Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Jeffrey Tucker: Brutalist?

Look, I will admit that when it comes to plumbing the depths of libertarian theory and philosophy I am not the deepest thinker – instead, rather a simpleton.  I do my best to consistently apply the non-aggression principle, nothing more.

Jeffrey Tucker wrote what is overall a very good defense of property rights and a good explanation of the value of free-market-derived feedback, using as the context the recent Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage: “Everyone Needs Freedom to Discriminate.”

To make the case against such laws [laws disallowing discrimination], it ought to be enough to refer to the freedom to associate and the freedom to use your property as you see fit. These are fundamental principles of liberalism. A free society permits anything peaceful, and that includes the right to disassociate. Alas, such arguments seem dead on arrival today.

So let us dig a bit deeper to understand why anti-discrimination laws are not in the best interests of gay men and women, or anyone else. Preserving the ability to discriminate permits the market system to provide crucial information feedback to a community seeking to use its buying power to reward its friends and noncoercively, nonviolently punish those who do not share its values

Good enough.  But something seems not quite right.  I am recalling Tucker’s infamous “brutalist” essay from a year or so ago:

There is a segment of the population of self-described libertarians—described here as brutalists—who find all the above rather boring, broad, and excessively humanitarian. To them, what’s impressive about liberty is that it allows people to assert their individual preferences, to form homogeneous tribes, to work out their biases in action, to ostracize people based on “politically incorrect” standards, to hate to their heart’s content so long as no violence is used as a means, to shout down people based on their demographics or political opinions, to be openly racist and sexist, to exclude and isolate and be generally malcontented with modernity, and to reject civil standards of values and etiquette in favor of antisocial norms.

To simpleton me, this raises a question: when Tucker wrote about brutalists, was he referring to himself?


  1. He would seem to be describing us all. While we aspire to responsible individual freedom, our actions undermine these ideals, i.e. the French Revolution, “civilization” etc. The closest we come to a workable anarchistic society would seem to be the utopian 19th century communities, religious societies or perhaps the 60’s hippy communes. Scratch the surface and you find a strong leader running a cult. Probably due to some Id issues that need some work.

    On the other hand we’ve come a long way towards individual freedom, i.e. anarchy, in ten thousand years. Maybe it just needs a bit more work.


    1. If a successful anarchistic society requires us to achieve "responsible individual freedom", were doomed.
      A functioning society must accommodate all sorts of nasty behavior. We're not talking Heaven on Earth here. Leave that to the Progressives.
      We're strictly talking NAP and putting up with imperfections.
      What's worse? A wacky butt-hole down the street shooting BB's at dogs? Or a midnight raid by 12 jack-booted thugs who shoot your dog, punch your daughter, burn your baby because somebody said you were growing illegal plants?

    2. Responsible individual freedom was intended to describe the standard at which freedom attaches. Less than that compromises freedom. But where’s the line. Your most likely illegal plants are actually legal here. No real objection to that per se. But I do object to my property being taken to pay the medical expenses of those using destructive distillation to ingest chemical compounds of varying and unknown composition. With individual freedom should come individual responsibility.

      But my real concern is that NAP seems to be to date an unworkable proposition in the real world. History reports that those exercising preemptive aggression dominate. There’s a statistical law that may or may not apply to human civilization that states that the fewer individuals having the ability to affect your status, i.e. slaves, usually the military or syncopates etc., the more secure your power. Thus preemptive aggression that disempowers or dispatches such threatening individual affords more security to the aggressor. Sadly, history seems to bear this out.

      Homogenized education seems to be effective in institutionally rather than violently wresting power from the masses. Or maybe freedom is too difficult for many.


  2. Emerson has the famous defense for Tucker:

    "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

    Ha! I keeeeed......

    "To simpleton me"

    Now, now, don't sell yourself short. Emerson didn't name you specifically.