Friday, December 1, 2017

The Left-Libertarians and the 0.000001%

As a follow-up to my post on the left-libertarian non-libertarian critique of Jordan Peterson and his interpretation of postmodernism, I was sent an email by a somewhat regular commenter at this site with a couple of PDF attachments.  These captured a Facebook dialogue on this topic.  Before I get to a couple of specific comments from the dialogue….

What an inane dialogue.  It has nothing to do with libertarianism (so why the original critique?); there is an attempt to connect it to Austrian economics.  I paraphrase, “well, Mises and Hayek cited a couple of these post-modernist thinkers, so they really were good guys; the idiot libertarians who cite Peterson favorably might want to keep this in mind.”

So, why the “0.000001%” in the title of this post?  It is an argument that virtually no one cares about, that will not move the needle one iota toward a libertarian society, that will convince readers that libertarians such as these are dolts.  In other words, it is an argument that will be meaningful to exactly 0.000001% of the population.

Second, once again nary a word about libertarianism; the argument is being made about the connection to Austrian economics.

Third, it is a stupid argument.  Go back a century or more and you will find influential anarchist thinkers that both communists and libertarians cite favorably.  Does this mean that somehow communism and libertarianism are philosophically connected (well, my dad thought so, but that is another story), that we must respect every theory that has some roots in common with this philosophical tradition?

Yes, they are connected: philosophically both reject power and authority.  The communist rejects all power and authority (in theory); the libertarian rejects political power and authority.  The anarchic roots of both have led to very different views on relationships between and among individuals.

So, yeah, it is a stupid argument.

Now, to a couple of the comments:

Mark Friedman: Sincere question. What "important ideas" do the philosophical precursors to post-modernism share with post-revival Austrians? November 28 at 1:57pm

Steve Horwitz: Pretty much everything having to do with the subjectivity of knowledge, the importance of coordinating institutions, and the idea that social science is about what people believe and perceive and not the "objective facts". The facts are what people think they are, as Hayek points out in Counter-revolution of science. November 28 at 2:09pm

This is it.  Another stupid argument.  (Regarding my original post, I was told that the author was Horwitz; given what I read in the above-referenced PDF, I feel safe to conclude that this is so.)

Of course facts are what people think they are – what I believe to be a fact is a fact to me.  It doesn’t make all belief-facts valid; it doesn’t make all belief-facts life enhancing; it doesn’t mean all belief-facts are considered of value.

Value is subjective – we get that.  But not every subjective choice is of value to the person making it or to society at large.  I hope I do not have to list the 4,285,563,902 examples that I can think of off of the top of my head in order to prove my point.

Mark Friedman: So as I understand it from this post, in terms of libertarian outreach our strategy for dealing with a full professor at an elite university with a high public profile who agrees with us on free expression and intellectual diversity on campus, is as fo...See More November 28 at 11:14pm Patricia Walsh replied · 2 Replies

I was unable to see the rest of this comment or the replies, given the PDF format.  But you get the idea.  A high profile individual agrees with libertarians on key points, but because he also espouses ideas that would be considered culturally conservative, libertarians must avoid him.

As I asked in my previous post: Leftist or Libertarian?  When it comes to Horwitz, the answer is clear – and the weight is overwhelmingly leftist.


Patricia Walsh: Wow! This thread has generated a great deal of thoughtful commentary. Much appreciated. As for simply calling Peterson "full of crap" etc. is clearly lacking in thought and is more telling about the criticizer than the one being criticized, especially when, sadly, witnessed with some regularity. Yesterday at 12:26am

Don’t expect better from intellectuals such as these.


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  2. BM,

    This and your previous post have led me to a facebook relapse. I fell down a hole in which, as best I could tell, Horwitz was arguing that Austrian economics was not only related to, but reliant upon post-modern philosophy.

    I escaped before wasting a significant amount of emotional and intellectual energy, and have been sufficiently reminded of why I abandoned fb.

  3. Man, this makes my head hurt. I mean, it shouldn't be this hard.
    libertarianism = NAP . Dat's it. OK.
    Western Civ = well, European tradition. Individualism, rationality. You know, white stuff. common sense. decency.
    Free Market: The price of an item for sale = the largest price that any one (in reach) cares to pay for it.
    I mean, is any of this HARD???

    1. Capt - Excellent answer, but unfortunately your answer is disqualified. Insufficient left-brained obsession. Your answer reflects a personal perspective that is far too broad, comprehensive and practical, having omitted any statistical analysis whatsoever, as well as being void of adequate peer-reviewed evidence to justify and buttress your hypothesis. In other words, you make too much damn sense. Stop it.
      Next time, pick one of your details, such as "white or individualism" and write a full thesis substantiating your POV. Be sure to thoroughly investigate every possible, imaginable, maybe/perhaps/coulda/shoulda scenario and all potential ramifications before publishing. After all, your "libertarianism" must literally have every possible angle vetted before society shall consider it for a test case.

  4. I was sent the full text of the comment I noted above:

    Mark Friedman: So as I understand it from this post, in terms of libertarian outreach our strategy for dealing with a full professor at an elite university with a high public profile who agrees with us on free expression and intellectual diversity on campus, is as follows. We insult him as a pseudo-academic
    huckster because of his unsophisticated understanding of postmodernism and his old fashioned ideas about gender. Yeah, that will work out great for us. November 28 at 11:14pm

  5. Steve Horwitz writes like Paul Krugman. He's one of those guys who is lucky there's an internet between him and his target. In the eyes of many old fashioned or culturally conservative types he criticizes...