Recommended Readings This Week- 16/06/2014

Here are a few interesting articles that the Mutualist has found interesting recently.

1. Salon | Why I left libertarianism: An ethical critique of a limited ideology – Will Moyer.

After spending 10 years as a disciple of Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises; Will Moyer became disenchanted with the ethical philosophy advocated by such libertarians. Such libertarians fervently hold that the only restriction that can be given to freedom are safeguards to protect individuals from facing violent action from others, whether they be fellow individuals or the state.

Prima facie, this does have an appealing ring to it. If actions are undertaken on a purely voluntary basis, then why should others have any right to change your actions in any shape. To do so would violate their liberties, unless they were forced into doing such an action because of the threat of violence. Murray Rothbard explains as follows:

For we are not, in constructing a theory of liberty and property, i.e., a “political” ethic, concerned with all personal moral principles. We are not herewith concerned whether it is moral or immoral for someone to lie, to be a good person, to develop his faculties, or be kind or mean to his neighbours. We are concerned, in this sort of discussion, solely with such “political ethical” questions as the proper role of violence, the sphere of rights, or the definitions of criminality and aggression.

It is here that Moyer difficulties with libertarian ethics comes into play. The scope of what the libertarian theory of ethics seeks to explain is very small. Not only is the scope very small; Rothbard explicitly states that key ethical issues such as altruism,and  etc., are of no concern for libertarianism. To be fair to Rothbard, he does also explicitly take his moral system to be a ‘”political” ethic’. It is here that the libertarian will respond that given that we want to ensure that individuals themselves take up the responsibility to act in accord to their own moral beliefs, then why should a ‘”political” ethic’ discuss such matters?

Usually at this point the debate turns into a debate about the nature of freedom itself. The primary difference between a liberal and a libertarian is their differing conceptions of what precisely constitutes freedom.

Moyer though is not concerned with such matters. Instead, he is concerned about how perverse such a libertarian ethics will look like. Again, to quote Murray Rothbard:

The parent therefore may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die. The law, therefore, may not properly compel the parent to feed a child or to keep it alive. (Again, whether or not a parent has a moral rather than a legally enforceable obligation to keep his child alive is a completely separate question.)

It is quite clear that no matter what your conception of freedom, that Rothbards ‘”political” ethic’ is not only too limited in scope but thoroughly immoral as well. How can any ethical theory adequately allow the law to tolerate parents starving their children to death.

This article demonstrates the need for libertarianism to expand in scope that it has much more explanatory power in tackling moral matters, not only in issues as in the above vase, but also in matters of tackling racism, homophobia, the treatment of children in general and plenty more issues. All libertarians should read this article.

2. Stumbling and Mumbling | Patriarchy as an emergent process

The feminist Laurie Penny, and others, are criticised because their claim that women live under a patriarchy are unscientific, in the sense that it cannot be proven either way. The idea of living in a patriarchy is deemed a factual axiom by the radical feminists.

Stumbling and Mumbling offers excellent reasons to think that this is not true. That the language of radical feminism can be translated into terms which can be deemed verifiable by logic.

To elucidate on only one of the reasons; gender stereotypes, and the Pygmalion, effect can lead to a social system were women act in accordance to their own stereotypes. Psychological experiments have shown that if women are allowed to behave not in accordance to their stereotypes, that they can demonstrate more masculine characteristics such as being competitive. If you allow women to learn inside all-girl schools, instead of mixed-gender schools, more masculine subjects come under study.

Even if Stumbling and Mumbling does not translate what a patriarchy is in full detail, he does give a starting point in which such a translation is possible.

3. The Guardian | Saving the World should be based on promise, not fear – George Monbiot

The political right is excellent are communicating ideas that will make right-wing thought appealing to the masses. Psychologists and cognitive linguists demonstrate that the right are very good at exploiting the survival response to ensure individuals focus more upon their own interest rather than others.

The left have been notoriously bad at doing this. Rather than trying to communicate left-wing idea that will appeal to people’s intrinsic values, the left have been trying to fight the conservatives on their own turf: the realm of extrinsic values.

Worse though is that such misuse of language by the left is meaning that one of the greatest threats to humanity is not getting the attention is needs. Words like the environment and ecosystems are branded about. Even though this scientifically correct terminology accurately depicting the problem of climate change, these words simply do not appeal to the public. These words lack the imagery needed to ensure that the public are more willing to protect the natural world, to protect the living planet.

George Monbiot is entirely correct on this issue. The left and environmentalists need a new language which is consistent with the science, but appealing and energising to the public.

4. Stumbling and Mumbling | Cognitive Biases in Football Punditry

It’s that time of the year folks. When international football dominates all else. Given that you will be seeing a lot of so-called experts talking about football over the next month or so, Stumbling and Mumbling has given you a list of some common fallacies that football pundits routinely fall into when analysing the game. Enjoy.

Gareth Mawer
I consider myself a left libertarian committed to promoting the philosophy of liberty, even though I do not always support proposals that are normally considered libertarian. Georgism and mutualism have had profound influences over my beliefs, though I'm not afraid to digress from them were necessary. My mains interests are politics, economics and philosophy.