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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The libertarian culture

Continuing in the coat-tails of my previous post "Socialism, Conservatism and Ann Coulter", the natural progression is to make the case for a cultural libertarianism. 

There is an argument among a growing breed of libertarians that libertarianism is about politics and political strategy, not about culture.  These libertarians--some of them in private e-mail conversations, and others in full-frontal view in the comment section here--have expressed a form of libertarianism which mixes social conservative culture with political libertarianism. A mix made in heaven, they seem to think.

You don't have to get very far in into my post or my subsequent follow-up comments to draw the conclusion that I completely reject this position.  In fact, I go so far as to suggest--insulting as it may be--that these people are not true libertarians at all.

The response to this has been quite a few e-mails from people who I know and like, expressing deep regret and insult at my choice of attack.  I'll quote one of my friend's here. Considering we're not on talking terms at this point, I'll withhold attribution out of respect for his privacy:

"It's very hurtful to see you go after the heart of people's belief the way you did on your blog.  I can only say that I am extremely saddened by the level you felt you had to take this to in order to make your point."

"I am okay with you wanting to live in a Godless world, with your libertarian morals.  I get that.  But apparently you want all of us to live in a Godless world too.  Sadly, you've decided to jump to the socialist position of shoving Atheism down everyone's throat.  That's not very libertarian, Mike."

With all do respect to my friend, who has referred to himself countless times as a "libertarian leaning conservative", I don't know what you're talking about.  You and others are projecting.  My libertarianism is--in fact--highly consistent. I do not ask the state to shove "Atheism" (you don't capitalize that word, by the way) down everyone's throat.

The problem with religious social conservatives is that they confuse a change in relative normativity with an attack on their religion.  For example: if there was prayer in public schools, and it's removed (as it was in Ontario), they interpret this removal as an attack on Christianity.  And when non-Christians point out that they wanted no part in it, they cling to arguments from tradition, or argue that those kids can simply "sit it out". 

When the Gay Pride Parade comes rolling down Yonge Street, social conservatives claim that "homosexuality is being rammed down their throat".  They don't, like they do with the prayer argument, expect themselves--as they do non-Christian children--to look away. They're not arguing from a consistent position, as it pertains to the rights of others to express their moral position.

Make no mistake: the Gay Price Parade is an expression of a moral position.  It is the moral position that individuals should be free to express their sexuality.  It is, on many levels, a fundamentally libertarian expression. 

The change in normative cultural towards one that is more accepting of a plurality of views on morality, particularly sexual morality, has been viewed by Christians as an attack on Christianity.  Or more specifically, an attack on the rights of Christians to not be exposed to other moralities that conflict with their own.

This cultural position is in direct conflict with libertarianism at it's most fundamental level, because if one is to believe that populist morality--as expressed by arbitrary cultural positions--derives legitimacy therein, it is only reasonable to expect that said persons will eventually seek the force of law to reinforce these moral positions.

I make this prediction confidently, as I believe that personal moral positions are the basis for political positions.  They do not exist independently of each other.  Even if they do in rare cases, the distinction is not durable over time.

Cultural libertarianism carries with it the implication that for a truly libertarian society to exist, it's inhabitants must have a fundamental moral grounding in the value of liberty.  If not, what sustains liberty? Law? Law can be changed.

This position has been critiqued by some libertarians as sounding reminiscent of the same kind of social engineering that libertarianism stands opposed to.  And they'd be right. On the surface, there is a bit of a conflict between the need to promote libertarianism in culture and morality while not succumbing to statist tendencies to accomplish it.

My preference is to do what I'm doing now; writing and talking, donating and volunteering.  Trying to convince people on the merits of my argument, as opposed to going to the government and asking them to argue for me.  If I do that, I've abandoned a basic principle of my morality, and I'm not prepared to do that.

The battle for liberty will be fought and won in the cultural playing field.  Not the political one.  The political stems from the cultural.  With shifts in cultural values towards liberty, the political stars will align. 

That isn't to say we do not fight politically.  Of course we do.  We fight hard against further incursions into our liberty and keep pushing back against growing government.  But we must take heed of the cultural tendencies that are enabling these practices in the first place, and start thinking about how we cut off the snakes head; ending statisms biggest enabler: cultural acceptance.

Social conservatism is fighting a cultural war against secularism, feminists against sexism, gays against homophobia, blacks against racism.   It's time libertarians get into the game in a serious way and stake out some serious cultural ground

Note about comments:  The comments have been closed because the blogging system seems to be eating all new posts for this thread.   For those who submitted comments that were not accepted, we apologize.  

Posted by Mike Brock on February 24, 2009 | Permalink

Comments

With your attitude, you will have no friends pretty soon. Insult is not good argument.

Posted by: anonymous | 2009-02-24 12:50:24 PM


Brock's metamorphosis from Marxism to conservatism to libertarianism has now entered its final stage as he becomes a anarchocapitalist-libertarian. He dreams of an amoral world where social darwinism will be balanced out by market forces.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-02-24 1:04:51 PM


With your attitude, you will have no friends pretty soon

I wasn't going to respond to this. But then it occurred to me how many socons and religious people use such arguments in earnest.

What is it about people that attribute social acceptance with truth value?

Can you imagine the first guy who realized the world wasn't flat being told: "Hey man, if you keep going around telling people that world isn't flat, nobody is going to be your friend"?

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 1:06:04 PM


Brock's metamorphosis from Marxism to conservatism to libertarianism

I was never a Marxist. You can drop that false assertion now.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 1:09:33 PM


Mike,

Well said, once again

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-24 1:15:54 PM


I think that someone is tilting at Christians a little hard to justify his in-your-face libertarianism. Gay Pride parades on public property have no more to do with the essence of libertarianism than school prayer. The use of public property (even under a theoretical libertopia) falls under the state whether or not it is PC neutered and fully secularized and could include the banning of anything controversial. Libertarian culture also, though unmentioned in your sermon, involves private discrimination in all its splendour on private property. That includes racism, homophobia, sexism and all the other isms not involving the use of force on or with private property. And on that note, I'll use the Shotgun's private bandwidth to say that most Gay Pride performances are disgusting, even to most gays.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2009-02-24 1:33:49 PM


Too Many Idiots Read My Blog, E-mail me, Say Things That Are Stupid!
Posted by Mike Brock at 2/03/2004 at Mike Brock: Forward and Onward.

A quick check through Brock's blog show someone who has disdain for just about anyone who disagrees with him. He's really an anarchocapitalist-libertarian-elitist.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-02-24 1:36:18 PM


Gay Pride parades on public property have no more to do with the essence of libertarianism than school prayer.

The only way I would accept this argument as an honest position, would be if you were against any parade on public property. Otherwise the government is in the business of morality, where it has no place.

Trying to invoke gays who agree with your assessment of the performances in the parade does not lend truth value to your argument. That's an appeal to authority. Neither authority or experience with any particular subject makes you right or wrong, so it does not add to the discussion in any meaningful way.

It would be like me arguing against a creationist, and pointing to religious people who support the theory or evolution as evidence of the truth of my argument. It so happens I am a Darwinist, and I promise never to lace any argument on the subject with logical fallacy in any future discussion.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 1:50:33 PM


Consider that none other than the founder of modern conservatism William F. Buckley Jr. was both opposed the drug war (as well as an ardent Catholic): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3OH6SDGqcM

and that Mr. Libertarian himself Ron Paul is in favor of state government restrictions against abortion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66jpPCIzza8

That suggests to me that, for better or worse, libertarians and traditionalists are more compatible than either camp would like to admit in the most perfect of worlds.

There is no question that the two different strains of modern conservative thought (libertarians and traditionalists - or classical liberals and social conservatives) are philosophically distinct. The first advocates the politics of freedom and the second the politics of virtue.

But while a coalition between the two groups makes about as much sense in theory as one between cats and dogs, in practice it can work surprising well. Put the two groups in the same room, and soon the barrier doesn't seem all that great. You have traditionalists grudgingly accepting that their sacred values of faith and family thrive best in a society where all are free to promote what they think right as individuals. Similarly, you'll have libertarians grudgingly agree that the Natural Law of good and evil (so central to religion, philosophy and classical ethics) comes in handy the inalienable right of individuals against state oppression.

Posted by: Ben-Hicks | 2009-02-24 1:54:06 PM


Stig, I know you live and think in terms of emotional and popular appeal, and therefore you use arguments stemming from these intellectually empty places, not knowing any better. So I am going to gently encourage you do click this link and buy this book: http://www.amazon.com/Introduction-Logic-Irving-M-Copi/dp/0130102024

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 1:54:28 PM


But while a coalition between the two groups makes about as much sense in theory as one between cats and dogs, in practice it can work surprising well.

I dealt with this in the article. There is potential for there to be a "truce" as it were. For a while. The durability of that truce begins to break down over time, and you run the risk of going retrograde in a serious way (see: increasing religiosity of politics in the US).

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 2:03:10 PM


Mike, you're a solution in search of a problem. That's pretty pathetic.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-24 2:03:45 PM


Mike,

Copi's book? Holy crap, I remember using that one. I think it's the same.

Dry as a bone! But edifying, regardless.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-24 2:08:49 PM


...therefore you use arguments stemming from these intellectually empty places, not knowing any better.
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 1:54:28 PM

You're an elitist, and obviously all the dumb proles couldn't possible understand what you are writing. Lets just leave all the decisions to Mike Brock. You've obviously evolved to an intellectually higher plane than the rest of us. What a guy, what an intellect, what a prick.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-02-24 2:10:36 PM


Stig, Wikipedia is a free option if buying is not economically feasible at this time: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logic

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 2:14:47 PM


Again, the libertarian position is misrepresented here. If there was freedom of association, as Hoppe outlined, then communities of like minded individuals will establish rules for property use which may include the exclusion of gays. Anarcho-capitalism assumes most property is privately owned. Therefore like minded groups may establish rules in a school that may include Christian belief and exclude homosexuals. If you wish to attend the school you must abide by the rules. Assertions of homophobia or racism just serve to further deny freedom and advance state coercion. They are fundamentally anti-liberty.

Normalising gayness was not a function of an evolutionary process, it was coerced by the state. Section 15 of the Charter trumps Section 1. Discrimination based upon sexual orientation is illegal. Criticism of the normality of gayness can be considered 'hate speech' and those using it (Boisson) may be harshly censored.

The harm in normalising homosexuality in a society that coerces compliance means that freedom is lost. As long as so-called libertarians continue to eschew freedom of association, yet profess the harmless nature of coercion, whether cultural or otherwise, personal freedom will continue to diminish.

Posted by: DJ | 2009-02-24 2:19:21 PM


DJ,

Everything you wrote there indicates that you missed the entire point of my post. Advocating for a libertarian cultural movement that will manifest political liberty, up to and including all the basic property rights and freedom of association which you've just elucidated on is the point.

I do question whether or not the circumstances which you described--rampant homophobia--is a cocktail for long-term durability of liberty. In fact, I don't think it is.

There's nothing I've said or suggested that should lead you to the conclusion that I have anything in the slightest against you enforcing your property rights. However, if you feel strongly about using property rights as a means to social exclusion based on religious morality, you'll excuse my condescension when I call you small-minded and dumb.

I'll also help organize others to socially exclude you. And we'll play that game of making life hard for everyone in a giant tit-for-tat.

I won't call you immoral for any of this, but I'll think--at a personal level--that you're a dickhead.

I imagine in this socially conservative libertarian society where you and all your friends have successfully made life a particular hell for gays, lesbians, transgendered people, members of other ethnicities, that you'll probably face ever-mounting threats of violence and crimes against your person and property that will culminate in a return to statism.

I mean, I would like to avoid this natural progression of systematic cultural exclusion and preserve a common value for love of liberty, but that's just me.

You've got an axe to grind. Even if you can justify the right to grind you axe in a libertarian framework of ethics, it doesn't make you a particularly enlightened person. It makes you small.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 2:26:38 PM


Stig, Wikipedia is a free option if buying is not economically feasible at this time: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logic
Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 2:14:47 PM

Bwahahahahahahaha.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-02-24 2:37:40 PM


Continuing on the previous point: I believe the biggest foundation for libertarian ethics is it's reciprocity. I don't kill you, you don't kill me. I won't steal from you, you won't steal from me. I will help you defend yourself from aggression, you'll do the same for me.

We are all collectively more free because we all collectively value our own liberty by valuing everyone else's.

DJ, you advocate for a culture that is about using property rights to exclude people from society. While this is consistent with your property rights, it's inconsistent with the reciprocity that makes liberty durable.

It creates social tensions, and feelings of persecution that undermine the collective value of liberty. When this happens, culturally oppressed people and those who sympathize them, will begin to realize the only option they have is to use the state.

We can sit here and argue about whether or not it is moral for these people to revolt by proxy through state power, but the fact is--as history has shown--they will.

So people like you end up screwing it up for everyone. Hence, why social conservativism is ultimately un-libertarian. It doesn't result in a durable value of liberty.

The problem is, I can't convince a gay man or lesbian woman, or even a bisexual to get behind the liberty movement because people like you are waiting in the shadows with a grin. You can't wait to put up a "NO GAYS ALLOWED" sign to express your property rights. Good for you. And don't be surprised as people like me in the liberty movement seek to marginalize you.

You wonder why I think that culturally, social conservatives are so destructive to this movement? It's not really hard to parse out.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 2:41:42 PM


The problem is Mike, it's not a liberty movement. It's advocating state coercion because for some personal reason you fear freedom. Your sign reads "GAYS AND HOMOPHILES ONLY." Ditto Marxists to the quest for freedom. It's really not hard to understand.

The starting point must be freedom of association otherwise there is no freedom. It's just one big bag of state hammers labeled with 'isms'.

Posted by: DJ | 2009-02-24 2:55:49 PM


Feelings, nothing more than feelings.

I's oppressed? Look in the mirror.

Liberty? Or freedom from responsibility?

Yet another example of the ‘victim' becoming a victimizer.

An intelligent victimizer, but not too smart.

Posted by: set you free | 2009-02-24 3:00:20 PM


DJ,

Where in my post did I say that I was for state coercion? Where did I say it? Because I have to tell you, I read through my post against very carefully after reading your last comment in an attempt to understand the basis for your comment. I couldn't.

You're arguing against something that isn't there.

I tried to clear this up for you in my previous comments, but apparently you lack the ability or willingness to see what I'm saying because you do not want to engage me in an honest way.

To recap:

1. I have not caused for state coercion
2. I have not called for state encroachment into property rights.
3. I have called for libertarians to be socially activist in the matter of spreading value for liberty.


Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 3:18:32 PM


Hi Mike. After reading the post, I was going to comment, but DJ made the point I was going to make. From reading your rebuttals, I believe you're on the right track, just maybe a year or two behind DJ in your libertarian education. Your first rebuttal actually helps enforce DJ's position. "...if you feel strongly about using property rights as a means to social exclusion based on religious morality, you'll excuse my condescension when I call you small-minded and dumb." Like the bumper sticker says, "liberty means defending someone else's right to do what you don't like." If property rights are to be defended in the libertarian sense, then the property owner has the absolute right to decide to whom he gives the privilege of access, or not, for whatever reason he decides, possibly even for no particular reason at all. That may be small minded and dumb, but you have the right to be small minded and dumb. Without the use of the initiation of force, what keeps us (mostly) civil even when it goes against our butt-headed nature? You answered that one yourself, "I'll also help organize others to socially exclude you. And we'll play that game of making life hard for everyone in a giant tit-for-tat." This is where liberty strikes its balance and foreknowledge of the possibility of ostracization, ( I just made that one up. :) keeps the necessity of its actual use to a minimum. "DJ, you advocate for a culture that is about using property rights to exclude people from society." I don't think so. DJ has just come to the point in his libertarian education to where he's able to dismiss the fictitious entity called "society." Society isn't a thing at all. It is an abstract term used to describe groups of individuals. I try to find a little truth in everything. I believe the adage that even a clock which is broken, is correct twice a day. You'll make much more progress by trying to understand the truth in DJ's comments and then writing a rebuttal which addresses your differences, rather than resorting to just calling him names. If your honest and objective about your libertarian education, you'll find it will take you on a crooked path and sometimes show you things you'd rather not know. It isn't hard to understand at first, then it gets complicated and more difficult, then suddenly you know it all, but then you learn you knew nothing. Until you're ready to put aside all bias and learn to study the parts with which you disagree from the same perspective as those which you do, the fog will never lift. You have learned much, Grasshopper, but there is so much more you do not know. Peace.

Posted by: Bryan Morton | 2009-02-24 3:27:08 PM


Mike,

You posit inevitability without recognising that the state's interests are incompatible with those they govern. It's a hammer. Either do things Mike's way or the state will intervene and make you do things Mike's way. It's a call for coercion.

Posted by: DJ | 2009-02-24 3:31:11 PM


DJ:

Our friend Mike falls into the classic trap of believing his own liberty is gained by throwing off some some imagined enemy has placed on him.

It is a common mistake made by the spiritually immature who have not yet connected with the creative force of the universe.

Nobody ever made themselves bigger by making others smaller and dragging others down to his own level of misery seems to be the only way he believes he can gain his dignity.

Yet, dignity is something nobody can take away from anybody. All a person can do is act undignified and, sadly, our friend continues to languish in a prison of his own design, doomed to fight imaginary enemies forever.

Posted by: set you free | 2009-02-24 3:40:47 PM


DJ,

No it isn't. It's a posit that those who are systematically excluded will seek political power, eventually. Just like women did, just like blacks did, and just like homosexuals did.

I don't agree with the use of the state to fix these problems. I never have.

Let's say a culture develops among men, where they no longer want to hire women. Women should be in the home, and a place of work is a mans place. Let' say 80% of men think like this.

Let's also assume that men won't do business with women-run businesses, and that men start from a advantaged point economically.

You'll trumpet this is just property rights in action.

But when a great number of women seek political power, along with other male allies to deny your property rights in response, will you be surprised?

This isn't about what I think should happen. This is about what will happen. The only commenter who seems to understand this concept is Terrance.

Bryan,

You're confusing the fact that I am talking about voluntary organization in reply to homophobia, etc. To be a libertarian, I do not have to defend everyone's position equally. In fact, I only have to grant people the same rights I claim for myself: life, liberty, property.

If you put up your sign "NO GAYS ALLOWED", and I respond by starting the organization called the Anti-Bryan Morton Organization, that seeks to convince other property owners to not let Bryan Morton onto their property, how is this inconsistent? I'm retaliating by the same measure that you are acting.


Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 3:40:50 PM


Let me just say I think it's curious that social conservatives have attacked me for having a property fetish, and other libertarians are trying to attack me for not standing up for property rights.

Could it be that both sides are totally missing my point? Could be.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 3:48:53 PM


"DJ, you advocate for a culture that is about using property rights to exclude people from society. While this is consistent with your property rights, it's inconsistent with the reciprocity that makes liberty durable.

It creates social tensions, and feelings of persecution that undermine the collective value of liberty. When this happens, culturally oppressed people and those who sympathize them, will begin to realize the only option they have is to use the state."

Mike,

I'm not so sure about that this creates more social tension than your quest to make the public sphere more licentious. Just look at the hornets' nest you have perturbed with these two postings (or the entire freaking "culture war"). If we can learn something from this, it's that people have deep-seated varying cultural preference, they always have. City people have different tastes from rural people, people from different cultures also have differing tastes etc. Arguing over who gets to set the rules over public property or using anti-discrimination laws and other methods to determine what people can do with their private property is what creates social tensions, getting things out of the public sphere by privatization and diminishing the amount of state control over private property is a much better way to reduce social tensions.

As I commented in a previous thread:

"A society of property, consent, and voluntary interaction, wherein people may associate with or exclude whomever they like is a peaceful society. It is the seizure of the coercive apparatus of the state by competing interest groups which sows social discord. This is exactly analogous to the 'harmony of interests' which results from competition under a system of voluntary trade and private property (i.e. capitalism) versus the conflict of interest which results from competition under a system of a state-directed or state-owned economy (i.e. socialism)."

It's fine and dandy for a libertarian to defend gay activists, feminists, and zionists, if you agree with some of their aims or share some of their enemies, but you must also recognize that the state apparatus has been a very important tool for them to advance their aims. If you wish to advance some of their causes (and continue to be a libertarian), you must try to discover why it is that they don't generally have any qualms about using the full power of the state to advance their ends, and how you might convince them to abandon some of their liberticidal goals and pursue their remaining ones differently.

Homosexuals, women, Jews and other minority groups have always been the victims of state power, but as I said only "a clear understanding of who the enemies of liberty are (i.e. the exploitative tax consumers and the state) and a commitment to private property and the sovereignty of the individual can stop this cycle of cooptation which transforms aggrieved parties and victims of state power into advocates or apologists for the expansion of that very same state." That is, it is necessary to change people's political beliefs.

If, as you argue, for society to function, a socially conservative Christian who accepts a univeral moral view about all humans should be required to tolerate a gay couple (whose actions violate that moral code) living down the street, wouldn't it follow that social liberals like you also tolerate so-cons (and bigots, whose actions violate your moral code) living down the street? Why is it that you can legally choose to shun bigots, but bigots cannot legally choose to shun homosexuals?

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2009-02-24 4:01:10 PM


Kalim,

"Why is it that you can legally choose to shun bigots, but bigots cannot legally choose to shun homosexuals?"

I've made no such argument.

I think the problem here is that most libertarians think in terms of political activism as opposed to cultural activism. I do not seek to use political activism as a means to enact cultural change. Quite the opposite.

I seek to fight back in the "culture war" against the encroachment on the very value of liberty itself. The role of the state here does not play into it, unless of course the state is playing an active role in the cultural debate (they are), which I'm clearly against .

We can sit around and talk about expanding property rights and then having these cultural problems go away. But I say this is logically flawed because it is wrong direction of cause and consquence. It assumes that the culture will accept the expansion of property rights in the face of all of this.

I see no reason to believe this.

The United States has seen an ever-expanding encroachment into property rights since it's inception as a nation.

Take affirmative action for example; the difference between me and you, is that I'm more interested in the cultural factors that precipitated the political will to bring affirmative action in. You're more focused on asserting your moral position (which I share by the way) that it's wrong as a principle of property and freedom of association.

You can argue that point all you want, and I'll argue with you. I have and will continue to. But I also consider the problem of cultural legacies very important in trying to determine political direction and to assess the playing field.

Cultural libertarianism is a personal position that one should be socially active on spreading a culture of liberty. And they should be politically active insofar as supporting political endeavours that help achieve that ends. It does not involve engaging in actions such as the aforementioned affirmative action programs.

You are falsely, as are others, attributing this to my position by making a faulty generalization as to the consequences of my cultural libertarian argument.

It's faulty because cultural libertarianism is about spreading respect for liberty as a principle tenet, which in itself leads to people wanting less government. It is not about using government to make people more free.

You are essentially trying to tip-toe around a problem by proposing everyone gets more property rights, and everything will work itself out. That's a laudable goal, but there is no reason to believe that your position is achievable given the status quo. Hence, I suggest a rethinking of libertarian activist strategy; do what feminists and gay activists have done so well: target the culture. It had political payoff for them, and it can for us.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 4:17:29 PM


"Why is it that you can legally choose to shun bigots, but bigots cannot legally choose to shun homosexuals?"

Kalim,

I think he's saying that both should be legally allowed to make such a choice. But _if_ a majority of bigots chooses to exclude and oppress homosexuals, the understandable response will be an attempt by the excluded group to grab hold of the levers of political power.

My additional point is that if bigots want to exclude based on a belief that, e.g. "homosexuality is evil," there is a strong reason to suspect this belief will lead them to oppress gays using political means as well.

Thus, from both directions, there is a threat to liberty, and it has basically the same source: the unreasonable bigotry of the majority against the minority.

That has to be a sufficient reason for a libertarian to denounce bigots, if anything is. It's also reason to suspect that political libertarianism, when not coupled with cultural libertarianism, will be quite unstable.

The two are compatible in a way libertarianism and social conservatism are not.*

* This is not to say one can't be a bigot who thinks homosexuality is evil and also a libertarian. The point is just that a kind of cultural libertarianism coheres better with political libertarianism. There will necessarily be less temptation to make exceptions to libertarian principles based on hatred for a given minority.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-24 4:23:24 PM


Terrence, I couldn't have summed up my argument better myself. Thanks :)

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 4:29:38 PM


Mike,

Heh, you're welcome. I've been feeling like your cheerleader lately, but I'm glad I could contribute something useful to the discussion.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-24 4:36:20 PM


Instead, Watson advocates that bigoted minorities who wish to deny freedom based on a belief heterosexuals are evil embrace the historical pattern of bigoted minorities seizing political means to suppress the majority. The concept being to embrace the unreasonable bigotry of the minority, because if we take our boot of their neck it means tomorrow is Auschwitz. After all the pursuit of bigoted minority self-interest is stabilising until of course the state decides otherwise because it does not serve their interest.

Posted by: DJ | 2009-02-24 4:42:05 PM


Logically, it follows that if a group of bigoted minorities "grab hold of the levers of political power" to oppress the majority, the understandable response will be an attempt by the oppressed majority to "grab hold of the levers of political power" to end the oppression of the bigoted minorities.

Posted by: DJ | 2009-02-24 4:52:05 PM


DJ's comment (insofar as I understand it), and Matthew Johnston's in a previous thread, exhibit the same strange pattern:

The contrary of "homosexuality is evil" is not "heterosexuality is evil." Either belief could be a dangerous threat to liberty (although which one is probably the greater threat to liberty at this time?)

The opposite of "homosexuality is evil" is "homosexuality is not evil."

What I would like people to believe is this: "Neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality is inherently evil." Morally, I think that's the correct belief.

It's also the belief I think people should have in order to avoid the instabilities I identified earlier. It's why we should denounce bigots (gay or straight.)

Looks like a win-win to me.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-24 4:55:46 PM


DJ,

I'm being 100% honest when I say, I have no idea what you're talking about. Can you please elaborate?

Terrance,

Well, thanks again. It's been a long road towards turning my attention towards culture as a basis for political change. I think libertarians have tried to avoid thinking about culture because they fear it will lead to the justification of state-involvement in cultural activism. It's a fear I share, but the problem is that libertarians really alienate themselves from having a real effect on the ground as we've essentially vacated the cultural playing field.

Instead, libertarians seem to prefer talking about how great liberty is, and pointing to all the evidence for it. That's great, and it wins a certain number of people over. But those people you win, were probably the kinds of people who would have come to the same conclusion anyway, because they were approaching it with an open mind.

When you approach politics with an open mind, it doesn't take very long to realize there's a common thread throughout history: the power of one human being over another, leads to unfavourable outcomes.

So libertarians are so sure of our position based on historical evidence, on reason and on our confidence that we'll be proven right if given a chance. The problem is, however, we don't stop to think about the fact that so many people's minds are not open. That, many (if not most) people don't believe society can function without a strong state. That, people won't make the right choices for themselves if left to their own devices.

These rejections of libertarianism almost universally stem from cultural assumptions (memes in Dawkins language) that self-replicate through our society and form the basis for the acceptance of big government.

These memes are often religious in nature. Sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are the result of very effective cultural activism. The labour movement comes to mind here.

If libertarians don't think we need to jump into the culture war, then I posit that we've essentially and effectively conceded the fight. Because absent our place on the field, there's a whole army of statist-oriented interests that are ready to fill the void.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 4:57:04 PM


The argument is not what is the opposite of homosexuality is evil, the position is that the belief homosexuality is not evil is not an evolved position. It's a position coerced by the state. Whether Watson believes it's moral for a homosexual LA train engineer to be texting young boys and thus endangering the lives of his passengers is irrelevant, because it's coerced.

Posted by: DJ | 2009-02-24 5:07:17 PM


"So libertarians are so sure of our position based on historical evidence, on reason and on our confidence that we'll be proven right if given a chance. The problem is, however, we don't stop to think about the fact that so many people's minds are not open."

Mike,

Here I have to disagree, at least a little. Yes, libertarians tend to be sure -- very sure! -- they've got the one true political theory. And just about everyone disagrees with them.

I'm not sure it's just that their minds aren't open, because I've met a LOT of close-minded libertarians. Rather, I think there is genuine reasonable disagreement.

For example, most people genuinely have a problem with the idea of a society in which children will starve through the incompetence of their parents. Their problem with this possibility is so deep that they're unwilling to leave it to chance, private charity, etc.

I'm not willing to call this concern unreasonable, the product of a closed mind. Rather, it is anchored in deep moral sentiments. And I don't think libertarians will win the culture war by running headlong into those sentiments.

You can argue (and I do) that the status quo welfare state isn't very good for people. And that's a good reason to at least reform the welfare state. But it isn't in itself an argument in favor of its abolition, because the possibility of starving children is (for most people) just so awful.

You can argue (and I do) that replacing the welfare state with, e.g. a negative income tax would do more to help people.

But you'll have a difficult time convincing people that we should just let the market and private charity take care of starving children.

That's why I consider myself a limited-government liberal and not a full-fledged libertarian, although I'll agree with libertarians 90% of the time on policy.

Best,

Terrence

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-24 5:19:36 PM


"So libertarians are so sure of our position based on historical evidence, on reason and on our confidence that we'll be proven right if given a chance. The problem is, however, we don't stop to think about the fact that so many people's minds are not open."

Mike,

Here I have to disagree, at least a little. Yes, libertarians tend to be sure -- very sure! -- they've got the one true political theory. And just about everyone disagrees with them.

I'm not sure it's just that their minds aren't open, because I've met a LOT of close-minded libertarians. Rather, I think there is genuine reasonable disagreement.

For example, most people genuinely have a problem with the idea of a society in which children will starve through the incompetence of their parents. Their problem with this possibility is so deep that they're unwilling to leave it to chance, private charity, etc.

I'm not willing to call this concern unreasonable, the product of a closed mind. Rather, it is anchored in deep moral sentiments. And I don't think libertarians will win the culture war by running headlong into those sentiments.

You can argue (and I do) that the status quo welfare state isn't very good for people. And that's a good reason to at least reform the welfare state. But it isn't in itself an argument in favor of its abolition, because the possibility of starving children is (for most people) just so awful.

You can argue (and I do) that replacing the welfare state with, e.g. a negative income tax would do more to help people.

But you'll have a difficult time convincing people that we should just let the market and private charity take care of starving children.

That's why I consider myself a limited-government liberal and not a full-fledged libertarian, although I'll agree with libertarians 90% of the time on policy.

Best,

Terrence

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-24 5:19:41 PM


The argument is not what is the opposite of homosexuality is evil, the position is that the belief homosexuality is not evil is not an evolved position.

I'm sorry. This sounds like nonsense to me. What are you then, advocating for vis-a-vis homosexuality? A wait-and-see approach using the precautionary principle?

Whether Watson believes it's moral for a homosexual LA train engineer to be texting young boys and thus endangering the lives of his passengers is irrelevant, because it's coerced.

I don't know I could come up with a more absurd example of demonstrating a point if I tried.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 5:23:39 PM


DJ,

Who cares if it is an "evolved" position or not? I'm not even sure what that means (a position people couldn't possibly have arrived at on their own?)

Regardless, what I care about is truth. And it is a fallacy to infer that a proposition is false based simply on the fact that (in some cases) people might have been coerced into believing it.

(It's an example of the genetic fallacy, I believe.)

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-24 5:24:25 PM


DJ,

In a way, you're arguing like a feminist, some who have made whole careers through judicious use of the genetic fallacy.

For example, some feminists will criticize a practice (e.g. marriage) based solely on its alleged origin, without giving thought to the values that practice might now embody independently of its origin.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-24 5:26:46 PM


Mike,

Well, it's obvious. I believe there is nothing inherently immoral about the use of marijuana. Therefore, I believe pilots should have the right to smoke joints while making cross-continent flights.

Duh. :-)

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-24 5:29:25 PM


Watson,

What you care about is imposing that which you believe to be true. In addition you are happy to use the power of the state to impose your 'truth'.

Mike,

What is being advocated is freedom of association.

Posted by: DJ | 2009-02-24 5:30:35 PM


Terrance,

I keep falling into the trap of forgetting that everything in the universe is dichotomous and self-contradictory.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2009-02-24 5:31:59 PM


DJ,

"What you care about is imposing that which you believe to be true. In addition you are happy to use the power of the state to impose your 'truth'."

If I believe that p, I'm prepared to back up my belief that p with evidence and arguments. Or -- in some cases -- prepared to simply admit I'm making an assumption. Although I try to ensure I'm making assumptions other people find plausible.

Take this "assumption": it is a very bad thing when young children starve to death because of the incompetence and neglect of their parents.

Is this assumption just "my truth", DJ? Or is it a position lots of people endorse? Do you endorse it?

Or do you only begin to care when the children of white parents are starving?

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-24 5:48:01 PM


Mike, perhaps you have presented too many ideas for the majority of people to string together.
It leaves you open to all kinds of criticism.
Some constructive, most simply viscous. Lets not forget that the majority of people are emotional and quite incapable of critical thought. Naturally the statists will call you an elitist.

Posted by: JC | 2009-02-24 6:32:59 PM


You know some secularists in the U.S. have called for both social conservatives and traditionalist americans to remove themselves from the public sector. Do you agree? There have been some internet discussions that social conservatives should setup their own population centers(where their values can be promoted). Personally, I would never want to live in a country where social conservatism was non-existent. I see the hatred that already exists for christians among secularists. I hear about how religion is dead in countries like Sweden and Uruguay. I know about the rise of socialist governments in Spain and Portugal that pride themselves on attacking catholic tenets(mandatory pro-gay civics classes, declaring that apes have human rights, taxpayer funded abortion). These societies have become warped and twisted where anything goes. If they are the future, then my children are doomed.

Posted by: Luke | 2009-02-24 6:44:22 PM


Kevin Myers wrote, re: the starving in Ethiopia:

"So why on earth should I do anything to encourage further catastrophic demographic growth in that country? Where is the logic? There is none. To be sure, there are two things saying that logic doesn't count.

One is my conscience, and the other is the picture, yet again, of another wide-eyed child, yet again, gazing, yet again, at the camera, which yet again, captures the tragedy of . . .

Sorry. My conscience has toured this territory on foot and financially. Unlike most of you, (has Watson been to Ethiopia? Has he sold his house and ponied up the cash to save the starving or does his hypocrisy no no bounds?)I have been to Ethiopia; like most of you, I have stumped up the loot to charities to stop starvation there. The wide-eyed boy-child we saved, 20 years or so ago, is now a priapic, Kalashnikov-bearing hearty, siring children whenever the whim takes him.

There is, no doubt a good argument why we should prolong this predatory and dysfunctional economic, social and sexual system; (because it is one of Watson's universal truths) but I do not know what it is."

What about it Watson? Show us the receipts of your largess to the starving of Africa. Show us you really care. Don't disappoint us. You claimed you're prepared to back up your beliefs, your universal "truths". Now's your chance.

Posted by: DJ | 2009-02-24 6:46:56 PM


More Myers:

"How much morality is there in saving an Ethiopian child from starvation today, for it to survive to a life of brutal circumcision, poverty, hunger, violence and sexual abuse, resulting in another half-dozen such wide-eyed children, with comparably jolly little lives ahead of them? Of course, it might make you feel better, which is a prime reason for so much charity. But that is not good enough.

For self-serving generosity has been one of the curses of Africa. It has sustained political systems which would otherwise have collapsed.

It prolonged the Eritrean-Ethiopian war by nearly a decade. It is inspiring Bill Gates' programme to rid the continent of malaria, when, in the almost complete absence of personal self-discipline, that disease is one of the most efficacious forms of population-control now operating.

If his programme is successful, tens of millions of children who would otherwise have died in infancy will survive to adulthood, he boasts. Oh good: then what?I know. Let them all come here. Yes, that's an idea."

Of course, that's Watson's intent. His hatred of white people is so ineluctable, he wishes them destroyed. The fulfillment of his universal truth.

Posted by: DJ | 2009-02-24 6:56:56 PM



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