Through Thick and Thin

Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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6 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    That was an awesome post.

    However, I really couldn’t get past the premises… my libertarianism isn’t really founded upon a formal structure, per se… and I don’t know that many libertarians who, in practice, found their libertarianism on such a structure.

    I ask myself something like “would I have the right to prevent X, or force you to do Y?”

    If I don’t, I don’t see where The State gets the power to do that.

    That’s the foundation (and, perhaps, the fatal flaw) of my intuitions. If I wouldn’t have the right to force you to carry a baby to term, I don’t see where The State would get the right to do so.
    If I wouldn’t have the right to force you to not call yourself married merely because you’re married to someone of the same gender, I don’t see where the state gets that right.
    If I wouldn’t have the right to throw you in prison for growing weed, I don’t see where the state gets that right.

    I’m sure that someone smarter than I am will be able to explain it to me patiently (but people in the past who have tried have failed).Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, I was kind of thinking about something similar to this while I was getting lunch today (but after I made this post). Where I came down was that the job of philosophy is often to explain why we might come to certain conclusions even if we do not ourselves fully understand why.

      I think Holbo’s post does a pretty good job of this, and explains why Caplan’s defense of coverture has provoked so much anger amongst certain classes of libertarians while, so far as I can tell, it has gotten no attention whatsoever from

      It’s not even a good vs. evil libertarian sort of thing, either, even if Holbo largely frames it that way. It’s more of a “does your worldview have a basis in classical liberalism or conservatism” sort of thing.Report

  2. Koz says:

    I suspect that Holbo and the paper he refers to are arguing opposite sides of a debate regarding the philosophical foundations of autonomy. I think that’s a characteristically libertarian mistake, in that the interest of a person is not always the same thing as his autonomy.

    The real strength of libertarianism is more practical, ie Hayekian information flows. That’s one thing I was trying to get at in the link below, along with umpteen iterations of the usual crap.

  3. Simon K says:

    That is indeed excellent, and I agree that the testability of Holbo’s 3rd premise, that “That … treating … everyone as their own property, necessarily will … maximize freedom” is the key difference between left- and right-libertarians.

    To be fair to Bryan Caplan and co, though, I actually think there are not two binary views here, but rather a spectrum of possibilities, with the key variable being how important you think the distribution of property, and/or the rules that surround the transfer of property, is to whether this statement is true. On the very furthest right (and usually also still in undergraduate school in computer science …) there are libertarians who really believe this statement is tautological, and therefore true completely regardless of the distribution of property. Bryan Caplan almost certainly does not believe that – if faced with a world in which large numbers of people were selling themselves into slavery to survive or having to scavenge for food on other’s land, or even just a demonstration that his libertarianism would lead to that, I’m 99% certain he’d relax his propertarianism. And similarly I don’t really think he believes that marriage with coverture as it actually existed was okay.

    Rather I think he probably believes that self-ownership maximizes freedom given some kind of distribution and set of rules of transfer that looks more or less like the present day but that he hasn’t really thought about it terribly hard because he doesn’t totally get that whether his formal libertarianism also functionally promotes liberty depends on this at all. For me, my main stumbling block in calling myself a libertarian is that I do think we have to make some distributist assumptions to make sure that libertarianism actually promotes liberty and those assumptions tend to pull me in a liberal direction.Report

  4. Really enjoyed the Holbo piece, Mark. Posts like that justify the blogosphere.Report