[ExI] Advocacy and libertarian optimism/was Re: The Circle of Coercion

dan_ust at yahoo.com dan_ust at yahoo.com
Mon May 11 18:35:42 UTC 2009

--- On Mon, 5/11/09, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
> Dan wrote (5/7/2009 2:46pm)
>> Regarding how reform should be attempted within the
>> present system, I disagree that perpetuating or
>> expanding the system is the correct approach.
> Yes indeed. And I commend you also for pointing out
> that we can only hope to move towards eventual positions
> that appeal to us, and ought not outright advocate those
> eventual positions.

Actually, I do think one ought to "outright advocate eventual positions."  I think, for instance, that market anarchists should advocate market anarchism and all that goes with it.  I'm just a bit pessimistic about most people, especially most intellectuals, understanding this position.  (Think of how hard it is to get intellectuals to understand Darwinian evolution.  In fact, one of the strange things I've whined about before is that some intellectuals -- especially among so called liberals -- readily accept that the living world self-organizes via biological evolution; in other words, they have no problem accepting the notion of order without a conscious plan.  Yet they can't see this happening in markets -- which they seem to see as total chaos -- unless someone sets standards, makes overall policies, guides the overall direction of the economic.  Meanwhile another set of intellectual -- usually among conservatives -- seem to have some grasp
 that markets can work and even will adopt Hayekian language (e.g., spontaneous order), but are vehemently against this order without a planner logic applied to the "natural world.")  But keeping quiet about it would only likely maintain this ignorance.

If you'd read the articles I wrote, the ones I quoted from, you'd see I've been basically advocating market anarchism.  To be sure, sometimes I do tailor my message to a different audience: people who will be completely turned off by the word "anarchism."  In this case, I often avoid the actual word in an effort to get them to think about the ideas -- the denotation as opposed to the particular connotation.  (I've also run into people who confuse "libertarian" with "liberal" -- and they use liberal to mean not classical liberal, but welfare statist.)  And I'm not saying I'm immune to this sort of thing.

Still, even advocating the radical position is only likely to result in a slow evolution away from centralized statism -- not a radical break.  And, of course, statism has its advocates and they're quite busy and very well supported.  (Market intellectuals -- borrowing a term from George H. Smith* -- tend to be outside such support, often having to work full time outside their field and only part time in their field.)

>> I think as libertarian ideas slowly spread, we will
>> slowly evolve away from the coercive system.
> Why are you optimistic? What can you point to in the
> last thirty or forty years that gives ground for
> optimism?

There are more Austrian economists in and out of academia now.  There now seems to be a groundswell of support for legalizing marijuana in the US.  There's a general (and extremely healthy) distrust of government, especially because of the Bush regime.  There's now a fairly large anti-war movement.  (In my view, almost all pro-war libertarians are really not libertarians at all.  This doesn't mean, of course, that all anti-war types are libertarians.  But war is one of the ways state power rapidly increases -- and it obviously always involves massively trampling rights from killing innocents on down.)

Also, you must have missed a later paragraph, which you left but did not comment on:

>> -- even if they default to practicing them
>> successfully
>> in most of their lives (i.e., most people do not
>> initiate force in most cases to get what they want
>> and live their lives) -- and lack imagination to see
>> how a non-command system will work.

In other words, most people generally don't initiate use force in almost all their daily transactions.  (Naturally, this doesn't apply to government workers, non-government criminals (I mean actual people who violate rights -- not people engaging in victimless crimes), or people who routinely ally or use government workers or non-government criminals, such as the various corporate elites.)  So, it's merely a case of getting them to apply this good habit to ever wider circles of their lives or to everyone else in society.  In fact, part of the natural process of civilizing seems to be including ever wider groups of people as autonomous (in the sense of people who can't be forced into servitude) and restricting the use of force ever more.

> In fact, right here on this list, we see
> a great, increasing, and ongoing retrenchment away
> from libertarian ideas and ideals. (It's worse year
> by year.)

Yes, that's kind of sad, but my view is this is partly because most people are NOT libertarian, so as Extropian and transhumanist ideas become more mainstream, they won't be so much attached to the particular and more libertarian crowd from the late 1980s, early 1990s.  (And remember, too, some early transhumanists were definitely NOT libertarians, including some members here.)  Also, some of the so called libertarians, in my view, were not really libertarians.  Yes, they advocated free markets part time, but I recall certain ones -- as still seems to be the case -- advocating initiation of force for various reasons (and usually not in extreme emergencies).
>> A more radical approach is not likely to
>> succeed simply because most people don't
>> understand libertarian principles
> That's some of it all right. But also not to be
> underestimated is the feeling that most people
> have that one way or the other, their own value
> systems must triumph, no matter what it takes
> (e.g. coercion of some kind or other).

This is a general problem as well as a specific one for politics.  Of course, if your value system is truly libertarian -- i.e., it disvalues coercion -- then this is no problem.  The problem is how to best spread the non-coercion meme.

> A classic example is the "progressive" view here
> in the United States concerning the Supreme Court.
> Before 1920 or 1930, the progressives were all in
> favor of weakening the court---but this was merely,
> it turned out, because the court did not tend at
> the time to favor their policies. Ever since, it's
> been the legislatures that progressives want to
> weaken, and the courts to be strengthened---again,
> merely because of the transient fact that current
> legislatures are opposed to their agenda.
> As is so often the case, there is no principle in
> operation here. Only expediency. So far as I can tell,
> expediency has been uniformly increasing in the U.S.
> at the expense of principle for about one hundred
> and fifty years.

Well, that's a general problem too.  People all over the political spectrum generally are against the sort of polycentric, nomocratic approach to social change and prefer the centralized, teleocratic approach.  Few see the hubris of this approach: that once you centralize power and habituate rule-breaking, then those people and those ideologies geared toward centralization and expediency will win.  This is why ever more of life in managerial democracies becomes state planned and ever more politicized. 



*  Not sure if he originated the term.  It's just that I got the label from reading his work.  For more on Smith, see:



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