Why True Libertarians Critique Corporatism

James Joyner’s explanation of why libertarians don’t care about corporate power, which DougJ links below, falls short. Joyner says “Libertarianism, by any definition, is concerned about intrusion on individual liberty by the government”. Using that definition, he argues that wondering whether modern libertarians don’t write about corporate abuses of power is like wondering “why NARAL doesn’t spend more time advocating for the plight of stray cats.”

I think that’s a partially true but ultimately unhelpful way of understanding libertarianism. It’s not a single-interest advocacy group, it’s a political philosophy that claims to have broad application to the organization of society. Though I love Wikipedia, the libertarianism page Joyner cites is a bit of a mess. This definition is cleaner, because it’s a positive definition, and to understand a political philosophy, you need to know what it’s adherents stand for, and derive what they’re against from that. By the definition in the second link, Libertarianism’s fundamental positive interest is property rights. And one of the ways that property has value (and, therefore, why it’s worth having the right to property) is that it can be traded in a market.

So, free markets are key component of most libertarian thinking. And any well-articulated conception of a free market recognizes that the market needs regulation to ensure transparency and fairness for all actors in the market. If regulatory agencies or the legislative bodies making those regulations are unduly influenced by some market participants, the market is no longer free, and the market participants’ property rights are infringed. In our current markets, the main enemy of market freedom is corporate capture of legislators or regulators.

This is absolutely basic stuff to someone like Ron Paul, who can rattle off an indictment of corporatism that contrasts it with free market capitalism. Whatever your concerns about Paul’s goldbuggery and other side interests, on this topic he’s internally consistent and quite articulate. The question that DougJ, ED and I were discussing the other day is why the leading libertarian thinkers, other than Paul and his followers, seem to give corporatism almost no attention. Joyner mentions in passing that libertarians are concerned about colluding and price-fixing, but excuses their lack of consistent attention by pointing to their focus on government intervention.

I don’t think that’s an excuse, because the focus on government intervention flows from a concern over property rights (and, therefore, free markets), and the fact that Reason seems to simply ignore corporatism indicates that whatever philosophy they’re pedding is a far cry from what the former Libertarian Party candidate for President believes.

And, to forestall the inevitable bitching in the comments, I swear on the grave of Joe Strummer this is the last post on libertarianism that I’ll write for a long, long time.

112 replies
  1. 1
    Ija says:

    It’s the difference between libertarians who are supported by corporate dollars and those who are not. No one wants to anger his or her paymaster. Life is like that. I just wish these people would admit it rather than hiding behind high minded rationale.

  2. 2
    jwb says:

    @Ija: “Life is like that.” Strange how that works, isn’t it? And stranger still how difficult it is to get people to recognize it. Probably because recognizing it makes it more likely that you would say something to anger your paymaster.

  3. 3

    “Libertarianism, by any definition, is concerned about intrusion on individual liberty by the government”.

    And this is what puts the lie to the claim that libertarians are primarily interested in advancing human freedom. They’re not. They’re perfectly comfortable with the powerful exercising their power over, and even to the detriment of, the less powerful.

    They just want that power to based on wealth, rather than democratic and constitutional legitimacy.

  4. 4
    p.a. says:

    follow the money.

  5. 5
    TR says:

    Though I love Wikipedia, the libertarianism page Joyner cites is a bit of a mess.

    Really? I thought the invisible hand of the free market brought order to everything.

  6. 6
    Rob says:

    Any “libertarian” that talks about tort reform tends to show their true colors fairly quickly.

  7. 7

    The question that DougJ, ED and I were discussing the other day is why the leading libertarian thinkers, other than Paul and his followers, seem to give corporatism almost no attention.

    It’s not about philosophy. It’s about money. “The leading libertarian thinkers” – the DC-based crew and Reason and CATO, for instance – are bought and paid for by corporate interests, including Koch money, tobacco company money, and the Republican side of K Street.

  8. 8
    Chris says:

    Libertarianism, by any definition, is concerned about intrusion on individual liberty by the federal government

    Fixxed.

    Our libertarians usually don’t even have the courtesy to oppose government powers as a whole; only the feds (see the obsession with “states’ rights.”) Which of course just kicks the can down the road; how’re you going to prevent state and local governments from oppressing people, which (ask Southern blacks) they can do just as easily as any federal agent?

  9. 9
    RSA says:

    True libertarians, in my opinion, argue that limited liability is inconsistent with free markets. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but it strikes me as reasonable from a libertarian perspective that if some company’s decision causes a person harm, that person should be able to sue the people who made the decision rather than some fictitious entity.

  10. 10
    Morbo says:

    @Chris: Oh how quickly we forget about the fascism of trash collection contracts.

  11. 11
    russell says:

    Great post, and thanks for the link to the libertarianism article at Stanford. It was extremely useful.

    Everybody who isn’t a freaking fascist is interested in folks being as free as they can be. Libertarians can’t make any unique claim in that area.

    My issue with self-identified libertarians, in this country, today, is that whenever we get past the fine rhetoric and come down to brass tacks, their position is always “I got mine, fuck you”.

    Deeds, not words, y’all.

  12. 12
    Culture of Truth says:

    It may be that a socio-political philosophy will seem to an outsider to fail to address a problem because it doesn’t see a problem at all. But if a problem is acknowledged, a political belief system should have something a little better than ‘that’s not our problem.’

  13. 13
    DBrown says:

    The simple and honest answer to why libertarians don’t give a rat’s ass about the fact that corporations are far more dangerous to freee markets is that all such people hate to pay taxes; otherwise, they are typical stupid asswipes that use any excuse to justify their belief that taxes are the only evil in the world and since ONLY governements tax, that and only that makes them focus on the evil power of government and ignore the main causes of loss of freedom in our country. Simple.

  14. 14
    master c says:

    Why on Joe’s grave?

  15. 15
    kth says:

    There is nothing–nothing–that can be effected with the coercive force of government, that couldn’t be effected in a minimalist libertarian state with the pervasive use of blacklists.

  16. 16
    Redshift says:

    @Ija:

    It’s the difference between libertarians who are supported by corporate dollars and those who are not.

    I’d want to see more evidence of that. Not that the ones who are supported by corporate dollars don’t care about corporate power, but that the ones who aren’t do care.

    All the libertarians I’ve actually met in person were in the SF community, and most of the ones I actually argued with back before I got tired of it were well before the Web (and weren’t working for a print publication), so I don’t think any of them were getting paid. And to a man, they had a worldview that government was the only threat to liberty, and could not conceive that if government powers were eliminated as they proposed, that corporations or armed gangs would easily bring far worse oppression than what they imagined government was doing. (And being unable to see that, not surprisingly, they couldn’t begin to see that any of it was already going on.)

    One guy I knew was part of a libertarian group opposed to the Microsoft anti-trust investigation. He sincerely believed that a monopoly such as Microsoft couldn’t exist because if they tried to use monopoly power to raise prices, a competitor would arise and undercut them. Really.

    That’s when I came up with my rule that I don’t get into arguments with libertarians, because I was taught that it’s not polite to argue about religion.

  17. 17
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    And, to forestall the inevitable bitching in the comments, I swear on the grave of Joe Strummer this is the last post on libertarianism that I’ll write for a long, long time.

    Awesome. Can we get a commitment by everyone else?

  18. 18
    daveNYC says:

    Part of the problem comes from people being brainwashed over the decades that the government is eeeviiiillll!!! If you talk to them about how company X can exert just as much control over someone as the government, they do see the point and will agree, but the government always seems to remain enemy number one.

    The other thing I’ve gotten from talking to a few people is that they just don’t seem to understand quite how interconnected things are. The whole ‘tragedy of the commons’ issue doesn’t seem to be on their checklist when thinking about a situation.

  19. 19
    E.D. Kain says:

    Very good post, mistermix. One of the best things I’ve read on libertarianism recently is this post by my co-blogger Jason Kuznicki. A really honest look at what libertarianism means to him that I think is worth an honest reading.

  20. 20
    Special One says:

    Joyner says “Libertarianism, by any definition, is concerned about intrusion on individual liberty by the government”. Using that definition, he argues that wondering whether modern libertarians don’t write about corporate abuses of power is like wondering “why NARAL doesn’t spend more time advocating for the plight of stray cats.”

    So Libertarianism is a single-issue advocacy group?

    Shut up Joyner!

    Be champions.

  21. 21
    Chris says:

    The simple and honest answer to why libertarians don’t give a rat’s ass about the fact that corporations are far more dangerous to freee markets is that all such people hate to pay taxes

    I think a lot of them also simply don’t realize how much of their lifestyle is paid for by their taxes.

    We’ve had social safety nets and regulatory agencies in place for two generations at least, and even in their current half-starved condition, those things provide a huge amount of security compared to what we had a hundred year ago – and no one benefits from it so much as the suburban middle class where libertarianism is most likely to take root. People my age (I imagine even most boomers) simply don’t remember what life was like before the 1950s.

    Ironically, the real “invisible hand” in our society is big government. All those famously useless bureaucrats and regulators? I think of them as janitors. Everyone notices when a coffee spill remains for more than ten minutes and everyone curses the lazy, useless janitor for not getting to it in time; somehow, no one notices when the office is clean, or thinks about how it manages to stay clean day after day after day.

  22. 22
    Tim F. says:

    Joyner is normally less stupid than this. By his logic all we need to do to make libertarians happy forever is just call the government something else.

  23. 23
    Ash Can says:

    @Redshift: This is what I’ve heard from the libertarians I’ve talked to/argued with as well. Free markets solve everything, freely-entered-into contracts sort everything out, Capitalism is God, Government is Satan. Mistermix’s discussion of government intervention of precisely a certain kind under exactly the right circumstances smacks of moving the goalposts to me.

    And this:

    He sincerely believed that a monopoly such as Microsoft couldn’t exist because if they tried to use monopoly power to raise prices, a competitor would arise and undercut them.

    summarizes the beliefs of libertarians I’ve known to a T. Poor things.

  24. 24
    burnspbesq says:

    I think you let joiner off too easily.

    If Joyner truly believes that collusion and price-fixing (which, it should be remembered, are essentially the same thing, that is, one group of market participants creating and using information asymmetry to gain an unfair advantage over other market participants) are problems, well, the only player who can make those problems go away is government. And for Joyner not to acknowledge that is pretty ridiculous.

    Shorter liberal critique of Joyner: referees are a necessary condition for a fair game, stupid.

  25. 25
    Hawes says:

    You go back and look at some of the original materialist philosophers like Locke and Smith and they were also concerned about property being too much concentrated in too few hands. That for property to be a right, it had to be both valuable (worth something) and available (not monopolized by a few).

    What happened at the end of the 19th century in America was a realization that the old Jeffersonian ideals of a small government overseeing a nation of yeomen farmers who owned their own land was anachronistic.

    This is why men like Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson – men we might otherwise expect from their backgrounds to be conservatives – embraced greater regulation.

    As Wilson put it, “I don’t care how benevolent the master is going to be, I will not live under a master. That is not what America was created for. America was created in order that every man should have the same chance as every other man to exercise mastery over his own fortunes…We have gone along so far without very much assistance from our government. We have felt, and felt more and more in recent months, that the American people were at a certain disadvantage as compared to the people of other countries, because of what the governments of other countries were doing for them and our government omitting to do for us.”

  26. 26
    gex says:

    And here’s where I give props to EDK. He can acknowledge that corporate power can be a problem, not just government.

    But then, I feel like if you get a reasonable libertarian and can actually get them to study the history and facts on the ground, you eventually get a liberal.

  27. 27
    gex says:

    @Redshift:

    That’s when I came up with my rule that I don’t get into arguments with libertarians, because I was taught that it’s not polite to argue about religion.

    I’m going to adopt that stance. It really makes a lot of sense.

  28. 28
    Uloborus says:

    I’m sorry, Mix, but I just read that Ron Paul piece. It does not say what you say it does. It’s just a screed against any kind of government regulation taken from a slightly different angle. Given the hypocricy endemic to the libertarian movement I am guessing he’s merely trying to divert less rich people towards the interests of more rich people – attacking government regulation. There’s no real consistency in the examples he picks or attempt at context or discussion of corporate excess or abuse of power. This is a rant whose eye-crossing message is ‘See? Government regulation is bad because it makes rich people richer!’

  29. 29
    E.D. Kain says:

    @Hawes: Very good points. The question I have is how can we better redistribute not just wealth but actual capital, not just dollars but actual economic influence, in such a way that does not muck up the system and gives greater political and economic wherewithal to the most people possible. Certainly the age of financiers and their golden parachutes is not one we should hold up as an example of the best sort of prosperity we can achieve.

  30. 30
    mistermix says:

    @Uloborus: I worked to find a better reference, because I’ve heard Paul make the point about corporatism and regulatory capture, but I found a lot of taken-down YouTube video.

    You’ll allow that Paul at least understands what corporatism is, right?

  31. 31
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @master c: One swears on something holy, right?

  32. 32
    E.D. Kain says:

    @Uloborus: I disagree. I think it’s fairly blatantly saying that the government is engaging in favoritism in the markets – i.e. corporatism – which actually has very little to do with government regulation conceptually speaking. A government could engage in regulation without picking favorites, it’s just very difficult given all the special interests involved.

  33. 33
    matoko_chan says:

    c’mon mistermix.
    step away from the crack pipe.
    American “libertarians” are wholly intellectual whores held in babylonian captivity to the jesushumpers (socons) and the bankstahs.
    Even Ron Paul.
    if you believe in EDK’s unicorns (“the many thoughtful, nuanced libertarians I know and whose work I value, and who do not fit the stereotypes at all.” editor’s note– lawl) , i want some of what you’re smoking, because i find the whole idea of “libertarianism” in jeebushumper corporatist America profoundly depressing.
    and please note EDK cannot come up with a single unicorn.

  34. 34
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    I think that a central problem with a lot of “libertarians” is that they have a very confused understanding of cause and effect. The fact that they think that the “free market” is a force of nature, and not a social construct, is evidence of this.

    Also, they seem to have not read ALL of “The Wealth of Nations”, particular the parts that later show up, verbatim, in “Das Kapital”….

  35. 35
    gex says:

    @E.D. Kain: What is your position on the estate tax?

    ETA: It seems to me that the estate tax and anti-trust laws are key to keeping capitalism from obliterating itself.

  36. 36
    matoko_chan says:

    and yes, i plan to ruin this thread also with scatological insults and obscure literary tagging and encyclopedia dramatica links……
    until you all either admit that EDK is 10 pounds of recycled cowshit (conservative feedlot drench) in a five pound bag or ban me.

    Everyone will suffer.

  37. 37
    matoko_chan says:

    and yes, i plan to ruin this thread also with scatological insults and obscure literary tagging and encyclopedia dramatica links……
    until you all either admit that EDK is 10 pounds of recycled cowshit (conservative feedlot drench) in a five pound bag or ban me.

    Everyone will suffer.

  38. 38
    mistermix says:

    @matoko_chan: The point of the post is that real libertarians should care about corporatism, so it’s legit to critique them for not mentioning it. How’s that supporting libertarianism?

    And, as to your later comments, do you really want more people to add you to the pie filter?

  39. 39
    LGRooney says:

    you need to know what it’s adherents stand for, and derive what they’re against

    Finally, a beautifully succinct statement of American political philosophy and one that is way too often overlooked. It is the assertion of something, or things, not the denial of it, or them, that provides a philosophy definition. While a philosophy may have been born out of rejection of something else, it is nothing but toys being thrown from the pram if it fails in providing an averment of an alternate. And, if one wants to avoid being put on the defensive immediately, the assertion must have a logical argument in support otherwise motive will always be questioned.

  40. 40

    “the leading libertarian thinkers, other than Paul and his followers, seem to give corporatism almost no attention.”

    Yeah; no. Giving things “no attention” that propagate the (power structure’s) Status Quo is inclusion by omission. Libertarians — even principled [sic] ones — are never, ever poor or disenfranchised. Only those who have more than average can’t see the benefit of everyone throwing in a few dollars so we can all have, say, highways, or an army, or health care.

    I’m with Russell, above (@11).

  41. 41
    jcricket says:

    The problem I have with taking Libertarianism seriously is that even those that recognize corporatism (gov’t unfairly tilted towards big business interests) as the problem seem to think the answer is no gov’t. And they always hand wave away how minority rights (in a social sense, like civil rights or gay rights) are supposed to be protected, sans gov’t. And the completly ignore how the general welfare (i.e. public education) is to be provided for sans gov’t (I guess there’s a moral hazard in providing public education to the poor b/c they’ll remain poor unless we force them to pay $20k/year for education – /snark).

    Ron Paul is the perfect example. He’s internally consistent, yes, but deeply unserious in his policy prescriptions. Nothing he suggests, from gold-buggery to getting rid of the Dept of Education or EPA, will have a positive effect.

    Me, I am a pragmatist. Sometimes the gov’t isn’t the solution, sometimes it is. Sometimes more gov’t is the answer, sometimes it’s just better gov’t. But if you’re going to say gov’t isn’t the solution, you can’t just wave away the problems that would cause by saying “the free market will balance it out” – b/c in nearly every case that’s not what has happened in history.

    Libertians have no answer except “the goverment is never the solution” – so they offer pithy but useless solutions while being lauded for internal consistency; or they remain silent when they know the gov’t is the solution but can’t bring themselves to admit it.

  42. 42
    J says:

    @joe from Lowell: Precisely! And by this definition of freedom, people are most free today in Somalia, the period of Chinese history dominated by warlords and bandits was a golden age of liberty and so on.

  43. 43
    JoeG says:

    Joe Strummer? Did you need to invoke the Chosen One?

    You better intend to keep your promise…otherwise, Joe’s Ghost will come at night and flick cigarette ashes in your gaping, sleeping mouth

    This is Radio Clash by pirate satellite!

  44. 44
    liberal says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    The question I have is how can we better redistribute not just wealth but actual capital, not just dollars but actual economic influence, in such a way that does not muck up the system and gives greater political and economic wherewithal to the most people possible.

    I don’t know about the “influence” part, but the key to better wealth redistribution is to tax economic rents onerously, replacing other taxes as much as possible. Henry George had this figured out over 100 years ago.

  45. 45
    gex says:

    @jcricket: I would just add to your range of possibilities that sometimes more government, better government, and ,yes, in some cases less government are the solution. But to decide which of those cases it is, you need to study the specific issue at hand, not start from a preconceived notion that less government is usually the solution.

  46. 46
    Uloborus says:

    @E.D. Kain:
    Except that he’s doing it in the most fantastically shallow and self-serving way possible, implicating all government regulation and specifically attacking Obama by suggesting that major liberal initiatives are nothing but giveaways to big business. Again, the evils of corporations never come up *anywhere* here, only how government is being unfair by giving away your money to someone else. Given Ron Paul’s political position, doesn’t that make this a transparent attempt to manipulate people who do not benefit from his policies?

    I have to tell you, Kain – I’m with gex. Whether or not I buy libertarianism as a philosophy, I agree that you seem to apply it with intellectual honesty. Ron Paul is not doing so here. He’s behaving in the classic behavior that makes libertarians reviled in liberal circles. He’s picking something he doesn’t like, looking for the thinnest excuse to frame it as an example of how Government Is Inherently Evil, and waving it around so that he can advance his own selfish interests while pretending he’s doing the opposite.

  47. 47
    liberal says:

    @jcricket:
    Actually, the more general problem is figuring out how we won’t be busy murdering each other in a war of all against all, sans government.

  48. 48
    gex says:

    @liberal:Do libertarians complain about rent seeking? It seems to me they view profits as an unalloyed good. Nevermind that profit margins are supposed to be pretty slim if you have a properly functioning and competitive market.

  49. 49
    matoko_chan says:

    @mistermix: idc.
    i just want Cole to acknowlege AT THIS POINT that frontpaging EDK is no different than frontpaging Douthat or McMegan.
    It just allows EDK the glibertarian assclown to spread eumemes.
    And Sully doesnt have a piefilter.
    Neither do any visitors to this site.
    ;)

  50. 50
    liberal says:

    @Hawes:

    You go back and look at some of the original materialist philosophers like Locke and Smith and they were also concerned about property being too much concentrated in too few hands. That for property to be a right, it had to be both valuable (worth something) and available (not monopolized by a few).

    Yes, but Locke isn’t the greatest cite because his notions aren’t the best way of putting it. Cf the discussion in “Are you a Real Libertarian, or a ROYAL Libertarian?”.

    Furthermore, it’s not so much about property in general becoming too concentrated, it’s real property, which neither the owner nor anyone else created as the fruit of their own labor.

  51. 51
    E.D. Kain says:

    @gex: I’m in favor of the estate-tax. I don’t think it should be too high, but it should certainly exist. For one thing, inherited money (or too much of it) tends to ruin people. But I do think property rights are important and the estate tax should not be too high. The 35% rate seems reasonable to me. And yes, anti-trust laws are very important.

  52. 52
    matoko_chan says:

    @Uloborus: EDK is a cafeteria libertarian like all of them. they pick and choose what parts of libertarianism they like.
    That is why LIBERTARIANS ARE ALL ON THE RIGHT.
    They are all intellectual whores held in babylonian captivity to the socons and the bankstahs.

  53. 53
    E.D. Kain says:

    @J:

    And by this definition of freedom, people are most free today in Somalia, the period of Chinese history dominated by warlords and bandits was a golden age of liberty and so on.

    This is not a serious argument. Nobody is suggesting a return to a time when there was no rule of law or any social institutions to hold up the social order. This is a caricature of libertarianism not a serious argument against it.

  54. 54
    E.D. Kain says:

    @Uloborus: I’m not sure what Paul’s intentions are. I think that sometimes people get so used to speaking in their own language of ideas, they forget how to speak to people with other ideas. Paul has held his convictions for so long, I think he has trouble communicating them to people with whom he disagrees. I do think he is very troubled by corporatism but sees the government as an integral part of the problem. I think it’s a legitimate position to take, though I would say “it depends” quite a lot more than he would. I am much more willing to support positive government – i.e. safety nets, infrastructure, etc. – and much more dubious about things the government attempts to restrict. When there is a restriction, one always has to ask “Who benefits from this?” to get a good feeling for the law or regulation in question. That is, at least, a fair question to always be asking.

  55. 55
    E.D. Kain says:

    @gex: I’ve read many libertarian discussions of rent-seeking.

    Tyler Cowen for one, who discusses financial-sector rent-seeking at some length in his latest article.

  56. 56
    chopper says:

    Using that definition, he argues that wondering whether modern libertarians don’t write about corporate abuses of power is like wondering “why NARAL doesn’t spend more time advocating for the plight of stray cats.”

    yeah, that’s some cask-strength fail outta joyner.

    really it’s more like wondering why NARAL doesn’t spend more time advocating for doctors to step up and provide abortion services (if indeed they were ignoring that side of the equation). gotta remember, keeping abortion legal is an important fight, but making sure they actually can happen is important too, or the whole thing won’t work. ignoring completely the second part of the equation yet claiming up and down that your biggest issue is allowing women access to abortions if they need them is like a libertarian who only cares about gummint and ignores corporate power completely.

  57. 57
    matoko_chan says:

    @mistermix: AND since EDK is unable to give an actual empirical example of a “true” libertarian, inspite of saying this

    the many thoughtful, nuanced libertarians I know and whose work I value, and who do not fit the stereotypes at all.

    How bout chu do eet?
    and no, Ron Paul is not the answer.
    heres my definition.

    libertarian– closet conservative that is made queasy by overt socon “values”.

    i can find plenty of those. there is a whole unholy nest of them at Reason.
    You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villany than Mos Isley Reason magazine.

  58. 58
    burnspbesq says:

    @liberal:

    And how, pray tell, does your proposed system decide what is an “economic rent” that should be taxed “onerously?”

  59. 59
    Raoul says:

    It may be your last but it was you clearest post. Libertarianism is a faded philosophy, more aspirational than rational. In today’s world, the corporatization of society has done more to affect individual rights than government intrusion. In many instances, libertarians accost the government when it attempts to control this power which of course, ironically, leads to further encroachment of our individual liberties. Estate tax: 35% rate sounds reasonable for fifty mill- but with transgeneration transfer and tax avoidance schemes- a 60% rate for estates over a bill also sounds eminently reasonable.

  60. 60
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    This is a caricature of libertarianism not a serious argument against it.

    Yet it’s very easy to come to this critique given the ranting of most “libertarians”. The caricature is derived from their own relentless internal logic.

  61. 61
    LGRooney says:

    @matoko_chan:

    Calling him a cafeteria libertarian is supposed to be an insult? I’d say anyone with half a brain is cafeterian in their philosophies. I may find myself in agreement with anyone else depending on the issue. IOW, I prefer to think for myself than have others do it for me especially since I am the only party I know of who agrees with me (almost) all the time.

  62. 62
    Uloborus says:

    @E.D. Kain:
    No, Kain. It’s a caricature of how YOU practice and support libertarianism. As a political movement it’s only mildly hyperbolic. Mostly – and very specifically, directly, and unmetaphorically – they fetishize the late 1800s. I know you know how much better off we are today than then. Your comrades don’t.

    You are a lone voice in the wilderness. There are a few more of you, but you’re surrounded and drowned out by the IGMFY crowd, the people who think that attitude will let them get theirs, and idiot children (some of them quite old) grabbing an idea that sounds keen. I actually think that’s sad. People who don’t agree with you are trying to argue under your label, and they’re doing it so loudly that all anyone sees is them.

    And to tie it all together, that is one aspect of Mistermix’s main point with this thread. I agree with him overall. The philosophy is not the same as how it’s usually practiced. I just don’t think *Ron Paul* is being honest about it based on this article.

  63. 63

    […] Jason Kuznicki on January 13, 2011 …on libertarianism. For once. The Cato Unbound issue on corporatism seems worth a link as well. It may be the most important […]

  64. 64
    THE says:

    @matoko_chan:

    and yes, i plan to ruin this thread also with scatological insults and obscure literary tagging and encyclopedia dramatica links……until you all either admit that EDK is 10 pounds of recycled cowshit (conservative feedlot drench) in a five pound bag or ban me.

    I think you should have your own blog.
    Then you can run it how you like.

    BTW John Cole already pwned you here.

  65. 65
    E.D. Kain says:

    Honestly, I think libertarianism’s greatest flaw is its focus on tax-rates and redistribution. I think the focus should be on two things:

    1) Competition in markets and creating an even playing field with low barriers to entry for competitors and low barriers to exit for consumers – whether this requires more or less government involvement.

    2) The national security/police state and the edifice it is built upon, i.e. The War on Drugs and The War on Terror and how these are leading to loss of civil liberties for poor people, minorities, and really all Americans. The military-industrial complex, etc.

    Where libertarianism goes off the rails is its obsession with low taxes and all-government-is-bad memes. Tax rates are not actually that important in the discussion of economic freedom, even if low taxes are desirable (when possible) for many good reasons. With the fabulous levels of uber-wealthy in our society, our tax system could be far more progressive (more brackets at the top end!) and not have any horribly averse effects on the economy. My worry with taxes is not the rates, but how the money is spent – it seems we spend an awful lot on bomb-making, for instance. Thoreau had a point in not paying his taxes when he saw so much of that money go to funding wars. That goes back to my #2 above.

  66. 66
    Ija says:

    Ok, stupid question, but what is the pie filter?

  67. 67
    300baud says:

    @russell:

    My issue with self-identified libertarians, in this country, today, is that whenever we get past the fine rhetoric and come down to brass tacks, their position is always “I got mine, fuck you”.

    I think that “self-identified libertarian” today has the same problems that “self-identified conservative” does: the name has been captured by loons.

    In the late 80s when I first came across them, the libertarians had a reasonable position: they were what you got if you took the moderate left’s focus on social freedom and combined it with the moderate right’s focus on economic freedom.

    To me it seems like both sides have been to some extent captured by fundamentalists. I don’t mean religious ones, but rather people fixated on a simplistic ideal so intensely that they ignore actual outcomes. Modern conservatives seem terrible at actually conserving the legitimately good things of the past, and modern libertarians seem oblivious to actual harm to personal and political liberty.

  68. 68
    Dave Budge says:

    You mean ignore the issue such as in this.

    But the mistake you make, mistermix, is confusing Joiner as any sort of an authority on libertarianism. If you want to hear libertarians make the case against corporatism and regulatory capture from organizations that are funded with corporate money just go to Cato, The Mises Institute, The Locke Institute and about a dozen others.

    Ignoring the fact that you’re factually incorrect that Reason “ignores” the issue it seems to me that you don’t think they spend enough time writing about that with which you agree with them.

    I was at a Steve Still concert in the 1970s when Stills was speaking to the audience in a subdued voice when someone yealled from the audience “Talk louder!) To which Stills responded “Listen harder!)

  69. 69
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    @Chris:

    Our libertarians usually don’t even have the courtesy to oppose government powers as a whole; only the feds (see the obsession with “states’ rights.”) Which of course just kicks the can down the road; how’re you going to prevent state and local governments from oppressing people, which (ask Southern blacks) they can do just as easily as any federal agent?

    This. As a small bidness owner, I can tell you that the shitty, corrupt and thoroughly Republican-dominated state gubmint is *the* oppressive gubmint body on me. Feds? What Feds?

    And the kicker is all the regulations promulgated by the Republican-dominated state gubmint are heavily swayed by..you guessed it, corporations and big lobbyists (by local yokel standards).

    And yet, nary a peep out of the asshat libertarians here.

  70. 70
    matoko_chan says:

    @mistermix: and idc if EDK posts here…..as long as people acknowlege what he represents.
    he is pure Douthat/McMegan spin.
    Libertarians in America (all on the right) exist to provide cover for the oligarchs to soulessly rapaciously farm the joe sixpacks for big bucks.
    the exchange in social capital is that “we oligarchs will honor your nutty religious doctrine and counter-factual beliefs as long as you keep us in power.”

  71. 71

    Wow, I gotta say that Joyner article strikes me as pretty ridiculous. And let me say that it’s not because I think libertarianism doesn’t have value. There is a tremendous amount of value in the idea of having to justify government intrusions on freedom. The problem is that his defense of it has nothing to do with that value.

    If Libertarians/libertarians believe that the primary threat to freedom is government intrusion, why wouldn’t they focus above all else on the group (big business) that controls the government? Do they really think that the minimum wage and the safety net are bigger problems than the fact that most elections are between two people who will both cater to big business over the interests of the people if forced to choose? It’s like having a patient who got his leg runner over and the doctor focuses on his runny nose. Beyond that I just haven’t seen a lot of evidence that they have confronted this question directly. It’s like they can’t look beyond the government to underlying causes.

    And Joyner talks about “Even Adam Smith recognized the need for state action to guard against the tendency of businessmen to collude to fix prices.” Hell, Smith recognized the need for a lot more government action than that. And you learn abut most of the things he worried about in Econ 101, something which the media tends to ignore. You want to hang your hat on Adam Smith, you’ll wind up left of most Democrats. I suspect Joyner knows this and is being disingenuous. Either that or it is simple ignorance.

    Finally, I don’t get how ignoring the corporate elephant in the room is a “useful counterpoint.” Yes, I fully understand the idea of taking a contrary position and making assumptions for the purposes of argument. But we’re way past that stage. We might as well assume our next President arrived from the planet Krypton with superpowers (and yes, I understand that would make him ineligible to be President). This just strikes me as an attempt to justify what amounts to a flawed view of the reality of the situation.

  72. 72
    TomG says:

    Nice post, mistermix. This is why I tend to favor the left-leaning libertarians, and anarchists, myself. Libertarians who insist that the state is the ONLY avenue by which your liberty can be infringed are one-eyed.

  73. 73
    mistermix says:

    @Ija: I believe someone (cleek?) has created some software to allow your browser to filter out comments. I don’t run it, but others do.

  74. 74
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Dave Budge:

    With this:

    If you want to hear libertarians make the case against corporatism and regulatory capture from organizations that are funded with corporate money just go to Cato, The Mises Institute, The Locke Institute and about a dozen others.

    OK, on reflection, I’m utterly confused here. What are you saying? Are you saying that you’ll get critiques of corporatism from Cato? Because if you are, you’d better share whatever it is your smoking, dude.

    All these “think tanks” are funded to support the program of the parasite overclass to defend their position against the rabble. No more, no less. It’s Galtian overlord city, bucko.

  75. 75
    THE says:

    @matoko_chan
    Cafe Hayek is a good place to argue about Hayek (unless you meant Salma)

  76. 76
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    This is not a serious argument. Nobody is suggesting a return to a time when there was no rule of law or any social institutions to hold up the social order. This is a caricature of libertarianism not a serious argument against it.

    Fair enough. But expect to continue to be the target of this sort of rhetorical abuse until you can annunciate a positive vision of the sort of society you want to live in, not just in vague terms based on abstract principles, but in sufficient detail to be persuasive. Personally I think these things are best stated in a comparative fashion based on a mixture of our current state of affairs and past societies which have actually existed and which we can examine and critique in detail, which is why yesterday I started asking you what your opinion was of the Gilded Age US.

    I understand this is a topic you may not have given deep thought to just yet so I don’t expect an answer right away. But I think it would benefit your thinking and writing to make a serious attempt to grapple with these questions:

    Has there ever been an even moderately libertarian society at some point in the past that we can look to as an example of where your prefered policies would lead us to?

    If not, why not? (hint: is there some aspect of human nature that is not adequately accounted for in your political philosophy, that in the past has always caused would-be libertarian societies to die stillborn)

    If so, then what was it like, how does it compare with our society today, and what are the relative pros and cons? And how do you propose to mitigate the flaws of a libertarian society if based on past examples they are sufficiently serious to be broadly unacceptable to the general population?

    At some point in evaluating a political philosophy it really is a good idea to try to determine if we are arguing about building utopias on the moon or if this is a project that is actually capable of being constructed out of the crooked timber of humanity.

  77. 77
    gex says:

    @E.D. Kain: Cool. I think these are definitely areas where libertarians and liberals can find some common ground.

    @E.D. Kain: Thanks. It seems to me that we are in a period where there is a lot of rent seeking going on as well, so this would be another area we can cooperate on.

  78. 78
    Uloborus says:

    ED Kain in general:

    I had left for other things, but I am returning just long enough to apologize to you. I ignored that I agree with the main point of your argument and Mistermix’s to argue about the nit where I don’t. In doing so I (by strong implication) tarred you and your philosophy with the mantel of the hypocrites I have already stated I don’t believe are honestly following it. I loathe that kind of argument, and I am embarrassed that I let myself fall into it.

    For the record, I agree with Mistermix’s post and your defense of it. The libertarian philosophy is not necessarily pro-corporate. Anyone with brains can see that corporations can concentrate power and exploit it to infringe on general freedoms the same as government can. Libertarians are almost by definition anti-corporatist, defining that as ‘government using its power specifically to support big business’. Whether or not Ron Paul or anyone else is actually following this philosophy honestly is immaterial to the philosophy itself or the right of individuals to choose how honest they are with it.

    I am sorry I suggested otherwise by ignoring the central issue at hand, Kain Now I am leaving again in a rush, but I had to clear my conscience. I *really* do not like the kind of argument I just made and don’t support that I made it.

  79. 79
    Dave Budge says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    It’s nice to see you have proof of your claim. Why don’t you try to actually make an argument?

  80. 80
    ChrisS says:

    @E.D. Kain:
    As far as a liberal progressive who spends little time viewing Libertarian blogs or treatises, 5% of what I see written shows concern for points 1 & 2 and the rest is fixated on taxes and why liberals are bad.

    They offer nothing.

  81. 81
    mistermix says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Cato critique of corporatism, courtesy of a Cato guy who posts at ED’s other blog.

    http://www.cato-unbound.org/ar.....e-markets/

  82. 82
    matoko_chan says:

    @THE: i replied.

    @freelancer: ED Kain is here as long as he wants, and why the hell would I ban matoko-chan? No one knows what the hell she is saying, anyway. I can’t decipher it to even figure out if it is offensive or not.

    heres a clue, Cole. its offensive. i question your intelligence because you seem unable to figure to figure out a simple repeating pattern in EDK’s posts.
    you are pretending not to understand.
    I SAID frontpaging EDK at this point is NO DIFFERENT than frontpaging Douthat or McMegan.
    He is not sincere, he is a teatarded conservative pretending to have libertarian tendency so he can spread propaganda and eumemes like “we are all the same” and “reasonable conservatives and principled libertarians exist”.

  83. 83
    Dave Budge says:

    @mistermix:

    And that proves your point that they’re “whores” how?

  84. 84
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    A republican by any other name
    Still votes the same.

  85. 85
    gex says:

    I must admit, this discussion of philosophy and practice seems reminiscent of the merits for communism.

  86. 86
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Dave Budge:

    You weren’t here for the posts on Tuesday that made exactly the point that “corporate capture” is what lamestream libertarianism is all about?

    Just go back and look at them. It’s what brought this entire conversation about.

  87. 87
    mistermix says:

    @Dave Budge: Show me where I said that about the Cato Institute.

  88. 88
    scav says:

    m_c really is certainly the white noise of balloon-juice: a constant unintelligible whining buzz — not coming from an important enough part of the engine to fix. John’s comment sort of cleared that up for me — I think that concept will be useful for me elsewhere.

  89. 89
    ChrisS says:

    @mistermix:
    First line second paragraph of the Cato Scholar’s response:
    Personally, I consider myself a pragmatist, not a true libertarian.

    Who the fuck is then?

  90. 90
    300baud says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    Nobody is suggesting a return to a time when there was no rule of law or any social institutions to hold up the social order. This is a caricature of libertarianism not a serious argument against it.

    I am not so sure you’re correct. There was a time when I identified as a libertarian, so I’m sympathetic to the point of view. But I have come across a number of people who at least claim to be libertarians whose opinion of government appears to be purely negative.

    So I don’t think there is anybody saying, “Hey, Somalia is awesome, let’s do that!” But I do think there are people (can we call them fundamentalist libertarians?) whose views if enacted as described would lead to something functionally equivalent to a failed state.

    I find them as tiresome as the alleged fans of free-market capitalism who think that a lack of regulation always leads to better outcomes, or the people whose only reaction to a tax is to oppose it. They’re all idiots who mistake a single slogan for a philosophy of society. Which they have the luxury to do because smarter people are keeping things running.

  91. 91
    eyelessgame says:

    @russell: This. I could say more – essays more – but this.

  92. 92
    Ecks says:

    My impression is that libertarians are reflexive atomists. They don’t see “society” they see lots of individuals who are best left to negotiate an endless series of bilateral relationships with each other, or avoid them, as they see fit.

    It seems to me that they do acknowledge the idea of groups and corporations, but don’t really wrap their heads around the idea that a corporation is any different than just an individual person with whom bilateral relationships can be negotiated. They don’t seem to cope well idea that there are larger social forces and dynamics, that wealth facilitates the accumulation of more wealth, that people don’t just make individual deals with each other, but can gain real power over each other, that two people will collude against a third, that people are wired on a neurological level to clump themselves into socially bonded groups with whom they identify, and outgroups whom they are happy to dump on – not just neglect to deal with, but proactively to make them miserable.

    EDK, to his credit, does appear to struggle with some of these ideas here, and to the extent he does, we’d argue that he’s departing from being a “real” libertarian (though this may be no bad thing – ideologies, I think, often like metals, work better as alloys).

    But because the truly ideological libertarians we run into do generally have these blinkers on, we tend to end up deeply frustrated at the apparent idiocy of some of their answers. Sure they might be well-meaning and internally consistent, but they achieve this by wishing away extremely important and well-documented aspects of the human condition. I think it’s why all the academic psychologists I know are lefties – they pay more attention that many to people’s foibles and frailties and ugly sides, and realize that we need appropriate buffers in place to accommodate those.

  93. 93
    eyelessgame says:

    @gex:

    if you get a reasonable libertarian and can actually get them to study the history and facts on the ground, you eventually get a liberal.

    the owners of certain blogs might even attest to this.

    I also think there’s a lets-not-assume-we’re-in-this-together we should keep in mind. The only cautions against corporate power R*n Pa*l is complaining about above is corporate power combined with government. I don’t see any evidence of him worrying about corporate power per se.

    The split between libertarians and progressives is precisely whether one recognizes that there are threats to liberty that come from places other than government – from corporations, from nature, from anarchy, from unequal access to education, from concentrated wealth, from the inherent unpredictability of a complex society. All of those represent potential coercive forces upon individuals.

    A libertarian who recognizes that liberty can be threatened by those entities – and who then realizes that a representative government, properly managed, can act to forestall, correct for, and ameliorate some of those threats to liberty, and that the tradeoff (some amount of tax to fund those actions) is a net positive to individual liberty – is a liberal.

  94. 94
    Cris says:

    Though I love Wikipedia, the libertarianism page Joyner cites is a bit of a mess.

    No real surprise there. Wikipedia’s two major failings — both attributable to its core “anyone can edit” philosophy — are celebrities and controversial subjects. Volunteer editors are so driven to promote their point of view that a reasonable perspective is lost.

    Libertarianism, the political philosophy of the internet™, is the perfect Wikipedia storm: its adherents are internet savvy, passionate, and tireless in setting the record straight. They are surpassed perhaps only by anime otaku in that sense.

  95. 95
    matoko_chan says:

    @scav: im unintelligible to YOU because of your profound lack of substrate.
    Cole understands perfectly what i say and pretends to not understand.
    Otherwise he would have to acknowlege THAT HE MADE A MISTAKE when he tole me EDK was a “good guy”.
    EDK is an intransigent glibertarian assclown that is STILL pimping the invisible hand of the free market and the conservative supply side economics that just punched American workingclass families in the face.

  96. 96
    Gus diZerega says:

    As a former libertarian who has long been perplexed and intrigued by its fascinating blind spots and areas of under-emphasis, I think a core weakness is in their concept of property rights.

    Property does not define itself, it’s boundaries must be determined by law. Only then can markets develop with much confidence. Anarcho-libertarians simply assume “just property rights” for their utopia without asking how they are determined.

    More reasonable libertarians generally take the existing structure for granted, but maybe tinker a bit on the edges, like making it easier to sue for pollution. (Corporate shills pretending to be libertarians do the opposite.)

    In reality our property right system has been extensively shaped and tweaked, usually by those with great wealth, to ensure they continue to have great wealth. Look at copyright law and how biological discoveries can be “owned” as examples. Since government is needed to settle property right issues, the wealthy seek to control it. Once they do, they use it to enrich themselves even more.

    But libertarians as a rule simply look at government as the problem, ignoring that markets cannot develop far without one, and then turn a largely blind eye to why government is so often “the problem” -a major cause is that it is used by the wealthy to obtain privileges the rest of us do not have. Also that it uses its military power in service to business (Cheney’s energy conferences, anyone?)

    The most basic such example is how authority is understood in the work place. The entire idea of a public corporation and its virtual immunity from punishment no matter how serious its damages to others is another blind spot that some libertarians say they can cover by not wanting limited liability – but then spend 1/100th the effort on that issue as they do on zoning or welfare. Ecological issues are another, because their theoretical model depends on secure boundaries that are easily defined and defended, and in reality boundaries are always porous and messy, and ecology emphasizes it.

    Libertarians, the best of them. have a noble motivation, but a theoretical apparatus utterly incapable of doing it justice.

  97. 97
    Gus diZerega says:

    @Ecks:

    Really good post. Thanks.

  98. 98
    mds says:

    A few years back, at the above-recommended Mises Institute, you would find vehement proponents of coercion to block the free flow of labor, even though such is in complete opposition to Ludwig von Mises’ actual views. In this they found common ground with Ron “Build a Huge Wall on the Southern Border” Paul. One might suggest that the diversity of ideas which could be libertarianism’s strength is also its weakness. E.g., Jason Kuznicki wryly notes that he would probably have a disagreement or two with Roger Pilon, presumably given the latter’s pretty obviously non-libertarian views on the innate powers of (Republican) presidents. But then, as I believe even Radley Balko has asked, why does Cato continue to pay Pilon a salary? He’s their Vice President for Legal Affairs, and chairs their Center for Constitutional Studies. Last time I checked, they weren’t appointing any Trotskyists to senior positions just for the diversity of views. Same thing with Mises. If they’re going to carry the banner for libertarianism, why be a clearing house for people with flagrantly non-libertarian ideas?

    Yes, there is criticism of corporate power out in libertarian land, even from people who receive money from Cato. There’s even more if one allows for “libertarian” to have its outer limits defined a little bit more broadly than Will Wilkinson, or even Roderick T. Long. But one should sympathize with the existence of the notion that American libertarianism is incoherent, when American libertarian think-tanks actually are incoherent. If staffers at Cato can’t agree on the dangers of sweeping “inherent Article II powers,” how do they expect (enough of) the rest of us to buy their philosophy as consistent?

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go prepare for the catastrophic climate change that so many on the Cato payroll deride, when they bother to look up from their hog troughs of Koch sinecure money. (Though I’m so very happy to learn that Mr. Kuznicki apparently isn’t one of the scoffers. When is Cato arranging to publish and promote his “squishy” critique of Climate of Extremes, anyway?)

  99. 99
    matoko_chan says:

    @eyelessgame: the problem is that AMERICAN libertarianism has been wholly suborned by the unholy alliance of the business class elite and the socons.
    Any american libertarian WITH INFLUENCE is a republican because of this.
    EDK even, in spite of all his headfakes.
    and american libertarians are anti-empirical– for example EDK just cant give up on the markets bullshytt.
    american libertarians are the fiscal conservative leg on the triploid stool– socons, fiscalcons, and neocons.

  100. 100
    les says:

    @mistermix:

    I figured m-chan was going for a full sweep. Have I been missing anything behind the wholesome goodness that is pie?

  101. 101
    les says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Well, maybe one could start with capital gains and dividends–why should they be taxed at half the rate of “earned” income (in quotes because not all earned income should, perhaps, be so classified)? I would suggest it makes more sense–if you actually care about spreading both ownership of assets and distribution of income more widely, before we pass Brazil on the inequity scale–to tax income attributable to mere ownership of property more highly than earned income; and I’d throw actual rent income in that bag as well. And I think the estate tax should be stiffened–unlike E.D. I think a higher rate is fine; I’m more willing to be generous with the threshold level.

  102. 102
    TooManyJens says:

    @E.D. Kain: If libertarianism were focused on your points #1 and #2, I might — well, I probably still wouldn’t identify one, but I’d certainly consider them allies. And believe me when I say that I understand and honor the idea of trying to work within a movement, party, whatever to try to bring it to its best ideals as you see them. I just think you may be fighting a losing battle there.

    Furthermore, I don’t see why either of those points couldn’t be embraced by someone identifying as liberal (or possibly even conservative, depending on the flavor of conservative).

  103. 103
    scav says:

    @matoko_chan: no, it’s because you usually pride yourself in talking cudlip and insults. mostly you pass in a blaze of scrolling based on past evidence of content. Something must have stung: you’ve discovered the grammatical sentence all of a sudden.

  104. 104
    Dave Budge says:

    @mistermix:

    My appologies, I must have hit the wrong reply button.

  105. 105
    master c says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: ahh yes,
    just looking for the oft found Clash reference I usually catch without having to ask.

  106. 106
    Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    A search of the Reason archives for ‘Corporatism’, “Regulatory Capture’, or ‘Rent Seeking’ reveal a wealth of articles critical of all three topics.

  107. 107
    Matt says:

    It’s not clear to me how many pretty pure libertarians there are here, but as a liberal with pretty standard abstract libertarian sympathies for a liberal, let me pose a question I’ve never understood about libertarian philosophy.

    At the core of my understanding of libertarian philosophy is a belief in individual rights and liberty. You have the right to your own property and not to have others (government, individuals, corporations, if you’re honest about it) trample on your property rights or various individual freedoms.

    This seems to take as an assumption, however, that you personally are fully responsible for your ability to to amass all the property you’re capable of. This is transparently untrue in every society, where your position of birth has a massive influence on the probability that you will be able to amass various levels of wealth and property.

    Even in the fantasy world where it’s true that how much wealth you can amass is only dependent on your personal genetic abilities and the random luck that comes your way, where you assume everyone has the same probability of a certain amount of lifetime luck, as a libertarian you’re ignoring the fact that to accumulate as much wealth as it is possible to accumulate in the modern world, you depend upon a complex society that sustains many complex systems powered by many others who have less wealth than you (unless you’re at the very bottom) only because of their own bad draw in genetic ability and/or random lifetime luck, neither of which they “deserve”. Likewise, you didn’t “earn” your own allotment of innate talent and lifetime luck. Given you rely upon these unearned factors, and that the level of wealth you can accumulate is totally dependent on these complex systems sustained by others who must do less remunerative activities than yourself at least partially only because of a worse draw of lifetime luck, do you have no moral responsibility to allocate some of your wealth to providing some sort of assistance to those who, through no fault of their own, must toil supporting the system that has allowed you to amass many many times more wealth than those others?

  108. 108
    burnspbesq says:

    @les:

    I wouldn’t have a problem with eliminating favorable treatment of capital gains, but I think you need to re-think your view on dividends.

    Keep in mind that in our current system, dividends are paid out of corporate income that is already subject to income tax at the corporate level. If you are willing to give individuals a credit similar to the 902 credit or a PTI account similar to what happens under 960, then AFAIC you can tax dividends at whatever rate you please. But double taxation is a real and serious issue that smart people have struggled with for a very long time.

    Coming up with a unified theory of taxation of “passive” income that doesn’t introduce massive inefficiencies is far from a trivial exercise.

  109. 109
    matoko_chan says:

    @scav:

    you’ve discovered the grammatical sentence all of a sudden.

    it phases. mostly i think you retards are unworthy of effort.
    nothing you can say stings.
    you are subsapients, at the current level of talking dogs or cattle.
    i might sneer at you, but i do you the honor of believing you can learn.
    Unlike EDK and Douchebag, who belive that you will swallow the feedlot drench forevah.
    n/w ways i liek l33tspk and chanese…..its my natural metie. im a txter. :)
    :)

    Shorter EDK– fap-fap-fap market innovation!

  110. 110
    Jeremy B says:

    “Double taxation” is bullshit.

    Everyone pays taxes on money they get that was once earned by someone else and taxed.

    If I hire a carpenter to repair my house, I pay him out of my earnings – which are taxed.

    If you get your hair cut, you pay the barber out of your earnings – which are taxed.

    In any such transaction between individuals, this is normal. It’s only once you get corporations into the picture that they suddenly get to play by different rules and deduct everything under the sun and and apply different tax rates to different activities.

    In most European countries the corporations have to pay “value added taxes”, or VATs, that do in fact recognize this reality (and yes, it’s true that the cost of those taxes are generally passed on to consumers).

    The problem starts when you create a system that allows corporations to pick and choose what they’ll pay taxes on – inevitably they’ll choose to pay taxes on as little as possible.

    And that’s the second flaw with this argument – there’s actually no guarantee that ANY taxes have been paid by the corporation in question on that money, and there’s a great likelihood that NONE has been paid. See: “Study says most corporations pay no U.S. income taxes”

  111. 111
    DavidTC says:

    I like baiting libertarians.

    I’ll agree with them that corporations should not be regulated. In fact, we shouldn’t regulated them at all, let the free market work perfectly…

    …and then start talking about the orderly shutdown of corporate America and turning assets over to stockholders and creditors.

    Oh, wait, you libertarians wanted to have government regulations creating them, and allowing them to operate, and have limited liability, but then, at that point, you decided that any more regulation was too much?

    Sorry, I didn’t quite follow how stupid your position was. I didn’t realize you were railing against the government regulating fictional entities that the government created.

    The government shouldn’t be ‘regulating’ corporations. It should be looking to see if each of them serve any good whatsoever, and if not, dismantle it. Corporations have not ‘rights’, they do not even exist, they are just notional constructs we invented to make things work better, and each and every one of them better serve some purpose.

  112. 112

    […] interesting pieces recently about libertarianism. (And as several of those posts mention, the November 2008 […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] interesting pieces recently about libertarianism. (And as several of those posts mention, the November 2008 […]

  2. […] Jason Kuznicki on January 13, 2011 …on libertarianism. For once. The Cato Unbound issue on corporatism seems worth a link as well. It may be the most important […]

Comments are closed.