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January 07, 2014

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This isn't a picture of libertarian independence. This is communitarianism, damn near socialism.

I think you have a misunderstanding of what constitutes libertarian independence.

Ynigo Montoya may have something to say about your use of "libertarianism". You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Let's Google:

Libertarianism: "an extreme laissez-faire political philosophy advocating only minimal state intervention in the lives of citizens."

Communitarianism: "a theory or system of social organization based on small self-governing communities."

I'm not seeing a whole lot of state coercion in your little anecdote. I'm just seeing a bunch of people voluntarily associating with one another for purposes of shaming (and threatening) an outlier. That sounds about as libertarian as you can get.

"Libertarian" is not a synonym for "self-reliant".

someone should ask the Sioux who once lived in what is now South Dakota about state coercion.

Well, really, what is "the state" in a small and relatively insular community such as this? If the body-politic is unified in coercing individuals to perform certain actions, does it matter if they do so through well-defined systems administered by an organization wielding formal legal authority, or through fluid, ad-hoc measures that rely on de facto coercion rather than de jure? If libertarianism opposes the former, but not the latter, is it just the verbiage they oppose?

I have to agree with Charles and the RadMod...that is pretty much exactly how I think libertarianism should play out.

And in that sense, as a self-described libertarian, I view that passage at least as manifesto-like (I'm not familiar with the rest of the books and can't speak to them). It shows a community resolving individual conflict WITHOUT resorting to state coercion...the lawman, the taxman, etc.

"Libertarian" is not a synonym for "self-reliant".

That's a really good point, and one that many self-described libertarians quite often seem to miss.

I'm curious to see how the libertarians here continue this discussion and sort this out. I'll just add a couple of things to the soup.

1. What about the free land? What about the enormous public investment that made the railroad feasible? Seems to me that, as Doc S clearly notes, the plucky little self-reliant community described in Ingalls' story would not exist at all in the absence of those items.

2. This might be libertarianism, but what it absolutely is not is unfettered capitalism. (Another thing, BTW, that is not a synonym for liberarianism). Ingalls, acting on behalf of the interest of the community at large, rations the distribution of Loftus' wheat, in spite of the fact that it was Loftus' putting his own capital at risk that made it available in the first place.

3. Last but not least, how does Ingalls' story of informal small-scale community self-organization scale to populations numbering in the millions? Or, thousands, for that matter?

In any event, it's a nice story. I'm sure we'd all love to live in a world where all of our differences could be sorted out around the cracker barrel.

"how libertarianism should play out"

Ya mean, Loftus' property rights were threatened and the telegraph lines to the constabulary were down, so what's a guy to do?

;)

The Donner Party worked their food shortage out too without resorting to state coercion. I lick my chops at the fulfillment of their ideals.

One wonders what would have ensued if Mr. Loftus had not ceded his wheat at cost to the community, which was within his rights in this libertarian commune, what sort of coercion would have occurred between these self-realized individuals, before the weather broke and the tracks of the railroad, probably built under Congressional Railroad Act of 1862 or some such, financed by U.S. Government bonds issued to the railroads and which secured government use of the railroad for postal, military and other uses, were cleared. Full stop.

I expect if Loftus had stuck to his guns (what, no guns, on the frontier?), it would have occurred to him or someone else that there might be bigger things at stake than a falloff in his grocery trade come Springtime (everyone was armed, weren't they?). At the very least some of his wheat would have been stolen, some gunfire would have ensued, and then coercion among these hippies would have escalated and Mr. Loftus himself might have become dinner, thus alleviating the protein shortage in town.

Then, after the Spring thaw, a Circuit Judge, one of them gummint agents, would have shown up to get to the bottom of Loftus' disappearance (libertarians getting their stories straight: he just up and left, didn't tell no one, took his wheat and his dog with him), I expect, out there in Valhalla, where the ghosts of the Sioux, dispatched either by disease or violence (has that been determined yet?), both libertarian principles (the Sioux were given a choice between the two, which I thought was gallant of us) in out early history apparently, count Coup.

I recall living for a short while in a commune- like arrangement a million years ago wherein decisions were made much the same way as in this story, where all of us sat down in a circle and sort of endlsssly jawed over our disagreements, each individual getting his or her say (there wasn't as much sex as I thought there would be, being a sharer at the time: I don't know if that is a failure of socialism or libertarianism) and one time someone made some muffins and someone else, we're not sure who yet, a confederate, a pastry usurper, a whole grain purloiner, perhaps, ate a couple of them before the group had been alerted to their existence and they could be shared.

Coercion in this happy home meeting took two forms, albeit without outside formal or legal intervention, our fair ideal. First, by a bunch of snooty officious types (the good cops), self-appointed I might add, since actually appointing someone official Sheriff was outside the rules, trying to shame or politely but firmly threaten our future in the group, much as Mr. Loftus was, and second, as it became clear that no one was going to volunteer their guilt, by the guy (bad cop) who turned out to have baked the accursed muffins, kind of big, husky, shirtless, an amulet hung around his neck, not often showered, water being somehow attached to the lawman and the taxman, who ended the meeting by announcing red-faced that if muffins went missing again some ass was going to be kicked, hari krishna, kumbaya, proving that even in the smallest utopias a Stalin will emerge to starve the Ukraine, which is why the phone number for the authorities is always kept handy.

A couple of points...

Loftus is not producing anything. He is a trader trying to pull off an arbitrage. This is not capitalism.

In the pure competition model of the firm profits are competed away. Is this situation an example of market breakdown?

Was it a coolly rational evaluation of his infinite time line expectations along smoothly differentiable indifference curves that led Lofton to change his mind....or something else?

How much did Lofton agree to pay those who undertook the danger to acquire the wheat?

What is the libertarian solution to the dire straits facing the town?

Are professed libertarians thompson and charlesWT in agreement? And what in god's name is radical moderate trying to say? Coercion is OK in small groups?

When will McKinney ride to the rescue?

We await further developments, popcorn in hand. This could get good.

russell:

To (hopefully) answer some of your questions, I may have read into the subtext a little. If I got that wrong I apologize, no offense meant.

"That's a really good point, and one that many self-described libertarians quite often seem to miss."

True, but I think it's also something a lot of self-described non-libertarians miss the libertarians saying. :P

"What about the free land? What about the enormous public investment that made the railroad feasible?"

What about them? Libertarianism, except at its most extreme, doesn't forbid the concept of public investment. For sure, the level of public investment would be far lower in a "libertarian" system.

Additionally, other solutions to the problem could have occurred without public investment. It may have changed the course and scope of US expansion into the west, but I don't think it would have halted it completely. Private investment is a thing that does occur, even in fairly large projects.

Maybe someone with more history cred than I could talk about the East India Companies? I think (and I could be completely wrong), it is an example of a massively expensive and risky expansion based largely on private capital. Earlier era, but my point is such things can happen.

"This might be libertarianism, but what it absolutely is not is unfettered capitalism. (Another thing, BTW, that is not a synonym for liberarianism). "

Agreed. I personally am against the conflation of libertarianism and "unfettered capitalism". Although I'm assuming by that you mean a short-sighted and purely greed-driven capitalism.

"Last but not least, how does Ingalls' story of informal small-scale community self-organization scale to populations numbering in the millions? Or, thousands, for that matter?"

How does a powerful central government scale when power and money concentrate in the hands of the few? How does communism scale? How does *any* method of organizing and interacting with other people scale to millions when we evolved to live in small tribal units?

Not well. But we do the best we can.

Every system has its flaws. Every. System. There is no paradigm for organizing millions of individuals that can be summed up in a sentence or a paragraph that actually works perfectly. I'm not saying that because you don't know it (I assume you do), I'm saying it to point out that I do as well.

But pointing out that getting together around a cracker barrel doesn't work for organizing, say, trade sanctions on a despotic regime isn't really a criticism of libertarian thought.

Because cracker barrels aren't a central tenet of libertarian thought. We prefer ammo crates. (kidding)

More seriously, I have yet to meet an anarcho-libertarian. Libertarians, in general, agree the government needs to exist. To mediate conflicts, provide for general welfare, common defense, etc etc. Pretty much because there aren't cracker barrels big enough for the entire nation to stand around.

But just because a libertarian may think the government may need to exist for reason X DOES NOT MEAN they are being inconsistent when they say it would be better if Y was left to the individual.
(Not answering something you said explicitly, but something I run across a lot...'how can you be libertarian when you drive on public roads, etc etc?' I may be projecting a little on you, sorry)

"In any event, it's a nice story. I'm sure we'd all love to live in a world where all of our differences could be sorted out around the cracker barrel."

Yeah, its a story. And if the author was socialist, it would end up like "The Jungle" where the main character's life was awful until socialism showed up and bam, everything got better. If it was authoritarian, the benevolent dictator would have shown up and handed out the grain, or whatever.

People write stories that reflect their beliefs, their fears, etc. If you could discount a line of thought because it showed up in a work of fiction at some point...well, there wouldn't be much left.
(not saying you were discounting it for that reason, or discounting it at all, just thought the implication was that libertarianism is a fantasy that only works in fiction, as demonstrated by it working in fiction)

Russell--

What about the free land? What about the enormous public investment that made the railroad feasible?

I suppose you can find some libertarians that think that all collective action problems should be outside of government province. But you have to be a lot more hard-core than I am to rule transportation infrastructure outside of the government domain.

This might be libertarianism, but what it absolutely is not is unfettered capitalism.

Hmmm. Did Mr. Loftus invest his money freely? Did he offer the fruits of his investment at a price that he set? Did market conditions subsequently discover a lower price for his goods? Capitalism doesn't require that all investments produce a return.

The intent behind Ingalls's rationing system certainly isn't capitalistic, but its implementation is. Loftus is still selling as much wheat as he wants to whomever he wants, at a price he's free to set. The fact that he's decided that the present value of his business is higher if he goes along to get along is a purely market decision. There's certainly coercion going on, but it's not state coercion.

...how does Ingalls' story of informal small-scale community self-organization scale to populations numbering in the millions? Or, thousands, for that matter?

It doesn't, obviously. But you're setting up a bit of a strawman if you're implying that the only alternative is strong central government. There's a lot of room between anarchy (which is what's happening in the story) and the federal government controlling as many things as it does today. I don't believe that the current allocation of power today is anywhere close to optimal. I'd prefer a lot more power devolving to individuals, municipalities, and states. But I won't argue that some problems require some amount of central government power. We're arguing about matters of degree, not of kind.

To add to our list of things that libertarians aren't, I guess we should add "anarchists".

bobby:

"This is not capitalism."

It's not ideal free-market capitalism, certainly. As indicated by the lack of infinite sellers and buyers, etc etc.

"Is this situation an example of market breakdown?"

I'm pretty sure yes, but as we've previously learned, my econ is lacking. :P

"How much did Lofton agree to pay those who undertook the danger to acquire the wheat?"

I don't know. Maybe you could read the book and get back to me?

"What is the libertarian solution to the dire straits facing the town?"

What was described in the post. Individual actors acting in their own best interest.

"Are professed libertarians thompson and charlesWT in agreement?"

I'll leave you with what I said earlier: "I have to agree with Charles"

I apologize I can't be more clear...I'm just so cagey sometimes. :P

Oh, one more thing. What RadMod said. It was what I was trying to say, but expressed...well.

"But you have to be a lot more hard-core than I am to rule transportation infrastructure outside of the government domain."

I appreciate the lack of hard-corenessiosity, TheRadicalModerate, which now that i think about it, is a great handle.

But, why not? And if not, how about healthcare?

"Capitalism doesn't require that all investments produce a return."

Shareholder capitalism certainly does, else why in every quarterly report that I read is there a lengthy explanation (obfuscation) regarding return of invested capital, etc?

Milton Friedman's bushy libertarian eyebrows just leapt erumpently from their grave to call for order.

You may be describing return on taxpayer investment. ;)

"There's certainly coercion going on, but it's not state coercion."

Why is that such a relief? I find the coercion closest to me to be the most invasive and .. coercive.

Compare one's coercive parents saying: "Go ahead, don't buy health insurance, you idiot, but don't come to us when the piper needs to be paid,", or the health insurance companies coercion: "Give us most of your monthly income or we won't cover your pre-existing conditions!" .. to Obamacare: "If you require health insurance, even if you're dying very expensively, you can, according to your income, purchase health insurance through these exchanges or sign up for Medicaid. Yes, there will be a small lien imposed via the IRS if you don't purchase the insurance, but then you are taking up room in the emergency rooms at others' coerced expense.

If wheat was healthcare, the Ingalls are Obamacare.

bobbyp:

"What is the libertarian solution to the dire straits facing the town?"

Socialism.

Or, cannibalism by agreement.

"There's certainly coercion going on, but it's not state coercion."

To say that any coercion is going on would require an expanded definition of coercion.

"To say that any coercion is going on would require an expanded definition of coercion."

From the text quoted by Doc Science:

"Mr. Loftus looked from Cap to Almanzo and then around at the other faces. They all despised him."

Sounds to me like a coercive class-warfare standoff, backed up by a fully-armed, hungry, desperate population with no trains leaving or arriving on a cold night, not even the 3:10 to Yuma.

Self-interest by any other name is coercion.

bobbyp: "Loftus is not producing anything. He is a trader trying to pull off an arbitrage. This is not capitalism."

Please.

"In the pure competition model of the firm profits are competed away. Is this situation an example of market breakdown?"

No, it's an example of a real-world market, rather than a blackboard model with major assumptions made to simplify things (and likely also to bias the conclusions).

"Was it a coolly rational evaluation of his infinite time line expectations along smoothly differentiable indifference curves that led Lofton to change his mind....or something else?"

Which has what to do with what?

"Mr. Loftus looked from Cap to Almanzo and then around at the other faces. They all despised him."

Which Charles says isn't coercion, RadMod says it is, and Count says this:

"Sounds to me like a coercive class-warfare standoff, backed up by a fully-armed, hungry, desperate population with no trains leaving or arriving on a cold night"

And the 'is it coercion?' question requires some details that I don't have without the text.

But let's be clear, using "coercion" to cover people not liking you is potentially in the definition of coercion, but its a stretch. And definitely distinct from the state using prison to coerce someone into doing something.

I mean, come on, if I organize people to boycott Orson Scott Card and his movie, is that coercion? What if we also despise him? Is that coercion?

I'd say no.

I think the scene in the book might turn to coercion if additional text further suggested the crowd would turn violent. But as it stands, I read the line as:

we will boycott you next year
not as
we'll burn your shop to the ground

And I'd say the second is coercive and the first is not.

You could argue that, as social creatures, we might find intense dislike from out fellow humans as so burdensome that is basically coercive...but at that point we're really not talking about the same thing as state coercion.

And using that definition, I have no problem "coercion-of-crowds" in general. Specific examples of it I may disapprove of, but I think its important that people are free to (a) associate and (b) express themselves, even if it makes others uncomfortable or 'coerced'.

I think it's worth noting the implied threat is not a simple, limited boycott, but a refusal of the entire rest of the (small, isolated) town to do business with him. The threat sounds more like one of economic shunning than social shunning. What's proposed wouldn't be a punitive hardship upon his livelihood, but financial ruin like as not necessitating him pulling up stakes and moving.

And I'd say the second is coercive and the first is not.

You're wrong. You don't get to redefine coercion to suit your ideology.

You may think that coercion that uses the threat of violence is unacceptable and that coercion that does not use the threat of violence is acceptable, but the meaning of the word does not change. To attempt to make someone do something they do not wish to do by using a threat is coercion. The store owner wished to make a profit on his free market investment of capital, the mob that despised him implied that unless he gave them his goods at cost they would withhold their business and ruin him. That is coercion.

When the FBI told MLK that they would reveal his extra-marital affairs unless he committed suicide, that was coercion. It would have been coercion even if it had been done by a non-state entity. Or would that be non-coercive under your ideology?

Loftus is not producing anything. He is a trader trying to pull off an arbitrage. This is not capitalism.

Another very excellent point, in which yet another pair of things commonly held forth as synonyms are found, in fact, not to be.

it is an example of a massively expensive and risky expansion based largely on private capital.

Operating under a state-sanctioned and -enforced monopoly, and where a very large portion of the 'private capital' was contributed by the individuals who, personally, constituted much of the state.

Imperial England was a mercantile economy, not a capitalistic one.

Although I'm assuming by that you mean a short-sighted and purely greed-driven capitalism.

You can generally assume that I mean what I write, and not something else. So no, I did not mean a short-sighted and purely greed-driven capitalism, I meant unfettered capitalism.

If somebody other than the buyer and seller is deciding whether and how much can be bought, the transaction is not unfettered.

Loftus is still selling as much wheat as he wants to whomever he wants

No, he's not. If Ingalls, or anyone else or any collection of people, decide whether or when or how much wheat any *other* person can buy or sell, Loftus is not selling as much wheat as he wants to whomever he wants.

But pointing out that getting together around a cracker barrel doesn't work for organizing, say, trade sanctions on a despotic regime isn't really a criticism of libertarian thought.

No, it's not. It's an assertion, by me, that libertarian thought is lovely but does not scale to populations that are too large for people to interact with each directly.

But just because a libertarian may think the government may need to exist for reason X DOES NOT MEAN they are being inconsistent when they say it would be better if Y was left to the individual.

No, it just means that their statement about it being "better if Y was left to the individual" is of limited practical use.

I think it would be better if we all just took care of each other, loved one another as fellow humans, refrained from judging each other, were uniformly kind and generous to each other on all occasions, and weren't greedy, ever, about anything.

That would result in a splendid society indeed. So, let's just do that.

Whenever the topic of libertarianism comes up, and people present specific cases where government intervention is obviously either necessary or constructive, everybody somehow agrees that *that* government intervention or coercion is the good kind, and that libertarians are therefore OK with *that* kind.

It's the *other* kind that falls afoul of libertarian principles.

So, it seems to me that libertarianism is basically a preference that government not do stuff that bugs particular libertarians.

I file it under "nice work if you can get it".

he just up and left, didn't tell no one, took his wheat and his dog with him

but he left behind these most excellent sausages....

"...but I think its important that people are free to (a) associate and (b) express themselves, even if it makes others uncomfortable or 'coerced'."

All well and good...so this applies to unions as well when they apply economic pressure on firms? Secondary boycotts that are (gasp!) outlawed by Taft-Hartley? Oh, if only we could be relieved of these infernal federal regulations regulating every aspect of our lives!

Please.

So trade patterns as between Asia, the Middle East and Europe in the early late middle ages were capitalism? Who knew? And thank you for your brevity.

No, it's an example of a real-world market

Could be. But it is not a free market as worshiped by the libertarian ethos, or as defined by free market economic theory (the price was a group decision, and certainly not "arms length" by any means. Further, in a 'free' market, the price is given and incentivises behavior. In this example it is the other way around). You are basically saying that any transaction mediated by money is a "market". By that definition, blackmail qualifies as a market transaction.

Which has what to do with what?

Marginalist theory and/or coercion. Pick'em.

Thanks.

This in depth definition of coercion presents a much broader concept of coercion than the one I'm use to. Psychological or social coercion would likely fit situation under discussion.

Loftus may have felt coerced into an arrangement with the townspeople, but he wasn't forced.

The type of coercion that libertarians object to is closer to the more narrow, legal definition of coercion.

Ugh. Ok. Into the weeds I go...

NomVide:

"not a simple, limited boycott, but a refusal of the entire rest of the (small, isolated) town to do business with him."

So...boycotts are only allowable if they aren't crippling? Or what? I was trying to get at the definition of 'coercion'. And its currently being stretched quite far. If I choose not to patronize a business, is that coercion? What if I convince my friends to do likewise?

It's fine for a word to have multiple meanings. And coercion does. My wife can coerce me into doing the dishes. My friends can coerce me into buying candy from their kid. And that, plainly, is not the same thing as the state coercing me into paying taxes, or of a threat of violence, etc etc.

It gets a little hairy when, as you point out, my boycotting someone would crippling their livelihood. But I maintain (and perhaps you disagree? I'm unclear.) it is really important that people be allowed to coerce each other in this fashion. If I don't like store X because the manager is an a-hole, I shouldn't be obligated to purchase things from him.

I think saying I am 'coercing' that manager is a little strong, even if I coordinate a 100% boycott to that effect. But if we agree that's coercion, I think its still distinct from (a) threats of force, governmental or otherwise.

Is this something we can reach accord on? Or could you suggest a word other than coercion? Or do you not see a distinction between the scopes of coercion as I have laid them out?

There's several worthwhile arguments here, no doubt, and I'm not eager to get tripped up on the definition of coercion.

bobbyp:

"All well and good...so this applies to unions as well when they apply economic pressure on firms?"

Yes.

DClarity:

"You're wrong. You don't get to redefine coercion to suit your ideology."

I wasn't. I was trying to make sure everybody was using the same definition. Words can, you know, have multiple usages in common and technical parlance.

For example, there is a legal definition of coercion. Also of blackmail, which strikes to the heart of your MLK paragraph.

I can see how people would describe a boycott as coercive. I'm not trying to belittle that concept. After all, that's pretty much the point.

That's not the same thing as coercion based on a threat of force or incarceration. The same word may be used, but that doesn't mean the phenomena are the same.

Yes.

Then you are, despite what the Libertarian Party platform says, an unusual libertarian. Every self-described libertarian I have ever met expressed nothing but contempt for organized labor.

Now, about legalizing the secondary boycott....

I have no problem with organized labor as long as employers can legally tell unions to take a hike if they so wish.

...and the long one, russell:

"Operating under a state-sanctioned and -enforced monopoly, and where a very large portion of the 'private capital' was contributed by the individuals who, personally, constituted much of the state."

Very true...and very similar to the US at all stages where the rich have far more influence, both directly and indirectly, in policy than the rest of us.

It's not private capital because they were rich and connected? Is the recent corporate space race also not private capitol because they are all rich?

You probably have a point here that's not a 'no true scotsman' type of point. But I'm not seeing it. Could you elaborate?

"You can generally assume that I mean what I write, and not something else. So no, I did not mean a short-sighted and purely greed-driven capitalism, I meant unfettered capitalism."

Ok, great, I'm assuming that now, as I did before. The problem is 'unfettered capitalism' isn't especially clear nor is it a term of art. So I guessed what you might mean. I apparently got it wrong. That's pretty much why I added a qualifier, so that you might clarify. Which you did by saying:

"If somebody other than the buyer and seller is deciding whether and how much can be bought, the transaction is not unfettered."

So thanks for that. That's a helpful definition. And...now I'm completely lost. Is your point that the Loftus isn't determining the price of the wheat? Because as I understand it, he is. Under the threat of boycott, but he is.

Or, are you saying that Loftus isn't allowed to take anything into account but supply and demand? If so, that's ridiculous and a complete caricature of libertarian thought.

If your point is that its not an ideal free market...I'd agree, obviously...but nobody said otherwise.

"No, he's not. If Ingalls, or anyone else or any collection of people, decide whether or when or how much wheat any *other* person can buy or sell, Loftus is not selling as much wheat as he wants to whomever he wants."

Which gets to freedom of association. People are free to act in concert, and they are in this case. Loftus is free to *attempt* to sell his wheat at any price to whomever he wants. Nobody is obligated to by it now or ever. He is choosing to go along with the at cost and ration because he believes if he doesn't, people will boycott his store. Which they are free to do.

"No, it's not. It's an assertion, by me, that libertarian thought is lovely but does not scale to populations that are too large for people to interact with each directly."

Technically, it wasn't an assertion. It was a question ('how does Ingalls' story of informal small-scale community self-organization scale to populations numbering in the millions?' The question mark is a dead giveaway).

You have now turned it into an assertion. If you'd like to offer evidence for your assertion, please do so. Or in the future, if you want to say "libertarian thought is lovely but does not scale", say it directly and we'll discuss it.

Otherwise, I'm just left confused by your use of implication in some areas and your "saying what you mean" in others.

"No, it just means that their statement about it being "better if Y was left to the individual" is of limited practical use."

Ok...so...what? You don't think ANYTHING should be left to the individual? Everything should be determined by the state?

Of course not. You want individual liberty to the extent possible. You've said as much in multiple posts across multiple threads. Just like I do. We disagree on the extent possible. Let's talk about that.

"I think it would be better if we all just took care of each other...splendid society indeed. So, let's just do that."

Strawman. Nobody said it.

"So, it seems to me that libertarianism is basically a preference that government not do stuff that bugs particular libertarians."

Um. Ok, other than being dismissively phrased, how is this different than 'liberal': Government should do the things we think are important, but spend less money on defense and not legislate sex.

Or 'conservative': Government shouldn't provide a social safety net but we totally should make sure penises only go in the right place.

Protip: We all agree (a) the government should exist and (b) should have some powers and (c) not all powers.

We can keep going in circles and pretending libertarians think the government shouldn't exist or we can act like adults, realize we all have different ideas about the scope of government, and talk it?

"unusual libertarian. Every self-described libertarian I have ever met expressed nothing but contempt for organized labor."

I have a number of problems with "organized labor" in that in many cases I don't think its actually working to the benefit of labor. I also don't like that my wages are garnished to support a union that I am not a part of.

That IS NOT THE SAME THING as saying unions don't have the RIGHT to associate and negotiate as a group.

The libertarians I know understand and appreciate the distinction. Perhaps we know different libertarians or perhaps you never get into the depths of their thought on unions.

Similarly, perhaps you know people that think corporations are an essential legal device in a multinational economy, but think the actions of some corporations are to the detriment of society?

To add to our list of things that libertarians aren't, I guess we should add "anarchists".

Indeed. There are no adherents of anarcho capitalism on earth.

I understand that thompson and CharlesWT and the RadicalModerate feel very strongly that their unique personal definitions of libertarianism should be controlling, but I'm not sure why anyone else should agree. I mean, if "libertarians" are so ignorant of libertarianism that they don't know about anarcho capitalism or Murray Rothbard, why should we take anything they say seriously?

Maybe our libertarian cohort can read the wikipedia article on libertarianism before they speak authoritatively about what libertarians believe. Or, if a whole article is too much to read (it seems to have been since they're all so unfamiliar with it), perhaps they could just skim the table of contents to pick up on the keywords? Or would that be too difficult too?

I have no problem with organized labor as long as employers can legally tell unions to take a hike if they so wish.

You mean they can't do that? I am shocked.

So...boycotts are only allowable if they aren't crippling? Or what? I was trying to get at the definition of 'coercion'. And its currently being stretched quite far. If I choose not to patronize a business, is that coercion? What if I convince my friends to do likewise?

The point of making note of the "scale" of the boycott was primarily to suggest that, given the size of and isolation of the town, the collective citizenry enforcing an economic boycott would be making it untenable for him to continue living in town. I.e., it's not a boycott where 10% or 50% of customers are gone, but all of them - and due to the isolation, he can't get more w/o leaving. The collective citizenry are informing him that he must yield to their will or be run out of town - run out of town politely, but still, run out of town. I'm not seeing an amazing bright line between this and e.g. the state imposing taxes and fines to compel compliance. Is it just the fact that the entity performing the coercive act does not have a clear monopoly on force? The unified citizenry have the power to collectively ruin him without taking his life or property - is that not coercion?

If the monopoly on force is indeed the bright line... Would it be coercion for Mr. Loftus to e.g. require the townspeople to elect him mayor under an autocratic town charter before he sold them any wheat? Plainly, it would be dumb, and inviting the lack of said monopoly to come into play. But while I think it's obviously coercive, I don't see a bright line between this and the thorough boycott. I see plenty of circumstantial distinction - primarily that the continued health and welfare of the townsfolk is strongly (though not exclusively) contingent on their receipt of the wheat - but I don't see a bright line.

Turb:

I know about anarchocapitalism. I've just never met IRL an adherent. And I'm not going to speak for them, because its not my place and I don't agree with them. If you'd like to have a rousing debate about it, please, identify one and go talk to them. I'm sure they will be more than happy to bend your ear about their beliefs. But I can't speak for them, and I don't think that says much about my beliefs except that they are not my own.

"Maybe our libertarian cohort can read the wikipedia article on libertarianism before they speak authoritatively about what libertarians believe. Or, if a whole article is too much to read"

Would it be too difficult for you to get through the first three sentences?

"Libertarianism (Latin: liber, "free")[1] is a set of related political philosophies that uphold liberty as the highest political end.[2][3] This includes emphasis on the primacy of individual liberty,[4][5] political freedom, and voluntary association. It is the antonym to authoritarianism.[6] Although libertarians all share a skepticism of governmental authority, they diverge on the extent and character of their opposition."

I don't think anyone has made claims dramatically outside that definition.

Generally I, and I've noticed others as well, qualify with "most" "many" "some" "libertarians I know" etc etc.

Libertarianism is broad (which the wikipedia article discusses), and I regularly reject the characterization put forth here, and other places, that is wholly extreme.

I can't speak for everybody, but I can speak for myself and my experiences and my beliefs.

I would point out, that libertarianism is not unique in its breadth. Conservatives and liberals also span such a wide range or beliefs that I am generally loathe to characterize one based on the beliefs of another.

It's almost like opinion is fundamentally individual and any set of descriptors is going to result in heterogeneous groupings.

But I'm unclear on your point. Are you upset that some people on the board are pretending to be libertarian when really they aren't? Are you upset we've hijacked the phrase?

Or are you upset we're not willing to carry the water of anybody who also describes themselves as libertarian?

I'm not asking to be combative, I just really don't get your point.

NomVide:

That's a thoughtful point and I want to be really careful about how I answer it.

I certainly don't think there is a distinction between the result, per se, between either give us grain at cost or we boycott and the sheriff saying give them the grain or I'll lock you up and take the grain.

I both cases he is coerced, in a broad sense, to give up the grain.

The distinction really is monopoly of force. The people can not, in any legal way, or in my mind any moral way, threaten him with force until he complies.

They can boycott, and he can leave the city and find another one to sell things in. It would come at great cost, which is something he would likely factor in when deciding how much and how to sell the grain. He can stay and try to wait out the boycott. He can apologize and try to make amends.

Alternatively, the sheriff can take his stuff and lock him in prison. Or fine him, and use the force of law to keep that fine persistent wherever in this nation he goes (well, probably not at the time...the next town over in Dakota probably wouldn't care). And if he resists when the sheriff takes his stuff, he can be shot and die.

None of these things would be legal, or moral, for the masses to do. We grant the government limited powers to utilize force and threat of force to coerce our neighbors. That doesn't mean it's always the answer.

This parable, from my libertarian lens, is an example of a conflict worked out not with the threat of force, but purely with freedom of association.

Other examples are, say, Chik-Fil-A. I don't patronize them and I encourage others not to do so, because their values diverge from mine and I don't want to support them. Is that coercion? Maybe in some sense, but I wouldn't want the government acting on my behalf in that regard.

OSC and his movie, same thing.

There is a restaurant in my town where the management is awful to the wait staff. I've informed them I won't eat there and why. Again, 'coercive' on my part, but again I don't want the owners arrested or fined until they see my point of view.

If at any point my boycotts actually crippled these businesses, they would be free to take their capital and invest it elsewhere, perhaps keeping in mind why they failed.

As with all things, its a matter of scale. At some point government intervention, and coercion, will be necessary for the people and their pursuit of happiness.

But I would prefer, to the extent possible, we rely on the somewhat gentler coercion of association and expression before resort to governmental force.

NomVide:

To answer your hypothetical, I think it would be

(a) stupid for the townsfolk to agree
(b) probably not a legal charter

In general, I'm ok with people doing stupid things, because I don't like being a judge of what is, or is not, stupid.

On the other hand, I'm against autocracy and the charter is probably unconstitutional. But IANAL.

Maybe our libertarian cohort can read the wikipedia article on libertarianism before they speak authoritatively about what libertarians believe.

I read the whole thing. Seems about right.

I suppose, like an English barrister in court, I'll have to preface anything I say about libertarianism with "In my opinion..."

libertarians must, individually, be free to define "libertarian" as they please, when they please, if they please and for whatever ends they please. any other arrangement would be coercive.

I'm fascinated by the discussion of the definition of libertarianism here. In a different thread, I referred to the Libertarian party platform as a starting point to discover what individual libertarians here actually believe. I would probably never vote for a member of the Libertarian party because I disagree with much of the party platform.

The trouble with party platforms is that they're written to sound aspirational, and they're short on policy details. It's easy to agree with certain statements in a platform, but when we see how they're played out in policy, we notice that the aspirations don't bear out. I disagree with much of the Libertarian party platform on its face, although there are some statements that are okay with me.

We don't really have a track record for Libertarian policymakers (other than Tea Party do-nothing people, who identify as Republicans instead of Libertarians). So it's difficult to tell what real Libertarian party members would really act like (other than guessing that they'd act like Rand Paul).

I mostly agree with the Democrats and will vote for them. Rather than discussing vague philosophy, I think it's more helpful to discuss actual people who are in policy making positions, and whether or not their voting record is something one can support.

I think the question should be for Libertarians: in what way do you agree or disagree with Rand Paul? Or if they don't like him as their representative, they should point to another policy maker with whom they, on the whole, agree.

I have a number of problems with "organized labor" in that in many cases I don't think its actually working to the benefit of labor. I also don't like that my wages are garnished to support a union that I am not a part of.

And thus doth the libertarian tyre hit the road, the penny drop, and the Russell Axiom* shown to hold.

Rand Paul's voting record.

bobbyp:

I don't really get what your trying to say...I said its incredibly important for unions to have the right to associate, even if I don't always think they are working for labor.

But the point is, its not my place to decide if I like them or not. It's up to the members of the union.

For example, I think the union that represents me, does a really crappy job of working for the majority of people it represents.

I can, amazingly I'm sure, hold both the belief that a right is important and that people will sometimes use the right in a way I find distasteful.

It's like freedom of speech. It's a very important right, but we're not obligated to love everybody's use of their right.

Yes, I suppose my view of the "gentle" coercion of Mr. Loftus in the story is a little like having Cormac McCarthy replace Ms. Ingalls (Michael Landon having been fired early on, at my insistence) as scriptwriter for the film version and then inviting the Coen brothers (Sam Peckinpah being dead) to direct under the working title: "No Country for a Little Abattoir On The Prairie."

Given the circumstances we're presented here (a desperate community snowed in, down to their last foodstuffs unless you count shoe leather -- I suppose the horses and the dogs were next in line for coercion, or were these people vegetarians among their other fine rules to live by -- else why the need to take the risky trip to procure the wheat, etc.), I'm extrapolating to what would have been the next line of coercion if Mr. Loftus had stuck to his ideological guns and hoarded the wheat, which would have been within his rights under the generally accepted ideological principles we live by under the thin veneer of civilization.

And the Rule of Law, inconveniently, is snowbound on a train that might as well be in New Jersey.

Yes, I'm sure the good people of the community would have turned and gone their way, leaving Mr. Loftus to ponder the coming boycott of his grocery come Spring as he sat among the sheathes? ... burlap bags? .. of wheat piled around him, but still here we are.

I think his next move, being a stubborn cuss, would have been to clean his shotgun and then to ponder over the coming days that hungry people surely aren't going to wait long just to serve him with the comeuppance of a boycott in the long term, especially if the weather doesn't break.

Maybe he'd pile unsold copies of "Atlas Shrugged" in front of the door to forestall a break-in, but then think better of that given their more immediate usefulness as kindling.

His wife, I expect, would have stood by muttering under her breath, but within his hearing, coercive things along the lines of "Vee should have stayed in Norvay, Ollie, or at least not crossed the Mississippi. We can't even get 'Prairie Home Companion' on the wireless, or we won't be able to once its invented."

Meanwhile, among the townspeople, after a few days, more coercive muttering would break out, I expect, along the lines of "Our children go to bed hungry and cold and we're expected to wait til -- how long exactly -- to be fed and then conduct a boycott? My family wants to know what we're gonna do right now."

Counter arguments to more coercive action would be thrown around: "What kind of people are we? Surely you aren't proposing stealing from Mr. Loftus? You want to take the wheat by force? I'm a good Christian and communitarian ..."

---at this point, someone else would break in and add "I'm a libertarian and I won't go along with any further coercion, and I certainly won't agree to any outside intervention when its come time."

Right about here, I'd say, someone, probably a mother, will interrupt and spit out the words "You can throw around yer fancy words -- communitarian, libertarian, whatever, that's all very well when times is good ... save it for the Sundy morning talk shows ... but my children are hungry and by tomorrow evening they are going to have bread ... and I'll do whatever it takes to make sure that happens, even before the eyes of God."

Then, a rough looking fellow with bad teeth and a tendency to cackle at inopportune moments (Strother Martin will take this role, having been typecast as 'prairie scum") will call out from the back of the room: "I'll git ya yourn wheat!" draw his buck knife from his belt and stride into the howling wind, first opening the door into a closet, and then, pridefully, nary a glance to the left or right, finding the exit into the street and heading for the Loftus Emporium (Only Foodstuffs Within 50 Miles)

Sapient:

"I think the question should be for Libertarians: in what way do you agree or disagree with Rand Paul? Or if they don't like him as their representative, they should point to another policy maker with whom they, on the whole, agree."

It's a nifty exercise (I agree with him on some things, not on others), but let's flip it for a second. How many democrats agree with everything Obama has done and believe he is a representative democrat?

Because I've met Dems that both think he is, and he isn't.

I've met dems that like the PPACA, and don't.

I've met dems that like NSA programs like 215, and those that don't.

Or how about Feinstein?

etc etc etc

Trying to use a small set of words to describe all political thought is going to result in heterogeneous groupings. Which means, whatever word I use to describe myself is going to group me with someone I disagree with.

But I find it curious that there seems to be a drive to say the self-described libertarians aren't extreme enough to be libertarian, seems self-fulfilling. If moderates can't identify libertarian, I suppose libertarianism would be by definition extreme.

I think the best way to judge someone's beliefs is to listen them. But the attempt to...define away libertarianism to its most extreme branches is tiresome.

And now I have to go to work, sadly.

I think the comment thread here points to a real "thing" with libertarians, namely, that they are perfectly okay with coercion and even force as long as it's not government force.

A while back on my blog I asked why libertarians consider "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" a libertarian book. For those that haven't read it, a man who looks at a woman inappropriately can get tossed out an airlock into vacuum without a suit, and if the man's friends aren't happy about that they can launch a vendetta. In short, not my idea of a utopia.

But these are private individuals doing the airlock-tossing, not The Man. So that makes it okay, apparently. Much like Pa Ingalls not-so-subtle threat to ruin the store owner, and the unspoken threat of more immediate action.

the thing is, "libertarian" (small L) really is a pretty simple and well-defined concept. and that's what makes it possible to point out when people fail to follow what it demands.

"Democrat" can at least be compared to the party's written platform, or the consensus positions of the party leadership. they've defined it for us. but that obviously doesn't mean that everyone who votes D agrees with everything the party says or does. "Democrat" is not a philosophy, it's a political party that tries to stay palatable to a broad range of center-left voters.

It's a nifty exercise (I agree with him on some things, not on others), but let's flip it for a second. How many democrats agree with everything Obama has done and believe he is a representative democrat?

I think sapient's point was that there isn't much of a track record for libertarians in office, and that Rand Paul is about as good as it gets if you're looking for one. There are lots and lots of Democrats out there, Obama being just one of them. All of which means calling yourself a libertarian isn't quite like calling yourself a Republican or a Democrat, or even a liberal or a conservative. There's very little actual policy-making to discuss, so you're left with principles going largely untested.

"I think the comment thread here points to a real "thing" with libertarians, namely, that they are perfectly okay with coercion and even force as long as it's not government force."

No. Incorrect. Point to someone here that said use of force was ok. That is the opposite of what was said. In my back and forth with NomVide, monopoly of force was the bright line.

How would the libertarian solution have worked in the Loftus case if there were a neighboring reservation full of starving Sioux who also needed the wheat? (In real life in the 1860's when the Sioux weren't getting food the whites didn't care and the Sioux rose up and slaughtered several hundred settlers.) My point being that you could have this unified coercive act against one particular greedy person because everyone knew everyone and presumably they were all white (I haven't read the books) and they could all agree that it was bad that this one person was using this situation to exploit all the rest. On a large scale or even a small scale and in situations where there are ethnic divisions I think you need some sort of coercive force--let's call it "government"--that would step in and keep people from going all Road Warrior on each other. Of course the government would need to be fairminded, or it would just be an instrument of one of the factions. But libertarianism in practice would almost certainly give you Somalia in such cases.

""Democrat" is not a philosophy, "

Fine, do a find-replace with liberal. My points the same.

"Rand Paul is about as good as it gets"

Rand Paul the registered republican?

"There are lots and lots of Democrats out there, Obama being just one of them. All of which means calling yourself a libertarian isn't quite like calling yourself a Republican or a Democrat,"

So...I can't be libertarian, because there are very few of them, and unless I agree completely with them, I'm not libertarian?

Again, seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy of libertarians only being extreme.

"But libertarianism in practice would almost certainly give you Somalia in such cases. "

No.

And I give up.

Libertarianism isn't the same as Road warrior.

Justin Amash may be a bit more libertarian than Rand Paul.

I'd like to get back to the whole "libertarian manifesto" thing. You have a series of (semi-)autobiographical books about people living on what was the frontier. It was a matter of circumstance that the reach of a central government was highly attenuated. So things are very often going to be sorted out among the people, directly.

Certainly it was a matter of choice to some degree or another that the Ingalls lived where they lived, knowing that there wouldn't be much in the way of public infrastructure or institutions. But did they make that choice to get away from the government, or because they thought it was their best opportunity to create the sort of life they aspired to - irrespective of the level of government involved?

Is everyone living on a frontier necessarily a libertarian?

Thompson - so if the storekeeper had told Pa Ingalls "no, the price is $3" you really think everybody would have said "okay?"

I read the story as Ingalls trying to prevent a food riot.

So...I can't be libertarian, because there are very few of them, and unless I agree completely with them, I'm not libertarian?

Who said you can't be a libertarian? The point was simply that there isn't much in the way of libertarian policy-making to discuss, which makes discussing libertarian ideas more abstract because they haven't really been tested.

Rand Paul the registered republican?

Yeah, that's kind of the point, thompson.

""Democrat" is not a philosophy, "
Fine, do a find-replace with liberal. My points the same.

IMO, "liberal" (as seen in the US) is even harder to define. no two liberals are going to agree on either the number of rules that define it nor what those rules are - and they'll probably be convinced that anyone who disagrees isn't really a liberal. i can't define it, even for myself. and i don't want to; the fact that there isn't any hard and fast doctrine is a big part of why it fits me. whatever it is, it's adaptable.

libertarianism is pretty straightforward by comparison. and that simplicity seems like a big part of its draw. most of the real life libertarians i know are people who likes things simple, clean, predictable and unsullied by the messiness of real life.

Given that most "libertarian" utopian communities proposed in this country place the Second Amendment front and center as an organizing principle (are there any unarmed, pacifist libertarian plans in the works?), force is certainly the unspoken rule.

I understand that having everyone armed is directed at dispersing the monopoly on force among each individual, but still, in the story we're dealing with here, and I believe everywhere, there is nothing, except convenient declarations of ideology, to stop armed individuals from forming themselves into armed factions when the chips, they be down.

Thus Donald's invocation of Somalia, unless Wyatt Earp and the Circuit Court Judge, snowbound on the train, can dig themselves out and mush their way to town in time to prevent further coercion among factions by force of arms.

Unless the hungry Sioux get there first and all ideological niceties and philosophies become null and void.

I don't understand what is being put forth here.

Is it that even starvation will be tolerated as long as no one is forced to give up their monopoly on the wheat, IF the hate in the eyes of the town folk hadn't first persuaded Loftus to give up the market opportunity?


Is everyone living on a frontier necessarily a libertarian?

No. While people on a frontier may be a bit more self reliant and independent, there's likely no shortage of individuals who feel they have the right and the duty to interfere with other people's lives.

This all sounds a lot like a consumer strike, to me.

What could be wrong with that?

I thought we'd agreed that "self-reliant" and "libertarian" were different things.

"No. While people on a frontier may be a bit more self reliant and independent, there's likely no shortage of individuals who feel they have the right and the duty to interfere with other people's lives."

I expect that's true Charles, but in the Ingalls story, interference in Loftus' life has occurred via "hate-filled eyes", much like sanctions on Iran's pursuit of its libertarian nuclear policies (I kid).

How does a libertarian community enforce the prohibition on interfering with other people's lives, if not by force, albeit not from government by any other name, but between individuals.

Tombstone was called Tombstone for a reason before Wyatt Earp, the man and the legend, arrived.

It must have been all of those gunfights in the streets among aggrieved individuals who had no higher authority to turn to adjudicate their exchange of hateful glares.

Then the attorneys arrived.

Slart:

"This all sounds a lot like a consumer strike, to me.

What could be wrong with that?"

Not a thing, if the consumers made it to the Spring thaw without the food riot referenced above.

If Loftus had packaged funky wheat derivatives and sold them to unwitting Easterners, we could call it Occupy DeSmet


cleek:

"IMO, "liberal" (as seen in the US) is even harder to define. no two liberals are going to agree on either the number of rules that define it nor what those rules are - and they'll probably be convinced that anyone who disagrees isn't really a liberal."

-and-

"libertarianism is pretty straightforward by comparison."

This is where we disagree. My point is, if you are using a limited set of political descriptors, let's say liberal, conservative, you are going to end up with heterogeneous groupings.

I personally find that I am in more agreement with those that describe themselves as libertarian, and even the wiki article on libertarianism, than with liberals, or conservatives, etc. So that's how I describe myself.

I think what I'm confused by is why "liberalism" is broad and varied in your mind, but "libertarianism" isn't.

I might agree it might not be AS broad, but I think that's a factor of the number of adherents.

"I read the story as Ingalls trying to prevent a food riot. "

I didn't read a threat of violence from the text. If it was there, I'm not ok with it, and I've said as much. But I'm only familiar with the text presented, I haven't read the books.

Fwiw, there are a lot of explicit threats going on towards Loftus in the book, and it's not at all clear that they wouldn't be carried out if Loftus kept up his position. Chris G appears right to me- this isn't Loftus acceding to economic pressure so much as Loftus taking an opportunity to back down with face before people with starving children kill him.
Anyway, if this is a libertarian parable, it seems like one where the majority enact policies as they choose, even communitarian ones, and the minority are compelled to comply even against their own will and economic interests. I can see no line between this and a commune, except everyone says "we're all free men here" before enforcing the commune's dictates.
It seems that, as long as the town is willing to unite, libertarians would be fine with them telling Loftus who to marry, or what religious practices to observe, or whether he can own a firearm, etc. He's a free man! Free to do exactly what the other inhabitants of his town tell him to do, that is.

While people on a frontier may be a bit more self reliant and independent, there's likely no shortage of individuals who feel they have the right and the duty to interfere with other people's lives.

Which you say is *absolutely fine*, as long as there are enough of them to exert economic force. As far as I can tell, anyway, this is your position.

That's not the same thing as coercion based on a threat of force or incarceration.

That seems to define the word down specifically using the types of coercion used by states. States don't use boycots against individuals, so those are Ok. Individuals just about never use prisons, so those are baaaad.

Or, as NV put it
The collective citizenry are informing him that he must yield to their will or be run out of town - run out of town politely, but still, run out of town.

This is Ok. Having them band together and *vote* to expel him would be state coercion and bad; banding together and forcing him out economically is libertarian and good.
The only line Im seeing there that makes this coherent is that, in our modern industrialized economy, the use of economic coercion is usually used by the wealthy against the poor, whereas the poor resort to state-based coercion to protect or expand their interests. The occasional boycott working the the other direction is a rare exception.
The end result is that coercive force is to be permitted to those with the wealth to exert it.

None of these things would be legal, or moral, for the masses to do.

Let's agree to disagree on whether stealing food from a price-gouging merchant to feed a starving child is moral or not, shall we? And Ill maintain the suspicion that we might move towards agreement on the morality of the issue if it was your loved one starving.

Also, for those asking: the people who went to get the wheat for Loftus didn't charge him- they did it for the good of the entire town, and were angry when he made his price-gouging demands:

Cap Garland spoke up. He was not grinning. He had the look that had made the railroader back down. "Don't offer us any of your filthy cash. Wilder and I didn't make that trip to skin a profit off folks that are hungry."
Almanzo was angry, too. "Get it through your head if you can, there's not money enough in the mint to pay for that trip. We didn't make it for you and you can't pay us for it."

Quite the libertarian sentiments.

"Who said you can't be a libertarian? "

Sorry, I read into a few comments along the lines of 'your views aren't consistent with X understanding of the libertarian party' and 'libertarianism is a very narrow set of beliefs' (some of which I don't have) as: 'you are not libertarian'

Didn't mean to put words in your mouth.

I didn't read a threat of violence from the text. If it was there, I'm not ok with it, and I've said as much. But I'm only familiar with the text presented, I haven't read the books.

"Now you're talking!" another man sang out. "Come on, boys! We'll help ourselves to that wheat!" "Reason with him, I said," Mr. Ingalls objected to that. "I'm talking about reason and justice." "Maybe you are," someone shouted. "I'm talking about something to eat, and by the Almighty! I'm not going back to my youngsters without it! Are the rest of you fellows?" "No! No!" several agreed with him. Then Cap spoke up. "Wilder and I have got something to say about this. We brought in the wheat. We didn't haul it in to make trouble." "That's so," Gerald Fuller said. "See here, boys, we don't want any trouble in town." "I don't see any sense of flying off the handle," said Almanzo. He was going on, but one of the men inter- rupted him. "Yes, and you've got plenty to eat! Both you and Fuller. I'm not going home without-" "How much you got to eat at your house, Mr.Ingalls?" Cap interrupted him. "Not a thing," Mr. Ingalls answered. "We ground up the last wheat we had, yesterday. Ate it this morn- ing." "There you are!" said Almanzo. "Let Mr. Ingalls engineer this." "All right, I'll take the lead," Mr. Ingalls agreed. "The rest of you boys come along and we'll see what Loftus has to say." .... "We'll show you whose business it is!" the angry man shouted. "You fellows so much as touch my property and I'll have the law on you!" Mr. Loftus answered. Some of them laughed snarlingly .... The angry man said, "We're not here to palaver. Where's that wheat?" "Don't be a fool, Loftus," Mr. Harthorn said.

There's definitely something in the air here, and it's not just economic pressure.

"But libertarianism in practice would almost certainly give you Somalia in such cases. "

No.

And I give up.

Libertarianism isn't the same as Road warrior.---

Well, the libertarians in and out of the thread claimed the Ingalls story for their philosophy, so I just added one little complication--suppose there were Sioux living on a nearby reservation who also needed the wheat and this all occurred circa 1860. The point being that libertarianism works great with a small community of people with no ethnic strife and where the one greedy relatively rich guy can easily be bullied into behaving like a decent human being because everyone else has the same common interest and no reason to go after each other or side with the rich guy (though I wonder if modern day Tea Party types might end up siding with Loftus). And the rich guy doesn't have enough wealth to starve them out.


Now you keep saying you're a moderate libertarian and that's fine--you accept the need for government, but then the Ingalls story gives no support at all for your philosophy, unless communists can cite monastery life as an example of how society should be run.

Thinking about my Tea Party remark, I wonder if Loftus couldn't have tried the divide and conquer approach? Why not give enough people wheat at a reasonable price, so they'd stick with him, and then extort as much money as he could from the rest? It probably wouldn't have worked because in a small community where people mostly like each other or at least get along the sense of fair play would stand in the way, plus there is no Fox News to tell everyone that it is Loftus's wheat and how dare they think otherwise, but with a larger society I'm sure you could get people who'd side with Loftus against the communist farmers who were trying to force him to buy food at a price lower than he wanted to sell it for.

Or of course if he was rich enough or if the winter were guaranteed to last long enough, he could force them to sell him their farms for whatever wheat was needed to keep them alive. Who cares what they think if he can pull that off? It'd be a Pareto optimum and in Libertarianland no one could complain of being cheated.

I'd say that what happened in the story is neither libertarian nor un-libertarian. So I disagree with Doc Sci, given the already-pointed-out lack of government involvement, while also disagreeing with the idea that there's anything particularly libertarian about it - I mean, unless my taking a walk at lunch is a libertarian act simply because the state didn't coerce me to do so.

It would be one thing if there were some opportunity to get the state involved, and that opportunity was considered, but ultimately decided against, as a matter of political philosophy. But that didn't happen, so libertarianism has fnck-all to do with it, IMO.

Carlton:

"explicit threats going on towards Loftus in the book"

See, that's useful context, thank you

"It seems that, as long as the town is willing to unite, libertarians would be fine with them telling Loftus who to marry, or what religious practices to observe, or whether he can own a firearm, etc. He's a free man! Free to do exactly what the other inhabitants of his town tell him to do, that is."

No. That is the opposite of what I (at least) am saying. The townsfolk are fine to associate with Loftus, or not, for pretty much any reason they want. They can't compel him into action using threats of force.

"Let's agree to disagree on whether stealing food from a price-gouging merchant to feed a starving child is moral or not, shall we?"

Carleton, I didn't say that. Nobody said that. Bluntly, its a little offensive. Perhaps it falls out of context in the book that is not in the post. But as I've said many times, I haven't read the book and am basing everything on the text quoted in the post.

"That seems to define the word down specifically using the types of coercion used by states. States don't use boycots against individuals, so those are Ok. Individuals just about never use prisons, so those are baaaad."

Carleton, there was extensive discussion about how coercion can have many meanings, and I was trying to draw a distinction between coercion executed by individuals and that executed by the state. I'm glad I succeeded.

I'm honestly baffled. Are you arguing that a boycott is the same thing as prison? Because that's ridiculous.

I think its entirely consistent to allow people to boycott and to not want to limit the power of the state to imprison or otherwise use its power to coerce people. For pretty much this reason:

"Having them band together and *vote* to expel him would be state coercion and bad; banding together and forcing him out economically is libertarian and good."

If the town could get together and VOTE (and are we talking simple majority, 2/3s, 3/4s) to exile someone, Or seize their property, Or imprison them, Or execute them: That would be bad.
That would be very bad.

It seems, almost, that getting together to VOTE horrible things onto Loftus is a good thing in your mind. But I'm pretty sure that's not the case.
In my view of libertarianism, the state lacks the power to punish Loftus for being a terrible person.

I'd say, again, based only on what I read in the post, its a 'libertarian parable' because its a conflict that is resolved by individual action and negotiation, not by state action.

If there are threats against Loftus, I'm not ok with that. That's not libertarianism, its hooliganism.

I'd say, again, based only on what I read in the post, its a 'libertarian parable' because its a conflict that is resolved by individual action and negotiation, not by state action.

Is my telling you how I brushed my teeth this morning a 'libertarian parable' because there was no state action?

One of their watchwords was "Free and Independent" -- but that was an aspiration (or a comforting platitude), not an accurate description of their lives.

We have been having a fascinating discussion of what "libertarian" means. But I think it rather misses the point that jumped out at me from this line in the original post. Because it sums up the apparent attitude of a large number of people (whether they label themselves libertarian or not).

They say they want to live independent of the government and all its works. While benefiting from a large number of government activities. I suspect that it is largely a matter of carefully selective (if unconsciously so) blindness on the part of most of them. They simply do not think about any government activities which they benefit from/like when they are talking about "government."

That is why, a couple of years ago, we all laughed so hard at the guy with the sign reading "Government hands off my Medicare!" It was not just funny on its face; it was indicative of the mindset of so many of those gathered there.

This is Ok. Having them band together and *vote* to expel him would be state coercion and bad; banding together and forcing him out economically is libertarian and good.

Thanks, yes, this really was the gist of what I was trying to get at before I got sidetracked by precise definitions of "coercion". When you have a democratic government, especially a small-scale and/or isolated one where it is both harder for citizens to ignore the role it plays, and easier to observe it closely, I have trouble seeing there being a bright line between a mob consisting of the majority of the citizens and the gov't. Thompson et al have put it at explicit threat of force. However, the implicit threat felt by a clear minority cannot be eliminated in a real-world environment, so this quickly dims. We are perhaps left with the notion that state actions are implicitly explicit in their threat of force, but this tea is rather weak; state actors are at least in principle bound by defined and formal structures (though their extent can vary wildly), while ad hoc majoritarian collectives are free to behave in whatever unpredictable manner they choose, barring countervailing governmental or minority impediment. I just can't see how this is supposed to be desirable unless you assume that you're always the majority, or that there will perforce be government intervention to limit the majority - which is hardly the most libertarian sentiment I've ever heard. Unless, I suppose, we are assuming that the government will be mighty and omnipresent but only in the razor-thin areas of law/contract enforcement, thus leaving us all standing in awe of

La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain. - Anatole France

"Is my telling you how I brushed my teeth this morning a 'libertarian parable' because there was no state action?"

I guess it would depend on the moral of the story. Is your point you are fully able to take care of yourself without a nannystate checking in on you?

In that case, yes, I can see it being a libertarian parable.

But I think the difference (again, haven't read the book, Carleton is adding to my knowledge of it) is that one of the core tenets of libertarianism is that government action should be minimal.

It could be interpreted as a parable (although maybe its not, there's a lot of context I'm apparently missing by only seeing the post) because it is an example of a substantial conflict being resolved without government action.

I suppose people could use it as a counter to the point that the government is NEEDED to handle those conflicts.

Again, lot's of context in the surrounding text I just don't have.

...and they got their land through the government's Homestead Act.

This, however, is rather un- (or anti-)libertarian. So I might agree with Doc Sci on the series as a whole, just not about the particular story excerpted.

It could be interpreted as a parable (although maybe its not, there's a lot of context I'm apparently missing by only seeing the post) because it is an example of a substantial conflict being resolved without government action.

I haven't read the book either, but it looks like a story about how Pa found a way to save the grocer's a$$ when the grocer was too stupid figure it out himself, while also preventing anyone from starving. Pa's a good man. Things might have gone south fast if he weren't around.

It's a meaningless libertarian parable unless you think that something that works on a very small scale (including the lack of division within the community--it's everyone against one particular person) could be scaled up. Again, are monasteries good parables for communists to use?


And something you persist in ignoring--there's a difference between boycotting a business, which is an impersonal thing, and everyone boycotting one particular person and having enough power to ruin him. In this case the person deserved it, but suppose they boycotted him because he was of a different race or religion or was known to be gay? They have the right to do that too, don't they? Wouldn't that be coercive? Boycotting is a tool--whether it's good or bad depends on the circumstances. The same can be said regarding government regulation.

The thread has moved on somewhat, but I owe a couple of replies, so here ya go.

You probably have a point here that's not a 'no true scotsman' type of point. But I'm not seeing it. Could you elaborate?

Not really a point, just an observation that historically the East India company (and related mercantilist monopolistic common stock companies) are not really considered to be accurate examples of what we would consider capitalism nowadays.

Not my opinion, I like you am not an econ-guy, I'm just relating what appears to be the standard analysis.

If you wish to argue the point, your argument is not with me.

Or in the future, if you want to say "libertarian thought is lovely but does not scale", say it directly and we'll discuss it.

Yes, my comment was phrased as a question, however in context I would have thought my intent was clear.

But, to clarify, allow me to plainly assert that libertarian concepts are appealing, but do not scale to communities that are too large for folks to meaningfully interact with each in direct ways.

My evidence for this is that the number of communities of that size that have operated under libertarian principles are vanishingly small.

And by "under libertarian principles", I mean have found ways to resolve conflicts of any significance without resort to coercion by law and government.

If you can think of some, I'd be interested to hear of them.

I have no problem with people aspiring to ideals that are lovely ideas yet are not a practical basis for governing public life. I have a few of those myself. However I don't, for that very reason, espouse them as guiding principles for public policy.

It is a fairly palpable tension, but one that is familiar to most folks. As you say, we do our best.

Um. Ok, other than being dismissively phrased, how is this different than 'liberal': Government should do the things we think are important, but spend less money on defense and not legislate sex.

It probably isn't.

Protip: We all agree (a) the government should exist and (b) should have some powers and (c) not all powers.

Sorry, I didn't realize I was dealing with a professional.

NomVide:

"Thanks, yes, this really was the gist of what I was trying to get at"

Ok, glad we're getting into something. I still think we are probably circling each others points a little.

And I think this really sums it up:

"being a bright line between a mob consisting of the majority of the citizens and the gov't"

I have trouble seeing that bright line as well. Let me elaborate:

(a) mobs are bad. Mob rule is bad. There is an utter lack of protection for the nonmajority.
(b) In the case of a simple majoritarian democracy and a state that has otherwise unchecked powers (e.g. anything people can vote for goes), this is mob rule. The mob takes a vote first, but its still mob rule.

We don't have that. We have a system where the people have assumed rights and the gov has limited powers.

Congress, for example, can't vote to take all of my money and give it to Bob. Even if everybody in the nation hates me and really likes Bob. Or vice versa.

I'm not arguing that mob rule is good. I'm arguing that people exercising freedom of association is very different than people getting together and voting to fine/imprison/execute, etc etc.

My understanding is: Neither of us see a bright line between mob rule and simple majoritarian voting. Because there isn't one.

I'm sure you see the need for limits on government powers. I do as well. One of the main reasons for this is to prevent the tyranny of the majority. We probably disagree about the scope of the limits. That's fine.

"state actors are at least in principle bound by defined and formal structures"

As are citizens. I can't exercise violence to resolve conflicts, I have to pay taxes, I have to register for the draft, etc etc.

I would also point out that for both citizens and state actors the principles and the practical limits are very different.

A state agent isn't by definition good. Nor right. Neither are citizens.

As are citizens.

Because...?

Turb--

Maybe our libertarian cohort can read the wikipedia article on libertarianism before they speak authoritatively about what libertarians believe.

Surely you're not trying to imply that all libertarians must ascribe to all the various subdivisions of libertarian philosophy? That would be crazy, right? To say nothing of self-contradictory?

I think I met an anarcho-capitalist once. It was 1981, as I recall. He also wanted to do away with the FAA and put a private air traffic control system in place. Is it OK if I classify him as somewhat outside of the mainstream of libertarian thought?

Somewhat off-topic, here's an interesting survey on how those with libertarian views correlate with other political and religious groups. Since most libertarians don't self-identify, the survey's classification methodology is based on the answers to a set of bellweather questions. The questions seem like they're in the ballpark to me, but no doubt there's plenty of room to quibble.

I doubt I'm going to make much headway blunting your urge to paint libertarians as extremist. But it might be nice for the few of us out their who do self-identify as libertarian or libertarian-leaning if you'd give us the benefit of the doubt that we've given this a moment or two of thought. After all, it's not like our labeling ourselves as libertarian is gonna let us eat lunch at the cool kids' table.

In my view of libertarianism, the state lacks the power to punish Loftus for being a terrible person.

What state are you thinking of that has the power to punish people for "being terrible"? The federal and state governments have the power to punish people for crimes.

If all it takes to be a "libertarian" is to oppose government "having the power to punish people for being terrible people", maybe I should join up.

My point upthread was that "Libertarians" don't seem to want to commit to any specific set of policies. I find it interesting that you, thompson, can't name a politician whose views you can endorse. Are you such an original thinker that you can't find anyone to vote for? How do you expect to participate in a Democracy if so?

I'm a Democrat. Although it's true that there are minor policy issues advocated by some Democrats that I disagree with, I can wholeheartedly say that I endorse Obama's policies. I deeply admire and agree with Pelosi. Many people vote for more or less conservative Democrats, but for the most part, they can find Democrats that they're reasonably comfortable with. Libertarians don't seem to have a coherent philosophy that's workable enough for anyone to run on. Ron or Rand Paul seem to be people who endorse libertarianism, but you're not willing to embrace them as champions.

Maybe you just have commitment issues.

By the way, I understand that being a Democrat is not the same as adhering to a particular political philosophy. I don't really embrace a "philosophy". However, I think that American government was organized (in theory) 1) to allow people to participate in government, 2) to respect a certain degree of individual autonomy, 3) to create institutions for domestic stability and broad economic prosperity, 4) to provide for civil defense. Government doesn't usually step in until it's obvious to most people that something is wrong with how things are going without government intervention. This was true with health care, with food safety, with environmental regulation - you name it. During most of the 20th Century, and so far in the 21st, Democrats have been the ones to suggest the most effective and worthy goals for Government. Libertarianism, on the other hand, usually means what was going on that needed fixing.

"are not really considered to be accurate examples of what we would consider capitalism nowadays."

Fair. Really, my only point was that there was private capital. Not that the system was capitalistic.

"resolve conflicts of any significance without resort to coercion by law and government."

I'm not arguing for a lack of coercion by law. I'm just saying that just because I think the government is needed sometimes, doesn't mean its always the answer.

"operated under libertarian principles"

Which principles does the US operate under? Liberal? Conservative? A blend of many? Depends on who you ask?

You're right, I can't point to Liberteria, where everybody is libertarian.

I just don't really see how that leads to libertarian ideas being unworkable by definition.

Especially considering the overlap with other political thought.

Take the NSA. I agree with many liberals that this is an example of gov overreach and they should be audited and then restricted. Oddly enough, I also DISAGREE with many liberals who think it is not an example of government oversight.

"It probably isn't."

That's my point. Everytime someone says libertarian, it invites comparisons to Somalia, mob rule, etc etc.

The basics are pretty much the same for the vast majority of libs, libers, and cons: we all have things we think are important for the gov to do and ways we think it should be done.

"are not really considered to be accurate examples of what we would consider capitalism nowadays."

Fair. Really, my only point was that there was private capital. Not that the system was capitalistic.

"resolve conflicts of any significance without resort to coercion by law and government."

I'm not arguing for a lack of coercion by law. I'm just saying that just because I think the government is needed sometimes, doesn't mean its always the answer.

"operated under libertarian principles"

Which principles does the US operate under? Liberal? Conservative? A blend of many? Depends on who you ask?

You're right, I can't point to Liberteria, where everybody is libertarian.

I just don't really see how that leads to libertarian ideas being unworkable by definition.

Especially considering the overlap with other political thought.

Take the NSA. I agree with many liberals that this is an example of gov overreach and they should be audited and then restricted. Oddly enough, I also DISAGREE with many liberals who think it is not an example of government oversight.

"It probably isn't."

That's my point. Everytime someone says libertarian, it invites comparisons to Somalia, mob rule, etc etc.

The basics are pretty much the same for the vast majority of libs, libers, and cons: we all have things we think are important for the gov to do and ways we think it should be done.

" I find it interesting that you, thompson, can't name a politician whose views you can endorse."

Gary Johnson. I voted for him.

HSH:

"Because...?"

Because citizen's have to follow the law?

"It seems that, as long as the town is willing to unite, libertarians would be fine with them telling Loftus who to marry, or what religious practices to observe, or whether he can own a firearm, etc. He's a free man! Free to do exactly what the other inhabitants of his town tell him to do, that is."

No. That is the opposite of what I (at least) am saying. The townsfolk are fine to associate with Loftus, or not, for pretty much any reason they want. They can't compel him into action using threats of force.

Misunderstanding- Im saying that it appears to be fine with libertarians for the townspeople to compel Loftus to change his religion, not marry a black person, etc, via the application of *economic* coercion. That one type of threats to one's health (punching) is unacceptable as a lever, but another threat to one's health (starvation) is just peachy.
They don't seem that different to me, from a practical perspective; the majority of people in your town can tell you what to do or force you to leave. And they can even do that in the middle of winter, when 'leaving' might mean 'dying'. Killing you versus starving you out in winter is about the same level of coercion in my book.
Your car gets stuck on a winter road. A tow truck comes by. But rather than $200 for the tow, the driver demands that you sign over every possession you own and 50% of your earnings going forward, or your family will freeze to death. And he gets to screw your daughter whenever he wants (prostitution being legal).
Coercion, or just good business?

My other point is that this prarie situation isn't one we're going to find ourselves in. What we're really arguing about is modern society. And while in prarietown the distinction between the crowd's threat, boycott, and something like 'eminent domain' is entirely blurred, in our modern economy this distinction does have a huge difference: some types of coersion (ie state force) are labeled bad, while others (ie economic pressure) are good. Thus, it appears to me that this debate isn't about Loftus at all, it's about privileging some types of coercion over others, to the benefit of one group and the disadvantage of another.

"Let's agree to disagree on whether stealing food from a price-gouging merchant to feed a starving child is moral or not, shall we?"

Carleton, I didn't say that. Nobody said that. Bluntly, its a little offensive.

You said: Alternatively, the sheriff can take his stuff and lock him in prison.... None of these things would be legal, or moral, for the masses to do.

I read that as- it would be immoral for the townspeople to take his food under any circumstances. Maybe you mean that it'd be entirely moral for them to take his food, but immoral of them to lock him up afterwards? Apologies if that seemed offensive, but it looked to me like the plainest reading. Especialy you've been saying that *any* threats are a "bright lin"e for you- but we are already talking about starving people in this example, so if threats from starving people are a red line then presumably using force to prevent starvation is also over the line?
So Im not clear on your position here. Ok to take food by force to prevent starvation, or not?

I'm honestly baffled. Are you arguing that a boycott is the same thing as prison? Because that's ridiculous.

Im arguing that they're both potentially profoundly coercive. And that objecting to one as real coercion while treating the other as just fine is IMO like saying Ive got the freedom to wave my arms around and ignoring the subset of those times when Im swinging my arm around and punching someone in the face.
My view on freedoms, both economic and not, is that they all are limited where they run up against other freedoms. Speech rights can't be allowed to trample property rights. Religious rights can't be allowed to trample privacy rights. And property rights are subject to the same principle- so it's wrong IMO to say we should respect property rights to the point of allowing Loftus to use the threat of starvation and the fact that he cornered the grain market to compel farmers to eg give up their farms or watch their families starve.
Because *if* this is a libertarian parable, it's not hard to alter it that way. At which point, is it still a libertarian parable? Of how getting to the seed grain first ought to reward Loftus with all of the property of the town? That trying to help others (as the folks who went to get the grain did) is a suckers play when there's money to be made?

Of course, there's another way to view this as a libertarian parable: when the white people making up the backbone of the community are threatened by economic activity, they'll be able to utilize the threat of mob violence and economic exclusion to negate the threat. This won't be available to (as HSH pointed out) some Sioux on the reservation next door, or some black people living on the fringes of town. The parable in that case is: we can let economic coercion run rampant because we know that if it knocks on our door we can change the rules and everything will still be Ok.

It seems, almost, that getting together to VOTE horrible things onto Loftus is a good thing in your mind. But I'm pretty sure that's not the case.

Yeah, I didn't say that. If the town is a microcosm of society, then I note that the majority can enforce their will via several methods. Finding one an offense against freedom and the other not appears to be an entirely arbitrary line; the result is the same in either case.
So, to be crystal clear, I think forcing Loftus to eg practice a certain religious is bad in *both* cases, either via legal/physical coercion or via economic coercion. Forcing black people out of town via economic coercion is *bad*, and the state *ought* to use force to prevent it from happening.

Because citizen's have to follow the law?

Why?

I just don't really see how that leads to libertarian ideas being unworkable by definition.

What it does lead to is a severe lack of evidence that libertarian ideas are workable, which isn't the same thing as leading to their being unworkable by definition, but it's still pretty damned compelling.

I'm a little disappointed that you had a politician you voted for, Thompson, because on that point I was going to defend you against sapient. I don't think a person has to feel comfortable with either of the two major political parties or feel committed to one of the lesser parties--I vote for the Democrat in most elections, but am not necessarily happy about it. There's probably some obscure third party person I'd agree with more in any given election, but until such candidates can gain a critical mass of support there's usually no point in voting for them, even as a protest vote.

I've heard of Gary Johnson, but that's about it--my vague impression is that I might agree with him on some foreign policy issues and probably find him very wrong on economic issues, but would have to do some reading to be sure.

I didn't realize I was repeating Carleton's earlier argument about how boycotts could be used against minority groups. Gotta read the thread more carefully before posting.

Carleton:

I think a lot of what you're asking has been answered elsewhere...but honestly I'm not following your points.

Unless its something along the lines of systems break down in extreme conditions? I'd agree.

Do I think someone stealing some wheat to stave off starvation is immoral? Eh, not really. I wouldn't turn them into the police. I probably would acquit them if I was on a jury.

But do I think that barring extreme situations, theft should be illegal? Yes.

Do I think in general mobs should be able to threaten people? No.

"And he gets to screw your daughter whenever he wants (prostitution being legal).
Coercion, or just good business?"

Coercion, and illegal.

"majority can enforce their will via several methods. Finding one an offense against freedom and the other not appears to be an entirely arbitrary line"

I view the right to boycott something as a distinct method of action to imprisonment or fines, and I think they laws surrounding those two methods should be distinct. If we disagree on that, we disagree.

"So, to be crystal clear, I think forcing Loftus to eg practice a certain religious is bad in *both* cases, either via legal/physical coercion or via economic coercion."

I agree. But I don't think not patronizing a store should be illegal, even if you are applying coercion.

I think the key distinction resulting in us talking past each other is that there are things I find upsetting that I don't think need a legal solution.

I wouldn't join a boycott of a store if they didn't share my religion. But I wouldn't vote for the government to have the power to break a boycott if it was for the wrong reasons. Even if I hold nothing but contempt for those reasons.

Donald:

I voted for Johnson because he best matched my views and was good enough that I didn't feel the need to write in.

I didn't feel compelled to vote for him because he was libertarian. He's pretty moderate (in my mind anyway), which is also important to me.

"no point in voting for them, even as a protest vote. "

I disagree. I think its very important. I understand, and respect, why people disagree with me on that.

I don't map my views to politicians, but I always try to find the one that best agrees with me. Electable or not.

I read the story as Ingalls trying to prevent a food riot.

Just going back to this (Posted by: Chris Gerrib | January 08, 2014 at 11:54 AM), which I think is an accurate reading, particularly in light of the additional context revealed in later comments - If this is a libertarian parable, it's a pretty crappy one, given that, but for Pa Ingalls, the grocer wouldn't have gotten a dime for the grain, possibly would have gotten the sh1t beat out of him, and people might not have distributed the grain evenly, possibly leading to further violence and/or some number of people starving.

So the community was lucky to have a guy like Pa Ingalls around - an extraordinary man, possessing wisdom, kindness, and some amount of charisma. He's a natural leader who is easily liked and respected. He knows how to handle things, it seems. I'd guess that his being extraordinary is one of the biggest reasons the Little House series was written and what makes the stories compelling.

It's easy to imagine another little town on the frontier without someone like Pa Ingalls, facing the same situation. That town isn't so lucky, and the lack of state action might not have led to anything resembling a parable supporting minimal government.

Is the libertarian lesson here that we should eschew government in favor of luck?

I always try to find the one [politician/candidate] that best agrees with me. Electable or not.

That works as long as either a) the one you most agree with is electable or b) the two most likely candidates are close enough together that there isn't any significant difference compared to your favored candidate.

But suppose your favored candidate is not electable. And of the two who do have a chance, one is massively further away from your views than the other. Do you still just vote for the one who agrees with you? Or do you engage in tactical voting, and pick the electable one who is "least bad"?

Someday we may try out the "single transferable vote" system. Until then, we will frequently have a choice between tactical voting and irrelevance.

Ok, glad we're getting into something. I still think we are probably circling each others points a little.

We most certainly are. And while I'm tempted to answer hsh's most recent "Why" to tighten the circle a bit, I'll leave that for you to do (or not). I think I need to step back for a minute to compose myself before my inner anarchist breaks its chains and start spouting Proudhon.

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