Posts Tagged ‘ libertarianism

The Bikecast Episode #53: Which Virtues will Flourish in a Free World?

A gross misconception exists about the nature of a free world. Actually, a large number of misconceptions exist, and usually I find myself talking to people who believe that a free world would be swarming with Roving Bands of Armed Thugs who will systematically and perpetually victimize everyone else[1].

Lately, I’ve begun to sense another hypothesis in the ether, this from the libertarian camp itself. I haven’t heard anyone come right out with it, so this is kind of a patchwork of implied narratives.

Download this episode of the Bikecast

The world envisioned is mostly peaceful sparsely populated by wise, intelligent and strong men around whom industry and civil society forms. These men are not to be trifled with and disputes among them, if they can’t be settled by peaceful means can sometimes involve the judicious use of arms–perhaps modelled after the gentlemans’ duels of ages past.

These occasional clashes, though, needn’t be common because of the nobility and virtue of these men of merit. They don’t pursue selfish ends nor those destructive to others, so there’s no reason to challenge their will–which is a good thing because they are strong, quick, and well armed.

These men (both those of the imagined future and those that imagine them) could be described as consumate “porcupine pacifists”–the analogy speaks for itself–because they want to be sure that it’s understood that, although they won’t attack anyone, they will kick (or kill) your ass if you mess with them. They will also let you know about all the other people whose asses they will kick or kill if those people mess with them–the list is often long.

I have a couple of issues with this narrative–a couple posts worth at least. One related to the above bikecast is around my strongly held opinion that in a free world the virtues that will thrive and reproduce are mostly the opposite of those held by the honorable men in the above narrative.

To caveat: it’s of course impossible to predict the future with much reliability. It’s quite possible that, in the future, humanity abandons the standard of living produced by a thriving and tightly interwoven network of market relationships in favor of more isolation and simplicity. It’s possible that somehow that the armed and vigilant men never cross a line and threaten or bully a weaker person. I don’t know what long and transformative path would have to be tread for humanity to find itself in such a place, but as I say, the future is unknowable and this particular libertarian fantasy might play out somewhere down the line.

That said, I think a far more likely scenario is a society founded on something similar to the day-to-day relationships most of us enjoy now. These relationships aren’t based on fear of reprisal from some third party authority, but rather on trust, respect, empathy, and reciprocity. Flourishing in this possible future depends on skill at maintaining peer-to-peer relationships and a reputation for fair dealings instead of a strong right hook and good aim.

In this imagined libertarian world, understanding and anticipating the motivation and needs of others will be a highly valued and much sought after skill. Cooperating, negotiating and nurturing long term, win-win partnerships will be foundational to accumulating the social and physical capital to be a leader whose judgement others will voluntarily trust and defer to (without dueling).

In the fast paced and constantly adjusting economy that will be the engine of a global society that allows billions of people to thrive and prosper, guns will, I forecast, almost never be brandished. This is not to say that people won’t carry firearms for personal safety. I assume they will as they do now–sociopaths will always be with us, I fear. They will be used for this purpose very rarely. Even now, many people go a lifetime without needing to use lethal force to defend themselves (at least from strangers, assaults by spouses and family members remains very common).

That the very idea that empathy, cooperation, and relating to others as peers strikes some libertarians as weak, feminine and maybe sorta pinko (if you’re old enough) gets to the heart of the issue.

The virtues that will provide value to the future are frequently denigrated by self-labelled liberty lovers. Those that are antithetical to a free and prosperous world–primarily centered around the prominence of defensive or redemptive violence–are simultaneously given much attention.

There are universally positive qualities around independence, free thought, determination and other traits expressed historically in “free men” because their position in the social hierarchy allowed them to express these traits and society rewarded their expression. It’s an error to blend in physical size, strength, and martial ability–the traits that kept men atop the hierarchy–with the others and label these as masculine virtues.

In the same way, there are universally positive qualities around cooperation, empathy, ability to communicate and to maintain a complex web of social relationships–the traits expressed historically by slave classes, primarily women. It’s an error to blend submissiveness, humility, and self-deprecation–the traits that kept the slave alive–with these others and label them feminine.

The future belongs to the courageous and independent free thinker, the empathetic communicator and the social negotiator. These characteristics have no gender or race and are the cornerstone of a free and prosperous society. The martial virtues, physical strength (beyond what improves health and vitality), and a belief in redemptive violence have very little use in any popularly desirable free future world and yet they seem to play such an core role in the current libertarian movement. I believe that, going forward, it will be increasingly important to examine and question this tendency and those who hold it.

  1. [1] I always like to point out, usually to poor effect, that there already are Roving Bands of Armed Thugs systematically and perpetually victimizing everyone else, but apparently national militaries and police don’t count).

The Bikecast Episode #52: Race, Gender, and Anarchism

The status of women as 2nd (3rd? 9th?) class members of the societal hierarchy receives stunningly little attention from male libertarians and anarchists–the folks that claim the greatest desire to eliminate institutional hierarchies of all types and to live in a society of equals.

This incongruity fits a larger pattern. The most strikingly barbaric and absurd social norms are all but invisible to the majority of people and are certainly never spoken of except in the most trusted of conversations. Anarchists know this because barbaric state power is one such social norm. Shrieking rage-filled prophesies of doom fill the air (at least eventually) anytime the dissolution of government is discussed in a public forum, thus indicating that someone has begun to question things that should not be questioned.

Multiply the viciousness and sensitivity of this reaction by a few orders of magnitude and you’ll have arrived at the vitriol that is aimed at those who criticize society’s treatment of women. God forbid the critic is herself a woman.

Download this episode of the Bikecast

As with many bikecasts, the “show notes” and the audio sort of diverge and end up covering different facets of the topic. This is compounded by the double recording session in the podcast. I still think it has alot of value, but it ends up trying to cover alot of material perhaps a bit too thinly. I appreciate feedback :)

An Illustrative Example at the Gonzo Times

Case in point, an article by Gonzo Times journalist Punk Johnny Cash titled A Problem Of White Male Anarchism and Libertarianism We Must Confront.
It’s an excellent read that dares wonder why it is that liberation movements–anarchism and libertarianism specifically–are so radically devoid of non-white and non-male participants.

As interesting as the article, though–at least from the perspective of this post–are
the comments. They are very civil compared to what we’ll see further along in the post, and consist of two categories of response. The first is a thoughtful, interactive dialogue among a fairly diverse group of people, many of whom are (or seem to be, it is the internet after all) non-male/non-white/non-straight. Here are a couple examples:

  • I’ve talked to several other anarchist women who won’t participate in anarchist groups any more because of their general hostility and emphasis on destruction. So they work outside of explicitly anarchist venues.
  • I’ve had “libertarian” men post the nastiest comments to me when I point out the sexism in their commentaries. Part of the reason I’m selective about where I post, which people I e-associate with, etc., is because I’m sick of having misogynist slurs hurled at me,sick of the defensive crap that occurs whenever you ask someone to check their privilege
  • Maybe it’s not the beliefs, but the behavior of many of those who hold them. The libertarian movement could use a drastic reduction in assholery.
  • The online anarchist community has quite a few trolls and jerks, and after I connected with other anarchists I liked, I chose to spend less time online because it’s more fun and productive to spend time with people in person.
  • In my experience, however, some of the most anti-queer and gender-fascist remarks I’ve heard have come out of the mouths of straight white cis male anarchists

The second category of comment is entirely divorced from the thread of the first. It claims international fabian socialism, historically rooted cultural differences, and, believe it or not, the incredible benefits that women and minorities receive from the state as reasons for the dominance of white male voices in anarchist spaces[1] That’s not to say that this category of comment is devoid of any truth or value to the discussion, but nowhere are the clearly stated and repeated reasons given by the other commenters addressed.

Let me jump in here and add a note related to the podcast and the rest of this post. I ended up, because I’m riding my bike and babbling from the top of my head, inadvertently focusing on the issue of women. I will sort of mirror that here. The issues of race, gender identity, sexual preference, etc. have many clear parallels, but I don’t address them to the same degree.

In the last week, a facebook discussion took place with a slightly escalated tone. Again, voices speaking about being shut out, shouted down, and verbally attacked were ignored (or countered) with commenters claiming that race and gender weren’t issues that required their attention. The discussion was started by a woman and the first three to five dismissive posts were white men. Again, largely civil, though maybe slightly more agitated, and though there were reasonable points among the comments, the crux of the matter, again, was ignored.

Punk Johnny Cash followed up this week with another good gonzotimes piece
This time, for some reason, the comments start with

Feminism is essentially Big Brother with a vagina.

proceed to

What the hell is so wrong with patriarchy, anyway? People assume that dominance is wrong, but if you like being dominated, why shouldn’t you be able to cede control?

and end up with

The “issues” of race and gender are really non-issues. . . except from a statist or wannabe-statist point of view.
“Abuse” is a statist creation, brought about mostly by economic meddling which forces a man to work overtime or take a second (or even third) job to support his family.Add to this, women who can’t keep their mouths shut, who use their words as surrogate baseball bats to bludgeon their man into submission; or women who stand in doorways to prevent the man from leaving the room/house so as to DE-escalate (caused mainly by the rise of “Feminism,” another statist invention). . . they kind of deserve what they get.
Stress someone enough, and eventually they’ll break.

And other than a heroic effort from PJC and Scott F (another gonzotimes journalist) to bring some semblance of sanity to the comments, there are no other voices present.

And yet even this is unicorns and rainbows compared with much of the shit directed at women on the internetz.

A Brief Reexamination of the the Historical Relationship between the Sexes

As a brief interlude, let’s reexamine the history of the sexes[2]. For something between 10,000 and a few hundred thousand years, women were property. They were bought, sold, traded, captured raped, killed, and otherwise disposed of without consequence[3].

It’s only been in the last 100 years, something less than 1% of human history,that any women at all were anything but man’s possession. I, having a finite life, can only grasp the enormity of this fact in the abstract, but we move around in a reality saturated by this history. And just as would happen if one’s car or microwave oven gained sentience and started making demands for equality, when one-time property began attempting to assert independence, men went (and most are still going) apeshit.

Perhaps the freshest modern example of this development in the middle east where women are routinely beaten, sexually assaulted and killed for having the temerity to learn to read, travel without escort, drive a car, or leave the house at all without complete physical cover. This isn’t some distant and bizarre alien culture. These conditions prevailed throughout the west until the last hundred years or so (minus the cars).

In the west, when conditions of near anonymity prevail, men will let their bigotry flag fly high, as we’ve already seen. When we move out of the realm of internet forums based around the premises of non-aggression and human equality, shit gets ugly(er) real goddamn fast.

Obviously this is just scratching the very privileged internet surface of the all encompassing poisonous atmosphere that is bigotry against women. From rape apologia to physical and sexual assault to just about any topic or by any metric conceivable, it fucking sucks to be a woman society.

At the root of it is the physical, violent domination that is a constant threat and pervasive reality for every woman. That this isn’t constantly acknowledged and constantly opposed by the folks who want a hierarchy, dominance-free, stateless society shows just how far we have to go.

Oh yeah, and it’s even worse for children.

I made mention in the podcast, for those who justdon’tbelieve this shit exists–by the metric shit-ton–that I’d post some good starting points on the blog. If you’re a woman, I gently recommend not visiting them. They are certainly triggering in any case.

While looking around, I found that someone is actually cataloging this stuff as a blog. Rather than link directly to the shit, I’ll just point to a couple pages where the analysis might take some of the edge off”>

In my last minute audio edits, I realize that I specifically talked about citing examples of women being attacked for “stepping out of line” in forums and advocating for themselves. I’ll try to get back to digging some of that particular type of gross up and adding it to the post, but I don’t want to delay publishing. Sorry for the shoddy quality of the research around here.

  1. [1] I’m treading a thin line here, but I want to contrast the simple claim that women benefit from the state with the more nuanced claim that women, as the societally constructed care providing gender, are “stuck with” the state.
  2. [2] Again, there are clear and strong parallels with other oppressed populations.
  3. [3] Although in some of the more enlightened cultures, if a rapist was caught, he had to marry his victim–so that’s a big win (Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NLT).

The Bikecast Episode #16: Rand Paul and Libertarianism

This is a short podcast. I recap the last one and then talk briefly about the confusion (at least my confusion) around the label “libertarian”.

Download this episode of the bikecast

In the course of the ritual abuse of Rand Paul, leftists-authoritarians, smelling blood and a two-for-one bargain, have expanded their attack to libertarians in general. This gives me one of those momentary starts that I get when my carefully constructed illusory pre-utopia is intruded upon by ugly reality. 

In my world, libertarians are anarchists: Chomsky, Ward Colin, Samuel Konkin, and all the wonderful people in the Alliance of the Libertarian Left. There are no libertarian politicians because the core of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle and politics is founded on aggression.

Here’s some Chomsky to better express what I’m talking about (h/t J.R. Boyd for incidentally pointing me at this interview):

The United States is sort of out of the world on this topic. Britain is to a limited extent, but the United States is like on Mars. So here, the term “libertarian” means the opposite of what it always meant in history. Libertarian throughout modern European history meant socialist anarchist. It meant the anti-state element of the Workers Movement and the Socialist Movement . . . the anti-statist branch, which included Marxists, Left Marxists — Rosa Luxemburg and others — kind of merged, more or less, into an amalgam with a big strain of anarchism into what was called “libertarian socialism.” So libertarian in Europe always meant socialist. . . . [in Europe] it meant, and always meant to me, socialist and anti-state, an anti-state branch of socialism, which meant a highly organized society, completely organized and nothing to do with chaos, but based on democracy all the way through. That means democratic control of communities, of workplaces, of federal structures, built on systems of voluntary association, spreading internationally. That’s traditional anarchism. You know, anybody can have the word if they like, but that’s the mainstream of traditional anarchism.

Political libertarians, or “republicans” as they’re sometimes known, always sound incoherent because they are trying to use the violence of the state to end state violence. They end up sounding like racist assholes because they want to allow private business to use the police powers of the state to enforce private racism while also refraining from using the police powers of the state to regulate property. Free property and regulated humans is about as incoherent and obviously flawed as a doctrine can be.

I think that case is pretty open-and-shut. Going forward, when I use the term libertarian, I mean someone who subscribes to the non-aggression principle. Rand Paul, Ron Paul, the tea party, and anyone else who believes that state violence is required to resolve disputes between individuals, I will refer to as democrats, republicans, authoritarians or statists.

An related Salon article popped up on my facebook radar which kind of blew my mind. It exemplifies some true ninja-like mental acrobatics which can simultaneously defend and attack state capitalism. After reading it a couple times, I’m still not sure I can grapple with it, so well have the reasoning centers of my brain been blinded and pummeled. The conclusion is that libertarians are stupid. I assume the author is referring to non neo-conservative republicans.

And I think, ultimately this is the point of attacking the vestigial “small government” politician.

The position of the modern statist, left and right, is that everyone needs to be on board with the authoritarian agenda. It’s cute and all to imagine that people can work together to solve problems, their argument goes. In reality, the only reason every interaction between two people doesn’t end in a homicide is because of the security infrastructure that the state provides.

The only way that we are protected from the violent swarms of the underclasses is that the state feeds and houses them enough to keep them from seizing the reigns of power.

According to the statist argument, well presented by the Salon article: “The government didn’t just help make the ‘free market’ in the first place — although it did do that. It’s also constantly busy trimming around the edges, maintaining the thing, keeping it healthy.”

This is an excellent narrative, a network of “big lies,” if you will. The “free market,” if that’s what we’re calling our economic system, isn’t healthy at all. It is sick and diseased and on the verge of collapse. It relies on massive and increasing degrees of coercion and violence, endless warfare, global hegemony and empire. Every time it’s rotten structure is propped up by the state, the altitude from which the final plummet will begin increases.

Homes and lives aren’t protected from the poor and desperate by the state. The state impoverishes, cripples, criminalizes and imprisons by the millions and then attempts to create social fear for the legion of mostly harmless, helpless people it has created.

The salon article concludes:

And that’s why the best rap on libertarians isn’t that they’re racist, or selfish. (Though some of them are those things, and their beliefs encourage both bad behaviors, even if accidentally.) It’s that they’re thoroughly out of touch with reality. It’s a worldview that prospers only so long as nobody tries it, and is too unreflective and self-absorbed to realize this. In other words, it’s bratty. And that’s bad enough.

I’m not defending political libertarianism, but any attack on it should pertain also to the orders-of-magnitude greater impact of authoritarianism in actual practice. Political libertarianism may “prosper so long as nobody tries it.” But state capitalism and authoritarianism is a fucking global bloodbath with an adjacent network of gulags and an environmental disaster of spectacular proportion to boot.

The belief that this sick system is ever going to take it’s boot heel off the neck of the under-privileged is out of touch with reality. The belief that it already has is truly delusional.

Of all the unreflective, self-absorbed blindness in all of history, that of the modern western statist, left and right, is unparalleled. They are in complete possession of the facts–all the knowledge of all human history is at their disposal. Alternate points of view are staring them in the face every day and these points of view are continually gaining traction as the tottering giant of western civilization continues it’s bloody collapse. Still, given all this, they cling to the state and beg it to deliver them from the injustices and problems caused by the state.

It truly boggles the mind.

Post Script from a Salon article linked to from the above article:

I’m actually sorry that Paul caved on the question of the Civil Rights Act, because if he’d stuck to his guns, we could have had a debate about the correct remedies, past, present and future, for the enduring legacy of legal discrimination against black people.

I’m sorry too. I get a psychologically-unhealthy pleasure from watching statists attempt to get the state to legislate against oppressive aspects of the state while ignoring the fact that ditching the whole oppressive apparatus would alleviate the need to try to fix it. Or, put another way, taken from the sidebar (not sure if there’s a permalink to this sort of thing) of already-multiply-linked-to IOZ:

I can see how some of this might be confusing for some of ya’ll. . .because I mean, the laws were there and they were bad to begin with. . .and we must never have such bad laws. . .therefore we must have better, more equitable, less racist laws? WHY DON’T YOU STOP ENFORCING STUPID FUCKING SHIT? how about that? why is that not the simplest and best argument? ENFORCE NOTHING. JUST FUCKING STOP. it actually is that breathtakingly simple.