Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Oh, Fisk, Fisk, were you brought by a disk?

No, the title of this post doesn't make any sense.

Robert Locke, in "The American Conservative", calls libertarianism "the Marxism of the Right."

Much of his argument, naturally, stems from assuming to be true things which libertarians would dispute. Such as, that a life spent playing tiddlywinks is less "worthy" than the life of Churchill. I think libertarians would be generally uncomfortable rating the relative "worth" of human lives.

And I can't help but laugh at statements like this:
Consider pornography: libertarians say it should be permitted because if someone doesn’t like it, he can choose not to view it. But what he can’t do is choose not to live in a culture that has been vulgarized by it.

Wow, what a convoluted attempt to characterize tolerating porn as anti-choice. It's also not true: Those who wish to live in a "culture that has not been vulgarized" are free to band together into their own community, and refuse to associate with "vulgar" people (i.e., those who consume pornography). They're just not free to impose their will on others.

one can be rich but as unfree as a Victorian tycoon’s wife.

But what is it that makes a Victorian tycoon's wife "unfree"? Well, she either can't or doesn't own any of her own property (if she did, she would always have the freedom to leave). But in what sense is she "rich", then? This argument fails to recognize that the very things which make a Victorian tycoon's wife "unfree" also make her "unrich".

Nourishing foods are good for us by nature, not because we choose to eat them.

Wow, so you mean that if I choose not to eat nourishing foods, I still derive benefit from them anyway? Awesome, nothing but Twinkies for me from now on!

Furthermore, the reduction of all goods to individual choices presupposes that all goods are individual. But some, like national security, clean air, or a healthy culture, are inherently collective.

National security is a legitimate function of government, even to libertarians. A "healthy culture" is an absurd abstraction that deserves no protection whatsoever. The argument regarding clean air presumes that it is difficult to track down polluters, which is not necessarily true (it may be true, but it is not necessarily true, and hence cannot be used as the basis of a theoretical argument such as this author is attempting, only a utilitarian one).

Libertarians in real life rarely live up to their own theory but tend to indulge in the pleasant parts while declining to live up to the difficult portions. They flout the drug laws but continue to collect government benefits they consider illegitimate.

First of all, I'd like to see some evidence that this is actually true, not just something this author asserts. Second, even if it is actually true, such libertarians my feel they are entitled to collect government benefits they consider illegitimate, since they pay taxes which they also consider illegitimate. Third, how can you fault someone for opposing what they believe to be an illegitimate system even when they, personally, benefit from it?

Are such people (assuming they exist) hypocrites? Perhaps. Does that invalidate what they say? No, that's textbook ad hominem.

Libertarians need to be asked some hard questions. What if a free society needed to draft its citizens in order to remain free?

If the only way to remain free was by drafting its citizens, then it would need to draft its citizens. However, that's a rather extreme case being proposed (i.e., imminent and likely successful invasion by foreign powers, combined with an unlikely lack of volunteers to repel such an invasion).

What if it needed to limit oil imports to protect the economic freedom of its citizens from unfriendly foreigners?

There is nothing that "unfriendly foreigners" can do that would endanger the economic freedom of our citizens (short of invasion - certainly nothing that could be remedied by limiting oil imports). This question is meaningless.

What if it needed to force its citizens to become sufficiently educated to sustain a free society?

I can see no way in which a lack of education would endanger anyone's freedom, or in which a lack of a general level of education would render a free society unsustainable. Unable to answer without more specific information.

What if it needed to deprive landowners of the freedom to refuse to sell their property as a precondition for giving everyone freedom of movement on highways?

People do not have a right to "freedom of movement on highways" that trumps landowners' rights to use their property. Especially not a right to freedom of movement on highways that haven't yet been built.

What if it needed to deprive citizens of the freedom to import cheap foreign labor in order to keep out poor foreigners who would vote for socialistic wealth redistribution?

Socialistic wealth redistribution would be unconstitutional, so they wouldn't be able to vote for it.

Like slavery, libertarianism would have to allow one to sell oneself into it.

No, it wouldn't. Not actual slavery, since that treats people as commodities. At worst, you could say libertarianism would have to allow one to sell oneself into indentured servitude. Among the differences: The children of indentured servants are not automatically indentured themselves, indentured servants can own their own stuff, and they always have the option of buying out the contract. Plus, the holders of the indenture contracts have contractual obligations to the servant in return, which is not true of slaveowners.

And libertarianism degenerates into outright idiocy when confronted with the problem of children, whom it treats like adults, supporting the abolition of compulsory education and all child-specific laws, like those against child labor and child sex. It likewise cannot handle the insane and the senile.

Well, now this is just libelously stupid. The only reason to do away with "child-specific" laws would be that you could accomplish the same thing more efficiently with laws that dealt more generally with the class of "people presumed incapable of exercising rational choice", which would include children, the insane, and the senile. But kudos for managing to imply that libertarians believe raping children is OK. Nice job.

But this refutes libertarianism by its own premise, as libertarianism defines the good as the freely chosen, yet people do not choose it. Paradoxically, people exercise their freedom not to be libertarians.

It's simply wrong to say that "libertarianism defines the good as the freely chosen", so it is not self-refuting in this way. And I can think of a list as long as my arm of reasons people "exercise their freedom not to be libertarians" that have nothing to do with the validity or invalidity of libertarian political-economic philosophy.

since no electorate will support libertarianism

It's a big leap from "no electorate has ever supported libertarianism" to "no electorate will (ever) support libertarianism."

But without a sufficiently strong state, individual freedom falls prey to other more powerful individuals.

Well, of course. That's a major tenet of libertarianism. Though, of course, the more extreme anarcho-capitalist types might prefer it be worded as "without a sufficiently strong protector", since they would dispute that the protector of rights must necessarily be the state.

Libertarians are also naïve about the range and perversity of human desires they propose to unleash.

This whole paragraph is bizarre. The author starts by invoking the specter of unspeakable sexual perversion, then promptly drops it and assumes that parents would no longer be able to raise responsible children, because children would be "free to refuse". Then there's this weird bit: "They forget that for much of the population, preaching maximum freedom merely results in drunkenness, drugs, failure to hold a job, and pregnancy out of wedlock." Sorry, but paternalism does not an argument make. Show me evidence that any of these things are the result of "preaching maximum freedom." All these things occur now, in the absence of "maximum freedom", so why should I believe they are related to freedom in any way? If they're not, then increasing freedom wouldn't increase the incidence of any of these things - the people who would do these things when free, also do them now when they're not free.

Society is dependent upon inculcated self-restraint if it is not to slide into barbarism, and libertarians attack this self-restraint.

Wrong, libertarians attack external restraint, not self-restraint. If you are incapable of seeing the difference, then you are not qualified to discuss libertarianism intelligently.

But then, what do we libertarians know, since we're apparently "Free spirits, the ambitious, ex-socialists, drug users, and sexual eccentrics"?

Actually, I can think of worse company to be in...

1 comment:

Kwik2Jujj said...

The idea of limiting oil imports to "protect economic freedom" is ridiculous. Besides being a freedom-reducing idea proposed in the name of freedom, it's already been done here before, albeit imposed by OPEC instead of by our own government. Anybody care to fill us in on how our freedom was enhanced by the oil shocks of the 1970s?

As for "forcing" the citizenry to become more educated so that freedom could be sustained, I will acknowledge that an educated society is a more productive society is a wealthier society, and widespread wealth is a stabilizing factor that works against revolutionaries. Even so, education is an imperfect guarantor of freedom. Germany entered the 20th century at the forefront of science and culture, and for all that still became the Reich. But again, the author is pushing authoritarianism for our own good, which is a kind of "freedom" I can do without.