Help me understand Libertarianism

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MartianInvader
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Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby MartianInvader » Sat Feb 13, 2010 6:13 pm UTC

I'm not really a Libertarian, but I pride myself on being able to understand other people's positions. I've been thinking about Libertarianism for a while now, and I keep running into a certain issue that I can't wrap my head around. I know there are some Libertarians on these boards, so I was hoping to hear your explanations.

What this thread is: A place to describe your beliefs, and to ask honest, non-hostile questions about others' beliefs.

What this thread isn't: A place to attack others' beliefs, or even just argue against them in a non-constructive way. I'm really more interested in understanding where everyone's coming from than to determine who's "right".

So my big question about Libertarianism is this: Why do we make such a huge distinction between what the Government is allowed to do (severely restricted) and what other large organizations, such as corporations, are allowed to do (virtually unrestricted)?

For example, what if, instead considering congress/the president/etc. as a government, we thought of the whole organization as a big corporation that owned all the land between Canada and Mexico? They offer various products to their customers that let them use the land, such as the "citizen" contract or the "immigrant" package, and also deal in "deeds" which let you use their land for various purposes. They have a sliding pay scale for their services, described as "taxes". Many of their customers even get a share of stock and can use it to vote for officers every November! And if you don't like it, you can always go live somewhere else.

It's my understanding that, in a Libertarian society, such a corporation would be allowed and completely unrestricted in what it could do. But that's basically the system we have now! My understanding is that Libertarians don't like the system now, so I must be missing something here.

Again, I'm not trying to say "Here's my correct opinion", I'm honestly curious about how Libertarians view this sort of thing.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby duckshirt » Sat Feb 13, 2010 6:32 pm UTC

I'm not a libertarian either, but I'll throw out my 'answer' anyways: The reason corporations have certain powers that the government shouldn't have is that corporations are held responsible by their customers, and need to stay in business, whereas the government could get away with doing 'evil' things and 'we the people' couldn't do much about it. Like I said, I'm not much of a libertarian; someone else will probably have a better answer.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby jgalt » Sat Feb 13, 2010 6:47 pm UTC

I just saw this topic, and on my way out the door, so I'll give the brief answer, and check in again when I get back...

Libertarians, for the most part, use as the basis for most issues the "non-aggression" principle. Basically, this says that the initiation of the use of force is always wrong / immoral, therefore much, if not most of what the government does is immoral. Corporations who act using the same principle, i.e. those who do not distort the market by seeking to use government to their own benefit, can do pretty much whatever they want because they do so by gaining the voluntary cooperation of those with whom they deal. They have or create a product or service, market it to their target audience, who then buys or not based on their own calculus. Everything is voluntary, and therefore moral.

As I alluded, corporations can & do try to use the power of government, i.e. the use of force, to distort the market on a regular basis, so there are many, many examples of corporate actions you can point to that will in fact be wrong / immoral. However, a person / group / corporation who limits themselves to interacting with others on a strictly voluntary basis can and will be able to "do whatever they want", so long as they stick within that principle.

There is obviously a lot more to it, and I would not describe myself as Libertarian either (I'd choose Objectivist were I forced to label myself - fortunately, I'm not... ;). I'll be interested to see where this goes...
"It is only as retaliation that force may be used and only against the man who starts its use. No, I do not share his evil or sink to his concept of morality: I merely grant him his choice, destruction, ...: his own." - John Galt

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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Philwelch » Sat Feb 13, 2010 10:57 pm UTC

I'm not a libertarian either, but I used to be. Here are some answers.

MartianInvader wrote:So my big question about Libertarianism is this: Why do we make such a huge distinction between what the Government is allowed to do (severely restricted) and what other large organizations, such as corporations, are allowed to do (virtually unrestricted)?


It's less a matter of who, and more a matter of how. Governments invariably use force--when they use money, that money is produced by taxes which are still force. Corporations aren't allowed to use force either, so most libertarians are against, say, a corporation employing death squads or stealing or committing fraud or something. Anything a corporation does that doesn't involve force or fraud crosses the threshold of "voluntary".

For example, what if, instead considering congress/the president/etc. as a government, we thought of the whole organization as a big corporation that owned all the land between Canada and Mexico? They offer various products to their customers that let them use the land, such as the "citizen" contract or the "immigrant" package, and also deal in "deeds" which let you use their land for various purposes. They have a sliding pay scale for their services, described as "taxes". Many of their customers even get a share of stock and can use it to vote for officers every November! And if you don't like it, you can always go live somewhere else.


Most libertarians think there are economic forces preventing any single landowner from monopolizing an entire continent except by force. Libertarians believe that all the land in the United States is in fact owned by its individual landowners, not the government--and there's no legitimate way the government could claim to own that land.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby iddqd » Sun Feb 14, 2010 3:45 am UTC

Pilwelch pretty much hit the spot. The reason why government should be tightly regulated is because they have a monopoly on violence. Corporations and individuals are actually more regulated since they can't do anything the government can't do, while the government can do things that individuals can't do (such as throwing criminals in jail after giving them a fair trial).

As for the "corporation ruling the country thing"... Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure there hasn't been a single case of a corporation having that much power without help from the government.

I really should be asleep now, but if there's anything unclear, let me know.

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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Vaniver » Sun Feb 14, 2010 3:58 am UTC

MartianInvader wrote:So my big question about Libertarianism is this: Why do we make such a huge distinction between what the Government is allowed to do (severely restricted) and what other large organizations, such as corporations, are allowed to do (virtually unrestricted)?
This gets back to the nature of power. Libertarians see two main sources for power: voluntary power, like purchasing a good or service, or involuntary power, like the ability to jail people. Voluntary exchanges shouldn't be restricted; involuntary exchanges should.

As Philwelch says- it's all about the how.

iddqd wrote:As for the "corporation ruling the country thing"... Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure there hasn't been a single case of a corporation having that much power without help from the government.
Pretty much. The primary corporation involved in governance would be the British East India Company- which was not only closely linked to the British government, but was also closely linked to the Indian governments they worked through or displaced. One of the first main power grabs they made was supporting one claimant to a throne over another, and doing so in exchange for the ability to collect tax revenues (of which a portion then went to the native government).
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Rockberry » Sun Feb 14, 2010 4:32 am UTC

It should be noted that Libertarianism can be divided into two separate classes. Left Libertarianism and Right Libertarianism. Right Libertarianism is much more common in the US while Left Libertarianism predominates (in Libertarian circles) in the rest of the World. I'm quite partial to left libertarianism personally.

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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby jgalt » Sun Feb 14, 2010 4:39 am UTC

Rockberry wrote:It should be noted that Libertarianism can be divided into two separate classes. Left Libertarianism and Right Libertarianism. Right Libertarianism is much more common in the US while Left Libertarianism predominates (in Libertarian circles) in the rest of the World. I'm quite partial to left libertarianism personally.


Care to explain the difference, for those of us who don't run in Libertarian circles...?
"It is only as retaliation that force may be used and only against the man who starts its use. No, I do not share his evil or sink to his concept of morality: I merely grant him his choice, destruction, ...: his own." - John Galt

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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Rockberry » Sun Feb 14, 2010 5:03 am UTC

jgalt wrote:
Rockberry wrote:It should be noted that Libertarianism can be divided into two separate classes. Left Libertarianism and Right Libertarianism. Right Libertarianism is much more common in the US while Left Libertarianism predominates (in Libertarian circles) in the rest of the World. I'm quite partial to left libertarianism personally.


Care to explain the difference, for those of us who don't run in Libertarian circles...?


In short:
Libertarian socialists, unlike right-wing libertarians, oppose structures of authority and hierarchy in personal relations and the larger social order.[19] This extends beyond the state, to authoritarian gender relations and the social relation they call "wage slavery".[20][21][22] These libertarians believe in the abolition of property not intended for active personal use and may be called non-propertarian or anti-propertarian.[23][24] Anti-authoritarianism, in their view, entails a society where worker self-management is easy to pursue as a choice. This requires dismantling the boss-authority concomitant with private ownership of workplaces, in favor of participatory worker and community controlled associations. [25][26][27]


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

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MartianInvader
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby MartianInvader » Sun Feb 14, 2010 4:18 pm UTC

Okay, let me see if I understand. If a corporation were to buy up a monopoly on a necessary resource (food, land), they could in theory make people in an area do whatever they say, or else they'll starve or be prosecuted for trespassing on the land they were born on. Libertarians would view this as "bad".

However, one holds the opinion that such a situation could never arise on its own. Is this correct? Or would one support laws to prevent this sort of monopolization from happening, but no further interference is allowed? In other words, a company buying up land mass the size of Delaware and creating a mini-totalitarian regime inside isn't cool, but it couldn't happen (without government help). I guess I understand this opinion, though I disagree with it, but that's probably a different discussion.

What about campaign financing? For an extreme hypothetical, would Libertarians consider a corporation running its own CEO or primary stockholder for president and then instructing that official to help them out "government interference"? What about capped donations to political parties? I imagine most would draw the line somewhere in between; where do you think it should be drawn?
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Zamfir » Sun Feb 14, 2010 4:25 pm UTC

MartianInvader wrote:For an extreme hypothetical, would Libertarians consider a corporation running its own CEO or primary stockholder for president and then instructing that official to help them out "government interference"?

Remember Cheney? Or Berlusconi? We're not talking very extremely hypothetical here.

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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Rockberry » Sun Feb 14, 2010 5:06 pm UTC

MartianInvader wrote:Okay, let me see if I understand. If a corporation were to buy up a monopoly on a necessary resource (food, land), they could in theory make people in an area do whatever they say, or else they'll starve or be prosecuted for trespassing on the land they were born on. Libertarians would view this as "bad".


Right Libertarians wouldn't. Their philosophy permits private tyranny like this. Left Libertarians would object to this kind of situation

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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby jgalt » Sun Feb 14, 2010 5:30 pm UTC

Rockberry wrote:
jgalt wrote:
Rockberry wrote:It should be noted that Libertarianism can be divided into two separate classes. Left Libertarianism and Right Libertarianism. Right Libertarianism is much more common in the US while Left Libertarianism predominates (in Libertarian circles) in the rest of the World. I'm quite partial to left libertarianism personally.


Care to explain the difference, for those of us who don't run in Libertarian circles...?


In short:
Libertarian socialists, unlike right-wing libertarians, oppose structures of authority and hierarchy in personal relations and the larger social order.[19] This extends beyond the state, to authoritarian gender relations and the social relation they call "wage slavery".[20][21][22] These libertarians believe in the abolition of property not intended for active personal use and may be called non-propertarian or anti-propertarian.[23][24] Anti-authoritarianism, in their view, entails a society where worker self-management is easy to pursue as a choice. This requires dismantling the boss-authority concomitant with private ownership of workplaces, in favor of participatory worker and community controlled associations. [25][26][27]


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


So, properly understood, this would be a version of Socialism, not a version of Libertarianism, at least as Libertarianism would be commonly thought of in the US. I assume you'll disagree, so I've gotta ask - how do "Libertarian Socialists" justify their political views philosophically? I'm not seeing a consistent way to do so, but then again, I am not an "anti-propertarian"... :roll:
"It is only as retaliation that force may be used and only against the man who starts its use. No, I do not share his evil or sink to his concept of morality: I merely grant him his choice, destruction, ...: his own." - John Galt

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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Mokele » Sun Feb 14, 2010 5:48 pm UTC

Ok, so here's something I've always wondered:

Most libertarians I've met accept the need for some sort of government, admittedly highly limited, to deal with simple stuff like preventing theft, murder, etc. But how does this fit in to the whole "coercion" thing? If someone, call him Bob, thinks he doesn't need any cops, is it still "coercion" if the rest of the citizens in Libertarian-ville vote for a modest tax to pay for a police force?

More generally, how *does* a government actually work in a hypothetical Libertarian scenario? Are there still taxes to pay for things that you just need a government for (such as enforcing laws, building jails, etc), or is it all by voluntary donation? If it's taxes, how are they enacted to ensure nobody can claim government coercion - Direct democratic vote? Simple majority? 2/3rds majority? Unanimous? Or can you just "opt-out" of taxes for things you don't want to fund, in exchange for having no benefit? What about laws that are contentious for some reason? If all contracts are voluntary and all voluntary contracts legal, is it legal for a corporation or rich individual to pay people to vote in their interests?
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby iddqd » Sun Feb 14, 2010 7:11 pm UTC

Mokele wrote:Most libertarians I've met accept the need for some sort of government, admittedly highly limited, to deal with simple stuff like preventing theft, murder, etc. But how does this fit in to the whole "coercion" thing? If someone, call him Bob, thinks he doesn't need any cops, is it still "coercion" if the rest of the citizens in Libertarian-ville vote for a modest tax to pay for a police force?

Yes. Financing the state is one of the areas where libertarians don't agree with eachother. Some want taxes, some want voluntary donations, others (including Ayn Rand) want to finance it through fees for protection of contracts. Personally, I haven't decided which is the best; I'd be pretty happy with any of them.

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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Rockberry » Sun Feb 14, 2010 7:29 pm UTC

jgalt wrote:
Rockberry wrote:
jgalt wrote:
Rockberry wrote:It should be noted that Libertarianism can be divided into two separate classes. Left Libertarianism and Right Libertarianism. Right Libertarianism is much more common in the US while Left Libertarianism predominates (in Libertarian circles) in the rest of the World. I'm quite partial to left libertarianism personally.


Care to explain the difference, for those of us who don't run in Libertarian circles...?


In short:
Libertarian socialists, unlike right-wing libertarians, oppose structures of authority and hierarchy in personal relations and the larger social order.[19] This extends beyond the state, to authoritarian gender relations and the social relation they call "wage slavery".[20][21][22] These libertarians believe in the abolition of property not intended for active personal use and may be called non-propertarian or anti-propertarian.[23][24] Anti-authoritarianism, in their view, entails a society where worker self-management is easy to pursue as a choice. This requires dismantling the boss-authority concomitant with private ownership of workplaces, in favor of participatory worker and community controlled associations. [25][26][27]


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


So, properly understood, this would be a version of Socialism, not a version of Libertarianism, at least as Libertarianism would be commonly thought of in the US. I assume you'll disagree, so I've gotta ask - how do "Libertarian Socialists" justify their political views philosophically?


Well, it has to be understood that Libertarianism was originally socialistic in nature. Americans hijacked the term to mean the exact opposite (as they have done so with many political terms). So I care little for how Americans define anything. If you want to read the philosophy behind behind Left libertarianism Chomsky would be a good bet.

I'm not seeing a consistent way to do so, but then again, I am not an "anti-propertarian"... :roll:


Of course not. You're a Randr0id. :lol:

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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Philwelch » Sun Feb 14, 2010 7:44 pm UTC

Rockberry wrote:It should be noted that Libertarianism can be divided into two separate classes. Left Libertarianism and Right Libertarianism. Right Libertarianism is much more common in the US while Left Libertarianism predominates (in Libertarian circles) in the rest of the World. I'm quite partial to left libertarianism personally.


"Left libertarianism", or "libertarian socialism", is a completely different ideology with a similar name. It's kind of like how you people call soccer "football" or the trunk of a car the "boot" and highways "motorways" and don't really pronounce the letter "r" that often. It's not right or wrong either way, just a dialectical difference that only trolls and flamers would make a big deal about.

In political terms, the US has such a different historical and philosophical context from Europe that a lot of ideas, like American libertarianism, don't even translate.

MartianInvader wrote:Okay, let me see if I understand. If a corporation were to buy up a monopoly on a necessary resource (food, land), they could in theory make people in an area do whatever they say, or else they'll starve or be prosecuted for trespassing on the land they were born on. Libertarians would view this as "bad".

However, one holds the opinion that such a situation could never arise on its own. Is this correct? Or would one support laws to prevent this sort of monopolization from happening, but no further interference is allowed?


A lot of libertarians think these kinds of monopolies can't happen without government interference, but it's not beyond the pale for a moderate libertarian to be for breaking up monopolies.

What about campaign financing? For an extreme hypothetical, would Libertarians consider a corporation running its own CEO or primary stockholder for president and then instructing that official to help them out "government interference"? What about capped donations to political parties? I imagine most would draw the line somewhere in between; where do you think it should be drawn?


A lot of libertarians are actually pretty aware that commercial interests influence the government to their own ends, and that this is a bad thing. For instance, US corn and sugar growers are responsible for a lot of the trade barriers the US government erects against foreign sugar.

Influencing the government to be more libertarian is generally considered OK, but that's not unique to libertarians--most people accept political influence that they agree with.

Mokele wrote:Most libertarians I've met accept the need for some sort of government, admittedly highly limited, to deal with simple stuff like preventing theft, murder, etc. But how does this fit in to the whole "coercion" thing? If someone, call him Bob, thinks he doesn't need any cops, is it still "coercion" if the rest of the citizens in Libertarian-ville vote for a modest tax to pay for a police force?


Yes, which is why a lot of the more "consistent" libertarians are "anarcho-capitalists"--they think even governance should be handled by competing firms in a market rather than a single government. To ancaps, there's nothing special about the government which gives them the privilege of locking up murderers and thieves--in principle, anyone should be able to do it as long as they do it correctly.

More generally, how *does* a government actually work in a hypothetical Libertarian scenario? Are there still taxes to pay for things that you just need a government for (such as enforcing laws, building jails, etc), or is it all by voluntary donation? If it's taxes, how are they enacted to ensure nobody can claim government coercion - Direct democratic vote? Simple majority? 2/3rds majority? Unanimous? Or can you just "opt-out" of taxes for things you don't want to fund, in exchange for having no benefit?


It's an ideologically difficult question, but in practical terms, we have a long way to go before we start worrying about that. Most libertarians would be perfectly content with simply less government and less tax.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Vaniver » Sun Feb 14, 2010 7:48 pm UTC

This post took a while to write, so it covers a lot of the same ground as other posts. I figure it's worth putting in multiple different perspectives, though- this is libertarianism, so expecting a monolithic response is silly :P

MartianInvader wrote:Okay, let me see if I understand. If a corporation were to buy up a monopoly on a necessary resource (food, land), they could in theory make people in an area do whatever they say, or else they'll starve or be prosecuted for trespassing on the land they were born on. Libertarians would view this as "bad".

However, one holds the opinion that such a situation could never arise on its own. Is this correct? Or would one support laws to prevent this sort of monopolization from happening, but no further interference is allowed? In other words, a company buying up land mass the size of Delaware and creating a mini-totalitarian regime inside isn't cool, but it couldn't happen (without government help). I guess I understand this opinion, though I disagree with it, but that's probably a different discussion.
Libertarian views on this differ.

When you talk about things like "food," establishing a monopoly on food would be monstrously expensive, and probably not possible. You would have to own everything that could be eaten- and that's not going to happen. If, say, you have a monopoly on all of the corn farms in the country, you can raise the price of corn as much as you like- but if it gets too high, people will switch to wheat. So most libertarians, myself included, think that (most) monopolies almost never arise on their own, and if they do, it's not worth the government's intervention to break them up. Is the market really improved by preventing Microsoft from shipping software with its operating systems? What mergers were never even considered, because of antitrust laws?

What's really fascinating, though, is to look at anti-trust law in the US. Unions are specifically exempted- despite often using violence and coercive tactics to maintain their monopoly on certain kinds of labor.

But getting back to the question- there are other things where it's easier to establish a de facto monopoly- phone service, say, or other utilities. Even there you can see how what's a 'de facto monopoly' at one point can change into a perfectly competitive environment- when cell phone towers replaced land lines, only marginal areas had to deal with a single company. It's hard to see that happen for, say, sewers- and so minarchists* do support regulating some monopolies. When possible, like with electricity, the government should provide the infrastructure (i.e. the power grid) and then let the buyers and sellers form a market (so that someone can build a new power plant and plug it into the grid without having to be a part of the company that owns the grid).

*Minarchists believe in having the minimum amount of government- anarchocapitalists believe in having no government. I'm a minarchist.

MartianInvader wrote:What about campaign financing? For an extreme hypothetical, would Libertarians consider a corporation running its own CEO or primary stockholder for president and then instructing that official to help them out "government interference"? What about capped donations to political parties? I imagine most would draw the line somewhere in between; where do you think it should be drawn?
The Libertarian's response, inasmuch as possible, is to make it impossible for government officials to help out one company over another company. That way, it wouldn't matter if Exxon's CEO was also the President- the President wouldn't be able to influence Exxon's fortunes. That's obviously not entirely possible- but neither is preventing people with interests in companies from holding elected office. Cheney gave away all of his Halliburton holdings- but I believe a large portion of them went to his (non-dependent) daughters, suggesting that he still has an interest in how Halliburton does, even though he doesn't directly profit. Consider Clinton's then Bush's Secretaries of the Treasury- Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson were both former CEOs of Goldman Sachs. Is there a good way to get rid of any bias they might have towards Goldman Sachs? Would it be better to, instead of having the Secretary of the Treasury be an accomplished financier, be someone with no financial connections (and thus, experience)? Or should we just try to make it so the Secretary of the Treasury can't, say, decide which to save of Goldman Sachs and Bear Sterns?

MartianInvader wrote:For example, what if, instead considering congress/the president/etc. as a government, we thought of the whole organization as a big corporation that owned all the land between Canada and Mexico?
Let's talk about this a little more. Libertarians almost always prefer bottom-up organization to top-down organization- it's a lot easier for feedback to flow. There are three primary benefits to the US having 24 million companies (almost 6 if you only count the ones with payroll) rather than being one company: competition, autonomy, and specialization.

Competition is one of those words which is really common but easy to never get a good feel for. Its benefits are generally invisible, and its costs are generally trumpeted. It hurts producers (everyone would rather be a monopolist), but enriches consumers. When Apple and other companies are both making music players, not only are they pushed to make better music players, but everyone is more likely to find a music player closer to them. A great current example of competition is Domino's pizza. If you haven't tried the new Domino's, I strongly recommend it. My gaming group has switched from takeout from one of the Washington area's best Italian restaurants to ordering Domino's because it's about as good (and they deliver and are cheaper).

Why would Domino's change their pizza recipe? The old one worked. But it wasn't as good as their competitors- and so they decided to reinvent themselves as better. And now their competitors are going to have to respond to Domino's- making their recipes better, or emphasizing some other aspect (I have no clue how healthy the new Domino's is- perhaps Pizza Hut or Papa John's will try to emphasize that quality and so capture a different market). Customers win, though some pizza makers will lose sleep or profits.

Autonomy is being able to make decisions that affect you. A collectivist approach says that everyone should make decisions that affect everyone- and that certainly has to be the case sometime (could only the Republicans declare war on Iraq?**), but also is often the case when we don't have to make those decisions (do you want to ship your letters with USPS or UPS?***). When you're able to make decisions on a smaller scale, you can both try riskier things (which can often have higher reward) and get better feedback. Autonomy allows you to suit your tastes better- you can decide that the taste of pizza is more important to you than the caloric content, or what your relative preference for the two is. Or, you could decide to get something other than pizza!

[edit]Autonomy also makes it easier to do strange new things. Delivery pizza was unheard of in most places until the national chains showed up; would someone looking down at the situation, who also was managing the competitors of delivery pizza, decide to take a risk on this new method that might cannibalize his other responsibilities? Requiring permission to try new things is very good at limiting the number of new things that are tried- which is a bad thing if you like innovation.

Specialization is important for many, many reasons. Division of labor is probably the fourth largest source of wealth, after the Sun, the presence of the Earth, and the human capacity for reason. It's that important. But socialists get division of labor too- so we need to talk about the analogy, which is the division of industries (and then division of labor within those industries). If the United States were one company, it would have to manage all sorts of things- military defense, infrastructure, medical treatment, agriculture, manufacturing, distribution, and the list goes on and on and on. But more importantly, only one or two factors would decide which companies prospered and which companies failed. If Normandy goes to war with England, the factor that decides whether Normandy wins or England wins is military power only. Now, military power is a large and complicated factor- but it's clear that it's not everything. If, instead of a competition between the Red company that supplies military power, agriculture, and pizza and the Blue company that also supplies military power, agriculture, and pizza, we had three competitions, each for defense, agriculture, and pizza, it's clear that most of the time the second would provide better total results. Otherwise, Red and Blue invest the majority of their resources into military power, since that determines whether or not they "get the contract" of rulership, and then whatever is left over goes into agriculture and pizza. In the second scenario, each firm (Red Military, Red Agriculture, Red Pizza, etc.) is putting all of its resources into its chosen service- and so agriculture and pizza are no longer shackled to military power, and can develop on their own.

This also highlights the kickback problem, and its extension- the regulation problem. In a free market, the company that 'does the best' maximizes its profit, which is the amount it can charge for the satisfaction it provides minus the cost of providing that satisfaction. In an unfree market, where, say, the government decides to license only one company, the company that does the best will be the company that's best at acquiring the license- which is only tenuously related to its ability to maximize satisfaction while minimizing cost. When the government enacts byzantine regulations, like the American tax code (or their myriad grant programs), being able to game the regulations becomes a skill that adds into success. There are entire industries built up around helping people game the government- and that's the product of the complicated codes. Knowing the rules of the game is an edge over not knowing the rules- which gets in the way of maximizing satisfaction and minimizing cost.

**This actually be a bad example, because the answer could be "yes." To answer that, though, you'd have to give up the monopoly on coercive force- which would cause problems.
***There are four major package carriers that I know of: USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL. There's only one that delivers letters. Why is that? Well, the government decided that the USPS would be a monopoly- so the other three can't deliver letters in the US. While there might have been an argument for a monopolistic post at one point, which would connect all areas of the US and be able to make up for the costly but politically necessary portions by overcharging the cheaper sections and might be killed by private competition, that's clearly not the case now (and, arguably, never was the case).

Mokele wrote:Most libertarians I've met accept the need for some sort of government, admittedly highly limited, to deal with simple stuff like preventing theft, murder, etc. But how does this fit in to the whole "coercion" thing? If someone, call him Bob, thinks he doesn't need any cops, is it still "coercion" if the rest of the citizens in Libertarian-ville vote for a modest tax to pay for a police force?
As I said earlier in this post, there are anarcho-capitalists and there are minarchists. The anarcho-capitalists have the ideologically pure answer- no coercion ever (which excludes violent defense). The minarchists have the practically possible answer- the least amount of coercion, and only coercion that increases actual liberty. So, I would support coercive taxes for police (although I would prefer a situation where the police were voluntarily funded, and the free rider problem was seen as less important than reducing taxes, and the police actually got funds).

Rockberry wrote:Well, it has to be understood that Libertarianism was originally socialistic in nature.
Not really, no. Libertarianism at its heart is always individualistic, or it's not libertarianism. The difference between left libertarians and right libertarians is more a question of opportunity versus results- the right libertarian wants as few restrictions on individuals as possible, while the left libertarian wants as many people with autonomy as possible.

Rockberry wrote:Of course not. You're a Randr0id.
Without, I hope, turning this into a libertarian v. libertarian discussion, I would suggest that there isn't a consistent way to do it. If you care more about results than consistency, that's not a problem- but if internal consistency is your thing, that makes the position suspect at best.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby jgalt » Mon Feb 15, 2010 4:11 am UTC

Rockberry wrote:
jgalt wrote:So, properly understood, this would be a version of Socialism, not a version of Libertarianism, at least as Libertarianism would be commonly thought of in the US. I assume you'll disagree, so I've gotta ask - how do "Libertarian Socialists" justify their political views philosophically?


Well, it has to be understood that Libertarianism was originally socialistic in nature. --- If you want to read the philosophy behind behind Left libertarianism Chomsky would be a good bet.


Care to provide any citations or sources for that information? Or, if you are simply going to point me toward Chomsky again, care to give a brief synopsis so that I can have some way of understanding your point of view? Chomsky is on my rather lengthy list of authors to read, but he is no where near the top of the pile...

Rockberry wrote:Americans hijacked the term to mean the exact opposite (as they have done so with many political terms). So I care little for how Americans define anything.


Oh, now I get it - that explains everything! Wait, no it doesn't... :roll:

Rockberry wrote:
jgalt wrote:I'm not seeing a consistent way to do so, but then again, I am not an "anti-propertarian"... :roll:


Of course not. You're a Randr0id. :lol:


Not the most persuasive argument ever... Calling me names is not a substitute for providing some type of answer. I'd be happy to read something (quite) a bit shorter than the entire Chomsky cannon if you'd prefer not to do the explaining yourself, but you've got to give me something to work with here. I'd like to understand this "Libertarian Socialism" you are referring to...
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby jgalt » Mon Feb 15, 2010 4:26 am UTC

Philwelch wrote:
Rockberry wrote:It should be noted that Libertarianism can be divided into two separate classes. Left Libertarianism and Right Libertarianism. Right Libertarianism is much more common in the US while Left Libertarianism predominates (in Libertarian circles) in the rest of the World. I'm quite partial to left libertarianism personally.


"Left libertarianism", or "libertarian socialism", is a completely different ideology with a similar name. It's kind of like how you people call soccer "football" or the trunk of a car the "boot" and highways "motorways" and don't really pronounce the letter "r" that often. It's not right or wrong either way, just a dialectical difference that only trolls and flamers would make a big deal about.

In political terms, the US has such a different historical and philosophical context from Europe that a lot of ideas, like American libertarianism, don't even translate.


So am I the troll / flamer here in this discussion, or is it Rockberry? I'm making an honest inquiry regarding something about which I no nothing (never having heard the term "Libertarian Socialism" before), and I'd like to read an answer either from Rockberry, or from some source(s) he can point to, rather than simply Googling it, so that I can be sure I'm learning what he understands it to be. That is the only way I can be sure I will have a productive discussion on the topic.

I didn't find Rockberry's reply to be troll-ish / flame-ish either - flippant, yes; assuming a bit too much based on my user name, yes - but not entirely out of line.

I did like the rest of your post though - pretty much jives with most of the other things I've read regarding libertarianism. At least as it is understood by us here in the States... :lol:
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Mon Feb 15, 2010 4:54 am UTC

I don't think Phil is calling either one of you a flamer, as neither one of you is making a big deal about it. Like Phil, though, I have seen my share of ridiculous flamewars over who has the "real" libertarianism (much like the flamewars over whether left-anarchism or anarcho-capitalism are "real" anarchisms), which demonstrate a preoccupation with claiming a favorable name in place of discussing the actual merits of those various ideologies.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby jgalt » Mon Feb 15, 2010 7:08 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:I don't think Phil is calling either one of you a flamer, as neither one of you is making a big deal about it. Like Phil, though, I have seen my share of ridiculous flamewars over who has the "real" libertarianism (much like the flamewars over whether left-anarchism or anarcho-capitalism are "real" anarchisms), which demonstrate a preoccupation with claiming a favorable name in place of discussing the actual merits of those various ideologies.


Fair enough - and good. As I stated, I am not a L/libertarian, so I've got no stake in the discussion. I just want to learn as much as I can, which is why I joined the forum in the first place.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Philwelch » Mon Feb 15, 2010 7:08 am UTC

I've probably seen more ridiculous flamewars over the word "football"--but yes, that's exactly what I was referring to, and trying to prevent.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby BlueNight » Mon Feb 15, 2010 7:37 am UTC

Here's the Libertarian cheatsheet:

1. Libertarian means different things to different people, but mostly it's about other people not being allowed to affect you in ways you don't want.
2. Most common definition: property rights are Good, stealing is Bad, and taxes are stealing.
3. Government is by definition a monopoly, and must be tightly regulated to prevent abuses of power.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Ari » Mon Feb 15, 2010 7:47 am UTC

One thing I've always found strange about libertarianism is the idea that corporations are somehow superior to governance. Just as one cannot avoid belonging to a country with some sort of government within the current political situation, one also can't avoid working- work is a necessity. The idea that associations of workers is somehow more free than a government isn't very robust- what you're really objecting to is the fact that governments are such big associations of people that they might naturally involve less freedom than smaller political units. That doesn't make you a libertarian, it makes you a supporter of weak federation. (or, in US parlance, "states' rights")

Coercion is part of human nature, otherwise we would not have herding behaviours, submission and dominance behaviours, etc... Not to mention that I'm not such an individualist that I think that nobody could ever need to coerce me to do the right thing. That's not to say I think coercion should be used lightly, but I still don't really get how people can subscribe to such an extreme point of view that says that coercion is never justified.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Philwelch » Mon Feb 15, 2010 8:10 am UTC

Ari wrote:Coercion is part of human nature, otherwise we would not have herding behaviours, submission and dominance behaviours, etc... Not to mention that I'm not such an individualist that I think that nobody could ever need to coerce me to do the right thing. That's not to say I think coercion should be used lightly, but I still don't really get how people can subscribe to such an extreme point of view that says that coercion is never justified.


That's a point of view libertarians don't have. People who believe that are pacifists, not libertarians. Libertarians are more than willing to coerce you not to steal or kill or commit any kind of violence or fraud against other people. Libertarians are *not* willing to coerce you to, for instance, not buy drugs, not sell drugs, not put trans-fats in your food, not fire or hire people as you see fit, and so forth.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Zamfir » Mon Feb 15, 2010 9:29 am UTC

Philwelch wrote:It's an ideologically difficult question, but in practical terms, we have a long way to go before we start worrying about that. Most libertarians would be perfectly content with simply less government and less tax.


I have always wondered about this. When it comes to actual policies and goals with overseeables time horizons, most libertarian views seem to be exactly the same as what we Europeans call liberal (for you guys that would be conservatism without the social-conservatism aspects). Not just in preferences, but also in priorities.

That leads for me to two questions:

Suppose the US had something like the German FDP. That is, a party that has a preference for individual freedom in issues like abortion, aims at lower taxes paid for by a reduction in welfare state size, less regulations for companies, more privatization of government functions, etc. etc.. And that in general targets professionals and businesspeople as voters. But definitely without any revolutionary goals like minarchism or anarcho-capitalism.
Given such a platform, would there still be much support or identification for a libertarianism that does include more extreme goals?

And if the more idealistic, far-off goals really are critical to the concept, what are the proposed methods to achieve them? As a whole, the more idealistic libertarians feel a bit like 19th century marxists or anarchists, with a heavy focus on how a perfect future society should look like, but a bit vague on the path to get there.Which means are justified for the goal, which are needed?

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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Philwelch » Mon Feb 15, 2010 10:09 am UTC

Zamfir wrote:
Philwelch wrote:It's an ideologically difficult question, but in practical terms, we have a long way to go before we start worrying about that. Most libertarians would be perfectly content with simply less government and less tax.


I have always wondered about this. When it comes to actual policies and goals with overseeables time horizons, most libertarian views seem to be exactly the same as what we Europeans call liberal (for you guys that would be conservatism without the social-conservatism aspects). Not just in preferences, but also in priorities.


You're essentially correct. "Liberal" means different things here than over there.

Suppose the US had something like the German FDP. That is, a party that has a preference for individual freedom in issues like abortion, aims at lower taxes paid for by a reduction in welfare state size, less regulations for companies, more privatization of government functions, etc. etc.. And that in general targets professionals and businesspeople as voters. But definitely without any revolutionary goals like minarchism or anarcho-capitalism.
Given such a platform, would there still be much support or identification for a libertarianism that does include more extreme goals?


There's not "much" support or identification for libertarianism anyway. But among libertarians, there are a large number of "principled" people who wouldn't be happy compromising. Some of these principled people disagree and argue with each other about these principles, which is one reason we're not a cohesive movement. Kind of like how we have 3-4 socialist parties in this country because of obscure doctrinal disagreements.

And if the more idealistic, far-off goals really are critical to the concept, what are the proposed methods to achieve them?


Well you can have gradual political reforms leading up to the ideal, or you can wait until the system fiscally collapses, or you can wait until the government becomes so intolerably totalitarian that you shoot the bastards. These methods are in ascending order of nutjobhood, in my opinion.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Vaniver » Mon Feb 15, 2010 2:37 pm UTC

Ari wrote:One thing I've always found strange about libertarianism is the idea that corporations are somehow superior to governance. Just as one cannot avoid belonging to a country with some sort of government within the current political situation, one also can't avoid working- work is a necessity.
Again, look at America- 1 federal government, 6 million firms with payroll. I'll go with 6 million choices over 1 choice, thanks.

As well, being productive is a necessity- but working for others isn't. You can start your own business or work for yourself.

Zamfir wrote:Given such a platform, would there still be much support or identification for a libertarianism that does include more extreme goals?
Yes; one of the most famous American libertarians is Milton Friedman, who said "I am a libertarian with a small 'l' and a Republican with a capital 'R.' And I am a Republican with a capital 'R' on grounds of expediency, not on principle." If he were living in Germany, I expect he would say the same thing, with FDP replacing Republican.

Zamfir wrote:And if the more idealistic, far-off goals really are critical to the concept, what are the proposed methods to achieve them? As a whole, the more idealistic libertarians feel a bit like 19th century marxists or anarchists, with a heavy focus on how a perfect future society should look like, but a bit vague on the path to get there.Which means are justified for the goal, which are needed?
Libertarians are not big on the whole revolution thing as a practical matter in current contexts (although most tend to be ardent admirers of the American Revolution)- they tend to be focused more on things like Minerva or on 'reclaiming' places like America. There's the Free State Project, which wants people to move to New Hampshire to making it more libertarian. A large number of libertarians focus more on education than on actual politics- they want to convince other people that libertarianism is good, then once there are more libertarians the political victory will take care of itself.

Philwelch wrote:Kind of like how we have 3-4 socialist parties in this country because of obscure doctrinal disagreements.
My socialist friend claims there are hundreds, and that the majority of them are in... I wish I remembered the word, but essentially they're in "revolution mode," which means that if you disagree with the leader you get kicked out. I wish they realized what the splintering of socialist movements mean for the socialist ideal.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Mokele » Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:08 pm UTC

Just to keep the questions rolling, something else I've wondered:

What's the libertarian stance on the military? Especially considering the giant, billion dollar toys that some feel are necessary to prevent yourself from being "involuntarily annexed" in today's world? It's all fun and games until someone gets nuked.

Citizen militias? Private "defense contractors"? How big of a military is needed, and how many "toys"? Can a corporation really set a price tag on repelling an invasion? And what of those who can't / won't fight or pay for fighting, since they'd get all the benefits with none of the costs? Furthermore, would aggressive military action by corporations be permitted, especially if for profit (taking over a country which has some resource they need, etc.)?
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Philwelch » Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:16 pm UTC

Mokele wrote:Just to keep the questions rolling, something else I've wondered:

What's the libertarian stance on the military?


There's controversy. A lot of libertarians are anti-war and want a smaller military, but there's some number of libertarians who consider it worthwhile to use the military to rescue others around the world from tyrannical regimes, or in making a strong military response against terrorism.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Zamfir » Mon Feb 15, 2010 4:48 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:Libertarians are not big on the whole revolution thing as a practical matter in current contexts (although most tend to be ardent admirers of the American Revolution)- they tend to be focused more on things like Minerva or on 'reclaiming' places like America. There's the Free State Project, which wants people to move to New Hampshire to making it more libertarian. A large number of libertarians focus more on education than on actual politics- they want to convince other people that libertarianism is good, then once there are more libertarians the political victory will take care of itself.

Yeah, those seem to be about the options, and I still don't really see the light, so to speak. I suppose you guys see the irony in the Free State Project...

The convincing others approach is of course peaceful, but it rests on an awfully strong assumption of false consciousness amongst the rest of us. I think you wrote the "condescension post"? I would say that left-wing rethoric can feel so condescending exactly because it is so strongly based on the idea that people who do not agree are misguided.

I guess the "new land" approach matches the libertarian spirit best, but it is perhaps also why the whole concept seems so particularly <i>American</i>. Singaporeans for example can sound a lot like American libertarians when it comes to policies (and in return, Americans sometimes point to Singapore as an example), but their arguments sound much more familiar to European ears. The welfare state makes people weak and dependent, people should be responsible for their own fate, being rich a is a sign of good choices and hard work, low taxes and little regulations allow the creativity of capitalism, etc. It's an argument that doesn't really differ between them or Europe or the US.

But combining that argument with something resembling anarchism seems primarily an American invention, even if others sometimes listen to it. It's a combination that works well if you assume that you start from scratch on new land (in the West for example...). Then anarchy is the neutral situation and you can add the minimum amount of political rule possible.

If your assumptions on the other start with an existing, functioning society, then the implementation of a libertarian state seems to be unavoidably the kind of grave, top-down political engineering libertarianism itself is opposed too.

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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Feb 15, 2010 4:51 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
Philwelch wrote:It's an ideologically difficult question, but in practical terms, we have a long way to go before we start worrying about that. Most libertarians would be perfectly content with simply less government and less tax.


I have always wondered about this. When it comes to actual policies and goals with overseeables time horizons, most libertarian views seem to be exactly the same as what we Europeans call liberal (for you guys that would be conservatism without the social-conservatism aspects). Not just in preferences, but also in priorities.

That leads for me to two questions:

Suppose the US had something like the German FDP. That is, a party that has a preference for individual freedom in issues like abortion, aims at lower taxes paid for by a reduction in welfare state size, less regulations for companies, more privatization of government functions, etc. etc.. And that in general targets professionals and businesspeople as voters. But definitely without any revolutionary goals like minarchism or anarcho-capitalism.
Given such a platform, would there still be much support or identification for a libertarianism that does include more extreme goals?


Well, congressman the Ronpaul gained a fair amount of support for his presidential run in '08 and (to my knowledge) campaigned on a platform at least superficially similar to what you're suggesting.

As an aside, abortion is not a clear cut issue for libertarians* as far as I am aware, for the following reason: On the one hand, libertarians believe that an individual ought to have control over their own bodies and certainly the government should not be allowed to intervene in such a matter; hence, some libertarians take the position that a woman has an absolute right to an abortion on such grounds. On the other hand, libertarians also believe in the non-aggression principle--that an individual (in this case, the woman) has no right to use force to terminate the life of another person (the fetus). To my mind, the argument essentially boils down to the fundamental question of the abortion issue: at what point does the fetus cease to become an irregular growth of cells within a woman's body and become a living person?

*I don't find this article terribly well balanced or detailed, but it at least gives a basic summary of the issue. The idea of "evictionism" mentioned at the end of the article is a rather compelling solution though.

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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby MartianInvader » Mon Feb 15, 2010 7:59 pm UTC

Thanks to everyone who's replied. I do think I understand the Libertarian mindset better now, as well as the main points I disagree with - Namely, that maximizing profit is the same thing as satisfying customers (I think they're correlated, but can wildly diverge from each other especially with a big company), and that monopolies won't arise without government support.

I've always found it interesting that nearly every political party (in America) sees itself as the friend of small business, the working man, and the ability to start new businesses, yet they all have radically different ideas about how they would offer this support.
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Ixtellor » Mon Feb 15, 2010 8:20 pm UTC

I read through the whole thread and thought two things:

1) You have to be a lot more specific when you say libertarian. Its like saying "Help me understand food". You need to be a LOT more specific. When you ask:
Mokele wrote:What's the libertarian stance on the military?


The answer is EVERYTHING, because your question is too broad.
What do Democrats stance on the military? (see the point?)
There were a lot of good answers in the thread, but each was specific to a brand of libertarianism and were the exact opposite of what other types of libertarians would say.

Were you inspired to learn about it by the Ronpaul? Tea partiers? Mises?
That would be a decent starting place.

2) The best place to learn about different types of libertarians, is on libertarian websites.
If there is one thing Libertarians of all flavors love, its telling you about their definition or description of a libertarian society.

MartianInvader wrote:Namely, that maximizing profit is the same thing as satisfying customers


Outside of some bizarre offshoots, I think that will generally apply to most libertarian philosophy. (Also some libertarian Republicans would not agree with the above premise in all cases).
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby diamonds » Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:02 am UTC

MartianInvader wrote:Namely, that maximizing profit is the same thing as satisfying customers

That's not quite true, it depends on your definition of profit. There are monetary profits, and there are psychic profits. If Microsoft or Exxon started giving away free money with every purchase, that would surely satisfy customers, but that wouldn't exactly return very good monetary profits. Maybe they would do it, however, for the psychic profits: charity for instance. Psychic profit is what you get when you give up a few dollars in exchange for a full gas tank. You determine that the gas is more valuable than the money it costs to acquire it, and therefore you exchange them, and you profit. This definition of profit, which is almost the exclusive definition you use when talking about classical liberal/libertarian theory, is the cause of all human action. It even works for non-monetary exchanges (either barter between two people, or autistic exchange which is decision making), for instance, do I continue working, or do I take a nap? Which makes me better off? (Maybe you would become more productive after taking a nap, for instance.) Here is a brilliant example of how profit works to the benefit of both people, particularly when you remove the veil of money that hides the effects of profit on society behind a number: http://mises.org/story/3015

If you are looking for resources on libertarian/classical liberal philosophy, Ludwig von Mises was one of the foremost philosophers/economists (the two are closely intertwined), particularly Human Action (a hefty tome, though I haven't read it through, there are more modern and concise summaries written for beginners). The namesake institute I linked to publishes that and most all of their works for no cost online too, I don't know how many tens of thousands of pages. For how a society might function, it's difficult to say, because free people can choose whatever they want, but Power and Market by Murray Rothbard describes a possible setup for private courts, etc.
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LaserGuy
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Feb 16, 2010 4:08 pm UTC

MartianInvader wrote:Thanks to everyone who's replied. I do think I understand the Libertarian mindset better now, as well as the main points I disagree with - Namely, that maximizing profit is the same thing as satisfying customers (I think they're correlated, but can wildly diverge from each other especially with a big company)


I don't think this is quite right in the sense you're describing it. I would say that a market can be defined as a "free market" if and only if maximizing profitability also maximizes customer satisfaction. In a market that is not free, such as a monopolistic one or a massively subsidized one (most markets are a mix of both), then maximizing profits will not necessarily maximize customer satisfaction. Case in point, in a monopoly, the maximum profit solution is to raise the price as high as possible, which surely doesn't bring customer satisfaction; however, in a free market, if player A raises their prices too high, then it will create an incentive for player B to enter the market and undercut them, provide a better product, or both, which will cause player A's profits to decline. Libertarians believe that all markets should be free markets (with possible, limit exceptions depending on your choice of libertarianism), and most libertarians would probably argue that today's markets in virtually any country you consider, are not free markets at all. Just to be clear, when we're talking about "markets" here, we are not necessarily talking about "stock markets". The former does not, under any circumstance, require the latter to function.

MartianInvader wrote:and that monopolies won't arise without government support.


Can you think of any counterexamples?

Ouiser
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Ouiser » Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:15 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
MartianInvader wrote:What about campaign financing? For an extreme hypothetical, would Libertarians consider a corporation running its own CEO or primary stockholder for president and then instructing that official to help them out "government interference"? What about capped donations to political parties? I imagine most would draw the line somewhere in between; where do you think it should be drawn?
The Libertarian's response, inasmuch as possible, is to make it impossible for government officials to help out one company over another company. That way, it wouldn't matter if Exxon's CEO was also the President- the President wouldn't be able to influence Exxon's fortunes. That's obviously not entirely possible- but neither is preventing people with interests in companies from holding elected office. Cheney gave away all of his Halliburton holdings- but I believe a large portion of them went to his (non-dependent) daughters, suggesting that he still has an interest in how Halliburton does, even though he doesn't directly profit. Consider Clinton's then Bush's Secretaries of the Treasury- Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson were both former CEOs of Goldman Sachs. Is there a good way to get rid of any bias they might have towards Goldman Sachs? Would it be better to, instead of having the Secretary of the Treasury be an accomplished financier, be someone with no financial connections (and thus, experience)? Or should we just try to make it so the Secretary of the Treasury can't, say, decide which to save of Goldman Sachs and Bear Sterns?



A good point to make here is that if you drastically reduce the size and scope of government, it doesn't matter as much who is running it. The government has taken on more and more responsibility, so now we have no choice but to pay attention to who's doing what. In the past, people didn't even necessarily want to be elected to office because it was public service. Now people claim public service, but they are really after the purse strings.

Read "The Law" by Bastiat. It is wonderful and sheds so much light on what is going on with our government these days. It's only about 70 pages if you can find it. Written in 1850, it's as true today as it was then. Please don't assume I agree with everything in it if you do happen to read it though.

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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Philwelch » Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:31 pm UTC

I think we've covered defining the concept of libertarianism, so I'm going to actually respond to these points. If this is a problem we can branch or rename the topic or something, or just lock it.

Ouiser wrote:A good point to make here is that if you drastically reduce the size and scope of government, it doesn't matter as much who is running it. The government has taken on more and more responsibility, so now we have no choice but to pay attention to who's doing what.


That's an appealing argument, and it's one I want to believe, but there's a problem with that. The government by definition has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force in society. Once you have all the guns you're worthy of being controlled whether or not you currently restrain yourself to some sort of constitution limiting your powers.

One reason I'm not a libertarian is that libertarianism seems sociologically impossible.
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Ouiser
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Re: Help me understand Libertarianism

Postby Ouiser » Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:07 pm UTC

Philwelch wrote:I think we've covered defining the concept of libertarianism, so I'm going to actually respond to these points. If this is a problem we can branch or rename the topic or something, or just lock it.

Ouiser wrote:A good point to make here is that if you drastically reduce the size and scope of government, it doesn't matter as much who is running it. The government has taken on more and more responsibility, so now we have no choice but to pay attention to who's doing what.


That's an appealing argument, and it's one I want to believe, but there's a problem with that. The government by definition has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force in society. Once you have all the guns you're worthy of being controlled whether or not you currently restrain yourself to some sort of constitution limiting your powers.

One reason I'm not a libertarian is that libertarianism seems sociologically impossible.


So what do you think people would do if you overtly used force to take control? The reason taxes and other methods are used is because they can slip through a bit at a time as they have for the past 200 years.


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