Courtesy of Landover Baptist.
More fun here.
Dutch immigrant Rogier van Bakel of Nobody’s Business is having second thoughts.
This week marks the fifteenth anniversary of my emigration from the
Netherlands to the United States. I’ve been in no mood to celebrate.
Truthfully, I’m not even certain I would still move if I had to make that choice today.
That’s sad, isn’t it? Sadder still is that if I’m honest, I can only promise him it’ll get worse. But wait! There’s an election next month, so everything’s going to be just fine, right?
One has to wonder the full extent of the fallout once reality inexorably asserts itself.
Now comes two entries that are must reads on this topic. The first, by Warren Meyer at Coyote Blog, was actually written in December of 2004. But don’t be surprised by that. Principles of individualism haven’t changed in the 8,000 years or so of recorded human civilization (or as far back as humans possessed free will, for that matter), so his essay was valid then, today, and a thousand years from now.
Before I continue to support this argument, I must say that on a
number of issues, particularly related to civil liberties and social
issues, I call progressives my allies. On social issues, progressives,
like I do, generally support an individual’s right to make decisions
for themselves, as long as those decisions don’t harm others.
However, when we move to fields such as commerce, progressives stop
trusting individual decision-making. Progressives who support the
right to a person making unfettered choices in sexual partners don’t
trust people to make their own choice on seat belt use. Progressives
who support the right of fifteen year old girls to make decisions about
abortion without parental notification do not trust these same girls
later in life to make their own investment choices with their Social
Security funds. And, Progressives who support the right of third
worlders to strap on a backpack of TNT and explode themselves in the
public market don’t trust these same third worlders to make the right
decision in choosing to work in the local Nike shoe plant.
Beyond just the concept of individual decision-making, progressives
are hugely uncomfortable with capitalism. Ironically, though
progressives want to posture as being "dynamic", the fact is that
capitalism is in fact too dynamic for them. Industries rise and fall,
jobs are won and lost, recessions give way to booms. Progressives want
comfort and certainty. They want to lock things down the way they are.
They want to know that such and such job will be there tomorrow and
next decade, and will always pay at least X amount. That is why, in
the end, progressives are all statists, because, to paraphrase Hayek,
only a government with totalitarian powers can bring the order and
certainty and control of individual decision-making that they crave.
Progressive elements in this country have always tried to freeze
commerce, to lock this country’s economy down in its then-current
patterns. Progressives in the late 19th century were terrified the
American economy was shifting from agriculture to industry. They
wanted to stop this, to cement in place patterns where 80-90% of
Americans worked on farms. I, for one, am glad they failed, since for
all of the soft glow we have in this country around our description of
the family farmer, farming was and can still be a brutal, dawn to dusk
endeavor that never really rewards the work people put into it.
This story of progressives trying to stop history has continued to
repeat itself through the generations. In the seventies and eighties,
progressives tried to maintain the traditional dominance of heavy
industry like steel and automotive, and to prevent the shift of these
industries overseas in favor of more service-oriented industries. Just
like the passing of agriculture to industry a century ago inflamed
progressives, so too does the current passing of heavy industry to
Now, absolutely go read the whole thing.
Of course it’s quite easy to call corporations
“unaccountable” despoilers of nature and invaders of privacy who hold
“undue” control over their own economic fortunes (heaven forbid they
should control that) when you need an enemy. They makes a convenient
foil for the upcoming "government is good" sales pitch.
know they make you buy their products by force and fraud and, well,
expand – both in size and power. And, given the line, one has to assume
that the stated objection to them holding “undue control over their own
economic fortunes” is unacceptable. Conveniently, there’s only one
entity with the power to confront them and take care of that problem,
So we’ve now identified the demon and the champion. On with the myth.
Essentially his claim is that had there been no
government, none of the “libertarian tendencies” for which he finds
Silicon Valley so exceedingly attractive would have had the opportunity
to germinate and grow. Without an “infrastructure” such as ‘roads’ and
‘internet’, or ‘research grants’ and ‘education’, none of it happens
(btw, I loved his emphasis on government education while touting the
success of ‘school dropouts’).
Given that argument, I’m frankly amazed Stephan Jobs and Bill Gates somehow managed to launch Apple and Microsoft.
spurred the creation of Silicon Valley wasn’t government or research
grants or the internet. That all came later. It was Jobs and Gates and
countless others in their garages and basements without the “benefit”
of any of that. They opened up a whole new technological era with their
individual work. They convinced venture capitalists and other risk
takers to back them. They changed the world.
To pretend Silicon
Valley was a product of government is to truly not understand where it
came from or why. To contend it was a result of government is an
admission that one doesn’t understand the process of innovation which
took place. If ever there was an example of Hayekian principle of
“spontaneous order”, Silicon Valley is it. We saw innovation and
technology driving markets and marketing cycles while spawning more of
the same and repeating itself over and over and over again.
Forgotten in this appeal for votes is a pretty basic truth which essentially destroys the validity of the argument:
a single corporation can coerce you into buying their product. But
every single government, no matter how small, can coerce you into doing
The basic concept of government is and always has been contrary to libertarian principles.
is force. It is all about force. Force is its very nature. And, make no
mistake, what is being offered by Moultisas here is more government. He
simply wants libertarians to embrace rather than reject that choice and
feel good about it.
If, as Friederich Hayek said, “freedom is
the absence of coercion”, then the group that touts more government as
the acceptable solution to any problem is selling snake oil. And
Moultisas is correct. I’d never, ever mistake a Democrat of “just about
any stripe” for any type of a libertarian, doctrinaire or otherwise.
Go read the whole thing.
Here’s Part I, which was updated to reflect Charles Hueter’s post. Now comes an update to that very same post by Charles, sent to him by frequent commenter here, Kyle Bennett. It’s all just crying out for a copy/paste job right here. Charles writes:
Kyle Bennett sent in the following comment:
Kos and his ilk have a very different notion of
"personal liberties" than libertarians do. It’s not just a political
difference about what constitutes a personal freedom, but a
fundamentally different epistemological and metaphysical view of what
freedom is. They look at freedom as something like Roosevelt’s "Four
Freedoms". Things like freedom from want, freedom from fear, etc. The
root of it is that they see *any* obstacle as an impingement on their
freedom, where libertarians see coercion as the only obstacle that
qualifies. Poverty, tragedy, discomfort, lack of opportunity, and even
the need to pursue your own happiness, etc., to them, these are all
examples of freedom being limited . Their "state of nature", against
which the legitimacy of government is measured, is not the libertarian
one in which everyone gets a spot on the starting line, but one in
which everyone has a comfortable spot on the finish line, complete with
a bed of laurels, and so never has to actually run the race. It’s the
*universe* that is his nemesis, not (some) other men – except for those
other men who take the universe’s side against his, i.e., those who
hold reality and reason as primary.
And where libertarians see the only obligation of society as that
of not *causing* the limited class of obstacles (coercion) that limit
their freedom, from their view of nature flows the Kos Kind’s vision of
society as having a positive obligation to remove or prevent the things
they see as limiting freedom.
In that sense, he’s not engaging in any contradiction, (at least not
until you delve deeper into the derivation of his notion of "personal
liberties" – there’s contradictions a plenty to be found there). It may
not even be a cynical and insincere attempt at some kind of
rapproachment, he probably actually believes it.
Mr. Bennett is referring to the two conceptions of positive and negative liberty.
If Kos is sincere about seeking a sensible partnership, this again
highlights how little he studies the fundamental issues. Libertarians
generally adhere to a "negative liberty" mental framework while the
more statist political ideologies advocate a "positive liberty"
mindset. There are exceptions to this. For example, I remember (but
can’t find at the moment) Kos making some negative-liberty-style
arguments against the drug war, government banning gay marriage, and
government spying. Of course, the smart money is on him ultimately
favoring "positive liberty" arguments leading to government
intervention in any given situation.
I shudder to think about the intellectual acrobatics it would take
to reconcile two 1,000-word Kos-authored essays elucidating his
position on random personal liberty issue (such as bike helmet laws or consensual sex) and random broad economic issue
(such as minimum wage laws or tariffs). The irony being that at their
core, every issue becomes a concretely, painfully personal issue at
some point. Libertarians generally understand this because, in yet
another significant departure from Democrats, they see and analyze the
individual as the fundamental unit of society. Not the class, race,
sex, orientation, religious belief, and so on.
It is good to see Democrats opposing various Republican Party
schemes and elevating their civil liberties rhetoric. However, I am
absolutely convinced that much of this is the result of their dislike
of Bush, today’s GOP, and everything done that can be linked to them.
I’m not at all surprised to see Nancy Pelosi put forward a muddled government-expanding mix of solutions as a hint at what she’d do to redirect the House of Representatives’ agenda.