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Fair Value

If Nick Gillespie continues writing things like this, they may need to take his libertarian card away. After all, if what matters freedomwise isn't simply the absence of coercive state action, but the practical ability to do things (i.e., the sense in which you're freer in New York City simply because there are more things you could do, even though you'd be less regulated in Kansas) then you start slipping toward all manner of statist leftwingery -- the fair value of liberties, positive rights, etc. Marx, I think, referred to the equal freedom of rich and poor alike to spend the night sleeping under a bridge as a way of highlighting the putative bankruptcy of European classical liberalism.

UPDATE: On the other hand, when this shit goes down, economic freedom starts looking pretty good.

November 21, 2004 | Permalink

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» The Freedom to Sleep Under Bridges from The Fly Bottle
Yglesias suggests that Gillespie's maligned piece about his history of home ownership and the excruciating boredom of Kansas may get his libertarian card yanked. I should say that, to my knowledge, there is no authority who issues libertarian cards, an... [Read More]

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I wanted to write a tongue-in-cheek post proposing a folk etymology describing political Libertarians as a religious offshoot of metaphysical Libertarians. However, someone else has already anticipated me. The point is supposed to be as follows. Libert... [Read More]

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» Gift Basket from Tom Jamme's Blog
Sweet Blessings, a new Christian-based online shop featuring cookie bouquets, candy bouquets and gift baskets, opens with a campaign to donate a portion of all profits to Habitat For Humanity. The devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, while not a... [Read More]

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Comments

Man, he just fell all the way down that slippery slope...

Posted by: Atrios | Nov 21, 2004 10:12:01 AM

The "bridge" idea is not from Marx, but Anatole France:

Anatole France

And it's stated a bit differently:

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."

Stating is as a prohibition rather than a right makes it even stronger, I think.

riffle

Posted by: riffle | Nov 21, 2004 10:19:42 AM

In looking over the Anatole France quotations on that Wikipedia page, I ran across another that is apropos of our times:

"If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing."

Small solace.

riffle

Posted by: riffle | Nov 21, 2004 10:25:37 AM

Thanks riffle. I've been looking for that quote for a long time. I didn't know it was M. France.

Screw Kansas, in North Dakota you can buy a livable house for $3,000. That's three thousand. Low taxes, low wages, low unemployment, among the best high schools, low crime rate, low death rate. It's the America conservatives pretend they want.

What conservatives actually want is the same as what everyone else wants, poontang and bling-bling. Some of their meanness comes from the fact that they have to sneak around so much to get any, and then don't get much anyway. The Republicans who are getting some are called moderates.

[End of my semiannual North Dakota Report for Yglesias.com].

My sister lived in Kansas for 20 years and it almost ruined her life. The middle class is ultra-pissy, and the lower class is trashy. They have a cracker meanness there that I don't find in North Dakota, where my brother lives.

Posted by: John Emerson | Nov 21, 2004 10:47:38 AM

I missed the part of the article where Nick called for less economic freedom. I guess you leftists are so desperate for validation that you'll take anything, eh?

Posted by: Classic Liberal | Nov 21, 2004 10:55:12 AM

Everyone should click Matt's second link to TPM, about the sneaky attempt to give certain Senators access to EVERYONE's IRS records.

This was entirely to be expected during the second Bush-Rove-DeLay term, but a lot of people were SHOCKED. (Paging the unjustly-respected Jane Galt!)

The institutional power of officeholders gives them a large degree of immunity from public opinion (including their supporters' opinions), especially at the beginnings of their terms, especially if all branches of Government are controlled by one small group.

I expect that over the next four years we'll see a long parade of Bush supporters who call themselves conservatives and libertarians explaining that they just had no way of knowing that these things were going to happen.

Posted by: John Emerson | Nov 21, 2004 10:57:04 AM

John,
You're uncharacteristically optimistic. They won't be shocked at what's happening, they'll be shocked at anyone who dares criticize it...

Posted by: Atrops | Nov 21, 2004 11:03:35 AM

that was me...

Posted by: Atrops nee Atrios | Nov 21, 2004 11:04:13 AM

I expect both shock and cheerleading to be pretty rare. Instead, they'll do what Eugene Volokh did when asked about torture: just change the subject with a brief wave and thereafter act as if there's no issue there at all. There may be an occasional admission that this is a touch distasteful, but look how much less important it is than the war in Iraq and overhauling taxation and regulation more.

Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Nov 21, 2004 12:03:28 PM

The reasoning seems sloppy here. Would New York suddenly become a culturally deprived hell hole if it became dramatically more economically free? Like say, the Hong Kong of the 80s and 90s? Of course not. New York's economic (and cultural)preeminence is a matter of economic history and geography. Thats what *allows* it today to have such high taxes and regulations with relatively little consequence: There are so many inbuilt reasons for businesses to be there, the city can tax and regulate vigorously knowing they'll take it. Same thing with San Francisco. But for places without such inherent advantages, a la Buffalo, high tax and regulation rates aggravate economic disaster, and they don't produce cultural meccas either. the lesson is that quality of life depends not just on government policies, but on an underlying economic vitality largely independent of anything the state does.

Posted by: rd | Nov 21, 2004 12:14:28 PM

An intersting thing about the Forbes list Gillespie discusses is that many of the most prosperous states in the union are, according to Forbes, the least free. Thus, it is at least worth investigating whether the kind of entrepreneurial freedom the Forbes people are considering is as conducive to prosperity as advertised.

It is also worth asking whether comminities in which there is a low degree of government regulation of the economy might have freedem deficits in other areas.

Some, not all, libertarians focus excessively on freedom form state power, and particularly the state's power to regulate the economy, but disregard all of the other potentially oppressive sources of power in our society.

If you have to face a disapproving scowl or snide comment from everyone you see all day because you decided to pierce your navel or wear a French beret, you are not as free as you would be if you didn't have to face such scowls and comments.

Or if you can't go into a tavern without facing a nasty confrontation with "patriots" who feel you weren't sufficiently supportive of President Bush and his war at your last VFW meeting, you are also not as free as you would be in an atmosphere in which you didn't have to worry about such confrontations.

Or if your boss is free to fire you without cause whenever it serves his economic self-interest, then you lack a degree of power you would otherwise have if your boss didn't have that freedom.

But even if we focus on the Forbes-style conception of freedom as the absence of barriers to entrepreneurial activity, we can identify ways in which the social freedom to pierce your navel is a key first component in an entrepreurial approach to life that ultimately opens the way for economic opportunity. For one thing, to create new marketable ideas, you need an atmosphere in which new ideas are accepted and sought after, and in which there are a diversity of lifestyles leading to a wide assortment of economic opportunities.

But entrepreneurial freedom is also fostered by a liberation of the imagination and the lively sense of individual empowerment that comes from living in a tolerant and socially experimental environment. The individualistic ideal we, and others, associate with American life depends on a culture which fosters the development of self-directed iindividuals with a determination to take their lives into their own hands rather than wait for someone to tell them what to do. If one is discouraged in numerous ways by one's society from individual self-expression, that discouragement is likely to rub off in the area of individual economic self-expression.

Finally, there is the point made by several others that there is such a thing as "freedom from want". If I live in a society that restricts the freedom of economic actors in the marketplace, in order to produce a society that is less insecure and predatoral, those restraints may be paid for in compensating freedoms from anxiety and insecurity.

Posted by: Dan Kervick | Nov 21, 2004 12:51:04 PM

How dare you. Freedom to access your tax returns is one of the fundamental freedoms our brave men and women in uniform are fighting for and dying in far-away places all over the world as we speak. If I can't read someone's tax return, then the terrorists have won.

Posted by: Marquise De Lay | Nov 21, 2004 1:44:45 PM

Them's fightin words, Atrios.

From here on out it doesn't make any difference what anyone thinks. Bush-Delay do what they want.

David Brooks has already come out with his little anti-Delay piece, but Brooks is no longer needed. He waffled a bit, but ended up supporting Bush, and election eve he quickly squelched the idea that there might be problems with the vote count.

A certain proportion of Bush's supporters knew better. As time goes on, they'll be coming forward with their lame excuses.

Posted by: John Emerson | Nov 21, 2004 1:48:01 PM

rd wrote, But for places without such inherent advantages, a la Buffalo, high tax and regulation rates aggravate economic disaster, and they don't produce cultural meccas either.

Except, of course, for taxes on the Ricardian rent from land, which are both more efficient and more equitable than other taxes.

Posted by: liberal | Nov 21, 2004 2:05:00 PM

Dan Kervick wrote, Some, not all, libertarians focus excessively on freedom form state power, and particularly the state's power to regulate the economy, but disregard all of the other potentially oppressive sources of power in our society.

But most so-called libertarians are quite in favor of oppressive state power when it allows individuals to seize natural resources and to charge others for access to same, without having provided anything of value in return. For a good exposition by someone who (unlike the typical case) espouses a version of libertarianism not beset with these grotesque inconsistencies, see: "Are You a Real Libertarian or a Royal Libertarian?"

Posted by: liberal | Nov 21, 2004 2:10:21 PM

But for places without such inherent advantages, a la Buffalo, high tax and regulation rates aggravate economic disaster, and they don't produce cultural meccas either.

They don't necessarily produce cultural meccas, of course, but they could - depending on what these high tax receipts are spent on.

Posted by: abb1 | Nov 21, 2004 2:13:08 PM

It seems to me that the simple answer is this: as more people glom together in one place, more rules are required to prevent them from fucking it up.

Posted by: praktike | Nov 21, 2004 2:15:32 PM

Why are there cities? Playgrounds for idle rentiers, brothels and churches for soldiers. When the helots start viewing cities as places of refuge and opportunity, it probably means there are too many rich people. Need to remind the aristocracy of their obligations and ancient duties to go back home to the farm and whip the slaves a lot. And get rid of some wastrel heirs in a war or two.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 21, 2004 2:22:13 PM

I think the most obvious answer here is that the differences in regulation are really not all that incredible between different US states. And, as others have pointed out, the sum opportunities to impose costs on others are much greater in a city than in the countryside (eg, a gas leak in one NYC apartment is a much more serious problem than a gas leak of equal size in one home on the plains in Kansas). I'd like to see some examples of what the differences in regulation actually are.

Posted by: taak | Nov 21, 2004 2:56:52 PM

As far as I'm concerned, Manhattan is the wild west of regulation. Yeah, there are some high costs of doing business (more driven by high real estate and labor costs than purely by taxation, though that plays a role in increasing the first two). But you can away with all kinds of stuff you can't get away with in Kansas, from running entire restaurants on illegal immigrant labor to openly selling sex services in the pages of weekly alternative newspapers. The streets themselves are filled with those libertarian entrepeneurs who sell counterfeit DVDs and watches on blankets, with one eye open for a cop.

Posted by: New Yorker | Nov 21, 2004 4:05:43 PM

Infrastructure is one word for what the conurbations offer newborn business. There's a machine shop down the street, plastic molders and tube-benders and platers a few minutes away, and so forth. (If manufacturing's not your thing, substitute whatever you need.)

All that, and lots of people who know how to do things.

Posted by: bad Jim | Nov 21, 2004 7:35:11 PM

It's simple, really. Location, location, location!

Posted by: Ol'Froth | Nov 21, 2004 11:33:13 PM

An irony to consider: most proponents of low taxes and deregulation hail from red-state, Kansas-type places, not from the wealthy, highly-taxed and regulated coastal enclaves. (Except for Steve Forbes, anyway.)

So it's those who're relatively unoppressed that cry out against their oppression. Odd.

Posted by: Nancy Irving | Nov 22, 2004 12:25:49 AM

Why would it be odd that the quickest to cry out against oppression end up the least oppressed?

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Nov 22, 2004 6:49:34 AM

Anyway, you missed an amusing point in the whole flap about this amendment to destroy privacy of tax returns. Hastert is planning a special session Wednesday, to pass the Senate resolution removing the amendment in the House. From the New York Times story linked to by Drudge:

"The speaker of the House, J. Dennis Hastert, promised that he would convene a pro forma session of the House, with most of the members gone, on Wednesday to adopt the Senate resolution negating the provision."

Um, Mr. Speaker, have you heard of this thing called a "quorum"? It's mandated by that silly little "Constitution" you swore an oath to uphold...

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Nov 22, 2004 8:16:22 AM

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