Pepe is back!

Last Friday, when I was helping Paul Jacob with his weekend wrap-up (This Week in Common Sense), I had only heard rumors about Pepe’s appearance on the streets of Hong Kong,* so I asked Paul if he had heard anything. He hadn’t. But . . . The New York Times has come to the rescue, with “Hong Kong Protesters Love Pepe the Frog. No, They’re Not Alt-Right” (August 19).

“To much of the world, the cartoon frog is a hate symbol,” the blurb expands. “To Hong Kong protesters, he’s something entirely different: one of them.”

The article, by Daniel Victor, confronts how jarring it may seem for Pepe to appear as “a pro-democracy freedom fighter in the Hong Kong protests, siding with the people in their struggle against an authoritarian state.”

Well, jarring if you are a Gray Lady reporter. For was it not major media folks who repeatedly characterized Pepe as “alt right” and a “hate figure”? So, what if that’s just their story? How they want us to see the symbol?

To participants of the online trolling that erupted in the election of Donald Trump, Pepe was not one thing, but all over the map. He was, as I suggested to Paul, an anti-authoritarian Trickster, more Bugs Bunny than a cruel cartoon of Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle.

And the anti-authoritarianism of Pepe was directed against our Establishment, in part as embodied in Hillary Clinton . . . and in the news media.

But the Times cannot quite confront that. 

Pepe in Hong Kong.

So we encounter, instead, a very different explanation. We are told how Pepe’s creator Matt Furie’s pre-troll conception of Pepe has survived, innocent as a lamb — or even as “Hello Kitty!” — in the former British colony . . . at least as scribbled and spray-painted on subway walls (and tenement halls).

A bit self-serving? The Times’ narrative almost begs for a response . . . in the form of a Pepe-like wink-and-leer.

twv


* The other day I repeated the rumors, and the images that seemed to back them up, in my “Baizuo Blues” post. There I was dealing with a Medium essay so outrageous I was not sure it wasn’t some bizarre form of post-irony. And, in the back of my head I mulled over this unsettling worry that even the photos might have been doctored. These worries did not diminish when the Medium piece almost immediately vanished from the site. Which is why I was still wondering about the truth of Pepe’s reëmergence later in the week.

Limited, controlled immigration, was the traditional policy of the Progressive Era. It was advanced during the ramp-up of the administrative state in the early days of Progressivism’s triumph, during the administrations of TR and Woodrow Wilson, and lingered in very strong forms through the recent presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

“Open immigration” in its modern context is the policy of radicals who flout the technocratic/managerial state’s modus operandi the better to achieve the revolutionary methods of the Cloward-Piven strategy — leveraging a central feature of the modern administrative state, anarcho-tyranny, as a way to sow chaos and effect the establishment of a socialist state.

The free migration concept that many of my friends support (and which I too, prefer, and wish were on the table) has almost nothing to do, in practice, with what the current batch of Democrats running for the presidency espouse. Those who pretend that it does — like, apparently, folks at Reason and Cato — are basically playing at being the Left’s bitches. Or, as I put it back in January, eagerly take part in “the cucking of the libertarian mind”:

Trendy libertarians so want to be thought of as “on the left” that they let leftists push policy into what Sam Francis aptly called anarcho-tyranny, where government increasingly lets criminal and dependent elements dominate public life while directing the heavy hand of the State onto people who are basically peaceful, who are not subsidized, who earn their keep and don’t steal, murder, and grift their way through life. That heavy hand is the increasing burden of the regulations progressives love.

Racism, Cuckery and the Wall,” January 14, 2019, Wirkman Comment.

As I have stated many times before, the free-market approach to migration depends on nixing the welfare state — or at least making its benefits off-limit for immigrants, especially illegal ones.* Libertarians have much to offer the debate over immigration, but what they offer is Diversity Without Jeopardy — which is when the Commons is limited and fighting over the resources is not allowed to dominate the political realm.

twv

On the bookshelf nearest at hand.

* The political feasibility of limiting access of welfare-state freebies is almost zero, though, as anyone who has thought about the progress of Barack “You Lie” Obama’s promise of No Obamacare for Illegals to today’s Democratic presidential hopefuls’ near-unanimous insistence on giving free healthcare to all comers. And when you throw in the biggest welfare program of all, public schools, the whole idea becomes fanciful.

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

“The world began to crumble,” wrote Ricky Gervais, “when feelings started overruling facts.”

This was on Twitter, of course, so we are not getting deep historical analysis, here. The point of the statement is not, really, to define the precise turning point towards our civilization’s decline. It was more rhetorical, a way of asserting objectivity as a foundational issue for civilized life. Further, Gervais (@rickygervais) is a comedian, so no matter how earnest he may be in expressing this thought, a reasonable person might have cause to wonder: maybe he was trolling. You know, to get a bite from an ideologue, thus setting up a joke.

Simon Jenkins (@SimonJenkins1) bit. “So are you like, a full-on right winger now?” Jenkins tweeted on the same day, August 5. “Because you must know the kinds of people this phrasing aligns you with.”

To be generous, we should identify the key to his inquiry in that word “phrasing.” Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) likes to say “facts don’t care about your feelings.” That is his phrasing of the idea. And I have heard others of an alleged rightwing viewpoint say similar things. With similar phrasings. So that is probably what triggered Mr. Jenkins. How awful of Gervais to have reasserted the hoary fact/value dichotomy in a Shapirovian way . . . and not like this: “The world began to crumble when our sense of reality was determined by axiological preferences rather than ontic persistence.” 

Of course Gervais would say no such thing. He’s a stand-up philosopher, not an academic one.

In any case, queried by Jenkins as to his disloyalty to leftist buzzwords and bugaboos, Gervais snapped back:

“I’m also a vegetarian. You know, like Hitler.”

Spot on. Hilarious. 

And Gervais’s retort got to the heart of where Jenkins went wrong — and where the left generally goes wrong.

Jenkins noticed that it is not uncommon to challenge leftists, these days, with the fact/value distinction in terms of fact/feeling, and when Gervais made the same critique without an explicit target, Jenkins assumed that Gervais was making an anti-leftist point. Or, much the same thing, he was worried that Gervais had succumbed to the temptation to join The Dark Side of the Force.

Gervais went on to remind his Twitter followers that he has opposed people typically thought of as “on the right” for running afoul of fact/feeling dichotomy. He is a notorious atheist, for example, and uses the lack of evidence for a Deity, and the scads of facts in support of evolution, as “facts” that trump religious folks’ hankerings — feelings, preferences — for God. 

Now, Gervais did slightly err in his longer response. Jenkins did ask a question, not conclude. But that mistake is no biggie, since even the suspicion of right-wingedness was lame. What Mr. Jenkins exhibits is hyper-sensitivity to his ideology, loyalty to his ideological group, which can be seen in a deep suspicion of anyone who won’t perform the precise pronunciations of his tribe’s shibboleths, or who dares echo the shibboleths of the other side.

It is pathetic.

It is typical of the marginalizer mindset, in which managing who is and is not in the in-group is always of paramount interest. More, anyway, than asserting a principle to live by.

For surely the principle of deciding questions of fact on the basis of reason and evidence rather than one’s fantasies and mental comfort is not partisan. I remember when anyone could make that appeal.

But because of a “phrasing,” one leftist derailed his mind.

This little exchange typifies how bad things are getting, culturally. Sure. But it is funny, how witless left-moralists have become. They cannot see the funny (and thus have ruined late-night chat shows) because they are picking at moral purity as defined not by their religion but by their political ideology. They cannot let themselves have a moraline-free moment — just the sort of stance I used to see among cultural conservatives in my youth. In this case, a follower of a comedian saw a principle in terms of party or ideological tribe rather than in epistemic terms. He immediately became defensive — thus adding weight to the common critique of modern leftism, that it is plagued by mushy, touchy-feely sentiment and soft-mindedness.

For his part, Mr. Jenkins was reflective about his “recent encounter” with Gervais. What is it, he asks, about dealing with famous people on Twitter? “Post something, get asked about it, then instead of engaging, let your droves of flying monkeys post waves of snarky gifs in your honor. A really one-sided platform.”

Well, it is a strange platform. I do not much care for it. (I think this blog automatically sends notices to my @wirkman Twitter account, though.) It is no place to engage in deep philosophical discussions.

But Jenkins, in this case, did not find himself unfairly snarked at, flying monkeys or no. At least by Gervais, whose actual engagement was all the engagement Jenkins’ query required.

I merely note it in passing. In case someone somewhere was at all confused about it. And also to put a name to a not uncommon skirmish in the culture wars.

twv

In What Can Be Saved from the Wreckage?: James Branch Cabell in the Twenty-First Century, Michael Swanwick offers an explanation for Cabell’s current low standing in critical opinion: The author over-produced, and constructed a silly “complete works” (Storisende) edition of his Biography of the Life of Manuel, a vast, jerry-rigged assemblage padded with books that didn’t really belong and books insignificant compared to the best in the series. This forced his fans to read through second- and third-rate works for completism’s sake, thus tarnishing the memory of Cabell’s best.

Swanwick’s list of Cabellian classics is slender compared to Cabell’s output:

1. Figures of Earth
2. The Silver Stallion
3. Jurgen
4. The High Place
5. The Cream of the Jest
6. The Way of Ecben

with 

7. Domnei
8. Something About Eve and
9. a few stories, such as “The Wedding Jest”

thrown in for balance, though these latter are of second order.

I will podcast a review of this book. At risk of jumping the gun for that review, I will state, here, for the record, that Swanwick errs by not mentioning Cabell’s best story, The Music from Behind the Moon: An Epitome (the subtitle by Cabell accurately indicating its value and its place in his canon), and by slighting The Rivet in Grandfather’s Neck: A Comedy of Limitations, which, though surely not his best book, is the closest thing Cabell made to a standard novel, and is also a personal favorite (I have read it many times).

Further, Swanwick does not contemplate or give full regard for Cabell’s self-professed auctorial philosophy: He wrote chiefly for his own pleasure. That any of the works concocted on this primary standard fit with a wide readership can only be described as fortuitous. Cabell didn’t care.

I prefer to take the great ironist as not being ironic when it came to his frequent revelations of intent. By not considering this, Swanwick misses the nature of Cabellian irony and its place in his philosophy and literary method.

I also suspect that Swanwick grossly misinterprets and under-evaluates Hamlet Had an Uncle, and unjustly relegates Cabell’s last comedy, The Devil’s Own Dear Son: A Comedy of the Fatted Calf, to Maya’s field of contented but forgettable cattle. I remember reading The Devil’s Own Dear Son with much pleasure.

Still, Swanwick’s was a fun book, and included much material I had not encountered before. The Barry Humphries introduction is precisely the delightful-if-pointless kind of prefatory remarks one has come to expect in any book by or about Cabell. (Now that I think of it, Dame Edna is a very Cabellian kind of woman — though not, of course, a witch woman, and not a Norn.)

It is essential reading for those few of us who still read James Branch Cabell. Though I disagree with some of Swanwick’s judgments, I nevertheless greatly appreciate his book. I recommend it to others.

twv

The photo is from the Medium screed.

Leftist stupidity has become so ubiquitous that one’s eyes tend to glaze over rather than focus on each and every bit of insanity. But the sheer breathtaking nonsense of a typical White Woke Woman of the West (hereinafter W4) is worth marking now and then. On Medium, today, we have a great case.

RACIST Hong Kong Pepe Protests
Stephanie Richardson
It has come to my attention that the protests that have enveloped most of Hong Kong are being fomented by the Alt-Right, Pepe the Frog and the United States CIA. These protesters are brandishing racists Alt-Right memes in hopes at gaining sympathy from the Incel communities on 4chan.
After reading a piece put out by the Incel Alt-Right publication VDARE called Hong Kong Protests Adopt “Racist” Pepe The Frog” i quickly began putting all of the pieces together.
The Incel community on 4chan have long loved their Asian “Waifus” (a derogatory term used to describe slitty Chinese girls) which explains their obsession with anime culture. The CIA have effectively weaponized this weakness within the otherwise deadly incel community against Mainland China in an attempt at dividing the two lands and setting them against one another. This cold very well end up in a. civil war scenario and if the media doesn’t decide to DO THEIR JOB the CIA / Incel community might actually get what they are hoping for.
The Alt-Right is playing a dangerous game here as China is not another Russia in the sense that these Chinese will actually fight back with their superior cyber power. They will enforce their rule over racist Hong Kong whether you and your “waifus” like it or not.
Please, make sure you do not encourage these protests and for the love of god inform the Chinese government of this racist Pepe image before it gets out of hand and the minorities in Hong Kong end up in danger as they are here in the United States.

Medium, August 13, 2019

Ms. Richardson is a powerfully insane W4, and there is no real reason to comment on her crazed, paranoid misinterpretation, other than to glory in the ridiculousness of one’s enemies. To regard Hong Kong’s young rebels as pawns in a CIA/Incel plot seems more than a mere stretch. I suppose I could be wrong — like I could be wrong about religious shysters Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard (not likely) — but the notion that the CIA has appropriated the Pepe symbol to lash out at Mainland China sure seems lunatic to me. The idea that the young woman pictured, above, with eye patch on, is somehow engaged in (or corrupted by) “racism” because of her adoption of the Pepe meme is sub-moronic.

Leftists just cannot lighten their grip on their handy-dandy all-purpose tool, pseudo-anti-Racism. Sure, Pepe was used by a few racists occasionally to engage in ideological provocation on matters of race. But that was not Pepe’s core usage or functional meaning, and if the W4s of this world had not pickled their brains with the zombie ideology of intersectionalist progressivism, they might understand just how potent and amazing a symbol Pepe was, and — apparently — still is.

Pepe is a trickster figure. His meme magic was corrosive to all pomposity, to leftism and centrism and even rightism. He became integral to the badge on the gonfalon of the great resistance to the Social Justice Warriors, sure. But progressivism is no more anti-racist than anti-fascist. It is oh-so-much more. It is the cult of state worship in its latest gimcrack configuration, and Pepe is the imp that spat ironies at the imperialism of the intersectionalists.

And now we witness a fully crackpot W4 siding with the tyrannical Chinese government.

Interesting to see a “progressive” siding against youthful rebels who just want American freedoms. What a typically baizuo boner. The “white left” (baizuo), as Chinese people in Hong Kong and elsewhere derisively dub SJWs, has lost its last instinct for freedom. To prefer the corrupt “socialism with Chinese characteristics” over those who genuinely yearn for — fight for — liberty! What maroons be these baizuo, what ultra-maroons.

A friend thinks this Medium squib may be an example of a Red Chinese propaganda effort. A possibility, I suppose. More likely, though, it is just the result of a memetic cascade, the association of ideas down the slippery slope of statist insanity.

Ideas are forces: the existence of one determines our reception of others.

G. H. Lewes, Problems of Life and Mind (Third Series) Problem the First — The Study of Psychology: Its Object, Scope, and Method (1879).

Of course, I could be wrong. This W4’s post is so idiotic that perhaps it was written by an AI as a parody of progressivism.

If so, well done. Spot on. Thanks, Adam Selene.

I mean, “Pepe”!

Correct me, please; tell me where I am wrong:

The presidential debates annoy me (fact, if trivial). Most annoying? Because there are rules but participants regularly break them, by interrupting, etc. (fact, not quite so trivial, and you may agree strongly). And the moderators try to maintain control, but they end up looking bad, too (pure opinion) — often even worse than the candidates, if mainly because voters expect to have a say in the candidates’ future, and thus want to side with one or more, while the moderators seem immune to any viewer control (conjecture).

Now, televised political debates cannot be real debates between actual, honest dialecticians because those political participants are preening and posing and engaging in propaganda and rhetoric (theory). In a society such as ours, the rhetoric is usually base rhetoric (can we stipulate this?). I have never participated in formal debate, and do not know the rules, though I certainly have seen formal debates (facts, such as they are) … so let’s just say I don’t know the rules well. That being said, the formal debates I have seen in Oxford style and in club style could not successfully be mimicked for American politicians (pure assertion, if based on some experience). So I suggest a style I consider novel, but may not be (you tell me).

1. The mics on the debaters are completely controlled by an electronic system. A debater will not be heard (because of dead mic) until he/she/zhe has buzzed in to respond and the debater who is speaking has relinquished open mic privilege by buzzing permission.
2. Each candidate has a set amount of total time. The clocks run while speaking, as in lightning chess.
3. Occasionally moderators could ask questions, but the debaters could mutually agree, on the fly, to ignore the moderators entirely and ask questions of each other. 
4. When a debater finishes and asks a question or makes a challenge or just a statement and then relinquishes mic by buzzing out, the other debater(s) have a few seconds to buzz in. At the end of that time, either the moderator assigns the next speaker for a response (upon which his/her/zher clock begins to tick down) or asks a question, to a specific person or for open bidding for a response.

Under this system, there would be little to no folderol regarding “time,” etc. It would be seamless behind the technology and protocols. No stern lectures from asshat moderators, etc. Each participant would be looking at the times of all debaters and deciding strategy, going long when it would be to good effect, and cutting short when “buying” time for later, especially the closing.

In a rigorous, hyper-strict version of the system, debaters would have complete control over how long their closing remarks would be. If they approach the end of their allotted time, they could wrap up early and make the most of it, perhaps uncomfortably early. It may or may not be a grand idea to be the last speaker with a long, ten-minute slot! It would depend on the participants.

So, do you think this could be managed? Would it be interesting to watch?

As for me, I think it would be superior to current televised political debates, and staged, pseudo-“townhall” events.

Am I nuts?

In any case, what I am proposing is not quite what I consider to be the ideal debate format, for philosophical participants (another confessional fact).

But face it, our pols are not Aristotles (indubitable).

The political spectrum is a perilous realm. There are so many traps, so many places to get stuck, so many slippery slopes to slide down — so much room for misadventure. And the maps we use to guide us rarely pan out.

One helpful set of guides comes from political libertarianism. Robert Nozick, in his first book, Anarchy, State and Utopia, admitted that the point of view provided by an understanding of freedom helps one do more than gain some purchase on government, it helps us “see through the political realm.”

Yet even libertarians can fall prey to some characteristic errors, even the same ones that people who accept the terms of standard political debate get caught up in.

The chief of these errors is the allegedly helpful directional concept of “left and right.”

Misdirectional?

The first error of the left-right paradigm is that it is deemed precise

It is not.

The second error is that it is seen as exhaustive

It is not.

The third is that the left-right alignments have a tendency to permanence over time, or even within a human soul. 

This is obviously untrue, if for no other reason than that people radically transform their ideologies, at least practically speaking, when they go from powerlessness to positions of power. Or vice versa.

And the fourth is that the dual set of ideological options is not itself a trap.

And this last one is what I want to discuss, briefly, here.

Libertarianism is a toolset to help solve social problems. But too often libertarians do not see that the problem to be solved is the left-right alignment itself.

This is the result of concentrating too much on the solution in the context that it presents itself to rebellious, early-adopter mindsets. Libertarians often see the basic antagonism of politics as between the Individual and the Group, or, more often, the Individual and the State. In effect, the title of Herbert Spencer’s The Man versus the State limns the basic perspective. A still-popular variant of the idea sees it in terms of Ayn Rand: egoism versus altruism.

I think this is probably wrong.

Indeed, I know that the Randian paradigm is wrong. And even the more general “man versus the men” perspective misleads us. For what is important in the plan of focusing on the individual is not that it defines a problem, but that it defines a solution.

The basic problem is group versus group.

Or, in-group versus out-group; insider versus outsider.

In postmodern parlance now ubiquitous, inclusion versus exclusion.

Individualism, by which I here define as a philosophy of focusing on individuals to define a division of responsibility, and mete out justice, is how we adjudicate inevitable in-group/out-group antagonisms. 

Man is a social animal. And being social, this peculiar creature that we are tends to define the social world in group terms. But this leads to all sorts of problems, not the least being warfare. By focusing on liberty as the freedom all people can possess by following a basic principle — non-interference or non-initiation of force — we correct for the perennial errors and perversities of our species.

What does this have to do with left and right?

Well, though it is possible to understand the directional paradigm in terms of equality versus hierarchy, and progress versus tradition, a better way to look at it is in terms of inclusion and exclusion, as leftists are today wont to do. 

But we mustn’t do it like leftists do.

The “right,” as I define the tendency, is the perspective that concentrates on the defense of the in-group against dangerous outsiders: it is us versus them. The “left,” according to my definition, is the perspective that concentrates on the defense of outsiders and out-groups against in-groups: it is an attempt to portray oneself either as an outsider demanding inclusion, or identification with outsiders in need of inclusion, making it them versus us, often.

Since all cooperative groups tend to hierarchy, the “equality” notion makes sense better within this context. Leftists see the hierarchies of the societies they inhabit as unjust oppressors of “marginalized” people, of out-groups. Because those outside of any successful hierarchy are unequal in power to those within it, when one seeks to defend them, “equality” is a handy, go-to notion. The rightwing idea, on the other hand, seeks to defend some hierarchy or other, and tends to promote “loyalty” and not equality.

The antagonisms between groups, then, often take on their peculiar flavors along these left-right lines, at least they have in modern society. A characteristic perversity of both perspectives is to determine what any person deserves in terms of group membership rather than in terms of what that person actually does.

And it is often easier to comprehend the antagonism of left versus right in terms of the excesses of each: the right, in its vicious form, defends and promotes the in-group (whatever that is) at the expense of the outsiders; the left, in its vicious form, defends and promotes outsiders (whoever they are) at the expense of the relevant (targeted) in-group, especially the high end of the hierarchy of the in-group. Right-wingers tend to leap to foreign wars and wars of conquest, and are very concerned about keeping the unwashed masses out of their community or country; left-wingers tend to leap to revolution and the desire to “radically transform” the society they inhabit, attacking hierarchies that defend the society by means of hierarchy rather than advancing the cause of the lowest in society and those outside the society.

The Solution and Its Competition

By focusing on the individual, libertarians break down the loopholes in traditional notions of justice. Libertarians are not “against groups” but are, instead, against doing justice in group terms. In-groups and out-groups are inevitable. Hierarchies are inevitable. But how may in-groups behave to out-groups, and vice versa? How may one set of hierarchies deal with those outside the pecking order, and with other hierarchies? The individualist response is: On publicly understood principles of human action that forbid the vicious ends of left and right, which seem always to come down to exploitation and violation. Individualists of all political variants (utilitarians, classical liberals, libertarians, some anarchists) seek to promote principles that define criminality and other forms of anti-social action in terms of publicly understood interactions, with the prohibited actions being centered on the use of force. The point of the individualist form of solution to group antagonisms is to fix on transactional clarity, not “idenfitications” and continual references to group membership, whether of insider or outsider nature.

But where libertarians go wrong is to succumb to the itch of either the left or right.

Left and right are tendencies of mind and sentiment. People differ at birth, it seems, and tend to adopt one point of view or the other. The itch to align for or against the hierarchy that defends and advances the society one finds oneself in can be powerful. And both tendencies take on their own cultural flavors. There are even sexual styles associated with each.

Since the point of liberty is to de-focus from these styles enough to let both propensities of interaction and the human heart live in peace, we must resist the left-itch and the right-itch. Liberty is the balm that we apply that allows us to avoid scratching these itches to the point of inflamation.

Alas, the itch to style oneself as “of the left” and “of the right” is not the worst of it. The worst of it is to be possessed by the perspectives of these social forces, and to have the memes of the two points of view take over one’s thinking entirely. It’s one thing to scratch a left-itch or a right-itch, now and then. It is quite another to be one side’s or the other’s bitch.

I mean, of course, wheel-in-the-head mind-slave; a memetic thrall; a . . . the n-word would be most apt, but we had best avoid this racist term. So I adopt the slightly less offensives and possibly sexist term, bitch.

Too many libertarians I know are Left Bitches and Right Bitches. They cannot think their way out of the culture of the left or the right.

This has plagued libertarianism for a long time — I’ve noticed it for the four decades of my immersion in this social movement. The eternal squabble over whether libertarianism is more “rightwing” or more “leftwing” has been interminable.

The trap, of course, is that one must defend in-groups from criminal outsiders and predatory out-groups — so the rightward lean is understandable; but we must also defend outsiders and innocent out-groups from criminality and predation and worse from the hierarchies of one’s own group.

I guess the trick is just to never forget that both tendencies are valid, but that the cultures associated with unbalanced focus on either side must be avoided, simply to avoid ideological, memetic capture.

This is a big problem especially now, in the Age of Trump. The “rightward” tendency has shifted ideological focus, and is heavily offending the “leftward” leaners. Meanwhile, the left has embraced the worst “tropes” of the traditional left — the label “socialism,” for one — so as to offend rightist sympathies to the max. The two sides can hardly bear each others’ presences.

In this great and weird cultural divide, libertarians should be able to present a calming influence, for we offer are the tools to settle such squabbles.

Hasn’t happened, yet. For libertarians sure seem dominated by Left Bitches and Right Bitches, and not the philosophical moderates we really are.

Cultural diversity means conflict when the individuals and groups see themselves as competing for scarce resources in the Commons, and the access is a zero sum activity.

The meaning of said conflict is clear in the El Paso anti-immigrant shooting, in the group-righteous racism of intersectionalist hectoring, and . . . well, one could read about it in the pages of this book, Politics in Plural Societies, by Alvin Rabushka and Kenneth A. Shepsle, who begin their treatise listing ethnic conflict around the world.

“Outright killing frequently takes place,” is a typical topic sentence in the first chapter.

The key concept is that of “the plural society,” coined by J. S. Furnivall, who defined the concept as a mixed-group society “comprising two or more elements or social orders which live side by side, yet without mingling, in one political unit.”

Because of his training as an economist, Furnivall naturally focused on the economic aspects of the Dutch colony. Observing that each community possessed a distinct set of values incompatible with those of other cultural groups, he characterized the plural society as one lacking consensus or, in his terms, one without “common social demand.” To illustrate his point, Furnivall constructed the following example. The buying of cathedrals involves an expenditure of resources much like the purchase of groceries. In a homogeneous society, the purchase of a cathedral provides an indivisible “public good,” i.e., every citizen may benefit from its construction. In the plural society, however, the erection of a Chinese temple constitutes a “public bad” for Muslims; in a similar manner, Muslim mosques provide few or no benefits for Chinese. Therefore, in the plural society social demands often result in public expenditures with benefits for one community and opportunity costs for the others. The plural society thus isolates the demands of its separate communities, and fails to aggregate, in Furnivall’s terms, common social demand.
Furnivall points to the presence of separate ethnic demands as a basis for differentiating a plural society from its homogeneous counterpart.

Rabushka and Shepsle develop what is basically a familiar theory, a Classical Liberal Theory of Competing Interest Groups, the basic idea being that if you want diversity, you must have limited government — and if you want big government, you must possess or (more ominously, create) a monoculture.

And if you fail to create a monoculture, you will get violence.

There is a reason today’s “multiculturalists” are such hectoring, moralistic ideologues: they are trying, rather desperately, to create a monoculture, an ideological one. And that is why they tend to look upon their political opponents as “deplorables” — because they resist the multiculturalists’ creation of a utopian society based on left-moralism.

Drolly, “right-wing” nationalism and its relentless pushing of flag worship and patriotic rite amounts to much the same thing, if on a much more limited scale — after all, nation-building is what nationalists do, and its element of doctrinal monoculture (in America, anyway) is the major competitor to multiculturalism.

Furnivall’s major contribution lies in his observation that plural societies are qualitatively distinct from homogeneous ones, and that the different communities of the plural society can meet only in the marketplace. His insistence that outside force is required to maintain order implies that plural societies are inherently prone to violent conflict.

This should be familiar to anyone who has immersed themselves in the sociology of Spencer and Sumner, or of the less ideological conflict theorists. That it is not familiar to most folks today is largely the result of bad education all around.

twv

To members of a proud in-group, those in the out-group tend to look like Yahoos. Not Houyhnhnms.

My interest in liberty has long focused chiefly on the condition as a moderating principle in society, as a constraint on human excesses, of individuals, sure, but especially of groups. As such, I consider it a stabilizing discipline. But, from my earliest acquaintance with its strongest advocates, I have noticed a strain within their ranks who treat liberty as a principle to be advanced even when it leads to social instability.

The idea among these freedom partisans seems to be this: any motion towards liberty is a good move.

My perspective is different. I think a move towards liberty that encourages a revolt against liberty down the road, or leads to social instability and chaos, is not a move to liberty at all. It is an illusion. A misstep. Sometimes a fiasco.

This issue plunges us deep into a question of strategy, with various forms of radicalism and incrementalism — “gradualism” — vying for dominance. I argue that some forms of radical, bold moves to greater freedom are good, because they encourage further moves to even greater freedom; other forms are bad, because they encourage backlashes, or lead to situations so destabilizing that they discourage further progress.

The classic case is in banking regulation, when deregulation is coupled with increased subsidy.  The Savings and Loan debacle of the 1980s shows the dangers of that approach.

A similar case is free immigration. It is a great idea in a general context of freedom and the division of responsibility. But when coupled with subsidies from the welfare state, it can be a grave threat.

Yet some libertarians advocate increasing the scope for freedom in movement even under a regime of guaranteed subsidy. So that, practically, the policy they promote is subsidized immigration.

Jacob Hornberger is one of those libertarians . . . as can be seen by his polemic of July 31, 2019, “Open Borders Are Compatible With the Welfare State.” 

I will consider each of his points:

For some time now, there has been a conservative faction within the libertarian movement that has advocated that libertarians abandon their position in favor of open borders and instead join up with conservatives and progressives in support of government-controlled borders.

So, it is a “conservative faction,” sez Hornberger, even though controlled migration has traditionally been a progressive position … so why aren’t the libertarian open border skeptics a “progressive faction”? This is a small matter, but I have noticed that those who lean left in the libertarian movement sure do love to identify their opponents as “conservative oriented” or “rightwing.” Ugh.

In doing so, these conservative-oriented libertarians always fail to address one of the principal costs of abandoning libertarian principle on this particular issue — an immigration police state, one consisting of highway checkpoints for travelers who have never left the United States, roving Border Patrol checkpoints, warrantless searches of farms and ranches within 100 miles of the border, body-cavity searches of Americans returning from overseas vacation, warrantless searches of cell phones and mandatory disclosure of passwords, violent raids on private businesses, forcible separation of children from parents, squalid conditions in immigrant concentration camps, and boarding of private buses to examine people’s papers.

Always? I know I have disliked this regime, and have mentioned its horrors. Indeed, one reason to put up a “wall,” or border fence — or other barrier, such as a moat! — is to avoid the domestic ramp-up of totalitarian methods.

Similarly, folks who do not want to get into altercations on their own property with trespassers often put up fences, or locked gates and the like, to prevent unpleasantness on their own property.

All I am saying here is that the “immigration police state” — which I do indeed find alarming, and have argued against — is not required by the policy of controlled immigration if the control is physical at the border.

Ideal? No. Do I especially like this solution? No. But it is an option, and it is one reason why a lot of people voted for Trump and his Wall.

One of the principal arguments that such libertarians cite is that open borders are not compatible with a welfare state. If America didn’t have a welfare state, these libertarians say that they would favor open borders. Pending the dismantling of the welfare state, which might be never, such libertarians have resigned themselves to joining up with the statists on the immigration issue.

All advances of liberty “might be never.” But if it can be shown that an advance A would necessarily preclude future advances B, C, and D, then Hornberger’s desperation, here, is less than convincing.

In taking this position, such libertarians, of course, are implicitly acknowledging that open borders is, in fact, the libertarian position. That, of course, makes sense given the core principle of libertarianism — the non-aggression principle. It holds that people have the right to engage in any action whatsoever, so long as their conduct does not involve force or fraud against another person. When people cross political borders, whether such borders are state, local, or international, they are not violating anyone’s rights, given that they are simply exercising their natural, God-given rights of freedom of travel, economic liberty, freedom of contract, and freedom of association.

Sure. But it is worth remembering that private property owners can also exclude transit, and that border protections between states could be done voluntarily (at risk of free riders) — and at the U.S. southern border there have been erected borders on private property, with some success, and . . . have you ever wondered if one reason for borders has been to subsidize private property owners? Or, to help private property owners avoid free rider problems in excluding unwanted migrants and . . . and trespassers? Of course you have. But if libertarians are going to be arguing over this stuff on a fundamental level, maybe drilling down to fundamental issues would be a good idea, and not just engage in purist hand-waving.

The fact is, however, that the libertarian position favoring open borders is entirely consistent with a welfare state. And the fact that America is a welfare state should not cause libertarians to abandon their principles and join up with the statists on this particular issue.

Well, here is the thesis. Finally. Somehow a libertarian policy maven asserts that a libertarian institution — freedom of movement — is “entirely consistent” with an anti-libertarian institution. This should get interesting.

Breaking it down, what is the real argument that these libertarians are using in support of their argument? They are saying that if we have open borders and a welfare state, foreigners will come to the United State and get on welfare, which will mean that Americans will have to pay higher taxes. 

That is part of it. Another part is the expectation that they and their progeny will be more likely to vote for transfer payments to folks like themselves . . . from established native taxpayers. Yet another is that their progeny will soak up police and court resources.

And those of us concerned about social stability also note that immigrants’ children will be run through the great tax sinkholes that are America’s public schools, and that demands on those resources are often much greater than for natives’ children.

That’s the core of their argument—that libertarians should abandon their principles because open borders adn a welfare state will mean that people will have to pay higher taxes.

Well, no. It is also that the institutions will be placed under great stressors that will increase social discord and even violence and class resentment, and that these results can be even worse than mere tax increases.

Of course, that’s not necessarily true for three reasons:

First, most immigrants come to the United States to get rich. 

This is inaccurate. Immigrants come here to improve their lives, sure — and sometimes through accessing commons resources as well as through trade. But few become “rich.” And indeed, the ones who get rich are generally the ones who come here legally. Depending on country of origin, many, many illegal immigrants are poorer than the general run of natives. Open up the borders while still giving out transfer payments and tax-funded services, and the marginal immigrant will tend to be and remain poorer yet.

Very few people get rich on welfare. 

Most people do not get rich, so this is an irrelevant observation. They don’t even try to get rich — they just aim to get richer. And the very formulation of wealth acquisition as the goal implies that folks use only one manner of human interaction to advance themselves. Ignoring marrying into wealth, there are four basic methods for immigrant advance:

  1. trade;
  2. begging;
  3. mooching off the State;
  4. stealing outright.

A family that arrives here with few work skills and no capital is likely to try all four methods. Only the first is desirable.

Moreover, the economic prosperity (and taxes paid) generated by working immigrants might well offset the additional taxes that would be needed to fund welfare for the dole-receiving immigrants.

They might. Do they? That is an empirical question. 

More importantly, though: what is the situation with the marginal immigrant population (illegals) we are actually talking about? What is their marginal cost to taxpayers? 

Second, there is nothing inherent in the welfare state way of life that requires Congress to provide welfare for foreigners. Congress could easily enact legislation limiting the dole to American citizens.

Barack “You Lie!” Obama promised that his Obamacare would not give healthcare to immigrants, and it was widely considered bad form to even suggest it might; now, of course, almost all the Democrats running to take up the Obaman mantle insist that illegal aliens get precisely such services. Fat chance getting the nixing of welfare benefits to illegals through now. The only way to prevent illegal immigrants (or new additional immigrants) from getting key and expensive welfare state handouts would be to dismantle the welfare state. And this is what libertarians should argue. But, you know . . . I cannot think of one libertarian to have made this case — other than me, actually — namely, “You want open borders and diversity? Well, the only way to secure them is to chuck the welfare state!” Why have I not heard libertarians make this case?

Why isn’t Hornberger saying “Aha! We have the solution to your problem!”

Instead of taking a libertarian critique of the destructive nature of the welfare state and applying it to migration, he argues, lamely, that free migration is compatible with the welfare state. 

Third, given the difficulty, both psychological and financial, in leaving one’s homeland, his culture, his language, and his friends and relatives, it is difficult to imagine that large numbers of people would leave their homelands simply to get on welfare in a foreign country, especially one in which they are going to be insulted and abused. After all, how many people in Alabama move to California, where welfare benefits are much higher?

OK, this is just witless. Of course some people move to collect better handouts. I can point to specific people in the county in which I live who have done precisely this.

And, once again, this is an empirical question that could be actually researched. But, barring that apparently onerous task, note that California is even now being flooded with homeless people from all over the country. Does this not indicate to Hornberger that he has asked a question with a ready answer not to his liking?

But let’s assume the worst. Let’s assume that America restores its founding system of open immigration, 

This is not quite accurate, by the way. Even Jefferson contemplated the several states controlling immigration.

…continues its welfare state, and opens it up to immigrants. Should that be reason for libertarians to abandon their principles and join up with conservative and liberal statists by supporting America’s system of immigration controls and America’s immigration police state?

I say: No. I say that libertarians should continue adhering to principle regardless and continue focusing on ending the wrongdoing — i.e., the welfare state. If we abandon principle because it pinches, then how are we different from Republicans and Democrats, who do that as a matter of course?

So, here we see Hornberger bury the lede. He is making a pitch regarding principles, and seems uninterested in emphasizing what libertarians could add to the discussion: ending the welfare state.

It is worse, though. Libertarians at their best understand social processes over time. They are not bound to narrow time slices. We have extended time horizons. So what we can add to this debate is explaining where both the far-left and the alt-right err.

But Hornberger does not seem interested in increasing knowledge. He seems just interested in “sticking to principle.” Or sticking libertarians with principles they may not quite agree with. But when you do that relentlessly, without careful attention conduct, policy and consequences, you come off as a dogmatic and moralistic prig.

No wonder libertarians go nowhere.

Of course, an obvious question arises, one that those conservative-oriented libertarians never ask: How much in estimated additional taxes would have to be paid if the United States had both open borders and a welfare state? After all, isn’t that reason that these libertarians claim that open borders are incompatible with a welfare state: that it will result in the payment of higher taxes?

How much in additional taxes? Oddly enough, such libertarians never ask that question.

As I have stated above, this is not the main point. The thing most necessary is opposing a policy — de facto subsidized immigration — that trains immigrants to become plunderers, to become socialists . . . and in the process increases social discord.

Oh, and I have heard libertarians ask the question. I know I have wondered.

Suppose, for example, that each American citizen would be required to pay an additional $10 a year in income taxes? Should that be enough to cause libertarians to abandon principle and join up with the statists? $100 a year? $1,000 a year?

I say: Libertarians should not abandon their principles for any amount of money, no matter how high taxes might get

What? So, we should let in immigrants even though the heavens fall? Even if the country goes socialist?

This is sheer craziness.

After all, throughout history there have been people who have paid a much higher price than additional taxes for the sake of their principles. The Alamo comes to mind. So does the story of the White Rose.

Getting your head chopped off in a time of desperation is one thing — doing it so that people from foreign countries who have scant interest in liberty can mooch off the taxpayer, and, over time be trained by Democrats into voting socialist is not heroic.

It is stupid.

If drugs are legalized, poor drug addicts could go on Medicaid to treat their addiction, which would cause taxes to go up for the rest of us. Should we join the statists in support of the drug war until Medicaid is abolished? Perish the thought! 

Once again, Hornberger neglects to put the actual libertarian position on the table. He instead lubes up the libertarian anus to be reemed by statists — in the name of “principle.”

But he misses something, too. A big difference. A drug addict going on the dole is something we have now. And by putting drug addicts on state assistance we are not increasing the number of voters who will vote to give more money to drug addicts. With allowing open immigration we are not only subsidizing them, we are helping them produce a class of people (their children, and even their very selves) with an interest in plundering existing citizens of their wealth, who are likely to vote for such plunder.

Libertarians should continue adhering to principle by continuing to support an end to this deadly, destructive, and immoral government program, even while continuing to advocate a dismantling of Medicaid. We should continue doing the same with respect with respect to America’s deadly, destructive, and immoral system of immigration controls.

Hornberger emphasizes the berating of libertarians for their lack of purity and underemphasizes the attack upon the welfare state. He only mentions this latter solution in an offhand way. He does not address the underlying logic, but merely characterizes the policies as deadly, destructive and immoral. And that logic is important, deserving of more coherent advance: you can have a large, intrusive state and a monoculture, or diversity and limited government. Our pitch to leftists is that their current mania for diversity is incompatible with the welfare state. Our pitch to rightists is that their love of monocultures encourages the maximum state. Left and Right have it wrong.

Do libertarians have it wrong?

Only if they keep attacking each other and siding with the left or the right.

One would think that the best method for achieving liberty would be to approach the two sides with where they are right, and then try to convince each where they are wrong . . . leveraging the good in their allegiances.

Hornberger appears to be uninterested in this method.

twv

These are the dog days. In which I respond to inane arguments.
Inaccurate title, but…