The Circle Molinari

"The true remedy for most evils is none other than liberty, unlimited and complete liberty, liberty in every field of human endeavor." – Gustave de Molinari

Anti-Fascism and Protest Culture

By Paul Dutton (tamus4ss)

I’ve been quite involved with radical politics for about 4+ years now, fighting for the causes I love – namely against racism, authoritarianism, and collectivism. After I had gathered enough confidence in my own convictions regarding the importance of radical and un-terrified liberalism, I began to heavily involve myself in local organization around those causes. Eventually, much of this activism would culminate in one grand event, the December 6th protests at Texas A&M University of “suit and tie neo-Nazi” Richard Spencer, of which I was a main organizer.

There were a few different main approaches to the December 6th protests: an official TAMU “Aggies United” event, a Silent Protest (which was the main one I publicly organized and supported, for reasons I’ll simply link to here), general areas for people to loudly protest, and finally pre-organized Anti-Fascist (antifa) action. The only thing that I can praise universally for all these approaches was that people showed up, at least. Beyond that, I have some pretty severe reservations on conduct with regards to direct action.

The “Aggies United” event ultimately told me the following – that the university was more interested in protecting their reputation than the students who are the target of Spencer’s rhetoric. Outside of that event, most people who showed up brought signs, their voices, and lots of emotion. This is a totally understandable response, but one that really causes me anxiety. Without a well distributed localized knowledge base regarding the particulars of what exactly is happening, spontaneous events are prone to ordering themselves quite randomly, and in an unfocused manner. As counter-protestors arrived (pro-Spencer), students would flock over like moths to a flame to release their anger . At every moment that emotions could be “cathartically” expelled, the opportunity was grasped. When police arrived, students would flock to their presence out of curiosity or leave in fright – escalating the risk of violent outbreaks.
From what I observed, students were soaking in their new surroundings in which the more radical groups flying black and red and everything in between were a strong sight, and they felt obligated to idolize them for their organized and incredible display against Spencer and his supporters. They then regurgitated those ideas, chants, and general aesthetic as a learning mechanism or to simply virtue signal to others new radical commitments, without serious consideration of those ideas.

If we want people to continue to show up and fight the good fight, we need to understand how we attain and shape mass appeal and discourse. I don’t feel comfortable with the modern antifa movement becoming a seemingly reactionary movement (as they’re already fighting neo-reactionaries). I want individuals to thoroughly investigate what’s happening, and apply that against a firmly grounded system of ethics in order to make decisions.

It seems to me that the best option alongside continuing education efforts en masse is to look at the people who are figureheads in the fight against fascism, and to hold them accountable for bad ideas and practices. By holding antifa responsible for shaping mass discourse we can shape the future and further dialogue on the proper role of force in society both by the State and with regards to antifa action on the ground.

As a final note, anti-communism is as important to me as antifa. The Hammer & Sickle and subsequent “gulag” jokes are deathly, and any anti-individualism is a vast cruelty against autonomy and voluntarily based institutions. The proliferation of such ideology is incredibly dangerous, and its promotion to the casual protest attendee is something that is incredibly troubling. I do not want one State to replace another: a cycle of infinitely reforming bodies that are never radically addressed and hopefully abolished. For these reasons, I must be highly suspicious of antifa.

I encourage the reader to look into prefigurative politics such as agorism and other ways to illuminate a healthier path to victory. Punching random MAGA hat wearers, or causing mass property damage as was done in DC and recently at UC Berkeley is not something that I think is justified, nor useful, though fighting fascism needs to be done. There is a pressing need to look at violence in our society; at the very least, I hope that this piece opens some questions for people who are new and old to protesting, and that it calls to those who feel left out of this war to organize around the things they care about in the name of justice.

Beyond Voting

Essays Against the Ballot, Democracy, and Politics

 

Alliance of the Libertarian Left

Alston, Wilton D.

Akai, Laure

Anarchist Federation

Anarcho

Ballou, Adin

Bandow, Doug

Boudreaux, Donald J.

Bowman, Joel

Brennan, Jason

Broze, Derrick

Caplan, Bryan

Carson, Kevin

Castro, Frank

Chartier, Gary

Chisari, Michael

Chodorov, Frank

Conger, Wally

CrimethInc.

Cunningham, Ray

Davidson, Jared

De Cleyre, Voltairine

Diedrich, Joseph S.

Donnelly, George

Doyle, Kevin

Flood, Andrew

Gillis, William

Goldman, Emma

Gordon, Uri

Gornoski, David

Guerrero, Alexnder

Hammer, Richard O.

Hasnas, John

Howe, Jared

Johnson, Charles W.

Keating, Kevin

Keen, Mothuzad

Klassen, Robert

Knight III, Alex R.

Koman, Victor

Konkin III, Samuel Edward

Koontz, Alan P.

Lefevre, Robert

Mangu-Ward, Katherine

McArdle, Megan

McCarron, Des

McCarthy, Colman

McElroy, Wendy

McGath, Gary (2002)

Munger, Michael

Nock, Albert Jay

Notung

Peacott, Joe

Price, Wayne

Progressive Labor Party

Powell, Aaron Ross

Pugsley, John

Reclus, Elisée

Richman, Sheldon

Rozeff, Michael S.

Ryan, Alex

Sabate Anarchist Collective

Sherrer, Hans

Singh, Jaggi

Smith, George H.

Sobran, Joe

Somin, Ilya

Spencer, Herbert

Spooner, Lysander

Studebaker, Benjamin

Tandy, Francis

Thomson, David Ker

Tippens, Will

Tremblay, François

Tucker, Benjamin R.

Tucker, Jeffrey

Vee, Kelly

Vasquez, Christian

The Voluntaryist

Ward, Colin Ward

Watner, Carl

Zin, Howard

Ziyad, Hari

Emma Goldman: Woman Suffrage and Feminist Idols (Revisited)

March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to “celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.” I decided to celebrate by honoring one of my favorite women, Emma Goldman. As I have before with Voltairine de Cleyre, I will revisit one of her classic essays from a modern perspective.

As an anarchist, Emma Goldman had no patience for the women’s suffrage movement of her era. In her 1910 essay, “Woman Suffrage,” she called suffrage a fetish and an idol. In her own words, “In her blind devotion woman does not see what people of intellect perceived fifty years ago: that suffrage is an evil, that it has only helped to enslave people, that it has but closed their eyes that they may not see how craftily they were made to submit.” Goldman thought that activists should be focused on radical revolutionary goals, not asking for greater privileges within an inherently unjust system. She viewed suffrage as a distraction, not an end goal.

More than one hundred years later, and 94 years after the ratification of the 19th amendment, was Goldman right?

In short, yes. Legislative changes are lagging indicators of cultural change. Asking an oppressor to grant the oppressed more privileges has never been the most effective strategy to achieve social change. The eventual success of woman suffrage, the great golden idol of the early women’s movement, effectively quashed the women’s movement for fifty years.

By focusing an entire movement on one specific legislative change, we lose sight of our end goal. The right to vote is not an end goal, but a means to further the end goal of equal socio-economic and cultural status for women as for men. By forgetting their end goal and focusing on voting, the early women’s movement set women back immeasurably.

Another, more recent example of a movement losing sight of the end goal is the gay rights movement’s focus on gay marriage. By avidly pursuing legislative changes to marriage laws and forgetting the end goal of equal socio-economic and cultural status, much of the movement subsided when equal marriage was achieved. An activist wrote that the gay rights battle was over for libertarians, as though strides could or should not be made outside of the government. At the altar of marriage equality, we forget to look beyond and take into account the full LGBT+ spectrum, as well as our overarching goals.

Emma wrote of woman suffrage in other countries and its effect on the long-term goal:

The women of Australia and New Zealand can vote, and help make the laws.  Are the labor conditions better there than they are in England, where the suffragettes are making such a heroic struggle? Does there exist a greater motherhood, happier and freer children than in England?  Is woman there no longer considered a mere sex commodity?  Has she emancipated herself from the Puritanical double standard of morality for men and women?

Emma’s observations that her society had a deeply problematic view of women, which voting could not change, did not catch on again until much later, with the rise of second wave feminism. Second wave feminism came and went in a flurry of revolutionary, powerful rhetoric and seemingly lofty, but inspiring goals. Decidedly white-centric and trans and sex-worker exclusionary, second wave feminism was far from perfect, but it was about more than a vote, more than a piece of legislation, it was about rocking the foundations on which society thought of gender.

In the third wave, we can bring forward the end goals and broad focus of second wave feminism, but uplift all women. We should remember that feminism is not all about electing a war criminal woman as president, or passing the Equal Pay Act. Our feminism is about challenging what it means to be a woman or a man and knocking down the idol “gender” that society holds so near and dear. We have the potential to change the world, so let’s take a clue from Emma and leave the idols behind.

See the original article here.

Some Public Moral Goods are Not Optional, A Reply to Roderick Long

In Roderick Long’s essay, “On Making Small Contributions to Evil,” Long attempts to tackle tough moral questions such as veganism, environmentalism, and tax evasion. In each case, participation in the cause comes at great personal expense with very little marginal societal benefit. Long argues that we do not have an obligation to participate in all of these causes, but to pick a number of them to focus on, and disregard the rest. After all, not everyone can do everything, and we can only account for our own morality, not the morality of society as a whole.

Long is right that we should not sacrifice ourselves for the sake of society as a whole. We must pick and choose between those public moral goods because we cannot do it all. I do not disagree that public moral goods exist. However, we can find reasons to fight for these types of causes beyond our own marginal benefit to society, and there are some public moral goods that are not morally optional.

One of the reasons we may participate in a cause is the joy we get from doing what we think is right. Altruism is not pure self-sacrifice when doing good and helping others feels good. Virtuous people derive happiness from virtuous acts, so by cultivating virtue within ourselves, we can more confidently decide which social causes are worth the “sacrifice.” The “sacrifice” is the cost associated with acting on a public moral good, including the opportunity cost of not choosing something else.

Recycling has very little social impact on an individual level, and can be a pain in the ass. Is it virtuous to recycle? That depends on facts about the particularized eudaimonia of the person making the decision. The cost associated with recycling for a person that is already devoting time and resources to many other social causes is much higher than the cost of recycling for a person who is sitting at home doing nothing all day. A person who is especially passionate about the environment will derive much more joy from recycling than someone who could not care less. By taking into account facts about our particularized eudaimonia, such as our individual interests, talents, and commitments, we can best decide which public moral goods to focus on.

Sometimes, however, looking at our particular circumstances is not enough. Take an extreme example: child pornography. Producing child pornography is obviously immoral as a violation of autonomy and consent. But following Long’s analysis, is consumption of child pornography not immoral? One person’s decision not to purchase it will not affect its production. For a pedophile, not buying child pornography may come at a loss of psychological pleasure. However, consuming child pornography for free seems to be no less immoral. Therefore, there must be a reason not to consume child pornography beyond its societal effect. What does it say about a person’s compassion and empathy that they can watch the violation of a child without feeling distraught? An empathetic, compassionate, virtuous person could not consume child pornography without guilt, regardless of the marginal societal benefit of them refraining from doing so.

Long discusses veganism as a public moral good we may consider. Veganism, unlike participation in many other public moral goods, is not time-consuming, so we do not have to choose between being vegan and doing something else. One individual person going vegan does not affect meat production. However, what does it say about someone as a person if they can eat an animal knowingly without feeling any guilt or aversion? If one is an empathetic, compassionate, virtuous individual, eating meat should make them feel bad. Going vegan would have very little societal impact on the status of animals, but one may choose not to eat meat because doing so causes them, as a compassionate, empathetic person, distress. However, if one lives in a food desert or has very little access to vegan food or lacks support from family, the personal costs of veganism may be too high for even the most virtuous individual.

With veganism, just as in the child porn example*, production may be worse than consumption. However, one step of removal from production is far from morally agreeable. Our moral obligations with regard to either do not depend on the social benefit of doing so or our duty to the public good, but on what our actions in either circumstance say about us as people. When weighing public moral goods, we should not forget to account for the relative importance of different social goods or what our actions with regard to public moral goods say about us as people.

Every virtuous decision is the result of reasoning and personal judgment, while taking into account the specific circumstances of the given situation. We cannot prescribe the correct action for every person in every situation, because the correct action depends on facts about the person in question that we do not have access to. When we weigh the benefits of taking on a social cause with the personal costs of doing so, we can determine which causes are worth our individual time and energy.

*I do not think eating meat and consuming child pornography are morally equivalent, but they are similar in that they are morally wrong regardless of the public moral evil associated with them.

A Universalistic Vision of Anarchism

VdC

The following is an excerpt from Voltairine de Cleyre’s essay “Anarchism”, originally published October 13, 1901 in Free Society. It represents the latter half of her political development and her eventual acceptance of anarchism without adjectives.

I have now presented the rough skeleton of four different economic schemes entertained by Anarchists [socialism, communism, individualism, and mutualism]. Remember that the point of agreement in all is: no compulsion. Those who favor one method have no intention of forcing it upon those who favor another, so long as equal tolerance is exercised toward themselves.

Remember, also, that none of these schemes is proposed for its own sake, but because through it, its projectors believe, liberty may be best secured. Every Anarchist, as an Anarchist, would be perfectly willing to surrender his own scheme directly, if he saw that another worked better.

For myself, I believe that all these and many more could be advantageously tried in different localities; I would see the instincts and habits of the people express themselves in a free choice in every community; and I am sure that distinct environments would call out distinct adaptations.

Personally, while I recognize that liberty would be greatly extended under any of these economies, I frankly confess that none of them satisfies me.

Socialism and Communism both demand a degree of joint effort and administration which would beget more regulation than is wholly consistent with ideal Anarchism; Individualism and Mutualism, resting upon property, involve a development of the private policeman not at all compatible with my notions of freedom.

My ideal would be a condition in which all natural resources would be forever free to all, and the worker individually able to produce for himself sufficient for all his vital needs, if he so chose, so that he need not govern his working or not working by the times and seasons of his fellows. I think that time may come; but it will only be through the development of the modes of production and the taste of the people. Meanwhile we all cry with one voice for the freedom to try.

What does this mean for us in the 21st century? Does it mean that we should endorse every ideology claiming to be “against authority”? Of course not. Does it mean that we should be open to a wider array of allies in the fight against oppression? Maybe. Does it mean that we should be a little more respectful and a lot more loving with one another despite sincere disagreements? I think definitely.

I think that de Cleyre’s vision of a more universalistic anarchism is a reminder to be humble, tolerant, and optimistic. Humble enough to admit that our knowledge of the optimal post-state system is limited, and being willing to change our minds if necessary. Tolerant of the diverse needs and preferences that will appear in the absence of illegitimate hierarchies, and the various social and economic arrangements that will also emerge. And optimistic that people cooperating together peacefully will be able to solve the many challenges we face, and will work to create a brighter future that will meet the dreams and desires of a vast array of individuals and communities.

I’ll end with de Cleyer’s inspiring words:

And then, to turn cloudward, starward, skyward, and let the dreams rush over one…painting endless pictures, creating unheard symphonies that sing dream sounds to you alone, extending sympathies to the dumb brutes as equal brothers, kissing the flowers as one did when a child, letting oneself go free, go free beyond the bounds of what fear and custom call the “possible,” – this too Anarchism may mean to you, if you dare to apply it so.

Radical Sobriety: Situating the Discussion

Preface

Wade Craig initiated this wave of the discussion of sobriety among individualists and anarchists, and introduced the position I have subsequently termed “radical sobriety,” in this post. His ideas, like my own, are the product of many discussions within the community of radical individualist teetotalers and with opponents of our approach. I sought to clarify our position in this post here. Our friend Max LaFave, another individualist anarchist, raised some concerns about the connection between our radical critique of inebriation and rights in a post responding to this one. I offered my own response to him, attempting to clarify my view that inebriation can be seen as a loss of one’s humanity in one sense, but not in the sense relevant to the possession of rights contingent on one’s humanity. Wade Craig offered more thoughts on the relationship between sobriety and rationality, which I posted, and then he expanded on those thoughts on his own blog. Most recently, I have added some reflection on “accidental virtue,” and on the nature of rationality underlying our central claim—that recreational drug use ‘takes rationality itself not to be a good.’

Why “Radical Sobriety?”

I will leave this here in anticipation of a larger, more thorough explanation and defense of the position I am calling “radical sobriety.” I choose to call this position radical sobriety for a handful of reasons.

  1. It places sobriety at the center of ethical action and discourse.
  2. It addresses inebriation as a root of social problems, especially in a drug culture (a concept which is itself sure to be controversial).
  3. It is about a principled commitment to sobriety and teetotalism, in contrast to the timid, highly personalized reasons often given by those who abstain but do not challenge the drug culture or drug use.
  4. It is part of a larger radical critique of the status quo characterized by fierce opposition to confinement, limitation, subordination, and deceit, and respect for human dignity, justice, and reason.

Setting the Scene

First and foremost, it should be stated without hesitation or ambiguity, radical sobriety is political and ethical abstinence from recreational drug use. It stems from a commitment to sobriety, or sobriety as an ethical ideal.

Some sober and teetotal folks like to defang their position by calling it “personal,” thus (apparently) divorcing it from the realm of ethics and politics. There are many given reasons why people choose to live teetotal lives, most of which gravitate toward some version of an argument against addiction—highly particularized, of course, for good measure. Substance addiction is something which should concern us, but in the opinion of this teetotaler, it is not the primary problem. Concerns about addiction, while worthy of our consideration, are not strong enough to justify any kind of robust commitment to sobriety, or principled abstinence from recreational drug use.

Holding the World in Contempt

What, then, is the reasoning behind radical sobriety? For most, the notion is antiquated, and reserved for right-wing Drug Warriors and Christians. We are neither. As our aesthetic friends and ideological enemies at CrimethInc put it in their unexpectedly perceptive pamphlet “Anarchy & Alcohol,”

…partisans of Rebellious Drunkenness and advocates of Responsible Abstinence are loyal adversaries. The former need the latter to make their dismal rituals look like fun; the latter need the former to make their rigid austerity seem like common sense. An “ecstatic sobriety” which combats the dreariness of one and the bleariness of the other – false pleasure and false discretion alike – is analogous to the anarchism that confronts both the false freedom offered by capitalism and the false community offered by communism.

While full of interesting insights and a characteristic flair for the dramatic, this pamphlet does not actually make a case for ethical sobriety as a basis for teetotalism. Their case addresses several relevant political concerns, some of which deserve clarification and refinement—though this will be set aside for the moment. In short, this pamphlet discusses several ways in which recreational drug use (particularly alcohol, in this case) can be the root of social problems, ones that reinforce power structures and exacerbate the evils they generate. As far as radical sobriety is concerned, this provides much of the context for our abstinence. I encourage people to read the pamphlet (at least the first part. No one has time for that crazy primitivist nonsense in the second half) to get an idea of the kinds of issues we see in the drug culture. However, we seek to defend a much harder-hitting conclusion.

The Broken Foundation

Granting that there are all kinds of social problems associated with recreational drug use, we can begin to address the deeper issue. Our view is that sobriety is central to morality. Put another way, the whole idea of rationality—in this situation, as my friend Wade Craig puts it,

The foundational ability that is necessary for humans, and indeed any creatures, to have rights and moral standing is self-reflection. Those who cannot even recognize their own existence and are not aware of their ability to impact the world do not have moral responsibilities and cannot have rights. To remove or hamper the ability to reflect on one’s own actions and thoughts is to abdicate the responsibilities inherent in being a living individual. Any drugs that, for any length of time, impair cognition so much as to impair one’s ability to reflect on the morality of one’s actions strip their users of their humanity.

From our perspective, accurately perceiving one’s circumstances, deliberating on one’s actions, and cultivating virtuous habits is the very basis of morality. In order to live a good life, one must constantly navigate a social, political, and physical environment with constantly changing terrain and full of delicate intricacies. This navigation—the conversation, perception, and willpower that comprise the life of the individual—is the basis for all human virtue and, indeed, a constitutive part of human flourishing. This leads us to an inevitable conclusion: sobriety is necessary for morality. Without some conception of sobriety, it is impossible to distinguish between accurate and impaired perception, between rationality and irrationality. Additionally, the desire to impair, rather than cultivate, one’s ability to reason rightly about the world and about oneself, is a vicious desire. It is to prefer immediate pleasure to true satisfaction. But what exactly is the pleasure that recreational drugs provide? Again, according to Craig:

The drug creates a temporary Nozickean experience machine that simply generates good feelings and/or false experiences. To take joy in what is not real, to intentionally seek out false pleasures is to give up one of the most important parts of being human, the ability to experience what is real. To seek out false pleasures is to lie to oneself, to decide that the real person one is or wishes to be is not good enough, not even potentially good enough. It is to hide in the sand and willfully ignore all the possibilities of the entire universe in favor of lies and smokescreens. Perhaps most terribly, it is to choose the illusion over the dream.

It doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that the social problems that attend to the drug culture are in some way related to the abdication of responsibility and impaired reasoning that characterize recreational drug use. The extent to which that is the case should inform the urgency with which we challenge the drug culture, but it is not the primary concern. What is of primary concern is the health and well-being of the individual actor, which we contend are better served by a sober lifestyle.

While it may be the case that recreational drug use is in fact based upon a preference for illusion, that is to say, it is self-deceit, there are surely reasons that people have such a preference. The motivations for recreational drug use range from social anxiety and insecurity to self-hatred and alienation. It is important that we understand these motivations and not arrogate to ourselves the ability or the right to speak for others on their own experiences. If sobriety is to be meaningful, it should be based upon a desire for personal liberation. Radical sobriety, and teetotalism, should have nothing to do with purity and everything to do with autonomy and empowerment. As such, we should encourage sobriety among our friends as part of a larger project of supporting and empowering them to live well. This also means that advocates of ethical sobriety should commit themselves to larger projects for liberation—after all, the prison isn’t just in our mind.

Not All Drug Use Involves Impaired Rationality

One common objection to radical sobriety is that it arbitrarily “bans” the use of certain substances while allowing for the use of others. This is complicated by the Drug War, which has more or less done exactly that (or perhaps not so arbitrarily, depending on the motives one attributes to the relevant political figures). This kind of objection typically evolves into another common objection, namely, that what constitutes “sobriety” is not clear—or, even more dangerously, that “sobriety” as a concept doesn’t even make sense. For this reason, I’ll focus on that objection. Before I address that, I should note that ethical sobriety does not entail “banning” or “limiting” one’s choices any more than a concern for righteousness “limits” one’s ability to dominate others and use them for the satisfaction of one’s own desires at their expense. Sobriety rightly conceived should not be puritanical, nor motivated by submission to some external authority—God, the state, one’s parents, etc.—but by personal liberation from inebriation and self-destructive hedonism. This is a delicate point, but it is an important one.

The Meaning of Sobriety

I will say upfront that I have not engaged with relevant neuroscientific and psychopharmacological literature. While those fields are certainly relevant for ironing out the details of this position, I do not think it is necessary to appeal to them to reach a robust commitment to sobriety as an ideal. Minimally, I feel confident taking the position that substances and activities affect one’s rational capacity differently in different circumstances—sometimes impairing, and sometimes strengthening, rationality.

The implication of this assumption is that sobriety may not be clearly defined, but it is not meaningless. If we orient our actions around the cultivation of rationality and sobriety, we will at least have a framework for navigating the realm of substance use. And to be clear, it’s not just substances that concern us. It’s important to consider the way that all kinds of things influence our ability to reason. Some suggested problem areas are romantic and familial love/passionsleep deprivationfurysocial isolationin-group bias, etc. The important thing is that we approach these issues, and substance use, from the perspective of wishing to see and appreciate the world as it really is, to dispense with illusions and overcome irrational emotions and prejudices. The way to do this is to cultivate good habits, which empower one to act virtuously with limited time to deliberate in the moment, and more specifically, to abstain from the recreational (as opposed to medicinal—context and motive are key) use of mind-altering substances which provide illusory pleasure or hinder one’s reasoning ability.

A brief note: it might be objected that our argument paints an unfair picture of recreational drug use. It is certainly the case that many instances of recreational drug use do not involve severe crimes or injustices. There are plenty of people who drink and do not lash out violently or recklessly endanger others. In fact, it is possible to conceive of plenty of bounded scenarios in which one has “taken precautions” to prevent just that kind of trouble. While this should temper our approach to the issue of recreational drug use—how we ought to interact with people in a drug culture and confront intoxication could warrant a post all to itself—it doesn’t touch the central thesis, that recreational drug use is vicious, and not conducive to human flourishing. It’s not merely about whether or not one’s drug use harms others; it’s about whether or not it harms oneself, in terms of one’s own life and eudaimonia.

Keeping Your Head Above the Surface

To wrap things up, it’s worth addressing an important question. While radical sobriety should remain a threat to the drug culture and all systems of confinement, we should still take proportionality, compassion, prudence, and charity into account in our response to the drug culture. Our abstinence is not motivated by smug self-righteousness or social mobility. It’s not to put others down, but to raise ourselves up and bring others with us. This is a common refrain for champions of various moral causes, but to take it seriously means to present our position when it is timely, not to force unnecessary confrontations; It means interpreting our critics with charity, and being considerate of the circumstances of those who choose to use drugs recreationally. Of course, we should never shy away from our convictions, but it is best to remain conversational. After all, part of what we seek to empower through sobriety is our uniquely human capacity for reasoning, and there is a very significant social element to our reasoning. In general, we don’t need to organize massive campaigns through which we condescend to pull others out of the hell of alcoholism and vice. Sobriety is first and foremost about self-help, and the cultivation of one’s own character; through our thoughtful and lucid engagement with others, we will uphold discourse and right-reasoning.


 

Addendum: A Second Look at Our Premises (Sobriety as a Virtue)

Sobriety is proper consideration for the process of right-reasoning and the habits of thought, intellectual practices, and trained prejudices that constitute the ‘vital organs’ of that process.

The reason that specifically recreational drug use can be said to ‘take rationality not as a good,’ is because it is, in practice, not properly considerate of the process of right-reasoning (which is at the heart of intelligent living, or rationality). In seeking to subvert the vital organs of right-reasoning for sensory pleasure, it performatively degrades rationality.

What happens when one uses drugs recreationally is that the ‘bigger picture’ of the good is obscured, either through disorientation—where sensory pleasures take up one’s attention from other features of the good—or through a disabling of one’s “rational faculties,” or the necessary pillars of right-reasoning—grounding in personal history, deep understanding of interpersonal relationships, inarticulable body of knowledge, prejudices and presuppositions, sophisticated, interpretive “mind-reading” capacities, ‘passing’ theories,’ and so on—and this impoverishes one’s ability to really find fulfillment through intelligent, rational, reasoned living.

 

Gun Control: Race, Gender, Class, and Liberty


Following the tragic event at Umpqua Community College, where a 26-year-old gunman opened fire in a classroom leaving 10 people killed and another 7 injured, it is understandable that U.S. gun culture and state gun control are fresh on people’s minds.

When moving forward after events like this, I believe it’s important to avoid reactive measures that could potentially have even greater consequences than the tragedies themselves (ex. War on Drugs, PATRIOT Act, etc.). What follows is a selection of articles over the years from across the political spectrum that touch on the usually ignored topic of gun control and discrimination in its many forms.*

gun2

The Secret History of Guns by Adam Winker

Gun Rights Benefited Black Americans During the Civil Rights Movement and Still Do by Sheldon Richman

A Socialist Take on Gun Violence, State Violence, and Workers’ Right to Self-Defense by Monica Hill

Yes, Please by Charles W. Johnson

Gun Control, Surveillance and Trans Resistance by Dean Spade

Seen and Unseen by Rodrick Long

Gun Control: A Left Libertarian Critique by Nathan Goodman

Is There a Right to Own a Gun? by Michael Huemer

The Panthers Were Right and Reagan Was Wrong on Gun Control by Anthony Gregory

An Anarchist Case Against Gun Control by Chris Cararra

Shaneen Allen, Race and Gun Control by Radley Balko

Gun Control, Mental Illness, and Black Trans and Lesbian Survival by Gabriel Arkles

Arm the Mentally Ill by Kelly Vee

The Rifle on the Wall: A Left Argument for Gun Rights by The Polemicist

How Gun Control Hurts Minorities by Nathan Goodman & Meg Arnold

The Social Justice Case for Preserving the Second Amendment by Liz Wolfe

A (Brief) People’s History of Gun Control by Kevin Carson

In The Wake of Orlando, Gays Should Arm Themselves: Otherwise…We’re Sitting Ducks by Tom Palmer

Gun Control’s Racist Reality: The Liberal Argument Against Giving Police More Power by Alex Gourevitch

The History of LGBT Gun-Rights Litigation by David Kopel

Feel free to comment with additional material I may have missed relating to these topics.

*Note: This is NOT meant to be a case for or against certain measures of gun control. This is meant to shed light on specific factors that are usually absent from this discussion. 

Ban The Bomb

Today is the 70th anniversary of the greatest terror attack in history. While Truman’s decision to murder a quarter of a million people is still debated by millions of Americans every August, as libertarians concerned with peace and individual freedom, our position is obvious and ought to be made explicit:

Mass murder is wrong when carried out to make political statements.

Mass murder is wrong when carried out to intimidate others.

Mass murder is wrong when carried out to save other lives.

Mass murder is wrong when carried out to [insert any English phrase here].

Mass murder is wrong. Period. 

Murray Rothbard explained the libertarian view of nuclear bombs over 50 years ago,

For just as murder is a more heinous crime against another man than larceny, so mass murder—indeed murder so widespread as to threaten human civilization and human survival itself—is the worst crime that any man could possibly commit. And that crime is now imminent. And the forestalling of massive annihilation is far more important, in truth, than the demunicipalization of garbage disposal, as worthwhile as that may be. Or are libertarians going to wax properly indignant about price control or the income tax, and yet shrug their shoulders at or even positively advocate the ultimate crime of mass murder?

So say it with me, libertarians. Ban the bomb. 

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Albert Camus’s Common-Sense Case for Pacifism

In Neither Victims Nor ExecutionersAlbert Camus presents an interesting framework by which we can view the relationship between war, innocent civilians, and the moral responsibility of those who advocate war. He starts off with the presumption that war involves the death of innocent civilians. He’s right. He then asks what this brute fact says about individuals who advocate war. Professor Thom Brooks boils down his argument to this:

If we are willing to support military action against others knowing some civilians will be liable to be killed, then we should hold ourselves up as potential civilians to be killed by our opponents. If we choose to put other innocents at risk of death, then we must have the integrity to put ourselves at risk, too.

Camus’s point is pretty straight forward and common sensical. To advocate war is to advocate the death of innocent civilians. As innocent civilians ourselves, on what grounds do we justify the execution of people who are in no different of a situation than us? And if we do advocate the murder of people in no different of a situation than us, then on what grounds could we support  our own exemption from an enemy’s attacks?

Camus closes his book with a potential solution: “The only honorable course will be to stake everything on the formidable gamble, that words are more powerful than munitions.” He may be right.

The Hayekianism of Hayek’s Anti-Hayekianism

My friend, colleague, and fellow Circle member, Grayson English, recently shared this quote on Facebook:

Utopia, like ideology, is a bad word today; and it is true that most utopias aim at radically redesigning society and suffer from internal contradictions which make their realization impossible. But an ideal picture of a society which may not be wholly achievable, or a guiding conception of the overall order to be aimed at, is nevertheless not only the indispensable precondition of any rational policy, but also the chief contribution that science can make to the solution of the problems of practical policy.

While the notion of “ideal pictures of a society” seems to run afoul of Constructivist Rationalism that Hayek so loathed, I believe he correctly acknowledged their usefulness as a “guiding conception of the overall order to be aimed.” It seems like there’s simply no way to express preference for one policy or law over another without the use of ideals; some hypothetical reference that can be viewed as both an unrealistic (at least in the near future) goal, but nonetheless a goal worth striving towards right now.

After all, to judge any political measure requires some standard to judge the expected outcome of that measure against and so we can see how the real world efforts match up to our hypothetical Utopia. Appealing to independent notions of what makes a given policy, law, or effort just is, therefore, required to do any political theorizing at all. For example, one standard (or Utopia) that we can use to determine the justification/efficacy of a given law is Natural Law. By appealing to principles of natural justice, we can ground our conceptions of what counts as a just law, or more broadly, a just government (if there is such a thing*) and then judge different policies and proposals in terms of how well they match up to Natural Law.

Now I’m not saying this was Hayek’s view. But I am saying it doesn’t seem incompatible with his view. It certainly doesn’t follow that appealing to principles of natural justice commits one to the kind of “rationalistic pseudo-individualism” that Hayek accused the French and Continental writers of.

Consider the following remark that Hayek makes in Two Types of Individualism, “the fundamental attitude of true individualism is one of humility toward the processes by which mankind has achieved things which have not been designed or understood by any individual and are indeed greater than individual minds.” Does valuing humility in this sense entail taking some sort of deference to undesigned orders? Only if Hayek’s “Utopia” and humility are mutually exclusive. But I see no reason to think that’s true.

One’s vision for society; one’s independent justifications for a given policy mustn’t lack humility (otherwise we find ourselves caught in Hayek’s collectivist Rationalism). But we can incorporate concerns for humility regarding the spontaneous orders of society into our “Utopias.” In fact, I would argue that is what Hayek himself did (though I think many of his policy proposals actually fail the test, but that’s an argument for another day).

Remember that not all spontaneous orders are just by our usual standards of fairness and equity. Opposing unjust orders, even spontaneous ones, need not be guilty of lacking the humility that Hayek stressed. One can acknowledge the limits of one’s own mind in the grand scheme of a complex society and also reasonably believe a given order is unjust by independent standards of justice. While those independent standards need to be tempered by Hayekian Humility, they still need to be independent, lest they fail to be actual justifications and not mere question-begging. Otherwise, we couldn’t even express preferences and judgements about policies. We would have no ground to stand on without our Utopias. But our Utopias, themselves, need to account for humility in order to be more than mere good intentions.

Hayek realized, more than anyone, the need to acknowledge the limits to one’s own mind and comprehensive powers. But he also realized political philosophy is nothing of the sort without independent standards for justification, which can themselves be continually refined and changed in light of new information and so, held with a sense of Hayekan Humility. While our “Utopias” are constrained by concerns for humility, they are, themselves, presuppositions of any political debate at all. We need them just as much as we need to grasp the notion of undesigned orders generally.

* There isn’t.