Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Liberaltarians" vs. Anarchists vs. Objectivists vs. Social Democrats

Two fun events for free-market folks noted below, but first:

I try to be big-tent, I really do, but I notice my friend Jacob Levy, among other claims to fame now one of the bloggers over at the new Bleeding-Heart Libertarian blog for “liberaltarians” (I gotta either use the scare quotes or a hyphen or everyone’s going to read it wrong, which is not my fault) is still talking about the importance of a libertarian “break” with the right, not just cozying up to the left – and I think there’s an important difference, one which shows why I am really the peacemaker here, not the divisive one.

(I can understand Jacob being wary of any purported libertarians making partial defenses of the Confederacy – based on its right to secede, etc., not anyone’s right to enslave others – but then, if real-world policy outcomes are his metric of success, as he suggests at great length, is he sincerely worried that some libertarians are secretly plotting to reinstitute slavery?  The only person I’ve met who even obliquely lamented the end of slavery was, unsurprisingly, far more of a labor union enthusiast and anti-marketeer than a libertarian, in fact.) 

I think it takes a great deal of tortuous reasoning to see the left as more hospitable to libertarian ideas even at times when the right is behaving horribly, but now?  Now, when the left has been openly talking about a renewed interest in socialism and the right is throwing anti-big-government, anti-spending, pro-revolutionary Tea Parties?  Wha??

I mean, fine, do outreach to the liberals if they’ll actually listen to you.  I would have said no way as recently as two years ago, but since government is bungling so badly lately, I’m willing to accept the possibility that even liberals have become educable.  “Liberaltarians” might as well do the dirty work of buttering up the left so that I don’t have to, and if leftists actually come around, fantastic. 

But in any outreach mission, left or right, it is worth asking not just whether one might be compromising principles but also whether one is alienating more people than one is attracting.  If you sway a few thousand liberals but do it through a “break” with the right that drives away millions of almost-libertarian people, you haven’t really accomplished much – so why poke the right in the eye with a stick if you don’t have to?

And I’m increasingly inclined to think there’s no real need to declare almost anyone the enemy if they still seem open to market-oriented thinking, but people like to fight, being closely related to stupid chimpanzees and all. 


Yet the “liberaltarians,” as if that name weren’t awkward enough, are now declaring
themselves the “bleeding hearts” as well, as if they care more about human happiness than normal libertarians – which as a utilitarian, I resent.  I work with the right precisely because I’m far more panicked about the unsustainable changes the left has been making to civilization for the past century, and the death and destruction it visits on people, than by almost anything the right does, for all their stupid errors.  I worry about the liberaltarians encouraging further harm, not about them being too kindhearted.  

But I admit the liberaltarians have finally exhausted me in one sense: I think it may be best to just give up trying to criticize libertarian factions and just keep reminding them all to stay focused on fighting the real enemy, government.  So, you keep on doing your thing, liberaltarians -- and Objectivists and so on.  Just don't spend more time bashing your semi-allies than reducing taxes, spending, and regulation.

In general, whether the topic is political parties or regular festive party parties, I generally say exclude the excluders.  That is, unless people are prone to violence or deliberate sabotage, or are chronically prone to lying and cheating, the only people in this world who ought to be told to go away – the only ones with whom you need “break” – are ones who cannot themselves abide the presence of people with whom they disagree.  It doesn’t matter if you like Aunt Bertha more than your brother, if your brother convincingly promises to be civil and hasn’t done anything beyond the pale, and Aunt Bertha says she won’t come to the party if your brother’s there (whereas your brother is willing to put up with her), it’s Bertha who should get disinvited. 

By the way, auto-correct, apparently, knows how to turn liberaltarians into just-plain libertarians.  At least this spell-checker, unlike my old one, knows of utilitarians.  That's progress.

(Other good signs: Rand Paul's interview on The Daily Show went well.  And as of yesterday, I get slightly more Google hits for <Nietzsche> than for <Karl Marx>.  It's a start.)


You know I’m more of an anarcho-capitalist than a liberaltarian (it says so on my Facebook page).  But Ed Thompson of the Ayn Rand Center, who attended the talk by David Friedman that I hosted last week at Lolita Bar (after which I notice Friedman posted a blog entry about big city folk not being as rude as they say), forwarded a link to this argument by one of his colleagues, Harry Binswanger, in favor of Objectivist law and against anarchism.  I think it shows an odd lack of confidence in competing market institutions for ostensibly laissez-faire thinkers, but again, I’d rather build a coalition than split hairs.  Less government, yes – we can worry later about little vs. none. 

The bigger argument, between less government and yet more government, will be fought between Ayn Rand Institute president Yaron Brook and Demos president Miles Rapoport, moderated by Brian Lehrer, in two days at the NYU Skirball Center, 60 Washington Square Park South (Thur., March 10, 6pm – with two subsequent debates in that series occurring on April 7 and May 2).  It’s free but requires registration here.  I will attend – and RSVPed for two, if you care to join me before someone else does.

If that’s not enough free-market activity for you, note that tomorrow (Wednesday) 11am sees an advance screening (two weeks before the general release) at the IFC theatre downtown of My Perestroika, a documentary about the final generation of Soviet children.  (RSVP to Charlie@norget.com if you’re a writer/reporter type who wants to attend, says Laura Vanderkam – or be my guest, in the unlikely event you’re free at 11am on a weekday due to being a ghostwriter or some other crazy thing.)  Is it overly right-wing of me to want to watch the kids escape communism?  Would it be more bleeding-heart of me if I enjoyed seeing Janet Reno send Elian back to Cuba at gunpoint?  I’m just no good at liberal compassion, I guess.

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