He mentioned "reasoning man", but I don't he ever said the wants on which choices are made had to be rational. And if he did, he was wrong. In fact, the existence of irrational, subjective wants is further proof of the subjective theory of value. You haven't refuted it, not can you, because it happens to be true.
If something is objectively worth $1,000, it's still worth $1,000 if the average household has 20 of them laying around unused. That's absurd, of course. People will subjectively value it less if there's more of it, and so the price will fall. They'll value it more if, say, it's the hot toy this Christmas; not strictly rational, but it's confirmation of the subjective theory of value.
More to the point of Fleming's article, where do children fit into the scheme of rational decisions in the marketplace? Do we let kids buy all the candy their parents can afford, because thats what the kids "reasoned" this out?
You let them buy all the candy their parents let them buy.
Also, as transactions occur in the marketplace, relationships (sorry to have to bring up that nasty word again) develop among the rugged and rational individuals. People fall in love. People develop irrational hatreds based on feelings of having been had, e.g. buying a lemon from a used car dealer. And sometimes people decide to continue buying from a certain individual because they value the relationship they are developing more than the savings they could achieve through shopping around.
We are not brought forth into this world as individuals, and none of us are capable of fully isolating ourselves from others once we achieve adulthood. We are not capable of making completely "reasonable" choices because we don't have all of the information, and we don't have the brain processing power to assimilate all of the information and process it to make that absolutely most effective decision. We just do the best we can. And those that lean on their parents, siblings, friends, history, traditions, and community for help in making these decisions will tend to be a lot more successful and happy, than those who try to go it all alone.
You mean that people might let subjective factors influence how they value something?
Let me note that people fall in love, have kids, develope loyalties, ect, without the need for a government program to get them to do it. If you were wrong, if people weren't naturally social, and if you could prove that going against nature on that point would be necessary, that might form a case against libertarianism, but the facts as you have correctly stated them do not form such a case.
And avoiding a lemon-selling car dealer is rational.
Trying to create a world based on the fiction that people are independent agents is only going to lead to nonsensical results, i.e. the current state of things.
Good thing libertarians don't want to do that then. We merely want people to be independent of the government, which is, of course, not the same as society.
What I am claiming is that libertarians falsely believe that transactions between individuals in the marketplace of money, products, ideas, or even values are things that can be radically free.
Certainly neither of us believes that transactions in the current state of affairs are radically free. However, even if we had a truly constitutional limited government, transactions would still be encumbered by genetic predispositions, social conditioning, habitual behavior, peer-pressure, loyalties, traditions, the laws of physics, etc.
To say that everything is subjectively valued and traded accordingly is truly a tautology. Maybe economists didn't figure this out formally until the 1700's, but I'm sure it was considered basic common sense for centuries before that.
The above tautology, however, doesn't go to the point of Fleming's article. People will and have in the past subjectively made poor choices which have negatively impacted other members of society. In some instances we use government to discourage or prevent people from making such choices. In other cases we use social institutions such as families, church, fraternal organizations, etc. to get people back into line.
If libertarians truly just want "government" to be the only societal institution to not tell people what to do, then this is a rather simplistic philosophy. In most cases I want the mother or father of a child to be the one that tells them not to light matches near the neighbor's house. But in some cases I want it to be the police officer on his daily rounds. To say that only that institution which has the ability to make good on its threat (i.e. government) is prevented from exercising force, is basically a backhanded way of asking for anarchy.
People have never been radically free. People never will be. Asking for radical freedom may make libertarians feel good, especially since they'll never have to worry about ever having to try implementing such a plan ... in a real world.
Define what you mean by government? What is the size of your tribe? Do you just what a police force to protect you from other potentially evil tribes? Or do you want a county sheriff to protect you from those other evil counties? Or do you just want a state militia to help enforce contracts with questionable companies in other states? Or do you want a national defense force to protect you from rogue nations and Islamic terrorists? Or do you want a world government to protect you from meteors headed our way and potential threats from aliens?
We live in a complex society developed over thousands of years. Sometimes the different governments get together and gang up on us. Sometimes they fight each other tooth and nail. Sometimes they occasionally ... but most assuredly accidentally ... work together for our benefit!
We need to work within the current system to lubricate the gears where they are stuck, and weld them together where they shouldn't oughta move at all.
Focussing your ire at a thing which isn't even one thing isn't going to solve anything. People wanted Social Security because they didn't want to have to support their parents in old age, or be supported by their children in old age. Of course all they really did was interpose a bunch of felonious and incompetent bureacrats in between their kids money and their retirement, but then people often make irrational choices.
Trying to slowly but surely push sysphean boulders like Soc Sec in the right direction is the best we can hope for. Expecting some laser light of pure logic to come down from heaven and disintegrate the rock into oblivion is just wishful thinking.
Mises did point to Man's reason, but not to claim that the choices he makes are rational. Rather it is reason that allows man to make choices. If a tiger kills its prey and eats it, this is because of the tiger's instincts. The tiger can no more stop the act than his victim can. In contrast, when I kill a cow and eat it, this is because I chose to do so. I do it because I like steak and because I happen to believe, unlike the PC crowd, that meat is good for me. Someone, either the PC vegetarian or me, is being irrational. But we are both using our reason to make choices.
We merely want people to be independent of the government, which is, of course, not the same as society.
I can only agree.