Post-Libertarianism Is A State Of Mind, or How To Spot A Reactionary Libertarian

it has come to my attention that my political and personal activities confuse some people. namely, I retain a wide range of acquaintances across social media venues, especially libertarians of various stripes (“bleeding-heart libertarians,” “classical liberals,” “libertarian brutalists,” “anarcho-capitalists,” and more). 

of course, I understand the need for any particular affinity group, well, to protect its affinity. I can see especially why a semi-anonymous, token female (sometimes employed by the political enemy) would raise suspicions amongst neoreactionaries. I wrote about where I stood politically with respect to reactionary thought earlier this year, but much has changed in the past six months. however, upon extensive reflection, it’s hard to pinpoint to any hard policy changes of mind as having followed from this reactionish turn.

mea culpa for this gag-worthy phrase, but it’s beginning to seem like post-libertarianism is, above all, a state of mind. here are some examples, from libertarian platform issues, to illustrate what I mean. if you are committed to pegging a libertarian-seeming person as The Enemy, you’ll never find out enough about him to tell. but if you are an intellectually curious person who remains interested in understanding the changing topology of (especially internet) political philosophy, this matters.

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fertility false consciousness

so, Jim wrote recently about the cause of population decline: in a word, educating females. writing’s on the wall:

Schooling                                                        Children
No schooling                                                        6.67
Islamic Schooling, no Western Schooling        7.78
Western Schooling to ages 7 to 11                     4.5
Western Schooling to ages 12 to 13                  1.44
Western Schooling to ages 15 to 16                   1.57
Western Schooling to age 17 and above          1.50

I still pretty readily experience liberal-progressive reactions to things, and so I want to explain to you what these statistics look like to a prog and, moreover, why that particular interpretation is problematic.

the prog explanation is that un- and under-educated women either literally cannot keep themselves from having more babies than they want (due to difficulties in obtaining or using reliable contraceptive methods), or that they used to think they wanted a bunch of kids but education helped them to correct that belief.

in other words, progs assume that less-educated women are suffering from a kind of fertility false consciousness. if the only thing life has to offer them is kids, then they’ll take a large helping, but as soon as you “empower” / “enlighten” / “open doors” for women, they choose anything but.

notice prog types also believe that characteristics of people and features of institutions are deeply “socially constructed.” especially gender roles. although progs mostly allow that men and women might be a little different innately on average and at the margins, the cause of most of our apparent differences is nurture. a society which treats men and women very differently reaps what it sows: men and women who are very different. this is morally unacceptable because a person deserves to be treated as the tabula rasa she is: a self-determined and autonomous creature ultimately of her own (not society’s) making.

so here’s my question to the fertility false consciousness-type progressive: if we take some human female raw material, and split them into into two groups, leaving one alone and coercively subjecting the other to years if not decades of increasingly value-laden instruction, and find that these two groups have different preferences regarding children. which practice has done more to respect the autonomy and innate preferences of those women? and which might be thought, prima facie and ceteris paribus, to have (wrongly) “constructed” some non-native preferences?

to be fair, part of this depends on what you think the purpose of education is. I know sadly more about this bizarro corner of academia than I care to admit, but basically you have a few competing camps (with overlap): educating for happiness, educating for flourishing, educating for the social good, and so on. progressives, being strangely both individualistic and collectivistic, won’t do themselves any favors in defending on these grounds because women don’t individually seem to be that happy post-education-revolution and society is in many respects functioning less well than it used to, with respect to the family.

now, I don’t necessarily accept the conclusion that we should stop educating females. it’s difficult to deny that a certain level of education (probably middle school levels of literacy and math) is a huge gain to most women themselves as they function in their everyday lives, and to the children who they raise (either directly, from being taught by mom, or indirectly from her being able to do more for and with them). the fertility drop from that level of education is, then, morally less questionable, because it trades off for substantial value – it’s a choice we might even argue that hypothetical autonomous agents would make for themselves, ex-ante.

my (admittedly possibly non-representative) impression from reading mainstream media accounts of educating girls in undeveloped countries is that they feel left out from learning how to read and such, because it’s clear that that would help them do the thing that they (*and* their brothers, incidentally) seem most to want to do: “help the family.” a few exceptional underprivileged girls (and boys) go on to become engineers or whatever. but, noticeably, basically no one reports that they aspire to a hedonistic DINK (dual income, no kids) lifestyle until after they’ve been put through the education machine. this observation is only non-suspect to those who assume from the get-go that (especially higher) education is an unalloyed good.

if anyone’s suffering from fertility false consciousness, it’s the very same college-graduated elites who want you to think that the most plausible and significant explanation for highly-fertile families is ignorance. they have been educated and enculturated out of even being able to imagine that sacrificing for the growing family is something that normal humans would often like to do, and something from which they derive meaning. displace some of your pity for under-educated girls onto them.

women’s wisdom falls on deafened ears

in light of my recent turn towards “traditional gender roles,” in theory and in practice, I have somehow unearthed a memory of a conversation I had with my mother ~15 years ago, when I was a teenager. I won’t pretend to understand why this conversation attracts my attention and imagination, for the risk of going full freudian, but I find it newly illuminated and illuminating, so here you go:

I was at home or in the car or whatever with my mom, and she told me that she had had a strange exchange with our neighbor recently. (for reference, the neighbors are a married couple about 5 or 7 years ahead of my parents with two somewhat older children, and of similar middle to upper-middle class SES). the context was something like, my mom saw the neighbor come in from a walk, or vice versa? and neighbor casually remarked something to the effect of: “oh, gotta stay in shape for our husbands now that we’re getting older!”

of course, my mom in relating this to me, feigned bafflement and mild offense at (and even pity towards) our neighbor. but here are some things our neighbor definitely did not mean by her comment:

  • all men are pigs.
  • abandonment is inevitable, but you can delay it maybe?
  • that husband of yours sure seems like a cheating scumbag.
  • my husband is a scumbag, and I want to worry everyone else about theirs now too.
  • marriage vows and promises of fidelity mean nothing.
  • a woman’s only value to the world is her beauty.
  • every married man just wants a newer model once he’s gotten kids from his wife.
  • I worry every minute of every day about my appearance. 
  • I don’t trust my husband, and you shouldn’t trust yours either.

I’m not sure what my mom’s motivations were, in even telling me about this exchange. was it out of “wow just wow,” in that she was very deeply offended by our neighbor’s insinuations, and she needed to vent? on the other hand, perhaps she was genuinely concerned that our neighbor was on to something but she just didn’t like it. I don’t know.

but here’s the point: as an adult woman who has by now gathered her own experiences in the realm of gender relations (and even marriage), I can begin to appreciate what really happened here. our neighbor was, in some combination, expressing a bit of natural anxiety about the major life change of becoming an empty nester, offering solidarity with my mother, gesturing towards common-sense advice, and making small talk of what she presumed was mutual interest.

I now believe that there was nothing at all wrong with what my neighbor said to my mom; it was mildly overly personal at worst, and reflected the honest truth: that marriages work best when people try at them, that men and women are expected to bring different blends of goods to the marriage table, and that to pretend otherwise doesn’t make your marriage more liberal-progressive, it makes your marriage more fragile. I don’t know why my mom wasn’t prepared to acknowledge this (obviously, it’s tempting to blame feminism), but that refusal didn’t do her any favors and, though I don’t care to make a victim of myself, the attitude that she passed on to me has heretofore threatened my life prospects at the margin as well.

though this is just an ungeneralizable n=1 situation, for what it’s worth, I can’t resist adding that that marriage, and related wealth, and the family, remain intact today – while ours do not.

How And Why The Tunney Neocameralist Petition Split Libertarian Opinion

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen that our friend Justine Tunney has drafted a petition at Whitehouse.gov called: “Transfer all federal administrative authority to the tech industry.” (btw, I had the great pleasure of meeting her IRL recently and let me tell you, her capacity as an “ideological chaos machine” is matched by her friendliness, thoughtfulness, and good listenership).

Anyways the petition proposes basically exactly what you’d expect from its title: retire federal employees, transfer admin authority to the tech industry, and name Eric Schmidt (of Google) as CEO of the United States. It was written up in The Guardian, and a more recent piece by an acquaintance of mine with an interview is at Quartz. Tunney (further) grabbed attention in neoreactionary circles owing to the fact that this is essentially a neocameralist suggestion, and she herself has come out as more or less a neocameralist, like Moldbug of course.

Now, we could discuss the proposal itself at some length. I’ve seen twitter discussions, this stuff riles up the split between… um, who you could call traditionalist reactionaries and the urban/techno-futuristy set. The former are more into monarchy, the latter would basically welcome our pseudo-corporate overlords, so long as they can hack it at the government task.

Additionally, Tunney has directed our attention to this post providing criticism of her proposal, and it’s solid though basically what you’d expect from someone who objects substantively and not in the WOW JUST WOW manner. Its tl;dr — thinking that business leaders will be good at government is actually just an old right-wing piece of ideology, the accuracy of which rests upon the dubious assumption that the two projects (business and government) are relevantly similar. Though, lol, that author suggests that corporations are essentially “benign dictatorships” as if the realization is supposed to turn us off to the Tunney petition, whups.

Anyways substantive critique is not my purpose here. Here in my post-libertarian honeymoon phase, I find myself still firmly intellectually, socially, and professionally situated amongst real libertarians of all stripes: I identify enough with them to understand their trains of thought and to accept many of their premises, but distanced enough to attempt criticism of a different-than-the-boring-libertarian-infighting type.

So, in that context, I’ve been wondering for days: what explains disparate libertarian reactions to this neocameralist proposal? On Facebook, my share of it got some traction, and comments I saw regarding the petition basically split between that WOW JUST WOW thing, and tepid approval or non-disapproval (sentiments like: “couldn’t be worse than the status quo,” and “ok but I’d prefer Richard Branson to Schmidt”).

Usually, explaining disparate libertarian reactions to a policy is both easy and uninteresting: they split along consequentialist and deontological lines. Some people are libertarian because they think, empirically, it best conduces to widespread human welfare. Some people are libertarian because non-aggression principle + muh rights. Coalitions are formed when these considerations closely intersect (e.g., end the war on drugs); coalitions are busted when they don’t (e.g., gun rights, gay rights). The new, hip intellectual ground in libertarianism is to carve out some principled middle ground between the two camps; see especially Tomasi’s Free Market Fairness. This is intellectually important work, and therefore unsatisfying to anyone other than the intellectuals… sigh.

Libertarian reaction to the neocameralist proposal didn’t split consequentialist/deontologist-wise. That is, some welfare libertarians who think that a tech industry CEO could do a decent job of running the U.S. found the petition massively repugnant. And some rights libertarians, who think that installing a tech industry CEO would flagrantly violate individual rights to property and political self-determination, found the petition fairly innocuous. This is curious. What does it mean?

First, it means that welfare libertarians are even more leftist than commonly suspected (take that as you will). Welfare libertarians used to seem quite leftist in virtue of advocating for things like marriage equality and social insurance / basic income. But here we see that, at bottom, welfare libertarians prefer the chaos of a demotic system even when it frustrates their own goals of achieving greater widespread human welfare. After all, there is no particular reason to believe that a CEO of America would be any more capriciously, needlessly oppressive to individual liberty than the current state of affairs in the country is. And so is revealed a welfare libertarian deontic constraint on the pursuit of welfare (which of course there had to be), albeit an inane and probably merely aesthetic one: prefer the arrangement that seems more fair and more respectful to individuals, even if it gets them little of what they want or need. Importantly, this reaction also reveals that welfare libertarians are much less into “non-ideal theory” and “second-best” political solutions than they often, self-righteously boast. Disappointing.

Second, the observations above mean that deontic, rights-based libertarians are marginally less awful than I previously thought. Usually they’re all NAP NAP NAP and you want to smack them. Also they systematically undervalue important historical and contemporary academic thought, none of which fully comports with The Almighty Rothbard. However! What’s interesting and promising about rights libertarians is that they do not sugarcoat the realities of a robustly libertarian world — realizing that, left to their own voluntary devices, people will sort themselves probably largely homogeneously, income inequality will abound, and etc (therefore the friendliness with Hoppe).

In other words, rights libertarians are consciously or subconsciously comfortable with social hierarchy in a way that the leftists (libertarian or otherwise) will never be. So, while they still consider the state as a gross, large-scale, systematic violation of individual rights, there is no need to overcome with them the expectation that any viable societal arrangement — conventionally governmental, neocameralist, or anarchic — will secure equality of outcome, opportunity, political power, respect, moral status, or any other good, in any way, shape, or form.

Thanks for joining me in adventures in libertarian political psychology, signing off-

CW.

not dead.

hey y’all, hope you’re well. just wanted to say that I am not dead – just busy! no sooner than I got this thing going, I somewhat unexpectedly was invited to become a housegirlfriend of sorts, lulz. as I probably don’t need to explain to you, moving’s a bitch. hopefully it’ll all be over in a week or so.

have been accumulating blog post topics in evernote and look forward to coming back in full force asap ❤

Rawls for Reactionaries

This is long but good. You should read it if you are interested in academic political philosophy and/or the proper nature of political consent and/or new and bizarre directions in the reaction. You should not read it if you think it’s pointless to deconstruct – or even understand – liberalism, and/or if you are kinda dull. Good luck.

I was assigned some Moldbug on a second date with a stranger from the internet (lulz) but I honestly haven’t made it through much yet (mea culpa). However, in the middle of doing some late-night browsing recently, I came across his 2007 treatment of Rawls, the cryptocalvin (<– totally viable candidate for naming my firstborn son, btw). As Moldbug rightly notes, Rawls has already been taken down pretty thoroughly and, I think, at least somewhat enduringly by none other than Robert Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Incidentally, I have it on good credit that Bob Nozick used to attend and lecture at libertarian summer camps, where he did lines of coke and hooked up with the college- and grad school-aged students. Much to my chagrin, I missed that era of the Liberty Movement (gag).

Anyways, thinkers like to tread our own, ostensibly novel intellectual paths even if the existing ones are pretty well-worn… maybe it’s hubris, in which case I have plenty. Moldbug has taken the time to put his stamp on the argument against Rawlsianism, but it’s unfortunately pretty off-base. If you just want to critique liberalism in general, cool – it assumes many forms and expressions, and whichever you take as an example, that’s fine. But if you want to critique Rawls, per se, then you must first represent Rawls accurately. Anything less discredits an already marginal body of thought, and should be intellectually embarrassing. No need to become a Rawls scholar – that would raise the barriers to entry to the discussion unacceptably high – but you should have a good command of the fundamentals at least.

Rawls is still wrong, but Moldbug strawmans the hell out of him here. In my experience, and admittedly, it’s a common misinterpretation of the veil of ignorance. So it’s important that we identify the misinterpretation for what it is, correct it, and then take down – maybe even repurposing – Rawls properly. Here goes. If I may quote from the scripture Moldbug at some length: Continue reading

monarchism, libertarianism, and self-serving political bias

As I’m sure anyone who’s reading this knows, neoreactionary thought has been getting some attention in the mainstream media, and a prominent feature of the body of thought is monarchism. Neoreactionary objectors of all stripes may be prone to accuse its proponents of arguing disingenuously, thinking that the resulting political order will favor them (“they probably all just think they are going to be king, hah hah!”) In particular, libertarians are beginning to come out against nrxn, probably in order to distinguish themselves, because the two share some other similarities (e.g. an emphasis on political rights of exit, emphasis on desert over egalitarianism, etc). But I find this objection about wanting to be king particularly strange coming from libertarians, seeing as how they face an analogous objection on the regs.

Take your now-standard, internet-dwelling leftish libertarian. He says that freer markets and smaller government are the way to go, for some melange of principled or moral, and related empirical, reasons. A garden-variety liberal objects to these recommendations, on the basis that she thinks a libertarian world would systematically advantage white men, who would be even less restricted than ever in their pursuit of naked self-interest, and who would be unencumbered to “give back” or fulfill the demands of social justice.

The libertarian has 2 options: deny and/or defend the distributions that would seem to result from his regime. He will deny that freer markets benefit mostly white men (complete with lots of examples of non-white and female entrepreneurs, of course). And he will defend whatever unequal distributions remain, as being earned rather than the product of crony capitalism. “Libertarianism has nothing to do with wanting advantages for oneself, we swear! In some ways, a freer market would disadvantage many white men, who’d face increased business competition due to reduced barriers to entry, for instance.”

But libertarians will also need to defend the white male advantage that libertarianism is likely to preserve to some extent, and this is especially difficult to do as a white male. Actual white guys would get a head start in the libertarian world because of how well they’re doing in the status quo, and it would persist in the climate of freer markets because there are economic advantages associated both with being white and with being male. It may be true that the welfare state harms women and minorities in the long run/on net, but that doesn’t mean that libertarianism would equalize outcomes or even opportunities.

Monarchists find themselves in much the same position with respect to the “you just want to be king” (or to occupy the top echelons of elites) objection: deny that monarchists are just imagining that they’ll be in power, or defend the fact that, under monarchism and its attendant elite, that those people really will be. But monarchists have a better reply. They should outright deny that monarchists each think they’ll be in power, because just mathematically very few people will hold significant political power under such a system – indeed, that is one of its virtues! To advocate for monarchy without realizing this would make you an idiot, so the criticism that all monarchists just think they in particular will benefit power-wise is offered in very bad faith.

Also, critically, note that this is a fair criticism of standard liberals, too. Who do you suppose will end up running and staffing the constantly-expanding crop of bureaucracies underpinning technocratic utopia? It’s the liberals: college-educated, white-collar, politically correct, culturally hegemonized, pseudo-intelligentsia + managers. They stand to benefit financially at least as much as small potatoes welfare recipients, typically much much more, with a huge status bump too.

tl;dr – of course we each harbor both self-interested and impersonal reasons for adopting most of the political beliefs that we do. Striking a balance between these is part of the exercise. There is no particular reason to think that monarchism, and monarchists, fare worse on this desiderata of a political philosophy than do libertarianism or liberalism (both of which are actually prima facie more likely to be motivated by sheer self-interest). So stfu about monarchists all wanting to be king and find something more intelligent to say.