Eric (at right) and me in Longview, Washington, last November. Here we pose in the parking lot of Pie@Trios, a pizza joint that is the successor to the once-popular pizza chain Pietros. My squinting is no reflection on anything other than a bright autumnal sunlight.

My friend Eric D. Dixon died yesterday. His friends and co-workers and family now condole each other on his Facebook page, and some of us just grieve in solitude.

Eric was a kind person. Unlike many people in politics — he was working for the Libertarian Party as an editor and technology developer when he died — he was not an a**h*le, not even a little bit. But he wasn’t a pushover, either. He was a “connector.” He helped people work together and helped people form friendships. He had a lot of knowledge, from the trivial (he played at “trivia” contests) to the profound. I would have liked to have known him better, but for most of the last 20 years we were on opposite sides of the continent.

He came to Liberty magazine in 1998, where I labored as Executive Editor at the time, leaving in 1999, a few months before I did. We had a more than a few interests in common, like progressive rock and keyboard playing and odd music in general. I just got an email from the California Guitar Trio, for instance, a group that I never would have known about had it not been for Eric’s enthusiasm. Same goes for Béla Fleck and Guy Klucevsek — and it is worth noting that Eric was a fine accordionist. Another of Eric’s and my shared interests was cinema. I probably would never have taken notice of the quirky films of Hal Hartley had it not been for Eric. The “feel” of a Hartley film seems to capture my mood right now.

Through Eric I met Paul Jacob and Justin M. Stoddard, and I heard him mention, on many occasions, his many other friends, such as Michael Malice — who has referred to Eric on his show more than once.

Eric, professionally, was a first-rate proofreader and an expert technician in online technology. His own writing was always clear and dignified, reminding me, actually, of John Hospers’ style. Eric also had a clean design sense.

When I first moved to Portland, Oregon, 41 years ago, I found an apartment on Alameda, not far from where Eric was living at that time. I often wonder whether in one of my perambulations I met young Eric and smiled at him (as one does with kids), perhaps giving him a nod. Were life a circular affair, as in comedy and fantasy, I would seek his boy self out, on the streets behind Sylvia’s Italian Restaurant. And wink, or nod — as if to foreshadow a life to come.

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The presence of Bene the Cat in this filtered photo reminds me that Eric enjoyed the company of felines, probably more than I do.
His cats, surely, will miss him too.

On Quora, the question was asked: “How can a gun enthusiast still claim their [sic] right to bear arms is more important than public safety?” Paul Harding, a deputy sheriff, begins an interesting answer this way: “All of your Constitutional Rights come at the cost of safety.”

But he doesn’t stop with this admission. He essays a sophisticated perspective:

Give up your rights under the 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments, and I’ll make the world safer for you. No question about it.

The only problem is that if you give up all those rights, which are really just restrictions on the things I’m allowed to do to you, what’s going to keep you safe from me?

He ends with this: “Freedom is scary, but lack of freedom is scarier.

The argument, here, is that “public safety” is not just a two-factor variable where (1) gun ownership ranges from “no effect on public safety” (guns in good citizens’ hands) to “negative public safety” (guns in criminals’ hands) and (2) policing ranges from “no public safety” with zero policing and court intervention to “complete public safety” with maximum possible scope for regulation, gun prohibition, and police power.

Both of these factors have wider ranges of effects, subject to side effects and diminishing returns.

Does this graph I just threw together help conceive of the difference between imaginary effects of gun confiscation, or maximum controls, and actual effects?

Of course, the “expected” line is only as expected from statists. People who believe that government is magic. It is possible that my expectation trajectory might dip lower faster.

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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.

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* 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.