Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Try to Pay Attention....Libertarians are NOT Individualists

Got this asinine cartoon from my man KL....
How confused can you possibly be?

1. Libertarians believe that individual CHOICES, not disjointed individual ACTIONS, are the center of the good society. I have a 2006 BMW 330i. Not a clue how it works, the engine is a complex mystery to me. So, do I do all the work myself? I do not, none of it in fact. I pay an expert to do the service work for me. My choice to purchase a BMW was based in part on the excellent service record of the 330 series. I had a lot of choices, and I chose the BMW. Maybe a good choice, maybe not. But I do NOT believe in the need for, or even the desirability of, total independence and self-sufficiency. Markets always create complex mutual interdependencies that greatly increase specialization and improve welfare.

2. If the government stopped providing coercively "supplied" fire services, what would happen? Would there be zero fire protection? No, volunteer fire departments would take up part of the slack. In fact, volunteer fire departments are a perfect example of voluntary private organizations that would carry most of the water in a libertarian society. We don't necessarily need for-profit firms to do the work, though in larger cities that would probably make sense. This fallacy, that if the government stopped providing the service there would be no new institution to solve the problem, is obvious nonsense. Yet it is essentially the only argument that the anti-libertarian ning-nongs and lefty figjams have in their pathetic little arsenals. It doesn't matter how many times the canard is refuted, you still hear it.


Shawn said...

for further exploration of private assurance and service providers, I again point readers toward Klein's "supply for and demand of assurance," here, with free registration.

David said...

that bit about ningnongs and figjams sounds downright pornographic

Anonymous said...

boy, and I thought feminists had a hard time laughing at ourselves.

Midnight Moses said...

Is that a New Yorker cartoon? It looks too busy to be a New Yorker cartoon. Usually New Yorker cartoons have cats in them, or bored people nursing mixed drinks.

Wherever it came from, it inspires a delicious thought: a portion of the smart set believe libertarians want to watch their houses burn down.

Sometimes I think that belief is a direct consequence of the Randian ubermensch.

Or whatever.

TGGP said...

I recommend Fred McChesney on the decline of volunteer firefighting. The need for firefighting has actually gone down over time, even as expenditures on public firefighters has increased. Hence their diversion into non-fire related matters (such as the cliched cat in a tree).

Anonymous said...

I tend to think insurance providers would do a better job of coordinating residential fire protection. They're the ones who have to pay if your house burns down.

robert said...

of course Mr Krugman at the Times made swift use of this ...


Angus said...

While I agree with Mungowitz's point, I have to say that the cartoon is actually pretty funny.

Mungowitz said...

Yeah, I laughed at the cartoon, also. It is quite clever.

It was only then that I started to think about it, and decided that as long as government services are "free" at the margin, libertarianism has no chance at political victory.

And THAT is what made me write my little screed. The only way out of the "free services" trap would be to turn down the free service. And who would do that?

Anonymous said...

Has anyone EVER seen a cat skeleton in a tree?

William Polley said...

BR beat me to the punch. Insurance companies would provide fire protection, just like they did in the early days. Insurance premiums funded the fire brigade, and only the one company you paid would come to extinguish a fire.

One could wax at length on the ways in which this would be superior to our current system along some dimensions and possibly inferior in other respects.

BD said...

One could indeed wax at length about insurance-company provided fire protection. Or one could read the work that's already been done on the subject:

It turns out that the demise of the old system is a more nuanced story than one might imagine.

pino said...

No, thanks - I'm a libertarian.

In addition to your points above, Libertarians don't suggest that government doesn't have a role. For example, we need officers of the law.

We object to those services when provided at the wrong level of "The State" or when people don't want them any more.

William Polley said...

Thanks for the link BD. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had heard of that paper many ages ago.

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