Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Debate on Libertarian and Left v Right Stances

David Brin posts a lively article on “Institute for emerging ethics & technologies” Blog HERE 
[David Brin is a scientist and best-selling author whose future-oriented novels include Earth, The Postman, and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. David's newest novel - Existence - is now available, published by Tor Books."]
Brin writes:
“R.J. Eskow - on Salon - offers "11 Questions to see if Libertarians are Hypocrites."  HERE 
And yes, most of Eskow's posers certainly do set up some stark and thought-provoking contradictions - even hypocrisies - in the oft-touted positions held by many who today use the "L-word" to describe themselves. The article is well-worth reading and it does skewer especially those who bow in obeisance to Ayn Rand, the patron saint of resentful ingrates who want desperately to blame society for being under-achievers. And yet and yet Eskow wound up inciting the contrarian in me, with his blatant straw-manning -- setting up the reader to assume that all "libertarians" are lapel-grabbing, solipsistic randians.  Moreover, indeed, he tells flagrant untruths even about randians. Elsewhere I have dissected the Cult of Ayn far more carefully HERE  actually looking carefully at her messages on many levels. Eskow wants only a caricature and a punching bag. 
He ignores, for example the randians' admission that government should retain a monopoly on force and should be involved also in the enforcement of all contracts, not just copyright. Not entire-anarchism, indeed, it retains what's necessary for the ultimate randian outcome -- a return to feudalism -- to have real teeth. Eskow should know his enemy better.
 (Note that I use Eskow's method of asking questions in what I hope is a much more neutral and thorough way, in my Questionnaire on Ideology, that encourages folks to re-examine many of their own underlying assumptions; take it if you dare!")
In fact, Eskow ignores other strands to libertarianism that include the erudite versions of William F. Buckley and Friedrich Hayek, who denounced the randian obsession with demigods as a guaranteed route to feudalism.  Hayek, in particular, extolled a level playing field that maximizes the number of competitors and avoids a narrow ruling-owner caste. Indeed, there are some versions of libertarianism that I consider to be entirely justified  -- the moderate versions offered to us by authors who range from Kurt Vonnegut to Adam Smith, from Robert Heinlein to Ray Bradbury...
...a version under which one is willing to negotiate and see a successful State that does good and useful things by general consensus and assent, but always with an emphasis on doing useful things that wind up empowering the individual to go his or her own, creative way. In other words, judging state actions (even skeptically) by a standard that is high, but allows us to work together on some valuable things that help us to then grow as we choose.
I could go on and on about that aspect of things; but instead I will simply offer a link to a far more cogent appraisal of this important thread of human political discourse, one that - alas - has been hijacked by oversimplifying fools who wind up parroting fox-fed nostrums and serve as tools for the very oligarchy that aims to tear down every remnant of freedom. (See: Maps, Models and Visions of Tomorrow.) 
Indeed, the name you'll never hear randians mention… and alas the same holds true of the oversimplifying straw-manner Eskow… is Adam Smith, whose version of libertarianism adults still look toHERE from time to time.  A version that admires and promotes individualism and the stunning power of human competition, but also recognizes that competitive-creative markets and democracy and science only achieve their wondrous positive sum games when carefully regulated… the way soccer or football must be, lest the strongest just form one team and stomp every potential rival flat and then gouge out their eyes… which is exactly what winner-owner-oligarch-lords did in every human culture for 6000 years.  Till Adam Smith came along and described how to get the good outcomes without the bad.
 The stealing of Adam Smith's movement by fanatics and cynically manipulative oligarchs is not just a tragedy for the right, and for market capitalism.  It is tragic for civilization.”
Yes, these are long posts plus their associated references.  Those interested may read the debate and possibly learn something about the milieu of ideas floating around relating to aspects of Adam Smith’s ideas on liberty and the individual.  These ideas are somewhat tangential to the normal stale debates about Adam Smith which beginners should read at least once (i.e., the stale debates, not Smith’s ideas, which may require more than one reading).
I often comment on Ayn Rand’s toxic brand of Libertarianism in a negative stance because at root she is responsible in a large part for the spread of the nonsense about legitimising “selfish” motives in respect of individuals that leads to public benefits, enabling modern economists to associate them with Adam Smith’s ideas.
Modern ideologues, both pro- and anti-, would do better to study what Smith writes and not what “authorities” assert he meant.  Reading such debates as above at least once should cure believers and uninformed innocents.
My own stance is that of moderate or 'soft' libertarian, a stance that I think reflects Adam Smith’s position (broadly that liberty under law is more important than the label democracy – what atrocities are committed in thy name (think Korea, Zimbabwe, et al). Moreover, modern ideas of  “Left” and “Right” are anachronistic in respect of Adam Smith and the crossover into their opposites in recent history (eg., Stalinism and National Socialism).
Follow the links and make your own mind up. 


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