Well, this post is quoting me as an example, but the same blogger never really bothered to respond to my 2-month old post that addressed the distinction between the libertarian and communitarian versions of liberty.
Our blogger denies the liberal/libertarian definition of liberty, “do as you want, constrained only the harm to others,” on the grounds that we cannot individually define “harm.” Or to be more accurate, “harm” can only carry an agreed upon social definition. This, of course, is the bromide of the communitarian. And our blogger expresses this communitarian version quite clearly:
The voluntary institutions of society (civil society) inculcate and enforce a society’s moral code (1), foster mutual trust and respect (2), and help to preserve cultural similarity (3)
But notice how our blogger suddenly switches gears with this next post, The Intolerant Left, regarding the liberty of Chick-fil-A to sell chicken sandwiches. In this instance, the left-wing communitarians are making the same social argument against the liberty of Chick-fil-A that our blogger employed against the liberal/libertarian definition of liberty in his preceding post. The exact same argument. But to our blogger, the appeal to “Chicago” or “Boston” values is suddenly a cause for a vitriolic spew of viscous hatred regarding the intolerance of the left. It is quite an entertaining rant:
Left-wingers march in lockstep like wind-up toy soldiers. And all it takes to wind them up is to propose a governmental intervention in social or economic affairs — preferably one that flouts a social tradition that is based on decades and centuries of of experience. Why do leftists have so little respect for the wisdom that accrues in social norms? Because leftism is rooted in two psychological tendencies. One of them is adolescent rebellion, which can persist for decades past adolescence. This explains the left’s hatred of conventional authority figures who (usually) represent conservative (civilizing) values (e.g., parents, police officers, military officers, members of the clergy). The other psychological tendency is the urge to dominate others, an urge that leftists project onto conservatives.
But, to repeat, the left-wing communitarian social appeal is the exact social argument that our conservative blogger employed against my libertarian definition earlier. Of course, in one instance, the social argument is perfectly legitimate and is expression of the ultimate meaning of liberty. In the next instance, the social argument is an expression of social dominance rooted in psychological perversion.
Which is the correct interpretation of the social argument? If there is a “correct interpretation” of the social argument among competing social views, then I would dare say that “the harm principle” can likewise be adjudicated outside of the blanketing constraint of any supposed social context.1
The American political dialogue–the culture war– primarily consists of right-wing and left-wing communitarians accusing one another of being liberal2. But, of course, neither group is. The liberal rejects the social argument in favor an epistemological principle of the presumption of liberty. It is a simple principle: claims of harm can be falsifiable and the constraints against liberty have to be demonstrated. Simple. This is the epistemological bulwark against appeals to the authority of the cop, the military and the church. This is the bulwark against the communitarian presumption of social authority asserted by both the communitarian right and left.
1 Any attempt to establish “the more correct” social view among competing theories would have to rely on a scientific method of falsifying the others
2 The right-wing communitarians accuse the left-wing communitarians as “liberal.” The left-wing communitarians accuse the right-wing communitarians as being “libertarian.”
The target of my criticism in my previous post responded to my critique in an update. Unfortunately, the author, Fritz, chose to close comments so I will publish my rejoinder here. The short of it is that the failure the author accuses me of–not sufficiently researching his true position and thus mischaracterizing it–is the thing he is actually guilty of with respect to criticizing my position. Succinctly stated, the author largely wastes his time with a straw man counter-attack. When I wrote that the definition of liberty is “do what you want, constrained only by the harm to others,” the author assumed that I was a subscriber to some type of moral universality of “platonic forms” before proceeding with a lecture on the distinction between a moral theory and a social theory. All very nice, but he is arguing against archetypes constructed in his own head.
Just as this particular blogger has his litany of posts regarding moral foundations, social theory, etc, I have my mine. If you read them you find that I am more or less a moral non-cognitivist contractarian. I am skeptical of any normative claims of regarding libertarian property rights regimes, etc. I place the primary value on coherence, not purity. Thusly, I separate libertarianism as political critique from a libertarianism as a social theory. I subscribe to the coherent political critique that stems from the 19th century French Liberal class critique(Thierry,Comte,Dunoyer, Say, Bastiat, etc) of political economy. I synthesize this with the methodology of modern rational choice.
And the social theory is indeed a social theory, not a moral one. Non-coercion(NAP) is useless as a basis for a social theory because all social interactions and contractual arrangements are coercive in that they necessarily impose moral constraints on agents as pure maximizers. Instead, I look to the Justice of Mutual Advantage as the foundational basis of the social theory. This is hardly radical in and of itself since liberalism, as a political theory, more or less roots political obligation in a rational JMA calculation. Libertarianism, in positive sense, observes that the State inherently violates the JMA constraint. It thus looks to alternative institutional means as the enforcement mechanism for justice. By justice, in an institutional sense, I mean a regime that is mutually beneficial to everyone(i.e., better off with the regime than without it).
Now since liberalism gives us civil society as natural and the State as artificial, if we subtract the State, we are left only with civil society. Obviously, civil society then has to be the source of governance. If we are actually interested in JMA regimes, then empirical observation has demonstrated that society is where they have to come from–both as the institutional source and the enforcer.
Framing the libertarian position in this manner provides a bit of clarity in regards to the typical claims of a Utopian or a Nirvana Fallacy objection. Is the Nirvana Fallacy the position that JMA regimes can emerge from civil society alone or is the fallacy inherent in the JMA objective itself. Or thirdly, does JMA have to be tempered by other principles of justice? Once we actually define the composition of the so-called Nirvana Fallacy, what the specific “unrealizable alternative” actually is, then we can actually begin to frame a coherent debate.
If the objection is to JMA itself, then the objector essentially repudiates liberalism and its social contract methodology to begin with. This is rooted in a simple moral objection.
If the objection is that JMA regimes cannot emerge from civil society alone, but the objector nonetheless accepts JMA, then the objector is forced to confront the problem that the State is a violator of the JMA constraint.
If the objection is that JMA must be tempered by other principles of Justice, then the objector still nonetheless has to introduce these “tempering justice principles” through the front-door of the social contract, meaning that they have to be (hypothetically) shown not to violate the JMA constraint.
The point: can a clever deconstructionist demonstrate that any deviation from the status quo is guilty of the Nirvana Fallacy. Answer: Yes. Translation: The Nirvana Fallacy can more or less be reduced to “leave well enough alone.”
Frankly, I don’t think “leave well enough alone” is a convincing counter-argument to libertarianism.
Does Order Come From Liberty or Does Liberty Come From Order?
In general, we can distill the essential differences between the libertarian and conservative worldview down to who is the rightful parent in the Liberty vs Order relationship. Is liberty the mother or the daughter of order? This former is the liberal position; the latter is the republican(communitarian) one1. The author here is claiming that not only is the conservative worldview the correct one but that the conservative position is the “true libertarian” one. I consider this an expropriation, and it merited a rebuttal.
Let us re-summarize the blogger’s argument:
(i) Libertarian moral foundations cannot be the foundation for liberty because libertarian moral foundations are artificial mental constructs that sow conflict and strife, not peace and cooperation
(ii) libertarians must respect evolved social norms because the norms have evolved for the purpose of creating the necessary order for cooperation and peace–and this is liberty
(iii) (ii) is given a Hayekian spin
My previous post addressed (ii) and (iii). It didn’t address (i). For starters, I’m the wrong type of libertarian to be a model for (i)–which I gather is supposed to imply morals deduced by means of abstract reasoning. I am more or less a moral non-cognitivist. I do not subscribe to “Natural Rights” nor to the proposition that reason is the source of moral judgements. Reason is a means to secure our moral ends but not source of the ends. So I say, of course, morality is relative; the “value” of moral judgements(“values”) are measured relative to a given moral foundation. A fancy way of stating this is that value judgments V are Statements S that have no truth content.
Now I do subscribe to the “presumption of liberty.” Following Anthony de Jasay, we can say that the “presumption of liberty” is an essential component of logical argument–of constructing an argument–so that an argument for liberty does not necessarily presume a preference for liberty. In this sense, the “presumption of liberty” is not a subjective value judgment.
But to get to the point, there simply is no such thing as “libertarian moral foundations” L. They are shared presumptions, such as the presumption of liberty(if you ascribe to the presumption of innocent before guilty, then you ascribe to it as well…so it’s not just “libertarians”), shared arguments, shared outlooks, but these things do not stem from a single moral foundation L. If we required them to–that everyone share L–then libertarianism would indeed be moral theory and not fit for social application(other than functioning similar to a religious industry).
And the social theory does not require shared moral foundations because JMA is rooted in a strategic calculation regarding cooperation–minimizing the price to be paid to gain the cooperation of others. We empirically verify this everyday with the observation of trade.
So the author’s argument (i) is rejected because the premise is false.
I will re-summarize the argument against (ii). It is flawed both conceptually and empirically. The conceptual flaw is the presupposition of the “order” itself as a static thing or a thing has settled into a final equilibrium. The blogger rejected having his position characterized as a “traditional ought” in terms favoring the order equilibrium. Instead, his claim for this settled thing appealed to its instrumental value regarding the produced consequences of cooperation and peace. The consequences are what he defined as liberty. But this violates the “Presumption of liberty.” The equilibrium is simply an arbitrary stopping point, and a presumption of order(or authority) is placed on any non-approved action disturbing the order. The problem with treating liberty as ends (instead of means) can be aptly demonstrated by Peace and Cooperation operating under a Presumption of Authority. If you click on my link to “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism” and read my brief introductory comments, you see that Orwell was describing a regime whose political and social hierarchy were in eternal equilibrium. This produced the de facto results of peace and cooperation. So, Big Brother would have to be classified as an example of “True Libertarianism.”
The empirical flaw with (ii) is that there is no such thing a single culture or norms C. I’m not merely referring to the different cultures across nations or continents. Any Culture C is composed of embedded subcultures(or counter cultures), each having their own informal set of institutions and norms. The reason I referenced Thaddeus Russell’s work,”A Renegade History of the United States,” is because it directly refuted our blogger’s contention that such things as abortion or homosexuality can only become accepted value norms via the coercive power of the State. Russell’s volume throughly debunks that canard by documenting the cultural norms of a large number of early Americans(the working classes, lower classes and slaves) who did not share the puritan norms. Homosexuality, abortion, interracial sex, drunkenness, leisure were accepted values of these classes. And as Russell chronicles, the governing classes devoted a great deal of concern with forcing these social convention rules regimes to conform with “republican virtues.” The emergent thesis from Russell’s book is that much our social freedoms originated from these alternative social convention regimes. So Russell’s scholarship counts as historical disproof of our blogger’s contention regarding homosexuality and abortion.
The difference between “Liberty is the Mother of Order” and “Liberty is the Daughter of Order” can be cast thusly: (i) the former treats liberty as means and operates according to a presumption of liberty (ii) the latter treats liberty as ends and operates according to a presumption of authority. The first is liberal and libertarian. The second is republican and communitarian. To claim that “true libertarianism” is (a) communitarian and (b) respectful of the presumption of authority is a gross expropriation. Any appeals to some Nirvana fallacy against (i) is rejected as nothing more than a mere Statement that the Status Quo is the final reality.
In anticipation of the blogger Fritz’s objection that his conception of liberty has to count Big Brother within the classification of “true libertarianism,” I will preemptively quote this from his website: “not all social regimes are regimes of liberty. Liberty requires voice — the freedom to dissent — and exit — the freedom to choose one’s neighbors and associates.”
Of course, “exit and voice” in Fritz’s conception are still subject to the presumption of authority. As Fritz himself demonstrates here: Illegal Immigration: A Note to Libertarian Purists
It is anathema to them that the United States exists primarily for the purpose of protecting its citizens and their liberty rights. (Well, it did exist for that purpose originally and for a long time, and it still does to some extent.) Libertarian purists seem to believe that, somehow, defense would be unnecessary and rights would be enforced even if the United States did not exist as a coherent, delimited entity. Good luck with that!
Exit and Voice operate under a presumption of authority that places a burden on the exerciser that the exercise of these “rights” does not disrupt the existence of the State as a coherent, delimited entity. Chuck Schumer would absolutely concur…
1 Please note: liberal and republican refer to the respective political philosophies/traditions and not to partisan politics or parties.
Steve Horwitz recently issued a challenge for libertarians regarding federal recognition of same-sex marriage. I’m not opposed to the recognition, but I would stress an important caveat to not conflate such recognition with justice. Horwitz’s point of emphasis on “equality before the law” is incomplete. There is an underlying problem regarding justice that we should remain cognizant of: namely, the oft necessity of restitution.
For example, if a bully daily beats the shit out of you, the correction of this injustice is not merely the cessation of the beatings. The correction should also entail full restitution for past harm. Merely being recognized to avoid future beatings simply means the bully moves on to beat up on other targets. Full restitution on the part of the bully to fully compensate it’s victims for previous harm likely puts the bully out of business as well the institution that enabled it.
The analogy is clear. Recognition by the tax code(and/or legal code) does nothing to stop the use of the tax code to bully behavior. Recognition is not actually a correction of injustice because without restitution, the institutional pattern continues. One obvious conclusion is that recognition does not satisfy a sufficiency condition for justice.
Bastiat’s “The Law” is the libertarian guide regarding law and justice. Law is force; justice is the absence of injustice. The correction of injustice is what justice is. Hence, there can be no justice without a proper correction. In this sense, “libertarian justice” provides a “thicker” dialectic vis a vis “equality before the law” than simple procedural liberalism. Equality before the law without justice is still a libertarian violation.
We can instructively and properly apply libertarian justice to an issue that almost always seems to trip up libertarians: the “Civil Rights Act.” Libertarian opposition to this legislative act(more precisely, the Title II component) is often used to discredit the libertarian position. Frankly, I think the typical libertarian position, which usually stops at a repeal of the Jim Crow Laws and a recognition of “equality before the law,” is one that is worthy of scorn. It is an example of Equality before the law without justice. And it is a libertarian violation. The correct libertarian position, one that is rarely, if ever, articulated, would be a “Civil Reparations Act,” one that attached proper restitution with “equality before the law.” A proper restitution would not have left the corrupt institutions that enforced the “Jim Crows” unaltered and intact. The libertarian justice objection to the Title II provision is that its “injunctive relief” to enforce an equitable remedy going forward for previous State-enforced discrimination is not justice. It left the corrupt institutions intact, and then chartered these same corrupt institutions with new legal powers to treat people and property as means to enforce moral ends. It’s little wonder that a “new Jim Crow” sprang up in the immediate aftermath–the drug war–justified by the same “commerce clause” that legally sanctions the enforcement of Title II. Reinventing the law to serve moral ends as means to equitably remedy injustice is a type of libertarian violation pilloried in Bastiat’s legal treatise.
Recognition without justice can begin to drift toward a de facto communitarian position, if you are not careful. Soon, you will begin debating the the necessary liberal constraints on recognition, which, of course, is what the debate turns to in Horwitz’s follow-up post(in this case: polygamy). Horwitz inadvertently is demonstrating Charles Taylor’s(the communitarian political philosopher) contention why liberalism suffers from a recognition problem. Horwitz is repeating Taylor’s argument:
(i) that recognition is a product of competitive mutual exchange
(ii) recognition is a recursive function of other’s recognition
(iii) recursion convergence for minority cultures, in a “classically neutral liberal system,” is “no recognition.”
Because Taylor, as a communitarian, has a more dialectical view of individual identity as a product of social context, identity is not really possible without recognition. Hence, Taylor argued that procedural liberalism could not accommodate minority identity. Horwitz, in a sense, validates Taylor’s argument. Although Horwitz doesn’t share Taylors communitarian notion of identity and self, Horwitz, nonetheless, in divorcing recognition from justice, is arguing that procedural liberalism will deny recognition to a certain set of minority identity, which thus denies “equality before the law” to same set, thus invalidating the neutrality, or the procedural rule, of “equality before the law.”
Horwitz demonstrates that the conclusion of arguing recognition on the basis of the procedural rule of “equality before the law” is the denial of the procedural rule.
This article was originally published at Freedom Democrats.
Regarding this post that expressed some discomfort with the my use of the term “communitarianism” in discussing a return of radical politics, I would like to clarify a few points. First, Communitarianism, just as, say, the term libertarianism, can mean different things to different people, so let me take this time to state that by communitarianism, I’m generally not referring to non-propertarian forms of voluntary governance. The disputes between individualist and communitarian anarchists are another thing entirely, totally divorced from any context of political discussions. For the record, however, I will state that I’m a bit of centrist when it comes to these type of intellectual debates; although I take an obvious individualist approach, I nonetheless believe that social orders that have a rich concept of public property(i.e., the commons) better serve the cause of liberty. Now, of course, by public property, I do not mean “collective property,” by which it is meant property that some ruling class defines the limits,duties, etc for access. But my criticisms of, say, noted communitarian Michael Taylor’s Community, Anarchy, and Liberty, is another post for another day, and frankly, that mode of communitarianism, that is, stateless communities, has never been the ire of my keyboard on this site.
The form of communitarianism that does raise my ire is “the community as the State.” Specifically:
I’m referring to (1) the influence of an academic movment that gained prominence in countering the academic treatment of liberal justice by John Rawls, and to a lesser extent, the more radical ideas against any distributive justice by the likes of Robert Nozick (2) the denial of any univeralism, particularly the denial of any negative rights, and that rights, instead, are positive derivations of duties or commitments (3) these duties and commitments are impersonally grounded in cultural institutions (4) legislatures should be accurate reflections of these cultural institutions.
In a sense, communitarianism, in political terms, is a form of “republicanism,” with a heavy reliance on cultural institutions to define the regime of duties, commitments, obligations, from which then flow a regime of rights. Consider this old post from last year, Sign the Divorce Papers, where I criticize Open Left’s 3rd rate pop-communitarian rhetoric regarding liberalism being a “central component of a dominant racial ideology;” in essence, liberalism is just a white man’s construct for social dominance. Now, Steven Kelts, who was fresh off of proclaiming the “Death of Libertarianism” at the time over at The Monkey Cage, took time to comment on my post. Kelts, unlike the 3rd-rate pontificators at Open Left, is actually a 1st rate intellect. Read his comment to my post. He didn’t think much of left-wing libertarianism or counter-culture. Of course, for a communitarian like Kelts, counter-culture is a real problem. Counter-culture represents counter-institutions that fall outside the politically-sanctioned institutions from which our duties, and as a corollary, our rights are supposed to flow. Thus the problem, and hence, the frosty attitude the likes of Kelts may express toward such, even though Kelts is supposed to be, and would consider himself, a “lefty.”
In my post regarding Radical Politics, my reference to politics becoming “more communitarian” as a result of 60s radicalism was not a reference to corporatism per se. Corporatism is the granting of market privedge or monopoly by the State. By communitarian, I meant something different, specifically, the birth of cultural identity politics in the aftermath of Big Government Corporate Liberalism failure and the resultant political fight over the shaping of cultural institutions, which, in large part, superceded the class politics that had originally spawned corporate liberalism. Politics became much more of a cultural war. In the aftermath of 60s radicalism and counter-culture was it now the function of the State to “preserve and protect Christianity as the so-called moral foundation of western civilization” or to instead promote gender and ethnic institutional diversity?
So Republicans, in running for national office, would have to placate evangelical groups(get their approval) before running and the same, likewise, when it came to the Dems, who would have to secure approval from women’s groups, african-american leaders, gay organizations, etc.
So, this is what I mean by left-wing or right-wing communitarianism. However, communitarian politics is largely behind what has steadily spurned a long term trend of voter independence from either party. The term “moving to the center” really refers to politicians from either party distancing themselves from the very cultural idendity groups that they had to secure approval from in the first place to be a viable party candidate.
From a libertarian class analysis perspective, communitarian politics, whether left-wing or right-wing, is a red-herring concerning the public choice incentives that actually drive governance and legislation. That is, the never-ending incentives to create Tullock Auction artificial rents for bidding. That’s why I called the choice between the Dems and the Repubs a Morton’s Fork of sorts.
It’s interesting to actually review the end results of communitarian politics 40 years later. Prayer breakfasts are now a staple of the political class, but popular culture today, nonetheless, makes 60s popular look quaint and conservative. The Nixon Drug War, intended as enforcement against hippie counter-culture “poisoning” the suburban teenage middle class, back fired in the end, sowing the seeds of a black hip-hop counter-culture, born out of that drug war, that influenced white middle class teenage suburban culture 20 years later to an extent that would have horrified Nixon and probably would make his brain implode. Counter-culture, and even pop culture, took on aspects of prison chic.
For the left-wing communitarians, they got their diversified political and cultural institutions, including a prison system, of course, that greatly expanded it’s institutional population and minority ethnic representation, therein.
To anyone not emotionally tied to partisan politics, communitarian politics has run it’s course. Frankly, it’s become a bad joke. It was bad enough having to witness so-called conservatives who viewed the Reno-Clinton “War on Terror” proposed legislative paradigm in the 90s as a means for gun-grabbing, then, suddenly expropriate it in the aftermath of 9-11 as means to beat up on Democrats as unpatriotic. Now, we have to watch Barack Obama expropriate a Republican Health Care plan and turn Democrats and so-called liberals into ardent defenders of an IRS enforced mandate to buy corporate health insurance and to smear anyone who opposes it as racist or sympathizers of Jim Crow. In case anyone has forgotten, choice was a major campaign issue between Obama and Clinton, with Obama even running a “Harry and Louise” ads against HillaryCare at the time. But now, choice is not even a “right-wing talking point;” now it’s all of a sudden a “Jim Crow” talking point.
I would emphasize not to pay much attention to the tripe of the mainstream political pundit class. It’s wrong, it’s been wrong. Let me clue you in: when an extremist like David Frum, the speech architect of “the Axis of Evil” is being protrayed as some rejected voice of moderation by the Beltway elite, I just have to laugh. I wouldn’t put much stock either in what Ed Kilgore has to say, or what the New Republic has to say, recalling the nitwits at the New Republic were shilling for a values voter embrace of Terri Schiavo by the Dem Party back in 2005.
Listen, the Beltway wisdom called the anti-war movement “moonbat,” and proclaimed that if it was perceived as partisan, it would make the Dems unelectable. Well, the visible anti-war movement was in fact, more or less partisan, but it also foreshadowed an independent anti-war trend underneath. The Tea Parties can be called partisan, which they are, but they also likewise underly a legitimate disgust with American politics.
I read the Obama Coalition at the Atlantic. Thomas Edsall’s thesis, similar to mine, is that communitarian politics, that is, the politics that supplanted the FDR coalition, has run it’s course as well. Edsall essentially maintains that a Public Choice economy, one characterized by systemic unemployment, increasing disparity between haves and have nots, opulent benefits of a bureaucratic class, etc is going to revitalize the “FDR coalition.” Essentially, you have an economy where many won’t be able to afford anything without being subsidized, hence the dependency that will force the new FDR realignment along economic class interests.
Now my thesis is that a Public Choice economy is going to shake things up as well, but, contra Edsall, it might be more along the lines of this. While I’m not predicting the return of the guillotine, the radical politics that will emerge will be rooted in the old french class political analysis. Whereas Edsall views the corporatist caste economy signaling a return to 1939, I see it as signaling a return back to 1889. A flaw in Edsall’s prediction is that 21st century is not going to be the American Century. Post WWII Bretton Woods is long dead and gone. The center of Finance Capitalism is moving to Asia. “Financial Reform,” which is really just preserving a capital caste system that will increasingly lose it’s international sphere of influence, actually is the final death knell of the FDR legacy. Historians will look back at TARP, the bailouts, and this “reform” as the end of the American Century. Without the primacy of American Finance Capitalism, there is no FDR legacy to resurrect. Under caste corporatism that loses such a privilege, these “subsidies” to manufacture political coalitions aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. The talk of “immigration reform” today is going to be supplanted by the talk of “American brain drain” in the future. In time, we will see who is right…
Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.
The bill didn’t make to the floor but was sent back to committee. It will make it’s way back to the floor the next congressional session.
The Drug Policy Alliance may refer to the Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2010 as a sneaky Drug War bill, but I would use a different adjective to describe this abomination. Written by Republican Drug Warrior and co-sponsored by a Democratic Drug Warrior, this bill, which has exactly the one co-sponsor, has nonetheless been fast-tracked by House Democrats for a vote today. Ah, yes, the Democrats, the party of social liberalism. My ass. Let’s look at the bill’s overview.
To amend the Controlled Substances Act to clarify that persons who enter into a conspiracy within the United States to possess or traffic illegal controlled substances outside the United States, or engage in conduct within the United States to aid or abet drug trafficking outside the United States, may be criminally prosecuted in the United States, and for other purposes.
So, the Controlled Substances Act will essentially be amended to extend it’s jurisdiction over Americans across the globe. Conspiring with a buddy to sample the rich herb in Amsterdam will get you arrested in the United States even before you can get on the plane(or get you arrested upon your return). This goes beyond mere proto-fascism and extends into outright fascism. This is a legal principle that underlies all authoritarian governments, the principle being that you are under a total jurisdictional authority of the Mother/Father State. Back in the day, communist comrades who, for whatever reason, were allowed to venture abroad, would then “disappear” upon their return if they were deemed to have too injudiciously sampled “the freedoms” of their foreign host countries. At stake was the very principle of the authority of the Total State itself.
It should be noted that this bill is expected to pass the house despite having only one co-sponsor, in part because both the Dems and Repubs are utterly captive to the Drug War State, and, in part, because the idea of America being a “safe harbor” for anyone looking to have a good time is offensive to the official moral sensibilities of our puritanical congress critters. And, once again, the Drug War is perhaps the best empirical demonstration of libertarian class conflict. The actions of the ruling class are so flagrant, so despicable, that they can’t be obfuscated by DoubleThink, at least to any person who has any rooting in empirical reality.
So people will bitch and they will become cynical, but, in the end, they will acquiesce to the political reality of the Total State. And they will adjust their lives accordingly. And the move toward the “Pink Police State” becomes inexorable. The Pink Police State is a condition of rule/authority where official life is conservative, militaristic and operates according to a DoubleThink Reality but where unofficial life is not so conservative and it operates more in accordance with empirical reality. In unofficial life, there is no culture war, but in official life, it rages unabatedly, so restricting the political vocabulary that the only reality can be DoubleThink. Everyone’s unofficial life makes them a criminal in official life. Thus the fear and cynicism that will grow regarding the government and particularly the Stasi intelligence and enforcement arms of it. But there will be no challenge to this political reality1. And this is the end game of liberalism in the United States….
1 I should say no ideological challenge. The only challenge is essentially communitarian: e.g, a more “diverse” police force; “open service” in the military, etc.
Christine O’Donnell at the Values Voter Summit:
“When I talk to people out on the campaign trail in Delaware, I’m hearing frustration, not only with the direction our country is headed but with the anti-Americanism that taints every outlet of the ruling class. Americans want our leaders to defend our values, our culture, our legacy of liberty and our way of life, not apologize.”
My, someone has been reading Andrew Codevilla. In retrospect, what Joe Biden called the “Summer of Recovery” turned out to be the “Summer of Codevilla.” Codevilla’s little essay is being pumped into the conservative borg by the likes of Limbaugh and Beck and faxed into the brains of candidates by GOP operatives. Now I wouldn’t be surprised if Codevilla’s essay sits on the desk of Mitch McConnell. If you wonder why there is an “enthusiasm gap” between the GOP and the Dems, well one side is dancing around with rhetoric of class conflict in their heads while the other is being asked to rally around a logo.
However, as pointed out previously on this blog, Codevilla’s essay is not an accurate deconstruction of class conflict. Rather, it’s merely serving to reinvigorate the culture war. That sucker just won’t die.
For fun, let’s take some artistic license with O’Donnell’s quote and rewrite it a bit:
“When I talk to people out on the campaign trail in Delaware, I’m hearing frustration, not only with the direction our country is headed but with the anti-Plutocratic sentiment that taints every outlet of the Plutocracy. Americans want our Plutocrats to defend our values, our culture, our legacy of liberty and our way of life, not apologize.”
Rewritten, O’Donnell’s quote becomes laughable, and everyone would laugh at it. That’s because the language is clear. The first quote, of course, is saying the same nonsensical thing, but the clarity of language is being destroyed by the introduction of cultural war terms like “anti-american” and “leader” so that which should be nonsensical is instead conveying a cultural war meaning. This is how language destroys ideology.
I hate to keep harping on Orwell, but he accurately foretold the predicament we now find ourselves in. In Orwellian theory, it doesn’t matter who wields the power as long as the institutions, the hierarchies remain unchanged. The persistence of the Oligarchy is maintained by the manipulation of the language that reduces the meaning of language and restricts the vocabulary. In this way, language becomes incapable of expressing any consistent ideology that can challenge the ruling class. Language then becomes the tool of the ruling class.
Now in Orwell’s literature, the State’s ability to control information resulted in a “NewSpeak” that made “doublethink” the only cognitive reality. In the real world, because of a number of things such as information economics, language is not necessarily dominated by NewSpeak. But in the political dialogue, there is a certain restriction of vocabulary and certain domination of Newspeak and DoubleThink.
In political debate dominated by an endless war between right and left communitarians(that is, by an endless culture war), we end up with a quite limited “acceptable political vocabulary” infested with NewSpeak and DoubleThink. In Orwellian theory, this allows an oligarchy to thrive. The Political Newspeak and DoubleThink don’t allow a consistent ideological challenge to emerge. It can’t be expressed in such a limited vocabulary and it ends being seen as almost alien. This is what leads the likes of Andrew Sullivan to write that libertarians don’t live in political reality. To that I plead guilty because “political reality” is a limited cognitive reality plagued by DoubleThink. To me, it’s a trivial exercise to point out how many “serious political writers” engage in DoubleThink. I occasionally write commentary pointing this out in specific cases, but there are not enough hours in the day.
Another way this endless culture war conforms to Orwellian theory is that in an endless battle to de-legitimize each other, each side attempts to rewrite history in terms of today’s limited political categories. So one side will attempt to cast, say, Thomas Paine as a “Mike Lux Progressive” while the other side will cast the “founding fathers” as “Rush Limbaugh Christian Conservatives.” In Orwellian theory, the rewriting of history was necessary for the ruling class to maintain a permanent enemy. In the culture war, the drive by each side to rewrite history is one of the things that keeps the culture war going.
Political Commentators are a dime a dozen and each has their own pet theory of what drives politics. But personally, I would stick to Orwell. I think he nailed it pretty well. In our current context, we just have to tweak it a bit it to make it an accurate model. The endless left-right culture wars creates a restricted political vocabulary dominated by Newspeak and DoubleThink that allows a thriving Plutocracy to go ideologically unchallenged in the political sphere. The Permanent war economy that underlies the Plutocracy is a sign of catastrophic liberal institutional failure; historically, permanent war is what lead to modern class theory. For the plutocracy, the class conflict is the old-time class conflict. The Permanent war is against any non-political ideological challenge to the Status Quo.
For those libertarians who were praising Codevilla’s essay, well I present you Christine O’Donnell. The conventional wisdom, articulated by those subsumed by “political reality,” is that she represents a civil war among the establishment. I don’t think so. I think she is a Plutocrat’s wet dream.
Writes Jonah Goldberg at the end his LA Times article regarding the Glenn Beck rally:
I confess, if Beck wasn’t a libertarian, I would find his populism terrifying. But his basic message, flaws notwithstanding, is that our constitutional heritage largely defines us as a people, regardless of race, religion or creed. Is that so insulting to Martin Luther King Jr.’s memory?
Well, Beck isn’t a libertarian, so I suppose, following Goldberg’s caveat, one should start considering running for the hills. Perhaps I’m made to look the fool when writing such things as this in the past and then find instead a politics emerging around a Glenn Beck vs Al Sharpton paradigm. God is indeed a comedian.
The Beck “Restoring Honor” rally was a gathering of this “country class” that Angelo Codevilla wrote about this past summer. Surprisingly, many(although not all) libertarians heaped effusive praise on Codevilla’s treatment. Robert Higgs, for example, called Codevilla’s essay
the best one of the most intelligent characterizations(see comments) of American Political class conflict that he has ever read. The writers at LewRockwell.com were unanimous with their accolades. However, at the time, I criticized Codevilla’s piece on the grounds that it largely wove a superficial libertarian narrative of class conflict over a familiar refrain of right-wing communitarian politics. In other words, it was just a new shade of lip stick on the same pig(the culture war).
The short intervening time that has since transpired I think makes a case for the more critical assessment of Codevilla’s essay. The sensibilities of this “country class” are at the very heart of the political class’ exploitation of the “ground zero mosque controversy.” And Beck’s “Restoring Honor” extravaganza was but a large congregation to exhort God,Country, and the Military. And the country class’ attempted expropriation of right-communitarian MLK doesn’t pass the historical smell test. The post 1963-I Have a Dream-King became much more left-wing and radical, particularly with respect to war. King’s Beyond Vietnam speech, where he called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” would have been the more relevant speech to commemorate. Of course, that would have made the Beck rally an anti-war rally. But that would have been an affront to the thoroughly nationalistic “country class.”
Daniel Larison, writing in the pages of The American Conservative, takes issue with the libertarian critique of the Beck rally. To Larison I will reply that I don’t take issue with “religion in the public square,” but I do take issue with a religious overcoat of nationalism in the public square. Do you really think the problem today is not enough Jesus in politics or that border security lies at the root of our corrupt political economy? I have written on many a previous occasion that I would have a much more positive outlook on the “Tea Parties” if it were synthesized with anti-war sentiment. So, for example, I will write a generally positive review of such things as the John Dennis-Matt Gonzalez anti-war rally. But it only drew around a thousand participants, a measly number compared to the numbers drawn to the Beck-Palin Come to Jesus political rally.
Larison extends his argument to question whether the libertarian conception of liberty is so narrow and restrictive so as to exclude any conservatives. Here, I think Larison perhaps misses an important point: the libertarian conception of liberty is not really the same as the conservative conception. Larison appeals to a Greek Goddess to explain his ideal of “good order” while the libertarian appeals to Proudhon’s famous dictum. “Republican order” and the order of radical liberalism(or radical socialism) are not in any way the same thing. To the extent that libertarianism becomes involved with politics(and in such a case, it’s really a misnomer to call it libertarianism; it should be then referred to as liberalism), there then is often overlap, particularly around opposition to arbitrary power political institutions(the radical libertarian, however, will say that the very art of politics is often the creation of arbitrary power). But the sphere of political overlap can be restricted, particularly if culture,nationalism, or religion are used to influence “lawful order” that is necessary for the so-called “good order.” Libertarianism, outside of politics, however, is a different animal in terms of social theory. In such a case, order is an emergent property of an underlying, voluntary contractual arrangement. As a social theory, libertarianism should never be thought of as restrictive or dogmatic. It should be thought of terms of being a theory of a polycentric order.
Although I consider myself a liberal, I’m not a social democrat because I consider politics to be much more about legitimizing means to steal other people’s money than about solving coordination problems. This observation thus makes me a liberal and a libertarian. In my opinion, a libertarian is someone who embraces liberal ends, both in terms of liberty and egalitarianism, while rejecting political means. The so-called “social contract” is nothing more than political mysticism invoked to justify legal theft.
Okay, that’s the libertarian position. You can be a liberal and reject such a libertarian critique against politics. That is, you can be a liberal and a social democrat. I will concede that point. However, you really can’t be a social democrat if you reject the legitimacy of political viewpoints that differs from your own, or reject the legitimacy of any political opposition that you consider “unreasonable.” In such a case, you need to take “democrat” out of “social democrat,” leaving just “social,” which is something that has some bad implications historically concerning the exercise of power.
If political adversaries are monsters, then exactly how can you advocate for “social democracy?”
Let me reference Rachel Maddow’s review:
It isn’t possible to understand American politics now without understanding the worldview and arguments of Markos Moulitsas.
Is American politics understood as a brave struggle of the peoples’ Democratic Party against the illegitimacy of conservative politics, or is Kos’ book more of a partisan hack ripoff of an opposing hack’s laughable diatribe(Jonah Goldberg) to convince us that the American political struggle is kos’ ability to retain his status as an inner party profiteer? And let’s not overlook Maddow herself, who has enjoyed her own little ride from so-called progressive war critic to Inner Party Pravda cheerleader for the State war machine.
I’m not a social democrat because I damn well know that what is in kos’, maddow’s, pelosi’s, obama’s, bush’s, cheney’s, limbaugh’s, o’reilly’s best interest is not in my own best interest. And it’s a scary thought to ponder the world’s greatest military empire being underlain by this profitable, competitive politics of illegitimacy.
Gene Callahan, a former scholar at the Mises Institute and libertarian writer, has apparently repudiated libertarianism. Granted, I’m not at all that familiar with his work, but his critiques of libertarianism(he calls himself a recovering ideologue) are popping up in the libertarian blogs I read, so I decided to take a gander at his blog, Crash Landing. I found two entries that perhaps summarize his new found beef with libertarianism. The first being his latest entry, Obligation, the second being Confessions of Recovering Ideologue, Part I.
Let’s look at his “Obligation” post. He writes:
Obligation is the crucial idea denied by libertarian political theory. We can have obligations that we did not agree to take upon ourselves.
Here is David Walsh on that fact:
“The political is never merely an option, for we are embedded in a network of obligations before we even begin. This was the weak point of all social contract explanations of civil society, with their inevitable implication of the arbitrariness of a state founded on individual choice. Kant reminds us of the extent to which the state provides the conditions for the exercise of free choice and is thus beyond the realm of choice. We are obliged to support the political constitution under whose order we exist, not because we derive benefits from it or because we have given our consent, but because it is part of the order of being.” — The Modern Philosophical Revolution, p. 62.
Well, it’s true that Libertarian Justice, for the most part, is thin when it comes to impersonal duties–that is duties or obligations owed to no one–and primarily is concerned with enforcement, or dispute resolution, with respect to personal duties, that is, duties owed to each other. Callahan’s assertion that libertarianism denies obligations is not really correct. It is, no doubt true, however, that libertarianism is pretty skeptical about impersonal duty of obedience to the current political order, as if it were some law of nature. That’s why libertarianism is properly understood to be a left-wing political theory, and not a conservative one.
In “Confessions of a Recovering Ideologue,” Callahan states his objection to “Ideological Anarchism,” sees no distinction in the violence underlying enforcement of private property rights or the territorial property of the State, and blames anarchism for undermining the modern State.
But anarchism is just a mutant strain of the ideological bacillus that is causing the rapid degeneration of most modern societies. It is certainly not the cure for its fellow bacilli. Rather, the anarchist depiction of the State as nothing more than a street gang only serves to increase the amount of State coercion. The actual way forward towards a less coercive society consists not in de-legitimizing the State, but in legitimizing it, in other words, promoting voluntary compliance with the State’s laws in so far as they are just, and working to change them peacefully in so far as they are not. To the extent that anarchists recommend the State be ignored they thwart the former movement, and to the extent anarchists scorn participation in the current political process they prevent the latter.
In a sense, Callahan’s argument, in the above post, mirrors the the Mark Lilla argument the made the rounds at the same time, namely that libertarianism was the blame for the dysfunctional modern State. Lilla pinned the blame on the merging of the hippie counter culture with “free market economics.”
Callahan’s critique against libertarianism, from his point of view, I think boils down to his assertion that there is an impersonal duty to obey the State for the most part, and where the State is “unjust,” work through the system to change the laws. The NAP argument, or “coercion” argument” against the State is rejected by Callahan because he views the same type of coercion underlying enforcement of property rights. A Libertarian class critique of the political order is dismissed because the informal institutions of culture suffer from the same problems.
From my point of view, however, Callahan’s defense of the State is largely construed from pointing out “weaknesses” in libertarianism. However, I would point out that I can make a stronger case for libertarianism by pointing out the weaknesses of the State, particularly the evolving National Security State. Callahan can talk about obligations to obey the State, but what about any obligation not to remove yourself from the jurisdiction of the State. Callahan is silent on this, but libertarianism is not silent, because “right of exit” is fundamental to any libertarian political theory, and is the “ultimate out” when dealing with political or social failure. The Evolving national Security State is more or less moving to crush this right.
Callahan’s communitarian justification of the State has some glaring weaknesses. In his “Obligations” post, he resorts to making a social institutional claim for the legitimacy of the State, but in his earlier post regarding “Ideology,” he rants about the cultural scourge that is undercutting this very legitimacy. Blame this on whatever you want to blame it on, but Callahan’s rants against libertarianism destroying this underlying cultural legitimacy doesn’t exactly solve the “communitarian dilemma” here. Finally, Callahan’s appeal to some “Kantian” duty to obey the State is belied by the simple fact that he can’t, in practice, obey it. He is a criminal; he is guilty everyday of committing multiple federal crimes, just as all of us are. This is the empirical reality of the liberal “rule of law.” Hobbes, in his social contract theory, dismissed politics in lieu of the “leviathan” because of the prospect of positive law, which he advocated, being in the hands of a political ruling class. Callahan, in the end, like the rest of us, mutters his prayers nightly to whatever god of choice that he doesn’t become the object of the aggressive, arbitrary prosecutorial power of the State. If he claims he doesn’t, then he must feel himself privileged among men.
There is no libertarian obligation to be resigned to the fact that you are a criminal…
I imagine Bryan Caplan would be chuckling at this. My response would be more along the lines of “this is what communitarian politics looks like.” I think communitarian politics is a bit of a luxury, however. When the reality of this begins to take hold under our tightening corporate plutocracy, I think we’ll start to see something a bit different.