Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Latest quote added at end of collection...

The evidence strongly shows that Hong Kong and Singapore benefit from being small island economies on major trade routes, established as entrepots. They are not models for development of tropical agricultural economies such as those in Africa. Switzerland shows that a landlocked country can flourish if it is itself surrounded by rich nations, such as those in Europe, and serves as a long-standing land bridge between them.
Jeffrey Sachs, Scientific American Jan. 2005 p.14

This quote is relevant because many libertarians decry aid to developing nations, saying Hong Kong is the libertarian-like example that should be followed. One responded to Sachs' article on development with this argument, and Sachs responded.

Of course there are MANY other reasons why the countries libertarians claim are models are not libertarian. For example, almost all property is owned by the Hong Kong government, and public housing accounts for roughly half the population.

Adam Smith's Soft Side

Adam Smith's Soft Side
US Congressman Sherrod Brown points out that Adam Smith was not the one-dimensional "classical liberal" portrayed by libertarian historical revisionists.

The whole "classical liberal" term is a propaganda ploy (unhappily adopted by some innocent academics) designed to convince us of authority and historicity of modern libertarian dogma. It's as if libertarianism needed papal succession to justify authority descended from Peter (Adam Smith) to modern popes (Hayek, Mises, Rand, etc.)

And like Catholic dogmas, it's full of gross historical inaccuracies and conveniently overlooks other contemporaneous Christian (liberal) sects.

Added to the Libertarian Revisionist History page.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

For Mises' Sake

The latest addition to Critiques is a delightful blast at Austrians.

Tom G. Palmer savages Llewellyn Rockwell, the Ludwig von Mises Institute and Hans-Hermann Hoppe for Austrianism above and beyond the call of sanity in For Mises' Sake.

The money lines are:

"If Hoppe is the leading light of Austrian economics as the Mises Institute presents him, then Austrian economics should prepare for a long dark age. At George Mason University I saw Hoppe present a lecture in which he claimed that Ludwig von Mises had set the intellectual foundation for not only economics, but for ethics, geometry, and optics, as well. This bizarre claim turned a serious scholar and profound thinker into a comical cult figure, a sort of Euro Kim Il Sung. Hoppe's scholarship is so pitiful that one of his own colleagues -- who is still involved in the Mises Institute -- once remarked to me that Hoppe's book on ethics was a truly remarkable achievement; it was the only book he had ever read in which every step of the argument was a logical fallacy."

This has been placed in the "Libertarians Criticizing Each Other" and "Austrian Economics" indexes.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The worst crime of the 20th century. Whodunnit?

In my Libertarianism in One Lesson, I point out the libertarian principle that "All food, drugs, and medical treatments should be entirely unregulated: every industry should be able to kill 300,000 per year in the US like the tobacco industry."

Reality dwarfs my cynicism. Tim Lambert, in
The worst crime of the 20th century. Whodunnit? points out that the pesticide industry is attempting to blame Rachel Carson and her green followers for malarial deaths. But in reality, that industry is responsible for the deaths because they have fostered pesticide resistance in mosquitos through indiscriminant sales of their pesticides. Their accusations range from 50 to 90 million.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Criticisms of Anarcho-Capitalism

Thanks to Minhea Tudoreanu for a couple of suggestions, now added to the Libertarians Criticizing Each Other index.

NEW 10/05: A Fatal Instability in Anarcho-Capitalism

NEW 10/05: Anarcho-Capitalism Dissolves Into City States

Paul Birch shows some good reasons to think anarcho-capitalism is a utopian pipe-dream.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Libertarianism in One Lesson; The Second Lesson

Need I say more?

Libertarianism in One Lesson; The Second Lesson

This is not a finished work: there are a number of things that could be patted into terser or funnier or more accurate jabs. And of course, there's room for lots more items. And I need to add some credits at the bottom for a few contributors. If you have suggestions, please let me know. Chances are I won't respond to all the comments on this one.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Blast from the past....

There's some fun activity in the comments of Somalia, the libertarian paradise. My old libertarian buddy Glen Raphael has decided to stick his oar in.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

William Paley was not an anthropologist.

I've read a number of criticisms of Paley's watchmaker argument, but I've never seen one from the standpoint of an anthropologist. It would be fitting: after all, when we find artifacts, anthropologists are the ones trained to interpret what they tell us about their makers.

Presume a far-future anthropologist who discovers the watch. It (and I choose it because it may not even be of our species) is initially unfamiliar with watches.

Yes, the anthropologist would likely conclude that the watch was designed. It might even conclude that the watch, circa 1800 and obviously crafted by hand, was made by one "designer" or artisan.

But the anthropologist would not stop there. There is much more information inherent in the watch. Everything about the watch shrieks that there is more than just a designer. The diverse materials of the watch speak of commerce, of industry, of technology. No one designer would have assembled all those raw materials, purified and processed them into glass and metals and alloys. Nor would one designer be genious enough to invent all the technologies embodied in the watch (springs, gears, hands, numbers on the watch face, tools for manufacture, etc.); those obviously imply a long period of technological development. Nor would one designer devote such vast labor to invent and perfect the design to such an extent just for himself: the design speaks of use by customers. Indeed, the anthropologist would be very surprised if this was the only watch ever made, and would search for more.

The anthropologist would find numerous other timekeeping devices (as well as whole loads of other devices.) It would perceive patterns of historical development and spread of the technologies that compose watches and the other artifacts, and find evidence of myriad watchmakers over a long period of time, who produced timekeeping devices ranging from sundials to atomic clocks. The evolution of timekeeping would be seen to occur in gradual steps, except where other technologies that had themselves evolved gradually, were integrated for timekeeping.

Our hypothetical anthropologist looking at the watch would not conclude only that there was a watchmaker: we would conclude that the watchmaker was a member of an enormous technological civilization.

Wait: say the anthropologist found a plant of Zea mays, corn. Everything about the plant screams that it is unnatural and created: it requires dense stands for pollination to work, there is no natural dispersal mechanism for the seed, it cannot compete with ordinary plants, it's lacking most of the important chemical and mechanical protections for its seeds that wild plants have, etc. The anthropologist would obviously conclude that corn is artificial. But it is not consciously designed. A continuum of ancestors leading all the way back to a wild grass, teosinte can be found. The anthropologist could conclude that corn had a designer, but he'd be wrong. Corn didn't come about by a process of design: rather a process of selection among natural variation over a period of a hundred or more human generations.

What have we learned from this thought experiment? Besides the basic fact that the watchmaker argument is a very weak argument by analogy?

First, that slight extensions of the analogy lead very quickly to conclusions that Christians would not enjoy, such as the idea that their god is a mere watchmaker in a much more extensive culture of gods.

Second, that a slight change of the analogy to another human artifact that was created by humans but NOT designed can lead to an invalid conclusion of design. In other words, we are incapable of accurately discerning design from selection. Unfortunately, William Paley did not provide an analogy for discerning theistic selection from natural selection.

(What is this doing in this blog? I had no other really convenient place to put it right now. If anybody would like to provide a more appropriate home, let me know.)

Saturday, August 06, 2005


A few weeks ago I was forwarded an annoying post about the new element Governmentium. Now, that post was funny, but annoyingly libertarian in terms of mocking government. I was irritated enough that I thought a little about how I would rebut it. Here's a link to one version:

I did a little google searching, and turned up more than 4000 hits for Governmentium. I noticed that there was actually a great deal of mutation between the different sites' versions. And I let it drop.

A couple of days ago, somehow I stumbled across Administratium. Lo and behold, very much the same post, except that it applies to bureaucracies in government or in private business. Google turned up more than 8000 hits. Here's a link to one version:

I figured these would not go unremarked in Usenet Groups, which now are searchable with Google Groups. And I was right: first mentions of Administratium were in 1993. First mentions of Governmentium were in 2002. And they were followed with comments that Governmentium was an uncreative rewrite. (I also found a comment that Administratium was reported in The New Scientist in 1991.) Two years later, groups had versions that added: "When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium" (2004)

What lessons shall we take away from this?

Well, first, that ideologues (including the right wing and libertarians) are phenomenally uncreative, and generally adapt rather than create their own arguments. We see this all the time: for example Intelligent Design proponents are simply trying to resurrect the ancient creationist argument from design.

Second, the principles of almost any ridicule of government apply just as well to the private sector: it's just a matter of seeing how. When right wing or libertarian reframing points you towards government only, rather than the more general case, this can be hard to notice. That's when a little clever research can turn up the original, and let you point out the reframing.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Carnival of Bad, Bad, Baaaad History

I submitted my Libertarian Revisionist History, and it is now listed at the current Carnival of Bad, Bad, Baaaad History.

In an era where "balance" is emphasized to privilige ideology over knowledge, this is a pretty good idea.

I'd like to locate a site that emphasizes resources that can be used to criticize bad history. My page has a bibliography: I'd like to locate more.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Arizona LP politics

James Dallas has sent me a funny web site:

Petty, back-biting libertarian politics at its best!

Warning: not funny to folks unfamiliar with local libertarian party politics.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Amazon list for countering Libertarianism

Listmania! Countering Libertarianism and Neoliberalism

A while ago, I played with Amazon's list facility to try it out. These are the most important books for countering the ideas of libertarians and neoliberals. Only 6, and some are quite difficult. But they're really good.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Abandoning Libertarianism

Election 2004, 14: Abandoning Libertarianism

Bruce Baugh's sad evaluation of the worth of libertarianism and libertarians.

His article reflects the lack of concern for his needs from libertarians, and that he suspects he'll get better through government.

Marxism of the Right

Marxism of the Right

Robert Locke's

The American Conservative

article is a remarkably good inditement of libertarianism that will
appeal to liberals and progressives as well as conservatives.

The appeal lies, I think, in a big-picture view of the REAL classical liberal issues that are addressed both by modern conservatives and liberals. REAL classical liberals balanced their interests in liberty with other, competing values such as order and justice. There's a nice discussion of this at

Liberals and Libertarians #1

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.

Monday, March 21, 2005

An excellent conservative criticism!

The Problem with Libertarians

Tony Woodlief's five post collection from his blog Sand In The Gears. One of the best conservative critiques of the failures of libertarianism; polite and generous to a fault, yet still damning. Posts are in reverse chronological order.

Monday, March 14, 2005

A Modern Libertarian

Hugh Kramer has very kindly provided another version of the Major General's Song for the humor index of Critiques Of Libertarianism.

Try both versions: both perform some wonderful tongue-twisting verbal acrobatics, and both twit libertarians in delightful ways.

Hugh Kramer's version.

Kim Plofker's version.

I've done some of this sort of thing myself: see my
2000 Libertarian Party Campaign Song.

I've also modified some poems: It used to be a tradition at the Cambridge Entomology Society to nominate officers in verse, so I wrote two nomination poems. Does anybody know the proper term for the sort of forced rhyming that I used?

Monday, January 03, 2005

Latest addition.

Cycles of Conventional Wisdom on Economic Development (pdf)

Paul Krugman points out that the association between free trade and economic development is not supported by economic research, and in fact is a recent, spurious belief.