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Roger Kimball on Hayek:

Roger Kimball has an interesting and perceptive look at Hayek, inspired by the release of the new scholarly edition of The Road to Serfdom, edited by Bruce Caldwell:

Hayek's fundamental insight, enlarging Smith's thought, is that the spontaneous order created and maintained by competitive market forces leads to greater prosperity than a planned economy.

The sentimentalist cannot wrap his mind, or his heart, around that datum. He cannot understand why we shouldn't favor "co- operation" (a pleasing-sounding arrangement) over "competition" (much harsher), since in any competition there are losers, which is bad, and winners, which may be even worse. Socialism is a version of sentimentality.

***

The socialist, the sentimentalist, cannot understand why, if people have been able to "generate some system of rules coordinating their efforts," they cannot also consciously "design an even better and more gratifying system." Central to Hayek's teaching is the unyielding fact that human ingenuity is limited, that the elasticity of freedom requires the agency of forces beyond our supervision, that, finally, the ambitions of socialism are an expression of rationalistic hubris. A spontaneous order generated by market forces may be as beneficial to humanity as you like; it may have greatly extended life and produced wealth so staggering that, only a few generations ago, it was unimaginable. Still, it is not perfect. The poor are still with us. Not every social problem has been solved. In the end, though, the really galling thing about the spontaneous order that free markets produce is not its imperfection but its spontaneity: the fact that it is a creation not our own. It transcends the conscious direction of human will and is therefore an affront to human pride.

Those interested in my latest take on Hayek (which reasons along similar lines) can download "Posner, Hayek, and the Economic Analysis of Law" here.

Update:

Oops, a commenter noted that I forgot to link Kimball's article, which I have now corrected.

Le Messurier (mail):

...since in any competition there are losers, which is bad, and winners, which may be even worse.

Yes, there are losers in competition. But more often there are some who don't win as much as the "winners". Quite a difference. And an important one since the logic of losers vs winners supposses that 50 percent of the competitors are losers. Not so, by a long shot. In our econpomy it is very possible to "win" without actually winning. Ain't free enterprise great?
5.6.2007 9:59pm
johnt (mail):
To design a system is to design the people within that system.
To guide them perhaps being a softer term, but to guide them according to the objectives of putative planners and reformers. Power the tool, centralized mistakes the result.
It presumes one knows better, or a clique or movement knows better. But among other things lost is the ability and function of a market economy to make corrections, planners and regulators don't usually admit to those.

Free enterprise may or may not be great but the alternative, to turn economic activity over to government managers, while satisfying to some emotionally, exacts it's costs in slower growth or even stagnation.

Not that those in the inner circles pay the price or lose. That's why they're in the inner circle, the politically connected, the grubby, to make sure they win whatever their abilities.
5.6.2007 11:41pm
R. Richard Schweitzer (mail):
I have read that Hayek left a very complete set of "idea cards," basically his notes on concepts and ways of articulating his thinking about them. Somewhere in my own archives I have a reference to a viewing of them stored away for now, so I can't identify it.

But, one thing missing in most discussions about this topic is "What is meant by the term 'Competition?'"
The inference from Hayek's later writings (not those on Economics) is that competition is not necessarily an intended "contest" or "conflict," but, rtaher, a description of the results of forces put in motion by diverse choices, regardless of the intentions of those making the choices.

When the people of Market 2 are willing to pay more amd pay sooner for widget X for their children (or have the means to do so), than the people of Market 3; and the maker of X decides to satisfy Market 2 first, the people of Market 2 are not intending to "compete" with those of Market 3. However, a competition has occurred.

In a social order of open choices (depending on the degree of openess) that is more often the nature of competition than the form exhibited by outright contests.

Perhaps we could use some term like contesting competition vis a vis resultant competition, to better understand the nature of what occurs in open, non-fabricated social orders, and what is disrupted when there are attempts to create constructs to achieve something other than what free choices in an open social order will produce.
5.6.2007 11:41pm
Kim Scarborough (mail) (www):
Since Todd didn't give the link to the article, here it is.
5.7.2007 1:10am
ReaderY:
It sounds like the discussion essentially involves ideology -- thought experiments or, perhaps, moralizing. Perhaps a little bit more empericism might be in order? Real sciences have surprises: the world tends not to work the way we think it does, and certainly not the way we think it should.
5.7.2007 1:43am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
To design a system is to design the people within that system. To guide them perhaps being a softer term, but to guide them according to the objectives of putative planners and reformers. Power the tool, centralized mistakes the result. It presumes one knows better, or a clique or movement knows better. But among other things lost is the ability and function of a market economy to make corrections, planners and regulators don't usually admit to those.
Thanks maybe to Hayek, but my view for quite awhile is that the difference between capitalism and socialism is that the former is based on the reality of human condition and utilizes its driving forces, while the later is based on a utopian view of what human behavior should be. But since we are human, the way to get from here to there is to impose socialism at gunpoint, and then train the people to be purely altruistic, and then the totalitarianism can presumably fade away.

Of course, there is no indication that that would ever work. And the cost is prohibitive, with tens and tens of millions dying throughout the 20th century as socialists attempted to forcably improve their people to be able to successfully implement socialism. The numbers are pretty scary, if you add all the people who died in the name of socialism, including the Communists (Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodians, etc.), Nazis, and Fascists.

As to being able to plan for everyone else, I don't see it ever being practical, again given human nature. Part of the problem is that, no matter how smart the planners are, there are always far more on the other side, trying to get around the planning, and make money from it, who are just as smart, if not smarter, and far more numerous.

And, so, you find HillaryCare failing when it became obvious that it wasn't just that they were trying to plan 1/6 or so of the American economy (without any input from those most affected - the physicians), but that the they realized that it was totally unworkable absent draconian penalties for skirting their edicts. And that, BTW, as prima facie evidence that they were trying to plan counter to human nature.
Free enterprise may or may not be great but the alternative, to turn economic activity over to government managers, while satisfying to some emotionally, exacts it's costs in slower growth or even stagnation.
Which gets to another point - that the planners are invariably going to be outmaneuvered by the planned, both in quality and in quantity. Partly it is because the best and brightest are unlikely to go into government service, or if they are there for the initial planning, they will invariably be replaced by bureacrats.
Not that those in the inner circles pay the price or lose. That's why they're in the inner circle, the politically connected, the grubby, to make sure they win whatever their abilities.
I should note that this is likely why we see more egregious moneymaking through use of the political system on the left from those who believe in central planning, than on the right, from those who might, but whose constituants surely don't. So, we now have a Senate Majority Leader whose four sons have gotten rich off of his steering business their way (and he has engineered business for himself too), and another Senator who apparently was ranking member on the subcommittee that gave her husgand's company a billion and a half of contracts. Compared to that, the graft of Reps. Murtha and Jefferson looks almost negligable.
5.7.2007 2:07am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
It sounds like the discussion essentially involves ideology -- thought experiments or, perhaps, moralizing. Perhaps a little bit more empericism might be in order? Real sciences have surprises: the world tends not to work the way we think it does, and certainly not the way we think it should.
I guess we could run a test. Give two people countries to run. Have one try capitalism and the other socialism, and see who kills more of his people within, say, the first twenty years.

Or, we can look and see which economic philosophy has more blood on its hands, and more bodies to bury, thoughout the 20th Century. I would put Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, the Vietnamese Communists, and Pol Pot up against any similar grouping that someone can put up on the side of capitalism. What is really worse, is that the majority of those bodies were their own people.
5.7.2007 2:12am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
The sentimentalist cannot wrap his mind, or his heart, around that datum. He cannot understand why we shouldn’t favor “co- operation” (a pleasing-sounding arrangement) over “competition” (much harsher), since in any competition there are losers, which is bad, and winners, which may be even worse. Socialism is a version of sentimentality.

There are tremendous amounts of cooperation in markets. The danger lies in allowing socialists, collectivists, etc. to frame the situation and its terms. Of course they are going to frame "competition" negatively and call everything a "market failure". In response you have to emphasize positive terms - like choice and freedom - and the reality behind them.
5.7.2007 2:15am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Bruce Hayden-

I guess we could run a test. Give two people countries to run. Have one try capitalism and the other socialism, and see who kills more of his people within, say, the first twenty years.

That test has run already. It's called North and South Korea. And note that it is as close to scientifically controlled as you can get - same ethnicity, same culture, similar geography, etc... One might claim that North Korea has been isolated, but that really isn't the case. For much of its existence it has been next to two of the largest countries on earth that also shared its ideology.

Not that that's going to convince everyone, I'm sure we're going to have another rash of slaughters, starvations, etc. sometime fairly soon. As the Khmer Rouge thought - the earlier regimes just didn't "do it right".
5.7.2007 2:29am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Bruce Hayden-

Thanks maybe to Hayek, but my view for quite awhile is that the difference between capitalism and socialism is that the former is based on the reality of human condition and utilizes its driving forces, while the later is based on a utopian view of what human behavior should be. But since we are human, the way to get from here to there is to impose socialism at gunpoint, and then train the people to be purely altruistic, and then the totalitarianism can presumably fade away.

But the thing is not even the planners are ever totally altruistic. In fact, the seeds of elitism are always inherently present in the rationale for planning itself. If I claim I should be able to run your life in all but the most extreme circumstances I am implying superiority. If I claim that it is because of gender, it is gender supremacy. If I claim it is because of your race or ethnicity, it is racism or ethno-supremacy. For religion - religio-supremacy. If it's because I think I have a superior, all-knowing knowledge of the world it is called socialism.
5.7.2007 2:41am
Viscus (mail) (www):
Is this emotional garbage what passes for argument in libertarian circles?

It is kind of funny that this emotional argument criticizes skeptics as being excessively "sentimental." Amusing. Very amusing.
5.7.2007 2:53am
A. Zarkov (mail):
In some ways the pre-historical hunter gathers were the embodiment of socialist ideals. They lived in small egalitarian societies without property or leaders or differences in rank. They expected the successful hunter to share his bounty with everyone else and above all not to boast about his superior prowess. Thus it’s no surprise that the modern liberal idolizes the bands, and tribes in the world of pre-civilization. Civilization brings competition, property with its disparities in wealth, hierarchical organization, and boastful consumption. The emotional impulse for socialism is fundamentally a reactionary desire for primitivism conveniently forgetting, and even denying that these peoples were extremely quarrelsome and constantly at war.
5.7.2007 3:52am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Viscus:

Here's a tip: Reread your post, and think of what people would think if you said this over dinner. If you think people would view you as a crank, a blowhard, or as someone who vastly overdoes it on the hyperbole, rewrite your post before hitting enter.
5.7.2007 4:26am
Viscus (mail) (www):
David M. Nierporent,

Please refer to my last response to your last attempt at providing an unwanted "tip."

But since we are into giving tips, here is a tip for you. Be a decent and humane person. Support a basic human right to food.

In the meantime, I call them like I see them. This Hayek post in nothing more than emotional pandering.
5.7.2007 7:45am
Federal Dog:
"But since we are into giving tips, here is a tip for you. Be a decent and humane person. Support a basic human right to food."


So unless people are socialists, they are indecent and inhumane? Pretty emotional posts there, man.
5.7.2007 8:16am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Viscus,
1. The name is spelled Nieporent. I cleverly hide this by putting it at the top of each of my posts.
2. It's not my tip; it's Eugene's.
3. So's the followup one:

And if you think this is the other people's fault -- you're one of the few who sees the world clearly, but fools wrongly view you as a crank, a blowhard, or as someone who overdoes it on the hyperbole -- then you should still rewrite your post before hitting enter. After all, if you're one of the few who sees the world clearly, then surely it's especially important that you frame your arguments in a way that is persuasive and as unalienating as possible, even to fools.
5.7.2007 8:16am
steve (mail):
Just curious...but what is the libertarian-free marketeer take on this news story (NYT May 6 2007):

From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine

steve
5.7.2007 8:41am
Zyzzogeton:
The alleged contrast between a "cooperative" planned economy and a "competitive" market economy is an exercise in linguistic framing designed to prejudice the issue.

In a market economy, all transactions that occur are consensual and voluntary--the essence of cooperation.

Perhaps socialists can appreciate the way the prism of language colors our thoughts if the dichotomy is presented as between capitalims's economic freedom vs. socialism's economic fascism.
5.7.2007 8:46am
subpatre (mail):
David - you're wasting your breathe words. Rule #2 for enforced socialism is:
2. It doesn't apply to me.
5.7.2007 8:54am
Zathras (mail):
This type of discussion is absolutely useless due to its overly-generalized nature. Almost no one is purely socialist or purely capitalist--even the US Constitution has socialist aspects (post office, public roads) as well as capitalist ones. Talk about whether one works better than the other in a specific context--that will be much more useful. The Platonic mindset of putting these Categories before the individualized practice is worthless at best and dangerous at worst. Taleb's excellent book The Black Swan demonstrates this point very well.
5.7.2007 9:20am
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
Viscus, you haven't read Hayek, have you? Your last comment gives that away.
5.7.2007 9:39am
johnt (mail):
Viscus, thanks for the heavy hitting intellectualism, you're an ocean of deep thoughts. Still, in a nation of food stamps I don't see anybody being denied the right to food. If you do make sure you invite them over to your place for a good meal, actions speak louder then two sentence posts that criticize emotion but are emotional to the point of hysteria.
5.7.2007 10:22am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Or, we can look and see which economic philosophy has more blood on its hands, and more bodies to bury, thoughout the 20th Century. I would put Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, the Vietnamese Communists, and Pol Pot up against any similar grouping that someone can put up on the side of capitalism.

Will you give the "fascism is socialism" meme a rest. It is not true. And considering that the capitalism of the twentieth century, especially after World War I, is one of capitalism tempered by social democracy, your comparison is hardly valid if you are trying to make a case for pure, unfettered capitalism, is it?

Why not compare communism to the growth of capitalism through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The countries of western Europe practically wiped out the entire native populations of three continents and forcibly enslaved millions from another (many of whom they literally worked to death in one harvest season) in order to expand their empires. Even in their home countries working conditions in the factories and living conditions in the cities were so bad that the death rates in the cities exceeded the birth rate until the twentieth century. Only massive emigration from the countryside provided the population growth to keep the cities growing. Even by WWI, the British Army found that recruits from urban areas were so unhealthy they were barely fit for service.

Socialist thought didn't arise out of some imagined problems with capitalism. Marx was reacting to the very real inequities he saw around him.
5.7.2007 10:23am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Oops, that should be the growth of capitalism through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
5.7.2007 10:25am
johnt (mail):
Zathras, if you consider when Hayek wrote his book the discussion has a very good starting point. If you also consider just how recently, late 20th Century, we had for observation full blown and massive socialist nations wallowing in their inefficiency and corruption, and further, Hayek's warning and lessons on the vagaries of central planning, the discussion may seem less useless.
If I may point out that central planning still has it adherents and manifests itself in various ways and different issues then for that alone Hayek is pertinent.
As you say, we have economies that are an admixture of practices and policies. But why so now more than in the 1980's? Precisely, and allowing for other factors, because the socialist model failed so egregiously.

The debate over how much control,&how much central planning is to exist in a society is ever present, this is the reason Hayek is still important.

You ask for a specific context, a non-Platonic one which will serve as an indicator of between, shall we agree to say statism v market. Then try capital formation and allocation, with the edge going to the market.
5.7.2007 11:02am
Henri Le Compte (mail):
JFThomas:
I'm sorry, but fascism is socialism. It is just a particular subtype. Just because you don't like the association doesn't make it false. Socialism is a structure, a social order. Fascism = socialism+nationalism.

The point is that socialist countries and economies are vulnerable to the very sort of abuse and tyranny that was Communism or Fascism. It is a structural vulnerability that arises from the simple fact of "too much power" in "too few hands." Add in human nature, plus time, and sooner or later you always get to tyranny. It is a very sensible point, that has the added benefit of having been shown to be true over and over during the 20th Century.

Not to say that capitalism is perfect, just better. As for the deprevations of Empire that plagued Europe throughout much of its history, I offer the same prescription: too much power in too few hands.
5.7.2007 11:02am
Henri Le Compte (mail):
JFThomas:
Really, not being a prick here. It's just that this is the sort of topic that most of us enjoy yammering on about.

In Socialism, the government has control over the accumulated wealth of a nation in a way that is impossible in capitalism (because of the relatively stronger legal basis of private property). The "deal" that socialistic societies make is "we give you all the wealth, all the power; you make a paradise for us." They didn't call the USSR a "worker's paradise" for nothing.

Now, if politicians were philosopher kings the story might actually have a happy ending. But, it turns out that the "power to make a paradise" is also the "power to reward your friends &supporters, and beggar your enemies." Over and over the ruling class in socialistic societies have failed that test. But not always, which is fascinating to ponder. There are countries like Sweden-- homogenous, mono-culture-- that have avoided the disaster of tyranny. I suspect that it has something to do with unique qualities of their culture and national identity.

Where would the US fall if we adopted socialism? I really don't know, but pick your poison-- George Bush or Hillary Clinton. Which one looks like a philospher king to you?
5.7.2007 11:17am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Not to say that capitalism is perfect, just better. As for the deprevations of Empire that plagued Europe throughout much of its history, I offer the same prescription: too much power in too few hands.

And why can't that happen in capitalist states? Lacking regulation, what is to stop capitalism from concentrating wealth and power in too few hands? Certainly, the crony capitalist states of South America or our client states all over the world during the cold war were nothing to write home about. Some were (and still are) truly dreadful. My point is that only when capitalism was moderated with a healthy dose of socialism (Western Europe and the United States, Canada, Japan and a few other countries) did democracy finally live up to promise.

As for fascism being socialism. That is pure nonsense. Crony capitalism maybe, but socialism, hardly. Hitler may have spouted a lot of socialist rhetoric but he believed in private ownership and never nationalized industries. Even the property confiscated from his victims was handed over to private parties. His war machine was plagued by a lack of central planning and competition between companies. The western allies achieved a much greater control of their economies in World War II than the Nazis ever did.
5.7.2007 11:23am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
In Socialism, the government has control over the accumulated wealth of a nation in a way that is impossible in capitalism (because of the relatively stronger legal basis of private property).

The thing is that you are being disingenuous. When most of the posters on this site say "socialism", especially when they are discussing Hayek, they are not just referring to Stalin's Russia, they are also referring to Sweden, France, Germany, "socialized medicine", the New Deal, and practically every economic policy of the western world since World War I.

Unfettered libertarian capitalism is every bit as evil as rigid collectivist centrally planned soviet communism. I consider people who want to end all government regulation, privatize all public land, even make all streets private, to be every bit as deluded and dangerous as the founders of the Soviet Union. That some of them are Law Professors at public universities just shows how unserious and hypocritical they are.
5.7.2007 11:33am
R. Richard Schweitzer (mail):
Fascism is actualy a method of enforcing a "constructed" social order, originally as conducted by the Lictor, whose symbol of authority was the bundle (fasces) of punishment rods encompassing the axe (ultimate violence), for SPQR and the rules of the 12 Tablets.

In the period following WW I, in Italy, that method of "enforcement" was (as a bit later in Germany) done by thuggishness, bullies, physical intimidations, to which many (themselves "constructivists") equated any type of imtellectual or economic "intimidations," in order to demean them.
5.7.2007 11:35am
johnt (mail):
J F Thomas, re your 10:33 post, "as dangerous as the founders of the Soviet Union". Less the forced starvations and death camps of course! As well as a few other things we need not go into.
5.7.2007 12:28pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
"as dangerous as the founders of the Soviet Union". Less the forced starvations and death camps of course! As well as a few other things we need not go into.

Well, I'm sure that Lenin and Stalin didn't start out intending to engineer famines and set up the Gulag. Once instituted their regime, everything was going to fall into place and everyone would see the perfect rationality of communism. And I am sure once we privatize all the roads and have a perfect libertarian paradise, any economic failures will be the fault of the malingering "socialists", "ecoterroists" and other leftists who just won't get with the program. In order to maintain order and ensure that libertarian ideals are preserved and are given a chance to succeed, it will be necessary to deal with these anti-libertarian "elements".
5.7.2007 12:53pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
“Well, I'm sure that Lenin and Stalin didn't start out intending to engineer famines and set up the Gulag.”

That’s not true at all. Lenin set up camps after he staged a putsch-- read Volume I of the Gulag Archipelago. Stalin certainly did engineer a famine; he did it shortly after he seized full power after the assassination of Kirov. He did it to break the back of the peasantry. While the Ukraine was starving to death, the USSR was exporting food to earn hard currency. Socialism failed immediately in the USSR, that’s why Lenin started NEP, which was a complete reversal of policy, an actual return to capitalism.
5.7.2007 1:48pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Lenin set up camps after he staged a putsch-- read Volume I of the Gulag Archipelago. Stalin certainly did engineer a famine; he did it shortly after he seized full power after the assassination of Kirov.

I was of course referring to the heady days when they were planning their revolution, not when they actually seized power and realized that not everyone was going to fall in line with their glorious dictatorship of the proletariat. Remember, they expected the revolution in Russia to be the spark to trigger a worldwide communist revolution. They expected the troops in the trenches to turn their guns on their own governments. They were quite taken aback when it didn't happen.
5.7.2007 2:48pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
J.F. Thomas-

Unfettered libertarian capitalism is every bit as evil as rigid collectivist centrally planned soviet communism. I consider people who want to end all government regulation, privatize all public land, even make all streets private, to be every bit as deluded and dangerous as the founders of the Soviet Union.

How so? You realize that under a structure like that there would still be regulation, but it would consist of laws enforced by civil suits? And what would be the difference between a forest managed by the National Park Service and one managed by some kind of charity like Protect Animals International?
5.7.2007 2:50pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
J.F. Thomas-

And I am sure once we privatize all the roads and have a perfect libertarian paradise, any economic failures will be the fault of the malingering "socialists", "ecoterroists" and other leftists who just won't get with the program. In order to maintain order and ensure that libertarian ideals are preserved and are given a chance to succeed, it will be necessary to deal with these anti-libertarian "elements".

Actually, no. If the structure you mention was actually libertarian the groups you mention would be left alone as long as they didn't commit any crimes or torts or violate anyone's rights. If the socialists wanted to buy some land with their own money and voluntary collectivize their property they would be left alone as long as they were peaceful and law-abiding.
5.7.2007 2:59pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
J.F. Thomas-

The thing is that you are being disingenuous. When most of the posters on this site say "socialism", especially when they are discussing Hayek, they are not just referring to Stalin's Russia, they are also referring to Sweden, France, Germany, "socialized medicine", the New Deal, and practically every economic policy of the western world since World War I.

Actually Ludwig von Mises did not classify the "social democrat" countries as socialist, he referred to them as "hampered market economies", with the hampering being from heavy taxes and regulation.
5.7.2007 3:06pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
J.F. Thomas-

As for fascism being socialism. That is pure nonsense. Crony capitalism maybe, but socialism, hardly. Hitler may have spouted a lot of socialist rhetoric but he believed in private ownership and never nationalized industries.

The Nazis took all of the rights of ownership out of the hands of business owners, so industry was de facto socialized.

Even the property confiscated from his victims was handed over to private parties.

Yes, but all of the rights to ownership remained in the hands of the government, so the assets were still de facto socialized. And note that the property was redistributed - to cronies and party faithful, of course. I don't recall the confiscated property being auctioned off like in bankruptcy proceedings. If you have evidence for this, please provide a link or reference.

His war machine was plagued by a lack of central planning and competition between companies.

Can you provide a link or reference to support this?

The western allies achieved a much greater control of their economies in World War II than the Nazis ever did.

There is no question that the Allies socialized their economies too. But they didn't usurp all of the rights of the business owners, leaving business de facto socialized and "privately owned" in name only.
5.7.2007 3:26pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Can you provide a link or reference to support this?

If you don't even know this basic history, then what's the point? Look at tank or plane production or the fact that the Nazis never produced a standardized truck for their military. Read The Arms of Krupp and it will make you wonder just who was running the country, the Nazis or the industrialists, in World War II.
5.7.2007 5:54pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
If the socialists wanted to buy some land with their own money and voluntary collectivize their property they would be left alone as long as they were peaceful and law-abiding.

Yep, and the state would whither away quickly after a short transitional period after the great proletariat revolution.
5.7.2007 5:58pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
J.F. Thomas-

If you don't even know this basic history, then what's the point? Look at tank or plane production or the fact that the Nazis never produced a standardized truck for their military. Read The Arms of Krupp and it will make you wonder just who was running the country, the Nazis or the industrialists, in World War II.

Wow, a reference. With some snarkiness thrown in for free. I suspect the "basic history" is somewhat debatable.

Yep, and the state would whither away quickly after a short transitional period after the great proletariat revolution.

What a devastating, incisive, logically argued retort.

In case you haven't noticed, J.F., libertarians aren't big on coercion and have a very healthy respect for individual rights. So the notion of libertarians tolerating socialists buying their own land and collectivizing their own property isn't too controversial. In fact, under a lower-tax libertarian system it would be even easier for them to create and maintain than it is now.

There are socialists and communists that do this now - set up communes, etc. I don't see libertarian writers or scholars ceaselessly calling for these communes to be outlawed and their residents locked up. In fact, I have heard just the opposite - several writers suggesting that the socialists and communists set up their own communes.(Legally and with their own money, of course.) That's the beauty of libertarianism - people deciding how they want to live as long as they aren't violating anyone else's rights.

Now where is your evidence to the contrary - that libertarians are going to hunt down and eat communists and socialists if they ever managed to create a libertarian utopia?
5.7.2007 6:29pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Now where is your evidence to the contrary - that libertarians are going to hunt down and eat communists and socialists if they ever managed to create a libertarian utopia?

Well no, fortunately libertarians can't even organize a party, so a revolution would be beyond their abilities. Their resulting dystopia (paying a toll every couple a blocks would get old real fast) will fortunately never come to fruition. But I'm sure union organizers wouldn't be too popular in a libertarian utopia.
5.7.2007 7:24pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Traditionally the poor in the world have been thin.

In America the poor are fat.

"Fat" used to be a term meaning doing well.
5.7.2007 9:04pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
"Social democracy" works OK when the demographics are right.

It fall flat on its behind when the demographic equation changes.

Case in point Social Security in America.

In countries that ae not reproducing or importing enough talent it is worse.
5.7.2007 9:15pm
Jay D. Homnick (mail):
If I am repeating the gist of an earlier comment, I apologize.

The fact is the economic order is the sum total of umpteen transactions determined by the "conscious direction of the human will". Every manufacture, every planting, every sowing, every sale, every service.

The only part beyond such direction is the oversoul, the encompassing reality that the sum of those individual decisions cannot be exceeded by means of artifice.

This is no more an affront to human pride than the need to excrete, to sleep, to die - and the inability to run the mile in less than three minutes. It simply reflects the limitation of humanity in proportion to divinity.
5.7.2007 9:58pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
J.F. Thomas-

Well no, fortunately libertarians can't even organize a party, so a revolution would be beyond their abilities.

I'm not a member of the Libertarian Party, so I guess your insult falls short.

Their resulting dystopia (paying a toll every couple a blocks would get old real fast) will fortunately never come to fruition.

The "toll every couple blocks" wouldn't be economically efficient so you're right, that would not happen. Although that doesn't mean private ownership of roads or more libertarian governments are not possible in the future. On the contrary, I think they are quite likely at some point.

But I'm sure union organizers wouldn't be too popular in a libertarian utopia.

I wouldn't rush to any conclusions or exaggerate your importance. Of course people involved in human rights violations, racketeering, and other crimes can be in trouble in a libertarian environment, just as they can be in our current economic structure.
5.7.2007 11:22pm
johnt (mail):
J F Thomas, you start like a bull and end like a lamb.
"Union organizers wouldn't be to popular", a far cry from your first response to me, with dark hints of liquidation by libertarians.

Which response was interesting enough with your shrugging off the unimaginable suffering and death of millions, you being sure [how?] that Stalin and Lennin didn't start out that way. Most reassuring. But you see it's not how you start out but how you finish that matters, regardless of your mind reading of two dead men.

Nothing left to say. Your tepid defense of mass slaughter, your cold dismissal of the shattering and torment of untold numbers of your fellow humans, who you care oh so much about, informs me more than I need to know who and what I made the mistake of engaging with, and even then, with only a glimmer of possibility for a minimally interesting exchange.

You should do a better job of hiding yourself.
5.7.2007 11:48pm
Henri Le Compte (mail):
JFThomas:
You obviously know more about history than I do (sadly, I set the bar rather low), but my point is really not a historical one. The libertarian/socialist divide is alive and well in our time. I happen to think that libertarian/market solutions tend to achieve an efficiency and prosperity that elude socialist efforts. As a result, I tend to think that they should be favored, all other things being equal. It is an opinion based largely on "experimental observation," leavened with a good dose of common sense.

The staggering success of Western capitalist societies is not a mirage or mere propaganda. Also, the horrifying failure of many of socialism's grandest "experiments" is simply bitter fact. Every socialist worthy of respect has to look long and hard at that reality, and make some kind of accounting. It is not enough to merely create some cartoon of "rapacious capitalism" and denounce it. That's not intellectually honest, you have to agree, no? What I mean is there is something wrong with socialism, something that allowed entire societies to fall into the hands of psychopaths. Something that capitalist societies, by and large, avoided (and not for a lack of scoundrels).

(And no, I don't consider corrupt third world countries that are run into the ground by some ruling hunta to be "capitalist." They are just corrupt thugocracies. Capitalism is built on the foundation of legal private property, backed by the rule of law. You don't own something if on any given day El Generalissimo's brother can come and take it all away from you.
5.8.2007 2:37am
R. Richard Schweitzer (mail):
Have many of the posters here read Hayek's;

What is Social - What Does it Mean?

That along with his Why Iam Not a Conservative would be helpful to the understandings of some here
5.8.2007 9:22am
Aleks:
re: Why not compare communism to the growth of capitalism through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

You are blaming on capitalism behaviors that are the common sins of humankind. The fate of the natives of North and South America would have been the same even if the Americas had been settled by pacifistic Buddhist monks: they would have brought the same Old World diseases, plants and animals with them and the native population would have collapsed. As for European cities, what you say is true-- except it was true of almost all cities over almost all of history. Nor was slavery unique to the West: in fact, the West adopted the enslavement of Africans from the neighboring culture of Islam.
5.8.2007 4:10pm
pst314 (mail):
"I was of course referring to the heady days when they were planning their revolution, not when they actually seized power and realized that not everyone was going to fall in line with their glorious dictatorship of the proletariat."

Wrong again. If you read what Lenin said, his intentions were always brutally totalitarian.
5.8.2007 8:47pm
pst314 (mail):
"Now, if politicians were philosopher kings the story might actually have a happy ending."

But even with the best of intentions, central planners cannot avoid badly screwing things up. "The spontaneous order generated by market forces" knows far more than they can ever know.
5.8.2007 8:53pm
pst314 (mail):
"There are tremendous amounts of cooperation in markets."

Yes indeed! When socialists say they want "cooperation" what they really mean is "submission".
5.8.2007 8:57pm