A Sermon on Liberty

Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, gamingvulture.tumblr.com. And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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8 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    For what it’s worth, I not only enjoyed this essay, I mostly agreed with it.Report

  2. Ethan Gach says:

    Coming from you Jaybird it’s worth a lot.  Glad you liked it.  It was fun to write, though I certainly could have done a better job laying the groundwork.Report

  3. Jason Kuznicki says:

    This is weak stuff here:

    If the invisible hand is inherent in our human nature, in both our DNA and our inscrutable mental consciousness, in both our bodies and our souls, than the invisible framework is inherent in our social institutions and the historical glue which connects their past developments to their contemporary manifestations.

    Markets equilibrate given a set of agents obeying some fairly elementary and easily explained constraints.  These have nothing to do with DNA, god, or historical glue.  None of which seem to have any relationship, even by your showing, to markets.  (Yes, there’s a lot of nonsense out there to that effect, but I’m sorry, my Christian friends, Jesus was a socialist.)Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Jesus was a socialist

      Nay, nay.  Jesus was too  dismissive of government to be a socialist.  He clearly wanted nothing to do with government at all.  He was a communitarian anarchist, if any contemporary political term can properly be applied.

      Which isn’t to say I agree with the quote you critiqued.  I can’t understand it clearly enough to say whether I’d agree with it or not.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Jesus was an Evangelical.Report

  4. E.C. Gach says:

    “Markets equilibrate given a set of agents obeying some fairly elementary and easily explained constraints.”

    God = short hand for why anyone is concerned with “goodness” or how people can live best, or any of the usual concerns associated with political philosophy.  I honestly kept getting hung up on the fact that I have no satisfactory explanation for why people should prefer to be moral than not moral.  Lacking that, I’m not sure how I can defend personal liberty/dignity/right to property.

    DNA = short hand for the constraints of human nature.  It seems important to fix human nature, even broadly understood, or else it’s really impossible to argue for about anything political, moral, etc.  If there is nothing fixed about how people are, there’s no way of evaluating one set of social rules and judging it in relation to other possible arrangements.

    Historical Glue = short hand for how institutions change over time.  If institutions are important (position) then so are the direction in which they’re headed (as extrapolated via historical analysis, i.e. the glue).

    The basis for why those constraints, and not some other constraints, seems to be directly tied to something like “human nature,” as determined by DNA.  I could be wrong, but stories of markets always seem to arise after the fact.  People saw something working pretty well and then tried to figure out why it worked well so they could maintain it.  I don’t think anyone planned free markets moved by the invisible hand, in which case, as something observed, it must have some unique relation to human nature and historical development to have arose and thus been observable.

     But after all, it’s a sermon.  I was more trying to explore the claims rather than justify them.Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    In order to see that the multitude of possibilities which adhere in humanity have the potential to be realized, no individual or group should set their will against another.  To do so would be like having a blind person tend a garden, pruning and weeding without knowledge of what to prune and what to weed.  In the face of ignorance, humble skepticism is the best course.  Likewise, absence of judgment is a better course in social affairs than judging incorrectly.

    Even though I thought that this was a little florid, I smiled when I read this because I enjoy its anti-colonial take on how we ought to impose our paternalism on others. The argument that, “seriously, we know what is and is not a weed” isn’t particularly persuasive given colonial history.

    I suppose, next year, I might write a pro-paternalistic essay for opposite day and put many of my fallacies into the assumption that I (we!) will be on the benevolent side deciding what the children can and cannot do rather than in the assumption that we’ll be lower party members.Report