Labels Redux, or That Darned Right-Wing Librul!

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James Hanley

James Hanley is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.

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  1. Avatar Pierre Corneille
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    I do think that one reason people with a libertarian orientation get labeled as “right wing,” or at least as “conservative,” is that the types of economic policies they advocate tend also to be conservative talking points or they tend to benefit in the short term what are perceived to be what are considered (perhaps wrongly) the big business and other more affluent constituencies of conservatives. Favoring freeer markets will probably, in the short term, benefit established businesses that already have an edge by virtue of being established. Lowering taxes (which, to be fair, I’m not sure you necessarily advocate) would benefit those who right now have to pay higher taxes, and those tend to be the more affluent, at least to the extent that our current tax system is progressive and not regressive.

    Another reason is the alleged alliance between some libertarians and the Republican party, dating from the late 1970s.

    None of this is to disagree with anything you wrote above, and I could cite aspects of libertarianism, as I understand it, that would cause one to label libertarians as “liberal.”

    Having said all that, I’m glad to have been introduced to this blog and to see the posters from Positive Liberty / One Best Way again!Report

  2. Avatar MFarmer
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    I like to label myself as a neo-quasi-ultra-minimalist individualist with a lib-old right leaning of classical lib plus new-age dynamic/futuristic nonpartisan/Rothbardian anarchist streak coupled with a non-interventionist/defensive tendency towards free trade and peace.Report

  3. Avatar Jason Kuznicki
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    It really is strange, isn’t it, that while the word “libertarian” is perfectly serviceable, there is still a large class of people who refuse to use it.

    What precisely is gained by the two mainstream ideologies persistently putting us libertarians in the opposing major camp, rather than in the opposing minor camp where we belong? I wish I knew, because it doesn’t seem to serve any obvious self-interest on their part.Report

    • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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      Jason, I believe it has to do with statists on the right and left refusing to give credence to an alternative to statism. If they pretend no alternative exists, then they feel better about capitulating to the State.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to MFarmer
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        A very plausible explanation, but it takes a degree of strategic thinking that I find a little disturbing.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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          I suspect it’s more about the tendency to draw distinctions between “us” and “them.” You know the old saying, “If you ain’t with us, then you’re agin us.” Since we’re obviously not with them–not totally, and not even mostly (for the most part)–we must be against, and the most salient “other” is the other end of the unidimensional spectrum. I don’t think it’s fundamentally different than Christians defining other believers out of the in-group because they differ on their interpretation of Revelation, or environmentalists sneering at devout recyclers for not being Real True Environmentalists. After all, if we grant that most people are more like us than different from us, then our sense of specialness disappears, and who can handle that?Report

        • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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          I don’t think it’s all that strategic, but rather a mental obstacle.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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          I don’t suspect it’s strategic thinking as much as seeing the other premise as alien.

          “You *SERIOUSLY* think that the government shouldn’t be involved in X? But if we didn’t have X, we’d all die!”

          You *SERIOUSLY* think that the government shouldn’t have a TSA? Terrorists would kill us!
          You *SERIOUSLY* think that the government shouldn’t be involved in providing prescription medication? But people will die without it!

          And so on and so forth.
          It’s like the government is the only thing standing between us and the grave… when, really, it’s just touching our junk.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to MFarmer
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        What’s funny is i see your statists vs non-statists as way of labeling so as not to listen or understand what others are saying. Its dismissive labeling to avoid argument and to avoid responding to the alternatives that are presented.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to greginak
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          I don’t know. I rarely use the term “statist” personally, but I still find it defensible and even morally neutral. On any given question, some group of people are likely to favor a state intervention. What else should we call them? “Interventionists” is a bit clumsier, and although some writers have used it, it would encounter the same analytical problems.Report

          • Avatar gregiank in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            Actually that was directed at Mike who loves that label. At best statist is crudely accurate. But it seems to avoid the concept that almost everybody thinks gov should do some things. The term statist seems like a convenient epithet to throw as opposed to discussing why one person thinks X is something gov should be involved in. Its a blanket condemnation that avoids the actual context at hand.

            Given much of the other rhetoric regarding gov that people use : “at the point of a gun”, “coercion”, “paternalism” ” tyranny”, seeing statism as a neutral term is a bit naive.Report

            • Avatar MFarmer in reply to gregiank
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              Don’t accuse me of using the word as a weapon — I use it descriptively — it’s a perfectly good word. There’s no need to see it as a derogative term. I’m an anti-statist, and I back it up. A statist can back up statism, and everyone’s free to choose. It has a specific meaning, not just expecting the State to do anything, but what you expect the State to do.Report

              • Avatar gregiank in reply to MFarmer
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                I know you believe in it. Thats fine. I still see it as, at best, only crudely descriptive. It seems to ignore the actual context of whatever debate is going on. It avoids the discussion of what the state should and should not do.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to gregiank
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                says:

                Free Online Dictionary:

                the theory or practice of concentrating economic and political power in the state, resulting in a weak position for the individual or community with respect to the governmentReport

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer
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                I still think you ought to be careful assigning nefarious motives to people when they are particpating in good faith. It’s a weasaly diversion.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to MFarmer
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                This is full of it. We’re supposed to believe the way you use statist is just neutral description? You make no attempt to distinguish among various things about which a person could favor state intervention and then oppose it about others, nor to describe the degrees of intervention a person could support or oppose. You’re not enaged in any attempt at all that I can see to describe anyone’s ideas fairly. You just prattle on about “statists,” needing to divide the world (falsely) into absolutists like yourself and absolutists unlike yourself. This is the opposite of description: it is precisely negative other-labeling. You are remarkably openly self-deluded, Mr. Farmer.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer
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                Statism needs to be justified. So far, from my perspective, it hasn’t been — any form of statism which can fall under the definition of the word. It’s one of the most important issues facing our country. It has led us to this present financial crisis. As I said earlier, even at different levels, the compromises lead to more and more State power and exploitation. To talk about the problem of statism one has to be clear with the terms, because the squishy middle has allowed those who seek power to gain it. Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Britain’s problems, statism has been the cause. Now it is catching up with us. Until we identify the disease without hiding behind moderation, pragmatism and doubletalk, we won’t stop the slide we’re in. Sorry you think I’m full of it, but this is my description of the word and the problem. Others can disagree and justify their beliefs that some form of statim is necessary — I believe there is another way by separating State and economy — through strictly limited government, transformation of “State” and a free market.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer
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                I need to clarify that I’m talking about statism in the 21st century — I won’t get into an argument about past statist actions because it’s the present which is the problem, and anyone unwilling to change when something is no longer working is locked into a mindset. And when I say “squishy middle” I’m talking about those who compromise without principles, just to protect the status quo. It’s my position that statism is not justified in the 21st century, and the exceptions in the past don’t negate the virtues of a free market and limited government — they highlight the virtues.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to MFarmer
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                Mike,

                I should clarify that I see a difference whose magnitude can’t be overstated between defining a doctrine and calling it statism, a perfectly fine thing to do analytically, and then going on to label people participating in political discourse “statists” on the basis of such a definition, without really inquiring into those people’s full views, without naming them, or without more faithful description of what people believe. To the extent we simply talk about the arguments of theoretical “statists” without addressing the extent to which they can be found in nature, we are engaging in straw man building, and to the extent we are talk about particular figures by labeling them as statists without doing a rigorous examination of how much their positions and actions really match the definition of the doctrine we stated, we are being intellectually lazy at best and intellectually dishonest at worst.

                I have found that among many good traditions here at this website, the one I value most, and I would argue perhaps its most distinguishing custom, is that denizens here are committed to making scrupulously fair accountings of the positions of others before responding to them, and moreover put considerable effort into achieving finer understandings of viewpoints apart from their own merely for the sake of attaining a more complete picture of the ideological diversity in the American (and Canadian and other) political sphere. Indeed, I don’t know of a place on the internet where more work has been done in this regard across traditional ideological diving lines than here.

                I understand that you believe strongly in the concept of statism as a coherent force in the world to be resisted, and I respect that. But with all due respect, I believe the way you tend to deploy the term — and more specifically the personal derivation “statist(s)” — here tends to reinforce the kind of ideological divide that the hard work I describe above has gone into breaking down. And doing so is entirely your right. You (and obviously, as a commenter, you are far less responsible for the direction of the site than the contributors and editors, though we should be aware that we do contribute to it to some extent), Jason, and others are entirely within your rights to try to move this website in a direction where differences are accentuated and teams and labeling become more the norm.

                Moving on to doings that are entirely outside your control, Mike, I’m not prepared to say whether the new arrivals will contribute to such a movement merely because they are self-described libertarians, though I think early signs point in that direction. But it is also my right to say that I clearly see this to be the effect that the rhetorical approach you happen to take here, which is in some respects shared by some contributors, is having. And that is an okay thing: this site is going to be what it is going to be (and if multiple libertarian contributors are going to be brought in at one time, then clearly it is going to abruptly become something it wasn’t before that happened. No use wringing hands about that; it just simply is.) But this will be observable, and observed upon, and I guess that’s what I’m doing.

                Sorry to ramble – the basic point is that defining statism is one thing; saying who is a statist in quite another, and is a great deal more work to do fairly than simply defining the impersonal doctrine.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer
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                If statism exists, then statists exist. It’s not like I think a person with statist views is only a statist — Obama is a statist, politically, but he’s a complex person with many sides and roles. In a political discussion, however, to distinguish my views, say, from Chris Matthews, I promote free market prinicples and limited government whereas Matthews believes the State has a large role to play — politically, he is a statist and supports government intervention. These areas of intervention which Matthews supports, such as in healthcare, I believe will hurt the economy and the country. That’s how I talk about statism, in those terms. I’m not demonizing anyone — my views are in the minority — but I do think the debate has to happen, and I feel compelled o support my views. I’m not trying to change this site, I’m only participating honestly — I have no hidden agenda.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to MFarmer
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                Fair enough. You, too, would admit to supporting state intervention at some level if we probed deep enough; there are anarchists but I don’t think you are one. So I continue to think that the salient discussion is what a person thinks the state is for and a simple dichotomy completely obscures the real question. But I accept the sincerity of your attachment to this construct.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer
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                One more thing to clear up confusion. I am actually trying to make the distinction “anti-statism”, because as others have said, statism is supported in varying degrees by most people. What I propose is radical compared to the average view of the “State”. I am not concerned with labeling anyone a statist by way of attack — I’m interested in promoting my ideas which are, on the negative side, anti-statist, and on the positive sde, pro free market and strictly limited government — I even think the Constitution needs to be amended to restrict government even more. Statism is in the mainstream, my views are not. In order to promote these beliefs, I have to make the statist/anti-statist distinction, with anti-statism being the operative term, because it’s critical to understanding the points I make.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer
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                Michael,

                I believe the State could wither away with no harm done. I believe in a minimal government/protection agency for the protection of basic rights, defense against foreign attack and a court system. That’s all.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to MFarmer
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                says:

                Whatever your intentions are, I think if we could examine your comment archive we would find that the number of ideas of yours you present about the thoughts, statements, actions, and motivations of “statists” would vastly outnumber those that explore your own “anti-statism.”Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer
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                In order to make the anti-statist case, the statist case has to be fairly and fully represented as a contrast. I’ve always believed that I have to fully understand what I oppose before I can have conviction. This is what I always try to do. Read my blog, and you will see that I have attempted to the best of my ability to fully understand the statist position, which isn’t difficult for me since in the late sixies and through the seventies I was radical left — yippie at one point. I know people don’t like to hear about these conversions, but it’s the total truth — you would’t believe my past — you’d think I’m making it up. Sometimes I get frustrated with very overt statist actions and become more harsh in my criticisms, but, believe me, I understand the mindset.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to MFarmer
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                I’m not addressing what you write at your blog, nor simply whether or not you “understand the mindset.” I’m addressing what you write here.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer
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                says:

                Okay. Enjoyed the chat — gotta go make some money.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to MFarmer
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                Go to it. I appreciate your forthrightness here and at your blog.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            I prefer “technocrat”, myself.

            Takes the edge off.Report

            • Avatar gregiank in reply to Jaybird
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              Its good that you have a way to label people that works for you.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to gregiank
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                This strange idea of neutering language so that there are no definite distinctions has always confounded me. If we are going to have meaningful discussions, words should carry the necessary weight to do justice to important ideas. There should be no doubt regarding the distinctions made.Report

              • Avatar gregiank in reply to MFarmer
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                I completely agree with you on this. However to often people use labels as a way of dismissing people and avoiding an actual discussion. Its a conversational shorthand that drags in all sorts of other meanings that usually leads to miscommunication and argument. I don’t know how many good conversations on this very blog turned into partisan jibber jabber because people got lost in labels and their meaning. Labels suggest assumptions about others ideas and have many connotations. Language and conversation works better when people are specific and speak directly to the person they are talking. Some labels may be fairly specific but they are rarely about talking directly. Once somebody brings out labels like liberal or conservative or libertarian then they often talking at Al Gore or Newt Gingrich or some stereotype then directly to the person they are trying to have a conversation with. Labels are generalizations or stereotypes that to often get in the way.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to gregiank
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                Among reasonable, educated grown-ups, shortcuts which have clear meaning are useful — otherwise each post would be essay length with all the conditions, caveats, apologies and explanations.Report

              • Avatar D.A. Ridgely in reply to MFarmer
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                Hence, the time and effort saved by cutting to the chase and calling both Al Gore and Newt Gingrich asswipes.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer
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                D.A., exactly. Why waste words?Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer
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                Another reason for sharp words which cut to the point is that we are in dire need of conversations regarding fundamental solutions. The problem with the current Machiavellian statecraft and technocratic central management is that they deal with symptoms – symptomatic solutions to symptomatic problems — and we go spiralling down in pragmatic tweaking and failure to address the disease — the fundamental problem. I believe the statist mentality is the disease, regardless of any certain degree, heavy or light, of statist tweaking — once the limits are removed, the powerful seek more power. The overarcing acceptance of statism as necessary in ordering society has to be dealt with before fundamental solutions can arise. So, using careful, dull language to talk around the disease prevents a cure.Report

              • Avatar gregiank in reply to MFarmer
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                ahh yeah…so the words liberal, conservative and libertarian, as examples, all have one clear commonly understood meaning. Right sure.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to MFarmer
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                Greg, that’s why I like “technocrat”.

                Additional terms illuminate.

                If you don’t like the terms we’re using, suggest your own! I bet you can come up with some awesome ones that will help us put finer points on things!Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer
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                Gregiank, liberal, conservative and libertarian have clear enough meanings that we use them all the time. If the converstation is about nuances among any one political label, then we know the base from which we’re starting the conversation.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer
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                If you want to talk about the nuances of statists, then start the conversation, but I don’t have any idea what you’re arguing right now. If there are converations regarding the reality of some people who prefer the State manage the economy as opposed to those who prefer a separation of State and economy, whatever you call these two groups will point to the same things. If prefer something different, then fine — I prefer statism and anti-statism, or statists and free market proponents. If we want to talk about those who beleieve the State should be invlved in some social engineering as opposed to those who believe the State has no business doing any social engineering beyond protection of rights, then whatever you call these tow groups amounts to the same thing. Getting hung up on the words is a little useless when we can understand one another with commonly used words.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to gregiank
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                @ MFarmer

                > The overarcing acceptance of statism as necessary in
                > ordering society has to be dealt with before fundamental
                > solutions can arise.

                It’s certainly the case here (in the U.S.) that statism to *some* degree is written into the Constitution, no matter how liberally or conservatively you interpret the document. There are definite roles given to the government by the document itself.

                So it may not be necessary in the abstract sense, but it’s what we’re given to work with, unless you’re advocating scrapping the Constitution and starting over.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Pat Cahalan
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                It’s not that the government has no role, it’s whether government is used as a coercive force to support a powerful, over-reaching, interventionist State, or whether the government is limited to protecting rights, defending the borders and settling disputes. It’s about having a government of the people, for the people and by the people, rather than one that violates Contstitutional limits to support an anti-social State which exploits the nation.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to gregiank
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                It’s not just for me, Greg.

                It’s very important that it works in most conversations with most people.

                I mean, if I said that I made distinctions between “people who care about what happens to other people” and “people who don’t care about what happens to other people”, that might also carry some kind of meaning…

                “Hey, I’ve banned alcohol consumption because I CARE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS TO OTHER PEOPLE!!!” while, of course, people who oppose alcohol prohibition can be painted as “people who don’t care about what happens to other people”.

                Not just prohibition! You can expand that to smoking, or teaching creationism in elementary schools, or putting people in jail for trying to buy a handgun.

                The folks who think that people need to be managed better vs. the people who think that such management is offensive, maybe.

                “Grown-ups” vs. “Spoiled Brats Who Don’t Appreciate How Much I’ve Had To Give Up To Make Sure They’d Be Able To Succeed”.

                “People like me” vs. “People who need to be more like people like me.”Report

              • Avatar gregiank in reply to Jaybird
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                What i’m interested in is not the same yelling and name calling that happens in a lot of places. I’d prefer conversations that are more then X vs. Y, but between a variety of people, all of whom are speaking in good faith and treating others like they have something to offer. Most ideas need to be fleshed out and there consequences thought through. Partisan fights inhibit that. Good conversation is far more then x vs y. In fact the “vs” frame carries a lot connotations that lead more to trying win an argument then learn and explore an idea. The best parts of this blog are when learn i something i didn’t know or understand something in a better way. That matters to me. I can engage in snark and partisan name calling easily but that is rarely of actual value.

                I’ve seen you posit the above this before because, i’m assuming you don’t like being labeled as a terrible person because you don’t favor some sort of action to help some group of people. So i would suggest that since you don’t like being told that you want children to die because you don’t favor HCR you extend that same charity to others. Just because some of us favor HCR or whatever doesn’t actually mean we are Stalinists. Practice what you preach.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to gregiank
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                I’ve seen you posit the above this before because, i’m assuming you don’t like being labeled as a terrible person because you don’t favor some sort of action to help some group of people.

                To be perfectly honest, I don’t mind it so much but it very much bothers me when people I like have such accusations thrown against them.

                Me? Yes. I am worse than Hitler. I am at ease with this. Know thyself, and so on.

                But I don’t know the internal state of *ANYBODY* except myself.

                So it bugs me when the argument is not “you don’t think that we should engage in policy X” but instead “the reason you think policy X is bad is because you have this particular internal state (and it’s a bad one).”

                Hell, that’s why I thought that “technocrat” would be okay. Folks who believe that experts ought to be put in charge of the most important decisions of their own particular fields. Why would you put laymen in charge of these decisions? Do medical problems give a crap about liberty or democracy? Does accounting? Does science?Report

              • Avatar gregiank in reply to Jaybird
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                Yeah people should assume others internal states. I agree. So therefore, for example, since i think, in many situations, i would rather have an expert give an informed opinion is a good idea, does not actually mean i don’t care about freedom. Freedom is important to me, so is being factually correct about a technical matter.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                This is why I dig on “technocrat” as a term.

                It’s also why I don’t mind being labeled a “libertarian”.

                The “Pro-life”/”Pro-choice” debate is similar. Reducing the other side to “anti-choice”/”anti-life” is emotionally rewarding, maybe, but it doesn’t come close to exploring the tradeoffs that each side is willing to make or why they weigh *THIS* more than *THAT* (or vice-versa).Report

          • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            > On any given question, some group of people are likely
            > to favor a state intervention. What else should we call them?

            The problem with calling them “statists” is that they may only favor a state intervention on that given question (or some set of given questions).

            I mean, if you allow for government intervention but only as a safety net (as E.D. usually proposes), does that make you a statist? Probably not.

            If you allow for government intervention, but only in social matters and not in economic ones (or vice-versa) does that make you a statist? Probably.

            Personally, I think there are some problem spaces where state solutions work well, more problem spaces where state solutions are at best the least pessimum, many problem spaces where state solutions are clearly less optimum, and some problem spaces where state solutions are a downright bad idea.

            This is complicated by our civil liberties assumptions, which (at least in theory) preclude state solutions to a large swath of problem spaces regardless of whether or not those solutions are effective or ineffective.

            What I find sad is that both Liberals and Conservatives argue about those civil liberties assumptions as often as they argue about efficacy, and often intertwine the two without discussing the relevancy of either.Report

      • Avatar Francis in reply to MFarmer
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        umm, what? I thought we were trying to cut down on making assumptions about other people’s mental states. You come up with the non-state alternative; then I get to decide whether it’s better than the current situation.

        NEA/NEH? Don’t much care — but most of its funding goes to paying for touring companies to go to underserved (ie, poor) communities.
        Dept. Education? I live in a high-tax, donor state. So you’d think I’d object to sending federal funds to the Deep South. But I don’t. Just because the politicians in those states underfund schools doesn’t mean the kids should get hosed.

        etc.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Francis
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          ” I thought we were trying to cut down on making assumptions about other people’s mental states”

          Actually, I was being generous, since I don’t know for sure whether or not it’s strategic. I can certainly envision a group of powerful State players strategically attempting to marginalize those they see as enemies of the State. Nixon and his gang of World Shakers come to mind.Report

  4. Avatar Simon K
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    James,

    Strictly, I think I accused you of pandering to right-wing prejudices, not necessarily of being right-wing yourself 🙂 Personally I rather like “right-wing liberal” as an epithet for myself and others, although I shamelessly stole it from Scott Sumner. I go back and forth on whether to self-identify as a libertarian, because although I have libertarian values, I disagree strongly with the way most libertarians want to translate those values into practical politics.

    Values are key to this whole labeling business. Values are why we support certain policies, but much more importantly they’re why we support certain people, both for political office and as targets of policy. The attachments to certain groups of people are much stronger and longer-lasting than those to policies. Fifteen years ago conservative intellectuals came up with something like Romneycare because they care about health insurers and employers, and don’t much care about people who can’t afford comprehensive health insurance. Now they oppose something like Romneycare for exactly the same underlying reasons. The policy positions change because of the playing field, but the particular attachments don’t.

    I suspect that the number of possible philosophically justifiable constellations of policy positions is much larger than the set of value systems and in-group attachments that define real-world politics.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Simon K
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      Simon, do you write on your own somewhere? I am in great sympathy with the structural analytical approach to policy and politics based on values, political commitments, and identity that you describe right here. I’d love to read more.Report

  5. Avatar Dividist
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    “Other-labeling can’t be stopped. Indeed it’s a natural human behavior (we create categories to help us make sense of the world, so political labeling is not a fundamentally different behavior than defining species or arguing about the distinctions between speed metal and thrash metal).” – jh

    It was probably also a pretty useful survival skill among our tribe dependent ancestors. Those who were quicker to make the distinction between “my-tribe/friends” and “not-my-tribe/enemies” and act on that recognition being far more likely to pass their genetic skills and predispositions down to us than their contemporaries who were open to consider any similar bipedal humanoid as part of one big extended family who just hold different opinions about what is good to eat. I’m not saying it is a useful skill now, just saying that being hardwired on some level to consider tribal recognition as a life or death matter may explain in part the urgency and import with which we all seem to invest the labeling exercise.

    It also goes without saying that – in the context of a political debate – when there is no agreement on labels first, there is no foundation for meaningful discourse – except to debate labels. You have to start somewhere with a common frame of reference. It’s not like we can start every discussion with “I think therefore I am” and build up from there. If there is no agreement on labels, the discussion does not get any further than sorting the labels out – which may be all that is necessary or desired by the participants. The discussion in this thread about Statist vs Non-Statist / libertarian is instructive in that regard. I consider myself libertarian-leaning and recognize Mfarmer and Jason as part of my tribe, but also recognize that once those labels are accepted, the argument is over.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Dividist
      Ignored
      says:

      Other labeling can certainly be stopped at a personal level. We all have a choice what we type. This is not a fight or flight situation where we are acting purely on instinct. We could all be posting on Redstate, Reason or Balloon Juice. This blog has always aimed to avoid much of the partisan name calling and has generally aimed at having heterodox front page posters.

      Labels can certainly have uses. But the problem with many of the more popular labels, such as liberal , conservative or libertarian is that we will never really come to agreement about what they mean. When many people use the term liberal they automatically will think of the worst slurs regarding Al Gore, Ted Kennedy killing a woman and socialism. It doesn’t matter what i say about what i think liberalism is or what it means to me. But we can still try to have a conversation if we are willing to listen to each other, not assume the worst about the other and discuss in good faith. If we can’t put away freaking tribal loyalties while having a blog discussion then this world is fucked. That is certainly possible, people seem to want tto hold onto their tribe and hate The Other. But that is a choice.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to greginak
        Ignored
        says:

        Labels are more often used as weapons or disguises.

        I’ll accept a label if it’s not applied pejoratively. After becoming acquainted with the various voices hereabouts over the past week or so, I could label most contributors and commenters non-pejoratively, in terms they would accept.

        Except those in disguise. They wouldn’t like what I have to say.

        😉Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to tom van dyke
          Ignored
          says:

          What about if a person applies labels that are themselves disguised, or where there is asymmetric information about their valence? What if someone wants to apply a label they think is somehow accurate and insists that you not take it as perjorative (at least not vocally in conversation), such as calling abortion providers or returning soldiers babykillers? It’s just a description, see?Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Michael Drew
            Ignored
            says:

            Mr. Drew, if you could label me non-pejoratively, I would probably cop to it, if you did a good job of it.

            What I’m finding amusing is all the self-labeling. It tends to conceal more than it reveals. For some reason, folks hereabouts don’t know how transparent they are, as if they’re fooling people.

            I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round. Cheers.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to tom van dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              You mean, if I had unrestrained malice of intent in how I labelled you but I didn’t admit to it, but you thought that nevertheless my label was fair enough, you’d be okay with it? I think one would have to be as well, so I think I agree. But I’d prefer, were we to trade places in that example, that we be clear that you (now the one doing the labelling) not asked to pretend I wasn’t aware of the disdain you have for the thing that you are calling me — that we be clear the label was perjorative in your view. Or are we saying that a label can only be perjorative if it is inaccurate?

              Or in any case, to put my view more simply, I enthusiastically agree with your with your middle observation above.Report

  6. Avatar tom van dyke
    Ignored
    says:

    Mebbe, Michael. Some people are so malicious against the other side that “Democrat” and “Republican” are malicious terms. The beauty of “libertarian” is that escapes fire from both Fox and MSNBC.

    Glad you agree with the middle paragraph of my previous. It’s along that line.

    You appear to be an honest man. I bet if you read me for awhile, got to know me, you could label me accurately, if you weren’t a dick about it.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to tom van dyke
      Ignored
      says:

      I’m sure I could, but I’m pretty sure I’d rather just let you do it yourself if you were inclined, whereupon the only instance in which I might – and by no means would I necessarily even then – have anything to say about it would be if I felt, along the lines of what you’re observing now, that you had gone about it in some way dishonestly yourself. And I’d have to have some reason, some stake in the matter, to go to the trouble anyway.

      As it happens, one of my first comments here was a request for a bit of self-description (if not labeling) from the various authors to help me understand better where they and the site as a whole was coming from. I thought at the time and still think that it makes sense for a writer, if it isn’t too fraught a task (and when it truly is, that’s entirely legitimate) to offer some self-description that readers can use to help couch their understanding of the writer’s writings, rather than to leave it up to readers to construct one from what will start out as a necessarily unrepresentative sample of the writer’s work. On a site like this one with multiple writers, it can take some time to arrive at a a reliable understanding of each person’s standpoint. To me, it makes more sense to simply take a person’s account of his own basic viewpoint at face value and pretty much leave it at that so long as it doesn’t seem grossly misleading or require response by virtue of being primarily defined by reference to particular people or groups outside himself.

      In any case–

      Cheers & Happy Holidays

      P.S. I clicked on your link but saw mainly posts not signed by you there, though I did find some from the new contributor Mr. Rowe among others. I’ll look further for writings of yours. As it happens, oneReport

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