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Saturday, April 09, 2011

How Free Markets Came About

in 19th-century Britain:

'The road to the free market was opened and kept open by an enormous increase in continuous, centrally organized and controlled interventionism. To make Adam Smith's "simple and natural liberty" compatible with the needs of a human society was a most complicated affair.' -- Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation

PS -- Yes, I understand: That was not a trufry market. But it was the freest market that has ever existed, and it came about through massive state intervention.

PPS -- Don't the people who talk about "under a true free market X would never occur" and "true free markets would not have any Y" ever get a creepy feeling about how much that sounds like Marxists saying that the Soviet Union was not "true communism" and "under true communism there would never be Z"?

PPPS -- Of course, I was one of "those" people. And I was quite sure I was nothing whatsoever like the Marxists who prattle on about "true communism."

49 comments:

  1. You mean the road to an economy dominated by free markets? There were certainly free markets prior to the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Nor does it seem very plausible to say that the "state" is responsible for their existence. Where there are mutually beneficial exchanges to be had and communication is taking place, human nature seems to make the existence of some kind of free market inevitable unless an outside hand restrains it. It would be more realistic to say that markets and governments both arise out of man's social nature.

    Tangentially, I think it's important not to conflate "libertarian freedom" with "economy driven by free markets." An economy might theoretically have perfect economic freedom and yet have little market activity.

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  2. It's a bit hard to figure out what to make of this post. You might be implying one of two basic things:

    right-wing interpretation: libertarians are naive to be non-interventionists. freedom isn't free; we need to force the rest of the world to accept free trade just like the good ol' British Empire did; OR

    left-wing interpretation: libertarians are vulgar to claim to support freedom when in fact the institutions of private property and free trade which they support are really the products of imperialism, hegemony, social engineering and the destruction of native cultures.

    Of course, both of these happen to be quite wrong, for very different reasons, but without knowing which one of the two you are advocating, it's impossible to refute you. Or you might be saying something totally different, in which case I apologize for not getting the point.

    But in any event, it's a bit laughable to see Karl Polanyi of all people quoted as an authority on this subject. there may be some good critics of libertarianism, but Karl Polanyi sure isn't one of them; his analyses are extremely superficial. Rothbard did quite the number of him back in the day: http://mises.org/daily/1607 . Utterly devastating.

    (Now, I know Rothbard's treatment of various other philosophers (e.g., Hegel), was flawed, but he happened to be right on the money when it came to Karl Polanyi. What a doofus. If you want to quote a good Polanyi, then his brother Michael was the FAR superior thinker.)

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  3. "Rothbard did quite the number of him back in the day. Utterly devastating."

    IF Rothbard's review had had anything to do with Polanyi's book, it would have been quite devastating. But it didn't.

    The point of the review was so that when people like you see Polanyi quoted, you can dismiss his ideas by saying "What a doofus" without bothering to engage them, i.e., Rothbard was defending his "cadre" from having to engage with "dangerous" thinkers.

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  4. "There were certainly free markets prior to the onset of the Industrial Revolution."

    Both Polanyi and John Gray contend that while there were plenty of markets before the 19th century, they were always socially controlled markets. Laissez faire did not exist as a doctrine or practice before that point.

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  5. Elisha, you might see something interesting if you thought about this: "without knowing which one of the two you are advocating, it's impossible to refute you."

    Think about your reaction: you have no interest in engaging with what I'm saying and seeing if there is anything to it; no, you already are certain (while admitting that you are not even sure what I am saying!) that there is nothing to it and that the only way you should deal with it is in knocking it down.

    This is the method of protecting an entrenched position rather than trying to learn something new.

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  6. By the way, I was asked to teach a course called "The Great Transformation" so I began reading Polanyi's book. About halfway through it occurred to me, "I seem to recall that Rothbard reviewed this -- let me check." I found his review and was just bowled over: the review I was reading had almost NO connection to the book I was reading! The whole "primitivism" thing is simply 100% made up. So yes, Rothbard managed to be quite "devastating" by simply setting up a phony Polanyi and trashing that strawman.

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  7. "you have no interest in engaging with what I'm saying and seeing if there is anything to it; no, you already are certain (while admitting that you are not even sure what I am saying!) that there is nothing to it and that the only way you should deal with it is in knocking it down."

    I respectfully disagree. What I am saying is that your post isn't clear enough TO engage with in the first place.

    There are two ways (that I can see) to read your post. Now, if one of these two arguments were original to me, then I would be quite eager to engage with an open mind. However, as a student of history, economics, and political science, I have already done so. That is to say, in the past I have encountered and engaged with both arguments in depth for the first time (I wasn't born a libertarian, after all) and concluded that both are wrong. I'd be happy to explain those conclusions (and the process through which I reached them) and hear any counterarguments with an open mind if I understood what you are saying.

    Note that I still don't know what your criticism is. Are you suggesting that libertarians should be more accepting of intervention because it's a necessary condition for free markets to develop? Or are you suggesting that libertarians should be more skeptical of the existing market process because it was brought about through state intervention? Or something else entirely?

    BTW, I shouldn't have sidetracked by calling Polanyi a "doofus;" that was wrong of me. But whatever *general* merits there might or might not be to his thought, doesn't really matter for the purpose of your post, because the *particular* proposition you're advancing from him happens to be dead wrong.

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  8. Elisha, you:
    A) Don't know what I'm proposing, but
    b) Are certain it's dead wrong?!

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  9. Gene,

    I believe that you are proposing ONE of TWO possible things. I know that each of these things is dead wrong. But I don't know WHICH one of the two that you are defending, because your post is ambiguous. I suppose I could just explain it both ways, but wouldn't be a whole lot simpler if you could just clarify the ambiguity?

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  10. Elisha, has it occurred to you that few things forwarded by intelligent people are ever "dead" wrong -- they usually contain a partial truth in them, which why they are believe. Libertarianism, for instance, is not "dead wrong" -- there are truths in it, just partial truths pushed too far.

    In any case, Polanyi in the passage in question was saying neither of the things you suggest. He was saying that the period of laissez faire in 19th-century Britain was, factually speaking, brought about by a great amount of state intervention.

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  11. You continue to evade.

    I understand that POLANYI himself was contending neither of those things. My point was that -- given your multiple, snide remarks about libertarians immediately following the Polanyi quote -- YOU seem to be inferring one of those two things about libertarians based in part on Polanyi's (highly questionable) conclusions. I was trying to tease out precisely what your beef was, but you are evidently unwilling to commit to an actual position.

    Perhaps you think it sufficient to make snide, hit-and-run jabs at libertarians, and provide condescending non-answers when they ask you to clarify.

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  12. "The road to the free market was opened and kept open by an enormous increase in continuous, centrally organized and controlled interventionism."

    What does this even mean, isn't this oxymoron? How can you open and keep free market with growing interventionism?

    And btw, what were this massive and I suppose absolutely necessary state interventions?

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  13. Elisha: "given your multiple, snide remarks about libertarians immediately following the Polanyi quote"

    Elisha, I really have no idea why you find what I wrote to be "snide." I am not being malicious at all -- I am very sympathetic to the people who are suffering from the same problem I was 5 or 6 years ago. Really, don't you see that your imaginary construction of "the true free market" is exactly analogous to the Marxists imaginary construction of "true communism"? Well, I can understand that you don't see that, because I maintained a state of denial about that for a number of years myself.

    But look, I am really only making an historical claim here: the society that most libertarians cite as the closest approach to a "true free market" was achieved through centrally planned intervention.

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  14. Pike: "What does this even mean, isn't this oxymoron? How can you open and keep free market with growing interventionism?"

    No, with interventions, not with "growing interventionism."

    And yes, it's an oxymoron if you are thinking of the imaginary "pure free market" in your head. But the actual, historical closest approach to the "true free market" was achieved by massive state intervention, such as enclosures, the changes to the Poor Laws, and the repeal of the Corn Laws.

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  15. By the way, Pike, I'm sure there were many Marxists who considered it an "oxymoron" that the Gulag could exist in a Marxist society. And they were correct, in that, in the imaginary Marxist society in their heads, nothing like the Gulag could exist.

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  16. For some people it's just hard to understand that you can have a market imposed by governmental intervention.

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  17. Which is funny, Mr. Foofoo, because it's happening all around us today in the third world, as traditional peasants are forced into the market economy by loss of common land, taxes only payable in cash, and economic programs pushing them into cash crops, and so forth.

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  18. "and the repeal of the Corn Laws."

    Ah. I finally get it. You consider the *repeal* of mercantilist laws to constitute "massive state intervention."

    In that case: bring on the massive state intervention, baby.

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  19. Elisha, people naturally resist free trade. It has never existed anywhere except for those few decades in Britain. And I do understand that your ideology conceives of forcing free trade on people over their objections as a form of freedom, so I already knew you would approve of such interventions. It's the way neoliberals have been operating all over the globe recently!

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  20. "And I do understand that your ideology conceives of forcing free trade on people over their objections"

    Quite the contrary. I accept anyone's decision to engage or not engage in free trade as they please. I only hope in return that they accept mine reciprocally.

    And if I'm a neoliberal, then I'm certainly a strange one, given that I oppose the IMF, the world bank, most if not all of the so-called free trade agreements to which the U.S. is a party, and generally any attempt to force other nations to adopt free trade policies.

    But hey, if you can call the repeal of the Corn Laws a "massive state intervention" with a straight face, then you might as well call me a neoliberal while you're at it.

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  21. "Quite the contrary. I accept anyone's decision to engage or not engage in free trade as they please. I only hope in return that they accept mine reciprocally."

    Elisha, do you really think I don't know each of these arguments inside out? The industrialists said much the same thing: the people of rural England would be free not to engage in free trade, so long as they did not object to their own lives being torn apart and their livelihoods destroyed, after which they (and their children) would find themselves "free" to come work in the factories of the industrialists for subsistence wages.

    Sorry, Elisha, but people are NOT free to decide these things on their own. These are decisions that can only be made by communities. That is not my opinion or a normative view: it is the fact of the matter.

    "And if I'm a neoliberal, then I'm certainly a strange one, given that I oppose the IMF, the world bank, most if not all of the so-called free trade agreements to which the U.S. is a party, and generally any attempt to force other nations to adopt free trade policies."

    I understand that. You are a decent person and have high ideals. Similarly, many Marxists were for communism but completely against the Gulag. They just couldn't admit to themselves that they went together in reality, because they sure didn't go together in the ideal world in their head. I understand that in the "true free market" in your head, none of these things exist. They just happen to go together with real free markets.

    "But hey, if you can call the repeal of the Corn Laws a "massive state intervention" with a straight face..."

    Hmm, a small group of industrialists and ideologues happened to capture enough power in Parliament (for which a tiny minority of British could vote) that they could use the power of the central state to destroy the lives of a large number of their countrymen. But nah, that's not government intervention, because it was a move towards the trufry market!

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  22. "“In the normal course of things markets come embedded in social life. They are circumscribed in their working by intermediary institutions and encumbered by social conventions and tacit understandings.” -- John Gray

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  23. "Constructing a free market demands that these social institutions be weakened or destroyed. Only a strong centralized state can wage war on such intermediary institutions." -- John Gray

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  24. “the people of rural England would be free...so long as they did not object to their own lives being torn apart and their livelihoods destroyed”

    Right. And how did this come about? What was primarily responsible for lives being “torn apart” and “livelihoods destroyed?” If you answered “the market,” you’re mistaken. That is not my opinion or a normative view: it is the fact of the matter. ;)

    You really should read some Kevin Carson.


    “You are a decent person and have high ideals.”

    Thanks, I think you’re a swell guy, too. But you should give idealism another try before you give it up.

    “Similarly, many Marxists were for communism but completely against the Gulag...I understand that in the "true free market" in your head, none of these things exist. They just happen to go together with real free markets.”

    Well, most Marxists had no qualms with the Gulags or show trials until being a Stalinist went out fashion. Only then did they backpedal with the “not true communism” argument. By contrast, libertarians have always opposed intervention per se. But I get it; you’re comparing me to the relatively more humane and decent Trotskyites. Fine.

    Then let’s examine your argument for a moment to see if it holds up. You assert that certain destructive events have been accompanied by what was, historically, the closest real approximation to the free market. Obviously this cannot be an accident. Therefore, you conclude, such destructive effects must inevitably “go together” with (i.e., bear some causal or covarying relationship with) free markets.

    Now, I know you’ve read Mises, and you’re a pretty bright guy, so I know you understand the problems with drawing sweeping conclusions like that based on simple observed correlations, given the immense, large-scale complexity of human history, which contains innumerable variables that are not subject to the possibility of isolation or control.

    The market process was one among many variables close in temporal proximity to the evils with which you are concerned. So the question is why you chose to attribute the cause of these evils to that market process, as opposed one of the other variables in play. Without a sound analytic framework to draw these connections, all you’re doing is advancing post hoc ergo propter hoc and correlation-implies-causation fallacies.

    Secondly, and closely related to the above point, you don’t even have all of the relevant facts to conduct an informed analysis. Again, I recommend reading Carson. A lot of the evils that you are attributing to market processes were demonstrably linked to significant (albeit subtle) state interventions. This is a matter of history, not philosophy or politics.

    “a small group of industrialists and ideologues happened to capture enough power in Parliament (for which a tiny minority of British could vote) that they could use the power of the central state”

    And whence came these laws which the evil industrialists violated? Were they given by God at Mount Sinai? Were they the "natural" state of affairs that required state intervention to overturn? Have you considered that they were written and enforced by … other ideologues, who used the state to implement them?

    Seriously, think about what you’re saying here. The laws were state intervention. Repealing the laws was state intervention. Everything is state intervention. This is just equivocation.

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  25. "Sorry, Elisha, but people are NOT free to decide these things on their own. These are decisions that can only be made by communities. That is not my opinion or a normative view: it is the fact of the matter."

    Well, given that only individuals can think, choose and act, I don't see how "communities" can make any decisions at all. What you're really defending, to be more precise, is the right or desirability of some individuals to employ violence against other individuals in order to forcibly impose their preference for protectionism.

    (And yeah, I realize that a workable system of private property also requires physical force. And a woman who shoots her would-be rapist uses force, too.)

    "Constructing a free market"

    The market is not an institution to be constructed; it is a process.

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  26. "And a woman who shoots her would-be rapist uses force, too."

    So you're defending her use of violence to impose her preferences on the rapist?

    Elisha, how do you think private property gets created at all if not by a community decision? (And you can keep chanting "only individuals choose," but that doesn't make it so! When a biologist says "the flock of birds abandoned the nesting grounds" everyone has a good idea what is meant.)

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  27. Elisha, Daniel Kuehn has a good post up explaining the difficulties plaguing this conversation here. He kind of put up two posts as one: it's the part on Vienneau to which I am referring.

    (http://factsandotherstubbornthings.blogspot.com/2011/04/two-good-posts-from-krugman-and.html)

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  28. Gene:No, with interventions, not with "growing interventionism."

    It explicitly says:
    "free market was opened and kept open by an *enormous increase* in *continuous*, centrally organized and controlled *interventionism*."

    Gene:...was achieved by massive state intervention, such as enclosures, the changes to the Poor Laws, and the repeal of the Corn Laws.

    Repealing Corn Laws is considered interventionist? Can I then say that repealing alcohol prohibition was achieved with massive state intervention. What intervention? Well, state abolished prohibition.

    I don't think that people use word interventionism in that context.
    Liberalization means removing previous government restrictions. If you call that interventionism fine, but it doesn't sound very useful. It is simply tautological.

    And *changes* in Poor Laws are considered massive intervention?

    btw. I'm sure marxists would characterize interventionism the same way :)

    Gene:Hmm, a small group of industrialists and ideologues happened to capture enough power in Parliament (for which a tiny minority of British could vote) that they could use the power of the central state to destroy the lives of a large number of their countrymen.

    It almost sounds like imposing Corn Laws was done through broad consent of citizens of British Empire and didn't hurt anybody.

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  29. "Elisha, I really have no idea why you find what I wrote to be "snide..."

    snide/snīd/Adjective
    1. Derogatory or mocking in an indirect way: "snide remarks".

    "...I am not being malicious at all -- I am very sympathetic to the people who are suffering from the same problem I was 5 or 6 years ago."

    All other arguments aside here - I just want to point out that, although I have a lot of respect for your intellectual capacity (I'm sure I couldn't come close to verbally sparring with you) - You do come off, quite frequently, as very snide compared to most people. It might be subconscious an innocent; but just realize you sound that way sometimes.

    It doesn't dismiss any of the various cases you've made here obviously, but let's not pretend like your demeanor towards people has been neutral all of or even most of the time.

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  30. Ryan, sometimes I am very snide. But I believed we were talking about in THIS post. And I didn't see it here.

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  31. Hmm. I had thought I posted a more substantive reply yesterday, but it looks like it didn't go through. I'll retrieve the draft (auto-saved in gmail) and try it again. But first, re: the blog post you linked:

    I'm not too familiar with Nozick, so I am not qualified to respond to his specific treatment of Nozick. (A few of my own influences include Rudolf Steiner, Bohm-Bawerk, Mises, Tucker, Spooner, Thoreau, Spencer, Oppenheimer, Rothbard, Hayek, Popper, Locke, Bastiat, Stirner, Robert Anton Wilson, Randy Barnett, and some of the early American Anti-federalist and Jeffersonian thinkers.)

    But his more general criticisms fall short, because:

    1.) Far from offering "preferential status to existing or status quo property arrangements," I (and most libertarians I know) explicitly recognize that existing property arrangements are very often unjust. In a libertarian society, the David Rockefellers of this world might well find themselves asking "would you like fries with that?"

    2.) I also have absolutely no disagreement with his statement that "it's precisely the assignment of rights that determines whether a social order is one of "liberty" or not."

    3.) His argument that libertarians don't have to think because they identify their philosophy with "liberty" is nonsense. Every libertarian with two brain cells to rub together recognizes that it's the substance of the meaning that matters, and not the labels you attach to it. This was Plato's old rhetorical trick: everyone wants "justice," so all he had to do was convince people that his philosophy was "justice" to get them at your feet and ready to serve. As Karl Popper pointed out, if Plato succeeds in his semantic ploy, then we should simply announce that we are all for injustice.

    In short: this post is not apt. It may or may not be a valid criticism against Nozick, but Nozick is not libertarianism. Outside of Nozick, the author has no grasp of the libertarian tradition.


    "So you're defending her use of violence to impose her preferences on the rapist?"

    Yes. I think you're stretching the definition of "impose," but yes. I never said that I oppose the use of violence per se; I'm not a pacifist. The question is under what conditions is violence justified and why. This is one of the central if not THE central question of both legal and political philosophy. You seem to think it's justified to use violence to force people to pay corn tariffs (and by extension, consumers to pay higher prices) to protect self-interested corn producers from their more efficient competitors. I don't. The reasons for our disagreement go well beyond the scope of what can be reasonably covered in this format, and cannot be summarily resolved by an appeal to the NAP or to your newfound nihilism.


    "Elisha, how do you think private property gets created at all if not by a community decision?"

    Private property is indeed a social convention. This does not refute methodological individualism or change the fact that it is only individuals who physically make these decisions. However, I'm getting pedantic and tangential. What is really at issue here is the justice of a given legal arrangement, not who or how many were responsible for bringing it into being.

    P.S. I never accused you of being malicious. I said you were being snide. Those words have different meanings. But whether you were snide or polite doesn't really matter; the only thing that matters is whether you are correct. :)

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  32. Here's the post that didn't go through (saved a draft):

    “the people of rural England would be free...so long as they did not object to their own lives being torn apart and their livelihoods destroyed”

    Right. And how did this come about? What was primarily responsible for lives being “torn apart” and “livelihoods destroyed?” If you answered “the market of course,” then you’re badly mistaken and really need to read some Kevin Carson.


    “You are a decent person and have high ideals.”

    Thanks, I think you’re a swell guy, too. But you should give idealism another try before you give it up.


    “Similarly, many Marxists were for communism but completely against the Gulag...I understand that in the "true free market" in your head, none of these things exist. They just happen to go together with real free markets.”

    Well, most Marxists had no qualms with the Gulags or show trials until being a Stalinist went out fashion. Only then did they backpedal with the “not true communism” argument. By contrast, libertarians have always opposed intervention per se. But I get it; you’re comparing me to the relatively more humane and decent Trotskyites. Fine.

    Then let’s examine your argument for a moment to see if it holds up. You assert that certain destructive events have been accompanied by what was, historically, the closest real approximation to the free market. Obviously this cannot be an accident. Therefore, you conclude, such destructive effects must inevitably “go together” with (i.e., bear some causal or covarying relationship with) free markets.

    Now, I know you’ve read Mises, and you’re a pretty bright guy, so I know you understand the problems with drawing sweeping conclusions like that based on simple observed correlations, given the immense, large-scale complexity of human history, which contains innumerable variables that are not subject to the possibility of isolation or control.

    The market process was one among many variables close in temporal proximity to the evils with which you are concerned. So the question is why you chose to attribute the cause of these evils to that market process, as opposed one of the other variables in play. Without a sound analytic framework to draw these connections, all you’re doing is advancing post hoc ergo propter hoc and correlation-implies-causation fallacies.

    Secondly, and closely related to the above point, you don’t even have all of the relevant facts to conduct an informed analysis. Again, I recommend reading Carson. A lot of the evils that you are attributing to market processes were demonstrably linked to significant (albeit subtle) state interventions. This is a matter of history, not philosophy or politics.

    “a small group of industrialists and ideologues happened to capture enough power in Parliament (for which a tiny minority of British could vote) that they could use the power of the central state”

    And whence came these laws which the evil industrialists violated? Were they given by God at Mount Sinai? Were they the "natural" state of affairs that required state intervention to overturn? Have you considered that they were written and enforced by … other ideologues, who used the state to implement them?

    Seriously, think about how tautological your argument is. The laws were state intervention. Repealing the laws was state intervention. Everything is state intervention. This is just silly.

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  33. One last thing.

    "I really have no idea why you find what I wrote to be "snide." I am not being malicious at all -- I am very sympathetic to the people who are suffering from the same problem I was 5 or 6 years ago."

    OK, I just had to draw your attention to the humor of this statement.

    First, you deny that you are being snide. Then, literally immediately afterward, you follow up with a sentence that is practically dripping with condescension.

    At this point I can't tell if you're trying to be humorous or if you really are that oblivious to how you are expressing your tone.

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  34. Ok, Elisha, if I was at an AA meeting and told a bunch of drinkers, "I understand what your going through," would you find that "condescending"? I would call it "sympathetic," but maybe I'm crazy.

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  35. I mean, really, look at what I said, Elisha: I see your position as mistaken, but I quite understand how you could make such a mistake, as I made it myself. That's "condescending"?!

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  36. Pike: "Repealing Corn Laws is considered interventionist?"

    Pike, look at it this way: If some community had always practiced free trade, and then they were absorbed into some larger political unit, which first restricted their trade, and then repealed those laws, then no, that repeal would not be "interventionist." But if a community had always managed their trade with outsiders with a view to preserving social cohesion, and then a new political entity absorbed that community and then forced them to cease such management, than that would be interventionist. The suggestion put forward here is that the repeal of the Corn Laws was closer to the second case than it was to the first. (Although I am quite willing to consider evidence to the contrary.)

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  37. "Ok, Elisha, if I was at an AA meeting and told a bunch of drinkers, "I understand what your going through," would you find that "condescending"? I would call it "sympathetic," but maybe I'm crazy."

    Just to make it clear, the snideness comes from the fact that you're making that analogy in the first place (implicit as it may be). Iterating the "fact" that you're right/cured and that you pity or sympathize with those who are wrong/diseased is a little pretentious. Again, that says nothing about the validity of your views. But if one of us, as libertarians often do, started lamenting the plight of your "statism" with, "Oh, I feel so sorry for you. I used to be just like you!", I think you might think they're being just a little arrogant.

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  38. "Iterating the "fact" that you're right/cured and that you pity or sympathize with those who are wrong/diseased is a little pretentious."

    That's only true if I am mistaken about this!

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  39. Look at it this way, Ryan: If Joe comes to Bill and says "Bill, you really have a drinking problem. You need to dry out."

    Bill may well respond, "You arrogant SOB. Who are you to tell me how to live?"

    Bill MAY have a point, but only if Joe's diagnosis is incorrect! If Joe is right, than Bill's response is just a defense mechanism used to stave off having to deal with his problem.

    As Eric Voegelin pointed out, is why it is almost impossible to have a rational discussion with someone in the grip of an ideology: they are viewing a mental construct of their own instead of the real world, so anyone addressing reality will be talking past them. Faced with compelling evidence that *ought* to make them question their views, the ideology provides them with a grab bag of catchphrases with which to dimiss the evidence, e.g.: "I accept anyone's decision to engage or not engage in free trade as they please. I only hope in return that they accept mine reciprocally."

    Or: "What you're really defending, to be more precise, is the right or desirability of some individuals to employ violence against other individuals in order to forcibly impose their preference..."

    Sometimes, the only way to crack the ideological shell is to point out directly what is going on. That is likely to seem arrogant to the ideologue.

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  40. Look at this one, Ryan: "there may be some good critics of libertarianism, but Karl Polanyi sure isn't one of them; his analyses are extremely superficial."

    Now, I guarantee you, Elisha has never read any Karl Polanyi. So how does he/she "know" that his "analyses are extremely superficial"? Well, Murray Rothbard told him so! So you see, I am not engaged with someone trying to think through these issues, but someone doing everything he can to avoid thinking them through. (And that was exactly the point of Rothbard's review: it was a prophylactic. Rothbard immediately recognized Polanyi as someone whom it would be extremely dangerous for his acolytes to read. So he wrote a review that portrayed Polanyi as an idiot in the thrall of primitivism worship. That way, his devotees would *never* read him -- he's an idiot, after all! -- and whenever they hear him quoted, they will snort derisively.

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  41. Or look at this: "Without a sound analytic framework to draw these connections, all you’re doing is advancing post hoc ergo propter hoc and correlation-implies-causation fallacies."

    This is how an ideology protects itself from counter-evidence. One needs "a sound analytic framework," i.e. the ideology itself, by which to interpret history, i.e., spit the ideology that was fed in at the beginning of the process out the other end! The ideology is now completely immune to falsification, because everything that happens is interpreted through the framework of the ideology! And to *fail* to use an ideology to interpret everything that happens is declared to be a logical fallacy! Why, fail to have an ideology is nihilism!

    There is obviously no way to discuss "the issues" with a person "reasoning" like this. The only hope is to "go meta" and try to spotlight the ideological shell itself.

    That will often seem "pretentious" or "snide," which is a reaction working to preserve the ideology from being exposed for what it is.

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  42. [I'm a "he," by the way. The pseudonym comes from a Talmudic apostate rabbi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisha_ben_Abuyah).]

    Haha...Introducing Gene Callahan, Master of the Disanalogy.

    Would you like to be my LA (Libertarians Anonymous) sponsor? It could save lives -- you could stop me from driving under the influence of libertarianism. The only downside is I might have to call you up at 2:00 a.m. to help me fight the urge to go binge libertarianisming into the night.

    Seriously, do you not see how the act of comparing libertarians to alcoholics in the first place is incredibly snide and condescending, not to mention QUESTION-BEGGING? (Incidentally, your analogy fails even on your own terms, since we wouldn't be like recovering alcoholics but instead (in your view) more like continuing alcoholics who refuse to acknowledge their addiction).

    It amuses me that you seem to think that YOU yourself are NOT in the grip of an ideology, unlike we poor worms who were obviously brainwashed by Rothbard. You're completely oblivious to the fact that your ostensible "meta" analysis is already shot through with your own preconceived metaphysical notions. For example, the notion that ideas are mere "mental constructs" and not a part of "reality" is taken by you to be a self-evident truth that requires no argument.

    I also love how you make the assumption that I've never read Polanyi. I'm not even going to bother arguing this point, because Brian Doherty already embarrassed you on this issue over a year ago when you weren't even able to respond to his rebuttal on your own blog.

    I was the one who made the point that history matters here. And, to put it kindly, your understanding of history on this subject is woefully inadequate. Stick to your specialty, or at least go read some Kevin Carson for a beginner's primer if you want to converse intelligently on the subject.

    Your dismissal of me as an "ideologue," without even bothering to address the literature I cited (and then projecting that very same sin onto me!) is reminiscent of how Marxists would dismiss defenders as capitalism out of hand as self-serving "ideologues" so that they wouldn't have to bother to engage with their substantive arguments. Pause and reflect for a moment on the fact that you're committing the same exact sins that you're accusing me of. You're a Christian aren't you? Wasn't there something in the Bible about casting the first stone?

    Yet again you refuse to engage any of the substantive points I made, and opt instead to mock and bait with ridiculous analogies, and dismiss serious epistemological and methodological objections to your (frankly rather infantile) contentions as mere "ideology."

    I respect your intellect, so I can't bring myself to believe that you're actually as stupid as the Marxists from whom you borrowed this strategy. Rather, I am increasingly coming to believe that you have resolved to be a troll whose mission it is to annoy the hell out of libertarians, with extreme prejudice. I think you're succeeding, so I believe I'll take a break from posting here for a while. Happy trolling.

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  43. Very good Elisha. It's a nice dodge: "Oh, you're just as addicted to NOT drinking as I am to drinking!"

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  44. And I'll note one more time: If my analysis is wrong, then it is possible I am being snide and condescending. But if my analysis is right, then I am actually being helpful.

    For your amusement and further enragement, here is Eric Voegelin on ideology.

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  45. "I'm not even going to bother arguing this point, because Brian Doherty already embarrassed you on this issue over a year ago when you weren't even able to respond to his rebuttal on your own blog."

    Well, no, the "evidence" Brian cited wasn't even worth addressing. Go read the passages in question for yourself: none of them is remotely an instance of Polanyi "worshipping" the primitive.

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  46. Good morning, Dr. Callahan.

    Personally, I find your comments (yes, even (most of) the snide ones!) and the running dialogue between Elisha and you to be quite entertaining and informative. In fact, from these post/comments, I have discovered several authors whom I need to read and study -- some from you and some from Elisha. "Thank you!" to the both of you.

    I understand Elisha's point of view (libertarianism), but I still do not understand yours. In an earlier post, I asked you to give me a better understanding of what you believe, and you pointed me to an article that you wrote about Oakeshott. That was helpful, but you had studied Oakeshott while you still held to anarchism, so I am still a bit confused.

    I do not have a good grasp of what you stand for. It seems like you believe that libertarianism, in theory, may have some usefulness, but not in practice/reality. Since we live in reality, it does us no good to vainly hope for the "truly free" market. Also, during the brief historical moments where the free market was in control, it led to abuse, not the liberty that libertarians so blindly trumpets.

    Is that a really, really dumbed down version of what you believe, or have I missed it completely?

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  47. Good morning, Dr. Callahan.

    Personally, I find your comments (yes, even (most of) the snide ones!) and the running dialogue between Elisha and you to be quite entertaining and informative. In fact, from these post/comments, I have discovered several authors whom I need to read and study -- some from you and some from Elisha. "Thank you!" to the both of you.

    I understand Elisha's point of view (libertarianism), but I still do not understand yours. In an earlier post, I asked you to give me a better understanding of what you believe, and you pointed me to an article that you wrote about Oakeshott. That was helpful, but you had studied Oakeshott while you still held to anarchism, so I am still a bit confused.

    I do not have a good grasp of what you stand for. It seems like you believe that libertarianism, in theory, may have some usefulness, but not in practice/reality. Since we live in reality, it does us no good to vainly hope for the "truly free" market. Also, during the brief historical moments where the free market was in control, it led to abuse, not the liberty that libertarians so blindly trumpets.

    Is that a really, really dumbed down version of what you believe, or have I missed it completely?

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  48. "That was helpful, but you had studied Oakeshott while you still held to anarchism, so I am still a bit confused."

    Well, one is always introduced to a new idea some time before one fully absorbs it, correct? I don't think you'll find me referring to myself as an anarchist much after 2006 or so. But you might also see this piece:
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/callahan/callahan162.html

    By the time I was writing that, I was seriously thinking that what I was writing applied to the me of six months earlier as well!

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  49. Comments are moderated. Just be patient: posting the same thing twice annoys your host!

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