The Counting Fetish

The psychologist Abraham Maslow, in his book “The Psychology of Science” writes: “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”  Of course, people probably have been saying something like that since we started hammering nails, but fancy quotes from authors make you look smart so I went with that.

Yesterday, in my other life as a modern day shopkeeper, my many colleagues and I endured the yearly debacle called inventory.  While there most certainly remain good reasons for any business to keep track of what it has on hand, the process itself often feels quite ridiculous and contrived.  Items are meticulously organized throughout the facility (a good idea in itself) and dozens of levels of auditors walk about repeatedly, making sure that the stocking are hung by the chimney with care.  The Christmas metaphor isn’t a bad one.  Everyone hustles around at the last minute, being sure we are “ready” and the night before is a late one, as the final pieces are put in place.  Finally, when the day arrives, a team of elves descend upon the facility in special costumes with magical tools.  Well, and then they count everything.

And, in the end, all these numbers from all these mysterious machines are fed into another magical “oompa loompa” contraption which spits out a number which, I believe, is actually inside a fortune cookie.  Much consternation exists about this special number and quite rightly so.  Careers may rise and fall depending upon what it is.  “Bad numbers” are likely to lead to special audits and even more counting and recounting.  It is, in fact, a big deal.

We humans love to count things and measure things.  We love statistics and lists.  We characterize each other by numbers every day.  She’s a 10; he averaged a triple double; his poll numbers are down 5%; the stock market closed up 76.44.  You can think of hundreds more without even trying.  So try it.  Once you are finished, notice how many of those numbers mean nothing or mean very little.  We like to count things because we can.  We like to hammer because we can.

And, frankly, nobody loves numbers more than I do.  I spent a good part of my cloistered childhood messing about with baseball statistics, adding things up and ranking things.  I was born too early.  These days my obsession might have landed me a high paying job in the front office of my beloved Chicago Cubs.  Back then I was just weird.  (Still am.)  In school, math and science were pretty easy for me.  It was all numbers.  Physics was the best.  Everything was just measurements and formulas and that was just fine by me.  In college I gravitated towards the social sciences (likely laziness) but, surprisingly, they all wanted to measure and count things too.  I learned about probability and statistics and that was most excellent.

Except it wasn’t excellent.  The further one strayed away from introductory physics, the more ambiguous those numbers became.  It was never as cut and dry as my meticulous little mind needed it to be.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Science (and engineering) contributes more to human health and prosperity than any other human endeavor.  Our brains are not significantly larger than they were 50000 years ago but the amount of information  (mostly counting and measuring) at our disposal is so much greater. 

But science is not perfect and human knowledge will always be flawed, no matter how smart we think we are.  In my short sojourn on this planet, the dietary recommendations have changed dramatically at least three times.  Back in the 70’s I was told to expect a new Ice Age and today I am told it is getting too hot.  People and their magic numbers routinely materialize on both sides of any argument, leaving the layman to wonder what it is all about.  It seems that everything is settled or everything is wrong.  In a world full of knowledge, we are often severely lacking in wisdom.

In that context, allow me to give a bit of unsolicited advice.  First, counting is valuable.   It is an incredible tool that we have at our disposal.  In many cases, it allows us to verify a claim or falsify a theory.  If someone tells you not to listen to the math or science, don’t listen to them.  Second, numbers are not gods that we worship and that, in turn, give us wisdom.  So beware of anyone who is always throwing numbers around as though he or she knows it all.  To be valuable, numbers have to be interpreted in the light of reason and logic and to be placed in context.  A count or measurement is, if accurate, an indicator of something that is happening, not a proof of any particular theory.   Basing important decisions on nothing but those numbers is a terrible idea.  Third, beware of bad measurements.  We all make mistakes and are not always accurate but, even more disturbing, we sometimes measure something that isn’t there or are simply wrong.  Google “journal articles retraction” if you want to discover how much inaccurate information is out there.  And, as always seems to be the case, the mistake appears in bold print on the front page and the retraction is a paragraph on the bottom of page 23.

In closing, don’t let numbers define who you are or what is true.  They are a tool but too often we grow so enamored with them that it becomes a kind of fetish.  Just as a person is not simply a foot, knowledge is not simply numbers.  That is the easy way and the lazy way and good leaders and good scientists would never fall prey to it.  As always, thanks for your continued support and enjoy the rest of your week!

Why Are We Still Working So Much?

Ever wonder why it is, with all the advances in technology in recent years, we are all still working so damned much?  The old 40 hour work week hasn’t changed in our lifetimes and most salaried or self-employed individuals work far more than that on occasion.  Oh, we may not be doing as much physical labor but, for most of us, work is exhausting and takes up far too many of our waking hours.  So what’s the deal?

To try and answer that question will require a bit of (very) basic economics.  Imagine our distant ancestors.  We don’t really have to imagine their day to day struggle to survive because there are still people around the world who are living that way.  For these individuals, most every waking moment is invested in the business of survival.  They grow or gather their own food, provide their own shelter and educate their children.  There is little time for leisure or the arts.  When an individual or group of individuals is in that position, only the most basic needs are met.

And this leads us to a central tenet of economics:  that the true cost of anything is the opportunity cost.  In other words, the cost of any activity (say composing a piece of music) is all the alternatives to that activity (building a hut or hunting rabbit.) In subsistence societies, the cost of most any leisure time is liable to be malnutrition, sickness and possibly death.  But why is modern society so different?  For one thing, we have learned to be more efficient in the production of our basic needs.  Some of that is simply better techniques but much of it through the application of technology.

The history of, for example, the United States is that, year after year, we are producing more and more food with fewer and fewer farmers.  In other words, we no longer use very much time as a society to produce the food we need.  That means that time is freed up for other purposes.  We can now afford to have people who do nothing but compose music or play basketball.  We have the time to master science and create amazing devices like smart phones and space ships.  And we have much more time to simply relax and enjoy our friends and family.  

So we are wealthy, not because we have more money, but because we have so much time.  Remember the opportunity cost.  Now the cost of composing music is not being able to watch Netflix instead of not eating.  Big difference!  And the historical data down through history is clear.  The average work week has been declining for centuries and that makes perfect sense.  But not recently.  With all the advances in computers and automation in the last few decades alone, you would think that the work week would have declined dramatically.  But many people are actually working more.

Some of this is likely pure greed, not that there is anything wrong with that.  If a business can make its workers more efficient, it isn’t likely that those workers will reap the lion’s share of those advances.  They may see some increase in pay or somewhat easier working conditions but are also likely to have more responsibility.  Technology now may make it possible for one person to do what once took two.  And you wonder why you are worn out on Friday!  

But some of it is structural.  We have built our economy around the idea of a 40 hour workweek.  Certain job related benefits require full time employment, which is usually considered to be around the 40 hour mark.  We expect to work those hours and are usually not taken seriously as candidates for advancement if we aren’t willing to “put in the hours.”  It just doesn’t seem right that we might only work 30 or 35 hours, even though most of would accomplish as much or more in that time frame than we did in 40 hours just a few decades ago.

But mostly we work so much because, apparently,  we want to.  If more leisure time and a shorter work week were really important to the average person, it is likely we would have seen changes.  Instead, we seem to prefer to have more things (and maybe more debt) rather than more time.  Who wants to spend more time with the wife and kids anyway when the opportunity cost is not driving a new SUV or having a new iPhone?  Because the opportunity cost of a shorter work week is going to be fewer things, at least in the short run.  So far, we seem to have decided that that cost is too high.

As always, thanks for following along.   If you enjoy what this blog, tell a friend or two.  Until next time, have a great week!

An Essay on Property (Conclusion)

In Part 4 of this essay, we discussed how people come to acquire property and, by and large, it wasn’t pretty.  The typical path is riddled with violence, whether it be the random violence of the bandit or its more organized cousin, the tribe or clan or the modern nation-state.  There appears to be no truly libertarian path to property, outside of relatively rare cases of homesteading.  But why not?  

Most critiques of libertarian theory come down to this:  a society with no government or a very minimal one will fail and only the strong and merciless will survive and prosper.  And you know what?  They’re right.  But not in the way you might think.  And not in the way they think.  Let me explain.

There is a difference between government and the State.  Proper libertarian theory, in my opinion, will rightly oppose the State but will embrace government.  Some definitions are in order.  Government is simply the process by which people govern themselves.  It is composed of all the ways we interact with each other to resolve conflict and work together on matters of concern to all.  In our day to day lives, much of that interaction is simply a respect for others and their lives and the choices they make.  But a big part of it is governed by agreements we make amongst ourselves known as contracts.  When we make a major purchase such as a home or a car, we usually sign a contract.  Marriage is a contract.  Many workplaces have some sort of contract, either explicit or implied.  These contracts help to regulate our relationships with one another to avoid conflict.  They “govern” us.

The State, on the other hand, is group of individuals who have taken upon themselves to dictate the terms on which people interact with one another.  In other words, it is a kind of government but not the only kind.  It may be very oppressive and cruel or may be relatively open and compassionate. It may permit no dissent or regime change or that may be a normal part of the process.  There is, in other words, no true moral equivalency between North Korea and Sweden.  But, at the most basic level, each of these nation-States still assigns to itself the privilege of enforcing certain rules (and not simply ones that protect individual rights) and, if necessary, using violence to do it.  Doubt that?   Simply stop paying your taxes and, when they come to enforce the warrant for your arrest, defend yourself.  See how that goes.  Actually, please don’t!

So can we create a thought experiment in which property is created and/or distributed that involves the use of voluntary contract or must be resort to a State?  I believe we can.  In fact, I believe there are numerous past situations that used that method of  “social contract” to allocate undeveloped land and resources.  And I believe there are analogous examples of self governance being used today.

Many of our previous examples imagined the settling of new lands and the use of undeveloped natural resources as being done by lone individuals and families who struck out alone into the hinterlands.  In fact, most settlements were made up of numerous families traveling and working together.  Upon arrival at their destination, they developed rules of behavior for that community and, among them were rules about the use of scarce resources and property.  If any individual or group didn’t agree to accept the rules, they were free to move on or return home.  The social contract was, in other words, voluntary.  The group could have decided to hold all resources in common and many did.  Others may have chosen very few rules outside of respect for persons and their property and many did.  Those dissatisfied with one settlement were always free to move to another that more nearly suited them.

As you can see, these communities had governments, even ones that had quite sweeping powers.  Some religious based ones regulated almost every element of their citizen’s lives.  There may be public parks or schools.  There may be formal mechanisms for helping the old, the poor and the sick.  And, so long as people are free to leave, there is no violation of libertarian principles.  

Even today, we see this type of self government in Homeowners Associations.   Developers will typically sell homes in a particular neighborhood with the caveat that those who buy in are required to follow  (often rather onerous) rules as to how they behave and how their homes are decorated and maintained.  No compulsion is involved.  No one is required to buy into one of those neighborhoods but many people feel that trading some personal choices for security is worthwhile.  If not, they would not be so popular.

So how does this social contract save a libertarian idea of property?  Well, at the most basic level it doesn’t.  I don’t think the idea of a right to property makes sense.  There is no simple way to define how scarce resources should be allocated when they are discovered.  History tells us that violence was as likely to be involved as cooperation.  The land that was simply seized from native people was out and out theft and is indefensible.  Land grants from Washington DC, whether to railroads or to individual settlers simply enforced the State’s belief about who should be allowed to settle what areas and who should most benefit.  

And even our libertarian model of development has problems.  While it gets around the idea of a right to property by replacing it with a right to contract, it still has a couple of problems, ones we may address at a later time.  One issue is that the community model of settlement doesn’t entirely get around the problem of conflicting claims to natural resources.  It simply makes those conflicts less likely.  After all, most wars are at least partly about territorial disputes.  When communities come into conflict, how can it be resolved outside of violence?

The second concern is that the social contract model allows for too expansive a level of control by community leaders.  So much for the idea of freedom if your only choices are an oppressive local government or an uncertain future exiled from it.  Along those same lines, what happens if communities choose to work together and enforce common rules across larger territories?  Are we not on a slippery slope to the Nation-State?  When there is no reasonable way to “exit” a community, there is no freedom.

So our solution is not perfect but it is an improvement on the simplistic ideas we often hear from libertarian and non-libertarians alike.   Property is a messy idea, particularly as it pertains to real estate and scarce natural resources.  It will do the cause of liberty and justice no favor if we fail to acknowledge that fact.  I do think the idea of replacing “life, liberty and property” with “life, liberty and contract” is a fertile ground for further development.  In time I will likely revisit this discussion but, for now, I think I have said enough.

I want to thank those of you who have taken the time to read and ponder this essay.  I do hope it has been worthwhile.  We will likely be moving on to some shorter pieces on current affairs and my take on them over the next few weeks.  I hope you’ll join us, but, until then, have a great week!

An Essay on Property (Part 4)

Yes, it is finally here.  In Part 3 of this essay, we discussed how people come to acquire personal property through the free exchange of goods and services.  While some will disagree with this system of free exchange, even the most highly centralized economic systems allow for some personal property and have some rules for how it is obtained.  What is far more controversial  (and rightly so) is the individual ownership of real estate and other natural resources which, in the eyes of many, rightly belongs to society as a collective.  Are they right?  If so, it would appear to discredit the moral basis of libertarian economic and political thought.  Let’s think through the ways such resources become property and see if we can reconcile it with our view of a free society.

Before I begin, let me be very clear.  There are many purely utilitarian arguments in favor of free market capitalism  (as opposed to state or crony capitalism) but I will not be resorting to those arguments in this essay.   I can provide numerous works that elaborate those arguments and many examples in the so-called “real world.”   However a system, no matter how much wealth it may produce, cannot be judged to be just or fair if it owes its success to the exploitation of the many by a few.  That is the case that socialists of all stripes have made for centuries.  Can we rebut them?

The way philosopher John Locke describes it, people come to acquire property by mixing their labor with it in some way.  I don’t think this is a very good definition though it is does describe one way in which individuals become associated with a particular plot of real estate:  what is often called homesteading.  Imagine a lone individual or family traveling across the continent, coming across a piece of land, clearing it of unwanted trees and vegetation, building a small cabin and putting in a crop or grazing livestock.  He also builds a fence, marking the division between what he (or she) sees as their property and what is not.  This individual has indeed mixed his labor with the resources that he found undeveloped and, as a result, developed them.  Those resources were not property until he did that.  Once those resources were developed by that individual, they became property and, it seems to me, they became his property.  It is not the mixing of labor with “property” that makes it his.  That would suggest that a cake baked with stolen property is rightfully your property but we have already refuted that argument.  It is only his property now because it was not property at all when he first encountered it,  because it was not (relatively) scarce.  It became property when it was developed and, thereby,  became scarce and valuable.  Its value is because of that individual or family and so the newly created property is rightly associated with them and they have a “right” to enjoy it.

Whew!  That was a mouthful but I wanted to try and tweak Locke’s ideas and incorporate them into my already existing thoughts.  So homesteading is a very real thing.  It is frequently identified with the United States, both in the way it provides opportunity for people to better their lives and with the growth and development of the nation.  But homesteading is hardly the only way in which people come to acquire property.   Even the Homesteading Act and the property acquired under it is not homesteading in the strict definition of the word.  

The problem with Locke’s ideas and my revision of them is that they describe a situation that is pretty unusual.  How often is there going to be such a glut of undeveloped land and natural resources that individuals just carve out what they want without any conflict?  In almost all societies throughout human history, these resources have been scarce and there has always been dispute and often violent conflict over who has the right to develop and exploit them.  The key word in this paragraph is scarce (or, in our terms, relatively scarce.)  Our definition of property was that it was scarce, tangible and divisible.  Most natural resources are tangible and divisible.  A great many of them are scarce.  That makes them property.  But, if that is the case, who’s property is it?  How do we resolve this conflict?

One view is that this property rightly belongs to society  (and, by extension, to all of humanity.)  It is a reasonable view but not a very satisfactory one.  Saying it belongs to everyone implies that no one has any right to use it.  In order to utilize a resource I would, in principle, require the consent of every other person.  That isn’t very practical.  What those holding this view end up advocating is that all such resources, while owned by all, are controlled by some unit of government.  In my judgement, control of property is at the heart of ownership.  So, this viewpoint is really saying that natural resources should be owned by government.  And, as government is simply a fairly small group of individuals, this view ultimately advocates ownership of these resources by a fairly small group.  Again, the idea sounds good in the abstract but ends up not making much sense.  If a small group effectively owns everything, how did that group come into possession of that right?  As a libertarian, the idea that they were selected by God or elected by a majority are not persuasive and I have to reject this idea.

The sad reality, whether in the distant past or the present, is that conflict and violence has typically been the way any particular individual or group of individuals has come to own and control natural resources.  Even when violence has ceased to be the normal method of getting what you want or need, there is still violence inherent in how the resources or the things produced with those resources were initially distributed.  There is a sad truth in the television series The Walking Dead.  In the absence of cooperation, and even when some elements of it exist, scarce resources will almost inevitably be fought over and for good reason:  survival.  Like any other animal, at its heart, the human being has to do what it takes to survive.  And we still fight bloody wars over land and resources, civilized as we like to believe we are.  Life has often been, in the words of another English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, “nasty, brutish and short.”

Hobbes has a solution:  an absolute ruler.  A libertarian can never accept that.  But can a libertarian come up with a solution to the war of all against all and what will it look like?  I think the answer is a qualified yes.  The solution is far from perfect but it just might work without fundamentally violating man’s basic rights to life, liberty and (yes) property.  As you might imagine, that solution will finally be revealed in the last part of this essay which, I promise, is coming up this weekend.  You won’t want to miss it!  Until then, thanks for following along and have a great day!

Looking Back

Yes, friends, it is another bonus blog post!  This time we are celebrating the 6 month anniversary of the blog.  I have probably created a half a dozen or more blogs in my life and, while they all started with great hope and enthusiasm, that didn’t last long.  I suppose the two biggest differences this time were narrowing the focus and realizing that I was doing this for myself, not in the belief that I would become some famous writer.

That being said, I have invested a fair amount of time and money to try and make this blog a success, whatever that might mean.  At times I have struggled to make the time to write and to find the right topic.  I never wanted this to just be commentary on the issues of the day, although that is a part of it.  I wanted to talk about political philosophy and get my thoughts down on (virtual) paper.  It has mostly served that purpose and I think will continue to do so.  I hope to build an audience, even if it is a fairly small one, who will be challenged by the ideas and will challenge them in return.  Ultimately politics should be about a civil dialogue that can help build consensus, and this blog continues to hope to play a small role in that.

Looking back, I would critique several elements of what I have done so far.  First, I am far from a good writer.  Oh, I can turn a good phrase now and then but my writing style is awkward.  I am a much better speaker and I always find my posts more enjoyable when I read them aloud.  I can hope that practice will lead to improvement.  Then, of course, there is the tremendous contrast between the cold, analytic posts on political philosophy and the occasional “fire-breathing” posts on the events of the day.  My challenge is make the posts on the former more engaging and concrete and to bring down the volume on the latter to a more reasoned level.

Even so, I won’t sacrifice my passion in order to sound “reasonable” because, otherwise, why bother?  I believe, in the deepest depths of my heart and soul, in the cause of human freedom, and that a world organized through cooperation and consent,  is the one which has the potential to bring the “greatest happiness to the greatest number.”   Perhaps that makes me overly suspicious of concentrations of power in any form and too willing to embrace the latest conspiracy theory.  Still, better to cast aspersions on those who claim the right to rule than to blame the average person who is just doing their best to survive and make a good life for themselves and their families.

So, this anniversary is neither a celebration nor a postmortem.  It is an acknowledgement of our successes and failures and a promise to go forward, trying to improve on the finished product while remaining committed to the stated goal of building a consensus for liberty.  I appreciate all of you who have taken even a few moments to read even one or two posts and look forward to having you as a continuing part of this dialogue.  And, as always, have a great week!

War and Peace

In lieu of composing part four of my Essay on Property, I am going to offer a few thoughts on America’s latest (ill-advised) military adventure.  Not all of the thoughts are my own.  I will turn first to one of America’s greatest Generals and her first President:

“The Constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore, no offensive expedition of any importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.”       

                                                               George Washington 

And some additional wise words from another great American General and President:

“We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex.”

                                                               Dwight Eisenhower

And, finally, this more succinct summing up from a lesser known officer, Major General Smedley Butler, who wrote a book entitled “War is a Racket.”                                   

Yes, General, it most certainly is.  It most certainly is.  And, if a libertarian is anything, first and foremost, it is an opponent of war.  One of its greatest thinkers, Dr. Murray Rothbury, often berated his fellow activists for their obsession with little things, like the privatization of roads or fire departments, over issues of war and peace. He believed that war was the greatest enemy of the people, their lives and their freedoms.  

Moreover, war is the biggest “government program” out there, and the one laced with the most corruption and outright fraud.  It benefits large corporations and banks and causes the greatest pain and suffering to the poor and minority populations, whether they be the soldiers who fight or the civilians who get in the way.  It is used as an excuse to crackdown on freedom of speech and the press and to jail those who dissent.  War is the “health of the state,” a phrase coined by writer Randolph Bourne nearly 100 years ago.  Beware of any politician who claims to want “small government” but an aggressive foreign policy.

Yes, armies and (and civilians) do unspeakably evil things in war.  But the greatest criminals are the kings, prime ministers, dictators and Presidents who order these things to be done.  The only truly just war would be one fought hand to hand between those leaders alone.  They want a fight.  I will give them Thunderdome.  Now that would be entertainment!

Just to be clear, I condemn not only the strike last night on Syria but the drone strikes that escalated under the previous administration and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  Not one of these actions has made the American people safer or the world a better place.  Every death leaves a mother or father or sister or brother or village or clan more determined that the United States and all it represents is evil.  It is time to stop the madness and leave these shattered nations, in war or peace, to sort out their lives.  We can’t fix this.  All we can do is make it more broken.  So, Mr. President, if you truly want to “drain the swamp,” then end this madness.  You do have that power. If you have the courage.
 

   

An Essay on Property (Part Three)

In Part Two of this essay, we defined property as a physical object, capable of division and possessing some element of scarcity.  But, more than that, property is not simply experienced as the control of some physical object but as a very personal relationship to that object.  Having a piece of property taken from us, whether by force, fraud,or stealth, is felt as a kind of violation of our own person.  But how does something become ours?  

Most of acquire property in one of two ways.  Either we purchase it from the previous owner or it is given to us, perhaps as an outright gift or as an inheritance.  But, you say, what of the things I make, such as a cake, a quilt or a painting?  Of course, your action has transformed the raw materials into a new kind of object but it is only your property because you previously owned those raw materials.  If you were to make a cake using ingredients that you did not own, it would not rightfully be your cake.  

This definition does have one big problem.  In acquiring the object from someone else, we are implicitly assuming that that individual was the rightful owner.  Just as the law prohibits you from receiving stolen property, so does libertarian theory.  If it is discovered that something you acquired was not acquired from the rightful owner, you have no right to it and it must be returned to the person who is the rightful owner.  The law may (perhaps rightly) place some time limit on such matters but, in principle, unjustly acquired property is never acceptable and must always be returned to the proper owner or their estate.  

Even if we assume a legal chain of ownership, we end up with a problem.  Let’s discuss it in terms of just one of the items we used to bake our cake, flour.  We acquired the flour from a grocer who acquired it from a distributor who acquired it from the mill that processed the wheat.  And, of course, the mill acquired the wheat from a farmer who grew it.  (Surprisingly, I likely left out several steps between you and the farmer, unless you purchased it directly from the farmer who ground it for you.)  You will notice that, at most every stop on the journey of the flour from the field to the frosting, some physical plant was required.  Whether it was the grocery store lot, the warehouse, the factory or the farm, they all occupy a particular kind of property which is going to cause us all kinds of trouble:  real estate or land.  Unless we can say that the farmer, the miller, the distributor and the grocer were all the rightful owners of the real estate required for their operation, the product each produces is no more theirs than the cake would be ours if we stole the ingredients.

That means that we must find a theory that allows us to explain how an individual can come to own a piece of real estate.  And, no, we only push the problem back one more step if we simply say they acquired it through purchase or gift.  We just have to ask the same question again?  How did they come to be its rightful owners?  And, even more troubling to ourselves and our social structure, what does it mean if we discover that the rightful owners at some point were unjustly deprived of that land?  We can chose to ignore that problem but we cannot pretend that isn’t a problem.  The whole underpinning of much libertarian theory involves the idea of private property, including land.  Can that theory be salvaged and, if so, how?

As you may have guessed, that will be the topic of part four of this essay.  Honestly, I have thought about this issue for my entire adult life and the best I am likely to be able to achieve is to provide some plausible alternatives from which we can choose.  And how we choose has dramatic consequences for the kind of libertarian society we can reasonably advocate.

As always, thanks for following along and taking the time to read this.  I hope you will join us again later this week as we continue this journey of intellectual exploration.  Until then, have a great week!