“I actually think this issue brings up extremely deep philosophical questions that virtually no one I can find wants to engage in.”
What are you talking about?
No one wants to engage in those conversations? You haven’t posted an issue yet that hasn’t been addressed in the past century pretty thoroughly. Or at least, you should engage a few libertarian intellectuals.
I think you mean, that it is impossible to affect the political dialog by framing policy questions by other than political means. There is only ONE political spectrum (progressive to conservative) but there are TWO political AXIS (incorrectly stated by Nolan) consisting of Individual Property Rights (Economic Freedom per Nolan), and Pseudo-Shareholder Appropriation Of Returns (Personal Freedom per Nolan).
***And so you yourself are framing the question falsely.***
Which is why you can’t get serious traction with your arguments (despite being the best blogger on center-progressive political economy).
Now, you’d have to answer your own question here: why is it that a) people don’t frame it the way you prefer, and b) why is it that you frame it the way that you do?
It’s the progressive vision versus the conservative vision. ie: you see the world as a run-rate system that has it’s own momentum that is unstoppable and the fruits of which can be siphoned and shared without consequence. Conservatives view the world as a struggle to concentrate capital resting on a fragile edifice that has been constructed by irrational but successful means, and which can be disassembled and lost without constant vigilance.
Counter-intuitive results are produced on both sides of the aisle. For example, online pornography drastically reduces sex crimes – it seems obvious now, but it didn’t then. Cheap fattening food, cheap music, cheap movies and cheap video games, and easy access to pot give the unwashed proletariat something better to do than alcohol, hard drugs, violence, crime, rebellion and hanging on street corners like they did until fifteen years ago. Increasing incarceration and increasing punishment (especially three strikes) works to reduce crime. Eliminating the permanent welfare dependency decreased dependency. The inter-temporal redistribution system (social security) created a dependency bubble.
The purpose of politics is to win control of the bloody hand of government so that your alliance of minorities can seek rents on the other alliance of minorities instead of working in the market for mutual gain — like we libertarians of the classical liberal bent recommend, by treating society as a portfolio of human capital that must be constantly improved for the benefit of all.
All of us want the benefits of the market without the risks of participating in it. People seek to game the market through political rent seeking, through saving enough to live off their savings and investments, to under-consuming so that they have more leisure time. The market is hard.