Libertarianism is just a sociopathic kind of statism

July 27, 2014 § 79 Comments

In the comments to a previous post we were discussing libertarianism. Catholic Economist (not addressing libertarianism specifically) observed:

As both St Thomas Aquinas and St Augustine have noted, it is neither necessary nor desirable for the state to explicitly outlaw every vice…

This is true enough, but it should not be taken as a concession to libertarianism as a political philosophy, for several reasons.

One is that authority is not a single monolithic thing. Whenever one authority acts to prevent a particular vice, libertarianism implicitly requires another authority to step in and stop it. So libertarianism presupposes and requires the kind of centralized all-powerful bureaucratically micromanaging government that it is ostensibly against.

Another is that the fact that it is not possible or prudent for every government to enforce every moral norm in every conceivable case does not invalidate governance generally. If it is taken as support of libertarianism in particular it proves too much: if governance is legitimate at all then precisely what is at issue is what it ought to do, so saying that it can’t do everything so it ought to only do what I say is just begging the question.

Still another is that libertarianism adopts its pose of moral superiority by pretending that it is a passive, hands off political philosophy in contrast to the active busybody interventionism of other “statist” political philosophies. This is just an outright self-deception or lie: every government always actively and authoritatively discriminates in favor of its particular conception of the good. Libertarianism is no exception. Like all political philosophies it proposes to actively initiate force in favor of its particular conception of the good. By simultaneously denying that that is what it is doing, libertarianism just becomes (like all forms of liberalism) sociopathic.

In general, libertarianism presupposes the very things that it denies are legitimate.

At the end of the day, libertarianism is just another intrinsically dishonest form of liberalism.

§ 79 Responses to Libertarianism is just a sociopathic kind of statism

  • Catholic Economist says:

    Just in case anyone might get the impression that I support libertarianism, my clarification of the point I was trying to get across is here

  • Zippy says:

    CE:
    I updated the OP slightly to make it clear that I was not suggesting that you were defending libertarianism.

  • InTheProcess says:

    @Zippy

    Pretty much anything devolves into the few over the many, or statism; anarchy included, no? I should have just said voluntary and left well enough alone 🙂

  • Zippy says:

    InTheProcess:
    Politically speaking there is always a ruling elite and a ruling metaphysic: a ruling elite and metaphysic which discriminates authoritatively in favor of some particular conception of the good, crushing competitive conceptions and preferences with an iron fist – whether clad in a velvet glove or naked metal.

    Always.

    Some ruling elites are more sociopathic than others.

    Rule founded on liberalism (or voluntarism, or consent-of-the-governed, etc) does not, for reasons I’ve explained many times, escape this. It just guarantees sociopathy because of its internal incoherence: because it justifies its iron-fisted rule based on the illusion that it is not ruling.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Libertarianism/Liberalism practices Hitler’s “If you will not become our comrade we shall crack your skull” implicitly.

    If you are not part of the equal rights regime, you are an enemy of the good to be destroyed. You are a subhuman oppressor. You are an üntermensch.

  • Mike says:

    Sociopathy does not mean what you think it means, Zippy (and that’s apart from whether the term itself can be applied to political systems or any group phenomena at all).

    You, of all people, should know that words have specific meanings and that an inappropriate use of negative labels to support your personal agenda is wrong (one could even say positivist).

  • Zippy says:

    By sociopathic I mean (among other things) anti-social, anti-human, and lacking a conscience or reflecting a badly malformed conscience.

    If someone called my usage positivist that could only reflect ignorance of the concept of positivism, despite my (no doubt suboptimal) efforts to educate.

  • Svar says:

    @ Zippy

    I am staunchly against classical liberalism and libertarianism since I consider the Founding Fathers to be nothing more than a group of subversive proto-Marxists and I have decided to look away from America and towards the Old World for a better understanding of politics. That being said, in your mind, is their a non-sociopathic form of statism?

    I think that an authoritarian ideology based around the nation with a focus on both it’s physical and spiritual needs is a good form of statism. Something like Franco’s Falangism or Salazar’s National Integralism or even Spengler’s German Revolutionary Right.

    Libertarianism is a soft form of moral anarchy and the laissez-faire approach to economics has led to a complete laissez-faire approach to ALL moral matters, but it all started with the idea that the economy and morality are completely divorced and now we’re at the stage where even sex and morality are completely divorced.

  • Mostly libertarians seem clueless as to how their “free market” came into being- here’s a hint the word begins with the letter “s.”

  • Svar says:

    Self-interest?

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    @ ISE:

    Slavery?

    @ Svar:

    Personally I think the medieval Christian monarchies are about as good as it’s gotten. Of course, trying to put a new Charlemagne on the throne of America (or any western country) would result in disaster today.

    Any explicit movement away from a Liberal government would result in disaster today; in the collective mind of western society it is the only acceptable form of government.

    Charlemagne may be about as good as it’s been in the past, but it’s not a practical rallying point in today’s society. There won’t be a viable rallying point in the western world until Liberalism is demonstrated to be manifestly false to the hivemind, and I don’t haven’t the foggiest idea about how to accomplish such a demonstration. Trying to convince even my fellow Christians on a one-at-time level is like trying to pull a rotten tooth out of an angry tiger – it’s messy, dangerous, and they think you’re the enemy.

  • Mike T says:

    Personally I think the medieval Christian monarchies are about as good as it’s gotten.

    Provided you were not a serf.

  • Zippy says:

    The life of a medieval serf has gotten a bad rap.

  • Mike T says:

    I’m sure many southern slaves had positive experiences with good masters who ensured they enjoyed a life comparable to most poor whites. Doesn’t change the fact that both systems, despite their best defenders’ propaganda, reduced the laborer to a means for another man’s end.

  • Mike T says:

    Vox Day’s take on libetarianism shows that not all forms of libertarianism are susceptible to this as his model is based up “libertarianism within the limits of a Western society” and presupposes that liberty maximization can limited by moral requirements (ex he supports steep restrictions on divorce with the full force of law behind them) and the need to suppress behaviors intrinsically opposed to civilization. I’ve made similar arguments by pointing out to you that it’s a strawman argument to say there are no free societies due to the fact that the range of licit governance options provides authorities a variety of choices covering options on how to regulate human behavior that is not intrinsically good or evil. For example, it is entirely possible for a Protestant-dominated state to pass a law prohibiting a twice annulled Catholic from ever obtaining a legally valid marriage. It is possible to prohibit violent felons from doing the same. It is possible to prohibit men in the armed forces from taking wives until they are eligible for retirement. a state that does all of those things is exercising a valid set of powers regulating marriage, but to claim that a state that chose to not do those things is not factually freer in those areas is fallacious.

  • Zippy says:

    In other words, “libertarianism” is possible as long as it is required, good and hard, to conform to your particular conception of the good. Other conceptions are discriminated against, restricted, and suppressed.

  • Mike T says:

    The only way you can say there are no free societies is to say that there are no societies in which unlimited freedom exists. You have to deliberately exclude those societies whose authorities seek to minimize their use of their authority to the most basic protection of the true, good and beautiful which is to say you ultimately have to declare that no society has a real commitment to providing freedom where it can. In the end, saying there are no free societies is saying that 18th century America and modern North Korea are different in degree, not kind, in their approach to liberty within the bounds of morality.

  • Mike T says:

    In other words, “libertarianism” is possible as long as it is required, good and hard, to conform to your particular conception of the good. Other conceptions are discriminated against, restricted, and suppressed.

    This only seems like an “aha!” moment if you truly believe that all conceptions of the good are equal and that some are simply not beyond the pale, serving no purpose other than to inflict harm on others or society generally. Libertarians as a matter of fact explicitly reject in principle the idea that we have freedom to inflict harm on others. Secular libertarians have a hard time discerning what harm is in many cases; those with a religious basis let that guide their concept.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Every society without exception discriminates against and restricts the freedom of those in conflict with its conception of the good. You are just engaging in the usual back and forth of weaponized nihilism here, pretending that your own conception is somehow “more authentically free” than other conceptions.

    People who prefer to choose things that are congruent with a given society’s values will see that society as “free”; people with different preferences will see otherwise. So what matters isn’t whether a given society is “free”, but whether it really is good.

    “Government to maximize freedom” is (like all of the central liberal concepts) either a banal token empty of meaning or actively self contradictory.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    Libertarians as a matter of fact explicitly reject in principle the idea that we have freedom to inflict harm on others.

    Well, yes, but they are hopelessly wrong in their question-begging understanding of harm.

  • CJ says:

    “libertarianism within the limits of a Western society”

    And we can only hope that National Libertarianism works out better than National [Godwin’s Law Violation]

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    Doesn’t change the fact that both systems, despite their best defenders’ propaganda, reduced the laborer to a means for another man’s end.

    That is just modern prejudice against the Middle Ages speaking. As near as I have been able to determine, it is just flatly false. Serfs were not chattel slaves, and if they were sometimes mistreated it is just as true that (e.g.) employees of modern corporations are sometimes mistreated.

  • Svar says:

    @ JSG

    Even though I would mostly agree with you on a medieval Christian monarchy, such a system was only viable in an agrarian society. It doesn’t work logistically in a Industrial or post-Industrial society. I guess the only thing closer to your views than Franco would be the Kaiser Wilhelm, whom I am also fond of.

    Either way, we need an authoritarian form of government that is orientated towards the common good. One that is anti-capitalist and anti-free market and anti-communist. We have an urban working class now on top of the traditional rural working class and both groups are the backbone of any country. Their interests need to be tended to.

    The economy must be oriented towards the nation, not the other way around.

    Also, I am not too trusting of monarchs anymore. Their decadence led to the horrors of 1789. And the modern ones are no different from the leftist intellectual elite except the former have titles.

    My view on these matters is more Evolan. While we can never go back to the past, we must look to the past to find a direction towards the future. We need to take the principles of a better age and apply them to the contemporary world. Are you familiar with Alexander Dugin’s 4th Political Theory?

  • Mike T says:

    Zippy,

    I am aware that every political system discriminates in favor of its conception of the good and all the rest you said. Where we are perhaps now talking at cross purposes is that I am addressing you from a perspective that assumes a Christian worldview and saying that within that world view, the idea that there are no free societies versus unfree is demonstrably not true. You could have, for example, a Catholic state that has socialized every major industry in the country and, riffing on Svar, tightly regulates economic freedom into near non-existence. You could also have a Catholic or Protestant state that generally takes a hands off approach, regulating only as-needed rather than on a very aggressive basis and that actively encourages people to go it alone or in partnerships spontaneously creating new enterprises.

    The only way you can arrive at the idea that those who prefer the former feel it is free is if you believe that freedom is whatever someone’s inner petulant child wants to do. By defining freedom the way you do, you are saying that you agree with Sandra Fluke that her position is reasonable, not utterly insane that she is being oppressed by virtue of someone else not taking action to give her what she wanted. Since that is her concept of the good, you are saying she has a right to call it tyranny that someone is not paying for her birth control even freedom means chiefly (and almost entirely) being unconstrained by negative forces.

  • Svar says:

    “You could have, for example, a Catholic state that has socialized every major industry in the country and, riffing on Svar, tightly regulates economic freedom into near non-existence.”

    When you put it that way, you make me sound like Stalin haha. I disagree with nationalization and socialization of every thing. Some things need a more laid back, hands off approach and other things need a stringent and highly regulated approach. It depends on the industry and the product. That being said, no matter what, the economy and the businesses that make it up must be orientated towards the well-being of the nation. Some capitalists have had that consideration in mind like the great Henry Ford, one of my favorite capitalists. But keep in mind, while he rightfully earned the fruits of his efforts, he was an innovator and a nationally and community minded man, not a robber baron or lowly money changer like Warren Buffet.

  • Svar says:

    “Since that is her concept of the good, you are saying she has a right to call it tyranny that someone is not paying for her birth control even freedom means chiefly (and almost entirely) being unconstrained by negative forces.”

    That is blatantly false. The fault lies not in our views, but in her conception of the Good.

    Keep in mind, that if the Right ever ascends to a position of political power and prestige, we will not forget how it was when the Left was ruling. The Authoritarian Right is the only way to deal with the enemies of civilization, libertarians and their constitution-worship have failed us.

  • Mike T says:

    Svar,

    That is blatantly false. The fault lies not in our views, but in her conception of the Good.

    I know it’s false. I’m saying that Zippy is risking indulging her worldview by suggesting that her views on what constitute freedom are equally reasonable to, say, a typically libertarian’s views. They are not. The libertarian’s views, for all their faults, are rooted in a framework based on not telling others what to do whereas Sandra Fluke’s position is basically indistinguishable from that of a spoiled brat. They may be in contention and even equally matched in terms of numbers in the political polls, but that is a statement about the culture not the rational basis of one group’s view of what constitutes freedom.

    The Authoritarian Right is the only way to deal with the enemies of civilization, libertarians and their constitution-worship have failed us.

    Meanwhile in another thread here the quasi-libertarian/constitutionalist was chastising the Authoritarian Rightist on the need to deport the barbarians while the Authoritarian Rightist was saying it was morally questionable where we could licitly repatriate all of those people.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Let me try to restate your argument.

    If we start with the premise that society S is good, it is, within that constraint, possible for S to be either “more free” or “less free.” The more free version is the “libertarian” version of S.

    But I see no reason to accept the premise: it simply begs the question. A good society constrains what it is good to constrain and empowers what it is good to empower.

    There are no such things as “free” societies. There are only good or bad societies.

  • Svar says:

    “Meanwhile in another thread here the quasi-libertarian/constitutionalist was chastising the Authoritarian Rightist on the need to deport the barbarians while the Authoritarian Rightist was saying it was morally questionable where we could licitly repatriate all of those people.”

    I am assuming that the “quasi-libertarian/constitutionalist” is you and the Authoritarian Rightist is Zippy. I didn’t read the thread in question so I have no clue who you are referring to when you mean barbarians. The Central Americans who are flooding my state? The Somali “refugees” who would rather live in Somalia(considering what they are doing to the host community that has taken them in) than in Minnesota? The Muslims who we are making a grave mistake by importing into our nation?

    For the Central Americans and other hispanic illegals we have a precedent: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Wetback

    For the Muslims and Somalis… Well they are not here in large numbers. They didn’t pop up out of nowhere, we know where they can be repatriated.

  • Svar says:

    “A good society constrains what it is good to constrain and empowers what it is good to empower.

    There are no such things as “free” societies. There are only good or bad societies.”

    Yes, Mike T, liberalism is “freedom to do evil” while libertarianism is “freedom to do it all(unless it is directly hurting someone else)”. Neither option is viable for a society based on the Common Good.

  • Zippy says:

    Svar:
    Libertarianism isn’t even freedom to do it all. It is freedom to do whatever libertarians think it is good to be free to do and constraint where libertarians think constraint is good. The property rights etc regime that they presuppose – that they use to define who is initiating force, who is harming, etc – involves all sorts of constraints backed by force.

    Freedom to do it all has a different name: anarchism. But even that is a misnomer, because people who don’t want to live under anarchy are not free to do so in that regime.

  • Mike T says:

    But I see no reason to accept the premise: it simply begs the question. A good society constrains what it is good to constrain and empowers what it is good to empower.

    Zippy, as I pointed out with the marriage example above, the state can outlaw things that are objectively good. For example, the state can decide that violent felons who are unmarried can never lawfully marry as a penalty for their heinous crime. It can imprison them for attempting to marry. It can also outlaw any attempt by members of the armed forces to contract a marriage before they are eligible for retirement. It can even regulate the Roman Catholic Church on this matter by declaring that anyone who has been the cause of an annulment more than once may never lawfully contract a civil marriage for the rest of their life. The state has, theoretically, a wide degree of authority to prohibit neutral and even good things.

    From a Christian perspective, if you have two Christian states A and B. A does the things above and B does not, A is a significantly less free society on the matter of marriage than B assuming B has nothing equivalent in other areas regulating marriage.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    You are stuck in a paradoxical loop, because you are in effect arguing that of two equally good societies the “freer” one (as you define it) is better. You are also failing (as liberals generally fail) to comprehend that political “freedoms” always involve corresponding constraints: you “see” who is empowered by your proposed policies, but those who are constrained by them are “invisible”.

    Why you fail to understand these things is unclear. But more words from me don’t seem to be able to help.

  • Zippy says:

    In general, wherever we use the word “freedom” politically we could just as accurately use the word “constraint”. “Freedom” to remarry means that we are constrained inasmuch as we are not permitted to make a permanent commitment: an entire world of commitments is off-limits, and anyone who tries to act differently will go to jail (just ask the MRM).

    Using the term “constraint” or “authoritative discrimination” is more honest than using the word “freedom” or “right” though, because it takes responsibility rather than avoiding responsibility.

    Every government policy or political “right” involves both empowerment and corresponding constraint. Liberals “see” only the empowerment in what they favor and the constraint in what they disfavor. This willful one-sided blindness leads them to believe that what they favor politically is “freedom”, and that what they disfavor is “harm” or “infringement on the rights of others”. Favoring a policy that they disfavor is “initiation of force”. Favoring their policies is “leaving people alone”.

    This is how liberals in general see the world, not just libertarians specifically. It is their attempt to abolish politics and just declare victory.

  • Mike T says:

    Zippy,

    You are stuck in a paradoxical loop, because you are in effect arguing that of two equally good societies the “freer” one (as you define it) is better. You are also failing (as liberals generally fail) to comprehend that political “freedoms” always involve corresponding constraints: you “see” who is empowered by your proposed policies, but those who are constrained by them are “invisible”.

    What is unclear to me is why you cannot see the point I am making as something other than a value judgment on one or both societies. I’m not saying society A is better or worse than society B. What I am arguing is that you are flat out wrong when you say that freedom has no meaning other than what someone wants to do, that freedom as a definition means essentially one thing: the freedom to do what one wants to do within the limits of morality. With respect to that caveat, I have made it clear to you that for the purpose of this discussion I am using a Christian worldview as the basis for defining that limit and saying that within the limits of Christian morality you can have a borderline nightwatchman state or a damn near totalitarian state and both are capable of avoiding general evil in their conduct. However, one is demonstrably freerer than the other because it permits a wider range of autonomy within the boundaries of the good whereas the other outlaws virtually actions except that which it positively permits within the limits of the good. That is to say, it outlaws things which are objectively good but which it wishes to not permit because it has made prudential judgment that forcing people to choose only a limited subset of possible good choices is the best route.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    I’m not saying society A is better or worse than society B.

    Then why should anyone care about the distinction?

    freedom as a definition means essentially one thing: the freedom to do what one wants to do within the limits of morality.

    Right: freedom means that people are empowered politically to do the things you think it is good for them to be empowered to do, and are constrained from doing things you think it is good for them to be constrained from doing. It is exactly coextensive with a given conception of good governance. It is therefore completely superfluous conceptually.

    This is the etherial vacuous version of “freedom” that plays one of the two roles in the dance of weaponized nihilism. But then “freedom” will become hard as diamond when the government is expected to initiate force to enforce property rights against exploited workers, to force provision of contraception to Sandra Fluke, to stand up a wall of state troopers to prevent people from giving water to Terri Schiavo, etc etc — the particulars depending on the values of the particular liberal asserting it.

  • Mike T says:

    Actually I am saying that the state can go further and say “we acknowledge this is good, we’re just going to outlaw it anyway because its a roadblock to a valid public policy.” For example, if the state declared it a felony to contract marriage outside of the reproductive years, that would be a valid use of state power. Licit marriage is good. The state can simply declare that most licit marriages are not amenable to its needs and make it a crime to engage in one. Again, not because it’s a conception of the good. The state is acknowledging that those marriages are theoretically good. It is simply saying “you want this, we want that, so it’s our way or nothing.”

  • Hrodgar says:

    So, then, the state is saying that according to its judgement, the otherwise moral but illegal marriages are contingently bad given present circumstances. You continue to argue in favor of your opponent’s position.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Prudential judgement about what an authority should or should not do as a matter of policy is part of morality. “Prudential judgement” isn’t code for “there are no morally good or bad answers”. You are just engaged in the typical liberal head game of pretending that politics can at some level be divorced from morality. It can’t, not ever, and not at any level. Certain political theories pretend that it can; but that just makes those theories sociopathic.

    In the end, everyone with political opinions is an authoritarian. Those who don’t concede this about themselves are still authoritarians: sociopathic authoritarians.

  • Mike T says:

    Our disagreement comes down mainly to what freedom is and whether it can be measured. You assert it is virtually whatever someone says it is, and thus it cannot be measured. I assert it has only one real meaning: autonomy within the range of valid choices and I assert it can be measured by gauging how authorities choose to limit morally valid choices. I am also asserting that authorities have a degree of intrinsic authority to just arbitrarily act within the realm of morally valid choices.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    I am also asserting that authorities have a degree of intrinsic authority to just arbitrarily act within the realm of morally valid choices.

    In this particular expression you are attempting to sneak in metaphysical/moral neutrality with the word “arbitrary”.

  • Mike T says:

    By arbitrary, I meant that if an authority is committed to only the moral range of choices, the authority may choose as it pleases since any choice is a morally valid choice. That is to say, the authority is not required to pick one of them, even if one may yield better results in a utilitarian sense.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    In no controverted case actually relevant to political theory is any exercise of authority ever arbitrary.

  • Mike T says:

    Ok, so bad word choice.

  • Zippy says:

    Politics and governance always and only apply to controverted cases, by definition. If there is no controversy then no need for governance arises.

    There may well be coherent theories of freedom; but there are no coherent theories of political freedom which are not coextensive with a particular conception of the good, with all of the metaphysical and moral constraints that implies, rendering “freedom” politically superfluous.

    But of course people don’t like cherished ideals like “freedom” to be literally superfluous, so they always end up insisting on something more. Thus political freedom always gives rise to assertion of moral license.

  • Mike T says:

    If freedom is superfluous then it follows that as long as the authorities’ actions are not generally unjust, they can limit individual actions however they see fit as long as it advances the common good. That is to say, they could easily justify among other things a command and control economy wherein the state directly orders all high level economic transactions since the freedom to direct one’s business exists only at the sufferance of the state in the name of the common good.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Only if that was actually a good thing to do.

  • Mike T says:

    Oh I don’t know, Fascist economics seem to have done alright for the Western world since the end of WWII. We may not be quite so doctrinaire, but anyone who believes our economy is directed more by Ayn Rand than Mussolini is kidding themselves.

  • Zippy says:

    Arguing with yourself about the prudence of various actions is no doubt amusing. But in order to actually disagree with me here you have to first assume that your proposed choice is actually good (which is what makes it OK for the government to do it) and then argue that even though it is a prudentially right and good choice it isn’t congruent with your concept of political freedom. IOW your concept of freedom must be opposed to choices which you have already stipulated are good choices. The politics of freedom stands in inherent opposition to the Good.

    And that is the seed that blossoms into the celebration of hedonism, nihilism, and massacre of the innocent that dominates the Overton window: liberalism.

  • Mike T says:

    One of the things that always comes to my mind when y’all get on this topic about how bad liberal America is, is which country would you rather get into a dispute with the police? Pinochet’s Chile or modern America?

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Because liberal lies are so much nicer than other lies. As long as you aren’t conceived in the wrong womb.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Ignoratio Elenchi! Logical fallacy! I’m telling the teacher on you Mike T.

    Just because some bad things are worse than other bad things doesn’t make it okay to do the less bad things. “I could be an even worse sinner than I am now” is not an excuse.

    Some things about Chile are worse than America. That doesn’t make the atrocities we commit any better.

    Another good example: National Socialism is more explicitly evil than Communism. That doesn’t make Communism any less evil.

  • Mike T says:

    But in order to actually disagree with me here you have to first assume that your proposed choice is actually good (which is what makes it OK for the government to do it) and then argue that even though it is a prudentially right and good choice it isn’t congruent with your concept of political freedom

    I don’t think you get that my opposition to your position first and foremost comes to these points:

    1. Freedom of action only exists in the realm of morally valid choices; most people would agree with that even if they don’t agree with your or my definition of The Good.

    2. If we posit #1, we can define the entire set of actions on a given issue, separate the morally licit ones into a subset and then see which societies most closely permit the total subset of morally licit choices.

    3. As the subset a society tolerates approaches or retreats from equality with the set of all possible moral choices that society can be said to be relatively free or unfree on that issue.

    4. If we apply steps 1-3 to a larger set of issues, we can gauge the total commitment or lack thereof to allowing citizens autonomy within the realm of choices that are morally licit thus setting an overall metric on how relatively free or not that society is.

  • Mike T says:

    Some things about Chile are worse than America. That doesn’t make the atrocities we commit any better.

    No, it doesn’t. It’s just a reminder that for all of the talk about how great Right Authoritarianism, actual Right Authoritarians tend to fall well short of the advertising. And no, saying “they’re only human” doesn’t cut it. The contempt for “rights talk” played out in practice as contempt for real people’s basic right to fair treatment by their government and due process.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Freedom of action only exists in the realm of morally valid choices

    But why bother calling it by the superfluous term ‘freedom’ then, instead of just calling it ‘morality’?

    You’re arguing in favor of an authoritarian government while simultaneously trying to redefine the word freedom to make it fit with what you want it to mean – as opposed to what it actually means.

    To quote your earlier comment: “poor word choice”.

    actual Right Authoritarians tend to fall well short of the advertising.

    You couldn’t possibly know that, because there have been no properly authoritarian governments since the Liberal revolutions (beginning with the French, if memory serves).

    If you wanna try and knock Charlemagne, that’s a whole ‘nother argument that I’m ready to throw down on if you are.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    I understand your opposition perfectly. It is just either incoherent or vacuous, as I’ve shown repeatedly.

    Crying “Pinochet” is just surrendering the argument, with a last-ditch effort at guilt-by-association.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    If we posit #1, we can define the entire set of actions on a given issue, separate the morally licit ones into a subset

    I think you might be conflating “moral” and “good.” The items within that subset are not equally good. If it were decided that any of those options were good–thus restricting a certain freedom–then that arrangement is *more* good than the one without the restriction. They are not equal scenarios. Additionally, as Zippy explained, the freedom to live under the good conditions that restrict one action counterbalances the freedom to live without the good conditions which also restrict anyone from the freedom to limit those conditions. When it comes to the common good–freedom is, in fact, irrelevant.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    All libertarians think freedom means, “people should be allowed to make every choice they want except X”. X is the unprincipled exception(s) to their philosophy. Christians in general tend to try to make libertarianism coherent by making X ‘immoral choices’. Another common one is making X ‘anything that harms another person’.

    What they don’t realize is that they’re trying to redefine freedom to mean something it doesn’t. Freedom means, “lack of constraint on action”. If you toss in an “except for X” then it’s not freedom. It’s authoritarian. That’s why no conception of libertarianism is coherent. “There should be no constraints on action except for these constraints on action”.

    You end up with a war between people with different ideas about what constraints on action there should be, while they accuse each other of not truly supporting freedom. In reality, none of them do. They all have an X; an authoritative conception of the common good which they believe should be enforced.

  • Zippy says:

    It is obviously counterfactual to characterize libertarianism to mean what Mike T wants it to mean anyway. Heck, even the most moralistic government doesn’t make every single immoral act by an individual illegal. So his initial “freedom space” is more restrictive than any actual government that has ever existed.

    And libertarianism doesn’t take individual freedom to be the lowest priority after every other priority with respect to the common good has been satisfied, or after every morally wrong act has been made illegal under the positive law.

    So the idea that his characterization is an even remotely accurate description of libertarianism is risible.

  • Mike T says:

    I think you might be conflating “moral” and “good.” The items within that subset are not equally good. If it were decided that any of those options were good–thus restricting a certain freedom–then that arrangement is *more* good than the one without the restriction.

    I take Zippy to mean good choices in the sense primarily that they are moral options reasonably aligned with the common good. The fact that two choices may be unequal doesn’t obligate the authorities to choose the best one anymore than we have an obligation to optimize our lives as individuals.

  • Mike T says:

    Zippy,

    It is obviously counterfactual to characterize libertarianism to mean what Mike T wants it to mean anyway.

    The only thing I’ve really said about libertarianism is that it is actually not that incoherent if you approach it from the perspective of a particular concrete conception of what is good such as a Christian worldview.

    JustSomeGuy,

    You couldn’t possibly know that, because there have been no properly authoritarian governments since the Liberal revolutions (beginning with the French, if memory serves).

    Ah yes, the no true scotsman fallacy. First made truly popular by apologists for Communism and Socialism, now the authoritarian right wants in on it…

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    The only thing I’ve really said about libertarianism is that it is actually not that incoherent if you approach it from the perspective of a particular concrete conception of what is good such as a Christian worldview.

    And that’s been demonstrated manifestly false over and over again.

    Ah yes, the no true scotsman fallacy.

    A No True Scotsman fallacy asserts that a counterexample doesn’t apply for no real reason.

    I didn’t deny your counterexample, you failed to provide a counterexample.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Any idea is compatible with Christianity in a sense – if we don’t take it seriously. Make anything a low enough priority and it just disappears, trumped by everything that is more important.

    But again, this notion you have that libertarianism treats political freedom as a subordinate low priority doesn’t pass the laugh test.

  • Mike T says:

    But again, this notion you have that libertarianism treats political freedom as a subordinate low priority doesn’t pass the laugh test.

    Zippy, for the last time I have never asserted such a thing. You are now entering the realm of putting words into my mouth. As I said, libertarianism assumes inherent limits on freedom. That it has no rational, mutually accepted standard to say what should define that limit is a serious problem. However it does in fact accept in principle, even if it has no effective means to implement, that idea.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    As I understand your contention, it is that libertarianism is only rationally incoherent when it is not constrained by a moral framework more authoritative than itself; and that libertarianism in fact understands itself as so constrained. If that doesn’t mean that libertarianism treats political freedom as a subordinate low priority, I don’t know what it means.

    Just to discuss this at all I’ve set aside the fact that incoherent ideas cannot actually be made coherent by treating them as a low priority. Treating an incoherent idea as a low priority might reduce its ill effects; but it doesn’t magically become rationally coherent just because its authority is trumped by something that is coherent. The liberal/libertarian idea of freedom rests on the concept of rights, and rights are a kind of constraint. Making other people do things your way is “freeing” to you only in modality: it also always involves constraining others. Every right both empowers and constrains, and liberalism depends on a kind of sleight of hand, insisting that we notice the empowerment but ignore the constraint. By ignoring the constraint modality of rights we can “maximize freedom” with “more rights, less government”.

    It also sets aside the rather precious notion that this authentic liberalism can and will stay nice and tame in the cage where it belongs.

  • Mike T says:

    As I understand your contention, it is that libertarianism is only rationally incoherent when it is not constrained by a moral framework more authoritative than itself; and that libertarianism in fact understands itself as so constrained. If that doesn’t mean that libertarianism treats political freedom as a subordinate low priority, I don’t know what it means.

    You see it as subordinating freedom. They see it as a category error since they reject the concept of freedom to do harm others. As a practical matter, it works out to be the same thing when you adjust for the fact that they have no coherent method of implementing what that means.

    But as a practical matter, I increasingly find all ideologies incoherent as they all conflict with reality in observable ways including “right authoritarianism.” Some more than others.

    The liberal/libertarian idea of freedom rests on the concept of rights, and rights are a kind of constraint. Making other people do things your way is “freeing” to you only in modality: it also always involves constraining others. Every right both empowers and constrains, and liberalism depends on a kind of sleight of hand, insisting that we notice the empowerment but ignore the constraint.

    Probably because liberalism, even in its secular modern form acting as a parasite on selective Christian morality, assumes that a constraint based in hard morality is intrinsically justified and not something which decent people object to. You’re the only one I know taking up the cause of evil men within the liberal worldview, acting as though those who would do evil within a liberal framework are getting their rights trampled.

    In effect, you are saying that liberals within their framework are shortchanging evil men by ignoring the constraints on their “freedom.”

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Zippy, for the last time I have never asserted such a thing. You are now entering the realm of putting words into my mouth.

    People don’t get to choose the logical consequences of their ideas. Marx can stand there and stamp his foot all day, yelling, “Communism doesn’t lead to despotic dictatorships!” That doesn’t make it so.

    When Zippy takes your ideas to their logical conclusions, you can’t make it not so by stamping your foot and denying that you actually assert those things. Perhaps you personally don’t assert them, but they are the logical ends of your ideas.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    You see it as subordinating freedom. They see it as a category error since they reject the concept of freedom to do harm others.

    Unprincipled exception much? “There should be no constraints on action except for these constraints on action.”

    I increasingly find all ideologies incoherent as they all conflict with reality in observable ways including “right authoritarianism.” Some more than others.

    And what does that have to do with libertarianism? Saying, “These other philosophies we’re not talking about are wrong” does nothing for the case of, “This philosophy we’re talking about is right”.

    In effect, you are saying that liberals within their framework are shortchanging evil men by ignoring the constraints on their “freedom.”

    Yes, exactly. That’s why the idea of equal freedom is incoherent. It demands that evil be treated with freedom as well as good.

    When you accuse us of lacking common sense for not partaking in the usual batch of unprincipled exceptions (“stuff that harms others” is a usual one, for example) all you’re doing is saying, “This incoherent philosophy can be made coherent by abandoning it in those situations in which it is incoherent.”

    IOW, in all situations in which it isn’t equivalent to an authoritative conception of the good.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    But as a practical matter, I increasingly find all ideologies incoherent as they all conflict with reality in observable ways including “right authoritarianism.” Some more than others.

    So every view is incoherent and we might as well just pick the flavor we like?

    How delightfully postmodern.

  • Mike T says:

    So every view is incoherent and we might as well just pick the flavor we like?

    Or rather we recognize that ideology has increasingly shown itself to be a framework for thinking and like all frameworks, it suffers from the fact that its creator has an unavoidable, imperfect knowledge of edge cases. That results in us recognizing that ideology is of limited use and we must be willing and able to analyze situations on their own merits within the limits of morality and the common good.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    It is certainly true that liberalism (of which libertarianism is a kind) is not the only way to go off the rails ideologically. But it is the quintessentially modern way to go off the rails ideologically, so it is a central focus of my own blogging. Heck, the things you label “authoritarian right” are usually very modernist close cousins of liberalism.

    It is true enough that an unthinking reactionary is likely to jump out of the liberal frying pan into the Nazi fire. I’ve made that point many times myself, which is why I have so many friends in HBD and NRx.

  • Mike T says:

    It is true enough that an unthinking reactionary is likely to jump out of the liberal frying pan into the Nazi fire. I’ve made that point many times myself, which is why I have so many friends in HBD and NRx.

    My main objection to the right authoritarianism stems from what I see on places like this as a refusal (by commenters, not you) as a refusal to acknowledge that liberalism has done a number of good things and a readiness to throw the baby out with the bath water. For example, with some work, the US Constitution would be a perfectly conservative document. Yet most of your “authoritarian rightists” would throw it in their lovefest for authoritarian regimes that didn’t want to be encumbered by hard legal restrictions on what sort of actions and laws can be undertaken.

    I doubt most authoritarian rightists would want to live in an actual authoritarian regime such as has existed in the past due to the fact that the reality is that they really weren’t that good at pursuing the common good (or respecting basic rights if you’re more inclined toward liberalism). They are, as I said to King Richard, simply less destructive than left wing authoritarian governments. What seems to be missing in the zeal for authoritarian government is an acknowledgment that government power is actually quite dangerous even in the hands of good men because it imparts a unique capacity to inflict harm on a scale that ordinary men don’t possess.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    What seems to be missing in the zeal for authoritarian government is an acknowledgment that government power is actually quite dangerous

    Any authority in the hands of fallen human beings is dangerous, sure. But I don’t really accept the way you frame things, because every political philosophy is necessarily authoritarian. The ones that think they are not (most notably liberalism and its variants) still actually are authoritarian: they are just necessarily sociopathic because they base their own legitimacy on the claim to be anti-authoritarian or non-authoritarian.

    So we have to start from a baseline understanding that politics and governance are inherently authoritarian and discriminatory, period. No ifs, ands, or buts. Then we can start the political philosophy war from there, and I’m a big supporter of subsidiarity as a positive and necessary good.

    But if we start from somewhere utterly disconnected from reality – like the notion that this political philosophy is not authoritarian – then dysfunction and dystopia are the only possibility.

    Now as an incoherent acid that erodes all meaning and authority liberalism has in fact more or less accidentally destroyed a few things that needed destroying. But you can’t base a civilization on a continual process of nuking everything and salting the earth.

  • Mike T says:

    Any authority in the hands of fallen human beings is dangerous, sure. But I don’t really accept the way you frame things, because every political philosophy is necessarily authoritarian.

    Government authority carries with it the power to wield a significant amount of force when one is at the higher levels of power. In that sense, governmental authority is uniquely dangerous. An absolute monarch with an army is infinitely more dangerous if he turns tyrant than a peasant patriarch of a family. This is doubly true today with the power differential between modern state forces and civilian populations. It is why in a previous thread I said that after the 20th century’s lessons, I cannot, will not under any circumstances whatsoever support a general disarmament of the population.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    An absolute monarch with an army is infinitely more dangerous if he turns tyrant than a peasant patriarch of a family.

    That’s why subsidiarity is a good thing.

    I agree that dumping all the political power in the hands of one man can be dangerous. Just look at the Borgia Popes – not exactly good leadership material.

    We can argue all day about the best way to accomplish this task, but -however you want to run it – you can’t escape from the fact that the purpose of government is to authoritatively enforce the common good. Theoretically, a non-Liberal democracy could do it. We’ve observed monarchies do it in the past. But it’s incompatible with Liberalism.

    I cannot, will not under any circumstances whatsoever support a general disarmament of the population.

    Amen to that. I’ve been a gun owner ever since I was old enough to legally own guns.

  • Mike T says:

    Even though I have authoritarian leanings, the reason I can get behind the logic of the gun rights movement on capacity to commit revolution is that subsidiarity must be defended by arms being pledged only contingently to the sovereign. That is contingent upon him or her or them actually protecting the common good.

    We can argue all day about the best way to accomplish this task, but -however you want to run it – you can’t escape from the fact that the purpose of government is to authoritatively enforce the common good.

    Indeed, you cannot. I’ve never tried to argue otherwise here. I mainly disagree with Zippy on what freedom means. I simply don’t agree with the idea that not getting one’s way is an actual restriction unless the decision imparts a restriction on what one can do. Meaning that the feds refusing to give Sandra Fluke her way is not a restriction of her actual freedom, it’s just her not getting what she wants. I draw a line there that Zippy does not since preferences often have nothing to do with the range of legitimate choices one can make (and forcing others to buy stuff for you is often immoral since it involves seizing their wealth or labor without a harm having been committed against the receiving party or a clear common good justification).

  • Zippy says:

    It isn’t that you disagree with me about what freedom means. It is that you disagree with me about what rights entail.

  • […] of the followers of Mohammed.  Although their god is the same god as the god of leftism, their simple minds fail to grasp that he is a trinity, simultaneously one and […]

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