Friday, October 18, 2013

Feminism is in an Abusive Relationship with Society...

...and it's the abusive party.

Out of 22 possible items:

#01: Feminism blames others for the outcomes of women
#02: Feminism blames others for the wrongdoings of women
#03: Feminism refuses to apologize for its own wrongdoing
#04: Feminism dominates the conversation, refusing to listen to other perspectives
#05: Feminism is more concerned with the needs of women than the needs of men or society in general
#06: Feminism is easily threatened emotionally
#07: Feminism belittles and insults when angry
#08: Feminism invalidates the experiences of men, accuses them of irrationality when they're not
#09: Feminism denies having said or done things that triggered disagreements
#10: Feminism has difficulty disengaging from fights
#11: Feminism retaliates for long-held grudges (and fictional ones at that)
#12: Feminism always keeps score as to who owes who what
#13: Feminism gossips and spreads rumors about others
#14: Feminism is impatient, intolerance, and lacking in empathy
#15: Feminism is hypocritical, criticizing behavior in the MRM that it itself is constantly engaging in
#16: Feminism has a strong sense of entitlement, that it is owes whatever it desires

Yeah.  Time for a divorce.


Galt is going mainstream.  And we're quite pleased by the government shutdown, and the more so by the desperate attempts by the administration to make it seem important, acts serving only to highlight exactly how irrelevant the federal government really is - Democrats, you're pleased that the Republicans are hurting worse than you in the polls, but what you don't realize is that your hurt is going to be longer-lasting, because while our pawns - mere politicians, and Republicans at that - are in danger, your king - your ideals - are in check.

They're targeting the more libertarian politicians.  We're targeting their ideas.  Who do you think is coming out ahead in this exchange?

A year from now, when all this is history, what are people going to remember about this shutdown?  The gross anarchy?  The looting in the streets?  The collapsed bridges and terrorist attacks and a bunch of other things which <i>are entirely failing to happen</i>?

Or are a few people - not many, but an important few - going to resentfully remember that the government posted guards at normally unmanned landmarks in order to prevent people from approaching them in an openly transparent effort (Ha!  The first government transparency Obama has yet engaged in!) to make the shutdown as painful as possible?

Those crowing victory should probably pay attention to the writing on the wall.  I'm pleased by these developments.

This is a serious long-term loss for the Democrats, a minor long-term loss for the Republicans, and a moderate gain for libertarianism.  The short term?  Is irrelevant.  That's their game, not ours.

The game of Republicans and Democrats both is to hit pawns.  The libertarian game is to hit ideas.  The internet has made this game, and we're eight moves and three major elections from checkmate on both the parties, barring any more gross stupidity or outright capitulation.  Personally I expect the statist sides, both Democrat and Republican, to continue with the gross stupidity, because I've always underestimated their capacity for it before.  I do -not- expect capitulation, but it's possible we might capture the Republican party as early as next year, if the right candidate runs.

Never interrupt an enemy in the midst of making a mistake, I know, but I'm not going to interrupt anybody with this.  They're too certain of their victory, so convinced of their own superiority, that even with warning this will still take them by surprise.

2022.  That's the year I expect the game to change.

Friday, August 30, 2013

We Borrow the Economy from our Children...

...not really.  But for those who insist we borrow this or borrow that from our children, who complain about being "wage slaves", let me ask you:

What have you added to the world?  You, who sit there with your iPhone and iPad and computer and countless other devices that represent millions of hours of labor of the brightest minds of our species over the last two centuries, devices which took thousands of hours of skilled labor to create - have you created something commensurate?  Have you repaid society?

Here's fundamentally the question: Are you adding more to the economy than you're taking out of it?  If the answer is yes - if you've performed the labor equivalent of the goods and services you consume each day - then maybe you're worth paying more.  But let's face it, very few people are any more productive today than they would have been a hundred years ago, and they're getting paid hundreds of times more for the very same labor, living lifestyles that kings in ages past would have traded for, enjoying the fruits of labor they never put in, from the antibiotics that keep them alive (extortion!  They cost so much!) to the iPhone they call people a thousand miles away to chat about the weather on (exorbitant fees!  How dare they ask for a contract to pay back the cost of the phone they sold for a fourth of its production cost!).  Very few people are doing anything to actually add anything substantive back into the world for the next generation to enjoy, and we're all cruising along on those few individual's efforts.  Some of them are industrialists, some are artists, some are authors, some are scientists, and all of them, regardless of what they achieve, receive next to nothing in compensation compared to what they add to the world, and yet we demand ever more of them, especially those of us who never contribute anything to the world except complaints.

So you're a wage slave, are you?

You know what a wage slave really is?

Somebody who isn't adding anything back to the world - who merely exists, doing trivial labor, and probably taking more resources out of the world than they will ever put back in.  Somebody without talent or skill, who does labor more suited to a robot, but who we employ anyways because, for now, it would consume more resources to build a robot to do the work.  A wage slave is -disposable-.  Not disposable by necessity, but by choice.  A choice to be nothing more than an automaton, a disposable machine that does disposable labor in exchange for disposable goods.

You could choose to be indisposable - you could use the internet you're so fond of complaining on to learn a craft or a skill.  You could learn welding - we don't have enough welders.  You could learn to do plumbing - we don't have enough of those, either.  There are literally -millions- of jobs in this country that employers cannot fill, because of all the "wage slaves" who refuse to learn something -useful- to the rest of the world.  You want to make more money?  You want to contribute to the world?  There are employers out there who will train you in a craft, and pay you for the privilege of teaching you, because people willing to -work- for a living are so few and far between.

If you're a wage slave, it's by choice.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Climate Change Advocates: How to Talk to People

Get informed about the matter.  Being seriously informed means reading all available information, including those sources of information which suggest it isn't as big an issue as suggested, or not an issue at all.  -Read the critics-, not just the critics of the critics, or you'll find yourself confronting arguments you're utterly unfamiliar with, and may in fact make people -less- convinced.

If you can't get seriously informed, -don't talk about it-.  You only do the cause harm by spreading poorly-understood or outright false information.  Be prepared to speak to skeptics, which requires knowing what skeptics -actually- believe, as opposed to what ideologues strawman them as believing - even if you're not wanting to convince skeptics, you need to be able to deal with them in the context of talking to other people.

Divorce the information and issues from politics, as several have mentioned.  Be cautious of bringing up potential solutions, because many are mired in political bullshit.  Some of the more politically neutral solutions include nuclear power (and to a lesser extent hydroelectric and tidal harnesses), switching from coal to natural gas (beware making the perfect the enemy of the good), and a revenue-neutral carbon tax.  Non politically neutral solutions include wind and solar power, "local" goods, and carbon credits.

Be aware when discussing the issues that all potential solutions do in fact have costs.  If you think a particular solution is all good and has no or negligible costs, you're uninformed about that solution.

Also be aware that many people who believe global warming is a problem -also- believe that the cost of doing something about it may be higher than the cost of letting it happen - again, be informed, and be prepared to address their concerns, if only because they may be in the company of those you are trying to convince.

Beware of the broken window fallacy - replacing a power plant is an economic loss, it is wasted resources.  Focus on -optimizing- the use of existing resources.  It may be better to let a coal power plant run and replace it with something better when its lifespan is exhausted than to replace it immediately; yet again, be informed.

Also beware of first-world or middle-class bias.  For much if not most of the world, the cheaper power that is coal electricity may be seen as more valuable than a slightly cooler earth.  You may be able to afford more expensive electricity - the fact that -you- can afford it doesn't mean that everybody can.  Treat other people's concerns with care.

And finally, this was written by somebody who believes that the evidence for global warming is dubious at best, and has seen quite a lot of the data manipulation that takes place.  If you can't be at least as respectful as I am towards those who disagree with you, don't talk about it at all, or again, you'll do your cause more harm than good.  Most of us skeptics became skeptical because of the blatantly unscientific behavior of ideologues.  Don't repeat their mistakes.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Feminism... its heart, all comes from one unquestioned axiom:

"I speak for women."

77% of women do not consider themselves feminists.  82% believe in gender equality.  No word, apparently, on what percent of feminists believe in gender equality.  Personal experience suggests "Very few", although they're all too willing to pay it lip service.

More, most feminists think most women are feminists, although very few women in the broader population believe this.  They haven't gotten the message.  Feminists: You don't speak for women.  Feminism doesn't speak for women.  It's a cancerous blight, a once useful and functioning organ that is now actively killing the organism it once served in however capricious a capacity.  Feminism, feminists - you are outliers, dinosaurs, a neoconservative movement that seeks to do nothing but erode human rights in pursuit of pseudoscientific religious dogma and a belief that society must conform to your own ideals of good and evil, whether or not other people actually have any desire for this irrelevant to your fervor.

Or, more succinctly: Fuck you, you speak for yourselves and shit all else.  Get it through your too-dense heads that nobody wants to live in the society you want to create.  By all means, feel free to create it, but stop trying to force us into your dystopian experiment.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


(Linked by Joel at Joel's Gulch)

Just skim through and read their "Strongest arguments."  They're the -weakest- arguments.  This is why the gun control crowd has been steadily losing ground on this issue; they're afraid to even admit the existence of the strongest arguments we have, if they could even recognize them when they saw them.  They're either intellectual cowards or hopelessly out of touch, or some combination of the two.

Can't fight what you don't understand.  We understand them.  They don't understand us at all.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Plot and Information Scarcity

Authors, please please -please- stop trying to drive plot with informational scarcity.  It's an outdated concept.  It makes even contemporary works feel aged.

What am I calling information scarcity?  A contrived absence of information.  If your plot isn't possible without disabling somebody's cell phone - your plot isn't applicable anymore.  What you are writing is not contemporary, and it certainly isn't sci-fi - it's steampunk.  It's somebody else's future.

And good steampunk can be good, don't get me wrong.  But you have to -know- that what you're writing is steampunk.  You have to -know- that you're writing somebody else's future.

Otherwise it's like watching improv theatre without knowing it's improv.  The context is wrong.

*Shrug* Tiny complaint, thrown out into the void.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fifteen years ago... father was teaching me to make gunpowder.

In secret, because we all were too-aware this could be taken as some kind of child abuse by a government my parents already regularly poked the eyes of.

Parents?  Be him, this Fourth of July.  Thumb your noses at authority.  Because THAT is the true American tradition.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Where Atheism Fails

This is where Christianity succeeds and atheism fails - the fundamental fact that every day of our existence we are fighting for our very souls.  Not in that vague sense that many of today's pseudoreligious people use - in the real sense that every moment of your existence every fibre of your being is making you who you are...

...we have failed our youths.  In particular we have failed our young men.  We convince them that their lives and futures are secure.  We've never secured the future for young men.  The future of every young woman has always been guaranteed - that has been the basis of civilization for thousands of years.  We tell young men, maybe we even believe, that they have something to look forward to, some sense in which their actions will have some significance.  And then we spend the rest of their lives battering them down into nothing, into telling them exactly how little they matter.

It's fucking psychotic.  It is the grossest kind of psychological torture to put a human being through.  Men, let me reiterate for you: You don't matter.  There is nothing you can do to matter.  You can set yourself on fire in front of a courthouse just to show the world how cruel and indifferent it has become - and you can't even matter through your own self-immolation.  We are so cruel and indifferent to men that no amount of their misery can reach us.  We reserve compassion in our society for women, and women almost alone.

You know what's fucked up?  I go to "A Voice For Men" and the subtitle is even worth -being there-.  It's even worth mentioning that men are worthy of compassion.

You know what's more fucked up?

How long it took me to realize that maybe I was one of them.

You are too.

This is What I Can Teach You (The Proper Attitude for Teaching)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Links and Commentary...

Link and Link

Short summary: The NSA's activities don't just stand to compromise the privacy of ordinary citizens.  They also stand to compromise the privacy, and thus the integrity, of government officials.

Legislators.  Judges.


How many prominent government officials who have publicly opposed the administration have had personal scandals thrown into public view in the past few years and been forced out of office?

The problem is that this isn't a conspiracy theory - the problem exists regardless of whether or not the conspiracy exists.  The integrity of every level of our government has just been thrown into question.  As long as these programs exist, the integrity will remain in question.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What Odds...

...would you place on a local police department knowing places they can go if they want to find dead bodies?

That is, in more clear language - how likely do you think it is that any given police department is ignoring murders that aren't explicitly brought to their attention?

I place the odds pretty high.  Indeed, it would surprise me if any police department with more than a handful of employees (that is, any non-rural police department) -didn't-.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Random Quote

"There comes a point in most men’s lives when you realize that you’re perceived as public property. Maybe it’s the moment you set eyes on your Selective Service Registration Form and realize your life belongs to the state, or maybe it’s when the manager at your part-time job asks you to carry the heavy boxes again while the women stand around looking bored." - Judgy Bitch, The Gold Digger Press: Understanding the Female Media Gaze.

This... is disturbingly apt.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


There is nothing so cruel our society has done but to convince our children that we live in Civilization, and that they don't have to fight for their lives anymore, and to keep insisting this to them while they face the truth every day.

And society blanches when those of us who possess the capacity for violence use it in defense of the essence of our being.  We leave our children, carefully declawed, to the tigers and have the audacity to be horrified when some of them come back with teeth bloodied from the moment they chose to bite back - but worse, we're horrified that they come back at all.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Response to Popehat...

Per Link, Ken makes a very eloquent argument about how stupid some butthurt PUAs are for complaining about censorship from Kickstarter because censorship is a more important concept than "They refused to support our speech".  He argues that it's just asshattery to compare a business refusing to act as a platform for your speech with censorship, a concept generally used to describe government stopping speech altogether.

Only issue?

As far as I can tell... none of the PUAs in question actually complained about censorship.  None of Ken's quotes, as unpleasant as they are, mention censorship.  The links he provides don't mention censorship.

...given his harsh criticisms of them for diluting the concept of censorship...

...didn't Ken just do exactly that?

Seriously, guys, I respect you.  But this post is, as far as I can tell, an excuse to say something bad about the PUA crowd.  If you want to criticize the PUA crowd, at least criticize them for behavior they're actually -engaging- in.  And if you do this nonsense again I'm going to stop taking you seriously.


Also, I disagree with Ken on the matter for other reasons.  I don't think the word "censorship" needs to be reserved specifically for cases where the first amendment applies.  But that argument doesn't even begin to matter when there doesn't actually appear to be a factual basis for his post to begin with.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Snarl

Ladies and gentlemen, we don't live in a civilized society.

A civilized society isn't silent while it commits the crimes our society commits on a daily basis.  A civilized society doesn't get to condemn men to punishments it doesn't even have the courage to acknowledge.  A civilized society certainly doesn't get to laugh and chuckle about it.

We don't get to condemn men, women, and children to facilities in which it is a certainty a high percentage will be raped, battered, and killed, while pretending we are only submitting them for prison.  We don't get to imprison the fathers of an entire race of people, to turn them into effective slaves.  There are black men in prison today, in prison because they were ordered to pay more to ex-wives than they made in a year.  In prison, where they are raped, beaten, where they lose all autonomy of self.  The way we treat black men in this society today is worse than the way we treated them a hundred and fifty years ago - we have made them -less- than slaves, because at least we -acknowledge- that we're forcing slaves to work.  We don't get to imprison the users of drugs that harm nobody but themselves, to systematically ruin the lives of people in the name of protecting them from the ruination of their lives by their own bad decisions.

We don't even get to submit the worst scum of our society to this punishment.  No matter what somebody has done, they deserve at least one thing - to get the punishment we prescribe them for, for the punishment our society imposes upon them to be -acknowledged-.  If we're going to put people in rape-mills, we don't get to be silent about it.  If we're going to deprive people of medical treatment until they face amputation, we don't get to be silent about it.  If we're going to let despised criminals such as child rapists be murdered in prison, we have to fucking acknowledge that we're sentencing them to death.

It's disgusting that we live in a society in which we don't think we have to, that we live in a society in which everybody knows what is happening to the Jews and laughs quietly to themselves that it serves them right.

I'm honestly surprised there aren't more murders in this country.  Too many of us fucking deserve it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What is the Internet?

The Internet is not a network.  It's not a collection of information, a graph of computer nodes, or anything like that.

The Internet is a limb.  A sense.  As integral to my generation as eyes were to the generation previous.  In a very literal sense, my generation would be blind and helpless without it.  In a very real sense, all generations prior to the current ones -were- blind and helpless.  The Internet isn't the computer I use to access it, or the hardware and software that permit it to be - it's an extension of self.

The reason the public is so defensive about the internet isn't that they're merely fond of it.  It's that, in a very real sense, any intervention in the government is an assault on their person.  Government censorship of the Internet feels no different from the government coming into our homes and cutting our fingers off.  When a state institutes a sales tax on the Internet, they're changing the character of the Internet - they're invading something very personal to us.

We're not giving it up without a fight.

And there's a fight coming.  The government has been rendered increasingly obsolete; the mechanisms of its power are becoming increasingly irrelevant.  The NSA scandals don't surprise me.  I expect far worse is going on.  The government has lost control of its creation.  The central struggle of the last twenty years has been between government and the Internet, and government has slowly been losing ground.  Don't expect it to go down without a fight.

Tor and The Silk Road demonstrate clearly and conclusively that government as we know it will never exist again.  Without raising a gun the world is revolting against the government-that-was.  What will replace it?  The next decade will decide that.

Don't make the mistake of assuming that the Internet cannot be used against us.  It has been, and it will be.  Right now we're winning because the model of government is at odds with the model of the Internet; a centralized authority cannot win in the decentralized world of the Internet.  A decentralized authority -can- win.  And is capable of horrors you cannot imagine.  Don't make the mistake of assuming the war is won.  It has just begun.  Institutions of power are already seeking to control the character of the Internet; Facebook has capitulated and is now shutting down critics of Feminism, one of many institutions of power at play in the world today.  This is the kind of informational warfare that will characterize the next decade.  And if we permit it, we are doomed.

We're at war.  Recognize this - those in power already do.  It's a war we can win - all we have to do is not surrender.  The Internet is as my eyes, my hands - and I at least will not surrender it without a fight.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Not Every Stack Needs to be a Platform

Okay, Google Chrome - what the hell happened to you?

I already know the answer to that.  Platform-itis.  The tendency for every technology stack to become a technology platform.  Everybody wants to run the iStore, or Steam.

Listen, people.  This -isn't helping-.  In a past era this was called bloat.  If it hadn't been named then, I don't think today it would have a name, so ubiquitous is the issue.

It's become the trend even in games - more and more games that come out aren't complete, aren't games in themselves, they're just platforms for modding.

Developers?  Knock it off.

And now I have to find a new browser.  Internet Explorer isn't it.  Neither is Firefox, which I abandoned when it started installing malware to my computer without any intervention on my part from -advertisements- on webpages.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Do You Trust Science?

Or do you trust scientists?

There's a pretty big difference.  I can illustrate it fairly simply: What percentage of research is replicable?

Less than half.  As little as 30%, according to some of Bayer's research.

What percentage of research is downright falsified in follow-up research?

Perhaps 33%, according to the same research.

Given that 5% statistical significance (that is, 5% of all studies -should- be false, according to the statistics used) is the bare minimum for most fields, this means somewhere around 27% of all published research is not only false, but unaccountably false.  Either there's a systematic bias that promotes publishing false papers, -or- scientists are consistently mishandling data in a manner than promotes false positives over false negatives.

Incompetence is one explanation.  The other is that a quarter of all scientific research involves some deliberate fabrication or mishandling of data.

Either way, the odds of something being published in a scientific journal being true is less than 50%.  The best bet is always to disbelieve what you read in a scientific journal; you'll be right more often than wrong.  Meaning that anti-scientific nutjobs are right about research, on average, more often than pro-science nutjobs.

Pretty sad state of affairs, that.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Face, meet palm

In the rare post where I comment on current events -

Government, what the fuck were you thinking when you asked DEFCAD to remove the liberator designs?

You've just changed this from a second-amendment issue to a defense-of-internet issue.

Congratulations.  You've just -guaranteed- the wide dissemination of this design.  The exact opposite of your intended goals.  Way to prove us libertarians correct that government is too stupid to get its consequences right.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Don't Retire, Don't Plan to Retire

First, accept one truth:

If you don't know what you want, money is of course great to have, because it permits you to get what you want as soon as you figure it out.  But there is absolutely no reason not to figure that out now.

Figure out what you want.  Pursue it.  Fuck money.  Fuck retirement.  Fuck everything else.  If you're spending your time preparing for undetermined desires, you're not spending your time figuring out what those desires are.

Work to achieve your desires.  Don't work in preparation for them.

In today's world, it is the mind, not the body, which produces.  You don't need to prepare for the days when you are too feeble to work.  Those days will never come.  If your mind is so feeble that you cannot use it to produce, it is too feeble to enjoy life in any meaningful sense.

Prepare yourself to be capable of producing your entire life, instead of preparing yourself to stop producing. Take fewer work hours.  Live a little bit.  Don't work for some distant future where you can be happy - be happy now.  Be happy today.  Those who work for the future will find themselves sent to the glue factory, metaphorically speaking.

Just don't use up all the years of your life supporting a society which hates you.  There's no point, no reward, nothing at all in that.  If you must be a martyr, be a martyr for a cause you believe in.  Don't martyr yourself on somebody else's ideology.

Monday, April 29, 2013


There are positive and negative rights.

That's not precisely what I'm going to talk about, however.

What I'm going to talk about is the idea of freedom.  What exactly does freedom mean?  What does it entail?  What can we do with it, why should we value it?  Yeah, those would be great questions to answer.  Not really going to specifically address them, either.

Rather, I'm just going to attack a particular and flawed notion of freedom, expressed in condensed format in a single phrase - "wage slave."  The idea that the fact that we have to eat gives employers power over us, that our society forces us to behave in particular ways in order to survive.

There are easy ways of attacking this.  I'm going to come at it sideways.

What exactly does somebody who wants freedom on those terms want?

Fairly simple: They want to be free of deeply negative consequences for their decisions.  Maybe they'll accept a little punishment, a little price, but they don't want that price to be too high.  What they want is for their decisions to be, in a word, trivial.

They don't want their decisions to cost them too much.  And by the same token, yours shouldn't reward you too much either, you should share some of your good fortune.

This isn't an Orwellian horror.  This isn't 1984.  It's A Brave New World, it's soma, it's mindless consumption and a trivial and meaningless society.  It's the other side of the same coin.  And it's not freedom at all.

Freedom requires, not just that you get to make some decisions.  Decisions are merely the trappings of freedom, the holy raiment in which it walks the earth.  Freedom is self determination.  If you cannot fail, you cannot determine your own destiny.  Somebody has already ruled out part of your future; they've mapped out a path you are not allowed to walk.

Such a concept of freedom bears as much resemblance to true freedom as a carefully controlled safari theme park bears to the jungle.  If the lions cannot eat you, you're not in the wild, you're in a playground, a zoo.

Freedom is not just the ability to make choices, but the ability to make choices that -matter-.  If your choices no longer matter, you are in no meaningful sense free.

So make meaningful decisions.  The trivial ones are mere placations.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Working at Home...

Captain Capitalism argues that staying at home is the ideal situation for men.

Actually, I agree with him.  More, I think modern men are, on average, better at stay-at-home work than modern women.

Why?  Because about half the work that needs to be done in the house, few women will actually do.  And the remaining half they insist on splitting, because doing a quarter of the work is the new half.

Cleaning and cooking are only part of the work.  Cars need oil changes and maintenance.  Yards need to be cared for.  The plumbing needs to be kept in working order.  Garbage needs to be taken out.  Drywall sometimes needs to be put up.  (And if you're a woman who will do all of those things, skip your complaints that not all women are like that, and just marry me.)

I just got back from a two week trip to a wall which is soaking wet.  Upstairs bathroom plumbing has developed a leak I need to track down and fix.  I've never met a woman who would do this - even my last girlfriend, who once broke a squirrel's neck to keep it from suffering after running it over (which is to say, she had absolutely no issue doing dirty work), left most of these kinds of tasks to me; she had no issue installing carpet or painting walls, but plumbing and electrical work were my jobs.

In a society in which there's no such thing as women's work, men's work has continued to be a thing.  So arranging things so that men aren't pulling double-duty only makes sense.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Fixing the Welfare State

If I said the biggest thing standing in the way of poor people getting out of poverty is the welfare system, would you believe me?

You'd better.

As much as the left rails on about regressive taxation, the -really- regressive thing in this nation is the welfare system.  For a single mother making less than $69,000 a year, on average a pay raise costs her money.

An unemployed single mother is better off than a single mother making $45,000 a year.

Why is this?  Because of the way the welfare system is organized.  Each benefit has a cut-off point - make less than this amount, you get the benefit.  Make more than this amount, you don't.

Around twenty years ago, this wasn't the case.  Welfare reform restructured the welfare system so that every dollar you earned improved your life.  Welfare rates started declining - and Clinton famously declared that his was the last presidency of the welfare state.

Unfortunately, these fixes weren't permanent.  They flattened the slope, but did so by adjusting benefits.  Benefits have since risen - significantly.  Which has recreated several "welfare cliffs" - that is, earning levels at which a raise will cost its earner money.

The community I grew up in was -filled- with people sitting at the welfare cliff.  Mechanics who refused to take any new customers, clerks who refused any additional hours, mothers who -did not want- child support, because all of these things would result in a dramatic reduction in their standard of living.  (Unreported income, of course, was a rampant thing there.)

The cost of welfare cliffs isn't just in the dollars of welfare.  It's in billions if not trillions of dollars of lost productivity from people who can't afford to make any more money, can't afford to do any more work.

The UK isn't much better; the marginal value of additional wages for somebody in poverty is 4%.  Because of the reduction in their benefits, additional work doesn't pay.

I don't care if you support welfare, or oppose welfare - what we have today -sucks-.  It's a system which -literally- traps somebody in poverty - if you have to make $20,000 more than you make today, -just to avoid being any worse off-, you have no incentive, whatsoever, to make a dollar more.

So whether you support welfare, or oppose it, one thing we -should- be agreed upon is to fix the broken system that exists.  A fixed system will cost us less money, will increase the productivity of the nation, and for those who care about such things, will improve tax revenues.

The simplest fix is a systematic overhaul to produce incremental reductions, rather than eliminations, of benefits.  The fix should ensure that, even after taxes, a person still keeps at least fifty cents of each new dollar they earn.  And it should require that any changes to benefits also update the fixes so we aren't fixing this problem yet again in another twenty years' time.

I oppose the welfare system, incidentally.  But if we must have one, I'd rather have one that doesn't make things worse for poor people.  It should incentivize the right behaviors, rather than punishing them.

And hell.  Maybe we'll actually see the end of the welfare state in our lifetimes if it doesn't primarily work to perpetuate itself.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


So, to get away from the utilitarian stuff for a bit, a bit of unmitigated optimism:

Link (I have no idea if this link will continue to work or not, but here's hoping it does)

What the hell is that, you ask?  It's a logarithmic representation of adjusted GDP, divided by population, over time.  I graphed the US, Poland, Russia, and Germany.

Guess what?  Regardless of the short term, they all normalize to a line.  The Weimar Republic, the Soviet Union, the Great Depression and the New Deal - none of them have more than short-term effects on the economy.  At best/worst, it looks like governments can seriously destabilize the economy in the short-term, creating massive fluctuations up and down.

Regardless of what governments do, in the end, they're irrelevant as far as the economy goes.  The economy "wants" to grow at a particular and logarithmic rate, and any deviations from that rate get eaten up in the long haul.  Which shouldn't really surprise us, because it's technological innovation, not government, which determines what happens to the economy, and innovations don't care about national borders.  As long as there's one place in the world where free innovation still occurs, the rest of the world benefits.  Free rider problem indeed.

The economy, it would seem, can look after itself.  I suggest social issues - by which I mean personal liberty, not the contradictory mess of nonsense that passes for social issues among most of the left - might be more pertinent to our consideration.  It doesn't matter if the economy will improve if you get locked in jail because some government official decides you are part of some Problem to be Fixed.

So - Enjoy the Decline.  It won't last, if history is any judge of character.

Utility Fungibility

Link raised an interesting concern for me regarding utilitarianism, which I'm currently doing a lot of contemplation on - is utility fungible?

Let's assume for the purposes of writing something useful that my last post doesn't apply; we'll assume utility exists in a quantifiable measure.  Should I, as a utilitarian, choose a universe in which I and everyone I love is tormented for all eternity, in exchange for a billion people living in perpetual bliss?  Is this a fair utilitarian exchange?  Should I choose a minute of extraordinary pain over a hundred years of minor inconvenience?

Utilitarianism, in point of fact, -depends- upon the idea that utility is to some extent fungible.

An argument in favor of the fungibility of utility is that, if some circumstance forced me to choose between two things (abstract or real, it doesn't matter), I would choose one.

An argument against the fungibility of utility is that, absent circumstances forcing me to choose, there are things which I would not exchange for anything that does not include the thing itself or a means of recreating that thing.

I am forced to conclude that utility is incompletely fungible, something which in fact already implied by marginal utility.  There are flavours of utility which cannot be freely converted.  No amount of sleep, no matter how good, can make up for a lack of food.  No amount of food can make up for a lack of sleep.

The utility function is no such thing; there's no one value which can represent how well-off you are, nor how well-off the universe is in terms of your values.  I can envisage a function which could -approximate- this value, but in extreme situations it would cease to present any meaningful information; should I prefer an existence in which I'm going to starve together in .0001 seconds, but that fraction of an instant will be filled with such utility through other means as to dwarf my life utility as it stands today?  What does that even -mean-?  The utility, whatever it is, isn't fungible with the utility of not starving to death, unless maybe it is - maybe I am strapped into a machine that gives me subjective eons in that .0001 seconds - but that's just it: There's some utility which -can- be exchanged with other utility, and some utility which can't.  There are, as previously mentioned, different flavours of utility, and they don't map to a single value representing how desirable anything is.

Another thing that suggests the non-fungibility of utility flavours is the existence of cyclic preferences - where I prefer universe A to universe B to universe C to universe A.  A>B, B>C, C>A - which do you choose?

A moment of thought permits me to construct a cyclic preference list for myself:
A: Restaurant with bad-tasting food, plenty of drink
B: Restaurant with salty (but delicious) meals, no drinks
C: Restaurant with boring meals, limited drinks

Maybe you don't find this preference sequence cyclic; I do.  Perhaps you can construct a cyclic list of preferences in your daily life, perhaps you can't - personally, I can, on a number of things.  In utilitarian logic, this means my preferences are irrational.  So I suppose it's a good thing I don't use utilitarian logic!

(Note, incidentally, that I wouldn't actually choose any of those options, had I any other choices.  A necessary ingredient in cyclic preference is a trade-off between different values, different flavours of utility.  In practice, I'd find somewhere else to eat.  Those are based on real restaurants, actually, and no I won't tell you which ones.  The actual cyclic preference list of restaurants with flaws is really long; the entire time I lived in that region I found exactly one restaurant that didn't have a flaw)


Picking the ideas of the last post back up again:

The issue ultimately comes down to this: The idea of "Utility" is a -very- crude and clumsy way of representing "desirability" of a state of affairs, desirability being both multivariate and indeterminate.  The "utility function" is an abstraction which serves to permit utilitarians to pretend that their philosophy can account for everything while not actually having to account for everything.  Can it account for love?  "Yes, it's utility input #17 in our list of known utility inputs."  Okay, how does love compare to having enough food to eat?  "Well..."  Okay, that's pretty hard, how about this: At which point should we resort to cannibalism if we're trapped somewhere with our loved ones?  Who should be eaten first - should it be one of the parents, or one of the children?  Should we wait for somebody to starve first, and eat the dead, or eat somebody sooner that that?  "Uh..." You have no idea how to even begin answering these questions in terms of utility, do you?  I mean, it's a bit of an extreme circumstance, sure, but you're over there trying to decide whether theoretical universe A is superior to theoretical universe B, can't you spend some time trying to figure out what your philosophy has to say about the real world and the circumstances people occasionally find themselves dealing with?

I don't necessarily take marks away from utilitarianism for not having a prepackaged answer to the question of cannibalism, mind.  I don't think any nontrivial moral philosophy has a good answer to those questions.  I -do- take issue with utilitarianism's implicit claim that there is a simple answer if you can just substitute in these utility values for your loved one's lives and their odds of survival and the odds of rescue and this and that and that.  It -sounds- simple, when you put it in those terms, but if you actually try to do the math, you start having to account for the unknowns and the unknown unknowns and you come up with an answer that, if you're lucky, has some bearing on the actual universe, but is probably wrong anyways.  In the end utilitarianism doesn't actually help you make any decisions; it doesn't provide any kind of tangible framework in which to evaluate anything.  It's like having the C specification when all you have to work in is assembly; you can sort of make your assembly code look the way you imagine C specifies it should look, but ultimately the specification has no bearing on how you actually code anything.  You're not a C programmer because your assembly was written while your were imagining how C code would compile; you're not a utilitarian because you think about utility while you figure things out for yourself.

Because nobody actually performs the math.  The idea of utility is an illusion, a handwave, a massive blank space in the -middle- of the map on which is written "There be mathematics here."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Utility versus Preference

My rejection of utilitarianism is as follows: Nobody actually follows it.

What do I mean by this?  There are all these people out there who claim to subscribe to utilitarianism, Scott Alexander included!  Yes, this is more fall-out of that post.  In this case, the result of more research on the prospective idea that I was straw-manning his arguments.  As it transpires, I may have been.  This post elaborates why.

I will recall to you, however, that Scott Alexander argues that people are irrational.  Quoting section three-point-one-one of the Anti-Libertarian FAQ:

Old-school economics assumed choice to be "revealed preference": an individual's choices will invariably correspond to their preferences, and imposing any other set of choices on them will result in fewer preferences being satisfied.


But the past fifty years of cognitive science have thoroughly demolished this "revealed preference" assumption, showing that people's choices result from a complex mix of external compulsions, internal motivations, natural biases, and impulsive behaviors. These decisions usually approximate fulfilling preferences, but sometimes they fail in predictable and consistent ways

Revealed preference is actually a concept originating in Utilitarianism: Link

So people are irrational only with respect to Utilitarian philosophy.  Which is because people don't actually -follow- Utilitarian philosophy.

Quick question: Has Scott Alexander actually constructed a utility function?  Has any Utilitarian?  "Revealed Preference" was the Utilitarian answer to the question "Well, given that we haven't defined a Utility function, what should we substitute in its place?"  The answer: Preference.

This is where our expectations on preference to diverge.  According to Revealed Preference, preference should demonstrate an individual's underlying utility function; to the extent that it doesn't, Revealed Preference is in fact wrong.  Scott Alexander argues that this demonstrates that people are irrational; alternatively, it demonstrates that Revealed Preference isn't a valid mechanism by which to reconstruct people's utility function.  The argument that non-utilitarians aren't rational because their behavior doesn't conform to utilitarianism is... well, judge for yourself.

Utilitarianism is sophistry at its finest; a philosophy of morality which draws its validity from the mathematical and logical principles it is built on - that isn't operating on mathematical constructs.  Again, do you, our putative utilitarian, have a utility function?  If not, none of those mathematical or logical principles apply: They're rationalizations for the behavior you want to engage in anyways.  You're not balancing value A against value B against value C to compute the sum utility of some set of considered actions, you're pretending your brain has already done all that and the outcome of that is that your preferences already do the work that your philosophy says needs to be done.  That's what "Revealed Preference," as an idea, is really all about.

So I guess my response on section 3.1.1 was off the mark: I was in fact revealing my irrationality, because my preferences didn't take into account the utility the different options offered me.  But it's a conditional irrationality, conditioned upon the idea that utility is the rational thing to predicate my preferences upon.  In practice, I simply didn't care about either the utility or the option.

The million-dollar question then becomes, however, given that preferences don't reveal an underlying utility-calculation node in my brain (which I didn't expect to be there anyways), what exactly is revealed utility, and how do we calculate it?

If preferences aren't revealing, then preference-based logical arithmetic is just building castles on sand.

Not that there's anything wrong with a preference-based moral philosophy, mind.  You just lose out on how official and well-reasoned utilitarianism sounds.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Freedom isn't a Value - More Follow-up

Elaborating on the idea that freedom isn't a terminal value, freely exchangeable for other things of value -

Consider, for a moment, that you have four choices of peanut butter.  Now imagine you can only have jelly if you give up your freedom - somebody else will make the choice for you.

Seems like it might be a fair trade, right?  This is kind of the way some people think about freedoms - that they're this commodity, which can be bought and sold and traded for things worth more to them.  And in a limited sense, they're right.  If I want jelly pre-mixed with my peanut butter, I can "give up" my choice between the other brands, because as far as I know only one such brand offers such a thing.

But you haven't actually traded anything away.  Your freedoms were in no way reduced by adding the option of getting jelly with your peanut butter - you were offered an additional choice.  The idea that you've lost freedom, because you've been offered a choice you prefer over the others, is an illusion.  Your freedom was increased.

Now suppose that the city government has declared that choice paralysis is a problem, and economy of scale will make things cheaper if there's only one brand, and declared that only one brand of peanut butter may be sold, and they've chosen you, yes you, to decide which brand of peanut butter everybody has to consume.

-You- haven't lost any freedoms, in a sense.  Supposing the advantages of just having the one brand are real, you've traded nothing away; your choice still gets exercised.  You traded away -everyone else's- freedoms, not your own.

Suppose they ask me.  Well, I like my peanut butter to taste like -peanuts-, so I opt for the "Natural" Smucker's peanut butter.  Okay, some of you approve, some of you will never buy peanut butter again.  Again, my choices aren't really constrained, I've really just pre-committed to a choice.  It's everybody else who gets screwed on the bargain.

Democracy doesn't resolve this issue.  It's the conceit of some statist types that if a bunch of people agree to abridge a bunch of other people's freedoms, somehow that's their right; to forbid people from abridging other people's freedoms is just wrong.  They wrap it up in nicer language, but that doesn't change the substance.


Now, all of that doesn't actually establish that freedom isn't a value, it's the forward - my basic point being here that the people who believe freedom can be traded away are wanting to trade away -your- freedom to disagree with them.  Nobody advocates that their own sacred cows be sacrificed on somebody else's altar.  At best they're willing to part with a few of their own herd for something they consider worth more.  Think of it as trickle-down politics; give up some things you want now, and maybe you'll get something of value later.

Which starts to get at my real point here: What is being traded away isn't the best brand of peanut butter.  It's the ability to choose the best brand of peanut butter -for yourself-.

"But isn't the consequence of that trade just trading away the best brand of peanut butter?"

No.  You're also trading away the right to introduce your own competing brand of peanut butter.  You're trading away the market protections which keep each brand of peanut butter high enough quality to maintain market share.  You're trading away competitive pricing.  Not to mention all the subtler things, like government indifference to the companies - do you think the city will stand idly by while its reputation is tarnished when a contaminated batch of peanut butter gets through?  Do you think it will leave the media unharrassed and free to pursue the story?

You're trading away a lot more than your favorite brand of peanut butter (or somebody -else's- favorite brand of peanut butter, as the case may be).  And that's just for a really stupid and trivial example.  You are trading away an undefined quantity - you're signing a blank check whose value will be filled in for you later.  Maybe you won't lose much in the bargain.  Maybe you'll be dead of contamination the city government refused to let the media publish.  Those are the two extremes; the point is that what you give up is completely and totally -unpredictable-.  If the freedom were a value, we could attach a price tag on what giving it up will cost us.  We can't, because it's not a value, it's part of the system by which values are determined - each of us individually making choices determines the market value of peanut butter.  And the results of eliminating this part of the system is unpredictable.

You don't want to know what you trade away when you give up something like free speech.

So no.  Freedoms aren't values, to be traded like common goods - and certainly not by people who are invariably interested in selling -your- freedoms for -their- interests, whatever the altar they wish to sacrifice your cows upon may be.  They're an integral part of the system by which values are assigned.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Government and the Free Market: Problem Domains

Another post falling out of my argument with Scott Alexander, this one concerns something which requires a little elaboration, and the use of a new term:


Scott Alexander argues my disagreements with him on Coordination are insufficient, so I'm going to elaborate on where I think he's gone wrong.

To use an example, he argues that cod fishermen never created a private solution for overfishing, therefore government had to do it for them.  My counterargument was that they had no means of enforcing any solution they could have produced.  In a sense, I agreed with him.  In another, I disagreed; he argues this is a failure of the free market.

He argues for fish quotas.  I agree with him.  He argues these solutions are necessary because the free market won't solve these problems on its own.  And here I find him absolutely confused.

I used the example of land ownership in my response, and I'll repeat it here:

Suppose we lived in a society in which land couldn't be owned, and you want to start a farm.  However, every time you grow a crop, somebody else comes along and picks and eats it.  How can the free market solve this problem?

...well, supposing a government does in fact exist, it can't.  It would be illegal to punish somebody for picking crops.  How utterly silly of you to even suggest such a thing.

The free market never gets to act on the problem, because the problem isn't part of its domain.  Crop ownership?  What? When somebody picks a fruit, it is theirs, that's the law.  They can pick mushrooms and sell them, they just can't sprinkle mushroom spores around and claim the future produce as their own.  And it would be criminal to sit over a field and bully people who try to pick vegetables and fruit that are theirs as much as they are yours.

That seems utterly silly?  Well, that's the way fishing worked.

The government does have a role, and a serious one, in dealing with the free market: It defines what the domain of the free market is.  It can do this by saying that land can be owned.  It can do this by saying that shares of the fish population can be owned.  They're pretty much the same concept.

The free market can't solve problems the government hasn't defined to be part of the domain of the free market.  (Subjectively, anyways; the black market solves problems all the time.  However, conventional logic is that the solutions to the problems of the black market are themselves problems to be solved from society's perspective.)  It's regarded as criminal and evil and a problem in itself when it does.

So when somebody, like Scott Alexander, tells me the free market didn't solve X problem, and the government hasn't made X problem part of the domain of the free market...

...well, it's just another case of somebody using the fact that the free market doesn't solve all the problems government creates for it as evidence that government solutions are superior to free market solutions.  I've written on this kind of tactic previously, pretty angrily, here: An Irritating Injustice

The Excluded Middle of Consequentialist Morality...

...suppose, for a moment, that we're playing billiards.  I hit the cue ball, which hits the 11, which sinks the 6.

Which ball caused the 6 to sink?  The cue ball, or the 11?

In morality, the answer is that the 11 ball caused the 6 ball to sink.  Why?  Didn't the cue ball cause the 11 to cause the 6 to sink?

Well, that depends.  Do you think a woman is responsible for being raped if she flirted with her rapist, who happens to be an individual who rapes anybody who flirts with him?  Is an anti-slavery activist responsible for his own lynching if he knows that he'll be lynched for saying the things that he's saying?

If you treat behavior as deterministic, and you treat moral responsibility as fully transitive, weird shit starts falling out of your moral systems.

In my response to Scott Alexander, and his response to me, we have a disagreement over moral behavior; he argues that free will is meaningless, and therefore we're all responsible to make the universe a better place, because we all share responsibility for every bad thing that happens in it (loosely speaking).  If you accept that behavior is deterministic, and that moral responsibility is fully transitive, he is of course fully correct.  His argument is completely absurd in such a case, of course, because I don't have any moral responsibility for disagreeing with him, as my environment made me disagree with him.  Indeed, nobody is in any sense responsible to actually change anything to make the universe a better place; moral culpability for their actions lays in the formation of the universe.  But he's correct even while he's being absurd.

When moral theory starts suggesting absurd things, when it starts suggesting things at odds with what we understand to be moral, it's probably not correct, by which I mean it is an inaccurate description of human morality.  The object of moral theory, after all, is not to invent morality - we already have it - but to define it, in something the manner Newton defined, but did not invent, gravity.

What do I mean we already have morality?

I'd have to refer the reader to a -host- of material on the subject.  The community of Less Wrong refers to the idea as Egan's Law, and to Adding up to Normality.  There's disagreement, of course.  But consider this: There's nothing wrong with the following moral axiom: "Planet Earth should be destroyed and humanity eradicated."  It doesn't contradict itself.  It's kind of... pointless, for a moral theory, and rather short.  You can form a moral theory based on this axiom alone.  Is that theory correct?  What basis can you use to say it isn't, except that it contradicts your notions of right and wrong?  Those notions aren't valid in such a moral theory; they're not part of its logic.  You don't get to import your own moral theory to prove this one wrong; that's not how logic works.

Unless, of course, morality isn't about inventing right and wrong, but discovering preexisting principles.  Where did those principles come from?  Evolution or God or social upbringing (which is just another form of evolution) or any number of other ideas.  Doesn't actually matter.  They're there.  They're the reason the moral philosophy is repulsive to all but a handful of human beings.

And what's this "excluded middle" thing I reference in the title?

It's a possible solution for the problem.  Either we're morally culpable, or we aren't.  There's no transitivity; no partial culpability shared with all other causal agents.  (In a sense we can be partially culpable, but this is a result of considering complex results, and assigning blame for considerations which involve multiple units of culpability; we're fully culpable for the atomic units of decision-making within those results, or we aren't.  An actor is responsible for pulling a trigger without checking the gun, somebody else is responsible for replacing the stage blanks with real bullets, etc.)

There's another solution which salvages Scott Alexander's moral system, at the cost of his argument: Morality is -partially- transitive.  But in order for morality to be partially transitive, we have to have free will (we have to be capable of making decisions for which we can be morally culpable), which pretty much costs him the point he was trying to make.

(Ultimately his point was silly from the get-go for other reasons, but this is a more comprehensive rejection than "Your argument only makes sense if everybody else if a P-Zombie.")

Friday, March 8, 2013

Response to...



0.1: Who are you? What is this?

Orphan Wilde.  Internet Libertarian.

0.2: Are you an anarchist?

I am a minarchist.  Loosely speaking, this means I think government should exist, but in a very limited role.

0.3: Do you hate government?

Yes.  No.  Maybe.
One thing to understand in how I approach problems is that I am going to come at the problem from angles you may not have encountered before.

0.4: Will this response prove that the free market always works better than government intervention?

My point in responding isn’t to prove that government is evil, or inefficient, or bad.  My position on government is that it is an inappropriate tool to solve the problems it is frequently employed to solve.  Not that I'll be presenting that position.  Mostly I'm going to be disagreeable.

0.5: Why write a response to The Non-Libertarian FAQ (aka Why I Hate Your Freedom)?

Because it serves a useful starting place for addressing the cases where reasonable people disagree.  And because I was bored and hadn’t written anything substantial in a while.

0.6: How is this FAQ structured?

Exactly like the FAQ it responds to.  Kind of.

Part A: Economic Issues

1. Externalities

1.1: What is an externality?

An externality is an unaddressed cost produced by economic activity; it isn’t incorporated into the price paid for the good by the consumer, nor is it paid by the producer, either of whom can be said to incur that cost.  The libertarian response to externalities is to structure the system so that externalities are paid for.

1.2: But aren't there externalities which libertarianism can’t address?

Maybe.  I have yet to see one.
The example given is of a homeowner raising wasps on their property, incurring a cost (in stings, say) on their neighbors.  However, the author argues that any solution is merely reinventing government.
Government is not “Anything which creates rules.”  Nor is it any agency which utilizes government to enforce its rules.  The argument used in the FAQ is that a neighborhood association is a defacto government – but this is not the case.  A neighborhood association, as described in that document, is an open-ended contract.  The neighborhood association can’t confiscate your house, or send its agents to spray your wasps with pesticide.  It must operate through government to do those things – maybe it sues you in court, or files an injunction.
The difference may seem academic, but it’s important.  Cities frequently annex property which previously was not incorporated; a neighborhood association can’t do this.  The neighborhood association is limited to apply itself to those who have given their consent.
More, there is already a comprehensive solution to these kinds of externalities: This is exactly what tort law exists for.  It makes no sense to forbid an individual from raising wasps, provided that individual can do so in a manner which does not impose externalities on others; perhaps they’re raised in an enclosed terrarium, much as some residents raise snakes and lizards.  You give me a regulation, I can find an activity prohibited by it which doesn’t impose any externalities upon others.  Are these activities legitimate targets of regulation?

 1.3: [Omitted; about boycotts, which I don't really care about either way]

1.4: Do externalities justify environmental, zoning, or property use regulations?

No.  They may justify environmental or property use tort law – that is, the creation of a legal remedy in the case that there is actually a problem – but they do not justify regulations.

2. Coordination Problems

2.1: What about coordination problems?

Here, we have an example about lake use; the example specifies a fairly standard “tragedy of the commons” situation.  In this case, however, a relatively simple tort law, permitting damage suits against individuals polluting water you use, would resolve the problem.

2.1.1: What about cases like wild fisheries?

The author describes how open fisheries cause problems, and points out that quotas could help resolve the problem.  The issue here is that “government solution” versus “private ownership” is a thin line.  (In fact, it’s always a thin line, it’s just particularly obvious here.)
Fish quotas are the closest thing to private ownership of wild fisheries we have.  (The next solution, ownership of tracts of ocean, isn’t politically viable.)  The author describes quotas as regulation, which in a sense they are, but in the same sense that government declaring that a piece of property can belong to somebody is regulation.  It’s simply less obvious because the thing that is owned is more abstract.
We don’t differ on what we’d prefer here.  We just differ on what we call it.  Open fisheries is common ownership of the fish population.  Fish quotas are private ownership of part of that population.

2.1.2: Cod fishermen never implemented privatization!

True.  They have no means of enforcing it.  Imagine a United States in which people didn’t own land – how would you go about implementing land ownership?  You can’t force people who don’t buy into your crazy land ownership scheme to comply; they have just as much right to it as you do.

2.2: But doesn’t global warming justify environmental regulation?
(This is a somewhat glib restatement of the response offered by the author.)

The short answer: No.  I am perpetually baffled by why people faced with tragedy of the commons situations insist that the solution is to move more things into “the commons.”
The goal, when confronted by an externality, should not be to regulate the externality out of existence.  The goal should be to move that externality – that unpaid cost – back where it belongs, on the people incurring it.  If a ton of CO2 produces $1 in externalities, there is a fairly simple solution: Charge people $1 for each ton of CO2 they produce.  If you can’t figure out how much CO2 people are producing from their activities, you have no business telling them to cease those activities because they’re producing too much CO2.

2.3: Suppose some corporation does something evil?

This argument is just another swipe at boycotts.  This appears to be straw-libertarianism, but it’s possible I just hang out with a better class of libertarian.  Note, however, that corporations are in fact organs created by the state.  They're the product of the author's philosophies, not mine.

2.3.1: Coke does evil things in Columbia

This is one of the more amusing things I’ve read, because in an argument about libertarianism, the author brings up a potential government failure.  A company does something illegal – not evil, illegal, there’s a difference – and nothing happened to it?  This isn’t a failure of the free market, because there are in fact laws against killing people, and government in this case, provided Coke could be proven to do the things it is accused of, has full power to do something about it; not only the Columbian government, but the US government as well.
(Also, a brief tour of The Internet will suggest that the author should really have checked the facts before this little blurb.)

2.3.2: The existence of laws demonstrates that boycotts are ineffective – if they weren’t, nobody would have bothered to pass the law

Here the author makes a -highly- misleading argument that 51% of the population is in support of any new law that is passed.  No, 51% of the -legislators- are in support of any new law that is passed.  (Well, the specifics vary by country, but you get the point.)

2.4: The government spending money on charitable causes is proof that people support that cause, but believe that private support would fall victim to coordination problems

It would surprise me if half the people who did support any given act of government charitable spending have even heard of the phrase “coordination problem.”  Maybe “Tragedy of the commons.”  However, these aren’t the arguments raised for government support of charitable giving; the arguments raised are in fact that people wouldn’t otherwise support these charities on their own.
This is a completely different question.  “Coordination problem” means “Jack would give $5, but it’s not enough to make a difference unless everybody does it.”  I’ve never, -NEVER- encountered this argument before now.  I find it disingenuous here.

Government isn’t solving a “coordination” problem here, it’s solving a “Other people don’t want to support the things I wanted supported” problem here.

2.5: Coordination problems and labor:

Here the author argues that the employer and the employed are on uneven terms.
The weird thing is, he argues that the fact that the job is more valuable to the employee than the employee is to the employer is cause for a forcible readjustment.
What the author -fails- to address is how that readjustment only readjusts part of the imbalance.
The author argues that the employee should have greater power in the equation; left unaddressed entirely in the argument are the unemployed.  The power adjustment isn’t from employer to employee; it’s from the unemployed to the employee.  The history of unions is an ugly one; they fought against immigration and the right of immigrants, against the integration of blacks, Irish, Mexican, women, and children into the workforce.  Organized labor doesn’t weaken the power of the employer; it weakens the power of the unemployed to compete with the employed.

2.5.1: Conditions only change after government makes them change

I’m leaving aside a convoluted argument that suicide is proof of… something.  In spite of the author admitting to not knowing what’s going on, there are several paragraphs saying what’s going on.
The author proceeds to discuss the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.  One of the odds things in discussions of this particular event is that nobody really addresses the fact that the fire department was completely incapable of dealing with the fire; they didn’t have the equipment to help.  The reaction to the fire was just that – a reaction.
When businesses are shortsighted, it’s a failure of the free market.  When government is shortsighted - - - silence.  Did conditions change because government made conditions change?  Or did conditions change because the world learned something?  The argument here fundamentally requires that one accept that only government is capable of acting on new information.

3. Irrational Choices

3.1: People will have different outcomes depending on the framing of a choice

An argument is made here that there’s something irrational about the fact that different people will be in a pension plan depending on whether the plan is opt-in or opt-out.  I’ll address this in more detail shortly.

3.1.1: People’s choices aren’t demonstrations of their preference

Quoting directly: “Old-school economics assumed choice to be ‘revealed preference’: an individual's choices will invariably correspond to their preferences, and imposing any other set of choices on them will result in fewer preferences being satisfied.
Alright, with you thus far...
But the past fifty years of cognitive science have thoroughly demolished this "revealed preference" assumption, showing that people's choices result from a complex mix of external compulsions, internal motivations, natural biases, and impulsive behaviors. These decisions usually approximate fulfilling preferences, but sometimes they fail in predictable and consistent ways. The field built upon these insights is called “behavioral economics”, and you can find more information in books like Judgment Under Uncertainty, Cognitive Illusions, and Predictably Irrational, or on the website Less Wrong.
Wait, what?  There’s something sneaky going on here, an implicit replacement taking place.  Consider the following sets of individuals:
Bob, who is on the pension plan whether it’s opt-in or opt-out
Anti-Bob, who -isn't- on the pension plan whether it’s opt-in or opt-out
And Rob, who is on the pension plan when it’s opt-out, but isn’t on it when it’s opt-in.
The argument here is that Bob and Anti-Bob are both rational, because their choices are reflections of their preferences.  It’s implied that Rob is irrational, because Rob’s preferences -aren't- revealed by his choice.
There’s a relatively simple third option: Rob doesn’t have a strong preference either way.
I’m on my company health insurance plan, which when it was instituted was opt-out.  (It’s mandatory today.)  If it were opt-out, I wouldn’t be on it.  Yet I deliberately opted out of the company 401k.  Am I rational in one case and irrational in the other?  Or is it possible, as is actually the case, that I just don’t have a preference about the health insurance plan?

3.2: People don’t make the best choices according to their preferences

Ok, with you so far.
Such possibilities cast doubt on the principle that every trade that can be voluntarily made should be voluntarily made.
And there you’ve lost me.  Not just with the phrasing, which is... wrong, but on the intent.
If people's decisions are not randomly irrational, but systematically irrational in predictable ways, that raises the possibility that people who are aware of these irrationalities may be able to do better than the average person in particular fields where the irrationalities are more common, raising the possibility that paternalism can sometimes be justified.”
And if people are systematically irrational, what exactly makes the author thinks that systematic rationality can somehow be ironed out of a government?  And what makes the author think that somebody who seeks out a position of power is more trustworthy than somebody who… whatever it is the author is implying that the “person aware of these irrationalities” is going to do?

3.2.1: People will be happier if they don’t make irrational choices

Sure.  What the author has utterly failed to even -imply- is that government can actually solve the rationality

3.2.2: Predictably irrational behavior justifies certain government paternalism

The author list some cases of “justified” government policy, and fails to justify said policy.

4. Lack of Information

4.1: People lack information, and government needs to ensure its existence

What the government “needs” to do isn’t necessarily *what* it does.

4.1.1: “If there were no government regulation, people would be stuck with unsafe and ineffective products, and the market would not correct these failures”

I see this kind of argument a lot.  Thing is, it’s ultimately just an assertion.  There were unsafe and ineffective products before government regulation – and there are unsafe and ineffective products today.  Somebody once told me to read an old Sears magazine’s health section to see how much good the FDA has done.
Having done so, I’m still wondering how much good the FDA has done, because I still see all those products (except maybe the arsenic facial cream) being sold today.  You’d be amazed just how long magnetic bracelets have been marketed as a cure-all.

4.2: Some examples:

The author proceeds to list out some examples which may or may not be real; for example, Kraft cheese may or may not contain an additive which some people are allergic to.  (He writes it up to sound scarier than that.)  Ok.  Wood may or may not contain formaldehyde, which can cause cancer.  Well, I know some wood does.  It’s printed on the stuff, and I’ve heard an apocryphal story of a guy who died building a cabin out of stolen telephone poles because he ingested formaldehyde fumes.  It’s not exactly this huge industrial secret; I heard that story more than a decade ago.  Some story about some oil company using slave-labor; not exactly surprising if true, but again, this is this weird sideways justification of regulation, I’m not sure what the author hopes to illustrate with a possibly-true story about how government failed to do its job.  Microsoft turned over data to an evil government – my god, man, whose side do you think you’re on here – because somehow complying with some -other- government’s laws is a free market failure?
I’m happy to report that this entry: “5. Wellpoint, the second largest US health care company, has a long record of refusing to provide expensive health care treatments promised in some of its plans by arguing that their customers have violated the "small print" of the terms of agreement; in fact they make it so technical that almost all customers violate them unknowingly, then only cite the ones who need expensive treatment. Although it has been sued for these practices at least twice, both times it has used its legal muscle to tie the cases up in court long enough that the patients settled for an undisclosed amount believed to be fraction of the original benefits promised.” is currently being solved by the free market -as we speak-, whether the specifics are true or not.  You see, the contract laws for rescission – you do realize that government created the problem you’re complaining the free market hasn’t solved yet, right? – require the company to be ignorant of the offense; if they accept your money after learning you lied on your application, they’re considered, legally, to have accepted the contract anyways.  Fortunately, increasing information trading between insurance companies is making policy rescission much harder, because an insurance company can’t claim it’s ignorant of information explicitly provided to it.
There’s some silly example about “ultrasonic mosquito repellers.”  The fact that I, a previous resident of a highly-mosquito infested area, have never heard of these devices, suggests that maybe the free market is handling that better.  And then there’s an attack on Listerine, a most excellent treatment for dandruff, complaining it (maybe) doesn’t alleviate bad breath.  Well… okay then.  I’ll disagree with you there, it’s one of three things I use to eliminate the smell of cigarettes from my breath, and it’s a necessary part of that set.  It’s never done anything for my halitosis, granted – a tongue scraper and a waterpik resolve that issue.  Its argument is also based on the older variant of Listerine – note that Listerine has introduced alcohol-free variants today.  And then the author says detergents don’t remove stains.  Well, no.  They’re detergents.  You’ll notice that some detergents prominently feature labels indicating they remove stains – that’s because they contain ingredients which remove stains.  A detergent is merely a compound that makes water wetter.

Kind of.

4.2.1: If you don’t know whether those cases are true, you’re proof that there’s a scarcity of information

Well, sure.  But that’s not the same as arguing that government provides any kind of a solution.  Look at the detergent example – do you seriously suggest government should require companies put the dictionary definitions of their product on their product, so people who don’t know what the words mean can know what they’re buying?

4.2.2: [Unaddressed; regarded as irrelevant to the thrust of my argument]

4.2.3: If you didn’t know whether the items were true or not, given our current regulatory environment, do you expect your information to be any better in an unregulated system?

Probably not.  This is not the same argument, however, that the information will be -worse-.  This is a very sneaky argument.

4.3: Regulation ensures consumers trust small businesses

This might be true.  It might not.  Regulation might ensure small businesses a bigger share of the “trust” space, but it also ensures they pay a higher premium, relative to the size of their business, for that space.  The common libertarian comment on this matter is that it’s more expensive for a small business to comply with a  regulation than a large one, if for no other reason than that they can’t hire lawyers to tell them what the regulations bloody well are.  There are thousands of pages of regulations.  I’m tempted to write eight regulations, four of which are real, four of which are false, and challenge the reader to identify which are which.  I guarantee I could find some regulations which would be far more illustrative of the quandary small businesses find themselves in today than these examples -attempt- to illustrate about the information market today.

4.4: Lack of information justifies regulations and the taxes to pay for them

No it doesn’t.  At absolute best the author illustrates that some information is lacking.  Absolutely absent from the document is any evidence that government could do better, that regulation could solve the problem lack of information poses, or that the costs imposed by the missing information are greater than the taxes necessary to enforce the laws to provide that information.

Part B: Social Issues

The progressive tax system is part of this policy of eliminating unfairness, but if you disagree with that, that's okay, as more and more of the country's wealth is staying in the hands of the super-rich. None of this wealth has trickled down to the poor and none of it ever will, as the past thirty years of economic history have repeatedly and decisively demolished the “trickle-down” concept.”
- We’re agreed on one thing, at least – trickle down economics is garbage.  It’s effectively an argument that if poor people accept less money, they’ll get more money in the end.  I’ll trade a hamburger today for two tomorrow.
However, don’t think progressive taxes are about -eliminating- unfairness.  They’re not.  The tax system is carefully designed to tax only one group – the new rich.  It is in fact a classist system designed, very carefully, to avoid trampling on the toes of the old rich, while extracting as much as possible from the new.

5. Just Desserts and Social Mobility

5.1: Large chunk of text about intergenerational mobility...

An argument is made that poor people are more likely to end up poor, and rich people are more likely to end up rich.  No real argument here, although the actual figures are wildly off.  You need finer data to get real data.  Where I grew up, $30,000 a year is middle class.  $50,000 a year is -rich-.  Whereas $50,000 a year in New York City are wages of abject poverty, probably homeless.  Half of this country lives in a completely different universe from the other half, financially, and when your quintiles are defined across such wildly disparate figures, you lose some detail.  The top 20% in a rural town is not the same top 20% as in a large city, and treating the country like only the 20% of the large cities counts is just incorrect when considering income mobility.

5.1.1: [Omitted; dismissing a “typical” libertarian argument I’ve never seen before]

5.1.2: [Omitted; clarifications on 5.1 not relevant to my arguments]

5.1.3: America has uniquely low income mobility.

I addressed this in 5.1 – The United States is, quite simply, a much larger country than any of the countries we’re compared to.  If we’re going to be compared to Europe, I’d be interested in seeing income mobility across the -whole- of Europe.  (This is a bit like comparing US homeless populations to the homeless population of some three European countries.  Europe has more homeless people than the US.  But they tend to migrate, like they do in the US, to particular regions.  Some inhospitable states in the US, like some inhospitable countries in Europe, have really low homeless populations.
Failing a comparison to all of Europe, using all of Europe’s income brackets, how about state by state comparisons?  Or even better, city by city, if you want truly accurate comparisons. States with higher government spending have more social mobility

See my response to 5.1, yet again.  The study cited used national income levels for calculating social mobility.  States with the highest incomes report the highest social mobility?  Well, maybe that’s because the brackets are skewed to their income levels.  The same change in income can appear wildly different.

5.2: Success is wholly dependent on factors beyond your control

An argument is offered that, because your personality is beyond your control, your success is beyond your control.  At this point I’m left wondering what exactly is “within my control,” because this just seems tautological to me; if I define free will such that I have no free will, of course I won’t have free will.

5.2.1: “If all of our success comes from external factors, then it is reasonable to ask that we ‘pay it forward’ by trying to improve the external factors of others”

Not really, because exactly the same argument could be used with any noun replacing “success.”  This argument is completely empty, as should be expected from an argument based on assigning deeper meaning to a tautology.

5.2.2: Lead poisoning, or “It is cruel to blame people for not seizing opportunities to rise above their background when that background has damaged the very organ responsible for seizing opportunities

I agree.  Actually, lead poisoning is one of the very few cases I would support massive government intervention.  But the contrived logic used here offers little to actually support the cause.  Rather, I regard the government as largely responsible for the mass poisoning of its own people.  My reasons for that are varied and nuanced, from the strangling regulation of the railways to the outright expropriation of them in many places and replacement with the highway system.  The fact that the US government recently bailed out the company primarily culpable for the lead poisoning doesn’t exactly help, either.

5.3: Environmental causation of success is justification for redistribution of wealth and for social engineering

I didn’t omit any logic, although I restructured it.  Yet another case where the substantive argument for the case is missing.  I mean, really, you could just replace this entire section with “Nature and nurture are both environmental causes, therefore we should redistribute wealth, and re-engineer society”, as for the purposes of this final argument, nothing would change.  There’s an is-ought problem here waiting to be resolved.  Heck, there’s not even a well-defined “is”, even though the author seems really intent on an “ought.”

6. Taxation

6.1: [Omitted – a redirect to another section on the question of whether taxation is evil]

6.2: Progressive taxation is justified by the decreasing marginal value of a dollar

Are you sure that the marginal dollar is always worth less than the dollar before it?
If survival costs exactly $10,000 a year, the 10,000th dollar I earn has more marginal utility than all 9,999 dollars before it.  If it costs $10,000,000 a year to build a new factory, that 10,000,000th dollar is worth more than all 9,999,999 dollars before it.
All of this is largely immaterial, however, because the arguments center on wealth, and the taxation centers on income.  Progressive taxes don’t take more from the person who has 1,000 movie tickets (one of the arguments posed was about the difference between owning 1 or 2 movie tickets and owning 1,000), they take more from the person who is buying 1,000 movie tickets.  The argument suddenly becomes a lot less persuasive when the ownership isn’t passive, when the person in question is actually deliberately acquiring those movie tickets.

6.2.1: [Omitted; argument against particular libertarian argument which is incorrect, at least with respect to modern tax codes]

6.3: [This section is more an introduction to the idea that tax ideals vary…]

6.3.1: Income taxes for people of median income are the lowest they’ve been in seventy five years

Correct.  Actually, true for everybody in the bottom 60%.  They’re also extraordinarily low by international standards; we tax the lower and middle classes the least. Income tax rates for the rich are around the lowest they've been in the past seventy-five years.

Incorrect, or perhaps correct with qualifications; they’re also “around” the highest they’ve been in the past seventy-five years.  There was a nice chart of the effective tax rate for people of median income; it was conspicuously absent here.  Having done the research myself, I already know the reason why – there’s not a neat data set going back 75 years.  I had to combine five different data sets with massive discontinuities just to get back to the 1950s.  However, tax rates for the rich were, prior to their most recent increase, still higher than, for example, in the second year of Reagan’s administration.  They are also not unusually low; the effective tax rate for the rich has never varied more than around 6%.  (Note that the effective tax rate is not the same as the nominal tax rate.  The rich were never taxed 90%.  Well, not the average, established rich person, anyways, I’m sure some foolish new-rich lost most of their fortunes to the government.)

In spite of being relatively, although not exceptionally, low, the taxes on the rich are the highest of the first world. Corporate taxes are around the lowest they’ve been in the past seventy five years.

They’re also some of the highest of the first world.

6.3.2: [Omitted; some arguments about the Laffer curve that honestly I could care less about.]

6.4: “Over the past thirty years, the rich have consistently gotten richer. None of this money has trickled down to the poor or middle-class, whose income has remained the same in real terms

While I reject the trickle-down effect, this argument is fallacious.  If you examine only monetary compensation, the argument holds true.  Totally compensation, however, is a different matter.  Most of the income increases of the lower classes have been absorbed into company-sponsored health insurance.

6.5: [An argument I don’t really disagree with that spending cuts aren’t likely to solve the deficit alone, along with some misleading figures about how much the government spends on redistribution]

6.6: [An argument that only 6% of the budget goes to redistribution, by redefining some redistribution as “helping the middle class”]

In-class redistribution is still redistribution, and that’s all I really care to say about this.

Part C: Political Issues

We should think twice about exactly how much government we are willing to remove from our schools, gun dealerships, and meth labs, and run away screaming at the proposal to privatize prisons.”

- Privatizing public functions isn’t the same as having a free market solution.  And we should think twice.  However much you're comfortable removing, you should probably consider a little more than that.

7. Competence of Government

7.1: Government does some things right

For a limited definition of “Right,” yes.

7.1.1: [List of things government has achieved]

There’s a bunch of things that might not have happened without government.  That’s not the same as the government achieving them, however.  (I also note some Edisoning going on with ideas there – that is, claiming the achievements of the people who worked for the government as the government’s own.  As well as some things that the government could only loosely be tied to)  And then there are some achievements of dubious value, like the highway system; impressive doesn’t equal competence.  And then there are quite a few cases of situations where the government prohibited anybody else from doing what it was doing.  It’s not a race when nobody else is allowed to run, after all. [Very confused argument conflating society with government]

I have a rule of thumb – if the public wants something, and could achieve it without government, but nonetheless used the government to achieve it, consider that the government -might- have been an unnecessary party in the achievement.

We can call it an achievement that every school bus stops at railroad tracks.  But without the same kind of notice, crossing lights have been installed by private companies.

7.2: Government projects only look worse because politicians have to lie about the costs to get their projects approved

That’s a, erm, defense of government, is it?

7.3: [Argument that some government agencies aren’t too terrible to deal with]

The author seems to conflate popularity with desirability.  (There seems to be a lot of that going on, here.)  Bullet-trains are one example listed.  I’d love to have light rail, for example.  I’d love to hop in a train and get wherever I wanted to go.  What I wouldn’t love, however, is to have to pay to get it.
Then there’s some ignorant arguments about passenger rail – I guess the author forgets the Eisenhower administrations’ role in dismantling passenger rail in the US – not directly, mind, but through the ICC.  (Ayn Rand quipped that a railroad expert told her the worst things she put in her books had already happened – given that they were largely getting pushed in the administration of a president pushing the road system, I doubt this was entirely accidental.)
Then there’s some ill-advised promotion of the Post Office.  Heh.  My mother owns a store, and sells some of her merchandise online.  There are several facilities that, if her goods go through them, they don't arrive.  She's really fortunate if the Post Office actually scans her packages, too; half the time they don't, and the Post Office won't pay out the insurance on a package they didn't scan, even if the insurance ticket was printed from their machines.  Not to mention all the "Next day delivery is impossible" stuff.  Among many other hilarities.  The history of the Post Office is truly awesome fodder for libertarians.

7.3.1: [Arguments that government can innovate by way of such dubious claims as radar]

- It’s pretty apparent how weak your position is when you have to argue that the government invented radar.  (It didn’t.  It refined existing technology to be more precise.)
The author then proceeds to claim the inventions of monopolies like Ma Bell.
Corporations are technically a government charter.  I guess we can attribute all corporate innovations as well.  Oh, and the aforementioned Coke death squads in Cambodia?  Well, if they’re real, government must be responsible for them as well.  (Heck, the author kind of takes credit for the government for IBM’s innovations.)
This kind of selective nonsense is foolish, whichever party is doing it.  Government no more innovates than corporations innovate.  -Individuals- innovate.

7.4: The perception that government programs are mostly failures is a result of media bias

No, I suspect this perception comes from the fact that government programs are, at their BEST, failures.  At their worst, the department of agriculture starts forming SWAT teams and raiding organic farmers.  Which is totally happening, by the way.

7.4.1: The government primarily prevents things, and it’s hard to notice how many bad things aren’t happening

It should go without saying that it’s also hard to notice when the bad things wouldn’t happen anyways.

7.4.2: [Argument agreeing with the above, but putting forth an argument that some regulations have empirical evidence for their effectiveness, in particular terrain avoidance systems]

A very lazy check of cases of “Controlled flight into terrain” crashes of US aircraft on Wikipedia, excluding helicopters; there were 2 such incidents in the 1960s, 4 cases in the 1970s when the laws were passed, 0 cases in the 1980s, 3 cases in the 1990s (including one case of US aircraft crashing abroad), and 0 cases in the 2000s.  I generally discard statistics that require a T-distribution.
Nevertheless, the argument is not, nor has it ever been, that no regulation ever achieves anything.  That’s a strawman, at least as far as most libertarians, even those as extreme as myself, go.  Here’s the question: How much did these systems cost, and how many lives were lost because these systems were purchased instead of something else?  The problem isn’t merely that we can’t evaluate how effective government would be, having no control to compare to, the problem is that we can’t evaluate what government is costing us.

7.4.3: Even if regulation isn’t necessary, the existence of the regulation may have created the social context in which it ceased to be necessary; for example, seatbelts.

Seatbelts – you mean those things that insurance companies were pushing for?
Suppose government had never mandated their installation.
How long would it have taken for substantially higher insurance rates for motorists driving vehicles without seatbelts to make seatbelts socially mandatory?

8. Health Care

8.1: [X] country proves government-run health systems are better than private systems

This will be a little more detailed.  But not much.  I'm tired of arguing this, and I'm surprised by the poor quality of the argument here.
First, the author presents the case of infant mortality.  Which already tells me the author either has never seriously argued the subject, or is deliberately misrepresenting the information.  When you compare infant mortality rates between a country that counts stillborns with countries that don’t count infants who die in the first two weeks of life, you’re either ignorant or being deliberately misleading.
Next we have life expectancy.  I’ll merely suggest the reader investigate the life expectancy of Japanese-descended individuals living in the US.  I’ll give a hint about what you should expect, if you think the healthcare system in the US is responsible for our lower life expectancies: You should expect them to live shorter lives than those who live in Japan.  Not to spoil the answer, but the fact that I’ve brought up this piece of information pretty much reveals what you’re going to find.
Third, cancer.  Really?  CANCER?  The US has the best cancer prognosis rate in the world.  What we also have is some of the highest rates of cancer in the first world.
Then the author claims this is proof the US has a worse healthcare system.
Y’know, I don’t really have a serious bone in this fight, because the US healthcare system is hardly private.  But at least do your homework before getting involved.

8.2: Government healthcare is more efficient.

Here the author argues that government-run healthcare is more efficient.
Ok, confession time.  A lot of my work is in healthcare.  My clients include healthcare providers, insurance companies, hospitals, and the kinds of companies you weren’t even aware existed.  (Or at least I wasn’t, until they became my clients.)
And I can immediately see one reason government healthcare has the potential to be more efficient.  It doesn’t have to deal with government regulations.  You have no idea how much money these companies spend just keeping in compliance with regulations.  National companies have it the worst – they have 51 jurisdictions to deal with.  (Actually, more than that.  There are a few cities that have regulatory hurdles to jump, and some territories as well.)

8.3: [Omitted; an argument that healthcare rationing is necessary and non-harmful.  As long as you don’t need expensive ocular medicine, I suppose; until recently, it wasn’t a medical necessity until you were already blind in one eye.  But again, no real bone here.  We're comparing one awful state enterprise with another.]

8.4: [More arguments that healthcare rationing isn’t actually a bad thing and admits some people actually get harmed in the process; no real bone in this game, except to roll my eyes at some suggestions that government is better at rationing]

8.5: [Trying to explain why government is so much better at these things; see my responses above that it isn’t]

9. Prison Privatization

This is another game I have no particular investment in.  Privatization of government services isn’t the same as free market solutions for problems.  My only comment is that for all the arguments about perverse incentives, the same applies to the public prison guard unions, who have also been active in lobbying for more work for themselves.

10. Gun Control

10.1: Gun laws should be evaluated of their results independently, rather than in the context of the gun rights debate

I’m not sure the author would be so comfortable with this treatment of, say, first amendment rights.  But I really have no idea.  Either way, I can’t argue much with the idea that we should evaluate gun laws empirically, except to ask how many times we have to try them before we stop.  Because we've tried a lot now, and it's been a total bust.

11. Education

11.1: Public schools do better once you adjust...

I have a rule about adjusting statistics – I’ve encountered the same issue while reading hospital statistics (I'm willing to be the author and I have read some of the same hospital research, namely the research on for-profit versus non-profit hospitals).  If you adjust for multiple, overlapping confounders, and gets results which look the way you want them to, you should probably check your adjustments to make sure the confounders are independent.  Adjusting for multiple dependent confounders as if they were independent essentially reverses any correlation, and some of the confounders mentioned looked.. .overlappy.  I can’t check the source cited, however, as it apparently doesn’t exist anymore?
However, private schools vary considerably in quality.  The one group that consistently outperforms all others are those who are homeschooled.  I’m one of them.

11.2: The voucher system can result in more inequality of results

The same is true of any choice given to people.  That's freedom in a nutshell.

11.3: Government should protect children from their parents’ choices

The weird thing is, we -almost- agree here.  But the author thinks the government should make the choices instead.  I’m not sure substituting one defective kind of parent for another is a solution.
Yes, I’m one of those really crazy libertarians who think children should get to make their own choices.

Part D: Moral Issues

Moral systems based only on avoiding force and respecting rights are incomplete, inelegant, counterintuitive, and usually riddled with logical fallacies. A more sophisticated moral system, consequentialism, generates the principles of natural rights and non-initiation of violence as heuristics that can be used to solve coordination problems, but also details under what situations such heuristics no longer apply. Many cases of government intervention are such situations, and so may be moral.

- We’re rapidly diverging.  The author thinks the cases have been made for things like coordination.  I found the arguments… less than convincing.

12. Moral Systems

12.1: Freedom is only one of many values, and we shouldn’t fetishize it over all others

Freedom is precisely the right to choose those priorities for oneself.  The author argues that we shouldn’t prioritize it higher, but this is the wrong way of thinking – it’s not a value, a good, in and of itself.  Rather, it’s a metavalue, necessary for all other values.

12.1.1: [Replacing an argument about a founding father with what I think is the underlying argument] But not all freedoms are equal – some may be unimportant enough relative to some other value that the trade may be fair

Surely, some freedoms are less important than others.  But all freedoms are ultimately the right to choose what is more or less important for yourself.  Anybody who pushes for a law isn’t giving up freedom, they’re taking it away; they’re demanding other people use their own priorities for values.

12.2: “Theft”, as a description for taxation, is a linguistic trick.

I’ve posed this argument.  I’m not using a linguistic trick; I’m making it clear that something is taken without my permission.  The author may accept that taxation is frequently done without permission, but there are no end to people who insist that I’ve -implicitly- accepted it through something the author repudiates elsewhere called “The Social Contract.”  The “Taxation is theft” argument isn’t intended for people like the author.  It’s intended for people who think we have no option but to consent, in a bizarre parody of the idea of consent.

12.3: [Argument leading in to 12.3.1]

12.3.1: The initiation of force can have positive consequences – see the author’s previous arguments.  Additionally, cases like forced retirement savings (social security) represent situations where the individual benefits from the arrangement as well.  [A hint at an argument that consequentialism is the only valid theory for consideration]

The arguments here seem to miss entirely the possibility that other people might have other values; a positive consequence for you is a negative consequence for somebody else.

12.3.2: Non-consequentialist moral theories are just arbitrary collections of rules

Consequentialist moral theories are just arbitrary collections of values.  (Also, consequentialist and non-consequentialist are arbitrary divisions.  Watch: Your rule is to maximize a subjective concept of value.  I’ve just turned consequentialism into deontology, that is, non-consequentialism.)
The author writes:

Why are consequences to other people seems such a specially relevant category? The argument is actually itself pretty libertarian. I can do whatever I want with my own life, which includes following religious or personal taboos. Other people can do whatever they want with their own lives too. The stuff that matters - the stuff where we have to draw a line in the sand and say "Nope, this is moral and this is immoral, doesn't matter what you think" is because it has some consequence in the real world like hurting other people.

but then fails entirely to realize that the arguments posed for initiation of force fly in the face of this.  The initiation of force is a ruling that somebody else can’t do what they want with their own lives; the argument is a rejection that other people have any right to draw their own lines in the sand, that only the author, who has Seen the Light, has this prerogative. The Principle of Non-Aggression has all sorts of holes and exceptions and counter-exceptions and stretches [that I won’t mention here]

I’ll wait for these to be addressed before I attempt to respond to such a spurious argument. The Principle of Non-Aggression can’t be derived

Ayn Rand made one attempt.  Alternatively, you can just accept it as an axiom of your logical system of ethics.  Only trivial ethical systems lack axioms. [Exceptions, counter-exceptions, and stretches of the Principle of Non-Aggression]

Paraphrasing each case:

1.     Initiation of force is stretched to include theft
2.     Some libertarians make exceptions for taxation for military and police forces
3.     Children have no rights, except when they do, except when they don’t
4.     Building an ugly shed isn’t an initiation of force, but playing really loud music is

Fortunately, I have an answer to all four of these.

First, yes, theft is included in initiation of force.  There’s a reason for this, which is…

Taxation isn’t mandatory, but only one form of taxation is permitted: Property tax.  Property tax is relative to only the property in and of itself, including any natural resources upon it; buildings upon it cannot be taxed.  Property tax establishes “ownership” of land, and the products thereof.  This tax is levied in respect to the fact that the value of land did not come from anything any individual human being did; it is a duty paid to all other citizens in return for a duty not to trespass upon that property or any products derived therefrom.  Thus trespass, including theft, is a harm inflicted upon the person.

I believe children should have rights.  As soon as they may reason, their rights are their own.

And the reason a building is not an offense but music is, is that the building is a passive offense, whereas the music is an active offense.  The only mechanism by which the building may offend is beyond the constructor’s control – namely, light from the sun reflecting off of it.  Were the constructor to deliberately focus that light upon another’s property with say a giant mirror, that would be an active offense, and not protected as such.  (See, again, property tax as a claim upon property.)

12.4: Consequentialism is a better system than the non-aggression principle because it is the principle of making things better

The argument as presented is circular.  Christianity is the best moral system because it makes the world a more Christian place is about as meaningful an argument as this.

12.4.1: Consequentialism is relative – just make the world what you want it to be

And if I want a more deontological world?

As previously mentioned, consequentialist and deontological moral systems are subsets of each other.  It takes only a minor transform to get from one to another, to frame one inside another.

12.4.2: [Some acknowledgements, finally, that consequentialism is relative; no real address of all the contradictions above]

12.4.3: [Some arguments that war is bad and not very consequentialist for most consequentialists.]

12.4.4: [Argument that consequentialism isn’t “Do stupid shortsighted stuff.”]

12.4.5: Consequentialism is the “gold standard for morality: it’s the purest, most sophisticated explanation of what morality actually is.”

Disagree.  It’s certainly the most -complex- form of morality.  But the “purest” form of something probably shouldn’t be interchangeable with “less pure” forms of the same thing through simple transformations.  The ability to frame consequentialist and deontological moral systems in each other’s terms suggests, rather, that they’re merely different maps of the same territory, which are with respect to each other potentially lossless.

12.4.6: [Link to Consequentialist FAQ for those who aren’t convinced]

13. Rights and Heuristics

13.1: Rights are clinical standards – that is, inferior to the “gold standard” of Consequentialism, but useful in their own right – of morality

Beg to differ; specific rights can probably be regarded as “clinical standards”, but systems of rights – that is, principle ethics systems – can be fully formed ethical systems in their own right, which is to say, “gold standards.”  Comparing -rights-, component units of non-consequentialist morality, to consequentialism as a whole, is highly misleading.

13.2: “Rights are codifications of the insight that certain actions lead to bad consequences in ways that people consistently fail to predict or appreciate”

Or, in other words, don’t violate rights even if you think it would be a good idea, because you’re almost certainly wrong.  A consequentialist way of viewing rights if I’ve ever heard one.  Yep.

13.3: But sometimes you can violate rights anyways, if you are really, really sure


13.3.1: [Stealing a loaf of bread argument, along with a rather weak argument that the existence of such dilemmas is a case for redistribution]

Authors better than I have responded to the “stealing a loaf of bread to stave off starvation” argument.  Even Ayn Rand lays out the logic about when it is acceptable.  The idea that it’s a consequentialist thing is a result of ignorance of solid deontological systems.

13.3.2: We sometimes have to violate moral heuristics, so we need a solid moral system for doing so

No, you need a better moral system.  Wasn’t the author just complaining about how stretchy and exception-prone the non-aggression principle is?

13.4: Mistakes are necessary, because the alternative is never acting

True.  Ever moral system has tough moral questions.  I don’t have much sympathy for the question the author is attempting to address here; it’s expressed in a void, without consideration that it’s a universal problem in ethics.

13.5: [Argument that we’re wasting money on counterterrorism when other things are more dangerous to us]

No disagreement here on the core of the argument presented.  I’m avoiding niggling on the details.

13.6: [Really convoluted situation where a supervillain seizes control of a libertarian society]

…well, okay.  Libertarianism has failure modes.  I find a more likely one “devolves into social democracy”, but okay.

13.6.1: Libertarianism can’t protect values against all situations

Neither can any other government.  The author seems to suggest falling into plutocracy – I find the government turning into the government the author would prefer a more likely failure.  The point I’m trying to make is that no government is permanent.  Not even the author’s preferred one.  It will turn into something else, too, eventually.

13.7: Private charity hasn’t solved the world’s problems, therefore government welfare

I’ve not seen particularly good evidence that government welfare solved problems, either.  Indeed, I’ve personally seen a lot of people whose lives were fucked up by it.  One of those things you don’t see when you grow up among the affluent, rather than those the rest of the country regards as living in poverty, is how destructive welfare can actually be.

But even if it were possible that better welfare systems could actually do what they intended to do, all the objections I’ve made through the course of this rebuttal remain in force.
Oh, and one thing to note – my suggested tax system above?  Anything left over after the government does its spending is distributed evenly to every individual.  There’s my version of welfare.  Has the advantage of not forcing people not to work in order to eat a meal and keep a roof over their head.  Yes, that happens.  I’ve seen people lose their housing because they got a job and didn’t qualify for a program anymore.

You want to talk about how destructive welfare can be, just look at somebody whose choice is living well on welfare and living poorly by working.  For some people that's literally the choice.

13.8: We should protect people from their own decisions

That’s probably an unfair summary of the argument, but that’s what it reads as to me.

I don’t think stupid people deserve to die.  But that’s not the same as creating a moral obligation to save them, particularly if it involves eliminating freedom from other people to achieve.

Part E: Practical Issues

[Slippery slope arguments]… fundamentally [misunderstand] the ways that nations collapse into tyranny. It also ignores political reality, and it doesn't work. Libertarians should cooperate with people from across the ideological spectrum to oppose regulations that doesn't work and keep an open mind to regulation that might.

- Funny, because I see a lot of slippery slopes in history.  I agree they’re not effective argumentative tools however, because they’re descriptive, not predictive.  Some things we’ve slipped on, and some we haven’t.  The slippery slope argument would better be reframed as the social context argument.  Remember the author arguing earlier that government establishes social context?  This is really true when it comes to the social context of the government itself.  Once a society gets used to one thing, it’s incrementally easier to do the next.  That doesn’t mean it will, only that it is easier to.

14. Slippery Slopes

14.1: [... what?  The author is arguing that collapses into tyranny were the result of weak social nets?  Has the author actually researched the rise of Hitler in Germany, the progressive gem of Europe, which ruined itself trying to maintain its social safety net while paying off its debts at the same time?  Sorry, but I can’t take this argument seriously.  Moving on.]

14.1.1: People aren’t evil; politicians aren’t trying to accumulate power, they’re trying to do good

The first step to doing good is to accumulate power.  Also, I guarantee you that every person you’ve ever regarded as evil personally thought they were doing The Right Thing.

15. Strategic Activism

15.1: Libertarians should devote their time to fixing the system

“Fix” is the wrong word.  “Maintain” is a better one.  And that’s precisely what we’re trying to do.

15.2: You should innovate! [Very loosely paraphrased]

I find the idea of creating the perfect government sort of like… trying to build a perpetual motion machine.  While wearing mittens made of ten live cats each tied together.  Even if you could overcome entropy with your brilliant new design, the only mechanisms you have of interacting with the parts is interested in anything except what you’re doing.

15.3: Libertarianism is ineffectual and not represented

We’re growing in popularity.  You find us a viable crowd to court; that in itself is a victory.

15.4: Libertarians should focus their attention on certain important issues

Well, I guess you need to herd cats before you can tie them together into cat-mittens…

...and if this were a quality establishment like The Oatmeal you'd be rewarded with a picture of cat-mittens now.