Let me begin by saying that I think it is great to finally see a person admit that he is not for freedom and staying out of people's lives. Often when people deny freedom they never admit it. He starts of by saying, "if we all just butted out of each other’s business and gave each other maximal freedom to govern our lives however we see fit". The implication I get from here is that Tal no longer thinks that we should entirely stay out of other people's lives, well at least he is honest about it.
That libertarianism is a reasonable ideology. I used to really believe that people would be happiest if we all just butted out of each other’s business and gave each other maximal freedom to govern our lives however we see fit. I don’t believe that any more, because any amount of empirical evidence has convinced me that libertarianism just doesn’t (and can’t) work in practice, and is a worldview that doesn’t really have any basis in reality. When we’re given more information and more freedom to make our choices, we generally don’t make better decisions that make us happier; in fact, we often make poorer decisions that make us less happy. In general, human beings turn out to be really outstandingly bad at predicting the things that really make us happy–or even evaluating how happy the things we currently have make us. And the notion of personal responsibility that libertarians stress turns out to have very limited applicability in practice, because so much of the choices we make aren’t under our direct control in any meaningful sense (e.g., because the bulk of variance in our cognitive abilities and personalities are inherited from our parents, or because subtle contextual cues influence our choices without our knowledge, and often, to our detriment). So in the space of just a few years, I’ve gone from being a libertarian to basically being a raving socialist. And I’m not apologetic about that, because I think it’s what the data support.
Then he says, "I don’t believe that any more, because any amount of empirical evidence has convinced me that libertarianism just doesn’t (and can’t) work in practice, and is a worldview that doesn’t really have any basis in reality." Okay, so where is your argument? You make the statement that freedom does not work, but you leave it as a dangling statement. You never explain this point.
I heard the argument, "I am a realist! I am a realist! I just go with what the empirical evidence says!" way too much that it makes me want to vomit at this point. It is an empty statement. It does not mean anything. Because I can play the same game and claim I am a realist. Besides, it is an empty statement for the reasons that I do no not want to explain again (
Furthermore, what Tal said is entirely wrong, liberty does work, and it works more efficiently (for the most part) than anything else in history. But unlike him I will offer a quick defense of this statement. I will even supply a historical argument because he claims to be a realist, so he will probably be unimpressed with rational arguments in favor of liberty. Consider America shortly after the Civil War. From about 1860's to 1910's. There are very few examples in history of libertarian societies but during this time period America was the closest it ever was to a libertarian society. The economy was for the most part laissez-faire. I am not sure about civil liberties, I know this was always a problem through out US history, but if there were suppression of civil liberties then it was more of a state and local suppression than federal suppression. But as far as economics goes America was very much a laissez-faire economy. This was the time period of American history that saw the greatest rate of increase. This was the time period when the immigrants were all rushing to come here. Were they coming here because it was so terrible, why would they come here to be exploited? The standard of living was rising. This was also the time that saw great charitable contributions of private citizens. And it "worked", whatever that means to you. While it is true that life today is better than in the past, to conclude that this is the failure of laissez-faire would be nothing but a post-hoc-propter-ergo-hoc fallacy.
Time to move on to when he says, "When we’re given more information and more freedom to make our choices, we generally don’t make better decisions that make us happier; in fact, we often make poorer decisions that make us less happy." I am not sure if you know this but liberty is not about happiness, it is about, umm, let us see, what is the word?, liberty. Liberty is not always happiness and happiness is not always liberty. Freedom includes the freedom to fail. And freedom means that people have the right to be douchebags. The KKK certainly makes a lot of people unhappy. But we do not ban them because we recognize their right to assemble and free speech, despite the fact that most people would be happier if the KKK did not exist.
Besides, happiness sucks. What do happy people ever do? If people are always happy they hardly achieve anything. If hunter-gatherer primitive men were happy with their lives they never would have developed agriculture and they would have never developed fire. They would be happy with their lives. People act because they are unhappy with the way things are. People create new inventions that make our lives better precisely because people are unhappy with the current state of the world. Happiness is counter-productive. Happiness is counter-philosophy. Happy people talk about the weather, and their family, their kids, and what trips they like to take on their vacation. Oh my science, how exciting! I wish I can live such an unbelievable exciting life. So happiness sucks, basically what I am saying. Pursuit of happiness that is fine, that is what keeps people motivated and interesting, but not actual happiness.
Friedrich Nietzsche criticized the utopian socialist state by saying that if this state was to actually come to be then it would kill the human drive for innovation and greatness. As Nietzsche said, "one must have chaos within oneself to give birth to a dancing star". Discomfort and struggle is what makes people great. People have to work hard to make themselves great. Being given a gift of an easy life does not make people great. It is in this way that a utopian socialist state would destroy much of human greatness and struggle.
All I am saying is that it seems that your goal is to make as many people as you can happy. Which just seems like such a boring society to live in. Would you really want to live in a world like that? Heaven sounds rather boring to me. I know that you do not actually believe in an actual utopian socialist state, because you seem smart enough not to believe in silly utopian fantasies, though I am curious to know. If you could snap your fingers and create a utopian socialist state in where everyone or nearly everyone would be happy and have what they desired, would you actually want to live in such a world? Or would you rather live in a world were people have to struggle, have to work, but they would eventually be able to make their lives a little better. Would you choose happiness over the pursuit of happiness?
Next point Tal says, "In general, human beings turn out to be really outstandingly bad at predicting the things that really make us happy–or even evaluating how happy the things we currently have make us." I entirely agree with you here, you probably know this better than I do because you are a psychologist after all. People are basically dumb, and most of us have no idea what we really should want. Often people cannot make good choices for themselves. But by what madness can you possibly conclude that if people cannot make good choices for themselves that other people can make better choices for them? If people cannot make good choices for themselves, then it is insanity to propose that other people (who cannot make their own good choices) make better choices for other people. Is this not what you try to imply? I know you do not actually say it, but you most certainly imply it. You do imply about taking away the freedom of the people to fully control their lives. You do say that people cannot make good choices for themselves. And you do say that you are a "raving socialist", the only implication from this that I get is that the state should make certain choices for other people. But then you have others making choices for others, which is an insane proposition given what you said about human choices. Capitalism sucks. That certainly is true. Because the whole world sucks, and everything that has to do with the world sucks. But how do you come to defend socialism by saying that capitalism sucks? True, capitalism sucks, but it sucks far less than any other system in the world.
I am willing to bet by chopping off my tiny little penis that Tal calls himself a "social democrat". Because self-identified proud socialists today love to call the system they support as "Social Democracy". What Tal said about people making poor choices can be extended to people making poor voting choices. If people cannot make their own choices for the better, then certainly they would make poor voting choices. That rationally follows. So does this means that people should not be able to vote? I doubt that Tal would say "yes" because that would negate his social democracy. Tal's argument about the stupidity of people (which I do agree with) can be turned around and used to deconstruct the stupidity of democracy. This makes Tal inconsistent.
I think I will end it here because I am not sure what else he is talking about.