Over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, Jason Brennan criticises cartoon libertarians. Brennan is right in that it is better for someone to disagree with you for good reasons than for someone to agree with you for bad ones. Why? Because before we can say whether it would be better if others voted for X (even if for bad reasons), we must be able to antecedently determine if voting for X is really the right thing to do in the first place. Suppose one were, pace Aeon Skoble, to say:
That’s a good attitude w.r.t. one’s colleagues in a philosophy dept. But when violence is at stake? Surely not: it would be much better if large percentages of the electorate were cartoony proponents of Rothbardian NAP – then we’d, you know, kill and incarcerate far fewer people. When it comes to eschewing violence, it’s better to have people agree for wrong reasons
But how do we know that eschewing violence is what we are supposed to do? Once we abandon the disinterested search for truth, we become far more accepting of weak arguments that support positions we want to be true rather than evaluating them appropriately. We undermine the basis of the claim that libertarianism is better when we overestimate the dialectical force of bad arguments and fail to criticise them.Who are cartoon libertarians? You could be one if you are a libertarian and:
1. You think the term “social justice” has no definite meaning in philosophy today. Perhaps the term was too loosely used in Hayek’s time. I’m not criticizing him. But the term has a real meaning now. The question is no longer whether the idea of social justice is coherent, but whether any such principles of social justice are true.
2. You think Ayn Rand’s critiques of Kant or Plato (or any philosopher, for that matter) are insightful. Rand attacks straw men.
3. You think “All taxation is theft” is a good premise to use in an argument with anyone from the Left. It isn’t. “All taxation is theft” is a conclusion, not a premise. It presupposes a theory of the legitimacy of property that the Left disputes. You need to debate them on this theory.
4. You think it would be wrong to trespass on someone else’s property to stop him from letting a baby starve in a picture window. If you’re drawn to this conclusion, you’ve been blinded by a theory of property rights.
5. You believe that Keynes was a hardcore leftist jerk, but you A) haven’t read any actual Keynes (who wasn’t actually a hardcore leftist at all), and B) you can’t explain the Keynesian rationale for fiscal policy. I’ve met a large number of libertarians who think Keynes was Satan. Only a few of them, in conversation, have been able to give me a good account of why anyone would believe the other side.
6. You think “The Seen and Unseen” or Economics in One Lesson present decisive objections to all government intervention. These are good arguments, but they are not decisive. Again, you need to understand the other side. The smart people on the other side understand the “seen and unseen” argument and think they have identified real grounds for intervention.
7. You have spent the last 30 years saying rampant inflation is just around the corner and the time to buy gold is now.
8. Reading this makes you angry.
9. Reading this makes you angry.
10. You dogmatically assert self-ownership and then dogmatically use this to refute arguments for the welfare state.
11. You believe there are no involuntary positive duties to others.
12. If you think you can describe how actual economies work just by manipulating definitions. You think you can refute behavioral economists by saying, “Oh, that’s behavior, not human action.”
13. You think it is conceptually impossible for most left-wing economic ideas to be true, so no empirical work is needed to evaluate them.
14. Reading this post made you angry.
15. You can’t pass an ideological turing test.
16. You think you can prove people are self-owners by the fact that we take others to have the right to agree or disagree with us in argument.
17. You have spent the last 30 years predicting a massive economic collapse, bigger than the Great Depression, is just around the corner.
One thing that came up in the comments was that such self criticism was unseemly as it strengthened the hands of non-libertarians who would strategically not criticise themselves. But I wonder if this is really true. Are there any blog posts by left-liberals or conservatives that criticise cartoon left liberals or cartoon conservatives? Can anyone point me to such self criticism by non-libertarians? Or if there isn’t, would any liberal or conservative here like to come up with one? No points to conservatives or libertarians pointing out bad reasons to be a liberal or vice versa. Politics is the mindkiller, so I doubt that only libertarians are guilty of having bad arguments for their position. i.e. There must be cartoon progressives and conservatives. Do libertarians get to feel smug about themselves if it turns out that liberals and conservatives have not done the appropriate criticisms of cartoon versions of themselves?