agree with Eric’s moral position on this, but I don’t believe that it is axiomatic or universal.

    In the past I have found the moral arguments for libertarianism more useful or compelling, however, having participated in threads like this I no longer do. However, that is probably because I don’t find any moral arguments particularly compelling. Morality is largely a social construct, containing elements of distilled good judgment, outmoded ideas and tools to maintain the power of the powerful. There are also very few universally accepted moral constructs. Consequently, using one’s own moral sense to convince others is rarely successful.

    I advocate for libertarianism based on three core truths that I have personally observed, and most people largely agree with:

    1. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely
    2. The appetite of power is satisfied only with more power
    3. Living under corrupt power structures really sucks

    These three lead inexorably to the conclusion that a happy life requires defanging the powerful, in whatever form, and the ultimate dillutant of power is the ability to reject the power broker and choose another. Or to put it another way, power is rooted in monopoly, and government is the apotheosis of monopoly.

    I do not advocate anarcho-capitalism, I advocate a simple rule — if someone other than the government can do it, then the government shouldn’t do it. Argue about how bright that line is all you want, but we have a long way to go before we need to worry about that.

  72. It’s MUCH better than having a dictator.

    Democracy has existed in non-representative forms in the past. I wonder how well sortition would work in a modern context.

  73. >The world seems to be full of essentialists who are proud of their misguided approach to language.

    I am not among them. Years as a lexicographer and open-source propagandist would have taught me better, if exposure to General Semantics had not done so by the age of 12 or so. If you want to see this error in a particularly ripe and florid form, trying hanging out with Objectivists – it’s a major reason I’m not one.

    What you and others (including Jessica Boxer) appear to be mistaking for essentialism on my part is something else. Here’s a clue: I am a successful propagandist. Analyze my communication in terms of intended effect on the listener.

  74. >I advocate for libertarianism based on three core truths that I have personally observed,

    There’s less distance between us than you think, Jessica. Read my last comment to Roger and think. I gave him a clue, here’s yours: moralist, essentialist language can serve a philosophical position that is neither. You are smart enough to figure out how.

  75. I wonder how well sortition would work in a modern context.

    I’m afraid not so well; the modern US educational system is explicitly designed to produce compliant cogs who don’t question anything unless specifically told to do so. Leadership by lot assumes that the population you’re selecting from has at least some sort of understanding of how the system is supposed to work and is willing to responsibly undertake the office, which requires critical thinking.

  76. In truth, what collectivists call “capitalism” is just what naturally happens when people are free.

    What does this even mean? So long as you’re with other people, there will be restrictions, and someone will complain that they are being oppressed. There is a whole lot of special distinctions being made in this thread which amounts to nothing more than “my freedom is better than your freedom”. If you disagree with particular trends or regulations that would make much more interesting fodder for conversation than playing pointless linguistic games.

  77. I’m trying to undo the perversion of language that serves the enemy so well.

    One of the worst examples of that was the co-opting of the word “liberal”. When the term was coined, it referred to those who sought to escape the power of monarchies, abolish slavery, end mandatory church attendance, and other worthwhile goals. Somehow in the early part of the 20th century, it was perverted by the collectivists.

  78. Jessica Boxer:

    To call taxes robbery is to take your meaning of the word, impose it on others and expect to drag all the semantic and emotional baggage along with it.

    esr:

    What you and others (including Jessica Boxer) appear to be mistaking for essentialism on my part is something else. Here’s a clue: I am a successful propagandist. Analyze my communication in terms of intended effect on the listener.

    Is the intended effect of describing taxation as “robbery” not to “drag all the semantic and emotional baggage along with it”?

  79. >That’s a very succinct version of what Bastiat said in The Law.

    *double take*

    Yoicks. You are right. I was largely paraphrasing Bastiat in more modern language, and didn’t realize that until you pointed it out.

  80. >Is the intended effect of describing taxation as “robbery” not to “drag all the semantic and emotional baggage along with it”?

    Yes, it was, but that was obvious. Keep going.

  81. >What does this even mean? So long as you’re with other people, there will be restrictions, and someone will complain that they are being oppressed.

    You are confused. Your question about the term “capitalism” and your “So long as you’re with other people…” don’t actually belong in the same argument.

    What the person you’re responding to was trying to say, in a clumsy and ineffective way, was this: what collectivists call “capitalism” (which he identifies with free markets) is what happens when markets are not prevented from clearing by force or the threat of force. This is very nearly true; the quibbles are technical, as I can explain in detail if required. His use of the relatively vague term “free” is emotively correct but too vague to be as useful as he thinks it is.

    He was pushing back against a commonly fallacy on the left to the effect that free markets are a fragile, artificial social contract that have to be maintained by as much coercion as political allocation. Learning about the history of silent trading systems is an excellent antidote to this nonsense.

  82. >ESR’s use of the word “collective” does not stretch the generally accepted understanding of the word.

    This is true, and is an essential feature of what I was doing in that bit of rhetoric. I am a successful propagandist. I could explain exactly what I was doing, but it would be more instructive if one of you figures it out and explains it.

    Hint: if you still think I was trying to “impose” a meaning, you have failed to grasp it.

  83. @Christopher smith:
    “I’m afraid not so well; the modern US educational system is explicitly designed to produce compliant cogs who don’t question anything unless specifically told to do so. Leadership by lot assumes that the population you’re selecting from has at least some sort of understanding of how the system is supposed to work and is willing to responsibly undertake the office, which requires critical thinking.”

    Beyond that, it also requires that the lots be relatively small in number. Otherwise the benefit to voting is too small compared to the effort in gaining knowledge. Democratic republics seem not to work effectively past a certain population size, and quickly devolve into a weird bureaucratic oligarchy that maintains some impute from the populace.

  84. He was pushing back against a commonly fallacy on the left to the effect that free markets are a fragile, artificial social contract that have to be maintained by as much coercion as political allocation.

    Give me an example of a true free market that has existed continuously for 1000 years. (This isn’t some kind of attempt to call your bluff, I am interested to know.)

  85. >Give me an example of a true free market that has existed continuously for 1000 years.

    Can’t point you at one. But the implied question isn’t the right one, either. OK, to explain that now I’ll have to explain silent trading systems.

    At numerous times in human history, people who do not share a common language have found compelling reasons to want to trade with one another. The best documented examples happened early in the Age of Exploration, notably along the western coast of sub-Saharan Africa between Europeans new to the area and the natives. The Europeans had trade goods that the natives wanted, the natives had gold and ivory the Europeans wanted. What neither side had was interpreters. They also had a healthy and justified fear of each other. The Europeans had gunpowder weapons; the natives were not infrequently cannibals.

    What they had in common, besides wanting to trade, was an ability to interpret nonverbal confidence-building gestures – like “I leave a pile of stuff on the beach and retreat out of easy weapons range.” Over a generation or so, tentative early gestures evolved into an entire system of silent trading codes. For example, if I leave a pile of cloth and iron pots on the beach, and then retreat, and you put a handful of gold nuggets beside it under cover of night, and I then come back during the day and split my pile in half, I’m saying “Yes, I will trade pots and cloth for your gold, but I want more for this pile.” You might respond by leaving more gold on the following night (accepting) or removing your pile (no, you’re asking too much).

    No sharing of language. None of culture. In fact, the traders on the different sides tried fairly strenuously never to even be seen by their counterparts. The risk of being killed by a magical bangstick or winding up speared and trussed up in a stewpot was significant. The Euros and the natives had no “social conventions” tying them together except a set generated by the needs of the trade itself.

    Nobody was policing those beaches against force or fraud. The traders had to work out a set of behaviors that maximized the benefits and minimized incentives to renege without being able to talk to each other. But they managed it. And this was the most recent chapter in what is actually an old, old story – precisely because free markets are natural. And by “natural” I mean that they are an ordered equilibrium with hysteresis that evolves spontaneously in a context of repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma games, as Robert Axelrod famously showed in The Evolution of Cooperation.

  86. @Winter

    If you are in a boat and see a drowning person, and you ignore him?

    I may be morally or legally guilty of something, but it is not “murder”. If my boat is beyond capacity, and taking on the drowning person would put me and the rest of my passengers into the water with him, I’m not even guilty of anything.

    I can’t say I’m surprised you’ve literally gone for “lifeboat ethics”; declaring a situation an “emergency” to gain the power to do things that are normally forbidden is an old trick.

    Asking me a counter-question does not answer the question I’ve asked you. Are the people who have no prior relationship with someone they encounter while traveling in a harsh environment guilty of (attempted) murder if they refuse to allow him to join their group or not?

    @Robin

    The meaning of a word is arbitrarily defined by its users, and the use of language is communication. Communication is at it’s best when people are using the same (arbitrary) rules of language. Therefore, the whole “oh noes people have perverted language” argument is a bit ridiculous. Words cannot objectively be considered ‘perverted’, as they are – I repeat – an arbitrary construct.

    The use of language is not limited to communication. In fact, I believe that communication is not even the primary use of language, despite the common belief that it is. That honor belongs to cognition. We use language to think; we produce names for groups of concretes that share certain properties and thereby achieve computational economy by not having to reason independently about the characteristics of every member of that group anew, as if we’d never seen any other members before. We build up our taxonomy that relates those groups to each other, so that we can use the word “animal” when keeping track of facts that a human, a chimp, a dog, and a snake share, but “mammal” to exclude the snake but include the others. We give proper names to specific concretes to distinguish them from each other when cognitive needs demand it.

    Even if you are going to communicate an idea, you first must form it in your own mind and judge its validity, but we think about far more things, using language, than we ever communicate to others.

    I do not make the absurd claim that meanings of words do not change, nor even that they should not change. I only point out that having different meanings for words in different contexts or communities is not very helpful for communication or cognition. The reason I invited Winter (as I invite you) to treat the definitions that ESR or I use for words as if they were another language is that we’re used to the idea of false cognates, particularly between related languages that have evolved those particular words in different directions. The classic story of the Hispanic woman who overdosed 11x on the medication prescribed for her to take “once per day” is a chilling reminder that multiple meanings for the same symbol can have fatal consequences.

    The meanings of words may be arbitrarily defined, but for them to be of value, they cannot be arbitrarily redefined in the middle of a cognitive or communicative process. What matters for cognition is that the person doing the thinking have a self-consistent definition for all of the ideas being thought about. For communication, either the parties must already share a set of definitions, or the speaker/writer must clearly indicate what definitions are being used for words for which he expects his listeners/readers may hold other definitions.

    As a rather humorous aside, on my first day in 7th grade, it happened also to be the first day teaching for my science teacher. She was discussing the various branches of science and mentioned “Botany, the study of life”. I raised my hand, which was not exactly what she expected to have happen, and she asked why. I said “I believe you meant to say that Biology is the study of life, which is further subdivided into Botany, the study of plant life, and Zoology, the study of animal life.”. She reiterated that Botany was the study of life, and I pointed toward a wall lined with bookshelves, and volunteered to retrieve a dictionary and look up the word. She told me to go right ahead, so I did. And a good time was had by all.

    Now, it’s not exactly the end of the world if a classroom of children believe Botany is the study of life, but it might cause some confusion a couple of years later when their high school guidance counselor suggests they take a class called “Biology”, and they don’t have a clue what he means. Maybe they’ll take Spanish, go on to be a pharmacist, and know that using the word “once” on a prescription label for Sra. Gonzalez is a Bad Idea ["one (1) per day" being less amenable to misinterpretation].

    @Jessica Boxer

    To call taxes robbery is to take your meaning of the word, impose it on others and expect to drag all the semantic and emotional baggage along with it.

    This is the nub of it. Every time someone wants to change the definition of a word, you should suspect they’re doing it to make you unconsciously accept their premises. Examine this new use of the word carefully, and see if it fits the body of knowledge you already hold about the previous definition of the word. Certainly, taxes and robbery share many characteristics; they both involve the extraction of some value by coercive means. But we give them different words because they also have important differences, which allows us to make statements about one that is truthful, but would be false if made about the other. Usually, if there is cognitive value in having a name that includes both, we create one, and use that to make statements that cover both species of the genus when appropriate.

    We can redefine A to include some new things that were not formerly part of the group, but we cannot blindly retain our prior assessments (“baggage”) that statements of the form “All A have characteristic B” remain true when we do so. When a politician wants you to think he’s “tough on crime” because of his hard line on a Se‍x Crimes Registry, and sponsorship of laws forbidding all of those registered from living within 1000 yards of a school; you need to consider that some guy who got caught whizzing in an alley on his way home from a bar and convicted of Indecent Exposure has been defined to be the same as someone who kidnaps and mo‍lests nine-year-olds, and now there is literally nowhere legal for him to live inside city limits; so it’s really important that you understand what a Convicted Se‍x Offender is before you judge the merits of that politician’s agenda.

    ESR says: Monster has just demonstrated that he has all the conceptual apparatus required to understand what I was actually doing and why. Good for him!

  87. @ Mike Smith regarding “capitalism”

    You must define what you mean, as the language has changed. Many hear capitalism and think free market. The criticism from the left is usually directed at artificial control of markets and people through the issuance of money and the control of interest rates. This mechanism is NOT free market. So in this they are accidentally correct.

    This is similar to the corruption of the word “liberal” as others have pointed out.

    What do you mean by capitalism?

  88. But they managed it. And this was the most recent chapter in what is actually an old, old story – precisely because free markets are natural

    Nobody is arguing that trade isn’t natural or necessarily requires an adjudicator. At least, they shouldn’t be (and I certainly am not). So to the extent that you’re saying humans are not born collectivists I agree. I also don’t think they are born libertarians. Born “traders” in a much more general sense, probably.

    However, there is a difference between the existence of unregulated trades and even small unregulated markets (which I suspect have existed throughout history) and the existence of a uniform free market in some given society, which I would argue is what was being discussed.

  89. @ESR

    The funny thing is that I’m essentially (heh) taking the Objectivist position on language, which is often called “essentialist” by those who either don’t know any better, or are deliberately trying to create a false dichotomy. Having set up the straw man of essentialism, they then say their subjectivist, arbitrary approach is the only thing left.

    I doubt that anyone can mount a meaningful challenge on the value of a consistent taxonomy, because science is so clearly built upon hierarchies of classification that allow compact expression of knowledge. The only thing people really push back on is the idea that language is primarily for cognition, and that only after we form sound concepts in our own minds can we really communicate them to others.

  90. I only point out that having different meanings for words in different contexts or communities is not very helpful for communication or cognition

    You have made the claim, not prove it. People have been “misusing” language for thousands of years. I challenge you to prove that taking all things into consideration this is worse (or better!) than having uniform definitions.

  91. I doubt that anyone can mount a meaningful challenge on the value of a consistent taxonomy, because science is so clearly built upon hierarchies of classification that allow compact expression of knowledge.

    Scientism is not an argument.

  92. >However, there is a difference between the existence of unregulated trades and even small unregulated markets (which I suspect have existed throughout history) and the existence of a uniform free market in some given society, which I would argue is what was being discussed.

    Right. Silent trading – and more recent examples of “a uniform free market in some given society” have existed tend to be relatively transient phenomena not because they’re intrinsically fragile or unstable but because the nearest state system moves in on them and imposes a protection racket. Quite often they’re edge-of-map phenomena like Hong Kong during the late British Empire.

    The challenge for today’s libertarians is to figure out a way to prevent a replay of Norway’s takeover of the Icelandic Commonwealth…

  93. >The funny thing is that I’m essentially (heh) taking the Objectivist position on language, which is often called “essentialist” by those who either don’t know any better

    I think you have misunderstood Objectivism, projecting a better grade of philosophy on it than it actually owns. I have been accused of making similar mistakes once or twice :-)

  94. The funny thing is that I’m essentially (heh) taking the Objectivist position on language, which is often called “essentialist” by those who either don’t know any better, or are deliberately trying to create a false dichotomy. Having set up the straw man of essentialism, they then say their subjectivist, arbitrary approach is te only thing left.

    Sorry, but the language-as-convention account is the only one with any currency. You’re arguing that the blue M&M’s should never be put with the red M&M’s on the cake, and we are saying that is your convention. You might think arranging your M&M’s has special signaling value, but even if you can prove that (you haven’t) you are left with the problem of convincing others that your signals are even important.

  95. This is not, by the way, asserting any kind of absurd dichotomy. When I review papers, they get reviewed in part for (my version of) writing quality. I doubt any of the other “subjectivist” commentators think much differently.

  96. @Christopher smith:

    The educational system is also incredibly inefficient in educating people. They also failed to incorporate systematically scientific research in learning.

    With SRS software and well crafted flash cards, I could probably reasonably outpace colleges and high school students by merely retaining what I learn. I don’t have to relearn what I already know, and I practice only when I am about to forget. Very efficient. Overtime, I will have less cards to review everyday since they appears less frequently as I review more and more.

    Worst of all, “good schools” simply means they are better than mediocre, not order of magnitude better.Spaced repetition? What’s that? Appropriate sleep time? Blah, if we adults can do it, teenagers can do it too!

  97. Remove collectives from the domain of communities. All true communities are free/open societies. Take communitarianism away from collectivism and all that’s left is raw political power.

  98. esr must have touched a raw nerve here. It may be that my understanding of collectivism and community are similar to esr’s because I am not a native English speaker; however, semantics aside, I think it should be obvious he speaks about decisions made by some on behalf the community v. decisions by consensus of the community. The devil is in the details and any “collectivist” decision-maker must obtain some acceptance from the community or be faced with a rebellion or mass exodus; at the other end of the spectrum,even the most consensual community must occasionally agree that, from lack of consensus, some necessary decisions must be made democratically or (in case of some nominations) by drawing lots.

    Anyway, beyond this terminological issue, in my opinion esr simply repeats from a slightly different angle the principle and arguments of the Declaration of Independence of the 13 USA. What he actually does is to expand their scope from the extraordinary situation of the American communities of that time and declare them universal.

  99. You’re arguing that the blue M&M’s should never be put with the red M&M’s on the cake, and we are saying that is your convention.

    No, I’m arguing that the blue Viagra pills shouldn’t be put with the blue M&Ms, because there’s an important reason to treat them differently, even though they both are “blue things taken orally”. The question in all cases is whether the criteria for distinguishing between groups is relevant to the statement(s) being made, which determines whether the genus or species term is appropriate. In this case, the distinction between voluntary communities and governments that impose their will by force is thought by the libertarians to be a relevant distinction, but to the collectivist it is merely cosmetic, as important as the color of candy on a cake.

    People have been “misusing” language for thousands of years. I challenge you to prove that taking all things into consideration this is worse (or better!) than having uniform definitions.

    Straw man. I do not argue for “uniform definitions”. You can have whatever definition you want, but by having different definitions, you will have to have different truthful statements using those definitions. I hold only that a definition must be stable within a cognitive or communicative context. It must be clear within that context which definition is in use.

    1. Nothing is better than complete happiness.
    2. A ham sandwich is better than nothing.
    3. A ham sandwich is better than complete happiness.

    The above nonsense is only possible because the word “nothing” has (at least) two different senses, but is treated as if it only has one.

    Scientism is not an argument.

    What does that even mean? (Oh, the irony.)

  100. >Sorry, but the language-as-convention account is the only one with any currency.

    That is true, but you and Monster are arguing past each other. Language-as-convention does not imply radical subjectivism; we do after all communicate and agree on objective referents. Monster is therefore correct that that is a false dichotomy, though he’s not presenting the argument in the terminology normally used in that field of philosophy – probably because he’s a bright autodidact who reinvented a lot of it himself.

    I think where Monster is going is towards a sort-of-Quinean position in which the intersubjective meaning of words and text can be treated as a “reality II” with its own sort of causal integrity. This would be a natural place for someone starting from an Objectivist position to land, and it’s not actually as wacky as it initially sounds to a physicalist.

  101. Tom DeGisi, no, Ari Consul is an idiot. He claims that because there is no pure libertarian society, libertarianism is just a myth. Lacking any sense or logic, he fails to see that because there exist people like him and you, who oppose libertarianism, THERE CANNOT BE A PURE LIBERTARIAN SOCIETY, because it would contain components of collectivism.

    I really hate it when people don’t think. What truly scares me is that I am not particularly smart. A little above average, I guess. And yet there are SO MANY people who are dumber than me. Doesn’t that scare you? It should!

  102. >What does that even mean? (Oh, the irony.)

    I know what Roger meant. Ignore it; he had a point, but it was irrelevant to the argument you two are actually having.

    I believe I understand both his position and yours pretty well. It will be interesting to see whether the two of you can solve your terminological problems before I explain how I’d map one system to the other. The both of you are now wandering around in a corner of philosophy that I know very, very well.

    /me gets popcorn.

  103. @LS:
    “@Doc Merlin: OK. You know that only a small portion of the population can swing an election. Go and convince those people to see things your way. Win some elections and you’ll have made society better for yourself (and other like-minded people). This is called ‘politics’. ”

    No no no! You miss my point entirely. I want to make politics unimportant. If the state doesn’t have power to screw up your life, then politics doesn’t matter and one can actually go on and do things that /really/ make a difference instead of constantly battling over the negative sum game that is politics.
    In short, what I want to do is limit the sharply scope of politics so that Arrow’s Incompleteness theorem no longer applies.

    “It’s how things work when you are away from the computer keyboard. If you want change, you have to get involved.”

    Thats part of what’s going on, right here. Or did you mean something else?

    “It’s MUCH better than having a dictator.”

    Yes, its better than a dictator, but its nowhere near as good at freedom.

  104. >I think it should be obvious he speaks about decisions made by some on behalf the community v. decisions by consensus of the community.

    Not exactly, though that’s close. I’m more concerned about whether the “community” claims the right to commit aggression against its members, as opposed to being a joint defense of the individual rights of its members. Some Guy was right; I was unconsciously doing a take of Bastiat’s “The Law”.

  105. @esr:

    Spooner did a similar, although, less subtle takedown in “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority.” He attacked social contract theory on the ground that it wasn’t a contract as many of the parties were coerced into ‘agreement’ or hadn’t ‘agreed’.

  106. That was bloody awful. Please feel free to delete the prior comment.

    I think where Monster is going is towards a sort-of-Quinean position in which the intersubjective meaning of words and text can be treated as a “reality II” with its own sort of causal integrity.

    I don’t now if Quine had the right answers, but he was definitely asking good questions about epistemology. He was talking about how people actually think, not how some philosopher thought they should think.

    Where I am going is: Reality is the coastline. Language is the map. If the language doesn’t fit reality, we can run aground on the rocks.

    Our attempts to describe reality do not “define” reality in the “essential” sense of some ideal that precedes instantiation into a concrete, or an OO new declaration that conjures the defined object into existence. Instead, we observe concrete entities and group them together based on similar characteristics.

    Language that facilitates the construction of true statements about reality is helpful.
    Language that impedes that construction is unhelpful.
    Language that allows the same word to have two different meanings in the same context (where it is not immediately apparent which sense applies) is unhelpful.

    Two things can be different in some ways and the same in others, justifying them as members of two species of the same genus. It is inefficient to say/think “A square has four line segments and four corners”,”A rectangle has four line segments and four corners” , “A parallelogram has four line segments and four corners” and “A trapezoid has four line segments and four corners” when we can say “A quadrilateral has four line segments and four corners” and then distinguish between the hierarchy of subsets thereof.

    Thus a good language represents a body of knowledge more efficiently than a clumsy language.

  107. @The Monster
    Your contract talk does not address my point. You use the USA three degrees level of “murder” which only accounts for directed agression. That is English and simply part of US history. But then you declare this as the one true universal answer to this moral question. My country has the Gernan system, with four degrees (two called murder, two killling). The lowest level is killing as a result of culpable actions. This would include ignoring distress calls.

    Your attempts to talk yourself out of an obligation to act on distress for theological reasons would not convince anyone outside your circle. The point is that most humans do believe strongly that people have obligations towards each other. This is only one of those. Calling putting those obligations into law is very human, that is what the law is for.

    But that offends the Perfect Freedom of the Libertarian. To that I would say, show me a real example where that works. Iceland was not particularly non-violent and had community enforced rules.

  108. >Thus a good language represents a body of knowledge more efficiently than a clumsy language.

    Excellent. You are headed in the right direction, there. The main thing you’re missing is a verification theory. Without that you don’t actually have a well-grounded notion of “efficiency”, because you don’t know what a “body of knowledge” is actually for.

  109. >ESR I would like to know if you have check these site http://world.std.com/~mhuben/libindex.html it is an anti libertarian, objectivist site

    Objectivist? I think not. Mike and Ronda Huben are lefties – I haven’t delved into their exact background but their rhetorical style has a quality I associate with red-diaper babies from the bizarro-world Ashkenazic Jewish aristocracy of the American Old Left, a combination of leadenness and Talmudic casuistry.

    Your second paragraph is too mangled for me to answer.

  110. @The Monster

    This is the nub of it. Every time someone wants to change the definition of a word, you should suspect they’re doing it to make you unconsciously accept their premises. Examine this new use of the word carefully, and see if it fits the body of knowledge you already hold about the previous definition of the word.

    Let us do that. Eric and you talk about voluntary communities and pit them against non-voluntary collectivism. For that to work, you have to redefine punishment. As a purely voluntary community cannot punish its members. So you say that only, and really only, active violence (law enforcement) is punishment.

    Nice try, but letting someone drown because you do not like him is punishment too. The victim is as dead as if pushed them down with bare hands, and that dead was preventable.

    The trick here is indeed that you take words with an emotional value: laws and morals, punishment and freedom to act, and then shift their meanings to say that your opponents apply laws and punishment to enforce them. However, you only make moral judgments and use your freedom not to intervene when someone is hurt or dying. Because people depend for their livelihood on each other, the victim is just as seriously harmed in both cases.

    However, this discussion is completely academic. There are no really important communities that use only “passive” punishment (punishment is too deeply embedded in our mind). The modern day Amish seem to come close. But they depend on law enforcement of the USA to protect them (against their will, but they are still protected), and I would not call their communities exactly “Free”.

  111. A society contains, unless it is extremely small or has under gone some kind of fascist purge, a large number of communities. Communities composed of different religious views, different professions, difference social classes, different values and attitudes.

    The post-modern nightmare sees society as nothing more than this assembly of these communities.

    TV and web filters aim to separate out these communities to target with specific messages. Demographics seeks to understand society as its collection of separate channels: distinct communities who only wish to live apart from other communities.

    A society like America though, starting from the Constitution itself, works to establish a set of collective values not dependent on the community in case.

    Collective values that apply to everyone in the USA, imposed by law, regardless of their community membership are:

    The right to vote.
    The rule of law.
    The right to a fair trail.
    The right to access to education.
    The right to petition the government.
    The requirement that freedom.

    The collective values, established in the Constitution and Legal system, are what what makes up the Democracy of the United States. They are in the end imposed by the force of law, but you could also say protected by the force of law. Regardless of the feelings of certain communities the collective law of the United States of America gives everyone a right to vote, the freedom of speech, the right to pursue happiness regardless of station at birth.

    Without this collective democratic set of laws and values America would be just a cluster of tribes, sometimes working together, sometimes fighting each other. The end result of the post-modern nightmare is the all against all anarchy of the cyberpunk world, were wealth is power and society is continual war of opposed ideas with no common ground.

    But I am starting to think that, for some strange reason, this is the very end result so many Libertarians in the IT profession want. That would explain the popularity of the cyberpunk books.

  112. Let us do that. Eric and you talk about voluntary communities and pit them against non-voluntary collectivism. For that to work, you have to redefine punishment. As a purely voluntary community cannot punish its members. So you say that only, and really only, active violence (law enforcement) is punishment.

    Why do you claim that voluntary communities can’t apply “punishment”? I think most people would agree that giving someone the silent treatment qualifies as punishment, but there’s no impingement on my freedom if I become friends with someone who might use it. The distinction—which libertarians make quite clearly and consistently—is based on initiation of coercion, which is considered to include physical force and fraud. Why mix in the nebulous term “punishment” when the language already in use is significantly clearer?

  113. @ESR I say Objectivist but I mean anti-objectivist

    Ok I will try to explain my second paragraph (thanks for the patience for my every day worst English) The second link its suppose to be a course about fallacies the people who wrote the first link used for their writing, but the examples they use are in my taste politically manipulate look at these http://www.onegoodmove.org/fallacy/hasty.htm

    My hope is someone write a review about these sites because I saw in various discussion those links and the massive of the “information” in them make difficult to rebate in a discussion (forum or blog). (I don’t know if I explain my self)

    BR

  114. Collectives and communities: let’s look at all this from a different point of view, OK?

    We have the usual free market, where businessmen do whatever their customers want because they want to get paid as much as possible. And we have the political market called democracy where politicians do what their voters want because they want as many votes as possible. In fact two systems are in many ways similar.

    The free market has the following advantages:
    1) everybody buys for themselves, it is distributed, based on local information
    2) the lack of coercion limits the abuse power: power is mainly executed through temptation and not coercion, easier to say no. Temptations means influencing others by offering rewards.

    And the following disadvantages:
    3) If you have a billion dollars, you have a billion votes compared to the have-nots. Easy to distort with great power.

    The political market, democracy, has the following advantages:
    4) One person, one vote (however wealth can still distort it, lobbying etc.)

    Disadvantages:
    5) Collective buying (it is like voting for a list of grocieries and the supermarket would deliver the same groceries to everybody’s home -> lack of distributed local information)
    6) Use of coercion -> too much power, too dangerous kinds of power. Coercion means influencing others not only through offering rewards but also threating punishments.

    Given that it is fairly obvious that the political market (democracy) is worse than the free market, why isn’t everybody a libertarian? It is basically a psycholigical question to be answered.

    My No. 1 guess would be that the political market looks more participative than the free market, the later often tends to look a bit autistic. This might be illusionary, I am not sure, but this is the appearance.

    For example, I have this impression that if you compare the American healthcare system with the British NHS the later seems to be more participative in the sense that the people in pubs, blogs, articles are debating about how to fix it, how to reform it, they feel like it is something “ours” and everybody should have a say in the discussion what to do about it. While in America the discussion seems to be about what the government should do about it, but apparently you don’t really have this discussion with f.e. the private insurers, people don’t really come together in bars or blogs to discuss how this or that insurance company should insure this or that illness or operation, and then make a proposition to the board or something. It seems a bit more autistic, you might write a complaint letter and choose another insurer, but there is no vivid exchange of ideas, not participatory discussion, no voting between the insurers and their customers except with your feet and your money, because at the end of the day the people don’t feel the insurance company is “ours”, it is more like it is “them”, they are “them”, the vendors on one side, and “us”, the customers on the other side, “we” don’t like them, “we” let them know and choose another one but there is no real discussion. The discussion is only about what the government should do and not about what each private insurance company should do. This is my impression, it might be wrong.

    And IMHO this might be the reason a lot of people are not libertarians – people love just love to participate, debate, discuss, have a say, feel something is “ours”.

    The same propertarian instinct that makes people love and cherish their private property because it is “mine”, makes them want other things which are important in their lives (such as healthcare) be at least “ours” and not “theirs”.

    The free market solution for this is fairly obvious: voluntary communities or collectives, like building societies, credit unions, and various kinds of co-operatives. It is not that hard to imagine a health insurance company which is non-profit, because their customers are their owners (members), and the leadership is elected, and before voting there is a vigorous discussion between members what policies to follow, how to insure what etc. This is perfectly would not have the disadvantages of statist solutions, but it would have all the advantages of them: participation, the feeling that this is “ours” and you have a say in it etc.

    So the big question is – why doesn’t the market produce more “voluntarily collective”, co-operative, mutualist, participatory, non-autistic institutions, where the owners are generally the customers, where leadership is elected, and thus people have a say and participate in the discussion of how it is being ran? Why does the market often result in autistic, “Fine, you buy what you want, I buy what I want, end of the discussion” results? Is it because the state is grabbing all those fields of activity where voluntarily collective, co-operative solutions would make sense? Or does the free market have a naturally autistic tendency? Or is it more like modern culture?

  115. @Shenpen
    “It is not that hard to imagine a health insurance company which is non-profit, because their customers are their owners (members), and the leadership is elected, and before voting there is a vigorous discussion between members what policies to follow, how to insure what etc.”

    Actually, that is the history of most of our (health) insurers and some of the major banks in the Netherlands. Almost all converted into commercial corporations. The reason as I understand it is that at some point they needed access to risk capital. And as a corporation, they can enter the market.

    Another contributing cause might have been the normal evolution that people become disinterested in something that works. So when the insurers, banks, and building societies did their work and commercial competition appeared, people began to lose interest. The fact that health care for wage earners became supplied as part of social security contributed a lot too. Note that all people already had access to free bank services in the 1960s. That made the banks more competitive.

  116. Look Monster, you go sort your M&M’s and we’ll be sharing the cake over here. Have fun with your cabalistic superstition.

  117. @Andy Freeman
    “Suppose that ESR readers form a govt and that govt pass an excise tax which says that Winter owes 10k euros/year as long as he lives wherever it is that he lives.

    II’m pretty sure that Winter would object, that he’d ignore the edicts of the ESR reader govt.”

    I am stunned, really stunned by this example! I would certainly object, because it would be completely unfair.

    My household currently pays much more in taxes. And we are middle class. I would consider it very inappropriate for me to pay so much less than my colleges and relatives.

    But I assume you mean I have to pay extra, in addition to my normal taxes? So you mean a law is passed that singles me out for special tax treatment? But every special treatment under the law is unconstitutional in my country. Any law that singles me out personally would break both the constitution and the European anti-discrimination treaties. Try again. And if both my parliament AND the European Commission team up to hurt me personally, I think 10k taxes would be the least of all my wories.

    But these theoretical excercises are pointless. The “two wolves vote to eat the one sheep” never really happens in a democracy. At elast not in Europe (I have no idea about the USA). Taxes are fairly nicely distributed over the population here.

  118. @esr “Analyze my communication in terms of intended effect on the listener.”

    The intended effect is to formulate a message in the style of setting a big dichotomy in order to create the usual kind of us vs. them split which easily hooks into the tribal insticts most people have. I suppose it works for some people, and can kind of counteract the fact that the left-wingers are doing the same thing on 10 times more popular levels, it can shake some entrenched and popular ideas because it is direct and targeted and psychologically effective, so it certainly has uses, but I have problems with it nevertheless. Basically, that this battle linguistics directed at beating enemies, this is not a consensus-seeking linguistics directed at seeking mutual understanding and some constructive results.

    Maybe I am naive, but I am tired of debates nobody ever wins, tired of debates of people just beating each other with words without trying to really grok where the other person is coming from, empathically, and I would be a lot more accomodating than you, adapt my language to what the other side is using and trying to work on the inside, in their framework, and not battering it from outside with terms alien to them… I am no Gnostic:I don’t think there is a good and evil side. I think 90% of it is simply misunderstandings, different life experiences and suchlike, and at least some amount of common minimum could be formed.

  119. @Winter

    That is English and simply part of US history. But then you declare this as the one true universal answer to this moral question.

    WTF? you are the one declaring that everyone in the world but ESR and me defines “murder” to include “leaving someone in a harsh environment”, and you still refuse to answer my question:

    Are the people who have no prior relationship with someone they encounter while traveling in a harsh environment guilty of (attempted) murder if they refuse to allow him to join their group or not?

    It is crucial that you do answer this, because you are the one who claims the near-universality of a moral code that obligates people to be their brothers’ keeper, which code considers “leaving someone in a harsh environment” to be “murder”. But you keep refusing to explain whether the example I give would fall under this allegedly near-universal definition.

    I have my own suspicions as to why you won’t answer, but I’ll keep it to myself for the nonce.

    Let us do that. Eric and you talk about voluntary communities and pit them against non-voluntary collectivism. For that to work, you have to redefine punishment. As a purely voluntary community cannot punish its members. So you say that only, and really only, active violence (law enforcement) is punishment.

    Where have either of us redefined “punishment” or said that a voluntary community cannot punish members? I don’t pretend to speak for ESR here, but for me, the question is not whether punishment is allowed, but the limits on that punishment.

    @ESR

    The main thing you’re missing is a verification theory.

    Ockham said “sine necessitate”. He did not define what constitutes “necessity”, nor have I tried to do so here. At the risk of being called a “scientist” or something, I think I’ll go with the, um, method of formulating hypotheses, performing experiments, and letting reality thereby tell me how good my map is.

  120. >As a purely voluntary community cannot punish its members

    Wrong. Expulsion and shunning are punishments.

    But more importantly, you’ve drawn the line between community and collectivism in a different place than I and Bastiat do, and are therefore knocking the stuffings out of a strawman. Remember Bastiat’s formulation of the law: joint organization of the individual right of self-defense. I do not propose that no-one can be punished, but that the community can only punish violations of the rights of individuals.

  121. @The Monster
    I wrote some jurisdictions (quite a lot?) consider ignoring a “distress” call a punishable act (depending on circumstances bla blah)

    And your question: Yes
    If you are driving a bus tour through the Sahara and refuse to give a lost petson a ride, you should be punishable for some level of murder if this person dies. (Depending on circumstances blah blah)

    @esr
    So I misunderstood your post. I think I still do not completely understand the boundaries, but that is just me.

  122. @Shenpen . . . this might be the reason a lot of people are not libertarians

    This is a huge topic, but I would like to tackle a small piece because I think it could be helpful.

    The USA (and most of Europe) has been affluent for many decades now. Even the poorest elements of these societies now have easy access to food, shelter, protection, education, health care, and even leisure entertainment at tax payer’s expense. As a result, most do not have even a vague idea of what true existential hardship is or the role that desperation plays in acquiring basic survival and success skills. In short, we have become soft and entitled; whereas our pioneering ancestors where, of necessity, hard and self-reliant.

    I would argue that government-distributed affluence and collectivist entitlement mentality are a self-reinforcing feedback loop on each other. It’s hard to become a libertarian when its so easy to sell your soul for another government handout.

  123. @Winter

    A special tax for you is also unconstitutional in the USA. Article 1 Section 9: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.”

    That doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. Where there’s a will there’s a way, and people who have to pass a bill before they can find out what’s in it seem to have the will.

    More generally, examples of how collectivism works so well elsewhere don’t apply to the USA.

    Collectivism doesn’t scale. A simple set of rules that works well for 3 million will have too many nasty edge cases to ignore for 300 million. A comprehensive set of rules imposes an intolerable maintenance burden on the majority.

  124. Community with a right of exit sounds like health insurance that covers pre-existing conditions: it either can’t be sustained, or doesn’t actually do anything of use. Think about the natural consequences for a few minutes…

  125. Russell Nelson,

    > Tom DeGisi, no, Ari Consul is an idiot. He claims that because there is no pure libertarian society, libertarianism is just a myth.
    > Lacking any sense or logic, he fails to see that because there exist people like him and you, who oppose libertarianism, THERE
    > CANNOT BE A PURE LIBERTARIAN SOCIETY, because it would contain components of collectivism.

    How can he be an idiot when you agree with him? From where I sit, you just restated his evidence and his conclusion as if you agreed with him. All that remains is a possible disagreement about the extent of libertarian myth making. You agree with him that a pure libertarian society is a myth. History agrees with him as well. There have been no sustained libertarian societies. Did you miss that word ‘sustained’? Looks to me like he is a more careful thinker than you are, since that entirely invalidates your argument above.

    BTW, I would actually like a libertarian society. It would be better than what we have. I’m almost a libertarian, except that I think that those who are not libertarian have the right to live under the non-libertarian government of their choice. People don’t want libertarianism. I respect that. Libertarian theory, via contractual collectivism, has found a way to satisfy those who don’t agree with it. I think libertarian propagandists should be pushing that with all their might, by attaching it to current governments with physical boundaries. Let Lawrence, Kansas, the Berkely on the Wakarusa, have the collectivist govermnment they appear to desire, while libertarians found their own city. Western Kansas would be pretty hospitable, although too flat for your tastes, given your photos. If you ever visit it, I would like to see what you photgraph. I think it has a quiet beauty which you would appreciate. Maybe not enough to stay, but enough to share.

    Yours,
    Tom

  126. esr Says:
    > Expulsion and shunning are punishments.

    Voluntary punishments are extremely common in modern society, and they don’t have to involve something so drastic and atomic as explusion and shunning. For example, it is very common in sub division suburbia to place deed restrictions on what property owners can do on their property and what obligations they have to their neighbors with associated punishments (such as fines, exclusion from certain privileges, and even liens) to enforce them. If you don’t cut your grass, you are banned from the pool. You may not paint your garage door purple, and failure to remediate on notice from the local home owners association will result in a fine of $10 per day. You cannot park more than ten cars outside your house, though three exclusions to this a year are allowed. $100 fine for each violation. I find these sort of rules very distasteful, but I recognize that some people are willing to give up their “garage door color liberty” to live in a non tie dyed neighborhood. These sort of deed restrictions allow them to do so voluntarily, and I favor their rights to whatever monochromatic hell they might choose.

    In commercial contracts it is very common to have punitive clauses, for example, failure to perform, causing pecuniary punishments, up to and including total forfeiture. These sorts of punishments are entirely voluntary, and entered into with the free will of all parties involved. Curiously, these sorts of thing are particularly common in government contracts. (That would be because governments are notoriously bad and managing their own contracts and money. OPM is always less of a concern I guess.)

    Of course some types of punishment, typical in the criminal justice system, cannot be written into contracts like this because they would be void and unenforceable. A contract prescribing debtors’ prison for a defaulted mortgage could not be enforced in modern societies. But pretty much every other type of punishment typical in a society can be found in one form or other in an explicit written contract.

  127. @Winter

    But these theoretical excercises are pointless. The “two wolves vote to eat the one sheep” never really happens in a democracy. At elast not in Europe (I have no idea about the USA). Taxes are fairly nicely distributed over the population here.

    The Athenian democracy voted not once but twice to execute the generals of their army in the field. The first time they relented the next day and the messenger delivering the reprieve arrived in time. The second time the generals’ enemies prevented that.

  128. @Winter

    If you are driving a bus tour through the Sahara and refuse to give a lost petson a ride, you should be punishable for some level of murder if this person dies. (Depending on circumstances blah blah)

    Let’s explore those circumstances blah blah yadda yadda yadda…. Can you give some examples of exculpatory situations under which such refusal would not constitute (attempted) murder under your moral code?

    For instance, if I stop to render aid to the lost person, and he turns out to be part of a gang of bandits, who force me and my passengers off the bus, strip us of our valuables, and leave us in precisely the predicament we thought he was in, I’ve failed in my duty to deliver my passengers safely to their destination, for which they’ve paid me. Is my explicit duty to them greater than an implicit duty to all humans?

    You may say this banditry is an invention of mine to avoid my responsibility, but I may even have been warned that such bandits are operating in that area, so at that point it’s a very real risk to which the law would seem to subject me and my passengers.

    What if there’s more than one lost soul in the Sahara? What if it’s a group so large that my bus cannot accomodate all of them?

    Any time you posit a positive obligation, that obligation will invariably come into conflict with other obligations. This is but one of the reasons why I cannot lump a failure to render aid to a stranger under the rubric of “murder”. I may have some degree of responsibility, but failing to help is not the same as actively hurting, no matter how often you insist that the person in question is equally dead whether by my hand or from natural causes. The fact of death does not render all other circumstances irrelevant in the moral calculus.

  129. “He claims that because there is no pure libertarian society, libertarianism is just a myth.”

    Never mind the mythology…what is being cited here is relevant experimental evidence. If real people constantly reject libertarianism, if it can’t exist in the wild, there’s no point to advocating it. The whole thing reminds me of those earnest youngsters that still believe in Marxism/Socialism. “Real socialism has never been tried.” Yes, it has. Over and over. It always comes out badly. Don’t ignore the evidence.

    “No no no! You miss my point entirely. I want to make politics unimportant. If the state doesn’t have power to screw up your life, then politics doesn’t matter and one can actually go on and do things that /really/ make a difference instead of constantly battling over the negative sum game that is politics.”

    This is a common attitude in the techno community. We’d rather deal with machines that work logically than deal with those flighty, inconsistent people. Too bad. You can’t kill them all. Politics is here to stay.

    BTW: Just as an aside, for those debating questions about saving drowning people, etc. Under the English Common Law, there is NO duty to rescue. You could just let the person drown without legal consequences. (What the relatives of the deceased might do to you is another matter.) There is a patchwork of state laws here in the US that were enacted to deal with this.

  130. > You may say this banditry is an invention of mine to avoid my responsibility, but I may even have been warned that such bandits are operating in that area, so at that point it’s a very real risk to which the law would seem to subject me and my passengers.

    This is actually a reality in our state highway recently. Recently there was a news report of highway robbers employing decoys (like using fake “abandoned babies” on the roadside) to lure lonely travellers into stopping and then robbing them of valuables.

    This part of your post struck me so I thought I’d share it.

  131. >> “Suppose that ESR readers form a govt and that govt pass an excise tax which says that Winter owes 10k euros/year as long as he lives wherever it is that he lives.
    >> II’m pretty sure that Winter would object, that he’d ignore the edicts of the ESR reader govt.”

    > I am stunned, really stunned by this example! I would certainly object, because it would be completely unfair.

    Is winter claiming that all taxes are fair? If so, some proof would be nice.

    As a counter-example, I’ll point out that when I got married, the total US income taxes paid by my wife and I went up by well over $10k and Obama wants to increase the difference. If “unfair” is a defence against taxes …..

    > But I assume you mean I have to pay extra, in addition to my normal taxes?

    The ESR reader govt taxes are independent of other taxes.

    > So you mean a law is passed that singles me out for special tax treatment? But every special treatment under the law is unconstitutional in my country.

    Doesn’t matter – ESR reader govt isn’t bound by the laws of your country or the EU. However, if it makes you feel better, that tax can apply to everyone in your area.

    > Any law that singles me out personally would break both the constitution and the European anti-discrimination treaties.

    Does that mean that you’re relying on them to defend you from ESR reader govt?

    > The “two wolves vote to eat the one sheep” never really happens in a democracy.

    Oh really? There are many taxes in the US that apply to less than 1% of the population.

    If the EU really is different, great, and it would be useful to know why. However, that difference means that the EU’s experience doesn’t apply to the US.

    Either way, the US experience shows that the two wolves definition is somewhat common. It would be good to know if it applies in the rest of the Americas.

  132. @winter
    ‘But these theoretical excercises are pointless. The “two wolves vote to eat the one sheep” never really happens in a democracy. At elast not in Europe (I have no idea about the USA). Taxes are fairly nicely distributed over the population here.’

    While its true that european taxes are less progressive than their US cousins, you still are wrong. Look at tariffs and import restrictions on food items thought europe and you will see plenty of “two wolves vote to eat the one sheep” behavior.

  133. Recently there was a news report of highway robbers employing decoys (like using fake “abandoned babies” on the roadside) to lure lonely travellers into stopping and then robbing them of valuables.

    I read that email too, but didn’t want to introduce it into evidence without further corroboration, so I left it as a hypothetical. That way no one will claim that my entire argument is invalidated by some evidence that a particular email was actually a hoax.

  134. @winter:
    If german law truly describes failure to answer a distress call as killing, then it has claimed that inaction is action. This is not an arbitrary distinction, but it is, as you have demonstrated, a distinction that collectivists fail to recognize. If the end result is indisinguishable from the result that would occur if I didn’t exist, then I can’t be said to have caused that result. Actions have effects. Inaction leaves the status quo in place.

    I’m not saying that there is no such thing as a duty to help others. I think that helping other people is a good thing. (This is, as I understand it, incompatible with objectivism.) I do question the methods used to enforce such duties. If someone attempts to cause harm to me via direct action as a punishment, then I am free to defend myself without violating equal rights. However, if everyone shuns me because I left someone in distress, there is no force there for me to retaliate against, making me the agressor if I start engaging in violence to survie. Life without anyone around me to cooperate with would be nasty, brutish, and short. That doesn’t make their choice to shun me into force, but it would still be quite a severe punishment, and I would likely die quickly.

  135. @ phlinn

    Objectivism is not incompatible with helping people. It is incompatible with a moral code (altruism) that *requires* one to sacrifice a value to a lower/non value in the name of another’s ‘need’.

  136. @phlinn
    “I’m not saying that there is no such thing as a duty to help others. I think that helping other people is a good thing. (This is, as I understand it, incompatible with objectivism.) ”

    No, Objectivism says that helping people at cost to yourself and then acting as if its a sacrifice is either dishonest (as you wouldn’t have done it if you didn’t want to) or masochistic and self destructive. It says that if we help people, we should be honest that we did it because we wanted to. It attempts to take away the glory people feel in self-imposed victimhood.

  137. >Objectivism says that helping people at cost to yourself and then acting as if its a sacrifice is either dishonest (as you wouldn’t have done it if you didn’t want to) or masochistic and self destructive. It says that if we help people, we should be honest that we did it because we wanted to. It attempts to take away the glory people feel in self-imposed victimhood.

    This may be the only part of the Objectivist critique that I unreservedly agree with. Ayn Rand was an appalling duffer as a philosopher of knowledge, a turgid writer, and prone to disturbing quirks like rape fantasies and adulating at least one serial killer in a quasi-Nietzschean way. But she got this part right, you betcha.

  138. >Objectivism says that helping people at cost to yourself and then acting as if its a sacrifice is either dishonest (as you wouldn’t have done it if you didn’t want to) or masochistic and self destructive. It says that if we help people, we should be honest that we did it because we wanted to. It attempts to take away the glory people feel in self-imposed victimhood.

    Time for a healthy amount of virtue ethics! We help others because it helps us become the kind of person we want to become. Our philosophical thinking should begin at Plato – you don’t do bad stuff because the social contract says so but because you don’t want to become the kind of person who is capable of doing bad things as a matter of course. Acting as a sacrifice is indeed dishonest – this argument is not new, Schiller parodized Kant this way:

    Scruples of Conscience

    I like to serve my friends, but unfortunately I do it by inclination And so I am bothered by the thought that I am not virtuous.

    Decision

    There is no other way but this! You must seek to despise them And do with repugnance what duty bids you.

    The point is of course, you help your friends because it helps you become the kind of person who likes to do so, because everything is improved by practice and habit-forming – generally being a magnanimous person helps you live a happier life.

    EVERY ethics is at their root virtue ethics because their ultimate argument is if you don’t do so you are not rational, good or pious – and it assumes you want to become rational, good or pious because it is good for you! Except for social contract ethics which we know since Plato that it is shallow.

  139. @Shepen:
    “Our philosophical thinking should begin at Plato – you don’t do bad stuff because the social contract says so but because you don’t want to become the kind of person who is capable of doing bad things as a matter of course.”

    Here! here!

    We shouldn’t do evil not because its culturally unacceptable, but because its worse than good, and leads to more evil later.

  140. @The Monster
    “Can you give some examples of exculpatory situations under which such refusal would not constitute (attempted) murder under your moral code?”

    I won’t insult your intelligence by supplying legal reasons to kill. You can come up with excuses that will convince a judge yourself.

    @hari
    “This is actually a reality in our state highway recently.”

    Which merely means you call 911 (112 in Europe) to ensure help will be given. You are all making up excuses to avoid admitting that you can be forced into action by law. The law simply requires you take action to help.

  141. @winter
    “Which merely means you call 911 (112 in Europe) to ensure help will be given. You are all making up excuses to avoid admitting that you can be forced into action by law. The law simply requires you take action to help.”

    In your country, if you call 112 and noone shows up, and you are murdered as a result will cops go to jail for killing you?

  142. Winter: Which merely means you call 911 (112 in Europe) to ensure help will be given. You are all making up excuses to avoid admitting that you can be forced into action by law. The law simply requires you take action to help.

    The UN sends “peacekeeping” forces into several African countries. Many are European, some from the Netherlands. They have orders and are directly prevented from interfering in the atrocities, murders, and crime they witness unless there is a clear and absolute threat to themselves. Are they breaking the laws you’ve referenced throughout this post?

  143. @Winter: “Which merely means you call 911 (112 in Europe) to ensure help will be given. You are all making up excuses to avoid admitting that you can be forced into action by law. The law simply requires you take action to help.”

    What if you are in a situation where someone needs the help, say they are being assaulted, and rather than interfere or take direct action, you make the call. And the help arrives too late and the person is victimized. Are you morally clear because you did your duty, or are you complicit in the event, as well as the emer responders? The world is gray, my friend.

    Also, and libertarians know this well – when you are within seconds of danger, the police are only minutes away.

  144. >Here! here!

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

    That is “Hear, hear!” Originally “Hear him, hear him!”

    We’re usually on the same side, so it pains me to see you write like an illiterate yahoo. *grumble*

  145. @Robert Hooker

    The U.S. Constitution does not give U.S. Citizens any rights. It lists some in the first ten amendments, but it is explicitly not a comprehensive list.

    Ninth Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    Despite assertions from Eurocentric analysts, neither Congress, nor the President, nor the Supreme Court is sovereign. U.S. Citizens are, individually and jointly.

  146. Legislators breaking the meta-law against legalized plunder sets polities on the road to serfdom. Proxies (virtue, wealth, credentials, reputation) for identifying legislators who won’t cross this line are all gameable by miscreants. Even legislators who initially abide by the restriction can often be induced to compromise. Enforcing the meta-law fails because legislators are able to legally insulate themselves from prosecution by common citizens.

    Partisans of liberty are left with civil disobedience and exit as means to check collectivization. I think facilitating foot-voting by allowing geographically distributed states (as in Snow Crash) to compete for citizens is an institutional innovation worth attempting. I just can’t think of any existing state whose legislative class would permit it to be instituted.

  147. > However, if everyone shuns me because I left someone in distress

    In what sort of communities does this “everyone shuns” actually occur (absent some legal obligation)?

    I can imagine it happening in a very small and isolated community, but those are almost non-existent today.

    More to the point, why should “everyone shun”, or rather “everyone might shun” be a factor in deciding how to run the vast majority of communities where that simply won’t happen? I ask because “everyone might shun” is used to require all sorts of interactions that some people would otherwise not engage in.

    As attorneys are fond of saying, “Everyone is entitled to legal representation but they aren’t entitled to legal representation by {speaker}.” For some reason, the rest of us are not allowed to make the same decision.

  148. > Are the people who have no prior relationship with someone they encounter while traveling in a harsh environment guilty of (attempted) murder if they refuse to allow him to join their group or not?

    Asimov explored this issue in one of his robot stories. They loosened the requirement for the particular robot to save humans. Soon the robot was murdering humans by doing something deadly with the intention of stopping it in time and then failing to stop it. I respect Asimov, but that trick is too shallow to fly around here.

    Yours,
    Tom

  149. > The modern day Amish seem to come close. But they depend on law enforcement of the USA to protect them (against their will, but they are still protected), and I would not call their communities exactly “Free”.

    How about some specifics of this “not free”? Is it that such communities claim the power to exclude others?

    I ask because many people seem to think that they have a “right” to associate with me regardless of my preferences. (Note that I’m not talking about a situation where both parties wish to associate with one another.)

  150. > Which merely means you call 911 (112 in Europe) to ensure help will be given. You are all making up excuses to avoid admitting that you can be forced into action by law.

    Huh? No one has claimed that law can’t force action.

    > The law simply requires you take action to help.

    How, exactly, does requirement work? Am I free to ignore such a situation if I don’t have legal access to a working phone? (My phone’s battery is dead but there may be a phone in a locked building nearby.) Am I obligated to have a working phone? If the incident is in a cell-phone dead zone, am I obligated to seek out some place where I can make a call?

    Is it an obligation to help or an obligation to call 112? The difference matters because there are many situations were 112 will not result in an effective response.

    BTW – a checkable citation describing this obligation would be nice.

  151. The free market solution for this is fairly obvious: voluntary communities or collectives, like building societies, credit unions, and various kinds of co-operatives. It is not that hard to imagine a health insurance company which is non-profit, because their customers are their owners (members), and the leadership is elected, and before voting there is a vigorous discussion between members what policies to follow, how to insure what etc.

    I got some flak on one of the previous threads here, for speaking in favor of public health insurance schemes. I don’t doubt some people here have me branded a communist or a collectivist because of it. I might also add that I on occasion think favorably of trade unions. That should probably make it worse.

    Funnily, these came to be (at least in Belgium, but I’m guessing most of western Europe saw a similar evolution) in exactly the way you describe : our health insurance system is based largely on what originally were voluntary collectives for mutual support. They probably got a bit too bureaucratic over the years, and tat some point the state got involved as additional source of money, but in essence they are/were what you describe. Trade unions emerged and evolved pretty much the same way.

    So, apparently, those type of solutions can and do emerge, and I agree it would be interesting to know why it doesn’t happen more often, or why it doesn’t seem to happen in the US ?

    Hypothesis : the population of the US has undergone some sort of selection that makes them lean towards self-reliance more than normal. The country’s population are descendents of people with a rather high level of selfishness and/or self-reliance (criminals, adventurers, fortune-seekers, emigrants who took their chances elsewhere rather that wait for problems in their home land to disappear, …) and has as a result developed a culture where individual action is highly appreciated and collective, cooperative solutions are frowned upon, or considered merely “plan B”.

    see, as an anecdotal example, TomA’s post higher up, where he describes the individualist mindset vs. the collectivist mindset (and notice the slurs on the latter)

    I see ESR’s OP in the same light, i.e. as an attempt to separate the positive ‘community’ from the negative ‘collective’, whereby ‘community’ need to be kept clear of the stain of “beign something collective, not individualistic”.

  152. @kn

    Hypothesis : the population of the US has undergone some sort of selection that makes them lean towards self-reliance more than normal.

    This much is almost certainly true. The entire country has, at various times, qualified as a “harsh environment” by the standards of the nations the settlers left behind.

    collective, cooperative solutions are frowned upon, or considered merely “plan B”

    Ever heard of a barn-raising?

    How about a church pastor and his wife coming over for dinner and mentioning in passing that the widow Johnson could sure use some help around her place now that Bill’s passed away, little Billy isn’t big enough to carry the load just yet, and your boy Samuel is a strapping lad who could help get in the hay they’ll need to feed their cattle over the winter, and isn’t Suzie Johnson blossoming into a fine young woman, just about Samuel’s age, isn’t she?

    How about someone has cancer and the Young Women’s Civic Organization puts on a fund-raiser to get the money they need for the treatment.

    All of these are cooperative solutions. They just aren’t collectivist solutions. Collectivists love to set up the straw man of libertarians as opposing cooperation, and granting collectivism a monopoly on cooperation, compassion, caring, and everything else that is good. But we don’t oppose cooperation at all; man is indeed a social animal who is capable of so much more when he works with his fellows than when he works in isolation. We just don’t think that has a damned thing to do with Men With Badges And Guns ordering people to work together.

  153. @The Monster

    “But we don’t oppose cooperation at all; man is indeed a social animal who is capable of so much more when he works with his fellows than when he works in isolation. We just don’t think that has a damned thing to do with Men With Badges And Guns ordering people to work together.”

    Agreed!
    Furthermore, the beauty of capitalism is that by aligning incentives, it allows cooperation between people who wouldn’t normally care for each other.

  154. Soon the robot was murdering humans by doing something deadly with the intention of stopping it in time and then failing to stop it.

    That struck me as a clear First Law violation, since the robot in question did in fact take action that harmed humans.

    This is one of the reasons why I’m probing the distinction between an obligation to someone with whom I have some pre-existing relationship vs. a stranger, and my obligation to my bus passengers vs. the lost traveler in the Sahara. I think it’s clear that the former of each pair is stronger than the latter, but I fear all I’ve accomplished is to let a few people OD on Righteous Indignation and cake topped with red and blue M&Ms, each of which can be very addictive.

  155. The Monster,

    > This is one of the reasons why I’m probing the distinction between an obligation to someone with whom I have some pre-existing relationship vs. a stranger, and my obligation to my bus passengers vs. the lost traveler in the Sahara. I think it’s clear that the former of each pair is stronger than the latter, but I fear all I’ve accomplished is to let a few people OD on Righteous Indignation and cake topped with red and blue M&Ms, each of which can be very addictive.

    It’s a good thing for you to probe, but it’s running into the hard-cases-make-bad-law problem. If other people are like me it looks like a argumention tar pit seeded randomly with mines. For example, if that stranger is a baby 99.999% of the time you have to pick it up, or you are as good as murdering it. We can all posit wild situations where that baby is just enough to sink the ship, but those are so rare as to be stupid. I did read an excellent SF story about a kid stowing away on a space capsule. The air budget was such that the someone had to die – except the pilot amputated his own legs to make the budget close, knowing they could probably be regrown. There was also that horrible M.A.S.H. episode about the woman who smothered her crying baby to save everyone on the bus. But then good authors always put their characters through hell.

    When you push people into the hard-cases-make-bad-law problem, they often react with bluster and bromides. A very good friend was pushing me on an amnesty for illegal aliens. My reaction was a blizzard of complaints, some high dugeon about ethics and repeatedly saying I don’t like amnesties. Ugg. Took me days to come up with a refined response, and it was probably the sort of compromise which hits the sour spot dead on.

    Yours,
    Tom

  156. @Tom DeGisi

    It’s a good thing for you to probe, but it’s running into the hard-cases-make-bad-law problem.

    Funny, I think the entire “lifeboat situation” premise is the hard case that makes bad law. Collectivists love to declare emergencies precisely because they then get to do things that we don’t allow in any other than emergency situations. And then they try to keep their emergency measures on the books long after the emergency has passed.

    We have a huge Excluded Middle in this conversation; either you believe that failing to rescue someone from a bad situation is exactly the same thing as murder, or you want babies to die.

    Winter has stated that failure to help someone in a bad situation is murdering that person, which a sane person ought to reject as ridiculous on its face, yet he asserts that the legal systems of the vast majority of the world do indeed hold this to be true (except when he’s talking about four-tiered German-style systems that distinguish between “murder” and “killing” or something). At first he claimed the obligation was to stop and give the person a ride, but then he allowed as how calling 112 was good enough. Well, which is it? What is the exact level of action I may take that prevents me from being a murderer? I always figured it was “don’t kill people”.

    For example, if that stranger is a baby 99.999% of the time you have to pick it up, or you are as good as murdering it.

    That statement is false.

    Again, I am not saying that I have no moral or even legal responsibility to rescue a stranger. I am strenuously denying that failing to pick up the baby is “as good as murdering it.” I am fighting mightily against lumping these things together under the same name because they are not the same thing at all, even though the result in either case may be a dead baby. How we arrive at that end state matters.

    When an actual murder has been committed, it is not possible for anyone else to reanimate it. It has ceased to be. It is an ex-baby.

    But if I don’t pick up the baby, someone else may pick it up a few minutes later. It requires every person to fail to save the baby for it to die through inaction, but it only takes one person to murder the baby for it to die. Thus the two things are not the same, and all of the “as good as” in the world will not change that fact.

    Emotionally we are hard-wired to think very badly of people who would refuse to help a poor defenseless baby. That is exactly what the robbers are preying upon, and if they are ever brought to justice their sentences should be enhanced as a result of their use of such a dastardly tactic. If I were driving down the road and saw what looked like an abandoned baby, I would almost certainly stop and render aid, but not because there is some threat of force against me if I didn’t do it. I would do it because I believe it’s the right thing for me to personally do. But I don’t support sending Men With Badges And Guns to punish someone else who doesn’t act to save the baby as if they had murdered it.

    This “not helping someone in a bad situation who eventually dies as a result of staying in the bad situation is the same as killing him” is basically the same logic that holds that not raising a government agency’s budget as much as someone else wants to is a “cut”, and not taxing someone as highly next year as last is giving them that money. There are over 300 million people in the US whom I did not rob at gunpoint today. Did I in any sense “give” them the valuables I did not steal from them? Will I “give” them the same value tomorrow by not robbing them then? I’m such a giver! It is an absurd notion.

    People died today; I personally did nothing to save from their fate. Did I “kill” them? Did you? Did six billion people murder all of the people who died today? If you buy that equation, you have signed a blank check; you will never own anything the rest of your life, because every day people will die, and it is your fault, you murderer! because you didn’t give away everything you own to save them.

    That is the kind of unearned guilt I refuse to accept. If I need to feel guilty about something, I can just ask my wife what’s my fault today.

  157. @The Monster
    “I am strenuously denying that failing to pick up the baby is “as good as murdering it.” ”

    Your position is a very lone one. Especially if you encounter a judge applying a law that requires your action. She will most likely hold you partly responsible for the death of the baby. And she will simply use the appropriate legal term of the jurisdiction. The effect might very well be that you end up in jail.

    But this discussion is going nowhere.

    On this site, people discuss a new Libertarian world order. You are especially vocal with theological hair splitting on how this new world order should look. But in this matter you show you are unable to grasp a relatively simple principle in foreign law. And not a particularly obscure one, as it is known from maritime law International maritime law compels all vessels, including military units, to answer distress calls from nearby boats and to offer help where possible..
    (eg, http://www.duhaime.org/LegalResources/maritimelaw/lawarticle-389/the-obligation-to-render-assistance-at-sea.aspx)

    Still it is very simple, there are countries where you have a legal duty to rescue. In the Netherlands, this is written in article 450 of criminal law (http://www.wetboek-online.nl/wet/Sr/450.html). You can get up to 3 months in jail if you do not supply help. In Germany this is article 323c and you can get a year in jail (http://dejure.org/gesetze/StGB/323c.html). That is not “First degree murder”, but jail time all the same.

    Another telling aspect of this discussion is the suggestion that our lawmakers and judges are morons. That they would write and enforce laws that would require people to risk their lives. You want to redesign the world, but have no clue how the situation is in the next continent?

    I should have posted the relevant link immediately. So, for your education, here it is:
    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Duty_to_rescue

    There are two other comments.

    A legal duty to rescue has the immediate consequence that a rescuer cannot be held liable for damages. To sue someone who tried to save you for damages, you have to prove recklessness or criminal intent.

    Furthermore, it is probably not a coincidence that countries that have a duty to rescue also have a social security system in place to “rescue” people who are in danger due to a lack of income.

  158. @Tom DeGisi:
    > Asimov explored this issue in one of his robot stories. They loosened the requirement for the particular robot to save humans. Soon the robot was murdering humans by doing something deadly with the intention of stopping it in time and then failing to stop it.

    If you are thinking of “Little Lost Robot”, then IIRC then doing actual harm to humans in that way was only brought up as a theoretical possibility. Now IMHO this wouldn’t have worked, or at least it is inconsistent with a similar theoretical discussion from another story, but I’ll refrain from arguing with Asimov on this :-)

  159. @Andy Freeman
    “How about some specifics of this “not free”?” (about the Amish)

    You are free to leave the Amish, they will actually help you leave if you do not fit in. But that is about the only freedom you have. Depending on the community, you are not allowed to do most things an American is likely to do.

    So, legally you are free to do what you want in an Amish community, but only if you leave. My personal idea of a free community is that you can do what you want while you can continue living in that community. That was why I wrote “I would not call them free”. They are free to live their life as they like, and I reserve the right to dislike it.

    @Andy Freeman
    “ESR reader govt isn’t bound by the laws of your country or the EU.”

    Sorry, I did misunderstood your original post. I had not considered the possibility that you seem to be ignorant of what a government actually is. Your suggestion that the ESR readers can form a government over me is even less relevant than saying they can decide I will have a sex change operation. The concept of the “ESR reader govt” is not even wrong.

    Btw, my household pays much, much more than 10k euros a year. Tax rates in the Netherlands are are 32% upto 18k euro, 42% 18k-56k euro, 52% for anything earned above 56k euro. Capital and savings, but not your house, is taxed at around 1.2% of the actual value. Health care and personal pensions are paid outside these taxes.

    Personal tax laws are very restricted. There are few special cases, as few as possible. The Dutch tax authorities seem to be admired in the world for their efficiency and professionalism (weird but true).

    So your attempt to get me personally taxed beyond believe is rather alien to my experience.

  160. @Winter

    >So, legally you are free to do what you want in an Amish community, but only if you leave. My personal idea of a free community is that you can do what you want while you can continue living in that community. That was why I wrote “I would not call them free”. They are free to live their life as they like, and I reserve the right to dislike it.

    That is an interesting topic and it was analyised a lot by Hans-Hermann Hoppe in Democracy: The God That Failed, under the name “right to exclusion”.

    The way I understand it – which may be wrong – is that essentially, from the freedom to associate or don’t associate with others follows that if everybody has the right not to do business, hire, lend to, or rent to anyone for whatever reason, then, although people can’t be physically thrown out of their homes if they own it it still follows that any community can make the life any member of them really difficult to the extent that they will probably just rather leave, which amounts to exclusion. And this exclusion simply comes from the right not to associate, which is an important element of freedom.

    This is important, because if one thinks it through it means that theoretically libertarian communities can have many features of states without the use of coercion, f.e. they can expect members to contribute to a defense fund or even welfare fund, and those who refuse won’t be served in shops, bars, won’t get employed nor their products bought i.e. they will probably sooner or later leave and form their own community. And all this happens without any violation of rights. And this is important, because it means libertarian principles don’t necessary lead to overly individualized systems in a fragmented way, but can have many of the features of states, it is only that it leads to a fluid and dynamic system of competitive micro-states, some of them highly communitarian like a kibbutz, others highly individualistic.

  161. @Shenpen
    “And all this happens without any violation of rights.”

    Yes, but that is not my point. Most religious sects are practicing a style of living I would not call “Free”. That is their right. But I do not feel I have to call “Free” individuals in groups that practice extreme censorship in all aspects of life. I object to have to equate the word Free with Rightful. Just as I do not equate Moral with Legal.

  162. The Monster,

    You are proving my point. For example, I qualified my statement and avoided specifics and you ignored the qualification and added your own specifics. I used the phrase “as good as murdered”, not just “murdered”. The first phrase means there is are unstated differences between the given action and murder. Differences I did not state and did not wish to state. I did not say anything about men with badges and guns, among the many other things you mentioned. I appreciate your invitation to explore the mine infested tar pit with you. You are a congenial and engaging companion, but I don’t feel up to the task.

    Yours,
    Tom

  163. Russell Nelson,

    > I guess we’ll have to leave it at that.

    Or you could explain why you seem to have ignored the word ‘sustained’, among other things. You could argue, for example, that it is better to have short lived libertarian places scattered like precious gems in humanity’s tyrannical dross. But you didn’t.

    Yours,
    Tom

  164. >Sorry, I did misunderstood your original post. I had not considered the possibility that you seem to be ignorant of what a government actually is.

    And yet Winter doesn’t tell us what makes ESR reader govt illegimate, which was the question that I asked. He blusters as if the question is beneath him, but can he answer it?

    Is there a substantive answer other than “because the ESR reader govt lacks the ability to collect”?

    > Your suggestion that the ESR readers can form a government over me is even less relevant than saying they can decide I will have a sex change operation.

    Why can’t ESR readers form a govt over Winter? After all, the EU was formed over him and the UN occasionally tries.

    Yes, his govt consented, but Winter himself wasn’t even asked. ESR reader govt let him vote – he just lost.

    > Btw, my household pays much, much more than 10k euros a year.

    So what? Does Winter believe that the govt that he likes has no right to increase his taxes by another 10k euros/year?

    > Personal tax laws are very restricted.

    The proposed ESR reader govt tax that Winter owes wasn’t actually special – I just didn’t describe its effect on other people.

    The question is not whether the tax is special, the question is why Winter thinks that the ESR reader govt is illegitimate.

    > There are few special cases, as few as possible.

    In other words, they exist, despite Winter’s claim.

  165. @Andy Freeman
    “Why can’t ESR readers form a govt over Winter?”

    Because I ignore it, just as everybody else. Power is an illusion, it exists only in the mind of people. And the power of my government exists in the minds of its subjects. Which includes me.

    It is like Socrates. Socrates had spend his whole life defending his city (country). When given the opportunity to save his life by deserting his city (which had betrayed him) he refused.

    The govt of ESR readers is no government as there are no people who actually believe in it and accept it. If the, very real, government of Costa Rica would decide that they treat me as a citizen, I would simply refuse to acknowledge that. Just as all the people around me would ignore my Costa Rican citizenship. So I would still remain a citizen of the Netherlands.

    What you fail to understand is that a government is part of a community, or society. It has to be legitimized and accepted by the community. If it is not, you end up with either one or more different governments, or with a civil war, like in Libya and Syria. Your delusion that a government is a collection of aliens who enslave the humans with armed force is just that, an illusion. Governments are made up of people from the community that is governed. If they are not, this generally ends in a civil war.

    And I will not even start with your misconceptions about the law.

    Btw, the most notable special case in tax law is our Queen. That is what you must see as special cases in tax law.

  166. > Because I ignore it, just as everybody else.

    That’s the answer I suggested. You don’t think that we have the ability to force you to comply so you don’t.

    > What you fail to understand is that a government is part of a community, or society. It has to be legitimized and accepted by the community.

    If ESR readers govt shows up at your doorstep and says “pay up”, you have a choice between fight and comply. Period. There’s no “you can’t force me to choose between those alternatives because you’re not legitimate and accepted.” The same is true of the govts that you accept – they can force you regardless of your feelings about their legitimacy/acceptance.

    Yes, fighting is more likely to succeed if your neighbors also choose to fight, but it’s unclear why you think that your choice to comply obligates anyone else to make the same decision. (Of course, if the govt buys you off, you benefit from other people complying, but your benefit isn’t their obligation.)

  167. > Your delusion that a government is a collection of aliens who enslave the humans with armed force is just that, an illusion.

    No one said anything about aliens, but then strawman is your best argument.

    > Governments are made up of people from the community that is governed. If they are not, this generally ends in a civil war.

    That’s the force argument. Surely you want to argue that govts have some other source of legitmacy.

  168. @Andy Freeman
    A childisch excercise.

    If the ESR government shows up at my doorstep, I call the police. They will deal with it.

    And “to govern” is not synonymous with “to force”. You really overestimate the power of government. The government, that are my neighbors. Literally in my case (local poluticians and civil servants).

    You really make it sound like “the government” are aliens.

  169. > What you fail to understand is that a government is part of a community, or society. It has to be legitimized and accepted by the community.

    And this, I think, is the main point of the “taxation is theft” proclamations. Trying to get some sort of non-circular definition of legitimacy out of pro-government weasels or incompetents (some are one, some the other, and many seem to be both).

    Government is legitimate because it is “legitimized and accepted by the community” versus the equally common claim the government is accepted by the people because it is legitimate. So, since these definitions depend on each other, can any of you pro-government apologists actually give a non-circular definition of what you mean by legitimacy?

  170. @William B Swift
    “can any of you pro-government apologists actually give a non-circular definition of what you mean by legitimacy?”

    Yes.

    The etymology is “based on law”. Where law must be seen as broad, common law, customs, and established rules, principles, or standards. The meaning of a legitimate government would then be “Accepted by the people as the lawful government”. Where the people should be seen as a large majority.

    This is based on the conviction of the people that the “laws” or customs that legitimize the government existed before the government came into power. These laws can obviously be felt to be “Natural Laws”, that transcend human society. And people are very willing to (let themselves) be fooled.

    What happens when people feel their government is not legitimate could be seen in the former communist countries, Egypt, Libya, and Syria.

  171. >The meaning of a legitimate government would then be “Accepted by the people as the lawful government”. Where the people should be seen as a large majority.

    In other words, “might makes right”, since there is no good reason to submit to a majority other than their historical ability to beat up on a minority.

  172. @William B Swift
    “In other words, “might makes right”, since there is no good reason to submit to a majority other than their historical ability to beat up on a minority.”

    So you see a better way to give people what they think is right than to give them what they think is right? Right?

    And the majority has not beaten up the minority in my country since Napoleonic times. Armed force is only used during violent attacks. So your “Might is right” is utterly wrong. Actually, when armed force is used it is a sure sign that the government is lacking legitimacy, and very weak.

  173. “capitalism”. It is a word coined by collectivists to make freedom sound bad.

    This doesn’t seem to be the sharpest collectivist propaganda in the world. Deferring consumption in order to reallocate production to capital goods leads to more consumption and higher quality of life over the long run; capital is why we’re not all starving in the Malthusian gutters today. This is supposed to be useful as an insult?

  174. @Winter
    “And the majority has not beaten up the minority in my country since Napoleonic times. Armed force is only used during violent attacks. So your “Might is right” is utterly wrong. Actually, when armed force is used it is a sure sign that the government is lacking legitimacy, and very weak.”

    Nonsense, they do it every day.

  175. > In other words, “might makes right”, since there is no good reason to submit to a majority other than their historical ability to beat up on a minority.

    I think you got that backwards.

    Modern democracies came to be by a process that went something like : we, the people (“one nation under God”‘; if you want) decide that sovereignty is to the people : we will govern ourselves. Since we anticipate that it’ll probably be impractical to have effective, efficient meetings with all of us assembled, we need something that to solve that problem.

    Solutions historically went towards representation and majority vote. This introduces some imperfections; the usual workarounds are mechanisms for participation, and additional measures to prevent the lamb becoming the wolves’ dinner by majority vote.

    Even so, majority and representation are just one way of implementing sovereignty of the people. If you know or can think of better implementations, feel free to show them.

    As an aside, this also answers your question about legitimacy : the governed decide how they will be governed. You submit to a majority because you’ve decided that’s how you’re going to implement “governement”, not because they might beat you up.

    As an other aside, I’ve (briefly) lived in a country where the government was whoever won the latest civil war – and they had 2 or 3 in less than a decade -. That”s “might is right”. That’s ‘”Man with Badges and Guns”. That’s “they come to your house and take your property”.
    There really is a difference between that, and an elected government collecting tax.

  176. forgot to mention this disclaimer :

    That I’m replying to William B Swift”s question by no means implies that I consider myself to be a governement apologist, a weasel, or an incompetent.

  177. >I think you got that backwards.

    Democracies began when firearms technology made average individuals a threat to highly trained and specialized warriors. After that point was reached, the returns to violence made the mobilization of greater numbers the primary means of winning wars; so the lies of democracy made it possible to mobilize greater masses of soldiers.

    Interestingly, the further increase in military technology in the late 19th and 20th centuries has replaced the “mass of gun-fodder” with “massive national economy” as the foundation of democracy, but both rely on increased returns to violence.

  178. @Winter

    Still it is very simple, there are countries where you have a legal duty to rescue. In the Netherlands, this is written in article 450 of criminal law (http://www.wetboek-online.nl/wet/Sr/450.html). You can get up to 3 months in jail if you do not supply help. In Germany this is article 323c and you can get a year in jail (http://dejure.org/gesetze/StGB/323c.html). That is not “First degree murder”, but jail time all the same.

    Just to be clear, I can’t commit murder (in any degree) in the Netherlands and “get up to 3 months”, can I?

    I think that demonstrates that it is indeed quite hyperbolic to insist that failing to rescue people is “murder”.

    Furthermore, it is probably not a coincidence that countries that have a duty to rescue also have a social security system in place to “rescue” people who are in danger due to a lack of income.

    I agree completely. Once you accept the logic of a law generally compelling rescue individually, another law compelling tax “contributions” to collective “rescue” efforts follows as night follows day. At that point, there is in principle no limit on one’s obligation to improve the welfare of strangers, regardless of the cost of fulfilling that obligation.

    And I also find it interesting that you’ve backed away from the notion that a legal duty to rescue is nearly universal, as the countries with legal traditions descended from the Anglo-Saxon cover quite a bit of the world. It never really mattered to me how many other countries had such a law, but it was a big part of your argument that libertarians must be weird or something.

    @Tom DeGisi
    If you surrender to the statists to avoid the mines and tar, they still get to cash the blank check you’ve written.

  179. >Must have been the links that caused the moderation.

    Maybe, but I responded to roystgnr’s 3:04 PM post with a comment that just disappeared, that had no links in it. And the post I made a few minutes later at 5:11 showed with no problem, so it isn’t that I am posting too much. WordPress just seems a bit flaky sometimes. For that matter, Eric’s blog is down more than any other that I follow regularly, which is more evidence for that.

  180. > Democracies began when firearms technology made average individuals a threat to highly trained and specialized warriors.

    Democracies began when the Third Estate (The “common people”) gained economical power and sought to see their economical role in society translated into more political power – in the then present Estate system, they’d only have one vote against 2 of Nobility and Clergy combined. The theoretical background was provided by classical liberal philosophers , providing legitimacy to counter ‘God’s representatives on Earth” (Clergy) and “God given right to rule” (Nobility).

    availability of firearms my have played some role in the outcome of some of the more revolutionary stages of this process, but to claim that democracy began with the availability of firearms is incorrect.

    Also, I don’t quite see what point you’re trying to make with that post. That all democracies started as a violent coup d’etat and therefore should be abolished ?

  181. If $person[0] freely goes into the harsh environment with $person[1..n] a contract, either express or implied, may be created, obligating each of the group to take reasonable actions to assist in returning the others to civilization. However, if $person[0] breaches that contract by taking action that harms or endangers others, they may well be justified morally (even if the law doesn’t agree) in expelling him from the group. In some cases, they may be justified in actively killing him in their own mutual defense.

    This is not just hypothetical. During the era of westward expansion, it was not uncommon for groups of settlers to establish “wagon train charters”, under which the responsibilities and duties of each member of the party (barring very young children) were completely and specifically delineated. If you failed to pull your weight on the journey, the punishment was being abandoned in the wilderness. Some family surname changes occurred as a result of this, in order to distance the family from the abandoned member.

  182. The Monster,

    > If you surrender to the statists to avoid the mines and tar, they still get to cash the blank check you’ve written.

    I’ll let you work on the duty to rescue mine seeded tar pit. You’re doing great work. I’m more interested in libertarian myth mine seeded tar pit. Division of labor!

    Yours,
    Tom

  183. I’m a very results oriented person. What ESR labels as collectivist societies (countries like Japan and Sweden) have the greatest longevity in the world. The population show the greatest satisfaction with life. They stay healthier for a longer part of their longer lives. People have longer vacations and shorter work weeks. They tend on the average to be more cultured, better informed about politics and society. Wealth is somewhat less unevenly distributed. Eyesores in the form of people who are down and out are less common.

    The only thing I have seen to the advantage of the non collectivist societies is that high income individuals get to pay 20-40% of their income in taxes, instead of the 50% that is the norm in collectivist societies. Interestingly, this larger personal wealth does not translate into any increase in quality of life factors. None. Zilch. Nada. Ingenting.

    The interpretation I make of the sentiments expressed by the ultra-libertarians here is that they resent the ganging together of less able individuals in order to pluck some of the advantages off those of us who were lucky in the lottery of birth. What you don’t seem to realize is that collectivism follows the same free market laws as the ones you are advocating. It is a cartel of the weak that manages to beat the strong.

  184. >What ESR labels as collectivist societies (countries like Japan and Sweden) have the greatest longevity in the world. The population show the greatest satisfaction with life.

    You’re living in fantasyland. Go compare the suicide rates in Japan and Sweden to that of the U.S. Greatest satisfaction with life, my ass.

  185. “but to claim that democracy began with the availability of firearms is incorrect.”

    It’s not that far-fetched. Back in the middle ages, the armored, mounted knight was the ultimate weapon. To stay in power, the king had to command the allegiance of his barons, who would bring their knights to the battlefield. Time went on; warfare technology changed. Even before firearms, the longbow became available. It was cheap, and would kill knights no problem. Instead of knights, now the king needed a lot of bowmen and pikemen – commoners that now had ‘the right to bear arms’. Because the king needed the common people to stay in power, now he had to listen to them.

  186. Jacob: … collectivist societies (countries like Japan and Sweden) …

    Why omit collectivist paradises like North Korea and Cuba from the list? Maybe because they point to the fundamental problems with collectivist theories?

  187. Bastiat’s key insight was that morality doesn’t change with numbers. There is nothing that is wrong for an individual to do, that becomes right if a group does it. Therefore, all legitimate powers of the state are a delegation through the law of individual’s rights to the state.

    The right to forcibly defend one’s life and property can be delegated to the police and the courts, so they may punish robbers and murderers. He does make the point very emphatically, that since you have no right to plunder your neighbor’s property or wages, it is just as wrong for the state to do it for you. Also, even if you know better than your neighbor how he should run his life, you have no right to forcibly impose your will upon him, so it is also wrong for the state to ban drugs or compel you to attend a church of their choosing.

  188. @ The COB Says:

    >>Jacob: … collectivist societies (countries like Japan and Sweden) …

    >Why omit collectivist paradises like North Korea and Cuba from the list? Maybe because they point to the fundamental problems with collectivist theories?

    Anyone who wants to make cross-cultural comparisons should read David Kopel’s The Samurai, the Mountie, and the Cowboy, one of the most interesting sources on the difficulties of cross-cultural comparison. In this case, specifically of gun control and crime, but very generally useful.

    Japan and Sweden have been more successful at implementing socialist theories because they are hard working peoples, and more importantly their societies have very little diversity. From what I have read, Sweden’s system has begun showing cracks in the last few decades, just as its (still low) immigration has increased.

  189. @TomM:

    Libertarians are selfish.

    There is nothing more selfish than compelling others to do your will.

  190. @The Monster
    “Just to be clear, I can’t commit murder (in any degree) in the Netherlands and “get up to 3 months”, can I? ”

    Yes, you can.

    We have five degrees of criminal responsibility for death. Four involve active involvement corresponding to the first degree of murder down to involuntary manslaghter in the USA, the fifth would be the passive involvement. Each level down leads, on average, to a lower sentence. In any one have there been people convicted and not put in jail (even in a premedidated murder case). Especially for the manslaughter cases it is not really exceptional to get less than a 3 month sentence. And in Germany the situation is the same, except that you can get up to a year for not fulfilling your duty to rescue.

    Why can’t you admit that there are countries that treat a refusal to rescue as a crime related to murder?

    Must the law USA be the universal standard of all time for justice? Do you have religious objections against a legal requirement to throwing a rope lying at your feet to a drowning person? Or is the thought that you might have a legal obligation to pick up a baby dying of exposure so repulsive to you? Or is it simply the thought of having any legal responsibilities towards a random passerby that would you find intolerable?

  191. @Winter
    You didn’t answer my question. If the police fail to show up after someone calls 112 are they charged with killing them?

  192. @The Monster
    “And I also find it interesting that you’ve backed away from the notion that a legal duty to rescue is nearly universal, as the countries with legal traditions descended from the Anglo-Saxon cover quite a bit of the world. It never really mattered to me how many other countries had such a law, but it was a big part of your argument that libertarians must be weird or something.”
    (emphasis mine)

    Yes it does matter, because you are proposing a universal moral system that excludes the morals of a large part of the globe (more than there are americans). And you are fighting tooth and nail that these “other” people are wrong and your universal system can be build without considering their ideas.

    And you did fight the mere existence of a moral and legal system which puts a duty to rescue on everyone. And not something obscure found only in those “collectivist” Europeans, but it is the law of the seas, and in Judaism (http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/kitveyet/assia_english/kirschenbaum.htm). And also in China (http://www.chinachildlaw.com/news-stories/2008/2/8/homicide-positive-duty-to-rescue.html) and Latin America.

    To summarize, you are posting hair splitting arguments about the one and true Libertarian Way, but are unable to integrate basic moral principles that rule the high seas and whole continents. I can understand why Libertarianism has so little appeal to non-USA citizens, and this is one of the issues: It cannot address basic moral feelings of 95% of the human population.

  193. @Doc Merlin
    “You didn’t answer my question. If the police fail to show up after someone calls 112 are they charged with killing them?”

    No. But this is ludicrous, given that the law says you should act appropriately. A failure when acting is not a criminal offense.

    But some police officers were charged for a failure to intervene in a murder case. They were acquited because they acted correctly in the circumstances, eg, not exactly knowing what happened and the possibilities of armed resistance and them were waiting for armed reinforcements.

  194. @Winter:

    I’d point out for reference that in the US, anyways, there are only 2 things which are actually compulsory and viewed as “duty”:
    1) To serve on a jury if called.
    2) To serve in the defense of the nation if called (military service, archaically a Sheriff ‘s Posse).

    The first is because you cannot provide a guarantee of a jury trial if you are unable to provide jurors. Although requiring someone to show up to be a juror is an imposition or compulsion, the general social contract views a jury trial as a much, much greater benefit than the cost. A few days of your life per decade vs. the cop (or politician) saying “he did it!” leading to a life in jail.

    The second is because without people participating in the national defense, there can be no guarantee of safety for anyone. Somebody has to fight, and there might not be enough volunteers. It used to be that the militia would be called up, then we switched to a draft army. Now we pay taxes and have an all-volunteer military, but still retain the power to resort to the first two in unlikely but exigent circumstances.

    Note that filing an income tax return isn’t technically compulsory – if you have a low-enough income, you need not file. Indeed, there are people who specifically avoid earning money to avoid having to file. More common is to avoid earning to avoid having to pay taxes, but that’s slightly different.

    Every other duty which comes up does so only out of an action taken deliberately or (very rarely) as a result of specific event which occurs with special circumstances.

  195. Why can’t you admit that there are countries that treat a refusal to rescue as a crime related to murder?

    Must the law USA be the universal standard of all time for justice?

    You’ve moved the goalposts again. Now you’re saying “related to murder”, not “is murder”. I have never questioned that under certain circumstances someone might have a moral duty to make certain efforts toward “rescue” of someone in distress. I questioned equating failure to rescue a stranger with “murder”, and tried to point out the logical contradictions of doing so. I even have said that I believe that I personally would stop and pick up the baby unless there were some specific threat information that might dissuade me, but that I cannot justify sending the Men With Badges And Guns against those who choose otherwise in the same fashion I’d gladly send them against actual murderers.

    We have an is/ought problem here. I freely admit that countries (including the USA) have laws I believe are unjust. I have been skeptical about the “it’s murder!!!!!” aspect, but have never questioned that some jurisdictions might have laws that establish some obligation to “rescue” under pain of imprisonment, fine, or both. Given that those same jurisdictions don’t have capital punishment for actual murder, it’s even conceivable that someone could commit actual murder and spend less time in prison than someone who failed to “rescue”. Based on your recent statements, I see that the skepticism was warranted.

    You and I disagree on the fundamental principles of what “justice” is. You think that people have positive obligations to one another that I don’t think they have. Our respective governments, being representative of such differences of opinion, have different laws codifying those obligations (or lack thereof).

  196. > It’s not that far-fetched.
    I agree is is not at all far-fetched to claim that firearms (or other technological developments, but lots of people here seem obsessed with firearms … ) had some influence. I said as much. To imply a causal correlation between the beginnings of democracy and the availability of firearms, as William B Swift seems to be doing,

    > [ ... ] Because the king needed the common people to stay in power, now he had to listen to them.
    Well, he didn’t, theoretically, because with a god given right to rule and through his feudal relationship with his vassals, he could just summon then. In practice, a bit of appeasement may have been necessary, so they were given a forum where they’d be listened to – but they’d always be outnumbered by the Nobles and the Clergy combined, they never got any real influence.

    That changed when crafts, trade and commerce came to the fore-front during the Late Middle Ages. This made people less economically dependent on agriculture (controlled by landowning nobility) and eventually lead to a class of mostly city-based free men. Some of which got wealthy, enough so to be able e.g. to lend money to nobles who wanted to raise armies and wage war but couldn’t afford to.
    And then they wanted their economical impact reflected in real political power, etc etc etc (see my previous post)

    It’s the economy. It always is.

  197. @The Monster
    We therefor agree about our differences in legal views. U never ever assumed you would nor rescue a person in danger and did not want to suggest that.

    I disagree about the linguistic part (actually, pragmatic/semantic).

    One point is the non-overlap of legal and common uses of the term “murder” in all English dialects and other Germanic languages. As usual no explicite definition can be given.

    Two, given point one I use the “vulgar” meaning of “illegal and unjust death under the responsibility of a human”. I have often seen the word murder used to inficate criminal negligence. And as the duty to rescue criminalizes persons seen by law as responsible for a preventable death, and you can actually go to jail I see no problem in equating this with murder. I will just have to qualify it for readers from countries where this is not criminal.

  198. “It’s the economy. It always is.”

    No, it isn’t. One example is the US Civil War. Clever history professors are always harping on economic factors precipitating the conflict. I invite them all to read Lincoln’s ‘House Divided’ speech and point out all the economic factors in it. Anyone who doesn’t understand that people fought because their country was being ‘invaded’, or that the Union should be preserved, or that slavery had become a moral evil for them, flunks American history.

  199. > No, it isn’t. One example is the US Civil War

    OK, on thin ice here, I don’t know much about American history.
    I could offer that if Marx and ESR agree on something, it must be true, but that’s not my style.

    I suppose the obvious economic component there is that those states with an economy dependent on slave labor would go to great lengths, including war, to protect that economy from the effects of the abolishment of slavery. War as politics by non-political means and all that.
    Can’t readily point at economic factors for the other side, though.

    otoh, I’m tempted to say that that US Civil War was just a glicth, a minor event in the greater scheme.
    Counter-example : would the US have become a political, military and cultural world power if iover the past 100 years it had had the economy of, say, Greece today ?
    And, to gauge the importance of the US Civil War : would that political, military, cultural, … power be less, equal or greater if that Civil war hadn’t occurred, or had had a different outcome ?

  200. LS,

    The Civil War was all about economics. As Derrick Jensen points out, the North could afford to be anti-slavery because it found different ways of exploiting people. In the South, where the population is spread so thinly that everyone has enough access to land to where they can support themselves, the only way to induce people to work for you was with force of arms. In the North, no one has enough access to enough land to support themselves, so landowners can easily make the rest of the population dependent on them. Under threat of starvation, the lower classes had to work for whatever pittance they could get in order to feed, shelter and clothe themselves.

  201. @LS:

    Um, it was about economics. The south was paying the vast majority of federal taxes (due to the protectionist tariffs), and the north getting the vast majority of the benefit. The south was also scared of slavery being abolished. These two factors caused them to withdraw from the union.

  202. The above comments are what I was talking about. They are all true to some extent, but they are not why people kill each other.

    The south had dominated the nation since its inception, but the north had grown and was tired of being bullied. Read Lincoln’s speech! He details how the south foisted the Dred Scott decision on the rest of the nation. Northerners were tired of making concessions that they hated. This is emotional, not economic.

    Most southerners did not own any slaves. If anything, competition from slave labor held free labor’s wages down. Many were against the whole system. They fought because they felt loyal to their states and their region. This is emotion, not economics. (Famous example: Robert E. Lee hated slavery, was offered command of the Union forces, agonized for two days at home at Arlington, finally chose Virginia over the Union.)

    People do not sit there thinking, “If we fight this war, we’ll save on taxes.” There are larger human issues involved.

  203. I invite them all to read Lincoln’s ‘House Divided’ speech and point out all the economic factors in it.

    While they’re at it, they should also read the confederate constitution, and Jefferson Davis’ farewell address to the US Senate.

  204. @Winter

    Two, given point one I use the “vulgar” meaning of “illegal and unjust death under the responsibility of a human”. I have often seen the word murder used to inficate criminal negligence.

    I, OTOH, will hear that someone came home to find the place was ransacked saying “We were robbed”, and invariably will say “No, you were burgled. The word ‘robbery’ means something.”

    I understand that the person who had his stuff stolen was “robbed of it”, but when describing a crime, I believe it is important to distinguish between robbery/burglary/fraud and between murder/manslaughter/negligent_homicide etc.

    And I do this for “my side” too. I periodically call out my friends Ed Morrissey and Jazz Shaw when they overstate “our” case. They don’t like it when it happens, but I don’t like it when “they” do it to “us”, so I won’t stand for “us” doing it to “them” either. Ed calls me a Language Martinet because I can be picky about how words are used. And apostrophe misuse bugs me too.

  205. > If the ESR government shows up at my doorstep, I call the police. They will deal with it.

    > And “to govern” is not synonymous with “to force”.

    Oh really? How does your government get folks to do things that said folks don’t want to do? Apart, of course, from force and/or threat of force.

    Note that “don’t want to do” is important.

    > You really overestimate the power of government.

    You’re relying on said govt “to force” ESR reader govt to leave you alone, so force sure seems to be important.

    > The government, that are my neighbors.

    So what? Will they throw you in jail if you fail to comply?

  206. > The etymology is “based on law”. Where law must be seen as broad, common law, customs, and established rules, principles, or standards. The meaning of a legitimate government would then be “Accepted by the people as the lawful government”. Where the people should be seen as a large majority.

    If ESR reader govt got 80-90%, would Winter agree that it is legitimate and pay taxes as required?

  207. Would you guys just eat your freakin’ peas? Your mother was a collectivist, and you and your unfinished dinner are going to your room.

  208. > This is emotional, not economic

    > They are all true to some extent, but they are not why people kill each other.

    With wars and similar huge events, you should distinguish between

    1- the circumstances that caused it
    2- the event that triggered it or chain of events that led to it
    3- the retorics used to justify it and to motivate/mobilize/recrute support and participants

    sometimes they’re somewhat related, sometimes not.

    under 1- you’ll usually find economic issues : control over ports, trading routes, territory with natural resources, or political issues that can be traced back to economical issues

    2- can be just about anything.
    I was taught in (primary) school that the Belgian revolution (secession from the Netherlands, beginning of an independent Belgium) was “caused” (read triggered) by an opera performance in Brussels.
    Seriously.

    under 3- you’ll find whatever’s suitable or useful.
    Religion has been proven to work well. Stuff about Good vs. Evil goes here too, together with anything you can spin as “higher good” or “just cause”. Playing on nationalistic feelings, racial superiority or any trait that can be used to distinguish “us” from “them”, … are common.

  209. @ Andy Freeman
    No, Andy. The “legitimacy” of government is based on its ability to use coercive violence to exclude others who wish to use coercive violence in a state-like manner. Its really a might-makes-right sort of situation. This is why, for example, everyone recognizes KJI as the legitimate head of NK’s a government.

  210. Very scary article on the willingness of Americans to hand power over to unelected “independent experts”.

    ————-

    “In their book ‘Stealth Democracy,’ the political scientists John R. Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse argue that many scholars and commentators overestimate Americans’ willingness to participate in politics and commitment to certain democratic ideals. In fact, many Americans are notably willing to endorse proposals like Mr. Orszag’s.

    “In a 1998 survey, respondents were confronted with this statement:

    “‘Our government would run better if decisions were left up to nonelected, independent experts rather than politicians or the people.’

    “Almost a third (31 percent) of respondents agreed with this statement. A similar number agreed that government would run better “if decisions were left up to successful business people.” Altogether, almost half (48 percent) of respondents agreed with one or both of these ideas. And this was in an era, unlike today, where trust in government was relatively high.”

    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/stealth-democracy/

  211. >scary article on the willingness of Americans to hand power over to unelected “independent experts”.

    Obedience is easier than exercising one’s own moral judgement. Always was, always will be. That’s why it’s dangerous to rely on democracy to preserve freedom.

  212. Pingback: Community v. Collectivism « Huck Online

  213. I was considering that there was nothing useful I could add to this discussion (seriously, the police protecting me against thugs is being proof the government coerces me? What can I say?).

    However, I found that Charles Koch (of IHS) and Friedrich Hayek have written the best defense of Collectivism. How could I better them?

    Charles Koch to Friedrich Hayek: Use Social Security!
    http://www.thenation.com/article/163672/charles-koch-friedrich-hayek-use-social-security

    A few weeks later, the institute reported the good news: Professor Hayek had indeed opted into Social Security while he was teaching at Chicago and had paid into the program for ten years. He was eligible for benefits. On August 10, 1973, Koch wrote a letter appealing to Hayek to accept a shorter stay at the IHS, hard-selling Hayek on Social Security’s retirement benefits, which Koch encouraged Hayek to draw on even outside America. He also assured Hayek that Medicare, which had been created in 1965 by the Social Security amendments as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, would cover his medical needs.

  214. So much for theory, here is the real-world “science” of collectivism.

    @Winter:

    the police protecting me against thugs

    Except when they are the thugs, similar to when the DEA and ATF protect us against drugs and guns, except when they are running the drugs and guns “Fast and Furious”. We think the CIA exists to protect us, except when it runs drugs and waterboards innocent citizens. We think the military exists to protect us and the banks exist to help us save and earn interest, … your fantasy will be burst with the complete loss of your savings (and possibly the military herding you into camps), for your safety of course. Some police have an unstated but obvious contempt for the community. The woman who was pepper-sprayed said:

    I love cops. I do, my mother worked in the justice system for 30 years, and I’ve known a lot of really good cops, really good honorable people just doing their jobs. I’ve never agreed with the sentiment, “Fuck the Po-lice,” and I still don’t. But these guys are fucked up.

    I have to admit I am going to be laughing at collectivist idiots over the next several years. It is not that I didn’t care, but I can’t even force a horse to water, much less make it drink.

  215. @Cathy >willingness of Americans to hand power over to unelected “independent experts”.

    Problem with that kind of questionaires (and the conlcusions drawn from them, and the actions taken upon those conclusions) is : how did the respondents interprete “run better” ?

    I’m pretty sure a government that consists of successful business men would be better run in terms of better organized, speedier decisions for pressing problems, less red tape, quite a bit cheaper because of less overhead, and so on

    I’m not that sure about the experts, but I’d wonder if a government that consists of experts wouldn’t be better in terms of resulting in more thought-through, structural solutions, less fear to implement necessary but unpopular measures, etc.

    So I might answer ‘yes’ to such questions.
    Does that mean that ‘m in favor of a government that consists of successful business men, or a government that consists of unelected experts ?
    Hell no. But that wasn’t the question they asked.

  216. > Very scary article on the willingness of Americans to hand power over to unelected “independent experts”.

    That’s a combination of two things, a willingness to hand things over to someone competent and a realization that elected officials, at least in the US, are incompetent and corrupt for the most part.

  217. That’s a combination of two things, a willingness to hand things over to someone competent and a realization that elected officials, at least in the US, are incompetent and corrupt for the most part.

    Unfortunately, “expertise” and competence are hardly synonymous; we keep seeing Florian Mueller quoted as a “patent expert”. And American corruption is like kindergarten play compared to that in most of the world; removing one of the few checks on it (elections) is hardly likely to improve the situation markedly.

  218. > However, I found that Charles Koch (of IHS) and Friedrich Hayek have written the best defense of Collectivism. How could I better them?

    Ah, the old “they accepted benefits/joined the program, how dare they complain” fallacy.

    I’m forced to pay for govt programs whether I accept the benefits or not.

    Accepting the benefits merely reduces my losses, it doesn’t imply that I think that the costs are worth the benefits to me. In fact, even if the terms are such that I receive a net subsidy from a given program, that doesn’t imply that I think that the program is a good idea for society.

    However, asserting the fallacy does tell us two things about folks who assert it.

    (1) They think that it’s somehow wrong for a person to oppose a program that benefits that person. This is a curious argument given that they’re fond of telling us how “we” should sacrifice for the common good since opposing programs such programs is a sacrifice.

    (2) They think that folks that oppose their programs should be financially handicapped. They take my money to pay for collective healthcare, which reduces my ability to pay for my own healthcare, and then then complain if I don’t pay out of pocket.

  219. > And American corruption is like kindergarten play compared to that in most of the world; removing one of the few checks on it (elections) is hardly likely to improve the situation markedly.

    While I’d like to agree, the evidence isn’t all that good.

    Crooks are $ optimizers. They won’t kill you because of thought crimes, etc.

    Do-gooders will intentionally do economically stupid things. And, they’ll use the power of govt to punish and reward.

    To put it another way, Imelda’s shoes weren’t the big problem with the Marcos’.

    Or, to make a related point, have you ever wondered if taxation without representation was cheaper?

  220. @Andy Freeman
    “Ah, the old “they accepted benefits/joined the program, how dare they complain” fallacy.”

    Ah, the old “Strawman” fallacy. You simply do not want to read what they actually wrote, so you make up a different argument to defeat.

    This is not about what they did, but what they wrote. Both men were defending social security and medicare. And I consider their defense better than any argument I could write.

    Hayek defends the system of Austrian social security. He does not want to come to the USA because he is afraid he cannot get a decent health care insurance and social security, might he get ill again. Both of which he had in Austria. Charles Koch then defends medicare and social security in the USA.

    Their words, not mine.

  221. @ Winter
    Yes, social security/welfare is a public cost and a private benefit (aka an externality). This is exactly why its so attractive on an individual level, but collectively harms society. You can make arguments about why its good to receive the benefits and at the same time say that its bad for society as a whole.

    “Hayek defends the system of Austrian social security”

    No, he defends the benefits he is receiving. This is exactly like a polluter saying, “I pollute because I need to make money” while still recognizing that he is imposing externalities on everyone else.

  222. @Doc Merlin
    This I would call tortured logic.

    Hayek did not receive benefits. But just as ALL other Austrians he knew he would be helped if something happened. He considered this collectivist prospect preferable to what he could earn as a famous person in the USA. Even though he knew he would be paying the externalized costs of other Austrians.

    But you say that we should give up this insurance for the benefit of society. The logic of Libertarianism keeps surprising me.

  223. @Andy Freeman

    I find a good way to deal with this fallacy is to take it out of politics and into sports.

    Would a baseball team owner who opposed the DH rule be somehow “hypocritical” if he didn’t order his manager not to take advantage of that rule in games where it applies (any game other than one where the home team is a member of the National League)?

    Clearly, he would not be hypocritical to play the game according to the rules the leagues have chosen to use. In fact, it would be silly for him to unilaterally handicap his team by not using a DH if the rules allowed it. Unless, of course, he had that rare pitcher with great hitting skills (e.g. Babe Ruth).

  224. @Winter
    “But you say that we should give up this insurance for the benefit of society. The logic of Libertarianism keeps surprising me.”

    1) Its not insurance, insurance is voluntary.
    2) Its not libertarianism, its basic micro. Its externalizing a private good.

  225. @Doc Merlin
    “1) Its not insurance, insurance is voluntary.”

    Why should I care that you change the definition? I use the common one that only states that you pay for risk coverage, not that it should be voluntary:
    http://www.investorwords.com/2510/insurance.html

    “2) Its not libertarianism, its basic micro. Its externalizing a private good.”

    No, it is pooling a risk, or betting, or whatever, but not externalizing your private costs. Friedrich Hayek paid to receive compensation in case of future illness. Insurance is not externalizing a private good. Also, he was only paying at the moment, and did not yet receive the compensation.

    In short, and to repeat, Friedrich Hayek preferred to pay into a State health care plan and Social Security in Austria over obtaining the same coverage on the free market in the USA. Professor Hayek was a successful man who did not need medical care or social security benefits at the time, and he was a man who understood the working of free markets better than I do.

    If Friedrich Hayek thinks his future risks are better covered in a State Health care plan and State Social Security than in a free market, then I must conclude that this holds for all Austrians, and even all humans if they could get into the Austrian plan.

    Therefore, Professor Hayek defends State Health Care and Social Security as the rational choice for individuals.

    And if even a successful man like professor Hayek prefers the negative consequences of State Health Care and Social Security on society over its benefits, then why should the fast majority of people do not?

  226. Correction:
    “And if even a successful man like professor Hayek prefers the negative consequences of State Health Care and Social Security on society over its benefits,”

    ->

    “And if even a successful man like professor Hayek prefers to endure the negative consequences of State Health Care and Social Security on society over losing its benefits,”

  227. I’d like to hear your thoughts on how anti-collectivism jibes with the concept of property rights.

    Couldn’t one argue that this concept (especially in regards to real-estate) is collectivist in essence? Does a nomadic tribe have ability to opt out of respecting your deed and camp out in your back yard, pick from your garden, and hunt your pets? Other that putting up walls and maintaining a private standing army to protect your property, how is it possible to buy sell, and use land without having a government to enforce the respect of property rights by everyone, with or without their consent?

  228. >Couldn’t one argue that this concept (especially in regards to real-estate) is collectivist in essence?

    Yes, but only if one were an idiot, ignorant of evolutionary biology and history and economics. See my discussion of the ethology and enforcement of property rights in Homesteading the Noosphere for discussion.

  229. @BPSouther

    Under the rules of hunting/gathering tribes, an outsider has no rights, so they feel free to eat my crops and livestock, kidnap my womenfolk, whatever. But also under their rules, a tribe that can establish its strength in combat gets to run off the weaker tribe, and thereby the tribe as a whole has some sense of property rights to hunt/gather a particular bit of ground. (When the Dutch thought they were buying Manhattan Island, the tribe was actually selling the rights to hunt/gather there. The idea of owning land to build permanent structures didn’t fit their lifestyle.)

    Since they see the food supply as subject to the whims of $DEITY, not the product of human effort, and don’t accept that agriculture can produce ~30x the food on a given piece of land that hunt/gather can, my tribe cannot deal with them on our terms. We must instead deal on their terms, and drive them off our land just like a stronger hunt/gather tribe would.

    Good thing that my farm produces so much food that my tribe can feed a larger bunch of people with better weapons than the hunt/gather tribe has.

  230. @The Monster
    “Good thing that my farm produces so much food that my tribe can feed a larger bunch of people with better weapons than the hunt/gather tribe has.”

    Also, more importantly, it can feed a much higher density of people. This means you can more effectively defend your space.

  231. @Jeff Read
    “While libertardians cheerlead the widening gap between rich and poor,”

    First of all, you haven’t established that any such “gap” exists or is in fact “widening”, much less that anyone is “cheerleading” that the gap exists and is widening.

    If you pick out the top percentile of income and compare to the bottom percentile or even quintile, you’re excluding the 98 or 79 percent of the distribution that fills that “gap”.

    A common trick in analyzing income distribution is to note how much income the “rich” have now compared to the “rich” at some point in the past compared to other income groups, and conclude that “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”. But there’s a huge problem with doing that. A lot of the “rich” today were “poor” a decade or two ago, and a lot of the “rich” back then are middle-class or lower today.

    Your article also shows the importance of political institutions and open trade, which together have an even higher correlation to prolonged economic growth than does “income equality”. I would argue that stable political institutions that rarely change the rules of the game, and open trade that allows each player the maximum possible number of partners with whom he can seek prosperity are clear precursors to stable economic growth, whereas the crony capitalism of the current administration illustrates how unstable institutions that hand out favors to political friends undermine the economy.

    And correlation != causation. Is “income equality” itself caused by the same underlying conditions that produce the sustained growth? You might observe people with bulging muscles entering a gym and conclude that large muscles cause people to go to a gym.

  232. Hi, this is the first time I’ve come across one (actually I read quite a few today) of your posts, and you have no idea how happy I am to see someone who understands why everyone who supports open source isn’t a collectivist thug trying to get productive geniuses to give away the fruits of their hard work for free.

    I may not agree with everything you have said or will say in the future, but I’ve had a great start today. I’ll be back with more comments in the future.

    Great stuff!

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