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Tools
Posted by: Jon Henke on Monday, October 22, 2007

Two quotes that seem somehow related.

  1. "[L]iberals view government instrumentally — unlike conservatives or libertarians, its size, in the abstract, is of no particular interest. The choice of tool isn't a question of morality." - Ezra Klein


  2. "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." - Bernard Baruch

 
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unlike conservatives or libertarians, [government’s] size, in the abstract, is of no particular interest [to liberals].


It’s power to coerce, on the other hand, is of interest to both parties, for opposite reasons.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
What is it about Government that liberals think attract a better grade of people than, say a Corporation?

Governments require years to change something that isn’t working, be it a program or personnel. Companies change much faster.

With companies, you get a choice of who to do business with (which, in return forces the companies to do the bidding of their clients). Government doesn’t give you those options, so you’re stuck with whoever is in charge, not to mention the hordes of unelected bureaucrats who don’t depend on a bottom line to keep them in check.

I’m not saying we outsource the entire government to private companies, but 90% of what the federal government is doing today can be done by private enterprise at a fraction of the cost, exponentially greater freedom, and the best results for their customers.

Why is a monopoly on certain services guaranteed to run better by the government? What is so intrinsic about government that can do a better job? Government is made up of people, just like companies. And a focus on the bottom line assures companies that don’t perform well go by the way side faster than those that do.
 
Written By: Robb Allen
URL: http://blog.robballen.com
Brilliant, Jon. I like it.
But I wonder if Klein will.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
What is it about Government that liberals think attract a better grade of people than, say a Corporation?
Motivation. They honestly believe that the only reason to get involved in a corporation is to run roughshod over the rights of others in an attempt to feel important and wealthy - whereas the only reason to get involved in government is because you care about The People, or possibly subgroups such as The Children or The Poor. This is why liberals are so often willing to forgive corrupt (liberal) government officials, but not corrupt corporate officers.
 
Written By: Wulf
URL: http://www.atlasblogged.com
Government doesn’t give you those options, so you’re stuck with whoever is in charge,
Emphasis mine - that is why... without up and moving, you can’t find an alternative. See Hillary.
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
Probably the most vacuous thing Klein has ever written, and that’s some tough competition.
 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
Rob,
Why is a monopoly on certain services guaranteed to run better by the government? What is so intrinsic about government that can do a better job? Government is made up of people, just like companies. And a focus on the bottom line assures companies that don’t perform well go by the way side faster than those that do.
Nope. Performance (or lack of) is not relevent to operation of a monopoly. It is about the motivation - profit for a company versus popularity for the government and revolves around the nature of a monopoly market.

In a monopoly position a company truly focused on the bottom line will cause the market to pay as much as able for as little as possible. A government is in balance motivated by popularity, delivering as much as is needed without costing too much - the government is beholden to liberals (who think too little is being delivered) & conservatives (who think it is costing too much) in equal measure.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
"Emphasis mine - that is why... without up and moving, you can’t find an alternative."
This point was impressed on Doktor Erb, years ago. There has never been reason to suspect that he could or would grasp it.

That whole discussion at Klein’s place is just completely disgusting.

When you read that, you’re watching the Eloi budding right in front of your eyes.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Motivation. They honestly believe that the only reason to get involved in a corporation is to run roughshod over the rights of others in an attempt to feel important and wealthy - whereas the only reason to get involved in government is because you care about The People, or possibly subgroups such as The Children or The Poor. This is why liberals are so often willing to forgive corrupt (liberal) government officials, but not corrupt corporate officers.
Look around the world and most governments are corrupt, staffed by people who want to run roughshod over the rights of others in an attempt to feel important or wealthy. Governments and big corporations are similar; both need to be limited by rule of law, transparency and accountability. Big government is more dangerous than big money/big corporations because big governments can cause wars (such as Iraq) and have a legal monopoly on violence. But when there is no effective government, then private actors become corrupt and use force to maintain their advantage. The problem is how do you convince powerful actors to behave morally?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"The problem is how do you convince powerful actors to behave morally?"
You fire them, Erb. Just like I told you all those years ago.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
The problem is how do you convince powerful actors to behave morally?
Why would I want a company I own to act to some abstract moral concept? Surely it is better to make money.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://
"...make money."
Some of you people would do well to understand that, when it comes to concepts like this, words have very precise meanings.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
It’s almost like, they see everything as a nail, and if it doesn’t work, get a bigger hammer.

Consumers have a choice though with companies.

Let’s say you think providing heath insurance and free puppies to all employees is the moral thing to do. One can go to a higher priced producer who behaves the way you expect, rather then a lower priced producer who doesn’t.

All things being the same, the moral decision lies with the consumer. If business dries up for the non-moral producer, they have the choice to quit, or act the way consumers demand.

We have no such ready remedy with government. You can vote new people into office, but the hydra behind them (government bureaucracy) hardly changes. They retain a monopoly on certain things. Reducing that monopoly has been the goal of most libertarians, conservatives, and republicans (until recent times.)

And you have to love the straw-men arguments being used. If you’re against increasing SCHIP, or childcare being subsidized, then you’re against all entitlements, and public spending. I know there are some libertarians that think like that (Billy Beck comes to mind,) but I think generally most people think some service are appropriate for the Federal government, and the various other levels of government to provide.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
BTW, I’m not certain exactly what all Billy Beck believes, but he is a convenient example of more strict libertarian view.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
"The problem is how do you convince powerful actors to behave morally?"

You fire them, Erb. Just like I told you all those years ago.
How?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Well, see Scott, we have these things called elections. And while the desired outcome may not be what you desire, participation in this flawed system is better then many of the alternatives.



Of course, you know that...
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
I assure you, Keith, elections are not what Beck has in mind.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
No, Keith, I’ve given that solution to Billy, and he rejects elections. I agree that participation in a flawed system is better than the alternatives, and I think that real debate and disagreement is GOOD, it shows an exchange of ideas, especially when two sides listen to each other (even if they anger each other at times, and provoke each other). I get the impression Billy doesn’t want to listen to any alternative that is not his current belief, he’s got his mind made up, and he’s proud of it.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Hmmm... My end sarcasm tag was missing from previous post.
when two sides listen to each other (even if they anger each other at times, and provoke each other)
The problem is there are usually more then two sides to an issue, and our system isn’t set up to deal with that in an equitable way.

As far as what Mr Beck has in mind, I could think of several things. The 4 boxes for the defense of liberty come to mind.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
{sigh}

Look: it’s not my problem when people fall for Erb’s blanket equivocation between government "actors" and people who are not wielding the unilateral force of government. (Indeed, this whole issue is why he uses that word, "actors": in order to strip "action" of ethical consideration. It’s all the same to him: "power" — the ability to produce, and the will to apply the force of government. He’s not going to admit this, and he might not even understand it. But you should.)

Bloody read what the boy wrote, already:
"But when there is no effective government, then private actors become corrupt and use force to maintain their advantage. The problem is how do you convince powerful actors to behave morally?"
See it? Now, he knows that he cannot get away with a completely categorical equivocation of government and "private actors" because that’s just too absurd for even a poli-sci professor to try to foist, c. 2007. But look at the second clause of the first sentence that I’ve quoted, and the package-deal comparison is obvious, and so is his ignorance or downright mendacity (take your pick).

It’s easy: in fact, nobody has to "convince" them. All that has to happen is for people to stop buying what they offer at market. This is, after all, essential to any concept of "private ’actors’".

Of course, if we’re not dealing in proper concepts, then all bets are off, and you can have Professorboy Erb.

Any questions?
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
"I get the impression Billy doesn’t want to listen..."
Drop dead, dick-drip. Countless times, I have explained to you my moral objections to voting, and for you complain about what I "listen" to is an outrageous pose.

Asshole.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
"Participaion" in a flawed system....

The problem is that just about everyone on every side is arguing about how best to divvy up the fruits of my labor, and which of my rights they need to take away for the good of "everyone". You start with the assumption that you own me, but you’re willing to hear other thoughts on the issue.

I see no value in an "exchange of ideas" with someone who thinks that what is mine is his. ("Ours" is the usual euphemism for this.) From this point, where do I go? Haggle for a portion of my stuff back? Should I reach a compromise of partial oppression and limited tyanny?

On the four boxes of liberty: The first three contain no remedy for my problem. No effort I could make will halt the degredation of my rights at the hands of the mob, much less turn it back. The fourth box of liberty is superfluous, and of no interest to me. If I wanted that sort of fight I’d need only to begin living as a free man and the state would bring that box right to my doorstep with expedience.
 
Written By: Shamus Young
URL: http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale
Billy, what you need to comprehend is that in much of the world governments are not the most powerful entity in a society. Governments are often weak, and controlled by outside interests, and do not have the capacity to truly yield unilateral power. You’re taking an ideal definition of "government" and assuming that the ideal describes the reality. In many places non-governmental actors are more powerful than government. You also ignore that governments are really just people as well. You seem to think the label, once applied, has some kind of mystical power to change the nature of the people and the amount of power they have.

To pretend that people in one corporate identity (government) are fundamentally different than in another (large corporation) is illogical. Sometimes governments are the most powerful force in society, in many cases they are not — and often their power is intertwined with the power of other actors. Your position relies on some kind of magical power coming with the label ’government.’ That is untenable.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"In many places non-governmental actors are more powerful than government."
Really? Name them, Erb.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Most of the third world, and many states in Africa finds limited power for the government. But I’ll even say in the US governmental power is dependent upon non-governmental actors supporting and using the government. You seem to have thi view of governments as not only an essentially different form of corporate actor than others (despite being made of people), but you seem to see its power and capacity somehow separate and distinct from other actors in society. That is a core, even fatal, flaw in your philosophy. You create a government ’boogeyman’ whose use of power you see as inherently bad, but then ignore how similar corporate actors who are non-governmental can be in the abuse of power, and how they are part of creating governmental capacity.

You see, Billy, it’s not governments, it’s people. And reality doesn’t correspond with prepackaged ideologies (ideology-driven understandings of the world are dangerous and almost always wrong — that’s why those who fall for ideology are similar to true believers in a religion, ideologies are secular religions), or with pre-packaged concepts and labels. You might have an ideal type concept of government, but reality finds what we label governments to often be much different.
It’s easy: in fact, nobody has to "convince" them. All that has to happen is for people to stop buying what they offer at market. This is, after all, essential to any concept of "private ’actors’".
It seems people don’t really care about morality when they choose to buy or sell in the market. So that’s not really any kind of solution to the problem of unethical behavior. Humans can’t even agree on what is ethical, and instead of really discussing this, they turn to their secular religions and demand their views with the vehemance of a holy war.

And Shamus:

I see no value in an "exchange of ideas" with someone who thinks that what is mine is his.
Well, in his eyes, you think what’s his is yours. So you can debate and compromise, or you can put your hands over your ears and refuse to listen to anything that doesn’t correspond to your beliefs and whims. Me, I do what works in the world, compromising when necessary. Because as much as you may be convinced you’re right, you are human and might be wrong. Humans are fallible.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
The problem is there are usually more then two sides to an issue, and our system isn’t set up to deal with that in an equitable way.
As someone who can identify with neither the Republicans nor the Democrats, I agree with you completely.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"Most of the third world, and many states in Africa finds limited power for the government. But I’ll even say in the US governmental power is dependent upon non-governmental actors supporting and using the government."
That’s because government is the ultimate value in power, you moron.

You’re gibbering in circles. A child could see through this.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php

"Government is the ultimate value in power." That still needs a bit of unpacking. What do you mean by ’ultimate value in power.’ That’s a vague statement — power appears to have different values, and government is the ’ultimate.’

OK, let’s take a standard definition, the one I could find which is most friendly to your defintion: Government: The individuals, institutions, and processes that make the rules for society and possess the power to enforce them.

Note first that this includes individuals, processes, and institutions. Power is not centrally located, but depends on whatever the processes and institutions yield. It can be in the hands of an individual like Stalin, it can ruled by elite norms like in single party states, or laws and modes of accountability like in advanced democracies, or by arrangement betwen rival organized criminal gangs, such as in failed states. As such, government is unavoidable — there will always be processes, institutions, and individuals who have the power to determine and enforce the rules governing society. The issue isn’t if there will be government, but how it will be structured or organized. Usually, the more anarchic it is, the more organized criminal elements control it. That’s because even absent a central, well defined government, there will still be elements in society with power, who are able to enforce and create rules, often without oversight or accountability.

You might imagine that somehow in a perfect world markets would do all that in a self-sustaining way, but that seems about as utopian as Marx’s idea that the state would whither away and yield perfect liberty and natural governance. And, note that Marx thought an economy under communism would operate the way Adam Smith thought it should operate (Marx was very fond of Smith’s work).

 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
PS - while pounding away on the step machine, listening to Hold Your Fire, this song by Rush made me think of this thread.

My view is summed up in the lines:
"I know perfect’s not for real
I thought we might get closer
But I’m willing to make a deal."
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Test myfunction comment
 
Written By: TestName
URL: http://test.com
"’Government is the ultimate value in power.’ That still needs a bit of unpacking.
Only to an anti-conceptual imbecile like you.
"What do you mean by ’ultimate value in power.’"
Well, apart from observation of your third-rate literary skills, I mean exactly what I said. And your example proves what I said. You run your little Tinkertoy blandishments about "actors", always taking care to never properly distinguish what they act for and why, but the assertion that you made only proves my case for precise distinctions between private and government "actors". That’s because when they’re "supporting and using the government," they’re not "private actors".


Your dunce-cap looks quite hideous with that appalling sweater, Doktor, but it’s a natural look for you.
"You might imagine..."
Save your reprehensible mush for someone else, Erb. I’m not responsible for your delusions.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Erb is closer than he realizes to the truth, and closer thean he’d be comfortable with, if he had the smarts to recognize it for what it was.
Billy, what you need to comprehend is that in much of the world governments are not the most powerful entity in a society
The most powerful entity in any instance, ideally, is the culture, of which the government was supposed to be a supportive tool.

Trouble is government has, in almost all cases, (Including our own) ended up being the more powerful entity, as government actors... to swipe Erb’s phrase... use the power of government to change the culture, into a tool for supporting government... exactly the opposite of what government was supposed to have been doing.

This to my thought is a concious change, executed by those who see government as the end all and be all.




 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Usually, the more anarchic it is, the more organized criminal elements control it.
Erb, I’d be curious to know how you define "criminal" elements in an anarchic situation, and how they differ from say a dictator and his henchmen - enforcers of arbitrary "laws". Are you referring to crimes against morality (regardless of what is codified), or crimes against codified laws (regardless of their morality), or something else entirely?

Thanks,
 
Written By: Wulf
URL: http://www.atlasblogged.com
Billy, you throw out insults and vague assertions, but so far you haven’t shown yourself able to actually construct and argument and defend your positions. I really wonder if there is anything behind your bluster, or if it is all noise and emotion. In any event, in political science terms, the question of "what they act for and why" yields different results depending on the type of actor (or in the case of governments, the type of regime), and a variety of other factors. Power exercised by private actors can be just as deadly and unjust as power exercised by governments. Because of the role of government, however, they are more often in a position to exercise brutal abuse of power, and hence governments have committed the most excessive moral outrages in history.
The most powerful entity in any instance, ideally, is the culture, of which the government was supposed to be a supportive tool.
Culture — shared values and understandings in a society — is indeed the strongest force, it can even hold back governments and shape how they use their power. The most horrific act of colonialism was not exploitation of the colonies, but destruction of indigenous cultures and forms of political organization (something Burke recognized).

Attempts to use government to change culture fail, as seen in the horrific communist experience. Cultural change since the enlightenment has been a rapid move towards secularism and modernism, but it’s driven by forces outside of governmental control. Governments tend to follow in the industrialized West, rather than lead.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Erb, I’d be curious to know how you define "criminal" elements in an anarchic situation, and how they differ from say a dictator and his henchmen - enforcers of arbitrary "laws". Are you referring to crimes against morality (regardless of what is codified), or crimes against codified laws (regardless of their morality), or something else entirely?
Good question — I’m referring to crimes against morality. In that sense, they do not differ from dictators enforcing arbitrary laws. Indeed, governments have given people the power to commit more moral crimes against than any other institution, including organized religion.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Culture — shared values and understandings in a society — is indeed the strongest force, it can even hold back governments and shape how they use their power. The most horrific act of colonialism was not exploitation of the colonies, but destruction of indigenous cultures and forms of political organization (something Burke recognized).
Glad we got you this far.
Now, what your missing is the second half of what I said...
government has, in almost all cases, (Including our own) ended up being the more powerful entity, as government actors... to swipe Erb’s phrase... use the power of government to change the culture, into a tool for supporting government... exactly the opposite of what government was supposed to have been doing.
And therein lies my agreement with Billy’s statement that the government is the most powerfull... because now, it IS.
Cultural change since the enlightenment has been a rapid move towards secularism and modernism, but it’s driven by forces outside of governmental control.
No, it is not. Cultures themselves tend to be conservative in this regard. Those changes are being driven, invaiably, by government.... usually, these days, in the name of ’inclusiveness’.



 
Written By: bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
No, it is not. Cultures themselves tend to be conservative in this regard. Those changes are being driven, invaiably, by government.... usually, these days, in the name of ’inclusiveness’.
I disagree. Modernism has created a culture where progress, change, and secularism has replaced traditional custom and religion. This has been going on now for over 250 years, and has yielded a culture that is in a state of constant change. Government merely follows.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I disagree
I won’t even bother pretending I’m shocked by this.
. Modernism has created a culture where progress, change, and secularism has replaced traditional custom and religion.
Replaced is too strong a word. But it does match with your world view, doesn’t it.
Government merely follows.
That they certainly do not. Particularly, Liberal governments.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Society has gotten much more liberal, otherwise there would not be liberal governments. When government gets more liberal than the public, then they vote in more conservatives. The public is in control, culture is leading. You are really just disliking where our culture is going, so instead of recognizing that the culture is changing in ways you don’t like because of how people are making choices, you want to blame the government. Convenient, but ultimately a poor argument.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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