Saturday, June 18, 2005

BlogProps: RightWatch

I can already tell that I'm going to disagree on some significant issues with the (unnamed) author of RightWatch ... but at the same time, that author's main claims -- that authoritarians are increasingly adopting and attempting to coopt the libertarian label, and that this harms the libertarian movement -- are correct.

I might as well get some of the disagreements out of the way right now:

RightWatch: "Objectivism is a subset of libertarianism."

Reality: Objectivism is a philosophical approach covering metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics and esthetics. Libertarianism per se is a political approach, i.e. an approach to one small area of philosophy. It would be more correct to say that Objectivism's logical political results are libertarian, and that therefore an Objectivist politics is a subset of libertarianism. However, Objectivism itself is not. I'm sure someone with a math background could (and maybe will) diagram for us the idea of a set composed of pieces from different, otherwise mutually exclusive, sets. Of course, many Objectivists do regard the attempt to create such a set as futile, because they believe that a politics devoid of the correct philosophical context is bound to be full of deadly contradictions. I even agree with them to a point -- especially when I see them dropping context and accomodating contradictions themselves, as so many have done to justify their support of the Kantian war on Iraq. I understand and agree with RightWatch's criticism of the Ayn Rand Institute, an irrationalist, authoritarian cult trafficking on the status of its founder, Leonard Peikoff, as Rand's heir. I find it odd, however, that the author of RightWatch categorizes Solo, an Objectivist forum, as "intolerant." I've been posting there for some time, and have not been banned or in any way censored. "Tolerance" and "agreement" are not the same thing.

RightWatch: "We have 'paleo-libertarians' who have allied themselves with racists and bigots! " -- referring to the Mises Institute and LewRockwell.Com.

Reality: Libertarianism proper is a political philosophy with one tenet (non-aggression). It does not address itself to issues of racism or bigotry other than to the extent that those may manifest themselves as coercion. It is entirely possible to be a perfectly consistent libertarian and to hate or regard as inferior (insert arbitrary designation of race, religion, sexual orientation, lifestyle, etc. here). All that libertarianism requires is that one not advocate the initiation of force in order to eliminate, or impose one's edicts upon, said group.

LewRockwell.Com has associated itself with some writers -- Gary North, for example, a "Reconstructionist" who would like to see a society where homosexuals are stoned to death -- who cross that line. However, it may be a mistake to regard this as an endorsement of the particulars of those authors' views. Rockwell launched his site with the view that it should be idiosyncratic, and idiosyncratic it has been. The fact that an author on the site advocates X does not mean that the organization publishing the site advocates X, or that either is holding X out as "libertarian."

I do agree with RightWatch, however, that to the extent that libertarians are seen as associating themselves with unsavory ideas like racism and anti-gay bigotry, it can harm our case. For that reason, I look forward to seeing RightWatch examine its chosen area of interest.

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