Posted by: L | July 15, 2007

Ron Paul Road Show: Libertarians versus Communitarians

I’m continuing the discussion on the previous post here.

To recap, it started up because of an abusive letter from a reader who repeated the ongoing canard that Ron Paul is a racist, who has the support of racists. Libertarians, like those at Mises, are frequently the target of these sorts of guilt-by-association charges.

Here’s a link to Paul’s own writings. Judge for yourself.

The blogger, at Occidental Dissent, whom the writer cited, then showed up on this blog and pointed out that racialists were opposed to Paul.

He pointed out that libertarianism undermines both racialism and racism and tends to make them irrelevant, as this piece on racial mixing and libertarianism by Winston D. Alston suggests. Racists tend to be opposed to libertarian ideas.

This led to a debate about several things:

1. Is there a distinction of any worth between racialists and racism (an issue fraught with the subtext that ‘racialism’ is simply a code word under which racists operate). My position is that this is not so, or at least, that it does not have to be so.

The distinction is valid and useful.

It think it is possible to look down on groups of people and yet not actively hate them. I don’t know what you would call this. This poster at Reason, makes that point about conservative commentator, John Derbyshire,

( I presume the poster is referring to Derbyshire in his personal life and not in his advocacy of torture or of civilian bombing in Iraq. If not, is the poster suggesting that it’s the fact that the targeted group is the enemy, and not any feeling of racial contempt, that makes D advocate what he does?).

One certainly can look down on individuals and not hate them or wish them harm, I admit. Only look at any leftwing or rightwing forum. It usually crawls with contempt for the opposite ideological set, and yet, for the most part, I imagine these partisans aren’t actually bent on wiping out their foes…..

At least, I hope not.

However, a developed theory of racial superiority, coupled with certain beliefs (social Darwinism, for instance), given the right set of circumstances, would be a highly incendiary combination…

On the other hand, not hating someone (or at least, thinking one doesn’t) is just not a very high bar. One could do harm, without hating, obviously. So, although the distinction should be made between those who are merely contemptuous of a group and those who advocate harm toward it, I think a high degree of contempt for individuals – based purely on their group affiliation — would get in the way of treating them empathically or ethically. It would create a bias in your mind that would misinterpret any data about them, for one thing.
The second debate centered around the issues of community and individual — does libertarianism undermine the community by sanctioning license, rather than real liberty — a favorite criticism of communitarians.

2. Is license inherent in libertarianism or is that a misreading of libertarianism?

Some of the racialist-communitarians on this thread seem to think that libertarianism needs the addition of state- sponsored virtue.

JH and I both feel that libertarianism proper already assumes ethics, as this paper by Aeon Sikoble of Temple University notes. We locate the corruption of many things primarily in the state itself.

In fact, I would argue that state-sponsored virtue is always murderous, like the current foreign policy hallucination called humanitarian intervention, which is only another variant of “standing up to terrorism” (Post Cold War, US), “reviving the caliphate” (Post Cold War, Al Qaeda), “defending our freedom,”(Cold War, US), “spreading the revolution” (Cold War, USSR), “Cultural Revolution” (Cold War, China), “lebensraum,” (WWII, Germany), “liberating Asia,” (WW II, Japan), “bearing the white man’s burden,” (Imperialism, Britain), etc. etc….

Some estimates of the number of people killed by the virtuous state in the 20th century alone run to a quarter of a billion, as this libertarian blogger at Freedomain points out. Moreover, unlike private crime, government crime is something you can’t get away from:

“State crimes are also qualitatively different from private crimes. There are many steps that a citizen can take to reduce the likelihood of being victimized by private criminals. From security systems to doormen to moving to a better neighborhood…Contrast that to government crimes. What can you do to protect yourself against taxation? Nothing. Everywhere you go, you are taxed. Want to take up arms against the Gestapo? Good luck. Want to escape senseless regulations? Pray for a libertarian afterlife….”

However, I differ from JH in seeing some gaps between libertarian theory and its articulation and practice.

Scimitar, the communitarian blogger, felt that libertarian permissiveness corrupts the body politic and cited, “Defending the Undefendable,” by libertarian Walter Block, a book that according to its Amazon site, “argues that some of the most socially offensive members of society–including prostitutes, libelers and moneylenders–are ‘scapegoats’ whose actual social and economic value is not being appreciated” ( Robert Nozick). I haven’t read it but invite people who have to post.

3. One of the racialist-communitarian bloggers then brought up the issue of the censorship of ideas surrounding race and immigration.

Two controversial points were made:

That there is a correlation between racial type and levels of social freedom and social violence

That there is a racially and politically motivated agenda to mongrelize society.

[Since propaganda and mindcontrol are central issues on this blog, I decided to summarize these elements in my own words and censored the original comment. I did this only in order to avoid giving a troll the opportunity to associate this blog or libertarians for Ron Paul with ideas that neither supports].

******************

I am reposting these relevant parts of my previous post for reference:
I. On Communitarians versus Libertarianism:

Lack of liberty in one area (which JH cites) can coexist with license in others (which Scimitar cites), I think,There is a need for balance and for seeing things as they are, not worshiping abstractions. Liberty and license are two different things. But there is also a lack of liberty.
Both operate today, but in different realms and in different ways.

A concrete example: small business is overregulated, while big international businesses – also technically regulated by the same laws – are often able to elude them – because of their privileged relation to the state (i.e. they become a rentier class). You have lack of liberty and license together.

The Language of Empire book dealt with a lot of that — License can even operate through the law I argue. Here’s what I wrote:

[I am writing about how “patriotism” today is really the unabashed support of corporate-state interests.

I am not talking here about the virtuous citizen defending the res publica.

“This “patriotism” feeds off a a type of radicalism that uproots shatters, homogenizes and perverts the traditional values of community and individual and replaces it with the mass.”

(Ch 8., p. 132 “Virtual Violence”)
That part of my analysis agrees with what S is saying, I think.

As you can see, I don’t really find S (community) and JH (individual) at odds intrinsically, except that S is willing to use the government to further his ends.

Instead, what I find is artificially constructed individuals and artificial communities (produced by mass culture) at odds with real individuals and real communities

I don’t know if you’d agree or find it convincing but you can see the kinds of games language plays on us…

That’s why we have to deal with human beings and not be confused by the language the empire uses.

II. On Racialism and Racism

Update: I went back and looked through dictionary entries for racialism and racism and it seems from them that my distinction between the two is not held by all in the same way.

Here is Merriam-Webster, which is what I grew up with:

Main Entry: ra·cial·ism
Pronunciation: 'rA-sh&-"li-z&m
Function: noun
: a theory that race determines human traits and capacities; also : racism
ra·cial·ist /-list/ noun or adjective
ra·cial·is·tic /"rA-sh&-'lis-tik/ adjectiv

Note, that this definition of racialism (that human characteristics are defined by race) is not mine – it is too broad and would obviously then include racism.

I think that’s why ‘racism’ is placed next to it as a variant – which, to my thinking, ought not to be.

Take an example.

Let’s say your research finds that ethnic puddleducks (just to make up a group so as not to be inflammatory) are more likely to get their feathers wet than regular ducks. Are you then a ducka-phobe or duck-ist? Even though your intention in researching may be to save puddleducks from wetfeatheritis, are you now the same as someone who commits duckicide? Gee, someone who might even want to wipe out the duck population?

Give me a break! But that seems to be the position of these dictionaries.

Still, at least, a distinction is recognized.

A similar but not so clearcut distinction is also maintained in the American Heritage Dictionary, which at least gives the second usage a separate entry as it should. It then points out that racialism is also a British usage for racist (something I wasn’t aware of before):

ra·cial·ism (rsh-lzm)

n.1.a. An emphasis on race or racial considerations, as in determining policy or interpreting events.

b. Policy or practice based on racial considerations.

2. Chiefly British Variant of racism.


racial·ist adj. & n.

racial·istic adj.

(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003).

Now, that makes more sense.

If there was not distinction between the two, all the people who tell us that the Indian population as a whole (I am talking about sub-continentals) show a higher frequency of one blood-type than, say, the French population would have to be deounounced as potential Nazis.

But, apparently, there are other dictionaries that DO NOT agree with me but with John Howard on this:

An online dictionary (how good, I don’t know) even inverts the meanings and makes the term racialist more malign in meaning. That doesn’t seem right to me.

Wikipedia (which judiciously prunes and alters things, as anyone knows who has watched the appearance and disappearance of material, defininitions, and so on…) sees no distinction. Now, that could simply mean that the distinction is no longer made routinely or is being erased or that most people are not aware of it.

I will research this a bit more, but if there is no distinction being made any more, there needs to be one.

Or we will be practicing self censorship unwittingly.

Anyway, that this distinction appears all the time in articles, as here:

“While thwarting all majority efforts to weaken minority gains, it would reject the kind of “benign’ racialism that we increasingly take for granted. ” (that’s from an article in the Washington Monthly).

Elsewhere, David Horowitz ( not especially my best friend), makes that distinction when discussing alleged (I am using the qualifier not to disparage the notion but because I haven’t personally studied the media coverage of it) media black out of black-on-white crime.

Don’t be surprised when such usages, which people born outside this country are accustomed to making without controversy, start disappearing or changing, leaving us without a vocabulary to discuss what is plainly a crucial topic.
In any case, after having had the time to read his blogs, I find that Scimitar, I think, rather mischaracterized his position.

He is not only a raciaLIST (one who thinks racial considerations have a role to play in government policy – a position that is not necessarily malign) but rather a racIST (one who believes in the genetic, biological, and civic superiority of one race over another).

(However, I let his comments on my blog stay, since he worded his argument reasonably and without abuse).

He implies clearly that he “does not believe in racial, civic, or biological equality” whereas Ron Paul does.

Obviously, at one level, there really is no such equality – not all people or all races are mathematically equal. But to say that something is not mathematically exactly like another is not the same thing as saying that they are inferior or superior to each other on the basis of an arbitrary quantification that is simply delusory.

Why delusory? Because, the criteria that are used to establish superiority have varied to suit whoever does the selection, and have been shown to change (IQ tests, for example) and use samples and methodology that are – when you look at them closely – somewhat questionable..

The problem is a confusion of language again.

For me, even this corruption of our language stems from the state because the state’s used language so extensively as a tool to indoctrinate and treat people as masses rather than individuals that our vocabulary is showing less and less precision in definitions and distinctions. More and more, things are homogenized, blurred, made indistinct.

Take what people call capitalism. If you look back over the last 400 years, what people think of as capitalism has always been state-driven mercantilism. Even the enlightenment grew up around mercantilism.

You don’t have to reject the good that came out of the 17th-18th century to realize that there may be some negatives involved with that development. We have to learn to reject certain misuses of logic and rationality in contexts where their use must be embodied to have any value.

Verum factum. Truth is an act.

“All nations begin by fantasia, the power of imagination and the age of gods which are needed to comprehend the world. After that, there comes a second age in which fantasia is used to form social institutions and heroes are used to inspire moral virtues. The third and final age is the age of rationality, in which humanity declines into barbarie della reflessione — barbarism of reflection. According to Vico, this is a cycle — gods, heroes and humans — which repeats itself within the world of nations, forming storia ideale eterna — ideal eternal history.”

That’s a brief account of the thinking of Giambattista Vico, an Italian philosopher of language….

I talk about this in my new book (with Bill Bonner), “Mobs, Messiahs and Markets,” this misperception that if we don’t have a state telling us what to do, society will degenerate into chaos .

It’s also the subject of an earlier Lew Rockwell article “Katrina and the Fishy Logic of the State.”

(Another shameless plug, but I gotta eat and I don’t want to get my bread from the powers that be — or I won’t be able to blog freely on anything I want)

Human beings self organize in all sorts of complex ways that the state can never hope to imitate. They communicate in ways that the state can never quite control. That’s why state propaganda inevitably fails.

But that’s also why censorship and free speech, propaganda and mind control are the crucial issues. And that’s why I am a libertarian. Only libertarians have made this issue central in their thinking.

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Responses

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  3. Racism vs. Racialism

    The old thread was becoming rather long. I also noticed that posts were appearing out of order. I’m assuming this is because some comments were held for moderation. In any case, you raise several issues above which I will reply to in this thread (if this response is ultimately posted).

    1.) The censored comment

    In the post I was replying to, you argued that nonwhite minorities had historical grievances against whites which, in their minds at least, justify their race consciousness and the demands they make upon whites. This was not an endorsement of their claims on your part. It was an observation. For the most part, I agree. As you may recall, I admitted that American Indians, Mexicans, and African-Americans have been mistreated throughout American history in various ways and that I could understand at least where they are coming from. In my view, not yours, such historical grievances are an argument against integration. Such things will always “divide us into parties” to use Jefferson’s terminology in Notes on the State of Virginia. Better that we part ways on amicable terms. I might be a “racialist,” but I can sort through racial and ethnic groups and make distinctions between them. Can you? . . .

    Continue Reading Here

    2.) Racialism vs. Racism. Is there a distinction between the two?

    Yes, there is.

    – First, I would like to point out that “race” is an important taxonomic concept that isn’t specific to the human species. There are all sorts of “races” of dogs, gorrilas, orangatangs, squirrels, etc. We can talk about these things without controversy and without any assumption that certain “races” of animals are “superior” or “inferior” to others. Are labradors racially superior to cocker spaniels; great danes to pit bulls? Are you also scratching your head? Yes, it sounds completely absurd to talk about different breeds of dogs in this way. It would be more accurate to say they are simply different, that is, they vary in outward morphology, behavior, and in various psychological traits. This reflects underlying differences in gene frequencies within the total population of canines.

    Is that racism? I don’t think it is. Do you hate a cocker spaniel because you recognize that it is different from a golden retriever? I doubt this is the case. I believe this example illustrates the distinction between “racism” and “racialism.” They are related, but not the same thing. A “racist” is always a “racialist,” but a “racialist” is not necessarily a “racist.” I’m simply thinking about the human races in the same way that I think about all races whatsoever, human and non-human. I don’t buy into the anthropocentrism of liberals, humanists, and Christians. It doesn’t make any sense in terms of evolution.

    – Second, I think we need to explore the origins of the term “racism” to better understand its meaning. To my knowledge, the OED has the first recorded use of “racism” in an anti-fascist political pamphlet during the 1930s. The term “racialism” is of a somewhat older vintage. I believe it was coined several decades earlier as a synonym of “race theory” or “racial theory”; terms that were commonly used in the nineteenth century. The term was “racialism” widely used in the sense above: to describe and explain racial differences in the human species along with those in various plant and animal species.

    The word “racism” got its start as a pejorative caricature of the older “racialism” (“science” and “scientism” would be another example). Racialists were re-branded as “racists” – violent bigots driven by hatred, prejudice, and unfounded assumptions of their own superiority. It was a catch-all term that communists and anti-fascists could use against Nazis, Southern segregationists, ethnocentric working class whites (“rightwing deviancy”), and so forth. During the 1940s and 1950s, the term “racism” grew in circulation, and after the triumph of the Civil Rights Movement became commonplace. Eventually, the term evolved to the point where it became something of a synonym of “hideously immoral person.”

    Third, I don’t think consulting the dictionary will be of much help to us. The dictionary simply gives the normative meaning of terms; how they are commonly used in everyday discourse. So yes, “racialism” is often used as a synonym of “racism.” That’s no real surprise. Language is constantly evolving. It doesn’t really matter what the majority of people think about the meaning of words. Any individual can draw an analytical distinction between the two terms. That’s how new meanings of old words and new concepts (say, “bling”) are always entering our language. I will point out that the Americans are almost as confused about evolution as they are about race.

    A neutral term is clearly needed to describe racial variation that doesn’t imply any political or moral conclusions. Thus, I prefer to use the term “racialist” to describe my views on the matter. Thomas Jefferson was clearly a “racialist.” Throughout his entire life, he believed in the existence of racial differences, and his account of the subject dominated American racial thought throughout the Antebellum period. At the same time, Jefferson was famous for being a defender of the American Indian and an opponent of slavery.

    3.) Is Scimitar a “racist”?

    I don’t think so. As I noted in the previous thread, I don’t believe whites are “superior” to other races. In fact, I am more inclined to believe they are, if anything, inferior. This whole concept of “superior vs. inferior” races belongs to the old antiquated racial hierarchies of the nineteenth century that depended upon the Great Chain of Being concept. The Great Chain of Being makes no sense in terms of Darwinism. A population is “superior” only in the sense that it is better adapted to its enviroment than others. Races are not fixed, purely discrete entities either. Race is much more fluid than was originally thought. It is essentially nothing more than changing gene frequencies within a species.

    Re: my belief in the non-existence of biological equality. The concept makes no sense when applied to organisms and properly belongs in the legal sphere. The only humans who are “equal” in their heredity are identical twins, and even they have different experiences. I’m not “equal” to my brother or father, much less to populations that are even more distantly related to me. Am I superior or inferior to my brother who shares half my genes? Again, I don’t think it makes any sense to use such terms.

    Clearly, I am more than just a “racialist.” I favor my own race over others. What am I then? I’m concerned about “whites” (Americans, in particular) in a way that I am not about other groups. Why? To be perfectly honest with you, I can’t explain it. It’s something you just feel, or don’t. Whatever the anti-racists may say, “hate” isn’t it, although it can inspire those feelings when provoked (and sympathy, too). To quote Buchanan: “the heart has reasons the mind knows not.” Is there something wrong with whites thinking of themselves as a people? I don’t think so. Prior to the 1960s, this was commonplace, especially in the American South where I grew up. That’s probably the real reason, I believe. It’s part of my culture. Always has been. We are constantly being told to “celebrate diversity.” Well, I reserve the right to celebrate, defend, and honor the customs of my people. We used to have a word for this. It was called “American.”

    Some of us have deeper roots in this country than others. My ancestors were here in the seventeenth century – before there was even a “United States.” The men who fought and died at Charleston, Cowpens, Camden, Horseshoe Bend, and the Alamo, who marched with Scott at Veracruz, Monterrey, and Mexico City, with Lee at Fredericksburg, Antietam, and Gettysburg shared this understanding of America. “We are a nation of immigrants” is not something they would have understood. In those days, to be an American was something more than mindless worship of empty abstractions like “Freedom” or “Equality.” Sadly, this “thick” cultural and racial understanding of the American national identity was lost after the Second World War. America is now said to be a “proposition nation” with “universal” aspirations (the “thin” version) like the former Soviet Union. Obviously, I disagree with that, as both a racialist and a communitarian.

  4. Libertarianism vs. Communitarianism

    1.) Is “license” inherent to libertarianism?

    Yes, I believe it is.

    It is this celebration of “license” (or excessive freedom) which sets libertarianism apart from classical republicanism/communitarianism, conservatism, and left liberalism – all of which value “liberty” as an ideal, but balance it with other concerns. Libertarians define “liberty” in the stark terms of the non-aggression/harm principle – as the absence of the initiation of force. Traditionally, the term “liberty” has meant something else entirely. “Liberty” was a moderate amount of individual freedom – the virtuous golden mean between two extremes – that co-existed in a pantheon of virtues. “Liberty” was contrasted with the twin evils of “tyranny” (an absence of freedom) and “license” (an excess of freedom). It was considered but one aspect of the good life. Liberty wasn’t considered the only good or even the most important one.

    Re: the Sikoble article. I don’t believe he responds to Spragens’ claims (note: btw, Spragens was my old professor at Duke). He simply accuses Spragens of setting up a straw man caricature of libertarianism. But does he? Where? It is telling that Sikoble does not respond to the charge that libertarianism is inherently licentious by defending libertarianism on anything resembling moral grounds. He doesn’t say, for example, that avarice or lust are vices which we should morally condemn. There are no grounds to condemn these things from a libertarian perspective because libertarianism is a political ideology without moral content. The closest thing libertarians have to a moral sense is the non-aggression principle about force and fraud, but this only illustrates Spragens’ point: these things are “wrong” to libertarians because they are infringements upon excessive, unfettered freedom, or license.

    It is interesting to note that Sikoble cites Rand as a libertarian. This is disingenious because Rand was not a libertarian at all and was in fact a hostile critic of libertarianism. Rand actually shared many of the concerns of communitarians and conservatives have about libertarianism dispensing with virtue in favor of moral relativism. From The Ayn Rand Lexicon entry on Libertarianism:

    “For the record, I shall repeat what I have said many times before: I do not join or endorse any political group or movement. More specifically, I disapprove of, disagree with, and have no connection with, the latest abberation of some conservatives, the so-called “hippies of the right,” who attempt to snare the younger or more careless ones of my readers by claiming simultaneously to be followers of my philosophy and advocates of anarchism. Anyone offering such a combination confesses his inability to understand either. Anarchism is the most irrational, anti-intellectual notion ever spun by concrete bound, context dropping, whim worshipping fringe of the collectivist movement, where it propertly belongs.”

    “Above all, do not join the wrong ideological groups or movements, in order to “do something.” By “ideological” (in this contest), I mean groups or movements proclaiming some vaguely generalized, undefined (and, usually, contradictory) political goals. (E.g. the Conservative Party, which subordinates reason to faith, and substitutes theocracy for capitalism; or the “libertarian” hippies, who subordinate reason to whims, and substitute anarchism for capitalism.)”

    2.) Are libertarians necessarily immoral people?

    Clearly, no.

    As weird as it sounds, it is at least possible to be a libertarian while being a conscientious, upstanding member of society. “Liberty” for the libertarian is purely negative. What the individual does with his “liberty” (or license) is seen as his/her private choice. Some libertarians take advantage of their license to abuse drugs, abandon their spouses, idle around, engage in sexually promiscuous behavior, accumulate excessive material possessions, etc. Others would use it to donate money to charities, start flourishing businesses, raise awareness about the destruction of the rainforest and so forth.

    The critical observation that a communitarian or classical republican would make is that while highly moral libertarians may exist, these people are moral in spite of, not because of, libertarianism. Libertarians are unanimous in their belief that we should be free and that we shouldn’t use force or fraud against others. OTOH, they can’t explain why we be should respectful instead of insolent, courageous instead of cowardly, magnanimous instead of petty, modest as opposed to shameless, temperant as opposed to licentious. Why truthfulness, fortitude, integrity, compassion, industriousness, prudence, justice, mercy? Why hope, compassion, love, charity, curiosity, openmindedness? Libertarians obsess over “liberating” the individual from all sorts of constraints. Then they lose interest in him. The individual is left to his own devices without anything resembling moral guidance. He has “freedom” but no idea of what to do with it.

    3.) Why do libertarians think this way?

    Because they embrace subjectivism.

    Libertarians don’t believe in the existence of objective moral values. They have abandoned the classical project of trying to make sense of the good life in favor of moral relativism. Their political platform – which is shared by other liberals – is derived from their ethical agnosticism. Since we can’t really know what the good life is, we should be “tolerant” of all lifestyles: indulge your appetites, as the mood strikes. We should be “free” to define our own lives because no one else knows any better. We should treat others “equally” as a practical matter. What I have always found amusing (and disingenious) is how this theoretical skepticism of libertarianism is so often enunciated with certainty. Some libertarians preach as if they know for sure that unfettered freedom is the highest good. They can be as dogmatic about it is as any classical teleologist (just look at the free traders). Aristotle was actually quite reserved in arguing that ethics is a practical science.

    4.) Are communitarians statists who want to legislate morality?

    No, this is a misunderstanding of communitarianism.

    Communitarians are concerned mainly with the non-governmental institutions of civil society – churches, ethnic groups, neighborhoods, friendships, communities, families, marriages, social networks, advocacy groups, professional associations, trade unions, civic organizations, mores, customs, traditions, habits, mindsets – the cultural infrastructure of the nation and its maintenance. This is the true foundation of America (our social capital), not “propositions” about liberal abstractions which are claimed to be universal. Communitarians see in these things an alternative to the state and the market. They tend to believe that the state and the market alike are corrosive of the institutions of civil society. The solution is to push back by shoring up these things to keep the government and the market out of our lives. A state that has to legislate morality is already a failing one. The notion that you have to be either for the state or for the market is a false dilemma.

    There is too much focus on “liberty” and “equality” in the political mainstream. Libertarians are too narrowly focused on the individual and his rights. So are all liberals, really. Thus, we have absurd debates about issues like “gay marriage.” Liberalism (of which libertarianism is but one variety) has created all sorts of social pathologies and neuroses by rotting the moral foundations of our culture. Americans are now oversensitive, over worked, overly materialistic, too absorbed with the petty concerns of their own private lives. Millions of Americans have simply dropped out of the political system – disgusted by its hype and spin, tired of being marketed to death. They no longer find their government representative or their relationships meaningful. They see their culture as a degenerate sewer.

    Liberalism was once a positive response to the excesses of the age of priests and kings. Now, it is the exhausted reigning ideology of an ossified, ever more out of touch establishment that has generated a host of its own problems which it is the task of communitarianism to address.

    5.) Re: violence.

    At least domestically, state violence isn’t much of a problem. Look at the leading causes of death in the United States. The American state doesn’t often go around cracking skulls like premodern tyrannies. Rather, look at all the people who die from alcohol-related diseases, drunk driving, suicide, cancer from cigarette smoking, STDs, heart disease for lack of exercise and poor diet. These are overwhelmingly problems of the private sphere and market, not government. Americans work longer hours for stagnating wages so they hit up McDonald’s instead of taking the time to cook real meals. How many homicides, suicides, thefts, murders, forest fires, firearm accidents involve drug abuse? This cuts back to the anomie and lack of virtue – the lack of responsibility – in the general population that communitarianism addresses and libertarianism does not.

    The state and market are not as distinct as you are making them out to be. They are often one and the same symbiotic culture destroying force. Some of the worst state violence abroad is done for the sake of the market by a government that is utterly subservient to the interests of big business. This is especially true of the sad history of U.S.-Latin American foreign relations, in particular during the early twentieth century from TR to Hoover, the Open Door policy in China, as well as much of our recent activity in the Middle East since WW2.

    Here again we see the validity of the argument that libertarianism is a plea: libertarians want an unfettered free market, but the free market itself generates powerful corporate interests which take over government, and then use government as a tool to advance their interests, domestically and abroad. Business groups want to off-load their costs via state engineered third world immigration, state engineered trade agreements, public education, public healthcare, and so forth. They want socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor. Libertarians want excessive freedom in the private sphere, but this attitude rots away the moral foundations of society, which in turn empower special interests who capture government and use it parastically feed off taxpayers.

    6.) The market as a model for all human relationships.

    “Throughout the twentieth century liberalism has been pulled in two directions at once: toward the market and (notwithstanding its initial misgivings about government) toward the state. On the one hand, the market appears to be the embodiment of the principle – the cardinal principle of liberalism – that individuals are the best judges of their own interests and that they must therefore be allowed to speak for themselves in matters that concern their happiness and well-being. But individuals cannot learn to speak for themselves at all, much less come to an intelligent understanding of their happiness and well-being, in a world in which there are no values except those of the market. Even liberal individuals require the character forming discipline of the family, the neighborhood, the school, and the church, all of which (not just the family) have been weakened by the encroachments of the market. The market notoriously tends to universalize itself. It does not easily co-exist with institutions that operate according to principles antithetical to itself: schools and universities, newspapers and magazines, charities, families. Sooner or later the market tends to absorb them all. It puts an almost irresistible pressure on every activity to justify itself in the only terms it recognizes: to become a business proposition, to pay its own way, to show black ink on the bottom line. It turns news into entertainment, scholarship into professional careerism, social work into the scientific management of poverty. Inexorably it remodels every institution in its own image.

    Christopher Lasch, The Revolt of the Elites: And the Betrayal of Democracy (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1995), 97-98

    This is another aspect of libertarianism that troubles me: how libertarians reduce all human relationships to exercises of voluntary free choice, as if relationships like parent/child, husband/wife, friendships, neighbors and so forth were mere market transactions with anonymous people. Libertarians are overly concerned with the right of the individual to exit from social obligations. This sort of mentality undermines and weakens the social fabric of our nation. It is a clear example of how the market is cannibalizing civil society.

  5. Hi –

    Posts were appearing out of order because people were responding at different intervals to certain things and meanwhile someone else posted….no censorship, except for the parts I indicated.

    And that’s not because I’m shying away from discussing those aspects, but just trying to rephrase things to give the least offense so it can’t be misquoted to asperse my blog…that’s all.

    Thanks for posting in a reasonable manner…I am in the middle of work — so I will be able to get back to this tomorrow…

  6. Just skimmed some of your posts and found time to jot down a few things clarifying my position:

    1. It was Pascal who said the heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of…

    2. Libertarianism is not an ideology with content or substantive ends — so it allows individuals to choose those ends for themselves…it does not presume to dictate them. It merely suggests the ideal form of association between humans and groups of humans.

    3. I do not say there is no overlap between state and government. In fact, I call what we have now a corporate-state, with my emphasis on the state as the corrupting influence. A corporation, to my mind, is as much a collectivizing force as a state in some ways…but, at least, corporations do not show up on your doorstep if you refuse to buy their products and haul you off to prison.

    4. I believe the social evils you speak of are distinctly the product of the corporate state and advertising, which, contrary to your implication, is completely bound up with state-sponsored subsidies. Moreover, advertising has it hold on us only through prior preparation of our minds for compliance to external suggestion through state indoctrination (which is pervasive in schools and many other places).

    5. Newspapers are intimately bound up with this indoctrination..hence my interest in propaganda and opinion making..

    6. Language is central to the whole business.

    7. I think you are right to state that racism (scientific racism) arises in the nineteenth century and comes out of theories of the Chain of Being (you find it in theosophical literature about the root races) -and from thinking derived from a combination of evolutionary theory with eastern religion, if I understand it correctly. However, the context in which it appeared was European imperialism…

    It sees to me that again, state power undergirds the rise of all such theories..that, at any rate, is what I conclude from what I know to date.

    7. Dictionary meanings are not normative but usually descriptive of common usage….and if a distinction is disappearing, it IS of concern since the common understanding of the term might cast my own specialist use of the term into disrepute it does not deserve.

    8. My thinking comes out of my interest in the scientific aspects of religious thought. Fortunately, that’s coming in for more research these days.

    The determinism of a lot of social science thinking seems to me to be ideologically biased and misleading..hence my interest in philosophers who free up a space to think about how people might interact in ways that contradict a narrow framing of human beings as purely biologically driven entities…

    Not knocking biology so much as a narrow definition of it…and our untenable opposition between body and mind..matter and spirit…

    that’s where my interest in magazines like zygon fits in….

  7. It’s also why this blog is called The Mind-Body Politic…..

  8. I correct myself…I should have written that dictionary meanings are not ONLY normative but also descriptive..

  9. Libertarianism is not an ideology with content or substantive ends — so it allows individuals to choose those ends for themselves…it does not presume to dictate them. It merely suggests the ideal form of association between humans and groups of humans.

    So libertarianism is nothing then.

    How would libertarianism as an ideal work itself out between parents and children?

    I am not trying to draw down the level of discourse but I am following you guys and this comment seems to suggest that libertarians are just philosophical delittantes secondarily, and primarily nothing but hedonists by another name.

    I’ve never really thought about this before, but libertarianism lacks teleology, reduces epistemology to ashes since everything is merely a “mental construct” (not the Plato kind either) and has no real regard for ontology or any other branches of metaphysics.

    Freedom to consume freely?

    Am I wrong?

  10. No..no..both of you seem to misunderstand…
    libertarianism is a theory about association only..and its beauty is it allows each person to choose the ends they wish, so long as they allow others to do the same…
    obviously, it allows for a variety of interpretations from constitutionalistm to perfect anarchy…but that is precisely its beauty…human beings are various…their ends should be also be various…

    “Anarchy doesn’t mean chaos, in a libertarian context. It means “without -archy” — Be it an oligarchy, autarchy, or monarchy. No ruling state. Not lawlessness.

    What you are not getting is that all the services you’re afraid to lose — police protection, the courts, accepted standards of behavior and civility, etc. — were never invented or established by the state in the first place, but rather were taken over and controlled by the state to ensure that it has an advantage in its dealings, and can maintain its power.

    Libertarian thinking definitely abolishes government and laws, but does not abolish civility, punishment for crimes, adjudication, morality, ethics, or enforceable standards of behavior. To rid ourselves of those things would be to deny what it is within us that is human — the very polar opposite of libertarian philosophy.”

    Hat- tip to a poster on the Misesblog for that…

  11. s, d, and others – will answer you in a post this weekend..indundated with work now.
    thanks for the comments – they deserve some thought. I my reply will be in the form of a new post that references your comments….


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