Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

CATO Institute and Ayn Rand

Via alternet comes this bit of news:

…John Allison, a former bank CEO and a leader of the Rand movement, has just become president of the Cato Institute, the oldest and most influential libertarian think tank. This received only a modest amount of attention when it surfaced late last month, and you had to be a real political junkie to even be aware of it. But it is a seminal event in recent political history—a dramatic indication of the mainstreaming of the radical right.

What it means is that the Rand movement, which was little more than a cult when the Atlas Shrugged author died thirty years ago, has effectively merged with the vastly larger libertarian movement. While many differences are likely to remain—particularly as far as Ron Paul’s fading candidacy is concerned, given the Randers’ support for abortion and opposition to his foreign policy views —this means that Objectivism, Rand’s quasi-religious philosophy, is going to permeate the political process more than ever before.

Allison, former CEO of North Carolina’s BB&T Bank, is not just going to be the Cato Institute’s sugar daddy. He replaces Ed Crane as president, meaning that he will have day-to-day control over the most significant libertarian organization in the country. Allison is a board member of the Ayn Rand Institute, the orthodox, no-compromise Randian organization, and is best known for his foundation donating free Rand books to thousands of schoolchildren across the nation—a crass exploitation of the fiscal troubles besetting primary schools.

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Libertarians and Privacy

by Mike Kimel

Libertarians and Privacy

Over at EconLog, David Henderson berates a fellow libertarian on the difference between Facebook at the Census.

But let’s grant, for the sake of this discussion, that FB is quite contemptuous of privacy and that the Census Bureau is less so. Here’s the difference. Every single person who signs up with Facebook does so voluntarily. If FB had committed to guarding your privacy, then it would be breeching a contract by doing so. But I’ve never seen FB make that commitment. The U.S. Census Bureau, by contrast, uses the threat of force to get its information. That’s a pretty big difference. It’s not one that I would expect, say, the New York Times, to point out. But it is a distinction that I would have expected from someone who calls himself a bleeding heart libertarian.

A lot of libertarians seem to think there’s a distinction between when the government engages in an activity and when a private sector entity engages in the same activity. But a thought experiment is in order. Consider… it isn’t technologically infeasible for me, much less an organization with a lot more resources than I have, to do any of the following things from public property – say, across the street from David Henderson’s home:

1. Monitor every conversation that occurs in a home and parse each of those conversations for information
2. Monitor comings and goings into and out of a home
3. Monitor internet usage, and potentially, phone calls made and received in the home
4. Monitor where each individual is in the home at any given moment and to some extent, what that individual is doing.
5. Monitor precisely how much electricity is going into the home (and no, this does not require access to or a view of the meter or any contact in the electric company).
6. Monitor where every individual who lives in the home goes when they are not in the home

Essentially, all it takes to do all of these things is time, a bit of determination, and maybe $5,000 in equipment. I don’t even think any of these these activities is illegal if done by a private party, except to some extent, number 3, and, in some states, number 1 if the monitor makes a recording of the conversations. (And realistically, guys like David Henderson don’t exactly like the government limiting what private citizens can and cannot do, do they?) Number 4 depends in part on weather conditions.

Additionally, the costs of monitoring is just coming down. It won’t be long before one could surreptitiously keep track of a lot of aspects of a person’s health remotely, and without their consent.

Now, an organization doing all of the above does not require the consent or even the knowledge of the monitored to do the monitoring, unless one assumes that failure to deploy expensive countermeasures is equivalent to consent. Note that for the monitoring to occur, there is no need whatsoever for the monitored party to have any relationship at all with the monitor, and threats of violence are completely unnecessary.

The only thing going on is the collection of information which Mr. Henderson feels would have been a bad thing it been done by the government. It will be interesting to see where libertarians of Mr. Henderson’s ilk go in the coming years. Will they fall on the side of “a private party’s information is private unless he/she has chosen to share that information with third parties, whether explicitly or implicitly through transactions” or will they laud the collection of said information as a triumph of the free market? My guess is the latter, simply because the former would require government intervention, and the government is always evil as far as some folks are concerned.

Meanwhile, collectively, the rest of us will try to steer a sensible middle ground – determining what is permissible and what is “too far” and setting limits through legislation.

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It Was Completely Legal

by Mike Kimel  

It Was Completely Legal

Almost two decades ago, an acquaintance asked me to lunch in Los Angeles. Said acquaintance mentioned he had connections with a few nightclubs – he stressed that they were nightclubs – in Macao and Hong Kong, and that “Brazilian girls” – women from about 18 to 26 or so – were becoming a hot commodity in both places. Given that I grew up in Brazil, my acquaintance thought he could have me fly down to Brazil and do some recruiting for them.

We never got down to brass tacks because, though it would have been very lucrative, it wasn’t something I could do. Yes, I’m pretty sure it would have been very easy to locate women either “in the trade” or (what they were really after) semi-professionals willing to move to Macao or Hong Kong for promises that they’d make a lot more money. And my bet is that some of these women I would have located would have made a lot of money. And I’m sure that my end of the operation, recruiting, would have been entirely legal by the laws of the US, Brazil, Hong Kong and Macao. Certainly the way the business was described to me, my acquaintance and his connections had no difficulties with the law either. Things were set up in such a way that what they were doing was completely legal.

But there was a problem for me. I didn’t know all that much about the industry with which my acquaintance had turned out to be associated, but I did know it can be a very dangerous one for the type of person they wanted me to recruit. I could only imagine that the potential dangers would be even greater in a foreign country where the person had no ties and little or no status.

I had no illusions that my refusal to participate would make any difference at all. I don’t recall if I ever saw that acquaintance again, but I would be surprised if he didn’t find someone else who took care of recruiting for him. The industry in Hong Kong and Macao, no doubt, continued apace.

I should also note that whoever took that job would have made a lot of money, more than I did in any remotely comparable amount of time. The only thing my walking away accomplished was that whatever happened going forward, I had nothing to do with it. To this day, I have no regrets that I turned my acquaintance down.

I mention all this because the “it was completely legal” defense has been cropping up a lot lately in things I read. I think its use may be about to increase a lot more in the near future. And if I might contribute one thing to the discussion, please remember this: that an activity is completely legal isn’t an excuse for participating in it.

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A Tale From Our Libertarian Present

by Mike Kimel

A Tale From Our Libertarian Present

I’ve been getting a lot of calls on my cell phone from telemarketers lately. So has my wife. Our numbers on the do not call registry, but just to be safe, we registered them again. I’ve had random conversations with people about this, and found that some people are having similar experiences – lots of calls from telemarketers – while others aren’t getting any at all. Very odd, but it seems the do not call registry is becoming useless. This morning I got one such call at 1:40 AM.

To me, this gives us a clue as to what a libertarian society might look like. Because it doesn’t matter how many laws and rules and regulations a society has, if they aren’t enforced, they don’t matter. And it seems that the do not call registry is, for practical purposes, no longer enforced.

So what does that mean? Well, my cell phone number, like my home, and my internet access, is my property. I pay for it. I pay for that property because I want to be able to use it in certain ways. I like to be able to pick up my cell phone and reach family, friends, and business associates. I like to be able to be reached by family, friends, and business associates. I do not pay for these services to get calls from telemarketers at 1:40 in the morning.

But there are others who want to use the property they pay for in ways that affect me. They want to have a dialing machine call me up at 1 in the morning, just on the one in a million chance that I might buy whatever they’re trying to peddle. And why not? The cost to them is infinitesimal. Which means I not only have to pay a price for my property, but I also have to pay an additional price to keep other people from using my property.

That’s already true with e-mail. We all have a spam folder. But there’s a cost to that spam folder – false positives. Every so often you find out that you didn’t get a message you needed to get. I just discovered that I was supposed to confirm a speaking engagement for a conference… and that notice ended up in my spam file somehow. That provides no cost to people producing spam, but their use of my property, their placing things I do not want in my e-mail account, costs me money.

This issue of other people using one’s property rights has long existed with physical property. If you’re neighbor doesn’t wish to keep the music or odor or pollution he produces on his property, which is usually the case, he exports onto other people’s property. Causing an earthquake on someone else’s property is not an issue of bargaining over conflicting property rights, its taking someone else’s property rights away. Ditto placing toxic fumes on other people’s land. Because the party producing those fumes only has the right to place those fumes on its own property, not to someone else’s. If the music one neighbor produces crosses the boundary onto property someone else is paying for, the producer of that music is trespassing.

Sure, to some degree, everyone produces externalities, but the question is, how big can the externalities be before they must be regulated? As laws cease to be enforced, the government’s footprint diminishes and we move closer and closer to a libertarian society. And the sad truth is, what libertarians haven’t thought through and realized is that such a society is one where individuals have to spend a lot of resources keeping other people from taking their property. And its a society where we are all poorer. All of us, even the captains of industry. How much work would Howard Roark do, how productive would Dagny Taggart be, how much use for life would John Galt himself have if their respective neighbors decided to build a nuclear reactor and dispense with any effort to contain the radiation from crossing property lines?

PS. The call came from this number: 972-280-7286

(Dan here…minor grammatical corrections made for flow.)

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Ron Paul Challenges Liberals – or Maybe Not

Matt Stoller, the former Senior Policy Advisor to Rep. Alan Grayson and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute has a couple of very interesting articles posted at Naked Capitalism,  Why Ron Paul Challenges Liberals, and the follow-up, Naked Capitalism, “A Home for All Sorts of Bircher Nonsense”

These are thought-provoking, in many ways insightful, and strike me as required reading, for a variety of reasons, including some valuable historical insights.  However, one thought they provoke from me is that the main thesis is spectacularly wrong-headed.  Stollar talks about what a great ally Paul’s staff was, when working on certain issues.  I should say, “when working against certain issues” or things, like war and the unfettered evil workings of the Federal Reserve.  The correct vocabulary is worth emphasizing.  Liberals and Libertarians may find common ground in what they are against, but it is quite unlikely that they will ever find anything substantial that they both are for.

Stollar goes on to point out what he calls “a big problem” with liberalism.  This is the mixture of two elements, support for federal power and the anti-war sentiment that arose with Viet Nam and has continued though today.  In the same paragraph, Stollar says, “Liberalism doesn’t really exist much within the Democratic Party so much anymore.”  This is an important thought, but he doesn’t pursue it, and as he goes on seems to conflate Democrats with Liberals, as suits his convenience.  In the final paragraph of the first post he refers to: “a completely hollow liberal intellectual apparatus arguing for increasing the power of corporations through the Federal government to enact their agenda.”  Seriously, WTF?  I have absolutely no idea what the hell that is supposed to mean.

The second article is especially weak, and essentially devoid of any intellectual content.  Stollar decides to “highlight a few of the reactions here without much of a rebuttal.”  Why would anyone do that?  Does he believe the reactions are self-refuting?   Is he too lazy to rebut, or does he simply not have a good rebuttal?

At least he clearly sets forth the thesis of the first article:  “that the same financing structures that are used to finance mass industrial warfare were used to create a liberal national economy and social safety.”   Here is the source of Stollar’s alleged intra-liberal conflict, that Paul is somehow supposed to illuminate and inform.  Though Stollar says: “I’ll be describing in much more detail the shifting of the social contract underlying this failure, which has nothing to do with Ron Paul and would exist with or without him.”  So referencing Paul in the first place was a bit of a red herring.

He then goes on to provide extended quotes from posts by David Atkins, who he describes as “wrestling with what liberalism is” and Digby, who he simply rejects out of hand, though with a lot of words that don’t quite reach the level of snark

What Stollar describes as “contradictions within modern liberalism”  boils down to liberalism needing big government to be interventionist, as Atkins demonstrates, but not imperialistic.  But this is a totally coherent position. The problem lies not with progressive liberalism, but with the practical realities of managing a power system – which is what governemnt is – in a way that advances the common good, while holding the drive for imperialistic and domestic domination in check.  This is going to be a central practical problem with any governing system or political philosophy – at least for one that takes seriously the idea of advancing the common good.  To say it is the problem of liberalism is to ignore human nature, political reality, and the entirety of history.

Thus, a liberal can hold the positions that American involvement in WW II was necessary, but that our involvement in Viet Nam was not.  Ditto Kosovo, vis-a-vis Iraq.   One can also recognize that the only entity with enough heft to balance the power of trans-national mega-corporations is government, but Stollar does not choose to give that any consideration.

Stollar concludes: “As the New Deal era model sheds the last trappings of anything resembling social justice or equity for what used to be called the middle class (a process which Tom Ferguson has been relentlessly documenting since the early 1980s), the breakdown will become impossible to ignore.  You can already see how flimsy the arguments are, from the partisans.

I don’t know how one gets from the systematic dismantling of the New Deal by successive Republican administrations (and you can include both Clinton and Obama in this list) to the New Deal model shedding anything at all.  And, no, I can’t see how flimsy liberal partisan arguments have anything to do with an assault on the middle class that has taken place from the right.

Stollar has constructed a straw man problem.  Which is a shame, since there are real problems to be dealt with.  One is the growth of right wing populism, as exemplified by the Tea Party – at least to the extent that is is real, and not a Fox News fabrication.  Another is to harness the energy of the Occupy Movements, which provide some evidence that there is progressive populism that could be a source of real political strength.  Most critically, though, as things stand now, there is no political left in this country with any actual power. 

Corey Robin describes the central problem of American liberalism in the 21st Century, and closes the loop back to Stollar’s Ron Paul idea like this.

Our problem—and again by “our” I mean a left that’s social democratic (or welfare state liberal or economically progressive or whatever the hell you want to call it) and anti-imperial—is that we don’t really have a vigorous national spokesperson for the issues of war and peace, an end to empire, a challenge to Israel, and so forth, that Paul has in fact been articulating.  The source of Paul’s positions on these issues are not the same as ours (again more reason not to give him our support).  But he is talking about these issues, often in surprisingly blunt and challenging terms. Would that we had someone on our side who could make the case against an American empire, or American supremacy, in such a pungent way.

Digging a level deeper, the reason we don’t have such a spokesperson is that our political system is essentially owned by corporate interests, which is why we get alleged liberals like Clinton and Obama in Democratic leadership, while genuine progressives like Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich, and even Alan Grayson are marginalized.  On top of this, the right has a vigorous and powerful propaganda machine – hence the Tea Party; and the small number of progressive voices in broadcast media is nowhere close to providing a balance.

Money owns politics, and corporate interests, along with a small entrenched elite, own the vast majority of the money.  The key to achieving progressive solutions is to get the money out of politics.  But in the wake of Citizens United, that prospect is a forlorn hope.  That is my “coherent structural critique of the American political order” in one short paragraph.

Cross posted at Retirement Blues

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Follow up to a Libertarian future

Reader Jazzbumpa suggests taking a look at Yves Smith’s Journey into a Libertarian Future series as part of Mike’s thought experiment on the subject here. A very good read.

He also offers one of his own posts on the matter at Retirement Blues
Brute economics of slavery.

And opines at the end of his e-mail “It really makes me think about the 13th century”.

In comments at Mike’s post is an interesting discussion in real terms using the development of the electricity industry as an example of interaction of government and private enterprise.

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A Though Experiment: What Would a Perfect Libertarian State Look Like a Hundred Years Later?

byMike Kimel [edited to make authorship clearer]

Libertarians come in many flavors, but I think most of them would agree that in an ideal world, the government would be very small and have limited powers – essentially, the government would control national defense and perhaps adjudicate over property rights disputes (i.e., maintain police and/or the courts). Otherwise, people would be free to engage in whatever activities they wished provided the specific purpose of that activity was to harm a third party. Based on conversations with libertarians, I believe negative externalities, or inadvertent harm to third parties is OK. I have yet to have a discussion with a libertarian and come away thinking: now this is a person who views negative externalities as an intrusion on someone else’s private property requiring government intervention to halt. (If I am incorrect about this, I’ll be happy to stand corrected… but it has little effect on the rest of this post.)

Now, one of the side effects of a very small, laissez-faire government is that tax rates will be very low. This means that the accumulation of wealth will be faster for those with a comparative advantage at creating goods and services other people want to buy. (I’m ignoring this effect, which is easy to verify empirically, but then libertarians believe lower taxes result in faster economic growth and I want to focus on their assumptions here.)

Furthermore, without an inheritance tax or estate tax (I think it is fair to say most, perhaps even all libertarians are against these types of taxes), fortunes would pass on more intact from one generation to the next than we see happening today. In such a world, the accumulation wealth over two or more generations could allow a person or family to accumulate a greater percent of a given area’s wealth than we see happening today.

But… the libertarian world is one without public infrastructure. So who would build or own the roads in a given area? Well, it won’t be folks who don’t have any money, that much is evident. Presumably those who otherwise have accumulated significant resources… such as a person or a family that controls a sizable piece of the wealth in that area.

Now, a lot of types of infrastructure, such as roads, electric grids, and the like, have significant first mover advantages. There may be a lot of traffic on a road from A to B, or an electric grid serving the area, and monopoly rents could easily be extracted. If a second mover built a duplicate road or electric grid, it would harm the first mover… but it also wouldn’t happen, because the second mover knows the price war would make it impossible for it to profit as well.

This, by the way, isn’t pie in the sky theorizing or guesswork. We’ve seen precisely that in the real world. For example, in the years following the 1996 Telecom Act, incumbent phone companies were deathly afraid that their network would be duplicated… and except for a few BLECs in big cities (most of which promptly went under even so) there was no replication of the last mile. Similarly, you don’t see replication of the last mile in the electricity industry, which I mention because when it comes to deregulation, the electricity industry is where telecom was in the late 1990s. (Yes, it is not a perfect analogy, but electricity and phone calls aren’t the same thing.)

We do, occasionally, see the private provision of toll roads, but usually after the owner of that toll road extracts a promise from the government to reduce maintenance of any competing publicly owned road. Which means… in any given area, there isn’t going to be competition in the provision of roads and other infrastructure.

This is important for a combination of two reasons. The first is that a monopoly extracts monopoly rents. Monopoly rents, of course, will increase and speed the process by which wealth is concentrated, and, as most libertarians will tell you, monopoly rents create market inefficiencies. But movie theaters run their own concession stands, and if you want to set up a snack bar in a Wal-Mart, you better expect to turn over most of your profits to Wal-Mart. Unless there are rules preventing it (not likely in a libertarian paradise), the owner of the infrastructure calls the shots, deciding who can and who cannot do business.

But the second problem with a monopoly in roads and other infrastructure is far more important. It means, simply put, there is no voting with one’s feet if the road owner chooses to prevent it. (Of course, the next region over might be run the same way anyhow.) So if you don’t like the way the people that own the roads and the markets and the apartment you rent do business, you can’t exactly up and leave without using their road or otherwise cutting across their land. And if they don’t let you do it, well, you’re breaking the law… and the Pinkertons could easily prevent you from doing that. The average person, the person not born into resources, could be left with one option to full cooperation – loss of shelter, food, and even membership in society.

Now, if this sounds unrealistically dystopian to you, remember that it took far less coercion than that to keep people tied to Company Towns not a hundred years ago in this country. The Company Towns did not own the roads or the land once you were out of town, the only chains were financial.

The road to serfdom is very pretty when you first get on it, so much so that those who are most vocal in warning us about the perils of where it leads don’t realize that’s the destination they’re promoting.

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The Road to Serfdom!!

Brad DeLong points us to a post from The Nation on early Koch brothers and Hayek The Road to Serfdom!!

Yasha Levine and Mark Ames:

Charles Koch to Friedrich Hayek: Use Social Security!: [I]n early June 1973, weeks after [Charles] Koch was appointed president of the Institute for Humane Studies. Along with his brothers, Koch inherited his father’s privately held oil company in 1967…. Koch invited Hayek to serve as the institute’s “distinguished senior scholar” in preparation for its first conference on Austrian economics, to be held in June 1974.

Hayek initially declined Koch’s offer. In a letter to IHS secretary Kenneth Templeton Jr., dated June 16, 1973, Hayek explains that he underwent gall bladder surgery in Austria earlier that year, which only heightened his fear of “the problems (and costs) of falling ill away from home.” (Thanks to waves of progressive reforms, postwar Austria had near universal healthcare and robust social insurance plans that Hayek would have been eligible for.)

IHS vice president George Pearson (who later became a top Koch Industries executive) responded three weeks later, conceding that it was all but impossible to arrange affordable private medical insurance for Hayek in the United States. However, thanks to research by Yale Brozen, a libertarian economist at the University of Chicago, Pearson happily reported that “social security was passed at the University of Chicago while you [Hayek] were there in 1951. You had an option of being in the program. If you so elected at that time, you may be entitled to coverage now.”

A few weeks later, the institute reported the good news: Professor Hayek had indeed opted into Social Security while he was teaching at Chicago…. He was eligible…. On August 10, 1973, Koch wrote a letter appealing to Hayek to accept a shorter stay at the IHS, hard-selling Hayek on Social Security’s retirement benefits, which Koch encouraged Hayek to draw on even outside America. He also assured Hayek that Medicare, which had been created in 1965 by the Social Security amendments as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, would cover his medical needs…. [T]aking on the unlikely role of Social Security Administration customer service rep, Koch adds, “In order to be eligible for medical coverage you must apply during the registration period which is anytime from January 1 to March 31. For your further information, I am enclosing a pamphlet on Social Security.”

(h/t Mike Kimel)

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Libertarians, Government and Choice

by Mike Kimel

It has been a very long time since I looked at the National Review. Apparently it is still there.

Jonah Goldberg (apparently also still there) had a post that begins like this:

And now let us recall the “Fable of the Shoes.”

In his 1973 Libertarian Manifesto, the late Murray Rothbard argued that the biggest obstacle in the road out of serfdom was “status quo bias.” In society, we’re accustomed to rapid change. “New products, new life styles, new ideas are often embraced eagerly.” Not so with government. When it comes to police or firefighting or sanitation, government must do those things because that’s what government has (allegedly) always done.

“So identified has the State become in the public mind with the provision of these services,” Rothbard laments, “that an attack on State financing appears to many people as an attack on the service itself.” The libertarian who wants to get the government out of a certain business is “treated in the same way as he would be if the government had, for various reasons, been supplying shoes as a tax-financed monopoly from time immemorial.”

If everyone had always gotten their shoes from the government, writes Rothbard, the proponent of shoe privatization would be greeted as a kind of lunatic. “How could you?” defenders of the status quo would squeal. “You are opposed to the public, and to poor people, wearing shoes! And who would supply shoes . . . if the government got out of the business? Tell us that! Be constructive! It’s easy to be negative and smart-alecky about government; but tell us who would supply shoes? Which people? How many shoe stores would be available in each city and town? . . . What material would they use? . . . Suppose a poor person didn’t have the money to buy a pair?”

All that is true. But what Rothbard apparently didn’t get, and no doubt Goldberg doesn’t either, is that it goes the other way too. If people always got their shoes from the private sector, it would never occur to anyone that the government might provide shoes. Now it might seem stupid for the government to be in the business of footwear distribution, and in general, outside of the military, my guess is that it is.

But sometimes a different approach is what works. Sometimes when the government is doing things, it is doing them inefficiently and the private sector can do better. But sometimes it goes the other way. Sometimes when the private sector is doing things, it is doing them inefficiently and the government can do better. And sometimes, sometimes its a good idea for things to be done worse, and in a way that only the government can.

I’ll give you an example. I’ve noted a few times that you can stroll into most car dealerships in Brazil today and buy a tri-flex car. That is, the same car can run on any mix of gasoline, ethanol and natural gas. (There are two fuel tanks – one for ethanol and/or gasoline and one for natural gas.) You can then drive that vehicle into any number of fueling stations and fill up with whatever fuel is going to get you the most miles (er, kilometers) for your dollar (er, real). The technology to run cars on a number of different fuels, which you won’t see in the US for a very long time, is marketed under such exotic brand names as GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen and Fiat to name a few. (Look ‘em up if you haven’t heard of ‘em.)

I’ve posted on how it came to be that Brazilians have choices that Americans do not, namely to buy a tri-flex vehicle. The Brazilian government wanted to reduce the country’s dependence on gasoline, but it realized that nobody would buy a car that ran on a fuel other than gasoline if there was no place to buy that fuel, and hence no manufacturer would make such cars. The government also realized that Shell and Esso and Texaco (remember them?) weren’t going to start selling other types of fuel because there weren’t enough cars on the road that could use those fuels. But the Brazilian government owned an oil company that had a chain of gas stations. One fine day, that chain of gas stations started selling ethanol even though there was no market for it. It wasn’t profitable. It was insane. No private company would have done something that stupid. But the result, a few decades later, is that about 80% of cars sold in Brazil in 2010 were flex-fuel. Guess what percentage of cars sold in the US in 2010 were tri-flex?

Rothbard would never approve of what the Brazilian government did. Neither would Goldberg. Personally, I like having choices. I wish I could pick among three different fuels for my car and go with whichever is cheapest. I suspect that in a few decades, when that technology finally arrives in the US, Goldberg might like having those choices too.

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Chairman of Connecticut Libertarian Party responds

Angry Bear invites Dan Reale.

Dan Reale, Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Connecticut replies with this e-mail:

Libertarians oppose the initiation of force to promote social or political goals. We acknowledge that a “right” is a power, faculty or ability inherent to ownership and incident upon another. This applies to both to your property and yourself, as you own both.

This also applies to what people myopically characterize as “economic”, “civil” or “social” rights, as if the principle is somehow different or distinct. Rights function on the same premise no matter who owns the property in question. If the action of the property owner (as in the person with the corresponding rights inherent to that ownership) would take action that would risk damage to property, infringe the rights of others or limit the rights of others, that person taking such action needs to obtain (or contract for) permission.

Libertarians are minarchists. We believe that government’s only function is to protect individual rights. There are a variety of things that government does to accomplish that end, among these being a court system. These things cannot include invasion of privacy, taking of property without due process, restrictions on the type of gun you can purchase, where you can work, the type of light bulb you can use or who you can freely contract with to purchase health care along with what terms you can agree to. Libertarians assert that you either have a right or you don’t.

Libertarians are neither left nor right. In history, “left” and “right” merely came from what side of a physical aisle French legislators stood in during the early 1800s, and that has no factual bearing or relevance to our world today. In practice, “left” and “right” are means to an end both in terms of how major parties parse the debate and erroneously polarize the electorate. Our question is not “left or right?”; our question is “libertarian or statist?”.

Dan Reale

My reply in comments.

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