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Tag Archives: libertarianism
Call for Abstracts
for the Molinari Societys next Eastern Symposium, to be held in conjunction with the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division meeting, January 6-9, 2016, in Washington DC. (Note that this meeting is the week after New Years, rather than, as in past years, just before New Years. This later time is expected to be the new normal for the Eastern APA henceforth.)
Police Abuse: Solutions Beyond the State
18 May 2015
Abuses of power by police officers, especially abuses motivated by racial bias, are at last beginning to receive increased public scrutiny. Anarchists have long regarded police misconduct as a deep-rooted and systemic problem, one requiring radical rather than reformist solutions, but have not always agreed about what a radical solution should look like. Some anarchists have advocated a system of private security firms held in check by market competition; others have looked to volunteer and mutual-aid watch groups responsible to the communities they patrol; still others have rejected both models as insufficiently different from the government police system theyre supposed to replace.
Were looking for articles, sympathetic or critical, in and on the libertarian tradition, broadly understood as including classical liberalism, individualist anarchism, social anarchism, anarcho-capitalism, anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism, anarcha-feminism, panarchism, voluntaryism, mutualism, agorism, distributism, Austrianism, Georgism, public choice, and beyond essentially, everything from Emma Goldman to Ayn Rand, C. L. R. James to F. A. Hayek, Alexis de Tocqueville to Michel Foucault.
I disagree with a good deal in Chapter 7 of Kevin’s book. In fact, I am extremely sympathetic with the overall project of de-privatizing religious reasons: like Kevin I want a liberalism, and more importantly a polity, in which faith traditions engage and are engaged, in politics on a basis of mutual respect. So the disagreement came as a relief, because there is nothing worse than being assigned commentary on something you agree with. Tthe kind of schooling system I would like to see is considerably different both from the one he rejects and the one he defends in very brief sketch form. This has the inconvenient consequence that engaging and explaining every disagreement would take many more pages than a blog post bears; the reader will be relieved that I am restricting myself to a couple of thousand words, and am willing to take the risk of being misunderstood (and to subject Kevin to that risk – so, if something I attribute to him seems in any way wrong, please assume the error is mine not his!!).
American public schooling is currently arranged roughly as follows: every child is required to have some formal schooling up to age 16 or 18 (depending on the state), and common schools which purportedly promote a common civic identity are provided free at the point of delivery.  Parents can legally refrain from sending their children to such schools, and send them, instead, to private schools which are very lightly regulated, and are permitted to foster sectarian identities (in practice the vast majority of children in private schools attend religious schools); they can also provide homeschooling which is, in most states, even more lightly regulated than private schooling.
Something like this system is widely defended by the ‘consensus’ liberals that Kevin takes as his opponents. Liberalism should, as Macedo puts it, embrace “the positive constitutional project of shaping diversity to the end of a shared public life” and should use the schooling system to this end, actively sculpting citizens to have certain liberal values once they reach adulthood. For these liberals, this end overrides religious considerations; the schools must not invoke or teach religious doctrines, because to do so would conflict with the driving purpose of civic education; and they should foster a civic identity that, once instilled, will override religious reasons when citizens are engaged in public debate and political action. More importantly, it requires that children be exposed to a diversity of views about what is of value in the world and how to live their lives – views and approaches that some parents may wish to ensure that their children not be exposed to. Freedom must have its due, of course, so homeschooling and private schooling are permitted; indeed, by permitting them we relieve potential pressure on the public schools which sectarian religious parents would exert, and free them up to do their work relatively unfettered by sectarian lobbyists.
Kevin offers an alternative. The current structure of schooling (in the US) should be rejected, and replaced with some sort of privatized school choice system. He does not object to government funding of schools, but he does object to the government using schools to foster the kind of civic identity that consensus liberals seek, and thinks it is unfair that parents with private identities that are nicely congruent with the kind of civic identity consensus liberals promote get schooling for their children free at the point of delivery, whereas citizens with religious identities have to pay twice, as it were, once for the public schools their children don’t attend, and again for the private schools they do attend.
Why? First, the kind of convergence liberalism he endorses (the right kind of liberalism) does not require the kind of civic identity promoted by consensus liberals. Rather citizens are free to follow their private, including religious, reasons when contributing to public debate and political decision-making and, in fact, they have no obligation to engage in politics at all. Second, though, he reminds us that citizens find tremendous value in raising children: “If we recognize the obvious fact that citizens’ reasons of integrity often involve raising children, then it is easy to see how citizens could have defeaters for state intervention in child development. Consensus liberals emphasize the state’s interest in sculpting children in its image, but on the convergence view shared civic ends are more easily undermined by intelligible defeaters”.
Kevin looks at the debate over whether Intelligent Design should be taught in schools. Whereas, as he observes, it might be possible to forge some sort of compromise between proponents and opponents of ID so that ID and evolution both get taught, there are a host of other issues, such as sex education, and religious education over which there will be dispute; and once all these issues are added up, there will be no sensible in-school compromise with which most people can live; the sensible measure will be to implement a privatized (though maybe publicly funded) choice system.
The Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog is hosting a symposium on John Tomasi’s newest book, Free Market Fairness. The symposium begins today, June 11th, and runs through next Monday, June 18th.
The schedule for the symposium is below. Please see the introduction page here for more information.
Tuesday: Elizabeth Anderson – “Recharting the Map of Social and Political Theory: Where is Government? Where is Conservatism?”
Wednesday: Will Wilkinson – “Market Democracy and Dirty Ideal Theory”
Over at the Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog, we’re running a symposium this week on the topic of “Libertarianism and Land,” featuring essays by Eric Mack, Hillel Steiner, Fred Foldvary, Kevin Carson, and David Schmidtz.
The first essay went up this morning: “Natural Rights and Natural Stuff,” by Eric Mack. The other essays will go up one per morning for the rest of the week.
Overview of §23
I’m going to structure my discussion of this section a little differently. I’m also going to be a bit polemical about it. Perhaps this treatment will galvanize some discussion about this section, which I believe is rather significant for Gaus’ argument.
In the preface to the book, Gaus decries the tendency of political philosophers to turn into hedgehogs, each championing one among many potential political creeds (liberal egalitarianism, libertarianism, Marxism, communitarianism, etc.). Gaus then announces his attention to take a different, “foxier” path, one that does not endorse a particular political philosophy, but asks how we should think about the moral order—including the political order—in a world lacking reasonable agreement about many basic moral questions. In doing so, he eschews any desire to champion, hedgehog-style, any single political philosophy—including libertarianism, a philosophy with which he is prominently associated (p. xv). I distinctly remember reading this passage months ago and saying to myself, the philosopher doth protest too much. And lo and behold, many months later, I am not surprised to see that Gaus’ in-depth examination of the nature of morality is yielding libertarian political conclusions.
I should be clear here—I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Gaus attempting to defend libertarianism in this book. If something like reflective equilibrium is a legitimate method for producing valid moral claims, one would expect Gaus, a libertarian, to endorse a libertarian political system, and to argue that the moral situation in which we find ourselves today calls for libertarian principles. If his analysis of morality had yielded the conclusion that communism was the only acceptable economic system, one would expect Gaus to go over the argument seven or eight hundred times until he had found the problem with it. Again, let me repeat—there is nothing illegitimate about this as a method of argument. But it is a little disingenuous of Gaus to act as though he is merely following the argument where it goes, and the fact that it leads to pro-libertarian conclusions is just some sort of happy accident.
Technically, of course, Gaus’ argument does not unambiguously endorse any particular political order. But Gaus’ analysis of morality most definitely tilts in a libertarian-friendly direction. Reasonable people who aim to settle upon a political order, says Gaus, will consider which principles they could reasonably accept as the basis for such an order. They will do so on a principle-by-principle basis; they can do this, because Gaus eschews any efforts at evaluating competing political orders as a whole. Of course, Gaus says, they will endorse all the standard things that libertarians like to endorse—basic rights to life, liberty, and property. But will they endorse anything else? It should be clear that there will be a very serious obstacle to their doing so. Endowing the political order with any further powers will only be morally legitimate if every reasonable moral citizen would agree to such endowment. And there is an important class of people—libertarians like Gaus himself—who can be expected to object to any such expansions of state authority. In effect, libertarians can reasonably count upon other citizens endorsing a set of principles which, considered all by themselves, constitute the libertarian ideal point. Not surprisingly, libertarians will be reluctant to endorse any move away from this ideal point, and their endorsement is necessary in order for any such move to be legitimate.