Libertarian superposition

August 28, 2016 § 33 Comments

Kristor suggested that I superimpose the libertarian diamond diagram over my own drawing.  Here it is:superposition

Libertarians are correct that their political views are, at least in a sense, more consistent with freedom and equal rights as uncompromising principles than other political views. That is precisely why libertarians (left and right) are so crazy and disconnected from reality.  “Centrism” is really a concentric circle in between the singularity and the event horizon: it is a region of many unprincipled exceptions, little introspection, fairly strong comfort with the status quo, and unwillingness or inability to call liberalism into question.

UPDATE: Keep in mind that this is just a visual aid.  The meaningful dimensions are left/right and distance from the singularity at the center of the picture.  Up/down is not meaningful — the up/down in the libertarian diamond is simply distance from the center.

§ 33 Responses to Libertarian superposition

  • donalgraeme says:

    This actually helped quite a lot. Thanks Zippy.

  • Zippy says:

    donalgraeme:

    Thanks, I do think it makes some sense. To left liberals, libertarians appear to be to the right. To right liberals, libertarians appear to be to the left. Libertarians see statists in all directions. ‘Moderate’ right liberals see ‘less moderate’ right liberals as nazis and try to distance themselves from them. ‘Centrist’ right liberals see the looming spectre of Communism every time they look left. ‘Centrist’ left liberals see the looming spectre of Nazism whenever they look to the right. Etc, etc.

    And they are all seeing reality more or less correctly — from their narrow, blinkered, highly localized and directional perspectives.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Liberalism can be understood as a denial of either the moral authrority of the community (the libertarianism) or the particularity of the community (the progressivism). Either way, the idea of distinction between a neighbor and a stranger (in the sense of Kipling’s The Stanger) is lost.

    Thus, progressivism is about equality (between neighbors and strangers) and libertarianism about freedom (from community). There is also an equality of strangeness with libertarians–all men are equally strangers to each other.

  • itascriptaest says:

    It appears that the Alt-Right is already rapidly collapsing inward. Vox Day has said that the Alt-Right is basically national libertarianism. By this drawing we would then have to plot Vox Day somewhere between Libertarian and Right Liberal. There are voices on the Alt-Right who would reject Day’s characterization but I suspect that people like Day and Nick Land are succeeding branding the Alt-Right as simply a more radical form of Anarcho Capitalism- “We have to protect the gains of the Enlightenment from the brown hordes!”

    I say this as a completely disinterested observer but this would seem to be the third time that a right wing movement that started as theorecticaly opposed to Liberalism somehow manages to get coopted by Libertarianism. The first time occured in the post WW2 conservative revival where the few Anti-Liberal voices were smothered by Fusionism. The second time occured in the late 80s and early 90s when the Paleos joined forces with Anarcho Capitalists, and were in turn promptly eclisped by the Anarcho-Capitalists and for nearly two decades (90s to 2015) Libertarians could posture as being the only “outsider” to the mainstream.

  • imnobody00 says:

    This is a static drawing representing one moment in time.

    Reality (as understood by all cultures except Western culture after French revolution) is far right and the entire drawing is moving leftwards.

  • Zippy says:

    imnobody00:

    This is a static drawing representing one moment in time.

    That is the impression that folks further out on the political right have, because of their frame of reference. What they perceive is the inexorable gravitational pull toward the singularity; and because of where they are themselves, they perceive this as – because it is – an inexorable force to the left.

  • Zippy says:

    More colorfully: rather than viewing liberalism as fueling an inexplicable but constant and relentless leftward march, the drawing explains liberalism in context as a black hole, a singularity which over time sucks more and more of reality toward its incoherent center. Liberalism’s conflict with reality is most overt and intense at the event horizon: Communism and Nazism arose because of liberalism’s failure in reality to achieve the freedom and equality that it promises.

    The model also shows why (assuming a reasonable correspondence with reality) putatively antiliberal alliances with libertarians and the like are (and have historically been) foolish and self destructive. “Paleolibertarian” for example has always been a contradiction in terms.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    A liberal is a person that believes in rational resolution of all possible (political) disputes. He disregards the role of brute force in human affairs. This is consequent to the collapse of neighbor-stranger distinction in liberalism for a neighbor is just the person with whom we share sufficient moral premises as to allow all political arguments to proceed to a conclusion. For instance, all Americans believe at disputes may be ultimately resolved with majority vote.

    But the fundamental question, who holds sovereignity over a particular territory, this question is not amenable to rational resolution. Territories are held and sovereignities are maintained through brute force. And this is precisely why liberalism is hostile to sovereignity.

  • Zippy says:

    vishmehr24:
    The idea that liberals ‘disregard the role of force’ is manifestly wrong.

    Liberals (at least of the purest sort) disbelieve in authority: in the moral legitimacy of the sovereign (king, father, husband, etc) imposing his will, and subjects’ moral obligation to obey. Because they disbelieve in the legitimacy of authority liberals also disbelieve in the enforcement of authority, and therefore are always inventing literally inhuman pseudoauthorities which act as substitute for authority. But your view of liberalism as disbelief in the legitimacy of enforcement is truncated and narrow. You are missing the forest for the trees.

    IOW your oft expressed belief that the sovereign’s will is just brute force – that his authority has no intrinsic moral legitimacy and is just brute force – is well inside the event horizon.

  • Zippy says:

    natewinchester:

    Wright’s drawing has little in common with mine other than the use of circles. And how he views the world is pretty much just what we should expect from a conventional right liberal.

  • In each direction the dominant thought of that direction eventually displaces Christian thought, and ends in nihilism, the philosophical posture that there is no truth known or knowable to man.

    Proposal: modern politics is analogous to a black hole, because at its very center is a self contradictory logical singularity where all reason breaks down.

    You both see the same end result, the only difference is you paint it as a collapse inward and he paints it as a spiraling out of control outwards.

    Yeah, nothing at all in common… except everything save the direction.

  • Zippy says:

    natewinchester:
    All I can suggest is that my attempt to convey meaning via my visual aid has obviously failed in your case.

  • Ian says:

    Nice diagram.

    With the double-sided arrow near the top of the diagram, are you saying that right liberals are more likely to make unprincipled exceptions to equality, while left liberals are more likely to make unprincipled exceptions to liberty?

  • Zippy says:

    Ian:
    Yes — unprincipled being a critical qualifier, and with the usual caveat that characterizing tendencies driven by incoherent doctrines is always tricky.

  • Ian says:

    Hmmm. When I was a right liberal, I would have agreed that left liberals make more unprincipled exceptions to liberty than right liberals do, but that’s because I had a myopic view of what liberty was (e.g., ‘negative rights’, free market, blah blah blah). Now as a recovering right liberal, I’m not so sure: for example, it seems to me that left liberals are more consistent in terms of advocating for policies aimed at individual autonomy and freedom from traditional constraints.

  • Zippy says:

    Ian:
    FWIW, I debated with myself about including it, and it does contain a subjective element: left liberals look at right liberals and think they don’t care about equality; right liberals look at left liberals and think they don’t care about freedom.

    At the end of the day political freedom and equality are modes of the same incoherent concept, though, so the arrow is necessarily more one of perception than of objective reality.

  • donnie says:

    At the end of the day political freedom and equality are modes of the same incoherent concept, though, so the arrow is necessarily more one of perception than of objective reality.

    Yes, this is how I understood the original diagram as well. As a result I thought the event horizons weren’t actually Nazism and Communism, but rather perceived Nazism and Communism. This would also allow the diagram to make sense in different time periods: e.g. in the late 1700s perhaps the event horizons were perceived “Despotism” on the right and on the left a perceived “Anarchy / Mob Rule.”

    The trouble with insisting the chart stay static is that it only makes sense post-WWII. Perhaps this was your intention, but if so, it’s usefulness is limited since it is plain to see that the singularity has been the center-point of political thought since the Enlightenment.

  • Zippy says:

    donnie:

    As a result I thought the event horizons weren’t actually Nazism and Communism, but rather perceived Nazism and Communism.

    It is fair enough to observe that Nazism and Communism are particular historical examples of what actually happened when liberalism came into existential conflict with reality during the 20th century.

    But the Event Horizon in the graphic isn’t intended to merely express perception: liberalism under existential threat really does become incredibly and overtly violent in expressions like Nazism and Communism. The EH is supposed to represent where, conceptually, that kind of thing takes place — and can continue to take place.

    From a different angle: it is possible to treat – say – “classical liberalism” as either a particular historical occurrence limited to (say) Locke and the Founding Fathers; or as an abstract type which occurred before, still exists in places now, and can occur again. The “nazism” and “communism” in the graphic are like “classical liberalism” in the second sense.

    Liberalism did (like a black hole) develop over time, of course, pulling all of politics into itself: the ‘mass’ of the thing (singularity to event horizon) today is far greater than it was in (say) the 1700’s. So there should be qualitative differences over its historical development.

  • Zippy says:

    In still other words, “this is what black holes look like” is different – but preliminary and related to – “this is what this particular black hole looks like right now”. And the diagram is (analogously) a combination of the two, really.

  • imnobody00 says:

    @Zippy

    imnobody00:

    This is a static drawing representing one moment in time.

    That is the impression that folks further out on the political right have, because of their frame of reference. What they perceive is the inexorable gravitational pull toward the singularity; and because of where they are themselves, they perceive this as – because it is – an inexorable force to the left.

    I was going to reply that you had it wrong. However, I have thought about it and now I think you have it right.

    Classic conservatives were individualist in the economic realm (laissez- faire) and collectivist in the social realm (family, community, monogamy).

    Classic liberals were collectivist in the economic realm (welfare state, unions, etc) and individualist in the social realm (anything goes, follow your bliss, promiscuity, divorce).

    The modern synthesis (political correctness) is individualist in the economic realm and individualist in the social realm. It is the individualist libertarian black hole, that draws everything to its center.

  • Scott W. says:

    Maybe if it was set on a 3D schematic it would help eliminate the left/right confusion. Something like https://i.ytimg.com/vi/TtcRjftBvMQ/maxresdefault.jpg but I’ll leave it to you graphics wizards to work out the details.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Zippy,
    “your oft expressed belief that the sovereign’s will is just brute force”

    It is not my belief. The belief is rather that sovereigns assert their sovereignity over a particular territory. For example, USA asserts that it is sovereign over Alaska. Other nations may accept or deny this assertion. Force (and not “enforcement”) is the only possible resolution.

    Thus, I am speaking of international relations, not of domestic. Hence, It is not “enforcement” in the sense of law enforcement but of “force” in sense of military and war.

  • Zippy says:

    vishmehr24:
    There is some truth to what you are saying, but it is a truncated truth. Peace with neighbors is not strictly and only a matter of force; nor has this ever been the case.

    Traditionally, at least in Western countries, neighboring communities were often bonded as neighbors by blood ties: the king of England was literally married to the cousin of the king of France or what have you.

    In the modern era the ‘bonds’ such as they are tend to be ideological: adopt liberal democracy or face ‘regime change’. Legitimacy in the modern era rests on commitment to liberalism and/or status as a liberal victim class.

    This of course is insane, so belief in sovereign legitimacy breaks down– thus open borders, unless walls are necessary to keep out hordes of conquering oppressor-untermenschen.

  • Craig N. says:

    Is there any complaint from the Left corresponding to the leftward motion of the culture perceived by the Right (e.g. imnobody00)?

    I’m not on the Left and don’t listen to much from that part of the spectrum, but one thing that occurs to me is plaintive discussions of capitalism’s ability to turn everything — even rebellion (which should probably go in scare quotes) — into just another lifestyle choice with its associated products.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Zippy,
    Peace between countries exists and is called “state of nature” by Locke.
    But might remains the ultimate foundation of territorial assertion. This distinguishes territorial possession from landed property, which is backed by logic and arguments.

  • Zippy says:

    vishmehr24:
    I can take those to be “soft” banal statements with many caveats and uninteresting implications, or “hard” categorical statements which are false.

  • donnie says:

    Craig N.,

    I wondered the same so I did some digging. Apparently the sentiment that America constantly drifts right-ward is more prevalent among hard-core liberals than I expected.

    Probably the best summary of this worldview I’ve found so far is Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, a documentary series you can watch on YouTube. I haven’t watched the whole thing (and probably won’t) but what I watched was interesting, as far as being able to see how a liberal views the direction of history.

    Also, something a little scary that I found, apparently the documentary is used in eleventh grade public school history classes in California. There are free lesson plans you can download from the documentary’s official website.

  • donnie says:

    Also commonly cited by liberals is A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, published in 1980, which from what I can presents the history of the United States (from 1492 – present) as one the increasing and constant oppression of minority groups by the majority.

    According to Wikipedia it has long been assigned reading in many high schools and colleges across the country, despite being heavily criticized by many historians across the political spectrum.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_People%27s_History_of_the_United_States

    It would seem there are plenty of liberals who see history as a never-ending march toward the Right.

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