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Should dams be regulated in free society just because they threaten more people?

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Eugene Posted: Fri, Mar 16 2012 5:35 PM

Dams, nuclear weapons, chemical factories, and other potentially dangerous structures can cause enormous amount of damage if their potential is abused. If someone builds a chemical factory next to my house I think I have the right to check how safe is the factory. A nuclear plant even 500 kilometers away in some remote desert can still kill you and your family. I believe a person can demand that a minimum set of safety regulations is followed at least to see that the operator is not some psychopat who doesn't care about the damage his/her property can cause.

Having said that, what do you think is the criteria for such intervention in property rights? After all for a single person anyone with a gun can potentially be dangerous. What makes dams, nuclear plants and other such structures much more frightening is that they can destroy entire cities and communities. However is it jutsified to intervene in property rights just because many people are threatened? 

What do you think?

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Eugene:
[...] some psychopat who doesn't care [...]

You mean like when the U.S.A. government dropped nuclear bombs on women and children in Japan?

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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Eugene:
[...] many people are threatened? [...]

You mean like the threat of of airplanes being hijacked and flow into the World Trade Center? The state didn't do too good of a job of preventing that.

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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Merlin replied on Fri, Mar 16 2012 6:22 PM

 

Some very insightful ideas have been thrown on these forums on topics such as this. Nukes have been interpreted to constitute a continuous threat to anyone in the blast range, regardless of the actual intentions of the holder. This gives those threatened the right to violently remove the threat. I tend to agree with this interpretation. Of course, if those within the range explicitly waive their right to forcibly remove the thread (say, by accepting the term of entry into the property of the nuke owner), the nuke cane be held safely.

As of dams, though they are far, far more dangerous than nukes (which, after all, have some very complex safety features), they are not meant to aggress, hence cannot be considered to present a credible threat. Now, they may or may not present a credible risk, but that itself gives no one any ground of action. A credible threat would.

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Wheylous replied on Fri, Mar 16 2012 7:15 PM

Eugene believes he is following the NAP to its fullest when he refuses to charge people for hiring hitmen but he thinks regulating dams and nuclear power plants is fine?

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Eugene replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 2:57 AM

Merlin, why do you think it is legitimate to demand regulation of nukes and not guns? It is true that nukes threaten more people, but since when the number of people threatened changes application of NAP?

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Gumdy replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 3:28 AM
Wheylous 

Eugene believes he is following the NAP to its fullest when he refuses to charge people for hiring hitmen but he thinks regulating dams and nuclear power plants is fine?

 

:-)

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Wheylous:
Eugene believes he is following the NAP to its fullest when he refuses to charge people for hiring hitmen but he thinks regulating dams and nuclear power plants is fine?

Yeah I'm thinking of nominating him for the #3 spot on Bert's list.

 

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Merlin replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 6:47 AM

 

I’m not saying that nukes should be regulated, in the sense of you having to apply somewhere for a ‘permit’. Neither am I saying that nukes are more dangerous than dams. I repeat what I wrote before: dams are far more dangerous in practice than nukes. A ‘terrorist’, even if he could get a nuke, would probably be unable to use it due to the sophisticated coding techniques needed to arm it. On the other hand, he must only get some homemade explosives on a dam to potentially kill tens of thousands.

What I am saying is that living within the blast radius of a nuke is like living in a house that is being targeted by a tank owned by your neighbor: a credible threat. What this means is that you can violently remove the threat, and that’s it. If you choose not to, that is your choice.

If I want to keep a nuke, I need not apply for any permit. I just have to either buy a waiver of liability form the guys living in the blast radius, or otherwise convince them not to violently try to remove the nuke. If I’m a nice guy (or a reputable company), I do not see why people would choose to violently make me remove my nuke. I could, also, just hide the nuke and that would make me liable from nothing.

The dam is more dangerous but is not a threat, in the sense that its nature makes it unlikely to be used in aggression. Hence, you cannot forcibly prevent a dam from being built. That is how I’d interpret the threat part of the NAP anyway.

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Eugene replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 6:56 AM

Merlin, a person with a gun is also a threat. At any time he can launch an attack against you. If you ask me what is more dangerous, living in a neighborhood filled with ex-criminals owning guns or living next to a reputable private defense agency which owns a nuclear weapon, it is clear to me that living in a violent neighborhood is more dangerous.

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Eugene replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 7:06 AM

And by the way, while you can live in a gun-free neighborhood, you can't live in a "nuclear plant" free neighborhood because nuclear plants melt down can affect all land in a very big radius.

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excel replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 8:19 AM

If your neighbor makes a habit of pointing the gun at you, then yes, it is a credible threat. A nuke is ALWAY pointed at you, a gun is not. By your reasoning cars, cutlery, rope and clothing are all as dangerous as a nuke because they can be used to assault you at any time. 

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Eugene replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 8:54 AM

A nuclear weapon is not pointed at you. To launch it you need a very sophisticated program. Besides you can launch it 1000 kilometers away from you.

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excel replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 8:57 AM

I was referring to the situation in which the nuke is in 'your neighborhood', ie, the blast is going to take you with it. In this situtation, which is what I understood the situation was according to the op, the nuke is not akin to your neighbor owning a gun, but it is more like your neighbor keeping a gun pointed at you 24/7.

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Bert replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 9:08 AM

John James:
Yeah I'm thinking of nominating him for the #3 spot on Bert's list.

I've decided to work out a theory behind that list, maybe it will be the Theory of Bert's List, but it's so ridiculous that I can only post it in it's own thread.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Merlin replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 12:01 PM

Eugene:

A nuclear weapon is not pointed at you. To launch it you need a very sophisticated program. Besides you can launch it 1000 kilometers away from you.

 

 

 

This has some merit, no doubt. I guess that a ‘secured’ warhead, i.e. one that is not armed, would be about as dangerous as a nuclear plant: risky, but not a threat.  You cannot stop a plant only because it might meld down (you cannot punish someone because he may commit a crime), so you cannot stop me from having an unarmed (but armable) nuke, just because I could arm it in the future.

Well done, I refined my position on nukes yet again. Only armed weapons can be violently disarmed. If you violently break in the compound where nukes are held, and they you discover that they are unarmed, you are liable for having broken into someone’s property. If they are armed, you may disarm them, or otherwise neutralize the threat.

In practice not even governments hold armed nukes at the ready (you need a complex armament sequence to even get them going, not to mention that many weapons must have their radioactive core manually inserted into the explosive jacket), let alone private companies tomorrow! Thus, for all practical purposes, nukes would be allowed in a free society. A welcome addition, I say!

PS: as for you second objection, that I could launch it far away, that does not stand. If I point a gun at you, I may fire it at some guy behind you, but you are still entitled to take action in view of the threat I pose. So, if the nuke is armed, you can act no matter in what kind of delivery vector it is.

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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I saw a crazy ass thread topic  that didn't mention survivalism or New Hampshire and bet myself you wrote it - I was correct.

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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Merlin replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 2:39 PM

 

I remember a time when one could ask much stranger questions of these forums and elicit curiosity instead of mild annoyance. 

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Point taken:

Though if you think about it 1/2 the people in the old days were very beligerent and counterproductive to any production of forming thoughts through dialgoue.  I actually think as a whole the forum has gotten a bit more focused and encouraging one to focus one's thoughts better, even if it has lost a bit of color.

Anyway, I think there is some discretion with people like this - and I am of the opinion Eugene just states things to confirm his own bias, and for the most part it isn't even an admiral bias.  My 2 cents, though you are right I should be more patient and tolerable of people who post  and if not abide by the old  "if you don't have anything nice to say..." maxim

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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Eugene replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 3:16 PM

Merlin, I'd appreciate if you could comment in the following thread:
http://mises.org/Community/forums/p/28527/461262.aspx#461262

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Merlin replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 3:27 PM

 

I surely didn’t mean that the forums have gotten somehow ‘worse’. Perhaps with maturity comes a degree of necessary aggregation. All communities in time either become more homogeneous (and somewhat less tolerant of ‘dissent’) or splinter, and perhaps our own community is evolving in the same way. I just think that we could do worse that to remind ourselves time and again that intellectual curiosity and vigor ultimately drive this movement, and the slide towards aggregation should be checked to a point. 

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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This is a great topic, and one I have thought about:

I think in general the regulars here are pretty accomadating towards dissedent views - much more so than the old days of people like BAAWA, Juan, etc.  If you remember those old forums I think we are much much better off - if you want to have your thoughts looked at in a more serious intellectual content within the scope of forum dialgoue.

I don't think it's perfect, and it may have hit a slight slump since the forum split thing (there were a good number of top intellectual "hetrodox" people on here 8 months ago), but the forum I think has turned into a more informal but serious way to look at things.

And yes it is our responsability to be much more tolerant and accomodating to new people of all stripes - if we are disagreeing and feel "threatened" or angry by counterpoint opinions, it ought to show how insecure we are with our own positions- these should be seen as oportunities to help the new person hone there discussion and research skills, not for the sake of liberteriansim - but to develop good habits and critical thought.  This is after all a discussion forum, not a polemics soapbox.

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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Bert replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 3:42 PM

It has to do with a sense of forum culture, another forum I'm on it's pushed that you use the search function before asking questions to see if what you have to say has already been discussed and answered.  People on here disregard that, and don't understand when people get a bit short or stern with them when they do.  Another aspect is before posting make sure what you have to say is thought out and if possible cite sources.  If this forum was like that from the start it would turn into giant archive of information, and not endless rambling.  The best thing I've noticed is when redundant threads do not start, and the low content threads which alone contain a lot of information based on the idea of posting anything informative that does not needs it's own thread into one (I can't imagine everyone posting all those things in their own threads).

In a way this forum is not as colorful, I do not know if that has to do with the new forum (which I could not figure out and immediately gave up on), or the fact it's not attracting as many contributors as before, but there are still rather in depth econ discussions going on.  Despite any problems it has appeared to become more focused (with a few or one exception), but hey if you want to step out of line you can make the list.  (At least it's gotten better since the purge.)

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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It has to do with a sense of forum culture, another forum I'm on it's pushed that you use the search function before asking questions to see if what you have to say has already been discussed and answered.  People on here disregard that, and don't understand when people get a bit short or stern with them when they do.  Another aspect is before posting make sure what you have to say is thought out and if possible cite sources.

 

You know, I don't know how much I agree with the "search before you ask"  when dealing specifically with new people (otherwise put them on that awesome list if they are veterens and should know better) - as I think I like the "learning while doing approach" - it forces one to engage and think on their feet. ex:  A lot of us in the medical field could have jst read our books and looked at the pictures - but how many of us learned via anatomy / physiology coloring books, getting yelled at in clinical rotations,  and work books.   That's where I say it's just up to us who are here and have "been around the block" to help newer people out.

 

 

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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Eugene replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 4:47 PM

I don't really have a stake in this or care too much about how this forum is managed, but I would still like to offer my opinion.

In my opinion if your goal is to make libertarianism a philosophical academic teaching without any appeal to the common man, then the best thing you could do is require people to search before posting, create all kinds of "negative users" lists, provide irrelevant cynical remarks, and to criticise and ridicule any dissenting view.

The irony is that the two libertarians forums I am familiar with, this one, and RonPaulForums are the two least tolerant forums out there (and I know many). The attitude of some members here reeks of police state policies (blacklisting people and such). I sincerely hope you don't go that path for your own sake.

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Merlin:
I surely didn’t mean that the forums have gotten somehow ‘worse’. Perhaps with maturity comes a degree of necessary aggregation. All communities in time either become more homogeneous (and somewhat less tolerant of ‘dissent’) or splinter, and perhaps our own community is evolving in the same way. I just think that we could do worse that to remind ourselves time and again that intellectual curiosity and vigor ultimately drive this movement, and the slide towards aggregation should be checked to a point.

I'm with you on making sure the MO doesn't become an in-group attack on anyone with different views or elementary questions.  But I think if you'll review the forum you'll see the response (and its nature/tone) have a lot to do with (1) not so much the question asked or the statement made, but how it's asked or made, and (2) by whom...i.e. just how "new" is the person...

 

vive la insurrection:
I think in general the regulars here are pretty accomadating towards dissedent views - much more so than the old days of people like BAAWA, Juan, etc.  If you remember those old forums I think we are much much better off - if you want to have your thoughts looked at in a more serious intellectual content within the scope of forum dialgoue.

I agree.  I think newbies tend to get a bit more out of the responses they get now than they did when they were just sideswiped with a condescending proclamation of "there is no such thing as a citizen".

 

And yes it is our responsability to be much more tolerant and accomodating to new people of all stripes - if we are disagreeing and feel "threatened" or angry by counterpoint opinions, it ought to show how insecure we are with our own positions- these should be seen as oportunities to help the new person hone there discussion and research skills, not for the sake of liberteriansim - but to develop good habits and critical thought.  This is after all a discussion forum, not a polemics soapbox.

I have certainly never felt "threatened" by someone's opposing view or a disagreement.  It's always an opportunity for a possible discussion, and for one or more people to learn something.  I have no problem engaging someone with a differing point of view.  It is when that view is presented as "obvious fact", or when the poster is not interested in discussing the facets and potential flaws of that view, but rather simply looking to confirm it...it is things like that that I think people around here get annoyed with and are not interested in.

 

Bert:
It has to do with a sense of forum culture, another forum I'm on it's pushed that you use the search function before asking questions to see if what you have to say has already been discussed and answered.  People on here disregard that, and don't understand when people get a bit short or stern with them when they do.  Another aspect is before posting make sure what you have to say is thought out and if possible cite sources.  If this forum was like that from the start it would turn into giant archive of information, and not endless rambling.

This is about how I feel as well.  And a giant archive of useful and accessible info is precisely what I've tried to help create here.

 

vive la insurrection:
You know, I don't know how much I agree with the "search before you ask"  when dealing specifically with new people (otherwise put them on that awesome list if they are veterens and should know better) - as I think I like the "learning while doing approach" - it forces one to engage and think on their feet. ex:  A lot of us in the medical field could have jst read our books and looked at the pictures - but how many of us learned via anatomy / physiology coloring books, getting yelled at in clinical rotations,  and work books.   That's where I say it's just up to us who are here and have "been around the block" to help newer people out.

So read through the relevant threads and bump one to revive the discussion and learn from people who've "been around the block".  Try to bring something new, or if you're just having trouble understanding an answer that's already given, address the fact that you've seen the answer given and are having trouble understanding it...and explain exactly which parts are giving trouble and then ask a question that directs a helper to the right way to help you.

Don't start the exact same thread with the exact same question and clog up the forum with duplicates.

 

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Eugene:
I don't really have a stake in this

Um.  This whole discussion started because of you.

 

In my opinion if your goal is to make libertarianism a philosophical academic teaching without any appeal to the common man, then the best thing you could do is require people to search before posting, create all kinds of "negative users" lists, provide irrelevant cynical remarks, and to criticise and ridicule any dissenting view.

Uh.  No.  The best thing to do if that's your goal is to close off account creation and restrict posting to academics.  Insisting on a simple act of running a search that takes literally less than 10 seconds, just to see what has already been said about the topic you're interested in, as a courtesy to the rest of the people in the forum (as well as those covering the cost of the server space), is nothing more than a culture preference.

It is a mode of etiquette and decorum and conduct of courtesy and regard for others...and to suggest that it would destroy a political or philosophical movement is just asinine.  If anything it would improve the environment such that it is more accessible and useful to more people.  What you're essentially saying is that to gain any sort of new membership, a group shouldn't have and enforce certain rules of conduct, but rather allow people to do whatever they want, for fear of alienating people.

Give me a break.  That is not how you win converts.

 

The irony is that the two libertarians forums I am familiar with, this one, and RonPaulForums are the two least tolerant forums out there (and I know many).

Evidently "many" is an extremely subjective term.

 

The attitude of some members here reeks of police state policies (blacklisting people and such). I sincerely hope you don't go that path for your own sake.

Oh gag me.  As if this "let's liken my opponents to something they despise" nonsense is new.  Frustrated "trolls" have been trying that for years here.  And if I'm not mistaken, this isn't the first time you've tried it.  Any time something happens that you don't like, just claim the person is behaving like the State.  Great strategy.

It's like the morons who cry "freedom of speech!  1st amendment!" when a youtuber closes comments on a video.

If this and RPF are so intolerant, go to all these other "more tolerant" forums you know.

 

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Marko replied on Sat, Mar 17 2012 9:13 PM

think in general the regulars here are pretty accomadating towards dissedent views - much more so than the old days of people like BAAWA, Juan, etc.  If you remember those old forums I think we are much much better off - if you want to have your thoughts looked at in a more serious intellectual content within the scope of forum dialgoue.

Years ago the forum was first of all much more active. Also its most outspoken members were in a greater proportion its members well versed in libertarian theory, economics and philosophy. It felt like a place where many people who were used to being (among) the smartest people in their RL environment came together. So if the inevitable brains-clash gave the forum a bit of an intolerant and combative veneer, it also gave it debate that was sharp, tenacious, expansive and sophisticated (in content if not in presentation). There was no better place to have your views challanged, to force you to develop them better, and to help you test your rationale for them against intolerant, combative, book-munching brainiacs used to always being right. 

No offense to present posters, but in general its most knowleadgable members don't post as much as would have been the case in the past. A typical topic back them would have been an 8-page forum equivalent of a knife fight between gangs of Filipino deliquents. An intense and cutthroat affair to be sure, but also a thing of beauty. Today a typical topic is Eugene asking some basic question, and the rest of us taking it on for the exercise, until we inevitably get bored. It feels like we're writing from our retirement in Florida. For all I know we're all a bunch of old people.

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Marko:
Today a typical topic is Eugene asking some basic question, and the rest of us taking it on for the exercise, until we inevitably get bored. It feels like we're writing from our retirement in Florida. For all I know we're all a bunch of old people.

As funny as that is, I'm not sure if I'd call that typical.  There are other types of threads just as common as those.  Project ideas and simple discussion pieces aren't rare...things like How does this look? and Kony? pop up all the time, and I think are just fine.  Not everything has to be a Filipino knife fight.  (Although those do seem to come about often enough as well.  Clayton's Demonization of Muslims and Islam is carrying on quite well, and even 2-year old graveyarded rhubarbs like "Statist" Defined - Basic English 101 get bumped from time to time.)

And I think some really great threads came from newbies posting how I think everyone would like a newbie to post.  Check out the threads by -Joe-, danbeaulieu, and shackleford just to name a few.  FlyingAxe is a shining example of what an inquisitive newbie could be.

Like I said, it's more about the way the conversation is struck than most anything else.

 

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John James:
I agree.  I think newbies tend to get a bit more out of the responses they get now than they did when they were just sideswiped with a condescending proclamation of "there is no such thing as a citizen".

I think this also has to do with the fact that even if some of us may be blunt,  lose our tempe,  get in a heated discussion, have incompatible "personalities" etc I simply don't think most of us here hold vendettas, are in the habit of preaching to the "echo chamber", and things like that as much as they were 3 or 4 years ago.

 

Marko:
Years ago the forum was first of all much more active. Also its most outspoken members were in a greater proportion its members well versed in libertarian theory, economics and philosophy. It felt like a place where many people who were used to being (among) the smartest people in their RL environment came together. So if the inevitable brains-clash gave the forum a bit of an intolerant and combative veneer, it also gave it debate that was sharp, tenacious, expansive and sophisticated (in content if not in presentation). There was no better place to have your views challanged, to force you to develop them better, and to help you test your rationale for them against intolerant, combative, book-munching brainiacs used to always being right.

I don't know if I agree with this when looking at the forum 3 years ago - if you look at it, there were pages of pages of "moral lifeboat" situations, "thick and thin liberterians", and threads like "is it OK to beat children" or whatever.

I do think there has been a slump: but I think it is due to the forum split (or at the very least there is a correlation there); before that we had great "mainstream" econ posters, flairs of Left Libs comming in (though mostly they burnt themselves out), a couple of liberterian econ celebs posting once in awhile, etc.

 

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The owner of a nuclear power plant (or of any other high-risk enterprise) has every incentive to operate the plant safely.

Firstly, he doesn't want the plant itself to be damaged in an accident.

Secondly, most importantly, he doesn't want to be liable for torts resulting from an accident.

Keep in mind that limited liability can only apply to contractual relations - not to torts. The corporation which owns a nuclear power plant is liable for torts resulting from a meltdown, but if the assets of the corporation are exhausted and liabilities remain, then the shareholders are personally liable. If you accept the idea (as I do) that a tortfeasor can justly be put into debt-slavery to repay his liability, then this is a very strong incentive indeed. The shareholders of a corporation that operates a nuclear power plant want to avoid a meltdown not only to protect their equity, and not only to protect their other personal assets, but to keep themselves out of debtor's prison.

I'd say these shareholders are as incentivized to operate the plant safely as anyone could be - regulations by the state are (at best) superfluous.

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