In Which I Apologize to John Cole

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

I owe John Cole of Balloon Juice an apology. I figured he’d just ignore the 96-page special issue of Reason featuring 23 articles devoted to the many problems with the criminal justice system. To my knowledge, it’s the most in-depth treatment of the criminal justice system any public policy or current events magazine has published to date (the Economist and The American Prospect have also addressed the topic in a series of articles, but not in an entire issue).

I figured Cole would ignore the “Criminal Injustice” issue because it doesn’t fit into the “libertarians are selfish assholes who only care about themselves” nonsense he’s always foaming at the mouth about. Sure enough, a couple weeks after the issue came out, he rolled out another libertarian bashing post, but made no mention of the issue. I suppose it’s possible he wasn’t aware of it. But if you’re going to say libertarians only devote time and energy to issues that benefit themselves, you should probably at least first look for some evidence that might contradict your thesis, no?

But as it turns out, I should have waited a bit longer. A week ago, Cole finally made Balloon Juice readers aware of the criminal justice issue. Okay, so the entire package only garnered one line in yet another silly Cole rant, populated with the usual straw men, about how libertarians are horrible, awful people because they favor policies that are different than the policies favored by John Cole. And he didn’t really acknowledge the issue so much as obliquely reference a single article from it—in this case, an article about prison rape. And he didn’t really acknowledge that article, or even link to it, so much as bring it up so he could quickly and blithely dismiss it as, in the grand scheme of things, one of those unimportant peripheral issues libertarians sometimes obsess about. (I’d imagine that actual victims of prison rape—very few of whom would likely describe themselves as libertarians—probably disagree with Cole on this point.) Oh, also, in the same post, Cole links to another article that criticized another article that mentioned the “Criminal Injustice” issue. So there’s that.

But hey, Cole did at least, sort of, in a roundabout way, in the course of writing another post attacking libertarians, hint at the fact that the criminal justice issue of Reason exists. In Balloon Juice world, this is about as close to intellectual honesty as you’re going to get. So let’s give some credit where credit is due!

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108 Responses to “In Which I Apologize to John Cole”

  1. #1 |  Politically.Speaking | 

    I hate reading articles like this, especially from folks that I hold a fair bit of respect for. They come off as a declaration of “he’s mean, and I’m a whiny little b….!”

    Please preface any future rants like this with a “Warning – WLB tirade follows!” so I can skip it, and get to the next article that will actually include the usual high-quality content.

  2. #2 |  CK | 

    Is Mr. Cole someone whose opinions are worthy of catering too?

  3. #3 |  cackalacka | 

    I enjoy reading both sites, but if I had to pick one to spend an eternity on a desert island it would be balloon juice, as it is a little more heterodox and independent.

    My only beef with you Radley, is your sensitivity to the Koch-smear. Given the passionate resistance you have to it, one would have to conclude there may be some truth to it.

  4. #4 |  John Jenkins | 

    Who?

    @Politically.Speaking: You could also do everyone else a favor and save us your post, you know, so you don’t come off as a whiny little bitch.

  5. #5 |  Radley Balko | 

    My only beef with you Radley, is your sensitivity to the Koch-smear. Given the passionate resistance you have to it, one would have to conclude there may be some truth to it.

    Your only beef with me is that I defend my former colleagues when someone falsely accuses them of being whores? And what would “one have to conclude” of my criticism of the right for making similar smears about Soros?

    I’m sensitive to the Koch smear in the same way I’m sensitive to all efforts to poison public debate with ad hominem attacks. The one difference is that I have firsthand experience and knowledge that the Koch smears, at least as they apply to Cato and Reason, simply aren’t true. And because I don’t write about economic issues, I’m in a unique position to defend my friends and colleagues from unfounded attacks without looking like I’m also defending myself.

  6. #6 |  Nick T. | 

    I like this post even if I don’t read Balloon Juice or care much about what they say. For some reasons people constantly attack libertarianism as some osrt of crazy world-view that can never work and is unrealistic when all it is, really, is a mix-and-match combination of the anti-government pieces of liberal/democratic views (civil liberties, anti-war etc.) and conservative/Republican views (low taxes, smaller federal government etc.).

    Those criticisms are anti-intellectual in the extreme. Most folks would never think about maligning Democrats or Republicans with a a broad attack of unrealistic illegitimacy, perhaps simply because they are so numerous. Libertarians need to demand a seat at the table of presumptively honest, legitimate and respectable philosophies.

  7. #7 |  omar | 

    Most folks would never think about maligning Democrats or Republicans with a a broad attack of unrealistic illegitimacy, perhaps simply because they are so numerous.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to malign Democrats and Republicans with a broad attack of realistic illegitimacy. Nothing but a bunch of whores in it for the money and power.

  8. #8 |  Satori | 

    I’m a former Libertarian Party activist who now mostly votes Democrat. I no longer believe in laissez-faire economics, and now self-identify as a progressive.

    However, I still consider myself a strong civil libertarian. And Cole’s flippant attitude towards prison rape as an issue is disgusting, and highly emblematic of what’s wrong with the Democratic Party.

    I respect libertarians, because you guys are consistent in taking the side of the victim of government abuses. Too many Democrats don’t want to talk about the drug war, prison rape, etc. because they’re afraid of being seen as “soft on crime”. The people they’re supposed to be representing, meanwhile, continue to be sent to prison for victimless crimes, where society as a whole knows rape is common, and even jokes about it. That’s about as heartless as Cole’s ever accused libertarians of being.

    If Cole is concerned about why libertarians aren’t voting for Democratic candidates, maybe he should be asking why centrist Democrats are so willing to sell out on civil liberties issues.

  9. #9 |  Mary Boone | 

    “In the end it’s not the words of our enemies that will be remembered, but the silence of our friend.”
    Mistaken identity and Prosecutorial Misconduct led to the conviction of Former Petty Officer Daoud Boone. He served two years in Korea, now in his own hometown, Montgomery, as a political prisoner. PROSECUTORS SHOULD BE CONVICTED FOR FALSIFYING EVIDENCE TO A JURY!
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/DAOUD-O-BOONE-aka-VERSE-aka-THE-BRETHREN/243668954695
    Take the time to read this page, please

  10. #10 |  Leonard | 

    I don’t normally read Cole, but I did read most of the comments on this piece. It is a sad piece of hate propaganda itself. And it seems that it attracts an amen choir of equally orthodox followers. Cole and much of his audience evidently think that libertarians are mainly motivated by the desire to hurt people. They have the eliminationist rhetoric to prove it.

  11. #11 |  djm | 

    Well my beef with you, Radley, is that you continue to feed the trolls at Balloon Juice. I much prefer it with you do some ogre slaying at Slate or the NYT, who can at least make coherent arguments.

    If anything, your writing leaves you open to the ACLU smear: happy to defend flag burners and pot growers and pornographers, but woefully silent when consenting individuals want to exchange a loaf of bread for a dollar without the state taking their cut. Yeah, pretty much the inverse of the ‘glibertarian’ attack.

    I suspect, from your infrequent and passing references to economic issues, that you are a small-l libertarian, favouring market-based (rather than laissez-faire) solutions. But this is only marginally addressed here. So please, Radley, don’t jump into the mud with the Balloon Juice pigs. You get dirty and the pigs get happy.

  12. #12 |  johnl | 

    Radley I just can’t understand why you pay any attention to Baloon Juice. Outreach to Mother Jones I can get, because they occasionally do good work. But BJ is useless.

    Speaking of mostly painful publishers who sometimes do good work, All Things Considered has a story this week on shaken baby and such: http://www.npr.org/2011/06/28/137454415/the-child-cases-guilty-until-proven-innocent

  13. #13 |  Sam | 

    Are you denying that Republicans consistently refuse to address civil liberties issues while expanding economic freedoms for the wealthy? Because that’s the crux of what Cole’s complaint is. He believes it is inconsistent for libertarians to support Republicans if libertarians genuinely believe that civil liberties issues are important. It is one thing to dislike the accompanying hyperbole, but are you disagreeing with the underlying point?

  14. #14 |  Mattocracy | 

    Libertarians supporting Republicans? I have a problem with this premise.

  15. #15 |  Sam | 

    Mattocracy,

    Are you proposing the litmus test that libertarians who vote for either Democrats or Republicans aren’t libertarians? I think that’s a fair criticism to make for sure. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are plenty of self-identifying libertarians who do vote for candidates of both political parties, most notably Ron Paul, who is identified as a Republican. However, the point is yours if all libertarians who vote for either major party are excluded from the conversation.

  16. #16 |  Balloon Juice » Someone Needs a Hug | 

    […] I’ve really upset Radley this time, and this time I didn’t even have to mention the glibertarians at Reason. My failure to […]

  17. #17 |  Radley Balko | 

    Are you denying that Republicans consistently refuse to address civil liberties issues while expanding economic freedoms for the wealthy?

    Not at all. I’m denying that libertarians are de facto Republicans. I will say that the Republicans libertarians do sometimes support–Ron and Rand Paul, Gary Johnson, and a few others–are better on civil liberties than most politicians of either party. That’s why libertarians tend to support them. But I am also denying that most Democrats, the party for whom Cole holds fundraising appeals on his blog, give a damn about civil liberties, either.

  18. #18 |  Han's Snark Solo | 

    I’ve read the Balloon Juice posts you linked to and Cole has the right of it.

    Sorry.

  19. #19 |  Cyto | 

    Wow, Balloon Juice seems to have quite an ability to drive traffic. Well, a half-dozen motivated readers anyway. Still, there is an interesting question posed on liberties.

    Libertarians don’t really segregate freedom into economic and not economic. If I’m free to sing “cop killer” I should be free to charge for the privilege.

    For those who don’t vote LP and pick a side in team red/team blue debates I suppose the question one should ask ones self is:

    1. If the SoCons get their way and ban my favorite naughty activity – what will be the effect? (thought experiment – what were gay men doing during the years when “sodomy” was a crime in almost every state?)

    2. If the progressives get their way and 75% of my check is confiscated so the government can distribute it more fairly, what will be the effect? (thought experiment – if you don’t have $60k any more because you paid it out to fund the government, can you still spend it for things you’d like to have?)

    Which method of oppression is more effective? Banning flag burning and smoking pot, or confiscating a large percentage of your cash and offering to give some of it back if you behave in certain ways (like a $7k tax credit for buying a hybrid car — or more nefariously a $15k “marriage credit” designed to support the nuclear family)?

    Do we have personal experience in our lives with people openly flaunting the right-wing legislation of morality? (is there any right wing morality legislating that is even remotely effective?)

    Do we have personal experience with the encumbrances of life that state regulation can bring? (do you own a home? Ever had to pull permits? Deal with zoning laws on where to put your mailbox, or how to pave your driveway? How about starting a business out of your garage? Ever had a suspicion that they have a term for “regulatory capture” for a reason?)

    People who decide they ought to be pragmatic rather than “throwing their vote away” on a 3rd party candidate have to pick between a turd sandwich and a giant douche. They both are pretty horrific, but at least one of them leaves you smelling vinegary fresh. The rest of us smugly cast our lot with Ahab.

  20. #20 |  Julian Sanchez | 

    “My only beef with you Radley, is your sensitivity to the Koch-smear. Given the passionate resistance you have to it, one would have to conclude there may be some truth to it.”

    Ye gods this is irritating. If someone writes a high profile magazine article (or many) suggesting that everyone who’s ever worked anywhere that got a drop of Koch money is a shill whoring their opinion to the highest bidder, and the targets of the insinuation take offense and push back, it’s “”Thou dost protest too much! Guess they struck a nerve, eh?”

    If, on the other hand, we ignore the insult, it’s: “You certainly don’t seem to want to talk about the Koch allegations, huh? Your silence speaks volumes!”

    That said, given that it’s sort of a no-win, I’ll default to ignoring it, which at least doesn’t burn any time or energy.

  21. #21 |  srv | 

    “Cole’s flippant attitude towards prison rape as an issue is disgusting”

    John has linked to Radley’s pieces on prison for many, many years:

    http://www.balloon-juice.com/2009/02/25/a-righteous-rant/

    He’s brought many more “amen choir” democrats over to The Agitator than Radley has brought open-minded libertarians over to BJ.

  22. #22 |  Brandon | 

    Why do I always read the Balloon Juice comments?

  23. #23 |  Adam T2 | 

    I read Balloon Juice several times a day and I love it, especially because everyone is moody and has pets and sometimes says things I agree with.

    My primary issue is criminal justice reform. I maintain an electonic bulletin board blog: Sarasota Criminal Justice Reform.

    I thought the recent issue of Reason on criminal justice reform was one of the best things ever.

    Somehow I am able to read all these things and still keep my head attached. It is all good and important and let’s keep working.

  24. #24 |  Cyto | 

    Oh, and quit standing up for the Koch brothers. Those right-wing Nazis gave 20 million to the ACLU to fight the Bush administration’s USA PATRIOT act. They teamed with Soros in the effort, providing a major slice of the ACLU budget. They even gave twice as much as their ultra-right-wing co-conspirator – George Soros… wait, what were we talking about?

  25. #25 |  steve | 

    When we legalize heroin, most of our prison problem will be solved!

  26. #26 |  johnl | 

    Julian Sanchez if you read the morning links you might like the LAT story about a man who makes an alabi in an assault charge with video from the airport, ATM transactions, merchants who remembered a stranger, all the things we worry (legitimately) about. All that was missing was a gps app.

  27. #27 |  L2P | 

    “Do we have personal experience with the encumbrances of life that state regulation can bring? (do you own a home? Ever had to pull permits? Deal with zoning laws on where to put your mailbox, or how to pave your driveway? How about starting a business out of your garage? Ever had a suspicion that they have a term for “regulatory capture” for a reason?)”

    Wow. In a nutshell, you’ve summed up how libertarianism ends up whoring for business. The 100 million Americans that own neither businesses nor homes are thrilled that you can get that new porch slightly easier as they die from drinking cancerous sludge and eating spinach laced with e. coli. I guess freedom isn’t free, though, eh?

  28. #28 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “So yeah, Ronald Bailey writes a piece every now and then about global warming, and someone at Reason can wax eloquent about prison rape, but so what?”

    Did he just yadda yadda prison rape (old Seinfeld reference, I know)! That is a dick move anyway you look at it. Overall a pretty shitty performance by John Cole.

    Hey, I’m not always on board with the Reason or CATO. And I don’t agree with Austrian economics all the time. I am basically a Left-Libertarian. To those of you who object to this hyphenated label, let us not forget that the first people who called themselves libertarians or anarchists also called themselves socialists. Proudoun and Benjamin Tucker are two prominent examples. Tom Paine, Henry George and others also influence this particular strain of libertarian thought. But disagreements in the area of economics do not diminish the work being done by libertarians like Radley Balko or other writers at reason.

    While Progressives like Cole bitch about “glibertarians” and “economic libertarians,” libertarians are fighting against American militarism abroad, militarized police at home, the insane drug war, eminent domain abuse, obstacles to entry level employment, and assaults on free speech. What are Progressive Democrats doing about these issues, Mr. Cole. Before you talk shit about libertarians, you might try looking in the mirror. You may be revolted by the ugly, authoritarian statist you see staring back at you.

  29. #29 |  johnl | 

    Cyto did the DHK contribution to the ACLU ever get verified? I remember someone important (Matt, Radley or Jacob) looking into it, but not being sure about it. And, unfortunately, as Matt has mentioned more than once, reason doesn’t have him on speeddial.

  30. #30 |  Jon Marcus | 

    Cyto, I’ve almost got to wonder if Cole paid you to make his point so very well. You claim to value liberty, but then weigh D vs. R by comparing a hypothetical worst-case fantasy of 75% tax rates vs. flag-burning laws. In the real world, you’re arguing that libertarians should just ignore arbitrary detention, torture, etc, and instead focus on protecting you from the dread possibility of a 5% bump in the marginal tax rate on the highest brackets.

  31. #31 |  jah | 

    @19
    “For those who don’t vote LP and pick a side in team red/team blue debates I suppose the question one should ask ones self is:”

    You really should have amended you #1 option to read something like:

    1. If SoCons get their way and they ban internet porn and anyone caught looking at internet porn will have a SWAT team dispatched to their current location to take them away for 10 years in the clink.

    you know, just to make it as ridiculous and absurd as what you offered in #2.

  32. #32 |  cackalacka | 

    “And because I don’t write about economic issues, I’m in a unique position to defend my friends and colleagues from unfounded attacks without looking like I’m also defending myself.”

    That may be true, but you’ve been off the payroll for what, a month now?

    I have you on my google-reader feed. I’ve got Cole on it too. Fact is, y’all are pretty thoughtful on most issues, and are, as most worthy adversaries, more alike than different. There are a million blogs in the naked city, and I only subscribe to a dozen or so worth reading. 75% of what both of y’all write I agree with, but that isn’t why I come; the reason I read both of y’all when my second cup of coffee gets cold is, 100% of both of your posts are honest and engaging.

  33. #33 |  Seitz | 

    I’m trying to figure out what Cole wrote in that piece that isn’t accurate. Sure, it’s a generalization, but he starts from the premise that it’s the right wing of the Supreme Court that apparently doesn’t get a shit about civil liberties of actual individuals. Maybe I’m an anomaly, but the vast majority of people I’ve met who are self described Libertarians vote Republican. My unscientific analysis of the H&R blog’s commentariat is that Democrats are much more likely to be the subject of anger and ridicule, and the the commentariat is MUCH more likely to vote Republican, even if they do so because they feel they’re going the “lesser of two evils” route. And at the end of the day, the people that those commenters and self-described Libertarians would prefer to put in office are the same people who will select and approve men like Roberts and Alito for positions of authority in the judicial system. There are mostly three explanations for this. 1) Self-described Libertarians talk a big game, but really don’t give a shit about civil liberties, 2) they do they give a shit, but they give a MUCH BIGGER shit about taxes, in which case all the blather about civil liberties is a lot of empty rhetoric, or 3) they think Democrats are just as bad on civil liberties as Republicans, so they vote on other issues. I think the ideological split that we see on almost every issue that comes before the current Court proves them wrong on #3, despite what individual legislators say in their campaigns.

    I don’t know how Radley votes, but my sense is that he’s one who actually gives a shit about civil liberties. I also think John made the same point in his post. Radley, you may feel that your colleagues are being unfairly attacked, and you may feel a little guilt about the fact that you aren’t being lumped in with them, and you may have enough loyalty that you choose to defend them, but from a lot of us sit you do stand out as someone who actually believes what he writes. The others, not so much.

  34. #34 |  Radley Balko | 

    Seitz —

    Libertarians tend to oppose who’s in power, because they’re the party capable of doing the most damage.

    Look at who Reason staff voted for in 2008:

    http://reason.com/archives/2008/10/29/whos-getting-your-vote

    Obama outpolled McCain, behind Barr and not voting at all. Among magazine staff, no one voted for McCain. Three voted for Obama.

    As for H&R commenters, I think you’re reading selectively. Certainly among the regulars, there’s no love at all for the GOP.

  35. #35 |  cinesimon | 

    75% Cyto?
    I see you REALLY want to have an HONEST discussion.
    What childish drivel you spout.

  36. #36 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    “libertarians are selfish assholes who only care about themselves”

    Then why do I care so much about:
    1. Ending US wars (I’m not a brown man living in a 3rd world country, a Muslim, or a US soldier)
    2. Ending the drug war (I don’t do drugs)
    3. Ending police abuse (I’m a white guy in a suit and maybe I have a couple donuts in that bag and maybe I don’t, officer)
    4. Ending Ponzi-Keynesian Monetary Policy (I joke about supporting it because my commodities/PM investments are to the moon, but I still want it to end…for the children)
    5. Equal rights for even non-handsome men
    6. Prison reform (I’m not in prison yet)
    7. Fighting ED (I have not been a victim of either property theft or no-boner)

    I could go on.

  37. #37 |  John O | 

    srv at 21 is most certainly right in this reader of both guys eyes.

    Me? I dunno. Strong libertarian leanings with such a complete loathing of the modern GOP–none of the actual contenders is anything but autocratic in the political scheme of things; creatures of power, or worse, “God”–I have gone from almost always voting for the lib to pulling the lever blue.

    I just don’t see any viable “free market” solutions in libertarianism that can account for that which is priceless, efficiently and effectively, like “health” and “the general welfare.” Unless you consider letting people starve and die to be effective and efficient in a market sense. (Which from the pure libertarian perspective it is. Survive or die.)

  38. #38 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Given the passionate resistance you have to it, one would have to conclude there may be some truth to it.

    Great Odin, if only this were really how things worked. I would so passionately resist the rumor that Selma Hayek comes over to my house every night to trampoline my bike shorts. After I started the rumor.

  39. #39 |  dmbeaster | 

    What Cole actually said about Radley (last sentence):

    However, some libertarians manage to balance some of the inherent contradictions, and really do come across on the side of freedom and individual liberty in almost every case. Radley Balko, who has taken principled stands across the spectrum and who has done incredible work on the drug war, police, and prosecutorial excesses, springs to mind (even though he hates me for pointing out that many of his colleagues are fools).

    So who is being intellectually dishonest here Radley? And also, trying to make an issue about not being linked or receiving a comment about your article is childish. There are any number of reasons why Cole did not specifically reference your article other than your mind-reading claim as to why he allegedly did not do so. Grow up.

  40. #40 |  Radley Balko | 

    And also, trying to make an issue about not being linked or receiving a comment about your article is childish.

    Might want to read the post again. I’m not criticizing Cole for not linking to or commenting on my “article”.

  41. #41 |  John O | 

    And really, Radley, if you think JC has it in for you you’re just not paying attention. He’s complimented you, personally, almost universally over a long period of time over there.

    Blog wars are especially fun when you like both acerbic and clever writers, though!

  42. #42 |  Andrew S. | 

    Seitz –

    Did you read H&R before 2009? Because Bush and the Republicans were just as unpopular among the H&R commentariat as Obama and the Democrats are now.

    But you’re right about the left being better on civil liberties issues than the right. After all, it was pretty cool that Obama just strengthened 4th amendment rights and did away with the PATRIOT Act…

    ..er, wait, what was I talking about?

  43. #43 |  Davebo | 

    I’m sensitive to the Koch smear in the same way I’m sensitive to all efforts to poison public debate with ad hominem attacks.

    Is it an ad hominem attack to point out that you directly benefit from the brothers largess?

    Because, you know, it is true and all. Melissa Palmer might find this revelation a bit surprising.

  44. #44 |  Andrew S. | 

    Davebo – Absent any sort of evidence that his writing is influenced by their money, yes, it is an ad hominem attack. It’s an attempt to smear him, nothing more.

    It’d be just as stupid to claim that then as it would be to claim that he’s now influenced by Soros.

  45. #45 |  Davebo | 

    As for H&R, as a site that claims to be Libertarian you don’t see a lot of posts about government sanctioned torture.

    That would seem to be a very important issue for real Libertarians.

    I like you and your blog Radley. You’re colleagues at H&R, not so much. I can remember when Matt Welch was relevant in the discussion of civil liberties.

    But Fonzi not so much.

  46. #46 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Unless you consider letting people starve and die to be effective and efficient in a market sense.

    I’ll take this as a legit concern. Please don’t worry. I’ll take care of the people who, for whatever reason, cannot take care of themselves. I will publicize my charity, get audited regularly, and compete for the donations of all the good, moral people out there who do not want to live in a country where people starve and die. I will also make sure the system rewards accountability and takes precautions to break the chains of dependency upon charity and puts a face on not only the needy but the givers. I will do all of this if the good people, who I firmly believe in, deem my business to be better than other options they have for helping people.

    In no experience I’ve ever had in America have I seen where people refuse to help and let people knowingly starve in the street.

    the vast majority of people I’ve met who are self described Libertarians vote Republican.

    Respectfully, my experience is nothing like this. Bush made a lot of Libertarians (I’ll include small “l” libertarians with this term for this post) run anywhere other than the Republicans. McCain made them run further. Palin has them running even further while glancing quickly at what she’s wearing. Bachmann has them sprinting madly and not even bothering to listen to the insane comedy she delivers daily. So, any characterization of Libertarians siding with Republicans is out-of-date at best and most likely completely wrong.

    My statement would be something like what Radley posted above with the addition that some Libertarians I know have given up, stopped voting, and are content to sit back and watch the monkeys dance.

  47. #47 |  Davebo | 

    No Andrew. It’s a fact.

    Facts, by their very nature, cannot be ad hominem attacks. If you don’t want the association mentioned, don’t take the checks.

  48. #48 |  John O | 

    That’s one way to look at it, Andrew, but another is that suckling off someone else’s teat is just that. From a libertarian perspective.

    I think Radley is a national treasure, but he’s not exactly a person of pure self-make given the teat. In the marketplace of ideas, Reason goes broke without one.

  49. #49 |  Andrew S. | 

    #45 | Davebo | June 28th, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    As for H&R, as a site that claims to be Libertarian you don’t see a lot of posts about government sanctioned torture.

    Er… you’re kidding, right?

    http://reason.com/blog/2010/09/10/torture-today-torture-tomorrow
    http://reason.com/archives/2005/12/06/how-much-torture-is-ok1
    http://reason.com/archives/2009/08/27/rationalizing-torture

    Those are just the first 3 links pulled up in 5 seconds. There are a lot of others. Apparently going to H&R and typing “torture” in the search box was too difficult for you?

  50. #50 |  Seitz | 

    But you’re right about the left being better on civil liberties issues than the right. After all, it was pretty cool that Obama just strengthened 4th amendment rights and did away with the PATRIOT Act…

    You’re not going to get an argument from me that both parties suck at the politics of civil liberties. But here’s a legitimate question: If McCain had won the election and had nominated to confirmation two Supreme Court justices instead of Sotomayor and Kagan, what are the odds that right now, the law of the land would say there’s absolutely nothing wrong with cops coercing confessions from kids without their parents or an attorney present? I wish this were an isolated situation.

  51. #51 |  Andrew S. | 

    #47 | Davebo | June 28th, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    No Andrew. It’s a fact.

    Facts, by their very nature, cannot be ad hominem attacks. If you don’t want the association mentioned, don’t take the checks.

    Person A: [States something]
    Person B: You’re fat!

    Person A weighs 300 pounds. Ad hominem attack or not? After all, it’s a fact.

  52. #52 |  Just Plain Brian | 

    As for H&R, as a site that claims to be Libertarian you don’t see a lot of posts about government sanctioned torture.

    Not a lot of posts

  53. #53 |  John O | 

    I’ll take care of the people who, for whatever reason, cannot take care of themselves. I will publicize my charity, get audited regularly, and compete for the donations of all the good, moral people out there who do not want to live in a country where people starve and die. I will also make sure the system rewards accountability and takes precautions to break the chains of dependency upon charity and puts a face on not only the needy but the givers. I will do all of this if the good people, who I firmly believe in, deem my business to be better than other options they have for helping people.

    You’re going to do this all by yourself, or will some form of collectivism inevitably be involved?

    You must have a lot of time and/or money, Boyd.

  54. #54 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    You’re going to do this all by yourself, or will some form of collectivism inevitably be involved?

    You must have a lot of time and/or money, Boyd.

    I am an extraordinary capitalist my good man.

  55. #55 |  johnl | 

    Heh Just Plain Brian. It seems like every single regular contributor, Cathym Ronald, Jacob, Brian, Julian, Radley, Jesse, Matt, and Nick all had at least one post about “tough love”.

  56. #56 |  Gideon Darrow | 

    @ #45 Davebo:

    “As for H&R, as a site that claims to be Libertarian you don’t see a lot of posts about government sanctioned torture.

    That would seem to be a very important issue for real Libertarians.”

    Ah, the Balloon Juice Fallacy (http://www.theagitator.com/2010/12/20/the-balloon-juice-fallacy/) strikes again. Let me help you out with your problem:

    http://reason.com/blog/2005/01/07/torture-does-it-work

    http://reason.com/blog/2010/09/10/torture-today-torture-tomorrow

    http://reason.com/blog/2011/05/12/mccain-torture-didnt-get-us-bi

    http://reason.com/blog/2011/06/03/former-gitmo-prosecutor-tortur

    http://reason.com/topics/torture

    That all took me about a minute and a half, although I’m sure your time is much more precious.

  57. #57 |  MBunge | 

    “Person A: [States something]
    Person B: You’re fat!

    Person A weighs 300 pounds. Ad hominem attack or not? After all, it’s a fact.”

    It’s only an ad hominem attack if Person A being fat has nothing at all to do with the statement of Person A.

    For example, if Person A is ranting about the “evils” of government nutritional guidelines, pointing out that Person A is a fat bastard is entirely germane.

    Mike

  58. #58 |  Gideon Darrow | 

    @ #47 Davebo:

    I think you may be confused about the definition of the word “fact.” I believe this is the word you’re looking for:

    http://mw1.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/insinuation

  59. #59 |  Andrew S. | 

    Besides, if I wasn’t clear enough before, something being a fact does not prevent it from being an ad hominem attack. I’ll let Rational Wiki define it…

    The phrase ad hominem argument (often called an ad hominem attack) comes from the Latin “at the person”. It also sometimes applies to any argument that centres on emotive (specifically irrelevant emotions) rather than rational or logical appeal.[1] It occurs when people who are unable to attack the argument itself resort to attacking the person making it. As such arguments have nothing to do with the topic, they have no weight or validity against the argument. This is the case even if the attack is true; two plus two still equals four even if the first person to point this out was the most morally reprehensible person to have ever lived.

  60. #60 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Is it an ad hominem attack to point out that you directly benefit from the brothers largess?

    If you don’t want the association mentioned, don’t take the checks.

    This is interesting. Davebo obviously knows that the issue is not the mentioning that Radley (in some way) gets a check from Koch. The contentious claim (claim…NOT fact) is that Radley is biased in favor of Koch because of those checks. THAT, is the speculative argumentum ad hominem in question.

    Now, this seems like an obvious error. Too obvious if you ask me…and one that the REAL Davebo would not make. I think we have our answer.

    Ad hominem needs to be reviewed as it is popularly the short form of argumentum ad hominem. A claim that you are fat is not an argumentum ad hominem. But it is an attack “to the man”. You are guilty of an attack to the man if you call out negative attributes (even perceived negative attributes…no absolute rules here). However; if you base an argument on a negative attribute (You are not an anteater, so your argument is invalid!), you are guilty of argumentum ad hominem…a logic fallacy! And you can clip this by declaring your opponent is guilty of an ad hominem attack and/or logical fallacy.

    This gets brought up often. English speakers must recognize that “ad hominem” means “argumentum ad hominem” at least among English speakers.

  61. #61 |  Davebo | 

    The contentious claim (claim…NOT fact) is that Radley is biased in favor of Koch because of those checks.

    It would indeed be a contentious claim had it been made. Sadly I never made such a claim. I even pointed out how much I like Radley, which is why I commented and read his blog here in the first place.

    But then his post wasn’t about him was it? It was his defense of his coworkers at Reason.

    As for Just Plain Brian, did you actually read any of those google links?

    When Nick Gillespie quotes Eli Lake you really have gone off the deep end. Then again prior to Jan. 2009 Fonzi was fairly silent on the subject.

  62. #62 |  Radley Balko | 

    I think Radley is a national treasure, but he’s not exactly a person of pure self-make given the teat.

    So to be “self-made”, you have to start your own magazine from scratch? No investors, no funders?

    In the marketplace of ideas, Reason goes broke without one.

    As does every other public policy-oriented magazine, save for the Atlantic. None of the opinion magazines are self-sufficient. They all rely on private donors and foundations. By the way, nothing about that is inconsistent with free market or libertarian principles.

  63. #63 |  Andrew S. | 

    It would indeed be a contentious claim had it been made. Sadly I never made such a claim. I even pointed out how much I like Radley, which is why I commented and read his blog here in the first place.

    But then his post wasn’t about him was it? It was his defense of his coworkers at Reason.

    Ah. You were “just asking questions”. JAQing off seems to be the method of argument of the day.

  64. #64 |  John O | 

    Fair enough, RB. But isn’t a true libertarian a Koch and not a Balko?

    Just pulling your chain.

    Mainly I’m here to say you seem particularly thin-skinned about one John Cole, who (I believe but am too lazy to look up) is more successful in the marketplace of ideas measured by site traffic. Is that it? You kind of ignored me up the thread a bit, so I thought you had gone.

  65. #65 |  Davebo | 

    Andrew, as a self described Libertarian I support your right to do whatever it takes to make your argument of the day.

    Provided it’s done in private.

  66. #66 |  Davebo | 

    In fairness John O, if we went solely by the ideas of the market place we’d get all of our opinions from porn sites and Rush Limbaugh.

    And I’m at least half way behind that scenario.

  67. #67 |  Radley Balko | 

    Mainly I’m here to say you seem particularly thin-skinned about one John Cole, who (I believe but am too lazy to look up) is more successful in the marketplace of ideas measured by site traffic.

    I’m not thin-skinned. I don’t lose any sleep over John Cole. I just think he knows better. Or at least there was a time when he did.

    I have no idea who gets more traffic, but that’s a cute attempt at a put-down.

    I’m also certain that Instapundit gets more traffic than Cole. So what’s your point?

  68. #68 |  Davebo | 

    I’m also certain that Instapundit gets more traffic than Cole. So what’s your point?

    That there are a large number of idiots with internet access?

    I mean seriously Radley, do you really want to go there?

  69. #69 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    It would indeed be a contentious claim had it been made. Sadly I never made such a claim.

    Davebo,

    This is silly. That claim has been made by virtually everyone who has brought up the Koch connection and it is the only point of the conversation now taking place. The context of the discussion taking place is about a smear of RB that he has Koch-bias due to his paycheck. Yes, people who have a career that depends on their integrity tend to vigorously defend their integrity.

    If you don’t want the association mentioned, don’t take the checks.

    Do you really want to admit that you thought mentioning the association is the contentious part? If you thought someone took issue with you for simply mentioning that RB is connected to Koch, then I fee sorry for you as that is a ridiculous claim on your part.

    Is it an ad hominem attack to point out that you directly benefit from the brothers largess?

    Many who study logic would say “sometimes, but not always”. What conclusion are you drawing from it? And yes, facts can absolutely be ad hominem attacks. You claimed that (#47) and I refuted it in my post above.

  70. #70 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    if we went solely by the ideas of the market place we’d get all of our opinions from porn sites and Rush Limbaugh.

    I don’t ever want to see this merger.

  71. #71 |  John C. Randolph | 

    I still consider myself a strong civil libertarian.

    Taking what I earn to spend it on what you want, instead of what I want, is a violation of my civil liberties.

    -jcr

  72. #72 |  glasnost | 

    I think Radley is, yes, pretty thin-skinned. Also, his economics discussions are generally shallow ad-hominem, in constrast to his excellent civil liberties journalism (although this doesn’t require much theoretical thinking) I’ve come to the conclusion that he has never had any time to learn about economics and is too instinctively hostile to egotistically aggressive discourse to learn from people who aren’t on his ‘team’.
    Yes, this is condescending, most analyses of other people are inherently so.

    Here’s what I can’t understand – most of the defense libertarianism or the minimalist state in free-market economics relies heavily on use of the court system to correct fraud and coercion. However, a life of studying the U.S. court system must make it wildly obvious that poor people have vastly inferior access to the U.S. court system. Only good lawyers stand any chance and good lawyers are very expensive. If you have to rely on a public defendant, you stand a good chance of being fucked.

    This is much more true than it was 200 years ago, and the more we starve the government, the worse it gets.

    Of course there are exceptions to this. There is probono work and the occasional competent public defender. But they are exceptions, and to mistake them for rules is insane.

    The free market produces this. The free market produces the relentless pressure to cut government, which ends up impacting the courts. The free market allows billionaires to purchase, via funding law schools, any indoctrination campaign they choose and change the shape of american law, including ones that redefine civil liberties out of existence. The free market would be fine with judges purchasing whatever judicial outcome is paid for by giving the judge the most money (see “arbitration”).

    The free-market, and the underfunding of the american court system, is behind the reintroduction of debt slavery via ‘court costs’ and fees combined with contempt.

    How does Radley systematically fight for these people every day while defending the ideology that also dooms these people to be systematically hosed?

    Libertarianism arbitrarily draws a line between certain forms of domination of the few over the many. Those that can be accomplished without violence are okay. But god knows it’s easier than ever to ruin someone’s life without violence.

  73. #73 |  glasnost | 

    I mean, seriously. Radley Balko isn’t too stupid to understand that him and everyone else like him are even finding out about a tiny percent of these cases and actually successfully helping a tiny fraction of that percentage, despite his best efforts.

    His methods aren’t adequate to the task at hand. Naming and shaming sometimes works, but very often the evil party reacts with a big “fuck you”. He often has to rely on government organizations to correct the behavior of other government organizations. The free market doesn’t appear out of nowhere to successfully pay all the unjust court costs and fines wrung out of these victims of the system, nor do hordes of Proud Agitator readers spontaneously reimburse all that these victims have lost through charity. The libertarian methods of dealing with these problems mostly fail.

    By far the most effective approach to overall criminal justice reform would involve, first, giving the government more money for the specific and limited purpose of paying for a lot more public defenders, paying public defenders a lot more, and/ or giving more money relative to rich people more generally, so they could afford better lawyers themselves.
    And when better lawyers didn’t solve everything, they’d be able to pay for TV ads embarrassing the people in question. They’d be able to pay for experts who weren’t quacks. They’d be able to pay for relatively equivalent armies against the armada of forces against them in the courts, be they government or corporate.

    But the struggle to fight for the right to keep a slightly larger cut of your paycheck trumps everything else, even though if taxes went to zero, prices would rise in response to the massive flood of nominal income and we’d have exactly the same real income again in five years.

  74. #74 |  BSK | 

    I think the biggest problem with much of the calls for a more libertarian economic system is that they ignore the very non-libertarian economic system we’ve had for some time. This is a country that, for most of its existence, didn’t allow people of color, women, immigrants, and others to own property. We had legally enforced (not just legally allowable) discrimination and disenfranchisement of groups based on their gender, race, ethnicity, intelligence, and property ownership. As such, wealth and property were allowed to be concentrated in a way that the supposed equity and equality we enjoy now is yet to even up. So, while libertarians often argue in favor of a merit-based system, where personal accountability is championed, they seem to ignore that our nation has been so far from a meritocracy that it is hard to say, “Well, now we will let everyone succeed or fail on their own merits and ignore that some people have an absurd head start that has little to nothing to do with their own merits.”

    Now, I don’t know what the perfect solution is, but libertarians don’t seem to even recognize the problem. I realize that there is only so much “undoing” that is possible, if any at all is, since many of the people who have benefited from the privilege had little direct impact on the privilege being in place in the first place. An issue like reparations for slavery is often suggested, though that is such a tangled situation that I don’t know there would ever be a good way to do it even if it were the right thing to do. But we have issues that are much more clear cut, such as Native American groups who had legally signed treaties with the government violated and invaluable land taken out from under them and basically been told to “tough”. As champions of property rights, where are libertarians on this? In the end, it makes it hard to really take the ideology seriously when there is what I perceive to be such a gaping hole in the ideology.

    I respect the hell out of the work that Radley does. Much of the criticism I see directed at libertarian thought argues that it is just a rich white man’s economic policy focused around greed. Radley’s work on criminal justice, across racial and class lines, demonstrates him to be sincere and deliberate in his approach. And I agree with most of the positions he takes, primarily because his focus is on the non-economic aspects of libertarian thought. Unfortunately, until I can see not only a reasonable response to the issue I’ve brought up, but an acknowledgment that the issue exists in the first place, I have to consider myself someone with some libertarian ideas but not someone who is a libertarian, big L or otherwise.

  75. #75 |  glasnost | 

    I’ll take this as a legit concern. Please don’t worry. I’ll take care of the people who, for whatever reason, cannot take care of themselves. I will publicize my charity, get audited regularly, and compete for the donations of all the good, moral people out there who do not want to live in a country where people starve and die. I will also make sure the system rewards accountability and takes precautions to break the chains of dependency upon charity and puts a face on not only the needy but the givers. I will do all of this if the good people, who I firmly believe in, deem my business to be better than other options they have for helping people.

    This is either cleverly worded in a way that leads me to fail to understand what it’s actually trying to say, or else it’s delusional.

    Here’s a short version of history:

    40000 years of minimalist state capacity. Regular famine. Frequently, famine occurs amidst rich people having a lot of food. Rich people’s efforts to help other people not starve vary between well-meaning, serious, and inadequate, and indifferent and inadequate.

    Last ~100 years: modern welfare/regulatory state emerges: less people starve.

    Right now, you’re failing to prevent starvation all over the world. Rich Nigerians aren’t preventing the starvation of poor nigerians. Rich ethiopians aren’t preventing the starvation of poor ethiopians. Rich South Africans aren’t preventing the starvation or poor South Africans.

    Private charity is a marginal phenomenon in practice, no matter how widespread the impulse. It always has been, and so it remains.

  76. #76 |  glasnost | 

    Taking what I earn to spend it on what you want, instead of what I want, is a violation of my civil liberties.

    In practice, you earn a lot less when armed bandits can jack you over for an arbitrary, unpredictable percentage of everything you make, over and over again, different groups each time. Actually, your income doesn’t exist, as the interstate revenue your company collects (intertown, inter-whatever) kind of takes a nosedive. Thus the modern state, which takes what you earn in order to protect you from the inherent predation of man upon man, leaving you with more net earnings than you would otherwise have in, say, the libertarian paradise of Guatemala. But you are not wise, and so you deconstruct the system built by your ancestors to maximize your practical liberty over your hypothetical liberty. For more, please see: “The Dark Ages”.

    Please look into further concepts you don’t understand, like how your unrestrained liberty to set your own forest on fire can create a problem for your neighbor’s forest.

    This is the average H&R commenter.

  77. #77 |  glasnost | 

    Italics gone haywire, capturing quote and response. By haywire, I mean my incompetence, I’m sure.

  78. #78 |  JOR | 

    “Yes, this is condescending, most analyses of other people are inherently so.”

    Most analyses of other people are also complete bullshit.

    “40000 years of minimalist state capacity. Regular famine. Frequently, famine occurs amidst rich people having a lot of food. Rich people’s efforts to help other people not starve vary between well-meaning, serious, and inadequate, and indifferent and inadequate.

    “Last ~100 years: modern welfare/regulatory state emerges: less people starve.”

    Conflationary hijinks and historical ignorance (ignorance, at best, anyway) aside, there’s an obvious logical fallacy here. Do you know what it is?

  79. #79 |  JOR | 

    “But we have issues that are much more clear cut, such as Native American groups who had legally signed treaties with the government violated and invaluable land taken out from under them and basically been told to “tough”. As champions of property rights, where are libertarians on this?”

    I’ve heard a few libertarians suggest giving away federally owned land (of which there is a great deal) to American Indians as, at least, a start to correcting the state’s injustices towards them. As for descendants of slaves, giving them shares of government assets historically constructed by slave labor seems like potentially a good start.

  80. #80 |  Highway | 

    BSK, I counter with something from your post:

    We had legally enforced (not just legally allowable) discrimination and disenfranchisement of groups based on their gender, race, ethnicity, intelligence, and property ownership.

    I think that libertarians *do* recognize that those wrongs happened, but that the very important point is that it was exactly as you say: Not just legally allowable discrimination, but legally enforced.

    That’s why I always sort of scratch my head at this argument that “We can’t be more libertarian now, because bad things happened in the past, so we need the government to fix it” when the government was a primary driver of the heinous policies of the past. So libertarians recognize that yes, people were discriminatory, but that what was most destructive about individuals discriminating was that they had government backup.

    One of the key realizations that I have had is that if government had that power before, and they still have that power, but it’s just not being used right now, that power can be brought to bear again.

    Is there an issue with ‘some people have an advantage now’? Maybe. But I think it’s a lot easier for the folks who might have had a historical disadvantage to reach an equal footing when there aren’t mechanisms that hold back the successful for the benefit of the unsuccessful. Because those mechanisms will hold them back when they might get successful. To put in advantages for some and disadvantages for others might feel like some sort of balancing, but what it really does is use that power of government to continue discrimination.

  81. #81 |  Gideon Darrow | 

    @ #75 glasnost:

    “Private charity is a marginal phenomenon in practice, no matter how widespread the impulse. It always has been, and so it remains.”

    Well, first of all, “private charity” is the only kind of charity there is. If you’re not giving of your own free will, it’s not charity.

    As for private charity being “marginal”:

    “Most Americans today were born after the New Deal and therefore have no memory of American social policy before the 1930s. Those then alive will recall that before the policies implemented by Roosevelt, there effectively were no social-welfare programs provided by the federal government. State and local government programs in place during that time, such as soup kitchens and state-run orphanages, were meager affairs in comparison to the welfare programs of today. The question must then be asked: If the government wasn’t helping the poor, who was?

    To put it simply, neighbors and religious communities helped the less fortunate, and members of different races, ethnicities, and occupations expressed solidarity to improve their financial independence. In effect, it was private voluntary cooperation that came to the aid of the poor. In the absence of government assistance, the social net cast by private charities, organizations, and businesses reached farther and remained much stronger than federal welfare programs.”

    http://www.thefreemanonline.org/featured/the-shortcomings-of-government-charity/

  82. #82 |  nitpicker | 

    Taking what I earn to spend it on what you want, instead of what I want, is a violation of my civil liberties.

    I’d love to see your copy of the Constitution, because mine says that’s one of the jobs of government.

  83. #83 |  Gideon Darrow | 

    @ #74 BSK:

    “But we have issues that are much more clear cut, such as Native American groups who had legally signed treaties with the government violated and invaluable land taken out from under them and basically been told to ‘tough’. As champions of property rights, where are libertarians on this?”

    Here’s one:

    “The whites generally regarded the Indians as possessors of land ripe for expropriation. This attitude of the whites was partially justified, as Indian land was typically owned not by the individual, but by the collective tribal unit, and furthermore was inalienable under tribal law. This was particularly true of the land itself as contrasted to its annual use. Furthermore, tribal law often decreed ownership over large tracts of even unused acreage. Still, however, this land inequity provided no excuse for the physical dispersion of individual Indians from their homes and from land actually used, let alone the plundering of their crops and the slaughtering of the Indian people.”

    http://books.google.com/books?id=OCElRYiN7hIC&pg=PA85&dq=rothbard+indians+land&hl=en&ei=5g8LTtPlM4nX0QGAwfl1&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Here’s another:

    http://mises.org/journals/jls/7_1/7_1_9.pdf

  84. #84 |  Radley Balko | 

    glasnost:

    Your comments are so full of economic and legal ignorance I hardly know where to begin. But to say that the free market is responsible for the inequities and failures of the criminal justice system is one of the stupidest things a commenter has ever posted on this site. It’s a system run by government monopoly, top to bottom. If you think that millionaires are paying off law schools to indoctrinate young minds with free market propaganda, you’ve obviously never step foot inside of a law school. You’re also ignorant of what libertarians actually believe, as are most of the Balloon Juice commenters who come over here. I’ve repeatedly argued, for example, that the government should spend more money on public defenders and forensic analysis.

    A couple more points. The standard of living in the western world has been improving not since the onset of the welfare state, but since the Enlightenment, with an accelerated climb after the Industrial Revolution and the widespread implementation of compound interest (which was once considered usury, and shunned as a tool of evil capitalists and merchants).

    As for the developing world, absolute poverty has actually dropped, pretty dramatically, since the movement toward free trade and globalization. In fact, beginning about 6-7 years ago, the number of human beings living in absolute poverty began to decline each year. That’s never happened before in human history. And you can thank free(r) markets for it.

  85. #85 |  BSK | 

    JOR-

    I think that would be a good start. Again, I don’t know what the ideal solution is… if I did, I’d run for President. And I am not read up on every libertarian piece of writing, so I’m glad to see that I was wrong (though I did qualify that I was talking more about perception, or my own perception at least, than the reality… I do realize libertarianism is no more monolithic than anything else). I know a major issue was the dispersal of Native Americans from the Black Hills, which were found to have something like $45 billion worth of gold or something in them. They tried to sue, but the government instead accepted a settlement for something like $1 million from a lawyer that had no formal affiliation with the primary tribe leadership and the government and the courts have basically said, “You’ve had your day.” Even if that group was given Federal Land, I find it hard to believe it’d have billions in gold. But, yea, that would be a step in the right direction.

  86. #86 |  BSK | 

    Gideon-

    Thanks for that. It doesn’t surprise me that you were able to find some literature on exactly what I was talking about. It would seem that some of these issues would be core to libertarian thought, and it is clear that some have championed them. I just think it should be more core to the message, not only from an ideologically consistency standpoint, but also from a branding stand point. I know many people of color and women who might very well benefit from a more libertarian approach to society. But there understanding of libertarianism is what I quoted above: rich white guys trying to further manipulate the rules in their favor. Is that accurate? For the most part, no (as evidenced by someone like Radley). But branding matters in politics, especially when you are a smaller ideology still trying to get a foothold. If libertarians put criminal justice out in front, they very well may gain a foothold in the black community. Put those quotes you offered out and front and the Native Americans, who no one is talking about, might rally to the cause. No guarantees, but it’d serve the ideology very well, both internally and externally.

  87. #87 |  BSK | 

    Highway-

    You are right that libertarians I’ve read concede that point. I was painting a bit too broadly and was focused more on the legacy of that issue today (again, many people think that once we freed the slaves and ended segregation, every thing was equal, which is patently untrue). Like I said, I don’t know what the solution is. But libertarian thought, as far as what I’ve seen has been, we know you got shit on before and, as a result, certain laws or protections or programs were put in place to try to account for that, but instead, we’re just going to take those away, too, and leave you in a position where you are likely to get re-shitted on again because you lack the economic, social, and political capital necessary to avoid it because we didn’t let you make real strides there.” Now, I realize that many of the “protections” the government has put in place have only exacerbated the issue. Programs like welfare, which have been invaluable to some folks, also create a culture of dependency. Affirmative action (which has been predicated upon at least 3 very different goals) is important to leveling the “privilege playing field” but has also promoted the very insidious racism of compromised expectations. I could go on. So, I’m not necessarily saying we should continue or expand the state’s attempts at undoing what they’ve already done… since they’ve already demonstrated a pretty piss poor job at it (it’s amazing how good they proved to be at enslaving people and how bad they’ve proven to be at removing the bonds of slavery). I just know that *something* needs to be done. And, again, if I knew what that something was, I’d go out for the Nobel Prize.

    I often make the following analogy: Suppose you and I were playing a game. The goal of the game is to accrue points. As long as you aren’t a total imbecile, accruing points makes it easier to accrue more and more points; it is basically an exponential relationship. Also, the more points you accrue, the more allies you have in the game to help you accrue points, most of which also have many, many points. So, that is the basics of the game. And the value of points is somewhat relative, such that a gross imbalance in points leaves the weaker player at a supremely competitive disadvantage. Seems fair enough, assuming we all have equal ability to accrue points and are left to our own devices to do so.

    But, for the first 15 turns of the game, you got two turns for every one turn of mine and you would get four times the points for completing the same actions. Also, for the first 5 turns, I wasn’t even allowed to accrue points. By the end of these 15 turns, you would have an almost insurmountable lead, one that I would never be able to overcome and, more importantly, a lead that would likely continue to grow meaning I couldn’t even take basic steps forward. If we suddenly changed the rules such that everyone got the same number of turns and accrued points in the same way and played by all the same rules, but never reset the game conditions, would that be fair? Hell no! That is sometimes how I feel about how our society works especially as people look towards making things more equitable/fair in the moment without looking at the legacy of all the things that were deliberately designed to be inequitable and unfair. I know it’s not a perfect analogy, but I hope it gives some sense to why I balk when I hear, “Well, if we just put everyone on equal footing now, it will sort itself out.” We can’t put everyone on equal footing. Not without getting REALLY radical for a while.

  88. #88 |  Gideon Darrow | 

    “In practice, you earn a lot less when armed bandits can jack you over for an arbitrary, unpredictable percentage of everything you make, over and over again, different groups each time. Actually, your income doesn’t exist, as the interstate revenue your company collects (intertown, inter-whatever) kind of takes a nosedive. Thus the modern state, which takes what you earn in order to protect you from the inherent predation of man upon man, leaving you with more net earnings than you would otherwise have in, say, the libertarian paradise of Guatemala.”

    Ah, yes. Government as protection racket. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

  89. #89 |  johnl | 

    Glasnost how can you believe that private charity is a marginal force in our world? Is that how your life has been? Or has your life been filled with strangers who spontaneously stop their car to help you change a tire, balanced with opportunities to stop to help others? Didn’t anyone not really close to you and not under any real obligation ever give you a big hand? Take a closer look.

  90. #90 |  Highway | 

    BSK, but it’s not a game. The key difference between your game analogy and individual’s lives is that two wrongs never make a right.

    There are situations where a ‘balancing’ is used for some things. For instance, some auto racing series will rebalance equivalencies during a season for competitive purposes. But generally, even then they’ll see that Car A has a power advantage over Car B and will counter with a remedy, say more weight for Car A, that makes it so that it’s equal , not an advantage. They won’t take the championship points away that Car A already got, if they were gotten within the rules that existed. But that’s in a situation where the series has an interest in making sure that it’s competitive because they want audiences to be interested. And it’s also a situation where Car A knows in advance that this is a possibility.

    But I can’t agree that the same thing is applicable to people’s lives, especially in the total of something like the population of a county, state, or the US. It’s not ‘fair’, but there’s no right of fairness, and it’s certainly never fair to say to one person “Well, other people in similar situations might have had an advantage in the past, so we now must give someone else an advantage over you.” Because the people that are harmed by such ‘balancing’ are rarely the people who benefited from it being unfair before, just as the people who now get a benefit from a rigged system are rarely the people who were kept down by a different rigged system.

    And this is without getting into the actual efficacy of any such retributively discriminatory policy, which is rarely as helpful for any goal of righting past wrongs as hoped.

  91. #91 |  glasnost | 

    “”””””””To put it simply, neighbors and religious communities helped the less fortunate, and members of different races, ethnicities, and occupations expressed solidarity to improve their financial independence. In effect, it was private voluntary cooperation that came to the aid of the poor. In the absence of government assistance, the social net cast by private charities, organizations, and businesses reached farther and remained much stronger than federal welfare programs.””””””

    You’re mistaking a larger amount of activity for superior results.

    Lots of private, organizational, business blah blah blah and the result was a lot more net starvation.

    You’re living in a fantasy world. For God’s sake, read some Dickens. Before the welfare state, there were orphanages, but the number of actual orphanages bared no relationship whatsoever to the number of starving parentless children.

    Read the best kind of evidence you can come up with from a time before statistics or anyone to collect them, a damn historical novel written before 1900. Mass starvation was a fact of life.

  92. #92 |  glasnost | 

    Radley,

    thanks for your response. So this is all the fault of a government monopoly? Law is not a government monopoly. Anyone who can afford a lawyer can buy one. But some people can’t afford one, or can only afford a crappy lawyer. They get screwed. That’s the free market.

    Also, if you’ve argued for more money for public defenders, how is that consistent with libertarianism? Shouldn’t the free market handle who gets a lawyer and who doesn’t? Is this you acknowledging the insufficiency of pure market forces to handle legal matters?

    If this market provides insufficient outcomes in terms of fair legal representation, where else?

    I’m still getting over the confusion of you advocating more government spending for anything. This isn’t what libertarians believe, it’s just what you believe. After all, your endorsing taxation in this matter to pay for such spending, but I keep hearing from libertarians that all taxation is theft.

    If I’m using straw men, it’s because I run into them all the time being presented as fact.

  93. #93 |  glasnost | 

    As for the developing world, absolute poverty has actually dropped, pretty dramatically, since the movement toward free trade and globalization. In fact, beginning about 6-7 years ago, the number of human beings living in absolute poverty began to decline each year. That’s never happened before in human history. And you can thank free(r) markets for it.

    Markets are a useful tool in certain circumstances. Of course, nations that have benefitted the most from these trends have relatively strong and coherent central governments, such as East Asia. Weak states, such as in Africa, have been left almost entirely on the sidelines despite gigantic resource endowments. The empirical evidence suggest that markets (let’s drop the free and stop kidding ourselves) and strong states need each other), or markets are overwhelmed by force, fraud, long time horizons for payback, and collective action problems.

    The market is indifferent to liberty. It profits from freedom and slavery alike.

  94. #94 |  glasnost | 

    Ah, yes. Government as protection racket. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

    Protection rackets form because they are, while inefficient, more efficient that anarchic banditry. Being inside one allows some level of organized activity and specialization away from personal self-defense to occur. The protection racket becomes more efficient as its demands become more predictable and smaller, while its membership expands. Eventually, you have an inclusive modern state.

    Genghis Khan doesn’t run the world because pure protection rackets gradually lose out to actual governance.

    It’s not pretty, but what else isn’t pretty is getting jacked and left for dead in a gutter without one.

  95. #95 |  glasnost | 

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that now that I’ve started being civil, Balko is done responding to me. I’ve observed that he enjoys putting perceived assholes in their place, but seems to find ordinary discussion boring and doesn’t bother to respond.

  96. #96 |  Radley Balko | 

    Of course, nations that have benefitted the most from these trends have relatively strong and coherent central governments, such as East Asia. Weak states, such as in Africa, have been left almost entirely on the sidelines despite gigantic resource endowments. The empirical evidence suggest that markets (let’s drop the free and stop kidding ourselves) and strong states need each other), or markets are overwhelmed by force, fraud, long time horizons for payback, and collective action problems.

    The market is indifferent to liberty. It profits from freedom and slavery alike.

    Libertarianism isn’t anarchy. There’s a role for government in protecting private property, enforcing contracts, etc. But the East Asia government you’re talking about, places like Hong Kong and Singapore, have the freest economies in the world. They don’t have “strong central governments.” China’s standard of living has improved because the government has freed up markets, not tightened them. And the main reason parts of Africa and the Middle East have lagged behind is because of governments that have shut their countries off from trade and commerce. The poorest countries in Africa are also the most totalitarian. (And before you bring up Somalia, do some research about what actually goes on there.)

    The empirical evidence suggest that markets (let’s drop the free and stop kidding ourselves) . . . The market is indifferent to liberty. It profits from freedom and slavery alike.

    The fact that there was once and in some places still is a market for slavery has nothing to with libertarianism. Libertarians believe that you own your own body, and you own the fruits of your own labor. Slavery is incompatible with libertarianism. Period. The central principle of libertarianism is voluntarism and non-coercion. The word”free” is in “free markets” for a reason.

  97. #97 |  John C. Randolph | 

    That BSK guy sure is long-winded, isn’t he?

    -jcr

  98. #98 |  Radley Balko | 

    Also, if you’ve argued for more money for public defenders, how is that consistent with libertarianism?

    Because if the government, with the consent of the governed, is going to try to take away a citizen’s freedom, it owes them a fair trial. That means ensuring that poor people have adequate representation in the same way it means paying for a judge, a bailiff, a courtroom, and a prison.

    But some people can’t afford one, or can only afford a crappy lawyer. They get screwed. That’s the free market.

    You really haven’t the foggiest idea what libertarianism of free markets are all about. The fact that some people can’t afford an attorney when faced with the possibility of the government taking away their freedom has nothing to do with free markets. It’s a government-created problem.

    By the way, markets don’t solve everything. Libertarianism isn’t utopian. It’s just that because they’re voluntary, markets are usually a better way of distributing resources than politics.

  99. #99 |  BSK | 

    “ecause the people that are harmed by such ‘balancing’ are rarely the people who benefited from it being unfair before, just as the people who now get a benefit from a rigged system are rarely the people who were kept down by a different rigged system.”

    Highway, I think that this ignores the way in which legacy works. Let’s assume that everything really is equal right now in the moment (not a point I’m willing to concede, but it’s moot for the conversation). I’m a white male. Everyone in my family is white. Even if, right now, I don’t have any advantages over the black guy next door, there are still ingrained differences that I can’t pretend don’t exist. My family has a history of inheritance because we have always been able to, and always have, owned the homes we lived in. This is going back generations. It’s not huge, but it matters. Not only were we legally allowed to own homes, but we had access to education and jobs that allowed us the income to buy homes and leave inheritance for later generations. This was not an option for many people (including many, many white folks). So, while I may not have chosen the advantages, or worked actively to gain or retain them, they are still there. Often in ways we don’t even know.

    Again, I’m not arguing that we throw everything into a big pot, divide it up equally, and start over. Not only is that impossible to do, but it may be no more moral than what has come before or what we have now. However, I don’t think we can pretend that these historical injustices never happened and don’t still have an impact in the world today. Maybe we start with forcing any previous contracts to be maintained. Maybe, as we dismantle the government, these lands/properties are what are used. But this is the primary reason I can’t get behind libertarian economic policy despite being a firm believer in many of these other aspects of libertarian thought.

  100. #100 |  BSK | 

    JCR-

    I never pretended to be economical with my words… :-)

  101. #101 |  Highway | 

    BSK, I still don’t understand what you think could be an equitable remedy. Sure, there were historical problems. But most of the things you’re talking about are *ideas* that are not exclusive, and are not kept from anyone. There isn’t any sort of monopoly on the ideas of wealth creation, and if people who have access to the same alternatives as others who have a history of wealth building continue to perpetuate systems which are less efficient or unable to build wealth, what can the government do about it?

    The way I see it, anything that could be considered a remedy will fall into one of two camps: Spreading the opportunity equally, or punishing some group. So you can make it so everyone has the opportunity to own their residence (under the same conditions! We have seen what tragedy can be wrought by relaxing the conditions to home ownership below what is financially prudent) and no libertarian would have a problem with that. Or you can punish people: Make them sell their houses below market value, or subsidize some folks while not subsidizing others, or other things that take wealth from one group and give it to another.

    Or for instance, banks. Poor people spend a lot more of their income on short term loans. They don’t trust banks. This could be remedied by convincing folks that banks are better than payday loans, and austerity is better than gratification, in the long run. But this isn’t sacred knowledge. Anyone can know this. Or laws can be made that punish the banks that try to perform services for these folks, and while those laws are looked at by some as ‘good’ (like limits on overdraft fees), they have the effect of punishing banks who try to service that community, making the bank lose money. And that hurts the bank, and it hurts the community because it takes that institution that would help people build wealth, even if they have higher overdraft fees. Overdraft fees help you learn good banking and budgeting behavior: What young adult hasn’t had to pay an overdraft, and learns that it sucks, and you don’t want to do it ever again. But if the banks close because of punitive laws, then folks in those communities don’t have even a choice.

    So a lot of these legacy things you’re talking about are behaviors that anyone can pick up at any time. And they aren’t being kept secret by anyone. Maybe a particular school sucks for some folks, but that doesn’t mean that one couldn’t get a good education from it. Don’t we hear those stories all the time? The government obviously doesn’t know how to fix that, or maybe they know, and just won’t do it. But it’s not like there’s no way that someone can be successful with a public school education, even one from a terrible school.

  102. #102 |  BSK | 

    Highway-

    But the behaviors require capital. Wealth begets wealth and poverty begets poverty. Are there counter examples? Obviously. But you are basically saying that people who have been systematically disadvantaged, and continue to be so, “We know this sucked/sucks for you. Sorry. Nothing we can do about it now. Figure it out on your own.” I’m sorry, but I find that morally repugnant.

    If you were to buy a TV from Best Buy for an amazing price and it was later found out that Best Buy stole that TV, would you be entitled to keep it? If you had to return it to it’s rightful owner, would you be entitled to a refund of the actual cost of the TV or what you paid for it? Even if you had no idea it was stolen it’d be hard to argue that you are entitled to anything more than the money you doled out. Well, let’s consider the land stolen. And the labor stolen. Let’s just look at tangible, practical theft of property and labor. Ya know what, let’s leave labor out of it and just use land. Land was stolen. Plain and simple. It should be returned, plain and simple. Those who are on it, innocent or not, aware or not, should be remedied by the government. If they were only able to possess that land in the first place because it was stolen and sold to them or the previous sellers are below market rates, they are entitled to nothing more than that below market rate.

    It’s just hard to take libertarian economic policy seriously when they are objecting to 1% tax increases and pay no mind to the wholesale theft, enslavement, and disenfranchisement of entire groups of people.

    Again, I don’t know what the solution is. And I’m not saying they would be easy or pretty. And I fully concede that much of what the government has attempted to do has failed. Your solution seems to be, “Let’s just do nothing then.” Sorry, but I can’t buy that.

    (By the way, I appreciate the spirited debate. This is obviously a topic I’m fired up over, but I do enjoy discussing it intellectually and honestly as you have.)

  103. #103 |  Ovresmot | 

    “Taking what I earn to spend it on what you want, instead of what I want, is a violation of my civil liberties.”

    By that logic, all taxation is violating your civil liberties. Every cent of it. So it’s back to feudalism, I guess. Or just subsistence farming, really. Pass the hoes! (sorry just a little serf humor).

  104. #104 |  Highway | 

    You may find it morally repugnant, but you’re arguing that people who were NOT complicit in the theft be held culpable for actions they did not do, and be made to compensate other people who were also not involved. I find it hard to believe that punishing people innocent of this is much less repugnant. And that the amount of compensation is some amount that cannot be calculated, and is extremely dependent on years and years of activity that likely would not have happened.

    I think one thing you do miss is that generally a libertarian position (and my personal one) is not just ‘let’s do nothing’. It’s also “let’s do as much as we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” It’s not ignoring it. It’s realizing that it’s happened, far enough in the past that there is no hope of making people whole. There’s no way to place a value on it. For instance, if land was worth 1 cent an acre when it was taken, and through subsequent effort and other effects is now worth 500,000 dollars per acre 150 years later, what value should be remanded to the heirs of the person who it was taken from? Would it be the current value? Would it be the starting value plus inflation? Would it just be the starting price? I can’t see it rightly being argued that the people who would be recompensed are entitled not just to the land, but to all the value generated by labor and others on the surrounding land.

    Libertarians aren’t ‘ignoring’ the issue. It’s realizing that theft, enslavement, and disenfranchisement are wrong, but that trying to redress wrongs from such a distance is just continuing with theft, enslavement, and disenfranchisement. It’s certainly not the case that libertarians would say “Everything that everyone has right now, no matter how they got it, is what they start with.” No libertarian is saying that Bernie Madoff should be let go, no problems. Libertarians are constantly fighting government property takes, private property takes, voter fraud, etc.

    But in situations where the harmed parties are “this group of people way in the past”, and the offending parties are “this other group of people way in the past”? Where even as you acknowledge there’s no real way to figure out what redress can be made, who should make it, what time frame, or who should be made whole. Then it starts to really get into the feeling of “Well, we should do something.” And when that’s the motivating factor, innocent people get harmed, and that cannot be justified.

  105. #105 |  BSK | 

    Many of the victims remain. When was segregation struck down? Certainly within a vast majority of people’s lifetimes. Racial profiling and gender discrimination still exist; not legally, but they do go on and the deck is stacked against those seeking redress. The issues are ongoing and are not distinct from the initial crimes.

  106. #106 |  glasnost | 

    What you’re doing is disequating libertarianism with the promotion of Darwinian-market based approaches to every problem. That’s an okay thing to do. If I wanted to try to be a libertarian, I’d recommend doing just that in practice.

    But to say that markets have “nothing to do with” my scenario where rich people get good, expensive lawyers and poor people get incompetent ones or none at all is an empirically false statement. A market for legal services exists. The fact that this market is artificially enhanced, distorted, etc by the need to legally defend yourself from criminal charges brought by the government, doesn’t make that market not exist. Who gets a lawyer is decided by who has the required currency, the amount of which is determined by supply and demand. It’s a market. A market without subsidized public defenders is a market with less government interference than a market with them.

    Your point is that the reason we don’t just let the market decide who gets a lawyer is that libertarians value liberty, and liberty is infringed when the government can put poor people on trial who can’t afford and don’t have lawyers. Thus public defenders. But this is a clear example of intervening in an existing market, for legal services, to create an outcome of greater civil liberty.

    Now that we’ve established this scenario pitting liberty against ‘free’ markets – meaning markets in which the government does not intervene to help out the losers – there’s no shortage of other examples. Of course, libertarians aren’t interested in conceptions of liberty wherein bad things that happen to people constitute a loss of their practical freedom, unless those bad things are done with violence or illegal behavior. But even under that narrow conception of liberty, there’s no shortage of other examples.

  107. #107 |  glasnost | 

    Regarding global economics – globalization is currently making poor countries richer and rich countries less rich, capital fleeing to where labor is cheap, employing it in large quantities, creating shortages, raising wages, etc etc etc. Hooray.

    There’s no necessary contradiction – though there is often tension – between a strong state and a state that allows access to markets.
    The current state of the world is such that relative wage disparities are so high that many states are benefitting from market effects to one degree or another. But the textile industry hasn’t started making Bangladeshi a first world country yet, while South Korea has changed completely in 50 years. It takes a lot more than simply lowering your tariff barriers. In fact, your tariff barriers are completely irrelevant as long as your rules for foreign investment are liberalized. In fact, lowering your tariff barriers at the Congo state is a great way to make sure that most of the resulting foreign investment capital is repatriated or immediately burned on imports, while your country stays at the bottom end of the value chain. This is called, more or less, mercantilism. government-created market distortions and restrictions are helpful in this process but not neccessary.

    This is rather too complicated to be a useful discussion without some specific case studies. What it boils down to is that opening markets to new entrants tends to bring wealth to the new entrants, which is a great thing about international markets. That’s the expansion phase of competition in a given market. It’s followed by the contraction phase of competition, which gradually eliminates all of these benefits, and to which libertarianism’s solution is a combination of denialism and utopianism.

  108. #108 |  Eric H | 

    Having never read BJ or their commenters before, I saw all I needed to see with this defense of order:

    Brachiator: “Great Rant. … I can never understand why some people are so big on imposing or admiring order for it’s own sake.”

    cleek (who is apparently unable to find the caps key): “order makes life easy to understand, predict and diagnose. if everybody else is behaving predictably, and your place in the scheme of things is clearly defined, everything will be efficient, with little conflict, and few failures.

    “in other words: it’s the engineering impulse.”

    Really? Really?! Do they think that libertarians are imposing their view of order? Even while they make light of how little actual power Libertarians have? Radley, I agree with other commenters here: please ignore these people. Anyone impressed by that paragraph enough to call it “epic”, “awesome”, “great” or even “good” is not a deep thinker; and if that was his “best ever”, then the bar must be very low.

    Incidentally, thought I think it mostly petty, nobody should be defending the Kochs. Such ill-advised activity is what Kevin Carson refers to as “vulgar libertarianism”, and for good reason.

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