Alex Khan's response to Mark LaRochelle's FAQ
Part of the "Critiques of Libertarianism" site.
Last updated 10/25/07.
(Editor's note: this was
originally posted at Suite101. It is reproduced
here with the author's permission.
Alexander Khan on Feb 18, 1998 at 10:02 PM
I certainly agree that LaRochelle is smarter than Raphael. But in his
tendentious, simple-minded parasitism on economics, the two are equal.
I wouldn't call the site 'well documented'. It's got lots of links to and
quotations of philosophical statements -- not empirical evidence, no evidence at
all, in fact -- which support his views.
LaRochelle is also boringly devoted to the polemical equivalent of premature
ejaculation: the cataloguing of the names of logical fallacies. If you excised
the remarks devoted to the identification and explanation of these logical
fallacies, the Non-Statist FAQ would be reduced by half, at least. The
elaborate listing of logical fallacies is for freshman informal logic students.
Alexander Khan on Feb 19, 1998 at 07:16 AM
Here are some criticisms of LaRochelle's Non-Statist FAQ:
- I dispute that the "Pacific Tigers" are the most libertarian in economics
- I dispute that there has been "a global trend toward libertarian reform,
from the abolition of serfdom to the collapse of socialism". LaRochelle
simply takes any movement toward freedom & liberalisation as libertarian,
even though the trend can be construed in other terms, including overtly
- I dispute that socialism was or could be logically demonstrated as utopian,
although I agree that empirically it has been shown to be inefficacious.
- I dispute that historically, those populations that best enforced [a]
liability [for aggressing against others] have minimized mortality and
maximized life expectancy, resulting in faster growth than other cultures;
that Richard Dawkins's The Selfish Gene supports this view; and that
this observation, even if true, is an argument for libertarianism. Once
again, LaRochelle simply extrapolates -- in a linear manner -- that since,
all things equal, more freedom is better (from a utilitarian point
of view) than less freedom, libertarianism must be for the good. This
argument is stupid.
- LaRochelle argues for libertarianism and against anti- or non-libertarianism
by citing events in the East Bloc! Abandoning this right [to live your life
as you choose so long as you don't infringe on the equal rights of others] today
dooms a culture to marginalization, as life expectancy falls and mortality rises
(as seen in the former East bloc). Abandoning it globally would cause genocidal
mortality, and would require permanent global regimentation to prevent its
spontaneous reemergence and cultural-evolutionary triumph. Once again, he
ignores serious quantitative and qualitative differences among statist
- I wholly dispute the economics in the following: But any faction's
immediate gain from taking another's "piece of the pie" is dwarfed by the
aggregate long-term loss from the resulting reduction in growth (a smaller pie).
Aggression merely rearranges (and wastes) existing value. Libertarianism's
opposition to all aggression would maximize the creation of new value, thus
serving the interests not of a faction alone, but of the whole. [Note that
by "aggression", LaR. means state intervention in this passage.]
- He makes an elementary economics mistake: The only way to raise average
real wages is to increase the marginal productivity of labor.. The way to
raise AVERAGE wages is to increase AVERAGE productivity, not marginal
- [Raising average productivity] requires increasing the ratio of capital
invested per worker, which in turn requires increasing capital formation. The
more clearly and consistently contract, liability and property are defined and
enforced, the faster capital is formed. (Richard Posner, The Economic Analysis
of Law) Libertarianism therefore serves the interest of workers, while
aggression in their name actually harms them. Once again, the fallacy
that libertarianism is unique in doing things non-libertarianism does just as
well, and the complete neglect of the DEGREE to which state intervention can
harm capital formation. Just because a LOT of it can harm, doesn't follow
that ANY amount can.
- I dispute that Although the greatest marginal benefit of libertarianism
accrues to those most vulnerable to aggression, it benefits everyone (including
Statists) to some extent, so each libertarian. For most, the marginal
benefits would be negligible to negative.
- [Huben's] distraction about motives evades analysis of the unintended
consequences of aggression. For example, victimless crimes produce evasion and
black markets; taxation reduces the marginal return to labor. First, he
fails to note that state intervention can have benefits as well as undeniable
costs; and secondly, he fails to distinguish among different effects of
different kinds of taxes.
- occupational licensing, closed-shop and minimum wage laws cause
unemployment. LaRochelle fails to note the key proviso: ALL THINGS EQUAL,
such regulations lower employment. But all things aren't equal: the effects of
these regulations on unemployment are negligible, as the current economy shows.
- farm price controls and tariffs cause hunger; zoning and rent control
cause homelessness. They may contribute marginally to hunger, by raising
prices, but the implication that they are an important cause is stupid and
- Economics irrefutably demonstrates the ultimate compatability of the
interests of all people. Outright false, dependent on the belief that
Ludwig von Mises is an economist.
- Other presuppositions here include reification of classes (rather than
individuals) as having interests, intra-class conformity and inter-class
conflict, etc. The decision to look at interests either individually or
in group terms is merely a mode of analysis. Neither is invalid, empirically
- Every advocacy of intervention stems from the economic fallacy of
neglecting opportunity costs, secondary or indirect effects, or
externalities.. False. Most (economic) arguments for intervention
recognize the opportunity costs. LaRochelle's argument fails to take into
account, once again, the benefits of intervention (which he assumes away).
- Henry VIII had absolute power to rape and murder his subjects; but while
Elizabeth II lacks these things, she also has less to fear from rivals, greater
equality before the law, longer life expectancy, less infant mortality, safer
food, indoor plumbing, antiseptic, the Internet, etc. Further liberalization
will accelerate this improvement in the quality of life. First of all,
Henry VIII had no such absolute power. But the rest of the passage is stupid,
presupposing without evidence and against basic historical knowledge that the
difference between Elizabeth II's condition and her ancestor's is primarily
"liberty"! What happened to simple economic growth and political evolution?
There is, once again, that simplistic linear equation: more freedom [defined
in libertarian terms] = more prosperity.
- economic intervention generally produces unintended consequences opposite
those sought by its advocates. That is many economists predicted that the
ongoing decline in the US poverty rate would come to a sudden halt (as it did)
following enactment of the Great Society in the 1960s. Not many economists,
but right-wing and libertarian ones, who are relatively few in number. Anyway,
this is a tendentious reading of the historic record. First of all, the
reversal of the trend toward the fall in the poverty rate began in the
mid-1970s, with economic stagnation (as orthodox theory would suggest), but
the really spectacular reversals occurred during the Reagan Administration --
one of the very few instances in history when economic growth was NOT
accompanied by reductions in poverty!
- LaRochelle frequently equates the constructivist view of property rights
with an opposition to private property rights. As I have held, property is
(philosophically speaking) a convenient hallucination.
- LaRochelle argues erroneously that the concept of public goods (and the
necessity of their provision by the state) has been falsified theoretically
and empirically. (This is actually laughable.)
- LaRochelle's highly selective knowledge of economics favours the most
aprioristic, nonempirical parts of microeconomic theory.
- LaRochelle would learn a lot about early American history if he were to
read a book like The Great Challenge: The Myth of Laissez-Faire in the
Early Republic, by Frank Bourgin.
And there is much much much more. (I stopped compiling these objections &
errors after LaRochelle's use of the word "Totalitarian" in Part 1 of his FAQ
-- which I mention so that you can reference where I left off by using the Find
feature of your browser.) I will elaborate on any of my comments.