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Stand and Deliver

First Boston, and now New York City. Soon the whole world will be in the long shadow of the Molinari Society. Fortunately, as antiwar anarchists, our imperialism will turn out to be of a rather easy-going kind…

Call for Abstracts

The Molinari Society will be hosting its second symposium in conjunction with the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in New York City, December 27-30, 2005. We plan a two-hour session, with two papers, and hereby solicit abstracts on the general topic of Libertarianism Through Thick and Thin. Papers should address the general question of whether libertarianism should be thick or thin (thin libertarianism is libertarianism understood as a narrowly political doctrine, while thick libertarianism is libertarianism understood as essentially integrated into some broader set of social or cultural values) and may (but need not) also address the connection between libertarianism and some specific position or set of positions (environmentalism, left-anarchism, Aristotelianism, feminism, egalitarianism, Christianity, secular humanism, the labor movement, etc.).

Send abstracts to Roderick T. Long. (Those interested in being a commentator at the session should do likewise.)

Deadline for receiving abstracts: 5 May 2005
Notification of acceptance / rejection: 15 May 2005
Accepted papers due: 1 November 2005

24 replies to Stand and Deliver Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. Nick Manley

    In light of the evidence presented by Aster, I hereby submit the idea that we hold a symposium on environmentalist issues. I don’t like some of the uber statist proposals to deal with the potential problems. I contend we need a genuinely liberal response.

    Roderick wrote about forgetting to write about Earth Day, so this shouldn’t be too radical of a proposal:

    http://aaeblog.com/2009/04/23/i-intended-to-blog-about-earth-day-yesterday/

    I am posting this on here to give everyone a chance to voice their thoughts.

  2. Aster

    I think it would be a great idea for left-libertarians to discuss environmental concerns. Kevin Carson certainly already does so.

    (now if he’d only write on feminist and sexuality issues I’d sign on the mutualist dotted line…)

  3. Soviet Onion

    Great idea, although I’m not really sure if there’s anything new to be said that hasn’t already been said by Kevin or Gus diZerga. In any case they should definitely be invited to the table.

    I suppose one thing that hasn’t been addressed are the philosophical implications that Aster keeps hinting at. For that I’d also want to contact Shawn Wilbur.

  4. Aster

    On philosophical implications:

    If you’re referring to animal rights issues, all I was ‘hinting at’ was a speculative argument for a position which could come close to animal rights, on the principle of the cultivation of sentiment. I doubt it works and it’s not of primary importance.

    If you mean the current environmental crisis, and what it implies for the kind of mind and spirit I cherish….

    I’ll let others make that argument. I don’t need nightmares right now.

    DiZerega, I think, understands the issues, if from the opposite side. He has influeced me on environmental issues, and I share most of his political stances, but at heart I think he works from intensely conservative premises incompatible with my own. ‘Tis a shame. I’d rather have been able to see him as an ally.

  5. Nick Manley

    Gus is a really innovative theorist. The way he expands Hayekian insights to liberal democracy is impressive. I am going to pick up a copy of his book on contractual federalism.

    The feeling I get from his work is that he’s trying to move away from a reductionist politics vs market/democratic decision making process vs market anti=governmentalist liberalism.

    His opinion of contemporary Libertarianism seems to be that it’s basically just Austrian economics and Ayn Rand at her most vulgar moments — i.e. seeing currently existing business as the natural ally of the free market. Not much else to it. I imagine that his affections for a kind of unity in civil society does influence some of this…

    I also think he’s too soft on Obama without sacrificing an independent mind in the process. Then again, I’ve been partial to some of Obama’s rhetoric and actions — still think he’s much more conventional than some of his supporters may like to believe.

    Nonetheless, I don’t think it’d be a problem to invite Gus to a symposium. Last year, we had both William Thomas and a left-liberal arguing Libertarians should be welfare liberals! My moment of scholarly pride was having Thomas ask me if I taught somewhere ( :

    I wish…

  6. Roderick T. Long

    There’s much to like about Gus’s work, but I don’t find his claim that liberal democracies are spontaneous orders rather than states to be one of them. (I don’t deny that liberal democracies are in certain respects spontaneous orders, because I think that’s true of states generally; it’s the claim that they’re not states that I find bizarre.)

  7. Nick Manley

    Roderick,

    I am not sure if I agree with him. I haven’t thought about it too deeply yet. I just meant that its novelty is impressive.

  8. Aster

    Roderick-

    I agree with you on the democratic state as a process of spontaneous order, alho’ I very much agree with Gus that there is a crucial difference of kind between (genuine) liberal democracies and authoritarian governments. For that matter, I think the Cold War distinction between authoritarian and totalitarian governments is entirely valid.

    His point might be strengthened by making explicit a more robust and less formal concept of ‘democracy’. One thing I came to appreciate about social anarchism is the way consensus democracy works. Yes, it can place pressure on people to keep quiet to go along. But it also creates a social contract by which any collective decision has to be at least acceptable to everyone present. It’s an ‘unwritten constitution’ thing which only works if the culture means it, but it puts a check upon ‘tyranny of the majority’ problems. And given the reality that we are often in irreducably collective situations, a consensus-democratic method of resolving collective action has much to recommend it. I don’t mind not getting my way perfectly so long as people take seriously the principle that the outcome can’t ruin my life. I’ve come to think of democracy less as a set of formal procedures than as a public ethic according to which everybody counts and common actions must be done in such a way that no one is excluded.

    Anarchists get this, and social entry into their charmed circle is largely a matter of whether one can play by these rules (which, yes, come with too many PC strings attached). But the result is the formation of a non-state democratic polity which can handle the sorts of oppression which libertarians can’t. If a racist shows up to an anarchist democracy everyone will instantly see that her racism is incompatible with their conception of democratic collective action. I very much appreciate this kind of conception of democracy because it codifies the notion that ‘everyone counts’ without demanding submission to a collective whole. The result is that I feel safe among anarchists, even if some of them are obnoxiously obsessive about certain ‘PC’ issues. The democratic principle implements much of the thick libertarian program, essentially setting standards of social inclusion which objectively define the standards necessary for common action.

    I would therefore defend the possibility of reclaiming democracy as a benevolent order which, once set up, works spontaneously to produce valuable results. I think we ought to grant greater legitimacy to genuinely liberal-democratic governments (which for the most part excludes the U.S. and Britain), but a robust liberalism demands much more. Proclaiming existing liberal democracies exempt from libertarian legitimacy challenges is rather callous towards people jailed by democratically validated drug laws, for instance.

    A rational concept of democracy can’t justify the routine activites of actually existing liberal democratic states. Coming to final decisions on irreducable collective problems is one thing. But liberal democratic governments still can and do violate personal space and act in callous disregard for individual needs.

    And I’ve never been greatly impressed by the alleged wonders of spontaneous order. The concept is certainly crucial for understanding human social organisation, but I’ve never seen any reason to believe that the product of spontaneous action tends towards rationality. Racism, patriarchy, class systems, slavery, and the state itself seem to emerge spontaneously.

    In fact, I often find myself in critical agreement with the kind of Promethean radicalism which insists that humans consciously redesign their social systems on a model fit for rational beings, against the tyranny of Nature. The tribe, with all of its horrors, is our natural state. And if what you want is liberty, you will have to learn how to think assertively, buck the trend, and wield instrumental power. Going with Mother Nature and letting things me leaves you defenseless before the Man. The European New Right politics of letting each group alone to dominate its own and war with the idiotic patriarchy next door is an authentic transcription of what natural order is without the intrusive intervention of instrumental reason. And while I don’t trust Prometheus entirely either- he has a hacker’s tunnel vision and always forgets to include anyone but himself- he’s a necessary and for the most part likeable ally.

    I’m with Rand and never loved Hayek… despite his intentions, his theories easily act as a prop to conservativism. I once read a LTE in Liberty in which someone lauded Hayek for allowing them to be an ‘intellectually fulfilled Episcopalian’, under the reasoning that a religion that has lasted so long must be somehow good. Total social metaphysics.

    (+) (+) (+)

    As for Gus- he’s great as a political theorist, but presumptuously narrow in his Paganism. I have liberal Christian friends who are more religiously cosmopolitan. I remember how my Anglo-Catholic father approached ethics and religion, and too much of Gus’s thealogy (?) feels far too familiar. Same game, different name.

    I keep getting the sense that now that he’s arrived, he’s taking out very just anger on the patriarchal bigots by using their own words and attitudes against them. I don’t doubt they deserve it, but in the process he’s invoking the same spirit and taking on many of the same attributes. Taking on the monotheistic priest’s job as the appointed voice of communitarian morality is at least as spiritually dangerous as the Satanic predation which he insists exhausts the spiritual possibilities of egoism. Mote. Beam. Eye.

    And the job naturally comes with persecution of anyone who’s not interested in playing by the respectable rules, with the hypocritical class-altruist pose that ‘serving society’ is spiritually selfless, while making an honest living according to one’s passions is base and selfish. And it’s simply not cool to make Paganism respectable by joining the established community’s witch hunts. Inklings Christianity is probably the most common path to Paganism, but this doesn’t mean that a fusion of Christian morality and Pagan aesthetics is the alpha and omega of Pagan religious practice. Instead of the Lord you would have a Mom. Meet the new boss, and get ready for the same old hail of rocks.

    Gus-

    Polytheism means many gods– if there are any gods, and all of them are or are not by the same standard of evidence. Some of them don’t favour girl scouts but do ask you to get a life. You’re welcome to your own path, which doesn’t harm me, but please be careful not to step on shoes. In purely secular terms, dualising and denying the psyche isn’t a good idea. Freud? Racine’s Phaedra? Too many older than dirt precedents to count? What goes around comes around, and all that.

    Don’t blame me- I’m just sayin’. What I do think is that Pagan spirituality can be as dangerous to a rational and humane society as can Christianity, and that both are equally invalid as a basis for politics in a liberal democracy. Reason and not religious morality are the answer to both witch-burnings and human sacrifice. The gods are not nice (Paglia, Neil Gaiman)- they are as kind and cruel as the human animal-, and if we want a nice world (and I do) we will have to respect and rely upon human reason, which teaches humanism. Trusting Being or the Divine to provide an intrinsic source of human right is devastating regardless of whether one’s image of the divine is amoral or hypermoral. The gods are uncivilised. If they are civilised, it is because we bring that civilisation to them.

    I prefer high standards of civilisation in the public square and for safe, sane, and consensual barbarism to remain a private affair. A separation of coven and state requires that political decisions be kept not merely formally but also substantively secular.

  9. Roderick T. Long

    under the reasoning that a religion that has lasted so long must be somehow good.

    Heh. If longevity is the criterion, Episcopalianism is a bit of a Johnny-come-lately as world religions go.

  10. Nick Manley

    Aster,

    Consensus can be a very long process — altho; I suppose it depends on the character of the people involved. That’s probably why some social anarchists take the pragmatic road and favor direct democracy i.e. majority rule without what’s considered a state. I have to admit that this process could lead to some rather ugly tribalistic outcomes. It’s basically Prop 8 method without the CA Supreme Court acting as a check.

    I question whether there exists an authentic liberal democracy anywhere. If NZ custom authorities can seize your items or arrest a couple for having a book on making drugs, then how is it a liberal democratic government? The latter incident is something I discovered on the internet. The NZ police authorities also raided a school looking for marijuana. You’re positing an unknown ideal of liberal democracy, but you’re describing actually existing political orders as liberally democratic. When does a government qualify as having formally liberal democratic institutions? This seems to be at the heart of this discussion.

    Be careful about that distinction between A and T governments. It was used to justify U.S. aid to vile regimes — on the grounds that they were “merely” A. Pinochet and company didn’t kill as many people as Mao, so that made aiding them ok…

    You have to love the “logic” of U.S. foreign policy ( :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeane_Kirkpatrick

    I first read about it in this book: http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Herman%20/RealTerrorNetwork_EH.html

    Reagen admin popularizer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeane_Kirkpatrick

  11. Roderick T. Long

    Aster,

    I’m with Rand and never loved Hayek… despite his intentions, his theories easily act as a prop to conservativism.

    Well, just as there’s a good and bad Rand, there’s a good and bad Hayek. In this context, the bad Hayek tends to take mere longterm survival as presumptive evidence of a practice’s or institution’s being a good one; whereas the good Hayek stresses that it’s only when such longterm survival takes place in the context of free competition that there’s any such presumption.

    J. S. Mill makes a similar point in Subjection of Women:

    “The generality of a practice is in some cases a strong presumption that it is, or at all events once was, conducive to laudable ends. This is the case, when the practice was first adopted, or afterwards kept up, as a means to such ends, and was grounded on experience of the mode in which they could be most effectually attained. If the authority of men over women, when first established, had been the result of a conscientious comparison between different modes of constituting the government of society; if, after trying various other modes of social organisation — the government of women over men, equality between the two, and such mixed and divided modes of government as might be invented — it had been decided, on the testimony of experience, that the mode in which women are wholly under the rule of men, having no share at all in public concerns, and each in private being under the legal obligation of obedience to the man with whom she has associated her destiny, was the arrangement most conducive to the happiness and well-being of both; its general adoption might then be fairly thought to be some evidence that, at the time when it was adopted, it was the best: though even then the considerations which recommended it may, like so many other primeval social facts of the greatest importance, have subsequently, in the course of ages, ceased to exist. But the state of the case is in every respect the reverse of this.”

  12. Nick Manley

    The more I think about Aster’s comments: the less I enjoy the dynamics of what she describes — not the surface rhetoric. That’s fine, but I can’t help but imagine 3 hour meetings over where the coffee pot should go or something comparable. I honestly don’t mind when someone specializes in adminstrative work as long as they make rational decisions/don’t beat other people over the head on status grounds. I suppose that puts me middle of the road.

  13. Marja Erwin

    It can be nice but it takes certain organizational skills.

    Important ones during the meetings are to keep track of time, resolve disputes, delegate one person to keep stacks without missing the people in the corners, establish time limits, delegate two people to use their watches and signal as speakers approach the end of their alloted times, encourage people to twinkle instead of me-to, and above all, once the meeting exceeds thirty people, cut the intros to one minute each and ask people who aren’t spokes to skip the intros… Oh, and have people write contact info and pass it to the secretary, instead of going back and forth with the secretary over the spelling of each organization’s email address!

    It can be nice but isn’t always…

  14. Ariadne (is not an Amazonian *nationalist*)

    Marja neglected to mention the pervasive abuse of the stacks to silence womyn’s voices.

    In mixed settings, it is important to allow womyn and minorities equal time, since men are trained to speak their voices and ignore womyn’s voices. In addition, mixed settings have the risk that one of the men will have abused one of the womyn, and men often dismiss the womyn’s concerns as distractions from the purpose of the meeting.

  15. Aster

    Nick (on Kiwi censorship)-

    Argh. I know. The customs agents detained my copies of the Leatherman’s Handbook and Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Very steamed. The first book is a BDSM classic coming out of the gay male leather scene, and the encyclopedia is just that, a factual reference. The particular copy was (I believe) a gift of a friend who received it as a gift from a client. A pox upon all executors of sumptuary laws!

    That said, the social atmosphere in New Zealand is still far more open on cultural freedom issues. People don’t hate you or harass you for being queer, not counting the occasional drunk post-adolescent male, who does not exactly strike fear into the heart of Aster.. Some women went bare-breasted on floats on the city-sponsored Wellington carnival. I recently attended a J day rally held in a public park. If the organiser I spoke to was telling the truth, borrowing the park for this open act of civil disobedience required merely notifying the authorites of a gathering on the grounds. No permits. We had very loud banners and most people smoked pot openly. A cop car parked across two streets for a half hour or so; it wasn’t even clear they were watching us… altho’ there were rumours that there were plainclothes cops in attendance trying to identify dealers and growers.

    The bottom line is: here I’m not always scared. Here I’m not seriously oppressed. There are a few bars, and they should be knocked out, but the birdcage doesn’t function. Here I’m part of society and have opportunities open to me.

  16. Marja Erwin

    I drafted a somewhat-exaggerated commentary on consensus process, in the voice of Ariadne (who would deny being an Amazonian nationalist).

    In particular, she would discuss the way the stacks can favor privileged male voices over marginalized and/or female voices, and the way that women’s concerns can be ignored by male participants. These are two very real problems, though consensus process is, imho, less vulnerable than majoritarian processes, and the ethics which lead to consensus are the same ones which can lead to recognition and resolution of the problem.

  17. Aster

    Marja-

    Your National Feminist deviancies will be noted and recorded in my weekly report for National Anarchist Watch. Beware the censure of NAW!

    Seriously, I agree with you here. My appreciation of the consensus process in based upon observation and an experience that a pure American/libertarian model too often results in a Hobbesian situation which (beneath the surface of legal neutrality) continutally rewards the aggressive and privileged. But, yes, the consensus process can lead to an equally informal domination by a different type of person.

    I think heirarchies, especially conservative heirachies, are worse than either consensus or a free-for-all. The latter two models try to preserve people’s right to their own individuality. Heirarchical models, by contrast, are accepted by those who have given up their claim to a life that is genuinely their own, and who, as a result, cannot be relied upon by those who do demand selfhood.

  18. Marja Erwin

    Well, it started as a joke, and it helped me get men to back off, and get womyn to stop pressuring me about men, but it has gotten out of hand…

  19. Aster

    Nick-

    “Be careful about that distinction between A and T governments. It was used to justify U.S. aid to vile regimes — on the grounds that they were “merely” A. Pinochet and company didn’t kill as many people as Mao, so that made aiding them ok….”

    I’m aware of the source of the distinction, and as I said, I support it. The U.S. should never have supported regimes without regard to their oppressiveness (Saudi Arabia is the case which really galls me). It should have backed liberal and social democratic regimes (and movements and revolutions), not feudalists, fundamentalists, and semi-fascists. Nevertheless, supporting an imperfect relative good or lesser evil against a greater is sometimes the only practical choice if we wish to effectively protect real good things in this world.

    I’ve heard people seriously claim that there was no difference in kind between America and Nazi Germany. or America and the Soviet Union, as if this was the only possible way to take American atrocities seriously. I would understand this approach if the speaker was protesting her own victimisation by American-backed power-structures (since the evil truly was comparable for her). But when a third person rings distant hands in sympathetic moral agony I simply feel that I’m dealing with an emotionalism which is unable to handle the real world. I don’t have time to spend my life worrying about all the injustice and suffering and existence, and those who do so are not made better for doing so. Living life and trying to be happy almost certainly produces more real good than seeking out awareness of others’ pain.

    I strongly disagree with the need that Rothbard and many leftists have had to blur distinctions and create false moral equivalances in order to criticise U.S. imperialism. And I’m not interested politics as an anxious search for innocence and purity. I wish to focus on this world, not a romantic dream of noble causes and suicidal pledges to die rather than involve oneself with evil. Too much of libertarianism and anarchism takes after this Tolstoyish princess-and-the-pea moral sensibility. If one can’t live in an imperfect world then one can’t live in this world. If the problem is that the world is intolerable for oneself then one should identify one’s own oppression and confront its causes.

    The same reality principle applies to the liberal democratic question. The rights violations committed by the least coercive states are still fully objectionable, but to move from this claim to the position that one can’t find a meaningful difference between living in the Netherlands and living in China is absurd. Legitimacy is contextual as should be granted in awareness of the alternatives. If New Zealand was confronted by a strong left-libertarian movement with a serious chance at toppling the existing establishment then of course I would not recognise the Kiwi state as legitimate. But when the realistic alternatives are the American corporate oligarchy, the British partial police state, the brutal Russian oligarchy, Chinese fascism, Islamic fundamentalism, etc., etc…. then sure, I’ll defend New Zealand. That said, I think there are some people- particularly Maori and Islanders, who are treated poorly enough that they have a rational cause to make the opposite judgement call.

    That said, I do not wish to discuss the New Zealand vs. America as free societies issue with you again. It’s been done. I would rather spend my time talking with others here, and cannot help you resolve these questions.

  20. Nick Manley

    That’s fine. I wasn’t actually interested in discussing NZ vs America. I was more interested in the abstract question of when a government or political order is liberally democratic.

    If you wish: I won’t respond to your comments when my interest is piqued. This is an impersonal forum for me — with the exception of those I know away from it.

  21. Roderick T. Long

    Aster,

    I strongly disagree with the need that Rothbard and many leftists have had to blur distinctions and create false moral equivalances in order to criticise U.S. imperialism.

    In most cases I’m aware of, such claims of equivalence concern foreign policy, not domestic policy. And as regards foreign policy I don’t find them implausible.

  22. Nick Manley

    Roderick,

    Actually, I can believe it with respect to certain leftists on domestic policy. I believe one response to The Black Book of Communism was to create a text called The Black Book of Capitalism. Although, that’s comparative economics — not U.S. policy vs Soviet policy.

  23. Roderick T. Long

    Well, depending on how one defines “capitalism,” if one includes various colonialist policies it could be a contender. Though maybe that counts as foreign policy again. (Does U.S. treatment of the Indians count as foreign or as domestic policy?)

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