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 Post subject: Fuzzy Libertarianism
PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2004 8:21 pm 
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Before I even get into this business, let me assure one and all that this is strictly a come as you are thread. How you approach it is strictly a matter of personal style. If you want to read it seated before your computer in full Hazmat gear--fine. That's your call. On the other hand, you may wish to approach it in an altogether less formal manner--you might, for example, print it out, exchange it for your favorite rubber ducky, and read it while lounging in the relaxing comfort of a hot bath. Hey, it's up to you. Here goes.

I haven't been participating in the nearby Homosexual Marriage thread (still going strong at over 1600 hits), except for a couple of pretty random posts.

The reason for my abstinence is that I tend to be of the opinion that neither "liberals" nor "conservatives" are willing to face up to the implications of their positions in general--the "marriage" issue being just one example. Most liberals are unwilling to face up to the implications of the relativism that their positions entail, but which conservatives gleefully confront them with in the form of slippery slope arguments. Most conservatives, for their part, are unwilling to face up to the fact that their positions also involve them in a Humean style conservatism: an implicit relativism combined with a more cautious attitude toward change. (I realize, of course, that many "conservatives" would reject the notion that they embrace any type of relativism, but I say "implicit" because they must, at a minimum, lay aside their deepest convictions to be full participants in American public life.) Each side seems to accept as America's public philosophy what I have called a "fuzzy libertarianism," each representing what could be called different "flavors" of a fundamentally libertarian attitude. Each side resolutely refuses to examine the foundation for their favored assumptions, which, in my opinion, both rest on an Enlightenment view of Christianity.

Let me illustrate this from an article I just read. The article starts off by discussing a book by a fellow named Shannon, who at some points discusses the views of his friend, "the American social critic and historian Christopher Lasch." Here are a few quotes from the article:

Quote:
After spending 180 pages...dissecting modernity's secular and rationalist frame of mind, Shannon turned to Lasch to underscore his overarching point: Americans, he contended, were trapped in a political and cultural straitjacket due to...


what Shannon termed

Quote:
"the Reformation-Enlightenment attack on tradition"


The article then continues:

Quote:
But despite his acuity of vision, Lasch seemed unable to accept one ominous historical reality: due to the modern rejection of a world governed by a "spiritual order" and the affirmation instead of "the creation of value and meaning by autonomous human subjects," the sort of community for which Lasch and so many others yearned--whether they were on the left, center, or right--was impossible. Whatever their own self-flattering perceptions, Americans were, constitutionally, "a people bound together only by a belief in their inalienable right not to be bound together to anything." Given this brute philosophical and political reality, the unceasing jeremiads pronounced by moralists like Lasch, however intelligent and well-intentioned, were doomed to fail. "Calls for moral responsibility are pointless apart from some context of shared values, and the only values Americans share are the procedural norms of a libertarian social order, the thinness of which incites the anxiety that drives the jeremiad in the first place." He concluded the book with a damning pronouncement: "The bourgeois attempt to construct a rational alternative to tradition has failed."


I basically agree with this assessment.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2004 9:42 pm 
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2004 9:59 pm 
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It's too dense. Give us the Reader's Digest
version. Night


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2004 3:35 am 
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I've noticed that a lot of people these days like to describe themselves as libertarians when explaining their political views. But then, when actually expressing their views, it becomes clear that most people are NOT libertarians.

In fact, it seems whenever I hear someone call himself a libertarian, some sort of magic ironic force causes them to immediately start ranting that the gov't "has to do something about" Wal-Mart, or gay marriage, or outsourcing jobs to India or the filth-flarn-filth on the airwaves.

Caj

[Actually, that's a good test for libertarianism: do you presently approve of the stuff on TV? You don't have to like it, but do you think it should be the way it is? Cos that's what market forces actually look and sound like.]


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2004 5:40 am 
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I'm all in favour of Fuzzy Libertarianism. Let's free those Fuzzies now!

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2004 5:41 am 
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Fuzzy Libertarian= Winnie the Pooh protesting seatbelt laws.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2004 7:01 am 
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Caj wrote:

In fact, it seems whenever I hear someone call himself a libertarian, some sort of magic ironic force causes them to immediately start ranting that the gov't "has to do something about" Wal-Mart, or gay marriage, or outsourcing jobs to India or the filth-flarn-filth on the airwaves.

Caj


Caj, you make a very good point. I would respond by saying one can be a libertarian to varying degrees or depending on the issue, much like someone who calls themself a liberal may actually be conservative depending on the topic discussed. Many people call themselves social liberals but fiscal conservatives for example.

But again, you make a good point. Part of being a libertarian (or a conservative in my view) is accepting other people actions and viewpoints even if you don't agree with them as long as they aren't harmful. There is a tension sometimes among conservatives or libertarians who on one hand abhor government intervention and on the other want the enforcement of a "moral" society. Inconsistency, of course, is not unknown to other political factions as well.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2004 7:39 am 
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I think Rando sums up pretty well what I call the American public philosophy. It needn't necessarily be the opinion of the majority, but it is, by and large, the accepted mode of public discourse. And what you say affects what you think, just as what you do has the same or a similar effect. To the extent that many people feel constrained to express themselves in terms of Fuzzy Lib rather than in terms that are closer to what they really think, they acustom themselves to Fuzzy Lib and tend to assimilate those modes of thought as their own, willy nilly.

I happen to disagree with Fuzzy Lib. I think permutations on it are what have led to many of the problems besetting our society, not only in pro-life areas, but in other (albeit, to my mind, related) areas like child raising, education, expectations of self discipline, etc. Etc.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2004 9:05 am 
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I am trying to think if US libertarianism is any fuzzier than US conservatisim, and I don't think it is, really. Of course, once you get to the fringe of conservativism, the edges become pretty hard. But fringe libertarianism is far from fuzzy as well.

So, politically speaking, isn't the center always fuzzy? After all, the vaguer the notion the easier it is to agree on it.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2004 9:24 am 
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I really like the Libertarian stance on social issues but I'm not always convinced of their economic ideas. Unless, of course, I've just read a good Ayn Rand book, and then I'm all for it until the warm fuzzy objectivism glow wears off.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2004 10:20 am 
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Bretton wrote:
.... and then I'm all for it until the warm fuzzy objectivism glow wears off.


LOL! :D

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2004 10:36 am 
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Bloomfield wrote:
I am trying to think if US libertarianism is any fuzzier than US conservatisim, and I don't think it is, really. Of course, once you get to the fringe of conservativism, the edges become pretty hard. But fringe libertarianism is far from fuzzy as well.

So, politically speaking, isn't the center always fuzzy? After all, the vaguer the notion the easier it is to agree on it.


well said


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2004 10:41 am 
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What i'm suggesting, of course, is that many of the people who are classified, or even who classify themselves, as either "liberal" or "conservative" are really Fuzzy Libs on matters of morality, for sure, but oft times in economics as well. So, if this is the great middle ground of America, that would figure.

The other part of my contention is that Fuzzy Lib is based on philosophical ideas--extreme individualism, a contract theory of society--that have no basis in reality. I think "libs" and "cons" of many stripes also embrace these ideas, but rarely examine them critically.

Is the middle necessarily fuzzy? Probably so, to the extent that most people are fuzzy in their thoughts. But there is a difference between a fuzzy middle that fuzzily embraces superficially (very) plausible ideas like a contract theory of society and one that embraces metaphysical theism in a fuzzy kinda way. Ideas matter--even fuzzy ones. I think.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2004 11:44 am 
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elendil wrote:
What i'm suggesting, of course, is that many of the people who are classified, or even who classify themselves, as either "liberal" or "conservative" are really Fuzzy Libs on matters of morality, for sure, but oft times in economics as well. So, if this is the great middle ground of America, that would figure.


I think this is self-evident. Many self-classified sorts seem to disagree only on the surface political front, at least in conversations I've had. Even I am not completely a relativist! Can you imagine coming to grips with THAT?

Too, I would suggest that "fuzziness" is not a market cornered by the U. S. citizenry. But maybe it behooves me to think more about that. :wink:

Quote:
The other part of my contention is that Fuzzy Lib is based on philosophical ideas--extreme individualism, a contract theory of society--that have no basis in reality. I think "libs" and "cons" of many stripes also embrace these ideas, but rarely examine them critically.


Critical thinking, to the best of our abilities, is important, of course. That said, it doesn't pay the bills for most of us. This isn't to denigrate the ideas you posit, here, but I do believe it provides a clue as to why "fuzziness" operates, whatever our ideals. As a card-carrying member of the Hoi Polloi, I have to shave every day, I'm so fuzzy.

Quote:
Is the middle necessarily fuzzy? Probably so, to the extent that most people are fuzzy in their thoughts. But there is a difference between a fuzzy middle that fuzzily embraces superficially (very) plausible ideas like a contract theory of society and one that embraces metaphysical theism in a fuzzy kinda way. Ideas matter--even fuzzy ones. I think.


Ideas matter indeed. We need only look to Athens' ascendancy and decline under Pericles to confirm this. My own humble and pedestrian opinion is that ideas are 1) very human, 2) at their best when applied to temporal concerns first. On the other hand, Jesus himself said that the poor will always be with us. There I go being fuzzy again. *sigh*


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2004 11:56 am 
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Nanohedron wrote:
Critical thinking, to the best of our abilities, is important, of course. That said, it doesn't pay the bills for most of us. This isn't to denigrate the ideas you posit, here, but I do believe it provides a clue as to why "fuzziness" operates, whatever our ideals. As a card-carrying member of the Hoi Polloi, I have to shave every day, I'm so fuzzy.


What pays the bills is to disengage critical thought at critical times, right? ;)

And by the way, since you are card-carrying: It's a member of "Hoi Polloi" not "the" Hoi Polloi, which would be "member of the the people". Just a fuzzy point from your friend, Bloomfuzz. ;)

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