Fearless Philosophy Blogpost of the Month (November 2005)
Third Place goes to Warren Meyer of Coyote Blog with his post Statism Comes Back to Bite Technocrats. The Democrat Party had control of the federal government for the better second-half of the 20th Century. In this period many government institutions were created. Those in the seats of power believed that they knew better how to regulate the lives of the average citizen; the individual could not be trusted to make the ‘right’ decisions. As long as the ‘right’ people remained in power, everything would work out fine. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, do Democrats wish they had left more power in the hands of the individual? Unfortunately the answer is no; they only wish that they were micromanaging our lives rather than the Republicans.
I am reminded of all this because the technocrats that built our regulatory state are starting to see the danger of what they created. A public school system was great as long as it was teaching the right things and its indoctrinational excesses were in a leftish direction. Now, however, we can see the panic. The left is freaked that some red state school districts may start teaching creationism or intelligent design. And you can hear the lament - how did we let Bush and these conservative idiots take control of the beautiful machine we built? My answer is that you shouldn't have built the machine in the first place - it always falls into the wrong hands. Maybe its time for me to again invite the left to reconsider school choice.Not only should ‘the machine’ never been built, it should be destroyed. The question of how is a matter of tactics: should we continue to follow the Libertarian Party’s all-or-nothing approach to reducing the size and scope of government or do we dismantle the machine one piece at a time? The second place submission is an analysis of this very debate.
Second Place goes to R.G. Combs of Combs Spouts Off with his post: Rothbard, Rand, and real politics. Combs’ answer to my question is that those of us who prefer a smaller government should incrementally work toward change. I have long ago reached that same conclusion: the government we have today was not created in one day by one statist party but was created over many decades by two increasingly statist leaning parties with the support of a largely apathetic public. This machine will not be brought down in one day either. Unfortunately, those of us who have higher ideals (i.e. individual rights, personal responsibility, and limited government) often find ourselves so beholden to our ideals that we are no longer dealing with the real world. As difficult as this is, I try to keep my eye on the real world and it seems that Combs does as well (though I wish I were as optimistic as he is).
I think the intellectual climate has moved fairly significantly in the direction of liberty in the past 40-50 years…I suppose there has been some movement in the right direction. Combs goes on with his post in an attempt to prove this is the case. Combs’ case-in-point: the liberalization of concealed carry laws over the years.
I think there's plenty of evidence that collectivism has retreated dramatically among intellectuals. Unfortunately, altruism still completely dominates ethics, but even there, I see signs of progress. Discussions of self-esteem and self-fulfillment -- even "enlightened self-interest" -- have chipped away at the view that our primary goal should be to sacrifice ourselves to others...
This is Combs' second appearance in the top three (Combs first appeared in the top three as the July 2005 second place selection).
When the modern concealed carry movement began in the mid-80s, I believe there were only six states in which any significant number of persons were authorized to carry a weapon concealed -- and most of them were retired cops and cronies of politicians and police chiefs. Today, 37 states have "shall-issue" laws, meaning that anyone meeting minimal qualifications (no criminal record, maybe some type of training) must be issued a permit…
But look what these incremental, state-by-state gains over 20 years have accomplished. When Florida led the way in 1987, the anti-gunners predicted blood in the streets and Wild-West shootouts over traffic altercations. Such nonsense no longer has any credibility…
So, do you think libertarians arguing for a "Vermont carry" system, with no permit required, are more or less likely to be taken seriously today than 20 years ago?
And the winner is…
The Fearless Philosophy Blogpost of the Month for the Month of November goes to Francois Tremblay of The Radical Libertarian with his post: Anti-consumerism and the war against the poor. If you are anti-consumerism then you are helping the poor right? Not according to Tremblay:
This belief is that consumption is an inherent evil, a product of unnecessary greed, which is bad for our moral fiber or religious fervour and can only be tempered by some form of economic collectivism or social engineering. However, this belief, while being explicitly an attack against the most prosperous amongst us, is really part of the war against the poor. While all these collectivist belief systems preach equality, they promote radically assymetrical systems with strong ruling classes. Sacrifice religions have their clergical ruling classes, communism and nazism had their dictatorial ruling classes. Both stand to benefit the most from the suffering of the masses, in that they can channel that suffering for their own utilitarian ends…Congratulations to this month’s winners! Since the first and second place posts touch on Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, I would like to encourage those of you who haven’t already read my post The Virtue of Selfishness to do so. I’m sure many of you are very well versed in Objectivism but for those of you who are not, the idea of putting one’s own selfish intersets first may seem radical (and it indeed is since most of us believe selfishness is immoral). While I am selfishly promoting one of my posts, I think it might also help explain where Combs and Tremblay are coming from.
The masses are the most vulnerable to economic conditions and the availability of cheap products. Take health care, for example. Socialists in Canada always say that a capitalist health care system creates a "two-level" system that is bad for the poor. And yet that is what we already have in Canada today : friends of the state and celebrities get VIP treatment, and the rich can always go to the United States for treatment. The social elite can compensate for bad economic dynamics better than the masses can. Joe Sixpack need Wal-Mart, but Kevin Costner doesn't. Once again, this comes back to the notion I already discussed of capitalism being a boon for the masses more than for the ruling classes.