Thursday, November 05, 2009
The Houston Tunnel System
Over at Live Oaks, Brian Phillips discusses one of Houston's hidden jewels, its privately owned and operated downtown tunnel system.
The tunnel is essentially an underground mall with restaurants, retail stores, doctors, and other services available for downtown workers. The system also allows pedestrians to travel from building to building without confronting traffic, rain, or heat. These amenities have become so important to downtown workers that new buildings downtown consider it crucial to connect to the system.As he correctly points out, the success of the tunnel system demonstrates the falsehood of the common argument that we need the government to coordinate major infrastructure projects.
His post reminds me of a similar favorite triumph of capitalism from Houston's history: Its swift and painless finishing-off of desegregation. The idea that the government has to do everything big in scale or importance is wrong, and is only as viable as it is because the government has a stranglehold on so many areas of our lives. Such an extent and ubiquity of control starves the imaginations of ordinary people (including some advocates of capitalism) through want of positive examples.
Intellectual ammunition takes many forms, and one of them is concrete examples of proper abstract ideas put into practice. Head on over to Live Oaks and stock up!
And speaking of intellectual ammuntion, there's some more over at Noodle Food.
How Not to Oppose Government Controls
Don Watkins on "Net Neutrality:"
A proper critique of net neutrality would reject ... the notion that the Internet is some collective product of society's that "consumers" have the right to dispose of however they choose. It would recognize that the Internet is, in fact, the product of voluntary associations between millions of individuals and companies, all of whom have the right to use their private property as they see fit. It would recognize that an Internet Service Provider has a right to manage its network according to its own judgment, and that its only power is the power to offer willing customers a service more valuable than its competitors. A proper critique of net neutrality would say that the government has no right to place shackles on the Internet, and that its only legitimate function is to protect Internet freedom.The example of "opposition" to Net Neutrality Watkins quotes has to be read to be believed.
Perkins on Libertarianism vs. Objectivism
With the unprecedented popularity of Ayn Rand's work and the equally unprecedented effort by libertarians from all over to crawl out of the woodwork to parasitize her, short, sweet examples of the difference are worth keeping in mind. Greg Perkins provides just such an example.
[T]he libertarian framework fails to capture crucial differences. Consider a powerful government that performs all and only its proper functions in the defense of man's rights, and one that happens to have all the same laws and institutions but also has, say, conscription on the books just in case war breaks out. These two governments are all but indistinguishable (and neither is smiled on) in the libertarians' basic classification scheme based on size. But Objectivists see these two as moral opposites because one is committed to the essential task of the defense of man's rights and the other is not. Even though not currently violating any rights, the government with conscription laws clearly rejects the key principle of the field. It has no principled defense against the slippery slope to serfdom we've seen play out in history all too many times.The libertarian approach is fundamentally anarchic, which means that libertarianism ultimately smiles on you getting attacked, defrauded or killed -- so long as the crimes aren't committed by a government. Libertarians won't admit this in words in part because their anti-principled approach makes it hard for them to see the point. Nevertheless, it is amazingly easy to catch them evading the point once you point it out.
That said, I know from personal experience that not all libertarians are so far gone that they can't be convinced to abandon that anti-freedom movement, but such individuals are rare.