My recent posts on Capitalism, “Free Market” and the subsequent heated discussions with Libertarian ((or possibly Objectivist, I can never be sure but I think it was mostly the former as they weren’t arrogant or rude enough)) stormtroopers let me to an insight which you all now have to suffer through.
The thing is this: Libertarians are staunch supporters of unregulated Capitalism along with unrestricted personal freedom. They insist on non-aggression and only on specific government intervention, generally only enough to protect the basis of Capitalism: Private Property.
And here we reach our first problem. Every time I’ve discussed with Libertarians, they explain these wonderful concepts, they drill me on my freedom-loving, and eventually we get to arguing economics.
Now a peculiar difference in methodology appears.
I am a (far) left-libertarian. I’ve reached this position by at some point in my life wondering “How can the world become better?” ((I can already hear the questions coming to ask me how I define what is better and why should it be my opinion that counts. *Sigh*)). This question coloured the research I did and the answers I sought.
I moved gradually to the left because I noticed that Capitalism is the only economic force in the world and yet it’s totally incapable of solving even the worst of our problems. Indeed, our situation is only deteriorating. My opinion is more nuanced than that of course but this is what I’ve discovered from looking at a broken capitalistic socioeconomic system and continuously asking the same question.
Once I figure out a few ways with which the world can become better, I modify my morality to be compatible with them.
The Libertarian Way
The Libertarian starts from the premise: “(Negative) Freedom is good” and then builds his whole belief system with ways to achieve more of this freedom. For it naturally follows, if freedom is good, then when the largest amount of humans have the maximum amount of freedom, the world will be the best it can be. Thus anything that is compatible with more freedom, must be good as well.
But their premise is unargued for. They never turn to ask: Why is Freedom good? Or, if they do, they start running around in circles with their rest of their beliefs. For example:
The “Free Market” is good because it can create a lot of wealth for some people and that should be allowed because to do otherwise would be to restrict one’s freedom which is not good because it is not compatible with the only thing that is works in the world, the “Free Market”.
Capitalism is good because it is the only thing that is compatible with the human nature of greed which is good because Capitalism requires it to work.
I think you get the point.
This was made especially clear in my recent discussion with a member of the audience who, while arguing that current mainstream economics are based on the scientific method (they’re not), informed me that Libertarians do not base their morality upon the superiority of those but rather, their belief is simply reinforced by them working (theoretically).
Thus, the Libertarians simply start from the conclusion and then finds beliefs to reinforce it. They have formed their morality and are choosing to believe whichever data are compatible with it.
Needless to say, such a take on reality and morality is not only misguided but it is diametrically opposite to the scientific and sceptical thought. The human mind’s ability to see the hits and ignore the misses is well known and understood, and this is why in order to even have a chance of finding the correct position, we need to start from the observation.
So Libertarians, I implore you. Ask yourself: Why is (negative) freedom good? Try to answer this question without running around in circles with the “Free Market” and the like. You will eventually discover that the only philosophy which attempted to truly base this moral grounding is Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. And she has failed miserably.
If you do believe you can defend a morality centered around negative freedom, by all means jump in and let me know why I’m wrong.
The other day while I was browsing through the articles linked from The 5 stage of Republican Grief and reading the bugfuck crazy comments, I came to the realisation that I just do not see this kind of inanity in most of my online activity.
But why is that? Why is the conservative presence so limited in most of the online nexus points? Not only will you very rarely find sentiments such as those expressed in popular news sites like digg and reddit, not only will you rarely find them in online fora and commenting on random blogs, but when they do come up, they’re immediately striken down in flames either through rebutals or downvoting, which just shows how much in the minority such commenters are.
My take on this is that they simply cannot survive in this world. The reason for this I believe lies in the following
1. Conservatives are, well…conservative.
As a result they have not started using the internet as much as the more progressive members. They were late to get online, late to start doing anything other than surfing&emails and the last to go social. As a result most places are already filled with progressive regulars ((Not to mention that because of the distributed and geeky nature of the Web, most of the early adopters are liberal and…Geeks)) and when a conservative attempts to take part, they are skewered. This of course turns them off and they slither back into the depths from which they came which of course does not allow a critical mass of them to gather and start shifting pushing the status quo.
Many, I’m sure choose to lurk instead where then, in combination with the Libertarians (see below), they have a chance to make themselves heard on specific topics.
2. The internet is an extremely toxic environment.
The conservative mind is a sensitive beast. There is a profound sense of denial necessary to avoid cognitive dissonance when you are not only a fundamental christian but you consider that the Bush regime was doing a damn good job.
As the saying goes, reality has a well known liberal bias and as the internet does not have the strict filters this denial requires, so does it. As a result, the hapless conservative is assaulted on all sides by information conflicting his preconceptions. Not only do they have to dodge surprise buttsex Daily Show videos and ridicules of their personal zombie saviour, but whenever they so much as open their mouth to protest in an online dialogue, they are shortly refuted, to say the least.
Indeed, there is precious little a conservative can do when the hard facts are staring them in the face and there is no Fox Network to hide or twist those uncomfortable truths. As an extra bonus, because of the dynamics of online conversation, it is not unlikely for someone to take the time to educate the unfortunate conservative which further shakes his psyche.
Since it is pretty much impossible now to both deny reality and muster the presence required to “detoxify” the online environment (see point 1), the conservatives prefer to simply huddle together in their own little corners of the internet, where they can preserve their groupthink.
There is not better example of this point than the creation of Conservapedia which happened because the disorganized nature of Wikipedia and the liberal nature of reality meant that Conservatives either had to avoid using an online encyclopedia or suffer more cognitive dissonance.
3. They are suddenly in a very small minority.
Whereas in the USA the Conservatives have roughly half the population (or at least are vocal enough to seem this way) online, where location is meaningless, they suddenly find themselves very, very lonely. They cannot even expect support from conservatives of other cultures since:
They usually have wholy different values.
Conservatives of other countries would be considered liberal for U.S. American standard. It is not simply a joke when people say that in the US you do not have left and Right but only the Right and the Extreme Right. For everyone else outside the US, it definitely seems that way. Your Obama would probably be quite capable of leading the Right party of any European country without batting an eyelid.
Thus, not only do the conservatives have to argue against their own countrymen who happen to be liberal, but they have to tackle with the liberals of other countries who they must think are like the extreme fringe left. I sometimes get the impression that if I ever had to discuss with such a conservative, their Left/Right compass would not have any position left for me except than outside the range.
They are in a way a bit fortunate that most of the world does not speak English as then they would have seriously have been the footnote in this story. Unfortunately for them, there are enough English speakers from many countries to seriously outnumber them.
The only thing somewhat pushing the conservative agenda is…you guessed it
It is a well known fact that most Libertarians are only by name. Like true game theory defectors they declare loyalty to the Libertarian party but come election day, they cast their vote for Republicans as they promise to cut taxes ((for the rich)) and let them keep their guns. They conveniently ignore how the Republicans end up doing the opposite of what they say and have subsequently expanded the Government more than ever before, which for a Libertarian should have been anathema.
Nevertheless, because they are committed to the Republican ticket, they feel the need to defend their choice whenever they can. They will thus attack the Government tactics when it is going against their libertarian stances (Drugs, Abortion, Religion) but defend it when it reduces taxes to the rich, cuts healthcare and welfare etc, even if all of this is against their own hide.
The only thing saving them is that because they lack true faith in the Regime and they also tend to be more liberal in their faith (if not outright irreligious) they suffer much less of a cognitive dissonance and can much more easily take part in the social networks.
And this is of course the only way the Conservative agenda can ever appear. The Libertarians are generally active because they can, while conservatives probably just lurk around for fear of the intellectual smackdown. When however a topic where their two worldviews merge appears, they can combine their voices and votes and downvote the opposition effectively. Thus the reason why libertarian topics happen now and then to bubble up to the surface.