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  #1  
Old 09-04-2000, 04:04 AM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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In the last election, internet mock elections had Harry Browne doing extremely well. Even a large mock election by Time or CNN had Harry Browne winning, as I recall. Judging by this board, there are a ton of Libertarians kicking around.

I've seen Harry Browne on a few shows lately, and his sound bites always get huge applause from the audience.

The Libertarians have a pretty good political organization, and are almost always on the ballot in all 50 states.

Yet, in the general elections the libertarians routinely only get 1-3% of the vote. They often get beat by some weirdo fringe candidates.

So, how come? Is it the lack of money? Lack of exposure? If Harry Browne accepted federal funds and was allowed into the debates, how many votes could he get?

Don't get me wrong - I don't expect Libertarians to win the election or even come close. I'm not sure I'd WANT them to, either. But I think it would be exceedingly healthy for the U.S. if the Libertarians were to get, say, 15% of the vote. This would create a 3rd party bloc that the candidates would have to pander to in the next election, like they've pandered to the reform party. It would be yet another check against big government.

If a big celebrity or someone with a lot of money were to run for President for the Libertarian party, how well could they do? There are some pretty rich folks out there who are Libertarians (TJ Rogers comes to mind).
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  #2  
Old 09-04-2000, 04:23 AM
BarnStormer BarnStormer is offline
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Ross Perot could pull it off, and a few others, but if you don't have a powerful speaking style, and a small base, you have too many negatives. People like to vote for winners, or at least a guy who can lose and not look like he was a chump for trying.
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  #3  
Old 09-04-2000, 05:28 AM
SPOOFE SPOOFE is offline
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It's a conspiracy, stupid!!!

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  #4  
Old 09-04-2000, 09:40 AM
hawthorne hawthorne is offline
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Seeing as I think this is a really good question I'll WAG a bit in the hopes of getting things moving. Bear in mind I am neither American nor libertarian.
  • Your first point that there seems to be lots of them here and on the net generally is easily dealt with. The net is not representative of the general population.
  • Also - and probably equally importantly - since there are relatively few regulations on the net there are necessarily few vested interests threatened by deregulation.
  • Since the net has by-and-large been beneficial to almost all those using it, lots of people are happy with the way it is. If in a few years time the thing stops growing, there are lots of scams and/ or the market becomes much more concentrated, expect more participants to start asking for government intervention. Now at least we are getting a great deal.
  • What is the Libertarian Party trying to achieve? I don't know, but maybe they are trying to do exactly what they are doing - bringing some issues to the attention of the public and the major parties.
  • In your electoral system critical mass for representation is pretty high, and unless you are expected to reach there abouts your vote will remain low as people decide either to stay at home or go for a lesser of two evils approach.
  • Libertarianism is a political philosophy. Most political parties do not have such a readily identifiable political philosophy. Success in politics requires compromise on policies and priorities. This is harder the more identifiable your philosophy. Indeed many libertarians don't want to deal with this brute fact of political life and would prefer to remain pure and irrelevant. In the face of a political programme which no-one thinks will ever be a real government programme, party "policies" become critiques of current thinking at best and idle wishful thinking at worst.
  • Finally, it may be so that the candidate gets applause from sound bites. It is easy to get applause from party faithful. It is easy to suggest a lot of benefits from one's programme. It is harder to convince people that there are net benefits. Whilst many people may think that they have a lot to gain from libertarian ideas, many also have a lot to lose.

picmr
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  #5  
Old 09-04-2000, 10:43 AM
Liberal Liberal is offline
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Stellar analysis, Picmr. Well done.

The LP even bills itself as The Party of Principle
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  #6  
Old 09-04-2000, 11:02 AM
waterj2 waterj2 is offline
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"The Party of Principle" being about as far from "The Party that People Vote For" as is possible. Damn shame that principle is so poorly regarded.
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  #7  
Old 09-04-2000, 11:17 AM
Liberal Liberal is offline
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Jeremy

I think it is possible that people, conditioned now for several generations to expect political favor in exchange for their vote, fear achieving anything by their own volition and wits. Most of the hypotheticals that I am presented reflect that fear. They all boil down to "what happens if I fail?"
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  #8  
Old 09-04-2000, 11:40 AM
waterj2 waterj2 is offline
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Last time Ted Kennedy was up for reelection (six years ago, as he is now facing the formality of another election), the best reason many could come up with for voting for him was that due to his experience he could get more federal money spent in our state. I think the people that used this line of reasoning knew how dumb it was because that year or two years later (I can't recall) they voted in a term limits bill.

That election really showed me what the motivations of the people in this country really are, if only because they were more open about it. From what I could tell, the worst that anyone could dig up on Kennedy's opponent was that he had some connection with Staples, which didn't provide medical insurance to its part-time workers. I don't recall anyone looking for dirt on Kennedy, as that whole vehicular homicide thing is pretty well known, and no one cared even at the time.

In my opinion, the political atmosphere of 1994 and the strength of the opposing candidate made it such that there was actually a threat to Kennedy, and various special interests resorted to providing unusually overt demonstrations of the way the system works. It worked, but hopefully I am not the only one whose cynicism was hardened by their actions.
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  #9  
Old 09-04-2000, 11:40 AM
Bassguy Bassguy is offline
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Libertarianism involves taking personal responsibility for you decisions, life, etc.

This is not a quality found in great abundance in the U.S. body politic.

I'm amazed that they get as many votes as they do.
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  #10  
Old 09-04-2000, 11:52 AM
waterj2 waterj2 is offline
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Damn you, you let it out. I'd be surprised if we get even 1% now. Some people just can't keep a secret...
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  #11  
Old 09-04-2000, 11:58 AM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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As a non-Libertarian, I have a different take on it: namely, I agree that Libertarianism is the best political philosophy---for a perfect world. If individuals and societies were all doing everything they most meant and wanted to do anyway, then complete liberty and defense of individual rights would truly be all we'd need. This unfortunately not being the case, I think a Libertarian government in real life would end up doing a lousy job of promoting the liberty and wellbeing of its citizens. And I think that a lot of other voters agree with me.
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  #12  
Old 09-04-2000, 12:00 PM
Bassguy Bassguy is offline
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Whoops! Sorry. uhh, uhh

Ok--Libertarianism is about getting as much swag from the gummit as possible. Cash, jobs, highway projects, school vouchers, tax breaks, confiscated drugs, you name it. (To paraphrase P.J. O'Rouke) Vote Libertarian and you'll be farting through silk.

Better, Waterj2? May we can ratchet the percentage up 5-6%
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  #13  
Old 09-04-2000, 12:00 PM
Sterra Sterra is offline
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mebbie all the people who voted for libertarianism are under age?
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  #14  
Old 09-04-2000, 01:01 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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I wasn't really looking for a debate on Libertarianism, but more of a discussion of the electoral process, the effects of big money, inertia, and other things that seem to drive politics.

I think it's amazing that the Libertarians showed so well on the Internet, yet do absolutely nothing in the general elections. And we're not talking about a small group here - something like 75 million people regularly use the Internet. Even back in the last general election, there were 20 million people on the net, and EVERY internet poll and mock election showed the Libertarians doing extremely well. I thought they were going to get at least 5-7% of the vote last time. And I think they got something like 1.5%, which is an incredibly low number - in fact, it's lower than their historical average. The main reason for that was probably Perot, who siphoned away a lot of the 'none of the above' voters.

Since the Reform party has completely marginalized itself this year, will the Libertarians do better?
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  #15  
Old 09-04-2000, 01:10 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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Sure, dhanson, but how many of the Internet Libertarians actually voted in the real-life elections? As Asmodean suggested, maybe a lot of the mock-election respondents were underage, or maybe there is a correlation between the somewhat head-in-the-clouds idealism of Libertarian philosophy and a disinclination for participating in the inevitable compromises of actual political life.
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  #16  
Old 09-04-2000, 01:37 PM
waterj2 waterj2 is offline
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While there are undoubtedly many people who have looked at libertarianism and come to the conclusions that Kimstu has, somehow I don't think that the 99% of the voters that voted against the Libertarian Party has done so. I think that far more people than would admit it really vote on the basis of what a candidate will do for them. Very few people think the Libertarian Party is going to give them a larger share of government largesse.

Not that this explains the discrepancy either, but it does come closer than the preposterous notion that a large segment of the population has actually looked and evaluated the Libertarian Party's platform.
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  #17  
Old 09-04-2000, 04:29 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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A factor I was hoping someone would mention is the democratizing aspect of the internet. On the 'net, the various parties have about equal official representation. It doesn't cost millions to get your message out. There is no bottleneck of a handful of TV networks that filter and control access to information.

So the big question is - Is the fact that Libertarians only get 1.5% of the vote a good indicator of the real sentiment of the country, or is more due to the fact that Libertarians don't have big money, huge networks of campaigners, and a nationwide communications system that broadcasts their every utterance, as they do for the Republicans and Democrats?
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  #18  
Old 09-04-2000, 04:44 PM
MEBuckner MEBuckner is offline
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What have the Libertarians done about getting elected to local, state, and Congressional offices? Americans rarely elect someone President in one fell swoop these days--Clinton was a governor; Bush was vice president, and a whole bunch of things before that; Reagan was a governor; Ford was vice president, a congressman before that--and besides, he was never elected anyway; Nixon had served as vice president and in Congress; Johnson was another vice president, and had been a Senator before that; Kennedy had been a U.S. Representative and a Senator...you have to go all the way back to Eisenhower to find someone whose political career started with the Presidency--and even he was a big-time general. I think any third party should try to elect some people to state legislatures and so on, work their way up to Congress and senatorial and gubernatorial positions--then they can field a presidential candidate who people won't respond to by saying "Who?" I don't know how much the Libertarians have been trying this--I'm not a Libertarian myself--but I note the original question seems to focus exclusively on vote totals in presidential elections.
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  #19  
Old 09-04-2000, 05:03 PM
MysterEcks MysterEcks is offline
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A few points in answer to the OP, by someone who's a libertarian (small-L sort, not a registed one) but rarely votes that way. Some of these have already been brought out, in one form or another.
  • Most people don't really look into the issues themselves--they rely on the predigested presentations, complete with bias added, of broadcast news. Those who read their newspapers carefully are the well-informed ones...and the newspapers generally only present the same old Democrat/Republican stuff.
  • Votes for third parties are seen more as messages to the Ds and Rs than actual votes for a candidate. But such messages aren't effective for the current election--they are more for subsequent elections. A lot of people prefer to have a voice in thiselection, and thus hold their noses and vote for the D or R they see as the lesser evil. Otherwise, the greaterevil might win.
  • In the same vein as #2, a vote for the Libertarians is not a clear message to anybody. In this election, a vote for Nader is a signal to the Democrats--move left, or else. Likewise, a vote for Buchanan is a signal to the Republicans--move right, or else. But the Libertarians are neither Left nor Right nor Center--they are something of a hybrid, and thus not an effective signal to the major parties.
  • Sadly, I believe the majority of people in this country are uncomfortable with the idea of complete personal freedom for others--they think they should have some say over the matter, always presented as being on behalf of something else (the children, the unborn, public safety, public morals, etc.).
  • And, yes, the lack of money and exposure results in less votes...which results in less money and exposure...which results in less votes.... The experience of the Reform Party in 1992--and, to a lesser extent, in 1996--shows how much clout adequate funding can bring.

I think the situation is unfortunate...and yes, I realize that I help perpetuate it every time I cast a vote for a D or R. I'm not happy with that...but my other option is to try and bail out the ocean with a bucket.

MEBuckner said:

Quote:
What have the Libertarians done about getting elected to local, state, and Congressional offices?
This depends on the area. Around here (Central Pennsylvania), there were Libertarian candidates for Centre County Commissioner last year. Centre County is the home of Penn State University, which you might think would make it a fertile place for the Libertarians...but I don't believe either one received 500 votes. But at least they gave it a shot.
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  #20  
Old 09-04-2000, 05:32 PM
TampaFlyer TampaFlyer is offline
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> I don't know how much the Libertarians have been trying this [getting elected to lower offices]

Well, the party has elected hundreds of candidates around the country, mostly at the local level, but also a few in state legislatures. They have candidates for U.S. Congress in many districts, as well as governor & various state offices. As far as why run a Presidential candidate, I think the idea is that that generates some publicity & new members even if the candidate doesn't get many votes. It's true that Harry Browne has never been elected to another office, but neither have Nader, Buchanan, Perot, etc.

The best reason the party doesn't get more votes is lack of exposure. They get more coverage now than in the past, but many people have never heard of the party or have no idea what its views are. Sure, some people understand the message & reject it because they disagree, but many more just haven't heard enough to have an opinion. A lot of people seem to think there are only two Presidential candidates this year when there are actually at least five on many state ballots.

A few years ago here a guy ran as a Libertarian for state legislature & got over 1/4 (not 1/4 of 1%!) of the votes, which wasn't bad for a first-timer running against a guy who had held that seat for several terms.
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  #21  
Old 09-04-2000, 06:01 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is online now
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The people who are on the Internet, and particularly the people who have time to vote in online polls, are not representative of the American electorate.
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  #22  
Old 09-04-2000, 06:21 PM
Liberal Liberal is offline
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I think one reason the LP has such little support from large businesses is because of its total opposition to corporate welfare. It opposes special favor legislation.
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  #23  
Old 09-04-2000, 07:25 PM
SuaSponte SuaSponte is offline
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My, my, you people are sooooo cynical. A lot of you think that people vote solely in their own self-interest. I have to disagree. Reduce this argument to its simplest terms, and Dubya should win this election by a landslide - he's promising tax cuts for everyone, so the only people who should vote for Gore are the relatively few who will get more from Gore's promised cuts, and those who work for or benefit from government programs Dubya might slash.
As it happens, I am somewhat impressed by the American electorate, for the first time in years, that Dubya's tax cut proposals aren't helping him, and might actually be slightly hurting him.

People often vote stupidly, but not necessarily because of their self-interest.
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  #24  
Old 09-04-2000, 07:52 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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Libertarian: one reason the LP has such little support from large businesses...

That's kind of surprising, considering that Libertarians are frequently enthusiastic supporters of large businesses and strongly anti-regulation: consider some of the many articles at free-market.net defending Wal-Mart and Microsoft, for example, against charges of unfair competition.

...is because of its total opposition to corporate welfare.

But as noted above, many Libertarians are fervently pro-corporate in most other respects. It seems to me that more likely reasons that corporations aren't trying to pour money into Libertarian campaigns are 1) much Libertarian support can be counted on via ideological commitment rather than bribery---why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free? and 2) the party is not currently enough of a player on the political scene to repay the investment.

And good points, waterj and MEB and MysterE: it's true that while many non-Libertarians may be explicitly anti-Libertarian, we can't be more than a small fraction of those non-Libertarians who simply have no exposure to its philosophy.
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  #25  
Old 09-04-2000, 08:53 PM
astorian astorian is offline
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Libertarians fare poorly because the American people are lying frauds!

The American people may tell pollsters that they want smaller government, but they don't mean it. Fact is, most Americans want smaller government for everybody ELSE< but they want lots of pork barrel and goodies from the government for themselves.

A TRUE Libertarian candidate for Congress could NEVER win in Iowa, because he couldn't hope to promise as many subsidies to farmers as the Republican or (especially) the Democrat would.

A TRUE Libertarian could never get the all-important Senior Citizen vote, because he couldn't promise to jack up Social Security and Medicare benefits.

A TRUE Libertarian can't promise much to his constituents, and that puts him at a severe disadvantage.
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  #26  
Old 09-04-2000, 09:12 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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astorian: Libertarians fare poorly because the American people are lying frauds!

Gee, sounds like just the sort of folks you'd want to entrust with the responsibilities of maintaining a Libertarian society. I'm with Sua on this one: I don't understand how so many of you can be so convinced that Libertarianism is the right political philosophy for this country and simultaneously so contemptuous of your fellow-citizens' ability to live up to its demands.
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  #27  
Old 09-05-2000, 11:50 AM
pldennison pldennison is offline
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Kimstu: You should do your homework. astorian is right behind oldscratch on the "People I would never mistake for a Libertarian" list. So why are you misattributing your reservations about Libertarianism to someone who doesn't even subcribe to its philosophy?

As far as:
Quote:
I don't understand how so many of you can be so convinced that Libertarianism is the right political philosophy for this country and simultaneously so contemptuous of your fellow-citizens' ability to live up to its demands.
I would turn it around and ask how you can simultaneously believe that the citizenry is composed largely of selfish, evil reprobates who could not be trusted to live peacefully and honestly in a Libertarian context, yet trust those selfish, evil reprobates to elect people who will make decisions with respect to how you may live your life.

Quote:
It seems to me that more likely reasons that corporations aren't trying to pour money into Libertarian campaigns are 1) much Libertarian support can be counted on via ideological commitment rather than bribery---why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?
You apparently are having a difficult time distinguishing between laissez-faire capitalism and giving millions of tax dollars to Pillsbury Corporation to promote its products in Europe. It's a distinction worth looking into, if you're so inclined. If you're not so inclined, you may continue to conflate them to your own detriment.
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  #28  
Old 09-05-2000, 11:58 AM
Gadarene Gadarene is offline
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Reduce this argument to its simplest terms, and Dubya should win this election by a landslide - he's promising tax cuts for everyone, so the only people who should vote for Gore are the relatively few who will get more from Gore's promised cuts, and those who work for or benefit from government programs Dubya might slash.
You misspelled, "Dubya's proposed tax cuts mostly benefit only the wealthiest 10 percent or so of Americans." Hope that helps.
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  #29  
Old 09-05-2000, 12:10 PM
Gadarene Gadarene is offline
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I would turn it around and ask how you can simultaneously believe that the citizenry is composed largely of selfish, evil reprobates who could not be trusted to live peacefully and honestly in a Libertarian context, yet trust those selfish, evil reprobates to elect people who will make decisions with respect to how you may live your life.
Phil: Just wanted to point out, once again, that neither Kimstu nor anyone else offering a reasoned critique of Libertarianism has ever said this. The libertarian philosophy necessarily predisposes itself to absolutism--i.e., for a libertarian society to function, it must be possible to easily distinguish the peaceful, honest people from those who aren't always peaceful or honest, or those who are peaceful and honest to varying degrees. Our current context, despite your protestations to the contrary, is based not on the idea that we're all "selfish, evil reprobates," but that such absolutism is inherently impossible--that some people are dishonest, and some people act irrationally, and that we need a social framework to deal with those eventualities in light of a greater good.

Also, Wendell Wagner said this, in response to the OP:

Quote:
The people who are on the Internet, and particularly the people who have time to vote in online polls, are not
representative of the American electorate.
It's important enough to be repeated. There is a greater proportion of libertarians on the Web than in the U.S. as a whole, and most Internet polls are easily skewed towards one perspective or another, with a little coordination.
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  #30  
Old 09-05-2000, 12:17 PM
IzzyR IzzyR is offline
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Originally posted by Libertarian
The LP even bills itself as The Party of Principle
Well one time they departed from this caused them to lose my vote. That was when they ran Howard Stern for Governer of NY.
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  #31  
Old 09-05-2000, 12:35 PM
pldennison pldennison is offline
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The libertarian philosophy necessarily predisposes itself to absolutism--i.e., for a libertarian society to function, it must be possible to easily distinguish the peaceful, honest people from those who aren't always peaceful or honest, or those who are peaceful and honest to varying degrees.
This is absolutely, 100% untrue, Gaudere, and I can't imagine why you would say it. There need not be any distinguishing done at all. In a libertarian context, all people would be presumed to be peaceful and honest until they demonstrate otherwise. The ones who are not peaceful and honest will be easy enough to distinguish by their own actions; they will act unpeacefully and dishonestly. And, when they do (and not a minute before) they will be subject to the appropriate penalties, and it won't matter if they are Mumia Abu-Jabal, or Bill Gates, or you, or me.

Wherever did you get the idea that it would be otherwise?

Quote:
. . . some people are dishonest, and some people act irrationally, and that we need a social framework to deal with those eventualities in light of a greater good.
Of course we do. That's exactly what Libertarianism is--a framework in which, unless one is acting dishonestly (we won't even get into "irrationally," as that shouldn't even enter into it), one is left alone to engage in relations as they see fit. When one does act dishonestly, then and only then should they be "dealt with." Do we need a framework where peaceful, honest people are not allowed to engage in voluntary relations with others, and regularly have their freedoms abridged, because some other person claims power over your life and your property?
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  #32  
Old 09-05-2000, 12:55 PM
Gadarene Gadarene is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by pldennison

Of course we do. That's exactly what Libertarianism is--a framework in which, unless one is acting dishonestly (we won't even get into "irrationally," as that shouldn't even enter into it), one is left alone to engage in relations as they see fit.
(italics mine)

That sums it up, Phil. The fact that people do act irrationally changes the nature of the whole equation, and your dismissiveness exemplifies the utopian nature of libertarianism. Listen: Not everyone acts in their own best interest all the time. Not even most of the time. Some people act out of short-term self-interest with negative consequences (for themselves and others) in the longer term, and some people act out of long-term self-interest with negative consequences (for themselves and others) in the shorter term. But not everyone acts in their own best interest all the time, and being occasionally irrational in no way automatically removes someone from the ranks of peace and honesty. It really doesn't seem like you've factored this stuff in.

(Oh, and by the way...I'm Gadarene, not Gaudere.)
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  #33  
Old 09-05-2000, 01:07 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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Most Libertarians believe that the correct function of the state is to:
  • Maintain a military, to defend us from outside agression
  • Maintain a police force, to protect us from internal agression
  • Maintain courts-of-law, to objectively settle disputes among citizens

Thus, in a Libertarian society we would still have crimes, and those crimes would still include things like forgery, bribery, fraud, and theft. We would still have civil courts, and you could still sue someone for infringing on your civil rights or damaging you financially.

To the extent that these necessary forms of government need to be financed, libertarians still support various forms of taxation. The Libertarian Party proposes the abolishment of income taxes, because they believe that these functions could be financed purely with excise taxes, sales taxes, etc. And I think this is true.

What we WOULDN'T have are:
  • 'Victimless' crimes such as drug use, prostitution, seat belt laws, etc.
  • Government agencies that confiscate the wealth of one person for the purpose of giving it to another.
  • Government agencies that act to protect us from our own free choices. That would include OSHA, the FDA, and other 'nanny state' bureaucracies.

Note that a Libertarian society would not be much different than what the U.S. had in the early 1900's. I dont' recall chaos in the streets then, and our improved economy and technology should make things a lot better today.

A standard tactic used by statists to attack libertarians is to characterize them as anarchists and ridicule them. Unfortunately, many libertarians play into this by allowing debates over private police forces, private militaries, for-hire courts, and other extreme ideas that are not part of mainstream libertarian thought anyway, and just serve to make them sound dangerous and silly.

If you want to debate Libertarian ideas, start with these:
  • Is the 'war on drugs' on balance a good thing for our society, or would we be better off just legalizing it?
  • Does the FDA do harm? We all know of some of its benefits, but why do we never discuss the liabilities?
  • Does the 'war on poverty' actually help poor people, or would they be better off living in a wealthier society?
  • Is a huge Bureaucracy dedicated to organizing the retirement benefits of all citizens better than letting those citizens do it themselves? What are the societal consequences of guaranteeing a safe retirement regardless of what lifestyle choices you make?
  • Does the Department of Occupational Health and Safety do enough good to justify the billions of dollars it absorbs?
  • Is giving a bunch of men in Washington control over the direction of our technology, space program, agriculture, and other important infrastructures better than letting the citizenry decide with their own dollars?
  • Is a large national agriculture policy a better way of organizing our agriculture than the free market? To agricultural subsidies and special levies serve our interests, or the the interests of those who want to be re-elected?
  • Do Career politicians act in the best interests of the country, or do they pander to special interests?
  • Is the free market capable of regulating itself, or do we need a group of politicians to over-see it?
  • Could private charity and an improved economy replace the welfare system?

THESE are the questions we should be debating. These are the ones that have immediate impact, and the ones that would be rapidly changed under a Libertarian government.
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  #34  
Old 09-05-2000, 01:13 PM
pldennison pldennison is offline
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(Oh, and by the way...I'm Gadarene, not Gaudere.)
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That sums it up, Phil. The fact that people do act irrationally changes the nature of the whole equation, and your dismissiveness exemplifies the utopian nature of libertarianism.
I'm not dismissing it completely, merely pointing out that acting irrationally does not mean you are not peaceful and honest. "Peaceful and honest" being defined here, of course, as not initiating force or fraud against another person. Rationality and irrationality don't enter into it at all.

I don't see that it changes the nature of anything. If someone acts against their own self-interest, as long as they are not coercing others to join them, it does not compel us to constrain their behavior.

Look at it this way: My sister is extremely irrational. She often acts against her own interests. Whether she chooses to do so is no concern of mine except to the extent that I don't want to see her suffer as a result of her own stupidity. I choose to help alleviate that suffering.

My sister, however, is also dishonest and unpeaceful. That is a concern of mine, because she acts fraudulently towards me and others.

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Listen: Not everyone acts in their own best interest all the time. Not even most of the time.
No kidding.

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But not everyone acts in their own best interest all the time, and being occasionally irrational in no way automatically removes someone from the ranks of peace and honesty.
You seem to be arguing my side here, unless you're saying that people don't have the right to be irrational.

As long as people are peaceful and honest, do they have they right to act irrationally, in your opinion? Or do you feel people's behavior should be constrained completely by what you (or someone else) feels is rational?
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  #35  
Old 09-05-2000, 01:13 PM
John Corrado John Corrado is offline
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Gadarene said:
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[to pldennison] It really doesn't seem like you've factored this stuff in.
Wait, phil- you're a Libertarian, too? They're everywhere! Or are we merely assuming that anyone who can cogently describe the Libertarian philosophy must completely adhere to it?


Anyways.

I think the Libertarian lack of votes on a Presidential scale is mostly due to a fear of vote-wasting. Sure, one *could* vote for Browne and show one's true feelings and philosophy, but Browne's never going to get enough votes to be noticeable, and you're better off voting for the Republicans/Democrats who better agree with your feelings on Libertarianism in order to keep the Democrats/Republicans out who would trample over your rights (choose between them depending upon whether economic or social issues take the forefront in your Libertarian point of view).

As for the lack of exposure- it *is* a painful cycle, what with the media refusing to take the Libs seriously until they receive enough votes, and the Libs unable to receive enough votes until the media takes them seriously. *However*, the Reform Party took a major swing over the election of Jesse Ventura (true, Perot had given the party its' original legs, but by '98 it was falling apart into irrelevancy), albiet a swing destroyed by the current fracas over who is the 'real' Reform Party.

But there's also the extremist philosophy- the Libs are advocating major changes in the way the U.S. government currently works. We can debate the 'rightness' or 'originalness' of this position until we're blue in the face, but what's important is that the Libs are asking for people to make severe adjustments in their own lives and what they expect/require from the government. And until we reach a point where the current status quo of the government has obviously failed, I don't think many Americans are interested in those kinds of changes.
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  #36  
Old 09-05-2000, 01:39 PM
Gadarene Gadarene is offline
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If you want to debate Libertarian ideas, start with these:
Okie-dokie. I'll give you my personal opinions.

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Is the 'war on drugs' on balance a good thing for our society, or would we be better off just legalizing it?
The war on drugs is a Very Bad Thing (tm). We've built ourselves a 'prison industrial complex' in this country which needs to be completely re-evaluated.

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Does the FDA do harm? We all know of some of its benefits, but why do we never discuss the liabilities?
I've got no problem with discussing its liabilities. It doesn't seem like most libertarians acknowledge its benefits and, more to the point, whether those benefits could be retained in a society without federal oversight of food and drugs.

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Does the 'war on poverty' actually help poor people, or would they be better off living in a wealthier society?
You might want to rephrase that question; as it is, the two aren't mutually exclusive. I've yet to see a cogent argument that this society would not suffer greatly without some sort of safety net--the wealthier the society, it would seem, the greater ability to provide for those less fortunate.

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Is a huge Bureaucracy dedicated to organizing the retirement benefits of all citizens better than letting those citizens do it themselves? What are the societal consequences of guaranteeing a safe retirement regardless of what lifestyle choices you make?
Again, you present a false choice. "Letting those citizens do it themselves?" Is that really what privatization does? In addition, I find the implication that prolonged poverty (a condition by which people could not guarantee themselves a safe retirement) is to some extent a lifestyle choice extremely telling.

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Does the Department of Occupational Health and Safety do enough good to justify the billions of dollars it absorbs?
A syllogism. OSHA does good. OSHA is inefficient. Therefore, OSHA should be streamlined so that it continues to do good while becoming more efficient. As above, no one's presented a convincing case that workers would be more safe--or even as safe--in a society where businesses regulate themselves.

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Is giving a bunch of men in Washington control over the direction of our technology, space program, agriculture, and other important infrastructures better than letting the citizenry decide with their own dollars?
How, exactly, could citizens "decide with their own dollars?" I'd say it's necessary for citizens to defer many aspects of policy to a group of people somewhere, be it in Washington or the various boardrooms of businesses across America; I'd just as soon have that group of people be ostensibly accountable to and representative of the rest of us, in a way that private industry could never be.

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Is a large national agriculture policy a better way of organizing our agriculture than the free market? To agricultural subsidies and special levies serve our interests, or the the interests of those who want to be re-elected?
There are problems with our national agriculture policy. Make a case that an unregulated free market would address those problems without creating other, more severe, problems. Explain why ceding policy control to the market would be preferable to reforming our current system.

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Do Career politicians act in the best interests of the country, or do they pander to special interests?
The latter, in many cases. Do CEOs (who aren't bound even nominally to act for the good of society) act in the best interests of the country, or do they pander to special interests?

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Is the free market capable of regulating itself, or do we need a group of politicians to over-see it?
The latter. Find me an economist who says that a self-regulated market would not most likely be an unmitigated disaster.

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Could private charity and an improved economy replace the welfare system?
Unless by "improved economy" you mean "millions of people no longer experience systemic poverty," then absolutely not.
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  #37  
Old 09-05-2000, 02:04 PM
pldennison pldennison is offline
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As above, no one's presented a convincing case that workers would be more safe--or even as safe--in a society where businesses regulate themselves.
Just three questions which might help clarify the field of potential discussion:

1) Is it in my own self-interest to provide a safe workplace for my employees, or one where they are in danger of preventable injury or death?

2) If I promise my workers a safe workplace, and fail to do so, I have committed what?

3) Would I be smart if I went to work for an employer who did not promise a safe workplace?

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How, exactly, could citizens "decide with their own dollars?"
By deciding which entities they want to do business with. If I want to launch a satellite, and some company can do it more cheaply, more safely and more efficiently than NASA, why should I not be allowed to do business with them?

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I'd just as soon have that group of people be ostensibly accountable to and representative of the rest of us, in a way that private industry could never be.
If those private industries don't provide their customers with the products they promise at reasonable prices, they won't have any money. That's pretty accountable.

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The latter. Find me an economist who says that a self-regulated market would not most likely be an unmitigated disaster.
Ludwig von Mises
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  #38  
Old 09-05-2000, 02:15 PM
Gadarene Gadarene is offline
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Phil: Because people do not always--or even often--act rationally and with appropriate foresight, we cannot be counted on to pursue policy goals that will result in a positive outcome for society. This doesn't mean that people are "selfish, evil reprobates"; simply that we're not perfect.

For example, if public libraries are not a high enough collective priority--assuming that each person has finite resources (time and money) to spend funding their favorite causes--to be sustainable by charity, a foreseeable outcome is a rise in illiteracy and a concretization of class boundaries (as those who can't afford it do not have access to means of improving their standing). This, in turn, could have negative effects for everyone--higher incidence of crime, declining purchasing power, fewer college graduates. Arguably, if people were perfectly rational, we'd understand that the long-term benefit of a literate, informed society outweighs the short-term cost of helping fund libraries. Since we're not, we probably won't.

Libertarians counter the questions about privatization by saying that peaceful, honest people will be free to make their own decisions regarding their own interests, without government interference. Given that people's decisions--especially regarding social institutions--can impact more people than just themselves, the fact that those decisions will not always be informed or rational should certainly be an issue when evaluating the libertarian philosophy.
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  #39  
Old 09-05-2000, 02:19 PM
Liberal Liberal is offline
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  #40  
Old 09-05-2000, 02:32 PM
Gadarene Gadarene is offline
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A side note: Y'all do realize that a "pocketbook democracy"--that is, a society in which people's consumer choices serve in the stead of political representation--will perforce favor those who have more money (and are therefore able to voice their preferences to a greater degree) over those with less money, right?
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  #41  
Old 09-05-2000, 02:43 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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One of the big failures of Libertarians is their inability to get across the concept of the free market as a regulating force. The opponents of free markets always start with the assumption that government is necessary to regulate our affairs, and without it we will have chaos and will have to RELY on the good will of others, because no other force controls them. Thus, Libertarians are marginalized as dreamers or utopians.

In fact, the vast majority of human endeavour involves voluntary cooperation, with structure being provided by the nature of the market. Government only regulates and controls a small portion of human interaction, and most of what it does has resulted in failure or at least tremendous waste and inefficiency.

Almost every language known to man evolved without a controlling body dictating its direction.

The computer industry is almost completely free of government regulation, yet it has better universal standards than the highly regulated auto and housing industries. Workers are paid more, the machines are of high quality, and the progress in that field has been stunning.

Throughout the history of the computer industry, there have been various attempts to regulate it. Can you imagine the results if the government had required that, say, a microprocessor design be approved by government before being sold to the people?

Imagine if the government had decided to subsidize the Intel 8086 in order to 'improve access' to poor people? There would have been no incentive to create better processors. We'd still be in the dark ages. New CPU designs would require multi-year government approvals which would cost tens of millions of dollars, forcing small competitors like AMD and Cyrix out of the market (or more likely, never allowing them to exist in the first place). Because computers would still be so expensive, the government would subsidize the poor and create a whole new 'computer equality' department.

Today, we'd be sitting here with our government regulated 80286 computers, and a maverick like me would come along and say, "You know, we'd be better off if we got the government out of the computer industry." Can you imagine the howls of protest?

"But what if someone makes a bad processor that fails in a plant and causes an industrial accident???"

"What if the chip in my car fails?"

"Who's going to provide computers for the poor?"

The fact is, when government steps in and tries to solve a problem, it has the effect of displacing market-driven solutions. Over time, it looks like there could be no alternative. If the government provided universal shoes to all, eventually it would come to be seen as a necessary form of government, and anyone suggesting that private shoe manufacturers might be a better solution would be accused of wanting the poor to walk barefoot.
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  #42  
Old 09-05-2000, 02:59 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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Find me an economist who says that a self-regulated market would not most likely be an unmitigated disaster.
Milton Friedman (Nobel Prize)
Julian Simon (Nobel Prize)
Ludwig Von Mises (Nobel Prize)
Adam Smith (father of modern economics)
David Ricardo
David Friedman

That's just off the top of my head. There is an entire school of Economists that believe the self-regulated free market is the best organizer of the affairs of men. In fact, I would argue that it is the statist economists who are in the minority. It is the statists that are out of step with economic theory, not the Libertarians. In fact, the typical arguments justifying the existance of big government are almost always built out of exceptions to classical economic theory, rather than an embracing of it.


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---------------------------
Is a large national agriculture policy a better way of organizing our agriculture than the free market? To agricultural subsidies and special levies serve our interests, or the the interests of those who want to be re-elected?
----------------------------------------------

There are problems with our national agriculture policy. Make a case that an unregulated free market would address those problems without creating other, more severe, problems. Explain why ceding policy control to the market would be preferable to reforming our current system.
I suggest you look at the example of New Zealand. NZ went from having one of the most heavily regulated and subsized agriculture industries to one of the least. When New Zealand killed its farm subsidies and regulations, there were howls of protests from farmers and socialists who claimed the world was about to collapse. New Zealand's agriculture industry is now far healthier than it has ever been.

But another failing of Libertarians is that they are always allowing themselves to be put on the defensive. The burden of proof should be on YOU to show why agriculture controls are necessary, given that you live in a capitalist country with an overwhelming preference for the free market. Explain to me the necessity of the Wool and Mohair subsidy, please. How about Milk tariffs that charge dairies based on how far away from consumers they are? How about subsidized transportation that REWARDS other types of farmers for being farther away from their constituents? How about subsidies given to farmers to NOT grow crops? Please tell me again why you need to keep the Rural Electrification Administration, and why its budget has INCREASED even thought 99.9% of all farms now have electricity?

I'll make it easy for you - pick ANY of these programs, and give me a reasoned argument for why it is necessary, and why the free market can't do as good as or better than the government at solving whatever problem it purports to solve.
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  #43  
Old 09-05-2000, 03:03 PM
xenophon41 xenophon41 is offline
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pldennison:
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Just three questions which might help clarify the field of potential discussion:

1) Is it in my own self-interest to provide a safe workplace for my employees, or one where they are in danger of preventable injury or death?

2) If I promise my workers a safe workplace, and fail to do so, I have committed what?

3) Would I be smart if I went to work for an employer who did not promise a safe workplace?
Not that I want to hijack the discussion away from Gad (who seems to be doing a fine job); I just like answering questions like this!

1) Under the current situation (OSHA oversight), it is quite decidedly in your self-interest to provide a safe workplace. Under a libertarian system, with no fines for unsafe working conditions, it may be in your best interest financially to avoid the cost of safety improvements unless forced to upgrade your equipment/methods/etc. by loss of worker interest in your company, or because of heavy contractual penalties (- see # 2). It may even be financially feasible to maintain your high production at the cost of an occassional breach of contract suit (much in the manner some companies currently choose to pollute due to the weak fines imposable by EPA); as a peaceful and honest employer, you should consult with actuaries so you don't end up reducing the share-holders' returns by needlessly improving your facility.

2) You've committed breach of contract. Of course, you may be able to hire most of your required workforce without any such safety clause in their contracts. (Yay for you!) Where's your factory located? What's the mean education level of the workforce? With what businesses are you competing for the workforce?

3) Possibly. You're a peaceful and honest person, so I'm not going to tell you how to live your life. How adequately do you think you can protect your own safety working for that employer?


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  #44  
Old 09-05-2000, 03:15 PM
Gadarene Gadarene is offline
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Sam: I'm off to lunch, but I'm pretty sure that Adam Smith said no such thing. You wouldn't happen to have a cite, would you?

One more thing: I'm not necessarily in favor of any of the programs you listed re: agriculture, as you'll see from the part of my post that you quoted. I certainly think we should take a look at farm subsidies. That doesn't mean that the free market would automatically do it better, unless you have some specific proposal that would eliminate all the bad stuff about our current system and keeps the good stuff (you know, like standards which combat Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, for one).

And the fact of the matter is that the onus is on the libertarians--not to point out the problems of the current system, but to explain how their particular parcel of platitudes would alleviate those problems without creating greater ones. If you read my posts on this board, you know that I'm about as big a fan of the current system as most libertarians. But I also know my history, and I'm wary of any proposed revision which looks to duplicate past mistakes--there was, after all, a reason for government oversight of the marketplace, and for every Milton Friedman I can show you a John Maynard Keynes. So don't tell me that the burden is mine to prove that the libertarian system won't work...especially when y'all can't ever seem to decide amongst yourselves what the libertarian system is. Aside from a haven for peaceful, honest people, of course.
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  #45  
Old 09-05-2000, 03:18 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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The FDA

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Does the FDA do harm? We all know of some of its benefits, but why do we never discuss the liabilities?

I've got no problem with discussing its liabilities. It doesn't seem like most libertarians acknowledge its benefits and, more to the point, whether those benefits could be retained in a society without federal oversight of food and drugs.
If you've got no problem discussing its liabilities, you'll be the first. Most people defend the FDA by pointing to things like Thalidomide and showing how the FDA saved lives.

But my assertion is that the FDA is, on balance, a very bad thing. The FDA has a chilling effect on drug development and medical innovation. One of the reasons health care is so expensive in the U.S. is because of the insane regulatory standards applied by the FDA.

A drug today takes an average of 12 years and 170 million dollars to make it through FDA approval. And yet we face a crisis in the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs. Most people blame the evil corporations for charging $50 for a pill that costs 10 cents to make. But the fact is that a drug company typically has to apply for a patent before submitting for FDA approval. If it takes ten years to get that approval, then the drug company only has a few years left to recoup its original research costs, plus the hundreds of millions of dollars for FDA approval, before the drug enters the public domain and generics take away the bulk of its market. Thus, the high cost of new prescription drugs.

There are many former drug companies that simply folded their tents and gave up. We are all poorer as a result.

Then there is the loss of life while valuable drugs are stalled in an overly-bureaucratic approval process. The FDA likes to point out how their approval process saved hundreds or thousands of Thalidomide babies from deformity, when Britain went ahead and approved Thalidomide while the FDA sat on it.

What you WON'T hear the FDA talk about is that it held Beta Blockers off the market for seven years after they were available to the rest of the world. These are drugs that are estimated to save something like 50,000 lives a YEAR in the U.S. Do is the FDA responsible for the deaths of 350,000 people? How come no one takes it to task for that? Can you imagine the furor if an unregulated drug killed 350,000 people? It was incidents MUCH smaller than this that led to the creation of the FDA in the first place.

Then there is the potentially catastrophic effect of having one universal approving agency. In the old, pre-FDA days, the person who decided whether or not to try a new drug was your prescribing physician. He would weigh things like unknown risks vs the severity of your illness, your personal tolerance of risk, etc. The result was that drugs were introduced into society very slowly, with the sickest people or highest risk-takers trying them first. If a problem with the drug was uncovered, it usually happened before the drug entered widespread usage.

Now, the FDA is your one-stop approval shop. When they approve a drug, it tends to go into widespread use IMMEDIATELY. Thus, if they screw up and approve a deadly drug the results could be catastrophic. The FDA compensates for this by being extremely conservative. Hence the 12 year wait for new drugs. But even then they can make a mistake. They approved Phen-Phen, which went into widespread use before it was discovered that it could damage heart valves.

In any event, people are all different, and have different tolerances for drug risks. A person dying of pancreatic cancer certainly has nothing to lose by trying an uncertified drug. But the FDA doesn't distinguish between individuals. It took the highly political AIDS crisis for people to begin to even look at the way the FDA certifies drugs, and their response was to create a special exemption just for AIDS sufferers. Why only them? Doesn't the admission of problems in the regulatory process apply to everyone?

Then there is the cost of the FDA, which we pay for in taxes. Then there is its general tendency to seek power and start regulating things that were never in its mandate (environmental issues, tobacco, etc). It has become a militant organization largely out of step with mainstream American beliefs.

BAN the FDA.
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  #46  
Old 09-05-2000, 03:30 PM
Gadarene Gadarene is offline
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Re: The FDA

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It has become a militant organization largely out of step with mainstream American beliefs.
Interesting assertion. Cite?
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  #47  
Old 09-05-2000, 03:30 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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OSHA

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Does the Department of Occupational Health and Safety do enough good to justify the billions of dollars it absorbs?


A syllogism. OSHA does good. OSHA is inefficient. Therefore, OSHA should be streamlined so that it continues to do good while becoming more efficient. As above, no one's presented a convincing case that workers would be more safe--or even as safe--in a society where businesses regulate themselves.
As of 1985, OSHA had already spent more money than the entire Apollo Space Program. During that time, incidence of worker accidents and safety claims went UP. OSHA burdens companies with extensive regulations and burns up amazing amounts of taxpayer money, with very little or no positive effect.

But your response brings up a bigger issue: One of the defining characteristics of Liberals is that they never see fundamental problems with big government - when things go wrong, they just assume that the last guys to try it simply weren't as smart as they are. It's an insidious form of conceit - elect US, because we're clever enough to make government work when generations of politicians before us ended in failure.

Laissez-Faire capitalists would argue that the problems of big government are not the result of the skills or motivations of the people running that governmnet, but by its very nature. It is DESTINED to fail. Top-down control of a complex system never works - you need negative feedback in your control loop or things spiral out of control. Only the market provides that level of instant feedback.

A modern economy is simply far too complex for central planners to manage. Witness Hillary Clinton's Health Care Plan, which started out as a 'simple' system, and ballooned into thousands of pages of red tape which collapsed under its own weight. And those thousands of pages weren't enough - you can't hope to describe the workings of a complex system like that in MILLIONS of pages. It can't be done. But every new statist that comes along has a 'plan', and his plan is always better than the last guy's. This is also why people like Al Gore are always going on about 'cleaning up' Washington, or battling 'Waste, Fraud, an Abuse'. They think they can tinker with government and make it all work the way it is supposed to. And that simply cannot happen. They might streamline a little thing here or there, cancel a bit of pork here and there, get rid of a few bad apples here and there, but they will never change the fundamental nature of government. And it is that fundamental nature that is government's own worst enemy.
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  #48  
Old 09-05-2000, 03:33 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
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The opponents of free markets always start with the assumption that government is necessary to regulate our affairs, and without it we will have chaos and will have to RELY on the good will of others, because no other force controls them.
Maybe that's true, Sam. But some of us critics of free markets simply believe that the market is a mechanism, not a god. It's an extremely useful device for setting prices, and allocating goods and services, in the vast majority of situations. But it's ultimately no substitute for human judgment.

Should the amount spent on an indigent's defense in a capital case be determined by the market? Should preservation of natural habitat for endangered species be determined by the market? (Pity the grizzly bear; it hasn't adapted to a cash economy.) Should the market alone decide whether employers have certain obligations to provide a safe workplace? Should the market determine what sort of education you get while you're still a child? Should underage orphans have to work to live if charity fails to provide for them? (Should they have to work to support themselves if their parents fail to provide for them?)

In all these cases, we've decided that the market isn't God; that our collective judgment is superior. I'm not saying (in this debate, anyway) that any of those choices is the right one; I'm just trying to establish the principle that the vast majority of us would agree that there are some decisions that shouldn't unthinkingly be ceded to the market.

And that, IMHO, is why libertarians don't do well in the polls. We already have the vast majority of the 'civil liberties' side of libertarianism: prostitution is illegal, but porn is more easily available than anytime in history; certain drugs are illegal, but one doesn't have to travel very far to gamble; gay rights still aren't equal to those of straights, but they're closer than they've ever been; and so forth.

What we don't have is economic libertarianism, and the reason for that is that that's what we had in the late 19th century, and we decided it was a bad idea. Most people have a gut feeling that it still is. And as long as that's so, libertarians will continue to do poorly in elections.
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  #49  
Old 09-05-2000, 03:46 PM
John Corrado John Corrado is offline
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Originally posted by Sam Stone
Government only regulates and controls a small portion of human interaction, and most of what it does has resulted in failure or at least tremendous waste and inefficiency.
Unproven, and with the fallacy that because MOST of what it does is a failure and/or inefficient, therefore EVERYTHING that it does is a failure and/or inefficient. You want to say that the government should stop providing farm subsidies, I'll agree with you. You want to say that the government shouldn't force food producers to adhere to a certain standard of quality, and I'll laugh at you.

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Almost every language known to man evolved without a controlling body dictating its direction.
Discounting Noah Webster, Strunk and Wagnall's, and Oxford.

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The computer industry is almost completely free of government regulation, yet it has better universal standards than the highly regulated auto and housing industries. Workers are paid more, the machines are of high quality, and the progress in that field has been stunning.
"Workers are paid more." Which workers? Are you saying that computer engineers are getting paid more than assembly line workers? If so, well, big duh- there's a reason that you need a degree to design computers but don't for working on an assembly line. Pay is comesurate with training and hard-to-find skills. Now, if you're trying to argue that computer engineers get paid more money than automobile designers, I'd love to see some facts and figures on that.

"Machines are of high quality." I'll remember that the next time my power supply shorts out for no particular reason, yet my Saturn has been running fine for 8 years with only the occasional oil change.

"The progress in that field has been stunning." But not when compared to the first twenty years that the automobile existed; that was *just* as stunning. Or was the evil government regulations instituted by Warren G. Harding what killed the auto industry?


Quote:
Throughout the history of the computer industry, there have been various attempts to regulate it. Can you imagine the results if the government had required that, say, a microprocessor design be approved by government before being sold to the people?

Imagine if the government had decided to subsidize the Intel 8086 in order to 'improve access' to poor people? There would have been no incentive to create better processors. We'd still be in the dark ages. New CPU designs would require multi-year government approvals which would cost tens of millions of dollars, forcing small competitors like AMD and Cyrix out of the market (or more likely, never allowing them to exist in the first place). Because computers would still be so expensive, the government would subsidize the poor and create a whole new 'computer equality' department.
Huh. Given that it was government demand through military applications that first led to the development of things such as the personal computer and, oh, say, the Internet you happen to be accessing right now, I'm not sure that a complete lack of government action with computers would necessarily have changed things for the better.

And as for regulation and this "subsidize the poor"- kindly, please, give me any cites whatsoever that such plans were started and had any chance of passing through Congress. Your statement is that government does awful things and thus must be stopped, even though the awful things you cite never actually happened, and therefore the drastic methods you propose to fix the matter are akin to radical organ transplants for someone who you think had a chance to catch a cold a few years ago.

Quote:
The fact is, when government steps in and tries to solve a problem, it has the effect of displacing market-driven solutions. Over time, it looks like there could be no alternative.
And sometimes- and remember, you're hearing this from a conservative Republican- there is no real effective alternative to government action. After all, Microsoft is full of peaceful, honest people, but they don't need to produce efficient goods because the market doesn't offer much in the way of alternatives. If the government steps in to break them up (and would your Libertarian system do the same, or would they consider such dangerous government interference in the absolute free market?), then the system will likely improve.


Earlier, Sam Stone said:
Quote:
Note that a Libertarian society would not be much different than what the U.S. had in the early 1900's. I dont' recall chaos in the streets then...
Sorry for the harsh words before; I didn't realize you were over a hundred years old.

If you aren't, I kindly suggest you read a history books. Please kindly read about the Haymarket riots. And the anarchist movement. And the fact that in the 1870's the U.S. built forts within its major cities to help fend against massive worker uprising. Note that the specific period you mention- the early 1900's- was the beginning of the period where people felt they had to turn to the government as the only authority willing to step in and break up the massive trusts that were gouging the average American. Read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle for a good idea of what those peaceful, honest citizens were putting into hotdogs and sausages. Careful not to read it over breakfast, or like Teddy Roosevelt (who, according to legend, did read it over his morning sausages), you'll immediately set to work on establishing an FDA.


Or, to quote Santayana, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
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Old 09-05-2000, 03:53 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
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Phil:

Quote:
Just three questions which might help clarify the field of potential discussion:

1) Is it in my own self-interest to provide a safe workplace for my employees, or one where they are in danger of preventable injury or death?

2) If I promise my workers a safe workplace, and fail to do so, I have committed what?

3) Would I be smart if I went to work for an employer who did not promise a safe workplace?
1) Depends on how you define 'self-interest'. Over time, many employers have clearly believed that it's been in their self-interest to fail to provide a safe workplace.

2) Damned if I know. ("Fraud" is usually the wrong answer, btw.) What I do know is that our justice system is, by and large, stacked in favor of the side with money; why this would be any different in Libertaria, I'm not sure. But if the employer is a corporation, then it's the corporation that gets punished, not any responsible individual. (Maybe that would change in Libertaria, but I'm not betting on it.) And if I lose my life, or get paralyzed, or whatever, in a workplace accident, no punishment to a corporation hurts the responsible individuals in anything approaching the way I've been hurt; an exec or two might have to retire in disgrace, with a golden parachute of greater value than every penny I've ever made. The power relationships that make that the way it generally is, here and now, would only be exacerbated in Libertaria, where money doesn't merely talk: it rules.

3) Many people have done so because they had little alternative, period. Others have done so because there was no other way to provide a decent start in life for their children. What's 'smart'?
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