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.