Recent posts by AaronB on Kongregate

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Communism

Not exactly. What I’m saying is that lawsuits one of several checks that restrain bad behavior on the part of businesses. They don’t function perfectly – but that’s to be expected with government controlling the judicial system. The government crowds out alternatives the free market may come up with.

A good example of this is the Law Merchant. During the Middle Ages as trade increased, merchants had problems with dispute resolution because each government had different laws related to trade. They wouldn’t enforce contracts made under other countries’ laws, and so on. The merchants developed their own courts and “laws”, and it was backed not by force of arms but largely through boycotts.

The case you’re talking about related to the GM car sounds like the Corvair. What should be obvious but most people don’t understand is that everything has trade-offs. To build a car with every possible safety feature would result in a car that costs millions, and only the very rich will have them. There must be some point at which you conclude that further safety functions aren’t worth the cost. You can have disagreements about exactly where to draw that line, but then you’re nitpicking over details; not condemning them for being unconscionably evil.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Communism

Some of your points are just assertions I don’t feel a need to respond to. Lawsuits are handled under the government, so it doesn’t make sense to say it isn’t crowding out non-government means of adjudicating disputes. Do you really think government recognition is what makes the UL’s work good?

As to why some businesses you know essentially ignore lawsuits, I’d need a lot more information. Do they think the judgments are just so arbitrary that they don’t need to change anything? Are changes not worth the cost and effort?

This could be another large topic, but in my view the differences between dictatorial governments and other modern governments are more subtle than you think; while the similarities are more fundamental. I don’t think the BRD government is worse or closer to nazism than many other governments; but they are all seriously flawed.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Communism

I couldn’t resist – you walked right into that one.

This is a serious point, though. Governments in the last century have killed in the ballpark of 200 million of their own citizens – even apart from all their wars. You may think your specific government has done good than harm if you look only at the last few decades, but that’s a pretty small sample size. The common assumption that governments do more good than harm can’t just be taken for granted.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Communism

Twilight – kind of another topic, but I don’t consider discrimination suits to be legitimate, anyway. People should have the freedom to associate with whom they wish. On the other hand, if you think they’re being unfair, you can boycott them. We’re talking more about “is government regulation really the thing preventing companies from putting carcinogens in our food?”

Johnny – of course, you can assume the government does more good than harm. After all, how much harm might the German government have done? Oh wait…

Sleep – that’s actually along the lines of how anarcho-capitalists think a stateless society would work.

Omega – the problems with the prison complex happened because people in a democracy think just voting for laws makes them legitimate. The government can lock millions of people in cages for smoking marijuana, for example. That would be virtually unthinkable under a libertarian government concerned only with protecting the lives and property of its citizens. As to judicial systems under an-cap, I can provide reading materials if you want to actually look into it. Your questions are the same obvious ones everyone who’s wrestled with it has, but it seems to be a waste of time trying to cover it in a few paragraphs.

I would regard a multiparty system as a step forward compared to the US system, but government is still largely an exploitable authority that strengthens the big corporations at the expense of the public.

Omega -

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Communism

Omega – lawyers even now take cases based on percentage of winnings, rather than an upfront fee. The judicial system is somewhat screwed up because it’s politicized, but juries and judges can sometimes get things right. Yes, there’s a prison complex that lobbies for more laws, more crackdowns, and more prisoners. This is directly a result of non-libertarian democracy.

Giving government more power is virtually equivalent to giving the big corporations that power. At times you appear to get that, but you seem to fight tooth and nail any reduction of government power. If you consider yourself an anarchist, you should spend some time studying spontaneous order and how civil institutions can function without government.

Johnny – the examples I gave are real world. UL works now. Government screws things up massively now.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Communism

The alternative to government interference is to end government interference. Lawsuits, the fear of lawsuits, and the desire not to lose consumers by harming them or getting a bad reputation are the real significant factors that reduce corporate wrongdoing. Nothing can make it impossible – my vision is realistic, not utopian – but government interference typically does more harm than good.

Underwriter’s Laboratories as far as I can tell does a fine job of testing electronics products for safety – and it’s a private organization (you’ll see their “UL” stamped on many things in the US). There are numerous private consumer groups that share information and test for quality and safety on a variety of products, and they would almost certainly increase if they weren’t crowded out by government agencies. Best of all, money isn’t taken from you by force to pay for them, and your freedom isn’t restricted by arbitrary rules.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Communism

Omega – Of course we don’t want carcinogens in our food or surroundings, but that doesn’t mean government is the means to achieve that. Take the most famous carcinogens – tobacco and asbestos. Asbestos is an excellent fire retardant, but turned out to be carcinogenic. The government mandated generally removing it. However, asbestos is far more dangerous when removed than when it is left in place. The government regulations almost certainly did a lot more harm than good.

As for tobacco, the government made a big show of imposing massive fines and taxes on cigarette companies – but addictive products are the textbook examples of an inelastic demand curve (people continue to buy them even when the price is jacked up). The fines basically resulted in a gigantic tax hike mostly on poor people. Plus, since any new company entering the cigarette market would have to pay a share of the fines, this protects the older companies (who actually did some bad things in the area of hiding information) from competition. The US government also bans far less harmful tobacco products (like nicotine water and Snuss) that could help people quit, on the dubious reasoning that more people will move from cheap and harmless nicotine products to harmful and expensive ones than the other way around. This, again, protects the existing tobacco companies.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Quote Discussion, Current quote: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Perhaps the quote could be phrased better, but it does express something that is true. Patriotism, unless it’s tied up in ideas that one understands and is devoted to, is basically just tribalism. Patriotism can be felt by even the simplest and basest minds – and they are often the ones that most rabid about it.

Patriotism isn’t just a US thing. The inhabitants of many countries that hyper-patriotic US conservatives would consider to be unremarkable backwaters are just as patriotic as the US conservatives. I’m living in Turkey now, where even the leftists are as nationalistic and militaristic as US conservatives.

To be specific about myself as related to the US, I love the classical liberal history of Jeffersonianism. I’m not so happy about the utter negation of it in the modern welfare/warfare leviathan state. Bill Clinton said you can’t say that you love your country and hate it’s government. I will say precisely that.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Communism

Nearly all cases of government intervention pitting producers against consumers are to help producers. The government has many ways of helping a special interest group (producers) at the expense of everyone else. The benefits are concentrated to a particular interest group, which gives votes and money to the politicians, while the harm is dispersed throughout society. On net, however, it’s harm. Money is taken from some and given to others, or privileges are given to some and denied to others, and add to that administrative costs of the government. Multiply this by thousands of times, and everyone is harmed a great deal.

Government is far less likely to favor consumers at the expense of producers. What could be done, and what would be the point? Sometimes governments resort to price controls in the name of helping consumers (it’s really because the government is printing money, but trying to hide price inflation), but this harms everyone. Regulations such as safety and environmental regulations are not helping the consumers as opposed to the producers; they are merely imposing arbitrary rules.

The BP spill was in large part set up by government. It arbitrarily banned drilling near land while allowing drilling further from shore; which makes any potential problem much harder to deal with. It also had passed legislation limiting the liability of oil companies (it went back on this after the spill, reminding one of the old joke that “an honest politician is one who stays bought”).

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / The Vietnam War: Survey

It wasn’t worth it, in the sense that the results did not merit the sacrifices involved.

The soldiers, generally speaking, did not deserve bad treatment. LBJ, McNamara, Nixon, and the others who propagandized for the war, expanded it, and extended it deserve hell (both figuratively and literally). You could blame the soldiers for not dodging the draft, refusing to fight, and so on; but that’s holding them to an extraordinary standard. Most of those drafted were very young, the propaganda machine was going full-steam, public support for the war was very high at the time (80% range iirc; the public turned against it only later). It would take a lot to take a stand against that and face the criminal punishment, social pressure, and everything else. I believe I’m informed and educated enough on the topic now that I would have refused to fight; but I couldn’t have said that when I was 18.

It’s a pretty sensitive subject for veterans, but I think we must talk about it. The same is true for Iraq and Afghanistan now – it’s hard to criticize when there are still people being killed and maimed. However, criticize it we must. If we refrain, we will be at war continually – as we have been for the last 10 years. It’s not enough to only turn against war after the veterans die off; that’s always too late.

Most conservatives are pretty reliable supporters of war partly because it goes along with their patriotic, nationalist, and law-and-order-with-an-iron-fist sentiments. Most liberals are unreliable opponents of war – look at how few are holding Obama’s feet to the fire for his attack on Libya, his expansion of the Afgan war, and other aggressions. Many liberals only oppose wars if Republicans start them, or if the UN doesn’t approve.

To understand why we should oppose war, I highly recommend the books and articles (many available online) of people like Robert Higgs, Tom Woods, John Denson, Justin Raimondo, and Murray Rothbard. Some essays of theirs (and others) are in the collection “The Costs of War” free here http://library.mises.org/books/John%20V%20Denson/The%20Costs%20of%20War%20Americas%20Pyrrhic%20Victories.pdf

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Shooting death of Trayvon Martin

There’s a lot we don’t know and may never know about this case – especially whether Travyon assaulted Zimmerman before the shooting. There are a few things we can take from this, though.

The media coverage was insanely biased. If you didn’t look closely, you would think Travyon Martin was a little 12 year old kid, and Zimmerman was a clearly racist white. The media tried hard to give that impression, by constantly running childhood photos of Martin, and going to pains to identify the hispanic Zimmerman as “white”. Travyon was actually 6’2" and a football player (that’s about 1.88 and American football). This doesn’t mean he’s guilty, but it means it’s far more understandable for someone to feel threatened by him as opposed to the murder of a skinny young child. The media clearly learned nothing about leaping to conclusions in racially sensitive cases from the Tawana Brawley and Duke lacrosse cases. I believe racism does happen, but the media always seems to seize on highly dubious cases.

Obama’s jumping into the case should be considered inexcusable. The president taking sides in a case could be highly prejudicial to juries should this go to a trial. This also shows that he’s a “post-racial president” just about to the same degree as he’s a “post-partisan president.”

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / How can we be sure bias didn't change History books?

You can be sure that there is bias; but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to really learn anything. Understanding fields like politics, economics, and anthropology gives you a foundation you can use to evaluate different accounts. Then also look for inconsistencies and things that don’t fit the interpretation you’re being given.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Occupy Wallstreet is still going on

I actually think Obama will beat Romney, though in the process he may set records for lowest approval rating of any president to win reelection. When the GOP picks a wishy-washy moderate who doesn’t generate real excitement, they lose; look at Bob Dole and John McCain. The only real choice, different from the bipartisan warmongering and corporatism, was Ron Paul. The establishment did everything it could to make sure Ron Paul didn’t get the nomination, including fraud in the caucuses. Now, no matter who wins the election, it will barely matter. To answer slasher, they are both warmongers and bankrupters.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Occupy Wallstreet is still going on

To respond to some earlier posts,

Johnny – It’s my opinion that government taking money from people by force and spending it on things that aren’t absolutely necessary is wrong. Saying that it’s inefficient is virtually a tautology. The reasons for government inefficiency cannot be solved merely through reforms or management techniques. They are far more fundamental than that.

First, people allocate their money in accordance with their priorities. They buy the things they want most, in accordance with their value scale. When the money is taken from them and spend by someone else, it’s all but certain the things they get are not their top priorities. Government spending is inefficient at delivering to people what they most want right off the bat.

Also, since government gets its revenue by force, it does not have to concern itself whether this really meets demand in the best possible way; or whether the service is worth the price. In fact, it’s impossible to calculate. Governments try things like surveys of “are you happy with X?”, but respondents don’t really have any basis for comparison.

For some real fun we can get into public choice theory, but that’s enough for now. Reforms and management techniques can make marginal improvements, as would having more honest and thrifty politicians. However, real efficiency just isn’t in government’s DNA. There’s a reason government-run industries characteristically hemorrhage money.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Occupy Wallstreet is still going on

To the contrary, private sector road-building is far from utopian. It was the norm before government usurped that function. Government has some advantages when it comes to building roads. It’s horribly inefficient, but it separates fee from service. It can build roads for political advantage, without worrying about whether it’s financially worthwhile.

Government gets its revenue by force, so it doesn’t have to concern itself with pleasing consumers and earning profits. On top of that, it has the power of eminent domain, allowing it to seize property from private citizens if it wants to build a road (or anything else) there.

Despite the resulting “crowding out” of private sector road building, there are places where government has allowed the private sector to operate roads to help with congestion.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Occupy Wallstreet is still going on

karma – by railing against conservatives who do the bidding of the 1%, you’re implying that it’s conservatives and not liberals who are the problem; when really it’s bipartisan. I responded to the “against self-interest” argument on the last page. If you think Wall Street and the mega corporations are conservative; here’s the list of Obama’s top donors. The way this site calculated it, University of California (which is a whole system) surpassed Goldman Sachs; but JP Morgan, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Microsoft, and GE are right up there. http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?cid=N00009638

There is a massive difference between new technology and government picking winners and losers. We can explain this as market entrepreneurs vs. political entrepreneurs. On the market, a firm must serve consumers. It must give them what they want at a better price than the other guy. Its competitors lose business if they don’t keep up; but that’s what keeps the market vibrant. The alternative to protect the less competitive firms would be to tax the public to support the firms whose products they don’t want, or to outlaw progress. It should be plain that this is absurd.

Political entrepreneurship, on the other hand, does not serve consumers. Special interest groups (particularly big firms) get government to help them out or harm their competitors. The market gets distorted, and public gets screwed. Politicians gain more power to the detriment of the little guys, and the benefit of the so-called 1%. Your faith that government will help the little guy against the big firms has little basis in logic.

Ah, the case of Standard Oil – misrepresented for 100 years. Standard Oil lowered the price of gas to consumers by about 90%; raising the living standards of the entire world. It gained a huge market share by outperforming its competitors; but it never drove them all out of the market – and by the time the court decision was handed down, it was already losing market share. The outcry to break up Standard Oil was largely coming from its competitors: this was a case of political entrepreneurship. This, like every other anti-trust case in US history, cannot be shown to have actually helped consumers. On the contrary, anti-trust is a handy way for politicians to “encourage” big firms to be generous political donors (Microsoft, for example, was largely staying out of politics until its case). It also allows inefficient firms, rather than shaping up and serving consumers better, to instead get politicians to hassle or break up their more efficient rivals.

Johnny – from what I’ve read, the governments before the Nazis had the idea for a massive road system, but didn’t actually finish that much. It was certainly used for propaganda purposes.

As to the advantage being greater than any cost, whether for Germany or the US, that’s actually quite hard to state with certainty. It requires considering what Bastiat called “that which is unseen.” What could have been done with all those funds if they had been used for other purposes? What kind of transportation system might a free market have designed? How would all the rest of the economy developed if the government road systems hadn’t given massive advantages to some people and firms (such as chains)?

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Occupy Wallstreet is still going on

Some of that is partly true (if often distorted), but it would take some serious naivete if you think rich liberals (and their firms) are radically different from rich conservatives. Goldman Sachs is the epitome of politically-connected super rich corporations, who always get bailed out at taxpayer expense when they get in trouble, and guess who was the biggest donor to Obama’s campaign?

The German road system was largely built by the Nazis. Eisenhower thought such a project would be useful for military purposes. Most people think it’s extremely useful, but it comes at severe cost and caused many side effects. It did contribute to the growth of chain stores and restaurants, and helped them against smaller local competitors. Whenever government undertakes projects like this, it gives unfair advantages to some at the expense of others – usually helping large firms. You appear to have an inkling of this, yet I get the impression that somehow you’re advocating more government interventions.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Middle East, wars and oil

Every country violates the human rights of their citizens. International busybodying with the aim of forcing every country to abide by “human rights” will have no limits; the situation historian Charles Beard called “Perpetual war for perpetual peace.”

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Middle East, wars and oil

If you follow my posts, you know I’m one of the biggest critics of US policies. There is no country I want to see heading international human rights councils, though the UN manages to find the worst ones to do it.

As with many things, I’m with Rothbard on this question. “Human rights may be universal, but enforcement must be local.” Attempts to impose democracy or whatever else passes for “human rights” (the UN comes up with “rights” that are completely whacky) by force from the outside, whether it’s a US or a UN invasion, is bound to have very serious negative consequences. The meddling will generally do more harm than good. It’s far better for every country to attempt to improve themselves and lead by example, rather than imposition.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Occupy Wallstreet is still going on

I’m familiar with the thesis of “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”, and it’s influencial in the ideas of many liberals and how they view conservatives. I can give a critique from someone who’s neither liberal nor conservative.

First, it’s often true that the Republican party exploits cultural issues in order to focus anger on “liberal elites”. They especially do this to increase voter turnout. Republicans keep putting forward insipid candidates and produce poor records, so they often attempt things like getting issues like gay marriage in referendums on ballots, because they are confident that most people are on their side and this will increase their votes.

For another related thing, if you listen to any conservative talking head around election season, you’ll constantly hear bromides like “Sure, our guy is mediocre, but we have to support him in hopes of getting supreme court judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade” constantly. This allows the Republican party to get away with BS but still keep their voters voting for them. Plus, Republican presidents nominated most of those “runaway” Supreme Court justices in the first place – how many times can you say “Oops?”

However, liberals are likewise sleazy when they try to get things like gay marriage and unrestricted abortion imposed on whole populations undemocratically by judges. (My own view is that government should not be involved in marriage whatsoever).

As to “conservatives vote against their self-interest” – that’s a pretty shaky claim. If conservatives value social issues more than money – isn’t that exactly what liberals claim they want? Then you’d have to claim they are wrong about their social issues – but that’s another argument.

Even if you limit it to strictly economic interests, it’s hardly a slam-dunk that liberals are better for the working class than conservatives. Conservatives may look at liberal bastions like Detroit, New Orleans (even before Katrina) and Washington DC and say “no, thanks.” Liberals often tend to support government measures based on alleged intentions rather than actual results; and then blame conservatives for not supporting them. Conservatives tend to be a little less naive in this area.

There are valid and serious criticisms of conservatism, as well as the odd mutant creature that passes for conservatism in present-day America, but liberals often miss them. The “Kansas” thesis is flawed, but at least it’s better than when liberals resort to merely crying “racism/sexism/homophobia” at everything they disagree with.

scoop – there is a difference between supporting the US Armed Forces and supporting wars, but conservatives largely do both. Neocons, in my view perhaps the worst breed of conservatives, are the first to blur the line between those things and accuse anyone who doesn’t support a war of not supporting the military. I agree with a lot of the other things you say, though.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Middle East, wars and oil

Omega – Only the UN could have countries like China and Pakistan head “Councils on Human Rights” without it being some kind of sick satire. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for them to really solve human rights problems.

On the other hand, you’re completely correct that the World Bank is evil, corrupt and globalist. It’s not “only Americans who think that” because we “think we’re above it.” The IMF and the UN fit that description as well.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Occupy Wallstreet is still going on

I hope both sides are able to convince the other of their inconsistencies, but that’s rare. Conservatives say they mistrust government and want it to be small, but are generally the first to support wars (the no.1 expander of government size and reach, and typically based on lies) and use government to impose their preferences on people. Liberals say they stand for the poor and minorities, but advocate policies that harm them (the poverty rate stopped falling right when the big government anti-poverty programs started). The real consistent positions are radical libertarianism or totalitarianism.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Middle East, wars and oil

Originally posted by OmegaDoom:
cause i knew that your gonna judge rapidly

so what definitive judgements have i made?

but “religion of peace” is a big claim to make when it devides people in two factions that seem by your source to’ve been in an eternal war with eachother for almost fifteen centuries and counting.

…will people ever realise that all religion is is a failed attempt at creating what we now have as the United Nations, and will they ever just call it obsolete?

Now that’s a bill of goods. 1. Not all religions even claim to be universal; most don’t. 2. The goal of most religions isn’t global dialogue or world peace. 3. The UN is of dubious merit, massively corrupt and inefficient.

To the OP, peace in the Middle East is not likely in the near future. The US is contemplating war against Iran and/or Syria. The undemocratic (or worse) but relatively stable regimes that “play ball” with the US have been toppled or are being undermined, and Israel/Palestine is a gigantic cloud hanging over everything. No one knows what will emerge from the mess; but I don’t expect Jeffersonian republicanism. Probably the usual volatile mixture of tribalism, nationalism, fundamentalism, “pan-Arab” and “pan-Islamist” sentiments will keep things interesting.

There are massive amounts of oil found elsewhere, but serious problems in the Middle East will still raise prices significantly. There’s even plenty of oil in the US, but we aren’t prepared to extract and refine it sufficiently to make up the loss of Middle Eastern oil anytime soon (might take a decade or so; and that’s if the environmentalists don’t stop it).

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Grover Norquist should be prosecuted as a terrorist

Attempting to use information to keep taxes low and hold politicians to their pledges – that’s terrorism? I’m at a loss to even satirize this.

 
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Topic: Serious Discussion / Open Discussion - Freedom.

I agree with dark that it’s rather nonsensical to feel “not free” because you are incapable of doing things that are simply not within humans’ ability to do.

I believe the libertarian notion of the non-aggression principle is the answer to meaningful freedom that can apply to everyone simultaneously. People are free to do as they please with themselves and their property, so long as they don’t commit aggression against any other person or their property.