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How Libertarianism Infects the Net

By Thrasymachus in Culture
Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 12:25:23 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Libertarianism is the idea that the solution to all of mankind's problems lies in liberation from political, economic, and moral authority.

This ideological virus is endemic in the blogosphere. Libertarians swarm in every newsgroup on Usenet. Like polio colonizing the cells of the small intestine, they seek out discussions, colonize them to reproduce, and then consume them from the inside. Every mailing list, forum, or discussion board on the Net hosts a horde of moral libertarians, a handful of political libertarians, and, if unlucky enough, one or two radical libertarians.


The last section of this article “Libertarianism on the Net” is not my own, but is built from ideas communicated by other Kuro5hin participants. I took this article out of the voting queue last time around because there were so many good counterpoints and suggestions in response to it. I have incorporated them where possible. While I cannot shoulder credit for most of the ideas in the last section, I have reworked all of them enough that any blame for imperfections of logic or evidence should be my own.

Meme Wars

A meme is a viral unit of cultural transmission. Its host is the popular consciousness. It survives by attacking, infecting, assimilating, and reproducing in its victim's psyches.

Mike Godwin was world's first conscious meme warrior.

In Meme, Counter-meme, he refers to Godwin's Law as “a project in memetic engineering.” He writes:

“Not everyone saw the comparison to Nazis as a 'meme'—most people on the Net, as elsewhere, had never heard of 'memes' or 'memetics.' But now that we're living in an increasingly information-aware culture, it's time for that to change. And it's time for net.dwellers to make a conscious effort to control the kinds of memes they create or circulate.”

Godwin recognized that on-line discussions invariably bog down in useless Hitler or Nazi comparisons whenever any serious topic is discussed. Memetics caused him to identify this phenomenon with a “Nazi-comparison meme.” To combat it, he developed a counter-meme, Godwin's Law. The counter-meme spread successfully and the evil Nazis were banished. Or something like that.

Godwin's keys to success were thinking of Nazi comparisons as a meme, and then understanding how any counter-strategy also needed to function as a meme.

Modern Memes

The advent of Rationalism during the Enlightenment has opened up human consciousness to infection by a whole host of new attackers.

There are certain types of rationalist thought-memes that thrive on the Western political process. It is very easy to analyze any economic problem from Marxist principles. Or from libertarian principles. Or from liberal principles. Or from conservative principles. These memes provide a method of thinking that guarantees that you will sound convincing. Being right is another matter.

Most real world problems do not have completely rational solutions. Human nature possesses too much complexity for rationalism to ever succeed in correctly framing the world. This makes tradition and existing social structures—generally formed through a combination of both reason and generations of trial and error—the first targets of rationalist ideologies.

Ideologies work through bypassing the complexity of real life that prevents easy answers. If a normal uninfected person is asked a difficult moral or political question, he will have to think hard about it. He will have to weigh pros and cons, evaluate uncertainties, and then arrive at a conclusion. There is no guarantee that the conclusion he arrives at won't be highly provisional.

For an ideology-infected individual the process is radically different. He starts with a set of first principles that tells him all the answers. All that he has to do is reason them out for a particular case. The infected person functions as a machine carrying out a calculation according to a set program. While sane people will listen to reasonable criticism, he will vehemently defend a conclusion that he may only have arrived at a moment before.

David Sucher has an anecdote about this type of mental functioning. Edward Said was Sucher's first English Composition teacher at Columbia. Sucher relates this discussion from his class:

“One day that [F]all Said sat on the edge of the desk and asked us this simple question, and of course I paraphrase:
“'Have you ever had a conversation with someone who always had the answer? No matter what you say, they always can refute you. They've always got an answer. And what seems like a pretty good answer?'
“By this time we all had enough sense to nod only dimly so as to avoid attracting attention. Duh. 'Yes.':
“'Have you ever thought about why they are so successful at debate?'
“'Duh.'
“'Well it's simple. You find such people—those who always have what looks like a cast-iron bulletproof answer—among groups who take part in a fully-formed and rounded ideology. Catholic priests, Communist organizers, zealous adherents to an ideology—any of them will be able to take your question, digest it within their intellectual framework and spit it back. Their intellectual system is powerful enough to handle any challenge. Or so it appears. They're hard to talk to, hard to beat in argument because their system has an answer for every question.'”

The function that ideologies perform in rational discussion is to bypass complexity. Once armed with a few general axioms of the “always this,” “never that” variety, there is little need for anything but pure logic in dealing with a hard question.

The One Meme to Rule Them All

Libertarianism is a specially virulent example of an ideological meme infection.

Part of Libertarianism's success has to do with the failure of Communism, the collapse of faith, and the advent of the sexual revolution. All these events contribute to a Zeitgeist favorable to Libertarianism.

But the real advantage of Libertarianism is its simple axiomization. To be a good libertarian, one only needs to know that authority is always evil and that freedom is always good. Since the meme comes in a small package, its process of indoctrination needs to take only a little time on communicating main principles. Once those principles are grasped, colonization of the psyche can begin immediately.

This small rule-set makes the functioning of the ideological program very efficient. This especially rewards people who put a high priority on rationalism and being able to reason things out from first principles. Real world complexity far dwarfs their simple rule-set solution. But the fact that Libertarianism allows rationalists to play to their strengths—reasoning things out—and avoid their weaknesses—weighing preferences and uncertainties—more than makes up for this lack.

A Subset of Libertarianism

Moral Libertarianism, a part of the libertine impulse, triumphs for another reason. Moral Libertarianism can be summed up as the philosophy “if it does not affect me directly, it's not my concern.” According to Roger Scruton in his famous article Bring back Stigma:

“It is now orthodox to regard social stigma as a form of oppression, to be discarded on our collective quest for inner freedom. But the political philosophers and novelists of former times would have been horrified by such a view. In almost all matters that touched upon the core requirements of social order, they believed that the genial pressure of manners, morals, and customs—enforced by the various forms of disapproval, stigma, shame, and reproach—was a more powerful guarantor of civilized and lawful behavior than the laws themselves. Inner sanctions, they argued, more dependably maintain society than such external ones as policemen and courts. That is why the moralists of the eighteenth century, for example, rarely touched upon murder, theft, rape, or criminal deception; instead, they were passionately interested in the small-scale mores on which social order depends and which, properly adhered to, make such crimes unthinkable.”

According to Scruton, this has had the opposite effect of what libertarians intended:

“Stigma has evaporated in our era, and along with it much of the constant, small-scale self-regulation of the community, which depends on each individual's respect for, and fear of, other people's judgment. In consequence, the laws have expanded, both in extent and complexity, to fill the void.”

Moral Libertarianism is yet another meme, this one taking advantage of television and other mass-communication technologies as disease vectors. The elimination of stigma is the same phenomenon as lowest-common denominator programming on television. Functionally, the elimination of stigma works because of the mechanics of crowd appeal. If you want to attract a large audience, or get a lot of people to vote for you, or get a lot of people to buy your product, you cannot afford to offend anyone. Morality offends.

Libertarianism on the Net

Libertarianism is to a large extent a middle-class white American phenomenon. Like science fiction, the literature of the white male ghetto—and why shouldn't we have own literature?—much of the Net's early libertarian infection was spread by the out-sized American contribution to its founding and development. Libertarianism takes many of America's ideological founding myths—ideas such as freedom, self-reliance, and tax revolt—as fuel. One arrives at Libertarianism by extending these ideas only a little past their logical conclusion.

The phenomenon is amplified by the fact that early in this century, America lost its frontier. The West was won. Since then, our frontiers have been capitalist in nature. Throughout our history, the American Frontier served as a safety valve for radical individualists, those seeking to make a name for themselves, and people who could not get along in normal society.

Today, the Net serves as this frontier and safety valve. It has been colonized by often-dubious small business startups and by crazy ideological projects of all sorts. It is home to kooks and geniuses of every kind.

Already individualist by nature, the Net often creates libertarians out of these sorts of individuals. Unlike previous frontiers, the Net is not the real world. Unlike a Western border town, there is no need for cops, judges, or lawyers. Libertarianism is seductive to people whose interaction with the outside world takes Net use as one of its main forms.

In the real world, ideologies are implemented by people who see the ideology as a means to gain power. Once implemented, these ideologies have invariably discredited themselves. Libertarianism, not having ever been tried anywhere—no young Caesar has seen it as his chance— has no real world results to drag it down. There were no libertarians in the seventeenth-century Scottish Highlands.

The Net rewards crackpots and nuts in a way that the real world does not. People who society keeps at a distance are free to behave unrestrainedly on the Net. Nuts have more stamina, one of the key factors to holding on-line arguments. Not only do these people tend to be highly individualistic—one of the keys towards getting sucked into libertarian ideological conformance—but they also tend to be enamored of their own reason. The rest of the world cannot understand their genius. Libertarianism plays on this hubris with a rational outline for how the world should work. Its cousin-cult, Objectivism, goes even farther down the road of self-reason worship.

People with technical backgrounds, often nerds, are the first-adopters and the designers of everything that makes the Net work and play a large role there. Like the crackpots, the nerds tend to be conscious of their own social inferiority—Paul Graham claims that nerds spend their time improving their intelligence rather than fighting for popularity—and they are gullible when it comes to having their rationalism pandered to.

Nerds are especially attracted to an ideology like Libertarianism that can seemingly eliminate complexity from the real world and make all human problems into logic puzzles to apply their special set of principles to. On the Net, the social arena where their competence shines best, those nerds infected by the libertarian meme have gone a long way towards evangelizing their beliefs.

Thrasymachus is the pen-name of Joel Eidsath. A far reduced version of this piece appeared on his old blog. He has a recently revamped and improved blog at blogger.com. He also writes an online Fantasy novel serialization, Noname Chronicles

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How Libertarianism Infects the Net | 159 comments (121 topical, 38 editorial, 0 hidden)
reposting rejected stories... (1.16 / 6) (#2)
by QuantumG on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 12:13:18 AM EST

good way to get your ass banned.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
This story was not rejected (3.00 / 3) (#3)
by Thrasymachus on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 12:17:23 AM EST

I took this story down myself when it was at +40 votes. I wanted to make changes based on user input. This new version has been heavily edited and is substantially improved.

[ Parent ]
You probably should've mentioned that... (1.00 / 3) (#20)
by Arvedui on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 06:09:10 AM EST

...in a top-level comment immediately after resubmitting. I abstained in large part because a quick glance suggested that you had just reposted a story which had been voted down. If you'd made this clear, I would've given it +1. Not that it matters, as this seems like it'll almost certainly make it into section at least... Just saying.

[ Parent ]
Interesting ideas (2.50 / 2) (#4)
by walkingshark on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 12:21:25 AM EST

I like your discussion of libertarianism as a meme. Its an interesting frame for the discussion. I think your conclusions have some merit, as well. Libertarianism is extremely attractive, but like many systems it is simply not workable when applied with a broad brush. Your support for social stigmatization as a control is questionable. The masses often stigmatize based on the very memes you seem to argue against, thus making stigma a questionable method of enforcing good or right values. History shows us that most good ideas are opposed by a vocal minority at first and are often crushed by institutional inertia many times before they finally take hold. What I take away from your piece is that the marketplace of ideas is poisoned by certain memes, especially various applications of the precepts of libertarianism. This, of course, begs the question of, what kind of meme can be developed to better regulate the marketplace so that things like this do not happen?

yeah but libertarians (none / 1) (#9)
by insomnyuk on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 03:27:21 AM EST

are already socially stigmatized in real life

---
"There is only one honest impulse at the bottom of Puritanism, and that is the impulse to punish the man with a superior capacity for happiness." - H.L. Mencken
[ Parent ]
True (1.50 / 2) (#10)
by walkingshark on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 03:29:29 AM EST

True. That is, after all, the idea of the marketplace of ideas. You let everyone have their say and laugh down anyone who says something stupid.

[ Parent ]
Good Article (1.00 / 3) (#6)
by Gruntathon on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 01:05:10 AM EST

It is nice to read something criticising libertarianism that explains its reasoning without being completely full of crap.
__________
If they hadn't been such quality beasts (despite being so young) it would have been a nightmare - good self-starting, capable hands are your finest friend. -- Anonymous CEO
Where was it? (3.00 / 2) (#130)
by holdfast on Sat Jul 30, 2005 at 11:49:25 AM EST

This seemed to have plenty of it.

This article starts off with insults and presuppositions. If you want to discuss a set of ideas, start by defining what you want to disprove. Don't start by comparing them to biological problems.

All it proved was that the writer was not too keen on rational thought or argument. Or were they trying to show those opinions in a bad light?



"Holy war is an oxymoron."
Lazarus Long
[ Parent ]
are you saying... (2.25 / 4) (#7)
by sal5ero on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 02:45:37 AM EST

internet discussion groups are full of shit?

Like polio colonizing the cells of the small intestine

Fair enough...



and are you also saying... (none / 1) (#8)
by sal5ero on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 02:47:29 AM EST

and then consume them from the inside

that they can all go and eat shit?



[ Parent ]
No! (2.81 / 11) (#11)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 03:31:47 AM EST

The single most pernicious meme is not libertarianism, but memetics. It is a superficially attractive analytic framework for the study of ideas or culture, which on closer examination is revealed to suffer an irreparable defect at the very core of it's central analogy. Natural selection describes a generic process whereby a network of effects, distributed over large series of disconnected and unmotivated events, can gradually come to acquire many traits which would otherwise demand explantion in terms of design by a motivated agent of some sort or another. With memetics, on the other hand, the object of study, human beings and the content of their intellects, cannot even be indentified outside of the supposition of agency.

On the plus side, memetics has been known to prod otherwise recalcitrant rationalists along to the view that the truth-function of an idea or belief is not the only, or even the most significant, aspect of its particular utility.    

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


It does have explanatory power (none / 1) (#46)
by brain in a jar on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 11:43:28 AM EST

especially with reference to internet culture.

Some ideas are prevelent because they are good at causing themselves to be passed on rather than because they have any great utility.

For example the very common (but entirely unsubstantiated) rumour that Marilyn Manson/Prince/Michael flatly (delete as applicable) has had two ribs removed in order to allow him to fellate himself.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

A curious irony of memetics (none / 1) (#76)
by gumbo on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 05:44:27 PM EST

is that it puts Dawkins on the same side of the argument as Derrida. In the implications that they hold for truth, identity and agency, memetics and poststructuralism are entirely consistent with one another. Unfortunately for Dawkins, he doesn't seem to have realised this yet. Unfortunately for the rest of us, this means a whole new crowd of people spouting the sort of tired nonsense that only makes decent social science that much less likely.

Christ, I'm so bored of this shit already.

[ Parent ]

very thought provoking [+1] (2.00 / 4) (#12)
by insomnyuk on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 03:40:58 AM EST

Aside Regarding Libertarians in General:
It's impossible to argue with libertarians or anyone else with a sufficient amount of ideological purity, left or right, because they can't be convinced. Any argument or scenario you bring can be refuted and incorporated in their argument, because their umbrella like framework for understanding the world is just that - I mean, if people were perfectly free (they fail to mention the important part, people would need to be perfect), then of course society would be just hunky-dory and we wouldn't need fractional reserve banking, taxes, or safetybelts.

Your Story, More Specifically:
Your story takes the piss out of libertarianism's 100% certainty attitude online, all while providing what appears to me to be an almost wholly unique approach and analysis.  However, a lot of it could be applied to other political ideologies. Also, the racial undercurrent you point to in libertarianism can also be read into other political philosophies (conservatives don't want minorities to get welfare, liberals use welfare to ghettoize them and keep them out of the wealthy neighborhoods). I think the Lew Rockwell crowd, because of their irrational obsession with Lincoln and 'southern rights' and their underlying anti-semitism really hinder any progress for a libertarian agenda.

Aside from the person who engineers the meme who may possibly have a specific goal in mind, it seems that they are passed from person to person with little to no thought (kind of like an STD). Draw what comparisons you will, but either libertarians, in your analysis, come off as stupid, thoughtless, malicious, or venereally insane.

To Conclude
Objectivism is the ugly red-headed stepchild of libertarianism.

---
"There is only one honest impulse at the bottom of Puritanism, and that is the impulse to punish the man with a superior capacity for happiness." - H.L. Mencken

+1s. Like most ideologies... (2.42 / 7) (#14)
by fyngyrz on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 04:31:10 AM EST

..libertarianism is most valuable for the concepts that will leak into and color the common amalgam of society, not for any pure version that could take root. Pure libertarianism is no more likely to catch on than is pure democracy or pure communism, and for the same reason: People are stupid. The average and median IQ is 100; you are never going to get the bottom half to understand how to act in an environment that provides extremely broad freedoms. They need pabulum like religion to shine a light on a path, preferably a narrow one, and even then they don't do very well. The upper half (or perhaps third) isn't immune from this either, but they do generally have the capacity to lift themselves up -- but again, there will be no pure libertarian environment, so it's all moot anyway.

Libertarian principles are useful on an individual basis, though. For instance, you can count on the fact that I will never abuse your person if you simply leave me alone, because I do value the general libertarian principle that says my right to swing my fist ends where your face begins -- so long as you observe the same rule. This is what I mean by useful portions of the ideology leaking over. You don't have to want the entire mechanism of law and order disassembled to appreciate the value of respecting another person's body, family and property to a degree not associated with (for instance) US law. US law presently allows the taking of personal property for building commercial enterprise. I object on what is pretty much an unmodified libertarian precept. It's yours; no one should be able to take it by force. Not for commercial development, and not for highways, railroads, parks or missile bases, either. I'm very comfortable in this outlook, and my civil, financial and political participation in the process reflects this at all times.

I think it is fairly pointless to rant about libertarianism in the mode that this article does. It's never going to take over or become an important political force.

But it is quite interesting to see the pros and cons tossed about, and so +1s. :-)

Blog, Photos.

You're interestingly ignorant (1.00 / 2) (#16)
by I HATE TROLLS on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 05:11:49 AM EST

You know there are societies that are in practice 90+% secular, right?

[ Parent ]
which societies? (none / 1) (#56)
by boboli fresh on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 01:40:52 PM EST

i mean, not like little social societies--i'm guessing the society of atheists is 90+% secular--but, like, countries or major regions? if there are i wasn't aware. maybe some little euroscrap country, but i feel like any country will have at least 10% active/practicing religious.

------
"Kaycee, you don't need this negativity in your life."
[ Parent ]
I guess I am. Enlighten me, please. (none / 1) (#68)
by fyngyrz on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 03:38:13 PM EST

What, and where, are these "90% secular" societies you mention? You're not talking about a social club, I presume, but a nation of significance, such as China (can't be), Japan (no way), India (hardly) or the USA (don't make me laugh.)

Perhaps you've identified a nation I'd be pleased to live in, if these putative secular societies also exist as industrialized countries with reasonable systems of taxation.

I freely admit my presumption arises from overall percentages put forth in various studies and articles I've read -- I've not taken the time to look at each country's religious and superstitious issues, I just assumed the distribution of stupidity was essentially uniform. I'm delighted to hear I might be wrong.

So by all means, elaborate.

Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

The UK? (none / 0) (#120)
by mr strange on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 09:49:25 PM EST

Fewer than 10% of the UK population are actively religious. Moreover, even if you are religious, that tends to be a personal matter that is never discussed in public.

Serious discussions of religion (from the perspective of a believer) are generally considered embarrassing. For example, Tony Blair (a quietly professed Christian) was asked on TV whether he prays with George Bush. Rather than simply answering the question, as I think an American might have, he was flustered and embarrassed... eventually he got out an indignant "No, of course not!".

intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]

Honestly... (none / 0) (#122)
by fyngyrz on Sat Jul 30, 2005 at 01:36:40 AM EST

...I don't think "actively religious", or more generally, "willing to share", is the issue. The issue is superstitious foolishness given credibility and influence, often masked as politically correct tolerance. Overtly or covertly. In this area, it would appear that the U.K. is little different from the U.S. where religion pervades legislation, society and polity.

(Sadly) dragging out some stats: In the US, about 33% claim they make it to church weekly. About 75% say they pray. About 85% claim to believe in a god or gods. These are both approximate and doubtful, as they are survey results, but they are telling even if taken as general numbers.

Now, I don't know where you got your 10% figure, but the UK government definitely doesn't seem to see it as you do. Check this out.

If you'll read that, you'll see that the U.K. figures very closely track the U.S. figures; and I can tell you, as a citizen of the U.S., that those figures produce the result that religion in the U.S. is an influence about as subdued as a high-volume methane-heavy fart in a very small space. So I don't think the U.K. would attract me as a new home (I've been there multiple times, BTW.)


Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

Here's a poll that backs me up. (none / 0) (#133)
by mr strange on Sat Jul 30, 2005 at 06:13:44 PM EST

Here's a Yougov poll on religion that gives a fairly reliable picture of religion in the UK.

As you will see, weekly attendence at religious ceremonies is 17% (page 2). Fewer than 21% pray regularly (page 4), and 44% say that they believe in  God (page 1).

That's dramatically lower than the figures you quote for the USA, and I stand by the description of religious attitudes in my original comment.

intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]

Not really. (none / 0) (#135)
by fyngyrz on Sun Jul 31, 2005 at 12:13:52 AM EST

Your poll got 44% after talking to 1,981 adults 18 or older in the UK.

The UK census, which talked to every adult (that is, of course, the nature of a census), comes up with 76% plus a fraction.

I'm going to have to go with the UK census, no offense. :-)

10% might tempt me. 76% doesn't -- even 44% doesn't.

Actually, it's worse than that -- I count agnostics as religious. When I'm being generous.

Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

You should believe me. (none / 0) (#136)
by mr strange on Sun Jul 31, 2005 at 04:15:43 AM EST

The UK census' religious question is widely regarded as a bit suspect. Mosts people seemed to treat it as a sort of ethnicity question. Others treated it as a joke - a small but significant minority claimed to be 'jedi'. If you googled for it you would discover that I'm right.

Yougov is not some random polling organisation. They use innovative methods and are widely regarded as far more accurate than other pollsters.

From my own experience I can say that I don't personally know anyone who regularly goes to church. Given the poll data, I'd say some of them probably do, but the point is that they don't talk about it.

intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]

Somehow... (none / 0) (#137)
by fyngyrz on Sun Jul 31, 2005 at 04:41:15 AM EST

...you've gotten the idea that people talking about religion bothers me. It doesn't. Truly. I can talk about religion, and in a fairly well informed manner. I've written pieces on textual criticism, the relative literary values of King James translation vs. more modern translations, it's all very interesting.

What bothers me is that people hold these beliefs today. That's something else again. These are stone-age / dark-age beliefs that should have been put to bed when we discovered the bright objects in the telescopes weren't angels. People are stupid; societies that embrace stupidity are worse, some kind of warm and fuzzy amalgam of political correctness, superstition over reason, and just plain pandering to the lowest possible common denominator.

If the English are doing better than the Americans in dropping this wretched nonsense, then I am nothing less than delighted for them. Truly. The numbers don't seem to bear this out, but as I have said many times, reality is what it is, not what we want it to be -- and I truly hope you're exactly right.

Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

couldn't resist. (none / 0) (#113)
by Harvey Anderson on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 04:46:50 PM EST

For instance, you can count on the fact that I will never abuse your person if you simply leave me alone,

Unless, of course, I happen to be living in the same city as a large populations of Muslims.

[ Parent ]

Ah, Harvey. :-) (none / 0) (#123)
by fyngyrz on Sat Jul 30, 2005 at 02:15:59 AM EST

I have not, to date, laid a finger or a weapon upon a Muslim (or any other religious ignoramus) or damaged their material assets or domiciles on or at any scale.

I simply argue that as a matter of national policy, it is long past time that the nation do so, as the threat is large and continues to grow, and current policy does not appear to me to be having any effect other than to encourage them. I am certainly open to other ideas; I simply have never run into any that were worth anything thus far, either for practical reasons or otherwise.

The attack on the WTC killed more people than the attack on Pearl Harbor did. In re Pearl Harbor, I am in agreement that the attack there was sufficient cause to declare war on all Japanese, regardless if they were in the attack fleet or not. I am comfortable the Japanese were nuked at the end of the war, just as I would be comfortable with killing you where you stood if you assaulted my sweetheart, though you only bruised her cheek. The lesson to those that remain standing, of course, is, don't even think about it. Similarly, only more so, I am ready and willing to consider that the attack on the WTC is sufficient cause to declare war in the classic sense on Muslims. I am not talking about a lame-ass incursion by a few ground-pounders into Afghanistan, as you well know.

I also, if you'll recall, was perfectly willing to belay such an attack and make it contingent upon further casus belli, to wit, not turning over the terrorists or the launching of another attack by Muslims. That would give the Muslims an opportunity to reorganize their thinking, such as it is.

Your argument was that the current level of counter-efforts is sufficient, and that the thousands who have died to date were an acceptable loss as compared to the costs of responding with extreme sanction such as nuclear weapons, my preferred high-efficiency Muslim-elimination method.

Overall, you -- and the Muslims -- have nothing to worry about from me, unless, as the Libertarian precept has it, you attack me or mine directly. I don't make national policy, I simply have an opinion of what it should be. That is no cause for worry on your part; because in a democracy (if we lived in one) any two uninformed twerps can outvote an expert, and in a mutated republic of the specific form of the U.S., my vote, and opinion, have little impact at all, despite my willingness to participate in the "process.". You can be sure that posting on Kuro5hin will similarly have little effect on national policy.

Nice to talk to you again. :-)

Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

Where we get hung up (none / 1) (#126)
by Harvey Anderson on Sat Jul 30, 2005 at 08:43:19 AM EST

is where you assume that posting on K5 will have no effect on national policy.  On the contrary, men of power constantly troll this site; George Bush gets a report from the NSA every morning summarizing our conversations.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, but... (none / 0) (#132)
by fyngyrz on Sat Jul 30, 2005 at 02:29:15 PM EST

...I use words with more than three letters, so George can't understand my posts.

Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

Very well put. (none / 0) (#116)
by garote on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 07:19:10 PM EST

Thank goodness someone with a little common sense deigned to reply to this confused manifesto.

[ Parent ]
How Foo infects the net. (2.66 / 3) (#17)
by your_desired_username on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 05:14:43 AM EST

As far as I can see, most of your arguments as why 'libertarianism infects the net' apply just as well (or as poorly) to many other isms.

Stigma is alive and kicking. (none / 1) (#18)
by your_desired_username on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 05:20:27 AM EST

There's stigma against pedophiles. There's stigma against corporations (in some social circles, not all :-) . There's stigma against terrorists.

Stigma hasn't gone away. All that's changed, I think, is that there is more awareness of widely stigma varies from one social circle to the next - in some circles you see polluters stigmatized, and in others, enviromentalists are stigmatized. I could go on and on ...

Overlooking the void (3.00 / 3) (#33)
by Thrasymachus on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 08:35:16 AM EST

Read the linked article. The last section is about that. Our stigma against pedophilia is one of our very last moral certainties.
“The hysteria over pedophilia is indicative of a society that has come to the brink of self-destruction and stands there accusing the void. People reach for their old certainties: words like "pervert" and "perversion" suddenly seem right to them; they look round for the culprit with a view to shaming, humiliating, and ostracizing him. And they recognize the vastness of the evil that is around them and within them, an evil they only imperfectly confess to.”


[ Parent ]
His 'one great exception' is one of many. (2.50 / 2) (#53)
by your_desired_username on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 01:26:59 PM EST

In my post I go on: 'There's stigma against corporations (in some social circles, not all :-) . There's stigma against terrorists.'

Do you need more? Drug addicts are stigmatized. Out-of-wedlock mothers are stigmatized. Gays are stigmatized.

When Scruton talks about pedophilia, he claims: 'There is, however, one great exception' As far as I can see, he makes no mention of the many other stigmas which still exist, nor does he seem aware of the fact that social groups vary widely in what they stigmatize. These, and not pedophilia, were the theme of my post.

(Note: It's a good thing I had read the article before, because when I went to re-read it to see if I'd missed anything, I got only mysql errors. Fortunately it was in my cache.)

[ Parent ]

Link to the previous discussion... (none / 1) (#22)
by Arvedui on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 06:17:20 AM EST

here.

Many editorial comments will apparently no longer apply, but for the sake of any topical discussions in progress, it seems worth providing.

Even many anarchists don't reject authority (1.60 / 5) (#24)
by freestylefiend on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 06:29:29 AM EST

"Libertarianism is the idea that the solution to all of mankind's problems lies in liberation from political, economic, and moral authority."

Not according to Russian libertarian Bakunin.

Topical comment (2.20 / 5) (#25)
by IceTitan on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 06:31:24 AM EST

Your article sets it up so that an attempt to defend libertarianism is viewed as blind faith to a would be mime.
Nuke 'em from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
The meme theory (none / 1) (#27)
by ljj on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 06:57:17 AM EST

The way I understand meme theory, based on the viral analogy weak memes will die out and strong memes will survive. If libertarianism is a strong meme then it will survive and infect continuously, independent of the medium.

There is no doubt the internet can accelarate the infection rate of a meme, but that is only if the meme is strong.

--
ljj

Not Necessarily (2.50 / 2) (#28)
by Morosoph on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 07:09:02 AM EST

The terms "strength" and "weakness" here are not concepts that are independent of medium, any more than "fitness" in evolution is independent of environment. Tigers don't propagate well at the North Pole.

[ Parent ]
environment (none / 1) (#97)
by ljj on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 04:26:24 AM EST

Well Tigers don't do well at the North Pole because strength is also a function of environment. That is why humans did so well. Our large brains made us so adaptable that some of could survive in deserts, and some of us, like the chutski's in Asia in almost -40 degree centigrade conditions. Strong memes survive independent of their channel or truthfulness. If human brains are suscepitble to them, they will fly.

--
ljj
[ Parent ]

Independence (none / 1) (#100)
by Morosoph on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 06:16:24 AM EST

Well Tigers don't do well at the North Pole because strength is also a function of environment. That is why humans did so well. Our large brains made us so adaptable that some of could survive in deserts, and some of us, like the chutski's in Asia in almost -40 degree centigrade conditions.
Agreed.
Strong memes survive independent of their channel or truthfulness. If human brains are suscepitble to them, they will fly.
Your assertion is an excellent illustration of the problem with the term "fitness" in genetic evolution. Natural selection is so much more evocative, and accurate.

Religion is pretty strong, but small religions tend to fade out. This is partly because as a religion becomes smaller and smaller, more people that you meet will not hold to the religion, so that the belief is harder to sustain. A meme's "fitness" is not independent of environment.

Similarly with libertarianism. The net brings us into constant contact with libertarians; this must reinforce belief amoung the susceptable. If there are other reasons to believe (self-interest, simplicity, possibly validity of the analysis), it's more likely to 'take'. The net could easily push the meme multiplier (propensity to propagate before forgetting/dying) above one, if it were below, or move the multiplier sufficently high that adherents are more able to act ahead of real-world events, which could also reinforce it (it might also reinforce opponents' memes).

[ Parent ]

loffloff (none / 0) (#107)
by Morosoph on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 12:05:38 PM EST

I feel that I should say that the zero rating "hide" is really intended for trolls or worse. I understand that you disagree with me in some matters, but I wouldn't say that my posts are trolls, even if they're badly argued.

The proper rating for non-trolls that one wishes to discourage is [one, "discourage"].

I don't wish to appear unsporting, and I do note that you have not been one-sided in your rating (intially, I thought that you'd simply taken a dislike to me), but the zero rating has a special purpose: if two people give it, the post really is hidden for most K5ers, and it's unfair on everyone who is participating in the discussion unless the post really is a troll.

[ Parent ]

Problem with memes (none / 1) (#55)
by Shajenko on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 01:32:14 PM EST

The "strength" or longevity and popularity of a meme unfortunately has little to no correlation with its truthfulness. The spread of urban legends proves this - people will pass on stories that are interesting to them whether they have any idea if it's true or not, and they don't bother to check most of the time.

[ Parent ]
Indeed (none / 1) (#96)
by ljj on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 04:20:52 AM EST

But what is truth anyway?

--
ljj
[ Parent ]

Truth (none / 0) (#114)
by Shajenko on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 07:02:00 PM EST

Unless you're a philosophy major, truth is what you can reasonably verify. Passing around stories as factual historical events when they never happened is definitely not truth.

[ Parent ]
-1 memes are not a bad thing. (2.14 / 7) (#34)
by nietsch on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 08:44:42 AM EST

You leave no doubt about what you think about this 'libertaism' (which I don't know anything about as I am not a USian). nearly every time you mention it you compare or associate it with something negative. And in your hatred you have found this new evil thing, memes, which can explain why so many people are attracted to this philosophy that you hate so much. Clearly it must be a virus because they don't see how wrong this 'liberty-thing' is like you do. they are just poor victims not independent thinking people that made their own mind up.

Except you made one important mistake: memes are a model(or even less, an analogy as you use it) for a phenomenon and can therefore not be good or bad.

Memes are just ideas that spread. You can either make up and work out your own ideas, or you can get them from your environment. The most persistent ones are called culture, the less permanent fashion or hype (or ...) If you would not allow any memes to enter your head, you would not have any culture or speak any language.

So Libertarianism can not be 'bad' just because it is (spread by) a meme, the same way that GW Bush can(not) be bad just because he is human.

As I said I have no idea what Libertarianism is in fact, and I have not bothered to read your whole prose. Relying on you to tell me what Libertarianism is would be as valuable as asking a Hamas leader what zionism is. But the hatred an negativism that steams from the first paragraphs alone make me think that this is a story to drop.

good and bad (2.57 / 7) (#35)
by speek on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 09:24:53 AM EST

The idea that people have a mental framework that let's them come to answers that ignore realworld complexity strikes me as completely true. I don't know too many people who don't have this problem. On the other hand, regarding libertarianism, you don't really do anything to logically refute it - you just call it a bad meme over and over again, an oversimplification without saying what it oversimplifies. The core principle of libertarianism could well be a decent guiding principle, provided it doesn't become an absolute principle.

One question I like to ask is, what is more important, people or principles? We forget easily that the point of principles is to help people, not the other way around, and so when we become willing to sacrifice people for the sake of keeping principles sacred, then we know we've gone too far toward making them absolutes, rather than guides.

Also, the whole meme thing is a meme itself, in that it rather oversimplifies things. You are trying to fight fire with fire and all you have done is create more fire, really. In my mind, a better way to discredit an idea like libertarianism is to provide convincing argumentation. But, maybe that's just meme I'm infected with.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees

I wasn't trying to (none / 1) (#92)
by Thrasymachus on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 01:04:57 AM EST

There are a million critiques of libertarian ideas out there already. I wanted to look at its structural characteristics instead of getting into a first principles debate.

If I were to write an article on Jehovah's Witnesses for Kuro5hin, I wouldn't spend time explaining how they're wrong about Hell and the Trinity. I'd talk about their door-to-door techniques, and the sort of people that tend to get sucked by that.

[ Parent ]
and guess what? (1.00 / 3) (#102)
by speek on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 06:50:39 AM EST

People of faith and people who "tend to get sucked by that" wouldn't pay you any heed.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Agreed (none / 0) (#158)
by Kadin2048 on Tue Aug 09, 2005 at 04:25:07 AM EST

I had much the same thoughts on reading the article.

The overall argument (before it descended into the critique/attack on libertarianism) regarding ideology as a replacement for analysis was thoughtful. I have had much the same thoughts while having discussions on politics and other matters. Where I differ in opinion though is the author's decidedly negative tone concerning ideologies.

An ideology, that is, a set of general axioms which can be applied to any situation in order to rapidly come to a judgement on the correct action, is a very useful tool in a world where the information needed to perform an intense analysis of the situation may not be available. Certainly in a perfect world there would be no need for ideologies; everyone would consider each course of action they're presented with on the strength of pros and cons (whatever those were in the situation), and make a decision independent of unrelated factors.

However, the world isn't like that. The ability to rapidly make decisions based on imperfect information is needed to survive and do well, so we create ideologies as crutches. They survive because they're useful to those applying them.

The ultimate ideology is one which theoretically produces the same recommended course of action as an exhaustive analysis of all (not just the available) information on any dilemma. (This is ridiculous, spelled out this way, but it's also a description of some religions -- an ideology which is believed to allow you to act as an omnipotent entity would in the same situation.)

Anyway, to stop rambling, I'm just not sure that I agree with the author's seeming condemnation of ideologies. Given our circumstances they seem like a necessary evil -- and if some ideologies when widely followed produce satisfactory outcomes for a wide range of people, can we not say that there are in fact ideologies which are better than others?

[ Parent ]

Universality of Freedom as a Value (Repost) (2.42 / 7) (#37)
by Morosoph on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 09:34:52 AM EST

Repost as Topical.

There is one problem with the above analysis; it treats a near universal desire: freedom, as a mere meme.

Freedom, however, is more than a meme. All the ideologies that you mention lay claims to the promotion of freedom of one kind or another. The universal justification for authority in political thought is that it defends and promotes freedom of one kind or another.

The central point with libertarianism is that the only freedom that it recognises is that of freedom from government, but there are secondary defences for libertarianism, such as the need for counterbalance to authority's tendency to extend itself. Almost all politicians and those in the government body seek to extend their sphere of power; isn't it reasonable for those outside government to attempt to reverse this?

This yields an entirely plausible alternative viewpoint for the prevalence of libertarianism on the net: that of interest groups. Of various ideologies and interests, libertarianism is cursed, or at least was before the rise of the internet: those ideologies and perspectives that were more group-oriented have always had the edge. Now that the internet is in existence, those with a libertarian viewpoint actually have the chance to act more coherently, rather than simply fighting small private 'wars' in whatever place they live.

Certainly Americas founders (as an example. I'm not being parochial. I'm British), being broadly libertarian in outlook by modern standards took the opportunity in their day to set up constitution to defend freedoms that they could see were necessary. Since then, politicians, building upon pet ideas and their own interest groups, have steadily pushed the law in the other direction. Politicians, however, are not representative of the population. To see this, look at this chart from politicalcompass.org to see the general drift. Politicians are consistently more authoritarian than average, partly because on a number of issues, they care where the average person passes. Bureaucrats likewise: I have a family relation who is a civil servant, and I certainly find this to be the case for them.

There is a risk from the 'libertarianism is a meme' analysis that one assumes that the political centre of gravity is correct. I believe that self-selection of those in authority gives a powerful reason why this need not be the case.

But what is Freedom? (none / 1) (#69)
by Coryoth on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 03:53:50 PM EST

It is a very loosely defined term that can be used to mean a great many things - there are many kinds of freedom.  I think the issue people have with the purist libertarian idea of freedom is that they define it simply to be "private property", and define property in the Lockean sense: "I mix my labour with this resource, so now it is mine".  That is actually a fairly poorly justified claim.  Few spouting the superiority of libertarian philosophy ever lay out anything resembling a coherent defence of Lockean definitions of property, or why private property is the only correct way to measure freedom.  I can have freedom without private property, and I can have private property without freedom.

I am certainly not a believer in big government, and many people would probably describe my politics as libertarian, but I guess I'm a pragmatic libertarian then.  Libertarian philosophy, and the attempt to ground everything in terms of axioms, is at its heart very very weak indeed - yet this is the means by which libertarianism on the net propogates.  I would be much happier to see libertarian like ideas propogated via empirical consequentialist arguments.  Of course that leaves room for some level of compromise, for libertarianism tempered by as much interventionism as is practical for best results (however much that may be), and this failure of complete ideological purity is apparently anathema to libertarians (at least the kind that vocally flaunt their ideas on the 'net).

Jedidiah.

[ Parent ]

This is what freedom is... (2.00 / 2) (#87)
by Pseudonym on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 08:45:16 PM EST

It is a very loosely defined term that can be used to mean a great many things - there are many kinds of freedom.

In all named ideologies, "freedom" means precisely the same thing: It is precisely the wiggle room required to be like "me", where "me" is the holder of the ideology.

Under this definition, in a world run along "my" ideological lines, people not like "me" may get a bad deal. But that's okay. They freely chose not to be like "me", so they have to live with that free choice.


sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
The Nature of Freedom (none / 1) (#95)
by Morosoph on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 04:20:33 AM EST

From the Editiorial column:
I agree that freedom isn't precise. The freedom that I try to cultivate is a kind of "rounded, holistic" freedom, which I wish to maximise approximately according to the principle of "the greatest freedom of the greatest number". When you consider such things as happy drugs, you can probably appreciate why classical utilitarianism never appealed to me. The libertarian kick in "the greatest freedom..." helps rescue utilitarianism from its worst excesses.

Although freedom isn't well-defined, this doesn't mean that it isn't worthwhile. Freedom is clearly a term for all your interests combined, together with your right to prioritise them, and indeed all of your potential interests in the future. Accordingly, freedom is the root concept in any political context, and loss of freedom is a big deal. It saddens me when I see people willing to trade so much potential for a small apparent concrete gain. To me, this is the essence of cowardice.

I'm sorry if it's not a precise answer: I'm feeling a little lazy this morning, but I hope that this helps elucidate my position!

I agree that property is a ridiculously narrow view of freedom, but my defence of libertarianism is that of counterbalance to natural flaws in the system, rather than one of intellectual correctness.

[ Parent ]

I voted this up... (none / 1) (#41)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 10:44:25 AM EST

But you did kinda swindle me by not including much about political libertarianism or economic libertarianism.

Also, you use loaded words like "infection" but refuse to tell me why my libertarianism is bad. I *don't* want power over you, and my ideology isn't a mechanism designed just to allow me to become the next tyrant.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

what libertarianism is (1.82 / 17) (#42)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 10:56:34 AM EST

it's just the same concept as selfishness, dressed up in the clothing of philosophy, and this is supposed to make it respectable somehow

it's still just a $10 crackwhore

fuck libertarians, all of them in every variation of the meaning of the word

selfish assholes every single one


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Read Heyek (none / 1) (#98)
by Morosoph on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 05:02:54 AM EST

I'm not libertarian, and Heyek himself isn't as strongly libertarian as some, but he explains the problem of central rule not as a coming to terms with human selfishness, but rather as a problem of regulating a diverse set of interests, which he does not assume to be selfish.

To my mind, this is a defense of weak government: for which (selfish or unselfish) interests do you govern? Assembling majorities becomes harder and harder for finer and finer decisions, and decisions need to be enforced. Also, to be able to compromise to change your situation is a natural feauture of free markets; as the state becomes stronger, lock into a particular situation, and reliance upon a bureucrat for the right to move becomes stronger.

Since freedom includes the right and potential to further your values, it's not really an issue of selfishness; it's only painted that way by collectivists, and Randites.

My own stance, BTW it that of intelligent, freedom-maximising intervention that is wise to the systemic effects of intervention, and doesn't intervene too much. But although I don't completely agree with them, I believe that it is a mistake to identify libertarianism with selfishness: it's not a necessary implication.

[ Parent ]

what you say is all well and good (1.66 / 3) (#104)
by circletimessquare on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 07:44:27 AM EST

and any word can have a range of meanings

but if you extend the range of a word's meaning too much, the word becomes absolutely useless

we have words for a reason: to be able to talk about ideas

if the word's meaning is spread out enough over a wide enough range of ideas, then the usefulness of the word in any given conversation approaches zero

so according to you, "libertarianism" is basically a useless buzzword of the moment which will soon pass and fade

the point is to talk about ideas

not talk about the terms used to talk about the ideas

less foreplay, more sex


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

an important aspect of meme strength (1.33 / 3) (#43)
by minerboy on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 10:59:22 AM EST

Has to do with their abillity to explain observations in the physical world, basically their utility in manipulating the physical or social world. The quantum mechanics meme is a strong meme because people recognize its utillity. Similarly, the individual freedom / libertarian meme provides a fundamental framework for thinking about problems that maximizes social justice. Sure, certain social problems exist in a paradigm where the "individual freedom" meme (maybe summed up best by the live and let live aphorism), will not provide a solution - just as classical phyics does not always work.

As an example, consider a social system where individuals are highly irrational, even regarding fundamental physical needs. If these individuals were to try to propagate their irrational meme, by randomly blowing themselves up along with crowds of libertarians, it is difficult to see how one could solve the problem while still employing the libertarian meme - particularly with the liberarian sub meme of "no initiation of force".



Good idea! Let's pass a whole bunch of laws... (2.00 / 3) (#45)
by alexboko on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 11:35:41 AM EST

...that will make everyone non-selfish. But since selfishness is an indelible part of human nature (not the only part, but still there from the days of primordial ooze onward) people will find ways around the laws to serve their self interest. So we'll pass more laws to close those loopholes forcing people to become more inventive in how they serve themselves.

Meanwhile, you're facing the problem of who decides what greater good people should serve instead of their own self-interest. And the problem that the power of making that decision inevitably attracts either self-serving crooks or ideological controll freaks.

Now, since you yourself are a control freak, at first glance it might seem like a good outcome. But consider this-- there are many competing factions of control freaks, and you have no guarantee that your particular faction will have enough influence over society's priorities to guarantee a better outcome from your perspective than the indifferent one that would result from a market solution.

But let's say that your faction of control freaks is the one that has the dominant influence on policy, you're faced with decision of just how much to abridge individual rights to get the outcome you want. I mean, if abridging them just a little (ban guns, ban hate-speech, ban SUVs, use eminent domain to seize property that could provide higher tax revenues if used for some other purpose than it currently is) is a good thing, then wouldn't abridging them a little more (metal detectors and cameras in all public places, ban political organizing in opposition to your hate-speech laws, caps on total annual consumer spending per houshold, redistribute property altogether until everyone is precisely equal) be an even better thing? When do you decide that your ideals of forced charity and compulsory equality have been met? Oh yeah, they're ideals, so they can't be met, so if you're truly committed to them, you'll have to keep pushing and pushing until something breaks. Or until enough people decide that life under your regime is intolerable and overthrow you (and usually install some rival control-freak faction).

I can't wait till we cleanse the net (and eventually the world) of these selfish Libertarians. Things are going to get real good then!


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.

I know that my previous post is a caricature. (1.83 / 6) (#48)
by alexboko on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 12:13:25 PM EST

My previous post is an unfair caricature of your position.

Deep inside every reasonable person knows what fairness and equality are, even if one can come up with all kinds of hypothetical cases that can trash this intuitive definition. Bottom line is, you want fairness and equality, while the Libertarians just want privileges for the rich. Nice and simple.

And that's your caricature of Libertarians.

So you're spewing bile at your caricature of libertarians, and in the responses you'll see plenty of bile being spewed by libertarians at caricatures of liberals, and both sides will be talking past each other. Good as flamewars feel, they won't accomplish anything.

What if all apply the principle of "know thy opponent"?

For example, what if as a Libertarian, I admit that Liberals really do believe that their end goals are liberty and equality of outcome.

In exchange, the Liberals admit that Libertarians really do believe that their goals are liberty and equality of opportunity.

So from an unthinking us-versus-them, we have a more precise definition of the differences-- we agree on liberty and equality as goals. We differ on the best method to acchieve these goals, and on the type of equality we seek. There's way more to say on this, maybe a whole separate article, but is everyone with me so far?


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.

Its not even that different (2.00 / 2) (#90)
by The Diary Section on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 11:51:05 PM EST

liberals just have a more sophisticated understanding of what "equality of opportunity" means. For a libertarian, if you're born poor you're fucked. That isn't equality of opportunity.

Its a striking victory for the political right that they've turned "liberal" into a dirty word and almost completely reversed its meaning, but thats probably not news to anyone at this stage.
Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
[ Parent ]

liberatarians want to shrink the government... (none / 1) (#49)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 12:41:06 PM EST

by 10%.

90% of the law is property.

The hidden assumption of libertarianism is that property rights as they exist in modern U.S. culture are philosophical certainty which are undebatable.

To achieve the goal of shrinking the government many of them vote for Republicans who actually want to expand the government more than the Democrats.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour

Comparisons between 3 parties (3.00 / 2) (#106)
by Cro Magnon on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 10:03:42 AM EST

Libertarians want to shrink the government by 10% and believe in property rights.

Democrats want to grow the government, by whatever amount they can tax, and redistribute property.

Republicans want to grow the government, but since they cut taxes, there is no limit for expansion (?). They generally believe in property rights, unless someone richer wants your property, then they'll do Eminent Domain.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]

Transhumanist exlibertarian (1.25 / 4) (#50)
by Fen on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 01:19:00 PM EST

I feel into the libertarian trap myself awhile ago. However, transhumanism is of far more importance. Once we are self-sufficient through technology, then we can become true libertarians (anarchists). The limitations on light-speed demand it! But for now, I'd rather not have a bunch of guns or meth-freaks on the street. I'm still quite vulnerable.
--Self.
Hmm (none / 1) (#52)
by dhall on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 01:26:19 PM EST

Last I checked, we're not in a libertarian world, and there are plenty of guns and meth-freaks.

[ Parent ]
Fewer (none / 1) (#62)
by Fen on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 03:00:10 PM EST

If the latest wackjob libertarian were to become president, there would be a lot more guns and meth-freaks out on the streets generally annoying everyone.
--Self.
[ Parent ]
libertarianism and THism are very similar (none / 1) (#54)
by boboli fresh on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 01:32:05 PM EST

the main difference is that libertarianism is against all forms of authority and atheistic, while transhumanism is against all forms of authority and deifies technology. congrats on finding religion!

------
"Kaycee, you don't need this negativity in your life."
[ Parent ]
Yes I've found religion. (1.00 / 3) (#65)
by Fen on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 03:06:57 PM EST

The meaning of life is transhumanism. When we are transhumanism--maybe we'll find the "real" meaning (reincarnation maybe). But for now transhumanism is the ultimate end-goal.

By the way libertarianism has nothing to do with atheism.
--Self.
[ Parent ]

Methods. (2.00 / 3) (#57)
by alexboko on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 01:45:06 PM EST

I've come to think that transhumanist goals are unlikely to be acchieved by transhumanist methods. In no small part due to the fact that I see so few transhumanists even bothering to think about how to actually fund and implement these grand visions using the real, mundane world as a starting point.

Come to think about it, with the exception of Free State, the same can be said about Libertarians.

Luckily, the world is already ruled by political philosophies that are highly effective at bringing on "The Future" and yet have nothing meaningful to say about what to do once we get there. So we'll get your day.

I think a free market (perhaps less regulated and less subsidized than the one most of us have now) and a democratic government (perhaps less ideological and more respectful of civil liberties than the one most of us have now) are the most likely means to transhumanist ends.

The actual regime most of us live under can accomplish this, though it may take longer.

A market-statist regime like that of China could probably also do the job, though this may take even longer.

I think we can write off theocracies along with any system that unbendingly seeks equality-of-outcome as pathways to a transhumanist future.


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]

Hi alex (none / 1) (#63)
by Fen on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 03:03:18 PM EST

What was your school again? I'm at portland (oregon) state university.

Anyway--from talking to people I think there is a bit of a vacuum of real progress for transhumanism. The singinst.org guys are pretentious egotists who just want claim to the first super-AI or something. Transhumanism.org has nice conferences but lacks any real focus.

Perhaps like you say every bit of tech, every patent, and such inches along the way.
--Self.
[ Parent ]

Singinst (2.50 / 2) (#66)
by alexboko on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 03:24:21 PM EST

Singinst means well, but they suffer from a problem that many bright people suffer from. They have a theory that is self-consistant, elegant, and explains everything. They are in love with this theory and will ignore anything anybody else is doing that might distract them from their theory.

As a consequence, instead of taking advantage of external opportunities, they only trust tools and ideas that they themselves develop. Half the time these turn out to be unnecessary reinventions of existing tools and ideas. Last time I checked, they were deriving psychology through a-priori reasoning, rediscovering ethics, and writing a purpose-designed programming language from scratch.

Even though I disagree with their methods, I think they're fascinating people and I hope they at least partially succeed in what they're doing. Now, if they fully succeed, we'll all be under the thumb of an AI that combines the worst qualities of the Old Testament Jehovah and the Clinton administration, but as I said, that's not likely to happen. And if it does, hey, at least it won't be boring.


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]

Alex, let's get a good transhuman article going. (none / 1) (#67)
by Fen on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 03:38:10 PM EST

Want to make sure it's good before submitting it. KHallow may have some stuff to say (just saw him in person).
--Self.
[ Parent ]
Hmm. How to start though? (2.00 / 2) (#72)
by alexboko on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 04:36:25 PM EST

Things are a little better time-wise for me now than they have been most of this month. What should our "one sentence summary" be?

One problem I have is with whether >H is a philosophy at all. Philosophically, it's barely distinguishable from Enlightenment rationalism.

What to me distinguishes >H is the ability and willingness to make certain extrapolations of where current economic and technological trends are leading instead of the simplistic business-as-usual or evil-capitalist-oppression-as-usual assumptions that most of the "normal" people are in the habit of making.

That's the problem-- most of the things I can think of saying about transhumanism, once I say them, seem obvious, except for the ones that future-shock people and cause a backlash.

Me: So we continue getting better at genetic engineering and dry nanotech, and one of those two will eventually revolutionize materials science and manufacturing...
Joe K5: Yeah, no shit Sherlock. -1
Me: ...which will accelerate the pace of further improvements in materials science and manufacturing.
Joe K5: Yeah, no shit Sherlock. -1
Me: ...and at some point we'll invent human-level AI.
Joe K5: Yeah, no shit Sherlock. -1
Me: ...which, unlike a human mind, will be capable of reading and improving its own source code, possibly launching an exponential trend of improvement in AI.
Joe K5: Yeah, no shit Sherlock. -1
Me: ...combined with nanotech, this culminates in godlike control of matter at the molecular level. If the technology to replace neurons with virtual analogues doesn't exist already at this point, it quickly becomes possible along with any other technology that is consistant with the laws of physics. Thus, a human being can become software, gaining the near-immortality and godlike powers of AI. Though obviously impossible to forecast life in such a world in any meaningful detail, the overall experience might not be too dissimilar from localroger's Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect for better or worse.
Joe K5: You're a crackpot! And on top of that your're inhuman! You're an inhuman crackpot. -1
localroger: <3 <3 <3 ^_^ ...and if you liked/hated that, make sure to read Mortal Passage!



Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]

email (none / 1) (#75)
by Fen on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 05:36:23 PM EST

cyberthalamus@dodgeit.com. Or just give me your school email.
--Self.
[ Parent ]
K, but in the meantime... (1.50 / 2) (#81)
by alexboko on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 06:44:04 PM EST

We can start hashing out an outline right here. Transparency is good... because it drives people who wish you would just shut up crazy. ;-)

Seriously, though, how about...

I. What is Transhumanism
 A. The ExI definition.
 B. The WTA/Transhumanist Principles definition.
 C. Romana Machado's 'cute' one-liner definition.
 D. My boring but attempting to be accurage one-liner definition.

II. Transhumanism and Philosophy
 A. What rationalism was.
 B. Why it isn't very popular anymore.
 C. How transhumanism patches enlightenment rationalism.

III. Transhumanism and Politics
 A. The Libertarian transhumanists.
 B. The Liberal transhumanists.
 C. But these labels are false.

IV. Transhumanism and the Scientific Community
 A. Most scientists are oblivious to transhumanism.
 B. Most scientists would be wary of transhumanist ties if they did know about transhumanism.
 C. The exceptions.
 D. Why the status-quo in the scientific community is not the problem

IV. Major Transhumanist organizations and Sites
 A. ExI
 B. WTA
 C. Cryonics movement
 D. Life extension movement
 E. Foresight
 F. CoV
 G. Anders' Site
 H. Others

V. Writers with a Transhumanist influence and/or following.
 A. Roger Williams
 B. Vernor Vinge
 C. Greg Egan
 D. Iain Banks
 E. Greg Bear
 F. Charlie Stross
 G. Damien Broderick
 H. The Orion's Arm worldbuilding project

This may take a while, because the article will be much better if we can get permission and input from some of the organizations mentioned here.

In fact, I'm thinking that the best way to whip up a collaborative document is to use a wiki. I can host one, and we can all work on it there until it's ready (and invite folks from the ExI and other lists to help out). Heck, we could even find people with a thoughtful opposition to transhumanism (as opposed to the garden-variety trolls) to write some dissenting opinions. Now there's a move you won't often see anybody having the guts to do.


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]

How to repel Nazi comparisons (2.66 / 6) (#51)
by dhall on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 01:23:49 PM EST

  1. Ask "Please list the things that make the Nazis bad."
  2. Ask "Please apply the list to that which you are arguing against."
This approach can be used to defuse all sorts of label-throwing arguments. It brings the discussion into a more rational scope, forcing people to think in terms of ideas and not names.

Here here. (3.00 / 2) (#118)
by mr strange on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 09:12:10 PM EST

I think that 'Godwin's Law' has the potential to seriously undermine political debate. After all, if the Nazis truly were a 'lesson from history', then we have to be able to apply that lesson, where appropriate.

Then again, it's not really Godwin we should blame, but the thousands of dunderheads for whom 'Nazi' is simply a very bad term of abuse. You strategy of turning the argument back around to the underlying meanings should help rational debate, at the same time as discouraging the dunderheads.

intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]

Allah... (1.66 / 3) (#59)
by SpaceMonkeyGrif on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 02:20:00 PM EST

Please smite the libs smitefully.

thx

+1FP Best caricature of libertarianism. (2.25 / 4) (#74)
by your_desired_username on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 05:20:14 PM EST

This article is so well-written I have a hard time giving it anything other than a +1FP. But I'm troubled by the it describes libertarianism primarily with clever, yet mostly content-free insults. So in fact I still can't decide, despite the title of this comment.

Good analysis, but... (2.66 / 3) (#79)
by Timo Laine on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 06:09:10 PM EST

I think the article is good as a description of the average Internet libertarian. What I would perhaps emphasize as well is that most of the discussions on the net are between people who know computers and related subjects quite well, and people like those tend to think that political issues have similar solutions as technological or scientific issues. Therefore they are attracted to ideologies like economic consequentialism.

Still, as a critique of libertarianism as a philosophy, the article is not very good—probably because it was not really intended as one. There are many kinds of libertarians out there and some are worth taking more seriously. I have libertarian sympathies myself, for several reasons. Perhaps the most important one is that unlike the major ideologies, libertarianism does not have traces of nationalism. What some see as egoism as opposed to altruism, I see as ethics as opposed to national interest. What is extremely attractive to me in libertarianism is that everyone has certain rights, no matter what their nationality or anything else. However I am not a strict libertarian and I slightly disagree on what these rights are.

-1: idiot (2.40 / 5) (#86)
by skyknight on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 08:43:36 PM EST

I believe the other poster who used the word "strawman" hit the nail on the head.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
Haha. Too close for comfort huh? <nt> (none / 1) (#89)
by The Diary Section on Thu Jul 28, 2005 at 11:39:37 PM EST


Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
[ Parent ]
More like... (none / 1) (#99)
by skyknight on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 05:28:40 AM EST

too lazy in its analysis to be all that interesting... If you think that you can pigeonhole all libertarians with a description that ludicrous and generic, then it is you who suffer from a tendency to oversimplify.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
I think you missed the point (1.50 / 2) (#103)
by The Diary Section on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 07:33:39 AM EST

of the article. He isn't talk about Libertarians. He is talking about "Libertarians on the web". It has as much to do with underlying political beliefs and philosophies as "Fuck Natalee Holloway" has to do with a (probably new dead) 18 year old girl.
Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
[ Parent ]
too long (1.33 / 3) (#91)
by khallow on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 12:23:19 AM EST

This article is way too long and rambling. Say what you are trying to say. Further, the whole "infection meme" thing seems tiresome. You spend a lot of effort fitting things into that paradigm (eg, two whole sections before you get to libertarianism!).

The last paragraph has some interest.

Nerds are especially attracted to an ideology like Libertarianism that can seemingly eliminate complexity from the real world and make all human problems into logic puzzles to apply their special set of principles to. On the Net, the social arena where their competence shines best, those nerds infected by the libertarian meme have gone a long way towards evangelizing their beliefs.

Are we eliminating complexity from the real world with libertarianism or only seeming to? That seems to be a good angle here. Too bad you didn't work on this from the start.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

Long and rambling? (1.50 / 2) (#101)
by Vs on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 06:19:20 AM EST

Then read Stephenson's "Snowcrash", especially his rant about memes. This will redefine your notion a bit :) I liked it, though.
--
Where are the immoderate submissions?
[ Parent ]
heh, I will (none / 0) (#127)
by khallow on Sat Jul 30, 2005 at 09:44:53 AM EST

Been wanting to read that.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Uhhh... (2.50 / 2) (#94)
by FuriousXGeorge on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 02:32:35 AM EST

I thought people became libertarian because they like pot, guns, and pirating movies.  Well, maybe that is just me.
-- FIELDISM NOW!
-1: sweet jesus that was long (1.00 / 4) (#108)
by I Mod Everything Up But Kitten on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 12:25:46 PM EST



I disagree (1.00 / 2) (#109)
by JVincent on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 02:04:41 PM EST

You score points for inovative use of the Hitler, but still fall subject to the counterhitler and thus lose per default.

libertarianism != objectivism (3.00 / 6) (#110)
by glasnost on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 02:11:10 PM EST

Personally I think the popularity of libertarianism "online" is a good sign.

To begin with, libertarianism isn't some "new meme". It is basically the core of the enlightenment philosophies that brought us liberal, democratic, western society. As far as I can tell, from seeing societies more and less like this to varying degrees, I much prefer the classical liberal, and hence libertarian way. I guess you've got a right to disagree.

A lot of the criticism I see of libertarianism latches onto the whole "selfish", "rugged individualist" thing. Frankly I think libertarianism has been mischaracterized here. Perhaps objectivism is responsible for this, as it makes the mistake of perverting self-interest as a descriptive, economics-based model for how society functions with maximal smoothness, to a normative, intentional, and personal plan of action for people in society.

This is foolish because people are naturally empathetic, and to deny this empathy is to "break" a person in a very noticeable way. Perhaps a good chuck of the vocal, geek/nerd libertarians on the 'net are like this already, and hence tend to embrace this "objectivist libertarianism". But the typical individual needs no encouragement to act with a healthy amount of self-interest. It is certainly bad to worship it.

Instead of individualism and self-interest (or "selfishness") being the central principles of libertarianism, I believe the core philosophy is more accurately characterized as anti-coercion. To me, the most important insight of libertarianism (and classical liberalism) is that using force to bring about ends in society is usually, and perhaps almost always, more destructive than the ends are worth.

I think true libertarianism is perfectly compatible with empathy, and by extension, notions like welfare. It goes beyond capitalism and the almighty dollar. If you don't believe me, look at the success of essentially libertarian but noncommercial voluntary projects online (like linux, wikipedia, or even kuro5hin), or the flourishing of nonprofits and charities in the "real" world.

You can voluntarily engage in a job at a firm, buy your lunch through the free market, donate to your favorite nonprofit, or contribute to an open source or open content project. You can do a lot without coercion. In fact, libertarianism turns the old "your-demigod-rulers-know-best" notion of society around and asks, "what do we need coercion for?"

This doesn't seem to me like such a bad thing, so this is why I'm happy to see libertarianism gaining ground, thanks to the new forum of the internet.



But... (none / 1) (#111)
by alexboko on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 03:41:55 PM EST

...most libertarians will immediately interpret any attempt at making people feel guilty on account of their selfishness as a cynical attempt to manipulate people to do something instead of convincing them through reasoned debate.


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]
But... (none / 0) (#124)
by thadk on Sat Jul 30, 2005 at 03:58:27 AM EST

most liberals are snivelling people (myself included).

[ Parent ]
I got no problem with liberals. (none / 0) (#131)
by alexboko on Sat Jul 30, 2005 at 12:51:29 PM EST

I'd rather see a liberals vs. libertarians US political system than the current liberals vs conservatives.


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]
You need some coercion to prevent coercion. (none / 0) (#143)
by Dievs on Tue Aug 02, 2005 at 10:21:51 AM EST

  Basic facts - resources are limited, needs/wants much surpass them.

  I can personally benefit from coercing you to something. For example, giving me all your things that I like and spending all your time doing things I order you to do.
  If I have the ability to do this (being stronger, or having a gun, or having more armed friends than you do), what is going to prevent me to ?

 If this is allowed to happen, then we don't have liberalism, because the losers don't have any freedom at all.

 The only thing that I know that can prevent this is a military/police force that's strong enough to easily defeat any street gang, if they would come to an open combat. And a force that will *COERCE* robbers, by preventing and/or punishing robery.
  These men will need to live off of other people's other work to do this. The other people don't really want to give them money, it's better if everyone else pays but you don't. So you need some mechanisms to *COERCE* other people to give things to this army (taxes).

[ Parent ]

Your linked article "Bring Back Stigma" (2.66 / 3) (#112)
by Harvey Anderson on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 04:41:43 PM EST

contains many unsupported assertions:

"Today, however, someone invited to a dinner party with his wife might turn up instead with his mistress--even a mistress whom nobody yet knows--without precipitating anything more than mild curiosity."

What?

"Erotic love, in contrast with animal lust, requires distance and the overcoming of distance by passion."

Says who?

"Serial polygamy is the norm among successful men, and those who lose out from this state of affairs--the women and children whom they abandon--have been deprived of their most important protection, which was the social penalties suffered by the malefactor."

Uh, what?

"as if sexual repression were an unquestionably bad thing."

Uh, what?  On the contrary, being sexually repressed tends to lead towards all sorts of strange perversions.

"Britons have been up in arms for months over the case of Sarah Payne, an eight-year-old who was abducted, sexually abused, and murdered in June of this year.

... But everyone knows that Sarah was murdered because she was the object of someone's lust, and that this lust is being normalized. Children in Britain, as in America, are compelled to attend "health education" classes in which they experiment with condoms; a British charity has just issued a guide to sex for children, entitled Say Yes, Say No, Say Maybe and explaining the various positions and excitements of intercourse; doctors prescribe contraceptive pills to underage girls and so make themselves accessories to what is officially a crime..."

Eight year olds are being taught how to use condoms and put on contraceptives?  Come on.

However, this quote of yours is golden and spot-on: "People with technical backgrounds, often nerds, are the first-adopters and the designers of everything that makes the Net work and play a large role there. Like the crackpots, the nerds tend to be conscious of their own social inferiority--Paul Graham claims that nerds spend their time improving their intelligence rather than fighting for popularity--and they are gullible when it comes to having their rationalism pandered to."


Where is the debate? (3.00 / 4) (#115)
by SlicerAce on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 07:18:06 PM EST

Certainly it's interesting to think about a political stance as a meme, but it seems like a lot of this is just bashing - there aren't any real issue debates here. It seems like there's a lot of generalizations about, "Most libertarians think this way because X" - without actually picking an issue to actually deconstruct and refute. It would be better to actually choose a typically libertarian stance like open immigration and look at why libertarians believe in that ideal, and why you (the author of this article) think it's bad, instead of just treading water and leaving whatever point it is you're trying to make vague.

libertarianism is, at it's worst... (2.00 / 2) (#117)
by mikelist on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 09:06:52 PM EST

...a childish "I want to be able to have what I want, you can too, as long as it doesn't interfere with what I want" perspective. It has been described as anarchy of the wealthy. It is a seductive premise, but in its loathing of authority, it forgets that when everyone acts only in their self aggrandizement (word?) they tend to forget where their fist and the other person's nose are actually situated. Unlike capitalism (which I don't care much for either), which works *because* of selfish motives, libertarianism, fails to recognize that selfishness is a hardwired human trait, and assumes that what is good for one is good for all. At its best though, libertarianism is true liberalism.

Libertarian worldview is not always simplistic (2.80 / 5) (#119)
by atarian on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 09:17:17 PM EST

I am not a libertarian because I assume that the solution to all of mankind's problems lie in freedom from authority. I believe that even if we lived in a libertarian utopia (Libertopia?), we would continue to have many severe problems.

Until we conquor the problems of death, limited resources, and irrational negative emotion, we will continue to have just about all of the problems we have always had, just in varying amounts of each problem from generation to generation. Since I do not expect that we will ever solve those problems on our own resources, I expect not to see any particular worldview solving all of mankind's problems.

I am a libertarian because I see libertarianism as a solution to certain problems caused by competing worldviews, e.g. socialism (& its children communism & communitarianism), conservatism, and facism. Each of the ones I just mentioned restrict people in the name of achieving their goals. Their goals are worthy, but people must excercise authority to implement them, and I don't know of many people who are worthy of posessing that kind of authority.

I've worked for the government before, as well as being a local offical for one of the big two US political parties. I haven't met too many people who are worthy of wielding, solely or in concert, even the theoretically limited powers held by the US government. I know of hardly anyone I would trust to hold the powers of a less limited government (e.g., UK) or a truly unlimited government (e.g., China, the old USSR).

I don't want the US to go more down the libertarian road to resolve the problems of mankind. I want the US to go more libertarian to resolve the problems caused by excesses of Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Reform Party-ers, and independents.

Even if I get what I want, this world will continue to be a nasty place to live...just a little less so in ways that matter to me.

"Libertarianism" covers a lot... (2.42 / 7) (#121)
by MrMikey on Sat Jul 30, 2005 at 12:57:30 AM EST

from "Anarcho-Capitalist Libertarianism" at one end of the spectrum, to "Libertarian Socialism" (aka Anarchism) at the other.

My biggest problem with some of the Libertarians I've encountered on the net is what I call the Liberal Conceit: "Sure, if we put our ideas into practice, it would be a dog-eat-dog, king of the hill sort of world the likes of which the robber barons and company towns of the past could only imagine. But, you see, I know I'll end up at the top of the heap, because I'm smarter and better than the rest of you. The rest of you will be trod beneath my feet, because I'm better." Feh.

So long as someone else can control my food or water supply, my access to shelter, or my physical safety, then no Libertarian world with anywhere near our population density has a hope of stability, and will quickly devolve to "rule by the strong."

A truly Libertarian society would require that each and every person be totally self-sufficient in every respect. Only then could you have a world in which all interactions were truly voluntary.

Either that, or each and every member of this Libertarian world would would have to be mentally conditioned such that their "Libertarian Ideals" would mean more to them than food, water, shelter, safety, or life.

Of course, we haven't even gotten into the utter fantasy that is the idea that you can chop the planet up into little individual blocks, sell them, have their owners do whatever they like on their own blocks, and still maintain something approaching a biosphere that can support life.

Personally, too many Libertarians seem to me to be people who were raised as only children, and never learned to share.

You are not talking about an ideology here (none / 0) (#139)
by emmanuel.charpentier on Sun Jul 31, 2005 at 09:27:10 AM EST

but about freedom.

And yes, perfect freedom doesn't and can not exist, reality and its laws are just too strong.

But some political freedom can be set up.

With liberal thought, it relies on "non coercion". When arms are not physically twisted some political freedom exist.

[ Parent ]

But, the conceptual framework... (none / 0) (#140)
by MrMikey on Sun Jul 31, 2005 at 12:15:01 PM EST

you use to define "freedom", define its scope and how you want that scope change due to other influences is an ideology.

"perfect freedom" would mean that an actor could act in any way, without restriction. Depending on what you mean by "without restriction", you might need something like "The Matrix" with the actor being Neo before you could achieve "perfect freedom", since he could rewrite the "rules of reality" as he saw fit, and make reality be whatever he chose. In our reality, I can't fly like Superman no matter how much I may want to... the "rules" of reality don't allow it.

More practically speaking, "perfect freedom" is what happens when a person lives alone on a desert island, in that they need not consider anyone else's thoughts or desires but their own, and the very concept of "rights" has no meaning. Once a second person is added to that island, "rights" mean something, because "rights" are, IMO, a rule set which define the conditions under which two or more people interact.

Libertarianism is no more or less about freedom than any other political/economic system. They're all about "freedom", in that they're all about how the members of a group interact with each other.

If you have a low population density, in which each individual can, in effect, have their own "desert island", and in which each person is fully self-sufficient, you could have something approaching Libertarianism in practice. But, once the population density gets high enough that people become interdependent, it is my view that a Libertarian society is inherently unstable, and would collapse into what we see in Somalia... rule by the warlord.

However, if you have the technology to take you to a post-Scarcity economy, Libertarian societies again become viable, as in what we see in James P Hogan's "Voyage From Yesteryear" or Iain M Banks' "Culture" books.

Without that technology, it is my view that humans as they exist today could not make a Libertarian society work in cases of even moderate population density and/or economic interdependence.

[ Parent ]

No, perfect freedom, (none / 0) (#145)
by emmanuel.charpentier on Wed Aug 03, 2005 at 03:47:56 PM EST

philosophical freedom, simply doesn't exist, in the real world or in a matrix world.

We can not exist outside of the laws of reality. Matrix is in the reality, no matter how many layers you add, you are still constricted to reality. If only to the laws that rule your mind. Yes, your mind is not "free", it is constrained by neurological and chemical laws. By causality, logic, conservation of energy/information...

(note: a perfect matrix, totally cut from reality, could become its own universe I guess, although it will have trouble with energy conservation)

In your argument, it seems like to you, the libertarian ideal is strictly equivalent to a perfect/philosophical freedom ideal. It is not!

In a libertarian group, there would still be rules, leaders, pragmatic choices. Violences and stealing would still exist, and may require counter actions and organisations!

The ideologies around the terms liberal and anarchy don't want perfect freedom, they want freedom from the government (and most of the time from the church). That's mostly it.

No need to make of it a new utopia.

Did you know that in ancient rome, there was no police? Citizens were organising themselves. The rulers were not concerned with those pesky concerns, unless it lead to unrest.

[ Parent ]

You're the only one (none / 0) (#146)
by MrMikey on Wed Aug 03, 2005 at 04:23:17 PM EST

who keeps talking about "perfect freedom", and I have yet to understand why you brought that phrase into this conversation, or what you think it has to do with anything I'm saying.

"In your argument, it seems like to you, the libertarian ideal is strictly equivalent to a perfect/philosophical freedom ideal. It is not!"

It all depends on what sort of Libertarian you're talking to. An Anarcho-Capitalist Libertarian might want a State that only concerns itself with things like National Defense and the enforcement of contract law, and with things like police, fire, sanitation, etc., dealt with by private companies on a subscription basis. A Libertarian Socialist would do away with a State altogether, and have all organizations be bottom-up, and localized as much as possible.

In short there is no one "Libertarian Ideal" because there is no one definition of Libertarian.

"In a libertarian group, there would still be rules, leaders, pragmatic choices."

More or less, but the details could vary greatly. Leaders may be appointed by local residents for a very specific purpose, or they may be voted on by a larger community. Rules may likewise be enforced by a State, or arrived at and enforced locally.

"Violences and stealing would still exist, and may require counter actions and organisations!"

Maybe, but the nature of the violence and theft, and the nature of the social reaction to them could vary drastically depending on the particular sort of Libertarianism we're talking about.

[ Parent ]

So, is it realisable or not? (none / 0) (#147)
by emmanuel.charpentier on Wed Aug 03, 2005 at 06:59:05 PM EST

I was talking about perfert/philosophical freedom to distinguish it from political freedom (which you seemed to confuse).

Anarchists/liberals/libertarians want and talk about political freedom. Freedom from physical violence, from central government's laws and police.

They don't need to live on an island to realise their wishes, they need to not be constrained physically.

Look up panarchism. It's even more revolutionnary: a system where all systems coexist. Alike international laws, where a diplomat living in a country is under the laws of another one. Or alike nomads who obviously can't rely on the laws of the land.

[ Parent ]

That depends... (none / 0) (#148)
by MrMikey on Wed Aug 03, 2005 at 07:52:39 PM EST

"I was talking about perfert/philosophical freedom to distinguish it from political freedom (which you seemed to confuse)."

Please explain where you think I am confusing concepts. If you read what I wrote, you'll see that I never made "perfect freedom" a requirement... that phrase was one you inserted into the conversation, not me.

"Anarchists/liberals/libertarians want and talk about political freedom. Freedom from physical violence, from central government's laws and police."

AC Libertarians envision a limited government, one which limits itself to things like national defense or the enforcement of contracts. Libertarian Socialists see a political system without a central State of any kind. Liberals vary as to the size and type of government they see as being best.

"They don't need to live on an island to realise their wishes, they need to not be constrained physically."

I would really like to see some rich Libertarians buy a piece of land somewhere, and start up a Libertarian State according to their particular vision. If it managed to remain viable over the long term, I'd applaud their success... but I wouldn't bet money on it.

No, I don't think that Libertarianism is viable under conditions in which people are interdependent, and/or operating under a scarcity economy. Note the bold font: I'm giving specific conditions under which Libertarianism isn't viable. If people aren't interdependent (each one lives on their own island, or the population density is otherwise very low), and/or they have a post-Scarcity economy, then Libertarianism becomes viable. Why these restrictions? Because Libertarianism does away with a central State enforcing order. If Exxon dumps MTBE into the groundwater in a Libertarian world, what will the citizens do? There's no FDA, no State to restrict the corporation's activities. Citizens could refuse to buy their products... assuming they can afford to do without them. Citizens could try to sue the corporation... but the corporation has much deeper pockets, and much better lawyers, and could tie things up indefinitely. The citizens could try to use physical force... but the corporation can afford better weapons and more troops. Substitute "local warlord" for "corporation", and you see the problem.

The reason entities like the FDA or the CDC or even the government itself exist is that people lived without these entities in the past, and found that life was better with these entities in place than without them. We used to have minimal regulation over business... and we had company towns, private police forces "keeping order" (aka killing Union members), patent medicines, and dead rats going into the sausage.

"Look up panarchism. It's even more revolutionnary: a system where all systems coexist. Alike international laws, where a diplomat living in a country is under the laws of another one. Or alike nomads who obviously can't rely on the laws of the land."

The existence of the word does not imply the viability of the concept.

How do you propose to put a Libertarian State into place, and what makes you think such a State would be politically stable over the long term?

[ Parent ]

Philosophical freedom (none / 0) (#150)
by emmanuel.charpentier on Thu Aug 04, 2005 at 10:02:32 AM EST

is what you are shooting at when you refer to:
  • living on an island
  • post scarcity sociéty
  • matrix
And you are using the fact that philosophical freedom is an impossibility to diss any possibility of a sociéty without a central government.

Yes, many would accept a government, if it is very small. This is called minarchism. Generally it exists to manage an army and external relationships.

To you, in what way is a central government "absolutely" necessary?

To me, we are slowly going toward a liberal/anarchist society. It's a 2 steps forward 1 step backward process. But with times, civil sociéty manages itself more and more.

Imagine a minarchist society, with whatever is (according to you) necessary for it to work properly. Imagine a few centuries, what government power can not be slowly transferred to the civil society, to volunarily created groups, to communities?

Think about former nomad societies, or the international/diplomatic laws. These are some kind of panarchist groups, and they've existed for a long time, before our current institutions.

Note, I am not talking about a "perfect" society, I expect to have murders, frauds, even wars. But it would not require a central government and the tyranny of the majority. I am not saying this is possible today, I'm saying we are getting there. Democracy is going toward it. Direct democracy even more. Decentralisation, liberalisation are more steps.

Corporations as we nowadays know them are a monstruosity created by our central governments and their trademark laws. Take those away and you will probably obtain massive downsizing.

I repeat, what is a central government "absolutely" necessary for? (note the absolutely word. A feature that could be implemented differently, even in a non optimal way, would mean that this feature doesn't require a central government).

[ Parent ]

Please read what I actually type... (none / 0) (#152)
by MrMikey on Thu Aug 04, 2005 at 01:26:52 PM EST

Philosophical freedom is what you are shooting at when you refer to:
  • living on an island
  • post scarcity sociéty
  • matrix
And you are using the fact that philosophical freedom is an impossibility to diss any possibility of a sociéty without a central government.

No, what I am saying is that a libertarian government that was established under conditions in which citizens aren't fully self-sufficent (e.g. a scarcity economy) and/or in which citizens are interdependent (e.g. citizens living in a state of more than low population density) would not be stable, and would devolve into "rule by the strong" (whether that be military or economic strenght), or end up forming the government they were trying to get rid of in the first place.

If you want to discuss the merit of that view, fine, but please stop falsely asserting that I am demanding some sort of philosophical perfection. I'm not. If you think I am, then you don't understand what I'm saying, or you mean something other than what I understand by that term.

"Yes, many would accept a government, if it is very small. This is called minarchism. Generally it exists to manage an army and external relationships."

As I said, the label "Libertarianism" covers a lot of ground. Some would accept a limited government, and others would not, for any real definition of the word "government." And yes, I'm familiar with the term "minarchism."

"To you, in what way is a central government "absolutely" necessary?"

I really do wish you wouldn't substitute your interpretations of what I say for what I actually do say. Once again, it is you who is using a phrase which you inaccurately attribute to me. I said no such thing as "a central government is absolutely necessary"... that came solely out of your own head.

What evidence do you have to support the idea that a Libertarian government would remain stable (i.e. continue to function along Libertarian lines) over the long term? Did you even read my post in its entirety?

"To me, we are slowly going toward a liberal/anarchist society. It's a 2 steps forward 1 step backward process. But with times, civil sociéty manages itself more and more."

I don't see that happening... if anything, I see centralized governments getting stronger, larger, and more powerful. What observations led you to form your opinion?

"Imagine a minarchist society, with whatever is (according to you) necessary for it to work properly."

OK...

"Imagine a few centuries, what government power can not be slowly transferred to the civil society, to volunarily created groups, to communities?"

Given a post-Scarcity economy (one of my "necessary conditions"), the citizens can tell the government, mini or not, to go screw itself, and go off about their business. Said government would only continue to exist if it provided value to its "subscribers."

"Think about former nomad societies, or the international/diplomatic laws. These are some kind of panarchist groups, and they've existed for a long time, before our current institutions."

Yes... and they did so at low population densities, and low levels of technology. You'll note that you yourself said "former"... there's a reason for that.

"Note, I am not talking about a "perfect" society,..."

Fine... neither the **** am I, and I'd appreciate it if you'd stop putting words in my mouth.

"I expect to have murders, frauds, even wars."

Sounds great...

"But it would not require a central government and the tyranny of the majority. I am not saying this is possible today, I'm saying we are getting there."

OK... it isn't possible today, but it will be some day. Tell me: what will be different about that future time such that the government you envision will be possible then, but isn't possible now? What will change between now and then? How will it change. Why will it change, and what will keep it from changing back?

"Democracy is going toward it. Direct democracy even more. Decentralisation, liberalisation are more steps."

How do you have direct democracy without "tyranny of the majority"? What check / balance / feedback will prevent that from happening?

"Corporations as we nowadays know them are a monstruosity created by our central governments and their trademark laws. Take those away and you will probably obtain massive downsizing."

Yes, copyrights get abused... but governments also provide regulation and anti-trust oversight... and we've seen what corporations are like without them.

"I repeat, what is a central government "absolutely" necessary for? (note the absolutely word. A feature that could be implemented differently, even in a non optimal way, would mean that this feature doesn't require a central government)."

I don't know... it's your idea.

For the record: No, a central government is not necessary given certain prerequisites. Without those prerequisites, people will form governments to meet the needs that governments best meet: needs that are long-term and/or large scale in nature.

[ Parent ]

You say that (none / 0) (#153)
by emmanuel.charpentier on Thu Aug 04, 2005 at 04:32:40 PM EST

a liberal/anarchist/libertarian society is impossible unless we have:
  • totally independant individuals
  • a post scarcity society
I say that this is alike perfect/philosophical freedom, and impossible. Home sapiens is by his very nature a social animal. Didn't you read too much into rousseau and his perfectly free savage?

Plus the human mind is bound to find or invent scarce ressources, the last one probably being human time and labor, services and good will.

Do you think scarcity could be ended? how? Nanomachines? AIs/robots? Fusion power? Singularity?

Now, if you want to see why I and many others think a liberal/anarchist/libertarian society is possible, try a thought experiment. Don't play, don't refute or say I said that you said, just try to open your mind and think about:

"What are the features that a minimalist central government fulfill? Can these features be removed using simple currently available means (however inefficient they may seem to you)?"

What features would remain for human society to survive?

To me, we go in this direction, here are some steps:

  • liberalisation
  • right of assembly
  • free expression
  • democracy
  • decentralisation
  • direct democracy
  • right to define laws applying only to a group
  • right to secession
This would also require tolerance and open mindedness. To consider that one corpus of laws is equivalent to another, no more no less. That it's mostly a matter of point of view, of personal history.

[ Parent ]
Continued... (none / 0) (#154)
by MrMikey on Thu Aug 04, 2005 at 10:42:43 PM EST

You said that a liberal/anarchist/libertarian society is impossible unless we have:
  • totally independant individuals
  • a post scarcity society

Actually, I didn't say "impossible", but rather "not stable in the long term." A subtle difference, I admit. Also, I was specifically speaking of Libertarian societies, which would cover the range from Anarcho-Capitalist Libertarianism to Libertarian Socialism (aka Anarchism), but I don't think "Liberal" belongs in there. Note that I gave reasons as to why I didn't think a Libertarian society would be stable if it didn't meet one or both of the above criteria.

"I say that this is alike perfect/philosophical freedom, and impossible."

Then you are using definitions of the terms "perfect" and "philosophical freedom" that don't agree with my definitions of those words. I am telling you, in black and white, that no, you don't need "philosophical freedom", "perfect" or otherwise, in order to have a Libertarian Society, and I do hereby explicitly state that I reject this characterization of what I've said.

"Home sapiens is by his very nature a social animal."

True.

"Didn't you read too much into rousseau and his perfectly free savage?"

I've not read Rousseau, so no, I didn't.

"Plus the human mind is bound to find or invent scarce ressources, the last one probably being human time and labor, services and good will."

Even I, optimist that I am, is not so pollyanna as to believe that "the human mind is bound to find or invent scarce ressources". It is unwise in the extreme to think in those terms. That was the sort of thinking that doomed the Easter Island inhabitants. They thought there's always be more trees... until the last one was chopped down. Then, they died, and their "human minds" couldn't help them prevent that. They were unwise, didn't look to the future, and paid for their lack of foresight with their lives.

"Do you think scarcity could be ended? how? Nanomachines? AIs/robots? Fusion power? Singularity?"

I think it will probably be a combination of powerful computational ability and nanoscale (but not necessarily Drexler's nanomachines) fabrication that lets people fabricate what they want in their homes. It will be de-centralized manufacture at the scale of households. De-centralized power generation would probably be required as well.

"Now, if you want to see why I and many others think a liberal/anarchist/libertarian society is possible, try a thought experiment. Don't play, don't refute or say I said that you said, just try to open your mind and think about:"

"What are the features that a minimalist central government fulfill? Can these features be removed using simple currently available means (however inefficient they may seem to you)?"

What features would remain for human society to survive?

To me, we go in this direction, here are some steps:

  • liberalisation
  • right of assembly
  • free expression
  • democracy
  • decentralisation
  • direct democracy
  • right to define laws applying only to a group
  • right to secession
This would also require tolerance and open mindedness. To consider that one corpus of laws is equivalent to another, no more no less. That it's mostly a matter of point of view, of personal history."
  1. Do you have any idea how condescendingly you expressed your "thought experiment"? Take it from me... it was insulting.
  2. Yes, I've considered this sort of "thought experiment" before. It is nothing new.
  3. A minimalist government could have many different "feature sets" depending on what the person you're speaking to considers to be the "vital functions" of government.
  4. Assuming you can "eliminate" (by which I assume you really mean "meet in ways that don't require a strong central government") these features (and I cannot help but note you still haven't explained how that could actually happen), how do we structure society such that a new government doesn't arise to take the place of the one we "eliminated"? This is what I was referring to when I mentioned long term stability. Even if you "get rid of government", what keeps it from coming back?
  5. "What features would remain for human society to survive?" - A society of more than "tribal" size needs to do several things... provide food, water, sanitation, shelter, clothing, medical care, and education for its members. It needs to adjudicate disagreements in some sort of equitable way (otherwise society's members will do it themselves, arbitrarily). It needs to manage and allocate resources. All the "tolerance and open mindedness" (qualities I believe to be important, BTW) count for jack if a society can't perform these functions for it's citizens.
  6. Again, you have failed to explain, in anything like a concrete or substantive way, how we can transition from the society we have now to the Libertarian Society (what version? You haven't said) you envision.
  7. Again, you have failed to explain how you will get "direct democracy" without "tyranny of the majority."
  8. If your Libertarian Society requires that everyone live and think according to strict Libertarian Ideals, then it seems to me to have little grounding in reality. I could be convinced otherwise given detailed, well-reasoned, well-supported arguments.
  9. The "steps" you list strike me as being a context-less word salad of "good ideas." I see no structure there, but perhaps I'm just not seeing all of the assumptions you're making. Care to flesh it out? How will this Libertarian Society arise if you can't convince, say, 90% of the population to go along with it, and stay along with it?


[ Parent ]
A thought experiment (none / 0) (#155)
by emmanuel.charpentier on Fri Aug 05, 2005 at 05:37:44 AM EST

is condescending? Tell me what words hurted you?

Speaking of coondescending, didn't you go:

Personally, too many Libertarians seem to me to be people who were raised as only children, and never learned to share.

Now you ask of me what steps are required to go toward an anarchist/libertarian society, I told you that democracy, direct democracy, decentralisation, liberalisation are some of those steps. You say

How do you have direct democracy without "tyranny of the majority"? What check / balance / feedback will prevent that from happening?

My answer is to refine the steps, let me highlight the one that counteract this last argument:
- the right to secession

Now, you agree that the homo sapiens is by his very nature a social animal, so asking for totally independant individuals is slightly misleading, don't you think? Particularly in a world of 6 billion. It's asking for an impossibility to show that the whole thing is impossible... yes, in a world of science fiction this might be possible, but this is difficult to require right now don't you think?

Next you say that a post scarcity economy is another condition. What can not do a post scarcity economy? To me it's akin to a post singularity society, or the new coming of the messiah. To me it's asking for another impossibility, because there will remain one last scarce ressource: human time and labour. This is already happening, our societies rely on a "services industry".

I think that since the first patriarchal societies we are going toward the anarchist/libertarian ideal. We might never reach it, but all the steps in my "word salad" are steps toward it. Some of those steps are already done, others could happen soon. Or later.

With a willing population, decentralisation and direct democracy, the tolerance that sub groups can form and have their own laws and rules, the habit or custom that an individual can leave a group. Then we can get rid of governments.

The one difficulty I envision, is that it needs a very large tolerance. To tolerate that others around ourselves can live perfectly well with other rules.

So, in current technical conditions, what are the features that our society need to survive which are met and can only be met with a central government?

The few things you advanced are:
"food, water, sanitation, shelter, clothing, medical care, and education". Well, aren't they met already without a central government?

"adjudicate disagreements in some sort of equitable way" many groups already do that on their own, for exemple an enterprise has many rules that concern no other than itself. Another exemple is nomadic societies which survive to this day, right among us. City towns can manage neighbour disputes fine. We can even imagine heinlein's tribunal where, when in a dispute, you ask the passers by to constitute a tribunal.

"manage and allocate resources" capitalism does fine, and has for a long time. No need for a central government, a local police can do all right.

So, what features remain that only a central government can meet?

[ Parent ]

Moving on... (none / 0) (#156)
by MrMikey on Fri Aug 05, 2005 at 01:28:35 PM EST

I started typing a lengthy response, then decided there wasn't much point in doing so.

Look, I don't think that a Libertarian Society is impossible, or requires "perfect" anything. And, no, I don't think a central government is necessary, in an absolute sense or otherwise. Let's at least get that straight.

What I do think is that human communities of any appreciable size are going to have to coordinate to handle their basic needs: food, water, shelter, waste disposal, etc. Any society you propose will need to meet these basic needs. A nomadic tribe presumably has places to wander where the resources they need are at hand, and things like waste disposal are dealt with by moving from place to place and letting nature take care of it. Increase the number of humans, and that simply will not work any more. So, we have to find other means of taking care of those needs. Cities and governments arose as a way of dealing with that basic fact. It probably isn't the only way of dealing, but it is the way humans have done so.

You seem to be advocating some sort of de-centralized society in which everything is dealt with at the local level. You also seem to be asserting that this sort of society will just happen by itself, for reasons you have yet to mention.

Humans used to live like this, as hunter-gatherers. You lived (or, often didn't live) on what was around you, and when there wasn't enough around you, you went somewhere else.

Unless you're planning on culling the human population down to prehistoric levels, or instituting some sort of genetic engineering or mind control (to get a "willing population") to change how humans behave, you simply can't (IMO) maintain that sort of localized society without having some way of getting around the resource allocation problem, and the tendency of humans to form social hierarchies (which become governments), and climbing said hierarchies by hook or by crook.

There could well be ways of establishing a Libertarian Society given current technology, but you've offered nothing in the way of concrete information as to how that could concievably happen. I've offered conditions under which a LS could be established, and you've rejected those conditions.

I'm going to write a Diary entry, asking for the libertarians out there to offer their concrete ideas as to how a LS could be established and maintained. If you have any concrete ideas, I'd love to hear them.

[ Parent ]

Well we can not change (none / 0) (#157)
by emmanuel.charpentier on Fri Aug 05, 2005 at 06:11:00 PM EST

our beliefs with a snap of our fingers.

When I look at human history I see the process in action. To me democracy is already a step toward a self organising society. Direct democracy will probably be another one, there is already pressure toward it (in france anyway, I know it's also in canada), it even somehow exists in places like switzerland.

The capacity to define groups with their own laws would be another large step, particularly if members can secede at any time. Really difficult yes, it would be alike the passage from monarchy to republic, from slavery to equality, from state religion to laicity. Do you think this step sound so impossible compared to other changes that occured in human history?

Right now I think this step would require, not genetic engineering no, but tolerance. Already democracy requires some tolerance, I think it could go a further notch, toward a place where we don't judge others' customs and laws. It's a large change I guess, requiring philosophy and education, consensual acceptation of others' ways. Nothing technical you see, nothing technically impossible. But a large change that may never happen. It's cultural, thus complex and difficult.

Plus, and this is the other side of the coin, central governments don't bring required things to society. Food, water and shelter for exemple, are met with capitalism, which is decentralised and doesn't require a government. Same with waste disposal, I don't think ministers or the president ever managed that kind of thing, isn't it? :)

But in the end, a freeer society is too complex to define nowadays, just like three thousand years ago it would have been difficult to fathom current institutions. It would probably, in my mind anyway, be some kind of big mess, where people hold different loyalties according to their history and longings. At the basis of this society could be a syndicalist economy, or a strong capitalist one where sub groups can choose to share together all their belongings, in some sort of socialism. Groups would of course have governments and hierarchies, but then isn't an enterprise decision board some sort of government?

Personnaly, I also hope for a panarchy where sub groups are definitely not constituted according to geography, but personal choice. One could be in different groups at the same time. Incompatible groups would sometimes start wars against each other, but then, who would remain in such a group (many people I guess, just not too many)?

We'll see of course. I'm sure the future will be different, no argument on that ;)

[ Parent ]

Correction! (none / 0) (#141)
by MrMikey on Sun Jul 31, 2005 at 12:50:31 PM EST

That should be "Libertarian Conceit", not "Liberal Conceit". I can't believe I missed that.

[ Parent ]
-1 WRONG (1.33 / 3) (#134)
by BlahFace on Sat Jul 30, 2005 at 06:23:35 PM EST

You don't know what the fuck you're talking about, and are equating all libertarians to one person you met, like your asshole brother in law or wife or something.

-1, bogus (none / 0) (#138)
by PigleT on Sun Jul 31, 2005 at 08:59:11 AM EST

The feedback from decision-making to axiom-creation goes hand in hand with age, not with any particular political or philosophical leaning.

If you want a comparison of libertarianism versus liberalism, try Wikipedia on the subject instead.

~Tim -- We stood in the moonlight and the river flowed

Morality offends? (none / 1) (#142)
by RadiantMatrix on Mon Aug 01, 2005 at 12:22:44 PM EST

I have only one real issue with your article (I disagree with some of it, but have no issue with your opinions, save the following):

If you want to attract a large audience, or get a lot of people to vote for you, or get a lot of people to buy your product, you cannot afford to offend anyone. Morality offends.

I think that is an extremely simplistic point of view, to the point of being erroneous.

Scandal has long been one of the best ways to attract a large audience.  The bear-baitings  of recent history occurred even during the ultra-moral Victorain Period.  The moral directives from the political and social elite have always been effective, but have always been viewed as opressive by the proletariat classes.  People who feel opressed will find ways to rebel -- the cultural "safety valve" you astutely note.  Rebellion against moral dictate and social mores comes in the form of entertaining ourselves with scandal.

Take the current trend toward increasing sexual content on broadcast television.  This is driven, not by people viewing morality as offensive, but by the very taboo that our current social morality has regarding sexual topics.  Human nature dictates that we tend to desire what we cannot have, and when social structures dictate that sexual topics are off-limits, then the populace desires them all the more.  So, these types of media are popular for the opposite reason than the one you propose; specifically, because they are moderately offensive, and that rush of titilation fuels the social desire for more.

This is precicely why groups who are more sexually-liberated than average tend to roll their eyes at popular sex-charged media.  The popular media tries to attract audiences through scandal, but people who don't view sex as scandalous simply see a thin plot -- the "dramatic conflict" doesn't exist to someone who doesn't see sex as taboo.
--
I'm not going out with a "meh". I plan to live, dammit. [ZorbaTHut]

8 sentence summary: (3.00 / 2) (#144)
by jforan on Wed Aug 03, 2005 at 08:16:03 AM EST

There are ways people can infect one another with lies: memes.

Anti-meme's counter these memes.

Im going to give an anti-meme to libertarianism.

Libertarians are like nazis.  There have never been good examples of libertarianism.  The net has libertarians, and they are crackpots and nuts.

Intelligent losers like libertarianism.  Cool people like power and also like to be controled.

Be cool!  

Jeff
I hops to be barley workin'.

Bad assumption makes argument meaningless (none / 0) (#149)
by kuro6 on Wed Aug 03, 2005 at 09:45:59 PM EST

You start with the assumption that, "Most real world problems do not have completely rational solutions" This is, by the definition of "rational", untrue. Even if that were not the case, you fail to justify such a sweeping assumption in any way. Since your basic assumption is untrue, or at least fatally weak, the rest of the argument is meaningnless. Sloppy.

Definition of rationality. (none / 0) (#151)
by alexboko on Thu Aug 04, 2005 at 10:38:46 AM EST

I think it helps here to remind everyone what a rational solution is and is not--

A rational solution is not the greatest good for the greatest number given all the information relevant to the problem.

A rational solution is one that attempts to maximize a particular type of utility (determined by the decisionmaker's values) given the available information relevant to the problem.

So in that sense, any response that is well informed and well thought out qualifies as rational even if the outcome is not the intended one or if in hindsight another course of action would seem to be a better one.


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]

My message to libertarians everywhere: (none / 0) (#159)
by ksandstr on Wed Aug 24, 2005 at 07:20:02 PM EST

Fuck you and your freedom!

How Libertarianism Infects the Net | 159 comments (121 topical, 38 editorial, 0 hidden)
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