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Comments on “Public and private confusion” by Robert Henderson.

Politics Posted on Tue, May 05, 2020 08:25:39

Comments on “Public and private confusion” by Robert Henderson.

Below begins a revised series of posts criticising an interesting contributor to the Libertarian Discussion mailing list, Robert Henderson. He feels he has found many short comings with the market system and that it vitally needs a state and this is just one essay where he expresses that idea.

I feel that to foster human flourishing, we need to get rid of the injustice of the state, as the state was aptly designed for war.

Below Robert will be prefaced by RH and myself by McD.

RH: I have never formally joined the LA. I contribute to this group because Sean [Gabb] asked me to include it on my  Daily List.  However, don’t read into that I am a reluctant member. I have strong libertarian instincts. 

I am not statist as you put it, but I am practical  My political views are based on  human  psychology and sociology, or if you prefer human nature  at the individual and social levels. My ends are libertarian but I have to arrive at those ends by convincing myself that they are practical.  For example I am absolutist when it come to free expression but  tribal when it comes to composition of  any society. 

1. Unquestioned ideas

Because they have the word free in them, the terms “Free markets” and “free trade” have seduced those of all political colours to treat them uncritically as ideas. They are considered good or bad but their intellectual coherence is rarely questioned.

McD: Well, I do feel that you are a de facto statist, Robert, but so was Hayek and Milton Friedman, so I welcome the fact that you are basically also a liberal.

No, LAers do question the reforms of the 1980s and they nearly always call them freer trade or freer markets rather than completely free markets. A completely free market requires no state. “Free” here means free of the state. It could only be complete in anarchy.

Two of the main reasons liberals prefer the market to the state are, first, that it is just and it honours social liberty whereas the state scotches liberty and is thereby unjust and second is that the state is wasteful whereas the market attempts to cut down on waste and, indeed, is the main source of social economy in the mass urban society.

RH: Neo-liberals believe in a childlike quasi-religious fashion in the workings of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”, which, moved by enlightened self-interest, supposedly creates the best of all possible material worlds through the operation of the market. 

McD: Neo-liberals today means non-statist liberals or rather a less-statist liberal than has been the case since the 1870s. Nearly all who called themselves liberal were less-statist before the 1870s. In that decade, the UK Liberal Party itself went from freer trade and what was then seen as the same thing, laissez faire towards welfare statism, such that by 1880, the Liberal Party was no longer a liberal party in the pristine sense but more like a one nation Tory Party. Since then, the ideal of free trade between counties has been largely retained by that statist UK Liberal Party, and by others, but laissez faire has been used for free trade within each country and condemned utterly as the new objective has been redistribution and welfare. The pristine liberals held the market was good on distribution and Adam Smith held it lead to ever greater equality in the long run as the price system itself tends to even out prices. This doctrine was questioned by J. E. Cairnes but not effectively refuted.

No one is truly religious in the sense that many think of that being so today. Very vicar knows the text “ye of little faith” and, occasionally, some vicars give sermons on apathy to the few eccentrics who still attend church. We might even say that most of them attend services by Pastor Sellbydate.

But to get the truth, the Pastor needs to say “ye of no faith whatsoever”, for no animal ever had any faith: the idea is null set. To think is to re-think and belief is usually improvised for human action whenever we look where we are going. No one dumps this checking with our senses for the sort of trust that faith is supposed to be. Nor has anyone in the past.

People are educated into Christianity and there is no faith involved, as they need to think and to re-think, to learn the doctrines  and when they adopt such doctrines it is usually a matter of value or acceptance rather than of belief or truth.

What guides self interest to serve that of one and all on the market needs no hidden hand of Jupiter but is there in the division of labour where anyone can further himself by training himself to serve others. People say it is simply getting a job. They all thereby specialise, to some extent, to serve others.

RH: Socialists see “free markets” and “free trade” as economic “state of natures” which must be ameliorated by the state before a civilised society can be realised.

McD: No, they do not. They are not like Hobbes and Locke. Few think of a pristine anarchy or of a state of nature.  

Most of them have next to no idea of what they mean by socialist, we might all agree that it is a great looking word, and anyway they are mainly just students conforming to what they find in the colleges but they are usually more interested in other things.

Few doctrinaires  can be found in the workplace. Nor in the pub’s and clubs. Politics bores most people and the government is  a thing they sometimes read about or hear on the mass media news. But they work in the market place for some firm and they usually use some shops every day, they tend to like the market as customers, though it is far from ideal, and tend to dislike it as workers, owing to the normal disutility of labour. But a few do like their job.

 RH: Conservatives in the traditional sense no longer exist as a recognisable political force in the West, but when they did exist they opposed “free markets” and “free trade” primarily on the grounds of national security and the general disruption to society that they caused. 

McD: You are conflating conservatism with the Tories, Robert. Most people are conservative, and they always will be. Socialism is a new nineteenth century name for Toryism. It is not very conservative. What Peel renamed the Conservative Party in 1834 has still nationalised more entities than the Labour Party.

RH: Nationalists of the fascistic kind have traditionally opposed the ideas because they see the nation as a single organism which can only be strong if it is master of its own destiny, something which can only be achieved (they believe) through state direction of both the internal  market and of external trade.

McD; Historically fascists have been disillusioned Marxists, as D. R. Steele held on the LA website and in his new book The Mystery of Fascism: David Ramsay Steele’s Greatest Hits (2019)

As the author explains, Mussolini was a top Marxist up till 1914. 

RH: There are varying quantities of truth in all these ideological responses, but their utility is seriously tainted by the lack of any  objective or even properly defined and permanent prescriptive truth in the concepts of “free markets” or “free trade”. The reality of these ideas is that they are arbitrary chosen bundles of behaviours which  are excluded or included at the will of their proponents. Moreover, the bundles of behaviours are not static.

McD: No, we are objectively more or less free of the unjust anti-social wasteful state. The pristine liberal ideology is coherent.  

RH: The widespread negligence in examining the coherence of these ideas is all the more remarkable because their incoherence as theories and the arbitrary and dishonest nature of their practical realisation is not only readily apparent but fundamentally undermining of the claims made for them by their champions.

McD: That seems to be not one whit true, Robert.

Where are those dishonest liberal ideologues. Are there any in the Libertarian Alliance? I doubt it. I know of not even one. But I do know many who regularly ponder over the pristine liberal paradigm, so at any time they might well notice an error.

Winning the Popular Vote

Politics Posted on Sun, June 30, 2019 15:56:40

Whoever Wins the Electoral College Would Have Won the Popular Vote

Since they lost the 2016 election to Donald Trump, many Democrats have become preoccupied with abolishing the electoral college. They point out that Hillary Clinton “won the popular vote”—a misleading turn of phrase, as we shall see. They conclude that there’s something both undemocratic and un-Democratic about the electoral college, that it’s unfair, and more importantly, biased against the left, and should therefore be abolished.

Sometimes they even assert that if the election had been decided by the popular vote, Hillary Clinton would have won. A different point of view comes from President Donald J. Trump, who remarked just after his election victory that he would have won more easily if the election had been decided by the popular vote.

I think in this case President Trump is right and most of the Democrats wrong. In fact, I would like to propose the following fundamental rule:

Whoever wins a presidential election under the electoral college system would also have won if the election had been decided instead by popular vote.

Quick-witted readers will have already figured out why this might well be true. But for the benefit of the sleepy-heads, I will now unpack this proposition at more length.

The obvious rationale for the claim that Hillary would have won if the election had been decided by the popular vote is that she certainly got more votes than Trump, and getting more votes wins you the popular vote.

The equally obvious rebuttal is that many people would certainly not have voted the same way if the election had been decided by popular vote. Knowing that the election was being decided by popular vote, not by the electoral college system, many people would have voted differently, including some people who would have voted for Trump instead of not voting at all.

Abolishing the Electoral College Would Probably Not Help the Democrats

There’s no going back to the electoral college as conceived by the Framers. People who vote in presidential elections think of themselves as voting for one or another candidate for president. They don’t think of themselves as voting for wise persons who will later pick the president.

Although there is no popular demand for abolition of the electoral college, it does appear that any future attempt by states to depart radically from a popular-vote system within each state (something they would be entitled to do under the Constitution) would be met by widespread outrage. And so, the electoral college is tolerated because it produces a result which approximates quite closely to a nationwide popular vote. And inasmuch as it departs from a nationwide popular vote, it does so in a way which is easy to understand and chimes with the idea that the United States is a federation of states. People easily comprehend that the president is chosen state by state.

Arguments for the electoral college include the claim that some autonomous role for the states is a good thing, and the claim that the electoral college tends to favor political tendencies which are more evenly spread across the country, as against tendencies concentrated in some areas. I am not going into these arguments here. On balance, I wouldn’t shed any tears if the electoral college system were replaced by direct election of the president, along the lines of the system in France.

What I do want to point out is that abolishing the electoral college would not help the Democrats, or at least that it’s not clear it would help the Democrats and might just as likely help the Republicans.

People who want to abolish the electoral college, currently mostly Democrats, typically say things like this: “If the 2016 election had been decided by popular vote, then it follows that Hillary Clinton would now be president.” This assertion is blatantly false. The people who make this claim appeal to the fact that Clinton got more votes—a bigger popular vote—than Trump in 2016. But, of course, the conclusion most certainly does not follow! There’s all the difference in the world between “winning the popular vote” in a system where no one who matters gives a flying freak about the popular vote, and winning the popular vote in a system where the popular vote is the all-important decider.

If the 2016 election had been decided by popular vote, then the popular vote would not have been the same as it was in the actual election. Many people would have voted differently than they did. Many people would have been caught up in the campaign who in fact ignored it almost completely, while voters in certain counties, who in the actual election became centers of attention, would have gone unnoticed.

The campaign would have been, in some conspicuous ways, unrecognizable compared with what actually occurred: absolutely no one, for instance, would have cared who “won” Florida or Pennsylvania, a virtually meaningless concept under a popular-vote-decided system. A few thousand more or less Republican or Democratic votes in California, which would have counted for absolutely nothing in the actual 2016 election, would have been exactly as important as a few thousand more or less Republican or Democratic votes in Michigan.

The Rules of the Game

One point to be clear about is that under the electoral college system, no candidate ever tries to win the popular vote. The popular vote is just an incidental outcome which no one is aiming for. It follows (though this is a bit harder to see) that every candidate deliberately aims to reduce their popular vote below what it might have been. If you can’t see this immediately, I will get to it shortly. (When I say “every candidate,” I mean every candidate who’s seriously trying to win the presidency; this doesn’t necessarily apply to candidates who’re running merely in order to “send a message.”)

Hillary Clinton was not trying to win the popular vote in 2016; she was trying to win the electoral college. She would never knowingly have sacrificed a single vote for state electors for the sake of any number of popular votes. And she would have sacrificed any number of popular votes to get one more vote for the electoral college. Of course, many things a candidate might do to increase their electoral-college vote total would also incidentally increase their popular vote, but where there is any conflict between these two objectives, then increasing the popular vote counts for absolutely nothing.

This is why it’s misleading to talk about “winning” or “losing” the popular vote under a system of rules where everyone trying to win views the popular vote as irrelevant to the capture of power. It’s like saying that someone who lost a game of chess by being checkmated “won” the piece-taking score because he captured more pieces than his opponent. This is just not the way chess games are scored. And if it were the way chess games were scored, then both players would have played very differently, and very likely the same player would have won (because skill in one game is transferable to skill in a somewhat similar game).

Most people with little interest in politics probably suppose that a state is given electors in proportion to its population. In fact, states are allocated electors according to their total number of House representatives plus senators. While this is roughly in line with population, it does give a definite built-in advantage to voters in low-population states, each of which has two senators just like the high-population states. While my impression is that currently this way of determining electoral college votes probably favors Republicans slightly, it does not favor them hugely—we can all think of some low-population states which are solidly Democratic (Hawaii, Rhode Island, Delaware).

Incidentally, I have not seen an arithmetic breakdown of the causes of the phenomenon where a candidate “wins the popular vote but loses the electoral college.” In Hillary Clinton’s case, how much (if any) of this disparity was due to low-population states having higher electoral college representation because of their two senators, and how much was due simply to the heavy concentration of Democratic voters in states like California and New York? No doubt someone has analyzed this, but I haven’t come across their conclusions.

I’m not going to do the math here, but common-sense guesswork suggests that the heavy concentration of Democratic support in some states is much more consequential than the built-in advantage to low-population states (though that would not necessarily remain true if all or nearly all low-population states happened to be of the same party).

Thwarting the People’s Will

A typical argument by Alex Cohen for the abolition of the electoral college (in this case, back-door abolition by means of a compact between states) asserts that when a candidate wins the presidency despite “losing” the popular vote, this “thwarts the people’s will.” <>.

Now, first of all, as a pedantic and strictly irrelevant yet irresistible observation in passing, anyone who favors Roe v. Wade accepts that the people’s will should and must often be thwarted. That is the entire point of Roe v. Wade and other Supreme Court decisions beloved of Democrats. Thwart the people’s will, dammit! The Democrats are passionately devoted to using the Constitution to thwart the people’s will, and in this I completely agree with them.

But, more to the point, the way the popular vote turns out, in a system where the popular vote is not the decider, will be very different from the way it would turn out in a system where it is the decider. And therefore, if the latter would express the people’s will, the former cannot express the people’s will. Going only on the facts and arguments assembled by Alex Cohen, his conclusion that the electoral college thwarts the people’s will simply does not follow.

Alex Cohen also throws in the remark that the electoral college “potentially lowers voter turnout,” with a link that strongly suggests the lowering is more than merely potential. Mr. Cohen apparently says this because a high voter turnout is considered a good thing and so this is one more strike against the electoral college. He doesn’t notice that this explicitly recognizes that many people don’t vote the same way under the electoral college as they would have done under decision by popular vote, and that therefore it removes an essential premiss for his conclusion that the electoral college thwarts the people’s will.

A Game of Skill

Republican voters in California, New York, and Illinois would be more inclined to vote if we switched to decision by popular vote. Republicans know that under the electoral college system, as long as the state is heavily Democratic, their votes count for nothing. Under a popular vote system, they would know that their votes count the same as any other votes anywhere in the country.

It’s not quite as simple as that, because most people, having made it to the polling place, vote for a number of candidates, national, state, and local, as well as for referenda (in states like California that allow them). Having made the effort to get to the polling place, the additional cost of voting for one more item, such as president, is very slight. On the other hand, many California voters will see themselves as on the losing side of state and local contests as well as the presidential choice, so there will be some disincentive to show up to vote at all.

You might think that the number of Republicans who don’t bother to vote for president in California because they know they have no chance of winning will be balanced by the number of California Democrats who won’t bother to vote for president because they have no chance of losing. However, it’s a recognized fact of voter behavior that voters do like to vote for the side which wins, and assuming that to be true, it seems reasonable to infer that the disincentive effect of knowing that the state’s vote is a foregone conclusion will more severely affect California Republicans than California Democrats.

So, we see that people will vote differently under the two systems, regardless of anything the candidates do. But it’s additionally true that the candidates will campaign differently, and this will affect how people vote. That’s the entire point of campaigning, after all. So, not only would many voters with the same attitudes and preferences vote differently under the two systems, but also, many voters’ attitudes and preferences would be changed in different ways by campaigning under the two systems.

Trump won the 2016 election largely by superior strategy. He campaigned heavily in rust-belt states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. (There were other components to his strategy. He continually pounded away at a dozen key policy issues, whereas Clinton avoided talk about policy in favor of painting Trump as an evil monster.)

Great campaigns, like great battles and great chess games, tend to look easy in retrospect. Some people have second-guessed Napoleon at the Battle of Jena. If things had gone a bit differently, they conclude, Napoleon would have lost Jena . . . No! If things had gone a bit differently, Napoleon would, in all probability, have won Jena in a different way. We have to add “in all probability” because there’s always an element of luck.

Before the election, many conventional experts scoffed at Trump’s decision to campaign so heavily in the rust belt. Couldn’t this amateur, this dolt, see that he had no chance in those states? But Trump had superior intel (Cambridge Analytica) and superior strategic vision. He had been pondering, developing, and honing his working-class, protectionist, America-first electoral strategy for over thirty years. Trump did not win because Hillary was “a bad candidate,” as so many people now like to intone. Her “badness” corresponds with the conventional wisdom of all the accredited cognoscenti before the election, who all confidently expected her to win. Trump won because he was an extraordinarily capable candidate. He out-generaled the highly competent yet conventionally-minded staff of Hillary Clinton. Trump beat Clinton by better science and deeper thought.

Under a popular-vote system, the campaign would have played out very differently. But a brilliant strategist is a brilliant strategist. No doubt both Trump and Clinton would have spent a lot of time in California, New York, and Illinois, places where, in the actual campaign, they did next to nothing. Voter turnout in California, New York, and Illinois would have been higher—and the increased turnout would have been higher among Trump voters than Clinton voters. Trump would, in any knowledgeable judgment, have won the popular vote, probably by a bigger margin than he actually won the electoral college vote.

If you see that winning elections is a contest of abilities, a game of skill, you will appreciate the point that a better campaigner under one system will also be a better campaigner under a different system, just as Napoleon was usually a better general than his opponents, whatever the terrain or the weather. Add to that the fact that under the present system, candidates routinely sacrifice the popular vote to winning the electoral vote. There is a definite trade-off between the two, and the only reason we don’t hear more about this trade-off is because everyone is so thoroughly aware that the popular vote just doesn’t count.

There are parts of California and other solidly Democratic states which are “natural Trump country,” but where Trump did no campaigning, because it would have been a complete waste. An hour’s campaigning, or a million dollars’ worth of campaign spending in California would have netted Trump more popular votes than similar expenditures in Michigan, but this kind of move could have lost Trump the election (while winning him the popular vote), and Trump understood this perfectly.

Any presidential candidate deliberately makes decisions which he or she believes will reduce his or her popular vote (compared with what it would have been, given different decisions), in order to maximize his or her electoral college vote. This must always necessarily occur, whether or not the actual aggregate outcome is to “lose” the popular vote, because a candidate will allocate each unit of campaign resources where it will yield the biggest return in terms of electoral college votes alone, and there will always exist many more alternative ways to allocate each unit where it would tend to increase the popular vote by a greater amount while being less effective at increasing the electoral college vote. These alternative ways, as long as they are accurately perceived as such, are just instantly dismissed from consideration, so we tend to overlook the fact that serious candidates always deliberately sacrifice their popular vote to their electoral college vote.

The Complication of Runoffs

If the United States were ever to be converted to the popular-vote system for the presidency, it’s certain that provision would be made for a runoff second election. In France, for example, if the first presidential election does not give more than fifty percent to one candidate, then a second, runoff election is held, with only the two top-scoring candidates from the first election competing.

A runoff system for US elections under a new popular-vote system introduced by constitutional amendment would be certain because the people designing the new system would want to rule out the possibility that anyone could be elected with a minority of the votes. If there were only one round of voting, with victory going to the candidate who got the most votes, it would be possible for a candidate with a minority of the votes to gain the presidency. Indeed, it would be more than possible, it would very likely happen in the great majority of presidential elections.

Now, it could also happen under the electoral college system that a candidate could get more electoral votes than any other, yet still get a minority of all the electoral votes—even, with several strong candidates, a fairly small minority. The Constitution provides that in that situation, the choice of president goes to the House of Representatives.

It doesn’t look very likely at first, as a matter of practical politics, that the Constitution will be amended to replace the decision by the House of Representatives with a runoff election, while otherwise preserving the present electoral college system. Referring the decision to the House strikes most people as strange and unsatisfactory, yet it happens quite rarely—only twice so far in US history. If it were to happen again, the House might feel obliged to give the presidency to the candidate who had won a plurality of electoral college votes, or might even arrange a runoff election of the top two candidates as its way of deciding who would be awarded the presidency.

If for some reason neither of these expedients worked, and if there were a long period of three big parties (for example because the Democratic Party went into chronic decline and the Republicans split between traditional Republicans and Trumpists), then a runoff election for the electoral college might become a real possibility. Why didn’t the Framers hit upon this obvious solution? Calling a nationwide election was not such a simple matter in the eighteenth century. Many voters would require a journey of a day or two to get to the nearest polling place, assuming they could get ahold of a horse. But more significantly, presidential elections were not originally intended to be democratic. The members of the electoral college were not expected to follow the wishes of the voters, as they are now.

The mechanics of the electoral college system favors an outright majority for one candidate, whereas it’s quite common for the candidate who “wins the popular vote” to get a minority of the popular vote—this happens in about fifty percent of presidential elections. Hillary Clinton, for example, though she “won the popular vote,” received a minority of the popular vote in 2016. More people voted against Hillary Clinton than voted for her, and the same, of course, is true for Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton got 48.18 percent, compared with Trump’s 46.09 percent. Just to keep the numbers in perspective, and not because it has any profound significance, note that Donald Trump plus Gary Johnson got slightly more votes than Hillary Clinton plus Jill Stein (Johnson got more than three times as many votes as Stein). If Johnson’s votes had gone to Trump and Stein’s votes to Hillary, Trump would have “won the popular vote.”

You might point out that very likely, in a runoff, a higher percentage of Stein’s votes would have gone to Clinton than the percentage of Johnson’s votes which would have gone to Trump. This is probably true—if there were no campaigning between the first and second elections. And yet, between the first and the second elections, there would have been a second campaign, and it can’t be ruled out that Trump would have won over more Johnson voters, and even captured some Stein voters and disgruntled formerly Sanders voters in the second campaign, not to mention possibly a few other Clinton voters!

This kind of exercise doesn’t prove anything at all about the real world, because if the election had been run under popular-vote rules, the actual vote totals, for the first round of voting, would have been quite different from the actual vote totals in 2016. But it does serve to illustrate some of the numerical issues.

A Test of Steele’s Rule

If you’ve followed me this far, you’ll be able to see that the so-called “loser” of the popular vote who wins the electoral college might easily have won the popular vote under a system decided by the popular vote. This is entirely elementary and indisputable.

You’ll probably also agree that who wins the electoral college is a much better indicator of who “would have” won the popular vote under a popular-vote-decided system than is the popular vote under the electoral college system.

These two propositions will be quickly accepted by most people who give any serious thought to the matter. But I’m going further. I am saying that whoever wins the electoral college would have won the popular vote (under a nationwide popular-vote system).

My rule refers to an abstract and simplified model of the world. (So does the contrary claim that the winner of the popular vote under the electoral-college system would have won the election under a hypothetical popular-vote system.) It compares an actual situation where someone wins the electoral college with a hypothetical situation where the election would be decided by nationwide popular vote and where the attitudes and preferences of all the voters would (to start with, let’s say one year before the election) be identical to what they are in the actual situation. It says that the gross outcome—who wins the presidency—would be the same.

In practice we can never make this comparison directly. There can’t be two worlds where the attitudes and preferences of the voters are identical but the electoral systems are different. So we’re dealing with an abstract model which sheds light on reality, rather than a direct observation of reality.

But there is an indirect empirical test of the rule, which goes as follows.

There is a positive association between votes for the presidential candidate and votes for House representatives of the presidential candidates’ party (all House seats are up for election on the same day as the presidential election). If the party of the winning presidential candidate gets the majority of House votes when the winning presidential candidate “loses” the popular vote, this would tend to corroborate my rule and to refute the rule tacitly appealed to by those Democrats who suppose that Hillary would have won a hypothetical election decided by popular vote in 2016. If those Democrats are right and I am wrong, you would expect the party of the presidential candidate who won the election but “lost” the popular vote to get fewer House votes than the other party.

We have two recent cases where the presidential candidate who won the election “lost the popular vote”: 2000 and 2016. In both these cases, the victorious presidential candidate’s party “won the popular vote” for the House of Representatives. (We’re looking at the total votes cast in elections for House candidates, not how many House seats were won or lost.)

In 2000 the Republicans got 47.6 percent of the popular vote for House seats, as against the Democrats’ 47.1 percent and in 2016, they got 49.1 percent, as against the Democrats’ 48.9 percent. <><>.

In elections for the House, there’s a comparatively large number of minor-party candidates (twenty-five in 2016, plus those classed as “Independent” and those classed as “Others”). If we count only the Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and Greens, the Republican plurality in 2000 rises to 49.28 and in 2016 to 49.70.

So, the popular vote for House representatives of the party which won the presidency but “lost” the popular presidential vote was in each case the plurality vote. On both occasions the party which won the electoral college while “losing” the popular vote for president “won” the popular vote for House seats. This corroborates my rule and lends support to the view that the electoral college vote has a fair claim to be taken as an expression of the people’s will.

The rule I am proposing is not a theorem, logically derived from axioms, but a generalization about two alternatives, one of them purely hypothetical, a “counterfactual conditional.” It can therefore never be conclusively “proved” nor even directly tested. But if we think seriously about what’s going on in presidential elections, it seems to hold up well, in terms of both its internal coherence and its agreement with the data.

We’re in a good position to conclude that Steele’s Rule is worth accepting as at least highly probable, as the best practical guide to thinking about presidential elections, and as maybe even true: Any candidate who wins the presidency under the present electoral college system, even if he or she “loses” the popular vote under that system, would have won the popular vote and therefore the presidency, if the election had been conducted and decided according to a popular-vote system.

How I Could Have Made Hillary President

Politics Posted on Thu, February 22, 2018 06:31:41

How I Could Have Made Hillary President

In his book Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter, Scott Adams analyzes the formidable persuasion skills of Donald Trump and the comparatively feeble persuasion techniques of the Hillary Clinton campaign of 2016. The book is very funny, full of insights, and well worth reading. For those who haven’t read it, what I’m going to talk about here is a tiny sliver of the richly entertaining material in the book, but it does illustrate Adams’s approach.

Adams compares what he calls Trump’s “linguistic kill shots” with the attempted kill shots of the Hillary campaign, and he compares Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” with the numerous easily forgettable slogans considered or actually employed by the Hillary campaign.

Here are the more powerful of Trump’s linguistic kill shots:

Low-energy Jeb

Crooked Hillary

Lyin’ Ted

Lil’ Marco


Scott Adams analyzes these in detail to show exactly why they’re so effective. They all appeal to the visual and they all plan for “confirmation bias.” Probably the best of them is “Low-energy Jeb.” The very day this nickname came out of Trump’s mouth, Scott Adams blogged that Jeb was finished, as indeed he was, though no other commentator saw what had just happened. Recall that Jeb Bush had a war chest of many millions and spent far more than Trump. He was a natural for traditional Republican voters and for the fabled “Republican establishment,” as yet another dynastic Bush but a more likeable personality than the preceding two Bushes.

Even after Trump had released his kill shot into what we can call the rhetorosphere, most seasoned pundits were still naming “Jeb!” as the most likely nominee. Yet, Trump had given Jeb Bush what Adams calls his “forever name,” and it was henceforth to be altogether impossible for anyone to see Jeb or think about him without instantly thinking Low-energy. His presidential ambition had been killed stone dead, not just for that electoral cycle but for all time, in a fraction of a second, by the Master Persuader, Donald Trump.

Adams offers similar analyses for the other nicknames. “Pocahontas” was the name given to Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading Democratic Party politicians and a likely future Democratic presidential candidate. Warren, a blue-eyed blonde, had claimed to be of Native American, specifically Cherokee, ancestry and had gotten an academic job by impersonating a “minority.” The Cherokee Nation, which has a database of everyone they have been able to find with Cherokee ancestry, has repeatedly protested against Warren’s claim. Warren also once contributed a “Native American” recipe to a book of supposedly Native American recipes called . . . wait for it . . . Pow Wow Chow. It turns out that Warren is not Native American, the recipe was not Native American but French, and the recipe itself was plagiarized from another source.

A look at this book on Amazon shows that Warren is in even deeper trouble. The subtitle of Pow Wow Chow is A Collection of Recipes from Families of the Five Civilized Tribes, and the book is published by Five Civilized Tribes Museum. This blatantly insinuates that the Apache didn’t routinely solve quadratics or use trig to calculate the circumference of the Earth, and this is indisputably the filthiest kind of racism.

I would be irresponsible if I didn’t point out that this kill shot illustrates Donald Trump’s disgraceful carelessness with facts. The Cherokee belong to the Iroquoian group, whereas the historical Pocahontas belonged to an Algonquian-speaking tribe. How low have we sunk when our president tells such appalling lies?

Everyone could see that Trump’s nicknames were effective, and so the Hillary campaign burned the midnight oil to come up with an effective nickname for Trump himself. They tried three in succession:

Donald Duck

Dangerous Donald


“Donald Duck” is obviously the sort of thing a committee would come up with. “Duck” tries to make the point that Trump was “ducking” various issues and various criticisms, including releasing his tax returns. But of course, associating Trump with a beloved if distinctly ridiculous cartoon character doesn’t mesh well with the idea that Trump is a fearful Hitler-like menace.

“Dangerous Donald” doesn’t really work, especially because a large portion of the electorate positively wanted someone “dangerous,” someone who would go to Washington and break things.

“Drumpf” is the real surname of Trump’s Austrian immigrant ancestor, a perfectly respectable German name which isn’t so congenial to Americans, so it was changed to “Trump.” This idea that having a non-Anglo-Saxon name in your family tree is a dirty little secret is not a winner, for several obvious reasons.

As everyone knows, Trump’s election slogan was “Make America Great Again.” This is a brilliant slogan which can hardly be faulted. Adams lists its strong points (Win Bigly, pp. 155–56).

As against this, the Hillary campaign considered eighty-five slogans (yes, 85!, according to Scott Adams, p. 157, citing the New York Times) and eventually ended up with “Stronger Together.” Here are the ones which were actually tried out.

Love Trumps Hate

I’m with Her

I’m ready for Hillary

Fighting for Us

Breaking Down Barriers

Stronger Together

These all have the flavor of mediocrity and ineffectiveness that comes out of committees, and especially committees of bigoted leftists. “Love Trumps Hate” literally begins with “Love Trump,” and as Scott Adams points out, people’s attentiveness declines steeply, so they often pay more attention to the beginning than to the end of a sentence.

“I’m with Her” and “I’m Ready for Hillary” both have a patronizing tone, as though you can prove yourself by being open to a female candidate, just because she’s female; that kind of thing is off-putting to some voters. And as Bill Maher pointed out, “Ready for Hillary” evokes the resignation of being “ready” for that uncomfortable tetanus shot from that possibly sadistic nurse.

“Fighting for Us” makes you wonder who the “Us” really is. During World War II, George Orwell pointed out how a British working man might interpret the government poster that said: “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution, will bring Us Victory” (the first three sets of italics in the original, the fourth definitely not!).

“Breaking Down Barriers” has good rhythm but an uncertain appeal because most people feel strongly that they really want some barriers between them and some kinds of other people.

“Stronger Together” was the final throw, and it came just as voters could hardly ignore the fact that violence was coming from the left. Some of Hillary supporters were bullies, and bullies are always stronger together. The news was already out that the “violence at Trump’s rallies” was deliberately engineered by paid agents of the DNC.

Scott Adams Doesn’t Give His Alternatives!

Although Scott Adams does an excellent job of identifying the strengths of Trump’s slogan and nicknames for opponents, and the weaknesses of Hillary’s, he doesn’t come up with his own, better proposals for Hillary.

This is a bit of a disappointment, and a surprise, as he emphasizes that it’s all a matter of conscious technique, not instinct.

And so, I decided to cook up my own suggestions. Here goes!

My proposal for the nickname Hillary should have given Trump is:

The Don

Here’s how this works. Before Trump announced for president, he was often called “The Donald,” a phrase which usually went along with either patronizing amusement or mild and grudging admiration. Use of “The Donald” died out, presumably because the US population was mobilizing into two great camps, one of which viewed Trump as a satanic monster, the other of which saw him as the nation’s redeemer, and neither of these would perceive “The Donald” as entirely apt.

My plan would be for Hillary supporters to refer to him several times as “The Don,” and just occasionally, for those who might be a bit slow on the uptake, “The Godfather” (or variations like “The Godfather of Greed”). Hillary would then take up “The Don,” as an already established nickname for Trump.

Trump has many of the popular attributes of the Mafia boss: a commanding presence and a weakness for vulgar display (his golden toilets). All the points actually made against Trump’s character by Clinton could have been given a slightly different coloration. Thus, when making the allegation that Trump had stiffed some of his sub-contractors (which the Hillary campaign did), this would be described as “making them an offer they couldn’t refuse.” You could throw in a reference to one of Trump’s business dealings with someone who has since passed on, and add the jocular remark, “He now sleeps with the fishes.” When complaining about the fact that Trump wouldn’t release his tax returns, this could be framed as “the Trump Family [Family, get it?] has sworn the oath of Omertà never to reveal their sources of income.”

But aren’t mafiosi supposed to be Italian? Yes, but now they’re often Russian too. Hillary’s campaign promoted the story that Trump had “colluded with the Russians.” This appears to have been a pure fabrication, simply made up (no one has ever faulted Hillary for being over-scrupulous or excessively candid) but it would have been so much more believable if associated with the Russian mafia.

It’s a self-evident truth that every Russian has “ties to Vladimir Putin,” and this can always be asserted of any Russian without fear of rebuttal. Similarly, it’s a self-evident truism that every Russian businessman has “ties to the Russian mob.” It would have been a simple matter to dig up every occasion when Trump did business with a Russian, call that Russian an “oligarch” (who could deny it?) and declare that this Russian oligarch had ties to organized crime (or deny that?). In this way, it would have become impossible for voters not to think of Trump’s business activities as steeped in criminality.

Now, what about a campaign slogan for Hillary? This is quite difficult, because of the fact that Hillary had spent the previous eight years as Secretary of State within the Obama administration. She could not therefore put any emphasis on “change,” and it would be hard to imply anything radically new. But anything that looked like a defense of the last eight years could only run the risk of implying that “the status quo is fine and we just want to keep things the way they are.” This is a disadvantageous position to be in.

A slogan that goes negative and tries to focus on the evil of Trump is liable to boomerang—remember that meeting of Democrats, where a speaker referred to Hillary using the word “honest,” and the entire room spontaneously erupted into laughter?

As Scott Adams hilariously points out (p. 159), a rather different kind of boomerang was a major feature of the campaign. One of Trump’s problems, as a former reality TV host, was to get voters to take him seriously as a real president. Hillary continually urged voters to “imagine” Trump as president, and thus provided Trump with exactly what he needed. He needed people to imagine him as president, and Hillary did an excellent job of helping voters to do just that.

The Hillary campaign slogan has to have the following qualities:

It mustn’t directly mention the rival product.

It mustn’t be easily interpreted as merely a response to Trump’s slogan or campaign.

It can’t, unfortunately, make a bold plea for change.

It can’t, unfortunately, make a bold claim for Hillary’s trustworthiness or other personal virtues.

It must have rhythm.

It mustn’t allow the interpretation that some special interest will be benefited.

It must take the high ground.

So here’s my proposal:

A Win-Win for America

This slogan would occasionally follow the words “Hillary Rodham Clinton.” (It’s bad luck that “HRC” doesn’t trip off the tongue like “LBJ” or even “JFK.” There is no other memorable version comparable with “Doubleya”. “HRC” might evoke “hardcore,” but we probably don’t want to go there.)

The slogan is positive and inclusively patriotic. It therefore crowds out the undesirable thought that Hillary appeals chiefly to welfare recipients, criminal aliens, and billionaire hedge-fund managers. “For America” takes the high ground and crowds out the thought that Hillary’s election would be a win for Hillary, an undesirable thought because Hillary might be considered a loser, and also because we don’t want voters thinking about any personal advantage Hillary might reap.

The term “Win-Win” has several functions. Literally it refers to a situation where we win, whichever of two alternate possibilities occurs. There would have to be a story about this, ready for those times when Hillary or her henchmen were directly asked about the meaning. But that’s unimportant. We could even come up with a dozen different stories and get people arguing about which one was true. Really the term is simply a repetition of the positive word “win,” and gives the slogan distinctiveness and rhythm.

It also has something which Scott Adams has talked about on a number of occasions: he has pointed out how President Trump utilizes the tried and tested marketing ploy of putting slightly “wrong” formulations into his tweets to enhance their effectiveness. A slightly doubtful formulation or a feeling that something is not quite conventionally correct helps a phrase to lodge in the memory. “Win-Win” therefore gains something from the fact that what it means is slightly obscure and off-key, while its emotional associations are entirely positive.

So there we are, Trump is The Don and Hillary’s slogan is A Win-Win for America. This would have been enough to give her the electoral college, though it wouldn’t have hurt to have also done a bit more campaigning in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Hillary threw tens of millions of dollars at various “consultants” who were out of their depth and out of touch with public feeling. As I’ve just proved, I could have gotten Hillary elected by a few commonsense marketing touches. Given my unpretentious proletarian origins and unimpressive net worth, I would have done it for, say, half a million dollars. That would have been a terrific deal for Hillary, and would have enabled me to pay off a good chunk of my debts.

But, I can already hear you saying, you’d be enabling this disgusting warmonger, purveyor of PC bigotry, and criminal sociopath to take power. Could you really live with yourself?

Yes, I have to admit, I would feel bad about that. So, make it a round million.

Robert Henderson on Free Trade

Politics Posted on Sun, February 26, 2017 17:11:57

The following is a response by David McDonagh to blog post by Robert Henderson on the Libertarian Alliance (not to be confused with this blog of the same name). Because Mr. McDonagh’s response strictly follows the outline of Mr. Henderson’s post, there is some repitition. The context of the reply can usually be gleaned from the comment, but it may be useful to read Mr. Henderson’s post first. (Mr. McDonagh’s response was casually edited by Lee Waaks.)

The politically correct [PC] ideal of equality and democracy, like politics and the state itself, has never been popular with the masses; and they haply never will be either.

Free trade boosts all incomes by boosting greater output than we would otherwise have.

The Navigation Acts held progress back, as politics and the state always does.

Liberal ideas are hardly unquestioned but then Henderson seems to get nearly everything wrong about liberalism.

While the state exists, the market will never quite be free. The state needs to tax the market just to exist.

Adam Smith hardly needed his metaphor of the invisible hand for the division of labour, as, clearly, it gears self-interest to serve others by specialisation, or by learning a trade. Almost any job requires some expertise.

Socialists are just statist Tories. Fascists are also Tories. Bolsheviks are Russian Tories. Collectivists are Tories. Liberalism is anti-politics, so it is against democracy and the state.
The state is anti-social. Its aims usually tend to mess up society.

Henderson is not wise to call the liberals dishonest. I think he is very ignorant and thoughtless, but he is most likely not dishonest. He loves the state so much that he cannot credit that it is sincerely rejected by the liberals.

Monopoly is almost impossible to obtain, as it is not easy to stop new firms from entering any market. But the idea that the market ends in a monopoly is a long-standing folk dogma, and the main hope of Marxism, but the idea is way older than Karl Marx. However, monopoly did not increase in Marx’s lifetime, nor has it increased since his death.

Liberalism is about repealing laws not passing them; not on monopoly or on anything else.

Free markets are what emerge when the state has been totally rolled back to non-existence, or to anarchy. Liberals are against the state, not monopoly per se. Henderson loves the state so much that he doubts that there are some that hate it. But, yes, the state is the only institution that can enforce a monopoly, but that is not why the liberals reject it.

The market is not natural, but it is anarchic. It does not need the state.

The liberal idea of no state is not empty-headed. Politics is anti-social and negative sum, i.e. wasteful. It is what looks like support for what is wasteful that is nearer to being empty-headed but, presumably, it is down to mere ignorance.

The market fits humans as they are, though they prefer to be consumers rather than producers. But the state is at odds with humanity, as people do not like being bossed bout.

Protectionism is no more natural than is smuggling (black markets) that, nearly always, flout it.

No one owns markets. It is just where people freely trade with each other.

Lower prices are clearly better for the customer.

The mass urban society gives rise to potential jobs being infinite. A village often lacks jobs, but never does a big city. Employment becomes a function of pricing ourselves into work rather than there being a lack of jobs in the big city.
Society is polycentric, and it is never a whole. If you hear the bell toll, then it tolls for another person. Economic interest groups related to the factors of production are as mythical as the supposed inexorable movement of free trade to monopoly theorized by Marxism, and both are clearly bogus. The idea of the class struggle is about as unrealistically Romantic as one can get. There never was anything like it in the past, which is why E.P.Thompson’s 1963 book, The Making of the English Working Class, mentioned not even one example of it in more than 900 pages of his book.

Liberals claim that any trader gains, in his own estimation, from trade. The liberals do not postulate society, as a person, or as a quasi-person, who gains from trade. Both the consumer and producer surplus resulting from any trade is subjective to each trader. Trade is a positive sum transaction.

Liberalism is anti-politics, not a recipe for a type of politics. The anarcho-liberals that make up most of the active Libertarian Alliance [LA] are never happy with any state activity; none whatsoever. But the alliance in the LA is with minimal statists, who do accept a vital need for the state.

Liability is going to be limited in any case. The 1862 Act just spared a bit to settle for what traders chose to risk. Having all at risk would not be much more actual liability, in most cases. Limiting what is put at risk, to what we freely want to put at risk is not, somehow, unfree in some way. To say that only a claim to all a person owns must be involved if ever one is to invest is not more free, or more honest, but just a sheer stupidity.

A free market is the market free of the state. Yes, that means no taxation, no state money, indeed, no politics whatsoever.

Henderson seems not to know that the LA is against the state. The active LA members hold that the state has no business at all but, indeed, that it is immoral. The LA most of all opposes taxation, which the LA has often called theft. But Henderson imagines the LA endorses taxation and that it is only really against monopoly (or something else). Liberals do not care much about monopoly as such, for most of them hold that the market can sort it out by new firms starting up to exploit the monopoly price that the big firms might charge. Liberals only essentially hate the state and taxation — taxation because it aids the illiberal state activity.
Liberalism is not particularly fussed about monopoly, but we might still note that the daft dogma that competition leads to it is clearly false. It is clear that it is not easy to keep new firms out of most trades, especially if the big firms are charging high prices. Henderson believes roads are an exception, but they have substitutes like air, rail and sea travel. In any case, there can be efforts to buy up particular roads on the market.

No, there is haply not fewer firms in the car industry than there were 40 years ago. British firms have declined but Japanese firms have emerged since then. Chinese firms are now emerging.

No, free-trade liberals do not want a single market but only no states. The market will never be a whole and there will never be “a level playing field” (to cite a statist metaphor from sport), but liberals, as such, do not seem to care much about that. The economists recommended the statists to allow free trade to exploit comparative advantage, which thrives on inequality and any unequal advantage that we might find. However, the state cannot completely indulge free trade, as freedom needs to be trade free of the state, ipso facto.

The EU aims at being a super-state, not a free-trade area. It seeks power and influence in the world. It aims to be the number one state no less.
What classical liberal ever complains about dumping? I have seen no pristine liberal complain against cheap goods.

Henderson says free trade does not mean free immigration, as, logically speaking, trade is made for humans, rather than humans for trade. But free trade usually does tend to mean a free flow of immigration too.

Henderson claims we can exchange goods and services without allowing free immigration if society does not want to, but there is no such person called society. However, in a liberal society no one needs to accept immigrants, to give them jobs, lodgings, etc. if they do not wish to do so, as social liberty is liberty on both sides. Society cannot decide but any person can decide for himself.

Yes, taxation scotches free trade, as does any state.

Democracy is not liberal but an attempt to govern: voting is illiberal, gratuitous, coercion against others.

Henderson says that comparative advantage has little reality to it. But it is very clear that some parts of the world (e.g., South America) grow bananas, say, way more easily and more cheaply than can be grown at other places, say, Northern Europe. They expoit the uneven playing field. He believes that as this may change, so it does not matter, but that is not germane, not even one iota. Every person does what he does best at any one time. That the comparative advantage can change, in some cases, hardly means it is not important at any one time.

Higher tax regimes and higher welfare provision tend to lower real wages, but Henderson writes as if he thinks they can boost them. Only greater output can do that and the state hampers output by taxing it to pay for services that no one wants but the rulers think is vital to civilisation. So, for example, we have the spectacle of subsidised, often empty, buses circulating around UK towns and cities to maintain an alleged social service on a regular timetable.

As we have had the modern state since the rise of the modern market, we have never had completely free trade. Henderson believes it was reckless to go in for freer trade in the nineteenth century. He believes industrial dominance, primitive transport
levels, and the slow industrialisation of the USA and other European lands, allowed the UK to dodge the hazards. But after 1870, that was not the case any longer and the British market was then flooded with food and wool. Many states then went protectionist, but Britain failed to do so. It paid the price for this folly of freer trade, he argues, as the industrial predominance it had once enjoyed was soon lost. The UK’s agricultural markets were destroyed and new industries (e.g., chemicals) soon arose that left the UK behind. In contrast, Henderson argues, the protectionist policy of the USA and Germany enabled both states to exceed the UK’s GNP. But there was no need for the UK to retain the lead in any industry. The fact that other places were catching up and then overtaking the UK boosted wages even in the UK. Henderson seems to think the object is for the UK to forever lead the world in this or that sector, but the objective of economic activity is to boost the standard of living, not to dominate the world. He overlooks that state protectionism is very wasteful and seems to think that there is a clash of interests on the world division of labour, but very little of the market is in competition. Firms compete for customers but most of the market, as Alfred Marshall pointed out in 1890, is the result of cooperation. Even the competition, he noted, was within a cooperative framework.
Bismarck seemed to overlook the wastefulness of protectionism and of politics in general.
What he thought was wrong is hardly anything to do with the truth. Trade is to do with firms, not nations; still less to do with the wasteful state. Trade aids both a producer and a consumer surplus, so both sides gain by trade but taxation is negative sum, so we all lose out, on the whole, from any political action; and maybe both sides do too; though the
politicians act as if they gain from what they do.

It was not protectionism that made the first industrial “revolution” but the flourishing of science, technology and business. Henderson overestimates bias to home trade and he writes as if the EU and the WTO aid free trade rather than hindering it, ipso facto, by their very existence. The idea that free trade needs to be mitigated is on par with the idea that economic growth or increased income needs to be mitigated. Henderson also overrates the British Empire in trade, even though he is explicitly cautious about that. He believes free trade was a risk in 1850 for Britain, and that it is for all nations now, but he
overlooks that it is the best way that firms can do well. Politics is wasteful, by contrast, but Henderson believes that the state is a boon. He tells of free trade as idiocy, but it is clearly politics that is perversely negative sum and thereby clearly wasteful idiocy.

It is not clear that Henderson fully understands free trade, let alone the history of it, but he loves the state and the state-imposed wasteful problem of defence, that he believes the nineteenth century liberals were careful about, but the truth is that the liberals hated warmongering. Liberals, like Richard Cobden, were out to stop the backward state courting war. But it is true that the pristine liberals of the LA are more against the state than the Manchester School ever was.

Henderson postulates that complete free trade today would be dangerous for the West. He believes no firm can compete with low wages around the world. But this wage gap with what they call the “Third World” was caused by the backward rejection of free trade after 1914 and after the war that ended in 1918. Why would the wage rates on the other side of the world affect most of the trade in Britain? Could it affect local plumbers, carpenters and the like? Most trade will remain local but given free trade, then international wages will soon even up around the world anyway owing to the export of capital.

We are told by Henderson that experience tells us that industrialisation is best achieved by protection but that is wasteful, ipso facto, as all politics is. He overlooks that, or, more likely, he has never yet quite realised it.

Henderson tells us “the most lethal ammunition to discharge at free traders is the fact that no country in the history of the world has industrialised successfully without very strong protectionist measures being in place”, but this is a mere fallacy of post hoc; ergo propter hoc and it overlooks the cost of such protectionism in every case. The point is a brutum fulmen. However, it haply is about the best any protectionist can do.
The spread of British capital overseas would have haply stopped the “Third World” from arising, thereby dodging the current problem of mass immigration to where the capital, and thus the higher wages, are to be had. Nationalist measures “distort” the world division of labour. Free trade (or freer trade) did/does aid economic development everywhere, including in pre-1913 Germany. Henderson should note that the protectionism imposed after 1914 created the main problem that seems to concern him today, viz. the existence of lower wages in the Third World that threaten to pull down wages in the First World. Athough an increase in world production would likely lead to higher real wages for the First World, his protectionist “solution” would not remove this problem, but rather prolong it. As previously mentioned, freer trade was evening up wages around the world before 1914.

Protectionism did not aid the UK to recover after 1931. Henderson fails to explain this beyond his aforementioned post hoc fallacy, as there is nothing to aid economic development in protectionism. It simply allows firms to be free from competition from abroad. As free trade is basic economics, there is no need to call it a “secular religion”, as there is nothing whatsoever religious about it. Firms need to keep up to date with all other firms under free trade, but they can become stagnant with protectionism. There is always free trade within a nation, and as the EU was attempting to become a super-state (or a new nation), then there would be free trade within the nations it was attempting to make mere provinces.

Protectionism always taxes the economy. Henderson argues that free trade is not necessary for rapid economic growth; that state regulation of the domestic market and international trade is not a recipe for disaster; and that being a “free trader” when the rest of the world is not reciprocating is a mug’s game. But some liberty is vital to economic growth and politics taxes the public, so even when it dodges being a total disaster, the state never dodges imposing extra costs. Anyway, one-way free trade is fine as there is no need at all to respond to tariffs of others with those of your own, as that will only increase the dysfunctional politics. Contrary to Henderson, it is politics that is the mug’s game, as it is always negative sum. Trade, by contrast, is always economic, so it is always positive sum. Henderson imagines we do not know whether protectionism is dysfunctional or not, but it always costs extra taxation; thus, it is always uneconomic or negative sum. So we do know that it is wasteful.

Free trade is the same as the free market. In the colleges since about 1900, they have attempted to define laissez-faire as trade within the state’s domain and free trade as between states, but this distinction is not very realistic because states do not trade, only firms and customers.

Governments are not the natural suppliers of health care; or, indeed, of any good.

Trade results in gains to the customer and producer immediately, not later. The gains may not be uniform but they are immediate surpluses to both traders. In what way do the later generations thereby lose out? As for politicians, they live off taxation, thus they make the public poorer to the extent that they tax them.

The fact that many lands are poor today is the result of the interruption of free trade by the 1914 war, which Henderson argues was a distortion of domestic trade. But this idea that domestic trade should be separate from the worldwide division of labour is an arbitrary idea. Free trade would soon iron out the Third World, such that there would be soon no longer a massive advantage in mass immigration to seek jobs elsewhere, though some competition in a more even world would continue. The capital would go to the workers rather than the workers emmigrating for better pay.

Most of the jobs out there need no skills. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was utterly deluded with his “education, education, education” idea, viz. the popular idea that education was investment rather than being just sheer consumption, as it usually is. But increased output from successful new capital investment (including human capital — but that is usually mustered by on the job learing rather than at college) means all wages are higher as a result of extra innovation that, if successful, increases total output.

Henderson believes that nitpicking over how exact are measurements of wealth might aid his case against liberalism. But the fact that the “poor” today are rich in absolute terms is clear no matter how useless the means of wealth measurement are.

Why does Henderson call council housing “social housing” when it is clear enough that it is very anti-social and, indeed, that it is a recipe for thugs? The popular press in the UK calls council housing “CHAVs”, i.e. council house and violence.

What is called the welfare state is a public menace. That it has been rolled back a little bit since the 1960s is a social boon.
Why was unemployment so low till about 1970? It was obviously owing to the cleared labour market, but the media, falsely, held that to be a thing of the past in the 1970s and since. But we can always clear the labour market whenever the price, or the wage levels, are right. In the 1960s, the dole was taboo, as only a few workers, when exchanging jobs, would ever go there; it was a sign that a worker did not really want a job. By the
1970s, however, many thought that full-employment and the cleared labour market had naturally broken down, so from then on many accepted the need for the dole. The story put out by the media obfuscated the fact that only the dole allowed mass unemployment to ever be mustered in the mass urban society.

In absolute terms, it is easier than ever to support a family on a single wage today. But people want to do all the other things too. It is false that the mother does better for the family by taking a job. It is also false to say there is no choice involved. We do not need to conform to social norms.

A bigger state clearly needs to tax more.

Most people never did think much of state provision, falsely called social provision, although Henderson ignores the fact that it is anti-social. It is very clear that most in the UK are better off than in 1960, especially the poorest third, who are today fairly rich, with all the modern conveniences. In 1960, most households did not have running hot water, phones, or most other modern conveniences. The market, which needs to be free to some extent, and was so even within the late USSR, is alone responsible for progress since 1750. At no time has the state done other than impose a cost. Henderson does not seem to grasp that fact; he thinks it is something to do with elite ideology.

If people buy things then they usually want them more than they want the money they need to pay to obtain them.

People often fail to provide many things in computers and elsewhere.

Few things are truly necessities.

Brainwashing is a mere myth.

Henderson absurdly says people do not really want computers, but then he tells us why they want them. He says we all need computers today; so we want them as a means. As Thomas Hobbes said, we choose to do all we do, either as a means to an end, or as an end in itself.

Free trade ebbs power, so all lose power whenever trade gets freer. But then power is a certain evil and, as Lord Acton famously said, it tends to corrupt.

The poor are not subordinated to the rich on the market. The market lacks any power as, qua market, it is free.

I have never met anyone who loves equality and I tend to think that no one does. It is a silly, unexamined, school teacher dogma, worthy only of contempt.

The gains of trade are immediate; they do not trickle down.

No society is truly more than economic relationships. That is a mere misunderstanding of economics. Any desire for certainty will be for an aspect of the standard of living.
There has never been a working class. That is a myth of college sociology and politics departments. The Labour Party would win every election, hands down, if there were a UK working class interest, but rather than see the plain truth of very diverse economic interests, the backward academics hold those who voteTory are fooled in some way. But the workers are not the only ones who cannot see this purely imaginary proletarian economic class interests, for the sociologists cannot see it either.
People rarely notice where things are made.

It is no absurdity that free trade tends to crowd out war. Firms cannot afford to fight wars and the state can only afford to fight them owing to taxation.

Yes, the illiberal coercion of crass democracy is hostile to free trade, as it is an attempt at government, thus it is against liberty.

Henderson imagines democracy is a boon to the masses, but it never was. Nor was it ever popular. Protectionism is credited with this and that, but no explanation of how it does what he imagines it to do is attempted. Similarly, he gives no detailed charge against free trade apart from his fallacy of post hoc.

Similarly, he assumes a movement towards monopoly but he seems not to know this dogma was around before Marx was born in 1818 and it is not greater today than it was, say, in 1800.

The actual reality of things is that total output determines what wages can buy and, thus, their value.
Immigrants may destroy a nation by destroying the idea that it is a large family, thereby making many natives no longer feel they have a homeland. Nevertheless, immigrants do, boost output, which leads to rising real wages. The same is true for “exporting jobs”, which also boosts real wages. But Henderson thinks the value of wages are lowered thereby and he adds:

“Those whose jobs opportunities have been degraded have suffered a form of theft. Had mass immigration and the export of jobs been prevented, the wages for the jobs taken by immigrants would have been higher than they are when subjected to the additional competition of immigrant labour and the exported jobs would not have been exported, which in itself would have tightened the labour market. In societies of rising aspiration, this could result in jobs considered menial being better rewarded than those which enjoy high status under ‘free trade’ circumstances. It might be necessary to pay a sewage worker as much as a doctor. Doubtless many would throw their hands up at this. But there is no logic to such a response, because in a society with a large private enterprise component a wage is simply a response to the value the market puts on a job. Unskilled workers may not earn as much as the average doctor or lawyer at present, but skilled tradesmen such as plumbers and builders often do.”

But workers can only be paid from total output and that would be way lower in the set-up that Henderson imagines here. But it is true that supply and demand (i.e. free trade) tends to equalize wages and salaries. Free trade would end aristocracy rather than fostering it, as Henderson imagines. “Class” is just a bogus idea of the PC religion of Sociology. Anyone who talks class thereby talks crass stupidity. Democracy never did give the masses any control and the masses hate voting anyway. Participation is a waste of their time. It is boring at best and they want to be free of it. As the saying goes: “Committees take minutes but waste hours”.

Henderson repeatedly imagines that there is something social about the state, but the plain fact is that the state is intrinsically anti-social.

Democracy was an elite fashion, not something the masses ever wanted or needed; it thrived only on elite thoughtlessness. But Henderson tells us that, in fact, it was originally oligarchy, not true democracy. But then he absurdly adds that it nevertheless brought with it a lot of control by the masses. His contradiction is self-refuting. The true half of the contradiction is that it was oligarchy; the false half is the claim that democracy brought any real control by the masses.

The urge towards the EU was one for a successful warmongering super-state not a stand against democracy. It was for power and influence in the world. There is no effective democracy to oppose. Nor is it going to be more popular in the future, and ditto politics and religion. They never were popular but the acme of what little popularity they
ever had is, now, well in the past.

Henderson imagines this class interest of the elite is unconscious! It all arises from psychological and sociological forces; forces arising from PC religion, or from the anti-social sciences or the unnatural sciences.
A lot of wastage in any nation is owing to measures taken just in case of war, and the whole lot tend to foster war rather than to deter it. Free trade tends to crowd war out. But Henderson seems to welcome war. It is silly to call free trade a religion, but a bit less silly to call liberalism one, as it is a creed rather than mere phenomena. But state worship seems to have something nearer to the God worship of many religions, so religion is more to do with the immoral state.

Henderson is a fine one to write about the ignorance of others.

Smith was not quite right to say that the state was needed to do certain things. As the economist Milton Friedman said, anything the state can do the market can do better, but he overlooked that war was an exception.

Let’s do something!

Politics Posted on Fri, June 05, 2015 16:21:39

If you attend a lot of libertarian gatherings, you will start feeling like everything talked about is very repetitive. Every argument being made sounds familiar and if someone new might show up you can predict what their objections are going to be. Nevertheless, I am not really getting tired of them for a number of reasons. There is the psychological aspect of feeling sane and understood. I know a lot of libertarians who come to meetings for this reason alone, as it is an experience in contrast to what they are experiencing in their normal environment. And sometimes you might actually come across an interesting viewpoint that you have not heart before. So despite all the repetition, you might actually learn something. In any case, arguing a lot, even if repetitive, certainly trains you in making your points in other debates. In the end it helps spreading libertarian ideas.

But there is a series of talks that come up fairly regularly that annoyed me from the first time I attended one of them. It is a series that I would like to call ‘Let’s do something’. The ‘Let’s do Something’ talks follow a common structure. Whoever gives the talk will start by saying that he or she has observed that libertarians are arguing too much and spend a lot of time with books. That is all nice and well, but he or she has decided that now the time has come to stop this childish complaining and take real action instead.

The proposal to ‘do something’ is always presented as some kind of fantastic new break through idea that obviously a lot of libertarians could not come up with themselves. And the moment the words ‘Let’s do something’ have been uttered you will find some libertarians getting overly excited. From this moment, they do not let any argument count, as arguing looks like falling back into the childish complaining status. As a result, any proposal following these words will be seen as worth supporting and superior to talking.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favor of taking action. So are most if not all Libertarians. One topic that is reliably discussed on every libertarian gathering is, how do we get to a libertarian society or at least, how do I get the state out of my life. Libertarians are spending a lot of time trying to figure out a solution to the state problem. However, this problem, not surprisingly turns out to be a very difficult problem to solve. If the power of the state was so fragile that all it needed to topple it was for some people to get together and ‘do something’ it would have gone away a long time ago.

Having said that, there are some strategies that libertarians have come up with that actually might get us to a libertarian society in the long run. However, the remarkable thing about the ‘Let’s do something’ talks is that they are consistently disappointing in coming up with persuasive solutions. People who start their talks with ‘Let’s do something’ will usually not tell you about strategies like agorism, how to reduce your tax burden, how to use alternative currencies or stop the state from spying on you. No, none of that. People who start their talks dismissing debate and demanding action fairly reliably will give you the proposal to get involved in politics one way or another.

The most common one is to propose a new libertarian party. “Hey guys, a lot of you are just sitting around debating. But a few of us have decided to grow up and we have founded this new libertarian party that will change things in this country”. Sorry mate, but this is not new. It has been tried many times with not very persuasive results. So why come up with the same old non solution?

The last talk in this series that I attended and that inspired me to write this piece was from an MEP of the Tory party who somehow is sympathetic to classical liberalism. Becoming an MEP I guess was his idea of doing something. I could not quite figure out how this action is helping, but then again if I were to fight MEPs I should probably start with the less libertarian ones. At least he seemed like a sincere guy. Although, he did have this typical talking style of a politician of being deliberately vague to please as many listeners as possible.

He thought one of the big problems of libertarianism is that they don’t have a good answer to the problem of poverty. They are just assuming that the poor will be better off in a free market, without delivering any proof for it. That is why people do not understand the libertarian solution. So instead of talking, libertarians should practically show how the market helps the poor. He proposed going into the community and help poor people run their own businesses. An example he gave was, how he helped a drug dealer using his entrepreneurial skills to now run a sandwich shop instead.

This proposal is odd on many levels. First it smells a lot like central planning for politicians to go around and tell people how to run their businesses. It does not need the guidance of the state to run businesses. Maybe the drug dealer is now better off selling sandwiches, or maybe not. I don’t have a principal problem with either one of those businesses. But for the life of me, I cannot figure out how getting him into the sandwich making business is helping Libertarianism. No tax has been reduced, no regulation has been abolished. The structural problem of the state remains. I told him that, but his answer was that regulations, while nasty are not the main problem. There are still many entrepreneurs who succeed in a statist environment. So the problem has to be the attitude of people.

True, people in state education are systematically educated to be irresponsible. But then again, that is a structural problem of state education and the welfare state. To say that regulations are not the main problem, is a dangerously wrong analysis of why the standard of living of so many people is going down. True, there are successful entrepreneurs in this statist environment. Some people are so productive that even after all the taxation and regulations they still are able to run a profitable business. But these are strong people. This is exactly not a solution for the poor, who tend to be a little bit less skilled. The less skilled a person is, the more likely every stone you put into his or her way will kill his or her ability to run a profitable business. It is exactly the poor who are most dependent on us solving the structural problem of the state, for they are the first to suffer under it. And btw isn’t ‘not letting you being put off by regulations’ exactly what drug dealer are doing? Here you can see, how regulations are helping the strong. They get even richer than they deserve to be, because the state has killed the competition.

It is indeed unfortunate, that economics can be counter intuitive, as one needs to understand that a lot of consequences are not directly visible. And to be honest, my suspicion was that the MEP did not fully understand that himself. He seemed to suggest that poor people really are benefiting from the state. Of course it is not intuitively clear why poor people are better off if the welfare state stops giving them money. But it is nevertheless true and therefore there is no alternative to spreading this idea. If you do not spread the idea, whatever actions you take could still produce non libertarian results.

Which brings me to the biggest fallacy of the ‘do something’ philosophy. Ideas are not useless chit chat. They are the most powerful weapon this movement has. Therefore, spreading propaganda very much qualifies as doing something. And it is probably the best thing most people are able to do. If we look throughout history we see the powers of ideas everywhere. For example, how did democracy or socialism become so powerful? They started out as ideas of a few nutters. These ideas slowly started to grow before their time finally had come. That is why you cannot just implement a democracy in countries that never had any democratic process. People do not yet understand the idea.

Because ideas are so powerful, you will find strong forms of censorship in every dictatorial system. The reason why a country like North Korea is so cut off from everything is not because they fear the nice consumer products from the rest of the world. Their real fear is that ideas will come over and topple the regime.

Ideas are also the foundation of actions. If someone acts against the state he first needs to identify the state as a problem. There might be some people out there who are really able to do something great against the state. But first they need to understand that the state is a problem. Whoever invented the block chain for example certainly was influenced by libertarian thoughts. With these ideas in mind, he then realized that he had some skills that could be turned into action. If it was not for libertarian propaganda, this might have never happened.

In my experience it is not that libertarians are too lazy to act. They are more than willing to do so. But that does not mean they have big opportunities to do so. Most people find small opportunities to increase the amount of freedom in their lives. Few are capable of inventing something big like Bitcoin. I certainly could not have done that. But I don’t have to. The division of labor also works for Libertarianism. The best thing most of us can do is to spread ideas, so that those with the exceptional skills to act on it can be influence by libertarianism.

The problem with ideas is that they don’t show immediate results. You will not step in front of a crowd of statists, explain libertarianism to them and see them collectively saying ‘I was blind, but now I see’. Whether people are listening to you depends on many things like their motivation, their age, intelligence, personality etc. Not everyone can be persuaded and it is a slow process. That makes ideas very annoying for impatient people. They start concluding that spreading ideas is a hopeless exercise. It also makes you feel like you are not in control of the process. However, there does not seem to be a real alternative to ideas if you want social change.

If your ideas are correct and attractive, they will sooner or later win followers. The good thing about ideas is that once they pick up steam, they can grow exponentially. We also don’t need to win over everyone. A lethal doses of ideas for the state is far below the threshold of persuading everyone. We just need a significant number of the right people. So let’s not complain about people not doing anything. Everyone does what they can do best, just like in the rest of the economy. But one thing that really everyone can do is to continue spreading ideas.

Is it folly to ignore art?

Politics Posted on Sun, March 29, 2015 12:43:45

Is it folly to ignore art?

In Sean Gabb’s latest talk to the LA he seemed to have embraced a completely bogus thesis viz. that art aids society in general, especially the morale of the ruling class.

Sean also feels that the progress of the LA has been very disappointing and he expressed the rather odd idea that this was because there is not enough libertarian art. Some libertarians on Sean’s LA blog agreed with Sean on both art and on the more realistic looking idea of a lack of liberal progress since 1979, especially on the futility of LA activity, but, despite appearance on that latter idea if we have different ideas from the LA on the progress rate of the spread of ideas, if the LA was right in 1981 then that is a similarly unrealistic outlook on expectations of progress from libertarian propaganda and some of those who agreed with Sean even expressed that it was not clear to them of whom the enemy of liberalism is, or of what progress of the pristine liberal idea would amount to.

I will begin with a short re-statement of what I take to be the main content of the 1981 purpose and strategy of the LA.

The main idea is that ideas change slowly. We cannot realistically ever expect rapid progress. We can witness instant conversion, of course, in the odd individual case, but customs change way more slowly, for most people are conservative with a small “c” and so tradition is often against change, but customs do change nevertheless. It simply takes time. It takes decades, or even centuries, rather than days or weeks.

There is short run propaganda and long run propaganda that manifests in society in two forms of politics, that we might call 1) practical politics and 2) theoretical politics. Harold Wilson, a career politician, rightly said that “a week is a long time in politics” and this was, and is still, clearly true for his sort of politics.

Theoretical politics, or ideological politics, would haply be better off with the statement that a decade is not very long in the aim of changing society. But slow change does take place.

The LA was never thought to be a pressure group to get practical politicians to do just one thing, such as the Anti-Corn Law League, or recently, the UKIP [though they decided to go into a party before their pristine aim of getting out of the slowly emerging super-state was achieved] but rather it was a long run ideology group. The aim of the LA was to muster propagandists or “intellectuals” or extraverts who habitually tend to foster or change public opinion. They may not be bright people but they are usually outspoken.

It usually takes about fifty years to make noticeable headway in this quest to change fundamental ideas. Such propagandists will be few in number yet they matter way more that the general public in this quest to change fundamental customs, here the aim is to roll back the state.

The foremost violator of social liberty is the state; so our enemy is the state. Getting that rolled back, or reduced to zero, is the aim of the LA, and recruiting the propagandists is the peaceful means to that long run aim; but tax cuts are fine in the short run. But no results can be soon attained and facile pessimism and disappointment in the LA needs to be carefully dodged. Pessimism is not realism. A rise in membership to a thousand or two thousand in five to ten years would be success for the LA. That is what we thought in 1981.

How do things stand now? We had a bad upset in 1982, of course. Before then we seemed to be growing quite well.

The Internet shows support for ideological groups and below is the statistics for meet-up groups.

50 Socialism meetups:

5,377 members

238 Feminism meetups:

42,389 members

442 Conservative meetups:

73,728 members

487 Libertarian meetups:

74,410 members

Now I will give an account of Sean’s talk then criticise it, as well as a few comments made by others on the blog. Sean, more or less, said the following: that at the end of the 1980s many thought that libertarianism was doing well. We had seen off socialism. Most were optimistic but one young man was not: Sean Gabb.

What have we achieved in 25 years? One LA puts on monthly meetings. My LA collects money but apart from keeping the movement in being, it seems not much has been done.

It might be different in the USA, but I doubt it.

Since the 1980s it has been stagnation or decline for libertarianism. We are all intellectuals and that is the problem.

I always thought it was stupid to get people talking at bus-stops but nowadays we do not even seem to be doing that but only talking to ourselves. This is not the way to win debates or to influence the world.

How did the left come to dominate things? They were not concerned with mere ideas. They won because they focused on culture.

Films made by John Ford starring Henry Fonda spread leftist ideas by a narrative and a world view that rendered them acceptable. J.B. Priestley in the play, later a film An Inspector Calls (1954) with Alastair Sim delegitimises the past. We all have duties, not just rights. I read the play at school.

It is the likes of J.B. Priestley and George Orwell that count, and even G.B. Shaw, though I always thought he was a bit of a windbag, but they all three won the day, but not Laski. Laski and Marx are not all that important.

All this culture established Political Correctness [PC] but The New Statesman and The New Society, Marcuse, and the like, are not so important but art succeeds brilliantly.

The LA go on about von Mises and so not surprisingly we are ignored. We ought to produce novels and plays or ballet rather than books on economics. No one reads books by Eamonn Butler.

The left have took over as they focus on what is important. We need a counter narrative in the UK. It is a bit better in the USA, as there is more of a culture for libertarianism there. They have novels, music, film-makers there and similar are needed here.

We need libertarian poetry, ballet, novels for we need to give up going on and on about the economic calculation argument [eca] and defence problems. We have had 40 years but there are no libertarian film-makers yet.

Hayek’s Road To Serfdom (1944) had no particular influence but Orwell’s 1984 (1949) and Darkness At Noon (1940) Arthur Koestler did influence have a great impact and those books destroyed communism in the UK. I was converted by 1984 but I was not much affected by The Road to Serfdom.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks won out owing to art. Eisenstein, Shostakovich and general Socialist Realism culture made the late USSR look glamorous. On recent visits, I look up at the tops of the buildings of the tower blocks and I see excellent art. It was not Marx or the theory of the Bolsheviks that maintained the USSR for so long but the art.

Do you associate art and libertarianism? I don’t.

There Sean handed it over for discussion.

I think that art plays no part at all in politics. That we have zero allows us to be exact about its actual role.

Sean has his own theories about the ruling class but my own view on class can be prefaced by what Marx said on class for he said we can classify people as we wish but objective economic interests is what matters and I would say that Marx got nowhere near discovering such objective class interests, for there never were any to be found. In fact, there are none. So, far from history being full of class struggle there are no classes like the ones Marx imagined, none at all, in history. The Marxist meme of class is pure Romance. There is a ruling class [i.e. a group in government and in the administration of the various states] but no objective economic class interests.

Sean seems to have overlooked how bleak establishment thought it was in 1944, when Hayek wrote that book. One man it did influence was Orwell, who wrote a review of it. He had thought, beforehand, that capitalism was doomed. The Times in the 1940s was full of the over confident E.H. Carr editorials stating that the market might not last even another week. It all looks silly today and the cited book was a factor. Hayek was a way bigger factor in ending all that gloom than Orwell or Koestler ever was.

As for ballet, has even Sean ever been to a performance of that? Girls seem to love it but I am surprised to see a man even mention it, and Sean seems to be about the only male that I have known to do so, but then I do not know a female who does not claim to have wanted to be a ballet dancer and actively aimed at it by dancing when young. Until Sean’s talk, I thought only females ever cared about it. It clearly does not influence politics very much, if at all.

I read 1984 in 1968 but I saw it as anti- Bolshevik rather than anti-socialist. It did not affect my, then, enthusiastic socialism one bit.

As I said, the media is not dominated by the left today. They feel that it is, instead, the right wing that dominates the BBC, but I would agree that that is not very realistic of them and I think they are even less realistic than Sean is, in that respect. I think the BBC is more statist than market biased, as it is state owned [though it began as a private company], but they do try to be fair.

The enemy is the state. Some socialists imagine that they, too, are against the state. Orwell was one. I used to be another.

The liberal idea is the top idea today but few see they need to get rid of illiberal ideas to be coherent on it, at least not outside the LA. So the majority of people today do not see the state, especially democracy, as illiberal. But the LA does.

Culture itself [culture qua culture] never matters much, as it is too vague and nebulous anyway, but the things that do matter will often be cultural; like the nation, love, justice to cite but three items out of many that are important for people.

One chap said that the state might decide all our entertainment. But what entertainment thrives depends on what sells, not on the rulers. Politicians often pretend they like that, but whether they do, or not, hardly matters much to the masses. When Gordon Brown pretended to like Cold Play he haply alienated more people than he successfully pandered to. In any case, the ruling class cannot determine successful entertainment.

What the LA opposes is cultural but it is also illiberal; it is the state. Liberty uses private ownership as a means but no one who thinks clearly defines liberty as mere private ownership. I do not need to own things to be free. To think so is to be confused.

Of course the shorter word, liberal is more apt than libertarian, as many on the blog rightly said, and one chap said those who are against liberty should be called puritans, but many puritans can be liberal. So statist is clearly the proper name for those who want to restrict liberty, not puritan.


Sean replied:

“I’ll begin the comments by thanking David for an accurate and fair summary of what I said last week. Beyond that, I’ll only repeat myself that we do seem to have been barking up the wrong tree – forty years devoid of measurable success.

The Great Schism of 1982 may not have helped. On the other hand, two fairly vibrant Libertarian Alliances emerged from that. The truth is that we had no impact on British politics when we were a unified movement, and none when we were spitting venom at each other, and none when we came to our senses and became friends again.

Look at it this way. Christ was crucified in 33AD. Within thirty years, there were enough Christians to be worth blaming for the Great Fire of Rome. In 1983, Peter Tatchell lost a safe Labour seat because he was outed as a poofter. Thirty years later, we had gay marriage. In the early 1960s, South African apartheid seemed unshakeable. Thirty years later, it had fallen apart. In 1985, we were talking to each other and hardly anyone else. Today, we are talking to each other and hardly anyone else.

Oh – thirty years ago, some of us were predicting a police state. Today, we live in one.

You don’t get a paradigm shift in five years. But we’ve been in this game longer than the average life expectancy of 1900. We ought by now to have some indication of success. We are so marginal, I don’t believe we are being watched even passively by the security services.”


Thank you for your reply and criticism, Sean, and for making my reply into an independent blog article.

I think we are barking up the right tree but we need to be way more active. However, even if we were as active as I wish we were and there had been no upset in 1982, so there had been a more robust LA all along, as well as a better one today, things would haply look much as they do today. It is not so easy to see the results of long run liberal propaganda in the short run but it is clear how silly the1940s The Times columns of E.H. Carr look today. I think Hayek was the main factor there but it is not at all easy to exactly measure progress.

I do not think that two active LAs emerged from the 1982 upset but rather that an active base in London was cut off from the national LA network. Things never were quite the same again. Both groups were weakened compared to the pristine LA.

It never was the aim of the LA to directly affect British politics. We were out to capture the extraverts, or propagandists, and to bias them against politics and more action by the state.

Christianity has a nominal success but a “Christian” is as ignorant of the creed as an Irishman of actual Irish history or a Marxist of the ideas of Karl Marx. But the main fact here is that versions of the creed were going a lot longer than only a few years between when Paul converted and the persecution of the creed by the Romans and Paul converted to a network that not even his energy created in the short time that you think. There never was a pristine Jesus Christ, of course, the word never was made flesh, but we pitch his death just before Paul converted to the creed, but I think the network was being built up a long time prior to then. G.A. Wells once said he thought it was around about three hundred years prior to Paul.

Do you feel that if Peter Tatchell had a heart attack on failing to win that safe Labour seat then daft David Cameron would be any the less keen on gay marriage, such that we would not have it today? You seem to be the complete Romantic, Sean!

Ever since 1962, Christianity has seemed utterly perverse to me. It is phenomenal that it ever caught on, even with brilliant and hard-working propagandists like St Paul spreading it. But so is a Conservative Prime Minister pressing for a gay marriage law that must alienate most of his natural supporters, and the fact that a Conservative party ever wants to modernise is also phenomenal. The majority are always going to be conservative. Even New Labour upset many people by modernising. Those examples certainly show the power of ideas, or of fashion, or of both. But the long march of what we now call Political Correctness [PC] was going long prior to 1900. It is, basically, the very perverse ideal of Equality.

South Africa did not look solid in 1960 to many, certainly not to me, but it had the USA on its side at that point for there was, back then, about as much apartheid in the cities of USA as there was in South Africa.

PC need not be statist, of course. Many liberals, maybe most liberals, have been exceedingly fond of the crass idea of equality. It has never been the very top idea. Liberalism is! It was in 1800. Maybe it was very much before then too. As I said above, in the now blog article, few people want to vie or mesh their ideas together for coherence. They simply do not see democracy, or even the state, as illiberal. But the LA is right that it clearly is such. But it is not obvious today. It will be in the future. This is because people are not often interested in those things, just as they are not often interested in art. If the public do not look, then they will not see even the clearest things.

That you were about the only one who looked up at the top of the buildings on your visits to the lands of the late USSR should have told you about the little effect on others was of the excellent art that you enjoyed, Sean.

Statist PC is not only illiberal but totalitarian thus the emerging police state you cite, Sean. But the ideal of PC, which is equality, the market, has served way better than the state ever can, and the free market would serve even faster and better but it would be free of totalitarian coercion.

Adam Smith saw that fact back in 1776. He felt that the workings of supply and demand tended towards price equality and he was quite right.

Now the economists have developed the theory of the price system, it is way easier today to see that he was right. There has been a long run societal movement towards equality beginning long before 1776 and it continues to happen to this day, off-set only by short run new inequalities introduced by innovation, invention, amongst other things, like new fashion, that tends to make the whole process a levelling up one. The luxuries of one generation that had to be in short supply to begin with have often become the everyday goods of the next, and this the statists call “trickle down” just as they call competition “cut throat” but both are social boons. Nothing needs to fall from a table and no throats need to be cut. That is merely the hyperbole of statist propaganda.

Indeed, profit is the hallmark of social service just as taxation is the sign of abuse towards others. The market is largely colour blind, indifferent to homosexuality, but it does not privilege groups by coercive law, as statist PC does, but then such privilege flouts the PC ideal of equality, as politics cannot be even or just, to one and all.

Politics has to oppose some group as the enemy, a Romantic ideal that is anti-liberal to its core but it is anti-equality too. So PC ought to go free. Liberalism has an institution as an enemy rather than any class of people, including the ignorant ruling class. De jure statist equality law is always de facto privilege.

When Enoch Powell said in 1968 that a constituent told him that in ten years’ time the black man would have the whip hand over the white men he might have replied that they already had the metaphorical whip hand since 1963, as the whites were under-privileged in relation to the blacks privilege owing to the racial discrimination laws of that year.

Sean, the plain fact is that we have only just begun to talk to each other theoretically. I do hope we continue a little before we decide break off. I have no idea what your ideas of class amount to. But I am an ex-smoker so not the best chap to champion the liberal right to smoke, and similarly, as an ex-Marxist, I tend to think class is sheer bosh rather as I tend to think that Christianity is, as an ex-Catholic.

But I ought to confess that I do not mind being marginal, or unnoticed, by my enemy the state. As people, I wish state employees, at any level, no harm at all. The Enlightenment outlook, which I champion against the Romantic reaction that reacted against it, has no enemies. That politics intrinsically gratuitously uses proactive coercion against at least some people is the major fault of the state and it is why politics can never be fair.

What is Politics?

Politics Posted on Sun, January 04, 2015 10:56:23

Why do people think politics are a sign of concern but the market is not? Most people seem to have no idea of what politics is. Many people, especially many students, feel all we do is political but this is a de facto, if unwitting, totalitarian outlook.

So when the state spreads into fresh aspects of life, like trying to stop people smoking, or to slim down, the de facto totalitarians feel those zones were/are political already, as all that we do is somehow political. So they feel the state need not be limited.

Politics is state action in the main, though the state has a few rivals, like the coercive bodies that we call Trade Unions. Politics is not just free decisions that affect others but rather it is forceful or coercive action against others. Coercion is the realistic threat of force or open violence; not mere speech about imaginary force. The state has it. Some Trade Unions have it. Firms usually lack it entirely. But a few firms in the past, maybe, had the use of coercion and thus they were political.

A free market can only emerge once the state ceases to exist. Many hold we cannot have a free market. A lot of the LA members are such, as were most classical liberals; but no anarchist agrees to that. Most liberals thought the state was a good thing but they held that it is best to keep it to doing only a few things, like keeping law and order.

The market gives the people way more control than politics ever could but not over but rather in society. It is not central control that most might first think of but rather it is polycentric control over our own affairs. David Ricardo erred badly in comparing the use of money to votes, an inept comparison that is still used in economics books today. If money was like votes we would all be dead. Churchill was haply right to say that democracy was the best form politics but it is still crass politics thus it is still illiberal coercive action against other people. Thus politics is anti-social, not caring for others, as fools feel to be the case. It is the jackboot, even when on the feet of basically well-meaning people.

Many free decisions do affect other people but they have no threat of force or violence, so they are not political. Politics is about using force against other people. Politics is gratuitous hostility towards others. It is thus very unfriendly.

Many might say that free actions can be worse than violence might be in their impact. One foreman, at a firm I worked for in the 1960s, used to often repeat that he would sooner hit a man than sack him, and it was said that he had acted on this idea, often, in the past, before I arrived, but I never saw anything like that from him; though he was over six foot three inches tall and clearly physically fit enough to repeat it again. In fact, he was a friendly chap but he did repeat his maxim often. I used to reply that the sack might be better for them, but it is easy to imagine some men who might agree with him.

This could be liberal if he put the choice to the victim beforehand so that he could choose, but if he assumed it, without consent, then it would be illiberal; but sacking a man is no more illiberal than a man deciding to leave the firm. But if he is the best worker in a small firm then it could cause the firm to decline. I recently watched the 1950s film Hobson’s Choice (1954) that featured that in its story line.

Most of society [i.e. human interaction; this post is part of my society, for example] is effectively free of coercion, thus it is apolitical. It even was such in the late USSR; as Michael Polanyi realised, despite the mythology surrounding that state.

There never was a mixed economy or a state centrally planned driven economy either. It is quite true to say there never was a free market too, but some, not all, in the LA think the latter will be achieved some time in the future.

Monopoly is a reason for expecting dysfunctional activity and the state is the sole cause of actual monopoly, and near-monopoly too. Liberty is vital for human welfare.

Where we go, how we make a living and the like, is best left to the individuals concerned. The state should keep out of it. That is the basic pristine and anarcho-liberal creed. But even well before we get rid of the state, money needs to be privatised, so the 2008 financial mess can be dodged that fools on the mass media tend to think was caused by free market values. One man more than any other who was for loose money was Keynes and a great liberal propagandist [as even Keynes was once] who aided the process , especially around 1970, was Milton Friedman. Those who the mass media speak of as free marketers are often in favour of state regulation. The USA is in a mess today owing to the national monopoly of money. That alone would rule out a completely free market.

Can Libertarians be zionists?

Politics Posted on Mon, July 14, 2014 17:35:04

Libertarianism is all about maximising interpersonal Liberty. In order to achieve this goal, Libertarians have identified the state as the main obstacle to a free society. Many Libertarians are anarchists for that reason. Some are minimal statists, who support a limited mandate for a monopolists power to secure the rule of law. But even the latter kind of Libertarians does realise that the state is a great danger to liberty. They usually argue that practically states cannot be completely abolished. If they were, a new state would emerge automatically. But this new state would then be at risk of being much more anti liberty then the previous one. Therefore, Libertarians should work towards making the existing state more minimal, rather then advocating to abolish them all together.

This is certainly a perfectly acceptable position to take within Libertarianism. I personally happen to be an anarchist and personally do not subscribe to the idea of minimising the state. I think this is a dangerous strategy with very little prospects of success. Nevertheless, I do see that minimal statists are libertarians, as their goal still is to maximise liberty. We just happen to disagree on the strategy.

In any case, this is of cause a very theoretical view of Libertarianism. Currently, Libertarianism is picking up steam. It is more and more developing into a real political movement. As this happens, more and more people are coming to the party that are not too concerned with details of what it means to be a libertarian. There are now people calling themselves libertarians, who try to introduce all kinds of positive liberty concepts into the Ideology. This ranges from people arguing in favour of certain welfare programs, to people arguing in favour of closed state borders. In principal this is a very good sign. It means that Libertarianism has become so strong that a lot of people, who are not really Libertarians in the purest sense, nevertheless feel that Libertarianism is the place to be. If Libertarianism wants to be successful, it will need to tolerate a number of these people despite the fact that they are not Libertarians in the most strict sense.

However, it is also clear that this tolerance needs to have some limits. Otherwise Libertarianism will become meaningless and will fail. The success of a political movements very much depends on how successfully this line between Libertarians and non-Libertarians can be drawn. That is why one needs to be a bit wary about people coming to this movement with all kinds of positive liberty concepts. If I was the Establishment, trying to get in control of a rising libertarian movement, I would almost certainly try to make the word meaningless, by defining libertarianism in my own way. This happened to the word liberalism, which today in the english speaking world describes someone who does believes the state needs to control capitalism. The classical liberals, which were of cause libertarians in the modern sense, made the mistake to integrate certain welfare ideas, like state education, into their agenda.

Luckily, most people who don’t like liberty, so far don’t want to call themselves Libertarians. But there are exceptions. One group of people that I am particularly wary about are ‘Libertarians’ who are also strong zionists. Zionism can mean all kinds of things, but here I am referring to supporters of a jewish state in the middle east. It seems very odd to me that Libertarians should support such a state.

There are two groups of arguments, why people may want liberty. There are moral reasons on the one hand and utilitarian reasons on the other. No matter which one you prefer, the Israeli project looks rather bad from both angles. Why was there a zionist movement? There were two main goals of zionism. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, Jews were facing two problems. In eastern Europe, where the majority of european jews were living, and of course in Germany as well, Jews were facing an increasingly hostile population. That lead some of them to conclude that they will never we accepted. The other problem was, that there were places in the world in which they were to well accepted. That meant that jews increasingly stopped being jewish and simply adapted to the local culture. The solution for the zionists seemed to be clear. Jews needed their own homeland, a place in which they were the domineering culture and in which they could be safe. So far so good. From here on, the story could still end well from a Libertarian point of view. The problem with zionism is that they decided to create a jewish state on a territory largely owned by Palestinian Arabs.

First let us look to the decision to create a state. One of the problems of statism is that it surprising consistently tents to achieve the opposite of what it wants. If the state fights poverty, you will get more poverty. If it fights gun violence, you will get more gun violence. It it fights terrorism you will get more terrorism etc. This should be a basic inside to every Libertarian. So jews decided to use a state to make them more save and preserve their culture. What would you expect to happen? Exactly, less security and a destruction of the culture. And that is exactly what we are seeing. Does anyone believe that jews are now more save or jewish culture more prosperous since the state of Israel came into existence? So in principal, the strategy of using a state to achieve any goal should be highly suspicious to libertarians.

Unless we are talking about a minimal state, states are of course highly problematic if you want to maximise liberty anyway. States turn always out to be rent seeking organisations. They always produce a class of people that is able to exploit the rest of society. Israel was never intended and therefore never was anything close to a night watchman state. It was planned to be a racist jewish state. One of the earliest supporters of Israel was the Soviet Union. Although it likes to count itself as a western country, Israel till this day has a higher level of bureaucracy and regulations than other western countries. And that although pretty much all western countries at this point are closer to socialism than capitalism. It is a country with a long military draft, state censorship of the media and even legalised torture. Why, in principal would any Libertarian become exited about such a state?

And then of course there is the big problem, the problem that any supporter of Israel would rather not talk about. How come, jews are now in a majority in a territory that when zionism started only had a very small jewish population? The initial jewish population there got along with the local Arabs without any major problems. And yet supporters of Israel will tell you that all the opposition to Israel comes from a vicious irrational anti-semitism. At first zionist, indeed started to settle peacefully in the region. And if that was all they were planning to do, there could be no objections from Libertarians. Libertarians of course ought to support the movement of people, free from government intervention. The problem was that they had already decided and announced that they were planning a jewish state in the region. They had won over the British, who occupied the territory at the time as their ally in it. The British paid lip service to the rights of the Arabs in the region. But the Arab population, totally correctly started to sense that there was a conspiracy being planned to make them second class citizens in their own home. There were a number of Palestinian rebellions against the British in the 1920th and 30th. Being good imperialists, the British every time send over commissions to assess why the Palestinians were rebelling. Every time they concluded that it was obvious that they were rebelling against the prospect of a state in the region that would make them second class citizens. When the state of Israel was then announced, war broke out immediately. A lot of Palestinians got out of the territory of the newly announced state. It is still a bit of a dispute among historians, why they got out. Were they forced out or were they fleeing from a war zone? It was probably a mixture of both. But whatever it was, the fact remains that after the war they were not allowed back onto their rightfully owned property. Israel had to get them out in order to create a jewish majority state. None of this is in any form compatible with Libertarian principles. Zionism is an inherent collectivist and statist ideology. Individual liberty does not play any role in it.

And yet, in these days when the conflicts gets escalated again by Politicians, I see a lot of same proclaimed libertarians, waving enthusiastically Israeli flags to support the government fighting evil Palestinian terrorists. Not that there aren’t any terrorists among Palestinians. But what is going on now has very little to do with fighting terrorism. The Israeli government lied the people into war operations. These war operations are pretty much the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. The Israeli government with its highly sophisticated military weaponry is bombing the homes of civilians in Gaza. The people there are largely unarmed and literally locked up, they cannot get out. Most of the casualties are women and children so far.

But all of that does not seem to bother zionist Libertarians, because you see, what is happening in gaza is self defence. And self defence is of course perfectly compatible with libertarianism. The Israeli, in their love for humanity are even calling a few minutes before they hit a house. Isn’t that nice. No it isn’t! Because they certainly do not check whether the people really got out. They sometimes hit the wrong target. And anyway, since when are such acts legal, without even a trial? Calling that self defence is like justifying a rape with the argument that it is her fault, since she was wearing a short skirt. But try to mention to a zionist Libertarian that the Israeli government might not always have the best intensions, yes it may even sometimes outright lie to the public, as it did to justify these airstrikes. You will be immediately accused of being anti-semitic, a crazy conspiracy nutter or both. According to zionist Libertarians, the state is bad, unless it is fighting terrorists or is called Israel.

No sorry, this is not a form a Libertarianism that I can accept. It basically rejects everything that libertarianism is about. The reason why I am finding this particularly annoying is, because our governments are all good allies of Israel. This state seems on a suicide mission with its crazy policies. And because our governments are supporting it, it is dragging us down with it. Every new enemy Israel makes will also be an enemy of the rest of the west. Zionist libertarians are supporting all these crazy policies of our governments, because it is perceived to help Israel. They are damaging the goals of Libertarianism and should therefore not be allowed to get away with it.

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