Beautiful liberty.
August 28, 2006 11:33 AM   Subscribe

The Philosophy of Liberty. Briefly cited here, this simple yet powerful Flash animation is one of the most elegant, expressive, and dramatic political statements I have ever seen.
posted by By The Grace of God (87 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I'll add that I personally disagree with its political position but it had me jumping down with excitement for its artful clarity and understated humour.
posted by By The Grace of God at 11:34 AM on August 28, 2006


I'll add that I personally disagree with its political position...

Which part(s) do you disagree with?

/this will end well
posted by knave at 11:37 AM on August 28, 2006


Saaaaay... isn't this closely related to the Bush/War Crimes post that preceded it?
posted by spock at 11:43 AM on August 28, 2006


Needs more webdings.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 11:44 AM on August 28, 2006


I think that the animation's arguments miss some of the effects that concentrations of power caused by free individuals can have on an individual's liberty.

Anything more specific than that I'd prefer to take to email - I posted this because it's beautiful and powerful, not because I wanted to beat my particular drum.
posted by By The Grace of God at 11:46 AM on August 28, 2006


So, are we commenting on this as a philosophy, or are we discussing the technical merits of the presentation? Huge case of Powerpoint syndrome. The music got old fast, and felt like the creator was trying to manipulate the viewer into feeling something profound while looking at webdings. No way to turn it off, either. Visually speaking, it was very clean and focused. Excellent use of recognizable, recurring symbols for concepts to cut down on needless verbiage.

The peculiar all-consuming idealism of the philosophy still seems useless unless you're planning on going off to planet Zardob and starting a colony from scratch. Saying, 'Don't initiate force' is easy. Figuring out what that means in a world with thousands of 'forces,' all justifiably 'defending themselves' from each other, is a bit trickier.

Referring to 'property' as the part of nature that you develop to your own ends is interesting, but ignores the fact that posession has to start somewhere. And ultimately, force is what it boils down to.

I don't know. Good presentation of a philosophy, but carefully crafted to avoid any of the ambuguity that makes a philosophy fall down in the real world. nicely scored powerpoint presentations about Marxism are very convincing, too, if you don't look at the real world.
posted by verb at 12:01 PM on August 28, 2006


Nice post, BtGoG.

Messages delivered with clarity are always interesting. I felt this one had a low mumbo-jumbo content, and there were only a couple of places I cringed.

Granted, the philosophies are simplistic, but I think the goal was to get people to think about the connections between actions and rights rather than to propose a concrete, pragmatic solution for neverending world peace and free drinks.
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 12:10 PM on August 28, 2006


This sort of reminds me of the biggest problem I've had with Lockean liberalism, that we sort of all pretend that the state has the power of coercion because it is the object of consent, but I've never quite figured out who does the consenting to be in a state (I say this as a definite non-anarchist btw. I'm all for states.)

Also, this presentation has a somewhat interesting set of 'first principles' (life, liberty, property.) In my personal approach to liberal political philosophy these tend to be derived from more basic 'first principles' (equality of all human beings, the only legitimate transactions being consensual ones, etc.)
posted by Firas at 12:13 PM on August 28, 2006


This (libertarian) viewpoint is inherently individualist.

These folks seem to have no reservations about defending individual liberty. But there are key problems they don't address.

1) Note the way they fudge the idea of "right to property" by attaching "justly acquired". Its all well and good for a flash animation, or a theory, but, I think anyone with the smallest idea of history would agree that "property" in existence in todays modern industrialized societies has been acquired/ derived from property acquired through violent and coercive means.

2) Rights come into conflict with each other, and there has to be a way to resolve these conflicts. Also, the right to life becomes somewhat irrelevant in situations where there is a:

a) scarcity or concentration of resources, so that if I cant or dont want to share a resource with you, and you need it to live, your only recourse is to try to take it through violence/coercion.

b) communal resources, such as the air, water, environment, etc. if you choose to pump poison in the air as part of your production, all of us have to breathe it.

3) The concept of individualism is itself pretty strained one, it is only really the explosion of productive capacity of industrial capitalism that has permitted these ideas to take serious root in the modern psyche. But this growth is temporary and historically extraordinary since it is not - in current form - sustainable. We are bumping up against the limits now particularly in terms of peak oil / water resources / deforestation / global warming.

Truth is that we have always have been, and even now we are still social creatures, our lives are not defined, conceived of, or lived independently of a larger society and others of our species. Humans can neither survive like that, nor do most of us desire to live like that. Formulating a political philosophy that begins by reasoning around the atomized identity of the "individual" is a recipe for collossal delusion, and it is going to be useless in informing how we can get out of the mess we are in now, which requires resolving the various competing pressures that both bind us and lead to coercion/violence between us.

4) The flashy little flash also glosses over more basic philosophical questions that are quite interesting. Specfically, we can't make much of this without developing concrete definitions of things like the concept of "rights", "coercion", "violence", whether these ideas are supposed to apply only to those in adulthood or not, etc. e.g, if you can agree that the products of one persons life constitute violence or coercion against another person, then the whole libertarian theory is fucked.
posted by mano at 12:14 PM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


mano, we've tried the post-individual way of organizing states (cf. 20th C.) It was both morally horrendous and eventually didn't work.
posted by Firas at 12:16 PM on August 28, 2006


The "fluffier than powerpoint" format might be a great introduction for someone who has never heard of libertarian thought, but it does nothing to respond to criticism of libertarianism, since it doesn't delve any further than the basic "I own myself, so don't boss me around".

To my only somewhat less naive understanding of libertarianism, the greatest problem seems to be with externalities, which if not denied must instead empower me to act against the people or groups of people who harm me with them.

On preview, what mano and verb said...
posted by jepler at 12:21 PM on August 28, 2006


Which part(s) do you disagree with?

If you don't mind someone else answering:

1. Other people do have the right to choose your leaders. When the candidate you vote for loses an election, other people have chosen your leader. This is valid.

2. The animation implies but does not state that taxation is theft by government. It should be made clearer that citizenship is a pact of mutual consent whereby the citizen agrees to pay taxes in exchange for benefit.

3. The definition of property is shaky at best; much property is not the product of individiual time, energy and talent, and that property should not, I think, be considered on the same level as other property. For example, I think that, except for the land upon which a homestead is built, land should not be heritable.

4. And, yeah, the biggest sticking point for me is that the group's needs do supersede those of the individual. The exercising of eminent domain for just cause, conscription in time of war, and so forth.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:22 PM on August 28, 2006


mano: Formulating a political philosophy that begins by reasoning around the atomized identity of the "individual" is a recipe for collossal delusion

What's the delusion? The concept of the individual or expecting a feasible philosophy around the concept?
posted by Gyan at 12:24 PM on August 28, 2006


Say what? Post-individual? We? More importantly, do you have any idea what a strawman is?

By your logic, people should have given up trying to build flying machines once they figured out that sticking feathers to their hands and waving their arms didnt work.
posted by mano at 12:26 PM on August 28, 2006


Firas: I've never quite figured out who does the consenting to be in a state

Oh, c'mon! Didn't you sign the Social Contract? Everyone's doin' it! It's the thing to do!
posted by oncogenesis at 12:27 PM on August 28, 2006


mano, I was responding to 'Formulating a political philosophy that begins by reasoning around the atomized identity of the "individual" is a recipe for collossal delusion.' I think the greatest thing that ever happened in political philosophy was defining the individual consciousness as an autonomous moral guardian. The pre-liberal feudalism, monarchies, etc. and the post-liberal totalitarian states—especially the latter—were based quite explicitly around the sense that the individual didn't matter when utopia could be brought about. There's something optimal about stopping the buck, so to speak, at 'each person gets equal representation'. I basically agree with the rest of your comment.
posted by Firas at 12:33 PM on August 28, 2006


And to be clear, I don't expect you disagree with my last one either. Just underscoring.
posted by Firas at 12:36 PM on August 28, 2006


I didn't know Scott McCloud was a libertarian.
posted by ulotrichous at 12:40 PM on August 28, 2006


I think "Officials in Fine Hats" would make an excellent band name.

That is all.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:43 PM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Libertarians annoy the piss out of me. It took that long to say "I'm a selfish prick."?
posted by empath at 12:53 PM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Indeed, it's a powerful and simple enough that even a second-grader could understand it. Which is good, since most people older than that know the Libertarian philosophy falls to pieces as soon as you apply it to real human beings. Then again, even a second-grader would wonder: who owns the roads and who pays to repair them?
posted by danblaker at 1:01 PM on August 28, 2006


Gyan:

The problem is that the atomized individual has no life. Literally. You need me to survive and I need you, hence, my choices are inherently limited by your needs, and vice versa. And politics is the endeavor by which we work things out.

Delusion occurs when people, libertarians especially, forget that this is not a facet of any particular political system. It is a fundament.

You can't factor this obvious little fact into the libertarian flash animation without producing all sorts of contradictions. You also can't build a coherent philosophy of politics unless you address this issue head-on.
posted by mano at 1:02 PM on August 28, 2006


solid-one-love, I don't know where to begin. I disagree with almost everything you wrote.

citizenship is a pact of mutual consent whereby the citizen agrees to pay taxes in exchange for benefit.

Really? Mutual consent? I don't remember having the option of refusal. And please don't make the tired and wrong argument that I could just move if I disagree with the local requirements for "citizenship".

And what of this alleged benefit? Would you willingly enter into a pact (contract) with another person where the specific terms were completely under the control of the other party?

the group's needs do supersede those of the individual. The exercising of eminent domain for just cause, conscription in time of war, and so forth.

This is just a Statist apologia floating in a sea of undefined terms, buoyed by a visceral appeal to the status quo.
posted by oncogenesis at 1:07 PM on August 28, 2006


Bit of a derail, but I hate flash animations that assume I can't read faster than I did at five years of age.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:10 PM on August 28, 2006


solid-one-love, I don't know where to begin. I disagree with almost everything you wrote.

Do as you like. You're wrong.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:10 PM on August 28, 2006


mano: The problem is that the atomized individual has no life. Literally. You need me to survive and I need you, hence, my choices are inherently limited by your needs, and vice versa. And politics is the endeavor by which we work things out.

Alright, so the second part is what's the delusion.

Delusion occurs when people, libertarians especially, forget that this is not a facet of any particular political system.

Politics is not optional, but its nature is malleable. The US is more libertarian than Saudi Arabia, and both are "functioning" states. So, there's flexibility in how much freedom can be secured for the individual. I see libertarians as trying to stretch it as far as possible. Some of the near-anarchist strains of libertarianism seem implausible, but the basic theme seems valid.
posted by daksya at 1:11 PM on August 28, 2006


empath: Libertarians annoy the piss out of me. It took that long to say "I'm a selfish prick."?

Ironic user name. You missed the central meme: the only moral relationships are voluntary relationships.
posted by oncogenesis at 1:16 PM on August 28, 2006


The definition of property is shaky at best; much property is not the product of individiual time, energy and talent, and that property should not, I think, be considered on the same level as other property

As a quasi-Georgist I found it passable. The Geolibs have the right-libertarians nailed to the wall, morally, IMHO.

In my better days I think a left-libertarian *Georgist* minarchy libertopia might actually work better than most present systems, especially what the US has now.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:16 PM on August 28, 2006


"Really? Mutual consent? I don't remember having the option of refusal. And please don't make the tired and wrong argument that I could just move if I disagree with the local requirements for "citizenship".


Here I have to disagree-- the vulgar libertarian position you just cited makes no sense even if an individual could opt to refuse to consent to government. The consent that has taken place is a historical problem, there's no doubt about that. There's no way to posit intergenerational consent without coming up against some contradictions. But having the option of refusal would mean that you would have the option of becoming an enemy to the government in question-- an agent not governed or subject to that government's laws living in its territories or among its subjects. Perhaps this is very basis of the inherent paranoia of governments. As Hegel shows, there is no solution to relations between governments because there can be no higher form than the state. Just arguing that we should all be states unto ourselves wouldn't do much except to propose a world in which the "war of all against all" comes back in spades...
posted by Dogmilk at 1:19 PM on August 28, 2006


solid-one-love: Do as you like. You're wrong.

Convincing argument. I'm forced to conclude that The Philosophy of Liberty is a failure.
posted by oncogenesis at 1:21 PM on August 28, 2006


solid-one-love, for no particular reason, I'm responding to your points.

1. You say "this is valid", but you haven't really backed that up. There is no evidence that democratic elections choose the best leaders, or that they have any "right" to govern me.

2. You make it sound like taxes are a contractual obligation in return for certain benefits. Can I opt out? (i.e. I'm disgusted, in general, at what my taxes are paying for.) And yes, many libertarians believe taxes are theft.

3. Pretty much agreed.

4. The group outweighs the individual is not a belief that libertarians tend to have. They reference the constitution, for example, showing that it explicitly grants rights to people, not to communities or society at large. There is no "right to education" or "right to health care", because this basically uses coercion to force people to provide these services.

While I agree with a lot of the comments here, the presentation is simplistic and does not address any issues in depth, I believe that's out of scope. The presentation is basically an introduction into the foundations of an individual liberty-based philosophy.

Questions about whether people should be allowed to pollute, who owns natural resources, who should perform charitable services, and etc. are discussions in their own right, and people come at them based on their individual philosophies. Pointing out that a simple presentation fails to address these issues is kind of moot, because that's not its goal.

I'm honestly disappointed with the libertarians. There needs to be a reasonable middle ground we can reach, where government is kept in check, people's rights are preserved, and the concentration of power isn't too perverse. Unfortunately, most libertarians I've encountered have an overly simplistic view of how things ought to be, and tend to be just as closed-minded as members of any other political affiliation can be. It's reached a point where I'm not sure I even consider myself one, although I'm certainly no liberal/socialist or "conservative" in the modern sense.
posted by knave at 1:23 PM on August 28, 2006


Convincing argument.

I'm not here to convince you. I am dismissing you because your posts in this thread have clearly shown that you're not interested in debate.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:23 PM on August 28, 2006


once you buy the idea that the central function of the State is to hand out and enforce land titles, many things become clearer.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:25 PM on August 28, 2006


the vulgar libertarian position you just cited makes no sense even if an individual could opt to refuse to consent to government

The real error is in the original proposition from solid-one-love -- that we are where we are as the result of informed consent.
posted by oncogenesis at 1:27 PM on August 28, 2006


It's reached a point where I'm not sure I even consider myself one, although I'm certainly no liberal/socialist or "conservative" in the modern sense.

We left-libertarians, ~3% of the population on a good day, welcome you :)
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:27 PM on August 28, 2006


The US is one of the more libertarian states around, but, as Heywood Mogroot implies, there are a lot of flavors out there. The problem with taking an ideology and trying to fashion a society of its purest strain is that all societies consist of compromise. That's what the little transaction in the flash animation is: a compromise that leaves both parties better off with it than without it. So is government. And taxes. Without it you get the Soviet Union. And China. And Robber Barons.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:30 PM on August 28, 2006


1. They don't have to choose the best leaders to be valid leaders. And they have the right to govern because it is the system that we agree to live by as part of the social contract.

2. Yup. At the age of 15 you could have left school, and by 18 you could, if you worked hard enough and wanted it badly enough, earned enough money to move to a non-governed part of Antarctica. This is not a "tired and wrong" argument, as some people would suggest. In fact, since it is based so slavishly on individual effort and profit, it is a logical result of libertarian philosophy. Citizenship is a choice.

How your parents raised you as a minor child in an involuntary relationship, on the tother hand, is not. But, y'know, try and get a libertarian to agree that this is not a special exception from the philosophy....

The group outweighs the individual is not a belief that libertarians tend to have.

I know; this is why I disagree with it, as implied.

While I agree with a lot of the comments here, the presentation is simplistic and does not address any issues in depth, I believe that's out of scope.

And that's the problem with primers like this, in general, I think.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:30 PM on August 28, 2006


Oops. My post above is a response to knave, and not to oncogenesis, who is now in my killfile.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:32 PM on August 28, 2006


I don't think you should tell people to leave the country if they're not satisfied with it. The whole point of a participatory government is that we have the option and right to attempt to change the shape of government. Simply because someone is unsatisfied with govt as is, doesn't mean they need to leave.
posted by knave at 1:37 PM on August 28, 2006


Labels are often less helpful to one's understanding than one might assume they would be.
posted by spock at 1:58 PM on August 28, 2006


Didn't mean to imply that, knave. What I'm saying is that there is no force involved in taxation (or other laws) because one chooses to be a citizen.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:11 PM on August 28, 2006


Quick note regarding solid-one-love, oncogenesis and kill files: my favorite type of dialog is the kind where, instead of having a conversation, someone makes their own case then goes "La la la I can't hear you" to the other person's response.

Wouldn't be worth mentioning, except this just happened with my father-in-law; I spent several minutes politely listening to his view on a topic, but when it was my time to respond he interrupted constantly with jokes and nonsequitors -- and by constantly, I mean *constantly*, couldn't get three words out without him drowning me out. After a half minute or so of trying to be heard, I realized that he had no interest whatsoever in hearing what I had to say; he just wanted to hear himself talk. At that point, I got up and left, because there's no point in speaking to someone who isn't interested in listening.
posted by davejay at 2:14 PM on August 28, 2006


There is a problem in stating that "I own my own life" because to own one's own life is to put the idea of ownership before the state of life and quality of liberty. The notion of inalienable rights made no such mistake. I would suggest that other problems arise from this problem. We collectively insure and mutually enforce the terms of our freedom, because it cannot be guaranteed individually in an atomized state. Libertarians would disagree, opting for warlordism presumably. Our money supply, for example, is mutually printed and collectively insured as a medium of exchange for a common economic goal, but libertarians would have us question this. We are also to believe, supposedly, that we are free, therefore we can do whatever we want, which would be a fallacy (it works the other way however). Many have pointed that libertarian ideals boil down to a freedom of action only, not in thought or applied consensus. This not only makes it impractical for preserving liberty, but absurd for knowing what to do with it. People would do well to compare it with a dogmatic religion and keep it separate from government.
posted by Brian B. at 2:36 PM on August 28, 2006


I guess I'm the only one who found the linked presentation intolerably slow—after a few minutes, during which they'd presented about four sentences' worth of easily digested dogma to the tune of monotonous tweedling, I couldn't take it any more and hit Back. Kudos to all the rest of you who hung in there to the end; if there was anything other than standard libertarian boilerplate, please let me know.

Other people do have the right to choose your leaders. When the candidate you vote for loses an election, other people have chosen your leader. This is valid.

"It's valid... because I say so!"

Come on, if you want to make an argument by all means do so, but just stating your own point of view as if it were eternal truth is pointless, especially around here. I don't agree that anyone can choose my "leader" for me. (I know, I know, I'm wrong. Because you say so.)
posted by languagehat at 2:38 PM on August 28, 2006


citizenship is a pact of mutual consent whereby the citizen agrees to pay taxes in exchange for benefit.

Really? Mutual consent? I don't remember having the option of refusal.


The problem is that you can't refuse the benefits even if you could refuse the taxes. If your neighbor's house catches fire, the fire department will try to put it out before yours catches. If your country is invaded, the army will defend you. If you work for or own a business, there will be a pool of educated people to make that business possible. The CDC is going to help prevent you from getting some horrible disease. People are less likely to break contracts with you, because there is a court system you can use to try to get redress.

If you're upset that you have no choice but to pay taxes, hey, I can understand that. I don't like paying them either. But keep in mind it works both ways -- you have no choice but to enjoy the benefits those taxes produce. (Which is not to say that I'm happy with the way my government disposes of my taxes -- I'm not, it sucks).
posted by jlub at 2:56 PM on August 28, 2006


A day without libertarian babbling is like a day without the Internet.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:02 PM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


languagehat, oncogenesis:

are you saying that you would refuse to become a citizen of any state, if you could opt not to?

Any particular disappointment with the elected leaders of the day, or a partcular kind or amount of taxation, or a particular government program or action aside, I would choose to be a citizen of some modern western democracy. And, by definition, something that I would choose is good for me--I saw that little fact in a flash animation earlier today.

Or does that libertarian concept apply only to the decision to smoke cigarettes?
posted by jepler at 3:24 PM on August 28, 2006


No, languagehat, you're wrong because you choose to remain a citizen of a country where others can choose your leaders. You may not agree that others can choose your leaders, but that's kinda being ignorant of reality. They do so, and you agree to abide by it by living where you live. Like I said, there's always Antarctica.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:56 PM on August 28, 2006


solid-one-love
I'm confused. Are you making a moral argument, a philisophical argument, or both? Maybe more one than the other in different parts?

Mostly, I'm curious what you mean by "can".

You may not agree that others can choose your leaders, but that's kinda being ignorant of reality.

"Can" as in "morally may", or "can" as in "it can't be helped"?
posted by Richard Daly at 4:57 PM on August 28, 2006


Er, I meant to ask, "Are you making a moral argument, a practical argument, or both"? That's what I get for paying attention to that optical illusion thread.
posted by Richard Daly at 5:02 PM on August 28, 2006


...rather than to propose a concrete, pragmatic solution for neverending world peace and free drinks.

Is anybody actually working towards this goal in a concrete and pragmatic way? Because I could really get behing a program like that.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:49 PM on August 28, 2006


The problem with the standard liberal critique of libertarians being applied here is that it is the same critique used to tar just about everybody who opposes the state. That makes it a pretty weak criticism, because it reduces to an invocation and reaffirmation of the status quo. The Libertarian defenders here have been quick to point that out, and they havent been wrong on that point. But its you critics that have been doing them the favor by lobbing your pitches.

There are plenty of critiques of libertarians, and you should count mine among them, that come at libertarians from a progressive, radical, and/or anti-state perspective. There are many of us who think that states, and the markets and systems of property rights that they exist to maintain are fucked up, because of the way that individuals are deprived of their rights. (lets leave that debate for another day)

See, although I am an anarchist, mine is both a universal and specific critique of libertarianism. As I mentioned before, you cannot articulate a coherent political ideology without explicitly dealing with the question of how competing interests (those that cannot be resolved through consensual / voluntary behaviors) are resolved. And with the exception of Libertarians, this question is central to the political ideology of everyone from communists and most anarchists, to liberals, to conservatives, to fascists, to monarchists and religious fundies. They answer it variously, but generally the answers are at least logically consistent.

Libertarians, on the other hand, are a unique breed that "oppose" the state and promote "individual rights", while their ideology coalesces around two kinds of conflict resolution that only the state and a concomitant restriction of individual liberties can provide: property rights and a "laissez-faire" "free" (but somehow "regulated" - not in the traditional sense, but rather in the "non-fraudulent" sense!!) marketplace. That's a big way that Libertarianism is singularly delusional among the political ideologies.
posted by mano at 5:50 PM on August 28, 2006


I'm confused. Are you making a moral argument, a philisophical argument, or both? Maybe more one than the other in different parts?

I'm not really making an argument. I'm answering a question: "which parts do you disagree with?" I don't really have to justify the fact that I disagree, but I am humouring the folks -- the ones who aren't getting bent out of shape that I don't prescribe to their particular philosophy -- by explaining why I disagree, in point form.

Mostly, I'm curious what you mean by "can".

Morally may. I'm with Rousseau on this one.
posted by solid-one-love at 6:01 PM on August 28, 2006


Solid, if I'm reading you correctly, you won't address oncogenesis because he "isn't interested in debate," and yet you seem to maintain a blase, take-it-or-leave-it position on debate yourself. It's not "humouring" others when you explain, defend, and substantiate claims you make. It's good manners, and beyond that it's pretty much required for meaningful debate.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:33 PM on August 28, 2006


In that case, S-O-L, your statement of being "ignorant of reality" makes no sense. Morals- yours or Libertarian- aren't reality.
posted by spaltavian at 6:35 PM on August 28, 2006


By the way, Solid, it's nothing personal. The main point is that answering questions and defending your assertions are not onerous acts of charity and magnanimity. They're just the price of entering the market. Sometimes it feels like a dogpile, but this thread (and oncogenesis' post) didn't particularly seem that way.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:46 PM on August 28, 2006


The best part about this conversation is that everyone here already has some kind of strawman idea of what libertarianism actually is. There are no questions coming from the liberals. Instead, just (generally incorrect) statements of how libertarians-at-large think. It's discouraging, because it's the kind of groupthink I think is below MetaFilter.

For example, the refusal of taxes is not just because taxes are unpleasant. It may be on moral grounds, for some extremists like Mike Badnarik, who literally believe that taxation is theft. It may also be a statement of non-support of govt imperialism and warmongering, for people who feel things have gone too far and are drawing the line.

And the "omg who would make the roads" statements. It's borderline insulting to me, as a borderline libertarian. Obviously roads are a pretty useful thing that the state provides. However, they are a tiny, tiny fraction of the overall cost of government. About half of our government is the DoD. The other half may contain some useful nuggets, surrounded by layers and layers of waste. The only libertarians that are against all forms of government and taxation are not libertarians at all, they are anarchists. The libertarian ideal is a heavily restricted government akin to the one described in the United States Constitution (and, although the US may be one of the most libertarian countries in the world, it has strayed pretty far from the constitution in the opinion of most).
posted by knave at 6:56 PM on August 28, 2006 [2 favorites]


Metafilter doesn't do Libertarianism well.

The contempt some Liberals have for Libertarianism would strike me as odd if it weren't so common. The "Obviously Libertarianism is stupid, obviously" tone of some posts here share the exact same blithely smug attitude today's ruling Conservatives throw at Liberals.

I know how fun it is to hate Rand- I hate her too!- but content free posts like:

"Libertarians annoy the piss out of me. It took that long to say "I'm a selfish prick."?

make the speaker, not Libertarians look like pricks.
posted by spaltavian at 7:06 PM on August 28, 2006


Libertarianism: All the compassion of Fascism, but with the real-world economic nous of Communism.
posted by pompomtom at 7:07 PM on August 28, 2006


Random thoughts. I am not a philosopher.

How do libertarians deal with families? It's certainly a relationship almost everyone belongs to that's not voluntary in any way. I didn't choose my parents for sure, else I'd be Bill Gates' son. Progeny of the ultra wealthy certainly gain a lot of property that isn't the product of their life or or liberty.

Do libertarians believe that the natural uneducated state of a human being is individualistic? If not, then who makes sure all the people are educated that they're individuals. Is that important? Is education a form of coercion? Wouldn't roving gangs and petty despots fill society if people didn't understand your philosophy, choosing the security of a protective tyrant over their own liberty? If it were the natural state of human beings, then how come it's only come to expresse itself in modern times? Most pre-1776 societies are pretty communal, tribe oriented.

Perhaps one needs some sort of state making sure people are chill enough that they can sit down and think up neat ideas like libertarianism.
posted by Jasper McLean at 8:26 PM on August 28, 2006


Progeny of the ultra wealthy certainly gain a lot of property that isn't the product of their life or or liberty.

bingo: and this property is directed towards rent-seeking, ie enslaving others. All voluntary and stuff, of course.

But "natural state" is fallacious argument, as is "moral state". That which is most moral in the abstract is not necessarily optimal, or even sustainable.

I don't think everyone has a natural right to receive assistance in securing the necessities of life -- health care, education, etc, but I see the bigger picture that a society that provides this will turn out better over the long run, the more meritocratic it is.

(Another way I justify my left-libertarianism is that the market is good and finding local maxima, but to get to the global maxima requires intervention. The very word "government" comes from the greek, to steer.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:17 PM on August 28, 2006


Progeny of the ultra wealthy certainly gain a lot of property that isn't the product of their life or or liberty.

bingo: and this property is directed towards rent-seeking, ie enslaving others. All voluntary and stuff, of course.

But "natural state" is fallacious argument, as is "moral state". That which is most moral in the abstract is not necessarily optimal, or even sustainable.

I don't think everyone has a natural right to receive assistance in securing the necessities of life -- health care, education, etc, but I see the bigger picture that a society that provides this will turn out better over the long run, the more meritocratic it is.

(Another way I justify my left-libertarianism is that the market is good and finding local maxima, but to get to the global maxima requires intervention. The very word "government" comes from the greek, to steer.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:21 PM on August 28, 2006


oh, btw, cyber and govern share the same greek root. Clearly we need computers controlling our lives instead of money-grubbing politicians.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:23 PM on August 28, 2006


same old story: drowning libertarians floated by liberal strawmen.
posted by mano at 11:38 PM on August 28, 2006


In that case, S-O-L, your statement of being "ignorant of reality" makes no sense. Morals- yours or Libertarian- aren't reality.

It is reality that he chooses to be a citizen. It is reality that he therefore has agreed to be ruled by the people who win elections. This is reality.

kid ichorous, I try to display good manners until people stop displaying them to me. Whatsisface's post was rude and confrontational, and he preemptively precluded some perfectly valid responses to his bullshit posturing. There was some irony in there about whose response was visceral, I think, too. Anyhow, he and his argument deserved nothing more than being dismissed. Forever.

Regardless, this isn't about me. The moment I and others dared to disagree with the fundamental precepts of this fine, fine philosophy, the argument became about the people disagreeing and not the topic of discussion.

Predictably.

Metafilter doesn't do Libertarianism well.

In my experience, neither do Libertarians.

But I would agree to let Heywood join whatever ruling council arises after the revolution.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:39 PM on August 28, 2006


c'mon libertarians!

1) how do you conceive of property rights without a state? without police? without an armed populace banding together to defend its own (a militia?).

2) as for the vaunted "marketplace", do you have any idea how regulated a capitalist marketplace is? not even the most rabid so-called "free marketeers" argue for the state to cease its involvement in intervening in the markets. you want to get rid of the SEC? the FDA? intellectual property? by all means, please do, and you'll be pushing my goals as an anarchist, not yours as a libertarian.

3) we need to eat to live. how do you reconcile your "right to life" with the scarcity of resources (natural or artificial - through concentration)? is it murder when a poor person dies of starvation?

these little debates could be so much fun if we could manage to get you to stop chewing on the strawmen these liberals are tossing you.
posted by mano at 11:45 PM on August 28, 2006


Oh, Metafilter does Libertarianism just fine. It's a philosophy that should be thoroughly beaten until the good stuff oozes out.
posted by furiousthought at 12:12 AM on August 29, 2006


After a long day spent polishing my monocle, prank-calling the IRS, and beating the immigrant help, I'd thought I'd pop back here to what happened to the thread. Imagine my non-surprise that certain eager-to-be-offended statists are still frothing.

Regardless, this isn't about me. The moment I and others dared to disagree with the fundamental precepts of this fine, fine philosophy, the argument became about the people disagreeing and not the topic of discussion.

I daresay he's talking about me! But if one were to abandon one's righteous indignation and actually read the words I wrote, one might realize that the accusation of ad hominem is false. Tragically false. And so one would be forced to conclude that the rhubarb, the hurly-burly, is indeed centered upon the hair-trigger temper of ... one.

Alas, I am in one's killfile, so he'll never see this appeal. Irony abounds!

Now then, back to the hard work of destroying the State utterly so as to deprive you all of paved roads.
posted by oncogenesis at 12:44 AM on August 29, 2006


mano, who's telling you that libs want no state and no police? (Recommended reading for those who are interested in getting the complete picture: Libertarianism: A Primer)

Earlier you wrote: you cannot articulate a coherent political ideology without explicitly dealing with the question of how competing interests (those that cannot be resolved through consensual / voluntary behaviors) are resolved.

Let me turn the question back to you: How do you, as a self-described anarchist, propose to deal with competing interests? No snark intended. I'm genuinely interested.
posted by oncogenesis at 1:03 AM on August 29, 2006


In the spirit of a forum for debate, I think the intentions and general ideals here are positive. But in multimedia like this, where do you draw the line between intelligent discourse and propaganda? Should flash animations be necessary to convince people of a political ideal?
posted by antialiased at 4:09 AM on August 29, 2006


who's telling you that libs want no state and no police

Libertarianism: All the government services you can afford, and not one drop more.

;)
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:13 AM on August 29, 2006


oncogenesis: anarchism generally proposes two means for dealing with conflicts. (a) direct action and (b) mutual aid. libertarians generally espouse an appreciation for mutual aid, but for both us anarchists and you libertarians, mutual aid is a mechanism that is more of "how do conflicts get resolved in the utopian setting". in the present setting, its the direct action that we differ about, mainly because anarchists are generally anti-capitalist, and our direct action direct competes with your police and your minimalist state.

i have to reiterate my general, non-partisan criticism, however. you are certainly welcome to backpedal on the anti-police and anti-statism fronts. you will, no doubt, backpedal to a stance that advocates only a "minimal" police/state apparatus, enough to sustain the marketplace and protect property rights.

at which point i will conveniently remind you that for all of the rest of us (non-libertarian capitalists as well as anti-capitalists), our understanding is that the complexity, modernity, productivity of the current economic system is necessarily tied to the power and the breadth of the state and police apparatus. Every financial instrument introduced into the world of finance requires regulation. Every form of property, especially intellectual property, every technological advance both produces and requires additional organization and social regulation.

which basically means that most of us think that by chipping away at the state you are effectively advocating some form of primitivist anti-technology throwback libertarianism. and keep in mind, its not the size of the state itself thats the issue, its the reach of the state.

anyway, im curious if any libertarian will address any of my challenges, particularly how libertarians address the issue of concentrations of wealth and resources, and the issue of scarcity. e.g. if a man is born poor into an urban slum, if he can't eat, what do you have to say about his "right to life"? does he not have one? is it ethical to shoot a hungry child for stealing a loaf of bread?
posted by mano at 10:37 AM on August 29, 2006


I assume that libertarian society requires a police state and police roads, like any feudal state, except that a private feudal government will be paying for them. They don't need taxes, because the rulers ideally own all the land; eating your own food is stealing from them. But you own your life, and not because you can sell it, but because everything must be owned by someone. It's the just the old private feudal order but for no religious reason this time. The oddest thing about it is that people imagine that hypocrisy works best when they try to defend it. Libertarianism also has an uncanny ability to attract those who implicitly assume their personal repression, and who sell the idea that they aren't free enough by simply appealing to the aesthetic of it. When people call it illogical or ugly, they are told that they don't understand its doctrinal twists and turns well enough. In this mode, libertarianism serves as a psychological remedy projected onto the society to avoid dealing with private issues that liberalism has exposed.
posted by Brian B. at 11:13 AM on August 29, 2006


mano, I don't know where you're getting your information, but your understanding of libertarianism is deeply flawed. Libertarians believe in minimal government and the rule of law -- as in a state with courts. Contract law is the primary instrument for securing property rights. I'm not backpedaling when I challenge your incorrect statements.

The current economic system in the US may be "necessarily tied to the power and the breadth of the state and police apparatus", but that's because we live in a plutocracy. Libertarians are by and large also capitalists, but we find government intervention in the marketplace to be abhorrent. Of course we want to abolish the SEC and the FDA, to name but two useless and sometimes hazardous federal agencies. (Also, I find your claim that anarchists are "generally" anti-capitalist to be wrong; I guess I'm hanging out with a different crowd.)

Regarding the issue of resource scarcity, the quick and dirty answer is rights go to the first user. This is hardly a panacea, but neither are direct action or mutual aid. (BTW, I was hoping you'd pull a new rabbit out the anarchist hat. None of these ideas address the problem of the man with a gun in his face.)

Your example of the poor starving man is a nonstarter. The seminal "right to (one's own) life" is a basic prohibition against coercion. It is not a guarantee of any particular outcome, including easy access to food, clothing and shelter. If that sounds harsh to the liberals in the audience, rest assured that in a libertarian society, charities would (continue to) flourish. You'd also have a lot more money (the fruits of your labor) to spend on the causes you personally support, rather than being forced to fund someone else's agenda (e.g., abstinence-noly sex ed.).

Finally, it's been said that the US is currently the most libertarian country (government) in the world, but that is just damning us with faint praise. Posts such as Brian B's above convince me even more that some people are actually scared of personal freedom. Otherwise, why all the hostility towards such a simple, benign premise?
posted by oncogenesis at 12:34 AM on August 30, 2006


why all the hostility towards such a simple, benign premise

cuz libertopianism is just as benign as communism, for similar reasons; viz your:

including easy access to food, clothing and shelter

lays out the faults of right-libertarianism explicitly. A putative right to life without the inherent, inalienable right of *equal* access to natural wealth (ie Land in the economic sense) is nothing less but a license to be enslaved by those who successfully claim ownership of the commons.

Geolibertarianism is the only libertarianism with a shadow of a chance of working in the real-world, but even so I strongly suspect redistribution via democratic socialism is the most dynamic and fair arrangement of human affairs that is possible.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:01 AM on August 30, 2006


Like I said, I expected you to backpedal from the idealism expressed in the silly (and perhaps appropriately slow-paced) little flash animation. However, you have not addressed my criticisms in a serious manner. Statements like this:

The current economic system in the US may be "necessarily tied to the power and the breadth of the state and police apparatus", but that's because we live in a plutocracy.

make absolutely no sense.

Anyway, I already know that you want to abolish any kind of interference in the marketplace. Unfortunately, libertarian economics is currently something of a joke, because it is completely removed from the contemporary reality of how a market is made. For example, the massive creation of credit and liquidity since 1970, the ability of people to borrow money, the creation of new instruments that expand the definition of "capital", this is the product of regulation and market making that is only possible with ginormous bureaucracies, and the restriction of personal liberties. Your libertarian ("austrian school") economists would agree with this point. They rail against it, in fact. Thats why the mainstream economists largely ignore them, because they are divorced from the reality of the contemporary capitalist system. By contrast, mainstream capitalist economists dont ignore marxist economists because they arent divorced from the reality of the capitalist system, they are just honest about opposing certain fundamental elements of it.

anyway, its not just a modern thing, from the beginning of time, from the dawn of the city, the marketplace has been central and inextricably linked to the government. you cant touch (reduce) one without touching (reducing) the other. but along come libertarians who insist that such a magic trick is possible. you tell me the kind of minimal goverment you want (and almost certainly, its a rollback to something less developed than what there is now) and we can index back into history and tell you what the market (what capitalist endeavors) will look like. then ill handily remind you what the population or carrying capacity of the world was back then that was supportable under those parameters, and you can send me the libertarian proposal for the great culling.
posted by mano at 12:52 PM on August 30, 2006


Otherwise, why all the hostility towards such a simple, benign premise?

The word you're looking for is simplistic.
posted by pompomtom at 11:57 PM on August 30, 2006


Heywood Mogroot: lays out the faults of right-libertarianism explicitly. A putative right to life without the inherent, inalienable right of *equal* access to natural wealth (ie Land in the economic sense) is nothing less but a license to be enslaved by those who successfully claim ownership of the commons.

So you don't believe in private property? I can raise a tent on your lawn anytime I like? Eat the vegies in your garden? Meanwhile you'll be making spontaneous donations to Uncle Sam, eh? (Sorry for assuming you are a US taxpayer.)

The inconvenient truth is that the world owes you nothing. Don't blame the messenger.

Anyway, I don't call myself a right-libertarian. The left/right political dichotomy is specious.

mano: Like I said, I expected you to backpedal from the idealism expressed in the silly [...] little flash animation.

I just watched the silly little animation again and, as I remembered, there is absolutely no claim made that libertarianism == no state. It's not even about libertarianism per se. The silly little animation is about a philosophy of liberty. It's in the title! There is nothing there to backpedal away from. So please stop with the mischaracterizations and false accusations. If I weren't such a charitable person I'd say you were deliberately spreading disinformation.

I can't belive I'm catching grief from an anarchist...
posted by oncogenesis at 12:54 AM on August 31, 2006


please onco. the little flash animation is all about outright condemnation of government. anything that impinges on your "property". remember the little shields? the mocked up police? the circles with the lines through them? it all happens very slow, so you can't miss it.

of course, technically you are right, the flash doesnt ever explicitly say "government", so if technicalities is what you are looking for, fine, you get off on a technicality. but the same technicality is what makes most of us think libertarianism is just an ideological smokescreen for conservative, moneyed interests to increase their access to, and freedom to dominate the markets.
posted by mano at 9:54 AM on August 31, 2006


Condemnation of government overstepping claimed normative boundaries, not of government itself. Libertarianism is not Anarchism, and has never, ever repudiated the existence of the state itself- whatever the content of this flash animation.
posted by spaltavian at 4:23 PM on August 31, 2006


mano: the little flash animation is all about outright condemnation of government.

OK, you're through the looking glass now.
posted by oncogenesis at 5:11 PM on August 31, 2006


Posts such as Brian B's above convince me even more that some people are actually scared of personal freedom. Otherwise, why all the hostility towards such a simple, benign premise?

Obviously I don't agree that feudalism/libertarianism is personal freedom anymore than the right to own slaves is a valid personal freedom. Freedom is mutually defined by equal rights and justice, which includes taxing wealth and property ownership, not only because we print the money supply, but in order to limit exploitation of poverty and political corruption. Nothing is wrong with it, and we can laugh here if libertarians want to appeal to ethics to make their case since they preach self-interest, then why should I or anyone else care? The evolution of democratic liberalism came out of the feudal order, and was a huge success economically, which disproves libertarianism. Who would disagree? If someone is feeling repressed above and beyond the laws that favor the corporation and the wealthy already, they might want to examine whether it is psychological or actual. For example, drug addiction is not an actual state repression, neither are laws against pedophilia. Do libertarians disagree?
posted by Brian B. at 9:09 PM on August 31, 2006


So you don't believe in private property?

I'm horribly intrigued by the proposition that since no-one makes Land, no one should claim exclusive ownership of it. The fpp weaseled around this with some modifier on what was moral property.

From what I've seen, the geo-libertarians have got a rock-solid moral basis of their beliefs. Whether or not this would survive contact with the real world is an open question, though.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:23 PM on August 31, 2006


Heywood, what about intellectual property? Copyright? Etc, what do the geo-libs say about ownership of those?
posted by mano at 2:32 PM on September 1, 2006


Geo-libertarians are libertarians modulo absolute property rights in Land. Libertarians come down on both sides of the IP debate (Statist privilege vs. simple contractual protection of the fruit of Labor), but I really can't find anything on this, other than a wikipedia summary.

It's an interesting question... present IP law is horribly arbitrary and often injurious to the honest little guy, yet there does seem to be a societal/moral need to legislate the protection of the product's of one's creative labor.

As a left-libertarian I don't feel the necessity to be doctrinaire on these questions and would side with the solution that works best.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:26 PM on September 1, 2006


The point is the whole concept of intellectual property is a complete "F you" to the fundamental basis of libertarianism. you might address it a little bit more seriously, you know. when a libertarian tells you he feels "a societal/moral need to legislate" you have to scratch your head and wonder when the needs of society were all of a sudden reason to restrict a persons liberty to use ideas to their own personal benefit.

one is hard pressed to explain, say, how someone copying metallicas music "injures" metallica. this is a big point of intellectual property law, since my use of your intellectual property doesnt directly injure you, it injures your ability to profit off that property, but it doesnt deprive you of it. the only justifications for IP laws comes from (a) the needs of "society" as a whole to stimulate creative endeavors and (b) the right of a person to make a living offf their IP.

but again, why should that stop me from, hearing a tune, or recording it or copying a book, or making my own ice cream based on how i saw someone else do it? why should my liberties be restricted to enforce their profits? seriously, do libertarians believe that people have a right to control ideas? that metallica is inherently entitled to prevent me from downloading a friends mp3, when it deprives them of nothing?
posted by mano at 11:45 PM on September 1, 2006


why should my liberties be restricted to enforce their profits?

I'm a pragmatic ("left-"), not a doctrinaire libertarian. As a workerbee in the IP industry with dreams/dementia of making my own IP "Title", I think IP protection in the marketplace is a good idea.

Creating is Hard, Copying is Easy. IMHO, Copying kills the market for Creators. If there were no IP protections -- ie license to print money for a limited time, I would be much more hesitant to even consider working on my own stuff.

But this is just my opinion. Perhaps a Chinese/HK style market anarcy would not overly penalize market entrants, but I remain dubious.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:12 PM on September 3, 2006


« Older "This agression will not stand."   |   It's time to nominate three... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments