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.

Here is the original post:

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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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.

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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.

Read the original:

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.”

Read the original here:

What is Libertarianism? – CNNPolitics.com

Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics … – Libertarianism.org


Trevor Burrus: Welcome to Free Thoughts from Libertarianism.org and the Cato Institute. Im Trevor Burrus.

Aaron Powell: And Im Aaron Powell.

Trevor Burrus: Joining us today is Thomas C. Leonard, research scholar at the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University and lecturer at Princeton Universitys Department of Economics. He is the author of the new book, Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era. Welcome to Free Thoughts.

Thomas Leonard: Thanks. Nice to be with you.

Trevor Burrus: So Id like to start with the title which says a lot by itself. Why Illiberal Reformers?

Thomas Leonard: Well, everyone knows that the scholars and activists who dismantled laissez faire and built welfare state were reformers. They dont call it the progressive era for nothing. But its my claim that a central feature of that reform, central feature of erecting the regulatory state, a new kind of state, was the producing of liberties in the name of various conceptions of the greater good. Not just economic liberties, property rights, contract and so forth, thats sort of a well-known part of the transition from 19th century liberalism to 20th century liberalism, but also I maintain civil and personal liberties as well.

Trevor Burrus: And what time period, are we talking about just after the turn of the century or the turn of the 20th century or going back further than that?

Thomas Leonard: Well, the idea is the architecture, if you will, the blueprints were drawn up sort of in the last decade and a half of the 19th century and they gradually made their way into actual sort of legislation and institutions, government institutions in the first 2 decades of the 20th century. Sort ofto use the usual scholarly terms kind of late gilded age and then the progressive era.

Trevor Burrus: So, who are these people, these reformers? Are they politicians mostly or are they in some other walk of life?

Thomas Leonard: Eventually they are politicians, but the politicians have to be convinced first. So the convincers in the beginning are a group of intellectuals or if you like scholars. They are economists, sociologists, population scientists, social workers.

Trevor Burrus: Population scientists, are those basically Malthusians or?

Thomas Leonard: No. Today we call them demographers.

Trevor Burrus: We dont use that term anymore. We call them what today?

Thomas Leonard: No. No. Today, we would call them demographers.

Trevor Burrus: Oh, okay.

Thomas Leonard: Yeah. Its not quiteit doesnt have to sound that sinister. But one of the interesting things, Trevor, about social science in this kind ofin its very beginnings in the late 19th century is itsits only beginning to become an academic discipline which is part of the book story. And a lot of social science kind of social investigations, fact-finding, research reports, a lot of that is being done outside the academy in the immigrant settlement houses, to a lesser extent in government administrative agencies, in investigations funded by the brand-new foundations and eventually in this brand-new invention called the Think Tank.

Aaron Powell: Was this increasing influence by what these people are ultimately working is largely academic, so is this new for academics or academics this influential before this?

Thomas Leonard: No. It is new. Its a revolution in academia. If we could transport ourselves backwards in time to Princeton, say, in 1880, we wouldnt recognize the place. American colleges, you know, just after the Civil War were tiny institutions. They werent particularly scholarly. They were denominational. They were led by ministers. In Princetons case, they would have been finishing southern gentlemen and you wouldnt recognize it at all.

If, however, we could transport ourselves back to, say, 1920, just at the end of the progressive era, you would recognize everything about the place. The social sciences had been invented and installed. Theres the beginning of the physical sciences in academia and its no longer just the classics, theology and a little bit of philosophy and mathematics. Part of the story of the rise of reform is the story of this revolution in American higher ed which takes place between 1880 and 1900.

Trevor Burrus: In the book, you discussed how Germany figures into this to some degree, which I thought was kind of interesting because Germany also figured into reforming our public education below higher ed but Germany status in the intellectual world was very influential on Americans in particular.

Thomas Leonard: Yeah, thats quite right. The German connection is crucial for understanding the first generation of economists and other reformers. In the 1870s and into the 1880s, if you wanted to study cutting-edge political economy, Germany was where you went and all of the founders of American economics and indeed most of the other sort of newly hatching social sciences did their graduate work in Bismarck in Germany. And its only sort of beginning in the 1890s that American higher end catches up but, boy, does it catch up quickly. Thats why we use the term revolution.

But the turn of the century, you know, the number of graduate students in the United States getting Ph.D.s is in the thousands. You know, sort of after the Civil War even as late as 1880, it would have just been a handdful.

Trevor Burrus: So what did these people start thinking aboutI mean these illiberal reformers, what did they get in their head partially from Germany, partially from other sources which we can talk about later? But in the sort of general overview when they looked at society, what did they sort of maybe not suddenly but at that moment, what did they decide they wanted to do with it?

Thomas Leonard: Well, another thing to understand is that most of them, in addition to sort of having this German model of how an economy works and also a German model of how an economy should be regulated, there were also evangelical protestants, most of them grew up in evangelical homes, most of them were sons and daughters of ministers or missionaries and they had, you know, this extraordinary zeal, this desire to set the world to rights. And they looked around them during the industrial revolution and they saw what really was extraordinary, unprecedented, economic and social change which we cannot gather under the banner of the industrial or at least the American industrial revolution.

And when they looked around them, they saw injustice. They saw low wages. There was a newly visible class of the poor in the cities. They saw inefficiency. They saw labor conflict. They saw uneducated men getting rich and this upending of the old social order in their view was not only inefficient, it was also un-Christian and immoral and it needed to be reformed, and they were sort ofits important to say unabashed about using evangelical terminology. They referred to this is the first generation of progressives. They referred to their project as bringing a kingdom of heaven to Earth.

Aaron Powell: Then how did theyso theyve got this project. Theyve identified these issues that they want to change. How did they go about turning that concern and the expertise that they thought they had into control of the reins of power or influence within government?

Thomas Leonard: Great question. It wasnt easy. They understood that they had a tall task in front of them. They had to persuade those in power that reform was needed and reform was justified. And it helped that 2 other students, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson went on too famous as politicians and so did other progressives at lower levels too. Part of the idea of academic economics in this sort of beginning stage was that you didnt just spend time in the library or do blackboard exercises. Your job was to go out and make the world a better place.

So, I think the best way to think about it was they, along with many other reformers, wrote for the newspapers, went on the lecture circuits, bent the air of politicians first at the state level and then later at the federal level and said its a new economic world. The old economic ideas, laissez faire as they called it, are not only is it immoral, its economically obsolete and we need to build a new relationship not unlike the model that Germany provided between the state and economic life. And very gradually it happened.

Trevor Burrus: They were talking about also the emergence of the administrative state comes into this too because then they can take over posts in government that are not necessarily elected where their expertise is supposed to be utilized.

Thomas Leonard: Thats exactly right. The crucial point is that we think about the progressive era as a huge expansion in the size and scope of government and indeed it is that. But the progressives didnt just want bigger government. They also wanted a new kind of government, which they saw as a better form, as a superior form of government. Famously the progressives werent just unhappy with economic life which was one thing, they were also unhappy with American political life and with American government which they saw and rightly so as corrupt and inefficient and not doing what it should be doing to improve society and economy. So they wanted to not only to expand state power but also to relocate it, to move government authority away from the courts which traditionally had held quite a bit of regulatory power and away from legislatures and into what they sometimes called a new fourth branch of government, the administrative state.

Trevor Burrus: And youre right, youre right in your book which I think this is a very succinct way of pointing it. Progressivism was first and foremost an attitude about the proper relationship of science and its bearer, the scientific expert, to the state and of the state to the economy and polity. And so these expertsI also want to think we should make clear, this was not a fringe group of intellectuals and academic professors. This waswould you say it was the mainstream or at least a kind of whos who of American intellectuals and all the great Ivy League institutions?

Thomas Leonard: Absolutely. Its the best and brightest if I can use an anachronistic phrase. Now, we have to be a little careful with Ivy League because the centers of academic reform are at places like Wisconsin and to some extent at Columbia and at Johns Hopkins and to some extent at Penn. But the old colonial colleges like Harvard and Yale were a little late to catch up. It took them a while to catch on to this new German model of graduate seminars and professors as experts and not merely instructors.

Trevor Burrus: So how did they conceptualize the average worker that needed their help? You have this great line in your book which I think says something about modern politics too. Progressives did not work in factories. They inspected them. Progressives did not drink in salons. They tried to shudder them. The bold women who chose to live among the immigrant poor and city slums called themselves settlers, not neighbors. Even when progressives idealized workers, they tended to patronize them. Romanticizing a brotherhood that they would never consider joining.

Thomas Leonard: Yeah. I think its fair to say and its not exactly a revelation that the progressives were not working class, but neither were they, you know, part of the gentry class. They were middle class and from middle class backgrounds, as I say sons and daughters of ministers and missionaries. So, they were unhappy when they looked upward at the new plutocrats who were uneducated and in their view un-Christian and potentially corrupting of the republic, but they also didnt like what they saw when they looked downward at ordinary people particularly at immigrants. If you dont mind, I feel like I should circle back to this fourth branch idea

Trevor Burrus: Please.

Thomas Leonard: as a conception of the administrative state. I didnt finish my thought very well. I think that the way that the progressives thought about the fourth branch is very important because the administrative state is as everyone knows has done nothing but grow since its blueprinting and its sort of first construction in Woodrow Wilsons first term. I think the key thingsort of these two key components that make this a new kind of government in the progressive mind. The first is that the independent agencies like the Federal Reserve and the Federal Trade Commission and the Permanent Tariff Commission were designed to be independent of Congress and the president. That was by design.

They were supposed to be in some sense above politics. They served for 7 years. They had overlapping terms. Oftentimes, they would be balanced politically and the president could not remove one of these commissioners except for cause and neither could Congress impeach them. So they occupied a kind of a unique place, a new place did these bureaucrats.

The second thing that matters I think for understanding the administrative state is that administrative regulations have the full force of federal law, right? Regulations are laws no different than you know, Congress had passed one. Moreover, the fourth branch, the administrators are also responsible for executing regulations and third, of course, theyre responsible for adjudicating regulatory disputes. So theres this combination of statutory and adjudicatory and executive power all rolled up into one, which is why I think the progressives called it the fourth branch. And the growth of administrative government I think is a much better metric for thinking about the success, if you will, or the durability of the progressive vision than simply looking at something like government spending as a share of GDP.

Aaron Powell: Can we decouple at least for purposes of critique the ideology of the progressives from the methods? Because obviously they ended up once they had the power, ended up doing a lot of really lamentable or awful things with it. But the basic idea of having experts in charge of thingsI mean you can see a certain appeal to that especially as, you know, science advances, technology advances, our body of knowledge grows. We understand more about the economy and more about how societies function just like you would want, you know, experts in the medical sciences overseeing your health as opposed to just laymen. Is there anything just inherently wrong or dangerous about the idea of turning over more of government to experts distinct from just the particular ideas of this set of experts?

Thomas Leonard: I dont think so. I think the question is more a practical one of what we think experts should do whether theyre working in government or in the private sector. And the progressives had what you might call a heroic conception of expertise. They believed that they not only could be experts serve the public good but they could also identify the public good and thats what I mean by a heroic conception. Not only do we know how to get to a particular outcome, we know also what those outcomes should be.

Now theres nothing about expertise per se that requires that heroic vision which in retrospect looks both arrogant and nave. It makes good sense for the state to call upon expertise where expertise can be helpful. So I dont think its an indictment of the very idea of using science for the purposes of state. Its more about what sort of authority and we want experts to have. Going as we sort of move into the new deal era, which is another great growth spurt in the size of the state, we get a slightly less heroic vision of what experts do. Thereswell, after World War I, that sort of nave heroic view of expertise is simply outmoded.

Trevor Burrus: So they definitelytheyre pretty arrogant as you mentioned. They haveso Im going to ask you sort of a few things about the way that theyre looking at society and what they think that they can do with it and what theyre allowed to do with it. So, how did they view individual rights and as a core layer, I guess, how do they think of society as opposed to the individual in terms of the sort of methodology of their science or state craft or whatever you want tohowever you want to describe it?

Thomas Leonard: Thats a great question. I think one of the most dramatic changes that we see in sort of American liberal thinking and its transition from 19th century small government liberalism to 20th century liberalism of a more activist expert-guided state is a re-conception of what Dan Rogers calls the moral hole, the idea of a nation or a state or a social organism as an entity that is something greater than the individual people that make it up. And I think this fundamental change is one of the sort of key elements in this progressive inflection point in American history. Up until that point if youre willing to call an era a point, forgive me. Up until that moment, I think thats what we should say.

Trevor Burrus: I think thats good, yes.

Thomas Leonard: Yeah, right. We would have said the United States are and after the progressive reconceptualization, its the United States is. Instead of a collection of states of federation, now the idea is that theres a nation. Woodrow Wilsons famous phrase at least famous in these precincts was Princeton in the nations service and this desire to identify a kind of moral hole, a nation, a state or a social organism. They gave it different names. I think the great impetus to the idea that it was okay to trespass on individual liberties as long as it promoted the interests of the nation or the state or the people or society or the social organism.

Trevor Burrus: So how doesand this is another big factor because its kind of interesting. We have awe talk about them as evangelicals and then progressives, which a lot of people might be surprised, the people who call themselves progressives now. But we also have them as evangelical but with Darwin and evolution having a huge influence on their thinking which also seems to not go with the way we align these things today. How did Darwin and evolution come in to their thinking and what did it make them start to conclude?

Thomas Leonard: Right. Well, remember the quote you had before about progressivism as being essentially a concept that refers to the relationship of science to government and of government to the economy. The science of the day or at least the science that most influencedthe economic reformers was Darwinism. And theres just no understanding progressive era reform without understanding the influence of Darwinism. It was in the progressive view what made these brand-new social sciences just barely established scientific. Thats one of the reasons we do history. Economics today doesnt have a whole lot to do with evolution or with Darwinism and has a lot to do with mathematics and statistical approaches. But at the turn of the century and until the end of the First World War, evolutionary thinking was at the heart of the science that underwrote economics and the other new social sciences, which were at least in the progressive view to guide the administrative state in its relationship to economy and polity.

Aaron Powell: What does Darwinian thinking look like in practice for the policy preferences of the progressives? I mean I see were not just talking about we need to breed out undesirable traits or something of that sort. How does the specifics of Darwin apply to their broader agenda?

Thomas Leonard: Well, Darwin does many things for the progressives. Darwin by himself is sort of a figure that they admire, sort of hes a disinterested man of science concerned only with the truth and uninterested in profit like, say, a greedy capitalist, uninterested in power like, say, a greedy politician. I mean Darwin is kind of a synecdoche if you like for the progressive conception of what a scientific expert does.

More than that, I think that, you know, the progressives andand by the way, many other intellectuals too, socialists and conservatives alike, were able to find whatever they needed in Darwin. Darwin was so influential in the gilded age and in the progressive era that everybody found something useful for their political and intellectual purposes during the gilded age and the progressive era.

Take competition, for example. If you were a so-called social Darwinist, you could say that competition was survival of the fittest, Herbert Spencers phrase that Darwin eventually borrowed himself and that, therefore, that those who succeeded in economic life were in some sense fitter. The progressives could use other evolutionary thinkers and say Wait a second, not so. Fitter doesnt necessarily mean better. Fitter just means better adapted to a particular environment. So competition would be an example of Darwinian thinking that was influential in the way that progressives thought about the way an economy works.

Trevor Burrus: But they werent particular. I mean they werent laissez faire and I know at one point you mentioned that theI think you said that it was either the American Economic Association or maybe sociology was started partially against William Graham Sumner. Was it sociology? William Graham Sumner was very influential on creating counter-movements to him and he is sort of a proto-libertarian or a libertarian figure who was laissez faire but they were absolutely not.

Thomas Leonard: Yeah. Thats quite right. Sumner is the bte noire of economic reformers. He was of a slightly earlier generation, the generation of 1840, and he was the avatar as you say of free markets and of small government and Sumner was the man ElyRichard T. Ely, sort of the standard bearer of progressive economics said that he organized the American Economic Association to oppose. Yeah, Sumner was in the end the only economist who is not asked to join the American Economic Association. So much was he sort of personally associated with laissez faire.

Trevor Burrus: Now, of course, they were accused and this is an important historical point because you mentioned the social Darwinism and I think I can almost hear your scare quotes through the line because that idea of Sumner and Herbert Spencer being Darwinists of a sort of wanted to let people die is a little bit overextended. Spencer definitely had some evolutionary ideas about society, but the social Darwinism doesnt only come in until the 50s if I understand correctly.

Thomas Leonard: Yeah. Social Darwinism is really an anachronism applied to the progressive era. I think we can safely, you know, ascribe the influence of that term to Richard Hofstadter who coined it in his dissertation which was published during the Second World War. It is true, of course, that you could find apologists for laissez faire or you could find people who said that, you know, economic success was not a matter of luck or a fraud or of coercion but was deserved, was justified.

There were lots of defenders of laissez faire on various grounds and Spencer and Sumner find they fit that description. But neither of them were particularly Darwinian. Spencer was a rival of Darwins. He thought his theory waswell, it was prior. He thought it was better and he coined the term evolution. And Sumner really wasnt much of a Darwinist at all if you look through his work, its only dauded with a few Darwinian references. I think what Hofstadter did, and he was such a graceful writer, is he coined a new term that sounded kind of unpleasant.

And if you look through the entire literature which Ive done, you will be hard-pressed to find a single person who identifies him or herself as a social Darwinist. You wont find a journal of social Darwinism. You wont find laboratories of social Darwinism. You wont find international societies for the promotion of social Darwinism.

Trevor Burrus: But ironically, eugenics, you will find all of those things.

Thomas Leonard: You will find all of those things.

Trevor Burrus: Actually, could you explain what eugenics is before we jump into the truly distasteful part of this episode?

Thomas Leonard: Well, eugenics is just in the progressive era what it meant, the period of my book, is the social control of human heredity. Its the idea that human heredity just like anything else guided by good science and overseen by socially-minded experts can improve human heredity just like it can improve government. It can make government good. It can make the economy more efficient and more just and so too can we do the same for human heredity.

Trevor Burrus: And eugenics wasI mean I think big is even an understatement of at least the first two decades of the 20th century and into the third and fourth decade but especially the first two decades.

Thomas Leonard: Yeah, there was an extraordinary intellectual vogue for eugenics all over the world, not just in the United States. Eugenics, its very difficult viewed in retrospect that is viewed through the sort of crimes that were committed by Nazi Germany in the middle of the 20th century. Its very difficult to see how what is a term that is a dirty word could actually be regarded as sort of the height of high-mindedness and social concern. But it was, in fact, at the time.

And across American society, eugenics was popular. It was popular among the new experimental biologists that we now called geneticist. It was certainly popular among the new social scientists, the economists and others who were staffing the bureaus at the administrative state and sitting in chairs in the university. And it was popular among politicians too. There were many journals of eugenics. There were many eugenics societies. They had international and national conferences. Hundreds probably thousands of scholars were happy to call themselves eugenicists and to advocate for eugenic policies of various kinds. Theres a book published in I think around 1924 by Sam Holmes who was a Berkeley zoologist and theres like 6000 or 7000 titles on eugenics in the bibliography.

Aaron Powell: How did the eugenicists of the time think about what they were doing or think about the people that they were doing it to?

Trevor Burrus: Well, first we should ask what they were doing. We havent actually got to that.

Aaron Powell: But I mean in generallike the attitude towards the very notion of this because we can even setting aside the horrors of what Nazi Germany did from our modern perspective looking back at this with the debates that we have and the struggle we have to allow people to say define the family, the way that they choose and just the overwhelming significance in, you know, the scope of ones life and the way one lives in that decision to have children and become a parent. And eugenics, no matterI mean no matter the details of it is ultimately taking that choice away from someone or making that choice for them and it seems just profoundly dehumanizing and did they consciously or unconsciously was there a dehumanizing element to it? Did they think of the people that they were going to practice this on as somehow less and so, therefore, deserving of less autonomy? Or was there a distancing from that element of it?

Thomas Leonard: Well, its important to rememberthe answer to the question is yes. The professionals, if you will, in the eugenics movement sort of the professionals and the propagandists certainly saw immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, immigrants from Asia, African Americans, the mentally and physically disabled as inferiors as unfit. Theres just no question about it. But what we needone important caution here again is that there were very few people at the time proposing anything like hurting inferiors into death chambers.

Eugenic policies were much less extreme. So when we encounter it in the context of, say, economic reform, it comes up In immigration, for example. If you regard immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and from Asia as unfit, as threats to American racial integrity or as economic threats to American working mens wages, thats a eugenic argument. Youre saying that when you argue that they will sort of reduce American hereditary vigor, thats a eugenic argument. It doesnt have to involve something as ugly as, say, coercive sterilization or worse.

Theres many ways of which I think are, you know, strange to us in retrospect of thinking about the law, be it immigration reform or minimum wages or maximum hours as a device for keeping the inferior out of the labor force or out of the country altogether.

Trevor Burrus: Yeah, lets goyeah, the last third of your book kind of goes with this. We have a chapter called Excluding the Unemployable. So can you talk a little bit about what that entailed?

Thomas Leonard: Sure. The unemployable is a kind of buzz phrase that I think was probably coined by Sidney and Beatrice Webb who were Fabian socialists, founders of the London School of Economics and whose work was widely read by American progressives and with whom American progressives had a very kind of fruitful trans-Atlantic interaction with. Its a misnomer, of course, because the unemployable refers to people who many of whom were actually employed. And the idea here is that a certain category of worker is willing to work for wages below what progressives regarded as a living wage or a fair wage and that these sorts of people who were often called feeble-minded when they were mentally disabled or defectives when they were physically disabled were doing the sort of transgressing in multiple ways.

The first thing was by accepting lower wages, they were undermining the deserving American working men or American really means Anglo-Saxon. The second thing is because they were willing to accept low wages, the American worker was unwilling to do so to accept these low wages and so instead opted to have smaller families. That argument went by the name of race suicide. The undercutting inferior worker because he was racially predisposed to accept or innately predisposed to accept lower wages meant that the Anglo-Saxon native, if you willscare quotes around nativehad fewer children and as a result the inferior strains were outbreeding the superior strains and the result was what Edward A. Ross called race suicide.

Trevor Burrus: Now that sounds like the movie Idiocracy. Have you ever seen this movie?

Thomas Leonard: Im not familiar with it.

Trevor Burrus: Oh, well. So, but I want to clarify something that might shock our listeners thatand you mentioned this briefly a little bit like for the economists, for members of the American Economic Association, at the time some of them thought of the minimum wage as valuable precisely because it unemployed these people. So whereas now were actually having this fight about whether or not the minimum wage unemploys anyone. It seems like there were a few doubts that it did unemploy people and the people it unemployed were the unemployable, unproductive workers who shouldnt be employed in the first place.

Thomas Leonard: Thats right. Theres a very long list of people who at one time or another just almost comically if it werent sad, long list of groups that were vilified as being inferior. As I say, physically disabled, mentally disabled coming from Asia or Southern Europe or Eastern Europe, African American, although the progressive werent terribly worried about the African Americans, at least outside the south until they started the great migration and became economic competitors in the factories as well. So, this very long list of inferiors creates a kind of regulatory problem which is how are we going to identify them and so you can, if you think for example that a Jew from Russia or an Italian from the mezzogiorno is inferior, how are you going to know that theyre Jewish or that theyre from Southern Italy. Their passport doesnt specify necessarily.

So one way, of course, is to take out your handbook, the dictionary of the races of America or another more clever way ultimately is to simply set a minimum wage so high that all unskilled labor will be unable to legally come to America because theyll be priced out.

Trevor Burrus: And that was also true ofit goes a little bit past your book but the migration of African Americans north had some influence on the federal minimum wage of the New Deal if I remember correctly.

Thomas Leonard: Yes, it did, and also Mexican immigrants as well. The idea of inferiors threatening Americans or Native Americans is a trope that recurs again and again and again, not just in the progressive era but also in the New Deal. And it is I suppose shocking and bizarre to see the minimum wage as hailed for its eugenic virtues. But one very convenient way of solving this problem of how do we identify the inferiors is to simply assume that theyre low-skilled and, therefore, unproductive and a binding minimum wage will ensure that the unproductive are kept out or if theyre already in the labor force, theyll be idled. And the deserving, that is to say the productive workers who were always assumed, of course, to be Anglo-Saxon will keep their jobs and get a raise. Its a very appealing notion.

And youre quite right that today, you know, most of the debate or a good part of the minimum wage debate concerns a question of how much unemployment you get for a given increase in the minimum. But theres no question that any disemployment from a higher minimum is a social cause thats undesirable. The progressive era was not seen as a social cause. It was not seen as a bug. It was seen as a desirable feature and this is why progressivism has made a virtue of it precisely because it did exclude so many folks who were regarded as deficientdeficient in their heredity, deficient in their politics, deficient in many other ways as well.

Aaron Powell: What struck me when you were running through the policies that they wanted so the minimum wage in order to exclude these people or the concerns about immigration is how many of them maybeI mean not in the motives behind them necessarily, not in the stated motives but in the specifics of the policies and some of the concerns look very much like what you hear today, you know. There seem to be conventional wisdom about the need to keep out unskilled immigrants. You hear stuff about, you know, theres too many of them in the population and that that will ultimately cause problems if they, you know, tip over into a majority or the existing minimum wage, but they dont seemthey dont have the what we think of as terrifically ugly motives behind them.

And so is therelike that historic change because it seems odd that if the motives and the desires and the attitudes have shifted, we would have seen the resulting policy shift. So how did thathow do we get that transition from, you know, keeping the desire for the policies of the progressive era but shifting our attitudes, our sense of virtue to something that would see the motives behind the policy of the progressive era as so repugnant?

Thomas Leonard: Well, I think that, you know, we teach freshmen in economics to make this fairly bright distinction between the so-called positive and the normative, right? So the positive question is what are the effects of the minimum wage on employment and what are the effects of the minimum wage on output prices and what are the effects of the minimum wage on the income distribution. And you can sort of think about these questions without sort of tipping over onto the normative side which isis it a good thing or a bad thing that a particular class of worker namely the very unskilled are likely to be harmed at all? So you canI think in a way its partly a parable about, you know, the capacity of sorting so-called scientific claims from so-called normative or ethical matters.

You know, my own view is one can be a supporter of the minimum wage, of course, without, you know, having repugnant views about the folks who are going to lose their job if we raise the minimum wage too high.

Trevor Burrus: Yeah, of course. That

Thomas Leonard: Goes with I think that goes without saying.

Trevor Burrus: Well, thats an interesting question about what are the lessons

Thomas Leonard: Yeah.

Trevor Burrus: from this. But I wanted to ask you about one more thing before we kind of get to that question which is aboutbecause theres another one that we didnt touch on which might surprise people, which is excluding women. So we gotwe went therethere were some sterilization, which weve been talking about much but you mentioned excluding unemployable. We had about immigration and now we also have excluding women and people might be surprised to hear that progressives were actually interested in doing this.

Thomas Leonard: Yeah. This is awell, all of these accounts are complex. The story of womens labor legislation is probably the most complex of all and thats partly because in the progressive era, most labor legislation was directed at women and at women only, not all but sort of the pillars of the welfare state which is to say minimum wages, maximum hours, mothers pensions which eventually evolved into AFTC and welfare. Those pillars werethose pillars that legislation was women and women only.

Now, there are different ways of thinking about it. I think that the thing to remember is that a lot of these legislation to set a wage floor to set a maximum number of hours to give women payments women with dependent children payments at home were enacted not so much to protect women from employment, the hazards of employment but rather to protect employment from women.

And when you look at the discourse, you do find a kind of protective paternalistic line where, for example, the famous Brandeis Brief which was used in so many Supreme Court cases in defensive labor legislation just sort of boldly asserts that women are the weaker sex and thats why women as women need to be protected from the hazards of market work. They didnt worry so much about the hazards of domestic work.

Trevor Burrus: And Brandeis was a champion ofI mean hes considered a champion of progressive era, but he did write this unbelievably sexist brief in Muller versus Oregon.

Thomas Leonard: Indeed he did and he collaborated with his sister-in-law, Josephine Goldmark, and its regarded as sort of not only the case but the brief itself is regarded as sort of a landmark in legal circles. So theres also a second class of argument which still lives on today, I might add, which is called the family wage and this is the idea that theres a kind of natural family structure wherein the father is the breadwinner and the mother stays at home and tends the hearth and raises the kids and that male workers are entitled to a wage sufficient to support a wife and other dependents, and that when women work for wages, they wrongly usurp the wages that rightly belong to the breadwinner. Thats another argument for regulating womens employment. Thats not really protecting women. Thats protecting men, of course.

And there were a whole host of arguments. Another argument was worried about womens sexual virtue that if women accepted, you know, low wages at the factory, theyll be tempted into prostitution. The euphemism of the day was the social vice and John Bates Clark pointed out that if 5 dollars a week tempts a factory girl into vice, then 0 dollars a week will do so more surely.

Trevor Burrus: Its really hard to decide when youre going through all this stuff and you include immigration and all these issues whether or not these people arewhen were talking about progressives, so thats the name we all call them now. But if were going to use modern term, are they liberals or are they conservative? I mean if the immigration thing looks conservative now and the protecting womens virtue and supporting the family looks conservative and the racism, you know, but the minimum wage wanting that. So there seemed to be a hodgepodge of something that doesnt really map to anything now.

Thomas Leonard: Yeah, I think thats right. I think its a mistake. I mean one of the problems that we face looking backwards from today is that progressivism todaya progressive today is someone on the left, someone on the left wing of the democratic party and thats not what progressive meant in the progressive era. There certainly were plenty of folks on the left who were progressives but they were also right progressives too. Men like Theodore Roosevelt would be a canonical sort of right progressive. Roosevelt ran as you know on that progressive ticket in 1912 handing the White House to Woodrow Wilson in so doing.

Yeah, I thinkyeah, one of the, you know, the historiographic lessons of the book is be careful projecting contemporary categories backwards in time. You know, the original progressives, they defended human hierarchy. They were Darwinists. They either ignored or justified Jim Crow. They were moralists. They were evangelicals. They promoted the claims of the nation over individuals and they had this, of course, heroic conception of their own roles as experts. Thats very different from what 21st century progressives are about. The 21st century progressives couldnt be more different in some respects. Theyre not evangelicals. Theyre very secular. They emphasize racial equality and minority rights. Theyre nervous about nationalism but they donttheyre not imperialists like the progressives were. Theyre unhappy with too much Darwinism in their social science. So, in these respects contemporary progressives are very different from their namesakes.

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Rawls and Nozick: Liberalism Vs Libertarianism

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These days , in the occasional university philosophy classroom, the differences between Robert Nozicks Anarchy, State, and Utopia (libertarianism) and John Rawls A Theory of Justice (social liberalism) are still discussed vigorously. In order to demonstrate a broad spectrum of possible political philosophies it is necessary to define the outer boundaries, these two treatises stand like sentries at opposite gatesof the polis

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice. Rawls presents an account of justice in the form of two principles: (1) liberty principle= peoples equal basic liberties such as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience (religion), and the right to vote should be maximized, and (2) difference principle= inequalities in social and economic goods are acceptable only if they promote the welfare of the least advantaged members of society. Rawls writes in the social contract tradition. He seeks to define equilibrium points that, when accumulated, form a civil system characterized by what he calls justice as fairness. To get there he deploys an argument whereby people in an original position (state of nature), make decisions (legislate laws) behind a veil of ignorance (of their place in the society rich or poor) using a reasoning technique he calls reflective equilibrium. It goes something like: behind the veil of ignorance, with no knowledge of their own places in civil society, Rawls posits that reasonable people will default to social and economic positions that maximize the prospects for the worst off feed and house the poor in case you happen to become one. Its much like the prisoners dilemma in game theory. By his own words Rawls = left-liberalism.

Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, libertarian response to Rawls which argues that only a minimal state devoted to the enforcement of contracts and protecting people against crimes like assault, robbery, fraud can be morally justified. Nozick suggests that the fundamental question of political philosophy is not how government should be organized but whether there should be any state at all, he is close to John Locke in that government is legitimate only to the degree that it promotes greater security for life, liberty, and property than would exist in a chaotic, pre-political state of nature. Nozick concludes, however, that the need for security justifies only a minimal, or night-watchman, state, since it cannot be demonstrated that citizens will attain any more security through extensive governmental intervention. (Nozick p.25-27)

the state may not use its coercive apparatus for the purpose of getting some citizens to aid others, or in order to prohibit activities to people for their own good or protection. (Nozick Preface p.ix)



Some Practical Questions for Rawls:

Some Practical Questions for Nozick:

Read The Liberal Imagination of Frederick Douglass for an excellent discussion on the state of liberalism in America today.


Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Robert Nozick. Basic Books. 1974

A Theory of Justice. John Rawls. Harvard University Press. 1971

Disclaimer: This is a forum for me to capture in digital type my understanding of various philosophies and philosophers. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the interpretations.

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Rawls and Nozick: Liberalism Vs Libertarianism

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Libertarianismo – Wikipedia

Da Wikipedia, l’enciclopedia libera.

Il libertarianismo[1] (chiamato anche, impropriamente, libertarismo, termine che identifica una differente e pi ampia ideologia) un insieme di filosofie politiche tra loro correlate che considerano la libert come il pi alto fine politico.[2] Ci include la libert individuale[3], la libert politica e l’associazione volontaria. Le parole libertarianism e libertarism furono usate dalla seconda met del XX secolo da filosofi e politici anglosassoni che provenivano da differenti formazioni culturali (talvolta anche contrapposte): ossia quelle del liberalismo, socialismo, comunismo[4][5][6][7] e dell’anarchismo.

L’idea politica del libertarismo si rif al sistema economico capitalista e al diritto alla propriet privata, ma le sue numerose correnti divergono sul peso e sulla stessa figura dello Stato: gli anarco-capitalisti premono per una sua totale eliminazione, mentre i miniarchisti mirano a preservare un’autorit pubblica che svolga compiti basilari di difesa e ordine pubblico, o anche una ridotta assistenza sociale.[8]

In lingua inglese, i termini libertarism e libertarianism sono utilizzati come sinonimi nell’uso politico, per la precisione libertarism indica quasi invariabilmente il movimento collettivista, o left libertarianism, mentre libertarianism pu indicare sia il movimento anarchico che i partiti di stampo liberale.[senzafonte] Nella maggior parte delle altre lingue ad esempio neolatine si distingue tra libertarismo, un concetto ampio sinonimo di anarchia[9], che in quanto tale si identifica con l’anarchismo e il socialismo libertario, e libertarianismo, che trae le sue origini dal liberalismo classico[1], le cui correnti principali sono l’anarco-capitalismo e il miniarchismo.

I libertariani si definiscono di solito come liberali coerenti, rigorosi e nemici della coercizione, propugnando in modo radicale le tesi tipiche del liberalismo.[10]

Due sono i filoni pi diffusi del libertarianismo:

I miniarchisti prospettano uno Stato ridotto alla minima funzione di garante delle libert individuali, ovvero lo stato di diritto; questa corrente costituzionalista si rifa evidentemente ai pensatori originali del liberalismo, per esempio John Locke, e in tempi pi recenti a intellettuali del calibro di Friedrich Von Hayek e Robert Nozick. Per i sostenitori del miniarchismo lo Stato tenuto a intervenire in economia, in linea di massima, solo per garantire un corretto svolgimento del libero mercato, abbattendo i monopoli e gli oligopoli (qualora questi siano venuti in essere violando i diritti individuali) e costruendo le necessarie e ovvie infrastrutture.

Gli anarco-capitalisti giudicano le proposte del miniarchismo incoerenti dal punto di vista teorico e irrealizzabili sul piano concreto, proponendo invece l’abolizione dello Stato e la realizzazione di un sistema di privatopie, entit territoriali auto-organizzate nei limiti delle libert individuali in grado di fornire servizi di libero mercato, sviluppantesi secondo un sistema di adesione volontaria alle regole che ogni enclave stabilisce autonomamente. Il sistema delle privatopie esclude a priori l’esistenza di nazioni e soprattutto entit sovranazionali, ammettendo unicamente la diffusione di una capillare e interattiva rete di piccole comunit private. Il principale punto di riferimento intellettuale della corrente anarco-capitalista Murray Newton Rothbard.

All’interno di questa visione radicale, i libertariani anarcocapitalisti intendono privatizzare, o meglio porre su un mercato libero, quei settori come l’amministrazione della giustizia, la sicurezza e l’ordine pubblico che perfino i liberali classici considerano alla stregua di prerogative esclusive dello Stato; in questo senso va letta la loro idea di anarco-individualismo.

La filosofia politica ed economica contemporanea stenta a riconoscere la validit delle teorie libertariane, non tanto per l’opposizione alla gestione privatizzata e concorrenziale di settori fondamentali dello stato sociale come la giurisdizione, quanto per il fondato timore che in un assetto socio-economico cos definito, privo di qualsivoglia governo centrale, una congrega ristretta di individui molto potenti sia tentata di imporre coercitivamente la propria autorit al resto della comunit; in pratica, il sistema anarco-capitalista sarebbe non auspicabile perch tenderebbe a favorire, nel momento stesso in cui venisse implementato, quei pochissimi soggetti che gi dispongono di un notevole potere finanziario (multinazionali, banche d’investimento, lobby industriali etc.). Lo stato di diritto invece, essendo, quanto meno nelle sue forme pi avanzate, basato sul sistema democratico della decisione politica, tenderebbe invece a contrastare la concentrazione del potere nelle mani di esigui gruppi privilegiati, dal momento che, qualunque sia la politica economica di una comunit, la maggior parte degli individui di quella stessa comunit ha interesse a difendere le gi ristrette risorse e propriet di cui dispone a fronte della soverchiante ricchezza di pochi soggetti. Uno degli oppositori pi spietati dell’anarco-capitalismo Noam Chomsky, il quale, da socialista libertario come egli stesso si definito, ha affermato che le idee libertariane, qualora applicate al mondo reale della politica, produrrebbero “tali forme di tirannia e oppressione come se ne sono viste poche nella storia dell’umanit”.

I libertariani, d’altro canto, rigettano totalmente le accuse che vengono loro rivolte indistintamente dagli altri schieramenti politici, sia conservatori che progressisti, argomentando che in tutta la storia della civilt umana, se proprio vi un colpevole di violazione dei diritti umani, questi soprattutto lo Stato. E infatti proprio il potere astratto e non vincolante dell’autorit statale stato il principale mezzo con cui piccoli gruppi di potere o addirittura singoli individui hanno potuto, in tutti i tempi e in tutti i luoghi, realizzare forme di governo tiranniche, soverchianti e contrarie alle pi elementari regole di pacifica convivenza civile, o reiterare arbitrariamente la violazione del diritto di autodeterminazione di ogni essere umano, tra cui, al netto dell’evidenza, vi sono gli interventi armati contro altre popolazioni, minoranze o addirittura nazioni, sistematicamente portate avanti in nome di uno specifico ordine sociale da raggiungere e da imporre a tutti, o in nome di una generica sicurezza e stabilit nazionale.

Laddove quindi i tradizionali sostenitori dello Stato, inclusi i liberali classici, vedono in questo un’alta e possibilmente equa autorit garante dei diritti individuali, senza il quale sarebbe impossibile contenere lo spirito egoistico umano, che in un contesto anarchico non avrebbe freni n argini per manifestarsi, invece i libertariani pongono maggior fiducia nello spirito filiale dell’umanit, rammentando che le stesse idee di libert e uguaglianza sono nate dal basso, ovvero sono sorte spontaneamente dalla creativit mentale dei singoli, e non certo imposte dall’alto per “decreto intellettuale” da una presunta autorit garante della ragione. Il libero mercato, dunque, essendo per l’appunto una manifestazione spontanea e originale dello spirito di cooperazione umano, da intendere come la volont organica e orizzontale di una comunit di individui di determinare, ognuno per s stesso, il corso della propria vita, vivrebbe per necessit di autoregolazione, che nella visione libertariana viene chiamata anche “propriet di se stessi” o principio di non aggressione.

Gli anarchici di tradizione socialista usano il termine libertario per descrivere se stessi e le loro idee sin dal 1857. “Le Libertaire, Journal du Mouvement sociale”, fu ad esempio pubblicato a New York dal 1858 al 1861 dal rivoluzionario anarcocomunista Joseph Dejacque[11]. Nella seconda met del 1900, negli Stati Uniti d’America, fece ingresso l’accezione liberal-libertaria, in genere indicata come libertarianism, ma, a volte libertarism. Il termine libertarianism, specificamente, nel 1970 rientrer in Europa per le traduzioni dell’economista francese Henri Lepage, con l’intenzione d’evitare evidenti fraintendimenti.

Le parole libertarismo e libertario furono quindi usate dalla seconda met del XX secolo da filosofi e politici anglosassoni che provenivano da differenti contrapposte formazioni culturali, e quindi, principalmente in lingua inglese, tali termini attualmente indicano movimenti culturali e politici che pur definendosi in traduzione italiana libertari sono assolutamente in antitesi tra loro. Filosofi e politici definiti libertari sono quindi in diverse tradizioni culturali ossia quelle del liberalismo, socialismo, comunismo e anarchismo: quest’ultimo movimento politico-sociale ha poi adottato il termine libertarismo appunto per autodefinirsi[12].

Negli anni settanta del XX secolo nasce negli Usa un partito politico che raccoglie una lunga storia di antistatalismo di taglio liberale e che si autodefinisce libertarian, il Libertarian Party, quindi utilizzando il termine in senso proprio, senza rispettare n i crismi anarchici della tradizione socialista, n, dunque, quelli libertari intesi nel senso europeo del termine.

Il Partito Libertariano degli Stati Uniti d’America, (LP) dall’11 dicembre 1971, data della sua fondazione, costantemente cresciuto, venendo a ricadere, utilizzando un termine innumerario, tra i terzi partiti ovvero tra i partiti minori che distaccati di diversi ordini di grandezza dai primi due, sono comunque presenti seppure a livello di decimali di milione. (Constitution Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party). Per le presidenziali del 2004 si posizionato sui 0.2 milioni di cittadini affiliati (Democratic 72.00, Republican 55.00, Indipendent 42.00, Constitution 0.37, Green 0.31, Libertarian 0.20). Nelle elezioni del 2008 il candidato libertarian con 532995 voti, lo 0,40% di preferenze, si aggiudicato la quarta posizione.

Si caratterizza per il forte antistatalismo, la volont di escludere qualunque intervento statale in campo di Welfare State in particolare nel campo della salute pubblica (abolizione di ogni forma di assistenza sanitaria universale garantita), e l’abolizione di ogni forma di tassazione generalista (corrispondente all’IVA italiana).

Da alcuni decenni, questo termine usato soprattutto per definire, in senso pi ampio, quelle teorie che danno preminenza alla scelta individuale davanti alle pretese di qualunque potere politico.

Il movimento mostra sensibilit verso la protezione della propriet e della libert di mercato ed uso comune definire “libertarianism” (e spesso anche “propertarianism”, per distinguerlo maggiormente dal libertarismo di matrice anarchica tradizionale e socialista) la corrente anarco-capitalista, cio la versione pi estrema del pensiero liberale, la quale ha trovato la propria espressione pi significativa in Murray N. Rothbard.

Tale “libertarianism” affonda le sue radici nella tradizione dell’individualismo americano professando l’idea di un mercato completamente sottratto ad ogni tutela statale, che lasci l’individuo padrone di s in ogni aspetto della vita dell’individuo, inclusi i servizi di protezione, la giustizia e il diritto. La maggioranza dei suoi teorici sono fautori del giusnaturalismo lockiano, ma esiste anche una variante utilitarista (David Friedman). In Europa i massimi esponenti di tale teoria politica sono Hans-Hermann Hoppe e Anthony de Jasay.

Esistono in seno al movimento libertariano americano ed europeo una variet[13][14][15][16][17] di tendenze:

I libertariani, sia europei che americani, giudicano contraddittoria con le premesse antistataliste la tradizionale avversione degli anarchici di tradizione socialista (es. Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta, Chomsky, ecc.) ad ogni idea di un libero mercato basato sulla legittimit della propriet privata, sullo scambio volontario e su interazioni umane liberamente scelte.

A causa dei problemi semantici sopra evidenziati, l’uso dei termini “libertario/libertarismo” per indicare l’anarchismo classico, e dei termini “libertariano/libertarianismo” per indicare l’anarco-capitalismo, praticamente ovunque diffuso, tranne che nei paesi di lingua inglese. L’affinit dei due termini in ogni caso, rende frequente la necessit di disambiguazione.

Tra i movimenti che si rifanno alle ideologie libertariane ma che non viene da molti ritenuto propriamente libertarian si ritrova anche il movimento politico statunitense Libertarian National Socialist Green Party (LNSGP) della corrente nazional-libertariana verde, una organizzazione dalla dubbia reale esistenza[18] (non legata al Libertarian Party) che coltiva elementi di libertarianismo in un retroterra culturale e ideologico nazional-conservatore e ambientalista, improntando il suo programma alla difesa dell’identit nazionale e delle “esigenze ambientali”, considerando comunque una degenerazione le tendenze di supremazia razziale tipiche del white power.


Libertarianismo – Wikipedia

Myths of Individualism | Libertarianism.org

September 6, 2011 essays

Palmer takes on the misconceptions of individualism common to communitarian critics of liberty.

It has recently been asserted that libertarians, or classical liberals, actually think that individual agents are fully formed and their value preferences are in place prior to and outside of any society. They ignore robust social scientific evidence about the ill effects of isolation, and, yet more shocking, they actively oppose the notion of shared values or the idea of the common good. I am quoting from the 1995 presidential address of Professor Amitai Etzioni to the American Sociological Association (American Sociological Review, February 1996). As a frequent talk show guest and as editor of the journal The Responsive Community,Etzioni has come to some public prominence as a publicist for a political movement known as communitarianism.

Etzioni is hardly alone in making such charges. They come from both left and right. From the left, Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. argued in his book Why Americans Hate Politics that the growing popularity of the libertarian cause suggested that many Americans had even given up on the possibility of a common good, and in a recent essay in the Washington Post Magazine, that the libertarian emphasis on the freewheeling individual seems to assume that individuals come into the world as fully formed adults who should be held responsible for their actions from the moment of birth. From the right, the late Russell Kirk, in a vitriolic article titled Libertarians: The Chirping Sectaries, claimed that the perennial libertarian, like Satan, can bear no authority, temporal or spiritual and that the libertarian does not venerate ancient beliefs and customs, or the natural world, or his country, or the immortal spark in his fellow men.

More politely, Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and David Brooks of the Weekly Standard have excoriated libertarians for allegedly ignoring the value of community. Defending his proposal for more federal programs to rebuild community, Coats wrote that his bill is self-consciously conservative, not purely libertarian. It recognizes, not only individual rights, but the contribution of groups rebuilding the social and moral infrastructure of their neighborhoods. The implication is that individual rights are somehow incompatible with participation in groups or neighborhoods.

Such charges, which are coming with increasing frequency from those opposed to classical liberal ideals, are never substantiated by quotations from classical liberals; nor is any evidence offered that those who favor individual liberty and limited constitutional government actually think as charged by Etzioni and his echoes. Absurd charges often made and not rebutted can come to be accepted as truths, so it is imperative that Etzioni and other communitarian critics of individual liberty be called to account for their distortions.

Let us examine the straw man of atomistic individualism that Etzioni, Dionne, Kirk, and others have set up. The philosophical roots of the charge have been set forth by communitarian critics of classical liberal individualism, such as the philosopher Charles Taylor and the political scientist Michael Sandel. For example, Taylor claims that, because libertarians believe in individual rights and abstract principles of justice, they believe in the self-sufficiency of man alone, or, if you prefer, of the individual. That is an updated version of an old attack on classical liberal individualism, according to which classical liberals posited abstract individuals as the basis for their views about justice.

Those claims are nonsense. No one believes that there are actually abstract individuals, for all individuals are necessarily concrete. Nor are there any truly self-sufficient individuals, as any reader of The Wealth of Nations would realize. Rather, classical liberals and libertarians argue that the system of justice should abstract from the concrete characteristics of individuals. Thus, when an individual comes before a court, her height, color, wealth, social standing, and religion are normally irrelevant to questions of justice. That is what equality before the law means; it does not mean that no one actually has a particular height, skin color, or religious belief. Abstraction is a mental process we use when trying to discern what is essential or relevant to a problem; it does not require a belief in abstract entities.

It is precisely because neither individuals nor small groups can be fully self-sufficient that cooperation is necessary to human survival and flourishing. And because that cooperation takes place among countless individuals unknown to each other, the rules governing that interaction are abstract in nature. Abstract rules, which establish in advance what we may expect of one another, make cooperation possible on a wide scale.

No reasonable person could possibly believe that individuals are fully formed outside societyin isolation, if you will. That would mean that no one could have had any parents, cousins, friends, personal heroes, or even neighbors. Obviously, all of us have been influenced by those around us. What libertarians assert is simply that differences among normal adults do not imply different fundamental rights.

Libertarianism is not at base a metaphysical theory about the primacy of the individual over the abstract, much less an absurd theory about abstract individuals. Nor is it an anomic rejection of traditions, as Kirk and some conservatives have charged. Rather, it is a political theory that emerged in response to the growth of unlimited state power; libertarianism draws its strength from a powerful fusion of a normative theory about the moral and political sources and limits of obligations and a positive theory explaining the sources of order. Each person has the right to be free, and free persons can produce order spontaneously, without a commanding power over them.

What of Dionnes patently absurd characterization of libertarianism: individuals come into the world as fully formed adults who should be held responsible for their actions from the moment of birth? Libertarians recognize the difference between adults and children, as well as differences between normal adults and adults who are insane or mentally hindered or retarded. Guardians are necessary for children and abnormal adults, because they cannot make responsible choices for themselves. But there is no obvious reason for holding that some normal adults are entitled to make choices for other normal adults, as paternalists of both left and right believe. Libertarians argue that no normal adult has the right to impose choices on other normal adults, except in abnormal circumstances, such as when one person finds another unconscious and administers medical assistance or calls an ambulance.

What distinguishes libertarianism from other views of political morality is principally its theory of enforceable obligations. Some obligations, such as the obligation to write a thank-you note to ones host after a dinner party, are not normally enforceable by force. Others, such as the obligation not to punch a disagreeable critic in the nose or to pay for a pair of shoes before walking out of the store in them, are. Obligations may be universal or particular. Individuals, whoever and wherever they may be (i.e., in abstraction from particular circumstances), have an enforceable obligation to all other persons: not to harm them in their lives, liberties, health, or possessions. In John Lockes terms, Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions. All individuals have the right that others not harm them in their enjoyment of those goods. The rights and the obligations are correlative and, being both universal and negative in character, are capable under normal circumstances of being enjoyed by all simultaneously. It is the universality of the human right not to be killed, injured, or robbed that is at the base of the libertarian view, and one need not posit an abstract individual to assert the universality of that right. It is his veneration, not his contempt, for the immortal spark in his fellow men that leads the libertarian to defend individual rights.

Those obligations are universal, but what about particular obligations? As I write this, I am sitting in a coffee house and have just ordered another coffee. I have freely undertaken the particular obligation to pay for the coffee: I have transferred a property right to a certain amount of my money to the owner of the coffee shop, and she has transferred the property right to the cup of coffee to me. Libertarians typically argue that particular obligations, at least under normal circumstances, must be created by consent; they cannot be unilaterally imposed by others. Equality of rights means that some people cannot simply impose obligations on others, for the moral agency and rights of those others would then be violated. Communitarians, on the other hand, argue that we all are born with many particular obligations, such as to give to this body of personscalled a state or, more nebulously, a nation, community, or folkso much money, so much obedience, or even ones life. And they argue that those particular obligations can be coercively enforced. In fact, according to communitarians such as Taylor and Sandel, I am actually constituted as a person, not only by the facts of my upbringing and my experiences, but by a set of very particular unchosen obligations.

To repeat, communitarians maintain that we are constituted as persons by our particular obligations, and therefore those obligations cannot be a matter of choice. Yet that is a mere assertion and cannot substitute for an argument that one is obligated to others; it is no justification for coercion. One might well ask, If an individual is born with the obligation to obey, who is born with the right to command? If one wants a coherent theory of obligations, there must be someone, whether an individual or a group, with the right to the fulfillment of the obligation. If I am constituted as a person by my obligation to obey, who is constituted as a person by the right to obedience? Such a theory of obligation may have been coherent in an age of God-kings, but it seems rather out of place in the modern world. To sum up, no reasonable person believes in the existence of abstract individuals, and the true dispute between libertarians and communitarians is not about individualism as such but about the source of particular obligations, whether imposed or freely assumed.

A theory of obligation focusing on individuals does not mean that there is no such thing as society or that we cannot speak meaningfully of groups. The fact that there are trees does not mean that we cannot speak of forests, after all. Society is not merely a collection of individuals, nor is it some bigger or better thing separate from them. Just as a building is not a pile of bricks but the bricks and the relationships among them, society is not a person, with his own rights, but many individuals and the complex set of relationships among them.

A moments reflection makes it clear that claims that libertarians reject shared values and the common good are incoherent. If libertarians share the value of liberty (at a minimum), then they cannot actively oppose the notion of shared values, and if libertarians believe that we will all be better off if we enjoy freedom, then they have not given up on the possibility of a common good, for a central part of their efforts is to assert what the common good is! In response to Kirks claim that libertarians reject tradition, let me point out that libertarians defend a tradition of liberty that is the fruit of thousands of years of human history. In addition, pure traditionalism is incoherent, for traditions may clash, and then one has no guide to right action. Generally, the statement that libertarians reject tradition is both tasteless and absurd. Libertarians follow religious traditions, family traditions, ethnic traditions, and social traditions such as courtesy and even respect for others, which is evidently not a tradition Kirk thought it necessary to maintain.

The libertarian case for individual liberty, which has been so distorted by communitarian critics, is simple and reasonable. It is obvious that different individuals require different things to live good, healthy, and virtuous lives. Despite their common nature, people are materially and numerically individuated, and we have needs that differ. So, how far does our common good extend?

Karl Marx, an early and especially brilliant and biting communitarian critic of libertarianism, asserted that civil society is based on a decomposition of man such that mans essence is no longer in community but in difference; under socialism, in contrast, man would realize his nature as a species being. Accordingly, socialists believe that collective provision of everything is appropriate; in a truly socialized state, we would all enjoy the same common good and conflict simply would not occur. Communitarians are typically much more cautious, but despite a lot of talk they rarely tell us much about what our common good might be. The communitarian philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, for instance, in his influential book After Virtue, insists for 219 pages that there is a good life for man that must be pursued in common and then rather lamely concludes that the good life for man is the life spent in seeking for the good life for man.

A familiar claim is that providing retirement security through the state is an element of the common good, for it brings all of us together. But who is included in all of us? Actuarial data show that African-American males who have paid the same taxes into the Social Security system as have Caucasian males over their working lives stand to get back about half as much. Further, more black than white males will die before they receive a single penny, meaning all of their money has gone to benefit others and none of their investments are available to their families. In other words, they are being robbed for the benefit of nonblack retirees. Are African-American males part of the all of us who are enjoying a common good, or are they victims of the common good of others? (As readers of this magazine should know, all would be better off under a privatized system, which leads libertarians to assert the common good of freedom to choose among retirement systems.) All too often, claims about the common good serve as covers for quite selfish attempts to secure private goods; as the classical liberal Austrian novelist Robert Musil noted in his great work The Man without Qualities, Nowadays only criminals dare to harm others without philosophy.

Libertarians recognize the inevitable pluralism of the modern world and for that reason assert that individual liberty is at least part of the common good. They also understand the absolute necessity of cooperation for the attainment of ones ends; a solitary individual could never actually be self-sufficient, which is precisely why we must have rulesgoverning property and contracts, for exampleto make peaceful cooperation possible and we institute government to enforce those rules. The common good is a system of justice that allows all to live together in harmony and peace; a common good more extensive than that tends to be, not a common good for all of us, but a common good for some of us at the expense of others of us. (There is another sense, understood by every parent, to the term self-sufficiency. Parents normally desire that their children acquire the virtue of pulling their own weight and not subsisting as scroungers, layabouts, moochers, or parasites. That is a necessary condition of self-respect; Taylor and other critics of libertarianism often confuse the virtue of self-sufficiency with the impossible condition of never relying on or cooperating with others.)

The issue of the common good is related to the beliefs of communitarians regarding the personality or the separate existence of groups. Both are part and parcel of a fundamentally unscientific and irrational view of politics that tends to personalize institutions and groups, such as the state or nation or society. Instead of enriching political science and avoiding the alleged naivet of libertarian individualism, as communitarians claim, however, the personification thesis obscures matters and prevents us from asking the interesting questions with which scientific inquiry begins. No one ever put the matter quite as well as the classical liberal historian Parker T. Moon of Columbia University in his study of 19th-century European imperialism, Imperialism and World Politics:

Language often obscures truth. More than is ordinarily realized, our eyes are blinded to the facts of international relations by tricks of the tongue. When one uses the simple monosyllable France one thinks of France as a unit, an entity. When to avoid awkward repetition we use a personal pronoun in referring to a countrywhen for example we say France sent her troops to conquer Tuniswe impute not only unity but personality to the country. The very words conceal the facts and make international relations a glamorous drama in which personalized nations are the actors, and all too easily we forget the flesh-and-blood men and women who are the true actors. How different it would be if we had no such word as France, and had to say insteadthirty-eight million men, women and children of very diversified interests and beliefs, inhabiting 218,000 square miles of territory! Then we should more accurately describe the Tunis expedition in some such way as this: A few of these thirty-eight million persons sent thirty thousand others to conquer Tunis. This way of putting the fact immediately suggests a question, or rather a series of questions. Who are the few? Why did they send the thirty thousand to Tunis? And why did these obey?

Group personification obscures, rather than illuminates, important political questions. Those questions, centering mostly around the explanation of complex political phenomena and moral responsibility, simply cannot be addressed within the confines of group personification, which drapes a cloak of mysticism around the actions of policymakers, thus allowing some to use philosophyand mystical philosophy, at thatto harm others.

Libertarians are separated from communitarians by differences on important issues, notably whether coercion is necessary to maintain community, solidarity, friendship, love, and the other things that make life worth living and that can be enjoyed only in common with others. Those differences cannot be swept away a priori; their resolution is not furthered by shameless distortion, absurd characterizations, or petty name-calling.

Myths of Individualism originally appeared in the September/October 1996 issue of Cato Policy Report.

Tom G. Palmer is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, director of the Institutes educational division, Cato University, Vice President for International Programs at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and General Director of the Atlas Global Initiative for Free Trade, Peace, and Prosperity.

Excerpt from:

Myths of Individualism | Libertarianism.org

What Libertarianism Is | Mises Daily

Property, Rights, and Liberty

Libertarians tend to agree on a wide array of policies and principles. Nonetheless, it is not easy to find consensus on what libertarianism’s defining characteristic is, or on what distinguishes it from other political theories and systems.

Various formulations abound. It is said that libertarianism is about individual rights, property rights, the free market, capitalism, justice, or the nonaggression principle. Not just any of these will do, however. Capitalism and the free market describe the catallactic conditions that arise or are permitted in a libertarian society, but do not encompass other aspects of libertarianism. And individual rights, justice, and aggression collapse into property rights. As Murray Rothbard explained, individual rights are property rights. And justice is just giving someone his due, which depends on what his rights are.

The nonaggression principle is also dependent on property rights, since what aggression is depends on what our (property) rights are. If you hit me, it is aggression because I have a property right in my body. If I take from you the apple you possess, this is trespass aggression only because you own the apple. One cannot identify an act of aggression without implicitly assigning a corresponding property right to the victim.

So capitalism and the free market are too narrow, and justice, individual rights, and aggression all boil down to, or are defined in terms of, property rights. What of property rights, then? Is this what differentiates libertarianism from other political philosophies that we favor property rights, and all others do not? Surely such a claim is untenable.

After all, a property right is simply the exclusive right to control a scarce resource. Property rights specify which persons own that is, have the right to control various scarce resources in a given region or jurisdiction. Yet everyone and every political theory advance some theory of property. None of the various forms of socialism deny property rights; each version will specify an owner for every scarce resource. If the state nationalizes an industry, it is asserting ownership of these means of production. If the state taxes you, it is implicitly asserting ownership of the funds taken. If my land is transferred to a private developer by eminent domain statutes, the developer is now the owner. If the law allows a recipient of racial discrimination to sue his employer for a sum of money, he is the owner of the money.

Protection of and respect for property rights is thus not unique to libertarianism. What is distinctive about libertarianism is its particular property assignment rules: its view concerning who is the owner of each contestable resource, and how to determine this.

A system of property rights assigns a particular owner to every scarce resource. These resources obviously include natural resources such as land, fruits of trees, and so on. Objects found in nature are not the only scarce resources, however. Each human actor has, controls, and is identified and associated with a unique human body, which is also a scarce resource. Both human bodies and nonhuman, scarce resources are desired for use as means by actors in the pursuit of various goals.

Accordingly, any political theory or system must assign ownership rights in human bodies as well as in external things. Let us consider first the libertarian property assignment rules with respect to human bodies, and the corresponding notion of aggression as it pertains to bodies. Libertarians often vigorously assert the “nonaggression principle.” As Ayn Rand said, “So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate do you hear me? No man may start the use of physical force against others.” Or, as Rothbard put it:

The libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the “nonaggression axiom.” “Aggression” is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else. Aggression is therefore synonymous with invasion.

In other words, libertarians maintain that the only way to violate rights is by initiating force that is, by committing aggression. (Libertarianism also holds that, while the initiation of force against another person’s body is impermissible, force used in response to aggression such as defensive, restitutive, or retaliatory/punitive force is justified.)

Now in the case of the body, it is clear what aggression is: invading the borders of someone’s body, commonly called battery, or, more generally, using the body of another without his or her consent. The very notion of interpersonal aggression presupposes property rights in bodies more particularly, that each person is, at least prima facie, the owner of his own body.

Nonlibertarian political philosophies have a different view. Each person has some limited rights in his own body, but not complete or exclusive rights. Society or the state, purporting to be society’s agent has certain rights in each citizen’s body, too. This partial slavery is implicit in state actions and laws such as taxation, conscription, and drug prohibitions.

The libertarian says that each person is the full owner of his body: he has the right to control his body, to decide whether or not he ingests narcotics, joins an army, and so on. Those various nonlibertarians who endorse any such state prohibitions, however, necessarily maintain that the state, or society, is at least a partial owner of the body of those subject to such laws or even a complete owner in the case of conscriptees or nonaggressor “criminals” incarcerated for life. Libertarians believe in self-ownership. Nonlibertarians statists of all stripes advocate some form of slavery.

Without property rights, there is always the possibility of conflict over contestable (scarce) resources. By assigning an owner to each resource, legal systems make possible conflict-free use of resources, by establishing visible boundaries that nonowners can avoid. Libertarianism does not endorse just any property assignment rule, however. It favors self-ownership over other-ownership (slavery).

The libertarian seeks property assignment rules because he values or accepts various grundnorms such as justice, peace, prosperity, cooperation, conflict-avoidance, and civilization. The libertarian view is that self-ownership is the only property assignment rule compatible with these grundorms; it is implied by them.

As Professor Hoppe has shown, the assignment of ownership to a given resource must not be random, arbitrary, particularistic, or biased, if it is actually to be a property norm that can serve the function of conflict-avoidance. Property title has to be assigned to one of competing claimants based on “the existence of an objective, intersubjectively ascertainable link between owner and the” resource claimed. In the case of one’s own body, it is the unique relationship between a person and his body his direct and immediate control over his body, and the fact that, at least in some sense, a body is a given person and vice versa that constitutes the objective link sufficient to give that person a claim to his body superior to typical third party claimants.

Moreover, any outsider who claims another’s body cannot deny this objective link and its special status, since the outsider also necessarily presupposes this in his own case. This is so because, in seeking dominion over the other and in asserting ownership over the other’s body, he has to presuppose his own ownership of his body. In so doing, the outsider demonstrates that he does place a certain significance on this link, even as (at the same time) he disregards the significance of the other’s link to his own body.

Libertarianism recognizes that only the self-ownership rule is universalizable and compatible with the goals of peace, cooperation, and conflict-avoidance. We recognize that each person is prima facie the owner of his own body because, by virtue of his unique link to and connection with his own body his direct and immediate control over it he has a better claim to it than anyone else.

Libertarians apply similar reasoning in the case of other scarce resources namely, external objects in the world that, unlike bodies, were at one point unowned. In the case of bodies, the idea of aggression being impermissible immediately implies self-ownership. In the case of external objects, however, we must identify who the owner is before we can determine what constitutes aggression.

As in the case with bodies, humans need to be able to use external objects as means to achieve various ends. Because these things are scarce, there is also the potential for conflict. And, as in the case with bodies, libertarians favor assigning property rights so as to permit the peaceful, conflict-free, productive use of such resources. Thus, as in the case with bodies, property is assigned to the person with the best claim or link to a given scarce resource with the “best claim” standard based on the goals of permitting peaceful, conflict-free human interaction and use of resources.

Unlike human bodies, however, external objects are not parts of one’s identity, are not directly controlled by one’s will, and significantly they are initially unowned. Here, the libertarian realizes that the relevant objective link is appropriation the transformation or embordering of a previously unowned resource, Lockean homesteading, the first use or possession of the thing. Under this approach, the first (prior) user of a previously unowned thing has a prima facie better claim than a second (later) claimant, solely by virtue of his being earlier.

Why is appropriation the relevant link for determination of ownership? First, keep in mind that the question with respect to such scarce resources is: who is the resource’s owner? Recall that ownership is the right to control, use, or possess, while possession is actual control “the factual authority that a person exercises over a corporeal thing.” The question is not who has physical possession; it is who has ownership.

Thus, asking who is the owner of a resource presupposes a distinction between ownership and possession between the right to control, and actual control. And the answer has to take into account the nature of previously unowned things namely, that they must at some point become owned by a first owner.

The answer must also take into account the presupposed goals of those seeking this answer: rules that permit conflict-free use of resources. For this reason, the answer cannot be whoever has the resource or whoever is able to take it is its owner. To hold such a view is to adopt a might-makes-right system, where ownership collapses into possession for want of a distinction. Such a system, far from avoiding conflict, makes conflict inevitable.

Instead of a might-makes-right approach, from the insights noted above it is obvious that ownership presupposes the prior-later distinction: whoever any given system specifies as the owner of a resource, he has a better claim than latecomers. If he does not, then he is not an owner, but merely the current user or possessor. If he is supposed an owner on the might-makes-right principle, in which there is no such thing as ownership, it contradicts the presuppositions of the inquiry itself. If the first owner does not have a better claim than latecomers, then he is not an owner, but merely a possessor, and there is no such thing as ownership.

More generally, latecomers’ claims are inferior to those of prior possessors or claimants, who either homesteaded the resource or who can trace their title back to the homesteader or earlier owner. The crucial importance of the prior-later distinction to libertarian theory is why Professor Hoppe repeatedly emphasizes it in his writing.

Thus, the libertarian position on property rights is that, in order to permit conflict-free, productive use of scarce resources, property titles to particular resources are assigned to particular owners. As noted above, however, the title assignment must not be random, arbitrary, or particularistic; instead, it has to be assigned based on “the existence of an objective, intersubjectively ascertainable link between owner” and the resource claimed. As can be seen from the considerations presented above, the link is the physical transformation or embordering of the original homesteader, or a chain of title traceable by contract back to him.

Not only libertarians are civilized. Most people give some weight to some of the above considerations. In their eyes, a person is the owner of his own body usually. A homesteader owns the resource he appropriates unless the state takes it from him “by operation of law.” This is the principal distinction between libertarians and nonlibertarians: Libertarians are consistently opposed to aggression, defined in terms of invasion of property borders, where property rights are understood to be assigned on the basis of self-ownership in the case of bodies. And in the case of other things, rights are understood on the basis of prior possession or homesteading and contractual transfer of title.

This framework for rights is motivated by the libertarian’s consistent and principled valuing of peaceful interaction and cooperation in short, of civilized behavior. A parallel to the Misesian view of human action may be illuminating here. According to Mises, human action is aimed at alleviating some felt uneasiness. Thus, means are employed, according to the actor’s understanding of causal laws, to achieve various ends ultimately, the removal of uneasiness.

Civilized man feels uneasy at the prospect of violent struggles with others. On the one hand, he wants, for some practical reason, to control a given scarce resource and to use violence against another person, if necessary, to achieve this control. On the other hand, he also wants to avoid a wrongful use of force. Civilized man, for some reason, feels reluctance, uneasiness, at the prospect of violent interaction with his fellow man. Perhaps he has reluctance to violently clash with others over certain objects because he has empathy with them. Perhaps the instinct to cooperate is a result of social evolution. As Mises noted,

There are people whose only aim is to improve the condition of their own ego. There are other people with whom awareness of the troubles of their fellow men causes as much uneasiness as or even more uneasiness than their own wants.

Whatever the reason, because of this uneasiness, when there is the potential for violent conflict, the civilized man seeks justification for the forceful control of a scarce resource that he desires but which some other person opposes. Empathy or whatever spurs man to adopt the libertarian grundnorms gives rise to a certain form of uneasiness, which gives rise to ethical action.

Civilized man may be defined as he who seeks justification for the use of interpersonal violence. When the inevitable need to engage in violence arises for defense of life or property civilized man seeks justification. Naturally, since this justification-seeking is done by people who are inclined to reason and peace (justification is after all a peaceful activity that necessarily takes place during discourse), what they seek are rules that are fair, potentially acceptable to all, grounded in the nature of things, and universalizable, and which permit conflict-free use of resources.

Libertarian property rights principles emerge as the only candidate that satisfies these criteria. Thus, if civilized man is he who seeks justification for the use of violence, the libertarian is he who is serious about this endeavor. He has a deep, principled, innate opposition to violence, and an equally deep commitment to peace and cooperation.

For the foregoing reasons, libertarianism may be said to be the political philosophy that consistently favors social rules aimed at promoting peace, prosperity, and cooperation. It recognizes that the only rules that satisfy the civilized grundnorms are the self-ownership principle and the Lockean homesteading principle, applied as consistently as possible.

And as I have argued elsewhere, because the state necessarily commits aggression, the consistent libertarian, in opposing aggression, is also an anarchist.

This article is adapted from a “What Libertarianism Is,” in Jrg Guido Hlsmann & Stephan Kinsella, eds., Property, Freedom, and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Mises Institute, 2009). An abbreviated version of this article was incorporated into the author’s speech “Intellectual Property and Libertarianism,” presented at Mises University 2009 (July 30, 2009; audio).

Original post:

What Libertarianism Is | Mises Daily

Libertarian History: A Reading List | Libertarianism.org

November 3, 2011 essays

A guide to books on the history of liberty and libertarianism.

The history of libertarianism is more than a series of scholarly statements on philosophy, economics, and the social sciences. It is the history of courageous men and women struggling to bring freedom to the lives of those living without it. The works on this list give important context to the ideas found on the others.

A History of Libertarianism by David Boaz

This essay, reprinted from Libertarianism: A Primer, covers the sweep of libertarian and pre-libertarian history, from Lao Tzu in the sixth century B.C. to the latest developments of the 21st century. Because its available for free on Libertarianism.org, the essay also includes numerous links to more information about major thinkers and their works. For a general sense of the rich history of the movement for liberty, this is easily the best place to start.

The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn

Bernard Bailyns Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the ideas that influenced the American Revolution had a profound influence on our understanding of the republics origin by exposing its deeply libertarian foundations. Bailyn studied the many political pamphlets published between 1750 and 1776 and identified patterns of language, argument, and references to figures such as the radical Whigs and Cato the Younger. Because these were notions which men often saw little need to explain because they were so obvious, their understanding was assumed by the Founders and thus not immediately obvious to modern readers. When the Revolution is reexamined with Bailyns findings in mind, theres no way to escape the conclusion that America was always steeped in libertarian principles.

Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement by Brian Doherty

The libertarian movement in America in the 20th century is the focus of this delightful history from Brian Dorhety. Radicals for Capitalism is more the story of the men and women who fought for freedom and limited government than it is an intellectual history of libertarian ideas. But it is an important story because it helps to place the contemporary debate about the place of libertarianism in American politics within the context of a major and long-lived social movement.

The Decline of American Liberalism by Arthur A. Ekirch Jr.

Ekirch traces the history of the liberal idea in the United States from the founding through World War II. He places the high point of true liberalism in the years immediately following the American Revolution, before the federal government began its long march of ever more centralized control over the country. And he shows how this shift has negatively impacted everything from global peace to the economy to individual autonomy.

Against the Tide: An Intellectual History of Free Trade by Douglas A. Irwin

Ever since Adam Smiths Wealth of Nations appeared in 1776, the case for free tradeboth its economic benefits and its moral footingseemed settled. Yet in the ensuing two centuries, many have attempted to restrict freedom of trade with claims about its deleterious effects. Irwins Against the Tide traces the intellectual history of free trade from the early mercantilists, through Smith and the neoclassical economists, and to the present. He shows how free trade has withstood theoretical assaults from protectionists of all stripesand how it remains the most effective means for bringing prosperity and peace to people throughout the world.

The Triumph of Liberty: A 2,000 Year History Told Through the Lives of Freedoms Greatest Champions by Jim Powell

If Radicals for Capitalism is the tale of the men and women who fought for liberty in the 20th century, Jim Powells The Triumph of Liberty fills in the backstory. The book is an exhaustive collection of biographical articles on 65 major figures, from Marcus Tullius Cicero to Martin Luther King, Jr., summarizing their lives, thought, and impact. While not all of them were strictly libertarian, every one of the people Powell covers was instrumental in making the world a freer. For a grand sweep of libertys history through the lives of those who struggled in its name, theres no better source than The Triumph of Liberty.

How The West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation Of The Industrial World by Nathan Rosenberg and L. E. Birdzell Jr.

The central question that How the West Grew Rich addresses is precisely what its title implies. For thousands of years, human beings lived in unrelieved misery: hunger, famine, illiteracy, superstition, ignorance, pestilence and worse have been their lot. How did things change? How did a relatively few peoplethose in what we call the Westescape from grinding poverty into sustained economic growth and material well-being when most other societies remained trapped in an endless cycle of birth, hardship, and death? This fascinating book tells that story. The explanations that many historians have offeredclaiming that it was all due to science, or luck, or natural resources, or exploitations or imperialismare refuted at the outset, in the books opening chapter. Rosenberg and Birdzell are then free to provide an explanation that makes much more sense.

The State by Franz Oppenheimer

Much political philosophy begins with a social concept theory of the state. Mankind originally existed in a state of nature, and the state only arose when people came together and agreed to give up some of their liberties in exchange for protection of others. Oppenheimer rejects this rosy picture and replaces it with his much more realistic conquest theory, which finds the genesis of states in roving bands of marauders who eventually settled down and turned to taxation when they realized it was easier than perpetual raiding. The State also features Oppenheimers influential distinction between the two means by which man can set about fulfilling his needs: I propose in the following discussion to call ones own labor and the equivalent exchange of ones own labor for the labor of others, the economic means for the satisfaction of needs, while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the political means.

Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Cant Explain the Modern World by Deirdre McCloskey

In Bourgeois Dignity, McCloskey offers a different story of economic growth from the common one of capitalism and markets. The West grew rich, she argues, not simply because it embraced trade, but because its cultural ideas shifted, specifically in granting a sense of dignity to the bourgeoisie. It is that dignityand the rhetoric surrounding itthat sparked the Industrial Revolution and, in turn, lead to the modern world. Bourgeois Dignity traces the influence of these changing ideasand uses them to explain not just the rise of the West but also the recent, monumental growth of India and China. The book is the second in a four-volume series, The Bourgeois Era.

Aaron Ross Powell is a Cato Institute research fellow and founder and editor of Libertarianism.org, which presents introductory material as well as new scholarship related to libertarian philosophy, theory, and history. He is also co-host of Libertarianism.orgs popular podcast, Free Thoughts. His writing has appeared in Liberty and The Cato Journal. He earned a JD from the University of Denver.

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Libertarian History: A Reading List | Libertarianism.org

Libertarianism Wikipedia

Libertarianism r en politisk ideologi som fresprkar frihet frn tvng och strvar efter att minimera staten och dess inflytande ver mnniskors liv. Libertarianer vill tillta maximal sjlvstndighet och valfrihet, med betoning p politisk frihet, frivilliga sammanslutningar samt det individuella omdmet.

Begreppet anvnds framfr allt i USA. I Sverige r begreppet nyliberalism vanligare, men inte entydigt samma sak.[1][2] Vanliga stndpunkter inom libertarianism r fresprkandet av en begrnsad stat, privat gandertt och en minimalt reglerad laissez faire-kapitalism.[3][4] ven om libertarianism i folkmun syftar p den ganderttsfokuserade klassiska liberalismen[5], s br ven en vxande klunga s kallade anarkokapitalister innefattas av definitionen.

Libertarianer fokuserar ofta, men inte uteslutande, p de moraliska och etiska aspekterna kring demokrati, staten och samhllet. Libertarianismen tar avstnd frn fenomen som rasism, imperialism och nutidens form av demokrati, dr en majoritet av befolkningen fr makt ver minoriteten. Libertarianer anser ofta att mnniskor tenderar att agera i goda syften av naturen, samt frblir kapabla att hjlpa de i nd utan tvng och hot om vld i form av skatt. De fresprkar drfr i olika mn att statliga funktioner tas bort eller erstts av icke-statliga initiativ, frn t.ex. privatpersoner, fretag och ideella freningar.[kllabehvs]

Det finns ocks en s kallad frihetlig socialistisk (engelska: “libertarian socialism”) inriktning som vunnit mark frmst p olika hll i Europa, men som skiljer sig starkt frn den vriga libertarianismen eftersom den istllet r anti-kapitalistisk och i praktiken fresprkar majoritetens rtt att krva socialistiska regler.

I USA p 1900-talet brjade flera anhngare av individuell frihet, begrnsad statsmakt och fria marknader att kalla sig fr libertarianer eftersom de ansg att den moderna liberalismen blivit synonymt med statlig inblandning i personliga och ekonomiska angelgenheter. Libertarianismen hrleds ofta utifrn liberalismen och i vissa sammanhang r begreppet svrt att skilja frn klassisk liberalism. De konservativa som motsatte sig New Deal, militra interventioner samt var motstndare till kommunism har ocks haft inverkan p den libertarianska rrelsen.[6][7]

De flesta libertarianer fresprkar att statens uppgifter ska vara begrnsade till att omfatta polis, domstolar och ett nationellt frsvar.[4]Anarkokapitalister likt Murray Rothbard och David D. Friedman vill helt avskaffa staten. Peri Roberts och Peter Sutch, universitetslektorer i politisk teori vid Cardiff University, definierar libertarianism som ett “extremliberalt synstt som betonar vikten av absolut gandertt och hvdar att detta bara rttfrdigar en minimal stat”.[3]

Individens frihet frn tvng oberoende av om tvnget utvas av andra individer eller staten r ett grundlggande vrde fr libertarianismen.[5] Ur libertarianismens syn p individuella rttigheter hrleder man den ekonomiska liberalismen, med frsvar av kapitalismen, liksom drog- och vapenliberalism och stllningstaganden som fri invandring och total yttrandefrihet. Libertarianismens syn p privat egendomsrtt gr att beskattning blir detsamma som stld och tvngsarbete.[4] Libertarianismen gr gllande att alla personer r absoluta gare av sina egna liv och br vara fria att gra vad de vill med sig sjlva eller sin egendom, frutsatt att det r frenligt med andra mnniskors frihet.

Inom filosofin kan libertarianer karakteriseras efter tv etiska synstt: konsekventionalister som stdjer frihet fr att det leder till goda konsekvenser, samt deontologer som anser att frihet r moraliskt rtt. ven kombinationer av dessa frekommer.[8] Libertarianer som inte utgr ifrn rttighetsetik anvnder det mer utilitaristiska argumentet att konsekvenserna av ekonomisk och personlig frihet ger ett bra samhlle. Dit hr Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman och Friedrich von Hayek.[9]

Filosofen Robert Nozicks verk Anarki, stat och utopi frn 1974 har setts som libertarianismens frmsta verk inom politisk filosofi.[4] Nozick utgr ifrn de individuella rttigheter som John Locke och klassiska liberaler frsvarade: rtten till liv, frihet och egendom. Dessa rttigheter r okrnkbara. Fr att inte statsmakten eller ngon annan person ska krnka individens rttigheter har minimalstaten till uppgift att vrna dessa mot vld, stld, bedrgeri, kontraktsbrott och liknande. Nozick avvisar vad han kallar “mnstrade” frdelningsprinciper, det vill sga principer som rttfrdigar omfrdelning utefter vissa ideal. Nozick var emot dessa rttviseteorier eftersom de utgr ifrn att resurser inte tillhr ngon och drfr kan frdelas utan vidare. Individens sjlvgarskap och gandertt gr att fremlens historia blir viktigt eftersom de r bundna till mnniskor som har rtt till dem. Alla verfringar, som genomfrs p frivillig basis, r enligt Nozick rttvisa och frenliga med individens frihet.[10]

I ett centralt kapitel, “Distributiv rttvisa”, lgger han fram en tredelad rttviseuppfattning gllande detta. Den innebr att en frdelning r rttvis om den uppfyller villkoren om legitimt ursprungligt frvrv (“en person har en legitim gandertt till ett tidigare ogt freml om hans eller hennes gande av det inte frsmrar ngon annans situation”) och legitima verfringar, dr “en person har en legitim gandertt till ett freml om ngon annan, som har legitim rtt till fremlet i frga, frivilligt ger det till den personen”. Om dessa inte r uppfyllda trder principen om korrigering av orttvist frvrv i kraft. Dessa tre principer principen om legitimt ursprungligt frvrv, principen om legitima verfringar av tillgngar och principen om korrigering av orttvist frvrv utgr Nozicks teori om samhllelig frdelning.[10]

1971 bildades Libertarian Party i USA som har stllt upp i alla val till kongressen och presidentskapet sedan dess. De fresprkar starka civila friheter med principen att alla individer har rtt att vlja hur de vill leva, s lnge de inte med tvng inskrnker p andras rtt till den friheten. De fresprkar frihandel, minimalt reglerade laissez faire-marknader (fri marknad) samt r motstndare till statliga ingrepp i den privata egendomen.[11] Ed Clark som var libertariansk presidentkandidat 1980 fick drygt 920 000 rster. De har haft strre std i val till kongressen. I valet till representanthuset r 2000 fick partiet fler n 1,6 miljoner rster.[12] Den fre detta republikanska kongressledamoten Ron Paul som skte den republikanska nomineringen till presidentvalet 2008 och 2012 har tidigare varit partiets presidentkandidat.

Centralt fr libertarianismen r begreppet sjlvgarskap som innebr att man menar att varje individ har en absolut och okrnkbar rtt till den egna kroppen och drmed ven alla frmgor och produkter skapade av denna kropp eller frmga. Detta r gemensamt fr svl hger- som vnsterlibertarianism.[13]. Det har ftt till fljd att de flesta libertarianer fresprkar till exempel rtt till abort. En signifikant minoritet (inklusive frre presidentkandidaten Ron Paul [14]) menar dock att ven nnu ofdda barn omfattas av den libertarianska rtten till liv, och att frsvaret fr abort drfr strider mot ideologins moraliska principer.[15].

Den frsta registrerade anvndningen av termen i politisk skrift tillskrivs anarkokommunisten Joseph Djacque.[16] Individualanarkisten Benjamin Tucker nyttjade ocks termen fr sin syn p individuell frihet. Termen libertarianism anvndes av revolutionren och anarkisten Mikhail Bakunins anhngare fr att beskriva den egna versionen av antiauktoritr och antistatlig socialism, i kontrast mot Lenins mera auktoritra regim. Denna anvndning av begreppet r fortfarande mycket vanlig i stora delar av vrlden utanfr USA.[kllabehvs]

Libertarianer r delade i tv grupper. Den ena r minarkister, som fresprkar en nattvktarstat bunden av en konstitution eller annan lagstiftning, den andra r anarkokapitalister som anser att precis allting i samhllet ska sktas p frivillig basis, inklusive institutioner som rttssystem, polis och frsvar. Det vill sga utan att tvinga ngon att betala fr dessa samhllstjnster med beskattning.

Libertarianism r med andra ord ett smalare begrepp n nyliberalism i det att anhngaren som minst fresprkar nattvktarstat, men samtidigt bredare eftersom nyliberaler inte kan tnka sig att privatisera institutioner som har till uppgift att skydda medborgarens negativa rttigheter, svida dessa privata organisationer inte r kontrollerade av en stat. Till skillnad frn nyliberaler ser en libertarian inte ndvndigtvis kapitalism som ett idealiskt eller moraliskt system, det r frivilligheten som r det centrala.

Libertarianismen hrstammar ideologiskt ifrn klassisk liberalism, samt en del statskritiskt gods, tankar om den fria marknaden och individens suvernitet frn individualanarkismen.[17] De stter liberalismens krna, friheten, i centrum. Mnniskor fr grna dela in sig i grupper med olika system dr ngra lever kommunistiskt, ngra kapitalistiskt etc. Allt fr att maximera mnniskors frihet att vlja hur deras liv ska levas, det man betonar r frivilligheten. Libertarianer anser att om det finns behov av att bilda jurisdiktioner s kommer sdana att uppst spontant beroende p efterfrgan eller kollektiv frivillig organisering. Alla ska naturligtvis ha friheten att bli medlem i en sdan fr att f rttsskydd men d blir man givetvis skyldig att uppfylla de plikter som ingr i avtalet, till exempel att betala en avgift och flja de regler och lagar som rttsskyddet ska upprtthlla. Liknande samhllstjnster till exempel brandfrsvar eller polisbeskydd fr frivilligt kpas p marknaden, precis som vilken annan tjnst (kapitalism; hr grs ingen skillnad filosofiskt p allmnnyttan och andra tjnster), eller organiseras med exempelvis kooperationer dr man kanske mste st redo att hjlpa till vid brnder eller patrullera nromrden med eller utan vapen fr att frhindra eller ingripa vid brott (frivillig socialism).

Det finns ven en vnsterinriktning av libertarianismen. Den grundlggande skillnaden mellan hgerlibertarianism och vnsterlibertarianism ligger i synen p resten av vrlden, det vill sga allt som inte utgrs av ett sjlvgande subjekt. Medan hgerlibertarianer menar att vrlden frn brjan inte gdes av ngon, menar vnsterlibertarianer att vrlden ursprungligen gdes gemensamt. Detta innebr att hgerlibertarianerna menar att det r tilltet att tillskansa sig del av tillgngarna i vrlden, s lnge detta inte inkrktar p ngon annans rtt till sjlvgarskap. Vnsterlibertarianerna menar dock att varje krav p gandertt ver ngon del av de gemensamma tillgngarna krver kompensation till de andra i ngon form. Detta gr att vnsterlibertarianer kan acceptera en strre stat n hgerlibertarianer, eftersom man menar att statens funktioner ven kan innefatta rttvis omfrdelning av resurser.[13]

Excerpt from:

Libertarianism Wikipedia