Libertarianism is dictatorial collectivism. And freedom is slavery.

Sharron Angle is being widely ridiculed for saying that "sometimes dictators have good ideas." Seems she praised the wrong dictator:

Angle invoked Pinochet's name when discussing Social Security privatization: "She had previously used Chile's Augusto Pinochet's experiment as an example, but had not used it since her staff shut her down," Ralston writes. "That day, with no media there, saying her staff had warned her not to use it, she raised the Chile example again and added, 'Sometimes dictators have good ideas.' Her staff fretted the line would get out. It did not. Until now."

The Tea Party favorite came under considerable fire during the campaign for her seemingly contradictory views on what should be done with Social Security - which ranged from phasing it out completely, to "personalizing" it, to serving as its "salvation."

Angle is of course a convenient target of the leftosphere -- not so much for praising just any old dictator, but because the dictator involved was Pinochet. If a left wing politician praised an idea of Fidel Castro (as many have), that would be considered just peachy.

The moral lesson being imparted here is that saying "sometimes dictators have good ideas" is fine if you say that about Fidel Castro, but evil and deranged if you say it about Pinochet.

But that's just the standard "double standard defense" -- which isn't really a defense on the merits of the idea being praised. And while I would be willing to come to the defense of Angle on the merits, I am not sure that she is entirely accurate in characterizing what happened to the Chilean pension system as Pinochet's idea. More likely, it would have been alien to the man's rigid statist thinking. Here's what happened:

On November 4, 1980, under the leadership of Jose Pinera, Secretary of Labor and Pensions under Augusto Pinochet with the collaboration of his team of Chicago Boys, the PAYGO pension system was changed to a capital funded system run by investment funds.[2] Jose Pinera had the idea of privatizing the pension system for the first time when reading the book Capitalism and Freedom from Milton Friedman[3] There have been implemented several (private) pension funds the so-called Administradoras de Fondos de Pensiones (AFPs). For all citizens who are legally defined as workers, employers must pay a proportion of the earnings to a pension fund. Workers who had already paid in the old system, got an option to continue to pay into the old system. But the statutory minimum contribution to the new private pension funds was set 11% lower than the contributions to the old pension system, therefore most workers changed to the new pension system.[4]
If anyone should receive credit for the idea, it was Milton Friedman, not Pinochet. Friedman was much maligned for meeting with Pinochet and giving him advice, although he never understood why:
Friedman has wondered why some have attacked him for giving a lecture in Chile: "I must say, it's such a wonderful example of a double standard, because I had spent time in Yugoslavia, which was a communist country. I later gave a series of lectures in China. When I came back from communist China, I wrote a letter to the Stanford Daily newspaper in which I said, 'It's curious. I gave exactly the same lectures in China that I gave in Chile. I have had many demonstrations against me for what I said in Chile. Nobody has made any objections to what I said in China. How come?'" He points out that his visit was unrelated to the political side of the regime and that during his visit to Chile he even stated that following his economic liberalization advice would help bring political freedom and the downfall of the regime.[19]
It is quite clear that Friedman had no delusions about the nature of the Pinochet regime, but that he hoped economic freedom might help lead to political freedom. From a 2006 piece by Reason's Brian Doherty:
....[Friedman] tried to move the world in a freer direction from the point reality presented him with.

"I have nothing good to say about the political regime that Pinochet imposed," Friedman said in 1991. "It was a terrible political regime. The real miracle of Chile is not how well it has done economically; the real miracle of Chile is that a military junta was willing to go against its principles and support a free-market regime designed by principled believers in a free market....In Chile, the drive for political freedom that was generated by economic freedom and the resulting economic success ultimately resulted in a referendum that introduced political democracy."

It may have been more morally satisfying to have no relationship with Pinochet, merely condemn him from afar. But in choosing to let his economic advice rise above political revulsion, Friedman almost certainly helped Chile in the long term--though it's important to remember that the "Chicago boys" were more responsible than Friedman himself, and that they were not following his prescriptions relentlessly or in any way under his direct instruction.

Whether Angle was correct in attributing a libertarianish idea to Pinochet, I'm more interested in the way these stories are used to undermine free market ideas, by conflating them with dictatorship, when in fact free markets tend to undermine dictatorship.

Of course, many people on the left subscribe to the Orwellian idea that free markets are themselves dictatorial. I found a particularly stomach-turning example here, although in fairness to the author, he was at least kind enough to warn libertarians in bold letters that they should just leave:

Note that this is not intended as a formal argument with libertarians: as explained below, there are no shared premises for such an argument. If you are a libertarian, it is pointless for you to read this: go somewhere else.
I'm one of those foolish individuals who's a sucker for a dare, so of course I didn't go somewhere else. I read the whole thing, and it was almost as much fun as watching the Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He is certainly right about no shared premises, though, as he maintains steadfastly that free markets are coercive and collective, that liberarianism is a form of collectivism, and from a libertarian perspective, his argument boils down to saying that what we think of as freedom is actually a form of slavery. A few excerpts:
In practice, free-market decisions are always collective: supply of one product, by one maker, to one customer is not a free market. A free market in the libertarian sense needs at least three parties: with only one buyer and one seller there is no competition. In a free market with multiple parties and mutual competition, all parties influence the final state of affairs. No individual can decide that outcome alone. While claiming to reject autocracy, libertarianism has in fact abandoned autonomy.
In other words, when Friedman and his followers speak of the "freedom to choose" that is not freedom at all, but it means being at the mercy of other people. To believe that, you have to be a communitarian, and as I've pointed out many times, arguments between libertarians and communitarians are hopeless. Tar and water.

Freedom is seen not as personal autonomy or the absence of government restraints, but as an outside thing to be imposed -- by force if necessary:

Libertarians believe that to impose freedom is not an imposition. For them, anything which can legitimately be described as 'freedom', may legitimately be imposed. The Libertarian FAQ, for instance, says "America's free press is envied by freedom-starved people everywhere": implicitly, to allow any other press would be a denial of freedom. In this logic, imposition of a political ideology is a generous response to the suffering of others, who are 'starved' of it. The climate of global politics is increasingly interventionist anyway. If US libertarians become less isolationist, they might demand that the US Marines bring the 'gift of freedom' to Africa and Latin America.
I'm reminded of what Glenn Reynolds has said about the evil libertarian plan:
"Those dangerous libertarians -- they want to take over the government, and then leave you alone!"
But as communitarians know, to leave people alone is a form of oppression.
Libertarians say they are against coercion, but they support the free market. The introduction of a free market in Russia after 1989, lead to an excess mortality of about 3 million people. I call that force (and not defensive or retaliatory force): libertarians do not. Some US employers require their employees to smile at all customers, or lose their job. I call that coercion: libertarians call it freedom of contract. There is no point in further discussion of these issues: they are examples of irreconcilable value conflicts.
I'm glad the author issues the periodic reminders that the differences are irreconcilable, because it makes it easier (especially for hard line, big-l Libertarians) to go about their business without worrying. (Small-l constitutional libertarians like me can wallow in the misery we chose so freely by slogging through this communitarian shlock.)

Contrary to what many libertarians imagine to be true, in the free market, there is no moral autonomy:

moral autonomy:
Libertarians claim to value the moral autonomy of the individual. However, in the free market which they advocate, there is no connection between individual action and social outcome. A one-person boycott of meat will not stop the slaughter of animals. In reality, the individual is powerless in the face of the market - and without some decision-making power there is no real moral autonomy. The implicit position of most libertarians is that this must be accepted - that the outcome of the market is morally legitimate, even if it does not correspond to the conscience of the individual. Certainly, all libertarians distrust even limited interference with the market: many reject it entirely.
Yes, which is why I reject the war on drugs as a classic example of interference with the free market. Drugs which sell for a small fortune on the street are actually worth pennies, and if they were freely sold for what they were worth, market dynamics would cause users to either maintain their habits, die of overdoses, or get help in the same way that alcohol users either do or don't. Freedom to choose works that way. Some choices have disastrous consequences, as I freely admit. Freedom can not only be disgusting, it can also prove fatal.

Of course the free market can be tyrannical and there are numerous examples of its failures. But if we consider what the alternative has done to many millions of people, I'll take freedom any day.

We can buy gasoline or not. If the price goes up, I walk more and drive less. Still, I like the idea of being able to keep an eye on the prices and drive up to a pump and fill my tank whenever I want. But let us suppose that the government decided that because gasoline is a dangerous, polluting (and of course "addictive") substance, it should be regulated the same way we regulate addictive drugs. You want gasoline, you need a prescription from someone who is officially licensed to prescribe gasoline, and who carefully evaluates whether you have a real need for this toxin. The result would be a huge black market in illegal gasoline, with shady entrepreneurs springing up on street corners, selling adulterated and dangerous "gasoline" which would damage people's cars, start fires, and cause turf wars. Driving would become much more dangerous, crime would increase monumentally, and the government would have to send in SWAT Teams with specially marked fire engines to raid the dangerous and illegal "gas houses," which would doubtless be guarded by armed thugs with pit bulls who would also have to be shot. So to me, regulating gasoline as we do drugs would be a nightmare. But to those who want to save us from the free market and save the planet from our evil carbon appetites, it would be a utopia.

That's because it would save us from choice, and from the illusion of freedom. The reason it's an illusion is that because we are living collectively anyway, libertarianism is collectivism:

In a free market, the individual consumer does not have 'freedom to choose': the freedom can only be exercised collectively. However, those consumers whose choice coincides with the outcome of market forces, are rewarded. The others are not only the losers on the market, but then also face market pressure to adapt their choice. In general, average-taste choices benefit. Free markets are not simply collective, but do have a centring effect.

This quote from Eric Raymond (original now offline) sums up the libertarian attitude:

As for whether open-source is 'techno-libertarian' -- well, I invite you to note that there is no coercion in it anywhere. It's a pure example of voluntary cooperation in a free market. The fact that open-source development leads to mostly cooperative rather than mostly competitive behavior is consistent; market economies are the most marvelous cooperative engines ever.

That is why markets are wrong: they produce social and technological uniformity. They 'centre' society. However, for some libertarians, that is exactly what makes them right.

Actually, "open-source" refers primarily to Linux -- a free operating system which is an alternative to Windows and Mac. As regular readers know, I love Linux, and I have long seen it as precisely the antithesis of social and technological uniformity. I suppose that if it became the dominant operating system, the argument could be made that things had gotten too uniform. But where's there's an excess of uniformity, an alternative will spring up somewhere, and people will be free to choose it.

But they're actually not free, you see, because there is no freedom; only a delusion.

I only imagined that I had the freedom to write this post. I only say that I'm in favor of freedom; the reality is that I want dictatorial collectivism.

Oh, and I'm also a conservative who wants to prevent social change:

Thirdly, libertarians are conservatives. Many are openly conservative, others are evasive about the issue. But in the case of openly conservative libertarians, the intense commitment to conservatism forms the apparent core of their beliefs. I suggest this applies to most libertarians: they are not really interested in the free market or the non-coercion principle or limited government as such, but in their effects. Perhaps what libertarians really want is to prevent innovation, to reverse social change, or in some way to return to the past. Certainly conservative ideals are easy to find among libertarians. Charles Murray, for instance, writes in What it means to be a Libertarian (p. 138):

The triumph of an earlier America was that it has set all the right trends in motion, at a time when the world was first coming out of millennia of poverty into an era of plenty. The tragedy of contemporary America is that it abandonned that course. Libertarians want to return to it.

Yes, that is all too true. Many libertarians, myself included, would love to see a return to constitutionally limited government.

It's nice to know that someone thinks libertarians are conservative, though, because some conservatives feel very strongly that they are not. And there are a number of libertarians who question the extent of modern American conservatism's commitment to freedom.

But if we consider that there is no such thing as freedom anyway, and we are all working towards dictatorial collectivism, then what's the point of arguing over something that does not exist because it is its own opposite?

I'd say I didn't care, but I don't want to be accused of whistling past the graveyard of freedom.

MORE: Some great wisdom in Dave's latest post:

If there's one point libertarians could best serve society by promulgating and proselytizing, it's that virtually every reason that people's lives aren't a short, brutal experience of miserably cold, sick, and hungry competition for scarce resources is the result of a productivity improvement that resulted in either a new product or a cheaper, better version of an existing one -- and 99% of such attempts at inventing new or better products fail, which is why it's vitally important not to overly hinder the process if we want the improvement in the human condition to continue.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all. I second what Glenn said about how to spot the fascists, because they're the ones calling for a smaller government. I should also point out as a public service reminder that you can also spot fascist libertarians by the deadly sneakers they wear.

We can't be too careful!

Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

AND MORE: Speaking of warnings, be sure not to miss the post Glenn linked along with mine. A Newsweek writer has helpfully warned that Tea Partyers are the slave-holders of today! (Their claim of being concerned with unsustainable deficits and federal spending is only a front.)

END NOTE: I guess this observation was inevitable:

hitler was a libertarian that forced the market onto germans thru coercion
May Godwin forgive me.

posted by Eric on 11.19.10 at 12:22 PM


I think Angle has the worst political instincts I've ever seen.

Does anyone really like her, as opposed to being broadly in favor of things she's presumed to be broadly in favor of (like a constitutionally limited government, say)? Or just for being not-Harry-Reid?

I mean, even if you thought it was a good idea to praise economic liberalization by pointing out that it works well for everyone, even dictators...couldn't you find a better way of saying it?

Sorry for ignoring the substance of your post, Eric.

DJ   ·  November 19, 2010 1:27 PM

I collectively want to be left alone.

Could some one parse that for me? Although since I claim mild schizophrenia it could make sense.

M. Simon   ·  November 19, 2010 1:45 PM

"They 'centre' society. However, for some libertarians, that is exactly what makes them right."

So...the fact that most people walk around using their legs instead of say, dragging themselves along by their tongues, is evidence that we've been coerced into uniformity?

Or do most people tend to use what actually works well?

Anonymous   ·  November 19, 2010 3:44 PM

That's ridiculous. Everyone knows Castro is the only dictator with good ideas.

TallDave   ·  November 19, 2010 4:05 PM

That's exactly right Dave.

The biggest problem was praising Pinochet.

He is a horrible dictator because he saw a commie takeover of his country coming so he took it over first, killed as many commies as he could find and then stepped down and left a functioning democracy.

And for that he can never be forgiven.

Veeshir   ·  November 19, 2010 4:36 PM

Does anyone really like her, as opposed to being broadly in favor of things she's presumed to be broadly in favor of (like a constitutionally limited government, say)? Or just for being not-Harry-Reid?

Do you think that any Harry Reid supporters really like him personally, as opposed to being broadly in favor of the things he's presumed to be broadly in favor of?

I'll say this much for the left, they understand the importance of electing people to office who'll vote the right way. The right seems to regard that sort of thing as being less important than personality.

flenser   ·  November 19, 2010 5:07 PM

Veeshir, FWIW, I made a T-shirt which pisses off the left more than it does the right.

It got me in trouble with the commie copycat cops too!

Things eventually got way out of hand, and I nearly lost Che's mind.

Eric Scheie   ·  November 19, 2010 5:27 PM

I'm not saying I like Pinochet, he was definitely a murderous dictator.

But for leftists he's a bad dictator, while Castro and Che are good murderous dictators.

That always makes me laugh.
So long as you say the right things, you too can be a good murderous dictator!

Veeshir   ·  November 20, 2010 9:36 AM
There is no point in further discussion of these issues: they are examples of irreconcilable value conflicts.

Which is why I predict an eventual Civil War II in this country. Just as slavery then was an irreconcilable value conflict, so is the new slavery, and it will not end peacefully.

SDN   ·  November 20, 2010 10:38 AM
I'm not saying I like Pinochet, he was definitely a murderous dictator.

But for leftists he's a bad dictator, while Castro and Che are good murderous dictators.

That always makes me laugh.
So long as you say the right things, you too can be a good murderous dictator!

He is a much better dictator than Castro, because he quit.
Mick Langan   ·  November 20, 2010 10:53 AM

Nice post. I still prefer the term "classical liberal" to small - l libertarian. It really pisses of lefties, which is a great bonus.

So glad you survived your encounter with the insane collectivist with your intellect in tact. That was funny.

Pablo   ·  November 20, 2010 11:22 AM

And let's not forget, to raise another example, that other Friedman - Thomas - and his insipid praise for the Chinese system.

Anyway, yes, sometimes dictators do have good ideas. It's how they implement them - like Beijing does - that's the problem.

SteveMG   ·  November 20, 2010 12:00 PM

Is Paul Treanor--whose ludicrous writings you cited--someone who is supposed to be someone?

It was stimulating to read over his stuff and seek a distillate. Two of his lovely ideas are as follows:

But what if they are the creators of wealth, and they refuse to create when they are taxed? Well then let us all live in poverty, and let us imprison them, for trying to blackmail the state into lowering their taxes.

If you refuse to work, you will go to prison; implicit is that you will then be made to produce the work you selfishly denied the state; or perhaps he merely means to suggest that you get released from prison when you return to work?

The fundamental task of the state, in a world of liberal market-democratic nation states, is to innovate. To innovate in contravention of national tradition, to innovate when necessary in defiance of the 'will of the people', and to innovate in defiance of market forces and market logic.

"The role of the state is to innovate...when necessary in defiance of 'the will of the people'...and market logic." Indeed, it is hard to see what is allowed to impede the state from "innovating."

I have to give Mr. Treanor (whoever he is) his due: he's come up with about as good a packaging for totalitarianism as it's had in awhile.

Fr Martin Fox   ·  November 20, 2010 12:28 PM

It's amazing the things one must believe to be a leftist. I guess, if you can call yourself a "progressive" for your belief in a 19th century economic theory, that's been a dismal failure everywhere it's been tried, you can convince yourself of anything.

Otis B. Driftwood   ·  November 20, 2010 12:29 PM

Everyone knows Castro is the only dictator with good ideas.

They like Hitler, too, they just won't admit it flat out. Bill Ayers estimated the Weather Underground would have to exterminate 25 million Americans to get the rest with his program....

Less radical and thus more insidious...the same people mocking Angle slavver all over Michelle Obama (...who is was neither elected to office nor employed by a federal agency, but somehow manages to wield power over schools and companies anyway) appropriating Nazi diet propaganda. "Fat kids are a threat to national security" is just a reboot of "your body belongs to Germany!"

HeatherRadish   ·  November 20, 2010 12:33 PM

Being a libertarian doesn't mean one has to support total atomization of society, it means that collective action takes place (or doesn't) on a **voluntary** basis. If the author of this reprehensible piece believes that individuals are somehow enslaved or oppressed by a market failure, a politically (classically) liberal society will allow for him and his like-minded friends to create their own remedy for that failure.

What it boils down to, of course, is a knowledge problem, one I doubt this fellow is able to overcome. Communitarians, like Communists, cannot possibly deliver on their promise of better living through coercion. Coercion works on a very small subset of behaviors that are prima facie aggressive and destructive. Once a society begins to expand the law to prohibit or even prescribe behavior based on law, it will being to deteriorate, as we are now.

Jeffersonian   ·  November 20, 2010 12:33 PM

Did anyone else think of the Monte Python line, "I thought we were an autonomous collective" while reading that? If you tried to parody leftard doublethink, you couldn't come close to Treanor's breathtaking anti-achievement. He really does suffer from some sort of moral insanity, but it makes for a gut-bustingly funny read.

Hucbald   ·  November 20, 2010 12:58 PM

I'm reading the essay against libertarianism you linked above, and am reading it with great amusement. I'm not a libertarian, at any rate I was never baptized as one, so I figured I was "permitted" to read it. It's really a hoot.

The author writes:

"[Libertarianism] is specifically associated with the United States, and to a lesser extent with Britain and its former 'white colonies' (Canada, Australia, New Zealand). Many libertarian authors know only North American political culture and society."

As I said, I'm no libertarian, but out of curiosity I wrote down a few names that one associates with libertarianism: Hayek, Rand, Popper, Von Mises, Friedman. Hmm. All native Europeans except for Friedman, whose parents were immigrant Hungarian Jews.

But I'm sure the author is right. Perhaps these are only minor figures...

Steve Worboys   ·  November 20, 2010 1:02 PM

If I understand this guy's post, true freedom comes only from being a dictator. Because of course, in a socialist society, the average proletarian's decisions have as little influence as the free market he decries. The only person with the power to actually do the things he describes is the dictator.

And since when has socialism created any kind of diversity whatsoever? A limited number of planners tend to have a limited number of ideas.

Fearsome Tycoon   ·  November 20, 2010 1:16 PM

Holy crap, Eric, you didn't even cite the worst part of this belch of lunacy! Look at how he winds up the piece:

"The fundamental task of the state, in a world of liberal market-democratic nation states, is to innovate. To innovate in contravention of national tradition, to innovate when necessary in defiance of the 'will of the people', and to innovate in defiance of market forces and market logic."

By this definition Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot were ideal expressions of the State and who, really can disagree? He goes on to even more alarming, surreal gibberish:

"The state goals below are derived from contra-libertarian values:

* to restrict tradition and heritage, to limit transgenerational culture and transgenerational community - especially if they inhibit innovation
* to restrict 'national values', that is the imposition of an ethnic or nation-specific morality
* to permit the individual to secede from the nation state, the primary transgenerational community
* to limit market forces, and their effects
to permit the individual to secede from the free market"

But if individuals are permitted to secede from the nation-state, what is to prevent a pure, market-driven (or ethnic, traditional) society to spring up in direct opposition to this crackpot's statist "innovations?"

Truly insane.

Jeffersonian   ·  November 20, 2010 1:21 PM

My HTML-fu does not please the Master, but I think you can see what's mine and what's his.

Jeffersonian   ·  November 20, 2010 1:24 PM

This guy's comments on innovation coming exclusively through the state would indicate that Russia should have beaten us in innovation long ago. I can categorically tell you that Soviet innovation was absolutely hopeless.

In December 2002, communism was collapsing all over the world. I wanted to see what the creaky old system was like before it died completely.

So I visited Cuba, and loved the place. The weather was gorgeous, the people were friendly. (This is why I visited Cuba and not the USSR.)

But the economic system? Not so much.

What I remember the most was the restaurants. Most of them were owned by the State, and had horrible food. Others were privately run, and had horrible food.


Because the State had a monopoly on purchasing from farmers. The restaurants had to get the food from the State, and the farmers only sold the State the worst swill they could get away with. Service was better in the private restaurants than the State places, but the food was no different, just more expensive.

I stayed in a pension house, which is someone opening up their apartment so I could sleep in their master bedroom. It was very nice. The couple I stayed with was great. They let me eat with them if I paid for the food, and the food was great because some farmers snuck out to private markets and sold the food illegally to private households. It was delicious; I asked them why they didn't start a restaurant. Well, private restaurants have to account for every bite of food they sell, to make sure it came from the State.

There are some good restaurants, although I never saw any of them. They buy the awful food from the State and throw it in the trash. Then they buy private food and serve it. This all costs the earth, of course.

Thanks to my trip to Cuba, I have flown on Soviet jets. The Yakolev Yak-42D, to be precise. My trip was in 2002 and my plane was maintained in such a way I thought it was 50 years old. I learned later it could not have been older then 1982, when that series was first built.

After flying on the Yak, and riding in Soviet Ladas, and seeing a Soviet Moskvitch (their alleged mid-level luxury car, sort of like a Toyota Camry in concept, nothing like one in quality), I can tell you that Soviet engineering is the anthesis of innovation.

Basically, if the Soviet vehicle could do the following, it was considered Finished, and no further time-consuming, expensive development was done.

  • Start.
  • Attain a reasonable speed.
  • Stop
  • Rust (judging by the examples on the road, this appears to be most important.)

The idea that someone might want to accomplish these tasks with any kind of bourgeois "comfort", "style" or even "reliability" was, of course, a violation of all the ideals of Communism and was not tolerated.

As a result, it is downright embarrassing to see this guy say that Capitalism prevents Innovation, and urges conformity on an unhappy world. How many brands of jeans are there in the USA? How many different cars, from lowly Kias to magnificent Mercedes, are there? Car and Driver magazine tested a Zil and found it hopeless compared to even Cadillacs, much less the best cars from Europe.

Did you realize that in East Germany, a Trabant literally costed as much as a Porsche 911? You would order a Trabant and wait 10 years for it. It would arrive and still be one of the most horrible cars ever made. If you put the equivalent aside in West Germany you would have a new 911. Most people think the 911 is, well, a slightly better car than the Trabant, which takes a snappy 33 seconds to get from zero to 56mph. (It will never reach 60). Its 26hp lawn mower engine spews incomprehensible amounts of pollution into the air, so even from an environmental perspective you are doing the greens a favor by buying a Porsche.

So I am sorry. If you run a coersive society, you can tell your subjects "It's the Trabant or nothing" and there is nothing they can do. In our society you can buy a 911 or an S-Class. Or even a Kia, if you want to be cheap. It's still crushingly superior to the Trabant or Lada.

Well, I think I have given enough examples of the truly remarkable level of Soviet (and Cuban) consumer innovation to make my point. I loved my visit to Cuba but after I came back, Castro threw a bunch of minor league dissenters in jail for 26 years. Too much for me, so I never went back.

But I'm glad I went. You really don't appreciate how horrible Communism is until you see it close up - and I didn't even have a close encounter with the guns and the guards, just the difficulties everyday people had surviving, and the laughably poor living conditions they had to endure. Laughable, of course, only if you aren't stuck there for good.


David H Dennis   ·  November 20, 2010 2:42 PM

Treanor's essay is the product of a first- or second-year philosophy student, and that is all. The banality, pedantry and contradictions are quite obvious. Give him a few more years and he'll master that total inscrutability that every successful modern practitioner requires to be a "good citizen" of the modern European bureaucracy.

As to Pinochet. The truth is that he remains widely admired in Chile, not as a murderer but as a reformer. One would think that Thomas Friedman would augment his praise for Chinese despotism with the Chilean example!

Heh. Of course he wouldn't do that. Pinochet doesn't have the required ideological "bloodline".

Steve Worboys   ·  November 20, 2010 2:51 PM

Mr. Scheie says "if anyone should receive credit for the idea, it was Milton Friedman, not Pinochet." Mr. Friedman certainly deserves credit for coming up with the idea, but somebody deserves credit for implementing it. If Jimmy Carter got it adopted in the US, we'd give him credit for that.

Roger Conley   ·  November 20, 2010 3:23 PM

All of this reversal is necessary in order to argue that socialist dictatorships are free.

We saw a lot more of it when there were more socialist dictatorships.

Since then the left has gotten a big pass. The media won’t report when lefties say these things and they just don’t say it as much since there is no international revolution to carry water for.

It's nice that after two years of Obama the moderates seem to be remembering… and that your writing articles about things like this. The party line is things like 'healthcare reform' are good and we are evil for being against them... when really, they're taking away our freedom to buy healthcare up and above what the government wants us to have.

Thomass   ·  November 20, 2010 3:37 PM

Here's what it boils down to: Every statist thinks that he's the new-and-improved version of Dr. Frankenstein and, this time, he'll be able to command his Monster to do his bidding (which, naturally, is utterly benign, beneficial and entirely devoid of human weaknesses like self-interest, jealousy, greed, etc.). It's a utopian fantasy, and a hellishly dangerous one at that.

Jeffersonian   ·  November 20, 2010 4:25 PM

Mr. Dennis,

I think he is talking about a different kind of innovation similar to what John Dewey said when he alleged the purpose of school was to make kids as unlike their fathers as possible.

Its moral innovation.

And that is almost always horrible.

We already know the True and the Right to a vast degree. We just need to obey it.

Tennwriter   ·  November 20, 2010 8:00 PM

It's very unfortunate, and unfortunately understandable, that so many these days speak of political theories as methods rather than as goals. This is understandably because those who commit this grave error have no goals other than power.

The libertarian cares for Liberty, regardless of the system which best achieves it. By keeping our eyes on the higher ideal of Liberty, we immunize ourselves from the dangers of material methodologies; we are assured that the What and the How are moral because we know that the Why is moral. With our eyes thus open, as our host so rightly says, "...if we consider what the alternative has done to many millions of people, I'll take freedom any day."

ChevalierdeJohnstone   ·  November 20, 2010 10:22 PM

Treanor's been kicking around for a while. Steven Den Beste took him down in a couple of posts back in '02:

Paul   ·  November 21, 2010 10:39 PM

What the "stomach turning" author fails to address is that with true freedom, individuals can choose whether or not to act collectively on a matter of common concern. This kind of "collectivism" is voluntary for entry and exit, and the individual is completely free. Planned, forced collectivism gives the individual no choice, and therefore can in no way be construed as freedom, regardless of the outcome it produces. FREEDOM IS FREEDOM. Mr. Treanor has thought himself into an idiot's corner from which he cannot escape.

DamnWalker   ·  November 22, 2010 3:10 PM

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