IEET > Rights > Economic > Vision > Staff > Mike Treder > Technoprogressivism
No More Libertarians
Mike Treder   Jul 19, 2009   Ethical Technology  

Can you remember when libertarians stood for something good? Okay, maybe you can’t, but let’s at least acknowledge the arguably reasonable notions that libertarianism once represented.

Many people, including some of us who identify as left-wing progressives, can see the appeal of a political approach that combines fiscal conservatism with liberalism on social issues. It would be quite nice if we lived in a world where individuals would have full freedom in their private lives and be protected in their civil rights, and where governments could closely restrain spending, keeping taxes low.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in that place. Passionate, concerted effort is still required to help others gain and maintain basic human rights, both here in the West and especially in the developing world. Monumental challenges like global warming, widespread malnutrition, and the threat of pandemic disease can best be addressed through the blend of a mixed economy alongside representative governance. 

Conditions simply don’t exist today in which classic libertarianism either makes good sense or can attain broad popularity. Perhaps they never will.

But my biggest complaint is that far too many who still claim the mantle of libertarianism don’t actually believe in the value of small government or in protecting civil liberties. Instead, they appear far closer to the reactionaries of the past, more interested in preserving the entrenched positions of the privileged than in seeing any meaningful reforms. The ‘liberty’ in libertarian seems to apply only to the freedom for the powerful to defend their advantage.

Consider this quote from a recent essay by Peter Thiel, president of Clarium Capital:

The 1920s were the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics. Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women—two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians—have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron.

By this reasoning, then, rolling back the clock a hundred years or more is the best prescription for what ails us. If only we could go back to that glorious Gilded Age in American history, when capitalism stood unquestioned as a force for good, when millionaires openly wielded their political power without compunction, when white males occupied all the positions of power and influence, then maybe all our other problems would go away. Yeah, as if.

Scarier yet is this astonishing statement from Thiel: “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”


Yes, really. If you read the rest of his essay (which isn’t very long), you’ll see that Thiel is not saying this simply to be provocative, or as a point of sophistry. No, he truly means it. For him, freedom and democracy are no longer compatible.

That doesn’t sound much like someone who would be proud to endorse the American Declaration of Independence, or who would view the U.S. Constitution as an inspired source of wisdom and guidance.

And, as a matter of fact, Thiel pretty much admits that he has no great desire to remain a citizen of the United States, nor even, for that matter, to be an active participant in engaging with the rest of us in our messy world of democratic politics. His lofty goal, instead, is to run away into cyberspace, outer space, or to his own private island. I kid you not.

Thiel says:

In our time, the great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms—from the totalitarian and fundamentalist catastrophes to the unthinking demos that guides so-called “social democracy.”

It saddens me to realize that some people actually think like he does, and that they can’t understand why the majority of us find their ideas so objectionable. But what’s most confounding is that they have the effrontery to label themselves as ‘libertarian’, which, to my mind, does insult to anyone who genuinely supports the doctrines of social liberty and fiscal conservatism.

Whatever Peter Thiel and his type are, they are not classical libertarians; a better moniker for their views might be establishmentarian, since what it seems they really want is to maintain and support the traditional power establishment, or, failing that, to construct a new, glorious, permanent and restricted country club environment of their own.

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye…

Mike Treder is a former Managing Director of the IEET.


Thank you for telling it like it is!

Mike Treder needs to do more research. Classical liberals (libertarians) like Thomas Jefferson and many of the Founders supported individual liberty, but had harsh words for democracy, calling it the “tyranny of the majority.”

“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”—Thomas Jefferson

“I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.”—Thomas Jefferson

Every society we know of which has both agriculture and metallurgy also produces a state, run by alpha male warriors who confiscate part of the society’s economic surplus to consolidate their power and secure reproductive advantages. It looks as if states arise spontaneously through human action but not by human design, much like the Hayekian view of markets.

If, as seems likely, humans can’t help themselves about forming factions and engaging in politics as they compete for the alpha male positions, then libertarians have have to defy human nature in their efforts to create politics-free utopias.

Your increasingly purple prose style is not worthy of your own intellect nor that of your readers.

Thomas Jefferson and his fellow slave holders didn’t use democracy to acquire their unfree African labor forces (and mistresses, in many cases).

I wonder if Diamandis is also of this mindset, seeing as he wants to help rich people escape into space in corporate spacecraft.

Bravo!  I also read Thiel’s essay and many of the comments that followed.  Your response presents an entirely plausible interpretation of his words, and I share your concerns that many self-described Libertarians “appear far closer to the reactionaries of the past, more interested in preserving the entrenched positions of the privileged than in seeing any meaningful reforms.”  These elitists may escape into outer space or float away on a platform at sea to avoid the greater human community, but let’s hope that their piggy banks keep them warm and continue to enable the services they have grudgingly accepted from those they resent.

Funny, once Libertarians have got a lot of money they’re big preachers about people’s rights to the fruits of their labor, but as soon as they run into trouble they’re the first to go running the government for hand-outs. (for example the multi-billionare dollar handouts to bankers in the US).

Most didn’t start work until they were at least 17 - who was supporting them for the first 17 years of their lives? - arguably taxes are just ‘paying back’ money owed to society from ‘loans’ like benefits in times of hardship or social capital.

To put it as kindly as possible Mike, Libertarianism ‘makes no sense’ according to all empirical data and rational thought.  (Sure I used to be one for a while, but I admitted I was deluded). 

Many Singularitarians claim that they are super-rational and ultra-smart.  If if these supposed ‘super-geniuses’ could be so severely mistaken about basic economics and sociology, what else are they mistaken about? 

It is possible for them to equally mistaken about other basic foundational issues?  For example, the claim that Bayesian Induction is the basis for all rationality.

You betcha.

@Samantha, is that the best you can come up with? I thought Mike’s piece was well-written. If you have a specific critique, it would be best to make it. Otherwise, you just come off as someone who is perhaps sputtering in embarrassed recognition.

“. . . arguably taxes are just ‘paying back’ money owed to society from ‘loans’ like benefits in times of hardship or social capital.”

Don’t libertarians lecture the rest of us about “the seen and the unseen” when it comes to economic calculation? They complain about taxes (“the seen”), while ignoring the benefits (“the unseen”) they derived from previous generations’ investments through taxation into the built-up social capital they’ve benefited from. By trying to stop this generational maintenance and transmission of social capital, libertarians display a high time preference (like some of the sociological groups they despise) which tends to squander the wealth of the present at the expense of the future.

I honestly think that a modest amount socialism could work in theory.  Unfortunately no one on the left is very realistic about the reasons that people are poor.  This is going to be controversial.  The average world IQ is 90 and many countries are far below that.  I think a welfare state can work to a certain extent when the population is homogeneous and has a fairly high IQ (and no immigration).  If someone happens to have a problem, then they can be helped out by other people through taxes. 

However if you look at California they have had mass immigration from a country where the average IQ is 87.  This shift in population demographics drives the state towards the left and away from libertarianism.  California is a mess right know with an unemployment of 11.6% and a huge budget deficit.  The IQ of the state is going to continue to drop especially as people who are wealthy are fleeing due to excessive taxation and immigration increases.  People on the left are ludicrously arguing that the republicans are holding the state hostage by not passing a “sensible” budget.  However, to the left a “sensible” budget means taxing businesses into oblivion and running the wealthy out of the state. 

Then you’re going to be giving the government more control as the population’s IQ drops?  This is not a recipe for success.  Think how in venezuela (average IQ 89) the people basically dismantled any semblance of a sensible government.  It has turned into a mobocracy.  Some countries are returning themselves to communism, because the average IQ of the population isn’t intelligent enough to understand why voting in this sort of government is bad.

Work on the IQ problem and figure out how to make people smarter by some sort of cognitive enhancement method.  Otherwise all this progressive stuff won’t really change the dynamics of how much wealth people can generate.

“If, as seems likely, humans can’t help themselves about forming factions and engaging in politics as they compete for the alpha male positions, then libertarians have have to defy human nature in their efforts to create politics-free utopias.”

I’ve never met a libertarian (deontological, consequentialist, socialist, capitalist or otherwise) who claimed a libertarian society would be utopian… just that it’d be a more moral and productive society.

There appears to be a flaw with your criticism. If you believe that libertarians are wrong in believe humans can exist without coercive governance due to their nature… how do you rectify the problem that these same flawed humans, ones likely who are attracted to power, would be in charge? Would that not lead to greater disaster?

I have to say that the author of this article here grossly redefines what libertarianism means. No libertarian stands for elitism. No libertarian, not a single one, would want to hold any power over other people. Those who ask for a society like that cannot be called libertarians, but are actually what is today called “conservatives”, or “republicans” in the US.

Libertarians base their beliefs on the freedom of the individual, equally possessed (not granted), by virtue of their birth as a human being.
Modern libertarians stand for capitalism and laisser-faire markets as they are a logical consequence of property rights.
They believe that neither government, nor anyone at all, has the right to force anyone else to do anything. The only genuine rule, true libertarians accept throughout, is the non-aggression axiom, which limits any person’s freedom by the same freedom of someone else.

If you encounter a person calling themselves “libertarian”, while promoting an elitist ruling class or exploitation of other people through whatever means… go and slap the back of their head for abusing this (admittedly today fashionable) label.

Also, dear author, please research your topic more.
Many thanks.

The libertarian movement is a lot more diverse than your comments would suggest. 

For example, Murray Rothbard (during his project of creating a New Left/Old Right alliance in the years ca. 1970) suggested that the primary function of “our corporate state” was to subsidize the accumulation of capital and the operating costs of big business.  Roy Childs wrote a long essay arguing that big business interests were the primary political force behind the growth of big government (or as he put it, liberal intellectuals have historically been the running dogs of big businessmen).

If the vulgar libertarians you describe (and I admit there are too many of them) tend to predominate, they don’t have a stranglehold on the movement.  There are plenty of principled libertarians who see big business as the primary villain in the growth of the American state, and see free markets as the enemy of corporate power.

And that’s a lot closer to the truth historically than your implicit (but apparent) assumptions that the period either before the New Deal or before the Progressive Era was one approximating laissez-faire, that corporate power emerged naturally from the unrestrained market, and that the primary motive force behind the mixed economy and regulatory-welfare state was countervailing power in restraint of big business. 

The truth of the matter is a lot closer to the analysis of Gabriel Kolko and G. William Domhoff than to that of Art Schlesinger:  the state has acted (if I may borrow the phrase) as executive committee of the corporate ruling class, with most regulations aimed at protecting big business from competition.

Far from the Gilded Age being an example of laissez-faire, the corporate economy as we know it was created as a massive, top-down social engineering project almost entirely by state intervention.  Were it not for the land grant railroads, there likely wouldn’t have been any large mass-production manufacturing corporations serving a national market.  And patents (which should be anathema to any principled believer in free markets) were the main force for cartelizing industry under the control of a few giant corporations; consider, just as a few examples, 1) the growth of AT&T from the Bell Patent Association, 2) the pooling of patents by GE and Westinghouse, and 3) the creation of a first-rate American chemical industry on the direct foundation of Atty General Palmer’s seizure of German chemical patents in WWI.  Absent all these things the likely pattern of the second industrialization would have likely been, instead, a hundred or more local manufacturing economies on the Emilia-Romagna model, with powered general-purpose machinery integrated into craft production.  Rather than the centralized mass-production economy described by Schumpeter and Galbraith, we’d have seen full achievement of the decentralizing power of electricity described by Lewis Mumford and Ralph Borsodi.


Except even free markets create wealth inequalities which lead to the type of rent seeking you describe. So I think it is justifiable to claim laissez-faire capitalism tends toward corporatism.

That isn’t to say consistent pushing towards laissez-faire wouldn’t help decentralize to some extent… though you will perpetually run up against the collective action problem… and the fact that most don’t actually believe in laissez-faire as an ideal in the first place.

Well, EmbraceUnity, in fairness I’ll have to concede that what a free market would or would not create involves as much counterfactual speculation on my part as on yours.  But there has not in fact ever been a free market in which one could empirically verify that wealth inequalities emerged from laissez-faire. 

Actually existing capitalism, from its very beginning, has been a system of collusion between the state and a plutocratic ruling class:  the Enclosures and other state-enabled seizures of land from the peasantry; the reenactment of the Enclosures in the Third World by the colonial powers, nullifying the peasantry’s rightful property in the land it worked; the Laws of Settlement, which acted as an internal passport system in early industrial Britain; the Combination Laws.  Even at the height of so-called “laissez-faire,” we had state enforcement of artificial property rights in land (i.e., the enforcement of absentee title to vacant and unimproved land, against the people who actually first mixed their labor with it), and enforcement of usurious interest rates through artificial scarcity of credit.

I suppose you could dismiss that as a libertarian variant of the “true socialism has never been tried” argument.  But I’ve never had much use for the sort of people who want to blame Rosa Luxemburg for Stalin and Pol Pot. 

And anyway, what can I say?  I’m an anarchist.  I believe that the state is, by its very nature, the tool of a ruling class.  We’ve never had a truly free market (in the sense of a society based on truly free exchange, without state-enforced monopolies and privilege) without a ruling class acting through the state to rig the rules.

One of our big areas of disagreement is probably the real motivation behind the so-called “progressive” state of the 20th century.  I think the real difference between the two parties is this:  the conservatives are like a farmer who figures he’ll come out ahead by working his draft animals to death and then replacing him, whereas the liberals are like a farmer who’s smart enough to figure out it’s more profitable in the long run to feed his animals well and work them in moderation.  But the system is still run by the farmer, who views us as livestock.  In Tolstoy’s “Parable,” the humane farmer gave his cattle the best feed, built comfortable stalls for them, and enlarged the fence.  When asked why he didn’t let them go, he responded “But then I couldn’t milk them!”

I don’t think that even in theory laissez-faire capitalism can prevent inequality. Differences in genetics, luck, location, etc will produce differences in outcome, and those who end up on top have the capability of rent seeking. One of the most effective ways to rent seek is to create a monopoly on force…. and behold… we’re right back to corporatism.

I can’t see any way the outcome would be different, except some fictional world where everyone and everything is exactly the same, and nothing unexpected ever happens.

Well, it depends on how much inequality we’re talking about.  The portion of present-day inequality that results from differences in ability and luck, or hard work, is a pretty miniscule part of the total IMO.  If it weren’t for the government’s “intellectual property” monopoly, Bill Gates’ fortune for developing Windows would probably be comparable to that of the average Linux developer.  Without the state-enforced scarcity rents on land and capital that enable wealth to grow on itself via compound interest, I’d expect the largest fortunes to top out at maybe the low tens of millions of $$, and then be dissipated by the next generation.  And without the enforcement to absentee title to vacant and unimproved land, and with the widespread availability of cheap networked/crowdsourced microcredit, I’d expect self-employment or just “squatting on the commons” to be a much more viable option for the average person.  It would be a society with inequality ranging from large to small pebbles, instead of—as at present—boulders and dust.

That sounds lovely. Unfortunately, I think artificial scarcities on a small scale are relatively easy to create, and could bootstrap people towards ever greater concentration of power. Especially since it seems like very few people understand this.

I think our best hope is for this knowledge to be widely disseminated, hopefully via effective memes, and then for society to reflexively correct artificial scarcities before they become entrenched.

Also one has to consider there is a sort of natural selection occurring at the level of world-systems. I think it is certainly true that highly centralized state capitalist enterprises like North Korea will never achieve the imperial might of the modern liberal world-system. Yet, at any given point in time there is are certain ratios of centralization and decentralization which provide for maximum reproduction of the system. How can we be so certain that greater decentralization will lead to greater reproductive fitness?

It has been suggested that the US operates an “empire-system” which is able to use its military/economic/cultural might to foist policies and investments upon other nations in order to make them “want what the US wants.”

Of course it may be that now the US’s role as hegemon is becoming less relevant and the transnational capitalist class in general is able to create such conditions through the WTO, World Bank, IMF, and through the selective placement of capital by multinationals.

A more reproductively fit system which is decentralized would need to provide incentives for people to go to the ends of the earth and autonomously open up markets in much the way multinationals do today… or as catholic missionaries do. That is how to achieve reproductive fitness.

Though, before going down that road you must be at least reasonably certain it will be an improvement. While our current system may not be as centralized as monarchy, there are new forms of biopolitical tyranny which could not have been imagined in the medieval era.

You may wish to bash Thiel for seeing a conflict between freedom and democracy. But does Prop 8 ring a bell? Putting the rights of minorities to majority vote is always a dangerous proposition. Apparently you don’t realize that.

Great article Mike!

However, I think a better term than “establishmentarian” is “reactionary modernist”.

It was coined by Jeffrey Herf to describe the mixture of robust modernity and an affirmative stance toward progress combined with dreams of the past - a highly technological romanticism - which was characteristic of the German Conservative Revolutionary movement and Nazism.

It is now used by Richard Barbrook to denounce propopents of the California Ideology (including libertarian transhumanists) for supporting economic growth without social progress.

Cyber-Communism: How the Americans are superseding capitalism in cyberspace

Cyber-Communist Manifesto

Peter Thiel wrote: “The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.”

Maybe it would have been better if he had talked about making the world safe for “humanity” or “a human supportive ecology”.

Propertarian libertarianism always stumbles on dealing with external costs.

We need a better balance of top-down hierarchy and grassroots meshwork, to be sure (Manuel de Landa suggests this). So there is some truth to libertarianism, but not the whole truth.

Peter Thiel also, perhaps without realizing it, essentially is restating Bucky Fuller’s famous quote: “Whether it will be utopia or oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race up to the very end.”  How like a propertarian libertarian to build on others work without acknowledging it or realizing it, thinking they are a self-made person.

Establishmentarian?  Peter Thiel?  Cofounder of Paypal, which demonstrated its first version at a Foresight Gathering, by creating the email address .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and sending it $10?  Are you out of your mind?

Eliezer, how does any of that demonstrate that Thiel is not an “establishmentarian” when everyone knows that establishmentarians often like to project the image that they are “rebels” or “outlaws” when in reality they are the exact opposite…

>Actually existing capitalism, from its very beginning, has been a system of collusion between the state and a plutocratic ruling class:

Which raises the question: Did “actually existing capitalism” turn out this way for historically contingent reasons; or did it instead develop this way “organically” because of the obscure workings of human nature (probably having to do with how human males form dominance hierarchies to sort out the allocation of mates and resources), which it could very well do so again even if you hit the reset button and try to start over?

Interesting point, Mark.  IMO it turned out this way because it grew directly out of feudalism.  There’s an interesting body of literature, especially by the neo-Marxist Immanuel Wallerstein, arguing that the natural tendency in the High Middle Ages was toward distributive ownership of property (e.g. copyhold tenure), with an economy of independent peasant small holders and self-governing town communes.  A subsection of the feudal ruling class thwarted this tendency and set itself up as a capitalist ruling class (agrarian capitalists and mercantilists).  This ruling class allied itself with the absolute state, carried out the enclosures and other land expropriations, suppressed the free towns by force, and established the overseas colonial empires.  The structure of the system was overwhelmingly statist from the beginning, with the market simply allowed to operate in the interstices—a hybrid of feudalism and markets. 

So human nature played a role, but it wasn’t human nature in a free market spontaneously causing a decay into capitalism as we know it; it was the human nature of the humans in charge at the outset.

Mr. Treder,

Your rant is quite ironic.  As a self-described “left-wing progressive” you no doubt shared the same revulsion that I and many other self-identified “libertarians” felt during the 8 years of Mr. Bush’s theocratic-autocratic-fascist regime.  Can you not see that, for many, no matter how well-intentioned, the meddlesome (aka “helpful”) government and policies of economic slavery and plunder that you (presumably) favor are equally loathsome?  Yet you favor coercively forcing those on the unwilling, using the might of “democracy” to justify your right to do so, but objected to the same arguments when it was used to support the actions of the prior administration.

You dismiss Thiel and libertarians / libertarianism in general as not being “realistic” yet at the same time you claim that such folks are actually arguing for some establishment status quo.  You can’t have it both ways - so which is it?

That these two ideologies differ is clear.  Yet while the left favors coercive enforcement of what it claims are “realistic” policies - a fact to which libertarians will persistently object, and point to e.g. nonlinearly-escalating government debt, insolvency of existing programs, and so on - a truly libertarian perspective would force nothing on anyone.

It should be clear where the moral high ground is.  “Left-wing progressives” are no friends of freedom.

Statists love government, after all…how can we get to utopia if people are free to live life as they wish? If we only entrusted all that lovely power to the Progressive left, they surely wouldn’t abuse it now would they? <insert eye rolls here>

All utopias end up as prisons or concentration camps.  This includes the singularitarian valhalla.

What a bizarre conversation.

Who cares about wealth inequality?

What matters is, what is *your* quality of life, compared to what it would be under another system?

The only total-equality ever produced by any governing system is the total equality of abject poverty. Period. (ie: Cambodia, Venezuela, Cuba, Zimbabwe, etc.)

Socialism focusses on the wrong metric.

I’ll take a degree, even a very large degree, of wealth disparity in exchange for a large middle class with a high quality of life. I’m not a wealthy man. I don’t work in banking. I’m not a millionaire. Disappointingly, due to a combination of circumstances and personal decisions made as a younger man, I never completed college. But through my own hard work and diligence I eek-out a low six-figure income. It does not concern me that there is a large wealth disparity between myself and Bill Gates.

If there is a very small percentage who merely subsist, that is truly regrettable. No system is perfect.

I’ve never met a liberal that didn’t cheat on their taxes.

The universal definition of RICH is: “Anybody who has more money than I do.” Nobody thinks that *they* are rich. And taxes, as every liberal knows, are only supposed to be for rich people (re: progressive tax structure).

Normally I post on such sites using my real name. I’m posting this anonymously solely because I’ve chosen to include this story, and I don’t want to name names. I’ve tried to remove any information that would identify the individual I’m writing about (name, industry, nationality, etc.), but anyone who knows me and knows him could get the reference. Hence the anonymity.

I once had a European boss who was radically left-wing. He ordered all his shirts in bulk from a company who manufactured uniforms for blue collar labor unions. So even though we worked in a white color profession in a well air-conditioned high-rise office, he always had on these heavy cotton shirts with two breast pockets that looked like the ones guys wear who change the oil in your car (rusty orange, navy blue, forest green… colors that hide stains). Normally there would have been a patch on one pocket and perhaps a name embroidered on the other. His were plain. I had always thought they were just his fashion statement but, when he told me the story about where he ordered them from, he explained how he wore them to show his solidarity with the working man. Never-mind that he collected expensive Swiss watches, and what hung on his wrist cost more that what the average manual laborer spends on a car. His shirts were a great source of personal pride. The most irate I ever saw him was when I once mistakenly made an off-hand critical remark about Hugo Chavez. He sternly admonished me, “He’s only trying to give something back to the little people!!!” he said as he slapped his hand down on his desk for emphasis.

Eccentricities aside, the thing that puzzled me most about him was that I’ve never known anyone who went to such lengths to cheat on their taxes. Now consider that I was making a six-figure income, and there were several people reporting to him more senior than I. A safe guess would be that his base salary was in the range of $300k+, plus his profit sharing and benefits. He once boasted to me that some years he paid almost nothing in taxes.

He epitomizes the logical extension of every Economic Liberal I’ve ever known: “Taxes are for *other* people, you know ‘rich’ people , not *me*.”

Let me add, he was a very likable, affable guy. He was great fun to have a drink with or invite to a party. And as long as I stuck by my rule to only talk about social issues with him when politics came up, we got along great.

I’d love to see Mike Treder get audited.

“Government is that great fiction whereby everyone attempts to live at the expense of everyone else.”—Frédéric Bastiat

Although “Name kept private” has managed to recycle most of the talking points from a Walter Williams column, it’s worth bearing in mind that the moral significance of inequality depends on the reason for it. 

If inequality occurs as the spontaneous outcome of a free and competitive market, with no entry barriers or privilege, then wealth does not come at anyone’s expense.  But if wealth results from artificial scarcity rents and other forms of privilege, then it is won at the direct expense of the poor in a zero sum game (“For every dollar a man gets that he didn’t earn, another man earned a dollar he didn’t get”—Big Bill Haywood; “Labour’s Deficit is precisely equal to the Capitalist’s Efficit”—Benjamin R. Tucker).

As I said above, I suspect that wealth resulting from entrepreneurship, effort, frugality, and honest luck would probably top out in the low tens of millions of $$ at most. 

Bill Gates, on the other hand, topped out at $100 billion because the state’s “intellectual property” [sic] monopoly served as an entry barrier against competitors offering cheaper and better forms of Windows.  So his personal fortune was directly gained at the expense of the consumer who paid an inflated price for his product, because competition was constrained by the state. 

Every other form of scarcity rent and other form of rent on artificial property rights, the oligopoly markup that results from state cartelization of industry, the cost of planned obsolescence abetted by IP’s constraints on the competitive development of modular accessories and generic replacement parts for others’ platforms, etc., is a direct transfer of cash from the non-privileged to the privileged.  And I believe that such forms of tribute constitute the overwhelming majority of the wealth of our plutocracy.

On one side of the balance, we have a class of rentiers deriving monopoly rents with the aid of the state.  On the other side, we have a class of people working longer hours to pay for stuff or to subsist than they would in a free market, because the state rigs the game on behalf of the rich.

So to paraphrase Bastiat, Government is the great reality by which the rich DO live at the expense of everyone else.

Great, a far left Progressive calling libertarians “reactionaries. Now that is funny.

OK, but the real question is what the world looks like when you combine transhumanism with the Communist Party of China. The more you read out the libertarians, the more I suspect that’s what you’ll get instead.

Nothing like taking a few quotes from someone clearly on the anarchist end of the libertarian spectrum and condemning the entire group. 

I guess I could pick some quotes from Alinsky or Chomsky and condemn the entire progressive movement?  Let me get right on that.

Why….. I believe you may be.. shudder…stereotyping to fit your agenda!  Egad, a Talking Head (or..err.. Writing Hand?) would NEVER do that!

So, is the plan to search us for LP cards at the door?  Is there a blood test? Are you going to revoke our Official Transhumanist Cards?  Come to think of it, do you know where I could get one?

I don’t think I’m getting it.

“Passionate, concerted effort is still required to help others gain and maintain basic human rights, both here in the West and especially in the developing world. Monumental challenges like global warming, widespread malnutrition, and the threat of pandemic disease can best be addressed through the blend of a mixed economy alongside representative governance. “

Bogus arguments, all.

“...gain and maintain basic human rights”—where the left prevails, human rights are at a nadir. Obama’s yet to meet a tyrant he disagrees with. Bowing to the Saudi king and yucking it up with Chavez. It’s a club.

“Global Warming”—pure invention. Not an issue at all, except to have Al Gore’s parley it into a $200 million personal fortune and have Big Government control more of the economy under false salvation promises.

“Widespread malnutrition…”—the starving African nations could feed not only themselves but the world if the cleptocratic leftwing thugs “equalizing” their economies were gone. Big Government runs each of these nations with an iron fist. Big Government stops production. Big Government produces nothing but despair.

“threat of pandemic disease…”—more fear mongering. Always with the “threats.” And when a real solution to an actual pandemic disease exists—DDT—it is outlawed by Big Government, leading to millions of deaths.

Yeah, the progressive left has done the world loads of “good.”

Well, it all depends on what you think democracy is for.

Is democracy a method, or an end?

Do we value democracy because it’s the best way to get to a particular goal, or as an end in itself?

If you view liberty as the goal you’re trying to attain, you’ll value democracy to the extent that it is the best available political system to foster and preserve liberty.  It will have value to you as the best available means to achieve your desired end.

But that will mean that if you occasionally have days where you lose faith that democracy is in fact serving that end, you might flail about and say, “Screw this.”  Guaranteeing me equal participation in the taking of the political decision to deny me liberty doesn’t really cut the mustard.  Unfortunately, there aren’t really any viable alternatives to democracy, as a quick review of the somewhat silly examples Thiel gives will show.

So I guess I can understand why Thiel might look for a better alternative than democracy - I just highly doubt he’s going to actually find one.

I always laugh when I read how terrified some people are of freedom.

Enjoy governing the world to “perfection” via the use and threat of physical violence, you compassionate, caring progressive.

Your cherry-picked depiction of libertarians is not recognizable. Clearly, libertarians are making inroads for statists to be sinking to these sorts of straw man arguments.

It’s just information theory, Mr. Treder. Centralized bureaucracies can’t work because the information they need is widely distributed. History has demonstrated this again and again.

Markets are networks, like the internet. Command economies are centralized, like mainframes. What’s so hard to understand?

And “capitalism” isn’t even an “ism”. “Capitalism” is just what happens naturally when you leave people alone. “Capitalists” don’t resort to “reeducation” camps; statists do.

What Marx named “Capitalism” is just freedom.

It’s hilarious to read a Statist try and stereotype someone else as an “establishmentarian.”

You lost all power behind your piece with this:

“Yes, really. If you read the rest of his essay (which isn’t very long), you’ll see that Thiel is not saying this simply to be provocative, or as a point of sophistry. No, he truly means it. For him, freedom and democracy are no longer compatible.

That doesn’t sound much like someone who would be proud to endorse the American Declaration of Independence, or who would view the U.S. Constitution as an inspired source of wisdom and guidance. “

If you do not even know the difference between a Democracy and the Constitutional Republic we have in the USA one would suggest refraining from topics about politics.

Or, if you feel you must make them, please at least take the time to educate yourself on the differences between a Democracy, nothing more than mob rule, and a Constitutional Republic.

And yes, Freedom and Democracy are completely incompatible. The Founding Fathers knew this, made countless statements about it, and ensured that form of government was never included in the founding documents you cited.

The real reason you hear “libertarian” so much is that the Republican Party has been taken over by jingoistic religious zealots.

Those of us who believe that an honest day’s work is it’s own reward, nothing taken freely is worth a damn, and extended charity is a form of slavery have no place to go if we also do not believe in the Christian Bible and believe that America is good “just because it is…”. ( I believe America must BE good, not just SAY it is good)

I don’t believe in God, therefore the Republicans have made it clear I am not welcome in that party. I dont’ believe in charity-slavery , therefore the Democrats have made it clear that I don’t have a home there. The Libertarian Party is the only place left to go.

Why do you have a problem with Thiel? It should be obvious by now that universal suffrage is ultimately incompatible with republican government founded upon respect for individual liberty. Democracy, if it is to support liberty, has to be exercised responsibly. That’s not something that the majority of the whole population is ever going to do.

Freedom and democracy were never compatible, as the founders well knew—democracy leads to Socrates being forced to drink poison for his unpopular speech. 

That’s why the U.S. is a constitutional republic.

Small-l libertarians are not utopians, they’re idealists.  That ideal being the highest possible one, and not the lowest common denominator.  That’s why small-l libertarians are also not democrats: Democracy is rule by fool because the masses are asses - Democracy is rule by the lowest common denominator.

Thomas Jefferson was the best representative among the Founders - well, okay, arguments could be made in favor of Benjamin Franklin - and the idea of a representative republic is the most workable compromise devised in human history.  Unfortunately, the US is no longer the representative republic it was founded to be, because now any knot-head can vote if he or she survives eighteen birthdays.

Universal suffrage is cultural suicide, as we are currently witnessing.

Clearly - well, clearly from my perspective - we need some system whereby citizens must qualify to vote.  I’ve heard many proposals for this - educational attainment, IQ tests, military service - but I think that the small-l libertarian proposal should be based around the idea that, “any citizen can reasonably aspire to qualify to vote.”  That’s why, after decades of thinking about this, I’ve decided that simple home ownership ought to be the only requirement to vote: Any citizen, regardless of the station they are born into, regardless of the level of education they can afford, regardless of their fitness to serve in the military, and regardless of their natural level of intelligence (to a reasonable degree), can reasonably expect to be able to own a home through work and personal fiscal discipline.  And, I mean outright ownership, not sharing the home with a bank through a mortgage.

Something needs to be done, that’s for sure, and all you have to look at to understand that are the morons we elect to public office under our current system.  The vast majority of them are lawyers, for crying out loud: The least beneficent members of any civilization.

Why doesn’t it surprise me that somebody from the left would mistake maximized liberty for individuals with intently protecting the interests of the wealthy at the expense of others?

While I can appreciate somebody not favoring a maximalist view of liberty for individuals, I think that somebody as intelligent as Treder should at least understand the difference between “protecting the wealthy” and “equally protecting the liberties of the wealthy, the merely-well-off, the not-so-wealthy, the dirt poor, etal.”

I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’m no more inclined to single out the wealthy or corporations or whomever for “special” rights and liberties than I am anybody else.  But I do recognize that cherishing liberty necessarily means cherishing it for all citizens…including wealthy ones.

I understand Thiel’s exasperation over the way that freedom and democracy have coexisted.  In fact, our Founding Fathers—many of whom were fond of the philosophies of Locke and Smith—fretted about the possibility that a democratic system of government would eventually lead to people voting away other peoples’ freedoms.

However, the saving grace is that our system of government is not a democracy.  And our getting off the tracks of our Founders’ vision had much more to do with a perverse reading of the Constitution by courts back in FDR’s day than anything to do with popular sentiment.

The country existed for over 100 years without populist redistribution.  Getting back anywhere close to that may be difficult.  But I think it’s possible.  If not, then the country will ossify and fade into the same sort of stasis that plagues the old European industrialist nations in their twilights.

And prosperity and power will continue favoring the societies which practice the principles of freedom the best over those which have chosen other paths.

Typical blogger distortions.  Don’t waste your time with this piece, go to the orginal.  Why do lefty blogs always have to create straw men based on white patriarchy rather than actually address the ideas of the people they are criticising.

Hmm, interesting subject. But it seems the concept of transhumanism purged of libertarianism has been raised and studied before: in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.  And who could seriously want the kind of future Treder urges? Well, obviously those who plan on being one of the boss piggies at the Trans-Animal Farm…but no one else.

And we need a catchier name than “Libertarianism-free Transhumanist Future”. I suggest “Hell”.

“That doesn’t sound much like someone who would be proud to endorse the American Declaration of Independence, or who would view the U.S. Constitution as an inspired source of wisdom and guidance.”

Actually, the original U.S. Constitution limited the privilege of voting to those Americans who were:

1) white
2) male
3) rich (landowners or businessmen)

I’m proud to endorse that as “an inspired source of wisdom and guidance.”  Probably works better than the warm-body system we have now.

Of course, that lets you call me a “reactionary”.  But then you’re just being inconsistent.  Viewed from here, the Declaration and the (original) Constitution are reactionary.  They’re also inspired.

Agreeing largely with Kevin…

1. Stalin talked about socialism.  Should we use him as an example of a good socialist?  If so, I prefer almost any nightmare capitalist scenario to the “socialisms” of Stalin/Mao/Hitler…If not, perhaps you should apply the same standards to libertarians and Citibank pretending to be libertarian.

It seems that this position that is being lambasted both by the original poster and by the commentariat is actually not that much of a stretch from modern thinking.  Government is a tool of the elite, regardless the political system.  While the mutualists, the left-libertarians, the anarchocapitalists, and seasteaders all argue from fringe positions against the possibility of democracy comporting with freedom, it is also true that more mainstream political views (Masonomists, Public Choice Economics, and Paul Romer’s new Charter Cities initiative) all incline in the same direction. 

Yes, it’s a taboo topic to suggest that democracy and freedom are incompatible, and it’s being treated as such by most folks.  However, taboo and wrong are not the same thing.

MJGeddes…I had thought that the parents generally supported the child through 17, rather than the government.  Libertarians of any stripe are not generally opposed to families.

Mark Plus….Actually, the libertarian argument is that the seen effects of the taxes (roads, etc.) are much higher than the unseen costs of the taxes (what else would have been done with the money had the government not confiscated it).

So Peter Theil, who so despairs for a broken system that he would rather leave than fight the prevailing political winds, those that blow counter to his chosen ideology, this man is an “establishmentarian”?

The man that rails against the system is now the statist and the one that holds enemies of the system up as heretics is what? The rebel?

What foolishness.

<snip>And yet the majority of today’s angry comments sound like nothing more than Bush-Cheney big business neocon lovers.</snip>

I searched the entire page for the term “Bush” and besides your comment above Mr Treder, we see the only other reference is:

<snip>As a self-described “left-wing progressive” you no doubt shared the same revulsion that I and many other self-identified “libertarians” felt during the 8 years of Mr. Bush’s theocratic-autocratic-fascist regime.</snip>

Please tell me your bias isnt so complete and your reality so hermetically sealed as to not see the irony in your statement…

“Monumental challenges like global warming, widespread malnutrition, and the threat of pandemic disease can best be addressed through the blend of a mixed economy…. “

You lost me at that point.  People use the phrase “mixed economy” because they have no idea what they’re talking about.

Start over - in a place where school is 1/2 day and they have cookies and naptime.

Ah the fascists speak out.

“Thomas Jefferson and his fellow slave holders didn’t use democracy to acquire their unfree African labor forces (and mistresses, in many cases).”

Actually they did, the democratic government allowed them to keep slaves, and actively enforced the slaves’ slavery.  Many democracies have allowed slavery, and its easy in democracy for the majority to enslave the minority.

Remember Democracy isn’t inherently nice or even good.  Democracy is whatever the majority want it to be, if the majority want it to be oppression and disenfranchisement of some other group in a democracy they can achieve this.

Commissar Treder is absolutely correct on this issue.  Reactionary thought must be stopped before it infects the masses.  Surly our current Dear Leader can reeducate some of these people through a total immersion program, perhaps in a camp like setting far from anything that would distract them from their self criticism.  But I fear that there will be those who are so entrenched in the past as to be beyond redemption.  These people must be liquidated.  After all the needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few, or the one. 

Actually the The ‘liberty’ in libertarian is the freedom to fight back against people like Treder who would want nothing more than to slap a thrall’s collar on humanity, for its own good of course.

Progressives (liberals?) and conservatives need libertarians for the same reason - to moderate the statist, and partisan, impulses from the right and left.

Mr. Treder wrote:  “Passionate, concerted effort is still required to help others gain and maintain basic human rights, both here in the West and especially in the developing world.”  Not many should argue with that sentiment.  It reflects the original American ideology asserting that certain God-given rights belong to all mankind, not just Americans. 

The Devil, of course, is in the details.  Under the Bush Administration, we spent much time, lives, and treasure in a fairly successful campaign to loosen the bonds of tyranny in the Middle East.  Few progressives and libertarians thought it worth the effort.

Then too, few libertarians can admire statist methods for imposing a putatively more fair health care system.  No matter how well-intentioned, statist coercion, once begun, tends to take over the political landscape, much as kudzu smothers acreage.  Once we begin to impose results, no area of human endeavor is safe.

Mr. Treder might be right in claiming that libertarians are interested in protecting entrenched privilege.  But if so, it is almost certainly in response to progressive methods which many fear can only result in a new privileged class - that of the progressive Vanguard.


Good grief, but you’re clueless.

Who’s supporting you for the first 17 years of your life?  Your parents maybe?

Let’s see some support for your rantings, please.

I would think that all of you would be in favor of Peter Thiel pursuing his seasteading idea? You obviously do not like libertarianism. So, wouldn’t you want to be rid of him and his ilk? Seasteading seams to be the best way to go. If a bunch of socialists decided they wanted to do the seasteading thing to create what they thought was the perfect society, I would be 100% supportive of them and would wish them well, even though I’m a hard-core libertarian.

We all have different opinions and worldviews. In many cases agreement is not possible. Having a physical frontier like the ocean and, later, space allows for the room and the freedom for each of us to go our separate ways and do our own thing independent of each other is a good thing. It strikes me as the positive sum solution to irreconcilable differences between peoples.

I fail to see how this is objectionable.

I read some of the responses to Peter Thiel’s seasteading piece on some of the left-wing blogs and was surprised by the hostility to it. Peter Thiel is obviously a libertarian. He believes libertarianism is not compatible with socialism, which is why he wants to leave and create a new society some where else. The responses and follow on comments on the left-wing blogs made it clear to me that many liberal-left people regard libertarianism as incompatible with their liberal-left worldview. Fair enough. What mystified me is, if they feel so passionately that Peter’s worldview is so incompatible with their own, wouldn’t they welcome his efforts for him and people who think like him to go somewhere else where they would no longer be a bother to the liberal-left people? For whatever society you want to create, would you not welcome the opportunity for those who do not share your vision to go somewhere else so that they are no longer in your hair?

I’m a hard-core libertarian. If a group of socialists decided they thought all of the existing countries were too capitalist and decided that they were going to do the seasteading thing, I would be very supportive of their desire to do this and would wish them well. Who knows? Maybe they can actually create a form of socialism that might even appeal to me.

Different people have different worldviews. Sometimes such worldview are incompatible with each other. Having a physical frontier, such as the ocean or space, where we can all go out and do our own thing independent of each other strikes me as the proper, positive-sum solution to this problem of mutual incompatibility. It is far better for someone who subscribes to a worldview that you do not share to go somewhere else rather than try to seize the reigns of power so that they can ram it down your throat. Regardless of how you feel about libertarianism, Peter Thiel deserves your respect and commendation for this reason alone.

Kevin makes an interesting point—most corporate power and wealth inequality in our current system in fact derives from the great power of the state, which has established and enforces the structures by which the large corporation and the highly paid executive exist. It is the powerful government that has created such powerful intellectual property laws, for example.  We often see the government as a counterbalance to the power of the corporation or privileged individual when in fact it is, ironically, the very factor that enables both of these and their power.

It also seems to be in evidence that the stronger the state is relative to the people, and the greater its power, the greater the inequality gap between rich and poor seems to be.  (And I would count “socialist” leaders of single party states who monopolize the country’s wealth as “rich,” by the way.)

I think the author of this blog post commits several logical fallacies.  One is to identify a historic philosophy (libertarianism) to a single individual only tangentially related to that philosophy.  If I claim to be a progressive and then declare we should reinstitute slavery—is it progressivism that is at fault, or am I just a lunatic?  If a preponderance of progressives made the case for slavery and it became a widely accepted tenant of the philosophy, then you could attribute the sentiment to the philosophy rather than the individual. 

He seems to recognize this by the end of his post.

What’s so offensive about the idea that freedom and democracy are incompatible?  Do you have any idea how few freedoms we would have if we allowed democracy to further erode the ones that our Constitution sets in stone?  Even the Constitution has failed to save us in many cases, and further encroachments are always coming down the line.  Democracy is a sham, as is any form of government where some are empowered to infringe on the rights of others.  Libertarians who ever dream of actually living in a free society truly must hope for some escape from this planet.

Jeesh.  So many errors, but it’s late so I just will address three. (I was writing this after working till 2:00am but lost internet connectivity so posting this morning)
1)Freedom and democracy were never compatible.  We aren’t suppose to be living in a democracy.  We are suppose to have a Limited Republic.  Learn about that fact.
2) Libertarian is a big label that covers lots of differences.  Not every libertarian is an anarchist, and next to none want to take the vote exclusively away from women.  Most anarchists want to take the vote away from everyone because they want to do away with taxes completely.  This is the first I’ve heard of someone who calls themselves a libertarian that wants to eliminate the vote just for women. 
3) Furthermore 1920 and before was NOT a libertarian utopia.  There was tons of government interference and intrusion into the economy.    The railroad trusts are just one example of government largess.  Those intrusions lead to crisis just like now.

I understand disagreeing with libertarians when it comes to the role of the government in things like finances, taxes, healthcare.  But it’s inarguable that on a whole host of issues like foreign policy, the drug war, capital punishment, criminal justice, due process, immigration, free speech, libertarians are more liberal than Democrats.

You know, even if I were a flaming liberal, I would still back Peter Thiel’s argument. Peter Thiel has no desire to impose his worldview on others. That’s why he promotes the seasteading concept. He wants to go somewhere else where he can live out his worldview while not imposing it on others who do not share it. I fail to see how this is objectionable.

Mike Treder, on the other hand, is opposed to this. He seems to want to prevent people like Peter Thiel from “leaving” to do something that Mike does not agree with. In other words, Peter is content to allow Mike to do his thing. But Mike is not content to allow Peter to do his thing. Mike is being intolerant, not Peter.

Mike has sort of a “Berlin Wall” mentality in that people who disagree with him should not be allowed to “leave” to do their own thing elsewhere. It is because of this “control” mentality that I despise the left (and the religious right) so much. The reason why libertarianism is morally superior to other worldviews is because it does not have this “control” mentality. Indeed, libertarianism exists to oppose this kind of “control” mentality.

I can’t see the sense in arguments for an inverse relationship between democracy and freedom.  A reduced amount of democracy simply enables the privileged classes that do control the state more leeway to promote their own interests. 

A good example is Bryan Caplan, who argues that a less democratic state would promote “rational,” “free market” policies, because of the greater economic literacy of the philosopher-kings controlling the government.  In reality, they would just promote a sort of fake, dumbed-down, bastardized sham version of “free markets,” with professional economists colluding with the corporate ruling class to pursue corporatist policies cloaked in “free market” rhetoric.  Look at what the government has done in the realm of economic policy under the direction of those “economically literate experts,” almost entirely insulated from democratic control:  NAFTA, the Uruguay Round of GATT, TRIPS, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the DMCA, etc., ad nauseam.  In other words, global corporate mercantilism, as statist and protectionist as anything any liberal Democrat ever dreamed of proposing, but masquerading behind “free market” rhetoric.

Anyone who thinks there is such a thing as generic “expertise” divorced from political interest, or that there is a class of disinterested “experts” that won’t be looking out for No. 1 when they’re freed from democratic accountability, is either naive or mendacious. 

The state is a mechanism for externalizing cost on those who don’t control it, and for appropriating benefit by those who do control it.  Any fake “free market” policies carried out by the “experts” who control the state free of democratic accountability will be just as self-serving and unjust, and constrict the freedom of those who don’t control the state just as much, as what Thiel objects to in the present system.


I originally read that post in my email, and it didn’t show you as the author. I just guessed it was since it was the only thing that made any sense on here in awhile.

Though, one thing I cannot understand is why you don’t stop worrying and learn to love your technocratic overlords.

P.S. I’m nominating you for President of the World. I’m sure Mike Treder would back me up on this.

P.P.S Have you written any rebuttal to the World Federalism which has been consistently pushed at the IEET. Also, perhaps, you could address Alexander Wendt’s On The Inevitability of a World Government. I personally have strong reservations against pushing this concept without many qualifications… though I confess most of my qualifications would sound like Hardt and Negri wrote them.

Thanks, Embrace Unity.  I promise without reservation that if only I’m given enough unaccountable power without any democratic control, I’ll use my absolute power in accordance with my disinterested expertise to maximize freedom without any regard at all for my own material interests.  I don’t own my house, but I’m white and male, so it’s OK.

Actually, I never heard of IEET until I followed a link to this post.

Peter Thiel is absolutely right.  What with “conservatives” and “liberals” both doing their best to control social and economic behaviors for everyone, and a dysfunctional state in which a coalition of elites, bureaucrats, and the indigent combine their votes and their power to virtually enslave every responsible, hard-working subject of their empire, there is little hope for freedom in the United States or any present nation.

Democracy is two foxes and a hen deciding what to have for dinner.

Alexis de Tocqueville noted that “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”  That happened, oh, about the 1920s.

Thiel did not claim that society was perfect in the 1920s.  Far from it, as we all know.  He simply and truthfully stated that that was the last time when one could be optimistic about the future of politics.

Since Mr. Treder does not seem to understand why someone might not be so deeply enthralled with the “freedom” provided by the United States, I will simply include two more quotes by de Tocqueville:

“I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.”

“In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.”

I leave the details as an exercise for the reader.

Peter Thiel, who built his fortune off the internet and PC, which were almost entirely government subsidized, has the balls to complain about welfare for the population? What a prick. We should appropriate his funds and send him to his own little island.

Mike - your not seriously suggesting that had the government not invested in networking technology, that it wouldn’t had been developed anyways? Ford Motors even started building paved roads at the start of the motor car industry days, but stopped doing it when the government started doing it for them. Assuming only governments can build networks is just silly.

Its ironic you pick Ford. One of the reasons they were able to pull out of the great depression after reducing much of their wages to 10c per hour for men and 4c per hour for women and shooting 4 of their employees to death in the Ford Hunger March, was to become one of the largest recipients of government funds during WW2.

I am seriously suggesting that the research and development behind the internet and the personal computer were almost entirety done by state sector. It took decades of work that could have never been profitable for it to reach a level of sophistication for it to be exploited by private capital. That the majority of all baseline research in science and technology is done on the public’s dime is almost a truism, in the US high-tech is usually done through the military.

Anyone who takes a close enough look at the American economy (or any developed economy for that matter) realizes that it functions because of massive state subsidies to industry.

Ha-Joon Chang, one of my favorite economists, has argued it better than I could.

Why the World isn’t Flat

Jerry Mitchell: 

GIVEN the prior existence of computers and their wide distribution via a microprocessor revolution, I think it’s likely some sort of network revolution would have occurred even absent the ARPAnet and all the rest of it.  Given the existence of the microprocessor, the desktop computer and the modem would have followed (as they in fact did) from the “homebrew” community.  And from there, I think at least some sort of system based on local last-mile networks and linked together BBS’s would have been almost inevitable.  But it would probably have been much lower in capacity, with the process of long-distance patching together of local systems resembling AT&T’s long distance system before direct dialing.  It would have been great for local networks, great for point-to-point long distance exchanges of data, much worse for everything else.

By way of analogy, Henry Ford’s system of user-funded roads might have existed absent state subsidies, but it would probably have been much lower in capacity than the one that was actually built on the taxpayer teat.

More important is whether the cybernetic revolution of the ‘40s and subsequently would have occurred minus the role of military R&D (David Noble’s Forces of Production is a great source on this).  And I find that extremely doubtful.

<snip>It took decades of work that could have never been profitable for it to reach a level of sophistication for it to be exploited by private capital.</snip>

Never? Never? You sure you don’t want to rephrase that? You do know what statements like that do to your credibility don’t you?

I could argue forever and it wouldn’t matter to those with their minds already made up, so I will simply refer to someone who is more eloquent then I am on the relationship of science and the free market.  For your reading and entertainment…I give you a very nice disposition on why the market should drive research (as it does in LOTS of cases).

The Misesian article says, “There is no reason for taxpayers to support trips to the moon, particle physics, or any other research not directly serving defense against external or internal aggression, the core function of government.” Yes, make an arbitrary assertion about what a government should do coming from the time when everyone lived like the Amish and their society faced much simpler problems.

BTW, since someone brought up “Austrian economics,” I find it hilarious that these self-identified Austrianists ridicule doomsday scenarios coming from global warming obsessives, Peak Oil survivalists and other people studying trends in an ecological-Malthusian world view; yet these same Austrianists—for example, Peter Schiff, Marc Faber, Ron Paul, etc.—promote comparably alarmist doomsday scenarios of hyperinflation and economic collapse based on their demonology of democracy, fiat money, central banking, government regulations, the welfare state and so forth. In other words, Austrianists catastrophize the future as much as their competitors in the doomsday market, but they want the capital-C Catastrophe to support their belief system, not the other guys’.

Now I really have to laugh…Your going to attack Peter Schiff, who was one of the few who predicted the economic implosion we are going through, years ahead of time—

and I want to see any reference by you as to when you predicted it.

I still haven’t seen the “hyperinflation” Schiff keeps predicting. My income has gone down, my employers’ income has gone down, my company’s payroll has gone down, we’ve have to cut our rates*, etc. That looks like deflation to me.

Of course, Peter Schiff could have picked up his screwy ideas from his father, the income-tax denier Irwin Schiff.


Yes never, you can’t sell something that has no use. It took decades and decades of state funded research before the first computers were even sold to a private company.

Just give me one example of a first world economy that has developed on “free markets”.

Dean Baker was the first to predict the housing collapse.

I’m sure there were many more comments than this when I read this last week - including another response from Mike Treder.

Why have so many of the comments disappeared?

Mike - So now your saying computers have no use? Nice…

Also, the US economy for the first couple hundred years was the most libertarian economy on the planet and had co-incidentally turned an empty continent into the richest country in history. Yes, there are instances of government intervention during those periods, but you will not be able to convince anyone here that we became the richest country because at that time the US used a command/control style authoritarian socialist economics system. The US became so rich in spite of all that intervention, not because of it.

Dont pipe up the usual bromides please about how the US was rich because its resources (which it does have) or slavery (which is true) because naturally you have to explain why other countries that had resources and slavery also didnt become the richest country. The US became rich because individuals, left to pursue their own self interest, naturally work to increase the production and profit. Its been the engine that’s driven any country to the extent that they have been allowed to do so.

Wow Mike,

Nice way to insinuate I support either when its obvious I dont, while at the same time completely avoiding the point about freedom creating properity. Must be getting desperate to resort to such poor tactics.

Given that the core principle of libertarianism is the non-aggression axiom, then if Peter was suggesting aggressing on someone…which I doubt…then he would be wrong - just as much so as any suggestion you would have for aggressing on someone to take away wealth for distribution to whatever good cause you have in mind.

Saying the American economy was the most liberal economy on the planet for its first two hundred years is a bit like saying a particular country had the most liberal form of feudalism or Stalinism:  it’s not much of an achievement.  It just means America allowed more market elements to function in the interstices of a fundamentally statist structure.  And if absolute levels of wealth were among the highest, the structure of the economy was fundamentally distorted by statist privilege.  A country in which millions of acres of vacant land were granted to privileged clients of the state, most of the Founding generation colluded in the grossment of vast tracts of undeveloped land at the expense of the first settlers, a third of the territory was developed with slave labor, and half the white settling population were indentured servants or convict laborers (and despite what you heard in American history class, it wasn’t just a seven-year term for most people)—a country like that was not even a rough approximation of a free market.


Sigh…everyone always tries the slavery issue when its obvious that if it were a factor, all the other countries on this planet would be mega rich as well…so obviously this isn’t the deciding factor. Then again, this is the 2nd time I pointed it out and no one yet has explicitly argued that slavery has produced mega wealth…your not making that point are you?

I also noted that there was in fact state intervention historically, just not to the extent you see in most other countries. I don’t think anyone here is going to pretend there was a strong centrally planned economy in the US as there was in various other communist or socialist countries.

Tell me then oh wise statists of leftists or rightist bent…if freedom doesn’t produce wealth…are you suggesting the crushing boot of authoritarianism does? What exactly is it that produces all this wealth then? If its not slavery…or resources…what?

Authoritarianism certainly doesn’t produce net wealth, but it makes certain classes of people a hell of a lot wealthier.

I agree that authoritarianism doesn’t produce aggregate wealth.  And I agree that the net wealth of the U.S. was greater than that of the rest of the world because the U.S. permitted greater degree of economic freedom in the interstices of a fundamentally authoritarian structure (the same reason the USSR was more wealthy than North Korea).  I also think the distinguishing institutional features of American-style corporate capitalism result from the authoritarianism rather than the markets:  i.e., if we had a totally free economy, not only would there be at least as much wealth, but none of it would be concentrated in the hands of billionaires.

Kevin, we agree completely on what you said. I personally think corporations as a concept are a moral problem because I don’t believe in the concept of limited liability…but that’s me. I think had the government not intervened in the economy so much we would be on our way to the stars at this point - US govt included. You would think after central planning economies fail so often that people would get it…but they don’t.


We live in a Federal Republic not a democracy.  Hardly any important decisions are made democratically.  Yet another reason not to give our government more power.  In a republic we are *supposed* to hold our representatives accountable, but obviously no one currently cares to do that so why now tout democracy?

I also don’t see why you think Jefferson’s republican ideals are laughable.  Perhaps you need to read a history book.

It is mind-boggling to think that governments, which have no incentive to reduce waste and spend wisely, should be better able to spend our money. 

However, Jefferson would be appalled at the forced seizure of US citizens’ wealth and the servitude our children will endure, not for legitimate government expenditures, but to prop up our failed corporate masters and “innovative” bankers.  What a disgrace. 

Today, no one, big or small, kids, obese people, lawyers, businessmen, teachers, parents, students, politicians, etc. feels that they need to take responsibility for their own actions.

You lost me as soon as you started talking about “Global Warming” as a monumental challenge we face.  This is simply a tool of political manipulation, and there’s really *no* good evidence that ANY legislation our government could EVER pass would be able to make sweeping climate change for the better!  The very individuals pushing concepts like “buying carbon credits” to “offset the environmental damage you do” are the ones who have partial or total ownership in the companies collecting those payments!  It’s all a big sham…..

But closer to the core point here; there’s a reason why many people I know proudly claim to be libertarian, but not “big L Libertarian”, as in, aligning themselves with the official political party.  It’s a pretty sound (but rather general) philosophy to say that you believe in absolute individual freedoms, up until the point one person’s freedom encroaches on the next person’s freedom.  Taking that belief and attempting to translate it into a vast system of “laws of the land” quickly illustrates how the “devil is in the details”.  Put 30 libertarian-minded people in the same room, and I dare you to get more than 2 or 3 to agree completely on almost anything in detail!  The big-L Libertarian party basically takes a stab at it, but they often wind up “taking whoever they can get” who will sign on as claiming to endorse their agenda.  Sometimes you get a really intelligent person with a lot of great ideas, but other times you get some heavy pot-smoker who doesn’t have much to say beyond “Legalize the drugs, man!” and “Let’s stop fighting wars and all live in peace!”

The important thing is, the small-l libertarians I’ve encountered are ALL united in the idea that our government absolutely must stop spending itself further and further into debt, and this can’t be fixed without drastic changes.  The obvious approach most all of them advocate is looking to our Constitution and Bill of Rights, and saying “If it’s not spelled out in there as a job of federal government, then quit spending money on it!  We’ll find a way to do without.”  Additionally, they’re usually in agreement on the idea that we have no business fighting wars in cases where our country wasn’t invaded first.

I happen to think those values were and still ARE key to fixing what’s broken in the USA today, and certainly, the Democratic or Republican parties have no interest in addressing problems in that manner, today.  So to the extent the official Libertarian party adheres to them, they’re still “standing for something good”.

People shouldn’t be confused or led to believe the Libertarian party has “lost its way” simply because some high-profile people are trying to ride its coat-tails….  I think some modern conservatives are trying to infiltrate the L.P. right now, to discredit parts of it they find politically dangerous to their agendas, and to simultaneously win over some more votes.

I actually think government policy could affect climate change for the better—eliminating subsidies to transportation and energy use, eliminating subsidies to urban sprawl and barriers to mixed use development, etc., would have a huge effect.  Our model of economic development over the past century, based on extensive additions of cheap inputs, has been almost entirely a creation of the state.

So…so disliking the current establishment so much he’s actually considering fleeing it in a spaceship makes Peter Thiel an “establishmentarian”? Do you…do you read the words that you write?

Alex, you are playing semantical games. There are a number of loose groups vying for power and two of them are the centralized wealth holders and those who wish for a modicum of economic justice. You obviously consider the latter to be the establishment, while Treder and the majority of thinking people would say the former.

Mike Treder quotes Peter Thiel regarding the effect of the female vote, and accuses Thiel of implying that women should be disenfranchised.  This is incorrect, and typifies a defect in the reasoning of the progressive left:  the belief that if there is a disfavorable outcome, then the government should pass a law to fix it.  A libertarian can make the objective statement “women don’t vote libertarian” without adding “and that’s why the government shouldn’t let them vote.”  Indeed, the essence of libertarianism is that government should take as little action as possible.

Cue the conspiracy theorists: I love how Ronald Lauder, a vocal supporter of Likud (the FREE-MARKET capitalist party of Israel) is the father-in-law of Kevin Warsh, the youngest appointee in FEDERAL RESERVE history. Does Free Markets equate to Federal Reserve?

Your freedom to make a billion dollars can’t co-exist with my freedom to start a labor union. Mr. Jefferson, your freedom to own slaves can’t co-exist with the freedom of a chained dark-skinned human being…that is of course if you even considered them as human beings.

Mr. Treder, you are awesome.

Mr. Treder, you call it “No More Libertarians”
As a democrat, I would call it “No More Market Fundamentalists”

Either you are promoting human rights and freedoms or promoting an attempt at the ‘greater good’.

Some people like to believe that they know what is best.

Some like to believe that a ‘friendly AI’ should decide what is best.

What happens to informed consent, human rights, and individual determination when the greater good is the over-riding determination?

The control-oriented types like to claim that they can ;

1. define happiness and suffering
2. measure both
3. predict both for the future (at all measurable points in the future so that their decision will always be considered the best)

that is what Utilitarianism requires after all, god-like knowledge of all quantifiable reality

Yet is subjective reality quantifiable using objective symbolism?

Ultimately it is a powerful minority that determines the greater good - those who convince others of their credibility to make such a decision through force and deceit.

Human rights, and individual responsibility are the necessary checks and balances against tyranny.

It’s a lie to pretend to do what is for the ‘greater good’ - it’s an after-the-face rationalization for inherent irrational decision making processes.

‘Friendly-AI’ no matter how smart depends on human creation and determination of how to measure and predict the hedonic calculus.

The non-partisan Libertarian International Organization is a good place to see what Libertarianism is about, with items on people leading through voluntary alternatives in many areas. It sees Libertarianism as empowering a wide variety of social systems.


“Funny, once Libertarians have got a lot of money they’re big preachers about people’s rights to the fruits of their labor, but as soon as they run into trouble they’re the first to go running the government for hand-outs. (for example the multi-billionare dollar handouts to bankers in the US).”

This is it, the above is exactly why libertarians cannot be trusted, their hypocrisy on state assistance is unconscionable; with the caveat they do sincerely want liberty—their own liberty and that of their families, friends, associates. What is amazing is they think we can’t see the duplicity.
We’re probably better off with Mormons as transhumanist allies than libertarians.

@ Postfuturist..

So exactly what is your political position and social philosophy?

You hate the tea party and republicans and their conservative tendencies, you despise libertarians because of their hypocrisy, are not democrats libertarians at heart? You slate socialism and marxism, and associate them with Soviet communism and it’s failures. You dismiss anarchism as naive - what is “your” political position?

You dismiss spirituality as mumbo-jumbo, Christians as imbeciles, and the working class poor as miscreants? Have I missed anyone out?

Cynicism is the lowest and most negative form of escapism. Better to spend your life meditating in a cave than whinging in a barrel?

It’s easy to point out the world’s problems, yet it takes some hard effort and thinking to seek solutions. So come on, throw us a bone here? What do “you” propose as solutions?

Cygnus, you are misrepresenting what I have written, IMO spirituality may be mumbo-jumbo, but it is is necessary escapism for starters; and no one would write at a technoprogressive or any progressive-tending site that working class poor are miscreants. I wrote that my observations of 40- 50 years have shown me the bottom of what we call ‘society’ (without civilization, ‘society’ is a misnomer) is insecure & violent, with a ludicrously recidivist “justice” system to exacerbate it all and squeeze funds out of the poor. The working poor are not usually the bad guys, it is the more violent types who if you would more carefully observe the situation at the bottom, you would know what it is about—however you don’t WANT to know, and who can blame you?: having a full appreciation of the vileness of the violent underclass (not, repeat, Not, the working poor) is a challenge to the assumption of social progress being more than necessary fiction. I ‘believe’ in damage control, not social progress; as of yet genuine social progress does not exist.
After eight wasted years of the Lapdog From Crawford TX, I am as you correctly noted, cynical, however justifiable cynicism is more akin to skepticism. The prospect of yet another (heave, retch) Bushclone being elected in 2016 or even next year has made me 100 percent pro-Obama; frankly, politics doesn’t interest me much any more, politics are a mausoleum, the Politics of Nostalgia. Politics appears most of all to be one person’s gain and another’s loss; but one can accept such without actually liking it, as one accepts at a young stage of life that Santa Claus doesn’t exist and neither does the Big Rock Candy Mountain. Again, as far as I know, social progress is a necessary fiction, a construct… a carrot to get progressive donkeys to move forward—whatever forward may turn out to be. If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask at the same bat time, same bat channel:
we wont be going anywhere any time soon.

Hmm post-postfunurist, funny. I was a libertarian when I was making 9 bucks an hour and supporting a family of 3 many years ago.

I didn’t go beg for government handouts either, I just worked 60 and 70 hour weeks to keep ahead.

So your description of libertarians is patently wrong. I think you see simply what you want to see.

“I didn’t go beg for government handouts either, I just worked 60 and 70 hour weeks to keep ahead.”

However you had extended family & friends who did (and some do today) receive help from the state, thus your libertarianism at that time was to a certain degree evasive. So when you abandoned your somewhat shallow libertarianism it was no great loss to you or to those around you who held partially insincere—and therefore temporary—views concerning outdated, nostalgic mausoleum politics such as libertarianism.
But you and your family could see what you wanted to see at the time and can see what you want to see today. Such is liberty.

@ Postfuturist..

Well Batman, you seem to have escaped the question yet again.. we will find out in the end what you stand for, it is only a matter of time.


Told you, Cygnus: I am voting for Obama. The reason for that is his and Clinton’s views coincide with mine. Nonetheless, today’s politics are relics: everything from libertarianism to Marxism is outmoded. However libertarianism is important for those who don’t want to think too deeply about freedom; Marxism is for those who are too dense to understand the complexities of ‘society’. Religion IMO is necessary feel-good because people need to escape from unpleasant realities centering around aging & death by way of ‘eternal life’, heaven, reincarnation and so forth.
BTW, Jerry Mitchell’s idiosyncratic anecdote concerning his being a libertarian way back when is meaningless in the sum total; he wouldn’t even be specific enough to write whether he is still a libertarian—perhaps he isn’t sure. As for you? no matter what I write, Cygnus, you will attempt to gainsay it; perhaps YOU are the one who doesn’t exactly know what he wants and are searching at IEET? no way to read your mind, though.

post-postfuturist - But you lumped ALL libertarians together, so therefore your statement is in fact false. Sure, you could have said some subset might by hypocritical (as would apply to every belief structure), but no - you piled everyone together and labeled them as such.

PS, Cygnus:
my core beliefs derive from PR Sarkar’s theories filtered through Ravi Batra. If you don’t approve I will send you a formal apology in triplicate.

Your obedient servant,

“But you lumped ALL libertarians together, so therefore your statement is in fact false.”

Yes, however since IMO libertarianism is an outdated 20th century ideology, it doesn’t interest me either to the positive or the negative as to which libertarians think what. I don’t fear libertarians as I fear hardline Communists and National Socialists, yet there are more libertarians. But that’s not the real reason, the real reason is: it isn’t practical anymore to go by what people say, merely because a libertarian says he wants freedom does not necessarily mean anything. Such might only be a half-truth; it could mean he only wants freedom for himself and his allies—it isn’t what people say it is what they don’t say. You don’t believe everything you read, do you? I’ve been told libertarians are transhumanist allies yet it doesn’t mean one can go by their word, their say-so.

“Religion IMO is necessary feel-good because people need to escape from unpleasant realities centering around aging & death by way of ‘eternal life’, heaven, reincarnation and so forth.”

It occurred to over the weekend that there may be another, better reason why we need religion. Human beings (perhaps women more than men; in any case some more than others) instinctively relate on an interpersonal level, and consequently it can be very helpful for people to personalize concepts such as Good and Love. Lert’s assume for example that we want people to behave compassionately. It can be very helpful to this end for people to pray to a personal, anthropomorphic God of Love. Nor does this even need to involve real deception: just as you suspend disbelief when you read a novel or watch a film, so you know that the God you pray to is a figment of your imagination, but he/she is no less “real” for that, at least in a Platonic sense.

Perhaps the real impediment to constructive theism for anglosaxons is the lack of a gender-neutral personal third person pronoun in English.

PS @CygnusXI…I guess post-post’s political position and social philosophy is a bit like the British Constitution: you have to deduce it from all the various comments he’s made over the years 😊. I have a hunch it then comes out fairly close to mine. (And I also think Obama is great. Perfect no, but can you think of a successful politician who is more clever, honest and responsible?)

“...I guess post-post’s political position and social philosophy is a bit like the British Constitution: you have to deduce it from all the various comments he’s made over the years”

I’m like the Magna Carta: old & leathery.
Libertarians who blog at IEET and extropy chat, etc., are sophisticated and worth dialoguing (on a good day; on a bad day we monologue) with, unfortunately libertarians you meet on a daily basis are very ordinary—and such is not a compliment.
Most libertarians are from GOP-type families in rightwing locales, libertarianism is to them merely souped-up Republicanism.
But only IMO naturally.

For once I am going to be very specific: if libertarians are serious they will support the proposition to eliminate Selective Service, and will want to levy a defense tax—flat or graduated. Eliminating Selective Service is largely symbolic yet all the same thoroughly ethical, while instituting a defense tax is crucial.
Somehow it doesn’t appear libertarians are, or would be, much interested in either proposal; and frankly, there is little/no point in attempting to communicate with such people if they are not actually interested in hearing of what others think ought to be done to advance liberty.

“Nobody thinks that *they* are rich. And taxes, as every liberal knows, are only supposed to be for rich people (re: progressive tax structure).”

This is why it is so difficult to communicate; does anyone really think that any sovereign individual (SI)—from an Olsen sister to a Soros—does not know they are rich? Non- SIs, yes, but does Trump think he is wealthy? you betcha. Does Gates? yes. An SI knows he or she is an SI.
As for the second clause, “taxes, as every liberal knows, are only supposed to be for rich people (re: progressive tax structure)”, a defense tax would be a progressive tax, even if a flat tax, because it is moral, and because it forces those who have more to pay taxes to defend what they have that isn’t in cyberspace (far too difficult to tax cyber-wealth).
Merely the existence of a defense tax would draw attention to how in an uncivilized world having property means the property has to be defended—and defense has to be paid for via taxes.
Voluntary contributions for taxes? sounds rather counterintuitive, IMO.

Well, it looks like your chomping at the bit to debate the issues, but it’s unlikely your going to get many more takers on this thread. Most sensible people understand your not going to change most people’s core philosophy from a few internet postings - our frame of reference is so different that to bring them to some modicum of agreement would take eons of discussion, which most people just dont have time for.

i.e. Most libertarians have derived the usefulness of the axiom of non-aggression. Those coming from other philosophies have different axioms, so your not going to understand why I’m asking you to define your boundaries on the use of force (which is doubtful you even could). For you, other questions are more important and primary. You see us as fixating on some meaningless concept and we see you as jack booted thugs ready to go out “do-gooding” and taking whatever actions you want to meet some ultimate better cause. It’s a large gap to bridge indeed.

Not merely a gap, an unbridgable chasm. Liberty? what is freedom without civilization? what is freedom without decency?
You write you don’t like the state confiscating from you yet the want the state to defend you via the military, police. But who doesn’t? we say one thing, think another, do something else.

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