A Blank Spot on the Map

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Debate About Whether Libertarianism or Liberalism is the New Feudalism

An EPIC debate and discussion between Greg Webb and George Balella.

So the simple question is how does libertarianism NOT result in serfdom. My thesis being that in a truly libertarian society eventually all property and all the means of production will be owned by a minority of the population leaving the rest poor and in servitude....ewe... that's one ugly society.

40 Comments:

At 12:23 PM, June 26, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

George, I thought your name was Yasir Muirduck. Have you arranged for a substitute to debate on your behalf? Also, the issue is whether libertarianism or socialism is the new feudalism. And you called it an "epic debate.". Please check your ego and emotions at the door. Now, let discuss the rules of the debate. I rise in favor of the proposition that socialism is the new feudalism except feudalism did not involve the slogans, art work, and other inaccurate propaganda of socialism.

 
At 1:44 PM, June 26, 2011, Blogger muirgeo said...

I have all kinds of nick names from the Cafe Hayek blog.


My name is George Balella. I am a practicing pediatrician in Northern California. I post under the name muirgeo... John Muir being a person of much inspiration for me.

I would love to talk about the basics of libertarianism. There are lots of areas to cover from the monetary system to the judicial. I consistently am impressed that most people who call themselves libertarians have not thought through what such a society might look like and how it might evolve or devolve. I think the most telling thing is that there are not ANY true libertarian societies in existence. If they are so successful why can't anyone point me to one?


The more basic question is for me to ask how would a libertarian society NOT devolve into one where ALL the property and means of production were controlled by a few. Also, I suspect in a libertarian society these few would co-opt the government and set it up for rent seeking. The problem is that libertarians and their philosophy do not take into consideration the wide variety of human virtues, vices and characters.


I've always said if people were as good, cooperative and motivated as libertarians claim it wouldn't matter what form of government you have.

Anyway that's a start... show me how a libertarian society might basically be set up and how it would NOT concentrate property and the means of production among a few elites.

 
At 2:04 PM, June 26, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

George, we first have to decide on the issue for debate and what propositions we stand for. Then, we have to decidecon the rules for our debate.

I accepted your request to debate either (1) the issue of income inequality or (2) the issue of whether libertarianism or socialism is the new feudalism. I thought that you said the later. If so, then we need to agree on the proposition that we stand for. In my previous post, I stated the proposition that I stand for on the second issue that I thought you said that you wanted to debate.

Once we iron out the issue and our respective propositions, we can discuss the rules for our debate. You may want to look at the rules for debate published by Cambridge University or Oxford University before we set the rules.

 
At 2:45 PM, June 26, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

By the way, your title and introduction are conclusory, self-serving statements. I will have to set up our debate blog if you cannot abide by the normal rules of debate.

 
At 3:17 PM, June 26, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

George, my impression is that you were not on the debate team in high school or college. But perhaps I can help you out. The place for debate is normally held in a neutral location, but, with the agreement of both parties, it may be held at one of the party's school as long as it is not unfair to the opposing party. In this case, you have prepared propaganda in favor of your position that renders this blog as a non-neutral site. To create a neutral cite, you will have to change the title to something like "ADebate About Whether Libertarianism or Socialism is the New Feudalism. Greg Webb, an Attorney at Law represents Libertarians and Gerorge Belella, a Pediatrician, represents Socialists."

 
At 4:44 PM, June 26, 2011, Blogger muirgeo said...

"You may want to look at the rules for debate published by Cambridge University or Oxford University before we set the rules."

I will do that. If you want to set a blog that's fine. I don't think this has to be so formal but sure.

Your are right. I was never on a debate team and never have had any formal debate training. What we are ding here is blogging... this doesn't have to be too complicated. But I think rules for sports, debate and society and wall street ect are ALL good ideas.

 
At 4:49 PM, June 26, 2011, Blogger muirgeo said...

"A Debate About Whether Libertarianism or Socialism is the New Feudalism. Greg Webb, an Attorney at Law represents Libertarians and Gerorge Belella, a Pediatrician, represents Socialists."

OK but I consider myself a liberal not a socialist. Socialism strictly defined is an economic system as much as it is a political system. I specifically believe in well regulated capitalism or the social democratic welfare state.

 
At 8:07 PM, June 26, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

George, we are debating and not blogging. And, debates have rules as should blogs, otherwise the discussion may devolve into name calling and other nastiness that I do not wish to participate in.

One of the reasons to discuss the exact issue to be debated is to make sure we have an issue wher we disagree. I assume that by liberal you mean today's liberal and not the classic liberal, which is a libertarian. It's more difficult to make my argument with the proposed change, but today's liberal favors many socialist policies so it should work for me.

Also, I believe that we should debate only one issue until the debate is done. We can discuus future issues to debate then. Next, no name calling because it is silly and a waste of precious time. No simple linking of someone else's work. If you want to make that author's argument, then you have to read the article or book that you want to link, summarize it, and write out the argument in your own words. No conclusory statements. Each debater must support his argument with objective, verifiable evidence that must be cited. Partisan sources like Mother Jones and National Review are not acceptable. Raw data prepared by the government and others, the dictionary, etc is acceptable.

Talk to you tomorrow.

 
At 10:03 PM, June 26, 2011, Blogger muirgeo said...

Sounds good Greg. Again I think I framed my opening thesis already and it is succinctly summarized in the title of this blog post.

I suspect you are a busy person. This can be an ongoing debate if we are both finding it fruitful. As an aside I am asked why I write on a libertarian blog. I really find it boring to just discuss things with a bunch of people that I agree with. I want my positions challenged to see if they hold up to scrutiny and to improve on them when they do not and hopefully to open others eyes when I have a good point.

Regards, George

Later.

 
At 11:20 AM, June 27, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

George, a debate is where two or more speakers present their arguments with the intent of persuading one another. That should be our goal, not flaming.

Normally, the topic is worded as a proposition of public policy, such as: "Resolved, that the United States should grant statehood to Puerto Rico." The person speaking for the proposition always goes first, with the person speaking against goes second. But, we did not word our issue as a proposition of public policy so we will have to choose who goes first and who goes second.

I think each party should limit his remarks to something more than a few sentences and something less than a novel. Perhaps 2 to 3 pages is appropriate, but I am not sure whether this blog would handle that much. Please let me know.

You may also be interested in knowing that there is an online debating website called Debatewise. It is located at http://debatewise.org.

Manana...

 
At 2:13 PM, June 27, 2011, Blogger muirgeo said...

My proposition is that a libertarian society would result in consistently increasing concentrations of land, wealth, property and the means of production. With no income or property tax and no transfer or inheritance tax increasingly larger and larger mergers of resources and monopoly will allow those of means to buy out those of lesser means. Eventually all the property will be owned by a minority leaving the rest of the unpropertied with no resources and with only servitude to those with property as their only hope for survival.

How about a short rebuttal to this claim. Tell me how this accumulation of property by the few would not happen. I'm not really interested in debating how to debate. Let's start the discussion and see wear it leads.

 
At 6:48 PM, June 27, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

George, my proposition is that a liberal society would result in consistently increasing concentrations of land, wealth, property, and the means of production in the hands of the political class, an incompetent, self-serving group. As government grows in power and wealth, government officials will sanction state-controlled monopolies (socialism and fascism) and will eventually result in the government owning all the means of production (communism). As evidenced by the massive and unnecessary failures of the Soviet Union, the Peoples Republic of China, Cuba, North Korea, etc, the society would crumble into chaos with no individual rights or freedom, only poverty, servitude to the political class ( the new kings), and death.

The one challenged goes first. Apparently, you do not like rules when they require that you treat your opponent fairly. So, I have adopted your tactics. So, tell me how this accumulation of property by the political class and resulting servitude of the people would not occur. Your rebuttal with supporting evidence?

 
At 11:52 PM, June 27, 2011, Blogger muirgeo said...

"So, tell me how this accumulation of property by the political class and resulting servitude of the people would not occur. Your rebuttal with supporting evidence?" Greg


It's a very fair question. But look around. Of all the modern day post war republics can you name one that went from a constitutional democracy to overt socialism or communism. Likewise what was the common precedent to countries that did go to communism? Revolution against concentrated power and wealth and government corruption usually in the form of some dictatorship or autocratic right-wing regime. They were not democratic before they revolted. In fact many peasants of the day saw communism as a form of anarchy with NO government but also with no private property. This is because they saw he dangers of concentrated wealth and property that lead to dictatorial autocratic regimes.

So the short answer rebuttal to your claim is to ask you to look to history and the current modern world. There is no supporting evidence. And while my guess is that a more representative government would have more government and more social programs people would not allow it to become communist as long as they control the democratic process.

That being said I do agree we have a problem with the political class and their concentrating power. But this issue and its origins could be another line of debate.


As far as debate styles... consider me a libertarian debater. We do not need too much formality. I would just agree that we stay on track with each subject. So I look forward to your response to my rebuttal on your proposition.

 
At 1:00 PM, June 28, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greg said..."I think each party should limit his remarks to something more than a few sentences and something less than a novel. Perhaps 2 to 3 pages is appropriate, but I am not sure whether this blog would handle that much. Please let me know."

I hope Greg learned his lessons. 2-3 pages. LOL. Who do you think you are talking to? 1000s of intellectuals, 1000s of volumes of thoughts, running into millions of pages of intellectual work, and muirgeo, who hasn't read anything besides comics, destroyed it all in 3 sentences - 3 sentences that makes so much sense in his own mind. He is clearly an expert on Keynesian economics - which makes so much sense, to him. He hasn't read any serious treatment of the matter except in some blog posts or pop economics of such "intellectual giants" like William Greider. He is prodigy.

 
At 3:34 PM, June 28, 2011, Blogger muirgeo said...

Greg,

Anonymous provides a great example of what we want to avoid. Making broad statements and claims and dismissing ones argument out of hand with out providing any logic or data to back it up.

 
At 4:49 PM, June 28, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Muirgeo can be very persuasive. He can put himself in other person's shoes and explain eloquently his position, without ever giving the other person the impression that he is disagreeing with them. Here is an example:

"You are the sons of bitches who think its ok to pass on trillions of dollars of debt to the next generations and steal from them … leaving the country and their opportunity much damaged. Most of the debt IS a result of decreased tax rates that WERE NOT there when you self centered crybaby jackasses came to the scene. Pay your god damn debt to society and stop asking for more tax cuts so our kids have to deal with it…. YOU ARE THE THIEVES…. and stealing from children no less."

link here

That's definitely something you, Greg, don't want to avoid.

For a human being that really loathes patting himself on his own back, muirgeo couldn't resist liking that comment. It is so profound. I am sure muirgeo will frame that paragraph in large fonts and proudly place it prominently in the office where his little patients and their parents could read it.

 
At 4:58 PM, June 28, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Muirgeo is such a principled libertarian debator; and so confident and confortable with his argument that he had to fortunately delete my comment.

 
At 6:07 PM, June 28, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

George, Anonymous' incoherent ramblings may have made sense to him, but not to anyone else. I believe that is why it chose to remain anonymous.

As you previously observed, we are both pretty busy so I will have to address the various issues in your last post in separate comments that I will post over the next few days. I was hoping to research and prepare comments in favor of my proposition all at once over the holiday weekend and limiting them to some prearranged number of pages. Instead, I think that I will break them up and address one or so issues every day or two. Before, I can get to your proposition, however, I must address the issues in your response to my proposition.

In your last post, you said that you were a "libertarian debater" and indicate that you are opposed to rules for debate. So, my first concern is that you do not understand libertarianism and seem to confuse it with anarchy.

Libertarianism is defined as a political philosophy that advocates individual liberty, especially freedom of thought, expression, and action. See, Webster's New World College Dictionary. Author David Boaz wrote that "Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to live his or her life in any way he or she chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others" and "Libertarians defend each person's right to life, liberty, and property -- rights that people have naturally, before governments were created." See Libertarianism: A Primer. Therefore, any assumption that you are making that libertarians do not support laws to protect the rights of individuals is incorrect.

The Libertarian philosophy is not one of absolutes, which is the view of the mob -- either anarchy or authoritarianism. Libertarians reject that. As James Madison so eloquently wrote in Federalist Paper No. 51, "But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

You said, "Of all the modern day post war republics, can you name one that went from a constitutional democracy to overt socialism or communism." First, there have not been many true democracies or republics in the history of the world so that makes this an unfair test. I will research it, but you asked that I name only one so I will provide you with the ones I can remember without researching: Iraq, South Vietnam, and Syria all had republics briefly before being taken over by Baath Socialists in Iraq and Syria and communists in South Vietnam. I am sure there are others post WWII, but the constitutional republics in industrialized countries were protected, directly and indirectly, by the United States who intervened to counter any socialist/communist takeover. Many of those countries have trended toward socialism in various aspects, but only because the United States essentially protected them from aggression by their regional hegemon, which was usually a communist country.

Also, prior to WWII, the Nazis and Fascists took over a variety our constitutional republics and lead them to disaster. Germany had a constitutional republic that was taken over by the national socialists.

 
At 6:09 PM, June 28, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

Part 2:

You said "Revolution against concentrated power and wealth and government corruption usually in the form of some dictatorship or autocratic right-wing regime. They were not democratic before they revolted." No, and neither were they democratic after the revolt. The Soviet Union is the textbook case of revolution against a regime where wealth and power were concentrated and the government was corrupt. And, once in power, the communist leaders concentrated wealth and power in their hands, and the communist government was corrupt. And, in order to implement their top down ideology, Stalin forced the peasants to join collectives where they no longer owned their own farms and could no longer sell their own produce. The result plummeting farm production and the mass starvation of peasants in Russia and Ukraine. Another classic example is Communist China and Mao's great leap forward that lead to land confiscations, brutal repression of the peasants, and mass starvation.

My view of history is that the concentration of power in the hands of a few, no matter how well intentioned, leads to further concentration of power, which leads to authoritarian government. It does not matter whether you call the government socialist, communist, national socialist, monarchy, pharaonic, statist, etc. It is all the same as it involves the concentration of power in the hands of a few who rule the many. And, that is always bad. And, the purpose of our Constitution is the defuse power and prevent its concentration.

You argue for regulation to keep business people from concentrating power. But, the more government regulates business, the more it comes to their rescue when the business makes bad business decisions and, with those regulations, the more government drives current and potential competitors out of that business to protect the crony capitalists. Is is competition, not regulation, that keeps business people honest and striving to satisfy consumer demand. For example, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America were bailed out by government, but several of my clients weren't because they were smaller companies who never had one of their executives serve in government like they do at Goldman and BOA. Also, many of my clients would have benefited by the failure of Goldman and BOA as they would have bought up their assets, fixed the problems, and had larger, more profitable companies. In addition, as smaller companies they work harder to keep their clients because of the competition that very large, and politically connected Goldman and BOA do not have to do. But then, the smaller banks were punished by the Dodd Frank bill, which helped Goldman and BOA. Again, competition, and crony regulated capitalism, keeps business honest.

You said, "And while my guess is that a more representative government would have more government and more social programs people would not allow it to become communist as long as they control the democratic process." I do not understand how you think that government becomes more representative of the people when it concentrates more power and resources in the hands of the political class. In fact, business loves government because why would you want to work when you could use government to drive your competition out of business and create regulations that only very large companies can afford to comply with.

I think that you are advocating true democracy in the style of Revolutionary France. As history proved, that type of democracy lead to mob rule, that lead to anarchy, that led to imperial rule by Napoleon Bonaparte, that lead back to monarchy. Eighty-five disastrous years later, France became a shaky constitutional republic. But, the American Revolution, with its stated goal of individual liberty and limited self government worked. It did not work perfectly, but in comparison with authoritarian countries, it worked great.

 
At 6:12 PM, June 28, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

Part 3:

You said, "That being said I do agree we have a problem with the political class and their concentrating power." Yes, and the political class is liberal, big government types for a reason. Its how they get their wealth and power without having to earn it.

More later...dinner awaits...

PS: I would have liked to have had more time to respond in order to organize my thoughts and more properly reference my sources. And, in the future, I will take the time to do so, which means my posts will take longer to prepare and enter. This means it may be a few days between posts.

Later, George.


PS2: You can include only 4,096 characters in a post to your blog.

 
At 6:15 PM, June 28, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

Part 1 (original post did not take)

George, Anonymous' incoherent ramblings may have made sense to him, but not to anyone else. I believe that is why it chose to remain anonymous.

As you previously observed, we are both pretty busy so I will have to address the various issues in your last post in separate comments that I will post over the next few days. I was hoping to research and prepare comments in favor of my proposition all at once over the holiday weekend and limiting them to some prearranged number of pages. Instead, I think that I will break them up and address one or so issues every day or two. Before, I can get to your proposition, however, I must address the issues in your response to my proposition.

In your last post, you said that you were a "libertarian debater" and indicate that you are opposed to rules for debate. So, my first concern is that you do not understand libertarianism and seem to confuse it with anarchy.

Libertarianism is defined as a political philosophy that advocates individual liberty, especially freedom of thought, expression, and action. See, Webster's New World College Dictionary. Author David Boaz wrote that "Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to live his or her life in any way he or she chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others" and "Libertarians defend each person's right to life, liberty, and property -- rights that people have naturally, before governments were created." See Libertarianism: A Primer. Therefore, any assumption that you are making that libertarians do not support laws to protect the rights of individuals is incorrect.

The Libertarian philosophy is not one of absolutes, which is the view of the mob -- either anarchy or authoritarianism. Libertarians reject that. As James Madison so eloquently wrote in Federalist Paper No. 51, "But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

You said, "Of all the modern day post war republics, can you name one that went from a constitutional democracy to overt socialism or communism." First, there have not been many true democracies or republics in the history of the world so that makes this an unfair test. I will research it, but you asked that I name only one so I will provide you with the ones I can remember without researching: Iraq, South Vietnam, and Syria all had republics briefly before being taken over by Baath Socialists in Iraq and Syria and communists in South Vietnam. I am sure there are others post WWII, but the constitutional republics in industrialized countries were protected, directly and indirectly, by the United States who intervened to counter any socialist/communist takeover. Many of those countries have trended toward socialism in various aspects, but only because the United States essentially protected them from aggression by their regional hegemon, which was usually a communist country.

Also, prior to WWII, the Nazis and Fascists took over a variety our constitutional republics and lead them to disaster. Germany had a constitutional republic that was taken over by the national socialists.

 
At 11:57 AM, June 29, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

George, you said, “My proposition is that a libertarian society would result in consistently increasing concentrations of land, wealth, property, and the means of production. With no income or property tax and no transfer or inheritance tax increasingly larger and larger mergers of resources and monopoly will allow those means to buy out those of lesser means. Eventually, all the property will be owned by a minority leaving the rest of the unpropertied with no resources and with only servitude to those with property as their only hope for survival. … Tell me how this accumulation of property by the few would not happen.”

As Milton Friedman said, “Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.” That is exactly what history teaches us. And, libertarianism which stands for individual liberty and the diffusion of power, which is the philosophy that best avoids such concentration. As properly stated by F. A. Hayek, "The argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better."

And power is diffused by limiting the power of government and maintaining easy entry and exit into any business by an individual or a group of individuals freely associating with one another to engage in that business. But, the more government regulates, the more it makes it difficult for anyone to compete with anyone already engaged in a very profitable business activity. And, then unlimited government further frustrates competition by bailing out and subsidizing businesses that fail to efficiently and effectively serve consumers. Absent government intervention, businesses compete and the concentration of power, wealth, property, and the means of production is less likely to occur than if government intervenes.

No one can guarantee liberty. As Benjamin Franklin so wisely noted in responding to a question about what the Constitutional Convention had given the nation, “A Republic if you can keep it.” And, historically, Constitutional Republics are normally overthrown by either (1) the gradual trading away by the populace of their liberty for security as evidence by the Roman Republic first transitioning to a Principate and eventually to a absolute monarch (Diocletian) and (2) violence by unthinking and emotional mobs as evidenced by the French Revolution and the Athenian experiment with democracy.

To sum up, individual liberty, and the preservation of such, is more likely to avoid the concentration of wealth, power, property, land, and the means of production because everyone has incentives to create and compete in order to provide goods and services to others. Extensive government control, however, is more likely to concentrate wealth, power, property, land, and the means of production because the incentive is to acquire more and greater political power or brown-nose existing politicians to curry political favor in order to avoid competition and work, while lording it over others to acquire the goods and services that the political elite and its allies need and want.

Competition helps to preserve individual liberty and rewards those who best use their talents and abilities to satisfy consumer demand for goods and services. Government intervention is used to limit competition and protect the few, and historically, that is how power is concentrated, which results in the concentration of wealth, property, land, and the means of production.

 
At 8:34 AM, June 30, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

George, you said, “My proposition is that a libertarian society would result in consistently increasing concentrations of land, wealth, property, and the means of production. With no income or property tax and no transfer or inheritance tax increasingly larger and larger mergers of resources and monopoly will allow those means to buy out those of lesser means. Eventually, all the property will be owned by a minority leaving the rest of the unpropertied with no resources and with only servitude to those with property as their only hope for survival. … Tell me how this accumulation of property by the few would not happen.”

As Milton Friedman said, “Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.” That is exactly what history teaches us. And, libertarianism which stands for individual liberty and the diffusion of power, which is the philosophy that best avoids such concentration. As properly stated by F. A. Hayek, "The argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better."

And power is diffused by limiting the power of government and maintaining easy entry and exit into any business by an individual or a group of individuals freely associating with one another to engage in that business. But, the more government regulates, the more it makes it difficult for anyone to compete with anyone already engaged in a very profitable business activity. And, then unlimited government further frustrates competition by bailing out and subsidizing businesses that fail to efficiently and effectively serve consumers. Absent government intervention, businesses compete and the concentration of power, wealth, property, and the means of production is less likely to occur than if government intervenes.

No one can guarantee liberty. As Benjamin Franklin so wisely noted in responding to a question about what the Constitutional Convention had given the nation, “A Republic if you can keep it.” And, historically, Constitutional Republics are normally overthrown by either (1) the gradual trading away by the populace of their liberty for security as evidence by the Roman Republic first transitioning to a Principate and eventually to a absolute monarch (Diocletian) and (2) violence by unthinking and emotional mobs as evidenced by the French Revolution and the Athenian experiment with democracy.

To sum up, individual liberty, and the preservation of such, is more likely to avoid the concentration of wealth, power, property, land, and the means of production because everyone has incentives to create and compete in order to provide goods and services to others. Extensive government control, however, is more likely to concentrate wealth, power, property, land, and the means of production because the incentive is to acquire more and greater political power or brown-nose existing politicians to curry political favor in order to avoid competition and work, while lording it over others to acquire the goods and services that the political elite and its allies need and want.

Competition helps to preserve individual liberty and rewards those who best use their talents and abilities to satisfy consumer demand for goods and services. Government intervention is used to limit competition and protect the few, and historically, that is how power is concentrated, which results in the concentration of wealth, property, land, and the means of production.

 
At 8:36 AM, June 30, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

George, you said, “My proposition is that a libertarian society would result in consistently increasing concentrations of land, wealth, property, and the means of production. With no income or property tax and no transfer or inheritance tax increasingly larger and larger mergers of resources and monopoly will allow those means to buy out those of lesser means. Eventually, all the property will be owned by a minority leaving the rest of the unpropertied with no resources and with only servitude to those with property as their only hope for survival. … Tell me how this accumulation of property by the few would not happen.”

As Milton Friedman said, “Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.” That is exactly what history teaches us. And, libertarianism which stands for individual liberty and the diffusion of power, which is the philosophy that best avoids such concentration. As properly stated by F. A. Hayek, "The argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better."

And power is diffused by limiting the power of government and maintaining easy entry and exit into any business by an individual or a group of individuals freely associating with one another to engage in that business. But, the more government regulates, the more it makes it difficult for anyone to compete with anyone already engaged in a very profitable business activity. And, then unlimited government further frustrates competition by bailing out and subsidizing businesses that fail to efficiently and effectively serve consumers. Absent government intervention, businesses compete and the concentration of power, wealth, property, and the means of production is less likely to occur than if government intervenes.

No one can guarantee liberty. As Benjamin Franklin so wisely noted in responding to a question about what the Constitutional Convention had given the nation, “A Republic if you can keep it.” And, historically, Constitutional Republics are normally overthrown by either (1) the gradual trading away by the populace of their liberty for security as evidence by the Roman Republic first transitioning to a Principate and eventually to a absolute monarch (Diocletian) and (2) violence by unthinking and emotional mobs as evidenced by the French Revolution and the Athenian experiment with democracy.

To sum up, individual liberty, and the preservation of such, is more likely to avoid the concentration of wealth, power, property, land, and the means of production because everyone has incentives to create and compete in order to provide goods and services to others. Extensive government control, however, is more likely to concentrate wealth, power, property, land, and the means of production because the incentive is to acquire more and greater political power or brown-nose existing politicians to curry political favor in order to avoid competition and work, while lording it over others to acquire the goods and services that the political elite and its allies need and want.

Competition helps to preserve individual liberty and rewards those who best use their talents and abilities to satisfy consumer demand for goods and services. Government intervention is used to limit competition and protect the few, and historically, that is how power is concentrated, which results in the concentration of wealth, property, land, and the means of production.

 
At 2:58 PM, June 30, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

George, you said, “My proposition is that a libertarian society would result in consistently increasing concentrations of land, wealth, property, and the means of production. With no income or property tax and no transfer or inheritance tax increasingly larger and larger mergers of resources and monopoly will allow those means to buy out those of lesser means. Eventually, all the property will be owned by a minority leaving the rest of the unpropertied with no resources and with only servitude to those with property as their only hope for survival. … Tell me how this accumulation of property by the few would not happen.”

As Milton Friedman said, “Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.” That is exactly what history teaches us. And, libertarianism which stands for individual liberty and the diffusion of power, which is the philosophy that best avoids such concentration. As properly stated by F. A. Hayek, "The argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better."

 
At 3:00 PM, June 30, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

And power is diffused by limiting the power of government and maintaining easy entry and exit into any business by an individual or a group of individuals freely associating with one another to engage in that business. But, the more government regulates, the more it makes it difficult for anyone to compete with anyone already engaged in a very profitable business activity. And, then unlimited government further frustrates competition by bailing out and subsidizing businesses that fail to efficiently and effectively serve consumers. Absent government intervention, businesses compete and the concentration of power, wealth, property, and the means of production is less likely to occur than if government intervenes.

No one can guarantee liberty. As Benjamin Franklin so wisely noted in responding to a question about what the Constitutional Convention had given the nation, “A Republic if you can keep it.” And, historically, Constitutional Republics are normally overthrown by either (1) the gradual trading away by the populace of their liberty for security as evidence by the Roman Republic first transitioning to a Principate and eventually to a absolute monarch (Diocletian) and (2) violence by unthinking and emotional mobs as evidenced by the French Revolution and the Athenian experiment with democracy.

 
At 3:01 PM, June 30, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

To sum up, individual liberty, and the preservation of such, is more likely to avoid the concentration of wealth, power, property, land, and the means of production because everyone has incentives to create and compete in order to provide goods and services to others. Extensive government control, however, is more likely to concentrate wealth, power, property, land, and the means of production because the incentive is to acquire more and greater political power or brown-nose existing politicians to curry political favor in order to avoid competition and work, while lording it over others to acquire the goods and services that the political elite and its allies need and want.

Competition helps to preserve individual liberty and rewards those who best use their talents and abilities to satisfy consumer demand for goods and services. Government intervention is used to limit competition and protect the few, and historically, that is how power is concentrated, which results in the concentration of wealth, property, land, and the means of production.

 
At 8:10 AM, July 01, 2011, Blogger muirgeo said...

Greg,

Thanks for some excellent and thoughtful post. I am sorry to say I've gotten behind but with a good excuse of being on vacation here in Lake Tahoe .

Out of respect for you my guest I will continue to stick with your concerns of progressivism concentrating power in the political class.

I liked what you wrote, "My view of history is that the concentration of power in the hands of a few, no matter how well intentioned, leads to further concentration of power, which leads to authoritarian government." (6:09 PM, June 28, 2011)

This is a critical point in that it is apparently something we can both agree on. Amazingly as different as our approaches our we ultimately have the same goal. I believe you hit the key point of any discussion of history, society, liberty and the purpose of government.

So our goal is to avoid concentrations of power while not infringing on peoples liberty.

The second thing we agree on is that you have to have government. Again you really strung together a few critical points by including that James Madison quote. It really bothers me when people disregard this and seem to have a primordial disdain for government. The argument is, to me, not about having or not having a government but maximizing its effectiveness. I think of government as a good thing not a bad thing.

So if we both agree government is needed to prevent concentrations of power then the discussion is about how best to order or arrange government.

Libertarians focus exclusively on the individual but progressives are OK with group rights as well. In the Madison quote he states, "But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?" I believe this. I believe the government should reflect human nature and desires. People are altruistic. Most of us think not only of individual needs but of the needs of the group. The libertarian position seems to focus only on individual rights and abhors even the mention of group rights.

So from here it my be instructive to talk about group rights versus individual rights because I think it is a key concern of mine that leads me to be a progressive and leaves me concerned with why focusing only on the individual could lead to lesser amounts of liberty for the majority.

continued in next post....

 
At 8:23 AM, July 01, 2011, Blogger muirgeo said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 8:33 AM, July 01, 2011, Blogger muirgeo said...

Yesterday, my wife, my 16 year old daughter , my dog Myra and I hiked to a placed called Snow Lake.

Snow Lake; Desolation Wilderness


Snow Lake is in Desolation Wilderness in the Tahoe National forest.... it is owned by ALL of us. Anyone can go there... you do need a permit and there are some rules to follow but they are not restrictive. I imagine in a libertarian society that would be privately owned and my liberty... my families liberty to have the most amazing day we had yesterday would have been quashed when we came to the trailhead and saw instead of a Welcome to Desolation Wilderness sign a NO TRESPASSING!!!. VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED sign!

I have actually had that experience hiking in a beautiful valley on the big Island of Hawaii.


So this is bit off tract but for me it's fundamental. Being an avid hiker, backpacker and nature buff the idea that my liberty to roam where I want or "the groups" liberty to roam where they want can be suppressed by ONE individual brings out the flaw in focusing ONLY on individual liberty.

In this example i have tried to show how progressive ideas might actually promote MORE liberty than libertarian ideas. I think this can be applied to more significant issues than just my desire to go hiking where I want.

 
At 8:50 AM, July 01, 2011, Anonymous Subhi said...

Muirgeo,

Your writing has improved tremendously. I like you have wrote, but I don't think you understand libertarian position very well. I'll let Greg point it out to you.

 
At 7:57 PM, July 01, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

George, enjoy your vacation and we will talk later.

 
At 7:58 PM, July 01, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

George, enjoy your vacation and we will talk later.

 
At 9:41 AM, July 02, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

George, thank you for your recent posts. Please enjoy your vacation. I am not going anywhere so do not feel obligated to respond to this series of posts until you have time and desire to do so. Also, you may discuss any issue you wish as I believe that our debate has turned into a discussion, which I prefer.

To sum up, it appears that we agree that:

• Government is necessary to promote certain group concerns and
• Concentration of power is to be avoided because as it tends to result in the infringement of individual liberty and the coercion of individuals.

But, it appears that we disagree on how to achieve those somewhat contradictory goals. And, that is not surprising because that was the same issue that the Founding Fathers wrestled with in trying to create a national government.

You said, “It really bothers me when people disregard this and seem to have a primordial distain for government. The argument is, to me, about having or not having a government but maximizing its effectiveness.” The problem that I have in maximizing government’s effectiveness is that, in making government more effective, the checks and balances designed to limit the concentration of power in the federal government are eroded or removed, which infringes or individual liberty or puts it at greater risk.

An example of this is the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005). In Kelo, the Court expanded the “public use” provision of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution to include the City of New London taking the homes of citizens to give the land to a corporation for economic redevelopment. The redevelopment plan promised 3,169 new jobs and $1.2 million a year in tax revenues, and the Court held in a 5–4 decision that the general benefits that the community may enjoy from promised economic growth qualified such redevelopment plans as a permissible "public use" under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. But, all those promised jobs and tax revenues never happened because the redeveloper was unable to obtain financing and abandoned the redevelopment project, leaving the land as an empty lot. To me, this is an excellent example of crony capitalism where the city government and a redevelopment corporation got together and forced homeowners to give up their homes so that supposedly a group (the community) would benefit. Yet, the result was no additional tax revenues, no redevelopment, and no benefit to the community (actually a detriment occurred because the land is now a vacant. And, I think the city government and the redevelopment corporation lied. The intent was not to benefit the community. The intent was to increase city tax revenues and profit a politically-connected redevelopment corporation. Also, and most importantly, an important Constitutional protection for individuals (i.e., the right to your home) was infringed upon and government power expanded.

 
At 9:42 AM, July 02, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9:45 AM, July 02, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

(First post in this series)

George, thank you for your recent posts. Please enjoy your vacation. I am not going anywhere so do not feel obligated to respond to this series of posts until you have time and desire to do so. Also, you may discuss any issue you wish as I believe that our debate has turned into a discussion, which I prefer.

To sum up, it appears that we agree that:

• Government is necessary to promote certain group concerns and
• Concentration of power is to be avoided because as it tends to result in the infringement of individual liberty and the coercion of individuals.

But, it appears that we disagree on how to achieve those somewhat contradictory goals. And, that is not surprising because that was the same issue that the Founding Fathers wrestled with in trying to create a national government.

You said, “It really bothers me when people disregard this and seem to have a primordial distain for government. The argument is, to me, about having or not having a government but maximizing its effectiveness.” The problem that I have in maximizing government’s effectiveness is that, in making government more effective, the checks and balances designed to limit the concentration of power in the federal government are eroded or removed, which infringes or individual liberty or puts it at greater risk.

An example of this is the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005). In Kelo, the Court expanded the “public use” provision of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution to include the City of New London taking the homes of citizens to give the land to a corporation for economic redevelopment. The redevelopment plan promised 3,169 new jobs and $1.2 million a year in tax revenues, and the Court held in a 5–4 decision that the general benefits that the community may enjoy from promised economic growth qualified such redevelopment plans as a permissible "public use" under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. But, all those promised jobs and tax revenues never happened because the redeveloper was unable to obtain financing and abandoned the redevelopment project, leaving the land as an empty lot. To me, this is an excellent example of crony capitalism where the city government and a redevelopment corporation got together and forced homeowners to give up their homes so that supposedly a group (the community) would benefit. Yet, the result was no additional tax revenues, no redevelopment, and no benefit to the community (actually a detriment occurred because the land is now a vacant. And, I think the city government and the redevelopment corporation lied. The intent was not to benefit the community. The intent was to increase city tax revenues and profit a politically-connected redevelopment corporation. Also, and most importantly, an important Constitutional protection for individuals (i.e., the right to your home) was infringed upon and government power expanded.

 
At 9:46 AM, July 02, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

(Second post in this series)

Consequently, I am wary anytime someone tells me that I must give up one of my precious Constitutional protections and liberties to benefit some group. And, it is one of the important reasons that I do not want government to be effective in all areas. Rather, I want to limit government in certain areas and I want to limit its power to coerce an individual where it involves giving up his or her life, liberty, property, or pursuit of happiness.

You said, “I think of government as a good thing, not a bad thing.” I think of government as neither inherently good nor bad. It is an organization similar to a corporation, partnership, cooperative, etc. in that it involves a group of people working together to achieve some stated goal. I think it can be a good thing if it achieves its stated goals through voluntary exchange with others, but a bad thing if it uses coercion.

You said, “So if we both agree government is needed to prevent concentrations of power then the discussion is about how best to order or arrange government.” I think that we differ some here. I believe that government concentrates power. Therefore, the power granted to government must be limited otherwise individual liberty will be infringed upon. But, I agree that our discussion, as it was for the Founding Fathers, is about how best to order or arrange government.

You said, “Libertarians focus exclusively on the individual but progressives are okay with group rights as well. In the Madison quote, he states, ‘But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections of human nature?’ I believe this. I believe the government should reflect human nature and desires. People are altruistic. Most of us think not only of individual needs but of the needs of the group. The libertarian position seems to focus only on individual rights and abhors even the mention of group rights.” I disagree, but it is a common misconception about libertarianism.

 
At 9:47 AM, July 02, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

(Third post in this series)

I think that President Ronald Reagan, in an interview with Reason Magazine, identified this misperception and explained libertarianism well when he said, "If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals — if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is. Now, I can’t say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy. I believe there are legitimate government functions. There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals. The strongest man on the block will run the neighborhood. We have government to ensure that we don’t each one of us have to carry a club to defend ourselves. But again, I stand on my statement that I think that libertarianism and conservatism are traveling the same path."

I also point out F. A. Hayek’s statement that “The argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better.” And, as Milton Friedman wisely cautioned, “Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.”

 
At 9:48 AM, July 02, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

(Fourth post in this series)

You said, “Snow Lake is in Desolation Wilderness in the Tahoe National Forest…it is owned by ALL of us. Anyone can go there…you do need a permit and there are some rules to follow but they are not restrictive. I imagine in a libertarian society that would be privately owned and my liberty…my family’s liberty to have the most amazing day we had yesterday would have been quashed when we came to the trailhead and saw instead of a Welcome to Desolation Wilderness sign a NO TRESPASSING!!! VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED sign! I have actually had that experience hiking in a beautiful valley on the big island of Hawaii.” No, libertarians, as noted above, recognize a need for government, but are concerned about the structure of that government and the limits on its power. My guess is that, in a libertarian society, this park would not be owned by the federal government since that power is not conferred on the federal government by the Constitution. Rather, the park would be owned and operated by the state, county, or special governing entity creating specifically for owning and operating a park. The Founding Fathers knew about the need for parks, and the first one established in the Colonies was Boston Common. I assume that they did not include establishing parks as an enumerated power of the federal government in the Constitution because they felt that the state, county, and city governments should handle this function. Also, parks may be operated by a voluntary association of individuals or an individual like many historic sites are now.

You said, “So this is a bit off tract but for me it’s fundamental. Being an avid hiker, backpacker and nature buff the idea that my liberty to roam where I want or ‘the groups’ liberty to roam where I want can be suppressed by ONE individual brings out the flaw in focusing ONLY on individual liberty.” George, I am an avid hiker and kayaker, and I, as an individual, do not like to have my liberty to roam where and when I want infringed upon other another individual, a group of concerned citizens, or a government. But, as noted by Author David Boaz, “Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to live his or her life in any way he or she chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others.” Consequently, there must be some rules that maximize our individual rights to roam while preserving the rights of other individuals to their property. Parks, both public and private, along with Constitutional protections on the right of a citizen to travel, provide a good, though not perfect, answer.

 
At 9:49 AM, July 02, 2011, Blogger Greg said...

(Fifth post in this series)

I would not want anyone trespassing in my home so there have to be limits on another individual’s right, or even a group’s power, to roam though my home, my business, or other property that I own or temporarily rent. At the same time, there has to be land for citizens to enjoy nature. And, there has to be rules on such land to prevent the few, who would take the path of least resistance, from dropping their trash where they stood, carelessly leaving fires unattended, etc. And, since rules cannot prevent such bad behavior (the economic rule of the tragedy of the commons), there has to be a cost for such access. Government pays these costs from your taxes so it is not as concerned in keeping the costs down through preventative measures. Private associations and individuals granting access charge a fee and take preventative measures to keep costs down, preserve the property, pay salaries of the staff and maintenance people, and obtain a reward (or salary) for granting such access.

You said, “In this example, I have tried to show how progressive ideas might actually promote MORE liberty than libertarian ideas. I think this can be applied to more significant issues than just my desire to go hiking where I want.” I’m not sure that I agree that parks are a progressive idea. The idea of publicly owned and privately owned parks has been around a long time. I think the Spanish created a public park in Saint Augustine, and I know that the Massachusetts Bay Colony created one called the Boston Commons in 1634. And, I view parks, both publicly owned (not by the federal government though) and privately owned, as entirely consistent with the libertarian tradition.

Have a great vacation! We will continue our conversation later.

 

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