Libertarianism

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elasto
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby elasto » Thu Aug 02, 2018 6:49 pm UTC

My answer in the case of literal rent-seeking would be to vastly increase the supply of high quality government-owned housing.

Yes, there is an issue in that, logistically, there's only so much house building that can occur in any given year, but that's testament to how badly successive governments have failed. It therefore can't be fixed overnight either.

And, yes, there is an issue that government may end up building too much housing in the wrong places such as China's 'ghost towns', but at this point I think that's the lesser of two evils. Too many people can't even afford to get on the housing ladder, and subsidising mortgages just inflates house prices further. The only answer to me is to increase supply beyond that which the market would naturally choose.
Last edited by elasto on Thu Aug 02, 2018 6:50 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Aug 02, 2018 6:49 pm UTC

elasto wrote:The answer, of course, is that wealth does correlate with education, ambition, drive, hard work etc., at least in part. Eliminate or otherwise drive away the wealthy and you also cull a disproportionate percentage of the educated, ambitious, driven and hard-working etc. Hence it provides a short-term fillip to the poor at the expense of future growth.


Agreed. The wealthy embody real wealth that cannot be wholly separated from them.

A free market isn't quite the same as an unregulated one. A wholly unregulated market may be filled with graft, scams, etc. There is sometimes some confusion on this point because free may mean slightly different things to different people, but freedoms to defraud, etc folks violate the NAP. Those freedoms are all one sided, to allow one to victimize another.

You might get a few libertarians that believe market forced are enough to handle fraud, but I think most accept regulation as necessary for that. What else do you think regulation is necessary for to provide an efficient market, elasto?

Pfhorrest wrote:I'm dubious about the accounts of "socialism ruining Venezuela" since from the little I've read into that situation it's a lot more complicated than that, but setting that side for a moment and for the sake of argument running with the thesis: if the problem is that wealth does correlate (but not perfectly) with actual positive qualities, as well as with the rent-seeking behavior we're looking to eliminate, then the obvious solution is to tax income from rent out the wazoo and leave income from actually valuable labor alone. So then only the rent-seekers would flee, and good riddance.


Imperfect correlation is a given, I think. The winner of the lottery is not guaranteed to be more moral than the loser. It's a strong correlation for many positive qualities, but certainly not perfect.

Property rental is not quite the same as rent-seeking. Rent-seeking is seeking to better yourself without contributing to the economy. Basically, bettering yourself at someone else's expense. The name does show off a certain viewpoint of landlords, but renters can actually be contributing to the economy.

Imagine a government licensing office which issues licenses for activities. No safety or other services take place as a result, the government simply issues you a license if you pay the fee, and the money goes into the government man's pocket. This is usually described as some kind of corruption, depending on how direct the "into the pocket" aspect is, but bribery, mob protection money, or other such economic activity is definitely rent seeking. Minimizing that is great. Preventing someone from renting an apartment is not.

elasto wrote: Too many people can't even afford to get on the housing ladder, and subsidising mortgages just inflates house prices further. The only answer to me is to increase supply beyond that which the market would naturally choose.


We probably shouldn't be subsidizing mortgages. Honestly, that's not the market naturally choosing anything. It's the government's choice to subsidize homeowners(and ultimately the banking industry) to the eventual cost of non-homeowners.

Given a choice, I don't believe renters would wish to contribute to this.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby elasto » Thu Aug 02, 2018 7:10 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:You might get a few libertarians that believe market forced are enough to handle fraud, but I think most accept regulation as necessary for that. What else do you think regulation is necessary for to provide an efficient market, elasto?

Off the top of my head, I'd say that whenever rational agents come together to make unforced transactions with no information asymmetry, in a situation where there are a great variety of buyers and sellers, that's when the market will tend towards efficiency with mostly 'win-win' transactions.

Libertarians assume that the degenerate state of the market naturally heads in such a direction, whereas I am from the camp that says that, left alone:
- transactions would become more and more forced (through debt, short-term needs overriding long-term planning etc.)
- information would become more and more asymmetric (commission-led sales, targeted advertising etc.)
- markets would tend towards oligopolies (the best companies can afford the best employees, can swallow up or crush the best opposition etc.) and so on.

Each of those areas potentially needs government intervention. So people need to be freed up to:
- make smart decisions not dumb ones through strong education (eg. every high school should have mandatory courses on savings, pensions, credit cards , ponzi schemes, etc.)
- make long-term decisions not short-term (eg. not borrowing from payday lenders) by strong social safety nets such as UBI
- make decisions based on information-symmetry (eg. strong laws on false advertising, vast teams investigating financial scams, free access to consumer organisations such as Which etc.)
- break up private monopolies - or in cases where only a monopoly makes sense, like for a local utility, either heavy regulation or direct state ownership

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Aug 02, 2018 7:24 pm UTC

Why do you suppose rent the housing arrangement and rent the abstract economic concept have the same name? Might it be that one is an example of the other? Housing rent has its origins in feudal land tenure where you have to pay whoever is the designated lord of the land — its local government — for the right to do anything there. Tenure is a lot more complicated today but the principle is the same: someone else controls access to a thing and you have to pay them off just for them to not have their thugs rough you up if you try to use it otherwise. Government thugs, in either case, because it’s always the state defending the rentiers, even if the rentiers aren’t themselves the state.

Maybe having the state not do that could be a nice libertarian solution to the problem?
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Aug 02, 2018 7:38 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:You might get a few libertarians that believe market forced are enough to handle fraud, but I think most accept regulation as necessary for that. What else do you think regulation is necessary for to provide an efficient market, elasto?

Off the top of my head, I'd say that whenever rational agents come together to make unforced transactions with no information asymmetry, in a situation where there are a great variety of buyers and sellers, that's when the market will tend towards efficiency with mostly 'win-win' transactions.


I think we're in agreement there. The fewer entities in a market, the less information available, etc, the more variance you can expect to see from an ideal balance. The podunk town will have an inefficient market compared to a bustling city, even if the same goods are sold at both.

Information is the hardest of these criteria, because it's almost always asymmetric to some degree, and information generally has a cost itself. I'm generally not opposed to people being compensated for the difficulty of acquiring information, but it falls apart if one party can control all the information. Another monopoly problem.

Libertarians assume that the degenerate state of the market naturally heads in such a direction, whereas I am from the camp that says that, left alone:
- transactions would become more and more forced (through debt, short-term needs overriding long-term planning etc.)
- information would become more and more asymmetric (commission-led sales, targeted advertising etc.)
- markets would tend towards oligopolies (the best companies can afford the best employees, can swallow up or crush the best opposition etc.) and so on.


Well, at a minimum, libertarians largely blame such problems on government intervention. This is at least partially true, but doesn't apply to everything. Market consolidation is a pretty well proven thing in mature markets, so the third point I think is quite sound if we look at historical evidence. Seems to take place across the board, regardless of specific levels of government intervention.

I don't think it's necessarily horrible, so long as the remaining contenders are subject to competitive forces, and cannot form a cartel/monopoly/etc. A shake-out of the less efficient players is necessary.

I'm less convinced of the others. Commission-based sales do not seem to be the only viable sales model. If there's a model that's growing, it's online retailing, and your traditional salesman who lives off a commission is only really dominant in the auto sales industry, where he's protected by government law. Anti-trust legislation prevents manufacturers from selling directly to consumers, so we have a distribution tier that's protected more than most are. I believe the ol' hard-sell days of salesmanship are rather less tolerated today, and the sales industry is changing a bit as a result*.

*Edit: 'cuz I think it's interesting - Realtors are also currently dealing with anti-trust action and may be facing challenges as well https://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/17/business/the-6-percent-solution-skip-real-estate-agents.html

Each of those areas potentially needs government intervention. So people need to be freed up to:
- make smart decisions not dumb ones through strong education (eg. every high school should have mandatory courses on savings, pensions, credit cards , ponzi schemes, etc.)
- make long-term decisions not short-term (eg. not borrowing from payday lenders) by strong social safety nets such as UBI
- make decisions based on information-symmetry (eg. strong laws on false advertising, vast teams investigating financial scams, free access to consumer organisations such as Which etc.)
- break up private monopolies - or in cases where only a monopoly makes sense, like for a local utility, either heavy regulation or direct state ownership


Education does help. Educated consumers are generally going to be better off. I'm in agreement on the actual actions you suggest under the information symmetry heading, but my basis for doing so is different. Anti-scam/false advertising enforcement seems like straight up fraud. Having less information than a specialist, in general, does not bother me, but deliberately deceiving a person in order to steal from them is definitely a problem. The latter case does include information asymmetry, but that's merely the means used for the theft. Seems like blaming lock picks for a burglary.
I don't have much problem with anti-monopoly law. Even if you believe that the market will fully avoid this, the worst case outcome is what, a law that doesn't need to be enforced? That's not going to hurt society much. An error in the other direction is significantly more costly. One solution I like for natural monopolies is minimizing the monopoly as much as possible. Sure, sure, you might only need one set of water pipes or power wires to your house, but competition can happen at other levels. Can have a healthy variety of power suppliers competing to offer the best price, for instance. The natural monopoly only need extend to the distribution network.

Pfhorrest wrote:Why do you suppose rent the housing arrangement and rent the abstract economic concept have the same name? Might it be that one is an example of the other? Housing rent has its origins in feudal land tenure where you have to pay whoever is the designated lord of the land — its local government — for the right to do anything there. Tenure is a lot more complicated today but the principle is the same: someone else controls access to a thing and you have to pay them off just for them to not have their thugs rough you up if you try to use it otherwise. Government thugs, in either case, because it’s always the state defending the rentiers, even if the rentiers aren’t themselves the state.

Maybe having the state not do that could be a nice libertarian solution to the problem?


There's a historical relationship, sure. Tenant rights are in a much better state nowadays than they were in feudal times, though.

Consider from a different perspective, perhaps. Why should a thing be legal only because money is involved? If I own my home, and permit someone to live in the basement free of charge, should I not be free to do so? Thanks to the parent/child relationship, this seems common, even after the child becomes an adult, and it would be curious if this were forbidden.

But if a stranger wishes to stay there who I do not wish to live in my house, I would be within my rights to call the police. Everyone's also on board with this unless they dislike property rights altogether, and frankly, even if you don't like property rights, you have to admit it would be uncomfortable if you spent the time and effort to get your house set up right, and then someone else you hated just moved in and did as he pleased.

In short, even if one ignores the actual financial part of the arrangement, all of the same rights need to exist. Why folks be banned from making a deal solely because financial compensation is involved?*

*As an aside, the identical argument also explains why libertarians believe sex work ought to be legal.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Aug 02, 2018 8:56 pm UTC

Short and exaggerated answer because I don't feel like it otherwise: for the same reason that keeping true but embarrassing information about someone secret is fine, but charging someone for that "service" isn't (we call it "blackmail"). You're extorting money out of someone in a disadvantages situation compared to you.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby sardia » Thu Aug 02, 2018 10:34 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
If that's the case, then why does getting rid of the wealthy result in a lack of wealth? This is a disagreement we can test against real world outcomes. I've shown a couple of examples of such cases, and unless anyone would care to defend Venezuela or Pakistan as doing well financially, the outcome looks pretty rough.

How do you square the outcomes of mass nationalization/exodus of the rich with your ideology?

Counter example. States that try to lure wealthy companies such as Boeing or sports franchises with tax cuts are being played. Another example are corporations that threaten to leave if they're taxes are raised. If you interview their corporate leadership, they admit that local taxes aren't the defining reason they moved. Instead they just pick a location, and then get that state/City to pay up in taxes.

Hypothetical: Georgia and California are notorious for their housing shortage, and a libertarian government takes over the state and local positions. Does more or less housing gets built when developers try to build an apartment complex over or next to single family homes? Compare this to real life
In Earth prime- the developers gets held up or are limited by single family home owners trying to maintain/increase their property values and lifestyles.

Edited to Georgia from texas. https://www.businessinsider.com/zillow- ... ges-2018-1
Last edited by sardia on Fri Aug 03, 2018 12:54 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Aug 03, 2018 12:20 am UTC

Texas is notorious for housing shortage? I thought Texas was the land of dirt-cheap $200k McMansions? (And I say dirt-cheap because out here in California, $200k will literally buy you a plot of dirt with nothing on it. If you're lucky.)
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Aug 03, 2018 3:24 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Short and exaggerated answer because I don't feel like it otherwise: for the same reason that keeping true but embarrassing information about someone secret is fine, but charging someone for that "service" isn't (we call it "blackmail"). You're extorting money out of someone in a disadvantages situation compared to you.

That's not even all that exaggerated, given that Tyndmyr earlier compared corporation owners to doctors in his argument that they're important to society.

Seriously, it shouldn't be all that difficult to justify the legality of rent, at least in cases where you're renting out extra space in your own dwelling, but apparently the only thing a Libertarian could think of is an argument that also justifies blackmail and kidnapping.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby ucim » Fri Aug 03, 2018 4:53 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:but apparently the only thing a Libertarian could think of is an argument that also justifies blackmail and kidnapping.
Why can't blackmail and kidnapping be curtailed outside of that argument? Freedom of speech is justified using arguments that also justify impersonating a police officer; prohibiting that particular action is dealt with as a refinement to the broader concept.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Aug 03, 2018 11:47 am UTC

Sure, there are obviously arguments for those things being illegal, but Tyndmyr argued that if a thing is legal to do, it should be legal to charge money to do it. Which implies things like blackmail should be legal.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby ucim » Fri Aug 03, 2018 2:25 pm UTC

...which is why a refinement of that rule may be called for. No rule or general principle is universally valid
Spoiler:
includng this one
except perhaps in fundamentalist religions. So, rather than condemn a broad stroke that happens to have an undesirable edge case, you might ask if this edge case is one that merits a refinement.

Ditto arguments for and against {anything}-ism. The broad strokes are instructive, but that an unrestrained version leads to problems merely means that some refinements may be called for. Unrestrained capitalism clearly leads to bad outcomes; that doesn't mean that the concept of private ownership of property, or even of the means of production, is inherently bad. It just means that the refinements need to address that particular bad outcome. Unmitigated socialism also clearly leads to bad outcomes; perhaps suitable refinements could make it a viable system. Libertarianism by itself is also pretty awful; valid questions involve how to mitigate the harm it would do (and I suppose, whether or not a particular facet is considered a bug or a feature).

Obviously refinements can work against each other too. But when refinements need to pile up like epicycles, that's a hint that the underlying broad stroke might be fatally flawed.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Aug 03, 2018 2:29 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Short and exaggerated answer because I don't feel like it otherwise: for the same reason that keeping true but embarrassing information about someone secret is fine, but charging someone for that "service" isn't (we call it "blackmail"). You're extorting money out of someone in a disadvantages situation compared to you.


That's a fun hypothetical. Should it be legal to demand compensation in return for keeping secrets? Assuming a straightforward contract arrangement? In, say, the Stormy Daniels situation, is she in the wrong to get compensated? Or if you prefer, if you want increased compensation to work for a business that requires extremely broad NDAs?

I'm not sure that either is actually bad. This is presuming that the information is gained legitimately and everything else is aboveboard, of course.

Extortion, in a legal sense, is mostly limited to things that ought to be illegal regardless of if done for money, such as threatening violence or property damage, or impersonating a police officer. Assuming we're on board with violence and fraud being illegal, and everyone seems to be, extortion is morally pretty well covered without requiring that information be economically free. Blackmail's a little looser(but historically, originates from a similar meaning)

gmalivuk wrote:Seriously, it shouldn't be all that difficult to justify the legality of rent, at least in cases where you're renting out extra space in your own dwelling, but apparently the only thing a Libertarian could think of is an argument that also justifies blackmail and kidnapping.


The blackmail is interesting, because it opens up discussion over how we value and handle information. If we look at IP laws, this has a great deal of importance, and systems like a Trade Secret system essentially require we allow this.

Kidnapping is not justified, because stealing someone's kid is illegal regardless of if money is involved or not.

sardia wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:If that's the case, then why does getting rid of the wealthy result in a lack of wealth? This is a disagreement we can test against real world outcomes. I've shown a couple of examples of such cases, and unless anyone would care to defend Venezuela or Pakistan as doing well financially, the outcome looks pretty rough.

How do you square the outcomes of mass nationalization/exodus of the rich with your ideology?

Counter example. States that try to lure wealthy companies such as Boeing or sports franchises with tax cuts are being played. Another example are corporations that threaten to leave if they're taxes are raised. If you interview their corporate leadership, they admit that local taxes aren't the defining reason they moved. Instead they just pick a location, and then get that state/City to pay up in taxes.

Hypothetical: Georgia and California are notorious for their housing shortage, and a libertarian government takes over the state and local positions. Does more or less housing gets built when developers try to build an apartment complex over or next to single family homes? Compare this to real life
In Earth prime- the developers gets held up or are limited by single family home owners trying to maintain/increase their property values and lifestyles.

Edited to Georgia from texas. https://www.businessinsider.com/zillow- ... ges-2018-1


Specific tax breaks for individual businesses are probably unwise, and libertarianism would decry them as the government picking winners. After all, mostly those only get extended to certain businesses. Amazon is large enough to have ridiculous pull, and it's throwing it around right now for the second headquarters thing. The size of the packages being extended are ludicrous. This is clearly unfair to other businesses who are not extended the same kind of treatment, even proportionately for size. Keeping tax rates modest can grow industry, but I agree that making these deals on an individual basis is probably economically ineffective.

Honestly, both will probably continue to have housing shortages to some extent. Heavy growth areas are likely to experience shortages as they cope. I don't have solid data on how frequently eminent domain is used for housing, but so far as I can tell, it looks to be primarily used for government project. Roads, infrastructure, etc. So, reducing the reliance on eminent domain might have some secondary impacts(gotta have facilities for housing), but it likely isn't a primary factor in housing shortages. Relaxing zoning laws and other land use regulations would enable additional construction, particularly of lower-income housing. Probably wouldn't fix everything, but it'd help.

Pfhorrest wrote:Texas is notorious for housing shortage? I thought Texas was the land of dirt-cheap $200k McMansions? (And I say dirt-cheap because out here in California, $200k will literally buy you a plot of dirt with nothing on it. If you're lucky.)


Texas is huge. Say, Austin, has an extremely different market from dirt in the middle of nowhere. Housing shortages in Texas is largely an urban problem, IIRC.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Aug 03, 2018 2:40 pm UTC

Having someone's kid is often not illegal (e.g. if you're a bus driver), but refusing to give them back without payment suddenly becomes a ransom demand.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Aug 03, 2018 2:43 pm UTC

Refusing to give back the kid would be illegal even if no money were involved. Kidnapping is still kidnapping even if no ransom demand has been made.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby ucim » Mon Aug 06, 2018 2:50 pm UTC

What do libertarians think of public libraries? IMO probably the greatest government institution there is.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 06, 2018 3:01 pm UTC

ucim wrote:What do libertarians think of public libraries? IMO probably the greatest government institution there is.

Jose


That's a good one, and there's a bit of tension between goals there. Libertarians largely like libraries, but dislike public institutions, so finding some way to have the former without the latter is a source of occasional discussion. Private libraries are certainly not a bad thing, but overall there's not a ton of enthusiasm for even killing the public ones. A few might try to justify this choice on ideological grounds, but more do so on a practical basis.

Basically, it might be possible to further optimize the library system, but there are so many better places to focus on first that it's largely a hypothetical exercise. I pretty much fall into here. The government spends a lot of money worse than it does on the library system.

One of the ideological grounds basically boils down to consent. Some topics of government are not very well supported, and a large portion of the population object to their tax dollars being used for that. Libraries are largely popular. If everyone's consenting to them, it isn't as much of a moral issue. This doesn't account for those who don't agree with public libraries existing, but it does generally frame the issue as one of significantly less moral impetus to change.

Another possible ideological grounds, albeit one less used by libertarians, is an educational obligation to youth. Libraries are a commonly cited "everyone can educate themselves" example, aiming to get rid of this would undercut that, and would make knowledge significantly easier to bottleneck. Harder to bootstrap yourself up if you don't know how to, and libraries are one of the more inexpensive routes for learning.

Thought of another exception: Library of congress/government record keeping. Public transparency and the government keeping a historical record of and for itself seems like an essential government function. So, even if one adopted an extreme anti-library stance, certain aspects would need to be preserved.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby sardia » Mon Aug 06, 2018 7:00 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
ucim wrote:What do libertarians think of public libraries? IMO probably the greatest government institution there is.

Jose


That's a good one, and there's a bit of tension between goals there. Libertarians largely like libraries, but dislike public institutions, so finding some way to have the former without the latter is a source of occasional discussion. Private libraries are certainly not a bad thing, but overall there's not a ton of enthusiasm for even killing the public ones. A few might try to justify this choice on ideological grounds, but more do so on a practical basis.

Basically, it might be possible to further optimize the library system, but there are so many better places to focus on first that it's largely a hypothetical exercise. I pretty much fall into here. The government spends a lot of money worse than it does on the library system.

One of the ideological grounds basically boils down to consent. Some topics of government are not very well supported, and a large portion of the population object to their tax dollars being used for that. Libraries are largely popular. If everyone's consenting to them, it isn't as much of a moral issue. This doesn't account for those who don't agree with public libraries existing, but it does generally frame the issue as one of significantly less moral impetus to change.

Another possible ideological grounds, albeit one less used by libertarians, is an educational obligation to youth. Libraries are a commonly cited "everyone can educate themselves" example, aiming to get rid of this would undercut that, and would make knowledge significantly easier to bottleneck. Harder to bootstrap yourself up if you don't know how to, and libraries are one of the more inexpensive routes for learning.
Thought of another exception: Library of congress/government record keeping. Public transparency and the government keeping a historical record of and for itself seems like an essential government function. So, even if one adopted an extreme anti-library stance, certain aspects would need to be preserved.

You could use that consent excuse for anything. We all consented to universal government healthcare, therefore it's libertarian?

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 06, 2018 7:22 pm UTC

In the sense of individualized consent, no, it wouldn't apply. Consent in a libertarian world means individual consent, not merely the consent of government.

Even in a libertarian government, if each individual person agrees to something, that something is not forced on them, and does not violate NAP. That's a high bar, but libraries are far closer to it than universal health care. I'm sure that simply due to the law of large numbers, there may be someone out there deeply offended that public libraries exist, but I've certainly never seen a political demonstration against the concept. Health care appears to be vastly less agreed upon.

Sure, there might be some imperfection in justice that someone is constrained to support a library that he or she hates, but without an actual example, the wrongs remain largely hypothetical. It's like the talk earlier about freedom to sell oneself into slavery. Nobody's out there protesting for that "freedom"*. If it's a freedom that nobody actually wants, does it matter?

*There may be people who wish to enslave others, but that's hardly the same motive.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Mon Aug 06, 2018 7:38 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Sure, there might be some imperfection in justice that someone is constrained to support a library that he or she hates, but without an actual example, the wrongs remain largely hypothetical. It's like the talk earlier about freedom to sell oneself into slavery. Nobody's out there protesting for that "freedom"*. If it's a freedom that nobody actually wants, does it matter?


People do sell themselves into slavery today, and it was more common in the past as well. I'd wager that some form of indentured servitude would most likely replace welfare in a pure Libertarian society.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 06, 2018 7:48 pm UTC

I have severe doubts that human trafficking has anything like a libertarian standard of consent. It seems to be an industry that exists on coercion, it's not a career path people willingly choose.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Mon Aug 06, 2018 7:56 pm UTC

It's a matter of alternatives. If you allow an environment where some people will own property and others don't, then the people who don't own property will be fully dependent on the people who do for survival, and that is a relationship that can lead to exploitation.

Without welfare, areas where people own no property will be in a situation in which the only way they can get money is by working for one of the people outside of their community. The power imbalance (100% dependency) is such that the property owners can pay less than is necessary for survival, maintaining enough unemployment that workers are afraid to make trouble, so that every penny that is paid to the workers is paid back to the property owners. Over time, some people will be so loaded with debt that they can't afford to eat, even if they work; these people will have no choice but to sell themselves into slavery.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby sardia » Mon Aug 06, 2018 8:00 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:I have severe doubts that human trafficking has anything like a libertarian standard of consent. It seems to be an industry that exists on coercion, it's not a career path people willingly choose.

What's the difference between coercion and limited choices from a lack of social safety nets? Like would a prostitute be more free or less free if healthcare was like Chinese pay first service model compared to government healthcare?

As for library vs healthcare, you're just seeking a higher margin of approval beyond 50%? 100% vote would be completely libertarian, so wouldn't a 75% or 67% super majority count?

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 06, 2018 8:49 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:It's a matter of alternatives...Over time, some people will be so loaded with debt that they can't afford to eat, even if they work; these people will have no choice but to sell themselves into slavery.


This is wildly different from it being a freedom people want. If literally nobody wants it, we don't have to really worry about how we make it work legally. It's a hypothetical scenario, rather than being a real philosophical challenge in the way that health care can be.

It also has a lot of implicit assumptions. Why should a person choose that? Why should a person prioritize repaying a debt over feeding themselves? Yeah, it's possible that a person might end up so far in debt that they can't reasonably get out. Why would they not declare bankruptcy, or choose literally any other option but selling themselves into slavery?

Human trafficking doesn't seem to rely on this hypothetical model of yours, but rather upon blunt uses of force and coercion. It's a real thing presently, but it's not caused by humans choosing to be victims, but rather by people choosing to victimize others. There's an important distinction there.

sardia wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:I have severe doubts that human trafficking has anything like a libertarian standard of consent. It seems to be an industry that exists on coercion, it's not a career path people willingly choose.

What's the difference between coercion and limited choices from a lack of social safety nets? Like would a prostitute be more free or less free if healthcare was like Chinese pay first service model compared to government healthcare?


Social safety nets reduce overall wealth and may actually further limit practical choices. Exact effects will depend on specific implementation, but the US version sort of locks people into an employer(and this was definitely true pre-Obamacare as well). So, as one effect of the current US safety net setup, some people may experience significantly less health care choice. Not changing jobs because it might threaten coverage.

A side note, China has a system that's a private/public mix. Health insurance and everything in urban areas. It's a wild mix, but your options will vary immensely depending on where you live. So if China is fair or not for health care varies wildly. I'm not sure I can give a blanket answer for their entire system compared to ours simply because both are so complex.

In any case, coercion in libertarian ideology is about a relationship between entities. Being born with a genetic disorder that increases your health care costs by some amount is unfortunate, but is not a result of coercion. Someone forcing you to pay 200% more by a threat of violence if you don't would be. Much inequity is a result of coercion, but certainly not all of it is. Libertarianism is largely focused on fixing the coercive parts.

In the US, I think we'd be better off if we decoupled insurance from working, and had much better transparency and support for the pay as you go model. Insurance will probably need to remain a thing for practical reasons, but we can greatly improve it even so. Being able to directly compare costs and select the cheaper option with ease would impose cost pressure on more areas of medical costs, and anything that pushes down our high average cost of care would probably help a great deal.

As for library vs healthcare, you're just seeking a higher margin of approval beyond 50%? 100% vote would be completely libertarian, so wouldn't a 75% or 67% super majority count?


It's one approach. 100% definitely works, provided you can get it. If everyone's happy with something, universal approval should work out well. From that approach, any sort of supermajority policy indicates more approval, and that fewer people are being coerced than they would be on a 50% basis. Probably an improvement...though a majority coercing a minority can still definitely go to bad places.

From a practical standpoint, figuring out how to offer choices for highly divisive things will probably get you more net gain than for things with wider agreement.

But yeah, health care and libraries are handled similarly on a moral basis. There's nothing immoral about sharing health care costs if all those involved agree to do so.
Last edited by Tyndmyr on Mon Aug 06, 2018 8:56 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Mon Aug 06, 2018 8:51 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Social safety nets reduce overall wealth and may actually further limit practical choices.


Citation needed. The reason we have social safety nets is because wealth inequality reduces overall wealth and reduces practical choices.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 06, 2018 9:02 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:Citation needed. The reason we have social safety nets is because wealth inequality reduces overall wealth and reduces practical choices.


For US healthcare/employment ties limiting choice: "CBS/New York Times poll, 30 percent of respondents answered "Yes" to the question, "Have you or anyone else in your household ever decided to stay in a job you wanted to leave mainly because you didn't want to lose health coverage?"
[New York Times, September 6, 1991].

's a little old, but it was the first result on Google. More are available if you want more current numbers, but 30%'s awful high. Staying in a job you'd otherwise quit because of health insurance is a concrete diminishing of consumer choice.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Mon Aug 06, 2018 9:04 pm UTC

Employer-based healthcare isn't a social safety net.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 06, 2018 9:35 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:Employer-based healthcare isn't a social safety net.


It is. It is definitely not a universal safety net, but it does distribute risk to some degree, and it is subsidized by the state via taxes.

If you'd prefer other ways that the US safety nets reduce choice, our high reliance on insurance can mean that something not being covered is effectively unavailable for most. If you've already shelled out significant money for insurance, directly or indirectly, you have comparatively less health care dollars to spend freely. Things outside your plan become less viable choices. This is less of an issue if a wide variety of insurance plans are available and you can select between them freely, but as already covered, you may have comparatively limited options. These flaws play into one another, of course.

It's also regressive, if you care about equality. Not super essential from a libertarian pov, but it's worth noting that many of these government interventions end up in a state of regulatory capture. The well-employed end up getting tax breaks for insurance, but part time workers may receive no benefit from employers at all. This makes for odd incentives.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Mon Aug 06, 2018 9:49 pm UTC

The entire reason we have that is because we wanted to extend healthcare coverage with the minimum amount of change to the existing system, and wanted to minimize government spending. The same problem existed before the ACA, but the marketplace has extended coverage to people without coupling it to employment.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 06, 2018 9:57 pm UTC

The deduction for taxation purposes outstrips the ACA in cost. This is unsurprising, as many more people have healthcare through work than through an exchange. If cost minimization or minimal intervention is the issue, that rationale has long since ceased to be viable.

The exchanges of ACA added some of that on, but they don't entirely fix the root issue. Our health insurance system is basically a series of layered on patches, each trying, and mostly failing, to fix the problems existing. Often, this merely results in shuffling problems around. The ACA gets a lot of flak for this, but it's not special in that regard.

A big factor in the ACA is that it's raised barriers to entry for the health care market such that heavy consolidation is taking place(2017 has the most hospital mergers of any year on record), which can reduce consumer choice. Now, sure, we can try layering another fix on for that as well, but the ACA didn't entirely get rid of all problems with subsidization of health insurance, and future patches probably won't fix all of the ACA. The US health insurance system is a bit of a mess altogether.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:04 pm UTC

The point is that the features you are talking about in your example are not really features of safety nets in general, and it's very specific to this one way of doing things, mainly because we didn't design the ACA as a safety net but as a way to get more people insured. Safety nets don't disappear when you lose your job.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:07 pm UTC

You get a bit of a "No True Scotsman" if you define safety nets as only ones that are actually good.

If you're not considering plans like the ACA to be safety nets, what is?

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:14 pm UTC

Literally, you are pointing to something that exists in the ACA but absolutely no social safety net to claim that social safety nets reduce choice and wealth. The ACA is so much different than any social safety net, that it's pretty dubious to call it one.

Your argument is the equivalent to arguing that cars reduce mobility by pointing out that the Ford Pinto caught fire.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:31 pm UTC

Alright, dude, the requested topic was health care, and if you consider neither taxation-free job-tied insurance nor the ACA to be a safety net, what would you consider to qualify? Medicare? Medicaid? VA-provided health care services to veterans?

Medicare: Large enough to influence health care costs via price fixing. Can have perverse incentives(Spinal Fusion is the specific example that got floated around a fair bit). Can pay wildly different amounts for similar drugs.

Medicaid: See above.

VA-Health care: Giant clusterfuck of incompetence where vets die on the waiting list.

If none of the above count as safety nets, please provide a definition. In any case, you'll note that I said safety nets can decrease choice. Not all safety nets are created equally, and the US's system does not appear to be optimal.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:35 pm UTC

Your claim was that they reduce choice and overall wealth.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:47 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:Your claim was that they reduce choice and overall wealth.


Reduce wealth, yes. Reduce choice is a maybe. Safety nets are costly, so the wealth thing is pretty obvious, though the US's system is particularly expensive. Choice will vary depending on implementation. As our system is currently implemented, sure, choice suffers. You're welcome to defend the US health care system as not wasting wealth/limiting choice, if you like, but it's an uphill fight.

One could design a thoroughly non-libertarian safety net that was probably better than our current mish-mash, though. Most of these downsides are not actually necessary, they're just cruft. Even among potential safety net designs, they seem obviously suboptimal. I think it's entirely possible that someone could design a health care safety net with a similar amount of choice to the free market, just with some overhead costs. The US isn't there yet, but it's important to consider systems outside what we have right now.

Libertarianism doesn't have anything against safety nets so long as people have a way to opt out. If you have a collective that shares hospital bills equally, that's fine. Just so long as nobody else is required to pay the bill for you. This is a common trait to many such ideas, unfortunately, but so long as you preserve consumer choice, all kinds of options are fine.

Emergency services end up getting handled a little differently than everything else. In that case, it's harder to shop around for practical reasons, so you unfortunately end up requiring some degree of oversight as a practical matter.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby elasto » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:52 pm UTC

I could be wrong, but I always visualised a safety net as just like what it alludes to: something to catch the falling no matter how badly they screwed up; a line below which no citizen can sink.

In terms of healthcare, it would be the UK NHS: No, it's not perfect - it has waiting lists and doesn't prescribe cutting edge drugs until they represent value for money - but anyone at any time can get treatment for free.

In terms of the elderly, it would be the state pension: No matter how badly you screwed up your finances and your life, there is a minimum income below which you cannot drop, lowly though it may be.

It's like the state says 'there is a minimum quality of life below which we refuse to let your life sink'.

There would be many other examples I could name, but the key features to me would be that they are funded through general taxation and are universally available to all citizens, rich or poor.

So, to me, something like insurance - whether health insurance or car insurance - neither counts as a safety net nor serves that purpose, as they wouldn't be funded through general taxation and hence would not be universal: they would only be available to those who paid in or otherwise qualified for them.

The key value of social safety nets is the peace of mind they afford: "No matter what happens to me - if I lose my job, get sick, get divorced, lose my house etc. etc. I know I can still rely on X, Y and Z..."

As such, personally I'd have safety nets everywhere from housing to legal aid. Yes, they would be costly, but in terms of peace of mind per dollar spent, they'd be the best value for money in the world...

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Thesh » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:55 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Thesh wrote:Your claim was that they reduce choice and overall wealth.


Reduce wealth, yes. Reduce choice is a maybe. Safety nets are costly, so the wealth thing is pretty obvious, though the US's system is particularly expensive.


No, it's not obvious. If the government doesn't pay for it, you either don't get it at all, or you pay for it yourself. In neither case does that mean we are wealthier. The US healthcare system is the least like a safety net, and it is one of the most expensive to administer; we have more per capita government spending on healthcare than most countries with universal coverage, and the highest out of pocket to go along with it.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby elasto » Mon Aug 06, 2018 11:18 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:No, it's not obvious. If the government doesn't pay for it, you either don't get it at all, or you pay for it yourself. In neither case does that mean we are wealthier.

I think the theory is that the market is highly efficient, and that if the market isn't providing some service, it's because that service isn't optimal for growth.

Therefore, so the theory goes, taxing the wealthy in order to fund that service is taking money that would have been invested in something 'efficient' (like a better widget making factory) and instead investing it in something 'inefficient' (like palliative care for disabled kids).

And that's where the battle-lines are drawn really: Are there forms of growth other than simple raw economic growth that societies should be concerned with? "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" and all that.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby ucim » Tue Aug 07, 2018 1:02 am UTC

Thesh wrote:People do sell themselves into slavery today...
Let's just be clear on the meaning of the word "slavery". Do you mean it in the sense of actual slaves, such as the ones that were stolen from Africa to work the plantations in the (US) South prior to the Civil War? The ones that were legally treated as property - as chattel like a stove or a horse?

Or do you mean the word as an emotionally loaded metaphor for having to work for money because with no money they could not buy food, because food isn't free?

Working for a living is not slavery (despite the amusing references to it as such in popular culture).

I do understand that low end labor (Walmart employees, fast food employees, day laborers) is easy to exploit, and that this leads to bad outcomes if such employers are not held to some account (though I don't agree with your solution). But if you are calling such folk "slaves" it's important that we all be on the same page about it.

Otherwise, we'll just talk past each other.

Tyndmyr wrote:Even in a libertarian government, if each individual person agrees to something, that something is not forced on them, and does not violate NAP.
But what if only "most" or "lots of" people agree - what is the libertarian argument that the rest of the people must go along with it? Because without such an argument, you have (one of the flavors of) anarchy. And with it, you undermine to some extent the ideals of libertarianism. Specifically I'm thinking of having to pay taxes to support {thing I didn't contract for}, but the question is general.

Tyndmyr wrote:So, as one effect of the current US safety net setup, some people may experience significantly less health care choice. Not changing jobs because it might threaten coverage. [...] In the US, I think we'd be better off if we decoupled insurance from [employment],...
This is a known issue; Obama addressed it by making health care portable. It's actually paid for by individuals - a (tax-advantaged) benefit in lieu of salary (or welfare payments). It's not a total fix; you can't get there from here in one swell foop.

Insurance, as a concept, is self contradictory. It exists because of ignorance (of the future), and this incentivizes clients and insurers to acquire knowledge to be used against the other. Here insurers clearly have the advangage. But the more knowledge that exists, the less that insurance makes sense, because knowledge is a way to make sure that those who would benefit from insurance, don't.

This is the fundamental issue with health care, but it shows up in anything that is insurable. And addressing this is the fundamental reason for the (health insurance) mandate. Insurance is a contract which requires ignorance in order to make sense. Asymmetric knowledge, especially unaccessible asymmetric knowledge, is a problem, usually for the consumer.

Has libertarianism given this concept any deep thought? Because it's a trap.

Tyndmyr wrote:Much inequity is a result of coercion, but certainly not all of it is. Libertarianism is largely focused on fixing the coercive parts.
Much inequity is also mitigated by coercion; libertarianism (it seems to me) would fight that.

Tyndmyr wrote:In any case, you'll note that I said safety nets can decrease choice.
That's not a bug. It's an acceptable (or not) tradeoff for the benefit of preventing people from losing everything. That is what a safety net is for.

Tyndmyr wrote:Libertarianism doesn't have anything against safety nets so long as people have a way to opt out.
Libertarians may well ask "Would you like a safety net? Sign here.", but that's kind of disingenouous: People who aren't at risk of falling don't need one. Perhaps if they were asked: "You are going to become somebody else - at random. Would you like that new person that you might (or might not) become to have a safety net? Sign here." I bet you'd get a different response.

One elicits the "I've got mine" response, the other elicits a response that is more oriented towards the kind of society they'd like to live in.

That's what's missing in libertarian thinking.

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