Archives for category: Ideological currents

In the west, to call a public official a tyrant is to make the case for violent overthrow, either by coup or assassination.

If you make the case that so-and-so is a tyrant, but cannot specify unique acts that would constitute tyrannical action, then you are engaging in revolutionary rhetoric that most people, a generation ago, would have considered criminal and wantonly insurrectionist. Vague accusations of tyranny, or accusations of tyranny that could just as easily be made against your favored politician, are inherently anti-democratic.

This is where current ideological debate now is. The two partisan sides consider the other to be tyrannical and fascist or dictatorial.

As usual, both sides make a plausible case. But each side, in recognizing only the case against the other, while not recognizing the plausibility against its own side, dooms the civil order to chaos.

I am old now, and it might be exciting to die witnessing the end of our civilization. But why younger folks — or folks with children and grandchildren — would go along with this nonsense is a bit harder to understand. I take it they have been bamboozled by a psy-op, a Big Lie that would make Goebbels proud.

Perhaps, even, their bamboozlement is the result of the infamous Operation Paperclip in which the masters of the Big Lie were allowed access to and power within the deepest burrows of the American Deep State, in effect taking over American “intelligence”!

That would be droll. One of the few verities of our age is that all sides see the Third Reich as the greatest of all political evils. But wouldn’t it be a sort of ghastly irony were the current rise of anti-democratic tribalism to have been orchestrated by the very thing that all say they despise?

In answering a question on Quora, Dennis Pratt explained a common problem that has infected today’s “climate change” debate: the motte-bailey argumentation method. I was going to just quote a snippet of his answer, to set up my reply, but have decided that, instead, I will quote the whole thing, and then follow with my response to it:

Why is the climate change denier movement so passionate?

One reason is that climate alarmists use a particularly frustrating fallacy to push their solutions. And so, our points are rarely addressed, and our “passion” is frustration at a sophistic trick.

Conflating Implementation with Problem Identification
In order to solve a problem, we need at least these four steps:

1. Correctly identify that a problem exists and what its extent is.

2. Correctly identify the causes of the problem, and their relative contributions.

3. Correctly identify the “best” solution, which usually is the most effective with the least cost.

4. Implement that best solution well.

Our frustration comes when the alarmists start arguing #2, #3, and #4. When we push back, the alarmists will justify, say, their solutions, by appealing to (a small part of) #1.

“You are ‘denying’ that there is a problem at all.”

“No, we may have disagreements with your certainty at many points of these steps, but the least of our disagreements will be with historic data on warming; we were just now arguing our biggest disagreement with you — against implementing your totalitarian, civilization-destroying solution! Why did you just change the subject back to historic warming data?”

A “bailey” is an enclosed area lightly defended where most of the people hang out day-to-day. A “motte” is a hill with a castle atop it, behind the bailey. Upon attack, the people retreat from the bailey to the motte, which is much more fortified and much easier to defend, but it is sufficiently restrictive that it is not where the people want to be day-to-day.

The worst use of this fallacy is when alarmists cry out for international governmental control of the world economy to ‘save’ us from global warming. As you can see from the steps I’ve outlined above, which are necessary to well solve a problem, the alarmists are demanding an implementation of a particular solution — they are operating at step #4. That would be they hanging out in their “bailey”.

We anti-alarmists, seeing the alarmists at the end of the problem solution process, will object for a myriad of reasons. We might object because we think that their solution (e.g., Paris):

* will not be implemented well (#4),

* will not solve the actual problem (#3),

* causes more problems than it solves (#3),

* is far inferior to better solutions (#3),

* solves a less important cause (#3)

* misidentifies the most important causes (#2),

* exaggerates the size of the problem (#1)

* uses Monte Carlo simulations as though they were crystal balls (#1)

* uses economic forecasts of the future world economy as though they were crystal balls (#1)

* etc.

Upon hearing our concerns, the alarmists retreat from the bailey to their motte. They stop arguing for their proposed one-world-totalitarian solution <0559>, and instead fall back to their well-defended fortress.

“Are you denying that the temperature has increased over the last century!!! Oh, my!! How can you be so unscientific!!!!”

Oh, man, is that irritating!

{To see this demonstrated, the humor in this parable <0302> is derived from the warrior’s repeatedly falling back to pointing out the paw print (his motte) every time his totalitarian solution (his bailey) is challenged by the old man: <0302>}

The Motte-and-Bailey Fallacy is so effective because it conflates the outrageous (a one world totalitarian government enslaving all human action) with the easily defended (temperatures have increased a bit in the past). It is so frustrating because were we to agree that the motte is well defended (i.e., temperatures may have increased in the past), the alarmists would cheerfully return to their bailey, happily pronouncing that “all scientists agree” with some outrageous totalitarian solution. <0535>

Asking for intellectual honesty from alarmists is not possible: this fallacy has been so effective that there is no reason for them to discontinue using it.

The solution is to call them on it.

If there is any “overwhelming agreement of scientists”, it is only on some minimal aspects of Step #1.

Our passion is not against historical data, but against, for example, the refusal to talk about the destruction of humanity that would occur were we to implement many alarmists’ solutions (e.g., Step #4). <1355>

Though I agree that the motte/bailey gambit is vexingly annoying coming from the alarmists, my passion is largely aroused by the historical data that alarmists ignore, and even lie about.

But I go further. Most alarmists know nothing about their subject, or merely repeat a few pet theories and ignore the critical literature. I go further yet. Many researchers claiming to be “climate scientists” know very little about long cycles of climate. Indeed, their lack of understanding of climate cycles is astounding, and I hazard that many of these researchers are not competent in their field.

That is a daring thing for a non-scientist to say, I know, but we should remember a few things:

  1. There is a huge replicability problem in modern academic research, making most putative science junk science.
  2. The peer review system has been compromised in many disciplines, so we should be very suspicious, and the mere citing of a peer-reviewed paper does not provide the authority we might expect.
  3. And it gets worse, since the whole research area is funded in the billions and billions of dollars to promote a specific flavor of conclusion. This is a not unsubtle process, but not too difficult to see. Indeed, it looks an awful lot like the implementation on a global scale of the technique the Bush Administration used to get false reports about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in the early 2000s.
  4. The whole consensus angle has been shown to be a fraud. There is not nearly as much agreement among ostensible climate scientists as commonly made out. The “97 percent” claim is bunk.
  5. Most of the reporting on “the science” is propaganda, and lying propaganda at that. Claims about “hottest summers” and “warmest winters” abound, but almost all are against the evidence, leaving out whole decades in the past that were warmer than recent, for example, with much more impressive records, etc. Tony Heller has made an online career demonstrating the concerted fraud that has been going on. And why folks who have read The Grapes of Wrath or endured any educational film strip (remember those?) about the Great Depression should not remember how hot it was in those days, and not be able to figure out that recent temperatures have been nowhere near as hot as it was for several years in the 1930s, and not just in America, is beyond me. Are educated people really this stupid? Can one convince a college grad of any damn fool thing, so long as it feeds his (or her, or zher) sense of self-righteousness?

I could go on. Though I am annoyed by the motte/bailey biz you mention, in a sense I understand and almost forgive the alarmists. They are doing what ideologues almost always do. People have great difficulty separating matters of fact from value. And politicians are known liars and opportunists; journalists hacks and propagandists — so of course they transmit the idiocies. This is known.

But when scientists behave like incompetents and worse — propagandists and liars — I get my dander up.

Climate alarmism is a cult. It works like an End Time Cult. We should be studying social psychology (see Festinger et al.) and roll our eyes when “scientists” say obviously idiotic and non-factual things.

twv

Is libertarianism just a code word for selfishness and lack of empathy for the poor?

…as answered on Quora….

A “code word” is a term of art for jargon used in an esoteric manner by an in-group to convey meaning among insiders while preventing comprehension by outsiders.

“Empathy” is a term of art coined by philosopher Max Scheler to distinguish the capacity of vicarious feeling from “sympathy” as it had previously been explored by Adam Smith and Herbert Spencer, the 18th and 19th century philosophers who advanced the notion most thoroughly. The word “sympathy” was too closely associated with pity and commonly understood as the opposite of antipathy to do the work Scheler was engaging in. Yet, because both Smith and Spencer often used “sympathy” to designate very nearly what Scheler later called “empathy,” I will revert to the former word in much of what follows.

“Libertarianism” is a term appropriated for use in the political realm from philosophical discussions on fate, determinism and free will, first by anarchists in the 19th century and then by individualist liberals in mid-20th century. From the tenor of the question, I surmise the questioner is asking about that second variety, which includes the aforementioned Smith and Spencer as pioneering forebears, Smith advancing ‘the simple system of natural liberty’ and Spencer ‘the law of equal freedom.’

Herbert Spencer, who was basically a modern libertarian (and even 19th century anarchist theoretician Prince Peter Kropotkin recognized some kinship between his ideas and Spencer’s), would be shocked at the merest suggestion that advocacy of individual liberty would be identified with a lack of sympathy or a prevalence of selfishness — in Data of Ethics he had devoted four chapters to elaborating a dialectic between egoism and altruism, making sympathy key to his analysis. He thought a free society depended on extensivesympathy. He thought it undergirded justice as well as “negative and positive beneficence.”

As for “selfishness,” here we get into a weirder area. Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand wrote a book called The Virtue of Selfishness in which she redefined the term in a special way that confused a lot of people, friend and foe alike. Rand has been a huge influence on the modern libertarian movement, so her ‘new concept of egoism’ is not irrelevant — so the plausibility of tarring libertarians with the selfishness brush is definitely there. I regard her word usage an abuse, however, and her argument a farrago — an obvious falling off of conceptual clarity from Spencer’s analysis — which leads me to dismiss the charge of “code word.”

More importantly, Rand did this out in the open, so “code word” seems silly.

What the questioner asks about is not really code-word analysis at all, but a calumny.

The one way to make the calumny stick might be to notice the psychological complexion of libertarians compared to other current and more popular ideologies. Libertarians are not generally known for the kinds of empathy Simon Baron Cohen has recently written about. Instead, they are known for astoundingly high IQs, a metric that corresponds to Cohen’s ‘systemizing intelligence.’

Libertarians argue that freedom would help the poor better than do the current welfare state institutions. Further, they believe that the only reason to think otherwise is to ignore all we have learned from economics and other social sciences, and — this is key — to ignore the conceptualization (and keeping in mind) of the distinction between the purported policy goal and the actual policy results. Classical liberals and libertarians make this distinction all the time, but folks sporting less sophisticated political philosophies keep balling this up, continually harping on their alleged intentions and feelings about their favored policies over consequences and unintended effects, linking their ‘feelings’ with ‘empathy’ and asserting libertarians’ attention to processes and facts as ‘uncaring.’ Arguably, this is a sign of non-libertarians’ general lower IQs, as well as an understandable practical grokking of the advantages of going along with the long con of statism. Libertarians see the general advantage in principles of distributed responsibility, but maybe they are generally not selfish enough to cave in and just make the most of the heady rush to mass exploitation by political favor.

A lot of very smart people realize the genius of liberty, but then give up on it because there is greater personal advantage to be found fooling the rubes with silly and even grotesque statist programs.

In pushing a general public interest perspective, libertarians are anything but selfish. Arguably, they are way too atruistic. After all, there is a much higher percentage — vigorish; “rent” (as in “rent-seeking”) — in corrupt politics.

twv

Why is politics so crazy right now? Why Trump, and why have the Democrats gone loopy rather than develop their USP as the Party of Sanity?

Well, I have a theory, and I discuss it with Paul Jacob, of ThisIsCommonSense.org:

LocoFoco Netcast #23, featuring Paul Jacob.

And of course the podcast is available from Apple and Google and Spotify and Pocket Cast, as well as on SoundCloud:

LocoFoco Netcast #23, LocoFoco.net.

As a libertarian, why did you choose to be a libertarian over being a moderate or centrist?

…as answered on Quora….

I was a moderate “liberal” when I was in high school. Well, maybe. I was strong on civil rights and hated anything that smacked of imperialism, but had rather humdrum and unexceptional notions about economic policy. I sometimes thought of myself as moderate, like my mother, and, at other times, as more liberal than my Democrat father.

But I was not a reactionary. And I was never inclined to socialism — the extremist version, “Communist” socialism — which I knew enough about to regard with utter suspicion.

I was nevertheless very curious about utopian communal experiments. That may have been more a romantic curiosity than an eager political agenda. So, I was a seeker, and my quest led me to a book that was new at that time: Robert Nozick’s 1974 classicAnarchy, State and Utopia. I devoured it at age 17, but — though greatly impressed (and in complete agreement with the final third of the book) — for another three years I assumed that gun control was a grand idea and that minimum wage legislation was the very minimum we could do for the working poor. Nozick had not convinced me of libertarianism, and I was still pretty much in the centrist camp, between left and right — the former which I distrusted and the latter which I loathed.

What changed my mind?

Three things, at least:

  1. I came to see that many statist “solutions” to social problems (minimum wages being a great example) are in and of themselves (a) not what people typically think they are even on the face of it, and (b) do not show the uniformly good benefits claimed for them. Indeed, they often, even usually, produce widespread negative effects.
  2. Since grade school I had been deeply concerned with in-group/out-group dynamics. From observation and from reading I had learned that people become rather irrational in relationship to both their tribes and to outsiders. The sense of justice that so keenly moved me, but seemed fragile in so many others, was almost invariably perverted because of the playing out of this inevitable social orientation. I saw amity/enmity (inclusion/exclusion) in both standard and inverse forms as a huge problem, and I came to see the individualist conception of liberty as the best solution to it.
  3. Being, as I was, an odd duck, I recognized that my values and my developing understanding were largely at variance with common opinion. This landed me with a philosophical problem: value diversity. How could there be any justice if values were diverse? That is, if justice is giving people “what they deserve” but desert is largely dependent upon a specific, invariant value set, how can we determine the substance of justice? Isn’t it arbitrary? “Relative”? This was the question that unsettled me as I closed Anarchy, State and Utopia for the first time. How is justice even possible at all? I came to see liberty as a universally handy and usually easily identifiable social equilibrium boundaryone that could adjudicate competing values by not resting on strategies dependent and understood primarily in values terms. (Whew; sorry about that.) Freedom possesses a formalistic element that allows it to serve as a good balancing point among competing valued agendas.*

And there we get to the answer to our present question: freedom is a moderating principle.

It is not an extremist notion at all — I am with Brandon Ross on this. Both your desire to steal from me and my desire to steal from you must be thwarted. The compromise is no stealing. Grogh’s plan to enslave others, and others’ machinations to enslave Grogh? Both strategies must be given up. I leave you alone, you leave me alone . . . until we can find mutually advantageous opportunities for cooperation. And then we work together (or just trade) to achieve either shared or separate ends.

We respect each other’s separateness and individuality as a baseline, and hold each other accountable no matter what group we belong to. We can be as gregarious or as withdrawn as we want. But neither our “other-interests” nor our “self-interests” provide excuses to harm each other.

And the simple rule that prevents chaos and strife?

Do not to initiate force.

Freedom is the condition where no one is preyed upon by others. It is the condition where we support each other voluntarily. Or not.

Today’s political centrists try to moderate competing claims in amazingly inconsistent ways. On some occasions or contexts your group lives off my group; in others, mine lives off yours. On some occasions “we” sacrifice individuals for group benefit; in others, “we” sacrifice our wealth or attention for the benefit of a few individuals. How the “bargains” are made depends upon political pressure in either a democratic or behind-the-scenes corrupt fashion (there are differences, but the differences are not huge), and it is by historical happenstance that a centrist holds to one program one week, a competing program the next.

A centrist can be talked into just about anything.

Because what centrists moderate are competing expressed political demands, their principles are ad hoc and non-rigorous.

One epoch the blacks are ridden herd over; the next they are released from such oppression; a decade later they are given vast amounts of resources without anything in exchange, enticing them to become wards, “clients” of the State. One decade Asians are allowed in the country to do hard labor; a few later they are harassed and deported; in wartime Japanese are interred; much later some are compensated. There is no real principle discernible. Centrists move to and fro to the winds of doctrine.

They call it “being realistic.”

Libertarianism offers a way out of this appalling back-and-forth of in-group/out-group antagonism.

It is an eminently civilized way out. It is the basic “moral deal”: I sacrifice my options for gain through initiated force, and you do the same — and among all these freed people (freed from each others’ malignity and coercion and exploitation) we find opportunities for mutual advance.

Despite the apparently huge sacrifices for individual or particular group gain, the gains from civilization are vast, and for everybody.

I know, I know: the cost of liberty sure seems high: you can no longer gain a sense of pride — or revel in temporary triumph — in making your enemies pay for what you want. The desire to coerce and be coerced is very baboonish, and suppressing that desire is not always easy. Limiting our lust to dominate down to defense and restitution (and perhaps retaliation)? Easier for some than others. And to restrict the resolution of conflicts to public adjudication, according to public principles that are impartial as to specific persons or groups? Where is the fun in that?

Well, there is nothing much fun in relying upon the rule of law, rather than the rule of regulators, redistributionists, and rent-seekers.

But the rule of law does allow a lot of fun. Not for no reason is freedom commonly associated with fun. Yet that is not the whole story: there is a certain nobility in the responsibility required, in insisting upon an acute focus on actions.

And remember, it is honest.

Centrists, I came to see, were always getting sucked into little grafts and even extravagant boondoggles. And yet they are proud. Their pride can be seen in their over-confidence, their conceit in their discernment. They think they can conjure up wisdom to judge each new situation “according to its merits.”

That is hubristic. No one can do that on the macro social level. The world is too complex.

We need simple rules to live by, and to allow the prudential principle of “according to its merits” succeed or fail on voluntary terms. Failure must be accepted as such — and not merely shrugged off as in moderate statism, where every failure is an excuse to throw more money at it, sometimes also placing “better people” at the top.

Without freedom as a limiting principle, democracies become welfare states and welfare states become “churning states” — where there is so much redistribution of wealth and advantage that in most cases it proves impossible to know who really comes out ahead and who gets the short end of the stick.

I became a libertarian because I saw liberty as a solution to

  1. the craziness of the left’s “cult of the other” as well as
  2. the right’s “no kill like overkill” defense of in-group.
  3. But, perhaps most importantly, to the centrists’ pathetic attempts at moderating those two anti-freedom tendencies in politics in ad hoc and piecemeal fashion, according to the realpolitik of the moment.

I became a libertarian because I did not want to be suckered by incoherent or perverse strategies. I did not want to be a mark. And I did not want to encourage the grifters.


* My position before becoming a libertarian was, philosophically, summed up neatly in Walter Kaufmann’s 1973 treatise/self-help book From Decidophobia to Autonomy Without Guilt and Justice. I worked through his congenial non-cognitivism by seeing the Schelling Point aspect of the Non-Aggression Principle, and, later, by incorporating an evolutionary component to establish justice as an emergent property of distributed adjudications of disputes over long periods of social history. The book that helped me see freedom’s utility — a sort of anti-disutility — was Ludwig von Mises’ 1962 classicThe Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science. In that work I saw something even more challenging than value diversity: value subjectivity. And the social function of freedom became apparent . . . but that’s another story.

As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s demise leads to the brain death and moral implosion of the left, I am reminded of a question I answered, two years ago, on the Net’s premiere Q&A site. Here is what I wrote on Friday when I heard the news: “RBG RIP — and sayonara to the last shred of sense in American politics. Not because she was that sense, but because her life held her admirers’ utter desperation in abeyance.”

Why aren’t Supreme Court justices assassinated often, given their political importance and their low number?

…as answered on Quora….

What inspires the anger, hatred, rage, or vendetta to nurture a hankering to kill a powerful person? I think it is the kind of authority that the powerful person represents.

The American Presidency focuses executive power, and is usually accompanied by charismatic and traditional modes of authority. Additionally, the single office-holder in the position has a lot of discretion in favoring or disfavoring a person or group, and is seen — not without reason — to hold a great deal of personal power. And this combination of modes of authority and efficacy for change makes presidents good targets for the aggrieved. A number of American presidents have been shot at, but have failed to succumb to the bullet — Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan come quickly to mind — and the successful assassinations are infamous, numbering precisely four:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • James Garfield
  • William McKinley
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy

They were killed, historians tell us, by

  • an actor out for revenge (and perhaps working on a bizarre plot to help the South rise again);
  • a disgruntled job seeker (who felt personally and professionally betrayed);
  • a crazed anarchist; and
  • a Communist ex-Marine.

Can you imagine the kinds of men that these four were . . . actually setting their minds against a Supreme Court Justice, to see someone so “impersonal” as worth killing? The kind of authority wielded by the Nine is rational-legal. People tend to have a hard time wrapping their heads around that kind of authority, which is why they keep voting for charismatic men to fill the Presidency role. We understand charisma. Viscerally. And we grok traditional hierarchy, too. (Both are related to sexual selection, so these forms of authority get at us deep.) But rational-legal authority? That does not grab us either by the gut or the groin.

And to kill a man, especially at the likely cost of one’s own life, requires, surely, some deep appeal to the innards.


Well, that was what I wrote on Quora in August 2018. But times have changed. Now we see Democratic luminaries openly threatening insurrection and a deliberately destructive holocaust if the president goes ahead and . . . does his constitutional duty. Would these luminaries actually light the fires, set off the bombs and shoot the guns? Not likely. But their words sure look like incitements to riot. To me. What else would they be?

And they also go some way to feed my deep suspicion that the fires set throughout my state, and the two states directly south, were set, in numerous instances, by antifa/Black Bloc “protesters.”

If this becomes a shooting war, on the streets, between anarchists and antifa and Democrats manqué, on the one side, and those of us who prefer a rule of law to tyranny, on the other, then shouldn’t the breakdown of law and order be directed, in part, at the twits like Reza Aslan who tweet evil threats?

Or Twitter could apply its own rules against these maniacs and de-platform them. That would go some way to reëstablishing a moral order. And show that the apparently partisan microblogging site takes actual threats seriously.

But it is interesting how a Supreme Court position has become so vital to the left. Is this really all about keeping abortion and protecting that bizarre decision, Roe v. Wade?

Democrats sure do like their child sacrifice rights.

As someone who, when young, developed ideas that were not present in my family, church, or school environments, the idea that people are expected to conform to ideas merely associated with some in-group they cannot help but belong to (and as a kid, there were few opt-outs for me, practically, to family, church, or school) is bizarre. And possibly insulting.

Yet the woke folk insist that the African-American descendants of slaves are only authentic to their true selves when they adopt wokist race theory and some variant of socialism. When a white woke neighbor recently accused non-woke whites of being racist for their skepticism about Black Lives Matter, I mentioned that many blacks hated BLM. One lackwit retiree was incredulous, wanting proof. It is probably one of my many character faults that leads me rarely to provide such evidence. The examples are many and varied, so if you have not seen them, you know you have bubbled yourself in a tightly sealed ideologically secure media container, I typed back. When my white woke interlocutor restated his demand, I responded, Do your own homework.

It had apparently not crossed the mind of this white woke joke of a fool that his very expectation of black uniformity of opinion based merely on a name is the acme of condescension.

I like to joke that White Privilege consists in ONE THING ONLY: the expectation that no opinion inheres to us by reason of race.

But that is a problematic thing to joke about, seeing that we are told incessantly that white privilege does not include the privilege of not being racist.

twv

Is libertarianism or authoritarianism a better government model to build a strong community?

…as answered on Quora….

Three terms here are easily disputable: libertarianism, authoritarianism, and community.

I shall stipulate, at the beginning, “libertarianism” to be the body of individualist thought running from classical liberalism to private property “voluntaryism” (panarchism, or anarcho-capitalism); “authoritarianism” is either (a) statism in some form that makes no pretense for democratic/republican control or (b) any system of governance in which command dominates over rational deliberation, general rule-following (rather than command-following) and compromise; and “community” I take to be society above the family/clan level based on propinquity or regular interaction, but not society at large, and certainly not either the “open society” or “the nation.”

In tribal life, all there was, basically, was family and community — and other families and communities, and individuals wandering among them, trading, gambling, and fighting.

In chiefdoms we see a coalescence of a kind of political governance, and in the early conquering states and watercourse empires we see vast populations with many communities integrated under authoritarian political and ecclesiastical governance.

Were they “strong communities” way back when? To some extent they had to be. But as military organization gave way to industrial institutions, with extensive scope for trade, the nature of both family and community shifted. Liberal ideas came to dominate, becoming quite explicit. In the 1830s, the most advanced form of “democracy” was in the new United States, and Alexis de Tocqueville was most interested in community in that egalitarian context. They were astoundingly vibrant, he found. People set up committees to make community projects when business activity could not fill the perceived need and where government was not even thought of to provide it. I used the word “egalitarian,” for it was “equality of conditions” in America that most astounded Tocqueville. But by this he did not mean equality of wealth, or even opportunity. He meant openness to social movement, a lack of class stratification (as in Europe), a leveling of ceremonial expectations and a lack of pretentiousness in the rich over the poor. What he meant was an amazing degree of liberty, which was his chief interest. What he saw in America was remarkably libertarian, in the sense I stipulated above, for the heyday of classical liberalism was about to dawn with the rise of the LocoFocos and the advance of both free trade and abolitionism.

Community then was voluntary community. You could leave, you had exit rights, and many options to participate at many levels. If you want to see how liberty and community work together for the strengthening of community, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America makes a good case.

But though political liberty increased mightily after that, in some ways — especially in reduction of the tariffs in Britain and France, and the democratization of corporate licensure in America — a number of factors led to a move to statism by the end of the century. Slavery’s suppression in America came at the cost of the old decentralist order, and the rise of nationalism. And everywhere socialist agitation and the labor movement advanced. By the fin de siècle the U.S. was well on the way to progressive statism, starting with a frank imperialism and warfare. We can quibble about the dates and epochal moments, but a turn occurred. The rise of an administrative state in America and Britain made a huge difference; vast bureaus decreasingly controlled by democratic processes meant that a new form of authoritarianism emerged, and also the popularity of wealth transfer programs.

And though authoritarianism is in the question, it was bureaucracies and transfer programs that led to the major hits on community life. Increasingly families were atomized, and individuals, too: free radicals with little to cling onto but the Leviathan State and the political parties that squabble over its control. Nowadays community has withered under the folkways of “bowling alone,” and the scope of statist control of everyday life has greatly increased.

I would call modern society as dominated by statism, with a veneer of democratic control and the actual controls held by the unionized public employee sector, the “Deep State” intelligence agencies, the plutocracy, and the academic/newsmedia/entertainment complex. It strikes me as the opposite of a libertarian system, despite extensive markets (much of it is dirigisme, anyway, and transfer programs completely re-orient society in several anti-social ways). The scope for community has atrophied.

Right now we witness two completely different cultures fighting politically and socially: the explicitly nationalist conservative-progressives against the woke-socialist corporatist progressives. Both of these groups try to get around the tragedy of the commons inherent in a state providing extensive public goods each by finding a way to undermine the scramble for resources by competing ethnic groups. (Pluralistic societies have great trouble finding stability with a maximum state.) The nationalists attempt to build a pan-community melting pot around doctrines of national ideals, symbols, and purpose; the woke folk insist on using ideology to create solidarity among the “ethnic identities” of perceived or defined “out-groups” largely with a goal of unseating in-group people and their traditional hierarchies.

Both of these are fake communities. Both use ideology to promote the solidarity necessary to prevent the tragedy of the commons (overuse of conscript resources, mostly taxes). And the woke-socialist progressives have a revolutionary agenda as well: replacing traditional in-group hierarchies with their own ideological hierarchy.

De-politicized, communities can grow naturally, to meet group needs and express shared values. Politicized, they fight against each other for state resources.

This is necessarily violent, and war has been a necessary component to keep the nationalism going, as should be obvious, while the woke-revolutionary modus is violent by nature, as can be seen in the tyranny of political correctness and in protests that quickly morph into riot and anarchy.

The liberty that libertarians prefer would be much more conducive to peaceful and vibrant community, but that requires reducing the number of public goods provided by state fiat.

And that’s something at which both nationalists and socialists balk.

twv

The crisis of our time may amount to nothing more than no longer being able to fool our enemies, merely ourselves.

twv

Why was Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen’s tweet, “It is not enough to be passively not racist, we must be actively anti-racist” so controversial amongst libertarians?

…as answered on Quora….

I just read a number of libertarian answers, and I saw not one mention of the riots associated with Black Lives Matter.

Liberty is not just an opposition to the State — contra Rothbard, who I think was wrong on this. Very wrong. Liberty is the freedom we all can possess; those who initiate force from government, from criminal gangs, or individually, or from mobs all abridge freedom. And libertarians oppose them all. Including mobs. The riots are mob action of an unconscionable kind, and indeed constitute the insurrection of cowards and fools — and they are intimately associated with Black Lives Matter.

One of my goals as a libertarian writer has been to de-mystify gobbledygook and debunk confidence games. Much of statism along with much of ochlocracy (mobocracy) gains support from unrealistic fantasy, regrettable but repeatable error, strategic evasion, and outright lies. So I have no truck with folks who spread untruth combined with vitriol. Black Lives Matter spews lies/error about police killings of ‘unarmed black men.’ Not that this never happens, but that the numbers are simply not that special. The stats do not support the claim. I have a great many complaints about policing in our state-ridden society, but racism does not seem a warranted fixation, at least as regards shootings by the police.* And not irrelevant to this is the fact that nearly every one of the victims BLM lifts up to honor and defend has been a violent criminal killed in the process of resisting arrest** — from Michael Brown on. So, no thank you.

I believe it is the job of libertarians to offer truth as the avenue to peace and justice, not bigotry and error and paranoid fantasy. BLM is all spin and lies and violence, and libertarians supporting it strike me as gullible at best.

There is another reason I found the Jo Jo tweet eye-roll-worthy: if you define racism in a very specific way — a way that most people do not use the term — then it makes at least a modicum of sense. But otherwise, it is an immoral command.

For the essence of liberty isn’t your feelings about people of this race or that, or any race, for that matter. Nor even about discriminating for or against anyone. (Discrimination is a key concept in most folks’ definitions of racism.) Libertarians support freedom of association, and we are against racist discrimination only as it pertains to abridging freedom of association and perverting the unbiased working of the rule of law. Liberty, you see, is for everybody, racist or not. You may hate anyone you like. You just may not initiate force: rob, murder, defraud, etc.

I go further: Liberty is for the racists of all races. We want black anti-white racists as well as white anti-black racists all to co-exist in their separate or interpenetrating spheres (their choice), unmolested.

And the thing about racism? It is just another vice. Like greed or sloth or envy or intemperance. No decent libertarian as libertarian would spout nonsense like “it is not enough to be passively not greedy; we must be actively anti-greed.” And I say this despite thinking that greed, along with envy and a few other vices, is a major driver of both statism and ochlocracy. I think these vices are bigger problems than racism — which is indeed a problem. But being publicly anti-greed is not going to usher in liberty any more than being publicly anti-racist. Libertarians have an answer to a whole bevy of social problems caused by all the vices. It is the idea of justice as equal freedom — in a word, liberty.

Jo Jo and Spike have both proven themselves witless moralists just like conservatives in the days of my youth or the virtue-signaling lily-white progressives who live all around me.

A major disappointment. I probably will not vote for them. Further, I have adopted my old stance regarding the Libertarian Party: liquidationism. That was Murray Rothbard’s term, from the 1980’s, of the position I pushed later, in the 1990’s. Jo Jo and Spike have convinced me that reviving the liquidationist program could be the very best first step forward for a freer society. The Libertarian Party must be destroyed — liquidated — and replaced with one or more organizations far more effective and far less crazy.


* I actually suspect that systemic racism may be a problem, but because it is an invisible hand (unintended) and institutionally tacit process, the subject has to be dealt with very carefully and without a revolutionary mindset. The hatred and fury the concept elicits in leftists and the well-programed young suggest that they cannot think very carefully.

** A key problem in police-black relations is the ubiquity of the illicit drug trade, broken homes caused by a corrupting welfare state, horrendous public schools and insidious business-employment regulation that most people have no clue how they work or why they are bad. Libertarians have of course called attention and opposed these horrific state programs (the War on Drugs; state aid; government schools; the minimum wage, etc.) that have devastated inner-city African-American communities, and are well under way to destroy “white” communities. Further, libertarians have been consistent in opposing the qualified immunity doctrine that protects bad-apple police and corrupts the whole state apple-cart. But among those preventing reform in these areas are the race hustlers, such as the “Reverend” Al Sharpton, who have a confidence game going that requires that blacks not make progress. They gain at their “community’s” expense.

twv