I’ve upset someone


Shit happens: oh well, we sometimes differ about the means of achieving a libertarial polit, and specially about how to communicte with those still to be persuaded…

[UPDATE: There is a constructive exchange of strategic views about what the Libertarian Alliance blog ought to be for, over here. Do read: specially Patrick's long and detailed reply to me.]

David Davis

[OLD STUFF:]You can read what he thinks of my opinions here. It’s a pity that so many libertarians disagree so violently about so many things. This is a sad and inevitable result of lots of intelligent people trying to unsuccessfully reach agreement about important matters: it’s how we lost WW2 for example [ I leave Stalin out of that group for he always knew what he wanted, and got most of it.]

The Libertarian Alliance has existed for so long, and has, apart from being noticed by a few thousand academics, achieved so little reduction in the socialist-megadeaths-per-year count, that one begins in the evening of one’s life to despair of any improvement. Having said that, I do have the pleasure of inviting you all to our conference on 24th/25th October 2009! Only £85, a snip: no increase on last year, unlike what biofuels have done to food.

Perhaps we have not amplified our appeal-base /because/ we are so ideoligically pure, and not despite this.

There is no point in just sitting on one’s arses and talking academically to academics and think tanks and conferences, when real people with real guns are really killing other people who either just want liberty, or are “in the way of programmes”, or just don’t think about politics at all at all ever. (And thus get killed.)

Look here you purists: I’m building a blog – or trying to – and I have not got all the time in the world. People like these might want to know about libertarianism before people like these get to them instead, and make the task of repair impossible.

Or perhaps it’s this that he objects to. I do not know.

I just think that although it is clearly right to be ideoligically pure and consistent, there also remains an ultimate risk to the survival of liberalism at all in any form, as the world darkens. We ought to be sen as serious about defending what we believe in, as well as just being seem as a load of wimpish academics who sit about all day and talk about it.

No possible number of truncated interviews with Sean Gabb on the wireless will alter the course of either this government or the “Taleban”, or the course of Kim Jong-Il before he died. If I am to be now regarded as a hawkish “NeoLibertarian”, then let it be. I am fine with that.

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27 responses to “I’ve upset someone

  1. For what its worth I think the LA has achieved exactly what I expected it to with it’s stupid strategy of targeting the intellectual classes.

    The intellectuals are all employed by the state – the clever ones in universities and the fuckwits as schoolteachers. The really clueless are given a kind of dole in the form of arts council grants and the ones who cant even managed that are give jobs as diversity officers or benefit clerks.

    There’s very little market for freedom in peole who’ve taken the state’s shilling.

    We should have been targeting the meth cooks, heavy metal bands, pornographers, gun dealers and what not. Real guerrilla capitalists.

  2. But we should target them with libertarianism.

    If I were new to libertarianism and came here I’d not get a good impression.

    Libertarianism already has an image problem – we need to show how it is good for ordinary people, but that’s not done with jingoism and populist rants about ‘feminazis’ and brown people.

    You have to pursuade people, not adopt their bigotry yourself.

  3. Perhaps then, I am not the right person to run this blog?

    I have indeed suspected this for some time: perhaps I should be writing a different one instead.

    I do not believe that libertarians ought to simply be academic theoreticians, discussing while the world goes into the new Dark Age, how it could be otherwise organised if we all loved one another and respected each other;s natural Rights, when nobody else is listening, people are being killed, and dictocrats are winning.

    Libertarianism does /not/ have to mean kowtowing to your enemies, trying to discuss with them why you are right while they point guns at you. Moderation in defence of liberty is not, to me, these days, a usable virtue.

    Sorry chaps. Perhaps this blog ought to have remained a shop-window for theoretical libertarian pamphlets designed to slowly, over the centuries, influence the thinking of policy-makers.

    I didn’t think there was time left enough for that, as the planet is falling down the cesspit too fast. I thought we had to get serious about dealing with people whom we [in our hearts] knew we could never convince, and who would – and will – oppose us to the end of their strength.

  4. Graham Davies

    I favour a non-interventionist foreign policy myself, but I think a greater sense of perspective would help. The biggest weakness libertarians is spending too much time on trifling issues while the state juggernaught rolls on.

    I don’t know how to get out of this mess though. Far too many people still support authoritarian politics even if it is only on a residual party loyalty basis. While some generalizations can be made about the public sector, I wouldn’t assume that everyone who works for the government is an enemy of liberty. Needs must as the devil drives, and the voters gave him the steering wheel.

    Would a broad-based libertarian protest group be feasible?

  5. My tuppence in the old money-

    In a nutshell, there is no significant externally generated threat to western civilisation, or western liberal civilisation, or what have you. There are some people who would like to do us harm, and can do us some relatively small harm occasionally. Their chance of bringing down western civilisation, on their own, is precisely zero. To initiate wars which we cannot win (for their is no defined win condition) is a waste of lives, and resources, and effort.

    Western civilisation is likely to be brought down from within, because its ruling class is mad. It has had mad ruling classes before- during the heights of western christianity, for instance- but at those times their madness tended to produce a selfish societal coherence which in the long run of history enabled the development and survival of western culture. People like Luther and Calvin were mad, and terrible people, but did not destroy civilisation as a consequence.

    The current western ruling class is probably the only ruling class in world history that has openly despised its own civilisation and desired to end it. There are however numerous examples of ruling classes whose madness and stupidity have destroyed their own civilisations. The historical record is littered with their fossilised remains.

    The defining virtue of western civilisation and its greatest triumph was the development of the concept of the individual, leading to a break with the great weakness of every previous civilisation- collectivist inertia. Every previous attempt at a major civilisation has held the extension of its power- that is, of its monarchy or ruling class- to be pre-eminent, leading to a failure to develop and an endless round of wars which ultimately sapped its strength and led to collapse or conquest by an equally inefficient competitor “on the up”. The Persian threat destablised Rome, for instance, stretching its military structure beyond capacity, such that mounting an adequate response to the Persian threat left their other borders vulnerable with disastrous consequences- while Rome rotted from within due to a new ruling class madness called Christianity that spent any spare economic resources on building churches and maintaining a parasitic bureaucracy.

    Out of the ashes of that collapse came “western civilisation” which somehow managed to develop this revolutionary concept of the individual. Although that was always in a struggle with tribalist-collectivism, it became a powerful enough principle for a while to create the first society with real progress. Personal and economic freedom allied to enquiring minds brought us a society whose labour built steam engines instead of pyramids, and with enough spare change to still build some churches. Unfortunately, that revolutionary individualist idea never truly triumphed. Tribal collectivism may or may not be in our genes, but it is a powerful lure. Progress and change and individual responsibility are scary things. Our inability to find an adequate response to the injustices that were a legacy of the past left the door open to revivalism.

    It is hard to believe in free markets and invidualism when the power brokers in one’s society are so obviously the beneficiaries of past advantage- when you are working a 72 hour week in poverty and the lords ride by in gilded coaches. The sense of injustice and desire to resolve this tension was based in real experience of hardship. The factory worker or agricultural labourer knew he was not on a level playing field with the factory owner or lord of the manor. He had no capital and little chance of advancement.

    The result was that a motley of tribal collectivist movements were able to regain their strength and power, ranging from religious pious movements (e.g. methodism etc) to economic collectivist movements (e.g. communism) to philisophical pastist collectivist movements (e.g. romanticism->greenism). All of them turned their fury on individualism. They easily recaptured the cultural hegemony, which they had never truly lost anyway.

    The result was a ruling class and cultural hegemony returned to tribal collectivism. Liberalism had flowered briefly, and made the greatest society the world had ever seen- for all its deep flaws- but died again. Once the ruling class of a society has turned en masse against the single driving virtue of that society, that society is doomed.

    The enemy is not without, it is within. We never needed to impose our liberal view on societies beyond our borders. Had we maintained it, they would have gradually adopted it in recognition of its superiority- and those who did not may have flung the occasional grenade over the border fence, but their ability to cause us any lasting harm would have remained negligible. As it is, they simply harry us like terriers, because they can see that we are falling, and they simply wish to hasten that demise, and they know that we are falling because we do not believe in ourselves. The hegemonic view, promulgated by both wings of the dominant tribal-collectivist hegemony- “progressivism” and “conservatism”- both believe their own society to be corrupt, depraved and intolerable. Even if military force were a reasonable strategy through which to impose our society on others outside, that cannot possibly be achieved when we ourselves despise our own society. The legacy of certain christian schools- that we are all sinners, beyond salvation, who must wear our sack-cloth and ashes and shuffle to our doom- is now, in secularist clothing, absolute and it is that which condemns us, not a view madmen (of a slightly different stripe) in black turbans.

    The battles in faraway lands may be seen as the weakening death throes of a terminally diseased organism. If, somehow, we can revive western liberalism then the war is won both home and abroad. A westernist civilisation that believes in itself- in a quietly confident manner- is impervious to any enemy. It will spread of its own accord because the appeal of individual freedom is corrosive. The conservative muslim backlash arose precisely because western individualist values were taking root in islamic society in the early twentieth century, purely because they represent, simply, a nice way to live for ordinary people. Had western society stayed true to itself that ultra-conservative reversion would have been, ultimately, stillborn.

    But we lost the faith in ourselves, and reverted to a self-mortifying tribal collectivist parody of the worst of our history, rather than its best. The reason for our collapse is not beyond our borders, but within them.

  6. “the reason why libertarians so detest the state, isn’t just plucked from thin air; it isn’t simply a matter of personal preference or whim. Rather, like every other position that we hold to, these beliefs flow from an ideological acceptance of the non-aggression axiom.”

    Patrick at Towards Mutual Benefit

    I am a libertarian but not part of his “we”. I do not accept the non aggression axiom. Nor do I hold beliefs which “flow from an ideological acceptance” because I’m not religious.

    I have a series of conjectural models of reality none of which I “believe” and all of which are held provisionally on the basis of their explanatory or predictive power. We (all humans) can’t even do axioms about simple biological systems let alone human society, moral codes or social systems.

    NAP (for it is a principle) is a lifestyle choice and may well be a recipe for free, happy society. It means nothing in emergencies or extreme situations. If I encounter a ranting madman waving a gun I will kill him first even if he’s not fired a shot or if our satellites see an enemy massing tanks and conducting “exercises” on my border then a pre-emptive strike – perhaps even with thermo-nuclear weapons – is certainly both moral or rational.

    I detest the state because it is less effective and less efficient at delivering peoples desires than free markets. I think that we construct (through a distributed evolutionary algorithm) moral systems which deem some things as “wrong” because they don’t “work” or have damaging effects or are less efficient than other things or methods. In this sense – and only this sense – the state is evil, simple because evil doesn’t work.

  7. @DavidNcl

    My use of language was quite deliberate, and for the reason that you dismissively suggest. Of course the NAA is a human moral construct, no matter how various libertarians over the years have attempted to ground it by recourse to rationalism, nature or whatever. As you correctly point out, /all/ ethical positions are arbitrary man-made inventions.

    That neither means that they are entirely worthless, nor that adherence to certain of them in order to self-identify with a particular ideology is purely at one’s whim. If I claim to be a pacifist, say, but admit to (even the possibility of) positions where I might go off on a pre-meditated murdering spree, I would rightly be laughed out of court for so self-labelling.

    I’m afraid that the canon of libertarian — at least since the word came into modern usage with the mid 19th century anarchists — thought does hold to the NAA, if only as a mere codification of the right of an individual to exist without coercion.

    If you hold a differing view, then I’d respectfully suggest that whilst you might support and identify /with/ the aims of the libertarian movement, you are not /of/ it. Of course that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work together towards our broadly shared aims, but it does mean that there may be a point of divergence; if for no other reason than that you change your mind. Those who hold to the NAA should not be able to change /their/ minds, as it is, as you point out, a genuine article of faith.

  8. I don’t share you view but there’s no point in talking to you since you are not rational.

  9. Just to be even more annoying I also thing that von Mises, Rothbard and the entire Austrian tradition, though interesting -perhaps more accuratly: amusing; are philosophically ignorant, missed the epistemological action of the 20c and are hence irrelevant and can be ignored. Rand too.

  10. Spelling in a comment box is pretty hard, at least for me.

    thing -> think.

  11. Perhaps it all moves too fast – But that is the nature of the blog?
    No substitute for using one’s head to think with. Reality is the only thing to think about. Not labels or other conveniences that are actually most inconvenient. Love without wisdom being not love, nor wisdom without love being wisdom. The west is threatened from within and without and is being out-witted. A bit of robust action can be the most realistic thing to do but don’t get fooled. A universe without God is less logical than a universe with God, by the way. Where does order come from in a big bang?

  12. But to get back to it, is not libertarianism based on individual freedom and individual responsibility? Other concepts arising therefrom, such as non-aggression are good and valid but they are not the root. They are moral conclusions. And as soon as one enters the realm of moral (ought to) one is dealing with ideas of good and bad and so entertaining the requirement of some deciding authority. Much of the problem with secular moral philosophies is that they try to establish what is good without really having established what good is. If one is going to be secular one can only invoke secular considerations.
    The LA seems to me to have a vast amount of serious libertarian material available to anyone. A bog is more for kicking ideas around? Perhaps it should carry a psy-health warning.

    • To GMarx:-
      I have wanted the blog to be stylistically quite different from the admittedly vast array of archived serious publications we carry, which of course are free to anybody.

      Just because we have always been a serious intellectual think-tank, and have hitherto been perceived as this only. I have consciously wanted to be different on the blog. I wanted this to be the Hitchens and Littlejohn wing of the LA: the shaven-headed-attack-yobs-plus-pit-bull-terriers-on-steel-chain-leads wing, if you like.

  13. Order appears to be an emergent property of all complex, non-linear systems. For nothing more than a hint see
    flocking simulation

  14. David, I looked at the example. The birds are responding to an already existing order inherent in themselves. It is not randomness at work. Another example sometimes given is the order that “spontaneously” arises in the snow flake. Again, the molecules are responding to an order inherent in their electrical or magnetic properties.
    No. Afraid I have yet to see a convincing example of order that arises spontaneously from randomness.

  15. Where did the order to create a God come from?

    That is, if you want to postulate a God prior to the universe to explain the universe, you haven’t answered anything, since now you have to explain where the God came from.

  16. If you read my post G you’ll not see the word random in it.

  17. David, well, wherever it is presumed the current situation came from or how it developed I think the general secular consensus is el Big Bang, and that is fairly random. Where did the subsequent order come from?
    Which refers back to Ian, the order from where God came from, well, that is sort of it. According to what I have read it would seem He is the uncreated Creator. But, rather than get theological, perhaps I should ask what it looks like beyond Planck’s Wall? I guess that is nonlinear.
    The weather, too, might be a current nonlinear case history, but I think that is only because we do not have all the data. Build a big enough computer with enough input devices and it might become surprisingly linear?

    • 1.John, I says:-

      “In the beginning was Order” (Logos), “Order /was/ God, and order was [with] God (could the mistranslator have meant to say “by” instead of “with” as they are both non-strict English renditions of the ablative case?)

  18. Yes, absolutely, indeed. That is great! Individual freedom and responsibility and the freedom to express as one sees fit, more or less, and yes, I absolutely agree, a blog is not the most sober environment, and in the LA archives there is a vast wealth of stuff. That is vey cool . I loved that video done by LPUK (who actually made it by the way?) just the kind of thing one can send to ones more serious friends to lighten up a bit.
    The “was God” and “was with God”, I think are things we can’t get at fully this side of eternity, any more than we can fully grasp the more relative stuff which I suppose is why we have stuck to a more Newtonian view of the world for the last 100 years despite Planck, or Bohr or others. I realise that some populistic attempts are made to invade this realm with interpretations of chaos theory and all that, but what the heck, it either makes sense at the end of the day or it doesn’t. And the more I look at things the less sense they make to me when viewed from any view that does not leave the door wide open. And, yes, the physical world in which (we think?) we live makes more sense when one allows for a Creator than if one’s faith is that there is none.
    Individual freedom and responsibility is simple common sense and you are promoting honest debate on the subject despite the occassional side tracks!
    The world would be a poorer place without the LA and its Blogmeister.

  19. I wanted this to be the Hitchens and Littlejohn wing of the LA: the shaven-headed-attack-yobs-plus-pit-bull-terriers-on-steel-chain-leads wing, if you like.

    Well there’s a problem there I think, in that Littlejohn only basically appeals to people who don’t think that Littlejohn is an ignorant prick.

    I don’t think shaven-headed yobbishness is a particularly great image for Libertarianism, myself. It plays quite well to ignorant pricks, but I doubt they read political blogs.

  20. I don’t think shaven-headed yobbishness is a particularly great image for Libertarianism, myself. It plays quite well to ignorant pricks, but I doubt they read political blogs.

    Oops, I’d forgotten Old Holborn’s. My mistake.

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  22. If you /really/ want to gt people to read your blog, regardless of the length of their hair, IME nothing increases your hit counter on a day-to-day basis than Nazis and Moon-landing conspiracy theories! Just one mention every couple of months and see them come rolling in. Who knows? Maybe even a few of them will stay and read what you’ve got to say on weightier matters. ;-)

  23. Oh dear, only just noticed. Its amazing, if anything can go wrong . . . I did mean blog and not bog. Apologies for any misunderstanding. Par for course and all that.
    Offending words:
    The LA seems to me to have a vast amount of serious libertarian material available to anyone. A bog is more for kicking ideas around? Perhaps it should carry a psy-health warning.