TM Lutas responds to my earlier post on the dangers of libertarianism with some examples... but honestly, I think they do more to undermine his position than to support it. They don't seem realistic to me at all. Further, he would strip power from legislators but then invest even more power in judges. Libertarians seem to have a strong distaste for "judicial activism" and imperfect judges, but their dreams for society appear to rely almost entirely on civil lawsuits.

Take the drunk driving laws. In a libertarian society, public roads would be replace by private ones. Private road owners would need to carry insurance and, if they were willing to endure the cost in excess premiums, could allow drunks to drive on their road. This is obviously a dumb choice to make but libertarians would permit the theoretical choice while ensuring that people don't consider actually doing it by pinching them in the pocketbook, hard. And the pinching would occur in multiple directions road owner and driver, as well as surrounding property insurance. Driving in an area that permitted drunk driving would raise the cost of automobile insurance as well so even if the road owner is a crazy loon willing to take the financial hit in his own pocket, his customers are not likely to be willing to do the same. Even living on a property next to a road where the cars are more likely to veer off and into your house would increase pressure for a more sensible resolution to the situation than laissez *hic* faire.
But consider the implications of this example.

1. We'd need private insurance for everything.

2. How would drunk drivers get pinched hard? By lawsuits. If you think there are too many lawsuits now, just try to imagine how many there would be in a libertarian society. We'd need a huge number of additional judges, and in the end we'd have even more judicial legislation than we have now. Would these judges be elected? If so, how's that different from electing tyrants?

3. If the guy who owns the road near your house suddenly decides to allow drunk drivers, everyone who owns property nearby sees the values of their investments plummet. There might be financial incentives for him not to do it, but you know how crazy some people can be. Or, he might own adjoining property and be purposefully trying to hurt the value of his neighbors to increase interest in his own investment. The only recourse a homeowner would have would be to sue on some grounds... but how long would that take?

TM Lutas goes on to say,

What is attractive about libertarianism is that it would allow for superior alternatives to the current BAC test levels to emerge much more rapidly and spread quicker. That, and not some theoretical freedom to drive drunk, is what is appealing in the libertarian alternative to current drunk driving statutes.
But is that really true? None of these solutions emerged even when there was little government regulation, not at the local, state, or federal level; since 1980 (and the founding of MADD (not my favorite group, by any means)) drunk driving deaths have been reduced by 40%, largely due to regulation and law enforcement. Prior to that, drunk drivers who caused injuries were subject to civil suits (as they still are), but it didn't do much to discourage them. Why? Because people are generally terrible judges of risks and rewards.

My libertarian sympathies spring from a love for freedom, and if TML were really eager to argue for a right to drive drunk, I could understand that (although I'd disagree). From a purely pragmatic standpoint, however, it's clear that government regulation has made progress in reducing the number of deaths that had previously occurred without regulation.

(And don't argue that no one owned the roads before regulation -- the states and local municipalities (representing their citizens) could have acted as owners and exercised the powers TML described.)

There are certainly many areas where more freedom and less regulation would be beneficial, but I don't think it's true for every situation. Anyway, replacing excessive legislative power with excessive judicial power doesn't seem like a winning move to me.

What libertarians don't seem to get is that consensual governments are the organizational structure people have chosen to set up to manage their affairs. Libertarians would probably be pleased to have a giant corporation oversee all the roads in the country, but that's basically what the government is. The structure is a bit different, but those differences have been implemented because people think they have utility. Our government is hugely inefficient, but guess what, so are large companies. And so forth.

Philisophically, I think there's a maximum level of efficiency that can be attained by any human organization -- dependent on size and technology -- no matter what the structure is. Increased size increases inefficiency, and improved technology reduces inefficiency through improved communication. The rest is just gravy.

TML responds again and backs down a bit (with regards to libertarianism "at the most extreme margins"), but doesn't address my criticism of tyranny by judges (and insurance companies).

He also says,

Government ownership of roads does not mean federalized road ownership. It means public road ownership and public roads have a very old history in the US. There are very few private roads around in the age of automobiles and what few exist do not form a critical mass sufficient to justify the creation of an alternative system of regulation. If private roads are a mere appendix, they will just save themselves the effort and just mimic government rules.
But I fail to see how a small democratic municipality with sole authority over a road would act differently than a local private owner.

He also writes that government is slow to adopt new technology, but large corporations are the same in that regard. Technological retardation is, as with other things, largely a result of size, not structure.

1 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: The Dangers of Libertarianism 2.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

» Explaining Libertarianism II from Flit(tm)

I had a sneaking suspicion that it would be a good idea to start with the roman numberals on this one and Michael Williams provides an urgent need for a followup. The genesis of my earlier article was my sense... Read More



Email blogmasterofnoneATgmailDOTcom for text link and key word rates.

Site Info