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Cafe Inquiry

Cafe Inquiry is our monthly casual get-together to meet people and discuss topics of science and humanism.

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This month's discussion topic:  Libertarianism

After decades on the fringe, libertarianism has gained more acceptance in the mainstream. In Republican presidential primaries, Congressperson Ron Paul attracted voters (many of them young) weary of an assertive and expensive foreign policy. And his son, Senator Rand Paul, has expanded that critique of the security state, attacking drone strikes and electronic surveillance. The libertarian tendency has even extended to the Republican establishment, where former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan draws inspiration from the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Libertarianism's tenets include a reverence for personal liberty and a countervailing suspicion of community and government.

This month's Cafe Inquiry will identify the reasons for libertarianism's resurgence, and consider whether it benefits the United States. Following are questions for consideration on this topic:

--What is libertarianism's relationship to secularism?

--Why is libertarianism growing in influence in the United States? What is its appeal to young people?

--What is the ideal relationship of individual to community?

--Why do libertarians emphasize negative rights (the right to be free from interference, etc.) instead of positive rights (the right to food, healthcare, a living wage, etc.)?

--Why do libertarians see property rights as a fundamental right?

--Who benefits from libertarian policies, and who doesn't?

--Can libertarian philosophies account for or address the problem of the “tragedy of the commons,” which is played out most clearly of late in the problem of environmental destruction?

--Can libertarian philosophies adequately address how societies should care for old, disabled, or sick people? How does the care of children figure in a libertarian vision?

--Is there any evidence on whether less (as libertarians believe) or more government is the most beneficial system for people?

--Does libertarians' focus on violence (the root of their case against government, as well as slavery) cause them to overlook other (purely economic) forms of coercion?

--Is libertarianism compatible with keeping children free of religious indoctrination (e.g., creationism taught in public schools), or with gay rights or women’s rights?

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Past Cafe Inquiry topics have included:

  • What makes people more or less religious?

  • Bullying

  • Free speech

  • Gun ownership

  • Social and political change

  • Prostitution

  • Reason vs. emotion

  • Democracy

  • Overpopulation

  • Inalienable rights

   • Should atheists try to convert theists?

   • Misogyny in the atheist movement

No outside food or drink allowed. Free and open to the public.

We are also planning to go out for food and/or drinks afterwards. Free and open to the public.

Interested in leading a discussion or have someone to recommend? Please contact us at dc[at]centerforinquiry.net.

The venue is wheelchair accessible. People with disabilities who anticipate needing accommodations or who have questions about physical access may email sdavis [at] centerforinquiry [dot] net in advance of the event.




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  • A former member
    A former member

    HAFree is hosting a potluck picnic: http://meetu.ps/2lxdwR

    1 · August 27, 2014

  • David S.

    I made some comments earlier - but I don't see them here. So, forgive me for repeating myself. I thought the discussions was lively and informative. Loved having several genuine libertarians to engage with. Christopher (one of the Libertarians) and I spoke after the meeting and agreed that the discussion would have been even better had we focused on overall philosophy, as opposed to getting lost in the weeds on specific issues. Next time.

    1 · August 27, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I really enjoyed the lively and diverse discussion, and a good mix of men and women.

    1 · August 27, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Very enjoyable and stimulating. I like that there was a diversity of perspectives, experiences and opinions.

    1 · August 27, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Is there anyone traveling from Fairfax?

    August 25, 2014

    • Nick H.

      Sure. Where/when?

      August 26, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Thanks

      August 26, 2014

  • David A.

    Chapter One of Sam Harris' new book: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/chapter-one. It's long but the first few pages are a good beginning.

    August 22, 2014

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