Monday, October 25, 2010

The Freedom Association hosts an idiot

Over at The Freedom Association website, there is an appallingly badly written article by some fool called Jonathan Jones. The commenting system over there gives no feedback and I have no idea whether my comment will be published or not, and so I replicate it below.
Wow. What a stunningly bad article...

Jonathan Jones shows very clearly that he has no idea what libertarianism is about, if only with the following line...
... affirming the inalienable right of the majority to force rules upon the minority."

Despite pointing to the Non-Aggression axoim, poor wee Jonathan obviously doesn't understand it: libertarianism does not recognise the "right of the majority to force rules upon the minority"—I think that you'll find that that is called "democracy".

The whole point of the Non-Aggression Axiom is that no one is allowed to force anything, rules or otherwise, on the minority—or, for that matter, on the majority.
"Libertarians argue that a government cannot stand without the support of the people."

Libertarians argue no such thing. Anarcho-libertarians believe that there should be no government; minarchist libertarians believe that the only thing that the government should exist for is the protection of its citizens (through the provision of national defence and, possibly, criminal justice).

I would fisk the rest of the article but I find it impossible because it makes no sense.

Read it.

It. Makes. No. Sense.

Why is Afghanistan in there? No idea. How does Afghanistan relate to libertariaism? It doesn't. How do the Americans or the Taliban relate to libertarianism? They don't. For that matter, how does George Washington relate to libertarianism? He doesn't.

What I take from this article is: the reason that Jonathan Jones is not a libertarian is because he believes that might is right. And, in this he is correct: for a libertarian, might is never right.

DK

Do go and read the article and see if you can make any sense of it.

Good luck.

19 comments:

Richard said...

He also doesn't understand the difference between prescriptive and proscriptive. Classic skoolboy error.

Nightwatchstate said...

I'm inclined to think that this is a misunderstanding.

I think Jones is coming from the point that /if/ Libertarians want to democratically lobby with any success, they have to concede intellectual ground to the mob (Which does believe in state democracy and and social contract).

I think it's a reasonably passable article on the is/ought gap, though the afghan analogy is not particularly clear at all.

BenS said...

I was under the impression all ideologies were, almost by definition, normative.

So I'm not entirely sure what this guy's point is.

Nightwatchstate said...

Oh, RE: Might makes right http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvdYpYmNFus

Timdog said...

Libertarianism is widely misunderstood. I had dinner last week with a very smart friend of mine, who is not usually prone to being an idiot. We talked politics, and when I mentioned my libertarian leanings, he said "seriously? you mean like the neo-conservatives?"

*Facepalm*.

If this is what someone who reads constantly and takes a genuine interest in the world around him thinks, then it's no surprise an intellectual pygmy like Jonathan Jones would get it confused.

They posted your comment by the way.

Dick Puddlecote said...

It's a bizarre article from TFA, especially following the successful Freedom Zone at the Tory conference.

I presumed it's designed to flatten recent increased discussion of libertarianism as a concept, and to remind TFA sympathisers that Conservatism is more relevant. This despite the fact that there are more self-professed libertarians (including DK's esteemed mascot, Steve Baker) within Tory parliamentary ranks at the moment than I can remember previously.

sconzey said...

Erm, yeah, DK misunderstood what I intended to say. I've responded to his comment over at the TFA blog.

sconzey said...

@BenS: Generally ideologies make two kinds of statements; moral statements about whether an action is right or wrong, and descriptive statements about the world and the way it works.

The point of my article was that while I agree with Libertarianism's moral statements about whether actions are right or wrong, I think many of Libertarianism's descriptive statements about the world and the way it works are limited in applicability to stable, secure countries.

I'll write another post next week and try to clear up some of these misunderstandings.

Anonymous said...

sconzey: I think I can see where you're coming from. But... have you considered that anarcho-capitalism might actually be a good route to formalism?

Ancaps usually deny this. Ancapism, creating sovereign corporations? No way would that happen! Have some faith in humanity, etc., etc.! But if the critics of Ancapism are right, and sovereign corporations are the inevitable result, then that would actually be a good thing. Such organisations would be able to forcefully establish the rule of law in places where it could not otherwise exist, e.g. Afghanistan. For the price of abandoning the pretense of democracy, the people get security, law and order, and the economic prosperity that inevitably follows them. In other words, I suspect what you want is already built into some forms of libertarianism (but unstated).

sconzey said...

Anon: I actually see it the other way round. In fact, a really efficient way to run a for-profit country would for a Sovcorp to use their army to defend against external threats, but subcontract day-to-day law to competing private defense agencies.

LH said...

The Freedom Association, don't make me laugh. Founded by the "lets lock the Irish up" McWhirter twins. Very libertarian. They're just tories who all like to wear the same stupid ties (http://www.tfa.net/the_freedom_association/meet-the-team.html) and who want a moveable feast of freedom that suits them: lipstick libertarians.

Michael Fowke said...

I have reservations about libertarianism, but that article was nuts!

Anonymous said...

sconzey: indeed, it works either way around. I suspect Ancaps are really formalists who have learned to sell their ideas to other libertarians by wrapping them up in the language of property owners' rights. (NB. I am not saying this is a bad thing.)

The average democrat would react in horror to the idea of private law enforcement with its shades of Blackwater in Iraq, but whoever pays the bills calls the tune, and is ultimately responsible for whatever those companies do. If there is a principle that makes such organisations objectively worse than publically-owned police forces, I have no idea what it is.

Devil's Kitchen said...

"The average democrat would react in horror to the idea of private law enforcement..."

The people of Primrose Hill and Darlington—to name but two instances in this country—don't seem to have reacted in horror to the idea of private law enforcement...

DK

BenS said...

@sconzey
'The point of my article was that while I agree with Libertarianism's moral statements about whether actions are right or wrong, I think many of Libertarianism's descriptive statements about the world and the way it works are limited in applicability to stable, secure countries.'

Aye, but you're confusing the issue. It's obvious that an ideology which opposes organised government will have more to say about countries where the government is organised, centralised, etc.

If libertarianism has a weakness it is the same as socialism's - neither is really capable of offering a clear and, dare I say it, realistic route from point A (where A is now) to point B (the normative statements).

Its criticisms of governments in both social and economic viewpoints apply to all localities. I kind of see what you're getting at, I just think the logic is unsound.

Trooper Thompson said...

@ BenS,

I dislike the comparison with socialism, so I will try to counter it. Socialism's weakness is that it is based on a very flawed understanding of economics and human nature. Therefore it fails due to internal contradictions. It draws strength, however, from its ability to utilise both the power-hungry control-freaks who love to be in command of others, and the deadweight of the passive majority.

Libertarianism's weakness is that it is essentially defensive, and finds it difficult to organise against more aggressive and amoral creeds.

BenS said...

Aye, socialism of course has many weaknesses - I was by no means trying to say that this is the only one! Was just trying to draw a parallel between two ideologies, both of which argue for very radical changes, and neither of which is capable of offering realistic and consistent movements between what is and what ought to be. Granted, I'm sure we'd agree that socialism would and does fail anyway, but that's another matter.

Your point about defensiveness is of course true. That is, in fact, the main criticism I've seen of libertarianism (the main thoughtful criticism I mean...) - it is too often happy to point out the flaws in logic of other ideologies without offering a clear alternative. Not that it isn't capable, it's just difficult to do without demolishing what already exists.

Stephen said...

The people of Primrose Hill and Darlington—to name but two instances in this country—don't seem to have reacted in horror to the idea of private law enforcement...

Are you kidding? They are not private law enforcement, they are security guards. And as far as I am aware, we've had those for a good few decades. They have no more powers than anyone else. If I tell them to fuck off then they fuck off for they have no power to do otherwise.

As for real private law-enforcement, with proper powers of arrest and all the other powers of a constable, to stop vehicles on demand and so on, it's a seriously bad idea that sucks the sweat from other seriously bad ideas.

Stephen said...

Libertarianism's weakness is that it is essentially defensive, and finds it difficult to organise against more aggressive and amoral creeds

Libertarianism's weakness is that it is an utterly utopian, anti-democratic cult. If libertarianism doesn't recognise the right of the majority to force rules upon the minority then they are unlikely to effect a transformation of society, unless everyone spontaneously comes to accept libertarian ideals. Now that doesn't sound too likely, does it?