Sunday, February 18, 2007

Markets Are Not Magic

Markets Are Not Magic

Mark Thoma, at Economist's View, explains when markets can perform very badly, and how the belief that "privatization and deregulation are always best" is wrong.


John said...

Mike, for as many years as you have spent in this personal quest to "discredit" libertarianism, it seems like your only real accomplishment is that you've compiled together a wasteland of anti-libertarian weblinks that have absolutely no standard for quality or content.

Jeremy said...

Left libertarians certainly don't believe privatization, as popularly understood, is a solution to anything. State property is not legitimately owned; therefore, the State has no power to transfer it. Nor is the State likely to be fair in privatization, favoring politically connected "crony capitalists" rather than acknowledging the equity, tax-funded shared ownership of the people.

The difference between liberals and left libertarians is that we don't think the State can be made into a fair and proper manager of commonly owned resources. The difference between conservatives and left libertarians is that we soundly reject the concept of the State as a steward for the ruling class's less directly owned property, whether that is implied or explicit in political practices. This is why radical libertarians like Murray Rothbard called for the syndicalist takeover of government services (and private businesses who profit off of government contracts) by the workers via straight-up Lockean homesteading.

If you're going to use the term "libertarian", at least acknowledge that there is more variety to it than simple corporatist apologism. I for one am openly and passionately opposed to the kind of privatization and deregulation that, say, your more Republican Libertarian types advocate. In many cases, libertarians are far more leftist than the alternatives you suggest.

Mike Huben said...


Like many ignorant people, you are incapable of seeing value in "wastelands". Some, like marshes, are actually highly productive. I regularly receive notes of thanks from people who have been seeking rebuttals to libertarian propaganda, and my site is used in at least 3 college courses.

Quality and content do vary at my site: but then you can say the same of pretty much any libertarian site. If you don't know how to distinguish the high quality content from the rest, it probably wouldn't help you anyhow.


I'm quite sympathetic to left-libertarians, and have advised on the construction of a left-libertarian FAQ and site in the past. There's an index at my site dedicated to left-libertarian criticisms of right libertarianism.

But very simply, I'm not interested in expending the energy to always change my terminology. It would be clumsy, confuse many readers, and not do much to support a very tiny viewpoint.

Michael Greinecker said...

Mike, you might wish to blog on this, it´s very funny.

John said...


My comment had nothing to do with any subjective notion of productivity. A sewer is "productive" by many standards. But because it is productive by one standard doesn't mean that it is for all.

As an attorney, for instance, you often have the option of availing yourself of multiple arguments to advance your position -- both good and bad. Often, judgments must be made about which arguments are good and should be advanced, which are weak and should be discarded, and all those in between; this analysis is vital not simply for the sake of efficiency, but for the sake of maintaining some degree of credibility with your audience.

As a prudent and thoughtful advocate, if your underlying objective is to discredit all variations of that political philosophy commonly understood to be "libertarian," you will be conscienctious about drawing these types of distinctions to advance that goal-- a burden that applies irrespective of whether you hold yourself to the same standard as "pretty much any libertarian site."

A marsh produces alot of methane and bacteria. So does my ass. If that's the standard you hold yourself to, you'll get no objection from me.

Mike Huben said...

John, you're the one who brought up the subjective notion of "wasteland".

Now, I could inflict my subjective valuations of candidate articles by rejecting those I disagreed with or thought were inferior or erroneous.

Instead, I attempt diversity, on the theory that some people will view one as a wasteland while others view it as a paradise. A conservative will be receptive to different approaches than a liberal.

Nor am I trying to reject all variations of libertarianism: they might have a good idea here and there.