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April 13, 2008

Could lead to goose-stepping
Posted by Avram Grumer at 06:18 PM *

Radley Balko reports that a group of his friends — young libertarians from the Washington DC area — met at the Jefferson Memorial last night to silently (wearing iPods) dance for a few minutes at midnight in celebration of Jefferson’s birthday. The Park Police showed up and ordered the dancers to disperse. When one young woman asked them why, they shoved her up against a pillar, handcuffed her, and arrested her. (Update: Here’s video.)

We probably couldn’t ask for a purer example of the principle that the primary mission of authority is to preserve authority. Even today, knowing that almost anyone could be holding a video camera and their actions could wind up on YouTube, cops will still bully and assault people for refusing to instantly defer to arbitrary authority. (That first video is a classic of the genre. The cop is a tubby man in a ridiculous uniform, riding around in a tiny vehicle that may as well be a clown car. His life as a cop isn’t turning out like it does in the movie and on TV, and he’s taking it out on anyone he can push around.)

Megan McArdle, another DC libertarian, picks up the story, and her comments section quickly fills with forelock-tuggers and knee-benders justifying the actions of the Park Police, even if they have to make up facts to do it. It’s practically a catalog of dishonest argumentation and propaganda. In fact, I think it’s useful to dissect the examples so that we can recognize them when we see similar arguments on the nation’s editorial pages. (This has turned out longer than I expected it to, but it’s not like we have to pay extra to print more pages.)

For example, a commenter named Jeff asks “If the Memorial is closed and people refuse to leave, why NOT arrest them for disorderly conduct?” — not aware that the memorial is open 24/7, too lazy to spend ten seconds on a Google search to check his facts, too lazy even to read the earlier comments where this had already been pointed out. When his mistake is rubbed in his face, Jeff adopts a faux-polite writing style and moves his goalposts. He argues first that the memorial is closed to certain kinds of events, of which group dancing might be one. (It might not, but hey, he doesn’t know, it might.) He later argues that since DC is a high-crime city, the Park Police have a legitimate concern, and even though it isn’t immediately clear, we need to grant them the benefit of the doubt. Of course, that’s totally ignoring the actual facts of the case — that the police didn’t arrest all the dancers, but merely the one who questioned their orders, and that the police offered no explanation for their actions. In Jeff’s mind, it’s only the authorities who get the benefit of the doubt. Ordinary citizens just have to obey orders.

Then we’ve got MarkG, who blames the dancers for appearing “odd”, and claims that “the police have to make a snap judgment about what to do”. Why exactly the police should need to make snap judgments in cases where no violence is occurring and no weapons or threat to life or limb are evident, that’s beyond me. Apparently, the fact that authorities sometimes unfortunately need to make snap judgments to preserve the lives of themselves or others means, in MarkG’s mind, that all judgments made by cops should be granted this same life-or-death importance.

MarkG later suggests that by dancing near where they lived, rather than spending several hours driving cars they might not have so they could dance in some other location, they were relying upon society to “provide them with a safe venue”. (Because we all know how safe DC is.) Somehow, he think that this means they shouldn’t complain when society fails to do so. Or something. He never actually completes the thought; his purpose here is to make a half-assed accusation of hypocrisy. See, by being in the city, they were relying on civilized standards of behavior, But by dancing, they were violating civilized standards of behavior. Because, y’know, dancing is weird! And as civilized people, we are obliged to crush out any impulses towards novelty, joy, or spontaneity.

There’s also LWM, the hardened cynic. He knows the score! He’s gonna tell the whiney little libertarians all about how the big, hard world works:

Probably the sense of entitlemnt and arrogance common among this group of right wing libertarians pissed the cops off. They just didn’t like you. Can’t say I blame them much. They found you in contempt of cop. No reprieve.

He understands how authoritarians think, but he’s lost any hope for change. In his world, the bad guys have already won every battle, so there’s no point in fighting. Since he’s not in authority, he suffers from a sense of inferiority. He compensates by puffing himself up in arguments like this, playing the part of the smart guy who passes on the wisdom that you just can’t fight the system. His argument is designed to appeal to people who recognize the nature of authority, but don’t feel strong enough to buck it. It’s also a comforting argument for those who aren’t inclined to demonstrate or act weird, much the same way that assertions about things a crime victim might have done to invite the crime are comforting to those who fear they might one day be victims. These arguments tell you that as long as you obey the rules, you’ll be fine. (LWM also doesn’t know what “right wing” means, but that’s a post for another day.)

I’ve saved my favorite for last. Darkjethro:

Only in this country can one march in the streets of the capital obnoxiously protesting “the oppression inherent in the system” without fear of retribution.

He goes on to regurgitate the same points the other authoritarians had been making — dancing is so weird the cops have to investigate, the woman was asking for trouble when she questioned the dispersal order. He even goes on to blame the dancers for diverting the cops from the important task of protecting the rest of the park. But I want to admire that paragraph. One sentence of not even thirty words, and it packs at least three propagandistic payloads. Let’s unpack them:

1: “Only in this country” — In Darkjethro’s head, the United States is the only nation in the world that tolerates peaceful protest in the streets of its capital. England, Canada, France, Japan — all totalitarian nations, apparently. I bet he thinks the US is the only nation that accepts immigrants, too. The actual purpose of this phrase is to appeal to the little jingoistic spark of American exceptionalism that most Americans have programmed into them in grade school. It’s to get you nodding along, with a flag waving and “The Star-Spangled Banner” playing along in your head, to distract you for the rest of the payloads.

2: “‘[T]he oppression inherent in the system’” — You probably recognize this as a (distorted) quote from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In its original context, it’s spoken by a medieval peasant who’s just been spouting a lot of 20th century leftist jargon. He’s being assaulted by King Arthur, who’s annoyed at having his time wasted and authority questioned when he wants answers to simple questions. On the one hand, the scene is an example of an authority figure abusing a subject, there’s validity to the peasant’s complaint, but the peasant is also ascribing to “the system” an act of violence that’s primarily the result of his desire to argue about politics in a context where such argument will do little good. By using this quote, Darkjethro is attempting to paint political demonstrators in general as whiney complainers who have no understanding of the context within which their protests are embedded. Darkjethro’s misquote (substituting “oppression” for “violence”) might be accidental, but it furthers his propagandistic purposes. By casting his imagined demonstrations as protests over “oppression” rather than “violence”, he makes the demonstrators seem less sympathetic. It’s easy to sympathize with a victim of violence, but we all know people who shout “oppression” any time they don’t get their way.

3: “[W]ithout fear of retribution” — Here’s the ultimate payload. He’s asserting that the US is a country (the only country) where you can demonstrate in the capital without fear of retribution, even though the very article he’s responding to is about demonstrators facing arbitrary retribution in the nation’s capital! He’s trying to use your patriotic pride, your belief in your nation’s ideals, to get you to ignore the very betrayal of those ideals.

This tactic should be familiar to anyone who’s been watching the Bush administration deny that it tortures prisoners. Bush asserts as a normative statement that “Torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture.” And yet, we do torture prisoners, and hand people over to other countries that torture them.

All of these tactics — the use of your ideals to overturn your trust in facts, the assertion of nebulous threats that justify arbitrary authority, the portrayal of protesters as lunatics, the claim that an all-encompassing bureaucracy has legitimate authority over our every breath and step, that you’ll be fine as long as you don’t “make trouble” — these tactics can be seen and heard every day wherever political discussion takes place. They’re the words with which once-free people talk themselves into tyranny.

Comments on Could lead to goose-stepping:
#1 ::: Matt Stevens ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 10:22 PM:

There's also a bit of populist schadenfreude on display: Oh look, a bunch of rich white "libertarians" got knocked around by the cops. *snicker* Don't bend over for the soap, assholes! Sickening, but it looks like some of them are on "the left," like it or not.

#2 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 10:34 PM:

I will admit to feeling a smidge of schadenfreude myself, watching Megan get hit with the kind of argument she so often dishes out.

This does not, however, take precedence over the facts: It was a cool and entirely appropriate idea, and the interference is just one more sign of my country's moral degeneracy in the halls of power. Bleah.

#3 ::: EastofWeston ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 10:42 PM:

How sad. I grew up in Alexandria. We used to end late nights out when we didn't want to go home yet by going to the monuments and just hanging out. Midnight was a popular time, because the lights switched from evening mode (the spectacular gorgeousness you see in touristy pictures) to overnight mode (still pretty, but more subdued). In the summer this happened at about midnight. When thrown, the switches underneath the monument sounded a giant boom, boom, boom. We had great fun watching the tourists jump, gasp, clutch each other, and so on. The Lincoln Memorial was the best. Good clean fun. Very steampunk. Don't remember too much hassling from the cops. This has all gotten way to far out of hand.

#4 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 10:59 PM:

Is it even possible any more to imagine a situation that sounds like a bad George Orwell parody, without finding out that it's actually happened somewhere in the US in the past couple of years?

#5 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 11:01 PM:

the story of Teresa Chambers

Briefly: they're brutally understaffed, the folks who patrol national monuments for the Parks Service. Brutally understaffed to the point where they're not capable of protecting the monuments they're responsible for from terrorism, because the Bush administration has decided that it's not a place that they want to spend money.

Their boss made a stink. The Bush administration had her fired for it.

Their budget has not been increased since.

I would have thought the libertarians would be thrilled to have this concrete evidence that the government is responsibly not spending tax dollars at the insignificant cost of their civil liberties.

#6 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 11:01 PM:

I have plenty of issues with "libertarians" who consider their crusade to abolish OSHA a crucial struggle for human freedom, but I would hardly claim that they're all rich, or even all white. For one thing, that's obviously, demonstrably, factually untrue, and anyone who claims otherwise has just forfeited their membership in the reality-based community. It's equally obvious that libertarians have as much of a right to do silly, arty things in public as anyone else does.

Really, my only argument with most libertarians is a practical one: I don't think some of the policies they call for would actually increase human freedom. They have similar issues with me. And if I woke up tomorrow to find that the primary debate in American politics was between liberals and libertarians, I'd immediately suspect that I'd died and gone to heaven. Meanwhile, if dimbulb Park Service cops decide to beat up on libertarians, then I'm a libertarian.

#7 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 11:09 PM:

"It's equally obvious that libertarians have as much of a right to do silly, arty things in public as anyone else does." And this really is the point of it.

Now, I used to hang out with guys who did sound work for punk rock bands, and I know that one person's dancing can be another person's threatened assault. But if the cops had any such feeling about this crowd, their obligation is to present some evidence for it. "Because I say so" should never be sufficient, when it comes to the police power.

I also have to give some clear applause to Megan's post for her awareness that however this turns out, it's likely to go much, much better than it would for someone of another race and many fewer connections to levers of counter-power. I criticize her a bunch, and it makes me happy to have something to point at and go "but this truly gets it".

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 11:34 PM:

Matt, not many of those comments come from the left; and when you get a whole comment thread full of "the victim had it coming" types, acting like a pub full of drunk rhinoceri and cheering on each other's nearly identical comments, the left tends to be conspicuously absent.

...

Speaking generally now:

It really is a bonding ritual. They celebrate their shared self-abasement, and pretend that blaming the victim and talking tough means they're hard men. It doesn't. For one thing, real tough guys don't have to make a constant parade of the fact. For another, if you let them go on talking that way for thread after thread, and keep count of all the things they insist are threatening (i.e., that frighten them), it's often a surprisingly long list. And, as Avram observes, they don't do rudimentary Google factchecking. Finding out more about the story and the victim can ony ruin the fun.

This behavior is getting more and more common. A good deal of the struggle to build civilized community at Boing Boing has consisted of dealing with these guys. It's immortalized in Boing Boing's moderation guidelines as item #2 in the list of posting behaviors likely to bring you into disfavor (#1 being spamming, linkwhoring, and astroturfing):

"2. Making supercilious and unpleasant remarks in a civil liberties thread about how the victim had it coming. This is not to say that victims never have it coming; but there's a species of internet demi-troll that appears to specialize in posting such comments. Try not to look like you're one of them."
Is this warranted? You betcha. When these guys get to egging each on (they don't have a tenth the bravado when they're alone), they get so nasty that decent, thoughtful commenters are driven off.

They're definitely in violation of Rule #10 of Some things I know about moderating conversations in virtual space:

"You can let one jeering, unpleasant jerk hang around for a while, but the minute you get two or more of them egging each other on, they both have to go, and all their recent messages with them. There are others like them prowling the net, looking for just that kind of situation. More of them will turn up, and they’ll encourage each other to behave more and more outrageously. Kill them quickly and have no regrets."
And, in fact, I have none. Remember Megan Meier, that poor hapless kid who committed suicide after her next-door neighbors concocted an elaborate online hoax boyfriend who befriended and then dumped her? I've seen guys of this stripe mock and jeer at that, and come up with reasons why Megan Meier had it coming.

If you want to observe the species in the wild, try just about any comment thread at Consumerist that follows an entry about someone who's been mistreated and/or is in a vulnerable position.

#9 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 11:35 PM:

But, you know, the libertarians, at least the McArdle branch, had no problem with the decisionmaking that brought us to this point. A cop who's told that he or she can't fail and who's not given the staffing to be able to afford discretion is going to err on the side of lack of nuance.

This is a known issue. It has been for years.

If the small government set had an issue with it, the time to express it was when it was made abundantly clear that we were going with low-bid security.

Honestly, this strikes me as the same argument on their part as Ann Coulter's bravely striking out against airport security inconveniencing white people. Well, yeah, it does. I'd be much more sympathetic if she were appalled that people she doesn't like were getting hit.

#10 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 11:40 PM:

It is interesting that "only in America" has different meanings within and without the US.

Within, it means "here is an example of America's great freedom"; without, it means "here is an example of America's near-incomprehensible wackiness, often relating to law suits, crime, or guns".

In both cases, the story that immediately follows the phrase is one that confirms the speaker's beliefs about the US.

#11 ::: Sean O'Hara ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 11:49 PM:

I hate to tell you this, but it's not a Bush thing. In college during the late '90s I knew some people in a swing-dancing group who went up to DC to dance at the monuments, and they were regularly chased off by cops.

#12 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 11:58 PM:

Leaving national monuments under-protected enhances their security theater value. Sacrifice a National Monument card, gain a Declare War Against Iran card in its place.

#13 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 11:59 PM:

They could have had it coming.

IF. They were singing and dancing the Cell Block Tango (Chicago):

Pop. Six, Squish. UhUh, Cicero, Lipschitz.

He had it coming

He had it coming

He only had himself to blame

If you'd have been there

If you'd have seen it

I betcha you would have done the same!



But then again, it doesn't say what they were dancing to, nor what style, so I'm going to count this as unlikely.

#14 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 12:05 AM:

julia @#9:

It seems to me that well-funded, fully-staffed police also abuse their power.

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 12:09 AM:

Sean O'Hara:

Some of that was happening, yes. But when it happened, you didn't get flocks of human howler monkeys on the internet announcing that it was the victims' fault.

#16 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 12:18 AM:

TNH @8:

This behavior is getting more and more common.

Do you think that reflects something about the Internet, something about the general political culture, or ... something else?

It's my impression that this particular form of Bad Netizenship is more gender-neutral than some of the others -- "gender-neutral" in the sense that it's a form of BN that females fall into as readily as males. Females are perhaps less likely to think people should be punished for pure anti-authoritarianism, but talk about someone transgressing gender norms and they come right out of the woodwork.

Or do I see a lot of females (women and girls) do this because I go to a lot of female-dominated netspace? Is it really a guy thing after all?

#17 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 12:19 AM:

Just watched the first video. Felt fourteen again. Not in a good way.

And dittoing the sympathy for right-libertarians. They've been taught repeatedly that communism and socialism have failed--don't eat the French cheese, kids. So they hope there's truth in Milton Friedman's myths.

#18 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 12:24 AM:

Teresa @#15: unless you happened to subscribe to rec.victim.blame.moderated...

#19 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 12:52 AM:

Sean O'Hara, in #11, it's been my general observation that people who say "I hate to tell you this" are almost always lying about that. You may want to find a different way to start contrarian sentences.

Anyway, you don't have to tell me that oppressive policing didn't start with Bush. I remember Waco under Clinton, and Ruby Ridge under the previous Bush. And the kitten-stomping BATF. And Abner Louima, and Amadou Diallo. And the MOVE firebombing in Philadelphia, and Kent State, and goddamn Shay's Rebellion, OK?

My points, which you can read right up there in black and #dddddd, are that (1) that comment thread on McMegan's blog provides a particular rich collection of classic authoritarian propaganda tropes, and (2) you can see one of these tropes being used by our current administration and its supporters to deny that it's torturing people.

#20 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 01:04 AM:

Actually, it belatedly occurs to me that Sean may have been responding, not to my post, but to Julia's comment about the Parks Service being understaffed, or some other comment. If that's the case, I apologize for being snippy.

Heck, even if that's not the case, I apologize for being snippy. Just less sincerely.

#21 ::: frumiousb ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 01:10 AM:

Great post, and great analysis of the commentator tactics. Thanks.

#22 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 01:31 AM:

Avram, I'm not applauding civil liberties violations.

I'm saying that this is a road that our small-government friends have sent us down. We're living, all of us, with low-bid functionaries charged with making sure we don't do whatever they imagine stepping out of line is, and we've heard little but applause and dismissiveness from people who have an ideological prejudice against spending more than the least they can when they're most likely not going to be the ones to deal with the consequences.

If there was a libertarian outcry against Homeland Security employees being cut off from job protections and not being given living wages and benefits, I missed it. Teresa Chambers didn't have a lot of defenders.

It's genuinely terrible that we're reaping the whirlwind here. That's not the country we're supposed to be living in.

I'm least hurting for the people who weren't troubled when the seeds were sown.

#23 ::: Sam Kabo Ashwell ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 01:38 AM:

Apparently, the fact that authorities sometimes unfortunately need to make snap judgments to preserve the lives of themselves or others means, in MarkG’s mind, that all judgments made by cops should be granted this same life-or-death importance.

This is a poor justification but a good line of explanation. Throughout cop training in the United States, there are several central and constant themes: expect the worst, and do the things that will keep you alive. These are used to justify everything, to a ridiculous degree - keep your shoes polished because scruffy-looking cops are more likely to be attacked. Similarly: be assertive, take control of the situation immediately, because if you let the other guy get the upper hand in a contact, he'll be more inclined to attack you. 'How to deal with someone who, as it turns out, is doing nothing wrong' is, unfortunately, not a high priority.

In a deeply demoralised, understaffed agency with no money for non-essential training, lacking the luxury of choosing only the best employees, in a scary high-crime city, things will tend to get pared back to the dumb basics. Obviously the individual cops here screwed up badly, and I'm not trying to exonerate them; but if all you give someone is a can-opener, then drum into them the idea that the can-opener is the most important thing in the world, you should not be surprised if they treat every problem as a can of beans. Pttng t dwn t jckbtd thggry prly fr th sk f g-grtfctn s knjrk crctr.

Not that willful neglect isn't an effective method of control in its own right.

#24 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 02:25 AM:

Thank you, Avram.

#25 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 03:06 AM:

Avram@19: I'm reminded of Spike: "I hate to brag, but -- Oh, who am I kidding? I love to brag!"

#26 ::: FrancisT ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 03:12 AM:

Julia (@22 and earlier)

I'm trying, but failing, to understand your argument here. It seems to me that you claim that under-resourced police forces are more likely to arrest people 'just in case' as opposed to letting them keep on doing their stuff for a bit. And that therefore we should spend even more money on the police.

If that is your argument that pardon me for being ever so slightly sceptical. The way it looks to me from the other side of the pond is that the park police have far too many officers who don't have anything better to do than arrest people for "looking at me in a funny way", "loitering with intent to use a pedestrian crossing" or similar non-crimes.

#27 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 03:46 AM:

(giving in to temptation) "... But ... But ... the -children-! We have to protect the -children-!"

More sensibly - this seems to be another aspect of the race to the bottom[0] that took off with a vengeance somewhere around the industrial revolution, and hasn't looked back since.

Why take the time to go for quality, when you can elect to go for quantity -- and having elected to go for quantity, surely you can reduce that other pesky variable, cost... since you can just buy interchangeable cogs[1] cheaply on the open market... and after all, things keep on working for a surprising length of time without any (expensive! Why bother!) maintenance or upkeep.

... and then, surprise, surprise... one day things stop working, and the problem isn't easily repairable[2].

[0] Quality, capability, cost...

[1] Shirts, shoes, people...

[2] No parts, no people, no prayer of a fix...

#28 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:13 AM:

Patrick, #6: I don't think I've ever met a rich Libertarian. Most of the ones I know range from "struggling" to "dirt-poor". I have an untested hypothesis that Libertarianism in poor people is a form of magical thinking -- if they could just get rid of all that "government interference," then they'd somehow be well-off. (There's some support for this in arguments that I've heard some of them make, but it's far from rigorous.)

Earl, #12: I'd be much happier if that didn't sound like such a likely frame for the way this Administration thinks.

#29 ::: FrancisT ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:27 AM:

Lee (@28)

I'm a reasonably well off libertarian. Not as rich as creosote perhaps but a long way from "struggling"/ "dirt-poor". Going on the amount of money Ron Paul has managed to raise it seems to me that there are plenty of libertarians in a similar position to me in the USA.

#30 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:35 AM:

if all you give someone is a can-opener

The phrase I like to use is "In this outfit, if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a screw."

But that doesn't explain why the cops acted the way they did. The people they dispersed and arrested were the innocents they were supposed to protect.

#31 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:44 AM:

They’re the words with which once-free people talk themselves into tyranny.

And keep themselves there. This is not the first time these sorts of parroted arguments have been heard. Every totalitarian government or strong man dictator in history has used these same arguments, and insisted that loyal citizens repeat them on command to prove their loyalty (and thus their unsuitability as targets of abuse from police or other citizens).

We've heard it in more languages than I can count. They all had a word for the kind of activity that was to be feared and the kind of people who did it. In England in the early 20th it was bolshy Jews, in Russia betweeb 1917 and 1991 it was некультурный or хулиганство борьбе с революционерами, in China the names have changed several times in the last century but somehow the foreign devils have always been behind it. These days in Zimbabwe there's a whole range of nasty epithets like "tea-boy" and "witch" for people who dare to oppose Robert Mugabe.

So should we be surprised we finally see the same behavior in the US? No, we should be angry, and sad for our country for going down this well-traveled road, but not surprised. There's very little that happens "only in America."

#32 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:55 AM:

I have to admit I'm rather ambivalent about this whole situation.

I remember long long ago in a kinder and gentler era the one time I had a cop pull a gun on me, from behind no less. It was the mid 80s and I was one of a group playing lasertag after hours in the parking garage of the San Jose Federal Building. Don't laugh, it's not as insane as it sounds. One of the group who'd invited me assured me it was safe and they always called to alert the police beforehand so they would know that the Friday Night Firefight was taking place in the building.

This night was different. Someone had forgotten to call it in. But what was the real problem was that we surprised a group of Japanese students who had heard terrifying reports of American gang warfare and so, upon seeing a lasertag group, reported the gang fight as they saw it to the university police, who ended up jumping their jurisdiction to go into the Federal Building garage.

Eventually the guns were put away, and after a long lecture from a cop about how a buddy of his was a wreck after accidentally shooting a kid in a similar situation, the business came out about the university cops jumping their jurisdiction and the regular city cops knowing about the lasertag players as a regular thing, even though someone had forgotten to call it in that night.

Oops.

In the end, everybody went home, the cops more aware of what was going on and the lasertag players more aware of the scary and paranoid world that cops live in. Japanese exchange students too apparently.

As for dancing around at monuments at midnight, I think a lot of this goes under the heading of freaking the mundanes. If you go out of your way to freak the mundanes, occasionally you'll succeed, and the line between puckish and dickish very much depends on how tired the person having to deal with the assorted shenanigans is. And if someone thinks you're being a dick, sometimes they're a dick back.

I also think that being polite to police officers isn't so much respecting authority as common courtesy.

#33 ::: old ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 05:08 AM:

Heads they win; tails we lose

That seems like a good title for this post, too.

#34 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 05:11 AM:

The trouble with cops being trained to be assertive, to dominate a situation, is that such behaviour is often bad policing. You may recall the "satanic ritual abuse" scares, fuelled by investigators forcing their own irrational model of events onto the children who were supposed to be the witnesses. Adults are less susceptible to such effects, but the assertiveness can taint the evidence. The witness can unconsciously echo the world image of the cop who is bearing down on him.

And "assertiveness" seems to be the fashion in the teaching of how to relate to people. People are encouraged to dominate any situation, and too often it pushes up the stakes. The goal shifts from getting a good result to being the alpha jerk.

And if everybody is somebody then nobody is anybody.

Are these low-bid cop-clones being taught how to back down? Are they being taught how to get out of the situation they've created?

You have control. Now what?

And if you're expected to be assertive (except with your boss), what does that do to your habits of ralationship. If you're force-fed the myth of assertiveness when you're at the bottom of the heap, how can you release the tension?

Presumably, some of these people are looking for the other on the internet. They have been conditioned to dominance, and cannot exercise that in the physical world of their work and their home. They need things they can class as being of lower status.

And a faceless victim on the internet slots in at the bottom of their warped pack structure.

#36 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 06:20 AM:

Teresa at #8 writes:

> Is this warranted? You betcha. When these guys get to egging each on (they don't have a tenth the bravado when they're alone), they get so nasty that decent, thoughtful commenters are driven off.

Which just brought back a memory of the first or second flamefest I was ever caught in, long before there was a WWW, back when newsgroups ruled the world. A bunch of guys on one of the movie groups were having a great old time compiling a list of their favourite rape scenes from movies. I told them they were a bunch of loathsome little creeps, and was immediately reminded by them of their right to free speech. Which was all well and good, but a bit of a non-sequiter, not being relevant to the state of creep-hood.

Ah, humans...

#37 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 06:23 AM:

Gods, I'm sounding like a broken record these days, but...

Sounds like a coupel of Zimbardan bad barrels here: the Park Police seem to have been cut loose from support mechanisms, told their area of responsibility is probably a prime target for "TEH TERR'STS", and get confronted by a counfounding situation... well, it's predictable what they'll do. The park may as well be the basement of Stanford College, 1971.

What it isn't is excusable, or unpreventable. Some support and reality checking from their paymasters could have gone a long way to helping them recognize that dancing teenagers probably > threat.

And the same bad barrel situation goes with most comment threads on teh intarwebs. Not only are commenters for the most part anonymous, the victims are also a faceless, anonymous group, as are the perpetrators. The lack of any possible reprecussion, the ability to indulge in classic cognitive dissonance fuelled denial, the whole damn thing allows, hell, encourages dehumanized and dehumanizing behaviour.

#38 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 06:52 AM:

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden :::

I would assume that what those folks really fear is the possibility that the authorities might be wrong, and that they (the posters) might be obligated to do something about it.

#32 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy :::

Does asking why you're being told to disperse necessarily count as not being polite to the police?

The cop is a tubby man in a ridiculous uniform, riding around in a tiny vehicle that may as well be a clown car. His life as a cop isn’t turning out like it does in the movie and on TV, and he’s taking it out on anyone he can push around.

This looks to me like a claim that fat people are more likely to behave like assholes if they have authority.

#39 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 07:20 AM:

tnh, #8: "This behavior is getting more and more common."

I think it's got to do with times getting harder and harder. It's also a kind of victim psychology and it scares me. Because it's a step closer to the kind of victim psychology that that makes people choose scapegoats and kill them, and it's becoming more common.

#40 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 07:33 AM:

Randolph Fritz @ 39 Because it's a step closer to the kind of victim psychology that that makes people choose scapegoats and kill them, and it's becoming more common.

I'm afraid that you're already too late on that front. There's a set of quite clearly identified scapegoats already -- just that the killing's been mostly overseas.

#41 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 07:54 AM:

So should we be surprised we finally see the same behavior in the US? No, we should be angry, and sad for our country for going down this well-traveled road, but not surprised. There's very little that happens "only in America."

'Finally,' Bruce?

I guess you missed McCarthyism? "There are 91 known perverts in the State Department" etc, not to mention the whole business with Emma Goldman amd anarchists back when. To tip icebergs, a little.

Only in America, perhaps, could someone say "finally" of authoritarianism openly displayed...

#42 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 07:57 AM:

Ah, reminds me of the 60s. There I was in Washington Square Park with then boyfriend David (later husband.) We were listening to the music. Some people were dancing. It was a demonstration against closing the park to musicians.

Word was passed that the politzi were going to do a sweep at 1 o'clock so we were told we were to move orderly away a bit before that time. There were children playing in the fountain. No one wanted anyone to be hurt. The police had been notified about when we would leave.

About half an hour earlier, the police showed up in force, many on horseback. Billy clubs raised. They turned an orderly peaceful demonstration into a riot. Heads were bloodied. Some people (friends of mine) were arrested for "resisting" (running back to retrieve child from fountain).

These things are hardly new.

Jane

#43 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 08:06 AM:

You missed one, Avram. David saying that those supporting the arrest don't really mean what they say: they're left-wing trolls who "don't like libertarians".

#44 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 08:24 AM:

bellatrys @ 41

You are so right. I could claim that I really meant to say "it's been here, but we finally see it", but I'll cop to typing too fast and not thinking fast enough. I lived through McPolitics, and several of my relatives and their friends had to seek other employment as a result, so I should have made the connection. It does, however, just make the basic point stronger: the US is not different from other places in its ability to support and nurture totalitarianism.

#45 ::: O. ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 09:20 AM:

My mother laughs when she hears about this kind of thing, because she grew up in the USSR, but I don't think it's funny at all. And I do agree with her that it isn't nearly as bad as it could be-- but that's now. When I am her age, it will be that bad, and there won't be anywhere to run.

I only wish I knew what I could do to stop it, besides signing petitions and such. I'll be old enough to vote this year, but that doesn't mean much, especially if the state I go to college in has electronic voting machines...

As for what they teach you in public schools: I thought I'd been brainwashed pretty thoroughly when I was a kid, but this made me wonder if I was hallucinating or something (unfortunately, other people heard this too, so it was real). The last time I saw my cousins, I asked the nine-year-old if she knew what the 1st Amendment was. "It's, like, um... well, the Founding Fathers, they voted on what you're not allowed to say, and that's what it is, right?"

#46 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 09:32 AM:

Groups designed to prevent, or redress this sort of issue are perpetually decried by conservatives (not so much by libertarians) as liberal bleeding heart organizations. Civil Liberties law activist groups. Citizens complaint boards. Police watchdog groups.

It'd be really nice if Libertarians actually ideological party lines to side with liberals on these issues, but given how silent and inactive libertarian groups are on same sex marriage, voting rights groups and other liberal causes that conservatives just don't like, I don't see much of a change from the conservative leanings of libertarianism.

I really wish they'd wake up to the fact that, if they buck authority in any meaningful way, conservatives are going to go for their throats.

I don't mean this as a liberal criticizing libertarianism, I mean it as someone who's warning the libertarians that the conservative crowd they hang out with all the time will put a boot on their neck if given the chance. And that most liberals are probably going to be the ones who think that something ought to be done to prevent that.

#47 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 09:46 AM:

Teresa writes:

If you let them go on talking that way for thread after thread, and keep count of all the things they insist are threatening (i.e., that frighten them), it's often a surprisingly long list.

I have noticed that, while the frequency and vehemence of authoritarian thinking has not diminished at all on the Internet, I encounter fewer and fewer of these sshls in real life. And I live in a very conservative part of the country.

It took a while to dawn on me what was going on, because I am a short, fat, sick old man, but I finally realized that one of the things authoritarians fear is me.

#48 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 10:07 AM:

It seems to me that if you are recruiting police officers but aren't offering good enough money or other benefits to fill the ranks with cool-headed professionals, then you will end up attracting people who see the authority to brandish a weapon and boss around funny-looking people as one of the perks of the job.

#49 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 10:16 AM:

Josh #46: Libertarians aren't monolithic, but I think you'll find them (and even fellow travelers/useful idiots like me) on the same side as you on quite a few of those issues. In fact, we often end up a little bitter when most of the liberals won't side with us on stuff like drug legalization, or when the "liberal" party in the US overwhelmingly votes for the Patriot Act, or for campaign finance reform that amounts to federal regulation of political speech, or continues to go along with the current administration's domestic spying and torture programs.

ISTM that the long association between Republicans and libertarians has been badly damaged by the last seven years. It's just *hard* to look at the Bush years as a commercial for how the Republicans are in favor of smaller, less powerful government, greater individual freedom, or even free markets (as opposed to rigging the game for your friends).

#50 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 10:34 AM:

Albatross @49: there is no "liberal" party in the US. The Democratic party is a mildly authoritarian right-wing pro-business party that harbours a loud but powerless liberal minority faction, much as the Republican party harbours a loud but powerless libertarian minority faction.

(Unfortunately, given the way the US electoral system works, this is not an argument for voting for a third party.)



#51 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 10:36 AM:

# 49 albatros - I was thinking more along the lines of liberal organizations. Perhaps I'm looking more at libertarian spokespeople than at libertarian rank and file.

It's heartening to hear that libertarians are waking up to the mistake of allying themselves with Bush and Company.

As for liberals siding with libertarians on drug policy, I think many do, and are annoyed when Democratic candidates vote conservatively on this. But the more liberal drug laws do come from liberal states with Democratic majorities.

In regards to the torture policy, I think you're wrong. Most of the Democratic party is against it. The one's who're for it are conservative Democrats.

#52 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 11:18 AM:

I pointed this out to a friend, and about the first thing she said was that many people view deviation as a serious personal threat. So it could be taken here- anyone who acts odd in public is a potential threat, so should be clubbed down by the police.

And the posters will reflect this. In their heads, the equation goes something like "different from me" -> "weirdos" -> "must be doing something wrong" -> "smack them down".

No actual thought involved, more of a reflex action.

#53 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 11:28 AM:

I was kicked off a monument in Washington in the late 1980s. But in that case, I don't have a complaint against the Park Police, who at that time behaved quite professionally.

I was in a college group that covered various folksongs and neo-folkie stuff in 4-part harmony with guitars. We were in DC on spring break, when our leader pointed up the steps and said "Joan Baez sang on those steps! Let's do it too!" So, on the spur of the moment, we headed up to the top of the steps, and arranged ourselves next to one of the outer columns near the corner of the memorial, and launched into a song. (We figured that was close enough to be visible, but far away enough not to disturb folks inside the memorial.)

We might have made it all the way through one song; in any case, we were near the end of either our first or second song, when, at a dramatic pause near the end, we saw someone in a ranger hat next to us looking at us, silently and pointedly shaking his head.

We stopped, and he was fine with telling us why we had to quit when we asked. Apparently, we needed a permit where we were at the top of the steps. He said who to call, and also pointed down to the sidewalk and terrace across the street by the Reflecting Pool, where we could continue our impromptu concert in front of, if not on, the Lincoln Memorial if we wanted to.

I haven't gone back to check permit requirements, but requiring one for an organized sound-making group of more than a dozen people on a national monument didn't seem unreasonable to me. There was no show or threat or force, though I have to admit that us being all white college students singing in broad daylight (and a whaling song at that) probably helped.

But that was in 1988 or 1989, a time when Washington seemed quite a bit less locked down, and perhaps better funded in its parks, than it is now. I'm very sad to see that our national gathering places are a lot more chilly nowadays.

#54 ::: Kit ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 11:43 AM:

Dave @ 34

And "assertiveness" seems to be the fashion in the teaching of how to relate to people.

Assertiveness isn't so bad, but these cops aren't actually assertive. They're aggressive; there's a big difference between the two. Assertiveness demonstrates that you won't be intimidated but doesn't escalate the situation, a refusal to step back; aggression is an attempt to intimidate others (often by frightened people) that always escalates things, a rapid step forward. Those cops come across to me like people who've never actually had it explained what assertiveness is, and are flailingly trying to manage it, under the impression that assertive people are people that nobody ever crosses.

Every instance of cop brutality I've seen in such posts, the cops were perfectly capable of acting assertively: they were dealing with unarmed opponents, whom they often outnumbered, and who were generally not doing anything more violent than demanding an explanation. A cop can be perfectly assertive in that situation without even raising his voice.

If somebody won't leave and there's four of you, you can walk him where you want him to go, or, if he won't cooperate, pick him up and carry him without hurting him at all. If somebody demands an explanation, rather than sticking with a circular 'I'm not answering your question because you're committing a crime / What crime? / I'm not answering that because you're asking me questions and you're a criminal', you can just explain plainly what's going to happen and why, and, if the other guy gets worked up, refuse to let it agitate you and say, 'I'm sorry, but this is the way it's going to go'. You can let the kid cheek you and carry on doing whatever you think you should be doing without getting distracted. For Pete's sake, you have a gun, backup and the power of the law on your side. Under those circumstances, you ought to feel a little more secure in your ability to get things done the way you want.

The trouble is, if you feel you have to control the situation to such an extent that even backchat, or perfectly polite questions, counts as an attempt to wrest control from you, then actually you've lost control of the situation entirely. Everything the person you're arresting does stops you in your tracks: you can't proceed until you've finished stamping out every last little bit of resistance - and basically, you've let yourself get dragged into an argument when you should be getting on with your job. All the time you're arguing about whether or not a kid should call you 'dude' is time you're not getting him to take his skateboard elsewhere, or whatever it is that idiot wanted done. It's a basic rule of controlling a conversation: don't rise to any bait the other guy throws out. If you stop mid-arrest to argue about the arrestee's tone of voice, you're actually letting the arrestee's actions be the ones that determine how the arrest is going to go. It's like up mercury bare-handed; the situation will break apart no matter how much you grab at it.

Of course, in all the examples here, the arrestees weren't even baiting the cops; they just wanted to know what was going on. Because, of course, that hysterical level of aggression is extremely intimidating; people start putting up resistance because they're both angry at being arrested unfairly and scared of being controlled by someone so untrustworthy. But it looks to me like men trying to act authoritative with only the dimmest idea of how that works. Those guys need better training. And a firing or ten.

Having visited the US, it doesn't just seem to be the cops; security guards are as bad. I got aggressed on every time I so much as stood near an area that was off limits, and they got extremely aggressive if I tried to explain that I wasn't going to go in. I learned pretty fast just to give them a wide berth. Those guys are like badly-trained guard dogs: if you get within their range, they'll attack you, and then panic if you scream and attack you more. The only thing to do is keep a chain's-length away from them.

#55 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 12:07 PM:

My comment #12 was inspired by SJGames Illuminati: New World Order collectible trading card game.

#56 ::: Hob ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 12:15 PM:

Avram: Actually that last comment -- Only in this country can one march in the streets of the capital obnoxiously protesting "the oppression inherent in the system" without fear of retribution -- makes perfect sense in a different way. The commenter approves of the retribution; the kids should have fear. But they persist in not having that fear, which is what makes our crazy country so unique. See?

#57 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 12:36 PM:

Francis, #29: From where I sit, Ron Paul's money-raising looks like it's driven by the same mechanism that drives televangelism and gambling -- poor people being willing to divert a surprising amount of their limited resources to something that promises Everything Will Be Different in the (indeterminate) future. I don't see a whole lot of difference between "when I hit the jackpot", "when the Savior comes", and "when the Libertarians come to power".

Kevin, #32: Exactly how is it "not being polite to police officers" to ask why you're being told to leave an area? Especially an area that's supposed to be open to the public 24/7?

HP, #47: Could you unpack that a bit more, please? It sounds interesting, but I'm not sure I'm following you.

#58 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 12:38 PM:

I've been known to say that as far as I can tell about 40% of cops became cops because they fundamentally like to rough people up, and they can get away with it if they're cops. Since abusus non tollit usum, that doesn't mean all cops are bad, but it does mean there are a lot of bad cops.

FrancisT 29: Not as rich as creosote

Did you maybe mean Croesus? Creosote is a toxic substance, not a wealthy person.

#59 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 12:42 PM:

I like the fact (and I wish it went on just a trifle longer) that the cop is suddenly worried about the camera being on, but didn't have the brains to try and remove it.

I sure as hell hope he gets grief for that.

Contempt of cop is always risky, because they as a group, are possessed both of immediate power (resisting an unlawful arrest is a crime), and, pretty much, are their own oversight authority.

Cheap video has changed that, somewhat, but as the cop abusing the kid in the first clip shows, they don't have the sense that they have to answer to anyone, and believe they have the right quash oversight by the people they are supposed to be serving.

I'm not one to use the,"I pay your salary" argument very often, but cops are one case where whom they serve is of paramount importance, the fact they are supposed to serve the public, and the ideals of the public they serve are (so we keep being told) against the sort of arbitary instantiations of powe as are shown here matters.

I wish the idiot had called the kids mother; and that she was savvy, because my mother would have handed him his lunch, at the precint, with a lawyer, and a copy of the tape.

All hail YouTube.

#60 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 12:45 PM:

One could write a fairly comprehensive textbook on logical fallacies using the material the anti-dancer/pro-cop side of the argument has provided over there.

#61 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 12:56 PM:

Lee #57: Is this one of those verbs that gets conjugated based on who you are? I donate money to unpopular but worthy causes, you get talked into sending cash to silly movements that make you feel good, he gets conned out of his lunch money by crackpots.

ISTM it would be hard to distinguish between people who sent their money to Kustinich and people who sent their money to Paul, in terms of likelihood of victory.

#62 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 01:14 PM:

Lee: I have know well to do libertarians. I have know several rich reactionaries who identify as libertarians.

Eugene Volokh isn't hurting, neither is his family. They are Libertarians.

Nancy Lebovitz (#38) re fat people: I didn't read it that way. I saw it as saying a person whose idea of what was supposed to be (him a trim guy; fit, and in a snappy uniform, driving around in a sharp looking cruiser stopping real crimes) being at variance with what is (he's a bit stout, in a silly uniform (those colors, the short's and t-shirt, and a ridiculous looking car) causes compsenational behaviors.

The telling line to me was the bit about how saying, "dude" was "disrepecting" (lord, how I that verbification) him, the uniform, his badge, and his department.

It was about his feeling vulnerable. That somehow his copness needed to be defended.

Teresa's comment about the "tough guy" attitude on the net being at variance with real "tough guys" is apropos to this guy. He seems to feel that every interaction requires that he prove to the world that he's a real cop.

Charlie Stross (#50): I signed a ballot initiative petition (to qualify the proposed measure for referendum) yesterday, which might have the effect of making third party candidates (for national office) more viable in Calif. At the very least it will make seats more competitive, and that can't be a bad thing, because as it presently is, most of Calif., is a bit left of the national center, and the delgation to Congress is more than a bit right.

Some of those Right, are more than just a bit right, but rabidly so (and one of them a semi-closeted homosexual, the irony, it burns).

Kit: Dead bang on assertive. I've been hassled by people who think they can tell me I can't take pictures. Usually they threaten to call the cops. I ask if they want to use my phone (the local cops are in it, already). That usually calms things down. That I am willing to call the cops makes it plain I think I'm solidly in the clear.

The group of college kids who threatend to come smash my gear were told that would get them arrested; and I had my phone in my hand. All I had to do was hit talk. Since it was the local number, not 911, it would have had the police (who were always near that location) there before the kids could have gotten away.

Had I started yelling, or otherwise agressively threatening them; things might have gotten ugly.

#63 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 01:23 PM:

Xopher @58:

Did you maybe mean Croesus? Creosote is a toxic substance, not a wealthy person.

Pratchett reference.

#64 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 01:36 PM:

Doctor Science (16), I would have pegged it as a predominantly male behavior, but that may be a matter of where I hang out.

Mary Dell (18): Does that exist? Am I looking in the wrong places? Am I missing the joke?

Julia (22): Yes. One of the things I find most frightening about all the security rhetoric is how little money and effort go into the actual security. Denying security employees Civil Service status is of a piece with cutting military benefits while there's a war going on. Pre-9/11 baggage and security checkers were abominably underpaid, badly treated, and generally ignored. Now they're getting more scrutiny, so they're getting more pay and better uniforms; but they're still on a mushroom-growing regimen.

Where your money isn't, your heart isn't either.

It costs far less to buy a presidency than to give up the post-Cold War peace dividend. Cost-cutting enthusiasts provide cover for cuts in already-mingy social programs. Meanwhile, the real rivers of money run elsewhere, and are being rerouted into controlled-access buried conduits.

FrancisT (26), I think you're assuming that all policing is of equal quality. Having more resources means you can pay better salaries and benefits, which attracts better employees in the first place, and helps you retain high-quality, experienced personnel who'd have no trouble finding other work outside the service. Having more resources also enables security forces to give their people more and better training to start with, and ongoing monitoring and additional training thereafter, which increases the odds that they'll bring thoughtful, nuanced responses to new situations. Finally, it's easier to maintain morale and ideals when your people aren't obviously being regarded as interchangeable and ultimately disposable units.

Lee (28), don't let go of that one. I think you're on to something big.

Dave Bell (34):

"Presumably, some of these people are looking for the other on the internet. They have been conditioned to dominance, and cannot exercise that in the physical world of their work and their home. They need things they can class as being of lower status."And a faceless victim on the internet slots in at the bottom of their warped pack structure."
You got it. They have a desperate need to feel dominant, and no natural gift for it.

The right understands the terrible hunger these people have to win arguments, dominate the situation, and be the smart person in the room. That's why they feed them fake talking points that make them feel smart and powerful. As I've said before, the most important characteristic of Rush Limbaugh is that he always wins arguments, even if it means his crew has to cut off his opponent in mid-sentence. That's why his fans identify with him.

If you do takedowns on these guys -- go through their points in order, disassembling their arguments and correcting their facts -- what you most often get back in return is resentment and anger, then a defense of their motives, then withdrawal. You seldom get an argument on points. Their internal experience of the transaction is what matters most to them, not the truth or falsity of external facts.

I try not to think things like "Either they're aliens, or I am." They can't just be aliens. I have to understand them.

I like the Florence Ambrose. Looks like she understands Davy Crockett's trick of grinning a bear to death.

Steve Taylor (36): Yes! They always invoke freedom of speech. Do read the Boing Boing moderation guidelines -- you can find the fossil remains of these same arguments all over it. What they're talking about is their own right to say whatever they want, in whatever style and language they choose, in any context; to which I can only reply, "Pick two."

Actually, I can say more than that. My initial argument was that what freedom of speech actually means is that you're free to have what you want and say what you want on your own website. Since we have the same right on our own websites, removing or disemvowelling their more offensive comments isn't suppressing their freedom of speech; it's exercising our own.

More recently, I've taken to point out that if all freedom of speech means to them is their freedom to say anything they want in whatever fashion they want, they've already got it. They can go stand out in the middle of any vacant lot, or post onto any unlinked website, and say what's on their minds. At the point that they want more than that -- a specific context, say, or a specific audience -- they're talking about a social transaction, which puts them back in the world where we share our toys, take turns, and say please and thank you.

They don't like that line of reasoning.

Peter Darby (37):

"And the same bad barrel situation goes with most comment threads on teh intarwebs. Not only are commenters for the most part anonymous, the victims are also a faceless, anonymous group, as are the perpetrators. The lack of any possible repercussion, the ability to indulge in classic cognitive-dissonance-fuelled denial, the whole damn thing allows, hell, encourages dehumanized and dehumanizing behaviour."
Insofar as I have the power to stop it, I will not let that happen. If I can't stop it, I'll do my best to keep it out of areas that I administer, so that other people can be heard and other conversations can take place.

I wish there were something I could do for those guys. I like to think that some of them come back under other names and join the conversation. Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I do like to imagine that some of them notice I've made a place where it's safe to be civil. There's so little beyond that I can do to help them.

Nancy Lebovitz (38):

"I would assume that what those folks really fear is the possibility that the authorities might be wrong, and that they (the posters) might be obligated to do something about it."
Maybe so. What I would have said is that they don't much care who's right or wrong, and that they fear two things: that the powers-that-be might come after them, and that the rules of the game might change. They're unsatisfied and unsuccessful members of a privileged class, and the status quo is most of what they've got going for them. They worry about that. I think the fear of being tunbled out into the harsh light of the real world is what turns some of them into survivalists.

Josh Jasper (46): If there were one thing I could wish the left and the libertarians understood as well as the right does, it's how to work with people who agree with you on some but not all issues. The right is great at it.

As Albatross points out later in the thread, it's got to take some remarkable mental convolutions to convince yourself that the current administration has anything to do with free-market economics. I continue to think that Lee (28) is on to something. Part of what's always bothered me about liberterians is the simplicity of their models. When the rich and the powerful talk about how the system works, stuff like decision-making strategies, they don't sound anything like libertarians.

HP (47), I'm with you on that one. It used to bother me when I heard that people feared me. Now my default reaction is, "Not nearly enough."

Seth Gordon (48), you get some of those in any job that has police authority, whatever the wages. As I understand it, what you mostly get if you pay low wages are people who can't get good jobs for other reasons, and are attracted by the prospect of long-term stable employment, regular raises, a pension plan, and more respect than they'd get from other jobs that are available to them. You'll get some good employees, a lot of timeservers, and some jokers who'd be bad news in any organization.

Of course, if the job isn't rated as Civil Service, the promise of long-term stable employment, regular raises, and a dependable pension plan goes out the window. It's not the way you want to treat people who have that much short-term situational power.

Guthrie (52), conservatives tend to be people who respond to situations with fear. I mean that literally. I believe someone's done a study, or possibly more than one study.

Kit (54): Excellent points.

"..if the other guy gets worked up, refuse to let it agitate you and say, 'I'm sorry, but this is the way it's going to go'."
Yup. That's the very heart of it. As my smart bosses back at the Financial Aid Office put it, "If you get to the point where you're saying 'you this' and 'you that' to the students, your interaction has already gone wrong." Needless to say, that point comes before you get into anything an outside party would call an argument. The real problem is the "me vs. you" outlook. You're not there as you. You're there as a representative of the law. The proper stance is "you, this law or policy, and this response or consequence."
"The trouble is, if you feel you have to control the situation to such an extent that even backchat, or perfectly polite questions, counts as an attempt to wrest control from you, then actually you've lost control of the situation entirely. Everything the person you're arresting does stops you in your tracks: you can't proceed until you've finished stamping out every last little bit of resistance - and basically, you've let yourself get dragged into an argument when you should be getting on with your job. All the time you're arguing about whether or not a kid should call you 'dude' is time you're not getting him to take his skateboard elsewhere, or whatever it is that idiot wanted done. It's a basic rule of controlling a conversation: don't rise to any bait the other guy throws out."
Again, dead right. The way I learned it is that you have a script for the conversation, and the other guy does too. Make sure you stick to yours. Rising to the bait, letting yourself be distracted, stopping to argue, et cetera, are all entrypoints that get you into his or her script, and out of your own.

A great video on the subject.

#65 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 01:40 PM:

They're getting their training from that famous police manual, To Protect and Serve Man.

#66 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 01:46 PM:

re: libertarian incomes - of course, now that I read the other examples in the thread, I remember that there is a strain of poor libertarians. But the Penn Gilette type is the one I always think of - the ultra-rich "I've got mine, so you don't need help" kind, which is the only kind I've ever come in contact with. Possibly depends on whether you're a coastal or a heartland libertarian?

Xopher @ 58, re: FrancisT @ 29 - except on the Discworld. I thought everyone here was a Terry Pratchett fan!

#67 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 01:53 PM:

Teresa (64) - If there were one thing I could wish the left and the libertarians understood as well as the right does, it's how to work with people who agree with you on some but not all issues. The right is great at it.

I look at them like I do expert salespeople in an industry that's selling useless crap. They're really, really good at convincing people they need something, even if they really don't.

Like convincing low income folks that deregulating the power industry and removing market watchdogs is important and good for the economy, then somehow blaming stuff like the Enron crisis on liberals.

That said, I think the left is getting better at PR. Organizations like Move On are doing really well. I look forward to seeing what they do with McCain vs. whoever the Dem candidate is.

#68 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 02:12 PM:

Julia #22 -- Did I say anywhere that you were applauding civil liberties violations?

As far as libertarians and the Department of Homeland Security goes, most of the libs I know were against creating the department in the first place. Here's Radley Balko, senior editor of Reason, writing about it in 2005. And many of them were against it in part because they knew it would be yet another screwed-up boondoggle.

#69 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 02:25 PM:

I think that at least some police overreaction is due to fear. It reminds me of the first time I ran a role-playing game.

I was terrified that my players would venture into territory that I hadn't prepared, or would do something that I wasn't able to handle. So I squelched them whenever they seemed to be going off of the rails on which I'd laid the plot. Really, it's a wonder they didn't lynch me.

It was only later that I could relax and trust my improvisational skills. Then I gave my players more rope, and we all had a better time.

But an undertrained cop in an underfunded department, knowing there isn't much backup available, unsure he could handle what these unpredictable civilians might do next? Scared spitless, I bet, and desperately trying to keep the interaction in controlled, known territory. And frightened people overreact, on both sides, until the situation snowballs. Then the next time, the cop knows to come down hard, fast, because these things really do spiral out of control.

It takes confidence to take risks, to reach out and be friendly. You have feel safe, and know you've got backup. These guys don't, and they know it, and they're scared to death*.

(This is not to say that some cops don't get off on power. But there are other reasons to do what they do, reasons that can be addressed with mundane things like resources and support.)

-----

* sometimes theirs, sometimes others'

#70 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 02:37 PM:

Oops. Not as big a Pratchett fan as others. Sorry.

#71 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 02:55 PM:

So is there some nationally known media outlet that has a regular "Stupid Cop Tricks" or "Security Theater" feature? I ask because I don't watch much cable newsotainment or read many shiny infoadzines. Perhaps somebody's submissions department might enjoy this one.

#72 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 02:56 PM:

TNH: What they're talking about is their own right to say whatever they want, in whatever style and language they choose, in any context

There is a certain subclass of these people who spend a lot of time complaining about how their feelings have been hurt by somebody else's nasty comment. But still, they get to say whatever they want.

#73 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 03:09 PM:

To answer Lee #57 "Exactly how is it "not being polite to police officers" to ask why you're being told to leave an area? Especially an area that's supposed to be open to the public 24/7?" and Nancy #38 "Does asking why you're being told to disperse necessarily count as not being polite to the police?"

The key word for Nancy's question: "necessarily"? No. But "possibly"? Yes.

For Lee's question, may I ask a few rhetorical questions myself? Is it possible to ask a rude question? To adopt a sneering tone? To badger someone with the same question they've already answered again and again and again? Huh? Huh? Huh?

I'm having flashbacks to the time I did long-term substitute teaching and I made the mistake of agreeing to take the "basic math" class, which was the misleading name the administrators gave to the room where they stuffed all the kids no one else wanted in their classroom: Jimmy-Needs-More-Ritalin, Johnny-Came-to-School-Stoned-Again, half a dozen gang kids, etc.

I got a lot of questions from those kids, and most of those questions weren't because someone wanted answers but because they were wanting to test boundaries, push them, and engage in various social dominance behaviors.

Which is not to say that the cop could not have acted badly, or that some others weren't, just that I'm not going to automatically side with the Libertarian in the question just on second-hand reports from the blogosphere.

There's also the fact that some things need modification based on circumstances. For a number of years I did vampire LARPS with friends in San Francisco and Berkeley. We had a number of visitors from other cities, including ones from DC, and we got told about "the Thumb." What is "the Thumb" pray tell? Well, to play out the combats, people would do Rock-Paper-Scissors, but for extra rules for high-level strength tests, White Wolf had added "the Bomb," a hand sign consisting of a fist with an upraised thumb.

The Shadows on the Mall game in DC starting having some trouble with the local cops overhearing gamers shouting "I throw The Bomb!" and so "The Bomb" was redubbed to "The Thumb." The DC storytellers also let us in on various bits of post 9-11 twitchiness they were having to deal with and how to get things worked out.

If you're going to have a spontaneous flash mob dancing silently with their iPods to honor the spirit of Jefferson, reenacting select scenes from The Crucible, or dressing up in black lace and playing Rock-Paper-Scissors until they declare one of them King of the Vampires, the sensible thing to do is to have some well-mannered spokesman for the group go act as liason to the mundanes, particularly the cops.

No, you're not legally required to do so, but it's sensible and polite, and the point of village greens and other areas open to the public 24/7 is that they're there for the enjoyment of all the public, not just you.

#74 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 03:11 PM:

Teresa @#64:

Mary Dell (18): Does that exist? Am I looking in the wrong places? Am I missing the joke?

That's a joke. At least, I hope so! I was just fondly remembering the way trolls got herded into special pens on usenet.

#75 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 03:15 PM:

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Remember what Jerome K. Jerome had to say about how Germans regarded their own police:

"The policeman is to him a religion, and, one feels, will always remain so. In England we regard our man in blue as a harmless necessity. By the average citizen he is employed chiefly as a signpost, though in busy quarters of the town he is considered useful for taking old ladies across the road. Beyond feeling thankful to him for these services, I doubt if we take much thought of him.

"In Germany, on the other hand, he is worshipped as a little god and loved as a guardian angel. To the German child he is a combination of Santa Clans and the Bogie Man. All good things come from him: Spielplatze to play in, furnished with swings and giant-strides, sand heaps to fight around, swimming baths, and fairs. All misbehaviour is punished by him.

"It is the hope of every well-meaning German boy and girl to please the police. To be smiled at by a policeman makes it conceited. A German child that has been patted on the head by a policeman is not fit to live with; its self-importance is unbearable.

"The German citizen is a soldier, and the policeman is his officer."

Creepy -- especially when you think of what became of Germany after Jerome wrote that (in 1900).

#76 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 03:26 PM:

Lee 57: HP, #47: Could you unpack that a bit more, please? It sounds interesting, but I'm not sure I'm following you.

I'll try.

I used to be a target for all kinds of conservative/authoritarian condescension and speechifying. This peaked sometime around the 2000 election fiasco. Around the same time, the conservative blogosphere started to take off, and after 9/11, went full-blown insane. Meanwhile, my actual face-to-face encounters were growing rarer and rarer.

By the time of the 2004 election fiasco, I was walking around with a chip on my shoulder, fully expecting some authoritarian to open his mouth, giving me an opening. And instead, . . . /*crickets*/.

And yet, it was clear from their frothing presence on the Internet that the RWAs hadn't gone anywhere. They just no longer open their mouths when in the same physical space as me.

Now, the odd thing is that I haven't changed all that much. I've never been terribly good at communicating politics, and my verbal reaction to authoritarians to this day tends toward spittle-flecked gibbering.

The one thing that has changed is my understanding of the role that fear plays in the conservative/authoritarian mindset. Perhaps there's something in my body language that suggests to these thugs that I know how scared they are. In any event, I find that conservatives rarely bother to tell me what they think anymore, unless they happen to be safely shielded behind miles and miles of cable.

Has anyone else had similar experiences?

#77 ::: DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 03:28 PM:

Joel @ 65: "Stop!" he yelled. "IT'S A TUPPERWARE MANUAL!"

#78 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 03:32 PM:

I think libertarians are people who don't believe that humans are social animals -- as per Margaret Thatcher's "there's no such thing as society"[1]. They may be people who don't feel all that connected to others, through circumstance or brain chemistry, or they may be people who don't *want* to feel particularly connected to others, or they may want to reject the feeling of connectedness because it's so messy, complicated, and vague.

The trouble with such people on the Internet is that it's good for some of them and bad for others. Some develop connetions more easily than they can in face-to-face interactions, but others become, basically, wargs.

[1] "there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families." *Baboons* have more layers of social organization than that. The problem I have with libertarianism isn't that it's moral or immoral, it's that it's *incorrect*.

#79 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 03:40 PM:

Doctor 78: If only the worst thing about Mad Maggie had been that she was incorrect! She's on my ever-shortening "dance with joy when they die" list.

#80 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 03:42 PM:

Doctor Science @ 78 -

I think libertarians are people who don't believe that humans are social animals -- as per Margaret Thatcher's "there's no such thing as society"[1].

...

Y'know, I think it's time for me to take a break from Making Light for a while.

#81 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:00 PM:

The idea that Mad Maggie was a Libertarian is absurd. Please tell me you didn't mean that, Doctor Science.

#82 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:00 PM:

Doctor Science @78:

I think libertarians are people who don't believe that humans are social animal

Teresa said @64: If there were one thing I could wish the left and the libertarians understood as well as the right does, it's how to work with people who agree with you on some but not all issues.

I think you might want to try that one again.

#83 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:13 PM:

It depends on whether your want to get it right or further your aims.

Wanting to be right is ineffective in politics.

Furthering your aims, now, you can do that.

"Is this the right thing to do?" versus "does this makes things better, from my point of view?"

That last is a couple orders of magnitude less organizationally complex, of course it's more effective.

#84 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:16 PM:

HP #77:

I think maybe part of this is that, right around 9/11, a lot of people inclined to argue with the pro-police-state, pro-torture, pro-endless-war types were stunned into silence. I think a lot of people had real questions about whether, maybe, that horrible attack had demonstrated that we had to do all kinds of awful things to keep ourselves safe. Frightened people often are willing to suspend their judgement and follow the strong-looking, reassuring leaders.

Over time, that's eroded. Most people are much less inclined to defer to claims of national security or the war on terror now than a few years back, largely because the shock of 9/11 has mostly passed. And so the belligerence of a lot of the loudest folks probably stopped working for them--either people yelled right back, or at least they reacted with facial expressions and body language in a way that made it clear that they didn't agree.

I think the most visible group stunned into silence by 9/11 were the folks at the top of media, government, and finance, who would normally have been a lot more willing to question some of the BS coming out of Washington. The Patriot Act steamroller job was one example of what became possible because of that effect.

And there's a kind of feedback process here. We all have a map of the acceptable things to say in public, and we maintain it by listening to what others say around us. To the extent that lots of belligerent "we have to bomb those ragheads into the stone age" sort of comments are flying around, you start accepting that this is the common view. If you recognize the common view as nuts, well, that's not all that unusual a situation, right? You mostly just stay quiet unless you're sure you're ready for a fight where everyone jumps on you or shuns you for saying something wildly unpopular. As people slowly became more willing to challenge the belligerent minority, the apparent consensus on what views were acceptable shifted.

#85 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:16 PM:

Y'know how Patrick said, in ct #6, "Meanwhile, if dimbulb Park Service cops decide to beat up on libertarians, then I'm a libertarian"?

I'm moved by a similar spirit myself, but more along the lines of If commenters are going to dog-pile onto libertarians and reduce them to a cartoon stereotype, then I'm a libertarian. I just stuck Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom onto my Amazon wish list.

#86 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:20 PM:

Scott Taylor @80:

Y'know, I think it's time for me to take a break from Making Light for a while.

Please don't.

#87 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:36 PM:

No, I am Spartacus a Libertarian!

Hmm...can anyone tell me why I have a sudden craving for a jelly donut?

#88 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:37 PM:

Teresa @#64: That really is a great video. Way to keep his cool.

#89 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:41 PM:

Avram @85, you might want to add Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine to your mailing list. She has an interesting perspective on Friedman.

Which is not said to knock libertarians. Only to knock Friedman, and specifically, his involvement in the economic shock & awe movements that have devastated so very many economies, including two that I've had the misfortune and pleasure of living in.

#90 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:43 PM:

Avram - oops. Wish list. I meant "to your wish list".

Sorry!

#91 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:44 PM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy: I see some things which bother me in the subtext of your questions on tone.

1: Cops have to be answerable to the people for whom they work; because they have been given, almost unlimited powers over them (at least in the context of public interactions. Piss one off and he can arrest you. He'll justify it with some charge that boils down to, "contempt of cop". The DA may refuse to prosecute, but the odds are that's the best one can hope for).

2: In this case, none of the examples you cite took place. It was when the cops showed up, so it wasn't hectoring repetition. It was a legitimate question (as is name, badge number and supervisor. See the thread on the photographers getting harrassed).

3: Mostly, I don't care how rude someone is to a cop, so long as they don't cross the line of actually assaulting them. It's tough on the cops, but I refuse to allow them a legal pretext to arrest people; for things which annoy, or even offend. Unless they break a law, then they don't get arrested. Asking why they are being dispersed can't be defined as breaking a law (unless we want to go back to reading of Riot Acts, and the ability for a cop (pretty much any cop) to make any assembly they dislike an unlawful one).

I don't see that this flash mob wasn't polite, and for all you know this was the polite spokesman, the cops didn't care.

Scott Taylor: I'm sorry that the comments about libertarians (as a class; which I think were meant to reflect "L"ibertarians as a group) are so painful.

On the other hand, I can see why there are so many strong feelings. I recall a conversation with Sasha Volokh, when he was a staff writer for Reason. I'd asked him why the "L"ibertarians weren't supportive of social liberties (such asrepealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, and allowing for homosexual marriage) which seemed to me to be no-brainer positions for a libertarian so be in favor of.

His response was, "The present system is working just fine, so the Government shouldn't be meddling in it."

What? I said, you are saying that discrimination is ok, if the system is "working>?", and he basically replied that micro-management of things which are "normal" to impose preferential treatments for a minority weren't really things "L"libertarians could be supportive of (this was something like 15 years ago, and I am certain I am losing some of the details, and nuance, esp. as I was driving at the time).

In the same conversation he was explaining that it was wrong to insist that corporate polluters be required to engage in clean up of toxic sites to specific benchmarks, and timetables, becuause that stifled the innovation of the companies, who would otherwise be eager to repair the various damages the waste had caused.

As a pair of worldviews the dichotomy was painful.

When Eugene was saying torture was good, and we needed more of it in our executions (e.g. we ought to let victims families abuse the condemned before they are killed), and he says that's a libertarian mindset, and the only real problem is that getting it to pass constitutional muster makes it impractical, well libertarianism lost a lot of it's remnant appeal.

Why? Because I didn't see any of the "L"ibertarians condemning him. In fact I saw them saying he was getting a raw deal whem people like me said he was daft.

So what I see them saying is, interpersonal freedoms matter less than business liberties.

And when I look at the things they, as a group, seem to get active in, that's carried out. "The Market" will bring us to the earthly paradise, if we'd only remove the fetters.

But the social fetters (Jim Crow, gay-bashing, etc.) those are ok; because "The Market" has instituted them.

Lord, that seems flat. What I'm trying to say is they see two classes of market: one is monetary, and the businesses who are working in it need to be without restriction. Unions? Those are ok, so long as the workers "really" want them (and the implicit argument is they don't), but they need to be kept on a leash, because that much group activity unblanances the equation (because the business owner will have to be fair, and unions make it impossible for that, so the non-union workers are hurt).

Regulations to make sure things are what they say they are? Damaging; because if there was, "honest competition" the business wouldn't be looking to "just meet the standard of the regulation" because they would all be competing with each other. Regulation sets the top bar.

I've heard these arguments, read them (time and again) in "L"ibertarian publications.

All of them ignore that we ran things that way in the past, and what we had was Packingtown, and The Octopus, and got Teapot Dome.

It also let Jim Crow linger, pushed out the Indians (who, "couldn't compete", "weren't really using the land", etc.).

L'aissez faire means, so far as I can tell, "Fuck you, I got (or will get) mine".

It's mandating Tennyson's "Nature, red in tooth and claw."

I don't like that. I appreciate a lot of the theory of libertarianism. Like Patrick, I have a sympathy for the ideals, but the people I see trying to implement the practice are in favor of the aspects which are pernicious, and don't seem to give damn about the parts which (I think) would lead to more of the benefits (i.e. social liberties leading to people being happier, and more involved in things).

And I am sure hearing all of that isn't pleasant. The more so when it's in pithy aphorisms, and analyses of comments made by people seen as Iconographic of The Movement, and those comments go against how YOU see the world, and the ideals of Libertarian Thought.

So, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that more than one thread is addressing this right now, and making you feel singled out (because reading alone always makes me feel singled out when a lot of people are saying the same sorts of things I don't believe; in contravention of my beliefs).

I also know that phrases like, "the members of 'x' are like this (except for 'y')" are worse, because that means they see you as an outlier. That what you believe isn't what they think you believe (or that what you believe is in some way wicked).

Now comes the painful part: I don't think most libertarians believe the things the "L"ibertarians are working to enact. I also don't see that it makes much difference (just as my being opposed to torture, and asherig to good interrogation practice wouldn't mean much; if I were the only one. Just as it means less than I wish it did that I don't do torture, and won't let my soldiers do it, because the people setting policy are finding those people who are willing to carry it out, and the practical effect of my good behavior is to mask their bad behavior. I don't know how to reconcile that, and so I mostly carry on, hoping sanity will return).

Ok, that's enough associational rambling.

I'm trying to say, I hope your need to stay away is brief, because I've always found your arguments to be done in good faith; which is the difference between being able to respect your beliefs (and you with them) and not.

#92 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 04:55 PM:

Terry 91: Why Terry is Important to Making Light, Chapter 17, verse 8.

#93 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 05:02 PM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy

If you're going to have a spontaneous flash mob dancing silently with their iPods to honor the spirit of Jefferson, reenacting select scenes from The Crucible, or dressing up in black lace and playing Rock-Paper-Scissors until they declare one of them King of the Vampires, the sensible thing to do is to have some well-mannered spokesman for the group go act as liason to the mundanes, particularly the cops.

No, you're not legally required to do so, but it's sensible and polite, and the point of village greens and other areas open to the public 24/7 is that they're there for the enjoyment of all the public, not just you.

Yes, this is a sensible, polite thing to do. No argument there.

But ... but ...

Since when was it the job of law enforcement or security to enforce manners? Or, necessarily, sensible behaviour?

Me, I thought that officers of the peace worked to keep the peace that it may be enjoyed by all, and officers of the law to uphold the law. Security officers enforce the rules established to keep people and property safe from harm.

If an individual or group are not breaking the peace or the laws, if they're not harming people or property (other than their own), then their manners or lack thereof and the sensible or silly nature of their behaviour is not grounds for arrest. The burden of not escalating a situation does not sit on the shoulders of the public, unilaterally.

Being silly or even stupid, if silliness and stupidity harm nobody, should never be deemed a crime. And neither should dancing.

The role law enforcement is to protect the public. All of the public. Including the freaks and the dancers and the skateboarders. Including the people with prams and the dog walkers and the couples who are not dancing, LARPing, or skateboarding. If the needs of one member of the public impinge upon the needs of others, then the role of officers of the peace is to preserve the peace and enforce the rules.

I don't want to live in a society whose rules include "You can't ask why your apparently lawful activity is being treated as unlawful." Or where we're policed for dressing "strangely," dancing in public, or questioning those who would deny our rights to behave oddly in public (as long as our odd behaviour harms nobody and nothing).

And, dangnabbit, I guess if libertarians deserve to be arrested for dancing in public, then I'm one too. Just don't ask me to give up my socialized healthcare.

#94 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 05:13 PM:

LWM isn't nearly hardened enough, if you ask me.

I think he's just a cheap whore for the jackboots and truncheon set. Look at his posts more carefully— you can almost picture him on his knees, licking his lips, waiting for taste of that sweet, sweet cop love.

If he were a cynic, like me, he'd be wondering aloud, all annoying-like, why all those revolutionary libertarians didn't immediately spring to organized action according to a pre-arranged plan, form an armed volunteer unit, and go rescue their unfortunate comrade from an obviously unlawful kidnapping by a fraudulent gang of thugs in the pay of the local warlord...

Now, do I think the "victims had it coming" here? No, of course not. I don't like it when the cops bust up my rave for no good reason, and I don't see why anybody else's rave ought to be a problem for them either.

However... libertarians. I'm trying really hard not to succumb to schadenfreud, and I don't particularly need to join in the dogpile, but I fear I'm not going to be able to come across with enough sympathy if this is going to be one of those salute the flag moments. I'm acquainted with a fair number of Silicon Valley pinhead libertarians, and they are not— as a class— my favorite sort of people with which to work on a project that requires any kind of collaborative spirit.

#95 ::: Jasper Milvain ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 05:27 PM:

A bit of a tangent, for A.R. Yngve @75: It's possible for a policeman to be both a signpost and a god. This is Karel Capek on the Metropolitan Police, in Letters from England (1924):

When one of these bobbies, two metres high, raises his hand in Piccadilly, Saturn comes to a standstill and Uranus stops on his celestial path waiting until Bobby lowers his hand again. I have never seen anything so superhuman.

The classic British policeman was physically imposing as well as avuncular - I believe you had to be at least 6ft to work for, say, Athelstan Popkess; the methods of projecting authority were different, but Jerome goes too far in writing it off.

#96 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 05:46 PM:

Terry #91: I have to say, most of the positions you described there looked really, really different from what I've understood of libertarianism. If you distrust government power, it's hard to see where you'd come to think that including torture in the set of punishments available to the government would be a good thing, frex. If you don't think the state should be interfering in market transactions to achieve social goals, Jim Crow laws are really hard to justify. Pushing the Indians off their land seems similar.

I am supremely not interested in doing the one-man-against-the-dogpile thing here. Enough so that I've hesitated to post this.

#97 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 06:01 PM:

albtross @ 96

That's a lot of what the 'Libertarian Party' says when they're pushing their propaganda: business regulation and zoning laws bad, etc. (Right up until the guy next door wants to put in a business or build a house that the 'Lib' doesn't want next door, then he'll be organizing petitions against it.)

#98 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 06:12 PM:

One thing I've noticed about explicitly libertarian science fiction is that all of the settings presuppose a post-scarcity economy. In some cases, the author claims that this is a natural outgrowth of Progress, as fueled by libertarian policies (I have my doubts, he said dryly).

However, in other cases, the authors make it explicit that their setting is only enabled by a post-scarcity economy, and in some cases, hard AI. (Charlie, I get the sense that your Eschaton-era Earth works that way, with the UN having a very limited political role/authority outside of WMD-related issues. Am I reading it right?).

Does anyone know of counter-examples?

#99 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 06:23 PM:

albatross: The painful thing is the difference between theory and practice. In theory, "LIBERTARIANS" ought to be for social issues I agree with, and the ideas of liberty for each and all.

In practice, not so much. The people Reason pays to write for them, write things like that.

The logic of, "taking" is horrid; basically they argue for absolute sovreignity of personal property (to the point of fetish). There is no common good to which one can appeal; all eminent domain is "violence" and can be resisted. Unless sweet reason can persuade one to give up "property" there is no justifiable better use to which is can be put that than of the owner.

Doesn't matter how he got it (cheating people... in theory The Market will prevent wholesale frauds, but if the buyer fails to beware.... tough luck), it's his now.

The same rules apply to things like Jim Crow, and Unions (attempting to band together to "violently" take money from the, otherwise, benevolent boss, who will be forced by market pressures to pay a fair wage.

The union types just don't understand this, and think he's greedy and trying to keep more than he needs to.

Is this broad strokes? Sure. But it's broad strokes I've seen a lot of "L"ibertarians make.

Is it what the majority of libertarian sorts think? No, I don't think so, any more than the majority of people who vote for Republicans think the ideals of the party are what the party is actually doing. They think the Republicans are looking out for the little guy, and saving them from the "L"iberals stealing their money (through taxes) to help lazy people who ought to get jobs, and then overegulate businesses (though agencies like OSHA) to make it impossible for the businesses to make enough money to pay better wages.

#100 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 06:46 PM:

What you're talking about isn't like the libertarianism I'm familiar with. I thought the standard libertarian take on Jim Crow was that it was an egregious interference in freedom of trade and association. And I've never seen a libertarian say that gay-bashing was no big deal.

****

Anyone have a copy of Williams' _The Greater Trumps_ handy? There's a bit in which a policeman appears as archetypal Patience or Justice or somesuch.

#101 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 06:59 PM:

Libertarians don't like Jim Crow *laws*, exactly. It's just that if a merchant just HAPPENS to have a policy that some people can only use the special "colored" restroom, well, he's exercising his freedom over the restrooms he owns. If ALL the merchants do that, they're exercising THEIR freedom. And if a mob descends upon the one merchant who doesn't do it, and burns down his store and murders him and his family, he's perfectly free to try to defend himself against them, and when it doesn't work, why, the tree of liberty etc. Very creepy, to hear that particular quote used as a *defense* of rule by the KKK or similar gangs of criminals.

#102 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 07:00 PM:

Terry--

Going through your points in order:

1. Agreed. There's no excuse for not giving badge numbers.

2. I'll beg to differ. I watched both videos, and besides the questions which were repeated--rather annoyingly to my ear--there was the claim that the dancing was silent (in which case it sure caused a lot of echoes) and that it was appropriate.

I think the flash-mob bloggers were all into the idea of "Jefferson" but rather unclear on the concept of "Memorial."

A memorial is meant to be a ceremonial tomb, and as such is traditionally a place for worshipful silence, quiet reflection, hushed voices, and maybe the occasional docent leading a historical tour. It's not a disco. And claiming that this is your favorite founding father so you're here to respectfully dance on his ceremonial grave?

I'm not certain what Thomas Jefferson would say if he could have witnessed the scene, but I'm sure Benjamin Franklin would have had some tart comment.

3. With #2, you said that the questions weren't annoying, and now you say that annoyance is fine anyway. If so, why bother to differentiate between annoying hectoring questions and polite reasonable ones?

I think what we're dealing here is appropriately enough a free speech issue: Whether you can respectfully dance on Jefferson's grave, and whether it even matters if the dancing is respectful.

I think the bloggers were either talking out of both sides of their mouths or not thinking straight to figure that dancing with music would be disruptive but dancing silently wouldn't disrupt the experience for any other visitors to the memorial. Would it be disruptive to have twenty people silently in unison turn to Jefferson's statue and flip him the bird? And when security asked you to leave, would it be right to claim that you were respectfully saluting your favorite founding father?

Would this be permitted in the National Portrait Gallery in front of the portrait of oh, say, Richard M. Nixon?

I think the police are also in a bind here because they have to constantly make judgment calls about nebulous abstract nouns like "security," "order," "decency" and "the peace" and also of course what is and isn't "disruptive."

And from looking at the video, I think part of what was going on that no one has commented on was that were were seeing some friction between black blue-collar cop culture and white white-collar academic/wired bohemian culture. I'm pretty certain that all the university cops I've dealt with over the years would have simply laughed the whole thing off and not been croggled to begin with.

#103 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 07:13 PM:

#101 ::: mjfgates :::

I actually am a libertarian, and I tell you you're making things up.

Libertarians would agree that there's a right to not serve people for any reason, including obnoxious reasons.

However, most libertarians are minarchists and believe that governments have an obligation to protect their citizens against violence.

#104 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 07:18 PM:

A memorial is meant to be a ceremonial tomb, and as such is traditionally a place for worshipful silence, quiet reflection, hushed voices, and maybe the occasional docent leading a historical tour. It's not a disco. And claiming that this is your favorite founding father so you're here to respectfully dance on his ceremonial grave?

A memorial is a place to remember someone or something, it doesn't have to be a tomb. Lincoln isn't buried at the Lincoln Memeorial, and Jefferson isn't buried in DC either. Given that they weren't marble saints or grim preachers, dancing at their memorials on their birthdays (at night, when the crowds are gone) doesn't seem strange. (Ben would probably have joined the party, especially if the ladies were good-looking.)

I think there's far too much of being silently respectful (why?) in front of statues and portraits. Talk about them: that way they're real people, not portraits or statues, the way you learn in school. (BTW: I turned down a request to join one group, because one of the rules they had at the time was that members had to speak respectfully of all their ancestors. I won't promise that. Not everyone deserves respect, even when they're famous.)

#105 ::: MsAnon ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 07:42 PM:

I really really think the "just world fallacy" plays a huge part in authoritarian justification of this crap. The people who justify it are scared of the brown people, of the kids these days, of the weirdos et al., but I wonder if they aren't just as scared of the authorities deep down.

#106 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 07:48 PM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy @102: You're not familiar with the concept of a wake, then?

I don't know for certain what was going on at the Memorial. But it is certainly within the bounds of possibility that they were boogying on down as a way of showing respect and gratitude for the life of a man now passed on.

#107 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 07:50 PM:

I know the main payload of this post is the commenting tactic of the morons, whatever political orientation, but I'm much more interested in the legal aspects of the background story. Forgive me if this was answered before, but after skimming 50 or so comments I saw almost all of them dealing with the commenting part. Basically I'd like to know what the woman did about this. I talked this over quickly with a lawyer friend of mine, and his opinion is that a) the dancers would have been required to do what the cops said, even if it was stupid and unwarranted (what with the cops being responsible for security, whatever that means), but that b) you could have sued the cop in question lateron for misconduct. I wonder if anything like that happened.

#108 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 07:58 PM:

Nancy 103: This is precisely what I don't like about libertarianism. The market won't make people serve members of a despised minority, in fact it rather pushes against that, since the business will go to the people who are best at coddling their (majority) customers' prejudices.

The market SUCKS at providing for the unusual cases, the unusual preferences. Why can't I buy BreatheRight™ strips in my size at the grocery store? Because they have enough customers with Large-size noses to sell as many of that size as they want, so they don't care. That stinks, but in a free society I have to shrug, since I CAN get the things elsewhere.

But what happens when no one in town will sell to me or serve me in any way, because of my skin color? I wind up having to move to a place where they will, and that will most likely be a place where other people with my same skin color live. The general tendency will be toward more segregation, and increasing hostility between the communities (because separation breeds fear and resentment), and that leads to violence.

The Jim Crow laws went a step further, of course: they codified this into law. But making desegregation the law of the land has resulted in a better society, one where most lunch-counter owners wouldn't want to discriminate even if it were legal. The law changed first and the hearts and minds followed. The market cannot accomplish that.

In fact an unrestrained market can't really accomplish much of anything except making some people wealthy while others starve, until the rich hire some of the poor to kill the rest, or the poor rise up and kill the rich. I prefer the latter outcome to the former, of course, but I prefer our current system, flawed as it is, to either.

#109 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 08:04 PM:

Xopher @ #87: because a certain U.S. President didn't make a famous speech in Hamburg or Frankfurt?

#110 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 08:14 PM:

Teresa@64: They can't just be aliens. I have to understand them.

Well, having been a card carrying member of the "Authority" worldview (and hopefully at least marginally reformed), I might be able to provide some understanding.

Much of this can be sourced all the way back to a noticable lack of Lenore Skenazy parenting. Adults are afraid to ride the subway alone, let alone 9 year olds. Kids pretty much start out defering to parents as absolute (because I said so) authority figures. Which is probably fine because infants start out having to defer to their parents to survive. At some point, kids grow, hormones kick in and most kids start to develop some sense of independence, possibly rebelling against their parents, but rebel or no, if the kid doesn't develop a sense of self-sufficiency, he/she will end up maintaining the kid-view of deferring to authority, simply transfering the authority figure from parents to the government, law enforcement, military, etc. Rather than rebel against their authority-based worldview, they simply rebel against their parents, maintain their authority worldview, and simply transfer the authority from their parents to something they view as more powerful.

Conservatives like to frame welfare proponents as forwarding a "nanny state" where the government coddles people who should be self sufficient, like parents coddling an adult child. But the folks who are pro-authoritarian, defer to authoritarian, are actually as psychologically underdeveloped as the people they *think* they're insulting.

The immediate issue is police asserting authority where it isn't justified. Ideally, you'd complain, the police department would adjust its training, reprimand the officer, and institute some retraining. Maybe you could get some sort of legislation in effect that would formalize it. But the problem is that when the one cop who has a defer-to-authority viewpoint abuses his own authority against someone who won't defer to him, an entire swath of the public who are defer-to-authority types will rush to the authority's defense and attack the individual who wouldn't defer.

The swarm will look at the entire case through the "we must defer to authority to survive" viewpoint. They see the person who would not defer, and they identify them as being in the wrong. Every excuse they make in the cop's defense is meant to insulate and protect authority from being harmed or reprimanded because that authority is what they think they need to survive.

And the thing is that policy will not reform someone like this. moderator rules will not reform them. and to a large extent, various methods of persuasion, logical arguments, debate, etc, will not persuade them either. People don't radically alter their worldview by reading a blog or its comments. And to get a 'we must defer to authority to survive' person to upgrade to 'we are all equal adults, living in an uncertain world, and we will not hand over our freedom in exchange for an illusion of safety', it's going to take a lot more than a comment thread on some blog post.

My experience has been that to get someone to change their worldview, you point them in the direction you think they need to go. They can't see what your talking about cause their worldview prevents it, so they need to trust you enough to walk towards what looks to them like possible doom. And then they live it, try it, hopefully succeed at it, and it alters their worldview.

Lenore Skenazy didn't simply tell her 9 year old that the subway wasn't something he should be afraid of, she then let him try it, and upon successfully navigating it, he won a level of self sufficiency he didn't have before.

They always invoke freedom of speech. ... their freedom to say anything they want in whatever fashion they want



To you, moderation takes away their ability to exert textual violence, but to them you're taking away their ability to exert their authority, and that's what their worldview says is "the good". It defines who they are. It defines their place in the authority chain of command.



they fear two things: that the powers-that-be might come after them,

I think the main thing is that they view the world as a hierarchy of authority. Anyone who bucks any authority is, to them, equivalent to cutting into a line they're standing in. They may be a low man on the totem pole, but if some punk ass kid stands up to a cop, then that kid thinks he is better than the cop and therefore better than the low guy on the totem pole. Not only does the kid standing up to the cop trigger their worldview of "question authority is bad", but it also triggers their "That snot nosed kid thinks he's better than ME?"

Worldview gives identity, identity reinforces worldview.

and that the rules of the game might change.

They fear that their position in the hierachy will slip. If you view yourself in a world of a power hierarchy, the higher up you are, the more you support the hierarchy, even if you're not number 1. Anyone who challenges someone above you is also challenging you.

Worst than an individual threat is the threat that someone intends to change the way by which everyone's rank is determined. This threatens everyone in the hierarchy because everyone might lose what little advantage they have in the ranking system. They might become equals with everyone else. Moderation threatens the entire hierarchy because it takes their tools/weapons/power away. Gun control is a complex issue, but most people react to it based on the simple fear that they will lose what little power they have in the hierarchy of them versus the criminals below them and the government above them.



conservatives tend to be people who respond to situations with fear. I mean that literally.

That is pretty much it in a nutshell. The other half of it is that they deal with it by off-shoring their fear to someone else whom they imbue with the magical (handwavey) power to protect them. Kids do this and will export their fear to their parents. Mom and Dad will keep me safe. If adults do this, they often export their fear to the government. The government has secret knowledge that will keep me safe. People who've put their safety in the government (who've exported their fear on the hopes of not having to be afraid anymore) will want to believe that the state knows more than they do. It is paramount to calm their fears. Joe Blow is afraid of terrrists based on what he knows. So Joe desparately hopes that Bush knows something that Joe doesn't so that Bush can keep Joe safe.

The alternative has the distinct disadvantage of living life in spite of whatever threat (real or not) that might be out to get you. What's the easy answer: (1) "Having some fears but living couragously without complete certainty" or the rather famous T-shirt that proclaims: (2) "No Fear"

Of course, exporting your fear, defering your self-sufficiency to another doesn't usually make the fear go away, it just gives the person the absolute worst form of "hope". If the gummamint gets enough power and enough authority, then maybe, just maybe, I won't have to feel afraid anymore.

What happens then is that rather than attack the thing that makes them afraid (the terrrists), they prefer to focus their attention on anything that threatens their peace of mind, which is to say, they attack anyone who says they can't trust the government. The gummamint gives them a sense of security because they believe power and authority is the answer. If you question power and authority, you question the very basis of their security, you threaten to force them to take back their exported fear, and so they attack you.

#111 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 08:19 PM:

Perhaps rather ironic in MLK's case, where the law couldn't keep him from being killed nevertheless.

#112 ::: Megan ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 08:28 PM:

(8) They celebrate their shared self-abasement, and pretend that blaming the victim and talking tough means they're hard men.

(64) that they fear two things: that the powers-that-be might come after them, and that the rules of the game might change. They're unsatisfied and unsuccessful members of a privileged class, and the status quo is most of what they've got going for them. They worry about that. I think the fear of being tunbled out into the harsh light of the real world is what turns some of them into survivalists.

I've been thinking for a while that what trolls are most scared of is that their own past behavior. I worry that they're in an escalating shame cycle, where stillness will force them to remember or confront their previous bad behavior. Since that is intolerable, they require constant reinforcement and worse, the stimulation of another round. If that causes more compartmentalized shame, a feedback loop gets going.

#113 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 08:49 PM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy: I made the point about annoying because you seem to be saying it's some form of justification.

Do you think the police gave adequate answer to the question? I don't, and that lack of response justifies the repitition of the question (just as a reporter would be justified in bringing up the same question as some other reporter if it hadn't been answered; even if it's the president at the receiving end).

It's not Jefferson's grave, and honestly, I think a joyful dance is a perfectly reasonably act of memorial.

As for the National Portrait Gallery... apples and oranges. The space isn't external, and the purpose isn't to be a public space about Nixon, but a museum to look at pictures.

The flipping the bird question: I've got no problem with it. If they blocked the entrance, and refused to let people come in, then there's a reason to ask them to leave. Otherwise, nope.

On the university campus issue... I'd day fifty-fifty, and point out the library incident at UCLA, not a place where the campus cops are unsophisticate.

It's not that I don't understand security, and not that I don't grok the pressures of making split second decisions, and erring on the side of caution.

I came close to killing someone in Iraq for reaching for his wallet, if it had been a little different, and he'd pulled out a flat metal cigarette case I might have pulled the trigger, and I'd feel badly about it, but not guilty. The shooting would have been an overreaction, but it wouldn't have been unjustifiable; given the context (this is part of the acquiring ways of thought I don't want to need again, which I mentioned sometime else).

She didn't pose a threat to him. She hadn't, so far as I can tell, broken any laws. If she did, there were a host of other people as guilty. What she did which was different was ask for justification. That's unacceptable as a reason to do what was done.

Greg: Re moderation, the problem is their, "Freedom of speech" is an assertion that they have an authority which trumps Teresa's.

They want to, "jump the line", and prove they aren't inferior to this person who is telling them what to do. They want to be the snot nosed kid.

#114 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 08:53 PM:

Lee@28: I have an untested hypothesis that Libertarianism in poor people is a form of magical thinking -- if they could just get rid of all that "government interference," then they'd somehow be well-off.

What little I've read about libertarianism seems to suggest that it is made up of a bunch of different worldviews that come to some similar conclusions.

The most obvious worldview is "bucking authority". The total antithesis to the "we must defer to authority to survive" view. Also known as a "rebel without a cause". They will buck authority, even if the authority is beneficial to them. (much like the theme about how people don't vote for the candidate who most benefits them, they vote for the candidate that fits their worldview.)

The child's version of this is "Parents just don't understand". Parents are dumb. Uncool. Clueless. Blundering. They don't know the score. They don't know what's right. They hand down arbitrary and unfair rules. They hand down arbitrary and unfair punishments. The only way to right these wrongs is to fight back. Sneak out. Defy them. Tell them to f off. Whatever.

Of course, those things are not absolutly true but they are how a kid can view their parents. And there's no rule that says that when a kid like this turns 18, someone magically upgrades his worldview software for him.

At which point, the authority figure translates from parent to any and all authority figure. Boss. Police. Politician. Military. Business owner. Etc. And the worldview is that none of these morons know what they're doing. They just don't understand. Clueless. Blundering. They don't know the score. They don't know what's right. They hand down arbitrary and unfair rules. They hand down arbitrary and unfair punishments. The only way to right these wrongs is to fight back. Sneak out. Defy them. Tell them to f off. Whatever.

I'm not certain, but the guy in the video who was holding the camera seemed to be someone who would buck any authority for any reason even if it offered no benefit for him to buck it. Going up to a cop who is abusing his authority and asking "why" over and over isn't going to get the badge to change his worldview, probably isn't going to get him to change his behaviour. I'm actually surprised the cameraman didn't end up keeping at it until he got arrested. Not that he would have deserved it, but the thing about strategic games is that you are put into a scenario with a set of circumstances and you can only control the choice you make. You can't control the other person. And the cameraman was driven to make the same choices over and over again.

You're in a room with a badge who has already demonstrated his willingness to misuse his authority. What do you do?

Well, the answer you give is given by your worldview, not by what is the "right" thing to do. We vote for people who are not the best benefit to us. We vote for people who fit into our worldview. If you're a "defer to authority" type, then you defer. If you're a "question authority" type, then you question. If you're a "do whatever is most beneficial to me" type, then you might shut up and walk away. Or maybe walk past the point of their attention and continue videotaping. There is no "right" answer to this sort of question, there is only the answer that fits your worldview. And the cameraman asking the cop over and over again was revealing his worldview.

Again, not that it meant he would deserve getting arrested, but that he was driven to challenge an authority figure, tell him to "read the walls", when it was clear it would make no difference whatsoever in how the authorities reacted to him, other than possibly badly. Which was a more likely outcome, realistically speaking, than having the guard stop, read the walls, and suddenly shout at his partners "Guys! Guys! Check it out! We're the bad guys here! Let the kids dance!"

No doubt several people might argue that "this" reaction was the right reaction and "that" reaction was the wrong reaction. But that wasn't the point of the exercise. The point, Lee's point, was to try and catch a glimpse of someone else's worldview.

People exhaust their worldview by their actions. The guy with the camera revealed his worldview as much as he recorded and revealed the worldview of the men with badges.

And his worldview seemed to be that he didn't want anyone to tell him what to do, that he was perfectly willing to challenge any such authority, even if it meant getting arrested, when the alleged payoff was simply nothing more than being able to "dance" at Jefferson's memorial. "arrest" versus "dance" seems to indicate that challenging the badges wasn't worth the right to dance compared to the possibility of arrest. On the other hand, the energy the cameraman invested in challenging the badge, seems to reflect that the "challenge" itself was the payoff. Just like the "assertion of authority for authority's sake" was the payoff for the badges.

"Challenge authority" wraps up with it all the stuff that comes with fighting the dumb, clueless, bumbling parents who just dont understand. It casts the challenger as the white hat. It gives them their identity, much like "authority" gives some cops their identity.

"dance" versus "get arrested" makes little sense. But "challenge bumbling authority" versus "get arrested by bumbling authority" shows where their getting their payoff for their actions. It shows their worldview.

#115 ::: Serafina ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 08:56 PM:

Would it be disruptive to have twenty people silently in unison turn to Jefferson's statue and flip him the bird? And when security asked you to leave, would it be right to claim that you were respectfully saluting your favorite founding father?

Would this be permitted in the National Portrait Gallery in front of the portrait of oh, say, Richard M. Nixon?

No, yes, and yes. Or rather, the last two SHOULD be "yes," though they probably wouldn't be.

This isn't hard. Arresting people isn't something that can or should be done for a breach of taste, or good manners.



I think the police are also in a bind here because they have to constantly make judgment calls about nebulous abstract nouns like "security," "order," "decency" and "the peace" and also of course what is and isn't "disruptive."

No, they don't. Nothing would have happened if they'd just left those people alone, or even if they had asked them to leave but refrained from the arrest. The world would not have ended. No one would have even been mildly inconvenienced.

#116 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 09:07 PM:

Terry: the problem is their, "Freedom of speech" is an assertion that they have an authority which trumps Teresa's. They want to, "jump the line", and prove they aren't inferior to this person who is telling them what to do. They want to be the snot nosed kid.

That would be our view of their actions. I was trying to explain their view of their actions. They wouldn't cast themselves as the snot nosed kids. They'd cast themselves as rightfully placed in some hierarchy of power, some chain of command, and then Moderator Teresa wants to come along and strip away some of their powers. Teresa is the snot nosed kids in their eyes.

Of course, it might be that some "freedom of speech" trolls happen to be "question authority" types, rather than "defer to authority to survive" types. In which case, they view themselves as living peacefully in an area free of authority and rules when Teresa comes in and tries to lay down stupid laws, dumb punishments, and arbitrary responses. That would be how the "question authority" types would view moderation.

But Teresa was asking about the "defer to authority" types, trying to understand them rather than relate to them as alien. I was trying to explain from their point of view.

#117 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 09:10 PM:

Xopher #108:

Nancy 103: This is precisely what I don't like about libertarianism. The market won't make people serve members of a despised minority, in fact it rather pushes against that, since the business will go to the people who are best at coddling their (majority) customers' prejudices.

This is a serious issue for libertarianism. A broader way of stating this: Libertarians worry that too much government power, and interference in markets and private decisions, will lead mostly to bad outcomes. Broad antidiscrimination laws are an example where this kind of interference pretty clearly led to a better outcome than we would have seen without it. There was a discussion going at Marginal Revolution a few days ago about this, pointing out that even in places where there were no laws enforcing discrimination, there was still a lot of discrimination. And while there was a broad social movement against discrimination and overt racism which led to the adoption of those laws[0]

I suspect that this is a place where the individual-centric model used by most libertarians kind-of breaks down. Discrimination of the kind we're talking about[1] is irrational and is driven by social/community pressure. Both of those make it rather hard to deal with in a model that says that each individual is more-or-less rationally pursuing his own interests.

On the other hand, I suspect you could find real-world examples where the power of the state to regulate the press or ban religions had led to a good outcome. I'm not sure whether I'd want to generalize that lesson too far. Similarly, while interfering in individual transactions in the market to prevent discrimination had some real positive effects, I don't think this is the usual pattern.

It's interesting to me that Jim Crow laws were also an example of failure of democracy and the rule of law. Had blacks simply had their right to vote defended, I wonder how much of these laws would have survived. Quite possibly all of them, because people are wired to form us/them groups, and race is an easy thing to divide up on.

[0] If the laws had been sufficiently unpopular, they wouldn't have survived. But their popularity differed enormously across regions and social classes, as well as (obviously) across racial groups.

[1] As opposed to, say, discriminating against short people when hiring basketball players or something.

#118 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 09:23 PM:

I guess I could expand on my previous remarks by noting that it feels awfully weird to be invited to participate in the deconstruction of the ongoing cultural hegemony of contemporary American authoritarians using a collection of Washington DC Libertarian activists as the illustration. Yes, they were treated unfairly by the cops. Yes, the commenters at The Wreck Of The Megan McArdle are contributing in various classifiable ways toward the furthering of the cultural hegemony that this kind of police mistreatment depends upon. I mean: compare the linked videos to this one that went around awhile back. Underneath it all, I'm having a hard time getting cranked about the Park Police arresting one person at the Jefferson Memorial and questioning them for five hours, never mind that it's someone who probably cheered when I was arrested in San Francisco on January 16, 1991 under terms that were basically a reading of the Riot Act.

Doesn't anybody else feel weirded out by the irony here? Oh, and by the way, I'm not yet convinced that having a well-documented taxonomy of the latest generations of invasive flora is likely to help organize the farm hands and get the fields weeded. Put simply: it's nice to know how the cultural hegemony works, but we've been studying it for generations now— what do we do if it can't be stopped? That's what I want to know.

Honestly, I'd much rather be deconstructing the reasons the Congress hasn't appointed an independent counsel to investigate "The Principles" yet. That might lead to a more fruitful outcome down the road, if I were to be asked— which, admittedly, I was not.

#119 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 09:29 PM:

Daniel Klein #107: This just happened last night. Give it time.

#120 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 09:47 PM:

Kevin @102

The Jefferson Memorial is *NOT* his grave, it is a memorial built to honor him. They were using iPods so that it was silent. Dancing is, in many traditions, a perfectly acceptable way to honor someone. Your white American cultural bias is showing, IMHO.

#121 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 10:01 PM:

Greg London: From time to time I read something that makes me think, "But this is TRUE. It EXPLAINS things about the subject. Something in the phrasing of this did it for me just now: "I think the main thing is that they view the world as a hierarchy of authority. Anyone who bucks any authority is, to them, equivalent to cutting into a line they're standing in. They may be a low man on the totem pole, but if some punk ass kid stands up to a cop, then that kid thinks he is better than the cop and therefore better than the low guy on the totem pole. Not only does the kid standing up to the cop trigger their worldview of "question authority is bad", but it also triggers their "That snot nosed kid thinks he's better than ME?""

That feels really, really illuminating about some arguments I've been in in the past, where it felt like a defender of authority seemed to be taking someone else's actions very, very personally. I never quite integrated it with the great chain of being that way. Thank you!

#122 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 10:18 PM:

Terry Karney @ 91 -

Scott Taylor: I'm sorry that the comments about libertarians (as a class; which I think were meant to reflect "L"ibertarians as a group) are so painful.

Painful?

Nope. You misunderstand. (not that some of them aren't, a little)

I'm taking a break because I don't trust myself not to tell some people off, in painful detail, about exactly how wrong they are. And get disemvoweled, and possibly banned. And for reasons below.

As for the Volokhs - if they said those things, then I will flat out say that they are not libertarians (at least not as I was raised) - they might be DGP** fibbertarians, but libertarians don't condone torture - the first primary rule of libertarianism*** is "do not initiate force" - while anti-prejudice laws are (as albatross points out) a sticky problem with libertarian idealism (and one of the several places that I part company with hardcore minarchist libertarianism), torture**** (and aggressive war) certainly are not.

Abi @ 86 -

Please don't.

Sorry, Abi. I'm increasingly getting the feeling that I'm not really wanted around here - I'm one of those "dirty libertarians" - or close enough to be good enough for Jazz, and I've been getting tired of seeing the term increasingly used as a swear word around here - and not just by posters.

Ask yourself - would you hang around a place where a goodly portion of the populace, at least some of the time, used "liberal" in a way that made it abundantly clear that there was a "damn" in the front of it?@



*Not everything, and not even all of the criticisms - because pure libertarianism, like most political systems, has some serious break points and criticisms that can be leveled at it - which is why I don't really identify myself as one anymore.

**Drugs, Guns, and Porn

***as taught to me - "I shall not initiate Force. I shall not commit Fraud. I shall enter into contracts only freely and of my own Will, and I shall abide by their Intent and their Letter." or as a friend of mine put it "don't fuck up people or their stuff, don't be a cheating asshole, make only promises you intend to keep, and keep the promises you make."

**** corporal punishment is... ehhh. I've seen arguments, although most libertarians I know come down on the "unless it's voluntary and safed, it's bad" end of the spectrum.

@And so help me, if anyone even tries to impugn my motives in this missive... this is not a 'demand for change" - this is Patrick and Teresa's house, Avram, and Abi and Mr. MacDonald have keys. Their house, their rules. They run the place as they see fit. I attend - or do not - as I see fit. Anyone who tries to put any other words into my mouth can go fry ice.

#123 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 10:23 PM:

By the way, I'd like to say something on the general theme of "do a bunch of yuppie libertarians really deserve our sympathy?" First, since when did sympathy count? Was the ACLU wrong after all to support the Illinois Nazis' right of assembly?

But second...yes, as a matter of fact, any group that includes Radley Balko does deserve your sympathy. If you're not familiar with his work, check out his web site. I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I think it's entirely justifiable: he is the best American in blogland when it comes to the War on Drugs. He has spent years now supporting efforts to protect the innocent victims of that war and to roll back the power of the state to make more. He could be making Michael Fumento-style money as a corporate propagandist - he's articulate, funny, and capable of some devastating rhetoric. Instead he spends a lot of his time in backwoods hellholes of poverty and urban blight zones, because that's where the most screwed War on Drugs victims are. Sometimes he and his allies wins, and it's glorious, and sometimes months or years of effort go down the drain and all we have is the documentary evidence of lives ruined on specious, evil grounds.

Radley is a genuine American hero, or should be, to every lover of the promises of liberty, whether you identify yourself as left, right, or something else. He's the kind of person who ends up on official enemy lists these days. A group that includes him, having entirely appropriate fun, is a group worth defending and supporting without one ideological reservation whatsoever.

Not that it would be any better if it had been a generic group of yuppies getting harassed, mind you. It's just that Radley's presence ups the irony factor that much more.

#124 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 10:42 PM:

Bruce@121: I never quite integrated it with the great chain of being that way.

you're great chain of being is my long period of painful fuck ups.

Thank you!

Ya might want to hold that thought until you get my bill...

;)

no, really.

#125 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 10:48 PM:

And while I'm thinking of it, more broadly...

"Libertarian" as a category includes not just Radley and Scott Taylor right here, but folks like Jim Henley and his crew. Conversely, "liberal" is one of the labels claimed by Democratic leadership and The New Republic as they sell out fundamental liberties, prosperity, and law. "Conservative" goes with John Cole and Obsidian Wings commenter OCSteve, and with the president and Republican leadership.

We all really, really need ways of talking about the splits - formal and informal both - within every American ideology right now, when it comes to good guys and bad.

#126 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 11:21 PM:

Scott@122, I don't have much of a preconceived notion, prejudice, or bias, for or against libertarians, mostly because I'm not familiar with them and their views.

Having read your description of libertarianism: "as taught to me - "I shall not initiate Force. I shall not..." and having compared that to what others are attributing to libertarianism, I can't help but notice that what you describe is a tiny subset of what everyone else is talking about.

What you describe is something that mostly comes down to basic integrity or honor. They would apply to many people in a number of different political parties. Or, more accurately, many people would self-identify with what you are describing, regardless of whether or not they would actually act and behave that way.

Ask people if they would initiate force out of the blue and many would say "no". in many different parties. Then ask if they would initiate force if they were in emminent deadly danger. Then it becomes a matter of defining how "dangerous" is "dangerous enough".

Many people would self-identify as saying they don't support torture. I know the republicans are currently favorites of the torture party, but not everyone who is a Republican is in favor of it. Most democrats are against it (though some might favor some forms).

And many would self identify with verbal integrity, keeping promises, saying what you mean, bearing witness to what you did, iterate. I self-identify with those traits. It's been a motto at the top of this blog for a while now.

But for all those who self-identify with those concepts, many would behave in ways vastly different than I would behave in exactly the same situations. That doesn't mean I'm right and they're wrong. It means that two people say they support exactly the same thing, but given specific situations involving those principles, would choose wildly different actions.

And this is the slippery part: Not all those who self-identify as libertarians are going to behave the same way under the same circumastance. More importantly, your definition isn't the ruler for who self identifies with libertarianism, so just because you define what libertarianism means to you, that doesn't mean that other poeple can't call themselves libertarianists and behave in ways that you absolutely fundamentally disagree with.

Based on the small set of principles you've described yourself with, you could be a member of any party, really.

I doubt very much that anyone here is slighting the Libertarians for holding the principles of integrity and honor and limiting the use of force to defensive purposes only. If that is the extent to which you identify as a Libertarian, and someone really IS criticizing the defensive-only use of force, then I'd join you in calling them a ninny.

But I'm not entirely sure that you can define the libertarian party by that small subset and ignore, for example, all those "places that (you) part company with hardcore minarchist libertarianism" as not being Libertarianism, and then assert that attacking Libertarianism for those views is unfair or something.

What you've defined, at least the list that you say defines your libertarianism in #122, is insufficient to define a party boundary with, because those principles apply across many parties. So there must be other principles that separate Libertarianism from, say, Progressives, because I think many progressives would support the idea of not initiating force, of keeping their word, of honoring their contracts, etc. Because, as it is, you've picked a minimal list of principles that many people from many different parties would self identify with, and you've said "this is Libertarianism". At which point, you're definition is too vague to be useful. Because by your definiton, I should be Libertarian, but I'm not.

#127 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 11:26 PM:

Lila 109: quite.

Scott 122: I don't think abi was demanding that you stay or anything. I think she was just expressing that she'd be sorry to see you go. But that's just speculation.

Speaking for myself, I find your comments interesting, and people really are using 'libertarian' in some pretty wacky ways. Marg'ross Thatcher, a libertarian? WhaFu?

Sometimes someone has to be there to say "no, you misunderstand the philosophy you're discussing." albatross explained some things to me that I hadn't understood before. But if I hadn't said what I didn't like about libertarianism, I couldn't have gotten that cleared up.

People are using 'libertarian' in too broad a fashion. But I, for one, wish you would stay and talk about it. But as you say, it's absolutely your choice.

#128 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 11:29 PM:

Bruce #123: Amen! Balko's coverage of the war on drugs and the collateral damage of same is enormously important. It doesn't fit nicely into a right vs left bash-fest, alas, since plenty of people on the left are quite happy with locking drug users up and all that goes with that.

And more fundamentally: If you[1] only care about the rights of people you like, sympathize with, agree with, etc., then you're missing the point of rights. Indeed, you're following a path that leads to Guantanamo Bay and secret prisons.

[1] This is the impersonal you, not addressed to Bruce, who clearly gets this.

#129 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 11:45 PM:

Bruce #123 & 125 -- Dammit, I was thinking of posting along these lines, and you just made pretty much every point I was gonna. I may go do it anyway.

Scott #122 -- Yeah, I've noticed a lot of liberals using "libertarian" the exact same way that the right wing has been using "liberal" these past few decades.

#130 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 11:47 PM:

Marg'ross Thatcher, a libertarian? WhaFu?

Doctor Science didn't say that, he said that libertarians might be people who agreed with *one* thing Thatcher said - "there is no such thing as society" - which was a reaction to a period in British history when some felt there had been a bit too much emphasis on society at the expense of the individual. Pendulum swings, yadda yadda.

#131 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 11:48 PM:

To clarify: I don't think Margaret Thatcher was (is) a Libertarian, but many small-l-libertarians sure seemed to approve of her in her heyday. Her statement about the nature of society, which is what I was citing, is certainly not conservative in any traditional sense, and is one I've heard a lot of libertarians agree with over the years. Thatcher also said she was influenced by Ayn Rand, and Rand's fans often admired Thatcher. Back when they both were in power, Thatcher seemed to me to be much more of a libertarian than Reagan was -- possibly because she was much smarter.

Do you small-l-libertarians disagree with Thatcher about society?

I'm frankly gobsmacked at Scott Taylor's implication @80 that saying libertarians are *incorrect* is the insult that may not be borne. I had no clue I had such power.

#132 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 11:52 PM:

julia, #5, the Park Police Chief who took over from Chambers has been removed from command.

#133 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 12:08 AM:

Xopher #108:

I wanted to comment on a different part of your post, where I don't agree with you at all.

The market SUCKS at providing for the unusual cases, the unusual preferences. Why can't I buy BreatheRight™ strips in my size at the grocery store? Because they have enough customers with Large-size noses to sell as many of that size as they want, so they don't care. That stinks, but in a free society I have to shrug, since I CAN get the things elsewhere.

Geez, I'd say it's just the opposite. Markets are *great* at handling weird preferences, though you often have to pay extra in time or money. Is there some economic system in which you would expect to have your unusual size requirement met at the most convenient store to you, in all circumstances? I'm having a hard time visualizing this.

As an example, we have a pretty free market in books. This doesn't guarantee me the kind of books I want to read[1], or that I will be able to write a book and get it published. But I'm having a hard time imagining an alternative way to decide what books get published and distributed to various readers that would be even remotely as good. When I think of a market, this is the sort of thing I think of. The sellers get to decide what to offer for sale, the buyers get to decide whether to buy any of those things. There's not a Government Printing Authority which is subsidizing the "right" kinds of books, or forbidding the "wrong" kinds, or requiring that I read my quota of mysteries this year because the Mystery Writers' Lobby spent a lot of money making some powerful friends. There's not an election in which all the American people are asked to decide which books or genres will be published. That seems like a pretty overwhelmingly good thing. As it is, we end up with a huge selection of different books. People who want Serious Literature can have as much as they can stomach, others who want SF or mysteries or historical fiction or the whole oddball genre of Jane Austen fanfic can find it.

None of this says that markets are some kind of magical utopia machine where all desires are met and virtue reigns, just that they seem to offer a lot of choices.

...

In fact an unrestrained market can't really accomplish much of anything except making some people wealthy while others starve, until the rich hire some of the poor to kill the rest, or the poor rise up and kill the rich. I prefer the latter outcome to the former, of course, but I prefer our current system, flawed as it is, to either.

By "unrestrained market," what do you mean? It seems like you're thinking of some kind of world with markets but no government, or maybe with a government that is in the power of the rich. But given a government with rule of law and strong courts, I don't think a more-or-less free market leads to anything like this.

An issue that is handled passably well by at least some libertarians is externalities--basically, what happens when a transaction between Alice and Bob dumps a lot of costs on Carol. (It could also dump benefits on Carol.) Some economists have spent a lot of time trying to work out how to handle these in different situations; I recommend David Friedman's book _Law's Order_ for coverage of a very smart and careful libertarian thinker trying to deal with these issues.

An issue I don't think is handled well by most libertarians is the overlap between wealth and power. Free markets tend to pretty big inequalities in wealth[2]. (One bit of evidence for this is that when a totally new industry arises, it commonly produces a few Carnegie/JP Morgan style super-rich people.) Now, to the extent that this is just a difference in wealth, it's not all that big a deal--if I get rich basically by making the world richer and keeping a pretty good share, you're not made worse off. But at some point, that wealth becomes political power; I can get subsidies for my company, or regulations that keep competitors away, or I can have the state police come break up the strike at my factory. I think this is just hard for libertarian ideas to handle. (I'm not convinced that it's handled well by mainstream US political ideas, either.) An irony here is that one of the most well-recognized super-rich people involved in politics is George Soros, who's on the left.

[1] But of course, I do find lots of books I like, thanks partly to various people here.

[2] To clarify, I don't buy the idea that markets lead to a few people having everything and the rest starving, and I don't think history bears that idea out too well. But markets do lead to huge inequalities, and the bigger and freer the markets, the bigger those inequalities can be. And that can lead to power instabilities.

#134 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 12:14 AM:

Doctor 131: I don't think Margaret Thatcher was (is) a Libertarian

Thank you for clarifying that. Btw, I say "was" because her politics while in office are what's relevant. For all I know she's become a bomb-throwing Leftist now, but that wasn't what I was talking about.

Also, speaking of Thatcher in the past tense gives me a wicked thrill, like I'm borrowing against the joy I'll feel when she finally dies.

#135 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 12:18 AM:

Xopher@134: Gonna have to hire some serious security to keep back the people who'll be attempting to piss on that woman's grave. Might be cheaper to just fire her ashes into orbit or something.

#136 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 12:23 AM:

albatross 133: Food for thought. I will think on what you've said, and decide whether I have anything to say on the topic. Combination of too tired now, and realizing that I can't reply off the top to something so complex.

Adrian 135: Definitely a stop on what someone here (too tired to search now) called the Worldwide Micturation Tour.

#137 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 12:30 AM:

xopher,

the joy I'll feel when she finally dies.

boy you are not superstitious enough, making an assertion like that. i mean, what if she dies by detonating herself in a crowd of innocent civilians*?



*god forbid**

**[mimes spitting on the floor]

#138 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 12:30 AM:

Xopher@134, she may not have been a libertarian, but she sure was a Friedman disciple. Insert invective at will for that ilk.

Adrian@135, tossing those ashes into orbit would make space-travelers of many good people, just for the chance...

#139 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 12:32 AM:

Xopher@136: There's even a song.

#140 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 12:33 AM:

Greg: If they think they have a heirachical place in advance of the owner/moderator of a site, then they don't have a clear grasp of legitimate authority.

What I want to understand (and I suspect Teresa too, because I suspect she understands about authoritarian followers) is how they rationalize being in greater authority than I am, at my site/house/place of business.

j h woodhatt: this is a defend to the death your right to say it issue. I see no more irony in defending libertarians than I do allowing Nazis to march in Skokie (or Toledo). Right is right.

#141 ::: Nona ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 12:51 AM:

For the last month and change, I've been joining the DC branch of Anonymous in its various anti-Scientology shenanigans. We've enjoyed a surprisingly good relationship with the police. Over the course of three large protests and numerous smaller-scale activities, there have been zero arrests, and the officers at our protests have said repeatedly that we're just about ideal, as protestors go. On March 15, while I was making sure a path through the crowd was clear for pedestrians, a cop who'd been about to do the same thing said I did as good a job as he could have. On April 12, while brandishing FREE HUGS signs and passing out fliers at the Cherry Blossom festival, I hugged a cop. DC cops read our fliers, take an interest in why we're protesting, and seem to enjoy the silliness, in general. The only encounter with a police officer that was not entirely pleasant was an officer who asked us to remove our masks on the Metro. Technically, he was wrong to ask it of us, but we did it anyway to avoid the fight. Overall, I'm very happy with our good relationship with the DC police.

In Atlanta, the riot squad was called out and two anons were arrested. Their protest was exactly as peaceful as ours, and they tried just as hard to establish a friendly relationship with their police. But DeKalb PD decided they needed to be aggressive, so this happened.

The only lesson I can take from this is that cops who've decided to overreact make that decision without reference to the situation they're faced with. The only solution I can think of is not hiring cops like that, and firing them if you do end up with one on the force.

#142 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 01:06 AM:

Certainly in many cultures dancing is a perfectly standard way to honor the dead. So is lighting incense, pouring libations on their graves, and setting fire to paper mache effigies of things you think they might enjoy in the afterlife. I think Ben Franklin could definitely use some more hookers, and he'd agree.

However, the general rule of manners and often of legalities is "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Thus, I don't think I'll be permitted to go to Liberty Hall and light my hooker pinata, no matter how much I and Ben might enjoy this.

I don't think people should be arrested for goofy dancing at monuments, but I also think that the flash-mobbers were going out of their way to provoke some sort of incident. Greg London pretty much hit the nail on the head.

#143 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 01:29 AM:

This is mostly self-analysis, as I have another round of thinking about things that make me angry and how to make that a constructive rather than destructive kind of inspiration.

I think that I am tempted sometimes to cut Bush, Cheney, and the machine around them too much slack, a lot of the time. That sounds screwy, in light of the kinds of things I say about them, but what I mean is this: too often I act as though their evil is just a given, something to be identified and opposed, of course, but just kind of there.

What happens in practice, though, is that I end up sometimes shouting more harshly at people who actually show good qualities, whether it's Nader supporters and the legitimate criticisms of the party duopoly, libertarians and their many useful points about institutional dynamics, the limits of information centralization, and the like, whoever. But that's dumb. I may end up with a bone to pick with Will Shetterly or Scott Taylor, say, but neither even begins to compare with the President and the folks behind him, or with their loyal lackies like Glenn Reynolds or Stephen de Beste or whoever.

I'm trying to hold myself to a simple rule: never get more angry at the people I agree with sometimes (or a lot of the time) than I do at the people who are actually doing bad things and cheering them on. There is, after all, a tremendous difference between doing something terribly and evil and responding to it in ways that I may regard as less than ideal. In fact, it's the difference between doing evil and not doing evil.

If that's a helpful thought for anyone else, well, you're welcome to share.



#144 ::: Benjamin Bagley ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 01:34 AM:

Full disclosure: I've only skimmed the comments. Apologies if this is repetitive.

Now then: why should this have ANYTHING to do with either (a) the virtues or vices of libertarianism or (b) the "nature of authority"? A few things seem they would be unanimous objects of assent were this not the Internet:

(1) It's bad for cops to beat up kids in parks. It doesn't matter if the kids happen to hold stupid political views. It would be just as bad if the kids were progressives, conservatives, communists, royalists, or members of the Natural Law Party. Note that in saying this I mean to stay officially neutral about whether or not libertarianism is IN FACT a stupid political view. Again, whether it is or not doesn't matter.

(2) There are assholes in every occupation, including the police. We have very good reasons for giving the police an array of powers that are occasionally abused in the manner above. If police didn't have a fair amount of discretion about the people they could, within limits, manhandle or arrest, their abilities to fight crime would be significantly reduced.

(3) The fact that, occasionally, police are assholes to libertarians does nothing to ground ANY conclusions about "the primary mission of authority."

#145 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 01:38 AM:

Addendum: What I left implicit my last is this...I'm trying not to let bad people off the hook for being bad people. If I get angry at someone I think means well, or at least would like to mean well :), then I should be that angry and then some at those who seem to me to not even care, or to actively wish not to mean well. The desire to do well and to have others thrive in a just, open society should never become an extra burden on anyone in my mental tallying of their strengths and weaknesses.

#146 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 01:47 AM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy:

The argument you are making is basically a functional argument: given what we know about the hostile nature of reality, their behavior was stupid and inviting nasty consequences. The argument those who disagree with you are making is an idealistic argument: based on this evidence, reality is clearly borked and we ought to try to change things. Neither side is wrong, really; it's just that their priorities are different. The functional argument is concerned with what individual should have done to avoid the situation, and the idealistic argument is concerned with what we as a society should do to avoid it. One says, the world isn't fair, you'd better learn to deal. The other says, the world isn't fair, we'd better try and change it.

It's not wrong to note that protesting an authoritarian regime will get you killed, and that if someone does protest, and gets killed, they should have seen it coming. But it doesn't make the killing the fault of the killed.

#147 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 02:00 AM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy: I think part of the problem is that I don't see the Jefferson Memorial as being about honoring the dead man, as reminding us of what he did, and what he stands for. So dancing in his honor seems both fitting and proper to me.

As does protesting.

I think the default assumption should be that public spaces are for the public to make use of. How they use it will define how it is seen to be used. Saying one needs to do as the Romans do, is to say the minority is wrong to express themselves.

Of all the places in the US, the Jefferso Memorial seems a place that idea is just plain loco.

#148 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 02:07 AM:

"j h woodhatt: this is a defend to the death your right to say it issue. I see no more irony in defending libertarians than I do allowing Nazis to march in Skokie (or Toledo)."

Okay then. Lemme ask the same question I always ask in situations like this, where it's a "defend to the death your right to say it" thing. Where do I go to get my uniform and marching orders to specifically get in on the "defending to the death" part of all this? (No, I don't mean to ask where I can get in on the defending the rights of Nazis to march through their antogonists neighborhoods... the police seem quite happy to come out in force to do that already.)

Sure, I'll grant that it's not hard to find someplace where they might issue me a uniform and tell me to get busy defending to the death the rights of somebody, somewhere, to do something, but what if I'm more interested in protecting the rights of highly educated annoying gits to dance in public parks than I am in helping to restore the Kuwaiti royal family to their stolen throne? Stopping the DC Park Police from breaking up dances doesn't seem particularly high on the priority list for any of the uniformed services that come to mind. Plenty of other opportunities to get toadcranked for the good of the state, but not so many ways to fight the police and the national insecurity state. There's non-violent civil disobedience, and that's just about it anymore.

You ever seen a Libertarian faction at a street demonstration or a protest action? Me neither.

And that's what I find so damned ironic here. Because... gee, I'd like to find a way to join in a united front, but my experience with Libertarian activists (capitalization is significant) is that most of them, despite their anti-authoritarian rhetoric, are quite comfortable defending authoritarian cultural hegemony mainly because it serves to keep down the hippie freak-out tree-hugging dirt worshippers, like me, whom they despise even more than the tax-man. So, when it's their turn to spend a few hours in the back of a squad car answering pointed questions, maybe that'll give them a reason to review what they said and did, and how they felt, when they saw what their beloved cops did to someone else back in the day.

p.s. One of these days, somebody here is going to spell my surname correctly on the first go, and I'm going to fall over dead from surprise.

#149 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 02:12 AM:

J H Woodyatt: If you review the archives of Jim Henley's weblog, you'll find that Jim took part in protests against the war before it happened, and repeatedly since then. (Also some great discussion about common-cause-making of many sorts.) I already linked to Radley Balko's weblog in this very thread and am not the only one to explain why he's important to our civil liberties right now. That's right in this thread here. Why do you persisting in attacking an entire group with evidence to the contrary directly in front of your face?

#150 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 02:18 AM:

Kevin: I see that Terry and Jennie have already said most of what I was going to say, so I won't repeat it. I will add, though, that I'm disturbed by your baseline assumption that the woman who asked the question must have done so in a rude or harassing manner; it reminds me of the common assumption that a rape victim must have done something to "provoke" the assault. Is there space in your worldview for the concept that the cop might have been over the line?

albatross, #96: I believe you when you say that you haven't heard positions like the ones Terry describes being argued as Libertarianism. But I most certainly have -- adding mfjgates' clarification about Jim Crow practices, which plenty of Libertarians defend as "freedom of association". I can't say much about the torture argument, for the simple reason that I haven't been in the middle of a good Libertarian flamewar since the torture issue really heated up...

Bruce, #125: We all really, really need ways of talking about the splits - formal and informal both - within every American ideology right now

NO SHIT. (IOW, I'm in violent agreement with you.) Part of the reason we're in the mess we're in is that the right-wing power grab started taking control of the public discourse 40 years ago, and nobody on the left even noticed until very recently. They've been defining all the terms and framing all the discussions for two full generations, and we wonder why we can't make any significant headway...

Xopher, #127: WRT Thatcher, I have indeed heard several passionately self-identified Libertarians argue vehemently that (what most of us mean by) "society" does not exist, and that appeals to it are only convenient fictions to enable Government Interference against the Sacred Rights of the Individual.

No, I only wish I was kidding.

#151 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 02:19 AM:

This is also quite apart from the question of whether street action is actually the way to go right now. Glenn Greenwald, for instance, doesn't take part in street actions so nearly as I know. But he and Jane Hamsher and a handful of others are crucial in organizing mass communication efforts that seem to have actually made a difference for the first time since 2000 in slowing down a "security" push the administration really wanted. I refer here to the blocking of FISA "reform".

There are times when any given tactic is helpful, and times when it isn't. It's important not to make any one tactic the standard of judgment when you want to be measuring the whole universe of means to overall goals, if you want to be fair about it.

#152 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 02:22 AM:

Lee, I've also encountered libertarians who insist that there is no such thing usefully referred to as "society" or anything like what's usually meant by "society". And I've seen other libertarians respond to them with posts of the sort that begin "Dear fuckwit..." :)

#153 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 02:48 AM:

Kevin Murphy: "...but I also think that the flash-mobbers were going out of their way to provoke some sort of incident."

It didn't seem that way to me.

If they were trying to provoke some sort of incident, they need to go back to riding the short bus to school. Real provocateurs are a lot better at egging on the cops than these wankers probably ever will be.

#154 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 02:57 AM:

"Why do you persisting in attacking an entire group with evidence to the contrary directly in front of your face?"

Because, A) while some individuals are excellent examples to the others in their cohort, the group as a whole has a much less impressive record than the exceptions you rightly note here, and B) it's personal. Sorry about B), but it's the truth. I'm weak.

Oh, and What Bruce Baugh Said.

#155 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 04:12 AM:

I think the libertarian angle in this is a red herring of unusual size.

For me, it's a combination of "nice idea" with "you can't get there from here". And I suspect it wouldn't work with primates, dogs, or even cats.

Still, there's parts of the libertarian thinking I've come across that I would really like to encourage. There are people with wild and somewhat woolly ideas who I can get along with.

And there are people, of the sort reported to pop up in comment threads, who I would cheerfully disemvowel with extreme prejudice.

Not because they're Libertarians.

Not because they're Republicans.

But bacause they have a child-like tendency ro split the world into "self" and "things", and we are all things to them.

#156 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 04:17 AM:

J H: You know, given the evident reality of people worth liking, respecting, and cooperating with in a group that has a lot of folks you dislike, you can always say things like "Too many X" or "A lot of X" or "I keep running into Xes who". And then you don't put yourself in the position of expecting some of the best folks around to wipe thrown shit off and smile because, hey, you didn't mean to hit them, just everyone around them. Targeting: it is your friend. Adjectives and adverbs: Them too. Otherwise we find ourselves in the silly position of saying that we are as outsiders better qualified to definite libertarianism than Jim and Radley, Christianity than Fred Clark (to grab a great example at random), leftism than Will, Charlie, and China, and so on. It's particularly silly given just how often the tendencies we're criticizing are obviously universal ones.

I do, however, agree 100% that the folks were clearly not trying to be trouble-makers. I have confidence that if some of those folks (based on the ones whose writings I've seen) had meant to make trouble, they could have done it very well.

#157 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 04:52 AM:

j.h. woodyatt: Mea Culpa for my lousy typing, but (at the risk of your health, and with no intent to awaken bygones) the first time I used your surname was correct, and a long time gone.

Where do you get your uniform? You don't. It's one of those things one puts on because one must. I don't see any irony in defending libertarians (and I've seen them at protests, and demonstrations; usually for things I don't happen to agree with, but that's not the point).

The reason I don't see the irony is because there isn't any. If I can swallow my pride and defend Nazi's rights to speak, I can certainly put my schadenfreude pie down long enough to defend a libertarian. I don't think them pushing a purely evil philosophy. Hell, where they are socially actice (cf comments above on Radko's activities against the war on drugs) we are often all in sweet accord.

I think Dave Bell had the right of it that the leanings of the victims in this made for a great distraction. The only thing which would have made it better would have been the harrassed people being Young Republicans.

#158 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 06:01 AM:

Lee--

Why are you assuming my "baseline assumption" is that the woman who was arrested was acting in a rude or harrassing manner? Do you have a matching baseline assumption that the guy doing the arrest was a frothing power rapist just looking for an excuse to arrest someone, and if he couldn't find one, was willing to invent it?

All I know is that X arrested Y, and beyond that can only suppose that either Y wanted to get arrested for some variety of civil protest and court case or else Y didn't want to get arrested but her social skills were insufficient to deal with X.

About the only people I can judge are the ones on the video for more than a few seconds, the cop and the guy with the camera. The dynamic I saw there looked like bossy mall rent-a-cop versus whiny teen, and I frankly wasn't rooting for either of them.

Terry--

There's a difference between the minority having the right to express themselves and the minority deciding to freak the mundanes for fun. I once had a cop pull a gun on me because I accidentally freaked a skittish Japanese exchange student, and again, that was an accident. Going out of your way to do it on purpose? Bad idea.

If you want to convince the Romans to do something new, the easiest bet is to tell them it's something exotic, fun, and basically harmless. Once that's done, they'll either join in or ignore you.

#159 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 06:06 AM:

Lee@150: I may be wrong, but I think that Kevin said he had viewed the videos of the event. In which case he's not making any sort of assumptions, he's making judgements based on data. You may disagree with his judgements, but please at least recognize them for what they are.

#160 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 07:29 AM:

Greg London @126: I'm not sure that you really understand what libertarians usually mean by "initiating force". For them, it's not just what you probably by "basic honor and integrity"- they usually see any violation of property against the owners will governmentsy or individuals as "initiation of force"- any mandatory taxation, any mandatory business regulation, anything that is legally mandatory for people, except for rules against violation of property.

So, for the record, I am in favor of a whole lot of things that libertarians usually see as "initiation of force".

#161 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 07:47 AM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy @ 158: "All I know is that X arrested Y, and beyond that can only suppose that either Y wanted to get arrested for some variety of civil protest and court case or else Y didn't want to get arrested but her social skills were insufficient to deal with X."

Wow. Do you even realize what you just said? Either Y deliberately fucked up, or Y accidentally fucked up. Those are the only choices you see here? No possibility that fault might lie with X? None--you don't even register X as a decision-making actor at all. He's just a force of nature to be finessed or avoided.

#162 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 07:54 AM:

j h woodyatt @ 154: Now that you've admitted that you're just grinding your axe, do you mind terribly if we all just ignore you?

#163 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:31 AM:

General notice:

I am currently unable to spend the time that I would like to on this thread. I will be putting time into it this evening (my time), and if the tone here continues to deteriorate, I will be seriously pissed off.

So when you're previewing your comments, ask yourself how you would feel having that tone and language used at you. Word-swap and read it aloud. If you don't like the sound of it, don't hit post. Because I bet you the moderators won't be impressed either.

Come on, guys, we can do better than this.

#164 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:42 AM:

Teresa@64:

Sure, what I meant to add was that it's a characteristic of ill or non-moderated fora, you know, the places where they say "I don't see why we need any moderation or guidelines, we're all grown ups here..."

(insert standard links to the relevant XKCD and Penny Arcade strips).

And to get back on my hobby horse, the moderator of a forum is just as responsible for the contents of their fora as Zimbardo was for the behaviour of the Stanford "guards" (and Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc are responsible for Abug Ghraib). You build the barrel, you clean the barrel, you invite the apples, if it's full of bad ones, don't blame the apples, or shrug and say "bad barrels happen".

So yeah, I'm talking about badly moderated sites where people aren't pulled up about, in the words of another site, "treating this place like the internet".

#165 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:43 AM:

Raphael #160: Yes. The non-initiation of force idea here applies to individuals and all the groups they form, including government. So if you buy this, it's not okay to draft people, or tax them, or impose antidiscrimination or minimum wage laws on them, or drug laws, or to force their bookstore to stop carrying the wrong kind of books, etc.

FWIW, I wish I could buy this. I don't think there's anything morally special about government in principle, and plenty of government actions (like taxing everyone to raise money to hand out to politically important industries) look all wrong to me. But I don't see how to run a functioning society without government, and that government seems to need to collect taxes (if nothing else, to fund public goods like military defense that can't be billed for). Even worse, once you get into espionage and war, all kinds of normal rules of morality seem to just go out the window. I don't care how p-ssed off you may be at me, or for what good reasons, blowing up my hometown is not going to be a morally acceptable option. And yet, MAD worked, and appears to be the only kind of effective defense against nuclear weapons that we can manage even today. Similarly, it makes sense to give the police some additional powers not given to every citizen, it makes sense to allow courts to compel testimony, etc. These are all powers of government that don't follow the normal rules for individuals.

IMO, one of the interesting problems is how to give government the powers we have to give it to do its job, without letting it go wild with them. If you give me the power to tax and spend money on good causes, it's likely to be pretty easy and tempting for me to slip in a lot of handing out of money to my friends, and heavily taxing people who've annoyed me. If you give me a police force with which to keep the streets safe, I'll have some temptation to use that force to achieve other goals--impose my moral beliefs on others by harassing gays, have my personal or political enemies wiretapped, etc.

This conversation looks primed to take up a lot of time, and unfortunately, I don't have all that much time to devote to it. I'll try to check back later, but I'm not sure how much more I'll be involved....

#167 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:54 AM:

Albatross, the second paragraph of #165 exactly summarizes my outlook of the moment (last few years). I'd like to do with as little special status and privilege as possible, but doing without some seems to open up to much greater evils and also to just plain avoidable nuisances that are harder to fix any other way. I keep hoping someone will demonstrate better ways to do things I think need doing. :)

#168 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:56 AM:

Scott Taylor @ 122: ”As for the Volokhs - if they said those things, then I will flat out say that they are not libertarians (at least not as I was raised) - they might be DGP** fibbertarians, but libertarians don't condone torture”

I’m of several minds on this. On one hand, I don’t think that any group should be judged by their worst members. On the other, they do matter, especially if they constitute a significant minority. If a bunch of people start citing a philosophy as justification for an undesirable set of behaviors, that doesn’t reflect well on it. Nor does it speak well of a philosophy when members feel they have to denounce its most public exemplars. On an even more meta level, why should I, non-libertarian, believe that your definition of libertarianism is more authentically libertarian than theirs? In my experience, they outnumber you.

Nonetheless, I don’t think libertarianism is inherently pernicious.* I believe that most libertarians truly think that their principles will lead to the most liberty, security, and wealth for everyone. I disagree with their policies, but their over-arching goal is the same as mine. They are people who I am pleased and delighted to disagree with, in enlightening and informative ways. (IOW, what Patrick said.)

That said, there is a vocal and nasty minority of self-described libertarians who treat the philosophy as a sort of conservatism-lite: all the authoritarianism and guns, but without the restrictions on drugs* and porn (your DGP fibbertarians). There are enough of them, and they are loud enough, that a number of people here haven’t encountered any other sort. They are shaping how people perceive libertarianism, and they aren’t doing it any favors.

This wouldn't be the first time a political philosophy has been high-jacked by punk-ass kids as an excuse to act irresponsibly. Liberalism is still recovering from the damage done in the Sixties, when it degenerated into a neat excuse to drop out of school, smoke weed, and get laid. (Or so I hear.) If this is what you fear, leaving Making Light wouldn’t be a particularly productive response: the silence of a reasonable, self-aware libertarian isn’t going to improve anyone’s opinions of the philosophy. The best defense against that fate is to speak more, not less, and when you see or hear of faux-libertarians spreading BS, call it out as such.**** I promise that I will listen. I won’t necessarily agree, but I’ll listen.

*I know, damning with faint praise.

**Your world in quips***: If liberals are conservatives who’ve gotten sick, and conservatives are liberals who’ve been mugged, then libertarians are conservatives who’ve gotten high.

***Meaning, in other words, that what follows is a gross distortion of all three philosophies.

****Everyone knows the best way to ingratiate yourself with those who disagree with you is to eat your own. Just ask Joe-mentum.

#169 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 09:06 AM:

Serge @166:

If you're lucky. If not, it will be worse.

#170 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 09:22 AM:

Rapheal@160: I'm not sure that you really understand what libertarians usually mean by "initiating force".

The issue is that several people here have reported what they think libertarians usually mean, but that apparently doesn't jive with what Scott specifically means by his version of libertarianism. Otherwise, there wouldn't be a disagreement and Scott wouldn't be talking about leaving.

Understanding comes from seeing the other person's point of view. Are you telling me your definition of libertarians from your point of view? Because I figured I might be able to understand Scott's point of view by having a conversation with him. I thought I'd try to understand how he views himself as a libertarian, which apparently somehow differs from how he feels several people here are viewing him.

It doesn't matter to me what libertarians usually mean. I think there's been plenty of that already. I'm trying to understand what Scott means.

#171 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 09:36 AM:

Why are you assuming my "baseline assumption" is that the woman who was arrested was acting in a rude or harrassing manner?

Though I'm not Lee, I'm gonna say "because you said so, in #102": "...besides the questions which were repeated--rather annoyingly to my ear..." One's not allowed to repeat a question that hasn't been answered?

I'm sure Benjamin Franklin would have had some tart comment.

Yeah, and it would likely have been along the lines of "Gee, that cop sure does like arresting people for the huge crime of being morons." Only more 18th-century than that.

If so, why bother to differentiate between annoying hectoring questions and polite reasonable ones?

Since, to my recollection, you're the one who brought up the annoying point in the first place, we dunno; why did you bother? Personally I say, "Well, didn't sound hectoring to me, and even if it was that's no reason to arrest the person."

#172 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 09:39 AM:

Lee @28: I don't think I've ever met a rich Libertarian. Most of the ones I know range from "struggling" to "dirt-poor".

Come to Silicon Valley. The strain of libertarianism in the Bay Area seems very much to be of the I've-got-mine-jack variety; and I used to live in a university town where one local loudmouth, single-handedly, probably is responsible for convincing hundreds of people that the primary goal of Libertarianism is to make it legal for middle-aged men to have sex with teenage girls.

Scott, an issue I have with the Libertarian creed you mention is that there's really no enforcement mechanism. As it has been explained to me, at least, anything like a court system is bad (force, plus irrational fear of lawyers, I think), so the fiction is that The Market will take care of it all. If you discriminate, eventually your business will fail; if you cheat, eventually nobody will trade with you; and so on. It's more of a karma-based system. That I don't understand.

#173 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 09:40 AM:

I've stayed out of the discussion partly for lack of time and partly because I agree completely with what Dave Bell says in #155, and I didn't want to add fuel the fire of a potential flamewar. So I have to praise Scott Taylor for trying to state his opinions, and make clear his distaste for the dogpile, while not jumping on it himself. I don't agree with a lot of what I've been told is mainline Libertarian philosophy, but I want people around me who can help me find the problems with the stuff I believe that may be wrong, and I'll try to point out what I think is wrong with their views without trying to emulate a professional wrestler jumping on top of his opponent. The world's complicated enough that no one of us can possibly be right in our analysis of all of it.

IOW, listen to abi, she's got a point. And a disemvoweller.

#174 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 10:09 AM:

Benjamin @144:

AS goes the assholes in every occupation... sure, but don't you find that some police departments, security operations, seem somehow to harbour a lot of "assholes", over and above the level others seem to?

Again, I fear that, in saying "that cop was being an asshole", we're kind of missing the point that "being an asshole" is somehow being snuck into the unwritten job description in some places.

Bad Apples, bad barrels, yada yada yada...

#175 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 10:23 AM:

Now, bearing in mind I was a small child in the 1980's, and therefore Thatcher left no discernible trace on me, it is quite clear that she was elected as a Conservative and proceeded to do her best to destroy much that actual conservatives liked. But she was not a libertarian, unless your definition of libertarian includes authoritatively using the resources of the state to destroy alternatives to the state and possible dangers to her rule.

But she did seem to be a market worshipper.

#176 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 11:22 AM:

#108 ::: Xopher ::

Nancy 103: This is precisely what I don't like about libertarianism. The market won't make people serve members of a despised minority, in fact it rather pushes against that, since the business will go to the people who are best at coddling their (majority) customers' prejudices.

Evidence? Even well before the end of Jim Crow, a few black people made fortunes selling cosmetics for black people.

The market SUCKS at providing for the unusual cases, the unusual preferences. Why can't I buy BreatheRight™ strips in my size at the grocery store? Because they have enough customers with Large-size noses to sell as many of that size as they want, so they don't care. That stinks, but in a free society I have to shrug, since I CAN get the things elsewhere.

I'll second albatross here. What system do you think would do better?

I've been watching the very gradual improvement in availability of large-sized clothing for women. It's infuriating that it's been so slow, but it's all a free-market response.

Or look at the rise of organic food. It was very much a minority (and viewed as crankish) preference at the beginning, but now there are major supermarket chains selling it.

But what happens when no one in town will sell to me or serve me in any way, because of my skin color? I wind up having to move to a place where they will, and that will most likely be a place where other people with my same skin color live. The general tendency will be toward more segregation, and increasing hostility between the communities (because separation breeds fear and resentment), and that leads to violence.

Afaik, it doesn't work like that. Segregation is the result of violence, whether governmental or private with the permission of the government.

There's been some interesting research on "sundowning"-- the practice in the US of driving black people out of rural areas and small towns. It's why black people pretty much ended up in cities in the north.

The Jim Crow laws went a step further, of course: they codified this into law. But making desegregation the law of the land has resulted in a better society, one where most lunch-counter owners wouldn't want to discriminate even if it were legal. The law changed first and the hearts and minds followed. The market cannot accomplish that.

I view that as winning a very large gamble, and I'm still rather twitchy about giving the government that much social control.

In fact an unrestrained market can't really accomplish much of anything except making some people wealthy while others starve, until the rich hire some of the poor to kill the rest, or the poor rise up and kill the rich. I prefer the latter outcome to the former, of course, but I prefer our current system, flawed as it is, to either.

What do you mean by an unrestrained market, and why do you think it precludes the existence of a middle class?

#123 ::: Bruce Baugh

And unless something has changed very recently, Balko is literally the only person in the world speicalizing in SWAT team atrocities and fuckups.

#145 ::: Bruce Baugh

I suspect it's easier to show anger at good people because you think it's more likely that you'll be heard.

#177 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 11:34 AM:

Nancy, very right about the targeting in expectation of being heard. But I know that I find myself skating way too close to the edge of collapse too much of the time these days, and I'm concerned about the well-being of a lot of my friends too, and I'm trying really hard not to use up the people I like.

#178 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 11:54 AM:

In the interest of furthering liberal/libertarian detente, I'd like to recommend David Gauthier's Morals by Agreement. It's the sort of book that Locke might have written if he had known game theory.

#179 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 12:42 PM:

miriam 137: what if she dies by detonating herself in a crowd of innocent civilians*?

Well, that would be bad. I'd still feel joy that she was dead, but it would be overwhelmed by my sorrow over the innocent people she took with her. Sort of like I feel about my birthday; "yay! it's my birthday!" gets buried in "oh shit, it's September 11."

Actually, since she can't really do much more harm these days, I'll probably have an "I sure wish I believed in Hell" moment when she dies.

Dena 138: I think of her as a Reaganite nationalist terrorist whore, actually. I don't care where she got her economic philosophy; it amounts to "stamp on the faces of everyone but the English ('Forget British. I'm an ENGLISH nationalist, and don't you forget it!') upper class."

Did Friedman start it? Well, he can burn in Hell too, if there is one. I do NOT think libertarians (or Libertarians) universally subscribe to Reaganomics or Thatcherism. I'm friendly with some [L|l]ibertarians. I am NOT friends with any Reaganites or Thatcherists, any of whom can kiss my gay Pagan democratic-socialist ass.

Adrian 139: Reminds me of Dylan's "Masters of War," which ends with "...and I'll dance on your grave 'til I'm sure that you're dead." Gotta buy that album.

Terry 140: While I agree with your point here, the Nazi march in Skokie was a deliberate provocation, intended to incite violence. I don't think there's a right to deliberately incite violence. That's a right-to-swing-your-fist issue.

Nona 141: That's fascinating. Thanks for telling us about that. And congratulations successfully keeping the peace without inconveniencing pedestrians. Good work.

Lee 150: That sounds an awful lot like what I've come to know as "Consuite Libertarianism." It's mostly promulgated by adolescents (either literal or socially-arrested) who would be dead within minutes of the establishment of the kind of system (or lack of same) they advocate. My reaction to them is to roll my eyes and talk to someone else. In my experience they outgrow it eventually.

In other words, it's just a phase.

Bruce 152: There we go. 'Fuckwit' is the right word.

j h 154: Could you elaborate on B, so that we know where you're coming from? This will help us judge your comments appropriately, though it may not help you make your case.

Kevin 158: I don't see them as doing FTM on purpose. I know that I have danced and sung in many an unusual place, for the pure joy of doing so. I especially like to sing in empty and acoustically "live" spaces. When someone walks by and hears, I'm generally more embarrassed than anything else. The Jefferson Memorial at night doesn't seem like a place you'd expect to encounter crowds of mundanity anyway. Dancing is its own joy; no audience required.

heresiarch 161: I entirely agree.

__________ 162: Uncalled-for.

__________ 168: libertarians are conservatives who’ve gotten high.

The way I heard it is "Republicans who smoke pot." Glib, as you say, and certainly one could not accuse Jim Henley of that, but I've encountered these fuckwits, and I'm sure they're even more annoying to Jim Henley than they are to me.

Nancy 176: Even well before the end of Jim Crow, a few black people made fortunes selling cosmetics for black people.

The world isn't made up of cosmetics, of course. You could make more money running a diner for whites only than by running an integrated one, and black people were pretty much barred from the best restaurants.

When I was in junior high, I wanted to be a teacher. I've always loved teaching, and it's a real vocation for me. But I realized two things: one, that I was gay, and two, that gay men were not allowed to be teachers. This has changed now, but it's too late for me. I've lost jobs when my employers found out I was Wiccan. This is still happening even with laws against it.

I think that the right to serve or not serve (or employ or not employ) based on any grounds good or bad will lead us back to NINA signs, or the equivalent. I don't want to live in that kind of society.

What system do you think would do better?

That was meant as an example of the annoying outcomes of the free market. Cylert is a better example. I can't get the medicine I need, and that will allow me to live a better, longer life, because some fatass corporation pulled strings and got it banned. It was government that banned it, but it was the market that drove the corporation to take that action. Better system: well, in this case you have to begin by slaughtering all the Naderites, so maybe I don't see a way to get there, but certainly the FDA could be better insulated from the influence of the market and the party in power.

I view that as winning a very large gamble

Can you think of a technique that had as good a chance of getting from where we were to where we are, even without knowing how things turned out? I certainly don't think the MARKET would have accomplished that. If you do, then we have a fundamental point of disagreement.

What do you mean by an unrestrained market,

It's become clear in this conversation that a completely unrestrained market (that is, one with no laws or regulations restricting what can be sold, or in what way, or for how much) is not being advocated by anyone here (well, maybe the "how much" part).

and why do you think it precludes the existence of a middle class?

Hmm. Well, first, I don't, particularly; they're just irrelevant to the eventual conflict between the fabulously wealthy and the starving poor, being considered "not our kind" by both sides.

But second, as our society has become less and less regulated (in economic terms), the middle class has gotten smaller and smaller. Some people who were comfortably middle class before are now poor, even homeless. A much smaller group have "made it" and are now among the wealthy. But perhaps that process doesn't continue seamlessly as deregulation progresses; I just can't see any reason for it to stop.

#180 ::: Ken ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 01:12 PM:

The crime here seems to have been "conduct difficult for the police to categorise". People must not do things for fun. We are not here for fun. There is no reference to fun in any Act of Parliament.

#182 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 01:22 PM:

Kevin: You keep ascribing motive to people. Oddly, I also see the theme of doing as the Romans do to be something you've used before. Who are the Romans here? The cops? The other oddballs who chose to come to the Monument (not memorial) at the hour of midnight? What is it about what they did (apart from the cops getting upset) which makes them not the romans, and so subject to being chastised and arrested (even if only by accident)?

All I know is that X arrested Y, and Y didn't seem to be doing anything unreasonable.

I'm not understanding why you think the people who were harrassed were wrong. There's also, to me, a tone of justification, that while it's regrettable the cops overreacted, it was to be expected because these people weren't acting like romans.

Well, they are "romans". Just as you or I. So you seem to be ascibing a need for conformity (lest one be, "accidentally" arrested. I don't like that level of social pressure.

David Goldfarb: I disagree, by imputing motive (which the videos can't show) he is making assumptions.

albatross: The question is (as it ever has been) what are the legitimate roles of gov't. Once the roles are determined, then the taxes can be assessed. After that come the details. The present spending binge shows the problems of having a legitimate need (defense) being practiced in an illegitimate manner.

The checks, to keep things in balance, are the really hard part.

We also have the questions of passive advantage. Who pays for the roads? Calif. has a flaw in the present system; properties only get assessed when sold. Businessess which remain in place, don't see an increase in taxes.

But the costs of roads, police, and fire (the first two of which they tend to use more of than residential use needs; and the last can be a lot more expensive. A lumber yard going up is a really spectacular thing, and a dry cleaner is a hazard).

So the residents end up subsidizing the business, who is thus taxing the citizens.

Add the "tweaks" (such as capital gains being taxed less than income, but the majority of people who are in the capital market (401k plans, IRAs) have that money treated as income (because it wasn't taxed when earned), and the people who are moving capital are able to take advantage of the upward pressures all that money causes, at a lower rate of taxation than those who made it possible.

Again, the well-to-do are shifing the burdens to those who aren't as well off. How to prevent that is the problem to a fair tax code. The problem is, the people with the money are the ones who have access to the halls of power.

I think part of the role of gov't is to see that the dichotomy doesn't become oppressive. There really isn't a reason to have the sorts of poverty we have. The questions are how to bridge that gap.

#183 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 01:48 PM:

Heresiach #161:

"Wow. Do you even realize what you just said? Either Y deliberately fucked up, or Y accidentally fucked up. Those are the only choices you see here? No possibility that fault might lie with X? None--you don't even register X as a decision-making actor at all. He's just a force of nature to be finessed or avoided."

The fault can certainly lie with X. There are lots of aggressive cops the same as there are viscious dogs. However, whenever I hear a "dog bites child" story, I don't automatically side with the "That dog is viscious and must be destroyed!" crowd nor do I side with the "My precious Foo-Foo would never hurt anyone!" side either. I try to assess the actual situation.

What I saw in the video was a woman explaining something to a cop, then the guy with the camera talking to another cop with neither of them being marvels of diplomacy, then finally a woman (possibly the one seen earlier, maybe another who looked similar) being led away in handcuffs.

As for how the first scene led to the final scene, I don't know. I can only make suppositions, most of which will likely be wrong, but any of which are plausible. Woman possessed by the shade of Zsa Zsa for a cop-slapping moment? Possible. Cop possessed by Cartman: "You must respect my au-tho-ro-tah!"? Possible. Woman says something which is misheard by cop, leading to tragic misunderstanding? Also possible. Other scenarios? Undoubtedly.

Now whether the cops should have been asking the flash-mobbers to clear out is another question, but while it would be nice, I can't expect cops to be paragons of all virtues with oracular-level threat assessment and encyclopedic knowledge of the law with unquestionably fair and reasonable decisions pleasing to all citizens. Hell, we can't even get that from our Supreme Court Justices. You expect it from someone working the graveyard shift for the park patrol?

If you want to legality prank the cops, you should probably be better prepared.

I remember an anecdote I heard back in Santa Cruz about an initiation prank done to rookie cops: There was (and probably still is) a beach which is topless by legal code but generally non-topless by prevailing social custom and the right of toplessness not posted. (And Santa Cruz itself is legally clothing-optional but by custom actually clothed: http://www.metroactive.com/papers/cruz/09.22.99/guide-nudity-9938.html) Some women would go the beach, doff their tops and wait for the shock from fellow beachgoers who did not know this was a topless beach, followed by them squealing to the local rookie cop, then the rookie showing up and asking them to put their tops back on, at which point they'd hand him a copy of the Santa Cruz legal codes.

In any case, the only reason this video is more than a footnote is because someone got arrested, and that's the thing we're curious about and debating. If there's eventually a court hearing, it should be entertaining.

#184 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 01:57 PM:

Xopher: I don't think it was to incite violence. I think the march in Skokie was a really tough edge case. On the one hand, I think it was a form of violence. They were there to show the locals that there were people who wanted to exterminate them.

On that level (a sort of social terrorism), I think they could have been banned. But proving it, before the ban can be implemented, has to be high.

Because there will be people who are hideously offensive, but don't cross that line. I think, much as I loathe them, the Westboro Baptists are in the latter category. They (so far) are merely saying God will take retribution. They don't advocate doing it themselves.

Slaughtering all the naderites is probably uncalled for.

Nancy Lebovitz: Xopher says an unrestrained market. You ask what he means. I made reference to the Gilded Age (and there was a reason I mentioned OSHA as a bête noir of the "L"ibertarian; it seems to be seen as the camel's nose) I had a friend (dead now) who appalled me with what he planned to do for a living.

He was studying design, and planned to go into reverse ergonomics. Things like making chairs look good, but be uncomfortable to sit in for more than ten minutes, so the customers in your coffee shop/diner won't linger.

Thinks like making a brickwork floor for the watercooler and the smoking area, so people won't spend time chatting, and so stealing productivity.

I worked in a machine shop. My boss would have been happier if there weren't any safeties on the end-mill (end mills are funny; the cut-off has to be defeatable, or lots of the prep-work can't be done, but they will remove body parts if one is at all inattentive). They had no problem with making a 5/12 work schedule for about eight weeks.

By Thursday afternoon I was a moderate danger to myself. By Friday, well I'm lucky I still have all my fingers. I do have a scar on my scalp, and smashed the be-jesus out of my right ring finger.

For those I was punished.

Absent OSHA, the smashed finger would've been amputated. y boss (more "L"ibertarian than not; though he thought drugs were bad) didn't like OSHA.

I keep seeing the flagships of the movement (Such as reason) saying gov't regulation of things like that is bad. That we'd be happier if gov't didn't make business do things, because that "forces" business to adhere to the minimums, and they would do better than that in a "free marketplace". Well, what stops them now? If better treatment of workers was something so obvious, why does Costco get told by the business press that it needs to pay less to employees, not provide benefits and stick it to suppliers?

I don't think the Wal-Marts of the world will suddenly decide to pay a living wage if minimum wages are repealed. Where companies have enforced rules in one country, and fewer rules in another, they tend to pay less, and extract more in the country where they don't have to pay as much.

I am a social libertarian. I think fist swinging/nose hitting is about the limit of what should be prohibited (and the edge cases of where my nose begins are tough, but I'm usually willing to put up with a minor bop on the nose before I want to stop the arm).

Police powers are the real meat of the matter. Who enforces the rules. I don't think it can be done without some form of state (be that a tribal one, or a nation). To have the sort of life I like to live requires a nation, and a pretty complex one.

Which means a lot of regulation of business interactions, because companies don't have souls. Hershey takes advantage of slave labor to make chocolate, and I don't see (so long as they have people to sell to) any reason they wouldn't be happy to do that here; maybe in a more enlightened form (a la Henry Ford).

I've not seen any system of libertarian paradise which doesn't have a bunch of handwavium to prevent such a thing.

#185 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 02:09 PM:

"Now that you've admitted that you're just grinding your axe..."

Actually, I admitted that I have an axe, and one of the things I'm doing is grinding it (sorry! I'm trying to quit!), but it's certainly not the only thing I'm doing. (You're free to continue ignoring me anyway, if you like.)

My point— and yes, I'm honestly trying to make one between the compulsive axe-grinding— is actually not that far off the mark from what Dave Bell says above about the Libertarian angle here being a huge distraction from the basic issue at hand, which if I'm deconstructing Avram's original post clearly, is mainly about the cultural hegemony of American authoritarians and how we might go about resisting it. I'd like to talk about that, please.

Sadly, too many of the Libertarians with which I'm personally acquainted, i.e. every last one out of more than a dozen whose names come readily to mind, including family members with whom I am now estranged, are pretty clearly going to be lining up behind the cops when they come to crack down on the next non-violent protest I'm involved in. Why is it that I gotta defend to the death their right to go twirling in public parks and to resist arrest when the cops bust up the joint, but they get to cheer and hoot and holler when I get thrown in the hole for the same damned thing?

Maybe it would be a lot prettier if we picked better examples to illustrate the problems we really want to talk about. Like— oh, I don't know— say, why there isn't yet an independent counsel to investigate whether "the Principles" may have been a conspiracy to commit war crimes. That seems to me like a fine example to use in illustrating the basic problem at hand.

#186 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 02:12 PM:

Terry: I DO NOT REALLY WANT TO SLAUGHTER ALL NADERITES. Just to be clear. Much as they annoy me. The necessity of doing that as a first step to get somewhere I did want to go was cited as an insurmountable barrier to getting there, because of course, being a decent sort, I DO NOT REALLY WANT TO SLAUGHTER ALL NADERITES.

#187 ::: novalis ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 02:14 PM:

Avram, re #19: It's not clear that in fact kittens were stomped.. I'm not privileging the testimony of the ATF agents over that of the Lamplughs because they're federal agents. I'm doing so because the Lamplughs have a history of dishonesty.

Still, there are plenty of examples of bad behavior on the part of federal agents.

#188 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 02:34 PM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy @183 -- Now whether the cops should have been asking the flash-mobbers to clear out is another question, but while it would be nice, I can't expect cops to be paragons of all virtues with oracular-level threat assessment and encyclopedic knowledge of the law with unquestionably fair and reasonable decisions pleasing to all citizens. Hell, we can't even get that from our Supreme Court Justices. You expect it from someone working the graveyard shift for the park patrol?

Whether they should have been asking them to clear out is not "another" question, it is THE question. And yes, I expect the park patrols on all shifts to know the rules related to who is allowed there, and when, and what behaviors are prohibited/allowed. I seriously expect that. And if they screw up, they should be called to account. It matters.

If you want to legality prank the cops, you should probably be better prepared.

And if you don't have any intention of legality pranking the cops, but rather behave in an unorthodox but LEGAL manner, how, pray tell, should you prepare yourself? In your own words from 73,

If you're going to have a spontaneous flash mob dancing silently with their iPods to honor the spirit of Jefferson, reenacting select scenes from The Crucible, or dressing up in black lace and playing Rock-Paper-Scissors until they declare one of them King of the Vampires, the sensible thing to do is to have some well-mannered spokesman for the group go act as liason to the mundanes, particularly the cops.

You seem to be congratulating yourself on the liasing skills of your group, but the situation you describe in 32 doesn't sound any different than the one depicted in the Balko video. Your situation could have ended the same way, as you yourself say -- it wasn't totally under your control, it was also the result of interacting with ultimately reasonable cops. And that was just plain luck.

I guess I'm bothered both by your apparent shoulder-shrugging about the violations of civil liberties, and by your apparent belief that situations can be resolved if you're only diplomatic / polite / whatever enough. (And if the situation turns out badly, then it's because one wasn't "XXXXX" enough.) If this doesn't accurately reflect your views, clarification would be appreciated.

#189 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 03:03 PM:

My problem with markets as a means of interpersonal interaction is that they're focused on money, when what we really value (if we're healthy and sane) is people. At best, the improvement of the lot of humankind seems to be posited as some sort of side effect of a spherical market of uniform density.

To me, that feels like being told to watch the shiny thing and hope everything comes out OK. I keep wondering who's not watching the shiny thing and getting away with the non-monetizable goods, like our civil liberties, or our health*.

Having said that, I have no problem with people who put "minimal government interference" higher on their lists of priorities than I do. I may dispute their views, and try to change their minds†, but I would not and will not drive them from my community, nor suffer them to be so driven.

And anyone who wants to dance is on my side.

-----

* I can't see any reason that an unregulated market for health care would result in universal coverage. The market price is set at the balance between what people are willing to pay and what the suppliers are willing to charge. It may be more profitable to supply some at a higher price than all at a lower one.

† In which effort I find civility and respect to be highly useful tools; hectoring, not so much.

#190 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 03:39 PM:

Adrian@139: More than one song, even. (I linked to the only page I could find, but it has two songs on it. I'm referring to "Bad Miss M", the second song.)

#191 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 03:57 PM:

Abi #189: My problem with markets as a means of interpersonal interaction is that they're focused on money, when what we really value (if we're healthy and sane) is people.

I dunno. When I'm (fer instance) hungry, what I value is food. The fact that it's easier to turn money into food than people into food is probably a good thing for everybody.

My problem with the phrase "markets as a means of interpersonal interaction" is that markets (in the traditional sense, referring to the exchange of goods and/or services -- I'm not talking about the examination of other interactions through economic thinking, though that can be a valuable source of insight) are not supposed to be a substitute for other forms of interpersonal interaction. There's nothing about living in a market-based economy that keeps you from having lovers, friends, families, and other non-market-based relationships.

#192 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 04:11 PM:

I stay out of most of the political threads here because I find it challenging to talk politics (anywhere, not just here) in the constructive and friendly voice that makes this blog one of my favorites. But I honestly think I've got a perspective on the Libertarian-bashing that some may find illuminating, as long as nobody mistakes it for me trying to change minds. (I'm not.)

I used to consider myself libertarian, before I decided that the typical libertarian minarchist wants more government than I do. These days, I'd call myself some sort of right-anarchist, I guess, saying "right" to distinguish myself from folks who hate markets. (I don't; I consider them vital and important; like fire, a useful servant but a dangerous master.)

So anyway, if you're one of the people in this thread who are dissing libertarians because of how impractical they are, you can double-diss me. Libertarians think I'm too impractical.

And here's the secret to it: I despise government because of its methods, not (so much) because of its results, which are mixed / variable / sometimes not too bad. (Can also result in the worst horrors mankind has ever seen. Your mileage may vary.)

Someone up thread mentioned the non-aggression principle, which I've always considered the touchstone of libertarianism. As a moral principle, it's the idea that you shouldn't use force except in self-defense; you shouldn't initiate the shooting and the blood-letting.

Trouble is, when a government, any government, wants something done, and demands it (passes a law, regulation, ordinance, what have you), that thing that gets done gets done by initiating violence. Not overtly, usually; but if somebody refuses to comply, consistently and effectively, eventually men with guns will come around to have a word. And, if words fail, there will be shots fired, or billy clubs swung, or handcuffs, or prison bars. Violence, thuggery, and death. Every thing that government does is backed by initiated violence. It's all done by force, even the "good" stuff.

And that, it seems to me, is wrong. If it's wrong for me to take what I want at gunpoint, what's the alchemical magic that makes it right to take the same thing at gunpoint "for the good of society"? I've never found it. This is where I part from many people whose goodwill I do not doubt. They seem to me to be so blinded by the manifest goodness of what they can get (for society at large, not just for themselves) by having a government, that they are not willing to consider the moral cost.

I'll pick just one example from this thread, though many people here have identified good stuff that needs government to happen. Abi in #189 mentions universal health care. Wow, that's an awesome dream. I want it. And without initiation of force, we'll never have it. Markets, even magic markets in the anarchist utopia where everybody is rich because (insert your favorite libertarian propaganda here) won't provide it, because that's not how market allocation works.

So, I want it, but do I want it at the cost of making other people labor at gunpoint for it? No, because that's wrong. And because ends do not justify means, it doesn't magically become right just because I'm doing it in the name of prenatal nutrition (or whatever).

And if it's wrong for me, then it's wrong for you. And it's wrong for us, meaning all of us, because there's no special magic about standing in a group when we start pulling guns on people to make them do what we want. (Another place where I part company with people of manifest goodwill. Lots of them think there is something magic about standing in a group when initiating force. They call this "democracy" instead of "going for a good plunder" but sometimes I can't tell the difference.)

That's my problem with government. It's just wrong. It's a moral perversion. And so, to me, it really doesn't matter how much shiny cargo it can deliver.

So, why deliver my basic anarchy rant here? Because several people have talked here about how they don't "get" libertarianism, after which they start talking about all the shiny cargo (social good) that libertarianism cannot deliver. That's a utilitarian "greatest good of the greatest number" argument, and a powerful one if you accept utilitarianism, as many do.

There's a Latin legal maxim that translates "let justice be done, though the skies fall." To me, it means that we need to stop ordering our fellow humans around at the point of a gun. Will the skies fall? Would the result be red of tooth and claw? I don't know. I don't think so, but I don't know. But it doesn't matter so very much to me, if the alternative is something I can only obtain at gunpoint.

That's my take on the non-aggression principle. Shared here not to persuade -- I'm pretty sure it's a moral view that's despised by people here whose good opinion I value -- but to try to explain what libertarians (the good ones) are on about.

Hope it helped.

P.S. The people who claim to be libertarians who also think torturing the Enemies of America is just hunky-dory? Sorry, I can't help you with them; they baffle me, too.

#193 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 04:15 PM:

Avram @191:

I wasn't arguing for the abolition of money (not till my shipment of handwavium comes in, anyway). Money is a useful counter, and one of many means by which humans interact for their mutual benefit.

I was arguing against the obsession with money, and the idea that the market is the best way to run a society made up of human beings. That seems at best a distraction and at worst a trap.

#194 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 04:25 PM:

Terry--

Cross-posted.

I'm trying not to ascribe motive for the most part, but everyone has to look at something and make their best guess, and coming up with a dichotomy of "Well, either she wanted to be arrested or else she didn't" seems pretty objective to me.

With the "the Romans," what I'm saying "prevailing social custom" which is not the same thing as "legal right" but very often comes to the same thing, de facto and du jour synching up.

If I go to a new town or state or wherever, hell if I know what the local laws are. What I go by is what I see the locals doing, and from that I learn whatever is either legal or illegal but tolerated. Can I get a drink? Can I walk down the street with an open container of alcohol? Can I take one in my car?

Cops default to the same custom, and it's a good thing too. Otherwise they'd run around enforcing ridiculous blue laws, like the one in San Jose against fortune-telling that's violated by anyone with a pack of Tarot cards or a newspaper horoscope.

Contrawise, while it's legal for me to walk down the street in a ski mask because I'm on my way to a ninja party or just because I think it makes a cool fashion statement, the cops may wonder why I'm dressed like a pantomime mugger and will probably come and ask me about this.

As for whether I think the flash-mobbers did anything wrong, wrong in what sense? Wrong illegal? No. Wrong as in a social faux pas? Debatable. We're talking culture-subculture-counterculture here. Wrong from a diplomacy standpoint? Well it certainly could have gone better, couldn't it?

As for the cops doing anything wrong, in order: Wrong assessment of the threat level of the situation? Yes. Wrong from a diplomatic standpoint? Again, could have gone much better. Wrong legally? There's a huge amount of elastic put it into statutes about "disturbing the peace" and "loitering," so while I think they made the wrong call about what to do about the flash-mobbers (I believe the right call would have been "Ignore them until they get bored and go away"), I do think they had the authority to make that call. And as abuses of authority go "Please go rock-out with your iPod somewhere else" is pretty damn mild.

The arrest itself is troubling, but I'm certain we'll be hearing more details soon enough.

#195 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 04:56 PM:

Debbie--

Cross-posted: "I guess I'm bothered both by your apparent shoulder-shrugging about the violations of civil liberties, and by your apparent belief that situations can be resolved if you're only diplomatic / polite / whatever enough. (And if the situation turns out badly, then it's because one wasn't "XXXXX" enough.) If this doesn't accurately reflect your views, clarification would be appreciated."

Civil liberties are always debatable and so are violations thereof. It's right there in the Bill of Rights: "unreasonable searches and seizures." What the hell is "unreasonable"? Getting people to agree on that is the art of diplomacy.

As for my belief that situations can be resolved through diplomacy, sure. It's not just luck that makes cops reasonable. Politeness and reason work wonders, and when they don't, they work on the cop's superiors, who inform them as to what's "reasonable" this week.

What we're also seeing is part of the process. Give it an extra week or two of phonecalls and someone higher up will be telling the park patrol "Yes, goofy dancing is permitted" and things will be hashed out.

#196 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 05:16 PM:

Abi #193: I was arguing against the obsession with money, and the idea that the market is the best way to run a society made up of human beings. That seems at best a distraction and at worst a trap.

That looks to me like a false equivalence.

#197 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 05:17 PM:

What we're also seeing is part of the process. Give it an extra week or two of phonecalls and someone higher up will be telling the park patrol "Yes, goofy dancing is permitted" and things will be hashed out.

Shouldn't they have gotten that part right away: if it isn't explicitly forbidden, that it's allowed?

Why should it take weeks (or years) for the necessary apologies and changes to come down from On High? They ought, should be able, to make the necessary changes and apologies so much faster from that end.

#198 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 05:21 PM:

Avram @196:

That looks to me like a false equivalence.

I presume you mean between the idea that the market is the best way to run a society and the obsession with money?

I'd say rather that the latter is a common consequence of the former.

#199 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 05:39 PM:

Kevin: So the rule of conformism is the one that cops are supposed to use? I've been hassled by cops because I looked out of place. I understood why they did it.

And you know what, some of it was still wrong. Deciding to squeeze my chest and accuse me of committing some crime because when I'd just been followed for more than block in a spotlight and they were threatening to arrest me (because I'd trotted across a street to avoid the risk of being hit by said cop car: they assumed I knew they were cop, and so was fleeing for some reason) my heartbeat was elevated.

That was out of line. Threatening to arrest me was out of line.

Had I been black (and so not matched the societal norm in that chunk of town) I don't doubt for a second that I'd've ended up in jail.

Mostly for not being Roman enough.

I think what bothers me is that you tend (I'm basing this on having re-read some other posts, when I was looking for my first conversation with j.h. woodyatt) to say that not acting like the romans is a reasonable reason for the state to overreact, and you ascribe the more forgiving motive to the enforcer, and the less forgiving motive to the person the force of state is landing on.

My experience is that having "the Romans" decide you aren't one of them, leads to being abused. It's bad enough when the social pressures to conform are brought to bear. I won't condone the force of the gov't being used to enforce that conformity, and when someone is arrested for not being adequately "normal" in their, otherwise legal, behavior, that's scary to me.

Because I've been in jail for that. Dismissed charges don't make up for it. A legal subterfuge (which was illegally done, but how am I to pay a lawyer to make a case for something that wasn't likely to cover it's own court costs, much less his fees?) to paper it over actually made it worse (I was unarrested, and the only valid reasons; per the statute used) were that I was in a minor drug bust, or in need of psychiatric help, since the actual charge was that I'd fired shots at a house, well it was an interesting time).

My offense? I was a competitive air-rifle shooter and I practiced in my yard. When the next door neighbor's kid shot through our fence and hit her house (narrowly missing her husband) she said I had done it.

Next thing I know I'm in the back of a cruiser.

My crime? I had a "non-normal" hobby.

So perhaps I'm touchy on the subject, but all in all, I prefer that the outlier not be abused by the police, unless they actually hit me in the nose with that swinging fist.

#200 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 05:40 PM:

Daniel Boone @ 192, I think that's got to be one of the best descriptions/defenses of idealistic libertarianism I've ever read. Thank you.

I still think it's flawed, and in the same way that Communism (which I find very appealing in principle) is. Both of them are systems that work just fine, as long as everyone in the group living under it thinks exactly alike about it. Both require a remarkable amount of selflessness from everyone involved in order to produce a society with good outcomes. My attitude (these days) toward idealist collectivism is: it's a perfect system, on paper. Unfortunately, humans are neither perfect, nor paper. I think idealistic anarchy is much the same.

Also cf. our Gracious Hostess, from the sidebar of Commonplaces: "If there is no willingness to use force to defend civil society, it’s civil society that goes away, not force."

You say :Will the skies fall? Would the result be red of tooth and claw? I don't know. I don't think so, but I don't know.

But I think we can draw instructive parallels from places where the rule of law has disappeared, like Darfur. It may be as you say, that this is preferable to making people pay taxes with the tacit implication that force may be used to make them comply. But I can't help but think living in a society where I don't have to hide in the bush every night hoping I am not found and repeatedly gang-raped more than makes up for filing my taxes.

#201 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 05:56 PM:

#200

See also the New Harmony community, and Brookside Farm, and other movements predating Karl.

Just about every socialist/communist (no caps, because this is the general case) effort fails because people can't maintain that selfless ideal. The only exceptions I know of are monasteries and Shaker communities, both of which rely on outside recruits for new members, and kick out those who don't conform.

#202 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 06:07 PM:

Oops. For "Darfur" please read "Congo," or if you prefer, for "hide in the bush every night hoping I am not found and repeatedly gang-raped" read "live in fear that I will be kidnapped, raped, or murdered"--I am confusing my atrocities.

Would there were not enough of them for me to be confused about. :(

#203 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 06:20 PM:

re @192: "As a moral principle, it's the idea that you shouldn't use force except in self-defense; you shouldn't initiate the shooting and the blood-letting."

In which case, you have no rule of law at all, and no way to enforce civil society. "Self-defense", after all, is a limited concept. There is no way to enforce agreements, protect property or prevent future harm; a murderer walks free because he's not harming you and the only person with a claim of "self-defense" is not around to exercise it.

#204 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 06:37 PM:

Daniel Boone: What you're missing, I think is the context.

Take a simple case. Yesterday I robbed you and stole your car. Today you see me driving, in compliance with traffic rules and principles of safe driving, in your car, which you can prove is yours, and there's your stuff in the back seat. You, or the cops on your behalf, stop me and make me give it all back. My rights are not violated even though I wasn't giving offense to anyone else's well-being just at that moment. The fact is that it was your stuff.

Likewise, it's a convention of libertarian thinking that the threat of force is also a kind of aggression. Breaking my arm to make me sign a contract with you is, of course, force. A sufficient quantity of big men in dark suits who lovingly stroke their baseball bats while you encourage me to sign is very likely also force, even though I don't actually get hurt.

And finally, there's a gray zone where people can reasonably differ on how and when claims fade. People who wilfully keep themselves blind to how their vendors got the stuff they're selling, dupes, the passage of time, honest ignorance...there is no obviously uniquely correct bright line where your right to get your stuff back stops, and people who share the principles can and will disagree. (This is entirely separate from people acting in calculatedly unprincipled ways, like Robert Nozick's use of NYC's rent control laws to force unwanted new terms on his landlord. I'm assuming throughout this post people who wish to hold to their professed principles and who are making a real effort to be informed about the world around them. It's more interesting that way, for one thing.)

It's easy to apply the non-aggression principle in an environment that starts off fair. But the real world never is. If I use your stolen goods to pay for leverage that gets me into a position of authority and then we come to negotiate, I have an unearned advantage over you, and you have an unearned disadvantage. If I frame you for a crime and get you to plea bargain and confess to something you didn't do, your confession is not really testimony to anything except how threatened you felt and how you assessed the odds of defending yourself in a hostile environment.

Do you know the phrase sundown town? I encountered it in college then forgot it about it until Dave Neiwert wrote about it earlier this year. It refers to towns where the white citizens expelled their black neighbors with however much force it took. The perpetrators and victims are often both dead now...but there are families with wealth they never earned, and others cast adrift and poor for no fault of their own. The heirs exist in a basically unjust environment, however fair a particular translation in isolation may seem.

The primary justification for the state, for some of us, is precisely that it can act as an overall regulator in that atmosphere of background injustices that cannot or will not be fairly adjudicated individually. Often the harm and benefit are both now well diffused throughout the society. But that doesn't mean they aren't there, or that the resulting overall distribution of status and opportunity should be respected as presumptively fair. Taxation, regulation, and compensation all move the combined circumstances of citizens and participants in society toward an actually honest and just arrangement.

Or at least they can. They can be abused, but then everything can be abused. They're tools, not magic gods or demons. But much of what the state does actually supports the conditions in which individuals and groups can make their own matrix of interactions on a better foundation than "all the harm that nobody fixed in time and whatever the bad guys could get away with".

#205 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 06:43 PM:

Kevin: Unreasonable might be debateable, but the right to peaceably assemble is something which "Congress shall make no law restricting". I suppose one might argue that it only applies to "petitions for redress of grievance" but I don't think that's really a good reading on it (and the general rejection of riot acts shows me to be not alone in that reading).

The question is still one of what limits are the police to adhere to? For me the right of the people (even to be odd in public) to be left alone is above that of the cop to see that nothing out of the ordinary happens.

alsafi: In an ideal world, where everyone believes in the good of all, then anarchy might work.

In the real world, the places where the gov't have failed I've not seen a massive outbreak of peaceful feeling and sacrifice to the general good.

And the question becomes, "what is violence"? Is taking a chunk of land to make a road to the hospital violence?

Perhaps the refusal to give up the land could be seen as violence. The problem I have with anarchy (and really extreme "L"ibertarianism) is that living together requires compromise, and those systems don't really have good mechanisms for conflict resolution.

Making each man the defender of his own rights, and goods, is a recipe for strongarm theft and severly isolationist mindset. It makes compromise harder. The present system (wherein one is handed a social contract at birth; and the option to find one which one agrees with is both deferred, and very limited) has it's drawbacks, but at least I'm not required to worry that there is no mechanism in place to resolve my conflicts with those who choos to hit me in the nose.

P.J.: I found it amusing that the closest I've ever come to living in the socialist/communist paradise was life in barracks.

#206 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 06:50 PM:

Terry, your "Making each man the defender of his own rights, and goods, is a recipe for strongarm theft and severly isolationist mindset." reminds me that I've been formulating my participation in a lot of discussion about social rights and responsibilities and opportunities and stuff like this:

What do we owe the losers?

It's easy to talk about helping people who are alert, smart, hardworking, and just having some bad luck. It's less fun but more important to talk about what we want to be the fate of the ugly, stupid, rude, clueless twits, the ones who don't know anything very useful and won't make good use of opportunities that come their way. This is more significant ground for measuring what we do or do not consider to social justice - what people should be left to or helped out of simply for being humans and citizens and such, rather than because they have any relevant merit at all.

In this post, at least :), I preach no answer, I merely not the handiness of the target.

#207 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 07:02 PM:

Alsafi, thanks for the kind word about my rant.

You, citing TNH, and mythago, correctly note that "civil" society goes away without initiation of force. Indeed, I'd be hard pressed to come up with a definition of civilization that didn't at least gesture toward the force structures that create it. I am not, however, sure that "civil" society is the only kind worth having.

But already you've diverted me into a utilitarian digression that handwaves away the moral dimension. Alsafi, when you write that "living in a society where I don't have to hide in the bush every night hoping I am not found and repeatedly gang-raped more than makes up for filing my taxes", you're stating an obvious utilitarian truism, but you're missing what I see as the true dilemma of non-aggression.

Let's assume (I don't, but it works for this argument) that hiding in the bushes really would be in the cards for you in a world without taxation. The question is not "is it worth it to pay my taxes to avoid that outcome?" I think most of us would agree that yes, it is.

The moral question is "is it worth it for me to collect taxes to avoid this outcome?" Do I want to be a part of a system that enslaves the outliers, that points guns at the minority who does not agree, and forces them to do things our way? Is it, to be dramatic, worth my soul?

Not trying to suggest a different answer for you, just trying to be clear on why this is an issue for me. It's not about whether the benefits are worth the costs I pay. It's about whether it's right for me to insist, at gunpoint, that other people must also pay those costs, will-they nil-they.

#208 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 07:17 PM:

Bruce Baugh #204, I'd like to take friendly issue with your suggestion that I'm "missing" the contextual questions that make defining initiation of force so tricky. To use an analogy with which any pagans at this party will be familiar, it's every bit as difficult (and not an unrelated problem) to defining "harm" in "And it harm none, do what ye will.")

It's also irrefutable that we live in a world full of ancient grievances that defy just resolution under any social system I've ever heard of. Anarchy's not gonna help with that, and it may indeed make things worse. When I was younger and more foolish, I wrote about twenty pages on the topic of "The Non-Aggression Principle and Conundrum of Property Rights in Land" for the amusements of some lib-anarchist friends of mind who thought it was simple. (They read it and still thought it was simple, so that's two days I'll never get back.)

So, no, I'm not "missing" it. I'm just not sure that enslaving people (inflammatory rhetoric I sometimes use because it illuminates the moral weight this question has for me) is the answer to the problem.

#209 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 07:20 PM:

Not to defend the actions of the Park Police, but DC's a weird place WRT police jurisdiction. You've got DC Metro PD, uniformed Secret Service, the Park Police, the US Capitol Police, and the Transit Authority Police... and those are the obvious ones. (Who knew that the Smithsonian had their own police force?) But even the Wikipedia list isn't exhaustive - for instance, the Post Office has a uniformed police presence in DC.

When I lived there in the early 90s as a young lefty rabble-rouser, the Park Police were the ones you didn't want to mess with. MPD officers were tough but (usually) fair, uniformed Secret Service and US Capitol Police were typically polite and fair, but the Park Police had a reputation for cracking heads first and asking questions later.

OTOH, I'm also pretty sure that my interactions with DC-area law enforcement would have been different had I been black. (Though I did have the experience of getting pulled over by DC MPD for driving while white...)

#210 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 07:20 PM:

Daniel Boone: Yes.

We are all participants in a widely and persistently unjust environment. The question "What would be moral if we were starting ex nihilo?" is truly irrelevant, because there'll always be a world preexisting. The question is "What is appropriate to require of people when a reliably fair environment can't be obtained?", and part of the answer is "Pay up to create the justice that can't exist on its own, whether I as an individual approve or not at that moment, and the framework within which better choices can be made rather than just wished for."

Seriously, the blank stage cannot exist and then be peopled. There's always a history, and it's never just or moral.

#211 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 07:24 PM:

Daniel, the problem is that "enslaving" presupposes the question. It rules out entire categories of interaction, and forces only one of the many actually demonstrated modes of social organization, in much the way this does: Should women pollute themselves with sex with evolutionary irrelevant and necessarily violent men, or should they restrict themselves to the only sexual partners they can truly be equal with?

#212 ::: DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 07:40 PM:

Daniel:

If it's wrong for me to take what I want at gunpoint, what's the alchemical magic that makes it right to take the same thing at gunpoint "for the good of society"?

This has an answer that I'm sure you've heard in other iterations of this argument: the consent of the governed. When you got here (by birth or immigration), you were told the rules well before you produced the first thing that could be taken from you at gunpoint; those rules being that we vote on what everyone's going to pay in taxes, and then we enforce that vote. Sometimes you'll lose that vote, but you'll pay anyway. That's the agreement. If you consider that agreement to be the same as slavery, well, the country's door isn't locked from the outside. You might be able to get a better deal outside the door. We'll even let you take all your (remaining) stuff with you. (Those two conditions are key, I think; the first one for sure.) But if you're really thinking that the current agreement is morally equal to slavery, and you see the unlocked door, and yet here you sit, something's not adding up.

#213 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 07:43 PM:

Terry@140: If they think they have a heirachical place in advance of the owner/moderator of a site, then they don't have a clear grasp of legitimate authority.



The thing is that prior to moderation, the power people view the blog as a natural and neutral medium through which anyone can play out their power politics. They're are able to attack anyone who expresses an opinion they don't like. A group of them might form who swamp any comments they don't like. They have then achieved some form of power because they have been able to force the conversation in a certain direction. Then the site owner introduces moderation, and you're taking their power away. It's not that the moderator is trying to cut in line. The moderator is trying to destroy the line completely. The idea of moderation is that people interact as equals in a conversation and communication. That's the antithesis of power trolls in an unmoderated forum.

If the moderator simply exerted power in the existing hierarchy, then the trolls would be willing to work inside that hiearchy and would still see themselves as having the possibility of reestablishing thei power. If the moderator destroys the only tools by which they can exert power, then the hierarchy is effectively destroyed, and everyone is reduced to equals. To a person with a power worldview, without a power hierarchy, without a chain fo command, there is no order.

This is, I believe, the underlying concern of the "let the market sort it out" people. They view themselves as exerting power within the market structure. They don't view government "regulations" as an authority within the chain of command, they view it as sapping the power from the entire hierarchy itself. In their minds, a fully regulated market is powerless. they see no way to exert their power in this structure. And so they fear and fight market regulations as much as a power-based troll poster fears and fights moderations rules on a forum.

#214 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 07:44 PM:

Bruce, I'd argue that it only "presupposes the question" in the sense that it insists on keeping the question visible. It really all comes down to ends and means. Do you have license to disregard the moral cost of your means, if your ends are pure and important enough? Or not?

The only categories of interaction being ruled out are the ones that involve pointing guns at people to get them to do what you want. There's a whole continuum of words I can use to say the same thing, from inflammatory ("enslavement") through descriptive ("pointing guns at people") to dull ("breaking the non-aggression principle"). But the idea -- using force to get cooperation from people who don't share your social goals -- never changes.

Everybody thinks anarchists want, or at least are sanguine about, bloody chaos. Nobody stops to think that maybe, just maybe, we see moral limits to the things we may do to avoid that potential-but-not-certain unhappy fate.

#215 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 07:46 PM:

Daniel Boone: I suppose the question is one of how one defines slavery.

I have to eat, if I don't, I'll die. In a balanced society, I don't really have to worry about it. I will find some means of making some transaction which will lead to getting food.

In one such as we have, when I contract to work, I am guaranteed (by the threat of force) a minimal wage. In exchange for this threat of force, I am taxed.

Now, remove the threat of force, and things get very strange (which you admit). Now the roads which bring the food aren't maintained by the threat of force taxing me to provide a share of the things required to make, and maintain that road.

Since I can't provide the things needed to make that road happen, I either have to manufacture a coalition, or give something of value to the guy who has the road.

I still need to eat, but now the means of getting the food is controlled by someone, or a group of people, who have the right to keep me from making use of the road. I have goods I could trade with someone who has food, but the means to transport it require use of the road, and the guys who have the road insist that I give them half, or I get no use.

To whom now am I slave? What "tax" am I paying, and is is more than I would be paying to a "coercive" gov't.

The power to tax is the power to destroy is no less true when the tax is private.

#216 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 07:49 PM:

I don't actually think "consent of the governed" covers all the territory. My point is that even those who don't consent are nonetheless beneficiaries and participants in a mesh of injustices. We are all recipients of stolen goods and the legacies of far worse crimes no matter what we choose or wish for, simply by being here now. There's no primal social virtue that we can preserve intact - to live is to partake of others' suffering, and that's one of the reasons the state is necessary.

#217 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 07:56 PM:

Donboy #212, I have indeed heard that argument before, and it's something of a red herring, because my moral issue is not "why should I pay" but "why should I take?" And, simply, I'm unconvinced that the people I'd be taking from have "consented" in any meaningful sense. I could easily expand that into ten thousand words of tedious explanation, but I'm gonna refrain; it's too far afield from my original purpose in speaking up (which purpose was to explain, as best and briefly as I could, the non-aggression principle, in a place and moment where some folks were expressing honest puzzlement about it).

#218 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:09 PM:

Bruce Baugh #204: Robert Nozick's use of NYC's rent control laws to force unwanted new terms on his landlord

You meant Cambridge, MA, right? I hadn't heard of the case, so I did some googling. Brad DeLong had a post a few years ago in which he reprinted the article from The New Republic.

And his landlord was Eric Segal, of Love Story fame, who himself was a college acquaintance of Al Gore. Small, small world.

#219 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:16 PM:

Bruce #210:

I'm not sure I accept the idea that there's some ideal social order we could have, if only we could get to a fair starting point. I think the pure non-aggression principle, as beautiful as it is in principle, isn't really workable, regardless of the starting fairness of the world.

An irony here is that the non-horrible governments we know how to build don't really redress the historical wrongs too effectively. Instead, we see decent societies providing for the people at the bottom, regardless of whether they are the beneficiaries or victims of previous evil[1].

I suspect that this is because current justice is damned hard to get right; making the descendants of those screwed over a century ago is much harder, and seems likely to stir back up historical grievances and hatreds that might be better remaining buried. Having someone suddenly lose his house, because the great-grandparents who left his parents the land on which they built the house were involved in some crime a century ago, is pretty much guaranteed not to look like justice to the person losing his house. (It wouldn't look like justice to me, either.)

[1] Yes, we have affirmative action and some related (IMO, bad) programs, but these have a relatively small impact. The main way we take care of people with taxpayer money is based on their being poor, disabled, or old (or in politically-important industries, but that's another thread). And we don't give poor blacks extra welfare to make up for slavery, or middle-class blacks any welfare at all to make up for slavery. Nor should we.

#220 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:17 PM:

Daniel@192: Every thing that government does is backed by initiated violence.

If Alice views herself as ostracized from the political process, then your statement is a perfect interpretion of a government from Alice's point of view.

If Bob views the government as being subservient to the will of the people (i.e. by the people, for the people), then your statement will not align with Bob's worldview.

Bob is part of a social structure. He feels part of a community, and he sees how a community can work together in a manner that is win-win for everyone. Bob sees community-initiated action as action that he in part has initiated. The community would be initiating actions based on principles that he supports. Therefore, Bob sees the community acting as an extension of him, not as a third party.

Alice does not see a social structure because she feels she does not belong to one. There is no such thing as "society" to Alice. Her worldview prevents her from seeing it. Her experience of teh government doing anything involving her personally is that some group of "outsiders", some group to which she feels she does not belong and does not have any control over, is coming in and forcing her to do something she doesn't want. And that isn't fair. because she views herself as outside the group, and teh group is naturally bigger than her, she views the group as a general threat. She sees no reason for this outside group to do anything for her benefit.

Someone up thread mentioned the non-aggression principle

That was Scott@122: I shall not initiate Force. I shall not commit Fraud. I shall enter into contracts only freely and of my own Will, and I shall abide by their Intent and their Letter

Ah. ... I think I see the problem. I shall enter into contracts only freely and of my own Will

The underlying issue is that you don't want to be held to anything you didnt' agree to up front. If you enter into a contract, you will honor it. But if you are born into a nation that has food and drug regulations, has seemingly arbitrary laws about crime and punishment, and what not, then you don't believe that you should have to be held to those things because you didn't agree to them.

The problem though is that you have just come up with an arbitrary set of first principles and said that's the way everyone else should live. Your non-aggression principle is a first principle.

There really is no difference between you using your non-aggression principle as a basis for how everyone should live and me using, say, the US Constitution as as basis for how everyone should live.

Both are a set of first principles that everyone must agree to for the government (or lack of government) to work properly. All you've done is attempt to reduce the principles to some smaller subset that you would actually agree with.

Because you don't feel like you've agreed with my principles (i.e. the US Constitution's principles). But you think everyone should be able to agree to your principles of non-aggression. The only problem with your first principles, is that you include an implied first principle that no other principles shall be added to the constitution.

And I didn't agree to that. And I never would agree to that. Which means that were your viewpoint implemented in the US, I wouldn't agree to it. (and likely, a hell of a lot of other people wouldn't agree with that implied principle either.) which means the only way you could implement it is if you forced it on me against my will.

In short, your philosophy only works if everyone thinks like you. And then they would willingly agree to your first principles, including the implied first principle of "no more principles". Most philosophies (even many crasy ones) will work under the condition where everyone thinks like the proponent of the philosophy. A lot of them fail when you add real people.

By the very existence of the US government and all its regulatory agencies and market restrictions and taxation and public highways and copyright law and so on, majority of Americans have basically made clear that they wouldn't agree with your limited set of principles and its implied "no other principles" principle.

#221 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:17 PM:

Abi #198 -- I don't actually know that market economies bring about obsession with money. Plenty of people in planned economies seem to be obsessed with the stuff as well, but there's less of it around to be obsessed with.

It also seems to me that the phrase "the market is the best way to run a society" contains a few buried and unwarranted assumptions. Implicit in it is the assumption that market-vs-planned-economy is the only axis along which societies can be distinguished. And the assumption that the verb "run" applies equally to societies with differing amounts of central control.

#222 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:17 PM:

Daniel@192: Every thing that government does is backed by initiated violence.

If Alice views herself as ostracized from the political process, then your statement is a perfect interpretion of a government from Alice's point of view.

If Bob views the government as being subservient to the will of the people (i.e. by the people, for the people), then your statement will not align with Bob's worldview.

Bob is part of a social structure. He feels part of a community, and he sees how a community can work together in a manner that is win-win for everyone. Bob sees community-initiated action as action that he in part has initiated. The community would be initiating actions based on principles that he supports. Therefore, Bob sees the community acting as an extension of him, not as a third party.

Alice does not see a social structure because she feels she does not belong to one. There is no such thing as "society" to Alice. Her worldview prevents her from seeing it. Her experience of teh government doing anything involving her personally is that some group of "outsiders", some group to which she feels she does not belong and does not have any control over, is coming in and forcing her to do something she doesn't want. And that isn't fair. because she views herself as outside the group, and teh group is naturally bigger than her, she views the group as a general threat. She sees no reason for this outside group to do anything for her benefit.

Someone up thread mentioned the non-aggression principle

That was Scott@122: I shall not initiate Force. I shall not commit Fraud. I shall enter into contracts only freely and of my own Will, and I shall abide by their Intent and their Letter

Ah. ... I think I see the problem. I shall enter into contracts only freely and of my own Will

The underlying issue is that you don't want to be held to anything you didnt' agree to up front. If you enter into a contract, you will honor it. But if you are born into a nation that has food and drug regulations, has seemingly arbitrary laws about crime and punishment, and what not, then you don't believe that you should have to be held to those things because you didn't agree to them.

The problem though is that you have just come up with an arbitrary set of first principles and said that's the way everyone else should live. Your non-aggression principle is a first principle.

There really is no difference between you using your non-aggression principle as a basis for how everyone should live and me using, say, the US Constitution as as basis for how everyone should live.

Both are a set of first principles that everyone must agree to for the government (or lack of government) to work properly. All you've done is attempt to reduce the principles to some smaller subset that you would actually agree with.

Because you don't feel like you've agreed with my principles (i.e. the US Constitution's principles). But you think everyone should be able to agree to your principles of non-aggression. The only problem with your first principles, is that you include an implied first principle that no other principles shall be added to the constitution.

And I didn't agree to that. And I never would agree to that. Which means that were your viewpoint implemented in the US, I wouldn't agree to it. (and likely, a hell of a lot of other people wouldn't agree with that implied principle either.) which means the only way you could implement it is if you forced it on me against my will.

In short, your philosophy only works if everyone thinks like you. And then they would willingly agree to your first principles, including the implied first principle of "no more principles". Most philosophies (even many crasy ones) will work under the condition where everyone thinks like the proponent of the philosophy. A lot of them fail when you add real people.

By the very existence of the US government and all its regulatory agencies and market restrictions and taxation and public highways and copyright law and so on, majority of Americans have basically made clear that they wouldn't agree with your limited set of principles and its implied "no other principles" principle.

#223 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:18 PM:

Daniel@192: Every thing that government does is backed by initiated violence.

If Alice views herself as ostracized from the political process, then your statement is a perfect interpretion of a government from Alice's point of view.

If Bob views the government as being subservient to the will of the people (i.e. by the people, for the people), then your statement will not align with Bob's worldview.

Bob is part of a social structure. He feels part of a community, and he sees how a community can work together in a manner that is win-win for everyone. Bob sees community-initiated action as action that he in part has initiated. The community would be initiating actions based on principles that he supports. Therefore, Bob sees the community acting as an extension of him, not as a third party.

Alice does not see a social structure because she feels she does not belong to one. There is no such thing as "society" to Alice. Her worldview prevents her from seeing it. Her experience of teh government doing anything involving her personally is that some group of "outsiders", some group to which she feels she does not belong and does not have any control over, is coming in and forcing her to do something she doesn't want. And that isn't fair. because she views herself as outside the group, and teh group is naturally bigger than her, she views the group as a general threat. She sees no reason for this outside group to do anything for her benefit.

Someone up thread mentioned the non-aggression principle

That was Scott@122: I shall not initiate Force. I shall not commit Fraud. I shall enter into contracts only freely and of my own Will, and I shall abide by their Intent and their Letter

Ah. ... I think I see the problem. I shall enter into contracts only freely and of my own Will

The underlying issue is that you don't want to be held to anything you didnt' agree to up front. If you enter into a contract, you will honor it. But if you are born into a nation that has food and drug regulations, has seemingly arbitrary laws about crime and punishment, and what not, then you don't believe that you should have to be held to those things because you didn't agree to them.

The problem though is that you have just come up with an arbitrary set of first principles and said that's the way everyone else should live. Your non-aggression principle is a first principle.

There really is no difference between you using your non-aggression principle as a basis for how everyone should live and me using, say, the US Constitution as as basis for how everyone should live.

Both are a set of first principles that everyone must agree to for the government (or lack of government) to work properly. All you've done is attempt to reduce the principles to some smaller subset that you would actually agree with.

Because you don't feel like you've agreed with my principles (i.e. the US Constitution's principles). But you think everyone should be able to agree to your principles of non-aggression. The only problem with your first principles, is that you include an implied first principle that no other principles shall be added to the constitution.

And I didn't agree to that. And I never would agree to that. Which means that were your viewpoint implemented in the US, I wouldn't agree to it. (and likely, a hell of a lot of other people wouldn't agree with that implied principle either.) which means the only way you could implement it is if you forced it on me against my will.

In short, your philosophy only works if everyone thinks like you. And then they would willingly agree to your first principles, including the implied first principle of "no more principles". Most philosophies (even many crasy ones) will work under the condition where everyone thinks like the proponent of the philosophy. A lot of them fail when you add real people.

By the very existence of the US government and all its regulatory agencies and market restrictions and taxation and public highways and copyright law and so on, majority of Americans have basically made clear that they wouldn't agree with your limited set of principles and its implied "no other principles" principle.

#224 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:19 PM:

Terry #215, you've very much put your finger on another of the huge fights that informs libertarian debate; indeed I think it's also at the core of much right/left bickering, and certainly in the argument between socialists and their detractors. I refer, of course, to the distinction, if any, between starving and getting shot.

To arm-wave with astonishing wildness, markets and libertarians and anarchists mostly all agree that there's a difference between starving and getting shot. Socialists for sure, and a lot of liberals, and I'm guessing many of the parties present, tend to think the difference is, at best, of minor importance.

Getting shot is something that gets done to you. There's always a moral actor who is responsible when you get shot.

Starving, in the rightish view, is something that just happens. At least in theory, it could happen without anybody being morally culpable.

Ouch! I do believe an Irishman just threw a soggy black potato at me.

In my own calculus, not shooting a man is the first thing. Not "letting" him starve? Also important. But, you know, first do no harm. We can't prevent every bad thing from happening, but we can control our own behavior, right?

Why the difference matters is because it informs concepts of consent. We all agree that "I had to agree or he would have shot me" is not real consent. But "I had to agree or I would have starved" is consent to some (more market-friendly types, like me) and not to others.

So, Terry, yeah -- it does indeed depend on how you define slavery. And the dilemma of survival you've posited in your particular vision of anarchic dystopia does indeed sound unpleasant. But I'm not sure it justifies shooting people who won't cooperate with you.

#225 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:21 PM:

Daniel Boone: Ok, lets flip it around: why shouldn't you prevent others from taking?

Because absent a state, there will be slavery (and far more onerous than that of taxes).

So what moral handwaving have you done, in that you haven't, personally, engaged in taking, but if you are free (and that's a big if), it's only because you are allowing others to be taken from.

You will be taking, be it open, or not, your benefits come at some expense from others.

With a taxation by gov't, at least the taking is reciprical.

#226 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:22 PM:

DonBoy #212:

Welcome to the prison, son. Over on this side of the yard is Thugs territory, on the other side it's Goons territory. Now, we here on the Thugs side demand certain things of you--obedience to orders, willingness to kill on demand, participation in crimes. If you don't like that deal, the door's not locked--you can go over to the Thugs' side. So it's a free choice, a contract, really. And speaking of contracts, if you stick around, we've got a little job for you....

#227 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:23 PM:

GAH! TRIPLE POST!

I swear I hit "post" only once.

Someone feel free to wipe out 222 and 223 as redundant.

Sorry.

#229 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:35 PM:

Greg #220: It may also be that Alice is perfectly fine with being a member of a community, but it's a community which is despised and mistreated by the larger society. In which case, she will correctly feel like the larger society is a bunch of outsiders who wish her ill. This is such a common situation that examples, ranging from mildly unpleasant to ghastly, spring to mind with no work at all.

#230 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 08:39 PM:

Greg London #223, I'm going to leave the second half of your observations alone, since they are in response to stuff Scott said. But I'd like to respond to your Alice and Bob points.

I actually agree with a chunk of them. You've explained fairly cogently why it may be that some folks don't want to be part of "civil society". Some people, like Alice, really do feel alienated, feel like what you call "the social structure" is mostly a bunch of "other people" who do not have Alice's best interests at heart.

And you've nicely explained why it is that Bob doesn't feel the least qualm in having his boys (what you call "the community acting as an extension of him") point guns at Alice. Bob sees this as "how a community can work together in a manner that is win-win for everyone."

Excepting Alice, as the song says. It's not "win" for her because her participation was secured at gunpoint.

I'm an anarchist because, even if I aspire to be part of a community, I still believe Alice's opinion matters, has moral weight.

Whereas from you I'm getting the vibe (and this is a sincere apology-in-advance if I've misunderstood) that your sympathies are with Bob.

#231 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 09:02 PM:

Terry--

The wiggle room and debatable bit in "the right to peaceably assemble" isn't in "assemble," it's in "peaceably."

Peaceably can easily be construed as "nonviolently" but it can also be construed as "quietly," as in the case of charges for "disturbing the peace" for playing your stereo too loud after some significant portion of the populace have gone to bed. And by extension, "disturbing the peace" can be causing any sort of ruckus or spectacle.

That the flash-mobbers decided to do it at an hour with less tourists (so as to cause less disturbance) and silently with iPods (for the same reason) rather indicates to me that they were aware of this particular extension of "peaceably." Otherwise, why bother? Bring the boomboxes, bongos, and a full chorus, right there in front of the noon tourist crowd, rather than silently at midnight for an audience of six.

Of course the security would likely have objected to the louder noontime show too.

As for security scrutinizing nonconformity, um, if you're looking for something out of the ordinary, you by definition have to scrutinize anything nonconformist. Of course you also hope that your security can differentiate between "exotic but harmless" and "exotic but dangerous" and still not miss the "common but dangerous."

#232 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 09:15 PM:

Terry Karney #225, I'm laughing here because this is starting to feel like an old and familiar dance, one I've danced so many times before. It's actually been years since I've danced this one, I am usually more careful about getting sucked in.

I disagree with your certainty that "absent a state, there will be slavery." Absent a state, conditions are uncertain, perhaps chaotic, perhaps just unknown. But this disagreement between us is not central to my point.

My moral handwaving is this: "Let justice be done, though the skies fall." If maintaining a state requires evil deeds, we should cease them. Maybe the skies will fall, maybe they won't. Certainly, I'm not on board with the axiomatic certainty that they will.

I know, yes, that most people think it's more likely the skies will fall than I do.

What I cannot seem to communicate is that this is an "ends justify the means" argument. Grant that the skies will fall, as you (Terry) say. Grant that falling skies are really, really, bad. Does that make it OK to conscript an army of sky-holder-uppers? At gunpoint?

I say it doesn't. Most people say it does. That's what makes me an anarchist, in a room full of folks who aren't.

#233 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 09:21 PM:

Oops, and I am starting to say things in bold and tell my girlfriend that people are wrong on the internets!

I'm gonna step aside for now, I've made the point that I wanted and repeated it a few different ways. I'll try to come back later and get caught up, but probably no more quick answers today.

#234 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 09:28 PM:

I'm done with this particular exchange, I think. I'll just note on my way out: Daniel, for a lot of us this is all very reminiscent of a bit from Borges, about "a certain Chinese encyclopedia," the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, in which it is written that animals are divided into:

those that belong to the Emperor,

embalmed ones,

those that are trained,

suckling pigs,

mermaids,

fabulous ones,

stray dogs,

those included in the present classification,

those that tremble as if they were mad,

innumerable ones,

those drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,

others,

those that have just broken a flower vase,

those that from a long way off look like flies.

#235 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 09:38 PM:

Daniel@230: I'm going to leave the second half of your observations alone, since they are in response to stuff Scott said.

Actually, they're in response to what you said. It was just reading the bit from Scott that made me realize and notice the pattern. What I said @220 was directed at you.

you don't want to be held to anything you didnt' agree to up front. This based on several bits from different posts:

Daniel@207: "is it worth it for me to collect taxes to avoid this outcome?" Do I want to be a part of a system that enslaves the outliers, that points guns at the minority who does not agree, and forces them to do things our way?

Daniel@208: I'm just not sure that enslaving people (inflammatory rhetoric I sometimes use because it illuminates the moral weight this question has for me) is the answer to the problem.

Daniel@214: The only categories of interaction being ruled out are the ones that involve pointing guns at people to get them to do what you want.

Daniel@217: "why should I take?" And, simply, I'm unconvinced that the people I'd be taking from have "consented" in any meaningful sense.

Daniel@224: Why the difference matters is because it informs concepts of consent.



You worry that you are "enslaving" people who do not agree with you. You want "consent". You use those two words many, many times. It is clear they are the basis for your point of view.



The problem is what I pointed out in #220. You try to reduce morality down to a set of first principles which you can agree to, where you believe consent is always present. This non-agression principle becomes your "first principle", the same way that the US constitution is my first principle. The difference is that you consent to the non-agresssion principle, you don't "consent" to the US constitution, because you see it "enslaving" people who don't agree with it.

The first bit of handwavium is in the concept of "agreement". You think you've devised a universal set of first principles that will achieve universal agreement. The state will never enslave anyone to do anything they don't want to do. Except to enslave them to the principle of non-agresssion. What if I don't agree with your first principle? What if I find it insufficient?

Does your first principle of non-agression include a way of ammending the document to add first principles?

Ah, but then, comes the rub. How do you get everyone to agree to a set of principles? Do you proclaim by fiat that that is the end of it? Do you allow for some majority of voters to decree new principles, and possibly allow some minority to be "enslaved" by some new principle they didn't agree with?

What you're demonstrating is an amazingly common issue I deal with as a life coach. It's called negotiation. And it's fuck all hard to do.

What is interesting now that I look at it, is just how little negotiation is in your proposed model. You have a set of first principles called the non-agression principle. This is your equivalent of our US Constitition. But your constitution contains no mechanism to alter it. We must agree or not. End of story.

Market issues can be resolved without government intervention. negotiation may enter into some transaction, but what I'm hearing about the libertarian economic system is that it is built up on a set of non-negotiable principles. It isn't that the FDA should regulate what goes into sausage. It's that the people should be allowed to choose what they want, and the market should find the ideal solution by having people not buy the one they don't want.

Mechanisms for more sophisticated means of negotiations are not part of this system. regulation ahead of time is not allowed. The market must decide by people not buying the product. Work conditions must be regulated by workers deciding to not work at an unsafe job. Things like OSHA are not allowed.

initiating violence is wrong. Self defense is acceptable. This is black. That is white.

Everything about this is extremely cut and dried. And that isn't a good thing. Because people can't negotiate in this system but by the bare bones yes/no end of story approach. And then there is a lot of handwaving going on to assure us that somehow it'll work out.

No. It won't.

The basic principle of your system relies on complete and total agreement. This is the red flag that the system you describe is not meant for real human beings. Negotiation is messy. Negotiation is hard. Negotiation is scary. And negotiation is a neccessary skill if you are ever going to be in a relationship with one or more other people (marriage, family, work, community).

Wait, this is getting weird. This whole thing goes back to the hierarchy of power thing. If a person views the world as a hierarchy of power, there is no negotiation, there is only exertion of power and a winner and loser. Negotiation is far more complex, sophisticated, and subtle than that. So, within the worldview of hierarchy of power, this philosophy is consisten with itself in more than one domain.

Daniel@192: There's a Latin legal maxim that translates "let justice be done, though the skies fall."

I do not agree with that principle. At all. If you wish to implement some sort of change to our current system, we are going to have to negotiate and see if we can come up with something we both agree on. If the first principle of your system really is agreement, then you will have to get that your first principles really are yours, not mine, not some universal absolute that no one can deny. Then maybe we can come up with something we both agree on.

On the other hand, if one of your first principles is that none of the first principles are negotiable or ammendable, then you don't need my agreement. There's just a slight consistency problem in your system is all.

#236 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 10:15 PM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy @ 183: "Now whether the cops should have been asking the flash-mobbers to clear out is another question, but while it would be nice, I can't expect cops to be paragons of all virtues with oracular-level threat assessment and encyclopedic knowledge of the law with unquestionably fair and reasonable decisions pleasing to all citizens. Hell, we can't even get that from our Supreme Court Justices. You expect it from someone working the graveyard shift for the park patrol?"

What Debbie said. It's what I said way back up @ 146: The claim you are making is that it doesn’t matter whether the cops were right or wrong to arrest the dancers for being inappropriately strange. It’s just the way the world works and intelligent and reasonable people ought to understand that. By failing to anticipate the essential unfairness of the world, the dancers messed up. I disagree: it does matter whether arresting them was right or wrong. As Debbie said, it is THE question.

Your "dog bites child" example fits the same profile. A dog is not an actor we can really expect to act rationally, is it? It's a strange role to cast cops in. Call me crazy, but I expect cops to adhere to higher standards of behavior than civilians.* In your construction, it is the citizen's duty to tread carefully around them, not the cop's duty to act responsibly. To me, that's bass-ackwards. If a situation goes south it is, all else being equal, the cop's fault--preventing bad situations is their raison d'etre. Maybe all else wasn't equal, but there's no more reason to believe that it wasn't than to believe it was.

Yet, given that lack of evidence, you're trying really hard to find some reason to fault the dancers. Comparing it to bringing a hooker pinata? Accusing them of making too many echoes? Are you serious? @ 73, you explicitly place yourself in the role of an authoritary figure trying to maintain discipline amongst a pack of deliberately disruptive children. Why are you surprised when people assume you're siding with authority? You are.

*Yes, they often fail to do so. To me, that is a problem we need to solve, not a fact of life we all need to accept.

#237 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 10:20 PM:

Kevin: So the flash mob was out to peaceably freak the mundanes/the cops to the point of being arrested?

I've never said (in fact at great length said I understand the dilemma) that cops don't have hard decisions to make. I have said (repreatedly) that I understand they will make mistakes, and they will, reasonably, err to the side of their protection.

I've also said that this situation; no matter how hectoring the crowd was, didn't call for this response. If they were being unpeacable (in assembly) then more than just that one person should have been arrested.

You seem to be, just as persistently, saying that the crowd deserved to be arrested because they weren't acting roman enough.

Because we aren't discussing scrutiny, but rather reaction.

Daniel Boone: I believe Alice's opnion matters. I don't see how you can say that those of us who favor a gov't, because it makes it possible for the minority to be better represented/defended are discounting her condition when we say we value having those means of equalisation. It is possible gov'ts to abuse the minority, but I can't see that the lack of same is going to do them better.

#238 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 10:22 PM:

Daniel Boone asks: "Why should I take?"

That's a really good question. I know the standard answer: "I, the gov't, take from all citizens for the benefit of all citizens." But I can't say that with a straight face, even though I truly believe that democracy offers me the best chance of protecting my rights.

#239 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 10:29 PM:

Xopher @ 179: "heresiarch 162: Uncalled-for."

Is it? Libertarian bashing has gotten to the point where several people have expressed hesitation to speak about libertarian or libertarian-esque ideas. Scott Taylor, Nancy Lebovitz, and albatross are all showing signs of serious discomfort. If given the choice between hearing more of what they have to say, and listening to someone explain how no, really, his schadenfreude is totally justified in this case--well, it's not a hard choice for me.

j h woodyatt @ 185: "My point— and yes, I'm honestly trying to make one between the compulsive axe-grinding— is actually not that far off the mark from what Dave Bell says above about the Libertarian angle here being a huge distraction from the basic issue at hand, which if I'm deconstructing Avram's original post clearly, is mainly about the cultural hegemony of American authoritarians and how we might go about resisting it. I'd like to talk about that, please."

If that's what you want to talk about, then may I suggest that you talk about it? Rather than, as you do yet again in this very post, bashing libertarians over and over?

#240 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 10:30 PM:

mythago, #203: That principle is also the underpinning for the assertion that it's perfectly okay to refuse to sell someone a life-saving good or service (the example under discussion was water in the desert) because you have not initiated any force by simply withholding it and watching them die. I still have a bad taste in my mouth 10 years after being involved in that argument; it was the point at which I decided that Libertarianism was not just harmless fantasy, but actively toxic.

There is also the peculiar attitude, not by any means universal among Libertarians but common enough that I've encountered it repeatedly, that only the government can genuinely coerce -- that the exact same action, undertaken by a private citizen (usually a criminal), is not coercion at all. That's a "What color is the sky on your planet?" to me.

Daniel, #207: I'm afraid this is also a utilitarian argument, but it's nonetheless true: You don't have an option. AFAIK, there is no place you can go where you will not be part of a society that does at least some of that, unless you have the wherewithal to buy yourself an island and the means to be entirely off-the-grid self-supporting. And while you live in that society, you partake of the benefits that derive from it doing so. Therefore, to me at least, what you're saying comes across like arguing about the size of a mathematical point -- a pretty philosophical problem but essentially moot, because there's no real-world situation in which it makes any difference.

#241 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2008, 11:15 PM:

Daniel Boone: It's amusing to me that you make the assertion that you have walked this road before, to the point of tedium/boredom.

Me, I have to laugh, because all the responses I have, are so ready to hand because I've seen it all before. The questions are as old (to me, and that's going back some 25 years of debating the issues) as the question of gov't.

I've looked at those moral questions you've weighed, and come to different conclusions. I also know that you have a position of moral purity, which you don't have to actually test in the real world. It's not an option to live that way, so it's a wonderful theory, unmarred by the cold test of practice.

#242 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 12:30 AM:

abi @ 189: "My problem with markets as a means of interpersonal interaction is that they're focused on money, when what we really value (if we're healthy and sane) is people."

I would alter that to "they're focused on money, when what we really ought to value is progress. (I’m a pretty weird liberal, in that I support liberalism because I believe it is the most efficient political model, evolutionarily speaking. It's interesting how few doctrinal disputes with other liberals this leads to.)

Avram @ 191: "My problem with the phrase "markets as a means of interpersonal interaction" is that markets (in the traditional sense, referring to the exchange of goods and/or services are not supposed to be a substitute for other forms of interpersonal interaction."

To the extent which markets are offered as an alternative to government or other cooperative decision-making methods, that is exactly how markets are being cast. The basic argument is that employing markets will provide better results at lower cost than non-competitive, cooperative methods. Often, those cooperative methods rely on things like "I'll do this because I like you," or "Well, you did help me out a few years back." This, in my humble, is pretty much the definition of society, and markets are explicitly being offered as an alternative to it.

#243 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 01:12 AM:

Daniel Boone @ 192: I have a question for you, if you're interested. (Others, especially those of a libertarian bent, should also feel welcome to reply.)

There's something I really don't understand about libertarianism, something that makes it very difficult for me to follow libertarian arguments. An important problem for any political philosophy to deal with is what to do when people disagree with you. So: what would libertarians do with someone who simply refused to respect their right to personal autonomy? How do you compel their agreement? Do you attempt to compel their agreement?

Another way of stating this question is: How do you prevent other people from employing force to get whatever they want, if you are bound not to use it yourself?

This is a question I find central to determining the viability of any political system. I think that, for better or worse, liberalism, fascism, neo-conservatism, etc. all have an answer to this, but I truly can't see what a libertarian response would look like.

(One of my central political tenets is that the primary purpose of any government is to prevent a worse government from taking its place. This is how I think about the state's monopoly on force: it has the option of overwhelming force to prevent anyone else from having it. From my point of view as a citizen, that has the pleasant effect of keeping me from being murdered by random passers-by. And, to the extent that the state is accountable to me, all uses of force are accountable to me. This is much better than the alternative, where the use of force is only accountable to people with more force.)

#244 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 01:19 AM:

Heresiarch #242 -- "I'll do this because I like you" is all fine and good, but it's not threatened by the existence of markets. Countries with market-based economies are full of all sorts of voluntary organizations and spontaneous displays of goodwill.

Your other alternative, government-based programs, those are fine for the things that markets don't work well for, but if the US ever gets around to offering national health care, it won't be because they like me or I did them a solid a few years back.

Margaret Thatcher was wrong about there being no such thing as society. But there's also not just one thing that society is. A society is much bigger than how you get your dinner, or your health care, or your books. Buying your books at a bookstore doesn't mean you have to buy your love at a lovestore, or your faith at a faithstore, or your friends at a friendstore.

#245 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 02:03 AM:

Daniel Boone @ 224>

Why the difference matters is because it informs concepts of consent. We all agree that "I had to agree or he would have shot me" is not real consent. But "I had to agree or I would have starved" is consent to some (more market-friendly types, like me) and not to others.

I know some Ukranians who grew up during the planned famines right after WWII who would not agree that there was any consent involved, but instead a very carefully planned action to coerce large populations to accede to political demands, with the side-effect that the planners wouldn't have to worry about coercing the ones who starved to death.

It's true I would prefer less government than more, but I would prefer less corporate power, and less organized crime as well. I think the difference between your view of the world and mine is that I do not believe there is any such thing as absolute morality; it is not possible for a human being to lead a life in which no act of omission or comission is 100% provably moral. If for no other reason than we're not rational creatures but evolved from pack hunters who spent significant portions of their lifetimes maintaining pecking orders. So we have no choice but to make moral choices that aren't between pure black and pure white, and hope that the limited information about the world that's all we can get is enough for us to make the most morally correct choice. I'd like it if the world were more forgiving, but then I'd like a pony as well.

#246 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 04:43 AM:

Avram @ 224: ""I'll do this because I like you" is all fine and good, but it's not threatened by the existence of markets. Countries with market-based economies are full of all sorts of voluntary organizations and spontaneous displays of goodwill."

I agree. It's the market fanatics who disagree. Take education. There are plenty of people right now who are trying to convince the federal government that the education system would work much better by putting it on a market model--in fact, NCLB is built on some of those very principles. Reward success with more resources, punish failure by cutting off the cash, and let the students vote with their feet. Those are principles that work real well in market economies, so they ought to lead to better schools, right?

This despite the clear evidence that punishing failing schools makes them worse, not better. That allowing students to move where they wish concentrates the richest students in a few schools and the poorest in all the rest. Markets may allow rich people to purchase the highest quality education, but they will not produce high-quality education for every student in this country. That is our goal, and markets are useless to accomplish it.

Take healthcare, a system which has been run into the ground as a market. If our goal is to get reasonably good healthcare for every American, and the market has failed abysmally.* Even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, market advocates refuse to admit that any other system might produce better results. These are the same people who want to privatize Social Security, and the military too. After a while, you start to wonder: is there anything they don't want to run as a market? If there is, they're not letting on.

You're right: buying books at a bookstore doesn't mean we should buy our friends at the friendstore. The lack of friendstores doesn't mean that buying books is bad either. Markets have their uses, and non-markets have their uses too. That's not a question or a problem. The problem is when people begin to believe that the market is the best or the only form that human interactions can take, and begin attacking and supplanting any other form. The idea that the market ought to be the default model for running every aspect of society is a dangerous one.

*It's made a lot of money, though.

#247 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 08:19 AM:

I think some people in this country would be just fine with seeing children receive whatever kind of education their parents can afford to provide them.

(I suppose I should add that I'm not one of those people, and consider this viewpoint shortsighted and stupid. But it exists.)

#248 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 08:58 AM:

Daniel@230: Some people, like Alice, really do feel alienated, feel like what you call "the social structure" is mostly a bunch of "other people" who do not have Alice's best interests at heart.

If Alice's worldview is one of feeling alienation (note that doesn't mean she really is alienated, it means she feels alienated, it's how she views the world, not neccesarily how the world is) then she will always perceive those "other people" as never having her interests at heart.

If Bob's worldview is one of a sense of belonging to the community (note: not just your utilitarian view of "if I go along, I'll get something out of this", but that he really identifies himself as part of the community), then Bob will see the community as part of himself and therefore he will view it as having his interests at heart, because he views it as an extension of him.

More importantly, Bob will have the view that the community is an extension of everyone else who is a member. Because he will view them as much as part of the community as he is. Bob doesn't think of the community as "his boys" going around and forcing Alice to do what he wants at gunpoint. Bob views Alice as part of that community, so her input is as much a part of the community as his.

The bit you've got to get is I'm pointing at how Alice and Bob feel about belonging (or not) to the community. Alice doesn't see what Bob sees because her worldview colors it with her filter of alienation.

You said the community never has Alice's best interests at heart. That is the worldview of alienation coming through. The community is "other", and you are not a member.

You will never (no, really, I mean never) really understand "community" from any other point of view until you can change your worldview from alienation to something else. Because we can never see "community" without looking at it through some worldview or another. So the only way to understand it is to look at it through a bunch of different worldviews and then try to divine what it really is behind the filter.

What you're describing as community isn't community. It's community viewed through the eyes of someone who has a worldview of alienation, of community as a tool of power.

And you've nicely explained why it is that Bob doesn't feel the least qualm in having his boys (what you call "the community acting as an extension of him") point guns at Alice.

You're screaming an alienated worldview now.

You've replaced "the community" with "his boys", which sounds like some mobster enforcers. The only way these gangsters do anything, according to you, is with a baseball bat or with a gun.

Most interestingly, you've projected Bob's internal point of view from your alienated pov. According to you, Bob has "no qualms" about having his mob enforces point guns at people and forcing them to do whatever he wants.

No qualms.

If this is how you view community, then you would understandably want to insulate yourself from it, pull away from it, not be a part of it, alienate yourself from it.

The thing is, you're calling me a gangster, with a posse of gun-totin' dudes, going around and exerting my will on those around me.

I only point that out because maybe it'll give you some awareness of your own worldview coloring your perceptions. Maybe you'll see a glimpse of something that will hint that your view of the world isn't the world. That how you see things doesn't neccessarily line up with how things are.

Back at #192, you explained libertarianism from your point of view "to try to explain what libertarians (the good ones) are on about."

The thing is way back when, I held probably 90% of the views you are describing. I've been there. I understand it from your point of view, because I once held that point of view. But now, I'm trying to explain community from my point of view.

You want us to understand libertarianism? I got it. Now, I want you to understand community from my point of view. I don't want you to look at community from the "alienated" poitn of view, I want you to try and look at it through my point of view.

even if I aspire to be part of a community, I still believe Alice's opinion matters, has moral weight.

That's just it. The community doesn't neccessarily think Alice's opinion doesn't matter, has no weight. Some libertarian ML folks have talked about leaving or taking a break, and some non-libertarian ML folks have asked them to stay. Bob has plenty of "qualms", as you put it, about making sure the people who do not agree are still valued as members of the community.

Your point of view is based on coloring the community as inherently disregarding the value of any member simply because that person disagrees with the community.

That's not what happened here on ML, that's "alienation" describing what happend.

That "no qualms" view is how it feels to someone who has a "negotiation via the hierarchy of power" worldview.

Except that isn't what happened here. It isn't what happens anywhere there is a real community. Over on Boing Boing, Teresa posted some moderation guidelines and got mobbed by a bunch of people who couldn't handle having their power taken away, who felt that she was one of BoingBoing's gun toting enforcers, getting what BB wanted from the barrel of a gun. That she would have no qualms about banning or disemvoweling someone simply because they disagreed with her.

That's how the "hierarchy of power" people viewed it. That's how the poeple who feel alienated from community viewed it. They don't see negotiation, they see arbitrary enforcement. They don't see why their trollish posts end up getting disemvoweled, becaue they don't see the damage it does to the community. They see themselves as exerting power in the hierarchy.

But that is not how it happened according to anyone who has the worldview that allows them to feel related to (rather than alienated from) a community.

The alternative response is to stand back and say the BB thing was different because it was effectively private property, and BB has the right to make the rules on their property, and if someone doesn't agree, they need to move on.

But note that this explanation completely drains out any existence of community. It's their property. They get to make the rules. We must agree or we must leave.

No community. Hierarchy of force. No negotiation. No heart. Disagreement means discarding. It's all a hard, cold view of the world.

Based on everything you've said, I'd say that what you're describing would probably most commonly be attributed to people who had some history of someone exerting arbitrary power over them, some history of the community (or the people normally expected to have qualms) letting them down in some way, perhaps ostracizing them in some way. I would expect them to generally have a black/white view of morality, responding to complex and subtle issues with yes/no answers, a strong belief that there is always a "right" answer to every situation. I would also expect them to generally respond to entrenched disagreement not by negotiating, but by either collapsing and agreeing with the other person, or by walking away, refuse to partake, withdraw from the relationship, or, alternately, fighting back tooth and nail, such as in the case of self defense.

There is no negotiation in the world you describe. There is the rule of "do not initiate violence". If someone initiates violence, your response is self defense. ANd thats all the world you describe needs.

There is no community in the world you describe, either. There is a rule of "do not make anyone do anything unless they totally agree". To do anything else is to allow the mob enforcers put a gun to someone's head.

Clearly, there really is no such thing as society in this worldview. It gets completely filtered out by the the colored lens.

I've had that worldview. And the one thing that I can say about not being able to see "community" is this:

it makes you feel utterly alone.

#249 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 09:00 AM:

me @ 245

it is not possible for a human being to lead a life in which no act of omission or comission is 100% provably moral.

Of course, I meant the exact opposite: "every act". Clearly the Devil made me do that.

#250 ::: DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 09:04 AM:

albatross@226: [Assuming one instance of "Thugs" was meant to be "Goons"]

Welcome to the prison, son. Over on this side of the yard is Thugs territory, on the other side it's Goons territory. Now, we here on the Thugs side demand certain things of you--obedience to orders, willingness to kill on demand, participation in crimes. If you don't like that deal, the door's not locked--you can go over to the Goons' side. So it's a free choice, a contract, really. And speaking of contracts, if you stick around, we've got a little job for you....

The Thugs' deal doesn't have anything to do with the conditions I described, which were solely addressing the taxation argument. I didn't argue that all possible governments are justified.

#251 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 09:14 AM:

The moral question is "is it worth it for me to collect taxes to avoid this outcome?" Do I want to be a part of a system that enslaves the outliers, that points guns at the minority who does not agree, and forces them to do things our way? Is it, to be dramatic, worth my soul?

Yes.

Because if it's not worth your soul, it's not worth anyone else's either, and you can decry the utilitarian all you like; there's a moral aspect to letting people starve when it could have been prevented.

It is a moral wrong to force people to participate in a system they object to, unquestionably. It is a vastly greater moral wrong to allow the system to lapse in such a way that a much larger chunk of the population starves to death or spends its nights crouching in the bush or can't buy a house because it happens to have the wrong amount of melanin.

The enforcers should be chosen to be those whose souls can withstand the amount of eroding their jobs will cause--and the fact that so many cops are bullies (just to gratuitously reference the start of the whole thread) is proof, if proof were needed, that we're bad at that. But the fact of the matter is that to support the moral good of the system is to support the smaller evils necessary to maintain it. To say one supports the ends without accepting* the means is to be a moral coward.

Those who believe that the good a system does outweighs the evils required to maintain it** must be willing to perpetrate those evils themselves; otherwise they're cowards***. It's fine to say, "I don't think I have the strength of soul to withstand the corrosive effects of being a cop." It's not fine to say, "Well, there have to be cops to do this good thing, but I'm not gonna do it because that would require me to commit aggression; the aggression has to happen, but I want to be able to say my hands are clean."

I'd like to make it clear that I don't think Daniel Boone is being a coward; from what I can tell he's saying, "I don't think the good of the system is worth the evil," and while I disagree quite strongly with that it's not what I'm talking about. But if the question is, "Having agreed that a particular system is desireable, am I required to do what is necessary to achieve it?", then the answer is yes, just as much as any other member.

*: Note that that word is not "justifying", nor "liking", nor "enjoying".

**: Yes, this is a utilitarian argument.

***: Ask me sometime about the Spider Robinson book about the telepath and the serial killer.

#252 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 09:18 AM:

heresiarch #242:

To the extent which markets are offered as an alternative to government or other cooperative decision-making methods, that is exactly how markets are being cast. The basic argument is that employing markets will provide better results at lower cost than non-competitive, cooperative methods. Often, those cooperative methods rely on things like "I'll do this because I like you," or "Well, you did help me out a few years back." This, in my humble, is pretty much the definition of society, and markets are explicitly being offered as an alternative to it

Some libertarians do seem to be dismissive of non-market transactions, and I agree that's silly. Running your family or friendships on market/business principles will not lead you anywhere you want to go.

But most of the time in politics, we don't see voluntary cooperation and friendship offered as alternatives to markets. We see decisions imposed or constrained from above as the alternative, one way or another. For example, the alternative to a market in books probably isn't that writers write books for their friends in exchange for expected generosity in the future. The alternative is probably some version of having some government agency decide which books are to be bought. (The grade school and high school textbook market is a great example; if all books were bought in this way, we would have the same kind of narrow, bowlderized crap in all our books that end up in standard high school textbooks.) A gentler form of alternative to pure markets in something is to subsidize one set of alternatives over others (like if publishers of books deemed patriotic got an extra check from the government every year), or to apply informal pressure to change the things offered on the market (like if bookstores were made to understand that carrying too many anti-American books would make them much more likely to have tax problems). All these kinds of policies can be dressed up in nice phrasing ("we want to reward those who strengthen our communities by their words") without changing what they really are.

Along with that is the fact that markets really do work pretty well at getting buyers and sellers together, setting prices that reflect the costs facing the sellers and the alternatives available to the buyers, etc. Political intervention in markets directly, as with price controls or quotas, tends to gum up that part of the works. (Suppose we had a maximum price for all books of $15. How would that work out? As a reader, shouldn't I push for such a law, which would presumably save me some money on hardbacks? Suppose we had a minimum price for all books of $8, how would that work out? Should authors be pushing for such a law?)

IMO, a common mistake on the libertarian / pro-free-market side is to imagine that because markets are good at their job (propogating costs and desires through a huge network of people, causing markets to clear), they're good at other jobs, like determining morality or guiding personal decisions. Markets function just as well for evil commodities (slaves, say) as for good ones (lifesaving drugs, say). Sometimes people seem to get into a kind of market fetish, where they talk as though "the market has decided" is some kind of moral pronouncement, but this is silly. The market reflects the values of its participants in terms of what sells.

There's a parallel with other critical mechanisms for keeping our society functioning. Laws and courts are also immensely important in maintaining a functioning society, and yet they also have no inherent drive toward morality. Courts and laws were content to rule on cases involving slavery, land seized from Japanese, land taken from Indians who had been conveniently herded off to some less desirable land, etc. Democratic elections have the same property--they're good at some things, but they don't give you a morality oracle.

#253 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 09:28 AM:

heresiarch@243: How do you prevent other people from employing force to get whatever they want, if you are bound not to use it yourself?

regressing to my college-aged self to answer this:

Charlie pulls a gun and attacks Dave.

Because Charlie is doing something against Dave's will, Dave has the right to use force and defend himself. Dave has the right to force his will on Charlie.

The basis for the view is that forcing someone to do something they don't agree with is its own form of violence.

The response is "well, then no one can make anyone do anything they don't want to do, ever." The handwavium is that 10 billion people on a planet could somehow manage to survive this way.

So, Charlie pulls back and hires some goons with guns. He goes and attacks Dave. Dave retreats and hires some goons with guns. They become warlords and sort out their differences.

But the important thing is that Charlie, Dave, and all their goons, they all agreed to join the warlording party. So, it's OK that they do this, as long as no innocent bystanders get caught in the middle.

Meanwhile, the an community is caught in the crossfire of these warlords are not allowed to implement some form of governmetn with its principles written in some constitution, implement taxation to hire police and military, and squash the warlords tearing up their world, because, well, because no one could completely agree on the wording of the constitution. And to force the ratification of said constitution against someone's will (Fred didn't like the bit about the Electoral College) is to enforce another form of violence on Fred that is indistinguishable from Charlie and Dave's violence against Fred (They broke a window).

Therefore, the community would have to somehow form a governmetn that did not include Fred. They would then tax everyone but Fred. They would form a police force that would have jurisdiction over everyone but Fred, and they would then go after Charlie and Dave's mob.

That Fred just got rid of Charlie and Dave without having to pay taxes, well, that's one of life's little benefits of standing up to the evils of an immoral constitutional system and its Electoral College.

The key is that everything must be done by choice.

Charlie and Dave lose their right to choice because they used force against the community. Therefore the community can use force against them.

But poor Fred. He didn't harm no one. So, the community has no right to force him to do anything.

The trigger is violence. Until you commit violence, you cannot be forced to do anything. And unless you commit violence, any community-based action that includes you is neccessarily mob violence against you.

#254 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 09:40 AM:

The game theory of the warlords Charlie and Dave and the community including Fred, Ginger, and Hank from the "everyone must agree to everything" poitn of view is that whoever holds out to the end will get the biggest benefit at the least cost.

Charlie and Dave are warlords and need to be reigned in because they're tearing up the community.

Hank and Ginger and Fred have a constitutional convention. They agree that whatever rules they come up with, eveyrone must agree. ANd if anyone does not agree, they can withdraw, and the government that is formed must not include them and must have no power over them.

They come up with some basic rules about self defense. The come up with a form of representation so they can figure out taxes. They come up with an executive branch so they can have a police force. They come up with a judicial branch so they can have some neutral judge rule on cases.

Hank signs the constitution.

Ginger signs the constitution.

If Fred signs the constititution, he will be tied to a government with taxes and rules that he might not agree with and all sorts of messy stuff.

If Fred does NOT sign, this government has said that he will be excluded from their power. He won't have to pay taxes. He won't have to abide by their laws. He won't have stand before their judges.

Fred decides to go it alone.

I think this is the fantasy world where the libertarian view can really have a draw to it. The US government is messed up. If they just left me alone, to do my own thing, I'd be perfectly fine by myself (note: more alienation talking).

Meanwhile, Fred lives on a farm surrounded by US territory, so he gets some benefits of being surrounded by Fred and Ginger's government, without having to pay anything for it.

But this is acceptable because it all comes down to agreement. Everyone must agree. And even if that makes the game theory totally whacked, and gives the advantage to whoever holds out to the last, too bad. Better than having poor Fred have to suffer with an evil electoral college that he didn't agree to.

#255 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 09:47 AM:

Xopher #179:

Just as an aside on the whole Cylert thing, I'll admit that I don't see how that's a point against libertarianism. One of the common critiques by libertarians of regulatory systems is exactly the kind of thing you're talking about here, where existing businesses and regulators get very cozy and help each other out. If the FDA had only advisory power, you'd be able to legally buy Cylert if anyone was willing to sell it to you, and it sure seems like someone would be. (To be clear, you'd also be able to buy snake oil, or RU-486, without permission.)

In other words, if you're unhappy about the way Federal regulators are too cozy with businesses, I think it's the Democrats and Republicans you want to talk to, not the libertarians. The libertarians have plenty of other problems (like no antidiscrimination laws), but that's not one of them.

An aside about whether discrimination can go away without government intervention, have you noticed that despite a lack of government intervention in the matter, discrimination against Italians and Irishmen pretty much just went away on its own? That doesn't guarantee that this will always happen, or that it will happen fast, but it clearly can happen. Also, I think the average income and education level of blacks was going up pretty consistently over the whole 20th century; this didn't just start with the civil rights movement, and I don't think the rate of improvement got any better with the civil rights movement and antidiscrimination laws[1].

I honestly think racial discrimination is one of those areas where most of our mechanisms don't work too well. Over the whole history of Jim Crow, I don't think you see markets, democratic elections, government bureaucracies or courts covering themselves with glory. Ending Jim Crow and such was largely a triumph of courts, bureaucracies, and powerful people imposing their ideals on some pretty unwilling subjects. As it turned out, the powerful peoples' ideals were actually much better than those upon whom they forced them.

I suspect the reason racial discrimination is so hard to deal well with is that we're wired to break the world into us/them, and race, being really easy to see, is a natural thing to use to label people into the us/them categories. My impression is that during the civil rights struggle, desegregation was never very popular in places with large black populations, probably because lots of "them" around all the time reenforces the strength of the us/them mentality. But I've only read a bit on this stuff, so I could have all kinds of details wrong.

[1] To be fair, remember that over this time, American blacks were, to a first approximation, still recovering from slavery and then being freed with few possessions and few salable skills into a devastated post-Civil-war South. It's not so hard to do better than your grandparents, when your grandparents were illiterate half-starved slaves until age 40 when they became illiterate half-starved sharecroppers. Progress gets harder as your ancestors climb out of that hole.

#256 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 10:04 AM:

Chris #247: So, how's the current government-provided solution working out for poor kids? Because my impression is that it's not doing so well for a lot of them. The government provided schools in DC and Baltimore are pretty widely regarded as nightmares.

Now, I don't expect NCLB is a solution. In fact, it looks pretty hard to get a federal solution to this problem, since education is so inherently local. But it's hard for me to hold up the existing system as some kind of model, when it plainly is screwing a lot of (mostly poor and nonwhite, as it turns out) kids out of any kind of decent education.

I suspect vouchers are a great solution to the middle-class problem of lousy public schools, but probably not such a good solution to the poor-people problem of lousy public schools. Good public schools or good parochial schools that cater to the community from which the poor families belong and will subsidize their kids going there are probably much better solutions there.

#257 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 10:05 AM:

Thank you again, Daniel--I'm enjoying the discussion, and I hope you are too. Coming from the position Greg describes, where I do feel that the community is an extension of my self (and I am by no means a conformist to the "norm," especially given the "norm" where I live--I have every reason to fear the arbitrary exertion of power), I do value your opinion a great deal, even though we disagree.

I am stumbling toward an epiphany of sorts, I think. (How do you know until you get there?) I think what abi is saying is that there is a fundamental difference between worldviews, where one seems to hold up things--property--as being of the highest importance, and the other puts people in that place. As long as this difference goes unspoken, each person continues to assume that everyone else shares his or her model, and we all talk past each other.

Avram is right--we don't exchange our interpersonal relationships on the market; it's not a good system for valuing people. The idea that the market is always the best solution is one that is based in the idea that things are of primary importance, and it works just fine in areas where that's true (books, widgets, whatever). But where people are of primary importance, it doesn't work well at all (healthcare, education).

I'm seeing the same split between the idea that taxation=coercion=violence=immoral, and the idea that complete lassez-faire leads to social breakdown with its accompanying violence and harm, which is immoral. In the first view, property is the supreme good, and violating someone's right to it is akin to slavery, and thus a terrible stain on the soul, much greater than the stain caused by allowing someone to come to harm. In the second, people's lives and freedom from harm and (actual, not threat of) violence are the supreme good, and to withhold things at the cost of lives, health, or safety is a moral evil much greater than that of taking some things, even under the threat of coercion.

I think, coming to it from the second point of view, that there is reasonable discussion to be had about where the balance should be placed between enforcing the good of all (not always accomplished, but it is the ideal), and allowing people to go their own ways without undue interference, but that these are fundamentally in tension to a certain degree. Seatbelt laws, for example, I think balance the impingement on personal autonomy with enough good to justify them. The cop arresting the woman in the original post, on the other hand, did not balance those needs at all well.

In the first point of view, though--I don't see where any discussion could be had; it seems a very absolutist view to me. Am I wrong in that? Is there wiggle room there? If so, where?

#258 ::: Christian Severin ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 11:38 AM:

If I may delurk for just a second:

I don't know if the threats of disemvowelling were needed to achieve it, but I'm delighted at the civil tone and well-worded arguments in this discussion. There has been much food for thought and quite a few quotes which made this thread a joy to read.

Thank you all.

#259 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 12:41 PM:

3258, Christian Severin - I'm still new enough here that it seems miraculous when an obviously-impending flamewar just...dies. It isn't a miracle - it's a lot of people trying hard to make it happen. Thanks to all of you.

And Greg London (#264) even brought the conversation back around to dancing.

#260 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 01:17 PM:

Do you want to be part of a system that refuses to point guns at serial murderers, that will not force parents who rape their children to do things our way instead of as they please, that makes thieves and fraud-peddlers agree to conform with what the majority says they should do? Is it worth your soul to sit by and let the evil prosper rather than 'initiate force'?

Which is to say, it's an easy thing to abhor government force when we are talking about an evil, abusive government that silences peaceful dissent, or that punishes those with minority views simply because they don't "conform". It's not so easy when those outliers are outliers precisely because they are wrongdoers.

#261 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 02:09 PM:

alsafi #257:

I don't think this exactly gets the libertarian/non-libertarian split. For example, libertarians oppose the drug war and the draft, neither of which have much to do with property rights.

There are a lot of ways that property rights and the ability to take part in markets are important for personal freedom, but they all go back to the people involved. If you personally want to be able to, say, grow your own food, or start up a new church, or print up your own newspaper, you're going to need some stuff that you're allowed to use for your own purposes. This is especially important if you're trying to do stuff that your neighbors or community don't value, or even really dislike.

More broadly, the more of your resources (money, time, stuff) gets taken to use for the community's purposes, the less is left for your purposes. The extreme form of this is the draft, which takes over your life for two or three years to use for the community's purposes, and may very well end up with you dying for those purposes. Taxes are way, way less nasty, and appear to be necesssary to get a society to function. But even with taxes, the more is taken from your resources to carry out the community's goals, the less you have for your own goals.

#262 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 02:19 PM:

R. M. Koske @ 259

And Greg London (#264) even brought the conversation back around to dancing.

Time travel! Go on Greg, write a post on dancing, to be post #264

#263 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 02:21 PM:

Christian #258: Yes, that's something I love about ML.

Mythago #260: I can't speak for anyone else, but I think the common libertarian idea expects there to be laws against force and fraud which are indeed enforced with cops with guns, or maybe with rent-a-cops with guns.

#264 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 02:36 PM:

Whoops, I messed that number up, didn't I?

I mean, YES! I can SEE the FUTURE!

#265 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 02:43 PM:

albatross - they probably do, but that means accepting some degree of force and men with guns making other people comply. Even to the point of initiating force. If you go that far, then it's not a question of "should the government get to point guns at us?" but the circumstances where government may do so.

#266 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 03:10 PM:

mythago #265: The distinction is initiating force vs. retaliation. When the police arrest a murderer, they can be seen as retaliating on behalf of the victim.

#267 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 03:20 PM:

Heresiarch #246 -- First, you're not going to get me to take you seriously by dismissing advocates of school voucher systems as "market fanatics". Would you be inclined to listen to people who dismissed you as a "central planning fanatic"?

Second, the NCLB program is not an example of a free-market educational system. It's an example of a government-run caricature of a free-market educational system. For one thing, the profits generated by a successful business aren't a "reward" for success, they are the success. A system under which a school is evaluated by a bureaucrat and "rewarded" or "punished" is still a centrally-planned system, not a free-market system.

For another, yes, of course punishing failing schools makes them worse. Nobody's claiming that, under a free market system, failing businesses always recover. In general, in a free market, failing businesses fail. Customers go elsewhere. That's the idea behind school voucher systems -- parents will take their kids out of failing schools and put them in better schools, and the failing schools will go out of business. A system in which failing businesses get propped up by the government isn't a free-market system.

And for another, if your goal is to "produce high-quality education for every student in this country", you need a better goal. You can't give everybody an above-average outcome -- it's mathematically impossible. A better goal is to establish a reasonable level of educational outcome, and try to bring every student up to that level, while recognizing that some parents will arrange for their kids to get even better outcomes. Our current school system doesn't even manage that much.

As far as healthcare goes -- look, I agree that the US needs some kind of national health care, and I'd prefer something like what Canada or France have. But it's just not true that our current system "has been run into the ground". It's not even true that our current system operates under free-market principles. In fact, our current system, based around insurance companies who control access to care just as tightly as a government bureaucrat would in a single-payer system, is actually an example of corporate central planning, and therefore combines all the worst aspects of both a market-based system (poor people get screwed! not-poor people get screwed sometimes too!) and a government-run system (rationing! long waits! paperwork! inefficiency!).

"These are the same people who want to privatize Social Security, and the military too." Well, sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren't. Even among libertarians, there are very few people who advocate privatizing the military. Do you actually engage at all with libertarians and their ideas? Your style of arguing gives me the impression that you sort of have a box in your head labeled "market fanatics", and you dump into it anybody who sounds libertarian, and assume that everyone in the box all believe all the same things.

#268 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 03:27 PM:

Avram # 267

Shouldn't NCLB then offer vouchers for public schools also? Otherwise what it's doing is punishing public schools by encouraging parents to take their children out of them. (I won't even go into the 'standardized tests' that leave teachers doing nothing but teaching how to pass the tests, instead of how to learn: teaching to the test.)

#269 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 03:37 PM:

mythago @ 260

I think you've put your finger squarely on the central problem that all political philosophies run into: how to handle outliers. In general, the more rigid a philosophy is, the more it tends to draw lines in the sand and say, "Step over this line and you're outside of our ability to cope with you according to normal usage." Then the philosophy can handle these cases insofar as it has some exceptional cases built in, or just throws up its hands and walks away in disgust. Philosophies based on some degree of pragmatism handle outliers better because they tend to more flexible in defining them in the first place.

#270 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 03:45 PM:

albatross: The libertarian utopias I've read all seem to have a sort of either semi-formal police force, or rent-a-cops. In the first case there has to be a lot of uniformity (and there are outliers who don't subscribe; and have a lot of firepower to protect their stuff), or you have subscription to a service (same for fire).

Both of those are problematic. The rent-a-cop version the moreso. It harkens back to early victorian England and "private prosecutions". How, if I am paying them to protect my stuff/person, do they gain jurisdiction over those who don't subscribe? What are the rules of search/seizure/evidence. Who certifies/licenses (and that's an important word, who grants them license, and over whom) the cops?

How shall a "true bill" be presented.

What prevents me from, falsely, telling the rent-a-cops that so-and-so stole my stuff, and they need to recover it. They are being told that it's a retaliation; who determines if it is, and if the level of retaliation is justified?

How shall disputes be resolved?

At what point does that not end up with a gov't, and need to pass, and enforce "laws" and then tax to pay for the doing of same?

Avram: High quality does not equal above average. What Heresiarch is proposing is moving the average up, setting a minimum level of quality which is higher than the present.

And NCLB is being sold as that. It's impossible to attain (since a school has to improve, every year, forever), but that's the hype.

Add the perverse incentive NCLB has to impoverish the public system (by creating vouchers which only work to make the public schools lose money) and it's not what I'd call any sort of version of a market; rather it's a racket: "Nice looking school here, pity if anything should happen to it."

#271 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 03:53 PM:

Heresiarch #232: "Your "dog bites child" example fits the same profile. A dog is not an actor we can really expect to act rationally, is it?"

Obviously you don't have dogs, or at least don't know how to deal with them.

Dogs are social animals, same as human children, or human adults for that matter. They can be well socialized, badly socialized, or somewhere in between. That applies to all of them. And it's an ongoing process.

Getting along in society is a matter of learning to put yourself in other people's shoes. I was recently up in the mountains and dashed into a bank to avoid the rain, meanwhile fumbling around inside the ski jacket I'd had over my head to find the check I wanted to cash. When I got to the teller, she looked spooked, and she explained to me that I probably shouldn't come into a bank with a bulky jacket over my hands, because there'd recently been a string of robberies at local banks and she'd been afraid I was reaching for a gun.

I apologized for accidentally frightening her, cashed the check, and mentally filed the info for future reference under "The Scary World of Bank Tellers."

My sister had an afghan once that she got from the pound. The dog had an extreme fear of tall men wearing sunglasses. I had my friend Evan over, who was a tall man who was wearing sunglasses, but as a child he'd been attacked by a large dog and still had a phobia. Suddenly the dog started barking and Evan froze and I was watching two mammals terrified of each other given their past experiences, acting rationally given what they knew. Luckily I was able to tell Evan to take off the sunglasses then calmed the dog down. Evan too.

What does this have to do with the current situation? Cops view things from "The Strange Scary World of Copland" which has only a tennuous connection to "The Land of Wired Bohemia." Ideally, yes, the cops should already be aware of what "Wired Bohemia" is and already categorized it as "Mostly Harmless" and laughed off a flash mob of Jeffersonian iPod dancers but in the real world I have a friend whose father is now his department's "Occult Expert" because he was the only cop on the force who was able to look at a page of arcane scribblings they'd found on a suspect and recognize it as a D&D character sheet.

So, do I blame the dancers? For what? The arrest? I will note that the guy with the video camera was also asking questions and wasn't arrested, so obviously there was some different variable with woman who was arrested. It wasn't just the mere fact of questioning an order to disperse, elsewise we would have seen the videographer arrested too.

But anyway, blame. Is there enough blame to spread around? Clueless cops, oblivious bloggers? Does it all have to be heaped on one doorstep?

#272 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 04:02 PM:

OK, back to an earlier and apparently abandoned subthread, which is "Well, how ARE the police supposed to behave?"—I'd like to suggest watching the "Hysterically-angry motorist vs. Cheesebear" for what I consider pretty much the gold, if not platinum, standard.

Cheesebear =?= Wisconsin State Police?

#273 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 04:25 PM:

Terry-- (re #237)

I don't think the crowd should have been arrested. Ordered to disperse? That's a judgement call. I don't live in Copland, but there may have been fears that this was just the first wave and in ten minutes there would have been a hundred more, overwhelming security, and by the end of the evening, the statue of Jefferson would be photographed wearing a beer hat.

Or something more serious.

As to the particulars of the one person who was arrested, I don't have the video of everything that went on, so really can't say. Obviously it wasn't just the fact of asking questions, as I've mentioned, otherwise the videographer would have been arrested too.

#274 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 04:34 PM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy @273 -- Obviously it wasn't just the fact of asking questions, as I've mentioned, otherwise the videographer would have been arrested too.

You keep saying that. Let's just say, I'm considerably more sceptical regarding the guards' degree of reasonableness, in this or any scenario. For me, it's not a given anymore. Unfortunately.

#275 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 05:00 PM:

albatross @ 261, I'm not at all sure that what I was describing was a libertarian/non-libertarian split, though elements of it might apply. But I think I was careful not to refer to the views I was outlining as being necessary and sufficient to libertarianism.

I do agree that everything that I have to use for other purposes, I cannot use for my own--I work a 40 (hah. 45, really, and watch it creep...) hour week, and that time is gone, never to be used for gardening. But opportunity costs are what they are--they will not and do not disappear with the implementation of libertarian systems. Every time I make a choice, whether because I am coerced or not, I give up something. Choice itself can even reach the point where it becomes a tyranny, costing more in time and effort than a person might like to spend.

My eventual point was, though, that it seems reasonable people can disagree on where the line is between too much impingement for not enough good (Cylert ban), and enough good to justify the impingement (laws about what side of the road to drive on). But the absolutist stand--which I read as "there is never a point at which it is acceptable to infringe on someone's choices, even a little--death (my own and/or others') is preferable" doesn't seem like one with which a compromise can be hammered out. And so I don't know how to reconcile these views, not even a little.

#276 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 05:02 PM:

Hey, everybody. My girlfriend has made me an offer too good to refuse with regards to the disposition of my afternoon, so the very real pleasures of this discussion are going to have to wait another day. Thus I'm going to cherrypick from among the many things said, toss off a couple of incomplete responses, and step away from the computer again. I apologize for the shallowness; with luck, I'll be back tomorrow.

Greg London #248, I am genuinely enlightened by your explanation of how Bob's worldview and identification with a community mean that he feels really good about the actions that his community takes (at gunpoint, but really very solicitous of Alice's concerns nonetheless). I've never really understood why authoritarians were so sanguine about their activities, and that really helped. You then said, as if to mock my point of view by the self-evident lunacy of it: "The thing is, you're calling me a gangster, with a posse of gun-totin' dudes, going around and exerting my will on those around me."

Why, yes. Yes, I am, although I'd never have gotten so personal about it. But that is, indeed, the logic of the non-aggression principle when used as a moral lense for viewing the activities of the supporters of a typical modern-day state.

At least now, though, I better understand why your communitarian worldview makes you feel better about that. (Not sarcasm, though it reads like it, even to me. I lack the skill to say the same thing with flat and sincere prose affect, but that's what I'm trying to do here.)

In all seriousness, I think you're right about the different worldviews. I don't think I'm as alienated as you think I am, but I surely was in 1986 or so; and for me the question of how the very real benefits of society and community can be enjoyed without the usual blithe and violent disregard of dissenters is the great and important question in human politics.

I've got to skip over the whole heirarchy-of-power business and how it relates to trolls; it's fascinating, I've followed the Boing Boing saga with interest, and there's much to disagree with, in how you tied it to this discussion. But I simply haven't time. I'm sorry.

Alsafi #257:

"I'm seeing the same split between the idea that taxation=coercion=violence=immoral, and the idea that complete lassez-faire leads to social breakdown with its accompanying violence and harm, which is immoral. In the first view, property is the supreme good, and violating someone's right to it is akin to slavery, and thus a terrible stain on the soul, much greater than the stain caused by allowing someone to come to harm. In the second, people's lives and freedom from harm and (actual, not threat of) violence are the supreme good, and to withhold things at the cost of lives, health, or safety is a moral evil much greater than that of taking some things, even under the threat of coercion."

I agree with this dichotomy in all but the most quibbling details about the assigned moral weights -- it's a good statement of two conflicting worldviews, I think.

"I think, coming to it from the second point of view, that there is reasonable discussion to be had about where the balance should be placed between enforcing the good of all (not always accomplished, but it is the ideal), and allowing people to go their own ways without undue interference, but that these are fundamentally in tension to a certain degree."

Agree. Which is no slam on the second worldview; it's a little messy trying to find the sweet utilitarian maxima, but if that's the enterprise, there's a huge installed base of expertise on how to do it, which can be loosely called "good government" (which may be an oxymoron to me, but it's still distinguishable from, and preferable to, bad government).

"In the first point of view, though--I don't see where any discussion could be had; it seems a very absolutist view to me. Am I wrong in that? Is there wiggle room there? If so, where?"

You're not fundamentally wrong, at the theoretical level. If you'll accept "utilitarian" as a label for the second worldview, I'll say that utilitarianism announces itself as messy right on the label; it seeks to maximize poorly-defined "good", and minimized somewhat better-defined evils, that are tough to measure and impossible to weigh. That leaves plenty of room for wiggle, which is probably a virtue for any system that has to be implemented in the real world.

The first worldview, by contrast, is (at least in my instantiation) horrified by certain acts, acts which strike its adherents as evil and destructive of individual autonomy. There's precious little wiggle room in that horror. What wiggle room exists, exists in the implementation, in the daily compromises, in the weary comprehension that the world is not perfect, nor will it ever be. If I were seeking to change the world, which I am not given the hopeless minority of folks who share the first worldview in any significant degree, I'd argue that we could at least cut back on the morally horrific acts of violent compulsion "for the good of society", and see how things developed. Maybe there is a way monkeys could live together in community without that horror, maybe we just haven't tried hard enough yet.

Basically, holders of the first worldview have to make our own wiggle room in the realm of moral compromise, which (a) we are doing anyway to get through daily life on earth, as the neener neener in Lee's #240 makes so clear, and (b) is not that dissimilar to the moral compromises built into the other worldview we're discussing.

Finally (finally!) I want to say something about positive versus negative morality. Several people here (Mythago #260 very explicitly, but not the first) have suggested that one's obligation to do something about evil is equal to, or even superior to, one's obligation to refrain from doing evil things. I believe this illuminates a very real moral and philosophical dispute between the two worldviews.

There is a strain in libertarian thought that denies positive moral obligation absolutely. "I can gorge myself while watching beggars starve, and it's perfectly moral; if I choose to be charitable, that's my liberty, and if I choose not to be, it's a decision of no moral weight."

That's not me. To me it seems obvious that's a decision of moral weight.

But, I think that I and many other "first worldview" holders do perceive a difference between one's negative moral obligations ("thou shalt not steal") and one's positive obligations ("thou shalt give"). I do perceive the negative ones as more important, and the positive ones as less important. I think the "second worldview" holders are less likely to make that distinction; certainly, Mythago seems not to do so.

I'm too far out on a limb to try and justify my moral intuition here, but I think it's worth acknowledging the difference between the worldviews, or at least stating my opinion that such a difference exists.

As for why I feel the difference, it goes to agency. We are monkeys in a harsh and uncaring universe. The bad things I do to others are within my power; we call them evil because I could refrain from them, but chose not to. The other bad things that happen are not of my agency; if they are evil, they aren't my evil.

The positive moral obligation to prevent or redress evil not of my own making, although I acknowledge one to exist as some do not, seems self-evidently a destructive burden if assumed without limits. Thus, to me as an individualist, it seems proper for each individual to decide for himself how much of that burden to assume. ("None" being a failing answer for most of us, but perhaps not for someone whose personal situation is sufficiently desperate at a survival level.)

Which means that government is bad, if you parse things this way, to the extent that it ignores individual moral judgment on this point, assigns positive moral obligation to individuals, and enforces those assignments at gunpoint.

And wow, that took way longer to type than I planned to spend. Back atcha tomorrow!

#277 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 05:04 PM:

my previous comment, first line:

...describing was necessarily a libertarian/non-libertarian split. ...

(l'esprit d'already hit post.)

#278 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 06:19 PM:

I've been watching to see when this would turn up in DC media. Here's the WashPost article and here's the local NBC station blurb although I haven't seen it on TV. It's all Pope, all day today.

I remember decades ago when I could still walk around the Tidal Basin when the cherries bloomed and a batch of us took refuge in the Jefferson Memorial when a light rain started up. We were told we could stay briefly, but couldn't wait out the rain.

#279 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 06:49 PM:

#256:

Now, I don't expect NCLB is a solution. In fact, it looks pretty hard to get a federal solution to this problem, since education is so inherently local. But it's hard for me to hold up the existing system as some kind of model, when it plainly is screwing a lot of (mostly poor and nonwhite, as it turns out) kids out of any kind of decent education.

First of all, I would have described the localness of education as part of the problem. That's what keeps poor neighborhoods stuck with poor schools, and also what keeps (kept?) Kansas students from learning most of modern biology. There's no reason education *should* be local, except tradition. Funding and curricula would both benefit from delocalization, IMO - the extraordinarily bad schools are primarily products of their local conditions, and freeing them from those conditions would improve them. Some.

The other major factor in school outcome disparity is the students that go into the schools - it's a little bizarre to blame the school for the difference in educational performance between a child of wealth and privilege, with parents motivated to see the child succeed and the resources to back it up, and a malnourished, alienated child of overworked, drug-addicted, incarcerated or just plain absent parents, with no books or computer in the home, and a sour grapes culture that says that success-as-conventionally-defined isn't important or even desirable (why neighborhoods full of unsuccessful-as-conventionally-defined people tend to have such cultures is left as an exercise for the reader.)

#256, cont.:

I suspect vouchers are a great solution to the middle-class problem of lousy public schools, but probably not such a good solution to the poor-people problem of lousy public schools. Good public schools or good parochial schools that cater to the community from which the poor families belong and will subsidize their kids going there are probably much better solutions there.


I suspect vouchers are a solution in search of a problem, or more accurately, a subsidy to people who already have their children comfortably placed in private schools, (poorly) disguised as an attempt to help parents of children in "bad" public schools. I think most parents who couldn't afford to send their kids to private schools before vouchers won't be able to afford it after, either. Do you really expect thousands of "voucher plus zero" schools to spring up like dandelions and outperform the public schools with the same student base and same funding per student? If so, why? If not, how will the vouchers actually help? (And that's assuming the voucher money doesn't come out of the budget of the public schools - otherwise you're robbing Peter to pay Paul *after* it's been shown that Peter is already on the verge of starvation. That's actively sabotaging the system.)

I specifically deny (until shown proof to the contrary) the idea that some schools have some sort of magic mojo that allows them to perform better given the same kind of students and the same level of funding as input. This is just the Myth of the Heroic Leader/Manager applied to schools. To the extent that any such factor does exist, I think it's vastly overstated and given too much credit for the success of well-funded schools that carefully select their incoming students and parents.

For several years I went to a private school that provided a great education. But it was run by highly involved parents, all the students I know of came from middle and upper class backgrounds with plenty of books in the home and parents that read to their students and got involved in their studies, the school had a very low student:teacher ratio, and although I never saw a budget, I'd bet money they had a *much* higher cost per pupil than nearby public schools. So I attribute its high-quality outcomes largely to being on the good end of a highly non-level playing field. Ditto for other "successful" public schools - their successes are, IMO, largely predetermined before the first class bell rings and a healthy, well-fed, not learning disabled or emotionally disturbed student opens a new textbook in his/her spacious, well-appointed, comfortable classroom.

But we're getting a bit off the point. I'm sure education policy could easily provide its own 300 post thread.

#273:

I don't live in Copland, but there may have been fears that this was just the first wave and in ten minutes there would have been a hundred more, overwhelming security, and by the end of the evening, the statue of Jefferson would be photographed wearing a beer hat. Or something more serious.

ISTM that authorizing law enforcement to act on unsubstantiated fear is a recipe for disaster.

Monitor the situation and respond to escalation if it happens, ok. Preemptively escalate the situation yourself, not ok.

If we can't at least expect police to not make situations worse, what *can* we expect from them?

#280 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 06:57 PM:

Debbie--

Understood.

Looking at the Washington Post article, a number of things become clearer: These were indeed rent-a-cops, the woman who was arrested was purportedly arrested not for talking back but for returning repeatedly and dancing anyway, and there were posted signs about silence and reverence at memorials with legal statutes to back this up.

Of course it was also Founders Day, and the general rule of thumb is that if you give people some holidays to get their yayas out, you can suspend the general rules for a day or two. Cutting a little extra slack would have saved a great deal of fuss and bother.

The WashPost article also mentions that the arrested woman is a former ambassador's daughter, which is going to make the whole thing a lot more politically interesting.

#281 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 07:31 PM:

Chris 279: I can't remember who it was, but I think an Irish writer, who said "There is no family situation so terrible that it cannot be made worse by the presence of a policeman."

I've been in situations that worked themselves out in time to the satisfaction of all concerned and without serious harm to anyone involved, but had a cop been present at least one person would have been arrested and someone might have gotten hurt. (It's OK if you like knives. It's OK if you like booze. Just don't like them both at once, mmmkay?)

Cops benefit society overall. That doesn't mean they are at worst neutral, even at their best.

#282 ::: Mark Z. ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 07:41 PM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy #280:

Radley Balko, at least, claims that the Post article gets many of the facts wrong. Now Radley definitely has an axe to grind about abuse of power by the police, but on the other hand he was actually there, so it's your call whether to believe him.

#283 ::: Robert Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 07:48 PM:

albatross @ #261:

For example, libertarians oppose the drug war and the draft, neither of which have much to do with property rights.

Libertarians (generally) consider their lives and their bodies to be their property. Furthermore, libertarians (generally) would consider all "political questions" to be answerable in terms of property. That doesn't mean, of course, that it's always simple to pinpoint whose property is whose, and what does and doesn't qualify as property.

I have been following this discussion with great interest. I learned some time back that I'm not well-suited for jumping into a discussion/debate like this one, as I get flustered and angry and lose my ability to make coherent arguments far too easily. But thank you to all sides for arguing so well.

#284 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 08:14 PM:

Mark Z. #282--

Fair point. What the WashPost reports very often has vague relation to the truth.

A more accurate statement would be that the WashPost took the police's claims as fact regarding the arrestee's actions.

Of course it's also true that Radley Balko clearly has an axe to grind and there are some interesting comments going on on his blog regarding the "silently" claims verus the amount of noise heard on the video.

In any case, I still think the whole situation could have been avoided with just a pinch more diplomacy on any side.

#285 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 08:29 PM:

Rather nice write up with informative quotes here from the Parks Department explaining the exact charges here:

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080414-the-dance-dance-revolution-will-be-televised.html

#286 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 08:36 PM:

Daniel@276: I've never really understood why authoritarians were ...

I don't think I'm as alienated as you think I am...

Speaking from personal experience, as long as you view a community as "authoritarians", some hierarchy of power, then you are far more alienated than you'll ever know.

If you can't see human relationships, then you can't see your alienation from them. Whatever feelings of alienation you have will likely occur as "that's just the way life is".

Your reply is clearly reporting from the filter of the power worldview. Everything I say will either be translated into terms of power or will

be heard as nonsense. So, I think I'll give it a rest.

I did get to learn a few things about my younger self, though, so that was a bonus.

#287 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 08:50 PM:

Kevin@284: In any case, I still think the whole situation could have been avoided with just a pinch more diplomacy on any side.

But we don't pay dancers with ipods to exhibit diplomacy, or even informed and competent use of authority. They aren't on our tax dollars for that. They can't take people's rights away. They aren't paid to carry firearms. But we pay police to do that.

Seriously. Stop making arguments of equivalence here. "more diplomacy on any side"? Cut. it. out. Bad dancing and bad cops ain't the same thing. Bad cops should be reprimanded or lose their jobs, depending on the severity and how often it's happened. Dancers should not, unless they're on some game show.

#288 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 09:52 PM:

Kevin, a question:

Do you think that anyone who's arrested is guilty, because otherwise they wouldn't have been arrested?

I ask because that's the impression I get from your comments.

#289 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 10:11 PM:

Daniel:

Before I say anything else: I've been watching this discussion with fascination and genuine interest, and have especially been gratified by your own willingness to understand in that it equals your zeal to communicate. If I fumble with the rest of this post, know that I'm coming from this stance of appreciating your participation.

Now. Greg said, in response to your last,

Your reply is clearly reporting from the filter of the power worldview. Everything I say will either be translated into terms of power or will be heard as nonsense.

To amplify/clarify (if it isn't arrogant of me to try to clarify on behalf of someone else), this was the part of your post that triggered in me the same mental response as Greg appears to be reporting:

I am genuinely enlightened by your explanation of how Bob's worldview and identification with a community mean that he feels really good about the actions that his community takes (at gunpoint, but really very solicitous of Alice's concerns nonetheless). I've never really understood why authoritarians were so sanguine about their activities, and that really helped....

At least now, though, I better understand why your communitarian worldview makes you feel better about that. (Not sarcasm, though it reads like it, even to me. I lack the skill to say the same thing with flat and sincere prose affect, but that's what I'm trying to do here.)

I think the reason this part of your post does read as sarcasm is that it doesn't give Greg the benefit of his own worldview. It's putting your words into his mouth after he tried so painstakingly to show you that your words didn't fit.

Greg has already said that he doesn't see himself as an authoritarian. All I can add to that is a recommendation that you read Bob Altemeyer's The Authoritarians to understand why Greg, and many others of us here probably, believe you've grossly misused the word when using to to refer to everyone who doesn't share your specific worldview.

I'd like to address this thing about "feeling good about the actions your community takes (at gunpoint)".

Our hypothetical community-minded person, Bob, doesn't "feel really good" about "pointing a gun" at Alice. He doesn't see himself as pointing a gun at all. He sees Alice as a fellow community member who has a say in the how the community will be run, who receives the benefits of being part of that community, who has agreed to all the compromises that being part of that community involves. In other words, he sees Alice as having consented to the rules of the game, the clauses of the societal contract, and also the consequences of breaking the societal contract.

I guess at this point my question for you is, does Alice want to be part of a community? Does she want to be part, but feels like this community hasn't taken her needs to heart? Is she willing to negotiate within the community?

Is she hell-bent in continuing to consider herself alienated regardless? If so, there is very little any community can be expected to do to accommodate her. If from this point of refusal to negotiate she then begins to act with hostility towards the community, the community surely is allowed to take defensive action.

And then there's the assumption that, as a liberal type faced with a libertarian argument, I'm most likely to make but have saved for last, for the sake of trying to see the other point of view first. I raise it at all because it remains within the realm of possibility: What if Alice wants to be part of the community, but only in terms of its benefits? She wants to use the roads, but not pay the taxes that fund their maintenance? She wants garbage picked up every Monday but she doesn't want to pay the bill? She wants to be taken care of if she is hungry but not to feed her neighbor should the roles be reversed?

Why should she be allowed to enjoy the privileges of a community without living up to the responsibilities that come with them? Alice might say, "Requiring me to pay taxes is threatening me with force," but Bob might say, "Using the roads is implicit consent to help fund their maintenance." I tend to side with Bob in this case. If Alice does not want to be "forced to" (in her worldview) or "seen as consenting to" (in Bob's worldview) paying the piper, what is she doing in the dance in the first place?

This is why Bob doesn't see himself as holding a gun to Alice. Alice is living alongside of him, enjoying all the benefits their community has joined together to provide its members. The most generous assumption, from that, is that she consents to the responsibilities that inhere. No one needs to hold a gun to her.

As far as I can see, if Alice does not consent, the only outcomes for Alice are to join the community fully so as to negotiate for change, or leave it entirely. To stay, to drive the roads and rely on emergency services and the like, but to continue grumbling that tax = force & etc., is not, to my mind, to have the mandates of justice at heart (with or without the sky falling).

#290 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 10:49 PM:

Hrm. Rereading my post, especially this bit--

I think the reason this part of your post does read as sarcasm is that it doesn't give Greg the benefit of his own worldview.

--reminds me painfully of the time I tried to explain to my mother that people who form polyamorous relationships have reasons for doing so beyond simply being less moral than her.

(I'm not trying to put her down here. She's incredibly open-minded about many things - divorce, homosexuality, religious diversity, birth control, to some extent abortion - than her devout Catholicism might lead one to believe she wouldn't be... which only serves to surprise me all the more when I discover brick walls like this one.)

Specifically, I'm reminded of the way she didn't engage the discussion so much as to role-play each point I made, "quoting" what she imagined was really going on in the heads of those people I was defending.

Me: "Some people feel that to demand sexual monogomy of their partner is to assert ownership over them. Since they don't believe they own their partner, they don't require--"

Her: "'Sure, go ahead! It's not like I own her...'"

In a terribly sarcastic tone of voice, of course. Slightly sing-song, implying buckets of sleaze and wink-wink nudge-nudge in every word.

Sometimes one's own worldview is so compelling that it's hard to get away from the assumption that others share your base premises. Mom's base premise is that sexual monogomy is the only moral choice, so all my explanations of why one might disagree with that became, in her mind, explanations of why one might be OK with committing an immoral act. And if one's base premise is that people will never act contrary to their own desires except under threat of force--and if one assumes everyone shares that base premise--then any attempt to explain about consensual negotiation gets translated into a manifesto about why force is OK.

Willingness to concede that others' base premises may differ, and thus may lead them to different conclusions for valid, good-conscience reasons, is extremely important if those arguing are going to assume good faith on the part of their opposite numbers. The assumption that one's opponent share one's base premises about certain things being evil/immoral/unwise leads to the assumption that they agree that their actions are evil/immoral/unwise, until all their arguments simply sound like a rationalization for immoral action.

I guess what I'm saying is, starting from the premise that anyone who acts/believes differently than you is doing so for impure reasons is a surefire way to avoid reaching common ground.

#291 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 11:00 PM:

Nicole @ 289:



I think the shorter form of your questions about Alice goes something like this:

The wicked son asks, "What is the meaning of this ritual to you?"

To him you shall say: For what the Lord did for me when I went out of Egypt." For me, and not for him; had he been there, he would not have been redeemed.

As an aside, WHY is there no online, searchable Maxwell House haggadah? I wanted the exact wording I grew up with. :P

#292 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 11:15 PM:

Kevin: Copland isn't a place, any more than bank teller land (I might be willing to extend things to dogland, but that's because 1: I have dogs, and 2: think your analogy to be suspect, because dogs have the trouble that they behave rationaly only insofar as they have a mental history of the world (their own private Euphemia, perhaps. Then again, I have some small amount of PTSD, and understand that somethings can just take over. Since dogs cannot be reasoned with; no matter how rational they may be, you can't predict their behavior without a long, and intimate, knowledge of the individual dog in question. From the point of view of the person who doesn't know the dog, they are irrational, even if one can play to general behavior traits they have in common. That's a trendline, not a gaurantee, but I digress).

Copland is an attitude. It's one that cops (and bank tellers and soldiers; even in a combat zone) adopt. They adopt it because it makes life easier. A guy looks drunk, haul him away.

A good dept. does a lot of training to recognise the out of kilter diabetic, and prevent them from ending up booked (and perhaps dead) from mistaken identity.

That's a tool, to override the problems of tribal thinking (which is what all those various lands are). Since cops are required to interact with all the various tribes which live in the greater polity, it's incumbent that they not resort to pigeonhole thinking; except in those cases where it's absolutely necessary (which is to say when the presence, or strong likelihood, which requires more indica than the cop feeling nervous. If I (with far more relaxed ROE) cold refrain from shooting the guy with the rifle who wasn't where anyone with a rifle was supposed to be, than a cops can wait until they see a gun, rather than shoot the guy reaching for his wallet; much less doing it 40 some times.

I am not going to trim the sails of my behavior to keep the cops from feeling uncomfortable. That's part of why we pay them. I do change how I act around them, but it's because I don't trust them to abuse their power. I am not going to make keeping them from getting uppity my benchmark.

Because that way lies the police state. If upsetting the mental state of "copland" is grounds for them to arrest me (and I can see no other conclusion to be drawn from the cosistent tenor of your arguments, even with the reluctant admission that there might be blame to go around; but that only after you pointed to the WaPo as proving the arrest was justified; as you have been saying all along), then all they have to do is change the rules, and I (lest I wish to be arrested) have to conform to them.

That makes them the masters of society, not the servants.

And it's not the way the game is played here (though there are those, with the Free Speech Zones and banning people they don't like from politcal rallies being paid for with the public dime, who would like to see it so). The rules here are, that which is not prohibited, is permitted

It's enshrined right there in the 9th amendment to the Constitution. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Which means the presumption is that behaviors (even oddball, "Unroman" ones) are legal, and permissible.

As to the asking of questions... no, we don't know it was more than that. My presumption (from citizenland) is that cops are arbitrary, and as soon as one of them decides he hasn't gotten enough respect, he arrests the person. We don't know the cop who was being asked quesetions by the cameram operator wasn't more rational than the other one.

I'm not going to give that blanket piece of grace to the cop. Why? Because I am the one who has to watch the watchmen. It's part of my duty as a citizen. They have the power, that means someone has to ride herd on them; because they sure as hell don't do it on themselves.

As Greg says, the obligation is on the cops to be diplomatic, because they are the ones who have the power. To tie back to the libetarian thread, the cops are in a position to coerce, and the dancers aren't... which means it's not diplomacy you are expecting them to exhibit, but deference.

I don't think deference to the cops is a good thing. Pissing them off is a bad thing, but that's because they have more power than I do.

Daniel Boone: It's the word structure, and choice, which seems sarcastic. Your immediate reductio to at gunpoint but really very solicitous and then, communitarian (followed with a dismissive tone about him being comfortable with the use of guns to help people) which even you agree has some loaded connotation. I take you at face value that you aren't trying to offend, but it's going to make it more likely some people will lose the even keel of their temper.

Where I have my quibbles with your worldview is that it is, fundamentally unstable. It requires a Rousseau like "noble modern" to arise. This is in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Somalia is a classic example. There is no gov't there coercing people to help each other. What arose from that wasn't anything like a peaceful exchange of goods and services to the best advantage of all. Rather a group of people chose one of their number to impose a far more coercive system on the rest, and the only limits on them is the ability of other groups (or individuals, how the warlords came to power isn't really important to those whom they are lording over, is it?) to prevent them.

I am a "second worldview" holder and I disagree with your interpretation of the requirements to do positive acts. I hold to Hillel's Golden Rule, not Jesus' (though Jesus' is more often expressed as though it were Hillel's): Do not do unto others what you would not have done unto you.

This, I suspect, is a view every libertarian can accept.

However, while I don't think the individual has an obligation to give up his food to the poor (or his house, his goods, etc.) I do think the society has to. It's simply in its own best interest to see to it that the disenfranchised aren't left to starve (France in 1789 ought to make that pretty clear).

And the only way to make that happen is for the society as a whole to act. If I give half my money to the begger, all it does is make both of us poor. If we tax everyone, a small sum (and apportion it, so the poor are not shouldering the greater proportion of the burden) then none need starve, and none need give up their well being while someone else just sits back and reaps the profit of selfishness.

I could make a case that letting the poor starve is initiating a violence on them, and they would be in their, "natural" rights to defend themselves against it. Simply taking food would be justified, and killing those who refused to give it to them would be a reasonable extension.

And that way lies chaos.

Which is what you get if they don't get something (see again, France in 1798)

Which is to say, that gov't is bad which fails to recognise the postive moral obligations of the group, and "coerce" at least the minimal amount of meeting them (even at gunpoint) from the body as a whole.

Rikibeth: That quotation requires some of a different worldview (and I have to shop for Passover on Saturday, have you any good desserts?)

#293 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2008, 11:46 PM:

PJ Evans #268 -- What are you talking about? Since when does the NCLB offer vouchers to anybody?

Chris #279: I think most parents who couldn't afford to send their kids to private schools before vouchers won't be able to afford it after, either.

The city of Milwaukee has been experimenting with a school voucher system. Currently, families with incomes below a certain level can vouchers worth up to $6500/year to send their kids to private school. The private school I went to, in the Bronx, had tuition of $7000/year in 1998. (I haven't been able to find more recent figures on the web.) So if New York offered a program along Milwaukee's lines, those vouchers would nearly cover the cost of that school. Even if we assume that the tuition's gone up to match inflation, so it'd be about $9000/year instead, a voucher that covers more than two-thirds of the cost of tuition would help a great many families send their kids to private school. (NY state currently spends about $10k/student each year, as opposed to the nearly $8k that Wisconsin spends, so if NY were to offer a voucher plan like Milwaukee's, it could probably afford bigger vouchers.)

And that's just one city! If states and the fed chip in, too, you could probably get the whole cost of tuition covered, plus books.

#294 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:03 AM:

Daniel: I'm going to quote something Nicole said, because it's a somewhat clearer version of what I said that you read as a "neener, neener".

Why should [Alice] be allowed to enjoy the privileges of a community without living up to the responsibilities that come with them? Alice might say, "Requiring me to pay taxes is threatening me with force," but Bob might say, "Using the roads is implicit consent to help fund their maintenance." I tend to side with Bob in this case. If Alice does not want to be "forced to" (in her worldview) or "seen as consenting to" (in Bob's worldview) paying the piper, what is she doing in the dance in the first place?

That's exactly what I meant by saying that you don't have an option. Unless you can set up that hypothetical off-the-grid island, you are going to be living in a society which enforces certain values at what you call "gunpoint" -- and you will also be reaping the benefits of it doing so. It ill behooves you to complain of society being gangster-like while simultaneously keeping your own head firmly in the trough.

#295 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:10 AM:

Terry @293: Rikibeth: That quotation requires some of a different worldview (and I have to shop for Passover on Saturday, have you any good desserts?)

Not Rikibeth and can't vouch for the actual results, but nevertheless I invoke The Sensuous Kugel (as well as The Ritual Slaughter of the Latke for future occasions).

#296 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:23 AM:

terry,

That quotation requires some of a different worldview (and I have to shop for Passover on Saturday, have you any good desserts?)

i found that ghirardelli's chocolate decadence cake makes a very good pesach dessert (of course, you leave out the corn syrup in the frosting, unless y'all are sephardim). especially with the tweak naomi & i came up with, of splitting the batter into two cakes instead of one, and spreading jam in between the layers.

rikibeth,

i pine for my old max house haggadahs, too. can you, like, buy those things?

#297 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:36 AM:

Xopher way up at #179,

May I celebrate your birthday as a personal holiday? It would be good to have a happy thing on that day.

#298 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:59 AM:

Miriam: Isn't that haggadot?

Being that I am partaking of a reform sesder (me being Catholic, and all) corn syrup wouldn't be out, except that I don't use the stuff, not for anything.

This year I think we're making the NYT Passover Cookbook Hungarian Hazelnut Torte.

But new recipes of esoteric nature are always worth collecting, and causing a thread drift to food is always worth doing. The chocolate has already surfaced, this is judaistic minutae, all we need is cats and tea to make the collection complete (poetry having already surfaced)

#299 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 01:07 AM:

Well, this is but one of many ways of combining food and knitting, another perennial subject here.

#300 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 01:34 AM:

PJ Evans re: #288

Apart from actual innocence and actual guilt, I believe in "innocent until proven guilty" as a general principle of law. But I also know that if an officer perceives me doing something that they consider an infraction of the law, they usually have it in their discretion to cite me, arrest me, or let me off with a warning. And it depends on how well I argue my own case, explain extenuating circumstances, or simply convince them that their suspicions were unwarranted and that whatever it is I'm doing is completely innocent and legal that that will figure out where that discretion will swing. And if they decide to proceed to citation or arrest, this is a matter of passing the buck to a judge, who will then decide. I have rather fond memories from childhood of the time my mother got a ridiculous traffic citation, took it to court, and the judge not only dismissed the charges and apologized to my mother, but reprimanded the cop and laughed at him.

That said, I've also seen people being rude enough to a cop to talk their way into a ticket, whereas if they'd gone with honey instead of vinegar they could probably have just got a warning. I think that's a lot of what we're seeing here.

Looking more and more at the coverage, the video and whatnot, it looks like public memorials are indeed intended as places of silent or at least quiet reflection and reverence and there's a relevant law to back this up, there's some variety of signage to the Jefferson Memorial to this effect, and the park patrol or at least their designated rent-a-cops are on video saying "You're being disruptive" and asking people to leave, which looks like about all the legal justification needed.

I think it's up to the Park Patrol's discretion to decide what volume level constitutes "quiet," what particular acts or gestures denote "reverence," and for that matter what sort of behavior is "disruptive." Moreover, I expect these definitions vary from day to day depending on who's on duty, but will still probably have as their baseline the same sort of hushed voices, respectful silence, sage nodding and whatnot expected in your standard Western church, temple, museum or library.

The flash-mobbers were there I believe by their own admission to "celebrate" Jefferson rather than "revere" him, so I don't think the park patrol made the wrong call by deciding the iPod dancing was too loud and insufficiently reverent. I do think they made the wrong call in how they dealt with the situation since it would have been less headache all round if they just let the event run its course and written it off to Founders Day weirdness, but hindsight is twenty/twenty and they probably thought they were just dealing with goofy kids rather than argumentative libertarian activists. (I think it's fair to characterize Radley Balko as an activist, as he has a blog call The Agitator.)

As for whether memorials should be a places of quiet reverence, rather than boisterous celebration, that's another question, but I think a judge would point out that's what we have pubs for, and I bet the ones in DC have Sam Adam's on tap too.

As for whether reverence or at least accepted practices denoting same can be required by law in certain public buildings, if you're in other certain public buildings you are expected to show respect for the law by saying ritual phrases like "Yes, Your Honor" rather than "Eat my shorts" or whatever other phrase you find personally fulfilling. Precedent there.

#301 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 02:10 AM:

Nicole@289: your post does read as sarcasm is that it doesn't give Greg the benefit of his own worldview

Remind me to forward all my posts to edit for clarity and brevity. That pretty much sums it up.

And on some level, I don't mind not getting the benefit of my own worldview. When I was 18 or so, I was a hierarchy of power guy all the way. I don't know for sure, but I think were my current aged self to have this same conversation with my 18 yo self, I think my 18 yo self would have given a similar response. Probably worse. My younger self wouldn't know what the hell my older self is talking about.

I had to learn some things about the absolute hardest way a person can learn something and still survive. I honestly don't know if it would be possible for someone to have sat me down and "set me right" via conversation. I don't think so.

I guess part of me hopes that some easier way might be possible. ANd it's a little depressing when it seems the answer is "no, there is no easy way". Ah well.

#302 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 02:23 AM:

Keven: That's not diplomacy, it's playing to the ref (or grovelling). I know that when asked questions by the cops who've pulled me over, I don't answer truthfully. I shade the answer to what they want to hear (and I have an edge in knowing how to interpret what they want to hear).

I'm polite because a non-memorable stop means a less detailed write up, so that if I choose to fight it, I have better odds.

And I don't protest when the cop lies about how fast I was going and writes me up for more than I was doing (by a couple of MPH) because he was threatening me with a misdemeanor ticket, and I had no way to prove him wrong.

I have no power with which to negotiate. That's the problem. You keep implying there's some level playing field. There isn't.

I'd like to think the judge would know that going to a bar and hoisting a couple is bit disconnected from going to the monument to celebrate. When one is going to memorialize someone, a cenotaph is a place more apropos than a bar.

I think disruptive is dependant not so much on the time of day, but the actual affect it has on the other people present. I don't think discretion on the part of the park police is bad, but I think you keep telling us we have to bend our behavior to the most limiting possible interpretations of the authorities, and that failing to do so gives the presumption of rectitude to the decisions of the cops.

And we have what appears (from a lot of words, between several people) to be irreconcilable differences; you want more deference, as a default state of mind, than I am willing to grant the police.

#303 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 02:34 AM:

Damn my fingers: Kevin, not Keven.

#304 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 02:44 AM:

Terry@292: Where I have my quibbles with your worldview is that it is, fundamentally unstable. It requires a Rousseau like "noble modern" to arise.

I don't think there exists a philosophy that won't create a functioning system of some sort... as long as every player on the field is exactly like the fondest supporter of that philosophy.

What I'm having trouble with is someone telling me they they have a system of perfect morality that operates on the principle of total and universal agreement to guarantee its perfect morality.

And when this person fails to get universal agreement from everyone to accept their system, they blame the imperfect people, they don't blame their system.

You'd think a successful and perfect system would be designed with imperfect people in mind. But a lot of them only work with some form of "perfect" person being members.

Now, I've got someone talking about how their perfect moral system is the perfect answer to the evil coersion inherent in the "democratic" system that only requires a simple majority vote for many decisions.

If someone shows me a system of perfect moral justice that would actually work, hell, I'd be all over that. But when I find faults in the supposedly "perfect" system, and I decided to withhold my consent, and said "perfect" system fails to implement for lack of unanimous ratification, I just feel like the cheesebear when the proposer of teh "perfect" system decides to blame me for its failure, rather than their system.

The implication from their point of view is that they have this perfect system, and I chose to support a less than perfect system called a non-unanimous democracy. They are able to convice themselves that I would pass up on a morally perfect system because I prefer the advantages I get from having my governmetn point guns at Alice's head. That the only reason I won't support their morally perfect system is that I prefer the gangster life. I guess it is an implied insult. But I'm left staring at my screen in incredularity, like a cheesebear staring at disbelief at some motorist who is spouting conspiracy theories as to why I pulled him over.

I'm... I'm gobsmacked.

#305 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 03:26 AM:

Terry,

An interesting and illuminating perspective. I don't quite agree with all of it, because while I do agree with the thoughts about tribal thinking, I don't think the cop tribe needs deference because they're the grand and sacred cop tribe. What I do think is that every tribe has its rites and rituals and the cop tribe is really hung up on ritual forms of address, and the quickest way to get someone out of Copland is to convince them that you're a member of their tribe.

You mentioned public drunkenness as a crime. Unless someone is behind the wheel of a car or other piece of deadly machinery, why should anyone care? And the criminality varies from locale to locale. Drunkenness at the Jefferson Memorial would probably get you arrested whereas public drunkenness on Bourbon Street is almost expected. It, like most other laws, is utter bullshit, and arbitrary bullshit at that.

But it's necessary arbitrary bullshit to keep all the various tribes working together in a civil society. Drunkenness here. Hookers there. Female nipples are only to be shown on premium cable channels but male nipples may be shown on billboards blown up to the size of dinner plates. All the assorted madness which unduly restricts all sorts of individual freedoms in various circumstances and locales but allows members of various tribes to navigate society without undue fear of encountering whatever thing or act they consider taboo.

When not dealing with threats to public health, safety, or property, cops have to officiate this madness, and as members of a polite society, it behooves us to restrict any of our individual or tribal customs which the majority of the other tribes consider too outre to private homes, hotel rooms, or perhaps concert halls rented for the occasion. And if that's insuffient, declare a holiday or festival and do this until society at large considers whatever the hell it is normal or at very least not worth their breath or interest.

If our tribe wants to do whatever it is in a public space not already zoned for such things, we should try to get the cop tribe to not only agree to this, but have some sufficient bullshit explanation to tell the other tribes so they know why whatever taboo thing is now allowed in the sacred space. Even something as silly as iPod dancing at the Jefferson Memorial for Founders Day.

#306 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 03:29 AM:

Terry,

An interesting and illuminating perspective. I don't quite agree with all of it, because while I do agree with the thoughts about tribal thinking, I don't think the cop tribe needs deference because they're the grand and sacred cop tribe. What I do think is that every tribe has its rites and rituals and the cop tribe is really hung up on ritual forms of address, and the quickest way to get someone out of Copland is to convince them that you're a member of their tribe.

You mentioned public drunkenness as a crime. Unless someone is behind the wheel of a car or other piece of deadly machinery, why should anyone care? And the criminality varies from locale to locale. Drunkenness at the Jefferson Memorial would probably get you arrested whereas public drunkenness on Bourbon Street is almost expected. It, like most other laws, is utter bullshit, and arbitrary bullshit at that.

But it's necessary arbitrary bullshit to keep all the various tribes working together in a civil society. Drunkenness here. Hookers there. Female nipples are only to be shown on premium cable channels but male nipples may be shown on billboards blown up to the size of dinner plates. All the assorted madness which unduly restricts all sorts of individual freedoms in various circumstances and locales but allows members of various tribes to navigate society without undue fear of encountering whatever thing or act they consider taboo.

When not dealing with threats to public health, safety, or property, cops have to officiate this madness, and as members of a polite society, it behooves us to restrict any of our individual or tribal customs which the majority of the other tribes consider too outre to private homes, hotel rooms, or perhaps concert halls rented for the occasion. And if that's insuffient, declare a holiday or festival and do this until society at large considers whatever the hell it is normal or at very least not worth their breath or interest.

If our tribe wants to do whatever it is in a public space not already zoned for such things, we should try to get the cop tribe to not only agree to this, but have some sufficient bullshit explanation to tell the other tribes so they know why whatever taboo thing is now allowed in the sacred space. Even something as silly as iPod dancing at the Jefferson Memorial for Founders Day.

#307 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 03:30 AM:

Terry,

An interesting and illuminating perspective. I don't quite agree with all of it, because while I do agree with the thoughts about tribal thinking, I don't think the cop tribe needs deference because they're the grand and sacred cop tribe. What I do think is that every tribe has its rites and rituals and the cop tribe is really hung up on ritual forms of address, and the quickest way to get someone out of Copland is to convince them that you're a member of their tribe.

You mentioned public drunkenness as a crime. Unless someone is behind the wheel of a car or other piece of deadly machinery, why should anyone care? And the criminality varies from locale to locale. Drunkenness at the Jefferson Memorial would probably get you arrested whereas public drunkenness on Bourbon Street is almost expected. It, like most other laws, is utter bullshit, and arbitrary bullshit at that.

But it's necessary arbitrary bullshit to keep all the various tribes working together in a civil society. Drunkenness here. Hookers there. Female nipples are only to be shown on premium cable channels but male nipples may be shown on billboards blown up to the size of dinner plates. All the assorted madness which unduly restricts all sorts of individual freedoms in various circumstances and locales but allows members of various tribes to navigate society without undue fear of encountering whatever thing or act they consider taboo.

When not dealing with threats to public health, safety, or property, cops have to officiate this madness, and as members of a polite society, it behooves us to restrict any of our individual or tribal customs which the majority of the other tribes consider too outre to private homes, hotel rooms, or perhaps concert halls rented for the occasion. And if that's insuffient, declare a holiday or festival and do this until society at large considers whatever the hell it is normal or at very least not worth their breath or interest.

If our tribe wants to do whatever it is in a public space not already zoned for such things, we should try to get the cop tribe to not only agree to this, but have some sufficient bullshit explanation to tell the other tribes so they know why whatever taboo thing is now allowed in the sacred space. Even something as silly as iPod dancing at the Jefferson Memorial for Founders Day.

#308 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 03:30 AM:

Terry,

An interesting and illuminating perspective. I don't quite agree with all of it, because while I do agree with the thoughts about tribal thinking, I don't think the cop tribe needs deference because they're the grand and sacred cop tribe. What I do think is that every tribe has its rites and rituals and the cop tribe is really hung up on ritual forms of address, and the quickest way to get someone out of Copland is to convince them that you're a member of their tribe.

You mentioned public drunkenness as a crime. Unless someone is behind the wheel of a car or other piece of deadly machinery, why should anyone care? And the criminality varies from locale to locale. Drunkenness at the Jefferson Memorial would probably get you arrested whereas public drunkenness on Bourbon Street is almost expected. It, like most other laws, is utter bullshit, and arbitrary bullshit at that.

But it's necessary arbitrary bullshit to keep all the various tribes working together in a civil society. Drunkenness here. Hookers there. Female nipples are only to be shown on premium cable channels but male nipples may be shown on billboards blown up to the size of dinner plates. All the assorted madness which unduly restricts all sorts of individual freedoms in various circumstances and locales but allows members of various tribes to navigate society without undue fear of encountering whatever thing or act they consider taboo.

When not dealing with threats to public health, safety, or property, cops have to officiate this madness, and as members of a polite society, it behooves us to restrict any of our individual or tribal customs which the majority of the other tribes consider too outre to private homes, hotel rooms, or perhaps concert halls rented for the occasion. And if that's insuffient, declare a holiday or festival and do this until society at large considers whatever the hell it is normal or at very least not worth their breath or interest.

If our tribe wants to do whatever it is in a public space not already zoned for such things, we should try to get the cop tribe to not only agree to this, but have some sufficient bullshit explanation to tell the other tribes so they know why whatever taboo thing is now allowed in the sacred space. Even something as silly as iPod dancing at the Jefferson Memorial for Founders Day.

#309 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 03:30 AM:

Terry,

An interesting and illuminating perspective. I don't quite agree with all of it, because while I do agree with the thoughts about tribal thinking, I don't think the cop tribe needs deference because they're the grand and sacred cop tribe. What I do think is that every tribe has its rites and rituals and the cop tribe is really hung up on ritual forms of address, and the quickest way to get someone out of Copland is to convince them that you're a member of their tribe.

You mentioned public drunkenness as a crime. Unless someone is behind the wheel of a car or other piece of deadly machinery, why should anyone care? And the criminality varies from locale to locale. Drunkenness at the Jefferson Memorial would probably get you arrested whereas public drunkenness on Bourbon Street is almost expected. It, like most other laws, is utter bullshit, and arbitrary bullshit at that.

But it's necessary arbitrary bullshit to keep all the various tribes working together in a civil society. Drunkenness here. Hookers there. Female nipples are only to be shown on premium cable channels but male nipples may be shown on billboards blown up to the size of dinner plates. All the assorted madness which unduly restricts all sorts of individual freedoms in various circumstances and locales but allows members of various tribes to navigate society without undue fear of encountering whatever thing or act they consider taboo.

When not dealing with threats to public health, safety, or property, cops have to officiate this madness, and as members of a polite society, it behooves us to restrict any of our individual or tribal customs which the majority of the other tribes consider too outre to private homes, hotel rooms, or perhaps concert halls rented for the occasion. And if that's insuffient, declare a holiday or festival and do this until society at large considers whatever the hell it is normal or at very least not worth their breath or interest.

If our tribe wants to do whatever it is in a public space not already zoned for such things, we should try to get the cop tribe to not only agree to this, but have some sufficient bullshit explanation to tell the other tribes so they know why whatever taboo thing is now allowed in the sacred space. Even something as silly as iPod dancing at the Jefferson Memorial for Founders Day.

#310 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 03:36 AM:

Chris @ 247: "Well, now, that depends on who you mean by "our", doesn't it? For "our" = "liberals'", I think you're quite right, but NCLB wasn't proposed and passed by liberals."

I'd argue that "our" in this sentence isn't just liberals--there are plenty of conservatives and independents who want our country's kids to recieve good educations. I agree that NCLB wasn't actually intended to accomplish that goal, but I'm not going to engage that issue right now. For the sake of this discussion, which is primarily about libertarian philosophy, I'm going to assume good faith: that the people pushing market models really do believe that they are the best ways to accomplish the goals of society as a whole.

albatross @ 252: "But most of the time in politics, we don't see voluntary cooperation and friendship offered as alternatives to markets."

On the contary, that is, in my view, the entire function and raison d'etre of politics: to solve the problems created by unrestrained markets through collective action. Let me give some examples:

Social security. People exlicitly rejected using the competition in the marketplace to guarantee their quality of life. Instead, they decided to cooperate to collectively ensure everyone's well-being.

The FDA. People decided to collectively employ specialists to ensure the safety of their food supply, since market forces failed to sufficiently punish those who delivered an unsafe product.

The National Park Service. People discovered that, left to private ownership, nature was being devastated at a phenomenal rate. People decided that the only way to guarantee their preservation was to hold them in common trust--leveraging the blessing of the commons, so to speak.

I could go on--practically every aspect of government has similar rationales. In all of these cases, people decided that cooperation would yield better results than competition. In all of these cases, they were enacted to combat extant market failures--these are all areas where letting the market roam free caused disaster. How is this not choosing between voluntary cooperation on one hand, and markets on the other?

(I agree what I said @ 242 was wildly unclear. Is this better?)

"The alternative is probably some version of having some government agency decide which books are to be bought."

I'd just like to note the irony of using the book market as an example of the wonderfulness of the free market, given that publishing is only possible at all because of long-standing and comprehensive government interference. The only way to have any industry based on intellectual property is by having the government enforce limited-monopolies on it, in the form of copyright.

"IMO, a common mistake on the libertarian / pro-free-market side is to imagine that because markets are good at their job (propogating costs and desires through a huge network of people, causing markets to clear), they're good at other jobs, like determining morality or guiding personal decisions."

Absolutely! But it's also possible for the market to fail in economic ways, too: The Tragedy of the Commons leaps to mind of a scenario where free markets can't even succeed at allocating resources in the most efficient way possible.

#311 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 03:49 AM:

Greg London @ 253: Thanks--that's about what I expected. Still, I'm worried that you might have the same blind spots I and every other non-libertarian does. I'd still really like to hear what a practicing libertarian has to say about it.

#312 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 04:06 AM:

(Yargh, screen froze and ended in multipost. Please nuke the duplicates.)

Terry: re 302/303

Cross-posted.

I'm wondering whether some of this is a regional thing. I remember back from my freshman orientation at UCSC (actually freshperson orientation) and the head of the campus police came out, and related something interesting: "And I can let you in on a secret: The cops on campus can tell the difference between those of you from northern California and those from southern California." *DRAMATIC PAUSE* "The ones from southern California are the ones who won't talk to us."

I thought this was vaguely amusing, but then found out it was rather true. My roommate from San Diego was horrified that I actually talked to a cop after I saw one of the campus shuttles sideswipe the mirrors off three parked cars and keep on going. I considered reporting it civic responsibility.

As for traffic stops, I may have been lucky, but when I've known the speed, I've always seen them being spot on or slightly under, and I've usually seen them shave an extra five or ten miles off, and once over thirty when a friend of mine wanted to test the power of my car. I told him I was game, but he was driving, and if he got caught, it was his ticket.

He got caught with the needle tapping out at 105, and the cop was nice enough to drop the ticket to five miles under whatever the cut-off was to have to take him to jail.

As for "deference," I generally just think that if you're nice to people, they're nice back.

#313 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 04:42 AM:

I've been wondering for 2 days why Daniel's arguments were making me absolutely furious on a level I couldn't articulate, and I think it finally crystallized:

I cannot imagine that base argument even being made except from a viewpoint mired in such a level of social privilege, and such complete blindness to its effects, that no hint of reality is likely to penetrate the screen.

And there is really nothing more I can say about that which is not apt to lose vowels.

#314 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 04:48 AM:

Terry -- I haven't gotten around to trying this myself, but this recipe is supposed to be excellent.

Epacris -- those knitted donuts are adorable.

#315 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 05:37 AM:

Terry: how Reform, how many restrictions? Is serving dairy after a meat meal going to be a problem?

Because I have learned that you can make perfectly acceptable ladyfingers with matzo cake meal instead of flour, and there's a Passover sweet wine which is an awful lot like Marsala, and that way lies tiramisu, but only if you can make the mascarpone filling. I did once make a nondairy substitute for that, cobbled together out of Tofutti better-than-cream-cheese, Silk vanilla creamer, and some agar for stability, but it wasn't really as good.

#316 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 05:42 AM:

miriam @ 296: Amazon had four used-and-new for sale. I believe my mother also inherited the large box full of them that was my grandmother's, but has switched to a more modern and egalitarian one -- I could see if she's kept the old copies, and if she'd be willing to part with a few. I think we might have had twenty or more. How many do you need?

#317 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 05:44 AM:

Avram @ 267: "First, you're not going to get me to take you seriously by dismissing advocates of school voucher systems as "market fanatics". Would you be inclined to listen to people who dismissed you as a "central planning fanatic"?"

The relevant difference being that I'm not advocating the use of "central planning" in every aspect of society, whereas they are advocating the use of markets in every conceivable application, even wildly inappropriate ones like education. But hey, if the term offends you, then I'll find a new one. How about "market maximalist?"

"Second, the NCLB program is not an example of a free-market educational system."

Fair enough. But is NCLB more like a free-market system than the pre-existing educational system? I think it self-evidently is, and I believe that its weaknesses would only be multiplied in a pure market solution.

"For another, yes, of course punishing failing schools makes them worse. Nobody's claiming that, under a free market system, failing businesses always recover. In general, in a free market, failing businesses fail. Customers go elsewhere. That's the idea behind school voucher systems -- parents will take their kids out of failing schools and put them in better schools, and the failing schools will go out of business."

If you look at the situation that public schools are in right now, people are already able to vote with their feet—that’s what’s causing the problem! Schools are almost all funded by local property taxes, meaning that areas with high property values have, shock and amazement, really well-funded schools. The rich get good schools, and the poor get shitty schools. Letting people take their funding with them when they switch schools wouldn’t solve this problem. People are already fleeing areas with poor schools—they’d only flee faster if they could take their funding with them.

What happens now, and what would only be worse with vouchers, is you end up with public schools that are only attended by people who can’t afford to go anywhere else. They don’t go out of business, because the students who’re still around can’t afford to go anywhere else.* No other school is going to move in: no profit in it. The dirt-poor school just continues to struggle onward, never improving, because who in their right mind would send their kid there if they could help it? Meanwhile, schools in richer areas reap increased benefits, as the rush of people desperate to escape areas with poor schools drives up property values. The gap between poor and rich areas grows, and the ability to jump between them shrinks. All vouchers would accomplish is speed the whole process up.

What you would end up with is what you always end up with when you employ the market: a wide range in quality, with an equally large range in price tag. And the range in price would be huge—education is such an important factor for determining people’s success in life that almost no amount of money can really be said to be too much. It’s a market with almost infinite capacity for price-gouging.

This, to me, is a failure mode. If the education kids get is just a function of their parent’s pocketbook, then that is bad for all of us. How many more Einsteins would go uneducated because their parents were poor, and how many more idiots would end up in upper management because their parents could afford to get fancy diplomas for them? Vouchers won’t solve any problems. They’ll just make them worse. Education is simply not a place where market interactions are going to produce the result that society needs.

*If everyone’s getting the same vouchers, it’s all a wash for poor people—richer people can still afford to pay more. (Sure, the private schools will be able to charge more, but that's not our goal. Is it?) If you’re going to give poor people bigger vouchers, then why not just invest that money in the failing school directly?

P.S. You don't have to take my word for it. It's already happened in India.

P.P.S. "And for another, if your goal is to "produce high-quality education for every student in this country", you need a better goal. You can't give everybody an above-average outcome -- it's mathematically impossible."

Come on. You're smarter than that. "High-quality" and "above-average" are entirely different scales of measure: one is absolute, and the other is relative. An "average" Patek-Philipe wrist-watch is still high-quality, and a phenomenally talented grade-schooler's drawing is still done in crayon.

#318 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 06:06 AM:

Chris @ 279: Word.

Greg London @ 287: Right on.

@ 304: "You'd think a successful and perfect system would be designed with imperfect people in mind. But a lot of them only work with some form of "perfect" person being members."

Really. I react to arguments like that like I would to someone saying, "I've bred the perfect living organism! It works so perfectly and elegantly! As long as it never encounters any viruses, bacteria, predators or pointy rocks." What? A political system that can't survive contact with imperfect people, or people who disagree is doomed.

#319 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 08:53 AM:

"You'd think a successful and perfect system would be designed with imperfect people in mind. But a lot of them only work with some form of "perfect" person being members."

In my house we phrase that as "X would work so well if only it weren't for all the pesky humans." X is generally a political system, but there have been other examples.

#320 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 08:59 AM:

heresiarch #310: I think we're using different meanings for the word "cooperation." The government programs you described are indeed uses of government to do stuff that wasn't going to be done by a market, and they're all trying to achieve broadly sensible goals. But they're not based on cooperation, so much as on the use of the power to tax and arrest and fine people.

Social Security is not a system based on cooperation. It's a mandatory retirement program; if I don't pay into it, I literally go to jail. That may be the best way for it to work, it may be a very good program. But calling it a program based on cooperation bends the word "cooperation" way out of shape. This isn't me and a bunch of other people voluntarily getting together and building a retirement coop or a mutual aid society that works on the altruism of its members.

Similarly, the FDA gets cooperation from the customers of unapproved drugs by making it illegal for them to buy those drugs, and the cooperation of the producers by arresting or fining them if they sell something they're not allowed to sell. Again, maybe this is the best way for the FDA to work[1], but it's not cooperation except in the sense that the boss gets cooperation from the employees when he tells them to finish some job today or they'll all get fired.

The Park Service is a better example of something kind-of like cooperation, since the goal is basically to put commons (which will be mismanaged if left to individual incentives) under the ownership of the state. It's funded by taxes, but the parks raise quite a bit of money. (I gather they'd raise more money, except that grazing rights on parkland is kept artificially cheap to give some ranchers a goodie for political reasons.)

Let me be clear, here. I'm not arguing for the abolition of any of these (though I'd like some changes). I think it's impossible to run a society on the non-aggression principle, because there are things that the society needs and that the market just can't provide. I'm objecting to saying that these programs are based on cooperation, because at least 2/3 of your examples really are not.

[1] I'd prefer having the FDA leave more flexibility for doctors and patients, and spend its regulatory muscle on some combination of advisory stuff (making it clear which medicines were approved by the FDA) and regulations requiring the food and drugs sold to really contain what they say they contain, not to contain contaminants, etc.

#321 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 09:05 AM:

heresiarch #318:

Yeah, I lean libertarian in principle, but I think the non-aggression principle is insufficient to make a society work. Indeed, realizing this also helped me see how very simple models of the world tended to be both more satisfying than complicated models, and also inclined to seriously mislead you.

I don't think there's any simple statement of principles that can, by itself, guide all your political decisions. If you start with the ten commandments, you end up with the Mosaic code, because a small set of simple principles never gives you sufficient guidance to adjust to the complexities of reality. I have always wondered if, given a bit more intelligence or knowledge, I could make some parallel with math and Godel, because it feels like that kind of limit.

FWIW, the best libertarian thinkers recognize this. David Friedman published an article a few years ago (it's on his website) pointing out various places where the non-aggression principle led you right off a cliff in pretty spectacular fashion.

#322 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 09:21 AM:

heresiarch@311: I'm worried that you might have the same blind spots I and every other non-libertarian does.

No one can really see their current worldview. We can see our previous worldviews through our current worldviews eyes. I was reporting my old power hierarchy worldview through my current worldview which has room for relationships that wasn't there before.

That doesn't mean I don't have blind spots. I'm certain I do. worldviews do that. They filter. You can't really stop that.

The thing is, I can look at my younger-self worldview, and I can look at my current-self worldview, and at least make relative comparisons. I know my younger self would have refused to acknowledge the possibility of blindspots, and would have fully supported a politicaly system that required perfect adherents of my worldview.

What I see about my current worldview is that it allows for imperfect people. Everyone has a moral compass that might point in completely different directions, how do all those people work together? My younger self was certain that my compass was right. Now I get that while I can only see my own compass, I'm not basing my system on the notion that my compass is neccessarily right.

I'm sure there are blind spots. I'm sure I have them. By their very nature, I have no idea what they are, because I can't see them. But I know that my system is designed to try to allow for imperfect people and still produce a good result. And I think it will produce a better result (though not perfect result) than any "perfect" system which requires "perfect" people to implement, because, essentially, those systems usually produce no results at all.

#323 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 09:42 AM:

#292, Terry Karney -

It isn't a dessert, but Apartment Therapy's Kitchn* site had a recipe for passover candy that looked really nummy. Chocolate Toffee Matzo Candy. They may also have some dessert recipes - they've been talking about Passover food for a little while now - but none particularly caught my eye so I'm not sure.

*Of all the copycat-flickr names I've seen, this one bugs me the most. Probably because they renamed it "Kitchn" from "The Kitchen."

#324 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 09:46 AM:

heresiarch #317:

You seem to be saying that parents should be compelled to keep their kids in failing schools, at least if they don't have their own money to move to a better neighborhood or put their kids in a private school. I'm missing how this is the humane, egalitarian option. "Yes, your son's school has a big gang problem, there are drug deals happening in the halls, most of the teachers appear to be pretty lousy because all the good teachers run like hell from this district as soon as they have a chance, and most of the kids graduating from the 8th grade read on a 4th grade level. But you'll just have to keep you son there, falling further and further behind, because if we let you leave and take your money with you, the school might get even worse."

I mean, if we had a good public school system, which was mostly serving the poor kids well[1], I could see the argument that monkeying around with vouchers to satisfy a free market ideology was a bad idea. But that's not the situation we're in with a lot of poor areas. Offering the parents some choice in which school to send their kids to isn't as good as fixing all the schools, but we don't seem to be able to do that[2].

ISTM that closing down failing schools is a net win for mankind, along with firing incompetent teachers. You have to be careful evaluating that, obviously, lest the teachers who get a classroom full of poor black and brown kids always end up looking incompetent while the ones with a classroom full of middle-class white and Asian kids look brilliant. But there has to be some point where we say "enough" and stop putting kids through a school that's not doing the job, in the same way that we ought to sooner or later say "enough" when an incompetent doctor keeps getting nailed for malpractice. "For the love of God, just go" and all that.

[1] These are the really important kids to serve well, because their parents can't afford to put them into a private school or hire tutors, and their parents are more likely not to be able to just supplement their education at home.

[2] Or if we can, we haven't bothered. Probably because the kids getting screwed are mostly poor, and their families don't have much political power. It's not like real people are being hurt, here.

#325 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 10:00 AM:

Terry #298: So, you're dabbling in Reform Tortes this year?

#326 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 10:44 AM:

albatross @ 321

I don't think there's any simple statement of principles that can, by itself, guide all your political decisions. If you start with the ten commandments, you end up with the Mosaic code, because a small set of simple principles never gives you sufficient guidance to adjust to the complexities of reality. I have always wondered if, given a bit more intelligence or knowledge, I could make some parallel with math and Godel, because it feels like that kind of limit.

I think I lean considerably less libertarian than you do (as a result of correcting for a rather large list in that direction earlier on in life), but I agree completely about simple principles. I think the problem is that we live in a chaotic (in the mathematical sense) world where simple rules lead to extremely complex results, and simple principles aren't good at discriminating around fractal borders*. I'm certain you're right aboutGödel, and one of the lessons there is that it's not possible to compute exact solutions to problems in such environments. The best you can do is run simulations over limited rangss of time, space, and your problem dimensions, and hope you can keep accuracy over the interval you need.

My hope is that, 50 years from now, we'll** look back and recognize Robert Axelrod's work on cooperation as the seminal insight into an area of research that fundamentally changed the way we think about political and social theory, and the way to find solutions to political problems.

* Is it alive or not? Is it fair or not? Is it moral or not? All questions that sometimes need answers, and sometimes can only be approximated.

** Collectively, I'm not expecting to be there.

#327 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 10:53 AM:

Kevin: The problem isn't that one is "behooved" to restrict our outré behaviors (about which I am ambivilant, because I have some outré behaviors, and I don't see that I should have to give them up, and beome pretty resentful when the majority tell me I should).

The problem is you've, consistently said (as here) that one should be nice to the cop (as the cop sees nice), and accept that not being nice is going to get one hassled, if not arrested; and consistently said it's not only understandable, but sort of correct (if only because the cop doesn't know any other way to behave, and he's a necessary part of making a civil society work, so we have to put up with a few abuses).

Cops only have to to deal with the madness when it seems to them it interferes with public safety; so it really matters what they think is extreme behavior, threatening public safety.

I am not willing to grant them the license to be the arbiters of that. The cop has a sufficient explanation: The dancers weren't ingfringing anyone. If they were, the cop has a real easy way to prevent the sort of public circus this has/could become... give a polite explanation (if needs be with the relevant code) when the people they are telling to stop ask them.

If the cop took it at face value (a sincere belief that there was nothing wrong, and interest in finding out what the problem is) there would be fewer cases of pissed off cop violates civil rights.

Because when a cop tells me I can't take a photo of a public building, event, etc., I am sure as hell, not going to say, "Oh, I'm sorry, I won't do it again" just because he's decided (for all I know, on his own) that it's not legal.

And I'm going to ask for his name, and his badge number, and if he's not in uniform I'm going to ask to see his ID.

Because to spend my time seeing to it I conform to the will of the majority is to allow whomever can convince the cop tribe (which tends to more authoritarian sorts, who value others being quiet, and doing what they are told) the power to shape the way society is built.

As to the cops who don't ge talked to... he was wrong. I'm from So. California more than I am from anyplace else, and I talk to cops. I spend a lot of time with cops. I like most of them, and I talk to them, and am polite (because it gets me what I want, and reduces the risk of them deciding I need to be shown, "how the real world works.").

But that same level of knowing them is why I don't really trust them. The campus police at my college had to have the president of the school order him to release the police blotter to the paper. He was claiming it was a confidential thing.

Being in SF, knowing a cop often meant the difference between getting hassled, and not (hell, knowing the daughter of one of the more well known; at least at the time, retired cops was enough to get one some slack). It had nothing to do with being right, or normal. It had to do with being an affiliate of the tribe.

I've been let out of more tickets than I have been given. I know how fast I'm driving. Usually they shave the mileage to the next fine down. This guy was being a prick. He wanted to write me up for about what I was driving, and told me he was shaving more than 10 mph off the ticket. At the kindest I have to think he was incompetent, and misread his meter (this was in the days before the CHP was using radar). Since the meter in their cruisers are calibrated in 2 MPH increments, and they get a lot of training, I don't think that was it.

(as an aside, there isn't a hard and fast cut-off for jail; wrt to speeding. If one is going more than 25 miles faster than the posted limit the officer has, at his discretion, the option to cite you for misdemeanor reckless driving. It's a judgement call, and one well designed. Going 80 on an empty chunk of I-5 [back in the day of the 55 MPH highways] is a far cry from 50 through a gently curving residential neighborhood)

As to deference, I think being nice pays off, but you seem to be taking it past that. You keep saying not that one need to be polite, but that we have to modify our behaviors (such as not dancing in public) so that the cops won't think we are a menace. That deferring to what they think is proper, not just being polite when they ask us to stop, and we want to know why.

Rikibeth: The only kashruth in play is no leaven (and only the canonic seven of Leviticus count) and no pork, because that confuses people. A passover tiramisu sounds interesting, and I have lots of sweets.

Of course, I wonder what one has to do differently to get one's wine certified as kosher. Seems to me that (unless one insists on nothing but jews being in the making) it's pretty straightforward, since it's a vegetable product.

Heresiarch: Oddly enough David Frum (of AEI) was just yesterday saying that education was costing more than it was worth and the middle class might want to reconsider the value of getting a college degree.

albatross: It is cooperation. The question isn't whether compromise and agreement were reached, the question is, can you opt out of the system, once in place. With Social Security, no, one can't; not arbitrarily. It requires cooperation (which Bush was unable to get when he wanted to make it possible to "opt-out" 30 percent of the contributions). Once in place (as with the roads, EMS, etc.) to not make contribution for maintainence damages everyone who is taking part, while reaping the benefits (because the increases in enducation, available money to people not supporting their elderly relatives, etc. endure; so long as the system doesn't fail).

Once such a system (as with roads) is up and running, to not take part is to steal from everyone else.

WRT to schools, unless the voucher is good for one education, at any school, then the poor will suffer. Barring a lot of aid, Andover was closed to me. No way to afford the costs. The poor... Ok, lets say there is a good school, it has 250 seats.

My high school had 3,000 students. It was only that small because a lot of the people in the area had the money to send kids to private schools. A lot of them did that because they thought the kids being bussed in were going to ruin the place (there were some who saw it as just another place to be parked, but on the whole it was the locals; who didn't see a need for education who were the largest problem).

So there's going to be a lot of competition for those seats. If I can't afford the money to find a school farther away (and the transportation to get the kid to it) what good the voucher?

My parish school was pretty good, but it had four rooms for eight grades. Where are the teachers going to come from for all these new schools? We have a hard enough time getting them as is, and the private schools pull the cream from the top, because they can offer smaller classes, and better pay.

And they ain't cheap. I have friends who went to one. Eight grades (4-12), about 60 students in each grade. He was a reasonably successful pediatrician. Tution was still tight. The son couldn't go to that one, because it was all girls. Part of it was finding tuition for three kids, but a lot of people have more than one kid.

Barring caps on tuition (not a free market) education will, even with vouchers, stay in the same sort of rut it's in now; because the poor are being asked to pay for their own educations (and my school was able to reduce some of that, only because the district was so large it had both wealthy and impoverished areas. More importantly, when someone elected to put a kid into a private school, they still had to pay the tax bill).

#328 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 11:03 AM:

albatross @ 324

It seems to me that what we've actually been doing has been rigging the public school system to fail, so that "market" solutions look perfectly palatable in comparison. Vouchers serve to keep the very poor trapped in the worst of the failing schools--when you have to make a monthly choice between going without food or going without electricity, the difference between coming up with an extra $500 to send one of your children to a better school and coming up with $2000 to do the same is a purely (terrible pun warning) academic one. (BTW, I agree with Lee @313. I've been stepping around it because otherwise I get too upset, but there's a fundamental class issue painting its nails red to hide in the strawberry patch of this whole thread.)

Sure, there's a difference between the backgrounds of the kids in the best and worst schools, and there are probably some teachers that need to not be teaching anymore. But there is also a widespread pooh-poohing of the idea that perhaps we should try funding all schools like we do the good ones, and seeing if they improve. It's been a while since I read Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities, but I found it a very instructive look at the way we've rigged our school systems--for example, the way we tie funding to property taxes. Did you know that poor communities actually tend to tax themselves at a significantly higher rate, though it produces lower actual dollars, in the attempt to improve their schools? If we give one group a load of bricks and another a little pile of sand, I think it's obvious that even if they both do manage to build a house, one group will have an easier time of it, and probably come up with a better end product. The obvious-to-me solution is to give both of them a load of bricks, not to take away some of the sand and then give some of the people on the team a brick apiece.

#329 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 11:14 AM:

albatross @ 324

You seem to be saying that parents should be compelled to keep their kids in failing schools, at least if they don't have their own money to move to a better neighborhood or put their kids in a private school.

I think heresiarch is saying that the system should be compelled to try to improve the failing schools, not shut them down. Poor neighborhoods can't bear the additional cost of decommissioning a school (cost in physical plant, loss of non-teaching staff, etc.) and of building and setting up a new school while also carrying the cost of funding that school at a level sufficient to keep its quality at required levels.

#330 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 11:42 AM:

alsafi #328:

Are you really saying that we've been intentionally wrecking our public schools so that we could get vouchers? Even in the parts of the country controlled by Democrats who overwhelmingly oppose the idea of vouchers? This seems even less plausible than the idea that lousy inner city schools in Baltimore and DC are part of some white plot to screw over black kids (imposed, apparently, by overwhelmingly black politicians and school administrators and teachers).

My understanding is that the funding per student is pretty high in a lot of failing urban schools, though this isn't my field and I may be misunderstanding things. My impression is that a lot of urban school systems are massively, criminally corrupt, with enough money to employ a lot of administrative people but not enough money to buy textbooks or repair buildings. This is based on episodic stories in the local and national media, and I understand that it can give a pretty distorted picture.

What is clear is that the current system is screwing a lot of poor kids over. I keep seeing ideological objections to vouchers, even for trials of vouchers in places where the kids are getting screwed over by the current system. I'm missing why this is any more rational than the mirror-image situation, in which free-market folks oppose government involvement in a market that's clearly working really badly for a lot of people because they *know* that markets are always best.

I expect that the result of all this will be that we will, in practice, not give many poor parents any way to get their kids out of bad schools. And lots of mostly poor brown kids will get screwed, because we're also not, in practice, going to fix those schools--that would involve costly political fights that don't pay off, since poor people mostly don't vote on these issues when they bother to vote. It's hard to express how thoroughly this is not a commercial for the humane and effective use of governmental power to solve problems.

Terry #327:

So, what would you call non-market transactions that don't involve legally compelled participation, given that you're using "cooperation" to mean stuff you cooperate with to avoid going to jail? (By this logic, the drug laws are also examples of cooperating--indeed, the cops sometimes cooperate with you so vigorously that you bleed out on your living room floor, waiting for the ambulance to arrive.)

I agree that it can't be okay to benefit from services whose bills you evade. It's not too clear to me that this justifies collecting taxes so you can subsidize politically important industries, send aid off to foreign countries, hand out NEA grants, etc., though this might be a hard-to-escape effect of having someone with the power to tax.

As far as schools go, do you think middle-class parents benefit from being able to send their kids to private schools, even though most of us can't afford Andover? Because it sure seems to me that this allows both a safety valve (you don't have to send your kid to the local school with the huge crime and drug problems) and the opportunity to get what you think is a better education. I'm not sure why this wouldn't also be true for poor parents who currently have zero choices, and may end up with a suboptimal number larger than zero of choices.

#331 ::: sherrold ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:01 PM:

Fascinating thread! Though I find myself amazed that in the conversation about removing oneself from a coercing society, that Heinlein's Coventry was never mentioned. (Was it just clear enough that we were all thinking it, and therefore it didn't need to be mentioned?)

And while I agree with most posters here that anarchy will never work, I think that pointing to Somalia and other places of current chaos is a little unfair -- starting conditions have an enormous effect in most political science. Even if you could get anarchy to serve a group of citizens, it makes sense that you might need to start somewhere other than a ruinous and vicious civil war.

#332 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:07 PM:

albatross @ 320: "I'm objecting to saying that these programs are based on cooperation, because at least 2/3 of your examples really are not."

Well, sure they are. If you don't want to pay into Social Security, you're perfectly free to renounce your U.S. citizenship. If, however, you want to reap the benefits of being a U.S. citizen, then there are certain things you have agreed to, and abiding by the laws determined by our (admittedly imperfect) legislative body is one of them. If a sufficient number of Americans decided that, upon further consideration, that was a bad deal, the United States would cease to exist. It's function, and the function of every other government, relies on the consent (or at least acceptance) of the governed.

Similarly, companies are only bound by FDA regulation if they want to sell products in the United States. They are perfectly free not to do so. However, if they do so choose, they must do it under our rules. I am not aware of there being any legal penalties for buying products that are unapproved by the FDA, but even if there are, see the preceding paragraph.

Being a member of the United States is a voluntary choice, but, once accepted, all the benefits and penalties are packaged together. You can't pick and choose which you want--that's not how the contract is worded. True, the alternative to being a U.S. citizen is being the citizen of some other country. But, in a very libertarian-esque fashion, it's not the United States' moral responsibility to ensure that there is a state that matches every person's preference.

#333 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:10 PM:

From the GAO report:

While the selected inner city schools in Boston, Chicago, and St. Louis generally spent more per pupil than neighboring suburban schools, when we made adjustments using the highest weights the suburban schools generally spent more in every metropolitan area reviewed, because inner city schools had higher percentages of low-income students. Some research has shown that children from low-income families may require extra resources to perform at the same levels as their nonpoor peers. To address the additional needs of some children in low-income areas, federal education programs target funds to schools in these areas. In some cases, the infusion of federal funds has balanced differences in per-pupil expenditures between selected inner city and suburban schools.

Inner city students in the schools we reviewed generally performed poorly in comparison to students in suburban schools, a disparity that may be related to several differences we identified in the characteristics of inner city and suburban schools. Although research results are inconclusive on the importance of various factors, some studies have shown that greater teacher experience, smaller class size, more library and computer resources, and higher levels of parental involvement are positively related to student achievement. The inner city schools we visited generally had higher percentages of first-year teachers, higher enrollments, fewer library and computer resources, and less in-school parental involvement.

We can't, as a society, do much about the parental involvement. But we can and refuse to give them better equipment, smaller class sizes, and more experienced teachers. I'm not saying the system should be left as it is, which is what you seem to be reading. I'm saying that I don't think a solution that saves only the kids in first and second class and leaves the kids in steerage to drown is one I can really get behind. I was one of the kids in steerage, so I take it kind of personally.

#334 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:27 PM:

Nancy 297: Um. Uh. OK, if you like. *blushes*

#335 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:30 PM:

#327, Terry Karney -

Some wines are clarified with egg or milk proteins - does that affect whether something is kosher?

#336 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:30 PM:

I understand that the most experienced teachers get first choice of jobs. You think they're going to choose inner-city schools, if they can teach in a suburban/outer urban school?

(I don't know how much corruption there is in my local dysfunctional school district, but it has a lot of incompetence in various areas, including some of the school principals, some fo the teachers, some of the administrators, and, I would expect, some of the maintenance people. It also has way more administrators with teaching certificates that they don't use than it really needs. And 'magnet' schools that somehow end up mostly with middle-class not-much-minority student bodies. And a Byzantine payroll setup, mostly for the union people, which doesn't work well at all.)

#337 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:32 PM:

Also, I don't necessarily think it's a conspiracy (you know, it's possible to take any argument and push it out so far that it sounds like it could only be put forth by a blithering idiot. I wish you wouldn't, though--it's hurtful and infuriating, and you've rightly objected when you felt it was being done to you). But I do think it's a complicated question that has roots in a certain breakdown of community and willingness to give of ourselves to in order to help one another, and fed by problems of racism and classism that those of us in positions of privilege benefit from not addressing in a meaningful way, or even acknowledging. It goes, in my opinion, much further than education, and even affects how we as a people view society and our relationship to and with it. I think it's way too complicated for vouchers to address, except by pushing the weakest under entirely and pretending it doesn't matter because at least we saved some of the more presentable ones. But I'm also getting angry, so I'm going to take a break from it for a while.

#338 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:40 PM:

albatross: No, I am saying the agreement was reached through cooperation inside the system.

That the conditions established are ongoing legacies (sort of like the Constitution) does mean that active consent isn't present for those of us who had no chance to take part in the initial debate.

But nothing is stopping ongoing debate about the worthiness of the ideas (and the last proposal to change it met with a resounding defeat, in that the appeasment oriented non-opposition party stood up and said, "No way").

Is there a whiff of fiat? Yes. But unles each person is able to find a place where nothing but like-minded people live, there is going to be that. I didn't agree to live in the US, and my friends in UKraine didn't agree to be born under Kruschev.

Nothing we can do will change that, we are born into a lot of stories underway.

If a system gets too bad, the people living under it will change it.

As to the safety valve, perhaps it's just the opposite. Once they have their kids out of "the local school with the huge crime and drug problem" they might feel they had a stake and work to fix it, rather than just washing their hands and saying, "it doesn't work, let everyone leave".

The questions of what are justified uses of tax money are ever with us. And things like NEA grants have always existed. Michelangelo was paid by popes and nobles, the same for Da Vinci. They didn't get their money by making things, but by taxing them.

Aid to foreign countries... well I think an enlightened self-interest will lead a nation to do that. Again, the questions how much (to which my present answer for the US is, not enough at present) and to whom are things to be hashed out, etc., etc, for all the rest.

sherrold: I suspect Conventry didn't come up, because we haven't been talking anarchy, but rather "The Libertarian Paradise".

We point to Somalia, et al, precisely because starting conditions matter, and "The Libertarian Paradise" requires a fresh start, ab initio, ex nihilo and it ain't gonna happen.

heresiarch: There are legal products, which the FDA allows, but other laws restrict, or prohibit (tylenol 3 in Britian is OTC, and can be felonious to possess without prescription; even if legally purchased in Britain).

#339 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:46 PM:

[delurks to dabble piddy-toes in water]

I'm not even going to try and play catch up on various bits, (and likely won't be following closely - among other things, I have substantial paid writing to do for not-long-from-now), but I want to point out a few things -

1 - as should be obvious by now, getting libertarians (or fellow travellers) (big-L or small-l) to agree on things is like herding cats - there's a lot of different paths and interpretations from base principles, not all libertarians agree on the same set of base principles (or how important they are relative to each other, etc.

2 - base principles are not, in and of themselves, a system of governance. They are guidelines - and how strictly they are adhered to varies in developing an actual system of government varies. But deviate far enough, and you get to a point where you are no longer actually, a libertarian, you're something else*.

3 - the base assumption is typically, for a libertarian, not "how can the government fix this" - it is, "does this need fixing, and if so, how do we best go about it with a minimum of coercion (none if possible) and with as local an influence base as possible?" - if some problem can be solved by a private (whether religious or secular) local organization, that's preferred to using a large Federal bureaucracy.

A number of the things currently handled by regulatory agencies (OSHA, FDA, etc.) would, in Libertaria, be handled by private agencies instead - instead of the (Federal) Food & Drug Administration, there might a Food & Drug Association, operating in a similar fashion to Underwriter's Laboratory.**

(This can work - I don't think I own many/any powered appliances that don't have the UL symbol on them, for example, and ISO/ANSI standards are pretty well-respected (although ISO is taking hits over the OOXML standard). Whether it will work as well for other things - I don't know, honestly. But I do know that various regulatory agencies currently aren't actually doing much useful regulating (FDA, FAA, etc.))

4 Most libertarians are not "no-force ever" anarchists - most qualify as some form of minarchist (minimal-government) - the typical minimal level most commonly agreed to is a court system (criminal and civil), a police system of some sort, and at least a skeletal military (many are proponents of militia-based systems, with the standing army being just sufficient to provide training cadre, senior NCOs, and officers in case of a call up).

Beyond that, things vary - some support state-run industries when they are natural monopolies (road systems, public utilities, etc.) while others do not - or do in some cases, and don't in others. Some support systems for issuing patents, copyrights, certificates of incorporation (at the local or federal level), while others do not.

5 - Many libertarians support substantial revision to things a lot of folks think are 'self-evident' - this is most obvious in things like no-aggression, but also covers a lot of civil law - large corporations aren't possible if there is no method of incorporating, for example. Some even support "last chance" support services, especially for those who have no other recourse, although they are a distinct minority.

A question a lot of libertarians ask, when people look to concentrate power (influence, military force, law enforcement ability, trade secrets, economic might) is "what happens if they decide to abuse it?" This is not exclusive to libertarians, naturally, but where some are more worried about Microsoft, libertarians tend to be more worried about (for example) the BATFE, in part because they do, in fact, have the power of coercive force directly behind them (as opposed to at least one step removed)***. This does not, however, mean that they are uninterested in private organizations that are overly concentrated sources of power - as witness above, with 'get rid of corporate entities" as an option.****

*(in the same way that a person who might claim to be a liberal, but doesn't believe in social services, or public schools, is 'pro-life', doesn't support equal rights for women, minorities, or glbt folks, etc. etc. isn't actually a liberal, no matter how much he might claim he is).

**Yes, there is problems with corruption, etc. But those problems inarguably also exist with a state or federal regulatory agency.

***nothing mentioned here should be construed as being actual support for a given point of view, actually.

***I.E. if the government decides they don't like you, they can directly send agents to imprison or shoot you. Microsoft has to convince a bunch of folks to even get you arrested.

#340 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:52 PM:

albatross @ 324: "You seem to be saying that parents should be compelled to keep their kids in failing schools, at least if they don't have their own money to move to a better neighborhood or put their kids in a private school. I'm missing how this is the humane, egalitarian option. "Yes, your son's school has a big gang problem, there are drug deals happening in the halls, most of the teachers appear to be pretty lousy because all the good teachers run like hell from this district as soon as they have a chance, and most of the kids graduating from the 8th grade read on a 4th grade level. But you'll just have to keep you son there, falling further and further behind, because if we let you leave and take your money with you, the school might get even worse.""

You have the cause and effect mixed up: the school has massive gang and drug problems, no good teachers, and failing students because every family that could already left. Or, more accurately, never lived there in the first place.

"ISTM that closing down failing schools is a net win for mankind, along with firing incompetent teachers."

That depends: what replaces those schools? If it is magically wonderful happy schools, well then yay! If it is as I suspect, no school at all, then that's pretty bad. Please tell me: what private school is going to set up in a neighborhood so fucking poor that not even the non-profit public school could make it work? What business is going to think that's a good model?

Let me build on something I said at 317: markets are really good at providing a range of different products at different prices, with corresponding levels of quality. When it comes to consumer goods, that's great! I love having a selection of watches, ranging in quality and price from cheap drug-store knock-offs all the way up to Patek-Philipe. But when it comes to schools, that same kind of variation in quality, based on what each person can afford to pay, is a horror.

Education is the thing that unlocks a child's potential for greatness--without education, every brilliant scientist you care to name would be working 5 to 9 at the meatpacking plant. We cannot afford to lose our future brilliant scientists, engineers, programmers, lawyers and artists simply because they had the misfortune to be born to poor parents. In the long run, education pays for itself in increased productivity and progress, and failing to educate our children--all of them--will certainly extract its price.

#341 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 12:53 PM:

heresiarch #332: I understand all that. Remember I'm someone who thinks we need taxes and all that, though as a necessary evil rather than as some great good. My point is that when you talk about alternatives to the market based on cooperation, I'm expecting stuff like co-ops and voluntary communes and people donating money to charities simply because it's the right thing to do. These are all big, important non-market things people do.

We clearly need compulsion in the political sphere, if only to collect taxes. But that's a different thing than cooperation. Redefining stuff enforced by the police as "cooperation" because the laws are passed as the ultimate result of democratic elections just seems all wrong to me. It honestly seems like an attempt to sidestep the fact that there's genuine compulsion necessary here.

#342 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 01:05 PM:

alsafi #337: I'm sorry, I clearly misread what you were saying there. (I read "rigging" to mean intentionally setting it up to fail, rather than leaving it in a position where it could fail.) I wasn't *trying* to replace you with a strawman and set the flying monkeys on you, even though that was the effect.

heresiarch #340: So, how's the current system doing on the uniform high quality of service front? Because it's not looking to me like a shining success. By contrast, markets often provide pretty consistently high quality in the stuff the consumers care about. For example, cheap TVs and radios and CD players and DVD players you can buy from Target or Walmart seem to perform quite well. That's not always true, but it often is.

I don't know that vouchers will help, and in fact I have some reservations about them. But I think the public school system might be about as good a commercial for government provided services as the private healthcare system is for market provided services. In both cases, you get a lot of unevenness, a huge amount of inefficiency, some really good parts, and some nightmarishly bad parts.

#343 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 01:24 PM:

Terry Karney @ 327: "Oddly enough David Frum (of AEI) was just yesterday saying that education was costing more than it was worth and the middle class might want to reconsider the value of getting a college degree."

To be blunt, that's a batshit crazy idea. The set of middle class jobs that don't require at least some college (basically manufacturing and construction) is crashing through the floor, with no real hopes of recovery. Choosing not to get a college degree is choosing to become lower-class. The set of middle-class jobs that DO require some college, if not dancing a jig of expansion and joy, at least not stagnating.

(I don't think you mentioned that because you agree, but it's a pernicious idea that needs knipping right at the bud.)

Bruce Cohen @ 329: That's not a bad summary, or at least complimentary point.

albatross @ 341: "We clearly need compulsion in the political sphere, if only to collect taxes. But that's a different thing than cooperation. Redefining stuff enforced by the police as "cooperation" because the laws are passed as the ultimate result of democratic elections just seems all wrong to me. It honestly seems like an attempt to sidestep the fact that there's genuine compulsion necessary here."

Look, if you and I sign a contract saying that you will scratch my back, and in return, I will scratch yours, that is still cooperation. That there's a piece of paper somewhere enumerating exactly how it will work, and the penalties for failing to live up to it doesn't make it any less cooperative.

I feel like part of your definition of cooperation is lacking compulsion. If so, then I'm afraid your coops and voluntary communes just knocked out of the cooperative category--they generally have their ground rules that members must follow too.

#344 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 02:27 PM:

heresiarch 343: Anything that comes from the AEI is automatically a conservative-tending-batshit-crazy idea, and anything that comes from David Frum is guaranteed to be something that enhances the privilege of the upper class and pushes down all others.

Frum is trying to get middle-class kids to become working class. I'm not sure how this helps the upper class, but Frum must think it does.

#345 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 02:35 PM:

R. M. Koske @ 335

If milk proteins, it would make the wine milchik (!). If egg, it would still be parve, so okay with any food.

I grew up in a fairly frum neighbourhood. Every year, going to buy special foods for Passover (Matzos etc.) at the Kosher grocers (in their special shed used only for Pesach) - supermarkets didn't stock Matzos back then - I marvelled at the idea of Kosher-for-Passover (or even, Kosher) eggs, milk, washing up liquid, salt...

Miriam, Debbie, Rikibeth etc.:

Talking of Passover desserts, does anyone have a suggestion for an alternative ingredient to ground almonds for cinnamon balls?

I now react to almonds but I love my Pesach cinnamon balls. If necessary I'll cope with the hour or so am and pm (histamine peaks, I presume) of desperately itchy palate after eating them, but do you think they could be made with e.g. ground hazelnuts instead (I don't think I react to those).

#346 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 02:36 PM:

re 343: Well, except that there is a great deal of degree requirements creep out there. For example, it may not occur to you that you should need a college degree to be a manager at a hotel. Thirty years ago, nobody would have expected such a thing. Not to devalue education, but the whole system, top to bottom, is being distorted by credential lust. For instance, I doubt that the University of Maryland College Park is that much better a school than it was in my day. They have nicer facilities, to be sure, but the main program for improving their status in the world was to change the way they do admissions. In my day, if you had a high school diploma, you could be admitted to UMCP. Some enormous proportion of the freshman class flunked out, maybe as high as 50%, but at least everyone got a chance. Now they have gotten selective, and it has become a hard place to get into. And that's the source of their status. The Ivies operate on the same principle, only more so.

#347 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 02:45 PM:

A lot of office jobs shouldn't require college degrees - there's a certain amount of HR figuring that counting degrees is the easiest way to determine qualifications. For some things, maybe, but for others, where it's a new field, the best people may have experience rather than pieces of paper, because there was no such field of study when they were in college.

(I do QC of GIS - twenty years ago, it wasn't even a field.)

#348 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 02:55 PM:

dcb 345: I don't know your cinnamon ball recipe, but I've used almond and hazelnut flour interchangeably for low-carb recipes. The hazelnut ones might have been a little more crumbly, but that was so subtle that it could have been my imagination.

Since then I've become violently allergic to hazelnuts, so I haven't done that in a while!

#349 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 02:59 PM:

dcb @345, This recipe says specifically that you can substitute hazelnuts. I think the main issue would be flavor and/or allergy status, although some nuts seem to be generally more oily than others, so you might have to control for that. (i.e., you could conceivably even use pecans or -- wow! macadamias)

#350 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 03:01 PM:

Heresiarch #310 -- This is a confounding experience. You seem to have opposite definitions for your words than I do. For example, you use the phrase "voluntary cooperation" to characterize government programs, which actually tend to be coercive, the opposite of voluntary. You also seem to think that the so-called "tragedy of the commons" is an example of a free market, whereas I've generally seen it used as an example of a non-market collectivist situation hat could be improved by turning it into a market. (I'm leaving aside the degree to which the "tragedy of the commons" is actually retroactive propaganda for the series of Enclosure Acts that centralized control of land under a land-owning class.)

Here, some definitions:

Excludability: A good or service is excludable when it is possible to prevent people who have not paid for it from enjoying its benefits, and non-excludable when it is not possible to do so.

Rivalry: A good or service is rivalrous when its use or consumption by one person prevents its use or consumption by another.

A private good is one that is both excludable and rivalrous. A public good is neither excludable nor rivalrous. A common good is rivalrous, but not excludable. A club good is excludable, but not rivalrous. The Wikipedia link for private good has examples of all four categories.

So, the old English grazing commons was a common good, because it was not excludable. Enclosing it turned it into a private good. It's private goods that are best served by a market, or so say market-advocating economists.

Sometimes it's possible to turn non-private goods into private goods by government action. Copyright, which you mentioned, is one example. Without copyright, an individual copy of a book is still a private good, but the text itself is a public good. The Strert Performer Protocol (also called ransomware) is a mechanism for a creator to make money off of creative work while still allowing it to be a public good. RPG designer Greg Stolze has published games under this model.

The cap-and-trade model of controlling carbon emissions seeks to turn a market externality into a private good.

#317 -- Except that the market advocates don't actually push for the use of markets "in every conceivable application". As I said earlier, nobody's saying you should buy friends at the friend store. Most actual advocates of market economics live lives filled with all sorts of rewarding non-market transactions, just like the rest of us do. They just want to use markets for appropriate applications, like education.

See what I did just there? I took a point contention -- whether market-based approaches to education were preferable to government-run systems -- and asserted one side of it as if it were an established fact. Just like you did. Was it fun? Did it advance the discussion? Was it a fair way to treat your opinions? No? Then stop doing it.

As to whether NCLB is "more like" a free-market system, no, it isn't. The existing system of private schools is a free-market system. NCLB is just a different way of administering a government-run system. Under NCLB, all schools are evaluated by a central authority (which leaves the authority open to regulatory capture), while in a free market system, schools would be evaluated by the families using them.

What you would end up with is what you always end up with when you employ the market: a wide range in quality, with an equally large range in price tag. And the range in price would be huge—education is such an important factor for determining people’s success in life that almost no amount of money can really be said to be too much. It's a market with almost infinite capacity for price-gouging.

I had to quote this paragraph because it's just so damn full of problems. First, no, you don't always wind up with a wide range of quality in market-based systems. Take, for example, the market for bottled water. There's a tremendous range of prices charged (I just read the other day about a high-status bottled water with rhinestone-studded bottles that goes for over $30/bottle), but in terms of actual quality, it's all pretty much the same stuff. The price range for books is wide, but doesn't correlate all that well with the quality of the writing. And there's practically no variation at all in the price of movies in the theater. (Different theaters charge different ticket prices, but a given theater almost never charges different amounts for different movies.)

Second, your first and last sentences contradict each other. If you pay twice as much to get a good with twice the quality, that's not price-gouging, that's fair price for value. If you pay twice as much and get the same quality, that is price-gouging, but you haven't gotten high quality.

Third, it's just plain not true that spending more money on education gets you better results. I recently read an article on Jewish private schools in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. (There are a bunch of them there for some reason.) They vary widely by price, but the cheapest one is also the one that gives its kids the best educations. (It's also the school I attended.)

As far as vouchers go, yeah, I agree that they should be correlated with financial need. Not much point spending extra tax dollars on families that can already comfortably afford private education.

And you don't have to go all the way to India to find stories about parents freaking out over getting their kids into good pre-schools. Happens here, too.

And if you didn't want me to interpret "high-quality" as a relative measure, you shouldn't have used it in a sentence where you complain about rich people purchasing "high quality education".

I suspect that there's no possible education system that could guarantee that every student would receive a high-quality education. Or even an adequate one. Certainly our current system doesn't get anywhere near that goal. I don't know if a market-based system would do a better job, but it's not obvious to me that it wouldn't, and I don't think that the people who believe that it would are dishonest, or deluded, or fanatics.

And you haven't even touched on my biggest fear of a voucher-based system: That right-wing evangelicals would use the money to set up a system of Christian madrassas.

#351 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 03:08 PM:

Debbie @ 349 and Xopher @ 348

Thank you! I suppose I'm lucky that my reaction, so far, is only itching (if to the point I've sometimes thought of finding a nice sharp knife to scratch the roof of my mouth with) and I -think - it's only to almonds and cashews (but I adore marzipan and honey-roasted cashews). I've learned I can eat a bit of marzipan on occasion, so long as I don't eat any more for several days afterwards.

I love hazelnuts, so hazelnut-cinnamon balls sound fine...

#352 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 03:13 PM:

rikibeth,

I think we might have had twenty or more. How many do you need?

this year, sadly, none. we moved out to the suburbs, & couldn't find anyone to come to our seder. in previous years we've managed a pretty decent crowd for tiny apartments, like eight or ten or so. but i only have two haggadot (you're right, terry. but i'm inconsistent with my pluralizations, when using hebrew words that i grew up with as english words).

#353 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 04:04 PM:

Heresiarch #340: Is it only free-market proposals that have to meet the "magically wonderful happy" standard of excellence, or do we get to demand that the government provide "magically wonderful happy" schools as well to avoid being labeled a failure?

As far as "what private school is going to set up in a neighborhood so fucking poor that not even the non-profit public school could make it work?" goes, here's a 1986 article from a libertarian magazine (it was the second hit on my Google search) that talks about fifty private schools in Chicago, many of them in the poorest neighborhoods, charging between $270 and $3000 a year for tuition, and many of them having long waiting lists to get in.

And here's a Salon article about tuition-free inner-city private schools in St Louis, mostly funded with government money but operating outside of the public school system.

We don't have to wonder about whether private schools will hypothetically open in poor neighborhoods, because we have real-world existing examples of private schools having done so.

And in #332, did you notice that you're using contract-based language to describe what you claim is a cooperative system, but you also (in #242) use the word cooperative in opposition to market-based systems, which surely also are far more explicitly contract-based.

#354 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 04:06 PM:

Terry @298:

Well, no one else has mentioned it, so here goes: I'm drinking my tea; alas "sans chats" -- they are at home and I am not.

I would love to have my grandmother's haggadot, only my mother still has them and besides, my partner and I just don't have the time to do a seder. Some day, I promise!

#355 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 04:30 PM:

Terry Karney @ 298... all we need is cats and tea to make the collection complete

No tea for me, but Agatha, our Cat Genius, is doing splendidly well after her being spayed on Tax Day.

#356 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 04:34 PM:

Ginger @ 298

You too? I've been away from my cats for more than a week - house-sitting other cats (and dogs and horses and a peacock).

I had to get my husband to send me some of my favorite tea (wild cherry - real tea) that I normally drink to start each day, because I ran out.

#357 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 04:37 PM:

albatross: I never said there wasn't compulsion (I even granted, arguendo, that it might be enforced at gunpoint).

People who cooperate to get something done, did just that. It's a fact of life that we inheiret the compromises our forefathers cooperated to attain.

There's no sidestepping. I admit to the violence inherent in the system. I don't have a problem with it (accepting that the system is at least as good as the one I am living under now; no, strike that, so long as it is at least as good as the one I was living under eight years ago... right now I hate to say that I am worried I will want to excercise the option of looking for a gov't more in keeping with my ideals if this goes on).

heresiarch: I don't agree with him (he's from AEI, for goodness' sake). I do know the value of a generic degree has declined (the last couple of times I was looking for work in the classifieds there were ads requiring degrees to answer phones). I don't think that means the middle class ought to forego them, what I think it means more is we need a better system for figuring out who wants to go to college, who wants to learn a trade, etc.

But there are those (at the top of the scale) who are of the opinion that too many people are trying to climb the ladder.

dcb: Any nutmeat you like would work. Filberts, walnuts (though they might not be the right flavor) pecans. I might, if you can find them, reccomend chestnuts. If not for passover (not likely, unless preserved) but for the winter holiday season.

Avram: Since one of the principles of NCLB is that schools which need improvement offer choice to the stdents, and the requirement for not-failing requires either constant improvement (with Xeno's paradox breathing down your neck), or a suite of "remedies" which effectively require more staff, or less teaching time (I have several friends who are teachers, one of whom was credentialed since NCLB was passed, and so had something like a full-quarter's worth of classes purely on implementing NCLB, already it seems to be making large distortions in how teaching is done), I'd say the system, at present, is decidedly rigged to fail; and so make it seem public education is so damaged it's irreparable.

A school which has a 95 percent rating this year, and a 95 percent rating next year, and a 95 percent rating the year after that, is a "failing" school.

Since the House has never appropriated the full-funding for NCLB (and even that isn't enough to cover the costs of the federal requirements), failure is even more likely.

The emperic evidence is that NCLB is failing, because the rate of passing for the tests was higher prior.

It does all this, while it narrows the curriculum. To attain the goals on which success is measured (and the money which comes with it) only math, English and a narrow set of sciences are measures. Arts, social sciences, history, etc. take a back seat, because the resources are limited and the market created by NCLB cares not a whit about how those outlier topics are addressed.

Now, if the system were a truly open market, maybe those holes would be filled, but in the present world... the colleges who are the next set of major customers will just write off students from lots of schools which have managed to be successes in the arena NCLB makes them play, and look to the schools which have the other subjects; because they are getting their money from people who aren't taking part in the system as a whole. If you give them vouchers, you are taking the public good of education and; just as with the enclosing of the commons, converting it to a private one.

The Christian madrass is one of the main reasons for vouchers having the traction they do.

I also think the "magically wonderful happy" schools were in the context of what the gov't was to replace the failed schools with, when everyone who could bail to a private one had left.

#358 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 05:30 PM:

dcb@356: Ah, but I'll be home in about 20 minutes. At the end of the workday, I take a peek at the various websites on my bookmark list, and then head home. After all, how much work am I actually going to do in the last hour? (Other than answer the phone on a quickie consult..of course.)

I have to admit, there are times when it's nice to be away from our animals. Then it's good to be home again too.

Where do you get your wild cherry tea from? That sounds yummy. I love cherries, and still regret leaving the house where we had a 70+ foot tall cherry tree. Well, I don't regret leaving the house; it was tiny and a former summer cottage converted to year-round use -- but the tree! And the drunken birds dining on fermented cherries..good times, good times.

#359 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 07:20 PM:

sherrold@331: I think that pointing to Somalia and other places of current chaos is a little unfair

The libertarian promise being made here is that some people have devised a perfect moral system. Everything based off of choice, off agreement, and that anything else is gangster behaviour. Given the extreme stance of this view, Somalia seems fair.

#360 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 08:56 PM:

Scott@339: there is problems with corruption, etc. But those problems inarguably also exist with a state or federal regulatory agency.

OK. Acknowleding imperfect people is a good starting point. Now. Lets look at two systems, democracy and libertarianism, put imperfect people into them, and then subject them to some set of circumstances and see what results.

The circumstances are: prisoner dillemma .

Two complete strangers, Alice and Bob, are brought before some renegade police and offered a deal to encourage them to betray the other and testify against each other. Their alternative is to remain silent. They must choose without knowing what the other person is going to do.

Alice->Silent, Bob->Silent: Both serve 1 year.

Alice->Betrays, Bob->Silent: Alice goes free, Bob gets 10 year.

Alice->Silent, Bob->Betrays: Alice gets 10 year, Bob goes free

Alice->betrays, Bob->Betrays: Both get 5 years.

The point isn't really about police procedures. The point is two people have a set of circumstances before them. If one person betrays the other, but the other does the "right" thing and remains silent, then the betrayer is rewarded by being set free, and the person who did the "right" thing gets the worst possible outcome, -10.

If both betray, both get -5.

If both remain silent, both get -1.

What is the best solution for Alice? For her to betray Bob, and for Bob to remain silent. The best solution for Bob is for him to betray Alice, and for Alice to remain silent.

Both think only of their personal benefit. Neither has any law, or restriction, or agreement made before hand that would tell them they have any committment to the other person, or have any reason to trust the person. Neither one knows if the other person is guilty or not. Both want to select whichever choice gives them the best possible outcome.

Alice is innocent, so she decides to remain silent. Bob is a crook with a record a mile long, so he is willing to pin Alice. Bob goes free. Alice gets the worst possible outcome: 10 years.

Oh. I should note that in this set of circumstances, there is no "due process" or "appeal" or whatever. it is a one time shot. In fact, consider the -10 year sentence to be immediate execution by firing squad. And that the police who are doing this have you held in (insert name of scary third world country) where they have daily executions on TV.

The stable solution is that Alice betrays Bob and Bob betrays Alice. If alice betrays, she'll either go free or get 5 years. She successfully removed the worst case outcome (firing squad) from her possible outcomes. So she betrays. What Bob does is out of her control, but Alice knows she will live through the experience.

Bob, it turns out, would like to live too. So he betrays Alice, knowing that he will either go free or get 5 years. But either way, he's alive.

But neither one wants to take a chance on remaining silent and getting the best possible outcome for both parties, because they don't know what the other person might do.

So, both betray, and both live, and both get 5 years.

The only problem was, both of them were innocent. Not that it matters, but you'd rather see the best possible outcome for two innocent people, right? You'd like to see them both remain silent, get 1 year, and get out of prison. Right?

But Alice adn Bob can't trust each otehr to do that.

That is, in a nutshell, real people, in a libertarian circumstance, and the outcome it produces. Alice and Bob live in a libertarian world where everything is left to the market, where everything is left to the individual. Alice knows that if she were act in her best interest, she would try to take advantage of Bob, get him to agree to a job with no minimum wage, or get him to buy food with no meat inspections, or get him to fly on a plane with no FAA inspections, or whatever. But Bob knows that if he were to act solely in his best interest, he'd be trying to do the same thing to Alice. And what you end up with is both try to take advantage of the otehr, and both end up with -5 damage.

Both acted in there best interest, and the second worst possible outcome was the result.

Now, let's have Alice and Bob be able to hang out together for a while before the cops pick them up. Can they do anything that would make the result any better? Can they agree to both remain silent? Well, no. Because once they're in police custody, they are separated and they have no way of knowing what the other person will do. And if one of them betrays and the other remains silent, the silent one is taken out back behind the chemical shed and shot. Immediately.

Which means neither has any way to guarantee that either will hold to their promise of remaining silent.

Now, if your worldview is a hierarchy of power worldview, then you'd have Alice and Bob go meet Charlie's legal enforcer Inc. Alice, Bob, and Charlie get together and have a powwow. THey draw up a contract that goes like this: Both will pay Charlie $1000 up front. And both tell Charlie that if either person walks out of the police department in less than a year, that Charlie is to hunt them down and kill them.

So, while in police custody, if either tries to betray, and the other remains silent and gets killed, then CHarlie will kill the betrayer. So both have incentives to remain silent, and then they both get out in 1 year. and Charlie lets them live.

Of course, Alice realizes that she is dirt poor, and Bob is filthy rich, so it is clear to Alice that Bob might just betray her while she remains silent, and then Bob will offer Charlie $4,000 to let him live. Since there are no guarantees of altruists here, Charlie takes Bob's second payment, and Alice ends up dead behind the chemical shed.

Poor, dead, Alice.

And some libertarians might actually thing Bob's strategy is morally "good". Bob didn't kill Alice after all. The evil police did. And Bob just did what was in his best interest, namely get out of jail as quickly as possible. Good for Bob. And charlie's $6,000 richer for just signing some paperwork.

When you take real people, operating towards only their best possible individual interest, put them in a world of no restrictions on their behaviour, and then place them in certain sets of circumstances, the absolute worst possible outcome is what results.

Any libertarian who denies this is relying on a combination of handwavium of force or embedded altruism in some character player. Bob would never do that to Alice, you say. Bob signed a contract. He made an agreement. And everyone who is a libertarian will always honor those agreements, so Bob will honor his agreements too.

Or, you say, well, just wrap alice, bob, and charlie, inside of another enforcement agreement, so that if Bob tries to bribe Charlie and Charlie takes the bribe, then Charlie gets killed. Pretty soon you have a nice set of Russian Dolls that do nothing but try and handwave the weakness of personal self interest away.

So. That pretty much produces a sucky result, eh? Alice is dead. Bob walks away scot free. Charlie shrugs and deposits the money in a bank.

So, what happens when we put those same players in the same prisoner's dilemma, but we allow them to form a democracy before the cops show up?

You've got an entire alphabet troupe Alice through Zandor. They get together and have a constitutional convention. They decide that if anyone gets picked up by the renegade cops, then everyone is expected to remain silent. End of story. And anyone who betrays someone will get life in prison.

Bob shrieks that he refuses to have his option to betray someone taken away from him. It will cost him a year in jail, and he is an innocent man. (Everyone's innocent, but that's beside the point). Bob hoots and hollers that everyone should be able to make their own decisions and that Alice through Zandor are no worse than the cops for trying to coerce him to do something he doesn't want to do, and to do something that will cause him a year in jail. Bob wants to be able to get out of jail immediately if he can figure out a way.

So, what to do. What to do.

Here you are, Alice, Charlie, Dave, through Zandor. You all know you're innocent, including Bob. You also know that at any time the dirty cops could pick two of you up, and put you in the room and let you remain silent or betray.

Now, here's where democracy differs from libertarianism. And, more importantly, this is why people who understand democracy don't view it as putting a gun to anyone's head:

Everyone but Bob can see that having this constitution is better for everyone in the group. Even Bob. The libertarian result stabilizes at the 5 year sentence for both people. Neither can trust the other not to betray, and neither can risk teh chance of beign executed, so both betray.

But the democracy changes the circumstances with a strategic move. If anyone gets picked up, if the police let them go, then the state will put that person in jail for life. If Bob tries to bribe his way out and get Alice killed, he speds the rest of his life in jail of the new democracy.

Bob howls at the injustice of it all. It isn't his fault that there are dirty cops around. (it isn't alice's fault either, but Bob doesn't care about that, he just wants to stay out of jail at anyone else's cost)

So, Alice, Charlie, Dave, and the rest look at Bob. and they look at their system. If everyone follows it, no one will be executed and everyone will spend only 1 year in jail. If anyone tries to betray the other person, when they get out, the newly formed state will throw them in jail for the rest of their lives. And the incentive to betray is removed.

So, Alice and friends look at that, and they realize something very important. Their system produces a better result for everyone. Bob produces a better result for himself at everyone else's possible expense.

Bob wants to be able to betray people so he can get out of jail the next day. It isn't his fault taht the cops kill whoever he betrays. That isn't in his control, so he isn't ultimately responsible.

So, Alice, Charlie, and the rest come to a realization: They're not about to let Bob screw them over just so he can get an advantage over everone else. Bob doesn't agree to the constitution, but Alice and the otehrs realize that they don't give a damn. The way alice looks at it is this:

She can either let poor innocent Bob out of the constitution and risk dying because Bob might betray her, or, she can tell Bob to suck it up, and guarantee that no one will ever serve more than 1 year in teh dirty cop's prison.

Now, the libertarians scream that Alice is forcing Bob to something he didn't agree to. Tough. Alice, and the rest of the pro-democracy people understand the point of democracy is this:

To raise everyone up from the worst case circumstances that every-man-for-himself will produce.

libertarianism gives everyone 5 years.

Democracy gives everyone only 1 year.

The only reason the asshole known as Bob would refuse 1 year over 5 is if he had in his mind that if he were picked up by the dirty cops, that somehow he would try to get a better deal than 1 year.

That is the only reason any one would sensibly refuse to agree to the newly formed democracy, because they thought they could do better on their own.

But the only way that Bob can do better than get out of jail in less than a year is if someone else ends up dead (or at the -10 year term).

A group of people figure out a solution that helps everyone who is willing to work together. And the only people it can possibly hinder are individuals who are willing to screw the poeple who came up with this solution in the first place.

At that point, I'm perfectly willing to coerce Bob into prison if he betrays Alice. I don't care if he agreed to the constitution or not.

Now, not every circumstance is like this prisoner dilemma. But this dilemma is the sort of thing that happens around various real-world circumstances.

Law enforcement. Alice wants a public police force. Bob builds a gated community and private police, and he doesn't want to pay taxes for Alice's cops.

Schools: Alice wants everyone to get an education. Bob wants to send his kids to private school and not have to pay for anyone else's kids.

Business: Alice wants all products of type NNN to have safety feature QQQ. Bob manufactures NNN and wants to be able to sell his NNN's without QQQ's, so that his NNN's will be lower priced than everyone else who did put QQQ's in their NNN's.

And so on.

The thing is that the democratic solution still has a cost. Everyone who has to deal with the dirty cops still ends up in jail for 1 year. But this is a far better outcome than if everyone is operating on a every-man-for-himself viewpoint, because that results in a 5 year sentence, or possibly even death for someone who did the right thing and remained silent, but someone else decided to betray them.

Democracy has a cost, including taxes and laws and other such restrictions. But the idea is that cost is far less than the cost of an every man for himself world. ANd the only people who are not willing to pay democracy's lower cost (1 year) compared to the libertarian cost (5 years), are the people who either can't do math, or are intent on trying to screw people over, inflict a 10 year sentence on someone, just so they can take care of themselves over everyone else and walk out of jail free.

So, Scott, you've got potentially corrupt characters. You've got two different systems, democracy and libertarianism. And you've got a set of circumstances that forces people to make decisions and different decisions have different costs. This results in some stable outcomes as listed:

stable libertarianism: -5

stable democracy: -1

This also has some corrupt otucomes:

corrupt libertarianism: corrupt individual pays 0, cost to other -10/death.

corrupt democracy: corrupt individual will actually want to follow the democratic solution and get -1. Cheating means life in prison -70.

So, Scott, at least in these conditions, the reason people support democracy is that for everyone willing to play fair, it reduces the stable result from -5 to -1. The only people who would be interested in holding out would be people who want to reserve the right to betray someone, get that person killed, so they can walk out of jail free the next day. If they agree to the democrat solution, that action would put them in prison for life, so they are better off going for the "silent" response.

So, what is more important?

(A) making sure that Bob only does what he chooses to do, only what he agrees to do? Because he wants to reserve the right to screw people in the future?

or (B) trying to make a better result for everyone?

Granted, there are issues with democracy. I do not deny it. But there are circumstances where it clearly comes down to Alice and Bob and Bob wants to operate on his own and be able to screw people over. ANd in those circumstances, democracy wins in my book. In those circumstances, I fully support coercing Bob into prison if he tries to betray someone just so he can get a better deal for himself, and make it even worse for the rest of us.

There are clearly instances, like the one at the top of this thread, where authority abuses its power. But the basic principle of democracy is that it makes the outcome better for everyone even Bob. Bob wants to make the outcome as good as possible for himself and screw everyone else.



To everyone else, sorry for the length.

#361 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 09:25 PM:

Greg, if you wanted to say all libertarians are selfish jerks you didn't really need to spend 2700+ words on it.

I don't know if you (or any of the other libertarian-bashers in this thread) have noticed, but both Patrick and myself are on record here as having strong attractions towards libertarian philosophy, though neither of us self-identifies as a libertarian. Likewise, Bruce Baugh, a frequent poster here, though he no longer considers himself a libertarian, used to, and retains an attraction towards certain aspects of it.

And Jim Henley, a friend of Patrick's, Teresa's, Bruce's, and mine, who is linked to in Making Light's sidebar, is a libertarian. Nancy Lebovitz, a long-time friend of ours, is also a libertarian, and beloved button-vending fixture at many SF conventions.

If you don't consider Patrick, Bruce, Jim, Nancy, and myself to be slavering, rapacious monsters looking to defraud old ladies out of their pension funds and swipe candy from hands of infants, you might want to consider that there just might be something more to libertarian thought than "I got mine, Jack".

#362 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 09:33 PM:

Terry Karney #357: First, why are you going on at me about the No Child Left Behind Act? Are you under the impression that I approve of it? My own comments about it have been in the context of establishing that the NCLB is not a free-market plan, and that therefore it's unfair to blame market-based school funding plans for the failures of the NCLB. You seem to agree ("if the system were a truly open market, maybe those holes would be filled"), so what point are you trying to make?

#363 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 10:16 PM:

Greg, I'm sympathetic to the principle, but I don't think your example illustrates anything particularly relevant.

One problem is that prisoner's dilemma situations depend very strongly on the assignment of penalties, and also on whether they're reiterated, when it comes to choosing strategies. The optimal strategy for a single dilemma's resolution isn't the same as for a series of any finite number, nor for an open-ended interaction, as I understand it.

The bigger problem, though, is that in real life we can and fairly regularly do change the context of a decision. People leave abusive spouses, change jobs, start businesses, engage in revolutions, and otherwise redefine the nature of the challenge they face. A recurring theme in libertarian philosophy is that this is an essential and desirable feature of a society kept as unrestricted as possible beyond the protection of basic rights, so that we are forced into such dilemmas as seldom as possible, and my disagreement about what actually improves people's ability to choose better arrangements is in fact an entirely practical one. (I think an extensive social support system increases actual freedom despite the constraints of heavier taxation and the like. But this is a lengthy discussion for another time. The point is that it's based on looking at how things go and is therefore amenable to poking at.)

I agree, actually, that many libertarians set themselves up for unnecessary grief by too tight a definition of what's acceptable group action. But I don't think you're going to persuade anyone with this one.

#364 ::: Robert Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 10:34 PM:

Well, here I go.

Lee @ 294: It ill behooves you to complain of society being gangster-like while simultaneously keeping your own head firmly in the trough.

When the gangsters start shooting at you when you attempt to procure some food outside of the trough, is there then room for complaint? That is, given that private road companies (for instance) cannot operate on a scale beyond the odd parking lot or gated community, because of government restrictions, what is the person who supports them to do?

albatross @ 320: The Park Service is a better example of something kind-of like cooperation

I would argue that it only appears so because, unlike with Social Security and the FDA, agitation against it is less common and/or less visible. If someone tried to homestead a parcel within Yellowstone National Park, and was run off or arrested by government authorities, the root non-cooperation of the enterprise would be as apparent as in the other examples.

sherrold @ 331 (and others elsewhere): I believe that Somalia is a valid counterexample to "anarchy must necessarily work great no matter the time, place, or situation!" But I think it's much less valid to hold it up as evidence that anarchy cannot work, what with it being a single example. Furthermore, one could logically argue (not that I am, or am going to try, but it's not an automatically unsound argument) that Somalia could have been even worse off today had it had a government over the past 15 years.

heresiarch @ 332: If you don't want to pay into Social Security, you're perfectly free to renounce your U.S. citizenship.

Strike out "pay into Social Security". Replace it with "pay the salaries of federal DEA agents who imprison, beat, and/or kill people who smoke pot, including those who need it to survive".

Would you stand behind the revised statement? If not, what is the distinction (just in regard to the "social contract", please) between your statement and mine?

Greg London @ 360: If civilization consisted largely of one-time interactions where the wrong choice could lead to death, I would have a much easier time accepting your argument. But I'm pretty sure civilization gets a lot more use out of this, to which this can be applied.

Avram @ 361: Out of babies' hands? Why, I would never. I mean, that's just unsanitary.

#365 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 10:44 PM:

Avram: It looked to me that you were arguing NCLB was a system which could work; because in a truly free market those holes might be filled, and you seemed to be going to some effort to make that point.

As to Greg, I don't think he was saying all libertarians are selfish jerks. He was saying that as a real world example, the selfish jerks have all the incentive in the world to act on it.

I don't know if you are lumping me in with the libertarian bashers. I have lots of sympathy for lots of libertarian ideas. I just happen to think (from my experience, and understanding) that Greg's model of how it would play out in real life is more accurate than J. Neil Schulman, or even Vernor Vinge.

Where I have the greatest difference is the definition of coercion, and the effects of, "non-coercive" behavior which shafts other people (like the company store, or the railroad having a monopoly on the buying of wheat; yes, you can refuse to sell to the railroad, but there isn't anyone else willing to buy your grain, and you have a mortgage to pay, but it's not coercion... right).

Being told that agreeing with policies to give that best alternative Greg descrives is equal to slavery, (and therefore I am, at the very least, complicit; if not an actual slavemaster myself, in slavery) is prety damned offensive too (as is the, left handed imputation that I just haven't thought out the "coercive" nature of the system I happen to be willing to live under, and even defend by taking part in a military meant to do that [which means taxing people so that I can be paid to come drag them out from under the houses that collapse from earthquakes, build sandbag dykes, and fight forest fires]).

And now, since I am starting to get upset, and the conversation is probably not going to come to any better resolution, I am going to have to take Scott Taylor's option and recuse myself from further participation in this thread.

Those last are probably the things which cause me to keep beating the dead horse, I'm being insulted, and pretty severely, in some pretty casual assumptions.

#366 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 11:30 PM:

Avram@361: Greg, if you wanted to say all libertarians are selfish jerks

Avram, I will point out that Daniel Boone made numerous and rather dramatic uses of a various charged phrases when describing the vices of democracy. "gun to head" came up a lot. So did "enslavement". And at one point I said something to him to the effect of "you're calling me a gangster", he said something to teh effect of "well, yeah, I guess I am".

I will also note that nowhere in my post to which you are complaining do I ever call anyone a "selfish jerk", "rapacious monsters", or mention the "defrauding pension funds", or the "swiping of candy".

So, in responding to the likes of actual charged phrases, I posted a long winded post which could essentially be titled "Why I support the notion of State over No State", and show how the 'perfect morality' that the likes of Daniel Boone kept referring to actually collapses when real people get involved. And more importantly, it was my attempt to explain why democracy isn't "enslavement" or putting a "gun to someone's head". How "coercing" someone to do something is sometimes better for everyone, the coerced person included, than relying on unanimous votes only. WHich is to say, Democracy can be a moral state, not automatically an enslavement of its people.

But the weird thing is, having had a slew of actual charged statements been flung towards me by a proponent of libertarianism, and attempting to respond as neutrally as I can while explaining how Democracy might be justifiable from a moral standpoint rather than being an enslavement, I find your invention of non-existent insults in my post not a little bit uncalled for. Or, to put it shortly:

no fair.

#367 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 11:37 PM:

It's possible to live decent, comfortable lives largely off the grid. You can't altogether escape the state without a lot of sacrifice, but you can live quite independently, if you're prepared to make some moderate sacrifices. I know folks like that living in the San Juan Islands right now - their tax load is very light, and their dependence on state resources of any kind is minimal. The price they pay is a more or less complete removal from urban life, but so what? Who said it would be easy? The modern city is basically a creation of the state, and if you want to do without the one, you can do without the other.

I think that many libertarians overstate the difficulties of living practically disentangled from most of the state.

#368 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2008, 11:37 PM:

It's possible to live decent, comfortable lives largely off the grid. You can't altogether escape the state without a lot of sacrifice, but you can live quite independently, if you're prepared to make some moderate sacrifices. I know folks like that living in the San Juan Islands right now - their tax load is very light, and their dependence on state resources of any kind is minimal. The price they pay is a more or less complete removal from urban life, but so what? Who said it would be easy? The modern city is basically a creation of the state, and if you want to do without the one, you can do without the other.

I think that many libertarians overstate the difficulties of living practically disentangled from most of the state.

#369 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 12:02 AM:

Bruce Baugh: I know a number of people doing that in Humboldt. They aren't doing it because they are libertarians (they are quakers, and libertariansism isn't appealing to them, though quaker democracy requires 100 percent consensus. Decisions can take years to make), but because they think the load on the land is too high.

And they are really active in the local political scene.

It can be done, but it's not a complete divorce.

#370 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 12:11 AM:

Bruce@363: A recurring theme in libertarian philosophy is that this is an essential and desirable feature of a society kept as unrestricted as possible beyond the protection of basic rights, so that we are forced into such dilemmas as seldom as possible

Yeah. The problem is that "dilemmas" aren't a result of what rules society does or does not adopt. Dilemmas are circumstances of nature, of people living in the world. And then society can choose to implement laws to act as a strategic move to change the dilemma and produce a different result.

For a basic example, a world without any intellectual property law provides a dilemma. Authors adn Inventors have no way to make money directly off their works. Without some sort of copyright law, if you sell one copy, the buyer can immediately distribute it to the public.

So, the game theory of a world with no IP law is author invests lot of work, author is unable to recoup costs directly from selling his work. He might be able to make money with live performances or by asking people to pay up front and then releasing the work or some other approach. But the dilemma is the natural state of the world.

The strategic move we implemented was copyright law. It changed the dilemma so that authors could expend energy creating new works, and exclusive rights to those works would allow them to make money off of direct sales of those works.

That is the how the state (to whatever level it is implemented) can provide benefit to its members, by enacting laws which act as strategic moves, changing the game theory chart for the various moves, and changing the stable outcome.

Obviously, the state can also implement rules which change the natural game theory table from one bad stable solution to another.

But the basic argument in favor of the state, even one that coerces some people to follow its rules who do not agree to it, is that the state takes natural dilemmas that would result in a bad stable outcome (no copyright, no police force, no public education, no anti-monopoly restrictions) and the state can change teh natural game theory table, modify it with legal maneuvars, and create a new stable result that is beneficial to everyone.

Copyright encourages authors to write. The public has to give up the right to copy the work for a time, but the public and the author both benefit more, than if copyright law didn't exist.

(obviously, I'm a huge advocate of turning back some of the copyright laws to find a better balance, return fair use, and so on, so I get that power can be abused. but that's a different problem.)

THe point is that the state doesn't create all teh dilemmas and therefore the state should be kept as minimum as possible to avoid dilemmas. Many dilemmas exist when there is no state at all, and the creation of a good state can alter the dilemma so that everyone involved is benefitted.

And don't confuse the prisoner dilemma for the real dillema. The "dirty cops" and all the circumstances are just a metaphor for some real world dilemma that does not have an optimal natural solution, but could have a better solution if the state performs a strategic move.

How would copyright ever be implemented in a system that requires complete and total agreement? There would always be someone who wouldnt' agree with whatever copyright system you come up with, so you could never have copyright. Otherwise, someone would be coerced and the whole point was agreement is required for the state to do anything or the state becomes immoral.

All I'm saying is that a government could look at copyright, and realize that even if it doesn't have complete agreement, it could implement something that most people agree with, force the others to go along, and as long as the resulting change to the "no ip law at all" dilemma is to shift it into a solution that stabilizes where everyone benefits in some way, then I would consider that moral behaviour.

Copyright in the US exists according the the constitution only to encourage the progress of the arts and sciences. The public gives up some rights to copy the work and so on (cost -1) in exchange for shifthing the table so that authors can get paid directly for their works, rather than no IP law at all, and authors have to struggle with indirect income methods (a -5 for everyone because fewer creations).

no copyright: -5

with copyright: -1 for loss of some natural public domain rights, but maybe even +3 for creation of new works.

So given, -5 for everyone if no IP law or +3 for everyone if there is IP law, is it morally acceptable to "coerce" people to adopt a specific set of laws for copyright that benefits everyone? Even if everyone does not agree with the specific law?

All I'm saying is that while I understand the desire not to have to force people to do things, some things, like copyright, will never have total agreement, but many possible variations of copyright would still benefit everyone.

And in those cases, I would consider the state to still be acting morally. Prisoner dilemma, copyrigh law, whatever example you want to deal with, I think there are cases where the lack of agreement forcing the lack of governmetn law would actually harm everyone more than if "most" people supported a law and the law was passed without unanimous support, and everyone gained some benefit.

The idea of "choice" is an individual based view of state: only if I agree to it can the state morally do it.

I think the idea of benefiting the entire community, even if not everyone agrees, would be the idea of a "community" based view of state.

Can it be abused? Certainly, both can. But the point is that "unanimous agreement" isn't needed to be a moral state, and passing a law that only got 70% support is not "enslavement" of the otehr 30% if it benefits everyone, or at least doesn't harm the 30%.

#371 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 12:49 AM:

Greg, first, did you notice that Daniel Boone considers himself to be a right-anarchist, even more extreme than a libertarian?

And did you notice that he does not object to charity and voluntary cooperation, but only to government-enforced charity and cooperation?

And yet, you characterized his worldview using a highly distorted model designed to portray him as short-sighted and selfish, and then inaccurately applied to that part of the model a political label ("libertarian") which Boone doesn't apply to himself.

Furthermore, you described "democracy" and "libertarianism" as two opposed systems, which is pretty insulting to actual libertarian democrats (small-l, small-d). Your description of a libertarian world is one in which everybody seeks to rip everyone else off at all times, even though actual libertarians trust their fellow citizens more than we liberal statists do. (Think about it: A libertarian thinks that food and medicine producers can be trusted not to poison their customers out of their own enlightened self-interest. It's we paranoid statists who think the government has to keep an eye on everything. Maybe we're right, maybe they are, but they're the trusting ones.)

As far as Boone's "gun to head" rhetoric goes -- he's right. States (democratic or otherwise) really do hold guns to the heads of their citizens. That's part of what it means to be a state: having a monopoly on the legitimate use of force within a particular region. Ask a political scientist, even a non-libertarian one.

#372 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 01:14 AM:

#350:

And you haven't even touched on my biggest fear of a voucher-based system: That right-wing evangelicals would use the money to set up a system of Christian madrassas.


Surely you mean "to improve the funding of the system they already have"? I think it's a major unstated goal of the voucher system.

When I see a political party, whose support comes mainly from poorly educated people, try to implement education "reforms" that are fairly obviously going to worsen the quality of public education and/or funnel taxpayer money into those propaganda mills, I'm disinclined to extend them a presumption of good faith. (No pun intended; in fact, I wish there were some way to avoid the double meaning but can't think of one.) Maybe they know what the long-term consequences of trashing education will be - and they're looking forward to one particular consequence, namely, more voters for the Fear and Ignorance Party.

Conspiracy theory? Violation of Hanlon's Razor? Well, maybe. But it sure does fit the available data. And it's not like we don't already know there are some damn sneaky and ruthless bastards in politics, and particularly in right-wing politics.

#373 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 01:55 AM:

Avram@371:

Did you notice I didn't say any of those insults you attributed to me? Seriously. Did you notice that? You wanna keep up the attack? You might want to try attacking something I actually said not just stuff you imagined.

did you notice that he does not object to charity and voluntary cooperation, but only to government-enforced charity and cooperation?

Yeah. He says government enforced cooperation is enslavement and fundamentally wrong. That there is no way government enforced cooperation could be moral. That was the basic point I was addressing. Can forced cooperation be moral?

I think the answer is yes, it can under the right conditions.

yet, you characterized his worldview using a highly distorted model designed to portray him as short-sighted and selfish

Oh good grief. Did you notice that in that post I wrote, "Bob" was a criminal with a record a mile long, an innocent victim, and several other backstoried characters?

Which version of Bob are you certain I've assigned to Daniel's point of view? And how did you figure out which backstories for "Bob" I did not intend for Daniel?

My whole post was in response to Scott saying there are problems with corruption. And I was attempting to show how two different systems would react with different characters playing "Alice" and "Bob".

What happens when you have a corrupt character in the system? Actually, it depends on the system. In the "democratic" system, as long as Bob was corrupt, but not insane, Bob would be encouraged to go along with the solution that was best for everyone, includign Bob. If he tried to betray someone, he'd end up in the democratic prison for life, so he has incentive to remain quiet and accept 1 year, like everyone else does.

Without the democratic system, without a system that can coerce Bob, a corrupt character might try himself out of jail free, betraying whoever was the other player, and possibly getting them killed.

I believe I'd said in a number of previous posts that a system of self interest and an absolute adherance to the "unanimous agreement" doctrine would work, so long as everyone was an ideal follower of the doctrine. As soon as you added real people, even corrupt people, then the results change.

Bob's backstory changed as I put different characters into the same situation to see if it changed the outcome. It's what a person does when they're examining something like a cake cutting algorithm. Do you get the same results even when Bob is bad? What if he's good? What if Alice is Bad? Good?

How you managed to figure out which Bob I was meaning to be Daniel, I don't know. But you missed a whole cast of characters all filling the role of Bob.

And the interesting character was a corrupt "Bob", because he actually produced different results compared to "good" Bob, when in the libertarian game. Corrupt Bob versus Good Bob produced the same result in the democratic game. So I mentioned it briefly but it didn't reveal anything about the models other than that the democratic model appeared to be more robust.

you described "democracy" and "libertarianism" as two opposed systems, which is pretty insulting to actual libertarian democrats

I described them as two possible options. Two possible scenarios. They end up producing different results. If every system of government produced the same result, then comparisons and contrasts would be sort of pointless, wouldn't it? So I was comparing scenarios. Using different possible characters. Seeing what sort of different outcomes they produced.

They aren't "opposed", they're just different.

Your description of a libertarian world is one in which everybody seeks to rip everyone else off at all times,

That's not what I said. Terry tried to explain it to you, I tried to explain it to you, and you're still holding on to it. The "libertarian" world is a set of rules. So is the "democratic" world. They're both rules, or they're both strategic games, however you want to call it. I then put a bunch of different Alice's and Bob's into those games to see what the result would be.

What happens if Alice and Bob are both untrustworthy? What happens if Alice is trustworthy but Bob isn't?

And again, this went back to Scott realizing that there are problems with corruption that is present in democracy too. What happens if you put a corrupt Bob into this model? Or that model? What happens if you put an altruistic Bob into this model?

It's not that every libertarian is out to rip everyone off. It's that you get a different result if you have a character who is out to rip everyone off depending on whether he is placed in teh libertarian or democratic model.

In the democratic model, forcing everyone to agree to life in prison if they betray anyone in the bad police, ends up producing a game where even a person who wants to rip people off will end up remaining silent, because the alternative is life in prison.

As far as Boone's "gun to head" rhetoric goes -- he's right.

No, he isn't. Because the point of all those charged statements was not simply to report coercion, but to report morality, that it is always and forever wrong, no matter what.

What I was trying to show with my prisoner dilemma games was that a state could force someone to do something they didn't agree to, that the thing they're forcing actually improves the game results for everyone, and based on that, I do not consider teh coercion to be immoral.

Especially given that the only people who would have reason to disagree would be the "Evil" Bob who might try to betray someone to get out of jail free, but do so by inflicting more harm on everyone else.

Certainly there may be some "Good" Bob characters and some "Altruistic" Bob characters who would not agree to teh Democratic law for some reason or another, but who would, when put into the prisoner dilemma, might chose to remain silent if he knew that Alice on the other side and didn't want her to get executed.

But in teh democratic system, Evil Bob, Good Bob, and Altruistic Bob, all end up doing teh same thing. They all end up remaining silent, because the democratic system changed the rules to that there was a new stable result where everyone got 1 year instead of 5 or 10.

The point of "Evil" Bob is not that libertarians are all Evil. The point is that a libertarian system with an evil character produces a far worse result than an Evil character in a Democratic system, all otehr things being equal.

Whatever changing personalities that were assigned to Alice or Bob had nothing to do with what I thought of most libertarians or even any specific libertarian here. It had everything to do with what happens to the system when it gets a bad apple. Because some people out in the world are bad apples. And it matters how the system reacts to them.

It's like looking at a cake cutting algorithm that relies on a trusted third party to do the cake cutting, then putting an "evil" character in teh trusted Trent position, seeing him take a bribe from Alice, and going, "ya know, this might not be as good an algorithim as is available".

#374 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 02:58 AM:

A small two-cents note on the "gang problems" in inner city (and even suburban) schools: Yes, it exists. Yes, it is a problem. However, it's often inflated due to money concerns.

Short explanation: In California's underfunded public schools, there's extra money for schools that have "gang abatement" programs. However, rather than doing things like expelling the kids who are gang members (which would lose them funding because they get money from Average Daily Attendance), the gang abatement programs generally consist of bizarre fashion police policies and assorted frippery, going on the false assumption that kids can't quickly come up with new gang signs just as easily.

However, the main purpose of the fashion police policies is to put on a sufficient show for the state, showing a "gang abatement program" to justify the funds which can then be funelled wherever the school actually needs it.

#375 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 03:46 AM:

Avram & Greg (inter alia):

You're not reading each other's comments fully or fairly, and as a result, you're shouting past each other. This means you're not doing your side in this discussion any favors.

Naturally, you are not acting in any symmetrical or identical fashion; I posit no equivalences here.

But what you are doing in unison, each in your own distinctive fashion, is driving off people like Terry and me, who might have something to say but can't face saying it in this atmosphere. I did intend to follow up my post about markets and priorities, but frankly, couldn't face the emotional cost of jumping into the bear pit. That's OK; I am a self-confessed wuss. But when you lose Terry, you're pretty far over the line.

Can I suggest that if you're angry, don't post? Let it sit, walk around with it for a while, and see what points outlast your temper?

#376 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 03:54 AM:

Avram @ 350: "See what I did just there? I took a point contention -- whether market-based approaches to education were preferable to government-run systems -- and asserted one side of it as if it were an established fact. Just like you did. Was it fun? Did it advance the discussion? Was it a fair way to treat your opinions? No? Then stop doing it."

You're assuming bad faith on my part. When I brought up education as an example of an application where markets are very poorly suited for, I was trying to find a nice, self-evidently true analogy. The fact that, to you, education is not a self-evidently bad use for markets makes it a bad analogy, not a dishonest debate technique. I wasn't trying to sneak anything by you, no more than saying "it's hard as a rock" is an attempt to sneakily assert that rocks are hard.

I don't know how to make it any clearer than I did @ 168 that I'm here in good faith. My only goal is to learn more about libertarian ideas, and through the debate, about my own ideas. I'm not arguing about libertarian ideas because I want to prove them wrong; I'm arguing about them because I want to find out whether or not they are wrong. Engaging with their supporter's arguments is the best (only) way to do that. I'm here to learn, not to win.

In order for that to work, however, both sides have got to assume good faith. As I said @ 168, and said again @ 310, this is what I'm doing. I'm assuming that market advocates (is that neutral enough?) truly believe that market solutions really are better at accomplishing my goals than my favored methods are. I want to find out if the argument for school vouchers can stand on its own merits, regardless of the good or bad faith of the people currently making it. (This is why I haven't mentioned the religious community's stake in this, and am uninterested in doing so--their agenda is tangential to the fundamental question of voucher viability.)

From my perspective, you've been singularly unwilling to return the favor. As far as I can tell, you've been consistently operating under the assumption that we're all out to get libertarianism, every one of us. Our arguments seem to be in your eyes nothing more than vehicles for complicated slanders of libertarianism, not attempts to engage with the philosophy's virtues and weaknesses. Do you honestly believe Greg wrote 2700 words just to get a nice jab in? If we really had that low of an opinion of libertarianism, we wouldn't be spending this much effort trying to understand it!

The problem with abandoning the assumption of good faith is that, minus a real engagement with the ideas, winning is the only thing that matters. This leads to very different debate strategy. From my view, things started to go downhill when you set up a little hoop for me to jump through in order to be taken seriously @ 267. I got angry, and retaliated, a bit, in the P.P.S. @ 317. But I didn't get really angry until I read the way you talked down to me like a child @ 350. I was all set to write a nasty, flaming reply, full of withering scorn.

I decided not to. It wouldn't accomplish anything. XKCD aside, I'm not here to prove how smurt I am, what a great argumentator I am, and how terribly, terribly wrong you are. I'm here because I want to understand these ideas better. Getting angry makes it impossible to admit your opponent might be right, which makes learning impossible. Even if I did succeed in making you feel even worse than you made me feel, it wouldn't get me any closer to my goal. So fuck that. I'm going to respond to your last couple of posts as though they were written in good faith. Beyond that, I'm not going to engage with you unless you start treating me like a reasonable human being.

It's your call.

#377 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 04:10 AM:

Ginger @ 358

Unfortunately the only place I know to get this particular blend is the tea and coffee stall on Cambridge (UK) Market! I got hooked on this while I was a student. Now I get back once a year and buy a couple of kilos. I start every morning with this tea, take it and an infuser away with me to conferences and on holidays.

If you want to try some, drop me an e-mail and I'll send a sample - I got a new batch just recently.

#378 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 09:49 AM:

Avram,

I'll try again, hopefully with more light and less heat.

Daniel repeatedly stated that any coercion is always wrong. That it's always immoral. His repeated use of charged phrase like "enslavement" and "gun to head", leave no room for any possible interpretation of moral coercion. For supporting the notion of democracy where people enact some sort of constitution and ratify it with less than unanimous consent, he called me a gangster.

The basic question is whether or not coercion can ever be moral. Or must moral action always come from unanimous agreement.

The prisoner's dilemma is a complex set of circumstances that I believe models certain real world issues, such as what to do about a common threat. Work together? Every man for himself?

"Every man for himself" as a strategy in this set of circumstances gives each person the possibility of getting out of jail immediately, at the cost of someone else being executed if that person remains silent.

Every player knows this when presented with the dilemma, so no player remains silent, even though if they both remain silent, they'd only stay in jail for a year.

So, the stable solution is that everyone operates on "every man for himself" princple. Everyone betrays the other. And everyone stays in jail for 5 years.

"every man for himself" doesn't represent libertarianism. It represents no state at all. So then a bunch of people try to figure out a long term solution to the problem. They come up with some form of democracy. They pass a law that says anyone who betrays someone in the prisoner's dilemma will spend the rest of their life in jail.

Bob didn't agree with that law. He protests that he is being coerced by the democratic mob. He calls them immoral. He says they are putting a gun to his head. He says this state is just as immoral as the dirty cops.

This basically represents Daniel's inflamed charges against democracy using partial ratification, rather than unanimous ratification.

The thing is, at least in this set of circumstances, the state isn't as bad as the dirty cops. The measurable outcome without the state is 5 years in prison for anyone grabbed by the dirty cops. The measurable outcome with the state is 1 year in prison for anyone grabbed by the dirty cops.

And the only coercion the state will apply in this situation is they will put anyone in jail for life if they get picked up by the dirty cops, betray whoever was picked up with them, and go free at the expense of the other person being executed.

And it occurred to me that the question of what is moral can't be answered simply by dogma. That "morality" == "everyone must agree" is dogma. Daniel asserts it to be true. His evidence is to provide simple cases where coercion is bad. The state, even a democratic one, can approve slavery. They can enforce it against other people's wills. Therefore, Daniel asserts that it is always immoral to coerce someone to do anything against their will, no matter the circumstances.

But he only uses simple game theory examples. He creates a scenario, and in that situation, coercion led to something evil, therefore he says all coercion is evil.

The prisoner's dilemma isn't one of those cases. The state comes up with a solution, but for it to work, everyone must submit to life-in-prison if they betray. Bob doesn't want to submit to the will of this state. He wants to maintain his choices. He wants to be able to do what's in his best interest, and try to get out of jail as soon as possible.

The problem is that the democratic state could decide, OK, Bob, you don't have to be a member of our state, so we don't have authority over you, and therefore we won't put you in jail.

But that doesn't make the dirty cops go away.

So, the next time the cops come around, they pick up a member of the democratic state, Alice, and they pick up Bob. Alice assumes that whoever is in the other holding room is another member of the democratic state. So Alice assumes that the other person will remain silent, and they'll both get 1 year in prison.

Except Bob isn't. And he doesn't. He betrays Alice. Bob ends up going free. ANd Alice ends up executed.

At that point, everyone in the democratic state realizes that their solution will not work as long as Bob might get picked up by the cops.

Which reverts the entire game back to the stable solution where everyone must betray, and everyone gets 5 years.

That is the main problem here. A state can't create a strategic move just for those who agree and improve the stable outcome of the game if some of the people playing are outside the strategic move the state created.

Total agreement causes the state solution to collapse, and its back to everyone betraying everyone else and getting 5 years. One person can prevent a strategic move.

Try it with copyright. You come up with a copyright law that gives the author 50 years of rights. But you require unanimous support. Some people don't go along with it. So you decide to apply the law only to those who agree. A bunch of people agree, but some Bob's refuse to go along. Alice writes a book. Bob goes around and sells it to his friends because he isn't bound by the law, because he didn't agree to it. And so the law becomes useless. It fails to make a strategic move to encourage authors to create because Bob can take the work and mass produce it.

So, the point of all this is to show that Daniel's assertion of "everyone must agree"=="Moral" doesn't work in the more complicated scenarios.

In the prisoner's dilemma, the state enforced solution results in 1 year in prison.

If the state lets people not be held to life-in-prison, then the state solution collapses as soon as Bob gets picked up and Alice ends up dead. And then the state solution collapses, and the stable solution goes back to 5 years in prison for everyone.

In that specific scenario, the best outcome for everyone is 1 year for everyone versus 5 years for everyone. Bob wants to reserve the right to try and get out of jail immediately at the expense of someone else getting executed.

And in that scenario the obvious moral choice seems to me to be state coercion. Life in prison for anyone who betrays someone in the dirty cops hq.

It isn't that libertarianism is morally wrong. It's that libertarianism, when applied with the absolute rule that "laws must have unanimous support to be moral" doesn't actually line up with more complicated situations. Especially when you put in a person who only thinks of himself.

Bob doesn't represent libertarianism. Bob shows that "only unanimous laws" doesn't work when nasty people are involved and provides worse outcomes.

Alice and Charlie and everyone else might be libertarians for all I know. And they all agree to implement the life-in-prison solution as a state. But then Bob disagrees adn won't go along. ANd then libertarian Alice gets picked up by the dirty cops along with Bob. And what do you think Bob will do?

Unanimous agreement doesn't always produce moral outcomes. The principle of "thou shalt not coerce, anyone, ever" doesn't produce the best outcome in every situation. Especially if mean nasty Bob's are still around.

#379 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 11:37 AM:

(Writing this post was actually quite fun, once I let go of the ego aspect. Perhaps too fun, given the resulting length.)

Avram @ 350: "For example, you use the phrase "voluntary cooperation" to characterize government programs, which actually tend to be coercive, the opposite of voluntary."

Joining a government is itself a voluntary act. It is by default opt-in, but renouncing your citizenship is always possible. True, having agreed to that contract, certain things can then be coerced from you, but that's no different from any other contract (all of which, it's worth noting, are also ultimately enforced by the government.)

If you are adopting the position that even coercion to fulfill the obligations of a freely-agreed-to contract is immoral, then this wouldn't hold true. Is this the position you are advocating? It is my understanding the contracts are rather sacred to libertarians, but my knowledge of the matter is admittedly limited.

(A [hopefully] illustrative example: Alfred and several of his friends decide to form a classic movie club, renting out a movie theatre once a week to screen a classic movie. Everyone pays in equal dues, and which movie is viewed is decided by popular vote. As it turns out, none of Alfred's nominations ever get picked. He clearly has the option of leaving the group. But does he have the right to stop paying [but continue attending], simply because his choices aren't being selected by the group? He agreed to the popular vote system up front--it's not a breach of contract on the group's part. Would you say his dues being coerced from him?)

"You also seem to think that the so-called "tragedy of the commons" is an example of a free market, whereas I've generally seen it used as an example of a non-market collectivist situation hat could be improved by turning it into a market."

I'm using free market here to mean "a market free from interference by any regulatory body." (This is fairly similar to the Wiki definition which reads "a market in which prices of goods and services are arranged completely by the mutual consent of sellers and buyers.") I'll switch from "free" to "natural-state" market to maintain clarity.

Natural-state markets are often private goods, sometimes common goods, and occasionally club or public goods. The Tragedy of the Commons is merely the observation that, left in their natural state, markets tend to destroy common goods through over-exploitation. It doesn't make any claims as to how the tragedy ought to be prevented, and I don't reject out-of-hand the possibility that regulating a common good into a private good is a potential solution. I support carbon cap-and-trade programs, for instance. All it is, in my mind, is an example of a natural-state market leading undesirable outcomes. (The collapse of numerous fisheries around the world is a good example of the Tragedy of the Commons playing out in the real world.)

It is important to note, contrary to your assertion, common goods are part of a market. That there is rivalry over the use the common goods is central to the tragedy--minus that rivalry, either by decrease in demand, or abundance of supply, the good is a public one, not a common one. Take, for example, carbon emissions in the pre-industrial world: carbon emission was such a small demand with such a large supply that no one would have imagined that emitting carbon in New York would ever be competing with people emitting carbon in Los Angeles. It is only now that carbon pollution has reached the maximum supply that the good has begun to suffer from the Tragedy.

"First, no, you don't always wind up with a wide range of quality in market-based systems."

Fair enough. It's an over-generalization. However, I think you'd agree that bottled water is an atypical case: water, due to the fact that it's all just water has an unusually constrained potential variation in quality. In its weaker version--that markets tend to result in wide variations of quality with equivalent variations in price--the statement is fairly accurate, though, isn't it? I mean, the huge variety of quality and prices is what I tend to think of as free markets' selling point.

"Second, your first and last sentences contradict each other."

They're discussing different things. The first sentence is talking about the tendency of markets in general. The last sentence is talking about why education is a particularly bad choice to be marketized. Whether or not you buy my argument about price-gouging, that's not my main point. If education becomes a strict function of how much the parents can pay, education will become highly stratified, and that that would be a bad outcome.

"Third, it's just plain not true that spending more money on education gets you better results."

I agree. On the other hand, while money can't create good education, its lack can certainly prevent it.

"As far as vouchers go, yeah, I agree that they should be correlated with financial need. Not much point spending extra tax dollars on families that can already comfortably afford private education."

If you're going to give more money to poor people, then why not just send the money directly to schools in poor areas, and see if that helps, instead of trying to rebuild the whole system?

@ 353: "We don't have to wonder about whether private schools will hypothetically open in poor neighborhoods, because we have real-world existing examples of private schools having done so."

Private schools which are drawing off the top 2-3% of the most academically-driven students, with the most engaged parents. Not to mention that all of the examples you mention are drawing significant amounts of money from running other for-profit ventures (one-third of operating expenses in one case), local churches, and private charity.

How well do you think they would do if they had to serve not just the best and brightest, but every student in the area, and had to do it without all that extra cash? I'm sorry, but adequately serving 2.3% of the students isn't an acceptable situation for me, and I don't see how to blow this model up to serve every child without running into the exact same problems that the public schools are already suffering from.

"And in #332, did you notice that you're using contract-based language to describe what you claim is a cooperative system, but you also (in #242) use the word cooperative in opposition to market-based systems, which surely also are far more explicitly contract-based."

I don't see contracts as having anything to do one way or the other with the cooperative or competitive nature of a system. You can make rules about how you run your coop just as easily as you can make rules about how you run your predatory loan firm. So yes, markets are competitive systems that are based on contracts, and there are cooperative systems (like, say, government) that are also based on contracts. I have no problem with this.

#380 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 12:09 PM:

Robert Hutchinson @ 364: "Strike out "pay into Social Security". Replace it with "pay the salaries of federal DEA agents who imprison, beat, and/or kill people who smoke pot, including those who need it to survive". Would you stand behind the revised statement? If not, what is the distinction (just in regard to the "social contract", please) between your statement and mine?"

Good question. Yes, I would still stand behind my statement. Having agreed to abide by the process we use to make our laws, I can't revoke my approval every time the government does something I don't like. It would be like agreeing to let the winner of a coin-toss decide where to eat, and then refuse to go along with the other person if I lost. This doesn't mean I think our laws regarding drug abuse are moral by the virtue of being the law--only that part of being part of a group is accepting that sometimes decisions will be made you disagree with. It's still up to each person to decide when the decisions being made are so bad that you withdraw your consent from the whole shebang.

There is a point where I would make the choice to not be a U.S. citizen--we've moved a shockingly large distance in that direction in the past seven years, but I don't think we've reached it--not for me, anyway.

The long curve of history arcs towards justice, but it's a long, long curve, and we aren't even nearly there yet.

Greg @ 370: "But the basic argument in favor of the state, even one that coerces some people to follow its rules who do not agree to it, is that the state takes natural dilemmas that would result in a bad stable outcome (no copyright, no police force, no public education, no anti-monopoly restrictions) and the state can change teh natural game theory table, modify it with legal maneuvars, and create a new stable result that is beneficial to everyone."

That's it, right there. It is the role of the state to interfere in natural markets, whenever such interference is to the benefit of the people it serves.

#381 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 01:51 PM:

Abi's right; I have been losing my temper in this thread. My apologies to Greg and Heresiarch for my undue snark.

I may get back to this thread tonight, but right now, well, comments in this thread have been taking me a really long time to write, and right now, it's 78°F outside and sunny.

#382 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 01:55 PM:

Avram @381:

right now, it's 78°F outside and sunny

We're beginning to feel the spring over here, too. Lovely, isn't it? Have a fantastic time.

#383 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 02:13 PM:

One thing for Heresiarch, before I flee from my computer to frolic in the Big Blue Room:

I'm not sure if the words competitive and cooperative have the same connotations in both our heads. So consider this: If you and I were to sit down and play a game of chess, there's be one sense in which we were cooperating (because we'd be agreeing to play chess, we'd be agreeing to be bound in our actions by some set of rules, and we'd have to come to some sort of agreement about who would play white, and perhaps about handicaps), but we'd also be competing against each other.

#384 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 08:11 PM:

83F here in NoVA! But rain and lower temps coming.

#385 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2008, 09:44 PM:

Marilee #384: It's been lovely here in Montgomery County, MD, too. I hope it continues another day....

#386 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 12:34 AM:

It's after midnight and I still comfortably have the windows open here in Rhode Island.

#387 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 01:07 AM:

It's one hour from midnight, and not particularly cold or warm outside, and there's a Bob Hope movie on TV.

#388 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 01:50 AM:

Here in Portland it's 5 degrees C and predicted to fall to around freezing. In fact, we're supposed to get snow up here in the hills. I'll send you some if you want it.

#389 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 12:26 PM:

In Ottawa, it's currently 16'C, sunny, high UV index, and the forecast high for today is 26'. But there's still enough snow at the back of my back yard that I can't set up the clothesline and dry the laundry in the fresh air and sunshine. What I should do, I suppose, is shovel that snow around so I can set up the clothesline tomorrow.

#390 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 12:39 PM:

It's 11° and overcast here in Amsterdam—just warm enough to start the long task of clearing out the garden from the winter. I spent most of the early afternoon scraping moss from between paving stones and cobbles, and consequently annoying the ants.

At least it's warm enough that I could cycle to the store in relative comfort.

#391 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 04:46 PM:

You want to discuss two contrasting worldviews, that's fine, but I'd appreciate if you didn't misstate my post in order to use it as a launching pad.

#392 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 05:45 PM:

dcb@ 377: Oh, I wouldn't want to reduce your precious stash just for my sake! Now that I know about it, I'll take a look around. There's all sorts of stores in the US that cater to British "exiles", and perhaps one of those can help.

It sounds like a very nice fruity tea. If that's true, then if you ever get a chance to browse any Russian stores, do try their teas. I've had some very nice "classic" Russian tea that had a wonderful aroma and flavor.

I also like to get Tiramisu tea from Stash. It was originally an "extra" in the holiday gift set, and it turned into one of my favorite black teas.

#393 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 06:43 PM:

The forecasters were wrong, it didn't snow last night. It waited until about 2:30 PM Pacific time today, with the temperature around 4°C, then we got a good dose of winter mix all the way down to the valley floor. It was warm enough so none of the snow stuck to the ground, but it was the longest fall of hail I've seen in several years here. Please enjoy your spring and pass it on when you're done. :-)

#394 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 06:53 PM:

Ginger @ 392

Twinings of London used to sell some very nice black Russian teas, one I particularly liked was a mixture called "Russian Caravan". They had or have a subsidiary in North Carolina where they used to import and repackage the tea in large tins. I haven't seen that brand in a while; I was told a few years back that the only distributer for this area had tried to push itself as a high-end purveyor by refusing to sell through most stores, and went out of business as a result.

#395 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 08:11 PM:

Bruce, we must not live as near each other as I thought.

It snowed (well, slushed at the south end of my commute, snow at the north end) during rush hour yesterday, started sticking at sunset, and melted again once it got dark.

Then it started sleeting again a few hours ago, progressively changing to snow until it looked like like snowballs falling from the sky about 30 minutes ago. Snowflakes? We don't need no stinking snowflakes.

#396 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 08:18 PM:

I have developed a liking (an addiction, even) for the teas sold by Teavana (www.teavana.com for those of you not close to a physical shop, of which there are three in Atlanta). I have been pushing them on my older son and my ex-wife (my wife refuses to drink anything hot, and my younger son, like Pindar, thinks water is best).

#397 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 08:26 PM:

Teavana is fun to browse. I like their teapots even better than their teas.

#398 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 08:49 PM:

Twinings is still around, but with less variety than they used to have.

I liked their Rose Pouchong (not extremely floral) and Sichuan blends.

Sadaf has nice tea, too, if you have a middle-eastern market around.

#399 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 09:00 PM:

dcb @377 - do the tea and coffee people at Cambridge market also have a shop somewhere nearby in East Anglia, or am I making this up from my confused memories of visiting that part of the world? It's been raining here, and I've been drinking Twinings Gunpowder Green Tea, but am always interested in new teas, especially ones that don't actually have tea in. After all, as Marx said, proper tea is theft.

#400 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 10:17 PM:

I buy all my teas these days in the shops in China Town, and am very pleased.

Higher quality, greater quantity, prices far lower than in the boutiques outside China Town.

If you go to the right shops you can find all kinds of teas from India and Ceylon and Indonesia as well.

Love, C.

#401 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 10:26 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 394: We're lucky enough to have Russian specialty stores in the DC area, although the one I've been to is tiny and carries just a few things. At least they have tea. I have to go back and get more as I've just used up my little bag of black tea.

Constance @ 400: I shop for fresh quality teas at our local Ten Ren, which is apparently a franchise that sells tea and ginseng. They have first grade oolong teas that sell for $200 per pound. I've bought a quarter pound of that stuff as a gift for someone, and I stay firmly with the third grade jasmine for myself. It's excellent tea even if it isn't the highest rank.

#402 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2008, 06:16 AM:

Ginger @ 392

I have two kilos to keep me over the year, and I normally use one heaped teaspoon a day (occasionally two) . Sending you 50 g is not going to deprive me!

Thank you for the info. on the Russian teas; I'll keep them in mind. I presently have about 60 different "teas" - flavoured black and green teas, oolong, herbal, fruit infusions, so I can have a wide variety of differnt drinks during the day.

Neil Willcox @ 399

No, the tea & coffee stall is a stand-alone one person enterprise. There is, or was, a larger tea shop in Cambridge, on Downing Road (as I recall from my student days) and they might have had another store.

Constance Ash @ 400

Thanks for the Chinatown suggestion - I'll have to go browsing.

Fragano Ledgister @ 396

Also thanks - I'll have to go internet browsing.

#403 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2008, 10:54 AM:

Neil Willcox #399: That was Proudhon, not Marx.

#404 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2008, 11:36 AM:

shadowsong @ 395

I'm in west Portland, about half a klick from the center of Hillsdale, on the lower end of the west slope of Council Crest. That makes our particular micro-climate sometimes the same as the part of the Tualitin Valley to our west, and sometimes in line with a strip of land that runs from Hillsdale south along the Willamette River to Lake Oswego or West Lynn. And on some days it seems like we import our weather from an alternate universe where the laws of physics are juat a tad different. It's especially fun when we have maximum divergence in the local microclimates* arrayed around an average temperature at freezing.

* Usually with an easterly wind out of the Columbia Gorge carrying freezing moisture, and the collision of a warm front in the south and a cold front in the west. I once drove to work in Wilsonville, about 12 crow-miles south of here, and went from comparatively mild temps around 4°C with light, misting rain to below freezing, with blowing heavy snow and iced-up roads (and a kilometer-long line of vehicles on the exit ramp of the freeway) on the trip.

#405 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2008, 02:00 PM:

#401 ::: Ginger Re Tea:

I've found the same in our China Town -- even the lower quality teas are excellent.

The really fine ones are for a style and ceremony that I don't pretend to approach, or need to.

Though there is this about tea, and liking it very much -- you can easily find yourself becoming more elaborate and epicurian, with ever greater aspiration. There are such arrays of implements and ware for making and serving tea, just for instance.

Lately I've developed a craving for one of those ubiquitous Victorian era sterling silver tea strainers, for instance, as if my small all-purpose kitchen strainer with handle isn't good enough for the likes of me!

Love, C,

#406 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2008, 04:31 PM:

Ugh. Today has been rainy and dim and depressing. I want yesterday's weather back.

Dumb tea question: How much of a difference is there in quality between making loose-leaf tea (I've only ever made it in a teaball, but I guess I could make it in a French press or something) and teabags? My stomach problems are making me suspect that my 20 year coffee addiction may be about to either come to a close or at least decrease quite a bit....

#407 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2008, 07:54 PM:

I think you get a lot more flavor without the teabags. I usually use loose tea in my iced tea maker and in the (hmm, filter thingie) in my teapot. I don't know that I'd use a French press. I use a mesh tea strainer specially for tea -- it has a long handle and two mesh sides -- when I just make a cup (although I've been known to just zap the iced tea).

#408 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2008, 11:29 PM:

On tea:

I'll buy loose-leaf tea from a variety of sources, and then buy Japanese tea bags (paper-filters, also great for spices / bouquet garni) from Daiso (the Japanese 100 yen store*).

The Daiso teabags end up being about $.03-.05 each, and allow loose-leaf tea to become much more portable: I can make blends and carry them with me.

----------

* Japanese design, most things $1.50, if you have one nearby, it's worth checking out. Just recently I found a pair of kitchen crab scissors-- perfectly designed for dismantling a Dungeness, great for other uses, and the blades come apart for washing--$1.50.

#409 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 01:04 AM:

Albatross -- I've read that tea steeps best when the leaves have room to swell and unfurl and the water can flow freely around them.

I've been getting tasty results with PG Tips loose tea (from my local supermarket) in a Bodum De Chine teapot (from Target). It's got a central column you put the tea leaves into, with thin slits that allow water in.

#410 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 03:29 AM:

albatross @ 406

I agree with the previous comments about the tea brewing/tasting better when it's got room. When I first got into loose tea, but wanted (still do) to make it one mug at a time, I used tea tongs (two mesh hemispheres on handles - squeeze to open, put tea in one half, allow to close) or a tea ball. Then Whittards started selling a mug with a plastic mesh strainer and lid - fits most mugs, simply place the strainer in the mug, add tea, pour water, put the lid on - voila! Mug transformed to mini teapot. When it's brewed, take the lid off, turn it over and place the strainer on it so it doesn't drip everywhere. Going away to conferences etc. I usually just take the tongs, but the tea does taste better with the mug-fitting strainer.

The other thing to do while travelling is use one of the travel mugs designed for drinking filter coffee - I admit I got mine at Starbucks.

Hint: if in a hard water area, every so often take a tea spoon with a smooth handle end and use to scrape the mesh inside and out (while it's dry) until you can see through it again (and the water can get in and out properly).

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 408

The fill-your-own Japanese tea bags sound great. Does anyone know where they can be bought at a reasonable price in the UK? I normally rely on ready-made tea bags while travelling (except for my precious wild cherry tea). Of course, I always take my travel kettle as well.

#411 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 07:10 AM:

Fragano @403 - Oops. 2 minutes research would not only have got me the correct joke, but a bunch of other jokes from the lives of Great Socialists, and some useful tea information. Worse still there are a couple of familiar names in that comment thread.

Most embarassing of all, I once summed up a comedian's act by saying "amusing, but with a very poor grasp of celestial mechanics", so I should know better than to make jokes without researching them.

#412 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 08:54 AM:

For those who are experimenting with eating locally (I am, on a small scale), there is actually a functioning tea plantation in Charleston, SC; I've been there, interviewing the then-owners, now-managers (they were bought out by Bigelow) for a magazine article.

The tea itself ("American Classic"), alas, isn't all that good, at least to my untrained palate.

For the truly adventurous, tea will grow in USDA zones 7 and southward; it's a camellia (Camellia sinensis, to be exact) and likes pretty much the same conditions as other camellias. I poked around in the University of Georgia library and found old USDA publications from the early 1900s on how to grow and process your own tea for home use. Tea bushes, like apple trees, can be grown from seed (Google 'camellia sinensis seeds' for sources) but like apple trees, the resulting plants are genetically diverse and not guaranteed to have any specific quality such as, for example, drinkability. For that you need to propagate a named variety from cuttings--much harder to come by.

Miscellaneous tea info from James Duke at Purdue University is here.

#413 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 09:03 AM:

Neil Willcox #411: Tea is the heart of a heartless world.

#414 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 09:26 AM:

albatross @ 406: I grew up drinking loose leaf tea, and only later in life allowed tea bags to cross my path. ;-)

Loose leaf tea can be made more specifically to your liking; more leaves = stronger tea for example. I also like to mix a pinch of stronger tea (like Stash's Ginger Peach -- very gingery taste) with a basic black tea; it adds some flavor without overwhelming me. Finally, loose tea tends to be a better quality tea than the dust and leavings that get scraped into the tea bags, although the more expensive brands of tea bags do have better leaves in them.

Tea bags tend to have a additional flavor that I don't like; I've called it the taste of the paper (the bag itself), and the more expensive tea bags do seem to have less of a taste in the tea. You can buy fillable tea bags at almost any tea shop in the US, and online as well -- I know Stash online has tea bags, and I'm pretty sure Peets does too.

I don't go so far as to "wet the pot", or fill it with hot water and toss that, then put the tea in and fill it again. I don't even really pay attention to the temperature of the hot water. I just want something strong enough to be tea, with a bit of a nice flavor and even some aroma, and goes down nicely with or without milk. Biscuits/cookies are optional.

A good cuppa tea sets the world in the right place...but I'm not biased.

#415 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 11:22 AM:

#394, Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers)

Is "Twinings of London" a different thing from the Twinings teas I see in my grocery store here in Atlanta? It sounds like they might be, though I suppose it is possible that my grocery is just carrying the most inoffensive and standard tea bags from a company with an excellent and varied line.

#396, Fragano Ledgister - Ooh, thanks for the recommendation. I'm often looking for "outings" for the weekend, and finding and exploring a new tea shop would be a good one.

I notice that there is a Teavana in both Phipps Plaza and Lenox Mall. For those who aren't from Atlanta, those two malls are on opposite corners of the same intersection. I wonder if the difficulty going from one mall to the other is part of the reasoning - that intersection is terrible, on foot or in a car.

#416 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 11:29 AM:

#412

Nichols Garden Nursery usually has tea plants (not this year: crop failure). Pretty flowers - they're camellias, after all - and apparently scented.

#417 ::: Del ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 11:49 AM:

#413 Tea is the heart of a heartless world.

That's "poppy tea", not "proper tea".

Meanwhile, the person looking for cherry tea should know that cherry tea begins at home.

#418 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 12:20 PM:

Del #417: So, we're back to the libertarianism thread? :-)

And now abideth faith, hope, cherry tea, these three; but the greatest of these is cherry tea. (Apparently, St. Paul was a big tea drinker.)

#419 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 12:22 PM:

R. M. Koske @ 415

I don't know what corporate gyrations Twining's has gone through in the last few years; as a I said, it seems to have become scarce around here (or maybe I just stopped looking for it after my favorite place to buy it, Comella's Produce, went out of business). That's probably the same company, they did have an American subsidiary at one time, likely still do.

And like most foreign suppliers, they probably decided they could ship the floor sweepings to the benighted colonials, who wouldn't know any better. That's why Danish beer bought in the US is now inferior to that bought in Denmark.

#420 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 03:18 PM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy @312 writes: "The ones from southern California are the ones who won't talk to us."

I have had similar experiences that make me think this anecdote has some truth behind it. Having grown up in Southern California and moved some fifteen years ago to Northern California, I can say that my encounters with law enforcement have had a completely different character in the north than in the south. I've read in various places that the main regional difference in how practitioners operate is that we have more community oversight in Northern California that isn't as widespread in the south. When I lived in Southern California, the idea of expecting the cops to be a moderating influence on any given incidence of craziness was pretty laughable. Nobody I knew had ever had a productive encounter with the cops: they were never there when you really needed them, and they were always a problem when they did show up. That just doesn't seem to be the case in San Francisco, and I think it's because when the cops fuck up here, they actually sometimes have to answer for it.

I remember when I was one of the hundreds arrested in San Francisco in 1991, I was still new to the area. I pled No Contest to the charges of Blocking The Sidewalk (I wasn't anywhere near the sidewalk) and Failure To Disperse (I wasn't given a practical opportunity to disperse, much less a comprehensible warning that I had been ordered to leave), and even though I knew the charges were bogus, my expectation was that nobody would care. The prosecutor was grandstanding, and a collection of lefty pro-bono lawyers from Berkeley failed to convince me that I could plead Not Guilty and the judge would throw out the charges. Imagine my surprise when I saw what happened and it was 180 degrees from what I expected. The judge threw out the charges for everyone who pled Not Guilty, and the prosecutor was flensed in the press for wasting time and money hassling Amnesty International for no good reason. The cops had egg on their face, but not too much— when they arrested everyone, they didn't indulge in the usual head-cracking that one would have expected in Los Angeles, for example. It was a pretty orderly round-up, despite being patently illegal.

It seems to me that if we want to grind down the cultural hegemony of our homegrown authoritarians, one of the best ways to go about doing it is to empower the communities most distrustful of the cops with oversight over their police departments. Yes, I know that cops hate that— oversight from civilians is annoying— but you know what? I think the results are that it's easier being a cop in a community that doesn't automatically assume you're a crook with a uniform when you show up at the door.

It seems like it would also cut down on the spread of the underlying authoritarian ideology if people were to routinely expect that sometimes the cops screw up, and that's why you have civilian community oversight. Who watches the cops? You do, that's who.

So, why is it that cops in some places are more reasonable than cops in other places? How come the DC Park Police (referencing the original story) don't have to answer for this kind of idiocy to the communities they serve? What's the other side of this argument that I'm missing? Is there really some kind of cultural opposition to community oversight of police departments that keeps cops in certain jurisdictions from having to answer for stupidity and corruption? If there is, then I don't think I understand why it should be there.

#421 ::: JHomes ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 04:27 PM:

Ginger @ 414:

"I don't go so far as to "wet the pot", or fill it with hot water and toss that, then put the tea in and fill it again."

By that do you mean you don't warm the pot? You should warm the pot, and putting some hot (it doesn't have to be boiling) water in before making the tea is the easiest way. A cold pot will cool the water you are making the tea with, and this is Not A Good Thing.

JHomes

#422 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 04:45 PM:

j h woodyatt @ 420

ISTM that the differences between police departments and most especially between the ways they either accept or don't accept community oversight has to do with PD culture (similar to corporate culture) and history.

In LA, there's a long tradition of a corrupt and uncontrolled police department that answers only to the monied powers, and top police officers and commissioners who further the nonaccountability for their own ends. Daryl Gates is a perfect example of such a police chief - to show that he was promoting a culture, look at his subordinates who went on to be captains and chiefs in other cities, and carried the LA policing attitude with them. We got one here in Portland for awhile; he was a disaster, because our PD is only partway down that road, and he tried to take them a lot further.

It may be my own bias, but I think such police attitudes are most common in cities with a large racial minority and racial class divide, like LA, New York, Baltimore, and DC. That may be because more of the majority population outside the money and power elite will accept it, knowing that they are less likely to be targets than they would in a town with fewer racial and ethnic "outsiders" to scapegoat. I don't know how it is now in Philadelphia, where I grew up, because I haven't been back in 35 years, but I doubt the late '70s and '80s made it any better than it was, and it was pretty bad when I was there. There was one special squad, officially the "Civil Disobedience Unit" charged with breaking heads at demonstrations, especially civil rights demonstrations. Everyone on the outside called it the "Psycho Squad" because most of them had gotten waivers for failing the police psych exam. The head of that squad, "Ratso" Rizzo, went on to be police chief, then mayor, which is why I doubt there's been much change, and shows how persistence of the chain of command can maintain the culture and the status quo.

#423 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 05:04 PM:

P.J. Evans: That on Chaney Trail Drive, next to Williams Ranch? If so, that's the place I was referring to, which is next to where we are keeping the horses.

I happen to think camellias, as flowers, to be ok; but the plants are overrated for looks.

#424 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 05:12 PM:

I can't do this justice, but I wanted to add that biologically speaking, the existence of enforcement mechanisms doesn't mean that a mutually beneficial interaction isn't cooperation. One expects enforcement, or short-term cheaters would make everybody worse off.

#425 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 05:22 PM:

Funny we should be onto camellias - I just happened upon the first one I've seen this side of the Atlantic, today at lunchtime.

I'm sure they're around, but I haven't seen one here before.

#426 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 05:28 PM:

R.M. Koske #415: The Teavana in Phipps Plaza is a bit bigger than the one in Lenox Square.

I have no idea if residents of Clinton, NY prefer Hillary tea....

#427 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 05:30 PM:

Terry, the one I know of is a nursery in Oregon. Seeds, mostly, but plants and other stuff too. They have an interesting assortment of things-for-your-kitchen, too.

#428 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2008, 11:25 PM:

P.J. Then perhaps there are some tea plants in Altadena. I keep meaning to nip over when we are at the horses.

#429 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 01:10 AM:

"It may be my own bias, but I think such police attitudes are most common in cities with a large racial minority and racial class divide..."

I was about to offer San Francisco as a rebuttal to that, but I realized that 'and' in that sentence is the crucial word.

SFO doesn't have a racial majority. It's got a white plurality, and a whole bunch of smaller minorities. Its class divisions aren't drawn very hard along racial lines either (though, the comparatively small black community is clearly the object of substantial racial discrimination— I won't try to brush over that).

However, in cities with a large racial minority and where the class divisions are tightly coupled with race, I can see your point. I've always thought the answer to that was recruiting heavily for cops who live in the communities they're expected to serve. It's more complicated than that, though, isn't it?

Somehow, we've got to help the middle-class suburb-dwellers in the racial majorities understand in the pits of their stomachs how letting the cops get away with abuse of power is bad for business and drives all the good jobs to jurisdictions that aren't quite so medieval.

#430 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 02:56 AM:

Kathryn @408: Ooh, I'll have to check out Daiso the next time I'm headed thataway-- I'm a big fan of Ichiban-Kan up here in San Mateo, but it's always nice to see new stuff.

dcb @410: Hard-water buildup should usually dissolve into vinegar, which may require an overnight soak but is a bit less labor-intensive than physically scraping the stuff off.

Yet another loose-tea usage option is hinged spoon-shaped teaball (I think I found mine at Orchard Supply Hardware), though like all such devices, you do have to avoid overfilling them-- the leaves expand to at least twice their original size, and if they're overcrowded, the flavor can't completely come out.

#431 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 03:12 AM:

j.h. woodyatt: The suburb dwellers don't see the problems, because one of the things they are paying for is keeping industry far away from their homes, and "those people" (whomever those people are) away as well.

So if it's bad for business in, "those" parts of town, who cares?

If the city is large enough, ir pretty much doesn't matter, the well to do will still find jobs which pay for the way of life they want, the less well to do will get by, and the poor you will have with you always, so why worry?

#432 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 04:03 AM:

Julie L. @ 430

Actually I rather enjoy scraping off the mesh - doesn't take more than a minute and it's satisfying being able to see through the mesh so much better immediately afterwards. Vinegar would probably do the job more thoroughly; I'll have to try it sometime - but I bet it takes quite a bit of rinsing to get the smell off.

I've gt one of those hinged spoon-shaped infusers - I agree about not overfilling, and I found they didn't let the flavour out as well as the hinged mesh version "Tea Infuser Mesh Spoon" (which you still have to be sure not to overfill) and as I said, I found the whole-mug mesh infuser even better.

I've just discovered there are a couple of travel mugs available with integral tea strainers - and some even fit into car drinks holders - I may have to get one.

#433 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 11:18 AM:

Phoenix AZ is a perfect example of a city with a big racial minority and racial divide, and its Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, is now notorious for targeting "brown people." Even the mayor doesn't like him! (How does one go about getting rid of sheriffs, anyway? I don't live in the area, but I'd think the mayor might have a little input.)

#434 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 11:43 AM:

abi @425 -- I bet now you've noticed one, you'll start seeing them everywhere. Camellias are pretty popular over here. Mine have wintered well, both in the ground and in pots on the terrace. My favorites are pink, and I found two varieties with names I couldn't resist: "Debbie" (vain, moi?) and "P.Diddy" (which is actually PinkDiddy, but the tag said P. Diddy, and it just tickled me.)

#435 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 11:53 AM:

Julie L @430,

There's two of them in the Bay Area--Mt. View and Daly City (intersection of 1 & 280). Ichiban-Kan sounds somewhat similar and addictive.

Daiso has too many things that are useful, cheap, and generally not seen (by me) elsewhere. The bike accessories section had Japanese bike locks--not good for the city, but perfect for Burning Man. The paper and notebook section had 20+ choices of smaller spiral notebooks, so finally I could find one that felt right AND had graduate-school-ruled lines.

#436 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 12:15 PM:

re 419: Well, for a long time American Tuborg was brewed in Baltimore.

re 422: I don't think that at this late date (and I'd say "late" started as early as the 1980s and maybe a bit earlier) problems with the DC police have to do with a racial divide per se. Washington has had a black upper class for a long time (see the "Gold Coast" and the "Platinum Coast"). More typically the problems have radiated from the mayor's office (see especially "Marion Barry").

#437 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Terry Karney writes: "The suburb dwellers don't see the problems, because one of the things they are paying for is keeping industry far away from their homes, and "those people" (whomever those people are) away as well. / So if it's bad for business in, 'those' parts of town, who cares?"

That's what doesn't make any sense to me. How can it be good for business in the racially majority populated suburbs to keep industry at a distance? It also strikes me as profoundly bad for business everywhere for the cops to be unaccountable to anyone for their fuckups. It costs a lot of money to maintain an economic infrastructure devoted to keeping "those people" living in filth and squalor because of their supposed racial identity, and part of the sunk costs there is in the loss of general welfare associated with paying for the damage that follows as a natural consequence when the cops don't have any responsibility under the law for their own actions.

How is it that the suburb dwellers we're talking about here can fail so completely to see the problems? When I lived in one of those suburbs, i.e. Newport Beach, California, the problems were glaring and obvious to me. I don't get it. What does it take to break through the false consciousness and drive home the point?

LSD in the water supply? (Joking.)

#438 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 02:32 PM:

Several years ago some door-to-door security device salespeople came by while I was home. Obviously college students (man & woman in their 20's), their spiel consisted of "you know, your neighborhood is changing for the worse, you need an electronic security system".

I asked how it was changing for the worse, since I'd lived here 15 years and crime of any kind had been rare in my neighborhood. "Well, the kind of people moving in is changing" said the young man.

Did I mention he and the young lady were white? I ended the sales pitch at that point and sent them away.

#439 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 04:05 PM:

John 438: Unfortunately it's probably hard to go broke by depending on the racism of the average person. Good for you for making it just a little easier!

#440 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 04:45 PM:

jh woodyatt @ 437

How can it be good for business in the racially majority populated suburbs to keep industry at a distance?

They don't keep it at a distance. When the "white flight" began in the '60s, industry started going with them. Manufacturing had began the long slide towards oblivion, so much of the growth in the suburbs was either "soft" industry like hi-tech software and systems starting in the 80's, or was brand new plant with no unions and a lot of automation. In either case, the ratio of white- to blue-collar jobs was much higher than in the old industry inside the cities.

I think that's what made SF different; the growth of new industry in the Peninula and the East Bay was matched by a growth in financial and software companies in the city, which was still a desirable place for middle-class professionals to live.

#441 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 05:38 PM:

re 437: Of course "the suburbs" is every bit the generalization that people throw around about race. I live at the northern edge of the DC suburbs, and it would be hard to imagine a more racially mixed area than this. Hmmm, let's see..... The elementary school behind my house is 20% black or hispanic; my daughter's middle school is 64%; my son's high school is 53%. There are also substantial Indo-Asian populations at each, though I don't know whether around here they are supposed to be undesirables or not. Of course the rural schools are pretty white, and the schools around Potomac and Bethesda are not very black.

There are running strains in the area about Latino populations, coupled I suspect to their increasing dominance of the cheap labor categories (e.g. landscape work-- there's a crew outside my office mulching the shrubs as I write this). There was an article in the Wash. Post a day or so ago about citizen "activist" approval in some Virginia suburb of how immigration sweeps have emptied out some houses previously inhabited by large numbers of Latinos-- we're talking eleven or twelve people living in a house maybe designed for five. You may or may not view it as a racial issue, but it's also rather like the kind of strains around college towns and student housing, except that in the latter case the student slumlords typically have enough political leverage to protect themselves from complaints. Obviously poor people with dubious immigration status have no leverage.

#442 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 05:54 PM:

The cities with which I'm most familiar, with the exception of NYC, are medium-sized, and some have severe racial/class divides and some haven't. That distinction seems to go along with the distinction that the ones with the most serious divide also have the most out-of-control police forces:

Philadelphia: really serious divide, with possibly the worst white flight in the US: the city went bankrupt at least twice due to loss of tax revenue, and North Philly, the primary ghetto, may have lost more buildings to abandonment and arson than the Bronx. The police were out of control when I lived there in the 50s and 60s; I haven't heard that they got any better.

New York: a deep class divide, fueled by incredibly high real estate prices and rents, which has created several highly-concentrated ghettos in areas that used to be middle-class (the Bronx and Brooklyn in particular). Again, the police have a long history of unaccountability, and a long history of excessive violence towards minorities.

Boston: maybe unique in that there is still a large lower-class white community in the city, which (largely) continues to support racial discrimination that ends up hurting them when it turns into class discrimination. Several of the most corrupt and incompetent police forces in the US: Boston and Cambridge. A classic example of the change in the nature of the suburbs due to white flight: some of the current suburbs (e.g., Waltham) were industrial towns; the industry collapsed, the towns were gentrified into middle and upper-class suburbs, and got a lot whiter into the bargain.

San Jose: It's been awhile since I was there, and even longer since I lived there, but as I understand the current situation, San Jose has largely become a ghetto into which to push lower-class Hispanics, many displaced by Asian immigrants who took the blue- and bunny-collar jobs further north. I have to judge the police by their response when our next door neighbor's kid set fire to our roof: "Why are you bothering us with this?"

Portland, OR: Not as severe a divide because the black population is small*, less than the average black percentage for the US.** This is counterbalanced by an Asian immigrant minority settling both in the city and in the first ring suburbs. There is now a rising Hispanic population in the city and the suburbs, coupled with a rise in xenophobia against them. There is a history of police non-accountability, part of it due to some police chiefs recruited from places like LA, but there is also a semi-functional civilian review board, whose conclusions are not binding, but have started a very public debate about police oversight which may yet rein the police in somewhat.

* Until 1925, it was illegal for blacks to reside in the state of Oregon. In 1947 a lowlying section of Portland was flooded, displacing thousands of people, including a large percentage of the black population of the city. Many of them never returned.

** The black population of Oregon was approximately 4% of the total the last I heard; most of them live in Portland.

#443 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2008, 09:11 PM:

C. Wingate, #441, that's the county outside my city. I wonder if they've figured out their property tax will go up because there are so many empty houses? I'm all for enforcing the law, but I don't think they should be targeting Hispanics.

#444 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2008, 09:10 AM:

One thing that helps make things worse around Boston is the tiny political divisions. In Maryland we don't have any school system smaller than a county (with Baltimore City counting as such), and while there are cities and towns with (tiny) police forces, they are scattered. We simply don't have the possibility for the kind of Balkanization that one sees all around Boston. Maryland is also unusual in that property taxes play a relatively minor role in the overall tax structure; instead the counties get a "piggyback" tax which is simply a percentage applied on top of the state income tax. Things have gotten a bit more regressive with the tax crisis of last year and practically ever rate getting bumped up a bit.

#445 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2008, 09:30 AM:

On the policing issues: I suspect that another significant factor is that effective policing by strangers is very difficult in cultures where respect is fundamental (which includes both black and poor southern white, in my thinking). I read a book or paper talking about the difference between respect-based and something-else-based and have since tended to see that as an important distinction (and would REALLY like to find it again.)

#446 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2008, 09:34 AM:

C Wingate #444: Yeah, it seems like there's an iron law here. When times are good, local and state tax revenues go up, and of course the only sensible thing to do is to spend all that extra money. When times are bad, local and state tax revenues go down, and of course, we can't stop spending all that extra money we started spending in good times, so we'll just have to raise more revenue somehow.

Someone must have done this analysis by now; I wonder if the tendency of states to raise taxes/fees/whatever and decrease services during recessions is larger than whatever countercyclical policy the feds carry out.

#447 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2008, 01:34 PM:

re 446: The three most particularly galling things about the whole affair were:

(a) Given the tax structures it would have been relatively easy to make up the whole shortfall by pushing the income tax a relatively small amount. Instead they hit virtually every tax, including pushing the sales tax up 20% (5% to 6%).

(b) Right after this they said, "Oh, and we need to spend more money on program X."

(c) They waited to find this all out until we switched from a Rep. to a Dem. governor, thus fulfilling the classic stereotype of the latter as "tax-and-spend" types.

Meanwhile, I'm getting to participate in two special elections this year, on top of the regular cycle. One of our county councilmen died, and they had to have a special primary our district to choose nominees to replace her. The really annoying one, the one has the governor gnashing his teeth, is that our US rep, having lost the primary, then quit to join a lobbying firm. So now we're going to have a special election in a month (with nominees picked by the party hacks) to fill the seat so that we don't go without a rep for nine months because of this jerk. The reason the governor is annoyed, of course, is that this is just more state money to be spent.

#448 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2008, 02:26 PM:

jh #437:

I wonder: Are out-of-control cops a consequence of racial divisions along class/crime rate lines, or a consequence of out-of-control crime? It's surely easier to get support for cops going out of bounds in order to control crime, when crime is a big problem.

The black/white divide seems especially ugly for this, because the crime rate among blacks is so much higher than among whites. If the cops are beating the hell out of some random guy who looks like you when you're not scared of him, you're probably likely to object. If they're beating the hell out of someone that is clearly "them" in the us/them categorization, and you're scared all the time because of all the crime that's happening all around you, it's probably easier to get you to walk on by and say "well, at least they're arresting the criminals."

This looks hard to test. Does the bad policing lead to more crime, does more crime lead to bad policing, or do both stem from some common cause--nasty racial divisions, horrible poverty, a culture of machisimo and violence, whatever? Or is there any association at all?

#449 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2008, 05:26 PM:

Robert, #364:

Lee @ 294: It ill behooves you to complain of society being gangster-like while simultaneously keeping your own head firmly in the trough.

When the gangsters start shooting at you when you attempt to procure some food outside of the trough, is there then room for complaint? That is, given that private road companies (for instance) cannot operate on a scale beyond the odd parking lot or gated community, because of government restrictions, what is the person who supports them to do?

We seem to be going around in circles. The point I've been trying to make is that there isn't any place for Daniel to go that doesn't involve him accepting some form of the social contract, and its associated benefits. Calling it "gangster-like" gets you nowhere if there's not something (more than just handwaving) with which to contrast the system you don't like; all it does is make the person saying it look like a prize hypocrite.

Now Bruce Baugh at #367 offers at least a partial solution: It's possible to live decent, comfortable lives largely off the grid. You can't altogether escape the state without a lot of sacrifice, but you can live quite independently, if you're prepared to make some moderate sacrifices. I know folks like that living in the San Juan Islands right now - their tax load is very light, and their dependence on state resources of any kind is minimal. The price they pay is a more or less complete removal from urban life, but so what? Who said it would be easy? The modern city is basically a creation of the state, and if you want to do without the one, you can do without the other.

However, that doesn't sound like what Daniel wants. He wants all of his urban conveniences without anyone "having a gun held to their heads" to pay for them; if he didn't, then presumably he'd already be in the San Juan Islands or wherever. Which means that he is indeed keeping his own face buried in the trough. And since there is more of a solution available than I thought there was when I made my original comment, this is now not a utilitarian argument. He's got an option, if he's willing to take it.

Chris, #372: When I see a political party, whose support comes mainly from poorly educated people, try to implement education "reforms" that are fairly obviously going to worsen the quality of public education and/or funnel taxpayer money into those propaganda mills, I'm disinclined to extend them a presumption of good faith. (No pun intended; in fact, I wish there were some way to avoid the double meaning but can't think of one.)

What about "honorable intent"? Seems pretty close to me.

Heresiarch, #380: Having agreed to abide by the process we use to make our laws, I can't revoke my approval every time the government does something I don't like. It would be like agreeing to let the winner of a coin-toss decide where to eat, and then refuse to go along with the other person if I lost. This doesn't mean I think our laws regarding drug abuse are moral by the virtue of being the law--only that part of being part of a group is accepting that sometimes decisions will be made you disagree with. It's still up to each person to decide when the decisions being made are so bad that you withdraw your consent from the whole shebang.

I don't think it's strictly either/or here. There's a third option -- working to change the government decisions that you disagree with. That's not an easy or a fast process, but it can be done, at least in our current system of government.

I do wonder what would happen (besides an impossible accounting nightmare) if everybody got to note on their tax return which 3 government programs they did NOT want their tax dollars to support? (Three because that seems like a reasonable compromise -- I'm sure most people can prioritize their dislikes that far.)

#450 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2008, 09:32 PM:

Lee #449:

I think the version of libertarianism Daniel was describing is very close, in some fundamental sense, to pure pacifism. And it has the same problems. Just as it's not really possible to have a decent, functioning society without violence and the threat of violence pretty much available on call, it's also not possible to have a decent and functioning society without the ability to use coercion to at least collect taxes for public goods.

And I think there's another parallel. Violence and coercion seem to be necessary to live in this world, and so we have to use them. But they're necessary evils, not good things. Just as we need an army, but ought not to glory in watching it blow stuff up on CNN, we need a taxman, but we ought not to glory in using him to stick it to people we don't like, or to force lots of people to pay for stuff they hate and oppose, from which they derive zero or less than zero benefit.

I'll admit that I find the whole social contract argument pretty unconvincing, for the same reason I'm not libertarian enough to think that EULAs are in general morally binding, or that a contract signed by an 18 year old raised in a cult enclave (say, the marriages of some of those girls married off to old men in that LDS-splinter-group enclave) is morally binding, or that contracts of indenture are morally binding or ought to be legally enforced.

#451 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2008, 11:03 PM:

Something I read about that Texas polygamist cult today gave me a laugh: Large numbers of its members are on food stamps and welfare.

I'm all for a safety net. I'd like it to be larger and stronger, in fact. It wouldn't surprise me that by modern standards the inmates of "Yearning for Zion" are impoverished.

But there's a delicious irony to the fact that these separatist loons who detest modern society and profess to emulate their rugged pioneer ancestors are sucking on the teat of the welfare state.

To quote J. Baldwin . . . "Where did you get your axe?"

#452 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2008, 11:26 PM:

Stefan # 451

I remember reading some years back that some of the congresscritters (like Delay) who railed loudly against 'government welfare' were in districts where a high percentage of the population was getting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, or farm subsidy money. If those don't count as 'government welfare', then I don't know what would. (The irony meter pegged, yes.)

#453 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2008, 10:24 AM:

albatross @ 448

This looks hard to test. Does the bad policing lead to more crime, does more crime lead to bad policing, or do both stem from some common cause--nasty racial divisions, horrible poverty, a culture of machisimo and violence, whatever? Or is there any association at all?

I would not be surprised if this were one tangled ball of spaghetti with cause and effect completely knotted together. Most social systems seem to involve lots of feedback loops, and feedback makes it very hard to tell cause from effect sometimes.

#454 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2008, 10:52 AM:

Stefan #451: Yeah, David Friedman was pointing out on his blog recently that in practice, polygamy among adults is indistinguishable from pretty common behavior that nobody sane wants to see made illegal. It's not illegal (or at least those laws are not enforced) to have a lover or two on the side while you're married, nor for your wife to, nor for both you and her to know about each others' lovers.

The whole use of welfare to support your extra wives seems creepy to me, though I suppose it's not fundamentally different in terms of impact on the taxpayer whether you have kids by five women and call them your wives, or just call them your lovers. Again, we tolerate the behavior in either case, within very broad limits.

#455 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2008, 11:42 AM:

albatross, #454: There are two very important differences between the behavior you're describing and what's been going on at that compound:

1) Adults. Which a 14-year-old girl is NOT.

2) Consenting adults. Your lover on the side can walk away from the relationship at any time. These girls couldn't.

Not that I think I really need to remind you about either of these points; I just don't want them getting lost in the shuffle.

#456 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2008, 11:51 AM:

#448 ::: albatross :::

Check this out for a detailed angle on black criminality. It's about the "Terry stop", the legal doctrine that police can search anyone they're frightened of. The police are most likely to be frightened of black men, so that even if (as seems to be the case) black men are just as likely to be carrying drugs as white people, blacks are much more likely to end up in prison. And with their high incarceration rate, they look more criminal. And more frightening....

As for the social contract, I believe there are many social contracts that go into a society, and they're only loosely related to what the government says it's doing.

#457 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2008, 12:30 PM:

Lee #455:

Yes, definitely. I think David's point was that you could do much the same stuff that this LDS-splinter-group was doing, restricted to adult women, and likely be left alone. And in fact, the sheriff had left those guys alone till he had a complaint, and if there had been no crime but the polygamy going on there, I seriously doubt he'd have done anything about it. (Which seems just right to me.)

#458 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2008, 01:21 PM:

Nancy #456:

I read the article. I like the idea of limiting the scope of the Terry Stop, though it seems like the ideal way to do it would be to try it in some specific places, and see what happens to police safety and crime rate. I expect the crime rate would be unaffected, since someone walking down the street with a bit of pot or crack or meth for personal use probably isn't a massive threat to the neighbors, but the only way to know would be to do the experiment.

As an aside, some of what he said didn't look right to me. I think the black violent crime rate is much higher than the white violent crime rate, and that this is not dependent on Terry stops as a cause. This isn't my field, but a bit of Googling led me to some Department of Justice reports.

From this 2002 report, the murder rate is much higher for blacks than whites: blacks are about 7 times more likely to be murderers, and about 6 times more likely to be murder victims, than whites.

From this 1998 report, blacks were about 6 times more likely to murder police than whites. (The numbers of police murders were small enough, though, that I doubt you can trust the precise multiplier there.)

Also in 1998, when police killed someone and it was ruled a "justifiable homicide," the person killed was about four times more likely to be black than white. (I'm not sure how much that says about whether blacks are more dangerous to policemen than whites, though--more like how much more dangerous policemen are to blacks than to whites!)

A wonderful thing about the web is that there's so much data available, and it often so thoroughly contradicts received wisdom. For example, I was quite surprised to read, on the same site, that sex offenders had much lower recidivism rates than other criminals, and that this included child molestors. I'd have expected exactly the opposite. I'm not sure how to interpret the information there yet, but it's certainly interesting in light of the sex offender mark-of-Cain laws we're seeing passed everywhere.

#459 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2008, 05:45 PM:

albatross: re recidivism

Were the stats broken down completely? Or did it have some lumping?

I can see, based on things which are included in the registries, that repeats of things like urinating in public, indecent exposure, etc. would be able to skew the numbers.

On the flip side, how are they defining molesters: Someone who committed statutory rope by ignorance might not be the sort to repeat.

#460 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2008, 06:01 PM:

I didn't know rope was illegal...

#461 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2008, 06:14 PM:

Stefan #451 -- According to Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven, about the history of the LDS and a double-murder committed by a pair of FLDS in 1984, that kind of behavior (separatist loons sucking on the welfare teat) is justified by them as "starving the beast". They pretend that they're striking a blow for their cause by draining the welfare state of money.

#462 ::: Ronit ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2008, 09:43 PM:

Stefan @451, Avram @461 -- Sara Robinson has a fascinating post up at Orcinus detailing the ways in which the FLDS took over local government and essentially became the law, the medical system, etc etc. Seems like they have no problem with modern authority so long as they control it.

#463 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2008, 05:51 AM:

Lee @ 449: "I don't think it's strictly either/or here. There's a third option -- working to change the government decisions that you disagree with. That's not an easy or a fast process, but it can be done, at least in our current system of government."

Sure--but that's part of the decision-making process. At the point that your attempts to change the decisions, attempts to change the process used to make decisions, and attempts to change the government have all failed, what you have is the choice to continue to tolerate the bad with the good, or step out. (I'm starting to get flashbacks to the civil disobedience discussion on the William Buckley thread. It is some of the same material as here.)

#464 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2008, 09:30 AM:

heresiarch #463:

Yeah, there's definitely some overlap. The difference is that political discussions are mostly about what sorts of collective social decisions imposed by law ought to be made, while the moral questions in the previous thread sort of take those collective social decisions as a given and ask how you or I should react to them as individuals. The overlap is that your moral and political ideas inform one another--for example, if you accept that taxes are a necessary part of having a functioning society, then it's a lot harder to feel comfortable evading taxes, and your moral sense of what is legitimate for your government to impose upon you informs whether you're willing to go along with, say, banning some religion that plausibly seems to have bad effects on its believers.

FWIW, I lean libertarian in the sense that right now, I think we have made way too many collective decisions that unnecessarily impose the beliefs of the community (or effective interest groups[1] within the community) on others, and that tax everyone to pay for stuff that doesn't remotely benefit them, but which benefits those effective interest groups. I'm not exactly a libertarian because I think this is true at the margins right now, but not in all places, and not all the time. Push far enough in a libertarian policy direction, and I'll become a liberal/progressive, campaigning for some kind of antitrust laws, laws to prevent abuse of workers in company towns, etc.

[1] There's a whole branch of economics which tries to study how these decisions get made, called public choice theory. But without any theory at all, if you watch US politics, it's easy to see places where the collective decision of the community, as enacted by laws, reflects something very different from the expressed beliefs or interests of the majority of people.

#465 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2008, 11:53 PM:

albatross, #457: There are some conditions under which it gets extremely ethically dicey even if all the people involved are adults. If a woman (or a man, for that matter) isn't allowed to leave the community, for example, that starts looking a lot like slavery.

One step further back: the woman could theoretically leave, but only at the cost of severing all her connections with the rest of her family and her children, forever. That's not legally slavery, but for a lot of people it would certainly be the functional equivalent. (And this is one large part of my problems with the Inherited Obligation Family structure; it often leaves people who are being physically or emotionally abused with no feasible way out.)

Not really trying to make any point here, just noting some of the edge conditions. It should also be noted that my views on this are strongly colored by the circumstance that I almost never hear anyone extolling the virtues of Family Uber Alles except in the context of what looks to me like exploitation. (cf. also the Regency/Victorian euphemism "poor relation")

#466 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2008, 10:41 AM:

Lee #465: Fair enough. How does this relate to your views of the social contract, though?

I mean, suppose the same organization offering you a contract also provides your whole education (along with a daily loyalty oath recited in public), defines the laws under which you life your whole life, regulates broadcasters and book/magazine sales in your community, defines the rules under which your parents are permitted to raise you, etc. You might have a hard time making an independent, informed, free choice about whether or not to accept a contract offered by that organization. Especially if there is a large cost for leaving, like maybe only rarely seeing your family or friends again, having much of your previous education useful mainly for living in that community, perhaps the loss of various possessions and credentials available only within that community. Add in a lifetime of propoganda emphasizing your obligations to your home community, how it's better than every other community, how it's surrounded by evil enemies against which it must be eternally vigilant, with occasional trumpeting of how many and eager are the new recruits into the community, and you might be tempted to accept all kinds of scary or crazy terms in that contract.

#467 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2008, 05:40 PM:

albatross @ 466

If your point was that it's hard to see whether your description fits the FLDS or the US government better, that was cleverly done. I know from your previous postings that you're not so naive as to think that this means the two really are indistinguishable. In fact, my impression has been that you agree with Lee and me, and many others in this discussion, that it's the edge cases, not the central commonalities, that tell you the most about the differences.

The primary issue I see in determining whether the actions of the leaders of the FLDS compound in Texas were moral is how you define "duress". In this particular case it's not really difficult; a 14-year old girl is usually easily cowed and controlled by aggressive argument and threats of mild violence, and that's the minimum that was used here. When talking about adults, as Lee said, it's harder to tell; adults are assumed to be more able to make informed decisions, and more able to ignore verbal persuasion and emotional blackmail. But duress probably should include the threat to cut one off from one's relatives, or remove the approval of the community.

#468 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2008, 03:28 PM:

Bruce #467: Yes, I was having some fun here. I definitely don't equate the two.

My point, though, is that if you think contracts signed at 18 by FLDS cult members ought not to be necessarily binding, given the scary amount of influence and power the FLDS has over those members and their families and friends, then it seems like you ought to also notice some problems with an unwritten social contract made under rather similar circumstances.

Similarly, most of us would be very, very suspicious of an argument by the owner of a company town that by continuing to live in the company facilities, spend the company scrip, and work in the company factory, the workers were implicitly agreeing to abide by the rules of the company with regard to things like unauthorized political discussions, unionization, the allowability of lawsuits against the company, etc. I think that same skepticism ought to be present when someone talks about the social contract--one which isn't exactly written anywhere, but is implicitly offered to you in conditions rather like those of the company town or the cult. (In the case of the US, I think we're a much nicer place than most company towns or cults, but not all countries are the US, not all times are this time, and for all I know, not all company towns or cults are all that bad.)

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