Reason and Libertarianism in the Trump Era [Reason Podcast] – Reason (blog)

“Free movement of people and goods across borders are incredibly important things. And Trump is not into either of those things”Katherine Mangu-Ward.

At the 10th annual International Students for Liberty Conference, Reason magazine Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward, former editor and longtime head of the Institute for Humane Studies Marty Zupan, and I discussed the history and future of Reason and libertarianism in President Donald Trump’s America.

We each talked about the signature issues of the decades we were at the magazine’s helm (the 1980s for Zupan, the ’00s for me, and currently for Mangu-Ward) and whether libertarianism is waxing or waning.

This podcast was recorded live on Friday, February 17. Now finishing up its first decade, SFL reported that about 1,700 guests from all over the world attended this year’s conference.

Produced by Mark McDaniel.

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Reason and Libertarianism in the Trump Era [Reason Podcast] – Reason (blog)

Alt-Right Leader Richard Spencer Crashed a Student Libertarian Conference and Was Shunned – Reason (blog)

Jeff Malet Photography/NewscomOn Saturday, alt-right leader Richard Spencer crashed the 10th annual International Students for Liberty Conference at a hotel in Washington, D.C. After quarreling with conference attendees, he left the premises.

Spencer, a self-declared white nationalist who believes the U.S. is losing its white identity, had no business attending a gathering of libertarian students, and conference organizers had every right to eject him. Indeed, their decision to do so was a valid exercise of libertarian principles in action.

I attended the conference, along with several other Reason staffers. The Reason Foundation is a co-sponsor of ISFLC, and hosted several events during the conference. One of those events, a panel discussion about sex trafficking featuring Reason Associate Editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown and Director of Criminal Justice Reform Lauren Krisai, unfolded at roughly the same time as Spencer’s unsolicited visit. I was in the audience at that event, and did not cross paths with Spencer.

But it’s clear from video footage that Spencer set himself up in the bar of the hotelthe Marriott Wardman in Woodley Parkand attempted to host an unscheduled and unwanted conversation about his despicable views. To be absolutely clear: Spencer was not welcome at the hotel and had not been invited to participate in ISFLC.

“We did not invite Mr. Spencer,” said SFL CEO Wolf von Laer in a statement. “We reject his hateful message and we wholeheartedly oppose his obsolete ideology.”

Eventually, Jeffrey Tuckeran influential libertarian thinkerconfronted Spencer and made clear to the alt-right provocateur that he “did not belong” at ISFLC. Some shouting ensued, and hotel staff intervened. Shortly thereafter, Spencer left.

It’s not completely clear whether Spencer departed of his own accord: he seems to think he was forced to leave, while others say he asked security to see him out safely, even though he was in no danger. But it hardly matters: the Marriott Wardman hotel is private property, and should enjoy the absolute right to evict irksome and unwelcome guests from its premises.

Spencer has attempted to wring as much publicity from the incident as possiblehe tweeted about it no fewer than 40 times, by my count. In his mind, libertarians are “lolbertarians” who need to “accept the reality of race” and get serious about “white replacement.” To the extent that his only goal in life is to garner more attention for his fringe worldview, I suppose the stunt was a successhere I am writing about it. Congrats to you, guy who thinks “the United States is a European country.”

In any case, the incident should make abundantly clear that the alt-right’s racism is incompatible with the principles of a free society. Libertarianism is an individualist philosophy that considers all people deserving of equal rights. In contrast, Spencer is a tribalist and collectivist whose personal commitment to identity politics vastly exceeds the left’s.

Spencer is entitled to broadcast his vile opinions, and to make equal use of public resources. He should not be attacked on the street, or anywhere else. But no private actor is required to give him a platformotherwise, property rights would cease to matter.

ISFLC, an organization that works tirelessly to support the cause of liberty all over the worldnot just for white American college studentshandled the matter correctly, in my view.

Disclaimer: I am a friend of Students for Liberty, and won the organization’s 2016 Alumni of the Year Award.

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Alt-Right Leader Richard Spencer Crashed a Student Libertarian Conference and Was Shunned – Reason (blog)

3.7 Libertarianism Flashcards | Quizlet

Weaknesses (of libertarianism)

1. According to the libertarian, we experience our own freedom when we make choices. But in our dreams, we have the feeling that we are making choices even though we know that dreams are the product of the physiological and psychological causes that produce them. Hence, we can feel as though we are free even though causes are producing our behavior. 2. According to some thinkers, the scientific view of the world is based on the conviction that events follow fixed laws and that there is a cause for everything being the way that it is. If this statement is a correct account of science, does libertarianism then fl y in the face of modern science? If so, because nothing can compete with modern science in unveiling the nature of reality, don’t these facts negate libertarianism? 3. According to libertarianism, every free act is based on a volition or an act of the will. But in a given case, why did a particular volition come about at the precise time that it did and why was it directed toward this or that outcome? (Why did you decide to listen to music at this precise time and not three minutes earlier or later? Why did you decide to listen to this particular CD and not the others that were available?) Isn’t the libertarian forced to admit that either our volitions pop into our heads uncaused (in which case, they are unexplained, indeterministic events that happen to us) or they are the result of previous acts of the will? In the latter case, we are caught in an infinite regress. For example, your decision to listen to music was based on your decision to relax, which was based on your decision to take a break from studying, which was based on your decision to do x, and so on. Doesn’t it seem that libertarianism leads to the notion that our free actions are based on an absurd and impossible infinite series of willings? 4. Isn’t it the case that the better you get to know a person, the more his or her actions are predictable? Doesn’t this finding indicate that the more knowledge we have of people’s past, their personality, and the present circumstances that are affecting them, the more we understand the causes that are operating on them to produce their behavior? Aren’t we convinced that a person’s past experiences are a key to understanding why he or she became a saint or a serial killer? If so, doesn’t this argument undermine libertarianism?

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3.7 Libertarianism Flashcards | Quizlet

Identity Politics and Libertarianism – Being Libertarian

In the past decade, America has experienced an increase in identity politics, centered on race, gender, sexual orientation, and class status. This, combined with a two-party system, has resulted in very divided far Left and far Right ideologies. Identity has become a cornerstone of American politics.

This mindset only serves to further drive the wedge between the Left and the Right, observed through the recent riots at UC Berkeley, where a Left-wing fascist group, ironically calling themselves Antifa (short for Anti-Fascists), deemed violence an appropriate method to silence those whose opinions they disagree with. This collectivist mindset has swept across politics recently, and is now commonplace in the Left-wing progressive movement.

These are people who pretend to be protecting the rights of minority groups, like gays and blacks, but who are quick to label anyone from these minority groups as traitors, coons, and Uncle Toms if they fail to fall in line and preach their message. They fail to see how these people are not part of a group mindset, but are actually individuals with their own opinions and ability to think for themselves. This failure has led to Orwellian ideas like wrongthink, the idea that someones thoughts or expressed opinions can somehow be dangerous and must be met with violence to defend oneself from being assaulted. This of course is a ridiculous and draconian mindset to have.

Of course, as one may expect, the rise of identity politics on the Left has begun to seep into the Right as well, though it is not quite mainstream enough to be able to point to any solid examples. One can easily point to the Left and find numerous examples of identity politics run amok, but the Right has far fewer instances where this is plainly seen. Even the Alt-Right, which also often resorts to name calling and ridicule of anyone who disagrees with them, is more inclusive than far-Left groups.

Libertarianism has no place for identity politics; each person, despite his race, class, gender, or sexual orientation is seen to be an individual and is judged as such. This is why it can be difficult to find two libertarians who agree with one another on many issues outside of the ideologys core principles of property rights, individual freedoms, and so on.

The Libertarian Party is quickly becoming the bastion of individualism, a place for all people to come together and express their ideas without fear of reprisal or violence simply because their ideas do not conform to the collectivist mindset of the Left.

The group mindset is failing, and when the disenfranchised have realized that neither major party supports all of their personal ideals, they will begin to search for something new. The Libertarian Party stands to gain much traction from this shift away from collectivist group-think towards individualist ideology.

When identity politics divides the country into small groups who hate one another, individualism suddenly becomes a uniting force. As such, libertarianism outdoes any other political ideology.

So, to the women, minorities, members of the LGBT community, and anyone else who feels that these characteristics are arbitrary and do not actually define who they are and what they should believe, as the far-Left expects they should, the Libertarian Party is here and we welcome you.

Lets try freedom for a change.

* Christopher Lee McKitrick is a 29 year old New Hampshire native, a US Army veteran, and beer enthusiast. In his free time he enjoys hiking, writing, and reading.

The main BeingLibertarian.com account, used for editorials and guest author submissions. The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions. Contact the Editor at editor@beinglibertarian.email

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Identity Politics and Libertarianism – Being Libertarian

In my opinion: Ditch the two major parties register Libertarian … – Maroon

February 10, 2017 Filed under Op/Ed, Opinions

Back in October, I wrote an editorial urging the Loyola community to check out Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson. The successful entrepreneur turned two-term governor of New Mexico garnered nearly 10 percent of the vote in his home state and 3.3 percent nationally, the most a third party presidential candidate has received since independent Ross Perot 20 years earlier.

OK, Johnson still didnt win and never had a chancewhats your point, Ricardo?

Im so glad you asked.

In 2008, the Libertarian candidate got 523,715 votes or 0.40 percent of the popular vote. In 2012, Gary Johnsons first run for the presidency saw 1,275,971 votes or one percent of the popular vote. And this past election cycle, 4,488,931 American voters thought a Libertarian was a better choice than the Democrat under F.B.I. investigation and the Republican who was a reality TV star Cheeto.

One of the main reasons Johnson didnt have a fair chance was because he, along with Green Party candidate Jill Stein, was excluded from the nationally televised presidential debates. The official reason is that he and Stein didnt have the polling numbers to be admitted.

But the bar gets raised higher and higher. Third party candidates are virtually always excluded.

The debate commission calls itself non-partisan and yet the way it operates benefits the two major parties to the detriment of the American people who deserve to hear another voiceone that might actually reflect what they think and feel.

Many voters are afraid to vote for a third party candidate because of whats called the spoiler effect. They fear that by voting for a less popular candidate who actually represents a majority of their views, they are taking away votes from a more popular candidate who doesnt represent a lot of what they want but is better than another major party candidate who is the polar opposite.

Ralph Nader, who ran as a Green in 2000, is often criticized as stealing the election from Al Gore and enabling George H.W. Bush to win, despite evidence to the contrary.

The takeaway message: research the philosophy of libertarianism, see if you agree and when youre ready to fight the two-party system and promote policies of freedom, register to vote as a Libertarian.

Our national platform states that Libertarians stand for the political freedom of everyone, including our ideological opponents.

For more information, visit the College Libertarians at Loyola University New Orleans Facebook page.

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In my opinion: Ditch the two major parties register Libertarian … – Maroon

What is Libertarianism? An Examination of it and Some Resources for Further Research – The Libertarian Republic

by Ian Tartt

You may have heard the term libertarianism, but what does it mean? Simply put, libertarianism is the philosophy that says you have the right to do anything you like as long as you dont violate anyone elses rights or cause unjust harm to another person.

This definition comes from the fact thatwe all own ourselves, a concept which cant be logically denied because any attempt to deny self-ownership would involve using the mouth, the body, and the brain; thus, to attempt to argue against self-ownership requires the use of self-ownership, making any arguments against it self-defeating. Because we own ourselves, we have the right to do with ourselves what we like. As such, libertarians oppose laws prohibiting behavior which may hurt the individual engaging in such behavior but does not hurt anybodyelse (i.e. the War on Drugs).

Now, sincewe own ourselves and must make use of the natural world to live, we also have the right to own property. We can come to own property through homesteading (mixing our labor with un-owned resources) or by trading with the legitimate owner of a piece of property. Thus, other essential components of libertarianism include respect for both property rights and the free exchange of property between individuals.

The above are examples of conclusions drawn from deontological, or natural rights, libertarianism. The other main type of libertarianism is utilitarian, or consequentialist, in nature. Rather than focusing on rights, the utilitarian libertarian opposes overreaching laws and supports free exchange because he believes it will lead to the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. Because the conclusions reached by both deontological and utilitarian libertarians are generally the same, the two are normally happy to work with each other to advance freedom.

Unlike many other ideologies, libertarianism focuses more in individuals than on groups. One reason for this is the fact that groups are merely two or more individuals coming together. There can be individuals without groups, but there cant be groups without individuals. Also, respecting the rights of every individual would lead to the same type of equality before the law that most people want to achieve but go about by trying to help groups rather than individuals. For these reasons, libertarianism is a philosophy based on individuals.

While libertarians are mostly in agreement about the justifications for liberty (whether deontological or utilitarian), they often disagree about how to get to a free society. Some use political action (voting, fundraising for candidates, running for office, etc) while others oppose it. Many, whether they affirm or reject political action, will write articles or books and create videos in which they express their ideas. There are frequent clashes over the best strategy to attaina free society; these clashes usually result in setting back the liberty movement rather than advancing it, and thus making it that much harder to recover freedom.

Another point of disagreement, common to libertarians, is over the proper amount of government, or whether there should be a government at all. There are many different types of libertarians, each with their own thoughts on the subject. Some libertarians want the government to return to its Constitutional limits; others want to see it provide nothing more than courts, police, and national defense; and still others want to see all of the useful functions of government handled insteadby private enterprise. Regardless of their ultimate views on government, all libertarians want to see much more freedom than currently exists, and thus would benefit from working together instead of fighting over their differences.

This has been a basic introduction to libertarianism. While the philosophy is simple to explain and understand, one article is wholly insufficient to cover all the views, arguments, subjects, and people that have been part of the liberty movement over its hundreds of years in existence. For those interested in learning about some of the different types of libertarians, heres an article and a video that explain the major differences between them. Julie Borowski has a lot of funny YouTube videos that cover economics, foreign policy, current events, and numerous other subjects. A few prominent libertarian institutions include the Mises Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Reason Foundation. An article containing many links to books, TV ads, speeches, and radio shows from the amazing Harry Browne can be found here.For the bookworms, some great reads include the works of Ron Paul, Harry Browne, Ayn Rand, and Murray Rothbard. These are a few of the many great resources available for learning more about libertarianism and should be more than sufficient to give anyone interested a better understanding of the philosophy of liberty.

libertarianismLibertynatural rightsphilosophyutilitarianism

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What is Libertarianism? An Examination of it and Some Resources for Further Research – The Libertarian Republic

A Donald Trump Presidency Indicates The Necessity Of Alt-Right Libertarianism – The Liberty Conservative

The Liberty Conservative
A Donald Trump Presidency Indicates The Necessity Of Alt-Right Libertarianism
The Liberty Conservative
The exit of the TPP should be seen as a welcome sign for libertarians who see the danger in entangling alliances and how the TPP would erode national sovereignty. This bizarre alliance of Neoconservatives, Obama supporters, and Beltway libertarians for …

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A Donald Trump Presidency Indicates The Necessity Of Alt-Right Libertarianism – The Liberty Conservative

*Of Course* Libertarians Are Leading the Charge Against Trump’s Authoritarianism – Reason (blog)

GuardianThe Guardian has pulled together five pieces from conservatives and libertarians who are critical of President Donald Trump’s authoritarian tendencies and policies. I’m happy to be represented in the mix (for my commentary about Trump’s awful, inhumane, and idiotic ban on refugees and travelers from seven countries tied to terrorism). It’s a good mix of people, including some conservative critics (The New York Time’s Ross Douthat, National Review’s David French, Commentary’s Noah Rothman) and Steve Horwitz of Bleeding Heart Libertarians along with yours truly. Here’s a snippet from my piece:

That’s certainly the case with Trump and his orders on sanctuary cities and on immigration and refugee policy. The laws were not just poorly phrased and timed, they clearly will not work to address the basic issues they ostensibly are meant to ameliorate. As Anthony Fisher noted here earlier today, the US embassy in Iraq has said that Trump’s action is a recruitment tool for jihadists, as pro-American Middle Easterners realize they’re being hung out to dry. As for keeping America safe from terrorists entering the country as refugees, the fact is the country has an incredibly safe record.

Read the whole collection of pieces here.

Because no good deed or kind word can go unpunished, I’d like to add a bit of nuance to the way the writer, Jason Wilson, encapsulates his piece. Here’s the headline and subhed:

Burst your bubble: five conservative articles to read as Trump riles libertarians

Some libertarians are reacting with alarm to Donald Trump’s discriminatory executive orders, his authoritarian tendencies and international sabre-rattling

I think it’s accurate to call Douthat, French, and Rothman conservatives, but it’s clear that neither Horwitz or I have nothing to do with conservatism.

Yet the confusion is right there in headline: The “conservative articles” are the product of Trump “ril[ing] libertarians”? Wuh?

I just don’t get the slowness with which people are fully grokking that libertarianism is as distinct from conservativism as it is from progressivism or leftism. I’m not trying to be pedantic or coy here, but there’s a reason why libertarians (certainly those at Reason) were intensely critical of George W. Bush’s executive branch overreach and Barack Obama’s too, while conservatives and liberals generally stayed silent when their guy was doing the power grabbing. And so it makes total sense that libertarians are leading the attacks on Trump’s attempts to be a one-man (or at least one-branch) government. Libertarianism is nothing if not the antithesis of authoritarianism. Always has been, always will be. Be sure to check out Reason’s attitude toward whoever eventually replaces Trump. The minute he (or she) starts down an authoritarian road, we’ll be on the case.

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*Of Course* Libertarians Are Leading the Charge Against Trump’s Authoritarianism – Reason (blog)

Key Concepts of Libertarianism | Cato Institute

The key concepts of libertarianism have developed over many centuries. The first inklings of them can be found in ancient China, Greece, and Israel; they began to be developed into something resembling modern libertarian philosophy in the work of such seventeenth- and eighteenth-century thinkers as John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine.

Individualism. Libertarians see the individual as the basic unit of social analysis. Only individuals make choices and are responsible for their actions. Libertarian thought emphasizes the dignity of each individual, which entails both rights and responsibility. The progressive extension of dignity to more people to women, to people of different religions and different races is one of the great libertarian triumphs of the Western world.

Individual Rights. Because individuals are moral agents, they have a right to be secure in their life, liberty, and property. These rights are not granted by government or by society; they are inherent in the nature of human beings. It is intuitively right that individuals enjoy the security of such rights; the burden of explanation should lie with those who would take rights away.

Spontaneous Order. A great degree of order in society is necessary for individuals to survive and flourish. Its easy to assume that order must be imposed by a central authority, the way we impose order on a stamp collection or a football team. The great insight of libertarian social analysis is that order in society arises spontaneously, out of the actions of thousands or millions of individuals who coordinate their actions with those of others in order to achieve their purposes. Over human history, we have gradually opted for more freedom and yet managed to develop a complex society with intricate organization. The most important institutions in human society language, law, money, and markets all developed spontaneously, without central direction. Civil society the complex network of associations and connections among people is another example of spontaneous order; the associations within civil society are formed for a purpose, but civil society itself is not an organization and does not have a purpose of its own.

The Rule of Law. Libertarianism is not libertinism or hedonism. It is not a claim that people can do anything they want to, and nobody else can say anything. Rather, libertarianism proposes a society of liberty under law, in which individuals are free to pursue their own lives so long as they respect the equal rights of others. The rule of law means that individuals are governed by generally applicable and spontaneously developed legal rules, not by arbitrary commands; and that those rules should protect the freedom of individuals to pursue happiness in their own ways, not aim at any particular result or outcome.

Limited Government. To protect rights, individuals form governments. But government is a dangerous institution. Libertarians have a great antipathy to concentrated power, for as Lord Acton said, Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Thus they want to divide and limit power, and that means especially to limit government, generally through a written constitution enumerating and limiting the powers that the people delegate to government. Limited government is the basic political implication of libertarianism, and libertarians point to the historical fact that it was the dispersion of power in Europe more than other parts of the world that led to individual liberty and sustained economic growth.

Free Markets. To survive and to flourish, individuals need to engage in economic activity. The right to property entails the right to exchange property by mutual agreement. Free markets are the economic system of free individuals, and they are necessary to create wealth. Libertarians believe that people will be both freer and more prosperous if government intervention in peoples economic choices is minimized.

The Virtue of Production. Much of the impetus for libertarianism in the seventeenth century was a reaction against monarchs and aristocrats who lived off the productive labor of other people. Libertarians defended the right of people to keep the fruits of their labor. This effort developed into a respect for the dignity of work and production and especially for the growing middle class, who were looked down upon by aristocrats. Libertarians developed a pre-Marxist class analysis that divided society into two basic classes: those who produced wealth and those who took it by force from others. Thomas Paine, for instance, wrote, There are two distinct classes of men in the nation, those who pay taxes, and those who receive and live upon the taxes. Similarly, Jefferson wrote in 1824, We have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious. Modern libertarians defend the right of productive people to keep what they earn, against a new class of politicians and bureaucrats who would seize their earnings to transfer them to nonproducers.

Natural Harmony of Interests. Libertarians believe that there is a natural harmony of interests among peaceful, productive people in a just society. One persons individual plans which may involve getting a job, starting a business, buying a house, and so on may conflict with the plans of others, so the market makes many of us change our plans. But we all prosper from the operation of the free market, and there are no necessary conflicts between farmers and merchants, manufacturers and importers. Only when government begins to hand out rewards on the basis of political pressure do we find ourselves involved in group conflict, pushed to organize and contend with other groups for a piece of political power.

Peace. Libertarians have always battled the age-old scourge of war. They understood that war brought death and destruction on a grand scale, disrupted family and economic life, and put more power in the hands of the ruling class which might explain why the rulers did not always share the popular sentiment for peace. Free men and women, of course, have often had to defend their own societies against foreign threats; but throughout history, war has usually been the common enemy of peaceful, productive people on all sides of the conflict.

It may be appropriate to acknowledge at this point the readers likely suspicion that libertarianism seems to be just the standard framework of modern thought individualism, private property, capitalism, equality under the law. Indeed, after centuries of intellectual, political, and sometimes violent struggle, these core libertarian principles have become the basic structure of modern political thought and of modern government, at least in the West and increasingly in other parts of the world.

However, three additional points need to be made: first, libertarianism is not just these broad liberal principles. Libertarianism applies these principles fully and consistently, far more so than most modern thinkers and certainly more so than any modern government. Second, while our society remains generally based on equal rights and capitalism, every day new exceptions to those principles are carved out in Washington and in Albany, Sacramento, and Austin (not to mention London, Bonn, Tokyo, and elsewhere). Each new government directive takes a little bit of our freedom, and we should think carefully before giving up any liberty. Third, liberal society is resilient; it can withstand many burdens and continue to flourish; but it is not infinitely resilient. Those who claim to believe in liberal principles but advocate more and more confiscation of the wealth created by productive people, more and more restrictions on voluntary interaction, more and more exceptions to property rights and the rule of law, more and more transfer of power from society to state, are unwittingly engaged in the ultimately deadly undermining of civilization.

From Chapter 1, The Coming Libertarian Age, Libertarianism: A Primer, by David Boaz (New York: The Free Press, 1998). See also http://www.libertarianism.org.

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Key Concepts of Libertarianism | Cato Institute

Why Libertarianism is wrong – Ozean Media

I am feeling energetic today, and I thought I would tackle an issue that I have been thinking about for weeks now. As with many deep discussions, it started with a beer between friends.

The topic of discussions were the merits of Libertarians and the philosophy.

Maybe it is the contrarianin me, but Ive come to the conclusion that I think the Libertarians philosophy is wrong.

Before we begin, there are some ideas from Libertarians that I find attractive I like the idea of a smaller government, and I like the idea of allowing markets to operate more freely; however, when you take a Libertarians at their word, I think the entire philosophy starts to break down.

First lets define Libertarian as I see it:

Again, we are going to take Libertarians at their word, and we are going to set aside the contradictory notion that people who think everyone should live their lives as they want, attempt to make the world operate under their philosophy.

I also do understand there are different strands of Libertarianism ranging from Chomsky to Paul but for this blog post, we are going to work with the definition above.

Lets start with the light lifting:

1) At its heart Libertarianism is incredibly selfish. Libertarians wont call it that, but at its core, Libertarianism is indulgent, narcissistic, and just plain selfish.

2) The current Libertarianism coalition will split among social issues. Libertarians are cool kids at the moment.

When I attend Libertarian meetings, I see friends. Some of these friends I KNOW for a fact are conservative Christians. At the moment, economic issues are more salient to them; therefore, they are willing to caucus with the Libertarians to work on those issues.

However, as a country, we dont have the luxury of working only on fiscal issues. Social issues will come up and they will matter when that happens the current libertarian coalition will splinter.

That is a problem with breaking away from the GOP when you are forced to put on paper what it actually means to be a Libertarian, it fractures the current Libertarian club.

3) Libertarianism is cruel. Markets fail and markets are unfeeling and damn right cruel. Here is a thought exercise: If someone is in the process of making a terrible decision that will result in their immediate death, do we watch them die or intervene?

4) There are some societal functions that do not respond to markets. Example: Pollution. If totally unregulated, corporations will pollute. Okay, if you assume eventually the market will correct it, eventually may take 20 years and in the meantime an entire generation of children have jelly for brains.

5) If markets are completely unregulated, then all market segments will naturally move towards monopolies. There will be collusion to maximize profits. Humans cheat, that is what we do. So in the end, if you take Libertarians at their word, we all end up slaves to large monopolies and are at their whim. Ironically, the effort to decentralize has the result of centralizing power and economic wealth.

6) When disputes arise, who decides? If you are on your property blaring Lawrence Welk music at 2 am in the morning declaring your Liberty, am I not harmed? Yes, you have the right to your property and I have the right to sanity? Who wins? Who decides? Is it just the strongest person able to force their will? Is it Lord of the Flies? You just cant say we have a court someone wins who is it? Who decides the restrictions on rights?

Ok, but here is some heavy lifting:

7) In my opinion, humans are not wired for Libertarianism, and the philosophy does not make sense with my understanding of the human condition.

If you read anything about human decision making, it is highly irrational.

When given unlimited choices, humans suffer from the paradox of choice. In the face of unlimited choice humans freeze, become anxious, and indecisive. We just dont know what in the hell to do with ourselves.

8) Finally, in my biggest criticism, from all of my reading of modern psychology, absolute freedom is not good for humans.

Again, if we take Libertarians at their word everyone decides what is good for themselves and retreats to their plot of land. If that happens, there is no community, no common bonds.

PLEASE do not mistake me for some collective liberal, Im not.

But in its purest form, there is nothing binding people together. There is no core.

This is in conflict with our natural tendencies to form groups.

What we are talking about is achievinganomie,the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community.

When we sever these human connections, we see scientific evidence in the rise of suicide and all kinds of ills.

Humans are just not wired for Libertarianism.

For example, if everyone retreats to their acre and we have nothing in common, we no longer have a country. Even our founding fathers (who were Libertarian leaning) realized there must be something that binds us together.

In summation, there must be something MORE that binds us together other than roads, military, and courts.


9) No Libertarian can make a coherent argument of HOW to get to a Libertarian vision.

Some have proposed moving en mass toNew Hampshire others want a floating boat in international water(not kidding).

However, even over beer, no one has been able to express to me the HOW. They can tell me what is currently wrong, they can tell me their vision for the future, but they cant tell me HOW.

Most just selfishly say BLOW IT UP. The irresponsibility to humanity that comes with BLOW IT UP is mind blowing.

Every time I end up taking a path down Libertarianism, I end up in treacherous landscape.

Choice? Yeah, well if the South wants slaves, then so be it. (Rand Paul, later retracted)

Taxes? Revolution!

Nothing but roads, military, and courts? What about currency? Multiple currencies and bit coins for all and when something goes wrong? Markets baby!

Education? Private schools for all? But difficult students who require more attention, time and effort? There will be little profit in that! Do we not educate them and turn them lose in society with no skills? Do they not then commit crimes? OK, home school everyone? What if the parent can barely read? Do they get to homeschool? If not, who regulates?

Again, it is interesting, but for me, it just breaks down the more you think. The more you move away from bumper stickers, Libertarianism collapses when it meets with the human condition.

There is always tension between freedom, rights, protection, security, and fairness. There should be.

In my opinion, most Libertarians I have discussed this with seem to have an overly simplistic worldview and simplistic understanding of the human condition.

As you may know, I rejectabsolutismto any philosophy. For me, these philosophies (Libertarianism, capitalism, etc) are a little like simplified economic models. They have little basis in reality, but are helpful for learning concepts and testing.

When we place the philosophies next to each other, for me the truth lies some where in-between the pure forms. The right answer lies in the tension between the choices.

The entire key is to keep things in equilibrium. My equilibrium is leaningtowards Libertarianism, but with nuance and conditions.

The problem is there is not an ideologue in the world that would agree with me on that and have a discussion on the location of the line.

PS. As a final thought Isolationism is plain wrong.



Why Libertarianism is wrong – Ozean Media

Introduction to Libertarianism | A Libertarianism.org Guide

Libertarianism is the philosophy of freedom.

Its not easy to define freedom. The author Leonard Read said, Freedom is the absence of man-concocted restraints against the release of creative energy. The Nobel laureate F. A. Hayek referred to a state in which each can use his knowledge for his purpose and also to the possibility of a persons acting according to his own decisions and plans, in contrast to the position of one who was irrevocably subject to the will of another, who by arbitrary decision could coerce him to act or not to act in specific ways. Perhaps its best to understand freedom as the absence of physical force or the threat of physical force. John Locke offered this definition of freedom under the rule of law:

[T]he end of Law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge Freedom: For in all the states of created beings capable of Laws, where there is no Law, there is no Freedom. For Liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others which cannot be, where there is no Law: But Freedom is not, as we are told, A Liberty for every Man to do what he lists: (For who could be free, when every other Mans Humour might domineer over him?) But a Liberty to dispose, and order, as he lists, his Persons, Actions, Possessions, and his whole Property, within the Allowance of those Laws under which he is; and therein not to be subject to the arbitrary Will of another, but freely follow his own.

That is, a free person is not subject to the arbitrary will of another and is free to do as he chooses with his own person and property. But you can only have those freedoms when the law protects your freedom and everyone elses.

However we define freedom, we can certainly recognize aspects of it. Freedom means respecting the moral autonomy of each person, seeing each person as the owner of his or her own life, and each free to make the important decisions about his life.

Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others. Libertarians defend each persons right to life, liberty, and propertyrights that people possess naturally, before governments are instituted. In the libertarian view, all human relationships should be voluntary; the only actions that should be forbidden by law are those that involve the initiation of force against those who have not themselves used forceactions such as murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and fraud.

Libertarians believe in the presumption of liberty. That is, libertarians believe people ought to be free to live as they choose unless advocates of coercion can make a compelling case. Its the exercise of power, not the exercise of freedom, that requires justification. The burden of proof ought to be on those who want to limit our freedom.

The presumption of liberty should be as strong as the presumption of innocence in a criminal trial, for the same reason. Just as you cant prove your innocence of all possible charges against you, you cannot justify all of the ways in which you should be allowed to act. James Wilson, a signer of the Constitution, said in response to a proposal that a Bill of Rights be added to the Constitution: Enumerate all the rights of man! I am sure, sirs, that no gentleman in the late Convention would have attempted such a thing.

Why do libertarians value freedom? There are many reasons.

Freedom allows each of us to define the meaning of life, to define whats important to us. Each of us should be free to think, to speak, to write, to paint, to create, to marry, to eat and drink and smoke, to start and run a business, to associate with others as we choose. When we are free, we can construct our lives as we see fit. Freedom is part of whats needed to lead a full human life.

Freedom leads to social harmony. We have less conflict when we have fewer specific commands and prohibitions about how we should livein terms of class or caste, religion, dress, lifestyle, or schools.

Economic freedom means that people are free to produce and to exchange with others. Freely negotiated and agreed-upon prices carry information throughout the economy about what people want and what can be done more efficiently. For an economic order to function, prices must be free to tell the truth. A free economy gives people incentives to invent, innovate, and produce more goods and services for the whole society. That means more satisfaction of more wants, more economic growth, and a higher standard of living for everyone.

A political system of liberty gives us the opportunity to use our talents and to cooperate with others to create and produce, with the help of a few simple institutions that protect our rights. And those simple institutionsproperty rights, the rule of law, a prohibition on the initiation of forcemake possible invention, innovation, and progress in commerce, technology, and styles of living.

In barely 250 years of having widespread economic freedom, weve escaped from the back-breaking labor and short life expectancy that were the natural lot of mankind since time immemorial to the abundance we see around us today in more and more parts of the worldthough not yet enough of the world.

What does valuing freedom mean for the libertarian view of government?

For libertarians, the basic political issue is the relationship of the individual to the state. What rights do individuals have (if any)? What form of government (if any) will best protect those rights? What powers should government have? What demands may individuals make on one another through the mechanism of government?

We try to discover the rules that govern the world, and rules that will enable us all to live together and realize those wonderful rights in the Declaration of Independencelife, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The worst governments are tyrannical predators; the best embody attempts at providing the framework of rules we need to live together.

We know who and what government is. It isnt some Platonic ideal. Government is people, specifically people using force against other people. We need some method to constrain and punish the violent, the thieves and fraudsters, and other dangers to our freedom, our rights, and our security. But that shouldnt eliminate our skepticism about empowering some people to use force against others. The power that government holds is wielded by real people, not ideal people, and real people are imperfect. Some are corrupt, some are even evil. Some of the worst are actually attracted to state power. But even the well-intentioned, the honest, and the wise are still just people exercising power over other people.

Thats why Americans have always feared the concentration of power. Its why I often say that Smokey the Bears rules for fire safety apply to government: Keep it small, keep it in a confined area, and keep an eye on it.

Libertarians, as the name implies, believe that the most important political value is liberty, not democracy. Many modern readers may wonder, whats the difference? Arent liberty and democracy the same thing?

Theyre not. Much of the confusion stems from two different senses of the word liberty, a distinction notably explored by the nineteenth-century French libertarian Benjamin Constant in an essay titled The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with That of the Moderns. Constant noted that to the ancient Greek writers the idea of liberty meant the right to participate in public life, in making decisions for the entire community. Thus Athens was a free polity because all the citizensthat is, all the free, adult, Athenian mencould go to the public square and participate in the decision-making process. Socrates, indeed, was free because he could participate in the collective decision to execute him for his heretical opinions. The modern concept of liberty, however, emphasizes the right of individuals to live as they choose, to speak and worship freely, to own property, to engage in commerce, to be free from arbitrary arrest or detentionin Constants words, to come and go without permission, and without having to account for their motives and undertakings. A government based on the participation of the governed is a valuable safeguard for individual rights, but liberty itself is the right to make choices and to pursue projects of ones own choosing.

I have attempted to sketch here what it means to be a libertarian. There are many kinds of libertarians, of course. Some are people who might describe themselves as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, or say they want the government out of my pocketbook and out of my bedroom. Some believe in the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence and want the government to remain within the limits of the Constitution. Some just have an instinctive belief in freedom or an instinctive aversion to being told what to do. Some are admirers of Dr. Ron Paul and his son, Senator Rand Paul, and their campaigns against war, government spending, the surveillance state, and the Federal Reserve. Some like the writings of Thomas Jefferson or John Stuart Mill. Some have studied economics. Some have learned from history that governments always seek to expand their size, scope, and power, and must be constrained to preserve freedom. Some have noticed that war, prohibition, cronyism, racial and religious discrimination, protectionism, central planning, welfare, taxes, and government spending have deleterious effects. Some are so radical they think all goods and services could be provided without a state. In this Guide, I welcome all those people to the libertarian cause. When I talk about libertarian ideas, I mean to include the ideas of thinkers from John Locke and Adam Smith to F. A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Robert Nozick, and Richard Epstein.

The old ideologies have been tried and found wanting. All around usfrom the postcommunist world to the military dictatorships of Africa to the insolvent welfare states of Europe and the Americaswe see the failed legacy of coercion and statism. At the same time we see moves toward libertarian solutions constitutional government in Eastern Europe and South Africa, privatization in Britain and Latin America, democracy and the rule of law in South Korea and Taiwan, the spread of womens rights and gay rights, and economic liberalization in China, India, and even some countries in Africa. Challenges to freedom remain, of course, including the continuing lack of Enlightenment values in much of the world, the unsustainable welfare states in the rich countries and the interests that fight reform, the recurring desire for centralized and top-down political institutions such as the Eurozone, Islamist theocracy, and the spread of populist, antilibertarian responses to social change and economic crisis. Libertarianism offers an alternative to coercive government that should appeal to peaceful, productive people everywhere.

No, a libertarian world wont be a perfect one. There will still be inequality, poverty, crime, corruption, mans inhumanity to man. But unlike the theocratic visionaries, the pie-in-the-sky socialist utopians, or the starry-eyed Mr. Fixits of the New Deal and Great Society, libertarians dont promise you a rose garden. Karl Popper once said that attempts to create heaven on earth invariably produce hell. Libertarianism holds out the goal not of a perfect society but of a better and freer one. It promises a world in which more of the decisions will be made in the right way by the right person: you. The result will be not an end to crime and poverty and inequality but lessoften much lessof most of those things most of the time.

See more here:

Introduction to Libertarianism | A Libertarianism.org Guide

Negative and Positive Liberty | Libertarianism.org

Jason Brennan opens the second chapter of Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know with the question: How do libertarians define liberty? He answers his question by distinguishing between two major kinds of liberty: negative liberty and positive liberty. Negative liberty, Brennan explains, signifies an absence of obstacles, impediments, or constraints. Positive liberty, in contrast,

is the power or capacity to do as one chooses. For instance, when we talk about being free as a bird, we mean that the bird has the power or ability to fly. We do not mean that people rarely interfere with birds.

Negative liberty is the absence of obstacles; positive liberty is the presence of powers or abilities.

Brennans bird does not serve his purpose; it is a poor example. When we speak of being free as a bird, we dont usually mean what Brennan claims we mean. To be free as a bird suggests more than the power or ability to fly. It also suggests that the exercise of that ability is not hindered by external constraints. The fantasy of being free as a bird is linked to the desire to be free from external constraintsor, as Brennan puts it in his account of negative liberty, to act in the absence of obstacles.

The connection between the ability to fly and negative freedom is expressed in these famous lyrics from The Prisoners Song:

Now, if I had the wings of an angel, Over these prison walls I would fly.

When we speak of a bird as being free to fly, we assume that the bird in question has not been confined in a cage. We would not normally speak, for example, of a caged canary as being free to fly. This way of speaking suggests that a bird can exercise its ability to fly without external constraints, such as by being locked in a cage. The notion of negative freedom is, at the very least, an implicit presupposition of all such examples.

Of course, a caged bird may be free to fly around inside his cage to some extent, just as a human prisoner in solitary confinement may be free to walk within the confines of his tiny cell. Such cases illustrate the fact that negative freedom, or liberty (the terms are normally used interchangeably), may exist in varying degrees. But to say that a prisoner possesses the positive freedom to walk merely because he possesses the power or ability to walk (as Brennans bird is said to be free to fly in virtue of its ability to fly) is to use the word freedom in a peculiar way.

According to the positive conception of freedom (as summarized by Brennan), the fact of imprisonment would not even diminish a prisoners freedom to walk, so long as he remains able to walk. Even a prisoner bound tightly in chains would still be free to walk in the positive sense, provided he retained the ability to walk. When we say that a chained prisoner is not free to walk, we mean that he is constrained and therefore lacks the negative freedom to walk as he chooses, not that he lacks the power or ability to walk per se.

I may seem to be nitpicking here, and so I might be if not for Brennans attempt to incorporate positive liberty into libertarian theory. As he puts it (p. 27):

Until recently, most libertarians tended to argue that the only real kind of liberty is negative liberty. The believed the concept of positive liberty was confused. For a long time, the status quo was that libertarians and classical liberals advocated a negative conception of liberty, while left-liberals, socialists, and Marxists advocated a positive conception of liberty.

Brennan assures us that the status quo has begun to change: Recently, though, many libertarians have begun to accept both negative and positive liberty.

When contemporary libertarians say they want a free society, they mean that they want both (1) a society in which people do not interfere with each other and (2) a society in which most people have the means and ability to achieve their goals.

I confess to being unclear about the identity of the many libertarians who embrace positive liberty; but judging by Brennans subsequent mention of a book he co-authored with David Schmidtz, he appears to mean neoclassical liberals. In his recommended readings at the end of his book, Brennan lists four authors (including himself) under the heading Neoclassical Liberalism.

Now, there are probably a few more neoclassical liberals roaming the halls of academe, and I wont quibble over how many libertarians it takes to qualify as many libertarians. But when Brennan moves from many libertarians to his much broader statement about what contemporary libertarians supposedly believe about positive liberty, I must question his sense of proportion.

Consider Brennans next statement: Until recently, most libertarians rejected the concept of positive liberty. Until recently? Admittedly, I am not as active in the libertarian movement as I once was, but I doubt if I missed a sea change in regard to what most libertarians (including conventional classical liberals) think about the notion of positive liberty.

Brennan is again exaggerating the influence of his band of neoclassical liberals. A handful of academic philosophers does not a movement make.

Lets proceed to the more substantive problems in Brennans account. Why was the notion of positive liberty traditionally rejected by libertarians? According to Brennan, libertarians thought that if positive libertyunderstood as the power to achieve ones endscounted as a form of liberty, this would automatically license socialism and a heavy welfare state. Since they opposed socialism and a heavy welfare state, they rejected the concept of positive liberty.

This explanation is neither accurate nor fair; traditional libertarian objections to positive liberty were far more sophisticated than Brennan would have us believe. I will cover some of those objections in my next essay. For now, we should try to understand what the point of all this is. Why, for instance, do we find Brennan (p. 28) asking this loaded question: Why do many libertarians now accept positive liberty? Brennan explains:

Contemporary libertarians tend to embrace positive liberty. They agree that the power to achieve ones goals really is a form of liberty. They agree with Marxists and socialists that this form of liberty is valuable, and that negative liberty without positive liberty is often of little value.

Permit me to be blunt: contemporary libertarians, on the whole, tend to embrace no such thing. They do not agree with Marxists and socialists on this matter. On the contrary, they tend to argue that positive liberty is not a form of liberty at all, if by form we mean to suggest that positive and negative liberty are two species of the same genus. Rather, as Murray Rothbard wrote in Power and Market (p. 221), freedom pertains to interference by other persons. The word, in a social context, refers to absence of molestation by other persons; it is purely an interpersonal problem.

I see no evidence to indicate that the mainstream of libertarian thinking has changed substantially from this description of liberty given in 1773 by the American clergyman Simeon Howard:

Though this word [liberty] is used in various senses, I mean by it here, only that liberty which is opposed to external force and constraint and to such force and constraint only, as we may suffer from men. Under the term liberty, taken in this sense, may naturally be comprehended all those advantages which are liable to be destroyed by the art or power of men; everything that is opposed to temporal slavery.

According to this approach, negative liberty (the absence of coercive interference by others) is itself the fundamental means by which individuals are enabled to pursue their own values as they see fit. Brennan doesnt disagree with this assertion, as we see in his remark (p. 29) that protecting negative liberties is the most important and effective way of promoting positive liberty.

Thus, a commitment to positive liberty does not license socialism; it forbids it. Marxists say that positive liberty is the only real liberty. This real liberty is found in market societies, and almost nowhere else.

Brennan obviously wishes to turn the notion of positive liberty against socialists and other advocates of expansive governmental powers; whether his efforts are successful is a problem I shall take up at a later time. For now I wish only to point out that everything Brennan wants to say could easily be said without dragging in the notion of positive liberty at all. What we have here, in my judgment, is a type of political correctness run amok.

Will socialists, seduced by Brennans endorsement of positive liberty, see the light and agree that free markets are the best means to attain their cherished goal of positive liberty for everyone? As the old saying goes, there are two chances of this happening: fat and slim. By needlessly incorporating positive liberty into libertarian theory and, even worse, by claiming that negative liberty without positive liberty often has no value, Brennan has opened the barn door so wide as to admit all manner of anti-libertarian proposals.

Brennan appeals to historical fact to support his claim that free markets are the best way to achieve positive liberty. He would have gotten no objection from me if he had simply said, as Murray Rothbard put it in Power and Market (pp. 221-22), that it is precisely voluntary exchange and free capitalism that have led to an enormous improvement in living standards. Capitalist production is the only method by which poverty can be wiped out. But this straightforward claim wasnt good enough for Brennan, who succumbed to the desire to put old wine in a new libertarian bottle labeled positive liberty.

In short, Brennans attempt to incorporate positive liberty into libertarian theory accomplishes nothing more than to transform a strong argument for free markets into an argument that is perilously weak.

Anyone concerned with historical fact needs to understand why the notion of positive liberty proved so destructive to the negative liberty defended by classical liberals and libertarians. This will be the subject of my next essay.

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Negative and Positive Liberty | Libertarianism.org

Libertarianism (metaphysics) – Wikipedia

Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism, which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics.[1] In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position,[2][3] argues that free will is logically incompatible with a deterministic universe and that agents have free will, and that, therefore, determinism is false.[4] Although compatibilism, the view that determinism and free will are in fact compatible, is the most popular position on free will amongst professional philosophers,[5] metaphysical libertarianism is discussed, though not necessarily endorsed, by several philosophers, such as Peter van Inwagen, Robert Kane, Robert Nozick,[6]Carl Ginet, Harry Frankfurt, E.J. Lowe, Alfred Mele, Roderick Chisholm, Daniel Dennett,[7] and Galen Strawson.[8]

The first recorded use of the term “libertarianism” was in 1789 by William Belsham in a discussion of free will and in opposition to “necessitarian” (or determinist) views.[9][10]

Metaphysical libertarianism is one philosophical view point under that of incompatibilism. Libertarianism holds onto a concept of free will that requires the agent to be able to take more than one possible course of action under a given set of circumstances.

Accounts of libertarianism subdivide into non-physical theories and physical or naturalistic theories. Non-physical theories hold that the events in the brain that lead to the performance of actions do not have an entirely physical explanation, and consequently the world is not closed under physics. Such interactionist dualists believe that some non-physical mind, will, or soul overrides physical causality.

Explanations of libertarianism that do not involve dispensing with physicalism require physical indeterminism, such as probabilistic subatomic particle behavior a theory unknown to many of the early writers on free will. Physical determinism, under the assumption of physicalism, implies there is only one possible future and is therefore not compatible with libertarian free will. Some libertarian explanations involve invoking panpsychism, the theory that a quality of mind is associated with all particles, and pervades the entire universe, in both animate and inanimate entities. Other approaches do not require free will to be a fundamental constituent of the universe; ordinary randomness is appealed to as supplying the “elbow room” believed to be necessary by libertarians.

Free volition is regarded as a particular kind of complex, high-level process with an element of indeterminism. An example of this kind of approach has been developed by Robert Kane,[11] where he hypothesises that,

In each case, the indeterminism is functioning as a hindrance or obstacle to her realizing one of her purposesa hindrance or obstacle in the form of resistance within her will which has to be overcome by effort.

At the time C. S. Lewis wrote Miracles,[12]quantum mechanics (and physical indeterminism) was only in the initial stages of acceptance, but still Lewis stated the logical possibility that, if the physical world was proved to be indeterministic, this would provide an entry (interaction) point into the traditionally viewed closed system, where a scientifically described physically probable/improbable event could be philosophically described as an action of a non-physical entity on physical reality. He states, however, that none of the arguments in his book will rely on this.[citation needed]

Nozick puts forward an indeterministic theory of free will in Philosophical Explanations.[6]

When human beings become agents through reflexive self-awareness, they express their agency by having reasons for acting, to which they assign weights. Choosing the dimensions of one’s identity is a special case, in which the assigning of weight to a dimension is partly self-constitutive. But all acting for reasons is constitutive of the self in a broader sense, namely, by its shaping one’s character and personality in a manner analogous to the shaping that law undergoes through the precedent set by earlier court decisions. Just as a judge does not merely apply the law but to some degree makes it through judicial discretion, so too a person does not merely discover weights but assigns them; one not only weighs reasons but also weights them. Set in train is a process of building a framework for future decisions that we are tentatively committed to.

The lifelong process of self-definition in this broader sense is construed indeterministically by Nozick. The weighting is “up to us” in the sense that it is undetermined by antecedent causal factors, even though subsequent action is fully caused by the reasons one has accepted. He compares assigning weights in this deterministic sense to “the currently orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics”, following von Neumann in understanding a quantum mechanical system as in a superposition or probability mixture of states, which changes continuously in accordance with quantum mechanical equations of motion and discontinuously via measurement or observation that “collapses the wave packet” from a superposition to a particular state. Analogously, a person before decision has reasons without fixed weights: he is in a superposition of weights. The process of decision reduces the superposition to a particular state that causes action.

Kane is one of the leading contemporary philosophers on free will.[13][14][verification needed] Advocating what is termed within philosophical circles “libertarian freedom”, Kane argues that “(1) the existence of alternative possibilities (or the agent’s power to do otherwise) is a necessary condition for acting freely, and that (2) determinism is not compatible with alternative possibilities (it precludes the power to do otherwise)”.[15] It is important to note that the crux of Kane’s position is grounded not in a defense of alternative possibilities (AP) but in the notion of what Kane refers to as ultimate responsibility (UR). Thus, AP is a necessary but insufficient criterion for free will.[citation needed] It is necessary that there be (metaphysically) real alternatives for our actions, but that is not enough; our actions could be random without being in our control. The control is found in “ultimate responsibility”.

Ultimate responsibility entails that agents must be the ultimate creators (or originators) and sustainers of their own ends and purposes. There must be more than one way for a person’s life to turn out (AP). More importantly, whichever way it turns out must be based in the person’s willing actions. As Kane defines it,

UR: An agent is ultimately responsible for some (event or state) E’s occurring only if (R) the agent is personally responsible for E’s occurring in a sense which entails that something the agent voluntarily (or willingly) did or omitted either was, or causally contributed to, E’s occurrence and made a difference to whether or not E occurred; and (U) for every X and Y (where X and Y represent occurrences of events and/or states) if the agent is personally responsible for X and if Y is an arche (sufficient condition, cause or motive) for X, then the agent must also be personally responsible for Y.

In short, “an agent must be responsible for anything that is a sufficient reason (condition, cause or motive) for the action’s occurring.”[16]

What allows for ultimacy of creation in Kane’s picture are what he refers to as “self-forming actions” or SFAs those moments of indecision during which people experience conflicting wills. These SFAs are the undetermined, regress-stopping voluntary actions or refraining in the life histories of agents that are required for UR. UR does not require that every act done of our own free will be undetermined and thus that, for every act or choice, we could have done otherwise; it requires only that certain of our choices and actions be undetermined (and thus that we could have done otherwise), namely SFAs. These form our character or nature; they inform our future choices, reasons and motivations in action. If a person has had the opportunity to make a character-forming decision (SFA), they are responsible for the actions that are a result of their character.

Randolph Clarke objects that Kane’s depiction of free will is not truly libertarian but rather a form of compatibilism.[citation needed] The objection asserts that although the outcome of an SFA is not determined, one’s history up to the event is; so the fact that an SFA will occur is also determined. The outcome of the SFA is based on chance,[citation needed] and from that point on one’s life is determined. This kind of freedom, says Clarke, is no different than the kind of freedom argued for by compatibilists, who assert that even though our actions are determined, they are free because they are in accordance with our own wills, much like the outcome of an SFA.[citation needed]

Kane responds that the difference between causal indeterminism and compatibilism is “ultimate control the originative control exercised by agents when it is ‘up to them’ which of a set of possible choices or actions will now occur, and up to no one and nothing else over which the agents themselves do not also have control”.[17] UR assures that the sufficient conditions for one’s actions do not lie before one’s own birth.

Galen Strawson holds that there is a fundamental sense in which free will is impossible, whether determinism is true or not. He argues for this position with what he calls his “basic argument”, which aims to show that no-one is ever ultimately morally responsible for their actions, and hence that no one has free will in the sense that usually concerns us.

In his book defending compatibilism, Freedom Evolves, Daniel Dennett spends a chapter criticising Kane’s theory.[7] Kane believes freedom is based on certain rare and exceptional events, which he calls self-forming actions or SFA’s. Dennett notes that there is no guarantee such an event will occur in an individual’s life. If it does not, the individual does not in fact have free will at all, according to Kane. Yet they will seem the same as anyone else. Dennett finds an essentially indetectable notion of free will to be incredible.

Frankfurt counterexamples[18] (also known as Frankfurt cases or Frankfurt-style cases) were presented by philosopher Harry Frankfurt in 1969 as counterexamples to the “principle of alternative possibilities” or PAP, which holds that an agent is morally responsible for an action only if they have the option of free will (i.e. they could have done otherwise).

The principle of alternate possibilities forms part of an influential argument for the incompatibility of responsibility and causal determinism, as detailed below:

Traditionally, compatibilists (defenders of the compatibility of moral responsibility and determinism, like Alfred Ayer and Walter Terence Stace) try to reject premise two, arguing that, properly understood, free will is not incompatible with determinism. According to the traditional analysis of free will, an agent is free to do otherwise when they would have done otherwise had they wanted to do otherwise.[19] Agents may possess free will, according to the conditional analysis, even if determinism is true.

From the PAP definition “a person is morally responsible for what they have done only if they could have done otherwise”,[20] Frankfurt infers that a person is not morally responsible for what they have done if they could not have done otherwise a point with which he takes issue: our theoretical ability to do otherwise, he says, does not necessarily make it possible for us to do otherwise.

Frankfurt’s examples are significant because they suggest an alternative way to defend compatibilism, in particular by rejecting the first premise of the argument. According to this view, responsibility is compatible with determinism because responsibility does not require the freedom to do otherwise.

Frankfurt’s examples involve agents who are intuitively responsible for their behavior even though they lack the freedom to act otherwise. Here is a typical case:

Donald is a Democrat and is likely to vote for the Democrats; in fact, only in one particular circumstance will he not: that is, if he thinks about the prospects of immediate American defeat in Iraq just prior to voting. Ms. White, a representative of the Democratic Party, wants to ensure that Donald votes Democratic, so she secretly plants a device in Donald’s head that, if activated, will force him to vote Democratic. Not wishing to reveal her presence unnecessarily, Ms White plans to activate the device only if Donald thinks about the Iraq War prior to voting. As things happen, Donald does not think about the Democrats’ promise to ensure defeat in Iraq prior to voting, so Ms White thus sees no reason to activate the device, and Donald votes Democratic of his own accord. Apparently, Donald is responsible for voting Democratic in spite of the fact that, owing to Ms. White’s device, he lacks freedom to do otherwise.

If Frankfurt is correct in suggesting both that Donald is morally responsible for voting Democratic and that he is not free to do otherwise, moral responsibility, in general, does not require that an agent have the freedom to do otherwise (that is, the principle of alternate possibilities is false). Thus, even if causal determinism is true, and even if determinism removes the freedom to do otherwise, there is no reason to doubt that people can still be morally responsible for their behavior.

Having rebutted the principle of alternate possibilities, Frankfurt suggests that it be revised to take into account the fallacy of the notion that coercion precludes an agent from moral responsibility. It must be only because of coercion that the agent acts as they do. The best definition, by his reckoning, is this: “[A] person is not morally responsible for what they have done if they did it only because they could not have done otherwise.”[21]

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Libertarianism (metaphysics) – Wikipedia

Libertarianism.org | Exploring the theory and history of …

Justice, prosperity, responsibility, tolerance, cooperation, and peace.

Many people believe that liberty is the core political value of modern civilization itself, the one that gives substance and form to all the other values of social life. They’re called libertarians.

Libertarianism.org presents


by Yves Guyot in 1910

Karl Marx is nothing but an inventor and manufacturer of myths with which he abuses the credulity of his followers.


by Yves Guyot in 1910

Karl Marx and Engels want to convert socialism into a German monopoly, and when Marx says Proletariat of all nations, unite, what he means is Pan-Germanise.


by Yves Guyot in 1910

Proudhon proclaims the end of the government of man by man and of the exploitation of man by man. Does he desire that man should be governed by apes?

Featured Guide

What do libertarians think about issues in public policy? Jeffrey Miron applies economic thinking to a variety of policy questions, building a picture of what a libertarian world might look like.

Jeffrey A. Miron is a Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Harvards Economics Department.

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Beginning with his opposition to the Vietnam War, Chomsky established himself as a prominent critic of US foreign and domestic policy. He has since established himself as a prominent and prolific political philosopher and commentator; he is a self-declared anarcho-syndicalist as an adherent of libertarian socialism, which he regards as “the proper and natural extension of classical liberalism into the era of advanced industrial society.”

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A Few Kind Words about the Most Evil … – libertarianism.org

Since several of my previous essays have been linked to Rands moral condemnation of Immanuel Kant (1724-1802), especially her infamous remark that Kant was the most evil man in mankinds history (The Objectivist, Sept. 1971), I thought I would write a conciliatory essay or two about the moral and political theory of this villainous character whose evil supposedly exceeded that of the most murderous dictators in history. (The source of direct quotations from Kant are indicated by initials. See the conclusion of this essay for bibliographic details.)

My intention is not to defend Kants moral theory (I have serious disagreements) but to summarize some of its important features in a sympathetic manner. By this I mean that even though I reject a deontological (duty-centered) approach to ethics, I find Kants moral theory at once fascinating and highly suggestive, containing ideas that can be modified and then incorporated into a teleological (goal-directed) approach to ethics.

Kants first two major works on moral theoryGroundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals (1785) and Critique of Practical Reason (1788)might be described today as treatments of metaethics rather than of moral theory as many people understand that label. They are metaethical in the sense that they are largely devoted to the meanings of moral terms, such as duty or obligation, an explanation of why we may say that ethical principles are rationally justifiable, and the proper methodology of moral reasoning. If these works offer little in the way of practical maxims, this is because they focus a good deal on Kants Categorical Imperative, which is a purely formal principle without any specific material content. The Categorical Imperative per se does not prescribe particular goals that people should or should not pursue. Rather, it mandates that moral maxims and general principles must be universally applicable to every rational being before they can qualify as authentically moral in character. As Kant wrote:

The categorical imperative, which as such only expresses what obligation is, reads: act according to a maxim which can, at the same time, be valid as a universal law.You must, therefore begin by looking at the subjective principle of your action. But to know whether this principle is also objectively valid, your reason must subject it to the test of conceiving yourself as giving universal law through this principle. If your maxim qualifies for a giving of universal law, then it qualifies as objectively valid. (DV, p. 14.)

In other words, the Categorical Imperative is a formal principle of universalizability, a fundamental test that normative maxims and principles must first pass before they can qualify as rationally justifiable. (When Kant spoke of a moral law, he was drawing an analogy between the Categorical Imperative and the physical laws of nature. Just as there are no exceptions to the physical laws of nature, so there should be no exceptions to this fundamental law of morality.) Here is how Robert J. Sullivan explained the point of the Categorical Imperative in his excellent book Immanuel Kants Moral Theory (Cambridge, 1989, p. 165):

Kant calls this formula the supreme principle of morality because it obligates us to recognize and respect the right and obligation of every other person to choose and to act autonomously. Since moral rules have the characteristic of universality, what is morally forbidden to one is forbidden to all, what is morally permissible for one is equally permissible for all, and what is morally obligatory for one is equally obligatory for all. We may not claim to be exempt from obligations to which we hold others, nor may we claims permissions we are unwilling to extend to everyone else.

In Causality Versus Duty (reprinted in Philosophy Who Needs It) Ayn Rand launched an all-out assault on the concept of duty, calling it one of the most destructive anti-concepts in the history of moral philosophy. She objected to the common practice of using duty and obligation interchangeably, explaining what she regarded as significant differences and making some excellent points along the way. It should be understood, however, that Kant did not draw this distinction. For him duty and moral obligation are synonymous terms, so if the term duty jars you while reading Kant, simply substitute moral obligation and you will understand his meaning.

I regard Causality Versus Duty as an excellent essay overall (philosophically considered), but, predictably, Rand drags in Kant as the premier philosopher of duty and then distorts his ideas.

Now, if one is going to use another philosopher as a target, one should at least make an honest and reasonable effort to depict the ideas of that philosopher accurately. But Rand shows no indication of having done this. According to Rand, for example, The meaning of the term duty is: the moral necessity to perform certain actions for no reason other than obedience to some higher authority, without regard to any personal goal, motive, desire, or interest. The problem with Rands definition of duty is not simply that it does not apply to Kants conception of duty but that it directly contradicts it. Even a cursory reading of Kants works on moral theory will reveal the central role that autonomy played in his approach. By autonomy Kant meant the self-legislating will of every rational agent; and by this he meant, in effect, that we must judge every moral principle with our own reason and never accept the moral judgments of others, not even God, without rational justification. Rands claim that duty, according to Kant, means obedience to some higher authority is not only wrong; it is fundamentally antithetical to Kants conception of ethics. This is clear in the opening paragraph of what is probably Kants best-known essay, An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?

Enlightenment is mans emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use ones understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! Have courage to use your own understanding!that is the motto of the enlightenment. (WE, p. 41.)

Some of Rands statements about Kant are largely accurate, as we see in this passage:

Duty, he holds, is the only standard of virtue; but virtue is not its own reward: if a reward is involved, it is no longer virtue. The only motivation, he holds, is devotion to duty for dutys sake; only an action motivated exclusively by such devotion is a moral action (i.e., performed without any concern for inclination [desire] or self-interest.

Kant believed that moral virtue will make one worthy of happiness and thereby foster a sense of what Kant called self-esteem. Curiously perhaps, in Galts Speech Rand used the same phrase (worthy of happiness) in relation to self-esteem. But Rand was correct insofar as Kant denied that these and other possible consequences should constitute the motive of ones actions. Kant held that we should follow the dictates of duty unconditionally, that is, without regard for the consequences of our actions, whether for ourselves or others.

A major problem with Rands treatment of Kant in Causality Versus Duty is she harps on his defense of moral duty without ever mentioning the Categorical Imperative, which is the centerpiece of Kants moral philosophy. As we have seen, the Categorical Imperative is not some nefarious demand that we obey the dictates of God, society, or government. Rather, it is a purely formal requirement that all moral principles must be universalizable. The Categorical Imperative is a dictate of reason that our moral principles be consistent, in the sense that what is right or wrong for me must also be right or wrong for everyone else in similar circumstances. Kant is often credited with three basic formulations of the Categorical Imperative, but he framed the principle differently in different works, and one Kantian scholar has estimated that we find as many as twenty different formulations in his collected writings. There are many such problems in Kants writings, and these have led to somewhat different interpretations of the Categorical Imperative, as we find in hundreds of critical commentaries written about Kant. Although I am familiar with all of Kants major writings on ethics, I do not qualify as a Kantian scholar, so I do not feel competent to take a stand on which particular interpretation is correct. But his basic point is clear enough, and it was nothing less than philosophical malpractice for Ayn Rand to jump all over Kants defense of duty (or moral obligation) without explaining his Categorical Imperative. Indeed, to my knowledge Rand mentioned the Categorical Imperative only once in her published writings. In For the New Intellectual, she claimed that Kants Categorical Imperative makes itself known by means of a feeling, as a special sense of duty. This is absolutely false, a claim that Kant protested against explicitly. He insisted that the duty to follow the Categorical Imperativei.e., our moral obligation to apply moral judgments universally and consistentlyis a logical implication of our practical reason, not a feeling at all.

I shall go into greater detail about Kants Categorical Imperative (especially its political implications) in my next essay, but before drawing this essay to a close I wish to make a few brief observations about Kants attitude toward happiness. From reading Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, or some other Objectivist philosophers on Kant, one can easily come away with the notion that Kant was a champion of selflessness, altruism, or perhaps something even worse. This misleading interpretation is based on Kants argument that moral actions should not be motivated by a desire for happiness, whether for ourselves or for others. The following passage by Kant is typical:

The maxim of self-love (prudence) merely advises; the law of morality commands. Now there is a great difference between that which are advised to do and that which we are obligated to do. (CPR, pp. 37-8.)..A command that everyone should seek to make himself happy would be foolish, for no one commands another to do what he already invariably wishes to do.But to command morality under the name of duty is very reasonable, for its precept will not, for one thing, be willingly obeyed by everyone when it is in conflict with his inclinations. (CPR, 38.)

Kants opposition to happiness as a specifically moral motive was based on his rather technical conception of ethics, and on his distinction between moral principles and prudential maxims. He believed that the maxims that will lead to happiness vary so dramatically from person to person that they cannot be universalized and so do not qualify as general moral principles. The actions that will make me happy will not necessarily make you or anyone else happy. For this and other reasons, Kant argued that happiness cannot provide a stable moral motive for actions but must depend on the prudential wisdom of particular moral agents. Egoists like Ayn Rand will obviously object to Kants views on this matter, and, in my judgment, there are good reasons for doing so. But it would be a serious error to suppose that Kant was somehow anti-happiness. On the contrary, Kant repeatedly asserted that personal happiness is an essential component of the good life. According to Kant, reason allows us to seek our advantage in every way possible to us, and it can even promise, on the testimony of experience, that we shall probably find it in our interest, on the whole, to follow its commands rather than transgress them, especially if we add prudence to our practice of morality. (DV, p. 13.) To assure ones own happiness is a duty (at least indirectly).(GMM, p. 64.) But happiness will not serve as a motive or standard of moral value because men cannot form under the name of happiness any determinate and assured conception.

Nevertheless, the highest good possible in the world consists neither of virtue nor happiness alone, but of the union and harmony of the two. (TP, p. 64.) Kant made a number of similar statements in various works, as when he wrote that the pursuit of the moral law when pursued harmoniously with the happiness of rational beings is the highest good in the world. (CJ, p. 279.)

Kants highly individualistic notion of the pursuit of happinessthe very fact that disqualified it as a universalizable moral motivewas a major factor in his defense of a free society in which every person should be able to pursue happiness in his own way, so long as he respects the equal rights of others to do the same. Jean H. Faurot (The Philosopher and the State: From Hooker to Popper, 1971, p. 196) put it this way.

[Kant] thought of society as composed of autonomous, self-possessed individuals, each of whom is endowed with inalienable rights, including the right to pursue happiness in his own way. There is, according to Kant, only one true natural (inborn) rightthe right of freedom.

As Jeffrie G. Murphy explained in Kant: The Philosophy of Right (1970, p. 93):

[Kants] ideal moral world is not one in which everyone would have the same purpose. Rather his view is that the ideal moral world would be one in which each man would have the liberty to realize all of his purposes in so far as these principles are compatible with the like liberty for all.

According to Kant, the first consideration of a legal system should be to insure that each person remains at liberty to seek his happiness in any way he thinks best so long as he does not violate the rights of other fellow subjects. (TP, p. 78.) And again:

No one can compel meto be happy after his fashion; instead, every person may seek happiness in the way that seems best to him, if only he does not violate the freedom of others to strive toward such similar ends as are compatible with everyones freedom under a possible universal law (i.e., this right of others). (TP, p. 72.)

Kant was resolutely opposed to paternalistic governments. A government that views subjects as a father views his children, as immature beings who are incompetent to decide for themselves what is good or bad for them and dictates instead how they ought to be happy is the worst despotism we can think of. Paternalism subverts all the freedom of the subjects, who would have no freedom whatsoever. (TP, p. 73.) The sovereign who wants to make people happy in accord with his own concept of happinessbecomes a despot. (TP, p. 81.)

Needless to say, these and similar remarks scarcely fit the stereotypical Objectivist image of Kant as a villainous character who wished to subvert reason, morality, and the quest for personal happiness. Kant, whatever his errors, made a serious effort to probe the nature of ethics and moral obligation to their foundations, and to justify a theory of ethics by reason alone. A regard for the dignity and moral autonomy of every individual, regardless of his or her station in life, runs deep in the writings of Kant. But more needs to be said about Kants political theory, so that shall be the main topic of my next essay.

The following are the sources for the quotations from Kant used in this essay.

CJ: Critique of Judgement, trans. James Creed Meredith, rev. Nicholas Walker (Oxford University Press, 2007).

CPR: Critique of Practical Reason, trans. Lewis White Beck (Bobbs-Merrill, 1956).

DV: The Doctrine of Virtue: Part II of the Metaphysic of Morals, trans. Mary J. Gregor (Harper, 1964).

GMM: Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, translated and analyzed by H.J. Paton, in The Moral Law (Hutchinson, 1972).

TP: On the Proverb: That May be True in Theory, But Is Of No Practical Use, in Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, trans. Ted Humphrey (Hackett, 1983).

WE: An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? in Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, trans. Ted Humphrey (Hackett, 1983).

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A Few Kind Words about the Most Evil … – libertarianism.org

Socrates on Trial, Part 1: Apology | Libertarianism.org


Aaron Ross Powell: Welcome to Free Thoughts from Libertarianism.org and the Cato Institute. Im Aaron Powell.

Matthew Feeney: Im Matthew Feeney.

Trevor Burrus: And Im Trevor Burrus.

Aaron Ross Powell: Joining us today is Brian Wilson. Hes co-founder of Combat & Classics, a program out of St. Johns that organizes free online seminars on classic text for active duty reserve and veteran U.S. military. Hes joining us today to discuss Platos Apology.

Brian, lets maybe kick things off by having you tell us a bit about Combat & Classics.

Brian Wilson: Sure. Combat & Classics is sponsored by St. Johns College. Its an outreach program through St. Johns. Im a graduate of the Graduate Institute in Annapolis and when I was kind of transitioning from student to alumnus, approached the dean of the college and just said, Hey, what can I do for you guys?

They just really wanted to get kind of more involvement with the military and we thought the best way to do that was just by what we do at St. Johns which is just Socratic dialogue and great books, just with the military audience.

Trevor Burrus: And does it come over pretty well? I mean are there any text that you tend to focus on mostly in that or is it pretty broad? Is it classic philosophy or plays or Greek and Roman or anything

Brian Wilson: Yeah. I mean the degree from St. Johns is liberal arts. So we study everything from Euclid to Newton to Aristophanes to Plato to basically the kind of classical liberal education. So we try to represent that as best we can with Combat & Classics. We do probably do a little bit more history and philosophy, a little bit more Thucydides, a little bit more Herodotus, a little bit more Plato.

But we try to get in a good amount of things that maybe somebody whos looking at the great books and is in the military has already started on but for instance, our April and our March and April seminars are both Macbeth. So we will be doing Shakespeare for those.

But our February upcoming seminar is on the Iliad. So we do kind of a marshal theme to a certain extent but its a broad swath of classical literature that we use.

Aaron Ross Powell: Well then I guess lets turn to our text. We chose today Platos Apology which is one that youve done seminars on.

Brian Wilson: Yeah.

Aaron Ross Powell: So give us some background on that.

Brian Wilson: So the Apology is Socrates on trial, right? He has apparently corrupted the youth. He is accused of being a heretic, of not believing in the gods and this is Socrates you would call lackluster defense of those charges, but also a robust defense of what it means to be an individual, to be able to stand up to the state and what is the consequences of that for both the individual and the state.

Trevor Burrus: Why would you call the defense lackluster?

Brian Wilson: I think that and Socrates admits those to a certain extent. Meletus, his accuser, has kind of made his case and Socrates is replying and thats the beginning of the dialogue is Socrates replying. He says like what Meletus has said is and the accusers at large which was not true, right? But it sways the jury, right? And it has obviously swayed the jury and he said, Im not going to do that. Im not going to play this game. Im just going to do what I do, which is seek truth, examine virtue and if you guys dont like that, all right. No big deal.

Hes willing to accept the consequences of that decision of being kind of true to himself rather than Im going to make a case to get myself out of punishment.

Trevor Burrus: Should we interpret this as a Ive never gotten a good handle on the theistic I guess kind of piety of the Greeks, of how much are they kind of like modern day Christians who if you dont believe in their gods because I always thought if you are if you believe in many gods, then you believe that you kind of accept other people who believe in those gods too and dont treat them as atheists as much.

So are these trumped up charges? Sort of like this impiety. Was it the worst thing in ancient Greece to believe in different gods than those gods in this corruption of should we interpret them as trumped up charges?

Brian Wilson: No, I think its pretty clear that they are trumped up. You know, whether or not Socrates was an actual theist or an atheist or what is kind of one of those things that and I know that Cato has talked about this in the pas as far as like how much of a deist was Thomas Jefferson and George Washington?

So its those kinds of things where its like only the people that only you know, you know, how much you buy into whatever religious creed you might or might not espouse. So there were certainly questions that Socrates raised that could make people uncomfortable, but theres no statement that I can think of in the entire kind of platonic canon where he comes out and says, I dont believe any of this stuff, right?

But its the questioning that certainly causes this accusation to get carried forward and certainly has swayed a decent amount of the jury.

Aaron Ross Powell: I mean its pretty clear hes not a straight-up atheist.

Brian Wilson: Yeah.

Aaron Ross Powell: Like he very obviously he defends himself along these lines by saying, look, I talk all the time and tell people all the time about

Trevor Burrus: Demigods.

Aaron Ross Powell: Demigods and demons and other things that assume

Trevor Burrus: Does he mean like Hercules? Is that what he its like the Hercules of

Brian Wilson: Yeah, and he talks about the demigods. He talks about the offspring of gods and man and I think you its very much a Rorschach test I think for the reader, right? If you want to read that as if youre an atheist reader approaching the text, then you can go, Oh, hes messing with these guys.

But if youre a theist reader, then you can go, No, hes trying to fit it into this theist doctrine thats part of the community and hes just trying to play by those rules. They may not believe him

Matthew Feeney: I mean its certainly the case at least towards the endI dont want to jump ahead too muchbut that he postulates after death are a couple of possibilities and one is that its just an eternal kind of sleep and the other is hey, Ive got to hang out with Homer and all these other guys. But he seems so at the beginning, theres this question when he speaks to the oracle and it seems like hard to believe someone not taking that seriously with some sort of theistic belief.

If you really dont believe that the oracle was the voice of a god, then hes walking around Athens, trying to see if he could find someone wiser than him. It seems a little pointless.

Trevor Burrus: One final question I want to ask before we open up a bag of worms here, but before we get fully into the text is, Is this a history?

Brian Wilson: I mean your guess is as good as mine on that. I think that I always liked Christopher Hitchens kind of description of Socrates versus Jesus. You know, its like its not important if youre looking at Socrates, whether or not he existed at all, right?

You can take his teachings and you can take whatever you want out of that, right? And its not important if he existed or didnt exist or if this is what he said or didnt say.

Trevor Burrus: But its a little different because in this one, I think one of two maybe of Platos dialogues, Plato is supposed to be there. So maybe he was taking notes. It kind of brings that spectrum a little bit more.

Aaron Ross Powell: But I think this is complicated by so we only have two accounts of Socrates defense. We have Plato and the Xenophon, who was another follower of Socrates. But then at the same time, theres this after Socrates death, it was kind of a thing for writers to write their own versions of his defense. It was like just fan fiction.

Trevor Burrus: Its also probably kind of like a Rorschach test. They all wrote it the way that they saw it.

Aaron Ross Powell: Yes. So I mean its a little bit different. We have almost no text. What we do know about Socrates largely comes from Plato and Xenophon and Plato very clearly drifts away from presenting anything that even is remotely historical or documentary in his later dialogues where we get to just these are Platos ideas and Socrates is a mouthpiece for them.

Theres the argument made that I think seems relatively persuasive to me that of the two apologies that we have, Platos and Xenophons, like Xenophon, well a smart guy, was not a genius on the level of Plato. So its less so Platos genius probably takes over a bit more in his presentation. But theyre I mean theyre similar enough although its the Xenophon, Socrates is not his speech is not the great work of literature that we read for today and is quite a bit more straightforward.

But the skeleton is relatively the same. So we could probably say I mean theres some level of accuracy there but we dont know. So I think largely when were talking about Socrates, were analyzing Socrates in the way that we would talk about Hamlet, right? We act as if we analyze him as a real person while recognizing too that he was a historical figure but what were really talking about is Platos presentation of him.

Trevor Burrus: So lets talk about that skeleton then. How does the dialogue open up?

Brian Wilson: Well, the dialogue, I mean it rolls right into the defense, right? And theres no which I find always find interesting is that theres not really a presentation of the accusers argument. It is just the defense and you have to kind of start with that question.

I mean there is a dialogue thats supposed to have happened right before the trial which is the Euthyphro, which I know Im pronouncing wrong because my Greek is pretty terrible. But they dont really talk much about Socrates trial, right? They talk about Euthyphros trial for manslaughter. So we open with this and Socrates immediately kind of goes for underwhelming. You know, he says, I do not know what effect my accusers had upon you. Hes speaking to the jury. But for my own part, I was almost carried away by them. Their arguments were so convincing. On the other hand, scarcely a word of what they said was true.

Aaron Ross Powell: Its a wonderful line to read during a presidential election.

Brian Wilson: Yeah.

Trevor Burrus: Are we picturing him in an amphitheater type situation with like I picture this as a circle with the people sitting on benches around him while he was speaking to them. Is that a

Brian Wilson: I always think about it just like Perry Mason.

Matthew Feeney: This kind of juries I think were done I forget the name of the location but its quite close to the Acropolis and it would have been about for the time, about 500 people then hearing the accusation and the defense on the top of this rather small hill in Athens.

Brian Wilson: I think that the police procedural has just kind of tainted my visualization a little bit too much. Im visualizing Law and Order.

Aaron Ross Powell: And the setup just the setup of this trial and the way it functions is I think something we could talk about because its fairly interesting as a contrast to the way that we do things now.

Brian Wilson: Sure. I mean he has this jury of 500 people, right? And it seems obvious to me that theyve been fairly swayed by the accusers. What we usually do at St. Johns when were opening a seminar, when were talking about something like this, is that the tutor will just ask an opening question. From there, theres not really were trying to stick to the reading as much as possible. Obviously youre the host and youre the Cato Institute. So if we want to talk about the Iowa caucus, then go for it.

Trevor Burrus: Please no.

Brian Wilson: Probably not. But we just try to stick to the text as much as we can for our points and for our questions. So the question I would like to ask you is, What was Socrates mindset during this trial?

Matthew Feeney: So I think thats a great opening because if you think about the timeline here, hes already an old man. Seventy, which you can say pretty old now, let alone in ancient Greece.

Reading the defense, I got the impression that he might be just sort of resigned to the way this might end and the way it will end because hes an old man and the way hes addressing it, he discusses how death isnt particularly that bad and the important thing is to lead a good life and that you shouldnt calculate the chances of living or dying. You should think about doing the right thing versus the wrong thing and maybe if I die, I will be able to an eternal sleep or talk to people I admire and I can continue these conversations.

So part of me thinks his mindset might be well, I could be doomed but at least I can go out in a great rhetorical flourish and make these people look a little silly. I think he succeeds in doing that, especially with Meletus, that accuser.

Trevor Burrus: Yeah, I agree with Matthew. I think also that I always read Socrates as so tongue-in-cheek the way he spoke to people that I kind of read the Apology as being kind of angry and his righteousness against the accusing this is who I think it is. A libertarian-ish text or something we can learn just political philosophy about a person standing against a power who has the righteous position which he discusses later on.

If you do think you have the righteous position thats the way Socrates does everything. Do you think he would never say it. He would be like hes like, What do you think? Socrates, do you have the righteous position? Hes like, I dont know, sir. Do you think I have the righteous position? Are cows righteous? He would never say it but you know he does think this. Now hes going to stand in front of the polis which is a much more community-oriented type of concept than the current state and then tell them basically like a on both their houses, all of you. So I see anger.

Aaron Ross Powell: Yeah, that was my reading more so than just resignation was the righteousness coming in because hes so he tells us this story of the oracle Adelphi saying that hes the wisest man alive and that he has basically built a career around trying to assess that because he like he doesnt think of himself as wise. But which of course I think he really does but he just likes to think hes not. Its because he recognizes his lack of wisdom that the oracle thinks hes the most wise.

But to kind of test this, he goes around asking people who are presumed to be wise and testing their wisdom and always finding it lacking. So he he has got this other part where he goes in about the training of the horses, right? Where he says you wouldnt when you want to break a horse, you call in an expert. You dont just have like everyone break the horse because thats not going to work and that seems to be a dig against this system.

So I read this as like a like look, Ive been going around showing all of you up and now youve done this dumb thing where youre putting me on trial and so its not just that Im kind of resigned to my fate and I dont really think that living over 70 would be all that awesome anyway and death isnt all isnt something to worry about. But also that Im going to prove like my last act will be proving that I was right all along by getting by showing the complete lack of wisdom of all of you and that seems to be because hes constantly provoking them. This isnt just like a lackluster defense. This is like come and get me, right?

So even when hes given like every opportunity and we get that in the follow-up dialogue, the credo where hes given the opportunity after he has been convicted to run away and hes just he doesnt take it. Like, in every step, he seems to want them to kill him even when I mean theyve declared him guilty and he offers up these basically absurd alternative sentences that he knows theyre going to reject. He just he seems angry and he seems like he wants to demonstrate the foolishness of the people of Athens.

Brian Wilson: Yeah, I mean he I like the idea of anger just because right at 28, he kind of has an external, internal dialogue and says but perhaps someone will say, Do you feel no compunction Socrates in having followed a line of action which puts you in danger of the death penalty? I might fairly reply to him, Youre mistaken my friend if you think that a man whos worth anything ought to spend his time weighing up the prospects of life and death.

He gives the example of Achilles, right? Which we have this whole book of Homer about it and the first word of that is menace, right? Rage. Singham used the rage of Achilles. So he kind of brings it off and the whole presentation, I mean you can obviously if youre directing this, you can get a Mickey Rourke in there. You can kind of get somebody a little bit more relaxed.

But the rage is there, right? I mean its right in the dialogue when he brings up Achilles. But whats interesting to me is that he says right there, you know, the idea of even questioning that, right? The idea of thinking about that is but thats what Achilles did for half the book. So I feel like theres kind of a maybe a duality there of hes saying its wrong but he might also be implying that theres a certain bit of human nature in wanting to spare yourself. Do any of you feel like Socrates tries at any point to kind of at least give himself some breathing room in the dialogue to maybe convince the jury Im not as big a threat as you think I am?

Matthew Feeney: I think that he certainly does make fools of the accusers and make the charges sound ridiculous but I think as a as Aaron alluded to earlier, after the vote where hes found guilty, but not by a particularly large margin. And Socrates as well, Im glad that you didnt that I got some support here. But then goes on to propose that they give him a pension or that they you know, comparatively, a meager fine be imposed and he seems to he must have known that that would lose him what support he probably did have and then instead of a sort of sensible negotiation or proposal, hes sentenced to death and I think that thats quite telling.

Trevor Burrus: Well, I think that that interesting he does try to some extent but this at the beginning, he mentions Aristophanes The Clouds which kind of parodies Socrates. But he seems like a guy who believes the popular opinion is one thing about him. Like if you imagine a star today and everyone thinks that like theres some sort of rumor about someone and that theres really nothing he can do to change this, especially because I do think that he believes it.

Most people are stupid and so he says, Well, I get up there and I talk to a bunch of stupid people who have an idea about me because of this opinion thats in the clouds and other sort of just rumors about me. Im not going to convince them at all.

But I think he does try or really tries to make a case for the few people who might be willing to listen to him to some degree.

Aaron Ross Powell: Well, that was I mean teasing out this he defends himself but whether its an attempt to soften it as you ask or just to not I guess give in to what he sees as false charges, because he he could have just said, OK, youre right, and then throw himself on the mercy of the court or not really mounted much of a defense if he didnt care one way or another or but it seems like his defense is I guess what I had a difficult time figuring out is how much of the defense was like him trying to like I dont want to be punished. So Im going to try to defend myself versus I totally dont care what happens to me and in fact would like to be punished because it would prove me right.

But I cant stand by because he talks about how much what ultimately matters is not wealth. Its not prestige. Its the kind of person you are. Its your principles and so hes not going to hes going to defend his honor and his principles against these false charges but it doesnt matter what happens to him ultimately.

Trevor Burrus: Can we compare this to I mean it has been of course, but can we compare this to Jesus in front of Pontius Pilate in the sense of Jesus offering a defense against a crowd with a huge bias against him and saying nothing in response to their claims of his own type of disobedience of the Pharisees? I think its very similar except for Jesus was a little bit more taciturn.

Matthew Feeney: Yes. So I havent actually heard much about that comparison but I think what they both have in common is that that to a contemporary 21st century reader in Washington DC, its the thing that Socrates and Jesus do seem to have in common is that theyre being accused of whats effectively thought crime in the like you have the wrong kind of ideas and youre being too persuasive to people and all this other sort of stuff.

Trevor Burrus: But in our post-rationalization because they kind of both start movements these texts are at least written for the purpose of starting a movement. Both of these are just like, well, Im going to die and my death is going to be a lesson. I mean its a really big lesson for Jesus but its they just sort of resigned themselves to their fate and so we see a trial which again has a righteousness of standing against the power that is arrayed against you.

Matthew Feeney: Yeah, and it is the case that Socrates does say I think at the end something look, youre going to think yourself a little silly and I think he has been proven right.

Trevor Burrus: Well, theres a Pharisaic equality to the people who are accusing him. These three accusers who I think are just some sort of they represent classes, if I read that correctly.

Brian Wilson: Yeah. I mean I the way that I kind of tie this in more is I feel like that Plato I mean obviously this is an important part of the canon, right? Of the platonic canon, an important part of Socrates. I dont know if you need it. You need the Pontius Pilate story to have a serious impact on Christianity. I dont know if you need the Apology to make Socrates understood. But it is important. I would compare it more to something like Kafkas The Trial, something like Orwell, something like Eileen Changs Naked Earth where its youre against the state, right?

Socrates lays it out, right? He says very specifically around 31-C he basically says, he says, I dont mess with the state because I know whats going to happen, right? The last part of 31-C, The true champion of justice, if he intends to survive even for a short time, must necessarily confine himself to private life and leave politics alone, right?

Hes trying to go out of his way to do this but the state doesnt care, right? The state just by questioning any aspect of its doctrine is going to get insulted, right?

Trevor Burrus: I like how he was bringing up how he makes no money. There are a lot of things that as a lawyer, there are a lot of things in the world where the state cant get you until youre making money off of it. They dont have any jurisdiction over you until youre making money off of it. So its like, hey, Im just doing this, my own private life. Private is private.

Brian Wilson: Yeah. The thing is that this is the only thing that the only two things that they could threaten, right? It was first saying you cant do this anymore, right? And it was important for him to be able to do it and in Athens and then the only other thing was his life, right?

So if he wants to take that kind of binary look and say, If this or that, it does show how necessary he sees exploring what is the virtuous life as a at least critical for him and I think that that example obviously shines through in a very robust way in what hes talking about.

You know, something that we talk about because weve done this seminar a couple of times with the military audience is around line 29. He says, The truth of the matter is this, gentlemen. This was right after the Achilles comparison. The truth of the matter is this, gentlemen. Where a man has once taken up a stand either because it seems best to him or an obedience to his orders, there I believe he is bound to remain and face the danger, taking no account of death or anything else before dishonor. This being so, it would be a shocking inconsistency on my part, gentlemen, if when the officers whom you chose to command me, assigned me at my position at Potidaea and Amphipolis and Delium, I remained at my post like anyone else and faced death, and yet afterward, when God appointed me, as I supposed and believed, to the duty of leading the philosophical life, examining myself and others, I were then through fear of death or of any other danger to desert my post.

So, well, thats like super firey-uppey for like libertarians. You have to wonder how effective that is. How effective is that analogy to you as readers? How effective potentially is that for a military reader? I mean it certainly puts like a lot of military readers kind of on the horns of the dilemma is you know, there is this idea of death before dishonor.

You know, why is Socrates so set on either not teaching philosophy as more dishonorable than death?

Matthew Feeney: Well, I think it might strike us as maybe a little odd as readers now to hear that rhetoric, especially coming from someone who was a philosopher. But I think its important to remember that Socrates was also a soldier for a while and that one of the accusers is a general who fought the Spartans in the Peloponnesian War and that a lot of people in Athens at the time would have understood the role of the military and would probably have served. I think its some sort of appeal and of course saying, Im just like Achilles, is a clear everyone in ancient Greece would have known the reference clearly and who legends were very popular.

Of course Achilles had this living with dishonor is worse than death and that even if I know Im dead after I fight and kill Hector, thats worthwhile. He seems to view his own death I mean I think that Socrates arrogance is on display in a number of places. But my favorite example of that was when he says, Maybe if I die, my death will be like other people who died unjustly, and he cites Palamedes who was of course sent to get Odysseus, the great trickster, to come to Troy and Palamedes tricked the trickster because of Odysseus tried to pretend to be insane, was so insulting to the earth and Palamedes put Odysseus son Telemachus in front of the plough and tricked Odysseus because Odysseus wasnt going to cut his own son in half off the plough.

I just find that a really interesting that when he says, My death will be like other unjust deaths, and that is death of at least one particularly clever person is really quite telling. But no, I think going back to the original line of inquiry here that the military rhetoric is very deliberate and I think he must have known that it would have pulled on the heartstrings of a few of the people on the jury.

Trevor Burrus: Well, a lot of this tradition of death before dishonor or anyone from Gandhi to Martin Luther King to people standing against and saying, I will not forsake my principles for this thing thats standing against me that has none of these principles at all, it resonates with almost everyone. I mean movies, everything, is made after this and you could always sort of put a libertarian spin on this.

But I think its interesting that this is something I had noticed before that I dont have the exact locations unfortunately that you do for the official version. But he has done this before. Socrates talks about the Thirty, in like how he had done this before. He had stood against this the Thirty

Aaron Ross Powell: The tyrants.

Trevor Burrus: When the oligarchy of the Thirty was in power, they sent me and four others into the rotunda and bade us bring Leon the Salaminian from Salamis as they wanted to put him to death. This was a specimen of the sort of commands which they were always giving with the view of implicating as many as possible in their crimes.

So we get this theres basically some sort of Stalinist despotism, just killing people left and right. And then I showed not in word only but in deed that if I may be allowed to use up an expression, I cared not a straw for death and that my great and only care was lest I should do an unrighteous or unholy thing. For the strong arm of that oppressive power did not frighten me into doing wrong and when we came out of the rotunda, the other four went to Salamis and fetched Leon, but I went quietly home. For which I might have lost my life, had not the power of the Thirty shortly afterwards come to an end. And many will witness to my words.

Its kind of interesting that at some point Im not sure historically how long that was. He had the habit of this death before unrighteousness kind of thing.

Matthew Feeney: Yeah. The historical context here is interesting because this sort of this oligarch, this pro-Spartan set of tyrants were in charge effectively, in charge of Athens and

Trevor Burrus: Do you know what years?

Matthew Feeney: So this was 404 BC.

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Socrates on Trial, Part 1: Apology | Libertarianism.org

What is Libertarianism? – CNNPolitics.com

This is not without reason. Libertarians talk a lot about auditing the Federal Reserve and returning U.S. currency to the gold standard. They rail against the war on drugs and many of them, including the party’s front-runner, enjoy pot. But as the Libertarian Party gathers in Florida to select its nominee during an unprecedented year in politics, it has a chance to break out of the fringe.

Founded in 1971, the Libertarian Party offers an ideological and political alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties, in favor of reducing government involvement in all sectors, from the economy to social issues.

Although disagreement abounds on specific measures and the extent to which government should shrink, Libertarians almost universally advocate for slashing government benefits, reducing economic regulations and implementing radical reform — if not the outright elimination — of the Federal Reserve. On social matters, Libertarians generally take a liberal approach, favoring same-sex marriage and the decriminalization of most, or all, drugs. The party is deeply pro-gun rights and takes a skeptical stance on any military involvement in other countries.

Many of these ideas are rooted in principles espoused by Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged.” Rand helped popularize the controversial Libertarian principle that “egoism” was preferable to altruism — that one’s self-interest trumped anything else so long as it did not mean hurting anyone else.

These ideas are old, and debates over core Libertarian principles abound. Rather than dig through the weeds, CNN reached out to several contemporary Libertarians — all of whom will be key players in the national convention this weekend — to get a better understanding of Libertarianism as it stands now.

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee and the frontrunner this cycle, said, “The more government does, the less freedom we enjoy. The Libertarian view is in favor of smaller government and greater individual liberty.”

Austin Petersen, a hardcore party advocate and candidate for president, said Libertarianism “means being fiscally conservative and socially whatever you want provided you don’t force it on anyone else.”

He said people could live as they pleased. Whether that meant living by traditional values or taking hard drugs, Petersen said the government should not regulate anyone’s lifestyle.

“You can live a socially conservative lifestyle, but it doesn’t mean you want to legislate other people to have a socially conservative lifestyle,” Petersen said.

Petersen has split with many socially liberal members of his party on abortion, which allows him to pitch himself social conservatives in a way other candidates cannot.

“I believe a fetus is a human child,” Petersen said. “You cannot have liberty without sanctity of life.”

Meanwhile, John McAfee, a cybersecurity expert who earned international notoriety years before his recent run for the Libertarian nomination, described libertarianism as an economic and social lifestyle of its own. He rolled off a list of principles he said defined his understanding of the party.

“Number one, our bodies and our minds belong to ourselves and not to the government or anyone else for that matter. Number two, we should not harm one another,” McAfee recited.

“Number three, we should not take each other’s stuff. We should not steal each other’s property. Number four, we should keep our agreements.”

Carla Howell, political director of the Libertarian National Committee, offered the party’s own answer.

“We advocate for minimum government and maximum freedom,” Howell said.

When it comes to policy, Howell cited party commitments to cutting taxes, ending the war on drugs and privatizing poorly performing government agencies. She took the TSA to task in particular, calling for its elimination. Howell also said the Libertarian Party advocates ending military interventions and foreign aid, which she said would promote peace and reduce spending.

“Bottom line,” Howell said, “We need to make government much smaller than it is today.”

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What is Libertarianism? – CNNPolitics.com