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Everything posted by studiodekadent

  1. If Evangelical Christians were all Jeffersonian libertarians you'd have a point. But their demonstrated preference is always for statism. Not to mention, Jefferson himself was a Deist and also a Secularist (the entire point of the Virginia Statute For Religious Freedom was to establish secularism). Leftist values versus the values of the theocratic Christian Right? Doesn't sound like either of those is a preferable alternative.
  2. The Political Big Six: The Elementary Ideologies Of Politics Much ink has been spilled by those trying to classify political ideologies and comprehend the clash of worldviews. This article aims to do the same. Rather than propose politics can be measured as a simple tradeoff between two extremes (or that there are multiple dimensions of such tradeoffs), I allege that all political ideologies that are present within the discourse of our society ultimately are all reducible to one of six "elementary" categories. In short, there are six basic political orientations, at least within the context of Western society. Political discourse can be described as debates between these six basic perspectives. Historically speaking, all of these orientations are rooted in the Enlightenment and the following Counter-Enlightenment. 0. Misanthropic Authoritarianism The entire Enlightenment Liberal project was ultimately launched in response to this particular attitude. Misanthropic Authoritarians believe that human nature is violent, dangerous and dishonest, and that the only way to escape this "state of nature" is through an authoritarian, hierarchical, repressive State. Thomas Hobbes is the obvious example of this kind of thinker. He believed that human nature was a dangerous beast that must be chained by social institutions. He supported a Leviathan - an absolute monarchy - to keep human nature at bay. In the aftermath of the Reign of Terror, a French Catholic philosopher named Joseph de Maistre affirmed a similarly dark view of human nature. In de Maistre's view, opening up the legitimacy of the State to rational criticism destabilized the containment of human nature which the State provided. As such, the rivers of blood unleashed by Robespierre were the logical consequences of the rationalistic unleashing of human nature. Consequently, the State had to be justified not by reason but by faith and threats; King, Pope and Executioner were all necessary to prevent the Hobbesian war of all against all. 1. Enlightenment Liberalism This is the ideology which all readers of this forum should be intimately familiar. Enlightenment Liberalism is premised on two things - reason and individualism. The individual is the atomic unit of society, and possesses the faculty of reason which they can use to improve the world around them. This view invests human beings with an innate dignity (as rational, intelligent, self-determining beings) and consequently innate rights. Because all societal phenomena are ultimately byproducts of individual action, any reference to "social good" can only be understood in terms of the good of a number of individuals. There are no objectively real collective entities, and the good of individuals is the only legitimate end of policy. Liberalism comes in two varieties; classical liberalism (which supports a laissez-faire free market as the best way to promote individual rights, dignity and happiness) and social liberalism (which supports a mixed-market economy as the best way to promote individual rights, dignity and happiness). The patron saints of this worldview are John Locke and John Stuart Mill. 2. Progressive Technocracy The Enlightenment's confidence in science and reason was not always used for freedom, however. As Hayek correctly observed, some believed that reason was sufficient not merely to understand the natural world, but to perfectly analyze and quantify the social world. If human beings were merely like chemicals in a test tube, or particles in a physical field, why couldn't they be quantified and engineered? If society is merely a physical system, why isn't that able to be scientifically managed? If the self is a natural and scientifically comprehensible entity, why isn't it equally subject to the laws of causality? This is the mindset of Progressive Technocracy. Hayek referred to it as "constructivist rationalism" and "the abuse of reason," and charted how this mindset was critical in enabling the erosion of liberty in European and American society. Whilst this mindset arguably goes back to Plato, and is evidenced in some Marxist work, the true patron saint of Progressive Technocracy is Auguste Comte. Comte was a philosopher of science and a contemporary of John Stuart Mill, yet Comte was opposed to individualism and instead embraced a fanatical totalitarianism. Comte was both a founder of Sociology and the coiner of the term "altruism" (which he defined precisely in the same way Ayn Rand did; anyone who wishes to accuse Rand of strawmanning must first confront Comte). He projected a future where society would be ran by expert social scientists who would function as priests in a 'religion of humanity.' Comte denied the individual's existence or significance; we are all, according to him, deterministic byproducts of the social forces which created us. This is the ultimate root of all "Progressive" politics; the belief in a managerial state that intelligently designs society and can use the power of policy to reform the self, guided by cutting edge social science. This tradition is popular among the intelligentsia and bureaucracy, as this tradition flatters their philosopher-king fantasies and offers them guaranteed jobs in the elite "brains trust." The Progressive era in the USA is a monument to the dangers of this mindset, as it gave us eugenics and the lobotomy, cartelization and corporatism (as practiced by Franklin Delano Roosevelt), not to mention liquor prohibition and widespread social intolerance rationalized by "science." In the final analysis, this tradition yields societies just as rigid and repressive as Fascism, but rejects the romantic emotionalism of Fascism in favor of a cold (pseudo-)scientific posture. 3. Egalitarian Romanticism This is the tradition from which the majority of the left emerged. Egalitarian Romanticism was ultimately founded by Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Rousseau's big idea was that society (and in particular the institution of private property) was the ultimate source of repression and inequality. This works out, essentially, to a secular version of the Fall Of Man. Enlightenment modernity does not liberate us, but rather represses us; civilization destroys freedom rather than safeguards it. Whilst Marxism is often technocratic, particularly in its Soviet form, the ultimate underpinning of Marxism is of this Rousseauvian, romanticist bent. If we are to posit that the majority of contemporary leftism is ultimately based in Egalitarian Romanticism, then several apparent paradoxes of the left's intellectual development over time become explicable. How can the left go from industry-worshipping Marxism to tree-fetishizing Environmentalism with seemingly no notice of the contradiction? The answer is because both of these ideologies are ultimately just variants of Egalitarian Romanticism. How can artists become so enamoured with an ideology full of dry technocracies, dull bureaucracies and five year plans? Because the ideology is ultimately based on a romanticism that appeals to an artistic rather than scientific temperament. How can the left simultaneously maintain a connection to countercultural rebelliousness and expressive individualism whilst at the same time consistently supporting ideologies that ultimately constrict civil liberties? Because according to them, our inner selves are ruthlessly suppressed by the society we live in, and only through radically destroying it can we genuinely free our spirits from the restraints imposed upon us. Egalitarian Romanticism is a revolt against the modern world, for it sees this world as fundamentally incompatible with human nature. 4. Hierarchical Romanticism Romanticism, however, was not always a handmaiden of equality. A parallel romanticism arose, one which embodied a revolt against the modern world precisely because modernity was seen as destructive of hierarchy. Where Egalitarian Romanticism sees man as naturally egalitarian and casts modernity as an unnatural hierarchy that mankind fell into through establishing modernity, Hierarchical Romanticism sees man (and nature in general) as a naturally engaged in brutal processes of tribalistic struggle, and sees modernity as fundamentally unnatural and fallen precisely because modernity is egalitarian and universalist. Joseph de Maistre was the immediate precursor to this tradition. De Maistre believed a sacred social hierarchy was inevitable, and that to allow reason to criticize it would only destabilize the heirarchy through rebellions resulting in bloodshed. Yet de Maistre's viewpoint still regarded the bloodshed of the "state of nature" as something to be escaped from, and the Hobbesian war of all against all as something which needed to be averted. But as the Death Of God became progressively harder to deny, the idea that human nature should be restrained began to decay, and Heirarchical Romanticism arose. This 'pagan' Hierarchical Romanticism accepts that inequality is natural, that modernity is unnatural, that nature is red in tooth and claw, but that we should embrace nature instead of seeking to defy it. Modernity is indeed a fallen condition, for we were once warriors that strove towards the mountaintop, and now we are domesticated materialists who care more for material acquisition than for the true essence of life. Man may be a beast, but modernity is an unnatural leash, and that leash shall be broken. This is the dark, violent, Dionysian, hyper-macho romanticism one can find in sources ranging from Julius Evola to Fight Club, and clearly is where Fascism and National Socialism originated. In essence, the only thing which separates it from Egalitarian Romanticism is that where Egalitarian Romanticism sees nature as peaceful and equal (unlike civilization), this viewpoint sees nature as violent and hierarchical (unlike civilization). In both cases, human nature cries out to be free from the restraints of civilization. If any thinker is frequently (although perhaps somewhat unfairly) cast as the emblem of this kind of thought, it is the proto-Existentialist Friedrich Nietzsche. 5. Skeptical Conservatism It has long been pointed out that whilst Continental Enlightenment thinkers were often methodologically akin to Descartes, the British Enlightenment was much more empirical and thus much more epistemologically modest. Both Continental and British Enlightenment thinkers believed in reason, yet had different ideas about how it operated and just how far it could be taken. Out of all the British Enlightenment thinkers, David Hume was the most willing to accept the limitations of reason, both in terms of its epistemic potential and its level of influence on real-world human behavior. This greatly influenced his contemporary, Edmund Burke, who (like many intellectuals of the time) was greatly disturbed by how the French Revolution was turning out. Could logical deduction truly take into account the complexities of society? Could any one intellectual correctly structure society? Why dispose of the tried-and-tested institutional wisdom, accumulated steadily over centuries often through painstaking trial-and-error? Reason may be important, but hard Cartesian rationalism has limits, especially when dealing with something as complicated as a human society. This epistemic caution forms the basis for what we might describe as Skeptical Conservatism. This viewpoint focuses on the practical and empirical, and emphasizes that the old adage of "If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It" is applicable to questions of institutional design. Burke's conservatism is not that of the prudish fundamentalist; he makes secular arguments. His conservatism isn't that of a reactionary but rather that of a moderate. Indeed, in contemporary argumentation, Burkean reasoning is more likely to be found among devotees of liberalism than among self-described conservatives; this can arguably be attributed to Frederich Hayek, who made powerful arguments against Progressive Technocracy and other forms of utopian social engineering from the basis of a Burkean-Humean epistemic modesty. ----------------------- And so we can see Western political philosophy, in the wake of the Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment, as ultimately reducible to a dialogue between six core attitudes which we can personify with Hobbes & de Maistre, Locke & Mill, Comte, Rousseau, Nietzsche, and Hume & Burke. Obviously there are various different groups which have their own takes, but fundamentally I would allege that every Western political movement ultimately reduces to a variation on one of these six themes. So what does this tell us? Well yet again it validates the simplistic nature of "left-right" political spectra. According to contemporary standards of what counts as "right" and "left," the "right" is composed of Skeptical Conservatives, Heirarchical Romanticists, Misanthropic Authoritarians and Enlightenment Liberals, with a small spattering of Technocratic Progressives (the "Neoreactionary" branch of the Alt-Right are technocrats who believe in intelligently designed societies ran by 'enlightened' elites according to the principles of 'cutting edge' social science). The "left" on the other hand is composed of Technocratic Progressives (of a different type to the Neoreactionaries) and Egalitarian Romanticists, with a dwindling number of Enlightenment Liberals. Given how at least two of the six elementary attitudes seem to have variants considered "left" and "right" (Technocratic Progressivism and Enlightenment Liberalism), and given how these six attitudes are ultimately mutually incompatible, it shows why coming up with any definitive ideological-content-based definition of "left" and "right" is essentially impossible. It also makes sense of several other phenomena; as the left has slowly become more taken over by the Egalitarian Romanticism of Intersectional Social Justice, the Enlightenment Liberalism of the Left-Liberals (or Social Liberals - the offshoot of liberalism pioneered by Isiah Berlin and John Rawls) has become even less welcome on the left. This has resulted in some Left-Liberals, such as Carl "Sargon Of Akkad" Benjamin, Tim Pool and Dave Rubin, becoming exceptionally critical of and disaffiliating from the left, and in some cases making common cause with political groups perceived as 'on the right.'
  3. I'm not here to defend the morality of most self-proclaimed secularists (I should add, secularism is merely one political position, not a whole ideology in and of itself. Objectivism is a secular philosophy that promotes secularism, after all). I think you're going off topic. The reality is that "being good without god" is a significant question that many theists ponder. Natural Law provided an answer to that question. And Christians/Evangelicals never appealed to the state to enshrine their values? Evangelical Christianity in particular has been resolutely illiberal. They only defend classical liberalism when convenient for them, or when they're losing a culture war. When they're in power, they have shown a consistent tendency towards using the state to enforce their beliefs on others. Not that most members of the secular left are any better. But again, that isn't the point.
  4. You don't see overwhelming anti-individualism and anti-reason from the Evangelicals? Are you even looking? Of course atheism, in and of itself, is merely a lack of a single belief. And many atheists have terrible philosophies. But you're wrong to think secularists and atheists haven't mocked Islam. Remember Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Christopher Hitchens. And then there's Richard Dawkins. All of them criticize/d Islamic theocracy. Europe's Christians aren't classical liberals either. I invite you to look at the Roman Catholic Church and tell me they're a classically liberal organization.
  5. It isn't wrong to say that most of the early liberals were Christians of some sort. That was true. But their arguments, overall, were not strictly religious. They believed they could justify their case entirely on the basis of reason and evidence. No faith required. They tended to appeal to the idea of natural law; there's a moral order within nature itself that we can ascertain through the use of our reason. Whilst this idea DOES exist within Catholicism, this idea actually isn't universally endorsed by all Christians (many, such as Calvinists, are very critical of that idea). Not to mention, the idea itself doesn't actually require Christianity; the entire concept of natural law comes from the fact that Catholic theologians had to account for the existence of 'virtuous pagans.' How can people be good without God? Say that moral truths can be learned through reason. Problem solved. In short, whilst many (and probably most) Enlightenment philosophers were Christians of some type, they were making secular arguments that didn't depend on the truth of Christianity. They did sometimes invoke religious rhetoric, but then again so does the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Not to mention, many Enlightenment philosophers who were Christian were anything but conventional Christians. Even among the Founding Fathers you had people who would have been gladly burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church (take John Adams for example: he was a Unitarian and thus denied the holy trinity and even perhaps the divinity of Christ). Christianity at that time had many offshoots that were heavily influenced by deism, "natural theology" and "natural law" ideas. George H Smith's "Atheism, Ayn Rand and Other Heresies" has some great essays on this. Regarding the Evangelicals, I'd advise you to drop any sympathy for them. Their entire tradition rejects natural law/natural theology/the role of reason. They're all about faith, passion, and collective validation of collectively-held delusions (aka church services designed to bring the faithful together, in a scene reminiscent of Nuremberg).
  6. Can you perhaps point to a specific moment when this idea of "equality before God" became important in Christian thought? Because for most of Christianity's history, the religion was considered to be perfectly consistent with absolute monarchy. Christian theology was used to justify the Divine Right Of Kings. Where would you suggest the "turning point" is?
  7. The Western Liberal Reconceptualization Of Religion Why would a devoutly anti-Abrahamic atheist such as myself be writing this article? This article is going to argue for the importance of a particular idea in Christian theology as a contributor to Liberalism. As an Objectivist, this is a somewhat begrudging admission for me to make, but as Ayn Rand pointed out, one's primary allegiance must be to reality. In brief, I argue that the West has a unique understanding of what "religion" is. This unique understanding of religion is an "unnatural" one which diverges from what the latest research in social psychology and evolutionary biology suggests the purpose of religion is. This divergence can fundamentally be understood as a product of Christianity becoming a principally orthodoxic religion (reaching its zenith in the Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide). This unintentionally resulted in a kind of individualism that flourished into freedom of religion and, by extension, freedom of conscience and speech, thus laying the groundwork for the rise of Liberalism. 1. The Purpose Of Religion Why did religion arise in the first place? Even those who believe at least one religion was legitimately divinely inspired need to explain why religion is a trans-historical, trans-cultural phenomenon. All civilizations have temples to something held as sacred. Why? Scholars like Jonathan Haidt (The Righteous Mind), Joshua Greene (Moral Tribes) and influential figures in sociology such as Emile Durkheim have argued that religion comes about to facilitate social cohesion and behavioral regulation within communities. From an evolutionary perspective, the argument is that binding a tribal group together confers a survival advantage, and religion is a way to do this; the religious impulse was thus an evolutionarily beneficial trait. Religion creates a sense of identity, a sense of "us" versus "them," and ultimately emerges as a way to sacralize the group/collective "self." As Nietzsche put it, people make their gods in their own images; a people will enshrine an embodiment of their values and collective identity. Religion can thus be cynically thought of as a collective narcissism. In other words, religion emerged as a tribal, collective phenomenon to regulate how people act. We can still see this in religions like Judaism (explicitly linked to a tribal identity with millenia of history), Shinto (again an ethnic religion), and even to a substantial extent Islam (which historically emerged to unite warring Arab tribes into one single tribe, and which to this day forms a basis for a pan-Arab identity; as many reformist Muslims have pointed out, a great number of the Hadith sacralize the tribal norms of sixth century Arabia). In technical terms, religion generally exhibits strong orthopraxic and collectivist characteristics. 2. Christianity: The Oddball I am neither a Christian nor a Theologian, so I make no comment on whatever kind of Christianity is the "correct" or "real" message of Yeshua of Nazareth (that is a matter for Christians to sort out among themselves). However, Western Christianity at the very least evolved into an unprecedented kind of religion. Religion began as a tribal phenomenon intended to hold groups together and enforce norms of behavior through making the collective identity/values into a sacred thing (i.e. something to be unquestioned, something one may not subject to rational critique). Yet in the West, theological disputes eventually gave rise to an understanding of religion as a set of beliefs held as sacred by the individual. The clearest example, and perhaps pinnacle, of this shift can be found in the theology of Martin Luther, who argued for the doctrine of Sola Fide, or that an individual is saved through having faith in the right beliefs (interestingly, Luther was also at least arguably an early proponent of religious freedom). Whilst Luther almost certainly did not intend for the consequences of this doctrine to occur, the result of this idea was to reconceptualize "religion" as such. As the Christian faith became more centered around the beliefs of the individual, Westerners began to see religion as such as a matter of individual faith. The core focus of faith moved away from what the group held sacred and towards what the individual self held sacred. A phenomenon which arose from collectivist orthopraxy began to be reconceptualized as an issue of individualist orthodoxy. 3. Political Implications Of course this doesn't mean that Martin Luther was a classical liberal. Nor does it mean that Christianity is devoid of tribalism, nor concern with making groups cohere and comply with social norms (Calvinism being the obvious case of a tribal Christianity that defines the world into an elect ingroup and a damned outgroup). Nor does it mean Christians themselves are happy with classical liberalism (most of them are not). But Luther's idea had political impacts that cannot be understated. If the core site of religious adherence and devotion is the individual mind, the idea that every person should be left free to worship as they see fit becomes an obvious implication. Thus, we see majority-Christian societies being the first to embrace religious freedom, and even arguing that religious freedom is mandated by Christianity. To quote Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: "Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free; That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do..." If matters of religion are ones that individuals are authorized to hold their own beliefs on, then why wouldn't matters on science or anything else be subject to individual choice? After all, religious opinions were considered the most important opinions for a human being to hold, for those opinions were what determined whether or not a person was to escape eternal torture! Ergo, freedom of conscience became a natural extension of religious freedom as understood through this belief-centric post-Sola Fide idea of what "religion" is, just as freedom of religion could be equally understood (from a present-day perspective) as the outgrowth of freedom of conscience applied to religious matters. Again to quote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: "That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry." Freedom of speech, too, can be seen as an outgrowth of this shift in understanding of religion within the context of the historically-Christian West. Christianity is an evangelical faith that imposes upon its believers a duty to spread the Christian religion. As such, the act of speaking (and communicating information generally) about one's faith is a necessary component of one's faith. Should individuals be free to believe, they must also be free to speak about their beliefs. As the Virginia Statute says: "That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty..." Again, if this is true of religious ideas, why not ideas on less important subjects such as physics or politics? If speech is to be free, why not all non-verbal forms of speech (such as disseminating ideas through pamphlets and other publications)? Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press naturally flow from this reconceptualization of religion that came from Luther's idea that salvation comes through individual belief alone. 4. A Note Of Caution The Western reconceptualization of religion may have contributed to Liberalism, yet this reconceptualization has downsides. Most importantly, it has obscured the West's sociological understanding of religion. Many Liberal thinkers, inclined towards Deism and Natural Law ideas, believed that their convictions were in tune with a "natural religion;" the research however would suggest that the "natural religion" of humanity is tribalistic, non-rational and centered around encouraging conformity to social norms rather than anything to do with an individual's sincerely-held convictions. Projecting this uniquely Western understanding of religion (i.e. a matter of personal faith) onto other societies runs a great risk of mischaracterizing not only specific religions, but religion as such. Nor does it only run the risk of altering the perception of non-Western faiths; many contemporary Christian sects practice a Christianity which is de facto about tribal identity and norm enforcement, even if the sect's nominal theology accepts Sola Fide. Additionally, it can be argued that this Western understanding of religion actually contributes to the decline of religiosity in the West. As an atheist I applaud this, but the point is that if this Western understanding of religion is contributing to the decline of religiosity then this serves as evidence for how this understanding is flawed from a conceptual point of view. If religion is merely a matter of personal belief, religious organizations easily splinter and fracture. Commonly-held faiths become individualized beliefs of sole practitioners. If human beings have tribalistic needs that religion satisfies, these more individualized faiths necessarily lose their ability to satisfy those needs. Unless some kind of tribalism is incorporated into the religion, the religiosity of the individual may decay and leave the individual essentially faithless (presuming the individual's tribalistic needs are low), or the individual may remain "searching" and perhaps engaging in a wide variety of eclectic religious practices. People whom are "spiritual but not religious" or people who practice a kind of "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" could be examples of those who's religious needs are not being met, if they are not examples of those with naturally low levels of religious needs to begin with. Conclusion The role of religion, and particularly Christianity, in the development of Liberalism, is a contentious issue. Some argue that Liberalism is an inherently Christian idea. Others argue that Liberalism has nothing to do with Christianity and that Christianity cannot be reconciled with it. My antipathy towards Christianity inclines me to be more sympathetic to the latter position, but the reality is that Liberalism developed in the context of a civilization with an intellectual history that cannot be understood without looking at the Christian contribution to it. It developed in the context of a civilization where Christian ideas had political implications, for both good and ill. As an historical matter, the influence of Christianity on Liberalism cannot be discarded. A critical area in which Christian ideas influenced Liberalism is in Luther's elevation of the individual mind as the locus of Christian Salvation. Religion emerged to reinforce and sacralize collective identity and encourage pro-social action; the idea of religion as primarily a matter of individual belief represents an extreme deviation, and even an outright inversion. Religion, once external to the self and about the supremacy of the group over the individual, became understood as internal to the self and an essentially sacred right of the self. Freedom of religion, understood as an individual's right to determine their own beliefs and live by them so long as the individual respects the right of others to do the same, carried within it the freedoms of conscience, speech and the press; within the context of an evangelical faith that sees religious beliefs as the most significant beliefs a person may hold, each of these four freedoms require the other three. The immortal words of Thomas Jefferson's Virgina Statute illustrate how the freedoms of religion, conscience, speech and press are intertwined. But we should keep in mind how recent and specifically Western this understanding of religion is. The seed of it, the doctrine of Sola Fide, emerged only 500 years ago, within the context of Western Christianity, and is still not accepted by the largest of Western Christian organizations. This doctrinal dispute caused over a century of political struggle, however it reshaped our understanding of the nature of religion; in accordance with Luther's emphasis on the individual's faith as salvific, the West began to see religion primarily in terms of personal belief. It is nearly a certainty that the pre-Luther greats of Christian thought would not have seen Christianity (or religion in general) in these terms, and the vast majority of world religions are not centered purely on individual belief either. As Nietzsche put it, God Is Dead. It may be the case that Luther unintentionally contributed. Luther's sacralization of individual faith was critical to the development of the idea that individuals have rights to religion, conscience, speech and the press. The philosophers of the Enlightenment, champions of these liberties, were often willing to invoke God to defend these freedoms, yet also were inclined to questioning many of those who claimed to speak for God. They fostered freethought, skepticism of organized religion, and Deism. They pioneered methods and philosophies that led many to embrace agnosticism, even atheism, and championed rights that protected those who embraced such positions. Luther's idea had consequences Luther most certainly would've found repugnant. Yet those who value liberty owe him gratitude.
  8. Tony, Great argument but I need to make some points. First, there are plenty of atheist humanist secularists whom are anti-religious and against the left in its current form. Ayn Rand was one even if she existed before the labels were coined. She agreed with all the necessary premises. Hell, Christopher Hitchens was a literal Marxist but hated the SJW crap that ended up taking over the atheist movement (or at least parts of it). And the Christians are hardly refuge. You think that Christianity is a refuge from victim politics? Take one read of the Sermon On The Mount. Blessed are the poor. Blessed are those who suffer. Blessed are the victims. Blessed are the oppressed. And some people wonder why Christianity ended up producing Mother Theresa, who had a case of Munchausens By Proxy By Catholicism and practically Jilled Off over witnessing the suffering of the dying. Your assertion that conservative Christians believe in and/or care about personal virtues breaks down when you discuss the Calvinists. They don't believe personal virtue really exists... they think God creates virtue. Which means it isn't human goodness. Their theology is sick and evil. Seriously... Nietzsche's assessment of the idea of hell is entirely, undoubtedly, absolutely correct when we're discussing Calvinist Christians. They love the idea of hell because they are mentally masturbating over the fantasy of sending their enemies to hell. That is why the idea exists. It has no positive basis. It isn't about discouraging bad behavior. It is about hating and condemning the outgroup, scourging them, and fantasizing about torturing them. IT is not something to sneeze at either. Its a technological revolution on par with electricity and the steam engine. Perhaps even greater.
  9. Explanatory Note: In my country, the Coca-Cola Company is running a campaign to raise money for The Salvation Army's Christmas appeals. They are covering their packaging with Salvos logos, etc. As I think that The Salvation Army is a misanthropic, anti-freedom organization that opposes everything I love, I have refused to purchase any vessels containing No Sugar Coke (the product of theirs which I do by) that contain any Salvos branding, logos etc. My reasons for this boycott have been outlined in the following letter which I sent to their consumer feedback service. Given the Objectivist criticisms of religion and devotion to freedom, I believe this letter is relevant to this forum's interests. I should also add that I hope any Objectivist who reads this will consider refusing to associate with any Salvation Army initiatives in the future; I do not believe that organization is worthy of support, for reasons my letter goes into. ________ To Whom It May Concern, Please note, this is an open letter and I shall place it on the internet for others to read. As a consumer of your products, and in particular No Sugar Coke, I am distressed by the fact that your organization is engaged in a charity promotion with The Salvation Army. Benevolence and care for those who suffer is of course laudable, but The Salvation Army is not a harmless organization devoted purely to human benevolence. Rather, The Salvation Army is an abominably evil, misanthropic, fundamentally illiberal organization opposed to human greatness, happiness, and liberty. As an anti-theist atheist and a classical liberal, as a devotee of the values of the Enlightenment and a consumer of your product, I ask you to reconsider your involvement with The Salvation Army and instead that you entrust your benevolence to an organization that is not anti-human or anti-freedom. For the record, I shall not buy a single vessel of your product that indicates your involvement with The Salvation Army. Allow me to explain why I have such a vehement disgust towards The Salvation Army. I hope that my reasons will encourage your organization to reconsider this promotion. Let me begin with the first charge of The Salvation Army being "anti-human." The Salvos believe in a theological position known as "Total Depravity," which means that human nature itself is completely and absolutely evil (see point 5, here: The basic implication of Total Depravity is that any act of virtue engaged in by a person only occurred because God made it happen. Therefore, no good act engaged in by a person deserves credit, for it wasn't really an act of that person but rather God working through that person. In brief, there is no such thing as human goodness. Goodness is a property exclusively of the divine, human nature is evil, and should a human being act virtuously that act occurred in spite of their human nature and only because of divine will. This belief is deeply, disgustingly, atrociously offensive. It denies basic moral agency and therefore moral responsibility. It denies free will. If this belief were applied to any subgroup of humanity, such as any particular race or gender, it would be considered the height of bigotry, but apparently the application of such hatred across all of the human species is tolerable. I don't see why general misanthropy is more acceptable than racism. According to Salvos doctrine, we are all scum, we deserve no credit for benevolence, we all righteously deserve to be tortured forever, and to speak of the moral character of individual human beings is nonsensical. Salvos doctrine quite literally insults every single one of your customers by declaring their moral character to be nothing but a sewer. Do you really want to associate with such an organization? I can understand, however, if The Coca-Cola Company does not wish to be seen as making any statements about theological matters. Such issues are hot-button to say the least, and I can respect a desire to not be seen as advocating or criticizing any particular theological position. But The Salvation Army is not a purely religious organization; instead, it holds a set of political positions as well, and these political positions constitute something much more significant. When someone advocates a political position that restricts, controls, regulates or forbids certain activities, that someone is by necessity advocating the use of violence against people who act in certain ways. Is there really any substantial difference between being personally willing to maim or kill someone who engages in a certain kind of conduct one disapproves of, and merely advocating that third-party agents (the government) do so? I honestly don't think so.Advocacy of laws which prevent same-sex civil marriage, therefore, constitute the incitement of violence against those who wish to enter into such marriages (typically members of sexual minorities). Advocacy of laws which control/regulate/forbid pornography is the advocacy of violence against pornography users and producers. And so on. The Salvos openly proclaim, in their positional statements (see, that their mission is not merely religious but political. In "The Salvation Army and the State" it is said that "The Salvation Army will constantly seek to be a positive influence on individual States, their respective agencies and institutions, and international bodies such as the United Nations. Its goal in all of these relationships will be the promotion of Biblical values" (point 4, page 2). In other words, they will lobby the government to institute laws consistent with their religious convictions about morality. They want to force people to live by their values, not merely persuade, but to use the government (i.e. institutionalized violence) to make people comply with the demands of their faith. What are these Biblical values? Let us begin with their statement entitled "Pornography," in which they affirm that "The Salvation Army abhors the prevalence of and easy accessibility to all forms of pornography, and will make every reasonable effort to stop its production, distribution and use" (page 1). The Salvos openly state that they do not believe pornography to be "simply an issue of private morality" (page 2) and instead that "The Salvation Army will support public legislation which justly regulates the production of and access to pornographic material" (page 3, point 1) and demands that sex education for youth must be "in accorance with biblical ideals." As their position paper "Abortion" states, these are the "ideals of chastity before marriage and fidelity within the marriage relationship" (page 3, point 1). Of course, such ideals are incompatible with same-sex sexual activity; The Salvation Army believes that "marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman" and that Soldiers of The Salvation Army must maintain "Christian ideals in their relationships" and uphold "the sanctity of marriage and family life" (see and Now, this seems at first to be nothing more than a private moral position, one which they are perfectly welcome to take, however in view of the obviously political nature of many of the Salvos position statements as well as the fact that they encouraged Australians to vote against extending civil marriage rights to same-sex couples (see, it is obvious that The Salvation Army is not merely morally opposed to homosexuality (which, again, is a religious position they have a right to hold) but engages in advocating the violation of the rights of the sexual minority community. They go beyond religious endorsement of traditional lifestyles, and instead cross the threshold of political advocacy of ultimately using violence to punish the noncompliant. We see this consistent pattern on political advocacy across Salvation Army position statements on multiple issues. For one, in "Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide" the Salvos state that "euthanasia and assisted suicide should be illegal" (page 1). This is a political statement, not primarily a religious one; they are not saying that such acts are merely immoral and justly punished in the afterlife, they are saying that violence should be used against those who assist suicides. Indeed, they even state that "human beings do not have the right to death by their own act" (page 2); the question of what rights human beings have is an inherently political one. The Salvation Army also believe in the use of policy to restrict and, at least arguably, prohibit alcohol. Again, they go beyond the point of mere religious advocacy of a specific lifestyle and instead want the State to enforce their beliefs (as detailed in their position statement "Alcohol In Society"). "The Salvation Army will encourage national, state and local governments to provide appropriate legislation around the sale, marketing and production of alcohol" (page 3, point 5) it is said, but at no point do they disavow prohibitionism and there is no evidence that they believe individual adults have a right to consume liquor should they choose to do so. "The Salvation Army will campaign against alcohol industry practices which could lead to an increase in the consumption of alcohol. For example, pricing mechanisms which increase the cost of alcohol have been shown to be an effective instrument for reducing alcohol consumption" (page 3, point 6) is a statement that clearly suggests their preferred policy orientation is one of incrementalist prohibition, where less alcohol consumption is always better than more, and any policy that raises the cost of alcohol consumption is positive. They aren't merely interested in helping addicts or convincing people to give up drinking, they aim to fundamentally eliminate drinking and will use national armies, not merely The Salvation Army, to do it. Gambling, too, is a lifestyle choice that The Salvation Army believes to not merely be morally wrong but worthy of being outlawed (see their position paper "Gambling"). Of course the harms of problem gambling are real, and no one would contest that, but The Salvation Army states that gambling "should not be a means of income generation or economic development, whether by government agencies, charitable organizations, churches or commercial interests." According to The Salvation Army, commercial gambling simply should not exist. This is prohibitionism. At no time does The Salvation Army affirm a right of individuals to participate voluntarily in gambling activity. Their political goals cannot be interpreted merely as the advocacy of harm reduction. The Salvation Army wants to use the State to punish sinners. As a classical liberal, I believe in religious freedom and freedom of conscience. The Salvation Army is entitled to believe whatever it wants about the morality of non-traditional sex acts or relationships, promiscuity, gambling, alcohol, and pornography. But religious freedom and freedom of conscience are rights held by individuals, which permit them to believe what they wish and govern their own lives according to those beliefs. Religious freedom or the freedom of conscience do not permit an individual to use violence in order to make others live according to their own beliefs. To advocate the use of government policy to prohibit or regulate conduct that the individual in question is morally opposed to constitutes nothing more than the incitement of proxy violence against those who dissent. Just as hiring hitmen is a crime against the ultimate victim, advocating governmental violation or revocation of rights is inciting violence against those who's rights are to be violated or revoked. The Salvation Army incites such proxy violence; they are not merely people who hold religious opinions, they are political activists who oppose enlightenment-liberal values. When they go beyond speaking about morality and instead advocate certain laws and policies which violate rights, they cannot merely be thought of as exercising their religious liberties. They become the Christian equivalent of Islamists, relying on the government to wage holy war on their behalf. As a consumer of Coke No Sugar, I feel dismayed that The Coca-Cola Company would associate with a charity that, despite doing benevolent work, holds to an exceptionally misanthropic belief system and advocates the revocation of and/or intensified infringement upon individual self-determination and human rights. I am hopeful that, in the future, The Coca-Cola Company will consider alternative charities with which to partner. Until that time, I shall not be purchasing any vessels of your products which indicate support for The Salvation Army. Yours Faithfully, Andrew Russell
  10. Jordan Peterson did a study, saying that there were two separate kinds of politically correct types. One of them, the "PC Authoritarians" as he put them, was psychologically very similar to religious rightists. There's also Jonathan Haidt's hypothesis, that the left see morality entirely in terms of care/harm, fairness/cheating and liberty/oppression, neglecting the authority/subversion, loyalty/betrayal and purity/contamination dynamics, however the SJW left (and other parts of the left) show a substantial streak of the three "neglected" foundations as well. It might be that SJWs are what happens when the same "type" of person who is typically predisposed to conservatism embraces left-wing ideology instead (which seems broadly in alignment with Peterson's argument), but it doesn't really explain why the SJW style of leftism only became exceptionally prominent and culturally influential in recent years. There's the Haidt-Skenazy-Campbell-Manning hypothesis as well, which argues that protective and smothering and controlling parenting styles have encouraged the development of a "victimhood culture" where children ended up emotionally fragile and hypersensitive, and became used to using social-media-lynch-mobs and/or appeals-to-higher-powers to resolve their grievances. Again, the problem with this argument is it doesn't explain why SJW norms ended up being embraced by the kids. The likely reality is that we're dealing with a multi-causal phenomenon. Another factor that is often pointed towards is social media, which creates a peer-pressure-panopticon effect that habituates kids to constant social surveillance, twitter lynch mobs, and other things that essentially damage children's capacity to develop individuality. This is compounded by how protective parenting is generating more regimented children's activities, so the result is children are spending more time than ever being institutionalized and controlled and managed within hierarchical social-politics-from-hell environments (see this article I wrote here: There are obvious answers, like leftist ideology being "cool" and all the arbiters of "coolness" being somewhat leftish. There's the simple university indoctrination argument but again it doesn't explain why PC metastasized now but not in the late 80s/early 90s.
  11. I'm not sure if its fair to put this in the epistemology forum considering that its more a question about politics and psychology than epistemology. But you certainly aren't wrong when you observe parallels between fundamentalist Christianity and the SJW Left. Many people have seen commonalities. Original Sin becomes Privilege. Self-flagellation and penance is encouraged through public apologies. Public shaming is used to both police the ingroup and separate the ingroup from the outgroup. "Saved" becomes "woke," and the "woke" are part of an elite "Elect." There's even a parallel with Prosperity Theology; Middle America's economic woes and opioid addictions are seen as the just consequences of their sin (their "racism" typically), and the concentration of wealth in coastal cities is seen as a reward for the virtuous wokeness of said metropolises. Matters of lifestyle which seem to have no connection to politics or even ethics become viewed through a semi-politicized but ultimately religious lens of purity/sanctity vs. defilement/contamination. "Organic" and "natural" and "local" and "artisanal" and "vegan" and "cruelty-free" and "ethically raised" and "Fair Trade" labels form their kashrut, with mass-produced food seen as emblematic of modern western industrial capitalism and thus icky, nasty and full of pollutants. Male sexuality (when actively exercised upon women) is seen as degrading and a spreader of spiritual contamination (hence why it has to be constrained, shamed and kept in check by complex social norms and legal norms that abolish the presumption of innocence). Heresy is not mere disagreement, but fundamentally a betrayal. Minorities that don't share their viewpoints are betrayers as well. Criticism of certain people (especially if they're trans, women or black) is a betrayal, and a product of impure motives. Loyalty to principles is package-dealt with loyalty to principals, and uniformity is required within the ingroup. An hierarchy of authority exists, where those whom are "more holy/more oppressed" are elevated above those who lack that same sainted stature. There are many other similarities, both doctrinally and culturally.
  12. Michael, Thanks for your response. I should be clear that I am not arguing that all libertarians are autists (although I've seen this argument be made about libertarians). What I am suggesting is that the kind of cognitive style which one typically sees in libertarians is much more likely to be practiced or adopted by people with SOME LEVEL of Asperger's-like traits. To an extent, what I am arguing is that libertarians tend to be disproportionately "nerdy" (for lack of a better term... a temperament that is high-intelligence, very abstract, and relatively low conformity), and that the "nerd brain" is kind of like "diet aspergers." In my own experience the correlations are pretty apparent... the INTP/INTJ thing simply cannot be an accident. I think Ayn Rand was spot on when she explained the mechanism by which this kind of cognitive style mitigates against social conformity; in essence, people who think this way are more likely to stick to their guns, to trust in the judgment of their own mind, and not buckle to the demands of the many. I've seen this pattern too often to dismiss it. Subcultures full of highly intellectual social misfits are always hard to organize (as Christopher Hitchens said about the atheist movement, "it's like herding cats", and we all know how libertarians divide up into little groups and treat the other libertarians as heretics etc...). As I see it, Asperger's Syndrome is just a stronger variant of these same underlying traits. I'm going to be a bit critical when you bring up "economic man." The kind of economics I practice IS NOT incompatible with behavioral economics (the psychological stuff you're talking about). This was shown by Bryan Caplan in his article "Rational Irrationality," where he points out that many psychological quirks or even outright epistemic irrationality can be economically rational (i.e. they are actions in accordance with a person's preferences). Also, you bring up the Mises Institute etc, but Mises actually made LESS strict assumptions about individual behavior than what we see in Econ 101 (where highly specific assumptions are made and mathematically modeled). Finally, I think it should be emphasized that we economists KNOW the Econ 101 assumptions are statistical abstractions at best. They're just useful and elegant ways to demonstrate an underlying point that tends to be generally right. There's also a lot of research that goes into what happens when some of these assumptions are removed or softened (indeed, what I'm doing right now deals with the issue of asymmetric information). You do raise a very good point with the prevalence of classical rationalism (the "deduce everything from the theory/assumptions" method) amongst libertarians. Its very common. Objectivists can fall into it, the Rothbardian types are even more vulnerable to doing so. Of course you're right that it happened with Marxism too, and it happens with classical 20s/30s/40s Progressivism (which goes back to Auguste Comte really)... indeed, Hayek's critique of constructivist rationalism is very much a rebuke to both Marxism and classical Progressivism, but is also a useful corrective to the tendency towards rationalism amongst libertarians. As for Alex Jones, I don't know enough about him. Frankly I don't listen to him, even if he is a libertarian. I've listened to Paul Joseph Watson who at least was once InfoWars editor at large (and PJW is a classical liberal/libertarian himself), and of course I have some disagreements and plenty of agreements with him, but I can't comment on Alex Jones.
  13. I agree with this. There is certainly something quite sinister in the idea that cognitive empathy is inferior to a "feels"-based empathy. I also agree that as the shrill demands for "empathy" have increased, people have gotten less civil... I know it sounds cynical but I think a lot of the people who demand "more empathy" really mean "more people need to be more empathetic towards me"... Its a demand for others to perform emotional labor for them, basically. Its a demand for narcissistic supply. It should also be pointed out that this skepticism towards rationality and the like was also prominent in the work of Auguste Comte... who constantly connected rationality with egoism and viewed "personal calculations" as the enemy of an altruism driven by all the feels stuff. So I am sympathetic towards your suggestion that demanding a non-cognitive, reflexive empathy can inflict guilt on people (especially when, as even the British Empiricists and Moral Sentimentalists (Hume and Smith in particular) noted, this kind of empathy needs to be economized upon and we don't have an infinite capacity for it).
  14. INTRODUCTORY NOTE: Wow, I haven't posted here in a long time. Unfortunately I've been preoccupied with working on my PhD. Another point I want to make is that, unfortunately, I've been finding that many conversations in the Objecto-sphere have become rather monotonous and rarely are new ideas or new topics being addressed, and thus the discussion has become less interesting for me in recent years. I'm still an Objectivist, I just haven't seen too much novelty in the Objectivist world, which is another reason I've been less than present on this forum. However, I am back with an article I wrote. I couldn't get it published at more general libertarian-outreach-activism places so I thought here would be a good choice. All comments are appreciated! NANCY MACLEAN, LIBERTARIANS AND AUTISM Introduction Criticism of Duke University history professor Nancy MacLean has become a cottage industry ever since she published her demented smear job against Public Choice Theory "Democracy In Chains." Indeed, MacLean's work is full of absurd distortions, misrepresentative quoting, and obvious untruths. Her entire thesis is that Public Choice Theory is racist; frankly I wonder if Nancy is attempting to continue Duke University's proud tradition of racially charged false accusations. Public choice scholars and economists like Michael Munger (see ) and Steven Horwitz (see ) have done an admirable job in effectively shredding MacLean's thesis, but MacLean knew, just like Mike Nifong and Crystal Mangum, that women's tears are almost always believed and as such she decided to play victim ( It is no surprise Oprah shilled her book; I'm sure that soon enough Lifetime will be producing a telemovie about the trauma she suffered at being critiqued. But the point of this article isn't to channel my inner Christopher Hitchens and say nasty things about MacLean's screed. Plenty of far better commentators have done this. Rather, I am going to make a qualified defense of something she did say whilst criticizing what she seemed to be attempting to imply with what she said. We all know how utterly frustrating it is when people deal with their political enemies through the use of diagnosis as a substitute for dialectic. The Soviet Union took this to its logical extreme through claiming that political dissidents were mentally ill, because clearly no sane person could disagree with Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism; more recent entries in this category include the so-called "Republican Brain Hypothesis" (see ) that was proposed during the culture wars against the Religious Right during the George W. Bush administration. MacLean decided to add to this genre of political pseudoargument through arguing that there is indeed a libertarian brain, and that libertarian brain is characterized by being on the autism spectrum (see ). Katherine Timpf at National Review fumed ( Like several other critics pointed out (see and ), MacLean's understanding of autism primarily in terms of lacking empathy and not feeling solidarity with others is based on an outdated portrait of being on the autistic spectrum rooted primarily in the "Mind Blindness" concept of Simon Baron-Cohen; more recent research has greatly questioned whether "Mind Blindness" is a correct portrait in the first place. But so far, the responses to MacLean have focused on the fact she equates libertarianism with a lack of empathy and solidarity with others, and the fact that she equates being on the autistic spectrum with lacking said empathy and solidarity. These are all valid critiques to make of her position, but so far there has been little attempt to wrestle with the question of whether or not MacLean is correct that there might be a link between libertarianism and being on the autistic spectrum. Not only that, but no one to my knowledge has questioned the unstated premise of MacLean's argument, which is that libertarian economics (and Public Choice in particular) is wrong because the brains which formulated these economics are arguably on the autistic spectrum. MacLean's argument is simply not an argument unless one accepts that having autism or Asperger's Syndrome introduces systematic error into one's economic reasoning. Indeed, for MacLean to be correct, having a brain that is positively drenched in "empathy" and "solidarity with others" is necessary to be a good economist. My argument is simple; yes, it is in fact likely that libertarians are disproportionately likely to be either on the austistic spectrum or have subclinical levels of symptoms typically thought of as indicating Asperger's Syndrome. Libertarian thought and philosophy often is characterized by the kind of cognitive style which, in its extreme form, is characteristic of austists and in particular the high-functioning autists commonly described as having Asperger's Syndrome. This is where MacLean is right. However, the implication that this kind of cognitive style makes you bad at doing economics is precisely the opposite of the truth. Indeed, having a degree of autistic symptoms can plausibly be thought of as an advantage for an economist, and that it is the caring-feeling-empathy-solidarity normie-brain which could represent a disadvantage for someone trying to perform economic analysis. On a personal note, I am not just a libertarian with Bachelors and Masters degrees in economics (and in the process of working on a Doctorate in the field), but I also have Asperger's Syndrome. Nancy MacLean's statements therefore constitute an allegation that my very brain is less capable at economic reasoning than it would be if I were neurotypical (i.e. not someone with Asperger's Syndrome). Of course, one must wonder why I would develop an interest in and devote substantial amounts of time and effort to the field of economics if I were mentally impaired at comprehending it! 1. Libertarians: More 'spergy Than Average How someone thinks, their "cognitive style" or what Ayn Rand called their "psycho-epistemology," is partially determined by biology. Of course anyone of any neurology can grasp that 2 + 2 = 4, but research has shown that the biology of the brain influences how people think. Dr. Helen Fisher, for example, researches how brain chemistry impacts things like people's love life and people's politics (see ). Neurobiology has political correlates, as Fisher points out; she characterizes libertarians as having brains highly influenced by natal testosterone. Jonathan Haidt and several co-researchers also, in a study of libertarian morality, point out that biological factors can predispose one (albeit often indirectly) to different political ideologies (see ). An interesting thing which Haidt et al. point out is that libertarians rely on reason more, and emotion less, than leftists or conservatives; this is tested using Simon Baron-Cohen's Empathizer-Systemizer scale (see p12-13). This scale is interesting in that it is linked both to being on the autism spectrum and also gender; "libertarians score the lowest of any group on empathizing, and the highest on systemizing. In fact, libertarians are the only group that scored higher on systemizing than empathizing... relatively high systemizing and low empathizing scores are characteristic of the male brain, with very extreme scores indicating autism. We might say that liberals have the most 'feminine' cognitive style, and libertarians the most 'masculine'" (p13). In spite of Baron-Cohen's contested contention that people on the autism spectrum are less capable of empathy, the point remains that there is clearly correspondence between Haidt, Fisher and Baron-Cohen here; persons whom are on the autism spectrum can be described as having an atypically "masculinized" (i.e. shaped by prenatal testosterone) brain. Libertarians (on average) have brains which are more testosterone-influenced than the general population. It stands to reason, therefore, that brains-predisposed-to-libertarianism are more likely to also either be on the autistic spectrum or at least have more autistic-spectrum-traits than the average brain. This also provides a theoretical explanation for why libertarian communities are disproportionately male; strongly masculinized brain development is more likely to happen to natally male individuals. This "systemizer-brain" orientation is evidenced all over libertarian culture, as evidenced by the emphasis we tend to place on logical consistency and reason in general (to the point where our biggest magazine is literally named Reason). As Ayn Rand made clear, she was not primarily an advocate of markets, liberty and egoism, but rather of reason, and if one embraced reason all the rest would follow; agree or disagree with Rand as much as you like, but she serves as evidence of how libertarianism has deep cognitive roots. The fact that libertarian advocacy is ultimately rooted in the Enlightenment, which championed human reason, is further evidence of this. Whilst the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has fallen out of favor with academic psychology research, I distinctly remember discussions in libertarian communities about how libertarians are about 80% xNTx (it is even more extreme amongst Randians/Objectivists, whom are about 85% xNTx and particularly biased towards INTx individuals; indeed MBTI enthusiasts often characterize Howard Roark as an INTP, and Rand herself as an INTJ); this is massively disproportionate relative to the general population, which is about 12% xNTx. The xNTx style of cognition is the "rational temperament" focused on thinking rather than feeling, and high level abstractions over immediate sensory information. To the extent that cognitive style is biological, the implications are depressing for libertarians. The libertarian mindset is strongly correlated with a brain that is heavily influenced by prenatal testosterone, moreso than the average brain. Libertarianism appeals to an atypical style of mind, one that is likely to exhibit more characteristics of Asperger's Syndrome or the autism spectrum generally; libertarianism appeals to a mind which is more emotionally detached, more introverted, more abstract, and less invested in social relationships than the norm (Haidt et al.'s paper substantiates this; libertarians are less likely to define or describe themselves in terms of their relationships to other people). This is consistent with the fact that libertarianism is not a mass movement, and implies that most people will find libertarianism counterintuitive at least initially. 2. Good Economics Is Counterintuitive Too It has been noticed by many that even very mainstream economics requires thinking that goes "against the grain." As Bryan Caplan demonstrated in The Myth of the Rational Voter, the average American diverges substantially from the economic beliefs of the average economist, and diverges in systematic and predictable ways (in particular, the average American is less pro-market than the average economist). The economists in the survey are a general cross-section of economists, and not "just the staff of the Cato Institute," so it cannot be claimed that there is bias in the selection of experts; the experts are consistently to the economic 'right' (if by 'right wing' one means pro-market) of the average American citizen. Even economists generally associated with the left, such as Paul Krugman, are surprisingly pro-market relative to the average (Krugman, for example, is more pro-free-trade than Steve Bannon). Not all libertarians are economists and not all economists are libertarians, but the presence of libertarians within economics is unquestionably disproportionate relative to the general population. The point to emphasize, however, is that according to the experts, average people are (on average) systematically wrong about the benefits of markets. Caplan notices that even first year economics students come into the classroom bearing the imprints of multiple economic errors which need to be eliminated from their thought. In other words, even non-controversial neoclassical economics goes against the intellectual grain for many, many people. This should not be a surprise. After all, economics is the field that suggests (and this is anything but a controversial argument in economics) people who act selfishly in the commercial realm will make life better for other people alongside themselves; this is hardly the first thing that comes to the mind of most people when they're asked to picture a "selfish" person. Rather, they imagine some bloodsucking brute, not the local shopkeeper. Many people who run various local governments believe that rent control is still a good policy, even if it is literally textbook bad economics. Many people believe that cheap goods from overseas somehow are "exploitation." Many people don't grasp the fundamental insight that voluntary trade where parties have all the relevant information will always make both parties better off by definition. Even non-controversial, non-extreme, standard-issue economic reasoning does not come naturally to most people. Economists in general, not merely libertarian economists, don't think typically. This does not mean all economists have Asperger's Syndrome (economic reasoning can be taught, after all); it means that economic reasoning has to fight an uphill battle against the conventional mindset. 3. Neurology And Systematic Error What I have shown is that libertarians are defined by a cognitive style which overlaps neurologically with certain symptoms of being on the autism spectrum. This is what Nancy McLean is correct about. I have also shown that economists in general (across the political spectrum) are more pro-market than average people, so the "norm" (which presumably includes and is defined by the majority of neurotypical persons) is systematically wrong. What I have not shown yet is that the characteristics of the neurotypical cognitive style (higher levels of empathizing than systemizing, "solidarity with other people" as MacLean claims, that kind of thing) can systematically bias someone towards incorrect economic conclusions. This is what I will now attempt to do. I should clarify that I do not intend to claim someone must have Asperger's Syndrome or substantial levels of autistic-spectrum-traits in order to be a good economist; economic reasoning is a skill which can be taught. All I am claiming is that having at least some level of autistic-spectrum-traits helps avoid systematic error. The first argument that needs to be made is that economics, as a field, is focused entirely on systemizing and has literally no room for empathizing. In economics, society and individuals are dealt with impersonally, as either collections of logical rules or utility functions or value-scales. Every person is merely one item in a far larger picture. Economists think in terms of optimizing systems, not caring for particular individuals (this does not mean they do not care, merely that this isn't the focus of economics). Standard-issue general equilibrium economics is built from mathematical models borrowed from field theory in physics. Individual happiness is just a matter of "utility" - a simple quantity of pleasure/satisfaction. The economy is invariably conceptualized as a system... be it a physical system, a biological system, a network, a machine, but it is still a system. Not only that, but economists are addressing one of the most painful and difficult facets of the human condition - specifically poverty - and how to ameliorate it. We have to deal with difficult tradeoffs that may sacrifice ten lives to save twenty five other lives. This simply is not a field suited to mindsets that focus on things like "feelings" and "empathy" and "solidarity" and "caretaking" and the other things which Nancy MacLean associates with the neurotypical mindset; it is a field which requires cold calculation, and often literal calculation since at times economics is like physics or mathematics. In this situation, a systemizing-oriented brain is exactly what one wants to have solving the problems. It is easier to speak of temporary frictional unemployment than to be confronted with the day-to-day minutiae of someone without any marketable skills trying to secure a job interview. A second, and in my opinion stronger, argument could be made however. Let us look at several "textbook bad economics" policies. How are these policies sold to the polity? How are they justified? Rent control is a fantastic example: "to ensure affordable housing for the poor." The motive here is compassion, solidarity, empathy, a concern for the plight of the poor. And it isn't controversial to say it doesn't work. Welfare states are consistently justified in terms of compassion for the suffering and solidarity between human beings. But, pray tell, why are these welfare states almost always full of massive bureaucracies rather than policies which handle welfare through simple income transfers (for example via a negative income tax or basic income guarantee)? Given the many problems and flaws that bureaucracy and its associated incentives have, one would think that a genuine motive of compassion doesn't necessarily mean one will pick the least costly, most effective means of being compassionate. Of course some environmental protections are easily defensible on the basis of economic reasoning. But what about environmentalist attacks on genetically modified organisms (a proven-safe technology) or nuclear power (which is incredibly safe and efficient if modern technology is used)? Environmentalists consistently appeal to the emotions, to empathizing, to feelings and fluffiness in their campaigns to cast GMOs as "impure" and all nuclear power plants as Chernobyls-In-Waiting. Nordhaus and Schellenberger, both economists, campaign (through their think-tank the Breakthrough Institute, see ) for technological solutions to environmental problems, yet the environmental establishment still demands wind, solar, organic and biodynamic (the latter of which is based on a semi-spiritual framework rather than a purely scientific one). Environmentalism appeals to compassion, feelings, oneness with the earth and all of that emotionalistic illogical bilge, yet consistently avoids the policy proposals actual economists can demonstrate would be effective means to environmentalists' declared ends. Let us also look at the monster example: socialism. Socialism was motivated in many cases by compassion for the poor, by the desire to reduce poverty, by the desire to spread prosperity as widely as possible. Every attempt to try it failed miserably, and to the extent that any socialist system worked it only worked to the extent it preserved property rights and market incentives (for example Titoism, which avoided famine, yet did so through preserving property rights over farmland). It strikes some as counterintuitive to suggest that letting people keep things for themselves (i.e. property rights) can result in a larger and broader distribution of goods than forcibly taking those goods and collectivizing ownership, but the historical record makes it clear that property rights and markets are essential conditions to wide-scale prosperity. Again, not even left-leaning economists contest this; the Economic Calculation Problem is a fact, which is why contemporary economists on the left are Social Democrats rather than old-school Socialists. There is a systematic pattern; advocacy of bad economics is constantly rooted in the same motives Nancy MacLean accuses libertarians and persons on the autistic spectrum as lacking. Compassion and solidarity and empathy are certainly positive traits, yet they seem to be the driving force behind some atrociously bad policy preferences. This certainly doesn't mean that good intentions always result in bad policy, but it suggests a possible theory that I will summarize as follows: "Neurotypical drives towards compassion, empathy, solidarity and other associated feelsy-niceness override rational consideration of what means are actually effective at generating the desired positive outcomes. Because people with at least some level of austistic-spectrum-traits can detach themselves from the compulsive cries of 'feelings' more easily, they may be better judges of what is practically effective." Conclusion Nancy MacLean's book on Public Choice is frankly so bad the only use I can see for it is toilet paper, even though I generally prefer pages of Abrahamic religious texts for that particular purpose. However, she isn't wrong to suggest libertarians may be more likely to have Asperger's Syndrome or at least an atypically high level of autistic-spectrum-traits relative to the general population. But that doesn't make us wrong about the economics. Indeed, the opposite is likely to be true. Highly empathizing brains without much systemizing capability are not the brains you want to have evaluating different economic policies. Frankly awful economics is typically justified on the basis of empathetic, caring, emotionalistic rationales. The more people feel and the less people think (i.e. the more they empathize and the less they systemize), the worse their economic reasoning gets. Even by the relatively moderate (compared to libertarians) standards of the economics profession, the general population is deeply misguided about economic fact. Neurotypical cognitive biases towards "solidarity" and "empathy" can lead away from economic truth, not towards it. Even non-libertarian economists use cold, impersonal reasoning to justify intervention rather than appeals to emotion and fluffy-wuffy-snuggliness. Good economics goes against every instinct of the neurotypical brain, which is why it is so counterintuitive and so many prejudices need to be weeded out. Libertarians, on the other hand, are disproportionately likely to have the kind of brain able to overcome these cognitive biases and see where the policy which appeals to "empathy" and "solidarity" will be counterproductive to these ends. This overlaps (although is not identical) with the kind of brain that is often described as "on the autism spectrum" and in particular the higher functioning regions thereof. Whilst MacLean is justified in suspecting a lot of us are "on the spectrum" at least to some degree, her implication that this is a reason to dismiss libertarian economics is arguably the opposite of the truth.
  15. Well I agree with them but they weren't really related to the arguments I advanced in the article (like you said, the article didn't open on your computer right?). I agree with the classical liberal case for legalizing same sex marriage. But that isn't the same thing as the specifically anti-PC case for same sex marriage.
  16. Interesting point but please, you're dropping context. My initial post was about economic policy and everyone knows what "the regulatory state" means in an economic context. So perhaps we could look at that particular subject rather than talk about road rules.
  17. William, From what I know, the Sessions memo merely restates existing law. Maybe I'm thinking of another memo, but gay rights aren't the same thing as trans rights, and the idea that rescinding the contraception mandate is an attack on gay people is ridiculous. No one has a right to state-subsidized contraception. The mandate's rescinding impacts everyone equally, and condoms/dental dams are cheap. There are also principled libertarian arguments against the expansion of anti-discrimination laws. As for speaking at a summit, politicians pander. This is what they do. They're whores. You can't expect them to speak in front of an interest group only because they agree with the entire ideology of that interest group... Paul Ryan spoke at an Objectivist conference once but he still hasn't aborted a fetus and smeared the resultant blood over a statue of the Virgin Mary yet, now has he? A representative of the NRA is speaking at this conference too, but the NRA defends firearms in a sexuality-neutral fashion (the 2nd Amendment is for everyone) so can hardly be described as an anti-gay organization. Merely speaking at the Values Voter Summit doesn't constitute support for the entire religious right agenda. Personally I wouldn't want to speak at such an event, but politicians need to pander. If a politician could only speak to "respectable" organizations... they'd give like... 5% of the public appearances they currently do.
  18. No, its an acknowledgement of the fact there won't be a giant Objectivist revolution which changes society in the course of a week or less.
  19. And that doesn't engage with my central argument. I'm not saying that nothing should be prohibited. I'm saying that prohibitions BEYOND "thou shalt not initiate force/fraud/coercion" necessarily violate rights.
  20. I wrote this article in response to the Australian marriage law postal survey currently underway, and it has been published by an Australian think-tank. I think that voting in favor of permitting same sex marriage would actually be a blow to the PC narrative. My case is made here: All thoughts appreciated!
  21. I am going to make an argument which many people will find surprising coming from an Objectivist; welfare is a lesser evil than economic regulation and controls. The reasons I am making this argument are as follows. First, Objectivist reform will by necessity come one step at a time, and thus we need to prioritize what reforms happen first. Second, when discussing the problems with certain regulatory policies I find it extremely annoying when people try to derail the discussion into "but muh welfare!" Third, welfare programs are perceived as something people have paid into their whole lives via the tax system, and that if these programs were abolished they'd be losing out, but regulatory policies are simple prohibitions that do not have this problem with optics. And fourth, I think that there may be reasons to accept a basic income guarantee within an otherwise laissez-faire economy (political acceptability being one of these reasons). Because of these reasons I think we need to conceptually separate out the various kinds of government intervention in the economy, and then prioritize them. Which are worse, and which are better? I make the proposition that the larger the number of violations of individual rights any particular kind of intervention necessarily requires, the worse that particular kind of intervention is. Whilst lesser evils are still evils, the point is to move from a more evil to a less evil situation wherever possible. Often it is not possible to move to a perfectly evil-free situation, and as such when one has limited alternatives one needs to choose the best one. So what kinds of government intervention are there? Let me define. 1. The Basics. These are courts, defense, property rights and law enforcement; the bare minimal Nightwatchman state. All Objectivists accept these are necessary, and with the exception of Rand herself, Nozick and the free-market anarchists all libertarians accept these will have to be taxpayer-funded. 2a. Government Ownership of Capital. This is when the government owns certain capital. This can range from merely government ownership of some particular capital asset, to a government monopoly on a particular industry, to full state socialism. 2b. Government Control of Private Capital, aka the Regulatory State. This is when the government restricts/limits how private owners can use their capital beyond "do not use it to violate others rights." 3. Income Redistribution, aka Welfare. This is when the government takes money from certain citizens and gives it to others. The reason for "2a" and "2b" being used as classifications is that partially these variables are a tradeoff (in that an economy with no private capital by definition has no Regulatory State since there's nothing to regulate), but also very much akin to each other. Both of these categories could be combined into a supercategory of "Government Control of Capital" generally (with government ownership implying government control of any particular asset). State Socialism is based on 2a intervention. Economic Fascism is based around 2b intervention (although historically has often coexisted with a level of 2a intervention). My contention is as follows: Category 3 intervention is "less worse" than Category 2a and Category 2b interventions. But here are my provisos. First, I am modelling Category 3 intervention exclusively as income transfers on the basis of generally applicable rules. Extensive schemes of social engineering and bureaucratic management, as well as schemes involving the transfer of physical goods (rather than income), are absolutely much more worthy of criticism than plain direct income transfers, but for reasons unrelated to the rights-violation calculus I am using. Second, I am defining "less worse" and "more worse" here strictly in terms of violating the negative rights of governed individuals. This isn't meant to be a full discussion of the drawbacks of any particular kind of policy and should not be taken as a comprehensive analysis. It merely looks at the number of rights violations necessary for each category of intervention, not anything else. Onto the calculus. Category 1 intervention is necessary to protect everyone's rights in the first place, which is why it is generally uncontroversial amongst libertarians (bar market anarchists, who believe it is not necessary). That said, it requires the violation of some rights; specifically, there is no way to fund this kind of intervention without taxation (the ultraminarchy preferred by Rand and Nozick is accepted as basically impossible even by most Objectivists), which violates rights by definition. Ergo, we can say Category 1 has "1" necessary rights violation. Category 2a intervention can range from central banking (a government monopoly on money) to full out State Socialism. Category 2a intervention has the following necessary interventions. First, in order to acquire the capital in question, the government must nationalize it, or they must purchase it with public money (funded by taxation). This must be counted as a separate rights violation because the government does not by default own capital; the capital it owns must come from somewhere. Second, the government must pay for people to operate and manage the capital asset/s in question, which also requires public money (funded by taxation). Thirdly, the government typically (but not always) operates this capital in a monopolistic manner, which means by definition individuals are being prohibited from entering a market which they otherwise could enter. Let us presume that the government could operate the capital they own in a competitive marketplace (i.e. one without legal prohibitions on entry). Even under this case, Category 2a intervention requires 2 necessary rights violations, and often involves 3 rights violations. Category 2b intervention is regulation/state control over private capital. First, this requires a regulatory bureaucracy or law-making apparatus (such as a legislature) and an enforcement apparatus which must be funded by taxation. Second, every single compulsive clause (i.e. clause which mandates or prohibits any action) is by definition a violation of the rights of capital owners. In other words, category 2b intervention requires 2 necessary rights violations, but because each individual regulatory compulsion/prohibition constitutes a rights violation of its own the number quickly increases. Category 3 intervention, or redistribution of income, has only one necessary rights violation. This rights violation is the taxation necessary to fund the welfare scheme. The recipient of the money does not have their rights violated (presuming its a straight income transfer); we can speak about whether or not they have "earned" or whether they "deserve" that money but that's discussion not about political rights but ethics. Ergo, Category 1 intervention violates rights once. So does Category 3 intervention. Category 2a violates rights at least twice and typically thrice. Category 2b violates rights at least twice and the number quickly grows. This leads me to suggest that Objectivists should emphasize attacks on public ownership of capital and state regulation/control of private capital, and prioritize these over critiquing safety nets. Whilst cronyism is also atrocious, the atrocities of cronyism tend to be a derivative of Category 2a and Category 2b interventions. Of course this is a very simple metric and does not go into policy details or analyze all economic consequences. But it may provide a reason to help Objectivists pick their battles more efficiently.
  22. I consider it to be collectivistic, neo-segregationist and an attack on the true diversity of cosmopolitanism.
  23. William, Just to let you know, I am for international free trade (complete free trade) and economic globalization. I am also for relatively open immigration (I support screening for communicable diseases and potential violent threats like Jihadism) and I support cultural cosmopolitanism (but not official multiculturalism; I see that as a 'keep to your own kind' pseudo-segregationism). My problem is with supranational layers of regulation and control. Things like the EU. Jurisdictional competition has been a fantastic ally to liberty and things like the EU ultimately reduce jurisdictional competition.