Bleeding heart libertarians

by on March 4, 2011 at 4:02 pm in Philosophy, Political Science, Weblogs | Permalink

That is the name of a new and excellent blog.  The writers include Andrew Jason Cohen, Daniel Shapiro, Jacob T. Levy, James Stacey Taylor, Jason Brennan, and Matt Zwolinski.  They are all worth reading.  Jason Brennan is perhaps not so well known in the blogosphere, but he is already one of the most important classical liberal thinkers in the world and you will be hearing more from him soon.  Here is his post on neoclassical liberalism.

nazgulnarsil March 4, 2011 at 12:21 pm

he appears to draw no distinction between the lunatic natural righters and the good wholesome preference utilitarian branches.

"Libertarians hold that justice requires that we respect property rights, period, even if that means a large percentage of people will starve, lead poor and desperate lives, or have no stake in their society. If that’s libertarianism, count me out." *insert eyeroll*

dirk March 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm

"he appears to draw no distinction between the lunatic natural righters and the good wholesome preference utilitarian branches."

Agree. I tend to blame Ayn Rand for symbolizing the former and thus alienating many on the *left* (left-right doesn't mean much anymore) away from giving libertarians a chance. I don't understand why libertarians keep trying to identify more with Republicans than with Democrats, particularly as conservatives seem to be drifting into more populist anti-market territory. Values matter more than fleeting political issues of the day, and the values of pragmatic libertarians intersect more with those of Democrats than those of Republicans. Or at least that's the impression I get. It'd be interesting to take a straw poll tho and find out what percentage of self-described libertarians self-describe themselves more as "property rights libertarian" vs. "pragmatic/utilitarian libertarian".

Zephyrus March 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Steamer just dropped a steamer, har har.

Republicans just take from the future instead of the present, and give to different beneficiaries (the old and the warriors, along with a variety of sordid corporate interests).

dirk March 4, 2011 at 1:45 pm

"Certainly not. Democrats have much higher propensity to take and spend other people's money than Republicans."

Sure, OK, by my point is this: say your value system includes wanting to reduce the poverty rate. Does this mean you necessarily become a re-distributionist liberal? No, not if you don't believe re-distributionist policies actually help. If you believe the free market is a better way to raise the wealth of everyone including the poorest, you may identify as a libertarian, even if your values are fundamentally the same as a tax and spend liberal.

GarytheWhale March 4, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Reading those blog posts made me less of a pragmatitarian and more of a natural rights Nozick type. I don't know why. When Will Wilkinson says stuff like that it is appealing.

dave March 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm

dirk,

Politics is about getting voters, and voters don't sit down and get nitty gritty about utilitarian arguments and nuances. They respond to moral arguments (we deserve that rich persons money or I earned it and you don't have a right to take it).

Why? Not because voters are stupid, but because they are rational maximizers. Since a single vote will never change an election, they know their actual political beliefs don't matter at all. So they adopt political beliefs that make them feel good. The kind of political beliefs that make people feel good are grand moral statements that justify their own decisions in life, not wonkish utilitarian arguments.

Why are you and me more obsessed with being right about politics then feeling good about politics? I don't know. Everyone has their own preferences. I have no interest in Paris fashion shows, but someone out there is an expert. Chess is a hobby of mine, but lots of people don't care about it. For whatever reason a minority of people enjoy politics, philosophy, etc. as a hobby so they dig a little deeper.

For a ideology to matter it must pass the test of being politically viable. I don't mean that in the sense of the politics of the immediate moment, but successful and sustainable in the long term. A utility maximizing libertarian government is not viable in most democracies. The only modern governments I've seen it function well are small benevolent dictatorships or incomplete democracies: Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.

The best you can in America today is try to pick your fights on specific issues where you can and nudge policies the best you can. In order to win elections so you can set good policies you will occasionally need to embrace grandiose moral claims for your positions which even you find a little silly.

josh March 4, 2011 at 3:10 pm

yes. he's VERY important. Way more important then the rest of us plebs. Out of curiosity, TC, do you consider yourself VERY important?

dirk March 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Getting back to the link: it reads like a bunch of technical jargon for saying, "We're not libertarians. We're
The Libertarian People's Front of Judea!"

tkehler March 4, 2011 at 4:45 pm

I hate to throw a spanner in the works of the upcoming blogosphere deification of Jason Brennan, but here is a paragraph lifted from his reply to comments to the blog post you mention:

… "After all, given the right contingencies and circumstances, any non-absolutist might endorse almost any kind of regime. I think Mussolini's regime was evil, but I can certain construct a sci-fi thought experiment in which both Rawlsian high liberals and neoclassical liberals would say that this regime is the most just among the feasible regimes." …

Now I'd just about fail an undergrad who wrote (like) this. I'd like to see more about this thought experiment. Could Rawls — okay, Rawlsians — really be brought to endorse a "Mussolinian" regime as the most just? Well, sure, if this regime is only compared to Pol Pot's and Stalin's… Sheesh.

Sergey Kurdakov March 4, 2011 at 6:15 pm

intresting to read comments.
one thing which bothers me – why those who tries to use logic to calculate moral judgements won't even think that logic is of no use for social problems?

this book is now free to download Formal logic, a scientific and social problem

I understand – there were few idiots, who wrote thick economic treatises , thinking that life is akin geometry ( but as I explain even with geometry there is a twist – astronomers found that our Universe cannot be described by Euclid geometry by measuring angles between starts – the sum of angles in triangle was not 180 degrees. One very special man would say – that you should not measure angles, just because it is a plain truth that all triangles have sum of angles to be equal 180 degrees).

but I cannot understand people who, knowing that machines cannot think ( though it is easy to code logic rules ) just for the reason – the context is very quickly lost, persist to consider logic to be viable – and not trying to uncover all the context ( some even would declare starvation to be imaginary ).

why it is so common not to understand basic facts of social thinking – that no logic can help in social sciences to infer proper conclusion ?

dirk March 4, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Nietzsche had the right idea. Philosophy is just a way of rationalizing to get to the point you wanted to make in the first place. I don't care how many fucking rings of fire these guys do backflips through: it is pretentious nonsense.

Andrew March 5, 2011 at 5:08 am

"I don't understand why libertarians keep trying to identify more with Republicans than with Democrats, particularly as conservatives seem to be drifting into more populist anti-market territory."

It's easy. Democrats are still the biggest threat, the most effective with rhetoric (note how noone is really (effectively) blaming the Democrats in Wisconsin for their fled-a-buster, utterly unwilling to give us anything (they see libertarians as evil which makes negotiation impossible, etc., while Republicans when they are terrible are pretty pathetic.

The reason some of us are for property rights is that we are humble and see the bad things as less likely happening as long as we do so rather than coming up with our own hair-brained ideas on how the world should be.

Andrew March 5, 2011 at 5:40 am

"Any time I encounter someone who says they want to live in a Randian libertarian society, I say "Evidently not. You haven't emigrated to Somalia.""

I've already addressed this nonsense. Please exit the leftish talking points echo chamber.

Tom March 5, 2011 at 7:42 am

"If you believe the free market is a better way to raise the wealth of everyone including the poorest, you may identify as a libertarian, even if your values are fundamentally the same as a tax and spend liberal. "

Or, like a conservative, give directly to the poor, bypassing the dead-weight costs of taxation, and inefficiencies of the bureaucracy.

Bill March 5, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Boring. Libertarians seem to have a compulsive
need to talk about themselves. And they’re really
not that interesting. But, hey, thanks anyway.

Ryan Vann March 6, 2011 at 9:37 pm

If anyone is truly all that flabbergasted as to why libertarians widely don't align with the Democratic party, you probably aren't reading enough Democratic screeds about how bankrupt libertarians are morally and intellectually. The tales of repulsion they tell about Libertarian bogeymen would probably give Stephen King nightmares.

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