You can go your own way



Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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16 Responses

  1. Nice post, Will. I’ll have to check out the Reason link. It sounds interesting.Report

  2. Avatar Ryan says:

    “How do you assess these competing claims?”

    Liberals tend to do it by actively siding with the weaker party. Libertarians tend to do it by pretending it’s not a problem, thereby just allowing the stronger to win by default. But they get to claim there’s no dirt on their hands. Which may sound extreme for the parent/child example, but I find it slightly less so when I look around at a society that is riddled with racial animus and discrimination.

    Somewhat less inflammatorily, competing rights claims come up all the time – as you note – and the libertarian answer – “let everyone hash things out” – seems kind of underwhelming to me. Especially in the parent/child case. Children can’t “hash things out” with their parents.Report

    • Avatar Will in reply to Ryan says:

      Just to clarify my thinking, when I say we should “let everyone hash things out,” I mean that localities should be given broad discretion to address problems like the child-parent scenario outlined above. In other words, you might have a county or a town adopt a hands-off approach towards parental rights. Its immediate neighbor, however, may take a more proactive stance to protect children from indoctrination.Report

  3. Avatar Cascadian says:

    I’m all in favor. I tend to side more with traditional State’s Rights because it’s easier to argue a historic claim while maintaining large enough groupings to not fall to anarchy. But, who knows, I’ve read some compelling arguments for urban secession. I do know that it’s not in my best interest to hold my local governance hostage to a one size fits none compromise with other regions of the country.Report

  4. Avatar Sam M says:

    I am a but confused by Howely’s argument. She says libertartians should be against traditional cultural pressures, it seems, but never really defines what it MEANS to be against. In the case of the Chinese workers… should it be illegal for Chinese women to stay in the villages and accept arranged marriages? If not… then what? Write a novel? Form a picket line? Fram owhat I can tell of libertarians, they actually do that stuff a lot.

    Seriously, in the case of the female medical students, what is she proposing? Nothing as far as I can tell. Except we ought to be really perplexed and angry. Is she suggesting quotas for females? Something else?Report

    • Avatar Will in reply to Sam M says:

      Sam M –

      I think her argument is that even if libertarianism doesn’t condone active government intervention to address, say, longstanding sexism, libertarians should still do what they can to solve problems that go beyond the realm of property rights and contracts.Report

  5. Avatar Trumwill says:

    I am more in agreement with Howley than not that liberty simply cannot be defined by the absence of government intervention. But I’m not a libertarian. And I consider my agreements with Howley as points of anti-Libertarianism. Without state intervention, opinions on gay rights and whatnot are just that… opinions. Not particularly relevant to political ideology. And these ideas-without-consequence leave the potential for muddy waters. The sexual revolution has allowed women to be free with their sexuality… and yet has lead to the coercion of some women to have sex for fear of losing their boyfriends to a girl that will have sex with them. At some point you have to make judgments about whether the de-stigmatization of sex is or is not a good thing. Because, either way, you’ve coerced people with unpopular or unsanctioned views on sex into doing something they don’t want to do or against doing something they do want to do.

    This substantially weakens Libertarianism. And it doesn’t add the upside that Howley suggests. Her conversation on the last page would hardly go better with pro-liberty ideas (however defined) when not backed up by state action. We support gay rights! But not so much as to prevent someone from being fired because they’re gay. We support civil rights! But not so much as to prevent someone from being excluded by bigots. But we really hate bigots!

    Then, of course, as you start adding government intervention, you’re using the state to restrict the freedom of people that would do things that you would prefer they not do. And as such, they lose one of the key components of their ideology. It’s not enough to say that freedom isn’t solely limited by government. At some point, you have to choose who you want to do the limiting. There is a strong argument that the answer really actually is “the state” sometimes. But it’s not a libertarian argument.Report

  6. Avatar Sam M says:

    “libertarians should still do what they can”

    But what does that MEAN? And to what extent does that suggestion impact people who work at, say, Cato? I know many of them. And they seem like pretty progressive people, culturally. I just don’t see any evidence that any of them care less about Chinese women than Howley does. They might not focus their political activism on such things, but if they did, which is what Howley seems to want, what would that look like? What would the Cato paper on arranged marriages look like? Would it be titled, “Traditional Chinese Culture Kind of Sucks”?

    As for Reason, it seems to me that the entire magazine is focused on issues of culture, as opposed to wanking about Ayn Rand. A few years back, Chuck Freund wrote something about the evolution of the Beatles music. This hardly seems like a treatise on the alternative minimum tax. And most of the magazine leans towards the former, not the latter.

    Again, I am a libertarian kind of guy. Howley seems upset that I am not sufficiently upset about certain cultural issues. Yet she offers me no way to show that I am upset about them. Does she want me to do something? Or does she just find me (alleged) indifference unseemly?Report

  7. Avatar Murali says:

    Look, Howley’s point is that while we dont have advocate statist solutions, libertarians should do more to call out authoritarian practices where they see them. Authoritarianism is not illegitimate just because it is praticed by an entity which calls itself the state. That would be attatching some type of importance to the state. However the central libertarian thesis is that the state is not special and therefore does not get to boss us around. However, once we leave the relatively tidy grounds of ideal theory, we realise that we have to compromise between various authoritarian bodies. In choosing whatever body, we have to choose that which least restricts your freedom, even if that body just happens to be called the state.Report

  8. Avatar Trumwill says:

    Look, Howley’s point is that while we dont have advocate statist solutions,

    In choosing whatever body, we have to choose that which least restricts your freedom, even if that body just happens to be called the state.

    If you’re relying on the state to protect you from entities that you believe restrict your freedom more than the state, how is that not a “statist solution”?Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Trumwill says:

      Howley doesnt actually go that far, and more often than not the state is more authoritarian, but I am just carving out logical space here. In fact, I might just retract my final statement there. However, Kerry’s main point is that libertarians should speak out against non governmental forms of authoritarianism (NGA) as well as governmental forms of authoritarianism.

      One mistake Seavey seems to be making is that just because people have a moral right to X (e.g. Hate speech, be a pimp etc) does not mean that X is not objectively morally objectionable. In fact, they may be objectionable on ultimately the same grounds that rights violations are objectionable i.e. the status of such actions vis a vis freedom. However, none of that means that we cant consistently use the state enforce against one type (rights violations) and not others (pimping).

      It does mean that libertarians should seek non governmental institutional solutions to these problems, and more importantly recognise that these are problems in the first place. Lacking proper libertarian solutions, the next best choice may have to be the state (or may not). Even if this does mean wandering off the libertarian reservation, this is not an indictment of the position that NGA is an important concern which arises from valuing liberty. It may very well reveal an inconsistency within libertarianism that has to be resolved.Report

  9. Avatar Trumwill says:

    Few comparatively few libertarians I know don’t like most NGA structures and tend to support individual freedoms overall. Most libertarians I know are pretty skeptical of organized religion, for instance.Few are sexually restrained. Using stigma as a behavior correcting tool does not seem to appeal to them. And they dislike corporate censorship like Walmart demanding clean copies of albums, even if they believe such is Walmart’s right.

    Not being a libertarian myself, I don’t disagree that the state is sometimes a solution. But it’s a reasonably counter-libertarian instinct, in my view. You’re using the government to limit the allowable range behavior so that it can be increased in others.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Trumwill says:

      I don’t disagree that the state is sometimes a solution. But it’s a reasonably counter-libertarian instinct, in my view.

      I would disagree here. Anarcho-capitalists believe that no state is necessary. But libertarians usually say that at least some state is necessary. So I suppose one could argue that all we’re doing is haggling over where the line must be. However, you can still distinctly call yourself a libertarian if you believe that the state as it currently exists must be rolled back. As Jaybird has mentioned in other posts, libertarianism is a vector which points at a smaller, more limited state. So there are libertarians like Lomasky who believe in some small safety net, and there are those like Nozick who say police and military only, but both are libertarian because they believe that wherever you stop, the state is currently too big and too extensive.Report

  10. Avatar Sam M says:

    “libertarians should do more to call out authoritarian practices where they see them.”

    Do WHAT? What does it mean to call them out? She is mad that I am not calling them out. But if that;s the case, she needs to tell me what she’s talking about. OK. Let’s say I am angry at traditional Chinese families for arranging marriages.

    I should call those families out by doing _______________.

    Please. Fill in the blank.Report

  11. Avatar Sam M says:

    With regard to other conversations recently held here, it seems to me that what Howley is calling for is either a state solution to these problems, which is obviously anathema to most libertarians, or more OUTRAGE. She seems upset that we don’t care enough about this stuff. I don’t think she has any evidence to support that notion. But even if she did, her solution seems to be… that we need some kind of outlets, media or otherwise, to prove that we HATE arranged marriages. Would that be a good thing?Report