Why Miner’s Rights Makes Me Not a Libertarian

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. [1]

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. [2]

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. [3]

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.) [4] 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.


[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.)

42 thoughts on “Why Miner’s Rights Makes Me Not a Libertarian

  1. Libertarian is a moral philosophy that eschews violence. I embrace the non-coercion principle because I believe coercion is wrong, not because I believe non-coercion works. It isn’t justified by the ends. I’m not a consequentialist.

    Basically, here’s what I hear you saying: “Democracy is better because we can throw out ideas that don’t work, while in libertarianism you can’t.” In other words, democracy is better because it assumes a consequentialist ethical system, and libertarianism is worse because assumes some actions are morally wrong, regardless of the consequences, and is therefore flexible. If flexibility and pragmatism is your highest good, then that’s fine. But I don’t believe that making things “work” is the highest good, if it costs me my moral virtue. And I believe that supporting institutionalized coercion costs me my moral virtue.

  2. I also believe that democracy is a form of mob rule. Basically, what you are saying is that democracy doesn’t rule out allowing me my freedom—so long as the mob approves of it. I find that quite disturbing.

  3. We must also point out that there are a variety of thinkers in the Libertarian movement. These go from anarchists to both liberal and conservative libertarians. For example, Ron Paul is against abortion, though a libertarian. IOW, not everything is perfectly settled.
    For most Libertarians, it is more an issue of moving government down to the lowest level possible. Miner’s Rights issues can be handled by state laws just as easily as it can be by federal laws, without over-reaching and impacting society, as many federal laws tend to do in the long run.
    Union protections given by the federal government may have seemed good at one time, but have now led to us giving unions control of Chrysler (never mind the fact that it should have gone to the shareholders), card check, and protecting bad teachers over student needs.
    It is “Democracy” rather than a Constitutional Republic based upon Jeffersonian/Madisonian principles that has led us to a giant bureaucracy that thinks it is doing us a favor by groping 90 year old women’s diapers. Libertarians seek to restore us to such concepts of freedom.
    In a Libertarian system, corporations are not given any benefits over any individual. We would not have unions broken up with violence as one saw happen a century ago. Instead, courts of law and local/state laws are put in place to protect people with concepts such as Miner’s rights.
    Is it a perfect system? Of course not. But it is better than most other systems out there.

  4. Your post apparently presumes that one way or another, miners rights must exist. Either the government will mandate them, or (in your view) libertarians argue that the market would provide for them.

    I don’t believe this to be the case. I don’t think miners rights must exist, nor that the market would provide them in a way that pleases you, if left free from government control. Why must they exist?

    If person X is employed by company A, then he agrees to the terms of employment. At any time, he may quit; he is not forced into labor nor can the company morally or legitimately use coercion against him to compel him to perform the task..

    That is the beginning and end of the relationship. If the company is a mining company, as in the example you’re provided, then they are in the nature of doing dangerous business. Along with that comes risks, accidents, deaths, etc. Those who seek employment from this company must certainly understand the risk; they’re not likely to be employed by such a company and guaranteed a safe desk job.

    And so you support the government intervening into this simple exchange and using violence against any company who requires that their employees (who voluntarily associate with that company and perform required tasks for due compensation) perform a task in an unsafe environment. From what source does government derive this authority? Do you have the individual authority to compel your neighbor not to require that his employee perform tasks that may be dangerous (especially if that employee consents to remain employed throughout that task)?

    You argue against libertarianism (and should be using a lowercase ‘l’, by the way) on grounds that it is a rigid system, not easily buffeted about by every wind of political doctrine. And this is perceived to be a bad thing? Libertarianism is concerned only with the proper use of violence against other individuals. I’m sorry, but I don’t want my neighbors being able to democratically decide (through a system that is “built for changes” and “meta”) that they want to confiscate my wealth, seize my property, monitor my mail, lock me up for not soliciting their permission to sell my produce, etc., etc.

    You want flexibility in being able to decide what is right and wrong. You want political (and thus moral) relativism. Me? I’ll take a liberty-defending, rigid system any day of the week.

    “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.” –Thomas Jefferson

  5. One more comment: Your article claims that democracy does assume any particular moral ideology. Rather, it just allows the people to decide what moral ideology they want to embrace. If that is libertarianism, that is their choice. If that is socialism, that is their choice. As you say, it doesn’t rule out a libertarian ideology, it just leaves it to the people to decide to embrace it or not. Thus, democracy is “meta”-ideology, and is therefore compatible with many different systems of thought.

    However, democracy isn’t meta. It rests on a moral ideology that is fundamentally at odds with the libertarian worldview, and thus necessarily rules out the libertarian worldview (contrary to what you claim). Why? Because it assumes that the majority can impose their moral ideology on the rest of us by force. That is an assumption libertarians reject outright. Thus democracy assumes violence is justified so long as the majority agrees with it. Libertarianism assumes that violence is never justified, except in the defense of life, liberty, and property. So your claim that democracy doesn’t rule out libertarianism, and is therefore a “meta”-ideology, is simply not true.

  6. If working for a company were a completely voluntary venture, no, we would not need Miner’s laws. The problem is that we need to work to earn money more than companies need people to do their work.

    If a company gave you a job where you would be placed in a dangerous situation, you may not have the option of just quitting your job. There aren’t a constant glut of jobs out there where you can just step into the next one easily without any loss of income. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid, and you and your family do not eat. So you work, even if it is dangerous, because you must earn an income.

    Companies can always get another person to do a job. A person cannot always find a job to provide income.

  7. Needs ≠ rights.

    You have need of a job, but you have no moral claim upon your current job simply because your options are limited. You can therefore impose no immoral mandates upon that company merely because it’s hard for you to find other employment where you currently live.

  8. On LDSPhilosopher’s concept that laws must be made based upon concepts of Life, Liberty and Property (which I agree with), there is the concept that Miner’s Rights can be implemented for the protection of Life. Just allowing a mine to open with no protections for its workers endangers life. There’s no reason under libertarian concepts that such a set of rights could not be set in place as protections. However, the big issue is to keep such laws on as low a level as possible, to prevent an over-reaching government to misapply such laws or to make them bigger than they need to be.

    An over-imposing law can keep mines from even opening up under any circumstances, thus preventing anyone from having a job. Instead of risking working in a mine, they starve to death from no work. We actually can see that with some extreme environmental and protection laws we now have regarding oil drilling, coal mining, etc.

    Libertarianism does not mean there cannot be laws. It means the laws should be at a minimum to ensure society functions well.

  9. How is the libertarianism espoused by Connor different than Social Darwinism, Upton Sinclair’s Jungle?

    At least libertarianism as defined by ldsphilosopher and Bruce assume that libertarianism “should” naturally create some basic social protections against corporate abuse. But Connor seems to be saying that corporate abuse is not immoral even in situations where “needs” are being trampled on, because Needs don’t equal Rights.

    That sounds really bleak to me.

  10. Ram,

    People can choose to use their life, liberty, and property in whatever way they please. Conscious of risks, they may engage in activities where their life is threatened. Should we have laws that govern how parachutes are made, when they must be deployed, what material they must use, at what price they must be sold, etc., simply because somebody chooses to go skydiving?

    The laws to defend life, liberty, and property are moral when they prevent others from aggressing upon them. If somebody chooses of their own accord to engage in activities where those things are put at risk, then they are free to do so. Government cannot morally intervene in those cases to protect people from themselves.

    Also: “sounds like” and “is” are often two very different things. Best we stick to the discussion itself, yes? My positions here have absolutely zero to do with anarchism of any flavor.


    You misunderstand me. I am not saying that protections should not exist. I am simply saying that they need not exist as an absolute requirement. You also define corporate abuse different than I do. If something is truly abuse, then I have the right to defend myself and seek appropriate intervention. If, on the other hand, I have voluntarily chosen to work for a company hat is involved in dangerous work, and I am asked to perform a related dangerous task, I can either agree and receive compensation, or I can quit. For if that company makes its money by doing dangerous things, and if the government mandates that employees be allowed to opt out, sue them, etc. etc., then how exactly is that business supposed to succeed and profit?

  11. Nate—One great myth is that we are free. Or, rather, that freedom to choose means freedom of choice. So long as we live in mortality with mortal needs, we have the potential of having to do some things we don’t like in order to meet those needs.

    Hence why I work a desk job instead of doing what I love.

    The difference is that, unlike true slaves, we have some choice about what brand of servitude.

    Now I don’t know enough about politics to comment on the rest of it.

  12. I think D&C 134 gives us good guidance on these things:

    “1 We believe that governments *were instituted of God for the benefit of man*; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.

    “2 We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are **framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.**

    “3 We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.

    “4 We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.

    “5 We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience.

    “6 We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men owe respect and deference, ***as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror;*** human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker.”

    As I’ve noted in asterisks, a nation must hold inviolable certain rights of man: life, liberty, property. But anarchy and terrorism are also clearly linked negatively to the establishment and protection of society. Here we see the positives of small government under the Constitution, versus the anarchic government of the Articles of Confederation, etc.

    So, while I am a libertarian, I am not an anarchist.

  13. Connor, your comments may reflect truth in a vacuum, but as Frank suggests, we don’t work in one. The other very real tactic used by amoral mine owners (in addition to forcing their employees to work in unsafe circumstances) was previously (before collective bargaining) to bring them into indentured servitude by providing housing and food through an economic system that kept them in perpetual debt to the “company store,” so leaving was not an option.

    One might argue that they could have avoided the servitude by never going to work in the first place, but that assumes mobility that generally did not exist prior to the unionization of miners.

  14. Ram says, “Libertarianism does not mean there cannot be laws. It means the laws should be at a minimum to ensure society functions well.”

    You have just empowered government interference. You and I are now just hammering out the specifics. Welcome brother. This is also why you are at odds with LDSPhilospher.

    Connor suggests there is no need to have a system that develops safe work places.

    Guess all I can say is “I disagree.” The fact is that laws like Miner’s rights have has a huge even overwhelming impact on miner safety. It’s safer to work in mines now then in health care, for example. (Actually, it’s not even close.) Three cheers for a system that worked, regardless of whether it was the ‘best’!. What have you got?

    LDSPhilosopher says: “[misquoting Bruce] libertarianism is worse because [it] assumes some actions are morally wrong, regardless of the consequences, and is therefore inflexible.”

    I was quite specific. Libertarianism is economically “wrong” because you and no one else has any idea whatsoever if it actually creates the good outcomes you (on a complete lack of evidence) claim it does. In short, you have no idea whatsoever if it’s actually moral or immoral. It’s just a clever idea at this point. Any claim beyond this is just narrative fallacy. Moralizing it (which, as I point out below, is easy to do to any side) does not change this. A governmental system that actually works is worth 1000 utopian ideas that do not – no matter what else is wrong with it.

    LDSPhilospher says: “[misquoting Bruce] Basically, what you are saying is that democracy doesn’t rule out allowing me my freedom—so long as the mob approves of it. I find that quite disturbing.”

    You narrowly define “allowing me my freedom” as “capitalism with no possibility of government interference.” Plus you are defining an electoral system via representatives deciding something for a society as a “mob” but have no issue at all with a vast minority (i.e. Ideological Libertarians) enforcing their views on others via a set of laws the vast majority think are morally wrong and unworkable. We could call either group a ‘mob’ at this point if we wished, so I suggest dispensing with such terms.

    In any case, we really don’t understand capitalism well enough to know if it really has – in all cases – the positive outcomes ideological Libertarians assume it does based on a total lack of evidence. (i.e. there has never been a pure libertarian test case, not to mention a long history of failures on capitalisms part based on some fairly good, if not complete, test cases that led to near rebellion if government interference was not invoked.)

    We could just as easily moralize this the opposite way and say “LDSPhilosopher is basically saying that free trade trumps all other freedoms, including the freedom to make setup a good or workable government, to create safe work environments, or to regulate trade as per the US federal and state constitutions.” Or we could say “LDSPhilsopher is basically saying he’s against the inspired constitution of the United States which was specifically at odds with Libertarianism at the State and local level and largely at odds with it even at the Federal level (for example, allowing regulation of interstate trade).”

    Do you buy it? Presumably not. Yet you are doing nothing more than this. Anyone can make a case in the way you are going about it on basically any position.

    What I’d like to refocus your attention to is not whether or not Libertarianism is “right” but whether or not it’s possible to even know this in the first place. A “Libertarian constitution” (i.e. one that outlawed all types of laws save the three afore mentioned exceptions) would be horrific if any of your assumptions turned out to be wrong. And it’s probably a given that some of your assumptions are wrong and such an approach, even if in the right direction, would need serious tweaks that you’ve never even thought of as of yet. So making it impossible to change the approach is going to be a bad idea. If Libertarianism is as golden as you believe it is, going with a democracy in constitution would still allow us to end up with a Libertarian society (minus the Libertarian constitution) based on actual experience.

    On the other hand, have you ever even considered the possibility that Libertarianism would ruin society and that our move away from it might have actually been the correct choice? It’s at least a possibility.

  15. This isn’t the nineteenth century any more – if you don’t like your employer, you can easily leave, and move to another location if necessary.

    “Miner’s rights” sound reasonable enough, and don’t sound too objectionable, but the basic idea is that an employer isn’t free to hire and fire who and when they want to.

    The reverse side of the coin would be to establish a law that said that employees couldn’t quit if the employer was trying to remedy the problem. And who wants that?

    Unless there is a freely negotiated agreement between the mine owners and the miners, telling an employer that they must employ people under certain conditions is a mild form of slavery.

    Suppose you don’t want to be friends with someone because you think that they are being a jerk. Maybe you are being a jerk too. Should the government pass a law requiring you to spend time with them anyway? Should you have to go to court to get permission to break up?

    “I hereby declare that on petition of one or more of the parties concerned, the obligations of friendship between Mary and Lisa are now formally dissolved.”

    If you don’t maintain “at will” employment, then what you are doing instead is treating employment as a civil union, that requires “just cause” to dis-establish. One of the problems with that is that it makes employers much, much more cautious about hiring new employees, as the unemployment rates in areas that treat employment like a civil union provide ample evidence. Such as most of Europe, for example.

  16. Just as there are moderate and liberal Democrats or conservative and moderate Republicans, there are anarchist, liberal and conservative Libertarians.

    I am not an anarchist, because nature hates a vacuum and will fill it with something else. The Articles of Confederation were the closest we came to such an issue. They failed miserably. The Constitution framed things with a little more structure and succeeded by placing the majority of government in the states and localities. This has made us the greatest nation on earth.

    The increase in federal power has led us to the problems we have today. We’ve over-expanded and caused an economic disaster. We will soon go the way of all empires, if we do not return to our roots.

    I have no problems with miners’ rights, IF done on the state level. The feds have no dog in such fights, as they should only focus on “general welfare” and not specific welfare. This ensures we limit the power of a coercive government. It is easier to change the power structure in most cities and states than it is in the federal system.

    That said, we should strive to decide on the side of liberty, rather than over-reach. Miners can strike, form unions, and come to agreements with the mine owners in many occasions without government interference.

    And in an economy like the one we have now, Mark D, finding a job anywhere is very difficult. I have a job, but would like to find something better. I’ve looked over much of the USA for a better job, but haven’t found one yet. Why? Because they are hiring kids out of college, rather than a 51 year old. So, just being able to move is not always an answer. I have more options due to college and experience than many people in the country, and yet still cannot progress like I want.

  17. Rameupmtom—I’m more than a little ignorant about political terminology, so would you be willing to explain why anarchy (that is, absence of a central ruling body) would necessarily equate to a vacuum?

    It seems to me that there could be anarchy with a more disparate governing body, assuming there was some unifying governing principle (such as a well-written Constitution) against which such a disparate government would be measured.

  18. True anarchy means there is absolutely no government. Each person must handle things on his/her own, or work together with others in a non-coercive agreement.

    The Constitution does not demonstrate an anarchic society, but a society where government is highly limited, especially on the federal level. All things not specifically given to the federal government and not expressly forbidden the States is reserved for the states. Technically, the states could impose a religion, or choose to allow churches to use public facilities – and this is how Jefferson saw it. Until the 14th Amendment, the Bill of Rights stated the federal government (Congress) could not establish a religion. It said nothing regarding the states or cities doing so.

    While many libertarians are anarchists, not all are. Many are more focused on limiting government, especially the federal government.

  19. Bruce, I promised you a full lambasting, but in the end you will only get a half-lambasting.

    Upon re-reading your post, it is clear to me that this is at least partly simply the way you choose to categorize the definition of the philosophy of “libertarianism.” I met with an old college roommate over the weekend in London, and he said he is a libertarian and then he went on to talk about how the British government needs to spend more money on public health. He does not really understand what a libertarian is, but he thinks it means, “in favor of personal freedom to smoke dope.” So, if he wants to call himself a libertarian, no biggee (even though he is not).

    You understand what a libertarian is a bit better than my former roommate, but I still think our definitions are different. Here are possible definitions that are all accurate (in my opinion).

    1)fiscal conservative, social moderate/liberal (rejects Republican party because of the religious right).
    2)In favor of smaller government than we have today in all areas.
    3)Anti-war, pro drug legalization people.
    4)Anarcho-capitalists (Murry Rothbard types).
    5)People who really enjoy watching John Stossel’s show and Judge Napolitano’s show but aren’t very good at expressing themselves and explaining their philosophies.

    Again, from my perspective these are all people who could accurately be described as libertarians, but category three might have absolutely nothing in common with category 6.

    Bruce, what you have described as a “libertarian” is really an anarcho-capitalist (category 4). And I have great sympathy for this group. I think Connor and ldsphilosopher probably would describe themselves as category 4 people. I agree with them philosophically on probably 95 percent of the issues. But I would probably be more willing to compromise in a traditional democratic sense than they would, so we may end up disagreeing on tactics. Just as an example, I think the ideal size of the federal government in 2011 is about one-tenth of its current size (in theory). But I would be ecstatic if government were actually decreased 10-20 percent and the budget were balanced in five years, as Rand Paul has proposed. So, theoretically I favor something that is completely at odds (apparently) with the tactical position.

    Anyway, I can’t get very worked up about your decision to categorize things in ways I disagree with. If it makes sense to you, that’s cool.

    I must completely disagree with your position on miner’s rights, however. I have to say that this shows a complete misunderstanding of personal responsibility and personal property.

    So, let’s look at Mining company We Dig Em. This mining company has bought the rights to dig for a silver mine in the mountains of Colorado. They have clear property rights to whatever they find in this mine. They advertise for workers and say they will pay them $10 an hour to dig. They need 100 workers, 100 workers agree to work there. This is a voluntary contract where workers are agreeing to give their time and talents (which the mining company needs) in exchange for money (which the miner needs).

    So, let’s say miner Joe Miller doesn’t like the work conditions. Let’s say he has complained to his supervisor, and the supervisor does nothing about it. Well, Joe Miller faces a decision. Is he being paid on time? Yes. If he is not being paid on time, he has a lawsuit and should sue. But he is being paid on time. If Joe Miller doesn’t like the conditions, he should leave and go find another job.

    It is completely beyond the bounds of any government on the state, local or the federal level to interfere in a voluntary contract between We Dig Em and Joe Miller. I completely and fully oppose any government involvement in this arrangement. I understand that government believes this is exactly what they are about, ie “protecting innocent workers.” Sorry, this turns Joe Miller from an empowered individual responsible for his own life into a ward of the state. I oppose this nanny-state intrusion in voluntary contracts with every fiber of my being. People are responsible for their own lives and their own decisions. If Joe Miller doesn’t like the working conditions, he should leave and go find another job.

    Isn’t this cruel? Well, what will happen if all 100 workers leave? The mining company will go under. It will either have to 1)raise the pay or 2)improve the conditions. This is the beauty of the market — it will resolve the issue on its own more efficiently and fairly without any nanny-state involvement.

  20. Geoff—one thought I had while reading your last comment. There may be more of a reason for government to interfere with something like mining, since the government does own the mining rights originally. But in that case, it would be better to simply revoke the mining rights from a company that is not mining safely.

  21. So, we lose our rights if we are leasing from the government? Would you agree that the government gets to throw away the First Amendment if we lease property from them?

    Our rights of contract, property and free association continue to hold sway even in these cases.

  22. Geoff—There is a reason to lose those rights. Mining is a monopoly in any given area. If we are leasing from the government, we have no rights except as in the contract, just like any leasing agreement, since the property does not really belong to us. So yes, if we were to enter into a lease agreement with the government that waived First Amendment rights, we would lose those rights in that case.

    Just like if I engage in a marital contract, I lose some of my rights to free association.

    Rame—I missed your earlier comment. So if “true anarchy” is the absence of any government, I think it’s a meaningless term. Why would anyone be a true anarchist? You might as well believe in government by unicorns. There is no such thing. Like you said, there is no vacuum of government. So why even have the term anarchy to begin with? To me, it only makes sense when it means a lack of central government. Unless, of course, you are referring to a temporary state, which this would not be.

    (And bear with me, I’m truly a baby when it comes to these types of discussions. I have a hard time conceptualizing politics and government.)

  23. SR, because there are true anarchists out there. They show up at every G8 meeting and throw molotov cocktails, burn police cars, etc.

    Most libertarians are not true anarchists, but are for extremely limited government. Beyond a military to defend our borders and courts, there pretty much shouldn’t be anything else. Everything else, they believe, should be handled between individuals via contracts and agreements, enforced by the courts.

    I am not that hardcore a libertarian. I believe in an extremely limited federal government, no more than 10% of all government. Then, I allow for citizens of states and towns to decide what level of government they choose to have locally. If LDSPhilosopher chooses to live in an area that is anarchic, that is fine by me. If another chooses to live in a socialist state of California, that is their problem to deal with. I can then choose to live where it deems me best.

  24. Rameumptom, you are operating under a very different definition of anarchy than most self-proclaimed anarchists operate under. I believe in government. Most anarchists believe in government. We believe in order. We believe in law. What we don’t believe in is the state, which is defined as an organization that (1) claims a monopoly on force, and (2) claims confiscatory wealth. Anarchists could fully endorse many government methods of maintaining or enforcing order, so long as no organization claims those two traits. Many rational thinkers have come to this conclusions, including J.R.R. Tolkien, Henry David Thoreau, and Tolstoy.

    No, most anarchists don’t believe in chaos. Reading your comment that for some reason has been approved, you associate true anarchism with riots, disorder, and violence. Anarchists (in the philosophical sense of the term) don’t endorse or believe that at all. I’ve met many anarchists who believe in coercive law, and who would even agree with miner’s rights. They just don’t believe that any organization can claim an monopoly on the enforcement of those rights.

  25. Rameumptom: I have no problems with miners’ rights, IF done on the state level.

    That’s kind of the way I lean as well. I think libertarian whenever it’s a discussion of federal laws. When it’s at the state level, I’m usually more willing to say, “Sure, pass that law if you want.” I figure that if it’s a bad or poorly-thought-out law, that will eventually become apparent because people will be able to contrast it with the comparitive successes of neighboring states that don’t have that law.

    That’s why, though, there has to be a very light hand at the federal level—because it allows the laboratory of states to keep running 50 different experiments, which allows people to have something to compare their own state to.

    Rameumptom: True anarchy means there is absolutely no government. Each person must handle things on his/her own, or work together with others in a non-coercive agreement.

    I’ve heard a different defintion of anarchy: Not no government coercion; just no monopoly on coercion.

  26. Reading your comment that for some reason has not been approved,

    I really need to learn to proofread my comments. I wasn’t complaining because your comment was approved, but that one of them hasn’t been. =)

  27. Geoff,

    I forgot to read the rest of these comments and still haven’t. But I got far enough to see say this:

    He does not really understand what a libertarian (guy in London.)

    You should look up Libertarian on Wikipedia. The term has a completely different (and nearly opposite) meaning in Europe. So this guy might have been right… from a certain point of view. 🙂

    I remember being shocked the first time someone (from Europe) told me they were a “socialist libertarian”

    I’ll read the rest later when my family isn’t calling me.

  28. Geoff,

    I’ve read your comment now.

    Let me say this: my post (and several prior) have admitted that the word “libertarian” has multiple meanings. We unintentionally proved this even more when you left out the European version. 😉

    Every Libertarian I have ever met has given me the short elevator speech of what they believe as “government should only have power to do these three (or four) things” as outlined in my post.

    I am fully aware that some of them only believe that at the federal level but accept that it’s okay at the state level. But then really is a direct contradiction to the elevator speech, whether they realize it or not.

    It’s not hard to see how this happens. There is some conservative that wants smaller government. They meet a libertarian — the ideological kind — who tells them that they are only in favor of government being held to three or four functions. The conservative, never really stopping to think it through, ends up agreeing with them because they are only thinking of the federal government at the moment. Thus they start to brand themselves as a libertarian.

    Once this happens enough, the word now must be understood as meaning both. Repeat this for other scenarios and we end up with all of the shades or libertarianism you mention.

    The funny thing is that when I’m talking to a state’s rights Libertarian, they still try to tell me “government should be held to these three functions.” When I point out that the constitution (which perhaps they think is inspired) says otherwise, their eyes pop out of their head for a moment. (No, serious, they actually do pop out.) Then they think about it for a moment and then finally say “I guess I mean *the federal government* should be so limited, not state government.”

    What I am trying to say, is that I don’t believe the categories you mention are clear cut since most people don’t really think that distinctly.

    Nevertheless, I’ll offer you a simple compromise.

    From now on the word “Gog” means this:

    Someone that believes that government, at all levels, should be limited to three functions: enforcement of contracts, punishments for people that performed an initial use of force, or for country defense. (Possibly also some limited public goods.)

    A Gog, tautologically by definition, is someone that *really does believe this* and doesn’t just say it out of habit and doesn’t realize what they just said.

    Likewise, a God is tautologically defined as someone that believes this so much that they see a constitution enforcing these limits on government as moral, necessary, and preferred.

    A Gog also believes that government *literally does not have the right* to do otherwise and is thus behaving immorally if they grab any power outside those three (four) areas.

    If a person calls themselves a Libertarian but doesn’t fit my definition of “Gog” then I am not talking about them at all. I have nothing useful to say (in this post) about them. They are not what *I* am calling an “ideological libertarian” which is identical (by tautology) to a Gog.

    From now on, I give you permission to take my articles about “Libertarians” and to do a search and replace with the word “Gog” and then read it like that. If it’s easier for you to do the search and replace with “Anarcho-capitalists” that’s cool too. I don’t really care what the label is, I care only for the underlying concept in question.

    If all Gog’s are always identical to “Anarcho-capitalists” then that might be a better term. But realistically I can’t use that term because, to be frank, none of the people I talk to that call themselves “Libertarians” would probably have the faintest idea that they are claiming (via their words) to be an “Anarcho-capitalist” but labeling (falsely?) as a Libertarian.

    So I’m bound by the common use of language. I will have to continue to refer to “Libertarianism” and I’ll continue to use “Ideological Libertarianism” to refer to what we both now know is a “Gog.”

    Hopefully this clarifies things. 😉

  29. Geoff says: “Well, what will happen if all 100 workers leave? The mining company will go under.”

    As for your points about Miner’s rights, I’m curious if you didn’t notice that you just repeated what I said in the post? In the quote above you used one of the same examples I did.

    I didn’t really acknowledge in my OP the fact that Libertarians (or Gogs) feel so strongly that “it is completely beyond the bounds of any government on the state, local or the federal level to interfere in a voluntary contracts” such that effectiveness isn’t even an issue in your opinions because, even if the democratic approach is more effective as saving lives, we should still let people make contracts without interference. (A point LDSP made too.)

    [snip – wrote a long response and now editing it to make it more comprehensible]

    When you say things like this, it is very absolute. You are not merely saying that it’s a bad idea at the state, local, and federal level to ‘interfere’ (whatever we mean by that) with voluntary contracts. You are saying they have no right to do this at all.

    But I would have thought you a constitutionalists and – if I’m reading your correctly, and perhaps I am not – I do not understand the Constitution as agreeing with you at all. In fact, if I take you literally, you are saying the Constitution is wholly immoral.

    Again, please make some room for me to be possibly misunderstanding you.

    But it is my understanding that laws always do put limits on voluntary contracts of some sort or other. How would you make a law that does not limit personal “voluntary” contracts?

    I suppose laws concerning state roads place very few limits on personal contracts, unless they are somehow associated with state roads that is, but even in this there are limits on voluntary contracts. Also, driving impacts all sorts of things indirectly.

    But most laws are far more direct than this. Zoning laws, laws about any sort of regulations, laws against drugs, against prostitution, against bigamy, laws about dueling, laws about easements, laws about governments power to take property for public use (we can here assume the original intent on this), laws about bankruptcy (as guaranteed by the constitution.), laws about being required to take care of the children you father, laws on slavery, etc.

    It’s very difficult to come up with laws that do not, in most cases, directly affect and limit what sorts of personal voluntary contracts one can make.

    Further, the Constitution does allow for congress to make laws regulating interstate trade, even under the original interpretation. That ‘commerce clause’ has been stretched beyond limit at this point, but mines, being (without a doubt) international (and thus interstate) commerce, would certainly fall under congresses purview here.

    And even if that weren’t true, the Constitution is rather explicit about leaving such powers (if not taken by the Federal government) to the states. Under the original Constitution there is no doubt whatsoever that state and local governments had the very powers you claim they do not.

    So I do not see how your statement can be taken as anything but a claim that the Constitution is immoral. This may not be what you really believe, but I’d need further explanation to understand what you are really trying to say.

    Plus, I’m listening to Waking the Giant right now. In practice, the Constitution does not seem to have ever been interpreted as a Libertarian (Gog) document at all. I lost count of the counter examples in early American history. So based on precedent I don’t think there is any doubt that government under the Constitution always was understood as having broad power and authority in matters such as these. Miner’s Rights seems rather innocuous by comparison to the real powers the original constitution seem to have granted the government at all levels. And even if we were to agree that they shouldn’t exist at the Federal level, you would still be at odds with the Constitution in your claim that the state government has no such rights.

    In fact, original the Constitution left the states such broad authority that the Mormons tried to setup their state government as a Church hierarchy. It got rejected, but at the time there was an open question even on an extreme case like that because states were in fact understood as being able to set themselves up as they saw fit and make laws as they saw fit other than the narrow band allowed by the Federal government.

    So I am really struggling to understand you statement as anything but a direct attack on the Constitutional government that we have. Is that correct? Or were you using hyperbole only? Did you really not mean what you said?

  30. Bruce, I am sorry, but you must be reading the Constitution of another country. Could you please point to me in the existing Constitution of the United States where it says Congress may enter into the world of private employment contracts and interfere with the decisions of individual employers and employees?

    Well, you will of course find nothing like this in the actual Constitution. In fact, you will find the exact opposite, which is that these types of decisions are left to the states and the people. The Constitution gives Congress certain enumerated powers and says everything except these powers are left to the states and the people. The implication is that people can decide what kinds of contracts they want to enter into, but there is a possible implication on state interference. Except that there wasn’t. Look up a Supreme Court case called “Lochner v New York.” In this case, the Supreme Court in 1905 decided against New York state trying to set up rules regulating working hours. The Supremes decided that such rules violated “liberty of contract,” which is exactly the point of my mining example. In fact, courts after Lochner turned down exactly the type of legislation you are suggesting for miners because it interferes with the rights of employees and employers to decide on their own under what terms they will deal with each other. It specifically denies states the ability to interfere with liberty of contract.

    Lochner was overturned (wrongly) during the New Deal years as FDR packed the Supreme Court with people who no longer cared about the Constitution and what it actually says. These are the people who gave us the ridiculous Wickard case in which the court says somebody growing wheat for his own consumption is affecting interstate commerce. This directly contradicts the purpose of the interstate commerce clause, which was to permit the feds, in extremely limited circumstances, to help facilitate commerce between the states. If the feds can stop a person from growing wheat for his own consumption, claiming it is “interstate commerce,” then every single transaction is interstate commerce, making the phrase meaningless. We are about to see Obamacare overturned because people are beginning to realize the danger of allowing such an expansive view of interstate commerce.

    So Bruce, I’m not sure what book you are reading about the Constitution, but you may want to look up the Lochner case. It directly supports my view.

  31. Bruce, you write:

    “And even if that weren’t true, the Constitution is rather explicit about leaving such powers (if not taken by the Federal government) to the states. Under the original Constitution there is no doubt whatsoever that state and local governments had the very powers you claim they do not.

    So I do not see how your statement can be taken as anything but a claim that the Constitution is immoral. This may not be what you really believe, but I’d need further explanation to understand what you are really trying to say.”

    The “Lochner” case clearly contradicts your position. Here is why:

    1)Your position is that I must think the Constitution is immoral if it supports workers’ rights to form their own contracts with employers without state interference. The implication is that no reasonable person could think this way. But five Supreme Court judges did think this way, and the precedent held until 1937. So, clearly there is room to interpret the Constitution as favoring liberty of contract.

    2)You will of course counter that “Lochner” was overturned. This is part of the normal ebb and flow of constitutional law. “Separate but equal” was part of the Constitution (according to the judges) for decades, until it was overturned. It is not impossible to see a scenario where “liberty of contract” becomes the law of the land again. It may even happen in the next decade (I am not predicting this, but it is possible). Two liberal justices are on the edge of retiring. A conservative winning in 2012 could in theory bring a very conservative court with 6-7 votes in favor of overturning many of the most ridiculous Supreme Court decisions, including “Wickard” and “West Coast Hotel v Parrish,” which overturned “Lochner.”

  32. “So, clearly there is room to interpret the Constitution as favoring liberty of contract.”


    I think you may have misunderstood my question, which was purely conceptual and limited to fishing for information out of you to understand your point better. You read it as an attack and responded by trying to ‘win the war.’ Which, unfortunately, left me without the ability to make sense of your position.

    For the sake of argument — and perhaps this will clarify my question to you — pretend like the scenario you outline above takes place. The supreme court shifts and does a drastic reinterpretation of the constitution in favor of what you are calling ‘liberty of contract.’ Pretend it’s a total coup: the supreme court now interprets the constitution as meaning no level of government being able to *limit* (i.e. interfere) with it. No level. Not federal, not state, not local.

    You limited your example with Lochner to only what you are calling ‘workers’ rights.’

    My question to you was much more broad: what laws could governments make? What types of laws don’t limit a persons ability to make certain kinds of contracts? Please be specific, because I can think of precious few.

    Simply reinterpret the constitution via activist judges to be against ‘workers’ rights’ is one thing. That’s very limited in scope. Reinterpreting the Constitution to outlaw any law that limits the types of contracts a person can enter into is *way* larger.. In fact, it’s so large it’s hard to even wrap my mind around it. It’s hard to see what use ‘legislature’ would even be any more. We could, perhaps, even send all of Congress (and all state legislatures) home after their first session is complete.

    My point here is that while there have been varied interpretations of the Constitution over time due in part to ambiguity and in part to activist judges, I do not see any case at all for imagining the ‘original intent’ of the Constitution as a fully Libertarian (Gog) Constitution. There is overwhelming evidence that it was always – right from the very start – allowing both federal and state governments the broad power of law making which was – right from the start – interpreted as allowing laws that would limit what types of contracts could be made.

    For the moment, let’s just stay at the state level because it’s more obvious there. States originally had near total rights to make laws as they saw fit without federal interference. Article 1 section 10 places very few limits on state power. Then we throw in Amendment 10: Powers of the States and People which reads “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    I do not doubt that over the years the original intent of this passage has been reinterpreted to place limits on state law making. Obviously – OBVIOUSLY that is the case.

    Whether or not we can reinterpret the Constitution on the single issue of worker’s rights is not the issue. The issue is if there is really any doubt whatsoever that the Constitution, as original intended, was a Libertarian (Gog) document. It clearly wasn’t. It left broad law making power to the states and even fairly broad law making power to the federal government. Law making is just shy of being synonymous with limiting what types of personal contracts one can enter into.

    We know that states originally had the power to, for example, out law fornication, prostitution, etc. There may have been a blind eye turned most (but not all) of the time, but that isn’t the point. The point is that governments were perceived under the Constitution as having power to limit certain types of personal contracts. They have *always* been understood to have that sort of power at the state level.

    As far as original intent goes, the Constitution has *never* in its entire history ever come close to being perceived as not allowing law makers to have the power to limit some types of personal contracts. It has always just been a given that law makers have some power over personal contracts. (That’s what laws are.)

    Even during the Lochner era (which, mind you, was at odds with the original interpretation of the Constitution as the Federal Constitution did not original have power over the state and it was really only the 14th amendment which wasn’t until 1868 that changed that and became the basis for Lochner in 1905!) Peckham, giving the courts opinion, acknowledged that governments *did* have some rights to abridge or put limits on personal contracts. So even the Lochner era was not a Libertarian (Gog) interpretation of the Constitution.

    Further, it seems obvious to me that Lochner was a statement that governments didn’t have rights to limit ‘liberty of contract.’ But the *only* way this was ever enforced was when dealing with workers’ rights. It was not even perceived as applying to other types of limits on contracts. Did it, for example, outlaw the state laws on fornication or bigamy? Did it outlaw bankruptcy? (Obviously it couldn’t have due to article 1 section 8.) Did it outlaw zoning laws? Did it outlaw laws against prostitution where such laws existed at state levels? Drinking laws? Gambling?

    The problem with Lochner is that if they had been right, it should not have just been used on things like laws protecting workers. It should have applied across the board. But at that point, it becomes ridiculous because you no longer have a functioning government.

    Lochner also ignored precedents like Sunday Trading laws and Usury laws. (A point Holmes, the dissent made.) Lochner *did not* stop legislative branches power over limiting contracts. What it did was limit legislative branches over one narrow sort of (and extremely ill defined) type of limit: namely workers’ rights.

    But none of this is the point: the point is that you seem to be only in favor of the Constitution if interpreted from 1905 to 1937. Original and current interpretations you seem to think immoral. Is that correct?

    I’m not trying to set a trap here. I personally don’t care if the original constitution was ‘immoral’ or not. I think it was a deeply flawed document at the time, personally. It took a while to hammer some things out.

    I’m totally fine with you believing the Constitution originally didn’t protect ‘liberty of contract’ and thus was missing a fundamentally moral principle required for good government. But I would like for you to state that and stop beating around the bush.

  33. Geoff,

    I am thinking about my post above and I’d like to change the language of the question a bit:

    Instead of asking “do you think the Constitution is immoral…” let’s ask it this way which I hope is less emotionally charged.

    Is your position that from the Constitution’s inception to 1905 (when Lochner reinterpreted the 14th amendment as implicitly containing ‘liberty of contract’) that the constitution’s common *interpretation* — which we know allowed states law making authority like Sunday Trading laws and Usury rights (as well as many others) that did limit contracts — was advocating a power to government that government can’t morally hold?

    I am not trying to argue with you here (at the moment anyhow.) I’m assessing if you really mean your statement as absolutely as you do or if you were using hyperbole. I have no interest in responding to what you literally said (in future posts) if it’s not also what you literally meant. We all exaggerate our positions at times. But your claim does put you at odds with how probably all but one or two of the founding fathers interpreted the constitution and definitely at odds with the way the courts interpreted it up to 1905 and then after 1937. And even at odds between those dates on non-worker’s rights issues. So I think asking for clarification is in order here as to the limits of your statement, if any.

    I see no issue with you saying that, yes, you disagreed with the common (and court) interpretation and instead agree with Thomas Jefferson’s interpretation, or something like that.

  34. As usual, I came to the conversation after it died. But I was disappointed that no one addressed Bruce’s main point from the OP, which was that libertarianism relies on the narrative fallacy.

    …Can I assume that point conceded by the (wonderfully numerous) libertarians (particularly Gogs) responding? And if so, why all the rest of this discussion?

  35. jstrick, no, the point is not conceded. Bruce contradicts the point in his very own post. As I mentioned to him, most libertarians, the vast majority, would take 1890s Americas as a wonderful, vibrant libertarian society. This society was clearly more prosperous than the American society of past years; workers safety had improved immeasurably; the United States had gone amazingly quickly from an agrarian to industrial society in the space of a few decades; people were very free compared to today in the sense that the federal government did not interfere in their lives for the most part; living standards were improving, child mortality was decreasing, by all measures 1890s America without any serious government involvement was a much better, safer, more prosperous place than 1860s or 1870s America. And, most importantly, America had been at peace for 30 years with no real wars. Of course this changed quickly. Progressives banged the war drums for imperial expansion, they demanded government interference in one industry after another, they led us to the unnecessary World War 1, where they confiscated entire industries and threw dissenters in jail. The contrast could not be more clear: a libertarian society brought prosperity, peace and progress while a progressive society brought government interference, a loss of civil liberties, confiscation, war, death and destruction. Narrative fallacy? Not even close.

    There is one other example of note: Hong Kong, which also had a libertarian society from the 19th century until the 1960s. Again, progress, peace, prosperity amidst a very poor continent. Hong Kong still may be the most free place in the world in economic terms. And workers rights and conditions improved in both locations through the free market. As society prospered, it was impossible for companies to keep wages low and working conditions bad. The best solution to all of these problems is always allowing the marketplace to thrive.

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