Current Events – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com Free Markets and Social Justice Wed, 15 Nov 2017 17:16:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/cropped-site-icon-BHL-32x32.png Current Events – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com 32 32 22756168 A Modest Proposal: Make Academics Who Call for Papers to be Retracted Do Their Jobs! http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/10/modest-proposal-make-academics-call-papers-retracted-jobs/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/10/modest-proposal-make-academics-call-papers-retracted-jobs/#comments Fri, 13 Oct 2017 20:54:28 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12058 In the light of both the Gilley case (“The case for colonialism”) and the Tuvel case (“In Defense of Transracialism”) I’ve been thinking a lot about what an appropriate response...

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In the light of both the Gilley case (“The case for colonialism”) and the Tuvel case (“In Defense of Transracialism”) I’ve been thinking a lot about what an appropriate response would be to the originators (and signers) of the petitions that called for the retraction of their papers on the grounds that they were defending views that were “offensive”.
If you organize a mob to demand someone else’s work be silenced then you have horribly misunderstood your role as an academic–or else you just don’t care about it. (I think you’ve also misunderstood your moral obligations as a rational person, but I’m willing to accept that “activists” might have different duties in these cases than academics.) As I noted earlier rather than attempting to silence persons you disagree with you should attempt to rebut their views. If you claim that you shouldn’t do this as this would “dignify” the view you disagree with then you have simply abdicated your role as an academic. In any case, refusing to engage with views you disagree with and demanding their retraction is a clear example of professional misconduct.
So, what to do about “academics” who try to silence those they disagree with? I have a suggestion–which despite the Swiftian title of this post is absolutely serious.

Institutions should require that faculty who originate such petitions (and, perhaps, even those who sign them) to publish a peer-reviewed article rebutting the views they disagree with to be eligible for any future additional research support from their home institution. (I’d also suggest that the rebuttal should appear in a journal ranked the same or higher than that in which the “offensive” article appeared, and be at least as long as it was, so that “Response Notes” in low-ranked journals don’t count. The rebuttal should also be published in a journal in the same field as the article that is being criticized, not in a journal in the field of the faculty member doing the criticizing, if this is different. Thus, if an English professor criticizes the work on an economist, published in an economics journal, then the rebuttal must also be published in an economics journal.) This requirement would have several advantages:

First, it would clearly indicate that the institution that imposed this requirement on its “activist” faculty took the free exchange of ideas very seriously.

Second, it would require that the critical faculty member demonstrate that his concerns are legitimate–and that they are recognized as such by the academic peers of the original author.

Third, it would impose some costs on those who demand retractions. The required article would be more time-consuming to write than a petition and would take time to pass through peer-review before acceptance. During this time the faculty member would receive no additional research support–no course release, no conference funding, no technology grants, no research assistants, no sabbaticals.

Fourth, this suggestion would not involve taking anything away from those guilty of misconduct. It would simply withhold (or, in some cases, withdraw) benefits. And the benefits withheld would be those designed to aid in the free exchange of ideas–an enterprise that the faculty member guilty of such misconduct has shown his- or herself unwilling to engage in. This response would this be a fitting one for misconduct of this nature.

Finally, the faculty members thus castigated could not claim that they are being “censored” or “shut down”. They are not. In fact, this approach is the very opposite of silencing–it’s requiring them to express their views in a manner coherent enough to warrant publication.

 

 

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Discussion of Bruce Gilley’s “The case for colonialism” over at Cato Unbound. http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/10/discussion-bruce-gilleys-case-colonialism-cato-unbound/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/10/discussion-bruce-gilleys-case-colonialism-cato-unbound/#comments Fri, 13 Oct 2017 16:20:43 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12056 My essay “Foreign Rule and Colonial Fictions” is now up at Cato Unbound‘s new issue “Perspectives on Colonialism”. This was written as a response to the absolutely excellent lead paper by...

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My essay “Foreign Rule and Colonial Fictions” is now up at Cato Unbound‘s new issue “Perspectives on Colonialism”. This was written as a response to the absolutely excellent lead paper by Sahar Khan, “Why Libertarians Shouldn’t Accept the Case for Colonialism”. I also highly recommend Berny Sebe’s response essay, “The Case Against Historical Anachronism”.

Enjoy the discussion!

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What Kneeling Athletes Reveal about Political Psychology http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/kneeling-athletes-reveal-political-psychology/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/kneeling-athletes-reveal-political-psychology/#comments Tue, 26 Sep 2017 18:37:43 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12045 Today at the Princeton University Press blog, I have a post on the current controversy and what it tells us about how people “think” about politics.   Some excerpts:  ...

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Today at the Princeton University Press blog, I have a post on the current controversy and what it tells us about how people “think” about politics.

 

Some excerpts:

 

Both sides accuse the other side of hypocrisy and bad faith. And both sides are mostly right. Hypocrisy and bad faith are the self-driving cars of politics. They get us where we want, without our having to drive.

 

…Instead, as economist Robin Hanson likes to say, politics is not about policy. The hidden, unconscious reason we form political beliefs is to help us form coalitions with other people. Most of us choose our particular political affiliations because people like us vote that way. We then join together with other supposedly like-minded people, creating an us versus a them. We are good and noble and can be trusted. They are stupid and evil and at fault for everything. We loudly denounce the other side in order to prove, in public, that we are especially good and pure, and so our fellow coalition members should reward us with praise and high status.

 

 

….Now back to football players kneeling. My friends on the Right refuse to take the players at their word. The players say they’re protesting police brutality and other ways the U.S. mistreats its black populace. My friends on the Right scoff and say, no, really they just hate America and hate the troops. This reaction is wrong, but not surprising. Imputing evil motives to the other side is essential to politics. The Left does it all the time too. If, for example, some economists on the Right says they favor school vouchers as a means of improving school quality, the Left will just accuse them of hating the poor.

It’s worth noting that since 2009, the Pentagon has paid the NFL over $6 million to stage patriotic displays before games to help drive recruiting.[i] The pre-game flag shows are literally propaganda in the narrowest sense of the word. Personally, I think participating in government-funded propaganda exercises is profoundly anti-American, while taking a knee and refusing to dance on command shows real respect for what the country supposedly stands for.

Read the whole thing here.

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The Case for Colonialism: Don’t retract, rebut…. and censure those who seek to silence. http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/case-colonialism-dont-retract-rebut-censure-seek-silence/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/case-colonialism-dont-retract-rebut-censure-seek-silence/#comments Sun, 24 Sep 2017 16:41:13 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12042 In a recent paper entitled “The case for colonialism” Bruce Gilley argued that “Western colonialism was, as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the...

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In a recent paper entitled “The case for colonialism” Bruce Gilley argued that “Western colonialism was, as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found”. Gilley then argued that colonialism should be “recovered” “by reclaiming colonial modes of governance, by recolonizing some areas, and by creating new Western colonies from scratch”. These are highly controversial claims. But it is unlikely that Gilley anticipated the antipathy with which they would be received. Two petitions were initiated—gathering over 15,000 signatures between them—demanding that the journal in which the paper was published (Third World Quarterly) retract it.These petitions were followed by the resignation of several of the members of the journal’s editorial board in protest at the article’s publication.

But the calls for the retraction of this article are inappropriate responses to Gilley’s controversial claims. Gilley’s article does not meet either of the conditions that the publishers of Third World Quarterly (Taylor & Francis) have outlined for the retraction of articles. It should not be retracted for “unsound results” because its conclusions are not “seriously undermined as a result of miscalculation or error”. And it should not be retracted for “misconduct” for Gilley has made no “infringement of publishing ethics” nor has there been any claim that he has breached any “author warranties”.

The claim that this article should not be retracted is not new. But in response to the antipathy that he has been faced Gilley has requested that the article be withdrawn–not because he now believes that his arguments are mistaken, but because it has cased “pain” and generated “anger”. But Third World Quarterly should not accede to this request–the article should remain available. That an article upsets people is no grounds for its withdrawal. Moreover, if the journal did allow the article to be withdrawn it would violate the policy of the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers Guideline for “Preservation of the Objective Record of Science” (to which the journal’s publisher subscribes) that “Articles that have been published should remain extant, exact, and unaltered to the maximum extent possible”.

It might be argued that Gilley’s paper should be retracted because his arguments do not support his conclusion, and so these are undermined “as a result of… [argumentative] error”. But to argue in this way would require that one first demonstrate where Gilley is mistaken–one would have to engage with his work, not simply call for its retraction. And even if one could show that his arguments were flawed this should not be used to support a call for retraction, for this would justify the retraction of any paper whose conclusions have been arrived at through erroneous argumentation. And this is not how academic debates are conducted—and nor should it be. Instead, persons present their conclusions supported by the best arguments and evidence that they can muster. These are then subject to critical scrutiny with the aim of identifying and correcting errors in the arguments. If the arguments are found not to support the conclusion then the original paper should be rebutted—not retracted.

But there’s more to be said in this case. The petitions demanding the retraction of this article secured over 15,000 signatures. I very much doubt that everyone who signed these petitions actually read the paper. Demanding that a paper be retracted because you don’t like its arguments is bad enough. Demanding that it be retracted because you don’t like what you think its conclusion is without having even read it is despicable. Moreover, if you’re an academic, a demand for retraction on either of these grounds would be a clear abdication of your professional responsibility. It is thus not Gilley who should be censured. It is the academics (such as Jenny Heijun Wills, Rebecca Salazar, and Carrianne Leung) who initiated and signed these deplorable petitions.

As a brief aside: If you object to the mocking of work in English, Gender Studies, and Geography that’s based not on reading the papers but simply on their titles and abstracts (e.g., those offered up for ridicule by places such as Real Peer Review) then you should be even more concerned with the demand that a paper be retracted on the basis of a similarly cursory examination.

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Horwitz review of Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/horwitz-review-nancy-macleans-democracy-chains/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/horwitz-review-nancy-macleans-democracy-chains/#comments Wed, 13 Sep 2017 21:11:11 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12029 The published version of my review of Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains is now available at the Cato Journal. The main argument: “In the rest of this essay, I will briefly...

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The published version of my review of Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains is now available at the Cato Journal. The main argument:

“In the rest of this essay, I will briefly review her errors of fact and interpretation but will then shift my focus to what I think is the most fundamental problem with the book: MacLean’s inability to understand the ideas with which she is grappling. She starts by assuming, rather than demonstrating with evidence, that libertarian ideas are all about defending power and privilege. In combination with her inability to understand the contexts and questions that Buchanan and public choice theory were grappling with, her book became a massive exercise in confirmation bias resulting in misread and misinterpreted sources and factual claims unsupported by those sources. She had her story about libertarianism and, absent the intellectual tools to understand what she was reading, she interpreted her sources in ways that confirmed all of those prejudices. The result is a book that gets almost everything wrong, from the most basic of facts to the highest of theory.”

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Two Short Points in Defense of Price Gouging http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/two-short-points-defense-price-gouging/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/two-short-points-defense-price-gouging/#comments Tue, 12 Sep 2017 23:27:06 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12023 Over at the New York Times, Andrew Sorkin has a rather incredulous piece on hurricane price gouging. The piece mentions some of my work on the topic, as well as...

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Over at the New York Times, Andrew Sorkin has a rather incredulous piece on hurricane price gouging. The piece mentions some of my work on the topic, as well as pieces by Michael Giberson and Tyler Cowen. It’s a fair and accurate summary of our views, but the overarching tone of the piece is basically “look at the crazy stuff these economists believe!”

I understand the negative reaction that most people have to price gouging, and to the academics who defend it. The suffering caused by disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is immense. And sometimes those of us who write about price gouging can seem insensitive to that.

Still, as unpopular and unattractive as it may be, I think the pro-gouging position is the correct one. My reasons for that conclusion are developed in some detail in my paper on the topic. But if that’s a bit too TLDR for you, here are two points that I think are essential to bear in mind for any intelligent discussion of this topic. (If these are still too long, I have a short video on the topic too.)

  • Price Gouging Doesn’t Cause Scarcity; Disasters Do. In the aftermath of a natural disaster, there often aren’t enough vital resources to go around. Disasters destroy existing supplies of goods like drinkable water and electric power, and increase demand for substitutes. As a result, no matter what we do, some people’s needs are going to go unmet. In extreme cases, the results of this scarcity can be tragic. But it would be a mistake to blame unmet needs on price gouging. Disasters cause scarcity; and scarcity means that resources have to be rationed. Whether we do that by price increases, or waiting in line, or through a random lottery, some people’s needs are going to go unmet.

 

  • The Real Question is Which Method of Rationing is Least Bad. What most people call “price gouging” is really just one way of rationing scarce resources. A more accurate description would be rationing according to willingness-to-pay. When too many people want something, and there’s not enough to go around, one way to bring supply and demand into balance is to allow prices to increase. That’s not the only way of rationing scarce resources. But it does have two advantages. First, it dissuades people who don’t really need the resource from consuming it (call that the demand problem). Second, it encourages people who have an abundance of the resource to bring it to market in order to earn the exceptionally high profit (call that the supply problem). No one is saying that price gouging is a perfect method of rationing. I certainly wouldn’t use it to ration goods among friends or neighbors who I knew well. But in the large and anonymous setting of the marketplace, where knowledge of who really needs what is limited and empathy is in short supply, rationing according to willingness-to-pay is arguably less bad than any of the alternatives at solving both the demand and the supply problems.

In short, those of us who defend price gouging want the same thing that most of us do – we want scarce resources in times of emergency to go to those who need them most. Our claim is that rationing according to willingness-to-pay does, at least in some contexts, a better job of achieving this goal than any alternative mechanism.

Not raising prices and simply allowing those who show up first to buy whatever they wish might seem like a more moral alternative. At least, no one’s going to charge you with “gouging.” But that leads to situations exactly like the one featured (though apparently not understood?) at the top of Sorkin’s article. And that’s no help to whatever desperate people might show up too late.

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Can you be a libertarian racist or anti-Semite? http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/can-libertarian-racist-anti-semite/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/can-libertarian-racist-anti-semite/#comments Tue, 05 Sep 2017 22:19:38 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12019 No. OK, now we’ve got that out of the way, here’s why: As a political philosophy libertarianism is based on the view that all individual humans are worthy of respect,...

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No.

OK, now we’ve got that out of the way, here’s why:

As a political philosophy libertarianism is based on the view that all individual humans are worthy of respect, and that their actions should not be subject to the coercive interference of another without just cause. Now, what counts as “just cause” is open for debate. But it’s clear that if we truly believe that all individuals are worthy of respect then the mere fact that someone has a particular ancestry wouldn’t justify treating her differently from anyone else. (Nor, incidentally, would the mere fact that someone is a different sex justify her differential treatment.) If you believe that it does then you’re treating persons primarily as tokens of types of people, and not primarily as individuals. And that’s just not an individualist–or libertarian–view.

This doesn’t mean that you or your business are required to deal with types of people you don’t like. You can refuse service to anyone, on any grounds. But, if you do it solely on the grounds that they’re (e.g.) a Jew, or Irish, or a woman, then you’re not committed to treating people as individuals. And it’s that commitment–and not the view that you should not aggress against others–that is the fundamental basis of libertarianism. This is because the commitment not to aggress stems from the recognition that other persons are individuals with their own projects that you should not interfere with without just cause. The respect for individuals comes first; the duty not to aggress comes second. This means that the argument that a desire to refuse service to persons on the basis of their ancestry (or sex) is compatible with being a libertarian as such a refusal is simply the refusal to confer a benefit and not the infliction of a harm cuts no ice. It’s correct that a refusal to truck, barter, or trade is the refusal to confer a benefit and not the initiation of aggression. But if this refusal stems from treating one’s prospective trading partner as a token of a type of people rather than as an individual in her own right then it will be incompatible with libertarianism. Again, this doesn’t mean that it would be disallowed in a libertarian society. But the person so refusing would not herself be a libertarian–no matter how much she might agree with free markets, the non-aggression principle,  or other doctrines associated with libertarianism.

So, no, you can’t be a racist or an anti-Semite and a libertarian. But libertarianism can (reluctantly) allow you to practice your racist or anti-Semitic views, provided that these are limited to withholding benefits and not inflicting harm.

 

 

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Chuck ’em out! The politicians who proposed the RAISE Act are INELIGIBLE to live in the United States! http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/chuck-em-politicians-proposed-raise-act-ineligible-live-united-states/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/chuck-em-politicians-proposed-raise-act-ineligible-live-united-states/#comments Thu, 10 Aug 2017 18:03:02 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11999 I wonder if the politicians who proposed the RAISE (Really Asinine Idea to Stimulate Emigration) Act would be allowed into the United States? Let’s see….   Tom Cotton: Age 40,...

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I wonder if the politicians who proposed the RAISE (Really Asinine Idea to Stimulate Emigration) Act would be allowed into the United States?
Let’s see….

 
Tom Cotton: Age 40, US JD law degree, salary $39,400, good English (given how the Act is written he is disbarred from being “excellent” or “fluent”), no Nobel Prize, no Olympic medal, no foreign currency to invest.
Points: 6+0+0+10+0+0+0=16
(NB: Given how the Act is written an applicant who answers the education questions truthfully receives zero points for education if they have a degree higher than a BA outside a STEM field.)
INELIGIBLE FOR IMMIGRATION VISA.
David Perdue: Age 67, US MA degree in management field, salary in business unknown (likely high), good English (see above), no Nobel Prize, no Olympic medal, no foreign currency to invest.
Points: 0+0+10+13+0+0+0=23
INELIGIBLE FOR IMMIGRATION VISA
These bad hombres shouldn’t be allowed to stay. Chuck ’em out and Make America Great Again!

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The Bourgeois Argument for Freer Immigration http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/bourgeois-argument-freer-immigration/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/bourgeois-argument-freer-immigration/#comments Wed, 09 Aug 2017 03:38:08 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11983 Donald Trump wants to make immigration merit-based. While many people will reject that view on a variety of grounds, some nonetheless think that admitting educated, wealthier persons is preferable to...

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Donald Trump wants to make immigration merit-based. While many people will reject that view on a variety of grounds, some nonetheless think that admitting educated, wealthier persons is preferable to admitting folks who will take low-end jobs.

This idea, however, is mistaken for empirical and moral reasons. Educated middle-class immigrants are not the only ones that create wealth. The economies of California and Arizona, for example, are literally sustained by millions of immigrants who perform low-paid, low-level jobs in farms, restaurants, and factories. Immigrants who take low-end jobs are as beneficial to the United States as those who take high-end jobs. I suppose the numbers are too complicated to compare the benefits of each class, but I have little doubt that the immigrants the president wants to exclude create great wealth (the White House says they receive state benefits, but it does not say that the wealth they create outweighs those costs.)

In addition to these well-known economic reasons, there are moral reasons to reject merit (high education, wealth, and so on) as a basis for immigration. One is this: The state should liberally admit immigrants because they are entitled to better themselves by trading their skills and entrepreneurship with willing trading partners across the border. Those skills may be specialized or non-specialized; the principle applies to all migrants willing and able to work. I borrow the underlying principle, the ethics of trade-tested betterment, from Deirdre McCloskey, who developed it recently (albeit as a historical, not normative, thesis) in her massive volume Bourgeois Equality. She calls it the bourgeois ethics, and for that reason I call my thesis the Bourgeois Argument for immigration. (This post summarizes my contribution to an upcoming volume by CUP, The Future of Classical Liberalism, edited by Todd Henderson).

The idea is that persons who seek to better themselves by offering their labor or entrepreneurship to willing buyers across borders should be accorded the same dignity and respect to do so that natives enjoy. The argument is consistent with, though not reducible to, two standard pro-immigration arguments: the recognition of migrants’ right to free mobility, and the recognition of the immense economic benefits of immigration. McCloskey argues that the enormous jump in global prosperity (the Great Enrichment) between sometime in the early- or mid-eighteenth century to the present day was caused, not by technological advancement or the establishment of property rights, but by a Gestaltic change of ideas originated in Northwestern Europe. She argues, first, that contrary to the conventional wisdom advanced by the intellectual and artistic elite (which she calls the “clerisy”), the middle-class of traders, inventors, and managers, far from being selfishly materialistic, was much more ethical than its critics recognized, and has been so for much of human history. For McCloskey, a radical change in social mores was the real cause of the Great Enrichment. This novel ethical outlook is simply the recognition of a new liberty and dignity of commoners and the activity on which they specialized: the ethics of trade-tested betterment.

I adopt McCloskey’s idea with three friendly amendments. First, I treat the bourgeois ethics as a normative principle, and not just as a historical ethical development that had enormous beneficial consequences (although I largely agree with McCloskey’s account.) The bourgeois ethics is, I think, a proper way to treat others above and beyond whatever relational bonds (compatriots, friends, family) we may have with them. Respecting their right to better themselves through trade is a special case of according them dignity and respect. Second, borrowing the bourgeois ethics does not commit me to accept McCloskey’s controversial claim that institutions had a minor role in the improvement of people’s lives around the globe. I suspect (but will not argue here) that McCloskey exaggerates the differences between her approach and that of institutionalists like Acemoglu and Robinson. Be that as it may, my argument here is ethical, not historical, so I don’t need to take sides in that dispute. And finally, I extend the Bourgeois Argument to immigrants. McCloskey, I think, is content to describe the surge of the bourgeois ethics within nations. It is entirely unclear that those who promoted and practiced the bourgeois ethics were thinking of elevating foreigners to the equal treatment that local traders now enjoyed.

The Bourgeois Argument, I said, is a special case of a principle that mandates treating others with dignity and respect, which means treating them as rational free agents. But the literature offers divergent interpretations of the principle. Ronald Dworkin, for example, thinks that the state has a duty to treat everyone with dignity and respect, and that the way to do this is to erase the unfair effects of citizens’ differing starting points. A redistributive tax policy secures to people the material benefits that erases such unfairness and allows them to pursue their life plans with chances of success. Whatever the other merits of this approach, it treats persons as passive beneficiaries of the transfer of resources. As such, the state’s benefits cannot in itself embody respect for the beneficiaries, since such transfer has at best an indirect relationship with the beneficiaries’ agency, dignity, or autonomy. The thought is that, thanks to the benefit, the beneficiaries’ prospect will be equalized, as it were, and they will eventually be capable of functioning as productive members of society.

In contrast, the bourgeois ethics sees persons as agents, as masters of their own destinies. Instead of payments, individuals receive the recognition of their agency and the encouragement to offer their skills in the market to better themselves and their families. The bourgeois ethics sees persons, not as passive beneficiaries, but as active agents. In contrast to Dworkin’s view, the Bourgeois argument emphasizes ethical equality: the equal freedom of every person, native or not, to offer their skills and talents in the market. For that reason, the bourgeois ethics is, I believe, closer to the core notions of dignity and respect than mainstream egalitarian ethics. It encourages persons to work and innovate, and it discourages resentment and misplaced feelings of entitlement. If McCloskey is right that the bourgeois ethics has been a main factor in global prosperity even with relatively closed borders, then affirming the Bourgeois Argument for immigration portends even greater things to come. This is where the Bourgeois Argument nicely dovetails with the economic findings on immigration. Recognizing the migrants right to better themselves through trade is the right thing to do, and it is also a sure recipe for significant (indeed, massive) increase in prosperity and the corresponding alleviation of poverty.

The bourgeois ethic replaced the old hierarchical ethic that forced traders to remain in their assigned social places. Joseph Carens defends open borders by pointing out that immigrant status is “the modern equivalent of the feudal class privilege.” A person who has immigrant status lacks standing to better herself through trade with the natives. Immigration status means denial of bourgeois status in McCloskey’s sense and it is in that sense, as Carens suggests, a remnant of the feudal hierarchical ethic. Notice that this objection is different from the luck-egalitarian objection given by progressive supporters of freer immigration. The luck-egalitarian argument for free immigration is that someone born in a poor country does not deserve such fate, and therefore immigration controls should be relaxed to undo the arbitrariness of persons’ having been born there rather than here. I do not pass judgment on this argument, although I am generally skeptical of luck egalitarianism. Here I simply notice that the inequality created by immigration laws is a legal inequality, not an inequality caused by the accident of birth. This is why the luck-egalitarian argument is not needed to condemn these laws.  The immigrant’s access  is denied him by armed guards at the border.   It is not that we should grant him access to nullify accidents of birth. Maybe that consideration applies, maybe not, depending on one’s evaluation of luck egalitarianism as the basis of a sound political theory. But regardless, surely every liberal, progressive or classical, will agree that coercively enforced inequality is presumptively wrong.

 

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The Rhetoric of Libertarians and the Unfortunate Appeal to the Alt-Right http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/rhetoric-libertarians-unfortunate-appeal-alt-right/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/rhetoric-libertarians-unfortunate-appeal-alt-right/#comments Fri, 04 Aug 2017 15:48:39 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11976 One of my most clicked-on posts here at BHL was this one on Ron Paul’s newsletters and why they still mattered 20 years after they were published. In that piece,...

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One of my most clicked-on posts here at BHL was this one on Ron Paul’s newsletters and why they still mattered 20 years after they were published. In that piece, I asked the following questions about the way in which racist organizations like Stormfront found Paul worthy of their support:

Even if Ron had never intentionally courted them, isn’t it a huge problem that they think he is a good candidate?  Doesn’t that say something really bad about the way Ron Paul is communicating his message?  Doesn’t it suggest that years of the paleo strategy of courting folks like that actually resonated with the worst of the right?

That was 2011, before the term “alt-right” was in currency and certainly well before the Trump candidacy dramatically reduced the stigma associated with public expressions of nativism, racism, and anti-Semitism.

The paleo-libertarian seed that Ron Paul, Murray Rothbard, and Lew Rockwell planted in the 1990s has come to bear some really ugly fruit in the last couple of years as elements of the alt-right have made appearances in various libertarian organizations and venues. Back in February, alt-right hero Richard Spencer stirred up a fuss at the International Students for Liberty Conference in DC after being invited to hang out by a group of students calling themselves the “Hoppe Caucus.” Hans-Hermann Hoppe, long associated with the Ludwig von Mises Institute as well as a panoply of racists and anti-Semites, is perhaps the most popular gateway drug for the alt-right incursion into libertarianism.

And within the last couple of weeks, Jeff Deist, president of the Mises Institute delivered a talk to students at Mises University entitled “For a New Libertarian.” In that talk, he knocks down an extended strawman of what he thinks constitutes the libertarianism he wants them to reject – what many might call “left-libertarianism,” including, I suspect, many of us here at BHL. For example:

Because while libertarians enthusiastically embrace markets, they have for decades made the disastrous mistake of appearing hostile to family, to religion, to tradition, to culture, and to civic or social institution — in other words, hostile to civil society itself.

Most controversially, Deist, after continuing to argue that family, faith, and the like are the cultural glue that humans need and that libertarians should focus on, decided to end with:

In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.

For those who know something about the history of the 20th century, the invocation of “blood and soil” as something that libertarians should recognize as a valid concern and should appeal to should be chilling. That phrase, which has a history going back at least to the 19th century, was central to the Nazi movement and was at the core of their justification for eliminating those people who did not have connections to the German homeland. It remains a watchword of the nastiest elements on the right, as a quick visit to bloodandsoil.org will demonstrate, if your stomach can handle it. That phrase, whatever Deist’s intent, would be very attractive to many among the alt-right, including neo-Nazis and other racists and anti-Semites. One click on the Blood and Soil website above will make that appeal abundantly clear.

Perhaps Deist didn’t know all of that. If so, one would expect a decent person to immediately apologize for using that phrase that way in that context. To my knowledge, no such apology has appeared. On the assumption that he is not, in fact, a Nazi, the explanation left standing is that he and his defenders have no problem using rhetoric that will attract those sympathetic to Nazi-like views about nativism and Jews. It’s that lack of concern about engaging in that sort of rhetoric, if not a positive willingness to do so, that is so troubling here, and it is eating away at the liberal roots of libertarianism.

If I may add a personal note for a moment: I have been in the middle of several Facebook debates over that phrase and Deist’s talk, and I’ve taken quite a bit of abuse from fans of the Mises Institute. Let me take this opportunity to clarify what I did and did not say. Contrary to the assertion many are making, I did not call Deist or people associated with the Institute “Nazis.” None of my Facebook posts did that, nor can I find a comment where I said as much. If I did, I will happily apologize as I do not think Deist is a Nazi.

What I did say is the same point I made about the Ron Paul newsletters: the problem with Deist’s talk, and the Mises Institute more generally, is not that they are Nazis, but that they appear to have no problem with making arguments that are appealing to neo-Nazis and the rest of the unsavory elements of the right. That’s the problem here. Why would supposed libertarians want to engage in a strategy and make use of rhetoric that is clearly a signal to those folks? That’s the same question I asked 6 years ago and matters have only become worse since then.

It’s also amusing that I have become the poster boy for the libertine, universalist libertarianism that they attack, for at least two reasons. First, name a libertarian who has written more about the family and its importance for a free society than I have. My book is explicitly a “non-conservative defense of the family.” For the kind of libertarian who is supposedly hostile to family, I sure spend a lot of time writing professionally about how great it is.

And second, again with apologies for the personal stuff, for the kind of libertarian who supposedly doesn’t care about religion or civil society, I sure do spend a lot of time doing volunteer work for synagogues and schools. I was on the board of my local synagogue in New York for a decade, most of which was as Treasurer. My ex-wife and I were heads of the parents group for the music department at the local school for several years. Sarah and I are deeply involved with our synagogue here in Indianapolis. I’m not about to put my tax returns up on the web, but I’m confident that I give at least as much of my time and money to family, religion, culture, and civil society as do any of the folks who nodded along with Deist’s argument.

As I pointed out with the Paul newsletters, all of this appeal to nativism, racism, and anti-Semitism and the like is in deep conflict with libertarianism’s liberalism. It’s particularly in conflict with the liberal cosmopolitanism of someone like Mises. And the use of Nazi language is especially galling as it was the very “blood and soil” crowd who drove the Jewish Mises out of Vienna.

Instead of this sort of nonsense, we need to recapture libertarianism’s progressive roots in the liberal movement of the 19th century. I put it this way in 2011:

What we need right now is Rothbard’s vision of a free society as sketched in For a New Liberty, but we need it defended better.  More carefully.  More richly.  More empirically.  More humanely. More progressively.  More tolerantly. With better scholarship.  And we have to do it in a way that’s immune to the charge that libertarians don’t care about making the world a better place, especially for the least well off and those historically victimized by the color of their skin, their gender, their sexual orientation, or anything else that’s irrelevant to their moral status as human actors.

The writings of the paleolibertarians will continue to stain that project unless and until the rest of the libertarian movement stops trying to apologize for them…

Our history is one of liberal tolerance, universalism, and cosmopolitanism, putting the freedom and harmony of all people ahead of the supposed interests of any parochial sub-group, and especially ones defined by the artificial boundaries of nation-states and their subsets. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.

Finally, one of the most disturbing side aspects of the controversy over Deist’s speech that it revealed how little so many young libertarians know about the Nazis and the Holocaust. I suppose I can understand ignorance of the “blood and soil” reference, but what troubled me more was when I made a joke involving the phrase “work shall set you free” and several commenters had no idea where that phrase came from or why any positive spin on it (as Deist did with “blood and soil”) should be so troubling. Holocaust ignorance is a real problem. And to the degree that young people are attracted to the alt-right out of ignorance rather than pure hatred, combating that ignorance can also serve the purpose of resisting the alt-right incursion into libertarianism.

Because I believe in education, religion, and the importance of the institutions of civil society, and because I believe in putting my money where my mouth is, Sarah and I recently made a donation to the Birmingham (AL) Holocaust Education Center. We made our donation as a tribute to Ludwig von Mises. I invite my fellow bloggers and all of our commenters who share my concerns to consider doing the same. You don’t have to list Professor Mises’s address as the address of the Mises Institute as we did, but you might also consider doing that as an additional touch.

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