Archive | January, 2014

Response to Responses

4 Jan

My friend Michael Hamilton wrote a thoughtful response to my last post, and this post is my response to that one. I will also address a few comments from the Facebook comments section.

When you differ on the most fundamental level, as I do with Mike, disagreements are found everywhere. For instance, I even disagree with his use of the word “prudence.” Unfortunately, we aren’t having a conversation, where topics can be taken up with greater ease and questions be asked at every turn. So I will address what I think is the crux of his argument and our general disagreement.

” Vices are actions bad for the person doing something, crimes are actions that victimize a third party. Vices only deserve scorn, while violence can be rightfully used to stop crimes, even those not committed against you.”

The vice/crime distinction is arbitrary and depends on circumstance rather than principle. Let me explain: the smaller a political community, the more clearly we see that it needs the devotion of each citizen. In a group of 10, when one member lapses into indolence. his indolence has direct consequences for the group. The individual’s indolence weakens the group, and therefore harms the other citizens. In America, the vast commercial republic, the disintegration of thousands and thousands of lives can be outweighed by the work ethic and habits of millions of other members. Not to mention the extreme case of war, where a people “fights for its very existence.” In such cases the indolence and weakness of some members of a social-body clearly harms other members. Should those who wish for the health of the whole ignore the growth and spread of pernicious habits?

Our nation’s size makes it easy to say to oneself “my own private habits are nothing more than that, my own! If they are a problem, they are my problem. Bugger off.” This illusion disappears in certain cases, and will gradually disappear as weakness and indolence become the norm. Once it becomes very visible to the majority of citizens that indolence and bad habits are damaging to the whole, they finally respond. But this response often happens too late and at the end of the road. This end of the road response is often violent and it has historically been fascist. The people turn to fascism (or something similar) because the people see very clearly that each person needs to contribute and instead of trying to bolster the habits and social norms through persuasion, they turn to law (force) and ask it to accomplish everything. In the modern setting, this has horrible consequences. So the American Conservative always keeps in view that decayed liberal democracies turn fascist, and to avoid the weakness of decay and the terror of fascism, he (the American Conservative) uses his rhetoric to attempt to halt, slow, or reverse the decay. He might try to keep marijuana illegal now, so that in the future the government does not take the reigns and ask the law to do far more.

We see the weakness of the libertarian position in my friend’s professed love of blue states/cities. He loves the social decay that, as one of his commenters noted, always seems tied to invasive governments.

Nathan Kross: I have spent far too much time on the above and need to do something else with my day. I also feel inadequate, insofar as I think you are correct, but only in a way. The contrary position is nuanced and that nuance, along with the talent for bringing out that nuance, is beyond my capacities here. I offer a quote that addresses your concerns, but only in a way. It is a quote from Willmoore Kendall.



Why I Am Not A Libertarian – The Myth of Neutrality

3 Jan

It is shortsighted or dishonest to think that the legalization of hitherto illegal activities can ever be value-neutral. Another way of putting it: it is shortsighted or dishonest to think you do not have a way of life and that this way of life does not necessarily conflict with other ways of life.

The libertarian thinks: “You do not have to smoke Marijuana. Keeping it illegal is an oppressive wish to enforce your views on other people.” He has the corresponding thought: “I do not force my views on others because I want to legalize it. My views aren’t oppressing others because I am giving them the choice to smoke or not.”

First, I will make a simple plea to honesty. And then, I will give a possible example that refutes the libertarian claim to neutrality. In this post I am trying to convince the libertarian that “You too want the law to mirror your opinions of right and wrong.”559532_124365704380703_469266583_n-600x350

(1) Be honest libertarian-liberal friends, you have a “value system” just as much as anyone else. When you succeed in legalizing something hitherto illegal, your values have beaten somebody else’s values. It is not morally neutral to say it is OK to use marijuana, but a moral position just like any other moral position. The only difference is that it is a more permissive position, insofar as it permits human beings the choice of smoking. It appears to be the less oppressive option because it offers this choice, whereas the person who wishes to keep marijuana illegal appears to be more oppressive because he is willing to limit what others are legally allowed.

However, what if I find it oppressive to live in a world where nobody shares my way of life? A people are free when they are free to live their way of life. This requires two things: (1) that your political community shares your way of life, and (2) that your political community isn’t the slave of another political community. If your way of life is to smoke pot and eat McDonald’s, then you are free so long as your community says these are good things to do and another community hasn’t come by and enslaved you.

(2) Example: Pretend I am a political leader that works very hard to keep the people of my city moderate and strong. I know that it takes a great deal of work to do this, because human passions are hard things to compete against. They persuade most people. Nevertheless, I love the freedoms my people have earned through our courage, moderation and ability to wage war against our enemies and so I work very hard to persuade my people that listening to their base pleasures is bad. Suppose a libertarian swaggers into my city and says, “Don’t you all know you should be allowed to eat as much McDonald’s as you like and smoke marijuana as well!” What am I to think of this character? My first thought will be that he is trying to enslave me and my people. His people must have been exhausted by our strength and this is their insidious plot to weaken us. But what happens when I find out this little talking-box is sincere? What a wonder! Of course, his sincerity only makes him more of a threat. That is, his ideas will weaken my people whether he is sincere or not, but it will be harder to convince my people that he is evil if he is indeed sincere and not at all malicious. His sincerity has a better shot of winning my people over to the bad thing because he is sincere, and so he turns out to be a graver enemy for his sincerity. Now, say the libertarian, over many years, convinced my people to eat McDonald’s and smoke pot. Who will have conquered whom?

In the end it is not about any given choice, but about ways of life made up by many choices. There are very few ways of life that are not based in a political community. When someone wants to change the laws of a community that person wants to change the ways of that community. This is a zero-sum game. It is time we were all a little more honest with ourselves about politics.

Post Script: I am fully aware this honesty can be dangerous, but it seems that the present dishonesty is the real threat at the moment a la Tocqueville’s soft-despotism. We are striking down anti-polygamy laws for goodness sake! “Nothing is dangerous.” A dangerous (and boring) way of thinking.