I post this here simply to point out how willing I am to admit error (those of you who don’t know where I started on this forum, just click here) and embrace a different way of approaching a problem. The charge of cult is one of those thought-ending metaphors; however, the observation of of cultish devotion to an anarchist ideal demonstrated in this post (to the point of fabricating histories. Something I’ve experienced first hand) should give any honest libertarian pause.
My previous Salon essay, in which I asked why there are not any libertarian countries, if libertarianism is a sound political philosophy, has infuriated members of the tiny but noisy libertarian sect, as criticisms of cults by outsiders usually do. The weak logic and bad scholarship that suffuse libertarian responses to my article tend to reinforce me in my view that, if they were not paid so well to churn out anti-government propaganda by plutocrats like the Koch brothers and various self-interested corporations, libertarians would play no greater role in public debate than do the followers of Lyndon LaRouche or L. Ron Hubbard.
Protectionist, nativist paleoconservatives of the Patrick Buchanan school might have reason to idealize the U.S. as it existed between 1865 and 1932. But libertarians who want to prove that a country based on libertarian ideology can exist in the real world cannot point to the United States at any period in its history from the Founding to the present.Salon.com: Libertarians: Still a cult
The next quote was clipped from his previous piece.
While the liberal welfare-state left, with its Scandinavian role models, remains a vital force in world politics, the pro-communist left has been discredited by the failure of the Marxist-Leninist countries it held up as imperfect but genuine models. Libertarians have often proclaimed that the economic failure of Marxism-Leninism discredits not only all forms of socialism but also moderate social-democratic liberalism.
But think about this for a moment. If socialism is discredited by the failure of communist regimes in the real world, why isn’t libertarianism discredited by the absence of any libertarian regimes in the real world? Communism was tried and failed. Libertarianism has never even been tried on the scale of a modern nation-state, even a small one, anywhere in the world.Salon.com: The question libertarians just can’t answer
This problem is one that was brought up time and again at LP and Libertarian outreach events throughout my 20 years in the Libertarian movement. Contrary to the heated outrage leveled at the cult charge (or perhaps symbolically linked to it) is the fact that there are no functioning libertarian governments in existence after 40 years of the libertarian movement, and even less embracing of libertarian ideals by the public than there has been historically. These facts pose the question “does libertarian thought have any basis in reality?”
(after the thread had run for six pages and several days, I went back and culled the favorite arguments presented in those six pages so that I could rebut them in an addendum. This was a trick I learned while shepherding the Atheism is Not a Belief System thread. It worked pretty good. The flamers had all burned themselves out by that point, and the triumphalists would quit in disgust when the OP short-circuits their bad arguments in the first post, making their arguments look even dumber when read by a newb to the thread.-ed.)
Firstly, accusations of brainwashing are fallacious (Skeptoid article that addresses popular misunderstanding of what brainwashing is and isn’t) this simply doesn’t occur. Confirmation bias runs supreme in most arguments of a political nature. If you think something is so, go check your confirmation bias.
Wikipedia is a legitimate fast reference. Dismissal of Wikipedia as a reference requires that you find an actual respected source with which to dismiss the wiki (I may have to add this one to my signature) you cannot simply roll your eyes and state “wiki” as if it proves something.
great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or workMerriam-Webster
“The word cult is not a term of abuse, as this paper tries to explain. It is nothing more than a shorthand expression for a particular set of practices that have been observed in a variety of dysfunctional organisations.”Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
So the use of the word cult is not itself an ad hominem fallacy upon which the entire argument can be dismissed.
Libertarianism as discussed here is American libertarianism as endorsed by the Libertarian Party, and found defined here. We are not talking about the flavors of libertarianism found in other countries, so please don’t drag those assumptions into the thread.
Dismissal of anyone who thinks government is necessary as Statist simply confirms your membership in the libertarian cult. Government exists and exists because that is what the large majority of people want; structures that they can rely on to maintain a relatively stable and reliable system in which to do business, live their lives, etc. It is not statist to accept the status quo as having a legitimate reason to exist.
Libertarians do not have a problem with violence. Libertarians have a problem with government violence, sometimes referred to as force. Violence in defense of person is absolutely endorsed. The government cannot have a monopoly on force, because anyone can trump the ban by exerting force themselves. If they are never caught and brought to justice, their use of force remains an example of productive individual force, and the so called monopoly for government remains the pipe dream of those who wish to believe themselves ‘safe’, a condition non-existent in the temporary condition known as life.
Ayn Rand was not a libertarian. Ayn Rand was not a Conservative. Ayn Rand was not a Anarchist. Most Objectivists don’t even know what Ayn Rand was, so I don’t expect anyone to be able to say how or why Rand would take a stand on any particular subject she wasn’t recorded as speaking on. This thread is not about Ayn Rand.
(My first reply to the thread, on page seven, went as follows. -ed.)
I see I waited long enough for the thread to tangent. Going to interrupt the tangent. My apologies for exercising the rights of a thread author and doing that. I was waiting for the insanely-long-winded cult membership to stop harping the standard “it’s my freedom and I’ll do what I want to” string of bullshit arguments and finally wind down to the two or three people willing to continue patting each other on the back. When I visited the thread yesterday after starting it, whole pages of rambling had occurred in an hour or less. There really is no point in attempting to converse in a reasonable fashion when the replies scroll that fast.
So, here we are. Anyone who wants to start the harping back up should probably go back and read the 6 previous pages of the thread. It’s all there, don’t need to hear it again. Having said all that, the first post of any merit and it’s first meritorious response went like this:
Bouncing Bear wrote:
Not trying to be an ass here….the joke being that Somalia is a libertarian country….what about the plains indians of America? (Comancheria?) Basically no government to speak of, just tribes of people doing their thing and fighting when they rubbed each other the wrong way.
The Mad Zeppelineer wrote:
The Comanches had a government. Read Hamalainen’s “The Comanche Empire.” He’s a Scandinavian who studied the Comanche without all the inbred condescending prejudices Americans have against Indians. He discovered a very well organized government which reigned over large swaths of North America for centuries.
And Somalia is not Libertarian. Its tribal and partly ruled by religious figureheads. Very stern in their governing philosophy. Nobody is quoting Austrian economists there.
The real reason there has been no Libertarian societies is that people generally don’t like their ideas. People prefer one big dysfunctional commons to 10,000 petty tyrants nickel and dime-ing them for everything. If libertarianism was more popular it would win more elections.
I would say the reason is that most people really love freedom, and one of the freedoms they love is not having to reinvent the wheel each and every time they want to do business with another person. Government is what has grown out of this desire to have certain rules apply to all transactions between people. To put it as bluntly and simply as possible.
(Now I’m skipping to the forth reply. I was still trying to wend my way through the various self-congratulatory hold-outs occupying the thread. Reply two was simply an observation about how much I liked a particular users posts. Reply three was chastising a user for continuing to post on subjects that I had already rebutted. When I hit the discussion of US healthcare, that was when the rubber solidly met the road I wanted to drive on.-ed.)
Healthcare does not lend itself to market forces in the first place. You don’t shop around for life-saving drugs. If you economize at all with healthcare, it’s to not pay for preventive medicine. All that does is kick the can down the road and make the later treatments for disease all that much more expensive.
“Should the young have to pay for the healthcare of the old?” is the question that everyone is asking. How about we turn that around and apply it just like Social Security does. The young are paying for the services they will need when they in turn get old, they are simply doing it in advance. Imagine how much easier we’d have it now, if only our parents had paid for the healthcare they are consuming now by paying for it over the course of their working lives. Would they have whined about paying for their parents healthcare?
This argument is at the heart of the cult mentality. The demonstration of this is that libertarians wave their hands and say “we don’t want the sick and the poor to die, we just want them to not consume what they haven’t paid for.” Never understanding that the second necessitates the first. People will die because medical services will be denied them since they are unable to pay. The poor clog emergency rooms now, because the cost of providing healthcare to the poor is externalized and picked up by the various cities large enough to fund and staff emergency rooms. Shall we allow free-ridership to continue, or do we actually make people pay in advance knowing that they will utilize the health services eventually?
So many of the arguments fall out this way. Anti-abortionists don’t want to have to pay to raise all the children the poor will have, an act that would dramatically reduce the abortion rate, the stated goal of those people. Much easier to externalize the cost of raising those children by simply forcing the women to have the children that they can’t pay for. Take away their choice, and they’ll just struggle along not costing the rest of us a cent more in welfare (and they wonder why I label it hypocrisy) never mind that poor unwanted children drive up crime rates, fill the prisons, destabilize the society.
Everyone is looking for a way to externalize costs, internalize profits. All of us do it. If libertarians weren’t pursuing this, they’d pay for the health insurance without being forced to. Would gladly pay the taxes, and more, in order to reap more benefits from society. But that’s not how you come out on top, in a competition judged on how little you are forced to give. The way to do that is to make sure someone else pays for the things you need. Corporate welfare far outstrips ‘entitlements’ that weren’t paid in advance like social security; but all the talk about economizing centers around stripping SS recipients of benefits that they paid for in good faith over their working lives, while closing tax loopholes and revoking tax cuts and corporate welfare are rejected out of hand.
…and again, the cult embraces this, the corporate plan to suck even more cash out of the American populace.
The parties are chained by their need to fundraise. You change the way the game is played, you change who wins the game.
The false choice is the vain belief that individuals acting alone can fix the problem. Collective action is the only way to fight back, and that means joining a party, unionizing, working for a common goal. It is the opposite of what Dan Carlin says, it is the opposite of what libertarians preach. Not more government, but smarter government.
As to the request for a source demonstrating that healthcare does not lend itself to market forces? You go to your doctor and he says “you need drug X.” Do you haggle over price for the drug? do you ask him to change the diagnosis? Whether you personally do or not, most people do not, even though they should.
A further example. Chemotherapy is one of the most expensive areas of health care, and yet it has very little proven benefit. Very few people will decline to get the treatments, because it really is the last hope for most cancers.
What is sobering about this booming business is that, as a group of oncologists wrote earlier this year, “most anti-cancer drugs provide minor survival benefits, if at all.” They often (but not always) reduce the size of inoperable tumors, but they rarely eradicate the disease. For relatively uncommon malignancies like testicular cancer, some forms of leukemia, and lymphoma, drugs effectively cure the disease; for the common “solid tumor” cancers (lung, breast, colon, prostate, and so on), which account for the vast majority of annual cases, drugs buy some time—precious time, to be sure, but time usually measured in weeks and months rather than years. And even though many of the newer drugs are less toxic, they often still have to be given with older drugs whose side effects include nausea, hair loss, fatigue, and decreasing blood counts. One anti-cancer drug produces a skin rash so severe and disturbing, according to Saltz, that some patients have been asked by employers not to come to work.
In 1965, at the dawn of Medicare, the chemotherapy drug Vinblastine cost $78 a month, according to a widely cited Sloan-Kettering price compendium. In 2011, Bristol-Myers Squibb introduced a new melanoma drug called Yervoy at a cost of about $38,000 a month for a three-month treatment.* Yervoy followed, by about a year, a new prostate-cancer therapy called Provenge that cost $93,000 per course of treatment. Even an ancient chemotherapy like nitrogen mustards, cousins to World War I’s mustard gas and in use since 1949, have gotten caught in the cost updraft; in 2006, a course of treatment experienced a thirteenfold price increase, from $33 a month to $420 a month.
And it’s not just that the price of cancer drugs has doubled in the last decade—it’s that the rise in prices, according to cancer doctors, has far exceeded the drugs’ effectiveness. In 1994, the median survival rate for someone with advanced colon cancer was eleven months, according to Saltz, and the lifetime costs of the drugs used to treat the average patient would be about $500 at today’s prices. By 2004, the median survival rate had increased twofold, to 22 months, but Saltz says the drug costs had increased hundreds of times for that extra eleven months.New York Magazine – The Cost of Living, By Stephen S. Hall – Oct 20, 2013
Another source? Trying reading any number of psychological texts, studies on healthcare usage, etc. Try going places that aren’t CATO or dominated by delusions of free markets. You’ll find plenty of material that illustrates just how far from the mythical free market that healthcare is just in concept, much less in execution.
“I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one”
Corporations were created to shield investors from liability, consequently the very existence of corporations is destructive to the free market. The depth of restructuring for all of society that would be required for ‘free markets’ to succeed makes the chance that something like that to ever be tried exceedingly remote. As a philosophical exercise, it may be intriguing, but highly unlikely and impractical.
However, there is not enough charity to fund necessary government functions, and the wealthy are the least generous of any group.
One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.The Atlantic, Why the Rich Don’t Give to Charity
Free ridership must be combated, and the hippocratic oath binds doctors into treating patients who cannot pay, so the only way to insure funding of necessary healthcare functions is to mandate it. Taxes or non-profits, makes no difference. Funding has to be done in advance of services being needed, or we simply end up right back where we are now, people going without necessary care.
Yes, charitable giving can be increased, and there are subtle ways that people can be nudged in the right direction; that is to say, the direction that yields the benefits we desire. Freakonomics: Riding the Herd Mentality (Ep. 80) gets into how you motivate people in the direction you want. Supposedly in some of the scandinavian countries, the wealthy contribute more to the government than they are required to pay in taxes; so it probably can be done, it just isn’t done here.
Saying “Self destructive people should be forced to face the consequences of their actions, and ask for charity, not expect or demand it.” is just describing how the healthcare system works now. How about we not let people die on the side of the road for lack of care, see how that works? How about we make it cheaper to eat right than it is to eat poorly? How about we let some of these empty houses go to people who need shelter? Or is that too much to ask?
The only group that cares about the cost of healthcare is the group that pays. If the insurance companies are charged with getting services to us as cheaply and efficiently as possible (not what they are currently charged with doing) and are rewarded for doing this, you’ll see changes in what you pay for healthcare. This doesn’t have to come down to each individual household duplicating the exact same work across the entire nation.
There are insane government imposed regulations in every state. The most destructive of which is that nurses can’t learn to be doctors through work experience… Everyone needs a doctorate, and that’s insane. Most nurses know far more about human physiology after 10 years than a graduating doctor could have ever learned in “college”. On the job training ftw.
(where to start with simplistic solutions. I should be a master of this after all these years of listening to Dan’s) As one of the last licensed architects under the bar requiring a master’s degree to practice architecture, I have to say that a degree is worth a lot more than on the job training. What you learn is what you are exposed to on the job; so as long as nothing new shows up, you are equipped to deal with the problems of the job. Many, many times in medicine doctors are exposed to things they’ve never seen before. Then what? Then you fall back on the training you received getting your doctorate.
…aside from which, have you never heard of “nurse practitioners”?
No one dies on the side of the road, except by choice. Pure self destruction, before the state got involved, led to bankruptcy and debt, that’s all. Even if I were to concede your point however… The richest most powerful country in the world, was the one where the state didn’t force its citizens to save everyone. It was done voluntarily. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner… Or rather, we had a winner. One in which you could choose to help people, because that’s what humans naturally want to do.
Right. Because what we need is to make sure that we let people die on the side of the road. That will teach those poor people to take better care of themselves. That is who you will be punishing. The poor. Not the self-destructive. People don’t get diseases because they misbehave, they get diseases because that’s what happens to living organisms. After you’ve been sick for awhile, you run out of money. After that…? Die on the side of the road, and you deserved it, according to those who need that confirmation bias ego boost.
Look up how cancer is becoming more common as a cause of death. That’s because cancer will always win in the end. (Editor’s note: link directly to the podcast episode on cancer replaced with a link to my article that discusses the podcast episode on cancer. Because I’ve had to refer back to that episode at least a dozen times now.)
…Diabetes is an outgrowth of poor diet, and poor diet comes from being poor. Cheapest place to eat, from someone who knows? McDonald’s, and you get large fries with every order. Or Taco Bell. Now there is some bad for you junk food. It’s much cheaper to go to a fast food restaurant than it is to eat at home. I’ve demonstrated this in my own kitchen many, many times.
The government used to deliver cheese, bread, milk, etc. to poor communities. Some of the worst years in my childhood, the block of government cheese and loaf of bread was all we had to eat on a day to day basis. They phased that out (Editor’s note: they ran out of cheese. See Planet Money Episode #862) and then started food stamps, now they want to cancel food stamps, and people are starving in the US. Wake the fuck up! It’s not the 70’s anymore. And we aren’t the richest nation anymore.
If wealth is power, then Qataris have some serious muscle to flex. The Persian Gulf emirate of 1.7 million people ranks as the world’s richest country per capita thanks to a rebound in oil prices and its massive natural gas reserves. Adjusted for purchasing power, Qatar booked an estimated gross domestic product per capita of more than $88,000 for 2010.Forbes, The World’s Richest Countries, February 2012
Diabetes, is the result of bad diet, also known as poor choices. It’s not that much cheaper to eat decent food, and where it is cheaper, guess what, government involvement.
That is a myth. Like so many things about health and healthcare, diabetes being a lazines problem is a complete myth.
Being overweight is a risk factor for developing this disease, but other risk factors such as family history, ethnicity and age also play a role. Unfortunately, too many people disregard the other risk factors for diabetes and think that weight is the only risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.diabetes.org
You have to be genetically predisposed to get diabetes in order to be able to develop it. It’s genetics and lifestyle together. McDonald’s low food prices financed by government? Hardly. Tons of places want to loan to McDonald’s franchisees. They almost always make money.
…and if you want to eat healthy at McDonald’s, don’t eat the fries but do have an unsweetened drink. A hamburger alone has all the basic food groups. But it’s still cheaper to eat there than at home, and that is with wheat subsidies, corn subsidies (which makes the sweetened drinks cheaper) etc, etc, etc. The corporate farmers get their handout, but the poor do not get theirs. Not anymore.
You’re winning, we have a centrally planned economy
Centrally planned economy? Really? I would really love to see the proof of that, because the last 5 year plan I heard of was for the USSR and they never completed it. What I hear is a fucking ton of whining about government interference, and a government so starved for cash that they can’t even inspect food plants and dangerous chemical plants more often than once a decade. What we have is a priority problem, in that the wealthy think they should have priority over the rest of us. The next 10 years will be interesting to watch, not much fun to live through.
Is lung cancer still the number 1 killer among cancers? Yes.
Cancer itself is fast approaching number 1 killer, surpassing heart disease, that will probably happen this year. (Editor’s note: it has happened) Surpassing heart disease because we’re eating better. Those of us who can afford to. Did you miss the part where we all will get cancer if we live long enough? Because that’s kind of important in the whole “you get sick because you deserve to” mentality that you are stuck in. If you live long enough you will get sick with something that will first bankrupt you, then kill you. It’s called cancer. Keep repeating that mantra until it sinks in.
The number one contributor to type 2 diabetes is obesity, and if the diabetes doesn’t get you, being obese will. Heart and liver diseases are common in fat and sedentary people as well.
See my point about cancer becoming the number one killer soon. It’s sort of relevant to this whole “Americans are fat unhealthy people” vibe you are giving off. It’s not nearly as true as the media would have you think. It’s bad, and those people who can’t get a handle on their eating will be something that gets studied into the future. The only way that happens is if we fund research into the future. Research that is largely done with government dollars.
(Editor’s note: They’re so obsessed with fat people sitting on a couch. Who wants to bet they’re 600 lbs and sitting on a couch while they type on their laptop keyboard about fat, sedentary, unhealthy people? I can almost hear the potato chip crumbs crunching under their ass while they type.)
I already said, don’t let people die on the side of the road… let them ask for charity.
That has been tried. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t even almost work. Disabled people (like myself) are routinely told to get a job, even by family members. As if we wouldn’t work if we could. Only people who hate their jobs think that it would be fun to be disabled. To stay home, day after day, week after week, year after year. Most of us don’t survive the year after year part. That’s what not having a purpose in life does for you. It kills you.
…but never mind. When the disability runs out, I’ll be seen with the rest of them, dying by the side of the road. We’ll see then if you stop or not. Or you could just shut up and pay your taxes. Better yet, tell the wealthy to shut up and at least pay as much taxes as you do. Most of them don’t.
You believe people are evil, and will just watch people die
Doesn’t have anything to do with evil, or with what I believe. People will watch other people die on the side of the road. (Lookie-loos. Rubberneckers. -ed.) It’s a favorite pastime in the US, gawking at roadside accidents, watching while other people die. One on one. Out on foot. The person lying in the road might be someone you stop to care about if that someone doesn’t have the smell of homelessness about them. If they do you are more likely to not even notice their presence as you are to stop and ask them how they got where they were.
Starved for cash? Really?
Yes. Because the military programs get funded, and the other programs do not. They don’t make money for the wealthy. Threats hit that fear button, causing the military to be funded to extents that the military doesn’t even want. Welfare programs don’t (especially since everyone believes they will get rich, or deludes themselves into thinking they are rich) and consequently go wanting for funding, just like inspection programs, infrastructure programs, etc, etc, etc. If there isn’t some direct route into the 1%’s pockets, it doesn’t get funded. That isn’t government’s fault, that is our fault for allowing our government to be the way it is.
I started a thread on the subject of real government waste (DCBBS Archive: $8.5 Trillion) as opposed to the fake waste of paying for healthcare for the poor, paying the disabled so that they can have a roof over their head in their last years. But whatever. Hate me for my disability. You won’t be the first and you won’t be the last.
I pulled the contents of this article out of the DCBBS archive and whittled it down to a few essential arguments. If you follow the link back to the thread you will notice I only pulled the contents of four our five messages out of a ten page thread to make up this article.
I’ve been trying to codify an argument that I’ve titled “Why Libertarians Lose” for several years now. I think I started it before I started this thread. This thread might even have been the original seed for that article. I can’t remember now. Going through some of these arguments again (as well as establishing links to them on archive.org) has helped convince me that I needed to write a completely different article than I had intended, and have published this compiled article simply to illustrate just how far my thinking had come back in 2013-2014, even though I hadn’t written much about it here by that time.
I was no longer a libertarian and I needed to stop pretending.
Unlike InquizaJamesatribalist and my other detractors on the BBS, I don’t and didn’t pretend to have answers to all of life’s problems. I simply know that most of what they believed was wrong and they should try to believe something different for a change. They might live longer if they did. Or do.
I like Medicare. I think more people should have it. Maybe that should be the goal? Maybe government can do things right? It seems to work in other countries.