Humanists of Colorado Message Board › Global incarceration rates & Libertarianism

Global incarceration rates & Libertarianism

A former member
Post #: 368

If you're in jail, you aren't free.

That's pretty easy to grasp.

The US, the world's most capitalistic nation (and possibly the most Libertarian), is the world's most incarcerated nation.

The socialist nations such as Iceland, Norway, Finaland, Sweden, the Netherlands, on the other hand, have among the lowest incarceration rates in the world. (The very lowest tend to be countries that are so poor and chaotic that there's no police force, so the rates of the socialist countries are even more impressive than they appear.)

See for yourself: http://www.nationmast...­

So, Libertarians encounter yet another unpleasant reality: in addition to being happier, more affluent, less corrupt, healthier, with a far higher rating for press freedoms, the socialist countries are also among the most free.

Is it possible to be so wrong about everything that you actually dematerialize? Will we soon see disintegrating Libertarians?

--K.
Michael
Gravityisatheory
Denver, CO
Post #: 113
Libertarians advocate that offenses such as drug possession and prostitution be decriminalized. If they were, the rate of incarceration would be far lower in the US, as drug users account for a huge number of prisoners. The US incarceration rate might be far nearer those of "socialist" countries in such a case. Portugal, for instance, decriminalized possessing drugs in 2000, without a crisis as nay-sayers predicted. Granted, this is a different, smaller country. Even so, it can hardly then be blamed on "libertarians" that the US has high incarceration rates when they oppose laws that send many of those in prison there to begin with.
A former member
Post #: 372

The trouble with conservatism, including the Libertarian form, lies with the devotional head-bending toward the free market and privatization.

Privatized prisons have created an enormous slave-labor force that is compensated at pennies per hour, and for-profit imprisonment has also incentivized judges to hand down lengthy, or even cooked sentences to the innocent, or near-innocent. (This isn't theoretical. It has happened in Pennsylvania.) Currently, a high percentage of the incarcerated is indeed comprised of petty drug offenders. But with all of the fiscal incentives in place for for-profit incarceration, it is hard to doubt that similar sentencing wouldn't flow down from other trivial offenses, whatever they might be.

This is why we find that the power of the state is needed to intervene to block the power of the free-market anywhere we turn.

--K.
Michael
Gravityisatheory
Denver, CO
Post #: 114
This is another issue, though it's certainly a concern. (On a side note, some libertarians are conservative, but saying all of them are is a mistake). It touches upon something very prevalent, both among self-described opponents of "free market" economics, and proponents as well. Namely, that we have is in any way such a system. Prisons such as you describe have no more to do with free market economics than does Academi, previously known as Xe Services or Blackwater. It's simply the state contracting out a service, ill-advised as that may be. There is nothing free market in the state partnering with businesses, and especially not in no-bid contracts they issue or similar crony capitalism. Abuses which are blamed on the free market have little to no power if not supported by the state. Conversely, we may ask then who will balance the state power? This state powerful enough to "block" the free market is a concern itself. Not to mention that it is the source of Big Business' power to begin with.
Jeanette M. N.
wickedatheist
Denver, CO
Post #: 3,945
That's a good point. Some (but not all) supposed proponents of a "free market" system are big cheerleaders for the state propping up the oil industry, and for the military-industrial complex, and other tight arrangements between the state and business. But such arrangements reek of fascism, the polar opposite of a free market.
A former member
Post #: 374
I believe what you're eventually going to find is that it not only isn't another issue, but that it goes to the very heart of what Libertarianism is all about, and to the very heart of why Libertarianism fails, fails, fails, fails. (Henceforth, I am always referring to Ayn Randian Libertarianism, when I capitalize the term.)

I would agree that we don't have a free market system. But the deeper point is: we probably never will, and, even more, we wouldn't really want one, even if we got it. (We should pick at least some winners and losers. Do we want Big Tobacco to be a winner? Big "duh" factor there.) We likely never will have free markets, because the words "crony" and "capitalism" have always gone together in every form of capitalism attempted to date. That's because all of those variants of capitalism serve to concentrate wealth. That is the very purpose of a corporation, after all. (Certainly not job creation. Corporations would instantly shed every single job in existence if capable enough robots came along at the right price point.)

There's only one politico-economic system that's never been seriously tried: ironically, it's the only one that can possibly work, in the long run. I refer to the "distributism" that we discussed very briefly earlier.

Capitalists are people, states are also people. (Corporations, my friend, are NOT people. Would somebody please pinch Romney to see if he's conscious? Or sane? It could be that he's actually a bag of meat with an epidermis stretched around it. Yes, I think so. And we'll probably find that his refrigerator is well stocked with brains.)

People who want everything for themselves (Ayn Randian Libertarians, Mitt Romney crony capitalists) will always try to game society in such a way that they get everything for themselves. And since concentrated wealth is a powerful political tool, any society that doesn't consciously set out to prevent concentrations of wealth (and poverty) at all costs will, inevitably, become a failed society.

Crony capitalism is a direct manifestation of the Ayn Randian Libertarian (and crony capitalist) mindset ("I've got mine, fuck you." Or "I'm going to get mine, fuck you." Or, simply, "Fuck you.")

So is everything around privatization. Prisons for profit? Capitalist and minimal-statist (hence Libertarian) to the very marrow bone.

So: who will balance state power? Only one answer to that is possible. State power, on closer examination, always turns out to be people power. Rich people power. (What else could it be, after all?) If we set out specifically to prevent extremes of wealth, we will also directly attack issues of the excesses of state power. This is proven by the Scandinavian countries. The reverse, that extremes of wealth will lead to extremes in the way political power is exercised, is being increasingly proven here in the US.

But then, that point has been proven by nearly the entirety of human history.

(And, of course, a related point is: we may ask then who will balance crony capitalist power? It won't be crony capitalists, and it certainly won't be Libertarians, either. To date the closest approach has been Scandinavian socialism. And that's because it best approximates to distributism.)

--K.

Michael
Gravityisatheory
Denver, CO
Post #: 115
That's a good point. Some (but not all) supposed proponents of a "free market" system are big cheerleaders for the state propping up the oil industry, and for the military-industrial complex, and other tight arrangements between the state and business. But such arrangements reek of fascism, the polar opposite of a free market.

Yes, indeed. There is more "free market" rhetoric than substance, to be sure.

I believe what you're eventually going to find is that it not only isn't another issue, but that it goes to the very heart of what Libertarianism is all about, and to the very heart of why Libertarianism fails, fails, fails, fails. (Henceforth, I am always referring to Ayn Randian Libertarianism, when I capitalize the term.)

I would agree that we don't have a free market system. But the deeper point is: we probably never will, and, even more, we wouldn't really want one, even if we got it. (We should pick at least some winners and losers. Do we want Big Tobacco to be a winner? Big "duh" factor there.) We likely never will have free markets, because the words "crony" and "capitalism" have always gone together in every form of capitalism attempted to date. That's because all of those variants of capitalism serve to concentrate wealth. That is the very purpose of a corporation, after all. (Certainly not job creation. Corporations would instantly shed every single job in existence if capable enough robots came along at the right price point.)

There's only one politico-economic system that's never been seriously tried: ironically, it's the only one that can possibly work, in the long run. I refer to the "distributism" that we discussed very briefly earlier.

Capitalists are people, states are also people. (Corporations, my friend, are NOT people. Would somebody please pinch Romney to see if he's conscious? Or sane? It could be that he's actually a bag of meat with an epidermis stretched around it. Yes, I think so. And we'll probably find that his refrigerator is well stocked with brains.)

The problem with picking winners is that it usually just so happens to be cronies of the person doing the picking, which I'm sure you won't find surprising. Thus, we find a dinosaur economy with bloated corporate industries which often have little relation to actual supply or demand. Big Tobacco is a fine example, if we remember they have been given blanket immunity from lawsuits for any harmful effects of their products, over and above limited liability they already enjoy with corporate status, along with numerous protections from competition, etc.

The argument I make, as do others, is that with a genuinely free market, property in fact would be more widely distributed, including capital goods, or the same goal distributism holds to. Either way of course getter there is a problem.

You'll get no dispute from me that on corporations not being people. I'm one who thinks corporations should be, if not abolished, then highly restricted entities. I do not think regulation, in this case, would be something they can legitimately cry over, since it amounts to a huge subsidy (their automatic limited liability) any more than other favors which come with conditions on them.

People who want everything for themselves (Ayn Randian Libertarians, Mitt Romney crony capitalists) will always try to game society in such a way that they get everything for themselves. And since concentrated wealth is a powerful political tool, any society that doesn't consciously set out to prevent concentrations of wealth (and poverty) at all costs will, inevitably, become a failed society.

Crony capitalism is a direct manifestation of the Ayn Randian Libertarian (and crony capitalist) mindset ("I've got mine, fuck you." Or "I'm going to get mine, fuck you." Or, simply, "Fuck you.")

So is everything around privatization. Prisons for profit? Capitalist and minimal-statist (hence Libertarian) to the very marrow bone.


Consistent or not, many of Ayn Rand's villains were actually crony capitalists. Romney, of course, cannot even say that he claims to oppose this.

This may surprise you, but even Libertarians draw the line somewhere. As you note, for-profit prisons is essentially slavery. That is certainly a good place to draw the line. It also doesn't require that a service be formerly privatized for it to be profit-driven. If private prison companies had to bear the entire cost of housing, feeding and maintaining prisoners, the industry would be far, far less profitable, if it were feasible at all. Public-private partnership does make it profitable, but that just proves my point. The minimal state of Libertarians counts among that minimum a prison system, which should not be run for profit. I do not know of any who feel otherwise. Rather the opposite, with Libertarians decrying the expanding police state, the increasing amounts of new crimes and rising prison populations, etc.

So: who will balance state power? Only one answer to that is possible. State power, on closer examination, always turns out to be people power. Rich people power. (What else could it be, after all?) If we set out specifically to prevent extremes of wealth, we will also directly attack issues of the excesses of state power. This is proven by the Scandinavian countries. The reverse, that extremes of wealth will lead to extremes in the way political power is exercised, is being increasingly proven here in the US.

But then, that point has been proven by nearly the entirety of human history.

(And, of course, a related point is: we may ask then who will balance crony capitalist power? It won't be crony capitalists, and it certainly won't be Libertarians, either. To date the closest approach has been Scandinavian socialism. And that's because it best approximates to distributism.)

--K.

Well, certainly states are made up of people. That is something important, to not view the state as some entity with a life of its own, separate from those who make it up, any more than business corporations. While disparities of wealth are often linked to state power, this is not always the case. As communists are keen to point out, the countries such as pre-1976 China, the Soviet Union, etc. had much lower income gaps, though even then Party elites got the best of everything, naturally. Clearly state power was not, here, limited by a lower income gap. I'm not convinced of Libertarianism any more, nor other ideologies, though I share concerns with its adherents. That said, I think some of its historical and economic insights are useful. You might find Communist Yugoslavia under Tito interesting. They had a very different economic system in comparison to others, partly because Tito broke away from Stalin pretty early on and did his own thing. While the economy remained state-owned, the enterprises were run by their workers as something like cooperatives, and many did work outside Yugoslavia. They were thus better off economically than any of the communist states so far as I know. Of course, I believe this had to be heavily propped up by central bank loans and state funding, so I'm not sure how good it really was. Still, you might like to explore it.
A former member
Post #: 375
The problem with picking winners is that it usually just so happens to be cronies of the person doing the picking, which I'm sure you won't find surprising.


When this occurs (and it does) it is typically due to -- crony capitalism and Libertarian 'tude.

Thus, we find a dinosaur economy with bloated corporate industries which often have little relation to actual supply or demand. Big Tobacco is a fine example, if we remember they have been given blanket immunity from lawsuits for any harmful effects of their products, over and above limited liability they already enjoy with corporate status, along with numerous protections from competition, etc.

Well, there is actual demand for tobacco. A demand the tobacco companies are happy to supply. But the protections of Big Tobacco have much to do with political corruption, brought about by the concentrated wealth of the tobacco industry. And the demand has been stimulated by advertising that makes the inhalation of burning, carcinogenic leaves seem to be something glamorous. Which wouldn't occur if we picked losers.

The argument I make, as do others, is that with a genuinely free market, property in fact would be more widely distributed, including capital goods, or the same goal distributism holds to. Either way of course getter there is a problem.


Even a genuinely free market wouldn't result in Big Tobacco being a loser. Quite the reverse.

Consistent or not, many of Ayn Rand's villains were actually crony capitalists. Romney, of course, cannot even say that he claims to oppose this.

We should always remember that Rand's villains were primarily those with "herd feeling." And her heroes were the Atlases of the world -- Atlases best embodied in CEOs and bankers, whose shoulders, if shrugged, would bring down the world. But many of our CEOs, particularly those of the largest corporations, ARE crony capitalists. This was true in 1929, just as it is true today, just as it will be true tomorrow. This means that if Rand chose a crony capitalist as a villain she was either stupid, monumentally inconsistent, or doing her best to sweep the glaring collisions of reality with her philosophy under the rug.

This may surprise you, but even Libertarians draw the line somewhere. As you note, for-profit prisons is essentially slavery. That is certainly a good place to draw the line.


I'm glad to hear this. But drawing a line anywhere is inconsistent with fundamental Libertarian principles. To the extent that lines of this nature are drawn, they approximate to picking winners and losers.

It also doesn't require that a service be formerly privatized for it to be profit-driven. If private prison companies had to bear the entire cost of housing, feeding and maintaining prisoners, the industry would be far, far less profitable, if it were feasible at all. Public-private partnership does make it profitable, but that just proves my point.


Does it? Government in bed with private industry is the very definition of crony capitalism, and perfectly exemplifies what, in the real world, conservatives, fascists, and Libertarians love best of all (their phony or confused protests to the contrary notwithstanding). The "defense" industry embodies this well. So do privately-owned central banks. This is why we find Alan Greenspan, a Rand acolyte, in charge of the Federal Reserve. How better to fatten the old Atlas paycheck?

The minimal state of Libertarians counts among that minimum a prison system, which should not be run for profit. I do not know of any who feel otherwise. Rather the opposite, with Libertarians decrying the expanding police state, the increasing amounts of new crimes and rising prison populations, etc.


In the real world, conservatives love for-profit prisons. Nearly all conservatives (at least the ones in office) are working for an expanding police state (and a good many phony liberals, too). That's why we have these things. They didn't just pop up like mushrooms. And basic Libertarian philosophy is conservative. "Liberty" -- which always really means the freedom to make a profit no matter what the cost -- is construed to trump justice. I know there are idealistic Libertarians, particularly young ones, who decry this. But they are wasting their time. In the real world, Libertarian philosophy is absolutely nothing whatsoever but a fig leaf for all of this.

Party elites got the best of everything, naturally. Clearly state power was not, here, limited by a lower income gap.

Self-contradictory, no? But, setting that aside, the elimination of wide disparities of income will not result in any sort of justice in dictatorships. Dictatorships are inherently unjust. The points I am making here presuppose a framework of basic democratic governance of the sort we find in the Scandinavian socialist countries.

You might find Communist Yugoslavia under Tito interesting. They had a very different economic system in comparison to others, partly because Tito broke away from Stalin pretty early on and did his own thing. While the economy remained state-owned, the enterprises were run by their workers as something like cooperatives, and many did work outside Yugoslavia.

Communist states are, fundamentally, a bad idea, even with bandaids. The ideal is for power/wealth to be as widely dispersed as possible (with some, limited, meritocratic exception). The end result cannot be good with a too-powerful "state" (effective dictatorship), OR with too-concentrated private wealth (which will always tend to result in an effective dictatorship). Even most of the Scandinavian socialisms are only a halfway-house. They are only relatively better because the relative balance of power between the state and private wealth is better than it is in the US.

Among the states that have existed historically, or in the modern world, Norway (also the most Humanistic country in the world) provides the single best model. By comparison, Yugoslavia has nothing to teach us.

--K.
Michael
Gravityisatheory
Denver, CO
Post #: 116
When this occurs (and it does) it is typically due to -- crony capitalism and Libertarian 'tude.


So far as I can tell, Libertarians universally oppose it, and in fact it's one of their major grievances.

Well, there is actual demand for tobacco. A demand the tobacco companies are happy to supply. But the protections of Big Tobacco have much to do with political corruption, brought about by the concentrated wealth of the tobacco industry. And the demand has been stimulated by advertising that makes the inhalation of burning, carcinogenic leaves seem to be something glamorous. Which wouldn't occur if we picked losers.

Granted, but having to shoulder the costs, without protections of this kind, does make it far harder. Picking losers suffers from the same problem as picking winners.

Even a genuinely free market wouldn't result in Big Tobacco being a loser. Quite the reverse.

More of a loser than now by far, I'd say.

We should always remember that Rand's villains were primarily those with "herd feeling." And her heroes were the Atlases of the world -- Atlases best embodied in CEOs and bankers, whose shoulders, if shrugged, would bring down the world. But many of our CEOs, particularly those of the largest corporations, ARE crony capitalists. This was true in 1929, just as it is true today, just as it will be true tomorrow. This means that if Rand chose a crony capitalist as a villain she was either stupid, monumentally inconsistent, or doing her best to sweep the glaring collisions of reality with her philosophy under the rug.


True, I never said she was very consistent on this or in general. That said, her "heroes", contrived as it was, didn't resort to or rely on political favoritism so far as I know.

I'm glad to hear this. But drawing a line anywhere is inconsistent with fundamental Libertarian principles. To the extent that lines of this nature are drawn, they approximate to picking winners and losers.

There is nothing inconsistent about it. As I've explained before, "fundamental libertarian principles" consist of something like Herbert Spencer's Law of Equal Freedom, or "your freedom to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose." Human beings are considered their own property, as in the phrase "Harriet Tubman owns herself." Slavery is thus a violation of that. How does this approximate to picking winners and losers? That refers to deciding who will succeed in business, based not on supply and demand or economic efficiency, but political favoritism.

Does it? Government in bed with private industry is the very definition of crony capitalism, and perfectly exemplifies what, in the real world, conservatives, fascists, and Libertarians love best of all (their phony or confused protests to the contrary notwithstanding). The "defense" industry embodies this well. So do privately-owned central banks. This is why we find Alan Greenspan, a Rand acolyte, in charge of the Federal Reserve. How better to fatten the old Atlas paycheck?

Yes, this is the very definition of crony capitalism, no argument there. Conservatives and fascists may love it-the Libertarians demur. The defense industry and privately-owned central banks are not exactly on their list of favorite things. I have pointed out before that Greenspan reversed the views he advocated as a Rand acolyte in the 1960s, whatever their merits (advocating the gold standard, opposing the Fed etc.) by the time he became Fed Chairman in 1986 (obviously). Rand had died in 1982. However, she had opposed the Federal Reserve as stated above. We both dislike her, but blaming someone for what their one-time follower did that contradicted what they advocated makes little sense.

In the real world, conservatives love for-profit prisons. Nearly all conservatives (at least the ones in office) are working for an expanding police state (and a good many phony liberals, too). That's why we have these things. They didn't just pop up like mushrooms. And basic Libertarian philosophy is conservative. "Liberty" -- which always really means the freedom to make a profit no matter what the cost -- is construed to trump justice. I know there are idealistic Libertarians, particularly young ones, who decry this. But they are wasting their time. In the real world, Libertarian philosophy is absolutely nothing whatsoever but a fig leaf for all of this.

Yes, conservatives do seem to generally support that. Has it occurred to you however that phony Libertarians, in addition to liberals, might exist? The liberty idea I spelled out above is perceived as justice. This does not only cover making a profit, nor is that considered unlimited. It is possible for an idea to be used as a fig leaf without it being its core. There are many of these “idealistic” Libertarians, in all ages.

Self-contradictory, no? But, setting that aside, the elimination of wide disparities of income will not result in any sort of justice in dictatorships. Dictatorships are inherently unjust. The points I am making here presuppose a framework of basic democratic governance of the sort we find in the Scandinavian socialist countries.

Self-contradictory, but quite predictable. Power does and can remain concentrated, even in democracies. It is very difficult to insure a candidate does what their campaign promised, and the individual bad decisions of voters (not to mention voting itself) has little effect, but on a larger scale results in perversity.

Communist states are, fundamentally, a bad idea, even with bandaids. The ideal is for power/wealth to be as widely dispersed as possible (with some, limited, meritocratic exception). The end result cannot be good with a too-powerful "state" (effective dictatorship), OR with too-concentrated private wealth (which will always tend to result in an effective dictatorship). Even most of the Scandinavian socialisms are only a halfway-house. They are only relatively better because the relative balance of power between the state and private wealth is better than it is in the US.

Among the states that have existed historically, or in the modern world, Norway (also the most Humanistic country in the world) provides the single best model. By comparison, Yugoslavia has nothing to teach us.

--K.

Agreed. I mentioned them only for their system of worker self-management. That specific system is what I had in mind. I think it may have something to teach us. Obviously in your scenario it would be under at least a representative democracy.
A former member
Post #: 377
Has it occurred to you however that phony Libertarians, in addition to liberals, might exist? The liberty idea I spelled out above is perceived as justice.

Of course, but the problem is, phony or not, fundamental Libertarian principles will inevitably yield disastrous societies. Why? You identify the problem yourself in the second sentence. Liberty is important, but it isn't justice. Never has been. Never will be. Doesn't come close. Has nothing to do with the idea at all.

Libertarians think liberty (freedom) comes first, and justice comes second (or not at all). That's why they're LIBERTarians, not JUSTItarians. This means that they can claim to believe in Spencer's principle all day long, yet it just doesn't matter. They can't believe in it and at the same time be LIBERTarians. To do so is the precise equivalent of believing the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, while also believing that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. The principle does no real work in libertarian thought, except to be invoked whenever its fundamentally destructive and unjust nature is pointed out.

Once you start with LIBERTarian views, crony capitalism makes perfect sense, because it's such an incredibly good method of fattening the wallets of all those "Atlases."

So here's what happens: 99.9% of the time libertarians (lower case "l") operate on the basis of LIBERTarian views, particularly when it comes to enriching themselves, working for the Fed, etc. Then, when confronted with the fundamental injustice of their views, they immediately (and blandly, and with a straight face) invoke the Spencerian principle, as thought it was in no way contradictory to 99.9% of their views.

Views that incorporate self-contradictions are nonsense on stilts.

Libertarianism is nonsense on stilts.

Nonsense on stilts doesn't merit our attention.

It belongs in the dustbin of history.

--K.
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