Friday, October 22, 2010

Tariffs on China Will Cost U.S. Jobs

"Think about the IPod, for instance. It is designed in America and its 451 parts are made in dozens of different countries. But just because it is finally assembled in China, it officially counts as a Chinese import and therefore a contributor to America’s trade deficit — never mind that the Chinese add only $4 to the IPod’s $150 final value. Imposing duties on IPods to slash the deficit, then, won’t just cost Chinese jobs  in Beijing assembly plants, but American jobs in Cupertino (Apple’s headquarters) computer labs."


184 Comments:

At 10/22/2010 3:53 PM, Blogger Sean said...

OF course the immediate effect of tariffs would be to raise prices, and any tariffs on China would cost jobs. The only possible defense of them is if the condition for the existence of tariffs provide an incentive to China to change its behavior in specified ways in the longer term.

 
At 10/22/2010 6:07 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

The only possible defense of them is if the condition for the existence of tariffs provide an incentive to China to change its behavior in specified ways in the longer term."

So when Apple moves it's $4 or even $5 in production cost to Vietnam, how, then, will Chinese behavior be affected?There are many low cost producers in the world besides China.

 
At 10/22/2010 8:54 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


So when Apple moves it's $4 or even $5 in production cost to Vietnam, how, then, will Chinese behavior be affected?There are many low cost producers in the world besides China.

Find something that links those countries in ways other than just cost. Link them that way, you have an airtight barrier. NATO's definition of the Third World would go a long way towards that.

No thank you, but the only proper state for Vietnam is subjugation to the US and the removal of the Vietcong regime.

 
At 10/22/2010 9:01 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


...but American jobs in Cupertino (Apple’s headquarters) computer labs."

Hardly the case. Any losses would be a result of retaliation.

Supporting China is for losers; they are only people lucky enough to not have a McCarthy and an active HUAC.

Bring the China (and subsequent countries to replace them) bashing on, full speed ahead.

 
At 10/22/2010 9:59 PM, Blogger James said...

Shikha Dalmia’s view on free trade are absolute consistent with the ivory tower intellectuals she quotes. But in the real world where the rubber hits the road tariffs work. In the “Wealth of Nations” Adam Smith advised the United States not to industrialize but to remain an agrarian country because it was more efficient to buy manufactured goods from England. Alexander Hamilton, a 33 year old upstart, advised that the world’s foremost economist be ignored and that we engage in tariffs and other protective means. His advice was delayed until after his death because Thomas Jefferson agreed with Adam Smith and wanted farmers to have access to cheap British goods but by the 1820s the US had become the world’s most trade protected nation.

A few of the advocates of American trade protection include Alexander Hamilton, all the presidents on Mount Rushmore (including a reluctant Thomas Jefferson), every Republican presidential candidate from Abraham Lincoln in 1860 to Alf Landon in 1936 who ran on a platform endorsing high protective tariffs. All the Founding Fathers were protectionists who believed that protection of American workers and industries from cheap foreign imports was essential to our prosperity, our independence, and our sovereignty. The first act passed by our first Congress established tariffs on foreign goods.

Shikha Dalmia and her free traders believe that a trade protected economy without foreign competition should have high prices, shoddy products, and producers should have no incentive to innovate. Society should slide into mediocrity and poverty. That was never the US experience with trade protection. Contrary to free traders, the economy with high tariffs was growing with higher wages, lower prices, and much innovation. After the Tariff of 1828 gave us the highest tariffs we ever had, higher than the Smoot-Hawley tariffs of a hundred years later, we had an explosion of labor saving machines such as the mechanical reaper of Cyrus McCormick (1834) and the steel plow of John Deere (1837).

University of Chicago economist Christian Broda chose a time period of 1994 to 2005. He is fudging the numbers with that time period. In all of the seven years before 1994 Average Weekly Wages, the government’s inflation adjusted wages for blue collar workers, showed a decline. In other words the starting point for his study was the bottom of a recession. Average Weekly Wages peaked in 1973 and are down since. Since that is an inflation adjusted wage it means that from 1973 to now wages have declined more than prices. Had prices gone down more than wages there would have been no decline after an inflation adjustment.

The IPod example is equally bogus. It is a fine product that would sell well even if made with high cost domestic labor. For ever 11 people working to produce the IPod 10 of them are foreigners. With tariffs all those workers would be Americans. The Keynesian multiplier impact of their spending would generate many more American jobs.

 
At 10/22/2010 10:01 PM, Blogger James said...

Shikha Dalmia asserts that

“This protectionism never has – and never will – deliver.”

It delivered for the United States which for most of its history was the worlds most trade protected country and has seen continuous decline in real wages since becoming a free trader. The average weekly earnings of American blue collar workers peaked in 1973 and are down since. Also we got to this worst economy since the Great Depression with more free trade in place than we have ever had.

It delivered for Great Britain which has a history of being the worlds second most trade protected nation before opting for free trade. After a hundred years of free trade their economy was so bad that their citizens opted for socialism.

It delivered for China, which after a hundred years of free trade imposed on them at the point of a sword after the Opium Wars, opted for Communism and then found success signing a free trade deal that they cheat on.

It delivered for South Korea which found success with trade protection. The prologue to Cambridge University economist Ha-Joon Chang’s book “Bad Samaritans” has an explanation of the trade restrictions South Korea used to become rich.

It worked for India which like China inked a free trade deal and cheated.

Myth and theory support free trade. Real world experience says it only works to impoverish your citizens.

 
At 10/23/2010 2:52 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

James, it's basic economics that free trade benefits a country. Of course, some countries benefit more than others, e.g. the U.S., which has relatively more free trade, open markets, and unrestrictive capital flows than its trading partners. So, the U.S. gains-in-trade are greater than its trading partners.

Focusing on real wages is a narrow view. What good is high real wages when there's nothing to buy? Since real wages peaked in the 1970s, U.S. living standards have improved substantially, and the U.S. leads the rest of the world combined (in both revenues and profits) in the new and expanding Information and Biotech Revolutions.

 
At 10/23/2010 3:22 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Find something that links those countries in ways other than just cost. Link them that way, you have an airtight barrier."

Hmmm. Let's see. Ahah!! I have it: they are both Asian countries? Is that what bothers you, ? Are you a bigot?

sethstorm the bigot says:

"No thank you, but the only proper state for Vietnam is subjugation to the US and the removal of the Vietcong regime."

That was already tried in the 60s and 70s, remember? It cost 10 years, hundreds of billions of dollars, and 58,000 American lives lost. No thanks. Let's not try that again.

 
At 10/23/2010 8:37 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"That was already tried in the 60s and 70s, remember? It cost 10 years, hundreds of billions of dollars, and 58,000 American lives lost"...

Well Ron H, maybe if this country had applied the Curtis Lemay philosophy it might have gone differently...:-)

 
At 10/23/2010 9:09 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Nice 'fairy tale' james but can you say smoot hawley?

Notably sethstorm chimes in in support of more job losses...

So yeah, let's exacerbate the current leftist driven situation with more protectionism and less application of gray matter...

 
At 10/23/2010 9:12 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

So when Apple moves it's $4 or even $5 in production cost to Vietnam, how, then, will Chinese behavior be affected?There are many low cost producers in the world besides China.
That's why you'd have to be really dumb to focus significant protectionism on low-cost manufacturing. :) But There's a lot of manufacturing (and services) not in that category.

 
At 10/23/2010 1:17 PM, Blogger James said...

Peak,

We got to the present sad state of economic affairs with more free trade in place than we have ever had. It is free trade that has caused this current problem. Not high taxes. We have had taxes higher than today without free trade and did very well. Note also that most countries that have staked their economic well being on exports to the United States are doing much better than we are.

You are correct that some people do very well under free trade. My ball park estimate is that 5-10 percent have done better under free trade than without it, 10-15 percent are neither helped or hurt, and 80 percent have lost real wages from free trade. The 80 percent figure comes from the approximate portion of wage earners covered by the Average Weekly Earning that have declined. Given the size of those who have lost I do not agree that I am focusing too narrowly but extracting the relevant data that free traders work hard to hide. Josh Bivens has a book which I have not read about globalization with an intriguing title ”Every Wins – Except for Most of Us”

I think you are focusing on the theory of free trade from Adam Smith (Theory of Absolute Advantage) and David Ricardo (Theory of Comparative Advantage) rather than the real world experience. When Ronald Reagan left office the Republican Party went over to the dark side of big government and big business. On free trade they took a “let them eat cake” approach to the harm done to Americans. Much to the dismay of big business Reagan was a free trade realist who would not disadvantage Americans in pursuit of free markets. See ”Examining Reagan's Record on Free Trade” by Sheldon Richman for the big business view on Reagan’s approach to free trade. See ”Ronald Reagan: Trade Realist” by Alan Tonelson for a more sympathetic view.

 
At 10/23/2010 1:49 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

James, you're making some false assumptions. Free trade has benefited the U.S. more than its trading partners and has benefited the U.S. masses.

For example, I've stated before:

In 2007, U.S. per capita income was $45,000 and China's per capita income was $2,000. If the U.S. gains $700 and China gains $300 for each $1,000 in trade, then U.S. income rises less than 2% and China's income rises 15% (however, unfortunately for China, when social costs are included, the U.S. may capture all the gains-in-trade).

Also, Adam Smith (and it Ricardo's Law of Comparative Advantage not Theory of Comparative Advantage):

"Wealth of Nations represents a highly critical commentary on mercantilism, the prevailing economic system of Smith's day. Mercantilism emphasized the maximizing of exports and the minimizing of imports. In Wealth of Nations, one senses Smith's passion for what is right and his concern that mercantilism benefits the wealthy and the politically powerful while it deprives the common people of the better quality and less expensive goods that would be available if protectionism ended and free trade prevailed."

Free trade has allowed Americans to consume more than produce and produce more with less effort.

 
At 10/23/2010 3:22 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


Heritage.org:
China is no angel here.

Yet they excuse China in the name of trade. The only reason they mention it is to appear as if their support for China did not exist.


juandos said...

Except that I said nothing about encouraging job losses. That's your interpretation.


Juandos said...
Well Ron H, maybe if this country had applied the Curtis Lemay philosophy it might have gone differently...

One of the few points of agreement I'd have.

 
At 10/23/2010 6:19 PM, Blogger James said...

Peak,

Just to keep the math simple let us suppose you have a nation with a population of 100 people each making a wage of $1,000 each. Total income is $100,000 and per capita income is $1,000. Now suppose we introduce free trade and as a result 80 have a 10 percent decline in income, 15 stay the same, and 5 see their income increase 10 times. Total income is now 80 x 900 + 15 x 1000 + 5 x 10,000 or $137,000 and per capita income is $1370.

Is the nation better off with this change? I make the value judgment that it is not. Your argument suggests you think that it is.

 
At 10/23/2010 6:32 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

James:

You have to also account for the possibility that free trade will result in lower prices for consumers, which will increase their standard of living even if their income remains unchanged. In your scenario, the nation could easily be better off with free trade given the incomes you suggest, due to the possibility of significant price declines for imported goods.

And the increased competition from free trade and foreign competition could also lower prices and increased quality of domestically producted goods, making everybody better off.

 
At 10/23/2010 6:51 PM, Blogger James said...

Indeed it could and if our free trade met the conditions of Adam Smith and/or David Ricardo I would expect that that would be the case. However that is not what we have experienced in this country since 1973. Real (individual) incomes of most are going down. That indicates that the wage decline has exceeded the price decline.

 
At 10/23/2010 7:33 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Well Ron H, maybe if this country had applied the Curtis Lemay philosophy it might have gone differently...:-)"

Ya, you're right, juandos, Nuclear war with China at that time would mean we probably wouldn't now be having a problem with their currency policies.

 
At 10/23/2010 7:45 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"That's why you'd have to be really dumb to focus significant protectionism on low-cost manufacturing. :) But There's a lot of manufacturing (and services) not in that category."

Well, Ok, I'll bite, what in particular would justify a tariff on China?

Since the post was about the low value added by China to an Ipod, I assumed that's what your comment referred to.

 
At 10/23/2010 8:04 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

James, value judgements are often based on ignorance. There are other mechanisms besides changes in real wages (including real U.S. compensation, which increased 70% since the mid-'60s). Free trade has benefited the U.S. tremendously through lower prices, lower interest rates, higher quality (through greater competition), and freeing-up limited resources to shift into higher quality-more profitable "core" goods in older industries and into emerging industries.

Of course, small economies can expand faster in relative terms (e.g. 15% in my example), while a large economy expands relatively much slower (e.g. 2%). However, the absolute gains of the large economy are much greater than the absolute gains of the small economy (e.g. $700 to $300 out of $1,000 gains-in-trade).

Adam Smith sums-up China's economy very well:

"...mercantilism benefits the wealthy and the politically powerful while it deprives the common people of the better quality and less expensive goods that would be available if protectionism ended and free trade prevailed."

 
At 10/23/2010 8:08 PM, Blogger marmico said...

Real (individual) incomes of most are going down. That indicates that the wage decline has exceeded the price decline.


International trade is primarily in goods.

Since 1973 (your reference year), the price index for durable goods, nondurable goods and services have risen 58%, 248% and 436%, respectively. See BEA Table 2.4.4.

Durable goods prices have actually been declining since 1995.

During the same time frame average weekly wages of production and nonsupervisory employees have risen 320%.

It seems clear that weekly wages have risen faster than the prices of durable and nondurable goods. but not services.

 
At 10/23/2010 8:47 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

Well, Ok, I'll bite, what in particular would justify a tariff on China?
If a country like China used protectionist tactics to corner a market on something like rare earths, and then attempted to use the monopoly for political reasons, it might be worth attempting to prevent such things from occurring in the future. I can think of other examples, but I'd like to see if we agree on this one first:

http://www.bnet.com/blog/technology-business/china-cuts-off-rare-earths-to-japanese-high-tech-who-8217s-next-update/5748


Since the post was about the low value added by China to an Ipod, I assumed that's what your comment referred to.
I just think most anti-protectionist rhetoric is of the strawman variety. It's not that there's no authentic debate there, it's just that the common talking points are the wrong ones.

 
At 10/23/2010 9:32 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

The only possible defense of them is if the condition for the existence of tariffs provide an incentive to China to change its behavior in specified ways in the longer term.

This statement makes absolutely no sense. What specified ways? How would the US benefit in the long term if consumers are forced to pay more for products or if the Chinese stopped supporting the USD and the treasury market? Do you really think that Americans will be better off with the USD losing two thirds of its value?

 
At 10/23/2010 9:34 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Bring the China (and subsequent countries to replace them) bashing on, full speed ahead.

Wonderful. Make some of us very rich by making most Americans very poor. Your al Qadea friends would be proud of you.

 
At 10/23/2010 9:38 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

The IPod example is equally bogus. It is a fine product that would sell well even if made with high cost domestic labor. For ever 11 people working to produce the IPod 10 of them are foreigners. With tariffs all those workers would be Americans. The Keynesian multiplier impact of their spending would generate many more American jobs.

The iPod would not be nearly as cheap if it were made in the US. For one, Americans don't exactly have the savings to invest in the productive capital that would be necessary to make all of the products it consumes. Another problem is the US regulatory environment that makes it very difficult for businesses to operate in the US. Yet another is the very high tax rate.

From what I see the protectionists are trying to drive the economy over the cliff even faster than it is already moving in that direction.

 
At 10/23/2010 9:43 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Well Ron H, maybe if this country had applied the Curtis Lemay philosophy it might have gone differently...:-)

You could never win because occupations always lead to unacceptable losses. While the loss of lives was tragic it was the economic toll that did the greater damage to the US. All that spending on the Vietnam War caused the French to pull the trigger on redemption of their USD holdings, which caused Nixon to close the gold window, making the USD just another depreciating fiat currency. You are still paying for that error and will continue to pay for it until the economy crashes.

 
At 10/23/2010 9:50 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

If a country like China used protectionist tactics to corner a market on something like rare earths, and then attempted to use the monopoly for political reasons, it might be worth attempting to prevent such things from occurring in the future.

If Congress can stop Chinese companies from using USDs to purchase American companies why can't the Chinese government prevent exports of rare earth elements to the United States? Are you entitled to purchase rare earth elements from the Chinese even if they do not wish to sell?

And what is wrong from developing our own supplies and let domestic producers refine those rare earth elements here? Frankly, I would be happy with that because I invest in rare earth element companies with reserves in the ground and am looking forward to idiot bureaucrats making the approval process simpler.

 
At 10/23/2010 10:06 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Sean,

"If a country like China used protectionist tactics to corner a market on something like rare earths, and then attempted to use the monopoly for political reasons, it might be worth attempting to prevent such things from occurring in the future."

The trouble with any monopoly is that as soon as it raises prices or uses its position for political purposes as you describe above, competition rears its ugly head.

Are you recommending a political solution to the actions China has taken with its monopoly on rare earth production? A tariff on Chinese imports, perhaps, as a retaliatory measure?

Keep in mind that China is currently the only producer of rare earths elements, not the only source. The US has plentiful supplies, they just aren't being mines due to low prices. a higher price, which total withholding certainly is, would reopen US mines rather quickly.

I don't know how this applies to rare earth elements, but when other materials are in short supply, a substitution effect takes place.

The market will handle this, Sean, no need for government action.

 
At 10/24/2010 9:53 AM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV, Ron H.,

Ron, from the article you quoted, "A recent Government Accountability Office report estimates to will take 15 years to rebuild a U.S. rare earth supply chain."

However, if a tariff had been enacted when China was building the monopoly, the monopoly would not have occurred and effective competition would have been greater: a more optimal solution than the market on its own has provided.
If you don't like government intervention or think it's moral, fine, but it would have provided a more optimal outcome in this case.

 
At 10/24/2010 10:56 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

However, if a tariff had been enacted when China was building the monopoly, the monopoly would not have occurred and effective competition would have been greater: a more optimal solution than the market on its own has provided.

The problem was not China but American regulations that made the domestic production of rare earths too expensive and permitting of mines too difficult. As an investor in the sector I look forward to a time when the permit process becomes reasonable so that I can make money from the production of rare earths domestically. If those regulations prevent me from opening a mine tariffs will not help domestic supply other than from old mines that do not need to be permitted and have EPA exemptions from the new rules that make it difficult to open new mines.

If you don't like government intervention or think it's moral, fine, but it would have provided a more optimal outcome in this case.

It never does. As I said, many of the problems were created by the government in the first place.

 
At 10/24/2010 2:36 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

The problem was not China but American regulations that made the domestic production of rare earths too expensive and permitting of mines too difficult.
I agree this is at the very least an easier problem to solve.

It never does. As I said, many of the problems were created by the government in the first place.
This is simply a blank rebuttal based on bias, not an actual argument, and not to be taken seriously.
The more serious version of that statement might be: but then you'd have to assume that the American government could actually detect those problems and propose effective solutions without doing more harm than good, something they seem to be incapable of doing. But that doesn't mean it's not possible for "protectionism" to do any good, just that we may not be smart enough as a group to know what's in our best interest and act accordingly.

 
At 10/24/2010 3:23 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


Wonderful. Make some of us very rich by making most Americans very poor.

Not sure how that would work out here in the US, but it'd not work out the way you think it would.


The iPod would not be nearly as cheap if it were made in the US.

Hard to say without any real comparison of iPods made in the US.

 
At 10/24/2010 10:21 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"But that doesn't mean it's not possible for "protectionism" to do any good, just that we may not be smart enough as a group to know what's in our best interest and act accordingly."

Nice attempt at rewording VangelV's argument. :-) It is a good one, and I like it. I think the "as a group" part is particularly valid, and has been my argument on several occasions. I believe we can almost always know what is in our own interest and act accordingly, and the sum of those individual actions will almost always work better than a group action, which "protectionism" must be by definition.

 
At 10/25/2010 9:26 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

the sum of those individual actions will almost always work better than a group action, which "protectionism" must be by definition.
I'm glad you're pleased. :) I actually have a lot of respect for that argument, but it's more nuanced than you usually hear. My point is that there are real counterexamples where acting only on individual incentives leads to suboptimal results, but I must admit that it's hard to tackle those problems without doing more harm than good.
But the going story here is that anyone intellectually honest enough to admit that in some specific cases individual incentives alone lead to suboptimal results is a deluded idiot, and it's just not so.

 
At 10/25/2010 9:33 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Not sure how that would work out here in the US, but it'd not work out the way you think it would.

The way it would work is very simple and proven by experience. Tariffs cause prices to go up and living standards to go down. Demand would be lower which means that employment would be reduced. In a low demand environment capital formation would slow overall even if there is an increase in investment in some sectors. Given the higher risks, borrowers would have to pay higher rates, which would make it more difficult to justify investment.

The benefit to some of us would come from a collapsing USD that would drive up the value of our precious metals holdings. We would also expect to see a USD price increase in the price of oil, which would soften the blow for developing nations in a post peak world.

Eventually, as Doug Casey predicts, the US will become a source of low priced houseboys and nannies for rich Asians. It would not be surprising to see some of the states leave the Union as the resource rich, low regulation, areas get tired of paying for parasite states that cannot pay their own way.

 
At 10/25/2010 9:40 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Nice attempt at rewording VangelV's argument. :-) It is a good one, and I like it. I think the "as a group" part is particularly valid, and has been my argument on several occasions. I believe we can almost always know what is in our own interest and act accordingly, and the sum of those individual actions will almost always work better than a group action, which "protectionism" must be by definition.

The important part is that we can benefit even if we do not always know what is best for us as individuals. Making an error is a great way of learning to be more careful when making decisions. The incentive for us is to not only increase returns but to reduce losses. Bureaucrats have no such incentives and do not learn as much because the feedback mechanisms are not there.

The bottom line is that bureaucrats do not have enough informations to make the right decisions even if a 'right' decision was possible. (It isn't.)

 
At 10/25/2010 12:17 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

The bottom line is that bureaucrats do not have enough informations to make the right decisions even if a 'right' decision was possible. (It isn't.)
I think the former is a strong argument: I don't buy the latter.

 
At 10/25/2010 3:55 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Sean,

"My point is that there are real counterexamples where acting only on individual incentives leads to suboptimal results..."

I agree, and I think my use of the phrase "almost always" allows for that.

"...but I must admit that it's hard to tackle those problems without doing more harm than good."

...as a single group.

Individually we can and do address outcomes we see as undesirable. We even form voluntary groups to address those problems. My objection is to being included in such a group by force.

No system is perfect, as people are not perfect. Some will win and some will lose. It can't be avoided entirely no matter how hard anyone tries to make it so.

"But the going story here is that anyone intellectually honest enough to admit that in some specific cases individual incentives alone lead to suboptimal results is a deluded idiot, and it's just not so."

I guess I've missed that part.

 
At 10/25/2010 4:08 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

VangelV said: The bottom line is that bureaucrats do not have enough informations to make the right decisions even if a 'right' decision was possible. (It isn't.)

Sean said: I think the former is a strong argument: I don't buy the latter.

Well, let ME have a go at interpreting VangleV. :-)

I think this means that there's no single right decision that can be made for all of us, only individual right decisions made by each of us.

How did I do?

 
At 10/25/2010 6:46 PM, Blogger James said...

marmico,

Nice try but no cigar.

Your wage data are not inflation adjusted.


See

http://www.workinglife.org/wiki/index.php?page=REAL+WAGES++1947-2000

 
At 10/25/2010 7:58 PM, Blogger James said...

Nice 'fairy tale' james but can you say smoot hawley?

juandos,

I am hurt! You are not paying attention to my stuff. I talk about Smoot-Hawley a lot.

Ok let me rap directly on Smoot-Hawley.

Aristotle told us that heavy objects fall faster than light objects. This was accepted truth for more than a millennium. Then Galileo looked for himself. He dropped a cannonball and a musketball simultaneously from the Leaning tower of Pisa and observed that they hit the ground at nearly the same time.

In the mythology of free trade the US was a free trading nation until two men named Smoot and Hawley go together and passed a great big tariff bill called the Smoot-Hawley Tariff and caused the Great Depression. The problem with this is that the real world data will not support that view

Milton Friedman Nobel laureate: "…I think the Smoot-Hawley tariff was a bad law. I think it did harm. But the Smoot-Hawley tariff by itself would not have made one-quarter of the labor force unemployed."

Christina Romer Former Council of Economic Advisors Chair: "Scholars now believe that these [protectionist] policies may have reduced trade somewhat, but were not a significant cause of the Depression in the large industrial producers."

Ha-Joon Chang Cambridge University economist: “This is a misreading of history. The depression-era shift to protectionism was much less dramatic than is often claimed. The conventional story says that the world trading system collapsed because the US introduced the Smoot-Hawley tariffs in 1930. But this was not a radical shift in policy. America had been the most protectionist country in the world for the previous century, while Smoot-Hawley only raised average industrial tariffs from about 37 per cent to about 48 per cent, well within the historical range of US tariffs until then. Tariffs in other countries did rise after 1930, but only moderately, and economic historians have shown that trade shrinkage after the depression had more to do with shrinking demand and the drying-up of trade credits.”

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s “Essays on the Great Depression” contains the following passage: “Might the real shocks that occurred during the 1930s have been the functional equivalents of technological shocks to industry productions functions? For example, it might be conjectured that trade restrictions affected the cost or availability of intermediate inputs; substitution away from intermediate inputs toward labor show up as negative productivity shocks in our empirical analysis, given that we must measure output as total production rather than value added. However, while this is a theoretical possibility, the direct evidence for a disruptive effect of trade restrictions is weak: In particular, the Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930 primarily affected import of agricultural goods and finished manufactures, not intermediates (Eichengreen 1986). Indeed, because of the worldwide glut of raw materials and commodities, the real price of most imported intermediates (inclusive of tariffs) fell during the depression.”

The main reason to doubt that Smoot-Hawley was a significant player is that trade was such a small part of the economy in the 1930s. Go to

http://www.bea.gov/national/nipaweb/SelectTable.asp?Selected=N

Select Table 1.1.5

Set First Year to 1929, Last Year to 1939, Series to Annual

Note that exports are less than 6 percent of GDP. Too small for all the damage done.

Smoot-Hawley was passed in June 1930 but did not collect a dime of additional tariff until June 1931 by which time most of the trade decline had already happened. The Depression started in 1929.

Smoot-Hawley did not last long. In 1934 Roosevelt started lowering tariffs. When the Great Depression got worse in 1937 tariffs were long back to pre Smoot-Hawley levels.

If Smoot-Hawley did all the damage alleged then why was there no such damage done in the previous hundred years when we also had high tariffs?

 
At 10/25/2010 10:47 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Sean,

"Ron, from the article you quoted, "A recent Government Accountability Office report estimates to will take 15 years to rebuild a U.S. rare earth supply chain.""

Yes, I saw that in the article, but I don't believe it for a moment, as rare earth elements are critical to electronics in weapons systems, I can't quite picture the US military standing idly by for that long while it waits for normal procedures to take their course. I suspect some rules & regulations would be discarded in the interest of speeding things up.

 
At 10/25/2010 11:13 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"In the mythology of free trade the US was a free trading nation until two men named Smoot and Hawley go together and passed a great big tariff bill called the Smoot-Hawley Tariff and caused the Great Depression."

Gee, I haven't heard that imaginative version. It's my understanding that the Great Depression was well under way at the time, and that Smoot-Hawley was conceived as a misguided attempt to protect US business and agriculture from foreign competition. The resulting retaliatory tariffs imposed by US trading partners caused international trade to decrease by two thirds.

While not having its intended effect, and not helping end the Depression, the effect of Smoot-Hawley was relatively minor, and it couldn't possibly have caused the Great Depression.

 
At 10/26/2010 7:12 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,
I think this means that there's no single right decision that can be made for all of us, only individual right decisions made by each of us.
Again, I don't buy it. In math, there are such creatures as existence proofs: proofs that a solution to a problem does or does not exist, whether or not you've identified the solution. I think the examples I can come up with are in that vein: just showing that you *could* do better, if you knew how. It's not beyond my hope that *eventually* we'll know how to solve at least some of these problems. And the optimist inside me hopes that by the time we understand these things a little better, we can solve them without authoritarian measures.


Yes, I saw that in the article, but I don't believe it for a moment, as rare earth elements are critical to electronics in weapons systems, I can't quite picture the US military standing idly by for that long while it waits for normal procedures to take their course
So maybe 15 years is sand-bagging. How about 10? 8? And that's for something brilliantly obvious and militarily significant.

 
At 10/26/2010 2:34 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Sean,

"Again, I don't buy it. In math, there are such creatures as existence proofs: proofs that a solution to a problem does or does not exist, whether or not you've identified the solution."

You are talking about clearly defined problems that don't change from day to day, and that everyone involved agrees on. Do you think that describes problems in human society?

By the way, if you define something as a "problem", you are implying that there's a solution, whether or not we know what it is. Otherwise you are just describing a condition that exists.

For example income inequality is only a problem if you call it one, and none of the "solutions" I've heard are good ones.

"So maybe 15 years is sand-bagging. How about 10? 8? And that's for something brilliantly obvious and militarily significant."

I don't know much about this industry, so anything I say is sheer speculation, but you should know that due to anticipated higher prices, several mines throughout the world are in the process of reopening including Mountain Pass Mine in California, which is scheduled to reopen in 2011. I don't know what this means for capacity.

What I can't imagine, is that if something is so critical to customers, it would be left entirely in the hands of a single source that can cut it off on a political whim. Most successful businesses plan better than that.

Can you imagine US military people saying : "Wait, you guys, we need a time out so we can go home & make some more weapons. see you back here in about 8 years."

 
At 10/26/2010 4:16 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

You are talking about clearly defined problems that don't change from day to day, and that everyone involved agrees on. Do you think that describes problems in human society?
You can't even get Mugabe to agree that AIDS is caused by a virus, but I think you have enough consensus on the premise that if there was a vaccine, you'd offer it.
I believe Massachusetts requires children have certain vaccines before allowing them into public schools (not sure, my wife took care of it for our kids): it's pretty measurable what the consequences of requiring vaccinations versus not are on "public health", even if you can't get every parent to agree to that. As the subject gets less "concrete", there's more room for disagreement, but some of that is just public ignorance. So it seems obvious to me that in some cases, absolutely human society has clearly defined problems.

I don't believe in the state trying to protect you from yourself, but there is a very real trade-off in some cases between freedom and health, freedom and security, etc. I think we should trade away freedom only at a very high cost, but we should be intellectually honest about what that means.

For example income inequality is only a problem if you call it one, and none of the "solutions" I've heard are good ones.
Jesus said the poor will be with you always, and he wasn't kidding. There's no general solution to that unfortunate reality, but the existence of decent public schools are a huge step towards reducing income inequality and rewarding meritocracy over rent-seeking.

I don't know what this means for capacity.
I don't either: I just know that capacity changes do take time. After all, don't they teach that all economic profit is in the short term? Still, maybe you're right: maybe they are crying wolf.


What I can't imagine, is that if something is so critical to customers, it would be left entirely in the hands of a single source that can cut it off on a political whim.
You wouldn't think so, and yet from time to time it does happen. What are the implications of that?

Can you imagine US military people saying : "Wait, you guys, we need a time out so we can go home & make some more weapons. see you back here in about 8 years."
No, much more likely is they offer a boatload of cash and advise the US government to make some political concessions for a certain amount of access, which they will quietly make, either with the Chinese or with the other 10% of producers. But you have to watch this stuff a little bit: this kind of junk is how we piss off countries for decades and end up with terrorism and war in the middle east. Because even if we prefer to make our trades in dollars, some countries prefer political currency.

 
At 10/27/2010 11:19 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

I think the former is a strong argument: I don't buy the latter.

Think Arrow's impossibility theorem. Or Hayek's fatal conceit.

 
At 10/27/2010 11:33 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

I think this means that there's no single right decision that can be made for all of us, only individual right decisions made by each of us.

How did I do?


You did very well. Too many people here ignore the fact that when political actions are taken to help one group it often harms not only general society but many of the members of that group.

More people should familiarize themselves with the Hayekian nightmare in which government is run by the smartest people who are quite confident that they are really smarter than the rest and get to make most of the political decisions.

 
At 10/27/2010 11:44 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Yes, I saw that in the article, but I don't believe it for a moment, as rare earth elements are critical to electronics in weapons systems, I can't quite picture the US military standing idly by for that long while it waits for normal procedures to take their course. I suspect some rules & regulations would be discarded in the interest of speeding things up.
Just as you can't pass a law that would allow you to look better in the eyes of others or to weigh less passing a law will not solve the rare earth elements problem. While it would help to change regulations that are preventing known deposits from being developed in a timely manner we still do not have enough exploration because of those regulations. We will need to fund exploration activities, focus on the promising discoveries and permit and develop those discoveries quickly. But 'quickly' still means five or more years and massive investment in infrastructure and facilities. Given the current legal system the barriers are still too high, no matter what the military wants.

 
At 10/27/2010 11:50 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

While not having its intended effect, and not helping end the Depression, the effect of Smoot-Hawley was relatively minor, and it couldn't possibly have caused the Great Depression.

First, it took more than Smoot-Hawley to turn the contraction into a Great Depression. The Great Depression was caused by government meddling that prevented a liquidation of malinvestments following the Fed's great liquidity injection during the second half of the 1920s. Hoover ignored Mellon's advice by meddling and FDR, who campaigned against Hoover's meddling, went much further. It did not help to have the President try to make the productive class villains and to hike taxes to confiscatory rates, That made capital formation difficult and employment could not recover. But even with all that it is clear that Smoot-Hawley made things much worse and helped to prevent a recovery from taking place.

 
At 10/27/2010 12:25 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Can we compare apples to apples and drop all the thoery for a second?

There are a lot of smart people on this blog, I want you to answer this question:

Assuming conservative wages, and assuming conservative plant costs in America (when I say conservative, I mean don't factor in the highest union wage when it could be built in Texas at lower costs.

Minus international shipping costs, etc....

How much do you think an IPOD would cost at consumer point of purchase if it was built in the U.S.?

 
At 10/27/2010 1:05 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

Think Arrow's impossibility theorem. Or Hayek's fatal conceit.
Arrow's theorem looks really interesting until you realize all it really means is that if we can agree on something, that means somebody's preferences might "always be right", heaven forbid. That is: assuming wikipedia describes it correctly.

I'm not really familiar with Hayek, so I checked the cliff notes there, too. Some key points:

Hayek argued that all forms of collectivism (even those theoretically based on voluntary cooperation) could only be maintained by a central authority of some kind.
That's correct. Association with such an authority might be voluntary, but collectivism does fundamentally refer to the trading of freedom for some purpose.

and in subsequent works, Hayek argued that socialism required central economic planning and that such planning in turn leads towards totalitarianism
Yes, that must be true as well. At least, the more you attempt to trade away freedom for some other good, the closer you must get to some other entity essentially owning you. And yet, complete freedom is a paradox because of the concept of scarcity, which is fundamental to any attempt at economics. So I believe the maximization function for effective freedom would be a lot more chaotic than it might appear.

 
At 10/27/2010 1:21 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Sean,

"Do you think that describes problems in human society?"

Sorry I wasn't clearer. My question was whether you thought mathematical 'proof of existence' could be used to determine if a solution even existed to some human problems when we don't know what that solution is. I think not.

There are always simple solutions offered for any problem, but seldom is it the right one. for example: Johnny can't read? Well, then spend more money on public education.

Robert Mugabe is the poster child for government dysfunction, and to read his name or see his picture should be all any of us needs as a reminder that government is at best a necessary evil, and must be kept as limited as possible.

"...but I think you have enough consensus on the premise that if there was a vaccine, you'd offer it."

I think the key word here is 'offer. Public health is a tough one for me, as I see the benefit of childhood vaccination, but also understand a person refusing to have their child vaccinated. One of my granddaughters is autistic, and her mother is convinced that it was caused or at least encouraged by her MMR vaccination. Many feel this way, and I have to agree that free choice should be the answer.

"...but the existence of decent public schools are a huge step towards reducing income inequality and rewarding meritocracy over rent-seeking."

I don't see a connection. Meritocracy isn't rewarded, and rent-seeking is more prevalent than ever. The US public school system appears to be a great way to indoctrinate young people in progressive and collectivist ideology, which in fact, was Mann's original intent. Other problems are too numerous to mention in this short space.

Even considering only the noble goal of helping provide education for those who can't otherwise afford it, the costs outweigh the benefits. At the very least, If I'm forced to pay for public education, the money should attach to the student, not the local school.

 
At 10/27/2010 1:37 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"I don't believe in the state trying to protect you from yourself...":

This is interesting. Do I understand correctly that you are against seat belt and helmet laws? That you would end the so called 'war on drugs', allow me to buy any medication I want without a prescription? The list goes on and on.


"...but there is a very real trade-off in some cases between freedom and health, freedom and security, etc. I think we should trade away freedom only at a very high cost, but we should be intellectually honest about what that means."

I don't agree. I shouldn't have to trade freedom for security. B. Franklin suggests that if I do, I will end up with neither. Can you justify the Patriot Act?

 
At 10/27/2010 2:13 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Again, I don't buy it. In math, there are such creatures as existence proofs: proofs that a solution to a problem does or does not exist, whether or not you've identified the solution. I think the examples I can come up with are in that vein: just showing that you *could* do better, if you knew how. It's not beyond my hope that *eventually* we'll know how to solve at least some of these problems. And the optimist inside me hopes that by the time we understand these things a little better, we can solve them without authoritarian measures.

Actually, they gave Arrow the Nobel because he used 'math' and logic to show that a solution does not exist and cannot exist even in theory. We live in a complex world where individual preferences change constantly. Here is how Landsberg explains the decision making process with just three people ranking their preferences among three pizza toppings. Now imagine the complexity with a large population trying to make a decision about a more complex topic.

 
At 10/27/2010 2:24 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

don't know much about this industry, so anything I say is sheer speculation, but you should know that due to anticipated higher prices, several mines throughout the world are in the process of reopening including Mountain Pass Mine in California, which is scheduled to reopen in 2011. I don't know what this means for capacity.

The problem with existing old mines is one of low grades. The problem with new deposits is size, location, and the permitting process. China dominates the rare earth sector because the production process involves the use of highly corrosive materials and has radioactive byproducts as part of the waste.

 
At 10/27/2010 2:32 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

Actually, they gave Arrow the Nobel because he used 'math' and logic to show that a solution does not exist and cannot exist even in theory
Actually, I take back my characterization of Arrow's theorem... I see my flaw in understanding. I'll go back and work through this again: this feels important.

 
At 10/27/2010 2:41 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

Do I understand correctly that you are against seat belt and helmet laws? That you would end the so called 'war on drugs', allow me to buy any medication I want without a prescription? The list goes on and on.
Yes, with the possible exclusion of not legalizing all drugs. Some of them demolish free will to such an extent that making them illegal is really a protection for the people around the drug user, rather than the user.

Franklin suggests that if I do, I will end up with neither. Can you justify the Patriot Act?
Another interesting truism. My belief is that after a point, Franklin is right. But effort to keep guns out of schools actually do bear some fruit, for example. The Patriot Act is over the line.


There are always simple solutions offered for any problem, but seldom is it the right one. for example: Johnny can't read? Well, then spend more money on public education.
There is some truth to that.

Many feel this way, and I have to agree that free choice should be the answer.
And subsidization of vaccines, evil?


The US public school system appears to be a great way to indoctrinate young people in progressive and collectivist ideology, which in fact, was Mann's original intent.
That I didn't know. Funny the things you pick up in conversation? :)

Even considering only the noble goal of helping provide education for those who can't otherwise afford it, the costs outweigh the benefits. At the very least, If I'm forced to pay for public education, the money should attach to the student, not the local school.
At the least, I agree with the latter.

 
At 10/27/2010 3:55 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

Actually, they gave Arrow the Nobel because he used 'math' and logic to show that a solution does not exist and cannot exist even in theory.
Going back and reading Arrow's theorem a couple more times, I think I better understand it. Arrow's theorem basically shows that if preference conflicts exists among people, there really may be no "fair" way to resolve them that respects those preferences, especially using a voting system.
A bidding system (like a market) or else a sufficiently large number of voters can disambiguate many cases, but fundamentally you can have a "tie".

That does mean that people can't agree on things, it just means that if they don't, they don't. It doesn't even mean you can't arbitrate an acceptable compromise among people, just that there exist situations where methods like voting will not provide a solution most people would consider "fair".

 
At 10/27/2010 4:07 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

How much do you think an IPOD would cost at consumer point of purchase if it was built in the U.S.?

Apple has clearly found that it would cost more than it is comfortable with paying. It has done the calculations and has figured out that it would be very difficult to get contract assembly plants built in the US that could meet its needs.

You seem to forget that Apple does not make the iPods. It simply designs them and uses assembly facilities that are owned by the contract manufacturers to put the iPods together. It has no wish to become a manufacturer so it has to go to where the assembly plants are located. For now the plants are located in China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, etc.

 
At 10/27/2010 6:27 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"But effort to keep guns out of schools actually do bear some fruit, for example."

They certainly do. A gun free zone such as a school provides a relatively safe place for someone to go if they wish to shoot a lot of other people without much risk to themselves. Only much later - after what must seem like hours to those cowering under tables as a gunman unhurriedly walks around the room shooting people at will - do the police arrive to provide some amount of deterrent.

How do you think these scenarios would play out if half the students were armed?

Hopefully you don't believe that weapons can be kept out of the hands of those intending harm by making it harder for the rest of us to defend ourselves. If you rely only on main-stream media for information on this, you might understandably get that impression.
Often such reports are accompanied by quotes from politicians and others wanting to appear concerned, calling for stricter gun control laws. Have you ever heard anyone quoted as advocating that more people arm themselves for protection?

How about if everyone who can legally do so was required to carry a handgun on an airplane? That seems like better security than requiring everyone to take off their shoes.

You may have heard the saying: Gun control promotes the odd notion that a woman found lying in an alley, raped and strangled with her own pantyhose, is somehow morally superior to a woman explaining to police how her assailant got that fatal bullet wound.

"And subsidization of vaccines, evil?"

Yes. Those who receive vaccinations should pay for them.

"Yes, with the possible exclusion of not legalizing all drugs. Some of them demolish free will to such an extent that making them illegal is really a protection for the people around the drug user, rather than the user."

I understand the problem, but that could be said of many drugs including alcohol. If people use a drug even though it's illegal, how do you prevent or eliminate a black market and its attendant violence and other harms? If there is a market it WILL be supplied. Causing harm while impaired is now illegal, and should be, but how can you prevent the undesirable activity in the first place?. Attempts to reduce supply seem to only raise prices and make the enterprise more attractive, as econ 101 would teach.

"That I didn't know. Funny the things you pick up in conversation? :)"

Perhaps I'm too hard on H. Mann, but his goal was to reduce income inequality by equalizing outcomes through a common education, not necessarily to provide a better education for all.

 
At 10/27/2010 7:14 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

How do you think these scenarios would play out if half the students were armed?
Not much better for the would-be shooter than at Ford Hood. On the other hand, the number of 14yr olds that could be trusted not to do something stupid with a gun...
I'm for the right to bear arms, but I'd need to see a lot of counter evidence to justify it in the unlimited sense.

I understand the problem, but that could be said of many drugs including alcohol.
Yes, but the degree matters. There are drugs in South America that they call "zombie drugs": they'll make you do whatever anyone tells you to do. I'm not terribly well-informed in the area, but I'm told that there exist designer drugs that after one use can addict you horribly and burn out enough brain cells to keep you from ever being happy without them. Most "recreational" drugs aren't in that category. Attempts to reduce the supply are misguided unless the costs of enforcement are less than the costs of not having enforcement. That seems measurable.

Perhaps I'm too hard on H. Mann, but his goal was to reduce income inequality by equalizing outcomes through a common education, not necessarily to provide a better education for all.
Here we will disagree, then. If free public education achieved that goal, I would find that more than sufficient reason to support it. It would mean the ability to contribute to society is entirely bottle-necked by education: to provide it would almost certainly be a good return on investment for society as a whole as well as reducing social tensions and destroying personal excuses for a lack of success.

 
At 10/28/2010 12:20 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Not much better for the would-be shooter than at Ford Hood."

I don't understand what this means.

"On the other hand, the number of 14yr olds that could be trusted not to do something stupid with a gun..."

I'm not advocating that every 14 year old should go to school armed, but I think there's as much reason they should be trained and familiar with firearms as they might be with a power tool or anything else that poses some amount of danger. In my opinion, kids can be fascinated with guns if they are not ever exposed to them in a safe and competent manner. Those who are familiar aren't as likely to consider them a big deal.

"I'm for the right to bear arms, but I'd need to see a lot of counter evidence to justify it in the unlimited sense."

Then consider the sate of Arizona, where not only can a weapon be carried openly, but a concealed weapon can be carried without a permit. You won't find higher crime or accident numbers.

"Attempts to reduce the supply are misguided unless the costs of enforcement are less than the costs of not having enforcement. That seems measurable."

I can only ask how well you think enforcement has worked so far, after 39 years of Nixon's 'war on drugs', more than a trillion dollars spent, and hundreds of thousands of lives lost. Enforcement due to harm done because of drug use is occurring now, and would continue to occur if all drugs were legal.

"Here we will disagree, then. If free public education achieved that goal, I would find that more than sufficient reason to support it. It would mean the ability to contribute to society is entirely bottle-necked by education: to provide it would almost certainly be a good return on investment for society as a whole as well as reducing social tensions and destroying personal excuses for a lack of success."

I assume you are just using the word 'free' loosely.

I can only ask, again, how well do you think the plan is working so far? Public education costs go up, academic results don't improve. Income inequality isn't much different than it was 150 years ago. Maybe education isn't the bottle neck.

 
At 10/28/2010 9:35 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

"Not much better for the would-be shooter than at Ford Hood."
I don't understand what this means.

My point is that even if the problem occurs in a military base where people are armed and trained to respond, people still die. But yes, fewer.


I'm not advocating that every 14 year old should go to school armed, but I think there's as much reason they should be trained and familiar with firearms as they might be with a power tool or anything else that poses some amount of danger
But if the individual makes the choice, we'll be guaranteed quite a few people will make the wrong one, and the consequences are not recoverable. I saw a lot of fights in school, mostly because people are stupid. Having guns around won't fix that: it will just worsen the consequences.

You won't find higher crime or accident numbers.
Having lived in Phoenix, I find it hard to believe anecdotally that crime wasn't relatively high there. But I see your point. I'm for the right to carry a gun with a permit for the reasons you mention, and I guess there's no reasonable path to making the permit process actually root out the people who might use guns wrongly.



I can only ask how well you think enforcement has worked so far, after 39 years of Nixon's 'war on drugs', more than a trillion dollars spent, and hundreds of thousands of lives lost.

For common "recreational" drugs, I agree with you for a lot of reasons. I'm saying there are exceptions: drugs that have low relative demand but do high damage relative to it. The best thing we can do to prevent drug use is to show people what drugs really do to you and take away the cachet of participating in illegal activity. And for the drugs where the examples of human wreckage are sparse, we shouldn't be involved anyway.

I assume you are just using the word 'free' loosely.
Yes... I apologize that I don't have time to clean up my language. :)

I can only ask, again, how well do you think the plan is working so far?
As with most things government gets involved in, it just doesn't know when to quit. Education is currently a huge equalizer, and traditionally the means by which the son of a janitor can become a senator or a rocket scientist. The evidence for this is overwhelming, and without income redistribution for education it just wouldn't happen.
But right now, the bottleneck for achievement is not education: it's our culture. My wife's Aunt is a schoolteacher, and she sees every day how many teens think they will make $80K a year working in fluffy jobs because they see it on TV, all the while scorning achievement because that's what they see too. And in poorer areas, they still scorn academic achievement because they also believe it's not what you know (or what you do), it's who you know, and that working to get ahead just isn't worth it. A tendency towards collectivism does feed this fantasy, but it's a form of complacency that most successful countries suffer before they fall from power.

 
At 10/28/2010 9:52 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

But if the individual makes the choice, we'll be guaranteed quite a few people will make the wrong one, and the consequences are not recoverable. I saw a lot of fights in school, mostly because people are stupid. Having guns around won't fix that: it will just worsen the consequences.

But that is not what normally happens. When people are armed others are less likely to bully or insult them. Violence is usually initiated by the strong against the weak and when everyone is armed there are much fewer fights.

This is not just a theoretical argument because we have data that shows that the opposite of what you believe is true. Places where only the criminals have guns are more violent and far less safe than places where potential victims are armed.

For common "recreational" drugs, I agree with you for a lot of reasons. I'm saying there are exceptions: drugs that have low relative demand but do high damage relative to it. The best thing we can do to prevent drug use is to show people what drugs really do to you and take away the cachet of participating in illegal activity. And for the drugs where the examples of human wreckage are sparse, we shouldn't be involved anyway.

In a free society the government would not control people's bodies. What you propose is a path down a very slippery slope. If we accept the government has the right to tell us what to smoke what will happen next? Will some bureaucrat tell me how much salt I have to put on my food or how much pop I can consume?

 
At 10/28/2010 12:39 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"My point is that even if the problem occurs in a military base where people are armed and trained to respond, people still die. But yes, fewer."

You realize, don't you, that although all the military people were trained and had weapons, they aren't carried on base. They were as helpless as the students at Virginia Tech. Nidal Malik Hasan, the shooter, was finally shot by a civilian police officer.

Part of the tragedy is that Hasan was already known to pose a potential threat, but political correctness apparently interfered with taking action.

 
At 10/28/2010 2:05 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Having lived in Phoenix, I find it hard to believe anecdotally that crime wasn't relatively high there."

I'm sorry, I should have said "...except for Phoenix". Phoenix has its own unique problems as a major center for trafficking in illegal drugs and people, and therefore higher crime. We already mostly agree on the solution to one of those problems.

And, you are correct: those who would use guns wrongly won't be stopped by regulations. They are criminals, and must provide their own security and force as they can't call on government or law enforcement. They WILL have guns, and care nothing for laws and regulations. As with drugs, we can raise the price of guns, but can't eliminate them. The market will be served. We can, however, successfully interfere with the legitimate rights of law abiding citizens.

"Education is currently a huge equalizer, and traditionally the means by which the son of a janitor can become a senator or a rocket scientist.

What allows a janitor's son to become a senator or rocket scientist is the opportunity to do so, and his determination to make it happen, not the one-size-fits-all education that's forced on him by those who feel they know what's best for him. (That group might include you. :-) )

What's wrong with a janitor's son wanting to be a janitor, and starting a successful janitorial service that employs some of those you think need income redistributed to them? He could be learning the business from his father instead of wasting years not learning things he has no interest in, and perhaps no use for.

"The evidence for this is overwhelming, and without income redistribution for education it just wouldn't happen."

As you wrote, we won't likely agree on this. I don't see overwhelming evidence of less income inequality due to mandatory education, but I do see evidence of constantly increasing income redistribution, but not to the people we say we want to help.

If there's so much demand for education, wouldn't the market fill the need for schools if allowed to?

Don't get me wrong, I think education is extremely important, just not necessarily through the method you recommend. I have encouraged my children, and now my grandchildren, but I wouldn't ask you to help pay for their education.

 
At 10/28/2010 2:47 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Wow. Lots of theories and opinions about unrelated stuff, but nobody wants to take a stab at answering my question?
If I'm reading you correctly, VangeIV, you're saying that Ipods couldn't even be made in the US due to lack of manufacturing.
Seems weird to me, but, ok. I'm not forgetting that Apple isn't a manufacturer, I'm assuming that the manufacturing would be contracted.

But, if that's the case, the only people who would suffer from tariffs are consumers...assuming the tariffs aren't so punitive that they completely destroy the entire development and production chain, thereby eliminating a product from the market entirely....along with foreign and domestic jobs (current and future).

I'm not trying to dumb down all these interesting posts, I just want to know, from the people are pro-tariff, how could any of this be positive for anybody?

If we must, let's just pretend that the manufacturing is available and fully capable in the US....how much would the product cost if it was fully developed and made in the US? And how many domestic jobs would that actually create?

 
At 10/28/2010 2:56 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

What allows a janitor's son to become a senator or rocket scientist is the opportunity to do so, and his determination to make it happen, not the one-size-fits-all education that's forced on him by those who feel they know what's best for him.

In a world with less credentialism, opportunity might not be based on education, but in the world we live in, it's much much harder to establish your position in many areas without a degree to point to point to. There's no problem with a janitor's son wanting to be a janitor, or engaging in the vastly underrated choice of learning a trade. But if his abilities merit a different, providing him the opportunity to choose it is in our interest. I just can't believe our income mobility isn't reliant on our not grossly unequal access to the ability to get a degree.

(That group might include you. :-) )
:) Who is completely free? My dad said he would pay for college if I used it to gain a marketable job skill. I figured electrical engineering was pretty marketable, and I've always liked computers. My education wasn't as well-rounded as I might like, but in the end, it was my choice.

I have encouraged my children, and now my grandchildren, but I wouldn't ask you to help pay for their education.
I respect that. But in my view a base level of equality in opportunity (although not equality of outcomes) is more important to a society than property rights. This is because morality is fundamentally about how to live with other human beings in a world where a finite (though large) set of natural resources exists that humans need but no human can create. So any claim to them must be based on the social contract rather than some fundamental inviolable claim. That contract tends to break down without equal opportunity.

 
At 10/28/2010 3:04 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

This is not just a theoretical argument because we have data that shows that the opposite of what you believe is true. Places where only the criminals have guns are more violent and far less safe than places where potential victims are armed.
I am open to persuasion on the issue of more freedom to carry guns based on evidence, but I was really speaking of the very specific sub-case of not allowing guns in public schools.
But you must admit that the damage a rogue human can do grows greater with time, and the risk of someone being willing to do that damage grows with time as well. To continue to scale the example: how long before any terrorist could use nuclear weapons? If nuclear weapons were permitted to anyone with the money, you can't possibly believe we wouldn't see them used in terrorist attacks.


If we accept the government has the right to tell us what to smoke what will happen next?
You seem to be rewriting the context here: go back and look at the examples I chose, which aren't in the league of pot, cocaine, etc. The criteria I chose was serious harm to others, not to the user (which we should strive to avoid, but not through the tool of government).

 
At 10/28/2010 3:10 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Sean,

"But right now, the bottleneck for achievement is not education: it's our culture."

Ahah! We may be getting closer to something we can agree on. Keep in mind that what you define as 'achievement' may not have the same meaning for someone else. The idea of knowing what's best for others is a continuing theme that we disagree on.

"My wife's Aunt is a schoolteacher, and she sees every day how many teens think they will make $80K a year working in fluffy jobs because they see it on TV, all the while scorning achievement because that's what they see too."

I agree. One of the things they see is that an education is provided to them without any apparent cost, and if they only spend the time and don't screw up too badly, they will get a high school diploma without actually learning much or working very hard.

"And in poorer areas, they still scorn academic achievement because they also believe it's not what you know (or what you do), it's who you know, and that working to get ahead just isn't worth it."

Again, I agree. We see this in the political arena constantly, and it's accepted as legitimate business. How could kids think otherwise? In some areas kids also see how well off their local drug dealer is without going to school or working honestly to get ahead. We could destroy his lively-hood with the stroke of a pen.

By the way, that $80k job a teen might aspire to, may not be so unrealistic if current trends continue, in 10 years that might. be the starting wage at McDonald's.

 
At 10/28/2010 3:27 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

But, if that's the case, the only people who would suffer from tariffs are consumers...assuming the tariffs aren't so punitive that they completely destroy the entire development and production chain, thereby eliminating a product from the market entirely....along with foreign and domestic jobs (current and future).

Consumers clearly suffer. The companies that are protected by the tariffs would benefit. In this case that isn't Apple because Apple needs no protection. Actually, if other countries decided to reciprocate Apple would be hurt by the loss of sales and lower margin. That would hurt workers who would lose their jobs at Apple, Apple's retail operations, and Apple's distributors. It would clearly hurt Apple's investors. That includes the pension plans that bought Apple stock because it was a great company that was very innovative and competitive.

I'm not trying to dumb down all these interesting posts, I just want to know, from the people are pro-tariff, how could any of this be positive for anybody?

They will argue that if prices are increased then domestic companies will invest at home to make the products that would compete with the imports. If you put a $5 tariff on underwear then Haynes would be able to afford to build a factory in the US and you would get a few thousand new jobs created. Of course, retail jobs would be lost and we would see a decline in employment in sectors that depend on the extra money that people would have from the savings that they get by buying imported goods but the proponents do not look at those lost jobs at meaningful because it is not clear how many would be lost.

Keep in mind that the case for tariffs can never be economic. It is always political.

 
At 10/28/2010 3:35 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

If we must, let's just pretend that the manufacturing is available and fully capable in the US....how much would the product cost if it was fully developed and made in the US? And how many domestic jobs would that actually create?

You have to look at the total effect of tariffs. When you protect some products by forcing consumers to pay more for them they don't have as much money to spend on other things. Some of the people that supply those things lose their jobs.

The net effect of the extra costs will be negative on jobs and the standard of living because those costs are a waste in the system.

 
At 10/28/2010 3:56 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

In a world with less credentialism, opportunity might not be based on education, but in the world we live in, it's much much harder to establish your position in many areas without a degree to point to point to.

Tell that to all those kids who went heavily into debt to gain degrees that do not lead to jobs. They would have been better off learning how to be machinists or plumbers.

There's no problem with a janitor's son wanting to be a janitor, or engaging in the vastly underrated choice of learning a trade. But if his abilities merit a different, providing him the opportunity to choose it is in our interest.

The opportunities are there. One of my friends has a number of kids who took most of their courses on-line and mixed real life experience with their education. The kids have done really well and are set while most of their peers are still in school without much in the way of prospects. One of the kids has already ran a sail boat charter in Turkey, a rental business in Africa, and is now contracting his services to the oil companies that need experienced divers and can handle welding equipment. The kid owns a place in Morraco and has purchased a plantation in South America. He speaks a number of languages and managed to turn an on-line geology course project and a 50K Euro investment into a closed mine in Turkey into a net smelter royalty and a 500K Euros payment.

One of his brothers just took a job at Athabasca working as a welder making more than $100K per year plus bonuses and overtime. He has invested in some property that is being developed and is hoping to get out with around $500K in about two years. The kids have taken geology and chemistry courses and are now learning Burmese because they hope to be on the ground running when the country opens up to foreign investment in the mining sector.

These are just kids who have not set foot in a state run classroom and learned most of what they have by reading material at home or by interacting with other kids like them.

I just can't believe our income mobility isn't reliant on our not grossly unequal access to the ability to get a degree.

That helps but it isn't the primary driver. Would Bill Gates have done better if he has stayed in school and gotten a degree? Why get a degree when you can get a job as a welder or pipe fitter that pays more than $100K per year and your employer will pay for you to take on-line courses that will earn you a degree?

 
At 10/28/2010 4:03 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"If nuclear weapons were permitted to anyone with the money, you can't possibly believe we wouldn't see them used in terrorist attacks."

What do you imagine is preventing that now?

 
At 10/28/2010 6:46 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"but I was really speaking of the very specific sub-case of not allowing guns in public schools."

I don't think anyone advocates young children carrying guns to school. After all, the reason their called children is because they aren't yet able to decide things for themselves, and still need parental guidance. How about teachers or administrators at school being armed?

I pictured college campuses, or even high schools, well known gun free zones, where anyone can come on campus with a gun if they choose to ignore the law, and shoot helpless victims at will.

Are you aware of any school shooting that was prevented because it was a gun free zone?

"But you must admit that the damage a rogue human can do grows greater with time, and the risk of someone being willing to do that damage grows with time as well.

I agree completely. If this is still about schools, I don't see how forbidding weapons can prevent it.

By the way, speaking of equal opportunity, a firearm puts the frailest little old lady on equal footing with the biggest, meanest housebreaker you can imagine.

 
At 10/28/2010 7:57 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

But in my view a base level of equality in opportunity (although not equality of outcomes) is more important to a society than property rights.

This has to be one of the most ridiculous things that you could have written. Without property rights you cannot have equal opportunity other than to steal from everyone else. And if you live in a society of thieves what good is equal opportunity.

This is because morality is fundamentally about how to live with other human beings in a world where a finite (though large) set of natural resources exists that humans need but no human can create.

You are confused. We do not live in a world where there is a pie that is fixed in size and we all have to fight for our little bit. In this world the pie gets much larger when people are left free to pursue their interest and the rewards are going to those that make the pie much bigger. While they will clearly get a lot more than an equal share they deserve a lot more than an equal share for making our lives much better. And a society that accepts theft and the initiation of force as legitimate is not a moral society.

So any claim to them must be based on the social contract rather than some fundamental inviolable claim. That contract tends to break down without equal opportunity.

What social contract are you talking about? Where did you sign up to have your income taken from you without say how you want it spent? For an electrical engineer you are not very logical.

 
At 10/29/2010 3:20 AM, Blogger Emil Perhinschi said...

there will be no raised tariffs, since China just gave up trying to squeeze everybody else out of the "electronics" business: China Is Said to Resume Shipping Rare Earth Minerals

 
At 10/29/2010 8:52 AM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

This has to be one of the most ridiculous things that you could have written.
I meant that equal opportunity is more important that absolute property rights, but even as stated, it's less ridiculous that you think since not all freedom regards property and even monks that take a vow of poverty can live and even be happy. I wouldn't expect you to agree with me on this.


We do not live in a world where there is a pie that is fixed in size and we all have to fight for our little bit.
You really think I don't know this? It's not a pie, it's a tree. The tree grows, but it grows out of the ground. And land is finite, so until we leave this ball of dirt, resources may be used more and more efficiently, but they're finite.

While they will clearly get a lot more than an equal share they deserve a lot more than an equal share for making our lives much better
I have no problem with that, and neither do most people. As I've explained again and again, property rights generally work. But they work inefficiently if you don't adjust for the monopoly/cartel effect, because ownership provides leverage beyond what is justified.

And a society that accepts theft and the initiation of force as legitimate is not a moral society.
Look, I understand that paradigm, and it generally works. But while it may be moral to exclude newcomers from rights to the value you've created, excluding rights to newcomers to that which you have not created and could never create is not something you are inherently justified in doing.

What social contract are you talking about? Where did you sign up to have your income taken from you without say how you want it spent
Don't lecture me on my lack of logic if you don't understand the concept of an implicit contract.
By your logic, once answer might be: when you decided to live on land claimed by the US government. They claim to own all the land (through eminent domain), and we only lease it. Don't like it? Go make your own, since resources are not finite.

 
At 10/29/2010 9:00 AM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

The opportunities are there. One of my friends has a number of kids who took most of their courses on-line and mixed real life experience with their education.
Point taken, but are there enough? If so, then I would be wrong.

Would Bill Gates have done better if he has stayed in school and gotten a degree?
No, but most people aren't Bill Gates. My uncle quit grad school to start a company and now he's comfortably rich and employing others. But how many people can do that compared to how many people can contribute to society in lesser ways?


Why get a degree when you can get a job as a welder or pipe fitter that pays more than $100K per year and your employer will pay for you to take on-line courses that will earn you a degree?
I agree that trades are vastly undervalued. But will they take anyone without a HS diploma or GED?

 
At 10/29/2010 9:07 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

"If nuclear weapons were permitted to anyone with the money, you can't possibly believe we wouldn't see them used in terrorist attacks."
What do you imagine is preventing that now?
The fact that individuals effectively don't control nuclear weapons: groups of people do. In order to use them, many people would have to effectively agree it's the right thing to do. In some cases, it's only one person's finger on the trigger, but the political process is good for nothing if not vetting out conformity.

How about teachers or administrators at school being armed?
Actually, I would prefer something like that, where armed people are allowed, but based on some vetting process. I realize any vetting process will be flawed. I have had some teachers that were just whole-hog nuts, though.
But yeah, maybe gun-free school zones were a bad example. I think the original argument is that there existed at least some cases where at least some restrictions on freedom were warranted for security. Again, the US government is over the line in many of the things it does in this vein.

By the way, speaking of equal opportunity, a firearm puts the frailest little old lady on equal footing with the biggest, meanest housebreaker you can imagine.
Which is one reason why I'm for the right to bear arms.

 
At 10/29/2010 10:59 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

there will be no raised tariffs, since China just gave up trying to squeeze everybody else out of the "electronics" business: China Is Said to Resume Shipping Rare Earth Minerals


The Chinese played it perfectly. They sent a strong signal to Japan but are not seen as blocking shipments to other countries even though there is little left that will go out for the rest of the year. As the NYT reported, the problem is nowhere near being resolved because demand is far greater than supply being shipped:

Under this year’s quota — 30,300 metric tons of authorized shipments — only a few thousand metric tons remain to be exported in 2010. Meanwhile, annual demand outside China for raw rare earths approaches 50,000 tons, according to industry estimates.

I found this very illustrative of the problems faced by manufacturers outside of China. You can put huge tariffs on the export of parts containing lanthanum and they will still be very competitive with products made outside of China.

 
At 10/29/2010 11:20 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

I meant that equal opportunity is more important that absolute property rights, but even as stated, it's less ridiculous that you think since not all freedom regards property and even monks that take a vow of poverty can live and even be happy. I wouldn't expect you to agree with me on this.

For once you are right; I do not agree with you because you are missing the points that I am making. First, opportunities come from secure property rights. Second, societies that do not respect property rights have shown to be much poorer than those that do but have more inequality. Third, once you compromise on property rights you get on a slippery slope to serfdom. As I mentioned above, what is the point of being a doctor in a country that may provide you a slightly greater chance to become a doctor if you wind up much poorer than a janitor in a country that you consider to have opportunities that depend on economic factors like income? Forth, you seem to try and make a distinction between what we have today and some utopia in which things will work as you imagine. But human nature does not permit such utopias to exist. The USSR had more equal opportunities in theory but things did not work that way. It became clear to anyone that those that had access to bureaucrats that made the decisions gamed the system for their own benefit. Freedom was lost but its sale was never able to purchase what you claim it does.

In reality the only way to guarantee equal access to all is to allow them to be able to purchase what they wish in a free market that only cares about profit.

You really think I don't know this? It's not a pie, it's a tree. The tree grows, but it grows out of the ground. And land is finite, so until we leave this ball of dirt, resources may be used more and more efficiently, but they're finite.

As an investor in uranium stocks I did a bit of reading a while ago. The promoters were selling me on the idea that I had to buy uranium companies because they were sitting on deposits and that a shortage was looming because of finite reserves. But when I looked into it I found that in the case of uranium the supplies doubled if one only wised to settle for mining ore that had a grade of 1% or so less. In short, while there was a theoretical shortage we were so far from hitting the limit that it was not worth worrying about.

Your arguments fail the same test. We are very far from running out of essential resources so your prescription of selling our liberty and our souls to some bureaucrats that promise increase security is a fool's choice.

 
At 10/29/2010 11:21 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

As I've explained again and again, property rights generally work. But they work inefficiently if you don't adjust for the monopoly/cartel effect, because ownership provides leverage beyond what is justified.

What monopoly effect would you be talking about? Does Apple's monopoly on its operating system prevent you from purchasing a smart phone? Markets do not work inefficiently unless they are tampered with for political purposes.

Look, I understand that paradigm, and it generally works. But while it may be moral to exclude newcomers from rights to the value you've created, excluding rights to newcomers to that which you have not created and could never create is not something you are inherently justified in doing.

You are making no sense because nobody is talking about exclusion of newcomers to that which is not owned. I have always advocated Locke's homesteading argument.

By your logic, once answer might be: when you decided to live on land claimed by the US government.

No. The land on which I live was purchased from its owners, who purchased it from owners before them. I do not believe that the government should steal land from anyone and believe in homesteading.

They claim to own all the land (through eminent domain), and we only lease it. Don't like it? Go make your own, since resources are not finite.

You are lost again. I do not support eminent domain. You do. I do not believe that the government should be able to steal from individuals. You do. I believe that the rule of law, morality and ethics matter. You don't.

 
At 10/29/2010 11:45 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Point taken, but are there enough? If so, then I would be wrong.

You are looking at the wold as fixed and unchanging. I do not. If you paid attention you would know that there are thousands of free on-line courses available on line to those that wished to learn and many credentialed programs that allow people to get legitimate degrees at a very low cost.

Are you poor and have your kids in a bad school that has lousy math teachers. Well, here is a free resource that will teach them as quickly as they wish to learn and will clarify concepts that their teachers may not have explained properly.

From what I can tell the children of the poor have better opportunity to get a good education today than ever before. The irony is that while you whine about the lack of opportunities children in other nations are using the opportunity that is being provided to them to get a better education, more marketable skills and better jobs.

No, but most people aren't Bill Gates.

There is no such thing as 'most people.' We are all individuals who have our needs and wants that are most clear to us, not to bureaucrats that pretend that they know better.

My uncle quit grad school to start a company and now he's comfortably rich and employing others. But how many people can do that compared to how many people can contribute to society in lesser ways?

As I wrote above, most people know what they want and need more than the people who pretend that they care about their welfare and know better about their needs.

I agree that trades are vastly undervalued. But will they take anyone without a HS diploma or GED?

You can get a diploma on-line without ever stepping into a public school. Certification is easy because all you have to do is pass a test.

My eleven-year old is already looking at on-line courses to help him get his GED quicker and is already writing letters to University professors asking what it would take to hire him to work for them as a research assistant in two or three years. He has this idea about making millions by producing flowers that will glow in the dark and is looking at the Ag department at the University of Guelph. He has also seen my friends' kids make millions by the time they have hit their 20s and knows that it is possible if he starts early and uses the tax system properly.

Since he is still a long way from being able to do what he is planning he has figured out that he can make a few bucks by transcribing ancient Chinese melodies and selling them to people who write music for commercials and for movie and TV soundtracks. He has a collection of around 5,000 melodies that require transcription from the Chinese musical notation, which he knows how to read, to our standard notation, which he understands and is improving on.

Now if an eleven-year old kid can try to plan to get a good education and earn a few bucks why can't high-school juniors who are more mature?

 
At 10/29/2010 12:26 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,


Third, once you compromise on property rights you get on a slippery slope to serfdom.
Since I've agreed with you on 1 and 2, let's go to this one. A slippery slope exists only if you can't distinguish between the merits of different points on the scale. I've been talking about how to do that, and you will have none of it.

Forth, you seem to try and make a distinction between what we have today and some utopia in which things will work as you imagine. But human nature does not permit such utopias to exist
No, I'm defending a few of the marginal adjustments to your worldview that exist in every country in the world.


Does Apple's monopoly on its operating system prevent you from purchasing a smart phone?
A terrible example. That's like having a monopoly on the cherries in my (former) back yard.

Your arguments fail the same test. We are very far from running out of essential resources so your prescription of selling our liberty and our souls to some bureaucrats that promise increase security is a fool's choice.
If you're talking about oil, minerals, energy, food, etc. then you're right. But you have your eyes wide shut on some of the most essential: things like land surface area and available sunshine. So there's plenty of room for increased production, but only with technology. You can't turn your back on the societies that exist. You can only accommodate with them.

What monopoly effect would you be talking about? Does Apple's monopoly on its operating system prevent you from purchasing a smart phone?
Not market monopolies. I'm talking about the fact that if you want to produce anything, you must first deal with an owner of a resource to do so. Homesteading is mostly gone: nearly everything is owned by someone.

I have always advocated Locke's homesteading argument.
I looked it up, and I find it merely a useful rationalization for what tends to occur, and like your idea of property rights, acceptable in the general case because humans tend to accept it but not fundamentally "true". It's just a common implicit contract.


I believe that the rule of law, morality and ethics matter. You don't.
I believe in a different set of ethics with a different derivation. If a collection of precocious 6-yr olds came up with a cool set of ideas for how things ought to work and proclaimed them "real", they would also claim that anyone else was not following the right set of rules that did not agree with them.

 
At 10/29/2010 2:35 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

A slippery slope exists only if you can't distinguish between the merits of different points on the scale. I've been talking about how to do that, and you will have none of it.

It has already been established that there is no middle way; once you have started down the road to serfdom there is no way to stop the slide by looking at any scale. You really need to read your Mises.

No, I'm defending a few of the marginal adjustments to your worldview that exist in every country in the world.

My dictionary must have a different definition of the word marginal. Giving up liberty for some Utopian socialist nightmare is hardly marginal.

 
At 10/29/2010 2:48 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

A terrible example. That's like having a monopoly on the cherries in my (former) back yard.

Actually, it isn't but until you supply your own example of a harmful monopoly that has been created by the market it is the best example we have. Go ahead and give specific examples to support your general ill-defined argument.

If you're talking about oil, minerals, energy, food, etc. then you're right. But you have your eyes wide shut on some of the most essential: things like land surface area and available sunshine.

Land surface area? You have to be joking. Most of the world is mostly empty and getting emptier as people migrate into cities. In most areas population density is going down and those that have a high population density have a higher standard of living. Hong Kong, Singapore, Malta all have a much higher population density than India or China and are a lot richer. The urban area in India and China has a much higher density than the rural areas but have a much higher standard of living. Your claim that we do not have enough land is false as is the claim about the shortage of sunshine.

So there's plenty of room for increased production, but only with technology. You can't turn your back on the societies that exist. You can only accommodate with them.

The only way to get societies to become richer is to respect property rights and provide incentives to productive individuals to accumulate productive capital. Why do you think that Haiti is such a poor and desolate place when its neighbour, which shares the same island is so much richer?

I'm talking about the fact that if you want to produce anything, you must first deal with an owner of a resource to do so.

That is the way it should be. Theft as a basis of society is not exactly good for the accumulation of productive capital.

Homesteading is mostly gone: nearly everything is owned by someone.

First, that is not entirely true. Governments still are sitting on plenty of wild land that is not in use. They are not entitled to such land because they are not using it productively.

Second, the argument does not change because you are free to buy what you need and can afford with the money that you earn just as anyone else.

 
At 10/29/2010 2:52 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Sean,

"...property rights generally work. But they work inefficiently if you don't adjust for the monopoly/cartel effect, because ownership provides leverage beyond what is justified."

Who does the adjusting? Who decides what's justified? Someone is making decisions for others.

In the recent past Barry Soetoro said : "At some point, you've made enough money." Do you agree with that statement?

"But yeah, maybe gun-free school zones were a bad example."

Because it doesn't support your argument. :-)

"I think the original argument is that there existed at least some cases where at least some restrictions on freedom were warranted for security."

I believe you're right, but without rereading many comments, I can't recall your having provided a good example.

As to nukes, You're right that a group of people is required, but I believe that there are groups, mostly sovereign countries, with necessary funds to acquire either weapons or the ability to make them. I don't know what a good deterrent to using them is, other than Mutually Assured Destruction. Groups not associated with political boundaries may not be concerned with that.

But in any case, my liberty isn't infringed by my inability to buy nuclear weapons. It's a property rights issue. Those who have them are under no obligation to sell them to me, and as luck would have it, none of them will.

"Again, the US government is over the line in many of the things it does in this vein."

Way over the line. Too much liberty has been lost on the pretense of protecting us from terrorists, a threat that is in fact so miniscule, that my risk of dying in a house fire is 9 times greater.

To me, one of the most chilling things is that the FBI can issue its own warrant and ask my local library for a list of books I have checked out. The library is then forbidden to tell me about it.

 
At 10/29/2010 3:12 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

Your claim that we do not have enough land is false as is the claim about the shortage of sunshine.
Yeah, not well-organized there... I admit. Again, it's not that land can't be bought if you have the money, it's that it's all owned. Your existence depends on your ability to find something to barter, and unless someone give you some "Seed capital", you start with nothing but your wits and body, and no one has an obligation to trade with you. Your "freedom to exist" depends on the willingness of others to barter with you. That means, if you're poor, you have extremely poor bargaining leverage.

The only way to get societies to become richer is to respect property rights and provide incentives to productive individuals to accumulate productive capital
Again, I'm not arguing that property rights have those benefits, only that they don't have to be absolute to garner those benefits, and that if they are not, you can get better integration of outsiders into the economy.

Second, the argument does not change because you are free to buy what you need and can afford with the money that you earn just as anyone else.
That doesn't mean someone with nothing will definitely find a place in the economy. And if they do not, why should they follow the rules just because it works for fully integrated citizens? Even if I think they should, they won't if they don't see a path to success. It's worth our while to convince inner-city criminals that their welfare depends on their productivity: throwing them in jail doesn't seem to be cutting it.

 
At 10/29/2010 3:14 PM, Blogger Emil Perhinschi said...

@VangeIV:

"They sent a strong signal to Japan but are not seen as blocking shipments to other countries"

... they started squeezing Japan and South Korea over 10 years ago. Thanks to these antics being an ally of USA (or satellite state, however you want to put it) looks a lot better than it did at the end of the Cold War. This is the real reason for US making noises about raising tariffs.

Unlike gold or platinum, rare earths are not in fact rare, just difficult to extract. China became _the_ supplier of rare earths by undercutting all the other suppliers during the 1990s.

Right now, mining companies around the world are celebrating (for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Pass_rare_earth_mine), chemistry labs around the world are looking for ways to separate lanthanides out of plain dirt (over 140000 articles found on google Scholar), while chip manufacturers are looking into ways of replacing them.

The Chinese government just shot itself in the foot. What is now a shortage will turn in a couple of years in a glut, and the major buyers will already have long term contracts signed with less temperamental suppliers.

Didn't somebody try to corner the market on silver some twenty or thirty years ago ? How did it work ?

 
At 10/29/2010 3:20 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

I looked it up, and I find it merely a useful rationalization for what tends to occur, and like your idea of property rights, acceptable in the general case because humans tend to accept it but not fundamentally "true". It's just a common implicit contract.

You looked it up? Just what kind of an education did you get to begin with? Even my eleven-year old understands the logic of homsteading and is familiar with the argument that Locke gave even though he can't attribute it to Locke. The fact that you have no idea about what we are discussing is your problem and I suggest that you need to get an education. Law, economics, ethics, and morality might be a good place to start.

I believe in a different set of ethics with a different derivation. If a collection of precocious 6-yr olds came up with a cool set of ideas for how things ought to work and proclaimed them "real", they would also claim that anyone else was not following the right set of rules that did not agree with them.

There is nothing false about natural rights. The argument begins with the premise that you own your own body and goes from there. Unless you have somehow adopted the morality of slavery and want to argue that people do not own themselves you have nowhere to go.

 
At 10/29/2010 3:33 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

Who does the adjusting? Who decides what's justified? Someone is making decisions for others.
If we agree to be bound by such arbitration. I agree finding a trusted arbiter is always a problem.

"At some point, you've made enough money." Do you agree with that statement?
As a personal belief, yes. As a reason sufficient for taking someone else's money, no.


Because it doesn't support your argument. :-)
See, something we agree on.

I believe you're right, but without rereading many comments, I can't recall your having provided a good example.
I probably haven't. I'm not always the best at that.


Groups not associated with political boundaries may not be concerned with that.
Maybe, but most groups currently large enough to buy such things care enough about something not to want to see it threatened. Still a tough problem.

But in any case, my liberty isn't infringed by my inability to buy nuclear weapons.
Mine either: it's just an example of trying to scale an argument until it becomes obvious.

, a threat that is in fact so miniscule, that my risk of dying in a house fire is 9 times greater.
Only 9? ;) That actually surprises me. But no, I agree with you there.

 
At 10/29/2010 3:54 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

? Even my eleven-year old understands the logic of homsteading and is familiar with the argument that Locke gave even though he can't attribute it to Locke.
And he lives in your house, so he's probably been exposed to the relevant premises. It's not that I have a hard time understanding it, but I really hadn't been exposed to it. I'm not going to apologize for that. I got a public K-8, a 9-12 at St Mark's Catholic School, and a BEE and ME at U.D. Apparently they didn't think it was important for me to know this stuff. I'm not going back to school: I don't have the time. But getting links from on-line and doing some reading, I can do.

Unless you have somehow adopted the morality of slavery and want to argue that people do not own themselves you have nowhere to go.
Then I need to see a fuller derivation, because I don't see it.

 
At 10/29/2010 4:10 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Again, it's not that land can't be bought if you have the money, it's that it's all owned.

So? Does it bother you that you own your car and that means that others can't own it at the same time?

Your existence depends on your ability to find something to barter, and unless someone give you some "Seed capital", you start with nothing but your wits and body, and no one has an obligation to trade with you.

Correct. I don't know where you live but where I come from we have people called parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, friends and if all fails, charities. We do not need them for seed money because in human society it helps to earn your own. They are simply there to help us learn skills that will allow us to earn money that we can trade for other things. Most of us were not born rich but started out very young working at low paying jobs while we learned to be dependable and how to deal with bosses, customers, and coworkers. Our earnings allowed us to pay at least in part for our schooling or to start ventures of our own that allowed us to earn money.

In the real world money does not grow on trees and mere existence is not enough to assure survival. Here people have to show that they can contribute and earn money on the basis of that contribution.

Your "freedom to exist" depends on the willingness of others to barter with you. That means, if you're poor, you have extremely poor bargaining leverage.

Nonsense. People are looking after their own interests and will deal with anyone who will help them meet their goals. Poor people usually trade their labour for money, which is what I did when I started out working as a kid. If my job did not pay well enough or my employer did not treat me as I wished I moved on to another job because I had skills that I could trade for money.

The same is true of other people. When a young man starts out as a plumber he can trade his skills for money with a particular employer but be on the lookout for another who pays better. Often there is a market rate that will govern pay because it is too expensive for cheap employers to underpay competent employees only to lose them to competitors.

You assume that people are helpless and have no ability to trade their skills because of some conspiracy that does not exist. Markets work by voluntary exchanges and they work best when they are allowed to without interference.

 
At 10/29/2010 4:11 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

It's worth our while to convince inner-city criminals that their welfare depends on their productivity: throwing them in jail doesn't seem to be cutting it.

They might be easier to convince if they didn't see so many around them being handed free money in a misguided attempt to lift them out of poverty.

What is your suggestion?

 
At 10/29/2010 5:19 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Again, I'm not arguing that property rights have those benefits, only that they don't have to be absolute to garner those benefits, and that if they are not, you can get better integration of outsiders into the economy.

Well, what happened in the 1930s and what is happening now should tell you exactly how things work. Money is on the sidelines because the government has not allowed the markets to liquidate malinvestments and because entrepreneurs are not willing to risk the uncertainty that is created by the changing laws which will lead to new tax rates, the imposition of extra costs, and new regulatory compliance requirements. This uncertainty is exactly why we have few jobs being created and little capital accumulation.

And I have to confess that I have no idea what you are talking about when you write about 'outsiders' in the economy. An economy is made up of individuals who engage in voluntary transactions, even if those transactions happen across local, state, or national borders. As such everyone is an 'outsider' other than the people involved in the transaction so the term is not meaningful unless you are making an artificial distinction.

That doesn't mean someone with nothing will definitely find a place in the economy.

Who do you know that has nothing? How did s/he get in that state? Why has s/he been abandoned by family, church, community, etc.

And if they do not, why should they follow the rules just because it works for fully integrated citizens?

Because they have no right to steal or initiate force against others.

Even if I think they should, they won't if they don't see a path to success.

The path to success is simple. Set goals that are not incompatible with each other. Work hard to meet them. Adjust and adapt as necessary. Spend less than you earn and save to finance your plans.

It's worth our while to convince inner-city criminals that their welfare depends on their productivity: throwing them in jail doesn't seem to be cutting it.

Your inner city criminals are created by a state that gives them a bigger incentive to do nothing rather than to work. They are created by a system that prohibits them from working when they do not have marketable skills that are worth than the artificial minimum wage that is set by people pretending to care about them. They are created when the legal system prosecutes them for victimless crimes. Most of them would be good hard-working citizens in a free market environment that left them alone and expected them to look after their own interests.

 
At 10/29/2010 6:08 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

... they started squeezing Japan and South Korea over 10 years ago. Thanks to these antics being an ally of USA (or satellite state, however you want to put it) looks a lot better than it did at the end of the Cold War. This is the real reason for US making noises about raising tariffs.

The US is in no position to demand much because there is little that it can do to solve the problem. China is under no obligation to sell to Japan or the US all of the rare earth elements that they want and they should be free to find their own sources. It isn't as if the US did not have reserves. It probably has more than enough to meet its own demand as long as the producers are permitted to dig and process the ore. I had a chat with a Chinese businessman who was concerned about the US 'saving' its own reserves to make China dependent on it in the future. It is a bunch of nonsense of course but the point he made is valid. If you want the rare earths dig them out yourselves from your own reserves.

Unlike gold or platinum, rare earths are not in fact rare, just difficult to extract. China became _the_ supplier of rare earths by undercutting all the other suppliers during the 1990s.

Economic deposits are rare. But as I wrote above, it was the American regulations that forced many producers out of business. They made it very hard for the miners to comply with the regulations and forced high grading practices that have lowered the grades on currently available reserves.

Right now, mining companies around the world are celebrating (for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Pass_rare_earth_mine),...

As an owner of speculative mining ventures in the sector I am celebrating too. When you can make a few thousand percent over a few years it is hard to complain.

...chemistry labs around the world are looking for ways to separate lanthanides out of plain dirt (over 140000 articles found on google Scholar),...

There is a very high energy cost involved that makes the process very expensive.

...while chip manufacturers are looking into ways of replacing them.

Yes they are. But often you wind up with a dependence on other elements that have similar issues. The process will take time and that allows us to take advantage of the situation and get richer by giving the market what it wants.

 
At 10/29/2010 6:14 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

The Chinese government just shot itself in the foot. What is now a shortage will turn in a couple of years in a glut, and the major buyers will already have long term contracts signed with less temperamental suppliers.

I doubt that you will see much happen over the next few years because the high grade reserves do not exist and the low grade reserves cannot compete.

Didn't somebody try to corner the market on silver some twenty or thirty years ago ? How did it work ?

Bad example. The Hunt brothers could not corner the silver market because the US government had 2 billion ounces in its strategic reserves and other governments had stockpiles of their own. The time for silver is now because JP Morgan is short three or four months worth of production on its own and there are five or six times more ounces sold short than can be delivered. I would not be surprised if the COMEX forced long positions to take cash instead of the physical metal and to see silver respond by increasing its value against gold with the 15 to 1 ratio established fairly quickly. That would give you at least $100 silver and would make all those small pure silver plays very attractive to acquirers.

If you want to see what has been happening put in the words "bart chilton silver" in Google and read the articles that pop up.

 
At 10/29/2010 6:24 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

If we agree to be bound by such arbitration. I agree finding a trusted arbiter is always a problem.

Say that I want your house because I think that I have a better use for it than you do. Why would you be stupid enough to agree to choose an arbitrator when I should never have the right to rob you of your property?

 
At 10/29/2010 8:33 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Apparently they didn't think it was important for me to know this stuff. I'm not going back to school: I don't have the time. But getting links from on-line and doing some reading, I can do.

Since when do you care what others think is important for you to understand. My exposure to Locke came early but I really read and understood him when I sat in a course that I had never registered in. Since then I have read a great deal without ever stepping into a classroom. Education is not about getting a credit at a university but about understanding the world.

Then I need to see a fuller derivation, because I don't see it.

How strange that a Catholic would not be familiar with the work of Aquinas, who used logic and reason to come up with the natural law position that did not actually require faith or God for its support.

Here is a pretty good overview that explains it in more detail. As I said, all you really need is to begin by stating that you own yourself. The rest follows from there. It is fascinating how you can argue so much about a subject with which you are not familiar with at all.

 
At 10/30/2010 12:27 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

Since when do you care what others think is important for you to understand.
Since you can't know everything, you usually either follow up on things that interest you or study what has been recommended to you. What I was saying is that Locke was not previously recommended. Now that it has benn, I'm working through "The Second Treatise on Government".


It is fascinating how you can argue so much about a subject with which you are not familiar with at all.
I do it all the time. I learn a lot that way. :) If I don't argue based on what I know, people don't bring out new information.


Why would you be stupid enough to agree to choose an arbitrator when I should never have the right to rob you of your property?
Of course you wouldn't. It's more along the lines of, would you agree to be bound by arbitration regarding business ethics apriori, if you thought it generated enough good will to improve your business.
In other words, it's usually part of a package deal.

And I have to confess that I have no idea what you are talking about when you write about 'outsiders' in the economy
If you have no job and no means of support, I would say you're an outsider.

Most of them would be good hard-working citizens in a free market environment that left them alone and expected them to look after their own interests.
It takes a little more than that. It requires a better education on the costs and benefits of being a good citizen.

Because they have no right to steal or initiate force against others.
But outside of society, they have no prohibition not to, which I believe Hobbes argued was the natural state.

You assume that people are helpless and have no ability to trade their skills because of some conspiracy that does not exist.
No, I say that while this is not the common case, nothing prevents it from happening.

 
At 10/30/2010 12:36 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

They might be easier to convince if they didn't see so many around them being handed free money in a misguided attempt to lift them out of poverty.
What is your suggestion?


It's tough. Many people think that life is much different for others, that everything was given to them (and sometimes they are right). The typical suggestions: fewer handouts, better advertisements of the paths to success that exist, etc. I am constantly amazed out how crappy career planning and job placement industries are. Of course, government is probably not the right avenue for most of these things.

 
At 10/31/2010 8:20 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

What I was saying is that Locke was not previously recommended. Now that it has benn, I'm working through "The Second Treatise on Government".

Think about this statement for a moment. You have an 'educated' American who does not know that Locke was the foundation for much of the Founding Fathers' ideas? How screwed up is that? My point is that as an educated individual who took some American history you already should have been reading Locke, Montesquieu of de Toqueville a very long time ago. Otherwise he would be ignorant of many of the things that he should have known a long time ago.

I do it all the time. I learn a lot that way. :) If I don't argue based on what I know, people don't bring out new information.

You make a fair statement but miss the point. While it makes sense to make the argument early you need to change it when confronted with evidence that you do not know what you believe that you do. From what I can tell you are putting forth the same discredited arguments even when confronted with the fact that they were discredited a long time ago.

In other words, it's usually part of a package deal.

A deal requires consent. When an individual provides no consent to be robbed your argument falls apart.

If you have no job and no means of support, I would say you're an outsider.

I have no job. My means of support are my skills. If I choose not to use them to earn a living that is my problem and gives me no right to ask that others support me. My rights are negative. They can prohibit someone from doing something to me but cannot impose actions on others to do something for me. Negative rights are consistent with liberty. Positive rights are consistent with serfdom.

 
At 10/31/2010 8:25 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

It takes a little more than that. It requires a better education on the costs and benefits of being a good citizen.

An education does not mean going to a government school and learning what others want you to learn. It can mean understanding how things work. And you don't need an education to be useful in society. Plumbers, machinists, chefs, lawyers, and nurses do fine doing their jobs simply with training. Such training can be obtained on the job.

But outside of society, they have no prohibition not to, which I believe Hobbes argued was the natural state.

There is no 'outside' of society. Whether we like it or not when we choose to interact voluntarily we are a part of society. That does not mean that we have to obey all artificial and arbitrary rules but it does mean that we have to respect the fundamental rights of others or face the consequences.

No, I say that while this is not the common case, nothing prevents it from happening.

The only thing in the way of people becoming better off is government meddling that prevents it.

 
At 10/31/2010 2:58 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

The typical suggestions: fewer handouts, better advertisements of the paths to success that exist, etc.

Do you mean to suggest that people don't know that if they obtain marketable skills they are more likely to be successful?

I am constantly amazed out how crappy career planning and job placement industries are.

Outsiders can't figure out what is best for you. Only you can do that and only if you want to and have the drive to do so.

Of course, government is probably not the right avenue for most of these things.

Correct. Government needs to stay out of this entirely. It has already done more than enough damage.

 
At 11/01/2010 8:53 AM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

From what I can tell you are putting forth the same discredited arguments even when confronted with the fact that they were discredited a long time ago.
I listen and when confronted with a sufficiently convincing argument, I will change my position. The arguments I bring out still exist in society: a lot of people believe them. Therefore either they are all completely ignorant (possible) or this discrediting process was not as complete as you say. Certainly, the basic argument Locke makes on the labor value of property I don't find convincing except as a rule of thumb. I don't believe in the DMCA, that un-encrypting without distribution is stealing. I don't believe that untying someone else's shoelaces is stealing, and the labor value of property just feels like a good solid try.

I really wish I had more time for this: the subject fascinates me.

 
At 11/01/2010 10:07 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

I listen and when confronted with a sufficiently convincing argument, I will change my position.

But the evidence suggests that you do not change your position. Even after you admit that someone else has made a valid argument and that you do not disagree you still hold on to your previous position, which was usually one based on incomplete information.

The arguments I bring out still exist in society: a lot of people believe them.

Many people believe in many silly things that cannot stand up to scruitny. How many believe is not an indication of validity of a position.

Therefore either they are all completely ignorant (possible) or this discrediting process was not as complete as you say.

Most people are educated by the state. It is not surprising when they are not exposed to analysis that criticizes the harm done by the state's meddling.

Certainly, the basic argument Locke makes on the labor value of property I don't find convincing except as a rule of thumb.

Labour value of property? Where did you get that from? You probably did not get it from reading Locke's own words because Locke does not talk much about labour value of property.

Locke simply bases his theory of natural rights to property on the fact that each individual owns his own body and the labour produced by that body. The original right to ownership of a property comes from that self ownership. A property is originally acquired when found in the commons and is homesteaded by the individual who mixes his labour. It is the homesteading process that turns the non-property into private owned property and brings unowned natural land and resources into productive use.

According to Locke it is the concept of self ownership and 'first use' that established the original ownership to a property. He does not claim that a property should have more value if more labour is added to it or has a direct effect on a market price. All he is saying is that once a property is brought into productive use by an individual the individual has title to the property and that title can be exchanged for other property or given away as the rightful owner wishes. All Locke has done is establish a labour theory of property, not what the Marxists claim is a labour theory of value.

I don't believe in the DMCA, that un-encrypting without distribution is stealing. I don't believe that untying someone else's shoelaces is stealing, and the labor value of property just feels like a good solid try.

As I pointed out above, you have no idea what you are talking about because you are reading Marxist claims about Locke rather than Locke himself. Locke did not come up with a labour value of property but of a labour theory of property that only describes the process of acquiring original ownership. Your understanding is very superficial and very wrong. No wonder you are so confused.

 
At 11/01/2010 4:52 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

But the evidence suggests that you do not change your position.
I repeat: when confronted with sufficiently convincing evidence, I will change my position to that which has been shown to be correct. But I am willing to be patient and thorough about the process: I won't agree to make you happy. If my position has been "incomplete", so has been your argument, from my perspective.
You've made a couple good points: I have come to better understand the position that acceptance of implicit contracts as valid can lead to people trying to justify pretty much anything by them, for instance. But I still see no compelling logical reason to accept your position, and something still feels fishy about it that I'm trying to work out.


All he is saying is that once a property is brought into productive use by an individual the individual has title to the property and that title can be exchanged for other property or given away as the rightful owner wishes.
I can see how that would be useful from the perspective of getting the most use out of resources, but I don't see how it's fully justified. To earn the use of a thing does not mean to earn the ownership of a thing. To own oneself and one's actions does not mean to own all possible benefits of every action you have taken. The labor value of property may not be the same thing as a labor theory of property, but they seem to be strongly related.


As I pointed out above, you have no idea what you are talking about because you are reading Marxist claims about Locke rather than Locke himself.
Possible. I got cliff notes from wikipedia, then started reading original sources. I haven't gotten that far yet, as I still do have a job that is currently asking for quite a bit of my mental energy.

 
At 11/02/2010 3:14 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Sean,

"To earn the use of a thing does not mean to earn the ownership of a thing."

I must be missing something here. I don't see what you think the difference is. What if this were
worded: "To earn the exclusive use of a thing does not mean to earn ownership of a thing." would its meaning change? How else would you define ownership? If the prior owner and you now agree that title has transferred, in what sense would you not own it?

"To own oneself and one's actions does not mean to own all possible benefits of every action you have taken."

That's correct. Hopefully your employer benefits more from your labor than the amount you are paid, or there's no reason to employ you.

 
At 11/02/2010 9:41 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H,

"To earn the exclusive use of a thing does not mean to earn ownership of a thing." would its meaning change? How else would you define ownership?
I am typing on a laptop provided to me by my employer. No one else is permitted to use the laptop until I return it, and I typically refer to it as "mine" in casual conversation. It's not: it belongs to my employer. I feel much the same way about land and all natural resources: we don't really own them, we just sit in stewardship of them. And under some conditions, that stewardship can be revoked. But in the common case, we refer to them as ours, as I refer to this laptop as mine.

 
At 11/02/2010 1:00 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"I am typing on a laptop provided to me by my employer. No one else is permitted to use the laptop until I return it, and I typically refer to it as "mine" in casual conversation. It's not: it belongs to my employer."

Are you also typing on company time? :-)

Calling your laptop "mine" is only a convention. You understood the status of the laptop from the beginning, and knew that you didn't own it, any more than you own your desk or your pencil or your tractor, or any other productivity enhancing tool provided by your employer.

But how about your pay? Do you own what you have earned and have been paid?

Consider this: If you had lived 10,000 years ago & found a suitable rock that no one else was claiming you could have spent time and skill chipping it into a useful arrowhead. This would now be your property. No one could rightfully take it from you and you could use it as you saw fit as long as you wanted to. You could trade it for someone else's labor or some other good, and it would now be their property.

"I feel much the same way about land and all natural resources: we don't really own them, we just sit in stewardship of them. And under some conditions, that stewardship can be revoked. But in the common case, we refer to them as ours, as I refer to this laptop as mine."

It's too bad so many discussions of property are about land, as the arguments seem to be interminable and unresolvable. Consider instead the things you have created by improving on the land or "nature" through your labor and skills.

If you have water rights to your land, and bottle water for sale, isn't the bottled water your property? If you sell it, isn't it the property of the new owner to do with as he pleases? He now 'owns' it, and has no expectation of ever returning it.

 
At 11/02/2010 1:10 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Besides, your original statement was:

"To earn the use of a thing does not mean to earn the ownership of a thing."

You wouldn't likely say that you "earned" the use of a company laptop.

 
At 11/02/2010 1:34 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

Are you also typing on company time? :-)
Yup. When things are compiling, I don't feel guilty about that. :)

If you sell it, isn't it the property of the new owner to do with as he pleases? He now 'owns' it, and has no expectation of ever returning it.
Surely. But that's just it: concepts like water rights, mineral rights, etc. are more limited than ownership of a bottle of water or a baseball glove. And they should be.

You wouldn't likely say that you "earned" the use of a company laptop.
Why not? I do enough work for my employer that it would be foolish of them not to provide me a laptop.

 
At 11/02/2010 1:49 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

I repeat: when confronted with sufficiently convincing evidence, I will change my position to that which has been shown to be correct. But I am willing to be patient and thorough about the process: I won't agree to make you happy. If my position has been "incomplete", so has been your argument, from my perspective.

Your problem is that your position has been based on simple belief without any logical foundation. When confronted with logical errors that you acknowledge you still assume that your position is sound because you are more comfortable with what you know and have no desire to learn something new.

You've made a couple good points: I have come to better understand the position that acceptance of implicit contracts as valid can lead to people trying to justify pretty much anything by them, for instance. But I still see no compelling logical reason to accept your position, and something still feels fishy about it that I'm trying to work out.

But that is the problem. You 'feel' that my argument is fishy but can't really provide a logical argument to support that feeling.

I can see how that would be useful from the perspective of getting the most use out of resources, but I don't see how it's fully justified.

In a world where progress depends on clear title to property you need a method of obtaining that property. Locke points out that when you take something that is not in use and make use of it yourself by adding your labour, time, and or capital to it it becomes yours. What is wrong with that position?

To earn the use of a thing does not mean to earn the ownership of a thing.

Correct. I can get the use of something that is owned by someone who still retains it. But that still does not mean that it isn't owned by anyone.

To own oneself and one's actions does not mean to own all possible benefits of every action you have taken.

Why not? If I sell an hour of my labour to you by mowing your lawn why should I not get what you agreed to pay me?

The labor value of property may not be the same thing as a labor theory of property, but they seem to be strongly related.

Only if you are a Marxist trying to make your man respectable. Marx got the labour theory of value from Ricardo who got it from Smith. It is a great irony that the man worshiped by many capitalists made the critical error that was the basis of Marxism.

I got cliff notes from wikipedia, then started reading original sources. I haven't gotten that far yet, as I still do have a job that is currently asking for quite a bit of my mental energy.

As I said, for a person who has not read much about the subject and has not thought about it enough to see the obvious logical errors, you argue a great deal. It might be better if you actually read the material and understood it rather than reading the misinterpretation of others.

Before you go and read what I have referenced as the basis for your argument you may be better served by taking a few minutes (it is a short read) and look at Chapter XXII of the Prince. Machiavelli talks about the three types of minds. It might help you to figure out which one you have before you go on.

 
At 11/02/2010 2:03 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

I must be missing something here. I don't see what you think the difference is. What if this were
worded: "To earn the exclusive use of a thing does not mean to earn ownership of a thing." would its meaning change? How else would you define ownership? If the prior owner and you now agree that title has transferred, in what sense would you not own it?


I guess that you could get use of something by leasing it from its rightful owner. But that still leaves our friend with a problem because there is still a rightful owner. From what I can tell he is trying to argue that nobody can ever rightfully own anything, which is what he needs to be able to justify his morality of looting as a basis of society.

That's correct. Hopefully your employer benefits more from your labor than the amount you are paid, or there's no reason to employ you.

Well, I would not take this approach. It is obvious that in a voluntary transactions both sides benefit, which is why the transaction happens in the first place. The issue is what should be done with what you get from that transaction. Our friend is arguing that it is perfectly fine for a third party that had nothing to do with the transaction in the first place to step in and take whatever it decides it wants from you. Obviously we disagree with him on that point.

 
At 11/02/2010 2:13 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

I am typing on a laptop provided to me by my employer.

The laptop belongs to your employer.

No one else is permitted to use the laptop until I return it, and I typically refer to it as "mine" in casual conversation. It's not: it belongs to my employer.

You can refer to it as yours and have use of it but only because your employer agrees and gives you PERMISSION to use it exclusively.

I feel much the same way about land and all natural resources: we don't really own them, we just sit in stewardship of them.

But you just said that your employer owns the laptop and gives you permission to use it exclusively as long as you work for the company. The laptop does not just exist in nature. It is property of someone. Just like most land is.

And under some conditions, that stewardship can be revoked.

You are mixing up terms. If I own something I own it and ownership cannot be revoked. When you bought your home that home belongs to you. You have the right to sell it, give it away, or use it. Ownership is not stewardship, which takes on a theological meaning in the way that you use it.

But in the common case, we refer to them as ours, as I refer to this laptop as mine.

But it still isn't yours. When making an argument it makes sense to stick to the right definitions of the words that we use and to ensure that your position is logically sound. If we deconstruct your argument it goes something like this.

My employer owns a laptop that I am allowed to use exclusively.

I say that the laptop belongs to me although it really doesn't.

That means that people can't really own land even though they say that they do.

Sorry but that does not work very well. Try again.

 
At 11/02/2010 2:21 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Surely. But that's just it: concepts like water rights, mineral rights, etc. are more limited than ownership of a bottle of water or a baseball glove. And they should be.

I take it that you have not invested in royalties. If you had, you would know that your argument does not work very well and is wrong.

If I own the mineral rights to a property I can mine the minerals lying below the surface of the property. If I do not want to do the work myself I can lease or sell those rights, do a partial deal where I give up some of my rights for a royalty, split the rights of exploiting a particular mineral while retaining another, etc.

 
At 11/02/2010 3:19 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

I say that the laptop belongs to me although it really doesn't.
That means that people can't really own land even though they say that they do.

I was answering a specific question about the nature of ownership versus lesser rights arrangements:
"To earn the use of a thing does not mean to earn the
ownership of a thing."
I must be missing something here. I don't see what you think the difference is.


Before flying off the handle, check your context. I wasn't arguing that it's impossible to own something because I don't a laptop I'm using. I was arguing that there are lesser rights than full ownership that could be applied in cases like homesteading.

I take it that you have not invested in royalties. If you had, you would know that your argument does not work very well and is wrong.
The claim of individual "ownership" being weaker relative to government/societal claim for natural resources does not invalidate the concept of royalties.
You can reasonably claim that your idea of how ownership works is self-consistent and works in a superior fashion to most other arrangements. You can't claim other arrangements don't work at all, because counterexamples exist.

 
At 11/02/2010 3:31 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Before flying off the handle, check your context. I wasn't arguing that it's impossible to own something because I don't a laptop I'm using. I was arguing that there are lesser rights than full ownership that could be applied in cases like homesteading.

Your logic fails. A laptop had an original owner. So does the land. The fact that the owner can allow use of their property does not change anything.

For you to argue that ownership of a house is the same as your employer allowing you to use the company laptop does not make sense unless you are trying to claim that when we spend our money on a house we don't really acquire ownership from the previous owner and that we are just buying the use of that house for a while.

The claim of individual "ownership" being weaker relative to government/societal claim for natural resources does not invalidate the concept of royalties.

When I own the mineral rights they are mine. End of story. I can sell them, lease them, etc., the same as I can with my car, a bottle of water, or whatever else I own.

You could argue that the government could come and steal those rights but that can be made for anything else that I own because the government has a monopoly on the initiation of force.

 
At 11/02/2010 3:34 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

You can reasonably claim that your idea of how ownership works is self-consistent and works in a superior fashion to most other arrangements. You can't claim other arrangements don't work at all, because counterexamples exist.

You said that when I own a bottle of water it is very different than when I own mineral rights. I just pointed out that you have no idea about what you are talking about. When I own a baseball glove (to pick your example) I can sell it, give it away, rent it, etc. That is the same with my mineral rights, which I can sell, give way, lease, etc.

 
At 11/02/2010 3:51 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,


For you to argue that ownership of a house is the same as your employer allowing you to use the company laptop does not make sense unless you are trying to claim that when we spend our money on a house we don't really acquire ownership from the previous owner and that we are just buying the use of that house for a while.
Or that my ownership of my house is limited in some other comparable sense, yes.


You could argue that the government could come and steal those rights but that can be made for anything else that I own because the government has a monopoly on the initiation of force.
I'm arguing that a government might have legitimacy in doing so if your understanding of your rights was out of line with reality.

You said that when I own a bottle of water it is very different than when I own mineral rights.
The arrangements are similar, but the effect of owning them is different. Governments have nationalized mines for security reasons. I don't know how many water bottles have ever been nationalized, but I bet the number s small.

 
At 11/02/2010 4:30 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Or that my ownership of my house is limited in some other comparable sense, yes.

In what sense is your ownership of your house limited? Can I come in and take your house from you? How about me and three other guys who agree that the house would be better off in our hands? Or my tribe? The only issue that you could have is a break in the chain of title but that does not happen if the original ownership is established by homesteading and continued ownership was done by a proper transfer.

I'm arguing that a government might have legitimacy in doing so if your understanding of your rights was out of line with reality.

Theft is not legitimate. When I buy something from its rightful owner it belongs to me. While a government can always steal from me it does not make the theft legitimate.

I suggest that your choice of ambiguous terms and incomplete thoughts betrays the inability to defend your morality of looting by the use of logic. It might be time to hit the books because others have tried but failed to make the same case as you in a better way.

The arrangements are similar, but the effect of owning them is different. Governments have nationalized mines for security reasons. I don't know how many water bottles have ever been nationalized, but I bet the number s small.

A government can nationalize my car and hose just as easily and claim legitimate reasons to do so. But when we look at the reality we find that the reasons are never legitimate. Stealing oil, lead, copper or other minerals from their rightful owners and transferring the rights to mine them to another person or institution is not legitimate and is never really about security. If you lived in the real world you would know that it is usually about politics, power and corruption.

 
At 11/03/2010 12:53 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"From what I can tell he is trying to argue that nobody can ever rightfully own anything, which is what he needs to be able to justify his morality of looting as a basis of society."

Well, that's how it seems. Thanks for the clarification.

By the way, thanks to both you and Sean for the extremely interesting discussion. I'm enjoying it immensely.

 
At 11/03/2010 8:52 AM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

I suggest that your choice of ambiguous terms and incomplete thoughts betrays the inability to defend your morality of looting by the use of logic. It might be time to hit the books because others have tried but failed to make the same case as you in a better way.
It's true that the formal laying out of property theory is new to me, so in terms of finding the flaws in libertarianism I'm just firing off thoughts and seeing what fits.

The main reason, though, I'm not a libertarian is that it doesn't seem really compatible with Christianity or Judaism, and without God humanism seems essentially existential to me. If I had to live in an existential world, I couldn't possibly justify property rights except in a pretty narrow context: I'd take a pretty Machiavellian view of the world.

 
At 11/03/2010 8:55 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

By the way, thanks to both you and Sean for the extremely interesting discussion. I'm enjoying it immensely.
Me too. I just wish I could have done something like this in personal. It's been educational. ;)

 
At 11/03/2010 10:25 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

It's true that the formal laying out of property theory is new to me, so in terms of finding the flaws in libertarianism I'm just firing off thoughts and seeing what fits.

The flaws are not in libertarianism but in the discredited mythology that you hold so dear. When many of us make an argument here we back it up with actual facts and logical arguments that go back to our initial premise. You do not do that and each time you admit that something that you had argued was not exactly right you still tend to hold on to the argument and refuse to reexamine your premises.

The main reason, though, I'm not a libertarian is that it doesn't seem really compatible with Christianity or Judaism, and without God humanism seems essentially existential to me.

Had you read your Thomas Aquinas you would know that the idea of Natural Rights is entirely compatible with Christian belief. And what exactly is so wrong or anti-religious with the idea of self-ownership? Where does Jesus say that it is all right to steal from others? In fact, where it the evidence that Jesus argued for any doctrine other than that of a loving God and a universal brotherhood of man?

As many people who claim to be religious do, you confuse the creation of the Council of Nicaea with Christianity or the teaching of Jesus. But the two are not exactly compatible. Jesus was a Jew who thought people to take responsibility for their own actions, to love others, and to love God. The Church took those teachings and screwed things up as it tried to hide those teachings behind an exclusionary veil of divinity.

If you are a true Christian you would not follow the teachings of the Jewish prophet from Nazareth because He was virgin-born, was divine, could walk on water or perform other miracles. You would follow those teachings because your experience would prove to you that His was a good way to go through life and that you could not find one that was better.

And you seem to have forgotten that the philosophers and prophets have overwhelmingly agree on one thing; the State is a very poor instrument for the improvement of human society, and that those that have confidence in governments and political institutions are naive fools. Their argument has bee very consistent: society cannot be made more moral and better until the individual is moral and better. Jesus was not alone in teaching this as Lao Tse, Confucius, Seneca, Epictetus, Nietzsche, Spencer and others all said the same thing.

 
At 11/03/2010 10:40 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

If I had to live in an existential world, I couldn't possibly justify property rights except in a pretty narrow context: I'd take a pretty Machiavellian view of the world.

You are confused and making no sense again. Try reading the original material again.

 
At 11/03/2010 11:18 AM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,
You do not do that and each time you admit that something that you had argued was not exactly right you still tend to hold on to the argument and refuse to reexamine your premises.
I disagree. I do go back and examine my premises whether you see it or not. And in many cases I feel you don't understand my argument, and that's why you feel it is logically or factually inconsistent. Also, just because I drop a line of argument does not mean I consider it refuted: it may only mean I don't find it fruitful for convincing you of anything.

You've given me a lot to read and think about. I'll do that.

 
At 11/03/2010 11:54 AM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

And what exactly is so wrong or anti-religious with the idea of self-ownership? Where does Jesus say that it is all right to steal from others? In fact, where it the evidence that Jesus argued for any doctrine other than that of a loving God and a universal brotherhood of man?

Their argument has bee very consistent: society cannot be made more moral and better until the individual is moral and better
That at least I agree with.

How could Jesus argue we ought to render under Caesar that which is Caesar's if he was a libertarian when he was answering a question about taxes?
How do you square libertarianism with a parable about a man going to hell (by implication) for not acknowledging an obligation of mercy towards a beggar living outside his house when libertarianism's prime distinction is that it claims the rich man owed him nothing?

 
At 11/03/2010 1:38 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

And in many cases I feel you don't understand my argument, and that's why you feel it is logically or factually inconsistent.

Given that you have not clearly expressed a consistent argument that may be possible. But given the fact that many of us have heard numerous arguments that favour statism many times before and are familiar with their shortcomings it is very unlikely that you can provide any argument that is consistent with the beliefs that you profess to hold.

Also, just because I drop a line of argument does not mean I consider it refuted: it may only mean I don't find it fruitful for convincing you of anything.

The point is not to convince others but to discover a logical and consistent view of reality. You fall quite short on that front.

If you gave me the Straussian argument (to pick one approach) that Bloom provided in his great interpretative essay in his even greater translation of Plato's book, The Republic, I would have to concede that you understand your position and that you do not need to bring in the false notion that you are concerned about justice or morality. But you do not do that. You support a very immoral position while claiming concern on religious and moral grounds.

You've given me a lot to read and think about. I'll do that.

Take your time. You are smart enough to understand the arguments and will do a great deal better if you look to the original texts most of the time rather than someone else's interpretation of what they mean.

Actually if you have an iTunes account the best place to start may be to go to the iTunes store and search for the words, "rothbard for a new liberty". One of the answers will be an iTunes University version of Murray Rothbard's, For a New Liberty: A Libertarian Manifesto. Rothbard's argument is about as radical as you will see. Take your time and listen as you drive to and from work. The book will help you to focus on the original sources that you need to look at to better understand the positions in favour of liberty and against statism, socialism, national socialism, and conservative style central planning.

If you like the audio book, which is free, there are plenty of other similar books that are also available for free. One of my favourite set of recordings are those of Paul A. Cantor, who gives ten lectures on art, entitled Commerce and Culture. Just search for "Cantor Commerce and Culture" and download the audio for one of the most entertaining set of lectures you will ever hear. Cantor is particularly interesting because he has used praxeology as a tool in literary criticism and has also cleverly integrated Mises and Strauss in his critical interpretation of Shakespearean plays.

 
At 11/03/2010 1:49 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Here is one of several commonly accepted interpretations of the phrase "Render unto Ceasar"

"As everything belongs to God and nothing belongs to any man, including Caesar, then there is nothing to render unto Caesar."

 
At 11/03/2010 2:28 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

"As everything belongs to God and nothing belongs to any man, including Caesar, then there is nothing to render unto Caesar."
I don't favor that interpretation, but even if I did, I don't see how that becomes a defense of Christ's support of natural law.

 
At 11/03/2010 3:37 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Sean said:

"How could Jesus argue we ought to render under Caesar that which is Caesar's if he was a libertarian when he was answering a question about taxes?"

Ron responded with answer E -

"As everything belongs to God and nothing belongs to any man, including Caesar, then there is nothing to render unto Caesar."

- which is a fairly libertarian idea.

 
At 11/03/2010 3:58 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

"As everything belongs to God and nothing belongs to any man, including Caesar, then there is nothing to render unto Caesar."

- which is a fairly libertarian idea.


No taxes is a fairly libertarian idea. The illegitimacy of government ownership is as well. Nothing belonging to any man is not a libertarian idea, as VangeIV kept trying to club me with! :)

 
At 11/03/2010 4:28 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"No taxes is a fairly libertarian idea. The illegitimacy of government ownership is as well. Nothing belonging to any man is not a libertarian idea, as VangeIV kept trying to club me with! :)"

You're right, sorry, I kind of glossed over that part.

However, consider this: God as Creator is the original property owner, and by giving man dominion over all of Nature has, in effect, given, or loaned, or leased it to you. You can select whatever arrangement with the original owner you feel most comfortable with. That could include that land and those mineral rights that you don't feel you own, and would exclude later claims by other men or by the State.

How, if at all, does that affect your problem with original ownership?

 
At 11/03/2010 5:03 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

How could Jesus argue we ought to render under Caesar that which is Caesar's if he was a libertarian when he was answering a question about taxes?

It is easy to argue that. Let me try one simple interpretation. I could claim that what Jesus meant was that if you believed and followed Rome's law you should have paid taxes to Rome. If you believed in God's law you did not have to pay taxes. How is that?

On a very serious note let me point out that many theologians in the Catholic Church have disagreed with the Papacy and have used this quote to link Christianity to socialism and to find other quotes that would lend support for Marxism just as other theologians have somehow tried to link Hobbes' Leviathan to the Kingdom of God.

I will be the first to admit that some of these arguments are hard to follow because many of these fools have this bad habit of quoting each other as support for their very subjective and very questionable interpretations even as the other side does the same thing.

But that does not mean that we cannot go through the texts and look at what is being taught. I do not know about you, but when I look at the Bible I find no support for the idea that the State is the instrument, of God. Of course, I did not go to Catholic School so I am probably not as well read as you may be so as soon as you provide a better interpretation I am more than willing to look at it.

When I look at the Bible I see Jesus preaching compassion but does not force anyone to provide it or argue that it is the job of the state to steal from some of the people so that it can be kind to others. While I see passages where Jesus cures the sick and disabled by using the powers given to him by his Father I do not see a single passage where he argues that we need to tax people so that we can offer a version of Obamacare for the public. I see no evidence in the Gospels that Christian thinkers and writers supported the nationalization of resources or industry by the state, socialized schooling, employment insurance, government run pension plans, or many of the things that Marxist theologians have been advocating. (But the Church has rejected.)

I do not know about you but in my version of the Bible Jesus is teaching a philosophy of individualism in which the responsibility for my behavior rests on me as an individual, not some collective class structure or the state. Jesus does not tell us to use the State to collectivize our souls. The image of God is man not a group of man or a class.

I do not know what you think but I like my interpretation much better than yours. Mine is simple and supported by the Gospels while yours requires a more complicated interpretation for which there is no support in the Gospels.

 
At 11/03/2010 6:02 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

How do you square libertarianism with a parable about a man going to hell (by implication) for not acknowledging an obligation of mercy towards a beggar living outside his house when libertarianism's prime distinction is that it claims the rich man owed him nothing?

An obligation of mercy? Where in the Bible does it say that forcing people to give is virtuous? Will we go to heaven if our taxes are used to provide handouts?

I am assuming here that you are talking about the Parable of the rich man and Lazarus(Luke 16:19-31), where Jesus is using a very old folk tale to make a point about stewardship. You have an enormously rich man (purple dye was very expensive) who neglected Lazarus as he is dying near his gate. When he dies he is punished not because he was wealthy but because he neglected the needs of Lazarus, whom he could have helped.

That is it. There is no lecture where Jesus tells us to create state institutions to help the poor so that the wicked who pay taxes to help those poor will get to sit next to Abraham. He does not argue that forced giving is a virtue. All he says is that men should love others like they love themselves and that those who simply pursue money for the sake of money will have a hard time in the afterlife.

While we are on this topic I would point you to the Parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37) Here we have a clear example of what a good man does. He comes upon a hurt stranger, bandages his wounds, puts the man ON HIS OWN donkey, takes him to an inn and takes care of him. The next day he gives HIS OWN two silver coins and gives them to the innkeeper. He instructs the innkeeper to look after the hurt man and when he comes back he will reimburse the innkeeper for extra expenses that he may have. The Samaritan is a good man because of his individual actions.

The way that I see it, neither libertarians nor Jesus have been advocating that men pursue wealth. Their shared concern is one for liberty and personal responsibility. The way I see it, it is far less misleading to claim that Jesus was a capitalist than to claim that libertarians are primarily concerned with the avaricious pursuit of wealth accumulation.

Your postings keep showing over and over again that you have not really thought much about these matters very deeply. You keep grasping at straws to make claims that are certainly not supported by a clear reading of the texts that you claim to be quoting and you keep ignoring the logical problems with your arguments. Sorry but you are going to have to do better than that.

 
At 11/04/2010 9:20 AM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

You keep grasping at straws to make claims that are certainly not supported by a clear reading of the texts that you claim to be quoting and you keep ignoring the logical problems with your arguments. Sorry but you are going to have to do better than that.
These two questions weren't actually attacks: in my mind they were very serious questions. And you haven't answered them: the first because you show complete ignorance of the theological implications of the old testament. In the second case:

When he dies he is punished not because he was wealthy but because he neglected the needs of Lazarus, whom he could have helped.
This is as I pointed out. But, correct my understanding here: the basis of most libertarian thought is the lack of obligation towards others except where contract demands it. What obligation, under a libertarian philosophy, did the rich man have that he didn't fulfill? It must have been serious to send him to Hell! If being a good libertarian doesn't imply being a good Christian, then how could being a good libertarian make on moral? When I scramble to build a philosophical framework that would justify Christ's position, why do you call me immoral for that?


Your postings keep showing over and over again that you have not really thought much about these matters very deeply.
No, in this case, I don't think that's a fair statement. Jesus showed a lot of the traits of a capitalist while simultaneously preaching faith, abundance, and unbounded generosity as virtues. Jesus simultaneously referred to his church as a kingdom in the tradition of the Jewish theological monarchy while blatantly exhibiting and pronouncing the corruption of the Jewish theocracy. If I seem to be full of contradictions, then Jesus has long ago beat me to it. :) I'm just trying to figure it out.

 
At 11/04/2010 9:24 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,


How, if at all, does that affect your problem with original ownership?

I'm perfectly ok with what you describe, but then that implies man doesn't own property, and that an individual's lease of it is limited by God's approval: you can't withhold the use of your property from another person unless God (the actual owner) would allow. Again, that's completely contrary to VangeIV's claim that your right to do what you want with your property is unlimited, because Jesus clearly asked us to be generous and take care of each other.

 
At 11/04/2010 10:31 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

These two questions weren't actually attacks: in my mind they were very serious questions. And you haven't answered them: the first because you show complete ignorance of the theological implications of the old testament. In the second case:

I answered them. You take an out of context quote in which you ignore the circumstance and pretend that everything else that Jesus taught could be dismissed. Well it can't. Jesus never advocated the collectivism that you are pushing. He never pointed out that forcing people to do something is a virtue. All he taught was love and individual responsibility. That makes his teachings fully consistent with libertarianism.

I pointed out that it is easy to show that the two quotes are totally consistent with libertarianism. You have failed to provide any analysis that shows that Jesus would approve of collectivism and State operated institutions that controlled individual lives.

 
At 11/04/2010 10:33 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

This is as I pointed out. But, correct my understanding here: the basis of most libertarian thought is the lack of obligation towards others except where contract demands it. What obligation, under a libertarian philosophy, did the rich man have that he didn't fulfill? It must have been serious to send him to Hell! If being a good libertarian doesn't imply being a good Christian, then how could being a good libertarian make on moral? When I scramble to build a philosophical framework that would justify Christ's position, why do you call me immoral for that?

Libertarians do not deny that as individuals we may have obligations to our families, friends, churches, or neighbours. They deny that individuals have an obligation to government. You would have Jesus follow Rome's law rather than God's law and would equate the Leviathan with the Kingdom of Heaven. Most rational people would not agree with you.

 
At 11/04/2010 10:38 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"I'm perfectly ok with what you describe, but then that implies man doesn't own property, and that an individual's lease of it is limited by God's approval:"

I knew I didn't like that part when I wrote it. This is an area I'm pretty weak in. I'll give it some more thought.

You chose the word 'lease' where I would have chosen the word 'given'.

God's approval or disapproval may not be known in advance. Permission isn't part of it, nor is obligation. God has given you free will - a dangerous thing - and allows you to make your own choices. Hopefully they are the right ones.

"you can't withhold the use of your property from another person unless God (the actual owner) would allow."

This implies no ownership at all, even of things I have fashioned with my labor. My car can be used by anyone who wants it, Anyone can take part of my dinner in a restaurant.

If that's what you got from my writing, I'd better work on it.

If God has given you property - or leased it to you - you can choose how to use it.

If nothing else, note that the parable of the rich man is about individuals who are known to each other. There is no generalizing about groups.

 
At 11/04/2010 11:22 AM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

I answered them.
Yes, Jesus preached generosity and personal responsibility, and yes that's compatible with the idea of ownership. But Jesus praised the widow who gave all of her money, not to the poor, but to the temple! Certainly that's a collective organization.
From the Acts of the Apostles, "And all who shared the faith owned everything in common;
45 they sold their goods and possessions and distributed the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed. ". That's not required, but it seems to be recommended! I don't advocate communism, but there's something important here that needs to be extracted.


You take an out of context quote in which you ignore the circumstance and pretend that everything else that Jesus taught could be dismissed. Well it can't.
That you can even say this with any degree of earnestness blows my mind.
Here's another out of context quote from Romans Chapter 13:
"Everyone is to obey the governing authorities, because there is no authority except from God and so whatever authorities exist have been appointed by God."
I'm just not sure what to do with that!



They deny that individuals have an obligation to government.
Then that's clearly Protestant and not Catholic theology. Catholic theology and Catholic tradition embrace collectivism. The Gospel of John and apocryphal evidence say that Jesus and his disciples shared a group purse (which Judas carried, interestingly) and acted in common. First century Christians followed that example.

But if you're looking for biblical evidence for the support of the state, then the whole Old Testament supports it: the whole theology of the Jews was that the Jewish people were God's State, and the line of David ruled them. Jesus claimed he didn't come to destroy the law but fulfill it.


They deny that individuals have an obligation to government. You would have Jesus follow Rome's law rather than God's law and would equate the Leviathan with the Kingdom of Heaven. Most rational people would not agree with you.
Jesus and the early Christians taught good citizenship. The Christians followed God's law, but they paid their taxes and followed Rome's law too. The "Fathers of the Church" were pretty clear on that. St Paul was clear on that!
Jesus didn't tell all the slaves they were born free: he told them to be good servants (and that still blows my mind). As best as I can tell (and this is personal interpretation only), Jesus was a pragmatist. He told people to be as moral as they could in the situations they were given, to accept authority not because it was just, but so they could transform it.

 
At 11/04/2010 11:26 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,
If God has given you property - or leased it to you - you can choose how to use it.
Prima facie that must be true. And it most be possible to own something: why else the prohibition on stealing?

And yet, it is made clear God will judge you if your use of what God has given you is poor. Think of the parable of the talents.

If nothing else, note that the parable of the rich man is about individuals who are known to each other. There is no generalizing about groups.
Not in that parable, but there are parables about groups in the bible. The rebellious orchard tenets who killed the son of the orchard owner, for example. :)

 
At 11/04/2010 2:09 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

No, in this case, I don't think that's a fair statement. Jesus showed a lot of the traits of a capitalist while simultaneously preaching faith, abundance, and unbounded generosity as virtues.

He preached love and individual responsibility, not a State apparatus to look after the poor. He was not preaching about the virtue of taxation as you implied by the wrongful use of the quote that you cited. He never said that wealth was evil, only that the love of wealth and the neglect of others in the community would not get one to heaven.

Jesus simultaneously referred to his church as a kingdom in the tradition of the Jewish theological monarchy while blatantly exhibiting and pronouncing the corruption of the Jewish theocracy.

Jesus was a Jewish prophet who had legitimate grievances with the Jewish theocracy because it did not truly obey God's law. What is your point?

If I seem to be full of contradictions, then Jesus has long ago beat me to it. :) I'm just trying to figure it out.

That is your problem. You look at many contradictory or supposedly contradictory statements and interpret them by using your false foundation rather than by being objective.

As I pointed out, neither of the two quotes that you provided argued for collectivism or giving tribute to the State. Yet you claim that is exactly the point of them. That shows great ignorance of the texts.

Here I ask you a very simple question. Please tell us what Jesus meant by the "Render unto Caesar…" example. Where do you see approval of State taxation or collectivism?

 
At 11/04/2010 2:25 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

I'm perfectly ok with what you describe, but then that implies man doesn't own property, and that an individual's lease of it is limited by God's approval: you can't withhold the use of your property from another person unless God (the actual owner) would allow.

No. What it means is that you can do with the property what you wish unless God objects.

Again, that's completely contrary to VangeIV's claim that your right to do what you want with your property is unlimited, because Jesus clearly asked us to be generous and take care of each other.

You are mixing things up. All libertarianism is concerned about is liberty; the freedom to live your life as you wish as long as you do not violate the rights of others. Jesus never said that the State should be paid tribute so that those who did not love their neighbours would still be forced to support them, provide them with health care, educate their kids, etc. All Jesus said is to love others as you do yourself. That is not incompatible with libertarianism because libertarianism doesn't say anything against love one's neighbours.

 
At 11/04/2010 3:10 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Yes, Jesus preached generosity and personal responsibility, and yes that's compatible with the idea of ownership. But Jesus praised the widow who gave all of her money, not to the poor, but to the temple! Certainly that's a collective organization.

The temple is not a State organization. If you want to give your money to a church in a libertarian society nobody will stop you because it is YOUR money. Note that nowhere does Jesus say that it is all right to take from some by force so that you can do good for others. Theft was against Jewish law and Jesus never supported it.

From the Acts of the Apostles, "And all WHO SHARED THE FAITH owned everything in common;
45 they sold their goods and possessions and distributed the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed. ". That's not required, but it seems to be recommended! I don't advocate communism, but there's something important here that needs to be extracted.


There is nothing in libertarian thought to stop those that have the same beliefs to get together and pool their property if that is what they wished. Nowhere does it say in the Bible that it is all right to steal from those that think differently than you do so that you can pursue your own ideas of what is good. As I said, as much as you try, the Bible is not an advocacy for your doctrine of collectivism.

 
At 11/04/2010 3:57 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

Here I ask you a very simple question. Please tell us what Jesus meant by the "Render unto Caesar…" example. Where do you see approval of State taxation or collectivism?
I always understood this as: pay your debts! If you owe taxes to the government: pay them because it's hypocrisy as a member of Roman society to say you don't. And give to God what God is owed as well.
I had never heard of any other interpretation while growing up, and I figured it to be similar to the injunction to make peace with your neighbor before offering sacrifice, or Christ's command to honor your debt to your family rather than using Church status to protect it: don't use religion as an excuse not to meet your obligations.
Christ actually said quite a bit more than just love your neighbor as yourself, although that is of primary importance.

 
At 11/04/2010 4:04 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

the Bible is not an advocacy for your doctrine of collectivism.
You accuse me of using the bible to further "my doctrine of collectivism". I'm only trying to figure out and live up to my obligations, and for me, the understanding of what was asked of me from the Bible came first.

Libertarianism explicitly allows freedom of religion, but I came upon it later. I evaluate it according to this standard: it is not sufficient for sainthood as the parable of Lazarus showed. It is not required for sainthood, either, as far as my reading the works of Mother Theresa, Theresa of Lisieux, Theresa of Avila, Padre Pio, or St. Francis de Sales shows: none of them bothered to denounce the state at all, but gave examples of "good rulers" who used their position to perform good works. Now saints aren't perfect, but they don't exactly seem like role models of evil to me.

 
At 11/04/2010 5:03 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Not in that parable, but there are parables about groups in the bible. The rebellious orchard tenets who killed the son of the orchard owner, for example. :)"

As I said, this is an area in which I'm pretty weak. Maybe I'll shut up & just come along for the ride.

 
At 11/04/2010 5:58 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Something to keep in mind when discussing Jesus is that as far as I know, everything we know of him was written at a much later time by those who knew him, and those accounts have then been translated so that I can read them in English.

So, inconsistencies or even contradictions shouldn't be surprising. In fact, what should be surprising is that so much has survived from a time when few were literate, and even fewer had any reason to consider recording the comings and goings of a small group of troublemakers in a backwater corner of the world.

With that perspective, perhaps we shouldn't take everything we read as gospel.

Sorry, I couldn't resist that one.

 
At 11/04/2010 11:49 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

As I said, this is an area in which I'm pretty weak. Maybe I'll shut up & just come along for the ride.
It's all good. It's just that finally we're talking about material I've actually read. :)


With that perspective, perhaps we shouldn't take everything we read as gospel.
That's actually the Catholic position as well: my priest in Oregon said the bible is a theological document with known historical errors. It's considered infallible in the theological sense only, and should not in every case be read literally. He said you pretty much needed a study bible with all the notes on translations, history, and cultural and theological background to get very much out of it.
That said, interpreting literature is something I'm actually quite good at, even if I'm equally good at putting my foot in my mouth and saying stupendously stupid things from time to time. ;)

 
At 11/05/2010 7:31 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

I always understood this as: pay your debts! If you owe taxes to the government: pay them because it's hypocrisy as a member of Roman society to say you don't. And give to God what God is owed as well.

I suggest that you actually do some reading again because you are way off as usual. Here is something that goes a bit beyond your superficial understanding of the quote taken in context.

First, it is clear that Jesus was a Jewish teacher and understood that God not tell His people to make up their own law. He would clearly not tell the teachers of the law to violate God's Law.

If we take this in context we see that the Pharisees, who were teachers of the Law and understood what it said about laws other than those of God. They knew that not even the Israelite kings were permitted to make their own laws but were charged to interpret God's law. The Pharisees simply set up a very clever trap Jesus.

The Pharisees understood that when a man finances the agents of Rome to enforce the laws of Rome he violates God's Law. They understood that the followers of God would not pay tribute to Caesar and his many false gods.

The Pharisees set their trap for Jesus by only leaving two choices on the table. He could ether say that:

1. It is lawful to pay tribute to "Caesar" (which is a violation of God's Law)

or

2. It is not lawful to pay tribute to Rome, which would mean His death.

Either way the Pharisees would win and Jesus would be out of the way.

But Jesus also knew that the Law prohibited the payment of tribute to Rome. He also knew that Caesar would be pissed off and condemn anyone who would say that tribute should not be paid. (The Adams book that I cited in previous arguments about taxation provides an interesting historical context about Jewish tax revolts and their consequences.)

Jesus simply avoided the trap by saying, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s," without defining what was 'Caesar's'. As far as Jesus was concerned the Pharisees should render to Caesar, an unbeliever who did not obey God's Law, what was due to anyone who did not obey God's Law.

The trap was reversed because there was no way that the Pharisees would tell that God's Law, which is what they were supposed to follow, required that Caesar be put to death.

My argument is not novel, original, or clever. It has been made by many theologians and interpreters and has been supported by hundreds of quotes from scripture to support it. The fact that you prefer the very superficial interpretation that supports your preference for collectivism tells us a lot more about you than about your religion.

 
At 11/05/2010 8:07 AM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

The fact that you prefer the very superficial interpretation that supports your preference for collectivism tells us a lot more about you than about your religion.
That does make sense, and I have found that argument on-line since the topic came up. But without the historical background, how would someone be expected to come up with that?
But that does ignore the many other pieces of context in the bible and early Christian writings from which my view was built, including the Romans quote.

 
At 11/05/2010 8:12 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

I had never heard of any other interpretation while growing up, and I figured it to be similar to the injunction to make peace with your neighbor before offering sacrifice, or Christ's command to honor your debt to your family rather than using Church status to protect it: don't use religion as an excuse not to meet your obligations.

I guess that when being raised and thought by collectivists it is too much to expect that you would be exposed to anything else. But that still does not excuse your inability to do your own reading and your own thinking.

Let me note that while I am not against religion, I do not see any reason why civil society should follow any particular mythology as its basis, particularly when, as you pointed out, the mythology is full of contradictions, bad translations, ambiguity, and misinterpretation.

My point is that even with all those flaws the Bible still comes out on the side of liberty. If you read 1 and 2 Samuel you find out where the writers of the Hebrew Bible stood on the issue of the State. And if you read the words attributed to Jesus you find no support for collectivism, state institutions, or any of the Marxism that you seem to hold so dear.

In fact, any idiot can see that the Bible is mainly full of examples where the Church is fighting to protect itself from the power of the State, where a people are struggling to be free from the State, or where the individual is fighting to stay free from oppression. The fact that you would try to use the Jews as an argument in favour of taxation shows that you have no clue about history. As Adams pointed out, the Jews carried out the longest and least successful tax revolts in human history.

Christ actually said quite a bit more than just love your neighbor as yourself, although that is of primary importance.

He never taught to worship the State as you do. He never said that we have to pay more in taxes so that some bureaucrat can pretend to use the money to help others. He never said that collectivism and serfdom were preferable to individual liberty and individual responsibility.

 
At 11/05/2010 8:36 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

You accuse me of using the bible to further "my doctrine of collectivism". I'm only trying to figure out and live up to my obligations, and for me, the understanding of what was asked of me from the Bible came first.

The Bible does not consider the 'obligations' that you are talking bout just. As I said, you have a lot to learn about Jewish history.

Libertarianism explicitly allows freedom of religion, but I came upon it later. I evaluate it according to this standard: it is not sufficient for sainthood as the parable of Lazarus showed.

Libertarianism permits individuals to love their neighbours just as Jesus taught. Nowhere in your Book is it said that it is a virtue to steal from some so that you can help others. As the Parable of the Good Samaritan showed, if you want to do good try using your own money.

It is not required for sainthood, either, as far as my reading the works of Mother Theresa,...

Is that the same Mother Theresa who raised all kinds of money to help the poor but used little of it for that purpose? I am sorry but creating houses for the dying does not impress me as much as trying to cure them. And it does not impress me when someone like Mother Theresa prostitutes herself by accepting $25K from Duvalier as she praises his atrocities in Haiti or writes a letter to Judge Ito (yes, that Judge Ito) praising the thief Charles Keating.

http://tinyurl.com/2ugneck

http://tinyurl.com/3xh5wbh

She had a very perverse idea of the need for suffering to find God and was hardly saint material if we were to use objective means to judge her. Of course, I have little doubt that the Catholic Church, which is also a political organization, will make her a saint as quickly as possible because image is much more important than substance for the ignorant believers who do not really know how to think for themselves.

Theresa of Lisieux, Theresa of Avila, Padre Pio, or St. Francis de Sales shows: none of them bothered to denounce the state at all, but gave examples of "good rulers" who used their position to perform good works.

You are confusing what the Church says with God's Law even when they contradict each other. The Catholic Church is a political organization and has no interest in the arguments for individual liberty that is found in the Bible. Jesus was a Jewish prophet teaching Jewish scripture and God's Law, not a Catholic priest teaching texts selected by Constantine and the bishops at the Council of Nicea.

In case you have forgotten the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and Jesus' divinity were made up there. It was there that Jesus the Jewish teacher became a Christian.

Now saints aren't perfect, but they don't exactly seem like role models of evil to me.

That is because you are naive.

http://tinyurl.com/37u89p3

 
At 11/05/2010 8:54 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

As I said, this is an area in which I'm pretty weak. Maybe I'll shut up & just come along for the ride.

Actually, you know that you are weak in this area. That puts you ahead of our friend who is weak but does not know it. His is a very superficial view put forth by out of context quotes that often can be interpreted as opposite of what he claims.

I find it fascinating that the atheist left has spent so much time searching religious texts to try and pick out a quote here or there that it claims supports statism. But when one actually looks at the words, the context, and the secular historical picture, one finds the opposite of what they say.

Think about this for a moment and see how much sense it makes. The Jews carried out the longest tax revolts in history. The history of the ancient world, is primarily the history of taxation. (I recommend Charles Adams', For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization, as an excellent overview. It is one of the best books ever written on the subject.) Now in this environment populated with tax rebels and tax evaders we are supposed to believe that prophets competed for followers by teaching that statism is good and that taxes were justified. Our friend is actually clueless on the subject, just as he is totally clueless when he discusses politics.

 
At 11/05/2010 9:05 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Something to keep in mind when discussing Jesus is that as far as I know, everything we know of him was written at a much later time by those who knew him, and those accounts have then been translated so that I can read them in English.

Absolutely true. There is a great deal of scholarship that points out the numerous inconsistencies and mistranslations but the faithful have trouble accepting that their Book, which was put together by Constantine to justify the State as much as anything, may not accurately represent the teaching of Jesus and his followers. They also do not like to admit that history and context matter when trying to figure out the message.

...what should be surprising is that so much has survived from a time when few were literate, and even fewer had any reason to consider recording the comings and goings of a small group of troublemakers in a backwater corner of the world.

It is not all that surprising because people took their prophets seriously and tried to keep the teaching alive. What I find surprising is how the supposed faithful are not looking at the surviving texts that Constantine rejected as unfit to be in the Bible. If you care about what Jesus taught how can you ignore The Gospel of Philip, The Gospel of Thomas, The Book of Thomas the Contender, or The Apocryphon of James?

How is it that a non-believer like me can know more about what is in the Bible and the other texts than our Catholic School educated friend?

 
At 11/05/2010 11:07 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

That's actually the Catholic position as well: my priest in Oregon said the bible is a theological document with known historical errors. It's considered infallible in the theological sense only, and should not in every case be read literally. He said you pretty much needed a study bible with all the notes on translations, history, and cultural and theological background to get very much out of it.

But that is one thing that you do not do. You know little of the Bible. You are trying to pull a quote here and there out of context and choose to ignore the vast evidence that contradicts your point.

That said, interpreting literature is something I'm actually quite good at, even if I'm equally good at putting my foot in my mouth and saying stupendously stupid things from time to time. ;)

The evidence suggests that you are not good at interpreting. What you are good at is creating a narrative to support your opinion regardless of what the literature actually says.

 
At 11/05/2010 11:39 AM, Blogger Sean said...

VangIV,

How is it that a non-believer like me can know more about what is in the Bible and the other texts than our Catholic School educated friend?
You don't. You do seem to know more about anti-Christian texts and the the sub-pieces of Christianity that libertarians have focused on in support of their position. But when you start using anti-Christian texts, Christian counter-culture texts, and out-of-context examples grabbed in support of libertarianism to show that it meshes with mainstream Christianity, your argument has given up the ghost. I think I know in the main what Catholics believe, even if there are holes in my education here and there, but it's clear you don't. I have no problem with that, but please don't try to pretend otherwise, and don't descend into virulence because you disagree with my interpretations.
I'm not going to get rat-holed into defending Catholicism or comparing Christian factions to one another, so I'm going to consider that line of discussion closed, and consider libertarianism from a humanist rather than religious perspective.

If I'm going to take your argument for libertarianism as a proper moral perspective seriously, I'm going to need the following concession from you: understand that most people who believe in some form of collectivism do so because the believe it to be moral: the best way to achieve the best outcome for a group of individuals. They (and I) may be sincerely wrong, but they (and I) are sincere in their desire to become more moral.
It's common understanding that the rules are a little different for societies and governments than individuals, which is why people like me don't consider taxation necessarily to be theft. I am open to challenging that understanding. If government can be replaced with a set of entirely voluntary collectives that perform the same functions without coercion of non-members, I find that morally preferable.

 
At 11/05/2010 2:36 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Actually, you know that you are weak in this area. That puts you ahead of our friend who is weak but does not know it. His is a very superficial view put forth by out of context quotes that often can be interpreted as opposite of what he claims."

Actually, 'our friend' (Sean, is it OK if we talk about you as if you weren't in the room? :-)) seems to be a really smart guy, who is at least willing to listen to and discuss ideas contrary to his world view. I believe he is trying to find flaws in your arguments and hasn't been successful, but isn't quite convinced of their veracity either. An understandable position. I think if Sean completes the reading assignments he has been given he will have a better understanding of what he reads here. That may take a while, though, as he has this bad habit of going to work, which can be an annoying distraction from learning new ideas.

I know that for myself, first reading Hazlitt was an experience I can only compare to coming out of a cloud and seeing the world more clearly.

 
At 11/05/2010 2:48 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

And by the way, thanks, VangelV, for the many reading suggestions. I keep a list of things I want to read, but don't hold out any hope of finishing it in my lifetime.

 
At 11/05/2010 3:07 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

That does make sense, and I have found that argument on-line since the topic came up. But without the historical background, how would someone be expected to come up with that?

You are supposed to find out about the historical background and read the texts. Before you make pronouncements about what something means it makes a great deal of sense to obtain the knowledge that is needed to come up with and support your interpretation.

But that does ignore the many other pieces of context in the bible and early Christian writings from which my view was built, including the Romans quote.

But the quote has multiple interpretations. As I pointed out above, it is easy to reject your interpretation out of hand simply by looking at the context of where and how the quote was made, and what the words really mean. Under God's Law Caesar is owed death and nothing more. Giving him tribute means rejecting God's Law.

 
At 11/05/2010 4:03 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

You don't. You do seem to know more about anti-Christian texts and the the sub-pieces of Christianity that libertarians have focused on in support of their position.

I have used no anti-Christian texts. I have used the Bible for most of my arguments and point out that if you interpret Jesus as teaching collectivism and statism you have no idea what you are talking about.

But when you start using anti-Christian texts, Christian counter-culture texts, and out-of-context examples grabbed in support of libertarianism to show that it meshes with mainstream Christianity, your argument has given up the ghost. I think I know in the main what Catholics believe, even if there are holes in my education here and there, but it's clear you don't.

I have not used any counter-culture texts or anything that is not a part of the Bible just so that you cannot try to wiggle out of this argument by making false claims. Every argument I have given has come out of the Christian texts and from Christian theologians.

Once again, when you look at all of the words attributed to Jesus where do you get the idea that he was a statist or a collectivist? Don't just give us a quote. Tell us why that quote makes Jesus a statist. And tell us why we should ignore the overwhelming set of evidence that Jesus preached love and individual, not institutional, responsibility.

 
At 11/05/2010 4:17 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

You are supposed to find out about the historical background and read the texts
I suppose you could say that, but I've always had priests saying things more like this:

http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/766/Render_Unto_Caesar.html

In context, that seemed like a pretty obvious explanation. I didn't have a lot of incentive to look further. And that seems to be more in line with mainstream Catholic thought. That doesn't mean it's right, of course.

 
At 11/05/2010 4:47 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

I have no problem with that, but please don't try to pretend otherwise, and don't descend into virulence because you disagree with my interpretations.

What you have is a problem with reality. I have no idea how you can call the Bible, which is what I have been quoting an anti-Christian text. Or how arguments put forth by Christian theologians as anti-Christian. I know that Marxism is popular among some within the Catholic Church, particularly in Africa and South America. But that is a political orientation not one supported by the Bible, which does not promote the State.

Now if you want to hear anti-Church arguments I can provide plenty of them. But there is no need to do that here because Christianity and the Church are not the same thing and there is much that is positive in the basic teaching of Christian mythology. Sadly, you seem to be ignorant of it.

I'm not going to get rat-holed into defending Catholicism or comparing Christian factions to one another, so I'm going to consider that line of discussion closed, and consider libertarianism from a humanist rather than religious perspective.

I am not exactly anti-Catholic and consider Aquinas to be one of the most intelligent and productive thinkers in history. And let me be clear that I have no interest in exploiting the inconsistencies and hypocrisy that is evident in many Christian sects. There is simply no need for me to do that because the Jesus who is found in the Bible supports the view that I am advocating and opposes the collectivism and statism that you support.

 
At 11/05/2010 4:56 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"...understand that most people who believe in some form of collectivism do so because the believe it to be moral: the best way to achieve the best outcome for a group of individuals.

This may be true for many, or even most people, but also included are some who enjoy power over others, and some who believe they are smarter than others - and they may well be - who believe they know what is best for others including what is best for me, and even how best others should spend their money, including my money. At that point I disagree.

There are also those who may feel guilty about being better off than others or about past treatment of others who mistakenly feel they can assuage their guilt by throwing collective money at the percieved problems. More reading suggestions here and here. :-)

"They (and I) may be sincerely wrong, but they (and I) are sincere in their desire to become more moral."

Your sincerity isn't in question, but I'm not sure you can attest to the sincerity of others of the group you call 'most people'.

"If government can be replaced with a set of entirely voluntary collectives that perform the same functions without coercion of non-members, I find that morally preferable."

As we discussed, what seems like years ago, there were hundreds of voluntary collectives and groups, and mutual aid societies in the US before government illegally co-opted so many of them in the name of "the general welfare"

These groups performed their functions in a superior manner to government programs that replaced them, in no small part because they were VOLUNTARY.

A libertarian view isn't incompatible with a collective group of any kind, as long as membership is voluntary, and withdrawal from the group is allowed.

In the past I have belonged to collectives called bowling leagues where like minded individuals spent their time and effort and money for a common goal. All members benefited from this group action, but I certainly wouldn't have forced people to belong, or taken their money for the collective purpose against their will.

Your vision of a collective appears to be coercive, and therein lies the entire problem.

 
At 11/05/2010 4:58 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

If I'm going to take your argument for libertarianism as a proper moral perspective seriously, I'm going to need the following concession from you: understand that most people who believe in some form of collectivism do so because the believe it to be moral: the best way to achieve the best outcome for a group of individuals.

And you have to understand that nobody is forcing those people to act collectively to pursue their collective goals as long as they do not try to impose their views by initiating force against others. No libertarian will object if you decide to join a commune or decide to give what you earn to people that you believe are not as capable as you so they need your support. What the libertarian will object about is when you decide that he must be a part of your collective or that you must tax him so that your 'collective' can pursue its goals.

Collective goals are nice in theory if one does not think too much but they can never stand up to scrutiny because in the real world there is no way that you can convert ranked preferences of individual members into a collective ranking and have everyone be satisfied. If four people cannot decide on what type of pizza to order how will four million decide on what kind of school curriculum is appropriate for their children?

 
At 11/05/2010 5:02 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"...understand that most people who believe in some form of collectivism do so because the believe it to be moral: the best way to achieve the best outcome for a group of individuals.

This may be true for many, or even most people, but also included are some who enjoy power over others, and some who believe they are smarter than others - and they may well be - who believe they know what is best for others including what is best for me, and even how best others should spend their money, including my money. At that point I disagree.

There are also those who may feel guilty about being better off than others or about past treatment of others who mistakenly feel they can assuage their guilt by throwing collective money at the percieved problems. More reading suggestions here and here. :-)

"They (and I) may be sincerely wrong, but they (and I) are sincere in their desire to become more moral."

Your sincerity isn't in question, but I'm not sure you can attest to the sincerity of others of the group you call 'most people'.

(continued)

 
At 11/05/2010 5:03 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

(continued)

"If government can be replaced with a set of entirely voluntary collectives that perform the same functions without coercion of non-members, I find that morally preferable."

As we discussed, what seems like years ago, there were hundreds of voluntary collectives and groups, and mutual aid societies in the US before government illegally co-opted so many of them in the name of "the general welfare"

These groups performed their functions in a superior manner to government programs that replaced them, in no small part because they were VOLUNTARY.

A libertarian view isn't incompatible with a collective group of any kind, as long as membership is voluntary, and withdrawal from the group is allowed.

In the past I have belonged to collectives called bowling leagues where like minded individuals spent their time and effort and money for a common goal. All members benefited from this group action, but I certainly wouldn't have forced people to belong, or taken their money for the collective purpose against their will.

Your vision of a collective appears to be coercive, and therein lies the entire problem.

 
At 11/05/2010 8:46 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

I know that for myself, first reading Hazlitt was an experience I can only compare to coming out of a cloud and seeing the world more clearly.

I would have to agree. But our friend will have to do some basic reading. So far he has not been able to because he would rather argue than do some basic research to find out what he would benefit from.

And keep in mind that there are many free audio books that would help even if he spend some time driving to work.

 
At 11/05/2010 9:16 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

And by the way, thanks, VangelV, for the many reading suggestions. I keep a list of things I want to read, but don't hold out any hope of finishing it in my lifetime.

Sorry about the large volume of recommendations but I find many of these topics fascinating and if you read authors who write well it does not take much time to go through many texts.

If you drive a lot there are always mp3s. For example, you can download a free copy of The Market for Liberty, which is a great defense of libertarianism, from iTunes and there are hundreds of great titles available for free download as an audio, PDF, or e-book format from the Mises institute, either directly from its site or from iTunes.

Do yourself a big favour and download the Paul Cantor, Commerce and Culture, lectures, again in iTunes. The material is amazing and if you are like most of my friends, you will go over the recordings many times and will wind up buying a few of Cantor's books as well. His Tomas Mann essay, Hyperinflation and Hyper-reality is also a must because it will help explain what we are likely to go through when Bernanke kills off the USD.

On the topic of taxation there is always the Charles Adams lectures, The Rosetta Stone to the US Code: A New History of Taxation, also available for free in iTunes. (Adams' book, For Good and Evil, is the best history of taxes and is also a must read.)

 
At 11/07/2010 8:48 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

What you have is a problem with reality. I have no idea how you can call the Bible, which is what I have been quoting an anti-Christian text.
That wasn't the source I had a problem with.



Your vision of a collective appears to be coercive, and therein lies the entire problem.

No, I prefer any collective that works and is non-coercive. I just want that option to switch to, and for something things it doesn't exist. For example, however much I prefer FOSS, I still need Windows to feed my StarCraft 2 addiction.

Where I begin to despair is with the realization that if you demolish government, you won't demolish coercion, you will just change the form of it. To my meager knowledge, where it's been tried, fascism, communism, dictatorship, or despotism have quickly sprung up to replace whatever existed before.
The US government was a brilliant attempt to replace government with something so minimal that it couldn't do much harm. Shrinking it may do a lot of good, but I just don't think you can replace it with nothing.

 
At 11/08/2010 8:45 AM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

Btw, I have started listening to Rothbard... will take some time to get through, I'm sure. :)

 
At 11/08/2010 10:00 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

That wasn't the source I had a problem with.

As I said above, I have deliberately kept to the Bible for my argument because I did not want you to try to wiggle out by claiming that I was anti-Christian. The arguments that I gave largely come from Christian theologians.

For the record, which source did you have a problem with and where did I ever use that source as the foundation of my argument?

No, I prefer any collective that works and is non-coercive.

There is no such thing because people are not robots. Their tastes and preferences change so no collective can satisfy their needs. That is why Marxist regimes always end badly; the ruling class has to resort to force to keep the membership in line.

I just want that option to switch to, and for something things it doesn't exist. For example, however much I prefer FOSS, I still need Windows to feed my StarCraft 2 addiction.

You seem to ignore the fact that human society needs to account for human nature. This is not a fantasy that we live in. We are actually in the real world where real individuals have very real and very unique views, tastes, needs, and preferences. It would help if you got stopped playing StarCraft, gout out of the basement, and see things as they are. (A girlfriend or wife would 'help' you see just how messy the world really is.)

 
At 11/08/2010 10:05 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Where I begin to despair is with the realization that if you demolish government, you won't demolish coercion, you will just change the form of it. To my meager knowledge, where it's been tried, fascism, communism, dictatorship, or despotism have quickly sprung up to replace whatever existed before.

You are certainly right about your meager knowledge. Tyrannies deveop because governments do not work, not because there is too much liberty and people are free.

The US government was a brilliant attempt to replace government with something so minimal that it couldn't do much harm.

Correct. That was Jefferson's idea and the idea of many of, but not the majority of your Founding Fathers.

Shrinking it may do a lot of good, but I just don't think you can replace it with nothing.

A minimal state would be a perfectly acceptable first step. Get rid of all government functions that cannot be done better by private markets and allow competition to the federal government. How many functions do you think that there would be left?

 
At 11/08/2010 4:24 PM, Blogger Sean said...

In my above post: "For example, however much I prefer FOSS, I still need Windows to feed my StarCraft 2 addiction."
This doesn't mean I'm confusing FOSS with libertarianism: just an example of trading off ideals vs reality. So I guess this is an extremely oblique example.

 
At 11/08/2010 7:08 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

As we discussed, what seems like years ago, there were hundreds of voluntary collectives and groups, and mutual aid societies in the US before government illegally co-opted so many of them in the name of "the general welfare"

I think our friend is aiming for more than that. He wants collectives that have more control over the individual lives of their members and where most of the decisions are made collectively. Mutual aid societies worked a lot differently because they were voluntary organizations that only impacted a certain part of one's life.

 
At 11/08/2010 7:54 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

You are supposed to find out about the historical background and read the texts
I suppose you could say that, but I've always had priests saying things more like this:

http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/766/Render_Unto_Caesar.html


I am very familiar with those arguments. The Catholic Church used to have a major problem with the Liberation Theology movement and still does as do many other Christian sects.

The Catholic Church finally saw the light and Cardinal Ratzinger, now the sitting Pope, exposed the flaws within the teachings of the socialists who used the Church for political purposes and to spread Marxist mythology. I guess that your priest never got Ratzinger's memo.

In context, that seemed like a pretty obvious explanation. I didn't have a lot of incentive to look further.

But it does not make sense. Jewish Law, God's Law, says that what is owed to Caesar is death, not tribute. Your acceptance of the superficial interpretation only betrays an ignorance of Jewish history, of the Bible, and of the position of your own Church.

And that seems to be more in line with mainstream Catholic thought.

This is very puzzling. What kind of a good Catholic would not know that Cardinal Ratzinger slammed the Liberation Theology movement as a Marxist mythology that deceived believers into thinking that humans could create a Utopian system independent of God and the Church. Being familiar with the folly of Utopian ideologies and the totalitarian systems they create the Ratzinger was very clear that about the fact that Liberation Theology did not represent the views of the Catholic Church?

I just went to Google and in no time at all found this interpretation, which is very similar to many others that I have heard or read by Christian theologians. This interpretation fits better with what is in the Bible and with Jewish history.

http://www.hiscovenantministries.org/scripture/romans_2.htm

 
At 11/08/2010 10:03 PM, Blogger Sean said...

VangeIV,

You know, I started answering your points and questions seriously and honestly, but then I read this:

(A girlfriend or wife would 'help' you see just how messy the world really is.)
I live in a house that I bought. I already explained earlier that I have a wife and two kids. Perhaps playing games isn't the best use of my time, but your immediate application of hostile stereotypes is the latest in a string of unwarranted personal attacks. Why should I expose myself to your abuse?
This is your superior morality?

 
At 11/08/2010 10:24 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Ron H.,

There are also those who may feel guilty about being better off than others or about past treatment of others who mistakenly feel they can assuage their guilt by throwing collective money at the percieved problems. More reading suggestions here and here. :-)
True enough. I accept the argument that spending someone else's money to assuage personal guilt is a very poor idea.

In the past I have belonged to collectives called bowling leagues where like minded individuals spent their time and effort and money for a common goal.
I've nothing against bowling leagues, of course. :) But it's a long step from bowling leagues to roads, bridges, clean water, clean air, etc. There are a lot of decisions currently arbitrated by political power. How do you fix that?

It's not that I want some group of people to have vast control over anyone's life: I don't. I only don't know how to avoid it.

 
At 11/10/2010 9:28 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

I've nothing against bowling leagues, of course. :) But it's a long step from bowling leagues to roads, bridges, clean water, clean air, etc. There are a lot of decisions currently arbitrated by political power. How do you fix that?

Common law. As an example, it would protect you by stopping me from buying land next to your hose and storing toxic chemicals or any pollutants that cross the boundary line and do harm to you. It also protects me from claims by you that are not substantiated, which means that you can't claim my CO2 is a pollutant that is harming you, to pick one example.

Bridges, roads, libraries, rail ways, airports, tunnels, and other infrastructure were built with private funds in the past and there is no reason why they can't be built by private interests again.

http://tinyurl.com/22oaspz

 
At 11/10/2010 11:20 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

I live in a house that I bought. I already explained earlier that I have a wife and two kids. Perhaps playing games isn't the best use of my time, but your immediate application of hostile stereotypes is the latest in a string of unwarranted personal attacks. Why should I expose myself to your abuse?
This is your superior morality?


My point is a simple one that you should have seen. You have exactly the same traits as idealistic young males who have no real world experience. Yet you are a mature person with a good job, your own home, a wife, and kids. I can understand why young men would have the views that you do because most of us were emotional and immature as youths. But there is no excuse for a mature and established individual to still hang on to emotional views and to ignore logic and experience.

This may seem to be abusive advice but it is for your own good. Grow up, and shed emotion in favour of logic. If you can't defend a position logically don't create a narrative that excuses your choice of still believing in it but work hard to falsify the argument against it or if you can't do that, find a position that you can defend. It is my contention that you already have most of the information that you need and that you would not have to do nearly as much work as you may think. If you spend an hour or two per day looking at the material that has been cited and compare that to the material that you think that you learned you should have a much more sound position than the one that you hold today.

What I can't understand is how a Catholic is unaware of these very debates within your own Church or the very sound arguments made against much of your position by the Cardinal who is now the sitting Pope. What I can't understand is how someone who had the advantage of a Catholic education is unaware of Aquinas' great argument in favour of Natural Rights, which does not even need a belief in God to be seen as sound. What I can't understand is how you can justify using force against a minority just because it does not believe in the same things as the majority, or how you can put forth a totally immoral position and justify it by arguing that you don't really want to consider morals and ethics.

Sorry to say this again but you really do need to grow up. Shed the immature gamer who is hiding in his mom's basement from within and try being the logical, moral, and ethical person that you could and should be.

 

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