Sunday, August 19, 2012
Post-Libertarianism, and other matters
I've now gotten around to adding Post-Libertarian's blog to my links. It's a largely a critique of bad libertarian argumentation and crackpot-ism masquerading as libertarianism, and it's an endeavor of which I greatly approve. I think PL sometimes casts too broad a net and is overly harsh in some of her/his criticism (e.g. of FEE and -- especially -- of Cato) (Cato only gets the very slight and indirect treatment, admittedly) but the general objective is something that's increasingly important.
I particularly want to highlight PL's latest post, inspired by our exchange re Walter Block. I criticized Block, while PL defended him. Shortly thereafter PL contacted Block and, after an exchange with him, came to the same conclusion as I -- Block is just another LvMI loon. The exchange is reproduced on the post and is worth a look for anyone interested in the Rockwell Fever Swamp, and for Unforeseen Contingencies groupies. (Hahaha... in my wildest dreams!)
Incidentally, I take some issue with Block's claim that "Steele is a person who makes up very nasty stories about me without a shred of evidence." I do not make up stories about Block. Everything I recounted was based on direct personal contact with him and is true. OTOH, I confess to not having a shred of evidence to back it up; I have no way of demonstrating the content of these conversations (how could one ever document the content of private conversations?) So I've never supposed that anyone should take my word as some sort of final proof about Block -- especially if it is someone who doesn't know me. But I'm often asked why, as a libertarian and Austrian, I don't associate with the Rockwellites and Mises Institute, and I post the "stories" by way of explanation. Readers are welcome to believe or not, but I stand by them -- they are true.
Unforeseen Contingencies tips its metaphorical hat to Post-Libertarianism for making the effort to expose crackpotism and for its intellectual honesty.
On a different but not unrelated matter, in the comments section of my "War on Gunowners" post, PL takes exception to my references to empirical evidence on private ownership of firearms and crime rates. The essence is captured in her/his comment:
[UC]"As the numbers of firearms in private hands increase, violent crime is falling"
[PL] But what if that weren't the case? What if in Ruritania the increase in arms is correlated with an increase in crime? Don't the Ruritanians still have the right to defend themselves? A Ruritanian fighting for gun rights will have a hard time using your article to defend his position.
Perhaps so, but this misses my point. Gun control advocates incessantly make the claim that more guns mean more crime and fewer guns mean less crime. This is an empirical claim. It is false, and it is relevant to the debate to point it out. It's also false that more gun control means fewer guns. When gun control advocates make factually false assertions, it's certainly relevant to call them on it. I particularly object to the campaign of lies and deception that tries to make it look as though private ownership of firearms has no positive side, and only results in an exponential growth of violence. Both claims are demonstrably false. Facts matter.
This isn't, I hasten to add, a call for "libertarian pragmatism," which usually means abandoning libertarian principles. I won't say more at the moment about the role of empirical evidence in making arguments (there's a lot to say), but libertarians need to make more use of such, not less, and to do so very carefully and fairly. I gather this is a big part of the message of Post-Libertarianism.
"I think PL sometimes casts too broad a net and is overly harsh in some of her/his criticism (e.g. of FEE and -- especially -- of Cato) (Cato only gets the very slight and indirect treatment, admittedly)"
Especially of Cato?? The only thing I recall ever writing about Cato is that they are too utilitarian (they are) and that nothing good can come out of an association with (read: ownership by) the Kochs (it can't). Of all major libertarian entities, I was by far the least harsh with Cato.
But criticisms of Cato should not be hard to come by. You can easily tell when an institution is interested in scholarship and when it is interested in "policy-making": if the headquarters are in DC, it's the latter. It's true for Cato as it is true for the American Society for Microbiology.
Those who want to engage in disinterested scholarship usually have their institutions in places such as Santa Fe, NM or to Bozeman, MT.
I think there's a perfectly legitimate role for policy work, which is what Cato does. I also do not condemn utilitarianism. And what is the alternative? How does one engage in "disinterested scholarship" while adhering to a natural rights position?
Re Koch: I disagree that nothing good can come from connection with the Kochs. I've received a fair amount of financial support directly and indirectly from Kochs (and even more from Soros!) over the years -- I've never had anyone "check up" to see if I'm towing a party line. Association isn't equivalent to being owned.
How did Nock do it? Thoreau? Spooner?
(Rand disagreed. I think Rand and now Sam Harris might be correct that there's an objective ethics, and that it is individual rights based... but I'm not yet convinced.)