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Keeping the state out of your bedroom

October 29th, 2011

A standard theme in (propertarian) libertarian thinking is that personal freedom in matters such as choice of sexual partners goes naturally with economic freedom, defined as the lack of state interference with property rights. To summarise this in a slogan, “If you want to keep the state out of your bedroom, you should support keeping it out of your (and others) business as well”.  But this is not only a false equivalence, it’s self-contradictory, as can be seen by example.

Suppose A rents a house from B, who requires, as a condition that no-one in class C (wrong race, religion, or gender) should share the bedroom with A. Suppose that A signs the lease, but decides that this contractual condition is an unreasonable violation of personal freedom, and decides to ignore it. B discovers this, and seeks the assistance (or at least the acquiesence) of the state in evicting A. On a propertarian/contractual view, B is in the right, and is entitle to call in the state into the bedroom in question.

And, this is the fundamental problem. Is it A’s bedroom or C’s? If we understand the phrase in its normal sense, no-one including a landlord, has the right to tell you what to do in your own bedroom. But, from a propertarian viewpoint, C’s ownership rights over the bedroom, derived from and ultimately enforced by, the state, trump all other considerations.

Of course, this example stands in for many others like this one

If you really want personal freedom, you can achieve it only by constraining property rights.

Posted via email from John’s posterous

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  1. Freelander
    October 29th, 2011 at 09:37 | #1

    Quite right. I agree that property rights need to be constrained by society, otherwise there is a creeping tyranny. The ‘libertarian’ view is that they can define their property rights in any way they see fit and big government is then bound to enforce those rights. Others are then ‘free to choose’ whether they accept those defined rights when they purchase or rent. Similarly, if the sucker ‘freely chooses’ to take a job they thereby ‘freely choose’ all the contractual conditions imposed on them by that choice, no matter how contrary to modern conceptions of liberty and personal freedom. Of course, this is supremacy of property rights and obligation of the state to enforce those rights regardless of how they are defined or created that is hardly a state of affairs any of those dead wig-wearing ‘classical liberals’ libertarians claim they are followers of believed in. Humorous is the way that libertarians claim to follow, for example, JS Mill and Adam Smith. Of course, the dead can’t argue with the libertarian interpretation of the views of the dead. And, anyway, the 17th and early 18th century world was quite a different place where those ‘classical liberals’ did not have to consider the many issues we have to consider in the 21st century. In light of the concerns of the 21st no doubt the wig-wearing ‘classical liberty’ ‘founding fathers’ would have modified many of their views.

    A correct description of the libertarian position is that it is neo-luddite. The Utopian Neo-Luddite Libertarians want to roll back the world to a glorious past that never existed. Another nonsense is their support of caveat emptor; again a Neo-Luddite position. Caveat Emptor was entirely appropriate in the Roman Empire given the capacity of courts at that time to settle contractual or buying and selling disputes, and also, the variety of power relationships of the time, and the likely non-partisanship of courts of that time anyway. A modern 21st century economy would not function as well if there was a reversion to caveat emptor. Who really can spare the time and expense of checking that what one might expect of a seller, that they are not slyly ripping you off through some deceptive practice, is not taking place, for every business or personal purchase? The Neo-Luddite approach to modern life is simply unsustainable, as is the libertarian approach generally. Like pure communism, there is a reason pure libertarianism has never been tried; it is not capable of trial. It is simply too patently stupid.

  2. Freelander
    October 29th, 2011 at 09:38 | #2

    Awaiting moderation again! not clear why?

  3. Freelander
    October 29th, 2011 at 09:44 | #3

    Also, meant 18th and early 19th century…

  4. Ikonoclast
    October 29th, 2011 at 11:21 | #4

    Property rights would be best limited to the ambit where they protect personal rights without infrininging on others’ rights. To own a residential house in a socially santioned way (paid for, conforms to building codes etc) confers the practical capability to behave as you will within it but still subject to criminal limits (can’t strangle the children etc.).

    To own a business (as a capitalist owner) confers the ability to infringe on others’ right by stealing a large portion of the value of their labour. As an example, Alvarado Street Bakery is a bakery located in California. It is is a worker cooperative and the average worker earns between $65,000 and $70,000 a year. Capitalist owned bakeries in the US pay their workers about $22,000 a year. Thus we can see in this example, that capitalist owners can effectively steal 2/3 of the value of the workers’ labour.

    Therefore property rights should be limited to personal possessions and consumption items. Ownership of more than a fair cooperative share of the means of production should not be legal. Once wealth is more evenly distributed by cooperative-capitalist production and attendent progressive taxes then ownership of private possessions is more equalised also and oppression reduced.

  5. Robert Wiblin
    October 29th, 2011 at 11:22 | #5

    “If you want to keep the state out of *your* bedroom, you should support keeping it out of *your* (and others) business as well.”

    It may be that we want to constrain the ability of people to make contracts over what their property can be used for, but the statement isn’t self-contradictory at all.

    As you’ve stated the situation the bedroom belongs to B. If they are legally forbidden from making contracts with A about how the room will be used, the state is ‘in B’s bedroom’.

    It is true that in this situation B, who owns the bedroom, and A, who does not, cannot both have their way with what happens in that property. And if the state sides with the person who owns it and not the person who doesn’t, they are constraining what the person who doesn’t own it can do with it. But that is trivial.

    Your ability to cook a meal in your own kitchen does mean that I don’t have the freedom to come in and simultaneously play soccer there. But the solution for keeping the state out of your kitchen isn’t to let me come and hold sports matches there whenever I like.

  6. jrbarch
    October 29th, 2011 at 11:27 | #6

    “If you really want personal freedom, you can achieve it only by constraining property rights”.

    If you really want personal freedom you have to have a relationship with something that is in fact, free! Check out the nearest four year old … (it’s all downhill from there) !!!!

  7. Robert Wiblin
    October 29th, 2011 at 11:38 | #7

    You would be better of sticking with a standard ‘positive freedom’ argument.

    The freedom to have sex is meaningless if you are 18, have no money and live with your parents who forbid you from doing so. That may be a reason to redistribute income so even people on low incomes have enough property to do the things they really care about.

    But it’s not a reason to forbid parents from telling their children they can’t have sex on their own property. That’s an inefficient restriction on property use. Better to redistribute with cash.

    The argument that the government will expand freedom here also seems self defeating. If over 50% of voters are in favour of banning property owners from forbidding act X on their property, surely it will be possible to find a property owner who is willing to let you do X on their property. What is more likely to be happening with such bans is a majority of voters imposing their values on an idiosyncratic minority. The majority could already do what they wanted with all the property they owned, but that was not enough for them – they wanted to wipe out those who disagree.

    Whose rights are being trampled here:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/gay-couple-win-bed-and-breakfast-snub-case-2187347.html

    The gay couple could have gone almost anywhere else to do what they wanted. Now the bed and breakfast owners don’t have the freedom to turn away people they don’t like from their B&B. They can’t both get to do exactly what they want with that particular building. But while it was always possible for the gay couple to buy a home and live according to their values, it’s now impossible for the bed and breakfast owners to run a B&B and do the same. Greater freedom of property would result in a more liberal society in this case.

  8. Chris Gall
    October 29th, 2011 at 11:42 | #8

    Seems like a restatement of the old fact: all interpretations of ‘freedom’ require comstant state intervention to adequately maintain. The only relevant question should be the type and quality of that intervention with the maximization of positive outcomes for freedom in mind. But alas, some interpret intervention and freedom as antonyms… They’re not! Coercion is surely only unjust, when it is *unjustified*?

  9. Sam
    October 29th, 2011 at 12:23 | #9

    Libertarians seem to think any constraint on freedom is fine, unless the oppressor is something called The State.

  10. Chris Gall
    October 29th, 2011 at 12:32 | #10

    @6

    Robert a few things: I’m not sure it’s fair to say that private enjoyment of a property is comparable to entering into business with your property. The first, in which people privately refuse to associate with homosexuals is bigotry, but to be sure, not the sort that ought be interfered with by the state. However, when opening a business, your business activities have an effect on the public world around you; just as a business owner, despite having no contractual relation with most members of a market still have an obligation to adhere to at least the most basic of that markets’ rules, a service provider has an obligation to participate in a socially responsible way. If discrimination reduces the accessibility of accomodation to a certain class of people due to no actual financial limitation, then it is akin to charging a different price for a different person, a crazy sort of freedom.

    Not to mention that discrimination is an actual emotional harm, and being turned away for sexuality literally results in an externality of mental illness including but not limited to depression and suicide.

  11. Robert Wiblin
    October 29th, 2011 at 13:02 | #11

    @Ikonoclast

    “As an example, Alvarado Street Bakery is a bakery located in California. It is is a worker cooperative and the average worker earns between $65,000 and $70,000 a year. Capitalist owned bakeries in the US pay their workers about $22,000 a year. Thus we can see in this example, that capitalist owners can effectively steal 2/3 of the value of the workers’ labour.”

    Sounds like there’s no need to change the system – workers should just start cooperatives, throw off the ‘capitalists’ who contribute nothing to production, and all will be well.

  12. Robert Wiblin
    October 29th, 2011 at 13:07 | #12

    “The first, in which people privately refuse to associate with homosexuals is bigotry, but to be sure, not the sort that ought be interfered with by the state. However, when opening a business, your business activities have an effect on the public world around you”

    In both cases your actions have an effect on the world around you (i.e. Imagine gays couldn’t find friends. That would be worse than not being able to have sex in B&Bs.) so you can’t use that distinction.

    “a service provider has an obligation to participate in a socially responsible way”

    But not a private citizen? I don’t see a justification for the distinction.

    “then it is akin to charging a different price for a different person, a crazy sort of freedom”

    That happens all the time. As a utilitarian I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

    “discrimination is an actual emotional harm, etc”

    Right but you can flip everything you say around, claim it’s the gays who are discriminating against the B&B owners and causing them emotional harm and it’s all still true. You just care about one side more than the other.

  13. Robert Wiblin
    October 29th, 2011 at 13:16 | #13

    Your whole response, and almost everyone’s response, presupposes that ‘we’ know what is right and wrong with certainty. But the whole reason a liberal society allows people to have a private sphere in which they can try living in ways we disagree with is that we can’t just look up what is right and wrong with perfect certainty in a book somewhere.

    Sure, I am an not religious and I strongly disagree with the B&B owners, but we must have a system of laws that follows principles rather than simply lets the majority (even when I am in the majority) be tyrants over those who are different to them.

    By allowing the majority to dictate over the minority how they will live we stifle innovation and diversity and switch the process by which culture evolves out of the dynamic melting pot of civil society and free association into a brutal conflict over which group controls the government. I have much more confidence in the former process.

  14. Ikonoclast
    October 29th, 2011 at 13:30 | #14

    @Robert Wiblin

    In principle I agree. If it can be done once it can be done again. I suspect small to middle size business and “boutique” business is the place to start.

    Large business, large corporatations, accretions of banking power, the military-industrial complex and general large accretions of capital and power may present more difficult issues. Law changes would still be needed including withdrawal of the fiction that a corporation is an individual and withdrawal of the many forms of subsidies and special treatment that large corporations and plutocrats get. The pretence that large-scale capitalists do not got preferential political and financial treament does not stand up to scrutiny in the modern world.

    Capitalists as such, do in fact contribute nothing. All the capital is previously stolen capital accretion taken from worker created value. Genuine entrepreneurs do contribute something (ideas, effort and innovative courage). Most large corporate capitalists (and managers) do not “do” further innovation. They buy up innovative firms and appropriate the innovations which usually are created in small to medium business. A genuine entrepreneur is different from a corporate capitalist. It would certainly take a genuine entrepreneur or two plus other kinds of workers to set up a successful workers’ cooperative.

    Cooperative worker capitalism would need to be grown from the ground up while corporate monopoly capitalism was pruned away from the top.

  15. Robert Wiblin
    October 29th, 2011 at 13:39 | #15

    I am fully with you in opposition to corporatist government. I am more skeptical than you that ‘capitalists’ contribute little to the production process. I buy the ’roundabout application of labour’ idea of capital. Someone who works and invests the proceeds is not exploiting workers, they are just applying their labour in a different way.

    But I support anyone trying to cut a redundant group out of the production process. If the cooperative model works better than the for profit corporate one, great.

  16. paul walter
    October 29th, 2011 at 14:37 | #16

    I’ve a feeling that property- libertarians (scrooges like the Koch bros, Murdoch, etc? ) make the error of dislocating and valorising property rights at the expense of that wider suite of concepts that combine to define freedom and rights.
    A billionairess has rights to her property, but do these rights necessarily come at the expense of the right to food, water, shelter etc- basics- for others?
    Should the concept of my property involve an acknowledgement that includes my right to survival (although not at the expense of others)?
    I’d love to see the return of a Kantian counterbalancing of the bugger you jack/red in tooth and claw concept which as actually an impulse against the concept of freedom and rights.
    If I wouldn’t live under certain circumstances, have I the right to expect others to tolerate some thing would find unncceptable?
    I think property rights are secondary to the right to a life, at least in our theft oriented world where the precondition of a level playing field has been sabotaged and rendered inoperative.

  17. John Brookes
    October 29th, 2011 at 15:45 | #17

    When young and impressionable, I read a libertarian book. The author wanted a government that protected property and enforced contracts. The idea seemed fine to me. Then I imagined someone buying a ring of land surrounding a village. They could choose to not let anyone cross “their” land, or could charge an exorbitant amount for the privilege.

    Its a simple example, but shows that this version of libertarianism is fundamentally flawed.

    I suspect that most libertarian thought is pushed by people wanting to increase their power.

  18. Chris Gall
    October 29th, 2011 at 16:16 | #18

    @12

    As a utilitarian, I hope that you can appreciate that the cost to personal freedom for intervening to prevent personal bigotry in the home (criminal sanctions, reeducation, surveillance) outweigh the benefit of letting gays make friends with such folk. Whereas the relative cost of regulating business activity is minor with a net benefit to total freedom (preventing the broader economic effects of culturally-spawned homophobia).

    So while I concede strictly speaking the distinction is not based on ‘having an effect on the world around you’, there is a tipping point in which intervention creates more freedom than it impinges upon.

  19. Freelander
    October 29th, 2011 at 16:23 | #19

    @John Brookes

    But surely they should be entitled to do this? And surely big government ought to be obliged to enforce their right and stop anyone who might try to evade paying for the use of their land?

    You’re not suggesting that libertarians are intellectually shallow naive bumkins I hope? Surely not! Oh, the horror!

  20. Freelander
    October 29th, 2011 at 16:29 | #20

    @Chris Gall

    But it is an infraction on a libertarian’s personal freedom! And as Milton Friedman said, his support of the market was based on his idea of freedom, rather than his belief that the market is efficient, and he would have supported a free market economy even if he believed it wasn’t the most efficient. The only right that needs to be defended is the right to have and dispose and construct property rights and have big government enforce those rights. Or at least thats the position I have heard libertarians argue. Any other freedom, worth having, relies on and flows from those enforcable property rights. Wonderful isn’t it, like most utopias are.

  21. Robert Wiblin
    October 29th, 2011 at 16:38 | #21

    “I hope that you can appreciate that the cost to personal freedom for intervening to prevent personal bigotry in the home outweigh the benefit of letting gays make friends with such folk. Whereas the relative cost of regulating business activity is minor…”

    Not generally. You could report and fine people for expressing bigoted opinions amongst their friends, family, etc, or not making friends with someone because of their sexuality. That too would limit the propagation of ideas you don’t like, if that was your goal. Regulating discrimination amongst businesses is as fraught because you can’t easily prove how decisions are made, especially in employment.

    “net benefit to total freedom”

    The gay folks in that case gained the not very valuable freedom to have sex in other people’s houses for an average fee even if the owner would want to charge them more (or not let them at all). The B&B owners lost what is to most people a more valuable freedom: to decide who they will let their house to and what they can do while there. It is quite possible that they will suffer more than the gay folks will benefit. After all the gay couple could have just gone to a different B&B whose owner share their values.

    As a utilitarian you could only justify that regulation if you have some combination of a) care more about the welfare of the gay couple than the B&B owners, b) are not convinced by the argument that we should tolerate diversity in people’s private spheres.

  22. Robert Wiblin
    October 29th, 2011 at 16:41 | #22

    @Freelander

    “And as Milton Friedman said, his support of the market was based on his idea of freedom, rather than his belief that the market is efficient, and he would have supported a free market economy even if he believed it wasn’t the most efficient.”

    Actually Freelander he says the exact opposite, see this:

  23. Freelander
    October 29th, 2011 at 16:59 | #23

    And who is there to stand up for the property rights of descendants of slave owners who were never compensated for the dissolution of their property rights by a coercive government? Those poor folk deprived of a substantial inheritance, if interest and penalties where taken into account.

    Those poor libertarian folk find few among the ‘latte set’ to defend them.

  24. Chris Gall
    October 29th, 2011 at 17:35 | #24

    @20 I suppose the loud sex in the B&B is not the perfect example of the division I was discussing given that it is reasonable to expect some politeness to the hosts and other guests.

    However were that to be selectively applied to homosexuals I would consider it a perfect example.

  25. Chris Gall
    October 29th, 2011 at 17:38 | #25

    @20

    In regards to the ability to regulate discrimination in business against the ability to regulate personal opinion, I daresay both have relatively long actual histories, demonstrating success in one and failure in the other.

  26. Robert Wiblin
    October 29th, 2011 at 17:44 | #26

    What if the B&B owners find it more unpleasant to listen to homosexual sex than heterosexual sex because of their religious beliefs? Now I am not religious, and I would think their religious reasons for opposing homosexuality would be nonsense. But the whole point of living in a liberal society is that people are free to have preferences and live in ways which other people might think unjustified or stupid. When they are in their own private sphere they don’t have to justify their preferences to you and me.

    Once you abandon that peace treaty between cultural groups that disagree, there is nothing to stop politics becoming an unrestricted free-for-all in which I try to forcibly impose my values on you and you on me. If avoiding that kind of winner takes all cultural warfare means sometimes I get denied commercial service by specific firms or people who don’t like me, I’m fine with that.

  27. Jarrah
    October 29th, 2011 at 19:43 | #27

    “Regulating discrimination amongst businesses is as fraught because you can’t easily prove how decisions are made, especially in employment.”

    This is a very important point. Even the strictest anti-discrimination laws can’t stop someone simply lying about the reasons for rejecting a customer/employee/etc.

    Then there’s the further problem that some discrimination is statistical in nature, sometimes referred to as ‘rational’ discrimination. It’s just a heuristic, not bigotry. Should we even be trying to eliminate that kind of discrimination?

  28. Jarrah
    October 29th, 2011 at 19:52 | #28

    “Its a simple example, but shows that this version of libertarianism is fundamentally flawed.”

    Your example relies on very problematic assumptions. I don’t think you can dismiss an entire political philosophy on the back of such an exercise ;-)

  29. NickR
    October 29th, 2011 at 21:34 | #29

    @Freelander
    This is a very good point. Given their perspective on things, you’d think that libertarians would be unable to talk about anything else but compensating indigenous people for stolen wages and the like.

  30. Tom
    October 29th, 2011 at 21:50 | #30

    @Jarrah

    “This is a very important point. Even the strictest anti-discrimination laws can’t stop someone simply lying about the reasons for rejecting a customer/employee/etc.”

    Unfortunately I would like to disagree with that statement. If anti-discrimination laws are extremely strict in a society to such an extent that any public media broadcast that breaches it will enforced resulting to jailing or similar sorts. Overtime this would reduce public’s hatred or fear over cultures or races that differs to them.

    How much hatred and fear has Alan Jones or Andrew Bolt created in the Australian public? Especially when the kids are indirectly listening with their families that created false perception when they are in their childhood. When the crime commission annouced that crime rate of children relating to violence is increasing or crimes involving a child killed by their peers; one should wonder why has those events happened.

    In the end, yes it contradicts to freedom of speech. However should one that creates such a violent influence over current/future generations with hatred, fear and defamation be allowed to broadcast to the Australian public. Just to make the matter worse, they are most listened radio broadcasters…….

  31. TerjeP
    October 30th, 2011 at 04:27 | #31

    How much hatred and fear has Alan Jones or Andrew Bolt created in the Australian public?

    That is very much a matter of opinion. I’d challenge anybody to quantify it in any means approaching objective. In any case most of the hate associated with these guys entails hatred towards themselves by their ideological opponents. This is easier to quantify. You can just do a survey and ask people if they hate Andrew Bolt. Then again you can also do a survey and ask if people hate Bob Brown. In neither case is it clear who generates the hate but it is clear who is hated.

  32. Tom
    October 30th, 2011 at 12:10 | #32

    @TerjeP

    It’s not who is hated most, it’s about how much hate towards another culture/race one generates. For example, does Bob Brown broadcast to general public that every other culture/race besides their own are evil/lazy/stupid etc? These public hate broadcast is very influential, more so to young kids.

    If these public broadcast weren’t allow at least the young generation won’t have a wrong perception about another race. This will not generate a barrier before even trying to communication or making friends between young generations of different culture. Once they understand each other, respect their difference in cultural values and beliefs; how then, when they become employers or human resource managers will they think to turn people off or treat them differently because of discrimination?

  33. TerjeP
    October 30th, 2011 at 17:13 | #33

    For example, does Bob Brown broadcast to general public that every other culture/race besides their own are evil/lazy/stupid etc?

    I don’t know anybody that does that. I listen to Bolt quite regularly and I know he does not. Recently he was suggesting that Asian students with Asian parents growing up in Australia seem to place a higher premium on education and seem to work harder. That is hardly a suggestion that “the other” is evil or lazy. Nor was it critical. He just said it was different. He was responding to an academic that suggested that the fact that elite schools were dominated by Asian kids was white flight due to racism.

  34. Freelander
    October 30th, 2011 at 17:32 | #34

    @Robert Wiblin

    So he said different things at different time. He was well known for porkies, and talking out both sides of his mouth.

  35. Julie Thomas
    October 30th, 2011 at 19:18 | #35

    Jarrah #27

    So called ‘rational discrimination’ is only rational if you are not in favour of making the world a better place. Call me idealistic but I think it is a worthwhile goal to work toward a world in which there is no discrimination. But I wonder why a libertarian would call discrimination against an individual, based on the statistics of the group, rational?

    There is no evidence that discrimination, or racism is hardwired. It is cultural.

    I remember when I was a cheesecloth wearing hippie chick, how humiliating, hurtful and unfcknfair it was to be discrimated against because of my choice of dress and lifestyle. Joan Baez tells how back in the 60′s when Bob Dylan was an unknown, and they were on tour, he was refused a room at a motel. At the time, she was the ‘star’ and was able to reassure the motel owners that he was an ok guy despite the hair and clothes. She says that he wrote the song “Masters of War” that night.

  36. Julie Thomas
    October 30th, 2011 at 20:22 | #36

    Allan Jones encourages people to hate, to be intolerant, to be angry and afraid of things that will not hurt them. He does this for his own personal gratification, not for the good of the country or its people.

    As Tom says, it is sad to think that there are children listening to his lies, to his aggression, his rudeness and bad manners. I thought conservatives valued manners and decency. This man needs therapy. I can only wonder how many medications he is on, to be able to sleep at night and to live with himself.

    Bolt is more restrained, less obviously in need of behaviour modification but still he spreads irrational fear and loathing of those he deems to be bad people, for his own personal reasons. His obsession with the sins of the ‘white aborigines’ is incomprehensible to me. What is it about?

    Aboriginality comes from the way one is raised just as much as it comes from skin colour. If you grow up in an indigenous family, you think the way aboriginals think, and this is not the way we white people think. Aboriginal culture does not encourage competitive behaviour, or any of the character traits that make one successful in this culture. They need all the support we can give if they are to regain their self-respect and self-esteem as a people. They need to be valued if we want them to integrate.

  37. Tom N.
    October 31st, 2011 at 12:59 | #37

    @Freelander

    Like to provide a reference to the supposed statement from Friedman, Freelander. There may be one, but at the moment it simply looks like you’re the one who has been telling porkies.

  38. Don
    November 2nd, 2011 at 18:46 | #38

    Propertarian is exactly the right way to describe some forms of ‘libertarian’ thinking. Some propertarians are quite open about the fact that the freedom they want is the freedom to control other people’s behaviour.

    For example, some employers believe they should be able to tell employees how to behave outside the workplace (see Elizabeth Anderson’s post on Adventures in contract feudalism http://left2right.typepad.com/main/2005/02/adventures_in_c.html).

    Other propertarians complain they’ve been deprived of the freedom to discriminate against and exclude groups of people they disapprove of: http://clubtroppo.com.au/2008/11/23/freedoms-just-another-word-for/

    I think John’s right, unrestricted property rights and personal freedom are two different things.

  39. Freelander
    November 3rd, 2011 at 01:15 | #39

    @Tom N.

    No. Find it yourself. I imagine you have got all the ‘sacred’ texts. He said it at least once in an interview anyway. But he was a real bait and switch artist. One story for the general population “Free markets are efficient and great for everyone” and another when he said what he really thought “I don’t care whether ‘Free markets’ are efficient or not, or good for the general population or not, they conform to my process justice ideas of ‘freedom’ and that enough for me”. Friedman was simply one of the all time great American hucksters. Back in the 19 Century he would have been travelling the West, occasionally being ‘tarred and feathered’ and run out of town where-ever he had stayed to long.

    Actually, the reason Friedman gained his reputation as a great debater was because he always had supporting facts at his fingertips. They were of course his own facts, those he simply made up in support of what he was saying – distortions, half-truths or outright lies. “Capitalism and Freedom” and “Free to Choose” are full of them. That is what makes them such entertaining reads, and so convincing to the callow. Japan is a great example of an economy that followed his advice, and demonstrated that his simple minded quantity theory nonsense is wrong. First following Friedman killed their economy dead. Then his advice was that a bit of QE would re-inflate it. Here we are twenty years later and although the Japanese QE’d themselves silly, in the short run Friedman and his theories are dead, the Japanese are in the longer run and their economy is still dead. Friedman’s disciple “Helicopter” Bernake has been throwing money at the US problem, QE’ing like a madman, and once again demonstrating that Friedman’s simple minded quantity theory ideas were and are rubbish. Of course, no reason to take back his Bank of Sweden prize. After all they gave the prize to Lucas after his nonsense had been well and truly been shown to be cr*p.

  40. TerjeP
    November 3rd, 2011 at 06:31 | #40

    Actually, the reason Friedman gained his reputation as a great debater was because he always had supporting facts at his fingertips. They were of course his own facts, those he simply made up in support of what he was saying – distortions, half-truths or outright lies.

    Somebody is projecting.

  41. Julie Thomas
    November 4th, 2011 at 09:35 | #41

    Terje, I assume you meant to use the term ‘projecting’ in the way in which Freud conceptualised this mental process, or are you making up your own version?

    Freuds idea referred to feelings and emotions, not to an assessment of another person’s actual behaviour. A subtle but critical difference.

    But I am interested in why you listen to Bolt. He is a conservative and I thought you were not, so I’m interewould like to understand why you listen and what you value about his ideas. With reference to his comments on Asian attitudes to education, what did you think his message was?

    I am commenting through my hat of course, as I haven’t listened, but I suspect that he didn’t offer any insights about the social, political, philosophical or psychological basis of Asian societies that underpins their values of hard work and achievement. I imagine that his comments would have been couched as a criticisism of progressive education policies and were ‘only’ useful to his listeners in that context; as an argument for not doing anything that might make the world a better place.

  42. Peter T
    November 4th, 2011 at 11:29 | #42

    I am surprised no one has mentioned the freedom of the payment networks (Visa, Mastercard, Paypal et al) to prevent using their services to donate to causes they do not like, such as Wikileaks or OWS.

  43. Freelander
    November 4th, 2011 at 15:07 | #43

    @Peter T

    We have too many American companies having the choice of withdrawing their monopoly services throughout the world at the whim of American politicians. Even the extraordinary law that is being used to undertake an ‘legal’ extraordinary rendition of Assange to Sweden is a law that was introduced at the behest of the Americans. The draconian law was introduced to deal with alleged terrorists, but like all those laws it is being used much more widely. Why should someone be detained and rendered to another country when they haven’t even been charged with anything. Assange has been detained and will be rendered to Sweden because they want to question him. Why can’t they question him in the UK? The whole thing stinks. Why is the government bending over backwards to get the best for a kid who is not denying he brought drugs in Indonesia, yet the government is doing nothing for an Australian citizen, Assange, who hasn’t even been charged with anything, and is being treated like this?

    In the latest in breathtakingly immoral actions, the government and opposition got together to pass retrospective legislation aimed at taking the rights away from an alleged ‘people smuggler’ and to stop the court from finding in the ‘people smugglers’ favour. What sort of place has Australia become?

  44. TerjeP
    November 4th, 2011 at 18:06 | #44

    @Julie Thomas

    You can listen to the specific program here:-

    http://www.mtr1377.com.au/index2.php?option=com_newsmanager&task=view&id=10335

    I listen to Bolt because I find him insightful and provocative. He calls himself a conservative and on many issues he is, however he takes quite libertarian positions on some issues. For example he says he hates poker machines (conservative) but he says other people like them and he is uncomfortable regulating an activity just because he hates it (libertarian).

    One might just as readily ask why I follow John Quiggin when I’m a libertarian and he is a social democrat. The reason is much the same. Sometimes John is insightful and / or provocative. I listen to and read the views of lots of people. I am not defined by who I listen to.

  45. Jarrah
    November 4th, 2011 at 22:11 | #45

    @Julie Thomas
    “But I wonder why a libertarian would call discrimination against an individual, based on the statistics of the group, rational?”

    It’s rational because it saves time. If, statistically, 7 out of 10 people belonging to group X are unsuitable or undesirable for whatever reason, while 4 out of 10 people belonging to group Y are unsuitable or undesirable, then when you have large numbers of people to deal with it makes sense to ignore/reject anyone belong to group X rather than go to the trouble of finding out if they are one of the 3 out of 10 people who are suitable or desirable.

    As I said, it’s a heuristic, not bigotry.

    “Call me idealistic but I think it is a worthwhile goal to work toward a world in which there is no discrimination.”

    Me too. There’s nothing wrong with being idealistic :-) I just don’t think laws that criminalise particular thoughts are the right way to go about it.

  46. Freelander
    November 5th, 2011 at 02:52 | #46

    @Jarrah

    Interestingly as far as I know there are no laws, at least currently, that criminalise ‘thoughts’ (particular or general). If there were such laws they are hardly worthy of discussion because with existing technology such laws are unenforceable.

    There are, however, laws covering actions including certain types of speech. Not all actions that are rational for an individual result in net benefit to society or even to the individual. That alone provides a reason for certain laws.

  47. TerjeP
    November 5th, 2011 at 07:11 | #47

    There are, however, laws covering actions including certain types of speech.

    Speech is one of the primary means for sharing thoughts.

  48. Freelander
    November 5th, 2011 at 08:58 | #48

    @TerjeP

    Not all thoughts ought to be shared, and speech is used for purposes other than simply ‘sharing thoughts’. Speech is also a means for deceiving, inciting violence and a variety of other undesirable things. Thoughts are unrestricted by law. Speech and other actions are not.

  49. Julie Thomas
    November 5th, 2011 at 09:10 | #49

    Terje I don’t have real broadband where I live so it isn’t rational for me to be profligate about clicking on links as I don’t know what my pc will do. Sometimes it just sits there for several minutes seemingly going nowhere and I have no idea whether the link is broken or it is just a huge download. I’ve been waiting 10 years for private enterprise to provide a decent service but it hasn’t happened.

    This discrimination toward rural dwellers is irrational because it limits the possibilites for people who choose to live in the country. We could all choose to move to the city I suppose but overcrowded cities create problems that are expensive to fix.

    It seems to me though that the rational course would be to pay whatever it takes to build a vibrant and functional rural communities out here. The consequences of a re-invigorated rural sector would be beneficial for all of the country. But one has to be for something to see things that way and you libertarians are only against things.

    Anyway, so I haven’t checked out your link to Bolt but I have listened to him on the odd occasion that he is on Counterpoint and I cannot agree with your asssessment that he is ‘insightful’. Like I said with the asian student example, he did not show any insights into the factors that lead to the asian attitudes. All his ‘insights’ are on the basis of his set in stone bias against ‘the left’; all he seems to do is criticise, ridicule, and show contempt for things he doesn’t like.

    I would really like to understand why he picks on white aborigines. I just simply don’t understand why he focuses on this issue. How is it insightful? It is divisive, hurtful and of course provocative and why is that a good thing if it is not backed up by any understanding of the people or their culture.

    You say you find him provocative and I’ll acccept that as being the most honest and insightful assement you have made about yourself.

  50. Julie Thomas
    November 5th, 2011 at 09:32 | #50

    Jarrah I can’t see how it is rational to ignore all the negative consequences of discrimination for individuals and societies on the basis of a statistical analysis.

    The stereotype effect makes it clear that characterising people in a negative way decreases their abilities and that must have negative effects on the economy. Whether it is a heurestic or bigotry, anyone who aims to be a good person, would not use that sort of rationality.

    It seems likely to me that this ‘heuristic’ or ‘rationality’ is a cognitive specialization or problem solving strategy that evolved on the basis of the problems our ancestors encountered. These unconscious ways of thinking are now dysfunctional and I think it is incumbent on thinking people to recognise their bias toward dysfunctional irrationality.

  51. Jarrah
    November 5th, 2011 at 11:45 | #51

    @Freelander
    “Interestingly as far as I know there are no laws, at least currently, that criminalise ‘thoughts’ (particular or general).”

    There are quite a few. For example, it is illegal to refuse employment to someone because of a preference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin. It’s the preference that is illegal, which is only a thought. Crimes like assault have aggravating circumstances that relate only to the thoughts of the perpetrators, colloquially known as hate crime laws.

    “If there were such laws they are hardly worthy of discussion because with existing technology such laws are unenforceable.”

    It depends on the evidence available. If someone expresses their discriminatory thought, or behaves in such a manner that would give rise to a reasonable inference that they are being discriminatory, then the laws can be enforced. However, as I said earlier in the thread, all they have to do is give a plausible lie, and the law is circumvented.

  52. Julie Thomas
    November 5th, 2011 at 14:06 | #52

    Sorry to butt in Freelander but I can’t ignore Jarrah’s misunderstanding the difference between thought and behaviour.

    Jarrah it is the ‘refuse employment’ bit – the behaviour – that is illegal, not the preference itself.

    In the second example, expressing the thought is called speech and speech is a behaviour. So it is still the behaviour that is unlawful. But you are still free to speak whatever you want if only the dog is listening. Tell him what an idiot the libertarians are. I do that all the time.

    But you can also say whatever you want when you are among friends, like people do over at that den of angry snarling curs, called Catallaxy. The law still won’t get involved. The problem arises only when you speak where there are other people around who could reasonably infer that the words were discriminatory.

    But even then I’d say, that if you didn’t mean your words to be discriminatory there is a good chance that by speaking nicely to the people who have reasonably inferred that you are being discriminatory, you could still avoid the law being involved.

    Even when the law does become involved, if you have a good argument and/or a good lawyer, it isn’t difficult to show that the other person’s inference was not reasonable. So the freedom you want is the freedom to force people to listen to your preference and/or tell other people that you are proud of being discriminatory?

    From my point of view that freedom interferes significantly with my freedom to work toward a society in which I don’t have to have to suffer the negative consequences that occur when people are encouraged to discriminate against other people.

  53. Jarrah
    November 5th, 2011 at 15:19 | #53

    @Julie Thomas
    “Jarrah it is the ‘refuse employment’ bit – the behaviour – that is illegal, not the preference itself.”

    Wrong. I can refuse to employ someone, that’s legal. If I do it because of a particular racist thought I have about that person, that’s illegal. What’s the difference? The thought.

    “In the second example, expressing the thought is called speech and speech is a behaviour. So it is still the behaviour that is unlawful.”

    Actually, my second example was the hate crime laws (which, if you didn’t like the first example, are a more straightforward case of thought crime). My second point was about enforceability, where I was agreeing that overt behaviour was required.

    “So the freedom you want is the freedom to force people to listen to your preference and/or tell other people that you are proud of being discriminatory?”

    No. I don’t want anyone to be forced to listen to anything.

  54. TerjeP
    November 5th, 2011 at 16:22 | #54

    So I can tell the dog my opinion but if I tell Jarrah it might be a crime. What a screwed up outlook.

    What the left seem to be naive about in my view is that once you grant the notion that government should have the power to ban the expression of offensive opinions and you set up the institutions to do so, you will soon enough find that power being wielded against you once the political tide turns. I’m not into banning the expression of opinions but I can tell you that there are plenty of comments on this blog and amongst the left that I find offensive.

  55. NickR
    November 5th, 2011 at 17:16 | #55

    I must admit I don’t know a lot about this issue (so my contribution could be wrong or redundant) but it seems as if there are plenty of laws that consider motivation. And I think this is a good thing.

    If you refuse to hire somebody based upon some racist thought, it is still the discrimination in hiring that is the problem. The racist thought is a necessary but not sufficient condition for racial discrimination to occur.

    Further this is the case for a large variety of crimes. It is legal to kill somebody (say accidentally). It is also legal to think about killing somebody. It is just not legal to do the two at the same time.

  56. Freelander
    November 5th, 2011 at 17:18 | #56

    @Julie Thomas

    When you find you’re arguing with an idiot (someone who doesn’t know the difference between thought, speech and other actions) probably time to give up, that is, unless they are an entertaining idiot. After all, good free entertainment is hard to come by.

    Contrived ignorance, which they might be guilty of, rather than simply parading an innate stupidity, is probably even worse. Mind you, contrived ignorance seems to be required to be a CEO nowadays, if Qantas’ Joyce and some other CEOs’ public performances are anything to go by. Maybe TerjeP and Jarrah are grooming themselves for success?

  57. Freelander
    November 5th, 2011 at 17:22 | #57

    @NickR

    Nevertheless, thought(s) can not be read (at least yet). Motivation is inferred from speech and other actions.

  58. Jarrah
    November 5th, 2011 at 17:42 | #58

    @NickR
    “it seems as if there are plenty of laws that consider motivation”

    Generally speaking, most crimes require mens rea, or the guilty mind. Motivation, intent, knowledge, etc. But they also require actus reus, the bad act. With discrimination laws, a perfectly normal act becomes a bad act because of the mental state of the actor. This is akin to a thought crime.

  59. Jarrah
    November 5th, 2011 at 17:46 | #59

    @Freelander
    “When you find you’re arguing with an idiot (someone who doesn’t know the difference between thought, speech and other actions)”

    Much easier to cast aspersions that grapple with the issue, hey Freelander? If you don’t like the employment example for semantic reasons, what about hate crimes? They are an obvious and incontestable example of thought crime – hitting someone is assault, hitting them because you don’t like the colour of their skin is aggravated assault.

  60. NickR
    November 5th, 2011 at 18:12 | #60

    Freelander – that seems correct to me.

    @Jarrah
    Ok say person A accidentally kills a pedestrian in a traffic accident. Person B also kills a pedestrian in a similar situation, but this time the act was deliberate.

    Do you think that person A should be treated the same as person B?

    Am I advocate for punishing ‘thought crime’ if I think that person B should be punished severely but person A deserves only sympathy?

  61. Freelander
    November 5th, 2011 at 18:14 | #61

    @Jarrah

    Actually…”A person is guilty of aggravated assault if he or she attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another or causes such injury purposely, knowingly, or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life; or attempts to cause or purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon. ”

    Hence, ‘aggravated assault’ has no connection whatsoever with whether or not you dislike the colour of their skin. If you commit a crime against someone motivated by something like a dislike for the colour of their skin, that is typically called a hate crime. Again, intent is inferred by your behaviour, speech you may have used during the crime, or before or after, your distributing some associated literature or the like, or some other act from which the intent is inferred.

  62. Jarrah
    November 5th, 2011 at 18:15 | #62

    “Do you think that person A should be treated the same as person B?”

    No, of course not. But in both cases there is actus reus. With discrimination laws, there doesn’t have to be. Didn’t you read my last comment?

  63. Freelander
    November 5th, 2011 at 18:15 | #63

    By the way, just to clarify, not much to watch on the tube tonite.

  64. Jarrah
    November 5th, 2011 at 18:18 | #64

    @Freelander
    “Hence, ‘aggravated assault’ has no connection whatsoever with whether or not you dislike the colour of their skin. ”

    Mate, you shouldn’t try arguing the law with a law student ;-)

    Aggravating circumstances can be related to the degree of harm, the use of a weapon, the presence of others, the circumstances of the victim, etc etc. With hate crime laws, they add the thoughts of the perpetrator as an aggravating circumstance – having racist thoughts somehow makes assault worse!

  65. Jarrah
    November 5th, 2011 at 18:20 | #65

    “By the way, just to clarify, not much to watch on the tube tonite.”

    I’m taking time out from studying for my Criminal Law exam, which will cover homicide, assault, sexual assault, and dishonest acquisition. :-)

  66. TerjeP
    November 5th, 2011 at 18:29 | #66

    As Jarrah has already pointed out the act of not employing somebody isn’t a “bad act”. So the motivation for not offering employment ought to be irrelevant.

  67. NickR
    November 5th, 2011 at 18:54 | #67

    @Jarrah
    I did read your post and my questions were totally sincere – I was genuinely interested in and unsure of what you were saying and was asking for clarification. As I indicated previously this is not an area that I have any expertise and therefore am a little unsure of what is disputed and what is not.

    Having said that, I don’t terribly appreciate the way you trot out this incredulous ‘haven’t you read’ line all the time. The reason why it irks me is that recently (in the post on percentiles) you repeatedly tried to abstract inequality from welfare, even though I explained on several occasions that (statically) this is impossible. I demonstrated the theory of this and cited some of the discipline’s most famous papers which make the case. It appears, of course, that in this case you did not read/understand/take on board.

    Apologies for derailing the thread.

  68. Freelander
    November 5th, 2011 at 19:28 | #68

    @TerjeP

    Omission can be an act. If you fail to act in a way you are obliged to, that is an act. But if you don’t like the word “act” covering “omission(s)” as well, then please substitute in “act or omission” anywhere the word “act” previously was used. But I was wrong, there were things worth watching.

  69. TerjeP
    November 5th, 2011 at 19:43 | #69

    Not employing somebody is not a “bad act” nor is it a “bad ommission”.

  70. TerjeP
    November 5th, 2011 at 19:43 | #70

    mm = m

  71. Jarrah
    November 5th, 2011 at 20:01 | #71

    @NickR
    “I don’t terribly appreciate the way you trot out this incredulous ‘haven’t you read’ line all the time.”

    I didn’t realise I did. But it was a genuine question, one picked with care from others that I could have asked (which would have been far more insulting). Your comment only made sense if you hadn’t read mine, because the questions you asked were answered already.

    “you repeatedly tried to abstract inequality from welfare”

    They are different concepts. You can tell this from the fact that we use different words for them. AFAIK, I acknowledged and dealt with every point raised by my interlocutors on that thread. If you felt I didn’t, there was plenty of opportunity to draw my attention to that, but I don’t recall you doing so.

    Anyway, back to the topic. Do you, or do you not, acknowledge my point about the ‘bad act’? Do you, or do you not, acknowledge that hate-crime laws effectively criminalise thoughts? Freelander finds himself unable to do so, perhaps because he is afflicted with intellectual cowardice, but I do hope you are the better man here.

  72. Jarrah
    November 5th, 2011 at 20:03 | #72

    @Freelander
    ” But I was wrong, there were things worth watching.”

    You mean you aren’t prepared to acknowledge you were wrong, despite there being no harm in doing so. Ignorance of the law is perfectly excusable, go ahead and admit you are. Then we can let the matter rest and go back to the original topic.

  73. Freelander
    November 5th, 2011 at 20:16 | #73

    TerjeP :
    mm = m

    TergeP discovers Boolean Algebra.

  74. TerjeP
    November 5th, 2011 at 21:07 | #74

    Works in regular algebra if m is zero or one. However I was in fact merely acknowledging my own spelling mistake.

  75. Tom
    November 5th, 2011 at 21:10 | #75

    “What the left seem to be naive about in my view is that once you grant the notion that government should have the power to ban the expression of offensive opinions and you set up the institutions to do so, you will soon enough find that power being wielded against you once the political tide turns.”

    For once I actually agree with you, however generalising the leftists into having the same thoughts on issues would be a little bit extreme? Some people including me feels more comfortable with the leftists value but do not always have the same thoughts and feelings toward an issue. This is why people dislike stereotyping expecially public broadcastors/journalist; I’m pretty sure sometimes you would find yourself having disagreements with libertarians over some issues.

    “As Jarrah has already pointed out the act of not employing somebody isn’t a “bad act”. So the motivation for not offering employment ought to be irrelevant.”

    I do see your point in this comment, people can refuse unemployment for any reasons even if the only reason why they refuse you is due to discrimination thoughts. This motive is certainly illegal, however practically impossible to prove unless the employer sends an email refusing you stating the reason being because your are a certain race/disability/age etc. I believe a lot of people include me and Jarrah said himself, whom would like to eliminate discrimination thoughts on the world. Idealistic but it’s moral values, this can not be achieve if there are people that stereotype a certain group even if classifying them as “elites”; if this is achieved there will be no refusal of employment due to discrimination. However attempting to achieve this via strict laws can be quite ineffective, which leads back to your comment.

  76. TerjeP
    November 5th, 2011 at 22:42 | #76

    Tom – yes I disagree with libertarians on a very regular basis. And I know it is a simplification to lump the left together as one. Such is the limitation of labels and categories. Crude as they may be such shorthand is often useful for getting the message across. However I’m receptive if you want to deal with these things using a greater degree of subtlety.

  77. NickR
    November 6th, 2011 at 02:20 | #77

    @Jarrah
    I was asking (hopefully in a friendly way) for clarification on something I was not sure about. I hope I wasn’t asking you to repeat yourself.

    “But it was a genuine question, one picked with care from others that I could have asked (which would have been far more insulting).”

    Ok fair enough – I have no doubt that you are very good at insulting people.

    “They are different concepts. You can tell this from the fact that we use different words for them.”

    Yes, but one is a direct determinant of the other. This seemed to be something that you (unless I am confusing you with libertarians more generally) were disputing. I abandoned this line of argument after three attempts as I was getting no traction and am happy to leave it as is. But like it or not, they are directly related.

    “Anyway, back to the topic. Do you, or do you not, acknowledge my point about the ‘bad act’?”

    Your point sounds sensible and I appreciate the logic to it. However I do not know enough about the issue to be able to hold a strong opinion. My agreement (or disagreement) would not count for much either way.

    “Mate, you shouldn’t try arguing the law with a law student”

    Are you seriously pulling rank? There are some phenomenally smart and well-credentialed people who comment on this blog (i.e. big international reputations, not undergraduate law students) and all of them refrain from doing this.

  78. Julie Thomas
    November 6th, 2011 at 07:03 | #78

    Freelander, arguing is the best sport around and surely it has to lead to some change in attitude and hence behaviour, if not in the welded on selfish people, then in the other people who are more able to change their thoughts in response to the evidence. Also arguing with those who think differently is a very good way to refine and organise my own opinions.

    Neither law students or economists, have the ‘answer’ to the problems of the world. Psychologists don’t have the answers either, but this is the way to go. We can create a better world if people behave better, and the way to behave better is to understand ourselves, to understand what motivates some of us to discriminate and work toward changing those thoughts and attitudes.

    The problem with conservatives and libertarians is that neither seems to think that people can change for the better and yet the evidence is all around us that people are very adaptable. Other cultures produce people who behave in very different ways to the way western cultures behave. All cultures discriminate, but this is not in the genes, it is a learned behaviour and as such can be eliminated now that it is no longer a useful way to behave.

    The way the left has used laws to attempt to change behaviour is not the best way but seems to be the only way given the intractable support of the right for all the attitudes that create suffering in others less able than they are. The intention of the law should have been made clear, that we will achieve a better world if we do not discriminate on the basis of our irrational prejudices.

    Again, Jarrah, prejudice might be easy and statistically rational but it is not rational if one wants to make a better world for everyone, and not just for the owners of capital.

    So I think the act of refusing a job to someone because of an irrational prejudice is wrong. It is wrong because it denies that person their right to respect and acceptance as another person and that has to be the fundamental assumption for any progress toward a decent society.

  79. TerjeP
    November 6th, 2011 at 07:39 | #79

    The problem with conservatives and libertarians is that neither seems to think that people can change for the better and yet the evidence is all around us that people are very adaptable.

    That isn’t even slightly accurate. Of course people can change in all sorts of ways. It doesn’t give you the right to use coercive powers to do it. Certainly not in an institutionalised way. Nor does your definition of “better” have standing as the holy grail of how we should be.

    For what it is worth I think you would be better if you were a libertarian.

  80. Julie Thomas
    November 6th, 2011 at 11:08 | #80

    Terje I wish I knew what libertarians stood for rather than what they are against. It has been said that the libertarian philosophy is adolescent and being against stuff is just what idealistic adolescents like to do. Hopefully this is a phase that our culture is going through and we will grow up in the next few decades.

    I’m not sure what I wrote that would give you cause to imagine that I provided a ‘definition’ of a better world. I said a ‘fundamental assumption’; not the same thing. But that sort of denigration and red herring trick, can work when arguing against people like yourself who are motivated to ‘win’ an argument rather than understand the point the other person is making.

    In the context of this discussion, it seemed clear that Jarrah had agreed that discimination was a bad thing even if it was ‘rational’ in his judgement/assessment/opinion/whatever, so I don’t think it is a point worthy of dispute, to say that a better world would be one in which there was no discrimination. Right? or do you think that owners of capital ‘should’ be allowed to discriminate?

    I see that over at Harry Clarke’s you have said “I think Catallaxy should be more assertive in it’s comments moderation policy’. So you do think that in some cases freedom should be moderated for the greater good? The world certainly would be a better place if Catalaxy was not just somewhere to go to slag off ‘the left’.

    I’d love to be libertarian; like must be so easy when you are certain that you have all the answers; it must be like being a Christian. But unfortunately I can’t do it. I simply don’t have the brain chemistry to be like that. Some of us are just born luvies and just can’t do the getting ahead thing. It’s not interesting or satisfying to me to feel superior to other people even if they are stupid and lazy.

    But I appreciate your determination to defend your beliefs. I do wish you would answer questions I ask though. I still want to understand what Bolt is doing with the white aborigine thing. You say he offers you insights so please explain what insights he is providing in this matter. And I’d like to understand how you think people can change and if you don’t ‘use coercion especially not in an institutionalised way’ how does this change happen? Self-organisation?

  81. TerjeP
    November 6th, 2011 at 12:00 | #81

    Yes, self organisation is how change should come about. And yes I do think people should be allowed to discriminate in their private decisions including private commercial decisions. That doesn’t mean I encourage bigotry.

    I’m sorry if I don’t keep up with all your questions. I would be happy to answer them given sufficient time. However I find it difficult to maintain the flow of the discussion if I chase two many lines of discussions at once.

    In brief I think Bolt makes a worthy but clumsy point regarding white aborigines. I appreciate that people identify culturally with their heritage irrespective of how they look. His point is that people have some freedom to choose which bits of their heritage they identify with and we should not have government sponsored positions and rewards that favour one choice over another. He thinks this policy divides people needlessly. I strongly agree. However this is true for people that look black as much as for people that look white. So whilst his point is correct his means of illustrate it is also dividing people. However with no high profile public commentators making the point in a neat way I’m happy to have at least one making it in a clumsy way.

  82. Jarrah
    November 6th, 2011 at 17:32 | #82

    @NickR
    “Yes, but one is a direct determinant of the other. This seemed to be something that you (unless I am confusing you with libertarians more generally) were disputing.”

    You must be confusing me with someone else, though I don’t know who wouldn’t believe that welfare levels determine inequality, by definition. The whole point of that thread is that many people believe inequality can determine welfare, which is a nonsense. W&P claimed there was a correlation (in many cases a dubious or false one) but absolutely no-one has come up with a plausible causal mechanism. But enough of previous threads.

    “Are you seriously pulling rank?”

    On Freelander, who presumed to quote statute to me. Prior to that, I withheld my status because I could simply make the argument without it. But he nettled me.

    “There are some phenomenally smart and well-credentialed people who comment on this blog (i.e. big international reputations, not undergraduate law students) and all of them refrain from doing this.”

    Not true, but when it came to a very simple legal fact, it made sense to tell him where my information was coming from to forestall further derailing. Notice he has gone quiet afterwards? :-)

  83. Jarrah
    November 6th, 2011 at 17:44 | #83

    @Julie Thomas
    “it seemed clear that Jarrah had agreed that discimination was a bad thing even if it was ‘rational’ in his judgement/assessment/opinion/whatever”

    I said some discrimination was ‘rational’ (I even included the air quotes to indicate the fuzzibility of the concept). And it’s not an original opinion of mine, it’s a recognised sociological phenomenon.

    “The problem with conservatives and libertarians is that neither seems to think that people can change for the better”

    While not really identifying as either of those categories, I can tell you right off that is a false characterisation. If anything, it’s ironic – you are so convinced that people can’t change that they have to be forced to do so through the legal system!

    “So I think the act of refusing a job to someone because of an irrational prejudice is wrong.”

    Me too. Except that isn’t the end of the matter, because any policy response has to be evaluated equally. And I think forbidding discrimination by individuals and private groups is wrong too! (Government bodies, in theory representing all citizens equally, should never discriminate in the way we are discussing). So it becomes a judgement of balancing which wrongs supersede others, which rights are more fundamental. We’re still not finished, because we have to include social pressures in the analysis, which can ameliorate some of the problems of discrimination.

  84. TerjeP
    November 6th, 2011 at 18:35 | #84

    When I was in business I was hesitant of employing women of child bearing age because of potential leave requirements. It was prudent risk management. It had nothing to do with thinking women are somehow intrinsically inferior to men. It was more about putting bread on the table.

  85. TerjeP
    November 6th, 2011 at 18:36 | #85

    p.s. There are other ways I have discriminated but I’m not willing to incriminate myself with details. However I feel no guilt for my decisions.

  86. Freelander
    November 7th, 2011 at 00:05 | #86

    TerjeP :
    When I was in business I was hesitant of employing women of child bearing age because of potential leave requirements. It was prudent risk management. It had nothing to do with thinking women are somehow intrinsically inferior to men. It was more about putting bread on the table. … … p.s. There are other ways I have discriminated but I’m not willing to incriminate myself with details. However I feel no guilt for my decisions.

    TerjeP you are quite right, it was about putting bread on your table.

    As your competitors who obeyed the law and didn’t discriminate and hence had to suffer any additional costs you believe you might have incurred, and hence either lost business or profits, it was about you taking bread off the discriminated people’s table and putting that confiscated bread on your own table.

    Hope, although evidently you didn’t, you choked on it!

  87. NickR
    November 7th, 2011 at 00:34 | #87

    Jarrah inequality is a direct determinant of welfare. As I have said about five times now, take a separable, monotonic, concave ‘utility’ function, apply it to a distribution and you will see that the welfare of that distribution is necessarily a decreasing function of the inequality of the distribution, where inequality is defined using the so called ‘Pigou-Dalton’ condition.

    This is unambiguously correct, was laid out by Atkinson (JET, 1970) and may well win him the Nobel Prize. There have been a huge number of other papers expanding upon this general theme. See the works I listed on the other thread (e.g. from Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen).

    This has not been ‘debunked’ and almost surely never will be. It is met with almost total acceptance by economists with any sort of understanding in the area. I think you must be confusing this with the hypothesis forwarded by Wilkinson, that pure relative depravation of income has a negative effect upon certain social ills such as health. You are correct to make this point about Wilkinson (I agree he seems like a slimy sort of character) but even if his arguments were correct they would from a relatively minor reason to care about inequality.

    “Notice he has gone quiet afterwards?”

    I notice he hasn’t responded yet. Did you notice that Terje never responded after I showed (several times) that his claim that inequality and freedom were negatively correlated was wrong? I have and I hope everyone else has too. This is not the first time I have shown him to be wrong and he shuts up or changes the subject.

    Anyway I am bored of this and this will be my last post in a while. I had been entertaining the belief that you and Terje were polite intelligent moderates with a sense of curiosity and integrity. Some of your posts appear to demonstrate this, but when push comes to shove you guys are far from impressive.

  88. Freelander
    November 7th, 2011 at 01:27 | #88

    @NickR

    I haven’t read the paper but wouldn’t the result simply be due to the restriction making the utility function (strictly?) concave rather than simply quasi-concave? The (strict) concavity, I imagine would be sufficient to ensure ‘diminishing marginal utility’ of ‘income’. The result would also rely on the long discarded notion of being able to make meaningful interpersonal comparisons of utility.

    JQ, or Ernestine Gross, I imagine, would be able to answer this. Anyway, I don’t think the result prize-worthy.

  89. NickR
    November 7th, 2011 at 09:25 | #89

    @Freelander
    Yeah we are derailing the thread, but that is more or less how it works.
    The paper though does more than that though. It connects the Pigou-Dalton condition (defines what we think of as inequality) to a concept known as Lorenz dominance which is essentially a form of stochastic dominance, as well as highlighting the direct link between social welfare and inequality and producing a statistic to measure it.

    It is well worth a read. According to Google it has been cited 4161 times, and RePec has it the 195th most cited paper in all economics. And it is not just me that regards Atkinson as a candidate for the Prize.

    Anyway as I said I am a bit over arguing at the moment so I’ll leave it at that, but check the paper and have a good one :)

  90. TerjeP
    November 7th, 2011 at 09:31 | #90

    “his claim that inequality and freedom were negatively correlated”

    If that is indeed what I claimed then I concede it is probably wrong. What I should have claimed (and probably did) is that the two are uncorrelated not negatively correlated.

  91. TerjeP
    November 7th, 2011 at 09:33 | #91

    Actually scrub that last comment. I was thinking the quote said something different.

  92. Jarrah
    November 7th, 2011 at 10:09 | #92

    @NickR
    “I notice he hasn’t responded yet.”

    Then you should brush up on your reading skills, or get a new prescription. He has commented on other topics three times since being schooled.

    “I had been entertaining the belief that you and Terje were polite intelligent moderates with a sense of curiosity and integrity.”

    Correct. Well, Terje’s not so moderate, but it’s all relative.

  93. TerjeP
    November 7th, 2011 at 11:39 | #93

    I’m certainly not moderate. I’m a radical, incrementalist, libertarian. I want radical changes in public policy that liberalise our economy but I think we should get there through a series of modest reforms over time. However I do try to be polite and intelligent (sometimes I fail).

    Jarrah – I don’t think you are that moderate either to be honest. I’d call you a libertarian even if others wouldn’t. Moderate is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. And whilst most of the commenters on this blog have views diametrically opposed to the libertarian agenda I don’t think they qualify as moderate either. They are radical in a different direction.

  94. TerjeP
    November 7th, 2011 at 11:48 | #94

    Wikipedia has an article on incrementalism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incrementalism

  95. Freelander
    November 7th, 2011 at 13:13 | #95

    @TerjeP

    I might become a libertarian. But first I’ll have to find a mask, and something solid and heavy, to bludgeon my victims with.

  96. TerjeP
    November 7th, 2011 at 18:06 | #96

    @Freelander

    Making no sense as usual.

  97. Dan
    November 7th, 2011 at 19:20 | #97

    Wading into this swamp filled with serpents has seemed like a losing move. However I can’t help but notice how Terje cheerfully relegates morality and the public good to the backburner in the context of things that are economically convenient for him, *in spite of laws made to countervail against exactly this sort of eventuality*. The laws don’t exist to do anything except protect people whose labour market position is vulnerable. A case study in why what is rational for an individual economic actor (albeit one unencumbered by conscience) is irrational for society, and ergo why arranging our economy and society around radical individualism is self-defeating.

  98. Dan
    November 7th, 2011 at 19:22 | #98

    Adam Theory of Moral Sentiments Smith is spinning in his grave.

  99. Freelander
    November 7th, 2011 at 22:51 | #99

    @Dan

    And here was I conjecturing that my becoming a libertarian might allow me to “cheerfully relegate morality to the back-burner” but TergeP responds that I’m making no sense!

  100. Dan
    November 7th, 2011 at 23:00 | #100

    I think it’s the Dunning-Kruger effect.

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