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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Libertarian Self-Parody

Eric Voegelin pointed out that leftist critics of the market economy had no need to create parodic straw men as targets: they had John Locke at hand.

And today, we have Roderick Long! Trying to explain why starving poor people should not pick an apple from a rich man's 1000 acre orchard1, Long lets them know:

"But the answer, from a eudaimonist perspective, is that it is more in one’s self-interest to die justly than to live unjustly..."

Yes, the poor have a perfect right to die of starvation, and, in fact, doing so is actually better for them than that they should become "predators" and pick an apple from the orchard of a man who has a million more apples than he can eat.

Marxists, Roderick has done all of your work for you.

1: The characterization of the argument at hand is mine, but if you look at the context I think you will see it is perfectly just.

8 comments:

  1. Yikes!

    Is he speaking more for libertarians or eudaimonists though? As I thought the general, non-eudaemonist, response was neutral towards what they ought to do, just where they stand legally.

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  2. "Eric Voegelin pointed out that leftist critics of the market economy had no need to create parodic straw men as targets: they had John Locke at hand."

    And Gilbert Ryle said Descartes gave us the Ghost in the Machine. A lot of philosophers say dumb things about the early moderns, but I've criticized you in the past about Locke and I wont do it again, particularly because I agree to an extent about Long, and I tried to push him in the comments section.

    But there is an interesting thing to note in relation to Long's comment: almost every moral theory/outlook/worldview (except maybe egoism) at some point says something very similar or identical in some context, that it is better "to die justly than to live unjustly." That being said, I disagree with Long in this context.

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    1. "A lot of philosophers say dumb things about the early moderns..."

      But this one is a very smart thing to say about Locke.

      In any case, sure: if someone said to me, "Rape that woman or die!" I would hopefully have the courage to respond "So, kill me already."

      But dying instead of eating a rich man's apple: no, I think not.

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    2. Can one be a survivalist first and then a left wing market anarchist second?

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. "if someone said to me, 'Rape that woman or die!' I would hopefully have the courage to respond "So, kill me already.' But dying instead of eating a rich man's apple: no, I think not."

    Right, which is why I agree that Long is mistaken. But what I was trying to making note of is not the extreme and uninteresting cases of the "rape this woman or die!" variety. Rather, the more difficult cases exemplified in, e.g., lifeboat contexts (was DiCaprio under a moral obligation to give up a spot on the floating wood? what if it was instead his sister / mother/ daughter/ friend/ colleague / stranger?) or Lon Fuller's Speluncean Explorers (if you are trapped with two others and starving to death, you agree to pick straws to see who gets killed and eaten, are you morally obligated to capitulate if you get the short?) or if your (voluntary/nonvoluntary) village is under attack by Genghis Khan.

    It's all context and requires moral reasoning and judgment. Even in Long's example it's not necessarily the case that the starving person is not under an obligation to forebear. For example, if the person made the deliberate decision not to provide for himself/herself, preferring others to provide for him (this of course is merely hypothetical and is *not* analogous to those currently living in poverty and starving). Anyway, we basically agree in our objection to Long.

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  4. Thinking about it a little more, my point is that simply pointing to an aspect of Long's theory and showing that under certain conditions it says "better to die justly than to live unjustly" is not a reductio (reductio in the contemporary usage) and is likely to be replaced by an alternative theory that has the same prescription under different conditions. So it is interesting to think about what those scenarios are, what values are involved, what type of conduct and facts are relevant to assessing the situation, etc. Just something to keep in mind.

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  5. This is what comes from trying to shoe horn all rights into the bucket of property rights. You end up with 3 bad options

    1 property becomes a meaningless word
    2 certain conventions of ownership get elevated to the point where apples are sacred and starvation suggested
    3 you denigrate rights like the right to a fair trial so they can be alienated as easily as apples can now.

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