There are no libertarians on flagpoles.

26 Nov

True story: A few years back, the libertarian magazine Liberty posed a thought experiment. I don’t remember all the details, but it went something like this. A man is on the top or near the top of a high-rise. He falls but catches himself on the flagpole of an apartment beneath him. The owner of the apartment, an enthusiast of the sort you might find in the comments section of many blogs, comes out, armed to the teeth, and tells the hapless man that the flagpole is private property and that he must therefore let go. Liberty polled its readers to ask them if they would comply. A majority, apparently, said they would not. Wouldn’t you just love to meet the minority who said that they would? Libertarians, incidentally, still debate the ethics and implications of this question.

Update (10:30 am)

Commenter Anwar kindly found the Liberty poll and the results. See “Problem 4.” The results are not quite as dramatic as I had remembered them. Unfortunately, I wish the question had been framed as one of obligation—”Are you obliged to comply with the owner’s demands?”—as opposed to how it is framed, which could suggest something more like, “What would you do?”

41 Responses to “There are no libertarians on flagpoles.”

  1. Patrick November 26, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    Reminds me of how if I remember my Hobbes correctly, if the King wants to kill you, you aren’t obligated to cooperate, though your friends still are.

  2. Anwar November 26, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    A few minutes of Googling turned up this: http://marketliberal.org/LP/Docs/2000%20Liberty%20Magazine%20Poll.html

    Scroll to problem 4, or Ctrl/command+F “flagpole”. 85% would enter the residence, 14% would hang and wait for help, and the 1% would drop to their deaths (leaving their wealth to the rest of us?).

    • Corey Robin November 26, 2012 at 10:30 am #

      Thanks! I was looking for that but couldn’t find it!

  3. Aaron November 26, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    I’d be a lot more excited about the Libertarians if they were advocating for any sort of Liberty I’d be interested in. I’d love to hear from a vocal voting block that was dead set on confronting the prison-industrial complex, for instance. But everything for the Libertarians really seems to be about local property rights, employer protections, and ending the Fed.

    • Alex Sparrow November 26, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      I’d be a lot more excited about libertarians if they were advocating liberty at all.

  4. Blinkenlights der Gutenberg November 26, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    I feel obligated to point out that libertarianism actually does have an easy solution to this class of problem. The flag-pole trespasser is not obligated to obey the owner, but *is* liable for damages in court proportional to the harm caused by his trespass.

    The owner has no right to defend himself against the flag-pole trespasser by *disproportionate* means, such as forcing him to fall. Presumably, the most the owner can do is detain the trespasser in the apartment (safely), until he either negotiates a settlement, or can be surrendered to legal authorities to be subjected to future civil litigation.

    • Proudhon November 27, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

      Your suggested solution presupposes a universal moral metric of harms to an individual that gets some part of his/her property intruded on (or even destroyed). What such metric would be compatible with the core principles of a libertarian theory (respecting each individuals status as a fundamental source of value, including *what* the individual values to *what degree*)? Any such metric I can think of would, from the libertarian POV, be extremely paternalistic. Smells like incoherence, eh?

      • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg November 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

        I’m not going to try to defend the coherence of libertarian theory. But I do think you are overstating your case.

        There does not need to be a universal moral metric of harms; there just needs to be a court system to assign damages. It is not necessary to posit that the court system have access to universal moral truths — only that a third party is necessary to intervene to settle disputes, since the alternative is not subjective market valuation: it’s war. The typical libertarian accepts the existence of the courts (and, indeed, the state) on such a pragmatic basis. It is not theoretically justified by property rights, but practically justified by pragmatic reality.

        It may be argued that a “coherent” libertarianism would lead to an “anarcho-capitalist” position that rejects even the courts. Indeed, this is exactly what “anarcho-capitalists” argue. But I am a little bit dismayed to see this argued by an opponent of libertarianism. Libertarians are already known for their foolish consistencies. It’s surely best not to encourage them to adopt another one.

      • Proudhon November 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

        “The typical libertarian accepts the existence of the courts (and, indeed, the state) on such a pragmatic basis. It is not theoretically justified by property rights, but practically justified by pragmatic reality.”

        But the typical libertarian cannot find any moral fault with some atypical libertarian who, on his (libertarian) justly aquired property, chooses to push any flagpole intruders to certain death. Any theory that cannot claim that that atypical libertarian acts wrongly has a serious defect.

        In the shape of a dialogue:

        me: did you hear about that abhorrent guy who pushed a stranger to certain death in response to “flagpole intrusion” – he was in the moral wrong!

        typical libertarian: No, he did nothing wrong. Only unusual. And I wouldn’t do what he did.

        I don’t know about you but I’m underwhelmed by the reply by the typical libertarian here.

        If pointing this problem out would only result in the current number of libertarians believers to move in a more extreme direction then I would be silent. But the problem leaves open two directions: to more extreme libertarianism or away from libertarianism. The more faults found with typical libertarianism the more moves of the second kind, I’d think.

      • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg November 29, 2012 at 11:03 am #

        As I said — “The owner has no right to defend himself against the flag-pole trespasser by *disproportionate* means, such as forcing him to fall.” Your caricature of “the typical libertarian” is just too extreme.

      • Proudhon November 29, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

        I know that is the conclusion you argue for. But I claim that the typical libertarian has no way of arguing consistently in the suggested way to that conclusion: he/she cannot show that *atypicals* do wrong by pushing intruders of flagpoles. Only that the typicals (who opt in to the court system) do wrong by such pushings.

        Let me try to rephrase the problem. The normative libertarian starting point provides near absolute negative self-ownership rights that can be extended to (similarly near absolute) rights over physical property justly aquired. You then suggest a pragmatic add-on: courts that decide the magnitude of fines/punishments for intrusions on flagpoles and other property. They decide regardless of how much or little the intruded upon individual him-/herself disvalue the particular intrusion.

        I see how such add-on, given the libertarian starting points, can be made morally binding for all “typical” libertarians who sign the “courts institution contract”. But that contract has no binding force on “atypicals”. And the typical libertarian must accept that, on pain of consistency with their core value (self-ownership and contract voluntariness).

      • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg November 29, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

        Let’s be clear about this. I am not a libertarian and I am not defending libertarian ideas. Thus, I am certainly not “suggest[ing] a pragmatic add-on” to remedy libertarian theory. I am describing the observed behavior and ideas of actual libertarians with whom I have argued on the internet (also, the position of most libertarian writers, AFAIK). I emphasize: I am neither defending this stuff, nor making this stuff up myself. I am describing it. “Proportionate defense” really is one of their principles; they don’t say you can kill trespassers with impunity, but only that you can exercise *necessary* force.

        You are describing, as “libertarian,” the “anarcho-capitalist” position. I agree with you that “anarcho-capitalism” is, in some senses, a more consistent version of libertarianism — but it is not at all typical or representative of libertarians. “Voluntary courts” are rejected by typical libertarians (as well they should be, since they are absurd). They want a non-consensual “nightwatchman state” forced on everyone — consistency be damned.

        And, as I said, I don’t think it’s a good critique of libertarianism to call it inconsistent on this point. This particular inconsistency is, in fact, a rare stroke of wisdom on the part of a group of semi-autistics generally blinded by specious a prioristic reasoning.

        [Also, it's simply not true that the courts must "decide [compensation] regardless of how much or little the intruded upon individual him-/herself disvalue the particular intrusion.” The courts cannot simply take an individual’s valuation at his word, but they do allow arguments of subjective value to be made (sentimental value, “pain and suffering,” etc.) and juries are encouraged to award damages proportional to subjective losses as they estimate them. This is the status quo and libertarians do not argue to alter it.]

      • Proudhon November 30, 2012 at 3:14 am #

        I know you are not libertarian. Neither am I. But I interpreted your first post as discussing *libertarianism* as a normative political philosophical theory e.g. in the tradition that among others Robert Nozick have written. You first wrote: “I feel obligated to point out that libertarianism actually does have an easy solution to this class of problem.”

        If you only described the obeserved behaviour of some people then talk of a “solution” is simply out of the place. Descriptions are what they are. Only when we move to normative evaluations of behaviour, linked to normative views and arguments, will the talk of solution be of relevance.

        So I interpreted your post as that of a non-libertarian who wanted to suggest a line of argument that a libertarian believer could consistently offer in reply to the “flagpole intrusion problem” for libertarianism as a political philosophical theory.

        Any “solution” to that problem must satisfy certain criteria, most centrally the solution must be logically consistent with the normative core of the libertarian theory. If the offered solution is inconsistent, as I’ve suggested, then it is no solution to the philosophical problem.

        It might be the case that some who rally around the word “libertarian” in practice cop out of their political philosophy and accept coercive courts. That fact is interesting but it in no way helps libertarianism as a political philosophy. On the contrary, it shows that their philosophy has such a big flaw that even its would be core believers in practice can’t accept it.

      • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg November 30, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

        What I was trying to emphasize was that I am not making up a line of argument for libertarians, but describing the typical libertarian position.

        You write, “Any “solution” to that problem must satisfy certain criteria, most centrally the solution must be logically consistent with the normative core of the libertarian theory.”

        But this is eminently untrue. (Indeed, this is a libertarian-autistic criterion.) The libertarian argument for the courts and the state are sound. The fact that the state is a kind of exemption to the general libertarian theory of the derivation of proper law (that the law-giver is, in a sense, outside the law) is an inconsistency beyond reproach. It’s the alternative that is absurd.

        There are numerous ample reasons to justify this inconsistency, all based on pragmatic, nomological reality (not pure logic). To cite just one:

        In theory, a person either is a trespasser or is not a trespasser. Either he has violated your rights, or he has not. Thus, in theory, he either has surrendered some rights or not. But in practice, any social institution of justice must admit a category of uncertainty, and must define ways of treating a person as “accused,” such that he is treated neither as guilty, nor as innocent, even though it is logically impossible that he is neither.

        It’s no flaw in a theory of what rights and responsibilities ought to exist, to say that the right of *unilateral* enforcement of one’s own (theoretically absolute) rights is incompatible with functioning civil institutions (which are necessary to construct a system of rights in the first place). A right of self-defense could only be absolute in a world of omniscience of guilt (which *is* the theoretical world of rights; but is *not* the world inhabited by real people with real guns, who must make choices, and real legal institutions, which must define the limits of choice).

        Ultimately this point is not limited to libertarianism (propertarianism). In theory, a man accused of murder (not a property crime) ought to have no responsibility to appear in court, if he is innocent. After all, he is innocent, and therefore is owed his freedom. No sane theory of rights could say that a false accusation could, in justice, limit his freedom. Nevertheless, in practice, he has to be punished for this failure, regardless of his innocence, since otherwise there is no possibility to punish the guilty. Yet this is not an inconsistency that demolishes the possibility of a sound theory of justice involving courts. It is merely a necessary evil.

      • Proudhon December 2, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

        “… is an inconsistency beyond reproach.”
        “… reasons to justify this inconsistency”

        That is nonsense. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_explosion

        “It’s no flaw in a theory of what rights and responsibilities ought to exist, to say that the right of *unilateral* enforcement of one’s own (theoretically absolute) rights is incompatible with functioning civil institutions (which are necessary to construct a system of rights in the first place).”

        The above argument fails because of a slide from rights in the fundamental moral (libertarian) sense to rights in the legal sense (“construct a system of rights”).

        “Nevertheless, in practice, he has to be punished for this failure, regardless of his innocence, since otherwise there is no possibility to punish the guilty.”

        That punishment of an innocent can be justified on consequentialist grounds. A nonconsequentialist view that started out with absolute moral self-ownership may be weakened into making non-absolute claims and bring in consequentialist factors. I accept that it is fuzzy how much weakening such a view can take before the label “libertarianism” stops to make sense as a name for it as a fundamental normative theory – maybe we have different linguistic intuitions on where to draw that line. But, wholly independently of the choice of label, such moves necessarily come with strings and conditions that may, once investigated, be found to logically force other substantial alterations of the view. The move is certainly no “easy solution”. It is to replace a part of the (often proudly rallyingly expressed) normative core of the theory. It is not a one time quick fix but a beginning of a long, hard and possibly fatal (for the theory) investigative process. A self-proclaimed libertarian who makes that move may on investigation find that his/her usual usual arguments against positive duties to aid or redistribute will no longer work because those arguments where in part premised on absolute self-ownership.

      • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg December 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

        I don’t want to draw this out a whole lot, but one remark –

        The “principle of explosion” has to do with *logical contradiction* — “A and not A” implies anything. But the libertarians are not guilty of *logical* inconsistency. Rather, their theory of rights is inconsistent with their (favored) implementation of social institutions.

        This is no logical inconsistency. Try as you might, you will not be able to assume libertarianism and thereby prove that Bertrand Russell is the pope. (Although I’d be happy to see you try.)

        You also write that “A self-proclaimed libertarian who makes that move may on investigation find that his/her usual usual arguments against positive duties to aid or redistribute will no longer work because those arguments where in part premised on absolute self-ownership.”

        But did you know that libertarians believe in taxes? And that mostly they don’t even want to privatize roads? The idea that government is, in certain domains, the best available real-world option for implementing libertarian property ideals is a core part of libertarian theory. The courts and their financial remedies are just another aspect of that.

      • Patrick December 2, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

        The principle of explosion is only relevant if we assume that moral reasoning is supposed to be an unfailing exercise of rigorous logical deduction from inflexible moral axioms. Now, that is a common error among libertarians, but do we benefit from making the same mistake?

      • Proudhon December 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

        “The principle of explosion is only relevant if we assume that moral reasoning is supposed to be an unfailing exercise of rigorous logical deduction from inflexible moral axioms.”

        No, consistency is for example also a necessary part of the reflective equilibrium view of moral justification ( http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/reflective-equilibrium/ ), a view often contrasted to views that start with “inflexible moral axioms” at least in one sense of the phrase.

        If you champion some form of moral reasoning that does not care about inconsistencies then post a link to some examples of that method in action and I will read them.

      • Patrick December 2, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

        I was as your reply reveals insufficiently direct. In reality people have moral “intuitions” composed of a not necessarily accessible to consciousness combination of biological instinct, social mores, personal psychology, emotional associations, and maybe just an iota of actual reasoning about morals or ethics. It is unsurprising that people’s actual moral systems are inconsistent.

        Moral reasoning in practice is usually the attempt to use after the fact rationalizations to convince other people of the rightness of our own intuition. Because coherence is valued in formal logic, we strive for it in moral reasoning.

        What we should do instead is attempt to sound out what figures into our moral intuition in the interest of self-knowledge and possibly to uproot the less worthy elements in our moral frames (if that is actually possible). It is unlikely we have, at any time, something coherent.

      • Proudhon December 3, 2012 at 2:33 am #

        Reflective equilibrium includes second order thinking about intuitions. Such thinking is compatible with care for consistency. Indeed, consistency is a necessary tool for comprehensible evaluation also of which intuitions to rely on and which ones to set aside.

        If you think you have an account of justification that does not care about consistency then please please give some simple and clear examples of how moral reasoning works on your account. The terms “uprooting” and “less worthy” aren’t self-explanatory. Give an example of some intuition being successfully uprooted without relying on consistency along the way.

        (I first replied to the wrong location in the thread. Please remove the other verbatim post and keep this.)

      • Proudhon December 5, 2012 at 7:30 am #

        @Blinkenlights: I missed your reply above Patrick’s first post.

        “But the libertarians are not guilty of *logical* inconsistency. Rather, their theory of rights is inconsistent with their (favored) implementation of social institutions.”

        To favor a policy is normally to believe that the policy is the right thing to do, in a certain context. Then think of a libertarian who tries to combine these two beliefs:

        (1) self-ownership is an absolute moral constrain that it is
        always morally wrong to transgress

        (2) it is here and now morally right to implement the social institution of coercive courts

        If we can show that (2) will violate (1) then we have uncovered an inconsistency in the belief set about wrong and right actions held by the libertarian i.e.)(1) entails the belief that (2) is false. At the same time (2) is asserted (and acted on).

        (As a side note: even if (2) was not believed by the libertarian, if implementing the policy was only due to compulsive unwanted behaviour, we could still object that the libertarian has a form of *practical inconsistency* in the form of a moral belief/moral action gap.)

        “But did you know that libertarians believe in taxes?”

        Again, the fact that some people *wants* to believe some set of normative claims does not *make* that set consistent. If the set is inconsistent then we can and should fault it and those who try to cling to it.

    • troy grant November 28, 2012 at 12:13 am #

      The easy solution is no solution. Regulations are toilet paper for the unlimited wealth and power that own the government and the courts.

    • Proudhon December 3, 2012 at 2:31 am #

      Reflective equilibrium includes second order thinking about intuitions. Such thinking is compatible with care for consistency. Indeed, consistency is a necessary tool for comprehensible evaluation also of which intuitions to rely on and which ones to set aside.

      If you think you have an account of justification that does not care about consistency then please please give some simple and clear examples of how moral reasoning works on your account. The terms “uprooting” and “less worthy” aren’t self-explanatory. Give an example of some intuition being successfully uprooted without relying on consistency along the way.

  5. Daniel Rosenberg November 26, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    No “climb back up by your bootstraps” option?

  6. Quicksand November 26, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    I don’t buy the premise. A fundamentalist libertarian living in a high-rise urban apartment building near other people? No way.

    • Marcie November 26, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

      Haha. This wins.

  7. troy grant November 26, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Without regulations, how do right libertarians keep concentrating wealth and power from becoming a plutocracy or hegemony and taking away our freedoms?

    • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg November 29, 2012 at 11:09 am #

      Freedom is the freedom of plutocrats to take away your freedoms.

      • agnosticnixie December 4, 2012 at 11:49 am #

        To buy them. It’s all an equal exchange; their historically accumulated wealth allows them to give you the opportunity to make bread. In return, they will have your freedom and energy.

        You’re free to choose.

      • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg December 5, 2012 at 1:16 am #

        Very well put. BTW, I know you! But under a different name.

  8. William Neil November 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Well Corey, here’s a little updated version. Many wealthy New Jerseyans have decided to place vacation homes or business right at the water’s edge, on barrier islands which, in coastal geologic terms, migrate over time and are dramatically shaped by storms, are emphemeral in geologic time. Ten thousand homes on the Jersey barrier islands were destroyed or damaged in the great Northeaster of 1962, and many of the same areas have been hit again by Sandy. The Atlantic, in each case, ploughed new inlets through the barrier islands, which have been filled in.

    The problem is, from thel libertarian perspective, that these risk taking builders are subsidized by the general federal taxpayer through flood insurance costs below private rates (which are going up) and in addition, by the nation’s most expensive sand pumping-beach placement program costing more than a billion over time. The legislative battle to require damaged or destroyed homes to get a NJ DEP permit was lost in the 1990′s; legally (the feds may have a different opinion for infrastructure ) the homeowners/businesses who were just proved by nature to have built in a dangerous place can come back just as before according to Gov. Christie and no permits needed for gas lines, water lines, highways. By the way, general taxpayers – federal ones – subsidize the beach replacements at a 65 to 35 federal to local ratio.

    Now I am not a libertarian, support generous federal emergency relief for victims of disasters (and economic ones as well) but I draw the line at foolishness as to building again no questions asked and asking me ratify it with my $. So what ye say, libertarians, are you going to stand for this?

    Biographical note: I was the lead negotiator for the environmental community in 1988-1989 in the attempt to get Governor Tom Kean a coastal commission to regulate land use at the coast, since local governments allow, in the vast majority of cases, exactly what the eye reveals today at the coast. Requiring scrutiny and a permit after a storm like Sandy was exactly what we were fighting for, and the intention was to deny rebuilding where nations showed it could not be defended. We did not make global warming arguments back in 1988-89, Hansen was just breaking into the news; we said such building rights were foolish enough just given the centuries history of Atlantic storms, hurricanes and northeasters. The global warming case would only magnify and ratify our earlier arguments. But much like the sod busters described by historian Donald Worster in his great book “The Dust Bowl,” people at the coast are driven by the American dream and the power of the real estate lobby in Trenton; science and history don’t count, just as it didn’t for the wheat farmers who pushed into the low rainfall regions which became the Dust Bowl in the 1930′s.

  9. William Neil November 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Just wanted to add a link for those folks who want to follow the so far quiet debate over the fate of the built Jersey Coast here at http://www.wolfenotes.com/ – Bill Wolfe’s site, the most knowledgeable environmentalist I know in NJ and a former colleague.

    Yes, and let’s add another twist for libertarians. Think of subsidies at the Jersey coast in a time of Austerity and perhaps, the great betrayal coming up: an ironic twist on necessities vs entitlements – entitlements to live in danger’s way right at the edge. And for a while, Gov. Christie was the darling of the Right, a budget slasher…and now ….?

  10. Scott Preston November 27, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    It reminds me of a Zen Buddhist tale (I’ll leave it up to your imaginations what the white and black mice signify in connection with the Libertarian’s dilemma)

    “A monk walking across a field encounters a tiger. He fled, the tiger chasing after him. Coming to a cliff, he caught hold of a wild vine and swung himself over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above.Terrified, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger had come, waiting to eat him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little began to gnaw away at the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine in one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!”

    Unless you grow wings….

  11. charles leseau November 28, 2012 at 5:28 am #

    ‘This Means You’ by Kilgore Trout (Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions)

    “It was set in the Hawaiian Islands, the place where the lucky winners of Dwayne Hoover’s contest in Midland City were supposed to go. Every bit of land on the islands was owned by only about forty people, and, in the story, Trout had those people decide to excercise their property rights to the full. They put up no trespassing signs on everything.
    This created terrible problems for the million other people on the islands. The law of gravity required that they stick somewhere on the surface. Either that, or they could go out into the water and bob offshore.

    But the Federal Government came through with an emergency program. It gave a big baloon full of helium to every man, woman and child who didn’t own property.
    There was a cable with a harness on it dangling from each baloon. With the help of the baloons, Hawaiians could go on inhabiting the islands without always sticking to things other people owned.”

    • NoRemorse November 29, 2012 at 5:57 am #

      actually the Emergency Program is a liberal idea,”push them into the water” the libertarian idea and “maybe there is something wrong when 40 people are owning everything” the crazy left COMUNISTZ-MUSLISMZ-SOCIALIST-ANTIAMERICAN idea.

      • charles leseau November 29, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

        I’d say you summed it up rather well!

  12. William Neil November 29, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    Corey et al:

    I’ve been following the comments here and noting the zingers tossed at Libertarians about how the world of inequality has evolved over the past thirty years as politics and economics have follow a drift that I think certainly has more to do with liberatarians’ world views than mine, Social Democrat/New Dealer that I am.

    But in speaking of what a libertarian dream world – Utopia or Dystopia – might look like, I have to recall for you and your readers a remarkable series that ran at Naked Capitalism in six parts, here’s a link towards the middle to give you the flavor, in the form of a dialogue between a liberatarian idealist and a very skeptical interviewer, at

    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/12/journey-into-a-libertarian-future-part-iv-%E2%80%93-the-journey-into-a-libertarian-past.html

    I read a good chunk of it, but not all, but here’s the drift: the Libertarian Utopia evolves, in institutional form, to a civic and economic life dominated by giant insurance companies, private, but whom assume all the functions, including judicial review and punishment in a form of grand an unrelenting risk assessment and cost allocations. I have to admit upon reading this I honestly didn’t know if this was a genuine dialogue between an anonymous lib. and the author/moderator, or a giant put on coming from a libertarian critic who was out to embarass them by showing what their logic might look like when fully fleshed out in institutional form. I’d like to think that it was a real dialogue but as you can sense from my summary, it’s a Dystopia all the way for me. At times, it’s hilarious and tying it into one of the other commentators here, I can easily see the movie Brazil and its bizarre trwists coming out of this dialogue, even if they aren’t liberatarian institutions being portrayed.

    Funny and scary at the same time.

    Enjoy.

    • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg November 29, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

      That was fantastic. I don’t for a second think that it’s real, but there are plenty of real quotes from Hoppe’s book that, as one of the comments on it said, are the most insane parts of the whole thing.

      • William Neil November 30, 2012 at 11:30 am #

        I’m happy I was able to backtrack to it fairly quickly. My question to libertarians when they begin attacking “the state” is: whose state, exactly is it? The state is up for grabs for control (or chaos) between the contending factions of economic and civil society. Which ones are represented and dominate? How did so many regulatory bodies fail to control the mortgage derivatives bubble? They had been intellectually captured by what I call “Market Utopianism,” and across the board deferred to those who “were closest” to the market – Wall Street’s view. The most prominent dissenter – Brooksley Borne, was quickly swept off the table: she had no institutional support in the society which she could call upon. At the risk of oversimplifying, think no further than the “state of labor” and Ralph Nader in the contemporary balance of forces; everything has been skewed to an upper middle class Univ. of Chicago view of life and the economy, including the Democratic Party, the Presidents re-election nothwithstanding. Let see how this unfolds.

        Since I can’t afford new books much anymore, I’m forced to read the toughest ones I skipped over on my shelves, and the current one is J.G.A. Pocock’s “The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition.” Its turned out not to be as daunting as some online reviewers declared, and its a great review of what got passed on from the classical era, through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Republics. The best parts are the descriptions of how much thought and energy was devoted in Florence (and to a lesser degree,Venice) to have all parts of the population participate in the actual decision making process, and how fleeting was the fate of these small republics, and how easily the participation process was skewed to the most powerful commercial elements and “noble” families.

        A Republic, if you can keep it. Libertarians have yet to convince me that they have the answer to this riddle.

  13. Shay December 5, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    2008 Liberty Poll update on page 29. http://mises.org/journals/liberty/Liberty_Magazine_June_2008.pdf

  14. Collin December 6, 2012 at 1:42 am #

    Interesting and great post about flagpoles. Thanks for sharing and keep posting!

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