The Ideological Tipping Point: If an idea becomes strongly held by ten percent of the population, it will become universal to the population.

Libertarians only need to reach ten percent. And we’re getting there.

 

Adam Ozimet quotes Felix Salmon when discussing why people pay for entry into a museum even if it’s free.

But here’s the thing about freeloaders: if they value what they’re getting, a lot of them will end up paying anyway. What happened when the Indianapolis Museum of Art moved to a free-admission policy? Its paid membership increased by 3%. When the Minneapolis Institute of Arts did the same thing, paid membership increased by 33%.

Now there are a variety of reasons for this: parents pay something and take their children, rather than not going to the museum at all. But Status plays in here too.

But then Adam goes on to talk about the consumer decision as ‘fairness’, which is a word I object to because it’s both politically correct, and is a code word for involuntary transfers.

My response follows:

—–

Adam,

This is a wonderful, simple example with which to illustrate grand ideas.

In your example, you’re attributing museum ticket purchase behavior to a supposed ‘fairness’ (which is behaviorally a guilt response), instead of attributing it to ‘status seeking’, (which is behaviorally a status demonstration response.)

At the very least, BOTH emotions (which are themselves a sensitivity to voluntary and involuntary transfers of property) are equally at play. But what does that mean? It means that people who are stronger, higher status, higher dominance, and have more objective value systems seek status, and people who are weaker, lower status, more submissive and have empathic systems operate under quilt. But we are describing the same spectrum from two ends – guilt is a means by which the weaker pursue status through empathy and submission.

The people in your example, who purchase tickets that can be had for free, are purchasing ‘status’, not fairness – fairness is a vehicle for status. If they use a public resource for free, it means that they are lower status. If they pay for it voluntarily, then the ONLY thing that they can buy with it is STATUS. (Status is as much a function of self image as are the perceptions of status by others.)

In our society, ticket prices at a museum have the same effect as offerings at a temple have had in most of history. People are more charitable where they agree upon means and ends. and less charitable where they disagree upon means and ends. Established norms are ‘charities’. And status is obtained by any individual who contributes to the charity. Status is lost by individuals who do not contribute. The way we get people to pay for things is to attach status to it – to make someone feel better about him or herself by contributing.

**Social status is the human currency. It has to be. If we didn’t pursue status humans couldn’t ‘calculate’ (in the heuristic sense) how to behave any more than they could calculate plans without using prices (in the quantitative sense). If economic calculation is impossible without prices and incentives, then human planning is impossible without status signals and incentives.**

The point here is to help quants understand why people are not acting irrationally. It’s not that they’re innumerate. It’s because STATUS is obtained only in part by money. And monetary decisions, both personal and political are made in pursuit of status. Therefore economically ‘efficient’ actions lead analysts to the wrong conclusions because people make trade-offs. Human society cannot operate without status signals (local feedback) than it can without prices (local information.)

And to relate this concept to current events, they attribute higher loss aversion to status than to money. The USA is in the closing phase of a status war driven by the twin demographic tides of immigration and changing dominance of generations, that is being playing out in politics using the economy as a lever. An opportunity that has come about because we have finally won the 500 year war to propagate our religion-cum-technology of consumer capitalism across the world, and in doing so, lost our advantage.

Economics is second to status. To illustrate this point: if the left was willing to destroy aristocratic society in order to obtain social status, why would the right not be willing to destroy socialistic society in order to retain their status? (Another example: Schumpeterian intellectuals undermine a society in pursuit of status.) Status is the human currency. Money only in part can purchase it.

The combination of communism/socialism, anti-slavery and anti-male-feminism was successful in disempowering the western aristocratic classical liberal tradition and it’s status symbols. This strategy was effective because of the Christian Guilt of the majority. But as these people become a minority, they are acting like one. And they no longer feel guilt. So the lever of the three dominant movements against the aristocratic classical liberal status symbols is weakening.

The question for a political economist,once he understands that STATUS is the human currency, is what institutional framework is possible without the prevalence of the christian classical liberal ‘habits’: the ethical system of soft institutions such as status, myths, morals, ethics, manners, fraternalism, individualism, and the hard institutions of Rule of Law (universal general rules applicable to all), and Republican Democracy.

The SOFT infrastructure of Society is paid for by the forgone opportunity costs we pay by NOT privatizing opportunities we have for personal gain. And these soft costs are codified in cultural habits, and the reason people PAY these soft costs is to gain status, and the opportunity that status affords them. Sure, we pay for the HARD infrastructure with taxes. But if we had to estimate the costs of developing the western fraternal christian republican commercial ethical system, what would they be? They are far more expensive than the taxes we pay – and they are far more difficult to manufacture than law. Demonstrably, they are nearly impossible to manufacture because privatization of opportunities is more natural to man than forgoing them for an abstract good. Creating a system of status that perpetuates the willingness to forgo opportunities is the highest social cost a civilization has.

And unless you understand that principle, you will fail to see why the broader political trend is occurring and why THEY MAY BE RIGHT. We could not create a socialistic society because eliminating the ability to calculate prices eliminated all ‘good’ incentives. If you eliminate status, what incentives do you by consequence, eliminate? You eliminate the very system that makes freedom of property and politics possible, as well as the system that rewards people for forgoing the opportunity to privatize

Small things in large numbers have vast consequences. Many of those small things we take for granted. People in my camp criticize Keynesians for believing that there is a steady state that we manipulate to improve, while being unafraid of failure, when the steady state is actually one of Somalian barbarism, that we protect ourselves from falling into using habits and incentives that are often beyond our understanding.

Curt

 

Karl Smith quotes Eli Dourado

It is perhaps unsurprising that those who think they benefit from the current system wish to keep it. They trot out all kinds of practical-sounding excuses for why we cannot completely open the border. All of these reasons have analogs in the system of class-based privilege. Most of us, I imagine, would like to think that if we were aristocrats of centuries past, we would see through the lameness of the arguments for using the state to keep down the lower classes. Yet the widespread opposition to open borders today shows that we are not that good.

Although Dourado repeats the less than novel convenient ‘metaphor’. It could also be restated as: ‘People demonstrably object to the forcible appropriation and transfer of their opportunities, their social status, their political power, their traditions and their culture so that those who have not earned it may profit by redistributing it to others who have also not earned it. People consider these things their property, and they act as if it is their property.”

But let’s ask a few questions that the positivist does not ask: Just what is it that creates and maintains the behavior of forgone opportunity costs we call property? The high cost of truth telling? The high cost of non-corruption? Where to ‘incentives’ come from? Why are some organizations of people impervious to all attempts at quelling corruption both public and private?

Conservatism is more complicated than Karl or Dourado suggest. Conservatism consists of a series of properties: (a) a general resistance to change in social order: the habits, manners, ethics, morals, and laws by political means. (b) In the USA, it consists of Jeffersonian Classical Liberalism, and the Civic Republican sentiments (real or not) and the predominant culture of the prewar era. (c) In the west it consists of the remnants of Fraternal Aristocracy — and all the social habits, myths and values that it entails.

Railing against conservatives due to (a) and (a) alone, is a convenient ruse by which opponents ignore and fail to consider the value inherent in (b) and (c), and whether the system of property rights, and requisite costs that individuals must pay to create and maintain those property rights (in both individual an political spectrums) as well as the system of economic calculation, incentives and social status, that are implied in (b) and (c) CAN POSSIBLY be perpetuated WITHOUT (a). Especially given the different time preferences of the social classes.

Each of these norms requires individual costs: each of these habits, these cultural forms of ‘capital’ is a cost born by the individuals who adhere to them, day by day, action by action, judgement by judgement. People treat as property that which they pay costs to acquire – even if they are acquiring a ‘norm’. if you take from them that property – even the abstraction of property we call tradition – they will cease paying for it, by abandoning the morals, ethics, manners, habits, and social status – even the very culture and government and nation itself. Because it is no longer an investment for them. Furthermore they will resent the theft of it. In their minds, they have financed a system of meritocratic rotation of elites by serving consumers in the market. Either there is a meritocratic rotation of elites through the service of consumers and society in the market, or there is a dictator who makes a non-meritocratic and arbitrary judgement such that none of us should attempt to meritocratically rotate elites due to service of consumers in the market. It is one or the other.

Immigration is incompatible with the welfare state. It explains why small ethnically homogenous states are redistributive and empires are not. Because people PAY for their social status, their culture, their morals, ethics, manners, habits, narratives, and all other friction-reducing behaviors by acting as if they are making purchases. The more diluted the status, the less it is worth. If you steal the status, then people just stop paying for the state. And THAT IS WHAT IS HAPPENING TODAY.

This is an Austrian analysis of human actions. (Versus some silly Rothbardian ideology, or some simplistic overly reductive positivist explanation) It is also Hayek’s criticism of policy. It is a claim against HUBRIS. In particular, an argument against the hubris of positivism.

We are markedly different from other civilizations due to the secondary effects that were caused by the need of a technically superior but numerically weak fraternity of independently financed warrior-shareholders (Aristocrats), to hold the numerically and economically superior and totalitarian East at bay. This accidental social order led to the technologies of debate, philosophy, science, and the concepts of balance of power, contract, an independent judiciary, natural rights, personal freedom, political freedom, national freedom, and democratic republicanism – without which the western commercial order, and all that has come from it could not have evolved. And (as Hoppe has tried to illustrate) the behavior of monarchs as intertemporal guardians of property rights has been demonstrably superior to that of democratic socialists.

If there is a man alive today that is capable of articulating how we can use a positivist technology to maintain the system of calculation and incentives, and the perpetuate the willingness to pay requisite costs in order to maintain the system of property, manners, ethics, and morals, non-corruption, non-privatization, over four generations of time without these conservative traditions, then I would like to meet him. Because despite a lifetime of attempting to find that some solution to this problem I cannot. Hayek failed, as did Mises and Parsons.

Positivism is an insufficient and hubristic technology for a problem we barely comprehend, and the mechanics of which, at least in the aggregate, we are only beginning to discover.

Children shouldn’t play with dangerous things.

 

I love Don Boudreaux. But as a conservative, this post troubled me. It troubled me because while I agree with the conclusion, that conclusion isn’t based upon sound reasoning, and would lead to policy that increased fragility.

The World is UNDERpopulated by DON BOUDREAUX … While many myths compete with “the-world-is-over-populated-with-humans” myth for the honor of being the myth with least empirical and theoretical support, no myth surpasses the over-population myth in groundlessness and, really, absurdity pregnant with totalitarian impulses.

From there Don points to some wonderful graphics that show how little of the earth would be consumed if we had different population densities.

But, one wise visitor replies:

The real limits to population are determined by the energy supply. With energy and food being interconvertable,

And I expand with:

Yes. That is correct. And moreover, moral arguments are nonsense. Political arguments are nonsense. The question of population is determined only how much energy an be converted and put to use.

What we claim (here and elsewhere) are benefits of our ‘technology’ and ‘limitless human creativity” is almost entirely attributable to our ability to convert energy stores to our immediate use. All consequential innovations are dependent upon that one set of technologies. We are coming very close to known physical limits of conversion. And while we are vastly ignorant of our own economies, due to the fact that we collect very poor data, and categorize it even more poorly, we are not vastly ignorant of the laws of physics.

Nor does History consist of ever-onward progress. Quite the contrary. It consists of multiple periods of regression to subsistence. In a world where we can all return to the fields, we just suffer. In a world where we cannot return to the fields, those who can’t are dead.

Black swans that cause these changes are not rare. They are just unforeseen and incalculable. Our only rational choice is to build a world that is not fragile. And to rail against those who create fragility.

I am not arguing with the general criticism of the population myth. I’m arguing that the REASONS why it is excessive or not are not included in anyone’s argument above, and as such the statements above are nothing but naive egoistic folly. Or put in proper economic terms “an attempt to obtain a discount on current consumption by exporting risk onto others.”

It is probably not obvious that there is an identical correspondence between the argument for sound money, and the argument for preserving land against immigration. And if it is acceptable to immigrate, then it is acceptable to debase the currency. But that is another story altogether. The fact that current austrian thinking does not account for opportunity costs — from Mises onward through Rothbard, even though somewhat obtusely corrected by Hoppe, is either a oversight or a deception. I do not know. But Misesians do not account for land holding. If economics is limited in scope to money, and avoids status and opportunity costs, then is not a social science. It is a justification for plunder.

 

Comments were shut down on Walther Russell Meade’s site, and they called me a Racist and a Troll. I get called every name in the book. I’m a frequent critic of opposing viewpoints, more than a popularizer of existing libertarian ideas. So I interject opposing viewpoints into all sorts of silly online discussions. And in these interjections I use propertarian analysis rather than so called ‘moral arguments’. This tends to expose arguments for what they really are: forms of theft, or deception. It’s a more complex version of ‘follow the money’. And, I’m not out to avoid offense. Economics and politics are not matters for nicety. They’re too serious. I’m trying to get at the truth. And that’s upsetting to people.

Meade invited criticism not just from myself but others, by posting a self=congratulatory article about the anniversary of Mein Kampf and then pandering to conservatives and jews by stating how ostensibly high-minded we have become. This nonsense attracted criticism from a number of us. ( Obviously they don’t get referenced on the Drudge Report or they would have been overwhelmed by comments similar to mine. ) I absolutely despise self congratulatory nonsense that is a cover for transfers of wealth, status and power. And I made it clear I wasn’t alone. After a few back and forth comments, they shut down the comments section and (I think) dropped the article from the site. I can’t find it any longer.

LABELS AS A FALURE OF IDEAS
Casting labels at people such as ‘racist’ or ‘anti-semitic’ so that you can shut down an argument is a convenient tactic. It’s very convenient. Especially when it’s not true. If I state that men vote conservatively, and woman progressively. Or that women vote heavily on looks rather than policy. Those are true empirical statements. If I argue that jews as a block are predominantly progressive, then that’s simply factual.

Here is what they said:

Writing about race and religion brings out the trolls; Via Meadia‘s normally urbane and civilized comment pages have been invaded recently by two groups of posters. One wants to argue simultaneously that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist and that it is caused by the bad behavior of Jews. The other wants to turn discussions of urban policy into an argument over alleged genetic differences between the races. We have already trashed many of the worst of these comments. Readers can imagine what some of them were like.

In this sentence, the “group” in question is me.

One wants to argue simultaneously that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist and that it is caused by the bad behavior of Jews.

Which is not what I said. I said that:

    1) Christians (white people) are acting like a minority, and will continue to expand their behavior as a minority.
    2) That the Jewish voting block demonstrates a preference for leftist politics. (This is empirically true from polls and from campaign finance data.)
    3) That white males are whipping posts and open to all criticism. (This is empirically true – at least in academic papers, entertainment, media, and news reports.)
    4) That accusations of anti-Semitism, racism, culturism and any other -ism are used to escape all criticism of political biases.
    5) That as an emerging minority white (males) are reacting against the perception of privilege accorded to jews who use the cover of anti Semitism, and everyone else that relies on such tactics for defense of their group.
    6) That this behavior among white males is an expression of frustration driven by the loss of status and political power due to their emerging minority status.
    7) That along with their minority status they will lose what they see as ‘freedom’.

That’s What I Said. And it’s true. (See my other articles on the subject.) The tea party is the most obvious evidence that whites are acting as a minority.

IRRATIONAL RACISM
If someone is biased against a gene pool, that is simply ridiculous behavior. It is irrational to judge an individual by the properties of his or her class. It’s just idiocy. It is not however, irrational to judge a class by the properties of its individuals. That is just rational. Every marketer in the country, and every pollster, does it every single day.

RATIONAL STATEMENTS ABOUT RACE
To economically disenfranchise people from a market is clearly racism. To criticize their beliefs, particularly if those beliefs are racially motivated, is simply honest discourse. These are just facts that explain behavior. I would argue that white male christians would be very happy if jewish males voted more conservatively.

So, I do not see why it’s anti-semitic (racist) to make these observations. It’s just TRUE. And if it were not true then there would be laws protecting the rights of white men, rather than a vast array of laws stacked against them. But there aren’t. And therefore people ACT racially, and the government acts racially. So we cannot both have racial policies and deny they exist.

PEOPLE DEMONSTRATE RACIAL PREFERENCES
Female dating and marriage preferences demonstrate overwhelming adherence to racial lines. (From large empirical studies of dating sites.) Friendship circles demonstrate a racial preference. Moving and housing patterns reflect dramatic preferences for same race (U-Haul rental patterns). Voting patterns match racial distributions. Work environments demonstrate racial preferences. Race is a motivating factor in associations. Racial issues are common in political discourse. Some races are expressly racist (North Koreans and Jews.)

RACE IS A FACTOR IN POLITICAL DISCOURSE
Politics is the art and science of obtaining political power for the purpose of obtaining a) rents (see rent-seeking for non economists) b) redistributions, c) privileges (economic opportunities) d) and most importantly, redistributing SOCIAL STATUS. Social status controls access to mates and access to opportunities. People ACT as racial blocks when voting. That’s just data. It is what it is.

WHY ARE PEOPLE RACIALLY MOTIVATED?
1) because status signals are superior within racial group than out of group – except under marginal circumstances. That’s the single most important reason why racial groups stick together.
2) And, because human beings do attach a hierarchy to the different races, and to skin color within each race. This is just true. Plain and simple.

LIMITS
We should not enact policy that does anything other than treat all people equally regardless of race. Furthermore, we should not fear political discourse about races, since people ACT racially.

RACIAL PREFERENCES ARE GROUNDS FOR LEGITIMATE CRITICISM
It’s the ideas in people’s head’s that’s problematic in political discourse, not their genes. If members of a gene pool demonstrate political preferences, if they form political organizations, if they write, speak and demonstrate their political preferences, and if those preferences are controversial, then it is simply honest to criticize them. It isn’t racism. It’s simply FACT. And in turn if those people hide under the cover of racism, then that’s simply dishonest political discourse. But these schumpeterian intellectuals feel perfectly happy to pat themselves on the head for high mindedness, when it’s really just pandering.

As a conservative libertarian I pick away daily at those schumpeterian intellectuals on the web who abuse the sentiments, traditions, ideals motivations of those who would continue to deprive us of our freedom. I criticize the double standard. I am, like many white males, tired of bias against us in news and the courts. I am tired of having my rights taken, rather than rights granted to others. And I am very protective of our freedom. And the most important way of protecting that freedom is to protect the culture and the constitution that promotes it.

So if you want to get into name calling as a means of providing yourself with cover by which to attack people with the same values I do, then I’ll be there with a hundred others to refute you.

Because that is honest political discourse.

Curt

 

On Economists View, Mark asks:

Is it important for taxes to be progressive? Or is progressivity in the net benefits the only important consideration?

In this context:

In Europe, the VAT is used extensively. VATs are regressive, but they’re an important source of revenue for the highly progressive tax-and-transfer systems in Europe. That is, although the tax itself is regressive, it is very good at producing revenue and once the distribution of benefits is accounted for (both cash transfers and other benefits), the systems are highly progressive overall.

I have always argued for progressive taxes, in particular for the principle of “equal marginal sacrifice” (the lost dollar paid in taxes should lower utility by the same amount or everyone, and since the marginal utility of a dollar falls with income this implies a progressive structure). But increasingly I’m wondering if a flatter structure that brings in more revenue and ends up more progressive once the benefits are accounted for might not be better.

The political right seems to think there is something valuable about the pain from paying taxes, that’s why they complain when people are able to avoid them (unless you are rich and manage this through legal avoidance). 1 When people are forced to feel the pain from taxes, they argue, that helps to keep government small (this seems to argue for equal marginal sacrifice and progressivity so that the marginal pain is the same).

My argument for progressivity is a bit different. It is based upon equity. It seems fair to have those with more pay proportionately more. But why shouldn’t the overall outcome be the important consideration?

So, he bases his question on the assumption of ‘Equity’ in result, meaning that ‘a moral sense of equity’ is the means by which decisions should be made.

A SELF SERVING DEFINITION OF EQUITY.
Even if Mark’s right that ‘equal marginal sacrifice’ is the definition of ‘equity’, it is a selective definition because it only considers money transferred. But far more than money is reallocated in these transfers. He’s using (as do most progressives) a conveniently selective definition of ‘transfers’. All transfers have secondary effects called ‘externalities’. An economist who selectively chooses to ignore externalities in transfers is effectively committing a form of deception. In Mark’s case, given his consistency, it’s a form of self deception that humans commonly use to deceive themselves and others in order to justify obtaining their preferences.

What are the Non-Monetary transfers under ‘equal marginal sacrifice’?

    1) By laundering the relationship between producer and consumer through the artifice of government, the producers are deprived of the social status they have earned by serving consumers in the market. This is most important, because social status is as much or more important to humans as is money. People use money to pursue social status. Social status provides both entertainment, access to stimuli and experiences, and most importantly access to other people a) in terms of opportunities, and b) in terms of mates.

    The side effect of ‘status opacity’ has been that the upper classes have abandoned society both culturally, morally, and financially. And while any civilization can

    2) The CHOICE of what ends to put this ‘equal marginal sacrifice’ (money) to is taken from the people who produce and given to the people who consume. So, producers are deprived of determining how their wealth can be best put to use for the common good.

    3) Worse, since any producer in a market economy must serve consumers in order to create wealth, then they have more and better knowledge of how to create wealth than bureaucrats, and because they must create and run market organizations that serve consumers, they also have better understanding of how to achieve ends in an economy. So society is deprived of the knowledge of how to better itself. And producers are deprived of the opportunity to increase their wealth, society’s wealth, and their social status.2

    4) Even worse, producers are deprive of their influence on the social norms we call ‘culture’. No civilization has survived the loss of it’s aristocracy. And aristocrats work very hard to preserve their social status by demonstrating how ‘good’ they are for the people. They create arts. They create culture. They create new products and services – in fact, they create almost all interesting and beneficial products and services. THey are a culture’s research and development organization. But in purely social terms, they create a race for the top, rather than a race for the bottom.

SIGNALS MATTERS
Humans will sacrifice food and money to observe their alphas. They learn from their alphas. There are alphas in every social group, and every economic group. Without social status, there would be little signal for people to learn from. People would invent ‘black market signals’ for social status. The benefit of the western model is that social status is earned through the service of consumers in the market, not mysticism, or violence.

While redistribution of money may be sound, redistribution of status is HARMFUL.3 This is not to say that there isn’t a Pareto efficient system of redistribution that transfers no status, creates no aristocratic disincentives, and that deprives society of no knowledge. There is such thing. But it is not ‘knowable’ or ‘calculable’ using politicians.

PERVERTED INCENTIVES
As an political economist, what I object to most about this discourse, is that the function of the ‘state’ is to determine how the spoils are split, instead of how to increase the pool of spoils. After all, entrepreneurs risk their lives and homes to create wealth. It does not magically happen. And specialization being what it is, and humans having the incentives and motivations that they do, there is a regressive conflict of interest between having one political organization focus on the EASY task of redistribution AND the VERY HARD task of creating prosperity via the market. Humans universally select those politically rewarding and easily understood problems. Innovation is a very hard problem where one can be wrong at all times. It involves risk. Redistribution is quite simple. Trivial. Fun even. Everyone wants to give away someone else’s money. No one wants to be responsible and accountable for creating returns on investment. Instead, if we had two houses: one which created wealth through investment, and another which could distribute returns on that investment, then the conversation about our society would be quite different. Equity would be something both ends of the spectrum desired.

THE FALSE CHOICE
Mark’s question is a false choice. There is no equity in forcible transfer. There is equity in charity because of the social status people award to contributors to society, and along with social status, ability to command adherence to norms. There is equity in voluntary exchange. But there is no equity in forcible redistribution of money, no equity in deprivation of status, no equity in debasement of norms, no equity in involuntary transfer, no equity in appropriation of political power. So the question is not one of equity. It may perhaps, be one of UTILITY: in that keeping the lower classes well fed, well protected, and gainfully employed is actually CHEAPER than having them ill fed, uneducated, and engaged in career mischief. But any claim of “Equity” assumes a community of shared interests toward ends and means. And under involuntary transfer – theft – there is no possibility of community in a domestic empire as diverse as the USA.

TAX DEMOCRACY INSTEAD OF REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY
Furthermore, any assessment of ‘equity’ requires that some random person in ‘authority’ determines how ‘equity’ is measured (if at all), who to take money from, how much to take, and what purposes to put it to. And this process is highly politicized.

So the question is false as it is structured. But there is still an alternative:

Assuming that instead, all people above certain incomes were required to contribute an aggressive and progressive amount of their income by purchasing auctions for the purpose of fulfilling community ends – then they would actually have choice in the matter. And because of transparency, these people could be controlled — assuming that their contributions were visible, and their names attached, so that they would be checked by market forces.

The process of ‘elections’ then would be turned from one of class warfare, abstract rhetoric, and demagoguery wherein we create that most horrid of specialists – the politician. TO one where we actively engaged and encouraged our upper classes to participate in society, rather than make as much as they can before abandoning it. Sick bureaucracies would be eliminated easily and quickly. Government waste would be radically reduced. Our precious ‘Universal Insurance’ programs would be managed by market forces. And society would be steered by popular sentiment, rather than political diatribe.

In other words, an tax democracy:

    1) It would be difficult for people to contribute to purposes and ends to which they disagree – or at least, they would choose those ends with which they least disagreed.

    2) Status would neither be redistributed or appropriated by professional politicians, and class cooperation would prevail over class warfare.

    3) Society is not deprived of knowledge.

    4) Society is not deprived of positive norms.

ANSWERING MARK’S QUESTION
Under such a system a highly progressive income tax would be superior to a VAT, because a VAT puts unnecessary burden on the lower classes, and creates unnecessary and expensive administration costs.

POLITICIANS ARE ARTIFACTS
The political class is an artifact of our prior lack of the information technology needed to make directly democratic decisions. We no longer lack that technology. We no longer need politicians. We need technology, free speech, courts, and public intellectuals. We do not need politicians. Politicians are commissioned salesmen for the transfer of wealth from producers to those in need, and transfer of social status from those who have earned it to those politicians who do not.

We do not need rulers. We only need rules and tools.

WHY PEOPLE OBJECT TO GOVERNMENT
It is not taxes people object to. It is the disagreeable use of them. Especially uses that take from them status and the political power to defend themselves. It’s not the abstract of government that people object to. It is the dishonesty of electoral politics the technique of fomenting class warfare, the transfer of earned social status, and the incompetence and self service of bureaucracy.

  1. Note: Mark makes another mistake in criticizing the rich for avoiding taxes, when the reason that they avoid them is their disagreement over how they are USED, and the unequal risk they must take to create wealth. Again, financial sector aside. Conservatives think in terms of business people. Progressives think in terms of bankers. []
  2. Note: that if you consider government sponsored fiat money bankers as part of the private sector, I’m stating that by definition they are not producers, but government sponsored semi-political entities who privatize wins and socialize losses. Banking under fiat money is a government sponsored monopoly. Period. []
  3. I differ from my other libertarian friends on redistribution for TECHNICAL and LOGICAL reasons that I believe would invalidate propertarian analysis. An accidental side effect of Hoppe’s interpretation of Habermas. []
 

James,

Most commenters on your site, and you yourself, frequently argue against the positions of that subset of libertarians called Rothbardian Anarchists and in the process smear the rest of the libertarian movement. Rothbardian anarchists have attempted to appropriate the term “libertarian” as well as the term “austrian economics” in order to gain legitimacy and popularity. The reason I’m appealing to you is so that you don’t further Jaundice the libertarian movement because of the behavior of it’s radical anarchic wing. While the anarchic wing is popularizing libertarian ideas, it is also obscuring and discrediting the broader movement’s rational foundation in economics.

Classical liberals had to coin the term Libertarian because ‘liberal’ was taken over by socialists. Now they’re in the same position again and trying to find an identity that’s been stolen by the anarchists. Appropriation of identity and ideas by radicals is one of the many challenges faced by moderates and pragmatists.

I’m going to appeal to you to use the term “Anarchist Libertarians” or “anarchists” or “rothbardians” rather than to assist in the appropriation of libertarian thinking by the anarchists.

BACKGROUND
You’re not alone in confusing ‘anarchism’ with ‘libertarianism’. The ‘anarchist’ wing of the libertarian movement has been highly successful in their efforts to appropriate the term ‘libertarian’ for their own use. To such an extent that the rest of us are abandoning it and adopting the term “NeoClassical Liberals”. Over the past few years there has been a bit of back-and-forth banter between CATO’s Establishment Republican Libertarianism, George Mason University’s more NeoClassical Liberal economics, and The Mises Institute’s radical evangelical anti-statists. The Private Law libertarianism of Hoppe’s Property and Freedom Society has far less influence but is where the thought leadership seems to be originating today.

GMU has posted about the problem at The Coordination Problem.

Lew Rockewell defends his organization by way of attacking GMU at LewRockwell.com.

Mises.Org And The Pop Culture Rothbardians
I am not necessarily happy criticizing the Mises organization since they are largely responsible for the popularity of libertarian thought, even if it’s too often the pop culture ideology of Rothbard. And I think that promoting pop libertarianism is not a bad thing in this particular era. It has attracted many people to the cause of freedom, and in return some of those who’ve come, will mature into more sophisticated thinkers. Promoting an ideology is by definition a function of appealing to the masses. So I would rather have a lot of ‘Pop Libertarian Rothbardian Anarchists’ and a few classical liberal deep thinkers affecting the political discourse than I would just a few deep thinkers.

Libertarians (classical liberals, and now NeoClassical Liberals) do not advocate the extremes that the Anarchists do. If you read Hayek you would understand that ‘Pop Libertariansm’ of Rothbard is just that – ideological anarchism.

Hayek on the other hand is a sophisticated political thinker in the tradition of Aristotle, Machiavelli, Pareto, and Weber, who illustrates the various practical realities we consider in political theory once we have a grasp of economics.

The Neo Classical Libertarian Movement
You are obviously not aware of this ongoing battle for legitimacy, but there is a growing movement among some of us to drop the Austrian/Libertarian label and start calling ourselves “NeoClassical Liberals” in order to escape the “Pop Libertarianism” of the Rothbardian anarchists.

The NeoClassical liberals are challenged because they rely upon a skeptical, rational and empirical system of philosophy that suggests ‘we simply do not know’. While the progressive and the anarchists suggest ‘we do know’. Ideologies are always progressive, and certitude is more useful to ideologists than skepticism. Rothbardian libertarianism, and to some degree Misesian Praxeology, are doctrines of certitude. Luddite certitude perhaps but certitude none the less.

Some of the people working on this problem are setting up shop at Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

Hoppe And Private Government
Hoppe’s contribution is that a private government is superior to a state (corporate) government – and he’s stated why it is superior in detail. A private government under the common law is by definition anarchic. The state is an unaccountable, epistemologically impossible abstraction, and that’s the problem with it. It’s as absurd as the other corporate entity we call ‘god’. But that is far too complicated a conversation for people who are motivated by ‘Pop Culture Ideology” regardless of stripe.

Rand Is A Doorway
Rand is a literary doorway into philosophy for the young and inexperienced. As such she is valuable to philosophy. Rothbard is a great and often underrated historian but a pop philosopher at best. Hayek is a great philosopher that bears reading and re-reading. And Mises is the only saint among economists despite his reliance on an incomplete system of logic he calls praxeology.

I hope this is helpful to you.

Thanks

Curt

(NOTE: I have been a participant in Mises.org and have contributed something on the order of 30K to the organization over the years. I also have contributed not insignificant funds the Property and Freedom Society.)

 

The purpose of an ideology is to assist a group or class in obtaining political power.

The purpose of American Conservatism is to prevent groups or classes from obtaining political power.

It’s that simple.

 

Over On “League of Ordinary Gentlemen” there is a very long thread fitfully attempting to be critical of Libertarianism.

It’s interesting how almost no one on the thread understands anything other than what they’ve read in the popular press about libertarianism.

Which is common, because like any doctrine, people adopt it because of the appeal of it’s general sentiments, not because they actually understand it. And they propagate the sentiments very simplistically. Then, those who have adopted other doctrines because those doctrines appeal to their own sentiments, react to these simplistic statements of sentimentality, rather than to the libertarian doctrine itself –and all potential opportunity for rational discourse is lost in the chaos.

A TECHNICAL, EMPIRICAL PHILOSOPHY
But Libertarianism is a technical philosophy that can be rationally articulated. It is often, for historical reasons, articulated as a moral philosophy as is most western ideology. THis is because the French enlightenment philosophers ‘Catholicized’ what was an empirical Anglo philosophical system and converted it to sentimental, moral, and rational system of thought. It was this moral, rational, and sentimental French framework, not the empirical Anglo framework that was popularized by continental philosophers and through their writings, distributed to the world in printed literature — thereby removing precisely what made the Classical Liberal economic political program innovative: that it was procedural and empirical rather than rational.

HISTORY
The term “Libertarian” was coined by Classical Liberals because the left appropriated the term “liberal” for their Moral political program.

PRINCIPLES

First Principle: Economics
Libertarianism relies on economics.

    a) The best society is the most prosperous because more people have more choices, and because all humans seem to demonstrate a preference for additional material choices whenever possible.
    b) Prosperity is the result of increases in production made possible by a division of labor where prices signal demand, and function as the information system by which people coordinate their actions.
    c) Maintaining prosperity requires constant increases in production are due to rapid innovation – a process which we call competition.
    d) Personal property rights are necessary for the form of planning we call ‘economic calculation’, and to create incentives for as many individuals as possible to participate in innovation.
    e) Planning production with personal property requires predictable and constant rules of transfer, contract, and dispute resolution.
    f) Government is the means by which we determine the rules of contract, transfer and dispute resolution.

So, in any political discourse, given a multitude of possible choices, libertarians ‘err on the side of liberty’ because they believe liberty will have the most positive and the least negative side effects.

Second Principle: Anti-Bureaucracy
Libertarians use the term government as a synonym for bureaucracy. They use anti-authoritarian arguments. Anti authoritarian arguments are Moral and rational arguments. Anti-bureaucratic arguments are rational and empirical arguments: meaning that the evidence is that bureaucracies universally consolidate power and abuse it because of the processes and incentives necessary for humans to operate in a bureaucratic organization. (See Michels and Mises).

Libertarianism then, is an anti-bureaucratic rather than anti-government philosophical framework. It suggests that people can and do organize into groups we call governments. It suggests that in almost all cases, privately owned, market-driven service providers will provide better services at lower cost with less danger of bureaucratic abuse of group members than the alternatives.

Third Principle: Voluntary Transfer
Libertarians use moral arguments to criticize involuntary transfer of property. However, the rational and empirical argument is that only voluntary transfer allows people to ‘calculate’ positive social ends together by making use of their collective knowledge, rather than the supposed knowledge of one or more bureaucrats – and that ‘externalities’ (the secondary effects) are beneficial when transfers are voluntary.

The single moral property that defines all libertarian philosophy is that individuals have a monopoly on the use of their minds, bodies and property.

LIBERTARIANISM
Libertarian is a middle class (commercial) philosophy.
It consists (largely) of two wings:

    1) Classical Liberal (Protestant Empirical) – Hayek/Jefferson
    a) Constitutionalism and Rule of law, b) Small State, c) Cautious Redistribution that does not create a dependency d) conservative monetary policy. e) Privatization f) a dependence on empirical institutions. (This is the important part that is lost on everyone – libertarians included. It is an empirical system of government.) and g) Meritocratic rotation of elites through demonstrated service to consumers in the market (rather than politics) and h) Multiple houses of government that reflect the class structure of society.

    The Classical Liberal wing of Libertarianism advocates an empirical method of government whose purpose is to prevent the rise of bureaucracy and systemic risk. It is effectively a restatement of european post-aristocratic philosophy in contemporary terms. ie: it has the structure of formal institutions we call government.

    2) Anarchist (Jewish Moral) – Rothbard/Rand
    a) No state. b) No redistribution c) No community d) Ideological Individualism. e) gold standard f) Absolute propertarianism.

    Anarchism is a form of rebellion against the status quo.

    It is effectively a restatement of the jewish moral code in modern economic terms. In that sense it is a non-empirical, moral, non-institutional form of government. ie: it has the structure of a religion.

THE VALUE OF LIBERTARIANISM
The libertarian research program has contributed significantly to political discourse because it has:

    1) Provided the understanding of why Socialism and Communism are economically impossible. (Economic Calculation and Incentives)

    2) Contributed to political thought by developing the means by which services can be provided by privatization. (These arguments are persuasive. The west is a minority civilization that depends upon technical creativity in order to maintain it’s standard of living and only individual property rights make rapid and disruptive innovation possible.)

    3) Demonstrated that freedom is synonymous with constitutionalism and the rule of COMMON law, without which freedom is impossible.

    4) Produced a more predictive view of economic cycles, and in particular, correctly argued that the use of aggregates in economics and the DSGEM is not only anti-empirical, but actually irrational.

    5) That social classes make decisions according to different time preferences, and that these preferences appear to be impervious to change.

CONCLUSIONS
In the end, the combination of poor data collection, fiat monetary policy, use of the DSGEM in economics and it’s ‘static’ limitations, undermining the constituion’s implied but unstated empirical nature, and the democratic rather than class-based process of debate, have put us in a position where it is not possible to make rational economic and political judgements.

Thanks to Libertarians, we know that whether or not we have moral ambitions, we cannot currently make rational decisions in our form of government with the information at our disposal. And that is profound.

 

On Modeled Behavior, Karl posts that Unemployment is ‘Awful’. And he posts a chart illustrating that losing a job is a serious emotional experience.

But, the most obvious conclusion from the data in that chart is that “separation from your social and familial group” – separation from your tribe – is what troubles human beings the most. There is nothing to be learned about ‘money’ from the list of psychological stressors.

That aside, and back to your point: No one disagrees that unemployment is bad. The disagreement results from our differences in opinion over how to improve unemployment while producing the least damaging externalities.

The difference between conservatives and progressives is largely one of creating systemic fixes with positive externalities using the private sector that may take time on the one hand, and creating dependencies that create negative externalities using the government sector that produce immediate relief and long term negative consequences that serve to reduce liberty on the other.

And in the different evaluation of those externalities by the two sides. To progressives, a powerful state that helps them oppose the market is beneficial. To conservatives a powerful state that opposes the market is a threat.

It is inconceivable to conservatives that freedom is not more important than temporary stress. Conservatives in the US are classical liberals, which by definition means liberty-seekers. Freedom is an intrinsic good. They do not understand that freedom is, and always has been, a minority proposition, and that only under rare circumstances can freedom be obtained – precisely because a large percentage of people do not want it, and another group can achieve elite status by preventing any group from obtaining it.

Market prosperity requires personal freedom: property rights. Market prosperity does not require political or national freedom. Given the distribution of freedom seekers versus security seekers, Political freedom for the majority is a guarantee that the freedom-seeking minority will lose both political and personal freedom.

Freedom is not a desire of the many. Inexpensive goods that result from freedom are. But freedom to take risks in the market is, and always has been, a minority proposition that is only possible during periods where the majority of citizens are small business people – such as under expansionist agrarianism in both Classical Greece, MIgration Period Settlement, Ascendent England, and the conquest of the american continent.

The rest of the time, most people are some form of dependent – serfs – to the minority of people who actually take personal speculative risk in creating production for the market.

The progressive vision of the universe is that there is a world of plenty from which they are ostracized. The conservative vision of the universe is that there is a world of scarcity which must be constantly replenished through risk taking and experimentation. The progressive sees human reason as able to solve anything we can agree upon. The conservative vision sees human reason as demonstrably frail, and that our hubris is what undermines our success – only discipline and work can create material improvement.

 
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