Why I am a Left Libertarian

I was recently read this little exchange between Bryan Caplan and Roderick Long regarding libertarianism and equality. Caplan uses it as an opportunity to once again recapitulate his objections to this thing called “left” + “libertarianism.” In Caplan’s mind, microeconomics is the inconvenience that dooms the left libertarian critique. I don’t think so.

IMHO, the differences between “left libertarians” and “libertarians” are more methodological than conceptual. For example, the “Left Libertarian” approach is usually firmly rooted in “class analysis” and often, to a large extent, “dialectical thickness,” the latter used both to examine the implied coercion of socio-cultural contexts and synthesize egalitarianism consistent with libertarian rights theory. Many “libertarians,” including Caplan, simply reject this type of approach. Indeed, Caplan rejects much of traditional class theory. Instead, Caplan hangs his hat on his “Rational Irrational” voter theory which holds that the government we end up with is more or less the government that most want. So, much of Big Government intervention is indeed preferred by most and skewed towards them. In this sense, Caplan is aligned with the traditional view of the Democratic Party regarding intervention. Where he differs with them is that he views this preferred intervention not as a means to “equalize outcomes” but rather as means to keep Standford-Binet High IQers from their just financial rewards. Cue up Caplan’s Revenge of the Nerds Class Theory.

Writes Caplan:

Notice: For financial success, the main measure where nerds now excel, governments make quite an effort to equalize differences. But on other margins of social success, where many nerds still struggle, laissez-faire prevails.
It’s suspicious – and if you combine the Jock/Nerd Theory with some evolutionary psych, it makes sense. When the best hunter in the tribe gets rich, his neighbors will probably ask nicely for a share, if they dare to ask at all. But if the biggest nerd in the tribe gets rich, how long will it take before the jocks show up and warn him that “You’d better share and share alike”?

Punchline: Through the lens of the Jock/Nerd Theory of History, the welfare state doesn’t look like a serious effort to “equalize outcomes.” It looks more like a serious effort to block the “revenge of the nerds” – to keep them from using their financial success to unseat the jocks on every dimension of social status.

It’s fair to say Caplan has an IQ fetish that pokes through in his writings from time to time. For Caplan, Stanford-Binet IQ remains the single best predictor of one’s future lot in life. Here Caplan is seemingly aligned with the old-time, staunch “progressive” educational thinking(“IQ” is more or less a “progressive” invention). But he goes further, often using how many standard deviations one scores from the statistical mean in a relatively simple test of completing progressions in numerical sequences or completing verbal analogies as the unifying causative principle in such classical concepts as comparative advantage. Silly me…my understanding of comparative advantage is that it explains trade as a function of opportunity costs. Casting comparative advantage as Stanford-Binet Low IQers doing menial work so as to allow Stanford-Binet High-IQers to pursue their intellectual gifts is pretty bogus. That’s not what comparative advantage means. Are such things like professional tenure, barrier of entry restrictions for highly-paid professionals, closed shops, special privileges based on seniority, government subsidies, etc(all characteristics of so-called high IQ, high income earner groups) explained by comparative advantage or public choice? When so-called Stanford-Binet High IQers have stupid ideas on such topics as economics or population control, they are not, as Caplan suggests, High-IQ misanthropes; rather, they are just plain stupid. That is to say, they lack the the high-end cognitive ability to make intelligent contributions in a specific field that they are nonetheless being highly paid for. Are these morons really explained by comparative advantage or is, perhaps, public choice a better explanation?

The problem with Caplan and his overriding thesis is that, IMHO, it’s pretty difficult to measure something that is not actually understood. And we don’t understand human intelligence, certainly not in any evolutionary sense. Caplan’s empirical observations that highly correlate income with Progressive institutional measurement of “IQ”– given that being credentialed with a progressive education is a significant barrier entry to the “high-income” workplace, and that the status of one’s credential is, of course, in large part, a determination of how this progressive educational system measures your ‘fitness,” that is, your IQ–may only be an exercise in selection bias. If education were merely solving a “signaling problem,” then why has it become so prohibitively expensive, requiring more and more massive government subsidies to attain this barrier of entry certification into high-income employment? Riddle me that, batman.

Caplan mocked to a degree the left-libertarian critique of the landlord-tenant contract, but I would suggest that Caplan’s microeconomic explanation of why the corporate world has instituted, say, prohibitive privacy-invasive drug screening and testing–workers gladly accept this double-standard because it raises their wages–is comically laughable. Without old-school libertarian class analysis, Caplan is forced to conclude, based on his microeconomic analysis, that such things as the National security State must dramatically raise wages. This is because we supposedly have a relatively meritorious capitalist free market and workers will only accept this dramatic invasion of privacy if it nonetheless dramatically raises wages. Yeah, right…

The National Security State is not just the State. As Nick Turse points out in his book, The Complex, the National Security State is very much a joint public-private enterprise. And Caplan’s political economic model of the Rational-Irrational Voter along with his microeconomic analyses devoid of dialectics(context), all tied together by some school boy Jock-Nerd model of the State, can’t explain any of this. Indeed, Caplan is Exhibit A of the incoherence of libertarianism sundered from the ideological rigor of class conflict.

As BrainPolice wrote in this essay, What is Left-Libertarianism, Left-Libertarianism is a reclamation of the historical libertarian heritage of liberalism and anarchism. It’s the old school version of libertarianism. In the context of catastrophic liberal institutional failure, the only ideological struggle is class conflict. And the only consistent political theory of class conflict is libertarianism, the old school version of it. And that is why I am a Left Libertarian.

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Nothing Outside the State…The Drug War Going Totalitarian?

Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.
Benito Mussolini

Update
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.

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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.

A Note on Dinesh D’Souza

Back in July, in my post, No Political Gods, I noted the Dinesh D’Souza vs Doug Casey debate at FreedomFest regarding the positive role of religion. Of course, it should be evident which side the respective debaters were taking. Reports are that the attendees overwhelming sided with D’Souza. And I further noted that this indicated to me that FreedomFest was more or less a conservative event.

Some might have taken exception to that, but to me, events keep vindicating the little value of conservatism from a radical libertarian perspective. As Sheldon Richman writes: Dinesh D’Souza has gone over the edge by peddling this nonsense of Obama’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial worldview” that has since been picked up by Newt Gingrich.

Quoting Gingrich:

I think Obama gets up every morning with a worldview that is fundamentally wrong about reality,” Gingrich says. “If you look at the continuous denial of reality, there has got to be a point where someone stands up and says that this is just factually insane.

One thing I’m noticing these days is that “reality denial” is starting to creep into the language of the political and media classes. I don’t think this by accident. So when Richman writes that D’Souza is in “denial,” I don’t really think so. I think he is quite cognizant of what he is doing. As I have written in a bunch of previous posts, the culture war drives a restricted political vocabulary dominated by Newspeak and DoubleThink that excludes empirical reality from acceptable political debate. Political Reality is a DoubleThink Reality. And DoubleThink Reality destroys ideology. If you thought the “Tea Party” was at one time libertarian, it’s certainly clear that it is not now. Whatever ideology it may have once had has now been destroyed.

This is how DoubleThink reality works. A President declares an end to a war that has not actually ended. His “political enemies” accuse him of having a “Kenyan, anti-colonial worldview” despite the fact that he perpetuates and increases the permanent wars. Each side accuses the other of insanity for refusing to accept the other’s DoubleThink reality. This is a political reality that quite effectively excludes any rational critique tied to empirical reality. As Orwell wrote in “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism,” doublethink is “reality control.”

For those libertarians who cheered D’Souza, understand what you are cheering. As of now, we don’t have to engage in the irrational world of Doublethink, where the political class gets to invent their own realities out of thin air(unfortunately, we do have to bear the burdens of these “realities”); but the same culture war that makes ending the permanent wars impossible also makes repealing the Stasi intelligence State impossible. What do you think these fuckers do in the end? In the end, what is the permanent war actually against? It is against any ideological challenge to the Status Quo.

Jacob Weisberg’s DoubleThink

Time to point out some more DoubleThink from the Political Left. Here, Jacob Weisberg’s recent ruminations will do. Let’s review his recent article: The Right’s New Left . The Tea Party movement has two defining traits: status anxiety and anarchism.

To some extent it’s a ripoff of an old David Brooks’ article that characterized the Tea Party as the Right’s version of the New Left. I critiqued that Brooks’ article here. Weisberg makes the same mistake as Brooks, conflating the ‘New Left” with hippie counter-culture. They weren’t the same thing. But this allows Weisberg to cast the “political left” as being about “youth” and cool music. You know, the change is “forward-looking.” In contrast, the political right is a bunch of old white geeezers who are looking back to an era of “capitalism” that never existed. Misplaced nostalgia. Well, frankly, I think he is correct to point this out, but this rather important fact apparently didn’t dissuade him from writing The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism Marks the End Of Libertarianism a few years ago. For Weisberg, the historical reality of Laissez Faire Capitalism apparently is dependent on what political argument he is attempting to make.

Now I think Weisberg is largely correct about “status anxiety” of many Tea Partiers, but I also get the feeling that Weisberg suffers from his own status anxiety at the thought of the GOP regaining control. In terms of the Tea party being anarchistic, I would will only say that there are about as anarchistic as Weisberg. No doubt, they are likely revulsed at the idea of Jacob Weisberg telling them what to do, but they probably don’t have any particular revulsion about telling Jacob Weisberg what to do. Likewise, Weisberg, though disparaging Tea Party obedience would, nonetheless likely soften his position on obedience to authority if the authority was Sarah Palin.

Tea Party aside, you get the feeling Weisberg doesn’t have a particularly high opinion of anarchists. He writes:

its antagonism toward any authority, its belligerent style of self-expression, and its lack of any coherent program or alternative to the policies it condemns.

Later in the article, Weisberg correctly writes about the phony resentment of what one may call the “Country Class.” In my original critique of Codevilla’s essay, I noted that the Democratic underclass had suffered much more of the brunt of “Dem Party Elite Rule” than this country class. Unfortunately, that latter point seems to have evaded Weisberg. He talks about how much the elite has helped the poor, minorities and immigrants. This hasn’t occurred in empirical reality but it has, no doubt, occurred in Weisberg’s left-right communitarian DoubleThink reality.

Weisberg sums up his argument by stating that “Nostalgia, resentment, and reality-denial” are characteristics of those who refuse to accept their new social status in a moment of great social change. In empirical reality, there hasn’t been any real change in the hierarchical institutions of of power. The only thing that has changed is the party who wields the power. But in Weisberg’s left-right communitarian DoubleThink reality, there, has been, no doubt, great social change.

Weisberg’s same argument could be levied against radical libertarians. Failure to engage in Weisberg’s DoubleThink reality makes us reality-deniers. As Weisberg states: “The most radical statement of individualism is choosing your own reality.” That’s not actually quite correct. You might be free to choose your own reality but you have to bear the costs of choosing to operate in a phony reality. But there are no such burdens on Weisberg in operating in DoubleThink political reality(which allows the political class to invent their own reality as well). This “reality denial” business, interpreted with an Orwellian lens, given the fact the United States is on it’s way to having the largest, Stasi intelligence State in the history of the world, should be a bit unsettling.

A Benjamin Tucker Rejoinder to Matthew Yeglesias

Yeglesias praises TARP:

TARP was both a good idea and nothing less than an exposure of the myth of the free market. There’s an idea out there about a free market that operates “naturally” and produces a certain distribution of wealth and income. Any further interventions into that marketplace to ensure that prosperity is broadly shared constitutes some kind of illegitimate “redistribution” of wealth and income from its natural state. This is not, however, an accurate description of how any economy featuring a modern banking system works. A world in which we simply didn’t have banking and finance would be, overall, a much poorer world. But a world with banking and finance requires various forms of management—monetary policy, regulation of the financial system, and intervention amidst panics and crises. TARP and the associated activities of the Federal Reserve were examples of such intervention and were good ideas. But they highlight that public policy decisions are integral to the creation and sustainment of modern capitalist economies. Under the circumstances, wise and moral policymakers will necessarily attempt to ensure that the prosperity they create is broadly shared by law-abiding members of the community.

Let us recall, however, the words of Benjamin Tucker published in the very first issue of Liberty:

Holding a monopoly, the banker is the worst enemy of the human race, being it’s chief despoiler; without that monopoly he is it’s best friend, being it’s greatest civilizer.

One thing I’ve learned when discussing the term “capitalism” that quite a bit of clarity can be achieved if we instead use the term “Political Economy.” So I will grant Yeglesias’ contention that a monopoly in money is necessary for the functioning of modern “Political Economies.” I, however, will dispute Yeglesias’ assertion that “wise and moral policymakers will necessarily attempt to ensure that the prosperity they create is broadly shared by law-abiding members of the community.” This is Jesus talk. Just as the religious fundamentalist should quite with the nonsense of special creation and Adam and Eve in light of the evidence of modern evolutionary theory and RadioCarbon dating, Yglesias should quit with the supernatural gibberish of the “wise and moral policymakers.” This creature has yet to be found; I imagine it is probably hiding out in the same place as Bigfoot.

Here’s the evidence: TARP has fueled the greatest era of Robber Baron Corporatism in American History.

As far as this “law-abiding members of the community” nonsense, let us appeal again to Tucker in the same issue of Liberty:

The effect of one-half of our laws is to make criminals; the purpose of the other half is to punish them.

Progressives think TARP affirms the progressive critique of Capitalism. Libertarians think TARP affirms every bit the libertarian critique of Political Economy. One of these groups lives in DoubleThink reality while the other lives in Empirical reality. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to make that determination.

H/T: b psycho

Contra Greenwald, There’s No Defense of Kos

Allow me to comment briefly on this recent post by Glenn Greenwald defending, to some extent, Kos’ book, American Taliban. I can understand Greenwald’s motivation because it’s clear he understands that the limited, restricted political dialogue is an enabler of the Ruling Class. However, I have no idea why he would use Kos’ book as a platform to make the point. As I pointed out in my previous post below, it is the permanent culture war which drives this restricted, NewSpeak/DoubleThink political discourse to begin with. And Kos has proven himself to be an enthusiastic cultural warrior.

Let’s look at paragraph in the introduction of Kos’ book:

Setting aside the eloquence, the product of trained speechwriter, Bush was right aboout the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. They were murderous ideologues, and they did attack us, in large part, because they hate our freedoms. But let’s be honest, the freedoms the jihadists hate are the very same freedoms that our own homegrown regressive ideolgues hate: freedom of thought, of inquiry, of lifestyle. If America shared the values of the modern conservative movement, there would’ve been little reason for Al Qaeda to attack us. Heck, we would be cultural allies!

Reads to me like he’s accepting and repeating a bunch of right-wing propaganda to try to manufacture some absurd point. However, just to note: al-qaeda has attacked Saudia Arabia, which shares it same cultural values. End of absurd thesis. Put it next to Jonah Goldberg’s claptrap. The end.

However, notice how the cultural war creates a restricted political dialogue. At one time, the political left challenged the idea of “jihadists” and “they hate for our freedoms.” But if Kos is representative of the political left, or at least a significant segment of it, no longer. Foreign policy is thrown out of the discussion and now the debate centers around which party is culturally resilient enough to resist to resist an alliance with al-qaeda and imposition of Sharia law. This is comedic absurdity.

And it should be noted that religious fundamentalism is in both parties. There’s a putrid strain of religious Jewish fundamentalist Zionism in the dem party, and if I had to name the two most whacked out religious fundamentalists in congress, I would name Lieberman and Schumer.

If you read an earlier post of mine, Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan, you will note that the Taliban was an artificial western political class construction. The same goes for al-qaeda. In fact, there’s western political class fingerprints behind much of the so-called “jihadism” in the “permanent war” battlefields. That’s the book that you should be reading. Rest assured, that’s not Kos’ book…

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Christine O’Donnell Channels Codevilla

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.