Freedom quest of Zork (the) Hun

The cost of free is freedom

The poverty of liberty


Although Libertarianism as a political ideology have more serious challenges than this one, the following exchange of comments perfectly illustrates the one I consider the most wide-spread, something that I would call “the complacency of righteousness.”

In a previous post I made an attempt to offer an alternative approach to look at class. I did it to start a conversation, a way to start us, libertarians, moving from high ideals to the land of political realities. The conversation didn’t happen. What I had was this exchange:

DND:
The Political, Distributor, Ideological, Productive, Collaborator, Entitlement, Subsidized and the Dependent classes according to this theory. Well, I think that I fit in every class.

ZGH:
..but the question is:

Do you disagree with the classification? If so do you have a better one? Are you happier with the statistical or the sociological approaches? Do you NOT agree that we need a better approach?

DND:
I only have 3 simple classes as I see people. Prosumers, Looters & Moochers. You Sir, are a Prosumer. You are Producing and consuming your own wealth. Looters & Moochers don’t produce but only consume.

Translated to simple English this means: we are the good guys, they are the bad guys. The road to individual and collective salvations is if the bad guys stop being bad guys and finally recognize that we, the good guys, were right all along.

Shaded, nuanced approach and understanding is not necessary. Who cares why the bad guys are bad? Isn’t it enough to know that they are? We can’t change them, they have to change themselves. If they come to us, we can explain to them how bad and how wrong they are.

This may be the most typical Libertarian attitude. It is a lazy attitude. The moment we make our position clear, we can stop thinking. We can stop trying to understand what motivates people, how to work on convincing them. Repeating the mantra over beer in a pub surrounded by the likeminded is easier than facing the questions of our apparent failures.

This also represents a fundamentally defeatist attitude. Libertarians know very well how little a chance they have in the political arena. Dismissing everybody who disagrees with us by simply concluding that they are wrong and we are right is a comfy emotional cushion.

I could also say that in a way it is a Marxist like attitude. In this world view we just have a different but equally easy to identify set of bad guys taking the money and our freedoms away from us, and oppressing us in all sort of evil ways.
Unlike the Marxists, however, we are good and we are not going to plot bloody revolutions, we just wait until the system rots to its core and collapses and then we are going to tell those who didn’t listen to us: we told you so! Now let’s do it right!

Let me state this very clearly:
Libertarians are right! Liberty produces more wealth, morality and happiness than any other social organization. I know that, you know that, we know that. We have logic, morality, common sense, evidence on our side. EVERYTHING, except the mind of the masses.
Shouldn’t we try to understand why?

The question we have to start thinking about is not how right we are but about how to get our message across, how to get ourselves heard, how to get the rest of the world see the light.

We have to stop the righteous masturbation and start figuring out how we could make the world of freedom we envision happen. The first step on that road is trying to understand why it is not happening on its own. Why are there so few people who can see the logic, understand the morality and examine the evidence?

Why is Marxism more appealing today than libertarianism? Simply demonizing the Marxists, no matter how much they deserve it, will NOT answer the question. Now replace the word Marxists with socialists, statists, conservatives, progressives or Democrats and you get the same: no answer.

I believe that only a very few people are inherently bad (socio- and psychopaths).
I believe that even the unscrupulously selfish represent only a small percentage of the population and even most of those are just responding to the perverse incentives of the systems they are operating in.

I believe that people in general are not bad. We all are a little selfish, a little opportunistic, a little lazy to think, susceptible to superstition, blind faith and propaganda, have an enormous capacity for self-deception and self-justification and we are all prone to respond to incentives good and bad.

BUT: I also believe that the majority of the people, those who think about policy, honestly believe that the policies, causes and parties they support will make the world a better place. Most are wrong, but not evil.

The “moochers and the looters” are not the enemy. The system that creates them is. Our enemy is the system of bad incentives and the human weaknesses responding to it. The “moochers and the looters” are what they are, do what they do for a simple reason: because they can.

In order to create sensible policies – as opposed to just waiting for the world to collapse so that we can start anew – we need to understand how the incentives work, what are the interests of the people who created them and how we can demonstrate their bad effects not only to those who pay for it, but even to those who are benefiting from it.

Giving a new definition to political classes through looking at their interests and motivations is a start.
Dismissing the effort is puzzling.

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4 responses to “The poverty of liberty

  1. Oresztesz March 28, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    I think you have read, investigated and thought about the issue so much that you have forgotten about the social dynamics of how the system gets created. In the current democracies, your say is the complete equivalent of that of a working mother who has absolutely no time to think about these things, the hard physical worker who only has discussions of this kind over a few (maybe quite a few) beers, the sociopath, the just turned 18 knows little bu thinks he knows all and can vote, and principally, that of the masses, that (at least here in Mexico) care so little (or think they are in such great need) that will even sell their votes for 20 bucks’ worth of groceries.
    The biggest issue here is that the biggest say is in the hands of those too occupied and uninterested to make an educated decision. Educating them is of no fast enough benefit to any current system, making more time for them is not possible nor is the responsability of anyone besides themselves. The only information that gets through to them is invasive (propaganda or advertisements) thus has to be paid for. There is an option! Educational propaganda! Who will invest in that?
    You could say let’s everybody do our part like you and raise consciousness. Yet even I am only reading and answering this because I decided to take easter thursday off at my business, and happen to not yet have the kids at home. And I’m your son. For me to start convincing others I’d have to go a lot deeper into these issues than what my selfish priorities leave me time for.
    My point? There is none. This is just my justification of lazyness.
    Answers? Maybe aim for a much more efficient civic duties education? Everybody chip in? Live by these values? It just seems so much work with so little and late payoff. Just thinking about how much of your time goes into this makes me tired…

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    • zorkthehun April 3, 2013 at 3:20 am

      Well, Oreszt, that’s what I do: read, investigate, think and write. I have not forgotten the dynamics and I do not have unrealistic hopes and expectations. I know that the odds are not on the side of liberty.
      I do what I do because I think it has to be done. There cannot be too many voices for reason. As long as I am understood, as long as I am heard, as long as at least some of my points will resonate in any mind, I am happy. I hope to create memes. Ideas, stories, examples, arguments that you may pass along. Not because you have to, but because you can. You don’t have to try to convince anybody, but if a subject comes up in a conversation, you may use my point to make yours. If I write something about Spain, you may send the link to Szilvia (if she is still there) If I write about Hungary, you may share it with a friend. I am not asking or expecting you, but that is the idea. If you like anything, it should be shared.
      Mine is just another voice. The only chance of freedom is to have the voice of reason louder than the the voice of stupidity and wishful thinking.
      The point of this post was not to address general complacency, but the particular complacency of Libertarians, the people who want to be politically active to express their believes, but not serious enough to do some serious thinking about the ways to make their (our) ideas to work.
      All I would expect from any of my readers is to let me know what they think. Rating, sharing, propagating.
      Don’t worry about my time. I am enjoying it. You think it is wasted?

      Like

      • Oresztesz April 8, 2013 at 5:48 am

        Not wasted certainly, I for one am enjoying it very much! I have learned a lot from the few books I did go through, and your posts. I don’t pretend to comment on many of them since your information is the forst one, I have few counterarguments. I gained a lot from your blog, and I have recommended it, although I don’t spend more than 5 minutes on social media per month. And I like the straightforward style and the complete information. (Maybe if you lashed out more gently at people they would allow themselves to be more open to your point of view and encourage more comments.)
        I do think in a rather defeatist way about saving the world. Maybe voting age should be raised to the retirement age when people actually have time to think and be informed? I don’t know.
        At the same time I am doing similar work as you do, getting people straightened out in their therapies… making the world a better place one person at a time…

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  2. Wendy Kadonoff April 3, 2013 at 11:51 am

    It is not hopeless. Many will come to liberty. It will take time, we do know that. The indoctrinated ones will fight tooth and nail. Fight for their survival by throwing back all the ammunition him/her has. It all comes down to discovering the reasons behind their choice(s). I just know that we can presuade others to our idealogy through interpersonal communication and politness. If one has been brainwashed in the tank over several decades then it is possible for one to be rid of that brainwashing and see the light in the company of fellow libertarians. I already know that our party will come out the winner in the end.

    Like

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