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Libertarians are we Conservative or Liberal?

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posted on Nov, 5 2005 @ 03:13 PM
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Well...

The first problem is that the definitions of "liberal" and "conservative" have become skewed in the modern American political lexicon. Liberal has come to be synonymous with Democrat and conservative with Republican. Traditionally, the two terms don't really describe a particular set of beliefs, but an approach to politics in general. Traditionally, "liberal" denotes one who supports and accepts change, who is open-minded and who believes in maximum freedom from constraint, while "conservative" denotes one who opposes change and supports the status quo and who is relatively closed-minded and believes in state control over individual actions.

In that sense, Libertarians are clearly liberal. Ironically, also by the traditional definition, modern Democrats are conservative, since they have bent their energies toward maintaining the status quo (Social Security and Affirmative Action are two quick examples) and adamantly oppose any change. But that's a separate point.

In a specifically American context, Libertarians are neither particularly "liberal" nor "conservative," since BOTH parties have come to support and promote maximizing governmental interference in private lives, with the only point of contention being specifically which parts of our lives the government should control.

All attempts by those of both parties to fit libertarians into some sort of pre-existing box are simply for the purpose of marginalizing our opinions, since we pose the greatest threat there currently is to their joint hegemony. Each of the two branches of the one official American political party exist to grant their patrons control over the country, and each lies to their followers and claims that they support "freedom" in whichever guise they define it. The truth is that neither truly supports freedom in any form, and the last thing they want if for too many people to figure that out. Libertarians stand in such marked contrast to both parties that, if our message is accurately and broadly conveyed to the people, too many people will not only come to realize the threat to their freedom that is posed by BOTH parties, but will come to see that the libertarians offer a legitimate alternative. That cannot be allowed.




posted on Nov, 5 2005 @ 07:35 PM
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Some very fine and intelligent comments on this thread so far. However, I thought I would add in my tuppence worth.

I agree with those who have commented on the fluid interpretation of such terms as 'conservative' and 'liberal'.

In the 19th century, the UK was dominated by two parties - the Whigs (Liberals) and the Tories (Conservatives). While Liberal in the UK has meant socially progressive it also meant economically liberal in the sense of few restrictions and restrictions on free trade/laissez faire economics etc. In contrast, the Conservatives were a little more protectionist and more prepared to intervene in the economy (at least in terms of taxation for increased military activity), while being reluctant to upset the status quo.

To my mind, the modern interpretations of 'conservative' has been utterly perverted by the Republican party. It is not conservative - it follows quite a radical agenda. It is not unusual for the main right wing party to veer away from traditional conservatism (look at Margaret Thatcher's monetarist policies in the UK during the 80s) but I do object when a political philosophy is regarded as 'conservative' when it is quite blatently not.

Moreover, what is it to be 'liberal'? There are an awful lot of similarities with libertarians - belief in the rights of the individual for instance. However, while modern day liberalism takes its cue not just in securing the rights of minorities etc, it generally advocates more government intervention and a bigger welfare state etc.

However, libertarianism is a peculiarly American philosophy. It probably has much to do with the origins of the US as a pretty radically individualistic nation, born out of a suspicion of government (ie. the UK where many of the early settlers fled from).

Libertarianism transcends the bipolar left-right party structure in the US. They are a far more radical group than either - not least as the libertarians one unifying belief - a suspicion in government - runs contrary to both Republican and Democrats who both believe in a strong government with extensive state powers and control.

However, a sense of libertarianism does run deep in mainstream American politics; much of the constitution is libertarian in nature and the right to gun ownership; free speech etc reflects this. Of anything, libertarians are the true inheritors of Adam Smith - they are not merely laissez faire economists but they are laissez faire politically too: people should be allowed to life their lives without government intervention.

In this sense, the notion of a political compass that stretches in four directions - left, right, authoritarian and libertarian gives a much better conceptualisation of the differences between political parties. Indeed, if one looks at it in this way, the reason why it is so difficult to determine whether libertarianism is left or right wing is that it does not fall into either category easily - it is a political doctrine all of its own.

up.www.politicalcompass.org gives an excellent visual chart of how this would work.



posted on Nov, 11 2005 @ 09:28 AM
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Originally posted by kedfr

However, a sense of libertarianism does run deep in mainstream American politics; much of the constitution is libertarian in nature and the right to gun ownership; free speech etc reflects this. Of anything, libertarians are the true inheritors of Adam Smith - they are not merely laissez faire economists but they are laissez faire politically too: people should be allowed to life their lives without government intervention.



What were the founder's? They weren't a party, they were independent statemen? some of them ran for president what were they then? still independant? i would like that to be modern day america... no parties, but choose men on their set of beliefs... one that preferrably holds strong to the constitution.. afterall that is what makes america the greatest country on earth. if we can't preserve those laws, we're just like any other wavering 'democracy'. and sadly america is losing to the authoratative politicans in washington who want more of a centralized power, and more control over the people.



posted on Nov, 13 2005 @ 12:33 AM
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Originally posted by TrueLies
How beautifully said... Like a nice romantic novel right before bed... (not that i read any lol, but hopefully you get my point)


A nice romantic novel? Is that a compliment? Well if it is, thanks TL, nicest thing anyone has said to me on these boards since DonG got the boot (DonG was sweet on me
)

This is kind of late, been scootin around our great nation for awhile, playin ATS catch-up now.


My new philosophy on Libertarians: we simply have a problem with authority. There, I said it, the cat is out of the bag. We just don't want to listen to anyone; we want to do our own thing. Nothing wrong with that IMO. Having a problem with authority is a defining characteristic of American personality, has been since day one. Tell an American what to do? Preposterous!


If you hate authority, you too can become Libertarian!



posted on Nov, 20 2005 @ 04:38 AM
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To me its, you either democrat or republican. There is no inbetween. Liberals are conservatives. Conserivatives are Liberals. Liberal people should become democrats and conservatives should become republicans. Not that hard.



posted on Nov, 20 2005 @ 06:43 AM
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Originally posted by Conspiracy Theorist06
To me its, you either democrat or republican. There is no inbetween. Liberals are conservatives. Conserivatives are Liberals. Liberal people should become democrats and conservatives should become republicans. Not that hard.


Well there, partner, looks like ignorance just took a big ugly dump on your head!


So then, you answer the question. What are we? If there is no in-between, then are Libertarians conservative or liberal?

Note: In order to provide an answer to the question, you may have actually find out what a libertarian is!
Happy hunting.



posted on Nov, 20 2005 @ 10:58 PM
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Liberals are too wishy-washy. They need to be straight to the point not just "maybe I will vote for him, maybe I will vote for her."Same thing goes for the conservatives.

I will remain neutral on which party I am for until I see fit



posted on Nov, 21 2005 @ 02:55 AM
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Conspiracy Theorist06


I kinda liked this topic, and its good that you keep bumping it, but, dude, do you know what a Libertarian is? Not a liberal, aLibertarian.

Here.
www.lp.org...



posted on Nov, 24 2005 @ 03:00 AM
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Good link cavscout. Here is something from that site that might help

Are Libertarians Conservative or Liberal


Libertarians are neither. Unlike liberals or conservatives, Libertarians advocate a high degree of both personal and economic liberty. For example, Libertarians agree with conservatives about freedom in economic matters, so we're in favor of lowering taxes, slashing bureaucratic regulation of business, and charitable -- rather than government -- welfare. But Libertarians also agree with liberals on personal tolerance, so we're in favor of people’s right to choose their own personal habits and lifestyles.

In a sense, Libertarians “borrow” from both sides to come up with a logical and consistent whole -- but without the exceptions and broken promises of Republican and Democratic politicians. That's why we call ourselves the Party of Principle.





posted on Dec, 23 2005 @ 09:40 AM
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Libertarians are neither liberals nor conservatives. They are what might be called "weak anarchists." By this I mean that their basic values are those of anarchists (government is bad), but they're not willing to go as far as real anarchists and abolish the whole danged thing.

They're also generally not willing to acknowledge being anarchists (even weak ones), and so come up with theories like that "initiation of force" nonsense. A lot of libertarians say they're against initiation of force, but it's not true, because libertarians do believe in enforcement of property rights, and that involves the initiation of force. Unless and until somebody -- either the property "owner" himself or the government on his behalf -- initiates a threat of force against anyone except the "owner" trying to use or walk off with "his" stuff, no property exists.

I guess libertarians convince themselves that natural resources and other people's work come fully equipped with title deeds or something. Actually, I've never been able to figure out why they believe this, except wishful thinking.

The agreement in part between libertarians and both liberals and conservatives comes about because both of the latter groups want restraints on government in some areas. Liberals want government restrained where it might directly interfere with the rights of the people. Conservatives want government restrained where it might interfere with the privileges of the wealthy, especially their personal power to make others obey their will. Libertarians want both of these, and deceive themselves that personal power doesn't exist and the government is the only threat to liberty, thus pat themselves on the back that they're the only real friends of liberty 'cause they're the only ones that want government cut back across the board.

Anyway, the OP is right.



posted on Dec, 23 2005 @ 09:06 PM
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Originally posted by Two Steps Forward
Libertarians are neither liberals nor conservatives.


Correct so far...



They are what might be called "weak anarchists."


"Minarchist" is the proper term.



By this I mean that their basic values are those of anarchists (government is bad)


Your first misconception. Libertarians don't believe that "government is bad." They believe that the process of government is the wielding of power, and that it therefore attracts the interest of people with an unhealthy regard for power. Therefore, libertarians believe that government should be kept as small and powerless as possible, so as to head off potential abuse.



...but they're not willing to go as far as real anarchists and abolish the whole danged thing.


Of course not-- government does serve a few necessary and useful functions that cannot be served by individuals or other organizations.



They're also generally not willing to acknowledge being anarchists (even weak ones)


Because we're not. Misconception number two.



...and so come up with theories like that "initiation of force" nonsense. A lot of libertarians say they're against initiation of force, but it's not true, because libertarians do believe in enforcement of property rights, and that involves the initiation of force. Unless and until somebody -- either the property "owner" himself or the government on his behalf -- initiates a threat of force against anyone except the "owner" trying to use or walk off with "his" stuff, no property exists.



Misconception number three. The person who tries "to use or walk off with "his" stuff" has initiated force. That person is attempting to exert his/her will and to subvert the will of the property owner. Any response to that initiation of force is simply a response.



I guess libertarians convince themselves that natural resources and other people's work come fully equipped with title deeds or something.


Misconception number four. Natural resources can potentially have title deeds issued for them, and that's the manner in which they're often controlled already. The thing that libertarians oppose is the government holding title to natural resources, nominally in the name of the "public," but in reality in order to control access and to grant that access to those who bribe them most successfully.
As for "other people's labor," (misconception number six) libertarianism doesn't even concern itself with such a concept. ALL labor belongs exclusively to the person doing that labor, and is theirs to grant as, when and under whatever terms they might decide. It's only authoritarians who concern themselves with "other people's labor." For instance, all leftist wealth redistribution schemes are based on the offensive notion that they are entitled to some portion of "other people's labor." To a libertarian, "other people's labor" is as politically insignificant as "other people's bowel movements." It's theirs-- not yours.



Actually, I've never been able to figure out why they believe this, except wishful thinking.


It must be doubly hard to figure out why somebody believes something when they don't in fact believe it.



The agreement in part between libertarians and both liberals and conservatives comes about because both of the latter groups want restraints on government in some areas.


Actually-- libertarians want restraints on government in ALL areas-- it's only left- and right-wingers that want restraints on only some areas.



Liberals want government restrained where it might directly interfere with the rights of the people. Conservatives want government restrained where it might interfere with the privileges of the wealthy, especially their personal power to make others obey their will.


Your partisan blindness is absolutely astounding. Leftists, who every day become less and less "liberal," in the classical sense, have no problem at all with the government interfering with the rights of the people, so long as they're not rights that they value. They also place an inordinate value on the "power to make others obey their will." Anyone who doubts that need only try smoking a cigarette pretty much anywhere, even on so-called "private" property. Leftists have used the "power to make others obey their will" to decree that neither my customers nor I can smoke inside of a business THAT I OWN in a building THAT I OWN. That's but one simple and painfully obvious example of leftists using the "power to make others obey their will."
The fact is that Democrats and Republicans are both authoritarians. Both parties, and their followers, support the use of "power to make others obey their will." The only thing that really separates the two is exactly which issues they believe are legitimate uses of that power.



Libertarians want both of these, and deceive themselves that personal power doesn't exist...


Misconception number.... I've lost track. Libertarians not only KNOW that personal power exists-- libertarianism is predicated on its existence. We know that the only thing that can effectively counter personal power is opposing personal power.



...and the government is the only threat to liberty,


Misconception number whatever. Government, in and of itself, is not a threat to liberty. People who misuse the power of government are the threat. To go back to the personal power thing-- libertarians recognize that personal power exists-- our goal is to limit personal power to truly personal power by eliminating the current opportunity that power-hungry people have to bend the power of government to their will and to effectively add its power to their own. To use smoking as an example-- if my customers don't want to have anyone smoke in my business, then it's in my best interest to ban smoking. If my customers DO want to be able to smoke in my business, then it's in my best interest to allow them to do so. However, authoritarians aren't content with that simple expression of the personal power of my customers, and instead interfere in the process in order to express THEIR personal power, overriding the personal power of the only people who really matter in the issue-- my customers. They are USING the power of government in order to "make people obey their will." Government is part of the problem, since it's the power of government that's being misused, but it's being misused by self-involved authoritarians, so at heart they are the real problem. But libertarians recognize that we can't get rid of petty tyrants, so we advocate limiting the power of government SPECIFICALLY so that they will ONLY have their own personal power at their disposal, and will not be able to assume power that is not really theirs.



...thus pat themselves on the back that they're the only real friends of liberty 'cause they're the only ones that want government cut back across the board.


At least you got that one partly right-- libertarians are not the "only" real friends of liberty, but at least we are friends to it, as opposed to the authoritarians of both the Democratic and Republican parties, who are clearly enemies of liberty.



posted on Dec, 23 2005 @ 10:19 PM
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Originally posted by Bob LaoTse"Minarchist" is the proper term.


Easier to write and say than "weak anarchist," thus better, as long as we understand the meaning is the same.



Libertarians don't believe that "government is bad." They . . . believe that government should be kept as small and powerless as possible, so as to head off potential abuse.


Which means they believe that government is bad. But also that it serves unavoidable functions. The term is "necessary evil." Strong anarchists would disagree only that it is necessary.



The person who tries "to use or walk off with "his" stuff" has initiated force.


No. The first use of force -- and thus the initiation of force -- lies in the defining of the stuff as property. It isn't "his" stuff until this is done. That's what libertarians don't understand, by and large.



That person is attempting to exert his/her will and to subvert the will of the property owner. Any response to that initiation of force is simply a response.


If he's a property owner, then the first use of force has been made. Until it is, nobody owns anything.

You misunderstood what I was saying about natural title deeds. I meant that there is no property in nature; property is an artifice of civilization, created by force and maintained by force. The only alternative to this is to assert "natural" ownership, and there ain't no such animal.



As for "other people's labor," (misconception number six) libertarianism doesn't even concern itself with such a concept.


That's exactly what I meant. It doesn't, and it should.



ALL labor belongs exclusively to the person doing that labor, and is theirs to grant as, when and under whatever terms they might decide.


Nice theory. If everyone had the access to capital property that would allow them to support themselves through their own labor without serving someone else's profits, it would even be true, i.e. all contracting to work at a job would be genuinely voluntary. Since that's not the case, it's false.



Leftists, who every day become less and less "liberal," in the classical sense, have no problem at all with the government interfering with the rights of the people, so long as they're not rights that they value.


Rights: freedoms enjoyed equally by everyone.

Privileges: freedoms enjoyed only by a few, e.g. those who can afford them.

Do not confuse the two, please. When the government interferes with privilege, that is not infringing on anybody's rights; actually, it's protecting them.



Libertarians not only KNOW that personal power exists-- libertarianism is predicated on its existence.


No, libertarianism is predicated on the existence of political power, not personal power. Political power is the ability to influence law and government policy. Its archetype is the king or dictator. Personal power is the ability of one individual to coerce another individual to serve one's own interests. Its archetype is the slave owner.

Libertarians (rightly) see political power as a potential danger to liberty. They apparently, and wrongly, see it as the only such danger, and tend to see restraints by the state on personal power as an infringement on liberty, rather than the protection of liberty that they are.



Government, in and of itself, is not a threat to liberty. People who misuse the power of government are the threat.


The key word in the passage to which this is a reply is "only." If you wish to add a "potential" in there -- so that the passage becomes "libertarians believe that the only potential threat to liberty comes from government" -- that's fine.



To go back to the personal power thing-- libertarians recognize that personal power exists-- our goal is to limit personal power to truly personal power by eliminating the current opportunity that power-hungry people have to bend the power of government to their will and to effectively add its power to their own.


If you believe that that, by itself, would suffice to restrain personal power, then you believe, as I said above, that political power is the only potential threat to liberty. Because what you've described here is political power -- in service to personal power, but political power nonetheless, in that it consists of influence over the state.



posted on Dec, 23 2005 @ 11:12 PM
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I'm going to elaborate on something I posted earlier. This is really the key fallacy, where libertarian theory falls down, and the reason the libertarian program (overall) will not work, and why libertarians can't win elections.



If everyone had the access to capital property that would allow them to support themselves through their own labor without serving someone else's profits, it would even be true, i.e. all contracting to work at a job would be genuinely voluntary. Since that's not the case, it's false.


What does "voluntary" really mean? It means that the person is making a free choice between two or more acceptable options, on the basis of personal preference or marginal superiority. It does not mean merely the exercise of free will, nor the absence of overt, blatant coercion in the form of what a behavioral psychologist would call "negative reinforcement."

Slaves were coerced through negative reinforcement. They were threatened with beatings if they didn't work or tried to run away. This did not remove their free will, however. A slave had the theoretical ability to make a free choice, to refuse to work and endure the punishment. That most did not make this choice is because enduring the punishment was not an acceptable alternative. They had only one acceptable alternative -- to work -- and so their choice, although free-willed, was not genuinely free.

Today, we control labor through positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement (mostly). However, that does not mean the choice of the worker is free. When a psychologist does an experiment on a laboratory rat, following Dr. Skinner's advice he shapes the rat's behavior through reward, not punishment. But in order for the reward (a food pellet) to work as a reward, he first starves the rat, and then makes sure the rat has no access on its own to the food supply. That's how it works in the commercial economy as well. A worker has some choice; he can choose to work for employer A instead of employer B, or, if he's lucky enough to be able to afford college, study subject C instead of subject D. But he doesn't, in most case, have the option to strike out on his own, start his own business, and serve only his own profits rather than someone else's. There is only room in the market for a relatively few such businesses, and so only a small percentage of workers will have the necessary access to capital. For most, therefore, the decision to work is not truly voluntary.

I can illustrate this principle through the example of land and farming. That's easy to visualize, and the principle holds true across the board.

To make a go as a farmer, one needs more than a willingness to work hard, although that's certainly necessary. One also needs some land to farm. The amount of arable land in existence is finite. Any land that I own, you do not. If a country has ten thousand acres of arable farmland, and a titled nobility owns nine thousand of those acres, and it requires a minimum of a hundred acres to make a go as a smallhold farmer, then the country can support only ten smallhold farmers. Every smallhold farmer, if he chooses to sell some of his free time to work for someone else, is doing that voluntarily. He doesn't have to; his alternative -- to laze once the chores on his own farm are done -- is perfectly acceptable. He's only doing it because he sees some gain that he would like to have.

But every person who is not able to get hold of those hundred acres has to work as a peasant on some noble's vast estate. His alternative -- starvation for himself and his family -- is not acceptable, and therefore his choice is not free.

We live in a commercial analogue of that situation. Instead of land, think capital. The vast majority of capital is controlled by a very few privileged and amazingly wealthy individuals and families. There is enough left over for a few people to start small businesses (the commercial equivalent of the smallhold farmer). If you own a successful small business, and you choose to do contract labor for someone else in your (ha!) spare time, that choice is voluntary, because you don't have to do it. The same is true if you are comfortably retired, or in some other way can support yourself without hiring your labor out. But for everyone else, there is no choice about it, because the alternative is not acceptable. In the vast majority of cases, the employer-employee relationship is one of coercion, not free agreement. Nor is it the state that causes this to be true -- or anyway, not any aspect of the state that libertarians would want to restrain. It comes from something truly basic: property rights and contract law. And its only cure lies in directly or indirectly (say through manipulating factors so as to push wages up dramatically) redistributing wealth.

So long as libertarians persist in regarding all hired labor as truly voluntary, their program will remain unrealistic and unelectable. That will remain true, even if and when people come to their senses about our drug laws.

(Of course, until they do, libertarians will be unelectable anyway, so perhaps it doesn't matter.)



posted on Dec, 24 2005 @ 12:08 AM
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Originally posted by Two Steps Forward



Libertarians don't believe that "government is bad." They . . . believe that government should be kept as small and powerless as possible, so as to head off potential abuse.


Which means they believe that government is bad. But also that it serves unavoidable functions. The term is "necessary evil."


"Government" is nothing more than a tool, and as such can neither be good nor bad. It is only the people who make up the government, the people who seek to use the resources of the government and the people who seek to control the nature and direction of the government that can be "bad" or "good."





The person who tries "to use or walk off with "his" stuff" has initiated force.


No. The first use of force -- and thus the initiation of force -- lies in the defining of the stuff as property. It isn't "his" stuff until this is done.

...there is no property in nature; property is an artifice of civilization, created by force and maintained by force.


While I understand the abstract notion that you're trying to convey here, it has little to do with "initiation of force" as the term is used by libertarians. Yes, there's no such thing as "private property" in nature-- it's an agreed-upon legal and societal construct that humans have found to be useful for the day-to-day business of living their lives. Under that construct, if I agree to an exchange of my labor for a particular piece of property (or the money with which to buy a particular piece of property), then that property is mine. I've earned it through my labor. There is no "initiation of force" in the simple assertion that the property that I have rightfully gained through my labor is mine. I have not taken it from anyone by force or the threat of force-- I have agreed to an exchange for it, and have completed my portion of that exchange. There is no force involved-- the entire exchange is voluntary. If, however, after that exchange has been made, some outside agency, most often a government working on behalf of some person or people who were NOT in any way involved in or affected by the exchange, comes in and demands some share of the property or the monetary value of that exchange, they do so through the initiation of force, or at least the threat of force.





As for "other people's labor," (misconception number six) libertarianism doesn't even concern itself with such a concept.


That's exactly what I meant. It doesn't, and it should.


Why? As I said, other people's labor is no more significant, politically, than other people's bowel movements. It's theirs-- entirely and completely. What possible interest should ANYBODY have in other people's labor?




ALL labor belongs exclusively to the person doing that labor, and is theirs to grant as, when and under whatever terms they might decide.


Nice theory. If everyone had the access to capital property that would allow them to support themselves through their own labor without serving someone else's profits, it would even be true, i.e. all contracting to work at a job would be genuinely voluntary. Since that's not the case, it's false.


I'm not sure which country you live in, but in most of the world, all contracting to work at a job is genuinely voluntary. When I'm looking for a job, I apply, people interview me and they might or might not offer me a job. If they do, I find out what the hours will be, how much work there'll be, what the job entails and what it pays, then I DECIDE to either accept the job or not. It's an entirely voluntary process-- an employer offers to pay me a certain amount of money for a particular job, and I VOLUNTARILY either accept or decline that offer.





Leftists, who every day become less and less "liberal," in the classical sense, have no problem at all with the government interfering with the rights of the people, so long as they're not rights that they value.


Rights: freedoms enjoyed equally by everyone.

Privileges: freedoms enjoyed only by a few, e.g. those who can afford them.

Do not confuse the two, please. When the government interferes with privilege, that is not infringing on anybody's rights; actually, it's protecting them.


I was in no way confused. Leftist authoritarians have no problem at all with the government interfering with the RIGHTS of the people, so long as they're not rights that they value. In that they're no different from right-wing authoritarians. That was the entire point. Your assertion that leftists support the rights of all people while right-wingers do not demonstrated nothing more than your partisan blindness. The simple and obvious truth is that authoritarianism is entirely bipartisan, with only the focus of that authoritarianism changing.





Libertarians not only KNOW that personal power exists-- libertarianism is predicated on its existence.


No, libertarianism is predicated on the existence of political power, not personal power. Political power is the ability to influence law and government policy.


No-- political power IS law and government policy. The ability to influence law and government policy is personal power. The sheer volume of laws and policies that a government enacts is, in itself, an expression of that government's power. More laws = more power. The specific nature of those laws and policies is decided by people exercising their personal power. The entire focus of libertarianism is to eliminate the vast majority of those laws and policies so that mendacious and power-drunk sociopaths won't have access to all of that power.



Libertarians (rightly) see political power as a potential danger to liberty. They apparently, and wrongly, see it as the only such danger, and tend to see restraints by the state on personal power as an infringement on liberty, rather than the protection of liberty that they are.


You're laboring under a misconception here that is at the heart of virtually all well-intentioned and misguided support of the abuse of the power of government. Most of us have been indoctrinated into believing that those who control the government use its powers to protect us from this or that abuse, and most of us believe that exactly half of the time, depending on which party is doing the talking. But the truth is that those who control the government use its powers explicitly to benefit themselves, their patrons, their supporters and their cronies.

The invasion of Iraq and ousting of Saddam Hussein has been billed as a move to "protect our liberties." Do you believe it to be so? If not-- if you see that it was done to further the self-interest of a relatively small group of people with access to entirely too much political power, then why would you believe that other policies enacted by the same types of people ARE done to "protect our liberties?"

The fact is that without the power of the government to add to their own, there's just not that much power available to individuals. Without the power of government that is available to him, George Bush would be just another reformed alcoholic failed businessman heir, piddling away his middle age on a golf course somewhere. It's ONLY because of the power inherent in the government-- power to which he has gained access, that he can impose his will on the rest of the world in order to further the interests of a few people. There is no greater "infringement of liberty" than that.

Again, government is only a tool. It is a tool that mendacious sociopaths desire to use to fulfill their own self-interest. In that sense, the threat is the power-mongers themselves, and not the government. However, since the power-mongers will be with us at least until such time as megalomania is treated with the same sort of distaste as, say, necrophilia, the only option available to curb the excesses of the power-mongers is to make the tool of government as weak and ineffective as possible.




Government, in and of itself, is not a threat to liberty. People who misuse the power of government are the threat.


The key word in the passage to which this is a reply is "only." If you wish to add a "potential" in there -- so that the passage becomes "libertarians believe that the only potential threat to liberty comes from government" -- that's fine.



You're right-- the key word is "only." Libertarians DON'T believe that the ONLY threat, potential or otherwise, to liberty comes from government. We believe that the threat comes directly from individuals, and that government is simply the tool that they use to impose their will on others. That's why libertarians advocate retaining a government, but making it as small and powerless as possible-- it's not because government itself is the threat, but because the threat that individuals pose is entirely dependant on how much power they have available to them.




To go back to the personal power thing-- libertarians recognize that personal power exists-- our goal is to limit personal power to truly personal power by eliminating the current opportunity that power-hungry people have to bend the power of government to their will and to effectively add its power to their own.


If you believe that that, by itself, would suffice to restrain personal power, then you believe, as I said above, that political power is the only potential threat to liberty. Because what you've described here is political power -- in service to personal power, but political power nonetheless, in that it consists of influence over the state.



You contradict yourself-- "influence over the state" is obviously PERSONAL power. The only "political power" is the amount of power that the state itself holds-- any expression of influence over the directions in which that power will be applied is an expression of personal power. That personal power CANNOT be controlled or limited-- people, as individuals, gain and hold and use power, and the amount of power that different people have varies just as their height or their weight or their eye color varies-- that's just the breaks of the game. But when the state is empowered nominally to limit the power of individuals and to address the disparity in personal power, the result is ALWAYS that people with personal power use that power to "influence" the state in order to further their own interests, and thereby end up with far more power at their disposal than they ever would've had as individuals.

Again, and hopefully for the last time-- government is a tool. People exert their personal power to influence the direction of government, and they do so almost exclusively for their own self-interest. That seems to be the point that you're missing. I can't be sure why it's so important to you to attempt to prove that libertarians are concerned only with political power, but it appears to be that you're under the misconception that political power can somehow counter personal power, and, apparently, that it could be used legitimately to counter only those who abuse their personal power. Of course, the truth is that those who are most likely to abuse their power are exactly the ones who will make the most concerted, and ultimately successful, attempts to manipulate political power for their own gain, so any attempt to expand the power of government to nominally protect us from them is doomed to failure, since that additional power will come under their control.

You cannot use government to limit the abuses of the people who own the government, and any attempt to do so simply grants the government more power with which those people can abuse us.



posted on Dec, 24 2005 @ 01:21 AM
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Originally posted by Bob LaoTse"Government" is nothing more than a tool, and as such can neither be good nor bad.


Bob, you're playing semantics games here, and "bad" can have a number of meanings. Only in the sense of "morally wrong" can the word not be applied to a tool. I believe my computer has a "bad" power source. I don't think it's morally corrupt, but the noise it makes while it's running does worry me some. Yet my power source is a tool, wouldn't you agree?

The fact is, you regard government as something that should be reduced as far as can safely be done. Your opinion seems to be that, no matter what safeguards we place on it, it WILL be abused by the people who hold its offices, and so the only way to go is to weaken the beast so as to minimize the damage. That is the very definition of a necessary evil: something that you would do away with entirely if you could, but you acknowledge that this isn't practical.



There is no "initiation of force" in the simple assertion that the property that I have rightfully gained through my labor is mine.


It's not that simple. The initial force actually lies further back down the line. It's so ingrained into our society that we don't see it, just as a fish doesn't see the water. But in the background of all such transactions is an assertion of force that allows property to exist in the first place.

What does it mean when you say "this is mine"? It means that you are asserting an exclusive privilege of use, and, either directly by yourself, or by proxy through the state, threatening the use of force to deter anyone else from using it without your permission. The fact that your basis for asserting ownership seems reasonable to you, or even that it seems reasonable to others, doesn't change the ultimately forcible nature of the assertion itself. And because of that ultimately forcible nature, whether the basis for your assertion is reasonable or unreasonable really has no bearing on whether or not the property is yours. The only thing that has a bearing is whether or not it is legally yours -- i.e., whether or not the force of the state will support your ownership.



I have not taken it from anyone by force or the threat of force


Of course not. Property is created by the threat of force. If it "belonged" to anyone else so that "taking it from them" becomes even a possibility, then the initial force has already been applied. It is already property.



I'm not sure which country you live in, but in most of the world, all contracting to work at a job is genuinely voluntary. When I'm looking for a job, I apply, people interview me and they might or might not offer me a job. If they do, I find out what the hours will be, how much work there'll be, what the job entails and what it pays, then I DECIDE to either accept the job or not. It's an entirely voluntary process


That's only true if you don't need a job, and/or have other jobs offered. See my post above. "Voluntary" decisions can only be made when they are between acceptable alternatives. If one of the alternatives is unacceptable, then your acceptance of the other one is not voluntary. And that is in fact the place the majority of working people find themselves in.

Actually, I got the impression from an earlier post of yours that you own your own business. Was I mistaken?



I was in no way confused. Leftist authoritarians have no problem at all with the government interfering with the RIGHTS of the people, so long as they're not rights that they value.


Give me an example of what you mean by a right of the people.



No-- political power IS law and government policy. The ability to influence law and government policy is personal power.


Dang it, it's my phrase, so I get to define it.

(Why can't I get the smileys to work?)

Power, like moral goodness or badness, is held only by an individual, not by a tool. Political power is power that an individual holds to influence law or government policy. Thus, we can say that George W. Bush holds a great deal of political power right now. That at any rate is what I meant by it.

Personal power is separate from, although enhanced by, political power. I am not an employee of George W. Bush nor a Republican politician, nor am I serving in the military, so he holds very little personal power over me, despite his political power. Both the company I work for and my creditors hold much more than he does.



The invasion of Iraq and ousting of Saddam Hussein has been billed as a move to "protect our liberties." Do you believe it to be so?


No, but I believe that it could have been. If Bush's assertions about Iraq being behind the 9/11 attack, and being a clear and present danger to the U.S., had been other than sheer balderdash, then the invasion would indeed have protected our liberties, and whether that was Bush's primary motivation for going in there wouldn't matter a hill of beans. I believe that the invasion of France in 1944 served to protect our liberties, although I don't believe that was FDR's only reason for authorizing it.

Similarly, I don't necessarily trust the motivations of politicians even when I judge that what they are trying to do will have good results. If a politician were to move to, for instance, cancel the free trade agreements we have with oppressive states that ensure our corporations dirt-cheap labor, my first instinct when considering his motives would be to suppose that he saw it as a good campaign issue, not to regard him as a philanthropist. Nevertheless, I would support that move. And in the case of many regulations on business, e.g. required overtime pay or workplace safety regulations, all I have to do is examine what things were like before and after, and then I really don't care why the pols put it into place. I'm just happy it's there, and equally so if they did it for the most sordid and self-serving of reasons, which actually would be no surprise.



The fact is that without the power of the government to add to their own, there's just not that much power available to individuals. Without the power of government that is available to him, George Bush would be just another reformed alcoholic failed businessman heir


Actually, he wouldn't even be that. Every rich person, including Prescott Bush, got rich because the law supports people getting rich. A lot of it was designed for that purpose, to encourage the amassing of great wealth and personal power. So it has always been, back to the dawn of civilization.

But that doesn't mean that a rich and powerful person needs to actually hold public office, or even be the power behind the throne, to hold personal power. For our plutocrats, the political power they wield through their campaign donations is a means to the end of holding personal power over their employees, suppliers, customers, and competitors.



Libertarians DON'T believe that the ONLY threat, potential or otherwise, to liberty comes from government. We believe that the threat comes directly from individuals, and that government is simply the tool that they use to impose their will on others.


As a practical matter, this is the same thing. Whether you say that the government itself is the only potential threat, or say instead that it is the only tool that can be used for the purpose, is a quibble. Either way, you don't recognize threats that are not coming from, or at least by way of, government. And that's where we disagree.



You contradict yourself-- "influence over the state" is obviously PERSONAL power.


As I said, it's my phrase, so I get to define it. And no, influence over the state is not what I mean by personal power. That's what I mean by political power. Nor is there anything self-contradictory in that; it only contradicts what you want the words to mean.



But when the state is empowered nominally to limit the power of individuals and to address the disparity in personal power, the result is ALWAYS that people with personal power use that power to "influence" the state in order to further their own interests


No, not always, just usually. A couple of points, though.

First, "when the state is empowered nominally to limit the power of individuals and to address the disparity in personal power," means "at all times." The state is so empowered. Always. Historically and traditionally, it has done so usually to enhance the power of the already-powerful. But as long as we have any degree of democratic accountability, the potential exists to swing the emphasis in the other direction. And that is what modern liberals try to do in economic matters.



You cannot use government to limit the abuses of the people who own the government, and any attempt to do so simply grants the government more power with which those people can abuse us.


The rich have a disproportionate influence on the government, but nobody "owns" the government. Our democracy is not, as yet, dead. In any case, if they did "own" the government, what would be the point of trying to limit the government's power? Could they not reverse that process as well?

The truth is, history shows that your statement is not correct. The government HAS been used successfully to limit personal power and to enhance liberty. If the success hasn't been total, well, heck, it's an imperfect world. And if it's been partially reversed in recent decades, that just means we have more work to do.



posted on Dec, 24 2005 @ 12:52 PM
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Before I get further into this-- this part made me chuckle:


Bob, you're playing semantics games here...


This whole thing started with your issues with libertarianism, and in pursuit of your point you have played a continuous game of semantics. You have defined "personal power" and "political power" in such a way as to imply your notion that the power of government is potentially good, at least so long as it's used to limit the power of individuals, and specifically only those individuals that, according to some scale that you believe to be legitimate, should have their power limited, and that personal power is bad, at least so long as it's wielded by those same individuals. You have also entirely redefined the word "force" as it's used by the very libertarians whose views you're trying to counter.


So-- let's cut through all of this.

You want to cling to your definition of political power? Fine. I'll just use a different term. I'll call the power inherent in a government-- the power that exists simply because of the sheer volume of laws and regulations and administrators and offices and property and weapons that a government controls "potential power." Then I'll call the power that individuals hold, in and out of government, simply "power."

The thing that libertarians want to do, quite simply, is to diminish the potential power of the government. The reason for this is quite straightforward and is only really countered by your idealistic "well, it could be different" of:


The rich have a disproportionate influence on the government, but nobody "owns" the government. Our democracy is not, as yet, dead. In any case, if they did "own" the government, what would be the point of trying to limit the government's power? Could they not reverse that process as well?

The truth is, history shows that your statement is not correct. The government HAS been used successfully to limit personal power and to enhance liberty.



Actually, history has shown that such limitations, imposed fairly, only exist in the infancy of a government, if then. In most governments in which there has been an overt and above-board attempt to limit personal power (the USSR being a prime example), it's specifically the power of the weakest that's most limited, and the strongest simply become stronger. All governments-- ALL governments-- tend toward maximum potential power and ALL government come under the control of those very people whose personal power you feel is justly to be limited. Their power is NOT limited, but rather is expanded specifically because they have the potential power of the government under their control. This process has never been avoided, and I believe that it never can be, and that, specifically, is why I'm libertarian.

I understand your idea, but it simply will not work. Government CANNOT be used to limit the power of the power-hungry any more than a free buffet can be used to limit the eating of the simply hungry.


And regarding you argument that all property is held by force-- of course that's true, in a deeply philosophical, and entirely immaterial, sense. There could be much interesting discussion about the fundamental nature of the concept of property, and there has been throughout history, but none of it has anything to do with the libertarian concept of "initiation of force." The simple fact is that society accepts the notion of "property" and ignores the deep concepts behind it in much the same way, as you say, as a fish ignores water. It's just there.

Regardless of the philosophical underpinnings, society has decided to recognize the idea of "property," and with that recognition comes the idea of "mine." This property or that property is "mine." We have agreed on certain ideas regarding what can legitimately be referred to as "mine" and what can not. Libertarians view the issue quite simply-- once a piece of property can be legitimately be said to be "mine," it is not yours. You, or more accurately, the government working on your behalf, cannot lay claim to that property, specifically because it is mine.

Tyrannical governments impose their power, in part, by decreeing that nothing can be "mine" and that all belongs to the state. They sell this idea by convincing people that some people claim too much as "mine" (which they certainly do-- some people are hogs-- we learned that in kindergarten). The implication is that when the state claims ownership of everything, they will then distribute it more equitably. The truth is that when the state claims ownership of everything, they will keep most of it for themselves. Everybody loses except, ironically, the hogs, who now have the power of the state to use to further expand what they can claim to be "mine."

Your ideas, as expressed here, are certainly noble and, IF practical, then would make the world a more fair place. But the problem is that they're just not practical. The potential power of the government has never (at least for long) been used to do anything other than to improve the lot of the very few who wield that power or who have access to those who wield that power, and it has always been used at the expense of those who nominally could benefit from any societal limitation on personal power. ALWAYS. It could, arguably, be used to actually benefit individuals who have less power and to limit individuals who claim more than is humane, but the fact is that it will NOT be used that way. Those who most quest for power will always go to where the power is collected and feed there. The more power is centralized in a society-- the more power the state has-- the easier it is for those power-hungry people to take more than is humane, and they WILL do so. The only way to stop them from doing that is to keep as much of the power as possible in the hands of individuals. As soon as power is given to the state, that power will be used and abused by the very power-hungry people that we agree are the problem. It has never been, and I honestly believe CAN never be, any different.


On a personal note-- I apologize that, particularly in my first response to you, I treated you rather disdainfully. From the fairly jingoistic tone of your first post, I assumed you simply didn't have the faintest idea what you were talking about. You've demonstrated in your later responses that you actually have a good grasp on the issues, if a decidedly idealistic approach to them. Or, in short, that you're not the idiot I originally thought you were, but are just a bit too idealistic for your own good, or for mine, for that matter.


And actually, that brings me to another point: the hogs of the world depend on people who believe as you do to provide justification for their indulgence in their hoggishness. Really-- they do. The very people that accumulate and hold and wield the most personal power WANT you to say, "Why, somebody oughta do something about that," simply because the "something" that is done is to empower the state to nominally limit their power, and the state is already under their control. They NEED those who believe as you do to idealistically believe that the state will limit their power, simply so that we will continue to grant power to the state in the vain hope that it will actually do that. They know, and I know, that the reality is that all power that is granted to the state will become theirs. Not mine-- not yours-- not ours-- THEIRS.

Really. I mean no offense-- that's simply true. And that's why I'm a minarchist.


And, all that said, I hope this holiday finds you and yours happy and well...



posted on Dec, 24 2005 @ 02:43 PM
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Originally posted by Bob LaoTse
This whole thing started with your issues with libertarianism, and in pursuit of your point you have played a continuous game of semantics. You have defined "personal power" and "political power" in such a way as to imply your notion that the power of government is potentially good


The only thing implied by the terms as I have used them is that the two are conceptually distinct: that one may think in terms of the power wielded by one person over another, as distinct from the influence that a person has on the state.

Actually, what our disagreement boils down to is whether or not what I have called "personal power" actually exists. If it does, then use of the power of the state to restrain it becomes arguably (although not automatically) a legitimate use of law. If not, then the only concern anyone might have with respect to liberty involves what I have called "political power": too much influence over the state in the hands of one person or one group of people.

And so it is not surprising that you have presented your own terms:



I'll call the power inherent in a government-- the power that exists simply because of the sheer volume of laws and regulations and administrators and offices and property and weapons that a government controls "potential power." Then I'll call the power that individuals hold, in and out of government, simply "power."


These terms imply what you want to assert, namely that all power comes from the state. I am not prepared to concede this, and so deny that it is useful to call the mass of power inherent in the state "potential power." We might acknowledge that the state's power represents the potential for abuse in the hands of a dictator, and that should maybe scare us into making sure no dictator comes to power (if we really needed such a goad -- and in times like these, perhaps we do). But there is also power being expressed outside those limits, derived from the control of capital resources by a relatively few.

Similarly, I'm not prepared to concede that there is only one type of power.

And by the way, what I mean by "force" is the use or threat of violence. Do you mean something different?



The thing that libertarians want to do, quite simply, is to diminish the potential power of the government. The reason for this is quite straightforward and is only really countered by your idealistic "well, it could be different" of:


Excuse me. I'm not talking ideals or potentials here. I'm talking actual history, and no, I don't mean the history of the bleeding Soviet Union! A much better example is what was done in the U.S. economy from the 1930s until the 1980s (and is still done to some extent), and also what has been done in Europe. We do not have to speculate. We do not have to theorize. We do not have to resort to ideals. We need only look at what has happened and when and why.


Actually, history has shown that such limitations, imposed fairly, only exist in the infancy of a government, if then. In most governments in which there has been an overt and above-board attempt to limit personal power (the USSR being a prime example)


No. It's. Not.

I don't actually think you can have such a program absent democracy and public accountability. But whether that's so or not, the Soviet Union certainly isn't a "prime example" of anything except a new aristocracy replacing an old one. Now, I'll grant you that the limiting of personal power is central to Marxist theory. But nobody who has really studied Marxist theory considers the Soviet Union (or any other allegedly Communist state) an application of that theory.

I don't want to go into all the reasons why the Soviet Union failed, because they're really not pertinent to this discussion. Suffice it to say that if you want to check out the historical success or failure of attempts to ameliorate personal power, first look to see if the government in question is democratic. If not, pass it by.



I understand your idea, but it simply will not work.


Bob, it HAS worked. It's worked here. It's worked in Europe. It's worked in Japan. It's worked in every advanced, developed economy in the world. We're only having troubles now because we've backtracked from the program, deregulating industries and encouraging capital to migrate abroad to countries that don't respect workers' rights.

I'm not talking about anything radical or extreme here, and maybe that's where the confusion lies.



The simple fact is that society accepts the notion of "property" and ignores the deep concepts behind it in much the same way, as you say, as a fish ignores water. It's just there.

Regardless of the philosophical underpinnings, society has decided to recognize the idea of "property," and with that recognition comes the idea of "mine." This property or that property is "mine." We have agreed on certain ideas regarding what can legitimately be referred to as "mine" and what can not.


Not quite. If that were so, if there were really no dispute about the matter, then there would be no such thing as a welfare program or a minimum wage, or Social Security, or required overtime pay, or workplace safety regulations, or legal recognition of the right to join a union, or student loans or grants. All of these represent attempts to redistribute wealth, all have been controversial and some still are, and most if not all of them are opposed by libertarians.

Which is what I'm getting at. Granted that as a practical matter, there is a consensus that we ought not to abolish property altogether, the libertarian position seems to be to go to the opposite extreme and regard property rights as sacrosanct, and the theory of "initiation of force" is what is used to justify a position that rejects all attempts to redistribute wealth. So the question of that theory's validity, in theory, becomes important.

Whether people can see it happening or not, the whole concept of property in the first place, and the rules by which it is distributed in practice, are imposed by force. Without force, no property at all. And so it is not a valid objection to redistribution of wealth that it, too, relies on force, and it is misleading to call this "initiation" of force.



Tyrannical governments impose their power, in part, by decreeing that nothing can be "mine" and that all belongs to the state.


True, and I don't recommend going to that extreme. If that's what you think I'm advocating, then it's no wonder you consider me an impractical idealist. But that only means you've misunderstood where I'm going.



On a personal note-- I apologize that, particularly in my first response to you, I treated you rather disdainfully.


Apology accepted. Actually, it's what I expected, and I quite literally asked for it. I knew I was yanking libertarians' chains. But was hoping that a serious discussion might evolve.



posted on Dec, 24 2005 @ 04:19 PM
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Originally posted by Two Steps Forward

The only thing implied by the terms as I have used them is that the two are conceptually distinct: that one may think in terms of the power wielded by one person over another, as distinct from the influence that a person has on the state.


One may so think, but I simply don't agree. The "power" that one might wield over another is the same as the power that one might have to influence the state. Those who hold the most personal power-- primarily the wealthy and influential, are the SAME people who control the actions of the state. That's my entire point regarding power. By expanding the power of the state (the accumulation of laws, regulations, administrators, offices, property and weapons of the state), all one has done is to put more power in those who already have personal power. THEY are the ones that determine the direction of the government-- not you, not me-- them.

Each election is a choice between two candidates who are more or less equally repugnant specifically because those are the only choices that those who actually hold the power are going to grant to us. We have the illusion of control, since we're allowed to choose one candidate, but both candidates are already owned by the very people whose power you and I both want to limit, and whichever candidate gains the office WILL do the bidding of those people.



Actually, what our disagreement boils down to is whether or not what I have called "personal power" actually exists. If it does, then use of the power of the state to restrain it becomes arguably (although not automatically) a legitimate use of law.


Personal power certainly exists-- I didn't think we disagreed about that at all. I would even agree that the power of the state could arguably be legitimately used to limit the personal power of those who, for whatever reason, willfully abuse others to gain ever more power. It seems to me that the point on which we disagree is whether or not a state so empowered will actually do that. I maintain that it ABSOLUTELY will not, while you maintain that it might be so used, despite the fact that, in the US at least, it currently is not so used.





I'll call the power inherent in a government-- the power that exists simply because of the sheer volume of laws and regulations and administrators and offices and property and weapons that a government controls "potential power." Then I'll call the power that individuals hold, in and out of government, simply "power."


These terms imply what you want to assert, namely that all power comes from the state.


Not at all. All I seek to point out here is that the power of individuals is distinct from the power of the state-- that a state, simply by dint of its existence, holds power, and that individuals, again by dint of their existence, likewise hold power. Semantics aside, this seemed to be a point on which we agreed. The reason that I make this distinction is that you appear to believe that the state's power can be wielded by the less powerful to curb the excesses of the more powerful, while I think it's self-evident that the state's power will always come under the control of the more powerful, and will simply be added to their own already potentially oppressive power. That, right there, is the reason that I'm a minarchist-- those with less power do NOT control any state, so the power of the state is NOT theirs. Instead it is always, sooner or later, controlled by those who already have power. If we are to minimize the abuses of those who already hold excessive power, we must limit the sources of that power, and the simplest and surest source of that power is the state. While it might appear, at first glance, that the powers of the state might be used against those who hold excessive power, the reality is that that never happens for any period of time. One way or another, no matter what they have to do, those who most crave power WILL gain control of the power of the state. If they're particularly skilled, they'll do so at the behest of those with less power, and will successfully convince them that they're doing whatever they're doing for their good, but that is simply not the case.



We might acknowledge that the state's power represents the potential for abuse in the hands of a dictator


It represents potential for abuse in the hands of anyone with an unhealthy desire for power-- it doesn't need to be a dictator.



...and that should maybe scare us into making sure no dictator comes to power (if we really needed such a goad -- and in times like these, perhaps we do).


The "times like these" should clearly demonstrate that it's not only a "dictator" that poses a threat. An individual can win election to an office in a democratic nation and still bend the power of the state to his own desires, and can do so with the nominal support of at least enough people to continue to hold that office. And personally, I think that the difference between the current administration and past ones is not a relative lack or presence of abuse of power, but the relatively above-board manner in which this administration has engaged in that abuse. And I feel that that is part of a longstanding, incremental process and demonstrates my entire point. The history of our government has been one of more and more overt abuse of power-- GW Bush is but the latest step in that process. After he's gone, the process WILL continue.



But there is also power being expressed outside those limits, derived from the control of capital resources by a relatively few.


And those same relatively few have the most influence over the actions of the state, and the actions of the state therefore tend to support and expand their power.



I'm not talking ideals or potentials here. I'm talking actual history, and no, I don't mean the history of the bleeding Soviet Union! A much better example is what was done in the U.S. economy from the 1930s until the 1980s (and is still done to some extent), and also what has been done in Europe. We do not have to speculate. We do not have to theorize. We do not have to resort to ideals. We need only look at what has happened and when and why.


First, the actions of the state regarding the US economy from the 30s through the 80s merely set the stage for today. Through increasing regulation, the government (at the behest of the corporations that paid them to do so) discouraged start-ups and actually solidified the position of the existing companies. The regulations that the government put in place ALWAYS had more impact on small businesses or businesses that might potentially compete with those businesses that made the largest donations to the politicians that enacted that legislation, and that's SPECIFICALLY why those businesses made (and continue to make) those donations. "Deregulation" was only proposed and enacted when it reached the point that the most powerful companies had no competition to speak of. The regulations eliminated their competition, and the removal of the regulations is just the latest step in what has been an ongoing process. The power held by certain corporations today is not in spite of what was done in the past, but because of what was done in the past. It's been nothing more than one continuous process.




Actually, history has shown that such limitations, imposed fairly, only exist in the infancy of a government, if then. In most governments in which there has been an overt and above-board attempt to limit personal power (the USSR being a prime example)


No. It's. Not.

I don't actually think you can have such a program absent democracy and public accountability. But whether that's so or not, the Soviet Union certainly isn't a "prime example" of anything except a new aristocracy replacing an old one. Now, I'll grant you that the limiting of personal power is central to Marxist theory. But nobody who has really studied Marxist theory considers the Soviet Union (or any other allegedly Communist state) an application of that theory.


I would argue that a government that's granted the power to limit personal power will abuse that power even with democracy and public accountability, and that the US is a fine example of that. And further (though peripherally) I would argue that Marxist theory has never been applied in the real world because it cannot be, since it depends on an entirely unnatural refusal among each and every person who administers the state to abuse the enormous amount of power that they have been granted. Again, and to return to the topic, people who crave power will do whatever it takes to accumulate that power-- Marxism doesn't work because it's among the easiest of ways for those people to gain that power. If the power is there to be had, the people who would abuse it will take it. Again, that's why I'm a minarchist.



I'm not talking about anything radical or extreme here, and maybe that's where the confusion lies.


Well, no offense but I believe that IS where the confusion lies, but that the confusion is yours. Your ideas seem so simple to you that you believe that they'd actually work. I disagree. I believe that it's self-evident that power vested in the state, even power nominally meant to be used to balance the scales, will, sooner or later, ALWAYS come under the control of the most power-hungry and will simply be added to their already oppressive power.


Property


If... there were really no dispute about the matter, then there would be no such thing as a welfare program or a minimum wage, or Social Security, or required overtime pay, or workplace safety regulations, or legal recognition of the right to join a union, or student loans or grants. All of these represent attempts to redistribute wealth, all have been controversial and some still are, and most if not all of them are opposed by libertarians.


Absolutely. All of those schemes rely on the idea that my property-- that which I work eight hours a day, five days a week to earn, should be given over to other people. There is no greater assault on my liberty than to take that which I have earned through my own effort and sweat and give it to somebody else. They didn't earn it-- I DID. I get up every morning and I work all day and I work HARD, and I do it specifically so that I can enjoy the fruits of my labors. NOBODY else has any right to the fruits of MY labors.



...the theory of "initiation of force" is what is used to justify a position that rejects all attempts to redistribute wealth.


Again, absolutely. My employer AGREED to hire me, and I AGREED to work for him. I do the work that is required of me entirely through my OWN effort, and in return he pays me. That money is MINE. I earned it-- not you, not anybody else-- I did. So any attempt to take any portion of that money from me in any manner other than by my consent is predicated in the threat of the use of force. I did not FORCE anyone to give me that money-- I earned it through my own effort. However, when the state, on your behalf, demands that I give them some portion of the money that I earned, it is, specifically, by threat of the use of force. They have "initiated" the use of force to claim some share of the money that I earned through a free, NON-FORCE based exchange with my employer.





Tyrannical governments impose their power, in part, by decreeing that nothing can be "mine" and that all belongs to the state.


True, and I don't recommend going to that extreme. If that's what you think I'm advocating, then it's no wonder you consider me an impractical idealist. But that only means you've misunderstood where I'm going.


No, I think that you're an impractical idealist because you seem to believe that you can grant a government some portion of that power and they 1) will use it only for good and 2) will stop there. I think it's painfully obvious that neither of those suppositions is legitimate. Governments will use the power that they've been granted in whatever manner is decreed by those individuals that have the most power over the government, and those individuals are the same individuals that the power of the state, in your conception, is meant to curb. Regardless of the propagandistic contortions necessary, the state WILL serve the interests of those who already hold the most power. Sad but true...



posted on Dec, 26 2005 @ 11:30 AM
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Hi, Bob. Hope you and everyone else here had some good times the last couple of days. I know I did.

In your last post, you presented a view that:

A) the control of the state by corporate fat cats is total and cannot be challenged; and

B) the regulations put in place since the 1930s have served to create the corporatist government that we have today, by giving the state power that can be wielded by the corporate interests to their advantage.

Dealing with A) first, well, I don't agree, and in practice neither do you. If you did, you wouldn't bother advocating a minarchist approach to government, because you would know that such a thing could not be enacted unless it served the interests of the fat cats, which obviously you don't believe it does.

However, I also don't think that history is with you here. What I see, looking at the political history of the U.S. and that of other republics, is a constant struggle between democracy and elitism. As long as a governmental system has democratic elements, that struggle will persist. Even a system with far less democracy than ours, e.g. the Roman Republic, will exhibit it. The privileged elite had a lot more control over the state during the Washington administration than it does today. That control wasn't sneaky and sideways as it is now, it was aboveboard and in the Constitution itself. If elite mastery of the state was as total as you suggest, there would be no need for the campaign donation methods and corporate media control that are the lever of political power now. We would still have voting restricted to property owners, for example. All of the nasty things that the state currently does or allows at the behest of corporations, or nearly so, are ways around the regime of managed capitalism that was put in place in the 20th century. If corporate control were as total as you suppose, there would be no need to get around that regime, because it would not have come to be in the first place.

Which brings me to point B). If you only look at our economic history starting, say, after World War II, then you can indeed see a pattern of initially benign government activity that turned bad. But a look at conditions prior to the Depression puts that in better perspective. Things are worse now for working people and small business owners than they were in the early 1960s, true. But they are a lot better than they were in the 1920s.

I recommend reading this article on the history of the labor movement. The source is a bit biased, but the facts are sound; read it for them, not the opinions. Also, this article from the Burea of Labor Statistics on wages and working conditions prior to the Depression is informative.

The regulation regime of the post-Roosevelt government didn't create a corporate-friendly government. One existed before that -- one a good deal more corporate-friendly in fact than today's. And, despite the fact that the state intruded on government less in total than it does now, conditions for those who had to serve the corporate machine were worse then than now, by a long way. That is, in part, because the ways that the state intruded on the economy were entirely in service to the powerful, and against the rest of us, e.g. laws against labor unions. But it's also because private power was less restrained, and corporations could use their own non-governmental muscle in ways that they are legally prohibited from doing today.

A good example of a government that is as powerful as ours today, but as capitalist-friendly and labor-unfriendly as ours was in the 1920s, would be China.

In short, the changes made in the way the state treats business from before the Depression through the early 1970s did not create the declines for common people that have happened since then, because we are still not back to a situation as bad as it was before those changes were made.

Moreover, corporate influence has as much to do with what the government doesn't do and should, as with what it does do and shouldn't. For example, I mentioned China, above. The undemocratic and allegedly Communist (ha!) government of China, which if it isn't the most capitalistic state in the world is surely in the running, applies controls and repression to its work force that have, in America, been applied only to slaves. Because of this, China competes for American capital unfairly. A sound trade policy would recognize this, and impose compensating tarriffs to make investing in China less profitable and eliminate the advantage gained by using virtual slave labor; we should restrict free trade to economies that operate by more enlightened rules.

To sum up: regulation of the economy has proven its value because the economy of today, even after the sliding it's done since the 1980s, is still a better one for most people than it was in the 1920s before the regulatory regime was in place. The typical working day is now 8 hours rather than 10, 12, or 14, and if it's longer than that, most jobs require time and a half pay. Pay is much higher in constant dollars. Workplace safety is radically improved. You can no longer legally be fired for joining or trying to organize a union, let alone get your head busted by a private goon (or even a policeman) for picketing.

I do agree with you that the government can't be trusted to do the right thing. For it to do so, requires an informed and activist public, which we lost somewhere along the line, probably because things were good enough that people got fat and lazy. I see signs that this is reversing, though, and none too soon.



[The state's power] represents potential for abuse in the hands of anyone with an unhealthy desire for power-- it doesn't need to be a dictator.


The state does certainly present a potential danger to liberty. We have included multiple safeguards against that potential becoming actual. One of those safeguards is division of power, with checks and balances to ensure that not enough of the state's power falls into the hands of one person or one group of people. No, it doesn't have to be a dictator, it could be a clicque or coterie instead. But a dictator does represent the maximum potential concentration of power.

The other safeguards are the Bill of Rights and democratic accountability. Our problem today is that all three of these have become eroded. The nation's great-power status has augmented the executive branch at the expense of Congress. Legalized bribery has compromised public accountability. And, in the climate of fear after 9/11, some of the civil liberties protection in the Bill of Rights were, well, ignored. (I'm quite certain that some provisions of the Patriot Act would be found unconstitutional otherwise, and the same DEFINITELY goes for holding citizens without trial or even charges as "enemy combatants.")

But none of these grow from the size and power of the state. They grow, instead, from a combination of public apathy, public fear, and a genuine dilemma over what to do about the fact that our pre-World War II continental isolationism can't be maintained any more. And even so, we still have a government that is friendlier to civil liberties than, say, the government of Tsarina Ekaterina the Great of Russia, which had far less power overall than ours does.



And further (though peripherally) I would argue that Marxist theory has never been applied in the real world because it cannot be, since it depends on an entirely unnatural refusal among each and every person who administers the state to abuse the enormous amount of power that they have been granted.


Well, I agree with the conclusion, but not with the reasoning. Marxist theory won't work as Marx outlined it because he was unrealistic, not about abuse of power, but about human nature in general.

(Might as well get a little more peripheral here . . .)

For somewhere between a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand years, our species lived without private ownership of capital property. We lived in small bands with no formal government. Our economy was a simple one of foraging, hunting, fishing, and handicrafts. Within a band, all basic goods were shared in common, although trade occurred between bands, and the foraging and hunting grounds, fishing waters, and other capital property were all held in common by the band, not by individuals.

This is the type of society into which we evolved, the type that is "natural" to us, but no longer possible. Yet it's in our genes, and we all have some degree of longing for it. Marx, in my view, surrendered to that longing and so believed that it was possible to return to a communal, property-less society in an industrial context. Which is nonsense, as I'm sure you'll agree. Hence his belief that all conflict is class struggle, and so that socialism and the elimination of economic classes would lead to the withering away of the state and the emergence of true communism.

If we stop considerably short of Marx's utopian conclusions, there are parts of his program that do work. A kind of moderate Marxism (if one may speak of such a beast) is the regnant economic philosophy of most of the developed world.



Absolutely. All of those schemes rely on the idea that my property-- that which I work eight hours a day, five days a week to earn, should be given over to other people.


Well, not all of them, no. In fact, not even most of them. Most of them rely on the idea that more of the money your employer earns from your labor, or would absent those regulations and that legal climate, should be paid to you instead.



There is no greater assault on my liberty than to take that which I have earned through my own effort and sweat and give it to somebody else. They didn't earn it-- I DID.


And yet that's exactly what happens in a capitalist economy. Wealth accrues, not to those who work, but to those who own. That portion of it which goes to those who work is like a food pellet given to a laboratory rat: a reinforcer for desired behavior. And it works only because the lab rats are denied any control of the source of food pellets.



My employer AGREED to hire me, and I AGREED to work for him.


Did you really?

Well, maybe you did. There are some lucky people who really do make voluntary choices of that nature. In fact, I'm quickly moving into that situation myself. But for most working people, the agreement is made under duress. A free choice can be made only between acceptable alternatives. A choice between working for the man and starving is not a free choice, any more than a slave's choice to work rather than be whipped.



I do the work that is required of me entirely through my OWN effort, and in return he pays me. That money is MINE.


Well, sure. But if you worked before the labor-friendly regime was in place that you seem to consider such an affront to liberty, a good deal less of that money would be yours, and more of it his.

Actually, of the things I listed, the only one to which your argument in any way applies is welfare. Most of the funds for that come from those wealthier than you are, but none of the benefits directly accrue to you. In class terms, welfare benefits the really really poor at the (partial) expense of the working poor and the middle class. But most of the things I listed, from the right to form a union to student loans and grants, benefit the working poor and the middle class at the expense of the wealthy, who don't need them. So they're not taking your money and giving it to others, quite the opposite.

You might object on principle to the idea of taking someone else's money and giving it to you, but that goes back to the forcible nature of property. Why is that money someone else's, not yours? They didn't earn it by working hard. They earned it by already owning it and not being idiots. Why does that give them the right to dictate the terms of the agreement by which your labor is contracted?

[edit on 26-12-2005 by Two Steps Forward]



posted on Dec, 26 2005 @ 11:49 AM
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Libertarians are what republicans were years ago, republicans now filled the space of what democrats were, and finally democrats are now socialist.

LM



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