Signal Intelligence About The LP

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Future of LP Intellectuality

Less, I seek out and try to answer the strongest arguments I can find against my positions, but sometimes my silence means neither agreement nor a judgment that an argument isn't worth answering, but rather just that as a full-time engineer and father of three young kids I have finite time. :-)  However, your arguments are indeed some of the best I've seen, and I'm going to enjoy debating with you.
For example, your answer to my Fairy Godfather argument is good enough to warrant a response.  :-)  To wit:
1) I'm very skeptical that Hamas is not state-like in having effective monopolies on the semi-formal use of retaliatory force in the relevant "market". What other defense agency can plausibly be said to be competing for its customers?  My impression is that Hamas is effectively a state, and that Hezbollah's Lebanon is a poster child for my arguments, not yours.
2) You'll have to give me evidence of systematic pro bono "services of godfathers to vulnerable people in need in their areas of influence".  I too have seen the Godfather trilogy, but I'm not going to take your word for it that the median gang in the history of organized crime has provided guarantees of rights enforcement that are in any way comparable to what we enjoy here in what is, despite all its flaws, the most wildly successful minarchist experiment in human history.  Your burden of proof is as a result incredibly high, and that's why I advise anarchists to make radical decentralism be their common strategic ground with us minarchists.  There is simply no way that you're ever going to convince this entire nation to push a big anarchism button in our nation's capital..  In Somalia or Lebanon maybe, but not here.
3) Charitable agencies don't count as defense agencies.  If you call a tail a leg, that doesn't mean you have a five-legged dog.  Anarcholibertarian theory needs to correctly predict that defense agencies will reliably act charitably, and it's pretty much hand-waving to say that all these charitable agencies are just itching to compete with the Gottis and Gambinos if only the State would let them.  These agencies are *already* just as free as the Gottis and Gambinos to ignore the State's monopoly on the semi-formal use of retaliatory force, and yet as far as I know none of them ever do.
Still, very good stuff -- a better argument than I was expecting.  It's rare that I encounter an argument whose rebuttal I can't just cut and paste from my oeuvre, but you made me write three brand-new paragraphs here.  That was fun!  :-)

I have vastly more respect for David Friedman than I do for Murray Rothbard -- not only for his worldview, but also for his intellectual honesty and his personal character and even for the quality of the people who agree with him.  Aside from young Mr. Peak, I've found that the average quality of debate offered by the LP's self-described Rothbardians to be conveniently poor -- especially compared to the quality of thinking by academic Rothbardians and Austrians outside the LP.
I'll go way out on an indefensible limb and predict right now that I think the future of intellectual libertarianism lies not with the dogmatic Austrians at the Mises Institute, or with the venerable Chicago School and their CosmoLibertarian nephews at Cato and Reason, but rather with the dynamic and open-minded EconLibertarians of the "Virginia School" at George Mason University.  Friedman is sort of a prototype of their style, but I'm thinking specifically of Bryan Caplan, Dan Klein, Alex Tabarrok, Robin Hanson, Arnold Kling, and -- my favorite of them all, but also by far the most deontological -- the geolibertarian Fred Foldvary.   Every LP intellectual should be reading the best GMU blogs (originally Marginal Revolution, now Overcoming Bias and EconLog), but it's apparent that few if any are.  The Virginia School has quite simply evolved and transcended beyond the deontologies of Rothbardianism and Austrian Economics, and the only real question (for one as optimistic as I about the long-term power of correct ideas) is how long it will take the LP to catch up.  I'm guessing two to three decades, as this is very nearly a Kuhnian paradigm shift that, alas, might have to wait until the Rockbardian generation is retired or dead.  I predict that the Rockbardian/Austrian influence on the LP will attenuate as drastically over the next quarter century as the Objectivist influence has done over the previous.  Any set of ideas that rigid and dogmatic either has to thoroughly conquer the relevant community during the first intellectual generation, or else it's never going to.
Two canaries in our mineshaft to watch are the newly-minted Rothbardian Alex Peak, and anarchist LP Vice Chair Chuck Moulton, who is beginning the PhD program at George Mason.  I hope that I'm not hereby causing an Uncertainty Principle effect, but I predict that within 5-10 years neither will be as radical as they are now -- or at least will be geoanarchists.
As for acknowledging strong arguments, I have no problem admitting that I've faced a lot of them from a few radicals like Tom Knapp and Starchild and Daniel Grow, and I'm happy to add you and Alex to that stable.  :-)   Give me Jon Roland and Bob Capozzi and we'll take on all five of you in the next PlatCom -- deal?  :-)   In general, you can assume that if somebody can engage in a reasonably detailed running debate with me without getting indignant or dismissive, that's a strong clue that I would credit them with having reasonably defensible arguments -- and the inverse inference can be taken to the bank. :-)
OK, cue a puerile innuendo from the troll gallery, which will at least reassure us we still have an audience...


Robin Hanson said...

Thanks for the praise!

paulie said...


I'd love to have the time to argue issues in detail with you sometime.

That time is not now, but unlike some other radicals, I think you make many good points, and make them well.

Your posts often make me thing. I'll readily admit that I don't have ready answers to all of them, even if I was able to type with all my fingers rather than two.