Odd Ends

In discussing politics, I prefer to focus on outcomes over ethics. This sounds like I am taking a stand on the ageless means versus ends controversy but I'm not. Rather I consider the use of good means to be part of a good outcome. Means and ends are fungible; they can be traded off against each other.

To sum up my political values in one phrase: I don't like to treat people poorly and I don't like for awful things to happen. This captures the way that many people think about politics, maybe even most people.

However, libertarians tend to elevate means above ends to an extent that is unpalatable to the popular conscience. The standard way that libertarians wiggle out of this criticism is to deny that libertarian means ever lead to anything but the best possible outcomes. But that is when the movement takes on an air of a religious phenomenon - economic scientology. It assumes the existence of a benevolent world that is not guaranteed.

If you can't think of one instance where libertarian policy might create a sub-optimal outcome under some circumstances, then we're not going to have very interesting policy conversations. Anyways, I'd rather discuss structure instead of policy.

Libertarian ethics has a weird effect when it comes to the policy decisions which shape the substantive character of the world in which we live. Current governments possess an odorless, colorless quality called "publicness", and therefore libertarian ethics condemns these entities as illegitimate managers of the land they possess. Moreover, it strictly limits the policies they may ethically pursue. Governments may not create a public safety net which alleviates the worst suffering of citizens from sudden illness or injury - the taxes to pay for it would be coercive. Nor may governments seek to shape immigration policy in favor of well-educated and highly-skilled persons, or prevent pollution in situation where the cost of doing so through courts is infeasible (e.g. pigovian gas taxes), or offer incentives to have children to a population breeding below the replacement rate. A manager cursed with the quality of publicness must sit on its hands and hope that everything works out for the best.

But in some future world where all governments have passed through at least a momentary period of "privateness" (think seasteads or burbclaves) libertarian ethics allows managers to enact any set of policies they damn well please. If every government in the world were a fundamentalist theocratic mormon dictatorship that flogged gays and banned coffee, libertarian ethics would consider that perfectly fine as long as the management was put in place by some legitimate owner.

Libertarian ethics can lead to weird outcomes in some extreme circumstances, outcomes that most libertarians wouldn't like. I suggest we should allow outcomes to shape our decisions in concert with our ethics so we can live in a world that is pleasant to be in and not just a world that satisfies all the checkboxes of our moral philosophy.

This is the Libertarian Paradox again. It is also a good case for Moldbug's Formalism, which is less about ethical navel gazing and more about designing governments that have the incentive to function well.

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If every government in the

If every government in the world were a fundamentalist theocratic mormon dictatorship that flogged gays and banned coffee, libertarian ethics would consider that perfectly fine as long as the management was put in place by some legitimate owner.

Agreed. And as I said in the other thread, this indicates a weakness in "thin" conceptions of libertarianism, which look only at whether the non-aggression principle was respected or violated, and nothing else. A liberal cultural ethos is a prerequisite for the kind of society most libertarians would want to live in, precisely for the same reasons that make them libertarians in the first place.

In a previous thread,

In a previous thread, Constant argued that libertarian policies would tend to be produced in the marketplace. I wasn't convinced, but I do owe him another read. I am suspicious of any one true path to salvation, in which a righteous set of elegantly derived means lead to the best possible ends.

It was here.

Nor am I convinced that libertarian policy is the end that we ought to be striving for. Rather, I am more interested in designing governments that have the incentive to produce places that are pleasant to live in. I expect these will be more libertarian than our current set of governments. But I also expect that they will be diverse and serve different niches, and I expect that they will universally deviate from libertarian policy in some ways (such as open borders and the persecution of polluters by fiat rather than case law).

But I also expect that they

But I also expect that they will be diverse and serve different niches, and I expect that they will universally deviate from libertarian policy in some ways

No doubt!

Damn you, Jacob. You are like the anti-Constant: Even when I want to disagree with you, I can't.

: )

I'm an anti-nugger myself, but I still declare:

Constant > all

But if my testicles were in the mix, obviously they would get top honors.

+1 for Constant

+1 for Constant

From someone that hadn't

From someone that hadn't even bothered with politics at all my first 30 years of life (politics, political theory, economics or whatever...) a little "Constant 'n Coffee" in the morning makes for a wonderful free education where previously sheer ignorance stood in its place.

Clear. Insightful. Logical. Rational. Good stuff.

/nutriding

The hidden assumption is

The hidden assumption is that the places, niches you describe respect each other's independence. While claiming to be one layer above that libertarian moral nonsense, you're implicitly assuming a libertarian order. No escape.

I am suspicious of any one

I am suspicious of any one true path to salvation, in which a righteous set of elegantly derived means lead to the best possible ends.

Anyone who proposes anything, proposes that thing, to which the number "1" can obviously be assigned. And obviously he thinks it is true, what he is proposing, or he would not be proposing it. So the criticism that somebody is proposing a "one true path to salvation" can be made of anyone at all - including yourself.

It is similar to the argument by leftists that market advocates are "religious". And meanwhile the very same leftists worship the state, assigning to it virtues which are not only improbable, but can be seen not to hold by anyone who bothers to look. The ability of the leftist to look at the actual state and see something that fits his imagination is akin to the ability of a Roman Catholic to look at a cracker and see the body of Christ. It is religous.

Market advocates have the catch-phrase, "utopia is not an option", meaning that the existence of imperfections in one system is insufficient to argue that it should be replaced. First you need to find an alternative which does not replace those imperfections with greater imperfections. Your entire argument, as far as I can see, consists of claiming the logical possibility of imperfections in liberty. I acknowledge that not only are they logically possible, imperfections surely exist. I am here acknowledging much more than you have even managed to assert, since all you've done is, in effect, assert the logical possibility of bad things happening in a libertarian order.

You think your work is done when you have asserted a logical possibility of a bad thing happening. But it is not. Nor is it done were you to go a step further and argue that, inevitably, bad things will happen in a libertarian order. Even that - which is much more than you have actually done - would not be enough. Your work would be done at least to the level of having written a blog post that is not a waste of time, if you managed to demonstrate, or at least argue semi-persuasively, that there is a better way than libertarianism, a non-libertarian order that would reduce the probability of bad things happening, that would not introduce even worse things in exchange for eliminating certain bad things.

A liberal cultural ethos is

A liberal cultural ethos is a prerequisite for the kind of society most libertarians would want to live in, precisely for the same reasons that make them libertarians in the first place.

No, precisely the same criticism made of so-called "thin" libertarianism (i.e., libertarianism period) could be me made of the advocacy a "liberal cultural ethos". After all, all that Jacob has argued is that it is logically possible for bad things to happen in "thin" libertopia. It is also logically possible that bad things could happen with a libertarian cultural ethos.

Unless by "libertarian cultural ethos" you mean nothing more or less than the assumption that bad things are not going to happen.

Meanwhile, Micha, kiep in mind that Jacob is advocating Mencius Moldbug's formalism, which I do not think you would like at all. Moreover, it is also logically possible that Mencius's formalism would see terrible things happen. And not just logically possible, but even likely. Mencius is blind to it but his solution is no solution. He proposes that vast territories have absolute rulers who cannot be overthrown. Talk about problems of monopoly! He proposes that the possibility of internal coup overthrowing the absolute ruler be made impossible by electronic locks on the army's weaponry, so that it cannot even consider the possibility of overthrowing a tyrant. His idea is that once the ruler has total control, can to whatever he wants without fear of reprisal, and does not have to fear for his power, he will become warm and fuzzy and reasonable, just like Superman. Do you think that's very likely? Mencius's philosophy is Hobbesianism gone insane. Libertarianism is Lockeanism. Locke is the answer to Hobbes.

I've long considered you to be going down the wrong path with your infatuation and desire to curry favor with leftists, the enemies of individual liberty, but even you should realize where you're heading here.

Small territories and competition among territories guarantees probabilistically (not logically) that good stuff will happen. You are letting yourselves be terrified by logical possibilities, and by inconsistent application of this logical concern, you are letting yourselves be guided down a path which reduces the probability of a happy ending.

An even stronger guarantee (again, probabilistic) is non-territorial entities doing the work of states - that is to say, anarcho-capitalism.

Mencius's philosophy is

Mencius's philosophy is Hobbesianism gone insane. Libertarianism is Lockeanism. Locke is the answer to Hobbes.

Mencius actually considers Hobbes to be a liberal. Mencius believes in the philosophy of Filmer and Froude.

And while the idea of overthrowing a tyrant to increase liberty sounds nice, you might want to consider in that the past three centuries of revolutions, just about every single one has been a disaster that dramatically decreased liberty (yes, even our own American Revolution had its reign of terror).

The liberty increasing reforms have almost always come at the hands of the ruling elite (the Continental Congress in 1787, Deng Xiaoping's reforms, Louis XVI's lifting of the restrictions on freedom of speech, etc).

The greatest threat to liberty, from the Reign of Terror to the Nazi Brownshirts has been the mob. Controlling the mob seems like a pretty high priority, no?

An even stronger guarantee (again, probabilistic) is non-territorial entities doing the work of states - that is to say, anarcho-capitalism.

The world has plenty of instances of anarcho-capitalism. Just move to a Rio favella. You can find a "protection agency" that will accept your money in return for protection. There is even de-facto legalized drugs. A anarcho-libertarian paradise!

The world has plenty of

The world has plenty of instances of anarcho-capitalism. Just move to a Rio favella. You can find a "protection agency" that will accept your money in return for protection. There is even de-facto legalized drugs. A anarcho-libertarian paradise!

I've seen this form of argument too many times. It always turns out that the purported example is anything but. David Friedman gave an example of a functioning system close to anarcho-capitalism, i.e. Saga period Iceland. And yes, I already know the common objection. Ethnically homogeneous. You need to do better than claim out of the blue that some random place is anarcho-capitalism.

As for the rest of your comment, a pack of misinterpretation and cherrypicking. I mean, come on. Most reforms at the hands of the elite? That's like saying that most mail is delivered by the post office, therefore thank god for the state.

If the purported examples

If the purported examples are not "real anarcho-capitalism" its because overlapping protection agencies are not a stable military equilibrium. A security force requires bases, forts, stores of supply, air craft hangers, etc. That security force is not going to let some other security force operate in the same territory. If the territory is disputed, there will be a turf war. "Real anarcho-capitalism" is not a real choice, you either have a state or you have violent factional warfare.

In the modern world, protection of your territory requires an air force base. You are not going to have overlapping protecting agencies each with their own air force. If you don't have an air force, you will be conquered or need to become the protectorate of some stronger state.

As for the Iceland example, I do not know the details of their legal system. But the obvious counter-argument is that Iceland was a tiny island hundreds of miles away from external conquerors. Ireland had its own form of anarchy (a very violent anarchy), but resided much closer to England, and was conquered because the tribes could not present a common defense.

As for cherry picking, every single revolution (defined as a violent, populist overthrow of the existing government) that I can think of resulted in a net decrease in liberty. The American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, all the various revolutions in Mexico, the Maoist revolution, pretty much any revolution I can think of in the middle east, Africa or Latin america, the Nazis, the Spanish Revolution. Can you think of any set of counter examples that can possibly even the score against that list?

As for cherry picking, every

As for cherry picking, every single revolution (defined as a violent, populist overthrow of the existing government) that I can think of resulted in a net decrease in liberty.

Uh, no. That's classified under misinterpretation, not cherry-picking.

As for the Iceland example, I do not know the details of their legal system. But the obvious counter-argument is that Iceland was a tiny island hundreds of miles away from external conquerors.

The problem of external conquest is one that anarcho-capitalists have been thinking about for some time. It is indeed what I identified many years ago as the weak point of anarcho-capitalism. So, thanks for confirming my beliefs. Would you like to present something new and challenging for me to think about?

Oh, you want to know my answer? My answer is that conquest is indeed a problem with an economy that relies heavily upon immovable assets, such as an agricultural economy. If there are a bunch of farmers who have their land all next to each other, then if one farmer manages to defeat an invader, then that will inadvertently protect the land of his neighbors as well. That's a positive externality, a public goods problem. It means that defense against invaders will tend to be under-supplied.

But this problem depends entirely on the key economic assets being immovable. In an economy where the high-value assets are highly mobile, then rather than be stuck in one place defending your high-value economic assets against an invader, you can simply pick up and move, and that is a solution with low externalities. The benefit is heavily internalized. The high mobility of important economic assets leads to a loss of control by the state, which is decried by liberal economists such as Krugman. If you see Krugman moaning about something in an editorial, you can be sure that somewhere in the world, somebody is experiencing a little bit of freedom.

Kantian categorical imperatives?

But this problem depends entirely on the key economic assets being immovable. In an economy where the high-value assets are highly mobile, then rather than be stuck in one place defending your high-value economic assets against an invader, you can simply pick up and move, and that is a solution with low externalities. The benefit is heavily internalized. The high mobility of important economic assets leads to a loss of control by the state, which is decried by liberal economists such as Krugman. If you see Krugman moaning about something in an editorial, you can be sure that somewhere in the world, somebody is experiencing a little bit of freedom.

Should I therefore conclude that anarcho-capitalism is a philosophy that benefits the highly mobile, and that will leave the less mobile -- including those who raise our food -- behind?

Yeah, that's the type of thing Krugman always grumbling about. And why? After all, he writes for a living; he's about as mobile as it gets. So why should he give a shit about the less mobile? What a dog in the manger....

Should I therefore conclude

Should I therefore conclude that anarcho-capitalism is a philosophy that benefits the highly mobile, and that will leave the less mobile -- including those who raise our food -- behind?

No. The idea is that it works analogously to a market. The market works because some participants compare prices, but it works even for those participants who don't. Same idea.

Yeah, that's the type of thing Krugman always grumbling about. And why? After all, he writes for a living; he's about as mobile as it gets. So why should he give a shit about the less mobile?

He's a progressive.

Market as metaphor for military?

Should I therefore conclude that anarcho-capitalism is a philosophy that benefits the highly mobile, and that will leave the less mobile -- including those who raise our food -- behind?

No. The idea is that it works analogously to a market. The market works because some participants compare prices, but it works even for those participants who don't. Same idea.

I thought that we were discussing the need for military defenses. Not sure how this works analogously to a market.

Remember Hussein, who tried

Remember Hussein, who tried to invade Kuwait? He did it for the oil. But if he had invaded, he would also have become the ruler of the farmers.

Now imagine that Kuwait's oil were in fact highly mobile, so that, were Saddam to invade, then the oil would simply not be there and all he would have left to rule over were a bunch of farmers.

Would he invade? Probably not. Because it would hardly be worth his while, to lord it over a bunch of farmers. He was attracted to the oil. Take away the oil, and the prospect of invasion becomes much less attractive.

The farmers can't move, but they are protected by the mobility of the oil (in this hypothetical example).

Oh.

Ok, I get that.

Not sure if this really would have altered Hussein's actions specifically. (Iraq had a leader Huessein, not a leader whose sane.) But I see the principle.

A modern economy may be

A modern economy may be somewhat more mobile than an agricultural based economy. But on the flip side it is far more vulnerable. Furthermore, the cost of destruction is far, far lower than the cost of construction.

Compare an imaginary Anarcho-Capitalist New York with multiple protection agencies in the city, to an imaginary Hong Kong ruled by one army. New York has a $1 trillion dollar economy, yet has numerous vulnerable that could bring the entire city to its knees - the aqueducts, the bridges, the tunnels. Any one protection agency holding several of those choke points could demand a ransom for the city, and threaten to inflict entirely disproportionate damage if it was not paid up. Which will be a better place for a stable business climate, anarcho-capitalist New York or Hong Kong?

The main effect of mobile populations is to reduce the laffer maximum level of taxation. But it will not alter the logic that leads to the logic of territorially bound protection agencies.

Imagine an anarcho-capitalist Silicon Valley. An group of armed invaders makes the following announcement.
1) every property owner in Silicon Valley must list their property, and self-asses a valuation. Anyone else will be able to buy the property at that price, so they must be honest.
2) The invaders declare a property tax of 3%
3) Any property owner who fails to list his property, or fails to pay the tax, has their house or office park blown up with smart bombs.

I can not imagine how protection agencies with overlapping territories will be able to protect themselves from this attack. Let's look at the options:

a) if the agencies band together to defend the valley, they will need to create some sort of military council and a supreme commander - thus you get a government.

b) if they defend on their own, then they can be picked off one by one, since the invader will be paying its soldiers with promises of the profits of the entire valley, the invader will always be able to field a larger army than any one agency individually.

c) furthermore, in order to defend such an attack, they would need an air force. No protection agency with an air force is going to let other protection agencies operate in the same territory, air forces are far too vulnerable by land.

Will the mobile knowledge workers of Silicon Valley flee thees invaders? Perhaps will flee. But most will realize that the tax is not that high, much lower than the cost of rebuilding a life elsewhere, and a much lower price than resisting.

Military reality dictates the equilibrium size of the territory held by a protection agency/army. Ancient Greece had city-states because the region was mountainous. Egypt had an army that extended along the Nile, because that was region that was possible to hold and maintain. Rome developed better military technology and great roads, and was able to hold an empire. Moral and political philosophy do not determine the balance of power between armies. In the modern world, the minimal size of a viable state is probably something like Israel, just big enough to field an air force and nuclear weapons.

IMO the change over to

IMO the change over to anarcho-capitalism will come when the dollar hegemony implodes under the weight of its own printing presses. Causing what many anticipate will be a total systemic collapse of any nation who holds the USD as its primary reserve currency.

Maybe after a decade of civil war, disease and bandits, full scale civilization will probably return. The society will initially lack the ability to create some of the finer more important hydraulic fluids, microprocessors, FPGA's and PCB's that will allow for things like smartbombs and advanced multi-role jet fighter aircraft.

Once these technologies return, society may look like something out of Diamond Age. Hardly the place you imagine as being so vulnerable in your post.

[...]every single revolution

[...]every single revolution (defined as a violent, populist overthrow of the existing government) that I can think of resulted in a net decrease in liberty. [For instance,] The American Revolution[...]

Maybe I am just dense, but how the heck did you come to that conclusion? Can you site me some books I can check out or some thing for me to read that backs up this claim? I am unwilling to take that statement at face value.

As Sagan said. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Read this article and

Read this article and articles and primary sources he links to:

Or for the highlights read Chapter 8 of Sidney Fisher's history.

This fool lost me when he

This fool lost me when he made claims of public good, and asserted that the continental was any less fraudulent than the detritus issued by the bank of England. That was after wading through a ridiculous number of paragraphs laden with pop-culture horse hockey.

If he cant be trusted for intellectual honesty, well what good is he?

I may read Sidney Fisher, but you good sir have lost points with me. I doubt I may take the time out of my weekend to read more imperial apologist malarkey.

Heh. Actually I am a fan of

Heh. Actually I am a fan of Mencius Moldbug. I only first read a full entry by him several months ago (I agree it takes patience), but then I downloaded his entire blog to my Kindle and read the whole thing (with exceptions) from beginning to end. The exceptions included entries of poetry, entries about economic theory, and political recommendations. Many people who write nonfiction seem to feel obligated to end their books with a list of recommendations, and these are generally the part of the book which can and should be ignored and possibly used as toilet paper or kindling. I read some of these but mostly skimmed through them. It took me two months and many, many, many hours of reading to get through his site. I wasn't able to reverse the reverse-chronological order so I used the kindle search to create a kind of table of contents which I then worked through from back to front. He does go on and on but if you treat it like a novel, you can get through it. Like a really long novel. Like a multi-volume epic saga. After this, reading through all of Tolkien's works should be a piece of cake, or heck, even the four Chinese classics, which I've been meaning to read for a decade. Anyway, a lot of good stuff, particularly the early stuff about the origins of progressivism in Christianity, and the the analysis of the progressive power structure.

The point of Moldbug's blog

The point of Moldbug's blog is to entertain and mind-f*ck. The entertainment value is, of course, a matter of personal taste. But the links he provides are invaluable, since this history is simply not talked about anywhere else.

When the revolution concluded, the loyalists were driven underground or out of the country. Your government, public schools, and universities rest their foundation in the revolution. All the history you have read, your entire life, from grade school to now, has been rebel history. Stedman, Oliver, Hutchinson, and Fisher are not dispassionate sources (although Lecky is). But neither is your AP History book. Have you ever bothered to hear the case of the defense? Or have you just believed your received wisdom, and never even bothered to read it, because it was just, "imperialist apologist malarkey"? For instance, what specifically does Hutchinson say that is malarkey?

I read what Moldbug linked

I read what Moldbug linked to, it was interesting to see history from the loyalist side, no doubt. I would say the author of the blog added most of the imperial apologist malarkey, not the actual historic account of Hutchinson.

Hutchinson, by my reading was simply a man who would lose clout in the new world if his side lost. Thus it is not beyond belief to see why he emphasized the rebel problems while extolling the virtue of the Monarchy.

Personally, I prefer my kings dead, no matter how virtuous they are.

All the history you have

All the history you have read, your entire life, from grade school to now, has been rebel history.

Rebel scum! Long live the empire!

How nice...

to know that after DC finally implodes, neocons will still have something to write about.

Comments from an iPhone are

Comments from an iPhone are limited by my patience with the iPhone keyboard. Now that I am at a laptop I will elaborate slightly.

Mencius actually considers Hobbes to be a liberal. Mencius believes in the philosophy of Filmer and Froude.

Mencius's idea is like Hobbes's idea more than like Locke's idea enough that it's a useful comparison to anyone who has heard of Hobbes and knows something of Hobbes but is not familiar with Filmer or Froude. Such as myself.

And while the idea of overthrowing a tyrant to increase liberty sounds nice

Uh, no. Big misinterpretation. I criticized Mencius Moldbug for proposing a state safe from revolution as the big fix that will make everything better. That does not mean that I advocate revolution! Not in the slightest.

Here, let me give you a simple comparison. I laugh at people who think that wearing tin foil hats are the solution to the big problem of mind control. But that does not mean that I advocate projecting microwaves into their brains!

But even this comparison is not entirely apt. Try this one: I feel pity for people who, walking in a desert and thirsty, see a mirage and start heading for it, when civilization and safety are actually in the opposite direction. That does not mean that I advocate keeping them thirsty!

Unlike, mind control,

Unlike, mind control, revolution is actually a real problem that has killed millions in the last century. So figuring out a solution to prevent it is a worthy endeavor. And no, preventing revolution is not the only element of making everything better, but it is a big piece of the puzzle.

Did you catch that bit where

Did you catch that bit where I said the comparison was not that apt and suggested an alternative comparison? Take a look at it. Mencius's thirst to safeguard against the mob is like the thirst of the desert traveler. In criticizing Mencius for heading in the direction of a mirage, I am not saying that water is not essential to life.

On libertarianism and market power

To repeat:

If every government in the world were a fundamentalist theocratic mormon dictatorship that flogged gays and banned coffee, libertarian ethics would consider that perfectly fine as long as the management was put in place by some legitimate owner.

As Constant concedes, this is indeed a conceptual problem -- although not perhaps an insurmountable one.

Specifically, it’s a market power problem – a cartel imposing a uniformly high cost on gays and coffee-drinkers. And economic theory suggests that, absent some structural market failure, we would expect such a cartel to be unstable.

Somewhere, the head of some government would find it so lucrative to cater to gays and coffee-drinkers as to create, at least tacitly, an enclave for them. That enclave would eventually find itself richer, more awake, and better color-coordinated than its rivals. Plus the enclave would benefit from all the low-cost labor provided by Morman missionaries who had no where else to go. Upon return, these missionaries would begin agitating to emulate this enclave. And some governments would acquiesce -- or at least opening a Starbucks with decaf.

The spread of legalized gambling in the US illustrates this idea. Vegas and Atlantic City found it lucrative to cater to gamblers, even though in most of the country casinos were regarded as immoral, harmful, or simply garish. (Why can’t more gay people run casinos? Liza Minnelli is always singing in them, so what’s the problem?) While many states continue to oppose gambling, over time ever more states have legalized it.

So, given the famous instability of cartels, I don’t find this aspect of libertarian ethics to be that troubling – or, at least, not as troubling as other aspects.

To repeat: If every

To repeat:

If every government in the world were a fundamentalist theocratic mormon dictatorship that flogged gays and banned coffee, libertarian ethics would consider that perfectly fine as long as the management was put in place by some legitimate owner.

As Constant concedes, this is indeed a conceptual problem -- although not perhaps an insurmountable one.

Actually I do not concede this claim. I concede the general claim that bad things are possible. But in fact I reject this specific claim. Imprisonment, which includes physical restraint, of non-criminals violates rights, so the only homosexuals who would be flogged consistently with libertarian rights would be ones who were voluntarily playing an intense S&M game. They could simply walk away.

I agree that a market in government might not lead to libertarian outcomes, but a market in government is not the same thing as libertarianism itself. It is a proposal by some libertarians, but the market in government is not automatically compatible with libertarianism. There is no conceptual problem because a market in government is not conceptually libertarian. Libertarians believe that libertarian law would tend to win out, but that is a different thing. Similarly, Tiger Woods is good at winning golf tournaments, but that does not mean that golf tournaments actually are Tiger Woods. Can a golf tournament cheat on its wife?

Libertarian ethics are what they are. An ethics compatible with a market in government in which non-criminals are allowed to be imprisoned would be some kind of meta-ethics, if anything. It would be something like a right to choose your ethical system. That is not libertarianism. That is closer to moral relativism.

Outcomes vs. Ethics

You sound like a moral consequentialist.

More Outcome vs. Ethics

[L]ibertarians tend to elevate means above ends to an extent that is unpalatable to the popular conscience. The standard way that libertarians wiggle out of this criticism is to deny that libertarian means ever lead to anything but the best possible outcomes. But that is when the movement takes on an air of a religious phenomenon - economic scientology. It assumes the existence of a benevolent world that is not guaranteed.

If you can't think of one instance where libertarian policy might create a sub-optimal outcome under some circumstances, then we're not going to have very interesting policy conversations.

Whatever the standard libertarian defenses, some people here (Constant?) argue that libertarian policies are morally necessary regardless of consequences. More an economic Judaism than Scientology.

Others embrace a consequentialist argument in support of libertarianism in arguing that libertarianism provides a principled means for limiting the power of government to oppress people. Whatever advantages other forms of government may appear to have are merely temporary, because those other systems are prone to devolve into state oppression eventually. This is the classic means/ends theory: in the long run, using the right means is the most reliable way to produce the best ends.

And indeed, sometimes these consequentialist arguments assume a benevolent world – that is, a world that does not contain the elements that prompt people to support more interventionist/coercive governments.

I embrace non-libertarian government not because I disagree with the consequentialist arguments for libertarianism, but because I don’t regard government oppression to be the only thing to fear. I believe myself to be in far greater threat from disease, drunk drivers, inadequate public services, monopoly power and defective products than from government oppression. Even if an embrace of non-libertarian governments results in the need for an occasional violent revolution, it’s still better than living in a society that can’t implement rat-control policies when confronted with the bubonic plague.

it’s still better than

it’s still better than living in a society that can’t implement rat-control policies when confronted with the bubonic plague.

I am pretty sure that western Europe wasn't some anarcho-capitalist libertopia during the time of the Black Death. As a matter of fact, every plague breakout occurred under the watchful of non-libertarian government. I am not claiming that government was at fault, I am pointing out that the ability to manage crisis and disaster is usually the last bastion for the defense of statism.

When faced with a decentralized threat - like plagues, hurricanes and terrorism - government seems to fall flat on its face. How you could possibly believe that non-libertarian government is some how more capable of crisis management, in the face of evidence to contrary, is beyond my understanding.

Ye of little faith. The

Ye of little faith. The state can be relied upon to both prevent disaster, and help in case of disaster (which they of course never have occasion to do, unless they are helping anarcho-capitalist utopias such as Haiti). For example, New Orleans was never flooded by Hurricane Katrina, thanks to the levees which the state had wisely put in place and carefully maintained. (Yeah, I know. You don't remember Hurricane Katrina, since it didn't do any damage, thanks to the wisdom and foresight of the state. I'm sure you'll find some reference to it in a sufficiently comprehensive table of hurricanes.) And furthermore, had New Orleans been flooded (which it was not), then the state would have done a fantastic job of getting everybody out of there lickety split. No question about it. There would really not have been anything for any private individuals or organizations to do to pick up the slack. Because that's just how wonderful government is.

You have peeled the scales

You have peeled the scales from my eyes. I must go forth and burn my copy of the anti-Federalist papers, post-haste!

How do you solve a problem like natural disasters? (Sing along!)

As a matter of fact, every plague breakout occurred under the watchful of non-libertarian government. I am not claiming that government was at fault, I am pointing out that the ability to manage crisis and disaster is usually the last bastion for the defense of statism.

And remind me, which natural disasters were averted or mitigated by a libertarian system?

Of course, no one will be able to agree on this analysis, because no one will be able to agree that any given system is a "true libertarian" system. The No True Scotsman defense to the rescue.

Last we discussed the matter, I believe we came to the conclusion that a libertarian system would have great difficulty merely altering the behavior of the public to enjoy their traditional rights to dump sewage in the river. After all, without any power to exclude, the number of potential claimants will exceed the ability of any system to pay people off.

In contrast, the world has seen huge increases in public health in bureaucratic nations -- brought about not through negotiation, but though mandated public health measures enforced by state sanctions. Of course, the fact that a coercive government CAN intervene for the benefit of the public does not mean that it will always do so. But the lack of any effective government in Somalia has not resulted in utopia either.

But let's get back to it: Plague brakes out, spread by rats. Half the population is immune to the plague. You need to clean up 99% of the properties to stop the plague. How do you induce 99% of the people to clean up their properties? Where do you get the resources? And how long does that take?

I have no need to apply this

I have no need to apply this No True Scotsman defense you speak of. Your rhetoric disallows response, while ignoring the thrust of my argument. As a matter of fact, you claim we have spoken before about things such as public goods. I do not remember this ever happening between you and I.

As for your contrast, I find it laughable. The benefits seen by society are the direct result of the advance of agriculturalism out of its primitive and abusive history. The goods you claim only came about as we began to get past requiring men to work like mules in the fields. The same, as you point out is not true for places like Somalia, where agricultural development is nearly impossible due to a previous failed state leaving a wake of chaos. Somalia is hardly a measure of the dignity possible in anarchy. I am of the opinion that the evidence shows Somalia as an indictment of government, not anarchy. What seems to be the crux is the lack of desire to distinguish between anarchy and chaos.

This plague thought experiment is interesting, let me think about it and give it the time it deserves.

Follow up

I thought back to this conversation when I saw Samuel K. Cohn’s Cultures of Plague.

I had held a variety of vague notions related to plague and the Middle Ages/Renaissance. I had imagined that authorities and laymen alike were mired in medieval notions of medicine. That the main cultural consequence of plague outbreaks was to further drive people into an otherworldly pursuit of superstitious escapism. That this situation persisted until the Enlightenment when people – especially people who had already rebelled against the tyranny of Roman Catholic thought -- would free their minds of outmoded concepts of the natural world.

Cohn’s book, focused on the plague that swept northern Italy in 1575–78 (and that killed a quarter of all Venicians, including the painter Titian), challenges all of these notions.

Sure, there was plenty of medieval notions of medicine, with references to the actions of the stars, “bad air,” and ancient authorities. But there was also a lot of empirical observation and correlation going on. And one of the things that physicians and others observed is that 1) treating individuals with the plague was not very effective whereas 2) treating societies with plague – especially through quarantines and promotions of sanitation – was more effective.

Sure, a variety of escapist doomsday cults emerged during times of plague. But in Milan, Venice and other cities the plague led to increased social integration as government authorities imposed coercive public health measures. Ports were quarantined. The infected were corralled into large quarantine facilities (“lazaretti”) or special plague-huts. Plague-stricken houses were barricaded with surviving family members locked inside. And to cope with the poverty engendered during these periods when all forms of commerce was restricted, state-sponsored food distribution programs were created. No doubt, individuals were quite explicitly sacrificed on the theory of promoting the welfare of the group.

These programs met with great resistance. I can only imagine that infected people and their families may have resisted being quarantined. But the merchant class was also hostile; they argued that the public authorities were exaggerating the problem for self-aggrandizement. They noted that the illness did not meet the traditional definition of “plague” as described by Galen, Hippocrates and ancient Arab authorities in that the illness did not affect the rich to the same extent as it affected the poor. (Rich people had learned to leave urban areas for the countryside whenever illness broke out.)

Of course, others cited the same information not to oppose state intervention, but to argue that the best means to manage the plague was to alleviate the problems of the poor – especially problems related to sanitation.

By 1598, a Nuremberg doctor had re-published in translation five of the principal publications that came out of the years 1575–1578, permitting northern Europe to get a jump on managing the subsequent epidemics. Thus new medical insights, arising from the heart of Roman Catholic Europe, spread to Protestant northern Europe – not the other way around.

Odorless and colorless?

"Libertarian ethics has a weird effect when it comes to the policy decisions which shape the substantive character of the world in which we live. Current governments possess an odorless, colorless quality called "publicness", and therefore libertarian ethics condemns these entities as illegitimate managers of the land they possess. Moreover, it strictly limits the policies they may ethically pursue. Governments may not create a public safety net which alleviates the worst suffering of citizens from sudden illness or injury - the taxes to pay for it would be coercive. "

Well the gun to the head isn't exactly odorless and colorless, is it?

Geez, morality is so limiting....

What's the problem with flogging gays?

I can't imagine what your problem with flogging gays is; surely you don't subscribe to an ethic which limits the policies men may ethically pusue? Say it ain't so...

It's the banning coffee that

It's the banning coffee that really bothers me.

You criticized libertarian ethics...

...on the grounds that it limited the policies that could ethically be pursued. Then in trying to construct a counter-example which you feel would demonstrate a problem with libertarian ethics you seemingly strike a moral pose with regard to the flogging of gays.

Are you constrained by morality or not in the policies you may ethically pursue?

Of beating hearts

You might enjoy reading http://triviallyso.blogspot.com/2010/01/of-beating-hearts-part-2.html , it does address some of the issues you touched on in your post

Please make this more

Please make this more specific, Rafal, so I know it is not comment spam.

I checked the link and it

I checked the link and it isn't comment spam, or else I would have marked it for the spam blocker.

Thanks

for looking out for us!