On many fronts I disagree with a certain brand of liberal; but the more I look into motivations and views, the more I see that they’re not ALL so dissimilar from my own. We just happen to push for different resources in our efforts to achieve and discuss these ideals.
It’s true that some useful egalitarian activism over the past 150 years has consisted of trying to get the state to take affirmative steps to help people—social insurance, the welfare state, infrastructure, schools—but dismantling efforts to use the state to help the privileged has always been on the agenda. — Mathew Yglesias
And that to me is what we’re all after, “dismantling efforts to use the state to help the privileged.” But, that is probably the limit for most modern liberals in our similarities–and this view is likely to be interpreted as a rather broad similarity if anything.
I seem to recall many an effort to not only “[dismantle] efforts to use the state to help the privileged,’ but to in fact punish the privileged in order to help the less privileged–so we exchange one class for another as if it is a moral necessity to use the power of the state to meet these ends. No. That’s not right.
Well, I suppose I can go on the record as a supporter of some regulation of economic activity, but I’ll never know what limit is too far or not far enough–though, the danger is likely to come from the former.
I’m always unsure how to answer this question. I have at least some knowledge of what this label means in broad terms, and so I have applied it to what I believe best characterizes my own philosophical leanings, but is it an accurate portrayal of my day to day thoughts and methods?
There is nothing in the basic principles of liberalism to make it a stationary creed; there are no hard-and-fast rules fixed once and for all. The fundamental principle that in the ordering of our affairs we should make as much use as possible of the spontaneous forces of society, and resort as little as possible to coercion, is capable of an infinite variety of applications. —F.A. Hayek, Road to Serfdom p17-18
Using “the spontaneous forces of society” and resorting “as little as possible to coercion” in “ordering our affairs” is as apt a description of my philosophy as I could develop on my own. No small wonder that this quote comes from Hayek, then is it?
The only problem with my line of thinking is that it is so highly criticized as ineffective, heartless, and leads to inequality. The assumption is that the “spontaneous forces of society” are ineffective at dealing with the inequalities it might breed; when left to one’s own self-interests they are unlikely to care much about the interests of others unless those interests are in competition with their own or can be of help in achieving one’s ends. But can this be true? Western society has been dominated by institutions that turn this thinking on it’s head–and these institutions are not coercive in the way that government is.
The idea that society organized under these rules and conditions can breed inequality is no secret; the question is, what amount of coercion helped push this inequality forward? And what makes an unequal state of affairs so unpalatable? As I saw in a link that I posted earlier, people are not all rational actors, and markets are inefficient. Sometimes decisions are made that are detrimental to the actor1 and the market2 in question suffers greatly.
But is that it? Is it those in poor conditions that gives some the notion that a libertarian society breeds heartlessness and suffering? Nothing in such a society would prevent it from creating an institution to care for these people. A society organized around a different philosophy, however, could use the coercive powers of government in order to give the appearance of alleviating this unequal suffering without the need for a social organization to fill this role; I have to argue that this is likely to produce apathy amongst members of that society. There is no need to care directly for the suffering of others as your interest in their well-being is served by contributing to whatever power is placed over you.
I don’t know, am I crazy in thinking this way? Couldn’t the well-being of others in a libertarian society be of consequence to you as a rational actor? Why might helping them be in your best interests? To fulfill some sense of altruism? To ensure individuals can afford and want the products/services you provide?
I propose more questions than answers–all of it rambling.
- What is the actor in any case? It could be a corporation, an individual, or anything in the economic marketplace making decisions. Abstract. Very abstract.
- This is a market in the abstract. The group/place in question that is affected by the decisions of the irrational actor.
I was thinking about something the other day concerning seat belt laws. In the past I’ve been against regulations concerning the wearing of seat belts; namely that you are required by law to do so when in fact the choice harms no one but yourself in the case of an accident, thus the requirement in itself is intrusive. The government is involving itself in something that it should not!
My notion of what libertarianism meant was one of absolutes, in that any and all government involvement was inherently wrong and, I think you run into a lot of folks who have this view, it becomes a little murky when determining what is acceptable as opposed to what is off limits. It is hypocritical of me to claim all involvement is unwarranted, though isn’t it?
In the case of seat belt laws, and road regulations in general, it is perfectly acceptable for government to regulate in any way they wish in relation to a system of roads they developed, built, and encouraged the use of for the expansion of the nation. The roads are public and government property, and so in order to maximize utility and ensure the safety of everyone, these laws become necessary as deterrents, as well as punishments, for this who would shirk their responsibility as a user of public goods to follow the rules.
Whether the government should be in the business of building and regulating roads is another matter, but one I suspect most would find to be an agreeable proposition.
So, essentially what I’m saying is, there are legitimate uses of the long arm of government; and for the most part this includes the regulation of public properties and their use.
In general, though, I’m highly suspicious of the police powers of the state. Such coercion can be dangerous when given the kind of power they regularly exercise. This is indeed an affront to liberty and something that is unlikely to be corrected anytime soon.
I’m going to rant for a little bit; I’m going to do this because I’ve had it with being considered a government hating, racist, ignoramus, low-life conservative minded person. My views are not extreme; my views are not heartless; and my views are far from racist. Each of these arguments against my beliefs lack legitimacy in that they do not address my thoughts in any way. My beliefs are completely ignored, but my character is attacked; I’m considered an idiot and heartless for bringing this up.
When I disagree with a set of opinions, my disagreement is misguided, dangerous–subversive even–yet when those with whom I disagree are in opposition to what I have said their protestations are of the highest order of patriotism–intelligent, and well guided. Really, they’re just fucking enlightened–while I am clearly not.
Disgust is displayed prominently on my face.
Where did these ideas come from? Obviously there are some legitimate arguments to be had on both sides of the governing philosophy coin, but the complete dismissal of one of those viewpoints is indeed subversive and antithetical to the ideals with which we are supposed to have been taught since birth; the real crime, though, is the manner in which they are dismissed rather than the disagreement itself. Character attacks do not advance political debate; they change the nature of the debate, while solving nothing.
It’s no wonder a lot of conservative minded folks are such conspiracy theorists when their beliefs are attacked in this way by the national media, politicians, and just about every Tom, Dick, and Harry in Hollywood; this is all they hear.
A list of my crazy, subversive, and supposed racist beliefs and thoughts:
- Governments are for securing and maintaining the natural rights and liberties of members of society; the social contract is legitimate under these circumstances. When a government no longer follows it’s rules and instead becomes a body that doles out rights and liberties its purpose is muddied and it begins to protect liberties less.
- Governments exist to maintain security in society and to protect from foreign actors; this is how liberties and rights are protected.
- While taxation is important to maintaining government services and security, the increased amounts of taxation required to maintain the modern welfare state begin to encroach on one’s right to property as the government increasingly sees those earnings as theirs first, and yours as a pittance for your time. Thus, taxation is not evil, it is that taxation for redistribution helps no one over time.
- We should help one another in society. People need a hand every once in a while, a leg up, something to get them moving; however, using taxation in order to force a helping hand is not charity. Governments are not for creating happiness.
- People are free to do as they wish, as long as it harms no one; so, people may marry who they wish, drive whatever car they wish, believe what they wish, and act in a manner conforming to the no harm principle.
Please, if any of these ideas are racist, crazy, anti-intellectual, ill informed, or heartless, let me know.