Saturday, July 7, 2012

Something has changed since my first post here.

Just in case it's not obvious, I no longer identify as a leftist libertarian. I don't see myself as being any particular place on the left/right spectrum. I think it's useful for some people, but placing me anywhere on that spectrum will lead to an inaccurate picture of where I'm coming from. As for libertarianism, as well as political anarchism, those are highly disputed labels, and whether you think one of them applies to me I'll leave up to you. Two things that have stood the test of time as my views have shifted are philosophical anarchism (meaning that I don't accept any philosophical justifications for the state's legitimacy) and a general preference for decentralizing both economic and political power.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ideas in conflict

When I run into a conflict of seemingly "opposite" ideas, I often seek a higher principle which can help me incorporate what seems to make sense in both. Sometimes I will stay invested in one of the sides, making a modified argument, but I have a tendency to embrace a "third way" which I see as an improvement over both (keeping in mind that there are usually other "third ways" out there.) Sometimes this means that both sides respect what I'm saying, and sometimes it means what I'm saying is generally despised, because people insist that I either join with them or their enemies. It can be a practical necessity to join one side or another, but this doesn't effect how true anyone's views are. This isn't just about interacting with other people, the whole process goes on internally as well (at least I think it should.)

Even if I've embraced a view which separates me from both sides in a conflict, I still respect people who maintain one of the positions, because their confirmation bias points them in a different direction than mine does. This means that they will notice things that I will miss, because they are seeking out different kinds of information. Thinking that conflicts can usually be resolved by facts alone is something that doesn't sit well with me because of this. Thinking about the perspective you use to explain these facts is also important. Even if, despite what I've just said, we find ourselves viewing an entire perspective as nonsense, one question is still worth asking. Why does this person think this way? In thinking about that, we can find that maybe he or she wasn't as wrong as we had initially thought. We should keep in mind that our own understanding is always limited, and wrong in some respect or another. There is a wider picture which no one can ever fully understand.  Other people's understanding is a tool for expanding our own.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gender roles and feminism.

I had some friends express an interest in what I think about gender roles, and why I don't consider myself a feminist. Feminism is supposed to be about the pursuit of equality between men and women. I believe in adopting a view of the equal worth of men and women, not necessarily equal rights in every possible sense. I don't think it's possible for us ever to be satisfied that men and women have reached a condition of equality. We can have specific kinds of equality, and there are cases where feminists pursue male-female equality where I agree (for example, the right have control of what goes into or comes out of one's body, or the same voting rights). However, I think that the biological differences between the sexes mean that we have different (and complementary) needs, and that it means we have different roles to play. We should be regarded as puzzle pieces which fit together, not identical units of asexual humanity who should be treated exactly the same way.

If someone were to ask the question "What is the opposite of equality?" some feminists would answer "hierarchy". Another answer is "diversity." Diversity is a fact of life, and male female diversity is one instance of this. I see gender as how a particular society has dealt with the differences between men and women which exist no matter what the culture does or says. I can agree that there are serious problems with particular features of gender roles as they appear in particular societies. Gender is a changeable thing, but (for the foreseeable future at least) sex is here to stay. As long as we have sexes, expectations of what men and women are or can be will come along with that. I think the relevant question is "How can the gender roles which we have take the healthiest form?" The whole thing should add up to an equitable relationship, but not necessarily equality in every detail, including the area of rights.

Now, at this point, a feminist like Christina Hoff Sommers could say that what I've said could potentially be compatible with what she calls "equity feminism" rather than "gender feminism." I respect what she's trying to do, and I wish her further success in spreading her ideas, but that doesn't work for me. The very name "feminism" signifies a primary concern for female interests, which is not what feminism is supposed to be about. It's supposed to be about fairness. If I were going to have a primary concern for males or females it's going to be for the group I'm a part of. That would make me a "masculist", something I would also reject for the same reason.

I think that whatever form gender roles take, we should try to accommodate people who aren't going to fit well into them. If we explicitly accept the universality (and potential flexibility) of gender roles, we could do a better job of accommodating those of us who don't fit well into the ones we have. Otherwise, I think we're in denial. Speaking personally, I feel as though I don't fit well either with the traditional roles we used to accept, or with the invisible and conflicting sets of expectations for men many people pretend they don't have.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Response to "Socialism Actually Works: a New Defense of Free Markets "

I have a very mixed attitude about this article. It presents a solid case against a fully state run economy, called "socialism", which I agree with, and deserves plenty of exposure. Unfortunately, it contains some extremely frustrating errors.

First, what is socialism? According to the usage in this article, some proposals for a new economic system made by socialists would not be considered socialism. This being pretty absurd, I think the best way to answer the question is to say that socialism is the family of proposals made by socialists (not all of which involve a state run economy), not necessarily a specific one. If you're unsure about what I'm saying, check this out:
The myth of socialism as statism

Council or left communists, who were competitors of Lenin in the Marxist movement, argued (and still argue) against participation in electoral politics and/or unions. They thought that the role of Marxists was to educate the working class, and since they (I'd say mistakenly) believed in the historical inevitability of a revolution which would overthrow "capitalism" (another problematic concept), they were unnecessary and would stand in the way of genuine revolution. That was the business of a class conscious proletariat. They called this process "spontaneous organization." Lenin criticized these tendencies in an essay titled "Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder." When I ran into Hayek's concept of spontaneous order, it sounded very familiar. I was more ready to accept it than the average person, because my familiarity with this idea.

Kevin Carson, who is a part of the socialist tradition and an advocate of free markets (and who I would credit with converting me to libertarianism), published a book titled Studies In Mutualist Political Economy. The Journal of Libertarian Studies (a Mises Institute project) published a symposium on his book, which is available here. In it, he attempts to integrate the insights of the Austrian school into the views associated with 19th century American individualist anarchism. He makes a case for a subjectivized version of the labor theory of value. His claim is that people subjectively determine the value of something, but we do so with things which came into existence because of our labor. If his view is ever advocated by the right people, it could theoretically replace the current neo-classical consensus on this issue. If nothing else, it means that descriptions of the labor theory of value like the one in this article are overlooking a version of the idea which is not subject this type of criticism.

Finally, there is the use of the idea of "The Left" which associates it with a desire for greater state control of society and the economy. According to this article Carson and his associates (who refer to themselves as "left libertarians") don't exist. Since I agree with their economic arguments, and want them widely accepted, I find this mistake incredibly annoying.
I no longer consider myself one because of reasons not having to do with their economic arguments.

It would be nice to see a version of this article which fixes these problems.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Links related to my political perspective

I compiled this list for a friend of mine, who has shown an interest in my brand of libertarianism, and asked for a few links to read.  This might be more than you're interested in reading.  That's okay.  Just read as far as your interest takes you, and come back to it as it suits you.  As for everyone else, anyone who reads all of this should get a pretty good grip of where I'm coming from politically.  I would ask that anyone offering an opinion only do so after having read what he or she is commenting on.

Scratching By: How Government Creates Poverty as We Know It 
Charles Johnson 

This one makes a case that government intervention causes and continues poverty.                            

The Distorting Effects of Transportation Subsidies 
Kevin Carson

A good example of Carson's perspective shifting observations and arguments about economics and economic history.  Makes the case that this form of government intervention subsidizes bigness in the size of businesses, and therefore their power over us.
The Cake is Rotten: Heterosexism, Marriage-Privilege, and the Case of Queer Marriage

Charles Johnson

A direct, practical, and uniquely libertarian perspective on a way to address this issue.

Kevin Carson‘s The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand: Corporate Capitalism as a State-Guaranteed System of Privilege


Makes the case that many of the negative features of the system we call "capitalism" are the result of the intervention of the state in the economy, which mostly functions to benefit economic elites.  It might alter your view of economic history.

Rothbard's "Left and Right": 40 Years Later | Roderick T. Long


In this lecture at the Mises Institute, Roderick Long makes the case to libertarians that libertarianism is a basically leftist and that we should consider ourselves part of the left.  He also has his classic "zaxlebax" observation about problems with the idea of "capitalism." 

How To Reach The Left (text)
Roderick T. Long 

Discusses libertarian outreach to the left, and makes a distinction between "the aristocratic left" and "the anti-privilege left".  I thought of you when I read that.     

No Treason
Lysander Spooner

Reading this led me to conclude that when the government forces people to do things against their will, it's a bad thing (all other things being equal).  Published by an anti-war abolitionist immediately after the Civil War, with the purpose of arguing against the idea that Southern soldiers had committed treason.   He argues that we don't automatically owe any particular state our loyalty.  He was a lawyer, and he makes a legal case against the idea that the constitution is a contract of "The People" with themselves.  He also critiques the idea that voting and paying taxes are evidence that people give consent to be governed.   
Libertarian Anarchism: Responses to Ten Objections

Roderick T. Long

What it says.

Two blog entries written by me:

This is a blog entry from my livejournal about a passage from Kevin Carson's Studies In Mutualist Political Economy.  It addresses everyday life issues like workplace politics, it addresses arguments that worker dis-empowerment is related to state intervention, and in the comments I get into a discussion with our old friend James about money and monetary policy.

In this one, I point out interesting parallels between libertarian analysis of the "political means" and the state, and a Maoist rapper's analysis of the nature of local politics.

The Case for Islamic Law in the U.S.
By Robert Taylor

This points out reasons to think that disputes between people can be resolved outside of government courts, and that this is nothing to be afraid of, based on an example in Tampa, FL.

Can a Libertarian Also Be a Conservative?
Gary Chartier

Discusses the relationship of libertarians to various conservative perspectives.

Charles Johnson

Makes the case that our social values should be extremely important to libertarians.

Anarchy Is What We Have
Stefan Molyneux (Video)

Argues against the idea that in our current system, we have the kind of consistent rule of law that the state is thought to provide.

"Who Is The Somebody?" 
Benjamin Tucker

Argues that the problem of working people not receiving the full value of their labor (and therefore being less able to provide for their own needs) is largely rooted in monopolies created and/or maintained by the state. 

State Socialism and Anarchism: HOW FAR THEY AGREE, AND WHEREIN THEY DIFFER (1888) 
Benjamin Tucker

Compares individualist anarchism to state socialism.  He argues against what Kevin Carson calls "Tucker's Big Four" forms of government intervention, which act to concentrate power and wealth in the hand of the wealthy and large institutions, and therefore dis-empower the rest of us:
"Of the latter they distinguished four of principal importance: the money monopoly, the land monopoly, the tariff monopoly, and the patent monopoly."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Introductory post

Hello reader(s). This is my blog. I got a blogger account because I made a group blog for a right-wing discussion group I sometimes participate in. Personally, I'm a leftist libertarian. I have a livejournal account which I rarely use. This blog may rocket me to fame, or I may never post again. Who knows?