Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Rereading my Blog

I've recently been going through old posts and the associated comment threads for a variety of reasons. Some I had almost entirely forgotten. The overall impression reminds me of the four volumes of Orwell's letters and essays, a work I'm fond of reading and rereading—a mixture of comments on a wide range of subject with a common voice. Orwell did not have a blog or comment threads, but he did have correspondents.

One interesting old post with a comment thread 170 comments long was sparked by the controversy over the Ron Paul newsletters. It dealt with divisions within the libertarian movement that were more cultural than ideological. The newsletters contained a number of articles that were deliberately and forcefully politically incorrect. Some libertarians strongly disapproved, others had the opposite reaction. As I saw it, the disapproval was from people with friends were  on the left, culturally and politically, who saw it as both rude and counterproductive to deliberately offend their friends and did not want to be identified with those who did so. The approval was coming from people who saw the attempt to keep speech politically correct as offensive and were happy to see it defied and those responsible offended. From the standpoint of the first group the second were boors, from the standpoint of the second the first were wimps. Some in the commenting thread labeled the same division as between cosmolibertarians and paleolibertarians.

One commenter argued, I think correctly, that both groups were wimps and both were boors—with regard to different targets. The people I labeled wimps were perfectly happy to say unkind things about religious fundamentalists, southern admirers of the confederacy and other people they did not know or want to be associated with. The people I labeled boors had friends among those groups and, although they might not agree with them, were disinclined to be rude to them. The first group saw the willingness of the second to tolerate people they did not want tolerated as a fault, and the second group similarly with regard to the first. Almost perfect symmetry.

An interesting discussion, and not the only such in the past eight years of blogging. If only blogs had been invented a few centuries earlier.


At 1:01 AM, January 08, 2014, Blogger chriscal12 said...

Well thankfully you've been arguing online for longer than eight years, and I for one have been highly entertained by, inter alia, your H.P.O. debates.

At 7:31 AM, January 08, 2014, Blogger brendan said...

In other words, folks don't want to offend their allied tribesmen.

So we've got 4 groups, the southern traditionalists, paleolibertarians, liberaltarians, and liberals.

The Paleo's enjoy offending liberals. The liberaltarians enjoy offending traditionalists. You see a boor-wimp symmetry.

But the Paleo's would point out that the traditionalists- however wrong they are about religion, etc.- have no power. What's the ratio of liberals/traditionalists among journos / scholars/ bureaucrats? 25/1? On what issues have traditionalists gained ground in the last 50 years?

So what's the point in mocking them? They're losers. They're not a threat, and they're a potential ally.

Also, it takes no courage to mock hillbillies, since there's no social consequence. But taking the wrong public stand on racial profiling can ruin your career.

Nah, there's better explanations than wimpery to explain why Paleos don't mock traditionalists. I think your detached rationality, which is remarkable, causes you to see more symmetries than really exist.

Relatedly, that movement, whatever you want to call it- Paleo, darwinian conservative- gained big intellectual momentum in 2013, mostly under the label "neoreaction", with an explosion of blogs written by some extremely smart folks. The anonymity of blogs is a boon that un-PC movement.

At 3:37 PM, January 08, 2014, Blogger TheVidra said...

On the Romanian libertarian Facebook page (yes, there is such a thing!), a member asked if one could rationally be a Christian and a libertarian at the same time. This post had hundreds of responses in the comment section, but most of them seemed to stem from tribal affiliation rather than pure reason. I was surprised that most young libertarians share the same unrepentant atheism as their political arch-nemeses, the much older descendants of the old Communist apparatchiks. I had expected more libertarians to belong to the "right-leaning mildly religious mildly traditionalist" tribe, those who are not hard-core about religion, but not against it so openly either (think moderate Republicans in the US). This was my expectation, especially since religion had been part of the anti-establishment and a resistance tool against the state’s militant atheism during the Communist years, but oh was I wrong. Maybe religion is again considered part of the establishment, especially since most accepted denominations are now subsidised by the state, supposedly to make up for their suffering under Communism. And this makes the established churches seen as more and more corrupt. The fact that more and more ostentatious churches are being built during times of economic recession, with public funds, does not help their image either.

I had to respond, and I pointed out that Christianity and libertarianism have more in common than the basic non-aggression principle - mainly, they are both faith-derived beliefs which focus on the individual as a higher being of life, with full potential for salvation/creation regardless of tribal belonging. And in both cases it is the responsibility of the individual, not his tribe, to make use of that potential. I am truly hoping that my response is based on my clear-headed reasoning, and not on some weird tribal affiliation, but I can never be sure :)

At 3:37 PM, January 08, 2014, Blogger TheVidra said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3:38 PM, January 08, 2014, Blogger Tibor said...

That is why I like Trey Parker and Matt Stone so much. They are perhaps not the most radical libertarians (although they seem to be rather libertarianish in their opinions and I think Parker is in the Libertarian party if I recall it correctly) in any respect. But they just are willing to offend anyone (mostly not with the goal to offend for its own sake). As they put it in one interview I read:"We hate conservatives...but we really fucking hate liberals". And despite the crude/rude way they make fun of things on South Park, they sometimes come up with a really thoughtful idea. Like the book of mormon (the musical) which makes fun of LDS and religious dogma in general and at the same time plays with the idea that can be sometimes positive even if it is all nonsense. It also leads to funny situations where various groups claim them as their own...until they make fun of their "holy dogma" as well. Actually, the LDS seems to have been dealing with it most gracefuly, as they as a response to the Book of mormon put an advertisement in the program at the show that says "You have seen the musical, now read the book" or "book is always better" and a few others. I don't like churches of any kind very much but this was witty of them. But that is probably a little bit off topic already :)

At 7:19 AM, January 09, 2014, Blogger Power Child said...

brendan said:

"I think your detached rationality, which is remarkable, causes you to see more symmetries than really exist."

For a long time now, David Friedman has struck me as the type of guy who might get his leg bitten off by a shark and then stare at the wound going "Hmm. That's interesting."

At 10:06 AM, January 09, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...

"But the Paleo's would point out that the traditionalists- however wrong they are about religion, etc.- have no power. "

I made essentially that point in an argument with an environmentalist not long ago. She said she had stopped reading my blog in response to a comment of mine to the effect that nature worshipers were much more of a threat to me than Christian fundamentalists. I pointed out that the Christian fundamentalists were not actually forcing me to do anything, while the nature worshipers were forcing me to engage in their religious rituals, mostly notably recycling. On further discussion, she came closer to saying "the difference is that my religion is right and theirs is wrong" than people are usually willing to.

At 10:08 AM, January 09, 2014, Blogger brendan said...

ha, that's funny Power Child. Robin Hanson is the same way. And it's why, when I want a quick take on some thing X I don't know much about I google "david friedman X", or "robin hanson X", because they're like bayesian aggregator robots. Not folks I feel comfortable disagreeing with.

But back to the point, which I don't think I made clearly. Assuming equivalent motivations on either side of a political dispute is a good heuristic/null; we're all human. But leads to error sometimes, because it's not always true.

It's blatantly not true here. Publicly mocking religious hillbillies is safe; publicly mocking blacks is not.

At 9:48 AM, May 17, 2014, Anonymous macsnafu said...

Christian fundamentalists *are* a threat, but it's a different kind of threat than the nature worshipers. Anyone willing to believe in the irrationality of a religious deity is more willing to be irrational in other parts of their life, such as the political aspect.

This may not be the direct threat that mandatory or subsidized recycling is, but it is an indirect threat, and may ultimately result in greater problems. Especially since Christianity is such an especially large part of American society, making it harder to marginalize such irrational people.

Libertarians who are religious also disturb me, for similar reasons. As I said on my own blog entry, A Libertarian View on Religion, "The libertarian who holds illogical religious beliefs is thus at greater risk for distorting libertarian views to justify an illogical implication or conclusion. For example, libertarians who believe in immigration restrictions."

The war of ideas is important because what people think determines how people act.


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