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But one could equally argue parliamentary democracy requires similarly heroic assumptions about our politicians. Democracy is a nice idea, until you realise the kind of people who get elected...

Also, this doesn't work perfectly at the moment. Some people fail to behave and co-operate, even when it is in their interest (lots of people commit crimes and ruin relationships). Some people would under libertarianism. The point is to compare various actual and potential systems, not with utopian visions (libertarianism may be a utopian vision, but that is what I am trying to enquire about, and the key issue is whether the instiutions and mechanisms would be sustainable).

You want a benign dictatorship, don't you? ?

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I'm not sure what you're implying. I'm not 100% sure I'm libertarian or a democrat so I want a dictatorship? Libertarianism is a dictatorship?

Are you interested in anything except psychology? It seems you are forever saying: if you argue this, then you want that. Why is that relevant?

What are the consequences of changes to policies or institutions?

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But one could equally argue parliamentary democracy requires similarly heroic assumptions about our politicians. Democracy is a nice idea, until you realise the kind of people who get elected...

Also, this doesn't work perfectly at the moment. Some people fail to behave and co-operate, even when it is in their interest (lots of people commit crimes and ruin relationships). Some people would under libertarianism. The point is to compare various actual and potential systems, not with utopian visions (libertarianism may be a utopian vision, but that is what I am trying to enquire about, and the key issue is whether the instiutions and mechanisms would be sustainable).

Broadly speaking you could see that the last 10,000 years + of human history as a libertarian experiment. There have been successful pockets in time and space of quite a few 'isms' - although you could argue people were happy for a time under Hitler (sorry to bring him into it) when they haven't worked, well, shit happens in a free world. What you'd be looking at is the interplay of morality, welll-being, politics and power and then taking a view. Quibbling over what level of compulsion would keep a libertarian state doesn't cut it in isolation and without citing reams of psychology phd's.
Perhaps we've all already done this, and ended up at our respective prejudices, in any case the above is a tall task. Alternatively Neo-liberalism is a viable contemporary proxy for examining these issues. And if you want to get even more specific and relevant, the debate on these boards could be reduced down to whether or not a deregulated Capitalism is leading us back to a form of Feudalism. Also topical is the gun control debate.
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Broadly speaking you could see that the last 10,000 years + of human history as a libertarian experiment. There have been successful pockets in time and space of quite a few 'isms' - although you could argue people were happy for a time under Hitler (sorry to bring him into it) when they haven't worked, well, shit happens in a free world. What you'd be looking at is the interplay of morality, welll-being, politics and power and then taking a view. Quibbling over what level of compulsion would keep a libertarian state doesn't cut it in isolation and without citing reams of psychology phd's.
Perhaps we've all already done this, and ended up at our respective prejudices, in any case the above is a tall task. Alternatively Neo-liberalism is a viable contemporary proxy for examining these issues. And if you want to get even more specific and relevant, the debate on these boards could be reduced down to whether or not a deregulated Capitalism is leading us back to a form of Feudalism. Also topical is the gun control debate.

Whilst I wouldn't deny I have prejudices I haven't arrived at just one political prejudice yet. I think the Left and the Right are both more defensible the middle ground. Many shoddy arguments are made against the Left. With the Right few even bother it seems.

But what I think is really crucial to understand for anyone who is really interested in the variants of markets and capitalism is what has and has not been regulated and de-regulated. Regulars on these boards are aware of numerous problems in housing and money and credit more generally which are caused by regulations. A lot of people seem to pretend to forget them when it comes to political discussions. Do we know they cause more or less harm than the deregulations or absence of regulations?

I think 10,000+ years was quite variable and most of this time people were ruled by tyrants and certainly had little liberty (I think I might have misunderstood you. Do you mean it is a free fall for all and people are selfish and libertarianism is selfishness...?). The last 200 or so years have been really quite a dramatic departure. I think this is quite a small sample, so perhaps it is difficult to draw conclusions if one relies on historical examples. I did think theory might help...

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Whilst I wouldn't deny I have prejudices I haven't arrived at just one political prejudice yet. I think the Left and the Right are both more defensible the middle ground. Many shoddy arguments are made against the Left. With the Right few even bother it seems.

But what I think is really crucial to understand for anyone who is really interested in the variants of markets and capitalism is what has and has not been regulated and de-regulated. Regulars on these boards are aware of numerous problems in housing and money and credit more generally which are caused by regulations. A lot of people seem to pretend to forget them when it comes to political discussions. Do we know they cause more or less harm than the deregulations or absence of regulations?

I think 10,000+ years was quite variable and most of this time people were ruled by tyrants and certainly had little liberty (I think I might have misunderstood you. Do you mean it is a free fall for all and people are selfish and libertarianism is selfishness...?). The last 200 or so years have been really quite a dramatic departure. I think this is quite a small sample, so perhaps it is difficult to draw conclusions if one relies on historical examples. I did think theory might help...

The bigger the sample the better - we're looking for

1. how did/would people behave in the absence of all the restrictions and trappings of a modern 'democratic' state ? What is the interplay between morality, power, well-being that presumably would be on steroids in a libertarian environment ?

And there is a very poignant and to the point live experiment in America going on where everybody is free to have guns.

2 (and this is my controversial hypothesis), presumably what would happen in a libertarian state is that people would clump together into more radical versions of all the sorts of 'isms' and special interests we've seen history and currently. There is enough freedom in our current political state to allow for oligarchal, coorporatists theocracatic etc sub-groups who all nevertheless are demanding more and/or exceptional freedoms.

With respect to deregulation and markets, well, its impossible to prove a negative. We can certainly say that deregulation has 'caused harm' we can't say 'more harm' than regulating. We can't say the Thatcher government was a worse government than her opposition would have been. We can't even definitively say the sun will rise tomorrow morning.

We can only look at what happened and make reasoned theories based on a form of induction. We can say, for example that the whole system of special derivatives, CDO's and so on eroded and obscured the concept of risk and responsibility and knowledge of failure and success that is part of the genius of the Capitalist system.

Hence it is reasonable to conclude that as a matter of principal unregulated 'freedom' has the capability of destroying itself - for the short-term benefit of a tiny ingenious minority. Of course, as a libertarian, with x years to live and part of the minority, that wouldn't be my problem.

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I think I'll return to markets later, but for now guns are an interesting diversion.

The thousands who die and otherwise suffer as a result of gun violence seems a senseless waste. I suppose most or perhaps all contributing to this thread share this view. However the scale of the problem is big rather than enormous. Compare the number who are killed by guns with the numbers killed by totalitarian regimes, or in wars, or with poverty in countries which barely engage in production and exchange. I realise these three examples are the exercise of power at it's worst, but I do wonder if it would be possible for a libertarian society to be so destructive. Some people just seem to think it's obvious that in the absence of the state morals and society would break down. Not so long ago (maybe about two hundred years ago) many worried that if the masses lost their faith in God there would be no more need of morality. And yet society has survived.

I think it might also be worth pointing out that America is far from libertarian (the state has shifted towards the interests of the rich but it is still very big in size and scope). Therefore I would suggest again that if you are worried about a war of all against all under libertarianism why not worry about the current war of all against all?

Also who is killing who? Firstly, there seems to have been a recent increase in police killing civilians unprovoked. The police know they are above the law and there are no consequences for their senseless violence. Libertarians argue that private solutions to law enforcement would likely do less damage as they would be liable for damage. I am not convinced by these arguments, but find it hard to believe they would be more violent. Secondly, much violence is committed by those who feel helpless. Who feels helpless and why? Generally it is who are unable to participate in society and economy. This could be the natural result of liberty, or it could be the result of restrictions on liberty (presumably it is a combination of both factors). I think in the USA an argument could be made for both, but I would draw particular attention to the slavery and the very poor economic position of many descendents of slaves (the very antithesis of liberty).

I realise this sort of racial conflict and others like it may never be transcended (but then what hope is there for USA under any political system?) but aside from these sorts of problems and initial inequalities, liberty tends to make most prosperous. If liberty does tend to lead to prosperity why would people turn to violence? Might a more liberal America be less violent?

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I think I'll return to markets later, but for now guns are an interesting diversion.

The thousands who die and otherwise suffer as a result of gun violence seems a senseless waste. I suppose most or perhaps all contributing to this thread share this view. However the scale of the problem is big rather than enormous. Compare the number who are killed by guns with the numbers killed by totalitarian regimes, or in wars, or with poverty in countries which barely engage in production and exchange. I realise these three examples are the exercise of power at it's worst, but I do wonder if it would be possible for a libertarian society to be so destructive. Some people just seem to think it's obvious that in the absence of the state morals and society would break down. Not so long ago (maybe about two hundred years ago) many worried that if the masses lost their faith in God there would be no more need of morality. And yet society has survived.

I think it might also be worth pointing out that America is far from libertarian (the state has shifted towards the interests of the rich but it is still very big in size and scope). Therefore I would suggest again that if you are worried about a war of all against all under libertarianism why not worry about the current war of all against all?

Also who is killing who? Firstly, there seems to have been a recent increase in police killing civilians unprovoked. The police know they are above the law and there are no consequences for their senseless violence. Libertarians argue that private solutions to law enforcement would likely do less damage as they would be liable for damage. I am not convinced by these arguments, but find it hard to believe they would be more violent. Secondly, much violence is committed by those who feel helpless. Who feels helpless and why? Generally it is who are unable to participate in society and economy. This could be the natural result of liberty, or it could be the result of restrictions on liberty (presumably it is a combination of both factors). I think in the USA an argument could be made for both, but I would draw particular attention to the slavery and the very poor economic position of many descendents of slaves (the very antithesis of liberty).

I realise this sort of racial conflict and others like it may never be transcended (but then what hope is there for USA under any political system?) but aside from these sorts of problems and initial inequalities, liberty tends to make most prosperous. If liberty does tend to lead to prosperity why would people turn to violence? Might a more liberal America be less violent?

Its a way simpler thought experiment than that.

It directly addresses your questions on morality. If we allow people the liberty to have guns, will they suddenly turn 'immoral' and start killing people ? Surely, with that freedom people will naturally be more careful, and respect each other more than if compelled by some external government ? And in a State with guns , as the NRA argues, surely any deficit in alleged safety can be addressed by allowing more people to have more liberty through more guns ? Have we really any evidence that clamping down on guns the children in the schools would have been any safer - surely equipping the school with more guns would have actually saved lives ? And aren't these discussions eerily similar to debates on 'deregulation' ?

Does the rest of the world think America barking mad because they have maltreated black people ? Or are they baffled by the libertarian case ?

On the underlying cultural and historical issues that underpin gun crime in America- absolutely they have to be taken into account. Unlike in the Libertarian Utopia where presumably everybody is an ahistorical acultural happy well adjusted nice and well-intentioned person all on the same political/cultural page with no reason to covet or fear power more than anybody else (and anyway if you are at liberty to arm yourself to the teeth you can blow any bad guys away), America sadly shares reality with the rest of us.

Just to provide some balance, here is a privileged middle-class white person making a good rational factual libertarian case for how America is actually better off with guns compared with the rest of the world:

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If those arguments are eerily similar debates on "deregulation" I'm not sure what conclusion we ought to draw. I realise a libertarian political system would be imperfect. It could be better in some ways and worse in others when compared to alternatives. I don't know if it would be better or worse, which is why I'm trying probe a little deeper into the mechanisms.

One possibility which seems plausible is it would be in some ways more unequal (fewer super-rich because many get so much wealth from the state - particularly banking, but many other sectors; perhaps a bigger/better off group of affluent/rich as there would not be taxation so no progressive taxation; maybe a bigger group of low income, as no state welfare, though depends on the how economy is at this point - are we thinking about tomorrow or next century?) but the worst case libertarianism would not be nearly so bad as the alternative worst cases (terrible wars, genocides, colonialism, slavery, gulags and famines).

Another question is whether libertarianism would be stable. Would libertarianism be able to prevent the re-emergence of the state? Maybe, maybe not.

Democracy on the other hand is not very stable at all. We don't know if we face a worse form of neo/liberalism/conservatism (feudalism or fascism as it has been described by posters above) or Corbyn (1970s style socialism!). Maybe some other European countries will actually elect Communists or ultra-nationalists who are able to impose their desired system.

Are you comparing libertarianism with democracy in general (which is potentially one of a variety of political systems) or with your favourite existing democracy (in your favourite time period, or in your favourite country), or is it with some more utopian democracy?

I think history suggests we are at greater risk of harm from states than from our neighbours. Especially as democracy doesn't seem to function particularly well and nobody seems to have the desire and ability to improve it, the reduction of state power seems perhaps the safest way to protect people. Alternatively we could focus on how to make democracy safer.

PS On markets, as I said I'd return to them:

I said: "Do we know they [regulations] cause more or less harm than the deregulations or absence of regulations?"

You commented: "With respect to deregulation and markets, well it's impossible to prove a negative. We can certainly say that deregulation has 'caused harm' we can't say 'more harm' than regulating. We can't say the Thatcher government was a worse government than her opposition would have been."

I wasn't comparing deregulation with the counterfactual that the regulatory regime had been unchanged. I was thinking about the housing and financial crises and wondering how much has been caused by deregulation and how much by regulation.

Regarding housing, I think the most obvious deregulations were the sale of council houses and the changes to tenancies which came in the late 80s making evictions much easier and hence buy to let became viable.

The most obvious regulation is the restriction on building.

Landlord tax relief is an intervention in favour of landlords.

Regarding finance more generally I think it's a bit more complicated.

Deregulations occurred under Reaganomics and Thatcherism. But I don't think libertarians are committing to defending all deregulations. These deregulations merely gave the banking system more opportunity to exploit (opportunities which wouldn't have existed under free banking). Then came the notion that organisations were too big to fail and moral hazard became very serious. There was previously a long history of banks being safe and prudent and very rich bankers having lots of capital tied up in their banks. I don't claim to be an expert but I think greater state regulation allowed shifts to be shifted onto everyone.

Since the financial crisis there have been many appalling interventions: HTB, keeping interest rates at 0.5%, FLS, and various clever tinkerings primarily to poke house prices in the direction desired by the more malevolent politicians.

These are the factors I'm trying to weigh up when I consider the impact of various forces.

What was really at the root of the crisis? I think house prices rose because of a combination of supply not being allowed to respond to demand, credit expansion (mostly state-sponsored, partly state promising to socialise any losses), and interventions to fuel the BTL game. I'm not sure markets alone could have created such bad outcomes.

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Thanks for the link on Alex Jones.

From a libertarian perspective it is hard to argue with his assertion of the right to bear arms. However, the subsidiary claim that the right to bear arms helps protect them against oppression isn't particularly persuasive. I'd take a different position. Restricting gun ownership is fairly sensible. If we're going to have a government it's a sensible policy. But governments which have such power rarely restrict themselves to such sensible measures. If there is the possibility of no government perhaps that would be better if even we had to endure higher levels of gun ownership.

For some reason I had in my mind a figure of 30,000 gun deaths per year rather than 11,000 (turns out this is the number of deaths from car crashes). I think Jones said most of them were gangbangers killing each other. There are various factors which led these people to join gangs and use guns. One point that has just occurred to me is how many of these crimes (how much gang activity in general) are probably the result of the war on the drugs, the criminalisation of prostitution and gambling, and perhaps other things, like smuggling. We take the vast state apparatus for granted and we forget these restrictions on markets. If there weren't gangs taking great risks to supply drugs etc. the drugs and the suppliers would both be safer.

The most disturbing crimes are those where someone gets angry, goes to school and kills all the people he resents. These people have basically given up on life. Wonderpup wondered several pages ago why lots of people wouldn't just sort give up or go beserk and think if you don't have any obligations to me why don't I kill you. I think it's just because it's quite rare to give up on life so completely. Maybe it's a bit of a mystery why there are so many more suicides than these type of mass shootings. Presumably some suicidal people are angry at the world. Who knows.

In any case I think actually the fact that in the American libertarian gun experiment so few people give up on life so completely and selfishly probably bolsters the case for libertarianism rather than the case against. Even when so many could kill each other they instead manage to co-operate on the whole.

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Thanks for the link on Alex Jones.

From a libertarian perspective it is hard to argue with his assertion of the right to bear arms. However, the subsidiary claim that the right to bear arms helps protect them against oppression isn't particularly persuasive. I'd take a different position. Restricting gun ownership is fairly sensible. If we're going to have a government it's a sensible policy. But governments which have such power rarely restrict themselves to such sensible measures. If there is the possibility of no government perhaps that would be better if even we had to endure higher levels of gun ownership.

For some reason I had in my mind a figure of 30,000 gun deaths per year rather than 11,000 (turns out this is the number of deaths from car crashes). I think Jones said most of them were gangbangers killing each other. There are various factors which led these people to join gangs and use guns. One point that has just occurred to me is how many of these crimes (how much gang activity in general) are probably the result of the war on the drugs, the criminalisation of prostitution and gambling, and perhaps other things, like smuggling. We take the vast state apparatus for granted and we forget these restrictions on markets. If there weren't gangs taking great risks to supply drugs etc. the drugs and the suppliers would both be safer.

The most disturbing crimes are those where someone gets angry, goes to school and kills all the people he resents. These people have basically given up on life. Wonderpup wondered several pages ago why lots of people wouldn't just sort give up or go beserk and think if you don't have any obligations to me why don't I kill you. I think it's just because it's quite rare to give up on life so completely. Maybe it's a bit of a mystery why there are so many more suicides than these type of mass shootings. Presumably some suicidal people are angry at the world. Who knows.

In any case I think actually the fact that in the American libertarian gun experiment so few people give up on life so completely and selfishly probably bolsters the case for libertarianism rather than the case against. Even when so many could kill each other they instead manage to co-operate on the whole.

Worrying numbers of people ARE killing people with guns - thats why vast majority of the rest of the world think that Americas libertarian philosophy on guns is barking mad. The idea that 'not as many people as it could be' is a bit of a weird consolation. It certainly would be a great deal more if Libertarianism were taken to heart by larger numbers of people.

Because Wonderpups 'autism' remark it turns out isn't just a wild accusation - the scientific study cited above that self defined Libertarians are low on empathy and high on systematising traits associated with autism (n.b. in comparison with other conservatives!):

Understanding Libertarian Morality: Libertarians have a unique moral-psychological profile, endorsing the principle of liberty as an end and devaluing many of the moral concerns typically endorsed by liberals or conservatives. Although causal conclusions remain beyond our current reach, our findings indicate a robust relationship between libertarian morality, a dispositional lack of emotionality, and a preference for weaker, less-binding social relationships.

The one moral/emotional exception is that of 'Liberty' itself. Forgive me from jumping to 'casual conclusions' but can you see how not only this might be a disastrous exemplar for 'society'(by definition its anti-social), indeed it actually HAS been a disastrous exemplar. Can you also see why 'deregulation' while potentially not a bad idea 'in principal' has in practice been at best hopelessly naive ?

If government means I'm less likely to be mown down by either gang-bangers or the fanatical and fearful special interest groups with low empathy for others and obsession with their own 'liberty' that are likely to spring up in its absence (and notoriously currently exist in America but also UK and others) I'm all for just and democratic government.

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Your last words above were "I'm all for just and democratic government." It would be interesting to know what you mean by this, but I imagine I'd agree with you. My worry is how does a just and democratic government defend itself? Is there any such government which has every managed this for more than a few decades?

The 20th century has examples of democratic elections of tyrannical regimes (I know they didn't win outright majorities, but still they basically got in through the democratic process). Is it silly to worry about the prospects of extremists getting elected in Europe?

Is there anything that we can do (or perhaps others with particular powers or influence) can do to preserve democracy?

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