Saturday, May 2, 2009

My views on Libertarians

Note this post may be incomplete:

I have recently come across a group of libertarians on YouTube and have been thoroughly perplexed by a large majority of the economical and social stances that they take. While being superficially similar to the stance of most moral objectivists, I find that the subtle differences make a huge difference between the two.

Perhaps it is best for me to present my position on politics and economics. I am not affiliated with any party and choose to vote for the candidate that 1) has a chance of winning. 2) best represents my views on science, science funding, education, stance on social freedoms, then economics. But due to the nature of the US political system at this time in history, we essentially have a two party system. Yes, there are two other party's Libertarian and Green but they usually garner <2% of the vote. (maybe up to 3%)

The Libertarians, if I am to take Ron Paul as an example, seem to not be a party with matters of social or scientific consensus. Ron Paul is against abortion, highly religious, doesn't believe in public education and he doesn't believe in evolution. Of course I have come across other libertarians that lean more towards a moral objectivists point of view and are for gay marriage, abortion rights, science, and highly anti-religious. The thing that seems to hold the political group together is their consensus on economic policy. I have been pointed to a school of economics called the Austrian school of economics an economic school of thought promoting a kind of laissez faire capitalism that Libretarians across the board subscribe to.

When presenting arguments the Libertarians seem to fall back on getting rid of the "Fed", which interpreted shows there utter disgust for any type of monetary policy being in effect. It seems that the Libertarian chooses to describe the cause of most economic recessions to failed inflationary monetary policy, which consists of any increase in the money supply that they say will produce a bubble economy resulting in a recession. Most common Libertarians seem to produce negative reactions to any type of monetary policy (expansionary or contractionary), while some big name libertarians such as Milton Freedmon while disagreeing with the existence of monetary policy have chosen to give advice on how to stabilize the economy through its use.

I must admit my own personal bias and skepticism towards the Austrian school of economics as it is not a mainstream idea. I do have degrees in finance focusing on market valuations and derivatives and international business focusing on economics, but as do most universities they do not cover the Austrian school of economics readily in classes. What is taught first is a modern Keynesian view of economics with reference to capitalism. Socialism is not thoroughly discussed except in a negative sense, but the ideas of communism were discussed and so were theories as to why it failed to produce goods and services. In later courses we learned about modern economic theory and monetary policy, along with government regulation due to the Enron fiasco. I personally came to the conclusion that the efficient market hypothesis runs relatively true and that investors are not rational when information is scarce and the best way to make money from the market was either to acquire information before it is disseminated through the public and to value companies based on rational speculations of probabilities of future income base upon past trends and trying to predict market speculation….etc.etc. (most of which would have been spent on staring at graphs) But of course this has nothing to do with how to make economies work, but deals with how to profit in the existing system.

The non-intervention monetary policy is an intriguing hypothesis, but every alarm in my head screams it is bound to fail. But, of course as the rational skeptic I must be open to consider new ideas so I took today out to looking through what the Libertarians propose. One trend that I found very disheartening was a very dogmatic view from libertarians. I had a feeling that standards of evidence were differing between me and the people I came across right off the bat. I came across some very funny quotes right after a Libertarian told me that not believing him was akin to disbelief in evolution, and the link between AIDS and HIV and a rejection of science.

“Austrian economists reject empirical, statistical methods and artificially constructed experiments as tools applicable to economics, saying that while it is appropriate in the natural sciences where factors can be isolated in laboratory conditions, the actions of human beings are too complex for this treatment"

“The main criticism of modern Austrian economics is that it lacks scientific precision. Austrian theories are not formulated in formal mathematical form, but using verbal logic. Mainstream economists believe that this makes Austrian theories too imprecisely defined to be clearly used to explain or predict real world events. Economist Bryan Caplan noted that, "what prevents Austrian economists from getting more publications in mainstream journals is that their papers rarely use mathematics or econometrics." This criticism of the Austrian school is related to its rejection of the use of the scientific method and empirical testing in social sciences in favor of self-evident axioms and logical reasoning.”

As far as I could find there are not that much papers from economists purporting the Libertarians view of economics. The above quote is actually from a Libertarian and the other is one of their basic principles of the moral absolutes or praxeology. As the libertarian view point is obviously nothing like the scientific method, I have to conclude that analogous features between the Austrian school of economics and science are few and far between. The view that logical absolutes and the axioms of human nature are self evident seems to have been derived from Aristotle’s Greek school of thought. If my mind is not being forgetful, I seem to remember the pervading view of Aristotle was that logical statements did not need to be proved. The Austrian school of economics seems to have taken up the position that proof in terms of statistics and mathematics is unnecessary in the formation of its economic theories. The scientist inside of me does not agree with the prior statement, as nature has proved to defy human logic, only through statistical means have we been able to make advances in science compared to our ancient Greek counterparts.

As there are no fully free market capitalistic Austrian economics school of thought countries, there is no empirical evidence that this system can and does work. But, there also has never been a fully communistic society either. So these two extremes have not been fully tested. As for anyone claiming that either one of these economic systems works there simply is not enough evidence to support that view. I am certainly skeptical that a fully free market could exist without turning into a corporatist monopoly system, but of course I could be wrong. But as a realist I simply do not see a theory not based upon empirical evidence taking over a majority of the public so that it will ever be instated in the US. My final conclusion is that I remain unconvinced of the claims made by Libertarians.

(Note may be incomplete)

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