Libertarianism

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Ranbot
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Ranbot » Tue Jun 26, 2018 4:31 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Ranbot wrote:...the general population has only a superficial understanding of the EPA and responds to it according to their ideology...


If you were going to consolidate down the most agency's interested in managing our natural environment and related concerns, how would you prefer it done?

I touched on Superfund, briefly. That'd be the part with the fiscal management scandals, and thus, becomes part of the "not great with enforcement".

The same is true of the mine they bungled and blew open recently, polluting the water supply they're supposed to protect. Yeah, the media butchers reporting of literally everything technical, but that's not sufficient to explain the EPA's PR problem.

First, statements like those clearly show your ideology, which illustrates exactly my point that most people respond to the EPA by ideology. I've argued with liberal environmentalists who believe the EPA is just a tool of polluting corporations, because that's their ideology. It swings both ways. The average person's understanding of environmental issues is so minimal, that they have little else to base an opinion on.

The EPA explains what they do and it's pretty good summary. Notice how much of their work goes to grants, studies, and publications, which is important because you can't have good environmental policy without scientific research to support it, just like any other field (e.g. medicine, engineering, economics, etc.). If you went to your doctor with an ailment, you wouldn't want them to say "Try this pill, but I have no research to suggest it will work, or if you're getting the correct dosage. Good luck and here's my bill." Environmental policy is no different, it needs science and long-term study, but unlike the field of medicine, there is little to no incentive in the private sector to do this research, thus the EPA exists.

As for the Colorado Gold Mine incident, a mistake was made, however, the EPA also manages and has cleaned up thousands of other sites without incident that no one writes a news story about. So, their PR problem is directly related to what the public/media chooses to focus on. It's similar to the PR problem the nuclear industry has... public attention is on a select few problems and not the larger excellent record of safety, the science, and public benefit. Also remember the only reason the EPA was trying to remediate that abandoned mine [and many other mines throughout that region] was because of a total failure of the private sector to clean up it's own messes. Over-zealous libertarians (which I'm not presuming is you) do ideological hand-waving at the reality of market failures like these.

Spoiler:
Spoiler because I feel like this is unnecessary detail and a distraction from your discussion.... Many times local communities fight against the EPA Superfund program, like the local community of the colorado gold mine did, because they think having a Superfund site near them will decrease their property value or regional tourism, which are really fucked up incentives created by short-sighted market forces. Maybe that disaster would have been avoided if the local community had allowed the EPA start working on the mine in the 1990's instead of 2014, after the state's various failed band-aids on the problem. The EPA is the last line of defense against environmental disasters and the first to get blamed when that line doesn't hold. And very often the EPA holds the line just fine, but gets bad PR anyway because it didn't meet the public's non-scientific, ideology-driven, reactionary opinions on the left and right... I've argued with just as many liberals as conservatives on environmental issues.

I do agree that, in an ideal situation, we'd have a number of politicians, representing the best of each ideology, and that this'd probably be among the healthiest ways of running a government. Hopefully, truly bad ideas would get pruned out pretty hard, and the reasonable ones would strike some kind of balance.

Glad we can agree on that.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jun 27, 2018 6:34 pm UTC

Ranbot wrote:First, statements like those clearly show your ideology, which illustrates exactly my point that most people respond to the EPA by ideology. I've argued with liberal environmentalists who believe the EPA is just a tool of polluting corporations, because that's their ideology. It swings both ways. The average person's understanding of environmental issues is so minimal, that they have little else to base an opinion on.


Well, it's an ideological conversation, so sure. That said, I'm still curious as if it's that you disagree about agency consolidation specifically, or if you object to the EPA being one of the ones consolidated, considering the others less critical.

The EPA explains what they do and it's pretty good summary. Notice how much of their work goes to grants, studies, and publications, which is important because you can't have good environmental policy without scientific research to support it, just like any other field (e.g. medicine, engineering, economics, etc.). If you went to your doctor with an ailment, you wouldn't want them to say "Try this pill, but I have no research to suggest it will work, or if you're getting the correct dosage. Good luck and here's my bill." Environmental policy is no different, it needs science and long-term study, but unlike the field of medicine, there is little to no incentive in the private sector to do this research, thus the EPA exists.


How much research ought the government to pay for? It's sort of an area of conflict in the libertarian ideology, and while the answer is generally less, how much less is an open question. Environmental research isn't innately bad, but some research does not appear well connected to a government interest.

As for the Colorado Gold Mine incident, a mistake was made, however, the EPA also manages and has cleaned up thousands of other sites without incident that no one writes a news story about. So, their PR problem is directly related to what the public/media chooses to focus on. It's similar to the PR problem the nuclear industry has... public attention is on a select few problems and not the larger excellent record of safety, the science, and public benefit. Also remember the only reason the EPA was trying to remediate that abandoned mine [and many other mines throughout that region] was because of a total failure of the private sector to clean up it's own messes. Over-zealous libertarians (which I'm not presuming is you) do ideological hand-waving at the reality of market failures like these.


The remediation was already done, if memory serves, they were inspecting it. No disaster was looming if they hadn't been there, but thanks to their intervention, one occurred. There's a legitimate public safety issue involving cleaning up industrial messes, but it could be handled in other ways. The court system and privately contracted cleanup crews works for many issues(find asbestos in an old house, and you may have to hire an abatement team). Sure, the courts can be slow, but...as you say, this particular process took many years. It isn't entirely without merit to believe that privatization could be faster.

And, at some level, local governments are also responsible. *squints at Flint* This isn't a great deal different from what you say, but the EPA basically serves as a way to ditch responsibility. In general, whoever made the mess ought to clean it up, and be forced to do so legally via the court system if they do not. If the original party no longer exists, basically a local government issues. This isn't too different from the modern system, but a libertarian system might give somewhat more standing to individual cases. As it currently stands, the wronged people are rarely actually given reasonable compensation. Class action lawsuits are often something of a joke, with payment mostly going to lawyers, maybe a charity, and with very little effort to actually compensate those injured.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Jun 27, 2018 7:47 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:And, at some level, local governments are also responsible. *squints at Flint* This isn't a great deal different from what you say, but the EPA basically serves as a way to ditch responsibility. In general, whoever made the mess ought to clean it up, and be forced to do so legally via the court system if they do not. If the original party no longer exists, basically a local government issues. This isn't too different from the modern system, but a libertarian system might give somewhat more standing to individual cases. As it currently stands, the wronged people are rarely actually given reasonable compensation. Class action lawsuits are often something of a joke, with payment mostly going to lawyers, maybe a charity, and with very little effort to actually compensate those injured.


How many local governments can afford to pay for a multi-billion dollar industrial waste clean-up? Where would that money come from? What happens if the responsible party goes bankrupt, or keeps most of their assets offshore or held by investors protected from individual liability? What happens if the spill itself is offshore (e.g. Deepwater Horizon)?

The remediation was already done, if memory serves, they were inspecting it. No disaster was looming if they hadn't been there, but thanks to their intervention, one occurred. There's a legitimate public safety issue involving cleaning up industrial messes, but it could be handled in other ways. The court system and privately contracted cleanup crews works for many issues(find asbestos in an old house, and you may have to hire an abatement team). Sure, the courts can be slow, but...as you say, this particular process took many years. It isn't entirely without merit to believe that privatization could be faster.


This does not appear to be correct, from my reading. They were asked to do remediation by the local government.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jun 27, 2018 9:18 pm UTC

Just a quick post to say I'm not ignoring this, will read up on the situation more before responding to it, just not likely to get a chance to do that until monday, so may be a bit before I get back to it!

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Ranbot » Thu Jun 28, 2018 3:42 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:I'm still curious as if it's that you disagree about agency consolidation specifically, or if you object to the EPA being one of the ones consolidated, considering the others less critical.

Agency consolidation is fine by me as long as needed work is still done. I'm also fine with further shrinking agencies and contracting work to the private sector as needed. Most of their remediation work is done that way already. The EPA [or any other state environmental agency] have few "boots on the ground" sort of employees. They depend on private contractors awarded projects through competitive public bids or private-public partnerships when there are interested purchasers or developers.

Tyndmyr wrote:How much research ought the government to pay for?

I hope that's rhetorical, because it's not really one that can answered empirically...

Tyndmyr wrote: It's sort of an area of conflict in the libertarian ideology, and while the answer is generally less, how much less is an open question. Environmental research isn't innately bad, but some research does not appear well connected to a government interest.

Of course it's a conflict to libertarian ideology. However, if you break from strict ideology enough to acknowledge that some basic laws/regulations are needed, then you need the science to support what the regulated baseline should be. Society has reaped tremendous benefits from advancements in industry, technology, and science, but one of the small prices we pay is industrial contamination in our environment and in almost every person's body right now (I'm not exaggerating). Contamination cannot be regulated to zero concentrations [although there are ignorant activists who think that], so you have determine what level of contamination is generally safe for society but as minimally restrictive on the industry of society. Industry has a severe conflict of interest and incredibly terrible track-record [see abandoned Colorado gold mine example], so they can't be trusted to determine was is safe [EDIT: but I welcome them to be in the discussion, because the industry that generates a chemical or waste often has the most technical knowledge of it]. Individuals don't have the expertise, resources, or time to determine this for themselves, [EDIT: but they pay the biggest price to their health when things go wrong]. So individuals and industry depend on gov't to do this research this for them. Without investing in that research regulations would be just shooting in the dark, wasting even more resources, time, and people are dying with ineffectual regulations. If you need regulations that protect millions of people and impact billions or trillions of dollars in trade, then you damn well better do the minimal scientific research and keep updating it as things change to make sure regulations are effective.

If you think that's too much effort and we're better off without the regulations, then you should read about pre-EPA disasters that killed large numbers of people, like Donora Smog event of 1948, or the Cuyahoga River fire of 1969 (when was the last time you heard of a US river burning? I'll give you a hint, it would have been before the federal Clean Water Act was passed in 1970). There are also other nations in the world with little to no environmental laws, that people who really don't believe in the regulations can go try to live in. Good luck.

Tyndmyr wrote:The remediation was already done, if memory serves, they were inspecting it. No disaster was looming if they hadn't been there, but thanks to their intervention, one occurred.

Not true. LaserGuy is right. The acid mine waste was draining into the river at unacceptable levels to the state and local community and they asked the EPA to get involved.

Tyndmyr wrote:There's a legitimate public safety issue involving cleaning up industrial messes, but it could be handled in other ways. The court system and privately contracted cleanup crews works for many issues(find asbestos in an old house, and you may have to hire an abatement team). Sure, the courts can be slow, but...as you say, this particular process took many years. It isn't entirely without merit to believe that privatization could be faster.

See above... they already use private companies and work with private partners whenever they can.

Tyndmyr wrote:And, at some level, local governments are also responsible. *squints at Flint* This isn't a great deal different from what you say, but the EPA basically serves as a way to ditch responsibility. In general, whoever made the mess ought to clean it up, and be forced to do so legally via the court system if they do not. If the original party no longer exists, basically a local government issues. This isn't too different from the modern system, but a libertarian system might give somewhat more standing to individual cases. As it currently stands, the wronged people are rarely actually given reasonable compensation. Class action lawsuits are often something of a joke, with payment mostly going to lawyers, maybe a charity, and with very little effort to actually compensate those injured.

LaserGuy also pointed out correctly that many small local governments don't have the resources to pay for millions of dollars of cleanup, like the rural area near the Colorado gold mine example. Lawsuits are only applicable when there is someone around who can still pay. Contamination that can hurt people is there and it doesn't care about your laws, finances, or ideology.


And to pull this derailed train back to the point of your discussion some, environmental issues is just one aspect of sensible government that libertarian ideology doesn't satisfy, but there are others. I don't pretend to have the technological knowledge and expertise in civil engineering or finance or medicine or military strategy to say which of those programs are unnecessary and which are not. I can only speak intelligently to the subjects I understand well and I have to have some trust in experts in those other fields who can speak intelligently to them. Strict Libertarians labor under this belief everyone can figure out for themselves all details that matter to the well being of their lives, which I think is nonsense. And I understand how "socialist" that sounds, but truth is we're not all experts in every field and society collectively makes a lot of dumb and irrational choices. We need some smarter people in charge to point us in the right direction on subjects we don't understand well. I stumbled on this old comic/graphic recently from SMBC Comic and it seems applicable to this discussion.
Image
Most people on most subjects [including myself] are probably on "Mount Stupid" saying and doing things we barely have any knowledge of, but vainly think we do. However, those implementing the regulations in specific a field should be at least somewhere to the right of Mount Stupid.

(Edits were because I wrote most of this late at night before going to bed. I re-read it and found a few typos and minor clarifications/additions. )

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jul 02, 2018 8:09 pm UTC

Ranbot wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:I'm still curious as if it's that you disagree about agency consolidation specifically, or if you object to the EPA being one of the ones consolidated, considering the others less critical.

Agency consolidation is fine by me as long as needed work is still done. I'm also fine with further shrinking agencies and contracting work to the private sector as needed. Most of their remediation work is done that way already. The EPA [or any other state environmental agency] have few "boots on the ground" sort of employees. They depend on private contractors awarded projects through competitive public bids or private-public partnerships when there are interested purchasers or developers.


Agreed. In almost all cases, the actual work gets contracted out. This is definitely the case for a lot of Forest Service work as well, many tree planting crews are contracted, though the fed workers do oversight, of course.

It's largely an issue of managers to workers. You definitely do need some of the former, but administrative bloat can be a problem. Hell, it can happen even in the commercial sector, despite the financial incentives to avoid it.

Tyndmyr wrote:How much research ought the government to pay for?

I hope that's rhetorical, because it's not really one that can answered empirically...


Well, in a practical sense, it's a question we need to answer. Yeah, assessing the value of research before conducting it is notoriously difficult, but we can't actually fund everything. What things ought to be funded, and who ought to fund them is a thing that, one way or another, does have an answer.

As a general rule, I would consider that any sort of productization research can be handled by the commercial industry. More blue sky experimentation may not be as easy to fund via commercial enterprise, but the line there is a bit fuzzy. There's also research connected to legitimate government interests which most libertarians would agree on, I think. It's reasonable for the government to fund a study for defense interests that no corporate entity would fund otherwise.

Tyndmyr wrote: It's sort of an area of conflict in the libertarian ideology, and while the answer is generally less, how much less is an open question. Environmental research isn't innately bad, but some research does not appear well connected to a government interest.

Of course it's a conflict to libertarian ideology. However, if you break from strict ideology enough to acknowledge that some basic laws/regulations are needed, then you need the science to support what the regulated baseline should be.


How much, and on what basis, though? I don't deny that some environmental research may be necessary, but I don't think that currently, all research is oriented towards supporting law and regulation. A significant amount of environmental research may be purely educational, which is still useful, but isn't justified as a government responsibility by the law and regulation necessity.

I agree that ideology has to translate into reality to be at all useful, but there doesn't seem to be any reason why libertarianism would face special problems here.

Society has reaped tremendous benefits from advancements in industry, technology, and science, but one of the small prices we pay is industrial contamination in our environment and in almost every person's body right now (I'm not exaggerating). Contamination cannot be regulated to zero concentrations [although there are ignorant activists who think that], so you have determine what level of contamination is generally safe for society but as minimally restrictive on the industry of society. Industry has a severe conflict of interest and incredibly terrible track-record [see abandoned Colorado gold mine example], so they can't be trusted to determine was is safe [EDIT: but I welcome them to be in the discussion, because the industry that generates a chemical or waste often has the most technical knowledge of it]. Individuals don't have the expertise, resources, or time to determine this for themselves, [EDIT: but they pay the biggest price to their health when things go wrong]. So individuals and industry depend on gov't to do this research this for them. Without investing in that research regulations would be just shooting in the dark, wasting even more resources, time, and people are dying with ineffectual regulations. If you need regulations that protect millions of people and impact billions or trillions of dollars in trade, then you damn well better do the minimal scientific research and keep updating it as things change to make sure regulations are effective.


This essentially rehashes the preceding reason. Yeah, I agree that lead levels in the water ought not be high, and some degree of research was needed to establish practically permissible levels. That's fair. That is, however, fairly minimal. And once the standards are set, third party testing will mostly suffice for actual implementation. Test, lawsuit if standards are being violated, good to go.

Tyndmyr wrote:The remediation was already done, if memory serves, they were inspecting it. No disaster was looming if they hadn't been there, but thanks to their intervention, one occurred.

Not true. LaserGuy is right. The acid mine waste was draining into the river at unacceptable levels to the state and local community and they asked the EPA to get involved.


Alright, had time to look at it a bit more. There was a legitimate existing issue, though it'd sat as it was for a while without being addressed. Some level of responsibility for that has to accrue to state and local government. Additionally, the initial mitigation was conducted by the state. It looks as if the state, to some degree, pawned off this problem on the federal gov. Not because it was something that the state intrinsically couldn't handle, but because it didn't want to. Now, the EPA turned this into a proper mess, and then compounded their accident by not promptly informing those downriver, and their actions were a good deal worse than the state's, even. All in all, I think they mostly deserve their PR problems stemming from it, though I do think it's fair to both credit the state with some of that, and also to note that this isn't representative of the average EPA project.

The federal government then went to great lengths to disclaim responsibility for it. Basically, little different from what everyone blames corrupt companies for.

Tyndmyr wrote:And, at some level, local governments are also responsible. *squints at Flint* This isn't a great deal different from what you say, but the EPA basically serves as a way to ditch responsibility. In general, whoever made the mess ought to clean it up, and be forced to do so legally via the court system if they do not. If the original party no longer exists, basically a local government issues. This isn't too different from the modern system, but a libertarian system might give somewhat more standing to individual cases. As it currently stands, the wronged people are rarely actually given reasonable compensation. Class action lawsuits are often something of a joke, with payment mostly going to lawyers, maybe a charity, and with very little effort to actually compensate those injured.

LaserGuy also pointed out correctly that many small local governments don't have the resources to pay for millions of dollars of cleanup, like the rural area near the Colorado gold mine example. Lawsuits are only applicable when there is someone around who can still pay. Contamination that can hurt people is there and it doesn't care about your laws, finances, or ideology.


Well, it was a state project for a while, so that doesn't seem to be a large concern. The locals mostly seemed to fear the impact that active, public remediation would have on tourism. Nobody wants their town to be seen as a toxic waste dump. This problem largely exists regardless of who is responsible.

Additionally, sure, a disaster can impact multiple cities, states, or jurisdictions. That's fine. Those responsible can be jointly liable for all damages, even if states handle remediation separately. Adopting a libertarian model should not impede ability to get recompense if anyone is still around to make pay. If they're not, well, it's going to fall to a government regardless, and it is a bit more fair that more slipshod areas bear the cost for their lack of safety.

And to pull this derailed train back to the point of your discussion some, environmental issues is just one aspect of sensible government that libertarian ideology doesn't satisfy, but there are others. I don't pretend to have the technological knowledge and expertise in civil engineering or finance or medicine or military strategy to say which of those programs are unnecessary and which are not. I can only speak intelligently to the subjects I understand well and I have to have some trust in experts in those other fields who can speak intelligently to them. Strict Libertarians labor under this belief everyone can figure out for themselves all details that matter to the well being of their lives, which I think is nonsense. And I understand how "socialist" that sounds, but truth is we're not all experts in every field and society collectively makes a lot of dumb and irrational choices. We need some smarter people in charge to point us in the right direction on subjects we don't understand well. I stumbled on this old comic/graphic recently from SMBC Comic and it seems applicable to this discussion.
Image
Most people on most subjects [including myself] are probably on "Mount Stupid" saying and doing things we barely have any knowledge of, but vainly think we do. However, those implementing the regulations in specific a field should be at least somewhere to the right of Mount Stupid.

(Edits were because I wrote most of this late at night before going to bed. I re-read it and found a few typos and minor clarifications/additions. )


We're not all experts, no. That's the thing about democracy, is that voters are not experts on all(or even most!) of the issues they influence. So, either you wind up accepting that, thanks to the wisdom of the crowds, you can have non-experts meaningfully contribute to a good decision, or you end up tossing out democracy as an option.

If you want experts in charge of everything, you've chosen the answer that isn't democracy.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby ucim » Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:27 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Yeah, assessing the value of research before conducting it is notoriously difficult
But that's not the point. There is "assessing the value of {particular} research", and "assessing the value of research {itself}" The former may aid in defending the country, the latter makes the country worth defending.

There is pure research and applied research. Applied research has (duh!) applications, and the beneficiary of those applications may well be the best source of funding. But pure research amounts to asking the question "how does the world work" for its own sake. And if you don't think that a priest is the best one to supply your answer, then the science lab is the place to go. But where does the money come from when there's no (nearby visible) application for it? That's where, if you believe that we all benefit from understanding the world around us, government has a proper place in funding this.

Further, if you leave research (pure or applied) to the commercial sector, the answers will not be available to the citizens. They will instead be used against them. Preventing this is another legitimate role of government.

Tyndmyr wrote:A significant amount of environmental research may be purely educational, which is still useful, but isn't justified as a government responsibility by the law and regulation necessity.
See above.

Tyndmyr wrote:...And once the standards are set, third party testing will mostly suffice...
What prevents this "third party" from aligning its interests with the industry it's supposedly regulating? And to what extent are individuals supposed to learn enough about the science, economics, politics, and power structure to see through it and stop it from happening?

This is also a legitimate role of government.

Sure, corruption can happen in government too. But if you can find me any kind of insitution in which corruption is impossible, I have some deals I'd like to make.

Tyndmyr wrote:If you want experts in charge of everything, you've chosen the answer that isn't democracy.
No. Just no. Not at all.

You can have experts in charge of "everything", with democracy choosing the experts. The "wisdom of the crowds" is kind of like a "gut feeling". We all know the contents of the human gut. Because if you look at the wisdom of the youtube crowds, the earth is flat. Whatever wisdom is in the crowds resides in the experts that the crowds tend to contain, and the respect that the rest of the crowds have for the knowledge that has been gleaned by these experts through their time, skill, and hard work.

Take that away at your peril.

Jose
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jul 03, 2018 2:26 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Yeah, assessing the value of research before conducting it is notoriously difficult
But that's not the point. There is "assessing the value of {particular} research", and "assessing the value of research {itself}" The former may aid in defending the country, the latter makes the country worth defending.

There is pure research and applied research. Applied research has (duh!) applications, and the beneficiary of those applications may well be the best source of funding. But pure research amounts to asking the question "how does the world work" for its own sake. And if you don't think that a priest is the best one to supply your answer, then the science lab is the place to go. But where does the money come from when there's no (nearby visible) application for it? That's where, if you believe that we all benefit from understanding the world around us, government has a proper place in funding this.

Further, if you leave research (pure or applied) to the commercial sector, the answers will not be available to the citizens. They will instead be used against them. Preventing this is another legitimate role of government.


I do acknowledge that in some areas, pure research might not have immediate corporate applicability. There's some areas that remain to be solved in terms of setting up a proper market.

There's no particular reason why research in general can't be made available to citizens, though. Pretty much any other data can and will be sold provided that there's a market for it. Why not research? If it's an IP concern, that's solely due to government protections, and that can easily be lessened without increasing governmental size(quite the opposite, usually). In short, if it's an area that will be researched by non-governmental entities and it doesn't apply to government functions, the government need not research it.

Tyndmyr wrote:This is also a legitimate role of government.

Sure, corruption can happen in government too. But if you can find me any kind of insitution in which corruption is impossible, I have some deals I'd like to make.


The problem of government isn't merely that it is vulnerable to corruption. As you say, everything is. The issue is that if your government is corrupt, it is very hard to change governments.

If a company you buy from is corrupt, it's easier to find another seller, or even another job than it is to find another government. Normally, finding another government requires moving, which involves those other changes, and has a lot more difficulty besides. Folks often talk about moving to Canada post US-elections, but actually doing so is challenging, and in the end, fairly few do. It's not a good solution for corruption.

Therefore, if you care about corruption, you ought to be extremely concerned about government corruption.

Tyndmyr wrote:If you want experts in charge of everything, you've chosen the answer that isn't democracy.
No. Just no. Not at all.

You can have experts in charge of "everything", with democracy choosing the experts. The "wisdom of the crowds" is kind of like a "gut feeling". We all know the contents of the human gut. Because if you look at the wisdom of the youtube crowds, the earth is flat. Whatever wisdom is in the crowds resides in the experts that the crowds tend to contain, and the respect that the rest of the crowds have for the knowledge that has been gleaned by these experts through their time, skill, and hard work.

Take that away at your peril.

Jose


The wisdom of the crowds is not as you have described. The crowd does not believe that the world is flat. Poll 'em, and it's obvious. That's a trivially marginal viewpoint. An individual may believe that, but the public at large does not. Usually, when you poll the population, you get the correct answer, or very close to it, even if the majority of the crowd individually holds incorrect beliefs.

Consider your faith in experts relative to the stock market. Find an expert that can reliably beat the SP 500 index. Simply taking an averaged position of what the public considers most valuable doesn't just beat most experts. Over the long term, it beats all experts.

Edit: Thinking about it, a big part of Libertarianism is figuring out what goes where. Socialism often seems to us to confuse government with society frequently. It's very common to agree that something ought to be handled by society, but disagree that it ought to be handled by government in particular. To some extent, anarchists represent a more extreme viewpoint of this, differing primarily with libertarians over what needs to be handled by government, whereas libertarians view anarchists as not really handling some aspects at all. Most notably, national defense. I suppose this viewpoint difference between libertarians and anarchists sort of mirrors the disagreement between more mainstream parties and libertarians.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby ucim » Tue Jul 03, 2018 4:06 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:There's no particular reason why research in general can't be made available to citizens, though. Pretty much any other data can and will be sold provided that there's a market for it. Why not research?
How much will you personally pay to find out whether the delta meson decays in four parsecs or three point nine? This might hold a clue as to whether the manifold of the universe is compatible with Kobiashi Maru. The market (to private citizens) for pure knowledge is tiny. Most people would rather play angry birds, even after they know it's a spy app. Why do you think fake news travels so much faster than real news?

No. Counting on private citizens as a market for pure research output is ludicrous.

Tyndmyr wrote:In short, if it's an area that will be researched by non-governmental entities and it doesn't apply to government functions, the government need not research it.
But yanno, some other government will. And those citizens will be in a much more intellectually rich environment for it. And the best and brightest will migrate there. Slowly at first, and after that it won't matter.

Tyndmyr wrote:The issue is that if your government is corrupt, it is very hard to change governments.
True dat. And I'm very concerned about that. But your counterpoint is not at all true. If Facebook were corrupt, for example, spying on people who aren't even facebook users, and then using or selling this info to control the populace, directly or indirectly, this is many times harder to escape. I forsee the day where, if you don't have a facebook account, you simply will not be able to get a job, an apartment, or a loan. Or health care. So yeah, I care about corrpution. But there are far more insidious forms than governmental corruption (though I admit, the latter can be pretty awful).

Tyndmyr wrote:Usually, when you poll the population, you get the correct answer, or very close to it, even if the majority of the crowd individually holds incorrect beliefs.
No, what you get is the "generally accepted" answer. That's pretty much tautological. To get the correct answer you have to do actual research, like dropping two weights from a tower, or correlating runes across multiple languages with sound shifts and population migration, or doing actual statistical analysis on crime, immigration, poverty, and race. And you have to be smart enough to realize the limitations of what you are doing, because it's very easy to be fooled. The "generally accepted" answer is very vulnerable to loud mouths, an effect that is playing out right now. So no, I don't trust the wisdom of the crowds. It's useful, but it's like watching youtube and calling it "research".

Tyndmyr wrote:Consider your faith in experts relative to the stock market.
Yeah, not all fields have experts.
Spoiler:
Want fifteen different opinions on the economy? Ask two economists.
That said, there are people who have done very well in the stock market. It's not magic. It's not a random walk. But it is (to a great extent) psychology, and "the crowds" are nothing but psychology writ large. If facebook and google team up, they can take over the market.

Also, note that the SP 500 index is not a constant. Its makeup changes.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jul 03, 2018 4:33 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:There's no particular reason why research in general can't be made available to citizens, though. Pretty much any other data can and will be sold provided that there's a market for it. Why not research?
How much will you personally pay to find out whether the delta meson decays in four parsecs or three point nine? This might hold a clue as to whether the manifold of the universe is compatible with Kobiashi Maru. The market (to private citizens) for pure knowledge is tiny. Most people would rather play angry birds, even after they know it's a spy app. Why do you think fake news travels so much faster than real news?

No. Counting on private citizens as a market for pure research output is ludicrous.


For pure research, yes. For applied research, no. I don't personally have any use for knowledge regarding delta mesons, so the most I might pay for something is a small token amount, purely out of curiosity. I would pay a great deal more for say, information relating to preventing or curing Alzheimer's.

What's wrong with that? Why is it wrong that the latter be more funded, given that the need is more pressing?

Tyndmyr wrote:In short, if it's an area that will be researched by non-governmental entities and it doesn't apply to government functions, the government need not research it.
But yanno, some other government will. And those citizens will be in a much more intellectually rich environment for it. And the best and brightest will migrate there. Slowly at first, and after that it won't matter.


Other governments doing fundamental research is great! That information'll get spread around, and we'll be the better for it. Human knowledge is, outside of specific areas like military technology, mostly of mutual benefit.

More importantly, there's nothing wrong with corporations paying their own bills for helpful research, rather than relying on government subsidy.

Tyndmyr wrote:The issue is that if your government is corrupt, it is very hard to change governments.
True dat. And I'm very concerned about that. But your counterpoint is not at all true. If Facebook were corrupt, for example, spying on people who aren't even facebook users, and then using or selling this info to control the populace, directly or indirectly, this is many times harder to escape. I forsee the day where, if you don't have a facebook account, you simply will not be able to get a job, an apartment, or a loan. Or health care. So yeah, I care about corrpution. But there are far more insidious forms than governmental corruption (though I admit, the latter can be pretty awful).


It is far, far easier for me to avoid using facebook than it is for me to switch governments.

This argument boils down to "what if it wasn't?". Well, it isn't. Sure, facebook is pervasive, but it's ludicrously easy to avoid compared to government.

Tyndmyr wrote:Usually, when you poll the population, you get the correct answer, or very close to it, even if the majority of the crowd individually holds incorrect beliefs.
No, what you get is the "generally accepted" answer. That's pretty much tautological. To get the correct answer you have to do actual research, like dropping two weights from a tower, or correlating runes across multiple languages with sound shifts and population migration, or doing actual statistical analysis on crime, immigration, poverty, and race. And you have to be smart enough to realize the limitations of what you are doing, because it's very easy to be fooled. The "generally accepted" answer is very vulnerable to loud mouths, an effect that is playing out right now. So no, I don't trust the wisdom of the crowds. It's useful, but it's like watching youtube and calling it "research".


No, it's nothing like that. Watching youtube is gathering individual opinions. Polling *is* part of doing statistical analysis. How do you think information is gathered on crime, immigration, poverty and race? The vast majority of that does come from polls.

The whole reason democracy works is not because the common man is smarter than experts. He isn't. However, democracy generally selects for opinions close to the median, filtering out the generally crazy extremes. If you randomly grab youtube videos, you may find that one of them favors a flat-world viewpoint or some other nuttiness. If you poll the population, you'll not get that.

And even when idiots know nothing about the topic, the average of their answers tends to be far more accurate than their guesses are. That phenomenon is where the whole "wisdom of the crowds" originates from. Ask a guy on the street to estimate something, odds are he'll suck terribly. But ask a ton of them, and average 'em out, and you'll do just fine.

Tyndmyr wrote:Consider your faith in experts relative to the stock market.
Yeah, not all fields have experts.
Spoiler:
Want fifteen different opinions on the economy? Ask two economists.
That said, there are people who have done very well in the stock market. It's not magic. It's not a random walk. But it is (to a great extent) psychology, and "the crowds" are nothing but psychology writ large. If facebook and google team up, they can take over the market.

Also, note that the SP 500 index is not a constant. Its makeup changes.


There are individuals who have done very well in a casino, too. That doesn't mean you should consider their advice about lucky numbers or what not as anything other than superstition. Statistically, if you go play at a Casino, you're gonna lose. You might think that you're better than average, and over the short term, you might. But over the long term, you're gonna lose. The same is true relative to index funds for investors. People have tried all manner of strategies, and in the end, relying on index funds is a better strategy than trusting any expert opinion.

All indices change. How is that relevant?

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Jul 03, 2018 8:36 pm UTC

On the topic of craziness being pervasive in places like YouTube: remember that common knowledge does not make headlines. Not many people are going to just spontaneously make videos telling everyone that the sky is blue. But if there's some conspiracy theory that the sky is actually red and it's only due to government brainwashing that everyone thinks it's blue... that's something to make a video about. Likewise with "the Earth is round"/"the Earth is flat". Nobody's going to make videos telling people what they already know. But those who think they're in on the secret hidden truth just have to put the message out there.
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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Ranbot » Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:04 pm UTC

I don't have time for a long response now, but maybe in the near future.

In a very broad sense, Tyndmyr, your counter-arguments to my points are again very ideological and that's completely average for environmental issues. The average person is ignorant of the details, which is not to say you are ignorant in a global sense, just ignorant on this specific topic, like the vast majority of people are, and just like I am ignorant on a great many other subjects. The devil is in the details and the more one knows about the details, the less gaps they have to fill in with worldview or ideology. For the record, I don't agree completely ucim's responses either, who I think is also passing off ideology as fact/evidence in his own way on this subject.

As for the issues of Democracy being a bad way to find experts to craft government policy, that's true, but only superficially.... in actual democratic practice most of the US executive branch offices that craft and enforce policy are appointed positions, not elected, for good reason. :wink:

Also consider this thought: US environmental policy is similar to vaccines, in that over the past few decades they both have been successful enough that people are rarely confronted with strong reminders of why they exist.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jul 03, 2018 10:12 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:On the topic of craziness being pervasive in places like YouTube: remember that common knowledge does not make headlines.


Definitely true. By definition, the sorts of controversial things that draw lots of attention and arguing are not the things people agree on. It's really easy to find a crazy chap willing to put a strange video on youtube. It's less easy to get the general public to agree with that guy.

Ranbot wrote:I don't have time for a long response now, but maybe in the near future.

In a very broad sense, Tyndmyr, your counter-arguments to my points are again very ideological and that's completely average for environmental issues. The average person is ignorant of the details, which is not to say you are ignorant in a global sense, just ignorant on this specific topic, like the vast majority of people are, and just like I am ignorant on a great many other subjects. The devil is in the details and the more one knows about the details, the less gaps they have to fill in with worldview or ideology. For the record, I don't agree completely ucim's responses either, who I think is also passing off ideology as fact/evidence in his own way on this subject.


I mean, it's a thread about a political ideology, every position on the issue is going to be ideological.

Nobody's positing that knowledge is bad, or that the environment ought to be ignored, only that we don't need so many government agencies focused on the environment, and can cut down on the bureaucratic overhead. It's fine to disagree with that, but "ideological" is not synonymous with ignorant.

As for the issues of Democracy being a bad way to find experts to craft government policy, that's true, but only superficially.... in actual democratic practice most of the US executive branch offices that craft and enforce policy are appointed positions, not elected, for good reason. :wink:

Also consider this thought: US environmental policy is similar to vaccines, in that over the past few decades they both have been successful enough that people are rarely confronted with strong reminders of why they exist.


They are effectively indirectly elected, given that most of the administration leadership positions change hands when the presidency does. Sentiment about what policies will be enacted and enforced is a major part of presidential politics. The idea that cabinet positions and the like are staffed only by non partisan experts is...odd.

Go on, look up the folks in charge of these agencies at present, and tell me if you honestly think they were selected primarily for expertise.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby elasto » Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:13 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:They are effectively indirectly elected, given that most of the administration leadership positions change hands when the presidency does. Sentiment about what policies will be enacted and enforced is a major part of presidential politics. The idea that cabinet positions and the like are staffed only by non partisan experts is...odd.

Go on, look up the folks in charge of these agencies at present, and tell me if you honestly think they were selected primarily for expertise.

This is the case in the US and I think it's one of the worst aspects of your government.

In the UK, civil service departments will typically stay on in their entirety when a new government arrives - even the leadership - no matter how abrupt the change in ideology. And the public should no more be voting on who should be police chief or school administrator than they should be voting on how a surgeon should carry out brain surgery. They simply lack the expertise to make an informed judgement.

Leaders should be elected to determine the overall direction of travel for sure, but the detail should be carried out by public servants: experts in their domain who have risen through the ranks on merit. They should be subject to the acclaim and rebuke of their peers and not beholden to the whims of raw populist appeal.

There's a reason experts are experts, it's because they know more. Yes they are subject to arrogance and closed-mindedness just like anyone else, but they are still the best to go to if you want a specific answer to a technical question. Yes there is wisdom in crowds, but there's more wisdom in a crowd of experts than a random crowd off the street.

Democracy is a fail-safe to prevent the worst from occurring such as a murderous tyrant coming to power; It's not of much use beyond that.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Eomund » Thu Jul 05, 2018 3:41 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:As a general rule, I would consider that any sort of productization research can be handled by the commercial industry. More blue sky experimentation may not be as easy to fund via commercial enterprise, but the line there is a bit fuzzy. There's also research connected to legitimate government interests which most libertarians would agree on, I think. It's reasonable for the government to fund a study for defense interests that no corporate entity would fund otherwise.


So we leave the research into the health effects of smoking to the tobacco industry? That doesn't seem like a great idea. To be any good research needs to be independent. If we leave it to the industry only the results they want are going to see the light of day and anything negative will be buried.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby elasto » Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:32 pm UTC

Eomund wrote:So we leave the research into the health effects of smoking to the tobacco industry? That doesn't seem like a great idea. To be any good research needs to be independent. If we leave it to the industry only the results they want are going to see the light of day and anything negative will be buried.

This is one of the biggest problems in science today - not simply that unfavourable results are buried, but that inconclusive and non-results are also discarded.

This results in a huge waste of resources when blind alleys are repeatedly gone down and studies that produced nothing worthwhile to the goals of that particular research none-the-less threw up something that would have been of interest to those in another field.

The simple fact is though that it's of no benefit at all for a private firm to publish research unless it results in patents; Strategically it's better to hide even non-results in the hope that the competition will waste their R&D budgets on the same dead-ends.

I have heard talk of researchers signing up to (or being forced to) release results even when inconclusive or unfavourable - by means of having to register the study in advance before any results are known, but I don't know if anything came of that.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:32 pm UTC

There's various voluntary places, like http://www.jasnh.com (not, as I write this, updated with this year's February edition, due for a July one) with some interesting reads in them. (FCVO 'interesing'.)

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jul 05, 2018 3:17 pm UTC

elasto wrote:This is the case in the US and I think it's one of the worst aspects of your government.


It does have a "worst of both worlds" component to it. It's not a direct election, it's more of a spoils system. So it plays a great deal into partisanship, making that matter a whole lot more. I can't pick a specific justice, but I can influence if the next justice is republican leaning or democrat leaning. It makes the presidential election into *more* of a partisan fight, which is...probably undesirable.

Local governments are somewhat less this way. Individual elections for say, School Board are a thing, and are sometimes non partisan. We do in fact vote on who is to be Sheriff. Police chiefs are generally appointed, though.

Leaders should be elected to determine the overall direction of travel for sure, but the detail should be carried out by public servants: experts in their domain who have risen through the ranks on merit. They should be subject to the acclaim and rebuke of their peers and not beholden to the whims of raw populist appeal.


The issue with the appointing is that it eventually relies on an elected official, and at that level, it becomes politicized. Who Trump appoints as in charge of Education is clearly a political message, and he's definitely picked based on his party goals, not based solely on expertise.

I mean, if anyone wants to defend the DeVos as an expert, go nuts, but in practice, our current system is selecting high level bureaucrats for partisan positions over expertise. Directly voting could do no worse.

Eomund wrote:So we leave the research into the health effects of smoking to the tobacco industry? That doesn't seem like a great idea. To be any good research needs to be independent. If we leave it to the industry only the results they want are going to see the light of day and anything negative will be buried.


1. If nobody is willing to fund it, yet it is necessary, then it's a good candidate for public inquiry. Tobacco research might have been one such area. Direct health risks are almost certainly going to be considered far more necessary than say, investigating theoretical particle qualities. The former is a lot more practical, and a lot less blue sky.
2. There are financial incentives for others to do research. In particular, health insurance companies have strong motivations to find significant risks to health. We've actually had smokers charged higher insurance premiums for a good bit now. Presuming that one considers third party studies of more import than tobacco-funded studies, it's been pretty easy for quite some time to come to the conclusion that smoking is bad for you.
3. Tobacco had a huge amount of lobbying power, and if anything, a powerful government contributed to smoking's continued popularity. There was an utter ton of research out there, but the tobacco lobby simply aimed to muddy the waters and stall. We knew smoking would kill ya in the 40s and 50s. The existing system took forever to act at all. A libertarian system with stronger anti-fraud protection laws would have enabled far more individuals to act via lawsuits.

Essentially, this is a fine example of the weaknesses of a centralized approach, and it's vulnerability to corruption.

elasto wrote:This is one of the biggest problems in science today - not simply that unfavourable results are buried, but that inconclusive and non-results are also discarded.


Inconclusive/non-results, and other uninteresting bits of data will probably be similarly ignored under a more libertarian government. Not really a government problem, but one baked into science and humans altogether. We prioritize the big change in knowledge over learning about uncertainty or what not.

The simple fact is though that it's of no benefit at all for a private firm to publish research unless it results in patents; Strategically it's better to hide even non-results in the hope that the competition will waste their R&D budgets on the same dead-ends.


Nah, you can just sell the results. Getting even fairly modest payments from your competitor is significantly better than merely making them waste money. The latter won't hit every competitor, but getting more cash helps you relative to all of them.

Information has value.

Now, the human valuation problem for non-results will likely remain an issue. No great solution for this, though the market ought to reward companies that manage to avoid this trap.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby ucim » Thu Jul 05, 2018 4:27 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:1. If nobody is willing to fund it, yet it is necessary, then it's a good candidate for public inquiry.
Research is never necessary. It's often a good idea, but decisions are made all the time without research, even at the highest levels. Nobody needs to know the percentage of iron in the core of Jupiter, or the fifteenth Asberg number, or whether blue finches predated claw-toed sloths.

However, a culture in which these things have value even if they have no monetary value is a much more desirable culture to live in than one that doesn't.

Tyndmyr wrote:2. There are financial incentives for others to do research.
...as well as financial incentives for others to not do research. If you didn't know, you can't be blamed. The same is true for political fact-checking (another form of research).

Tyndmyr wrote:3. Tobacco had a huge amount of lobbying power,
Ayup. It's not unique though. It's not even uncommon.

A proper role of government is to act as a defense against corporate power. Yeah, it's kind of ironic considering lobbyists, but large concentrations of power can only be fought by other large concentrations of power coming from a different source.

Tyndmyr wrote:Nah, you can just sell the results. [...] Information has value.
So does ignorance. Simply offering data for sale tips the competition off that you have it, and at that point they may not need the actual data; they can just act on their (new) hunch. Maybe do a quick and dirty test themselves if they suspect they're being trolled.

It's not information that has (competitive) value, but unshared information.

If the result is something that would eventually end up in a public school textbook (thus showing it has value to an educated populace), it's a legitimate role of government to do research on the subject (to acquire that knowledge to begin with). It makes us a better and more desirable society.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jul 05, 2018 5:27 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:1. If nobody is willing to fund it, yet it is necessary, then it's a good candidate for public inquiry.
Research is never necessary. It's often a good idea, but decisions are made all the time without research, even at the highest levels. Nobody needs to know the percentage of iron in the core of Jupiter, or the fifteenth Asberg number, or whether blue finches predated claw-toed sloths.

However, a culture in which these things have value even if they have no monetary value is a much more desirable culture to live in than one that doesn't.


Those things are interesting, and perhaps some of those unusual facts do have value. Perhaps not immediate value, but long term value, while often discounted to some degree, is definitely still worth something.

If a fact genuinely has no value whatsoever, then it's pretty much just trivia. I disagree that a culture that obsesses over trivia is inherently superior. See also, celebrity-worship.

Tyndmyr wrote:2. There are financial incentives for others to do research.
...as well as financial incentives for others to not do research. If you didn't know, you can't be blamed. The same is true for political fact-checking (another form of research).


In government, that is true. In industry, it's less so. Yes, you personally may not be blamed, but if you choose poorly, and get a high risk population with low premiums, your company is gonna take some fiscal heat.

That's why I said "financial incentives", instead of talking about reputation.

Tyndmyr wrote:3. Tobacco had a huge amount of lobbying power,
Ayup. It's not unique though. It's not even uncommon.

A proper role of government is to act as a defense against corporate power. Yeah, it's kind of ironic considering lobbyists, but large concentrations of power can only be fought by other large concentrations of power coming from a different source.


I would argue that our current government does not provide an effective defense against corporate power, and the tobacco industry is a wonderful example.

The public accepted that cigarettes had health consequences long before the government took meaningful action on it. Government largely defends corporate power, not defends us against it.

Tyndmyr wrote:Nah, you can just sell the results. [...] Information has value.
So does ignorance. Simply offering data for sale tips the competition off that you have it, and at that point they may not need the actual data; they can just act on their (new) hunch. Maybe do a quick and dirty test themselves if they suspect they're being trolled.

It's not information that has (competitive) value, but unshared information.


By this logic, nobody would ever share any information, but this is not the case. Look at the personal data that companies collect about consumers. Yes, they could hoard that, but in practice, it is advantageous to sell your data to everyone that will buy.
Also, hunches are not equivalent to data. Yeah, yeah, you can act on them, but knowing that company A researched x, and is offering the results for sale, is distinctly inferior to knowing exactly what those results are. Yes, yes, you can *always* replicate science for yourself, and doing so is just fine from a societal point of view, but one company selling and the other buying is often cheaper. That's why all information markets exist.

You're looking at the economy as if it were a two player zero-sum game. It isn't.

If the result is something that would eventually end up in a public school textbook (thus showing it has value to an educated populace), it's a legitimate role of government to do research on the subject (to acquire that knowledge to begin with). It makes us a better and more desirable society.

Jose


Most studies are not done with this end in mind. Public school textbooks are usually focusing on well proven examples in order to demonstrate concepts, not on highly theoretical models of string theory or quark properties. Education is certainly of value, but you've got some very fuzzy logic going on here. Education usually focuses on the practical.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Jul 05, 2018 5:30 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Nobody needs to know (…) whether blue finches predated claw-toed sloths.

I do! Now! Or at least before the next time I go out to refill my garden's bird-feeder whilst wearing my sloth-onesie!

(I found it humorous to see the avowed "gubmint shouldn't do stuff, and just stay totally out of the way" person, above, suggest that "gubmint should fund and run loads of public enquiries". Not quite what was said, but what to one person might seem a necessary thing to be governed for, another can describe as overreach and yet another can decry as a total whitewash deliberately designed to miss the point and assign blame anywhere but where it should actually be. Just depending upon the precise issue concerned and each of the observer's perspectives. Consensus is hard fought, any which way.)

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jul 05, 2018 5:33 pm UTC

There's definitely going to be some disagreement over what, exactly is appropriate. 'strue for the main two parties as well. Even if you agree on the broad strokes, some specifics have some different views.

But, say, if you think the government handles defense, and a study on nuclear weapon safety is needed, then yeah, the obvious entity to handle that is the government. They have the access to the stuff, they're going to have to be involved. Kinda their show. Libertarians mostly don't object to that, though some might object to nuclear weapons on principle.

It is less clear that the government needs to fund string theory research(no intent to harp on them, just an easy example with a lack of real world application) or, say, artists.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby ucim » Thu Jul 05, 2018 6:20 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:(I found it humorous to see the avowed "gubmint shouldn't do stuff, and just stay totally out of the way" person, above, suggest that "gubmint should fund and run loads of public enquiries".
If you are referring to me, I am most certainly not a "gubmint shouldn't do stuff, and just stay totally out of the way" person, although I lean more towards personal liberties to the extent that they don't harm others.

Tyndmyr wrote:If a fact genuinely has no value whatsoever, then it's pretty much just trivia. I disagree that a culture that obsesses over trivia is inherently superior. See also, celebrity-worship.
What is trivia depends on context. The mass of Jupiter is trivia, as is the mass of the electron. But both are important trivia in the larger context of their field.
Tyndmyr wrote:In government, [the existence of incentives to not do research] is true. In industry, it's less so. Yes, you personally may not be blamed...
It's not about blame - that was a throwaway illustration. Anotheris that if you suspect that your product may be harmful, your incentive is to not know this, and to not have others know this, so you can keep selling it, and you can defend against lawsuits (or even prevent them from coming up in the first place).
Tyndmyr wrote:I would argue that our current government does not provide an effective defense against corporate power, and the tobacco industry is a wonderful example.
I agree. Lobbyists exist to take advantage of this. But government is just the citizens by proxy, and it's the citizens' responsibility to make it an effective deterrent. We are watching this (not) play out right now with facebook; another form of harmful addiction, where the harm is being directly caused by the company involved. A weaker government is no solution.
Tyndmyr wrote:Look at the personal data that companies collect about consumers. Yes, they could hoard that, but
They do hoard it. Although some of it is sold, a lot of it (especially in aggregate) is hoarded, and it is the results that are sold. In any case, spy data is not the same as basic scientific research, and shouldn't be dumped into the same basket.
Tyndmyr wrote:Most studies are not done with this end in mind. Public school textbooks are usually focusing on well proven examples in order to demonstrate concepts, not on highly theoretical models of string theory or quark properties...
Not directly, but these concepts that are being presented in textbooks ultimately derive from basic science, including string theory and quark properties. Maybe not third grade texts, but certainly high school and college texts. Without that, there would be no concepts to teach.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Jul 05, 2018 8:05 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Soupspoon wrote:(I found it humorous to see the avowed "gubmint shouldn't do stuff, and just stay totally out of the way" person, above, suggest that "gubmint should fund and run loads of public enquiries".
If you are referring to me, I am most certainly not a "gubmint shouldn't do stuff, and just stay totally out of the way" person, although I lean more towards personal liberties to the extent that they don't harm others.

No, you were just the quote I hooked upon for my "dressed as a sloth" witticism. I was more loosely paraphrasing someone else for the next part.

Indeed, I've mostly advocated "anyone should be able to do anything they want, so long as this does not (prevent/interfere with/reduce the possibility of/<insert argued-over scale of prohibition here>) anyone else doing what they want" utopian ideals, myself, for pretty much my entire political life, but with safety nets (because being on the edge of a cliff is often not a choice, and having access to ropes and not using them to haul someone out of difficulty is a choice that does harm).

Actually defining the parameters of what should and should not be done isn't up to just me, though, and I know some things that I'd think were reasonable might be seen as too much control by others, and some things I'd see as none of my business might be red lines that must be crossed by others (maybe the same others!). I wonder how we can resolve that?

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby elasto » Thu Jul 05, 2018 10:27 pm UTC

I think we'd all agree that there's some research the government should definitely fund since no one company ever would - such as 'how much can CO2 levels rise worldwide before it risks our survival as a species?' - and some research the government definitely should not - such as 'what's the optimal resolution of a smartphone?'

So there is a line in there somewhere and I think there's a lot of wiggle room for reasonable and rational people to disagree on where to draw it.

Tyndmyr made a relevant point in the Trump thread I thought, when they pointed out that minorities are unfairly disadvantaged in the primary school system through unequal funding.

Education is a big area I think the federal government has a responsibility to take ownership of in order to ensure fairness of opportunity. Leaving it up to local government will only reinforce inequalities because of the disparity of wealth (and surrendering education purely to market forces would be even worse...)

In at least one sense there's a ruthless logic to it being a good thing when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer: So far as it's true that the reason the rich are rich is because they are more competent at handling money, allowing the rich to keep as much of their wealth-generating capacity as possible would seem to improve the odds of the economy overall growing as fast as possible.

However that logic goes out of the window when talking about children, where talent may have no correlation at all to family wealth. And there may even be a slightly negative correlation between family wealth and desire for hard work. The best chance for a country to grow its economy into tomorrow therefore is by giving everyone access to a good education, and that means pooling resources at as high a level as possible and handing it out equally.

(I'd argue healthcare should be handled at a federal level for similar reasons - plus the benefits of huge economies of scale when ordering drugs etc., but I concede that's a murkier one to jump into.)

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:50 pm UTC

elasto wrote:Tyndmyr made a relevant point in the Trump thread I thought, when they pointed out that minorities are unfairly disadvantaged in the primary school system through unequal funding.

Education is a big area I think the federal government has a responsibility to take ownership of in order to ensure fairness of opportunity. Leaving it up to local government will only reinforce inequalities because of the disparity of wealth (and surrendering education purely to market forces would be even worse...)


If you're embracing the idea of, in theory, the most qualified people rising to the top via competition, folks getting a highly disadvantaged start screws with that. Also, child vaccinations are justified in the same fashion. A kid ought not be entirely screwed over for no reason other than his parent being an idiot.

The current system is not cheap...it's been guzzling down ever more money consistently for decades, but without improved results. Even if you don't care much for kids, and care only about cost efficiency, the current system is pretty rough.

(I'd argue healthcare should be handled at a federal level for similar reasons - plus the benefits of huge economies of scale when ordering drugs etc., but I concede that's a murkier one to jump into.)


It'd make more sense for minors. If someone basically gets no care, and gets a rough start, you're losing out on them having a reasonable chance at developing into a competitive entity.

However, if you give everyone as equal a start as you can(crap parents are probably not as good as caring parents, but I don't know that government can solve that above a very minimal bar of removing children from the truly terrible), a safety net later in life will be less necessary. A huge issue with health care is prompt treatment. You ignore, say, a cavity, and the problem will develop into something that is far more expensive to fix in addition to being worse for the individual. Therefore, early-life care is generally going to be far more cost-effective. Get everyone to a roughly equal level throughout childhood, and see how they fare afterward.

I'm not sure that economies of scale really apply, though. Larger organizations run into more layers of bureaucracy, so the increasing cost of administration and compliance may far outstrip the cost/benefit gains of larger ordering power.

This seems to be true for the VA, which provides particularly poor care, and is probably the most standardized and centralized federal health system. In many other cases, you probably are not actually using a centralized drug distribution system...the person is actually getting drugs from their local pharmacy, the government is just picking up the tab via whichever program is involved.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby sardia » Fri Jul 06, 2018 6:40 pm UTC

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_Democrat
Libertarians are often Trojan horses for Republicans to slash safety nets, so let's look at it from a democratic angle.
We have Jared Polis, Cory-running for president-Booker, Ron Wyden, and former senator Russ feingold.
Most of them revolve around anti big brother platforms, and war on drugs. Booker stands out for his beliefs in charter schools and economic zones.
Would libertarians vote for them? Or would that be like Rand Paul, a libertarian who sold out to get the conservative vote?

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Jul 06, 2018 7:46 pm UTC

sardia wrote:Would libertarians vote for them? Or would that be like Rand Paul, a libertarian who sold out to get the conservative vote?


Depends wildly on the libertarian. Standards of which mainstream candidates are close enough to be worth voting for varies from person to person. Roughly 10% of the population(or more. Numbers vary depending on which source you prefer) self-identifies as libertarian, but libertarian candidates typically do significantly worse, so at least some of them are voting for mainstream candidates frequently, though.

I would, overall, say that libertarians are more likely to break republican if choosing mainstream candidates, and greens are more likely to break democrat. That said, libertarian ideologies such as gay marriage rights have eventually gotten traction in the democratic party. Pot legalization seems to be gaining ground as well these days.

Gallup identifies some 20% of the population as libertarian based on their viewpoints. This, however, may not match how people see themselves. They swing a lot, though. This group swung pretty strongly Democrat in 2004, for instance. Bush's first term wasn't seen as being very pro-libertarian. A majority of this group still voted republican, but it was a pretty slender majority(59%, down from 72% previously).

Overall, I wish we had stronger data, since a lot of it is based on the larger grouping, categorized by issues, not actual self identification by voters, which may end up including people who in practice, are strongly partisan. But there's at least a subset that is quite willing to vote either way.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby elasto » Sat Jul 07, 2018 6:46 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:The current system is not cheap...it's been guzzling down ever more money consistently for decades, but without improved results. Even if you don't care much for kids, and care only about cost efficiency, the current system is pretty rough.

...

This seems to be true for the VA, which provides particularly poor care, and is probably the most standardized and centralized federal health system. In many other cases, you probably are not actually using a centralized drug distribution system...the person is actually getting drugs from their local pharmacy, the government is just picking up the tab via whichever program is involved.


I definitely wouldn't posit the current school and healthcare systems in the US as paragons. They are so dysfunctional that it's quite possible that applying some libertarian principles (especially the softer ones) to them might improve things.

There are examples of other countries with centralised school and healthcare systems which work much better though. And that's my basic point: I think libertarianism is suited to some aspects of society but not others, and education is something that I think would fare very poorly under it, and the more 'pure' the form of libertarianism, the worse it would do.

(This applies mostly to primary and secondary education though; Once you get to tertiary or adult education I think market forces do have an important role to play; I'm thinking particularly of the way online courses are going to revolutionise training and education both post-secondary school and, to an extent, within it.

If one university has a brilliant lecturer, why shouldn't the whole nation of students get to see his lectures? Why should most of them get lectured on the same subject by inferior tutors? It'd be great if teachers could become as famous and well-paid as film stars...)

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby LaserGuy » Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:10 pm UTC

elasto wrote:If one university has a brilliant lecturer, why shouldn't the whole nation of students get to see his lectures? Why should most of them get lectured on the same subject by inferior tutors? It'd be great if teachers could become as famous and well-paid as film stars...)


This is off topic, but a great lecturer is not the same thing as a great teacher. A great lecturer can in fact be a quite poor one.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby elasto » Sun Jul 08, 2018 10:58 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:This is off topic, but a great lecturer is not the same thing as a great teacher. A great lecturer can in fact be a quite poor one.

Assuming you mean someone great at giving lectures isn't always good in small groups with significant back-and-forth discussion, sure, I can agree with that. It's worth noting that group sessions and one-on-one sessions can and sometimes are carried out online, but that's only an incremental improvement in convenience, and not the explosion in accessibility I'm hoping for.

But in terms of pure lecturing, it'd be great to get more of the best courses online so some small village in Africa can benefit from the greatest lecturers in history. Much more efficient than the way it is traditionally done, where perhaps only a hundred people a year learn from the best.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jul 09, 2018 2:43 pm UTC

elasto wrote:I definitely wouldn't posit the current school and healthcare systems in the US as paragons. They are so dysfunctional that it's quite possible that applying some libertarian principles (especially the softer ones) to them might improve things.


A voucher system might be viable. It's a choice-promoting option that doesn't require as much radical rework directly, so as to minimize changeover costs. That said, a voucher system only gets you so far. If all the schools in your area are awful, the best you can do is select for somewhat less awful. Sometimes a city's administration is bad, or there's just grave funding issues.

There are examples of other countries with centralised school and healthcare systems which work much better though. And that's my basic point: I think libertarianism is suited to some aspects of society but not others, and education is something that I think would fare very poorly under it, and the more 'pure' the form of libertarianism, the worse it would do.


I suspect that in the real world, no ideology is entirely pure. Problems crop up with everything to some degree. Our educational system and health care system largely attract criticism because of the real world issues we see at present. Going through the list of government agencies, one notices that some of them attract criticism at highly disproportional rates, so it isn't merely an ideological resistance to all government. Folks disproportionately dislike those agencies that they perceive as ineffective.

I think it'd be reasonable to try out libertarian ideals there, and see if they improve a bad situation. Makes more sense to start trying to fix the broken, rather than what already works. Unfortunately, hard to get political footing to give it a shot.

(This applies mostly to primary and secondary education though; Once you get to tertiary or adult education I think market forces do have an important role to play; I'm thinking particularly of the way online courses are going to revolutionise training and education both post-secondary school and, to an extent, within it.

If one university has a brilliant lecturer, why shouldn't the whole nation of students get to see his lectures? Why should most of them get lectured on the same subject by inferior tutors? It'd be great if teachers could become as famous and well-paid as film stars...)


Some colleges actually do put lectures or course materials online! I quite like this, though unfortunately, I don't see any teachers becoming as popular as film stars anytime soon. But yeah, I think the current college market is wildly unlike a free market, and is highly dysfunctional. I see rising costs near endlessly, with a great deal of increase going to the administration, and students being forced into ever more debt. I do not think this is the desired choice of the customers. Well, presuming you view students as the customers, which...as they ultimately pay for it, they ought to be.

A large part of this has to do with treating students as a captive market. Transferring is difficult, and may set a student back. Colleges get unusual advantages with respect to treating students as nearly prisoners. Debt being guaranteed by the gov....but then being undischargeable by bankruptcy is brutal. The combination of the two can leave a student sort of trapped. Colleges keep boosting the costs, knowing students have access to loans, and the whole spiral just keeps getting worse.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby elasto » Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:18 pm UTC

The system of university funding would be a prime example of why market forces are a terrible idea. In theory it causes students to take ownership of their education and choose a career that maximises earning potential in order to pay off the loan, as well as choose a university that represents value for money. In practice, actors are far less rational than economic theory would presume, at a terrible cost both personally and society-wide. Just look at the accident rate for teenage drivers to show how much growing up young adults still need to do. A graduate tax (or even just general taxation) is just much safer and more forgiving.

And far fewer people should be going to university anyhow; Many should be studying at trade schools (which likewise should be funded centrally or via voucher schemes etc.) and many more should be pursuing online courses alongside work.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:28 pm UTC

I don't think it's a result of students being irrational. I mean, if you look at it from the perspective of a student, many good jobs are essentially locked out by education. Sure, maybe there are other ways to get past the gatekeeping, but a degree is a fairly obvious, reasonably accessible one. And getting a degree does increase lifetime earnings.

So, getting an education is not an irrational decision.

The irrational decisions are being made in areas that are not market decisions at all. The college decides it needs a new administration building, and also, that tuition needs to increase. The student's locked in, and doesn't have a better option to directly express his preferences via sales. He would generally prefer lower tuition, and probably doesn't prioritize cost increases in most cases, but he has very little opportunity to force that.

The market participants are the reasonable ones here, it's all of the areas in which the market is bypassed or doesn't exist that cause problems.

I do agree that trade schools are appearing to be a better and better investment, and students are acting rationally there as well. Enrollment in trade schools is on the rise. I know it's popular to blame the young for lots of problems, but market decisions don't bear that out.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby sardia » Wed Jul 11, 2018 3:49 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:I don't think it's a result of students being irrational. I mean, if you look at it from the perspective of a student, many good jobs are essentially locked out by education. Sure, maybe there are other ways to get past the gatekeeping, but a degree is a fairly obvious, reasonably accessible one. And getting a degree does increase lifetime earnings.
So, getting an education is not an irrational decision.
The irrational decisions are being made in areas that are not market decisions at all. The college decides it needs a new administration building, and also, that tuition needs to increase. The student's locked in, and doesn't have a better option to directly express his preferences via sales. He would generally prefer lower tuition, and probably doesn't prioritize cost increases in most cases, but he has very little opportunity to force that.
The market participants are the reasonable ones here, it's all of the areas in which the market is bypassed or doesn't exist that cause problems.
I do agree that trade schools are appearing to be a better and better investment, and students are acting rationally there as well. Enrollment in trade schools is on the rise. I know it's popular to blame the young for lots of problems, but market decisions don't bear that out.

While it's cute to blame it all on corruption as the reason college degrees cost so much, it deflects from the actual reason. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/13/maga ... -high.html
Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, both professors at Harvard and leading scholars of education economics, co-wrote a famous paper a few years ago in which they pointed out that states that had elite private schools in the 1890s are less likely to have developed these strong, upper-­tier public schools. The reason is as obvious as it is depressing: The powerful private schools lobbied politicians to keep public institutions underfunded. Public universities have always been cheaper than their elite private counterparts, but the gap has been closing slowly as states stop funding the schools as generously as they once did.
You're blaming the school for not being 100% efficient with their budget when they keep getting hit with budget cuts.

For those of you insisting "not everyone deserves/wants to go to college". They said the same thing about high school a hundred years ago and I'm glad they didn't listen then. All you're doing is running away from the problem instead of actually fixing shit, like shutting down phony "colleges" that only suck veterans dry of their GI Bill college grants.

PS I find it funny that the sticker shock on a university tuition, is part of the allure of the school. Why does college cost so much? Because it doesn't actually cost that much. Ask a group of graduates 20 years afterwards, and find out how much they actually paid. You'll be surprised at how few of them actually paid the full price. Eg, grants, discounts, loans, tax deductions etc etc.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:08 pm UTC

sardia wrote: You're blaming the school for not being 100% efficient with their budget when they keep getting hit with budget cuts.


Eh, it's not specific to state schools. Private schools have had increasing tuition as well. Generally, in-state tuition for state schools is a ton cheaper than any other option. Average for that's still under 10k a year, where private colleges are pushing 35k/yr. I figure the latter worries people more.

For those of you insisting "not everyone deserves/wants to go to college". They said the same thing about high school a hundred years ago and I'm glad they didn't listen then. All you're doing is running away from the problem instead of actually fixing shit, like shutting down phony "colleges" that only suck veterans dry of their GI Bill college grants.

PS I find it funny that the sticker shock on a university tuition, is part of the allure of the school. Why does college cost so much? Because it doesn't actually cost that much. Ask a group of graduates 20 years afterwards, and find out how much they actually paid. You'll be surprised at how few of them actually paid the full price. Eg, grants, discounts, loans, tax deductions etc etc.


Sure, there's a fair amount of discounts floating around out there, but loans are still something you pay. Outright grants are super nice, but mostly those are federal. College is still getting paid. It's actually still possible to work your way through college, provided you use everything available to you, and select an inexpensive school, but it is pretty tight, and it's more challenging than it used to be. I did so, and I'm a millennial, but I still had to tap loans a little bit, and I believe I was highly unusual in this regard among my peers. Most of them had significant parental help, or took on significant loans.

And yeah, I took a class or two from University of Phoenix. Kinda crap quality IMO. I don't mind the principle of online education, but I object to busywork.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby sardia » Wed Jul 11, 2018 7:09 pm UTC

My argument is that higher education didn't vastly increase in price, it costs roughly the same. Only the government is paying less, and the student is paying more.
Is that wrong? How much is the government spending on education over the years after controlling for inflation?

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 11, 2018 7:33 pm UTC

sardia wrote:My argument is that higher education didn't vastly increase in price, it costs roughly the same. Only the government is paying less, and the student is paying more.
Is that wrong? How much is the government spending on education over the years after controlling for inflation?


Private school price increases are also outstripping inflation. It's possible some of the state school price increases are attributable to lower budgets, but private colleges shouldn't be able to rely on that explanation.

As an example, in 1990, the average prices for state and private institutions were $1,809 and $9,391, respectively*. At the time, this was already considered expensive, amusingly.

Nowdays, we're at $9,970 and &34,740 respectively.

A 1990's dollar would be worth $1.92 today, so while inflation adjustment has to be included to be fair, both groups have had tutition and fees vastly outstrip inflation over that time period. The larger percentage increase for state colleges you can blame on funding, but there's an across the board issue at work here as well, and the end result is that a student today is paying significantly more for college.

As to what that issue is, the article provides one clue: "However, a study by The Chronicle of Higher Education, academia's trade paper, showed that non-teaching administrative positions at colleges and universities grew 61% between 1975 and 1985, compared to only a 6% increase in the ranks of full-time faculty."

It was viewed as an issue even then, but heavily staffed administrations remain an issue today**.

*http://articles.latimes.com/1990-09-27/news/mn-1439_1_college-board
**https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/06/higher-ed-administrators-growth_n_4738584.html

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby sardia » Fri Jul 13, 2018 3:43 pm UTC

Hmm, I wonder if this is affected by private university scams like iit or University of Phoenix type grant scams.

Real world example question, is there a limit to how I can hire if I was a libertarian? For example, I form a contract with my affiliates that says we will not raise wages or hire from each other? Then I'll get an advantage with lower price labor, and get more business.

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Re: Libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Jul 13, 2018 4:05 pm UTC

sardia wrote:Hmm, I wonder if this is affected by private university scams like iit or University of Phoenix type grant scams.


Probably. At a minimum, those have to increase total money spent on education, even if they don't increase average tuition per year. I could easily imagine someone dumping a bunch of money into a scam, realizing it is such, and then having to start over from scratch.

*googles* looks like University of Phoenix is about $9.5k/yr on average. So yeah, probably not pushing up averages. Just the usual downsides of throwing money into something of dubious value.

Real world example question, is there a limit to how I can hire if I was a libertarian? For example, I form a contract with my affiliates that says we will not raise wages or hire from each other? Then I'll get an advantage with lower price labor, and get more business.


It'd be limited by valid contract law, which ends up being of significant importance in any libertarian setup. This is essentially price-fixing with regards to labor. Collusion to fix prices is generally already illegal, and treating labor identical to any other market seems like it'd be the libertarian approach.

Now, you might see some safeguards to it going away because libertarians tend to believe the monopolies are difficult to maintain in practice, but they agree that monopolies are undesirable. So, if we're wrong about that, and some sort of monopoly does end up cropping up, some sort of adjustment would need to happen to prevent monopolies.

Price fixing setups end up sort of like a multi-party prisoner's dilemma. So long as none of them defect, all gain an advantage. However, if one does defect, they can gain an advantage of the others. Paying a bit more than everyone else to get the best workers is usually a great move. It'd likely prompt counter-moves, though. A situation in which a defector exists is one in which the mutual-cooperation status quo quickly breaks down.

In general, the more participants, the easier it is for one entity to defect, and break the price fixing. So, we ought to expect markets with many participants to have a more healthy labor market. Same goes for any other market, really. Breaking down barriers to entry may be extremely significant in keeping markets healthy. Artificial barriers to entry would be seen as using force to fix prices, and would have to go. A real world example of this would be the extremely expensive taxi medallions in NYC. A libertarian government would view that as awful. It limited market entrants until a big enough one(Uber, Lyft) came along...and now it disadvantages some market participants against others.


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