Comments: Lean, Left And Lofty

Excellent and well stated, Publicola. I can't add much to that. You've covered all the bases with one exception - a quote I keep posted above my desk at work:

If you have a problem and get advice from a knee-jerk conservative and a knee-jerk liberal, if you take the conservative's advice you'll at least know what problems it will cause.

Posted by Kevin Baker at January 13, 2007 08:41 PM

So far I've only had time to read the last paragraph:

any chance the fine folks at Lean Left would be willing to highlight what's wrong with the libertarian view on firearms ownership

You'll find my views on firearms to be atypical of "leftists," cf. here.

My only quarrel with the libertarian view on firearms ownership is that it has no viable plan for prevention. Every (sane) person I know, several of them libertarian, acknowledges that there are some people who simply shouldn't have firearms. They acknowledge that anyone who wants to K&BA ought to learn gun safety, take training, demonstrate proficiency, etc. They're simply not willing to require any of those things.

IOW, I fully support an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense, recreation, and hunting. In that regard, I'm at odds with many liberals. However, I'm not opposed to requiring things like training and licensing, which puts me at odds with libertarians (whose paranoia concerning links between registration and confiscation I don't share).

You can see why I don't blog about guns very much, given that my middle-of-the-road position is despised by pro-gun and anti-gun forces alike.

I'll try to read the rest of this later. "&" have a nice day. :)

Posted by tgirsch at January 13, 2007 10:51 PM

Tgirsch,
I wouldn't call it "paranoia". "paranoia" implies that it's either never happened before or has little chance of happening again but we're worried about it anyway. & yes; it's happened in the u.S. & rather recently.

Required training isn't something that most pro-gunners are opposed to. It's the licensing &/or registration required to implement such a program. Now you throw basic firearms safety & handling into the school curriculum at several different grade levels & most libertarians wouldn't have much objection (it could be done under Congress' power to regulate the militia) as long as there's not a list of folks who have taken such training or a requirement to show proof of training prior to purchase.

& I agree & I'll go one further - there are folks I know of who should not be trusted with dull spoons, let alone arms. The problem is who gets to decide? A conservative? (I have long hair so I probably would be deemed unsuitable) A liberal? (I'm a gun nut so I'd probably be deemed unsuitable.) DiFi? (I'm not a government worker so I'd probably be deemed unsuitable.) An ex-g/f? (Oh hell no - after all those lame ass jokes we ain't letting Pub have that!) An old caveat is never pass a law you wouldn't want your political opponent to enforce against you & I really can't think of anyone I'd trust to make the correct decision as to who gets to exercise a basic fundamental Right. I'd point out that free speech is even more dangerous than a firearm yet we have very little restrictions on whom may speak. Or type. I just don't think prior restraint is really worth the effort (i.e. it'll do more harm than good).

But please - get in depth with this so I can justify my use of ampersands in the quest for blog fodder. & hell, I might figure out how to script those tiny little "tm" things in the course of this. :D

Posted by Publicola at January 14, 2007 07:02 AM

Frankly, upon reading this whole thing, it sounds an awful lot more like wishful thinking than a "fisking."

Libertarian economic policies would almost certainly lead to oligarchic plutocracy (worse even than what we have today), if not outright fuedalism. "Hillary Care" was supposed to result in skyrocketing health care costs and lack of choice. Gee, I sure am glad that didn't get through, so that I may pick among the wide variety of low-cost health-care choices that exist today.

"Let the market decide" is a valid libertarian position.

So long as libertarians don't mind unsafe work environments, toxic dumping, child labor, and Enron-style accounting, I guess you could argue that. The market loves all those things. :)

In fact libertarians do have solutions to a lot of the problems Lean Left complains of. the problem is Lean Left does not like those solutions

The problem is these "solutions" don't have a snowball's chance in hell of actually working. Actually, I'm wrong, which is why there are libertarian paradises all over the world where libertarian policies have been implemented and created just, polite societies which thrive, and in which all citizens get a pony.

Actually most libertarians would suggest a visit from the "Don't Have Kids Until You're In A Position To Care For Them Fairy"

See, that's a fine attitude to take toward the parents, but what about the kids? I know libertarians like to mock the "what about the children" thing, but somehow they always stop short of the logical conclusion of their rhetoric: if you're born to irresponsible parents, tough shit. It's not my problem that your mom couldn't keep her legs closed... That's precisely where libertarianism leads, and yet few libertarians have the courage to state it quite that bluntly.

And that's ultimately why we'll never agree. If humans were solitary creatures, I might be able to get behind a philosophy where one's sole responsibility is to look out for #1, and where there's no shared responsibility for common problems. But humans are social creatures, and we didn't advance this far by saying "screw everybody else, I'm looking out for me."

Libertarianism tries to dress itself up in fancy philosophical discussions about "freedom" and "liberty," but what it's really about is freedom from responsibility, beyond just the very basic level of "don't kill anyone (who didn't deserve it) and don't do great harm to anyone."

A big reason that health care costs are so high isn't that the "evil medical corporation machine" is looking to stick it to us; it's that government subsidation has created a distortion in the market that has artificially inflated pricing.

Neat claim. But I wonder if you've ever heard of this thing called "evidence."

That's Darwinism on a societal level, not a failing of the market or libertarian ideas.

I have to admit, it's refreshing to hear a libertarian so freely admit that libertarianism is essentially social Darwinism. That type of candor is rare.

What a libertarian world would do is provide more equality in opportunity which is all we should ever hope for.

OK, now it's my turn to call bullshit. In a libertarian world, wealth would inevitably concentrate in relatively few hands. This would result not in equal opportunity, and in fact it would result in quite the opposite. The inequality would start from the very beginning. There'd be no public schools at all, so poor parents wouldn't be able to afford to educate their children, and middle-class parents wouldn't be able to afford nearly what the wealthy could. So the children of the wealthy would have an even greater advantage than they do today.

See, that points up another problem with libertarianism: it's predicated on the myth that all it takes to go from rags to riches is hard work. Well, that just ain't so. You need a lot of luck (including being lucky enough to be born to the right parents) and a lot of help. Libertarianism would eliminate what few social equalizers currently exist (public education, estate taxes, etc.).

Most poor people aren't poor because they're lazy (a fact which, if you are as poor as you say, you ought to recognize first-hand). They're poor because of externalities, many of them outside their control. Now if you're okay with that, that's fine, but don't bullshit me and pretend that this reality amounts to "equal opportunity" in any sense.

They’re just not usually government sponsored solutions so Lean Left can't comprehend that they'd actually work.

Make it easier for me. Show me examples of where they ever have worked. And spare me the "they took down traffic signs in europe" bit.

What it seems Lean left's big contention with libertarians amounts to is that we value individuals over the collective

Not at all, although I'd give you bonus points for the liberals-as-Borg jab. As I've been trying to point out here, my primary contention with libertarians is that their philosophy can only work if everyone truly does start out on equal footing, and with equal opportunity. But that world simply doesn't exist. In libertarian-world, the single-biggest thing you can do to succeed and get ahead is pick the right parents.

And I think you, like Kevin Baker, are too quick to lump me into your preconceived notions of "liberal socialist." I happen to be a big fan of individual liberty. I just don't happen to think that expecting everyone to share some of the common costs of society is an undue infringement on such liberty. And I certainly don't think trying to regulate against corporate exploitation is, either.

As I told Kevin Baker, I don't want some kind of socialist Utopia. I think pure socialism has about as much a chance of working as pure capitalism. What I want, instead, is a system where capitalism and socialism are in tension. Where neither one gains too much of an advantage over the other. I think the worst thing we could do is throw out either one of those concepts in favor of the other. Where the market does a good job of providing, by all means, leave it to the market. Where it doesn't, that's where it's time to step in and tweak.

Finally, WRT global warming, denying it doesn't make it fiction. Pretty much every climatologist not named Richard Lindzen agrees that it's a very real problem. Even prominent libertarian scientist and Scientific American columnist Michael Shermer has come around. But set aside, for the moment, your objections to global warming science, and assume, for the sake of argument, that it's real, that the predictions are correct, and that the only way to fight it is to drastically reduce fossil fuel emission. What's the libertarian solution to this? Seriously, how do you solve that without governments stepping in and regulating? If you can come up with that solution, you might just win a Nobel prize.

Posted by tgirsch at January 14, 2007 10:53 PM

WRT global warming, denying it doesn't make it fiction. Pretty much every climatologist not named Richard Lindzen agrees that it's a very real problem. Even prominent libertarian scientist and Scientific American columnist Michael Shermer has come around. But set aside, for the moment, your objections to global warming science, and assume, for the sake of argument, that it's real, that the predictions are correct, and that the only way to fight it is to drastically reduce fossil fuel emission. What's the libertarian solution to this? Seriously, how do you solve that without governments stepping in and regulating? If you can come up with that solution, you might just win a Nobel prize.

Willie Soon and Sallie Balunis don't buy into it either. Neither does Pat Michael (well, he thinks it might be happening, but not because of humans).

Of course, the Russians are more concered about global cooling.

and low and behold, now that they defeated the Republicans, even the New York Times isn't so gung ho on the idea any more ... admitting finally that there might actually be more to the issue than their last 6 years worth of reporting.

Posted by countertop at January 16, 2007 06:20 AM

As I've been trying to point out here, my primary contention with libertarians is that their philosophy can only work if everyone truly does start out on equal footing, and with equal opportunity.

As I tried to point out on your blog but probably did a poor job, that assumes that Libertarians are outcome based just like liberals.

Liberals are the ones obsessed with the outcome always being equal.

Libertarian definition of a system "working" does not involve everyone having equal incomes, the same size house, identical health care opportunities and playboy bunny wives.

Libertarian definition of a system "working" has everything to do with poeple's destinies being a function of their own efforts and desires. They begin from their starting point, wherever that happens to be...yes, decided by luck of the draw and who their parents are...and go as far as their desire, capabilities and motivations take them. That is a system that works. It doesn't guarantee equal outcomes, only equal opportunities.

The government knocking some people down to keep them from getting too far ahead of their competitors is not a system that "works".

A rising tide really does lift all boats. Unless you really believe that "poor" people in the US, with their big screen TV's, cell phones and spinny wheels on their beater cars, are truly "poor" in the classical sense.

Posted by Sailorcurt at January 17, 2007 11:32 AM