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by Benjamin Marks, Economics.org.au editor

There are some uncritically accepted positions that most MPS 2010 Sydney Meeting attendees and speakers, and, while we’re at it, CIS and IPA types, believe. I think the following sequences crystallise a few of the areas where their thinking differs with mine, making it easy to see my criticism, without me needing to quote from their papers, which would violate Chatham House Rules. Some of the sequences list ideas that were neglected and some juxtapose simultaneously held conflicting ideas.1

Sequence I: Goalpost Moving; Logical Extremism=Error
  1. That it is possible to differentiate between the morality of different levels of taxes, when the different levels of taxation are brought about by the same process (parliamentary democracy or whatever), with the same utilitarian arguments in justification.
  2. That this moral argument magically turns into a practicality argument at the whim of its exponent.
  3. That to be consistent in your morality is to be an anarchist.
  4. That anarchocapitalists take things to the logical extremes.
  5. That taking things to their logical extremes is an example of fallacious reasoning.
  6. That taking things to their logical extremes is extreme in a bad way.
  7. That taking things to their logical extremes is to be excluded from public debate.
  8. That it is known in advance when you will be excluded from public debate, even if you are a “respectable” public figure or institution.
  9. That since it is already known that speaking out about certain things won’t make a difference, one must not speak out about them.
  10. That academics and activists know what will and what won’t make a difference, even if they don’t write or reference any investigations into strategy.
  11. That radicalism is important, and we must not compromise.
Sequence II: Transaction Cost Flaws Ignored
  1. That the concept of externalities has now been replaced by the concept of transaction costs.
  2. That Austrian school criticism of public goods and transaction costs are unknown. (For example, Walter Block on transaction costs here and here, on public goods here, and Hoppe on public goods here.)
  3. That there are many free market solutions to environmental problems, but that Rothbard’s brilliant essay is unknown or not worth trumpeting at every chance.
Sequence III: MPS as Rabelais’ Crazy Council
  1. That consequentialist and utilitarian arguments are what libertarianism/classical liberalism is all about.
  2. That behavioural and happiness economics are a threat to free markets.
  3. That Austrian school criticism of consequentialism and utilitarianism (which includes transaction cost arguments), showing how it fails to treat utility as subjective and how this failure opens the door for behavioural and happiness economics, is unknown.
  4. That the MPS meeting was like Rabelais’ Crazy Council where heretics go to better deal with new styles of heretics (uses of utilitarianism need to conform to their use of utilitarianism, which makes all the same mistakes, but differently):

The next day, on our starboard side, we met up with nine old tub boats full of monks — Dominicans, Jesuits, Capuchins, Hermits, Augustinians, Bernardines, Celestines, Theatines, Egnatins, Amadeans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Minims, and monks named for all the other holy saints — who were on their way to the Crazy Council, where they were going to polish up the articles of faith so they could deal with new styles of heretics. [François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans. Burton Raffel (New York: Norton, 1991), bk. 4, ch. 18, p. 428]

Sequence IV: On John Howard
  1. That John Howard implemented as much free-market reform as he could, after calculating how much he would have to compromise to keep the other party out, as long as he didn’t have to compromise so much that the other party became preferable.
  2. That John Howard was a pragmatist with no ideological framework, and, a compromiser.
  3. That John Howard did much to decrease the size of government.
  4. That a tendentious list of examples will always fool an audience. (For a more balanced and fact-based rather than rhetoric-based approach, see Andrew Norton here and here and Robert Carling here. Also, readers may be interested in my exclusive and scandalous interview with Howard on his autobiography here.)
  5. That John Howard was influenced by Bert Kelly.
Sequence V: Radicalism is Good, YET Gov Funding is OK
  1. That it is fashionable to defend government funding, whilst: criticising government management; ignoring that the same arguments used to criticise government management apply equally to government funding; and praising the fact that this toned down version is radical and that radicalism is the way to go.
  2. That it is never made clear whether the author is not advocating the full anarchocapitalist position because he does not actually believe it is justifiable, or, whether it is because he is compromising for strategic reasons, believing that if he tones down his position he is more likely to get a hearing.
  3. Since one is not meant to quote from MPS papers, I quote from the most recent CIS publication, written by Professor Wolfgang Kasper2: “I accept for the present discussion that most Australians do not want their average fellow citizens to be massively out of pocket for the cost of births, surgery and hospital stays … If we take this public choice as a given in our affluent and egalitarian society, it follows that every NSW citizen should have access to necessary hospital services irrespective of his or her financial condition” (pp. 37-38, emphasis mine). Why this “accepting for the present discussion” and “taking as given”? Is it for strategic reasons, as suggesting an end to government funding of healthcare would be too radical? Well, since strategy is an art rather than a science, that would be fair enough, although I would appreciate if someone could find for me an essay on strategy by the author or publisher, where they explain why being consistently radical is bad strategy. In any case, this would appear not to be the reason, as at the end of the essay, the same author says, “Radical reform is never easy and naturally meets with scepticism. It is the role of the policy analyst to develop alternative ideas, however costly and uncomfortable, and expose them to public and expert scrutiny — so that political leaders can implement them, as and when the old system fails so badly that even politicians discover that radical surgery is the only politically convenient solution” (p. 53, emphasis mine). How can this passage be reconciled with the one on pp. 37-38?
Footnotes
  1. The format is inspired by Flaubert’s Dictionary of Accepted Ideas and Mencken and Nathan’s American Credo.
  2. Wolfgang Kasper, “Radical Surgery: The Only Cure for Public Hospitals,” in No Quick Fix: Three Essays on the Future of the Australian Hospital System (St Leonards, Australia: The Centre for Independent Studies, 2010). It is amusing to compare the “12-Point Plan to Fix Hospitals” in No Quick Fix with Hoppe’s infinitely more biting “Four-Step Health-Care Solution.”
(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Acquiescence
  2. Why Sports Fans Should Be Libertarians
  3. Ron Manners’ Heroic Misadventures
  4. Government Schools Teach Fascism Perfectly
  5. Deport Government to Solve Immigration Problem
  6. The Drugs Problem Problem
  7. Capitalism Harmonises Population
  8. Self-Defeating Campaigning
  9. Gittinomics: Economics for Gits
  10. Exclusive Ross Gittins Interview on The Happy Economist
  11. Population Puzzle Solved
  12. An Open Letter to the CIS
  13. Principled Foreign Policy Options: Reinvade or Shut Up and Get Out
  14. WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Political Corruption Exposed!
  15. Feedback please: Is this worth doing?
  16. CIS and IPA Defend State Schooling
  17. A Thorough Review Without Spoilers of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
  18. Dead Reckoning and Government: A Proposal for Electoral Reform
  19. Quadrant Defends State Schooling
  20. The MPS 2010 Consensus
  21. Slogans for Property Rights Funeral
  22. Government is Impossible: Introduction
  23. Government is Criminal: Part 1
  24. Exclusive John Howard Interview on Lazarus Rising
  25. Response to Senator Cory Bernardi and the IPA
  26. Earn $$$$$ by Justifying Government Against Anarchocapitalism: Survey
  27. Statism is Secrecy: WikiLeaks vs Economics.org.au
  28. One question the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Greens, the CIS, the IPA, Ross Gittins, Ross Garnaut, Ken Henry, Gerard Henderson, John Quiggin, Clive Hamilton, Tim Flannery, Catallaxy Files, Club Troppo, Larvatus Prodeo, Phillip Adams, Robert Manne, Michael Stutchbury, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt and Dick Smith are scared to answer
  29. Libertarian Philanthropists Should Exploit Tax Evasion Convictions
  30. Ronald Kitching Obituary
  31. The Minarchist Case for Anarchism
  32. Libertarianism in a 300-word rant
  33. Economics.org.au in the news again
  34. Libertarianism In An Executive Summary
  35. The Banking Bubble Blow-by-Blow
  36. WARNING: Libertarianism Is NOT ...
  37. Would Anything Possibly Convince You that You Are Living Under a Protection Racket?
  38. An Open Letter to Dick Smith
  39. Economics.org.au at 42
  40. "My boyfriend calls himself a Marxist and votes Labor, what should I do?"
  41. "He says if I leave him due to politics, I should leave the country too."
  42. No Booboisie at Gülçin’s Galt’s Gulch
  43. "Hey, Mr Anarchocapitalist, show me a society without government"
  44. The Three Epoch-Making Events of the Modern Libertarian Movement
  45. Government is Criminal: Part 2 - Methodological Individualism
  46. Government is Criminal: Part 3 - Subjective Utility
  47. Government is Criminal: Part 4 - Praxeological Synonyms
  48. Government is in a State of Anarchy
  49. Limited Government is Absolute Government
  50. Why the 2012 double Nobel laureate is coming to Sydney
  51. Exclusive Oliver Marc Hartwich Interview on Hans-Hermann Hoppe
  52. A Critique of the Opening Two Sentences of the "About CIS" Page on The Centre for Independent Studies' Website, www.cis.org.au
  53. An invitation for ANDEV members to the Mises Seminar
  54. Sell the ABC to Rupert Murdoch: Lid Blown on ABC Funding Disgrace!
  55. www.inCISe.org.au, The Centre for Independent Studies new blog
  56. The Unconstitutionality of Government in Australia (demonstrated in under 300 words)
  57. The Best Libertarian Film Is ...
  58. Launch Southeast Asian Military Operations to Free Australian Drug Dealers and Consumers
  59. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  60. Hoppe's Inarticulate Australian Critics: The Hon Dr Peter Phelps, Dr Steven Kates and James Paterson
  61. Vice Magazine Westralian Secession Interview
  62. Sideshow to Dr Steven Kates' criticism of the Mises Seminar: Davidson vs Hoppe on Adam Smith
  63. The Best Australian Think Tank Is ...
  64. Announcing a new magazine to rival Time and The Economist
  65. The exciting new Australian Taxpayers' Alliance
  66. Neville Kennard Obituary
  67. Contrarian Conformism
  68. An invitation for Dick Smith, the IPA and other Walter Block fans to the 2nd Australian Mises Seminar
  69. Westralian mining legend Ron Manners of Mannkal belongs in The Property and Freedom Society
  70. What would Bert Kelly think of the Mises Seminar and Walter Block?
  71. Bad news about the Mises Seminar
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