Are Property Rights Enough?

Should libertarians care about cultural values? A reason debate.

Libertarians traditionally have viewed coercion, especially when institutionalized in the form of government, as the main threat to freedom. But cultural pressures outside the state also can restrict people’s ability to live as they please. Is that another limit on liberty worth criticizing, or is it a function of voluntary choices?

In the first essay below, Contributing Editor Kerry Howley argues for a wider vision of human liberty, one that acknowledges government is not the only threat to freedom. In a reply, Todd Seavey says fighting for property rights is difficult enough without taking on cultural baggage. In another response, Daniel McCarthy agrees that culture and liberty are linked but suggests that freedom demands a more pluralistic view of acceptable cultures than Howley’s vision might allow.

We’re All Cultural Libertarians 

Freedom is about more than just the absence of government.

Kerry Howley

“It was amazing to me how quickly she overturned the power structure within her family,” Leslie Chang writes in Factory Girls, her 2008 book on internal migration within China. Chang is marveling at Min, a 17-year-old who left her family farm to find work in a succession of factories in the rapidly urbanizing city of Dongguan. Had Min never left home, she would have been expected to marry a man from a nearby village, to bear his children, and to accept her place in a tradition that privileges husbands over wives. But months after Min found work in Dongguan, she was already advising her father on financial planning, directing her younger siblings to stay in school, and changing jobs without bothering to ask her parents’ permission.

Chang’s book is full of such women: once-obedient daughters who make a few yuan, then hijack the social hierarchy. Even tiny incomes cash out in revolutionary ways. With little more than 1,000 yuan (about $150) in Min’s pocket, it becomes possible to plan a life independent of her family’s expectations, to conceive of a world where she decides where to live, how to spend her time, and with whom.

I call myself a classical liberal in part because I believe that negative liberties, such as Min’s freedom from government interference, are the best means to acquire positive liberties, such as Min’s ability to pursue further education. I also value the kind of culture that economic freedom produces and within which it thrives: tolerance for human variation, aversion to authoritarianism, and what the libertarian economist F.A. Hayek called “a preparedness to let change run its course even if we cannot predict where it will lead.”

But I am disturbed by an inverse form of state worship I encounter among my fellow skeptics of government power. This is the belief that the only liberty worth caring about is liberty reclaimed from the state; that social pathologies such as patriarchy and nationalism are not the proper concerns of the individualist; that the fight for freedom stops where the reach of government ends. It was tradition, not merely government, that threatened to limit Min’s range of possible lives. To describe the expanded scope of her agency as merely “freedom from state interference” is to deny the extent of what capitalism has achieved in communist China. 

As former Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leader Warren Jeffs can tell you, it’s possible to be an anti-government zealot with no interest whatsoever in individual liberty. If authoritarian fundamentalist compounds are your bag, the words personal agency will hold no magic for you, and Min’s situation will smack of social chaos. But libertarians for whom individualism is important cannot avoid discussions of culture, conformism, and social structure. Not every threat to liberty is backed by a government gun. 

Convention creates boundaries as thick as any border wall and ubiquitous as any surveillance state. In Min’s village, women are constrained by a centuries-old preference for male descendants. (Men are also constrained by this tradition, as families are less likely to permit their valuable sons to migrate to the city.) Most people will accept their assigned roles in the village ecosystem, of course, just as most Americans will quietly accept the authority of a government that bans access to developmental cancer drugs while raiding medical marijuana dispensaries. A door is as good as a wall if we cannot imagine walking through it.

It ought to seem obvious that a philosophy devoted to political liberty would concern itself with building a freedom-friendly culture. But the state-wary social conservative flinches when his libertarian friends celebrate the power of culture itself to liberate: the liberty of the pill, of pornography, of 600 channels where once there were three. The social conservative will refer to these wayward anti-statists as “cultural libertarians,” by which he means libertines. And it will always be in his interest to argue that the libertarian, qua libertarian, should stay mute on issues of culture. 

“True libertarianism is not cultural libertarianism,” the philosopher Edward Feser wrote on the paleolibertarian website LewRockwell.com in December 2001. This statement was immediately preceded by a call for the stigmatization of porn, adultery, divorce, and premarital sex—in other words, an argument for a particular kind of culture. Feser claimed that small government and an ethos of “personal fulfillment” were incompatible, and he argued for the former over the latter. In the guise of an attack on cultural libertarianism, Feser demanded that libertarians espouse different patterns of cultural behavior.

As it turns out, all libertarians are cultural libertarians. We just don’t share the same agenda. Some prefer to advance their agenda by pretending it doesn’t exist: that social convention is not a matter of concern for those who believe in individual liberty. But when a libertarian claims that his philosophy has no cultural content—has nothing to say, for instance, about society’s acceptance of gays and lesbians—he is engaging in a kind of cultural politics that welcomes the paternalism of the mob while balking at that of the state. 

This prioritization can be difficult to confront because it is most often expressed in strategic silence or casual conversation. The tendency to dismiss feminist complaints about social pressure as “self-victimization,” for instance, is not something one is likely to encounter in a philosophical meditation on the centrality of property rights. It emerges in the choice to write about one freedom-limiting aspect of the world rather than another, bubbles up in Internet chatter, and spills over into informal interactions.

Still, if too many people who group themselves under the libertarian banner pursue a vision of liberty restricted to resisting state coercion, libertarian intellectual history has something to do with that outcome. Founders of modern libertarianism, giants who helped shape the self-conscious movement’s argumentative styles and emphases, tended to focus their firepower almost exclusively on the state. Murray Rothbard, the anarchist economist and philosopher who was a guiding influence on nearly every existing libertarian institution, limited his vision of liberty to the security of private property; any depredation that couldn’t be traced to an assault on or theft of someone’s justly owned property was not, in his view, the libertarian’s concern. Milton Friedman’s popular writings about choice looked at areas where choice was being restricted by agents of the state with explicit threats of force. Ayn Rand’s ethical philosophy did look beyond the state, to the forces of conformity and altruistic moral suasion. But her vision of rationality was so demanding that readers could be forgiven for thinking that life in a welfare state might be less restrictive than life lived as a model Randian.

Libertarianism in the early 1970s still had countercultural energy to burn, but the institutions that grew to define the modern movement during that decade and the next—reason, the Cato Institute, and the Libertarian Party— focused largely on areas of economic disagreement with the left, such as tax levels, government spending, the flexibility of labor markets, and the regulation of international trade. While libertarians agreed more with a roughly defined left in a few areas, such as military policy and the drug war, they repeatedly missed opportunities to connect their concerns about authoritarianism with the left’s analysis of less overt, more deeply embedded restrictions on individual agency.

Feminist consciousness, for example, came to be seen by libertarians as inseparable from statism, despite the fact that it arose in response to very real social and state pressures that restricted the autonomy of half the population. In a different context, libertarians might have seen that certain feminist critiques—particularly those having to do with the social construction of gender—were necessary to any serious consideration of individual liberty. Thoughtless conformity has rarely been the libertarian’s friend. But against a backdrop of feminist assaults on free speech and calls for workplace regulation, social constructionism seemed to many merely another justification for government coercion, a denial of the very concept of personal agency. 

In turning so definitively from the left, libertarians denied themselves a powerful vocabulary with which to engage discussions of individualism. To take a very basic example, at mid-century 5.5 percent of Americans entering medical school happened to have female bodies. This number may well have reflected women’s limited interest in pursuing medicine as a career. But that level of interest also reflected a particular view of women in positions of authority, a certain range of social spaces that girls could imagine themselves inhabiting. Norms that positioned women as wives and mothers obviously functioned as constraints on identity formation. None of this has much to do with limited government, but it has everything to do with individuals struggling to assert themselves against a collective.

Libertarians are usually sensitive to the political implications of social norms when those norms are fostered by an overzealous state. Universal state surveillance, libertarians often worry, breeds passive adults with no expectation of privacy. Smoking bans encourage people to accept the diminution of their choices uncomplainingly. Ever-expanding executive power encourages further president worship, preparing the ground for the next executive power grab. The more the state does, the broader most people think its natural scope to be. 

The inconsistency of the libertarian who believes that smoking bans create automatons but scoffs at the social construction of gender troubles the Auburn University philosopher Roderick Long and the libertarian writer Charles W. Johnson. “Libertarians often conclude that gender roles must not be oppressive since many women accept them,” they note in a 2005 essay on libertarian feminism, “but they do not analogously treat the fact that most citizens accept the legitimacy of governmental compulsion as a reason to question its oppressive character; on the contrary, they see their task as one of consciousness-raising and demystification, or, in the Marxian phrase, plucking the flowers from the chains to expose their character as chains.” Liberty—from government, from tradition, from prejudice—must be taught, capacities developed. 

Beyond the realm of social psychology lie more obvious markers of social pressure—brute, external restrictions on freedom maintained by intolerance or cultural inertia. Libertarians will agree that laws requiring racial segregation and prohibiting victimless, though controversial, sexual practices are contrary to their creed. But if the constraints on freedom of association suddenly become social rather than bureaucratic—if the neighborhood decides it does not want black residents, or the extended family decides it cannot tolerate gay sons—we do not experience a net expansion of freedom. If a black man who cannot hold employment by law is unfree, so too is a black man who cannot hold employment because social custom decrees that no one will hire him. If a gay couple that cannot legally marry is being wronged, so too is a couple that must stay closeted to avoid social ostracism. A woman who has to choose between purdah and exile from her village is not living a free life, even if no one has bothered to codify the rules in an Important Book and call them “laws.”

None of this is to say that it is the state’s place to force a family to accept its children, a church to welcome all comers, or a sex worker to embrace all lonely hearts. There is a difference between emotional coercion and physical force. But it is the role of someone who professes to believe in the virtues of individualism—and emphatically the role of someone who believes that social persuasion is preferable to legal coercion—to foster a culture that is tolerant of nonconformity.

Property rights are more than the conclusion of an academic argument; they are themselves a matter of culture. If they are useful to us it is because they govern our conduct and lend structure to everyday life. I may not help myself to the contents of just any wallet, take off in just any car, walk into just any house. A drop-dead argument for the authority of these constraints may exist in pure reason, but they are meaningless without a broadly shared sense of their legitimacy. Absent friendly social forces, property rights are an impotent abstraction. Rights come alive through convention. Culture makes them breathe. Strip away the context in which property rights are respected, and nothing much remains. Yet cultural context, in all its messy inexactitude, is exactly what propertarians wish to resist.

Culture also is where libertarians should focus if they wish to gain more than tepid enthusiasm for their unorthodoxy. A thin philosophy attracts thin support. It certainly didn’t take long for former President George W. Bush to abandon the logic of his professed small-government principles; the pull of moral utopianism was stronger than that of rational calculation. Rand inspires millions not because she writes so passionately about property rights but because she writes so passionately about individuality in a world of suffocating conformity. Her books change their readers not because they idealize small states but because they depict large men.

Leslie Chang, another author who surveys the damage wrought by cultural conformism, includes a conversation with her Chinese relatives in Factory Girls. Chang wants them to share the stories of their lives, their individual encounters with the Cultural Revolution and all the devastation that followed. But each relative of a certain age insists that she has nothing to say, brushes over life events, and retreats to the safety of specific dates rather than tracing the arc of a life. They cannot disentangle their stories from those of the nation, and Chang eventually gives up in frustration.

“The women in the factory towns of the south did not talk this way,” she finds. “In a city untroubled by the past, each one was living, telling, and writing her own story; amid these million solitary struggles, individualism was taking root. The details of their lives might be grim and mundane, yet these young women told me their stories as if they mattered.” 

Libertarians like to mock liberals who attribute all good things on this earth to the virtue of benign governmental forces—the bureaucratic Tinkerbell who ensures that their food isn’t poisoned, that their roofs don’t fall, that the sun rises on schedule. What an irony that so many avowed anti-statists, their eyes firmly affixed on Washington, cannot see freedom beyond government’s absence.

Contributing Editor Kerry Howley (KHowley@reason.com) is a writer in Iowa City.

Freedom’s Just Another Word for Kerry Howley’s Preferences

Defending property rights is difficult enough without cultural baggage.

Todd Seavey

Kerry Howley accuses property-focused libertarians—which I had hoped meant all libertarians—of having veiled cultural agendas, whereas hers is open, forthright, and beneficial to boot. Quite the contrary: Like countless young “Third Wave” feminists, Howley insists we see the specific, early-21st-century cultural agenda she’s pushing as a neutral blank slate, filled with endless possibilities and with no limitations on individuals and their boundless potential. By contrast, any conventions and cultural norms at odds with that vision are “walls,” like guard towers, seemingly backed by the threatening power of police truncheons.

The big question is why adherence to cultural norms is not itself an exercise of one’s freedom. Amish opponents of statism might think liberty grows more organically out of their highly traditional way of life than it does out of Howley’s just-do-it attitude. Meanwhile, fighting against social norms often includes opposition to such libertarian-approved bourgeois social norms as commerce and respect for property. Storefront-smashing anti-globalization activists are a good example of the dangerous paths that groovy cultural iconoclasm can take.

This is not to say that I know our current batch of social norms is ideal. (I’m an atheist, so there are obviously going to be some social conventions with which I disagree.) I’m just not convinced that Howley has the power to spot which ones are bad and thus weed them out of the ongoing, dynamic, evolutionary process that is civilization.

She mentions, for instance, that 5.5 percent of medical students, decades ago, “happened to have female bodies.” She concedes briefly that discrepancies in gender roles “may” result from psychological inclinations or voluntary behavior patterns rather than oppression, but she gives us no reason to believe that she has special skills enabling her to decide better than the rest of us when the sorting processes of society have yielded acceptably “free” results and when they have yielded unacceptably gendered ones. That’s why libertarians traditionally focus so much on the physical-coercion litmus test: Other tests are as hopelessly ambiguous as the bickering of democratic socialists. 

There’s a vast universe of moral and philosophical judgments beyond libertarianism, and one of the beauties of the philosophy is that it leaves people free to debate those countless other matters without breaking the minimal ground rule of respecting one another’s rights. Trying to cram all of philosophy and culture into the tiny footnote that is libertarianism is precisely the kind of political overreaching that drives people away from radical philosophies, not a form of richness that aids recruitment.

It’s hard enough to sell people on the idea of property rights already without adding a host of “rich” moral baggage to the idea. Does Howley predict greater success if we tell people they have to give up traditional social norms, gender roles, and religious views at the same time? Do you think the metric system would have been an easier sell in Europe if bureaucrats had said everyone also had to adopt, say, Portuguese cuisine and androgynous clothing?

Most libertarians would say that once the side constraint of property rights adherence is established, people have a right to engage in whatever social patterns they wish to follow so long as the property side constraints are not themselves undermined. Howley mentions “fundamentalist compounds” dismissively, but isn’t the whole point of liberty that people are free to construct fundamentalist compounds, sexist strip clubs, respectable female-run corporations, gender-indifferent science labs, or all-male hunting lodges as they choose, so long as they do so voluntarily?

If not, we can be forgiven for wondering why someone who thinks like Howley would embrace the basic political stance of libertarianism in the strict property-defending sense at all. If people telling you “fat chicks should be shunned” is as oppressive as being hauled off to jail, why not pass laws banning anti-fat-chick discrimination? Why not endorse affirmative action laws? Why not tell Catholic-run charities they must hire gays? The traditional libertarian answer is that rights violations are fundamentally different from behavior that merely strikes you as narrow-minded.

Howley’s thinking is potentially authoritarian (in a way that being passively bourgeois is not) because other people’s patterns of behavior will always limit your options one way or another and thus prompt demands for redress. Howley singles out a few hot-button, familiar issues such as race and gender, but the truth is that every time your fellow human beings decide, say, to be sports fans instead of talking about entomology with you, or to leave town en masse for the Bahamas (causing you to feel lonely), their actions have altered your life options. Tough luck. That’s called “other people exercising their freedom,” not “people oppressing you.”

And their freedom includes their right to heap criticism upon you, not just your right to speak freely. They may even express arbitrary preferences in their criticism, unless Howley is asserting that only others’ objective, rationally defensible statements should be allowed to affect my life. It is not an enhancement of libertarianism but instead a grotesque subversion of it to say that other people are behaving freely only if they’re being nice and supportive of your decisions and behaviors. This is not to say that their voluntary actions and words cannot be, as Howley rightly suggests, more damaging to you than a property violation such as a fine or a burglary. But we recognize in their nonviolent actions an inevitable aspect of freedom in the real world, lived with other free people. The property violations, by contrast, can be policed and minimized.

Just as theater critics who hound a writer into abandoning his work have not committed coercion in the morally or legally relevant sense of the term, generations of people expressing their cultural preferences in ways that put you at odds with them are not committing coercion. They are living free lives that you are welcome to ridicule, despise, or oppose, but you should not claim to be doing so in the name of libertarianism or liberty. You’re simply expressing your preferences, and they’re expressing theirs.

The larger problem with Howley’s view is that she has no more idea than the rest of us what social norms will come to be seen as most beneficial centuries hence, absent legal coercion. She may feel deep in her bones that the future is destined to be a funky, libidinous, free-spirited, gender-neutral dance party. But ongoing scientific revelations about gender differences in the brain and the perpetual quest for more efficient ways of carving up the division of labor may in fact yield a world more “sexist” than anything routinely seen in America in the early 21st century. Similarly, people may come to think that a quiet life of media avoidance, monastic contemplation, and predictable routines creates vastly more happiness than being a Howley-style individualist. We simply don’t know how dense tradition—or other even more rigid social norms—will be (and should be) in a free future after more centuries of learning.

In the short term, I can’t help noticing that at the recent Tea Party protests against government spending that I’ve attended, there were a lot of conservatives and Christians. Should we tell those right-wingers they’re hindering the fight for freedom? Is the real battle being waged by fans of Herbert Marcuse? The Marcuse fans I’ve met tend to love government spending—and hate capitalism, not to mention bourgeois individualism—as do most of the leftist culture theorists from whom Howley thinks we have so much to learn. Thinkers who (however accurately) point out that morality is more than just the market have a tendency to favor regimes that leave us with less than a market. 

Libertarians should stay focused on shrinking the government’s role in our lives and our economy. The other culture wars are endless, and we have no clear stake as libertarians in their outcome. By adding still more items to the libertarian agenda, we will not enrich our philosophy, only render it muddled, more demanding, more partisan, and still less popular.

Howley is entitled to prefer whatever cultural norms she likes. We are in turn free to criticize, ridicule, and shun her.

Todd Seavey (toddseavey@earthlink.net) blogs at ToddSeavey.com.

No One True Culture of Liberty

Tolerance is important but difficult to define and easily subverted.

Daniel McCarthy

Libertarians ought to support a culture of liberty. But what does that mean?

Many scholars of liberty—the sociologist Rodney Stark, to name one—have argued that Western Christianity is the original culture of liberty. It ended classical slavery, improved the status of women, recognized the sanctity of the individual soul, and set the stage for a proliferation of private property rights and the spirit of enterprise throughout Europe as nowhere else. From all that, it may not follow that Christian culture is still the womb of liberty today. But conservatives and culturally right-wing libertarians believe it is.

Progressives and culturally left-leaning libertarians tell another story, in which Christianity is a seedbed of intolerance and repression—often violent repression. Libertarians of all stripes are comfortable enough condemning aggressive violence categorically. (Though even here questions arise: Who defines aggression? Is violence against a fetus in the womb aggression, or is it a defense of your right to your own body?) What kind of culture leads to minimal aggression and maximum freedom is a matter of contention. Tolerance is probably an important attribute of any culture of liberty, but tolerance is harder to define than liberty itself.

Consider: If McCorp fires John Doe because he voices support for gay marriage, a libertarian who subscribes to a progressive view of the world might say McCorp has committed an act of intolerance against Doe. But if Cold Harbor Laboratory fires a molecular biologist (let’s call him “James Watson”) because he states a belief that Africans have weak cognitive abilities, the same progressive libertarian may not believe any act of intolerance has occurred—or, if one has, that Watson is the guilty party. After all, can you foster a culture of liberty in a society polluted by views like Watson’s? If that example seems too easy, consider the case of an otherwise qualified professor denied tenure because he’s a creationist, or because he’s a Republican.

Must a free society treat those who hold irrational or bigoted opinions the same way it treats those who have enlightened views? To do so, Herbert Marcuse warned, amounts to “repressive tolerance,” a kind of tolerance that allows fascist personality types to flourish and thereby undermines freedom. Right-wingers have their own list of views that must be suppressed (by force or by social stigma) in the name of freedom. Willmoore Kendall, for example, believed that public orthodoxy ought to trump free speech, since all liberties rest upon a cultural consensus. Thus, according to Kendall, Athens was right to execute Socrates, and 1950s America ought not to tolerate Communists. For disciples of Marcuse and Kendall, freedom really isn’t free.

Maybe a true culture of liberty has nothing to do with left-wing or right-wing orthodoxies. Rather than taking sides in culture wars over race, religion, sex, and subversion, libertarians —so this line of thinking goes—ought just to affirm a culture that supports property rights. In this case, the libertarian position regarding John Doe or James Watson should be to support employers whenever they fire anyone, since (unless a contract specifies otherwise) an em-ployer always has a right to dismiss subordinates. But even this culturally neutral standpoint does not have an uncontested claim to be the pure libertarian view. Those who take their cues from John Stuart Mill will argue that expressive liberty is at least as important as property rights. We therefore ought to defend employees with unpopular views against arbitrary dismissal, regardless of whether we find their opinions righteous or repugnant.

If Mill is patron saint of the expressive libertarians, Murray Rothbard is the champion of the propertarians. Kerry Howley’s essay makes the case for a substantive left-libertarianism. She suggests the Ed Feser of 2001 as spokesman for the culturally right-wing libertarians. Today Feser, who has continued to move rightward, or at least stateward, is not a libertarian at all, which might seem to prove Howley’s point. But I held views not far from Feser’s in 2001, and I have followed a different trajectory. That Feser and I can move in different directions from similar cultural presuppositions might prove the point I want to make: that there is no one true culture of liberty.

The idea that only traditional attitudes, never progressive ones, can be oppressive strikes me as naive. Cultural progressives are as apt as anyone to make the leap from stigmatizing to persecuting their enemies. Scapegoating has been as useful for the authoritarian left as for the authoritarian right: Witness the hysteria about white separatists and right-wing militias that recurs every time a tolerant Democratic administration succeeds an intolerant Republican one. Randy Weaver, no less than Matthew Shepard, can attest to the consequences of demonizing misfits.

Nor do progressive attitudes toward sex and race necessarily lead to a culture of liberty. In the 1920s the Soviet Union was less racist and more sexually open than the United States. Divorce and abortion were legal and readily available, and more than a few Bolsheviks practiced as well as preached free love. Yet that did not make Russia a more fertile soil for liberty. Workers’ orgies were no defense against the power of the Soviet state, which soon revoked the moral license it had granted.

To point out the inadequacies of cultural progressivism is not to excuse the flaws of cultural conservatives. Either side may be more or less libertarian in practice. Paradoxically, the nonlibertarian qualities of the mutually antagonistic left and right sometimes entail unexpected benefits for freedom. Some of the most effective centers of resistance to state power over the centuries, after all, have been nonindividualistic institutions such as labor unions, churches, guilds, and extended families. Conversely, when libertarians attack these organs of civil society in the name of freedom, they may only succeed in empowering the state—not always, but sometimes.

If some libertarians won’t tell you what freedom should look like beyond the absence of the state, don’t assume that these people must subscribe to a crabbed idea of liberty or else are smuggling their values behind a veil of cultural neutrality. These anti-statists may refuse to define the cultural content of libertopia because they believe deeply in the pluripotentiality of freedom—that freedom can mean the freedom to be a Mormon housewife as well as to be a postgendered television personality. Freedom, they realize, may even mean the freedom not to be free. Libertarianism does not demand that everyone subscribe to the same idea of the good life. By extension, libertarianism also should not demand that everyone subscribe to the same idea of liberty.

Thoroughgoing anti-statists understand that politics is not culture, even if culture—that is, how people live their lives—shapes politics. What follows from this is that in letting culture remain diverse, anti-statists accept that politics will be diverse too and will not always lead to outcomes that all libertarians like. The political theorist Chandran Kukathas explains this well in his paper “Two Constructions of Libertarianism.” In what he calls the “Union of Liberty,” everybody has to interpret the rules in the same way, under one centralized libertarian government. In the “Federation of Liberty,” there is a “meta-tolerance” toward different understandings of tolerance and liberty because it is understood that other people interpret political rules, including the fundamental libertarian rule of nonaggression, in different ways.

The danger of the Federation of Liberty is that it permits violations of liberty, perhaps even outright slavery. The danger of the Union of Liberty, however, is much worse. The trouble is not only a universal state but a universal orthodoxy, a tyranny of the supermajority that threatens to destroy the individual personality. In culture, even tolerance, justice, and liberty can be carried too far. One must be permitted some room for error, psychological space for entertaining thoughts other than “libertarian” thoughts.

Consider the plight of Alex in the Anthony Burgess novel and Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange. By any standard—left, right, Millian, or Rothbardian—Alex is no libertarian. He’s a vandal, a murderer, a rapist (ipso facto a misogynist). He’s guilty of every crime. So why do so many of us sympathize with him? Our feeling for Alex derives from something deeper than mere horror at his eyes being pried open in the film’s famous torture scene. We have a right to, or better still a love for, what is inside our own skulls. If mental content, even good values like nonaggression, can be poured into Alex’s conscience as if he were nothing more than a vessel, the same could happen to any of us. Not only the state but also our culture must not press its demands so far into the individual conscience, whether by “justified” coercion (in the case of the killer Alex) or by any other means.

Our moral imperfections are our last guarantee of liberty against the benevolent system builders who would have all men and women speak with one voice and assent to one idea. Cultures of liberty tend to be bric-a-brac, full of unresolved tensions between competing ideas. Freedom does not depend upon universalizing the “right”—or left—values. It’s the other way around: A clash of values is what makes even mental liberty possible.

Daniel McCarthy (mccarthydp@gmail.com) is senior editor of The American Conservative.

Culture, Not Just Government, Restricts Liberty

The capacity to choose must be learned.

Kerry Howley

Earlier I suggested that not all threats to liberty are threats from the state, that power is distributed throughout society by nature, accident, and convention. Daniel Mc-Carthy echoes my thoughts in his description of “a universal orthodoxy, a tyranny of the supermajority.” My point is that such orthodoxy is of concern, if not to all self-described libertarians, then to those who are in the game because they care about freedom broadly construed.

My co-discussants conceive of a world in which human beings spring from their mothers’ wombs fully equipped with the psychological armor required for individualism, at which point they choose among an array of possible lives. “Shall I be Amish or Wiccan?” the ready-made individual asks. “Shall I be a child bride or shall I enroll at Miss Porter’s?”

Missing from Todd Seavey’s and Daniel McCarthy’s responses is an acknowledgement that human beings acquire a respect for individual rights and a consciousness of their individuality. We aren’t born knowing that prosperity flows from property rights; indeed, it’s somewhat counterintuitive. And we aren’t born knowing that it’s dangerous to defer unthinkingly to your peers.

Our choices are rather more constrained than Seavey and McCarthy allow, and cultural pressure is one notable limitation. Resistance to this pressure is a developed skill, if it is developed at all. Clearly some are never given the tools to do anything but acquiesce. A pluralistic society requires a delicate balance between the freedom to raise children in whatever manner you please and some assurance that growing human beings will encounter conditions under which individuals may act as individuals and come to exercise freedom in a meaningful way. 

In the abstract it is easy to pretend, as Seavey does, that no one loses out when authoritarian cultures thrive unmolested. Specifics are messier, darkened by the reality of trade-offs and fraught with the vulnerability of young minds. An Afghan kid who never gets the chance to go to school—not because the state prohibits it, but because her culture does—will find her range of options profoundly constrained. She may not even conceive of other ways of living: As McCarthy reminds us, “psychic liberty,” too, is subject to constraint. “Tough Luck,” says Seavey. “That’s called ‘other people exercising their freedom,’ not “people oppressing you.’ ” But if we care about choice, perhaps we should care about encouraging the capacity to choose.

Seavey’s libertarian can have no complaint, qua libertarian, so long as property rights, conceived along the lines of a certain kind of idiosyncratic libertarian theory, are observed. One may be a racist, an anti-Semite, a raving nationalist interventionist, or all three, but libertarian one may remain. Fair enough. Someone inclined to endorse libertarian property rights, but who thinks there is more to liberty than the allocation of property rights, should thus be no more objectionable than, say, a property-rights-respecting xenophobic militarist. Yet the idea that social structure and cultural norms also matter to liberty is taken to be, for reasons unknown, “potentially authoritarian.” Xenophobic nationalism is a matter of indifference to the property-focused libertarian. But an expansive concern for liberty? Well, that’s the first step down the road to serfdom. Or the second, after feminism.

Seavey worries that libertarianism will be even less popular if we point out the confluence between it and other philosophical leanings. This is silly. I write this response from a café in southern Guatemala, where you can’t walk into a Catholic church without being confronted by Mayan animist iconography. Unimpeachably devout Catholics cart booze and cigarettes to an effigy of Maximón, a badass, cigar-smoking saint I promise you will not find in the Vatican.

The most successful missionaries did not come to Guatemala and insist that their religion had nothing whatsoever to do with the lives of those they sought to convert. They tried to convince the locals that they had been Catholics in spirit all along. Every evangelist on earth knows his task is to find connections between old, entrenched beliefs and whatever newfangled doctrine he is looking to sell.

Perhaps it would be instructive to consider a hypothetical conversation between Seavey and a potential libertarian.

Potential Libertarian: What’s libertarianism?

Seavey: A philosophy of freedom and property rights.

Potential Libertarian: Oh, right. Freedom like civil rights? 

Seavey: No, not that kind of freedom. 

Potential Libertarian: Oh. Freedom like the freedom to be openly gay?

Seavey: No. That has nothing to do with liberty. 

Potential Libertarian: Oh. Um…

Seavey: Let’s talk about easements!

Daniel McCarthy’s erudite critique outlines some ambiguities over which libertarians have always argued—the many, differing conceptions of tolerance, aggression, and property rights. He is right to claim that “libertarians should not demand that everyone subscribe to the same idea of liberty,” but it is a mistake to assume that given the inevitability of disagreements, any consensus is impossible and undesirable. Tolerance itself is a consensus position, demanding a certain measure of agreement. Like all rights, property rights depend on some measure of concordance. Sometimes an appeal to the impossibility of agreement is merely an excuse for quiescence.

People come together to undertake all manner of projects in a free society, and resisting pervasive cultural constraints is one of them. The status quo reflects a natural, but not inevitable, proclivity to defer to authority, and a natural, but not inevitable, desire to bow to the tribe. A culture of liberty would indeed beget the raucous, plenitudinous hodgepodge McCarthy speaks of. And I would call that world a better one.

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  • dhex||

    this was a great piece and reaffirmed the utility of my print subscription, despite the damnable yellows and reds you guys insist on using on the front cover.

    DAMNABLE YELLOWS!

  • 24AheadDotCom||

    Up with libertarian social values!

    P.S. In case anyone replies to this, their responses will almost assuredly be ad homs, thereby conceding my points and showing the childish, anti-intellectual nature of libertarians. Dozens of comments here have shown that the phrase "fascist libertarian" isn't an oxymoron.

  • dennis||

    as hominem responses don't concede anything about an argument. They indicate contempt for the one making it.

  • ||

    Racist!

  • Bruce Majors||

    Nonsense. Hominey is a staple of the traditional African American diet

  • ||

    If you add homonyms to each other it's a mortal synonym.

    Conjunctive clauses should be for heteronyms only.

  • Dress Up Justin Bieber||

    True!!!!!

  • Leif||

    STFU, libertarian social values!

    (Thus I refute LoneWacko)

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    I think what Howley fails to understand is that libertarianism has to treat human beings like golf balls. You play the ball where it lands. You don't rationalize that the ball would have landed somewhere else without the undue influence of the change in the wind, or else you're burdened with an infinite regress of what-ifs.

    To bring this analogy around to something that matters to Howley, nobody knows what percentage of the female population has been dissuaded from a career in physics because of patriarchal oppression. Since this is not empirically knowable, it's a wiser allocation of intellectual resources to focus on the relative tangibility of state coercion.

    Am I abusing the threaded comment feature in order to leave a comment close to the top of the page? Maybe, but it's part of the process of evolution of better and better systems. C'est la vie.

  • Sam Grove||

    In fact, a major concern of libertarians is the institutionalization of cultural oppression via the state.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Fair enough, but how does that contradict what I said?

  • Br'er Rabbit||

    I think what Howley fails to understand is that libertarianism

    More concise and correct.

  • Br'er Rabbit||

    Howley fails

    better yet

  • ||

    I'd also add that Howley fails to realize that, absent State coercion, we are free to leave opressive families, churches, or other organizations. While her example of the Fundamentalist Mormons resonates with me (having family that lives in Southern Utah, near places where they live), there's still this question: while there may be creepy rumors about how Fundamentalists keep their families in isolation, and do other things to maintain their authority, what can we do about it?

    We can raid their compounds, arrest their men, abduct their daughters, and confiscate their property...but that only alienates Fundamentalists even more from the "world" (as both Utah in the 1950s and Texas in the last couple of years demonstrated).

    If we are to help them, we need to quietly reach out to them, individually, when Fundamentalists do things that break the isolation.

    Fortunately, organizations like this are in the minority! Thus, it is easier to reach out to people we may consider to be oppressed, and to help them out of their situation, or at least make them aware of their situation, and let them decide for themselves whether or not they want to continue in it!

  • Amy||

    If we are to help them, we need to quietly reach out to them, individually, when Fundamentalists do things that break the isolation.

    But... wasn't this her point? I don't see her advocating state force anywhere, just individual, personal effort.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Actually if Howley check's her women's history one of the fun facts she can un-earth is that women were a higher percentage of PhDs awarded before FDR and the New Deal, back under a more laissez faire capitalism, than they were in the 30s, 40s, 50s,or 60s. They only caught back up in the 70s.

  • Oppresive Patriarch||

    In what political universe would bitch-slapping Howley into a coma for such idiocy be considered the appropriate response? That's the one I want to live in!

  • ||

    "This is the belief that the only liberty worth caring about is liberty reclaimed from the state; that social pathologies such as patriarchy and nationalism are not the proper concerns of the individualist; that the fight for freedom stops where the reach of government ends. "

    Nationalism a social pathology? Thanks to that pathology Howley gets to be a top shelf white girl writing dumb things on the internet instead cooking food over a yak dung fire. I hate Howley. I don't miss her writing for one second. So glad she left.

  • ||

    Gooooood! I feel your anger; I feel the HATE flowing through you!

  • ||

    I am starting to comprehend the power of the dark side.

  • ||

    What's good about nationalism? Why should an individual sacrifice his life for an abstraction such as a "nation".

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    I can tell you weren't there that very first time the Huns rode into town.

  • Br'er Rabbit||

    Yet she is still here in spirit...

    *retch*

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    I'm afraid you're right. The smell doth linger upon the still air.....

  • Morris||

    This is by far the most intelligent post I have ever encountered here. Ha anyone ever heard of positive freedom?

  • ||

    Yeah, I hear about it every time somebody steals my stuff to give to somebody else whose vote they want.

  • JB||

    Yeah, that's what I call it when someone rapes Morris.

    It sure provides me with positive feelings.

  • Br'er Rabbit||

    It figures Morris would like this.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    "heard of"? We talk about it all the time here... It's what we like to refer to as not freedom at all. You don't have the freedom to steal people's stuff or demand their time, thus so-called positive "liberty" is completely at odds with an individual's right to live as they see fit and own property.

  • Leif||

    No. Do enlighten us.

  • ||

    "Positive freedom" is a way of disguising other people's slavery as your freedom. Its anti-libertarian at its heart.

  • ||

    "he is engaging in a kind of cultural politics that welcomes the paternalism of the mob while balking at that of the state."

    Really? Then perhaps Libertarians should be worried about the culture and mores of immigrant groups who don't exactly share Howley's view of the evils of the patriarchy.

    Not to go all lonewacko or anything, but if there is a budding patriarchy in the West it is in the Muslim slums of Europe and the Somali communities of the United States more than it is among the paleocons.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Dude, you just went all lonewacko on us.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Actually the state is the main source of conformity. The White House tries to define what is news and what is not. The FCC wanted to define who is liberal and who is conservative (with no other options) for decades. Almost all state actions mandate academic credentialing by state authorized institutions. The state defines what is a marriage and who will receive tax and social security benefits for families. Etc etc.

    I think Howley's fears that children raised in "authoritarian" families will never learn to walk through a door is mainly silly. Many of us did it. If anything, a moribund economy, a state sponsored academic credentialing system, and child labor laws are what keep children from being liberated by leaving home. In the statist economy about all they can do if they leave at 15 is become a hooker or drug runner.

  • Bruce Majors||

    True.But you are not allowed to say that.

    If we had capitalism they'd all be de-patriarchied by the 3rd or 4th generation, as everyone else was.

  • Leif||

    STFU John. :-)

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Kerry,

    Great take on that. I really do take my freedom of choice for granted, often. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Warty||

    Shut the fuck up, Edward.

  • ||

    I'm still reading this in the print version, but Seavey's rebuttal to Kerry seemed to imply that she proposed using force to change traditions that impacted liberty, which I don't recall her proposing.

    There's nothing wrong with trying to change traditions as long as you don't do it via force.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    I think the electronic version reads faste because electrons are faster than ink blobs.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    This version was so fast an r was destroyed.

  • ||

    If not force, what does Howley want us to do? Call religious people names? And get mad when religious people call gay people names?

  • John Tagliaferro||

    mitch,

    Do you get all Chris Crocker when religious people call you names?

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    LEAVE MITCH ALONE!!!!! SOB!!!!!!

  • John Tagliaferro||

    ACK! That voice, that voice . . .

  • ||

    Ignore what people call you. By not recognizing their attempts at ridicule, you prove that you are just a better person.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    The best revenge is living well.

  • ||

    Wouldn't hurt.

  • ||

    True. But there is a counter value of being left alone. A world full of busybodies Howleys out lecturing us on our patriarchal ways, while better than government coercion, doesn't sound very good to me.

    Howley pretends like she is not forcing her values on everyone else in the world. Howley has a certain western mind set and values of how things ought to work between people. That is fine. I am sympathetic to that mindset. Where, Howley runs off the rails is her conceit that her busybody do-gooding about the Patriarchy or Nationalism or whatever is any different that someone else's doogooding about gambling or porn. They are exactly the same. Howley is no different than some evangelical. She is just crusading against a different set of evils.

  • ||

    I'm more or less with John. Should there be a "libertarian line" on things that are more or less opinions? Would Howley's emphasis on culture put libertarians on the road to supporting various affirmative action schemes?

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    I think she's quite different than - what I'm assuming your refering to as -the helplessly closed-minded evangelical. For instance, if you brought up these points civilly she would probably actually consider them and maybe reconsider part of her position (considering that you're right, essentially, as far as I'm concerned). Being mean about doesn't help anything, though. She's making an important point and one that warrants more thought, so why detract?

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    You're right about that - she's not an evangelical. When you consider the inevitable implications of what she's saying, what you're left with is standard issue left-liberalism, albeit slightly less market hating than usual.

    She'd make a wonderful Kennedy Democrat circa 1962.

  • JB||

    This is that Liberaltarianism nonsense, version 2.0. An attempt to inject the poison of feminist dogma into libertarianism.

  • ||

    How am I being mean?

  • ||

    Yeah, but as Daniel McCarthy points out, the cultural conformity in progressive circles can be horrifyingly oppressive. Howley seems to advocate that we act more like those progressives who feel justified in constantly lecturing people about organic food, vegetarianism, bike riding, fair trade coffee, carbon footprints, recycling, and so forth.

  • ||

    "True. But there is a counter value of being left alone. A world full of busybodies Howleys out lecturing us on our patriarchal ways, while better than government coercion, doesn't sound very good to me."

    Pfft, have some spine and engage them in your own debate. Bring them to your side of the argument.

  • mischief||

    Why?

    No one is entitled to your time because she wants to be a busy-body.

  • ||

    She isn't entitled to it, but a single convert is worth several defeated enemies.

  • Br'er Rabbit||

    I haven't RTFA but in previous pieces she has (at the least) implied State force be used to prohibit discrimination and other perceived "social ills".

  • Bradley||

    she has (at the least) implied State force be used to prohibit discrimination and other perceived "social ills"

    So you didn't read the article and then you made that part up. Cool.

  • ||

    mitch, one can convince people to change their opinions without resorting to force. Unfortunately, most people tend to prefer the method of "have the government force them to change".

  • ||

    Hear hear!
    The libertarian method is to not initiate force.

    Also irt: "have the government force them to change". Force by proxy is no different then force by self. Thats why I always mock the pacifist absolutists who call the cops on people.

  • ||

    OK, let's grant that libertarians should support "cultural" liberty. What is the mechanism to stop patriarchy and race intolerance? I assume that the government can't do it by force. How do you go about making someone more tolerant? Public shaming, shunning? OK. I'm cool with that. But how is that any different than the "mindset" you are opposing? Can informal systems of social coercion really be effective in the fight against informal systems of social coercion? And how does that fight always remain oriented toward liberty?

    I think rigorous application of negative rights and a structure of self-ownership address all the problems that can be actually addressed without resorting to codifying thought crimes.

  • ||

    Ah, the wonderful route of social conformity! Apparently, you have forgotten the hell of high school. Boy, talk about social conformity being numero uno.

    Concepts such as confomity, pecking order, saying the right things and wearing the right "social uniform" and literal ostricization and even expulsion from said societal group for failure to comply.

    Come to think of it, reminds me of your average college campus as well, i.e. frats, sororities, and academic clubs.

  • ||

    Yes, it reminds one of a college campus, but the frats and sororities aren't what come to mind. I'm thinking of the bar named 'Che's', and the 'Social Justice Film Series' advertised in the student union.

  • Bruce Majors||

    High schools are bastions of social conformity because of truancy laws and state schools.

    Private schools are often much less conformist, even when they have a dress code and chapel.

    I went to both and a smaller private school is much freer and more freeing.

  • The Gobbler||

    This might be the first time I have ever read anything serious written by SugarFree.

  • ||

    I get serious all the time. I just need something meaty to actually post on.

  • anonymous||

    "How do you go about making someone more tolerant? Public shaming, shunning? OK. I'm cool with that. But how is that any different than the "mindset" you are opposing?"

    Is it the means or the ends that are the problem? Libertarians spend a lot of time trying to explain that not every social evil requires a government intervention, but it's dangerous to forget that "not a good idea to have state intervention" doesn't mean "desirable". Maybe it isn't social pressure itself that is the issue, but the results of that pressure.

    "Can informal systems of social coercion really be effective in the fight against informal systems of social coercion"

    Can weapons really be effective in a fight against people with weapons? No, history tells us that all wars have ended in stalemates.

    More important is the question -- if someone is using social pressure but not laws or violence, are you justified in fighting it with anything other than social pressure? Are you suggesting that every evil must either be fought with laws/violence or simply ignored?

    "I think rigorous application of negative rights and a structure of self-ownership address all the problems that can be actually addressed without resorting to codifying thought crimes."

    1. Property rights and self-ownership
    2. ???
    3. Ideal society!

    Just because you can confidently say that step 1 is a necessary precondition doesn't mean you shouldn't bother to figure out what the hell step 2 actually requires.

    Property rights don't actually directly address issues, they just put people in a position where they are more likely to be able address issues.

  • Bruce Majors||

    State provided schools are the biggest agents of conformity, and especially of racial and class residential segregation, in the US. And no one seems to study that or write about it.

    People have their money taken from them so they must use state schools that are "free"to educate their kids. Since they love their kids,want them to be safe and educated, and to network with successful families, everyone moves to the school district where they can only barely afford a house, leaving poorer families behind a county away. The resulting residential segregation then also segregates the labor market and causes jobs to move away from lower income people.

  • ||

    Since anon is a little hard of reading, I'll go very slowly:

    1. Property rights and self-ownership
    2. ???
    3. Ideal society!

    There is no ideal society and libertarianism/self-ownership/property rights is not trying to bring one about. I acknowledged that there would still be problems in the Lib-society (see the problems that can be actually addressed part means that I'm not saying it would solve everything... I can go slower if you are still having trouble keeping up). And those remaining problems could only be addressed by creating a class of thought crimes. (Thought crimes are a bad thing, at least to me. I don't know about sub-literates like you.)

    Can weapons really be effective in a fight against people with weapons?

    Nice facile analogy. Once again, if you could read and understand English, you might have been able to feebly grasp that I don't think a culture of mutual and retaliatory bullying is very useful to anyone. Most humans understand that bullying only works on the truly weak-minded, like you, and most people will ignore it after a long enough period of incessant nagging.

    Any other stuttering objections you would like to lob from your fog of imbecilic lackwittery?

  • anonymous||

    "There is no ideal society and libertarianism/self-ownership/property rights is not trying to bring one about."

    There's a difference between a libertarian and a nihilist. It's perfectly reasonable to say that there is no universal conception of an ideal society, and perfectly unreasonable to deny that there are 6 billion conceptions of "ideal society", however vaguely defined.

    Moreover, even if "libertarianism" as a political movement restricts itself to questions of governance, it doesn't mean that individual libertarians have to limit themselves in such a way -- "libertarian" says a lot more about the means you believe you can justly use to achieve your ends than the ends themselves. Perhaps Howley's mistake was in assuming that libertarians were more sympathetic to the left in terms of social ends.

    "And those remaining problems could only be addressed by creating a class of thought crimes. "

    If your definition of "crime" includes things that invite disapproval from a majority of your fellow private citizens, without any criminal sanction or government intervention, sure.

    "Most humans understand that bullying only works on the truly weak-minded, like you, and most people will ignore it after a long enough period of incessant nagging."

    I think an honest survey of present society, not to mention human history, suggests that social pressure does have a particularly powerful effect on people's beliefs and behavior. Maybe that just means that most humans are weak-minded, but I suspect it means that most humans are born blank-minded. Pressure doesn't just mean bullying, at any rate -- if most people do or think or believe something, that creates pressure without them saying a single mean word.

  • Redmanfms||

    Can weapons really be effective in a fight against people with weapons? No, history tells us that all wars have ended in stalemates.

    It most certainly does fucking not.

  • ||

    "think rigorous application of negative rights and a structure of self-ownership address all the problems that can be actually addressed without resorting to codifying thought crimes."

    Absolutely! The whole point of libertarianism is what you just said. I am really irked at the people who try to co-opt the term "libertarianism" into the positive rights statist, force using model, the way "liberalism" was co-opted.

  • ||

    OK, let's grant that libertarians should support "cultural" liberty. What is the mechanism to stop patriarchy and race intolerance? I assume that the government can't do it by force. How do you go about making someone more tolerant? Public shaming, shunning? OK. I'm cool with that. But how is that any different than the "mindset" you are opposing? Can informal systems of social coercion really be effective in the fight against informal systems of social coercion? And how does that fight always remain oriented toward liberty?

    I think rigorous application of negative rights and a structure of self-ownership address all the problems that can be actually addressed without resorting to codifying thought crimes.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    How do you go about making someone more tolerant?

    I can support ass kicking in this case. Decriminalize kicking the asses of intolerant busybodies.

  • ||

    Yeah. Lets go out and look into everyone's life and kick their ass if we find them to be intolerant busybodies. Nothing about that would make us intolerant busibodies.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Let's start with the haters. They need the first ass kickings!

  • ||

    If haters wish to associate amoungst themselves and shun the world or groups they hate, then they should be let be.

    Except it did'nt work so well for Waco and Ruby Ridge residents.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    I hate what happened to them.

  • The Extispicator||

    Doesn't starting a sentence with "I hate" make you a hater, by definition? Everybody, kick his ass!

  • ||

    You hater.

  • ||

    We hates the haters. We hates them to death.

  • ||

    It's high time we all learn to hate those who hate others' unfounded hatreds. At least it will be 'hating for cause'.

  • ||

    It's intolerant to be intolerant of the intolerant...

  • ||

    Ooops...typo - ah well, I am only human...

  • Leif||

    Kick the Hate, not the Ass!

  • ||

    The problem is that Howley has no respect for voluntary associations or civil society. If a bunch of people want to join a church that says women should serve their men and stay home and have children, I would say that is their business and as long as people are joining voluntarily it is none of mine or anyone else's business. But, Howley would want us to go out and shun those people and tell them how wrong they are. To which I would say that Howley needs to shut the fuck up and mind her own business.

    Howley is a nannystate liberal mascerading as a libertarian. Yeah, she doesn't want the government to do it, which is good. But, she still has her own little vision of utopia she would like to enforce on the world.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    I didn't take away the same thought from what she wrote that you did. I don't see her complaining about people who voluntarily reject the advice that Min gives, she just wrote about the people who went along with it and that does not sound like a bad choice either.

  • ||

    If they are living in an isolated compound I would agree. But I think Howley is at least attempting to address situations where the "church that says women should serve their men and stay home and have children" is the dominant force in the society.

    I don't believe in fighting won battles, which is why I don't bother with anti-gay religious nuts, or sexism, or racism. No purpose is served by further oppressing already-marginalized belief systems.

    At this point, the liberal desire to use social coercion against racists, sexists, and homophobe largely isn't about liberty. It is about social conformity and status signalling. People do it to display their tolerance credentials to each other, not because it serve an actual purpose in liberating women, gays, or minorities.

  • ||

    Which is indentical to your arguments concerning the "organic food" acolytes. Essentially, it's not so much "I'm living healthier by buying this stuff", it's the "I'm so much better than you by buying this trendy stuff whether or not it it has any true benefit to me. I'm better and more enlightened than you."

    It is essentially a societal membership card.

  • Bruce Majors||

    So true. I think it also serves to rally your base and create wedge issues. You can bash a white male candidate who isn't even sexist or racially insensitive just by claiming he doesn't really "get" these issues.

    That's one reason I think the Demwits drag their feet on so many gay equality issues. If gays were equal you couldn't keep milking them for campaign contributions.

  • ||

    HEY! what's wrong with shunning people who I don't agree with? Engagement is better than shunning, but still...

  • ||

    There is nothing wrong with being intolerant, other than that making the intolerant person a complete idiot. The only problem is when that person's intolerance turns into action.

  • ||

    But intolerance comes in different forms. If someone lives say as a strict Orthadox Jew or Chirstian and never bothers anyone else other than to say "you ought to live this way if you want to go to heaven." That person is not intolerant.

    The intolerant person is Howley who shows up to lecture someone because they don't share the values she deems appropriate.

  • Mike Laursen||

    I don't think she's saying that everyone has to conform to her values. She's recommend that each libertarian be willing to apply his or her values to judging non-governmental social institutions and arrangements, and be willing to speak out against such situations if they see them as repressive of individual liberty.

  • JB||

    Such extremism in the defense of liberty would perhaps quickly be considered as a vice, and hurt the cause of liberty far more than help it.

    This is patronizing kind of cultural nannying that is typical of the left's attempts at social engineering.

  • Mike Laursen||

    What extremism, what patronization? If I express an opinion that Warren Jeffs is an asshole, or that gay people are alright in my book, or my disapproval of radical Islamic attitudes towards women, am I being extreme?

  • Bruce Majors||

    But she is just doing it to save their soul!

  • ||

    I think rigorous application of negative rights and a structure of self-ownership address all the problems that can be actually addressed without resorting to codifying thought crimes.

    Agreed.

    I think there is a false implication is that because we have a simple core enfolds cultural freedom 'merely' as a logical consequent means we don't care about cultural freedom.

    Or worse perhaps somehow don't realize that's a consequent, which I highly doubt.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Maybe their should be a stimulus program for cultural freedom. I am sure Anita Dunn and Porkpie Gibbs could run it. Freedom and tolerance for all tongue flicking biddies and fat morons in their million dollar Chevy Chase and Alexandria suburban houses!

  • ||

    Fucking double post bullshit.

  • ||

    What SugarFree said.

    Not to mention that, given the Total State we now have expanding at an ever-increasing rate, frowny-faces from my neighbors are way, way down on the list of things limiting my liberty.

    Not to mention that, to a "deep" libertarian such as myself, the best and perhaps only way to keep the state in a box is to have a culture/civil society that can maintain sufficient norms of its own that people don't feel the need for a state. Let's not forget that, in this country at least, the Total State has really taken off since civil society was pretty much chucked over the side by the Baby Boomers. Coincidence?

  • anon||

    I don't think there were any baby boomers alive in the 1930's.

  • ||

    Reading this article, it's no surprise that Kerry Howley and Will Wilkinson are an item. Sure, people should be open to change; they should also be open to the idea that ideas that have survived a long evolutionary process should not be thrown out just because you don't see the underlying reason. The evolutionary process outside the state provides a useful way to test those changes.

    I freely admit that someone can be a libertarian and have different opinions on abortion, on animal rights or veganism, or a host of different moral issues. All of them can be defined in terms of positive rights.

    [Rand's] books change their readers not because they idealize small states but because they depict large men.

    Yes, but depictions of "large men" can also inspire those who want to use the government to impose their vision. Yes, the books are more successful because they appeal to people who don't care for the small-state vision but who like tales of heroic creators-- but plenty of very statist people have admired the books for that reason but not been affected by her political philosophy at all.

  • ||

    Howley and Wilkinson? Really?

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    Has anyone yet figured out a use for Howley and Wilkinson? Besides maybe potting them, watering them, and putting them in the window?

  • ||

    I think there are a few people on these threds who have some uses for Howley. But this is family friendly forum. So we won't mention those.

    As for Wilkenson, I have no idea what purpose on earth he serves.

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

  • Bruce Majors||

    They are a cute couple.

    I cannot think of many statist who admire Rand's books. The average leftoid cultural worker who mentions them, like Nora Ephron, usually says something airheaded, like that she spent her teen years wanting to be raped by an architect. You get the sense that she just flipped forward to the sex scenes, diddling her button while she imagined the red headed Irish boy from school asking her to the prom.

  • Richard Holder||

    they should also be open to the idea that ideas that have survived a long evolutionary process should not be thrown out just because you don't see the underlying reason.

    Gee, I don't see an underlying reason to drug prohibition, but it has survived a 70-year evolutionary process, so let's hang onto it. Surely our wise forebears knew something we didn't.

  • ||

    Libertarianism has a role in making sure that people are open to dynamism and change, without necessarily embracing (as a movement) specific ideas of change. Right-libertarians have a role in reminding left-libertarians that throwing the results of years, decades, or centuries of evolutionary change out the window to be replaced by something that sounds better according to our current philosophers is not entirely different from the conceit of central planners who don't believe in the free market.

    Turn Kerry's complaint around. Why can't left-libertarians who realize that the evolutionary behavior in the economic sphere leads to the best results realize that the evolutionary change in the social and moral sphere can lead to the best results without libertarianism having to pick winners and losers?

  • ||

    "Turn Kerry's complaint around. Why can't left-libertarians who realize that the evolutionary behavior in the economic sphere leads to the best results realize that the evolutionary change in the social and moral sphere can lead to the best results without libertarianism having to pick winners and losers?"

    That is a very good point. Russell Kirk gives the metaphor of a conservative and liberal walking through a field and encountering a fence. The liberal looks at the fence and immediately starts to tear it down because it restricts freedom. The conservative says to stop and see if the fence serves some productive purpose before we tear it down. Some of these rules have purposes that aren't obvious and secondary effects of eliminating them that can't be known.

    But, Howley writes with all the thoughtfulness and maturity of 14 year old who just started reading feministing for the first time.

  • Bo Darville||

    I also agree with this point. Isn't some philosopher stating that "this is how things should be" exactly what we want to avoid. Isn't their omnipotent opinion the ultimate arrogance? Shall we be free men or wards of the academic elites?

  • That Guy||

    I think Howley gets a lot of things right. However, I don't recall reading any solutions to the problems presented with say, children in fundamentalist compounds.

    Does she honestly think that the positive freedoms of an 8-year old FLDS girl can be increased without the use of physical coercion (i.e. the state)?

    Frustrating though it may be, it seems to me that you get into a very murky area very quickly when you begin to proscribe solutions to cultural oppression. Can we really evaluate when it crosses the line to becoming a violation of personal property (i.e. the self)?

    If we see a woman who by all appearances is a subjugated slave of her husband, but she claims she enjoys her life, by what means can we discern whether she's simply being oppressed by her culture into slavery (and therefore merits state protection of her freedoms being violated) or is being truthful and genuinely desires such a lifestyle, as illiberal as it may be (and therefore should have her freedom respected and be left to live as such)?

  • ||

    You can't. And there are tons of women who live lives that would appall Howley and are perfectly happy. Who the hell is Howley to claim they are wrong? I am sure they look at Howley, single, no kids, living alone not believing in God, and think she is living an empty wasted life.

    I don't know who is right. But, I do know both of them ought to leave the other one alone to figure out what is a life worth living.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Doesn't sound like Kerry is forcing anybody else to do anythig. More like she is encouraging them to have options.

  • ||

    As long as the government is not involved coercing anyone, how can they not have options?

  • John Tagliaferro||

    If they stay economically dependant on others (by accepting that option) then many other options vanish.

  • ||

    And if the they are choosing to stay in their situation because they made the rational choice it is better to stay for, as Rand would put it "selfishness" (negative liberty); or, they have the view that they bring something of value to the situation, such as love, compasionship and parenting (positive liberty). To paraphrase Kenobi, "Perception is dependant on a certain point of view."

    Thus, if the arrangement is mutually beneficial and there is no perception of a violation of invidual liberty, I see nothing wrong here.

  • prolefeed||

    You CAN'T "get oppressed by your culture into slavery", as long as you're free to leave or to reject the culture.

    The women in FLDS compounds are either a) happy with their lives, or b) unhappy with their lives, but haven't yet had the nerve to reject that life and strike out on their own, or c) are forcibly being kept in the compound against their will.

    a) and b) are none of our damn business.

    c) is when we should step in and protect her liberty to choose how to live her life

  • Mike Laursen||

    No, what Howley is saying is that it is legitimate for a libertarian to consider (b) to be his or her interest, and to do something about it (not necessarily involving government, but the whole range of individual human action).

  • ||

    an argument for a particular kind of culture

    Like Epi said, there is nothing wrong with non-state actors debating what kind of culture is most beneficial.

    The problem arises when (as humans tend to do) the use of force is employed to advance that vision of the "right" kind of culture. And the reality is, the form that use of force most often takes is that of the state.

    I'm not especially interested in rallying libertarians around the cause of shouting down ideas and voluntary behaviors that some of us may personally find icky. Bigger fish to fry.

  • ||

    There is a difference between a debate and a crusade. It is not really clear just what the hell Howley actually wants people to do. In some ways she is just saying that everyone should be free to leave the cultural institutions they inhabit, like the Chinese girl leaving the village. Well, no shit. No one would say that people shouldn't be able to leave cultural arrangments. If that is her point, she really doesn't have one.

    But if she is saying that we should actively go out and try to convince and change anyone who makes cultural choices we don't like, then she is just as bad of a busybody as she claims to reject.

  • ||

    Now we come to the question that has been begging to be asked, "Whose culture is the most correct and desirable, provided that differing cultures are inherently incompatible?"

    Does might ultimately make right, whether administered through mob rule (societal pressure) or through statist force (government thugs)?

  • JB||

    The issue of coercive, bullying or intimidating state power is only a subset of power asymmetries that threaten individual liberty.

    Anarchosocialism, anarchocommunism, anarchostatism, all sorts of scummy Alinsky offshoots demonstrably threaten freedom every bit as much a powerful central government.

    For this reason, Miss Howley's can of worms is best left unopened.

  • ||

    Agreed JB.

  • ||

    "Whose culture is the most correct and desirable, provided that differing cultures are inherently incompatible?"

    Mine of course.

  • ||

    Can informal systems of social coercion really be effective in the fight against informal systems of social coercion? And how does that fight always remain oriented toward liberty?

    Yes, they can. The fundamental problem is that the government, with its monopoly on force, makes it very easy for someone to propose a law and use the proxy of government to impose force on others.

    Most people aren't that inclined to directly force you to behave a certain way. But having the government do it is so much easier.

  • ||

    Culture and society don't even matter. If someone is influenced by outside forces like this, which aren't even mandatory, then they are weak-willed. It's up to the individual to avoid influence, and parents to protect their kids from influences that they don't want them to have.

    Government is the main problem, anyway, since they use FORCE to get people to do what they want.

  • ||

    Are we talking statism or collectivism here? Isn't it possible to be collectivist without state compulsion?

  • ||

    Yes, tribalism can encourage this. You have a tribe of folks that work towards a collective good, provided ALL are of like mindset and goal orientation. examples would be a comune or a kibbutz.

  • ||

    Yeah that's the thing, EVERYONE has to be in agreement, everyone has to want to work toward the common good.

  • prolefeed||

    But cultural pressures outside the state also can restrict people’s ability to live as they please.

    As long as they aren't using the ballot box or thugs or whatnot to criminalize your choices, you're still free to ignore those cultural pressures and do what you want.

  • ||

    So a muslim living in the US is free to kill his daughter for being raped is free to do so?

  • ||

    grammar fail, sorry

  • prolefeed||

    No, the NIOF (Non-Initiation of Force) principle applies -- you're not free to harm others in a libertarian society. Everything else is allowed.

    The Muslim father is free to practice the NIOF parts of his religion. He's not free to kill his daughter in the name of that religion without consequences.

  • ||

    Why not, if it is inherent and permitted by his religion, dating back hundreds of years? That would qualify as an entrenched culture and a freedom of religion as well.

    Furthermore, said father finds your pacifism insulting and weak, and is inclined to forego your objections.

    Whose culture is paramount, especially if his ritual killing is perfomred on his property?

  • prolefeed||

    You're trolling, right?

  • ||

    Wow, that a first! I have never been accused of trolling! G-d no!

    I do occasionally ask "Devil's advocate" scenarios to reinforce my own beliefs.

    I assure you I don't seriously believe the father has any right to take her life, regardless of cultural influence.

    That is my culture, and because of Natural Law, I believe it to be morally correct.

    Primum non nocere

  • JB||

    When religion conflicts with the non-coercion principle, religion loses. How's that? "Blowing up infidels" e.g. is clear-cut. Beating your wife with a stick is less clear-cut, depending on said wife's ability to physically leave without being harmed.

    The business of others isn't the business of libertarianism.

  • prolefeed||

    Or the longer rebuttal: So anyone, anywhere, should be free to rape, literally enslave, or murder anyone they can get their hands on, so long as:

    a) this occurs on their private property, and

    b) they can find a book that they allege is scripture that they allege contain verses that, according to their alleged interpretation, sanctify these horrific deeds.

    Srsly?

  • ||

    Of course not. Our dominant culture (greatly influenced by books of scripture) abhors such atrocities.

    At least most do.

    And since we have a sovereign country with most in agreement that these acts are culturally impermissable and punishable under our laws, private property goes out the window.

  • ||

    There ought to be a floor of human rights. You can't coerce people. You can't kill or assault people. Adults must be free to enter or leave any social arrangement they like. Beyond that it is none of my business what people think or how they conduct themselves.

    There are people in this country who sell themselves into what amounts to sexual slavery. Well not real slavery since they can leave the relationship. But, talk about patriarchy, there it is. But, as long as both parties really want to live that way and are free to quit living that way anytime they want, I am not going to run out and try to interfere with their relationship no matter wierd I think it is.

  • prolefeed||

    There are people in this country who sell themselves into what amounts to sexual slavery. Well not real slavery since they can leave the relationship.

    I thought you supported traditional marriage, John. ;)

  • ||

    I got a slave and married her. And damned if once she got a ring and my bank account number, she wasn't much of a slave anymore. Go figure.

  • ||

    And she has the right to leave at any time and take half your booty (literally and figuratively).

    Hope you got a pre-nup!

    /kidding

  • prolefeed||

    If she takes half his booty, he'd literally be making half-assed comments then.

    ;)

  • ||

    Recall what "the state" is short-hand for: some people, under the aegis of government at some level, get to force other people to do what those in the government want them to do, or to refrain from doing what they don't want done. If the national, state and local governments are restricted to constitutional limitations on their power, most of the limitations on liberty are removed. Non-state social sanctions still exist, in my opinion, within such a "minimalist state". Note that the state no longer has the power to enforce culture by law. Social pressures, in the absence of the current extensive welfare system, did duty for keeping both abortion and illegitimacy rates low. Notice that social pressures alone do not carry the freight here. When one has zero expectation of getting anyone else to support your children, it motivates folks to do things they don't do now. Such as marry someone who has a job, such as avoiding pregnancy outside of marriage, such as learning rather than playing your way through your schooling; in short, avoiding all the dysfunctional - plain English = impractical and stupid - things so many folks do now because they know they'll get money to live on from the state. Yes, I know that such folks also supplement their welfare income by robbery, burglary, drug sales and other violent and criminal activity, but as they are faced with "work or don't eat", fewer will choose crime, particularly as the mini-state will not prevent gun ownership and use in self-defense as the current arrangements do.

  • ||

    Also, Howley's hypothetical conversation at the end of the piece is a little disingenuous. What exactly does "the freedom to be openly gay" mean? As many others have said on this thread, if that freedom needs to be enforced by removing other people's freedom to hire, fire and be rude to whoever they like, it ceases to be a libertarian position.

    I'm as thrilled as anyone that our culture has gotten better at accepting homosexuality, for example. I just think those kinds of changes happen organically, and that there's not one true libertarian view on how they should unfold.

  • ||

    Agreed, Mrs. Taggart

  • Mike Laursen||

    ...if that freedom needs to be enforced by removing other people's freedom to hire, fire and be rude to whoever they like, it ceases to be a libertarian position.

    A lot of commenters here who have problems with what Howley wrote seem to be putting a lot of words in her mouth. I think you're confusing your reaction to the article with what she actually said.

  • MJ||

    It has to with the fact that she did not say much about what the practical aspects of her position actually are. People have to speculate as what those aspects might be that's different from a "live and let live" approach which Howley seems to find inadequate.

  • Bruce Majors||

    We gay people need to be free not to wear clothes,hence "openly." Our more evolved metabolism and chemistry requires fresh air and vitamin D from sunshine.

    That's why we have nude beaches and parades.

  • Leif||

    And lesbians, especially attractive ones, need to feel free not to wear clothes in my vicinity. Freedom!

  • prolefeed||

    As former Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leader Warren Jeffs can tell you, it’s possible to be an anti-government zealot with no interest whatsoever in individual liberty.

    Well, no. Mormons, fundie or not, believe in agency, or at least that's what their scripture says. People are free to leave the FLDS compound and ignore the religion -- and if they aren't free to leave the compound, then the FLDS is acting as a de facto government.

    Most Mormons believe they ARE free, and choose to (mostly) obey their leaders because they think they're better off doing so. As my former Elder's Quorum president put it, "The rules the Church lays down aren't barriers -- they're guardrails to keep you from getting into trouble."

    Keep people like the FLDS away from the ballot box, and keep their leaders from preventing people from leaving their compounds, and they can't affect your personal freedom if you choose to ignore them.

  • ||

    Good point. When Howley says:

    A pluralistic society requires a delicate balance between the freedom to raise children in whatever manner you please and some assurance that growing human beings will encounter conditions under which individuals may act as individuals and come to exercise freedom in a meaningful way.

    I'm not sure what form that "assurance" is supposed to take. There are lots of examples of individuals deciding to abandon cultural conditions they find unacceptable, just as there are plenty of examples of people who have grown up in our pluralistic, Western culture and are as statist as they come. The cool thing about our species is that we're more than just the sum of our environment.

  • ||

    I don't see where there is any need for balance. People ought to be able to raise their children however they want as long as they are not physically abusing or neglecting them. They certainly should be free to teach them whatever values they want.

    I don't see you achieve any "balance" without the power of government coming in and telling people what is proper to teach their children. Like I said above, Howley is a statist mascarading as a Libertarian. In the end, she has her own little utopian vision she would like to enforce on the rest of us. We are just supposed to trust her that doing so won't involve coercion.

  • prolefeed||

    Anyone who has encountered a PK (a Preacher's Kid, a hellion who does everything they can to trample upon the religious upbringing foisted upon them), or basically any teenager rebelling against their parents, knows that try as parents may to instill their own values, kids will reject those values if they want.

    Talk to most Mormons with a half dozen or so kids, get them to open up, and you will usually find them bemoaning that some or even most of their kids have rejected their values.

  • ||

    Or, even more fun, is the child(ren) of a police officer. Or, even better, both parents are porcine "protectors".

    I remember a couple of kids like that when growing up. Made the Pastor's children look like, well, saints. The cop's kids pretty much got away with whatever they wanted, save murder and rape AFAIK. And threatening little shits too, "You better watch out, my dad/mom/both is/are cops."

    Bastards.

  • ||

    Most radical atheists I know grew up in some kind of wierdo fundementalist sect. Most born agains I know are products of broken homes and recovering addicts. People tend to go from one ditch to another. More importantly, they become adults and make their own choices. The idea that you are condemed to become whatever your upbringing says you should be is just bunk.

  • ||

    I would very much like to agree with you John that human potential is paramount to nuturing.

    Unfortunately, having done many an ER rotation and did my psychiatric clerkship, I am not entirely convinced of the "bunk".

    Nurture (socialization), depending on the psyche present, cannot be overcome without patience and difficulty and making rational choices become harder for these folks to make.

    But, you are correct, we become adults and hopefully make rational, sane choices with the assistance of another postive, more nuturing environment.

  • ||

    There are people who grow up in horrible circumstances who turn out to be wonderful people. There are others who have every advantage and turn into complete wastes of space. At some point, some people make the right decisions and some do not.

  • MJ||

    John, dude, it's "masquerading". Whatever you wrote seems to have something to do with plump eyelashes.

  • Bruce Majors||

    You can't actually found your political philosophy on how children should be treated. We "obviously" "all" want them to be protected because they are not adults and yet be "free" and allowed to develop to be free adults.

    No one has a well-reasoned argument for what this must look like exactly, and I don't think they ever will. It's not precise. Libertarianism does no worse with this than conservatives, socialists, liberals et al.

    What we do know is that plenty of people have grown up under authoritarian parents, cultures, and governments to be free and rational adults. So someone living in a sexist family in a superstitious community does not mean they cannot become a rational free adult.

  • Tonio||

    OK, John, how can you have nationalism without the nation-state? What are your limits, here?

  • ||

    You can't have it without the nation state. I don't have a problem with the nation state. You have to have a government of some kind. And I will take a nation state over a world government or anarchy.

  • prolefeed||

    I don't believe a monopoly minarchist government is the ideal, because it seems to decay into a non-minarchy that oppresses the minority.

    A better system is a non-monopoly system of governments, where people are free to choose from a set of competing governments, rather than having to suffer under whatever system of government 50.1%+ of the voters picked.

    Such as, you can choose to pay taxes and live under the laws of the Republican Party govt, the Democratic Party govt, or the Libertarian Party govt, with a set of rules governing interactions between people choosing different governments. A marketplace of governments, as it were, forcing each to compete with the others for the business of their customers.

  • ||

    Sans borders, these societies will eventually conglomerate and acculturate.

    A few of those leaders will see the benefits of "incorporation" of the various societies.

    And corporatism is born.

  • Tony||

    People already have this. There is a marketplace of nearly 200 countries for people to choose among. That's enough to satisfy anyone's definition of a competitive market, even if not a single one represents your preferred utopia, and even if your choice is limited to a degree because of immigration rules and other roadblocks (my choice of houses is limited by things such as my wealth).

    We have a totally free marketplace of countries. There are dictatorships and democracies and near-anarchic states. I don't know about you but given the choices I'd rather "suffer" under the democratic system than under a lot of what else is out there.

  • MJ||

    Ask the Basques how. You can have a nation without a state, and you can have a state without a nation. Those two concepts don't necessarily go together.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    The Basque people are constantly at odds with the Spanish government though. Hardly counts.

  • Bruce Majors||

    You can have ethnocentrism and cultural conservatism.

  • JD||

    I thought the hypothetical conversation was pretty good, actually - I got a laugh out of "Let's talk about easements!" At the moment I am feeling distinctly more culturally liberal than the Reason mainstream: it is not just a historical accident that many historical anarchists were not just anti-state, but also anti-Church, anti-traditional-family, anti-wage-labor, because they identified all of these things as power differentials and sources of coercion.

    I don't think the state has any right to tell you how to live - that means they can't tell you you can't be gay, but they also can't tell you you have to love gay people either. So if 90% of people "naturally choose" to hate gays...? I don't really have an answer to that, and I don't think anybody does. It's probably the irreducible paradox of the wide view of libertarianism. All I know is that if you're in a place where everybody else uses their freedom of association to ostracize you, your theoretical freedom is pretty cold gruel. And if we want to expand human freedom in all its senses, then we have to work at making a more choice-ful culture, which I think is what Howley was saying.

  • ||

    "then we have to work at making a more choice-ful culture, which I think is what Howley was saying."

    What does that mean? Seriously, if someone choses to believe in a religion that objects to homosexuality, wouldn't by your definition that choice have to be eliminated in order for their to be a more "choiceful" society? Ultimately, if someone is not out bashing gays in the head, what the hell difference does it make if they think homosexuality is immoral? More importantly, there is nothing to stop gay from creating their own culture outside of the mainstream. Indeed, they have done that and been quite successful. I am unbothered by the existence of either culture. Why are you?

  • ||

    I like to think that Liberty is the right to be wrong and not be killed or jailed for it.

    This includes someone being a hysterically inflammatory racist. If they aren't harming you or their chosen targets, let them alone to be scoffed at by others.

    The threshold of intervention is and only safely can be when real harm is being inflicted, and I don't believe hurt feelings count. If they did, then Howley's approach would rather quickly degenerate to an interventionist system of feel-good enforcement.

    This of course depends on how far Howley extends the definition of harm. If hurt feelings count, then you are correct that she is a statist masquerading as a libertarian.

  • anonymous||

    "What does that mean? Seriously, if someone choses to believe in a religion that objects to homosexuality, wouldn't by your definition that choice have to be eliminated in order for their to be a more "choiceful" society?"

    No, you're thinking like a statist.

    Start with a society that hates gays. Work hard to convince a lot of borderline people that gays are ok. The harsher the invective from their opponents, the more out of touch with reality and hateful they seem, the more people come around to your way of thinking, and eventually social pressure is going the other direction. No one's choice got "eliminated", it's just that a different one happens to inspire knee-jerk moral revulsion in most people now.

    Does it bother you that gay bashers and racists are treated with the open contempt that gays and blacks used to be treated?

    If there's a non-initiation theory of justice for violence, why shouldn't there be one for social pressure? If you pull out a gun and get shot, do I feel bad for you? If not, why should I feel bad for those used social pressure to harm those who had done them no wrong, who now experience the shite end of that same social pressure? If it progresses to violence or state sanction, they can have more sympathy from me (although strictly speaking, their ilk been on the dealing end of that in the past too, so only a little bit of sympathy).

  • JB||

    "If there's a non-initiation theory of justice for violence, why shouldn't there be one for social pressure?"

    Libertarianism which trucks in Alynskiite tactics of social pressure, e.g. loses all moral high ground vis-a-vis standing for freedom.

  • anonymous||

    Interesting.

    If libertarians respond to state violence with violence (say, treating public sector citizens like "retarded fetuses" that need to be aborted), do they also lose the moral high ground, or is it only when exercising freedom of speech and association that turning the other cheek becomes a moral imperative?

  • JB||

    Look, the unstated presumption of where her argument is going is clear -- a religion of "libertarianism" with a priesthood of those who decide which cultural mores increase liberty in the aggregate and call for appropriate "social pressure."

    Excuse me while I puke. Enforcement of ideological conformity, even in a propertarian state is swapping the goose for the gander.

  • John Markley||

    "...it is not just a historical accident that many historical anarchists were not just anti-state, but also anti-Church, anti-traditional-family, anti-wage-labor, because they identified all of these things as power differentials and sources of coercion."

    True enough, but many historical authoritarians and totalitarians, both theorists and actual practitioners, were also anti-Church, anti-traditional-family, and anti-wage-labo. That's no accident, either.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Silly. Gay people leave communities that they found socially ostracizing and built new communities elsewhere. But you can only do this with a free labor market and the ability to buy and rent property.

  • ||

    Absolutely!
    Yay! Free market! Yay capitalism! Yay freedom of association! YAY

  • MNG||

    Cultural coercion only exists for those people who like, say, eating or having a roof over their heads, or silly people with social needs. Weak people, nut like us rugged individualists...

  • ||

    We are a tribal species. Cultural coercion will never go away. If you think you can somehow tame it and create just the cultural coercions you like, as opposed to the ones you don't, you are just as authoritarian as anyone else.

  • MNG||

    "Cultural coercion will never go away."

    Not with that attitude it won't.

  • ||

    Yes, it can go away. Just relax and let the smile-hooks do their work.

  • ||

    "WE HAVE ALL ETERNITY TO KNOW YOUR FLESH!!!!!!!"

  • prolefeed||

    Right, because if you don't go along with the cultural majority, you can't find a job or buy food or get housing.

    Like all those jobless, starving, homeless gay people, for example, who are completely incapable of carving out a niche for themselves without the permission of the majority culture?

  • MNG||

    Well, part of Kerry's point seems to be that things have improved in this area inlarge part because of cultural libertarianism winning the day and technology helping out. But as for gays, they certainly are harmed though prole by homophobia. They have more trouble finding jobs, housing, etc than others, and then many of them, especially when young, endure all kinds of psychological troubles from the "non-coercive" heck many of them get when they come out.

  • ||

    ...they certainly are harmed though prole by homophobia.

    I think it's safe to say that if you're in a position to dismiss those opposed to you as "the proles", you're hardly in a position to cast yourself as the poor, oppressed, victim of society's culture.

  • Bruce Majors||

    I am gay and am accepting donations from all cultural liberals who wish to help me with my plight. You can buy me lunch or dinner or sent me cash or Armani Exchange and Hugo Boss gift certificates.

  • Leif||

    I have social needs! What are you doing to fulfill them?

  • ||

    The level of juvenile hysteria in this comments section is really bewildering. Howley's piece simply asserts that there are social institutions outside of the federal government which limit individual liberty and that these institutions should concern libertarians as much as federal taxation, property rights, etc. 'On Liberty' is as much a polemic against the destructive power of cultural intolerance as it is a screed against the state.

  • ||

    So lets create a more tolerant society by being completely intolerant of anyone with a different social vision than homo libertaricus.

  • MNG||

    John
    To be intolerant of intolerance, or of liberty-limiting subcultures

  • ||

    As long as the sub-culture is voluntary and doesn't have the coercive power of government behind it, how can it be liberty limiting?

    If the Catholic Church ran the government and made the rules for everyone, it would be liberty limiting. But, it doesn't. Instead, it provides a set of rules and a culture that some people chose to follow.

    In the end, you want to control people's choices and thoughts. No one can believe certain things because they are "liberty limiting" whatever that is. Well fuck that. People should be able to believe in what they like without busybodies like you trying to eliminate their sub-cultures. You don't like a sub culture, don't join it.

  • MNG||

    "As long as the sub-culture is voluntary and doesn't have the coercive power of government behind it, how can it be liberty limiting?"

    Well, in many ways. For example, if a majority of people refuse to hire or patronize a group because of what they do in their time, say gays, then certainly this has a coercive effect on gays to the extent they need money, food to eat, a roof over their heads, etc.

  • ||

    Of course the alternative to that is to come in and tell those people that they must hire gays. At that point you are in the business of telling people how they can run their businesses and live their lives. Your liberty maximizing society doesn't appear very free to me.

  • MNG||

    Well, you can either "oppress" the intolerant or have them oppress the innocent

  • ||

    Oh yeah no slippery slope there. As long as your definition of "intollerent" prevails everything will be just great. When it doesn't, good luck with that. I hope it works out for you.

  • MNG||

    It's not that conceptually difficult John. It means to be judgmental of people's lifestyles. If I am intolerant of the intolerant then the only lifestyle I negatively judge is one that judges other lifestyles which contain no intolerance

  • ||

    That is utter nonsense. What makes an "intolerant lifesyle"? Every sub culture has rules. If it didn't, it wouldn't be a sub culture. What rules are allowed and what not?

    You are agruing that you should be able to determine what thoughts people have and what values they should hold. But you somehow are not an authoritarian or intolerant. If someone doesn't like homosexuals, that is their right. Some people don't like Philadelphia Eagles fans. They hate them and won't hire them, you want to ban discrimination based on NFL team choice? Or what about fat people? I know a lot of people who run and work out who hate fat people and won't hire them, is that intolerant? You don't even know what "intolerance" is other than it is anything you don't like.

  • MNG||

    I told you what it means already, scroll up. Someone who hates a person because the person is fat or because they like the Eagles is intolerant, yes. And I'm only "determining" what they think in that I am trying to convince them to throw that shit off. I'm no more "determining" their thoughts than you are "determining" mine by arguing I should not hate their intolerance...

  • BeesInTheBrain||

    So your intolerant of them because they are intolerant of others. Well I am intolerant of your intolerance so when does this stop?

  • Amy||

    Why is the alternative either force or no opinion? Why can't we engage in open conversation and debate instead? Sometimes, people really do change their minds... but they never will if we assume the only options are tolerance or violence.

  • prolefeed||

    Right. Because gays are completely incapable of getting jobs or establishing social networks unless they go crawling to homophobes begging for jobs and social interaction.

    If a majority refuses to do those things, then a minority will spring up to service those unmet needs, and profit from doing so.

  • ||

    Exactly. Minorities don't get into the mainstream by crawling up to the haters. They get there by creating their own culture and kicking the door in. I think gays do just fine without having to worry about what the Pope thinks about their lifesyle.

  • MNG||

    Yeah, gays have it great, heck everyone is flocking to be one...The fact that gays, or any minority that is the subject of intolerance, persist is no argument that they do not face coercions from that intolerance.

    Jews certainly faced coercions from anti-Semitism once in this country, yet they still persisted and thrived. Want to argue the anti-semitism wasn't liberty-limiting, or that it did not harm Jews, or that it was not a good thing that people doing the equivalent of what Kerry is doing here convinced most people to change their minds ("determined" their thoughts in John's words)?

  • ||

    In 1992 I met one of my solid life-long friends, a lesbian who was traveling alone but had this amazing little tour-book that was basically a little phone book of gay-friendly people and businesses across the country. Over the next few years I saw that her subculture had organized itself very well for mutual support in such fashion. It impressed me but also left me sensing the lack of this sort of community among my more mainstream lifestyle.

    I began to realize that I while I am immersed in many networks--this blog being one of them--I am part of few real communities.

  • BeesInTheBrain||

    You do realize that you could substitute Mormans (see protest against restaurants based on political contributions) or Whole Foods (see protest based on non-support of public option) or...... in place of gays.

  • ||

    For example, if a majority of people refuse to hire or patronize a group because of what they do in their time, say gays, then certainly this has a coercive effect on gays to the extent they need money, food to eat, a roof over their heads, etc.

    And that presupposes away the entire libertarian premise. Patronage or jobs are not "rights", but mutually agreed upon voluntary contracts. The only way to provide you that "right" absent mutual consent is to coerce others into that contract.

  • MNG||

    It also does things like tell people that gay people are bad or woman may not be equal, and these attitudes limit the options (jobs, housing, patronage, etc) of people who choose to be gay. It's the people in this subculture that are the busybodies as they want to seee people stop engaging in behavior that does not involve them.

  • ||

    So your sollution is to destroy that sub-culture and tell those people how to think. Not just say they are wrong, but eliminate them.

    It is hard to see how you either aren't making much of a point or are just a statist authoritarian. If your point is that people who disagree with such cultures ought to tell them they are wrong and argue against them, you don't have a point. Sure, you are free to object and they are free to tell you to fuck off. Who cares either way. But, if your goal is to use social or governmetn force to make that choice of views untenable and unavailable to people, then you are just an authoritarian in libertarian clothes.

  • MNG||

    I'd like to limit the subuculture from manifesting itself in liberty-limiting ways. So roasiries and all that=cool but telling people women must be meek or gays must be straight=bad. Those parts I'd like to see go, yes.

    But not by force. i don't want to kill everyone in such a subculture, I'd like them to t\end through the spread of ideas and technology. And until they do I'd like to see the harms they produce limited by things like discrimination laws.

  • ||

    Then you just hate freedom. Freedom, if it means anything, means the freedom to think what you like. If freedom means only the right to think in the freedom proscribed way, then it is not freedom.

    If you love freedom you have to willing to understand and tolerate people who chose to think and act in ways you find loathsome. If you are not, then you are just an authoritarian. Just because you don't want to shoot people or throw them in jail, doesn't mean you understand or value freedom.

  • MNG||

    It's authoritarian to try to convince people from fundamentalist subcultures to cast off the beliefs and assumptions they hold? WTF?

  • ||

    You can convince all you like. They are going to laugh at you. But have fun. If you are only saying you have a right to try to convince people, what is your point? No kidding. You are free to argue with the evangelicals all you like. I won't stop you or say you are wrong to do so. But when they don't listen, what are you going to do then? It is at that point that you will become dangerous.

  • MNG||

    I'm talking about fighting ideas and beliefs with ideas and beliefs....Well, plus discrimination laws. Many libertarians won't have the latter position, but surely its ok for them to have the former.

  • prolefeed||

    Laws are not fucking "ideas and belief". Laws ARE force.

    Get a fucking clue.

  • MNG||

    The discrimination laws are force, yes, but I was talking about simply convincing people to stop believing in the kinds of cultural beliefs Kerry is talking about.

  • anonymous||

    Just to be a pedant, unless you're a wizard, writing some shit down on paper doesn't create any sort of force. Laws are words, typically written.

    Laws provide justification for human beings to act, and for other human beings to accept that action as just and legitimate. All of that justification and legitimacy and rationalization happens in the mind. Laws are ideas and belief.

    But, since they're the sort of ideas and belief which leads to humans choosing force, we reasonably treat them as special and dangerous (not unlike someone inciting a mob, in a certain sense).

  • ||

    Shorter MNG: I know intolerance when I see it and I will eliminate it all. Even if I have to eliminate every last person and they aren't causing harm.

    Your circular reasoning is certainly dizzying.

  • MNG||

    How bizarre. I think I said what was intolerance upthread, didn't I? Is English your second or third language?

  • ||

    "I'm talking about fighting ideas and beliefs with ideas and beliefs....Well, plus discrimination laws. "

    Sure fight ideas and beliefs with ideas and beliefs, but keep your thoughtcrime legislation away from me.

  • prolefeed||

    But not by force. i don't want to kill everyone in such a subculture, I'd like them to t\end through the spread of ideas and technology. And until they do I'd like to see the harms they produce limited by things like discrimination laws.

    Translation: "But not by force. Unless persuasion doesn't work -- then we'll use force, in the form of laws, but pretend that using the government to force others to change their behavior isn't REALLY force."

    WFT?

  • MNG||

    I do support force to change behavior based on discrimination in things like employment and housing, yes. But I'm mostly talking about culturally just condemning intolerance subcultures and convincing their members to stop believing such nonsense.

  • prolefeed||

    MNG -- for someone who alleges they are "mostly talking ... and convincing", you seem to spend a remarkable amount of time talking about using government force to try to end perceived inequities.

    Do you not know the difference between persuasion and force? Or do you not notice that you are mostly on here talking about using the government as a club to beat on people who don't see things your way?

  • ||

    Welcome the new boss, same as the old boss.

    MNG, congratulations, you're part of the problem.

  • MNG||

    Yes, the awful, awful problem of discrimination laws. Oh the oppresion!

  • ||

    They are awful; just as racialist as the evils they seek to vanquish. If you're talking affirmative action type quota, well that one's easy: There is no quota of anything in nature, certainly not anything approaching an equation that can provide a reliable prediction of how many talented applicants for a particular job exist in a given population sample of a certain skin color. It's just unnatural on its face--as unnaturally unfair as the racialism itself.

    If you are talking about discrimination as hate crimes, well, assault is assault and murder is murder. It shouldn't by "worse than murder" because the victim is another skin color or had a swastika scrawled in their torso. What if my black child is lynched and your white child is murdered. Should the murderers of my child get more severe penalties, that is, should I get 'more' justice than you? Of course not. Hate crimes suggest my loss would somehow be worse than yours.

  • ||

    Indeed, a case of where the cure is worse than the disease. Kinda like chemo with radiation. With no guarantee the cancer has been eradiacated and put into remission.

  • MNG||

    I oppose affirmative action and hate crime laws. In fact, I bet money I've sent more money, collected more signatures on petitions, written my elected reps, etc., more than you have to defeat affirmative action. I'm talking about discrimination laws, not affirmative action or hate crime legislation.

  • ||

    And again, MNG, by what right are you saying you have the authority to coerce someone to contract against their will?

  • ||

    "Its even worse than that, as federal hate crimes legislation allows for legal double jeopardy."
  • ||

    Again- the idea isn't to stomp out subcultures that don't conform to some postmodern ideal of individual liberty. The promotion of freedom of movement, trade, etc. naturally leads to greater personal autonomy and has tended, generally speaking, to weaken the coercive force of government and extra-government institutions. This, to me, is a highly desirable end and the means of achieving it have little to do with persecuting entities such as the Catholic Church or the LDS. That Howley would praise the expansion of choice (and thereby the 'Factory Girl's' freedom to choose whether or not to remain embedded in the patriarchal culture of her village) that has resulted from the liberalization of the Chinese economy doesn't seem much like advocacy for an all-knowing, meddling nanny state. In fact, it seems like advocacy for precisely the opposite.

  • MNG||

    Indeed. I support basic non-discrimination laws, but easily the best weapon against intolerant subcultures are the factors Andrew mentions. Easily.

  • Tyler||

    Anti-discrimination laws might sound and seem benign, but the rationalization that it's alright for some group of people to use force in the realm of someone else's voluntary (non)associations is what's dangerous.

    I agree with what Andrew is saying... and if he's right, then wouldn't giving anyone the power that anti-discrimination laws gives the government be redundant at best and authoritarian at worst? Doesn't power tend to corrupt over time, anyway?

  • ||

    As far as anti-discrimination laws are concerned, the need to implement and enforce such laws would be significantly mitigated by liberalizing immigration restrictions. In America, a real life homosexual such as myself can move from socially conservative Oklahoma to liberal New York (as I did). The same option is not usually available for persecuted populations from other corners of the globe. More inclusive immigration laws would not only grant the world's impoverished, oppressed, etc. greater opportunity to shape their own destiny, but would also serve to weaken draconian governments by drawing away their tax and labor base. What better way to shaft Castro than to welcome those that have essentially been his slaves? What better way to celebrate human freedom?

  • ||

    Well, let's make a distinction between situations where intolerance is a private marginalized viewpoint, and where it is "cultural". As in there is a powerful dominant cultural norm that is preventing people from doing things.

    At this point in America, neither racism, sexism, nor homophobia is a dominant cultural force. So little purpose is served by confronting them. I see little value in ostracizing the few remaining racists in our society.

    Moreover, there really isn't a lot of cultural intolerance constraining ANYONE in modern American culture. You have to go way off the grid to find it. And it's not happening in places that are easily amenable to social pressure anyway. The FLDS compound issue is one of those rare isolated cases that is actually relevant - but we're talking a few hundred children in a society of hundreds of millions.

    On the other hand, I emphatically do support libertarians speaking out on issues such as say, prostitution, polygamy, gay marriage (almost a won battle there though), and other "deviant" lifestyle choices that may experience severe social coercion.
    Or against oppression of women, gays, and minorities in other cultures.

    We just shouldn't be wasting our effort socially opressing people who aren't actually *suceeding* in oppressing anyone else. Roy Phelps can go around screaming about fags for the next 20 years and have negligible effect on the liberty of any gay person in America.

  • ||

    REr Rev. Phelps.

    Somehow his name co-mingled with Judge Roy Bean in my brain.

  • ||

    As in there is a powerful dominant cultural norm that is preventing people from doing things.

    And absent any physical coercion, absent laws enforcing it, exactly how are people prevented from doing things? The absence of support or approval is not coercion and support and approval are not things people are entitled to.

  • John Markley||

    "'On Liberty' is as much a polemic against the destructive power of cultural intolerance as it is a screed against the state."

    I don't find that at all reassuring. J.S. Mill's offered a castrated version of liberalism that explicitly rejected the idea of economic freedom as a fundamental liberal principle, making it at best an expedient, and privileged the expressive and lifestyle freedoms especially dear to financially comfortable intellectuals and idea-dealers. It's not for nothing that Mill is almost invariably every modern left-wing statist's favorite classical liberal.

  • Bruce Majors||

    And their are. The state governments. The county governments. The city governments. The public schools. The international governments. The foreign governments.....

  • MNG||

    Andrew
    For many people libertarianism is just conservatism in a fancy liberty colored dress. And these people no like On Liberty...

  • ||

    For you apparently libertarianism is a system of pervasive thought control.

    Hooray MNG-libertarianism.

  • MNG||

    I don't claim to be a libertarian. But I do claim that many "libertarians" are just conservatives who throw the word "liberty" around now and then.

  • ||

    And liberals are just statist control freaks who throw the word liberty around sometimes. For a liberal, freedom is great as long as everyone makes the right decision.

  • Bruce Majors||

    You don't seem qualified to tell us about libertarianism as I doubt you know what it is

  • airy fairy||

    You know who I hate. Scientists!!!!

    Them and their goddamm Law of Gravity oppressing those of us who want to jump off tall buildings without getting killed.

    Yeah!!!

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    John,

    I think that even though you're making a lot of good points here, you're missing a larger one: coercion by the State is not the only force that can act against the free will of the individual. Is institutionalized, legitimized, legalized coercion the most important issue to deal with? Probably. But, is there reason to call other obnoxious oppresive forces into question? Of course. Howley is not trying to impose feminism on you or your buddies in Alabama, she wants to make sure that the little girls growing up in Alabama understand their choices in a free world – you know, not limited to the potentially shitty tunnel-vision of her father. And, she explicitly says that she doesn't want to use the state to enforce her ideas, so why the kick back? What’re you so worried about?

  • ||

    First, if that is her only point, as I wrote above, she really doesn't have much of a point. No one would argue that people shouldn't be able to leave their culture if they so choose.

    Second, it is really none of Howley's yours or mine how people Alabama, Nebraska or California raise their children. Howley would turn libertarians into an excuse to pick on anyone we don't like. You think a little girl living in Alabama is living in some horrible life. Well, I know several women who grew up in such environments and are perfectly happy and would find Howley's lifestyle choices empty and meaningless. Should they worry about Howley's children growing up not understanding the value of religion and marriage?

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    No, I don't think all women in Alabama are living horrible lives. The reference to Alabama was meant to invoke the Mises crew, mainly.

    There are plenty of women who have bad situations all over the world, along with gays and other racial minorities. Does that mean uncle Sam needs to come blundering in the room in order to sort everything out? Not unless some kind of violence/property rights issue is at stake - I'm sure we agree there. BUT, you know, are, say, certain poor, urban communities hostile to achievement and education, sometimes? Wouldn't we agree that the collective bad attitude of some slum in Detroit or Philly bearing down on some kid that wants to achieve or - even more basically - just likes math is hurting a shitty, partially unfree situation for him? Isn't it totally in-bounds for libertarians to battle that kind of cultural oppression?

  • ||

    Sure it is fine for people to argue that one set of values is better. We all do that. And we should. That is the marketplace of ideas. All I would ask is a little humility in the matter. Just because we think someone else's values and views are wrong, doesn't mean that they don't have a right to have them if they so choose.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Such pompous elitism. Little girls in Alabama have TV and magazines. Years ago, before cable TV and the internet, this little gay boy from Tennessee knew there were options out there just from the three networks.

  • creech||

    Many, if not most, libertarians of my acquaintance, are both tolerant and judgemental. And what is wrong with that? Sometimes it is just inconsequential: Let Starchild dress as he likes at the LP conventions but gossip with your buddies that he looks like an asshole. Other times, it is much more consequential, like religion vs. non-religion, or use of certain drugs, or disparagement of other nationalities or races or sexual practices.

  • ||

    That's because we have our own personal beliefs and perspectives, but strongly object to forcing them down other people's throats with the big stick of governmental approval.

    If Starchild has a right to dress like an asshole, we certainly have the right to point out that he's dressed like an asshole.

    You do what you want as long as it doesn't affect my life, liberty or property and I do what I want as long as it doesn't affect your life, liberty or property.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Will Asshole costumes be popular among everyone this Halloween or just gays?

    Do they come in both satin finish, and a wooly version, depending on whether you like it shaved or hairy?

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    *their fathers.

  • ||

    IMHO: This argument is regressive. Functional Libertarianism has to remain a POLITICAL philosophy, not a SOCIAL one.

    I personally don't care if "patriarchies" exist in families, that's the business of the families in question, not the government's, nor even some libertarian moral majority's.

    The only way to achieve POLITICAL liberty is to tolerate everyone else under the same umbrella of less government intrusion.

    There is no POLITICAL reason that Christians/Atheists or Civil Rights Activists/White Supremacists or Hobos/Wall Street Executives have to disagree about the political mechanisms of government.

    We don't HAVE to agree culturally. We don't HAVE to even like each other. We simply HAVE to respect the legal rights of our neighbors to live how they want and be left alone(so long as they don't violate each others legal rights).

    NO form of libertarian government will survive without that basic understanding.

  • ||

    I agree. You are exactly right. The problem is that many (ok I will say it) Cosmotarians are just as interested in launching a culture war against people they don't like than they are in limiting government. Limiting government means living with other people making choices you don't like. Freedom sucks like that.

  • ||

    In a sense, practical social living freedom means compromising pure individualist libertineyism for something closer to the cultural norm. Practical libertarianism is about shrinking the powers authorities the farther removed you get from the individual, where he has less say in restriction of freedom, not about giving him free reign to flout whatever local culture he lives in.

  • ||

    I too agree, and I say so regularly: "I don't have to like you to work with you to mutually preserve each others' liberty."

  • Bruce Majors||

    I disagree. Unless every cute free marketeer boy I meet gets naked and rolls around in the sheets with me, he is not a real libertarian.

    Thanks Kerry!

    This is almost as good as men of color in the anti-war movement telling white girls they were racist if they didn't put out.

    I agree. The best way for straight men to serve the movement is "on their backs." Or fronts. Or all fours.

  • ||

    Damn right!

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    I think what Howley fails to understand is that libertarianism has to treat human beings like golf balls. You play the ball where it lands. You don't rationalize that the ball would have landed somewhere else without the undue influence of the change in the wind, or else you're burdened with an infinite regress of what-ifs.

    To bring this analogy around to something that matters to Howley, nobody knows what percentage of the female population has been dissuaded from a career in physics because of patriarchal oppression. Since this is not empirically knowable, it's a wiser allocation of intellectual resources to focus on the relative tangibility of state coercion.

    Am I abusing the threaded comment feature in order to leave a comment close to the top of the page (see above)? Maybe, but it's part of the process of evolution of better and better systems. C'est la vie.

  • BeesInTheBrain||

    But if we care about choice, perhaps we should care about encouraging the capacity to choose
    and accepting those choices when they are made.

    Tolerance itself is a consensus position, demanding a certain measure of agreement.
    Tolerance is not a consensus position. I do not have to agree with those who worship the big spaghetti monster, nor do I have to wait for the approval of others before I acknowledge someones right to worship whatever they chose. To claim tolerance as the reasoning behind cultural bigotry is hypocrisy to the greatest degree and is where my problem lies. I do agree that "there is more to liberty than the allocation of property rights", however I refuse to hand over my freedom to decide the course of my life nor do I chose to participate in the co-opting of other peoples freedom.

  • ||

    If Howley is so in love with "choice", why does she seem to have such a problem with people who make choices she doesn't like?

    I think you are making a mistake being an atheist. But, I would never say that you don't have a right to be one or be so arrogant as to think I could coerce you or shame you into not being one.

  • MNG||

    She has a problem with people who make choices to try to restrict the choices of others, like a father who teaches his daughter that girls shouldn't do certain jobs or study certain subjects in the hopes of limiting his daughter's choices. There's nothing inconsistent with that.

  • ||

    And I think it is none of Howley's business what a father teaches his daughters. Last I heard there was such a thing as privacy in the home. Further, it is a lot harder to brainwash a girl into thinking she has no choice than it is to create a nasty regime where we tell people how they can and cannot raise their children. Howley is a lot more dangerous than the people she complains about.

  • MNG||

    Certainly one can advocate that people should not teach their children certain things. Do you think people should teach their children anti-semitic ideas for example? I'm not talking about using force to stop them from doing so, i'm talking about speaking out vocally against people doing so, trying to convince fathers and mothers not to do that. You're against that?

  • ||

    Travel in Gaza much? You might have a hard time speaking out vocally against people who are teaching their children anti-semitic ideas.

    I agree with both the general feel-goodery of your point as well as with the non-intrusion/non-forceful angle you claim (at least in this comment). Indeed, the speaking out vocally for change is about all the interventionism I'm willing to deem valid.

    But what you don't make clear is whether you are talking about speaking vocally on a soapbox in the public square, or pointing and shouting Body-Snatchers-style at a target family you believe is so onerous in their home education that you feel the need to invade their privacy. Either one is fine, assuming you provide for emphatic disagreement and pushback from the the people you will offend. It's at that point that I wonder where you stand. If they are implacable, would you martial the powers of the state in your 'War On Anti-Semitism'?

    Considering the content of your other posts on this thread, I'll guess you would.

  • ||

    If it's just one guy, unless he's keeping his daughter locked in the back yard, it's pretty hard to prevent her from learning the opposite.

    If it's a whole culture teaching it, then ok.

  • BeesInTheBrain||

    Certainly one can advocate that people should not teach their children certain things.
    If she was arguing that "one" should advocate that would be OK but she wasn't. What she argues on her own is her business. The problem comes in when she argues that all must do the same.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Do you know a lot of American girls who accept what their father says?

  • ||

    two or three, maybe

  • Ace||

    Howley makes good points, but she presents libertarianism as a Solution, rather than a Mitigation. Solutions = Folly.

  • heller||

    I agree. Libertarians do not (or should not) object to things which limit liberty because they have bad consequences. Libertarians object to these things because it is unjustified. Libertarians should not concern themselves with individuals who are prejudiced and make decisions based on prejudice, as long as those actions are within their rights. If I don't employ someone because she is a woman, I am not taking away from her freedom; I have simply decided not to enter into a transaction with her that involves my property. If Howley's ideas were to be followed through, freedom would actually be taken away from individuals instead of given to them.

  • MNG||

    If enough employers decide to not employ that woman because she is a woman then most certianly her choices in employment will be quite restricted. Hence Kerry wants to see less and less people hold that belief.

  • ||

    How many people today actually refuse to hire women though? Or would if they were permitted to?

    If only a tiny minority of employers would do so, then is the woman's liberty really restricted?

  • MNG||

    The number is low in large part because of the laws I'm advocating. It's made it costly to engage in that kind of discrimination. Incentives, you gotta love 'em.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Rofl. You actually think you are intelligent because you can't grasp how your own policies work.

    The laws you push make employers delay and minimize hiring people because of the difficulty in firing them or even asking them to do their jobs, without incurring law suits. Those are the incentives.

  • kinnath||

    Even though the people in your monkey-sphere can put extreme amounts of pressure on you to behave the way they want to you to behave, they have no real control over your liberty unless then can actually prevent you from dumping that monkey-sphere.

    Note that your being physically or mentally dependent upon the monkey-sphere does not actually alter your own responsibilty to reject it that is what you want.

  • Ralph Wiggem||

    Is monkey-sphere another word for basketball?

  • kinnath||

    You're a new-comer to H&R, huh?

  • ||

    Its monkeys all the way down!!!

  • Warty||

    I'm confused. Do we need to tolerate Lonewacko now?

    Shut the fuck up, Lonewacko.

  • ||

    No. He's intolerant, so it's OK not to tolerate him.

  • ||

    You are tolerating him. You are helping lonewacko by telling him to shut the fuck up. It keeps him from embarassing himself. Consider it compassionate intervention.

  • ||

    It keeps him from embarassing himself.

    I would disrespectfully (to him) disagree. The man(?) could embarrass himself in a room full of eunuchs and mannekins.

  • ||

    The main embarrassment would be watching him try to blow either. But we all know he'd try.

  • ||

    Somewhat surprised at the comments. I thought Howley killed those other two. Some of you are asking how you can support culturally libertarian norms without force. This reminds me of an organization in Israel I heard about for taking care of people who have left fundamentalist Hassidic communities. The people who escape need a lot of help integrating into regular society.

  • ||

    Then go help them. No one is saying you can't or are wrong to do so. Further, if they Hassidics are holding people against their will, then go arrest them. But, if the Hassidics are living as they choose to live, then it is no one's business but theirs. Howley seems to have a problem with the whole live and live concept or indeed with freedom where it involves people making choices she doesn't like.

  • kinnath||

    I remember when the cult/deprogramming hysteria was in full swing.

    Someone posted a question to Dear Abby or something asking for help on whether or not to intervene in a nephew's situation.

    The post included details on the physical and mental depravation the nephew had to withstand.

    Eventually, the post acknowledged that the nephew was in a Catholic monastery.

  • ||

    Or military training. There are tons of situations where people voluntarily give up their freedom and endure physical privation. There are a lot of rewards to it. Not that I am signing up. But I understand why some do.

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    Right, but no one is saying that one shouldn't be allowed to subject oneself to an unfree lifestyle, though.

  • ||

    I think Howley if you pinned her down is. Otherwise, she is just argueing for the right to whine about shit she doesn't like.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Your bad spelling is oppressing me, and misleading children so they will never be able to function as free adults.

  • ||

    He has the h1"No spell"1 virus.

    This is not innoculation and it is terminal. I have a touch of it myself.

  • heller||

    Are kidding me? Seavey thoroughly flounced Howley's idiotic ideas:
    "Howley’s thinking is potentially authoritarian (in a way that being passively bourgeois is not) because other people’s patterns of behavior will always limit your options one way or another and thus prompt demands for redress. Howley singles out a few hot-button, familiar issues such as race and gender, but the truth is that every time your fellow human beings decide, say, to be sports fans instead of talking about entomology with you, or to leave town en masse for the Bahamas (causing you to feel lonely), their actions have altered your life options. Tough luck. That’s called “other people exercising their freedom,” not “people oppressing you.”"

  • ||

    Agreed. I think Howley's viewpoint is more appealing the less you think about it. That is, when taking her points and extracting them to their logical terminus, I arrive at a political reality that is much more statist and therapeutic-interventionist than her piece suggests.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Like a one night stand you meet in a bar. Appealing until he or she actually says something and tells you about their dreams and plans.

  • ||

    I thought Howley sounds like a progressive who is smelling libertarian winds. I don't see how her vision would work without some sort of intervention or intrusion into how people should live, as defined by some enlightened committee presumably including herself.

    New boss, same as the old boss.

    When McCarthy wrote:


    If some libertarians won’t tell you what freedom should look like beyond the absence of the state, don’t assume that these people must subscribe to a crabbed idea of liberty or else are smuggling their values behind a veil of cultural neutrality. These anti-statists may refuse to define the cultural content of libertopia because they believe deeply in the pluripotentiality of freedom—that freedom can mean the freedom to be a Mormon housewife as well as to be a postgendered television personality. Freedom, they realize, may even mean the freedom not to be free. Libertarianism does not demand that everyone subscribe to the same idea of the good life. By extension, libertarianism also should not demand that everyone subscribe to the same idea of liberty.


    ...I think he is on the money there.
    Howley, in contrast, sounds like she is describing--for me--what liberty should be. She's just taking two pages to not quite say it outright.

  • ||

    I agree. Howley loves choice and freedom as long as everyone acts like she thinks they are supposed to. No thanks.

  • church trash||

    Haha. What a clown you are John.

  • ||

    Speaking of government coercion, check out this investigation from the Guardian:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2.....uiry-fails

    The UK's biggest ever investigation of sex trafficking failed to find a single person who had forced anybody into prostitution in spite of hundreds of raids on sex workers in a six-month campaign by government departments, specialist agencies and every police force in the country.

    The failure has been disclosed by a Guardian investigation which also suggests that the scale of and nature of sex trafficking into the UK has been exaggerated by politicians and media.

    Current and former ministers have claimed that thousands of women have been imported into the UK and forced to work as sex slaves, but most of these statements were either based on distortions of quoted sources or fabrications without any source at all.

  • ||

    That reminds me. Howley is the same person who got on Reason and said not only is should being a hooker be legal (an entirely reasonable point) but also being a hooker is a perfectly good choice of work for a woman (not that she would ever do it or want anyone she cares about it to do it of course). And now she is whining about how libertarians need to end the patriarchy? Are you fucking kidding me. I would say paying desparate women for blowjobs and greek sex is a pretty good example of what most people would consider the "patriarchy".

  • BeesInTheBrain||

    Whats funny is I was a single father raising two girls for over 10 years and enjoyed the heck out of telling feminist to kiss my "patriarchal" ass.

  • ||

    Good for you. And keep your daughters the hell away from Howley. Oh yes honey there is nothing degrading about being a stripper or a hooker. You go girl. Not that I would do that of course.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Your bad spelling is oppressing me too. It may drive me to go into male prostitution. I wonder if Barney's service is still hiring?

  • ||

    If only Howley had been there to tell Min that going to Shanghi to be a hooker was a really good career move.

  • ||

    John, et al, you all make reasonable points, but I'm not sure who you are arguing with? I cant for the life of me see where Howley supports statism or for that matter even proscribes a solution. The only thing I got from the the essay was a list of factors she thinks limit liberty and that libertarians should be more conscious of them.

  • ||

    No one says you shoulnd't or can't speak out against things. If that is Howley's only point, then she doesn't have one. If she doesn't like the Mormons, Howley should go tell them all about the errors of their ways. But so what?

  • ||

    I don't know why there needs to be a "so what". It wasn't like she was advocating a specific policy. She was simply advocating her views in the market place of ideas. Or are you upset because her ideas would shift focus away from the more severe and immediate 'governmental' libertarian issues?

  • ||

    That and I don't trust her that her advocating won't turn into government coercion. And I am just not bothered by the fact that there are intollerent people out there. People generally suck for one reason or another. I would rather respect their privacy and right to think how they like in hopes they will do the same for me than launch a cultural jihad against anyone I disagree with and hope the jihad doesn't someday target me.

  • JB||

    Perhaps the philosophical notion of what limits freedom for everyone/in the aggregate presupposes a kind of omniscience or foresight that libertarians are better off not embracing?

    This all smacks of elitist, paternalistic libertarianism.

  • ||

    s/libertarianism/modern liberalism/

  • John Berger||

    Excellent article, I can see merit in in each argument. My thing with tolerance is that I don't want to be forced to deal with some other persons fuckery. I agree with Howley to some extent, I think that while parents ought to have the freedom to raise their kids, there needs to be some mechanism so kids aren't brainwashed into praying to some goat balls stapled on a pole somewhere and know there are options and freedoms. Its nice to say let the ball roll where it may, but people get brainwashed into some ridiculous shit and people are repressed by that same shit. You need to have some mechanism which ensures that people know their options. If when your an adult you decide you want to lick goat nuts all day, great. But don't brainwash kids into licking goat nuts.

  • ||

    I think it is a bit harder to brainwash a kid into licking goat balls than you think. And it is a lot easier to turn the concern over not brainwashing kids into a big ugly regime telling people how to raise their kids. I will take my chances with the goat balls.

  • ||

    A great many goat-ball worshipping freaks have wizened up all by themselves over millennia, without any intervention by others who were convinced it was 'brainwashing'. They might see someone else is living and doing better without all the goat nut licking--and with fresher breath--and determine on their own to get up off their knees. How can you define 'brainwashing' anyway without being sure you aren't the one about to commence brainwashing when you deprogram your target mind?

    And maybe goat nuts taste good.

  • ||

    Don't knock it until you try it.

  • ||

    millennia might seem like a reasonable time period to a person who is not the one being forced to lick goat balls

  • Bruce Majors||

    You want a kind of "net neutrality" to make sure all kids have equal or extensive access to all parts of the social information "web," even if their parents keep DSL out of the house.

    Too bad. To do it you have to give government control of information media, and then no one will have free access, including the kids.

  • ||

    John may have more posts on this thread than everyone else combined!

  • ||

    Howley has the unique ability to annoy me.

  • ||

    John, this is beyond annoyance. When you are annoyed, a sea of obscenities flow from your pie hole.

    I have read very few from you in this thread.

    Loathe and thorough disgust qualify more.

  • ||

    LOL. The woman can push my buttons for some reason.

  • prolefeed||

    I'd say you have a "love to hate Kerry" crush going, John. It seems like you want to fuck her and make her shut up.

    No offense, of course. ;)

  • ||

    The problem is she's humorless.

    But libertarians have to take what they can get; its not like we need crowd control for all the women wanting in.

  • heller||

    I think the real question behind this debate is only truly raised by Daniel McCarthy: Does the libertarian support the employer who has the contractual right to fire anyone or the employee who has the right to free speech? Another example: Should private universities be able to limit free speech on campus or should students be allowed to protest whenever they want? I think there is a true libertarian answer to this question, one that is beautifully simple: While libertarians should be against any law that says that an employer can't fire whomever he wants or stop a university from making rules about what goes on on its property, libertarians should also protest in any way they can against those private institutions that limit freedom. I think that it IS possible for libertarians to support both property rights and expression rights.

  • MNG||

    Hear hear

  • kinnath||

    "Employees" have no right to free speech.

    People have constitutional protections against government interference in what they say and write.

    Is it really that hard to grasp the difference between "government" and "employer"?

  • ||

    Is it really that hard to grasp the difference between "government" and "employer"?

    [cough] GM [cough]

  • ||

    Anyone who received TARP/bailout money.

  • heller||

    Really? Because I thought everyone had the right to free speech? What I'm talking about is that anyone can say whatever they want, but no one should have protection from how others treat them when they say these things. Obviously you missed my point.

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    Yeah, no, that's not the question at all. Employees clearly have the right to free speech and employers have the right to fire employees for what they say.

  • kinnath||

    At pet peeve of mine.

    The government cannot infringe your rights to speak, publish, gather in groups, or seek redress from grievaneces.

    Every other voluntary organization has the rights to establish what you say or print if you want to stay in good standing with that organization.

    Way too many people seem to think that private entities are bound by the same restrictions as government is.

  • heller||

    Are you against FIRE because they protest universities that restrict the speech of their students?

  • kinnath||

    Don't know if you were asking me specifically, but . . .

    University employees is an easy topic, you follow the rules or you find alternative employment.

    Univerity students is trickier, but since attendance is not mandatory. Students should follow the rules or seek alternative schools.

    That being said, universities that put restrictions on employee and student speech and writings are betraying their very purpose for existence.

    Everyone, including organizations like FIRE, should be harrasing the decision makers at the universities to get the policies changed. However, employees and students should recoginize that the university has every right to boot them out.

  • heller||

    So how do employees not have the right to free speech?

  • kinnath||

    Man you are dense. Your individual rights against the government carry no weight against your employer. So no, "employees" have no free speech rights in regards to their contract for employment.

  • ||

    Only in the employers place of business. You can say what you want when you leave.

    Anyway, not many employers actually restrict speech in a significant way.

    Mainly they just don't like people wearing offensive T-shirts. You can still bitch about how much you hate Bush all day, as long as it doesn't keep you from doing your job.

  • kinnath||

    Not true.

  • Tony||

    This is the way libertarianism, when single-mindedly focused on the threat to liberty from government, becomes highly tolerant of other forms of oppression.

    Free speech is a pragmatic good, not just an arbitrary restriction on government. Anyone who values it should fight against its restriction regardless of where the restriction is coming from, don't you think?

    It's all well and good to have liberties if you have the resources to enjoy them. What if you spend all your waking hours working for an employer who restricts speech or other freedoms or who discriminates against you in the first place for being a woman or gay?

    What good is a state that just sits there and looks upon many islands of authoritarian oppression--all justified because we call them companies (or religious cults or towns) and not governments?

  • ||

    Because Tony, they are private entities are privately owned by individuals. Towns may be "public" but still made up of individual private property owners. They are free to believe however they wish.

    The state is accountable to the citizenry. The other private entities are responsible to thier owners and investors.

  • Tony||

    But that doesn't necessarily mean employers (or cult leaders, etc.) should have absolute freedom to oppress their underlings. Even a libertarian would agree that an employer shouldn't be allowed to murder an employee, and that the state has a legitimate role in preventing that. There have to be some restrictions--which can only come from the state--on what employers do whether it helps the investors' bottom line or hurts it.

    Granted, free speech should be freest with respect to government, and there are non-oppressive reasons why it should be restricted in private settings. But advocating for individual freedoms even in the context of a private company is not without merit. If you have your attention focused only on government, other powers start filling the void and liberty becomes something either completely abstract or something enjoyed only by the few.

  • kinnath||

    Typical dickhead behavior from the progressive. Let's equate employer restriction on employee communications with murdering employees.

  • ||

    There are lots of private employers. You can change jobs.

    You can also be an entrepreneur, which is highly preferable to libertarians.

  • prolefeed||

    Free speech is a pragmatic good, not just an arbitrary restriction on government. Anyone who values it should fight against its restriction regardless of where the restriction is coming from, don't you think?

    No. You're not free to come in my house and say anything you want. I have the right to kick your ass out of my house if I object.

    Your First Amendment right is limited to, and should be limited to, public venues and your private property.

    Your right to say anything here is due to the owners of this blog deciding to be extraordinarily tolerant of whatever you want to say, not because of some fundamental right to say anything on someone else's website.

  • MNG||

    That's all very nice prole, but then let's not pretend you are all about expanding people's choices (what most folks call liberty) m'kay? Call yourself a Propertarian and be done with it.

  • ||

    No, because, the person in question would be a GUEST of prolefeed, and the recipient of his hospitality. But, prolefeed is under no obligation to provide that hospitality. If he concludes, based on his guest's speech that said guest is a douche, he's free to rescind that hospitality.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Hear hear!

  • ||

    An employer who selects people for their political beliefs (or expression), is going to be at a competitive disadvantage.

    And any wage discrepancy caused by discrimination is going to make those workers more attractive to competitors.

    Ultimately, most employers don't engage in significant speech oppression because it impacts the bottom line. They end up paying a premium to hire people they agree with.

  • ||

    I suspect I'm more sympathetic to Howley's take than most here. But I do agree that social coercion is a very murky area. Especially because people tend to engage in social coercion as a means of displaying their adherence to the dominant ethos. Not so much as a way of liberating others.

    Actually, it seems to me that social coercion doesn't even really work unless the "tolerant" position is already socially dominant. It's very hard to ostracize a majority. It which case, it seems only useful after the battle has been already won.

    What we really need isn't social coercion against already marginalized positions like racism, sexism, and (largely) homophobia, but more people willing to challenge the cultural norms that are oppressive but still dominant.

    I don't think the left can really help us there. For one thing, America is already a very tolerant culture. The intolerance that I see today is largely coming for the busybodies that Daniel McCarthy mentions who want to force people to eat organic and buy fair trade coffee. Also, oddly enough, it's often the left that is *least* willing to challenge oppressive social norms in other cultures in the name of multiculturalism. Their moral emphasis on social solidarity and collective action also tends to make them more likely to engage in collective social coercion against minority viewpoints, than individualistic dissent against dominant ones.

    I do believe that libertarians should be concerned about cultural oppression, though. But the way we act on it should be by being cultural contrarians - lone voices of sanity, not members of a herd shouting down a few remaining bigots.

  • heller||

    Just to clarify: Do you support government action to prevent "social coercion"?

  • ||

    No. I support libertarian actively speaking out against social coercion, when it's actually a significant cultural force. (We should ignore bigots when they are a marginalized minority).

  • heller||

    Interesting, but what harm could come from speaking out against the minority bigots as well?

  • ||

    The harm could come to the bigot. He's got a right to live his life, too. See Randy Weaver. If he want's to live alone in a mountain retreat with his wife and kids, he should be left alone. He's not oppressing anyone there.

  • heller||

    Still not getting it, I'm not harming the bigot if I speak out against him. How individuals in society treat the bigot is within their rights to choose. It doesn't matter whether most of the people in society are against the minority bigots or it's the other way around.

  • ||

    Yes, but no advancement in liberty is served by doing so. You are free to speak out against the lone bigot as much as you want, but once he is powerless to actually oppress anyone you are under no moral obligation to do s.

  • ||

    Yes, but no advancement in liberty is served by doing so. You are free to speak out against the lone bigot as much as you want, but once he is powerless to actually oppress anyone you are under no moral obligation to do s.

  • heller||

    Also, if that's how you view Howley's take, how does it conflict with Seavey?

  • ||

    Seavey seems to think that libertarians shouldn't bother to speak out against any kind of bigoted or oppressive beliefs, as long as property rights are respected.

    Neither side really distinguishes between marginalized minorities vs. dominant majorities.

  • heller||

    That's because Seavey knows that speaking out is an act that the individual chooses, not one that can simply be mandated.

  • ||

    Right, but I think that there's a valid point to be made that libertarian have a moral duty to speak out against oppressive cultures (as opposed to intolerant individuals).

    When you see a gang of bullies on a playground picking on a kid because he's black or his parents are a gay couple, or whatever, you intervene. Even if all they are doing is name calling.

    When it's just one lone kid being a bigot, you don't. The kid will grow out of it. Bigotry is only a problem when it is socially and culturally reinforced within society. Once the cultural norm is broken, individual intolerance has no oppressive power.

  • monolith||

    John

    You seem to rant on and on about how terrible muslims are and now suddenly its hard to influence children?
    You would have no problem with people wanting their kids to be suicide bombers?

  • ||

    No. Right up until the point that they start actively planning to carry out such attacks. Then they are criminals and should be treated as such. Until them, I value my privacy and autonomy more than I value telling Muslims what they can and cannot teach their kids.

  • monolith||

    what if your community didn't think it was a crime?
    would you impose your views then?

  • ||

    My views are that you can't go out and randomly blow people up. If that makes me oppressive patriarch so be it. It is a stupid example.

  • monolith||

    what are you talking about?

  • Mike Laursen||

    To bring this analogy around to something that matters to Howley, nobody knows what percentage of the female population has been dissuaded from a career in physics because of patriarchal oppression. Since this is not empirically knowable, it's a wiser allocation of intellectual resources to focus on the relative tangibility of state coercion.

    Huh? There are tons of things the government does that have fuzzy negative impacts where the exact extent of the damage is hard to assess. According to your argument, we shouldn't spend any time trying to oppose any of those government actions.

  • heller||

    I agree, this is a non sequitir in this argument.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    You misunderstand my argument if that's what you think follows from it. My point is that oppression by cultural conditioning is not as easy to recognize as Howley makes it out to be, therefore we should be wary of "liberation" movements that actually aim to save people from themselves. I worry that Howley's attempt at fusing libertarianism and feminism might condescendingly oppose the "unenlightened" choices of some women.

  • monolith||

    Doesn't the example of the chinese girl actually make the point that it is mostly about property rights?
    Capitalism has set her free?

  • heller||

    I think the example of the chinese girl is a bad example because it seems to be more about the rights of a minor than social coercion.

  • Mike Laursen||

    If not force, what does Howley want us to do? Call religious people names? And get mad when religious people call gay people names?

    She left the answer to that question open, although she did say that she isn't necessarily advocating having the government step in and fix everything.

    I presume she would be in favor of individuals speaking out and using their influence to change society. And maybe being rude or righteously angry in certain situations, as in your examples.

  • heller||

    Then Howley isn't offering anything different from what a normal libertarian would do. She says we should be angry at these things when most people already are. Either she agrees with Seavey or she advocates for government intervention, there is no middle ground.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Just like you said: she isn't offering anything different from what a normal libertarian would do. Only problem is, that your experience of the "normal libertarian" may not match other's experience -- just in this comments thread there are lots of folks who think it is some transgression of libertarianism to judge and/or oppose oppressive cultural situations.

  • heller||

    By normal I don't mean ideal libertarian, I mean the majority of libertarians that actually exist would have individual beliefs against these things.

  • ||

    Really good. Reason should do more debates like this ( and bring in more people like Rod Long,Charles Johnson, Jason Kuznicki,etc). Howley did a fantastic job for presenting the case for thick left-libertarianism( I am in her camp). McCarty did a good job for presenting the case for thin libertarianism. Seavey, not so much. He was frankly horrible. Kind of ironic that he is attacking Howley position when his site embraces "conservatism for punks".

  • heller||

    I think Seavey's argument was important in that it reminded Howley that those who are being intolerant have a right to do so that cannot be infringed upon.

  • monolith||

    to me this debate seems to come down to individual rights against the majority.
    Its very hypothetical but at some point would you need to force people to be tolerant?

  • heller||

    That is what Howley wants, but it would be completely against libertarianism.

  • monolith||

    i'm talking about the taliban and nazi types here ( first godwin's law)?

  • heller||

    As long as they aren't infringing on anyone else's rights, why would you need to fore them to be tolerant?

  • Tyler||

    If they're in the extreme minority and have no actual power over others, then their stupidity will probably be plain as day and they're not really a threat.

    Their children are likely to see that there are alternative viewpoints out there, and at some point in their lives they will have a choice to make but it is THEIR choice after all.

    If the minority evil views are silenced and ignored instead of calmly tolerated and debated like any other view, that would only serve to strengthen said movement. Think Mill's "On Liberty"

  • ||

    Okay, monolith, but let's take a hypothetical example of a "taliban and nazi type" living within the constraints of a libertarian society. Yes, Mr. Taliban thinks that women wearing dresses above the ankles is sinful and disgusting. He hectors his daughter never to dress like those "harlots" or get an education that might sway her mind. But, he doesn't do anything about it. That is, he's shown no signs of trying to impose his views into law and has done nothing to coerce his preferred behavior from his daughter. Well, how is that any of my or your business?

  • ||

    In comparison, by far, the state's infraction on liberty is the more important issue than "cultural liberty" because with out freedom from the state, there is no ability to perpetuate cultural liberty, religious liberty or otherwise. We must have freedom from the State to ensure freedom or even perpetual freedom of anything else...

  • Tyler||

    I agree. There are certainly things we can do to create a "better" society, but first we have to deal with our enemy the State.

  • heller||

    I would say you can do both at the same time.

  • ||

    excatly

  • ||

    While I might be inclined to agree, I think it is irresponsible to not make this priority. All the causes in the world become major distraction. How do you think we got this far down the line? Distraction. The abortion debate, gay rights, etc. are all distractions. None of those matter without freedom from the State...that means the State should not be funding an abortion. You can argue the abortion debate - here til the end of time - but until you get to the root of the problem, STATE Funding, it remains a political problem rather than a cultural/religious problem.

  • monolith||

    would it be completely against liberterianism?
    a parent could do anything they liked to their child?

  • heller||

    What does a parent doing something to their child have to do with forcing tolerance? That seems to be about what rights a minor possesses, not how tolerant a parent is being...

  • monolith||

    ok forget about the word tolerant.
    at some point individual rights and the views of the majority (in a small community) will come into conflict.

  • heller||

    Yes that might happen, but as long as the community is not forcing anyone to conform or accept those views, nothing is wrong with this.

  • heller||

    I can say that Jews are the scum of the Earth, but as long as I don't go out and hurt a Jew, this views merit no reaction.

  • monolith||

    you are completely right.
    i wasn't really talking abou that though
    what do you do if the village you have spent your whole life in becomes taliban? and you lose your job and no one will interact with you or buy from you? and your views annoy them so much they decide you deserve the death penalty?

  • ||

    One of the many but more annoying things about Howley is that you would think she lives in tribal Pakistan from the way she cries out for the need for social freedom. Jesus, we live in the most tolerant society in history. If you grow up in some horrible oppressive small town, you can shave your legs buy a dress and move to the Village once you turn 18. There is not one cultural or life style choice I can think of that can't be found somewhere in this country. Yeah, it sucks that you can't be a transvestite and be fully accepted into the Mormon town in Utah and that you can't be a evangelical and make a lot of friends in Cambridge but big fucking deal.

    If Howley wants to spend her life crusading for cultural freedom, I would advise her to travel a little bit and go to some places where cultural freedom really is an issue. If she plans to say in the US, however, her time would be better spend worrying about our multi trillion dollar monster government intent on controlling every aspect of our lives while simultaneously bankrupting us.

  • ||

    In the end Howley just wants the excuse to whine about people she doesn't like and still call herself a Libertarian and think she is making a difference.

  • Tony||

    I think what she's saying is that being a libertarian and actually valuing liberty should go together.

  • ||

    They should value liberty by making sure no one is thinking impure thoughts.

  • Tony||

    No, by recognizing that government is not the only threat to liberty in existence.

    Being pro-liberty should be about more than being anti-government.

  • ||

    and doing what about it? Calling the government to come in and eliminate any thinking or actions you don't like?

    I value the liberty to be left the fuck alone and be free from preaching by pinheads like you and Howley.

  • monolith||

    does she actually call on the government to do anything about it?
    If so that seems pretty inconsistent and hypocritical.

  • ||

    She doesn't. But she doesn't say how you are supposed to do all of this. If crusading against the patriarchy is so damned important, why isn't government action appropriate? I think you have to believe in personal autonomy if you want to believe in limited government. If you think it is okay to tell the rest of the world how to live, you will have a hard time arguing that government coercion is the way to do it. Yes, this is a huge problem and these people are horrible, but I wouldn't want government to do anything about it, sounds pretty stupid.

  • Mike Laursen||

    She doesn't say, yet you fill in the blank for Howley in a way that makes you adamantly disagree with her purported position. It's sort of like watching you argue with yourself. Seems like she touched a raw, personal nerve.

  • anonymous||

    You want to be free from having to read internet comments you disagree with? I have a solution! See that big X in the upper right hand part of the Window?

  • Mike Laursen||

    Dude, this is a discussion board. When John posts something, we're allowed to discuss what he posted. I assume he actually wants people to comment on what he said, or he wouldn't bother posting here.

  • ||

    It's not about being anti- government...it's limited government to that which the Constitution enumerates...

  • ||

    ...it's powers, not the warped twisted way they have infiltrated every American's life...

  • ||

    I think she wants better paying writing gigs, and most of these are controlled by left-leaning women. She-libertarians are viewed with suspicion by both sides, so its just a question of figuring out which side pays better and throwing a few bones.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Finally. A public choice analysis!

  • Reader's Digest||

  • Bruce Majors||

    Kerry normally dresses in a more modern way

  • Space Fiend||

    China is in the midst of embracing economic self-determination and property rights [at least in relation to other individuals, including the family]. These property rights and respect for the free choices of an individual enabled this Chinese girl to leave, despite any cultural pressures she may have faced.

    End of story, property rights ARE enough.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Gay bars only opened there after they went market

  • Mike Laursen||

    End of story, property rights ARE enough.

    Then why did you throw in the "and respect for the free choices of an individual"? That's essentially the same "and" that Howley was adding.

  • Space Fiend||

    By the government, which is the same as respecting her property [ie, her body].

  • An Observation||

    John sez: "I would advise her to travel a little bit and go to some places where cultural freedom really is an issue."

    Well, she did live and work as a journalist in Myanmar/Burma for about year, as I recall.

  • MJ||

    Howley wishes to co-opt the libertarian brand name for a cultural and moral outlook that many, possibly even most libertarian sympathizers do not subscribe to. Saying that a libertarian must buy into the radical feminist view of gender is small tent thinking, it may be more psychologically comforting to Howley, but it hurts popularizing the movement.

    There is also the question of what exactly Howley is advocating. If Min's working in the city damages patriarchy, then if she chosen to stay and marry it would helped the patriarchy. If a woman in this country who is interested in medicine instead chooses a less time demanding career so she pursue having a family, has she hurt the nonconformist's cause by making the "wrong" choice? Should not she be shunned and castigated into making the "right" choice? Perhaps this is not Howley's intent, but if so, that leaves unanswered the question of by what actions a cultural libertarian advances her cause? Howley has chosen to play coy on this, since I don't see any discussion about what she wants done.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Does she mainly just want to berate libertarians who do not share her cultural concerns and/or tell them they are insufficient?

    If so I might be sympathetic if she did not limit herself to libertarians. I find soi-disant "liberals" and "progressives" who scream at anyone who criticizes Islam even as Moslem tyrants flog women and hang teenage gay boys much more noxious.

  • ||

    Does she mainly just want to berate libertarians who do not share her cultural concerns and/or tell them they are insufficient?

    If so I might be sympathetic if she did not limit herself to libertarians.

    Maybe, given that this essay is addressed to libertarians in a libertarian venue, criticism of the inconsistencies in other political perspectives are just logically going to fall outside its purview.

    It seems obvious that Howley would be critical of the left's inconsistency by implication. I agree with what she's written here, and I certainly am.

  • MJ||

    Gender is not a social construct. At least it is not purely one. There are social layers to but they are built on legimate innate boilpogical differences between the sexes in thpought processes, attitudes, desires, and goals.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Howley has chosen to play coy on this, since I don't see any discussion about what she wants done.

    I didn't get the sense she is playing coy. I got the sense that she's admitting she doesn't know all the answers of what should be done about social problems. Or she simply was limiting her essay to the question of whether we should be concerned about such issues, and leaving the discussion of what to do about it to another day.

  • MJ||

    She did not say she admitted to not knowing the answers, she did not say anything about what she means by this at all, in an essay that's a call to action. That by definition is coy, and a potential bait and switch to anyone who agrees with this essay when she finally unveils what she wants to do.

  • ||

    How is her essay a call to action, if it doesn't actually call for action?

  • Mike Laursen||

    Exactly. Call for reflection, maybe, but not any particular kind of action.

    Let's see. She talks about "a backdrop of feminist assaults on free speech and calls for workplace regulation, social constructionis", disapprovingly. She implies that we could engage the Left better by understanding their concerns and vocabulary. She says, "None of this is to say that it is the state’s place to force a family to accept its children, a church to welcome all comers, or a sex worker to embrace all lonely hearts." She advocates that we libertarians "foster a culture that is tolerant of nonconformity".

  • Br'er Rabbit||

    I call myself a classical liberal in part because I believe that negative liberties, such as Min’s freedom from government interference, are the best means to acquire positive liberties, such as Min’s ability to pursue further education. I also value the kind of culture that economic freedom produces and within which it thrives: tolerance for human variation, aversion to authoritarianism, and what the libertarian economist F.A. Hayek called “a preparedness to let change run its course even if we cannot predict where it will lead.”

    The obvious question is what if negative liberty does not lead where Howley and others of her ilk desire.What if it leads in the opposite direction?Or more likely doesn't lead exactly (or even remotely) where feminist market socialists desire?I strongly suspect the pursuit of so-called "positive liberty" "by any means necessary" would prevail.

  • ||

    John and some of the others seem to be arguing in much the way Seavey did here: by imputing motives and beliefs to Howley which are not actually in evidence.

  • ||

    I am glad you made that point, Greenish. Howley didn't actually embrace any government action or solutions. One can take up the cause of anti-racism without endorsing state actions/policy.

  • MJ||

    Howley wants her fellow travelers to embrace radical feminist thought and call it "cultural libertarianism" with the notion that those who don't buy into that are not proper libertarians. Then she wants to change, cajole, bully the larger culture into the same shape by some unspecified means. I don't think she's intends to use government to do this. She has set up a situation where she believes that people who's acions are informed by cultural influences that Howley disagrees with are oppressed, people whose actions are informed by this radical feminist culture are free.

  • ||

    In fact, I'll go a bit further. Seavey is engaging in cultish reasoning when he claims that Howley's arguments are "potentially authoritarian". As if libertarianism is such a fragile ideology that entertaining thoughts about social coercion may break it. This sort of bullshit is necessary to maintain a cult. We don't need it.

    Seriously, the principle as I understand it is you shouldn't use violence except in self defense, and it's no different if a state does it. It's not like that's an easy one to get past, once you accept it.

  • MJ||

    Howley's comments were more than "entertaining thoughts", she suggests breaking cultural coercion without saying about how she intends to do that. Culture is transmitted through communities and particularly families. Put some thought into how you go about breaking those influences without being coercive yourself in rhetoric at least?

    "This is the belief that the only liberty worth caring about is liberty reclaimed from the state; that social pathologies such as patriarchy and nationalism are not the proper concerns of the individualist; that the fight for freedom stops where the reach of government ends."

    If fighting the state for liberty is not enough, then what do you do to fight culture. That Howley does not answer this is disingenuous at best, cowardly at worst.

  • Mike Laursen||

    To give you an idea of peaceful, non-coercive things libertarians can do to fight oppressive culture I'll give a few examples off the top of my head:

    * Contribute to a shelter for battered women, helping them to escape their abusive relationships by giving them a place to go.

    * If your at that family Thanksgiving dinner, and your uncle tells a racist or homophobic joke, talk to him privately and let him know you were offended.

    * Write letters to the editor or blog about your disapproval of oppressive culture.

    * Say you own a family-oriented entertainment and amusement park empire with a rodent for a mascot. Make sure the public knows that you value your gay employees and customers, and be willing to take the hit when you're boycotted for it.

    * Telling Lonewacko to shut the fuck up. OK, I'm not sure this is peaceful, but it feels so good.

    You know, small or large acts of speaking out, using your influence, standing up for what's right. Not saying anybody has to do anything I listed above -- they're just examples.

  • Racist, homophobic uncle||

    Go ahead, if you don't mind getting your ass kicked all the way to Christmas.

  • Mythical Canadian Libertarian||

    Am I the only one who finds it completely detestable that Todd Seavey gives a rat's ass about how marketable libertarianism is if it considers X instead of Y? I don't follow principles on the basis of how likely I am to be able to convince someone else they're the right ones. It would be charitable to describe that chunk of his contribution as filler.

    And why doesn't this comment system allow a long enough name for me to prefix my handle with the definite article anymore? Is Reason implying there are multiple libertarians in Canada? There aren't. I've checked.

  • ||

    I used to be Canadian. I escaped.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Before or after you became a libertarian?

  • ||

    Many of the comments here confuse me greatly. I see nothing in Howley's remarks which suggests that libertarians should use force or the State to dissuade people from culturally repressive views. Rather, Howley's proposal is that libertarians have a good reason to speak out against cultural repression and to encourage people to reject it.

    Culturally repressive groups do not, by and large, enforce their standards and power purely through consensual means. They use violence against people and property to do so. Authoritarian religious "communities" -- even those which do not seek state power -- frequently practice violence against children, and often against women and dissenters as well. Authoritarian religion is founded upon threats of infinite violence, better known as hellfire; and it is taught through actual mundane violence, notably violence against children.

    Meanwhile, left-wing "politically correct" groups typically use violence against property, such as in vandalism and rioting, but fortunately in this country rarely stoop to violence against people. The politically-correct left, unlike the authoritarian right, generally does not beat its views into its children.

    Libertarians have every reason to teach liberty by criticizing cultural authoritarianism as well as state authoritarianism. Indeed, if we ever intend to accomplish liberty and keep it, we need a culture that is interested in having it and protecting it. We do not have that culture today.

    Creating that culture does not mean using state power in violation of libertarian principles. It does mean opposing the initiation of force -- especially against children, which is so typical in authoritarian societies including our own, and is so elementary in inculcating an authoritarian worldview.

    But it does not mean censorship -- and Howley never suggested it did. Those who claim otherwise are liars, and should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Rather, Howley's proposal is that libertarians have a good reason to speak out against cultural repression and to encourage people to reject it.

    No.

    Kerry's proposal is that libertarians should speak out against whatever she considers cultural repression.

    That's the root of the problem. Nothing complicated or confusing about it.

    I don't agree with Mormon theology. But that doesn't mean I won't make common cause in politics, to keep the government out of our bedrooms, our bank accounts, and our back yards.

    Libertarians really do need to worry about how to sell their ideas. Kerry is recommending an avenue guaranteed to alienate even more of the population than libertarians have already managed to put off.

    Tell me, if you really think this is a road we should be going down -- how much "cultural advocacy" is enough for the "true" libertarian? How close to Kerry's idea of cultural utopia are we all supposed to sign up to advocating?

    Many of us here are repulsed by both Left and Right. But this avenue she's suggesting would rapidly have many of us singing "meet the new boss, same as the old boss".

  • ||

    What's your response when Mormons or other conservative religious groups teach that women and gays should not have equal rights under law, or when they "teach" their beliefs to their children using violence? There is an appropriate, indeed necessary libertarian response here.

    Cultural authoritarianism can't really perpetuate itself without authoritarian practice: the way that people are taught that initiating force is a great way to solve problems is usually by having force initiated against them as children.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    [sigh] Well this is a target rich environment you've given us, Kerry.

    A door is as good as a wall if we cannot imagine walking through it.

    So what's this, you want cultural as well as political and economic anarchy? Not that I've ever found anarchy advisable in any form.

    There's a huge body of evidence showing that cultural anarchy is not a good idea. Read some history sometime. I mean something that's not on the Feminist Today reading list.

    These walls you rail against were created by people. Kind of like how people created houses. You can bitch that the house isn't the one in your dreams. But you've lost complete sight of what that house was built for in the first place. You'll find it's a cold cruel world out there the minute you don't acutally have any house around you.

    But when a libertarian claims that his philosophy has no cultural content—has nothing to say, for instance, about society’s acceptance of gays and lesbians—he is engaging in a kind of cultural politics that welcomes the paternalism of the mob while balking at that of the state.

    Ah ha! So it's not that you really want cultural anarchy. What you want is modern Liberal Left culture.

    You are not a classical liberal, Kerry. You are something else entirely.

    Ayn Rand’s ethical philosophy did look beyond the state, to the forces of conformity and altruistic moral suasion. But her vision of rationality was so demanding that readers could be forgiven for thinking that life in a welfare state might be less restrictive than life lived as a model Randian.

    Here's the deal: walls are hard. It is the very essence of wallness. And walls, even cultural walls, serve very definite and necessary purposes. Like I said, this may not be your dream house but it's still a hell of a lot better than not having a house at all.

    Culture can soften their boundaries and even melt them over time -- but when they melt, people are simultaneously building other walls, in other places.

    Not because people are idiots, but because people need some fucking walls around them. "Society" does not function in the presence of cultural anarchy because with cultural anarchy, there would in fact be no society.

    But, after reading your article it's clear that you'd put up your own bunch of cultural walls. I don't think it would be any easier living in your house than Rands. I'd sooner try my luck in Rand Land than yours.

    Norms that positioned women as wives and mothers obviously functioned as constraints on identity formation.

    There were actually valid reasons that women were in the old traditional cultural roles they used to have. I don't like many of the older, traditional male-female cultural traditions either. But people didn't create those roles just because they were idiots, and it wasn't simply a Males Only plot (you know, like the more modern communist plot).

    But it is the role of someone who professes to believe in the virtues of individualism—and emphatically the role of someone who believes that social persuasion is preferable to legal coercion—to foster a culture that is tolerant of nonconformity.

    Now you're sounding like you want cultural anarchism again. How much "nonconformity" do you think a society can "tolerate" before it utterly ceases to function? You should give that at least 10 seconds worth of thought.

    Then give another ten seconds thought to what will happen if society actually does collapse and cultural anarchy reigns. Hint: the answer is "ohmyGOD it's a nightmare".

    But don't worry, the anarchy wouldn't last long because people (those who surived that is) would rapidly put together their own, ad hoc cultural structures. Complete with hard, solid walls.

    Property rights are more than the conclusion of an academic argument; they are themselves a matter of culture. If they are useful to us it is because they govern our conduct and lend structure to everyday life.

    Ah! You're getting warm! No, you're getting hot! Red hot! No white hot!

    Rand said it best. Property rights are the source of all other rights. Without them, no one (including you) has any hope of pursuing anything else in life. Because property rights are the means by which we support and sustain our lives.

    People are free to choose any culture they like. But don't forget, they must choose some culture. That's how people work.

    LIbertarians are correct in keeping their focus largely on the issues of individual rights and economics. The culture wars can then work themselves out around that foundation. But that foundation is absolutely necessary.

    Keep the government out of the culture wars -- agreed? That's standard libertarian fare.

    In which case, you've also just agreed that the libertarian movement should not be advocating any particular culture. If you want to on your own dime that's fine, but it has no place in our drive to get and keep the government the hell out of our bedrooms, our bank accounts, and our back yards.

  • monolith||

    i get the impression that lots of people here are happy for the government to be in their bedroom and back yard( or at least in other people's) but just not in their bank account.

  • ||

    And that's why we have H.O.A.s.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Being gay, having grown up in a fundamentalist-leaning family, having decided I was an atheist at 11 and then having to stay in the (second) closet about that until I was 18, and having mainly women friends, being a sometime fan of radical feminism, and having written a favorable review of "Take Back the Night" in the old "Libertarian Review" you would think I would be sympathetic to Kerry Howley.

    But I am not.

    It's a fact that you only find lesbian and gay bars and B&Bs; and openly gay businesspeople who support gay non-profits, in the more capitalist countries. China did not have a gay bar until it went capitalist.

    The Fortune 500 for the most part ended anti-gay discrimination and started domestic partner benefits programs before state or federal governments did. Just as they started using vending machines before the USPS figured out you could put stamps in them.

    Feminism mainly only emerges in capitalist countries.

    One can go on any gay "social" networking site (eg, www.manhunt.com) and you will find few subscribers, even when a basic membership is free, in Havana or Caracas. But many right next door in the Cayman Islands or Costa Rica.

    Howley's dichotomy of civil and property rights is a false dichotomy. Libertarianism consist precisely in showing how civil rights and individual liberties cannot exist without property rights, as you cannot run a feminist newspaper or a lesbian bar or a gay B&B if the state can decide not to allow you to own or buy land, buildings, electricity, ink etc. All rights derive from the most basic property right -- the fact that each of us owns himself or herself.

  • ||

    "All rights derive from the most basic property right -- the fact that each of us owns himself or herself."

    In the west, we take that for (almost) granted, but in, say, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, woman is rather a property of her father or husband. And this is definitely a cultural thing.

    So, should the libertarians be quiet about purdah, or not? If not, won't they be accused of trying to destroy traditional culture(s)?

    And the question is not just theoretical.

    This conflict is very palpable and painful in Islamic communities in the West, and occasionally manifests itself in some gruesome honor killing, which serves not just as a punishment for the victim, but also as a message to any other potential "breakers of tradition".

    I am writing specifically about this because the European libertarian-leaning people tend to avoid this topic like hot iron. Fear of being called "xenophobic racist bigot" is simply too big.

  • Bruce Majors||

    That's not a very difficult question. Libertarianism is universalist, not Euro-centric. Libertarians don't believe people own (have a moral right to own) their wives, children, slaves etc.

  • ||

    I am happy to concede, but that will mean a great deal of coercion, and the affected people will scream that their cultural mores are being oppressed.

  • Bruce Majors||

    We don't have to intervene or concern ourselves with oppressed people. Though it is OK for people to volunteer to do so.

    There is already a lot of coercion, whether it is the Imams lynching gay teenagers in Tehran or Moslem dads running over their daughters with cars in the US.

  • Mike Laursen||

    What did Howley write that contradicts anything you just said? Where did she state that there's a dichotomy between civil and property rights?

  • church trash||

    But guess what ? All that culturally conservative 'libertarians' can do is set up a strawman and pretend that people who are not obscurantists like them must be social democrats who are against property rights.

    long live LRC and the KKKatholic church!

  • ||

    I'm with Seavey, but Howley's a fun girl. ;-)

  • Orville||

    I believe that women belong in the home, raising children. This is my world view. It may differ from yours, but thats too damn bad. You can try to convince me my view is morally wrong, but then also expect me to try convincing you that women belong at home. It is not the job of libertarianism to support one of our positions over another, it is libertarianism's job to ensure that we can have such a debate without coercing one another. If I were to take a page from Kerry's book, then I would recommend that the Libertarian party adopt the morality of the Catholic church as a platform. You can see how this might cause problems. The beauty of Libetarianism is that it is minimalist and therefore can appeal to almost everyone, regardless of their worldview.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Libertarians don't believe people own (have a moral right to own) their wives, children, slaves etc.

    I agree, except for the owning children part. We do acknowledge that parents own their children to some degree. The relationship between parent and child is inherently fuzzy, and there's no tidy libertarian axiom that can make it un-fuzzy.

    And once you recognize that there is inherently a coercive relationship between parents and children, you have to admit that Kerry Howley is correct in saying that there are indeed non-governmental cultural limitations on liberty. At least in the case of young children.

  • Mike Laursen||

    It is not the job of libertarianism to support one of our positions over another, it is libertarianism's job to ensure that we can have such a debate without coercing one another. If I were to take a page from Kerry's book, then I would recommend that the Libertarian party adopt the morality of the Catholic church as a platform.

    You're going beyond anything Howley actually said. Re-read her article. She's saying that we should have the debate about culture and its effect on liberty, without coercing each other. Just like you're saying.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Who isn't having that discussion though Mike? We've got 300+ comments already on this thread doing nothing BUT having the discussion Kerry Howley seems to think we ignore.

    The problem remains that if there is cultural oppression, I can't do anything to stop it beyond talking and caring about my neighbors without initiating force.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Great, then we're all in agreement that it's OK to take an interest in non-governmental aspects of society that may be limiting people's freedom, as long as we're not forcing anybody to do anything.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Great. But that's still not the same as Kerry's proposition that we should include her brand of "culture" (or anyone else's for that matter) as part of the libertarian agenda.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Where did she insist on her own "brand of 'culture'"? She gave examples of situations where individual freedom is constrained by non-governmental influences. Naturally, when she gives examples, they're going to be from her own point of view.

    But the standard she advanced was that we should be concerned about societal constraints on liberty, with the implication that each libertarian use his or her own judgement about what those situations might be.

  • William Furr||

    In Kim Robinson's "Red Mars" series, this very same issue was addressed in the formation of the Martian state. They dealt with the issue through a bill of rights, but one very different from the American version.

    Their bill of rights did not outlaw local authoritarian cultures, but it did demand that the citizens of those cultures have certain freedoms, including the freedom to leave and the right to an education.

    Those combine to hopefully ensure that only those who wish to stay in their traditional culture do so out of choice and not out of ignorance of the alternatives or fear.

  • monolith||

    I tend to agree with that.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Interesting idea, though I'm not sure I'm on board with it. Allowing people to create "islands" wherein the basic tenants of the Bill of Rights are violated?

    Well, if it's voluntary, and if those who sign up for it are free to leave at any time, I suppose that is not against libertarian tenants per se. But this is where it gets sticky.

    but it did demand that the citizens of those cultures have certain freedoms, including the freedom to leave and the right to an education.

    What education is going to be required? You can hardly answer that question without picking somebody's idea of which cultural norms are "acceptable" and which aren't.

    Which throws us right back into the sand trap that most people here are railing against.

  • monolith||

    what you say is true.
    its just that at some point the will of the majority and individual rights can come into conflict.
    some type of bill of rights would probably be needed. It's always going to be messy though.

  • JB||

    Do not commit force or fraud against another person.

    Not that messy.

  • William Furr||

    Well, in order to have a choice to leave, you have to know that you have actual choices.

    In theory, one could be educated about their rights and duties as a Martian citizen, and study various cultures from around the world in a neutral way.

    Perhaps require a teacher from a different enclave, but who only presents on enclaves over than his or her own.

    Anyway, yeah, you do run into the same problem, but my suggestion is to narrow down the "rights" to the narrowest set possible.

  • monolith||

    I quite like this quote from the article ( don't completely agree with it though. )

    “Libertarians often conclude that gender roles must not be oppressive since many women accept them,” they note in a 2005 essay on libertarian feminism, “but they do not analogously treat the fact that most citizens accept the legitimacy of governmental compulsion as a reason to question its oppressive character; on the contrary, they see their task as one of consciousness-raising and demystification, or, in the Marxian phrase, plucking the flowers from the chains to expose their character as chains.” Liberty—from government, from tradition, from prejudice—must be taught, capacities developed.

  • church trash||

    this is what that the culturally conservative 'libertarians' want

    http://www.bkmarcus.com/blog/2.....stone.html

  • ||

    A good many of the commenters here have claimed that the disagreements with Howley attribute to her ideas which she has not expressed. That is true, as far as it goes. But, the content of her argument is hardly novel. It is the longstanding liberal critique of libertarianism. Inasmuch as this is the case, I think it is reasonable to approach her case with some scepticism. That she did left the resulting policy perscription unmentioned did not make the assessment any different.

    Moreover, the underlying premises of her arguments were anti-libertarian. They were, at the end of the day, based on both the notion that ideal society or "the good life" is knowable, and that Howley's conception of it is the right one. Even her discussion of property rights in the case of the Chinese girl belies this. The property rights are useful as a means to the end that Howley deems appropriate.

    At the end of the day, given these things, the onus is on Howley to convince me that she actually does appreciate individual liberty. She has forgone the benefit of the doubt.

  • Mike Laursen||

    That she did left the resulting policy perscription unmentioned did not make the assessment any different.

    I'm familiar with the common liberal practice of making passive arguments for intrusive government policies where they never come right out and state their conclusion. Just a smug look conveying that any decent person would agree what has to be done. Drives me nuts. Makes me grind my teeth.

    I see where someone might see Howley's essay as fitting into that pattern, but any reader who perceives her essay that way should be aware that the perception is coming from the reader, not her.

  • ||

    And if Howley's arguement were novel, I might give her the benefit of the doubt, as you suggest. But, the arguement she presents is exactly the same one I have repeatedly heard from liberals about why libertarianism is wrong. If I were to read a version of Das Kapital that omitted the perscription of communism, I'd still know what was left out.

  • ||

    I should also note that, given that one of her major counterpoints to Seavey is that his particular brand of libertarianism would be insufficiently interventionist hardly alleviates my concern.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Where did she say that? I just re-read her reply to Seavey and I missed it.

  • ||

    Mr. Laursen,

    I found it here:

    Potential Libertarian: Oh, right. Freedom like civil rights?

    Seavey: No, not that kind of freedom.

    Potential Libertarian: Oh. Freedom like the freedom to be openly gay?

    Seavey: No. That has nothing to do with liberty.

    She's claiming Seavey's response is unattractive. Why? If libertarian non-intervention is somehow or another unattractive, she presumably argues that being gay should be actively protected. But that, in itself, means that she believes that there should be intervention to provide that protection.

  • Mike Laursen||

    she presumably argues that being gay should be actively protected

    Purely your presumption.

  • ||

    Purely your presumption.

    And an entirely safe one. By definition, if non-intervention is insufficient, then the only option remaining is that of support or protection. What other option remains? It kind of acts as a binary condition. And one is safe presuming that, in the absence of light, it is dark.

  • ||

    Howley is wrong about everything except FLDS pligs.
    There are 10,000 FLDS pliggers and 40,000-50,000 pliggers in other sects. They are the exception to the rule, since they all molest children, murder babies, rape women, and committ welfare frauld, they don't deserve civil rights including the right to vote. Several years ago, Tx state rep Harvey Hildebran tried to stop them coming to texas by submitting a bill designed to make it more difficult for FLDS to vote and run for office, that bill didn't pass but he did manage to jack up the penalty for bigamy from a misdemeanor to a felony. That will come in handy as several of these inbreds are now being charged for this very same offense and will now go to prison for a long time.

  • Richard Holder||

    wat

  • crazyfish||

    I doubt Kerry wants to the state to impose her freedom-loving values. I give Kerry the benefit of the doubt because articles of hers in the past have consistently being in favour of liberty.
    Kerry notes in the closing arguments that libertarianism isn't a natural belief, she writes "The capacity to choose must be learned." This is an important point. Humans are naturally social and tribal, we want to be belong to a group. Very often, belonging to a group means undermining the liberty of another group. Libertarianism is a tenuous political philosophy in a tribal, authoritarian culture.
    We can rail all we want about property rights but if the prevailing culture is authoritarian, our desires will not turn into law.
    The reason that America is woman-black-gay loving nation is the because the prevailing culture has become respectful of the other. Gay people will not get the right to a marriage contract through the favoured libertarian means of legislation until the majority approves and the only way for that to happen is if people who are in favour of liberty continually speak out and convince others. Unless the dominant culture believes in liberty, libertarianism is doomed.
    So as libertarians, I think it is our duty to constantly remind people how fragile liberty is. A culture that easily undermines the civil rights of minorities, in the guise of personal opinion, is a culture that easily undermines property rights of individuals. In many cases, the state does not undermine property rights because it loves to take money, it does so under the guise of a dislike of a minority (insert smokers, trust-fund babies, *gasp black people). The state can easily do this because the dominant culture does not think much of the rights of the minority.

    People point out that people are free to join an authoritarian cult of their choosing. As long as the authoritarian cultures are small and fractured, and the individual does not have much to fear in such a landscape e.g America. But what if the authoritarian culture is dominant? e.g the middle east? Do you think it is possible to have laws that protects a woman's right to property, if the supermajority in the nation do not believe that women should own property?
    I believe Kerry's point is: libertarians needs to speak out against cultural norms that constrain liberty because unlibertarian laws usually arises out of cultural norms that constrain liberty and also because one cannot separate the state from culture.

  • ||

    The reason that America is woman-black-gay loving nation is the because the prevailing culture has become respectful of the other.

    But that's simply not true. Plenty of people in this country have demonstrated ample respect for the rights of people they personally despise. They do so because they recognize a sphere of what is and isn't their business.

  • monolith||

    yes but lots of people don't recognise a sphere of what is and isn't their business.
    i think thats kind of the point of the original article and post by crazyfish.

  • ||

    Monolith,

    But it is far from clear to me that the process works in the way that crazyfish, or even Howley, suggest. It seems far more plausible and observable to me that the process works in quite the opposite direction. That is to say, people decide that aspects of others' behavior are not their affair, and moral tolerance for the behavior develops from that point. That is to say, people decide that it is the others' soul that is damned, not their own, and only later accept the behavior of the other.

  • crazyfish||

    Why didn't we have freer societies 100 years, 200 years ago? you have to get other people to respect your rights. People had to be slowly convinced to respect other people's rights.

  • Leif||

    MNG:

    Suppose I refuse to rent an apartment to religious Muslims because of their intolerance towards gays etc. Do you support me, or am I to be denounced (and perhaps compelled to rent, or even prosecuted) as being intolerant myself?

  • ||

    The libertarian position I support is that people can denounce you all they want--free speech being an important value--march around with signs and all kinds of things as long as they don't initiate violence or presume to have the government prosecute you or initiate violence against you. The use of the government to enforce cultural values of one group or another is a hideous mistake--that will someday end up biting you in the rear. It's your apartment, you should be able to rent to whomever you wish, unless your family, friends and neighbors can persuade you that you're being an intolerant jerk. As long as they are limited to persuasion and don't invoke the power of government then you have your freedom. This seems so clear to me. Why do so many people completely confuse the difference between working to persuade other free individuals to do what you want with bringing in the government to force them in line?

  • Mike Laursen||

    Do you support me, or am I to be denounced (and perhaps compelled to rent, or even prosecuted) as being intolerant myself?

    I'll quote Howley's own words: "... it is a mistake to assume that given the inevitability of disagreements, any consensus is impossible and undesirable. Tolerance itself is a consensus position, demanding a certain measure of agreement. Like all rights, property rights depend on some measure of concordance. Sometimes an appeal to the impossibility of agreement is merely an excuse for quiescence."

  • Leif||

    My question to MNG, while it might raise all kinds of complex issues, was a very simple yes-or-no (or refuse to answer) one. Your Humphrey Appleby response is not an answer to my question.

    Earlier you write: "A lot of commenters here who have problems with what Howley wrote seem to be putting a lot of words in her mouth. I think you're confusing your reaction to the article with what she actually said." Given your last quote, is that surprising?

    You yourself seem to write clearly. Answer me in your own words, and I'll be happy to engage with you. As it is, all I can do is say "Uh-huh. Right..." and turn back to the non-responding MNG.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Part A of my answer: You laid out a question specifically constructed to be hard to answer. Most real life situations aren't as complex. Reasoning about "lifeboat ethics" scenarios doesn't work well as a way of working out ethical rules for everyday life. (By the way, although I'm not a Randite, I came to this insight by reading one of her essays. She hit it out of the park every once in a while.)

    Part B of my answer: I would never force you to take them as tenants. So, it's just a matter of whether I would approve of what you did or not. I need a little more information to know whether to approve or not -- did they actually actively do something to gay people, or are they just grumbling about how they don't like gays? Is it everybody in the family, or just, say, the curmudgeonly grandpa? Do they have young kids that are innocent of it all? How desperate are they for a place to live?

  • Mike Laursen||

    Should add: I know a lot of people feel they can just have a set of clear-cut ethical rules all prepared up in advance that will tell them how to handle any situation that comes up.

    My life experience has been that figuring out the right thing to do in touchy real-world scenarios is more of an art than a clear-cut mechanical thing. Yeah, that's situational ethics, but you know fucking what -- that's how Sheriff Andy Taylor approached shit and he's my ethical hero.

  • Leif||

    Mike:

    See, I knew your own words would be much more understandable :-) (Though your two comments seem to contradict each other, unless you think that my scenario is particularly complex, which I don't.)

    My initial question was directed at MNG, who seemed to argue that intolerance of the intolerant was a clear-cut incontrovertible good.

    My underlying approach is that real life situations *are* complex, with shades of gray and slippery slopes. This certainly doesn't mean one should avoid applying ethics to them, but there won't be clear-cut mechanical rules, and different people will come to different conclusions. Even if those different people are all libertarians.

    And I am not talking merely about scenarios, but about entire issues. Which brings me to (finally) address Howley herself. [I have deleted a long, winding and not particularly interesting exposition]

    Do all libertarians agree that "property rights are enough?" Of course not. And those that don't, a la Howley, are welcome to preach and act in accordance with their beliefs. But while we can have "discussions of culture, conformism, and social structure," reaching a consensus on that as a "movement" will not be merely difficult but truly impossible. And any attempt to force a consensus will inevitably split an already small movement.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Though your two comments seem to contradict each other...

    You got me on that one. :-)

  • ||

    I followed a link here from a left-leaning blog. Suffice it to say that I thought Healey's piece was excellent, although I have my share of disagreements with her, and I thought the second article was a disingenuous smear against the content of the first.

    I'm always somewhat mystified, as someone of a generally left-liberal bent, at the sheer unwillingness of libertarians to even grapple with the argument that American liberals are genuinely concerned with advancing individual liberty.

    I'm well aware of the counterexamples that libertarians focus on, but we are talking about a political thread in America that produced FDR's Four Freedoms, the Women's Suffrage movement, and the Civil Rights Movement, along with a great many court decisions protecting free assembly, protections for the criminally accused, reproductive freedom, etc. You may not agree with the vision of liberty advanced by this political program, but it IS a vision of liberty.

    Part of this, I think, is a result of the conflation of "liberal" and "left" in American political discourse. Part of it is a result of differing emphases -- liberals tend to focus more on liberty as an essential component of social justice and equal opportunity, not as some sort of absolute inviolable individualism that entitles those with wealth and privilege to circumscribe opportunities for those who don't.

    But I think Howley correctly identifies the most important part of this disagreement. "Libertarianism" in America limits itself to free market absolutism and anti-statism, generally refuses to concern itself with the ways that social conventions and economic deprivation severely constrain the liberty of a great many people who don't share the upper middle class white male background of the typical libertarian, and generally refuses to concern itself with the way that certain individual choices can create the sort of collective action problem that impacts the range of choices available to others.

    To my mind, this indicates that Howley is growing up, slowly transitioning to a more liberal worldview, and leaving the rest of the kids behind in the sandbox bickering about the proper reading of Atlas Shrugged. But a more charitable way of putting it is that her understanding of what "liberty" means is worthy of respect, and her conception of libertarian politics is one that is worth the effort to engage with, unlike Seavey's.

  • ||

    generally refuses to concern itself with the ways that social conventions and economic deprivation severely constrain the liberty of a great many people

    Entirely wrong. We just note that deprivation is the result (unintended by some, intended by others of liberal policies and programs.

    To a liberal it's the intent, regardless of the horrific results.

    To a libertarian it's the result, regardless of the horrific accusations of indifference of liberals.

    Or put more simply.

    A libertarian is a liberal who learned economics and read history.

  • Mike Laursen||

    I'm always somewhat mystified, as someone of a generally left-liberal bent, at the sheer unwillingness of libertarians to even grapple with the argument that American liberals are genuinely concerned with advancing individual liberty.

    American libertarianism and American liberalism are branches of the same family tree, and I do get that American liberals are genuinely concerned with liberty.

    Where liberals tend to go wrong is a blindness or naiveté about the heavy-handedness, expense, and, often, impracticality, and unintended consequences of the policies they promote. Also, a tendency to see abuse of power as a matter of not having the right people in power rather than being a systemic problem.

    This is where they could learn a lot from libertarians. Howley explained pretty well in her essay where libertarians could learn from liberals.

  • Keith Preston||

    http://attackthesystem.com/lib.....h-america/

    The only solution to this debate is a pan-separatist libertarian federation or collection of micro-nations. Read the essay linked to above.

  • ||

    I think the thing that makes this such a problem for propertarian minarchists is that the ability to recognise any form of coercion beside the brute physical such (seemingly) originating in the State would raise the question of a check on that coercion.

    I am not a Libertarian; I am somewhat libertarian, but I believe that my liberties are more practically supported by the existence of a check on the actions of individuals' acting within a 'Free Market'. Some of this is pure temperament: I believe that we will never get rid of all the dinosaurs, so we small egg-eaters are better off if they spend a lot of time fighting each other. As usual, I have found seemingly reasonable theory to support what temperament makes immediately 'obvious'; regardless of its source, I think the argument that the State actually creates most of the property around compelling---by using the threat of violence to enforce exclusive use of goods by 'owners' who would be unable to do so themselves in the State of Nature, by killing natives and foreigners, and by creating force-enforceable artificial persons to act as owners in very many cases---that most Property really _does_ seem like a Creature of Society, and so answerable to the latter's call, not as an act of patriotism but rather as the repayment of a just debt...maybe not to the last Farthing, since I'm more moderate than Franklin.

    So, for example, since in practical terms, the economy is such that finding (or creating) another job soon enough to avoid death is not always a viable possibility,then _especially_ in a State that doesn't prevent one's family from starving or freezing, a boss' asking for sexual favours is in fact coercion, and since his right to do as he will with that job a right backed by State, deserves a counter-coercive measure by the State, or at least the latter's allowing feminist vigilante pirate ninjas the right to settle the score. Similarly, raising children requires enormous amounts of coercion---I know because I was a child, and have an extremely good memory---and there needs to be some check on it. To the extent that traditional cultures do not find this illegitimate but some vast majority now do, it is only expectable to expect a reaction. This could be from your neighbours, but experience---and here I am more conservative than libertarian---shows that neighbours will generally put up with a lot's being done to someone else's children, and when they do act it's usually because there's an exacerbating problem, for example disapproval of two lesbians' raising a child, or any two Jews'. The former invites a State check because of the inadequacy of the local check, the latter because it invites a check against the _neighbours_ (who will never believe that they have 'initiated force', as I've rarely encountered anyone who thought they had, either by blindness to part of the situation or to previous history).

    Finally (sorry for the tl;dr), second-hander that I often am, I've heard that a Mr Schumpeter has explicitly declared capitalism the enemy of all traditional cultures. If this is true, it is unreasonable not to expect them to push back, using whatever power they have---violence, brainwashing their children even _harder_ and more extremely, and attempting to use the power of the State---in a propertarian minarchist State, the power to accumulate HUGE tracts of State-protected land on which to have total and indisputable mastery, and the State-backed legitimacy of retaining their kids no matter what (short of rape, murder, and the less reputable forms of disfigurement). Quite frankly, I think within those tracts, tyranny would reign, even if all the adults within had signed contracts ceding their rights, such as the right to leave, to the 'owner[s]'.

  • juris imprudent||

    It seems to me that Howley is searching for a Libertarian utopia - where Libertarianism offers solutions to all of life's problems. Which is exactly what corrupted liberalism as a political philosophy from having respect for individuals to the state-worshiping sect it is today.

    Yes, I AM most concerned about the coercion that emanates from the power of the state. Because all Warren Jeffs has on me is persuasion - if I fall for his line of bunk well shame on me. Other than that, as long as he stays on his side of the line and leaves me the hell alone, I've got no legitimate reason to agitate for his oppression/destruction.

  • ||

    Libertarianism is not a Utopia. We reject that, we have a very simple philosophy, we reject initiation of coercion.
    Trying to make libertarianism utopian is a doomed project that will end up killing us the way it did the liberals.

  • ||

    All three authors error in stating "support" for an idea, but not saying what kind of support: government or personal. It's like when politicians speak and I wonder what they mean regarding government policy. Perhaps Howley's point is we libertarians need to support, say, Chinese women breaking the bonds of tradition for a better life working in the city - but not using government to do it. OK - most libertarians do support freedom. The fact that Chinese women are doing this does undercut her argument - the Chinese government isn't enforcing this tradition, thankfully.

    The point is that in supporting freedom, we allow people to espouse and live (with their own life) ideas we might find abhorent.

    I'd rather occasionally hear some objectional ideas then lose the right to free speech. Culture isn't very different from speech.

  • ||

    I'm glad to see at least some libertarians living up to the full meaning of the creed. Keep fighting the good fight, Kerry.

  • Todd Seavey||

    You might find my final thoughts on the Howley/me/etc. spat, on my blog, interesting:

    http://toddseavey.com/2009/10/.....ry-howley/

  • jolly q||

    I loved your blog post, Todd. It was about time somebody called Howley’s offensive writings for what they are - an outrageous, leftist affront on principles of libertarianism. The only reason she got away with it for so long is because she is a woman.

  • ||

    I'm all for freedom from authoritarian cultural mores. And no, learning to stand up for your own individual values is not easy. I'd like to support private non-governmental organizations which empower people to free themselves from the tyranny of conventional thinking. However, I draw the line at using force or the power of the state to require tolerance, feminism or any other cultural values. I find it hard to believe that anyone who calls themselves a libertarian doesn't understand this simple distinction. We're about limited government because government is the only legitimate wielder of violent force in society. Everyone else can be as intolerant and hide-bound as they want and I don't care as long as they don't have government support or the power to use violent means to enforce their viewpoint. We can be "for" cultural freedom but only if we eschew the use of the government's violent power to force these values on others. Governmental power can and should be used to protect the freedom of those who want to escape abusive spouses, families and cults. Governmental power cannot and should not be used to enforce anyone's control over other human beings. That's why limitating the government to enforcing property rights is a great place to plant the flag of our libertarian values.

  • ||

    The weakness of Howley's position is seen in her resort to ridiculing straw men in her response to Mr. Seavey. For example, wouldn't her fictional conversation go something like this:

    Potential Libertarian: What’s libertarianism?

    Seavey: A philosophy of freedom and property rights.

    Potential Libertarian: Oh, right. Freedom like civil rights?

    Seavey: Exactly. It's a philosophy that offers real solutions for protecting civil liberties. We reject that idea that your civil liberties are granted to you by government, and so can be taken away from you by government. Everyone has rights that cannot be taken away.

    Potential Libertarian: Oh. Freedom like the freedom to be openly gay?

    Seavey: Yes, exactly. The government should not discriminate against gays. But the government has an obligation to protect gays against violence and fraud.

    Potential Libertarian: Oh. Um…

    Seavey: Let's talk about these issues in more detail, and how property rights and limited government are the best way to secure these liberties...

    Howley wants a libertarianism that is more than a philosophy of government - she wants it to be a philosophy of life. Of course, the values that make one a political libertarian will heavily influence one's cultural values, and political libertarians will and do try to promote their version of the good life outside of politics. What planet is Howley living on to think this isn't so.

    But libertarians recognize that government's role in such issues is extremely minimal, and for reasons Seavey suggests and history shows, trying to expand the political realm into these cultural debates is a very dangerous business for true liberty.

  • ||

    If libertarianism is to be concerned with cultural values, then the mechanism for expressing such concern must be private institutions with appropriate social goals. So, for example, if Howley wishes for more women to enter science, she could form an institute to encourage women to pursue such options. I think she would find that such organizations already exist. If she wishes to create links between such organizations and libertarian organizations, she is free to do that too. But, all such efforts should be compatible with the notion of individual freedom and property rights.

  • Shaykh Idris||

    Property rights? Ownership? Esquire? Personal liberty & personal responsibility in a social context, along with being able to be an elector, might have more to do with it.

  • meh130||

    How do you propose to enforce cultural libertarianism? By laws? What happens when sciences supports a conclusion which another sees as intolerance? For example, completing high school, and not having children out of wedlock are proven to decrease the likelihood of poverty. So while a libertarian may not believe it is the government's role to promote these two ideals, it is well within any libertarian who believes this science to promote these ideals.

    Cultural libertarianism is not achievable without the elimination of freedom of speech and thought. It is totalitarianism.

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