Will Wilkinson, we miss ye

Here is part of Will’s new post:

…the fact is, mundane liberalism is flatly incompatible with the security state, as we know it. That anyone spurred to action against the illiberal security state by the democratic jusificatory ethos of mundane liberalism has come to seem a little “libertarian,” and may even therefore confess some personal “libertarian” sympathies, suggests to me a problem with “liberalism” as it is embodied in actual political discourse and practice. It suggests that liberalism is effectively a corrupt form of statist institutional conservatism, and that the democratic justificatory ethos of mundane liberalism has somehow survived within the ethos of “libertarianism,” even if, as an explicit doctrinal matter, libertarians are generally hostile to the ideas of democracy and the legitimate liberal state. It’s nice that libertarians have kept liberalism alive, but it would be even nicer if it were possible for liberals to espouse liberalism without therefore being confused for libertarians.

We all hope for more.


Did he actually manage to say anything of substance there?

He said, "All good things walk under the banner to which I swear allegiance, so you others should quit trying to steal my banner. Go my team!"

Hardly fair. He said that "all good things should walk under the banner to which I share allegiance, but unfortunately some people walk under my banner who are wrong, and other people who should walk under my banner do not, and this is partly because people use the wrong terminology and partly because the political coalition using my banner's name ends up doing things under heaven and earth that are not dreamt of in my philosophy."

He's just trying to pull the liberals closer to libertarianism by posturing as if he's shaming them for violating their true core values, which they really aren't. It's very clever.

I think I pulled a muscle following along. Maybe it is the language barrier, but I've never confused liberals with libertarians. That seems like a tough thing to do, assuming we are using the US definitions.

yup, his problem is either non-fluency in American English or very muddled thinking.

The comments here overwhelmingly support the latter. Plus, looks like blog-bait for a holiday weekend end.

classical liberals are not libertarians

Nor are progressives classic liberals.

True Scotsmen are not scotsmen.

Sez you.

"I am a libertarian with a small 'l'...I think the term classical liberal is also equally applicable."

I believe he's saying that on fundamental grounds he rejects much libertarian philosophical thought in favor of liberal and classical liberal rebuttals, thanks partially to his philosophical studies.

However, on the practical matter, he finds that many similar things that disappointed him about real life libertarians when he called himself one disappoint him about real life liberals (though often about different things, such as economics vs. civil liberties.)

I think it's an inevitable disappointment when one thinks that political categories and politics are actually based on philosophy.

The substantive part is this: "liberalism is effectively a corrupt form of statist institutional conservatism." This sounds counterintuitive, but really shouldn't be. Liberals built the modern administrative state, they seem to like it, and they are trying to protect it, despite the fact that it does a lot of things routinely that principled liberals ought to deplore...like try to put concerned whistleblowers in jail.

Basically, liberals are the pro government faction in American politics. This makes them the conservatives when it comes to reforming it. Not the most profound of points, but it's worth reminding people of, at least. I agree that the post could have been a written a lot clearer.


Not every thought process on the way to some nebulous somewhere has to be greeted with snark.

To be fair, they're the pro-government faction when Their Guy is in charge, and are as susceptible as anyone else to supporting the government if the critics are alleged to be Not Our Kind, Dear, such as crazy and scary libertarians. (Hence why Snowden is attacked as some.) There's too many (not all, thankfully) who would rather defend illiberal actions than be seen to stand with libertarians, even though they and their values would normally be civil libertarian.

That's his explanation. It's partially true. It's also partially true what you say, that a substantial portion of the center-left coalition is not "liberal" or civil libertarian in any sense (and doesn't think that those things are important)-- so they're willing to use those talking points or allies when the center-right coalition is in charge, but defend in when their own guy is doing it, because they never cared to begin with.

But, in all that, it's not worse than other political factions and coalitions that get in charge.

Yes, I always laugh when I read the self congratulatory articles that discuss how much liberals love and embrace change.


Your first paragraph is right on. You can surf over to Counterpunch.Org to see that principled liberals pretty much despise the 3rd and 4th terms of the George W. Bush administration. Also, you can look at what Bob Altemeyer has to say about what happens to leftwing revolutionaries after the revolution succeeds (they all become right-wing reactionaries with really odd justifications for their actions). But your second paragraph pulls a Huben and implies a difference that doesn't exist: liberals are not alone in being pro government. Abortion, defense, immigration, war on drugs, war on prostitutes, misohomos, and so on. The difference is not in favoring the use of government but rather in what it is to be used for.

Wow, talk about empty pomposity!

What a clueless chump. Everybody knows that US liberalism is in fact not liberalism, but progressive modern ideology having roots in the Marxist and authoritarian progressive traditions of the twentieth century.

Appeal to the nobler motives.

20-21st century is welfare liberalism, democratic socialists

fortunately many of the youth, unlike baby boomer liberal parents, have eschewed that form of liberalism in favor of neo-liberalism, classical liberalism, or libertarianism. neoliberalism is a return to the classical liberal economics of free markets, as opposed to FDR style liberalism.

so progressives Hillary, Obama, NY Times, Hollywood, etc are rooted in "Marxist and authoritarian progressive traditions..."? Where did Martin Luther King fit in ?

Yes, Communists in other words. The story goes MLK was promoting equality in front of the law (liberty). Not from that time so I have little idea how bad things really were, seems like he was after liberty and not equality as it's known now. But nowadays people who support equality do so at the expense of liberty. It's hard to say they're fighting for equality when they want special favors for a few and the laws they enact lead to, supposedly unintended, increased inequality and less liberty.

And all libertarians are intellectually dishonest anarchists too right? Communism developed out of a branch of the wider socialist movement as did democratic socialism. If you want to use a biological metaphor they have a common ancestor but one did not arise from the other. Classical liberalism and absolutist monarchy similarly have common ancestry (the divide between Hobbes and Locke isn't that wide and both built off the ideas of reason in the pre-Enlightenment era), but it'd be wrong to say classical liberals are basically just absolutists.

As for MLK, you're underplaying his role in American left-leaning movements. He was very anti-Vietnam War and very pro-War on Poverty. This speech in particular on the Vietnam War shows a lot of those concerns: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm

A particularly notable paragraph in it is this:

"A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just."


He's attempting to reclaim classical liberalism for liberals. If you can't see that, you shouldn't label him as "clueless."

reclaiming classical liberalism for liberals is a fool's errand. seriously.

I like Will. I always have. But lately he seems stuck between a disenchantment with libertarianism and liberalism. He may be projecting whatever he is on modern liberalism....and that would be wrong. Liberals are not liberal in any classical sense. Will knows this.

But as I posted on his site, I take issue with absolutist, anarchist definition of libertarianism. His starting point of what libertarianism is just doesn't sit well with me. It's not true.

Libertarianism as a political movement includes both absolutist and anarchist elements as well as classical liberals philosophically. Similarly, liberalism as a political movement (especially in the US) includes both classical and modern philosophical liberals as well as those who are not philosophically liberal but would probably be called social democrats or socialists in other countries.

It's unfair to say that "liberals are not liberal in any classical sense." Some members of the political movement and coalition known as liberalism are liberal in the philosophical sense, some classically. Just not all of them, and they do not always control the movement. And as always, some people will choose to stay inside the movement (and keep quiet or defend members of the coalition); not everyone will insist on being an above it all gadfly.

It seems to me that everyone, Will and his critics both included, is committing the mistake of pretending that political movements and coalitions are philosophically pure and composed of people with the same underlying reasoning. That is not the case, and is never the case for a mass movement. They are heterogeneous.

Fantastic article. He has been missed. I hope this means Will will start regularly posting again.

So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal.

W.W. writes: "Libertarianism, as it’s generally taught and understood, isn’t a philosophy of government so much as an argument against the possibility of legitimate government."

So libertarianism is synonymous with anarchism? I'm pretty sure that it is not "generally understood" to be so, except by its enemies who are trying to construct a straw man. For example, the thesis of Nozick's famous libertarian book is that there is a possibility of legitimate government.

The rest of WW comments aren't much better. People who object to the increase in government surveillance following 9/11, as administered by both Bush and Obama, are called "civil libertarians." Civil libertarians don't split perfectly along one party line--they include people on the left who distrust markets and people on the right who are generally pro-market. This is widely known, is not confusing, and WW's jargon-laden restatement of the obvious does not make it profound.

Libertarianism is synonymous with anarchism.
As Benjamin R. Tucker put it, "The world's population is gradually dividing into two types--Anarchists and criminals."

Libertarians are not criminals. Therefore they are anarchists.

Libertarians are a continuum from anarchists to the night watchmen state.

Of course the anarchist would say that, he's trying to make it seem like anarchist have bigger numbers than they actually do.

Libertarians usually lose me when they start ranting about confiscation of income at the barrel of a gun.

After you stop consenting, a la the rights of man, it becomes coercion and when it's all said in done either you submit or go to prison (or die or emigrate.) That's pretty easy to understand?

Hmmm... Who created the currency?

So no one should have to pay taxes if they just use Bit Coin?

"So libertarianism is synonymous with anarchism? I’m pretty sure that it is not “generally understood” to be so,"

exactly. That was my biggest issue with the article as well. The starting point of what libertarianism is is just wrong.

Thanks Tyler!

finally a sentence that is easy understand

I love WW's writing, but this is really funny. Well played.

ummm is one of my fav new MR commenters. The other is Marie. In some ways they are nearly opposites, but when it comes to awesomeness, they both rank highly.

Didn't Will announce he was quitting opinion journalism for writing fiction? What happened?

Wait, was TC's posting of this actually a compliment? I took the headline as missing the cogent, well-constructed writings of WW as opposed to the... whatever that was.

My understanding is that, if it's a legitimate democratic security state, the body politic doesn't have ways of voting the whole system down. /channeling Todd Akin

Methinks the correlation between economic and political freedom argument may come into play here. A state large enough to accomplish the economic goals of "social justice" is also large enough to run a huge imperialistic military and a gigantic espionage apparatus. What is labeled "liberalism" today is not classical (or mundane?) liberalism at all. Maybe that's the point he is trying to make here.

Here's liberalism (classical, mundane?) defined in Wikipedia:

"Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality.[1] Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas such as free and fair elections, civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free trade, and private property.

Here's "social liberalism"

"Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include a social foundation. Social liberalism seeks to balance individual liberty and social justice. Like classical liberalism, it endorses a market economy and the expansion of civil and political rights and liberties, but differs in that it believes the legitimate role of the government includes addressing economic and social issues such as poverty, health care and education.[1][2][3] Under social liberalism, the good of the community is viewed as harmonious with the freedom of the individual."

The last bit is the important part.

There's also the "your guy" theory of political compromise. If "your guy" does something you would find reprehensible in anyone else, you suck it up. So progressives (misidentified as liberals) have given Obama a pass on military and espionage matters they pilloried Bush for. It's a cynical (but perhaps smart) calculus to avoid weakening the party from within and risk losing the next election.

Unreadable, and then, once you take the trouble to read it, uninteresting.

Hi language is clunky, but he is pointing out that those who reflexively think of themselves as "liberal" because they believe in the right to privacy and are suspicious of military and police power, are actually much closer to libertarians than to any Democratic politician holding high office. Those who call themselves liberal, in other words, might be best served by reassessing what makes them "liberal." If it is simply that they believe in "social justice" and redistribution of wealth, strong unions, high taxes, and big government run welfare programs, then they should just call themselves statists, socialists, or communists.

Not sure why this got such negative feedback here. Will is good at breaking through the BS.

His main argument is that the USG has grown less ideologically liberal at the same time it has grown more liberal in name. The ideological conservatives here probably have trouble digesting that, since they are in the habit of doing the conservative mental two-step of instantly associating liberalism with authoritarianism. Liberalism as it is philosophically conceived is not authoritarian at all. But here we are, living in an authoritarian state that many on the right and left are happy to call "liberal". This rather funny situation is good evidence of Hansen's claim that "politics isn't about policy". It is about language. Ideological liberals are increasingly happy to defend a state that is ideologically illiberal but nominally "liberal". Why? Because libertarians make them defensive about any role of any government, liberal or otherwise. The rule in politics these days is: "You only get to make one point." So liberals make the point that a big government can be OK and... and nothing, because that's the only point they get to make before having to make it again. Meanwhile, the actual USG has grown into this unrecognizable monster that nobody in the ideological wars can even make accurate reference to.

"Not sure why this got such negative feedback here. Will is good at breaking through the BS."

Perhaps, because in this case his prose is nigh unreadable. And then fails to make a whole lot of sense when you do get through the tortured syntax.

Liberalism as it is philosophically conceived is not authoritarian at all.

Yes, but liberalism as it is a political movement has never been liberalism as it is philosophically conceived. Or, if you like, the center-left coalition and political party, often called liberalism in the US (but by other names, such as social democracy or Labour or socialism, elsewhere), has included people who are philosophically liberal, but only as one of its many strains. There is nothing about being a union advocate, advocate for the poor, or even advocate for oppressed minorities that necessarily must make one a liberal in the strict philosophical sense. Yes, in the broadest sense of the liberal philosophy, it applies to virtually all of the center-left coalition, but in that broadest sense it applies to virtually all of the center-right coalition in the US, particularly as it conserves the American Revolution and founding.

Liberals in the philosophical sense make up a part of the coalition, but not all of it. They do not always win battles in the coalition, and some, out of loyalty, will go along with party decisions. Other parts of the coalition never cared for liberal values all that much, except insofar as they served other ends, so they don't care. Although, yes, the sort of opposing because the Wrong Guy is saying something applies to some liberals as much as to everyone else.

Note that quite a few people who call themselves "libertarians" politically probably are in the strictly philosophical sense more liberals than strict libertarians, or at least might well with Will reject some of the libertarian philosophical arguments on various grounds of pragmatism or needing compromise in order to have a functioning state. (Though Nozick and others would argue that libertarianism philosophically is not the rejection of a functioning state as WW claims.)

I certainly do not agree with those who say that there are no philosophical liberals among the center-left political coalition that calls itself liberalism in the US, but merely that they are only a part of that coalition (and that philosophical liberals exist in the other coalition.)

I think Will falls victim to the classic libertarian fantasy ... "start with a man, alone, independent, in a state of nature ... then invent a state"

Man has never lived thus. He lived in band, tribe, nation, and state, as each evolved. Sometimes yes, whether he wanted to or not ... but I do think Genghis Khan riding over the hill was a little more "authoritarian" than "please file your taxes by April 15th, and if not, please calculate your penalty by this schedule ..."

Thus to cut across the fantasy history, I'd say that there will always be a state, because there always is a state. And if you are really fortunate, as we are, you get to argue and decide how that state best serves its citizens. I mean, "this unrecognizable monster?" Seriously? I think you can name some bigger monsters, in recent history, and elsewhere in the world. Ours is quite benign. A cookie monster at most.

His main argument is that the USG has grown less ideologically liberal at the same time it has grown more liberal in name.

You can make that point, but to do so you have to claim that many of the broad political liberal goals are not ideologically liberal. About some things perhaps you can say that, but I'd be deeply hesitant of saying that about, say, advances in racial equality or sexual preference equality.

I agree on sexual preference equality, but "advances in racial equity" may depend on your meaning. If you mean ending segregation and creating equality before the law, that is pretty liberal, but building that into identity politics and affirmative action is not so much. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a liberal, but Al Sharpton isn't.

I think that quite a few affirmative actions programs could be scaled back, but it's grossly ridiculous to pretend that they are as bad as segregation was.

And yet, MLK did those things you say aren't liberal. Sharpton just sounds more like an asshole when trying to get racial quotas implemented.

"Because libertarians make them defensive about any role of any government, liberal or otherwise."

Ahh yes it's all libertarians fault. Glad you noticed.

You want more?

Why not just open a dictionary and pick words at random?

Wait I get it! This was a Turing test wasn't it.

2008 was a rift year for libertarians. The election of Obama, the massive screwups of Republicans in the 'oughts, the growth of the security state, and the rise of low-church, megachurch social conservative arguments pushed many libertarians, especially the 'mainstream' Reason.com types to the left; some became left-libertarians, others wholly embraced the social democratic ethos.

However, some libertarians who were attracted to the Mises Institute tradition, drifted far to the right after the Bush bailouts, Obama continuation of all of the worst Republican policy, and the disappearance of the anti-war left. This contingent dug further in the Mises archives to find Albert Jay Nock, Garet Garrett and the Old Right. From there it was a simple matter to reject democracy altogether.

I found myself in the left column from 2008-2009, and then rapidly getting sucked into the far right. I suspect Will Wilkinson was the opposite.
Any other libertarians here that can identify with one or the other described above?

When I was younger I refused to call myself a Libertarian for the lame reason that it is so popularly associated with Ayn Rand's crappy novels. With Rand Paul around, it isn't going to lose the Rand stigma for at least another generation.

Libertarianism needs to die in order for its important ideas to live. It has too much ugly cultural baggage. My theory is that a new "Libertarian-light" needs to emerge from the left under a different name, with much sexier cultural emissaries than Rand and Mises. An anti-security-state ethos could be its starting point. Privacy is the most important human right Western Civilization has ever invented: without privacy, there is no individual, and without the individual, there are no human rights. If I were 19 again, I'd start the movement myself.

If you are picking your political ethos' based on how you think others will perceive you, then you are valueless as an ally. If politics is a fashion statement to you, then you are a typical modern liberal.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence that this political philosophy disfavored by the powerful is loaded with a bunch of nonideological negative connotations. I'm sure that's just an accident that can be solved by reinventing the movement from scratch with the aid of the best leftist propagandists, who will totally cooperate.

Is libertarianism dumb because it's associated with Ayn Rand, or is Rand dumb because she's a libertarian? How much worse in fact is Rand's writing than the Communist tracts against which it was a reaction, anyway? But I'm sure your new movement will produce only the highest quality literature.

Also, its members will be totally immune to ridicule over unorthodox political philosophies, lifestyles, social skills, or fashion sense and will appear neither too square nor too radical. Is Nelson Mandela objectively a better person than Ayn Rand? How about Rand Paul? If you think he is, do you think a hostile propagandist could construct and disseminate a convincing narrative that it were otherwise? I'm pretty sure no Objectivist ever killed for his ideology, for starters. And what did Mandela think of the gays?

Aw well. I'm sure as soon as soon as this Rand Paul thing dies down in 20 or 30 years David Axelrod will gin up someone to make the movement cool enough for people like you to vote for.

Heh. Exactly this - The perpetual move towards the elusive 'respectability' pot of gold at the end of the rainbow heading left.
Time to get off this trail.

"others wholly embraced the social democratic ethos"

The social democratic ethos seems to be always associated with statism. Ergo, it's not and never will be any strain of Libertarianism. There's just not any form of Libertarianism that can involve increasing the heavy hand of government for utilitarian purposes.

Yeah put me down for a simliar trajectory. The phrase 'recovering libertarian' is gaining currency and I'll accept that label. At some point I realized that libertarians are like the progressives' little brothers, who constantly beg for—and never get—any approval from them. "Human rights! Markets are good for human rights! and racism! privacy!" "Yeah ok shut up, nerd" It's demeaning. Search "moldbug wilkinson" for the long and short of it.

Yep, "moldbug wilkinson" is what pulled me in.

Your about as deep as a dixie cup, boss. Maybe you care deeply about approval from others, but most of the (adults) i associate with got over that decades ago. Get over your validation needs, then start thinking about politics.

"...most of the (adults) i associate with got over that decades ago."

Here's something you need to get over: at several decades of adult existence, you are on the downward slope of market and political relevance.

"Here’s something you need to get over: at several decades of adult existence, you are on the downward slope of market and political relevance."

Counterpoint: The baby boomers.

+1 for this.

Followed the same path as you.

This does little to dissuade me from the notion that Libertarianism is an inadequate, reactionary philosophy that is, unsurprisingly, not attractive to 99% of the electorate.

This is what started the slide.

If you want the US government to be overtly or covertly involved in overseas revolutions, and invite the protagonists from all sorts of foreign inter-tribal conflicts here, then a large national security state is a necessity.

If you want a liberal society with a transparent, democratic state, then you better patrol the borders with machine guns to keep illiberal peoples out.

Everybody knows that the essence of America is: Invade the World / Invite the World.

We've all been informed that minding our own business is un-American.

"Minding our own business" includes letting me invite someone into this country in order to exchange in free commerce with me. You refuse to mind your own business, Steve, you insist on minding mine.

Funny, I've never thought of imposing segregation of people with machine guns as particularly liberal.

Do you want your liberal, high trust, K-selected society or don't you? Part of the justification for a nation-state is to keep all the illiberal socialists and low-trust, r-selected barbarians out. You know: secure the blessings of liberty for Ourselves and Our Posterity and all that.

If the American State can't defend our territorial and cultural integrity, then what good is it? It's actually worse than that. The American State has been hijacked to serve the purposes of a narrow, multi-national elite. For everybody else it's a diabolical wrecking-ball, destroying property rights and devaluing citizenship.

You destroy my property rights when you say that I can't invite an immigrant to live with me, or work with me, or sell me things. And by having people with machine guns preventing free enterprise and trade, you are the illiberal socialists and barbarians.

Which right would that be, the inalieanable right to dump your Third World workforce on the common weal?

How about if I invite all my good buddies in the Shining Path movement into your little free-market paradise? Or maybe invite all my Sunni Muslim friends over to the kibbutz?

Unless you're willing to adopt the border control you find so stifling, your liberal society is a time-limited experiment.

Whatever rights are or aren't violated by limiting immigration or erecting trade barriers, they're not what we normally think of as property rights. This is the same kind of sleight-of-hand behind terms like "economic violence." It seems like the effect of this kind of argument is more to muddy things up than to make it easy to see what everyone's saying.

Restricting your ability to bring anyone you want into the country to work for you just doesn't look much like violations of property rights, which are normally things like the state taking your stuff away at gunpoint, or forcing you to use your stuff for their purposes at gunpoint.

If you think the existing citizens of the US should have a legal right to invite anyone they like into the US, then make that argument on its own merits.

Funny how the societies least associated with illiberal socialism (like the Netherlands, the US, Canada, Australia) all have long histories of allowing in large numbers of immigrants, many of which were low skilled. And before you bring out an IQ argument, tell me what IQ tests were being done that demonstrated that 19th century Southern European IQs were any higher than modern Hispanic IQs? Because the Flynn Effect throws a big freaking monkey wrench in the idea that IQs have been stable in ethnic groups across time.

Do you know the groups from which data was collected to support the Flynn hypothesis?

Also, your examples are inapt. Mass Third World immigration is a purely modern experiment and the brakes are being tapped in a lot of places. And frankly, I don't care if Indo-American IQs are off the charts; let them stay and improve their own countries.

"Funny, I’ve never thought of imposing segregation of people with machine guns as particularly liberal."

I'm pretty sure the Soviets considered themselves progressives. So if by liberal you mean progressive, then that's not to far off the mark.

One notable difference is that in the Soviets' case, the border guards' guns were pointed inward, not outward. There is a pretty fundamental difference between keeping people who don't want to be in your country in, and keeping people who want to come in, out. Perhaps both are wrong, but they're at least a different kind of wrong.

I meant liberal in the broader sense, as in liberal-democratic states like the US, UK, modern Germany, Japan, etc.

Labels are the sign of a small mind trying to be larger that it is capable of being.

Evolution, which almost everyone says they truly believe, tells us that bad ideas are corrected by non existence. We have managed to remove almost everything that leads to non existence, and laugh at darwin awards for fools who do particularly stupid things to end their lives. Workplace safety allows the stupid and inept to survive. Medical advances allow fools to engage in activities that would have never been considered by previous generations except by the suicidal. A vibrant orthopedic surgery center locally is located 5 minutes drive from one of the best ski hills in North America. The problem of poverty is now evidenced by obesity of all things. Obesity, previous generations could only dream of dying because they had too much to eat. Sexual exploration of all guises is enabled by modern medicine. The US banking system managed to lose trillions of dollars only to have the taxpayer and Fed show up with as many trillions to return them to their irresponsibility, and we can't imagine not bailing them out.

Ideologies don't matter, there is no limit to almost anything at all. It is just a matter of which group is harnessed as a power base to determine the direction in which to point full speed ahead.

This will end when there is nothing left to lose.

That's Social Darwinism, not "Evolution". Darwinian evolution cannot be scientifically applied to social situations or the development of ideas, particularly over the course of centuries; it's a purely biological process conducted over the course of millions and millions of years.

At its best (and it's a weak best) Social Darwinism is a metaphor, and it's dangerous because people take the metaphor as a scientific principle.

Of course, the rest of your point stands on its own, ideas certainly compete; individuals who do stupid things are likely to face consequences; preventing those consequences is likely to alter the state of a culture. Just leave evolution out of it.

I appreciate your desire for intellectual clarity. On the other hand, I also get the sense that everybody agrees evolution is gospel so long as it's this long, slow, basically neutral process that stays safely below the brain stem.

It's kind of like diversity, which we are assured is valuable in its own right but polite people don't talk about how diversity comes about, and don't think it's about anything more than brightly colored clothing and street festivals.

I think I take your further point, and I could ramble, instead I'll just say one of my favorite snarks is "the herd of independent thinkers".

There are unthinking processes determining what survives, and they are related to what happens in biology. But they aren't identical, and evolution doesn't really tell us much about morality, just about how stuff actually happened and is happening.

And some subset of societal "evolution" is actually biological evolution, as with the reason Africa and India are mainly populated by the descendants of the people who were there when Europeans came and took over, whereas North America and Australia are mainly populated by the descendants of Europeans, and South America is a mix of descendants of the Indians who were there originally, plus Europeans and Africans.

Seems the post is a contradiction in terms. Once aqain, the comments are on average far more insightful that the post.

I think the reverse is the case.

The prose is not difficult to parse, and his point is simple and true.

Next post, please!

You are committing a libertarian fallacy.

You believe that since as a libertarian you are governed by application of principle, your opponents are similarly governed. This is not true. Liberals and conservatives are governed by tribal loyalty.

To them:

When Bush spies, fascism is descending on America.
When Obama spies, anyone who opposes it must love terrorists.

When Dick Cheney approves of gay marriage, he is a panderer.
When Obama disapproves of gay marriage (which was true up until a little ago), it is thoughtful.

When poor white churches disapprove of gay marriage, they are homophobic bigoted rednecks.
When poor black churches disapprove of gay marriage, it is wondrous diversity.

I could go on. The liberal and conservative are not governed by principle, but by tribal loyalty. The liberal is loyal to the urban and educated, and the conservative is loyal to the rural small businessman. The libertarian is loyal to principle, and that's why libertarians never crack five percent.

Well Wilkinson's post may be difficult to follow, but it has certainly got a debate started over here.

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