News

Loading...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Those Damned Statists!

One of the most telling rhetorical tics one finds amongst radical libertarians is to refer to every single person who does not buy their entire program as a 'statist'. Now, when Mises used that term, he was referring to people like, say, Mussolini, who were engaged in some form of state worship, who were making the State a God on earth. This made sense.

But many rad-libs today apply it to every person who does not want to destroy the State as a social institution. This is an extraordinary usage, as though I went around calling every person who does not think Major League Baseball should be abolished a 'baseballist', or everyone who doesn't mind opera houses an 'operist'. It says a lot more about those who are using the term than it does about those to whom they are applying it.

Or, to quote me from a few years ago:

'The cast of characters appearing in the Gnostic’s dream world can be divided, neatly and without remainder, into the adherents of the party of light and the demonic members of the party of darkness. The latter grouping, however much its various sub-groups might appear to work at cross-purposes to the unenlightened, actually represents a united force opposing the fulfillment of mankind’s destiny. In Voegelin’s words, "the Antichristian powers… will combine against [the Saints] universally".'

13 comments:

  1. The same reasonable von Mises who stormed out of a Mt Perlin meeting screaming at his fellow guests "Socialists! Socialists!"

    Gene, a lot of these posts are really snobby: You're always so disgusted with the way Libertarians are representing their ideas or disappointed with the sort of language they use and so on.

    Sometimes I feel the same way but really, you're just being a snob.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Avram, that story changes every time I hear it.

    First, it was Mises quietly getting up after a long talk and mumbling, "You're all a bunch of socialists..."

    Then, it was Mises looking confused in the middle of the discussion when it reached progressive taxation and him chuckling, "You're all a bunch of socialists."

    Or it was Mises saying, "You're all a bunch of socialists!" in the middle of the discussion....but only leaving much later.

    The only firsthand source of this is Milton Friedman, who may have been paraphrasing. After all, a German doesn't use "a bunch of", as if he is an American.

    Whatever it is, how people remember Mises in any situation depends on how he was perceived.

    When Bill Buckley, Henry Hazlitt, Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, and others were gathered around a table at a dinner party, one account will remember von Mises having heated discussion with Rand in a foreign language, before they both smile and stop discussing it. And then Bill Buckley will remember Ayn Rand in tears and von Mises standing up with a cheerful smile and telling Ayn Rand that she was stupid.

    Whatever. Gossip is bad business.

    PS: I am not defending Mises. He showed a lot of dubious judgment in the first place by joining Mont Perelin Society - a highly paternalistic group of people who congregate to discuss how to make lives of other people better for its own sake.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Avram -
    Gene is a snob because he points out how condescending some libertarians can be? Please.

    It's fair if you don't like a blog that regularly highlights this - but you can't call that "being a snob".

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Sometimes I feel the same way but really, you're just being a snob."

    Funny, at Bob Murphy's blog it was said I am bitter; now, I am being haughty!

    It might be more interesting to ask yourself why libertarians are so interested in dismissing these ideas with ad hominem psychoanalysis?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Avram: 'The same reasonable von Mises who stormed out of a Mt Perlin meeting screaming at his fellow guests "Socialists! Socialists!"'

    People can't be reasonable on one occasion and unreasonable on another?

    ReplyDelete
  6. sure you could define statism as state worship/making the State a God on earth, and anti-statism as no state/making the state a devil. but that leaves a lot of open ground in between.

    imagining a fluid spectrum of opinion over that middle ground, it seems reasonable, generally speaking, to consider statists those who don't want to destroy the State as a social institutionas and anti-statists as those who do.

    ReplyDelete
  7. @Gene

    I wrote a long reply but then blogspot and captcha decided to delete it.

    Here is what it said in short:

    I did not psychoanalyze you, I called you a snob: that is not psychoanalysis. I did not do it to "defend liberty" either.

    The anglo-saxon penchant for understatement and its style of wit is not universal. It is by no means a mark of intelligence. In my homeland (Serbia) someone who talked like a Terry Pratchett novell or a Black Adder episode would be thought to have learning disabilities.

    You are indeed a snob for trying to impose your sense of linguistic aesthetics as the proper means of communicating.

    I'd take a bunch of loud mouthed, over exagerating, name calling libertarians, as long they don't raise their nose up at people, over any well spoken intellectual who does.

    Snobbery is one of the most disgusting character traits, and despite your wisdom, you seem to have it in spades.

    ReplyDelete
  8. "You are indeed a snob for trying to impose your sense of linguistic aesthetics as the proper means of communicating."

    OK, Avram, how about this: You are indeed a dullard for thinking this is about "linguistic aesthetics." I am not being fussy about word usage; I am noting the extraordinary phenomenon of a group that represents .1% of the political spectrum lumping the other 99.9% under a single label. The word usage is a symptom. And I am pointing out the explanation: we are looking at a secular cult preaching secular salvation, and everyone who is not with them is against them. Re-read the Voegelin quote if you think this is about "linguistic aesthetics."

    "In my homeland (Serbia) someone who talked like a Terry Pratchett novell or a Black Adder episode would be thought to have learning disabilities."

    I know! And 50,000 dead Bosnians there is considered a good start.

    "I'd take a bunch of loud mouthed, over exaggerating, name calling libertarians, as long they don't raise their nose up at people, over any well spoken intellectual who does."

    No doubt you would, considering your own atrocious manners, and you'd do so while not even realizing that being loud mouthed and name calling are ways of turning your nose up at people!

    Feel free to come by again some time again when you have learned to converse like an adult. (If you picture me saying this with a raised eyebrow and slight sneer, you are exactly correct.)

    ReplyDelete
  9. "sure you could define statism as state worship/making the State a God on earth, and anti-statism as no state/making the state a devil. but that leaves a lot of open ground in between."

    Which would be exactly correct: You'd have two extreme views accurately depicted as such, and the recognition that most people reject both of them.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Avram, as I said, you come on back when you learn some manners. OK?

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think you're mean, Gene Callahan. Exclusion feels bad.

    I will leave you alone though, as I am obviously not wanted here. Sorry for wasting your time, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I had to post Avram's last bit as I find it hilarious. I guess in Serbia the customs work so that when you show up at someone else's house and gratuitously keep insulting them, they are "mean" to send you away!

    ReplyDelete
  13. "I am noting the extraordinary phenomenon of a group that represents .1% of the political spectrum lumping the other 99.9% under a single label."

    I don't see the problem. If a label accurately applies to 99.9% of the political spectrum, what rule of propriety bars its being used of that 99.9%? Would you still object if libertarians were using the term "non-libertarian" rather than "statist"?

    ReplyDelete