Monday, March 25, 2013

One last time

Okay, I just posted my response to a libertarian. He responded with a new post on his site, addressing - or at least pretending to address - some of what I said.

So one more round. I hope to put an end to this now, because I've been on this merry-go-round many many times before and I'm tired of hearing the same old arguments and the same old talking points and the same old self-centeredness that I heard my gosh 30 or 40 years ago. A whole new generation of libertarians without a single new idea.

Anyway, following is the comment I posted at his site. The quotes from his post are added here for context, so that you should be able to follow the argument without reading his entire post, but the link is above in case you feel you "have to" read the whole thing or think you need additional context. With that and the additional note that, as I expect is obvious, his quotes are the ones in italics, here it is:

Briefly (at least relatively) and as a final word so as not to be a "troll," even though it's not always the commenters who are the trolls:

[H]e assumes that as an advocate of the free-market I’m primarily “afraid of somebody taking [my] stuff.”  ... I’m most decidedly a member of the 99%. 

I never said you were part of the 1%; I never even vaguely hinted at it. What I said was that your primary interest was in protecting your "stuff" and that such protection was what for you defined the concept of justice. Nothing you say here gives me any reason to change that judgment.

I am a WHAM (white heterosexual able-bodied male), and as such do not suffer from some of the disadvantages Lotus cites. True, but beside the point.

Except for some infirmities of advancing age, I am also a WHAM. The relevance of identity has to do with being able to connect on some emotional level, some level of actual awareness, not just philosophically or intellectually, with those who have faced (and still face) challenges which you have (and do) not. (It's called "empathy." Look it up.) I have met and known many libertarians (no exaggeration). I have known many who were, like me, working class. I have known many who could have used some help. But I have never met one who was in the position of actually needing help of a sort that was not immediately and freely available from a friend or a family member; that is, help beyond that available via a phone call or a knock on a door. And I have yet to meet one who can conceive of such need existing. I say it is that failure that defines the libertarian mind.

Do I know how it feels to be a poor black?  No, but Herman Cain does, and I doubt Lotus would listen to him, either.

As for Herman Cain, I have heard him. And I congratulate him on his rags-to-riches story - but it would matter a lot more if he used that story as anything more than a self-promoting rhetorical device, if instead he used it to remind himself and others of the people who grew up around him who worked just as hard and just as long as he did but didn't get nearly as far (or, perhaps, anywhere). Yes, yes, yes, hard work matters in success - but so does luck, and to a far greater extent than most of us are prepared to admit.

If I’ve adequately demonstrated I’m not part of the 1%, then I become one of their stooges....

I said nothing about you being a "stooge." I suggest you stop trying to put words in my mouth; I guarantee you I won't swallow them. I did say that your "principles" consist of "me and mine and I have no obligation of any sort to anyone else." Again, you give me no reason to change my mind about that.

I readily admit that the “‘have to’ thing” is a rhetorical framing device, and an effective one at that. ... If I want to do something, and you’ll shoot me if I do it, you’re using force to stop me.  Lotus never refutes or denies this. ... You can make the case that you have the right to make me do something for my own good, to please God, or to make me do something for somebody else, but in each of these cases, you’re arguing that you have the right to make me.

The “‘have to’ thing” is an "effective" device only because, as I said, it's easy to win an argument when you get to define the meaning of all the terms. Of course I didn't deny that "If I want to do something, and you’ll shoot me if I do it, you’re using force to stop me," because the statement is trivial, the observation banal. You don't respond to my argument, you merely cite it, then ignore it and just repeat your previous claim at greater length. The point, again, is that you allow for no meaning of "have to" other than force. There are no moral "have to"s, no ethical "have to"s, no "I have to do this even though I don't want to because it's just the right thing to do, dammit"s, no social obligations (a word with which, as I said, libertarians seem singularly unfamiliar) of any sort, no demands of conscience to restrict or direct behavior. Is there anything you do because if you didn't, you couldn't live with yourself? Is there anything you refrain from doing for the same reason? Answer "yes" to either of those questions and you are admitting that your limitation of "have to" to "outside force" is wrong. Answer "no" and you brand yourself the "monster" to which you jokingly referred.

I have said before, I say again now: Libertarianism is nothing but an intellectualized justification for selfishness and lack of concern with the welfare of others. One more time, nothing you have written here has given me any reason to alter that judgment.

As a sort of PS, here is a question I hope you will address as part of that upcoming post: I think we agree that society as a whole, acting through government, has a responsibility to protect the "stuff" of the members of that society, that is, to protect them against crime (avoiding for the moment the philosophical argument about how what constitutes "crime" is a creation of that society). Can that same society, as a condition of providing that protection, require anything of those same members? Can it legitimately say they "have to" do something or not do something? (Note that "Yes, it can require them not to commit crimes" is not an answer because that is included in the universal protection already agreed and so is merely a restatement of the original premise.)

To put it differently, I assume you believe in contracts and that it's proper and reasonable for each party to "have to" live up to their part of the bargain. Can society as a whole, as part of the social contract, legitimately tell an individual member that "in exchange for the protections you are given, you must do such-and-so even if you don't want to?" If yes, what is the objection to "have to?" If no, why not? Why can people make demands on society while denying any necessity of offering anything in return?


DaisyDeadhead said...

You totally rock.

Martel said...

I've responded:

I have no idea if you'll be continuing any sort of conversation, but your points and questions will be addressed in time regardless.

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