Part of the "Critiques of Libertarianism" site.

Last updated 06/26/13.

Quotations are not a substitute for rational argument. That said, there can be a place for quotations in discussion, as a summation for a rational argument, for example as a preface which indicates what will be explored, or perhaps as a signature quote.

What I think ought to be avoided is use of quotations AS the argument. That sort of bumper-sticker argument deserves a big raspberry, if not a scathing retort. It is a substitute for thinking, and worse is usually made as an argument from authority.

Here's a list of quotations I've found handy as signature quotes (an internet fashion) in my discussions with libertarians. Interestingly, some of them ARE quotations from libertarians.

Newest quotes are at the end.

If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
Thomas Jefferson, 1st Inaugural, 4-Mar-1801

... legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property... Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions or property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right.
Thomas Jefferson (in a letter to James Madison), 1785

While it is a moot question whether the origin of any kind of property is derived from Nature at all ... it is considered by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no one has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land ... Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society.
Thomas Jefferson

Every society has a right to fix the fundamental principles of its association, and to say to all individuals, that if they contemplate pursuits beyond the limits of these principles and involving dangers which the society chooses to avoid, they must go somewhere else for their exercise; that we want no citizens, and still less ephemeral and pseudo-citizens, on such terms. We may exclude them from our territory, as we do persons infected with disease.
Thomas Jefferson to William H. Crawford, 1816

Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment... laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind... as that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, institutions must advance also, to keep pace with the times.... We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain forever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
Thomas Jefferson (on reform of the Virginia Constitution)

Private property ... is a Creature of Society, and is subject to the Calls of that Society, whenever its Necessities shall require it, even to its last Farthing, its contributors therefore to the public Exigencies are not to be considered a Benefit on the Public, entitling the Contributors to the Distinctions of Honor and Power, but as the Return of an Obligation previously received, or as payment for a just Debt.
Benjamin Franklin

All property, indeed, except the savage's temporary cabin, his bow, his matchcoat and other little Acquisitions absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the creature of public Convention. Hence, the public has the rights of regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the quantity and uses of it. All the property that is necessary to a man is his natural Right, which none may justly deprive him of, but all Property superfluous to such Purposes is the property of the Public who, by their Laws have created it and who may, by other Laws dispose of it.
Benjamin Franklin

Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers.
John Jay, FEDERALIST No. 2

It cannot have escaped those who have attended with candor to the arguments employed against the extensive powers of the government, that the authors of them have very little considered how far these powers were necessary means of attaining a necessary end. They have chosen rather to dwell on the inconveniences which must be unavoidably blended with all political advantages; and on the possible abuses which must be incident to every power or trust, of which a beneficial use can be made. This method of handling the subject cannot impose on the good sense of the people of America. It may display the subtlety of the writer; it may open a boundless field for rhetoric and declamation; it may inflame the passions of the unthinking, and may confirm the prejudices of the misthinking: but cool and candid people will at once reflect, that the purest of human blessings must have a portion of alloy in them; that the choice must always be made, if not of the lesser evil, at least of the greater, not the perfect, good; and that in every political institution, a power to advance the public happiness involves a discretion which may be misapplied and abused. They will see, therefore, that in all cases where power is to be conferred, the point first to be decided is, whether such a power be necessary to the public good; as the next will be, in case of an affirmative decision, to guard as effectually as possible against a perversion of the power to the public detriment.
James Madison, FEDERALIST No. 41

If I am not for myself, who will be?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
Hillel, Pirke Avot

Well, if flip answers could win victory for libertarianism, we would have been in power long ago.
Bob Waldrop

I don't know why people think you need government intervention to bring about discrimination; they have no faith in free enterprise.
Gordon Fitch

There has been little or no mention of the vast body of law which contradicts your position. I think you owe it to the people whom you address to explain its existence.
Nevada Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa (replying to county-rights advocates), 1993

Please get your political terms straight! 'Communism' means 'Everyone wearing glasses gets their heads staved in with rifle butts,' while 'Socialism' means 'Drinks and smokes on the middle class!'
Steve Mayer

Which is better: to achieve Nirvana, or become a Boddhissatva?
Taner Edis

You will never escape the will of the mob, about the best anyone has ever figured out to do is herd them into voting booths.
Barry Shein

23- And God saw everything he had made, and he saw that it was very good; and God said, It just goes to show Me what the private sector can accomplish. With a lot of fool regulations this could have taken billions of years.
Author unknown

All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.
Adam Smith, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

The most important factor in the training of good mental habits consists in acquiring the attitude of suspended conclusion, and in mastering the various methods of searching for new materials to corroborate or to refute the first suggestions that occur.
John Dewey

... As long as you continue to tar social democracy with all the crimes of communism, I feel equally entitled to tar the free market with the crimes of slavery, segregation, colonialism and genocide; piss me off and I'll add fascism and the Nazis.
Greg Erwin

Many people would rather die than think; in fact, most do.
Bertrand Russell

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.
Bertrand Russell

How noble libertarianism, in its majestic equality, that both rich and poor are equally prohibited from peeing in the privately owned streets (without paying), sleeping under the privately owned bridges (without paying), and coercing bread from its rightful owners!
Mike Huben, paraphrasing Anatole France

Wasn't Ayn Rand a pseudonym of L. Ron Hubbard?
Mike Huben

'Libertarian UberMensch smites devolved, parasitic, running-dog, statist lackies that want our women!' Atlas Shrugged in a nutshell.
Mike Huben

... I'm skeptical of claims based solely on logical deduction, especially in the social sciences. This is especially true in economics where many have pointed out the incredible premises that are required to show that laissez-faire achieves even a minimal sort of optimum.
David Shea

Utopias now appear much more realizable than one used to think. We are now faced with a different new worry: How to prevent their realization.
Nicolas Berdiaeff

... there is an irrational, cultish tendency in many intellectual movements, and Objectivism, alas, is no exception. Ayn Rand's personal obsession with loyalty did little to discourage this trend.... Rand had often protested, 'Protect me from my followers!'
Nathanial Branden, in a review of "Therapist" by Ellen Plasil.

Probably nothing has done so much harm to the liberal cause as the wooden insistence of some liberals on certain rough rules of thumb, above all the principle of laissez-faire.
Hayek, "The Road to Serfdom" p.18 U of Chicago Press 1972

Far from advocating a "minimal state", we find it unquestionable that in an advanced society government ought to use its power of raising funds by taxation to provide a number of services which for various reasons cannot be provided or cannot be provided adequately by the market.
Hayek, "Law, Legislation, and Liberty" 1982

I am the last person to deny that increased wealth and the increased density of population have enlarged the number of collective needs which government can and should statisfy.
Hayek, New Studies

Now, the Libertarian Party, is a *capitalist* party. It's in favor of what *I* would regard a *particular form* of authoritarian control. Namely, the kind that comes through private ownership and control, which is an *extremely* rigid system of domination -- people have to... people can survive, by renting themselves to it, and basically in no other way... I do disagree with them *very* sharply, and I think that they are not..understanding the *fundamental* doctrine, that you should be free from domination and control, including the control of the manager and the owner.
Noam Chomsky

There isn't much point arguing about the word "libertarian." It would make about as much sense to argue with an unreconstructed Stalinist about the word "democracy" -- recall that they called what they'd constructed "peoples' democracies." The weird offshoot of ultra-right individualist anarchism that is called "libertarian" here happens to amount to advocacy of perhaps the worst kind of imaginable tyranny, namely unaccountable private tyranny. If they want to call that "libertarian," fine; after all, Stalin called his system "democratic." But why bother arguing about it?
Noam Chomsky

Anarcho-capitalists are against the State simply because they are capitalists first and foremost. Their critique of the State ultimately rests on a liberal interpretation of liberty as the inviolable rights to and of private property. They are not concerned with the social consequences of capitalism for the weak, powerless and ignorant. Their claim that all would benefit from a free exchange in the market is by no means certain; any unfettered market system would most likely sponsor a reversion to an unequal society with defense associations perpetuating exploitation and privilege. If anything, anarcho-capitalism is merely a free-for-all in which only the rich and cunning would benefit. It is tailor-made for 'rugged individualists' who do not care about the damage to others or to the environment which they leave in their wake. The forces of the market cannot provide genuine conditions for freedom any more than the powers of the State. The victims of both are equally enslaved, alienated and oppressed.
Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism

If a Martian were asked to pick the most efficient and humane economic systems on earth, it would certainly not choose the countries which rely most on markets. The United States is a stagnant economy in which real wages have been constant for more than a decade and the real income of the bottom 40 percent of the population declined. It is an inhumane society in which 11.5 percent of the population, some 32 million people, including 20 percent of all children, live in absolute poverty. It is the oldest democracy on earth but also one with the lowest voting rates among democracies and the highest per capita prison population in the world. The fastest developing countries in the world today are among those where the state pursues active industrial and trade policies; the few countries in the world in which almost no one is poor today are those in which the state has been engaged in massive social welfare and labor market policies.
Adam Przeworski

I think it must be conceded that it is possible to create a society in which the response to market failure is not a swing to socialism, but an exacerbation of individual efforts to stay ahead by making and spending yet more money. Does the public health service have long waiting lists and inadequate facilities? Buy private insurance. Has public transport broken down? Buy a car for each member of the family above driving age. Has the countryside been built over or the footpaths eradicated? Buy some elaborate exercise machinery and work out at home. Is air pollution intolerable? Buy an air-filtering unit and stay indoors. Is what comes out of the tap foul to the taste and chock-full of carcinogens? Buy bottled water. And so on. We know it can all happen because it has: I have been doing little more than describing Southern California.
Now it is worth noticing two things about the private substitutes that I have described. The first is that in the aggregate they are probably much more expensive than would be the implementation of the appropriate public policy. The second is that they are extremely poor replacements for the missing outcomes of good public policy. Nevertheless, it is plain that the members of a society can become so alienated from one another, so mistrustful of any form of collective action, that they prefer to go it alone.
Brian Barry, The Continuing Relevance of Socialism

LAND, n. A part of the earth's surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society, and is eminently worthy of the superstructure. Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that some have the right to prevent others from living; for the right to own implies the right exclusively to occupy; and in fact laws of trespass are enacted wherever property in land is recognized. It follows that if the whole area of _terra firma_ is owned by A, B and C, there will be no place for D, E, F and G to be born, or, born as trespassers, to exist.

	    A life on the ocean wave,
		A home on the rolling deep,
	    For the spark the nature gave
		I have there the right to keep. 
	    They give me the cat-o'-nine
		Whenever I go ashore.
	    Then ho! for the flashing brine --
		I'm a natural commodore! 

Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

[Libertarians] don't denounce what the state does, they just object to who's doing it. This is why the people most victimized by the state display the least interest in libertarianism. Those on the receiving end of coercion don't quibble over their coercers' credentials. If you can't pay or don't want to, you don't much care if your deprivation is called larceny or taxation or restitution or rent. If you like to control your own time, you distinguish employment from enslavement only in degree and duration.
Bob Black, The Libertarian As Conservative, 1984

... the place where [adults] pass the most time and submit to the closest control is at work. Thus, without even entering into the question of the world economy's ultimate dictation within narrow limits of everybody's productive activity, it's apparent that the source of the greatest direct duress experienced by the ordinary adult is _not_ the state but rather the business that employs him. Your foreman or supervisor gives you more or-else orders in a week than the police do in a decade.
Bob Black, The Libertarian As Conservative, 1984

Unlike side issues like unemployment, unions, and minimum-wage laws, the subject of work itself is almost entirely absent from libertarian literature. Most of what little there is consists of Randite rantings against parasites, barely distinguishable from the invective inflicted on dissidents by the Soviet press....
Bob Black, The Libertarian As Conservative, 1984

Some people giving orders and others obeying them: this is the essence of servitude. Of course, as Hospers smugly observes, "one can at least change jobs," but you can't avoid having a job -- just as under statism one can at least change nationalities but you can't avoid subjection to one nation-state or another. But freedom means more than the right to change masters.
Bob Black, The Libertarian As Conservative, 1984

To demonize state authoritarianism while ignoring identical albeit contract-consecrated subservient arrangements in the large-scale corporations which control the world economy is fetishism at its worst.
Bob Black, The Libertarian As Conservative, 1984

An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty... a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.
Alexander Hamilton, FEDERALIST. No. 1

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.
James Madison, FEDERALIST. No. 51

In Madison's famous formulation in the Federalist, constitutional restrictions on government assume that we "first enable the government to control the governed." If the public authorities can be outgunned or bribed, the vibrancy of the private sector can be pathological.
Stephen Holmes, "What Russia Teaches Us Now"

Science, incidentally, not only ignores the question of indwelling 'essences' by looking instead at measurable relationships, but science also does not agree that knowledge is obtained through Rothbard's Medieval 'investigation by a reason,' i.e., by inventing definitions and then deducing what your definitions implicitly assumed.
Robert Anton Wilson, Natural Law

... I have developed, over the years, some sense of the difference between real horseshit that you can step in and Ideal Platonic Horseshit that exists, evidently, only in the contemplation of those who worship such abstractions; and I continue to notice that Natural Law bears an uncanny resemblance to ideal Platonic Horseshit.
Robert Anton Wilson, "Natural Law"

Injustice was as common as streetcars. When men walked into their jobs, they left their dignity, their citizenship and their humanity outside. They were required to report for duty whether there was work or not. While they waited on the convenience of supervisors and foremen they were unpaid. They could be fired without a pretext. The were subjected to arbitrary, senseless rules... Men were tortured by regulations that made difficult even going to the toilet. Despite grandiloquent statements from the presidents of huge corporations that their door was open to any worker with a complaint, there was no one and no agency to which a worker could appeal if he were wronged. The very idea that a worker could be wronged seemed absurd to the employer.
Walter Reuther (on working life in America before the Wagner act)

1935: Social security will break small business, become a huge tax burden on our citizens, and bankrupt our country!
1944: The G.I. Bill will break small business, become a huge tax burden on our citizens, and bankrupt our country!
1965: Medicare will break small business, become a huge tax burden on our citizens, and bankrupt our country!
1994: Health care will break small business, become a huge tax burden on our citizens, and bankrupt our country!
Conrad (editorial cartoon), July 1994

Obviously, a man's judgement cannot be better than the information on which he has based it. Give him the truth and he may still go wrong when he has the chance to be right, but give him no news or present him only with distorted and incomplete data, with ignorant, sloppy or biased reporting, with propaganda and deliberate falsehoods, and you destroy his whole reasoning processes, and make him something less than a man.
Arthur Hays Sulzberger

Had I been present at the creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better ordering of the universe.
attributed to Alfonso the Wise, 13th century

Damn the Solar System. Bad light; planets too distant; pestered with comets; feeble contrivance; could make a better myself.
Francis [Lord] Jeffery

Historians will have to face the fact that natural selection determined the evolution of cultures in the same manner as it did that of species.
Konrad Lorenz, On Aggression, 1966.

It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.
Alfred North Whitehead

[After a sneaky snowball and an extended exchange of insults....]
Calvin: "Leave it to Mom to interrupt our repartee."
Hobbes: "Just when I had you wriggling in the crushing grip of reason too..."
Waterson, Calvin and Hobbes, 1/18/87

The field of pseudo-science hasn't progressed much in ten years, except to gain access to the net.
Author unknown, from ca.earthquakes

It can be shown that for any nutty theory, beyond-the-fringe political view or strange religion there exists a proponent on the Net. The proof is left as an exercise for your kill-file.
Bertil Jonell

Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve.
Karl Popper

You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here... I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell. It doesn't frighten me.
Richard P. Feynman

If the myth of the Western were true, the South Bronx would be producing Gary Coopers.
Lauren Walker

Those who rely too heavily on dictionary definitions are doomed. Words are alive, and often connote far more than they are defined to mean. That's why we have so many different words, to eek out each connotation, and to differentiate. Calling military service slavery (unless done in a metaphorical tone) just gets people thinking you're odd. It's like vegetarians saying "meat is murder." May wake people up, but turns them off just as fast.
Vernon Imrich

...Then anyone who leaves behind him a written manual, and likewise anyone who receives it, in the belief that such writing will be clear and certain, must be exceedingly simple-minded...
Plato, Phaedrus

An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
H. L. Mencken

We have now reached the point where every goon with a grievance, every bitter bigot, merely has to place the prefix, 'I know this is not politically correct, but...' in front of the usual string of insults in order to be not just safe from criticism, but actually a card, a lad, even a hero. Conversely, to talk about poverty and inequality, to draw attention to the reality that discrimination and injustice are still facts of life, is to commit the sin of political correctness. Anti-PC has become the latest cover for creeps. It is a godsend for every curmudgeon and crank, from fascists to the merely smug.
Finian O'Toole, The Irish Times, 5 May 1994

No ideal could be more destructive of human life than the ideal of non-coerciveness. A new-born human is so helpless, much more helpless even than the half-inch blob which is a new-born kangaroo, that it would never survive for one day if hands which are _both coercive and loving_ did not guide it to the nipple which it would never find on its own. This was an observation of T.H.Huxley, in response to Rousseauite vapour about people being "born free". Such biological common sense, and in particular some acquaintance with the work of Konrad Lorenz, might have suggested to Nozick that he, and post-Vietnam America, had got things _exactly_ the wrong way around: that in _Homo sapiens_, as in any species, close bonds between individuals are never formed _except_ when the possibility of coercion is a known and standing element of the situation.
David Stove, The Plato Cult

But the stupidity which is common to all such "explanations" is, of course, simply that of proceeding as though the merits of a theory -- such things as truth, or probability, or explanatory power -- could not possibly be among the reasons for its currency.
David Stove, Against the Idols of the Age

The first man who, having fenced off a plot of land, thought of saying, 'This is mine' and found people simple enough to believe him was the real founder of civil society. How many crimes, wars, murders, how many miseries and horrors might the human race had been spared by the one who, upon pulling up the stakes or filling in the ditch, had shouted to his fellow men: 'Beware of listening to this imposter; you are lost if you forget the fruits of the earth belong to all and that the earth belongs to no one.
Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, 1755

Once we begin distinguishing the many forms capitalism can take, analytic utility is lost by retaining talismanic terms like "free market." There is no national economy in the world today that is not a mixed economy, which also means that there is no market that is free, or even "mostly" free. Rather, markets are structures that are culturally bounded, always regulated, and genetically dependent on government intervention for their reproduction. Never are they simply "permitted."
Jonathan Stein

What I do think is that our lives and ethics and society should shed the myths from the past and try to create a better world for our time. Most of us humanists have done that relative to religion. I think that economic and political myths deserve the same scrutiny and subsequent bashing as does the Bible. I think that free market economic theory falls into this category of myth. Much as faith healing, the resurrection, or the second coming does. Many of the theorems and ultimatums from the theory just do not stand up in the light of historical or contemporary analysis.
Walter Laffer

The Libertarians, of whom I'm rather fond, are running Harry Browne. Libertarians are, just as they claim, principled and consistent- they believe in individual liberty. Commendable as they are, and despite their reliability as allies in civil liberties struggles, you may notice that Libertarians sometimes prove that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, and that there is a difference between logic and wisdom.
Molly Ivins

Medicare was supposed to go broke in 1972. It didn't. It was supposed to go broke in 1976. It didn't. It was supposed to go broke in 1987. It didn't. In fact, every Medicare Trustee report in the program's history has warned that Medicare would go broke by some date in the future. And every time Congress, under the stewardship of Democrats, has always made the adjustments needed to keep this important program for the elderly solvent.
Frank Knapp

Economist Frederick Thayer has studied the history of our balanced-budget crusades and has come up with some depressing statistics. We have had six major depressions in our history (1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893 and 1929); all six of them followed sustained periods of reducing the national debt. We have had almost chronic deficits since the 1930s, and there has been no depression since then -- the longest crash-free period in our history.
Molly Ivins

In a society of an hundred thousand families, there will perhaps be one hundred who don't labour at all, and who yet, either by violence, or by the more orderly oppression of law, employ a greater part of the labour of society than any other ten thousand in it. The division of what remains, too, after this enormous defalcation, is by no means made in proportion to the labour of each individual. On the contrary those who labour most get least. The opulent merchant, who spends a great part of his time in luxury and entertainments, enjoys a much greater proportion of the profits of his traffic, than all the Clerks and Accountants who do the business. These last, again, enjoying a great deal of leisure, and suffering scarce any other hardship besides the confinement of attendance, enjoy a much greater share of the produce, than three times an equal number of artisans, who, under their direction, labour much more severely and assiduously. The artisan again, tho' he works generally under cover, protected from the injuries of the weather, at his ease and assisted by the convenience of innumerable machines, enjoys a much greater share than the poor labourer who has the soil and the seasons to struggle with, and, who while he affords the materials for supplying the luxury of all the other members of the common wealth, and bears, as it were, upon his shoulders the whole fabric of human society, seems himself to be buried out of sight in the lowest foundations of the building.
Adam Smith, first draft of Wealth Of Nations

All freedoms are subject to constraints, and reality (constraints) keeps changing. The circumstances must be taken into account. Smith said, "In the race for wealth, for honors, for preferments, [every man] may run as hard as he can, and strain every nerve and muscle, in order to outstrip all competitors. But if he should jostle, or throw down any of them, the indulgence of the spectators is entirely at an end." In other words, according to Smith's laissez-faire, it would be unthinkable for a factory owner to dump toxic wastes into the water because he must pay society for the privilege of doing so, no matter how long the feedback loop until the negative results -- the cost of production -- are felt. The manufacturer, not society, must pay for the costs of production of what he sells. "Greed" would be the invisible hand acting for the good of all. There was nothing in Smith's philosophy that allowed one person to brutalize another by force, fumes, or other interference with personal liberties in the name of freedom. To the contrary, there is nothing in the spirit of competition that would allow the government to give away a tract of wilderness in Alaska that belongs to you and me, unless the public should agree upon the price. Fifty years ago, the wilderness had no "value." Like the air, it was free for all to take. Now the laws of supply and demand have dictated a price. Most important, the wilderness is also the property of people yet unborn. How can one establish its price?
Bernd Heinrich, In a Patch of Fireweed

Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.
Eric Hoffer, The True Believer

Oh, for an honest Libertarian who would say "Yes, in Libertopia we'd have rampant quackery, organ-seizure, baby-selling, slavery in all but name - BUT THAT'S FREEDOM!"
Seth Finkelstein

Warning: Some ideologies on the Net are smaller than they appear.
Seth Finkelstein

Because economics touches so much of life, everyone wants to have an opinion. Yet the kind of economics covered in the textbooks is a technical subject that many people find hard to follow. How reassuring, then, to be told that it is all irrelevant--that all you really need to know are a few simple ideas! Quite a few supply-siders have created for themselves a wonderful alternative intellectual history in which John Maynard Keynes was a fraud, Paul Samuelson and even Milton Friedman are fools, and the true line of deep economic thought runs from Adam Smith through obscure turn-of-the-century Austrians straight to them.
Paul Krugman

I don't accept that much of use can be learned about policy in this way [well-structured deduction from metaphysical first principles.] When the world deviates from the principles, as it usually does, the simple lessons go astray. This is not a complaint against math. It is a complaint against indiscriminate application of the deductive method, sometimes called the Ricardian vice, to problems of human action. Mine is an old gripe against much of what professional economists do; not against science but against scientism, against the pretense of science. To combat it, I spend my research time wrestling with real-world data, and I spend much of my writing time warring against the policy ideas of aggressive, ahistorical deductivists.
James K. Galbraith, letter in Slate, Nov. 5, 1996

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of [society's] evil... The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. In so far as the labor contract is "free," what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists' requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.
Albert Einstein

Men did not make the earth. It is the value of the improvements only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property. Every proprietor owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds.
Thomas Paine

Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.
Adam Smith

In practice, without appropriate government intervention, Smith's "invisible hand" dons brass knuckles and conducts gang warfare, creating fierce battles between competitors who would be more than happy to define and enforce their own private property interests according to their own subjective rules.
Denise Caruso

One of the most important lessons I learned in college was that there was no reason to argue on ignorant personal authority when it is so easy to look up an answer. Once you develop the humility to admit you don't know something (even if only to yourself) and then go find the answer to make your argument with, rather than make up claims, you'll find that you're REALLY learning a lot. You'll also find it very hard for other people to rely on your ignorance and pride to convince you of something they want you to believe.
Mike Huben

The term 'free market' is really a euphemism. What the far right actually means by this term is 'lawless market.' In a lawless market, entrepreneurs can get away with privatizing the benefits of the market (profits), while socializing its costs (like pollution). Uncomfortable with the concept of a lawless market? The far right will try to reassure you with claims that the market can produce its own laws, either as a commodity bought and sold on the market, or through natural market mechanisms like the "invisible hand" or the Coase theorem. But it is interesting to note that even if the entrepreneurs don't take the more likely shortcut of creating their own state, this type of law removes the creation of law from democratic legislatures and gives it to authoritarian business owners and landlords. And since you get what you pay for, "purchased law" will primarily benefit its purchasers. Society might as well return to aristocracy directly.
Steve Kangas

Jefferson was a man of many dimensions, and any explanation of his behavior must contain a myriad of seeming contradictions. He was a sincere and dedicated foe of the slave trade who bought and sold men whenever he found it personally necessary. He believed that all men were entitled to life and liberty regardless of their abilities, yet he tracked down those slaves who had the courage to take their rights by running away. He believed that slavery was morally and politically wrong, but still he wrote a slave code for his state and opposed a national attempt in 1819 to limit the further expansion of the institution. He believed that one hour of slavery was worse than ages of British oppression, yet he was able to discuss the matter of slave breeding in much the same terms that one would use when speaking of the propagation of dogs and horses.
William Cohen, Thomas Jefferson and the Problem of Slavery

Most libertarians deny the fact that all rights (including property rights) are created, maintained, and constrained by force or the credible threat of forceful retaliation. The few that admit this propose to use the market to distribute rights; but most people wouldn't like to see rights distributed as unevenly as incomes.
Mike Huben

The argument for laissez-faire capitalism is built on a contradictory view of liberty. Right-wing libertarians understand that state control of all economic activity is tyrannical: that the power to determine if and how people make a living is the power to enforce conformity. But they don't see that the huge transnational corporations that own and control most of the world's wealth exercise a parallel tyranny: not only do these behemoths unilaterally determine qualifications, wages, hours, and working conditions for millions of workers, who (if they're lucky) may "choose" from a highly restricted menu of jobs or "choose" to stop eating; they make production, investment and lending decisions that profoundly affect the economic, social, and political landscape of communities and indeed entire countries -- decisions in which the great majority of people affected have little or no voice. Murray defines economic freedom as "the right to engage in voluntary and informed exchanges of goods and services without restriction." Fine -- but if an economic transaction is to be truly voluntary and informed, all parties must have equal power to accept, reject, or influence its terms, as well as equal access to information. Can anyone claim that corporate employers and employees have equal power to negotiate their exchange? Or that consumers have full access to information about the products they buy? And if we're really interested in freedom, the right to voluntary and informed engagement in economic transactions has to be extended beyond their principals to others affected -- whether by plants that reduce air quality or rent increases that chase out shoe repair shops in favor of coffee bars. The inconsistency of the belief that economic domination by the state destroys freedom, while economic domination by capital somehow enhances it, is often rationalized by attributing the self-interested decisions of the corporate elite to objective, immutable principles like "the invisible hand" or "supply and demand" -- just as state tyranny has claimed to embody the laws of God or History. But the real animating principle of a free society is democracy -- which should include a democratic economy based on enterprises owned and controlled by their workers.
Ellen Willis

The laissez-faire argument relies on the same tacit appeal to perfection as does communism.
George Soros

The libertarian fantasy is very simple... As a matter of political theory, it says we reverse the process John Locke described in The Second Treatise on Government: we dissolve Civil Society and return to the State of Nature which the libertarians imagine will be a benign wonderfully free place without any obligation to and coercion by sovereign political community.
G. Eyclesheimer Ernst, Firearms Policy Journal, Volume 2, No. 1

... in the U.S., the cultural assumption that society revolves around the individual and individual rights is so deeply embedded that when teamwork is advocated we pay lipservice but basically do not change our individualistic assumption. How then does change in this area come about? First, we would need to re-define teamwork as the coordination of individual activities for pragmatic ends, not the subordination of the individual to the group. If we define teamwork as individual subordination, as treating the group to be more important than the individual, we arouse all the defenses that lead to quips like camels being horses constructed by a committee, negative images of "group think," lynch mobs, etc. Second, the redefinition of teamwork also allows one to redefine individualism in a way that preserves its primacy, not to "substitute" groupism for individualism. This process of redefinition in effect enlarges the concept of individualism to include the ability and obligation to work with others when the task demands it. In other words, helping a team to win is not inconsistent with individualism. And, third, one can change the standards by which individual performance is rewarded. Instead of rewarding "rugged individualism" or the competitive winning out over others (which makes collaborative behavior look "weak"), individuals can be increasingly rewarded for their ability to create, lead, and participate in teams (which makes collaborative behavior look "strong"). The best individual, then, is the one who can be an effective team player.
Edgar H. Schein. Kurt Lewin's Change Theory in the Field and in the Classroom

All the morality and all the rights in the world plus a dollar will get you a cup of coffee. If you have some means of enforcing the morality or rights, then you might get the coffee without the dollar.
Mike Huben

In a world torn by every kind of fundamentalism -- religious, ethnic, nationalist and tribal -- we must grant first place to economic fundamentalism, with its religious conviction that the market, left to its own devices, is capable of resolving all our problems. This faith has its own ayatollahs. Its church is neo-liberalism; its creed is profit; its prayers are for monopolies.
Carlos Fuentes, World Press Review (Nov. '95) p. 47

I always thought a "right" was a made-up social convention, and a "natural right" was a made-up social convention that we deny we ever made-up.
James R. Dew

As it happens there is light to be shed on the libertarian position on breathing. Ayn Rand is always inspirational and often oracular for libertarians. A strident atheist and vehement rationalist -- she felt in fact that she and three or four of her disciples were the only really rational people there were -- Rand remarked that she worshipped smokestacks. For her, as for Lyndon LaRouche, they not only stood for, they were the epitome of human accomplishment. She must have meant it since she was something of a human smokestack herself; she was a chain smoker, as were the other rationals in her entourage. In the end she abolished her own breathing: she died of lung cancer.
Bob Black, "Smokestack Lightning"

Imagine wasting all that perfectly good anger on paranoid fantasies. Not since Emily Litella got upset about "Soviet jewelry" has there been such a waste of anger. You will notice a certain theme to these Emily Litella Moments. Behind them all is a touching faith that someone, somewhere is actually in charge of what's happening -- a proposition I beg leave to doubt.
Molly Ivins

... often analysis seems to be based on the assumption that future economic output is almost entirely determined by inexorable economic forces independently of government policy so that devoting more resources to one use inevitably detracts from availability for another.
William Vickrey, "Fifteen Fatal Fallacies of Financial Fundamentalism"

Fallacy 14: Government debt is thought of as a burden handed on from one generation to its children and grandchildren. Reality: Quite the contrary, in generational terms, (as distinct from time slices) the debt is the means whereby the present working cohorts are enabled to earn more by fuller employment and invest in the increased supply of assets, of which the debt is a part, so as to provide for their own old age. In this way the children and grandchildren are relieved of the burden of providing for the retirement of the preceding generations, whether on a personal basis or through government programs. This fallacy is another example of zero-sum thinking that ignores the possibility of increased employment and expanded output.
William Vickrey, "Fifteen Fatal Fallacies of Financial Fundamentalism"

"Acquiring yet unacquired... stuff": there is the key to coercion. Some mystic process which magically grants rights to coercively deny others use. State the right philosophical incantation, and this part is now removed from the commons. There is actually a very simple measure of the coercion: price. Price is the bribe that would have to be paid to deter coercion from the owner. Price also happens to be the measure of the violation of the Lockean Proviso, "where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others."
Mike Huben

The protean nature of libertarianism causes problems for critics in open debate. There is no single basis which can be argued: you need to rebut a half dozen or more sets of assumptions, which pseudo-intellectual libertarians mix and match with a delightfully inconsistent abandonment of rationality.
Mike Huben

Power over a man's subsistence is power over his will.
Alexander Hamilton

Public goods, quasipublic goods, and externalities are fairly common in the real world. They are common enough that it is necessary to take proposals for government intervention in the economy on a case-by-case basis. Government action can never be ruled in or ruled out on principle. Only with attention to detail and prudent judgment based on the facts of the case can we hope to approach an optimal allocation of resources. That means the government will always have a full agenda for reform -- and in some cases, as in deregulation, that will mean undoing the actions of government in an earlier generation. This is not evidence of failure but of an alert, active government aware of changing circumstances.
Paul Krugman, The American Prospect, November-December 1996

Market failure does not mean that we don't expect the market to provide any examples, but rather that we expect it to provide less than the economically efficient amount. For example, there are well known market failures for roads, yet privately created roads do exist. The issue is that privatizing roads will result in too little. The record of history bears this out.
Mike Huben

... contrary to their chosen nom de guerre, libertarians aren't interested in liberty that much. Their primary concern is to defend private property, and the result is that liberty only enters the argument at points where it can be conveniently re-defined in terms of private ownership.
Alan Haworth, "Anti-Libertarianism"

Information technology alone cannot provide us an absolute shield against its evil twin disinformation technology. Our only protection is law, and that protection is available to us only if legitimate governments have the power to govern.
Paul Starr, "Cyberpower And Freedom"

The rapid improvement in price-performance ratios of computers, software, and other technology today seems to validate the faith in free markets. But to say that the information revolution proves the inevitable superiority of markets requires a monumental failure of short-term historical memory. After all, not just the Internet, but the computer sciences and computer industry represent a spectacular success of public investment. As late as the 1970s and early 1980s, according to Kenneth Flamm's 1987 study Targeting the Computer, the federal government was paying for 40 percent of all computer-related research and probably 60 to 75 percent of basic research. The motivation was national security, but the result has been the creation of comparative advantage in information technology for the United States that private firms have happily exploited and extended. When the returns were uncertain and difficult to capture, private firms were unwilling to invest, and government played the decisive role. But when the market expanded and the returns were more definite, the government receded, which is exactly the path it should have followed.
Paul Starr, "Cyberpower And Freedom"

Classical liberal theory deemed political authority necessary because individuals are partial to themselves and, left to their own devices, the strong and the deceitful have an irresistible proclivity to exempt themselves from generally valid laws. That old insight is amply confirmed in Russia today. When the state that once owned everything is now so easy to despoil, why play by rules that apply equally to all? Libertarians sometimes argue that the coercive authority of the state extends only to the prevention of harm and the protection of property rights. In the Russian context, the word "only" here strikes a very false note. Limited government, capable of repressing force and fraud, turns out to be mind-bogglingly difficult to erect in a chaotic setting.
Stephen Holmes, "What Russia Teaches Us Now"

Liberalism demands that people without guns be able to tell people with guns what to do.
Stephen Holmes, "What Russia Teaches Us Now"

There is at the core of the celebration of markets relentless tautology. If we begin by assuming that nearly everything can be understood as a market and that markets optimize outcomes, then everything leads back to the same marketize! If, in the event, a particular market doesn't optimize, there is only one possible conclusion; it must be insufficiently market-like. This is a no-fail system for guaranteeing that theory trumps evidence. Should some human activity not, in fact, behave like an efficient market, it must logically be the result of some interference that should be removed. It does not occur that the theory mis-specifies human behavior.
Robert Kuttner, "The Limits Of Markets"

The evolution of government from its medieval, Mafia-like character to that embodying modern legal institutions and instruments is a major part of the history of freedom. It is a part that tends to be obscured or ignored because of the myopic vision of many economists, who persist in modeling government as nothing more than a gigantic form of theft and income redistribution.
Douglass North

How did Europe and those who escaped its clutches succeed in developing? Part of the answer seems exceptionless: By radically violating approved free market doctrine. That conclusion holds from England to the East Asian growth area today, surely including the United States, "the mother country and bastion of modern protectionism," economic historian Paul Bairoch observes in his recent study of myths concerning economic development. The most extraordinary of these, he concludes, is the belief that protectionism impedes growth: "It is difficult to find another case where the facts so contradict a dominant theory," a conclusion supported by many other studies... Putting the details aside, it seems fairly clear that one reason for the sharp divide between today's First and Third World is that much of the latter was subjected to "experiments" that rammed free market doctrine down their throats, while today's developed countries were able to resist such measures.
Noam Chomsky, "Old wine in new bottles: A bitter taste"

In Britain again, as elsewhere, industrial promotion also took the form of defense against outside competition. The later record of British commitment to free trade (more or less nid-nineteenth century to 1930) has tended to obscure the earlier and much longer practice of economic nationalism, whether by tariff protection or discriminatory shipping rules (navigation acts). Economic theorists have argued forcibly, even passionately, that such interferences with the market hurt everyone. The fact remains that history's strongest advocates of free trade -- Victorian Britain, post-World War II United States -- were strongly protectionist during their own growing stage. Don't do as I did; do as I can afford to do now. The advice does not always sit well.
David S. Landes, "The Wealth And Poverty Of Nations" pg. 265

The record of early industrialization is invariably one of hard work for low pay, to say nothing of exploitation. I use this last word, not in the Marxian sense of paying labor less than its product (how else would capital receive its reward?), but in the meaningful sense of compelling labor from people who cannot say no; so, from women and children, slaves and quasi-slaves (involuntary indentured labor.) ... The high social costs of British industrialization reflect the shock of unpreparedness and the strange notion that wages and conditions of labor came from a voluntary agreement between free agents. Not until the British got over these illusions, in regard first to children, then to women, did they intervene in the workplace and introduce protective labor legislation.
David S. Landes, "The Wealth And Poverty Of Nations" pg. 381

Liberalism is not socialism, and never will be... Liberalism has its own history and its own tradition. Socialism has its own formulas and aims. Socialism seeks to pull down wealth; Liberalism would preserve private interests in the only way in which they can be safely and justly preserved, namely, by reconciling them with public right. Socialism would kill enterprise; Liberalism would rescue enterprise from the trammels of privilege and preference. Socialism assails the pre-eminence of the individual; Liberalism seeks, and shall seek more in the future, to build up a minimum standard for the mass. Socialism exalts the rule; Liberalism exalts the man. Socialism attacks capital; Liberalism attacks monopoly.
Winston Churchill, 1908

There may be two libertarians somewhere who agree with each other about everything, but I am not one of them.
David Friedman

You know, getting on the Net has done more to turn me off Libertarianism than -- well, than anything....
Dan Clore

The key to understanding this, and to understanding Libertarianism itself, is to realize that their concept of individual freedom is the "whopper" of "right to have the State back up business". That's a wild definition of freedom.
Seth Finkelstein

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
John Kenneth Galbraith

Since inequalities of privilege are greater than could possibly be defended rationally, the intelligence of privileged groups is usually applied to the task of inventing specious proofs for the theory that universal values spring from, and that general interests are served by, the special privileges which they hold.
Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society

... the modern state masks itself in moral ideologies which obscure its actual conduct. One of the most compelling and insidious of these ideologies is the doctrine of natural rights. It was to secure these rights that the modern state was invented in the first place, and it is impossible, especially for Americans, not to be seduced by the doctrine. But it is nonetheless a philosophical superstition.
Donald W. Livingston, in "Secession And The Modern State"

Together, the property rights and public choice schools show only that, if you start by assuming a purely individualistic model of human behavior and treat politics as if it were a pale imitation of the market, democracy will, indeed, make no sense.
Paul Starr, "The Meaning Of Privatization"

... I guess it is no secret that even John Kenneth Galbraith, still the public's idea of a great economist, looks to most serious economists like an intellectual dilettante who lacks the patience for hard thinking. Well, the same is true in evolution. I am not sure how well this is known. I have tried, in preparation for this talk, to read some evolutionary economics, and was particularly curious about what biologists people reference. What I encountered were quite a few references to Stephen Jay Gould, hardly any to other evolutionary theorists. Now it is not very hard to find out, if you spend a little while reading in evolution, that Gould is the John Kenneth Galbraith of his subject. That is, he is a wonderful writer who is beloved by literary intellectuals and lionized by the media because he does not use algebra or difficult jargon. Unfortunately, it appears that he avoids these sins not because he has transcended his colleagues but because he does does not seem to understand what they have to say; and his own descriptions of what the field is about - not just the answers, but even the questions - are consistently misleading. His impressive literary and historical erudition makes his work seem profound to most readers, but informed readers eventually conclude that there's no there there. (And yes, there is some resentment of his fame: in the field the unjustly famous theory of "punctuated equilibrium", in which Gould and Niles Eldredge asserted that evolution proceeds not steadily but in short bursts of rapid change, is known as "evolution by jerks").
Paul Krugman, "What Economists Can Learn From Evolutionary Theorists"

... for 55 out of the last 57 centuries Malthus was right. What I mean is that for almost all of the history of civilization improvements in technology did not lead to sustained increases in living standards; instead, the gains were dissipated by rising population, with pressure on resources eventually driving the condition of the masses back to roughly its previous level. The subjects of Louis XIV were not noticeably better nourished than those of ancient Sumerian city-states; that is, while they had enough to survive and raise children in good times, they lived sufficiently close to the edge that the Four Horsemen could carry them off now and then, keeping the population more or less stable. It was Malthus's great misfortune that the power of his theory to explain what happened in most of human history has been obscured by the fact that the only two centuries of that history for which it does not work happen to be the two centuries that followed its publication. But this was, of course, not an accident. Malthus was a man of his time, and his musings were only one symptom of the rise of a rationalist, scientific outlook; another symptom of that rise was the Industrial Revolution.
Paul Krugman, "Seeking The Rule Of The Waves"

That's libertarians for you - anarchists who want police protection from their slaves.
Kim Stanley Robinson, "Green Mars" p318

It is a lot easier to look as though you have a thorough and correct understanding of a subject if you can limit your discussions either to discussions with people who agree with you or to encounters with people who disagree with you, don't understand your ideas, and are not involved in the encounter for long enough to learn to understand your ideas. It is a lot easier to maintain that situation if you are not on Usenet.
David Friedman (on why "serious objectivists" aren't on the net.)

... an essential feature of a decent society, and an almost defining feature of a democratic society, is relative equality of outcome -- not opportunity, but outcome. Without that you can't seriously talk about a democratic state... These concepts of the common good have a long life. They lie right at the core of classical liberalism, of Enlightenment thinking... Like Aristotle, [Adam] Smith understood that the common good will require substantial intervention to assure lasting prosperity of the poor by distribution of public revenues.
Noam Chomsky on The Common Good

Talk of democracy has little content when big business rules the life of the country through its control of the means of production, exchange, the press and other means of publicity, propaganda and communication.
John Dewey

As labor markets have become increasingly laissez-faire markets, inequality has widened apace. The benign view of this phenomenon holds that skills, at last, are being rewarded appropriately. A more skeptical view holds that income extremes are now far beyond any degree necessary to reward diligence or innovation; that the negative social consequences on inequality far outweigh the gains to allocative efficiency; and that the extreme income inequality associated with pure markets, far from being a source of efficiency, is one more serious blemish of laissez-faire society and one more social calamity wrought by pure markets.
Robert Kuttner, "The Limits Of Markets"

Anarcho-capitalism, in my opinion, is a doctrinal system which, if ever implemented, would lead to forms of tyranny and oppression that have few counterparts in human history. There isn't the slightest possibility that its (in my view, horrendous) ideas would be implemented, because they would quickly destroy any society that made this colossal error. The idea of "free contract" between the potentate and his starving subject is a sick joke, perhaps worth some moments in an academic seminar exploring the consequences of (in my view, absurd) ideas, but nowhere else. I should add, however, that I find myself in substantial agreement with people who consider themselves anarcho-capitalists on a whole range of issues; and for some years, was able to write only in their journals. And I also admire their commitment to rationality -- which is rare -- though I do not think they see the consequences of the doctrines they espouse, or their profound moral failings.
Noam Chomsky

But once we concede that people do care about status, it necessarily follows that the status competition that makes people buy expensive consumer goods in order to impress other people constitutes a failure of the market economy - a failure as real as traffic congestion, or pollution, or any other activity in which the individual pursuit of self-interest leads to a collectively bad outcome. Suppose that we could somehow agree to stop competing over who has the fanciest car; everyone could then work a bit less, spend more time with their families, and raise the sum total of human happiness. Or to put it a bit differently, Americans (or at least the top few percent of the income distribution) have gotten into a sort of arms race of conspicuous consumption that, like most arms races, consumes huge quantities of resources yet in the end changes little.
Paul Krugman, "The Mercedes Menace"

For every complex problem there is a solution which is straightforward, simple, and wrong.
H. L. Mencken

...simple statements of libertarian principle taken literally can be used to prove conclusions that nobody, libertarian or otherwise, is willing to accept. If the principle is softened enough to avoid such conclusions, its implications become far less clear. It is only by being careful to restrict the application of our principles to easy cases that we can make them seem at the same time simple and true.
David Friedman, "The Machinery Of Freedom", Chapter 41.

Our popular economics writers, however, are not in the business of giving their readers a ringside seat on the research action; with no exception I can think of, they use their books to do an end run around the normal structure of scholarship, to preach ideas that few serious economists share. Often, these ideas are not just at odds with the professional consensus; they are demonstrably wrong, and sometimes terminally silly. But they sound good to the unwary reader.
Paul Krugman, "The Accidental Theorist", introduction.

Ah, the Horatio Alger fallacy. The notion that everybody can be the exception. It works as well in capitalism as it does in lotteries.
Mike Huben

A favorite Wired icon for the information feedback loop, a dragon curling in a circle to swallow its own tail, could become more apt as a symbol of the timeless libertarian paradox: Monopoly verging on feudalism emerges from unregulated competition to bite libertarianism in the posterior.
Jedediah S. Purdy, The American Prospect no. 37

For at least the past 65 years, liberalism has been nothing if not an attempt to strike a balance between the needs of the community and the needs of individuals, between the need for freedom and the need for order.
Alan Brinkley, "Liberalism And Its Discontents"

The notion that a society could be regulated entirely by market forces is a utopian fantasy: an impossible dream generated by imagining what the world would be like if everyone's behavior was utterly consistent with some abstract moral ideal--in this case, economic theories that assume all human action is based on calculating, systematic, (but scrupulously law-abiding), greed.
David Rolfe Graeber, unpublished writing

The myth of the inevitability of economic globalization is based largely on the work of Milton Friedman, and easily the most underreported story of our time is that the current economy proves Friedman flatly wrong.
Molly Ivins

In that speech, Neil outlined his strategy of making the enforcement of the Bill of Rights the mission of the LP, starting with uncompromising defense of the second amendment - never calling it "gun control", always calling it "victim disarmament" instead...
Tim Starr, on libertarian propaganda strategies.

... on Usenet, when your opponents don't reply to you on any given point, that means you've won.
Tim Starr, on libertarian propaganda strategies.

Sir Fred Hoyle compared abiogenesis to a hurricane blowing though a junkyard assembling a Boeing 747. He's got it backwards: that's the creationist model, with God as the hurricane and man as the 747. Actual scientific models more resemble our knowledge of the history of the development of airplanes, with many predecessors to 747's and the development of crucial technologies long before the Wright brother's first plane.
Mike Huben

Religions do make claims about the universe--the same kinds of claims that scientists make, except they're usually false.
Richard Dawkins

To advance much further, however, they [economists] and other social scientists will have to cross the boundary between the social and natural sciences and trade with the biologists and psychologists they find on the other side. Just as, in his Nobel Lecture, Becker stated that his contribution was "to pry economists away from narrow assumptions about self-interest," the next step is for economists to free themselves completely, at long last, from the Standard Social Science Model of behavior and take seriously the biological and psychological foundations of human behavior. Amazingly, despite overwhelming evidence against it, the great majority still cling to the view that aside from meeting basic biological needs, people in modern societies make choices, in Becker's words, that "depend on childhood, social interactions, and cultural influences." Not, apparently, the hereditary epigenetic rules of human nature. The impoverishing consequence of this view has been the acceptance of folk psychology in even the most ingenious models.
E. O. Wilson, "Consilience"

Further research may reveal that the brain sometimes operates as a computerlike optimizer and sometimes as a quick decision-maker ruled by powerful and inborn heuristics. Whatever the mix, rational choice theory, though still the light and way to many social theorists, is a subject of controversy within psychology. It is too dependent, critics say, on analogies with computer algorithms and abstract optimality solutions. It pays too little attention to the properties of the real brain, which is a stone-age organ evolved over hundreds of millennia and only recently thrust into the alien environment of industrialized society. It is thus inconsistent with the evidence of how people in preliterate cultures reason and have likely reasoned throughout evolutionary time... It will be at once apparent, and should be a working premise of economists and social scientists, that the same preliterate traits are commonplace in the citizens of modern industrial societies... They are, like it or not, part of modern civilization.
E. O. Wilson, "Consilience"

There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses.
Andrew Jackson

The poor object to being governed badly, while the rich object to being governed at all.
G. K. Chesterton

All of us inevitably spend our lives evolving from an initial to a final stage of dependence. If we are fortunate enough to achieve power and relative independence along the way, it is a transient and passing glory.
Willard Gaylin

...there are two Hayeks. One, the modest and imaginative social theorist... The other Hayek is Hayek the libertarian; Hayek the paranoid and splenetic reactionary; the Hayek who fulminates against his pet hates -- 'the counter culture', 'permissive education', 'dropouts', 'parasites' and so on -- like any dyspeptic ten-a-penny rednecked blimp. This Hayek is unconnected with the former, and should be ignored.
Alan Haworth, in "Anti-Libertarianism: Markets, Philosophy and Myth".

And Hayek had no fondness for laissez-faire. Quite the contrary. He abhorred the term and the principle, insisting instead that markets do not come from nature or fall from the sky. "In no system that could be rationally defended would the state just do nothing. An effective competitive system needs an intelligently designed and continuously adjusted legal framework as much as any other." On this view, markets are constituted by government and law. They depend for their very existence on legal rules allocating basic rights and saying who can do what to whom. And in some places Hayek suggested that the appropriate legal framework would contain and specify a great deal. In 1945, he wrote that he has always been "in favor of a minimum income for every person in the country," largely but not only in the form of social insurance. At various times he suggested that he would accept maximum-hour laws, laws banning dangerous products, and laws protecting against unsafe workplace conditions and environmental deterioration.
Cass Sunstein, reviewing Hayek's "The Road To Serfdom"

In national balance sheets, economists seldom use full-cost accounting, which includes the loss of natural resources. A country can cut down all its trees, mine out its most profitable minerals, exhaust its fisheries, erode most of its soil, draw down its underground water and count all the proceeds as income and none of the depletion as cost. It can pollute the environment and promote policies that crowd its populace into urban slums, without charging the result to overhead... Competitive indexes and gross domestic products (GDPs) remain seductive, not to be messed up in conventional economic theory by adding the tricky complexities of environment and social cost. The time has come for economists and business leaders, who so haughtily pride themselves as masters of the real world, to acknowledge the existence of the real real world. New indicators of progress are needed to monitor the economy, wherein the natural world and human well-being, not just economic production, are awarded full measure.
E. O. Wilson, "Consilience"

The basic recipe in most religions and philosophies is "we want peace and justice except when we want to aggressively conquer, rob, and enslave our neighbors." There are blatant examples in the OT, Islam and probably most other religions and their writings. Such opportunism is as normal and adaptive as picking up money off the ground. If a religion or philosophy does not mention this aggressive aspect, then either they are concealing it or are sheltered within a society that performs this function for them.
Mike Huben

The modern corporation is frequently thought of as the epitome of private property. While buying and selling shares of corporate stock is a clear example of the rights of alienation at work, relationships within a firm are far from being "individual" ownership rights. Since the income that will be shared among stockholders, management, and employees is itself a common pool to be shared, all of the incentives leading to free riding (shirking) and overuse (padding the budget) are found within the structure of a modern corporation. Thus, where many individuals will work, live, and play in the next century will be governed and managed by mixed systems of communal and individual property rights.
Elinor Ostrom, "Encyclopedia Of Law And Economics"

It belongs to the genius of a great political leader to make even adversaries far removed from one another seem to belong to single category, because in weak and uncertain characters the knowledge of having different enemies can only too readily lead to the beginning of doubt in their own right. Once the wavering mass sees itself in a struggle against too many enemies, objectivity will put in an appearance, throwing open the question whether all others are really wrong and only their own movement are in the right. And this brings about the first paralysis of their own power. Hence a multiplicity of different adversaries must always be combined so that in the eyes of one's own supporters the struggle is directed against only one enemy.
Adolf Hitler, "Mein Kampf"

Ideology means taking some idea -- often legitimate in its own sphere -- to the extreme... Ideology offers certainty -- clear cut choices between good and evil, truth and falsehood. It pretends to have scientific answers to complex problems and holds out one easy standard to judge all cases. It thus relieves thinkers of the tedium involved in making difficult distinctions. In Procrustean fashion, ideologues cut facts to fit their ideas, rather than ideas to fit the facts. More often than not, their claims to science turn out to be little more than manipulative quackery.
Walter Adams and James Brock, "The Bigness Complex"

Contrary to the preachments of modern apologists, the competitive market is not a product of nature, nor is it automatically self-perpetuating. It is a delicate artifact that can be subverted from within by private interests who refuse to submit to the market's control or who arrogate to themselves its planning function... A free-enterprise society, therefore, must take positive and deliberate action to protect the competitive market from subversion and erosion. This is the primary task of the antitrust laws.
Walter Adams and James Brock, "The Bigness Complex"

Some "libertarians" suggest that the market system, acting in conjunction with the legal system [torts], will create sufficient incentives to deter antisocial behavior on the part of producers... Sadly, reality refutes this argument. As Mark Green and Beverly Moore have pointed out, the "victim's ability to collect is persistently undermined by the difficulty of calculating damages, imperfect substantive liability rules, restrictions on class actions, dilatory practices of defendant corporations, 'ethical' prohibitions against lawyers informing consumers of their right to sue, similar rules against lawyers financing and purchasing consumer causes of action, and the general high cost of legal representation"... Alas, the blind cry for deregulation is singularly unhelpful in resolving these problems, which are endemic in modern industrial society and which are not likely to disappear under the onslaught of ideological sloganeering.
Walter Adams and James Brock, "The Bigness Complex"

In markets where freedom of choice is hampered by inadequate information, or where rational choice requires extraordinary expertise, there is no acceptable alternative to government regulation. Contrary to libertarian preachments, it would be imprudent to expect an air traveler to do research required to avoid unsafe airlines, or for the automobile buyer to find out which cars are affected with rear-wheel lockup, or for the pregnant woman to conduct chemical tests to avoid drugs which may kill or deform her unborn child. Here social regulation is imperative, either by providing indispensable information to consumers or by prohibiting hazardous products outright. Here the privilege of free choice in a free market is the freedom to play Russian roulette with health and safety, and to impose the cost of death or injury on families or society.
Walter Adams and James Brock, "The Bigness Complex"

I hear Republicans and Libertarians and so forth talking about property rights, but they stop talking about property rights as soon as the subject of American Indians comes up, because they know fully well, perhaps not in a fully articulated, conscious form, but they know fully well that the basis for the very system of endeavor and enterprise and profitability to which they are committed and devoted accrues on the basis of theft of the resources of someone else. They are in possession of stolen property. They know it. They all know it. It's a dishonest endeavor from day one.
Ward Churchill, interview on ZNet

My contacts with Libertarians always leave me with a certain amount of contempt for their philosophies, which all seem to rely on the assumption that, if you can string together enough vague and high-sounding rhetoric, you can ignore both (1) all of human history and (2) what everyone else on earth now wants.

How much freedom I have depends on the number and nature of my options. And that, in turn, depends both on the rules of the game and on the assetts of the players: it is a very important and widely neglected truth that it does not depend on the rules of the game alone.
G.A. Cohen, "Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality" pg. 54

The organizer of industry who thinks he has 'made' himself and his business has found a whole social system ready to his hand in skilled workers, machinery, a market, peace and order -- a vast apparatus and a pervasive atmosphere, the joint creation of millions of men and scores of generations. Take away the whole social factor, and we have not Robinson Crusoe with his salvage from the wreck and his acquired knowledge, but the native savage living on roots, berries and vermin.
L. T. Hobhouse, 1974

There is a sentiment prevalent in this nation that takes for granted all the benefits we enjoy from our mutual association, that may recognize our heritage of freedom and may enjoy the progress and mode of existence that America represents, but that says "It is here only for my taking -- I owe it nothing, except to get for myself whatever I need or want."
Eyler Coates, Sr.

Laissez-faire economics is really just another government program. Whether you regulate, or you don't regulate, either way is a choice, and either choice is a deliberate government action or program. In other words, ANYTHING a free society does is a government action or program. You can't escape.
Eyler Coates, Sr.

Brian (not wanting to be a messiah): "You are all individuals..."
Crowd (in unison): "We are all individuals..."
Monty Python's "Life Of Brian"

nozick, n. (from nostrum + physick) Political snake oil, a patent medicine, esp. a cathartic or purgative. "Waste not logick, not yet strong physick, on the Leviathan; serve it nozick, and stand back." - Hobbes
Daniel Dennett, The Philosophical Lexicon

"Fierce individualism," a brief description of Rand philosophy, is pure authoritarianism, as pure individualism always must be. If any one individual can make a decision that affects others, and do so without consultation, then those affected must obey. The combination of "freedom" and "individualism" masks this truism.
Frederick Thayer, Professor, Public Policy, Southern University

With different rules as to assignment of property rights, particularly by way of inheritance or government grant, we could have just as strict a protection of each person's property rights, and just as little governmental interference with freedom of contract, but a very different pattern of economic relationships. Moreover, by judicious legal limitation on the bargaining power of the economically and legally stronger, it is conceivable that the economically weak would acquire greater freedom of contract than they now have--freedom to resist more effectively the bargaining power of the strong, and to obtain better terms.
Robert Hale, Bargaining, Duress, and Economic Liberty, 1943

We shall have governmental intervention anyway, even if unplanned, in the form of the enforcement of property rights assigned to different individuals according to legal rules laid down by the government. It is this unplanned governmental intervention which restricts economic liberty so drastically and so unequally at present.
Robert Hale, Bargaining, Duress, and Economic Liberty, 1943

[I]t is naive to suppose that the [Supreme] Court's present difficulties could be cured by appointing Justices determined to give the Constitution its true meaning," to work at "finding the law" instead of reforming society. The possibility implied by these comforting phrases does not exist.... History can be of considerable help, but it tells us much too little about the specific intentions of the men who framed, adopted and ratified the great clauses. The record is incomplete, the men involved often had vague or even conflicting intentions, and no one foresaw, or could have foreseen, the disputes that changing social conditions and outlooks would bring before the Court.
Robert Bork, Fortune, December 1968 p.140-1.

Odes of praise to the common law, and mistrust of legislative modifications of it, allow libertarians to say that the true benchmark of rights is provided by the older rules, not the newer ones. Judged against this standard, of course, the rules that benefit employers, landlords and manufacturers simply define liberty and property rights whereas the rules that benefit workers, tenants and consumers are interferences with liberty. The rules one likes are the foundations of sacred property rights, those one does not like are meddlesome regulation. This is a nice trick...
James Boyle, Libertarianism, Property & Harm

We cannot simply say "Well, individuals have a right to do anything that does not harm another" because that answer simply dissolves int another value-laden debate about what counts as "a harm" in the first place.
James Boyle, Libertarianism, Property & Harm

... in almost every argument that conservatives bring, the main critique is not on the merits of the progressive idea, but on the hypothetical consequences. Rather than showing, for example, that current standardized tests really are objective, they merely harangue liberals for doubting their objectivity. Instead of defending the current criteria for "merit," they point out the terrible consequences for society if the meritocracy did not function well.
James Boyle, The PC Harangue

In the United States, around the turn of the century, through radical judicial activism, the courts changed crucially the concept of the corporation. They simply redefined them so as to grant not only privileges to property owners, but also to what legal historians call "collectivist legal entities." Corporations, in other words, were granted early in this century the rights of persons, in fact, immortal persons, and persons of immense power. And they were freed from the need to restrict themselves to the grants of state charters. That's a very big change. It's essentially establishing major private tyrannies, which are furthermore unaccountable, because they're protected by First Amendment rights, freedom from search and seizure and so on, so you can't figure out what they're doing.
Noam Chomsky, in "A Corporate Watch Interview With Noam Chomsky"

But, that's the whole point of corporatization -- to try to remove the public from making decisions over their own fate, to limit the public arena, to control opinion, to make sure that the fundamental decisions that determine how the world is going to be run -- which includes production, commerce, distribution, thought, social policy, foreign policy, everything -- are not in the hands of the public, but rather in the hands of highly concentrated private power. In effect, tyranny unaccountable to the public.
Noam Chomsky, in "A Corporate Watch Interview With Noam Chomsky"

To say that governments are evil is on a par with saying that humans are evil. To claim that it is a necessary evil is on a par with saying that cars are a necessary evil. What we are really talking about are subjective preferences which may or may not be satisfied, not some theological notion of right and wrong. The inescapable evils of coercive behavior are not unique to government. Our government is where we choose to channel and regulate them, because the alternative (private, unregulated coercion) gives much worse results, as the history of privately owned states (monarchies, dictatorships, despotisms) and private "law" such as slavery, mafias, warlords, etc. show rather clearly. We have constructed a government that is jointly owned by all, because private ownership gives too much incentive for profit through coercion of others.
Mike Huben

... liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power...
James Madison, The Federalist, no. 63.

Marriage vows in an objectivist church would probably run along the lines of "Do you promise to attempt to dominate and subdue this woman until such time as you grow bored?" "Maybe." "Close enough. And do you promise to applaud this man`s production until such time as you find someone with a bigger ... corporation?" "Whatever." "By the power vested in me by having scammed you guys out of a marriage license fee, I now pronounce you man and appendage. May you be unencumbered by small persons."
Rob Slade, reviewing "Atlas Shrugged"

In claiming that prohibition, not the drugs themselves, is the problem, Nadelmann and many others -- even policemen -- have said that "the war on drugs is lost." But to demand a yes or no answer to the question "Is the war against drugs being won?" is like demanding a yes or no answer to the question "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" Never can an unimaginative and fundamentally stupid metaphor have exerted a more baleful effect upon proper thought.
Theodore Dalrymple, in City Journal

We've got the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLAble when it comes to crime in this country. The FBI says burglary and robbery cost U.S. taxpayers $3.8 billion annually. Securities fraud alone costs four times that. And securities fraud is nothing to the cost of oil spills, price-fixing, and dangerous or defective products. Fraud by health-care corporations alone costs us between $100 billion and $400 billion a year. No three-strikes-and-you're-out for these guys. Remember the S&L scandal? $500 billion.
Molly Ivans 3/8/2000

Development cannot really be so centered only on those in power.
Amartya Sen, Development As Freedom

The general uncertainty about the prospects of medical treatment is socially handled by rigid entry requirements. These are designed to reduce the uncertainty in the mind of the consumer as to the quality insofar as this is possible. I think this explanation, which is perhaps the naive one, is much more tenable than any idea of a monopoly seeking to increase incomes.
Kenneth Arrow, "Uncertainty and the Economics of Medical Care" 1963

Behind every model of government failure is an assumption that voters are poorly informed, serious competition is lacking, and/or transaction costs are excessively high. Economists are very suspicious of similar assumptions regarding economic markets. This skepticism should be carried over to models of political-market failure.
Donald Wittman, "The Myth Of Democratic Failure" 1995, pg. 192

To say that democratic political markets tend toward efficiency does not imply that political markets are superior to economic markets; rather it implies that democratic governments will allocate to economic markets those tasks in which the economic market is most efficient... Nor does it imply that mistakes are never made, just as efficient economic markets do not imply that consumers and business executives never err.
Donald Wittman, "The Myth Of Democratic Failure" 1995, pg. 193

No longer enslaved or made dependent by force of law, the great majority are so by force of property; they are still chained to a place, to an occupation, and to conformity with the will of an employer, and debarred by the accident of birth to both the enjoyments, and from the mental and moral advantages, which others inherit without exertion and independently of desert. That this is an evil equal to almost any of those against which mankind have hitherto struggles, the poor are not wrong in believing.
John Stuart Mill, "Chapters on Socialism", Collected Works, pg. 710

In the particular circumstances of a given age or nation, there is scarcely anything really important to the general interest, which it may not be desirable, or even necessary, that the government should take upon itself, not because private individuals cannot effectually perform it, but because they will not. At some times and places, there will be no roads, docks, harbours, canals, works of irrigation, hospitals, schools, colleges, printing-presses, unless the government establishes them; the public being either too poor to command the necessary resources, or too little advanced in intelligence to appreciate the ends, or not sufficiently practised in joint action to be capable of the means.
John Stuart Mill, "The Principles Of Poitical Economy", Book 5, Chapter 11.

Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.
H. L. Mencken

Even those who identify themselves as libertarians follow an overtly anti-rationalist philosophy, as even a brief acquaintance with the work of Friedrich Hayek should make clear. The argument against reason in this literature is straightforward: it is impossible for any individual to acquire enough reliable information to make a rational decision, any actions founded on rational thought will therefore be delusional, any attempts at reason should therefore regarded as dangerous, and all action should instead be guided by tradition.
Phil Agre, "The Crisis of Public Reason"

Conservatism is constitutionally opposed to public reason, and this explains the abandon with which so many conservative pundits embrace flagrant simulations of reason, constructed through the methods of public relations, and exhibit so little regard for the real thing.
Phil Agre, "The Crisis of Public Reason"

Deductive logic is airtight in a precise sense: given the premises, the conclusions follow. Proponents of technical rationalization often feel very strongly, and it is easy to see where they get their fervor. The matters that they model are often controversial, and answers that can be publicly defended through airtight deductive logic are greatly to be preferred to the hidden agendas of politicians and entrepreneurs... The serious problem with rationalization concerns the premises and presuppositions of the model: "given the premises, the conclusions follow", but the premises are rarely as "given" as all that, and the conclusions only follow if the world corresponds to the assumptions that have been built into the model. Most of these models depend on quantitative "inputs" that are subject to measurement error, assuming that they can even be measured. Sensitivity analysis (computing the partial derivative of the output with respect to a particular input) often reveals that the answers that formal models provide depend so radically on unmeasurable inputs that they are worthless.
Phil Agre, "The Crisis of Public Reason"

Libertarians and their "I've got mine, Jack" philosphy are people who were born on third base and think they've hit life's triple. In America's egalitarian society it should surprise no one this cramped, neo-Victorian philosophy has not caught on.
Russell Sadler, commentator, Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Oregon

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan

A capitalist democracy necessarily performs a complex straddle when it comes to the role of business. On the one hand, we want business to succeed - to innovate, to create jobs, and to provide a wide choice of consumer products. One the other hand, the whole history of capitalism tells us that business, left to its own devices, commits assaults that are not necessary for commerce to thrive but are merely opportunistic. Corporations poison the air and water, treat workers like throwaway parts, deceive investors, and lobby against the mildest social reforms... The only counterweight is an aroused citizenry and an effective, accountable government. If this be class warfare, so be it.
Robert Kuttner, 9/3/2000

Americans feel themselves overburdened by a welfare system that is in fact, by the standards of other rich countries, both lean and mean. The relative generosity of the European welfare regimes may cost them some excess unemployment, but that does not explain why the rich European economies did not match the American boom of the 1990s. More important reasons are excessively tight monetary policy, failures of industrial competition, and restrictive controls on the labor market. The welfare state seems to encroach on the economy only when it grows to Swedish proportions. What really distinguishes the US is the equanimity with which the majority contemplates the poverty of a minority.
Robert M. Solow, "Welfare: The Cheapest Country"

Institutions and infrastructures shape our lives while remaining largely out of sight. We inductively learn that the world works in a certain way, but we don't understand how much complicated effort goes into producing and reproducing the institutions and infrastructures that *enable* the world to work that way. The result might be called first-world myopia. People in the first world live in a dream. We think that we determine our own fates, that we are free and autonomous individuals, when in fact we live in bubbles whose preconditions would scare us if we knew just how numerous they are. If there's a rock in the road, we just assume that it's someone's job to pick it up. The supermarket will have food in it. Airplanes fly. You can get parts for your car... First-world myopia means that you can forget, or never even know, about the elaborate institutional systems that make it possible to live in a bubble... First-world myopia, by contrast, can be downright dangerous. Think of all those "experts" who flew to Russia in 1989 to advise the Russians about how to create a market democracy. Those people were dangerous fools. They had no idea what life was like in a society without functioning institutions. They really believed all this drivel about the free market meaning an absence of government.
Phil Agre, Red Rock Eater News Service 12/22/00

Environmental laws give power to the people. Republicans can huff, puff and scream about what they consider strict regulations, but when they cry out for reform, for a quicker process, they're really calling for a restriction of the rights of people to be involved in the planning process.
Daniel Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC-Berkeley

For she [Rand] further holds that objective reality is readily accessible by solitary individuals using words and logic alone. This proposition -- rejected by nearly all modern scientists -- is essentially a restatement of the Platonic worldview, a fundamental axiom of which is that the universe is made up of ideal essences or 'values' (the term Rand preferred) that can be discovered, dispassionately examined, and _objectively_ analyzed by those few bold minds who are able to finally free themselves from hoary assumptions of the past. Once freed, any truly rational individual must, by simply applying verbal reasoning, independently reach the same set of fundamental conclusions about life, justice and the universe. (Naturally, any mind that fails to do so must, by definition, not yet be free.)
David Brin, September 2000 issue of Liberty magazine

It is a true slight that a man who occupies himself dissecting ten thousand mites gets the same pleasure of libertarians.
William J. Westmiller

I'll tell you what I'd do if it were up to me: I would establish a strictly controlled distribution network through which I would make most drugs, excluding the most dangerous ones like crack, legally available. Initially I would keep the prices low enough to destroy the drug trade. Once that objective was attained I would keep raising the prices, very much like the excise duty on cigarettes, but I would make an exception for registered addicts in order to discourage crime. I would use a portion of the income for prevention and treatment. And I would foster social opprobrium of drug use.
George Soros

'Tis true that governments cannot be supported without great charge, and it is fit everyone who enjoys a share of protection should pay out of his estate his proportion of the maintenance of it.
John Locke

The subjects of every state ought to contribute toward the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state ....[As Henry Home (Lord Kames) has written, a goal of taxation should be to] 'remedy inequality of riches as much as possible, by relieving the poor and burdening the rich.'
Adam Smith

[What Hayek] does not see, or will not admit, [is] that a return to "free" competition means for the great mass of people a tyranny probably worse, because more irresponsible, than that of the State. The trouble with competitions is that somebody wins them. Professor Hayek denies that free capitalism necessarily leads to monopoly, but in practice that is where it has led, and since the vast majority of people would far rather have State regimentation than slumps and unemployment, the drift towards collectivism is bound to continue if popular opinion has any say in the matter.
George Orwell, in a 1944 review of "The Road to Serfdom" by F.A. Hayek and "The Mirror of the Past" by K. Zilliacus

These days, however, the main problem comes from the right -- from conservatives who, unlike most economists, really do think that the free market is always right--to such an extent that they refuse to believe even the most overwhelming scientific evidence if it seems to suggest a justification for government action.
Paul Krugman, "Earth In The Balance"

Such regulations [banking regulations] may, no doubt, be considered as in some respect a violation of natural liberty. But those exertions of the natural liberty of a few individuals, which might endanger the security of the whole society, are, and ought to be, restrained by the laws of all governments; of the most free, as well as of the most despotical. The obligation of building party walls, in order to prevent the communcation of fire, is a violation of natural liberty, exactly of the same kind with the regulations of the banking trade which are here proposed.
Adam Smith, "The Wealth Of Nations", pg. 263

Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen, its counsellors are always the masters. When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters.
Adam Smith, "The Wealth Of Nations", pg. 151

The capricious ambition of kings and ministers has not, during the present and the preceding century, been more fatal to the repose of Europe, than the impertinent jealousy of merchants and manufacturers. The violence and injustice of the rulers of mankind is an ancient evil, for which, I am afraid, the nature of human affairs can scarce admit of a remedy. But the mean rapacity, the monopolizing spirit of merchants and manufacturers, who neither are, nor ought to be, the rulers of mankind, though it cannot perhaps be corrected, may very easily be prevented from disturbing the tranquillity of any body but themselves.
Adam Smith, "The Wealth Of Nations", pg. 382

Our merchants and master manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price, and thereby lessening the sale of their goods both at home and abroad. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effcts of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.
Adam Smith, "The Wealth Of Nations", pg. 104

Unfortunately for ethical egoism, the claim that we will all be better off if every one of us does what is in his or her own interest is incorrect. This is shown by what are known as "prisoner's dilemma" situations, which are playing an increasingly important role in discussions of ethical theory... At least on the collective level, therefore, egoism is self-defeating -- a conclusion well brought out by Parfit in his aforementioned Reasons and Persons.
Peter Singer, Encyclopedia Britannica article on ethics.

Having created the conditions that make markets possible, democracy must do all the things that markets undo or cannot do.
Benjamin Barber, "Jihad vs. McWorld"

Markets are interested in profits and profits only; service, quality, and general affluence are different functions altogether. The universal, democratic prosperity that Americans now look back to with such nostalgia was achieved only by a colossal reigning in of markets, by the gargantuan effort of mass, popular organizations like labor unions and of the people themselves, working through a series of democratically elected governments not daunted by the myths of the market.
Thomas Frank, "One Market Under God", pg. 87

Personal property is the effect of Society; and it is as impossible for an individual to acquire personal property without the aid of society, as it is for him to make land originally. Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a continent to possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases, that where the former do not exist, the latter cannot be obtained. All accumulation therefore of personal property, beyond what a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes, on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came. This is putting the matter on a general principle, and perhaps it is best to do so; for if we examine the case minutely, it will be found, that the accumulation of personal property is, in many instances, the effect of paying too little for the labour that produced it; the consequence of which is, that the working hand perishes in old age, and the employer abounds in affluence. It is perhaps impossible to proportion exactly the price of labour to the profits it produces; and it will also be said, as an apology for injustice, that were a workman to receive an increase of wages daily, he would not save it against old age nor be much the better for it in the interim. Make then Society the treasurer to guard it for him in a common fund, for it is no reason that because he might not make a good use of it for himself that another shall take it.
Thomas Paine, "Agrarian Justice" 1797

On the conservative side, today's libertarianism is far more dogmatic and devoid of qualification than the liberalism of Adam Smith or J.S. Mill. Like Marxism, libertarianism is a utopian worldview based on an economic-determinist vision of history. Unlike Marxism, libertarianism is highly specific in its predictions about the transition to the utopian world order, rendering it vulnerable to fact.
Michael Lind, The American Prospect, Dec. 1, 1994

The exact words keep shuffling and recombining, but the formula never varies: attack them by declaring that they are attacking us, encourage hatred against them by suggesting that they hate us, undermine respect for their right to speak by asserting that they are trying to silence us, legitimize the most elaborate campaigns against them by revealing their conspiracies against us, justify our incivility toward them by pouncing on the least sign of disrespect in their treatment of us, and respond to charges like these by adducing a few examples to the effect of "they're really the ones who are doing that to us". Regardless of the psychology that might inwardly motivate them, the outward effect of these rhetorical devices is to project the rhetor's own aggression onto the object of that aggression, refusing personal responsibility by portraying all of one's actions as responses necessitated by the aggressive other. This denial of responsibility is routinely found in domestic violence cases, for example. Its most important product is confusion: simply being exposed to it makes clear thinking difficult, and its absolute genius is that any attempt to identify it (like my own here) is readily portrayed as precisely an example of it.
Phil Agre, RRE April 22nd 1995

For over a century, popular struggles in the democracies have used the nation-state to temper raw capitalism. The power of voters has offset the power of capital. But as national barriers have come down in the name of freer commerce, so has the capacity of governments to manage capitalism in a broad public interest. So the real issue is not "trade" but democratic governance.
Robert Kuttner

... "extreme capitalism": the obsessive, uncritical penetration of the concept of the market into every aspect of American life, and the attempt to drive out every other institution, including law, art, culture, public education, Social Security, unions, community, you name it. It is the conflation of markets with populism, with democracy, with diversity, with liberty, and with choice---and so the denial of any form of choice that imposes limits on the market. More than that, it is the elimination of these separate concepts from our political discourse, so that we find ourselves looking to the stock market to fund retirement, college education, health care, and having forgotten that in other wealthy and developed societies these are rights, not the contingent outcomes of speculative games.
James K. Galbraith

Libertarian policy prescriptions are based on just a few principles, outwardly appealing in their seeming simplicity ...'simple rules for a complex world.' The first ... is that social problems can be resolved by creating a market. Are schools failing? Create a free market in education. Is there pollution or waste of resources? Create a market in the resource or the right to pollute; ... Is there a shortage of human organs for transplants? Let people sell their body parts. Not enough babies for adoption? Allow people to sell their babies ... These principles of 'economic correctness' are increasingly mouthed in the universities and especially in conservative think tanks, but their obvious long-term implications may strike ordinary Americans as horribly cruel. They need to hear this economic gibberish first-hand... Free-market rhetoric is powerfully persuasive only to a certain kind of elite audience; uncoupled from nationalist appeals...it begins to lose its power to motivate general audiences in a positive way.
James Arnt Aune, "Selling the Free Market"

Aune goes on to focus closely on the rhetorical practices of several major libertarians: the legal scholar Richard Posner, the novelist and Greenspan mentor Ayn Rand, the philosopher Robert Nozick, and the polemicist Charles Murray. He shows how the "realist style" of economic argument works, combining the definition of any "object, person or relationship as a commodity"; reliance on quasi-logical argument; appeals to irony (via reference to the "inevitable perversity of well-intentioned social programs"); failure to respond to opposing arguments (because "in real science, when fundamental questions are settled, only cranks dispute them"); and perhaps above all, the avoidance of empirical investigation. Once one decodes these devices, cracking the arguments becomes a parlor game, not more difficult than crossword puzzles nor less routine.
James K. Galbraith, in a review of "Selling the Free Market"

[The US] budget is dominated by the retirement programs, Social Security and Medicare -- loosely speaking, the post-cold-war federal government is a big pension fund that also happens to have an army.
Paul Krugman, NY Times 7/11/01

Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand. It is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.
Wendell Berry

"'Rugged individualism'... is only a masked attempt to repress and defeat the individual and his individuality.... [It] has inevitably resulted in the crassest class distinctions... [and] has meant all the 'individualism' for the masters, while the people are regimented into a slave caste to serve a handful of self-seeking 'supermen.'"
Red Emma Speaks, p. 89

"NAMBLA" logic - an extreme absolutist position which demands that for logical consistencies sake that certain gross crimes be allowed, in order that no one might feel restrained.
Stirling S. Newberry

... every special interest is entitled to justice, but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office. The Constitution guarantees protections to property, and we must make that promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation. The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth; who insists that the creature of man's making shall be the servant and not the master of the man who made it. The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being.
Teddy Roosevelt, "The New Nationalism" 1910

Modern political argument is much like a magic show. Even though you know that it's all tricks performed by misdirection and props, if you don't know exactly how it is done, you may have to look very hard to figure it out. One big difference is that modern magician's associations have a rule that the magician must NOT present his performance as real or due to supernatural powers, but as illusion. In politics, they are not that honest.
Mike Huben

Seven habits that help produce the anything-but-efficient markets that rule the world.
1. Think short term.
2. Be greedy.
3. Believe in the greater fool
4. Run with the herd.
5. Overgeneralize
6. Be trendy
7. Play with other people's money
Paul Krugman in Fortune Magazine.

The principle of laissez-faire may be safely trusted to in some things but in many more it is wholly inapplicable; and to appeal to it on all occasions savors more of the policy of a parrot than of a statesman or a philosopher.
J. R. McCulloch, 1848

Of course, anarchists will not understand this at all, and I can only ask them what replaces their hated state: some sort of Big Rock Candy Mountain in which we all get what we need including a lake of stew and whiskey too, or the physical domination of most of us by savage boys, large armed men and corporations. My street smarts tell me it is the latter.
Edward G. Nilges, 2001-09-16

One of the most extraordinary examples in recent decades [of unitary visions of constitutional enterprise] is found in a book called "Takings"... Epstein makes an extremely clever but stunningly reductionist argument that the whole Constitution is really designed to protect private property... Can a constitution reflecting as diverse an array of visions and aspirations as ours really be reducible to such as sadly single-minded vision as that?
Lawrence Tribe and Michael Dorf, "On Reading The Constitution", pg. 28

The price of liberty is, in addition to eternal vigilance, eternal patience with the vacuous blather occasionally expressed from behind the shield of free speech.
Michael Shermer, in Scientific American, June 2001 pg.37

... In a free society, skeptics are the watchdogs against irrationalism -- the consumer advocates of ideas. Debunking is not simply the divestment of bunk; its utility is in offering a better alternative, along with a lesson on how thinking goes wrong.
Michael Shermer, in Scientific American, June 2001 pg.37

... you Libertarians are amazing. You've managed to construct an entire political ideology based on the phrase 'FUCK OFF.'
Richard James Winters III

But what's even worse, you've been robbed of the most important thing of all, the ability to think rationally; to weigh and measure and compare concepts... How? The US Libertarian Party has redefined your vocabulary. The most basic concepts. For examples: individual, society, freedom, government regulation and taxation, theft, Nazi, socialist, the standard R-L continuum, and more. In short, they have created a separate political reality for you, rich in feelsgoodism. In short, if anyone outside of the Libbie Reality attempts to communicate with you, each side will hear only gibberish. In propaganda terms, this means the propagandist need not adjust your values, because standardized values and logic operating with these new definitions will result in the desired conclusions. And of course, this also renders the victim immune from outside rebuttal. Even common historical facts, such as encyclopedia quotations will, and must, seem like gibberish. So this is a very safe and comfy world, nobody can challenge you.
Doug Bashford

Companies like Enron have learned that small investments in endowing chairs, sponsoring research programs or hiring moonlighting professors can return big payoffs in generating books, reports, articles, testimony and other materials to push for and rationalize public policy positions that damage the public interest but benefit corporate bottomlines.
Ralph Nader, January 31, 2002

A properly functioning free market system does not spring spontaneously from society's soil as crabgrass springs from suburban lawns. Rather, it is a complex creation of laws and mores... Capitalism is a government program.
George Will, This Week with Sam Donaldson, Jan. 13, 2002

The ideology of radical libertarianism is both mistaken and harmful -- not least, to legitimate free expression in the service of truth. The error lies in exalting freedom "to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values.... In this way the inescapable claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity and 'being at peace with oneself'" There is no room for authentic community, the common good, and solidarity in this way of thinking.
Pontifical Council For Social Communications, Ethics In Internet

Though editorialists at The New York Times and The Washington Post still don't get it, most Democrats in Congress finally do: Today's trade disputes are no longer mostly about tariffs, quotas, or free entry of goods. They are about the ground rules for capitalism. Are there to be only property rights? What about the other rights that liberal democracies have fought for since the 1880s?
Robert Kuttner, "Good News," The American Prospect vol. 13 no. 11, June 17, 2002.

Populism is the simple premise that markets need to be restrained by society and by a democratic political system. We are not socialists or communists, we are proponents of regulated capitalism and, I might add, people who have read American history.
Molly Ivins, May 30, 2002

If Austrians have gained credibility, it's because they've rejected their more, well, austrian theorizations. How Osteopathetic of them, huh?
George Haley, 2002-08-13

One of the substantive positions that I seek to avoid is one for which I have a great deal of affection: it's the stripped-down version of the libertarian theory of the minimum state, in which the essential role of government is to use its monopoly of force is to prevent harms to ordinary individuals, where the relevant harms to others are described in the narrow language of force and fraud. There is no doubt that government must occupy this critical role. It is far less clear that it should be limited to it in light of the many common activities that sensible government routinely undertake. We must therefore take steps to bolster the constrained vision. Most obviously, it is generally accepted that we have some system of taxation. It is also clear that the government has some role in respect in supplying social infrastructure. Neither of those two functions fit very easily within the narrow libertarian framework.
Richard A. Epstein, speech about "Skepticism and Freedom"

When you are young in this world, you believe that the class of deductive truths about social matters is larger than it turns out to be. The great attraction of libertarian thought lay in its deductive power. The hope was that you could axiomatize the system and sort of render social problems amenable to a set of principles that yielded necessary or deductive truths. That vision certainly fired my early academic life... Essentially, as I have gotten older and maybe a little bit wiser -- which why that 30 years really start to matter -- I have discovered, to my infinite regret, that most of the serious debates over the basic principles of any political order have an irreducible empirical content.
Richard A. Epstein, "Skepticism and Freedom"

One of the great weaknesses of standard libertarian theory is that it tends to push too hard by elevating presumptions into absolutes.
Richard A. Epstein, "Skepticism and Freedom"

To my knowledge, all libertarian philosophers (except Conway), from Hayek to Nozick to James Buchanon to lesser-known writers such as Anthony Flew and Tibor Machan, reject the positive-libertarian alternative, preferring to rely on the claim that only negative liberty is "real" liberty... [however] there is no difference in the amount of negative liberty afforded people by libertarianism and by competing systems of property law.
Jeffrey Friedman, "What's Wrong With Libertarianism"

In editing a journal that has received manuscripts from virtually every libertarian scholar, famous and unknown alike, I have long been struck by the consistent juxtiposition of... libertarian philosophical sentiments with weak empirical research, leaps of logic, contempt for non-libertarian points of view (of which the authors usually appear ignorant). The polemical tone and deficient evidence, however, and the tarnishing of often-good ideas by doctrinaire rhetoric and low scholarly standards, are only the least of it. The worst thing is not the waste of effort that goes into producing propaganda barely veiled by the robes of scholarship. The greater tragedy is what libertarians could produce, but do not.
Jeffrey Friedman, "What's Wrong With Libertarianism"

... there is nothing in Rand's philosophy with which to restrain lust, avarice, careerism or other rude passions. Her thinking does not deal well with the irrational side of man. This failure can be seen in her own behavior, in the affair she had with Nathaniel Branden. Resting on the weak reed of human rationality, wickedness crept up from behind and blindsided her. Rand's philosophy was no protection against the miserable course of her personal life, and offers no better for the life of our country.
J.R. Nyquist

[Custom and tradition] are due neither to what is sometimes called the unconscious, nor to intuition, nor to rational understanding. Though in a sense based on human experience... they were shaped in the course of cultural evolution, they were not formed by drawing reasoned conclusions from certain particular facts or from an awareness that things behaved in a particular way. Though governed in our conduct by what we have learned, we often do not know why we do what we do. Learnt moral rules, customs, progressively displaced innate responses, [are followed] not because men recognized by reason that they were better but because they made possible the growth of an extended order exceeding anyone's vision, in which more effective collaboration enabled its members, however blindly, to maintain more people and to displace other groups.
Friedrich Hayek on "the fatal conceit".

One cannot overstate the childishness of the ideas that feed and stir the masses. Real ideas must as a rule be simplified to the level of a child's understanding if they are to arouse the masses to historic actions. A childish illusion, fixed in the minds of all children born in a certain decade and hammered home for four years, can easily reappear as a deadly serious political ideology twenty years later.
Sebastian Haffner, "Defying Hitler" pg. 17

Ideology is the curse of public affairs because it converts politics into a branch of theology and sacrifices human beings on the thoughts of abstractions.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

The key reason executives are paid so much now is that they appoint the members of the corporate board that determines their compensation and control many of the perks that board members count on. So it's not the invisible hand of the market that leads to those monumental executive incomes; it's the invisible handshake in the boardroom.
Paul Krugman, "For Richer" in New York Times Magazine 10/20/02

After all, there's a lot of experience with privatization by governments at all levels -- state, federal, and local; that record doesn't support extravagant claims about improved efficiency. Sometimes there are significant cost reductions, but all too often the promised savings turn out to be a mirage. In particular, it's common for private contractors to bid low to get the business, then push their prices up once the government work force has been disbanded. Projections of a 20 or 30 percent cost saving across the board are silly -- and one suspects that the officials making those projections know that.
Paul Krugman, The New York Times, 11.19.02

I finally understood. The scientific evidence that I use must be junk science, because I am a "personal injury lawyer" and therefore I must be out to "shake down deep pocket businesses" on behalf of my venal clients, who are dying from leukemia, liver disease, kidney failure and fatal lung diseases. I found it interesting that according to Mr. Malloy [sic; Steven Milloy], junk science is only used by personal injury lawyers, not defense attorneys. I also found it interesting that according to Mr. Malloy, junk science isn't used by chemical companies to defeat meritorious toxic injury claims, but only to attack competitors.
Raphael Metzger, Esq., in The Furor Over Junk Science: The Perspective Of A Plaintiff's Attorney

The most ardent antigovernment libertarian tacitly accepts his own dependency on govenment, even while rhetorically denouncing signs of dependency in others. This double-think is the core of the American libertarian stance.
Holmes and Sunstein, "The Cost of Rights", p 63.

Philosophers also distinguish between liberty and the value of liberty. Liberty has little value if those who ostensibly posess it lack the resources to make their rights effective. Freedom to hire a lawyer means little if all lawyers charge fees, if the state will not help, and if you have no money. The right to private property, and important part of liberty, means little if you lack the resources to protect what you own and the police are unavailable. Only liberties that are valuable in practice lend legitimacy to a liberal political order.
Holmes and Sunstein, "The Cost of Rights", p 20.

Many conservatives cling instinctively to a cost-blind approach to the protection of the so-called negative rights of property and contract, because staring hard at the costs would shatter the libertarian fiction that individuals who exercise their rights in the classic or eighteenth-century-sense, are just going about their own business, immaculately independent of the government and the taxpaying community. The public costs of non-welfare rights show, among other things, that "private wealth," as we know it, exists only because of governmental institutions.
Holmes and Sunstein, "The Cost of Rights", p 29.

David Hume, the Scottish philosopher, liked to point out that private property is a monopoly granted and maintained by public authority at the public's expense.
Holmes and Sunstein, "The Cost of Rights", p 61.

That the rich -- owing their wealth, in part, to cooperatively maintained law and government -- should pay for the voluntary self-restraint and cooperation of the impoverished, rather than trying to cow them into a facsimile of self-restraint, is forcefully asserted by even the most impeccably liberal theorists. For instance, John Stuart Mill wrote that "since the state must necessarily provide subsistance for the criminal poor while undergoing punishment, not to do the same for the poor who have not offended is to give a premium on crime."
Holmes and Sunstein, "The Cost of Rights", pp 193-4.

Individual freedom, however defined, cannot mean freedom from all forms of dependency. No human being can single-handedly create all the preconditions for his own action. A free citizen is especially dependent. He may feel "independent" when he goes into a do-it-yourself store and buys a do-it-yourself kit. But his autonomy is an illusion. Liberal theory should therefore distinguish freedom, which is desirable, from nondependence, which is impossible. Liberty, rightly conceived, does not require a lack of dependence on government; on the contrary, affirmative government provides the preconditions for liberty. The Bill of Rights is a do-it-yourself kit that citizens can obtain only at taxpayer-funded outlets.
Holmes and Sunstein, "The Cost of Rights", p 205.

At the risk of oversimplification, the public protection of the private rights of property owners can be understood as the following sort of bargain: the government first lays down, interprets, and enforces the rules that assign property to particular individuals, and then it provides security of possession to owners in exchange for political support and a steady flow of revenue. The delivery of welfare rights (understood capaciously to include more than cash transfers) is part of an ancillary exchange by which the government and the taxpaying citizens recompense the poor, or at least give them symbolic recognition, for their cooperative behavior during war and peace. Most importantly, welfare rights compensate the indigent for receiving less value than the rich from the rights ostensibly guaranteeed equally to all Americans. Entitlement programs cost the American taxpayer $700 billion in 1996. This astronomical expenditure, which accounted for 30% of the budget, was not simply an expression of fellow feeling or a logical corollary of principles of justice. Rather, entitlements can be shaved back but not eliminated entirely because they lend legitimacy both to the property rights of the wealthy and the state apparatus that enforces them. In this sense, they are a bargain among social groups in which the government of the day acts as a go-between.
Holmes and Sunstein, "The Cost of Rights", pp 208-9.

At common law, only the sovereign is said to have an absolute interest in land: ordinary landowners 'hold of the sovereign.
Holmes and Sunstein, "The Cost of Rights", p 63.

The question whether the state should or should not "act" or "interfere" poses an altogether false alternative, and the term "laissez faire" is a highly ambiguous and misleading description of the principles on which a liberal policy is based. Of course, every state must act and every action of the state interferes with something or other. [...] The state controlling weights and measures (or preventing fraud and deception in any other way) is certainly acting, while the state permitting the use of violence, for example by strike pickets, is inactive. Yet it is in the first case that the state observes liberal principles and in the second that it does not.
Hayek, "The Road to Serfdom" pp 80-81 U of Chicago Press 1972

People seem to be faintly drawn to the idea that there might be more political dimensions than just "left" and "right". Bullshit. Being in favour of allowing other people to take drugs, shag each other or read what they want isn't a political position; it's what we call "manners", "civilisation" or "humanity", depending on the calibre of yokel you're trying to educate. The political question of interest splits fair and square down a Left/Right axis: either you think that it is more important to provide a decent life for everyone in the world, or you think it is more important to preserve the rights of people who own property. You can hum and haw as much as you like about whether the two are necessarily incompatible, or whether the one is instrumental to the other, or what constitutes a "decent life" anyway, but when you've finished humming and hawing, I'm still gonna be asking you the question, and your answer to it will determine whether or not we're gonna have an argument.
Daniel Davies, d-squareddigest, December 31, 2002

But at base, the test of someone's politics is simple; if their political aim is to advance all of humanity, they're on our side, while if they have an overriding constraint that the current owners of property must always be satisfied first, they're playing for the opposition.
Daniel Davies, D-Squared Digest, May 21, 2003

"[T]he single most sensible thing said in political philosophy in the twentieth century was JK Galbraith's aphorism that the quest of conservative thought throughout the ages has been "the search for a higher moral justification for selfishness". Some rightwingers are not hypocrites because they admit that their basic moral principle is "what I have, I keep". Some rightwingers are hypocrites because they pretend that "what I have, I keep" is always and everywhere the best way to express a general unparticularised love for all sentient things. Then there are the tricky cases where the rightwingers happen to be on the right side because we haven't yet discovered a better form of social organisation than private property for solving several important classes of optimisation problems..."
Daniel Davies, D-Squared Digest, May 21, 2003

It's odd that libertarians are in favour of all sorts of liberties which don't involve property, but turn into absolute authoritarians on the concept of property. I'm massively in favour of liberty, but I don't think that the construction of 35 million tiny dictatorships is the way to go about it.
Daniel Davies, d-squareddigest, January 2, 2003

How is property given? By restraining liberty; that is, by taking it away so far as necessary for the purpose. How is your house made yours? By debarring every one else from the liberty of entering it without your leave.
Jeremy Bentham, "Anarchical Fallacies"

The function of State coercion is to override individual coercion, and, of course, coercion exercised by any association of individuals within the State. It is by this means that it maintains liberty of expression, security of person and property, genuine freedom of contract, the rights of public meeting and association, and finally its own power to carry out common objects undefeated by the recalcitrance of individual members.
L. T. Hobhouse, "Liberalism", Chapter 7

I have written elsewhere that the word God is often used as a semantic stopsign, meaning simultaneously "Stop asking questions" and "I have won this argument." The word "right" is used similarly. People frequently use it in a context where it has no other possible meaning, like a child at the dinner table proclaiming angrily "I have a right to speak!"
Jonathan Wallace, "Natural Rights Don't Exist"

A point, strangely, which nobody makes is that riproaring capitalism can be as unpredictable as arbitrary rule, and thus equally makes nonsense of people's attempts to provide for the future.
R. A. D. Grant, discussing Critical Review's Hayek issue.

No one doubts that pure libertarianism is simple, but that's just why it remains on the ideological fringe -- because it boils down the most difficult questions in human affairs to a simple equation, a What Would the Market Do bumper sticker.
Ross Douthat, The American Scene :: 2/12/2003

I believe in the Free Market Fairy And the Tort Sprite too. They'll keep our power cheap and our air and water clean. All you have to do is close your eyes and tap your money clip three times.
Gen. JC Christian, Patriot

"Individual liberty" is the biggest hook that the libertarians have, but it is a terribly one-dimensional measure for civil society. Even worse is the monotonicity of such measurements: the drive to absolutism. No political philosophy is worth considering unless it is BALANCING competing values both of individuals and between individiuals.
Mike Huben

The strange thing about Ayn Rand is that, in a world run on the principles she purports, her own literary career would not have existed. In a society where the most skilled rise to power and others fade, she would never have been published. Despite the enticing allure of some of her ideas, it is hard to dispute the view that Rand is a singularly dreadful writer, with her "good guys" boasting heroic names and her "bad guys" given names that would make Mortimer Snerd chuckle, and romance dialogue that wouldn't make it past Harlequin's first cut. Anyone who has ever taken even an introductory class in literature would concur.

Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts.
Molly Ivins

The problem with conservative think-tank hacks, you see, is that their ideas crumble upon contact with things like statistics and arithmetic.
Tapped (edited by Richard Just) 9/22/03

One of the failings of ideologues is their inability to see that everyone else isn't necessarily an ideologue like them.
Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo 10/3/2003

The original Greek word "idiotes" referred to people who might have had a high IQ, but were so self-involved that they focused exclusively on their own life and were both ignorant of and uncaring about public concerns and the common good.
Jim Hightower, "Thieves in High Places"

Libertarianism has also been defined with some plausibility as the form taken by liberalism as common sense asymptotically approaches zero.
Richard Carnes

... yet another irregular verb:

Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber, December 16, 2003

Markets operate by buying and selling, they treat things as commodities, and unless prevented from doing so they turn people also into commodities. Until control was imposed to prevent it the outcome of market operations was either chattel slavery or some virtual equivalent, peonage or serfdom or naked children towing trucks in the mines. It was the "free" market that hunted the blacks through African forests and brought them to the auction block in Charleston. Chattel slavery, and exploitation of "free" workers that was hardly better, were ended only when (and where) government imposed control upon the market to prevent these things happening.
George Walford, "Friedman Or Free Men?"

Moralistic or rights-based libertarianism has little appeal to the general public, as R. W. Bradford says, because it relies more on dogma and declarations than on evidence, reasoning, and dialogue. It reaches sweeping and detailed policy conclusions in a suspiciously easy way, with scant attention to the real world. Some of them, like Murray Rothbard's conclusions about contracts, bankruptcy, extortion, blackmail, and crime as private transactions between perpetrators and victims, as well as the supposed "heroism" of the scumbags defended in Walter Block's notorious book (Defending The Undefendable, 1976), are outlandish on their face.
Leland B. Yeager, In Defense of Utility

He always pictured himself a libertarian, which to my way of thinking means "I want the liberty to grow rich and you can have the liberty to starve". It's easy to believe that no one should depend on society for help when you yourself happen not to need such help.
Isaac Asimov, "I. Asimov" pg. 308.

[I]f one asks what substantive contributions [F. A. Hayek] made to our understanding of how the world works, one is left at something of a loss. Were it not for his politics, he would be virtually forgotten.
Paul Krugman, Slate 1998

In philosophical terms, the opposite of rationalism is not irrationalism but empiricism, that is, a willingness to form beliefs on the basis of experience rather than from a priori deduction. Empirical evidence never yields the dogmatic certainty that accompanies logical deduction.
John Quiggin, 1999

What is objectionable, what is dangerous, about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.
Robert F. Kennedy

Libertarianism fails for me, not because I don't value freedom, but because it exalts ideology over practicality, just as its communist and anarchist cousins do.
Kevin Brennan, Tilting At Windmills, March 09, 2004

The point of taxation isn't that the government knows better than you how to spend your money - it's that the government, by virtue of being the government, can spend money in ways that no private citizen or group no matter how powerful, can.
Jesse Taylor, at Pandagon.

Some libertarians succeed by re-inventing the wheel. Most libertarians fail by re-inventing the flat tire.
Michael Cloud

Most libertarians fail by re-inventing the flat tire. Michael Cloud profits by using Libertarian Persuasion to convince people that driving on the rims is a good thing.
Mike Huben

The absurdity of public-choice theory is captured by Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen in the following little scenario: "Can you direct me to the railway station?" asks the stranger. "Certainly," says the local, pointing in the opposite direction, towards the post office, "and would you post this letter for me on your way?" "Certainly," says the stranger, resolving to open it to see if it contains anything worth stealing.
Linda McQuaig, All You Can Eat

It seems strange to make a priori arguments about the relative performance of governments and the markets in health care when there is so much empirical evidence.
John Quiggin

My posting on the Copenhagen conference, and its downgrading of global warming, provoked a neat hostile comment: you (Posner) criticize these economists for opining outside their fields, but isn't that what you do all the time? Well, yes, but here's my defense: you don't have to be an expert in a field to criticize the experts, provided you know enough about the field to understand what the experts are saying and writing, to be able to spot internal contradictions and other logical lapses, sources of bias, arguments obviously not based on knowledge, carelessness in the use of evidence, lack of common sense, and mistaken predictions. These are the analytical tools that judges, who in our system are generalists rather than specialists, bring to the task of adjudicating cases in specialized fields of law.
Judge Richard Posner

The first stage of the con is that those who say "there'll be nothing left in the Social Security retirement fund" want you to think that that means that no further Social Security checks can be written. But what actually happens upon trust fund exhaustion is either (a) benefits are cut across the board by about 1/4 so that Social Security payments thereafter equal revenues, (b) Social Security taxes are raised to avoid benefit cuts, (c) the Managing Trustee of the Social Security System (i.e., the Treasury Secretary) borrows money from the government's fiscal manager (i.e., the Treasury Secretary), or (d) some combination of the above.
Brad DeLong, 9/17/04

Freedom for the wolves means death for the sheep.
Isaiah Berlin

Throughout the history of the Internet, most of the innovation has come as a by-product of efforts to facilitate communication within social groups of various kinds (academics, bloggers, peer-to-peer file sharing), rather than as the result of profit-oriented investment. Rather than taking the lead, the business and government sectors have adopted innovations developed in Internet communities, and realised significant productivity gains as a result.
John Quiggan

Aye, it hath every virtue and but one small defect, which is, that the universe doth not operate in that wise.
Henry Burlingame III on a theory, in John Barth's "Sot Weed Factor".

In reality libertarianism as an impartial ideal of maximum freedom and justice seems to be a kind of fantasy. We are all born into a world in which property is neither evenly distributed nor freely available. This situation came about through history, in which piracy, imperialism, genocide, slavery, etc. have all had an important part. No individual is free just to live their own life, since (for instance) there is no free land to farm. We all depend on others (especially if we are poor or handicapped by low social status, low intelligence, unpopular ethnicity, or disability, etc.) A government that adopts a completely laissez faire approach effectively sides with the pirates, slave-owners, etc. and their descendants.
Duncan Richter

Liberty and equality, spontaneity and security, happiness and knowledge, mercy and justice - all these are ultimate human values, sought for themselves alone; yet when they are incompatible, they cannot all be attained, choices must be made, sometimes tragic losses accepted in the pursuit of some preferred ultimate end.
Isaiah Berlin, 'My Intellectual Path'

Personally I prefer a liberal dictator to democratic government lacking liberalism.
Friedrich Hayek, 1981 interview in El Mercurio

The broad liberal objective is a balanced and flexible "mixed economy," thus seeking to occupy that middle ground between capitalism and socialism whose viability has so long been denied by both capitalists and socialists.
Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Liberalism in America: A Note for Europeans, 1956

But because 95 percent of the libertarianism one encounters at cocktail parties, on editorial pages, and on Capitol Hill is a kind of commonplace "street" libertarianism, I decline to allow libertarians the sophistical trick of using a vulgar libertarianism to agitate for what they want by defending a refined version of their doctrine when challenged philosophically. We've seen Marxists pull that before.
Robert Locke, Marxism of the Right , The American Conservative, 2005

[L]et me just point out that middle-class America didn't emerge by accident. It was created by what has been called the Great Compression of incomes that took place during World War II, and sustained for a generation by social norms that favored equality, strong labor unions and progressive taxation. Since the 1970's, all of those sustaining forces have lost their power. Since 1980 in particular, U.S. government policies have consistently favored the wealthy at the expense of working families - and under the current administration, that favoritism has become extreme and relentless. From tax cuts that favor the rich to bankruptcy "reform" that punishes the unlucky, almost every domestic policy seems intended to accelerate our march back to the robber baron era. It's not a pretty picture - which is why right-wing partisans try so hard to discredit anyone who tries to explain to the public what's going on.
Paul Krugman, Losing Our Country

Smart people believe wierd things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for nonsmart reasons.
Michael Shermer, Scientific American: Smart People Believe Weird Things Sept. 2002

In contrast, markets - oft mythologized as "natural" are the most unnatural things going. Libertarians will tell you "market laws are laws of nature", what baloney. Markets -- and the other great modernist cornucopian tools -- are magnificent wealth generating machines, built ad-hoc, through trial and error, constantly fine-tuned and refined, tinkered, adjusted.
David Brin, Contrary Brin

... [L]ibertarianism is basically the Marxism of the Right. If Marxism is the delusion that one can run society purely on altruism and collectivism, then libertarianism is the mirror-image delusion that one can run it purely on selfishness and individualism. Society in fact requires both individualism and collectivism, both selfishness and altruism, to function. Like Marxism, libertarianism offers the fraudulent intellectual security of a complete a priori account of the political good without the effort of empirical investigation. Like Marxism, it aspires, overtly or covertly, to reduce social life to economics. And like Marxism, it has its historical myths and a genius for making its followers feel like an elect unbound by the moral rules of their society.
Robert Locke, Marxism of the Right

The term "rational" and its variants (rationality, rationalism) are used in a lot of contexts in economic debate, both positively and negatively, but nearly always sloppily or dishonestly. A specimen I've seen on more occasions than I can count is the line (usually presented with a sense of witty originality) "if you are opposed to economic rationalism, you must be in favor of economic irrationalism"... I've come to the conclusion that the word "rational" has no meaning that cannot better be conveyed by some alternative term and that the best advice is probably to avoid it altogether.
John Quiggan, Rationality Repost

At George Mason University I saw Hoppe present a lecture in which he claimed that Ludwig von Mises had set the intellectual foundation for not only economics, but for ethics, geometry, and optics, as well. This bizarre claim turned a serious scholar and profound thinker into a comical cult figure, a sort of Euro Kim Il Sung.
Tom G. Palmer, "For Mises' Sake"

The evidence strongly shows that Hong Kong and Singapore benefit from being small island economies on major trade routes, established as entrepots. They are not models for development of tropical agricultural economies such as those in Africa. Switzerland shows that a landlocked country can flourish if it is itself surrounded by rich nations, such as those in Europe, and serves as a long-standing land bridge between them.
Jeffrey Sachs, Scientific American Jan. 2005 p.14

Libertarianism means so many things to so many people that whatever you say about it, some libertarian somewhere will take offense. "You are confusing libertarianism with libertinism." "You don't understand, it's only a partial philosophy of life." "Libertarians aren't liberals!" "You're not talking about my kind of libertarianism!" My mailbox is full of subject headers with these declarations.
Jonah Goldberg, Libertarians In Theory

[Libertarians:] A group of supposedly free market government haters who work in defense companies and do a great deal of free work on a government created network to convince people that the profit motive is all powerful.
Stirling Newberry

I find it interesting that libertarians never picked up on the fact that when the British ran Hong Kong, they decided not to live under that kind of system in their own country. For some reason Western libertarians want to admire these experiments in laissez faire, anarcho-Somalianism and Hoppean monarchy at arm's length, while they enjoy the benefits of living in the developed democratic countries where they nurture their strange grievances against government.
Mark Plus

In 1989, Nozick categorically repudiated this [his] concept of utopia, denied the relevance of philosophy for matters of substantive policy, and opted for the "zigzag of politics" rather than for the principled position of his earlier political philosophy. This retreat from classical liberalism was driven by a judgment that any focus on individual rights detracts from communitarian impulses and fails to embrace humane considerations and joint cooperative activities: "There are some things we choose to do together through government in solemn marking of our human solidarity, served by the fact that we do them together in this official fashion and often also by the content of the action itself" (287).
Charles K. Rowley, "What Is Living and What Is Dead in Classical Liberalism?"

Libertarian capitalism... is a curious ideology in many ways... On the one hand, the sanctity of private property and private contracts is held to be a matter of inalienable natural right, guaranteed by the fundamental facts of morality, if not a basic part of Objective Reality; capitalism is the Right Thing to Do. On the other hand, much effort is devoted to arguing that unfettered laissez-faire capitalism is also the economic system which will produce the greatest benefit for the greatest number, indeed for all, if only people would just see it. Natural right therefore coincides exactly with personal interest. A clearer example of wishful thinking could hardly be asked for.
Cosma Shalizi, Liberty! What Fallacies Are Committed in Thy Name!

Relieve stress due to uncertainty! Take Ideology, the mind-clearing drug recommended by religious and political leaders for millennia! Caution: may be habit forming. Side effects may include logorrhea, newspeak, gullibility, hatred, death squads, and genocide.
Mike Huben

... to defy the authority of empirical evidence is to disqualify oneself as someone worthy of critical engagement in a dialogue.
The Dali Lama, "The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality"

Rand tended to believe that questions of fact could be determined by the manipulation of vague terms. This tendency is most clearly illustrated in her so-called "metaphysical" theory of reality, in which she tries to demonstrate the objectivity of reality and validate causality on the basis of cognitively empty tautologies such as "existence exists" and "A is A."
Greg Nyquist, Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature, page 346.

All modern markets are the creation of government institutions which provide media of exchange, transparency guarantees, stable real estate and intellectual property, corporate law, courts, etc. Markets are the creatures of government: whining about "intervention" while overlooking "creation" is not seeing the forest for the trees.
Mike Huben

... I find slightly off-putting what I sensed to be a dogmatic streak in Milton Friedman. I think his belief in the superior efficiency of free markets to government as a means of resource allocation, though fruitful and largely correct, was embraced by him as an article of faith and not merely as a hypothesis. I think he considered it almost a personal affront that the Scandinavian nations, particularly Sweden, could achieve and maintain very high levels of economic output despite very high rates of taxation, an enormous public sector, and extensive wealth redistribution resulting in much greater economic equality than in the United States. I don't think his analytic apparatus could explain such an anomaly.
Richard Posner, The Becker-Posner Blog, November 19, 2006

But Friedman seemed to share Friedrich Hayek's extreme and inaccurate view that socialism of the sort that Britain embraced under the old Labour Party was incompatible with democracy, and I don't think that there is a good theoretical or empirical basis for that view. The Road to Serfdom flunks the test of accuracy of prediction!
Richard Posner, The Becker-Posner Blog, November 19, 2006

... in any relatively close election you can generally credit almost any subgroup as providing the marginal votes.
Duncan Black, Eschaton

Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.
David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 12, "Of the Academical or Sceptical Philosophy"

Ayn Rand was a cartoonist for the Economic Right. I love Daffy Duck. At one time I loved The Fountainhead, I can't even tell you how many times I read it. But I don't take my policy prescriptions from Loony Toons, now matter how entertaining they might be.
Bruce Webb

In the progress of the division of labour, the employment of the far greater part of those who live by labour, that is, of the great body of the people, comes to be confined to a few very simple operations, frequently to one or two. But the understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments. The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. The torpor of his mind renders him not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life. Of the great and extensive interests of his country he is altogether incapable of judging, and unless very particular pains have been taken to render him otherwise, he is equally incapable of defending his country in war. The uniformity of his stationary life naturally corrupts the courage of his mind, and makes him regard with abhorrence the irregular, uncertain, and adventurous life of a soldier. It corrupts even the activity of his body, and renders him incapable of exerting his strength with vigour and perseverance in any other employment than that to which he has been bred. His dexterity at his own particular trade seems, in this manner, to be acquired at the expense of his intellectual, social, and martial virtues. But in every improved and civilised society this is the state into which the labouring poor, that is, the great body of the people, must necessarily fall, unless government takes some pains to prevent it.
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

Moreover, Friedman's effectiveness as a popularizer and propagandist rested in part on his well-deserved reputation as a profound economic theorist. But there's an important difference between the rigor of his work as a professional economist and the looser, sometimes questionable logic of his pronouncements as a public intellectual. While Friedman's theoretical work is universally admired by professional economists, there's much more ambivalence about his policy pronouncements and especially his popularizing. And it must be said that there were some serious questions about his intellectual honesty when he was speaking to the mass public.
Paul Krugman, Who Was Milton Friedman?

But, perhaps more seriously, Friedman ducked the big questions regarding the relationship between economic freedom and political liberty, and he was com- pletely incapable of seeing that political liberty is both a negative and a positive liberty: freedom from tyranny and oppression but also the freedom and power to decide on and accomplish our common purposes. These are the master ques- tions of history and moral philosophy, and for all his brilliance and hard work, Friedman is of absolutely no help in answering them. As Posner says, Friedrich Hayek's Road to Serfdom "flunks the test of accuracy of prediction . . . [The] view that socialism of the sort that Britain embraced under the old Labour Party was incompatible with democracy [is] extreme and inaccurate." Yet Friedman bought into that Hayekian view. And in so doing, he ultimately led his followers, and tried to lead the rest of us, down a false path.
Brad Delong, Right from the Start? What Milton Friedman can teach progressives.

Libertarians, hearing such a description, run gagging to the sink. There are no nations, no communities, no families. Only self-seeking individuals exist, and the "common good" is a term invented by fascist oppressors. This is the only answer they have for any social question, from drugs to pornography to fast food. This shopworn and counterintuitive platitude from the Enlightenment is so self-evidently stupid as to require no refutation, though David Hume supplied one in his great essay on "The Original Contract." Nonetheless, people such as Ayn Rand and the nerds and geeks who cling to her in the naive belief that her rotten novels will turn them into supermen could never understand the fact that human beings are social animals. This is a part of human nature which no libertarian theory can eradicate, and my advice to them is to find another planet where they can all live in solitary caves, where they can snort coke and watch porn videos to their hearts content. Their ideas are irrelevant, not just to present circumstances, but to the human condition.
Thomas Fleming, Chronicles of Culture

[A] 'fudge word' is a word that functions to make fudging easy. 'Rational' and 'man qua man' are Rand's fudge words. She never gives a precise and unambiguous criterion for their applicability. Thus, suppose someone tries to argue that, on Rand's theory, it would be morally acceptable to steal from people, provided you could get away with it. Then she has at least two fudges she can employ (probably more): (a) She could claim that this is not in your interests, because there is always a risk that you might get caught, and it's not worth it. This works because no one knows how to calculate this risk, so no one can actually refute this claim. This is the sort of thing I have seen many Objectivists do. However, Rand doesn't do this in 'The Objectivist Ethics'; she goes for the second sort of fudge: (b) She can claim that although you would gain money from this, it would not be in your rational interests, or it would not be serving the life of 'man qua man', or that it would reduce you to a 'subhuman' status. Thus, she can immediately bog down the counter-example in an interminable debate about what is or isn't 'rational', 'subhuman', etc., because no precise and unambiguous criterion of the rational, or the human, has been identified. She gets to make it up as she goes along.
Michael Huemer, Critique of "The Objectivist Ethics"

Libertarian rhetoric about "getting the government off our backs" makes the positive correlation between individual rights and state power difficult to comprehend. Better guidance comes from classic liberals, who insisted that, when organized constitutionally, liberty and authority can be mutually reinforcing. Consider David Hume's famous essay, "Of Commerce." In this classic defense of liberal political economy, Hume argues that Britain should deregulate commercial and industrial life and welcome the accumulation of private wealth, because such a system will increase the resources "to which the public may lay claim."
Stephen Holmes, "The Liberal Idea"

Correctly understood, libertarianism resembles a view that liberalism historically defined itself against, the doctrine of private political power that underlies feudalism. Like feudalism, libertarianism conceives of justified political power as based in a network of private contracts. It rejects the idea, essential to liberalism, that political power is a public power, to be impartially exercised for the common good.
Samual Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View"

But libertarians do not condemn all coercion or aggression... Libertarians clearly endorse the coercive enforcement of personal and property rights and contractual agreements... it is misleading to suggest that the coercion required to enforce the rules of a libertarian society will be less than in other systems. Whether libertarianism requires less (or more) coercion depends upon its popular support and the degree to which members of a libertarian society see its principles as legitimate and accept the many restrictions that they imply.
Samual Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View"

Despite their emphasis on consent, voluntariness, and contract, libertarians are adverse to appeals to consent or social agreement to justify their preferred list of moral rights and duties.
Samual Freeman, "Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View"

It is true that libertarians often try to claim Mill as their own. Yet the briefest acquaintance with Mill's work shows that his version of human freedom went far beyond non-interference -- what Isaiah Berlin called "negative liberty." Mill saw an important role for government, believing that people needed educational and economic resources to lead their lives along paths of their own construction.
Richard Reeves, John Stuart Mill

I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human beings is that of struggling to get on; that the trampling, crushing, elbowing, and treading on each other's heels... are the most desirable lot of human kind.
John Stuart Mill

[...] modern economists took an isolated metaphor, used rarely by Adam Smith, and in his name invented a wholly misleading belief of how commercial markets function and how people in them necessarily and unintentionally work for public benefit, independent of the consequences of their actions. And they introduced a self-contradictory concept into economics, described as an 'invisible hand explanation', yet it does not explain anything close to the explanatory value offered by economics as a science, even where Smith left it. If anything, it obfuscates everything to which it is applied.
Gavin Kennedy, Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand: From Metaphor to Myth

People who finally gained equal political rights through a long democratic struggle cannot have been unreasonable to see democratic politics as a morally and politically progressive force. An ideology that damns democratic politics as almost necessarily immoral might not look so good to them. And if libertarian-style politics seems especially unnatractive to members of formerly oppressed and disenfranchised groups, maybe that's because it is reasonable to suspect that a politics that focuses relentlessly on the inviolability of property rights in a system that once treated people as property, and for centuries denied much of the population the chance to accumulate any property, is a politics meant to protect those who reap the gains of a still-rigged and unjust system.
Will Wilkinson, Libertarian Democraphobia

One of the more pretentious political self-descriptions is 'Libertarian.' People think it puts them above the fray. It sounds fashionable, and to the uninitiated, faintly dangerous. Actually, it's just one more bullshit political philosophy.
George Carlin

Most obviously in need of amendment is the view that minimally managed and regulated markets are both more stable and more dynamic than those subject to extensive government intervention. The Thatcherite assumption, in other words, was that government failure is far more menacing to prosperity than market failure. This was always bad history. The record shows that the period 1950-73, when government intervention in market economies was at its peacetime height, was uniquely successful economically, with no global recessions and faster rates of GDP growth -- and growth of GDP per capita -- than in any comparable period before or since.
Robert Skidelsky, Anatomy of Thatcherism

But the trouble is that he [Alan Greenspan] had been an Ayn Rander. You can take the boy out of the cult but you can't take the cult out of the boy.
Paul Samuelson

It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.
Jonathan Swift

I can't resist telling you that when the Vienna Economics Institute celebrated its centennial, many years ago, they invited, as their keynote speaker, my father [John Kenneth Galbraith]. The leading economists of the Austrian school-- including von Hayek and von Haberler -- returned for the occasion. And so my father took a moment to reflect on the economic triumphs of the Austrian Republic since the war, which, he said, "would not have been possible without the contribution of these men." They nodded -- briefly -- until it dawned on them what he meant. They'd all left the country in the 1930s.
James K. Galbraith

Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.
Daniel Davies

Theories of "natural law" and the "law of nations" are another excellent example of discussions destitute of all exactness. [...] "Natural law" is simply that law of which the person using the phrase approves[....]
Vilfredo Pareto, "The Mind and Society" p.245

Anyone who is willing to work and is serious about it will certainly find a job. Only you must not go to the man who tells you this, for he has no job to offer and doesn't know anyone who knows of a vacancy. This is exactly the reason why he gives you such generous advice, out of brotherly love, and to demonstrate how little he knows the world.
B. Traven, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", pg. 2

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
John Rogers, on the blog Kung Fu Monkey

Cynically defined, a libertarian is a person who believes that all humans should live in total and absolute submission to market forces, at all times from birth to death, without any chance of escape.
Paul Treanor, Why is libertarianism wrong?

Liberalism and science are methods, not ideologies. Both incorporate feedback loops through which actions (e.g., laws) can be evaluated to see whether they continue to meet with general approval. Neither science nor liberalism makes any doctrinaire claims beyond the efficacy of its respective methods -- that is, that science obtains knowledge and that liberalism produces social orders generally acceptable to free peoples.
Timothy Ferris, "The Science of Liberty"

Isaiah Berlin said (and it is widely quoted by people who want to sound profound) that the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. Mind you, the thing that the hedgehog actually knows, is how to shove its nose up against its arse and hope that its problems go away by themselves. It's not really all that impressive a thing to have as your Very Big Knowledge.
Daniel Davies, D-Squared Digest

If you have loosened the stone libertarian mind-vise enough to admit that there is such a thing as a market failure, and enough intelligence or education to understand that market failure is a technical property of a good or service and implies no rap on markets, you will be OK with the idea that government is exactly the right agency with which to get stuff we want that the market won't supply (enough of) by itself, and to avoid stuff we don't want, like pollution, that the market will overproduce. If you have a heart, you will also be OK with ideas like "death by starvation is cruel and excessive punishment for 'not having been able to save enough to retire on', even for 'having been too careless to save enough', certainly for 'having been unlucky enough to be smitten by illness or accident'" and you will find government is also well suited to correct some important unfairness and injustice, even when the best it can do along these lines entails some moral hazard and bad incentives. It's worth noting that absent slavery, every productive activity, whether managed (or obligated) by government or by private enterprise, is in the end carried out in the private sector: public schools are built by private contractors, and government workers are economically just small private businesses with no employees.
Michael O'Hare, Right-sizing government

Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 30 July, 1816

Freedom! If there's one thing America loves, it's... well, war. But if there's two things America loves, it's war and torture. But if there's three things America loves, it's war, torture, and genocide. But if there are several dozen things America loves, they are war, torture, genocide, chattel slavery, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, assassination, poverty, institutionalized bribery, remote-controlled flying death robots and somewhere down the list, between prison labor and lagoons of toxic pig shit, there is almost certainly a special place in our national heart for freedom.
The Medium Lobster, Humanitarians of the Year

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Copyright 2007 by Mike Huben ( mhuben@world.std.com ).
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