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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Deep Corrosiveness of Libertarian Logic

described here.

16 comments:

  1. I don't think this is a matter of libertarian logic so much as people using whatever argument will support their desired conclusions (after all, it's not like feminists follow libertarian logic when it comes to economic issues or anti-discrimination laws).

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  2. Yeah Gene. Can you actually point to a single self-described libertarian who supports government funding of abortion? (Maybe some do; I've never heard of any.)

    If you want to say libertarians are morons because, say, they oppose taxation even to avert a deadly asteroid, OK fair enough. But I don't think you can point to radical feminists--who would probably vomit if you called them libertarians--as examples of libertarianism taken to its logical conclusion. (But I did a quick read; maybe I misunderstood the link.)

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  3. "Can you actually point to a single self-described libertarian who supports government funding of abortion?"

    I'm sure there are some, but to find them would be irrelevant, since the author of the article to which I linked never claims there are any. What he DID claim was that "libertarian logic" (perhaps not employed by self-described libertarians) led to such calls. And he certainly did not say this was libertarianism taken to its logical conclusion -- he calls the move a "seeming contradiction."

    And I never said libertarians are morons to reject taxation as a method of avoiding total destruction: only very clever people can reason there way into a corner like that! (I am quite sure, in fact, that the average libertarian would score well above average on an IQ test. Their downfall (which was mine, which was mine!) is viewing politics as a problem that can be solved by applying the correct logic to it, as if it were a programming challenge or an SAT question.)

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  4. I still don't get the idea. Libertarian logic would lead to the idea that the pregnant woman should get restitution by the man who put an invasor into her body, but not government funding for abortion!

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  5. I still don't get the idea. Libertarian logic would lead to the idea that the pregnant woman should get restitution by the man who put an invasor into her body, but not government funding for abortion!

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  6. Gene,

    Do you really think we have to apologise for people taking our point of view and running with it in completely different directions?

    Or are you just joking?

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  7. Er, are you posting this as a joke?

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  8. Apologize for it? I never would have put it that way.

    But should you realize that it is a predictable outcome of libertarian's one-sided emphasis on autonomy? Certainly. Any one-sided emphasis produces a reaction that goes to far in the other direction.

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  9. Gene wrote:

    But should you realize that it is a predictable outcome of libertarian's one-sided emphasis on autonomy? Certainly.

    No Gene, you don't get to use the scientistic word "predictable" when you just got done telling me it didn't matter if you could find a single example of a libertarian making this mistake.

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  10. BTW just to clarify mostly to onlookers: I "fight" with Gene a lot to keep him honest. I am sure there are lots of inner problems with libertarianism as understood by me and other self-described Rothbardians. So I welcome a smart person who was even once part of the club to poke holes in it.

    However, I still defend my worldview when I don't think a particular critique is very good.

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  11. I think I'm safe in saying that whatever I say someone will miscontrue it, selectively interpret it and misinterpret it. I emphasis the parts I think worth emphasising for current debates.

    I'd agree though that libertarians are sometimes guilty of over-emphasising simple liberty and not always clear about the responsibility that rigourous ideas about liberty imply.

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  12. "No Gene, you don't get to use the scientistic word "predictable" when you just got done telling me it didn't matter if you could find a single example of a libertarian making this mistake."

    OK, let's say I tell you it is a predictable consequence of some neo-nazis driving through a black neighborhood shouting racial insults that some white person will wind up getting beaten up. I suppose you will respond, "Whoa, Gene, you weren't able to point to a single neo-nazi who beat up a white person!"

    (And there is nothing "scientistic" about "predictable" -- we have to predict all the time in every day life, and could not live if we couldn't.)

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  13. "I think I'm safe in saying that whatever I say someone will miscontrue it, selectively interpret it and misinterpret it."

    Yes, of course, if I say "it's sunny," someone may interpret that as "It's rainy."

    But it's a little different if I say, "It's great, do all the drugs you want, they're wonderful," and later people show up begging for drug rehab money. (And notice, Bob, the people saying "Drugs are great!" and the people asking for rehab money DON'T NEED TO BE THE SAME PEOPLE.) We could say, in the latter case, you should have known better.

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  14. Dear Professor Callahan:
    You state the following: “ ‘libertarian logic’ (perhaps not employed by self-described libertarians) led to such calls.” How is this any different than someone saying, “ 'Kantian logic' (perhaps not employed by self-described Kantians)?" In other words, shouldn’t libertarian logic be logic that, in fact, is employed by libertarians?

    The philosophies that I (marginally) understand all have some redeeming qualities. They also, however, can be pushed to a point that would lead to silly conclusions. The problem with the linked article, however, is that the silly conclusion is not reached through libertarian logic – although libertarian logic is faulted.

    You also state that the "downfall of libertarians is in viewing politics as a problem that can be solved by applying the correct logic to it, as if it were a programming challenge or an SAT question." I don’t understand what you mean. Within politics, as in every area of life, you must use logic; either a person’s logic is correct or it is not.

    You might be saying that because politics concerns people, it is not a programming challenge or some type of standardized question. In other words, a mathematical function is where every X has one and only one Y. People are not mathematical functions, so you cannot simply use logic.

    I agree in part, but disagree in part. The great logician Forrest Gump said that life was like a box of chocolates since you never knew what you were going to get. The same is true for people, so we cannot approach them as if they are some type of flowchart. But, I do not see how the variety of people and all their idiosyncrasies undermines the use of logic, for the only other alternative is illogic. (I believe that a person can follow “logical train of thought A” and then switch to “logical train of thought B” if the conclusion of logic A would be unsatisfying to the person. Said person should admit the switch and acknowledge that the entirety of his action is illogical when compared with the entirety of logic A. Too often, people make the switch, but they either do not realize it or they do not admit it. I find this unfortunate.)

    Finally, you say that we libertarians should realize that any one-sided emphasis will produce a reaction that goes to far in the other direction. The libertarians that I know – and you, to be fair, know far more than I do – do realize that certain people will take bits and pieces of libertarian belief and run amok. We see it happen all the time. The above-mentioned link is only another example; it is not, unfortunately, an anomaly.

    Thank you for your post and intellectually stimulating challenges.

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  15. "In other words, shouldn’t libertarian logic be logic that, in fact, is employed by libertarians?"

    And, perhaps, by others. Non-Kantians CAN employ Kantian reasoning... why not?

    "Within politics, as in every area of life, you must use logic; either a person’s logic is correct or it is not."

    Aristotle said this quite well. Practical life (of which politics is a part) is not a matter of theoria (in which demonstrative proofs are possible) but of phronesis (practical wisdom), to which rules of thumb, rather than strict principles, apply. It is, in fact, libertarians inexperience at politics that makes allows them to think otherwise. You would not find (I hope!) libertarians trying to conduct their romantic life according to a system of deductive logic.

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  16. I'm going to offer a last analogy here for anyone who still doesn't get what is being said: Consider John Lott's thesis that more guns yields less crime. Now, imagine, for a moment, that Lott is correct. Than someone might well say "The logic of gun control leads to more crime."

    I suppose you will agree that it would make no sense to respond to that person by saying "I bet you can't actually show me a single example of a real gun-control advocate calling for more crime!" And it's also no comeback to say, "Well, so what? Some criminals misread the ideas of gun-control folks and think gun control is an excuse to rob people -- it's not the fault of the gun control people!"

    Clear?

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