Friday, October 28, 2011

To Be a Real Radical

It disconcerts progressives to learn that libertarians enjoy and appreciate Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. For a very long time they have tried to equate the term "progressive" with "radical" - but only sometimes - to try to portray their demands as daring, avant-garde, leading edge, or in some other way innovative.

For an example of this viewpoint, just peruse any comparison of the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement that is written by a progressive. Libertarians understand that the two movements, when at their best, are very nearly identical in meaning. The demands of those Occupiers that are less appealing to libertarians are the same demands progressives have been making for decades, and are considered "revolutionary" by the progressives commenting on the Occupy movement.

From a progressive point of view Saul Alinsky is supposed to be "left" and libertarians are supposed to be "right," whatever those terms mean. Plus libertarians support capitalism, therefore libertarians "can't be radical," ignoring the many and profound differences between corporatism and capitalism.

This must be made clear: the twentieth century was the century of government. That means advocating government is advocating what currently exists. That means there is nothing radical about seeking governmental solutions to society’s problems.

Everything that the progressive has to offer is a governmental solution to society's problems. Their only defense of that single track argument is to engage in the fallacy that if the government is not acting then nobody is acting to solve those problems.

The radical wants something different from the status quo. The conservative is comfortable with the status quo. The political and economic situation of the United States is a mix of mercantilist and Keynesian economics with a near-limitless government. The status quo is "progressive," and that means progressives are not only conservatives, they are arch-conservatives.

The real radical doesn't support more of the same. There are real radicals in both the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement. Anyone who claims that one is good and the other bad is in support of "keep them divided" and thus in support of the 1% of the population that is composed of elected and appointed government officials with actual power - the real ruling class. The real danger is that the radicals in each movement might discover a common cause with each other.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Macroethics and Microethics

It is common, upon finding out that libertarians oppose coercive wealth redistribution, to accuse libertarians of opposing charity as a whole. This is due to a basic confusion between macroethics and microethics.

Macroethics is the ethics of the macro scale, much like macroeconomics. It encompasses two fields; politics and economics. Microethics is ethics on the personal scale, the more traditionally understood field of morality. Of course the distinction between the two is as artificial as the distinction between microeconomics and macroeconomics, but doing so is useful to understand how the macro and the micro are different, just as in economics.

The two fields do relate, as is to be expcted, and holding certain macroethical positions will necessitate holding certain microethical positions, and vice versa. It is impossible to consistently hold a political belief opposing the initiation of force without also holding the moral belief opposing the same.

But the connections aren't direct and easy to misinterpret, much like how the connections between microeconomics and macroeconomics are not direct and easy to misinterpret. One can point out how microeconomically it doesn't matter to an individual whether his wage comes from the government or from the private sector, as long as he is working he will have both the satisfaction of a job and the satisfaction of an income. It takes looking at the matter from both the micro and macro perspective to notice the essential difference.

And it takes looking at ethical activities from both a micro and macro perspective to correctly identify them. Accusing a libertarian of wanting people to starve (microethics) simply because he opposes wealth redistribution (macroethics) is an unwarranted extension. It is quite clear that the two positions are in the two different fields. Having identified that they are in different fields, one can then challenge the person claiming there is a connection to substantiate the claim.

Since the extension is unwarranted the claim cannot be substantiated. But a converse claim can be made. This converse claim will be a lot harder for the critic of libertarianism to defuse because it invokes the critics own logic. By claiming that force of government is needed because otherwise old people will be starving in the street, the person making the claim is admitting an unwillingness to care for family members if not forced to by the government. It is also a spurious claim.

The ability to distinguish between the macroethcial and the microethical, between the political and the moral, is important. The ability to point out the different is also important. It enables one to put away the fallacies that libertarians often face.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ron Paul and the Progressive Dilemma

There have been a series of articles explaining exactly why Ron Paul should appeal to progressives, and counter-arguments by liberals and progressives as to why Ron Paul should not appeal to them.

Given that Ron Paul is not the leading Republican candidate, that the nomination is more likely to go to Mitt Romney, then why is there so much frenzy, both for and against, for Ron Paul?

There are two potential reasons. The first is that it actually is possible that Ron Paul will win the Republican Party nomination. He is the true second place candidate in the primary in spite of being eclipsed by various temporary other "flavor of the month" candidates.

The other reason is, for all the reasons explained by Charlie Davis, he does have reason to appeal to liberals. Charlie Davis uses the word "progressive" but there are reasons why “liberal” would be a better term.

Some people are led by their ideology to choose a political party, and because they are idealists are willing to reject the party when the party strays from what it is supposed to stand for. Some people are led by their party to choose an ideology, and if the party changes they change along with it. For some, ideas come first. For others, power and party come first.

Because of all the reasons detailed by those authors who wrote in favor of Ron Paul, he has some very strong appeal to those who place ideas as their primary motivation. And Barack Obama has very weak appeal to those same people. He could easily enough steal the support of those idealists from the Democratic Party where they are more often found, and therefore away from Barack Obama.

Those who place party first recognize this as a very real threat. Since their primary motivation is victory for their party, they are out to nullify Ron Paul before he becomes an actual threat. And that means convincing independents and Democrats that they have no reason to vote in Republican primaries for him.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street Tea Party

Watching the activities of Occupy Wall Street is quite like watching the history of the Tea Party played at high speed.

Both movements started out grass-roots, comprised of a diverse range of ideologies. Both are spurred by the excesses of the collusion between the banking system and the government and the abuses contained therein, and therefore have appeal to libertarians. Both started under presidents that it is assumed the movements would support. Both were ignored by the media at first, until the country's political leadership decided it was time to co-opt the movement by sending in a stooge to claim to be in charge of and represent the movement. Both have a big name partisan speaking for the group, Michael Moore as the analogue to Sarah Palin. Both are being fully Astroturfed, with the Tea Party being taken over by theocons and Occupy Wall Street being taken over by unions.

Whereas this is working faster, Occupy Wall Street has already reached certain end conclusions that took the Tea Party years to achieve. Already leaders have appeared to present lists designed to discredit any participants who aren’t amenable to being steered in an appropriate direction. Given the two party paradigm, the effort is to shoehorn them into the Democratic Party.

Apparently the Tea Party proved to be a lesson for those in charge. It was ignored too completely, and became an actual movement before there was an opportunity to capture it and control it. Diligent work was required by Sarah Palin and Glen Beck in order to slowly co-opt the movement, and for a while there was a strong conflict between the "Sarah Palin faction" and the "Ron Paul faction" over control of the Tea Party. Even then the Tea Party did partially steer the 2010 mid-term elections, although they did “deliver the vote” as required by the Republican Party,

The Tea Party movement was ignored for one year, and it took two years to tame. Clearly the political elite do not want to go through that again. After ignoring the Occupy Wall Street movement for one week and determining that it is not going way, they moved in quickly to ensure that this movement doesn’t get away from them. Until then, the Democrats finally have their own Tea Party to go to.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Phony Arguments

"If you removed EPA regulations on BP, does that mean they will suddenly become good citizens and not pollute anymore?" That is an example of an argument used against libertarians when the subject of regulation comes up. It contains many premises not shared by libertarians: under current law individual land owners were not able to file legal suits against BP, the state of Louisiana was not able to take independent action to protect coastal properties from the spill, and the owners of BP were not held liable for the damage caused by the company.

"If you change this one little point, and leave everything else exactly the same, doesn't that prove that libertarianism doesn't work?" Pointing out all the unshared premises, that "everything else exactly the same" is not something libertarians agree to, does nothing to those making the argument. The response, over and over, is to say that anyone who points out it is a loaded question is actually ducking the question.

Does the argument represent a misunderstanding about libertarianism? Or is it a deliberate distortion of what libertarians believe? Given the refusal to allow any discussion of unshared premises it seems like a shallow attempt to conflate the corporatism and capitalism, a conflation that can only benefit the progressive belief in a thoroughly regulated economy.

People who make that argument forget that libertarianism is indeed comprehensive. Changing just one point, the endpoint regulation that appears to be necessary because of all the prior interventions, does not negate the theory that would deny all the previous interventions as well.

That leads to another, even worse argument used against libertarianism: the Somalia argument. Given all the times libertarians object to government interventions that make the situation worse, both in economic and civil matters, those who favor an activist government argue that libertarians should move to Somalia where they would be more comfortable. The argument also implies that the chaos that takes place in Somalia is exactly what libertarians advocate.

History clearly and easily shows the truth about Somalia, in which it was the fallen government of Somalia that brought the country to the lowest point a country could possibly reach. Those in the government forgot that a parasite is not supposed to kill the host, and proved that it takes a government to create the degree of chaos normally thought of as anarchy. Once the government fell, the people started to rebuild. Occasionally some government sends in a peace-keeping force to break everything again and install a temporary government that will fall once the foreign troops leave. The resulting destruction is considered further proof of how lack of a government is unworkable.

Given those facts, then why is that argument made? Like the loaded question, it is not made for the purpose of genuine discussion. The thing to do is, as always, to point out the facts, but there is no reason to suppose that doing so will actually work. Those making the two arguments are not interested in facts, they are merely hoping that others witnessing the argument will be more impressed with the argument than the facts.