Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Libertarian solutions

So there's big social problems. Things like drug abuse, hungry children, handicapped adults with no family to care for them, elderly people no longer capable of working who need care, poor and unemployed, the homeless, so forth. So a Balloon Juice commentator says, "What's the Libertarian solution to all this? They're silent on all these social problems!"

Err.... no. I beg to differ. Libertarians do have a solution to the problem of, say, the homeless... to shrug and say “they’ve always been poor, they always will be, there’s nothing to be done.” I.e., Libertarian philosophy at its base is a defeatist philosophy that insists that there are no solutions to large social problems, so we shouldn’t even try to solve them as a society.

As such, Libertarianism is a foreign import to the America that once was, a can-do America where it was simply presumed that America and Americans could do anything they put their mind to. Dig a canal across Panama despite the fact that two other nations had attempted to do so and failed. Can do! But that America is, apparently, dead, leaving us with this defeatist Libertarian philosophy that is fundamentally a can’t-do philosophy. So it goes.

– Badtux the Can-do Penguin


  1. When I was a lad I remember John F Kennedy, our current President at the time saying "We are going to the Moon". As A kid I was stunned, he was going to make science fiction Real!
    WE Did it too. And, it didn't take very long either.
    Now, we can't even continue Social Security ?
    a discouraged w3ski

  2. I've pften wondered whether Gibberingtarians have a subconscious suicide wish. The shit they propose -- no health care unless you're rich! No food safety laws! No retirement for YOU unless you've scrimped all your life! Work until you drop dead at your loom! -- will ultimately apply to them. THEY will be the ones to die in cold, pain and hunger if their ideal fantasy world comes about. Meanwhile, some rich slave-owner will be laughing at them, to the extent he bothers to contemplate the proles at all. Are Glibbos so delusional that they don't see where this is leading, for their own damned selves? Or do they just hate humanity so much, including their own black-souled selves, that they want everyone condemned. I wish the Libertarian fuckwits would just cut to the chase, put a gun up against their heads and shoot themselves, so that us socialist, community-minded people could build a more cooperative world. But sociopaths are always afraid to impose pain upon themselves, eh? Even if it's the momentary pain of suicide.

    In keeping with the gun theme of that Balloon Juice link: Hey Badtux's Libertarian readers -- here's an encouraging secret! If you do it right and kill yourself quickly, the nerve signals that transmit pain will not register in your brain, because it will cease activity so fast that you won't even know you're dead. A shotgun in the mouth, aimed slightly low so it severs the spine and blows away the base of your skull, that's the ticket! Do it today -- it's the Free Market solution. You know you hate yourself. Put an end to your misery. And ours.

  3., I beg to differ. I don't think you're representing the libertarian position fairly. At least the first step in proper debate is to demonstrate the ability to explain the other side fairly and accurately.

    The libertarian favors private assistance for those who need care, are poor, are homeless. There is some historical evidence that this can be successful, as during the late 1800s as the American economy grew there was a huge explosion of private charitable activity, the likes of which the world had never seen.

    Now you can argue that such a system would not be as effective as a government-run safety net, but the libertarian does not just throw up his hands and say, "there's nothing to be done."

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  5. It's a different world now than it was during the late 1800s. Anybody who tries to liken charity then to the reality of the current day has their head about 150 years up their ass. Things are COMPLEX and EXPENSIVE now. This is not 1880.

    Private charity is not going to pay for insulin and syringes and diabetic educators and the eventual amputation of nectoric toes on people who got adult-onset diabetes when they were 50 and lived for another 20 years. Especially when there are 20 million such diabetics in the U.S.

    Really, what planet do you live on? Do you know any, like REAL PEOPLE? Do you have any idea of how the world works? I can't tell from your blog, with its cheesy "Hayek vs. Keynes" YouTube posts and suchlike, what age you might be. People like you should stick to commenting on ZeroHedge. They eat that shit up over there.

  6. Ah, I see, MSGNet. You propose pink unicorns shitting rainbows to solve the problem of health care for the poor and elderly, the problem of the elderly becoming infirm, unable to work, and requiring income assistance to survive, and so forth.

    Oh wait, you label it as "private assistance" and somehow believe this makes it more real than pink unicorns shitting rainbows. The problem is, both pink unicorns shitting rainbows and private assistance that accounts for 8% of GDP (the cost of health care for the poor and elderly) are imaginary. They're not real. They've never existed anywhere, at any time, in *any* civilization on this planet. Imaginary solutions -- unicorns shitting rainbows -- aren't solutions. They're irrelevant hand waving of no substance, and basically the same as saying "we have no solution and don't care to find one."

    - Badtux the Reality-based Penguin

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  8. Thanks, Purple, for confirming that you agree that the Libertarians say that if the free market / pink unicorns shitting rainbows / Santa Claus etc. haven't solved a problem, it means the problem is unsolvable.

    The reality is that we have government for a *reason* -- to solve certain problems that have not been solved by / are insolvable by other mechanisms. Libertarianism does not have solutions, it has evasions, all of which boil down to: "If it's a problem that hasn't been solved by charity and the free market, it's not solvable." In that respect Libertarianism is fundamentally defeatist.

    - Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin

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  10. Now, here's how I see it. The purpose of government is to solve problems where a) it's the most cost effective way of handling things and choice is unimportant (since governments don't do choice), which is why we have public streets and highways, b) there are externalities which would result in freeloading if not for government being able to force people to pay for it (for example, a burglar in prison rather than on the streets benefits me, even if I have never seen the burglar and don't know he exists, how else but government to make sure everybody pays for the benefit they get for the burglar being off the streets?) or c) there's simply no other way of solving the problem. I.e. we've tried non-government ways of solving the problem (e.g., homelessness), and those non-government ways did not work.

    Look, Medicare did not happen in a vacuum. 60% of the elderly had no health insurance in 1963, only retirees from major corporations had health insurance because insurers could not make money selling insurance to the elderly because they had to charge too much because, duh, the elderly are *dying*. Newspapers were filled with stories of the elderly being turned away at doctors offices and hospitals, of the elderly having to eat cat food because all of their income was going to medical expenses, and so forth. Medicare happened because there was no choice if we were going to provide medical care to old people. What baffles me is the Libertarian types who insist that no, this is not true. Maybe in some universe of pink unicorns that shit rainbows it isn't true, but I live in *this* universe, where the statistics from 1963 are quite accessible in the CBO archives.

    You appear to be attacking a straw man who says government is the solution for *ALL* problems. I have never made that argument. STOP IT. Just stop it. You trot out that strawman again, I'm just going to delete your comments and turn on moderation on this blog. Got it? QUIT MAKING SHIT UP AND LYING ABOUT WHAT I BELIEVE because I do *NOT* appreciate it. That is all.

    - Badtux the Non-straw Penguin

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  12. SO, Purple, WHAT IS THE LIBERTARIAN SOLUTION TO HOMELESSNESS? Quit attacking me and answer the question. If it's not government, and it's not pink unicorns shitting rainbows a.k.a. charity (which we've already established hasn't solved it), what *is* the Libertarian solution to this problem?

    - Badtux the "What's your solution?" Penguin

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  14. Regarding homelessness: There are multiple causes of homelessness:

    1) Job loss. Half the homeless are short-term homeless who lose their homes due to loss of job. Clearly we need better unemployment insurance systems so you don't lose your home just because you lost your job.

    2) Mental illness. Clearly we need additional treatment options. We need universal health care that does not require the mentally ill to jump through hoops they are incapable of jumping through in order to get care, we need shelters that are funded well enough that the homeless don't have their conditions made worse, we need shelters that INCORPORATE TREATMENT as well as just provide two hots and a cot.

    3) A nationwide living wage law. 40% of the homeless actually do have jobs -- they're just jobs that don't provide sufficient income for rent on even the cheapest apartments. The free market won't do this because if I pay a living wage to my workers, I can't compete with the business down the street that pays a starvation wage to its workers. But if we're both required to pay a living wage, then we can both grumble about government while secretly breathing a sigh of relief that at least now our workers aren't sleeping on the streets.

    5) Homes. Right now in certain built-out areas the only way to build new homes is via high-rise condo and apartments, which are very expensive to build and thus which rent or sell for too much money for lower-income people to afford them. There needs to be some sort of incentive program for developers to build lower-income housing too, or all that's going to be built are a more limited number of upper income housing.

    And more and more, but all of these have one thing in common: Greater government intervention. And BTW, those not-for-profits you mention that run various programs? A large number of them get almost all their money from the government. They're not "really" charities, they're basically taxpayer-funded government bodies that happen to be organized as charitable organizations rather than as municipalities or etc.

    Regarding things that I don't want government involved with: I don't want government involved with anything where choice is important. I don't want government bureaucrats running car companies, that gets you things like the Trabant and Yugo. I don't want government deciding who produces what and where it gets produced -- capitalism is a much better mechanism for matching supply and demand than government will ever be. I don't want government interfering with my private life, or with personal choices that I make. I don't want government telling me what doctor I must see and what hospitals I must use. On the other hand, there are things where choice doesn't matter, where clearly government is the most cost-effective way of doing things -- e.g., health insurance, where I don't care *what* insurer pays my doctor and hospital when I have an unexpected illness, just that *some* insurer does, and chopping out the private health insurance industry would be an instant 20% drop in insurance costs -- where it baffles me that people would prefer to pay more for no real purpose other than to say "it's not government insurance".

    In short, I am a pragmatist. There are things that government has proven itself incompetent at doing -- such as running car companies. There are things where we have proof that government works better for doing it -- like running health insurance pools. In the end there can be general guidelines but the only real rule is "what works". If government is the solution, ideology is the problem, not government.

    - Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin

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Ground rules: Comments that consist solely of insults, fact-free talking points, are off-topic, or simply spam the same argument over and over will be deleted. The penguin is the only one allowed to be an ass here. All viewpoints, however, are welcomed, even if I disagree vehemently with you.

WARNING: You are entitled to create your own arguments, but you are NOT entitled to create your own facts. If you spew scientific denialism, or insist that the sky is purple, or otherwise insist that your made-up universe of pink unicorns and cotton candy trees is "real", well -- expect the banhammer.

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