Tuesday, May 12, 2015

“The Problem of Political Authority”: a dozen anarchist thoughts (Huemer me)

1. Camilo Gomez informs me there’s a dinky Democratic Freedom Caucus within the Democratic Party (including one member of the St. Louis County Council). That’s odd enough, but the weirdest part may be that (according to Wikipedia) the group is partly Georgist, not just libertarian, aiming to move toward taxing only land.

That’s not a totally crazy idea, since industrious latecomers have almost no way of producing new land, and retention of land across generations has been the root of much of the inequity in history, but the idea has been marginal since its heyday in the mid-nineteenth century.

2. Jacob Levy doesn’t frame himself as an anarchist, but, as I blogged earlier, I think he made a valuable contribution to debates about anarcho-capitalism in his book Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom by observing that (despite some self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalists still managing to favor immigration restrictions), an-caps should be the last people to accept such restrictions -- not merely because they are usually (though not always) enforced by government but because, even in a world without government, it would be frightening if (nearly) an-cap communities couldn’t be escaped if you hated the one you were in and the neighbors didn’t like you.

The old dorm-room-philosophy nightmare scenario of someone buying all the land around you and then just letting you starve, not something that I think a libertarian normally need worry is terribly likely, takes at least a small leap closer to reality if you have no option for egress.

And the Georgists may give us other reasons not to be quite as hardcore about land as we might be about all other physical objects. I’m happy to err on the an-cap side until a nightmare scenario arises and then just refuse to prosecute people for trespassing, though (long story short, sorry).

(Of course, the border-protecting variety of an-cap -- many of them fans of Ron Paul -- might argue that societies are more obliged to let people emigrate than to immigrate, but I take the open-borders position anyway, largely just because I don’t like any precedent for giving government more power as a reward for its prior failings. If you’re a state, you don’t get border-enforcement powers as a reward for having welfare powers, and so on, just as you don’t get the right to wage a drug war or regulate people’s diets just because you were stupid enough to federally subsidize healthcare for addicts, etc.)

3. If all that sounds insane, you really ought to read Michael Huemer’s anarcho-capitalist philosophy book The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey (the first chapter of which can be read here). I may not agree with him on every detail, but anarcho-capitalist books are so rare, it’s a minor miracle by my standards to see a new tome on the topic enter the canon (and it seems to be popular, by political-philosophy standards!).

He cuts through all the messy, ornate current policy debates and gets back to the basic question, for starters, of how you react to someone showing up at your door and giving you orders.

4. As if my allies aren’t few enough, I incorrectly called Bryan Caplan, a fellow open-borders anarcho-capitalist, an economic Austrian once, when he objected to my condemnation of smoking (back when I worked at ACSH, the science group that recently sparred with the quacky Dr. Oz). He explains why he isn’t one at length here.

5. I know at least one Ayn Rand-style egoist who dismisses Huemer for not being an egoist, so it’s hard to keep everyone from fighting even within the tiny an-cap faction.

6. Venture beyond the anarcho-capitalist circle into the broader libertarian movement, though, and everything starts going to hell pretty quickly, especially these days, when you get mushiness like the BleedingHeartLibertarians site sticking up for hip young singer Dorian Electra despite her appearing to have become a socialist or something.

Heaven forbid I should criticize her intellectual explorations. Not like government’s expanding while people yack about philosophy and pooh-pooh property rights or anything.

7. But musically, the Feelies are more my speed -- so let me know if you wanna be my guest at this Saturday’s Brooklyn performance by the band.

8. It’s not all about philosophy, and I have also recently enjoyed two mystery-story-filled issues of Thuglit, which I discovered simply because I wandered into Shade Bar to say hello to my favorite goth bartender, but it was a Sunday night, when the mystery story readings occur.

9. For even greater violence and “anarchy” in the most negative (and perhaps naïve) sense, my money’s on this Friday’s Mad Max: Fury Road, though. Amidst superhero- and wookiee-filled hoopla, I humbly predict it will be the best movie of the year.

10. For real-world violence and fear, it’s not anarchism you look to these days but government, and you’ll find plenty of it on May 24 if you join Gloria Steinem, who will lead a women’s march across the DMZ from North Korea. I assume there will be no North Korean women with the option of staying in the South. (But read more on the North’s vision of itself in Michael Malice’s Dear Reader.)

11. You can find out whether our own country takes a step back from statism on June 1, when Congress is due to renew the PATRIOT ACT despite part of it being found unconstitutional by a federal court.

12. And remember, these are the sorts of things you can hear me talk about this Thursday between 6 and 8pm Eastern at this RadioFreeBrooklyn link (by clicking Listen Live) on Jim Melloan’s Truth & Freedom show.

(It’ll be more relaxed and Todd-focused than my daily BENnetwork.com appearances on The Run, but watch those, too.)

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