The Early Days of a Better Nation

Friday, January 11, 2008

Coming right at ya!

David D. Friedman has the draft of a book about the future on his website. It looks like interesting stuff, and Friedman has in his so far published writings always been a delight to read, whether you agree with him or not.

Another libertarian writer who I (at least) have always enjoyed reading is David Ramsay Steele, who has a book coming out on atheism.


Ron Paul in the US, is making libertarian a bad word.

Many libertarians in the US would agree.

I like reading David's stuff but find his online persona a nightmare to deal with.

He never loses his temper but frequently resorts to "but I am a clever man and have researched [SUBJECT] extensively, here is my [INSERT LINK TO BOOK OR 10,000 WORD+ ARTICLE] work on the subject, what is your critique of my position, oh, and here are some [INSERT NAMES] who generally agree with me.

Frequently, however, I've noticed that he does tend to cherry pick some of his research and positions to purely support his stand. He has long essays on failures of "socialized" medicine in the US but will admit that he has never studied the non-market systems of any modern industrialized country because they are "too similar to the US model".

That sort of thing strikes me as slightly intellectually dishonest.

"Ron Paul in the US, is making libertarian a bad word."

In the US, he isn't the only one, or the first. My impression of "American" libertarianism is that they are all about the Free Market and "market efficiency at all costs", where "economic freedom" trumps all other freedoms.

American libertarians seem to think colluding monolithic self-serving cabals are good if they are corporations, and only bad if they are government beaurocracies.

To American libertarians, the government isn't just an inefficient organization that could stand to be more decentralized, but a monster to be constantly feared.

To them the Market is a strict thing, where even the thoughts in people's heads are someone's property. The Free Market is not "the only framework, but only a framework", but everything to them, practically to a religious level. They want "mini-states instead of a minimal state", and they want people segregated apart until it's everyone for themselves.

American libertarians strike me as only focused on tearing down all social infrastructure (baby, bathwater, and all) instead of focusing on solutions that can be implemented more independently of the government.

This calls to mind a line from The Star Fraction: "We want to go beyond this, do better than it. Not go back from it."

American libertarians are all about "going back"...

Preferably back to before the American Civil War.

(This is a gross generalization, of course, but as an organization this is how they come across to me. Indeed, Ron Paul certainly isn't helping.)

Speaking of these connotations, they are what cause me to identify more with the "socialism" label, but to paraphrase yet another quote from the Fall Revolution books, "it's not something you force on people, but people organizing on their own" into groups where everyone co-operates while making sure their own best interests are being served.

Some people might say that description is of "libertarianism" and that socialism is the label with negative connotations...

Mini-states aren't a bad idea as long as none of them gets the expansionist bug - and therein lies the proverbial rub.

Aye, or they split off from the surrounding communities and become "pocket dictatorships"... or they get into arguments with adjoining states over slavery, etc...

Or the relationship formed between each mini-state becomes a top-heavy hierarchy, drawing power away from individuals and communities, and then the mini-states assimilate into a State.

It's a sticky wicket.

Frenetic, when you write "American libertarians seem to think colluding monolithic self-serving cabals are good if they are corporations, and only bad if they are government beaurocracies" etc., it is either a tautology true by the definition of US Libertarian you are using, or false from omitting a small but material subset like "Left Libertarians" from a larger and more amorphous set.

To see how there are actually some Americans who don't buy into corporations as good guys but still embrace freedom, including but not restricted to economic freedom, try Kevin Carson, who is actually linked from Ken MacLeod's site right here along with another of his pages. Of course, "Libertarian" stops being a useful definition once it gets too broad, and I don't think it really applies to Kevin Carson - he might not even self-identify as such - but he did get published in the Journal of Libertarian Studies and got a sympathetic hearing from Roderick Long as editor. That does show that the continuum of "US Libertarian" extends beyond what you are using and that the extensions are a material subset.

p.m.lawrence: Yes, in my first post I did mention that I was grossly generalizing US Libertarians. What I was really talking about was the most prominent of the self-identified US Libertarians (eg. Ron Paul and members of the US Libertarian Party); my point was not that everyone who can be described as Libertarian in the US is like what I described.

Mainly I was trying to say that Ron Paul is far from unique in the US, but my post degenerated into a rant.

AFAIK, with the exception of some of the less authoritarian US Republicans, the US Libertarian Party is usually ignored or ostracized by every other political persuasion, American "Left Libertarians" included.

While surfing on the Net I found your blog, I stopped at it to have a rest and I explored it. There is interesting stuff displayed. Now I continue my surfing…
Make a stop at my blog, if you wish. Ciao.

David, I don't think David (Friedman, I presume) is even slightly intellectually dishonest. I do think he's, ah, partisan ...

Ken, I did say "slightly" :)

I agree that he's partisan, but I am troubled that somebody as obviously intelligent is effectively able to warp data to fit his world view and not seem remotely concerned by any of the inconsistencies that generates.

Like with the crowd at Samizdata, his online persona actually seems counterproductive to promoting liberatarian ideals by making them look, well, a bit nuts really.

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