Spare Me from Collectivism

by Don Boudreaux on February 25, 2008

in Myths and Fallacies

Yesterday I sent this letter to the Baltimore Sun:

In “Words still have the power to inspire” (February 24) Leonard Pitts Jr. writes approvingly that the President’s authority comes chiefly “from his ability to rally the people, to inspire them in some great challenge or crusade.”

Reading these words clarified for me an elemental reason for my scorn of conservatives and modern “liberals.”  Being libertarian, I find no romance in collective action.  The yearning to be part of a great collective “challenge or crusade” – be it conservative or “liberal” – reflects humans’ tribal instincts.  These instincts served a sound purpose during our hunter-gatherer past, but are today at odds with the individualism that makes us free and prosperous.  Even worse, these atavistic instincts are exploited by silver-tongued and arrogant office seekers such Barack Obama to gain measures of power that no man or woman should ever be trusted with.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

If you, Dear Reader, want to be part of a collective movement, that’s fine with me.  Really, it is.  I wish you luck and happiness.  But please don’t force me to join you in your crusade (whatever it might be).  And please don’t presume that if I choose not to join in any collective effort, or only in a collective effort involving fewer persons than the efforts you favor, that my life is somehow empty, my soul shriveled, my mind small, my heart uncaring, my habits contemptible.  I myself might well wish to be part of a cause larger than myself — I reserve that right — but I promise never to force you to join with me; I promise never to presume that you are less of a person if you refuse to join my cause or even if you refuse to join any collectively pursued cause.

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{ 49 comments }

Randy February 25, 2008 at 2:53 pm

Well said.

Sam Grove February 25, 2008 at 2:58 pm

These instincts served a sound purpose during our hunter-gatherer past, but are today at odds with the individualism that makes us free and prosperous. Even worse, these atavistic instincts are exploited by silver-tongued and arrogant office-seekers such Barack Obama to gain measures of power that no man or woman should ever be trusted with.

These instinct are actively dangerous in the domain of the state. The NAZIS presented a 'great cause' as did the communists, the eugenicists, etc.

Great causes under the aegis of the state are always cause for concern, for they always involve the exercise of political power and direct extraordinary power to those lacking the scruples to refuse it.

jorod February 25, 2008 at 3:12 pm

What Obama and the Chicago machine have produced:

Chicago Public Schools hopes to solve dropout problem

Half of freshmen don't graduate, report finds
By Carlos Sadovi

Chicago Tribune reporter
February 25, 2008

Nearly half of Chicago public school 9th graders who started high school in the last seven years have dropped out without earning a high school diploma, according to a study to be released Monday.

The report, CPS Graduation Pathways Strategy and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, analyzed the district's dropout numbers since 2000.

It found that the number of students who did not finish high school hit a high in 2000, when 49 percent of freshmen who started their studies in 1995 did not graduate……

———–

csadovi@tribune.com

Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune

FreedomLover February 25, 2008 at 3:40 pm

Very well said! Hear, hear! I choose NOT to ride the Obama Express to Nowhere!

FreedomLover February 25, 2008 at 3:42 pm

To be fair, Obama did not produce the dropout problem in Chicago. However, he would not do anything to solve it either.

muirgeo February 25, 2008 at 3:46 pm

I'm blown away by such attitudes. You were born into this society I presume or one like it based on collectivism of some degree. (I guess a definition might be in order). But generally speaking once you decide you want police or courts or treasury then in my opinion you've advocated for a collective. Why do you expect now that you've arrived on the scene we should drop our collective behaviors that have worked to elevate us to the point of supremacy over all the beast and indeed over all other forms of governance?

First no one forces one to live in a this collective. Unfortunately that's a bit of a cheap shot because as far as I know every current successful society is formed as such so you really don't have a choice.

Recognizing that our success as a species exquisitely required our societal collective-ness then expecting that to suddenly go away seems irrational. It's a bit like assuming bees would be better off if they just took up rugged individualism and left the hive.

Maybe some smart bees have thought they'd do better without the hive but I bet none go on to reproduce. Actually there are many solitary forms of bees…but they don't share the hives honey and then complain about it.

Could you please point me to a classical liberal society through all of history that ever existed that approached any success based on your ideas of how a society should be run or should be allowed to emerge.

The problem for you as best I can say is that the emergent properties of human societies are intrinsically and irrevocably bound to our tribal and collective instincts and origins.

Yes, you and I may be smarter then 95% of society and maybe if everyone thought like us the Liberal Utopia would exist or at least be possible. But never has a rich intelligent man come to be so with out the 95% of laggards he depends on no matter how much an individualist he may claim himself to be.

Randy February 25, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Muirgeo,

Question; Why isn't the entire human race one big happy family? Answer; Because human beings compete, and because human beings disagree – a lot. You and I are not family, not friends, not even part of a cooperative enterprise. You and I just happen to both live on a part of the planet owned and operated by the corporate entity known as the United States of America. Capice?

wintercow20 February 25, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Individualism has nothing at all to do with shunning others. To take what Don said and suggest he is advocating self-sufficiency is beyond dishonest. Have you read any of these posts?

http://cafehayek.com/2007/04/buying_local.html

http://cafehayek.com/2007/10/friedman-explai.html

http://cafehayek.com/2006/01/smith_bastiat_d.html

… and many more

Sam Grove February 25, 2008 at 4:12 pm

The infrastructures of society are not 'great causes', they are functions that people require and develop out of necessity, not to 'be part of something bigger'.

Many of these functions originated or can be developed in the private sphere.
There are private fire companies, there are private water companies, three are private roads, there are private schools, there are private courts, there is private security, etc.

So, please, stop dragging out the strawman.

stanfo February 25, 2008 at 4:12 pm

To answer your question about if a society has ever existed according classically liberal principles that has exhibited success, the only example to a large degree is the United States, pre circa 1913-1933. Of course, it was not perfect but I submit those imperfections are the result of it not adhering to classically liberal ideals.

Fabio Franco February 25, 2008 at 4:13 pm

When Obama "rallies" the people around a "challenge or crusade", the problem he purportedly is trying to solve (poverty, social security, a better anchovy ice cream, whatever) comes SECOND, in people's minds, to the "rally" itself. People care little for the outcome of the game, as long as the tailgating party was a smash.

What classical liberals have failed to do is to convince people that the "romance" at THEIR party will be twice as good as at the collectivists' party. We must forget trying to woo them with rationalism and better results — they'll just think we're bores.

We classical liberals must, as Hayek said, be "agitators". So let the party begin!

Mcwop February 25, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Muirgeo, there is a difference between the current state of the United States and the Borg (of the Star Trek variety). Some want us to become more Borg-like stripping us of individuality, and individual choice within a more limited government framework.

M. Hodak February 25, 2008 at 5:17 pm

It's a great failure of our education system that "crusade" has a widely positive connotation. The Crusades were, in fact, the prototypical collectivist action–bloody on a large scale, senseless for everyone involved except its instigators, and creating unintended consequences that persist a thousand years later.

Schoolchildren apparently aren't taught that the Crusades were medieval Europe's "Vietnam" in that the West failed to achieve its nominal military objective of retaking Jerusalem. They aren't taught that the Crusades were the means by which the Church would consolidate its power over Europe over the next 400 years, a period marked by the arrest of the development of Western civilization. They don't learn that our failed attempt to forcibly take back Jerusalem without any provocation from it's moderate Muslim rulers fostered an enduring mistrust of the West, which today provides a concrete, if twisted, example of how the West conspires against Islam.

Yet, today we hear "crusade" as "a worthy struggle." Our children should be taught that the nominal objective of the crusade is never the one that is served, but that crusades invariably lead to more power for the political entrepreneurs who instigate them.

Kevin S. February 25, 2008 at 5:20 pm

"…how a society should be run or should be allowed to emerge."

Very telling statement of muirgeo's perspective, and contrary to any concept of individual freedom.

"..the emergent properties of human societies are intrinsically and irrevocably bound to our tribal and collective instincts and origins."

I would argue that 'the emergent properties of human socities are intrinsically bound and irrevocably bound to' the instinct of individual survival. Socities emerge when a group of successful (read: productive) individuals form mutually beneficial relationships, but knowing that his individual survival depends not the generosity of others but on his own productivity and usefulness to others….kinda like bees.

Randy February 25, 2008 at 5:42 pm

Kevin,

Re; Muirgeo vs Individual Freedom.

I was just reading "Liberty or Equality" by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (see link below), and he notes that on June 22, 1941, the first day of Operation Barbarossa, the front page of Pravda carried a diatribe against the idea of free will. It brought to mind how frequently Muirgeo and his ilk remind us that there is no such thing as freedom.

http://blog.mises.org/archives/006326.asp

prestable February 25, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Socities emerge when a group of successful (read: productive) individuals form mutually beneficial relationships, but knowing that his individual survival depends not the generosity of others but on his own productivity and usefulness to others….kinda like bees.

I don't know about bees, but ants live in a communist utopia. Nearly everyone works, but not because they are forced to do so. Those who don't work are not punished and do not have lower "living standards" than those who do.

Wouldn't work for humans, though, because people tend to be self-interested. We have to work with what we've got, and the market system is the best way to turn lemons into lemonade. Still, I don't have anything per se against using coercion to provide for the public good, such as the protection of lives and property (including things like the quality of my environment).

muirgeo February 25, 2008 at 6:58 pm

You and I just happen to both live on a part of the planet owned and operated by the corporate entity known as the United States of America. Capice?

Posted by: Randy |

That's right! And we live in one of the best societies EVER. Not because there is unbridled capitalism, not because we are each rugged independent people and not because we have a communist state but mostly because we are a government of, by and for the people and we work cooperatively through BOTH the government and the markets to make ourselves more competitive.

People compete and they have found through time they are more competitive when they work and plan together and organize a government. Social collectivism kicks the crap out of the rugged individualist EVERY TIME! That's why guys like you have to live in the collective convincing yourself regularly what a rugged individualist you are as you blithely go through your day regularly taking advantage of the collectives results.

If you really believed in rugged individualism you'd go to the Great White North with a knife between your teeth and start trading for seal fat with the eskimos.

muirgeo February 25, 2008 at 7:04 pm

There are private fire companies, there are private water companies, three are private roads, there are private schools, there are private courts, there is private security, etc.

So, please, stop dragging out the strawman.

Posted by: Sam Grove

Sam there was a time when everything was held in private account. A few people owned all the land and everyone else was an indentured servant. No Sam….been there done that it doesn't work. There was a reason they called it the Dark Ages.

muirgeo February 25, 2008 at 7:10 pm

the United States, pre circa 1913-1933. Of course, it was not perfect but I submit those imperfections are the result of it not adhering to classically liberal ideals.

Posted by: stanfo

You need to study history a little more. Not perfect? There were several severe recessions and depressions in that era. Those men of wealth from that era couldn't get enough and created the Fed and now to this day the JP Morgans and the Rockefellars of the country control the money supply. The era ended in a Great Depression. They were subsequently referred to as Economic Royalist because they controlled as much as a king. If that's what you call freedom then you're a serf wanna-be.

Methinks February 25, 2008 at 7:15 pm

Sam there was a time when everything was held in private account. A few people owned all the land and everyone else was an indentured servant.

That's right, Sam. Muirduck would like to go back to a version of that which is the same but waaaay better. This time the government will directly or indirectly own everything and we'll all be indentured serfs of the state. That will be totally different and better.

Sam….been there done that it doesn't work. There was a reason they called it the Dark Ages.

And now we find out Muirduck has been with us since the Dark Ages. That may explain the convoluted posts – they're written in Ye Olde English.

Maurice February 25, 2008 at 7:45 pm

"we are a government of, by and for the people and we work cooperatively through BOTH the government and the markets to make ourselves more competitive."

How does government make us more competitive? By ever-onerous regulation, higher corporate taxes than almost anywhere in the world? Tariff protection?

I'm a bit lost.

I understand the idea that good (and smaller) government can be a watchdog, and that should be its function, but it is NOT in the business of helping business be more competitive. Quite the opposite.

I spent the morning with 5 different government bureaucrats, a website that had the wrong information on it, a phone system with no instructions on how to get a human being on the other end (I found out by accident)..and of the 5, one was extraordinarily helpful, the other 4 were ok.

But it was all about a problem that shouldn't even exist but for bureaucracy that doesn't work well, ridiculous licensing (it concerned getting a medical license renewed, at about 33% more than it did 3 years ago. Why? Supposedly there is more need for more bureaucracy, but why did they have to shaft me for an extra $150 which I had no choice but to pay.

How does any of that help make anything competitive? All it did was make me realize (further) why we shouldn't have government nationalizing health care!

Randy February 25, 2008 at 7:49 pm

Muirgeo,

"…we work cooperatively through BOTH the government and the markets…"

I work cooperatively through the markets. My relationship with the government is only minimally cooperative. That line was crossed long ago.

"Social collectivism kicks the crap out of the rugged individualist…"

The first action of Napolean, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and many others like them through history, was to eliminate their strongest competitors. Once this was done, it was no great problem to turn the rest of the idol worshipping facists into slave labor and cannon fodder. In other words, you had better hope that your statement is wrong.

Jeff S. February 25, 2008 at 7:51 pm

"I'm blown away by such attitudes."

George, you're not blown away. You've been here for a long time now and know what to expect.

"It's a bit like assuming bees would be better off if they just took up rugged individualism and left the hive.

Maybe some smart bees have thought they'd do better without the hive but I bet none go on to reproduce"

George, we are not bees.

"Yes, you and I may be smarter then 95% of society and maybe if everyone thought like us the Liberal Utopia would exist or at least be possible." Presumptuous and gut-bustingly comical at the same time, George.

"But never has a rich intelligent man come to be so with out the 95% of laggards he depends on no matter how much an individualist he may claim himself to be."

George, is this your opinion of 95 percent of the population? Whether it is or not, the thesis expressed is consistent with a society based on the pursuit of one's self-interest. Even you can see that it doesn't take collective action for one to become "intelligent" or rich.

"The problem for you as best I can say is that the emergent properties of human societies are intrinsically and irrevocably bound to our tribal and collective instincts and origins."

George, what does this mean? That humans are genetically imprinted to band together in collective action for the common good? As long as you are playing amateur anthropologist, you'd have to acknowledge there's at least equal evidence that people are imprinted to compete.

Randy February 25, 2008 at 8:10 pm

Jeff S,

"As long as you are playing amateur anthropologist, you'd have to acknowledge there's at least equal evidence that people are imprinted to compete."

Exactly. But don't expect Muirgeo to give you an answer on that one. He knows that it shoots his collectivist theory all to hell so he can be counted on to duck it.

Lee Kelly February 25, 2008 at 8:34 pm

For muirgeo, (read carefully!)

"I think it is a common misinterpretation of libertarians, that because a libertarian does not wish to outlaw drug use, or other irresponsible choices, that they must also approve of those choices. There are, however, choices which a libertarian might disapprove of, and consider foolish or even immoral, and yet still tolerate."

"I believe it is important to respect, promote and defend liberty, wherever and whenever it is challenged, even if this occasionally entails tolerating choices which I disapprove of. If I am to ask the same of others, and that they not impose their own preferences on me, then I would be a hypocrite to do anything else."

"[It] would seem to be the problem, that one person may disapprove of smoking marijuana, another of masturbation, another of wearing revealing clothes, and another of worshipping a different God, yet if each chooses to no longer tolerate this diversity, and impose their preferences on each other, then the mutual respect of liberty which makes peaceful coexistence possible is under threat."

"The term 'individual liberty' seems highly misleading, it would seem to suggest that there is another kind of liberty, but according to the definition of 'liberty' of which I am familiar, there is no such alternative."

"I would suggest that free-markets are a consequence of libertarianism, rather than the objective. A free-market economy tends to arise alongside liberty, since very rarely do people choose to enter into any other kind of economic arrangement."

"There is nothing in libertarianism which is in opposition to the formation of collectives, except where membership in a collective is maintained by coercion, rather than choice."

"It is an unfortunate fact, that if each is free to do whatever he pleases, then nobody is free from the coercion of others. In other words, if we are to have liberty at all, then liberty must be defended, and for the provision of a police force, justice system, and army, I reluctantly take the position that taxation is necessary."

"[There are circumstances where libertarians] may reluctantly accept taxation to address a problem. For example, the externalities caused by pollution would be a prime candidate for regulation, to capture the full cost of such activity which would be missed by the price system. That said, it would be a most unsatisfactory circumstance to be in, and we should seek an alternative solution, one more compatible with liberty."

"The ideal of liberty is not something which need be realised without exception, as there will always be crime and misuse of power. Instead, liberty is a guiding principle which a libertarian endevours to respect, promote and defend. It is rather like the ideal of truth for science, in that it is not necessary for scientists ever confirm that they have found the truth, nor even find the truth at all, but simply to hold truth as an ideal to strive for."

"I tend to be uncomfortable with the idea of others paying for my healthcare, since it encourages an intrusive preoccupation with my health, habits, and diet, at the expense of my privacy. I most certainly do not want to feel the same way about others, yet if I am going to be forced to pay for their bad health, habits or diet, then it is unfortunately my business too."

"[Libertarians tend to hold] that man is both easily corruptible and pervasively fallible, and that nobody can be trusted with arbitrary power over others, whether they are kings, emporers, presidents, politicians, bereaucrats, idealogues, CEOs, capitalists, popes, workers, or "the people"."

"The libertarian ideal is one where government is not only small, but also highly constrained, in that at least a minimum of liberty is preserved, and beyond the scope of even democratic reform."

"If a criminal does not respect the basic liberties of others, we do not tolerate his behaviour and might think it appropriate to fine, imprison, or even execute him, and if a voter or politician does the same, then what?"

"If success in the marketplace is dictated by politicians and bereaucrats, then businessmen will direct their resources away from satisfying consumer demand, and toward corrupting government. It is only that so much power rests with politicians in the first place, that they are able sell the liberty of others to the highest bidder."

mcwop February 25, 2008 at 9:15 pm

Muirgeo writes:

That's why guys like you have to live in the collective convincing yourself regularly what a rugged individualist you are as you blithely go through your day regularly taking advantage of the collectives results.
If you really believed in rugged individualism you'd go to the Great White North with a knife between your teeth and start trading for seal fat with the eskimos.

And that is why guys like you live in the collective trying to convince yourself its great all while George Bush kicks butt around the world and taps your phone. If you really believed in the collective you would shut up and follow W.

Eric February 25, 2008 at 10:27 pm

It seems to me that muirgeo is missing the difference between a cooperative society — which most libertarians favor — and a collective society — which leftists favor. In a collective, decision-making is usually centralized in the hands of the bureaucrats or some other group of "enlightened" rulers.

In a cooperative society, on the other hand, there is no centralized decision-making; free individuals cooperate with one another when it is to their advantage to do so, free of physical force or threats thereof.

Muirgeo seems to think that "individualism" = lone man on an island, which is not at all true. Individualism, and capitalism, by extension, is, and always has been, free individuals freely trading with other individuals for things they desire.

Sam Grove February 25, 2008 at 10:35 pm

muirgeo

If you believe that humans benefit from cooperative endeavor, then you should also accept that humans will recognize that fact and will voluntarily participate in such endeavors without government agents threatening them with guns.

Libertarians do not oppose voluntary social arrangements, indeed, we are all for them as long as the voluntary condition is met.

My problem, as a libertarian/moral agent, with political collectivists is that they think society has to be organized with the threat of violence which is why they want to approach any perceived social problem with force of arms.

The socialist is a disguised dictator (von Mises). You, muirgeo, are a would be dictator.

Libertarians prefer voluntary cooperation.

Now quit bringing out your damned strawman arguments and see if you can comprehend the idea that social cooperation does not require ubiquitous extortion.

Python February 25, 2008 at 11:14 pm

Someone with a keyboard whose name rhymes with Lamegeo was able to type: "I'm blown away by such attitudes."

This is the same person who has compared Iceland favorably to the US, couldn't identify Panama on a list of nations, thought that the population could reach 1 person per square meter, doesn't know how immigration affects median income statistics, and thinks that cherry picking economic data is a talent.

Very entertaining. We are all blown away that you still pretend to try to learn stuff that you clearly can't comprehend at all.

Jim February 25, 2008 at 11:28 pm

As for the Barack attack, economists should be the first to recognize that the attractiveness of an option depends upon the feasible alternatives. The current leader could hardly be described as "silver-tongued," but he has launched "us" on a real (not a metaphorical) crusade, with 140,000 troops in Iraq of all places, and has proclaimed powers — detaining US citizens indefinitely without charges or access to an attorney, for instance — that "no man or woman should ever be trusted with." The heir-apparent within his own party does not seem disinclined to repudiate the crusade or the powers.

Jim February 25, 2008 at 11:30 pm

Oops, meant that "The heir-apparent within his own party does not seem inclined to repudiate the crusade or the powers." Drat.

Sam Grove February 25, 2008 at 11:35 pm

The current leader could hardly be described as "silver-tongued," but he has launched "us" on a real (not a metaphorical) crusade,

When your tribe is attacked, what's wanted is a cowboy willing to shoot-em-up. Too bad the neocons didn't have sense to avoid an occupation, or, supposing that's what they had planned, didn't field the troop strength needed (and advised by the military) to handle same.

brotio February 26, 2008 at 1:02 am

"Yes, you and I may be smarter then 95% of society…" – Murthaduck

This is one of those times where I'd love to be sharing an evening of drink and discussion with Vidyohs, Lee, LCJ, Sam, Python, Randy, mcwop, Methinks, and many of the others here that have been very lucky not to spray (in a fit of uncontrollable laughter) their keyboard with whatever they're drinking when Murthaduck says something as hilarious as that.

muirgeo February 26, 2008 at 1:13 am

It seems to me that muirgeo is missing the difference between a cooperative society — which most libertarians favor — and a collective society — which leftists favor. In a collective, decision-making is usually centralized in the hands of the bureaucrats or some other group of "enlightened" rulers.

Posted by: Eric

Eric,

Unbridled capitalism as well as unbridled bureaucracy both lead to concentrations of power and often the do it in conjunction. That's why I would say that yes, I'm for a cooperative society run in a democratic fashion… wow…. radical huh! I don't see a difference from cooperative versus collective. Are you suggesting a difference in how they make rules and elect leaders. Your definition of collective seems to be undemocratic so in that you mis-characterize my position.

muirgeo February 26, 2008 at 1:21 am

Libertarians prefer voluntary cooperation.

Posted by: Sam Grove

Oh BS Sam, what the hell do you call democracy. It's the same thing as voluntary cooperation with the understanding by any reasonable human being that when their are 300,000,000 million of you trying to make a decision that you won't always get your way. Jez grow up and step into reality. I suspect the Libertarian society doesn't act unless it has 100% agreement amongst all its members. Hum…I wonder if maybe that explains why no such society exist in the real world and never has and never will.

Sam Grove February 26, 2008 at 1:39 am

what the hell do you call democracy

I call it majority rule. I certainly don't call it voluntary cooperation.

Jez grow up and step into reality.
I suspect the Libertarian society doesn't act unless it has 100% agreement amongst all its members.

Jeez, why don't you grow a brain and get a clue?

Tell me how 300,000,000 people make a decision…they don't. Some people make a decision then con the rest into going along with it. Like how we have an army in Iraq.

In fact, most office holders in this here democracy, as you so erroneously call it, are elected by actual minorities.

And you still haven't managed to justify a process by which a majority could make a minority into slaves.

You democracy is a fiction, an illusion. You are clueless.

Sam Grove February 26, 2008 at 1:43 am

You seem to labor under the illusion that our wealth was created by some mysterious democratic process of decision making and the result of some majority vote.

You could not be more mistaken.

Gil February 26, 2008 at 1:45 am

One part I don't get with 'individualism' and 'no central-planning' (you too muirgeo) is that most organisations in life are hierarchies – last time I looked businesses are run by the few who give orders and receive various signals to plan the future of the business – the workers pretty much take orders and might be allowed to make suggestions but they don't have any real say how the business is run or don't help engage in any planning. I see the issues more of 'legitimate rule' versus 'illegitimate rule' kind. Just as some here reckon there are those who have the right to use the 'love or leave it' ultimatum and others who don't.

Gil February 26, 2008 at 1:56 am

"And you still haven't managed to justify a process by which a majority could make a minority into slaves."

I don't know, some Libertarians are partial to debt slavery. But would that be a minority enslaving a majority or silly twats enslaving themselves via no self-control?

brotio February 26, 2008 at 2:17 am

Hey everybody! Bob Hope knew Murthaduck!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a6YdNmK77k

Sam Grove February 26, 2008 at 2:20 am

I don't know, some Libertarians are partial to debt slavery.

I can't address that as I don't kow of what you are speaking.

The comprehending the issue lies in understanding the difference between mercantilism and free markets.

Muirgeo, et al (and much of the world), operates on the premises of mercantilism. Granted, muirgeo is in reaction to mercantilism, but nonetheless constructs from the same erroneous (according to me) premises.

Gil February 26, 2008 at 2:35 am

You know – debt slavery, aka bond slavery? It refers to when some people accept a debt that in a way they have to work it especially in a way the work is never enough to get out of debt and the descendants inherit the debt and have to work it off too. Whether this is unfair or whether it isn't the lender fault because they offered a debt and its terms and the would-be borrower accepted is debateable.

Python February 26, 2008 at 2:39 am

"Unbridled capitalism as well as unbridled bureaucracy both lead to concentrations of power…"

Unbridled XXXXism leads to concentrations of wealth and power. Just look at every nation that has unbridled XXXXism. That is why we should stay away from XXXXism and move to a more YYYYistic approach.

Where does unbridled Muirgeo lead to? A hatful of sorrow.

By the way,

Did you know that Manhattan has about 1 person for every 40 square meters? And that the population of New York city has risen 2% in the past 55 years? And that to get 1 person per square meter in New York city would mean having 40 times more people there? And that to get one person per square meter in the US, the entire country would have to be 40 times as dense as Manhattan? And that is assuming you have the same amount of land for cows and corn as Manhattan does. If you allow more land for cows and corn, then you must bump it up to much more than 40 times as dense as Manhattan. But yeah, that day is in the "not too distant future" (Muirgeo, 2008)

Muirgeo is a real prince. A prince in a democracy (i.e. a waste of space).

But I will fight to protect his freedom to be a complete and utter moron.

Python February 26, 2008 at 2:43 am

Gil, can you repeat this in English please:

"It refers to when some people accept a debt that in a way they have to work it especially in a way the work is never enough to get out of debt and the descendants inherit the debt and have to work it off too."

Prepositional nightmare, that sentence is.

I can't tell if you are talking about social security or loan sharks.

Grant February 26, 2008 at 2:47 am

In the oft-named Libertopia, I think things would be quite different from how they are now.

For starters, prediction markets would be more widely used for making all sorts of decisions (because they'd be legal). That means your average Joe employee would have a way to, at the least, influence the decisions of his employer and possibly decisions of other firms he is familiar with. This isn't quite "democratic" (thank god), but it does open up the executive "class" to many other people.

There would also be widespread voluntary provision of public goods, via various sorts of assurance contracts or other methods.

To me, the problem isn't bucking all of the ruling class (be they politicians or capitalists), its giving people a choice of who their leaders are. The vast majority people don't want to be totally free, and they shouldn't have to be. After all, in a society under the division of labor, not everyone should be a specialist in planning or leading others. But they should be able to choose who they follow, instead of having it imposed upon them by a majority. In practice of course, I think nearly everyone is a "leader" in some capacity.

Sam Grove February 26, 2008 at 2:58 am

It refers to when some people accept a debt that in a way they have to work it especially in a way the work is never enough to get out of debt and the descendants inherit the debt and have to work it off too.

Common law holds that for a contract to be valid, the contracting parties must understand the contract and its consequences. I believe that common law also holds that no one can contract to be a slave.

So, it depends upon the circumstances.

I think you may be referring to 'company towns'. I've heard of those, but I'm not familiar with any real world examples.

Gil February 26, 2008 at 6:16 am

Actually I was thinking more in the line of this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt_bondage

Now I know some people would be against bankruptcy and that those who create a debt have to pay it off and that debt doesn't necessarily expire just because person in the debt dies and expect the next of kin gets the debt. Likewise, some would see 'working off the debt' as someone who has to wash dishes at a restaurant because they realise they couldn't pay for the meal and not the sleight of hand the Wiki article refers to.

P.S. Me be sorry me can't compose gooder english, me be mediocre at it.

Keith February 26, 2008 at 8:27 am

Qoutes from muirgeo: "I'm blown away by such attitudes."

"Social collectivism kicks the crap out of the rugged individualist EVERY TIME!"

"I don't see a difference from cooperative versus collective."

"Oh BS Sam, what the hell do you call democracy. It's the same thing as voluntary cooperation with the understanding by any reasonable human being that when their are 300,000,000 million of you trying to make a decision that you won't always get your way."

You're contradicting yourself even more than usual. How is there anything cooperative about a majority forcing actions onto a minority? Dressing things up in some sort of contrived democratic process does not make it cooperative, only collective and coercive.

You say it yourself, collectivism "kicks the crap out of" individualism, yet you apparently have no concerns about the ethical or moral consequences of it. You've justified it through democracy and happily goose step away confident that the minority is wrong, or getting what is best for them whether they like it or not, or some other rationalization. You can't see the tree for the forest.

Its no wonder that you are blown away by such attitudes. You apparently can't comprehend them. Good luck in your bee hive.

muirgeo February 26, 2008 at 9:29 am

Libertarians prefer voluntary cooperation.

Now quit bringing out your damned strawman arguments and see if you can comprehend the idea that social cooperation does not require ubiquitous extortion.

Posted by: Sam Grove

And you seem to labor under the delusion that our wealth was created independent of the government. No it wasn't. At the very least this government prevented us from being taken over by Communist Russia.

I don't labor under the elusion that government is perfect or that it is the answer to all our problems. I recognize that it is necessary for protection and for markets to function. So the only thing left is to decide how best to control it.

Social cooperation doesn't work as any stable form of government. It is either destroyed from with in or from without.
Right now the threat is from the money lenders who have far more disproportionate control of our government then the people do.

Weather you believe it or not you have to decide who you want to control your government. You seem afraid to let the people do that …I'm not. I'm afraid of a small minority with massive wealth and power setting up the rules and making all the decisions.

This is the age old debate of political economy. The two sides are polarized and the answer lies somewhere in between but will always be imperfect.

Bottom line is I want freedom and liberty and protection from tyranny just like everyone else here. Don't pretend you have the perfect answer that everyone from Smith to Marx to Mills to Keynes to Schumptner to Freidman could not agree on.

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