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Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Course of Civilizational Destruction

I saw Steve Horwitz citing this today:

"The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson in humility which should guard against him becoming an accomplice in men's fatal striving to control society [and destroying] a civilization which no brain designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals." -- F. A. Hayek

This is a very good point. Libertarians might consider that it applies every bit as much on the attempt to force free trade or unregulated labor markets on society as it does to force collectivized agriculture on society. Traditional institutions such as guilds, poor laws, and limits on trade also grew from the free efforts of millions of individuals. And the destructive impulse present in classical liberalism has the same historical roots as that present in socialism. As Hayek's friend, Eric Voegelin wrote:

"The momentum of contemporary political movements is only to a small degree provided by their leaders; the strength and destructiveness of these movements is inexplicable unless we see them as the crests over the groundswell of a process in which the philosopher of enlightenment, the liberal utilitarian, the humanitarian Positivist, Marx, Lenin, and Hitler represent, all alike, phases in the progress of destruction. The representatives of these several phases are mortal enemies in the struggles of our time; for the historian they collaborators in the work of civilizational destruction." -- Eric Voegelin

24 comments:

  1. Oh Mr. Callahan, you play a game called false equivalence.

    It's a very transparent fallacy, and often goes like this:

    1) The Soviet Union and United States have equally opposite economic systems.

    2) Therefore, the United States has an unstable economic system, because the one in the Soviet Union collapsed.

    Or it sometimes goes like this:

    1) Muslims and Christians are both religious people.

    2) Therefore Christians want to murder heretics, since some suicide bombers have been Muslims.

    Sorry, it doesn't work. US has been one of the most stable regions in the world, and Iraqi Christians would die rather than fight back their Shi'ia persecutors.

    You have to be a communist to live in a communist society, you have to be an anarchist to live among Catalonian anarchists, you have to be a Spartan to live in Sparta.

    But capitalism never required you to believe in anything. To put capitalism on the same pedestal as social experiments or social engineering is to engage in absurdity.

    How about you remember this quote by Mises:

    "The truth is not a halfway point between two untruths."

    Contemplate that while you are tempted to stand in the middle of the road.

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  2. Notice, Prateek, that instead of dealing with anything at all that I actually wrote, what you did was make up an argument out of your own head, and then debunk it.

    You don't need me for that! Start your own blog, think up a bad argument, debunk it, and you've got a post!

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  3. "guilds, poor laws, and limits on trade"

    I knew that your thinking had evolved to being skeptical about complete laissez-faire. But really? Guilds, poor laws, and limits on trade? We're not talking pre-Mises fallacies now here. We're talking pre-Hume and pre-Smith. Three of the most open-and-shut cases in the history of economic thought.

    I hope some day you'll do a line-by-line refutation of your own Economics for Real People. I think that would be fascinating.

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  4. "We're not talking pre-Mises fallacies now here."

    Social institutions cannot be "fallacies"!

    "Three of the most open-and-shut cases in the history of economic thought."

    For people whose minds were once open and are now shut, yes. You might note, for instance, that you have not really engaged in what I wrote at all, that what you just wrote is not a response to anything I said, and ask yourself "Why?"

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  5. In that sentence, I wasn't calling the nouns in the previous sentence "fallacies". When people say "we're talking ____", it means "this involves _____". For example, if someone said, "Lions, tigers, and bears! We're talking real fear and trembling here!" it doesn't mean they are saying the lions, tigers, and bears are "fears" and "tremblings".

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  6. I'm not addressing the primary point of your post, no. But I obviously am addressing something you wrote.

    Do you think coming to a conclusion about something is the same thing as not having an open mind about it?

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  7. "But I obviously am addressing something you wrote."

    Well, you believe you are, but I still can't see what it is that I wrote to which your remark about "fallacies" applies!

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  8. I'm referring to the notions (which most economists since Hume and Smith have considered to be fallacies) involved in thinking that guilds, poor laws, and trade restrictions can make for salutary economic policy.

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  9. And I wasn't discussing those economic theories. Which is why I think that, no, you were not addressing anything I wrote at all.

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  10. You brought up guilds, poor laws, and limits on trade as things the abolishment of which should not necessarily be "forced" upon people. I can't imagine why you would say that unless you thought such institutions could be beneficial. That astounds me, so I commented on it.

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  11. Of course they can be beneficial! That's why they are all still around.

    What is astonishing is that you do think (just as I once did think!) that because Hume, Smith, etc. showed they are not economically efficient, that settles the matter! As though economic efficiency were the only value in the world.

    That's why I'd hardly have anything to refute in Economics for Real People. I think most of what I wrote was correct... from a very limited and one-sided perspective.

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  12. "And the destructive impulse present in classical liberalism has the same historical roots as that present in socialism."

    Clarification for the ignorant (like myself): You say that this "destructive impulse" is present in both classical liberalism and socialism. Then, you quote Voegelin.

    Voegelin is addressing the destructive impulse as it applies to socialism, correct? And you are saying that this destructive impulse applies to classical liberlalism in the same way that Voegelin applied it to socialism, correct?

    I am just trying to make sure that I did not get lost in the Voegelin quote, and, if I did, to find the right path.

    Thanks.

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  13. "Voegelin is addressing the destructive impulse as it applies to socialism, correct?"

    No: "the liberal utilitarian."

    All post-Enlightenment "progressive" movements are being addressed.

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  14. I think I understand:

    More or less:

    Marx, Lenin, and Hitler represent phases and these phases are present in every "movement."

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  15. Voegelin thinks that the West experienced a rebellion, ultimately against God, beginning 4 or so centuries ago. His analysis is that all of the post-Enlightenment, progressive movements are attempts to replace true salvation with salvation in this world. Marx, Lenin, and Hitler are recent manifestations of this impulse.

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  16. That is fascinating. Thank you for that explanation.

    I have never read Voegelin, but I might take a stab at trying to read and understand him.

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  17. _The New Science of Politics_ is a good place to start.

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  18. Mr. Callahan, you write, "And the destructive impulse present in classical liberalism has the same historical roots as that present in socialism."

    As I said, it's false equivalence.

    My response was that capitalism never required anybody to believe in anything, while ideological societies do. That destructive impulse of socialism requires forcing change on to people, while capitalism never even requires a change in how people think, let alone any kind of change.

    Simply saying that my response is off-topic does not make it so.

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  19. 'Mr. Callahan, you write, "And the destructive impulse present in classical liberalism has the same historical roots as that present in socialism."'

    Yes, Prateek, and the DNA present in you has the same historical roots as the DNA present in me. That doesn't mean that you are equivalent to me.

    You are saying silly things.

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  20. "Of course they can be beneficial! That's why they are all still around."

    For them to still be around, some people must think they are suitable means to their ends, but it does not mean they are correct.

    "What is astonishing is that you do think (just as I once did think!) that because Hume, Smith, etc. showed they are not economically efficient, that settles the matter! As though economic efficiency were the only value in the world."

    The primary goals people have tried to accomplish with guilds, poor laws, and trade restrictions have been economic ones. Even when the ultimate goals have been political (like getting elected) it has been via intermediate economic goals (getting elected by allegedly improving the economic lot of one's constituents).

    Economic prosperity is not the only goal in the world, but, with regard to questions concerning the delineation of property rights, it is the main issue (if not the only one).

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  21. "The primary goals people have tried to accomplish with guilds, poor laws, and trade restrictions have been economic ones."

    Well, no.

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  22. He does seem to talk about you, but you're not referenced in his text:

    http://www.libertarianstandard.com/2011/05/02/are-libertarians-no-different-than-statists/

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  23. Obviously Plauche is going after Gene about what is free and voluntary. They have played that match about a year ago. Interestingly a marxist disagrees that THEY are coercive.

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  24. scineram, I respond tonight... with the courtesy of posting a link to what I am responding to!

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