Based on the excellent feedback I am getting from my commentariat, and including a comment from yesterday...let's expand the already monster-post. Also...Polumentis is starting to organize these very disconnected thoughts into a cohesive outline here. Perhaps this can become a collaborative effort? All I'm doing here is trying to collect the major strands of libertarian argument/thought/support into a single direction. All y'all know I ain't the best writer. I wouldn't be upset to see the more eloquent among my readers (roughly all of you) clean up some of this stuff.
Argument path 22
For any case where one is hoping that one can use government to defend against a motivated, semi-coercive group of people (multinational corporations, for instance), one must expect that the coercive group can also capture the government. The libertarian tends to think this is inevitable, rather than just likely.
Argument path 23
Regulations tend to be designed as if they can solve problems. Even if the regulations were designed by the best few minds on the planet, they aren't the most informed minds, nor the most motivated. Roughly 35 minutes after a new financial regulation is passed, Goldman Sachs (effectively) posts a $10 Million dollar bonus to the first person who figures out how to game the regulation, legally, but completely unfairly. Since $10M is more than the entire yearly budget for the group that got to write the regulation...they can't win the game. Regulators solve yesterday's problem, and cause tomorrow's.
Argument path 24:
Unpleasant != Illegal
Almost everyone in the history of law and of philosophy have agreed that there are at least 3 and probably more negative categories of human action. I use: Bad-mannered, upsetting, ethically wrong, and illegal. While not strictly ascending (someone can be upsetting but not bad-mannered or illegal without being morally wrong), it's close to ascending.
There is also a relatively common (but not universal) theory in the history of law that law is both less effective, and has more room for bad effects when illegalness becomes more expansive, and attempts to cover the ground of annoyingness as well. Libertarians strongly endorse the position that the illegal should be kept to the minimum.
Argument path 25:
Barrel of a gun
The libertarian line notes with extreme prejudice that state action is *universally* equivalent to either doing nothing (congressional resolution in favor of sunflowers), or else violent (do what we say, or we shoot you).
Barrel-of-a-gun persuasion should be minimized.
Argument path 26:
As a general rule, government should do less in any given industry. In education, public schools are hugely government controlled. They are also imperfectly effective. Better would be School Choice. Better than that would be tax credits. Better than that would be abolishing the public schools + tax credits. Better than that would be abolishing the public schools + no tax credits + education support for the poor. Best of all would be no government involvement at all + private education support for the poor.
This applies to the post office (it would be better to not prohibit competition on first class mail), the wireless spectrum, and dozens of other non-essentials.
Argument path 27:
A major path of libertarian thought since Locke in the late 1680s has been self-ownership. As an individual, by virtue of existing, you have ownership over yourself. If nothing else, this means that the default should be to avoid coercing you to do stuff. You should not be made worse than Robinson Crusoe by means of your participation in a society.
Argument path 28:
You can get property rights by chasing Locke's path of self-ownership, or Nozick's path.
Also, you can get property rights by noticing that of any variable you can find, reliable property rights (not subject to government dictat) is the best predictor of social wealth that we have today.
Argument path 29:
Success through Failure AKA creative destruction
The key to social success is private failure. If I want economic growth, and a better life...I need the freedom to try new approaches. If my new approach to building widgets works a lot better than the old one, then we need the old education companies to go out of business. It is only the replacement of old, ineffective organizations with new, more effective organizations that makes the economy roll.
Of course, two counterpoints to this are: success needs to be rewarded sufficiently that the choice between trying on your own and maybe failing is better than the choice to be a cog at WidgetsRUs. Also...we don't want to over-glorify the new guy. Out of 10 attempts to beat WidgetsRUs, probably 9 of them will fail...trying to stop that is also bad.
Argument path 30:
Freedom of Conscience and Self-defense
However you get to the question of what is properly inside an individual's correct sphere of influence, two items are universal.
1) Freedom of Conscience -- the idea that the government should not control what ideas appear in the ideational free-for-all is at the core of defending men's souls from corrupt authorities. Free Speech, Freedom of Religion, and Freedom to Offend.
2) Self-defense -- the idea that a government should not stop an individual from defending their life and those of their loved ones against evildoers.
Argument path 31:
Voting doesn't work
In the history (not pre-history) of the world...there were first despotic governments, where the ruler and his thugs ruled. As per Bruce Bueno de Mesquita's game theory, this tends to suck for everyone else. Democracy has been tried several times since, and in each of those cases, eventually the democracy has deteriorated into interest groups voting themselves benefits from the public treasury.
In addition, there is substantial reason to believe that in the case of voting...people will usually make bad decisions. In every other case in the world besides voting, where you see low personal impact, and high social impact of bad decisions, we call it a "tragedy of the commons"... a case where one person's actions can screw everyone else. Voting is a tragedy of the commons...social cost > personal cost, because your vote probably doesn't change anything.
Personal liability is important
If you do bad stuff, you should be liable for your bad stuff. If you are a member of a "government protection force", and you confiscate a free citizen's camera...you should personally be liable. If you are a member of a corporation, and you make a decision that results in 3000 deaths in India, you should be personally liable. Never forget that the corporation is a creature of the state.
Argument path 33:
History AKA Government wasn't the fix
We've all heard stories about how government swooped in and saved the world from evil corporations. Almost all of them are false.
Minimum Wage? That happens only after almost everyone is paying higher wages, because the country is wealthy. And of course, minimum wage laws were then introduced explicitly in order to keep cheap labor (blacks, chinese, and women) from competing with white men.
Workplace Safety? Government has historically been WAY behind the curve. Wealth leads...best practices follow, government takes credit.
Public education? Do you know the percentage of folks with good literacy before and after public education started? Public education did not educate the average citizen any better than what was happening before.
De-segregation? First, the market was working and unsegregated. Then the government forced the streetcar companies which wanted to be unsegregated to be segregated. Then a different government forced the streetcar companies to be unsegregated. This is taught as a victory for government.
The general rule is: People get rich, people start being willing to pay for improvements that aren't cash, companies follow suit, governments claim credit.
Argument path 34:
Voluntary transactions AKA The Sweatshop Argument
Is the existence of sweatshops a net good, or a net bad for (a) an economy, or (b) the workers in a country. Would the banning of sweatshops be a net good or a net bad for a & b? The libertarian line leans strongly in the direction of sweatshops being good...and bans being bad for both the workers and the economy. Simple supply and demand says that (1) folks want to work places that are better than the alternatives, and (2) companies want to make stuff as cheaply as possible. If sweatshops are legal, then in order to hire higher quality workers, the sweatshops tend to offer more than the prevailing wage in the country. And people want badly to work at the sweatshop because the alternatives suck worse. The economy gets better, and the people at the sweatshop get the best deal. Banning sweatshops usually means that it's not economically viable for the company, and they don't build a factory at all...thus hurting both the economy and the workers.
This same argument applies to minimum wage, and a host of other regulations attempting to make folks lives' better, which end up making folks lives worse.
Argument path 35:
Among my least favorite government behaviors is the business of taking money from one person, and then using it to fund an activity that (s)he is strongly opposed to. Taking money from Church-following catholics to fund abortions. Taking money from die-hard skeptics to fund public schools that teach AGW as fact...and then requiring the children to attend school. Taking money from an anti-religious atheist, and using it to build a cross in the public square. Among the greater moral failures of the state is taking money from people, and using it to pay for activities that they're ethically opposed to.
Argument path 36:
Strong Fences, Good neighbors
The more of life that is subject to group deliberation, the more acrimonious the arguments will be.
If I send my kids to a school I choose, and you send your kids to a school you choose...then we have few disagreements.
If you and I both send our kids to a mandated (or close) school, then if you and I disagree on what and how the school should teach, you and I are at serious odds, because we both love our children, and think we know best.
The fewer decisions that are made in the public sphere, the less cause we all have to fight with one another, and the better we get along.
Argument path 37:
I make long term plans. So do companies. Long term plans are massively impacted by regulatory structure. Any change in rules discriminates against people who plan ahead.
1. This is bad/unfair.
2. This is insanely bad incentives.
Many of these are stolen from other smart folks...I'm just trying to catalogue the lines.