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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Libertopians Keep Trying to Define Reality Out of Existence

The rhetorician in me is moved once again to provide some minimal instruction in the aftermath of libertopian Kent's latest absolutely typical argumentative transgressions in the Moot, from which this post is upgraded and adapted. Again, this is not for Kent, Kent is a clown, Kent is unreachable, Kent is far too deep down the Randroidal rabbit hole to be saved except by a miracle of a kind that only he could provide himself by now...

Quoth Kent:


Against my accusation that Movement Republicanism is as close as his market fundamentalism will ever get to real influence in the real world, Kent huffs: "Hardly. They are not pro-liberty any more than you are." Kent keeps making the mistake of thinking I confuse his particular market fundamentalist catechism for the variations the GOP (not to mention plenty of corporatist neoliberals) like to spout on about.

Of course, it's not that I don't see the doctrinal differences between Kent's versus Paul Ryan's sects of market fundamentalism. My point is to be discerned in what I am actually literally saying over and over: the GOP spouts many of the same Hayekian- Misean- Hazlittian- Friedmanian- (pere et fils) Randian- Rothbardian- Heinleinian- anti-government anti-tax anti-civilization slogans, and those slogans have and have had many real world impacts (almost always utterly catastrophic, mind you) involving the looting and then crumbling of infrastructure, the cronyism and then corrupt dysfunction of contracting out public services, the deregulation and then ruinous mischief-making and fraud of utilities and financial enterprise, the endless "Starve The Beast" de-funding and then dismantling of civilization and the resulting anti-democratizing concentration of wealth.

It's not that I don't know that many of the assholes who mouth Kent's own pet libertopian pieties often also mouth other slogans with which he disagrees, espousing theocracy or empire or surveillance in forms he may disapprove of (though I don't think you can ever really count on people of the right to mean what they say when they say these things, especially given how parochially profitable war-making and smashing civil liberties ultimately can be if you're on the "winning" team of thugs) and so on, it's that I completely disagree with Kent that these differences matter in the way he thinks they do.

Kent -- and so many libertopians like him -- seems to think his occasional doctrinal differences with the GOP mouthpiece du jour or disapproval with right-wing think-tank hacks on separable matters means these Republicans have nothing at all to do with Kent. But my own point is that these Republican jerks, whatever their differences with libertopian jerks, are nonetheless as close as the libertopians will ever get to seeing any materialization of any of their world view in actual reality, come what may. To put the point with more elegant concision: Just because GOP assholes differ from your own libertopian assholery in certain respects doesn't get you off the hook for the parts of their bullshit they owe to you.

It's as if Kent wants to pretend that all these political debates are some sort of abstract exercise playing out among angels on pinheads, when it is playing out in fact in the real world where real people can hear the actual arguments and frames used to justify real right-wing errors and crimes and lies. These suffering people will have no difficulty discerning the libertopian strain in GOP policy and rhetoric that has yielded its measure of disaster, especially if those of us who know better see to it that the truth is known.

Kent and his ilk may strive to define all their troubles away all they like, but these are real lives being smashed up by facile self-serving libertopian slogans, not high school debating club points being scored.


Kent: "Those who produce are not parasites."

By definition, of course. This is the very same sort of gesture that libertopians use to declare market outcomes "non-coercive" by fiat, from which stipulation they go on to trot out all their usual cocksure entailments in perfect obliviousness to the empirical failures of their prescriptions ever to measure up to real world complexities. Notice, a pattern is emerging here (see title of post).

And so, by definition, those denominated "producers" according to Kent's parochial preferences in the matter are by definition "not parasites" and so there is no need to inquire further into the conditions under which their production occurs or is enabled in actual history in actual reality. One needs merely to get the Big Bad State and the icky moochers out of the way for the super-producers to do their stuff.

Unfortunately, Kent's magic words do not cause actual reality to conform to his libertopian fantasy. The actual process of production is collaboratory/contestatory and happens in the context of institutions and commons as well as historical archives and struggles.

Just because market fundamentalists are too stupid to grasp these things, and just because they can peddle and promote their wrong but attractively simple alternative viewpoint to other stupid people in their pocket-universe (as well as to the many more who find in such views congenial or uncritical rationalizations for their own complacency and waste because they are pampered and have remained, hitherto at any rate, mostly insulated from the cruel and unsustainable consequences of their irresponsible conduct as thoughtless consumers and apathetic renunciation of responsible citizenship) doesn't make it so.


Kent, debauching a quotation by King he does not understand, "mutuality does not require coercion or theft. It does not EVER require a State"

Gosh, he sure seems supremely confident making claims about an orderly law-abiding and yet anarchic state of affairs with nothing in reality or history to actually back it up, now, doesn't he? Of course, Kent is defining as "coercion" and "theft" here plenty that does not deserve the designation by a long shot in my view. Paying one's dues to participate in a civilization far greater than yourself from which you benefit incomparably more than it costs you is hardly "theft" to anyone with an actually working brain or conscience. But, look, I think we need to go here to some deeper places Kent is likely altogether incapable of delving into; that is to say, into the constitutive terms out of which the political, properly so-called, arises, and out of which come the fundamental experiences and problems to which terms like liberty, coercion, production, and so on actually correspond in the first place.

People who share the world are actually different from one another, they have different capacities and different aspirations. There are ineradicable disputes among stakeholders sharing the aftermath of struggles and accomplishments past, sharing the present world opening onto tomorrow. Violence and the threat of violence pre-exist states, and "state-like" institutionalizations of order are responses to the permanent possibility of violence inhering in human plurality itself.

Violence is not created by the state and would obviously persist in a world in which everything "statelike" were smashed. And so, elections provide a mechanism for the comparatively nonviolent succession of ruling organizations, law courts provide comparatively nonviolent alternates for the resolution of disputes, general welfare provide a comparatively legible scene of consent to the terms of private enterprise in complex divisions of labor after the withering away of sacral social orders, public and common goods ameliorate the novel harms arising from externalization of cost and risk in industrial-scaled intervention into ecosystems and mass population, and so on.

To celebrate or rail against "The State" is probably, ultimately, more trouble than it is worth when what is wanted is to grasp and to struggle in the service of democratization and equity-in-diversity through the reform of and resistance to exploitation playing out across the actually-existing institutional terrain in which we actually find ourselves, coming out of a complex history of struggle and suffering and creation and emerging onto a shared prospect no less promising and yet stratified by quandary and trouble.

You can of course declare, stipulate by definition, that there simply are no rational conflicts among people, you can declare there simply are no problems of harm arising from complex modalities of association, you can declare violence unnecessary and so negligible in principle (as if there were not disputes even as to what should count as violence to which institutions must respond), and so on in the usual facile libertopian fashion.

From anarcho-capitalists to Randroids to libertopians to neocons to chamber of commerce free enterprisers to prosperity gospel muscular baby jesus freaks to neoliberals to corporatist Dems -- free marketeers of whatever stripe can obviously sell these comforting daydreams for parochial short-term profit and an easy feeling of mastery over complexities that exceed their ken.

But they do so to the ruin of the world.

And this is because the world is not like your favorite Ayn Rand novel, and the problems and promises of human plurality and social struggle and stakeholder politics and public goods are all real whether you understand them or not, whether you ignore them or not, whether you lie to yourself or others about them or not.

1 comment:

jimf said...

> Kent is unreachable, Kent is far too deep down the
> Randroidal rabbit hole to be saved except by a miracle
> of a kind that only he could provide himself by now...

Isn't this what Greg Egan calls an "Outlook", in