I was in an MSHA class this week and one of the subjects is a Federal laws passed called “miner’s rights.” Essentially its a law that guarantees that a company cannot fire or harass a person if he or she, in good faith, refuses to work in an unsafe environment. Likewise, the laws protect a person if they file a complaint on their company, or testify against their own company in a court. The instructor of our class mentioned that he had testified in court against his own company 8 times and has filed complaints against his own company 4 times and that he had no fear of reprisal due to these laws.
I confess I think laws like Miner’s Rights are a good thing. In fact, I think they are a great thing. Laws like Miner’s Rights is one of many reason why I can’t be an ideological Libertarian. From a purely ideological point of view, Libertarianism believes that government (and therefore laws) should only provide enforcement of contracts, punishments for people that performed an initial use of force, or for country defense. Sometimes they do throw in some very limited public goods. Sometimes they claim there is no need even for government owned fire engines and that the private sector can handle it better.
Such a philosophy would be against “Miner’s Rights” on the grounds that it’s unnecessary because capitalism will create equivalent or better regulations and environments on their own without government interference. For example, the mining companies will be forced to introduce their own superior safety standards and create their own ‘miner’s rights’ that they enforce internally because it’s the only way they can get the best talent to work for them. If they don’t, they can’t compete and they go out of business.
I confess, I just don’t believe it.
Libertarianism and Narrative Fallacy
My ideological libertarian friend used to always insist that things like “Miner’s Rights” would happen on their own if we just avoided letting the government screw it up. When I would point out historical counter examples – and for historical mines, that’s, um, all of them – he would always counter with one of two categories of answers. He’d either claim that capitalism was on its way to fixing the problem on its own when the government interfered with something inferior (thereby screwing up the superior solution that was on its way) or he’d claim that the failures in the past were actually caused by government interference. (i.e. perhaps due to the existence of the Fed or some such, some chain of logic would terminate with the failure of capitalism to come up with Miner’s Rights. Has we just not created the Fed, the Miner’s Rights we’d enjoy today in the private sector would be better than what the government is requiring today.)
These two counter narratives he used fit all situations because there has never been a government that was purely libertarian. Since all governments – historical or present – have interfered with capitalism in various degrees there was always some government interference going on for him to blame the problems on. Since narratives are easy to vary explanations, it was just a given he could come up with some reason why capitalism had never even once failed to beat out government interference.
Now of course one could just as easily come up with a narrative fallacy as to why it was actually capitalism that had caused the same failures. And indeed, that is why we have government interference in the first place! It’s because such narratives of the failures of capitalism – informed by actual failures – led to public outcry for government interference. We have the government we demanded. 
But for all I know, he might be right. Maybe if we didn’t make “miner’s rights” laws protecting workers safety as well as stop all government interference, even better Miner’s Rights would naturally evolve out of capitalism due to the invisible hand. Perhaps. There is no rational basis for me to assess such a proposition. There isn’t even a good basis for me to assess the probability of such a proposition. 
So does this mean there is no way to choose between the two narratives since both are just narrative fallacies?
The Smack Down: ‘Standard Democracy’ vs. Libertarianism
Geoff once suggested to me that I’m over analyzing Libertarianism. He pointed out that the vast majority of Libertarians would be ecstatic if we just rolled back to, say, 19th century American government. Heck, just rolling back to 20th century would make most Libertarians do the dance of joy.
I agree he’s right, but this seems like it’s beside the point because, as I’ll explain, I’m against the ideology itself, not the idea that we might be better off with less government interference than we have today. So what is actually at stake here is two ways of thinking (i.e. ideologies) of government and, by extension, two mutually exclusive philosophical approaches to government. This is true regardless of what the current short range goals might be.
One ideology – we’ll call it ‘standard democracy’ for a lack of a better term — is that governments by the people should be able to interfere with capitalism as they see fit, but have to take the consequences of doing so. This point of view fundamentally allows for the possibility that some government interference is good and even sets up a way (the legislative and election process) to experiment with changes and roll them back when necessary (though usually not with ease), keeping the ones that we perceive as improvements. This point of view says nothing about how much or what kind of interference is best. It just accepts that good interferences exist, or at least we have no solid reason yet to believe otherwise.
The other view – Libertarianism — is that it’s morally wrong for governments to interfere with capitalism because it’s always an inferior (i.e. bad) choice.
They Might Seem Identical From Appearances
It’s not hard to see that a person holding the Standard Democracy view might be against the amount of government interference that we currently have and may want to roll it back to an earlier (and presumably more efficient) point. Likewise, it’s not hard to see that someone that feel that all government interference in capitalism is tautologically bad would feel rolling back to an earlier date is ‘better’ than what we currently have. So the two points of view might seem, on the surface, to be the same at times. This is why many people that are really believers in ‘Standard Democracy’ (i.e. the power of the people to interfere with capitalism) sometimes label themselves, wrongly, as Libertarians. (Geoff, in particular, admits he’s only Libertarian leaning and not an ideological Libertarian. Therefore, I have no issue with his ponit of view anywhere within this post.)
Yet They Are Not The Same
Yet these two ideologies are, despite appearances, fundamentally different. When we are talking about ‘good government’ vs. ‘bad government’ the ideological question is this: does a democracy have the right to setup interferences to capitalism?
If the answer is ‘yes’ then a natural outcome is that we are at risk of ‘going too far’ but we would never want to make our laws rigid such that we can somehow avoid this possibility. The risk of ‘going too far’ is actually inherent in the process and is expected to be curbed by the roll back process, not by the perfect constitution that contains the perfect governmental philosophy. In short, someone that holds this view is really just a conservative that wants less government interference, not a removal of all government interference. The end result is that we all basically agree on the approach – conversations and liberals – we are just arguing over the specifics now.
But if the answer is ‘no, they do not have the right.’ Then the goal will always be to change the constitution to place limits on the government (via a constitution) such that it’s impossible to interfere with the preferred capitalist solutions that will naturally emerge. To me, this is ideological Libertarianism. This is why they want to limit government to a very small list of ‘legitimate’ areas of interference. 
Why Democracy Is Superior to Libertarianism
I confess, I do not claim to know for sure which system will ultimately give the best results. All I can do is tell you what I conjecture is the right answer. As my conversations with my Libertarian friend proved – none of my ‘evidence’ that I was ‘right’ mattered, because it could all be spun to fit either point of view via narrative fallacy.
What my Libertarian friend failed to realize is that this undermined his position entirely. Let me explain why. It’s the epistemological difference between justificationism and fallibilism. Libertarianism doesn’t just believe it is right, it insists it’s impossible it can be wrong. So it leaves absolutely no way to correct itself if it’s wrong. Yet the best we can say for Libertarianism is that it’s a clever idea that a) has never been tried ever, b) has no evidence in its favor that can’t equally be applied against it. (i.e. it’s all just narrative fallacy.)
We can say much more – much much more – for ‘Standard Democracy’. One obvious point is that it’s actually been tried and people tend to rather like it. But that, alone isn’t the reason we should prefer it. After all, I’m sure at one point people thought feudalism was pretty good because they hadn’t even thought of Democracy yet.
The reason we should prefer ‘Standard Democracy’ over Libertarianism is simply this: Standard Democracy is built for changes and Libertarianism is not. Democracy is a meta system. Libertarianism is a single rigid system.
Given that neither I nor my Libertarian friend knew the answer to which was better – and this is the one thing we could be sure of: that neither of us could possibly know for sure – it meant I was definitely more right than he was.
This is because if Libertarianism is correct – that capitalism will always eventually find solutions superior to government interference – a system that allows for changes and corrections will trend that way over time. (Perhaps over a very long time.)  But if Libertarianism is wrong, the worst possible thing you can have is a Libertarian constitutional government, because there is then no way to fix the problems without first adding a ‘standard democracy’ (i.e. the ability to allow for government interference) on top of it. But at that point, it’s just a standard democracy anyhow.
Put another way, a ‘standard democracy’ does not rule out the possibility of a system with no governmental interference, it just requires it to come about by the choice of the people based on actual use. By comparison, a constitution that enforced Libertarianism – if one ever existed — would create a government that ruled out standard democracy. If it didn’t, the people would be free to make laws that interfere with capitalism, or in other words it would be identical to what we are calling a ‘standard democracy’.
This exactly maps to the false epistemological idea of ‘justificationism’ vs. the true epistemological idea of ‘fallibilism’. We can only falsify our conjectures; we can never prove them right through some sort of justification. So a governmental philosophy that allows us to falsify things that don’t work will always be superior to one that assumes it has all the answers – no matter how well justified it thinks it is. This is why Libertarianism should be eradicated as an ideology and replaced by the idea that it’s necessary to allow governments to interfere with capitalism, but it’s also often a bad idea to use that power in that way so it should be limited – by the choice of the people via the democratic process.
 It was not lost on me that my ideological Libertarian friend was also a conspiracy theorist. These two due tend to go hand in hand because a narrative is necessary to explain why no nation ever chooses Libertarianism. The simple answer of ‘democracies don’t like it’ was an unacceptable answer because it’s really just the same as saying “Libertarianism is impossible to implement with human beings.” Therefore it was always some conspiracy that had seized control of the education system that had brainwashed everyone into anti-Libertarian view points that had caused the failure.
 Again, this represents another major difference between myself and my Libertarian friend. I knew we didn’t know for sure what the outcome of a Libertarian constitution would be, for good or ill.
 In this post I’m simply explaining why I’m against Libertarianism on economic grounds. In actuality, there are many other reasons to be concerned. For example, I do not believe there is such a thing as “initial use of force.” “Force” is actually an escalating phenomenon. If I smoke in a house next to you (and it’s my own house) and some of the smoke happens to waft over to me, you are exerting some level of force on me. But to make a law that you can’t smoke in your own house because of this is absurd because it’s so slight. (This is a real example from my discussions with my Libertarian friend.) To decide who therefore ‘made the initial use of force’ is actually to just arbitrarily decide who is morally right and who is morally wrong. Which is what the ‘Standard Democratic System’ already does. Therefore, the criteria of ‘initial use of force’ is nothing but a red herring.
 Consider what is currently happening to the economy. Did Bush or Obama cause it? Neither, of course. The seeds of what is now happening were sown far before either of those two presidents. One short coming of Democracy is that it’s short-sighted. Our growing debt under Ronald Reagan took a very long time to finally blow up. The problem simmered for so long that people no longer believed it was a problem. By the time it all blew up, no one realized Reagan bore more responsiblity for it than any president before or after him. (Though it’s still only a portion of the blame spread across many.)