Libertarians Are Not Like Beryllium

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178 Responses

  1. Avatar Damon says:

    I’m quite self satisfied with my “libertarian heartlessness”. *smirk*Report

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    You intellectuals just think too much, which is why you never accomplish anything real.Report

  3. Space awesome, Chris.

    To the extent labels are necessary for some of our discussions, I’ve been wondering if their unpleasant side effects can be substantially mitigated by referring to to ideology rather than ideologues. By that I mean that it seems like it’s more productive to make blanket statements about, say conservatism, libertarianism, and liberalism, or their representation by specific, formally organized entities and events, than it is to make blanket statements about conservatives, libertarians, and liberals.

    In other words, it seems like there’s a difference between saying “liberals believe in/want policy X….” and “in practice, liberalism pursues policy X.”Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      The problem is, that rules out unintended consequences. Liberalism may find (or claim to find) X outcome desirable; but if liberal policies inevitably lead to X outcome, or are unwilling to countenance any measures that would counteract X outcome, then it’s fair to tag liberals with X outcome.Report

      • I disagree. Once you start talking about liberals as a group in this manner, you leave out the possibility that individual liberals may not support one or more of the specific policies you believe will lead to outcome X, even if most liberals do, or, just as often, the liberals with the greatest influence on the issue do. Individual liberals who don’t fit the mold will take your statement personally – no one likes being told what they believe, especially when it’s not something they actually believe, nor even something of which they’re ignorant.

        Even to the extent that it is a fair and accurate statement, though, it’s still problematic because it’s a statement about an outgroup that is directed at members of that outgroup rather than just at purported beliefs of that outgroup. Even if you’re right, the fact that it comes across as a personal attack from an outsider will ensure defensiveness and lack of consideration of your point.

        Meanwhile, the same exact point can be made by criticizing liberalism as represented by a specific statement. While people may still take this personally, they’ll be less likely to do so, and even if they do, are at least likely to take it less personally. Except for the most orthodox of ideologues, no one thinks their nominal ideology is beyond criticism, since most people have at least some differences with their ideology’s majority positions.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      I think that’s definitely a preferable way to go about it. I mean, discussions are going to be pretty unproductive if we don’t occasionally take the sorts of short cuts that names allow us by lumping stuff together that actually tends to go together. It’s just best to avoid applying the labels to people when possible, so that we can recognize that liberalism, say, is a cluster of ideas, structured around some common values, that people can pick and choose from, rather than something that defines who they are. It might be best to say it like this: people define liberalism, but liberalism doesn’t define people.

      Now, people will still abuse this, because they don’t understand “liberalism” or “libertarianism,” or whatever, but they’ll probably be at least somewhat more open to correction (as their egos allow).Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

      I’ve been thinking about this more, and I think the situations in which I tend to claim labels are precisely the situations in which I am talking to people who hold strong stereotypes and I want to moderate those stereotypes or at least get them to stop throwing stones. I mean, yes, I identify with those labels TOO, but.

      So, for eg, when I lived in Canada, I never really felt the need to point out that I was (mostly) a socialist. In Colorado, especially 10 years ago, I brought it up a lot. Mostly when people would say “well, I’m not a SOCIALIST or anything, but…” in tones they would normally reserve for “I’m not a SERIAL KILLER…”

      Likewise, while I don’t make a huge deal about being bisexual from one day to the next, I will claim it in so many words where appropriate. Because a lot of our students come from places where it’s NOT safe to claim that label, or related labels, and I want them to know up front that it’s absolutely FINE where they are now. Or because (not as relevant as it was ten years ago), sometimes dear friends (both gay and straight) would say stupid things about “them” and I felt the need to remind them that I was seeing an “us”, not a “them”…

      You know, stuff like that. Sometimes I guess it’s not just a matter of saving brains work, but also that the power you refer to *should* be used, when the effect of using it is to undermine some of the negative stuff.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Maribou says:

        This is exactly what a Canadian would say.

        More seriously, I think there’s something to the approach you take. One of the things I’ve done research on is how our representations of a category can be changed. The best way to do that is to keep giving them exemplars that lie outside of their representation of Category A, but tell them, “This is a member of Category A” (not really tell them; they have to answer Category A or Category B, and when they say B, we say WRONG!). Eventually, these new, incongruous exemplars become just ordinary members, and their inferences from the category change accordingly.Report

        • Avatar Maribou in reply to Chris says:

          Fascinating, that y’all have borne that model out in research.

          PS Does a person’s relative feeling of security in [their belongingness in the group | their typicalness as a member of the group | the diversity of the group | other random factor] affect their reaction to stereotypical statements? Because, I just realized, while it was clear to me that your comment about Canadians was tongue-in-cheek, it was also clear to me that my immediate before-finding-it-funny reaction was *not* to be offended or antagonistic, but to feel warm and fuzzy and to think, yes, most Canadians probably WOULD say that… of course, that lasted less than a second before irony and complexity and etc came swooping in, but I found it to be a curious reaction nonetheless.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Maribou says:

            You know, I’m not sure if that’s the case, but I know a bunch of social psychologists, and I’d be happy to ask them (that’s more their domain than mine). I’ll let ya know what I find out.

            Also, I’ve obviously oversimplified those category experiments, but that is definitely the gist.Report

  4. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    However, our reliance on categories to make inferences, and our association of labels with categories, gives labels a lot of power, and anything that has power is sometimes going to abuse it. And one of the reasons this power we give to labels is ripe for abuse is something cognitive psychologists like to call psychological essentialism. Psychological essentialism says, in essence, that our mental theory about the way the world works includes the belief that most categories (human-made artifacts are, to some extent, an exception, though an odd one that I’d be happy to talk about if you’re interested) have some underlying essence that makes them what they are, and that any individual who’s placed in that category must have in order to be a true member.

    For the TL; DR crowd, this is the money.

    Awesome post, Chris.Report

  5. Avatar Gaelen says:

    I just wanted to say that posts like this (and the love in yesterday) are a large part of why I silently lurk around this site.

    A few heated conversations led to a break so people could clear their heads, followed by this excellent post clearly explaining the problem causing mental shortcuts and pointing the way toward a more constructive dialogue.Report

  6. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    There is a concept in object oriented programming, the Stereotype. In a sense, the Unified Modeling Language (UML) allows us to thus create our own custom Lego Blocks. We also use the word cliché, another synonym for stereotype, from the printing industry.

    For in the old days, type was set by hand. When a print run was finished, the letters would go back in the font boxes for use in other situations. But if the typesetter had the foresight, he would make a cliché, a copy of the entire page for later reuse, thus making reprinting easier.

    Now cliché has come to mean a timeworn expression and stereotype a overgeneralisation. But there was a good reason for clichés and stereotypes.

    We cannot wander about in an existentialist fog, deconstructing the meaning of every word. Yes, at turns we ought to revisit old assertions and ways of considering things. But when I create a Stereotype in UML, it means something in context. It could represent an instance of a design pattern, say Decorator or Builder or Observer, or Interface. Or it could represent Office. It’s a statement about what this thing represents. It “is-a” Decorator. The Hartford Office “is-an” Office.

    If labels have power and thus become ripe for abuse, ascribing that abuse to Essentialism goes nowhere with me. Those who wish to put their little ontological labels within the guillemets of a Stereotype and wear them about are now obliged to implement the attributes and methods thus described or quit wearing the label entirely.

    My design work seldom uses Sterotyping. It gets in the way of progress. It is a temptation to walk down the primrose path to Hasty Generalisation. It’s shoddy thinking. Bad design, arising from attempting to design without viable instance artifacts.

    We see this most clearly revealed when Dr. King said:

    I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

    People do have character attribute, one of an enumeration of Character Types. That’s a “has-a” proposition. People also have skin tone, one of a range of nice colours, HTML currently supports 16777216 of ’em. Don’t design a Black Person or a Poor Person as a subclass of Person. Design by composition.

    Every -ist is driven by an -ism, a Stereotype. Want to call yourself one? Then Be One. Or feel free to remove the Stereotype from your self-definition. Because I’m sick of the shoddy thinking and fecklessness which says “I’m a special case.” Yes you are a special case. So stop using Stereotype if you don’t want the saved copy of the whole page to apply to you.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

      If labels have power and thus become ripe for abuse, ascribing that abuse to Essentialism goes nowhere with me. Those who wish to put their little ontological labels within the guillemets of a Stereotype and wear them about are now obliged to implement the attributes and methods thus described or quit wearing the label entirely.

      This reads to me like a claim that challenging ourselves not to stereotype others is inconvenient, so we’re going to inulaterally impose on them a duty to either absolutely accept all implications of a label or absolutely forgo all use of that label.

      I can’t find a charitable adjective to describe this perspective.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to James Hanley says:

        I think you’re reading that pretty far.

        I think there’s something to be said for those who clump together for a common purpose to work at keeping their label accurate.

        Not for the purpose of specific discourse, but for the purpose of clarity of community action.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

          I don’t think what you’ve said here conflicts with my position.

          I would add that while it’s more than fair to warn people that by adopting a label they’ll have to accept the fact that they’ll run into people who assume all it implications, it’s something different to tell them they must accept all it’s implications.

          It’s like the difference between telling someone, “if you get that tattoo many people will think you’re trash” and “if you get that tattoo you must become trash” (“implement the attributes” of the label).Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

            Design by composition. A tattoo is not a definition. You and your analogies, Hanley. I can consult the getCharacter() method for the contents of a Person’s character. More logic for you. If, however, someone wanted to expose a hasGangAffiliation() method, he would in fact return a prima-facie instance of Tattoo.Report

        • Avatar zic in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

          I think the problem is with external clumping.

          As a liberal I’m pretty routinely accused of being for ‘big government.’ There’s the stereotype = big government solutions.

          I see libertarians basically conflated with anarchists and greed constantly.

          I see conservatives equated with the Tea Party and evangelicals.

          I could go on, but in each case, this isn’t about the ideology that shapes a person’s political activism, but the ideology of someone else’s stereotype.

          I have rarely had anyone actually ask me what being liberal means to me. (Inversely, I have asked about libertarianism on the fears I might be so turning.) There’s just a host of presumptions assumed.

          The other part of BlaiseP’s point seems that a lot of people may think they embrace an ideology but they don’t actually understand the ideology, rather, they’re a member of the tribe.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

            Now I am told I have put forward a pretty good working definition of Progressive.

            Have the Libertarians been unfairly conflated with Anarchists? What’s so bad about being an Anarchist? At least the anarchists are honest enough to say the State is unnecessary and actively harmful. I hear the Libertarians make many of the same noises. What distinguishes them from the Anarchists?

            Capitalism is all about self-interest. Buy low, sell high, get paid for what you do, hey, if someone wants to conflate Capitalism with Greed, that just sour grapes. How did Hannibal Lecter put it?

            Hannibal Lecter: First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?
            Clarice Starling: He kills women…
            Hannibal Lecter: No. That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What needs does he serve by killing?
            Clarice Starling: Anger, um, social acceptance, and, huh, sexual frustrations, sir…
            Hannibal Lecter: No! He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer now.
            Clarice Starling: No. We just…
            Hannibal Lecter: No. We begin by coveting what we see every day.

            I don’t conflate Conservatism with Evangelicals. I am an Evangelical. Maybe that’s TMI around here. I call myself a Christian. I can tell you what it means.

            I’ve also gone to considerable trouble to define Conservative as the entirely reasonable philosophy of Not Tinkering with Working Machinery and Saving What’s Good in the World.

            For all their talk about Voluntary Association and Tribal Affiliation, Libertarianism is the most disputatious religion in the world today, so many yeshivot without a Torah.Report

            • Avatar zic in reply to BlaiseP says:

              Sometimes, things that are spoken about in proximity to you are not necessarily related to you; I didn’t suggest you did those things (though you did with your response about libertarias) but that I see such logical constructs frequently, and frequently see them here.

              They pretty typically derail any meaningful communication.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

        Of course you wouldn’t. Libertarians are not like Beryllium. They’re excepted from any definitional constraints at all, other than their own Humpty-Dumpty versions thereof. When your First Principle starts with Individual Autonomy, that’s the way logic always works, starting with the definitions of yourself.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Heh; that second bit is something of a fair dig.

          I would say that Libertarianism, however, merely by the absence of consensus and the absence of size, gets a much bigger pass on this score than either Democrats or the GOP do.

          The more you aggregate people, the more likely it is that you’re subsuming actual preferences under the weight of the shared preferences. Add enough people and enough preferences, and it’s not entirely clear that your definitional preferences are even shared by everybody who shares the label.

          So there is a scaling factor, there.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            If you aggregate enough libertarians you get Bob Barr for president. So either libertarians can’t be aggregated in any useful fashion, or that was performance art.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              Until the Libertarians decide to implement the Comparable interface, there’s no sorting them or comparing them to each other, much less deriving an aggregate.

              And heaven forbid you try to impose inheritance on them.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Given that they don’t represent a collective that’s presenting much in the way of challenge two either of the two large aggregates, maybe treating them like they’re one of the two large aggregates is counterproductive.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Please. All they do is present challenges. I am told my approach is not Charitable because I ask for some characteristics to emulate, some “Is-a” attributes which might guide me along the way. One might as well get the Libertarians to explain the form and nature of the Holy Trinity or Why God Allows Evil.

                It’s not as if I haven’t asked for a more rigorous definition, usually greeted by the Presentation of Challenges, in the form of pitiful analogies, begged questions and when all else fails, personal attacks. I might add, this pattern was also used by Religion, when it had any political power in the world, thus enforcing my belief Libertarianism is a Religion.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP says:

                All they do is present challenges.

                Well, honestly… what’s wrong with that? You’ve lauded them for that in the past, yes? Isn’t “keeping these other two much bigger groups more honest” a sufficiently just cause?

                If you’re not in the position of leadership, and you’re not likely to be so in the near future, there is constructive criticism/presenting challenges as a principled and honorable course.

                (granted, wailing and caterwauling indiscriminately not so much, but I don’t know that this applies to many folk here)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Old guy comes home from church. His wife asks him “What was the sermon about?”
                “Sin” he replied.
                “And what did the preacher say about sin?”
                “He was against it.”

                And that’s just about where we are with the Libertarians. They’re against it. What they’re for, different story. And don’t try to play 20 Questions with ’em either. You’ll get to about #4 and they’ll say you’re being Uncharitable.

                Sure must be nice to be able to say No to everything you don’t like.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I don’t know that being for less government than we have now is quite so nihilistic as all that. You can be a liberal and be for less government than we have now*

                I think you’re insisting on something that isn’t necessary, is all. At least, in this particular case.

                * for some definitions of “less”, of course.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                That being the case, perhaps the Libertarians will be less inclined to post tendentious essays upon the subject of Things They Do Not Understand about Progressives.

                For I have had a gut full of their simplistic crap about Progressives and have become even less tolerant of simplistic crap about me, specifically. Hanley can lay into me, saying I’ve been Uncharitable and not one of you have come to my defence. Not one.

                There’s a human being back here, who went to some trouble to write up that business about how Stereotype works in systems design, precisely so I didn’t have to get into Obnoxious Theology about Librulz and Conservaturds. That particular gerbil wheel’s gone around about fourteen bazillion times too many around here.

                I came here in search of what Libertarians believe. That I should now be schoolmarmed about the distinction between Libertarian and Libertarian-ISM, after explaining the Stereotype extensibility mechanism in depth — the odd part is, it doesn’t even insult my intelligence any more, Patrick. I should now conclude I shouldn’t even think people are trying to understand what I’m trying to say.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                And that’s just about where we are with the Libertarians. They’re against it. What they’re for, different story.

                I hear ya on that, BP. Same page, etc.

                {And that’s a funny joke, too.}Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                That being the case, perhaps the Libertarians will be less inclined to post tendentious essays upon the subject of Things They Do Not Understand about Progressives.

                Wow, you’re still sore about that?

                I came here in search of what Libertarians believe.

                I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that this is untrue. You came here — subtle difference — so that you could say that you came here in search of what libertarians believe. And then so that you could make a big show of being disappointed by what you’d found.

                This is very weird to me.

                You like John Stuart Mill; I like John Stuart Mill. You like F.A. Hayek; I like F.A. Hayek. You’re pretty skeptical about Ayn Rand; I’m pretty skeptical about Ayn Rand. You don’t need to be a Randian to be a libertarian.

                I mean, sure, you don’t like Ludwig von Mises either, and that would actually be okay with me, but I think your objections to him have been incorrect so far, and I’d urge you to try him again. But Mises I’ll freely grant is long-winded and not the most exciting of authors.

                It could be water under the bridge. It really could.

                I use the term libertarian for myself for two reasons: First, if I didn’t use it, then other people would just go right ahead and use it anyway. Given my policy preferences, there is really no other one-word label that fits.

                But second — well, if I’m stuck with it, how can I use it constructively? The way I do this is by using “libertarian” as a starting point. It’s not the end of the discussion. It’s the beginning. Shortly afterward we have to dispense with the Randianism, the FYIGMism, and the Glenn Beckism.

                I know that that looks to you like what the old Marxists used to do, breaking up again and again into infinitesimal conventicles. But you know what? At the end of the day, we all have to think for ourselves — or else let someone else think for us. There aren’t any other choices. If that’s the price of thinking for myself, and if that’s the price of drawing distinctions between myself and the Glenn Becks of the world, well, okay, I’ll pay that price. That’s alright by me.Report

            • Avatar zic in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              (this is an example of why you are on my superhero team.)Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

          If we could make these individuals more like other people, it’d be easier. That’s for sure.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

            Wouldn’t that be nice? Some sort of design pattern where you could get a nice composite object, say, the results of a political affiliation quiz, where you could examine details before coming to conclusions?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

              I’ll talk about two types of spirituality for no reason whatsoever.

              I’m sure we’ve all met spiritual folks who talk all the time about their religion, about their relationship with God, and about how everybody else is doing it wrong and how we need to pass laws to take away the option of being bad from other folks or pass laws mandating that they be good in the first place.

              And I’m sure that we’ve all met spiritual folk who say that their relationship with God is making them change their lives, somehow. They’re going to stop doing this. Doing that. They’re going to start doing other things instead. They’re going to change their life. They can’t live the way they did before. Instead of telling you how to live, they instead work really hard on how they ought to live… and, indeed, if you bring up the “THOU SHALT” and “THOU SHALT NOT” people from the previous paragraph, they get either massively irritated or massively sad and follow up with some variant of “those folks have missed the point”.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

                No. What is a Libertarian, other than not-being-beryllium?

                Now I’ve gone to very considerable trouble to outline Stereotyping. You can help me along with what a Libertarian actually is. Otherwise, if we’re going to use the above comment as working material, I’m going to start calling Libertarianism a Religion, which I very strongly believe to be the case, what with all these First Principles, with a serious recursion problem in its constructor — every time I try to instantiate one of ’em from the spec, the stack blows up.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

                If I had to put a pretty fine point on it, it’d be one who does not wish to legislate matters of taste as if they were matters of morality because doing so is a good way to institutionalize injustice… and one who, if there’s any question over whether a matter is one of taste or morality, errs on the side of it being a matter of taste.

                I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of libertarians that would disagree with me, though.

                I’m comfortable with that.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

                No. What IS a Libertarian. We’ve arrived at what you’re NOT, and there’s all those squishy caveats about how other Libertarians might disagree with you.

                Now I will tell you what a Libertarian seems to be. He is a referee in a game he cannot and will not play, making the rules up as he goes along.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Yeah, I don’t agree with that.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Libertarianism has been traditionally associated with advancing a conception of government based exclusively on negative rights and the non-aggression principle, usually with an emphasis on property rights. Concessions to certain governmental powers are made only according to necessity: services necessary for the preservation of negative rights.

                Leftish – or marginal or bleedingheart – libertarians include other normative considerations (usually along the lines of social justice) when determining the extent of government intervention into society, but the primary constraints are still negative rights and the non-aggression principle.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I’m sure you don’t. The Libertarian, as I have said before, is defined by what he is Not. Jaybird, I’m fascinated by your take on the issues, you’ve got a fine sense of humour, but I simply must conclude Libertarianism is actually a religion. And there’s nothing wrong with being religious, I call myself a Christian. I conform to that Stereotype, I wear it proudly. I can tell you what a Christian is, by my lights: someone who follows the example of Jesus Christ.

                Libertarians want a loosely-coupled architecture, okay, I can handle that, too. But if you go there, you have to evolve a protocol, I don’t care how you implement it, you shouldn’t care how I implement it, people ask me what I do, I say “I make hostile systems talk to each other.”

                What does Liberty mean? That’s a nothing word. It’s like Grace or Sanctification. Those are doctrinal considerations. If Liberty is the highest goal, that has to be compromised to some degree. All this stuff about Voluntary Association and Individual Liberty, more theological disputations.

                You don’t like the Institutionalisation of Injustice, well, buddy, you need to tell me how you propose to Institutionalise Justice because that’s gonna put a severe crimp in my Degrees of Freedom and I’m gonna have to plan accordingly.Report

              • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to BlaiseP says:

                First, I do not for the life of me understand why it matters “what” a libertarian is. What “libertarianism” is? Ok, fine, that may be a worthwhile question. But “what” a libertarian is? What a meaningless question! A libertarian is a human with his own set of values, no less than a liberal, and no more than a conservative, and vice versa.

                If you wish to rephrase the question as “what distinguishes a libertarian from a liberal or a conservative,” the question is only marginally more helpful. But if you must insist, the answer is that a libertarian is a person whose highest priority is the reduction of the power of government. The implications of that will differ from libertarian to libertarian, just as the implications of prioritizing stability and security will differ from person to person, or of prioritizing social mobility and equality will differ from person to person.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Concessions to certain governmental powers are made only according to necessity:

                Huh? Everyone’s a Libertarian then. That’s no definition. Even the Conservatives conform to that stereotype. The vilest Statist will tell you These Things are Necessary.

                And in some cases they are necessary. But with every such claim of necessity, however truly needful it might be, we may consistently rely upon the Libertarians to again thump the pulpit and tell the rest of us we’re out of line. They don’t have an answer for anything. They just rule everyone else’s answers irrelevant.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                What “libertarianism” is? Is that the game we’re playing here? I have already said “Every -ist is driven by an -ism, a Stereotype.”

                Since we can’t discuss each instance of a Libertarian, let us instead take up what distinguishes the Libertarians from any other Stereotype. This reduces the entire discussion to Doctrinal Fudge, once again excusing the Libertarians from any substantive definitional constraint, but hey, call it Political Affirmative Action.

                As for the rest of that, not only are we all Libertarians, I Think We’re All Bozos on this BusReport

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The vilest Statist will tell you These Things are Necessary.

                Sure. But by a different moral or practical calculus. The key difference is that for a libertarian of the type your quote refers to the only government intervention is restricted to only those actions which protect negative rights.

                That’s a pretty clear distinction from liberals, yes?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The Libertarian proposition of Negative Rights fails utterly in the real world. Consider the proposition of Negative Rights in the Fourteenth Amendment and Plessy. Did that lead to actual equality? We both know it didn’t. In fact, all the states implemented Separate but not one of them implemented Equal: not even in the North. All we got was separate.

                Black people had to wait until those Goddamn Statist Liberals under LBJ got the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act passed before anything changed.

                But let the Liberals and Progressives rise up and say “Okay, this is ridiculous!” where are the Libertarians? Is it fair to notice Rand Paul said restaurants should be free to serve only those they like, or that John Stossel says the Civil Rights Act should be repealed to allow just such discrimination?

                Now just watch ’em. “Oh, you’re just misreading Stossel and Rand Paul isn’t really a Libertarian anyway. You’re trying to generalise a barrel full of bad apples from one or two.”

                But their model wants the Feds out of our lives. How are they any different than the Anarchists? Here’s how. They’re not brave enough to admit they are anarchists. They just want the right to issue as many caveats as they’d like to that proposition if cornered.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Mark, that’s put perfectly, I think.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise, I’m having some trouble understanding what you’re objecting to. Let’s suppose my earlier definition of libertarianism is correct (it’s certainly in the ballpark historically). If so, then is your objection that the theory is factually wrong? (A libertarian would say his theory has never been tried!) That it’s logically incoherent? (That’s why people keep working on it: to iron out the kinks!)

                Look, what a libertarian is is a person who accepts the premise that the best form of government is one limited to protecting negative rights and who works out inevitable conceptual, practical, pragmatic problems (or not!) to make the theory as consistent as possible. That’s all there is to it, I think, more or less. That’s their view. And there’s a lot of room for people who call themselves libertarians to wiggle given particular ways those inevitable problems are resolved.

                I mean, look at Jason Kuznicki. He would probably concede that his highest ideal is libertopia. He also concedes that ramping down government’s role in society entails costs that have to be considered when implementing – or even advocating! – for specific policies. So lots of wiggle room. Lots of it. And maybe that’s what you find so frustrating.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Let’s just suppose my definition is correct, that Libertarians are defined by what they are Not. Negative liberties fit into this proposition perfectly.

                Don’t beg the question, however inadvertently: I have not asked if the Libertarians are Wrong or Right. For me to write a test case, I must have something which can be verified. I will need some variables to which I can assign values.

                So perhaps you’ll tell me: what can be verified about Libertarian-ism? I don’t care what they believe about Negative Liberties. What rights does a person have, values I can test? I’m not going to allow them to tell me what they’re NOT any more. They’re starting to sound like the Muslims, who say Allaah is beyond description and can only be described in terms of what He Isn’t.

                And that, my friend, is Theology.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

                what can be verified about Libertarian-ism?

                What can be verified about any ism? They’re ideologies, yes?

                You’re just ranting now.Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The Libertarian proposition of Negative Rights fails utterly in the real world. Consider the proposition of Negative Rights in the Fourteenth Amendment and Plessy. Did that lead to actual equality? We both know it didn’t. In fact, all the states implemented Separate but not one of them implemented Equal: not even in the North. All we got was separate.

                This is awesome. You just stepped out of the abstract nonsense in these discussions about labels and into the realm of constitutional law. I can ditch the “libertarian proposition” label about negative rights and demonstrate via constitutional doctrines where you are both incorrect and correct at the same time. I get to disagree AND do all the heavy lifting to prove your point (Plessy is NOT a good example – I’d start around the same era but look for a different line of cases).

                This made my morning. 😉

                They don’t have an answer for anything. They just rule everyone else’s answers irrelevant.

                I so love a challenge. Can’t wait!!!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Oh please, Dave. The ball is in your court. You prove otherwise, if you can. So far, nobody’s taken up even the faintest contradiction of my original point, Libertarian-ism is defined by what it is Not.

                Even Jason, who’s no slouch in the intellectual department, exhibits the moral fortitude to say we ought to take off the Stereotype Labels and address each other as individuals, a very wise position for him to take. You’d be wise to take it, too.

                But feel free to attempt a definition. How did Johnson put it?

                “Lexicographer: a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.”

                Your services are badly needed, Dave.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

                But feel free to attempt a definition.

                This, I don’t understand. Two libertarians and one liberal have already offered definitions that are believed by the speakers to be correct and reflect how they use the word. Those speakers can’t be wrong about how they use the word. What they can be wrong about is whether their usage is standard or not (jaybird very clearly said that his definition might not be standard). But your argument appears to be that since you don’t think there’s a coherent definition of libertarianism, it’s impossible for other people to meaningfully use the word.

                That’s an amazing argument, Blaise. I mean, in order for you to coherently make the argument that the word “libertarianism” doesn’t have a definition, you’d have to use that wordin a meaningful way. That is, consistently with how actual libertarians use it.

                Let’s face it tho. You’re argument isn’t that libertarianism cannot be defined, it’s that there are too many definitions of it. That’s why Chris’s earlier comment about family resemblances and LVW are important: just because a concept has fuzzy boundaries and can’t be defined in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions doesn’t make that word meaningless. If it did, then almost all non-technical/formal discourse would be meaningless.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

                And btw way, I feel very comfortable saying that any view of governance that doesn’t include or entail the prima-facie trumping power (not necessarily axiomatic!) of negative rights and the non-aggression principle, or logically entail those things, can’t be viewed as libertarian.

                Broadly viewed, both conservatism and liberalism include those principles of course, but not as prima-facie necessary conditions on a theory of governance.Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to BlaiseP says:

                BlaiseP,

                Am I still expecting an email from you?

                I’ll hit your other points shortly but I must be on my way for now.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                Another story you should read: Jack Vance’s “The Moon Moth”.


                “But he is a criminal,” cried Angmark. “He is notorious, infamous!”

                “What are his misdeeds?”

                “He has murdered, betrayed; he has wrecked ships; he has tortured, blackmailed, robbed, sold children into slavery, he has –”

                “Your religious differences are of no importance.”Report

              • So has there been more harm done by saying that a matter of morality (murder, torture, slavery) is really a matter of taste and thus ought not be legislated or more harm done that matters of taste are really matters of morality and thus ought to have laws to punish transgressors?

                (I hesitate to give examples of the latter, lest I automatically lose the discussion.)Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I don’t think anything can be particularly “immoral” to the actor; only to the observer.Report

              • People feel guilt all the time. Some of them even feel it for bad stuff that they chose to do.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Nothing particularly immoral about being conflicted.
                Conflicts arise from having more than one desire.
                Nothing particularly immoral about multiple desires.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Internal conflicts? In theology, these are consigned to Mysteries.

                It’s Heavy Mystery Time!Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Let’s stop slightly short of Godwin and talk about slavery. We used to have laws protecting it, Which I think was a terrible idea. More recently, we’ve had laws outlawing it. I’m good with that. There are people who’ll say that slavery is entirely OK if it’s voluntarily entered into, so we should go back to having laws protecting it (not specific laws, but the general ones regarding contracts.)

                So, given that there is a difference of opinion, is it a matter of taste? Does your formulation lead us to repeal the 13th?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Very good comment Mike S.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                @MikeS:
                That’s exactly what I was getting at.
                Slavery is neither amoral nor immoral in and of itself.
                I was thinking that very same thing in an exchange between BlaiseP & Murali (two great thinkers who I happen to admire) falling into that same trap– that of projecting the morality of the observer on the observed.
                It simply doesn’t work in many cases; and especially in a historical context.

                Epaphroditus owned Epictetus.
                Does that one fact make the man immoral?

                It does not, judged by his contemporaries.
                By modernity, it does.

                It’s a false equivalence.

                The morality at hand cannot be fully understood outside of its own boundaries.
                Nonetheless, from the outside it is judged.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                If I led you to conclude I was projecting the morality of the observer onto the observed, I beg your pardon. Morality is me saying “This I will never do, nor could I be compelled to do it.” Ethics is me telling you “That is wrong,” Justice is a court saying “You broke the law in doing so.”

                Three separate concepts.

                Of course you’re correct in saying morality/ethics/justice cannot be fully understood beyond the boundaries of its time. I do not hold to axiomatic justice, ex nihilo. We have evolved the concept that no man should own another man, not because it was always wrong, though some might say so. It is morally wrong for me to own a slave, it is ethically wrong for you to own one and if the justice system convicts you of owning a slave, you will likely go to jail and the slave will be freed. Three separate approaches to the same conclusion.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                My own misunderstanding then.
                I tend to take unqualified statements as absolutes; probably unfairly at times.

                The morality/ethics/justice distinction seems to be an important one.
                I would suggest that, using your formulation, both morality & justice are derived from ethics, though toward different ends; morality being a personal relation, and justice being a social relation.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Yes, exactly. No conflict at all. We are constantly evolving little niceties as they are needed in life. Who told us we had to stand back at a polite distance from the person in front of us at the ATM cash machine? Do we need a rule to this effect?

                We do have laws against capturing someone’s PIN number. We just don’t have a hard ‘n fast rule about what constitutes the polite distance from the ATM. Not sure we need one, either.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I can see how there could be different distances appropriate for given circumstances; like if it was raining, for instance.

                But again, over a period of time, such things will no longer be a concern, due to evolving technology and ideas of things.
                And looking into the past with the eyes of today discolors things a tad, I’d say.Report

              • I should have thought of another category: legislation of a matter of morality in the completely topsy-turvy way… so that wrong is legal and/or right is illegal.

                Which is how a libertarian *WOULD* frame such a thing, wouldn’t he?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                so that wrong is legal and/or right is illegal.

                Not so simply put. Right and Wrong only work at Moral/Ethical scope. Justice doesn’t say things are right or wrong. Actions are merely legal or illegal and the defendant is judged either guilty or innocent. Doesn’t mean they’re right or wrong any more than such a judgement is always congruent with whether they actually committed the crime of which they’ve been accused or whether the law is just.

                Not everything in my morality fits into my concept of ethics. I might attempt to have my notions of ethics written into law, or have laws repealed. But some prisoners go to jail on the strength of their moral convictions.

                Right and Wrong are judgement calls. It comes down to who’s saying so and the justification for believing so.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                When was it illegal not to have slaves?Report

              • The “or” in the “and/or” is an exclusive, not inclusive, or.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                So you’re saying there was no slavery before laws specifically enabled it? I doubt this.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

          I’ve made my statement, and I’ll let others read and interpret it for themselves. But here you indicate more interest in hurling insults than having reasoned discussion. So if this sub-thread continues I will respond to others, but I will not respond further to you.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

            Shoulda thought of that before hitting Reply.Report

            • Avatar Dave in reply to BlaiseP says:

              Shoulda thought of that before hitting Reply.

              And there was a need for this why?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Dave says:

                Am I hurling insults? If you’re in a position to do anything about this, you need to engage in a bit of email discussion with me. Like right away.Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to BlaiseP says:

                BlaiseP,

                We can discuss via email if you’d like. I’d welcome it. I think you can my email address from the responses.

                For the record, my comment was more of a pre-emptive nature albeit a bit more blunt than I would have liked. I’ve seen certain situations with certain individuals get ugly (in no way am I pointing fingers). I’d rather not see it. No one’s in any trouble. I’m a Sicilian with a hair trigger.

                I am in a position to do things, but the last thing I want to do is start beating people over the head with The Commenting Policy, kicking them or banning them (even given some of the crap that’s happened recently, this place is still awesome or I wouldn’t have come back). There are too many good things to read and I need to get a post or two up.

                I’m not sure if I can get to a response this evening as I will be busy this evening, but if you feel I need to engage you in a discussion, then I will oblige and we will talk as much as you would like to.Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to Dave says:

                You should be able to get my email from the comments if you receive them via email. If not, I can give that to you. I don’t have one for you so I’ll await your email and we’ll continue this away from here. Rest assured, I will take a more measured and civil tone.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to BlaiseP says:

      It would seem as if there are natural limits to that.
      Individuals are deviations by nature, while labels deal with generalities.

      There’s a middle ground there that I recognize, but I can’t quite pick it out right now because I have other things on my mind.

      Back later.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Blaise, you and I have different ideas of what language does, and what concepts do, and how we represent them. The classic idea of concepts is that they represent a set of necessary and sufficient features that strictly determine what is, and what is not, an instance of a particular concept. And language, for you, is meant to map onto the distribution of such necessary and sufficient features so that a label neatly captures them (even if they be somewhat elusive and abstract). For me, concepts are much looser than that; they don’t have such neat, formal definitions, but instead are built up from a messy world which our brains are doing their best to order so that we might be able to gain a foothold and eventually act. To do this, our brains aren’t interested in finding precisely what makes a thing a thing, but in finding similarities and differences, in structure and in features, so that things can be ordered like, as the philosopher whose name automatically sends a comment to spam would say, a family. Language, in turn, seeks to communicate these family resemblance that are more or less loosely organized in our brains, in order that we might influence the more or less loosely organized family resemblances in the brains of others, or find common ground with them in the overlap of the families in my head and yours, all in the end to facilitate acting on the world.

      There is no set of conditions that says Jane is definitely a libertarian or Jane is definitely not a libertarian, because there is no one set of conditions that fully captures LIBERTARIAN (in cognitive psychology, when people refer to concepts, they generally capitalize the word). Libertarian is a family resemblance category, and admits a fairly large family, as does any fairly abstract category, which is what any category that is meant to capture a political faction is going to be. You may have had a good definition of the category PROGRESSIVE (I don’t want to say, because I’m not one, nor am I a libertarian, or a liberal or a conservative, so I don’t have much skin in this game, except that I’d rather see conversations go somewhere, and people communicate), but by virtue of being a definition, it’s false, or at least only partially true, because it likely only covers the center of the distribution of progressive people.

      When I quoted Nietzsche the other day, this is what I was getting at. You dismissed the passage with hand-waving, which is what I fully expect you to do here. Thinking back, I don’t think I’ve ever had a productive discussion with you, precisely because this is your reaction to almost any disagreement. And I suspect that this is largely because you see, or want to see, a highly ordered world that you can capture in a formal language with strict boundary conditions, while I see a very messy world, made even messier by the fact that we’re stuck grasping it with this fickle, conditional language we’ve been thrown into, while remaining so innately unaware of its infelicities that we unconsciously act as if what we say is what is. So you end up being so certain in your beliefs about the world that disagreement is a sign of either ignorance or insult, while I remain so deeply suspicious about my own beliefs that the moment I express them, I feel like I should say something else entirely to undermine them.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Chris says:

        And I suspect that this is largely because you see, or want to see, a highly ordered world that you can capture in a formal language with strict boundary conditions, while I see a very messy world, made even messier by the fact that we’re stuck grasping it with this fickle, conditional language we’ve been thrown into, while remaining so innately unaware of its infelicities that we unconsciously act as if what we say is what is.

        I’m not sure entirely that this is the case, but I will say this: I think in the world of the real there are some things that can be captured by formal language with strict boundary conditions, but they are a fairly small set of things. Thus formal language, and frameworks built on formal language, have varying degrees of limited utility when they’re applied to the world of the real.

        (This is one reason why I like taking multiple different frameworks built on formal language and overlay them on the world of the real in an attempt to gain some insight, because I expect that overlays of multiple frameworks produces better understanding than trying to refine a single one ad infinitium in an attempt to produce better understanding)Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

          I don’t want to get too deeply into philosophy, but I’m not big on a correspondence theory of truth. For me, there are multiple possible correspondences (there isn’t any single one-to-one correspondence between language and the world), each one essentially creating a (the) world. This becomes more and more evident with increasing complexity.

          Now, I agree that there is a fairly small set of things with which formal languages with strict boundary conditions can work well, because the language is doing the delimiting, and we can tell the boundaries of its effectiveness by where it stops working. But this isn’t going to help us much with libertarians or justice or rights or God or the human condition.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

        I’m sure we do have different ideas of what language does. But there’s a practical difference between us: for me, communications isn’t theory. It’s reality. It doesn’t matter what each word means, only that all the parties involved share a working definition.

        A Stereotype is a frank recognition of the Elusiveness, this lack of neatness. A Stereotype is not a Thing. It’s a symbol which represents all the nebulous aspects of a thing. But the Stereotype allows me to categorise things in a meaningful way.

        Abstract means something specific to me. Abstract means “This cannot be used directly. You must, instead, create an instance of this class and implement the abstract methods.” It’s good to have abstraction. If you need to upgrade a whole family of instances, you change the abstract class and let the compiler do the work for you, complaining vigorously until all the abstraction has been given life in implementation, in every derived instance.

        Jane is in a cleft stick of her own making. Jane calls herself a Libertarian: I have not imposed that Stereotype upon her. Every class which bears a Stereotype has that stereotype over its own name.

        When Jesus Christ was crucified, the Stereotype over his head read “Jesus Christ, King of the Jews.” The Gospels tell us the Pharisees were very upset about this legend and wanted to put up a new legend “He called himself the King of the Jews.” Pilate is recorded to have replied “What I have written, I have written.”

        Nietzsche is always treacherous ground, for he contradicted himself at every turn. Do not now presume to lecture me, Chris. What I have written, I have written. Gilles DeLeuze said a concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window. You decide which use you want to put your brick. Either you define Libertarian or I will do it for you.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Deleuze (and Guattari), you may remember, wrote that in the context of a discussion of the creation of concepts, of new concepts. Delezue was a Nietzschean, one for whom concepts were a creative enterprise. Or to quote someone else who was an influence on Deleuze (and Guattari):

          Language is the house of being. In its home human beings dwell. Those who think and those who create with words are the guardians of this home. Their guardianship accomplishes the manifestation of being insofar as they bring this manifestation to language and preserve it in language through their speaking. Thinking does not become action only because some effect issues from it or because it is applied. Thinking acts insofar as it thinks.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

            Heh. That worthy gentleman also said Die Wissenschaft denkt nicht.

            Science doesn’t think.Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

              Yeah, I know he did, and he was right. Again, I want to avoid getting too deeply in philosophy so that I don’t obscure the message I was trying to convey in the post, but you’re quoting the work of his (we can’t even type his name, or our comments will go into the spam filter) that probably influenced me the most. I’ll just note that a few pages later he says,

              But if a distinction is made between thinking and science, and the two are contrasted, that is immediately considered a disparagement of science. There is the fer even that thinking might open hostilities against the sciences, and becloud the seriousness and spoil the joy of scientific work.

              But even if those fears were justified, which is emphaticially not the case, it would still be both tactless and tasteless to take a stand against science upon the very rostrum that serves scientific education.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

                Well sure. I’m not your enemy, Chris. Science doubts, it doesn’t think. If anything, all it can do is make predictions, the most specious of all arguments. It sits there, fatuously consuming data, kicking out conclusions. Meanwhile out in front of science, mathematics goobers up the chalk board with all these symbols, having run through the Roman and Greek alphabets, it’s now gobbling up the Hebrew alphabet and once it’s reached Tav, (which gematria already has a claim on) — what’s next?

                The mathematician says “Aleph-null” and if you’re looking at him like a pig looking at a bicycle, he is not going to stop the lecture to give you a biography of David Hilbert and his interesting list of problems.

                Mr. H can make all the moozy, fluffy noises he wants to about language but words do mean things. Thinking does not acts insofar as it thinks. Thinking acts by communicating, as Mr. H would learn somewhat later, after his craven accession to recent fashion trends featuring Red and Black and a curious four-sided symbol went out of style.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise, I don’t think you’re my enemy. I don’t think you’re James’ enemy, and I don’t think he considers you one. I think you have a habit of making yourself the enemy of discourse, however. I think hat’s a shame, because with your knowledge, and your gift for language, you could be such a friend to it.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

                That’s rich. Now I’m an enemy of discourse because I don’t accede to some Humpty Dumpty definition of Glory — or Libertarian. I knew it would get here.

                Language does not create the world. Language describes the world. My position has the benefit of Logic to support it. Perhaps in your mind, you speak, like God, saying “Let there be light” and lo there is light. In my world, light is one part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Light has an explanation and the language of mathematics and optics and physics describes it.

                I am the opponent of irrelevance, of fallacy, the sworn enemy of simpletons and flat-earth thinking, of dogmatists of every description. The very idea, that we create the world with words: that’s self-aggrandising madness, magickal thinking of the worst sort. “Levi-o-SAM!”. I have gone to the trouble of learning too many languages and writing too many models to describe various aspects of the world to ever give in to some hocus-pocus.

                Chris, the reason why science wins and dogma loses is because science attempts to understand the world where dogma attempts to control the world. This isn’t Hogwarts.Report

              • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to BlaiseP says:

                You make yourself an enemy of discourse when you insist on turning everis thread in which a libertarian presents a viewpoint- regardless of whether the thread had anything to do with libertarianism as a worldview- into a debate about what that viewpoint says about libertarians, often with an accusation of dishonesty thrown in. It is tiresome, and not just for the people you go after.

                You declare yourself the opponent of “irrelevance, of fallacy, the sworn enemy of simpletons and flat-earth thinking, of dogmatists of every description.” This is all well and good, except that just about everyone here likely views themselves in a similar fashion. I wish you would respect that. Indeed, on this particular issue, one of the more frustrating things is that it often seems your complaint is that the libertarians around here are insufficiently dogmatic because they refuse to conform to your (not their, but your) Stereotype.

                No doubt you disagree with the above. But this is how you come across all too often.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                While great puzzlement reigns about the Nature of Progressives and there are Things Libertarians Don’t Understand About Us, replete with begged questions and lousy thinking, who then is the Enemy of Discourse? I found that irritating if you did not.

                If I have become Unpleasant in the wake of that post, Uncharitable and Tiresome, I will not now be told not to hit a guy with glasses. I am a Progressive. I am a Liberal. My positions are routinely mischaracterised and that’s all fine and good when it happens. And it happens a lot, not that you ever step in to stop any of that sort of crap.

                Libertarianism is a religion. Let’s just call a spade a spade, eh Mark? If it is internally contradictory, hugely intolerant, simplistic, it refuses to explain itself yet become huffy when confronted. It fits every one of the criteria for a religion, complete with dogma and articles of faith.Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to BlaiseP says:

                What’s really rich, Blaise, is you pretending to be the opponent of irrelevance and fallacy. Irrelevance is one of your favorite tools, along with standing on injured dignity.

                Case in point: bringing up Jason’s post. Never mind the fact that many people criticized it at the time, so your only sane man/misunderstood victim shtick is facially absurd. But you’re being called on your behavior right now. And your response is hey, tu quoque.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise, I think yet again you’ve talked past me, and that’s fine. I will only say that I don’t think you create the world. I think the world is there. I think we have a collaborative relationship with it. But we don’t come to it naked, nor it to us.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Heh. I am no victim, Fnord. I wasn’t then, either. Now I’m especially not a victim. Now I’m spreading my leathery bat wings and just being a devil. Irrelevance? You wound me to the quick, heh. Not on this thread I haven’t been. I am all done with pie-eyed nonsense about words and their meanings.Report

              • Avatar Citizen in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise,
                What is your issue with individual autonomy?
                What kind of blanket code would you write that is small, mobile and could adapt to every conceivable variable in new and changing environments?

                I suppose somewhere in the loop you would need to check best possible outcome along with least amount restrictive law for that environment. If you arbitrarily link across the network every conceivable law I think you would find your compilation of laws is considerable and restrictive to adaptation.

                At some point I think you give the nodes some ability to feedback from sensory input and determine what applies locally. I will concede that there is a likely flaw in the check of best outcomes at each node.

                This is why big government and statism fails. Its not over wielding to make very narrow determinations, but it tends to grow into micro-managing and dies from its own weight.

                I don’t know much about liberalism, progressivism or many other labels. I see alot of round pegs jammed in square holes. I like your ideas on a great many things. How you get from A to B may be how you define liberalism/progressivism. I’m more apt to call it creative.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Begged question. I have no issue with Individual Autonomy beyond the fact it’s an illusion. Pleasant enough illusion, like Justice itself, only perpetuated by frameworks capable of keeping people from each others’ throats.

                And stop using terms like “Best” Possible Outcome. Who gets to say what’s Best or even Mediocre or outright Horrible? Not you. Not me. Least restrictive — whose degrees of freedom are being restricted? It’s best to get those judgemental adjectives out of our prose.

                Nodes? Feedback? Allow me to tell you how AI manages Verdicts. There are two main bases for AI, rules based and frame based.

                Justice is rules-based: we have standards of evidence matched up to statute law, the judge cranks the handle and the Sausage of Justice comes out the ass end of the beast. Bismarck: if you like law or sausages, don’t watch either one being made. Justice is blind.

                Ethics, however, is frame based, context sensitive, usually running over a neural net. Ethics doesn’t shout “Does Not Compute!” when it fails. It says “Just Because” and doesn’t leave a chain-of-reasoning behind. Frame based AI is often called an Expert System. You train it by having someone who knows the job guide the expert system through its paces.

                You’re very close though. You want each node to get feedback from other nodes and let them determine what applies locally. But it’s guided to an end, a nice even weld as the welding robot moves down the piece.

                As varies risk, so varies profit. As varies risk, so varies the need for regulation. Don’t like Big Government? I don’t like Big Injustice. All this preposterous Hasty Generalisation about the Evils of Big Government annoy me. We are free only to the extent our freedoms are enshrined in law, which means the rules have to apply to everyone and government will have to enforce them — and by necessity, as society grows more complex, we will need more such rules — and heavens — where has this conclusion led us, to Moar Gummint and even — horror of horrors, to Positive Rights in Law. Any other conclusion is exactly half right.Report

              • Avatar Citizen in reply to BlaiseP says:

                There is another point I was looking for, who gets to decide what is best and those degrees of freedom? I wish we had more discussions along those lines. Its a pursuit well worth getting beat about the ears over and over.

                Does the neural net choose justice or ethics because it exists. What is the correlation between big Government and big Injustice because I don’t care for either.

                Maybe we presume it pushes into corners of pick one, pick both or pick neither.
                As varies risk? has there ever been by the constructs of man anything more risky than government and corporation? Would you trust the levers of regulation to the government or corporations? How about those nodes?

                If I’m looking for a hill to die on, I figure Node Hill is where I make my stand.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Who gets to decide? Ask Mr. Madison and his friends: he set it up. It’s called the legislative process.

                The neural net only applies to ethics. See, you want to use a neural net when you need rapid input, it’s especially good for vision systems or audio, think Siri. You train a neural net. It learns. You don’t train a rules based system. Justice is blind, the neighbours aren’t. Makes it easy to remember.

                Big ‘n Small ‘n In Between. It’s a big country. Lots of complexity. Ergo Big Government. It’s a Goldilocks Problem. I’ve said that before around here. We need a government big enough to enforce the laws and efficient enough to stay on top of the situation. Don’t complain about Big Government. It annoys me. It’s simplistic. Complain to Mr. Madison and his buddies about that problem.

                The most efficient form of government is absolute tyranny, where the King’s Word is Law. Tyranny doesn’t need Big Government: it relies on spies and toadies who report to an amazingly small cadre of Secret Police and that’s no way for free men to live. Democracies do need bigger governments than Tyrannies.

                And that means big old clunky systems where the rights of minorities are protected, inside government as well as out on the street. Goobericious justice systems where evidence has to be presented and defence attorneys tell lies to juries and oh it’s just a big old steaming calliope being pulled down the street by a recalcitrant elephant. That’s the price we pay for the freedoms we enjoy.

                You ‘n me had best get on our knees and pray to Bebby Jeezus we never get Small Government, where power is concentrated in the hands of the few secret police and not the many officious bureaucrats of a working democracy.Report

              • Avatar Citizen in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The most efficient form of government is not absolute tyranny. A tyrant is a mere pointload of overhead. Funny thing about secret police and officious bureaucrats, their nodes to. Some days I wish I could be just skeered enough to pray.Report

  7. Avatar kenB says:

    I’m a fan of this post, but the problem is that the people who most need to hear the message are the most likely to think it doesn’t apply to them.Report

  8. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Triple space awesome, Chris.Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I have found (and I notice Schilling does this too… usually better, actually) that the important thing to do is maintain a sense of humor.

    It’s the sense of humor that allows me to read a comment a second time and see that the author said “can not” (as in “has multiple options which include the option of not”) and did not say “cannot” (as in “only has the option of not”)… and thus allow me to *NOT* write a screaming comment that gets really upset about someone who would say that another group only has the option of not doing something.

    And if you find someone who never laughs at jokes? You can reach the conclusion that they’re one of those humorless types.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

      You can reach the conclusion that they’re one of those humorless types.

      And we all know what those people are like!Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

      And if you find someone who never laughs at jokes? You can reach the conclusion that they’re one of those humorless types.

      There’s a brilliant (and evil) rhetorical move that exploits this. You make a half-joking, half-serious comment whose serious half doesn’t hold water, but has just enough verisimilitude that a lot of people will take it seriously. If anyone challenges it, he’s the stick-in-the-mud who can’t take a joke, so the fallacy goes unchallenged.Report

      • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        This is pretty much an accurate statement of Rush Limbaugh’s form of infotainment. Have enough plausible deniability in your statements and you can get away with saying anything by claiming satire afterwards.Report

  10. Avatar James Hanley says:

    I thought this was an awesome post by Chris. If we all took his message to heart (all includes me, I’m not pretending superiority), how great would the discussions be. so how disheartening is it that a major participant here responds by effectively proclaiming to hell with all that, he’s going to stand by his psychological essentialism and it’s all the others’s fault for giving him the opportunity to do so

    It looks to me like he’s just proclaimed that come hell or high water he’s going to continue to attack any libertarians here from his essentialist perspective. Well, to hell with that. It’s all too unpleasant. That’s why the other libertarian commenter left, and that’s why I’m reluctantly going to temporarily excuse myself. I don’t doubt that Dave’s going to do a good job of putting a stop to the more overtly hostile comments that sometimes occur, but I don’t think there’s much he can do about stopping people from ruining discussions by insisting on stereotyping folks.

    Adieu. Feel free to visit me at my place, if for no other reason than just to say hi. Somebody please drop me a line sometime if that commenter changes his ways. That’s assuming there’s enough libertarians left around here that you can tell whether he’s stereotyping them or not.

    Love most of you, and still plan to meet some of you at Leaguefest.Report

  11. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    I’ve definitely been aware that this problem has plagued so many of our indentificational and definitional disputes (and also other discussions where people characterize tendencies of thought by political label for their own reasons) here all along, but it’s really nice to have it laid out so explicitly with, like, research to support it ‘n stuff. Great job, Chris!Report

  12. Avatar Chris says:

    I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for the compliments on the post. I’ve been commenting here for what? Three years, I think, and this is the first time I’ve really thought about submitting a guest post. The positive feedback has encouraged me to do so again sometime around 2016.

    Seriously though, thank you.Report

  13. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    By the way, Chris, did you pick “beryllium” because it’s a very deadly poison?Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Heh… no. My thought process went like this, “Elements are the best example of natural kinds with something close to if not precisely an essence, so let’s go with an element. OK, hydrogen? Nope, used that in the post. Helium? Makes people talk funny. Lithium? Makes me think of mental illness. Beryllium!” I was too lazy too keep going through the periodic table. I actually considered using Roentgenium, but thought that might be a little bit too obscure.Report

  14. Avatar Chris says:

    This is mostly for Blaise: In order to get us away from the controversial example of libertarians, let’s consider a wholly uncontroversial group to which I belong: atheists.

    Now, my parents are deeply religious Evangelical Christians. They haven’t known many admitted atheists in their lives lived almost entirely right near the buckle of the Bible Belt, so they’ve gotten their ideas about what atheists are from preachers and the snake-oil salesman who’ve taken it upon themselves to be the global spokespeople (almost all spokesmen, but that’s a conversation for another day) of atheism, complete with their own t-shirts and an unclever symbol. In fact, their preacher has made a fair amount of money countering these self-proclaimed spokespeople, only reinforcing my parents’ representation of what an atheist is. The problem? I’m not that sort of atheist, or anything close to it.

    This wouldn’t be a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that my parents are deeply concerned about my not being saved. My eternal soul is in great peril for them, so they feel it is their duty as parents and as Christians, to try to bring me back in the fold. This entails endless discussions with me about my atheism, but because my atheism doesn’t line up with their expectations, because their representation of atheism doesn’t include my kind of atheism, this discussions are incredibly frustrating both for them and for me. I tell them I think X, and they respond by asking me, “Why are you so set on believing ~X?!” I’ve considered calling myself something else, not agnostic (that will just confuse them further), but maybe pantheist or something, so that I will step outside of their existing concepts and be able to create an entirely new representation built on what I actually believe.

    This is precisely the sort of thing I’m talking about in the post.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

      Chris – nice post.

      I’ve considered calling myself something else, not agnostic (that will just confuse them further), but maybe pantheist or something, so that I will step outside of their existing concepts and be able to create an entirely new representation built on what I actually believe.

      I am intrigued by this (my soul is also seen as being in eternal peril by my folks, though I think “agnostic” is a fair-enough descriptor of where I’m at.) I’d love to hear more about this sometime.Report

  15. Avatar Johanna says:

    Being a natural contrarian (I can say this without worrying about James commenting), I refuse to classify my political beliefs as I believe there are far more grey areas and overlapping of ideas in individuals that what group we identify with becomes nothing less than an opportunity for others to erroneously define us. This makes me crazy and I found it so disappointing that in a post attempting to explain how problematic such labeling is for communication, it was quickly ignored.

    I would like to take what Chris started and challenge commenters here at the League (for a while at least) to just stop using the terms liberal, conservative, progressive, libertarian etc. to describe themselves or others as the guiding force for how one thinks and instead, read the thought independently. Consider ideas with an open mind, it seems silly to believe that the commenters views are derived from being a “liberal” or “conservative” anyway. It should not matter what someone labels himself, what matters is what they are saying on a particular topic.
    I am more interested in finding the similarities than in dwelling on perceived differences and harping on them and making that an excuse to dismiss those with whom we disagree.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Johanna says:

      +A bunch.

      Now, as the post implies, we’re going to fail that challenge, because our minds work the way they work. We, our conscious minds, are just the monkeys on the backs of the tiger, and the tiger, our cognitive unconscious, is running the show (I stole that metaphor from a NYT article on the cognitive unconscious). Labels and the concepts they conjure are going to guide our thinking, but we can do our best to alter our speech, and ultimately, it will alter our thinking, because what we do deliberately, when we do it over and over again, eventually becomes what we do unconsciously. I hope people accept your challenge, not just here, but in their lives outside of this little corner of the internet, for that reason.Report

      • Avatar Johanna in reply to Chris says:

        I think taking the step to drop the labeling takes away the ability to automatically jump there in discourse. It may not take away the fact that those perceptions remain, but it gives pause , it requires thinking outside of those terms and sometimes that is all that is needed to help with civility.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Johanna says:

      This is a good idea Johanna.

      I call myself a libertarian because it’s the best one-word description of my beliefs, not because I conform to some platonic ideal of libertarianism.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Johanna says:

      This is pretty much what I do.

      It helps that every other week somebody on some side thinks I’m on some side other than their side, and it’s always a different side.Report

  16. Avatar Rod Engelsman says:

    Chris, Great Post! More please. Comment section kinda went downhill and ended on a down note for me, but not your fault, that’s for sure.

    It’s bad enough when we do it to other people. What I don’t understand is when people do this to themselves. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say something like, “I’m a [conservative/libertarian/liberal], so believe X.” Like they choose the label to be one of the cool kids and then force their own belief system to accommodate.

    Personally, when the subject comes up, I’ll self-identify as liberal or maybe liberal-ish because that’s the label that most closely matches my beliefs. But it’s only a rough match and I hold some distinctly libertarian and conservative beliefs as well. So it really annoys me when someone insists that I must believe “X” when it’s just not true. (Of course, that also doesn’t mean I subscribe to exactly not-“X”, either.)

    Anyway, I’m rambling at this point. Good job and keep it up.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Rod Engelsman says:

      I didn’t really get into this, but I’m afraid that these labels, because they define the space of discourse, result in a shrinking of that space so that we’re all going to tend to see ourselves, and talk about ourselves, and ultimately act as though we exist in the space between liberal and conservative, say. It is very difficult for even the smartest of us to step outside the space of ideas that make up our experience even a little bit, and when that space of ideas is continually shrunk, stepping outside of them a little, even more than a little, isn’t going very far.Report

  17. Avatar Jason M. says:

    I’ve often thought Essentialism remains one of the most underrated problems humanity faces. I see it strongly in arguments over racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Essentialism is at the root of all of these, and is the reason why things like racism is never resolved by “having a talk about race”. Put another way, if I waved a magic wand that removed everyone’s capability of visually distinguishing adapted physical characteristics of various human populations (such as skin pigmentation) we would still have country clubs and ghettos. In some cases, derogatory terms would even remain unchanged – like “wetback”, for instance – since many of the characteristics some would find objectionable – foreigner, different language, different culture – would remain. Essentialism is the many-headed Hydra; you cut off the the racism head, and age-ism and class-ism spring up in it’s place.

    But, as it pertains to LoOG, I sometimes wonder if the problem is a little more complex than just tossing essentialist label at one another. I’m not really sure what the consensus is around here about Jonathan’s Haidt’s Moral Foundation Theory, but I see it as a step in the right direction in determining the psychological intuitions that lead certain people to gravitate towards certain political ideologies, even if (I can imagine) 10 or 20 years from now the particulars of Haidt’s model will be seen as “crude” or “way off the mark”. It did mark a change in me, where I now longer say to myself “He’s talking about protecting the 2nd Amendment, therefore, he’s a Conservative”, but instead think “He might be a Conservative, but then again he might just really like guns, or maybe he doesn’t give a crap about guns, but just wants all the Bill of Rights amendments to remain unmolested”.

    So, I pat myself on the back for taking a more nuanced, un-essentialist view, but then I meet another man, a recent immigrant to this country. His politics seem inscrutable, due largely to the fact he is unfamiliar with American politics and various ways American culture intersects with it. “What does it mean, this ‘tree hugger’?” or “What do they mean by ‘redneck’?”, and so on. I observe that he rarely ventures beyond his neighborhood, and mostly associates with members of his large, extended family, often preferring to converse in his native tongue. He decorates his apartment with furnishings and artwork that reflect the culture of the country he left. He seems leery of American women, and once asked “How could you let your women walk the streets alone?”.

    And then slowly, my seemingly philosophically enlightened brain rebels – “Dammit Jason M., this guy may well end up voting Democrat for the rest of his life, but you KNOW he’s really a conservative.”

    I try to comfort myself by noting my brain at least had the good sense to use small “c” conservative, but let’s face it: I’ve just shifted from one level of essentialism to another. And so here, at LoOG, I often wonder if part of the problem isn’t just specific disagreement with policies and ideologies amongst the three camps here, but also underlying assumptions about the types of of people who associate with this or that camp. LoOG more often speaks to each other about policy, ideology, and philosophy, but only occasionally about each other’s psyche. That’s probably to be expected, since playing amateur shrink in order to dig into each other’s skulls is very personal, and fraught with peril.

    Now I’m just rambling, but hopefully someone can take this mess and make something out of it.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jason M. says:

      There are a lot of dishonest categories out there. Honest people, people who think about this stuff a *LOT*, do what they can to overcome the dishonest categories out there… and one of the really effective ways to do that is to create honest categories that are smaller, more precise, and more helpful… even if only to oneself.

      It’s not necessarily the categorization that is the problem. (I, Jaybird, am a “Libertarian”, after all.) It’s the uselessness of the currently fashionable categories.

      Hell, we here at the LoOG are *STILL* surprised by each other.

      And to deal with that by refining, redefining, and attempting to make our definitions of our categories even better is an achievable goal in response to this constant influx of new information.

      I reckon right around the time we get stuff juuuuust right, we’ll have a cultural earthquake and we’ll have to start over.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jason M. says:

      Jason M,

      In the progress post, Pat asked about any examples of: “Hey, that gal said right there something that I’ve been trying to articulate for years and holy smoke that’s the idea that’s been in my head all this time!!”

      I had no examples that came to mind, but you just supplied one. Outstanding comment.Report

  18. Avatar James K says:

    This is an excellent post Chris.Report

  19. Avatar Shazbot5 says:

    Great post.

    I sort of disagree with some of the finer points you make about predicates and the properties they putatively point out. But that doesn’t matter here.

    More generally, I think you have a good point about statements that we make using social and political sortal terms like: vegetarian, theist, Muslim, Asian, liberal, libertarian, etc. General statements involving these social sortal terms are often misleading (creating more heat than light) even if technically true in some way, e.g. “Muslims are anti-women” or “Blacks are criminals.” By not distinguishing “some Muslims” or “some blacks” from “all Muslims” or “all blacks” or “many” or “more than fifty percent”, we allow a horrible lack of clarity amd stupidity into our language and thus our thinking. S

    However, I sort of disagree with you, I think, about the sortal terms of political philosophy, like “libertarian.” I think we should be much more essentialist about these terms than we are. We should aim at making these terms as precise as possible by substituting more specific terms in their place. So maybe we should all stop using the term “libertarian” and start using more specific descriptors like “Nozickean Libertarian” or “Tomassian Libertarian” or “Libertarian-Leaning in Intuition, but Unsure about Principles.” We could then properly define terms like “libertarian” as being someone who holds at least one of the more specific views.

    After all, the sortal terms of political philosophy are technical terms that are supposed to describe ideaologies, sets of normative principles (perhaps with theories about human nature, scarcity, etc. as well.) We shouldn’t let people misuse technical terms. Rather, we should require they describe how they are using terms and be very picky about whether these precise terms are being used correctly.

    I’m sort of worried that your anti-essentialism will lead to a sort of catch-as-catch-can relativism. Suppose Obama calls himself a Nozickean libertarian or a libertarian of any stripe. He is wrong to do so. There are facts about who is and who isn’t a liberal or conservative apart from how people self-ascribe. That is, there are some boundaries, some vaguely drawn (we could and should make this less vague) necessary and sufficient criteria, for what counts as a liberal or a libertarian. There are things that without them you can’t be libertarian, i.e. there is an essential set of things that you need to be libertarian.

    But cool post. I’ll leave it at that out of honor for Hanley, who I may jave played a part in irritating.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      Shaz, if we’re doing political philosophy, serious philosophy, then we of course owe it to each other to delineate our concepts as clearly and as cleanly as possible, and it may turn out that labels that refer to groups are within the scope of what we’re doing. This doesn’t, I thin, entail an essentialism (I’m thinking of Witt.genstein, of course, who has been a big influence on researchers studying knowledge representation in cognitive science, who likes to talk clearly, but not essentially). However, when we’re talking about practical politics, and the ideas of individuals, they do us little good, particularly if we think those labels point to something underneath, something at the core of the individual that is common to all of the members of the group to which we assign them or they have assigned themselves, that makes them a member of that group. Like I said, LIBERTARIAN, the concept, is a family, and it has a lot of members, including some crazy uncles but also some smart grandparents with a lot of worldly wisdom, and some smart kids who are taking things in new, perhaps heretofore unexplored directions.Report

  20. Avatar Johanna says:

    Rather, we should require they describe how they are using terms and be very picky about whether these precise terms are being used correctly.
    I disagree. I would contend that in political discussions, there really is no precise definition of what constitutes being liberal or libertarian as it relates to anything but a generalized viewpoint. When someone is asked for what the group believes, they can only describe it from their own perceptions not for others. I would argue that trying to give precise descriptions of what Liberal is from one person excludes more people from being part of what is being described and merely allows opponents an opportunity to make erroneous assertions of the whole group. This of course is what encourages the creation of more and more categories or factions based on differences from the larger group. It also creates unnecessary conflict when there is agreement. I loathe the “we stake claim to X good idea even though you share it too” as petty and not conducive to discourse. It really only makes it worse for communicating and this is why I think we should work to see how conversations can move forward without trying to play gotcha when someone’s ideas do mesh with what we perceive their political persuasion suggests.Report

  21. Avatar Shazbot5 says:

    I would also like to add a quick point.

    I have argued repeatedly that moderate forms of libertarianism collapse into a form of liberalism.

    This point holds true regardless of how people, in natural language, choose to describe themsleves.

    If I had evidence that whales are actually mammals, this would not necessarily imply that people should change the natural language use of calling whales “fish”, but it would imply that if people wanted to be clear and accuarate, they would use “whale” and “mammal” and “fish” more carefully and would stop calling whales “fish.”

    Some of the people /whales here think they are fish/libertarians when they are actually mammal/liberals.

    I won’t rehearse my argument, but if it is a good one, it is a good one regardless of anti-essentialism.Report

  22. Chris,

    Your post really helps me understand my personal, and quite visceral, reaction to the “What I don’t understand about Progressives” post. At the time I couldn’t articulate why it bothered me so much, and (I hope) my few comments there didn’t show the extent to which it bothered me. After all, I suspected that it had more to do with myself than with what Jason wrote.

    And your post showed me why. I do not identify as a “progressive” (and I identify as a “liberal” only in the sense that my policies are those that tend to be supported by most liberals). Yet, my impression was that Jason would have identified me as a “progressive,” whether I liked it or not, and then proceeded to wonder aloud why I was so stupid that I didn’t understand the possibilities of investing as a way to control companies (when all the while it seemed clear to me that Jason really did “understand” and was hoping for arguments that could be shot down).

    I should be clear: that was not what Jason said or intended. He was trying to address a problem that seemed to him to have a solution that many people who identify as progressives seem reluctant to endorse, and he was seeking out why that was so or what the problems were with the solution. I also don’t believe for a second that his spends his time wondering how he can write a post to upset Pierre Corneille, nor that he necessarily worries what my reaction to the post will be.

    In short, I jumped to conclusions and took it personally, and the dynamic you describe seems to have been at play when it came to my thought processes.

    I should say that however true a description of my thought processes your account was, it would not have justified me being uncivil to Jason on that post. I don’t believe I was rude, but if I was, it was not justified.Report

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