Humanists of Colorado Message Board › Global incarceration rates & Libertarianism

Global incarceration rates & Libertarianism

A former member
Post #: 117
Has it occurred to you however that phony Libertarians, in addition to liberals, might exist? The liberty idea I spelled out above is perceived as justice.

Of course, but the problem is, phony or not, fundamental Libertarian principles will inevitably yield disastrous societies. Why? You identify the problem yourself in the second sentence. Liberty is important, but it isn't justice. Never has been. Never will be. Doesn't come close. Has nothing to do with the idea at all.

Libertarians think liberty (freedom) comes first, and justice comes second (or not at all). That's why they're LIBERTarians, not JUSTItarians. This means that they can claim to believe in Spencer's principle all day long, yet it just doesn't matter. They can't believe in it and at the same time be LIBERTarians. To do so is the precise equivalent of believing the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, while also believing that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. The principle does no real work in libertarian thought, except to be invoked whenever its fundamentally destructive and unjust nature is pointed out.

Actually, I said that libertarians identify something like Spencer's Law of Equal Freedom idea as justice. This is not the only conception of justice, to be sure. Obviously you disagree, and that's fine. It's just incorrect to say this does no work in libertarian thought. Rather it's the core of it. Granted, this is called the "non-aggression" or "zero aggression principle" by most, but it's just another name for the same thing.

Once you start with LIBERTarian views, crony capitalism makes perfect sense, because it's such an incredibly good method of fattening the wallets of all those "Atlases."

So here's what happens: 99.9% of the time libertarians (lower case "l") operate on the basis of LIBERTarian views, particularly when it comes to enriching themselves, working for the Fed, etc. Then, when confronted with the fundamental injustice of their views, they immediately (and blandly, and with a straight face) invoke the Spencerian principle, as thought it was in no way contradictory to 99.9% of their views.

Views that incorporate self-contradictions are nonsense on stilts.

Libertarianism is nonsense on stilts.

Nonsense on stilts doesn't merit our attention.

It belongs in the dustbin of history.

--K.
I have never denied that libertarians of self-contradictory views exist. However, your contention is that all of them must be, which I disagree with. Of course, that does not mean there can't be a perfectly consistent ideology people still find destructive.
A former member
Post #: 382
Actually, I said that libertarians identify something like Spencer's Law of Equal Freedom idea as justice. This is not the only conception of justice, to be sure. Obviously you disagree, and that's fine. It's just incorrect to say this does no work in libertarian thought. Rather it's the core of it. Granted, this is called the "non-aggression" or "zero aggression principle" by most, but it's just another name for the same thing.

Spencer is generally thought of as Social Darwinist, for the very good reason that that's what he was. However, if some Libertarians want to embrace Social Darwinism and call that Libertarianism instead, I suppose they can (for the sake of argument, anyway).

If they do, then the problem here isn't that there are two competing concepts of justice on an equally rational footing: it's that we have a reasonably clear and defensible concept of justice in liberal thought, vs. a flagrant (and, indeed, absurd) misconception of justice as freedom in Libertarian (that is, Social Darwinist) thought.

Certainly, you and I are equally free. Certainly, also, if we adopt Spencer's notion, you can't invoke your freedom to trump my freedom. (So this limits aggressive acts infringing upon my freedom, and perhaps even limits slavery.) But most situations where justice is concerned don't have anything fundamentally to do with freedom at all. If, for example, you sell me crippled and diseased cow for $3,000 on the pretext that the cow is healthy and sound, that isn't a violation of my freedom at all.

Now, it's true that "freedom" (that is, economic license) does a lot of work in LIBERTarian thought. But justice -- actual justice, not the nonsense on stilts that Libertarians talk about -- doesn't do any work, except when the fundamentally untenable nature of Libertarian thought lurches into view. Then it serves as a fig leaf for just long enough to dispense with the critic. This is self-contradictory.

I have never denied that libertarians of self-contradictory views exist. However, your contention is that all of them must be, which I disagree with. Of course, that does not mean there can't be a perfectly consistent ideology people still find destructive.

It's generally a good idea not to deny what can't be denied. But you can't disagree with the idea that believing both that 1) justice trumps liberty, and at the same time believe that 2) liberty trumps justice isn't self-contradictory.

Here's what you're contending that you can do as a Libertarian:

1) Assert that "liberty" (freedom to steal) trumps justice. (Flagrantly false, and embarrassingly so. So nobody contends this.)
2) Assert that liberty just IS justice. (Silly, and flagrantly false, and also Social Darwinist, but less obviously embarrassing.)
Or, you can contend that
3) liberty trumps justice AND justice trumps liberty (Flagrantly self-contradictory.)

If instead you embrace the idea that

4) Justice trumps liberty, (Clearly true)

then you aren't a Libertarian at all. You're a liberal.

So, strictly speaking, if you adopt 1) above, you aren't self-contradictory, you're just embarrassingly wrong.

And if you adopt 2) above, you aren't self-contradictory, you're simply a confused Social Darwinist.

So, to recap: the modern Libertarian (Randian) view is 3), which is self-contradictory. The Social Darwinist (Spencerian) position is 2), which isn't Libertarian, but if it's on loan to Libertarianism, then so much the worse for both. And, generally, nobody contends 1).

--K.
A former member
Post #: 120
Spencer is generally thought of as Social Darwinist, for the very good reason that that's what he was. However, if some Libertarians want to embrace Social Darwinism and call that Libertarianism instead, I suppose they can (for the sake of argument, anyway).

I had expected this objection to Spencer earlier, actually. I and others dispute this characterization. Regardless, supporting his Equal Law of Liberty does not require advocating Social Darwinism, even if Spencer did hold such a view at one point or another. By way of example, some Progressive thinkers a century ago supported eugenics, feeling this would help the poor and underprivileged. If you were to support some of their ideas, that does not, in my mind, require supporting eugenics as well.

If they do, then the problem here isn't that there are two competing concepts of justice on an equally rational footing: it's that we have a reasonably clear and defensible concept of justice in liberal thought, vs. a flagrant (and, indeed, absurd) misconception of justice as freedom in Libertarian (that is, Social Darwinist) thought.

Certainly, you and I are equally free. Certainly, also, if we adopt Spencer's notion, you can't invoke your freedom to trump my freedom. (So this limits aggressive acts infringing upon my freedom, and perhaps even limits slavery.) But most situations where justice is concerned don't have anything fundamentally to do with freedom at all. If, for example, you sell me crippled and diseased cow for $3,000 on the pretext that the cow is healthy and sound, that isn't a violation of my freedom at all.


I do not claim this is the best concept of justice. It was offered as an example only. That said however, the scenario you describe would be fraud-theft by trick. If one is defrauded, that surely diminishes your making an informed and free decision.

Now, it's true that "freedom" (that is, economic license) does a lot of work in LIBERTarian thought. But justice -- actual justice, not the nonsense on stilts that Libertarians talk about -- doesn't do any work, except when the fundamentally untenable nature of Libertarian thought lurches into view. Then it serves as a fig leaf for just long enough to dispense with the critic. This is self-contradictory.

It's generally a good idea not to deny what can't be denied. But you can't disagree with the idea that believing both that 1) justice trumps liberty, and at the same time believe that 2) liberty trumps justice isn't self-contradictory.

No, I do not disagree that would be self-contradictory, but then I've never said it either.

Here's what you're contending that you can do as a Libertarian:

1) Assert that "liberty" (freedom to steal) trumps justice. (Flagrantly false, and embarrassingly so. So nobody contends this.)
2) Assert that liberty just IS justice. (Silly, and flagrantly false, and also Social Darwinist, but less obviously embarrassing.)
Or, you can contend that
3) liberty trumps justice AND justice trumps liberty (Flagrantly self-contradictory.)

If instead you embrace the idea that

4) Justice trumps liberty, (Clearly true)

then you aren't a Libertarian at all. You're a liberal.

So, strictly speaking, if you adopt 1) above, you aren't self-contradictory, you're just embarrassingly wrong.

And if you adopt 2) above, you aren't self-contradictory, you're simply a confused Social Darwinist.

So, to recap: the modern Libertarian (Randian) view is 3), which is self-contradictory. The Social Darwinist (Spencerian) position is 2), which isn't Libertarian, but if it's on loan to Libertarianism, then so much the worse for both. And, generally, nobody contends 1).

--K.

I have only contended (2). I utterly fail to see how this entails Social Darwinism. Saying "respecting other people's equal liberty is justice" or similar language may be flawed wholly or in part. Social Darwinism, though, would advocate something more like (1), or "might is right." That does not even approach what I have put forth. In any case, it seems to me this issue has been exhausted, so I will close here. On a related note, I've started reading Justice as Fairness, so I'll see what I think of that concept.
A former member
Post #: 383
I have only contended (2). I utterly fail to see how this entails Social Darwinism. Saying "respecting other people's equal liberty is justice" or similar language may be flawed wholly or in part. Social Darwinism, though, would advocate something more like (1), or "might is right." That does not even approach what I have put forth. In any case, it seems to me this issue has been exhausted, so I will close here. On a related note, I've started reading Justice as Fairness, so I'll see what I think of that concept.

Among other things, asserting (2) is Social Darwinism by historical association. However, it is also consistent with Social Darwinism because the thrust of Social Darwinism is approximately "the captains of industry are more fit than others, and therefore deserve everything, while others, because less fit, deserve nothing." Historically, Social Darwinism emerged as an attempt to justify the greed of the Gilded Age. One way of going about this was to try to erode the concept of justice by conflating it with freedom (economic license).

Respecting other people's equal liberty is, in general, just, but it does not constitute the entirety of justice conceived more broadly. "Theft by trick" might, at a stretch, be said to limit my "freedom" -- but, more fundamentally, it's morally wrong. The repeated attempts to deform and limit the concept of justice is the very essence of much of conservatism, much of Social Darwinism, and much of Libertarianism, all of which attempt to justify the precept: "Don't impede my greed."

--K.
A former member
Post #: 121
Among other things, asserting (2) is Social Darwinism by historical association. However, it is also consistent with Social Darwinism because the thrust of Social Darwinism is approximately "the captains of industry are more fit than others, and therefore deserve everything, while others, because less fit, deserve nothing." Historically, Social Darwinism emerged as an attempt to justify the greed of the Gilded Age. One way of going about this was to try to erode the concept of justice by conflating it with freedom (economic license).


I fail to see how this relates to (2). Where does it even partly comport with "respect others' freedom"?

Respecting other people's equal liberty is, in general, just, but it does not constitute the entirety of justice conceived more broadly. "Theft by trick" might, at a stretch, be said to limit my "freedom" -- but, more fundamentally, it's morally wrong. The repeated attempts to deform and limit the concept of justice is the very essence of much of conservatism, much of Social Darwinism, and much of Libertarianism, all of which attempt to justify the precept: "Don't impede my greed."

--K.

True, I don't think even most libertarians see respecting other people's equal liberty as the whole of justice, however that is conceived. I am seeking to impart the idea that violating freedom is held, in this view, to be morally wrong. So there is no conflict there. You seem to have some idea of justice that purports to be objectively true. If this is Rawls' conception, I'm reading about that now as I said. I'll get back to you on that.

A former member
Post #: 384
I said:
Among other things, asserting (2) is Social Darwinism by historical association. However, it is also consistent with Social Darwinism because the thrust of Social Darwinism is approximately "the captains of industry are more fit than others, and therefore deserve everything, while others, because less fit, deserve nothing." Historically, Social Darwinism emerged as an attempt to justify the greed of the Gilded Age. One way of going about this was to try to erode the concept of justice by conflating it with freedom (economic license).


And you said:
I fail to see how this relates to (2). Where does it even partly comport with "respect others' freedom"?

"This" must here refer to the second part (not the historical association, which is, I think, straight-forward). So: "Respect others' freedom" doesn't have anything to do with anything illegitimate or untoward -- in itself. It is only when "respect others' freedom" is conflated with the entirety of justice that we enter Social Darwinist territory (and, if they want to borrow, Libertarian territory).

--K.


A former member
Post #: 122
I said:
Among other things, asserting (2) is Social Darwinism by historical association. However, it is also consistent with Social Darwinism because the thrust of Social Darwinism is approximately "the captains of industry are more fit than others, and therefore deserve everything, while others, because less fit, deserve nothing." Historically, Social Darwinism emerged as an attempt to justify the greed of the Gilded Age. One way of going about this was to try to erode the concept of justice by conflating it with freedom (economic license).


And you said:
I fail to see how this relates to (2). Where does it even partly comport with "respect others' freedom"?

"This" must here refer to the second part (not the historical association, which is, I think, straight-forward). So: "Respect others' freedom" doesn't have anything to do with anything illegitimate or untoward -- in itself. It is only when "respect others' freedom" is conflated with the entirety of justice that we enter Social Darwinist territory (and, if they want to borrow, Libertarian territory).

--K.



I fail to see the historical association. Even if one says "respecting others' freedom" is the whole of justice, that also does not scream to me "Social Darwinism." Rather the opposite, I think. Social Darwinism is historically associated with things like forced sterilization of those deemed "unfit", which does not respect anyone's freedom.
A former member
Post #: 387

"One might broadly describe Spencer's sociology as socially Darwinistic (though strictly speaking he was a proponent of Lamarckism rather than Darwinism)."

"Spencer denounced Irish land reform, compulsory education, laws to regulate safety at work, prohibition and temperance laws, tax funded libraries, and welfare reforms."

--Wikipedia


Anything pronounced by Herbert Spencer is, perforce, the very essence of Social Darwinist. I know that, Rothbard, among others, wants to claim him for Libertarianism. You should be aware that Rothbard's efforts are part of a more general, recent trend, strongly manifested by the author of the Wikipedia article, to rehabilitate him for conservative purposes. I'm afraid, however, that there's simply no rehabilitating Spencer (Lamarckist, phrenologist, minimalist state lunatic, advocate of failed views in ethics).

However, while these efforts to rehabilitate Spencer are silly, sociopathic in impulse, and a waste of time and effort, I might be persuaded that Libertarianism is, itself, Social Darwinist in orientation; but to the extent that it is, that would simply contribute further to its abject failure on every level.

Social Darwinism is primarily associated with the attempt to provide a moral justification for the insane greed of the Gilded Age. (Attempts to provide justifications of this nature provide the primary impetus for both Conservative and Libertarian thought to this day, and, I would wager, always will. Everything else is smoke and mirrors.)

Of course, we have already seen that there is no consistency to be found in Libertarianism, nor should we expect to find any in the thought of the Social Darwinists, where the concepts of forced sterilization and the "freedom" of the individual reside peacefully side by side.

--K.
A former member
Post #: 123

"One might broadly describe Spencer's sociology as socially Darwinistic (though strictly speaking he was a proponent of Lamarckism rather than Darwinism)."

"Spencer denounced Irish land reform, compulsory education, laws to regulate safety at work, prohibition and temperance laws, tax funded libraries, and welfare reforms."

--Wikipedia


Anything pronounced by Herbert Spencer is, perforce, the very essence of Social Darwinist. I know that, Rothbard, among others, wants to claim him for Libertarianism. You should be aware that Rothbard's efforts are part of a more general, recent trend, strongly manifested by the author of the Wikipedia article, to rehabilitate him for conservative purposes. I'm afraid, however, that there's simply no rehabilitating Spencer (Lamarckist, phrenologist, minimalist state lunatic, advocate of failed views in ethics).

However, while these efforts to rehabilitate Spencer are silly, sociopathic in impulse, and a waste of time and effort, I might be persuaded that Libertarianism is, itself, Social Darwinist in orientation; but to the extent that it is, that would simply contribute further to its abject failure on every level.

Social Darwinism is primarily associated with the attempt to provide a moral justification for the insane greed of the Gilded Age. (Attempts to provide justifications of this nature provide the primary impetus for both Conservative and Libertarian thought to this day, and, I would wager, always will. Everything else is smoke and mirrors.)

Of course, we have already seen that there is no consistency to be found in Libertarianism, nor should we expect to find any in the thought of the Social Darwinists, where the concepts of forced sterilization and the "freedom" of the individual reside peacefully side by side.

--K.

Well, as I said above, getting into Herbert Spencer is another subject. Personally, taking everything on Wikipedia at face value is a mistake. Just under what you cited, it notes:
"While often caricatured as ultra-conservative, Spencer had opposed private property in land, claiming that each person has a latent claim to participate in the use of the earth. He was sympathetic to Georgism [23], which also took such a view. He called himself "a radical feminist" and advocated the organization of voluntary labor unions as a bulwark against "exploitation by bosses", and favored an economy organized primarily in free worker co-operatives as a replacement for wage-labor."

Spencer's thought was more complex than made out here. For instance what he says in here would be difficult at best to reconcile as Social Darwinist:
"It is very easy for you, O respectable citizen, seated in your easy chair, with your feet on the fender, to hold forth on the misconduct of the people-very easy for you to censure their extravagant and vicious habits.... It is no honor to you that you do not spend your savings in sensual gratification; you have pleasures enough without. But what would you do if placed in the position of the laborer? How would these virtues of yours stand the wear and tear of poverty? Where would your prudence and self-denial be if deprived of all the hopes that now stimulate you...? Let us see you tied to an irksome employment from dawn to dusk; fed on meager food, and scarcely enough of that... Suppose your savings had to be made, not, as now, out of surplus income, but out of wages insufficient for necessities; and then consider whether to be provident would be as easy as you at present find it. Conceive yourself one of a despised class contemptuously termed “the great unwashed”; stigmatized as brutish, stolid, vicious... and then say whether the desire to be respectable would be as practically operative on you as now... How offensive it is to hear some pert, self-approving personage, who thanks God he is not as other men are, passing harsh sentence on his poor, hard-worked, heavily burdened fellow countrymen..."-Social Statics, pp. 203-5

In the Social Darwinism section on his Wikipedia page, the validity of this is explored further. It was only after he died Spencer became known as Social Darwinist, due to efforts by people who vehemently disagreed with his views. Do you regard my "effort to rehabilitate Spencer" as sociopathic in impulse? Or perhaps I honestly believe he isn't simply a Social Darwinist caricature? To a thinker such as Spencer, coercive means were unacceptable even to ends he would support. Of course, you don't agree with that. Fine, but it doesn't make someone a Social Darwinist or sociopath necessarily. As to being consistency, I think it's difficult for any individual or ideology to be that entirely, and consistency isn't everything, as I'm sure we agree.
A former member
Post #: 388

Personally, taking everything on Wikipedia at face value is a mistake.

I agree. It's just as silly as believing everything you see on TV.

"While often caricatured as ultra-conservative. . . .

Spencer's thought was more complex than made out here. . . .

In the Social Darwinism section on his Wikipedia page, the validity of this is explored further. It was only after he died Spencer became known as Social Darwinist, due to efforts by people who vehemently disagreed with his views. Do you regard my "effort to rehabilitate Spencer" as sociopathic in impulse? Or perhaps I honestly believe he isn't simply a Social Darwinist caricature?

Well, I don't think much of Spencer's thinking is very good, whatever we decide to call him. Different people have different reasons for trying to rehabilitate him. I greatly doubt that your own efforts are in any way sociopathic.

But I'm not impressed with the numerous Conservative complaints in this regard. Ronald Reagan began life as a liberal, and it isn't at all difficult to find a Ronald Reagan quote that directly contradicts everything that Reagan did as President. Does that mean he wasn't a Conservative? Does that mean that somebody who calls Reagan a Conservative is caricaturing him, or failing to do justice to the complexity of this thought?

Obviously, people change their minds, draw inconsistent conclusions, are hampered by inaccurate scientific knowledge (a flaw especially manifest in Spencer), and so forth. All of this makes it difficult to characterize anyone's thought as falling wholly in any camp whatsoever. In fact, it can be difficult to even clearly define such labels (the excruciatingly vague terms 'liberal' and 'conservative' come to mind.)

Still, the function of a generalization is to characterize the overall tendency of a given individual's thinking. And the overall drift of Spencer's thought is Social Darwinist. I've read the people who vehemently disagreed with his views -- and I think they were right to do so. Vehemence isn't the issue -- the issue is whether or not the characterization is broadly accurate.

--K.
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