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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 04/22/2009 :  03:30:31  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Michael Shermer goes a little over the top with his ideas about the "free market." I think some of the commenters below the article address the problems with his ideas fairly well.

Some of these problems have not been solved very well because people with these fantasies of "free markets" fight effective solutions.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter




Edited by - Gorgo on 04/22/2009 06:40:10

HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 04/22/2009 :  06:08:04   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Shermer's Big-L economic Libertarianism is just as much woo-woo as the stuff he rejects for good reason. Many skeptics have an Achilles heel. This naive belief in the magical properties of the Market is Shermer's.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13467 Posts

Posted - 04/22/2009 :  10:09:27   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
At this years TAM, if I remember, I will try to ask Shermer the same question I asked Penn last year at TAM.

I asked Penn if he thought that libertarianism should be the default politic of skeptics. Penn's answer was a short and sweet "No". There is no getting around the fact that many skeptics are attracted to libertarian ideas and ideals, and place themselves somewhere on a continuum that runs from soft to hardcore libertarian. The presence of libertarianism is inescapable at TAM. Their literature is in our packets, and they have a table. What concerns me is that I think skepticism as a movement should be apolitical, as much as it can be. Obviously, politics can't be avoided on several issues that matter to skeptics. But as a movement, we should be very careful about aligning ourselves with any one politic. Science, and not politics should be at the heart of skepticism.

Seeing the problem, Shermer has tried to make a scientific case for libertarianism. I find that problematic on many levels, not the least of which is that every politic is based on a set of assumptions that probably can't be quantified scientifically. It would be like me trying to prove that the empathetic drive that propels liberalism is so much a part of human nature that we should all be liberals. I think we should be, but I can't see how I could make a scientific case to support the underlying assumptions behind liberalism.

The danger, of course, is that if we skeptics embrace a single politic, we run the risk of marginalizing ourselves. We become the target of any group that doesn't agree with our reason for calling bullshit on something, based on our politics instead of the fault that we find in whatever nonsense we are calling bullshit on.

"Of course you would say that. You're a card carrying member of the ACLU!"

Do we really want to open ourselves up to that kind of dismissive retort? It's hard enough doing what we do with the labels that we already have. Why on earth would we want to embrace more, and in this case, political labels, that inherently lack any empirical scientific defense? That's why I appreciate Penns answer to me. He gets it. I'm not so sure about Shermer...

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 04/22/2009 :  12:48:28   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I don't even see how libertarianism and skepticism are compatible, let alone why the two should go hand in hand. As Dave loves to point out, libertarianism is premised on the idea that free-market consumers are rational actors. And if skepticism has taught me anything, it's that the vast majority of people are not rational.

But beyond that, I feel libertarians aren't very rational themselves. Like Shermer, they have this fantasy that libertarianism would solve all the world's problems if only government would stop regulating business. But history has shown this strategy to be disastrous. It leads to the most stratified society possible, with the "haves" dictating the rules to the "have-nots." Talk about widening the gap between the rich and poor. Libertarians would love to put up a high-security fence between the two groups. And they seem to always believe that they themselves won't be the ones freezed out--sick, poor, and competing with other people for a low-paying job.

Ed Brayton posted an article today about Dow Chemical, who is hosting a fishing tournament in waters they've made toxic with pollution. But, nice company that they are, they intend to donate the tainted fish to the poor.

One commenter by the name of ild explains why typical libertarian policies would inevitably lead to more of this sort of corporate environmental destruction:
Cue James Hanley to say that in his libertarian utopia this would never happen. Let me see if I can summarize properly: companies can pollute their own property with impunity - let them sit in their own messes. If they pollute others' property, well, then, other private owners can sue them.

Never mind that there is rarely any such thing as polluting only your own property. It often migrates off-property to surface waters, ground water or sediments, where it is a bitch and a half to clean up. Second, suing in such cases ends being a war of deep pockets - Dow would rather pay its attorneys than clean up. Third, property ownership is not cast in stone. Companies go out of business, declare bankrupcty... again, never mind that the same individuals who owned said bankrupt company can move along and start afresh without being responsible for the mess they left behind.

I would love to hear how these issues are addressed in your utopia, JH.
Libertarian ideals are so far from reality that they can be called dangerously delusional.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 04/22/2009 12:49:43
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13467 Posts

Posted - 04/22/2009 :  13:30:18   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well again, there are those who call themselves libertarians who think of themselves as fiscal conservatives and civil libertarians in much the same way liberals are civil libertarians. There are members of this site who probably consider themselves libertarian, for the most part. Like all "isms" they are some place on a continuum that runs from reasonably well thought out to completely whacked out.

I agree that anyone who calls for a completely free and unrestricted market, and would seek to allow taxes to cover only a military, our infrastructure, and a very few other things they deem as necessary to preserve their personal freedoms, are of the whacked variety.


Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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