Where do we agree/disagree and why? Recently saw a post asking for differing opinions and would love to discuss!
I recently came across this post: https://www.reddit.com/r/Libertarian/comments/loahd7/if_you_want_a_circle_jerk_or_echo_chamber_this/
And it seemed to be asking for differing views. If you’re interested, I’d love to a discussion and try and find some common ground as well as where we differ. My dad is a libertarian so I have a fairly decent understanding of a lot of libertarian positions but it’s not like libertarianism is one thing, there’s lots of branches and variations, so I’d love to hear where we agree and disagree and why. In this post I’ll outline my basic politic philosophy. It’s gonna be a long post, and I’m not asking you to read it all, so skip ahead to the parts that interest you and I can comment in the comments!
So as a far as I can tell, the most fundamental value of libertarianism is the ideal of freedom. The goal is to create a society where people are free to live their lives as they please. That sound right to you? Well, I also agree that this should be a huge goal in politics, though I also think that there are some other goals we should pursue as well (we’ll get into that a bit later). I think that social democracy does a better job of ensuring freedom for more people and it is one of the reasons I quite like the idea. Now, just to clarify, much like libertarianism, social democracy is a pretty wide field of thought. So I am a modern social democrat/third way type social democrat. I don’t think that the end goal of social democracy should be to establish socialism in the future (that would be orthodox social democrats). Instead I think that we should have a stronger welfare state coupled with regulation of private markets. So, I wouldn’t call myself a socialist, I think i’d probably best by described as a left-leaning liberal if that makes sense. Personally, I quite like the economic system of sweden or modern day germany. So yeah, basic summary of my principles: I think that we should have a stronger welfare state coupled with private markets that are regulated to a certain degree. The government should strive to maximize freedom and security (though you can’t really have both, so you need to find the right balance).
Why do I believe that social democracy does a better job of ensuring freedom than Libertarianism?
So as far as I can tell the most fundamental tenet of libertarianism is the belief that we should be as free as possible. So why do I think that social democracy ensures freedom better than libertarianism? Basically because I would argue it is a lot harder to be free when you are tied to your job. So, let’s say I’m an office worker who really hates my job. What would prevent me from leaving my job? The top thing that comes to mind is health insurance. Most americans get their health insurance from their employers meaning that they are effectively tied down to their jobs for fear of losing insurance. You aren’t free to engage in the job of your choice, you aren’t free to find work that you find valuable, instead you are stuck at a job you despise because you need to keep your healthcare. You could argue that this is true of the entirety of the wage structure wherein you must work for someone to survive. Sure, in principle you could become an entrepreneur, but that is far from guaranteed to work out and that’s especially hard to do if you are poorer and lack the capital to invest. What would be better at ensuring freedom to work as you please and engage in entrepreneurship would be what they do in sweden. Over in sweden, there is a program wherein your employer cannot fire you for a few months should you choose to leave your job to start a business (so long as it doesn’t compete against the employer’s business). I don’t believe your employer is required to pay you during this time. What this effectively means is that you are free to leave your job to start a company should you dislike your job and you don’t have to fear losing your job for at least a few months. In Sweden it is even better because they have nationalized healthcare so that even if you do lose that job when sticking with your new company, you won’t lose your healthcare and potentially die or be bankrupt. So, in sweden i’d be free to leave a job I hate in order to start my own company, or I could go find a job that I like more without fear of losing healthcare or going bankrupt. I am much freer and have more leverage in an employer-employee relationship. I am not nearly as tied down and employers cannot use the healthcare as a way to keep me in place in a job I hate. It’s essentially less coercion towards workers. You can find a lot of other examples in employee employer relationships and stuff like that. Now if a libertarian is opposed to nationalized healthcare or rules like the hiatus on firing in sweden, wouldn’t that lead to a stronger employer and someone who is better able to coerce employees to stay in a job they want to leave? Is that someone who feels free? If you feel trapped do you feel free? As such, I tend to think things like nationalized healthcare (speicifically a public option, don’t want people to be forced to choose a particular option, I’d like them to be able to choose what healthcare they want and I want the government to have a free option so no one is too poor to afford it. Plus, it forces companies to compete against a free service so they need to either offer way better service to customers in order to stay in business). If the government provides a certain baseline for survival (I’m not talking like a middle class existence here, but nobody in the US should be in fear of starvation should they lose and job and medical debt simply should not be the leading cause of bankruptcy in this country). Yes, some people will exploit that system, but most people want more and they want to live a better life than what would be offered in this system. To do that, they would be incentivized to work for someone or for themselves. But under this system they are free to choose for who and for how long. Nobody starves, and people work to better themselves and others (cause of the incentive structures of the market).
So worker co-ops are an interesting concept and I am sure that very few libertarians have issues with them. I don’t think that every company should be converted into a co-op. But I do think that if we had more of them that would be a good thing. So imagine a market where co-ops and privately owned firms compete with each other. This effectively works as a system of checks and balances on the power structure in society. So here’s what I mean. Privately owned firms naturally are biased towards the interests of the owners and customers because the customers are the ones paying the owners and the owners are the ones running the company. So owners factor in customer interests in decision making as well as the actions of other firms (at least in a competitive market). In a non-competitive market (like we have now, a huge number of markets are heavily consolidated in the hands of a few firms. This is due to a lack of enforcement of anti-trust coupled with a historic number of mergers), owner interests predominate cause they don’t have to compete with other firms so customers and workers get screwed. In a worker co-op, the people running the firm are the workers, they can either be directed elected by the workers or you could have a direct democracy sorta system wherein workers vote directly on policies. In either case worker interests are predominant because in order to get to the head of the company in elections or for policies to pass, you must appease the workers. But worker interests cannot be too strong because if they were and the customer got screwed then the firm would go under. So worker and customer interests are balanced in a worker co-op. If you mix a market of co-ops and privately owned firms you end up with a system where competing firms balance out the interests of workers, customers, and owners. This effect is magnified when you have more co-ops. This could be done with subsidized loans or tax breaks to investors (a lot of investors don’t touch co-ops cause a) it’s kinda hard to invest in a firm that is structured like a co-op and b) even if they did, they don’t prioritize profits like private firms, so investors may lose money in a way they won’t with a private firm). though if this is done, the government must be willingly to let co-ops go under should the market dictate so.
So I have very very very strong anti-drug war opinions primarily because of the cartels. I can go into more detail in the comments, but basically I think that banning such a high demanded produces a black market. The only people willingly to supply on that market are those willingly to operate outside of the law. If you operate outside the law you cannot rely on the courts for resolution to disputes. So what do the cartels do? They rely on violence to solve disputes. Because the margins in that black market are so high, the money actually goes to fund guns and weapons which fuels violence and instability in a number of countries. I mean hell, the taliban funded most of its operation from heorine. More people have died because of cartel violence in Mexico than the combination of the actual warzones of Afghanistan and Iraq. That is fucking ridiculous. Innocent people being killed because a plant is profitable. Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t make that plant illegal and gave people the freedom to smoke what they want? I’m in favor of fewer innocent people dying, and I think that’s an uncontroversial position. I can get into the domestic effects of this drug policy and potential solutions to problems it causes in comments if you are curious.
I am very pro-immigration because it is good for the economy. This post is getting long so if you want details ask in the comments.
Taxation (every libertarian’s favorite topic)
Ok so this is gonna be the most interesting topic i imagine. So to fund the welfare state I have described wherein anyone and everyone can have a basic standard of living, you need cash and a lot of it. That cash must come from taxation. I am gonna address something really quickly before I get into taxation because I know for a fact this will come up:
The taxation is theft argument:
If you live in an apartment you have to pay rent. To me taxation is the same on a country scale. It’s like rent for living in the US. You don’t pay your rent you get evicted. You don’t pay taxes you get ‘evicted’ from the country (i.e. you go to jail). You are free at any point to renounce your american citizenship should you so desire. You can decide to not want to live in this “apartment” of a country should you so chose. You can go live in the woods in the US and the authorities may not find you, who knows. I mean if you don’t want to pay taxes you have legal options you can take. But most people don’t. Why? For the same reason they pay rent: cause they like the benefits that come with paying rent. If you want to live in the US with all the benefits that entails, you also have to agree to the costs. If the costs are too high compared to benefits, you are free to renounce your citizenship and leave. But most of us won’t do that.
Ok, with that addressed, how would I actually go about taxing people? Well, for the sort of welfare state I’d like you need a lot of cash. To do that you need a broad base taxation. This is actually where I differ with guys like Sanders. Sanders advocates for high level taxation on the wealthy and low levels on everyone else. I’d like to see moderate levels on everyone and increase it with each tax bracket. The basic logic here is that there are a lot more people who aren’t millionaires than there are millionaires. Like it or not the rich have their ways out of taxation. So if you really want a steady stream of money you need to have broad based taxation. So if you have moderate levels of taxation on every tax bracket, you get more revenue. But won’t this hurt the poor? Potentially, it depends on how the welfare state is structured and how the tax is collected. A VAT could potentially hurt the poor but if the money raised from it goes towards things like child care, public housing, and heatlhcare then they may actually end up better off. You gotta get the math right here but it is definitely possible. So yeah, broad base taxation. On the taxation front I actually like germany a bit more because it is a bit lower tax than Sweden (top rate is 45% vs 50 something (I can’t remember off the top of my head) %).
Sorry this is a long post and I have more views. If you’re curious just ask in the comments! I look forward to hearing back. I have a lot more views (i.e. codetermination, anti-trust, carbon tax, etc) but frankly I’m kinda worn out from writing all this lol.
Article from r/Libertarian: For a Free Society