Archives for category: Ideological currents

Is libertarianism anything more than a rich man’s way of getting out of taxes?

. . . as answered on Quora. . . .

It isn’t even that. Most rich people have ways to get around paying all the taxes that other people want them to pay. Now, many of the super-wealthy like talking about increasing tax rates, and how “the rich” should pay more in taxes, though rarely do they freely contribute extra funds to tax revenue pool. Few of the very rich support libertarian program. Indeed, the very wealthy can often be counted on to push regulatory schemes and wealth transfers that somehow benefit themselves at the expense of other (often less successful) business people, and which libertarians generally oppose. It is an open secret. The business class is not libertarian. While small businessmen tend to lean conservative and libertarian, big business is a very corporatist culture, and most political billionaires support Democrats in America.

Concentrating on one or two or three anomalies amounts to a psy-op, a way of leveraging availability bias among a population of envious news consumers.

The question itself shows a prejudice about liberty that is unknowing; it is evidence of a bizarre set of assumptions that have little to do with reality and much more to do with the fantasies of statist ideology.

Libertarianism is the promotion of liberty as the most peaceful and cooperative form of justice. Liberty is the freedom that can be had by all. It is where coercion is limited to defensive purposes. It limits coercion universally — and equally — disallowing the initiation of force as a means of establishing policy as well as for private gain. The State is an institution that marshals initiated force for the benefit of some at the expense of others, usually with much ballyhoo purporting that all are being benefitted. It runs like a scam. Its most ardent proponents operate as con artists. Most are True Believers — but among the very wealthy exist elite cadres who knowingly promote b.s. political theory to gain the upper hand. To gain private or sectoral advantage. The assumption that the libertarian idea is purveyed by the rich as a class to get a lighter tax load is preposterous: factually untrue and resting on a failed understanding of actual classes of people.

Oh, and liberty is about a lot more than opposition to taxes. As should be obvious from the above.

twv

N.B. In the above answer I assumed that by ”the rich” the querist meant what Bernie Sanders calls ”the top one percent.” But an important point, often made by libertarians in such conversations, is that in America, today, even the poor are rich by world-historic standards. And this fact puts several important wrinkles to questions like this. But not this question specifically. The answer to ”Is libertarianism anything more than a rich man’s way of getting out of taxes?” remains the same, even if we stipulate that we are all rich: It isn’t even that.

What do you find the most annoying about other libertarians/the movement in general?

…as answered on Quota….

Most annoying? The common assumption that the movement is ready to offer solutions for the world at large. The movement is still in its infancy — well, toddler status. And so libertarians are not yet ready to “govern” a mere devolution of power, much less “take over” any major government.

At best, libertarians might be able to stake out one area — say, New Hampshire — and build a freer society.

But consider: libertarians have barely explored the idea of putting failed states — and most states are failing — through a kind of formal bankruptcy. The idea of putting governments under receivership is rarely talked about. Instead, you have think tankers arguing about what the capital gains tax rate should be, or activists urging folks to “vote Libertarian.” Talk about unimaginative, as bold as a soggy dishrag.

Libertarians have a lot of good ideas, don’t get me wrong. But libertarians have not sorted them through very well, and most do not really comprehend how illiberal, “unlibertarian,” our social world is. Most people do not have a hankering for freedom. Not a strong hankering, anyway. They are insecure, fearful, frustrated, confused, envious, greedy, resentful, dogmatic — all things libertarians tend not to be (except for the dogmatic charge). And libertarians don’t really know what to do with these people. Libertarians are about 5% of the American population, and the “libertarian-leaning” make up at most about a fifth of the population. Everyone else is a statist or outright criminal. So, what can they do?

Libertarians need to take this challenge more seriously.

twv

Though the ”Don’t Say Gay” political brouhaha in Florida is a serious matter, I confess to finding much of it rather funny. Why? One-word answer? Grooming.

So much for Twitter and the comedy. But what about the serious issue regarding the ”groomer” charge? Well, you can always count on Mr. David French for the loopiest quasi-conservative take:

You may not be aware, but right-wing media is swarming with allegations that anyone who, for example, opposes Florida’s House Bill 1557 (the bill misleadingly termed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by Democrats and many in the media) is either a “groomer” or in league with groomers. A groomer is a person who specifically targets and uses “manipulative behaviors” to gain access to victims. The rhetoric is absolutely omnipresentIt’s relentless.

David French, ”Against the ‘Groomer’ Smear” (Substack, April 5, 2022).

I’ve never liked the term “groomers,” which I first heard in the Pakistani/Brit context of Rotherham. Edward ”Jolly Heretic” Dutton used it in his book on the Finnish experience with Muslim men turning teenage Finnish girls into their whores. I had sort of got used to it by that point, but never completely. 

What we are dealing with appear to me to be two semi-distinct things:

1. The training of youngsters into a state of sexual willingness to fiddle around, sexually, sans parental chaperones and with a variety of partners some of whom might be adults, and

2. the training of youngsters into states of sexual willingness to specific sets of adult clientele.

The latter would be ‘grooming’ proper; the former, a looser form of ‘grooming.’ 

Interestingly, all instruction of youngsters into sexual relations — including No Sex Acts Until Married — is a kind of grooming. Note the word ‘groom’ as in ‘bride and groom.’

It seems to me that parents should want to control this kind of instruction more closely than they would on matters of, say, learning math or literature. And surely only the most servile fool of a parent would welcome paid agents of the state to encourage their youngsters to develop active sexual behavior before puberty, or orient themselves sexually towards adults rather than a special compeer of the opposite sex.

So I do not see any major problem using the term ‘grooming’ in the looser sense. Sure, grooming has been understood as the activity of training children to become sexually active with specific adults. But the more general activity, of training kids to be more generally accepting of specific adult panderings, propositions, flirtations and the like. Think of it like the normal case for schooling: while job training is usually used as a quite specific term for educating students to perform in a specific job, the usual instruction in schools is widely understood to be a more general form of a job training program — job training not for a specific job or industry but for ‘jobs and industry’ in general.

Sex education in First World countries seems to have become, to a shocking degree, a program of job training in that looser sense: educating youngsters to accept sexual partners and sexual positions that would formerly have been called perversions.

Sex education started out as a ”family planning” agenda — excused to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases — but morphed within recent memory to “gay acceptance,” and not only encompasses the encouragement not merely of something that hardly needs encouragement (namely masturbation) but also ‘trans gender’ sexual apery, all based on the half-baked pseudo-science of ‘gender theory.’

I am now a strong advocate for positive heteronormativity, and believe non-heterosexual people should be on board with this position too. Sure, I’m against negative heteronormativity. But my backing of positive heteronormativity has indeed been reinforced by my fear that the recent Norming of the Queer is going to produce a new reaction in the form of a strong, society-wide negative heteronormativity — that is, the kind of norming of heterosexuality that entails the persecution of homosexuals and bisexuals and the sexually weirder — queerer — yet.

twv

For a few years now we’ve been scolded into not putting the definite article in front of “Ukraine,” like we did for decades and decades.

Now, the reason for this recent switch from The Ukraine to just Ukraine had never reached my ears, so I looked it up today.

The rationale? It is about political independence, or so the story goes:

In 2015, following President Obama’s use of “the Ukraine” at a press conference, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine explained that “the Ukraine” was what the Soviet Union called the region during Soviet rule. As an independent country, it is simply called “Ukraine.”
“It is incorrect to refer to the Ukraine, even though a lot of people do it,” explained former ambassador William Taylor in a Time article published in March 2015. Using the article alongside the name of the country, he said, can be seen as denying Ukraine’s independence.

Sam Kirk, “Why Ukraine isn’t called ‘the Ukraine’” (February 24, 2022 / 03:43 PM MST; Updated: Feb 24, 2022 / 03:43 PM MST).

But this smacks of . . . bad history. I mean, do you really believe it? I smelled a rat. So I looked it up on Google Books.

Behold The Ukraine and the Ukrainians, by Stepan Rudnyt︠s︡ʹkyĭ — in 1915. Yes, before THE SOVIET UNION. And yes, we find “The Ukraine” right alongside “Ukraine”:

“The Ukraine” precedes The Soviets. Maybe it was an element of the Czar’s hegemonic vocabulary, I wouldn’t be shocked, but if today’s Ukrainian political correctness is shown to have weak foundational rationales, maybe they can just lighten up a bit.*

I’ll stick to just Ukraine the moment folks around the world stop referring to “the United States” in the singular. Technically, after all, the union is but the United States are.

But insisting on this nomenclature at this late date would, I am sure, be regarded by most people as needlessly pedantic. As are most politically correct appellations.

It reminds me of when, in Eighth Grade, my class’s astute teacher listed all the words for people our age: youths, children, juveniles, adolescents, kids, etc. We found each one of them iffy, tainted with the whiff of the pejorative. At that moment I realized that maybe we should all lighten up a bit. Juveniles!

twv

* Right now they will be defending themselves, as is natural. With guns and bombs. Not politic niceties.

N.B. We might want to note that we have been scolded by a former ambassador. It is the kind of thing maybe we should learn to ignore: politically correct claptrap from known failures. Such folk have nothing to show for themselves other than being namby-pamby scolds. Note also that this particular ambassador also wants to spell “Kiev” Kyiv. OK. I used to be a stickler for endonyms over exonyms, too. But I came to realize that sticking to endonyms is by no means easy to universalize, and it may serve mostly as pharisaic positioning, not anything substantive.

I wonder how many times I have looked up the word “farrago.” Just to “make sure,” you know. I guess I feel it should mean something more specific than my dictionary’s definition of “confused mixture.”

Much the same can be said about the word “neoliberal.” From writer to writer, news reader to teacher to journo to pol, the word apparently means many different things: I’ve been both accused of — and praised for — “being” a neoliberal. But so have anarchists I’ve known. So has Hillary Clinton.

What’s going on here?

In the March issue of Reason, Jesse Walker explains the predicament and its history. “It’s the End of the Neoliberal Era, and We Still Don’t Know What Neoliberalism Is,” captures the problem nicely.

The ultra-condensed take-away from this essay is: the word started out as an attempt between the first and second world wars to rescue some of the flavor of liberalism without all that rigorous laissez faire stuff. In other words, the term meant a market-friendly statist who opposed dictatorship and too much government. Pretty much what “liberal” meant in America, until all the Big Spenders and Over-Regulators turned it into a pinkish-hued cover for ”social democracy.” Now we just call them progressives.

But by the time Ronald Reagan got into office razzing “the liberals,” neoliberalism meant something else. And . . . leftists, aghast that Chile’s dictator General Pinochet had consulted with some free market economists (taking only some of their advice), began calling libertarians neoliberals, and . . . talk about farrago!

But it’s a farrago for our time. The upshot of Jesse Walker’s essay is that neoliberal may not mean anything specific, but it is a good specifier of the age now ending, the result of many competing paradigms and the compromises of diverse, on-the-make interest groups.

What a confused mixture.

twv

Paradigm Maintenance in Institutional Settings

The difference between truth and usefulness is basic in philosophy, though some pragmatists (not all) obscured this. And it is because of the orthogonal nature of these two standards that false ideas circulate, and can even become a dominant paradigm.

The advantage a dominant group has regarding ideas is clear: it can reward people for their bad ideas, and then show the results of the rewards as evidence for the aptness of those ideas.

Insider cultists of a dominant ideology reward each other, and thus reinforce their sense of certainty. And to outsiders? They can malign, ridicule, and heap on other disincentives for belief espousal that have nothing to do with truth-value.

THIS, ah yes, THIS! It’s the oldest trick in the book.

It is positively ancient. Which is why free speech and the scientific method were developed: to protect elites from self-corruption.

You can always tell whether someone practices the virtue of truthfulness: they never rely on social controls to defend their paradigms. Anyone who says they “follow the science,” for instance, but encourages de-platforming of competing ideas is a fraud — not a philosopher; not a scientist. That person is, at base, a Child of the Lie. And the most effective lies are the ones we not merely tell ourselves, but get our peers to tell us. The social reinforcement solidifies false beliefs as effectively as true ones, so that one ceases to be able to tell them apart — in part because one has stopped tallying whether the reason one believes something is its truth-value persuasiveness or its social-advantage persuasiveness.

twv

When I was young, the left seemed “cooler” than the right, and really only for one reason: free speech and freedom of the press, which were the quintessential “liberal” positions. As I grew older, I realized why they seemed cool. The cool stance is unflappability, the ability to maintain composure and calm and not freak out when some danger appeared on the scene. Coolness was a presentation of strength — not by violence but by resisting the flight-or-fight response.

This is the essence of coolness. An inner strength, or calm. While maintaining control.

The cool is an evolutionary advantaged trait, like peacock feathers and big antlers, but, unlike those antlers, it isn’t a matter of violence. The strength is implied. It is thus more sophisticated.

The reason I disliked the right was its tendency to freak out.

Nowadays, though, it is on the left where the cool stance is most rare. Leftists — and center-left progressives and mere centrists — are the ones least likely to maintain their cool upon being challenged. This makes them conservatives in temper.

The cool stance was not well understood by my teen compeers, way back when, of course. Too often “the hot” and “the mellow” were confused with “the cool,” which merely became a cheap synonym for teens’ cultural aesthetic preferences. You probably can guess that I was never really at one with teenage culture when I was a teen, despite my admiration for the cool stance. In part this was because, for the American Graffiti generation, and the next few, the cool became largely a matter of drug culture, which I always thought was a particularly stupid culture — and still do. I don’t much care about drugs. Other than that they should be legal but users held responsible for their usage. So my stance on drugs was cool, but theirs was (even if dubbed cool) actually hot.

Today, conservatives still have trouble advancing the cool stance of freedom, in part because they tend to cold or hot: cold rejection or hot opposition.

Of the political positions, libertarianism would be the cool one, but since most libertarians lean towards autism, they wouldn’t know how to act cool even after a James Dean/Humphrey Bogart binge weekend.

Of course, there is a time for each stance: the hot, the warm, the cool, the cold, St. John’s letters to the churches notwithstanding. But the cool is most likely to stand in for an advanced civilization, for what a civilization — as opposed to tribal life — requires is a rejection of flight-or-fight as the go-to reaction to the unknown or to danger.

And truly liberal free speech and free press principles remain cool. It’s just that progressives are no longer liberal in the least . . . and thus not the least bit cool.

twv

From the beginning of the pandemic, I heard one simple idea every now and then, and it seems to express the assumption upon which a lot of policies came to be demanded:

I have a right not to be infected.

That is of course a falsity. There is not and can be no such right, as such. You have a right, at most, to negotiate the terms of your avoidance of infection.

The phrase: “I have a right not to be infected” shows an expectation of a miraculous nature imputed to rights as such, or to government in general.

How rights work in the real world are not so magical. A right is a specific kind of human instrument that only works when specifically limited to performable operations.

After all, every right articulates an obligation. In law, the obligations (and therefore rights) we worry about are those that may be compelled by law, or by those operating under its umbrella. We cannot compel people not to infect each other. We cannot effectuate such an outcome. Viruses are slippery critters. We can only compel people to do this and that. And most of those thises and thats must be negotiated for, traded for, accommodated by manners or by convenience. The error here — this assumption of having a right that is beyond our means to perform — has been made all across the political spectrum. I’ve heard it, or words to that effect, from progressives, conservatives, libertarians. All are wrong. Very wrong.

I suppose at some point I’ll have to write about why this is so. It seems obvious to me, but what’s obvious to me isn’t widely observed. Think of it like a similar notion, which I often hear amongst my compeers: “no one has a right to pollute.” Well, estoppel principles apply, and finders-keepers/first-poopers rights apply, too.

One should not try to make ”rights” do too much work. That is the way to break the tool itself — and rights are a very useful tool. It would be a pity were it broken because its users abused it.

twv

According to current lore, there are “right-wing facts” and “left-wing facts.” Common sense would immediately tell you that there are “right-wing fantasies” and “left-wing fantasies” and also the same binary split on lies, evasions, suspicions, errors, misinformation, disinformation, bigotry, and all the rest.

Left-wingers often mention that great formulation, “alternative facts.” The usual harrumph and chortle is that “there are no ’alternative facts,’” just lies and error, etc. But in the current context, “alternative fact” is spot on: an alternative fact is a fact that fits the “other side’s” ideology, not yours.

It is not as if facts only line up on one side.

That being said, much of what we are all really arguing about is myth, theory, and values. We do have different values. And with those values come different visions of a better world. At first blush, right-wingers hate basic left-wing values, and vice versa, but many others just think that the values and visions of their opponents yield consequences — because of the nature of reality — at variance with the ideologues’ expectations.

The biggest values/visions differences regard sex and the family. Yesterday’s sexual conservatism mirrors — reflects in reverse — on the values level, with today’s “genderism” (for want of a better word). But despite one’s initial or acculturated preferences and tolerances, one can still take a step back and say that one sort of domestic institution is generally superior to another in terms of, say, producing happy children who go on to be independent, sociable beings and a general boon to society (noting that criminals are a huge drain, and that criminality is a good thing to suppress). But a knee-jerk sexual conservative is no more interested in seeing the social benefits of un-persecuted homosexuals than a knee-jerk sexual “gender progressive” is of heteronormativity.

Thankfully, most of us need not fall into the knee-jerk values/visions camps. We should be able to argue.

But right now our culture incapacitates us for this. And we are left with people arguing over “alternative facts.”

For my part, I’ve used the word “anomalous” more often, and try to find data that might change minds. All it takes is one datum to disprove a theory. Well, if it is a significant enough datum.

And I note that almost no one uses that word today, datum.

This actually seems significant. People cannot conceive of a datum that would change their minds.

In my general defense, in the last five years I’ve found single bits of information here and there that very much have changed my mind. But I have also incorporated much, much data that has solidified other beliefs.

twv

…a note from Facebook….

There is an element of fairness embedded in the idea of justice. The vice of the left is to think that fairness can be imposed upon society by correcting for nature and chance, which operate heedless of human preferences. This is such an awesome task — impossible, really — that the motto of the left could be “everything is political.”

The left’s characteristic form of righteous indignation is envy. And there is no intellectual humility in sight.

There is an element of vengeance to the idea of justice. The vice of the right is to think that this is the whole matter, and that extremity of retaliation for a wrong is usually better than moderation. The motto of the right could be “there is no kill like overkill.”

The right’s form of righteous indignation is wrath.

And intellectual rigor is rarely welcome.

Of course, the terms left and right, relating to politics, are also outmoded and flimsy, and your mileage may differ, simply because of the inherent relativity of “left and right.” It all depends upon which direction you are looking.

But it is astounding how unidirectional most folk are, hence the ability to plot politics, if clumsily, in bi-directional terms. And name the vices.

twv, November 24, 2015