Tag Archives | Ethics

Life in a Northern Town

On September 8-10 I was in Manchester for a MANCEPT Workshop on the current state of libertarian political philosophy. Organiser Andreas Wolkenstein put an interesting group together; one of the participants was left-libertarian Billy Christmas, who will also be on the Molinari Society’s panel on privilege in December.

My own MANCEPT talk was essentially an historical introduction to left-libertarianism; I’ve posted the abstract previously, and I now post my powerpoint presentation as well.

In honour of Manchester’s industrial heritage (and also because it was cheap), I stayed at a former warehouse converted into a hotel. (It’s industrial! It’s radical!) I also enjoyed dining on the Curry Mile, a section of Middle Eastern and South Asian restaurants; Mughli was especially good.

William Morris woodcut

Touristic informations – Mancunian edition:

To catch a bus, it is not sufficient to stand by the correct bus stop with an expression of expectation. The bus will whiz right by you. You need to flag it down like a taxi.

Also the price for the same ride will be different every day.

In London, vendors are familiar with American credit cards; but they’re a puzzle for vendors in Manchester. They look for the chip instead of the strip.

The Lebanese version of baklava has halvah in it.

After the conference I squeezed in a couple of days in London: caught a beer at the Harp with Sam Bowman and Ben Southwood; visited the William Morris Museum; visited the graves of Herbert Spencer and Douglas Adams at Highgate Cemetery; walked around on Hampstead Heath; and visited Forbidden Planet and the National Gallery.

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Thickness For Me But Not For Thee

Lew Rockwell, 1990: Lew Rockwell, 2014:
The Conservatives Are Right: Freedom Isn’t Enough
Conservatives have always argued that political freedom is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the good society, and they’re right. Neither is it sufficient for the free society. We also need social institutions and standards that encourage public virtue, and protect the individual from the State. …

The family, the free market, the dignity of the individual, private property rights, the very concept of freedom – all are products of our religious culture. … The traditional family – which grows out of natural law – is the basic unit of a civilized and free society. The family promotes values necessary for the preservation of a free society such as parental love, self-discipline, patience, cooperation, respect for elders, and self-sacrifice. Families encourage moral behavior and provide for proper child rearing and thus the continuation of the race. …

“Question Authority!” says a leftist bumper sticker popular in libertarian circles. But libertarians are wrong to blur the distinction between State authority and social authority, for a free society is buttressed by social authority. Every business requires a hierarchy of command and every employer has the right to expect obedience within his proper sphere of authority. It is no different within the family, the church, the classroom; or even the Rotary or the Boy Scouts. … Authority will always be necessary in society. Natural authority arises from voluntary social structures; unnatural authority is imposed by the State. …

A critic might point out that libertarianism is a political doctrine with nothing to say about these matters. … But no political philosophy exists in a cultural vacuum, and for most people political identity is only an abstraction from a broader cultural view. The two are separate only at the theoretical level; in practice, they are inextricably linked. It is thus understandable and desirable that libertarianism have a cultural tone, but not that it be anti-religious, modernist, morally relativist, and egalitarian ….

The only way to sever libertarianism’s link with libertinism is with a cleansing debate. … [W]e must adopt a new orientation. … In the new movement, libertarians who personify the present corruption will sink to their natural level, as will the Libertarian Party, which has been their diabolic pulpit. Some will find this painful; I’m looking forward to it. Let the cleansing process begin – it is long past due.

The “thin” libertarian believes in the nonaggression principle, that one may not initiate physical force against anyone else. The thin libertarian thinks of himself simply as a libertarian, without labels. Most “thick” libertarians likewise believe in the nonaggression principle, but they believe that for the struggle for liberty to be coherent, libertarians must be committed to a slate of other views as well. …

We have been told by some libertarians in recent months that yes, yes, libertarianism is about nonaggression and private property and all that, but that it is really part of a larger project opposed to all forms of oppression, whether state-imposed or not. …

To claim that it is not enough for the libertarian to oppose aggression is to fall into the trap that destroyed classical liberalism the first time, and transformed it into modern liberalism. …

Attacking the state is not enough, we hear. We must attack “patriarchy,” hierarchy, inequality, and so on. Thick libertarians may disagree among themselves as to what additional commitments libertarianism entails, but they are all agreed that libertarianism cannot simply be dedicated to eradicating the initiation of physical force.

If some libertarians wish to hope for or work toward a society that conforms to their ideological preferences, they are of course free to do so. But it is wrong for them – especially given their insistence on a big tent within libertarianism – to impose on other libertarians whatever idiosyncratic spin they happen to have placed on our venerable tradition, to imply that people who do not share these other ideologies can’t be real libertarians, or to suggest that it would be “highly unlikely” that anyone who fails to hold them could really be a libertarian. That these are the same people who complain about “intolerance” is only the most glaring of the ironies. …

The danger is that thick libertarianism will import its other concerns, which by their own admission do not involve the initiation of physical force, into libertarianism itself, thereby transforming it into something quite different from the straightforward and elegant moral and social system we have been defending for generations. …

All of these additional claims are a distraction from the central principle: if you oppose the initiation of physical force, you are a libertarian. Period. Now how hard was that?

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Check Your Privilege / Check Your Premises

[cross-posted at BHL]

Info on the next Molinari Society panel:

Eastern APA, Marriott Philadelphia Downtown, Monday, 29 December 2014:

Molinari Society, 1:30-4:30 p.m. [GIX-3, location TBA]:
Libertarianism and Privilege

chair:
Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)

presenters:
Billy Christmas (University of Manchester), “Privilege and Libertarianism
Jennifer A. Baker (College of Charleston), “White Privilege and Virtue
Jason Lee Byas (University of Oklahoma), “Supplying the Demand of Liberation: Markets as a Structural Check Against Domination

commentators:
Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)
Charles W. Johnson (Molinari Institute)

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We’re In Ur Computerz, Messing With Ur Anarkeh

Students for Liberty is (are?) offering two upcoming Virtual Reading Groups: one led by Kevin Vallier and myself, on (mostly) Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty, and one led by Charles Johnson, on (mostly) Markets Not Capitalism.

Each meets online every other week for about 90 minutes – the Rothbard one on alternate Tuesdays starting September 8th, and the Markets Not Capitalism one on alternate Mondays starting September 7th. (I’ll miss the first meeting of Kevin’s and my VRG, since I’ll be MANCEPTing in Manchester; but I’ll be back from then on.)

The deadline for applying is August 31st. Join us! More details here.

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