Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on July 20, 2011

in Crony Capitalism, Other People's Money, Politics

… is from page 211 of David Friedman’s indispensable 1973 book, The Machinery of Freedom; it occurs in the context of his discussion of contemporary American politics:

It seems more reasonable to suppose that there is no ruling class, that we are ruled, rather, by a myriad of quareling gangs, constantly engaged in stealing from each other to the great impoverishment of their own members as well as the rest of us.

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Scott G July 20, 2011 at 6:32 pm

But quarreling gangs makes me think of groups of individuals involved in black market trading caused by government imposed prohibition. These type of gangs typically provide goods and services that people want, but are not legally able to trade for.

What type of gangs is David Friedman talking about? Maybe like barbarian type gangs who plunder. Reminds me of that movie The Road starring Viggo Mortensen in which there are gangs of cannibals who eat the non-cannibals.


For some reason the ruling class view is more satisfying to me because I can’t point at the jerks who are stealing my stuff and curbing my liberty. The quarreling gangs view is unsettling to me because I can’t really point to the various gangs.

Scott G July 20, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Oops typo. The second to last sentence should read: For some reason the ruling class view is more satisfying to me because I can point at the jerks who are stealing my stuff and curbing my liberty.

Kirby July 20, 2011 at 8:57 pm

try The Book of Eli. Loved it

Scott G July 22, 2011 at 8:26 am

Will do. Thanks for the tip.

Joe Cushing July 20, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Wow, I think that is right on. The gangs are the unions, farmers, corporations, etc. These gangs hire men in suits who intern hire more men with guns to take money from all of us and give it to them; or they hire these men to fend off the men with guns. Of course the biggest gang of all are the old people. Today I heard an old person on the radio saying that he wants us to raise taxes (hire the men with guns). Of course he wants this–he won’t be paying them–he will be receiving them. To get rid of social security we need to re-frame it. People believe they “paid in” for 40 years and now they deserve to get back what they paid in. That’s not what happened. What happened is that people stole money from them for 40 years and now they want to steel money from other people who are completely innocent. They can never get their money back. They can only take money from others.

Steve Turetzky July 20, 2011 at 9:39 pm

“People believe they “paid in” for 40 years and now they deserve to get back what they paid in. That’s not what happened. What happened is that people stole money from them for 40 years and now they want to steel money from other people who are completely innocent. They can never get their money back. They can only take money from others.”

Hmm? Isn’t that analogous to saying that when you make periodic deposits into a savings account at the bank, you can never get your money back because it’s been used by the bank to make loans and, therefore, you can only get money from other depositors? Literally, both are true, but do not speak to what is wrong with the Social Security system, which is that it is an involuntary, immoral Ponzi scheme that would be illegal if provided by anyone but the US federal government.

Chucklehead July 20, 2011 at 11:07 pm

A bank loan includes a promise to pay it back. It is repaid by the borrower, not other depositors, unless you bank at CITI.

morganovich July 21, 2011 at 1:16 pm

“Isn’t that analogous to saying that when you make periodic deposits into a savings account at the bank, you can never get your money back because it’s been used by the bank to make loans and, therefore, you can only get money from other depositors”

no. not at all. what it would be analogous to is if, instead of making loans, the bank spent the money on lavish parties and left IOU’s in place of your deposits.

a bank that makes loans tends to get paid back at a profit. the loans are secured by assets and businesses. a bank that blew all the money on nothing tangible would just have a pile of IOU’s backed by nothing and no way to repay depositors.

Steve Turetzky July 22, 2011 at 10:20 pm

That seems to be reading far more into Joe Cushing’s post than I see there. :)

Steve Turetzky July 22, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Yes, and that is how the people Joe Cushing spoke of view the Social Security system. Who was there to tell them they were wrong, other than a few whose voices were muted by the interests with an investment in misleading them?

Scott G July 20, 2011 at 6:58 pm

This quotation really bothers me for some reason. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I don’t want it to be accurate. Even the image of animals eating each other on the Serengeti is more market-oriented and harmonious than the image of quarreling human gangs stealing from each other.

DG Lesvic July 20, 2011 at 7:02 pm

David Friedman, that rarity, a great son of a great man.

And, my teacher, too, I’m proud to say, despite our differences.

Don Boudreaux July 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm

“David Friedman, that rarity, a great son of a great man.”

Yes. Well-said.

DG Lesvic July 20, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Speaking of great men, at the turn of the Century, and the Millenium, Charlie Rose hosted a panel discusion of the greatest man of the century, and not one of the panel members mentioned my choice, who happened to be a member of that panel himself.

Can you guess who?

No it wasn’t Ludwig von Mises, whom you’d expect to be my choice, nor Hayek, yours, but William F Buckley, Jr. A strange choice, it must seem, but only to you youngsters. To anyone who actually witnessed the change he brought about, it wouldn’t seem so strange. He brought the Old Right out of the Curiosity Corner and back to The Table, and not so much by intellect, Mises proved that that alone wasn’t enough, but by personality. He simply charmed the Left (much as I’ve charmed Viking and Greg).

Without Buckley, I doubt that many of us would ever have heard of Mises and Hayek. Sure, Hayek had his moment, with The Road to Serfdom, but would have been a forgotten man without Buckley, the Barnum and Barrymore of the Right, and our greatest intellectual showman.

juan carlos vera July 20, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I think you’re wrong, and I am one exception in your case. I have agree with all libertarian ideas because I feel the world that way, as it felt, Bastiat, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Friedman, and many others libertarians. Never heard of Buckley, I never read anything he wrote…

DG Lesvic July 20, 2011 at 9:40 pm

While his writing made a great impact, first with God and Man at Yale, his greatest impact was on television. For it was there that the full force of his persona shone like no one else’s that I have ever seen

DG Lesvic July 20, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Right up there with Buckley, among the greatest personnas, were Reagan and Friedman, but all in somewhat different ways, Reagan more in the political arena, Friedman more in the intellectual, and Buckley in the pop intellectual arena.

All were unique in their way, but I still vote for Buckley as the greatest man of the century, and Keynes as the worst.

DG Lesvic July 20, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Sorry, Daniel.

vikingvista July 21, 2011 at 1:49 pm


He was a bright fellow, and had an impact on the conservative movement in American politics. But for understanding the world, he adds nothing to the list of giants you gave. He wasn’t a typical conservative, but he was a conservative nonetheless.

juan carlos vera July 22, 2011 at 1:22 am


Ok. thank you very much…

Steve Turetzky July 20, 2011 at 9:55 pm

…Much as I admired WFB, Jr, I can’t remember ever hearing or reading him mention von Mises or von Hayek. I learned of von Hayek as a result of reading of the Foundation for Economic Education (http://www.goodsearch.com/redirect.aspx?type=1&url=http:%2F%2Fwww.fee.org%2F) back in the late 1960s and of von Mises in college as an undergraduate student in economics in the early 1970s.

DG Lesvic July 20, 2011 at 11:42 pm

As a matter of fact, Mises’ widow related that he liked Buckley a lot and enjoyed watching him on TV.

Whether or not Buckley himself touted Hayek and Mises, and I would guess that he did, he still was responsible for the Right wing resurgence that pushed them up with it.

DG Lesvic July 20, 2011 at 11:45 pm

That’s not to take anything away from FEE, which was wonderful, but it was still Buckley that brought the Old Right back from “the lunatic fringe” and into the mainstream, respectability, and relevance.

Steve Turetzky July 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm
Greg Webb July 20, 2011 at 9:57 pm

William F. Buckley was a good, honest man who truly was an intellectual. Though charming, left-wing zealots despised him. He was able, quick-witted, funny, knowledgeable, and well read. He never made silly absolute promises that he did not keep; he never tried to weasel out of any promises; he did not maliciously or falsely assassinate another’s character; he did not pretend to be a victim; he did not sleazily edit other people’s comments to intentionally misrepresent what they said; and he never demeaned his wive or children with mean-spirited comments. I knew Wlliam F. Buckley. And you, DG, are no William F. Buckley.

DG Lesvic July 20, 2011 at 11:38 pm


Shouldn’t you be hitched to a plow or hauling Borax?

Greg Webb July 20, 2011 at 11:47 pm

DG, it’s nice that you had a teacher like David Friedman. It’s no surprise, however, that you failed to learn anything from him. Your only talent is pretending to be a victim while making silly personal attacks. It’s sad, for every young person has potential, that you have chosen to be such a sleazy, despicable person so near the end of your life.

DG Lesvic July 21, 2011 at 5:16 am


I’m going to try to explain this to you one more time, but this is the last time. If you don’t get it this time, I can’t help you.

Suppose you enter into a contract to build a house. The contract does not say that your merely saying you had built it was not as good as actually having done so, and could not stand as fullfillment of the contract. And would you say then, that since that had not been specified in the contract, you would be entitled to full payment for a house you hadn’t built, so long as you said that you had done so, and that if the buyer refused to pay you, he had welshed on his promise, and was a weasel?

Do you see where {‘m going with this, and why you are far more a jackass than I a weasel?

DG Lesvic July 21, 2011 at 5:36 am


Perhaps that wasn’t as clear as it could have been.

Let me try again.

Suppose you enter into a contract to build a house. If the contract does not explicitly state that you may not cheat the buyer, does that give you the right to do so, to demand payment without actually having built the house — so long as you say that you had done so?

And if the buyer then refused to pay, would he be guilty of welshing, and be a weasel?

Do you see where I’m going with this, and why you may be a bit more of a jackass than I a weasel?

DG Lesvic July 21, 2011 at 5:45 am

And Greg, I can assure you that if you can’t see where I am going with this, everyone else here will be able to, and that every time you repeat your slander, I shall throw this right back in your face.

danphillips July 21, 2011 at 6:38 am

Buckley never maliciously or falsely assassinated another’s character? Try telling that to Ayn Rand or Murray Rothbard!

DG Lesvic July 21, 2011 at 11:02 am


Can The Mises Institute Tolerate Mises?

That was my question at the 1993 session of Mises University at Claremont, CA.

Mr. Lew Rockwell, pres.
Mises Institute

Dear Mr. Rockwell,

I want to thank you for the special treatment accorded me at Mises University. At 61 years of age, I’m probably the oldest person ever expelled from school, and that’s a distinction I’ll cherish. To set the record straight, there was nothing in your invitation to the public excluding contradiction of Prof. Rothbard. I engaged him in discussion as others were doing and he entered into it willingly. And when he chose to terminate it, I pursued it no further. But, while it lasted, I freely contradicted him. And, for that, you accused me of making trouble and bothering him. And you were right. But Mises would surely tell you that that’s what an economist is supposed to do. So, if The Mises Institute can’t tolerate that, it can’t tolerate Mises.

Prof. Rothbard just published a tribute from National Review to himself. But years ago, when it slammed him, it was beneath his notice. It’s amazing how much it’s come up in his estimate. His refusal to answer lowly critics implies not just they aren’t qualified to challenge him, but aren’t even qualified to know the truth, and that it should be a secret between the professor and his peers.

The Mises Institute is a contradiction in terms, for, to Mises, science wasn’t an institution but a revolution, a constant assault upon the institutionalization of learning, with each “scientific system” but “one station in an endlessly progressing search for new knowledge.” You can institutionalize the results of intellectual progress but not the process of it, for “Education…is…imitation and routine, not improvement and progress.”

The main difference between the Austrian School and the Catholic Church is that the Catholics are honest about it.

If the Austrian School and The Mises Institute were more like Mises, and libertarianism what it pretended to be, economics and economic freedom would be as much the fashion today as 150 years ago.


Rothbard could do a bit of “assassinating” himself.

While we’re extolling the virtues of the Friedman’s, I can recall Rothbard referring to the Chicago School economists as “swine” for their unconscionable treatment of Mises.

Rothbard and Rand were no angels.

While I was certainly closer to them ideologically than to Buckley, I would much sooner rely on Buckley’s honesty and sense of fair play than Rothbard’s or Rand’s. You just did not cross them. Buckley on the other hand was best friends with his adversaries, with the exception of Gore Vidal, a snake, who slandered him. If all you did was disagree with him, he was still your friend. Not so, Rothbard and Rand. Rothbard himself exposed that nasty side of Rand’s character, but he was as guilty of it as she. Not Buckley. I pride myself on being like Buckley in that regard. I still love Methinks even though she challenges me, and calls me a moron. I still love Viking, even though he lies through his teeth in order to impugn my character, because he at least he’s smart enough to know it, and makes real contributions here, even love Daniel, that lovable mountebank, but can’t stand this Greg, who has never added one iota to the discussions and whose self-righteous idiocy is beyond toleration.

danphillips July 21, 2011 at 10:56 pm

DG, I don’t dispute a word of what you say. I knew neither Rothbard nor Rand. My comment was regarding Buckley’s treatment of the two. He despised Rand because she was an evil atheist. Buckley could tolerate any viewpoint from the left, but he would not accept anything from an atheist. Further, he despised Rothbard because Rothbard was an evil anarchist. Heaven forbid, Rothbard would not fall in step with Buckley’s notion that America should use its military might to save the world from the Commies.

Lots of comments on here have lauded Buckley for reinvigorating the Right. Well, he sure didn’t reinvigorate the Old Right, those who advocated the US stay out of other country’s affairs. What did he revive anyway? Who in their right mind could possibly cheer for today’s version of the Right? Boehner? McConnell? Gingerich? What’s to cheer?

Sam has it exactly correct. The so-called struggle between the Right and the Left is merely a distraction. They both want a strong state. Actually they don’t even disagree that much on how they’d use the power of the state if they had control. Today’s Right is Buckley’s baby. I don’t see much to cheer.

Sorry, I got off topic and climbed onto my soapbox. Back to the topic at hand. I don’t remember seeing or hearing Buckley express a kind word of thanks to Ayn Rand for her contribution to the debate. She has been at least (I think more) as influential as Buckley. I doubt that very many young people today even know who he was. As for Rothbard: under Buckley’s watchful eye, when Rothbard died *National Review* wrote one of the most despicable obituaries I have seen. They (he) basically said he was glad Rothbard was dead. From my point of view that was about as malicious as character assassination can get.

I used to love watching Buckley on *Firing Line.* He was always cheerful, quick with a quip, and most of the time left hid debating partner stammering for a response. He was a delight.

But let’s not cannonize him just yet. He had no problem assassinating the character of people he feared might usurp his place in history.

Greg Webb July 22, 2011 at 12:48 am

DG, everyone thinks that you weaseled out on your promise to leave Cafe Hayek once Don provided you with the requested example. in fact, they have pointed out many times in the past when you previously weaseled out of complying with your promises. Among the kinder things that people have been calling you include: “schmuck”, “douche bag”, “ass”, “clown”, and “fool”. I find all of those labels to be accurate descriptions of you given your despicable behavior of the last few days.

vikingvista July 22, 2011 at 2:37 am

“Further, he despised Rothbard because Rothbard was an evil anarchist.”

…as well as an atheist. Buckley must have despised Rothbard even more. I don’t know why Catholicism was so integral to Buckley’s political philosophy–some vocal followers of Rothbard are devout Catholics, and neither they nor Rothbard, I don’t believe, saw any issue with it. I guess that is part of what made Buckley a conservative.

Kirby July 20, 2011 at 8:59 pm

The only other example I can think of is Hannibal/Halmicar, and even he was a general. Still, talent is talent

Scott G July 20, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Is it just me or is David Friedman more quiet and to-himself than the average libertarian economist? I get the feeling he’s sort of given up trying to persuade people to create the world that other voluntarists would like to live in.

I also find it hard to believe this book was written in 1973 and hasn’t put Friedman into a brighter spotlight. I’m surprised there aren’t Harry Potter-like fictional stories of the world he describes in Machinery. Is anyone else surprised by this?

David Friedman July 20, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Verner Vinge has a short story, “The Ungoverned,” about the invasion of an anarcho-capitalist territory by an adjacent state, and cites _Machinery of Freedom_ at the end as his source for the former. It’s interesting to see what a good novelist adds to an economist’s picture of the institutions.

juan carlos vera July 20, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Some quarreling gangs are promoted and supported by governments…

Greg Webb July 20, 2011 at 7:31 pm

There is a political class with two dominant factions constantly squabbling with each other. The only time that those two factions unify is when the taxpayers get tired of getting fleeced. Those two factions are the Democrats and the Republicans. But, the real fight is not between Democrats and Republicans, or progressives and conservatives, or left and right. That is just the sideshow that is meant to divert attention from reality. The real fight is between the political class and those who have to pay for their folly.

Kirby July 20, 2011 at 9:00 pm

You’re forgetting that half of the payers actually believe that the ‘political class’ is doing the right thing

Greg Webb July 20, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Kirby, their attention is diverted by the sideshow.

Kirby July 21, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Not arguing, merely noting. Kind of sad, really.

Greg Webb July 23, 2011 at 12:40 am

Yes, it is.

Steve Turetzky July 20, 2011 at 9:51 pm

… or doing “close enough” to “the right thing” to continue to vote for them. A thought that reminds me of Dr Rothbard’s remark that, contrary to the old maxim that “those who do not vote deserve the government they get,” it is those who vote who deserve the government they get. I choose to interpret what he said to mean that those who vote for “typical” politicians deserve the government they get.
…It’s too soon to tell but the slowly growing influence of libertarians in both parties (especially Republicans father and son Rep and Sen Paul) and many in the “Tea Party” movement gives a bit of hope. Having learned that my vote never affects the outcome of elections, I’ve taken to voting more and more for Libertarians, even though I disagree with them on several issues, although I respect their positions as consistent with a coherent set of beliefs; in my state (Michigan), county and city, none will be elected any time during my lifetime. :)

Dan J July 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Too many people in MI are dependent on govt funding their lives. And, too many people from there will tout more govt interventions as a cure, even after 60years of the very thing making MI into the third world it is becoming…..

Steve Turetzky July 22, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Yes, that’s us Michiganians, such statists, so different from folks from the freedom-loving nirvanas of, say, DC or Rhode Island or California! :)

Dan J July 23, 2011 at 1:00 am

Lived there….. Detroit area is high on govt handouts. That Coleman young was such a wonderful fellow. Kirkpatrick, the son and mother…… No corruption or bigotry there. Bing is in over his head. Where is Archer? Oh, yeah, he said toodaloo To Detroit and it’s corruption.
I would live in MI again, but not within two hours of Detroit. Lake Huron, maybe. Ludington, alpena, traverse city…..

Kirby July 21, 2011 at 8:11 pm

I’m scared of the Tea Party. Palin and Bachmann are such sad, sad head cases.

Dan J July 21, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Have no problem with the Tea Party. Although, I did choose to witness a gathering in Phoenix and found about 20 out of a couple thousand to fit a stereotype that I would distance myself from. I should have engaged those folk to disabuse myself of my prejudice. Shaved heads, sleeveless t-shirts, tats up and down arms. That look throws me off. My loss.

Mose Jefferson July 20, 2011 at 7:59 pm

I like this quote from Bastiat’s “The Law”, page 53:
“It is in the nature of men to rise against the injustice of which they are the victims. When, therefore, plunder is organized by law, for the profit of those who perpetrate it, all the plundered classes tend, either by peaceful or revolutionary means, to enter in some way into the manufacturing of laws. These classes, according to the degree of enlightenment at which they have arrived, may propose to themselves two very different ends, when they thus attempt the attainment of their political rights; either they may wish to put an end to lawful plunder, or they may desire to take part in it.”

“(…) It would be impossible, therefore, to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this – the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.”

juan carlos vera July 20, 2011 at 8:44 pm

Yes… It is very evident that the robbers are desperate to get the government to take control of the law that allows them to legally defraud and steal….

Kirby July 20, 2011 at 9:03 pm

This reminds me of a semi-joke-
What you hear from democrats: We forgot to pay our taxes
What you never hear from democrats: We forgot to spend yours

Warren Smith July 20, 2011 at 9:02 pm

“…great impoverishment of their own members…” ?

The political class makes itself wealthy in the extreme. Lyndon Johnson was a scandal. Martin L. King’s family have established an very valuable government funded franchise. Jesse Jackson has turned political blackmail into an industry. William J. Clinton and Hillary started with “cherry picking” cattle trades, then created a fortune of over $100,000,000 within four years of stepping out of office. The Bush dynasty would not be too strong a descriptive. Meanwhile the nation simply suffers the greed and abuse of a ruling class no better than carnival people.

jorod July 20, 2011 at 9:18 pm

It’s called the professional politician class….or gang…

Sam Grove July 21, 2011 at 2:38 am
vikingvista July 21, 2011 at 2:02 pm


Randy July 21, 2011 at 6:08 am

I agree that there is a “myriad of quareling gangs”, but I do not agree that these do not comprise a ruling class, nor do I agree that they impoverish themselves. The fact that they quarrel is a secondary trait. The primary trait is that they exploit other human beings. They have created a system of exploitation in which they thrive, however much they compete amongst themselves for the greater shares of the spoils.

The current sham debate over increasing the debt limit is an excellent example. None of these people truly want to stop borrowing and eventually taxing. They are simply jockeying for the best positions within the organization that borrows and taxes. They are not at all concerned with the fact of a system of exploitation, but only with the details of how to make that system of exploitation more effective.

Sheldon Richman July 21, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Looking around, I’m not convinced that Friedman’s supposition is more reasonable. For one thing, the same names keep turning up.

Invisible Backhand July 21, 2011 at 1:09 pm

“I could go on and on, but the bottom line is this: A highly complex and largely discrete set of laws and exemptions from laws has been put in place by those in the uppermost reaches of the U.S. financial system. It allows them to protect and increase their wealth and significantly affect the U.S. political and legislative processes. They have real power and real wealth. Ordinary citizens in the bottom 99.9% are largely not aware of these systems, do not understand how they work, are unlikely to participate in them, and have little likelihood of entering the top 0.5%, much less the top 0.1%. Moreover, those at the very top have no incentive whatsoever for revealing or changing the rules.”


Ken July 21, 2011 at 1:35 pm


“A highly complex and largely discrete set of laws and exemptions from laws has been put in place by those in the uppermost reaches of the U.S. financial system. ”

This is the primary reason for libertarians to call for limited government. Note that the paragraph you quote shows very rich people using their money to buy political power. To prevent these people from perpetrating the regulatory capture you so rightly deride, the solution is to REDUCE government involvement into markets and people’s lives. If there is not power for the people to buy, then there is nothing to worry about.

However, wherever there is power, people WILL try to buy (and succeed, as politicians are mostly about graft) and use it to enrich themselves at the expense of others. It is something fundamental about human nature. Ignoring the self-interested aspects of human nature have resulted in the corrupt governance that is now occurring in western governments, including the US.


Gun Knutt July 21, 2011 at 9:55 pm

“Ignoring the self-interested aspects of human nature have resulted in the corrupt governance *by the top 0.1%* that is now occurring in western governments, including the US.


Ken July 21, 2011 at 11:24 pm

You didn’t fix anything, but thanks for playing.


Invisible Backhand July 21, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Ken, has that every worked once, anywhere, in the history of Earth?

Slappy McFee July 21, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Sure, it happens at my house. It happens with my neighbors. It happens with my friends. It happens with the shopkeeps and tradesmiths that I visit. It happens everyday at the Cafe.

It is your unrelenting thirst for power and control that causes problems, not those that just want to be left alone.

Gun Knutt July 21, 2011 at 5:19 pm

He’s talking macro while you’re countering with micro. Your system falls apart as soon as one of the parties shows up to the free market with a gun.

Libertarians always wish away the problem of who keeps the king with the biggest army from taking over their ‘free market’.

Dan J July 21, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Shoot the king…….. Behead him in town square….. Meaning downsize govt dramatically.

Kirby July 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm

I agree, Robespierre was a visionary.

Ken July 21, 2011 at 7:17 pm

“Libertarians always wish away the problem of who keeps the king with the biggest army from taking over their ‘free market’.”

Libertarians are aware that there are wannabe kings everywhere, so want ALL people armed. Politicians should be afraid of the citizens. Politicians want subject who are afraid of politicians.

I’m disappointed politicians don’t get tarred and feathered anymore.


Steve Turetzky July 22, 2011 at 10:53 pm

So true! Rather than focus on the goons with guns and armies, libertarians prefer to focus on how a civil society organizes itself to maximize happiness. Since US history is so dominated by such goons and armies, whatever are “we” libertarians thinking? :)

Dan J July 21, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Men will always looked for loopholes to exploit. Two hundred hears plus to exploit the weaknesses in our own form of govt to get us further into collectivist abyss of misery and despair.

Ken July 21, 2011 at 7:12 pm


To what is the “that” you are referring?

If you mean being able to buy politicians – It happens daily. If you mean those bought politicians pushing for ever more control over people’s lives – it happens daily. If you mean even more people buying that expanded control over people’s lives – it happens daily.

If you mean reducing government involvement in people’s lives – it happens sometimes, usually with spectacularly successful results. People unencumbered by burdensome government are freer, more productive, and generally happier.


Kevin Carson July 21, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Even Marx said that the state, as “executive committee of the ruling class,” promoted ends that violated the particular interests of some branches of capital and at times promoted long-term ends that were opposed by a majority of capital out of short-term interest.

I don’t deny that the state is, to some extent, contested terrain, or that it’s a battle ground for political struggle in which the subordinate classes sometimes have a role. Arguably the New Deal was in part a response to pressure from below, and some of this pressure was exerted through the state. And even the ruling classes fight it out among themselves and periodically establish new pecking orders (I mean, seriously, that’s what committees do, after all — just look at the Politburo). But I think it’s clear that the state is dominated by a particular cluster of interests — especially finance capital, large-scale high tech industry, and the beneficiaries of IP
protectionism — and the other classes that get a seat at the table are most likely to be those that are amenable to fitting in as junior partners to this dominant cluster.

If you’re going to argue that there’s no ruling class because it’s factionalized and the factions fight it out among themselves, you might as well argue that there was never a ruling class in any society. In the Middle Ages, the landlords were opposed by the monarchy and free towns; in the early 19th century Britain the new industrial capitalists coexisted uneasily with the Whig landed oligarchs in control of the state. Even the Soviet Politburo represented conflicting major interests.

Dan J July 21, 2011 at 8:30 pm

The politicians, who have gained power thru legislation and the ability to change tax code to the direct benefit of a special interest is where the ability to rule begins, today. If govt can be reduced and their legislative abilities diminished, they and their connected groups have their ‘ruling status greatly reduced. It is not the End All of rent seeking for advantage nor the dissolution of elected men from seeking more power. But, they are hampered from further gaining advantages thru coercion of govt.

John Sullivan July 21, 2011 at 7:37 pm

At this point in history, in the great democracies, the ruling class are the successful pressure groups who in ganglike fashion, use the poltical process to steal from others. However, these gangs are not necessarily the wealthiest class, and the wealthiest are not any longer the rulers.

Mr. carson makes an intersting point above. The term “the ruling class” was always a generalization of sorts, but as time has gone by, we have experienced the dissolution of power, where it has beeen progressively shared by greater portions of society, which makes it increasingly difficult to pinpoint exactly who does the ruling and who is ruled. It is considerably easier in the illiberal societies, such as the Arab and Muslim countries, Africa, and to a lesser degree, South and Central America, to identify a ruling class, or oligarchy.

It is true that without an underlying libertarian rule of law in a demcocracy, that is enforcebale and demanded by the citizenry, virtually all the legislation enacted will be corrupted by the redistribution of wealth, in the myriad of forms of which it can be conceived.

Ian Random August 3, 2011 at 5:23 am

Joe is right about the three gangs farmer, unions and corporations basically running things. I would add people on the dole like social security (if it isn’t welfare than you should be able to pass it to your kids), welfare and unemployment along with non-profit pressure groups. Just attach a good story, protecting workers or saving the poor, and the American people will bless you with bounty. Try to employ people honestly and make a good living on top of that and you are pure evil.

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