poly: libertarianism

From: d.brin <brin@cts.com>
Date: Tue Feb 17 1998 - 01:31:46 PST

Regarding Perry's line-by-line deconstruction of my earlier comments about
libertarian idealism, I could not have seen a better example of exactly
what I meant by Platonism... not Plato's hatred of liberty, but his belief
that talk talk talk is what matters. Excuse me. I look at results.

Perry, you were raised by the only civilization in history whose principal
propaganda message is suspicion of authority... resulting in the only
culture aswarm with huge masses of libertarians and their fellow
travellers. (Like you and me and nearly everybody else on this list.) A
gentle, decent civilization that clothed, educated, protected and suckled
you, and never considered punishing you for the resentment you express
toward it. Any other would have burned you and me at the stake for our big
mouths. I call THAT a withering away of the old state... a withering
that's far more meaningful than any raw measure of numbers of bureaucrats.

 That fact outweighs all the twisty-turny exegesis that libertarians are so
good at... and that Marxists and all other ideological theorists are so
good at, too.

In fact, you are SO good at it, that I'm just not going to get into a
toe-to toe libertarian slug fest with you. I can point out that Al Gore's
reinventing government campaign has reduced the federal workforce by
250,000... and you'll find some excuse to call it a trick. I can point out
that non-entitlement federal spending has shrunk, and you'll call it
meaningless. I can point to the fundamental reconfiguring of Democratic
Party ideology toward free market values, and you'll call it a ruse.
Welfare reform is meaningless. The fact that the military now buys parts
off-the shelf, eliminating archaic procurement practices, is a blip. The
reduction in secrecy is nada. The unleashing of special prosecutors to
investigate presidential penile blemishes has no implications about
reducing the potential for conspiratorial coups. Etc. Ect.

Why should I bother pointing out that cliques and cabals of aristocrats
have been vastly more relentless as enemies of freedom than democratic
governments ever were? Blind-weak governments have been the true petri
dishes of tyranny. (Recall I cited 1917,1926,1933,1936 &1948 in just this
century alone?) There is not a single known case of a strong, capable
democratic government, that was owned and fiercely kept accountable by a
confident citizenry, ever turning despotic. In fact, our present
institutions are just about the only tools that any human society ever
found that enabled a free people to prevent the inevitable
aristo-oligarchy that took over almost every other culture... INCLUDING
your beloved Iceland. (The Althing was a cliquish gathering of landowners,
not very different from the Venetian Senate.)

In fact, I share the Marxist-Libertarian goal of a withering away of the
state. But instead of dreaming that it will occur by some mystic
culmination of capital formation (the Marx fantasy)... or by abruptly
dismantling state tools that we still need to get across an awkward
transition, I foresee that withering away happening in the only way that
makes sense... when every child in the world has had enough protein and
education and freedom from abuse to grow up straight and tall -- just like
you, Perry -- and can decide for herself or himself that he or she WANTS
the state to wither away!
  Obviously, when that condition is met, the state will shrink, because
that's what anybody in their right mind will want!
   Thus, as long as health and education levels keep rising, along with
internet access and continuing anti-authority propaganda, you WILL win,
Perry... whether or not your exact political agenda is followed! When
people are ready for the explicit social contract, they'll demand it.

So far, in historical terms, we seem to be well on our way toward that
condition. Part of this is being achieved by freemarket wealth-creation,
and part has absolutely undeniably been a result of state-mediated goodies
like sewers, clean water supplies, vaccination campaigns, child labor laws,
GI Bills, assaults on racism, and universal free public education

>>I also must say that I have yet
to hear of an instance of a state disappearing of its own accord --
according to the Public Choice economics folks, the opposite trend is
far more natural. Call me a skeptic, but I'd like to see evidence for
your assertion there.

Oh, I agree, that human nature trends toward conspiratorial accumulations
of power! That is why I am so much in awe of this civilization... the one
you hold in such contempt... even though it's the only one that could have
possibly produced cantankerous curmugeons like you and me!

>It is a caricature of my position to say that I advocate the modeling
of modern society on that of Medieval Iceland. I was merely noting
that stateless societies have existed, and have been fairly stable.

There was authority in those cultures. Tribal, capricious, with life and
death decisions made by local 'farmers' (read landowning petty lords) whose
qualification for such power over their thralls was blood inheritance,
never mitigated by due process or accountability. Don't get me wrong. I
respect that Iceland was better than average. But give me the nitpicking
complexity of modern law. Please.

>I'm not really fond, as I've noted, of the use of cheap rhetoric as a
substitute for actual discussion.

Nor I of irritable snippiness and contemptuous dismissal of opponents. (I
have never rejected ALL your statements, in a categorical dialectic, as you
just tried to do to me. I have always posited that you are MOSTLY right,
though possibly mistaken in certain places.)
       Let's drop this. Enjoy having your cake and eating it. Flourishing
in a renaissance, while despising the culture that brought about a thing as
wonderful as you.


Steve said:>>It does no good to tell people, "let's be a cohesive community."
What they used to do was, go down to the local and have a few drinks
with the regulars. If you had told them they were cohering they
would have kicked you out. And if you tell them to cohere now,
they have no way--and no place--to go about it, and no idea what
has happened.

Steve, My new book talks about 'the failure of exhortation'... the idea
that sages have preached to us for millennia the behave, and be nice, and
cohere. It doesn't work very well, does it?

Received on Tue Feb 17 09:30:44 1998

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