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[P]
CyberSelfish

By Electric Angst in MLP
Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:54:43 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

In Mother Jones magazine, author Paulina Borsook has a set of very interesting articles about libertarianism in the tech industry and the negative effect it creates for society. The first, published in 1996, is titled Cyberselfish, and a recent follow-up, written in late 2000, called Cyberselfish Redux.

Given that this site's main audience is concentrated in the tech industry (and culture), I would like to know what their opinions are concerning the issues brought up in these pieces.


Some noteable quote from the article:

"These are the inheritors of the greatest government subsidy of technology and expansion in technical education the planet has ever seen; and, like the ungrateful adolescent offspring of immigrants who have made it in the new country, they take for granted the richness of the environment in which they have flourished, and resent the hell out of the constraints that bind them."
"This passionate hatred of regulation, so out of whack with the opinions of the man and woman on the street in my own bioregion/demographic, showed me how different a place the online, high-tech world is from the terrestrial community to which it is nominally tethered -- even an online world with countercultural roots as strong as those of The Well."
"I think this all very strange, because, of course, I know that without the government, there would be no Internet (majorly funded by the government until recently)."
"Those whose greatest strengths have not been the comprehension of social systems, appreciation of the humanities, or acquaintance with history, politics, and economics have started shaping public policy."

So, if you agree with what is said in these articles, then what do you think the cause of this surge of libertarianism in the tech culture and industry? If you disagree, then what counters would you bring to her arguments about libertarianism having strong support in the tech sector, or the damaging effects it has on society?

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Poll
Is high tech too libertarian?
o Yes, and it is a disaster. 5%
o Yes, and it can be a pain. 9%
o Yes, and it doesn't really matter. 5%
o Yes, and it's a good thing. (Ayn Rand would have wanted it this way.) 9%
o No, the libertarianism is balanced by other viewpoints. 15%
o No, there isn't that much libertarianism in the first place. 6%
o No, you can't be too libertarian. 19%
o All you cyber-capitalist pigs will be up against the wall once the proletarians unite! 27%

Votes: 117
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Mother Jones
o Cyberselfi sh
o Cyberselfi sh Redux
o Also by Electric Angst


Display: Sort:
CyberSelfish | 113 comments (106 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
It's the only logical political choice (3.27 / 11) (#3)
by skim123 on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:27:15 AM EST

what do you think the cause of this surge of libertarianism in the tech culture and industry

Most people in the "tech culture" are highly logical, rational people. Our minds tend to work in structured ways and we tend to have skills with basic logic and philosophy.

If you hold the following base axiom, "That everyone has the right the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness/property" (as many Westerners do) then libertarianism is the only logical philosophy to take. If you accept any other political philosophy (at least of the one's I am aware of) you will find a contraction when applying it to that base axiom.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


How logical? (3.80 / 10) (#5)
by Electric Angst on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:39:38 AM EST

Well, one of the primary points of logic is that your assumptions are based on fact. To truely call libertarianism logical, one would have to have a strong grounding in history, political science, the arts and humanities. (In short, understanding the more abstract parts of human nature.) These are fields where members of the tech sector are notoriously ill equiped.

So, I would have to question how any member of the tech sector could seriously back up his or her claims that libertarianism is the only logical political choice, given that a society itself (of which the field of politics is concerned) is not even considered by most to be a field in which logic has total rule.


--
"Hell, at least [Mailbox Pipebombing suspect Lucas Helder's] argument makes sense, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of people." - trhurler
[ Parent ]
Spoken like a true zealot (4.63 / 11) (#7)
by fluffy grue on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 03:08:15 AM EST

How is it the "only logical choice?" Not to mention that there are all SORTS of holes to be poked in Libertarianism - like the basic fact that people are, by their basic natures, greedy, lazy, and malicious, which is certainly NOT the characteristics you want in a Libertarian society.

To me, Libertarianism is the furthest from the most logical philosophy to take. It doesn't even follow from the life/liberty/happiness "axiom" (and you're confusing axioms with beliefs); in a Libertarian world, it'd be even easier for people to take away that ability from people than it is in the USA's supposed Republic!

You have basically ignored all of the paper's original points and made a sweeping generalization which holds absolutely NO merit, not to mention using standard propaganda techniques to make it sound like anyone who disagrees with Libertarianism isn't really someone in the tech culture. In a sense I'm not in the tech culture, given that I'm an academic by nature, but aren't academics in CS typically "highly logical, rational people" as well? Whose minds work in structured ways, and I would hope that, given the emphasis on logic in academic computer science, academic computer scientists such as myself have skills with "basic logic."

Sorry, but unless you can show me proof that Libertarianism is logical (as opposed to, say, Green or Socialist, my two major leanings), then I'm not about to agree with the belief that Libertarianism is a logical choice, mucuh less the only logical choice.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

It all depends on those axioms (3.66 / 6) (#12)
by skim123 on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:04:47 AM EST

They're personal axioms, so maybe "belief" is a better word, since an axiom supposes universal acceptance. Anywho...

Sorry, but unless you can show me proof that Libertarianism is logical (as opposed to, say, Green or Socialist, my two major leanings), then I'm not about to agree with the belief that Libertarianism is a logical choice, mucuh less the only logical choice

Again, it all depends on those personal axioms. Can you show me how someone who is a socialist can believe in those axioms I listed?

not to mention using standard propaganda techniques to make it sound like anyone who disagrees with Libertarianism isn't really someone in the tech culture

Didn't mean to imply that. My argument was:

    P1: those who hold those beliefs I listed and who is rational, will, IMHO, move toward libertarianism, since it logically follows from those base beliefs.
    P2: Most Westerners believe in those "personal axioms" I had listed
    P3: Most tech people are rational
    CONCLUSION: Most Westerner techies will be Libertarians.

I didn't mean to imply that if you are not libertarian you're not a techie. I know techies who don't believe in those fundamental rights I listed - rather, they think everyone should enjoy equal benefits regardless of their talents and hard work. These people are both techies and rational, yet they are not libertarian because their base beliefs lead them to another political affiliation.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
Since you asked for it... (4.85 / 7) (#35)
by fluffy grue on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:16:16 PM EST

First of all, the use of 'IMHO' immediately invalidates a proof, especially when you don't give a REASON for the IMHO clause. Anyway, here we go; I won't try doing it as a logical proof because this is NOT axiomatic (trust me, I tried doing it as an axiomatic proof but it felt dirty to mix metaphors like this)

  • Everyone has an innate right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness/property
  • Those with power (money) tend to take away the liberty and happiness of others
  • Therefore, those with power/money must have limits imposed
  • Those without power (money) tend not to be able to pursue happiness/property
  • A Socialist/Green government acts as a social conscience, funnelling power (money) from those who have an excess to those who don't, and protecting those without power/money
  • Therefore, a Socialist/Green government can provide the basic right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all
FWIW, the Green party effectively extends the Socialist perspective to the planet itself - after all, the planet is quite important, and yet it has no voice and no "power" in terms of protecting itself from the greedy. I personally don't see how any rational person could be a Libertarian considering the importance of the planet and the fact that without government intervention, we do bleed it dry (even with government intervention we're bleeding it dry, but government intervention has helped to stop it, it's just not enough).
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Insane contradiction (2.83 / 6) (#44)
by skim123 on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:08:01 PM EST

Tell me how this is not a blatant contradiction:

  • "Everyone has an innate right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness/property."
  • "those with power/money must have limits imposed."

    Huh!? Are those with "power/money" not members of the set of "Everyone?"

    This is why I view socialism/communisms as morally repugnant. It says, "We'll fuck those who work hard to 'help' those who don't." I am doing well for myself in life, and I feel raped each time April 15th comes around. I tell this to people and they think that I am cold, that I am some selfish, lucky, naive, miserly bastard who doesn't want to "help" those who genuinely need it. I say, "If I want to help those who need it, let me, don't force me, thereby stripping me of my rights." The big thing: if I were to loose all the security that my finances have brought me tomorrow, I would pick myself up and get working hard to rebuild it. I wouldn't force people to give me their income, that reduces to stealing.

    Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
    PT Barnum


    [ Parent ]
  • How are they mutually-exclusive? (4.00 / 2) (#58)
    by fluffy grue on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:24:00 PM EST

    I see nothing mutually-exclusive about it. There is nothing about the government stopping me from taking away the life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness/property which implicitly stops me from life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness/property.

    That is, I have no idea how those two points can be conceived of as mutually-exclusive. By stopping the wealthy from abusing the poor, you're NOT stopping the wealthy from getting wealthy to begin with!

    Again, how does imposing limits on the powerful/monied stop them from life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness/property? I'm not talking about things like taking all of their money away and giving it to charities (that's communism, not socialism), I'm talking about, say, stopping corporations from becoming too big and owning everything.
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    Uh (4.00 / 1) (#66)
    by skim123 on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 07:17:23 PM EST

    Again, how does imposing limits on the powerful/monied stop them from life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness/property? I'm not talking about things like taking all of their money away and giving it to charities (that's communism, not socialism)

    No, but you are talking about taking away some of their money (forcibly) and giving it to those who don't feel like working. Granted, taxes go to a lot more than just welfare and silly government programs, but the fact that the gov't can force me to give my hard earned money to those on welfare sickens me. I have nothing against charity, but who gives how much to what charities should be a person's own decision, not some beauracrat's.

    I'm talking about, say, stopping corporations from becoming too big and owning everything

    So where do you draw the line and who draws it? Define a "corporation." Define "too big." I recently saw A&E's biography of Sam Walton (founder of WalMart). I would assume you would argue that he should have been stopped, a lot of ma and pa shops went out of business because they couldn't compete with him and his prices. I heartily disagree... he worked his ass off against larger companies; he failed a few times at first, but kept on working and grew it into one of the largest grossing companies in the world (#2, I think, to GE). So, if you were to impose some sanctions on Sam's hard work where and when would you have imposed them? When he was a manager of a nickel and dime store? When he bought his first store and ran it (only to have it go out of business)? When he created his own store, WalMart. When he had 5 stored in central Arkansas? 10? 50? 100? When. Who gets to say when and why do they get to say it? Chances are it is some beauracrat in Washington who gets to say it, and his determination is based upon whomever can give him the most money/incentives.

    Capitalism works because it allows men to trade freely among one another. Once you let the gov't step in and setup regulations, rules, and other crap, you start distorting the whole free trade among men. You begin to punish those like Sam Walton who work hard and make something of themselves and reward those ma and pa stores that couldn't compete.

    Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
    PT Barnum


    [ Parent ]
    Ahem. (4.00 / 1) (#81)
    by fluffy grue on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 12:58:21 AM EST

    First of all, you're assuming too much about my thoughts on welfare. I don't think that people should be allowed to just coast along (and I agree, a lot of that happens right now). Actually, welfare isn't the sort of thing I want to see going on. The other socialized things like, oh, health care, education, stuff like that - that is what's valuable.

    The line is drawn on a case-by-case basis. That's what things like the SEC, FTC, and other TLAs are for.

    I don't believe Sam Walton should have been stopped. I do, however, believe that Wal-Mart, at present, is out of control, and that it should have been put under control - not stopped, but put under control - when it grew to have stores in multiple states, or perhaps cities. Note that I never said that large corporations should be abolished, just controlled in terms of predatory practices.

    Capitalism works pretty well, and I'm not anti-capitalist. I'm just not incredibly pro-capitalist, and don't feel that "the market will decide" is a good long-term philosophy.
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    My turn (4.00 / 1) (#86)
    by skim123 on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 03:42:40 AM EST

    First of all, you're assuming too much about my thoughts on welfare

    My bad.

    The other socialized things like, oh, health care, education, stuff like that - that is what's valuable

    Some of these I agree with, although I do firmly believe that private companies can run these more efficiently, less costly, and do a better job at it. If this weren't the case, then why do the majority of well-to-do send their kids to private school? Granted, not a proof or anything, but I think you would agree...

    I don't believe Sam Walton should have been stopped. I do, however, believe that Wal-Mart, at present, is out of control, and that it should have been put under control - not stopped, but put under control - when it grew to have stores in multiple states, or perhaps cities. Note that I never said that large corporations should be abolished, just controlled in terms of predatory practices

    Again, though, when? Who decides when it's "too big?" Those fat cats in Washington who are getting lobbying money from WalMart's competitors? And what if the public is pleased with WalMart's quality, prices, etc. (in fact, one can assume they are - you don't grow to be successful by pissing off your customers)? What right does the gov't have to step in and fuck with things? Also, you seem to be against "corporations." Define that. Is a corporation just a publically traded entity? What if Sam hadn't taken WalMart public and it still grew to its awesome size? You would then be taking actions directly against him, against his company, against his way of life, etc.

    Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
    PT Barnum


    [ Parent ]
    Nothing Worse Than Overreduction... (3.66 / 6) (#46)
    by Logan on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:15:04 PM EST

    ... but here we go. I see two fundamental differences between the socialist and capitalist forms of thought.

    Socialist premise:
    Wealth is not created, but only redistributed through cooperation, so if one gains in wealth it must be to the detriment of others. Therefore one gains in wealth only if it is granted by or stolen from others.

    Capitalist premise:
    Wealth is created through application of labor and creativity. If cooperation occurs, both parties become wealthier through their creation. Therefore one gains in wealth only if one can provide something useful to oneself or to another.

    The former belief (essentially, that wealth is not created, only redistributed) is crucial in supporting your arguments for socialism. Because if wealth can be created, your second point is invalidated (and, subsequently, all those that follow). So, when I write a useful program, whom am I robbing of their rights?

    Logan

    [ Parent ]

    I don't see it (4.66 / 3) (#52)
    by kallisti on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:10:50 PM EST

    How is it that saying "wealth is not created" is required to support the assertion that "those with power tend to take away the liberty and happiness of others"? Even if they create a greater total amount of overall wealth, there can still be a reduction in other people's wealth. I don't see why socialism has to be zero-sum.

    As examples of wealthy people taking away liberty, look at the massive misuse of intellectual property as reported more or less continually.

    When you write a useful program, you aren't reducing anyone's rights, but what does that prove? It is a single case, and not what fluffy was talking about at all.

    [ Parent ]

    Re: Intellectual Property (5.00 / 1) (#57)
    by The Jeffersonian on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 05:28:27 PM EST

    "As examples of wealthy people taking away liberty, look at the massive misuse of intellectual property as reported more or less continually."

    The only reason that the wealthy people are able to "misuse" intellectual property is because of the government's rules governing it. Without government control over what are essentially ideas, there could be no misuse, because the wealthy would not have the legal protection that they currently enjoy.

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty
    than to those attending too small a degree of it."
    ---Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, 1791.
    [ Parent ]
    And? (3.00 / 1) (#59)
    by fluffy grue on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:25:01 PM EST

    I never said anything about IP.
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    Irrelevent (3.00 / 1) (#94)
    by kallisti on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 01:30:21 PM EST

    The method that they use is irrelevant, the parent poster claimed that belief you had to believe in the communist principle that wealth is not created to justify the conclusion that wealthy people will use their wealth to restrict liberty. There wasn't anything in that about what sort of government or society.

    [ Parent ]
    That's great, except... (3.50 / 2) (#62)
    by fluffy grue on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:29:06 PM EST

    That's the communist premise, not the socialist premise. I guess I should clarify in that I mean socialism in the "you can still get rich, but we tax you a lot so that we can provide a lot of services to everyone" way that just about all of Europe is, and not the extreme "Everyone is equal, comrade!" point that socialist countries took it to. Communism obviously doesn't work, at least on a large scale.
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    Communism Vs. Socialism (4.00 / 2) (#67)
    by Scrag on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 07:23:30 PM EST

    Do you have any idea what communism is? Do you have any idea what socialism is?

    Socialism is the idea that "society" together owns everything. This is what most people think of when you say "Communism" today. True socialism is a society in which there is no personal propery, everyone works, and everyone is equal. You cannot "get rich" in a true socialist environment.

    Communism on the other hand is what Marx called "Scientific socialism". Basically what communism is, according to Marx (he did come up with it) is socialism brought about by a violent revolution from the "have nots". They would fight the upper class, and eventually take over and make everyone equal.

    These are VERY oversimplified definitions, but communism and socialism are extremely similar. You should read about it some day.


    "I'm... responsible for... many atrocities" - rusty
    [ Parent ]
    Their meanings have changed somewhat (4.00 / 1) (#80)
    by fluffy grue on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 12:53:12 AM EST

    Like I said, by 'socialism' I mean the form of government which exists in much of Europe, not classical the-people-own-everything socialism. I should have been more clear. If we were going by classical definitions, then yes, you're quite correct, and they're pretty much the same thing.
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    Oops (3.00 / 1) (#82)
    by fluffy grue on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 01:03:41 AM EST

    Obviously, I meant "the-people-own-everything-equally."
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    logic and inaccuracies (4.00 / 1) (#99)
    by mami on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 03:33:55 PM EST

    Like I said, by 'socialism' I mean the form of government which exists in much of Europe, not classical the-people-own-everything socialism

    [ a little blunt and ranting ] I mean, do you throw around with definition to your liking and still think a European can take that seriously ? Right now, I think we have no "socialist" governments in Europe of the "the-people-own-everything socialism", the only "socialism" I have heard of. And no one would come to the idea to throw around with definitions about socialism. Most of the governments are in some form or the other _social_ , but not _socialist_. My, do you know that we just got rid of the last socialist government ten years ago and that your esteemed country did pay heavily in helping to make that come about "without shedding blood" ?

    Just go and create some new words for some new things. First the techno-geeks fuss around with the word "free" for all sorts of purposes, then you get us dumb Europeans all speechless with libertarian liberties in a much too liberal kind of choosing words and definitions, and now you can't make up your mind about what is socialism and what is social.

    Now tell me, what is is all your logic worth, if you are so inaccurate ?

    How about calling you all "logicalians" ? (Just kidding )

    [ Parent ]

    Precisely! (3.16 / 6) (#50)
    by Steve B on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:48:24 PM EST

    Those with power (money) tend to take away the liberty and happiness of others

    That's why the government shouldn't be permitted to gather much power or money to itself. QED.

    [ Parent ]

    Constitutions (3.66 / 3) (#63)
    by fluffy grue on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:31:12 PM EST

    The idea behind constitutions and the like are to outline what the government may and may not do with the power, namely (in the green/socialist case) providing the underprivileged with the means to pursue life, liberty, and happiness/property, and preventing the overprivileged from taking those means from others.
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    Yes, me (4.25 / 4) (#38)
    by itsbruce on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:34:43 PM EST

    Can you show me how someone who is a socialist can believe in those axioms I listed?

    Yes, me - thought I'd be more interested in the happiness than the property. Not at all impressed by your belief that only people who share your political outlook can have the best interests of their fellows at heart (depressingly common as that is). It presupposes that your beliefs offer the only way to fulfill those aims and that this is so obvious as to be unquestionable.

    IMO, your approach (the automatic dismissal of alternative viewpoints, not your libertarianism) is both irrational and unlikely to contribute to your stated ideals.


    --

    It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
    [ Parent ]
    Couple things... (3.75 / 4) (#45)
    by skim123 on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:13:19 PM EST

    Not at all impressed by your belief that only people who share your political outlook can have the best interests of their fellows at heart

    They don't have too. They shouldn't. They should have their best interest in heart. When you eat dinner, whose interests are in your heart? Yours or that starving child's in China? If you truly had others' in your hearts at all times, you'd let yourself die of starvation so that others would live, no?

    I like Libertarianism because it follows with my personal belief system: you do what you want to do, I'll do what I want to do, so long as we aren't fucking each other. If that means you don't want to work, and want to sit home and get high, that's cool with me, just don't expect me to pay for your sloth.

    IMO, your approach (the automatic dismissal of alternative viewpoints, not your libertarianism) is both irrational and unlikely to contribute to your stated ideals

    While my post my imply that I've automatically dismissed alternative viewpoints, I don't think I have, at least the ones I'm aware of. I've thought about this long and hard, weighed other viewpoints, etc. I am open to new ideas and will weigh them all equally. In that process to date, I've yet to (personally) find one that is better than Liberatarianism...

    Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
    PT Barnum


    [ Parent ]
    Your original post states quite explicitly (4.66 / 3) (#54)
    by itsbruce on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:18:38 PM EST

    the following syllogism:

    1. Techies are rational.
    2. "Libertarianism is the only logical philosophy to take" if you value basic freedoms
    3. Techies are therefore libertarians.

    Sounds fairly dismissive of other viewpoints to me, since all other philosophies are ruled to be illogical.


    --

    It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
    [ Parent ]
    It hinges on point 2 (4.00 / 2) (#55)
    by skim123 on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:26:16 PM EST

    the following syllogism ... SNIP ... Sounds fairly dismissive of other viewpoints to me, since all other philosophies are ruled to be illogical

    I don't expect others to dismiss all other viewpoints, I haven't. As I said earlier, I've spent a lot of time thinking about various political systems and philosophies. It is the only one that I've found, given those base beliefs, holds up under logical scrutiny. That's not to say that there isn't another, but all others that are currently in my universe of knowledge have proven illogical when held up against the base belief system I explained earlier. For example, read this post (and its parent). Note the contradiction in his argument for the Green party.

    Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
    PT Barnum


    [ Parent ]
    logic (2.50 / 2) (#98)
    by mami on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 02:59:09 PM EST

    Dumb question - is "Nature" logic ? Why is logic the only determinating factor in your judgements ?

    [ Parent ]
    Because I am a rational being (2.50 / 2) (#103)
    by skim123 on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 06:44:38 PM EST

    Why is logic the only determinating factor in your judgements

    Because I am a rational being. We exist in a rational world. What other factors am I to use? My feelings? The stars? I may wish to be able to walk through walls, but logic tells me that I can't. My dreams say I can, some religion may profess that it is possible, yet I know that I cannot walk through walls. Logic. Once you surrender logic to other factors when making decisions/judgements, you are in a world of trouble.

    Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
    PT Barnum


    [ Parent ]
    PANG -- People Are No Good (3.20 / 5) (#49)
    by Steve B on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:44:26 PM EST

    Not to mention that there are all SORTS of holes to be poked in Libertarianism - like the basic fact that people are, by their basic natures, greedy, lazy, and malicious

    On the contrary, that's precisely why the government needs to be kept down to the dimensions advocated by libertarians, unless you agree with the Weekly World News that the government is run by space aliens rather than those greedy, lazy, and malicious humans.

    [ Parent ]

    Why? (4.00 / 2) (#65)
    by fluffy grue on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:59:31 PM EST

    Don't just say "this is so." Tell me why this is so. Otherwise you're treading the line between discussion and dogma.

    To clarify: HOW is the fact that PANG precisely why the government needs to be kept down in size? Now, I don't exactly advocate the government getting bigger (IMO it could use a LOT of reduction as it is, but that's a management issue, not a social policy issue), but I don't see how keeping the government small will override PANG.
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    Because... (2.00 / 1) (#69)
    by Steve B on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 07:29:12 PM EST

    HOW is the fact that PANG precisely why the government needs to be kept down in size?

    I thought that it was obvious from my wisecrack about the government perhaps being secretly run by space aliens -- people run the govenment, and if people are anywhere near as untrustworthy as you suggest then it's all the more reason not to concentrate any more power under one roof.

    [ Parent ]

    Nope (5.00 / 2) (#95)
    by Simon Kinahan on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 01:53:44 PM EST

    Let me paraphrase: people should not be allowed to accumulate power because they tend to abuse it. If thats your actual goal, rather than a mere justfication for a previously held position, then Libertarianism is not the way to acheive it.

    While libertarianism does reduce the effectiveness of government as a center of power, it increases the effectiveness of private accumulations of capital (property, if you prefer, it makes no odds). Thats because the government, which in a normal democracy serves to counterbalance private wealth, can no longer do so. It cannot tax beyond what is absolutely necessary, it cannot provide the poor with means of sustenance, etc.

    Your only argument, then, if you accept this (and I assume you do, as it s obvious), is that the power of private interests is somehow more acceptable than the power of government. There are a number of ways to make such an argument:

    You could contend that wealth simply never accumlates under a libertarian system, but I consider that to be nonsense unless you have some revlutionary new theory of economics.

    You could argue that private interests, without government help, keep one another under control. I think thats very debatable. Monopolies, based on economies of scale or increasing returns, seem to be a fact of life, and the consequences of wholly private control of transport or water supplies have not been explored fully anywhere that I know of. There's also another side to this coin: we can keep our governments under control, at least to some extent, using the twin requirements for official transparency and democracy. There is no such control over private interests without government to enforce it.

    Finally, you could argue that private wealth is inherently better than government power, as its obtained through voluntary exchange, rather than force. I have a certain sympathy with that argument, but I am not convinced the origins of private property are always so squeaky clean. For a start, a lot of property originates in pre-capitalist times and was obtained by methods we would not consider acceptable. For another, labour extracted from people who will starve unless the sell it does not seem terribly voluntary. For yet another, I consider the standard libertarian dogma that there is a "natural right" to property to be groundless: property is a social convention, and one it takes force to enforce, thus its arguable that private interests will do just the same things as the government if their interests are threatened: send men with guns.



    Simon

    If you disagree, post, don't moderate
    [ Parent ]
    Morals (4.50 / 2) (#101)
    by Steve B on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 04:09:54 PM EST

    While libertarianism does reduce the effectiveness of government as a center of power, it increases the effectiveness of private accumulations of capital (property, if you prefer, it makes no odds).

    Well, there's the bottom-line difference right there.

    Thats because the government, which in a normal democracy serves to counterbalance private wealth, can no longer do so.

    This is a meaningless statement unless you specify what exactly is to be "counterbalanced". If you refer to obvious abuses such as pollution, fraud, and suppression of criticism, a libertarian government does in fact retain sufficient power to counterbalance (indeed, a government stripped down to the essentials would, all else being equal, do a better job of those essentials than one which tries to be all things to all people). If you refer to private wealth being used in ways that offend you but do not violate your rights, my answer ultimately comes down to "too bad".

    Finally, you could argue that private wealth is inherently better than government power, as its obtained through voluntary exchange, rather than force. I have a certain sympathy with that argument, but I am not convinced the origins of private property are always so squeaky clean. For a start, a lot of property originates in pre-capitalist times and was obtained by methods we would not consider acceptable.

    If someone can show such a wrong within a reasonably current time frame, it can be addressed by legal doctrines that would be retained under a libertarian system. For instance, I have a certain amount of sympathy for tobacco lawsuits from people who took up the habit back when the health implications were being covered up by the industry, and who quit once the truth came out. (More recent smokers knew the risks and have only themselves to blame.)

    As for older historical wrongs -- the bottom line is that even if we could find a bit of habitable land surface that hasn't been stolen a dozen times over, we can't all move there.

    [ Parent ]

    Property (5.00 / 2) (#102)
    by Simon Kinahan on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 05:59:55 PM EST

    When I say that accumulations of private wealth need to be counterbalanced, I mean that its necessary, to preserve freedom in the positive sense, to prevent anyone gaining a monopoly on any widely needed resource.

    I know you do not agree, because in essence the disagreement between libertarians and other people (like me, for instance) with broadly liberal political views is about what property is and when it is and is not OK to take it. Essentially you believe that scuh property rights are always sound and inviolable, except where there is actual proof of theft.

    The normal libertarian view is that people have an almost absolute right to work and to keep the product of their labour, and into the bargain to claim as property any unclaimed natural resources they use in the process, provided "as much and as good" is left for others. This is seen as an extension of our right to determine the use of our own bodies. It is only OK to take property from someone if you can prove they stole it, or some part of it, from someone else who should be compensated. Right so far ? (this is paraphrased from Locke, via Nozick, incidentally)

    It'll come as some surprise to you that I consider this to be essentially a sound basis on whjich to procede. I do not agree that these rights are either "natural" or "god given" as is sometimes claimed, but I do agree that human societies function better when they are generally respected.

    The difference of opinion comes when you try to apply this doctrine to the real world. In the real world property rights actually have to be enforcable, so people have to be given legal title which extends beyound, or sometimes falls beneath, their strict ethical entitlement. In addition there are a lot of cases where "as much and as good" cannot be left for others.

    So, for instance, I have a legal copyright over my work which lasts for 60 years, although the work is entirely mine by entitlement, because that is a reasonable estimate of how long such a right can actually be defended for, as the work either vanishes from circulation or becomes common parlance. Similarly, the cabbage farmer next door gets to stop me from making political speeches in his fields, even when it does not damage the cabbages, because its much easier to enforce a general law against trespass than one that merely forbids it when it is damaging (this has in fact been tried in Scotland). Equally, if there is a single exceptionally beautiful corral reef and I put the work into making it an attractive tourist destination, I gain an ethical entitlement to some share in it, but because there is no other such reef, I cannot claim it as exclusive property.

    These kinds of cases essentially summarise why I find libertarianism deeply unsatisfying as a political theory. The code of rights it claims to support is fair enough, but it does nothing to account for the fact that that code in itself cannot be enforced, only an approximation can, and the costs of its being unenforcable fall upon the general population in a manner which is often worse than random, leading to occasional severe consequences, which, as a deontological rather than consequentialist theory, it cannot take account of.

    It is in accounting for the worst consequences of these necessary injustices, or "market failures" to use the unfortunate jargon, that I see the appropriate role of government. That includes the "counterbalancing" of private wealth, where it can be shown that the owner of that wealth is not wholly entitled to the benefits they are obtaining from it.

    Simon

    If you disagree, post, don't moderate
    [ Parent ]
    Nope (none / 0) (#96)
    by Simon Kinahan on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 01:53:44 PM EST

    Let me paraphrase: people should not be allowed to accumulate power because they tend to abuse it. If thats your actual goal, rather than a mere justfication for a previously held position, then Libertarianism is not the way to acheive it.

    While libertarianism does reduce the effectiveness of government as a center of power, it increases the effectiveness of private accumulations of capital (property, if you prefer, it makes no odds). Thats because the government, which in a normal democracy serves to counterbalance private wealth, can no longer do so. It cannot tax beyond what is absolutely necessary, it cannot provide the poor with means of sustenance, etc.

    Your only argument, then, if you accept this (and I assume you do, as it s obvious), is that the power of private interests is somehow more acceptable than the power of government. There are a number of ways to make such an argument:

    You could contend that wealth simply never accumlates under a libertarian system, but I consider that to be nonsense unless you have some revlutionary new theory of economics.

    You could argue that private interests, without government help, keep one another under control. I think thats very debatable. Monopolies, based on economies of scale or increasing returns, seem to be a fact of life, and the consequences of wholly private control of transport or water supplies have not been explored fully anywhere that I know of. There's also another side to this coin: we can keep our governments under control, at least to some extent, using the twin requirements for official transparency and democracy. There is no such control over private interests without government to enforce it.

    Finally, you could argue that private wealth is inherently better than government power, as its obtained through voluntary exchange, rather than force. I have a certain sympathy with that argument, but I am not convinced the origins of private property are always so squeaky clean. For a start, a lot of property originates in pre-capitalist times and was obtained by methods we would not consider acceptable. For another, labour extracted from people who will starve unless the sell it does not seem terribly voluntary. For yet another, I consider the standard libertarian dogma that there is a "natural right" to property to be groundless: property is a social convention, and one it takes force to enforce, thus its arguable that private interests will do just the same things as the government if their interests are threatened: send men with guns.



    Simon

    If you disagree, post, don't moderate
    [ Parent ]
    axiomatic systems (4.28 / 14) (#10)
    by streetlawyer on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 03:26:27 AM EST

    I occasionally postulate the following lawlikw generalisation in the sociology of metamathematics:
    Streetlawyer's law: For any axiomatic system with more than three axioms, there will be one axiom that nobody is completely happy with.
    In your case, the inclusion of "the pursuit of happiness" as a basic right (why would you need this if you already have liberty?) is clearly the equivalent of the axiom of choice, or the parallel postulate. And your equation of "the pursuit of happiness" with "/property" is just a rhetorical attempt to recruit the authors of the American (also Vietnamese) Declaration of Independence as libertarians, posthumously and in the face of the facts.

    And, of course, this is no more a "logical conclusion" than any other post hoc rationalisation of a political belief already held. In fact, you have a "logical" contradiction within your own axioms, as you can't regard both liberty and property as absolute rights.

    To clarify: if you have an absolute property right over Acacia Avenue, then I can't have absolute liberty to walk down it, and vice versa. It's as simple as that. We have to decide in what situations your property is more important than my liberty and vice versa. Liberatarians often have a whole huge casuistry about how my liberty isn't really liberty if it involves walking on someone else's property, but it's never really convincing, as I'm sure the responses to this post will demonstrate. And in any case, if you start admitting constructions whereby the lack of a right for a man with two legs to walk down a street isn't a restriction on liberty, you're opening up a loophole through which plenty of people are ready to drive a coach-and-four.

    There are a number of good arguments for libertarianism; I don't agree with any of them, but they're good. Nozick's book, in particular, is very good indeed, though lots of bourgeois-liberals will tell you otherwise. But to claim that it's in some way determined by logic is silly.

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]

    But (2.75 / 4) (#11)
    by skim123 on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 03:58:40 AM EST

    if you have an absolute property right over Acacia Avenue, then I can't have absolute liberty to walk down it, and vice versa

    I never said you have a RIGHT to property/happiness, rather a right "to the pursuit of." I have a right to try to be a successful business man. If I lack the drive, skills, wherewithall, or just have plain bad luck, I have no RIGHT make you, a sucessful business man, hire me, or give me money...

    Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
    PT Barnum


    [ Parent ]
    But the Founding Fathers Were Libertarian! (3.20 / 5) (#47)
    by Logan on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:31:30 PM EST

    Thomas Jefferson, who primarily wrote the Declration of Independence, was strongly influenced by John Locke, a philosopher who has strongly influenced many Libertarian beliefs. John Locke was responsible for the idea of rights to life, liberty, and property. It was Jefferson that substituted the phrase "pursuit of happiness" for "property," for stylistic reasons of his own choosing. To quote Thomas Jefferson:

    A right to property is founded in our natural wants, in the means with which we are endowed to satisfy these wants, and the right to what we acquire by those means without violating the similar rights of other sensible beings.

    Now, if that's not Libertarian, what is?

    I don't think it matters what the founding principles of the United States were, other than for historical reasons. There is nothing about the US that makes its history justification for any sort of philosophical idea. But I do tire of people attempting to revise history by denying what concepts this country was founded on, and those were Natural Law and the idea of certain rights, primarily the rights to life, liberty, and property. Whether or not you agree is of no consequence. The US itself no longer adheres to this concept, and hasn't for a long time, unfortunately.

    Logan

    [ Parent ]

    oh come on (4.00 / 4) (#85)
    by streetlawyer on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 03:26:04 AM EST

    Thomas Jefferson, who primarily wrote the Declration of Independence, was strongly influenced by John Locke, a philosopher who has strongly influenced many Libertarian beliefs.

    But this causality is crazy. Locke was also an influence on Nietszche and through him, Adolf Hitler -- does this mean I can also claim that Thomas Jefferson was a Nazi? And the libertarians' "influence" from Locke comes through some very poor Locke scholarship and a number of beliefs that Locke very certainly and provably didn't hold (particularly on the regulation of commerce, on egalitarianism, on taxation, and on the place of the Christian religion). In as much as Jefferson was in the classical liberal tradition, he can be considered a fore-runner of libertarianism, but today's libertarians have no better claim to his heritage than anyone else in the classical liberal tradition, which is to say more or less everyone active in American politics. You can find a lot of egalitarian material in both Locke and Jefferson, enough to support any position you care to occupy.

    Now, if that's not Libertarian, what is?

    Thanks for being honest enough to admit that the foundation of libertarianism is property rather than liberty; that's pretty rare. But taken in isolation, that quote doesn't say anything more than that there are such things as property rights; something which pretty much nobody denies. It doesn't say whether or not these rights are absolute, sovereign rights, and there's a lot in the rest of the founding documents of America to suggest that they aren't.

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]

    The Role of Property (4.33 / 3) (#90)
    by Logan on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 10:16:41 AM EST

    I do not find your objection that saying Jefferson was influenced by Locke is like saying he was a Nazi a reasonable one. Certain ideas -- namely, those of Natural Law and axiomatic rights -- were espoused by Locke and Jefferson (so an influence of the former on the latter is presumed), and I do not believe that those ideas trickled down to Nietszche (and most definitely not Hitler). Perhaps that is my mistake for implying causality rather than correlation, although I still believe it is reasonable to presume that some causality exists.

    Property is important in that it allows us to define liberty in terms based on axiomatic rights. It gives a domain over which one's liberty may be exercised. The rights to "life, liberty, and property" can all be reduced to the right to have property and do with it as one pleases (including one's own mind and body as one's property), with the limitation that the rights of others place a limitation on your own. I find nothing strange about promoting property rights together with liberty -- for me, as an anarchocapitalist, they go hand and hand.

    As I said, there is nothing about the US which makes it a convincing argument either for or against Libertarianism. There is much evidence, however, that much of what the government does today would have been considered sufficient grounds for removing the government by the same people that felt that the British crown's rule was unjust enough to be removed from this side of the Atlantic. That is, I can't pretend to know the thoughts of Jefferson or anyone else of that time period, except that which I can deduct from their actions and writings, but based on the rights appealed to in the Declaration of Independence, and the rights claimed to be upheld by the government in the Bill of Rights (which today is almost dead), our government today is almost as tyrranical as that of the British crown 225 years ago.

    Logan

    [ Parent ]

    The problem with Libertarianism (4.71 / 14) (#4)
    by fluffy grue on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:35:40 AM EST

    Libtertarianism is based on the basic tenet that the general populace are intelligent, compassionate, and responsible enough to act for themselves. The recent article "Crossing the Line" on MTV's show "Jackass" is pretty good proof that people are not, in general, intelligent, compassionate, or responsible.

    If Libertarianism would work for the human species, then it would be a nonissue because anarchy (i.e. lack of government) would have worked out just as well. The fact that we have government is pretty good evidence that we need government - government isn't one of those things which emerges without reason (in essence, modern governments emerged from a long line of evolutions to tyranny which emerged from anarchy).

    I think the reason that techies tend to be Libertarians is because they make the assumption that everyone else is responsible enough to live in a Libtertarian society. Unfortunately, people, in general, are far too stupid for that. Even if everyone were intelligent, Libertarianism still wouldn't work because people would try to screw each other out of everything, or try to cut costs in doing the minimum possible effort (i.e. not maintaining standards or the like).

    In an ideal world, Libertarianism would be great, but this is not an ideal world, and that's why I voted Nader - people need to be FORCED to act with a social conscience, which is what the Green party ultimately stands for. Which is, of course, the exact opposite of Libertarianism.
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]

    Intelligence or selflessness? (4.40 / 5) (#28)
    by jasonab on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:52:59 AM EST

    > In an ideal world, Libertarianism would be great, but this is not an ideal world, and that's why I voted Nader - people need to be FORCED to act with a social conscience, which is what the Green party ultimately stands for. Which is, of course, the exact opposite of Libertarianism.

    I don't follow that libertariansim requires intelligence, as much as it requires selflessness. Most CEOs are not rocket scientists. but they are smart in their own way and opportunistic. We have government not for reasons of intelligence but because the "strong" tend to lord themselves over the "weak" (where strong and weak can refer to any number of things). I agree that libertarianism would work well in a perfect world, but it's man's inherent selfishness and destructiveness that requires government intervention.


    --
    America is a great country. One of the freest in the world. -- greenrd
    [ Parent ]
    Libertarianism, Anarchism (3.75 / 4) (#29)
    by antizeus on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:05:05 AM EST

    Your point about people (in general) being pretty stupid has some merit, and can be well used in an argument for certain government regulation. The issue of antibiotics seems like a good example (widespread misuse of antibiotics can promote little gremlins that are resistant to them).

    However, I think you're misrepresenting libertarianism a bit. Libertarians generally support the existence of some government -- usually less than the current amount of government, but still a nonzero amount. It's as if I were to criticize those who support more regulation by saying that totalitarianism isn't feasible.
    -- $SIGNATURE
    [ Parent ]

    A bit of an overstatement (3.40 / 5) (#37)
    by fluffy grue on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:30:27 PM EST

    I'm not saying that Libertarianism is no government, it's just that it's skinned down to the point that it might as well be. The basic tenets are that everything (including law enforcement, fire protection, education, etc.) should be privatized - so what does that leave us with? No government, just a lot of businesses being run in the way that businesses are run.

    Also, I seriously doubt that these privatized agengies would be responsible; let's say that (thanks to the lack of the SEC and FTC existing to block mergers), Nike were to buy the major law enforcement and education companies.

    "Halt, you are under arrest for wearing a non-Nike shoe!"

    "Okay children, today we're going to learn how mass-production works. Each of you will get one little part of a big task, and by the end of the week we'll be making shoes! Your grade in this class will reflect how productive you are on our assembly line."

    These are silly scenarios, yes, but I seriously doubt any other privately-owned companies which used to be government services would be any better. The only reason that private schools are currently "better" (i.e. put on more polish - the kids I've known who went to private school didn't seem to get as good an education as I did at my decrepit public high school which had a core of very dedicated teachers) than public schools is that they compete with public schools; take away that competition (as well as the imposed educational tax) and parents will just send their kids to the cheapest schools around, which will probably be owned by, oh, Nike...
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    Silly Indeed (4.00 / 1) (#83)
    by busabusa on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 01:15:45 AM EST

    These are silly scenarios, yes, but I seriously doubt any other privately-owned companies which used to be government services would be any better. The only reason that private schools are currently "better" (i.e. put on more polish - the kids I've known who went to private school didn't seem to get as good an education as I did at my decrepit public high school which had a core of very dedicated teachers) than public schools is that they compete with public schools; take away that competition (as well as the imposed educational tax) and parents will just send their kids to the cheapest schools around, which will probably be owned by, oh, Nike...
    I don't see how it follows that although private schools are better with limited competition with public schools, that they would somehow become worse with full competition. I also seriously doubt that parents who truely care about their children would send them to the cheapest schools. In fact, I believe that just the opposite would occur. You would see parents trying to send their children to the best, and possibly but not always, the most expensive schools. Also, parents would have a choice that doesn't exist today, that is, the choice to send their child to a school that may be best suited for them i.e. a high-tech school for those so inclined or a school that teaches entirely in Chinese or a school with a focus on athletics or art or science . Instead, we end up with schools that attempt to teach so many subjects thinly, that not one subject is treated well at all.
    I'm not afraid of being taken over by computers, though...because they're totally defenseless. All we need are more people with hammers. --Thom Yorke
    [ Parent ]
    Almost... (4.66 / 6) (#31)
    by trhurler on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:49:12 AM EST

    Libtertarianism is based on the basic tenet that the general populace are intelligent, compassionate, and responsible enough to act for themselves.
    Not true. I'm a poor example of a libertarian, because I actually believe that the propriety of liberty is not axiomatic, but rests on other principles. However, I think I can comment here without offending any "real" libertarians.

    There are only three possibilities: either everyone is competent to handle his own affairs, or some people are, or nobody is. If nobody is, then any government but a very libertarian government is merely a bunch of brutes telling everyone else what to do without any justice whatsoever. If everybody is, then any government but a libertarian government is doomed to fail in the long run. If some people are, then we have an interesting question or ten.

    First of all, who are these superior beings, and how will we discover them reliably? Second, how can we prevent them, sensible though they may be, from using the rest of us the way we use cattle? Third, why is it that everyone advocating this premise thinks that HE is one of the anointed few? Fourth, why should the masses, even if some few are superior, actually give a rats ass, given that they themselves are, by definition, not as enlightened? Fifth, what about "superior" people who disagree with the rest of the superior people, or are you so silly as to posit that being superior is like being of the Puritan elect, with neither disagreement nor mistakes being possible to such people?

    This is clearly absurd. Government which seeks to tell you that it knows better than you do is government which wants something from you that it has no business taking. For my take on this "ungrateful" argument, please see my post elsewhere under this story, which I am going to write in a moment:)

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    [ Parent ]
    Many good points... (4.00 / 3) (#36)
    by fluffy grue on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:22:28 PM EST

    And I'm wondering why you're a Libertarian if you hold those beliefs. :) I mean, except for the "taking of things they have no right to"; you sound more like a (classical) Republican than a Libertarian.

    My response is that the government doesn't have any basic right to your money, but it is a necessity for the existence of an enforced social conscience. It's an enforced selflessness, necessary because by their very nature, people are not selfless.
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    Republicans, LIbertarians, etc (4.00 / 4) (#39)
    by trhurler on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:42:59 PM EST

    I'm not really much of a Libertarian(note the capital L,) but I'm certainly not a Republican. Social conservatism is one of the great evils of human history. Unfortunately, so is fiscal liberalism, so there is no decent home for me among the political parties of the US. The Libertarians would be promising if they actually had something to say besides "liberty is good!" but they really don't. If anyone asks why liberty is good, they're left standing there holding their dicks and repeating themselves, as though this will suddenly become convincing.

    As a result, I generally vote for the Libertarians' candidates for a few things where I can get to know what the candidates think and see if I like them, and I vote for a few of the less nazi-esque Republicans. I've yet to find a Democrat who didn't strike me as a vile and disgusting leech, but maybe that's just me... some people actually liked Slick Willie, after all.

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    [ Parent ]
    Clinton as a leech? (4.00 / 1) (#60)
    by fluffy grue on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:26:13 PM EST

    How was Clinton leech-like? I seem to recall that his policies were generally for instituting social changes and freeing up more money, not, say, improving the military...
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    Leech. (4.50 / 2) (#70)
    by trhurler on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 07:47:14 PM EST

    Warning: what follows is not to be taken seriously. Well, not entirely seriously anyway. If you have no sense of humor, go elsewhere.

    Let's see. He spent 8 years propping up his trailertrash ego and getting his knob polished at taxpayer expense. In that time, he did nothing which will be remembered by anyone younger than I am now, except get caught getting his knob polished by one of the ugliest women ever to set foot in the White House. He takes credit for everything good that has happened, but he didn't do anything except try unsuccessfully(ala Jimmy Carter) to broker international peace deals all over the place. He took the furniture when he left. The man was nothing more than the highest paid welfare recipient in the world. I bet the fridge was full of Nat Lite and he was smoking doob while complaining about not having enough money!

    Well, actually, he fucked up a lot of things while he was in office, and most welfare recipients are not so harmful, so I guess it isn't a perfect analogy, but still... aside from making it harder for law abiding citizens to own weapons, speak their minds, and avoid unreasonable search and seizure, what did Big Willie do that was notable? He lived at public expense, that's what. Hoo-boy, now Chelsea can have a room of her own! Whee! Hey Hillary, do you think it'd be ok if I put my collection of beer cans on my desk?

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    [ Parent ]
    Social Conscience: Plain Brown Wrap For Power Lust (4.50 / 6) (#48)
    by Steve B on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 02:39:35 PM EST

    The fact that we have government is pretty good evidence that we need government

    This argument leads to the inescapable conclusion that no social institution -- slavery, witch burning, divine right monarchy, whatever -- can ever be abolished once it becomes entrenched. Since this is obviously not the case, the argument must be rejected.

    people need to be FORCED to act with a social conscience

    Newspeak-to-English Translation: People need to be FORCED to do what I want.

    If you want to offer a rebuttal, I might take you seriously if you argue that you ought to be forced to do things you find objectionable (e.g. presuming that you're an environmentalist, I'd give you points for sincerity if you advocated requiring that people drive big SUVs and contribute to the construction of Alaskan oil wells).

    [ Parent ]

    Um... no. (4.50 / 2) (#64)
    by fluffy grue on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:49:12 PM EST

    Government is just a little more "entrenched" than fads like slavery, witch burning, or divine right monarchy. And those are all (some abstractly) forms of government; I don't mean that people must stick to, say, a republic, or a consensus-based democracy, or a random-draw system, or anything in particular, just that humans, in general, require a government.

    Let's see. I like the emotional strings you pull at by claiming that my words are newspeak (yay, now I'm Big Brother, right?) so how about this: There are many things I do which don't follow a pure environmentalist's perspective. I use fossil fuels, I use too much electricity, I use polystyrene foam cups, and I do a lot of things which, in the long run, are bad for the planet but which I do out of convenience. By being forced to, say, use only reusable things (and actually reuse them), and only take mass transportation, and cut down on my electricity consumption and the like, I would be heavily inconvenienced by it - only the inconvenience would lead to it becoming easier since everyone else would be forced to as well, and so in the long term, all those things would improve.

    In the long run, what I want is for people to get long, not screw each other over, and not fuck up the planet for each other, or for other species. These are all things which humans have demonstrably not decided to do on their own even though by standard game theory everyone would be much better off if they did it, and I don't see what's so wrong about forcing a greater good.

    So let's see. I (and everyone else) ought to be forced to take the city bus, which is something which nobody here does, and something which I certainly don't want to do, since it's a major inconvenience to do so. I (and everyone else) ought to be forced to provide my own cup when I go out to lunch, and my own bags when I go to the grocery store, neither of which are things I want to do, because they are major inconveniences to do so. I (and everyone else) ought to be forced to limit the consumption of electricity on an annual, per-person basis, even though that is a HUGE inconvenience. These are all things which are good for the planet, which I'm not about to be the first to do on a voluntary basis (and are not things I want to do), but which I advocate nontheless. Does that qualify?
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    It's Nice To Want Things (4.00 / 1) (#68)
    by Steve B on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 07:26:29 PM EST

    I want is for people to get long, not screw each other over....

    I (and everyone else) ought to be forced to... [insert open-ended list]....

    Let me know when you decide which of these two mutually exclusive things you want.

    I'm not about to be the first to do on a voluntary basis (and are not things I want to do), but which I advocate nontheless. Does that qualify?

    I assume this is a rhetorical question. Of course blathering about things that you could do starting right now if you would just get off your high horse and do them does not qualify.

    [ Parent ]

    This is what gets my goat... (4.50 / 8) (#13)
    by Pimp Ninja on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:54:45 AM EST

    From the article:

    Never mind people like my sister, who, with her biology degree from Stanford and master's in public health, has rarely found a steady job with benefits in the last 10 years, and has at times resorted to desperation moves such as selling flowers at subway stations to prevent foreclosure on her house (wrong gender; wrong skill set: teaching, public health, environmental concerns -- just the kind of "middle manager/government bureaucrat" so despised by technolibertarians)

    Basically, what i'm seeing here is the author complaining that people with the wrong skills for the jobs that they want aren't getting sufficiently employed. What ever happened to choosing your jobs based on what you're capable of doing? Is that such a strange concept? There is work out there for everyone, i believe, so long as you don't set your sights higher than you are capable of.

    Nobody should have a right to be given a position that they cannot fill properly. And in an employer's shoes, i'd be highly reluctant to hire a "middle-manager" when what i really need are hardworking techs. It has nothing to do with despising that sort, it has more to do with prioritization. Hire those with the capapbilities that are necessary, not just those that "need" the job.

    As a side note, i don't particularly see the skill set that the sister in that example has as a bad thing. To be honest, i'd like to see more people with dedicated skills teaching. But that's another discussion altogether, and also the one chink in my own personal libertarian views... Education :) So there.


    -----

    If we demand from them without offering in return, what are we but better-
    dressed muggers holding up the creative at the point of a metaphorical gun?


    It never said what job she was applying for. (4.50 / 4) (#15)
    by Electric Angst on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 05:02:34 AM EST

    what i'm seeing here is the author complaining that people with the wrong skills for the jobs that they want aren't getting sufficiently employed

    It was never stated in the article that the sister was looking for a tech job. While those in the tech field might not know it, it isn't much easier to get a job today for people without a tech-centered education than it was during the final years of the early 90's recession. Just because the tech sector was booming didn't mean that it was carrying the rest of the economy with it (other than investors and day-traders who cashed in on the bubble phenomenon.)

    The fact that our economy was lauded as being so invincibly strong during the tech bubble was a sign of arrogance by those who were benifiting from it, since there were very clear signs that those without tech skill-sets were not reaping a fair share of the rewards. (Example: The still-widening earnings gap.)


    --
    "Hell, at least [Mailbox Pipebombing suspect Lucas Helder's] argument makes sense, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of people." - trhurler
    [ Parent ]
    "Fair Share"? (3.25 / 4) (#43)
    by Pimp Ninja on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 01:15:36 PM EST

    There's no such thing as a "fair share" of earnings. If you have the skillset to contribute to the working world, you can expect commesurate compensation. If your skills aren't getting you anywhere, don't whine about it - learn new skills. Your "fair share" of rewards is equal to exactly what you are capable of offering.


    -----

    If we demand from them without offering in return, what are we but better-
    dressed muggers holding up the creative at the point of a metaphorical gun?


    [ Parent ]
    Wow. (5.00 / 2) (#78)
    by aphrael on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:21:10 PM EST

    That's quite a position to be taking .... for my part, I think it's bizarre that I make twice what the starting salary for a teacher is in my area, and more than police who risk their lives every day.

    Do I really contribute that much to the economy --- or, more importantly, to civil society? I don't think so; I think that skill valuations got massively out of whack during the tech boom.

    [ Parent ]

    You misread me (5.00 / 2) (#87)
    by Pimp Ninja on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 05:41:33 AM EST

    i'm not disputing that there are some skewed incomes out there. But to demand a "fair share" isn't the way to rectify that. In the end, it's the people who are purchasing your services that decide the value of them, and if you're unhappy with your compensation, you can always find another job. If you lack the ability to do anything else, then you have no right to demand that you get paid as if you did.

    And if you'd been reading my posts earlier in this thread, you'd have seen that i don't totally agree with the disparities in earnings between teachers and other professions. But nobody forces anyone to be a teacher, and if the other benefits of the job (joy in teaching, responsibility, etc...) aren't enough compensation, then see above - i invite them to do something different. One is paid for one's work in more forms than money.


    -----

    If we demand from them without offering in return, what are we but better-
    dressed muggers holding up the creative at the point of a metaphorical gun?


    [ Parent ]
    With particular respect to teachers (3.50 / 2) (#100)
    by aphrael on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 04:05:34 PM EST

    firefighters, police officers, and other people on the government payroll --- the *only* way you are going to get your salary increased is through lobbying the public agency responsible for it, and the voters to whom it is responsible.

    [ Parent ]
    Chink in the armor? (4.33 / 3) (#19)
    by Miniluv on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:38:39 AM EST

    and also the one chink in my own personal libertarian views... Education :)
    As someone who is finding himself leaning further and further towards libertarianism I don't see how Education would be the chink in your libertarian views.

    I suppose it depends on if you're in search of the "perfect" libertarian state in which governments do nothing that would be the extreme of those viewpoints put into practice, or instead a libertarian federal system in which the government doesn't interfere with what is essentially a local activity. For the record, the federal gov't in the US contributes less than 5% of the average districts operating budget. It's 3.2% in the district in which I live, 2.8% in the district in which my mother teachers. They do however "interfere" to a large extent through expensive regulations and standards.

    "Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
    [ Parent ]

    Bad assumprion (again!) (4.42 / 7) (#14)
    by Dacta on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 05:01:13 AM EST

    Why do people assume the stereotype of the libertarian-technologist to be true?

    While a few well know technologists are vocal supporters of libertarianism, most aren't. Infact, a poll (not this poll, which shows similar numbers, though) at this very site showed more readers of this site were intending to vote for Nader's Green party that the Libertiarians at the recent US election.

    It is true that most technologists don't think goverenment regulation of the internet is a good idea, but much of that is for technical reasons rather than political ones.

    The passionate hatred of regulation isn't so much a hatred of regulation, but a contempt for stupid laws which we know will be unenforcable.



    Quite (4.50 / 4) (#18)
    by itsbruce on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:21:54 AM EST

    I'm a socialist technologist. Pauline Boroosk is a mouthy idiot.


    --

    It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
    [ Parent ]
    Voting Nader (3.66 / 3) (#27)
    by antizeus on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:48:27 AM EST

    I voted for Nader. Why did I do this? Because Nader had more momentum going into the election than any of the other third party candidates. As such, I thought he had the best chance of getting 5% of the popular vote, and thus represented the most viable threat to the entrenched two-party system that maintains a stranglehold on the US political system.

    Usually I vote Libertarian. If we had a decent voting scheme (proportional representation, Condorcet voting, whatever) then I would have supported the Libertarian party again.

    Don't confuse a vote with Nader for support for Nader's platform. The US political system does not encourage voting according to your beliefs.
    -- $SIGNATURE
    [ Parent ]

    Wow! (3.00 / 1) (#71)
    by Luke Francl on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 08:30:48 PM EST

    I'm a "libertarian" too (it's a bit more complicated than that, of course), and I voted for Nader for exactly the same reason. I hoped that a revitalized left would help spur some political discourse in this country instead of the pandering we have now. Obviously it didn't work. :)

    I also voted for Nader because I feel betrayed by the Libertarian Party. They have done nothing to grow the party, or promote any real change in this country. If you haven't read "Archimedes Shrugged", you should. It details the LP's Failings extensively. I wish the LP would get someone who was for incremental change that people would accept, and push him (or her) like crazy. As it stands now, the party is attractive to high school boys.

    [ Parent ]

    Strawman? (4.77 / 9) (#16)
    by Beorn on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 05:46:02 AM EST

    I never understood who the Cyberselfish articles were supposed to attack. I don't know any nerds who believe in Boorsook's anarchic capitalism, and neither do I know anyone who would think the actions of a big corporation like Cisco or Microsoft represents the values of tech culture. Of course, I don't live in Silicon Valley either, perhaps it is more common there - but then maybe the article should have been called "Cyberselfish - A Couple Of Randians I Met At Some Place I Worked Once".

    Personally I might call myself a libertarian, but I also respect the complexities of economics too much to preach to the experts. It may or may not be good for society to let big corporations get away with short-term evils (low pay, layoffs, aggressive behavior) in return for long-term benefits, but I believe the protection of foolish individuals against foolish masses is more fundamentally important than the rights of billionares to erect 100m statues of themselves. These rights includes the right to an opportunity, (but not the right to success), the right to free speech, the right to screw up your life, and the right to privacy.

    The computer and the internet follows a long tradition of inventions that gives power to individuals, and that may explain why these views are more common with nerds than other subcultures. The internet has shown that old social democratic ideals like benevolent censorship are unnecessary, and encryption has forced the cease-fire between privacy and security to be broken, forcing a conflict where privacy has the moral upper ground. This is obviously reflected in the ideals of people who encounter these tools every day.

    Anyway, I would respect Borsook a lot more if she weren't pretending to expose some really dirty secret, when she's actually just shooting at strawmen.

    - Beorn

    [ Threepwood '01 ]

    Libertarianism (4.25 / 4) (#30)
    by Nyarlathotep on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:14:23 AM EST

    Yes, the quotes from the article have not really explained what she means by Cyberselfish. I know I have heard that word used to describe that fact that CEOs of many large Tech companies did not really give the charities, i.e. people like Bill Gates before he started donating to charities.

    OTOH, she may be talking about how the government should have the power to regulate things, i.e. tax the internet, but she may not understand that the vast majority of regulation the government wants to impose on the internet is really spying or limits on free speach. Personally, I think taxation is just not importent when compaired with more basic freedoms. The importent question is will opposing internet taxation help or hinder our opposition to things like carnivore.


    Actually, I do not consider pure libertarianism (withoui conservatism) and socialism to be at all incompatible. Specifically, we give corperations limited liability, i.e. if I start a corperation to polute your neighborhood and kill you then you can not sue me, noly the corperation, which may not have an assets. Clearly, stock holders who have partial control over a corperation should be held accountable for the actions of that corperations, i.e. if you buy stock in a 1 million dollar corperation and that corperation gets slapped for a multi-billion dollar law suit then you will probable loose your house. All these various regulations (EPA) could be fought "after the fact" in court, i.e. sue corperations when they act badly, so not one would want to invest in any companies which were likely to hurt people.

    Now, there are some necissary industries (like power) which would just be too dangerous to invest. If these companies wanted limited liability then they would need to broker a special deal with the society (like giving up 50% or 60% control to popular vote). Personally, I feal that 50% or 60% public control is a small price to pay for limited liability. The decission about giving up partial control for limited liability would be totally the choice of the company, i.e. poluting manufacturors would give up control for limited liability, but microsoft would not give up this control.

    IMHO the diffrence between a concervative and a libertarian is that a libertarian can see that companies should not necissarily have limited liability, i.e. the libertarian feals that capitalists should be free to do what ever they want with their money, but that they should be held accountable for their actions just like any individual. Anyway the point is that this proposed (idealistic) system is technically compatible with the ideals of both socialism and libertarianism.

    Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
    [ Parent ]
    Thought experiments (4.50 / 2) (#79)
    by winthrop on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:53:52 PM EST

    These rights includes the right to an opportunity, (but not the right to success)

    This reminds me of a situation Steven Pinker brought up in the book How the Mind Works. There are three Air Force pilots and three bomber runs to be made. For each run, there is a 2/3 chance the pilot will be killed. If each of them makes one run, probably only one of them will come back alive. Instead, though, they could draw straws and the loser would have to do all three runs, run out of fuel, crash and die, while the other two would definitely live.

    In one sense, they're equally fair, because in the first, they each have the same likelihood of getting shot down and in the second, they each have the same likelihood of drawing the bad straw. Even though the second way would probably save on average one life, most people would still prefer the first way, at least in their gut, because they always has the opportunity to succeed, up until the very last moment.

    Now here's a thought experiment: What about the same on a much larger scale? What if your entire brigade was captured and the enemy gave you two options: a) kill your 500 shortest people (or some other measurement you know in advance) or b) kill 1,000 people based on a lottery. Which would you choose?

    In the second way, everybody has the opportunity to succeed (although they're not guaranteed it), but in the first way, more people are guaranteed success, statistically. What if it were 1 and 1,000? What if it were 499 and 500? What if it were a contest instead of a lottery?

    [ Parent ]

    Thought experiment (3.00 / 1) (#97)
    by mami on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 02:07:52 PM EST

    <i>Even though the second way would probably save on average one life, most people would still prefer the first way, at least in their gut, because they always has the opportunity to succeed, up until the very last moment. </i>

    What's the math for saving on average one life for the second way ? And besides who has the right to take away my "very last moment" ?

    [ Parent ]
    Individuals now or individuals-to-be-named-later? (4.50 / 2) (#104)
    by winthrop on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 06:53:12 PM EST

    What's the math for saving on average one life for the second way ?

    If all 3 go out, on average 1 will survive. That was part of the situation; there is a 2/3 chance each will get shot down. If only 1 goes out, on average, 2 will survive. More specifically: if all 3 go out, there's a 1/27 chance they all 3 survive, a 6/27 chance 2 survive, a 12/27 chance 1 survives, and a 8/27 chance none survive. On the other hand, if only 1 goes out, there is a 100% chance that he will die and the other 2 will live, every single time.

    And besides who has the right to take away my "very last moment" ?

    Exactly! That's the crux of the situation. We have two different forces opposing here: each individual's desire (right?) to have a chance up to the very last moment, and the group's desire (right?) to have the most survive. The question opposing yours is "What right do you have to take away 2 person-to-be-named-later's lives in exchange for your 1 life?" Or, put another way, you have a better overall chance of living if you agree to draw lots ahead of time. Would you rather have a better chance to live or always have a fighting chance?

    I guess my answer to your question would be that only you should have the right to take away your own very last moment. Even though your refusal to do so might cause others to lose their lives, I can't say that anyone should be forced to be a hero. I hope if I were in that situation, though, that I would have the guts to fly to my own sure death in order to ensure life for the other 2, but I have no idea if I would.

    [ Parent ]

    geesh (none / 0) (#106)
    by mami on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 12:55:20 AM EST

    Wow, is that a question you pose new enlistees in bootcamp ? Tough. Hmm, I have to think about this more, poor guys who come in a situation like that. Thanks for the answer.

    [ Parent ]
    Weak thought experiment (4.00 / 2) (#105)
    by bjrubble on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 10:19:30 PM EST

    Sorry, but Pinker's thought experiment really bugs me. The numbers vindicate the "gut feeling."

    The Air Force's goal is not to save pilots, it's to hit targets. Saving one pilot's life is not "success" if it means fewer targets get hit. With one pilot, you have only a 1 in 3 chance of hitting a single target. With three pilots, you have a 19 in 27 chance of hitting a single target. If you lose twice as many pilots but hit 2.11 times (19/9) as many targets, you come out ahead. And you have a 1 in 27 chance of not losing a single pilot, as opposed to certainty that you will lose a pilot.

    There are many great thought experiments that demonstrate the human mind evaluating risk irrationally. This is not one of them.

    [ Parent ]
    Pinker situation (5.00 / 1) (#112)
    by winthrop on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 07:56:30 PM EST

    The original Pinker situation had more caveats; I believe one was that the war was about to end, so whether or not the targets was hit was irrelevant (to the pilots, at least). Also, the plan for the pilot was to keep hitting the targets one after the other until he was shot down or runs out of fuel, so he has a statistical hit ratio of 13/27 targets. (Assuming that he has a 2/3 chance of getting shot down before each target, he has a 9/27 chance of hitting the first target, a 3/27 chance of the second and a 1/27 chance of the third.)

    But really, that's supposed to be irrelevant. If you're not comfortable with the bomb-dropping, think of a different situation involving a three-sided die :) that you have to get a '1' on to live. Would you rather each of you get a chance to roll the die and live, or draw straws ahead of time and the loser has to kill himself? Interestingly, I think more people would choose the straw-drawing in this case because there is no glory in living through a 3-sided die-rolling the way there is in living through a bomber run. Still, most people have a strong aversion to killing themselves.

    The point of it (which I never said before) isn't that the human mind evalutated the risk irrationally, but rather that it optimizes for reproductive success rather than survival. It doesn't matter how slim the odds are of surviving as long as they're non-zero, because if the odds are really low and you do survive, you get a greater share of the glory (and the women).

    [ Parent ]

    horrors (2.50 / 6) (#17)
    by gregholmes on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:20:45 AM EST

    "Those whose greatest strengths have not been the comprehension of social systems, appreciation of the humanities, or acquaintance with history, politics, and economics have started shaping public policy."

    Horrors. Those who do fit her bill thought a New Deal and a Great Society would be wonderful, so they bulldozed all the affordable housing and moved poor people into sewers in the sky.

    I think we needed a new group shaping public policy.



    You're a stranger to logic, aren't you? (2.90 / 10) (#20)
    by pig bodine on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:39:43 AM EST

    Even if the policy-makers of the past have been completely unsuccessful, this does not indicate that we should discard them in favour of a group of people completely unqualified for the job. I wouldn't ask a political science graduate to configure a core router, and I don't think computer science graduates have any idea what it takes to run a country properly.

    Everyone in the western world has some loudmouthed idea or other about how government should work. Few have actually studied the problems they mouth off about.

    [ Parent ]

    while ignoring the ad hominum attack ... (3.50 / 8) (#21)
    by gregholmes on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 08:29:50 AM EST

    Everyone in the western world has some loudmouthed idea or other about how government should work.

    Exactly. We call it democracy.



    [ Parent ]
    There was no ad hominem attack, you idiot (2.33 / 3) (#61)
    by pig bodine on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 06:27:31 PM EST

    It would be an ad hominem argument if I had said something like, "We should ignore gregholmes because he is clearly an idiot, and therefore his ideas have no merit." I just insulted you. You deserved it. It isn't an ad hominem unless I use it as a premise for an argument.

    [ Parent ]

    Hold on (5.00 / 1) (#77)
    by aphrael on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:18:40 PM EST

    is it *really* necessary to call people 'idiot'? That type of flame is, really, not called for, and is not what K5 is supposed to be about.

    [ Parent ]
    Ah, you're right (4.00 / 1) (#84)
    by pig bodine on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 01:45:52 AM EST

    Apologies to gregholmes, if you read this. I was wrong to call you an idiot, and a stranger to logic. (But they still aren't arguments ad hominem)

    [ Parent ]

    Whine, bitch, moan (3.75 / 8) (#22)
    by 0xdeadbeef on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 09:02:08 AM EST

    Forgive me while attack the messenger and not the message, but I believe the source for all her whining is succinctly demonstrated right here:
    Those whose greatest strengths have not been the comprehension of social systems, appreciation of the humanities, or acquaintance with history, politics, and economics have started shaping public policy."
    She is rather annoyed that us nerds have attained a position of power in the world. This is really a part of a larger case of envy that the humanities and non-rational belief systems have for technology and those who appreciate technology, and I think even more deeply, an example of the distrust that heavily "social" people have for those who are rational and introverted.

    Well, all I can say to them is thpppp. :P

    Technical subjects (3.50 / 2) (#76)
    by aphrael on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:17:35 PM EST

    Those whose greatest strengths have not been the comprehension of social systems, appreciation of the humanities, or acquaintance with history, politics, and economics have started shaping public policy."

    She might have a valid point, tho. Consider: would you want those who have only expertice with analyzing social systems to write your mission-critical software? If not, why would you want those who don't have any expertise with such things designing state policy?

    [ Parent ]

    Gimme a geek over a demagogue any day (4.00 / 2) (#93)
    by 0xdeadbeef on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 01:23:45 PM EST

    It's absurd, though, because many of the greatest experts in history, economics, and even political science have been hard-core geeks*. In fact, I'd consider it a causal relationship. Those with "underdeveloped" empathy are forced to learn to deal with the world rationally, and thus understand it far better than those who coast by on pure intiution. I'm not saying they should be politicians, but they probably make the best advisors and policy makers.

    In other words, it takes an analytical mind to see things as they are, not as how you want them to be. It is for that reason that the social sciences are considered a joke when compared to the hard sciences, because they are mostly ideology. The science becomes not a tool to disprove hypotheses, but a tool to lend credibility to existing prejudices. When you see the world as an interesting puzzle, you're less likely to take a stake in it and let that affect your judgement.

    * The only example I can think of his Alan Greenspan, but in my memory I've got such a strong impression of sloppy bow-ties and tweed jackets among the greats of the social sciences that I'm sure he ain't the only one. :-)

    [ Parent ]
    Analytical minds (none / 0) (#110)
    by aphrael on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 03:10:17 PM EST

    I think we're talking about slightly different subjects here. :) What I was suggesting is that it is better for people who have studied economics (for example) and understand the intricacies of the subject, to be making decisions with large economic impact, than it is for people who have studied computer programming to do so --- because that is their area of expertise.

    The same is even more true for law --- law is an *incredibly* technical field; pulling someone in with no technical background and having them make decisions is downright dangerous.

    What you seem to be arguing is that most people who study social sciences are not doing so analytically, but are doing so to pursue particular emotional or ideological goals. Leaving aside the fact that this is also true for a number of people engaged in hard science, and granting that it is true for some of the social science population, I also think part of the reason for that perception among 'geeks' derives from never having tried to study the subjects, and a resultant lack of familiarity with the technical issues. For the most part, we don't understand what social scientists *do*, and they don't understand what we do ...

    That said, i'm agreeing that people who are policy analysts are better advisors than those who are driven by emotion or ideology. I'm just irritated with the belief, which I see often from silicon valley types, that if computer programmers ruled the world everything would be perfect --- i think it would be a *bad* thing, sort of like a CORBA programmer suddenly deciding to rewrite the windows UI.

    [ Parent ]

    good observation (3.00 / 2) (#92)
    by vlnc on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 11:38:22 AM EST

    I troubled myself to sign in just to mod this one up. Why should "social" people have a monopoly on power over public policy. Have these "social" people done a great job so far, or are they just people that are less and less able to cope in a changing world? By the way, I'm a musician (violinist) by trade with an interest in tech and am trying to learn to code, but I with my current knowledge I would clearly fall in the "social" camp, therefore, if I am biased, it would be in the direction of what you are calling social people. A nifty term I might add.

    [ Parent ]
    Kinda vague (3.33 / 3) (#24)
    by spacejack on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:01:00 AM EST

    1 - I don't think you can talk about "regulation" in a blanket, catch-all sense. Typically if someone's pushing regulation, they have a specific agenda. i.e., is she promoting censorship of porn or "degenerate" art? Does she support the idea of filters? Anti-piracy tactics? Blocking countries that won't comply with your nation's laws?

    2 - It would seem to me that the net is highly regulated whenver it can be. Spam is generally illegal. Mailbombing someone is illegal. DoS attacks are illegal. Hacking servers is illegal. Hacking someone's computer is illegal. Spreading virii & malicious scripts is illegal. Privacy is deemed worthy of protection by law. Do Libertarians want to remove these regulations?

    ok I'm a dumbass (4.00 / 1) (#25)
    by spacejack on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:13:20 AM EST

    Right, well I for some reason thought these quotes were from the book and neglected to check the source articles. So as it turns out, I do actually agree with some of her viewpoints. So my previous comment pretty much stands, but I would retract the vague part. Although it is pretty difficult to discuss "regulation" in a general sense.

    [ Parent ]
    The trouble with Objectivism is... (4.66 / 12) (#32)
    by marlowe on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:55:10 AM EST

    it attracts a bad crowd. It's a wonderfully self-serving philosophy for those who, by a combination sleaze and luck, have wound up at the top, and are looking for a way to sugar-coat this accomplishment.

    It's also immensely appelaing to people who think they're smarter than the rest, and aren't getting the respect they serserve. This wouldn't be a problem if only the people who are actually like this weren't vastly ounumbered by the people who just think they are. As it is, Objctivism only filters out those dummies with enough sense to face their own limitations. The very smartest find themselves rubbing elbows with the very stupidest, who insist of treating them as equals. After a while the genuinely smart ones get fed up with this and leave.

    -- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
    Canned philosphies do that to people (4.16 / 6) (#40)
    by 0xdeadbeef on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:46:33 PM EST

    The amusing thing about Objectivism, at least in my experience, is that the most vocal and obnoixious promoters of its worldview use it as a means to blame others for their own failure (those darn collectivists!) than as a means to encourage the success of others. The only difference between them and the academic Marxist is who they choose to be their bad guy.

    [ Parent ]
    not to mention (4.80 / 5) (#42)
    by spacejack on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:56:43 PM EST

    that the Fountainhead's main character Roarke was such a robotically perfect, inhuman, good-looking superman, who could topple socialists with a single word, that using "him" as a character:

    a) makes the story completely inapplicable to human beings
    b) panders to the ego of whoever is reading it that agrees with her without criticism, while insulting anyone who actually has the capacity to form their own opinion about what they read.

    It was simply not good writing, as fiction or otherwise. But it was... curious.

    [ Parent ]
    Disconnect (4.25 / 8) (#33)
    by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:00:46 PM EST

    I haven't read the original "Cyberselfish" article since it was first written, but this new addition suffers from a fatal disconnect in logic. She uses Cisco systems as her sole example of the "cyberselfish", but the actions she shows that company taking are identical to the actions of virtually every other company in the country, "cyber" or oldschool.

    Really, it strikes me that this is driven by too things: 1) The overuse of the term "cyber" to move copy and 2) the generational jealousy of the baby-boomers over the "dotcom" era.

    I'll buy her argument the second someone can show me how Exxon and Chrysler are any different.


    -----------------------
    This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
    A good example (5.00 / 2) (#75)
    by aphrael on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:16:05 PM EST

    of Cisco being selfish is its position on the proposed Calpine power plant in Coyote Valley.

    When the plant was proposed last year, the land in question had to be rezoned from light industry to heavy industry. A coalition of local groups torpedoed the rezoning --- and one of the loud vocal opponents was Cisco Systems, who also wanted to build a massive new chip burning facility in the same general region. The rezoning was defeated by the San Jose City Council in November.

    In December, California's rickety power system collapsed.

    In February, it turns out that Cisco is going to build a *small* power plant, just to generate power for themselves, as part of their Coyote Valley facility.

    That's not just selfish. It's downright mean-spirited.

    [ Parent ]

    Yes, indeed... (3.40 / 10) (#34)
    by trhurler on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:04:12 PM EST

    What we have here is an "envious malcontent." You see, she and her friends, "educated" in detail in all the ways to screw up a society which have been discovered to date, are quite upset that they aren't becoming rich and powerful, and even more upset that people who engage in honest business rather than government sponsored looting are becoming rich and powerful.

    It all started when some people pointed out that Emperor Statism is naked. By now, everyone knows this; even my very centrist mother is of the opinion that government is screwed up and should be more limited. However, people such as Bersook, who have careers dedicated to the principle that they know better than the rest of us how to run our lives, have not yet completely failed in convincing people that this is so. Expect a lot of whining, crying, and threatening over the next few decades - these people have already lost, but they don't know that.

    (As for her arguments about government creating the tech boom, she clearly does not know anything about the tech boom. Computer networking was proceeding in the commercial world; the government merely hastened the process by a decade or two. In any case, computer networks are not the only component of the tech boom. The big thing the government did was force standardization on an incomplete and poorly understood protocol suite. As a result, we've got a totally incompatible successor protocol coming down the line, and even it doesn't really address all the known problems. Thanks, government!)

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    Cyberarrogance (none / 0) (#109)
    by bjrubble on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 01:05:27 PM EST

    I don't agree at all with Borsook's thesis, but reading posts like this it's easy to see where she gets the impression. It's one thing to believe that free markets are useful, or that government isn't always the best solution to a problem; it's another to loudly proclaim that anyone left of libertarian is a whiny bleeding-heart statist envious of everybody else's money.

    In traditional media, you only get a political bully pulpit in the first place if enough people agree with you to buy your publication; the system rewards moderation. On the Internet everyone has their own bully pulpit and the opinions that are most visible are merely the ones shouted the loudest. And that seems to be libertarianism.

    Borsook should consider herself fortunate that the hard-core Randians, who are by far the loudest per capita, are yet too few to present themselves as flagbearers.

    [ Parent ]
    A less mindless link... (2.88 / 9) (#41)
    by CdotZinger on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 12:52:02 PM EST

    ...here, the thesis of which is that PB doesn't know anything much about either "techno-" or, especially, "-libertarianism."

    Nothing she's written suggests she's capable of basic research, let alone synthesis and theory. In fact, it seems to me she's laboring under a paranoid fantasy--something along the lines of "Everyone I personally dislike because they are not of my class is a member of an elite cabal (though actually they're asocial losers) which aims to destroy me and my town and YOU'RE NEXT! ...BOO!"

    Ed: I'm surprised/disappointed this story was voted up; I thought K5 was too smart for this Jon Katz-quality stuff. A sad day.



    Q: You could interest yourself in these interesting machines. They're hard to understand. They're time-consuming.
    A: I don't like you.
    I lost respect (4.20 / 5) (#51)
    by error 404 on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:03:38 PM EST

    for techno-libretarianism back in the Green Card Lawyer spamfest.

    For the younger among us, there were these two completely sleazed out lawyers (long since disbarred in an amazing number of states) who advertized a service by sending out several thousand (either 3000 or 6000) Usenet postings. Many, many people objected. Canter and Seigel (the lawyers) wrote a book on how to be a spamming sleazeball. And lots and lots of people who had been yelling loud and long for free speech suddenly started looking for ways to stop them, or failing that, how to punish the publisher or even the bookstores.

    As it happened, the book failed due to being utter crap. The feared technical session (which was going to cause The End of the Internet - Film at 11:00) simply advised "hire a geek" (this was back when the term was %100 insulting).

    But since then, I've had a very cynical attitude toward the group-think politics of the 'net. Very little has happened to change my attitude.


    ..................................
    Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
    - Donovan

    One of the problems (4.33 / 3) (#74)
    by aphrael on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:13:18 PM EST

    that libertarianism has a difficult time with is the distinction between saying that "nobody has the right to stop you from doing [x]" and saying that "there is nothing wrong with doing [x]". This is a difficult proposition: if there is no legal or ethical mechanism for preventing other people from doing something, but what they are doing is actively destructive to the community, what do you do about it? Do you change the laws and ethics in violation of your own theoretical underpinnings? Do you ignore it and let the community be damaged? Do you find some technical solution? Do you try and persuade the person in question --- and what do you do if persuasion fails?

    [ Parent ]
    My solution to that problem (3.00 / 1) (#91)
    by error 404 on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 10:20:01 AM EST

    is to recast libertarianism. Libertarianism (capital 'L') makes the Federal govornment the core of all un-liberty.

    But it seems clear to me that, while that is one major source of un-liberty, there are many. And rules that prevent those who will not be persuaded from infringing on the liberty of others are not just permissible, but a Good Thing.

    Another problem is that the value of shared resources is maximized by appropriate rules. So you get things like insider trading rules, which make no sense at all from a libertarian perspective, but are valuable anyway.


    ..................................
    Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
    - Donovan

    [ Parent ]

    One of the problems that I have (none / 0) (#111)
    by aphrael on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 03:12:19 PM EST

    with US conservatism and libertarianism is that they seem to miss the point that any large economic player can have just as great a power to reduce liberty as a government can. Directing all of your pro-liberty rhetoric against the government without guarding against someone developing the type of power that the late 19th century railroads had is simply inviting yourself to become a slave to whomever that may be.

    [ Parent ]
    Governments and Corporations (none / 0) (#113)
    by shaum on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 11:00:28 AM EST

    I don't totally disagree, but there are reasons for giving government special attention as an offender against liberty.

    First, government has powers that private organizations do not. If the government takes you from your home and throws you in a cell, it's the justice system at work; if a corporation does it, it's kidnapping. If the government confiscates your wages, it's taxation (or a "contribution", in Clinton-ese); when a corporation does it, it's theft. Given the amount of power it's accorded, an extraordinary level of accountability is called for, above and beyond that to which corporations are subjected. (And even moreso given that the day-to-day policing of government is itself a government responsibility, with all the attendant conflicts of interest.)

    Second, a lot of offenses committed by corporations -- and I will certainly grant that there are no shortage of those -- are done using government as a proxy: from corporate welfare to the exercise of eminent domain on behalf of corporations. (See Jacob Sullum's most recent column in Reason Online for an example of a local government using eminent domain on behalf of, of all things, Ikea.) So by restricting government's power over things like wealth transfers and eminent domain, you cut off the choke-point for a lot of corporate abuses.

    That said, I do think that Libertarians often fail to distinguish between classical capitalism (which puts the customer first) and mercantilism (which empowers corporations); and that we also fall into the unfortunate habit of defining ourselves as anti-government, rather than pro-individual. The enemy (Microsoft) of my enemy (excessive government) is not necessarily my friend.

    :wq!
    [ Parent ]

    You Can't Respect What You Don't Understand (5.00 / 2) (#88)
    by Steve B on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 08:34:52 AM EST

    And lots and lots of people who had been yelling loud and long for free speech suddenly started looking for ways to stop them, or failing that, how to punish the publisher or even the bookstores.

    The vital point that you are obscuring is described over on /. by the phrases "free as in speech" and "free as in beer". It is perfectly consistent to insist on freedom from censorship ("free as in speech") without allowing others to stick you with the bill ("free as in beer").

    Freedom of speech does not encompass spamming any more than it encompasses graffiti, and for the same reason: it violates the property rights of others.

    (As for that "how to punish the publisher or even the bookstores" part -- neither of them has any right to your patronage, which you may withhold for any reason or for no reason.)

    [ Parent ]

    But I DO understand (4.00 / 1) (#89)
    by error 404 on Tue Feb 06, 2001 at 09:55:30 AM EST

    The Green Card lawyers had no right to spam. None whatsoever. All their noise about free speech and how those who opposed their spam were anti-business was complete crap, and I called them on it (not that there is any evidence they ever saw what most of us wrote).

    But they did have the right to write a book.

    And the publisher had the right to publish the book.

    And the bookstores had the right to sell (more accurately, attempt to sell) the book.

    These rights I consider absolute, even for books that offend me, even for books that will cause harm. I also consider them absolute when the Internet is involved, hence my opposition to things like the CDA. And pretty much any of the people I'm talking about whould have agreed, or actualy did agree. Until a book actualy did offend them, at which point they were howling for censorship.

    The proposals weren't boycots, which I could respect. Nobody has the right to my (or anybody's) patronage. Personaly, I would not boycot a bookstore for selling a book that offended me, although I might possibly boycot a publisher for a pattern of offensive books. But people were proposing active damage to bookstores and publishers, and that I cannot respect.
    ..................................
    Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
    - Donovan

    [ Parent ]

    Just keep your terms straight. (none / 0) (#107)
    by z on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 11:37:40 AM EST

    The proposals weren't boycots, which I could respect. Nobody has the right to my (or anybody's) patronage. Personaly, I would not boycot a bookstore for selling a book that offended me, although I might possibly boycot a publisher for a pattern of offensive books. But people were proposing active damage to bookstores and publishers, and that I cannot respect.

    OK! OK! Just keep your terms straight. Any people proposing active damage to bookstores just for attempting to sell C&S's book are not libertarians, by definition. Or at least how most prominent libertarians use the term. I believe most libertarians would agree completely with your posting.

    [ Parent ]

    The proof of how crap and *uninteresting*... (3.50 / 2) (#53)
    by itsbruce on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:18:14 PM EST

    this article is: we've run out of bad things to say about it almost immediately and gone off on a whole slew of tangents. There are several good stories that could be created from those tangents, any one of which would be more productive than this one.


    --

    It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
    Before anyone jumps on me (none / 0) (#56)
    by itsbruce on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 04:37:48 PM EST

    I'm referring to the Paulina Boroosk article, not Electric Angst's write-up. Should have made that clearer.


    --

    It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
    [ Parent ]
    I'm a libertarian communist... (3.50 / 2) (#72)
    by danny on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 08:52:02 PM EST

    Damn it, who let the Hayekites and market-worshippers steal the term libertarian? It used to be used of anarchists. But now no one understands when I describe myself as a libertarian communist.

    Danny.
    [900 book reviews and other stuff]

    You've got two problems there (3.00 / 1) (#73)
    by aphrael on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:10:21 PM EST

    at least, if you're in the US:

    Communist means someone who believes in state socialism. Clearly you can't have a libertarian communist, because that would mean a libertarian believer in state socialism ....

    Libertarian means someone who believes, to varying degrees, in a minimal or nonexistent government. For cultural reasons in the US these are usually right-libertarians, who want the state out of property laws, or left-libertarians, who want the state out of things they believe impinge on personal liberty. Possibly because of the point above, anarcho-socialism never caught on here.

    [ Parent ]

    Term ownership (none / 0) (#108)
    by Wreck on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 12:38:49 PM EST

    Just so ya know, 100 year ago, the pro-property pro-rights pro-individualists used to be called "liberals", and then, yes, "libertarian" (to the extent it was used at all) was a word denoting the anti-state left.

    Then socialism (the state control of the means of production) happened. This had several effects. One is that practically the entire left bought it. The anarchist left shrank to a miniscule number. So "libertarian" was in essense abandoned.

    The center bought socialism too, though watered down. The center left liked the idea of the state controlling business and property, so as to give unearned goodies to the workers, farmers, and poor. So they became limp-wristed socialists of a sort. Since they shared with old liberals the focus on individual rights and whatnot, they simply absconded with the "liberal" label.

    (The center right liked the idea of the state controlling individual behavior. So they became socialists of a different sort, and called themselves conservative.)

    Anyway, the upshot of all this was that libertarians had their label stolen by the liberals, and needed a new label. By the 60's, when the time had come that there were enough of us to actually need a label, the only label left over from the individualist movement of the late 19th century was the practically disused "libertarian", and so that is what got used.

    [ Parent ]

    CyberSelfish | 113 comments (106 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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