Wednesday, July 11, 2012

More on Being a "Libertarian Bitch"

Herman Aparicio emails with regard to me earlier post: How To Deal with Government: Become a Libertarian Bitch
I'm a huge fan of your blog and was fascinated by your post on the Libertarian Bitch. I accept the overall premise, but as a fellow hardcore libertarian, I've been wrestling with a few things.
As a recovering neocon, who slowly converted over to the cause of liberty, I was taught that the following are bad, but are they acceptable to support? 
1) Earmarks/pork barrel. I know Dr. Paul did this by redirecting funds in bills he voted against, but if it's adding more spending I'm not sure...?
2) Non-aggressive contracts (often no-bid I might add) given to companies like Booz Allen done in the name of efficiency. I'm in the DC area so I see tons of federal money being poured in.
3) Advocating for an increase in non-aggressive spending (e.g. social programs, non-defense discretionary)
Obviously the broken window fallacy applies to all spending and it is funded by taxation (so this money is still stolen property), but as you noted, it's not like this money is going to be returned to us or is going to be used to buy drones or kill people.
It is important to keep in mind that in my earlier post I created a model where I assume that the government in question will tax and print as much money as they can get away with. Although, I didn't mention it in my first post, this also goes for government borrowing.

I believe that the United States government is such a government. My model does not hold if a claim for more spending results in the government spending increasing. Again, I believe the U.S. government will tax, borrow and print money to the degree they can get away with it.

U.S government spending should be thought of something along the lines of  the econ 101 "production possibilities curve" but instead of total economic spending being considered, total government spending is considered. Here's the classic production possibilities curve:

Instead of production possibilities, think of it as government spending possibilities curve, with spending moving along the X axis resulting in more spending on "aggressive government product", i.e. spending  for tanks, bullets, drones, tracking software, professors studying military weaponry design etc. and the Y axis representing "non-aggressive government product" spending, i.e., for  food stamps, the study of the mating habits of monarch butterflies, sponsoring professors studying Shakespeare. etc.

Now, if we assume that in a given society, such as the one we live in, where I believe that the amount that can be taxed, printed or borrowed can not be readily increased, so that the  government spending possibilities curve can not be moved out to, say, point D, then it is noble for a libertarian to try and move spending along the curve toward the Y-axis, i.e. in the direction of  "non-aggressive government product" spending. Thus, it is okay for a libertarian to suck up government spending on non-aggressive spending, so that spending isn't moved towards aggressive spending.

While it is okay for a libertarian to accept money to keep it away from aggressive government spending, it should also be noted that a libertarian should never be in favor of any increase in taxes, the money supply or government borrowing, which would move the curve outward in the direction of point D, which expands the amount of spending done by government.

The libertarian should always be in favor of less taxes, less money printing and less government borrowing, so that the entire curve shrinks as a percentage of the entire economy toward point C and even lower, all the way to zero.

Thus, as to point 1, although I am not familiar with the specifics of earmarks, they appear to be nothing more than shifting the direction of spending on a given government spending curve. As long as this spending shifts money away from aggressive government spending and toward non-aggressive government spending it should be hailed as a plus by libertarians, e.g., more goofy spending on trying to determine why ducks paddle versus spending on improved government cell phone listening device development is a plus from a libertarian perspective.

As for point 2, I would argue that Booz-Allen people are a mostly bunch of evil bastards, working on projects that help the government become more evil. I would view money going to them as mostly evil. Indeed, I would argue that even money going to Booz for  non-aggressive products is not a good idea, since it would only strengthen Booz and its relations with the government and allow Booz to try an get the government to spend on aggressive products Booz might have on its shelf, thus moving spending positively along the line of the X axis. So, yes, we can still  hate the military-industrial complex and be against any government spending going in their direction.

Point 3 becomes a little tricky for a libertarian, in that a libertarian is against all government spending. However, when the choice is between government spending on bullets rather than lollipops, the libertarian should always be in favor of the spending on lollipops, i.e. non-aggressive spending. It's not that a libertarian should not be against spending on lollipops when presented the question in isolation on a theoretical basis without reference to the real world. However, given the current views of most in society, major spending on lollipops, given where most money is spent now, would be a major positive.

Total spending in the United States for fiscal 2012 will be over $6 trillion. If all that spending was directed at lollipops spending. Think of the wars that couldn't be fought, think of the money that couldn't be spent on government healthcare (which would result in the development of free market healthcare). Yes, if it is impossible for me to get government spending down, my second option is the advocacy of $6 trillion being spent on lollipops. 

Yes, I know I am not going to be able to get far with my advocacy of spending on lollipops, but my point is that if the amount of spending can't be reduced than spending on non-aggressive products is much better than  spending on the manufacture of bullets and government tracking systems.

But, remember my rules in my initial post, a libertarian should never put government in a positive light. Thus, say, advocacy for unemployment should be stated along the lines of:

"You guys are nuts for wanting to provide unemployment benefits, it just decreases incentives for people to find work, but it's better than spending the money to provide bullets so that a soldier can go to foreign lands and start shooting people".

Remember, its about moving the government spending curve toward the Y-Axis, given a specific curve. But it is also trying to get the overall curve lowered.  

Bottom line: If a given amount of government spending is pretty much fixed, it is okay for a libertarian to suck it up so it doesn't end up being spent by the government aggressively, but don't think for a minute that the money you are sucking up proves your market value in any way. Money value can only be determined in the free market. Your value "to society" by sucking up government money is likely limited to sucking it up so the money is not used in a more aggressive way against the rest of us, certainly the kind of sucking up that  I think there should be more of, but remember that is what a sucking money role is, and nothing more.


  1. Understood and agreed. However, I think you mean point "C" in this paragraph:

    "The libertarian should always be in favor of less taxes, less money printing and less government borrowing, so that the entire curve shrinks as a percentage of the entire economy toward point B and even lower, all the way to zero."

  2. I think the poor bloke who is on the receiving end of government theft (taxation) would argue that there is no such thing as "non-aggressive government product" spending.

    I bet it feels quite aggressive when your money is being taken from you against your will - even when it is being used to pay some friendly-sounding scientist on a government payroll.

    1. Maybe true, but if he feels that way he should meet violence with violence. resist or quit complaining how it is spent. If he is quietly giving his money to the gov, he should be glad that not all of it is "bombing brown people."

      And if he thinks greg is part of the aggressive state, then he should realize that by not resisting supporting the state he is a major player too.

  3. And what is non-aggression is to be decided by the libertarian? Oh, I get it that in the above article non-aggression is meant in terms of wars etc etc. But there are other kinds of aggression like re-distributing resources so others starve. No one man can know how his actions will influence his fellow man. A libertarian's aim is not blind hatred towards the government but love towards liberty and respect for others property and his own. (The hatred is a consequence of the love for liberty.) In a world where it was possible to invest 6 trillion of others' money to manufacture lollipops I doubt there will be any difference left between the govt which starves those in foreign lands using guns and the govt hating libertarian who would do the same through lollipops.

    If govt coerces others to take money and you are able to con the govt to take money from them, that doesn't make you great. You are a bigger criminal than the govt because you know better.

    Additionally, this assumption that govt will screw us to the maximum is circular logic. Because here there is no way of knowing that govt screwing is due to the evilness of the govt or due to the many customers including libertarian bitches who swear to bleed the big boss dry.If it is the latter then the conclusion and the assumption are self-fulfilling.

    Being a staunch libertarian myself it is my belief that the framework of 'Libertarian Bitch' is very un-libertarian

    There is another way to justify utilizing govt funds (and i suppose that is the purpose of this new framework) which is on a case by case basis. Why is it not sufficient for libertarians to recognize that we do utilize the govt since the govt has coerced itself into every aspect of our lives. So go take that job in the public school and remember your only duty is to serve the students and impart knowledge; and take that govt pension or that social security check since you paid into it. Take that research funding if govt has ensured that it is the sole provider. Ultimately these decisions have to be made on a case by case private basis.

  4. I think the assumption that " Bottom line: If a given amount of government spending is pretty much fixed," is flawed. If 2 trillion was spent on lollipops, the feds could still come up with whatever money was needed to fight a war in Iran or wherever else they decided. All government spending is a result of theft. Whether from this generation by taxes, or my children through inflation or deficit spending.
    Money that is taken out of the market and spent by those with no ties to it creates malinvestment. When this money is turned off the market will correct. If there was a need to study the mating patterns of monarch butterfiles, wouldn't the market have fulfilled it? The things our money is spent on are ridiculous.

    1. Robert did fail to address the printing press problem. I hope he does in a future post.

  5. I don't know; I love your blog but this seems like mental masturbation to me. There is nothing more "loving" or "Peaceful" about spending money on mating studies over military operations. Once you've stolen my money I don't give a crap what you are going to do with it; I just want it back. Besides, giving more money to "welfare" only creates another entitled generation with no interest in LIBERTY.

    1. It's not mental masturbation for those of us in science, who are faced with choosing between government sponsored science and having to work at general labor.

      RW's logic is solid, if you accept his premise that the government is going to take and spend as much as it can. Then it becomes real important that we attempt to get the spending directed in ways that can't come back at us to enslave us more.

      RW seems to have thought this out carefully.

    2. RW's logic is not solid, if you accept the premise that government only exists because of the complacency by the citizens, and will only be reduced or eliminated, through activism by the same.

    3. cms, your logic is interesting if u think your money spent killing people is as peaceful as your money spent making lollipops. maybe no less violent for u ( honestly, u pay your taxes willing with no violence occuring anyway) but that is pretty selfish don't u think. But if u don't like ur money being stolen, then what are u going to do about it? Complaining about how your previously stolen money is spent on EPJ isn't going to convince that money to jump back into your pocket.


      "If u accept the premise that government only exists because of the complacency by the citizens..." The real complacency issue here isn't a lack of people willing to spend the money but a lack of people willing to resist the government taking their money.

    4. "There is nothing more "loving" or "Peaceful" about spending money on mating studies over military operations."

      What? So you think spending money on mating studies is just as peaceful as spending it on killing innocent people? You sure you are actually thinking that through?

      Note that I agree that taxing is a form of aggression in the first place. But that alone doesn't mean that the way the money is spent doesn't matter.

    5. @monsieur - that's correct. And guess who's voices will be muted when discussions about government cuts come up... Government employees.

      "Less government!" says govt "bitch" - secretly hopes nobody hears

    6. touche

      ron swanson exception?

      but seriously, i doubt greg's job will keep him from opposing wars, etc. likely he can be like ron paul, oppose the spending but use it while it's there. Are you suggesting Ron was muted by his government job and ability to earmark pork?

    7. MonsieurMadeleine, "if u think your money spent killing people is as peaceful as your money spent making lollipops..."
      The point is IT IS NOT MY MONEY ANYMORE, it was forcibly taken from me under threat of violence. Yes, for ME to spend MY money on lollipops is obviously more peaceful than to spend MY money on guns and bombs for the purposes of aggression. If I plunder from you your wages at knife point, is that violence lessened in any way by my spending that money on groceries for grandma?
      Besides, I wasn't saying "gov't money spent on aggression is as peaceful as gov't money spent making lollipops." I was saying, "gov't money spent on lollipops is as violent as gov't money spent on aggression."

      "u pay your taxes willing with no violence occuring anyway"- won't even go there.

  6. Ron Paul on earmarks at 12-15-11 Fox News Debate. It's already picked from your pocket! no shame in trying to bring the cheddar home to something that helps your community. RP said it gets passed up the chain of government if not spent locally.

    1. "Don't steal the government hates competition." Sign on Ron Paul's desk.

      "Gimme some of dat der stolen money." Ron Paul political philosophy.

  7. Sorry, but the above article just seems like a 'complicated' set of rules bordering on science, just to tell hypocrites its okay to still use the gun of the government to their own advantage. You think most people who call themselves libertarians are going to be thinking of "curves" to determine if it is okay to take a little money here and a little money there from the government? It's just a convenient justification for being able to do what you really wanted to do anyway.
    Either take it or don't, and face the consequences of what that makes you.

    Like "Anonymous July 11, 2012 9:30 PM" said it should be looked at on a case by case basis.
    If you are looking for reasons or justifications on how utilizing the government to make extra money is not making you "un-libertarian", you most likely just are.

    And ALL government spending is aggressive in one way or another.

    P.S. In the case of Ron Paul it is simple to me. He is not the one making the extra money. He is simply serving his people and giving them some of their money back. Even if that guarantees him votes (which would make it seem self-serving) it is obvious to anyone that he is using those votes to further promote liberty and peace at national levels.

    1. Where is the flaw in Wenzel's logic? If the government takes every penny it can get, then it sure does make sense that we should attempt to push the spending in the direction of non-aggression products, rather than products that cause even more infringements on our freedoms.

    2. Yes, and let's all vote to try to influence that decision making process further...

  8. The problem with this theory is that government spending quickly turns from the relatively benign to the typically malignant. Thus spending on lollipops will quickly turn into a War on Candy Bars.

    Waging war is the only thing that the state is capable of doing competently and thus it quickly turns any goal it tries to achieve into a war.

    The unholy between the Drug Warriors and the beer companies in California is just one example of this rule.

    1. In what reality does the government wage war competently? I agree that they have a passion for it and do try to spin every issue into a war, but they still suck at it as they do at everything.

      The point of this article is simply that spending on education and food is less horrible than spending on war and surveillance. If the former starts morphing into the latter the libertarian bitch would have to move into a less aggressive job.

  9. Bob,

    I'm a huge fan of your site and your writing, but I have to disagree with your philosophy on this for a few reasons.

    Why would we believe that the amount that can be taxed, printed, or borrowed can not be readily increased? Haven't we seen this in just the past few years alone?

    Who says spending on lollipops is non-aggressive? Where is this value scale we should use to evaluate what is acceptable government spending? How are lollipops OK but healthcare is not?

    If it's OK for libertarians to take money why not others as long as they are taking it for "non-aggressive" uses?

    It would seem to take a great deal of cognitive dissonance to be a libertarian while directly participating in the very system your principles abhor.

    I say directly because Walter Block is correct that we all benefit indirectly from government spending. But I think there is a huge difference between driving on a government road paid for with stolen money and directly applying to get more of that stolen money from the thief.

    I've posted a longer rebuttal here:

  10. I am in complete agreement with what Robert said, except perhaps we can add a nuance for case-by-case arguments where "aggressive" expenses are less damaging than "non-aggressive" expenses. It is hard to use these black-white blanket terms "aggressive" or "non-aggressive" when the level of aggression or damage done to society is better gauged on a spectrum of evil.

    For instance, which expense is worse: public education or wiretapping? Yes, wiretapping is aggressive, it's an unwanted intrusion into our privacy. But isn't public education worse in many aspects because it teaches kids to worship the state and inhibits their critical thinking skills? Wouldn't funding state propaganda through public education be more objectionable and further entrench the state than spending on wiretapping?

    Here are two other cases: air conditioning for troops in Iraq and funding for the FDA. Air conditioning in a warzone would surely have to fall under a military expenditure and could be in the "aggressive" category - it is aiding soldiers who kill innocents and blow up property. But if there was no air-conditioning, they would probably still be there, and more irritable which might lead to more needless killing. However, funding for the FDA (a "non-aggressive" expenditure) results in many more deaths than air-conditioning in Iraq. Drugs that treat cancer and other deadly diseases take years to be approved, many treatments are rejected, and many people end up dying because of this "non-aggressive" bureaucracy.

    Robert, I think the answers aren't always as clear as you may think.

    1. Yes, public education is much worse than wiretapping, and I would claim the FDA is very aggressive. Neither issue is what's being discussed however. As libertarians we oppose all government spending. The issue is what government jobs is it justifiable for libertarians to take. In this context, I think it is clear that a libertarian public school teacher is better than more wiretapping and a libertarian in the FDA might try to expedite the approval process.

    2. Yes, then we are in agreement as to what kind of spending libertarians should prefer assuming that government spending is "fixed," and that the line between "aggressive" and "non-aggressive" gets blurry in some cases.

      Your concern about libertarians accepting jobs in the public sector is well-heeded. From their positions, they could work to make the state relatively more efficient, just, peaceful, and small. An even bigger concern is that if all libertarians and moral people consciously avoid government, then government becomes a "group-think" environment with only liars and crooks, i.e. libertarians and peace advocates avoided entering the intelligence community in the 60's and 70's so their ranks were filled by neocons instead.

      I was offered accounting jobs by the IRS and by the U.S. Defense and Finance Accounting Services. I denied both. I could never live with myself in those roles in which your everyday activity contributes to preying on innocent people. (Perhaps public school teachers are less predatory/propagandizing). Even if you have good intentions and share the ultimate goal of abolishing/curtailing these institutions, once you join the mafia in its criminal behavior, you're just as guilty as they are.

  11. Well explained Robert. Your first version was ambiguous, which left it open to to attack (and is also probably why you had 100 comments on it and only 18 comments -at time of comment- on this one. where did they all go?).