The Dating Game: Catallarch Night

HHH: Welcome to the Dating Game! I’m Hans-Hermann Hoppe and I’ll be your host for Economics Week. My students are always asking me about dating. The way I explain this to my students is using the following example. Sometimes people hiss at it. Most people like it. Imagine a normal person, so to speak, that is in pursuit of a girl. Or vice versa, a girl in pursuit of a man. Then what we do, of course, is take her out to dinner and bring her flowers. We take her out to dinner again. We listen to the conversation. We are very impressed by all the deep thoughts that we hear. We have never heard anything interesting like that before in our lives. Of course, with some expectations. Which are, of course, in the more or less distant future. This is how normal people operate.

Tonight we have three eligible young Catallarchs for our Bachelorette to choose from. Let’s get started!

Bachelor Number One lives in Boston where he’s a resident at Harvard Medical School.

Number One: Hi!

Bachelorette: Mmmm, nice voice. Bachelor Number One, at your apartment I notice you just spent $1000 on a plasma screen TV, but you only spent $50 on our date. What does that reveal about your preferences?

Number One: Aren’t these considerations already taken into account by my actions? If I spend $1000 on a plasma screen TV, instead of favors from my date, then I have demonstrated that at the time of purchase, the marginal utility of the plasma screen TV was greater than the marginal utility of that unit (no pun intended) of sexual favors from my date, the marginal utility of the $1000, and the marginal utility of any other good I could have exchanged for that $1000.

Bachelorette: Well.

HHH: Our second Catallarch is a software engineer from Sunnyvale, California. In his spare time he’s building a utopian community in international waters.

Number Two: Hey baby!

Bachelorette: Bachelor Number Two, can you describe for me what kind of bachelorette you’ve been waiting for?

Number Two: Waiting? That doesn’t sound like a very good strategy. Essentially you’d be assuming that the ideal bachelorette exists and you will find her. Seems to me like this would lead to a lot of people never accepting a candidate, or doing so when they are old, say, too old to reproduce. If you are going to meet 100 bachelorettes a year, then the best out of 1000 seems way better than holding out for the absolute best.

Your strategy is willing to trade any amount of time being single for a minute increase in quality. Such lexicographic orderings are problematic and rarely describe real preferences.

Oh, and I’m not actually a bachelor, by the way, but I am polyamorous and available.

Bachelorette: What the…??

HHH: Polyamorous? Does that mean you are a homosexual?

Number Two: Well, that’s not what polyamory means Hans, although….

HHH: I ask because the advocates of alternative, non-family and kin-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order.

Let’s move on. Bachelor Number Three is studying economics and management and he’s chairman of the College Libertarians at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Number Three: Hello.

Bachelorette: Bachelor Number Three, would you be romantic on our date or is your time preference too high, like some economists?

HHH: Keynes, for instance.

Number Three: Well I don’t think that the benefits of rape are in principle inferior to the benefits of romance, if that’s what you’re asking. But personally I prefer efficiency, so I wouldn’t expect consummation until my benefits exceeded your costs.

Bachelorette: How… thoughtful.

HHH: There you have it! Now it’s time for our Bachelorette to choose – which Catallarch will it be?

Bachelorette: Sigh….

Hans? Your “dinner and flowers” routine is sounding better and better.

I guess I’ll choose the Least Imprudent Predator: You.


[aside to audience, with a wink]

Of course, with some expectations…..

With Friends Like These…

Despite Jane Galt’s fundamental cluelessness about the NYC transit strike, she manages to take her Commie “to each according to his need” rhetoric to its historical conclusion:

While the strike has so far deprived me of one free lunch and drinks with some friends from grad school, even I was tempted to endorse one acquaintance’s plan to go to Seattle and Cleveland and encourage the fire departments that serve these yahoos to go on strike before engaging in a spot of selective arson.

Burn out the wreckers of the glorious People’s Transit System!

And this is what passes for libertarianism?

Freedom Of Contract: A Novel Libertarian Interpretation

Libertarians enthusiastically defended oil companies that raised their prices in the wake of Katrina, but they’ve had little appetite for defending the NY transit workers who decided to raise their prices.

It was amusing to see someone who calls herself Jane Galt chiding workers for striking selfishly. Bloggers at Catallarchy were particularly vocal in defending the oil companies, but the only mention of the strike I can find on that blog just quotes Galt lamenting how strikers made victims of millions of New Yorkers. I can’t imagine them letting similar charges against oil companies pass without comment.

KipEsquire seemed pleased that strikers would be fined under the Taylor Law so I asked him a question. His surprising reply is in the comments:

Kennedy: Why aren’t libertarians commenting on the obvious injustice of outlawing strikes?

KipEsquire: Because libertarians believe in freedom of contract. If you don’t like the terms of employment, which are made clear upfront, then don’t take the job.

Now how about the injustice of requiring people to join unions, or at least to pay union dues, against their will?

Freedom of contract?

Their contract expired before they went on strike. So how can fining them for not working in the absence of a contract be squared with freedom of contract?

Why I’m Not A Libertarian Activist

WOODSTOCK (AP) – A Libertarian who hosts a weekly radio program called “Freedom Rings” spent more than two years and appeared in court 28 times fighting a $25 ticket for not wearing a seat belt.
After a two-hour trial, a McHenry County jury found Ken Prazak guilty Wednesday. He was ordered to pay the $25, and Judge Suzanne Mangiamele added 100 days of probation.

“This is still a victory,” Prazak, 53, said at the end of the trial. “I was able to get the word out, and educate the jury and even the judge about cases she had never heard of.”

“Still a victory” because he was “able to get the word out, and educate the jury and even the judge”. You know, the same jury that promptly convicted him and the same judge that slapped him with a fine and probation. While the definition of “victory” might well be up for debate, utter defeat probably doesn’t qualify.

Libertarian activists won’t learn a thing from this, of course, any more than the fringe-flag crowd learns anything when the latest tax-evasion scheme collapses on some unfortunate souls. And for much the same reason, namely that admitting the fundamental nature of the thing they’re up against is far too painful.

Quite simply, it’s a waste of an individual’s time and resources to attempt reforms via the government, and it’s just plain foolish to think that one’s own self-sacrifice is going to “educate” enough people to make up for self-immolation. The amount of latent outrage in the voters is minsucle at best, the incentive for trading in their superstitions nonexistent. It’s far better to work on you own plans, rather than waste your life preaching into the slack face of the Institutional Man.

Libertarians Will Always Be Losers

Courtesy of S. Maravillosa comes this juicy snippet of libertarian gossip:

Op-Eds for Sale
A columnist from a libertarian think tank admits accepting payments to promote an indicted lobbyist’s clients. Will more examples follow?

A senior fellow at the Cato Institute resigned from the libertarian think tank on Dec. 15 after admitting that he had accepted payments from indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff for writing op-ed articles favorable to the positions of some of Abramoff’s clients. Doug Bandow, who writes a syndicated column for Copley News Service, told BusinessWeek Online that he had accepted money from Abramoff for writing between 12 and 24 articles over a period of years, beginning in the mid ’90s.

I judge this to be a natural consequence of being a libertarian wonk. Suppose that you’re a budding libertarian pundit with aspirations of respectability. You’ve read the arguments against government, and you, like everyone else, have exactly nothing to say contrary to them. They’re airtight. But what are you going to say the first time someone asks “What are ya, some kind of anarchist?” If you reply with a “yes”, you’re done. Virtually everyone in the mainstream thinks that “anarchist” is a synonym for “violent nutball”. So you say “No, I believe in a smaller government with limited power…”, even though you know better.

In a word, you lie.

You lie because you have your eyes on the prize. The end justifies the means, because you can’t get from here to there without appealing to the voting masses’ simple prejudices and superstitions. As time goes on, the lies come easier. Sugar-coat this, gloss over that, ignore the other. You get good at telling people what they want to hear.

And if your job consists of telling pleasant lies, why not make as much as you can from for it? What’s the difference in principle between telling lies for a salary and telling lies for a salary plus a payment on the side? Let’s see:

Bandow isn’t the only think-tanker to have received payments from Abramoff for writing articles. Peter Ferrara, a senior policy adviser at the conservative Institute for Policy Innovation, says he, too, took money from Abramoff to write op-ed pieces boosting the lobbyist’s clients. “I do that all the time,” Ferrara says. “I’ve done that in the past, and I’ll do it in the future.”

Ferrara, who has been an influential conservative voice on Social Security reform, among other issues, says he doesn’t see a conflict of interest in taking undisclosed money to write op-ed pieces because his columns never violated his ideological principles.

Especially when your ideological principles are somewhat… elastic.

Bandow’s real problem is that he picked a political ideology whose adherents have to tell themselves they’re more principled than Republicans and Democrats. In reality they aren’t, they’re just more confused. The R’s and D’s are quite plainly after power. The libertarian types, on the other hand, like to pretend that they have principles. As I’ve said before, that pretense gets in the way of effective action in electoral politics. In this particular case, the conservative pundit can laugh off being paid for op-eds while the libertarian pundit gets to slink out the back door for the exact same thing. It’s yet another example of why libertarians are destined to be perennial losers in partisan politics.

Cato Bound

Cato launched a new blog/magazine this month and their first feature has been a discussion of three prescriptions from James Buchanan for fixing the Constitution.

Buchanan’s first proposal is a pretty tame piece of wonkery: a balanced budget amendment. His second proposal is more interesting because it’s incoherent, he advocates a generality wherein the state can make no laws which discriminate in imposing costs or providing benefits for individuals. He quickly demonstrates the incoherence of the idea by offering a flat income tax as an example of a law that doesn’t discriminate. Anthony de Jasay explains why this notion of generality makes no sense.

Buchanan’s final proposal:

“The Madisonian construction is flawed by its authorization of government regulation through the much abused Commerce Clause. The authorization should be restricted to the prevention of interferences with voluntary exchanges and should not extend to the prohibition, or the coercive dictation of the terms, of such exchanges. Nor should any differentiation be made between exchanges within the domestic economy and those made with others outside the political jurisdiction.”

Buchanan adds:

“Such a requirement is little more than explicit acknowledgment that persons possess the natural liberty to enter into and exit from agreements, without concern for collectively imposed constraints.”

Well. How will this constitution, even with Buchanan’s amendments, be anything but collectively imposed constraint?

Maybe I’ll consider my natural liberty to enter into, and exit from, agreements credibly acknowledged when Buchanan explains how I can opt out of his arrangement.

Refusing to be a Refusenik

Along the road to martyrdom,Claire Wolfe reaffirms an old lament in An American Refusenik, while at Strike the Root Per Byland lays out a better roadmap.

I live for myself first and foremost, and then come my family and friends. I do not care to save the world if I can find freedom for myself and the ones I love without doing it. Why should I? I’m nobody’s slave; I do as I please simply because I want to. It would be nice to live in a free world, but I don’t think it is worth the trouble. I’d rather be free now, on my own, than break free along with millions of strangers 40 or 50 years from now.

Isn’t this what individualism is all about? One has to make one’s own choices, for oneself and the ones willing to follow. If they do not want the freedom I want, then why the hell should I spend my time and money on making them share my ideals and go with me? I’m no selfless Samaritan or a slave of the peoples; I’m my own.

As libertarians, we need to break free from the collectivist worldview of this Savior Complex. There is no reason to work day and night to liberate people you don’t know, never will know, and who sincerely do not appreciate what you are trying to do for them.

Most NT worthy attitude.

Balko On Perfectly Acceptable Government

Radley Balko speaks for libertarians:

“It’s perfectly acceptable for a constitutionally-limited government to act to prevent the outbreak of deadly, highly-communicable diseases. If the bird flu is as lethal and transferable as some have suggested, protection from it amounts to a public good worthy of government attention, provided said attention is proportional to the extent of the threat, transparent, and accountable.”

Translation: It’s perfectly acceptable for the government to put a gun to your head to compel you to participate in collectivist schemes when it will produce a sufficient public good.

But what about all Balko’s caveats you ask? They amount to nothing.

Is this government accountable? Sure, it’s accountable to the voters. How could government be more accountable than that?

Ah, but is our government constitutionally limited? Yup, as much as it can be. There’s a note in the cookie jar that says “We promise to never reach in the cookie jar. Sincerely, We The People”. Now of course the fact that they got the note in the cookie jar in the first place implies they’re going to reach in there whenever they feel the need, but you can’t really improve on the note. It’s as limiting to We The People as any such note could be in principle.

But is the public good produced sufficient? And is the government action proportional and transparent? Well someone has to judge, but who? It can only go back to accountability. The voters judge whether the benefits are sufficient and whether the means are acceptably proportional and transparent.

We pretty much already have everything Balko wants in politics, he just happens to disagree with most voters about the weights to assign to the costs and benefits of government actions. So he spends his life arguing with them about how much of your life should be stolen and what it should be spent on.

And that passes for libertarianism.

Via Beck.

Free State Project, Part II

A commenter takes me to task over my previous remarks on the Free State Project:

I’m glad you have a better plan than those suckers, that is sit around and complain on a blog day after day.

In fact I do have a better plan that the FSP suckers: I plan to get on with my life. Just getting on with your life is a much better plan than marching forward in libertarian solidarity.

See, there are two outcomes: either a) the FSP is a stupid boondoggle and a waste of time at best (my judgement) or b) it will actually accomplish something positive. Let’s assume b) for argument.

Now what?

What rational proposition can the FSP offer anyone in particular? Will their chances of success be noticeably better with me on board, better enough that it’s worth my time to join them? Do they have anything to offer that I couldn’t get by, say, moving to NH and not joining them? Answers are none, no and no, respectively.

Fact is that political liberty is by and large a public good. You manufacture it, and everyone enjoys it. Thus everyone else has the incentive to get on with their lives while you slave away. Given that, it’s not surprising that libertarian movements (biased as they are towards individualists of various stripes) tend to quickly become self-parodies since the only people that stick around are the people who enjoy the movement for its own sake.

Now this isn’t all to say that voluntary collectivism and movements are all bad. For instance, you might say that a secretary for the local Catholic church is part of a collectivist organization (true) and that by stuffing envelopes with the church newsletter that she’s part of a movement (also true). But the difference is that the secretary has been offered a rational proposition: x$/hour for her services.

The FSP isn’t offering anyone anything I can see, except the ever-fading promise that they’ll somehow manufacture freedom. Except that me and everyone else that isn’t rushing to get on the bandwagon can just bide our time and wait for them to make liberty or not, and then move in next door to them. Or not.

How does the FSP intend to get around their public goods problem? Evidently by ignoring it.

Moving The Goalposts

The slow implosion of the Free State Project continues:

First of all, we have dropped our goal of reaching 20,000 signatures by the end of 2006.

We are not setting a new goal for reaching 20,000, but we expect to increase our recruitment rate (more on that below) and reach that goal within a reasonable time frame.

Third, we recognize that the success of the Free State Project really depends on actual movers, and we are now actively encouraging all participants to move as soon as they are able.

Things are going crappy, so make sure you get on board ASAP.

It’s rather ironic that the one unique thing that the FSP had going for them, the idea that if the project didn’t meet a deadline that it would fold, is the one thing that they’re tossing over the side.

And why the shifting priorities?

Jason Sorens, FSP founder, says it best (responding to Claire Wolfe):

We abolished our 2006 recruiting goal because we saw no other option. In a sense, your conclusion, “the FSP seems merely interested in continuing its own existence,” is obviously correct. We think continuing our existence is very important.

The original idea was to either have a viable movement or not. Now the idea is to have a movement, whether or not it’s viable. This was inevitable, because movements naturally self-select for movementarians. And their primary motivation is… being part of a movement.

So where does the market individualist fit into that? Outside the movement, of course:

Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.


An Open Sentence to My Libertarian Friends Who Don’t Understand My Opposition to the War in Iraq

Don Boudreaux posts his An Open Letter to My Libertarian Friends Who Don’t Understand My Opposition to the War in Iraq. The content is predictable:

Still, the war in Iraq is unjustified. By this I mean that the justifications offered for the war by the Bush administration have proven to be mistaken or empty. Most obviously, Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. Nor is there any credible evidence that the 9/11 attackers were in any material way aided by Saddam Hussein. And while it’s true that Hussein was an evil tyrant, this fact is neither among the chief reasons first offered by the administration for going to war in Iraq, nor is it a sufficient reason for going to war.

The world is full of evil tyrants. But given the nature of government, it’s not the role of government A to sit in judgment of government B. The most legitimate role for any government is to protect its own people from violence.

My personal opposition to the war in Iraq is quite simple. Not an open letter, an open sentence:

The Iraq war is funded in part with tax loot stolen from me, and I would prefer to spend my money on things that I value more than this war.

That’s it.

And here’s the kicker: unlike the Open Letter linked above, the Open Sentence is irrefutable. A libertarian can’t argue against an individual being able to make a free choice about the disposition of his own property without dropping all pretense of being a libertarian.

Okay, I’m Agitated

As long as we’re poaching content from The Agitator this week, I’d just like to take a moment to point out that John C. Dvorak is provably, permanently deranged.

Not that Linnekin is much above that what with his cheerleading of Dvorak’s malign little effort to make Congress work better. I don’t want to see the bastards do as much as they do now, let alone give ’em the ability to vote what’s left of my life away on their God-damned Blackberries. I guess Baylen “I’m not an anarchist” Linnekin has different priorities.

Still, Baylen does voice tepid support for my right to sit on my ass every two years and jeer while the electorate votes each others’ stuff away. Not that mandatory voting would change much for me, it’d be the easiest thing in the world to scrawl a few clever obscenities across my government-mandated Freedom Ballot(tm) before folding, spindling, and mutilating the machine-scannable instrument of democracy and jamming the fucker into the ultra-secure cardboard ballot box.

This ought to serve as a lesson to any consequentialist Cato interns that may be lurking out there. You, my friend, could end up about a quarter-notch above John Dvorak with the gap closing every election if you don’t look the fuck out.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.