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Michael Shermer - Science, Skepticism and Libertarianism
Posted: 05 July 2009 03:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Well US432, I must say, I wasn’t prepared for that answer. Yeah I’d like to see alot of that crap go away. I’m sure the Social Welfare system is far from perfect as well.
You made alot of sense to me right there. It’s just my particular views politically, I can’t see the system going away. So if all the money is going down the tubes for all the other BS reasons, then we might as well spend some of it on compassionate issues.
I mean me personally, I do like the idea of supporting the needy, the downtrodden. Regardless of how they became that way.
Couldn’t you, as a libertarian, see that if zillions of dollars were saved in other areas of the economy/budget, then the small amount of money that went to social welfare, wouldn’t even be a drop in the bucket? Not saying that all avenues of reform and betterment shouldn’t also be used to reduce poverty, and decay- that needs to be done too.
Also with “Liberty”, a liberty that does after all manifest itself from the state(state being population, and resources, both owned and plundered). I see a kind of disparity, between corporations, being able to get a larger share of liberty. You understand this don’t you, someone else mentioned it above. It is a real concept. For example a larger entity, by default is going to get a larger share of any state help in the way of security, and let’s face it, politically motivated “boosts”.(permits, endorsements etc…). Perhaps that is offset by the larger taxes they pay…I don’t know…but it damn well better be!
Hey, thanks for making me take a second look at Libertarianism, and you..yourself. Sorry, if I come across as a Left-wing radical, but that’s what I will remain until I see “improvements for all people”. Have a good night!

P.S. Just out of curiosity, would you say you were a rare bird, in the “system”? Are there more government employees like yourself?

[ Edited: 05 July 2009 03:23 PM by VYAZMA ]
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Posted: 05 July 2009 03:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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While I generally side with the liberals (mostly on social issues), I’m more of an economic moderate.  At the same time, Libertarianism just seems like an extreme belief in markets.  It’s really hard for me to take that position seriously.

It was interesting to hear that Shermer thinks that the current US’ economic problems was due to too much market regulation.  I guess people interpret reality in line with their own preexisting beliefs.  (And to think that he accuses Greenspan of being ‘not enough’ of a free-market believer!)  It reminds me of those communists who complain that the failure of communist states is due to the fact that no one actually practices “true” communism.

It seems to me that the Bernie Madoff and mortgage crisis problems are problems that would most certainly exist under a libertarian market system.  The Bernie Madoff situation was just a big pyramid scheme.  Hedge Funds are largely unregulated—and that means no one really knew what was going on inside.  How exactly, would Libertarianism solve that problem?  And the mortgage crisis was about mortgage companies giving people mortgages which they weren’t qualified for, then selling it off in blocks without honestly revealing the risk involved with those borrowers.  In some cases, they didn’t have any idea what the risk was themselves because they didn’t even attempt to verify the borrowers’ income or assets.  The whole system was one where everyone profited by lying or ignoring reality, and then selling-off those problems to someone else without disclosing the real risk.  Again, Libertarianism would not solve this problem because it’s in the original mortgage lender’s interest to hide risks involved.  The Libertarian “hands off” approach to regulating anything is a problem.

Both of these are economic issues that happened because of a lack of information.  In both cases, people had strong financial incentives to not tell other people the information.  A market can only function well when all parties have access to real information about the transaction taking place.  When you sell a used car, you have an information advantage over the buyer—you KNOW what kinds of problem the car has, they don’t.  This is why used-car dealers got a bad reputation - because they would lie about the quality of the used car.  In many cases, we simply cannot accept the answer that the market will correct itself.  That’s a bit like saying “kids will learn not to play in the street when they get hit by a car”.  Yes, that’s true, but that hardly the best way to stop kids from playing in the street.  Further, the only way those sellers are going to disclose risks are if they are forced (by law) to do so.  They already have a strong financial incentive to not release information.

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Posted: 05 July 2009 04:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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tinyfrog - 05 July 2009 03:51 PM

While I generally side with the liberals (mostly on social issues), I’m more of an economic moderate.  At the same time, Libertarianism just seems like an extreme belief in markets.  It’s really hard for me to take that position seriously.

It was interesting to hear that Shermer thinks that the current US’ economic problems was due to too much market regulation.  I guess people interpret reality in line with their own preexisting beliefs.  (And to think that he accuses Greenspan of being ‘not enough’ of a free-market believer!)  It reminds me of those communists who complain that the failure of communist states is due to the fact that no one actually practices “true” communism.

Government policies (both failed regulation and deregulation) contributed to the problem.
See, for example the Government Policies section on wikipedia entry:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subprime_mortgage_crisis

The whole thing is complicated, but the goal of increasing home ownership was part of the problem.

Wikipedia also mentions the policies of central banks and mortgage-backed securities.
I would agree with you that anyone who says the current US economic problems have a ‘simple’ cause is probably wrong.

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Posted: 05 July 2009 04:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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At one point Shermer shrugs “life isn’t fair” only to follow it a few seconds later agreeing with with DJ that “people get what they deserve”.

He doesn’t seem to have much in the way of empathy or understanding for the actual range of human experience. Makes me think of a kid who has grown up in gated communities and country clubs.

Would applying the adjective ‘clueless’ be erring too much on the side of charity?

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Posted: 05 July 2009 05:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Balak - 05 July 2009 04:48 PM

At one point Shermer shrugs “life isn’t fair” only to follow it a few seconds later agreeing with with DJ that “people get what they deserve”.

He doesn’t seem to have much in the way of empathy or understanding for the actual range of human experience. Makes me think of a kid who has grown up in gated communities and country clubs.

Would applying the adjective ‘clueless’ be erring too much on the side of charity?

I thought this was odd too.  It is true that “life isn’t fair” [ Time article quoting John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter] but it really isn’t clear what this 2nd phrase was supposed to mean….

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Posted: 05 July 2009 06:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Obviously an agenda is being pushed here by “Solid Endorsement Figures”, faster than the pieces can be put together. At least for the sideline observers.
It wouldn’t surprise me that people involved with Organizations which are able to reach out to intellectuals, would be willing to promote political parties/figures. Intellectuals who perhaps are tired of the same old 2 parties. Understandably so!!
I hope this libertarianism grows. The 2 parties of Pepsi and Coke could sure use a jostling. In this case it is no longer a case of ” Better the Devil You Know…”
At first I expressed wariness about the fundamentals of Libertarian market Ideals- but what the hey! How could anything get worse?
Put the Market ideals right into the Congress, and the White House Run, let in some more competition for voters.

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Posted: 07 July 2009 03:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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I understand that this was a political discussion, but I found it disappointing to hear a couple of what sounded like Fox News talking points regarding Obama quotes - the first about wealth being ‘spread around’, and the second about ‘talking to terrorists’. I was waiting for Shermer to say Obama was ‘palling round with terrorists’!

Obama never said ‘talking is now the only course we can ever take to deal with terrorists’. And Reagan’s ‘trickle down’ theory of money could also be described as ‘spreading around’ wealth.

Shermer’s discussion of charities also jarred with me. His line about secular failures to help in disasters like Katrina sounded very like Dinesh D’Souza’s “where are the atheists in a crisis” nonsense.

Shermer goes on to say that charitable giving is a more efficient system than the state could manage and also that religious people give more to charities. This has a number of problems:
• I’d like to know if this includes Conservatives supporting abstinence-only initiatives, or charities that distribute bibles, or churches that tell their congregations how to vote. If it does, then I don’t see this as being valuable, or worthy of being counted as charitable donations.
• What if charities are biased to certain areas? eg ignoring areas of need because they don’t jive with the morals of the charity.
• Didn’t charitable giving actually FALL during Reagan’s government, despite taxes going down?
• I’d argue that Katrina’s impact was worsened by government not taking care of its citizens properly. More investment in infrastructure beforehand might have seemed like ‘socialism’ and against libertarian values, but it would have saved money in the long run. It’s an argument against small government always being cheaper.

I also don’t buy Shermer’s special pleading for the military. Why is the government the most efficient way of protecting the country, but not the most efficient for looking after the nation’s health? When discussing Western Europe, neither DJ nor Shermer mentioned that most of that area has lower infant mortality rates than America, and better longevity rates too. Nationalised health has a large cost, but isn’t lower infant mortality worth anything?

Shermer is against taxes paying for health care, education etc, but he thinks no-one should have a choice in paying for the military through taxes. He may say the latter is essential in a fight against terrorism, but doesn’t it all come down to protecting the citizens? What’s the difference between him saying people have choices and me saying ‘Well I live in the country, I’m under no terrorist threat, why should I pay to protect people who choose to live in terrorist target cities?’

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Posted: 07 July 2009 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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I’ve had trouble promoting NYC Skeptics events to some freethinkers because they’d heard rumors of Shermer’s politics.  Disappointed to find the rumors confirmed.

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Posted: 07 July 2009 11:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Samantha Clemens - 03 July 2009 09:03 AM

France
EUR 69,505 / 1.40 = USD 45,360 - 40%

Germany
EUR 52,000 / 1.40 = USD 37,142 - 42%
EUR 250,000 / 1.40 = USD 178,571 - 45%

You are dividing where you should be multiplying, so your USD figures are about half of what they should be.

Also, it is not so simple to compare tax rates across countries. There is income tax, there are payroll taxes, some parts of which may be payable by the employer…

(ETA: Then again, after reading the rest of the thread, confusing multiplication and division seems like a tiny mistake, hardly worth a mention…)

[ Edited: 07 July 2009 11:58 AM by shiraz ]
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Posted: 07 July 2009 11:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Well, I already knew Shermer was a poor philosopher, now I know he’s a bad economist, too. I think as a good start he should be reading stuff by our new economics Nobel Prize winner. He might learn something.

Very sad to hear him talk about these things so confidently, about which he knows so little.

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Posted: 07 July 2009 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QDv4sYwjO0

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Posted: 07 July 2009 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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Pragmatic Naturalist - 07 July 2009 02:19 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QDv4sYwjO0

LOL

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Posted: 07 July 2009 05:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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Nice video, PN grin .

As for Dr. Shermer, while I disagree with his politics, I think there is something positive to take from this.  It helps to dispel the notion of a monolithic skeptical community.

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Posted: 08 July 2009 06:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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And to encourage the notion of a uselessly fragmented skeptical community.

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Posted: 08 July 2009 09:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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Not a pivotal point, but Shermer confused Rand’s position with psychological egoism. I know this drives Rand fans batty. They are quick (and often harsh) to point out that Rand advocated moral egoism, which is to say she abhorred personal sacrifice and lauded personal responsibility—which does seem rather akin to most modern libertarians.

Jordan

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