May It Be With You

For those of you wondering why I “feed the trolls” to the extent I do, thus far I consider them not to be trolls in that I’ve gotten relatively substantive arguments, and I prefer opposition in that it provides me with opportunities for clarification.

Daisy has been exceptionally respectful thus far, and even her supporter largely refrains from much of the invective to which I’ve become accustomed.  Lotus referred to topics on which I planned to touch on soon, anyway.  I shall therefore respond.

First, Lotus jumps to a conclusion common to those on the left in that he assumes that as an advocate of the free-market I’m primarily “afraid of somebody taking [my] stuff.”  I’ve not clue as to how much Yohami may or may not have, and there’s no way for Lotus to know this, but I’m most decidedly a member of the 99%.  Yes, like virtually all Americans, I have a roof over my head, but I’m not even close to being one of the “millionaire and billionaires” the left is calling on to pay more of their “fair share.”  My car is twelve years old.  Were my “wealth” to be redistributed, it might do some good for a few Guatemalan peasants, but very few Americans would benefit in the slightest.  If anything, Obama would be more likely to distribute wealth to me instead of away from me.

However, 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.  Hunters are more likely than others to promote gun rights; minorities are more likely to support affirmative action.  There are points both pro and con for both policies, but to reject a gun owners views on the 2nd Amendment is no more valid than rejecting a black’s views on affirmative action solely because of his race.  Likewise, whether I’m living in the gutter or Donald Trump, Jr., reject or accept my points based on their merits, not on my identity.  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.

It’s very difficult for some on the left to accept this, for they “know what [we’re] actually about” before they even hear us out, but some of us are concerned with actual principle.  It may be principle you don’t like, but Lotus adopts the argument from which Daisy refrained.  We have evil motives and can therefore be dismissed out of hand.  If I’ve adequately demonstrated I’m not part of the 1%, then I become one of their stooges, like the poor rubes in What’s the Matter with Kansas, hoodwinked into working against my own interests.

I have no interest in running a ranch.  I live in an apartment so other than my fairly meager possessions, “property rights” are an abstraction.  Nevertheless, stuff like this infuriates the hell out of me.  I have no dog in Conway’s fight whatsoever, but I support him wholeheartedly.

Daisy concedes that she’s “very bad on the ‘have to’ thing.”  So is Lotus, but he doesn’t admit it.

I readily admit that the “‘have to’ thing” is a rhetorical framing device, and an effective one at that.  However, it’s far from being only a rhetorical device in that the reason for its effectiveness is its basis in reality.  If I don’t want to do something, and somebody else makes me, I “have to”.  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.  Instead, “[a]ll meanings referring to acting based on moral or ethical standards or social obligation or even logical self-interest have been ruled out in advance.”  Not “ruled out”, distinguished from the question at hand because it’s an altogether different question.  Moral standards are perfectly relevant to what course of action I undertake, but if I choose to do something and I can’t, whatever the moral or objective merits of my decision, I’m still being coerced.

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.  There’s no way around this because it’s true.

Furthermore, you can make that case that I should have to help the poor.  As long as you recognize it as such, you’ll have a (difficult) case to make.  Regardless, that is in fact the case you’ll be making.

He has valid questions regarding my definitions of “rights” and “freedom” which deserve an answer and will be addressed in subsequent posts.  Also, he brings up the efficacy of ostensibly free markets during other periods of time.  Finally, he asks why I’m not an anarcho-libertarian advocating we have no government whatsoever.  I’ve addressed this last question briefly here, but it requires expansion.  After all, is it legitimate to defend the notion that the government be “required to protect the interests that libertarians endorse, but that same society and government are not allowed to define ‘interests’ in any other way”?

Yes, it is, and I’ll get into why in my next post (probably Tuesday).

Monster that I am, I intend to keep this respectful.  I hope I’m not alone.

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2 Responses to May It Be With You

  1. LarryE says:

    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:

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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 trival, 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 unfamilar) 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?

  2. Pingback: Who Makes Who? | Alpha Is Assumed

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