Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Somalia, the libertarian paradise.

Dr. Jack Miller kindly offered his Democracy For $ale: Libertarian Paradise, and I've added it to my Economic Experiments index.

A quick search with Google for "libertarian" and "somalia" finds quite a bit written in support of Somalia having a libertarian solution, and as an example of benefits of libertarianism.

The obvious question is why libertarians aren't flocking there, the way they're supposed to move to New Hampshire. especially if they think liberty is the foremost value.


the_duke47 said...

Your site is awesome.

Fernando said...

Thanks for your excellent site!

Have you read "The Great Tranformation" by Karl Polanyi?


robfindlay said...

Good stuff!


Mike Huben said...

No, I haven't read Polanyi yet. Have I missed something good?

Fernando said...

Oh, yes.

Polanyi shows why self-regulated markets are impossible. The argument goes like this:

Self regulated markets are an invention by 19th century philosophers. There were no self regulated markets before.

Free markets were planned. Planning was not.

There are three fictional merchandises: money, land and human labor.

Land is putting a price to Nature.
Money is a mean not an end.
Human labor is another word fot human life.

When society serves the market, human life and Nature must adapt.
Men must change their lives and traditions to adapt. Nature is destroyed.

Society reacts (the Polanyi's counter movement) with all kinds of regulations implemented through the State.

Markets has its roots in society; the reversal isn't true.

Karl Polanyi (not Michael) was the intellectual contender of Von Mises and Hayek.

More info:



Mark Plus said...

I've never heard a good reason from a libertarian why the parts of the world with weak or nonexistent states are uniformly poor, disease-ridden and violent -- certainly not the kinds of places most Westerners would want to visit with their families. Whereas even the nuttiest libertarian would readily go on vacation to the developed social-democratic parts of the world because they have reputations for safety and a high quality of life, despite all the alleged "violence" their governments use to collect taxes and provide for human vulnerabilities.

Glen said...

Mark: I don't know if you'll think this is a good reason, but if you perceive government as a parasite it should be pretty obvious that big, healthy animals can support more and larger parasites than weak, spindly ones. The more productive and stable the society, the more government it can afford to support, even if government doesn't /cause/ the productivity.

Government is to society as barnacles and whale lice are to a whale. A fullgrown whale with no live barnacles is probably seriously unhealthy.

Mike: I'm actually planning to visit Somaliland sometime in the next year or so to get a firsthand sense of the place, but of course liberty is not the only value. Being able to easily speak the local language, find a decent job, and blend in with the natives are also considerations.

Mike Huben said...

Always fun to hear from you, Glen.

But your biological analogies are sad.

There's a continuum between commensalism, mutualism, and parasitism. You can't distinguish the difference by mere rhetoric, no matter how creative your analogy. It requires real knowledge of the resource flows between the players and how well they'd do in isolation.

Wealthy, dynamic societies are that way because of government facilitation. For a start: defense, stable property and law, corporations, publicly funded research, education, and public health. The list is very long. While these can be provided to some extent privately, the reason they are provided publicly is that private supply does not make states competitive with states that have public supply.

It always amazes me how seldom libertarians realize basics like that.

Somaliland sounds fascinating. Perhaps libertarians should relocate there rather than New Hampshire. It has a smaller population, so you would be more influential by numbers. By wealth, too.

Glen said...

It's an analogy, not an argument.

The analogy is similar in the relevant respect which is that tiny, sickly whales have few barnacles and huge, robust healthy whales can carry around 400 pounds of barnacles. Similarly: tiny, sickly societies have little government and huge robust ones have a lot.

I thought you might like the barnacles analogy due to a different implication it has: that barnacles are (government is) inevitable. Sure, a whale could theoretically live a healthy life without them - it could travel faster and farther given the same energy input if it didn't have to carry them along - but in the wild it just Ain't Gonna Happen. Little whales come from big whales, big whales have barnacles, and barnacles are contageous. So we can armchair-theorize all we like about how much better a wild barnacle-free whale might be, but we'll never actually see one. Make of that what you will. :-)

As for the implications you zoomed in on, I'll grant that it's really more of a symbion than a pure parasite. Whether the populace is better off without it depends on the government and the populate. Mao's and Stalin's government were pretty parasitic; Thatcher's was much less so. Even the worst governments provide a mixture of positive and negative influences. As a libertarian I tend to believe the negative outweighs the positive, but I don't deny some positives exist.

Glen said...

"While [various "public goods"] can be provided to some extent privately, the reason they are provided publicly is that private supply does not make states competitive with states that have public supply."

I'd agree with that if you had said "a reason" or "one conceivable reason" rather than "the reason". Another conceivable reason is the fact that government provision of these goods provides superior rent-seeking opportunities for the political class.

Or it could be some combination of these two reasons and others, where which reason predominates dependson the issue and the era.

The fact that some plausible excuse exists for past public provision doesn't mean that excuse was valid. Still less does it mean the excuse is /still/ valid; conditions might have changed such that public provision is no longer appropriate.

Mike Huben said...

What I love about you Glen is that your arguments are so gloriously silly.

You claim your analogy is not an argument, but you yourself said it was a "reason", which is sort of argument.

Now, if you had done the tiniest little bit of research on whale barnacles and whale lice, you'd have read that they are not parasites. So your analogy, where you call government a parasite is just plain wrong to start with.

In addition, parasite/symbiont loads may be high or low in sickly or healthy or large individuals; but I strongly doubt you did any real research. I think you just spouted factually unsupported stuff off the top of your head.

Then you do a bunch of arm waving "better or worse off" speculation, once again without any specification of a realistic baseline, research, or numbers.

I suppose that's the usual level of libertarian argument (a few get better, but IMHO because they hide their fallacies more skillfully.)

As for your nitpicking about "the reason" versus "a reason", your purported counterexample (political classes being able to extract rents better) is just another example of my reason, in that the political classes want to keep up with the Joneses in other nations.

Now I'm not surprised that you as a libertarian might focus on this: there's been a huge libertarian outreach to dictators and the like to free the investing classes (while retaining the subjugation of the working classes) through Chicago-school economists. Such as the example of Pinochet. The whole economic freedom sales pitch is aimed at ruling classes to grant freedom for the investing classes with the promise of more wealth to be milked. And the great majority in the working classes should be virtual slaves with no government services, as far as these indexes are concerned.

But if you look at where first world wealth originated, it has originated in nations that were in active military competition with each other, which depended on generation of large amounts of wealth to pay for large armed forces. Including the US, which has always been fighting wars: with Britain, Amerindians, north vs. south, Spain, Mexico, backing the Monroe Doctrine, Hawaii, the Phillipines and other colonies, the two world wars, etc.

And in none of those first world nations has the governing class gotten particularly rich through the development of first-world status. The real wealth went to the investing classes, not the ruling classes. So I'd say your alternative "reason" doesn't even stand up to minor scrutiny.

In short, Glen, all you're doing is rhetorically bashing government with ahistorical accusations. That's what most libertarian arguments boil down to. Make any argument that's vaguely plausible as long as the listener is totally ignorant.

Glen said...

I should have said it wasn't a /complete/ argument. It doesn't demonstrate - nor was it intended to - that government is bad. I'm just pointing out that if you already accept /other/, unstated, libertarianish arguments that government is bad, it doesn't follow that the livability of a society should directly relate to the size of the government. Because government size isn't an independent variable.

Why don't you consider barnacles and whale lice parasites? I'm using this definition: "an organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered on or in a different organism (the host) while contributing nothing to the survival of the host" I admit I'm not a whale expert but I did do a bit of casual googling and found no indication that they help the whale. I'd appreciate a pointer to the contrary. Or are you just using a definition of "parasite" that excludes symbionts?

I never claimed the people playing the rent-seeking game should become fabulously wealthy from it. The payoff is as much power as money. The fact that Archer Daniels Midland makes more money off pork than any particular bureaucrat doesn't really seem relevant to anything I said.

So let me get this straight: First you accuse me of using silly, tired old arguments, and then you go on to bring up Pinochet? :-) Here's Friedman's take on that one:


Mike Huben said...

Ah, now Glen finds historical facts to be "tired old arguments".

However much Uncle Miltie Friedman may attempt plausible deniability about Chile, his libertarian "Chicago Boys" were working directly for Pinochet. Libertarian outreach to dictators, as I said.

Glen also ludicrously attempts to defend his assertion that political classes in the US are rent seeking. I pointed out that common sense would indicate they'd get very wealthy if they were. He claims they're rewarded by power, and so forgo money. But they'd have the power whether or not they increased productivity by infrastructure investment. Glen's whole kleptocratic hypothesis (which is very popular in libertarian circles) just doesn't work in the US: just look at how kleptocrats in even the tiniest states become billionaires, and dominate the economics of their nations. Our political class is not playing the kleptocratic game to any significant extent.

Yes, Glen, you are using a poor definition of parasite. A parasite derives nutrition at the expense of a host, but does not contribute a benefit in return. Whale lice feed on dead skin (no expense or harm to the host) and barnacles are filter feeders, not feeding on any whale flesh.

In general, I've noticed over the years Glen that almost all of your arguments depend of imprecise language, denial of history, unsupported assertions, and other errors. None of them have stood up to even light scrutiny in my experience.

But I don't mean to pick on you in particular, Glen: even the best libertarian authors suffer exceedingly from those problems. The whole attempt seems to be a tissue of mischaracterizations for post-hoc justification of political preferences.

Felipe said...

"However much Milton Friedman may attempt plausible deniability about Chile, his libertarian "Chicago Boys" were working directly for Pinochet. Libertarian outreach to dictators, as I said."

Mike please read a little about the Chilean case before posting nonsense.

The Chicago boys were chilean students that spent some time in the Chicago school (hence the name Chicago Boy) they werent directly dependent from the Chicago University.

By the way your "investing class vs working class" socialist rhetoric was very funny to read.

Luis Gustavo said...

Hi, Felipe

You don´t refuted nor contradicts what Mike wrote...so where´s the nonsense ?