Bill Maher Criticizes Libertarians, Ignores Costs

April 7, 2013

Facebook: the ceaseless source of late-night blogfodder. I caught this post from Progressive Libertarianism and I had to investigate:

Screenshot from 2013-04-06 23:56:23

Those who follow the Progressive Libertarian page long enough discover that the people behind it are very thoughtful, apparently Austrian-inspired libertarians who regularly post progressive-inspired criticisms and interrogatories of libertarianism. It is a great page to follow for libertarians who are interested in isolating their core beliefs and discovering where they stand on various issues of contention among the libertarian community. Very well done, and kudos to them.

Regarding the above comment, I was immediately skeptical of Edgardo’s claim that intellectual superiority “does not matter when it comes to life itself”. Forget about whether libertarians are actually intellectually superior to anyone. I’m not vain enough to comment on that issue, but does intelligence generally carry no substance? If a guy happens to be intellectually superior to other people, and he uses his smarts to, say, invent something that millions of people find useful—perhaps something that makes acquiring food easier for millions of people—I would say that that “matters when it comes to life itself”, wouldn’t you? Read the rest of this entry »

What Is the “Ideal” Distribution of Wealth?

March 17, 2013

I’ve seen this video at least four times on facebook. I’d say it has achieved a critical mass of re-posts to warrant some sort of comment. The topic is America’s calamitous distribution of wealth, and the fear and loathing it should allegedly strike in the hearts of poor and middle-class Americans. Here is the video:

My attempts to find an organizational source with further information for this video have failed. Politizane‘s YouTube account appears to be the video’s origin, although others have re-posted it. As of this writing, no other videos appear under that name.  Read the rest of this entry »

When evaluating claims of criminal activity, always look for a victim.

February 7, 2013

This image appeared on Progressive Libertarianism‘s facebook feed:

Flowchart for proper lawmaking.

Flowchart for proper lawmaking.

Drug possession and prostitution are well known forms of victimless crime. These are crimes only because they violate the black letter of the written law, not because they produce victims.

A substantial amount of white-collar, corporate crime is also victimless. Progressives who would turn us against corporations and capitalism will often submit for our consideration the large amounts of criminal convictions, fines, and settlements that corporations accumulate. This is to tarnish the corporations’ reputations by portraying them as serial criminals. The same progressives might also suggest that the fines are too low to deter further “corporate crime”. Whenever I hear such allegations, my first demand to learn the identity of at least one victim of the corporations’ actions. Often—not always, but often—no victim is to be found. Read the rest of this entry »

Sam Seder, the anti-libertarian crusader, on government and the internet

February 4, 2013

As I have looked for libertarian-type videos on YouTube, it has become difficult to avoid the videos of Sam Seder, actor and comedian turned progressive radio commentator and host of The Majority Report. He’s apparently made a profession of repackaging the most hackneyed of statist canards in a hip and freshly pugnacious style. To me, it comes off as so much trolling, almost unworthy of response, but a so much of him appears in that, as a trove of source material, I can no longer resist.

So today I caught this video, in which Sam claims to pwn the Libertarians … again.” Let’s have a look at this alleged pwnage:

That’s it. He starts with a quote, ostensibly from a listener:

Libertarians are the paradigmatic born-on-third-base types. They have no appreciation that society for hundreds of years has built up the material comfort and wealth they benefit from. They’re just rationalizing their own entitlement.

Sam Seder agrees immediately and wholeheartedly, and then proceeds to rationalize his own entitlement to high-speed internet wherever he goes. Read the rest of this entry »

Minimum Wage Increases: Economic Snake Oil

January 29, 2013
Senator Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) has the cure for our economic ailments, ...

Senator Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) has the cure for our economic ailments, …

Checking out the news of the day on facebook, a friend posts this article for our consideration, courtesy of ThinkProgress:

New Jersey Governor Vetoes Minimum Wage Increase

The New Jersey Governor at issue is Republican governor Chris Christie. The tone is not celebratory. My facebook friend lamented: “Really, he might as well just go re-flood people’s homes.” Is it that bad? I’m not convinced.

The thrust of the article is that the people of New Jersey would have bathed in fountains of prosperity, if only the governor would have been willing to force employers to pay their employees more money. The bill, as it was passed, would have increased the minimum wage from its current $7.25 to $8.50. Christie vetoed the bill conditionally, saying he would sign it if the increase were lowered to $8.25 and phased in over three years. This was not good enough for Pat Garofalo, the author of the ThinkProgress piece, who reasoned:

As the New Jersey Policy Perspective noted, “the first year increase proposed by the governor of 25 cents will be erased by inflation by the time the third year kicks in its 25 cents.” Here are more benefits that Christie denied to working New Jerseyans:  Read the rest of this entry »

Bizarre Headline: “Big Pharma Blocks Imports of Generic AIDS Drugs” into Africa

January 25, 2013

“Big Pharma” patrols the high seas in search of plunder and patent infringement.

This headline comes to us from the venerable Democracy Now! news hour of January 23, 2013:

“Fire in the Blood”: Millions Die in Africa After Big Pharma Blocks Imports of Generic AIDS Drugs

When I saw this headline rolling up my facebook feed as most shared from Democracy Now!, two thoughts hit me almost at once.

The first thought was that Democracy Now! is to be commended for bringing this monumental story to us. Millions of people are out there dying, and I haven’t heard boo about it from any other media source. This is standard fare. If you want to get the scoop, tune into Democracy Now!

To understand my second thought, you must realize that I am a libertarian Juris Doctor. As a law guy, I tend to take things rather literally. So upon encountering a headline alleging that Big Pharma is blocking imports of generic drugs, I promptly envision the private fleet of pirates that Pfizer and AstraZeneca must have hired to swashbuckle and maraud and pillage the vessels of competing merchants. I delighted in this anti-corporate progressive fantasy for about ten seconds before hypothesizing the reality:

“Big Pharma isn’t blocking anything,” I suspected. “I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that some government is blocking those imports at Big Pharma’s behest, and I’ll have to see the story to find out which one and why.”  Read the rest of this entry »

A Libertarian World Could Be More Colorful

July 28, 2012

All the colors of the rainbow, and then some.

People often ask what a libertarian world would look like. It’s impossible to say, and speculating can be problematic. Scott Morgan at DRCNet (aka famously observed:

It’s a terrible and frequent conundrum for reformers that if we accurately describe the behavior of our opposition, we end up sounding crazy.

He was speaking in the context of drug law reform, but the principle applies in many other cases of government command and control. For example, we all know about the tens of thousands of people the FDA has left to die by delaying the release of life-saving medicines. But what if I told you that, if not for the FDA, colorblindness would be curable? What if I told you further that, if not for the FDA, we might even have a procedure that could expand the spectrum of visible light, resulting in a world that is colorful beyond our present imagination? Would that sound crazy?

I’ll let Jay Neitz, professor of Opthamology at the University of Washington, and Jad Abumrad of WNYC’s Radiolab explain. Here is a passage from their May 21st episode entitled ColorsThe relevant part begins at 0:50, and the quoted passage below appears at 3:15:

JAD ABUMRAD: Now if this worked so well with the monkeys, couldn’t you take a colorblind human and give them back the thing they’re missing?
JAY NEITZ: Absolutely. We could cure colorblindness in a human with exactly this technique.
JAD: Really?
JAY: The only thing that we’d have to do is convince the FDA that the risks are low enough and the benefit is high enough that it’s something we can do in people.
JAD: Have you ever tried it?
JAY: No, we’ve never tried it. Although, I get a lot of e-mails that say, “I don’t care what the risks are.” I’ve even had offers: “How about if I come to your laboratory, and you don’t tell anybody, late at night, and you give me the shot in the eye, and we won’t tell anyone.”
JAD: Which brings us back to our original question: If you can take a colorblind human and give them normal color vision, could you take a normal color seer and boost them … [i.e. add additional color receptive cones to their retinas, thereby expanding the spectrum of visible color for them].
JAY [chuckles]: Well, yes. Yeah. …

JAD [speaking to the listener in the third-person]: He said, “Sure. Why not?” But then there’s the whole FDA thing … .

Here is a video of Neitz’s monkeys seeing new colors:  Read the rest of this entry »