I have chosen to address several of the comments to my original post on this topic at one time, via this new post. I thank each one of you as you have provided very good feedback and conversation on this topic.
While I began the original post on the trail of dealing with the lack of freedom of speech as an issue in this freedom award, I obviously wandered further – into self-censorship; it is in this “further” where much of the feedback to the original post was focused.
C. Stayton June 10, 2016 at 9:20 AM
…just as liberty affects the development of culture, so can culture affect the development (or preservation) of liberty.
This touches on a point discussed on and off between Unhappy Conservative and me. He suggests (and I paraphrase) that a common culture (and of a certain type) is necessary before one can begin building a libertarian society. I had not thought much about sequence before he raised this discussion.
Ever since this discussion began, I have been moving slowly toward his view. I think the reasons are three-fold: first, UC is well thought-out on this matter he presents his reasoning in a logical and rational manner. Second, I observe the world around me. Finally, in all of my writing about culture and liberty, the responses from too many defenders of libertarianism have been – let’s just say, less reasoned and less rational. In my words: they chant “NAP, NAP, NAP” and believe this is the answer to every problem in a world filled with humans. In UC’s words, they are autistic.
In other words, the libertarian community – to the extent it has given considered thought to the issue of culture – has recognized its importance in the development and maintenance of a libertarian society (see Hoppe). Unfortunately, there are many who have given the subject no thought and cannot believe it is worthy of any thought (the list is too long); for them, nothing more is required than chanting “NAP” and offering rote answers for every question. In other words, they offer no reasonable arguments, objections or alternatives.
The question for me is, if liberty is negative in nature, then the goal of liberty cannot only be "more liberty." The goal must be a more moral society.
I have not thought about it this way – at least not in such direct terms.
How do libertarians, as libertarians, view this thing called “morality”? Some libertarians see “morality” as nothing more than the removal of coercion in all relationships – state and otherwise (business and family relationships, for example); call this the libertine anarchist/communist (my label, not theirs). It is impossible for me to consider this, as there is nothing in human history to suggest that human society can flourish – or even function – without hierarchy of some sort.
For other libertarians, it means removal of state initiated force. In my thinking, this is all that the NAP offers – and it is enough to have earned a gold star in the thought of political philosophy. But, is this enough of a foundation on which to build a functioning and flourishing libertarian society? It is inconceivable to me. The NAP does not pretend to offer an answer to every question – no matter what some libertarians want to believe.
So, what is left of the term “moral society”? If it is not to be found in the libertine anarchist/communist, if it is not to be found solely in the absence of state-initiated force, then where is it to be found? What is left is cultural and religious norms. I find no definition that can integrate both the libertine view of morality and the views of any cultural / religious norms.
Libertarianism defines what isn’t – it does not define what is. You cannot replace something with nothing.
In other words, we are not free simply to be free; rather, we are free to willingly (non-coercively) bear the burdens of our neighbor. That is, to be a decent person who genuinely cares about others. This is where I feel the anarchists fall short. They see the removal of the State as the ultimate goal, whereas I believe the true libertarian desires the removal of the State IN ORDER THAT we may have a more prosperous and virtuous society.
It is something to weigh: consider the libertine libertarian society on the one hand, and a society built on family and community relationships – generally free from state coercion (with a society committed to keep it this way), but not “pure” libertarian / anarchic – on the other.
In which would I rather live? The answer is easy – not because I am afraid of freedom, but because I enjoy and appreciate life; because I want to live in a society that offers a future.
Matt@Occidentalism.org June 10, 2016 at 10:49 AM
You may blaspheme against Allah and the Prophet Mohammed legally, yet you may not cast any doubt on the Jewish Holocaust…
This really struck me in the subject post. For some reason I did not remember this from the time of the events until reminded of it when preparing the post. There are laws in many countries regarding denial of the holocaust (and other historical events). Where is free speech? Why don’t Hollande and Obama walk the streets in protest of these?
From the post referenced by Matt, 'Nothing Sacred':
The real reason for the contempt Muslims have for Western society is not “xenophobia.” It’s the culture of “nothing sacred” that’s driven them to kill. Muslim fundamentalism still hold to a belief system that cherishes something above themselves, even their very lives. They believe in principles they deem sacred and are willing to give their lives (and take lives as well) for their faith. Western society offers no value system that in any way comes close to the power of radical Islam.
Imagine if those in the west valued Christianity this much. Don’t like the religious tone of that? Imagine if those who valued freedom held freedom so dear?
Something matters beyond “me, me, me.” This is not merely regarding “radical” Islam (although I understand the author’s connection to those who respond in acts of violence). There is a cultural tie – witness the Hajj, and find any similar examples in western culture. The Super Bowl maybe? One sees this in certain other religions and sects as well. One does not find it in much of the west.
UnhappyConservative June 10, 2016 at 1:32 PM
Contrary to Rothbard, Doolittle argues (and I agree with him) that the essential questions are the Truth content of speech and the criteria for evaluating that content. I will stick to the former since the latter is complicated.
Ultimately what we want is a situation where the cost of telling lies is higher than the cost of telling the truth.
I believe I have read that Rothbard (maybe it was Block, maybe someone else, maybe I am making it up) has stated that to speak of “aggression” regarding something other than property or the physical body just muddies up the NAP. I have never felt settled about this in theory, and I know it won’t fly in practice. Why do I believe this? Read on….
If the speech is untrue and the speaker is met with physical punishment, then his rights have not been violated.
“On the night you were conceived, your mother slept with six men – some of them more than once, and none of them was the man who raised you. She cannot even say which one of the six is your biological father.”
Frankly, whether true or not, a punch in the nose might be forthcoming. However, if untrue, what kind of society is it where it is the nose puncher who is to be punished?
Look up Joshua Bonehill. He will be in prison for the next three years for offending Jews.
I looked him up. He said a lot of offensive things. From what I have read, none got him in prison until he offended Jews. The straw that broke the camel’s back, or something else?
Patrick Szar June 11, 2016 at 10:03 PM
Citing something I wrote:
"whether or not the consequences are a violation of the NAP is irrelevant; a rude comment will deservedly receive a punch in the nose"
I totally agree with you, yet I'm struggling with this. The violence is clearly in violation of the NAP, yet it seems justice may have been served, or at least someone was educated about the possibilities of poor behavior.
Per my comment above, I am not fully settled on the definition of term “aggression” being limited to the physical. So while the punch in the nose is certainly aggressive, is it in response to an earlier aggression – is it self-defense, in some manner?
This makes me think about the libertarian position on child rearing and spanking. It seems to be a clear violation of the NAP. It also seems to make for good education.
Above my pay grade. Libertarian theory is very muddled on the subject of children, as it will likely forever be. To offer “one size fits all” in raising a child is nonsensical. Yet this comes back to my view that the family is perhaps the most decentralized governance structure possible. Not to say that anything goes within the family….
MetaCynic June 13, 2016 at 8:42 AM
But where do we draw the line? …So who is to say that to keep the social peace, religious beliefs should not be offended but political ones should be open to ridicule?
MetaCynic, you raise many good points and questions, and one reason I struggled with writing this post in the first place. I started with a look at free speech – and nothing about these cartoons fall into this category for the reasons outlined. But then came the examination of self-censorship….
I will start by suggesting that “we” don’t draw any line – that is to say, no overt, collective decision need be made. Custom, culture. These will determine what a community deems as acceptable or not. “If you don’t like it, leave. Or we will kick you out.” Maybe not completely libertarian, but…this is how lines get drawn. In my view, this leaves room for gradual change but not radical change.
So…as with all things subjective, the precise “line” may be impossible to draw in all places for all topics; this perhaps one reason that commonly understood and accepted cultural norms are conducive to a more peaceful society. However, at the extremes, perhaps the excesses are readily identifiable.
Tony June 13, 2016 at 9:57 AM
Cartoons of the Prophet? Free speech!
Holocaust revisionism? Thought crime!
Deny the Resurrection of Christ? Hip and sophisticated derring-do!
The declension encapsulates the typical Westerner's assessment of the belief systems impinging on his worldview. Do I overstate matters imputing the death of the West to it?
This was one of my takeaways from the above-offered link by Matt, Nothing Sacred. To the west, it seems nothing is sacred – or more precisely, the things that are seen as sacred are in fact shallow or even outright lies.
However, the death of the west began at least one-hundred years ago – with the violence of World War One marking the overt event. What we are seeing now are the results of a suicide blow that has taken some time to achieve its purpose.
Antonio June 13, 2016 at 1:46 PM
Do we self-censor out of fear? Who's to determine what's derogatory and what is pointedly accurate?
The best I can offer to this is my response to MetaCynic, above.
There is a libertarian vision that is pure libertine, and solely via the NAP there is no argument against this. Yet this road only leads to war and / or societal destruction. Try to prove me wrong.
This leads me to the conclusion that a libertarian society (or something close to it) requires both something more – I call this “culture” – and at the same time something less – individuals in a community voluntarily agreeing to non-libertarian standards in order to maintain some sense of societal order.
These non-libertarian standards could include those to be applied toward members of the community as well as other standards to be applied to strangers and visitors to the community.
In all of my exploration of these issues and this intersection, I find myself ever more convinced of this. Which is one more reason I conclude that libertarianism in theory means nothing more than decentralization in practice.
We may not end up with perfect libertarian choices, but we end up with more choices.