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A Catch-22 in Libertarian Ideology?

charleslb
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5/25/2011 3:28:28 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Last night I was watching an episode of the Showtime show Dexter on DVD and a character had a line that made me think of the libertarians here. He said "Freedom is just another word for getting fu*ked". This profane quote crudely captures an important realpolitik truth about life and human social systems. Freedom indeed does have the perilous potential of sometimes being just another way for people to get royally fu*ked by their society.

Let me put it less vulgarly. Nothing, including freedom, is an absolute good. Is that too much of a shocker to libertarian sensibilities? Well, yes, freedom is not an absolute good. Freedom in the form of the free-for-all on the streets that can result from lax law enforcement, for example, can allow organized crime to thrive and lead to the victimization of innocent citizens. And, likewise, granting too much freedom to capitalists could and inexorably would result in rampant capitalist greed, in unethical capitalist conduct, and in capitalist tyranny when the uber capitalists of society subvert the free market and take over the game. This is when the freedom of the "free market" would really begin to fu*k over the little guy with impunity. For there would be no big bad government to turn to for redress, as the capitalist elite would have set itself up as the de facto government and the proverbial fox guarding the chicken coop.

Rather than such a dystopian scenario, if I had my personal philosophical druthers I'd like to see evolved into an environment in which capitalist greed isn't permitted, but short of that it should be severely regulated and curtailed for the greater good. One can decry this because it means subjecting people to force, control, and coercion; one can complain that it would necessitate limiting people's freedom and empowering the state, etc. But you know what, not only is freedom not an absolute good, it's not something that ever exists in the real world in an absolute and unmitigated form!

Sorry, but freedom is always going to be limited and countervailed against by other realities and values in a society. For example, in times of war (I mean real wars, not the current so-called "war of terror"), the value of survival will offset the ability of a freedom-loving society to grant its citizens all of their civil liberties (merely consult the record of ole Abe Lincoln on this one). Our freedom is never truly unfettered. Nor would it be under a true "free market" system. For one thing, Adam Smith's "invisible hand" might prove to be as high-handed in the way it would drive our lives as some governments. That is, unloosed economic forces operating through private capitalists and capitalist entities who are only concerned for their own self-interest, and who aren't averse to cheating and compromising the system to disproportionately profit themselves would make life for the average workingperson and consumer far less than ideally free.

Yes, alas, our freedom is always going to be impinged upon by something. And will always need to be balanced with other values. Freedom is only one fundamental sine qua non for a decent and dignified human life. Other values, such as the value of life, such as compassion, such the need for people to enjoy a certain minimum level of material well-being to have a life in keeping with our intrinsic worth as human beings, etc. must always be factored into a socio-economic system. Otherwise freedom becomes merely the freedom for the strong to dominate the weak, for an aggressive few to ruthlessly and hurtfully elevate themselves in wealth and power above everyone else.

Oh, I know that some of the libertarians here are also professed nihilists who deny such things as the inherent value of life or dignity of man, but if we deny the validity of such values what is freedom for? Isn't freedom supposed to be freedom from and for certain things? Freedom from what? From those things that injure us of course. And freedom for what? For us to attain and enjoy those things that enhance our lives. But why do we have a right to demand such freedoms unless our lives have a value that entitles us to them, and unless the things we wish to have the freedom to experience are values in their own right?! Without values freedoms are not rights, they're only desires.

Indeed, without values freedoms become like widescreen TVs, we may want them, and get them if we can, but we have no entitlement to them. And if a controlling government takes them away from us, well, it's doing nothing wrong because it's merely denying us something we have no inherent claim to. This would make people like Tom Paine and the other revolutionary rabble-rousers of liberty who railed against the tyranny of George III full of it. After all, George was no villain if men and women have no "inalienable rights" to live free.

Without certain natural rights and values then, there's no good axiological or principled reason why we should have a "free market" or a democracy or any kind of freedom. One might still desire freedom for his own selfish benefit, but others might likewise desire to establish their own despotic dominance. And if they're strong enough to do so, then according to the nihilist viewpoint that's the correct outcome and they can't be criticized on any kind of righteously libertarian grounds! For in a consistently nihilist philosophy there's nothing at all righteous about the desire for liberty, it's just another selfish desire.

In other words, the nihilist belief of some libertarians that self-interest is all there is to the motivations and meaning of life turns libertarianism into a seriously dismal philosophy that ironically denies our very right to liberty and justifies the rule of the strong, whether we're talking strong alpha capitalists, tyrannical strongmen like a Saddam Hussein, or the social engineering villains of big government that conservatives love to loath.

Quite simply, without innate values anything goes and nothing much matters, including whether or not we're free. Without innate values there's no longer any transcendental premise, such as men being "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights", for us to stake our claim to freedom on. If the idea of innate values and rights is just "nonsense on stilts", as 18th century opponents of democratic ideals liked to say, then so is the assertion that actualized libertarian ideals would make for the best of possible systems – it would just be another system based on ideological fictions.

But here's libertarianism's credal catch-22, it needs to ground itself in more than just crass self-interest, it needs to embrace some values and rights to philosophically fortify itself, but if it does admit that there's more to a worthwhile human existence than the anarchically free pursuit of self-interest, then it has to open itself up to the possibility of other values that mandate balancing and setting boundaries for our freedom. Of course the intellectual cop-out for libertarians is to rationalize that the free market can be based entirely on self-interest, and that the free market will unerringly work to make life good for the majority of us. Libertarians facilely by-pass the moral and philosophical weakness of their theoretical system by continuing to deny the reality of morality and moral imperatives, and instead focusing on how the market, driven by the amoral imperative of human selfishness will supposedly make everything right with man's world.

The conclusion is located directly below
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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5/25/2011 3:29:08 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Conclusion

Libertarianism, it turns out, is a self-deceiving and self-undercutting philosophy that paradoxically undermines the moral imperative for man to be free by turning the human yearning for freedom into nothing more than another craving for luxuries, like the middle-class consumer's craving for widescreen televisions, gas-guzzling SUVs, and iPads. Yes, libertarians shallowly and dangerously downgrade liberty from a sublime humanistic and spiritual value into a luxury that it's mere grandiose pretentiousness to assert as a right. Libertarianism shreds what the Encyclopaedia Britannica calls democracy's "fundamental ethical and social gospel", and replaces it with what? With the social-Darwinian doctrine of self-interest, the sociobiological theory of the selfish gene?! Not exactly a humanistically promising move. No, in the end it's one that will get us all fu*ked by a sophomoric and potentially rueful concept of freedom.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
GeoLaureate8
Posts: 12,252
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5/25/2011 3:51:23 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/25/2011 3:28:28 PM, charleslb wrote:
Last night I was watching an episode of the Showtime show Dexter on DVD and a character had a line that made me think of the libertarians here. He said "Freedom is just another word for getting fu*ked". This profane quote crudely captures an important realpolitik truth about life and human social systems. Freedom indeed does have the perilous potential of sometimes being just another way for people to get royally fu*ked by their society.

Let me put it less vulgarly. Nothing, including freedom, is an absolute good. Is that too much of a shocker to libertarian sensibilities? Well, yes, freedom is not an absolute good. Freedom in the form of the free-for-all on the streets that can result from lax law enforcement, for example, can allow organized crime to thrive and lead to the victimization of innocent citizens. And, likewise, granting too much freedom to capitalists could and inexorably would result in rampant capitalist greed, in unethical capitalist conduct, and in capitalist tyranny when the uber capitalists of society subvert the free market and take over the game. This is when the freedom of the "free market" would really begin to fu*k over the little guy with impunity. For there would be no big bad government to turn to for redress, as the capitalist elite would have set itself up as the de facto government and the proverbial fox guarding the chicken coop.

Rather than such a dystopian scenario, if I had my personal philosophical druthers I'd like to see evolved into an environment in which capitalist greed isn't permitted, but short of that it should be severely regulated and curtailed for the greater good. One can decry this because it means subjecting people to force, control, and coercion; one can complain that it would necessitate limiting people's freedom and empowering the state, etc. But you know what, not only is freedom not an absolute good, it's not something that ever exists in the real world in an absolute and unmitigated form!

Sorry, but freedom is always going to be limited and countervailed against by other realities and values in a society. For example, in times of war (I mean real wars, not the current so-called "war of terror"), the value of survival will offset the ability of a freedom-loving society to grant its citizens all of their civil liberties (merely consult the record of ole Abe Lincoln on this one). Our freedom is never truly unfettered. Nor would it be under a true "free market" system. For one thing, Adam Smith's "invisible hand" might prove to be as high-handed in the way it would drive our lives as some governments. That is, unloosed economic forces operating through private capitalists and capitalist entities who are only concerned for their own self-interest, and who aren't averse to cheating and compromising the system to disproportionately profit themselves would make life for the average workingperson and consumer far less than ideally free.

Yes, alas, our freedom is always going to be impinged upon by something. And will always need to be balanced with other values. Freedom is only one fundamental sine qua non for a decent and dignified human life. Other values, such as the value of life, such as compassion, such the need for people to enjoy a certain minimum level of material well-being to have a life in keeping with our intrinsic worth as human beings, etc. must always be factored into a socio-economic system. Otherwise freedom becomes merely the freedom for the strong to dominate the weak, for an aggressive few to ruthlessly and hurtfully elevate themselves in wealth and power above everyone else.

Oh, I know that some of the libertarians here are also professed nihilists who deny such things as the inherent value of life or dignity of man, but if we deny the validity of such values what is freedom for? Isn't freedom supposed to be freedom from and for certain things? Freedom from what? From those things that injure us of course. And freedom for what? For us to attain and enjoy those things that enhance our lives. But why do we have a right to demand such freedoms unless our lives have a value that entitles us to them, and unless the things we wish to have the freedom to experience are values in their own right?! Without values freedoms are not rights, they're only desires.

Indeed, without values freedoms become like widescreen TVs, we may want them, and get them if we can, but we have no entitlement to them. And if a controlling government takes them away from us, well, it's doing nothing wrong because it's merely denying us something we have no inherent claim to. This would make people like Tom Paine and the other revolutionary rabble-rousers of liberty who railed against the tyranny of George III full of it. After all, George was no villain if men and women have no "inalienable rights" to live free.

Without certain natural rights and values then, there's no good axiological or principled reason why we should have a "free market" or a democracy or any kind of freedom. One might still desire freedom for his own selfish benefit, but others might likewise desire to establish their own despotic dominance. And if they're strong enough to do so, then according to the nihilist viewpoint that's the correct outcome and they can't be criticized on any kind of righteously libertarian grounds! For in a consistently nihilist philosophy there's nothing at all righteous about the desire for liberty, it's just another selfish desire.

In other words, the nihilist belief of some libertarians that self-interest is all there is to the motivations and meaning of life turns libertarianism into a seriously dismal philosophy that ironically denies our very right to liberty and justifies the rule of the strong, whether we're talking strong alpha capitalists, tyrannical strongmen like a Saddam Hussein, or the social engineering villains of big government that conservatives love to loath.

Quite simply, without innate values anything goes and nothing much matters, including whether or not we're free. Without innate values there's no longer any transcendental premise, such as men being "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights", for us to stake our claim to freedom on. If the idea of innate values and rights is just "nonsense on stilts", as 18th century opponents of democratic ideals liked to say, then so is the assertion that actualized libertarian ideals would make for the best of possible systems – it would just be another system based on ideological fictions.

But here's libertarianism's credal catch-22, it needs to ground itself in more than just crass self-interest, it needs to embrace some values and rights to philosophically fortify itself, but if it does admit that there's more to a worthwhile human existence than the anarchically free pursuit of self-interest, then it has to open itself up to the possibility of other values that mandate balancing and setting boundaries for our freedom. Of course the intellectual cop-out for libertarians is to rationalize that the free market can be based entirely on self-interest, and that the free market will unerringly work to make life good for the majority of us. Libertarians facilely by-pass the moral and philosophical weakness of their theoretical system by continuing to deny the reality of morality and moral imperatives, and instead focusing on how the market, driven by the amoral imperative of human selfishness will supposedly make everything right with man's world.

The conclusion is located directly below

There's your answer in bold. Anything that involves coercion, victimizing, and infringing property rights is something that contradicts Libertarian values, thus a society that does this cannot rightly be called a Libertarian society.
"We must raise the standard of the Old, free, decentralized, and strictly limited Republic."
-- Murray Rothbard

"The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended."
-- Frederic Bastiat
mongeese
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5/25/2011 4:00:10 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
You list organized crime as a negative of "freedom." Fighting crime is one of the legitimate functions of government, according to libertarians.
J.Kenyon
Posts: 4,194
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5/25/2011 4:21:28 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Yawn. Once you've read one of Charles' diatribes, you've read them all. He plays like a broken record. It's the same tired old arguments over and over again. And not only that, but he doesn't respond well to criticism. He's really insecure. When you kindly suggest that perhaps people would less likely to dismiss him as tl;dr if he economized his arguments, he just goes into ad hom mode and says "oh well, you're just an intolerant conservative." Even when you do take the time to read through his pretentious, ostentatious tripe and respond to it, he just ignores you. By his own admission, he's not interested in debating the technicalities of capitalism vs. communism. He's not interested in any sort of discussion really, he's just putting on yet another display of public masturbation. Totally pointless.
charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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5/25/2011 4:37:30 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/25/2011 4:21:28 PM, J.Kenyon wrote:
Yawn. Once you've read one of Charles' diatribes, you've read them all. He plays like a broken record. It's the same tired old arguments over and over again. And not only that, but he doesn't respond well to criticism. He's really insecure. When you kindly suggest that perhaps people would less likely to dismiss him as tl;dr if he economized his arguments, he just goes into ad hom mode and says "oh well, you're just an intolerant conservative." Even when you do take the time to read through his pretentious, ostentatious tripe and respond to it, he just ignores you. By his own admission, he's not interested in debating the technicalities of capitalism vs. communism. He's not interested in any sort of discussion really, he's just putting on yet another display of public masturbation. Totally pointless.

Rubbish that's not supported by the facts. Check out some of my detailed replies to your fellow libertarian, Cody! He argues without getting ad hominem and whining about the length of my posts, thus he gets feedback from me that isn't personally insulting or rude. That is, it takes two to tango, to dance the ole ad hominem dance. If you reread some of my ad hominem replies in previous threads you'll see that I was merely responding to personal remarks directed against me. I plead self-defense, and if any reasonable and unbiased person we're to examine the evidence this would be his/her verdict. You, however, dear J.Kenyon, are hardly unbiased when it comes to my posts or my philosophy, so I hardly find your verdict to be valid or damning.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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5/25/2011 4:40:59 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
A typo correction. The following sentence contains a glaring typo: "I plead self-defense, and if any reasonable and unbiased person we're to examine the evidence this would be his/her verdict."

Of course "we're" should be were.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
J.Kenyon
Posts: 4,194
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5/25/2011 4:54:27 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
A Catch-22 in Libertarian Ideology?
Brought to you by SparkNotes

Summary

Freedom is not intrinsically good in and of itself. Sometimes, people get screwed over by freedom. Lax law enforcement, for example, can lead to increased crime and innocent people getting hurt. Similarly, allowing too much economic freedom in our capitalist system can lead to rampant greed, exploitation, and oppression. Without government regulators, businesses become de facto states themselves.

Ideally, greed wouldn't be permitted. Barring that, it ought to at least be regulated for the common good. One might object that this involves curtailing freedom, but recall that freedom is only an instrumental good. Moreover, freedom never exists in an absolute, unmitigated form. It will always be curtailed by contingencies like war. The market itself can never be absolutely free. Powerful corporations might game the system and behave like oppressive governments.

Freedom is only one of many important factors in living a decent human life. Others include compassion and the need for everyone to enjoy a baseline standard of living. Otherwise, freedom is just freedom for the strong to dominate the weak.

Some libertarians are nihilists. But if they deny the intrinsic value of man, of what value is freedom itself? If freedom doesn't serve some purpose, what difference does it make if freedom is denied to us? Without natural rights, there is no axiological reason to have freedom. One might subjectively desire freedom for egoistic reasons, but one can also desire other things and no one is objectively correct. To summarize, nihilistic libertarianism is self defeating.

Libertarians need to ground their beliefs in more than just self interest, but if they do so, this concession leads to further concessions, namely that other values must set a boundary on freedom. To circumvent this objection, they may argue that the market unerringly works to improve our lives.

Libertarianism is self defeating and turns the desire for freedom into a hedonistic desire for material things; useless consumer durables. It replaces the social gospel with social Darwinism and leads to widespread exploitation.

A Catch-22 in Libertarian Ideology?
Brought to you by J.Kenyon

Freedom is not intrinsically good, it is only instrumentally good. Sometimes too much freedom is bad. We should have a monopolist on arbitration run by only good people to make sure bad people don't do bad things.

Some libertarians are nihilists. Their moral philosophy is bankrupt.

Markets transform the desire for freedom into the desire for material things.

YOU'RE WELCOME!
Sieben
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5/25/2011 4:59:48 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/25/2011 3:28:28 PM, charleslb wrote:
Last night I was watching an episode of the Showtime show Dexter on DVD and a character had a line that made me think of the libertarians here. He said "Freedom is just another word for getting fu*ked". This profane quote crudely captures an important realpolitik truth about life and human social systems. Freedom indeed does have the perilous potential of sometimes being just another way for people to get royally fu*ked by their society.

So you were watching a for-profit TV show that idolizes non-state non-aggressive law enforcement, heard something snappy, and took as it as a validation for your worldview. Okay.
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Reasoning
Posts: 4,456
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5/25/2011 7:36:58 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/25/2011 3:28:28 PM, charleslb wrote:
Well, yes, freedom is not an absolute good.

"The ultimate end of human endeavor is the minimum of pain. We aim to decrease invasion only because, as a rule, invasion increases the total of pain (meaning, of course, pain suffered by the ego, whether directly or through sympathy with others). But it is precisely my contention that this rule, despite the immense importance which I place upon it, is not absolute; that, on the contrary, there are exceptional cases where invasion - that is, coercion of the non-invasive lessens the aggregate pain. Therefore coercion of the non-invasive, when justifiable at all, is to be justified on the ground that it secures, not a minimum of invasion, but a minimum of pain." - Benjamin Tucker
"What we really ought to ask the liberal, before we even begin addressing his agenda, is this: In what kind of society would he be a conservative?" - Joseph Sobran
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,483
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5/26/2011 3:52:21 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/25/2011 3:28:28 PM, charleslb wrote:
Last night I was watching an episode of the Showtime show Dexter on DVD and a character had a line that made me think of the libertarians here. He said "Freedom is just another word for getting fu*ked". This profane quote crudely captures an important realpolitik truth about life and human social systems. Freedom indeed does have the perilous potential of sometimes being just another way for people to get royally fu*ked by their society.

Let me put it less vulgarly. Nothing, including freedom, is an absolute good. Is that too much of a shocker to libertarian sensibilities? Well, yes, freedom is not an absolute good. Freedom in the form of the free-for-all on the streets that can result from lax law enforcement, for example, can allow organized crime to thrive and lead to the victimization of innocent citizens. And, likewise, granting too much freedom to capitalists could and inexorably would result in rampant capitalist greed, in unethical capitalist conduct, and in capitalist tyranny when the uber capitalists of society subvert the free market and take over the game. This is when the freedom of the "free market" would really begin to fu*k over the little guy with impunity. For there would be no big bad government to turn to for redress, as the capitalist elite would have set itself up as the de facto government and the proverbial fox guarding the chicken coop.

I vigorously agree that total freedom would likely be chaotic. That's why freedoms like the freedom to murder and defraud are covered by the nonaggression principle, which is itself implemented in the market via the manifestation of agencies whose warrant for existence is the provision of essentials like defense and arbitration.

Rather than such a dystopian scenario, if I had my personal philosophical druthers I'd like to see evolved into an environment in which capitalist greed isn't permitted, but short of that it should be severely regulated and curtailed for the greater good. One can decry this because it means subjecting people to force, control, and coercion; one can complain that it would necessitate limiting people's freedom and empowering the state, etc. But you know what, not only is freedom not an absolute good, it's not something that ever exists in the real world in an absolute and unmitigated form!

Two objections: first, you can't regulate and control greed, which is a fundamental impulse. Even if you could, I can't see why you would want to. Without the impulse to greed, advancement would halt and no one would ever do anything. "Greed", for a libertarian, is simply the desire for something greater: the desire to advance, evolve, and improve. Certainly someone of your philosophical leanings--specifically, those ascribing a teleological character to the universe--would be able to understand this unending drive for advancement. If stagnation is your ultimate goal--if you wish to see social evolution grind to a screeching halt--then perhaps you have reason to hold the philosophy you do. Otherwise, you have to admit to the necessity of a free market in being the optimal mechanism for delivering prosperity. Second, arguing that freedom isn't absolute is not a justification for any case where you would care to expand state power or coercive social mechanisms. It's the political equivalent of an epistemic claim, since humanity will never know all that can be known, that we should abandon the attempt to know anything, since absolute knowledge can never really manifest itself in the minds of men, and pursue instead any explanation or claim that makes us feel more comfortable.

Sorry, but freedom is always going to be limited and countervailed against by other realities and values in a society. For example, in times of war (I mean real wars, not the current so-called "war of terror"), the value of survival will offset the ability of a freedom-loving society to grant its citizens all of their civil liberties (merely consult the record of ole Abe Lincoln on this one). Our freedom is never truly unfettered. Nor would it be under a true "free market" system.

This is not an argument against a free society. What you're essentially arguing is that libertarians and other advocates of freedom should simply roll over and accept invasions into personal freedom on the basis of a large historical precedent of states abusing the liberties of citizens under their jurisdiction. In other words, you're basically arguing that we should learn to embrace limitations on freedom by virtue of their allege inevitability. I remain unconvinced.

For one thing, Adam Smith's "invisible hand" might prove to be as high-handed in the way it would drive our lives as some governments. That is, unloosed economic forces operating through private capitalists and capitalist entities who are only concerned for their own self-interest, and who aren't averse to cheating and compromising the system to disproportionately profit themselves would make life for the average workingperson and consumer far less than ideally free.

Two objections: first, I suggest researching Rothbard, Mises, and Hoppe if you want to make arguments against capitalism, rather than using Adam Smith as the paradigm case of a free-market economist. Second, saying that capitalists will "compromise and cheat the system" is more a vague rhetorical statement than a compelling argument against the free market. As any Austrian here will tell you, the cause of "capitalistic oppression" is states intervening the economy, thereby allowing politics to replace markets--something which Austrians both oppose and condemn as economically toxic.

Yes, alas, our freedom is always going to be impinged upon by something. And will always need to be balanced with other values. Freedom is only one fundamental sine qua non for a decent and dignified human life. Other values, such as the value of life, such as compassion, such the need for people to enjoy a certain minimum level of material well-being to have a life in keeping with our intrinsic worth as human beings, etc. must always be factored into a socio-economic system. Otherwise freedom becomes merely the freedom for the strong to dominate the weak, for an aggressive few to ruthlessly and hurtfully elevate themselves in wealth and power above everyone else.

The nonaggression principle accounts for the value of life, market economies alleviate poverty (a poverty which, in the US, at least, is pretty wealthy compared to countries never touched by markets), and compassion is useful in producing private charity--not structuring an entire economy.

Oh, I know that some of the libertarians here are also professed nihilists who deny such things as the inherent value of life or dignity of man, but if we deny the validity of such values what is freedom for? Isn't freedom supposed to be freedom from and for certain things? Freedom from what? From those things that injure us of course. And freedom for what? For us to attain and enjoy those things that enhance our lives. But why do we have a right to demand such freedoms unless our lives have a value that entitles us to them, and unless the things we wish to have the freedom to experience are values in their own right?! Without values freedoms are not rights, they're only desires.

I don't have to make claims about objective rights to argue for freedom. I only have to argue that coercive societies are undesirable, that free markets are preferable to any other economic structure, and that it is in basically everyone's self-interest to subscribe to a social structure base on nonaggression.
Cody_Franklin
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5/26/2011 3:52:24 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/25/2011 3:28:28 PM, charleslb wrote:
Indeed, without values freedoms become like widescreen TVs, we may want them, and get them if we can, but we have no entitlement to them. And if a controlling government takes them away from us, well, it's doing nothing wrong because it's merely denying us something we have no inherent claim to. This would make people like Tom Paine and the other revolutionary rabble-rousers of liberty who railed against the tyranny of George III full of it. After all, George was no villain if men and women have no "inalienable rights" to live free.

Without certain natural rights and values then, there's no good axiological or principled reason why we should have a "free market" or a democracy or any kind of freedom. One might still desire freedom for his own selfish benefit, but others might likewise desire to establish their own despotic dominance. And if they're strong enough to do so, then according to the nihilist viewpoint that's the correct outcome and they can't be criticized on any kind of righteously libertarian grounds! For in a consistently nihilist philosophy there's nothing at all righteous about the desire for liberty, it's just another selfish desire.

Nihilists don't claim that a despotic takeover is the "correct outcome" so much as the inevitable outcome of a powerful despot exercising force over a population. Whether you have moral principles with which to condemn the takeover is irrelevant to whether such a takeover will occur. Ethics in this instance serves only as a condolence by which we can alleviate our own negative feelings over the situation by casting the aggressor as a moral villain.

Realistically, the nonaggression principle (formulated in my own way as a political principle) is just the formal way of codifying a large-scale agreement among agents to refrain from aggression against each other (which is in turn the basis for "legal rights"), and to permit the use of retaliatory force in any case where some agent or collection of agents is acting aggressively. It does not guarantee success or failure.

In other words, the nihilist belief of some libertarians that self-interest is all there is to the motivations and meaning of life turns libertarianism into a seriously dismal philosophy that ironically denies our very right to liberty and justifies the rule of the strong, whether we're talking strong alpha capitalists, tyrannical strongmen like a Saddam Hussein, or the social engineering villains of big government that conservatives love to loath.

This is a bit of a non sequitur. Though nihilism certainly denies any inherent transcendental meaning to, say, life, it does not therefore "justify" the rule of the strong. A theory of human action proper to reality (and proper to libertarianism, coincidentally) will tell you that people will act when they desire something, and when the expected benefit is calculated to outweigh the real and expected costs. It doesn't matter whether the "strong" means some aggressive capitalist, or a state, or Saddam, or anyone or anything else: what matters is that, though people are plenty strong, none are omnipotent, and it is in the self-interest of almost no one (save perhaps a state) to oppress and employ violence against people to achieve their ends. It is in everyone's self-interest to agree to nonaggression since it serves equally everyone's ability to pursue his interests without interruption so long as he does not interrupt anyone else's pursuit of his own interests. Even criminals who act aggressively tend to make exceptions for themselves when using aggression. You would find very few criminals who would be willing to live in a society where aggression is freely permitted without consequence to a society where A) nonaggression in the norm, and where B) aggression opens up the aggressor to the threat of retaliation.

Quite simply, without innate values anything goes and nothing much matters, including whether or not we're free. Without innate values there's no longer any transcendental premise, such as men being "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights", for us to stake our claim to freedom on. If the idea of innate values and rights is just "nonsense on stilts", as 18th century opponents of democratic ideals liked to say, then so is the assertion that actualized libertarian ideals would make for the best of possible systems – it would just be another system based on ideological fictions.

First, you're sort of appealing to consequences by implying that denial of intrinsic values means that the necessary result is some kind of violent ideological free-for-all.

Second, anarcho-capitalism is the best of all possible systems if your goal is human prosperity. If your goal is oppression and suffering, you could always try dictatorship.

But here's libertarianism's credal catch-22, it needs to ground itself in more than just crass self-interest, it needs to embrace some values and rights to philosophically fortify itself, but if it does admit that there's more to a worthwhile human existence than the anarchically free pursuit of self-interest, then it has to open itself up to the possibility of other values that mandate balancing and setting boundaries for our freedom. Of course the intellectual cop-out for libertarians is to rationalize that the free market can be based entirely on self-interest, and that the free market will unerringly work to make life good for the majority of us. Libertarians facilely by-pass the moral and philosophical weakness of their theoretical system by continuing to deny the reality of morality and moral imperatives, and instead focusing on how the market, driven by the amoral imperative of human selfishness will supposedly make everything right with man's world.

First: I will debate you on the existence of moral values if you wish. I already have such a debate in progress, and will be happy to maintain more than one such debate at a time, especially given that your ideology's coherence is so fundamentally contingent on transcendental ethics.

Second, one cannot escape self-interest. All actions we perform are necessarily consequences of some value calculation of which the goal is the improvement of our own condition. Even in helping our fellow man, alleviating suffering, reducing poverty, and so on, one simply reaps a psychological profit, rather than a material one. It is altogether illegitimate to attempt to objectively prioritize one sort of profit as superior to the other, because such matters are merely value judgments, which, as we've previously discussed, are entirely subjective in nature; ergo, attempts to prioritize as such amount to nothing more than the substitution of one set of subjective values for another and the illusion of objectivity.

The conclusion is located directly below
Cody_Franklin
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5/26/2011 3:59:46 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/25/2011 3:29:08 PM, charleslb wrote:
Conclusion

Libertarianism, it turns out, is a self-deceiving and self-undercutting philosophy that paradoxically undermines the moral imperative for man to be free by turning the human yearning for freedom into nothing more than another craving for luxuries, like the middle-class consumer's craving for widescreen televisions, gas-guzzling SUVs, and iPads.

Again, you run into the problems of: proving the moral imperative to freedom (not to mention a coherent definition of freedom which is both consistent with your philosophy, yet at the same time applicable to libertarian political theory to the extent that your criticisms based on such a conception address the aspects of the theory which you aim to address), and demonstrating why material profit is inherently inferior to psychological (or, as you might say, "spiritual") profit in a way which does not simply reduce to a substitution of your values for everyone else's and an unwarranted claim to axiological objectivity.

Yes, libertarians shallowly and dangerously downgrade liberty from a sublime humanistic and spiritual value into a luxury that it's mere grandiose pretentiousness to assert as a right. Libertarianism shreds what the Encyclopaedia Britannica calls democracy's "fundamental ethical and social gospel", and replaces it with what? With the social-Darwinian doctrine of self-interest, the sociobiological theory of the selfish gene?! Not exactly a humanistically promising move. No, in the end it's one that will get us all fu*ked by a sophomoric and potentially rueful concept of freedom.

This paragraph reflects the fundamental problem of value subjectivity, in addition to the problem of your substituting political rhetoric for substantive argument. I have no reason to believe that liberty is, for any reason, a sublime spiritual value inherent to the human spirit, especially when my political theory and theory of human action both suggest that a society based on the preservation of liberty--and therefore, a commitment to nonaggression--is a matter of necessity, rather than of man's conformity, conscious or unconscious, to some transcendental realm of values to which you leave us with little reason to subscribe.
charleslb
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5/26/2011 12:42:42 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/25/2011 7:36:58 PM, Reasoning wrote:
At 5/25/2011 3:28:28 PM, charleslb wrote:
Well, yes, freedom is not an absolute good.

"The ultimate end of human endeavor is the minimum of pain. We aim to decrease invasion only because, as a rule, invasion increases the total of pain (meaning, of course, pain suffered by the ego, whether directly or through sympathy with others). But it is precisely my contention that this rule, despite the immense importance which I place upon it, is not absolute; that, on the contrary, there are exceptional cases where invasion - that is, coercion of the non-invasive lessens the aggregate pain. Therefore coercion of the non-invasive, when justifiable at all, is to be justified on the ground that it secures, not a minimum of invasion, but a minimum of pain." - Benjamin Tucker

I suppose that someone thinking within this particular libertarian philosophical frame of reference could say that it's precisely this justified need and imperative to lessen the "aggregate pain" of the working-class members of society, who do after all constitute the majority of a society's members, that morally or utilitarianly (whichever one prefers) vindicates, authorizes, and mandates the "coercive" control of the expression of capitalist greed – perhaps even to the extent of creating an anarcho-communist system in which capitalist greed is verboten.

PS, Thank you, Reasoning, for a rational and thoughtful response that does justice to your nickname.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.