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Saturday, August 16, 2008

I'm a Progressive Libertarian

People often ask me how I would describe myself politically - actually, not so much people these days, as places such as Facebook, etc., when you're filling out their profiles. I don't like labels. But I've recently begun to list myself, when I can write in rather than a choose from a group of options, as a "progressive libertarian".

Here, for the blogospheric record, is why:

1. I'm a libertarian. I agree completely with Thomas Jefferson that the greatest threats to our freedom and well being come from government, democratically elected or not. Certainly Hitler and Stalin tragically proved that. I think the Constitution in general, and the Bill of Rights in particular, must be strictly adhered to. Of course, not all the Amendments are exactly the same in what their wording prohibits. The First Amendment's provision that "Congress shall make no law" abridging freedom of speech and press means just that - "no law," period - in contrast to the Second Amendment's provision that the right to bear arms "shall not be infringed," which I take as meaning laws regulating weapons are constitutional, as long as they do not "infringe" on lawful citizens who bear arms. The Fourteenth Amendment, and its provision that all limitations on the Federal government in the Constitution apply to the states, municipalities, etc., is also crucial.

So are other components of the Constitution. I believe it is ethically horrendous to send people to war without the Declaration of War required by the Constitution. The United States has gone to war that way in every war we have fought since World War II.

I also think that, in general, the government should keep its hands off commerce and business.* I disagreed with the anti-monopoly suits against Microsoft - why punish the organization most responsible for bring us the Web?

I want to see lower taxes for everyone, except millionaires and billionaires, whose taxes should be raised. Indeed, I'd recommend no income taxes at all for anyone or compay earning under a million dollars a year.

2. I'm a progressive. This means that I think some government activities are not only necessary but ethically mandated. I want the government to do all in its power to eradicate social injustice, and insure equal rights for women (including a woman's right to decide whether or not to become a mother), gays (including the right to marry), and all minorities and majorities. The government should also make sure that people have sufficient health care, and do not live in poverty. I also want the government to do what it can to support and stimulate science, research, and space exploration. Federal spending should be directed to all of these social, economic, and scientific imperatives.

Neither the Democratic nor the Republican Party has been too good on the libertarian issues in the 20th century. Neither is Barack Obama or John McCain.

But Obama is far more progressive than McCain. I voted for Obama in the New York primary, and will vote for him in November.

*Note added January 2, 2009: And what do I think is the best response of the government to the economic crisis that struck the United States in the Fall of 2008, and is getting worse at the beginning of 2009? Here is what I wrote in a comment, below, on December 29, 2008: "I see the government as an antibiotic: we're usually better off, when fighting infection, to let our body's immune system do the job. But if our lungs are filling with fluid from bacterial pneumonia, we'd better be taking antibiotics (=government intervention in the economy) soon." And I would emphasize that the antibiotic intervention should be as massive as possible, and the government should be ready to try a new course of antibiotics, as rapidly as possible, if the courses being administered do not work. And just as with any strong medication, once it has done its job, it should be withdrawn, in a careful, measured way, as soon as possible.

**Note added December 3, 2011:  See also A Progressive Libertarian in the Occupy Wall Street Age


13-minute podcast on this subject, which I recorded on January 2, 2009


71 comments:

Anonymous said...

that's the same phrase i used to describe myself.

Paul Levinson said...

Pleased to be in your company, then...

Loewenstein said...

I use the phrase, 'Progressive Libertarian' to describe my political views as well.

Perchance there is a movement fomenting. Let us hope so.

Mike Plugh said...

A diarist at Daily Kos wrote about this back in 2005. You'll be interested to read their ideas, if you haven't already.

Some highlights from the comments section:

Progressive libertarians:

* Stand for the idea of self-determination
* Stand for the idea of a welfare system that works to get people off welfare by enabling recipients to succeed
* Stand for the idea of a strict separation of church and state
* Stand for the preservation of ALL civil liberties
* Stand for the idea that the reach of government (including into our bedrooms) must be restricted
* Stand for the idea of personal privacy as a constitutional right
* Stand for the idea that owning a gun is a constitutional right
* Stand for the idea that government "for the people" must be fully transparent

And most of all, progressive libertarians understand that while the free market is an outstanding economic system, it is essential that such a system be well-regulated by the government to protect us all from the ravages of an untamed free market.

Anonymous said...

"The government should also make sure that people have sufficient health care, and do not live in poverty. I also want the government to do what it can to support and stimulate science, research, and space exploration. Federal spending should be directed to all of these social, economic, and scientific imperatives."

Sorry. That means you're just a regular-brand Socialist. The contradiction between believing these things and believing that the government should abide by the Constitution can't be sustained.

On the other hand, having an emotional attachment to the idea of freedom without having any sort of intellectual understanding of it means that you'll fit right in with the Libertarian Party.

Paul Levinson said...

anon - sorry, but you either don't read very well, or don't know the meaning of socialist.

I said "I also think that, in general, the government should keep its hands off commerce and business." - that's the complete antithesis of socialism, which wants government to take over all private enterprise...

=====
Lowenstein - let's do what we can to foment it :)

Mike P: thanks - I'll take a look at it. I agree with all those tenets - with the possible exception of the marketplace "well regulated". I think we need some governmental regulation, but want to keep it to a strict minimum.

So, for example, about Microsoft: rather than suing to break up its monopoly, the gov should have increased its corporate taxes (and on all mega-corps) via appropriate legislation. That way, Americans would have benefited even more greatly from Microsoft's success.

KineticReaction said...

I agree with you, but I disagree with your idea that government can incubate commerce and right "social injustices".

As soon as taxpayer money is used to spur commerce, it invites cronyism, lobbyists, special interest politics and every thing that goes with. Government spending is the easiest money to acquire through political connections.

Paul Levinson said...

Thanks for the comment, Kinetic - but I don't want the government to use taxpayer money to spur commerce. I by and large want to the government to keep its hands off commerce.

But, yes, use the taxpayer's money to combat social injustice (by providing health care for the needy, better education, etc), and spur research and build infrastructure (put in a high speed rail system, for example).

Rob said...

anon- Your characterization of Libertarians is misguided and ignorant. I'm sorry that you have this conception of Libertarians. I'd be interested in knowing exactly why you think we have "no intellectual understanding" of freedom.

Paul - I must say that while I agree with your phrasing of most of your Libertarian ideals, I don't see how they can be theoretically reconciled with your progressive ones. For the record, I believe that the personal income tax should be eliminated for everyone. The income tax is an egregious violation of personal property rights and individual sovereignty. The government should not own any citizen, or the sweat of his/her brow, yet this is the underlying philosophy of the personal income tax.

Regarding your progressive ideas, I agree in equal rights and treatment for women, racial and ethnic minorities, those of alternative sexuality (should unquestionably have full marriage rights), and those in the socioeconomic majority. I believe that, barring the case of unprotected sex that is not consensual, women do have the right to decide whether or not to become a mother. I do not believe in late term abortion as a valid form of birth control, and believe that our government puts forth an inconsistent view of the nature of human life. The fact that late term abortion can be legally performed, yet a criminal who assaults a pregnant woman, resulting in the death of the fetus/baby, can be charged with homicide, is indicative of this inconsistent view. I do not believe that the government has a responsibility, or even a right, to mandate health care and living conditions by coercive means. I mean the following; if it were possible to provide universal health care and "acceptable" living conditions to every citizen without necessarily taking from other citizens to achieve this, then I would of course support it. However, in pursuing goals which are, themselves, noble, the government infringes upon the rights and sovereignty of its citizens. It uses coercive means to redistribute wealth. Regardless of the nobility of the goal, I find this unacceptable. Further, I believe that the government is far to inept to achieve such a goal. Finally, I believe that there is great danger in giving them the coercive powers necessary to pursue such goals. The role of the government, particularly the federal government, should be as limited as is possible. Legislation that is passed under the guise of the elastic clause, or the interstate commerce clause, should be vigilantly policed, and in most cases struck down by the supreme court. I too agree with Jefferson, and think that the government has been -- and will continue to be -- the single greatest threat to our freedom (as well as our prosperity).

Paul Levinson said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Rob.

1. Regarding income tax, I think no one who makes under a million dollars a year should pay any. And I'm not sure that income tax is the best method of taxation for millionaires and billionaires. Perhaps some sort of corporate transaction tax, applicable to all corporate transactions of a million dollars or more, would be the way to go.

2. You write that you "believe that, barring the case of unprotected sex that is not consensual, women do have the right to decide whether or not to become a mother." This sentence does not make sense to me - presumably you left out the word "not," and meant to write "women do not have the right".

If that is what you intended to write, then I strongly disagree. A woman is complete human being. A fetus in her body is not. I take it as a fundamental human right that a woman have control over anything that lives in any way within her body. The alternative is to give the government control over the inside of women's body, and I found that totally unacceptable.

3. I don't see why you think that government providing sufficient health care to anyone who wants it is "coercive". Anyone who doesn't want health care can refuse to receive it. True, the government is spending money on that - but the government spends tax money on all sorts of other things (such as fire and police and sanitation work). I see health care as the same kind of essential work.

Rob said...

Paul,

Regarding my second point, I didn't intend to write that "women do not have the right". What I mean is that by engaging in unprotected consensual sex, women are knowingly opening themselves up to the possibility of pregnancy. If a woman does not wish to become a mother, then she only need demand that the sex be protected or choose to use one of many birth control options. Obviously, there are cases which aren't so clear cut. For example, in cases where the sex is not consensual, the woman is not freely accepting the possibility of becoming a mother. The argument that a fetus is not a human being, if that is the stance we wish to take as a society, needs to be made consistent. I disagree with this, and personally believe that a "viable" fetus should be considered human. However, an even more fundamental problem is with the legal inconsistencies I have previously cited. The fact that a woman can choose to abort a "viable" fetus, but that an assailant can be charged with homicide if the fetus dies in an attack on the mother, is an inconsistent view of human life. I believe that it is both wrong and dangerous to have the definition of "human life" hinge upon the desires of the putative mother (or for that fact on the desires or judgment of any particular person).

Regarding point three, you address my argument in your third sentence. I consider my libertarian ideals radical in certain cases, but I nonetheless believe in them. In order to provide health care to anyone who wants it, the government will end up taking money from those who don't wish to give it. They will do this under the threat of punishment for tax evasion or some other claim of that sort. This constitutes coercion (here I'm using F.A. Hayek's definition in his work "The Constitution of Liberty"). Along these same lines, I believe that certain public services (i.e. sanitation) should be voluntary and opt-in. If I want to take advantage of the publicly provided services, then I should pay for them. However, I should also be free to contract a private company to provide these services. These services should only be compulsory when my failure to partake in them infringes upon the equal rights of others (i.e. if a fire in my house burns down my neighbor's home). Along the same lines, I believe that the U.S. Government should open up the mail service to competition. Concerning the universal health care, my argument is that it is coercive insofar as citizens who don't want to partake in said system might still be forced to "pay in" to such a system. This is a situation very similar to the current social security system, with which I have numerous grievances.

Paul Levinson said...

Thanks for the clarifications, Rob.

Several responses:

1. A fetus killed by someone who assaults a pregnant woman is obviously an example of someone other than the woman determining what is happening inside her body. I think this is in principle very different from an abortion.

2. I consider a fetus alive - obviously - but (also obviously) not as fully alive or fully human as a baby after being born. That's why I think women should have complete control over fetuses inside their bodies.

3. I agree that taxation is a form of coercion. But, since in my schema, only millionaires and over would be taxed, the vast majority of citizens would not be coerced.

4. If someone refuses health care - which I think is everyone's right - I still wonder what is the difference between that person harboring and eventually spreading an infectious disease, and my neighbor's house on fire? Because I see not much difference, I think governments should come down on the side of providing health care to everyone (short of coercion).

mike's spot said...

GREAT post professor. I think you'll come around on the second amendment eventually. infringing is a very loose term- easily manipulated by those in power with the interpretation you give.

The second amendment is tied very closely to the 14th amendment and the equality you speak of. I know I've said it before but the Jim Crow laws of the south were not just meant to keep minorities from voting with taxes, but it also DISARMED them. It was some of the first real gun control in the US.

Overall- I think your views are spot on. I think what it boils down to is I have to take you shooting to see the gun culture first hand.

after all, nothing clears up an issue like more talk, right?

Paul Levinson said...

Thanks, Mike - you make an excellent point about the Jim Crow laws in the South. You present far and away the most persuasive arguments for a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment (and your arguments have been very helpful in the evolution of my own thinking on this issue).

I'll definitely take you up on your invitation to see gun culture first hand, some day.

mike's spot said...

So today I just finally got back online. wow you know your a junky when a week without internet is painful. Day 1 of classes down, visited cool gun store, have it narrowed down to 2 clubs to join that are affordable.

I miss fordham, but this SUNY Buffalo place could grow on me.

Paul Levinson said...

SUNY Buffalo is where you'll make your first great stand as a scholar and author. As that happens, you'll increasingly come to think of that place as your own.

Anonymous said...

This is just a new phrase for socialism. I'm mean using tricky, trendy cool sounding phrase doesn't replace what it is. It's ok be that; just don't call it something new just because you put a new lable to it.

Paul Levinson said...

Save the lecture - you apparently don't know what socialism is.

I'll be happy to enlighten you: socialism is about the taking over of all private enterprise - all capitalist activity - by government.

Progressivism, even without libertarianism, has nothing to do with that. Progressives want the government to help people, to end discrimination, to work with science and industry to make a better world.

Get it? Work with industry, not take it over. See the difference? Not do away with private enterprise, work with private enterprise to improve the lives of citizens.

Furthermore, when combined with the libertarian approach, progressivism is even more removed from socialism. The libertarian component says the Bill of Rights and the Constitution must be respected at all costs. The rights of citizens cannot be abridged by government, for any reason.


You know, you could have found all of this out yourself, just by doing a little reading.

You might try that, next time, before you wave a flag, present yourself as the member of some party, and try to tell people how to think.

Dean-o said...

OK, so here's a hypothetical question:

You live on a economically mixed street, with 10 neighbors. 2 of your neighbors make just more than 1 million a year.
7 of you decide you're going to invent this new thing called government.
After the 7 have agreed, the next thing to do is hold 'fair and democratic elections'. Only 5 show up on election day. 2 of the 5 are candidates. 3 people vote to elect candidate one, who's platform is "take half of the 'rich peoples'' money, and give it to the poorest on the street." (never mind that they'll end up keeping most of the money they've collected, in payment for the 'service' they're providing).

Now, is that conspiracy to extort and/or commit theft, or a free and open government?

Also consider, to find out who the evil-rich are, the newly elected 'servant of the people' needs to figure out for sure who the rich are, so he can determine if anyone is 'cheating'. He'll need the power to snoop thru your bank accounts, maybe your house and trash, and conduct investigations to make sure that you're not hiding income.

Further, upon learning that half of everything they own will be stolen, one of the rich families moves, the other takes a pay cut so she's under $1M a year, and no longer subject to taxation. The remaining 8 are at a quandary - a constitutional crisis if you will. We promised the poor people goodies that they were entitled to... we're going to half to drop the taxation cutoff to somewhere below 1 million, because we can't provide stuff for the poorest among us anymore.

It's fairly decided by the mob that only those making $900,000 will pay the brunt. But the remaining 1 person that meets that criterion refuses to pay. The group shows up on her doorstep with pitchforks, imprisons her, and confiscates her home and all her assets.

Tags like socialism, progressivism, neo-con-ism and statism are nearly meaningless. Government is force and force alone, every deed or action of government is a threat or an initiation of violence. The tag "progressive-libertarian" is a true non-sequetor... equivalent to "war-mongering pacifist".

As a pacifist, a christian and shade-tree philosopher, I stand in opposition to initiation of violence, force and fraud.

And that is the root of true libertarianism. True rights don't require, coerce or compel anyone to do anything.

Paul Levinson said...

The problem with your example is that the millionaires relied on governmental services and protection to make and keep their money - ranging from police and firefighters, to courts which enforce debts owed to the millionaires, to bridges and tunnels that the millionaires drive through to get their offices, etc, etc.

And, if they utilize government services and support, then millionaires have to be subject to the decisions of government - as long as they are constitutional and democratically enacted.

So that level of coercing is intrinsic to any government.

True libertarianism is not anarchism - not trying to do away with all government - but making sure the government does not intrude upon rights of citizens where it has no business intruding.

And comparing "progressive libertarian" to "war-mongering pacifist" misunderstands the nature of both "progressive" and "libertarian". War-mongering and pacifism are opposites; progressive (wanting the government to help people) and libertarian (without intruding on their rights) are not. Admittedly, most libertarians are not progressive - that's their choice - but doesn't mean the two are logically incompatible.

By the way, as a progressive libertarian, I "stand in opposition to initiation of violence, force and fraud" too.

Paul Levinson said...

PS - I also admit that it's obvious easier to be a non-progressive libertarian, and just concentrate your intellectual fire on limiting government.

But the difficulty of the progressive libertarian ideal - government helping people as well as limiting government - does not means that it's not worth pursuing.

Micgar said...

As a pretty liberal/progressive guy, I never would have thought that I would agree with a libertarian, (I sometimes find that some libertarians are Republicans/conservatives in "sheep's clothing") but, with your particular philosophy-yes. On pretty much all your points I agree. I have a little bit of issues with the unfettered business thing-I think Friedman's ethics have done us poorly in the US and in the world, and with the lax gun control, but overall I would agree with you.
Thanks for this great, informative post! I came here by way of Jon Swift's Best Blog Posts of 2008!

Paul Levinson said...

You're very welcome, Micgar - and welcome, too, to Infinite Regress. I am also glad to know you came here by way of Jon Swift's blog - a superb blog!

About the issues you mention -

1. I am in favor of the government doing whatever it can to help in times of severe crisis - such as in the Great Depression, and now. I was just writing in another comment that I see the government as an antibiotic: we're usually better off, when fighting infection, to let our body's immune system do the job. But if our lungs are filling with fluid from bacterial pneumonia, we'd better be taking antibiotics (=government intervention in the economy) soon.

2. I'm not really for "lax" gun control - rather, I'm saying that Second Amendment rightly says the government cannot leave us, as law abiding citizens, with no weapons at our disposal. But I think the government has every right and obligation to regulate what kinds of weapons, etc. In other words, unlike the First Amendment, the Second Amendment does not say "no law" regulating weapons - which the Founding Fathers could have easily written, if they had wanted the right to bear arms to be as unregulated as freedom of speech and press.

Micgar said...

Actually-Paul-after I wrote that and sent it, I thought I probably shouldn't have wrote "lax." I think I had misread what you had written and had in my head another person's comments about gun control.
Your explanation is spot on! the way you describe the analogy of the gov't being the antibiotic, etc. is great! And the thing about the 2nd Amendment- I think is what the framers had in mind, and "thought ahead" when talking about bearing arms. Your thoughts about that particular amendment are logical and rational.

Don't you just love Jon S. His "BBP of ..." had really encouraged debate, dialogue, and discussion-at least on the blogging level.

Paul Levinson said...

Excellent on all accounts!

Jon's blog is my favorite individual blog on the Internet - it's everything that an individual political blog should be - quirky, opinionated, funny, astute, thoroughly research, and taking a real joy with the language.

LarryE said...

First, know that I came here from Jon Swift's site.

Some time ago I took to describing myself, only about one-quarter jokingly, as a "socialist-anarchist-communalist-capitalist-eclecticist-iconoclast," defined this way:

I'm a capitalist in that I believe in the community-level business. I'm a communalist is that I believe that, in general, cooperative undertakings are superior to competitive ones. I'm a socialist is that I believe that beyond a certain size, capitalist ventures can no longer be trusted to be responsible to the communities where they operate, so the community as a whole (through government) can and should step in. I'm an anarchist in that I am a firm believer in personal freedoms and while I don't subscribe to "that government is best which governs least," I do subscribe to "that government is best which governs no more than necessary to achieve proper ends."

I'm an eclecticist in that I believe it is possible to put all that into a coherent set of principles. And I'm an iconoclast in that I believe that "the only ultimate answer is that there is no other ultimate answer" and if we ever did build a society along the lines I imagine, the first thing I'd do is try to figure out what was wrong with it and how it could be improved.

So I would agree with you on some points and disagree on others. For example, I think economic regulation is vital to a healthy society and disagree strongly about the Microsoft suit. On the other hand, my belief in individual freedom and the right to privacy is strong enough that the local Libertarian Party once endorsed me for Congress even though I was running on the Socialist Party USA ticket.

Paul Levinson said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Larry - and it's good to know that Jon Swift's post attracted yet another creative thinker.

Our main point of disagreement is indeed on government regulation of the economy. In the case of Microsoft, I think it was close to economically suicidal to punish and try to break up the company most responsible for generating the web revolution. The problem the government was trying to "fix" - Microsoft's domination of the marketplace - would have resolved itself, as inventors and programmers outside of the Microsoft orb came up with new ideas.

Christian Drappi said...

I really don't think you are a libertarian at all, sorry.

"I want to see lower taxes for everyone, except millionaires and billionaires, whose taxes should be raised. Indeed, I'd recommend no income taxes at all for anyone or compay earning under a million dollars a year"

I don't like this statement. Facts are that there is such a thing called the Equal Protection Clauses. It means that government should treat everyone equal. What you are suggesting is the opposite.

"I want the government to do all in its power to eradicate social injustice, and insure equal rights for women (including a woman's right to decide whether or not to become a mother), gays (including the right to marry), and all minorities and majorities."

This sounds good at the surface, and brother, I'm a libertarian. But when you use the government to redefine marriage, it becomes more powerful. A better solution would be to create an Amendment to the Constitution that says that the states can't legally marry anyone. However, the states must allow for civil unions, legal bonds, whatever you may call it, for any 2 people regardless of gender. This makes literally everyone happy: Marriage isn't redefined, gays are treated equally, and the religions of the world can discriminate against gays all they want because they are a private institution.

Also you are not a Libertarian if you voted for Obama. Sorry pal. I think Barack is doing a fantastic job in moving toward the center, but he's going to be moving closer to his Liberal roots when he actually takes office.

I wold call you a Liberal. I know it sounds yucky and is yucky, but you are a Liberal.

If you would like to debate anything, come to my site at http://drappi2036.blogspot.com

Paul Levinson said...

First, Christian, thanks for your comment.

Second, since you commented here, I'll respond here - and then put a note in your blog that my response is here.

Third, no need to apologize. As I said in my blog post, I don't care about labels. Nor do I care if I convince anyone that I deserve to be called a libertarian.

What I am concerned with are the issues, which I'll now address:

1. I don't want the government to redefine marriage - I want all governments, federal and state, not to get in the way of marriage. That means that government on all levels should allow any consenting adults to marry - and let religions take whatever views they please about this.

2. As I also made clear in my post, I did not vote for Obama because of his libertarian credentials - I voted for him because of his progressive credentials.

3. About taxes: Unless you're an anarchist, you would agree, I assume, that the government has some legitimate role - fire department, police, defense, whatever. And that costs money. Which means taxes. My position is that taxes should be taken from those whom it will hurt the least. Double the taxes of a millionaire, and chances are that person would will be a millionaire. Increase the taxes of someone making $50,000 per year, and that will hurt.

One last point, after all, about definitions: I may be a "liberal" in the classic, 19th century sense. But when was the last time you saw a current liberal stand up and condemn the FCC for violating the First Amendment?

Anonymous said...

I may be wrong, and I hope I am, but the above sounds more leftist than libertarian in that it certainly succumbs to framing issues in the manner that the two party oligarchy wants them to be framed.

And, in the end, you either favor big Nanny State government putting its jackboot down on white men (to "save" the women children and blacks) or you don't.

Abortion is not only a grey area for libertarians (rights of three individuals involved including those of rich young men who may have been faked into paying huge child support payments and should have the same right to deny fatherhood - in a statement that the child must be given to adoption - as the woman has a right to refuse to be a mother) but it is also used as a fake issue designed to make us take one side or the other and think we are represented in government if one side wins...as if there are not other issues.

You do realize that a woman's decision to have an abortion is often to save herself $300,000 in child support that she doesn't think she can collect from the poor father? Why can't a faked-out rich man make the same decision to save $300,000 (by saying "I do not want to be a father so I do not owe child support")?

And what is this stress on gays getting married? Realize please that 10 times as many males would vote for polygamy for themselves than the 5% of males who would want gay marriage for themselves.

Rights for gays to marry must be accompanied by my right to marry 4 women (polygamy).

And, again, what is the stress on the rights of women and not men?

Everyone knows it is a zero sum game in many, many areas especially when it comes to who goes to jail when both were drunk but one "regrets" having sex, who gets to keep the children and who pays child support.

There are no rights or incentives for men to marry at all if you support so-called "women's rights" intitiatives like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)which encourages women to lie about abuse and benefit financially from it at the expense of innocent men.

Also, alimony and child support laws are getting out of hand (witness the new Massachusetts bill that codifies that men must live in lower standards than their ex-wife who took the kids).

A true libertarian will not allow "protecting women and children" to be an excuse of the government turning innocent men into slaves or prisoners.

The Nazis were great at pretending that everything revolved around protecting women and children.

Take the new yellow star law for men called IMBRA. IMBRA forces dating websites to background check all American men who want to communicate with a foreign woman online, regardless of the fact that the foreign women want their contact information broadcast to as many men as possible (don't read only the feminist controlled Wiki article on this).

Foreign women never asked for feminist groups to "protect" them by telling them how they are allowed to communicate with American men. With IMBRA, women who do not have email are forced to somehow know that a man wants to contact her by phone or snail mail...and sign in writing that it is OK for him to have her phone number or address.

So how can the above author blathely refer to "I support women's rights" when the NOW and other feminist groups are famous for defining "rights" the way the National Socialists would have in the 1930s?

You cannot be ignorant of the Men's Rights Movement (MRM) and pretend you are a libertarian.

You cannot pretend that Marxist feminism has not gone too far in many cases (witness the anti-staring law that almost passed the New York legislature).

Check out websites like GlennSacks.com and MensNewsDaily.com and OnlineDatingRights.com for more on the above.

The problem with the liberals is that they are, as yet, uninformed that there is even controversy over many socalled "progressive issues".

This is good news because a good libertarian candidate can eventually win them over.

Having said that, the author did mention that both political parties in the USA are unhealthy for us.

The Republicans are off the deep end.

Do you realize that the Pro-Life movement is basically against premarital sex?

Sadly, half the MRM thinks that the sexual revolution should not have occured (which is a stupid position that will ensure that the feminists will keep winning a zero sum game Congress on more and more matters that really do infringe on men's rights).

If the Republicans thought premarital sex was OK and did not think men should be punished for making a mistake in bed, they would fight Doe vs Bolton and not Roe vs Wade. The former allows "health of the mother" to allow abortions after the 1st trimester while Roe vs Wade just allows abortions in the 1st trimester.

The way to destroy the Republican Party is to get it across to all conservative single men that the Republicans want to punish sex via ultra high child support payments and then dare to ask their single male supporters to be against abortion even in the 1st trimester.

Paul Levinson said...

First of all, thanks for your comment, but not to worry about your being "wrong" about me, as it doesn't matter that much whether you're right or wrong about me, or anyone else.

But I will offer a few responses to your post:

1. I think that the government should have no say over what men and women do with their bodies. That's why I don't want the government preventing women from having abortions. And I don't want the government deciding who can and cannot get married. As long as all parties are consenting adults, I don't care if 2 or 20 people want to be married, and I don't care about their genders (and neither should the government). I recognize that opponents of a woman's right to decide when to become a mother base this opposition on the view that the fetus is a child. I don't share that view. (To be clear: I'm not happy about abortions - I doubt anyone is - but I don't think it is the same as killing a baby that can live independently of the mother.)

2. Your comparisons of my views, and the positions of NOW and other women's groups, to the Nazis is absurd - not least because, neither I nor any women's group I know, is "pretending" about anything. Here's a tip: rather than assuming the intentions of those with whom you disagree, consider and disagree with their arguments.

3. Similarly, when, exactly were you appointed as the arbiter of the "true" libertarian view? Chances are it was a self-appointment, and that's why the date is not very well known.

Kevin S. Van Horn said...

Sorry, but you are no sort of libertarian, "progressive" or otherwise. Libertarianism has a pretty clear definition that has been understood for many decades, based on a simple idea: the Non-Aggression Principle. The NAP states that it is criminal for *any* person or group of persons to aggress (initiate the use of force) against another's person or property... even if that group of people is a government.

All of libertarianism flows from the NAP. For example:

* Taxation is theft or extortion. (If you don't pay, you will be menaced by men with guns.)

* Gun control enforcement is itself a violent crime (force and the threat of force is used against people regardless of whether or not they have aggressed against another); the same can be said for occupational licensing, drug prohibition, etc.

* Conscription is just a fancy term for kidnapping and enslavement.

* War is, with very few and very limited exceptions, just a euphemism for mass murder.

If your political positions are consistent with the NAP, you're a libertarian; otherwise you are not.

Paul Levinson said...

Your interpretation of the non-aggression principle actually makes you an anarchist, not a libertarian.

You are also inconsistent - you say "war is, with very few and very limited exceptions, just a euphemism for mass murder". Well, in the case of those few exceptions, how is the government supposed to pay for weapons, food, transport, etc for its military? From taxes, which you define as "theft," and therefore presumably want to abolish, completely.

I'm tempted to say, if you can't reason clearly, you're not a libertarian - but I'm a little more tolerant than you.

Rob said...

Dr. Levinson,

I want to comment the following statement:

"Well, in the
case of those few exceptions, how is the government supposed to pay for
weapons, food, transport, etc for its military? From taxes, which you
define as "theft," and therefore presumably want to abolish, completely"

First, I must say that I disagree with Kevin's blanket statement that the libertarian viewpoint holds that "Taxation is theft or extortion. (If you don't pay, you will be menaced by men with guns.)" I believe that it is more appropriate to qualify taxation here with "personal income". I do believe, as a libertarian, that personal income tax constitutes coercion. However, this distinction lead directly to my objection with your statement. There are many other ways the government can exist, and fund it self, in lieu of forcibly robbing its citizens of the fruits of their labor. There are sales taxes, tariffs, export and excise taxes, tolls, and corporate income taxes just to name a few. The government could begin funding a war by using money from these lines of income to fund it. Furthermore, nothing in the libertarian philosophy prevents concerned citizens from donating money for a specific cause. If the war is truly just, and is truly in the interest of the national security, then many citizens would be willing to contribute, monetarily and otherwise, to the effort.

Paul Levinson said...

You make some good points, Rob, but here are two questions/objections to what you say:

1. Why are "sales taxes, tariffs, export and excise taxes, tolls, and corporate income taxes" not "coercion"? When I pay a sales tax, the government is taking money from me that I'd rather not pay, just as with income tax. I agree that the sales tax, in principle, is less coercive than the income tax, because I make a decision about whether or not to buy this or that - but since sooner or later I will be buying something, the sales tax is ultimately coercive too.

2. Our Constitution provides for a Declaration of War. Your position is, what, that if the Declaration is passed by both Houses of Congress, that the government then has to wait for donations from citizens to fund the war, after taking money from sales taxes and other non-income tax sources? Can we really consign any part of war funding to something as uncertain as donations?

Back to the income tax: Just to be clear, I don't support the amendment that made it possible, and would like to see it repealed, and abolished. But as long as we have an income tax, I think it should only apply to millionaires, who can afford it.

I would like to see the government move back to sales taxes and other non-income tax methods of obtaining revenue - but, as I said above, I'm under no illusions that those are not coercive, too.

Rob said...

Dr. Levinson,

I'll try to address your two objections. In response to your first point, I understand your argument. It is true that since, sooner or later, one will have to purchase something, they cannot avoid a sales tax. However, the effect that such a tax has on an individual is much more under their control than an income tax. I can choose what non-essentials I buy, where I buy them, if I can find someone with whom to trade or barter as opposed to using federally backed currency, etc. Conversely, the personal income tax allows the government to demand a certain percentage of the money I earn; essentially telling me that I am allowed to keep a part of my income. To me, this constitutes a much greater level of coercion.

In response to your second point, I would say yes. Let me draw an analogy. I do not believe in the idea of a draft. I believe that forced conscription is akin to slavery. Yet, even when we are not in times of war, we have a very large and well trained military. Many brave men and women decide, for a plethora of different reasons, to serve their country. I can only believe that in a time of legitimate war (when war is declared formally by both houses of Congress), this trend would be even more enhanced. If this many citizens are willing to take up arms and fight for the country, then I surely believe that even more would be willing to donate significant sums of money. To take the case just a bit further, we recall that the last formal declaration of war was WWII. During this war, despite the fact that the government took much from citizens via coercion (and the draft was in effect), most people did even more than was required of them. For example, scientists volunteered in droves to work on military projects, voluntarily suspending their own research and the putting their careers on hold, to aid the war effort. I believe that the American people are incredibly reliable and exceedingly generous when given a just cause for which to work or toward which to donate. Personally, I don't believe the government has a legitimate right to demand the income of private citizens, no matter what the cause.

Paul Levinson said...

We're not really too far apart on these issues, Rob. I agree that income tax is a far worse form of coercion than sales tax, and I'm completely opposed to any draft, and think it is indeed a form of involuntary servitude.

But, here is where we still may have a difference: in order for there not to be a draft, but for America still have to have a ready-to-call-up military, the government needs to have funds to pay our military.

I don't think relying ultimately on donations is safe, or wise. If sales tax can provide the government enough money to well pay the military - and other services I see as essential - then I think that would be the best way of proceeding.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you except for the tax thing. If you are going to have an income tax the only fair income tax is a flat income tax. Why can't everyone just pay 25%, no deductions.

Paul Levinson said...

I'm glad you're with me on everything other than the taxes, anon.

Here's my problem with the flat 25% tax on everyone: A family earns $20,000 a year. Taking $5,000 of that away would have a severely adverse effect on that family, and could put them out in the street. Another family earns $4 million a year. Taking away a million of that certainly won't put that family out in the street.

zentinal said...

Have you ever taken the political compass test - http://www.politicalcompass.org/test - ?

I found it fascinating!

David Claiborne said...

I was starting to wonder if I was the only one who called themselves a Progressive Libertarian. Good stuff!

Paul Levinson said...

Thanks, David - good to meet you!

David Claiborne said...

Nice to meet you Paul!

I finally got around to starting my own blog not long after I surfed through yours previously... I'll be lurking around and joining the conversation from time to time, hope to see you come visit me too!

Anonymous said...

What constitutes a patriot? In my case it meant leaving the USA to live as an espatriate. For years I have watched government after government - whether Democrat or Republican - stripping away America's infrastructure and transferring wealth first from lower classes , and now the middle class (at least what is left of it) into the hands of America's real government - an autocratic and largely annonymous beasts that cannot seem to feed enough. Economic crisis - what crisis? This thing was engineered from the start - just look at the latest profit statements from the large banks who received billions in taxpayer bailouts. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is reeling from this unabashed greed, which continues under the present administration at a rate that makes the previous one pale. Am I surprised? Now way! Health care? I now live in a country ranked #14 by the WHO and financed by a simple consumption tax. Nobody goes without, and everybody loves the system. Likewise we have no homeless people or elderly people burning sticks of furniture for warmth. The government makes believe this problem is difficult - it is not. It is actually quite simple. Enact a consumption tax equal in percentage to the GDP spent per capita on each citizen. Done. No muss, no fuss. The only problem would be that large insurance companies and drug companies would have to give up their unreasonable profits that are taken at the expense of 50 million Americans, 20 million of them children! What's more, the States needs to back its fiat currency by something - anything real. Gold... A basketful of commodities... Anything real. And start telling the truth instead of sp;inning every issue into unimaginable confusion. Now, the truth is out there, but one must dig for it - and deeply. I love my country - so much that I am sick about what has happened to it - all in the name of greed. We have been sold out - perhaps for good. Will the USA even exist in 10 years? Questionable. Will it be bankrupt in five? Truth is that it is already banrupt, but they dare not utter the word. Without money, America has little to offer because it has undermined its industry, its once-proud educational system, its artists, its entrepreneurs. Is it too late to change all this? Maybe not, if somebody, anybody was willing to stand up and tell the truth, then act responsibly. Or maybe it is already too late- a culture spiraling into decline. I repeat: I am a patriot, and I am so saddened as I watch the land I love unraveling from the seams. So sad, indeed!

Guy Macher said...

The idea of increasing taxes on successful businesses (which you've suggested instead of anti-trust suits) in order to spread even more benefits to Americans is a very curious notion for a libertarian. It is also a silly economic idea.

Companies don't pay taxes, their customers do. I owned a brewery, a business fraught with taxes and regulation. Believe me, none of my customers benefited when the price of malted barley rose. Or when government increased its share of my income.

Progressive libertarianism is existentialism, a grab bag of ideas with no unifying idea.

Government's only job is to protect the natural rights of man, not to provide, reshuffle, or redistribute.

Paul Levinson said...

The government has to get money from somewhere, if only to pay for military self-defense, etc. Better that it come from the very rich, who can afford it, than everyone else, who cannot.

The unifying idea of my progressive libertarian position is: the government rigorously respects the Constitution (the Bill of Rights, the war clause, etc), and acts, within those restrictions, to make sure people are treated equally by government, and steps in in times of severe, destructive economic crises.

As an example of equal treatment: all adults, in any combination or configuration, can be married (or, the government has nothing to say about marriage at all - not on the Federal, state, or municipal level).

You find the above a "grab bag"? I think it makes clear, cohesive sense.

Octavius said...

Dr. Levinson,

Your positions are very reasonable, but when you say the government should keep its hands off business, you leave out the fact that its hand already are on business and have been from the get-go. In other words, "government intervention" is the reason business exists. The interstate freeways were not built by private industries, and the current bailout, which is, by the way, necessary, is a supreme form of "government intervention." There can be no rigorous dividing line between business and the state, because they need each other.

Anonymous said...

Benjamin Tucker debated Henry George in his magazine 'The Egoist' (I think that was the name) about which area should be best 'liberated' Currency and/or Land.

Tucker believed that some reasons that the economy wasn't really working in the way Adam Smith proposed because there were four 'usuries' that kept our system from being a truly Free Market.

These were 1. Land 2.Patents 3. Tariffs 4. Currency

As long as some 'authority' held a tight grip upon any and all these four things, liberation was far off.

Anonymous said...

Dear Paul Livinson,

I'm sorry but socialism is not confined to socialised businesses.

Socialism really is about robbing Peter to pay Paul.

When you advocate government to provide health care, fight poverty, fund science etc. You promote socialism.

How will the government fund all those social programs ? With TAXES !

So, NO you are not a libertarian, you are a "progressive", a regular socialist liberal Democrat.

Stop insulting libertarians.

Paul Levinson said...

You're right to say you're "sorry" - you should be, for your ignorance of the meaning of socialism.

Words have meanings. It does not help rational dialogue to just ignore agreed-upon meanings of words, and invest them with your own meaning (unless, perhaps, you're attempting to be a poet).

Government taxes which pay for police and firefighting, for example, have nothing to do with socialism. They are a necessary part of a capitalist society.

I see government funding of health care, the space program, etc as in the same category as police, firefighting, etc.

You're of course free to disagree with that, but don't distort the meaning of words by labeling that "socialism".

Michael said...

Actually, despite all your huffing and puffing, anonymous was quite right. If you tax (an inherently coercive act) "the rich" to pay for "the poor" to have health care, that is "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." If that doesn't meet your understanding of the agreed-upon understanding of socialism, Paul, then it seems that you're the one exercising poetic license.

Paul Levinson said...

Despite your insulting tone - "huffing and puffing" - which is usually an indication of a weak argument (if you have a strong argument, no need to insult, let it stand on its own) - I'll answer you.

There's no "poetic license" in including heath care as a government responsibility. In my case, the inclusion based on McNeill's Plagues and Peoples, and his Pursuit of Power - two books that make the point that humans are vulnerable to human predators (criminals, etc) and natural predators (bacteria, etc). From that important insight, I make the argument that the government has a responsibility to protect us from both kinds of predators.

I'd be interested, if you've read McNeill, why you would disagree with that. If you have not read McNeill, I suggest you do

Advocates for self government said...

A political barometer can be found here.

http://www.theadvocates.org/quizp/quiz.php

As a libertarian-libertarian, I find the notion of calling for all kinds of goodies from the govt, and only taxing the 'evil rich' more than just a little barbaric.
You can call a big nanny-state government whatever you wish, and you can argue over whether it's socialist, fascist, marxist or progressive. The one thing it AINT is libertarian.

Using force or fraud to take what YOU want, or achieve your personal or social goals is wrong.

Sugar coating that in flowery language or calling it 'govt' makes it no less immoral.

Paul Levinson said...

So, using taxes to pay police and the military is immoral? Who should pay for the military, then - private individuals? And if they don't, and we're attacked, that's just the way the cookie crumbles?

I don't think so.

And if you agree that taxes supporting the police and the military (to protect us from human killers) is a necessary part of governing, and not immoral, why are taxes in support of health care (to protect us from microbial killers) immoral?

an advocate for self government said...

Trotting out the 'police, fire and military' is a weak philosophical position. Justifying further wrong-doing based on the notion that "we're already doing wrong, let's do more of it." is folly.

The problem is ultimately not what 'govt' spends the money on (the ends), it's the way they coerce us into submission -- the means.

Using your logic, if the only way to pay for police was to kill the first born sons, it would be OK to expand that program to support a new postal service.

Using force or fraud (violence) to achieve your goals is wrong. It doesn't matter what your goals are.

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."

Paul Levinson said...

You say: "Trotting out the 'police, fire and military' is a weak philosophical position. Justifying further wrong-doing based on the notion that "we're already doing wrong, let's do more of it." is folly."

But I don't think supporting police with taxes is wrong. It's necessary, but not a necessary wrong. What workable way of supporting police, fire fighting, etc would you propose, if not via taxes?

You say: "Using your logic, if the only way to pay for police was to kill the first born sons, it would be OK to expand that program to support a new postal service."

If the only way of supporting any governmental program was killing first born sons, I would of course reject and vehemently oppose that program. Your equation of taxation and killing first born sons makes no sense.

Who Is John Galt? said...

"Your equation of taxation and killing first born sons makes no sense."

Doesn't it? Killing is wrong. Extorting money is wrong. Initiating force or defrauding people is wrong. Telling people who aren't hurting others how to live their lives is wrong.

If I hold a gun to your head (or threaten to), and extort money from you, does it really matter if I promise to give the money to the homeless, the police or the Department of Motor Vehicles?

You use the argument that police are necessary, therefore any wrong means (or at least some wrong means) are justifiable in providing police.

I say, if the only way to provide police is thru threats, coercion, violence, initiating force, etc (IE, immoral means) then maybe, just maybe, we don't need police -- or maybe, not so many police.
I've lost several hundred dollars to thieves over my life... How much have I lost to taxes? And what are taxes but legalized theft? On the half dozen or so occasions where I have called the constables, I was completely nonplussed by the lack-luster response. Arguably, I'm fortunate to never had to rely on govt workers in a life or death situation.

Seemingly this is what you posit: 'we need police and govt to protect our lives and our property, therefore, the police and govt must have the power to control our lives and take our property' -- You see no problem with this?

Again, I must re-enforce... what you are doing is arguing that the ends justify the means. And The Greatest Holocausts of human history follow acceptance by the public of this notion from power hungry politicians.

"I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals." -- The Libertarian Pledge

Paul Levinson said...

Two responses:

1. Killing and extortion (even if I accept that all taxation is extortion) are not the same. That's why murder can reasonably be punished by life in prison, but no one would support such a sentence for an extortionist (unless there were other aggravating circumstances).

2. The ends sometimes do justify the means. I would lie to would-be hijacker (with, say, the wrong time of a flight) to keep him off the flight. Wouldn't you?

3. Holocausts are not caused by ends justifying the means. They are caused by governments overstepping inviolable boundaries - such as rounding up people and killing them. Taxation, though I'm no enthusiastic supporter of it, is not remotely like killing.

4. As for the Libertarian pledge, it's unfortunately really an anarchist's pledge, since if taken to its logical conclusion it would result in no government at all. So, right, I'm a Progressive Libertarian - I think some, minimal government is necessary - not a Progressive Anarchist.

5. Back to police - there may well be too many. I certainly think so, when I get a traffic ticket. But if someone is holding a gun to my head, I'm glad that my and everyone's taxes pay for police who could disarm and arrest the holder of that gun.

Paul Levinson said...

Actually, my last comment had five responses - not two :)

Indicative of a good conversation.

Wombat said...

Interesting read. The more I think about political philosophy the more I, too, begin to describe myself as a progressive libertarian. It appears to be the perfect combination of intuition and reason.

I'm confused, however, as to how you intend the government to be able to afford all you wish it to do if you cut taxes on all but the most wealthy individuals/corporations. There's nothing wrong with moderate taxation if the government is truly serving public interest. To me, the only real problem with a free market is that there is a conflict of interest between the profit motive and industries in which humans are the 'product', eg. health care or law enforcement.

Anonymous said...

As a biologist and what I like to think of as a Progressive Libertarian (although I'm coming to feel 'Progressive Values, Libertarian Principles' is how I feel, and my Progressive values might have to be collective individual action, not government coercion) I have to take issue with the protection from microbes. Good Luck. How about protection from free radicals, from UV light, oxidation, entropy? There is no end to the challenges from the cosmos that enforce our mortality. To expect government to protect us from such, equally, as a core necessity is a recipe for bankruptcy. Where to you draw the arbitrary line to stop subsidizing the fight against entropy?

That does not seem a notion compatible with liberty principles like self-reliance, limited government, and accepting the imperfections and risks of life.

As I mentioned, I think if you want to be a Libertarian, you have to be principled and do it, relative to government. Beyond that, as an individual you be as generous and charitable to others as you wish and can spend as much as you have on trying to fight mortality.

Anonymous said...

How about Limited Government, Fiscally Conservative Progressive

Paul Levinson said...

You're of course welcome to take exception to the equation of human with microbial predators - whether you're a biologist or not - but I'd strongly urge you to read the two books I mentioned in an earlier comment (Plagues and Peoples, and The Pursuit of Power), where McNeill first draws this parallel. After reading those books, come back and tell me where you find McNeill's arguments wanting.

Also - you're inclusion of entropy in the list misses the point: humans are subject to a variety of predators and dangers to their health. Entropy, the general tendency of a system to run down (including living organisms dying) is not one of these predators or dangers - it is rather a general, unavoidable state of the universe (unlike microbes, which can be stopped).

spamandham said...

What an odd juxtaposition of labels, but yet, I have slowly grown weary of the treatment of property as a divine substance among libertarian circles. Is it not obvious that 'property' only exists in an esoteric sense made possible by an enforcer of property rights? Look at how other animals deal with the concept.

At the same time, I see great value in the concept. It really does motivate people to behave responsibly, and strong respect for property leads to a peaceful society. Plus, authority sucks and needs to be minimized.

So I found myself searching for "progressive libertarian" wondering if i was alone or not. I'm pleasantly surprised to find I am not.

Paul Levinson said...

Glad you made it here, Spamadam, and sorry I took so long to respond.

I intended to, when I first read it almost a year ago, got distracted by a phone call, and didn't look at this thread of comments until now.

Better late than never :)

Your point that "authority sucks and needs to be minimized" is unfortunately even more true now in now December 2011 than when you posted your comment in January 2011. See my posts about police and mayors running roughshod over the First Amendment - Occupy Wall Street Chronicles, Part 1

Dylan Young said...

I generally agree with this philosophy. However, I came to this conclusion through Hobhouse and I call it Social Liberalism. My conclusions on government involvement in social justice etc. therefore theoretically springs from making the legal imperative of liberty under the social contract an effective reality by counteracting the coercion of corporate, customary, governmental, and economic circumstantial tyranny.

On taxes, I see taxation in a progressive form being the mechanism for society to reaquire that wealth which is of a social origin. In other words, the rich require society for the infrastructure, labor, and market to become rich. Society has the right to take back that portion of wealth in order to provide for the effective freedom of all individuals.

Paul Levinson said...

And I pretty agree with and like your approach, Dylan.

One possible point of slight difference - and clarification of my own position - I see government rather than corporations, as a far greater threat to individual liberty. Although corps obviously wield great economic power, they do not field police with weapons (which we've seen deployed against OWS).

Dylan Young said...

Well, I can't argue with that. Violence is undeniably more coercive that economic pressure. I did not mean to say that I find corporation as the greatest threat. However, I find them held in disturbingly high esteem amongst working and middle class Americans. Since American culture tends to be wary of the government, I tend to focus on corporations.

Of course, Americans tend to remain relatively deferential to the government in terms of police powers. But, I think that this is because business interests have effectively equated Liberty with economic freedom, rather than with freedom of expression and democratic participation.

Another possible point of disagreement is that we might not agree on the degree to which the government should be involved in directly the economy. Because I tend to favor the German Social Market System which leaves ownership in private hands but keeps the government intimately involved in direct supervision of corporations.

Paul Levinson said...

My wanting less government involvement in the economy comes from what I've seen in recent and not-so-recent history. The US gov went after Microsoft in the mid-1990s. I wrote at the time that media evolution would take care of concerns about a Microsoft monopoly - and, sure enough, the revival of Apple knocked Microsoft out of its predominating position (as has Google, etc). In the 19th century, corporations did a great job in putting rail lines and telegraph poles across America. In the 20th century, government-supported monopoly of phone service actually slowed technological development, which moved into high-gear after the AT&T divestiture (end of gov supported monopoly). And energy-providers like Con Ed do a terrible job - see their poor performance after Hurricane Irene and the Oct snow storm in the northeast - and Connect Ed is a gov-supported monopoly. We would get better energy service if there was a competition for services.

Dylan Young said...

Agreed. I don't mean that to say that the government would do a better job of providing a service. However, I do think that the government has some particular roles to play beyond basic essential regulation.

The first is to fund research and development as to accelerate the advance of society technologically.

The second is to have intimate access to the corporate boardroom in order to supervise and scrutinize on behalf of the consumer and the worker. (This is where I draw upon the Social Market System.)

The third is to provide access to essential services. In this vein, those uninnovatable "products" like insurance (health, car, life, etc.) and access to housing and education are best provided by the public authority. There are also other industries that remain less than optimally profitable but nevertheless useful to the average American including Mass Transportation and a Postal Service (however, let's not get into a debate about the USPS - haha).

The best example, I think of this distinction is in healthcare. The government absolutely could not do a better job of producing pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, or providing health care services. However, no one but the government can provide fair and cost effective health insurance that can be focused on preventive care, which is less profitable yet more effective, rather than emergency care.

Paul Levinson said...

I wholeheartedly agree with all of your above, excellent analysis - with the one exception of giving government access to corporate boardrooms.

I'd be interested in reading more about the Social Market System, if you have a link at hand.

InfiniteRegress.tv