Saturday, September 19, 2015

What is the libertarian way of riding a bicycle?

This Catholic Magazine Thinks There's a Libertarian Way to Ride a Bicycle. What? | Cato Institute - David Boaz:

September 15, 2015 - "Alan Wolfe is writing about libertarianism again. In June he complained that libertarianism was 'rigid' and obsessed with 'purity,' under the ridiculous headline 'Why libertarianism is closer to Stalinism than you think.' Now he’s claiming that 'libertarianism embodies Max Weber’s nightmare of an iron cage,' whatever that means. The article is obsessed with ideological infighting, and this time he actually does manage to accuse Ayn Rand of a 'Stalinesque purge' of Nathaniel Branden, her former lover and ideological partner. Thing is, she didn’t have Branden killed, which is pretty much the essence of Stalinesque purges....

"But let me look at what I take to be the main point of the article:
Libertarianism, however, is not just a set of policy prescriptions, but an ideology. It is, moreover, a total ideology, one that addresses every aspect of how people live. There is a libertarian way of riding a bicycle, of taking your medicine, finding a spouse, giving blood, and even calling a cab (can you say, “Uber?”).
"Is he kidding? In a world that has experienced Catholicism, fundamentalism, communism, national socialism, Islamic fundamentalism, and political correctness, he calls libertarianism 'a total ideology, one that addresses every aspect of how people live?' How does such nonsense get published?

"Let me just say that I’ve written books on libertarianism, and I’ve never used Uber, nor do I have any idea what the libertarian way of 'riding a bicycle, of taking your medicine,' or of 'finding a spouse' is supposed to be.

"There are of course philosophies that are totalist or address 'every aspect of how people live,' from peaceful but prescriptive religions to theocracies to 20th-century totalitarianisms.... A philosophy of 'do what you want to do, so long as you respect the equal rights of others' is something very different. But Wolfe just can’t see that. He also claims:
Indeed, the libertarian conception of human nature seems curiously, even paradoxically, machine-like. Seemingly free to make our own decisions, in the libertarian utopia we would in fact be little more than slaves of rules that conform our choices to the rigidities of marketplace rationality.... At a personal level, emotions such as envy, guilt, and sympathy would be forbidden us. Human nature, libertarians insist, is one thing and one thing only: the capacity to make choices based on the rational calculation of self-interest.
"That’s a striking distortion of Ayn Rand’s philosophy. It has, as far as I can see, no relationship at all to non-Randian libertarianism. I suppose it’s true that libertarians discourage envy as a guide to action. But guilt and sympathy 'forbidden ... at a personal level?' The point of libertarianism is to respect each person as an end, not just a means; to allow persons to think and act as they please, so long as they respect the rights of others; and thereby to encourage human flourishing. You won’t find much scope in that agenda for forbidding personal emotions.

"This is all very sad. You can tell that Alan Wolfe has read a lot of libertarian writings. Yet with all his reading, he has not got understanding; apparently his aversion to free-market economics blinds him to what libertarians are actually saying."

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