Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Left-Libertarians Have and Eat Cake Once Again, in a Feminist Way

This post at the deeply confused left-leaning site BleedingHeartLibertarians caused me to become deeply confused about how the hell one posts a comment on the site without interacting in some unexplained way with a social media service or setting up an account with a service called Disqus.  Most likely, this comments format appealed to the BHL crowd because liberalism works best when insulated from external criticism.  Nonetheless, I'll post my intended comment as an entry here: 

No, no, no, no.  Look, it is not out of lack of nuance or ignorance of other areas of cultural analysis that libertarians define coercion narrowly by physical and fraudulent attacks on body and possessions.  

They do so because of their awareness, from surveying the real world, that you can creep up slowly, over the course of several paragraphs -- or even whole academic careers -- to the suggestion that sexist orders from an employer (for example) are somehow also coercive (maybe sorta kinda) -- and their accompanying awareness that no matter how cautiously you do it, you have then blown libertarianism to smithereens and opened the floodgates to the idea that outcomes that are voluntary by the old standard libertarian litmus test but that you really, really dislike are now suspect.  

And despite the pretense of having some other morality-or-autonomy-respecting criterion in the BHL entry above, it does not come down to anything other than saying, "The boss is just way freaking me out with that suggestion [assuming, obviously, the boss is committing no fraud or contract violation with the new suggestion]."  

Acting as if some voluntary arrangements are, as it were, just too icky and unpleasant to be voluntary arrangements (coal mining, anyone?) is such a short road to modern liberalism -- and the condoning of legal responses to (what were under traditional libertarian criteria) non-coercive but annoying outcomes -- that it barely warrants being called a road.  

It would be more accurate to describe it as libertarianism evaporating in an instant before our eyes, so quickly does this collapse into an intellectuals-led social-democratic guessing game about which deals are permitted and which (likely unbeknownst to some of the poor bastards attempting to enter into them) are just too, too autonomy-violating.   

Failing to say loudly and clearly that no legal remedy can be justified in these hypothetical non-violent non-fraudulent yet somehow coercive situations only makes the enterprise more troubling (especially given that, as you may've noticed, we already live in a world in which everyone except libertarians is bursting with reasons to adopt legal remedies and needs no help from us) -- as does the abject failure in the entry linked above to even note as an aside that employers (who are individuals, too, after all) might tend (like the CEO of American Apparel, reportedly) to prefer a workplace in which it is understood that superiors will grope and ogle underlings. 

Since the BHL crowd leans left, to get some idea how vague, troubling, and dangerous all this is, I can only suggest that you imagine me bringing over to the BHL blog an army of hypothetical HHLs (right-leaning "hard-hearted libertarians" who, hypothetically, regard certain arrangements as too tradition-violating to be truly "voluntary") and having them (ever so thoughtfully and articulately) let their imaginations run wild about how important the concept of "coercion" is but how we would do well to broaden it to include sexually demeaning things like porn and prostitution and divorce, not to mention atheism.  

To avoid that clash, abandon the BHL project and return to libertarianism proper before you unwittingly destroy your own parent-philosophy.

Or if you really need a simpler explanation: imagine a "bleeding-heart free-speech amendment," which was steeped in all the finest classical liberal rhetoric about the evil of censorship…and sneaked in at the end a reminder that social pressure can also be censorship, so we'd better not allow, y'know, the hurtful words.  If you think that'd be moronic -- take another hard look at bleeding-heart libertarianism.  Please.  Now.  (Don't "force" me to "force" you through social pressure.) 


Anonymous said...

I just posted a comment there as a guest--no login needed. What you found difficult I found incredibly easy.

Todd Seavey said...

Well, it couldn't _possibly_ have anything to do with tech differences, so you must be a vastly superior being.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough.