16 comments

  1. Jim Goad’s article describes perfectly the mentality of so many on the left and also of many on the radical left. One thing that has bothered me about many civil liberties arguments is that they always go to the issue of race. For example, the way that the drug war targets blacks and hispanics more than whites. There’s nothing wrong with making such arguments, but it seems to me that it should not be the primary issue. Otherwise, the obvious rejoinder from conservatives (I believe Rush Limbaugh made this exact point) is to crack down on white people just as hard.

    One thing that I was wondering (this would be a very taboo question in almost any other forum) is whether civil liberties and all that stuff have any relevance for people who are not white. In other words, as horrifying a thought as this might seem to left-libertarians and left anarchists, Maybe the reason that such groups are almost entirely white is the fact that only whites care about this issue. Also, I was wondering if many non-white groups (even those targeted by the state) are actually worse on these issues than the majority of whites. For example, drug prohibition, do more blacks support the war on drugs than whites despite being more adversely affected by it? These are not rhetorical questions, I am actually curious about the answers as I don’t know them.

  2. “One thing that has bothered me about many civil liberties arguments is that they always go to the issue of race. For example, the way that the drug war targets blacks and hispanics more than whites. There’s nothing wrong with making such arguments, but it seems to me that it should not be the primary issue. Otherwise, the obvious rejoinder from conservatives (I believe Rush Limbaugh made this exact point) is to crack down on white people just as hard. ”

    That’s always been an issue for me as well. Liberal politicians have been just as supportive of the drug war as law and order conservatives, and it’s always seemed to me that most of the more radical left-wing sectors seem to acquiesce or drag their feet on this question except for when, like you say, they make it into a race issue. I have a hard time interpreting the drug war within the context of race as well because so many minorities are involved in its perpetration and at least until recently there seemed to be little criticism of the drug war coming from minority communities, except for when it comes to issues of racial disparity. I tend to regard the drug war more as a manifestation of the therapeutic statist component of totalitarian humanism which is an ideological perspective that purports to be militantly anti-racist.

    I think a solid case can be made that early drug prohibition laws were rooted in part in racial prejudice, and no other state policy today does more harm to minority communities. In fact, it can be demonstrated fairly conclusively that the harms caused by the drug war fall disproportionately on all of the traditional outgroups: racical minorities, the poor, women, young people, marginal cultural groups, etc. But it’s a strategic, theoretical and factual error to make this the sole or even primary basis of opposition to the drug war, and for the reasons that you give. The drug war would be just as dangerous, destructive, and tyrannical even if its primary targets/victims were all upper middle class white guys. As you say, arguing that the drug war is wrong because it discriminates against traditional outgroups simply provides the state with an excuse to expand it into other social sectors and expand the reach of the police state even more dramatically.

    Regarding the attitudes of minorities generally towards civil liberties issues, that’s a complicated question. Most research seems to indicate that non-whites on average are more likely to be more conservative on issues like abortion, homosexuality, religious beliefs, and family relationships. But they veer to the left of whites on issues of race and class, for obvious reasons. I’ve generally gotten the impression that minority communities on average are certainly more conservative than white liberals on law and order issues, though I’m not sure how they match up against whites generally. It’s has seemed to me at least that blacks, for instance, generally favor tough on crime policies, except for when there is a perceived racial bias or misconduct by officials or police. I’m not sure what the research that’s been done on that actually shows, to the degree that any research has been done. I’ve also noticed that black civil rights groups seem to have become more critical of the drug war in recent years.

    Does anyone else have any ideas or data on this?

    As for why the left-anarchist and left-libertarians are almost all white, I suspect cultural differences are the main reason for that. I’ve noticed that non-whites who are politically motivated often prefer to have their own organizations specifically oriented towards race issues, or where common racial identity is a core defining characteristic of the participants. The movements you mention tend to be derivative of white middle class youth subcultures and countercultures, so I don’t know that many minorities would identity with that or feel comfortable with that. Also, there’s the question of what, for instance, the left-anarchists actually have to offer real world African-Americans or other non-white ethnic/racial groups? The left-anarchists don’t have any political power or influence in their wider society, nor do the left-libertarians. So why should members of ethnic minority groups look to them for any kind of assistance in achievable goals of importance to minority communities?

  3. “Also, there’s the question of what, for instance, the left-anarchists actually have to offer real world African-Americans or other non-white ethnic/racial groups? The left-anarchists don’t have any political power or influence in their wider society, nor do the left-libertarians. So why should members of ethnic minority groups look to them for any kind of assistance in achievable goals of importance to minority communities?”

    I think they mostly want to boost their leftist credentials. All I’ve seen so far is a misunderstanding of our issues, attempts to mash leftist ideas with a culture they no nothing about, and a kind of immature ignorance. Someone told me that I’m not a minority, rather part of the “oppressed third world global majority.” Ummm…. what the fuck?

  4. “That’s always been an issue for me as well. Liberal politicians have been just as supportive of the drug war as law and order conservatives, and it’s always seemed to me that most of the more radical left-wing sectors seem to acquiesce or drag their feet on this question except for when, like you say, they make it into a race issue. I have a hard time interpreting the drug war within the context of race as well because so many minorities are involved in its perpetration and at least until recently there seemed to be little criticism of the drug war coming from minority communities, except for when it comes to issues of racial disparity. I tend to regard the drug war more as a manifestation of the therapeutic statist component of totalitarian humanism which is an ideological perspective that purports to be militantly anti-racist.”

    That’s the thing that really annoys me is when such stuff comes from the radical left. I think what it boils down to is white people with little knowledge of other ethnic groups who think they know what the interests of such groups are better than the members of such groups.

    As for the attitudes of minorities toward civil liberties, I would also be interested in getting some hard data. Some of what you said about it is what I have picked up through experience and from what others have said. Through some informal internet research, I found numbers indicating that gay marriage has the highest level of support among whites. When it comes to law and order issues, I have heard that generally blacks are supportive though critical of the way that the law is sometimes applied unfairly on the basis of race. I suspect that such facts are a real trump card for law and order conservatives against civil libertarians as long as the civil libertarians continue to play “the race card” in their arguments. I actually remember reading an article about Rudy “Il Duce” Giuliani’s broken windows strategy where someone was quoted in the article is saying that the policy was widely supported by minority communities in New York.

    Let me say though that I have just as much of a problem with many libertarians of a more paleo bent, who appeal to white populism as a possible audience for libertarianism. As you have pointed out, poor and uneducated whites, in addition to being acceptable targets of prejudice in the mainstream culture, can also be targets of state repression. The thing is though (and I find is quite ironic) is that while poor and uneducated people may be more likely to find themselves on the wrong side of the law, they are also in general much more submissive to perceived authority and more likely to be co-opted by authoritarian leaders and movements.

    The main point that I am making is that libertarians both left and right should stop appealing to any type of populism in order to defend civil liberties because they are playing into the conservative’s hands. Maybe instead, we should be unabashedly elitist in our defense of liberty instead of trying to score cheap points by appealing to the sympathies of the lowest common denominator(s). On the whole issue of appealing to the masses, I think Emma Goldman (someone with “street cred” among the left-libertarians/anarchists) sums it up better than I could ever hope to http://theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/Emma_Goldman__Anarchism_and_Other_Essays.html#toc4.

  5. “As for the attitudes of minorities toward civil liberties, I would also be interested in getting some hard data. ”

    When I have time, I’ll look through the available social science literature and polling data and see what kind of research has actually been done on this question.

    “The thing is though (and I find is quite ironic) is that while poor and uneducated people may be more likely to find themselves on the wrong side of the law, they are also in general much more submissive to perceived authority and more likely to be co-opted by authoritarian leaders and movements. ”

    No doubt about it. I have found that the traditional white working class has appalling attitudes on civil liberties issues. There are some relevant ideas from Proudhon on this:

    “The people, thanks to their inferiority and their misery, will always form the army of liberty and progress-but due to their ignorance and the primitiveness of their instinct, as the result of the urgency of their needs and the impatience of their desires, they incline towards simple forms of authority. What they are looking for are by no means legal guarantees of which they have no concrete notions nor any realization of their power….they have faith in a leader whose intentions are known to them…To such a leader they accord authority without limits and irresistible power….The people do not believe in principles which alone could save them: they lack the ‘religion of ideas’….

    ….Left to themselves or lead by a tribune, the masses will never accomplish anything. They have their faces turned to the past….About politics they understand nothing but intrigues, about the government only waste and sheer force; of justice only the accusations; of liberty only the erection of idols which are destroyed the next day.”

    So there you have it straight from the godfather of modern anarchism.

    “The main point that I am making is that libertarians both left and right should stop appealing to any type of populism in order to defend civil liberties because they are playing into the conservative’s hands. Maybe instead, we should be unabashedly elitist in our defense of liberty instead of trying to score cheap points by appealing to the sympathies of the lowest common denominator(s).”

    Well, what you have described here is a near perfect definition of a political stance and intellectual tradition the French call “anarchism of the right.” http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchisme_de_droite

    I see populism more as a means rather than an end. I agree that the anarchist movement should be unabashedly elitist. I consider anarchism to be one of the most elitist philosophies there is, as only few seem capable of even understanding it. As a Machiavellian, I see political history as a struggle between elites and counter-elites, with the masses typically “going along for the ride.” So the question is how do we create a counter-elite that can eventually depose the present totalitarian humanist ruling elite? One of my core ideas is to assemble anarchists, libertarians, anti-state radicals, uber-civil libertarians, anarchists of the right, national-anarchists, neotribalists, pan-separatists, whatever we are, into a critical mass that serves as the leadership corps of a larger anti-state, anti-ruling class populism. The way that this new elite will emerge is through domination of counter-institutions that will eventually replace ruling class/totalitarian humanist/state institutions. There’s also the use of entryism in the way Troy Southgate has suggested: http://rosenoire.org/articles/entryism.php

    This means that the anarchist elite will dominate the regionalist movements, common law courts, militias, alternative media and education, alternative enterprises, community organizations, grassroots activism,etc. that will emerge in the course of the fight, and will continue to dominate these institutions as they replace enemy institutions. There’s also the question of infiltrating existing institutions. One way the PC crowd has achieved its position is through domination of universities, certain professions, the media, etc. A counteroffensive in these areas by our side would be desirable as well. For instance, the PC agenda was largely achieved by judicial fiat, as the conservatives who rail against “judicial activism” never tire of pointing out. But what if legal institutions in a future society were dominated by those reflecting our views? What if the arbiters, judges, mediators, etc, in a future legal system tended by drawn from the ranks of hard core anarchists or radical libertarian legal theorists?

    Also, populism of a certain kind could be libertarian in nature. What I have suggested in part is attempting to create a political coalition of anti-state special interest groups, whose collective victory would mean a severe de facto contraction of the state.

  6. I agree that the anarchist movement should be unabashedly elitist.

    I’d say the anarchist movement already is, and has been for at least 50 years, elitist – at least in the sense you mean, Keith, which is that few even understand it. The elite are distinguished simply because they’ve heard of what you’re talking about. In the end, that’s what we really mean, right? And that’s kind of a lame elite, as we all sort of understand, with no claim to any kind of real authority.

    What these left anarchists don’t seem to understand about their movement is that they’ve created an elite around an ideological tendency, an abstraction that normal people don’t care to penetrate. They’ve convinced themselves that there’s another kind of politics besides reaching average Joes, as most activists and ideologues have. I feel like the achilles heel of the dissident movement is the reliance on branding and image and rhetoric that conceives of a radical politics as a transmission from informed hub to uninformed spoke. Truly a 20th century, mass media model. This isn’t even true to the left anarchists’ own ideology, which claims a need to learn and listen to the experiences of the oppressed at least as much as it teaches.

    I’m going to break ranks as the resident left libertarian and claim that populism is an important force to employ in the struggle – not because it is some sort of salvation, but because it grounds an excessively theoretical and abstract cadre in realistic expressions of politics. We learn from the people we are trying to free. Yes, it is difficult to change the minds of the average Joe, but that is what you’re signing on for if you want to change the political reality.

    There is no revolution but in the minds of the population. The state relies on nothing less than a sort of inertia of identity among the average Joes to support things out of habit. Is it a long shot to change this mindset, to impel people to consider themselves and their interests in a different, challenging light? Of course. But anything less is not genuinely radical – it’s just branding and theory.

    There’s very little of consequence in politics that does not, at some level, ultimately rely on convincing lots of people not in your movement to adopt and pursue the interests of your movement. Populism is simply what we call it when the people themselves achieve some sort of consciousness and find some way to sustain it beyond episodic outbursts. If you believe that your ideology represents those people’s genuine interests, populism is your goal, because you want them to be conscious of it – to find this truth and champion it as an expression of their own interests. What you don’t want them to do is what we do: take these ideas into the realm of discussion and imagination, where we comfort ourselves with thoughts of resistance that are so disconnected from our normal waking lives that we can’t even think in practical political terms. We may be contributing to the struggle in our intellectual lives, but we all know, deep down, what we’re doing is not even close to enough.

    Our task is not to mold these populists to our image so much as to serve as the bleeding edge of their conscience, by doing things like pointing out inconsistent or conflicting positions or bringing information that paints a larger picture of their core struggle than they usually entertain. The more people think, the better off all of us are. At our best we are stewards, in my opinion, of a transformation that is occurring in the “dumb masses”. But they are the revolution; not us.

    If you want to build a new society that outlasts the shell of the old, leadership is a blunt and unreliable tool.

  7. The way I began to conceive of anarchism as an elitist movement was reading George H. Smith’s characterization of atheists as an intellectual elite. I’d say anarchism is to politics what atheism is to theology, particularly given the historic relationship between the two (and, no, I’m not saying anarchists must be atheists or take a Hitchens/Dawkins antagonistic stance towards religious institutions or religious people -that’s part of the baggage associated with anarchism I want to shed). Just as atheists are skeptical of the claims of the authority of the gods, so are anarchists skeptical of the claims of the authority of the state. But both of these are positions most people seem either unable to understand, or think is something awful even if they do.

    “What these left anarchists don’t seem to understand about their movement is that they’ve created an elite around an ideological tendency, an abstraction that normal people don’t care to penetrate. They’ve convinced themselves that there’s another kind of politics besides reaching average Joes, as most activists and ideologues have.”

    Well, I conceive of them as the equivalent of a sect seeking converts to their ideology, as opposed to a practical political movement that’s about reaching people where they’re at and identifying obtainable goals and methods of realizing them.

    “I’m going to break ranks as the resident left libertarian and claim that populism is an important force to employ in the struggle – not because it is some sort of salvation, but because it grounds an excessively theoretical and abstract cadre in realistic expressions of politics.”

    I agree with that, of course. That’s why I titled my primary essay on strategic questions “Liberty and Populism.”

    “There is no revolution but in the minds of the population. The state relies on nothing less than a sort of inertia of identity among the average Joes to support things out of habit. Is it a long shot to change this mindset, to impel people to consider themselves and their interests in a different, challenging light? Of course. But anything less is not genuinely radical – it’s just branding and theory.”

    I think there’s a tense but necessary triangular relationship between populism, elitism, and libertarianism. Threats to liberty can come from both elites and the masses, so there needs to be some kind of balance of power between the two.
    I’d see anarchists at present as a potential counter-elite who goal should be to eventually replace the present day liberal elite. Populism involves identifying issues and ideas that can be used to sway the masses in our direction, which of course means identifying real world issues that real ordinary people care about it. The role of the counter-elite is to channel these ideas and issues towards the libertarian endgame. I tend to subscribe to a trickle-down/trickle-up theory of how revolutions actually happen. Here’s how I have described it before:

    “The standard pattern in the history of the advancement of radical movements is that a new revolutionary outlook first captures the imagination of the intellectual elite, who become dissenters, and this new outlook then advances into the ranks of those who are most likely to opt for radicalism, or who have the least to lose by doing so. So, in turn, the intellectual dissidents are joined by student radicals and rebellious youth, bohemians and counterculturalists, members of the lumpenproletariat and the underclass, and marginalized or outcast social groups. Eventually, radical ideas begin working their way into the ranks of the conventional proletariat, and then into the middle class, and, finally, the establishment, with social reactionaries reluctantly being dragged along. At this point, the revolution is complete.”

    https://attackthesystem.com/beyond-conservatism-reclaiming-the-radical-roots-of-libertarianism/

    “There’s very little of consequence in politics that does not, at some level, ultimately rely on convincing lots of people not in your movement to adopt and pursue the interests of your movement. Populism is simply what we call it when the people themselves achieve some sort of consciousness and find some way to sustain it beyond episodic outbursts.”

    “Our task is not to mold these populists to our image so much as to serve as the bleeding edge of their conscience, by doing things like pointing out inconsistent or conflicting positions or bringing information that paints a larger picture of their core struggle than they usually entertain. The more people think, the better off all of us are. At our best we are stewards, in my opinion, of a transformation that is occurring in the “dumb masses”. But they are the revolution; not us.”

    Yes, these are some good insights. Once again, my position is to look for historical precedents of what has actually worked in that past that we can draw on. The American Revolution was a genuine revolution in that it really did overthrow an old order, e.g. the monarchy, the established Church, and the titled aristocracy. A lot of contemporary people, left and right, try to downplay the radical nature of the American Revolution. Conservatives do so because they object to possible future radicalism or forms of radicalism that have emerged since then. Leftists do so because they view the American Revolution through the “dead white males” paradigm, pathologically oppose any expression of American patriotism, and prefer the totalitarian models of the French and Bolshevik revolutions.

    One of the core achievements of the American Revolution was the separation of church/state. This separation has been preserved rather well for over two centuries, in spite of the fact that Americans are the most religious of any Western country and arguably one of the most religious of any fully industrialized nation anywhere, and in spite of the fact that many of the other aspects of the Constitution or the 18th century radical ideology behind it have not survived. I think the principal reason why this preservation has occurred is because the elites do not take religion very seriously, if they believe in it at all, and prefer that it remain a private matter. The other reason is that the American ideal of “freedom of religion” has been deeply ingrained in popular culture and popular consciousness. I’ve written a little bit about this here:

    https://attackthesystem.com/deism-and-the-development-of-american-civil-religion/

    The things we talk about here are just as radical as anything that came out of the American Revolution, e.g. abolition of the empire and the military-industrial complex, abolition of the parliamentary state and the managerial bureaucracy, separation of race/ethnicity and state on the model of church/state separation, repeal of “victimless crime” laws, elimination of the plutocracy propped up by the state, etc.

    The question for us is how do repeat what was done in the 18th century with regards to our own situation. What were the social classes and socio-economic positions of the 18th century revolutionaries? What were their guiding ideas? What were the sources of conflict among them? How did they accommodate their differences? What was the relationship between the elites and the masses during the course of the revolution and beyond? Which of their ideas have been the most durable? Which of their ideas have not survived and why? What are the lessons to be drawn from all of this? How do we transfer this model to the 21st century?

    Of course, we can also draw on other models like the Spanish anarchists. Classical anarchism was to the proletariat and the peasants what the 18th century liberal ideology was to the historic bourgeoisie. But I think that the feasibility and durability of political anarchism depends mostly on two things: the emerge of counter-institutions led or dominated by a counter-elite that maintains an adherence to skepticism regarding the state and is able to transmit this skepticism on an intergenerational basis, and the degree to which this skepticism of the state takes root in popular consciousness. For instance, if a contemporary Congressman were to propose a law requiring Americans to attend church every week, the elites would express horror and outrage, largely because most of them have little interest in religion. Even the typically religious ordinary American would be skeptical of such a law on the grounds that it is an attack on religious liberty and is therefore “un-American.”

    The future equivalent of this for us would be if a future common law court jurist, tribal elder, community president, executive board of the cooperative federation, syndicalist union boss, city-state overlord, village mayor or leaders of whatever kinds of institutions would exist in an Anarchy were to propose a currency monopoly or central bank, a standing army, a prohibition law, or whatever, the elites of that time would respond with horror and outrage (“that’s statism!”) and ordinary people would likewise express skepticism.

  8. As the comments have continued here, I’ll add some more thought here.

    “I’m going to break ranks as the resident left libertarian and claim that populism is an important force to employ in the struggle – not because it is some sort of salvation, but because it grounds an excessively theoretical and abstract cadre in realistic expressions of politics. We learn from the people we are trying to free. Yes, it is difficult to change the minds of the average Joe, but that is what you’re signing on for if you want to change the political reality.”

    Jeremy, I once identified as a left libertarian and probably still sympathize with most of their ideas, but I don’t think that they are very practical. The values that they hold are at odds with most of the population and almost all of the minority population, despite championing those people. I believe in sexual equality, am against racism and homophobia, as well as almost any other cause that these left anarchists and libertarians believe in. Unlike them, I realize that I leave in the real world and that such ideals, once you remove the thin veneer of politeness, are not shared by the majority of my fellow human beings.

    What Keith said about there being a dual threat to liberty from populism and elitism is correct, though I’ve certainly changed my thinking on that over the years. I used to believe, in standard libertarian fashion, that the elite was the primary threat, but now I’ve come to see that the majority of people are worse than the politicians that libertarians (of both wings) rail against. The worst aspects of the system, war, the injustice system, police brutality etc. has higher support among the masses than among the elites.

    Keith pointed out at the beginning of his comment the relationship between freethought (atheism) and anarchism and how they both gave parallel critiques of heavenly and earthly authority. I see another parallel there between the belief among many average people who are religious that some ultimate universal judge is needed to make people moral and the statist idea that people need a supreme power to keep them in check. Now intelligent people have rightly criticized the former idea for centuries, but it is still commonly held among the masses. I think that likewise when it comes to the state, a similar argument can be made. The problem is that most people can only think simplistically and therefore, their ideas about ethics seem to hardly advance beyond that of children.

    Now I will write something that everyone here will disagree with and will seem on the surface to fly in the face of everything that most people think about these issues. I have come to the conclusion that probably the biggest obstacle achieving a libertarian society based on cooperation, mutual aid etc. is the male. Men are hardwired for the most part to be against such things and their nature inclines them toward the absolute worst behaviours. Almost every bad thing did we associate with statism can be traced back to men. Even things that radical feminists are known for such as banning prostitution and censoring pornography, those things have been going on for centuries for women became active in politics. Even the annoying nanny state laws that women sometimes support pale in comparison to the brutal authoritarianism which has characterized male dominated societies forever. It may be pointed out that the majority of anarchist/libertarian thinkers have been males, but I would argue that such people, like great composers, artists, and thinkers are extreme exceptions to the rule. To put it another way, for every Warren, Bakunin, Tucker, Kropotkin, there are 100,000 other stupid violent ideas who are better suited to the jungle than to any human civilization. It’s interesting to point out that most (real) crime is committed by males and at the same time most bullshit laws are made by males (barring the few previous mentioned feminist issues). So in other words, yes I am a misandrist on par with the most rabid feminists even though I disagree with them on many issues. Here is an example of male nature at it’s “best” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTQ8w9l01V4

  9. I’m on board with everything you’re saying, Keith. I’m leery of framing this approach as elitist, but I guess it’s just a word. I prefer “vanguardism” as an expression of what we’re advocating because it doesn’t imply as much superiority. Essentially, that’s what I was trying to criticize: the sense of superiority among activists that lends them to view political transformation as something that is to be forced on the empty shells of the bumbling masses, and that therefore leads them to take symbolic, superficial steps towards their goals rather than focusing on genuine outreach. Even if that is an effective strategy, it does not prefigure the world I want to live in; after all, who advocates for a free society if they think everybody around them are morons?

    But your musings on the lessons of the American Revolution are actually *precisely* what I was thinking about when I wrote my comment. In this regard, I think it’s very important that we understand exactly what happened during that period. I cannot recommend Michael Kranish’s “Flight from Monticello” highly enough. It’s an easy read that seems to be just about a single incident in war-torn Virginia, but in fact it’s one of the most insightful histories of the revolution I’ve ever read, precisely because it provides data on what you’re interested in: the actual class conflicts that brought the revolution about, the political scandals that tipped the scales towards revolution, the local facts and stories on the ground that comprised the experience of revolution beyond Mel Gibson period movies.

    For instance, the whole freedom of religion thing is addressed in detail. Patrick Henry was dead set against it and fought it before and after the revolution (along similar grounds, in fact, that people fight against anarchism: because they fear people will go nuts without boundaries). The way that the separation of church and state was institutionalized in our culture is an interesting story (I look forward to reading your essay) and probably speaks to a hefty portion of elitist maneuvering. I appreciate that you see this as a sort of “case study” in how a people can be changed to embrace a libertarian ideal. The precise mechanics of how that kind of shift occurs – if it’s a mechanism at all, and not just a happy circumstance – is of utmost interest to me.

  10. The values that they hold are at odds with most of the population and almost all of the minority population, despite championing those people.

    Really? Most people like racism? Most people actively approve of homophobia and sexism? That just does not jibe with my experience, Jared. Apathy and going along to get along are much more responsible for the persistence of those constructs than people holding values dear, in my opinion. A thoughtful Nazi is worth ten unthinking PC drones.

    This is why I don’t think it’s about “values” per se, but about consciousness, and why I don’t think that conceiving of the population as retarded children who need to be guided to liberty despite themselves is a workable or honest approach. If I thought the world was full of idiots, I wouldn’t want them to be free, either. In fact, that is the epitome of elitism in my book, and why I tend to resist it; because I think that that kind of “we are the illuminated ones” mindset leads people to do all sorts of things that are not conducive to voluntary, peaceful society. Frankly, such a mindset scares the shit out of me, most of all because I fear what *I’d* do if I started thinking I was so much smarter than everybody else.

    I used to believe, in standard libertarian fashion, that the elite was the primary threat, but now I’ve come to see that the majority of people are worse than the politicians that libertarians (of both wings) rail against. The worst aspects of the system, war, the injustice system, police brutality etc. has higher support among the masses than among the elites.

    I respect that you differ with me, but I’d be interested in the reasons why this perspective seems more correct to you than one where the elites construct a society in which passivity allows its agenda to go unchallenged. What is the nature of this mass support? How many are sacrificing to realize this establishment agenda? Surely some are, but are they totally conscious of what they’re doing? Because to me the key factor is not that the masses “support” these things so much as the manner in which they support it.

    I really believe, and experience has reinforced this to me, that most people are good and worth talking to. But they don’t come out of the box configured to engage with your ideology; you have to translate and build a bridge. This takes interpersonal intelligence and patience. I’m always astounded at how thoughtful people can be, even the most seemingly superficial and petty, when you actually engage with them and encourage them to think about a matter. It’s just that most people in this world do not expect deep thought from their fellow man, so most don’t practice it. But give them an opportunity to reflect and most people will – even if they make mistakes and reach conclusions you don’t like, it’s about getting the ball rolling.

    In fact, I see no alternative: these people make up the population of the world we want to alter. There are no other people. We can either kick the can down the road and hope some future, new kind of man will be able to comprehend our ideas (certainly that’s the Nockian approach) or we work with what we have now.

    I actually agree with you on the misandry to the extent that I don’t think it’s about *biological* males so much as the male archetype and its identification with the state. I mean, look at Hillary Clinton or Margaret Thatcher or Queen Elizabeth for that matter: do these women really strike you as the best examples of the feminine? No; they’re men in dresses, essentially, who have embraced a certain attitude that is more male. On the other hand, there have indeed been matriarchal societies where power was wielded in decidedly different ways than anything we’re used to .

    Where I’d agree with you is that we need more balance among the male and female archetypes; that both have things to say about power and control and freedom that are important, and that patriarchy is not about men being bad so much as the male idea of what society needs overriding the female idea.

  11. Jared,

    “The problem is that most people can only think simplistically and therefore, their ideas about ethics seem to hardly advance beyond that of children.”

    I’m an ethical skeptic as well as a religious and political skeptic, so that really puts me out on the far-left fringe on these questions. I regard ethics as mere matters of convention that collectives and individuals use as a means of self-regulation and to provide meaning and order to their existence, and ethics can vary widely from culture to culture. In this respect, ethics play a similar social and cultural role as things like table manners and standards of dress.

    “I have come to the conclusion that probably the biggest obstacle achieving a libertarian society based on cooperation, mutual aid etc. is the male. Men are hardwired for the most part to be against such things and their nature inclines them toward the absolute worst behaviours. Almost every bad thing did we associate with statism can be traced back to men. Even things that radical feminists are known for such as banning prostitution and censoring pornography, those things have been going on for centuries for women became active in politics. Even the annoying nanny state laws that women sometimes support pale in comparison to the brutal authoritarianism which has characterized male dominated societies forever.”

    I could almost agree with this, except the historical record shows that there is no particular relationship between the social status of women and the wider degree of political tyranny. For instance, in Maoist China, Castro’s Cuba, and Qaddaffi’s Libya, women had higher social standing than in the regimes that preceded them, but this was hardly an advancement for political libertarianism generally. The ancient Greek civilization was extremely patriarchal and misogynistic, yet it also became the foundation of Western civilization. As modern feminism has advanced in the West, the state has become ever more pervasive. You many know from some of my writings that sex worker rights is an area of interest to me, and in those countries where feminism has become most institutionalized, the rights of sex workers, arguably the most oppressed class of women, have actually undergone a regression.

    This is not to say that concern for the social standing and general well-being of women should not be an issue of interest in its own right, and my left-wing critics may find may views on this surprising (http://www.alternativeright.com/main/blogs/untimely-observations/keith-preston-on-feminism/) but I don’t think we can make any real correlation between feminism in the social realm and political libertarianism per se. The evidence just isn’t there.

    Jeremy,

    “Really? Most people like racism? Most people actively approve of homophobia and sexism? That just does not jibe with my experience, Jared.”

    That doesn’t jibe with my experience, either. It depends on what kinds of populations you’re dealing with. Elites, professional people, young people, more educated people, and those from metropolitan or cosmopolitan environments tend to have liberal views on these things. Older people, people from geographical areas with high levels of racial tension, the lower to working classes, and people from rural areas or conservative towns tend to have less liberal views.

    “A thoughtful Nazi is worth ten unthinking PC drones. ”

    Be careful. You’re could lose a lot of friends with a comment like that. 🙂

    “I mean, look at Hillary Clinton or Margaret Thatcher or Queen Elizabeth for that matter: do these women really strike you as the best examples of the feminine? No; they’re men in dresses, essentially, who have embraced a certain attitude that is more male.”

    Amen, say it again. But is Sarah Palin any kind of improvement?

    “On the other hand, there have indeed been matriarchal societies where power was wielded in decidedly different ways than anything we’re used to.”

    I’m skeptical of that. In the 19th century, it was at times claimed that mankind existed in some of kind pre-historic, idyllic, matriarchal utopia before the rise of class society, patriarchy, war, etc. That reflected the influence of Rousseau on 19th century liberals and radicals. The second wave feminists who came out of the 1960s and 1970s tried to revive these ideas, and you see the influence of that in some of these New Agey “Goddess” religions, but there’s really no support for this from what is actually known in modern anthropology.

  12. Jeremy,

    I think that when it comes to racism, homophobia, and sexism people do publicly in our society express disapproval of those things but is their opposition anything more than skin deep? The same goes for things like any sort of respect for other people, how much of that is simply an adaption to living in a society with laws,cops, and prisons.

    To be honest, I’m not sure that people can be guided to liberty for the most part. The more that I learn, The more dismayed I am at the state of humanity in general. As for your comment about not wanting people to be free if “the world is full of idiots” well that’s something that has recently posed something of a dilemma for me as well. On the one hand, I don’t want to be coerced and pushed around by others and I take the radical libertarian idea further than most in the movement would on this issue e.g. I don’t think that police and prisons are compatible with a libertarian society, but the thing is that if people really would destroy one another in a Hobbesian war of all against all it’s understandable for those institutions to exist, but then of course I am also subject to them.

    As for people being good and worth talking to, I guess it depends upon what people you are talking about. One criticism thrown at libertarians, anarchists and those on the anti-authoritarian left in general is that they have been too sheltered to understand the real world. Now for myself, I have never lived in a violent inner city ghetto, been incarcerated, or mugged (insert the stand line about a liberal being mugged). So the point is that I have not had experience with the underclass in any appreciable way. Forgive me for talking like a conservative, but do you think that any of these people are better than the elite powermongers that are in control.

    Keith,

    I agree with ethical skepticism, but I was more getting at the idea that without some external control people would destroy each other The main point I was making was that while many educated people today would balk at the idea of needing some deity to keep everyone in check, most of them will take it as dogmatic that without the state, people would do the same thing.

    As for whether the social standing of women has impacted societies in a more libertarian direction, well I think it’s important to point out that men do still have control for the most part in every society today including those you mentioned, which is probably one of the reasons they had the issues they did. It is true that the state has became more pervasive, but I think that in some ways it it has become less authoritarian (though more totalitarian in other ways). Today, the enforcement arm of the state has had to soften up, people are much more critical of war today, have less trust in and respect for politicians as well, the police are far more scrutinized and can get away with less than they could in the past. It should be pointed out that when the government provides things to people, it is hardly an example of coercion. While I think a libertarian would be correct to object to the fact that such things are funded through coercion, and are forcibly monopolized by government, the fact that the government provides health care does not equal people being enslaved. Conservatives want cuts in social services and massive increases in the coercive aspect of the state as does the author of this authoritarian lovefest http://www.city-journal.org/2009/nytom_nypd.html My own view ( and many right libertarians will hate me for this) is that if we must put up with that law and order bullshit then I am all for a European style welfare state.

    On the issue of sex-workers rights, that is one where modern feminists have been bad though I think that today the idea is to go after the men and not punish the women. That’s what I understand the law to be in Sweden today, which is the opposite of how things were in the past. I don’t agree with such an approach, but I understand that the rationale behind it is to free people from being coerced by others in what is believed to be “sex slavery.” It should be pointed out as well that there actually has been from what I understand a fair amount of work criticizing the drug war and the justice system in general from a feminist perspective. It should also be mentioned again at this juncture that almost all the laws that libertarians complain about were made by men and ironically the vast majority of real crime (which is what is used to justify the whole law and order bullshit) is committed by males.

  13. “The main point I was making was that while many educated people today would balk at the idea of needing some deity to keep everyone in check, most of them will take it as dogmatic that without the state, people would do the same thing.”

    Yes! The state is the modern liberal’s religion. I had a feminist-Marxist professor once who mentioned that “libertarians don’t believe in any federal government!” with a tone of horror and outrage as if it were the equivalent of advocating genocide. I’ve encountered that kind of thing over and over again from such people.

    “It is true that the state has became more pervasive, but I think that in some ways it it has become less authoritarian (though more totalitarian in other ways). Today, the enforcement arm of the state has had to soften up, people are much more critical of war today, have less trust in and respect for politicians as well, the police are far more scrutinized and can get away with less than they could in the past.”

    Yes and no. The public is more skeptical of war, but the military-industrial complex is now larger than it was during the Vietnam era. Citizens have gained more formal rights against the police like the exclusionary rule, Miranda warnings, the right to a public defender, etc. in some ways, but police powers have actually expanded dramatically under the guise of the drug war, the wars on crime, terrorism, etc. It’s true that there are now things like citizen review boards in some localities that criticize police excesses, but those are typically narrowly focused, like on issues of racial bias in police conduct. Those have done little to oppose the dramatic expansion of police presence and police powers that has occurred in recent decades. Of course, I’m talking about the U.S. here. Maybe it’s different in Canada or some other countries.

    “It should be pointed out that when the government provides things to people, it is hardly an example of coercion. While I think a libertarian would be correct to object to the fact that such things are funded through coercion, and are forcibly monopolized by government, the fact that the government provides health care does not equal people being enslaved.”

    Yes, I agree with that. The reason I want to abolish the U.S. federal system is not because it has a food stamp program or Medicare. I’m more interested in issues like aggressive war, the police state, the alliance of state and capital, and so forth. I hold to the traditional left-anarchist critique of the welfare state, i.e. that it is a way of coopting and subjugating the population by the state by turning them into dependents and crowding out alternatives.

    “Conservatives want cuts in social services and massive increases in the coercive aspect of the state as does the author of this authoritarian lovefest http://www.city-journal.org/2009/nytom_nypd.html

    That’s true of mainstream Republican oriented conservatives like the writer you cite (some of them, anyway). That’s not true of the more radical right, like the paleocons, paleolibs, right-libertarians, right-populists, right-wing decentralists, militia/patriot types, Alex Jones fans, radical traditionalists, constitutionalists, some radical Christians, some white separatists, some radical survivalists, etc. The radical right generally regard the state as the enemy because they view themselves as under attack by the state. Of course, their anti-statism varies widely in terms of consistency. I think even more of the conventional conservatives will move towards state skepticism and police skepticism as they find themselves being more and more encroached upon (see all of the recent uproar over the TSA). The big problem is that US-style conservatives have a schizophrenic view of the state. On one hand, they buy into the cultural bias against “big government.” On the other hand, they espouse an extreme version of traditional American patriotism and become state-friendly so long as someone they think represents their values holds the presidency. The reason so much of the radical right has adopted an anti-state stance is because they know there’s no chance of their side regaining control over the state. The mainstream right hasn’t come to that realization yet, but there’s still time. I know a whole lot of “right-wing” anarchists who used to be ordinary conservatives.

    “My own view ( and many right libertarians will hate me for this) is that if we must put up with that law and order bullshit then I am all for a European style welfare state. ”

    Once again, that kind of stuff has never been a primary issue with me. I don’t like the fact that at present things like health insurance, old age pensions, disability compensation, unemployment, public schools, public universities, public libraries, social security, mail delivery, etc. are all provided by either the state or huge corporate entities. I hold to the standard traditional anarchist view that these should be provided by worker or consumer cooperatives, mutual aid associations, genuinely private businesses, labor federations, communities, neighborhoods, etc. But I see the welfare state more as an appendage to the apparatus of state/capital/empire rather than as its defining characteristic.

    “On the issue of sex-workers rights, that is one where modern feminists have been bad though I think that today the idea is to go after the men and not punish the women. That’s what I understand the law to be in Sweden today, which is the opposite of how things were in the past. I don’t agree with such an approach, but I understand that the rationale behind it is to free people from being coerced by others in what is believed to be “sex slavery.”

    I think the kinds of “criminalize the john, but not the prostitute” laws we see in the Scandinavian countries today are motivated by misandry. Those countries have powerful feminist movements. Women, mostly middle class feminists, hold a majority of the seats in parliament in Sweden. Iceland has a lesbian prime minister. These kinds of feminists resent men for ostensibly objectifying women sexually, and men who patronize prostitutes are viewed as especially guilty. Sex worker women are viewed as collaborators with the enemy. Such laws are a way of attacking both men and female sex workers, while hiding behind pretended concern about “sex slavery” and the like, and these laws are also used as a smokescreen by more traditional anti-sex worker interests (like business organizations who object to prostitutes on city streets as unsavory or criminogenic). No genuine or serious sex worker rights organization supports these kinds of laws.

  14. “I think that when it comes to racism, homophobia, and sexism people do publicly in our society express disapproval of those things but is their opposition anything more than skin deep? ”

    Skin deep may be the best we can hope for. This is another issue I have with the Left. Human nature is to favor one’s self first, immediate circle of family and friends second, wider circles of peers third, primary reference groups fourth, culture or community of origin fifth, and an abstract humanity at the bottom of the list. The Left tries to invert this and argue that we should be just as concerned about strangers on the other side of the globe as we are our own immediate families. But real life doesn’t work like that. The best we can do is cultivate a civic ethos of casual toleration and common courtesy for strangers, outsiders, or those who are different, while retaining primary loyalities for one’s own circle. Additionally, trying to impose an abstract univeralism by force of the state can quite possibly create a horrific backlash. For instance, the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was originally led by leftists who tried to impose secularism, which pushed the people towards the Shiah fundamentalism of Khomeini.

    “The same goes for things like any sort of respect for other people, how much of that is simply an adaption to living in a society with laws,cops, and prisons. ”

    There have been instances like police strikes where cops have walked off the job without a marked increased in the amount of crime. My view is that police in their present form in the US (not sure about elsewhere) actually increase the overall amount of crime because so much police work is devoted to activities other than fighting crime and even creates incentives for the commission of crime (drug prohibition is the most obvious example). It is widely known that prisons are “universities for criminals.” It’s obviously true that incarcerating violent people prevents them from victimizing others in the future, but that’s only part of what prisons do. In an anarchist system, crime control should be the primary responsibility of the local community using systems like glorified neighborhood watches, volunteer militias (like volunteer fire departments at present), citizen posses in more serious cases, etc. I think there would also be a need for a class of professional specialists (similar to present day PIs) who handle crimes issues requiring technical expertise (like DNA sampling and all that).

    The best ideas on how to handle habitually or dangerously antisocial people were outlined years ago in an essay by an existentialist libertarian named Roger Lee. His idea was geographical segregation of criminals into areas that would be declared as penal colonies where exit would be disallowed. Internally, these could be normal societies in terms of how they function, but exit is simply not permitted (like the old communist countries).

    “One criticism thrown at libertarians, anarchists and those on the anti-authoritarian left in general is that they have been too sheltered to understand the real world. Now for myself, I have never lived in a violent inner city ghetto, been incarcerated, or mugged (insert the stand line about a liberal being mugged). So the point is that I have not had experience with the underclass in any appreciable way. ”

    Well, none of that would apply to me. I have experience with all of the above. I originally came from the traditional middle class. My upbringing was a lot like what you see on those old TV shows from the 1950s and 1960s about white bread, suburban, family life in America. It was my later experiences as a part of the lumpenproletariat and my experiences of being close to the underclass that in part led me to develop many of the views I have now.

    I generally think Hobbes was right in his analysis, but wrong in his prescription. The problem with the Hobbesian state is the matter of who guards the guardian. If people are a stupid and predatory as Hobbes said, then why create a massive state apparatus with authoritarian powers that actual human beings are going to be in control of? Better to have power spread out as much as possible.

  15. I generally think Hobbes was right in his analysis, but wrong in his prescription. The problem with the Hobbesian state is the matter of who guards the guardian. If people are a stupid and predatory as Hobbes said, then why create a massive state apparatus with authoritarian powers that actual human beings are going to be in control of? Better to have power spread out as much as possible.

    Amen! I don’t agree with Hobbes’s analysis, but this makes great sense. It reminds me of the line from Robert Anton Wilson’s “13 Choruses for the Divine Marquis”:

    Well, he says, I don’t believe in the “noble savage,” I even doubt that he is “inherently good,” but taking him as he is I still say: Freedom. He deserves liberty because nobody else is good enough to take it away from him.

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