Subsidiarity and the outline of your next novel

Noah Smith’s post, “The liberty of local bullies,” does a good job describing the inadequacy of contemporary libertarian ideology.

The modern American libertarian ideology does not deal with the issue of local bullies. In the world envisioned by Nozick, Hayek, Rand, and other foundational thinkers of the movement, there are only two levels to society — the government (the “big bully”) and the individual. If your freedom is not being taken away by the biggest bully that exists, your freedom is not being taken away at all.

Smith recognizes that this ideology ignores the obvious reality of our world. It’s view of society is far too thin and constricted. There’s far more to society than just the individual and The State. Society also includes, for example: “… a large variety of intermediate powers like work bosses, neighborhood associations, self-organized ethnic movements, organized religions, tough violent men, or social conventions.”

All true. But Smith’s list is too short and is too much shaped by the other inadequacy of that libertarian ideology, which is its tendency to treat anything other than the individual almost exclusively in negative terms — as a “bully” limiting or restraining the freedom of individuals. (I don’t think this is what Smith means to argue, but his critique of libertarian ideology here  winds up adopting the shape of his subject.)

All of these intermediate “powers” — to use that oddly Pauline termcan be bullies, or can become bullies, but that is not their only or their proper or their primary function in our society or in our lives. We are not all and always Stephen Dedalus — the romantic, heroic individual struggling against kinships, institutions, traditions and all the other bonds that serve only to keep us in bondage. These powers and principalities do not function exclusively as “bullies.”

Just consider the first of Smith’s examples — “work bosses.” Like about 14 million other Americans at this point, I do not have a boss right now because I do not have a job. I do not regard this as a form of liberation, as a welcome enhancement of my individual liberty. To be unfettered from employment does not make me more free, but less so.

If we’re going to get anywhere addressing problems like the jobs crisis that has left millions of us unemployed, then our solutions have to be based on society as it actually is, rather than on some theoretical model that fails to account for the actual world. It won’t do to follow a model that is unable to acknowledge the existence of anything other than the individual and The State. Nor will it do to follow a model that is unable to conceive of institutions, relationships, associations and governments as anything other than “bullies.”

A better model of society is one that can recognize the existence of a vast and multilayered network of such institutions, relationships, agencies, associations and governments, identifying the complementary role each has to play and their mutual responsibilities.

Let’s first consider “the big bully” of The State, which isn’t really the massive, monolithic, centralized “The State” at all. Government encompasses a vast variety of actors large and small that we relate to and rely on in a multitude of ways. Each of us lives in a network of levels of government, with each level in turn differentiated with various agencies, services, bureaucracies, offices, officers, regulators, responders, police, courts, councils, legislatures, schools, libraries, etc. Treating them all as a single, undifferentiated entity takes away our ability to think about what each should or shouldn’t be doing. And determining beforehand that they are all just “bullies” or a single “big bully” begs the question — mistaking a presumption for a conclusion.

As vast and various as all those aspects of government are, put them all together and they’re still dwarfed by multitude of non-state, non-individual entities that make up our world: families, friendships, clubs, teams, bands, troupes, affinity groups, congregations, denominations, businesses, banks, exchanges, markets, unions, neighborhoods, theaters, leagues, societies, charities, associations, etc.

This is the point at which I usually begin to talk about “subsidiarity” or about the “inescapable network of mutuality” or, since I already mentioned the jobs crisis here, about “direct” and “indirect” employers.

But instead let’s just talk about stories. Let’s talk about the outline of your next novel.

Look again at that list of entities above — families, friendships, etc. Any one of those might, at some point, come to function as a “bully” in the life of an individual. In doing so, it would be betraying its intended purpose and function, but any single one of those entities so corrupted could turn a person’s life into a hell.

So instead of using that list above as the starting point for another lecture on subsidiarity, let’s instead think of it as a novel-generating machine. Pick one item from the list. Twist it into a bully. Voila! There’s your next novel.

If you like, you can pick more than one item from the list and turn several of these entities into bullies in the life of your protagonist. But don’t overdo it — don’t use all of them.

If you portray all of them as bullies then your readers will begin to suspect that the problem doesn’t lie with the rest of the world, but with your protagonist. Also, how would you resolve such a story? If, for example, the story is one in which the hero’s family has become a bully, then you can resolve the story by having her liberate herself from that bully. But you can’t have a hero who liberates himself from that entire list.

If your story ends with your hero saying, “I am not bound by and do not care about my family, my friends, or any clubs, teams, bands, troupes, affinity groups, congregations, denominations, banks, businesses, exchanges, markets, unions, neighborhoods, theaters, leagues, societies, charities or associations,” then your hero won’t turn out to be much of a hero at all.

He’ll just be a libertarian and, well, kind of a jerk.

Stay in touch with the Slacktivist on Facebook:

'We must love one another or die'
First responders and guns (cont'd.)
Subsidiarity: 'Policing was never meant to solve all those problems'
Love > tolerance; but (love - tolerance - subsidiarity) < love
  • Jenny Islander

    THANK YOU FOR THIS.  I have struggled for a long time to articulate what bugs me about the anarcho-libertarian setup in Michael Z. Williamson’s Freehold Series and this is exactly it.  Everybody is just so darn nice all the time!  Yes, he has villains from Freehold itself, but the overal society has somehow not let anybody take advantage of their complete freedom to be jackholes.  Nobody has created a Wal-Mart* or a private army of thugs.  Nobody even has to deal with a bigger stronger meaner neighbor doing whatever he likes because he has frightened everyone separately.

    *The closest he comes to explaiing this is saying that the retail economy of Freehold consists of small businesses because “we like it that way.” 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I have struggled for a long time to articulate what bugs me about the anarcho-libertarian setup in Michael Z. Williamson’s Freehold Series and this is exactly it.  Everybody is just so darn nice all the time!  Yes, he has villains from Freehold itself, but the overal society has somehow not let anybody take advantage of their complete freedom to be jackholes.  Nobody has created a Wal-Mart* or a private army of thugs.  Nobody even has to deal with a bigger stronger meaner neighbor doing whatever he likes because he has frightened everyone separately.

    Sounds like another entry for the Mary Sue-topia page on TvTropes.  

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I had a post that I wrote out here, but I did not want to start the thread out on a morbid note, fearing that would color the rest of the conversation.  

  • http://profiles.google.com/cappadocius Ian Cunningham

    There was a time when someone, like myself, who believed in the virtues of civil society and wanted just enough government to keep from being enslaved or murdered by someone more sociopathic than me and to put my house out if it catches on fire, because my neighbors sure as fuck aren’t going to do it, someone who didn’t believe in corporate personhood, but did believe in letting people do stupid things to themselves if they really wanted to, and who primarily just wants to left the fuck alone until I ASK for help could stand up and proudly call himself a libertarian.

    And then people who just wanted to hate people with different colored skin and people who make tens of millions of dollars a year and it *still isn’t enough for them* started calling themselves libertarians. And now, these people who are not libertarians but are bigots and psychopaths have co-opted the term, and those of us who don’t mind a few peace-keepers but do mind armed thugs getting away with murder because they have a badge, we’re left either getting lumped in with these human monsters calling themselves libertarians, or we can sigh and keep our heads down and mumble something non-committal every election year because there aren’t any good choices for us.

    It’s sad and it’s frustrating, but on the bright side, at least I’m not in any foreseeable danger of being “disappeared” for having an unpopular political viewpoint.

  • http://johnm55.wordpress.com/ johnm55

    Actually, what modern libertarian ideology boils down to is “I don’t want to pay my taxes.”

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Actually, what modern libertarian ideology boils down to is “I don’t want to pay my taxes.”

    Or as they like to put it, “Taxation is an inherently coercive and immoral thing!”  

    My attempts to explain that taxation only works if it is compulsory because some people are just selfish enough to not contribute anything seem to fall on deaf ears.  

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NR2MMC4EJXJWJMLH6IF457XL64 Alex B

    It’s the same reason that preventing insurance companies from turning down sick people REQUIRES mandatory coverage. Too many would just wait until they were sick to apply for coverage.

  • fraser

    What annoys me are the claims taxation is slavery. I’ve pointed out in other venues that it ain’t so: If you come up with an arrangement where all your income is nontaxable, or you stop work and move in with your kids, the government will not send enforcers around to demand you start generating taxable income. It’s the equivalent of a 15-year-old’s whine: “Take out the garbage? That’s SLAVERY!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    “Actually, what modern libertarian ideology boils down to is ‘I don’t want to pay my taxes.'” And yet they still expect the police, fire department, etc. to show up when needed…to throw their own phrase back at them: There Aint’ No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    They expect such services to be paid for entirely through a process of voluntary donations.  

    I think that their view of people’s sense of charity is rather naive.  

  • Lori

    They expect such services to be paid for entirely through a process of voluntary donations.  

    I think that their view of people’s sense of charity is rather naive.

    I’ve never met a Libertarian who expected services like police, fire and roads to be paid for with voluntary donations. They expect them to be fee-for-service. You pay, or you don’t get the service. Charity enters in only to the extent that they believe someone will pay for those who can’t pay for themselves, rather than watch them die. Any such gifts must be voluntary and not compelled “at the point of a gun” by the state. If there aren’t enough gifts to meet need then it’s sad, but still not a reason for the productive to tolerate compulsory giving.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I’ve never met a Libertarian who expected services like police, fire and roads to be paid for with voluntary donations. They expect them to be 
    fee-for-service. You pay, or you don’t get the service. Charity enters 
    in only to the extent that they believe someone will pay for those who 
    can’t pay for themselves, rather than watch them die. Any such gifts must be voluntary and not compelled “at the point of a gun” by the state. If there aren’t enough gifts to meet need then it’s sad, but still not a reason for the productive to tolerate compulsory giving.

    Well, it usually gets to that point when I tell a libertarian that I am conversing with that I actually like paying taxes, I make use of a lot of services that come directly from or are subsidized by tax money (particularly roads and public transportation,) and that given the chance I would gladly pay more taxes in exchange for more reliable and affordable services.  

    It is at that point that they usually placate me by applauding my generosity and saying that voluntarily giving money to the governing body is something people should be encouraged to do, but not something that should be mandatory and enforced.  

    Then they make some parting quip about how the private sector can do it better anyway.  :p

  • Anonymous

    I’m not a libertarian.  But I do know enough to realize that the ideology is a lot more than just about paying taxes. You may be surprised to learn that the positions of libertarians in general are similar to the positions of most liberals on such issues as legalization of drugs, same-sex marriage, and immigration reform, to name just a few.  I’m sure there are similarities in some foreign policy matters.

    Oh, and libertarians would surely find the use of the possessive pronoun in your summary of their philosophy — “I don’t want to pay my taxes” — to be highly ironic.

  • hapax

    I’m not a libertarian.  But I do know enough to realize that the ideology is a lot more than just about paying taxes

    True enough.  Most of the libertarians I know are also quite passionate about being allowed to drink (or do drugs) and drive, ignore traffic laws, destroy common property, and refuse to pick up after themselves.

    They also tend to be big fans of “not being PC”  — in other words, they find their ability to be hurtful, offensive, and rude to be a heroic, nay obligatory, duty.

    A lot of libertarians do pay lip service to allowing full human rights to QUILTBAG people, ethnic and religious minorities, and immigrants.  However, they tend to frame it in term of removing “oppressive” political legal protections (such as anti-discrimination laws, privacy laws, labor laws, marriage laws, etc) from EVERYBODY, on the theory that this will somehow will allow outnumbered and vulnerable people to a fairer shake at equal treatment.

    Or, like Ron Paul, when it actually comes to *vote* for abortion rights, immigration reform, marriage equality, etc., their vaunted political consistency goes out the window, in the name of “protecting conscience” or even mere expediency.

  • Anonymous

    Most of the libertarians I know are also quite passionate about being allowed to drink (or do drugs) and drive, ignore traffic laws, destroy common property, and refuse to pick up after themselves.

    Clearly the libertarians whom you know are quite different from the libertarians whom I know.

  • Kish

    Not surprising; I would be amazed to learn that you have any common acquaintances with those of us on Earth, aunursa.

  • Anonymous

    Not surprising; I would be amazed to learn that you have any common acquaintances with those of us on Earth, aunursa.

    Aww, that’s sweet.  I like you, too.

  • Lori

    Aww, that’s sweet.  I like you, too.

    Aww, so you do keep reading the threads after you drop your ignorant political bombs. You just don’t respond when people call you on your crap because….

    Because you’re just being a jerk? Because you’re brave enough to make false statements about people, but not brave enough to actually discuss issues? What?

  • Anonymous

    That seems unnecessary.

    (I should probably elaborate. I’m sure aunursa has said things in the past that pissed people off, upset people, whatever. But it seems like every time he comments, he gets several rude, angry responses – no matter what the subject is, no matter how polite or matter-of-fact or on-topic his initial post is. I’m not saying all slates should be wiped clean forever– I’ve never been upset by him, so forgiveness is hardly mine to offer, here. But seriously, I have never seen him say anything, or possibly anyone other than our occasional soul-shriveled trolls, say anything around here that calls for an immediate and harsh dismissal of all comments. It’s really, really off-putting. This has been bothering me for a while, but here it’s just sort of popped out at me. Can we maybe disagree civilly without getting into vendettas at each other?)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    This should explain it all as far as I’m concerned, being aware that I used to use the handle “Pius Thicknesse” before I decided to change to something more quantum mechanical. (See from about page 9 onwards)

    I and other QUILTBAG people have yet to receive an apology for the straight privileged dismissiveness exhibited by aunursa in that thread. I have finally been fed up enough that I have *PLONK*ed him, because of that and other behavior since.

  • Anonymous

    I invite everyone to read this post and the second comment.  And then let me know

    (1) whether it’s possible that someone who is sensitive to discrimination against a group can mistakenly interpret a comment in a discussion (real or fictional) as hostile, and

    (2) in particular, whether or not two people can reasonably disagree about the intent of a fictional character when the alleged intent is not explicitly stated.

  • Kish

    Ooh, watch the goalposts sail.

    You didn’t say “I disagree.” You said, “You’re reaching,” and then, “Like it or not, you’re reaching.” That’s not reasonable disagreement by any stretch.

    This is truly perplexing.  If I don’t respond to hostile comments, then
    I’m “not brave enough to discuss issues.”  On the other hand, if I do
    respond and continue to respond, then I’m guilty of making
    multiple “rude, inaccurate and/or completely illogical statements,
    especially about politics”.  Now I am to understand that if I explain
    myself and seek to burn straw men and correct misconceptions about my
    position, then I’m “playing the misunderstood victim”?

    Yes.

    Understand, that’s not at all the same as saying “anyone who doesn’t respond to hostile comments isn’t brave enough to discuss issues,” “anyone who does respond to hostile comments is guilty of making multiple rude, inaccurate and/or completely illogical statements,” and/or “anyone who tries to explain himself/herself is playing the misunderstood victim.” It’s a series of statements about your personal style: you, aunursa, seem to be consistently fundamentally dishonest. You provided an example in your reply to Invisible Neutrino directly before you made this comment; your dismissively telling him “you’re wrong and I’m right” is now “reasonable disagreement.”

  • Anonymous

    You provided an example in your reply to Invisible Neutrino directly before you made this comment; your dismissively telling him “you’re wrong and I’m right” is now “reasonable disagreement.”

    That’s correct: “you’re wrong and I’m right” is reasonable disagreement.  When two people disagree, it’s common that one person is right and the other person is wrong.   In that situation, I sincerely believed — and continue to believe — that my opponent was wrong and I was right.  If I believed otherwise, then I would reconsider my position.  I have frequently been told on this and many other blogs by my opponent that my opponent is right and I am wrong (often in nasty and condescending terms.)  But I haven’t made a federal case out of it.

    When someone dismisses my opinion as wrong, mistaken, or misguided, I choose to respond or not respond.  I try not to take offense as if my opponent were attacking me (unless the comment includes a personal attack.)  And I certainly wouldn’t nurse a grudge for an entire year, bringing it up on multiple occasions in discussions that have nothing to do with the original argument, and demand that my opponent apologize for dismissing my opinion.

    What is my sin?  It’s okay to disagree … for me to believe that my position is correct … but it’s not okay to express my conviction in the truth of my position?  Or is it the fact that I dared to express the corollary conviction that my opponent is mistaken?  Or is it the way that I expressed my conviction that is offensive?  I should not tell my opponent “you’re reaching” — despite the fact that I believe that my opponent is reaching?  I should self-censor my comments in order not to offend someone else’s delicate sensitivities … despite the fact that others do not feel the need nor the pressure to self-censor their own (often derogatory and condescending) statements?

  • Lori

    That’s correct: “you’re wrong and I’m right” is reasonable disagreement. 

    Not really. “I believe that my position, rather than yours, is correct
    and this is why”, followed up with reasons that are factually true and
    logically consistent is  reasonable disagreement. Simply saying “I’m right and you’re wrong” is just being a dick.

    When someone dismisses my opinion as wrong, mistaken, or misguided, I choose to respond or not respond. 

    Once again you mischaracterize the issue. People haven’t dismissed your
    opinions. They state their reasons for thinking that your opinion is
    incorrect. The usual problems involve some manner of false equivalence
    or a total failure to see anything from another person’s POV. That is
    not dismissal, it’s engagement.

    These days many people do tend to dismiss you, but that’s because you so
    rarely engage (at least outside the LB threads) that you’ve essentially
    trained people not to waste their energy.

    As for choosing to respond or not, it’s true that’s up to you. However,
    when you consistently opt not to respond when your arguments are weak
    and yet never seem to learn to stop offering weak opinions it’s not
    exactly a surprise that people have little respect for the choices that
    you make.

    What is my sin?

    See above re: being a dick.

  • Lori

    When one criticizes conservatives for statements and sins that one excuses or ignores when the same types of statements and sins are made by liberals, one isn’t guilty of hypocrisy.  Rather, one is guilty of employing a double standard.

    This may be what you think you do, but as has been pointed out to you very clearly again and again and again, it is not what you actually do. What you actually do is accuse people of double standards and hypocrisy when they are not guilt of any such thing.

    We’ve been through this cycle many times:

    -Someone criticizes a Right Wing public figure for X problematic behavior, of which s/he is guilty.

    -You chime in with an example of a Liberal doing Y. Sometimes said Liberal is guilty of doing Y and sometimes not. X and Y are virtually never equivalent things. You either pretend that they are or are unable to understand why they are not.

    -You then make some snarky attempt at a j’accuse and then disappear when people point out the flaws in your statement.

    -People understandably get annoyed with this and express their displeasure at your behavior with varying degrees of politeness or lack thereof.

  • Anonymous

    -You chime in with an example of a Liberal doing Y. Sometimes said Liberal is guilty of doing Y and sometimes not. X and Y are virtually never equivalent things. You either pretend that they are or are unable to understand why they are not.

    In your opinion X and Y are never equivalent. 

    Gosh, Lori, it’s almost as if you are telling me that you are right and I am wrong.  Because it surely cannot be the case that two people can reasonably disagree about whether X and Y are equivalent or comparable.  Can it?

    I’m perfectly willing to let the readers consider my position and my opponent’s position that then decide for themselves whether or not X and Y are equivalent.

  • Kish

    Oh, I’d be the last person to say you should refrain from expressing your views as strongly as you please.

    What is unlikely to work for you, is making condescending assertions of your views and, when you get aggressive responses, unleashing a torrent of whining and dishonest reframings of previous conflicts. As you have in this thread.

    Then again, maybe it will work for you; it has this long.

  • Anonymous

    including ‘splaining to minorities why they’re not actually oppressed when they think they are.

    I never said it.  I never implied it.  And I don’t believe it. 

    I never suggested to anyone that he or she is not actually oppressed.

    What is unlikely to work for you, is making condescending assertions of your views

    That’s the double standard.  It’s perfectly okay for others to make condescending assertions of their views — because most of the posters agree with them.  I don’t complain when others make condescending assertions.  But when someone makes sarcastic assertions that challenge their views, that’s when people complain.

  • Anonymous

    There is a fundamental difference, though. I’m as much of a snarky bastard as they come, but if I get called on something, I don’t hesitate to elaborate and, if necessary, retract my case.  I would go so far as to say that most people here do that as well. On the other hand, you post some glib remark that makes you look like you inhabit the same right-wing fantasy world Chuck Asay does, and then you get out of Dodge.

    If you learn only one thing from this discussion, make it this: if you aren’t willing to explain why you have an opinion, the default notion is “I’m right because I say so.”  And as the skeptical investor said to the inventor of the feces-powered helicopter, that shit will not fly.

  • Lori

    In your opinion X and Y are never equivalent. 

    In your case, they rarely are.

    Gosh, Lori, it’s almost as if you are telling me that you are right and I am
    wrong.  Because it surely cannot be the case that two people can reasonably disagree about whether X and Y are equivalent or comparable.  Can it?

    Equivalence actually means something. On the occasions where you have made equivalent comparisons I haven’t argued against you. When you engage in false equivalence and I bother to respond at all, I state why your comparison is not apt. Many other people have done the same. The fact that you seem to want to reduce everything to a matter of opinion vs opinion is simply another demonstration that whoever taught you to put together an argument failed you badly.

    I’m perfectly willing to let the readers consider my position and my opponent’s position and then decide for themselves whether or not X and Y are equivalent.

    They have. Quite a number of people have taken issue with the way you present yourself in non-LB threads, both in this thread and in many others. Several of those people have been far harsher with you than I have. This is not Lori vs aunursa, so don’t try to make it seem like it is.

  • Anonymous


    I invite everyone to read this post and the second comment.  And then let me know

    (1) whether it’s possible that someone who is sensitive to discrimination against a group can mistakenly interpret a comment in a discussion (real or fictional) as hostile, and 

    (2) in particular, whether or not two people can reasonably disagree about the intent of a fictional character when the alleged intent is not explicitly stated.
    It is possible for someone to be mistaken about someone else’s intent. It is also possible for two people to disagree about the intent, stated or unstated, of a fictional character.

    The thing is, though?

    INTENT IS NOT FUCKING MAGIC.

    If Verna Zee (that is who we’re talking about, yes?) interpreted Buck’s comments as ‘if you do not do this for me I will out you’, then whether Buck intended his comments to be heard as threatening IS NOT FUCKING RELEVANT, because HE MADE A HOSTILE REMARK. It’s the same as the use of the (ROT13ed) word ‘tlcfl’. It’s a slur. Any Romani and any vaguely knowledgeable non-Romani will assure you it is a slur. I have never yet encountered a use of the word where the ignorant non-Romani saying it meant it to be a slur, but that does not make the word any less of a slur.

    All that said:

    Fuck you.

  • Donalbain

    It’s the same as the use of the (ROT13ed) word ‘gypsy’. It’s a slur. Any
    Romani and any vaguely knowledgeable non-Romani will assure you it is a
    slur.

    What then of the people who refer to THEMSELVES as gypsies?

  • Anonymous

    What then of the people who refer to THEMSELVES as tlcfvrf?

    Such exist?

    If they’re Romani, or other group often called the offending word such as Irish Traveller, I cede the field. Otherwise, it rings like members of a dominant group trying to appropriate the culture of a non-dominant group and screwing up badly in more ways than one.

  • Donalbain
  • Anonymous

     Your point is made. It’s still not a word that a non-Romani person should use about a Romani person.

  • Anonymous

    If Verna Zee … interpreted Buck’s comments as ‘if you do not do this for me I will out you’, then whether Buck intended his comments to be heard as threatening IS NOT FUCKING RELEVANT, because HE MADE A HOSTILE REMARK.

    You are mistaken; when speaking of hostility, intent is everything.

    hostile

    1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of an enemy: hostile forces; hostile acts.2. Feeling or showing enmity or ill will; antagonistic: a hostile remark.3. Unfavorable to health or well-being; inhospitable or adverse
    Fuck you.

    Thanks, Ellie.  Happy New Year to you, too!

  • Anonymous

    You are mistaken; when speaking of hostility, intent is everything.

    hostile

    1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of an enemy: hostile forces; hostile acts.
    2. Feeling or showing enmity or ill will; antagonistic: a hostile remark.
    3. Unfavorable to health or well-being; inhospitable or adverse

    Let’s see here. Saying something easily interpreted as a threat: characteristic of an enemy, showing enmity (even if none exists), and being unfavorable to health and well-being. Hat trick! In conclusion, you proved my point for me.

  • Anonymous

    If my recollection is correct, Buck was condemned not for “saying something could be interpreted as a threat,” but for making a threat.  The widespread belief was that Buck intended to make a threat against Verna — not that Buck should have chosen his words more carefully, but that he intended to threaten Verna — and did threaten her –in order to keep her quiet.  I argued the contrary, that Buck did not intend to imply a threat, but that Verna mistakenly took it as such.

    I’m done explaining my position.  At our host’s current pace, we have at least a couple of years until he discusses this passage (Nicolae, p 348) in detail.  Which is fine with me.

  • Anonymous

     I argued the contrary, that Buck did not intend to imply a threat, but that Verna mistakenly took it as such.

    And I’m arguing that nobody but you gives a fuck what Buck intended, because nobody but you believes that intent is magic. Verna heard a threat. End of story.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Buck clearly wanted and needed to shut Verna up – it didn’t matter how. She saw Tsion Ben-Judah where he wasn’t supposed to be, and she was getting irritated by Loretta trying to stonewall her.

    Buck is already assuming he’ll be fired by Nicolae at some point for being a Christian and pushing, however soft-pedalled, a sectarian viewpoint contrary to the doctrine of the EBOWF*.

    to tell the truth. I don’t think I’ll have much trouble convincing Steve Plank or even Nicolae Carpathia that it appears you’re harboring Tsion Ben-Judah.”

    Chloe looked at Buck. “You think Buck would do something so royally stupid it would not only get him fired, but it would also get him killed? And you’re going to use the threat of this news to the Global Community higher-ups in exchange for what?”

    And that’s why. He needed any kind of good threat. Careful word choice had nothing to do with it.

    “I’m not. You think that little revelation was of God too?”

    “I’d sooner think it was a wild coincidence, but you never know. That tidbit may
    have saved your life.”

    And that’s Buck and Chloe believing that his threat was divinely ordained.

    Many Christians have, now and in the past, claimed that their homophobic behavior is or was divinely ordained and that QUILTBAG-person second-class status is justified on Biblical grounds.

    A fool believes L&J are of a sect with a broad-minded perspective on QUILTBAG people. A fool tries to claim that L&J are, through their literature, encouraging sympathetic treatment of QUILTBAG people.

    —-

    * This is the kind of siege-mentality stuff RTCs just love, even though a Christian fired for being Christian would, IRL, raise such a shitkicker of a fuss over it that all the fundamentalist preachers would rile their congregations up over it and by sheer weight of numbers, drown the unfortunate business in their noise machine.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    If nothing else I would say that by L&J’s definition, Verna is clearly going to be Buck’s enemy if only by virtue of the fact that she’s not a Christian, and in their binary-conflict (this is what “Manichean” means, for anyone who doesn’t know) view of how the world works, one is either with God or against God. Since Verna is a lesbian, and likely not a RTC (she was, after all, “left behind”), that makes her an enemy to Buck.

    So he is literarily written as being justified as being hostile to start towards anyone who isn’t an RTC.

  • Anonymous

    …Huh. I’m terribly sorry, I totally forgot that you were Pius Thicknesse. I’m terrible with names in general– carrying identities to cross-board names is beyond my power. But I’ll try to remember in the future.

    I do remember that thread, and being pretty furious with that dismissal. And yeah, aunursa is not always a polite and well-behaved commenter, but really neither am I, so.

    It’s just that it seems like every thread I’ve seen him comment on, he gets an automatically harsh response. He said, basically, “I’ve never known any libertarians with that philosophy,” and was told “Well, you don’t actually interact with human beings.” I should dig up more stuff, but honestly it’s late and I’m tired and I really should know better than start stuff like this.

    But it’s been bothering me for quite some time now. Being a bad debater doesn’t make you a crap person. I’ve seen him say stuff that’s kind of annoying, but the automatic jump to incivility seems unwarranted. It’s a shitty time of year for a lot of us. A lot of bad things have happened lately, I gather to quite a lot of the community; a lot of people are going through crap. Just. Can’t we cut each other some slack?

  • Rob Brown

    That reminds me of this.

    I’m not really a fan of aunursa, because he’s taken one particular position that happens to be kind of a berserk button for me.  On the other hand, he hasn’t ever gotten really nasty with me or told me to fuck myself or anything like that, so that counts for something, and that’s why I tend not to get nasty with him or tell him to fuck himself.  (Besides, he seems to get enough of that treatment from others to the point where me joining in would be overkill.)  And he’s gotta be right once in a while, just due to the law of averages.  If people are dismissing stuff he says because it’s wrong, then fine.  But if people are dismissing it because it’s coming from him, well…

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I see and understand your last paragraph. I am, however, unwilling to cut aunursa any slack because he’s gone this long and it doesn’t seem to have occurred to him to fucking apologize, because his opinion is more important and reliable than QUILTBAG peoples’ lived experience.

    Beyond that, there is veritable mountains of data that support the fact that in the time period when Jenkins crapped out that book, there was demonstrable systematic discrimination in at least some sectors of employment. The most famous was of course, in the US military, under “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

    I close with a very personal anecdote. Even today I hesitate to reveal to superiors in my field that my significant other (should I ever have one) may be someone of the same (and not opposite) sex.

    It’s 2011, almost 20-fucking-12.

    People who think QUILTBAG people are just making it all up in their heads should think about that for a while.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think that oppressed minorities are just making it all up in their heads about their own oppression.

    I do think that someone who belong to or sympathizes with an oppressed minority can make a mistake and erroneous see a hostile intent when there is no actual intent.  One such example is the link I provided in my previous response to you.  Another example — a fictional one — is the conversation between Buck and Verna in which Verna inferred a hostile intent on the part of Buck when there was no such intent.

  • Tonio

    I do think that someone who belongs to or sympathizes with an oppressed
    minority can make a mistake and erroneous see a hostile intent when
    there is no actual intent.

    Please stop treating bigotry and discrimination as though these are about whether a given individual intends to treat others badly because of their differences. Both of these are about the effects on people who are different. Intent is irrelevant here because no one can read minds. And please, please stop worrying less about people who are charged with being bigots and start worrying more about people who suffer because of bigotry. It’s not important who has the moral high ground, because this isn’t a contest.

  • Kish

    He said, basically, “I’ve never known any libertarians with that
    philosophy,” and was told “Well, you don’t actually interact with human
    beings.”

    I have some issues with both sides of that paraphrase (not least that you left out the middle part…again…). However, since I’m not being addressed directly, I’ll just clarify one thing about the paraphrase of what I said.

    I said (something that could be accurately paraphrased as) “aunursa doesn’t perceive real people”.

    Because he doesn’t. Everything he says outside the Left Behind threads makes that clear. He perceives a fantasy world where QUILTBAGs have no better than a coinflip’s chance of being correct when they think they perceive discrimination against themselves, where all opinions are equally valid and there’s no such thing as evidence or logic, and where every bad thing a Republican does has an at-least equivalent act committed by someone at least as far to the Left as the Republican in question is to the Right.

    No, being a bad debater doesn’t make him a bad person. Taking the positions he does would make him a bad person if he was the best debater ever. You’re calling for us to “cut him some slack,” but I can’t remember ever seeing anyone take a shot at him when he didn’t start it. And he will continue to start it, because, other than the Left Behind analysis, sniping at the stupid liberals is what he’s here for. Again–when (in the Left Behind threads) he makes a comment that isn’t aggressive, he gets treated with perfect civility; that he only makes those comments in the Left Behind threads is his choice and no one else’s. If he wanted to change his position in this community, rather than simply for his “debating partners” to stop shooting back, he wouldn’t even need to apologize; he could just make constructive posts. Even explaining why thus-and-such the Democrat doing something that looks kind of sort of like what so-and-so the Republican was just in the papers for doing was something he thought worth discussing, instead of just dropping “thus-and-such did it, ha ha how dare you condemn so-and-so,” on the floor and disappearing, would probably be enough.

    When he snipes at someone–like he did at hapax here–he gets piled on. Because he’s built up a reputation for himself. He worked hard to build it, he works hard constantly to reinforce it, and I decline your request that I deny it to him.

  • Lori

    But it’s been bothering me for quite some time now. Being a bad debater doesn’t make you a crap person. I’ve seen him say stuff that’s kind of annoying, but the automatic jump to incivility seems unwarranted. It’s a shitty time of year for a lot of us. A lot of bad things have happened
    lately, I gather to quite a lot of the community; a lot of people are going through crap. Just. Can’t we cut each other some slack?

    I understand what you’re saying. The thing is, there’s a reason aunursa gets such a harsh response from a lot of people when he posts on politics. The world does not begin anew with each thread. He has history, and outside the LB threads is pretty uniformly bad. The issue is not that he’s a bad debater. No one debates well all the time. Heck, I actively enjoy it and still often suck at it. See: this thread when I couldn’t get on the same page with another poster and had to just give up. It happens. The problem with aunursa is that his thinking, especially on political issues, is highly problematic, often in ways that are unfair or hurtful to others, and he isn’t responsive to having that pointed out. No matter how obvious or how hurtful the error, when someone points it out aunursa’s response is basically “nah-ah”, with an occasional “you’re not the boss of me” throw in for good measure.

    Obviously we could cut aunursa slack and pretend that’s not the case. We actually did that for a long time, through a lot of his snarky, inaccurate comments in non-LB threads. You don’t have to go back very many threads to see people giving polite, reasonable responses to his bomb-throwing.

    The thing is, the bomb-throwing never stops and cutting him slack  just allows him to go on spouting until he says something really hurtful to/about someone else. As has been pointed out, that has happened before. That’s because, as aunursa himself has said, he considers “I’m right, you’re wrong” to be a reasonable response. It’s not, and if unsupported declarations of correctness are the only thing he has to offer to political discussions then he should probably cut us some slack by keeping it to himself. Because seriously, people are just worn out with this crap.

  • Tonio

    Aunursa makes worthwhile contributions in the LB threads. But whenever anyone criticizes a specific conservative, he posts some version of “You’re all a bunch of hypocrites!” Politics should be a contest of ideas and not of power, and to me, such posts almost make a mockery of the ideas principle. They suggest someone who was cajoled into Charades at a party and makes a grudging attempt that’s loaded with passive-aggressiveness. And I’ve already described how it’s unnecessarily defensive as well.

  • Anonymous

    But whenever anyone criticizes a specific conservative, he posts some version of “You’re all a bunch of hypocrites!”

    I regret if I gave the impression that people who criticize conservatives are all hypocrites.  That was not my intention.

    When one criticizes conservatives for statements and sins that one excuses or ignores when the same types of statements and sins are made by liberals, one isn’t guilty of hypocrisy.  Rather, one is guilty of employing a double standard.

  • Tonio

    They’re not the “same types of statements” mostly because of the context. To use an example from an earlier thread, there’s no double standard in saying that it’s worse in practice for a white politician to condemn civil rights and excuse segregation than it is for a black politician to make bigoted statements about Jews. That’s because the former is about systemtic bigotry and disenfranhcisement. We live in society where being white is still considered the norm. If society treated being black as the norm and blacks held the vast majority of the nation’s economic and social power, then black prejudice would be worse in practice than other forms.

  • Anonymous

    I disagree.  Discrimination is equally wrong in practice whether it’s done in support of systemic or historic bigotry or not.  But I don’t need to explain why or give reasons.  Each person can read my comparison and your response, and then decide for themselves.  If you’ve convinced them, good for you.

  • Tonio

    I stated that systemic discrimination is worse, not that it was more wrong. No one else here is asserting the latter. “Worse” in this context means that it’s a greater social injustice. Addressing discrimination is not about following rules or punishing people who violate them. It’s about achieving a more just society.

  • Anonymous

    I see your point.  I don’t necessarily agree that discrimination that aligns with systemic or historic injustice is a greater social injustice than other types of discrimination.  But I understand why many would believe differently.

  • Tonio

    “Aligns with”? Paul isn’t some restauranteur who’s refusing to serve specific ethnic groups. He has defended the system of injustice and would have stood in the way of the federal government doing anything about it. By doing so, he would have ultimately perpetuated the injustice. Treating this as simply a matter of individual prejudice is to miss the entire point.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Treating this as simply a matter of individual prejudice is to miss the entire point

    I think this really gets to the core of the matter of why people tend to mock “black slavery reparations” discussions. They don’t grasp that there are still structural barriers against black people in the USA, chief among them the perception that all blacks are essentially fungible members of a criminal underclass who should be called “animals”.

  • Kish

    But it seems like every time he comments, he gets several rude, angry
    responses – no matter what the subject is, no matter how polite or
    matter-of-fact or on-topic his initial post is.

    This is quite untrue. When he makes polite, on-topic comments (in Left Behind comment threads, because I can’t remember ever seeing him do so on other types of comment threads), people respond pleasantly or not at all. As Tonio noted, in other comment threads, whenever people make comments critical of right-wing politicians regardless of how atrocious their behavior is, if aunursa comments at all, his comment is guaranteed to be some variation on “So’s your old man.” And, as Invisible Neutrino noted, “matter-of-fact” is not a positive thing when you’re matter-of-factly telling people that they’re “reaching” by treating Buck threatening to out Verna as Buck threatening to out Verna.

    In this thread, he told hapax what amounted to “You’re wrong,” when she wasn’t. She elaborated. He told her, again, “You’re wrong.” The effectiveness of attempting to debate with aunursa is plain here. As is the fact that his comments are not grounded in experience of the same planet I live on. If you consider pointing that out unnecessary, I’d suggest you not do it then.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you.

  • bm999

    I have met plenty of libertarians, Ron Paulists etc. and most are naive (if rather obsessive-compulsive) intellectuals who have an elaborate theory of how people “should” behave in anarchy, while dismissing the behavior of actual people. Like that character in Dr. Zhivago who declares “It’s the system; people wil be different after the revolution!”

    The others are lunatics who simply cannot deal with people. Your last paragraph is not an exaggeration; for this minority, all relationships–even libertarian groups!–are exploitative. Which is good news for everyone else–this is a movement that destroys itself!

  • Anonymous


    All true. But Smith’s list is too short and is too much shaped by the other inadequacy of that libertarian ideology, which is its tendency to treat anything other than the individual almost exclusively in negative terms — as a “bully” limiting or restraining the freedom of individuals. 

    Speaking as a reformed Libertarian, that’s a feature and not a bug.  The only true rights, the thinking goes, are the negative ones[1], and the only possible way to infringe upon them is with threat of violence.  Since in Libertopia only the government is permitted violence, only the government can possibly infringe upon rights.

    That’s wrong.  In pretty much every way.  Freedom from want is at least as important to a real person as freedom of speech; the invisible backhand of the market is just as oppressive as a political force; and (Fred’s point) other more personal actors have far more power over an individual than an impersonal and distant government.

    [1] — It’s a little more complicated than that, but not by much.  Libertarians think of capitalistic property rights (land, deed, title) as innate as personal property rights (that which you can carry with you).  They’re also wrong here.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Speaking as a reformed Libertarian, that’s a feature and not a bug.  The only true rights, the thinking goes, are the negative ones[1], and the only possible way to infringe upon them is with threat of violence.  Since in Libertopia only the government is permitted violence, only the government can possibly infringe upon rights.

    They are assuming that the only type of coercion is that of the threat of violence.  Unfortunately, there are quite a few more types of coercion than that out there, and the most skillful coercers tend to know exactly where the legal line is to avoid escalating things quite to that point.  

    Like schoolyard bullies.  They hardly ever inflict any actual violence, because they know that will get them in trouble with the faculty.  But there are plenty of ways that they can push people around without resorting to their fists, and they will exploit that to the hilt.  

    Honestly, sometimes I wish bullies would be more violently coercive.  At least then I would be justified in being violently resistive.  

  • Daughter

    I’m puzzled by this post. I read Noah Smith’s article and thought it was very good. I don’t think he was making the point that any and all intermediate powers would become bullies in the absence of any government interference, but just that they could become so, and nothing could stop them in a libertarian world.

    I know there is precedence in human history for kindness and support from the various voluntary groups and institutions of society, but there is also a heck of a lot of precedence for exploitation and abuse. And if someone or some group is determined to bully, I think it’s very rare for them to change, unless a bigger bully (often the state) makes them stop.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I know there is precedence in human history for kindness and support from the various voluntary groups and institutions of society, but there is also a heck of a lot of precedence for exploitation and abuse. And if someone or some group is determined to bully, I think it’s very rare for them to change, unless a bigger bully (often the state) makes them stop.

    “Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.”
    –Niccolo Machiavelli

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=581585394 Nicholas Kapur

    Yes, but the point isn’t that he inadvertently winds up supporting the ideology he’s discussing; just that he’s discussing it on their terms. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but there’s more to the picture. Fred’s post is more of an addendum than a rebuttal.

  • Daughter

    Well, fine, but I think that Smith’s point is one that needs to be made. More and more people find libertarianism appealing and need to recognize the downside–and at this time in America, I don’t think anything that even inadvertently minimizes the downside is a good idea.

    I think Fred’s point also lends itself to libertarian terms: “Without government regulations/services, society will be great because everyone will work together to put out the fires, care for the poor and sick, etc.!” And yes, that happens to some degree, but not enough–which is why government regs and the social safety net were instituted in the first place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    The last sentence of your article is what rang false to me about The Fountainhead – Roark in the end preserves his artistic integrity but at the cost of every other moral principle he may have had.  In the real world (i.e., the world that exists outside Rand’s novels) Roark would have been imprisoned on a number of charges, and sued into oblivion by the owner of the building–as he should have been, no matter what he said in his own defense.

    The extreme libertarian stance ignores a basic fact of economics: the customer-client relationship.  If a customer requests a product or service, a relationship is created and freedom is compromised in exchange for payment.  This compromise of freedom (you have to deliver what the customer wants, and no less than that) is generally seen as a good thing.  It’s how capitalism works.  And certainly the people calling themselves libertarians (as opposed to the people Ian describes a few comments above) think capitalism is a good thing.  The presence of indirect customers (the people who don’t directly participate in the transaction but are affected by it) complicates the picture, and that’s where laws need to be enacted and enforced–something the extreme libertarians (dare I call them fundamentalist libertarians?) don’t seem to grok.  “Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins,” Oliver Wendell Holmes stated–and just in case you don’t get that, this nice police officer over here will help you remember.

    This leads to the second failure of extreme libertarianism: it fails to take into account human behavior, and indeed human biology.  We like all primates have hardwired into us a dominance hierarchy instinct that is only partially restrained by government even on the best days (some people will swing their fists wherever they want if the police aren’t around, or even if they are).  To insist that we can get by without the interference of government is to invite all the wannabe alpha males of the troop to fight for dominance…and history demonstrates that our fights for dominance tend to be rather messy.

    While government shouldn’t be overly intrusive (YMMV as to how overly intrusive it currently is) it is necessary if we want the system to work at all.  Otherwise any architect dissatisfied with how his building was ultimately put up would be able to demolish it with explosives at will (assuming, of course, he doesn’t blow himself up if the manufacturer of the explosives or the detonator didn’t adhere to legal standards because these products weren’t regulated). And that’s what the extreme libertarians miss.

  • guest

    Yeah–I used to teach architecture, and the first thing I explained to the little Roarks-in-training was that if you didn’t do what the client wanted NO ONE WOULD PAY YOU.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I’d imagine if you were a Frank Lloyd Wright type genius you could get away with stuff. Furthermore, as in nearly every artistic endeavour, everyone thinks they’re at that level. 

  • Anonymous

    Roark in the end preserves his artistic integrity but at the cost of every other moral principle he may have had.

    Roark had other moral principles? :P

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    Point taken.  I doubt it even occurred to him to make sure the janitor had made it out of the building before he blew it up.

  • mud man

    Practicing music by playing along with a recording becomes frustrating because while you play with them, they don’t play with you. That isn’t what I would call a real relationship. You can do Romans 13:1 all you want, the don’t do 13:3. So when youFred were “fettered to your employment”, it would seem that you were not more free than you are now, except the money was better.

    I think the error is identifying the “Big Bully” as the government, whereas in reality it is the system of the world wherein rational individualism destroys actually supportive relationships: the reporter and the newsroom defending each other.

    When all my community relationships in The Big City tanked, yes clearly it had to do with my style of personal protagery, but knowing that I still couldn’t find myself doing “what needed to be done”. So I liberated myself from the entire list by moving to the sticks ad developing a relationship with my vegetable garden. Also by finding an appropriate church to attend regularly and hang out with. Still kind of a jerk? Maybe. Probably.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deankchang Dean Chang

    Well, in defense of Ron Paul and the like, I think the reason there are more libertarian sympathizers these days is because there is a sense that there is a new “axis of evil” to borrower the phrase, and it’s this collusion between the defense industry, the financial sector and the federal government.  I will never vote Republican because I think they are fundamentally hypocritical, you can’t be a war hawk and support “smaller government” (think Sean Hannity), those two positions are simply incompatible.  At the same time, you can’t support “free market capitalism” and be in favor of the Federal Reserve and no regulations on the financial sector, the financial sector will simply co-opt the system, which is what they’ve done.  What’s happened is that Wall Street and the defense industry have co-opted the federal government and there seems to be little if nothing regular people can do about it.  Not a single Wall Street CEO went to jail (unlike previous financial scandals in the past) and yet we saw a total collapse of the financial sector followed by the largest transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the financial class in world history while regular people were left high and dry.  Then you have the same politicians who facilitated this scam of the century talk about invading Iran, just as we’re finally about to leave Iraq?  What the hell is going on here!?!

    The Democrats aren’t any better by the way, Obama hasn’t done much about any of this either.  I’m going to have to vote for him anyway as the lesser of two evils, and I do think his heart is in the right place and he says the right things, but the reality is I’m not sure anyone can pry this country out of the claws of the crony capitalist war mongers that are running the show right now.  Ron Paul’s appeal, at least for me, is that he has been 100% consistent on the two issues of war and Wall Street and he never panders to the Republican base or to the financials sector on these two issues.  I don’t know much about the newsletters, but all I can say is I have never heard him say anything racist or make any kind of remark that can even be attributed as racist in the time that I’ve been following his career, so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.  And certainly I realize he has no chance of willing a general election so I’m not sure I even care that much, what matters to me is that his message regarding American empire building and crony capitalism have added a critical voice in the political discourse, one that the other politicians only reluctantly address and certainly not credibly, so they have to attack him on a personal level.  That’s what I think about Ron Paul. 

    As for libertarian ideology, certainly the Ayn Rand types are crazy, but I do think the principles of a limited FEDERAL government is consistent with what this country is founded upon, which is on a fundamental level, diffusion of political power.  People forget that you still have state and local government, which in theory should be much more responsive to the will of the people.  I think we have grown too dependent on the Feds, all of us can have a much larger impact on our state and local officials than on Washington DC.  You see this false choice brought up in interviews with Ron Paul over and over again.  On the drug issue, on the environment, on education, people always ask, well, are you saying you are in favor of no government regulation on those issues?  His response is always the same, the Feds should get out of the way because the states can take care of those things more effectively.  The choice is not between governmental regulation and laissez faire capitalism/anarchy, it’s between local authority vs. central authority.  I think that’s the real take away from libertarianism, at least for me, not the Ayn Rand “dystopian” novels that people bring up time and time again, that’s a straw man argument.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Well, in defense of Ron Paul and the like, I think the reason there are
    more libertarian sympathizers these days is because there is a sense
    that there is a new “axis of evil” to borrower the phrase, and it’s this
    collusion between the defense industry, the financial sector and the
    federal government.

    This, I think, is an important point.

    Conservatives will tell you that government is broken.  Liberals will also tell you that government is broken.  Their reasons for calling government broken are, for the most part, wildly different (if one side is saying, “The government is catering to Big Welfare,” and the other is saying, “The government is leaving people in the streets to die,” they’re both saying the same thing but coming from completely different directions).  As I look at the American public dialogue, however, I see an awful lot of absolutely irrational response to real problems from both sides.  I tend to see that as the inevitable result of the winner-take-all two party system and the inevitable politics of personality that come from that setup.

    When there’s a binary choice people tend to either try to find common middle ground or say, “Fuck it, let’s blow it up and start over again.”  On one level we have the people who call for “moderation,” which just means, “Pretend to get along,” and ignores the bit where the so-called “liberal” position as attached to Barack “The Most Liberal President Evar” Obama is just a bit to the right of Richard Milhous Nixon on just about everything other than gay rights while the “conservative” position is in a place that would make Ayn Rand and John Birch just as pleased as punch.  On the other we have the, “Maybe the crazy outsiders are correct and we should just do away with everything and start all over,” crowd.  Ron Paul and, to a lesser degree, Dennis Kucinich have become the standard bearers of that notion.  Interestingly enough, there’s a certain level of buzz that perhaps there should be a Paul/Kucinich ticket in 2012, even though the only position both men share is, “War is bad.”  Every other position those two hold are at opposing ends of a spectrum.

    The thing that everyone misses in Ron Paul is that we’ve already tried it his way.  The gold standard?  We got off that and moved to silver and eventually the greenback as fiduciary reservoir for a reason: because there wasn’t enough freaking gold to go around.  Laissez-Faire economics?  Yeah, look up the Gilded Age one of these days.  It was great for the tiny percentage of people who owned the factories, but not so great for the teeming multitudes standing outside the gates hoping for a job.  The American society that was built from FDR through LBJ was built in response to the American society that existed from the Gilded Age through the first years of the Great Depression.  We did it because it sucked to live in America at that time.

    That society was fragile, however, as evidenced by the fact that Reagan started to dismantle it in earnest and now my the emerging generation is worse off than the one before it and its parents’ generation for the first time in American history.  The response to that should not be, “Well, this is broken, let’s break it even more.”  Yet that’s what we have.  It all goes back, in a very real sense, to subsidiarity.  The average American had it so good for so long that Americans have, for the most part, forgotten any response to stress beyond, “Fuck you, I got mine.”  To say that the government is broken and the best response is to take it all apart and create a Libertopia is exactly the wrong thing to do, since it will merely accelerate the, “Fuck you, I got mine.”  And the thing to remember is that the people waiting outside the factories and hoping for a job outnumber the people who own the factories by a wide margin.  So if you’re calling for Libertopia and you aren’t in the economic elite, you’ll be on the wrong side of that gate and the owners will look down on you and say, “Fuck you, I got mine.”

    Again, we’ve been there, we’ve done that, we tried to build a society where it didn’t happen.  And it worked, at least while it was nurtured.

  • FangsFirst

    The thing that everyone misses in Ron Paul is that we’ve already tried it his way.  The gold standard?

    My mom barely had any idea who he was, so to organize my thoughts, I pulled up the wiki article on him.

    Apparently, he does not favour the gold standard per se, he wants to “eliminate legal tender laws” and let “the market decide” what monetary standards to hold.

    I’d say his opposition to the war on drugs makes way more sense now, because he’s got to be on some hardcore illegal stuff.

  • JohnK

    The funny thing is that we already tried that. Under the Articles of Confederation, people would pay their bills in Spanish dollars, gold, silver, wampum, beaver skins, and funny money. The Continental Congress issued its own money, as did every individual state. As you can imagine, it was a clusterfuck. Because, as is obvious to anyone who thinks about it, if Manhattan issues Manhattan Money and Boston issues Boston Bills, it’s going to be impossible for anyone to engage in intrastate or interstate commerce (and depending on how far they go with this, it might be impossible to trade even with someone who lives in a different city in your state). Sure, after a while people will set up currency conversion mechanisms… but all that does is create a piece of cumbersome infrastructure that (poorly) replicates what the United States dollar already does right now.

    Incidentally, the Founding Fathers also noticed the problems with this nonsense idea, which is why they included (in Article I, Section 8) that Congress shall have the power…:

    To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the standards of weights and measures;

    And —

    To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current coin of the United States;

    I’ve noticed that recently our friend Speaker Gingrich wants to re-litigate the school desegregation cases. That’s abhorrent in and of itself, but apparently some of his colleagues want to re-argue Article One of the Constitution.

    Honestly, while I hate this argument, why don’t they start their own country? They don’t seem to like this one!

  • Hawker40

    Another point where Ron Paul, “The Most Constitution Following of Any Candidate” hates the Constitution.  Thanks for pointing this out, it will help in one of my internet arguements.

  • JohnK

    You’re welcome! If you’re going into debate with someone about whether or not the Congress has the power to make paper currency (as opposed to coins, or what Ron Paul-type people like to call ‘specie’) some good precedents to cite are the late 1800s Legal Tender Cases (which stated that the federal government could issue paper currency). And if they try to argue that the states should be allowed to issue their own money, just point to Article 1, Section 10.

    If you get right down to it, the whole thing is kind of a silly debate, the sort of thing that right-wing lawyers and “scholars” get to play around with while the rest of us work for a living. The United States is never just going to get rid of the dollar in favor of Spanish doubloons or pieces-of-eight, and we’re never going to let each state issue its own money. But if you get sucked into an argument those are good cases to cite.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Pieces of eight were so cool; money that you break off like a kit-kat bar to spend. If it was re-attachable, and could attach into larger and more complex forms it might be totally ‘rule of cool’ money.

    Totally impractical, of course. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I got it! The lego standard!

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Apparently, he does not favour the gold standard per se, he wants to
    “eliminate legal tender laws” and let “the market decide” what monetary
    standards to hold.

    Good lord, that’s even dumber.  Although, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I already knew that, but the knowledge was sucked out of my brain immediately after I learned it by the power of the black hole of stupid it created.  Then I probably ran across a Ron Paul supporter talking about the gold standard or something and just decided to go with it.

    Also, I hope that the market chooses to decide for the unicorn fart standard. Because that’s about the only way Paul’s plan could possibly work.

  • Anonymous

    The average American had it so good for so long that Americans have, for the most part, forgotten any response to stress beyond, “Fuck you, I got mine.”  To say that the government is broken and the best response is to take it all apart and create a Libertopia is exactly the wrong thing to do, since it will merely accelerate the, “Fuck you, I got mine.”  And the thing to remember is that the people waiting outside the factories and hoping for a job outnumber the people who own the factories by a wide margin.  So if you’re calling for Libertopia and you aren’t in the economic elite, you’ll be on the wrong side of that gate and the owners will look down on you and say, “Fuck you, I got mine.”
    The problem is that we’ve gone well beyond “Fuck you, I got mine.” and into “Fuck you, I got mine — and I want YOURS too!” territory. Why do you think that union-busting is so high on “The Republican Evil OverGovernor’s List Of Things To Do When I Get Into Office”? Unions still have a certain amount of political power and their members tend to vote Democratic. The Evil OverGovernors want to break both the political power *and* the will of both the unions and the Dems because that power is something that the Republicans want. 

    Same thing with their Voter Suppression efforts. If the Republicans can’t have the Black (or Latino) vote in a certain State, then they’re going to make *DAMN SURE* that *NO ONE ELSE* can have them either. To borrow House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s infamous High School year book motto: “I want what I want when I want it.” The Republicans want to rule. It’s the ideology that they’ve embraced to the extent that they’re willing to sink their own Country in order to adhere to it. The question is, “How do we, as voters, say ‘No! You can’t put your ideology in front of your Country or it’s People (as in “We, The People”) anymore!’?”

  • fraser

    A recent post by Mark Krikorian on National Review stated that we have to keep out hispanics because they vote Democratic, which gives liberals more power and as a result, liberals get the power to pass gay marriage bills.

  • Donalbain

    His response is always the same, the Feds should get out of the way
    because the states can take care of those things more effectively.

    And that is why Jim Crow laws were ended by the states. That is why laws against sodomy were ended by the state.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    And certainly I realize he has no chance of willing a general election so I’m not sure I even care that much, what matters to me is that his message regarding American empire building and crony capitalism have added a critical voice in the political discourse, one that the other politicians only reluctantly address and certainly not credibly, so they have to attack him on a personal level.  That’s what I think about Ron Paul.

    I know that Ron Paul was never a serious contender.  I also disagreed with some of his ideas about the roll of government, and am even more wary than before now that these newsletters have been brought to my attention.  However, what I see Ron Paul as being is an ideal third party candidate.  

    I mean, on a federal level, third party politics does not work in the U.S. (with the literally government-shattering exception of the election of Abraham Lincoln.)  However, they are valuable in the process because they tend to bring up issues to light that the big parties might otherwise ignore (this is also why a lot of third parties tend to be single-issue parties.)  If a third party candidate is particularly popular, they will still not win, but they will force one of the big two parties to address the issues that they champion, if only to secure the extra votes they might otherwise loose in the general election (and as the election in 2000 proved, this can mean the tipping point between election and not.)  

    Unfortunately, Paul is running as a Republican, and not as part of another party.  He has a dedicated core of followers, and none of the other Republican candidates seem to be particularly palatable even to their own party, so Paul was in a good position to change the course of the conversation.  Not like he is going to win the primary anyway, let alone the general election.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deankchang Dean Chang

    Agreed 100%.

  • Lori

    As for libertarian ideology, certainly the Ayn Rand types are crazy, but I do think the principles of a limited FEDERAL government is consistent with what this country is founded upon, which is on a fundamental level, diffusion of political power.  People forget that you still have state and local government, which in theory should be much more responsive to the will of the people. 

    I think maybe you missed some things about the early history of the US. It was not founded solely on the notion of diffusion of political power, at least not the way you’re implying. State power vs the federal government has been a major debate since the very beginning and it’s been a deal-breaker or near deal-breaker more than once.

    One of the major reasons that power shifted to the feds and away from state & local government is precisely because the state & local governments are more responsive to the will of the people. The “will of the people” is often really shitty to those who aren’t in the majority, and not just on the issue of civil rights. Our air and water don’t stop at the city/county/state line. Moving from one jurisdiction to another shouldn’t change whether you’re married or not (still working on that one) or whether you’re fully human for that matter.

    Some issues are best handled at the state or local level, but fetishizing non-federal government is based as much on lack of realistic thinking as the more extreme Randroid ideas.

  • Anonymous

    One of the major reasons that power shifted to the feds and away from
    state & local government is precisely because the state & local
    governments are more responsive to the will of the people. The “will of
    the people” is often really shitty to those who aren’t in the majority,
    and not just on the issue of civil rights. Our air and water don’t stop
    at the city/county/state line. Moving from one jurisdiction to another
    shouldn’t change whether you’re married or not (still working on that
    one) or whether you’re fully human for that matter.

    So it’s better that Alabama is forced to behave itself with respect to its citizens and resources by a distant government that’s at best tenuously answerable to the will of the people of the USA but not necessarily at all to the will of the people of Alabama?

    Surely that’s the will of the majority enforcing its will onto a minority again, isn’t it?  If it isn’t in some sense the will of the majority of the USA, I guess it’s the will of a central bureaucracy (or the will of no body – some kind of an accident).

    What’s the justification for the arrangements here? is it just that it tends to do the right thing more often?

    I’m not trying to put words into your mouth here; the question of individual rights and the good of the entire people versus local democratic determination is a tricky one. But that does seem to be what you’re suggesting.

    If so, couldn’t the same argument be made to argue that the USA government should be answerable to a World Government, which would be likewise be less responsive to the USA majority and therefore able to protect the rights of minorities in the USA even better?  Likewise the air and water don’t stop at the national boundaries, either.

    (As a side issue, you seem to be implying that the federal government gained power in part because it was morally right for it to have it (it could do morally good things with it), although it’s not entirely clear. Is that right? if so, how does this work? perhaps I’m overly cynical, but I’m not used to thinking in terms of power accruing in such a way as to maximise moral rectitude)

  • Tonio

    What’s the justification for the arrangements here? is it just that it tends to do the right thing more often?

    That’s far too simplistic. The justification is the Fourteenth Amendment, specifically the Due Process clause, and the federal action in question is about redressing the states’ failures to live up to the amendment. Obviously this is not foolproof, since a majority at the federal level is also capable of tyrannizing minorities, but it does provide an avenue to pursue redress. I suppose the alternative is for the feds to simply sit on their hands.

    The arguments used by Barry Goldwater and George Will imply that governance and living under it amount to a game, with federal intervention being an unfair relaxing of the rules for some players. Will sometimes describes this as “results-oriented.” But their arguments aren’t tinged with racial euphemisms like many of their colleagues. In particular, the way Paul states his “racial strife” argument for opposing the Civil Rights Act, he seems to believe whites were justified in being angered by desegregation. Very similar to how sexists are more concerned with the men accused of rape than with the women who were actually raped.

  • Anonymous

    Lori is talking quite generally about why it’s better for the Federal Government to be able to overrule States, including on environmental matters – not about a specific federal action.

    Thanks for the heads-up about George Will and Barry Goldwater, though.  They sound like interesting arguments.  I’ve read a small handful of George Will’s articles and had concluded he was a complete idiot, although not entirely without interest as an insight into a certain kind of outlook (people seem to like his baseball stuff, though).

  • Lori

    Surely that’s the will of the majority enforcing its will onto a
    minority again, isn’t it?  If it isn’t in some sense the will of the majority of the USA, I guess it’s the will of a central bureaucracy (or the will of no body – some kind of an accident).

    You are familiar with the concept “majority rule, minority rights”? The “minority rights” part, especially when the minority is very small, has tended to get greater care at the federal level than at the local level. I guess you can call that the federal government enforcing it’s will on the minority, if you use the kind of logic favored by anti-marriage equality advocates who don’t want QUILTBAG rights forced down their throats and neo-Confederates who mythologize the Old South.

    I have no real expectation that any of this will make sense to a person
    who uses the phrase “will of a central bureaucracy” though.

    (As a side issue, you seem to be implying that the federal government gained power in part because it was morally right for it to have it (it could do morally good things with it), although it’s not entirely clear.
    Is that right? if so, how does this work? perhaps I’m overly cynical, but I’m not used to thinking in terms of power accruing in such a way as to maximise moral rectitude) 

    The federal government gained power for a number of reasons, most of them practical issues.

    As for your level of cynicism, I can’t speak to that. I do think you have an obvious and rather large blindspot about the way government works, what with the “will of a central bureaucracy”stuff and all, a rather limited view of US history and perhaps too much confidence in the wonders of local governance. I don’t kow you, so I really couldn’t say.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, of course I’m familiar with ‘majority rules, minority rights’.  But rights don’t enforce themselves, you know.  While you can make arrangements that are more or less likely to end up having those rights enforced (have ‘binding’ statements of rights, independent judiciary, etc) ultimately it’s the government that ends up enforcing them or not.

    In a democracy, that means that the majority ultimately has to be in favour of those rights, or at least not sufficiently against them to shift the institutions that are supporting them.

    You seem to be reading rather a lot into my use of a single phrase.  I’m not sure what you think the use of the phrase ‘the will of a central bureaucracy’ suggests about me that I’ll be unable to understand you.  For my part I’m not sure I can make myself understood to anyone who’s going to decide that I’m incapable of understanding things on the basis of the use of a single phrase :-P

    But here goes anyway.  If a central government acts in a local region in a way which is against the will of the people of that region, either that act is in some sense the will of the people of the nation, or it’s not the will of the nation but the will of some smaller group of people (possibly just one person), or it’s not the will of anyone but rather some kind of accident[1].  I think that about covers all the possibilities, but if you think of any other, let me know.   ‘Central bureaucracy’ was my way of describing a likely case of the second option, the institutions of government deciding to ‘go it alone’ without popular support for the move.   There are other possibilities, like the will of the plutocrats, or the will of an organised crime syndicate, or the will of a religious body, but central government doing it because it wants to is preferable to most of the other options. 

    If you think I’m missing something, or there are better descriptions than the ones I’m using, then please tell me.  Perhaps I am stupid or blinkered, but I’m not going to learn anything by being told ‘you won’t understand’.

    I’m also not sure of why you think I think local government is wonderous.  You think they’re more responsive to the will of the people, i.e. they’re more democratic. Normally we think that is a good thing (don’t we?), and that justifies them having the power to do what they do.   What I want to know is what you think the justification is for a less democratic central government to overrule the actions of a more democratic local government.   It can’t be merely that it’s the will of the people, because you don’t think the will of the people on its own justifies dictating terms to a minority. Unless there’s something special about a national majority?

    I understand that the justification for the action is, say, to defend the rights of minorities, but what, if anything, justifies them having the power to do this defending?   And would a similar justification apply to a supernational body deciding to overrule the actions of a national government?

    At the moment, it’s sounding to me as though it’s pragmatism – whatever gets the best outcome?

    [1] while writing this I did think of another subcase of the ‘no body wills it’ option apart from an accident, and that’s an outcome of a trusted process, perhaps not unlike a legal verdict.

  • Lori

    I think we’re now fully talking past each other.

    ‘Central bureaucracy’ was my way of describing a likely case of the
    second option, the institutions of government deciding to ‘go it alone’
    without popular support for the move.  

    It is sometimes the job of the government to “go it alone”. That’s why
    we call certain things civil rights, not civil
    if-most-people-are-OK-with-its. You seem to actually be treating “central
    government” as an entity that simply “goes rogue” to use the Right Wing
    talking point of the day. That is rarely actually the case.

    I’m also not sure of why you think I think local government is wonderous.

    Because you seem to think that local automatically means A) that government will definitely be more responsive
    to the “will of the people” and B) that being more responsive to the “will
    of the people” is necessarily a good thing. Neither of those statements
    is true.

    You
    think they’re more responsive to the will of the people, i.e. they’re
    more democratic. Normally we think that is a good thing (don’t we?), and
    that justifies them having the power to do what they do.

    I believe they can be more responsive, but that
    doesn’t mean they always are. There’s a reason why the story of the town
    ruled by the iron fist of the local land baron or Mr Potter is a
    trope.

    I don’t know that “we” think anything about the value of more democracy. At least not as you’re defining it to the “will of the people”. It appears that you and I have different
    views on the matter. I’m a fan of democracy, but not when it’s used to
    violate the Constitution. Democracy, yeah! Mob rule in fancy dress, boo!

    What I want to know is what you think the justification is for a less
    democratic central government to overrule the actions of a more
    democratic local government. 

    Because not everything is supposed to be run by the “will of the
    people”, see above re: civil rights. See also: the many, many issues
    that people like to frame as local, but which actually have broad
    impact.

    I understand that the justification for the action is, say, to defend
    the rights of minorities, but what, if anything, justifies them having
    the power to do this defending?   And would a similar justification
    apply to a supernational body deciding to overrule the actions of a
    national government? 

    I’ll admit that I’m sort of flummoxed by the fact that you consider this a serious question. Do you actually not understand what is different about the relationship of the states to the federal government vs the federal government to your unnamed supernational body? 

  • Anonymous

    You’re making a lot of assumptions about what I believe!

    I want to know what you think justifies in particular the Federal USA government making a State do something the State government and (the majority of) its people don’t want, and more generally what justifies a larger political entity controlling a smaller one.

    So far, i haven’t got a clear answer on this.  What I have got is

    a) sometimes the larger entity is better at supporting human rights
    b) sometimes there are issues that have, in your words, broader impact, such as environmental concerns.

    Both of those would seem to support not just the Federal government making Alabama do something, but also the UN making the USA do something.   A national government can badly treat minorities just as much as a regional government can (and the government of the USA certainly doesn’t have a perfect track record on this score), and in your words, the air and water don’t stop at national boundaries either.

     But it sounds like you think this is not the case:

    I’ll admit that I’m sort of flummoxed by the fact that you consider this
    a serious question. Do you actually not understand what is different
    about the relationship of the states to the federal government vs the
    federal government to your unnamed supernational body?

    I think I have a fair understanding of the matter, by the way, but you so far haven’t referred to anything that makes those difference salient.   From what you said in your first post I thought you might be OK with, say, the UN deciding to intervene in a human rights issue in the USA, although I wasn’t sure, but now I think you might not be OK with this, but I’m not sure why.  If there’s some other principle involved, like the necessity for

    The reason why I don’t particularly want to get bogged down with a specific supernational body is that firstly there’s more than one in existence at the moment, and secondly, I want to leave it open to discuss other possible ones.

    The rest is just you projecting views on me. ‘Go rouge’ is your phrase, and not what I said.  It’s clear to both of us that modern societies have significant structures which make them depart quite markedly from always and only implementing the will of the people in each case.   You said as much in your first post, and you think this is a good thing — why are you assuming I think this is a bad thing?  All I’ve done is describe the situation, and you’ve not disagreed with either the factual content of my description, nor told me why you think my language has unfortunate connotations and suggested alternatives.  So I’m not sure why you’re being so hostile — it seems to me we’re agreeing about everything so far.

    Because you seem to think that local automatically means A) that
    government will definitely be more responsive to the “will of the
    people” and B) that being more responsive to the “will of the people” is
    necessarily a good thing. Neither of those statements is true.

    Where did I say anything that even remotely indicates either of those things?

    It’s you who thinks local governments are more responsive:

    One of the major reasons that power shifted to the feds and away from
    state & local government is precisely because the state & local
    governments are more responsive to the will of the people.

    I only went with what you said. Now you’re offering a refinement of this claim:

    I believe they can be more responsive, but that doesn’t mean they always are.

    Fine. I had presumed that your first statement didn’t mean ‘always and under all circumstances’, but rather ‘mostly, on average’ anyway.   So I don’t really think this changes anything — it was what I thought your position was in the first place.  Do you think something I’ve said only works if they always are more responsive? If so, what?

    I’m not doing this tedious quoting thing to be a pedant or to score points, and you’re welcome to clarify, change, or reject things if you like.  But what just happened here was you said A, I said “OK, A, it’s go with that”, and you said “you seem to believe always always A, you fool! I don’t believe A, but only slightly sometimes A”.

  • Anonymous

    The rest is just you projecting views on me.

    Oh, good.  I’m not the only one whose opponents tell me what I believe.

  • Lori

    It’s clear to both of us that modern societies have significant structures which make them depart quite markedly from always and only
    implementing the will of the people in each case.   You said as much in your first post, and you think this is a good thing — why are you assuming I think this is a bad thing?  All I’ve done is describe the situation 

    You have not simply described it, you asked for a justification for it. You do understand that this, especially the way you’ve worded it, implies things, yes? Repeatedly using the phrase “the will of the people” also implies things, and that was definitely your word choice, not mine.

  • Lori

    At the moment, it’s sounding to me as though it’s pragmatism – whatever gets the best outcome?

    The way you’re framing these questions sounds to me as though your principle is ideological purity, outcome be damned.

  • Anonymous

    My principle is curiosity.

    I’m not getting very far with asking questions, so I thought I’d through in a suggestion and see whether you ran with it or rejected it.   Instead you stonewall with more assumptions about my principles or motivations.

    If you don’t like the framing of the question, tell me how you’d prefer it to be framed.

    As I said at the start, these are hard questions ­— I don’t think there are any unproblematic answers to them.

  • Lori

    Instead you stonewall with more assumptions about my principles or motivations. 

    I’m not “stonewalling” and that fact that this is your perception once again confirms that we’re talking past each other in a way that’s unproductive.

    If you don’t like the framing of the question, tell me how you’d prefer it to be framed.

    You framed things in certain ways and I responded to them. It not only isn’t my job to reframe your statements, it would be inappropriate for me to do so. Then I really would be putting words in your mouth.

  • Anonymous

    Apparently ‘central bureaucracy’ and ‘will of the people’ certainly do imply things to you that they don’t to me, which has led you to imagine opinions and ideologies that I probably don’t have (hard to say, as you’re keeping me in the dark as to the exact nature of these opinions, ideologies, and implications I supposedly have, advance, and make)  and aren’t advancing even if I do, and to spend your time combating those figments of your imagination rather than answering my questions.   That’s a pity, because hapax seems to think you could even do a better job than she has, and I’d probably have learnt something.

    If I had known that these phrases would result in this shadow-boxing of yours, and known synonymous phrases that would result in something a bit more worthwhile, like actually answering my questions, I assure you I would have used the alternatives instead.

    But you’re not going to suggest alternatives, despite me having invited you to do so on a couple of occasions, because apparently that would be ‘really putting words into my mouth’, Yet you had no reluctance putting words into my mouth earlier, 
    such as ‘go rogue’ and ‘wonders of local government’!  

    You’re right, this hasn’t been a very productive conversation.

      

  • hapax

    What I want to know is what you think the justification is for a less
    democratic central government to overrule the actions of a more
    democratic local government.

    I’m not Lori — I lack both her education and her passion for issues of governance — but I think what you’re missing is in your simplistic view of “the will of the people.”

    You seem to be assuming that “the will of the people” is some sort of unitary, consistent ideology.  It isn’t, as anyone who has read the “keep the government out of my Medicare” protest signs can gather.  Heckopete, the “will of a single solitary person” (say, me) isn’t either consistent, unitary, or static. 

    It is my [rather powerful] desire right now to eat an entire box of chocolate truffles.  I have another desire that I have some of those truffles left for tomorrow.  There’s another desire that I share my yummy treats with my spouse and children and guests.  Not to mention my long-standing desire that I retain a healthy weight and cholesterol level.

    It is not possible to simultaneously satisfy all of those desires.  Which represents the *true* “will of hapax”?

    Similarly, most citizens of the USA will express a desire for clean water and safe roads.  Most will also express a desire not to pay taxes.  A sizable majority would probably protest and object to the “unfairness” of receiving a littering citation or traffic ticket.  Which “will of the people” should be enforced?

    Certain principles — equal treatment under the laws, due process, etc. — are enshrined as “the will of the people” under our Constitution.  At any given moment, I’d bet a majority of the people are inconvenienced or annoyed by observing those laws — whether it is by a bigot’s discomfort at eating at the same lunch counter as “those people”, my neighbors’ visceral disgust at the thought of two men marrying, or my disappointment that we can’t summarily drag the CEOs of most financial institutions out of their offices in leg irons.

    Nonetheless, we all give implicit consent to a HIGHER (as it were) “will of the people” by participating in the social contract of our Constitution.  Some of us (our lawmakers and enforcers) even explicitly swear to protect and defend that same Constitution, which makes it even more distressing when they show willingness to subvert those principles in obedience to a more transient and parochial “will of the people”, whether that is in ramming through discriminatory immigration laws or suspending habeas corpus in the name of “fighting terrorism.”

    As far as super-national organizations overriding the “national will” — we have plenty of examples of that already.  The World Court.  The WTO.  The UN Charter.  etc. etc.  These are all examples in which the national authorities — within the powers accorded them by the Constitution — have agreed that the “will of the people” is best served by allocating the promotion of certain foundational principles (e.g., the prosecution of international criminals, fair trade,  global health, relief, and development) to such entities. 

    The fact that the USA has traditionally used its economic and military power to try and pervert those organizations and flout their decisions when it considers them opposed to transient and parochial “national interests” does not make the practice itself either illegitimate or undemocratic.

  • Anonymous

    That’s a good answer, and one that I wish Lori gave, but she’s too busy assuming that I’m advancing an ideology and putting words into my mouth to give me a proper answer.

    You’re completely right that ‘the will of the people’ (or the will of anyone) isn’t necessarily a straightforward or clear thing.  Rather than ‘missing’ it, I chose to ignore it for simplicity’s sake — if you haven’t noticed already, my comments often already are full of caveats and footnotes,  and tend to the long side, and to put down absolutely every issue that occurs to me when writing them would take far too long and no-one would read them.

    But sometimes it is fairly clear what the will is.  If you don’t eat the chocolates and share then with your guests instead, then you’ve willed hospitality and (so long as you didn’t go and eat fried chicken instead) health over enjoying all the truffles.  Enjoying all the truffles now or later is then merely a want — not your will.  The problem about what your will really is comes when you say “I shouldn’t” but eat them anyway, and then loudly proclaim to whomever will listen what a naughty hapax you’ve been, and how you really care about your weight, especially if this happens rather a lot.  Is it your will to maintain your health, which is subverted all the time by urges which you aren’t successful in controlling? Or do you have no real will to maintain your health, but want to retain the illusion (perhaps even to yourself) that you do? I’ve put this a wee bit flippantly, but it’s a serious issue.

    The issues with democracy are even more murky.  I think there is a strong sense of ‘will of the people’ that modern societies scarcely ever approach, but I wasn’t meaning anything particularly mysterious by it just now: just the majority vote, or the actions taken by rulers voted in by the majority where the majority support those decisions.

    You’re appealing to rules and institutions that the local people are already signed up to — a more general case of the specific case of the Fourteenth Amendment that Tonio mentioned.  I think that’s a promising avenue. 

    You also seem to trying to make the case that these rules and institutions also reflect the will of the people ­— and I think that’s a fair assessment in many cases, and when the rules and institutions go against the decision of the moment, it’s somewhat analogous to you eating the chocolates even though you really want to stay healthy.   But it’s not necessarily always the case — the local government on behalf of the local people might decide that they don’t want anything to do with the wider rules and institutions.  Here you appeal to the ‘social contract’ — I suppose the analogy is with an individual who decides to break the law?

    There’s a lot more I could say, but I wanted to caution against assuming that the outcome of a democratic process must itself be democratic.  To take an extreme example, a democratically elected government could decide to invest all power in a supreme leader in perpetuity (I believe that this would even be ‘constitutional’ in the States, so long as it got ratified by the correct supermajorities everywhere it had to be) — essentially making a democractic decision to scrap the democracy. Something like this happened in Germany in 1933.

    The WTO &c. aren’t as bad as all that, though I would hesitate to say they’re democratic institutions.  Our democracies are far from perfect, and by the time any ‘will of the (global) people’ has ‘filtered up’ to the global bodies, it’s a bit like a multi-stage amplifier — undemocractic ‘noise’ overwhelms any democratic ‘signal’.  This must be so particularly in view of the fact that vast numbers of people around the world are so effectively disengaged from politics, whereas wealthy and powerful countries and organisations have disproportionate influence.

  • Lori

    That’s a good answer, and one that I wish Lori gave, but she’s too busy
    assuming that I’m advancing an ideology and putting words into my mouth
    to give me a proper answer. 

    You know, up until now I’ve been assuming that we were simply having a
    communication problem. They happen all too frequently, esspecially on
    the internet. Now however, I’m thinking that you’re just acting like a jerk.

    To quote the great Dolly Parton, climb down off the cross honey, somebody needs the wood.

  • Anonymous

    You’ve made a lot of assumptions about me, Lori, and you’ve hinted but never said what those assumptions are, but as far as I can tell are generally negative, if not downright insulting, and they’re only tangentially related to what I actually said.  I’ve tried to prompt you to unwind those assumptions, but you’ve not been interested in doing so. 

    Under the circumstances, ‘jerk’ is a bit rich.  It’s also not something I feel any inclination to take seriously — you believe negative things about me anyway, which aren’t true and I can’t do anything about, so what’s one more?  Actually, I’m somewhat surprised you hadn’t already assumed this.

    I’ll admit that my opening sentence to hapax was partly born our of frustration, but I also thought it was worth pointing out that she gave an admirable answer to my question, which she says also lies within your ability to do so, but for some reason you’ve decided to do something else instead.

    I’m not going to respond any further as it doesn’t seem to make any difference what I say to you — every post results in no further clarity but more assumptions and misinterpretation, and I’m sure this won’t be any different.

  • FangsFirst

    (think Sean Hannity)

    I keep trying to place “think” next to “Sean Hannity” and my brain keeps shutting down…

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    I keep trying to place “think” next to “Sean Hann

    Reboot! Reboot!

  • Rob Brown

    The Democrats aren’t any better by the way, Obama hasn’t done much about
    any of this either.  I’m going to have to vote for him anyway as the
    lesser of two evils…

    No, you don’t have to and IMO you shouldn’t.

    Obama’s done a lot of things I didn’t expect him to do and that came as
    extremely nasty surprises to me.  Assuring the torturers at Gitmo and
    other such places that they would never be tried for their crimes and
    that if any other nation attempted to put them on trial that the Obama
    administration would protect them.  Expanding offshore drilling.  The
    wars and the killing also continued as though nothing had changed.  He
    opposed the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N.  But the last
    fucking straw for me was signing the NDAA this year, the one that makes
    it legal to imprison American citizens indefinitely without a trial.

    Obama signed that into law.  Not reluctantly.  Not because he had to. 
    Because he wanted to.  I would have expected that sort of thing from
    Bush, but when I voted for Obama in 2008 I never expected that he was
    capable of the same thing.

    I’m not voting for him again.  I’m not voting for anybody this time
    around.  I refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils.  Give me a choice
    between evil and not-as-evil, and I’ll go with “Fuck both of these
    guys” every time.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I’m not a fan of Libertarianism for the same reasons a lot of people also give.

    In addition, for all their fetishizing of contracts, they seem oddly reluctant to accept the nuances of collective contracts, such as the social contract – the implicit agreement you make, or your parents have made for you if you’re not of age, to live in a society and abide by its rules that you may live peaceably in it without hindrance.

    Part of that contract is agreeing that if you obey the laws that are enforced in it, you should contribute in some manner to the upkeep of the apparatus that enforces those laws (i.e. by paying taxes).

    It is still possible to effectively cancel one’s membership in the social contract – i.e. one’s citizenship – by going to another country, but admittedly it’s getting harder to do so these days.

  • http://twitter.com/pocojump kia

    But Smith’s list is too short and is too much shaped by the other inadequacy of that libertarian ideology, which is its tendency to treat anything other than the individual almost exclusively in negative terms — as a “bully” limiting or restraining the freedom of individuals. (I don’t think this is what Smith means to argue, but his critique of libertarian ideology here  winds up adopting the shape of his subject.)

    My old writing teacher and mentor, Marvin Mudrick, identified a certain type of narrative as a “sensibility story.” They were quite often well-written, well-executed in things like pacing and detail, but the reason he gave them that title was that in the story there was only one functioning sensibility; that of the narrator or protagonist, whose attitude to the experience of other characters was simply that it was something that happened to him/her. In the universe of the author there was only one subjectivity, the one with which the writer had identified him/herself. Everyone else was usually hostile, disappointing, uncomprehending, or some other version of less-than-human obstacle to the narrator/protagonist’s fulfillment of self. Of course, Marvin would tell us not to write these things. But he went further than that, by showing how the greatest artists were all about imagining what it was like to be someone different from outselves, someone whom perhaps we might not even like, and finding it possible to see the world as they see it. The “sensibility story” was not a failure of style or “technique” but a failure of the writer’s imagination at the most elementary level, for all of its glibness and surface competence.

    On that basis, i would go further than your critique of Smith, and say that ‘the individual” for the libertarian is the single subjectivity he can acknowledge as existing, that is, his own. In certain exceptional cases they can identify with people who fit some fantastic and impossible model of “heroism” like those characters in Ayn Rand novels whose supersubjectivity and lack of moral imagination are simply the elevation to the status of virtues of the libertarian’s emotional and imaginative deficiencies. This is why I always get so fidgety when people refer to libertarianism as an “ideology;” it seems more like an impairment in basic social skills, and calling it an ideology is like calling someone who chews with her mouth open a “seefoodian.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    His response is always the same, the Feds should get out of the way
    because the states can take care of those things more effectively.  The
    choice is not between governmental regulation and laissez faire
    capitalism/anarchy, it’s between local authority vs. central authority. 
    I think that’s the real take away from libertarianism, at least for me,
    not the Ayn Rand “dystopian” novels that people bring up time and time
    again, that’s a straw man argument.

    One issue with that is what you just described isn’t even libertarianism at all — it’s federalism, and that’s a whole separate thing that has little to do with people’s rights and freedoms and much more to do with how government power should be allocated.

    Another issue that Paul’s federalism/libertarianism ignores is what happens when state and local authorities violate the rights of their citizens. That’s actually been happening  a lot lately, such as the draconian new anti-immigrant laws and voter ID laws being passed all over the country as well as the general abuses by local officials like Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona. Under Paul’s system, the people have very little recourse outside of  elections. If their rights are being violated, they pretty much just have to take it and to me that’s just wrong.

    (I also don’t share Ron Paul’s blind and frankly implausible belief that, in the absence of Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, every state in the country would have given blacks full citizenship rights eventually.) Ron Paul can afford to be consistent on issues like this because he doesn’t have to deal with the negative consequences of being wrong. In fact, I think that’s how a lot of libertarians manage to remain so ideologically pure —  they’re almost immune to the consequences of all of their ignorant ideas.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deankchang Dean Chang

    I knew someone would bring up the issue of civil rights, and I agree with you that that is certainly one important role of the federal government, to protect against the tyranny of the majority.  The federal government should definitely step in when states are unable or unwilling to protect the civil rights of a minority population, I think that is still consistent with traditional notions of American federalism (which I believe is a by product of libertarian thought).  I don’t agree with Ron Paul on everything, I don’t think anyone does with any given politician or party.  I think we need FEMA, he doesn’t.  But I believe his central thesis is sound:  when you combine the power of the federal government with the near unlimited resources of the finances of the world’s richest country and you pursue a foreign policy of empire building, what do you get?  You get the Beast of Revelation to use an apt metaphor.  One elegant solution, the one the founders of our country believed in, was don’t centralize that type of power in the first place.  That will mitigate everything else.  

    Maybe what we need is a new brand of libertarianism, call it “compassionate libertarianism”.   My question to you, Charity, is what ideas do you have to get us out of the situation we currently find ourselves (assuming you find our currently situation to be problematic at all, some obviously don’t), and do you see the parties espousing those ideas in a coherent way?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I don’t agree with Ron Paul on everything, I don’t think anyone does
    with any given politician or party.  I think we need FEMA, he doesn’t. 
    But I believe his central thesis is sound:

    And I don’t. I think he starts from a good place — the government shouldn’t grow too powerful because it will violate the rights of its citizens, and others — and then goes completely off the rails from there. I agree with him on imperialism; I don’t understand why we still need to keep bankrolling armies of foreign dictators and spending billions replacing violent anti-American dictators with other violent, anti-American dictators. Neither party seems willing to do anything different and if Ron Paul was focused about ending that then maybe I would find his politics more palatable. But he doesn’t want to stop there; he wants to strip away the protections that ordinary citizens have against state and local authorities, as well as the protections they have against

    Maybe what
    we need is a new brand of libertarianism, call it “compassionate
    libertarianism”.   My question to you, Charity, is what ideas do you
    have to get us out of the situation we currently find ourselves
    (assuming you find our currently situation to be problematic at all,
    some obviously don’t), and do you see the parties espousing those ideas
    in a coherent way?

    Which situation? We’re dealing with a bunch of stuff right now (interminable war,  crumbling infrastructure, sky-high unemployment, decaying safety net, political gridlock and incompetence) — I don’t think there’s one solution to these problems. I think we need to remodel our electoral system to enable multiple parties. I think we need to open up the franchise, so that everyone can actually vote — I think it might even be necessary to make voting compulsory. I think we need a new PWA or something like that so that we can tackle unemployment and start repairing the physical damage to our country caused by years of neglect. (In fact, I think we need a brand-new New Deal — or Fair Deal, I guess) I think we need to leave Afghanistan, reduce the amount we spend on the military, and seriously rethink the level of military aid we provide to foreign dictatorships.

    A lot of those things are going to require concerted government action, which is why I can’t support Ron Paul. The reality is that most of our problems aren’t going to be solved by some corporation or labor union, or by one Randian genius huddled in a lab somewhere. They’re going to be solved by a lot of people working together, some in the government and some in the private sector. Ron Paul can see some of our problems but he’s too wrapped up in his dogma — Federal Reserve = bad, gold = good, government = bad — to consider a wider range of solutions.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    But I believe his central thesis is sound:  when you combine the power of the federal government with the near unlimited resources of the finances of the world’s richest country and you pursue a foreign policy of empire building, what do you get?  You get the Beast of Revelation to use an apt metaphor.  One elegant solution, the one the founders of our country believed in, was don’t centralize that type of power in the first place.  That will mitigate everything else.   

    I certainly agree that the founders always intended limitations on the centralization of political power.  That is what the whole structure of checks and balances is designed to enforce.  However, what I feel has been more damaging in recent decades has been the centralization of financial power, with which one can simply buy political power.  

    Ostensibly, nothing too radical can actually get passed under the U.S. government, because there are too many voices from the sidelines who would shoot it down.  This does help safeguard the country against small numbers of zealous ideologues, as much as it also makes a lot of other things more difficult (as with most things it has its upsides and downsides.)  However, enough money in the same hands lets one particular power influence a lot of different places in governing body that might otherwise be designed to check each other, which is where our country finds itself now.  

    In my opinion, that is what is undermining our otherwise healthy safeguards against abuse of that power.  

  • Anonymous

    (I also don’t share Ron Paul’s blind and frankly implausible belief
    that, in the absence of Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, every state
    in the country would have given blacks full citizenship rights
    eventually.)

    I don’t think that’s implausible — in fact I’m inclined to believe it myself, although I’m far from certain about it.

    I base this not on some counterfactual account of how this could happen (I don’t know the history well enough to even start on something like that) but rather on the more general point that the overall tendency over the last couple of centuries worldwide is for people to gain rights and not to lose them, some serious setbacks notwithstanding (and the Soviet Union was a step forward, not a step back).  South Africa is and was an independent nation, and the richest and most prosperous in the area, and they got rid of apartheid.  I find it difficult to believe that Alabama could retain apartheid laws forever when it’s neighbours and co-Federates (and the international community) have rejected it not just for themselves, but for everyone else, too.  Sure, there are differences, but they cut both ways.

    Getting there their own way could have the added advantage that the local society might see this as a necessary and inevitable step, and therefore ‘own’ it in a stronger way than they do now, as it would be their decision.   I admit this is rather more speculative, but it seems fairly clear that having it imposed by an external body ends up being an ‘out’.

    I’ve no idea how long it would take, though, and I wouldn’t want to suggest that a few more generations of having 10% plus of the population being treated as dirt would be worth the local government arrangements (which all else being equal I like better).

  • friendly reader

    Another issue that Paul’s federalism/libertarianism ignores is what happens when state and local authorities violate the rights of their citizens. That’s actually been happening  a lot lately, such as the draconian new anti-immigrant laws and voter ID laws being passed all over the country as well as the general abuses by local officials like Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona. Under Paul’s system, the people have very little recourse outside of  elections. If their rights are being violated, they pretty much just have to take it and to me that’s just wrong.

    Actually, one of the posters on the “Why does anyone like Ron Paul?” thread gave their answer for this: if you don’t like your laws, move to another state. That will put pressure on states to be “freer” to attract citizens. The poster acknowledged that might put you in some temporary financial difficulty, but surely that would be outweighed by the liberties you’d gain.

    I’d like to let that idea just sink in…and let you pick your jaws up off the floor.

    If you don’t like the laws of your state… pick up and move to another one.  Easy as pie!

    Well, okay, I can think of maybe one or two examples that might work on that. I mean, if I were a gay person living in Omaha, Nebraska, who wanted to get married, the moment Iowa made same-sex marriage legal I would’ve put my house on the market and started looking in Council Bluffs. But that’s because there’s just the Missouri River between them, and maybe an extra 15 minutes to your commute. Worth it for civil rights.

    But what if you’re a person in a minority group (of any kind) living somewhere that isn’t immediately adjacent a freer state? You’re supposed to drop your house, your community, your job, all the benefits that go with that job, and try your luck somewhere else.

    I think their brains must somehow operate differently from ours, like some weird Star Trek species.


    On another topic, as someone who has never read the Fountainhead, just how rapey is the rape scene? Wikipedia describes it as:

    Rather than indulge in traditional flirtation, the two engage in a
    battle of wills that culminates in a rough sexual encounter that
    Dominique later describes as a rape.

    However, I suspect Randroids may have played a part in editing the entry…

  • Lori

    But what if you’re a person in a minority group (of any kind) living somewhere that isn’t immediately adjacent a freer state? You’re supposed to drop your house, your community, your job, all the benefits that go with that job, and try your luck somewhere else.

    I think their brains must somehow operate differently from ours, like some weird Star Trek species.

    Logic does tend to work differently for them than for most of us. An example straight from The Great Man himself—a white supremacist publisher has endorsed him. From the NY Times article about it:

    The American Free Press, which markets books like “The Invention of the Jewish People” and “March of the Titans: A History of the White Race,” is urging its subscribers to help it send hundreds of copies of Ron Paul’s collected speeches to voters in New Hampshire. The book, it promises, will “Help Dr. Ron Paul Win the G.O.P. Nomination in 2012!” Don Black, director of the white nationalist Web site Stormfront, said in an interview that several dozen of his members were volunteering for Mr. Paul’s presidential campaign, and a site forum titled “Why is Ron Paul such a favorite here?” has no fewer than 24 pages of comments. “I understand he wins many fans because his monetary policy would hurt Jews,” read one.

    Obviously Paul can’t control who endorses him, but he’s refused to reject or denounce the endorsement. His reasoning is, “If they want to endorse me, they’re endorsing what I do or say — it has nothing to do with endorsing what they say.”

    The logic there is so faulty that I tend to assume that even if someone explained it to him very slowly he still wouldn’t understand the problem.

  • Hawker40

    “Move to another state” also assmumes that you will be allowed to move.

    “I owe my soul to the company store”

  • Anonymous

    “On another topic, as someone who has never read the Fountainhead, just how rapey is the rape scene?”

    Quite.

    Trigger warning.

    p219: “She tried to tear herself away from him. The effort broke against his arms that had not felt it. Her fists beat against his shoulders, against his face. He moved one hand, took her two wrists, pinned them behind her, under his arm, wrenching her shoulder blades. She twisted her head back. She felt his lips on her breast. She tore herself free.
        “She fell back against the dressing table, she started crouching, her hands clasping the edge behind her, her eyes wide, colorless, shapeless in terror. He was laughing.”

    p220 (a few paragraphs later): “She fought like an animal. But she made no sound. She did not call for  help. She heard the echoes of her blows in a gasp of his breath, and she knew that it was a gasp of pleasure. She reached for the lamp on the dressing table. He knocked the lamp out of her hand. The crystal burst to pieces in the darkness.
         “He had thrown her down on the bed and she felt the blood beating in her throat, in her eyes, the hatred, the helpless terror in her blood. She felt the hatred and his hands; his hands moving over her body, the hands that broke granite. She fought in a last convulsion. Then the sudden pain shot up, through her body, to her throat, and she screamed. Then she lay still.”

    And for fun, here’s Rand’s own view of the person described above: “The noble soul par excellence. The man as man should be. The self-sufficient, self-confident, the end of ends, the reason unto himself, the joy of living personified. Above all- the man who lives for himself, as living for oneself should be understood. And who triumphs completely. A man who is what he should be.”

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    “The noble soul par excellence. The man as man should be. The self-sufficient, self-confident, the end of ends, the reason unto himself, the joy of living personified. Above all- the man who lives for himself, as living for oneself should be understood. And who triumphs completely. A man who is what he should be.”

    That seems to sum up Rand’s philosophy right there: “I’m taking what I want and I don’t care if it hurts you.”  

  • friendly reader

    HOLY SH*T. O_O That is awful. That is not “rough sex,” that is… if it was from his POV you might be able to argue something, but it’s from hers and she clearly doesn’t want this and HOLY SH*T Ayn Rand was messed up!

    But then again, on a metaphorical level, most of what she believes in comes down to “I get what I want and won’t take no for an answer and am thus awesome and everyone will eventually love me,” so why should I be surprised? She’s consistent.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Twilight seems to be populated largely by jerks and bullies.  Not everyone is, but Edward, Jacob, Mike and Tyler all are, for example.  I’m guessing Eric is too, but I’m drawing a blank.  (I can think of examples where what he did would ideally have been better, but there’s a pretty big gap between innocent screw ups and the way the others act.)  If he somehow manages not to be… go Team Eric!  I suppose.

    Anyway, Bella’s solution was to marry the biggest bully of the lot, and it must have worked as an ending for a lot of people because Twilight has been pretty successful.

    In the version of Twilight I’ve been writing off and on I’m having somewhat of the opposite experience.  With one exception* everyone’s nice helpful and sensible, which leaves me less than clear as to where the conflict and the story will come from.

    *For Michelle I stayed closer to the original scene than I normally do, which means that she’s more like Mike than Ben is like Bella or Edith like Edward.  So, she’s a jerk.  I’d actually rather she not be a jerk, but even with my one jerk I’ve got a distinct lack of conflict in my story.

    I spoke to an anarchist once and asked him how he would deal with various problems that arise when there’s no one stopping people from being bullies and warlords.  He described a system that could very well work, and got frustrated with me when I pointed out he was describing a government.

    People’s attitudes to government are weird.  I agree with Elizabeth Warren that we don’t say enough how government has benefited all of us.  We talk about what it does wrong and where it fails, and as a result people seem to think that the only things government does are failures and wrongness.

    Of course, that is as nothing compared to the idea that the individual is the only good thing.  Apparently John Galt paved his own roads, built his own buildings, mined his own minerals, taught himself to speak and read and walk an use the toilet, preforms his own dentistry, solders his own electronics, and creates food by means of photosynthesis.  And that seems to be the standard these people demand everyone else live by.  For themselves it depends on how they’re doing at the moment.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    The extreme libertarian stance ignores a basic fact of economics: the customer-client relationship.  If a customer requests a product or service, a relationship is created and freedom is compromised in exchange for payment.  

    The Fountainhead has come up here often enough that when I saw the movie was on I just had to watch it. My reaction is here, chatting with a friend who’d only read the book: “Srsly, the lone wolf *architect*? An art/engineering hybrid that requires the buy-in of large numbers of other people and their money? You want to be the misunderstood artist, pick something that can be 100% your effort.”

    Roark seems like such a self-insert; the only reason he’s an architect and not an author is you can’t blow up a book in an epic “you don’t appreciate me!” flounce.

  • Anonymous

    Fountainhead is hilarious! Everything about it is so much fun.

    From Roark’s sulking because no-one appreciates his genius and his being forced to work in a quarry (because, y’know, if your architecture career falters there’s really no other option – not like you could get an office job or anything), through the bodice-ripping creepy rapey romance to the insane riot when the newspaper man decides he likes Roark after all, to the absolutely bizarre climax of the detonation and the court case, with Gary Cooper’s strangely awkward delivery (I think he thinks he’s back in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town) to the finale with him heroically bestriding the building like a colossus – it’s a laugh-a-minute ride to the finish.

    What also baffles me is the complete disregard for property rights Roark displays when he blows up the building — it’s a very different notion of ‘right’ when a building he didn’t pay for is ‘his’ because he put creative effort into it.  Do the workers get to claim the same right?

    I actually quite like the riot.  Part of me wants to live in a world where people care so much about architecture and design.  Reminds me of those marketplace riots over the nature of Christ back in 3rd-century Byzantium. And Roark’s nonchalance, particularly with the newspaper guy whom he refuses to see as his enemy is quite lovely.  Pity street/internet libertarians are the complete opposite.

    I can never make out whether Roark is the author insert or Dominique, though.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    through the bodice-ripping creepy rapey romance

    Rand seems quite fond of that type of thing.  She seemed to have a fetish for being dominated by a man.  And nominally, there is nothing wrong with that, if that is just a sexual paraphilia (I have known plenty of people who are excited by that thought.)  However, where I find Rand to be reprehensible is that she does not see such a thing as just her own sexual preference, but she sees it as the right sexual preference against which people who hold contrary preferences must be wrong, wrong, wrong.  That I take issue with, though the “My ideas are right, anyone who disagree’s is an idiot,” thing seems to be a reoccurring thing with her.  

    She seemed like quite the misogynist when she said that a woman should never be president because a woman who was not below a man could not be a “true” woman.

  • Anonymous

    well, there might not be anything wrong with having a fetish for dominating men, sure.   But that surely doesn’t excuse what is essentially a rape scene [1].  Of course, you can have rape scenes in fiction, but they probably shouldn’t be condoned as this one is, as you point out.  Roark is a manly man because of it, and Dominque likes it.

    Although it does raise an interesting point – presumably it’s also OK to indulge in your paraphilia in fiction.  Does that mean that those of us who look upon condoned rape scenes with horror [2] and severely criticise them are repressing and curtailing the sexual expression of submissives (and maybe doms too)?

    One possible out is that this may be fine for genre fetish sex fantasy fiction, but it’s a flaw in fiction ‘for the world’.

    (If that out doesn’t work out, then I’ll retreat without the slightest shame to a utilitarian argument that it’s far better to repress somewhat the sexual expression of submissives  than to continue to support an in-practice heinous assumption about how courtship might take place)

    Of course, this further raises the interesting idea that we’re reading Rand all wrong.  We shouldn’t be reading it as world literature with a political message at all — we should be reading it as an odd kind of fetish fiction where the fetish has been worked out in a bizarrely thorough manner.

    I can only suggest that a sympathetic understanding of Rand’s fiction might be aided by such a reading.

    Also, it might be a rare case where a Freudian interpretation might actually be apropos!

    [1] I won’t claim to be an expert on picking up on subtle social cues, but if when a woman says ‘no’ she means no, I’ve strong suspicions that if she screams and runs away from you, that probably also means ‘no’.

    [2] although in this particular case I wasn’t horrified as it’s so laughable — I suppose some might argue I need to work on my sense of outrage, but my sense of the absurd is the only thing that keeps me sane and able to watch tripe like this.

  • Anon for this

    Does that mean that those of us who look upon condoned rape scenes with
    horror [2] and severely criticise them are repressing and curtailing the
    sexual expression of submissives (and maybe doms too)?

    Nope. I’m a sub, and I can’t watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because of the rape scene. I haven’t read any of Rand’s books, so I don’t know how the scene is shown, but unless there’s discussion beforehand negotiating limits and safewords, it’s rape and rape is bad.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Not referencing a specific work both because I have not read the examples brought up and because examples would squick me incredibly anyway.

    People, generally speaking, do not have control over what gets them off.  Sometimes that means that people’s fantasies are about things that are horrific in real life.  So long as those things stay fantasies there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    Some people do fantasize about rape (from both sides: some people fantasize about being raped, some people fantasize about raping.)  It is very much not their fault.  I’m guessing that given the option most of them would much rather have something else, something not horrific, be their thing.

    I think that such people ought to be able to have fiction that meets their fantasies as much as anyone else.  I also think that that fiction should be clearly indicated to be such a thing.

    When it is the case that something is ok in fantasy but very much not ok in real life you don’t want someone mistaking a fantasy about it for an example of how things should be in real life.  Also, just as general courtesy to readers you probably want to warn them ahead of time if you’re going to present something in a positive light when it will severely squick and horrify a large proportion of potential readers.

  • FangsFirst

    Some people do fantasize about rape (from both sides: some
    people fantasize about being raped, some people fantasize about raping.)
     It is very much not their fault.  I’m guessing that given the option
    most of them would much rather have something else, something not
    horrific, be their thing.

    Of course, in fantasy, both sides are aware it’s going to occur in advance and can “secretly want it” all the fantasizer wants. Obviously if someone fantasizes about being “raped,” they aren’t at all, in that they want this thing to happen, otherwise, why would it be a positive fantasy? So, it stops being rape for that fantasy, and just becomes “secret desire,” or such-like.

    I’m not entirely sure about the other end, though I imagine it’s also “the other person secretly wanted it,” which is possible in a fantasy, and also means it isn’t really a rape fantasy anyway. If it isn’t that, I wonder a bit about the person having the fantasy, I think…

    I do wonder (and worry) sometimes if either mentality leads to some confusion about the reality though.

    British series “Cracker” actually addressed this pretty smartly, actually. Though I imagine–I watched it before it was an issue for me–it is triggering as all hell. And my opinion might be different, now, I suppose.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Trigger warning:  I discuss some people’s fantasies of physically violating situations that may be uncomfortable.  

    Disclaimer:  I do not, and never will, condone rape.  As TvTropes has a page for, “Rape is a Special Kind of Evil.”

    That said, I have known people who have it as a fantasy.  And most of the ones who do so that I have seen tend to fantasize more about being taken than about taking someone else.  Any number of these people though, would be disgusted and horrified by real rape, but as an abstraction there is something that turns them on by the surprise, fear, or loss of control they might feel in that fantasy.  And yes, some of them like to play off this fantasy, but it is always done with some kind of pre-negotiation and arrangement.  Say, a person could negotiate with a partner to come into their home at an uncertain time on a certain day wearing a ski mask and “take” them by surprise.  I have heard it called “consensual non-consent,” though I am not an expert in such terminology.  Some of them will write a letter with the negotiation in advance and seal it through the post office, just to ensure there is a record of consent in case there is a legal, err, misunderstanding.  

    In general though, writing fantasies into fiction is something a lot of people do.  Some writers can actually make quite a good living off of it too.  That is what Ann Rice did, essentially.  Of course, the more creative writers will give the fiction some kind of fantastical elements in order to give these fantasies a bit of distance from reality, which helps.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    I can never make out whether Roark is the author insert or Dominique, though.

    Both – Roark is the ego-insert, Dominique is the id.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    So who’s Rand’s superego?  Or does she have one?

  • Anonymous

    Oh Steve, you ignorant slut, don’t you know that superegos are for evil collectivist parasites?

  • fraser

    Yes it’s quite fascinating that Rand can sneer at the crass artistic taste of the unkempt masses while assuming they can be driven to fury by columns about architecture.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ehcoleman Elizabeth S Coleman

    >>
    I can never make out whether Roark is the author insert or Dominique, though.

    Well, Rand herself has said that Dominique is herself “on a bad day.”

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic


    Roark seems like such a self-insert; the only reason he’s an architect and not an author is you can’t blow up a book in an epic “you don’t appreciate me!” flounce.

    Why not?

    Ryan checked his watch for a third time.  If everything was going according to plan Domino would be distracting the night watchman right now.  The problem was that there was no way to know.  If he was still at his post then the moment Ryan stepped in front of a camera back up would be called and Ryan wouldn’t know anything had gone wrong until he was arrested.

    He took a breath, steadied himself, and then sprinted out of hiding.  He knew that speed wouldn’t matter here.  If things went right he could stroll to his destination and have everything work perfectly, if things went wrong no amount of running would help.  He sprinted because he was afraid that if he didn’t go as fast as he could he’d lose his nerve and back down.

    When he reached the warehouse door he fumbled with the key, dropped it, picked it up, tried to insert it upside-down, dropped it again, and finally opened the door.  The warehouse was dark, of course.  Ryan pulled out his flashlight, and tried to turn it on.  It didn’t work.  He switched it off then back to on, still nothing.  He shook it.  Nothing.  He hit it several times.  It turned on.

    The run was massive -millions of books- normally he would have been flattered by the faith it took to print that many books.  The first run of his first book was 500.  But every single one of the new books was an affront to everything he believed.  The company had defiled his vision and he wasn’t going to stand for that.

    He pulled off his backpack and got out the c-4 and accelerant.

    He didn’t know how much time he took placing charges.

    When he left the warehouse he almost expected it to be daylight.  Once he thought he was at a safe distance he turned around, pulled out the detonator, and pushed the button.  He knew he shouldn’t just stand there and watch, but he wanted to see the corruption of his vision die in fire.  The explosions were a beauty to behold, the sound was much louder than he’d expected.  Ears ringing he disappeared into the night.

    Or something like that.  It would require a massive print run for it to be epic, but I doubt anything about blowing up books would be any less realistic than standard Rand fare.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Or something like that.  It would require a massive print run for it to be epic, but I doubt anything about blowing up books would be any less realistic than standard Rand fare.

    True. Also I’ve got a half-formed story idea where Roark is a Big Name Fan, author of a very popular fanfiction series, and when he’s not getting the adulation he thinks he deserves he sets off a virus to destroy every electronic copy of his book he can find. The story would be told through livejournal entries, fandom wank posts, chatlogs…

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    The story would be told through livejournal entries, fandom wank posts, chatlogs
    MySpace pages, listservs…

  • fraser

    Having worked for a building-industry newsletter, I couldn’t help seeing Roark as the stereotype many builders have of architects: A whiny priss who expects everything to be built exactly as is, regardless of whether his design is practical or not.

  • Lori

    The smart bitches trashy books style review of Ayn Rand’s oeuvre desperately needs to happen.

  • Anonymous

    The reason he’s an architect is because Ayn Rand, really, really, really wanted to do it with Frank Lloyd Wright.

    Ayn Rand makes a lot more sense if you read her entire career as a series of creepy stalker letters.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    “Ayn Rand makes a lot more sense if you read her entire career as a series of creepy stalker letters. ”

    Which makes her admiration of serial killer William Hickman all that much more disturbing…

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    Rand’s obsession with architects (and the big, thrusting skyscrapers they erect) reminds me of L&J’s obsession with big, shiny, powerful airplanes in Left Behind.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    From Titanic, we have:

    Ismay:
    Yes, actually. I wanted to convey sheer size, and size means stability, luxury, and above all, strength.

    Rose:
    Do you know of Dr. Freud, Mr. Ismay? His ideas about the male preoccupation with size might be of particular interest to you.

    :-P

  • Tonio

    Any ideas why a woman would have that particular obsession?

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    Howard Roark a/k/a Mary Sue Rand.  A key philosophy in quality assurance is that of the Voice of the Customer–provide what the customer wants, when the customer wants it, at the agreed price.  QA in a Randian society would be almost meaningless.

  • fraser

    Of course, this kind of thinking isn’t unique to Rand. The image of the visionary creator who fights for his work because it is absolutely brilliant and must not be edited or changed even a jot is quite common (as a writer myself, I’m unimpressed).

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    True, but as Jamoche put it architecture is different from most forms of art in that involves the buy-in of numerous parties and the payment of thousands (or millions) of dollars up front.  And the architect is limited by what the laws of physics will allow.  The constraints upon creativity are those of necessity.

    For that matter, even the artists of old were constrained by the desires of their patrons. Many artists who were fiercely protective of their ‘vision’ also died in poverty. 

  • guest

    Lol that is exactly what I told my students.  Some of them decided to do something else.

  • Anonymous

    I liked Noah Smith’s post.  The problem is an obvious one, but ‘local bullies’ is such an excellent, pithy way of summing it up.

  • Julian Elson

    Why the assumption that a protagonist must be a mostly sympathetic character? I think that it’s probably true that a protagonist with an entirely me-against-the-world attitude would probably not be that interesting (although I’m prepared to believe a good writer could take it in a good direction), but the idea that it would be bad because it would mean that the protagonist is a jerk strikes me as misguided. Protagonists can be jerks and the novel still be good. (Humbert Humbert in Lolita is the classical example, of course.) How many people would watch House if it were about a nice, well-balanced man who happened to be a diagnostic genius?

  • fraser

    Some libertarians, such as Tibor Machan (a columnist with my former newspaper chain) actually see the local bully aspect as a plus. Machan admits the complete privatization of everything gives homeowners associations, corporations etc. humongous power, but that’s a plus for him: There’ll be none of that nasty debate and politics and protests mucking up his perfect libertarian system. The companies that own the roads will set speed limits and decide who can parade. The for-profit schools will decide whether to teach evolution and whether to admit gay/black/handicapped kids. Business can decide for themselves which customers they want to allow. And everyone will have freedom!
    I’m quite sure that if the only way to get a job was to agree to give your boss organ donations on request, Machan would insist that “Well of course it’s not fair that you have to do this, but we should celebrate workers’ freedom to negotiate without government dictating to them!”

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Machan admits the complete privatization of everything gives homeowners associations, corporations etc. humongous power, but that’s a plus for him: There’ll be none of that nasty debate and politics and protests mucking up his perfect libertarian system.

    Spoke like someone who’s never dealt with a homeowner’s association. Debate, politics, protests – there’s maybe a dozen people who are actually active in mine, but they manage all of that.

  • JohnK

    Politics, debate, and protest are things that happens whenever you get two or more people together and ask them to make a decision. The fact that they think that, in the absence of government, everyone will agree on everything and there will be no more dissent or diversity of thought just shows how vacuous they are.

  • fraser

    Same thing with privatized schools. People who have to pay extra for their kids’ education often don’t accept “this is the way we teach so shut up” as a good policy.

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    Privatised schools would be charter schools, wherein public schools and public funds are turned over to an educational company (which usually don’t have any actual proven educational results) that may be for-profit (but not necessarily). Parents don’t pay any more for tuition than they would for a public school.

    Oftentimes, since they pay less and are often run by educational cranks, the results are actually worse than the community schools (though, because they can kick out students for any reason while public schools are mandated to keep st’s until they turn 16 at least, they can be safer and even more productive than the worst schools nearby. But that’s a mixed bag)

  • Anonymous

    The only way I concede libertarianism as even being a possible economic/political philosophy is once we’ve gone beyond the whole “scarcity” thing, and moved into a post-scarcity environment. At that point, because everyone would have access to nanofabricators or cornucopia machines whatever you want to call them, everyone would be on a level playing field.

    That’s about the only way I can see some types of anarchy working, too.

    Right now, libertarians are just a bunch of upset White men who don’t want to have to give anything to society and still think they can take away from it. Who have this awkward definition of “theft” – that is, the belief I should get something for nothing.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Another thing was that while you could spend banknotes from another place (i.e. if you had Kansas City banknotes you could spend them in another state) the other place wasn’t necessarily legally obligated to accept them as legal tender, and certainly given the issues with banking and forgery, I imagine there must have been, on occasion, considerable trouble given to a guest who didn’t have some gold on him or her in an emergency.

    Ah, but I forget. Ron Paul’s idea is not designed to be easy for poor people. The well-heeled high-rollers will always have a few nuggets of gold in such an environment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I think that’s the biggest problem with this whole currency scheme for me. Assuming everything works perfectly, it’ll be almost as good as what we have now. And that’s just if you’re rich, of course.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    “Almost as good as what we have now for the rich, and the poor can go fuck themselves” *is* their definition of “a dramatic improvement”

  • Ken

    The general rule was that there was a discount, often a heavy one, when using banknotes from outside the area – the discount depending on, among other things, the distance between the banks, and whether the banker who was examining your notes had ever heard of the issuing bank.  A Manhattan dollar might get you ninety cents in Charleston, and vice-versa.  This amounted to a hidden tariff on all commerce that traveled any distance.

    I also don’t see how this can be made to jibe with the oft-repeated claim that getting rid of Federal Reserve Notes would mean that money would keep its value, though that might be more of a gold-standard thing.

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    The well-heeled high-rollers will always have a few nuggets of gold in such an environment.

    This would be their servants, teeth. And by “servants” I mean, anybody of the permanent underclass (the rest of us) who is fortunate enough to hold a job as a human purse.

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    “a large variety of intermediate powers like… neighborhood associations…”

    Dang those bullying neighborhood associations! ALWAYS trying to get the will of the community done. Always pushing the poor little, put down-upon developer around. It’s hard for a millionaire who just wants to make a quick buck by displacing residents these days.

  • FangsFirst

    Perhaps “neighborhood associations” refers to something I’m unfamiliar with, but Rhubarbarian82 equates them with “homeowner associations,” who I’ve always understood to be good friends with developers and more interested in cut-throat maintenance of property value (think gated communities and cookie cutter houses, with enumerated limits on yard decorations and house colours and stuff).

    Guess there might be other things though…

  • Daughter

    Neighborhood associations are different than homeowner associations. The former is more about promoting quality of life in the neighborhood that just upholding property values. I attended one such group for a while, when I lived in a racial and economically diverse neighborhood in Boston.  Some of the topics included: a presentation by a new restauranteur who was applying for his liquor license but had to get approval from the neighbors for the city to grant it; planning for a community garden and farmer’s market; planning community festivals; a regular police report by the local beat cop; local political candidates making their spiel; and plans of action for addressing recent tragedies or community needs.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Dang those bullying neighborhood associations! ALWAYS trying to get the will of the community done. Always pushing the poor little, put down-upon developer around. It’s hard for a millionaire who just wants to make a quick buck by displacing residents these days.

    They can be pretty brutal on their neighbors too.  When I was renting a place with some friends a few years back, we recieved in the mail a letter from the neighborhood homeowners association telling us to remove the blackberry bushes in our front yard or they would call the agency that managed our house for the owner and have us evicted. 

    Would have been nice if they had, I dunno’, tried talking to us, invite us to their meetings, and bring this issue up politely instead of going directly to threats? 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    homeowners association telling us to remove the blackberry bushes in our
    front yard or they would call the agency that managed our house for the
    owner and have us evicted.

    A good time to get familiar with the residential tenancy laws in your state and prepare a case for small claims court for eviction without proper cause.

  • Lori

    A good time to get familiar with the residential tenancy laws in your state and prepare a case for small claims court for eviction without proper cause.

    Good luck with that. Depending on how the lease agreement is written the blackberry bushes could very well be proper cause for an eviction. It could easily be found that the tenant made a material change to the property (planting the bushes) that caused the owner financial harm (fines by the HOA) and it wouldn’t be unusual for that to be considered grounds for eviction.

  • Tonio

    Depending on how the lease agreement is written the blackberry bushes could very well be proper cause for an eviction.

    What is the HOA’s stance on apple iPhone trees?

  • Lori

    Whatever the members want it to be. That’s the beauty of HOAs. /sarcasm

  • fraser

    And of course, it’s easy to infringe on a HOA rule (whether you’re a tenant or an owner) without knowing it. I’ve known people on the boards of HOA who admit nobody reads the rules all the way through, even them.

  • Hawker40

    A friend living in a Condo had a wonderful arguement with the Condo Association because of rules changes…
    The association charter said that changes to the charter required a
    unanimous vote by all households in the association.  So, when he was informed that he had violated a rule, he informed them that it wasn’t a rule.
    “We voted to change that.”
    But since I wasn’t present, it wasn’t unanimous, therefore the rule wasn’t changed.
    “We voted to change that too.”
    Ummm….

  • Tonio

    At that point, the Condo Association shouldn’t even bother with having a charter…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Maybe they treat the charter the same way larger bodies treat the Constitution — as something to be cited when it fits in with their needs, ignored when it doesn’t, and generally used as a cudgel to end all discussion?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    O.o

    Provincial residential tenancy laws in Canada seem to be more sensibly written. Eviction for cause usually involves nonpayment of rent, serious property damage, repeatedly annoying other tenants, or matters of that sort.

    In actual fact I encourage people who rent to do nothing to improve the value of the places they live in; I was told the story of a young couple who rented a house. They liked it so much they decided to spruce it up, repainting the interior and so on.

    The landlord liked that so much that they promptly evicted the couple for “landlord use” and sold the house three months later.

  • Anonymous

    When you’re done being sarcastic, google “homeowner associations.” “Bully” is a pretty light descriptor for some of them.

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    Rhubarbarian and FearlessSon

    As FangsFirst and Daughter noted, neighborhood associations are quite different than homeowner’s associations. In my neck of the woods, we don’t really have those so much (though I do know of them). Neighborhood associations (such as the Logan Square Neighborhood Association) tend to work for the good of the community. They tend to be comprised and overlapping with community organizers to address needs of the community (reduction in crime and reduction in gentrifying displacement, quality-control of schools, cooperation with police, affordable housing, beautification and community gardens, etc).

    Homeowner’s associations, otoh, yeah, that’s not about empowerment of the poor so I’m sorry but they’re not my world.

  • Ken

    As vast and various as all those aspects of government are, put them all
    together and they’re still dwarfed by multitude of non-state,
    non-individual entities that make up our world:

    Terry Pratchett raises a version of this in some of the Discworld novels.  Sam Vimes, head of the City Watch, has frequently reflected that the hundred or so watchmen have authority only as long as the hundred thousand or so city residents cooperate.  If the Watch ever loses that, well…

  • FangsFirst

    I don’t know a thing about either of those, experience-wise–HOAs OR NHAs. But then I live in an apartment complex and never know when someone moves out (nor what there name is before they did so). The closest I came was my former nextdoor, who drunkenly confessed to being an ex-drug dealer and briefly brandished a .45 when he invited me over to take shots of tequila for his birthday the first time he ever spoke to me.¹

    I’m cool with the descriptions of NHAs I’m seeing though.

    And don’t like anything I’ve ever heard about HOAs.

    ¹in retrospect, finding out I’m mis-wired for social situations maybe shouldn’t’ve been a surprise…

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    OT, but people might find this article on the changing evangelical church interesting…

  • Twig

    “Why the assumption that a protagonist must be a mostly sympathetic character?”

    I’d be careful with this.  Unless you are Nabakov level good, what you’ll likely end up with is a heroine like the one I just finished reading from “The Forest of Hands and Teeth.”

    I was cheering for the zombies to eat her from about page twenty onward.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    I’d be careful with this.  Unless you are Nabakov level good, what
    you’ll likely end up with is a heroine like the one I just finished
    reading from “The Forest of Hands and Teeth.”

    I know someone who accidentally talked herself in to reviewing paranormal teen romance books for one of the big national education journals.  I can’t talk to her anymore without getting an entire diatribe on the horrible garbage she’s been reading.  It’s kind of awesome, since she’s just one of those people who can rant in an endlessly amusing way.

    Either way, Forest of Hands and Teeth has come up.  I’ve never read it, but I wouldn’t recommend emulating it for anything, based on what I’ve heard…

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I know someone who accidentally talked herself in to reviewing paranormal teen romance books for one of the big national education journals.  I can’t talk to her anymore without getting an entire diatribe on the horrible garbage she’s been reading.  It’s kind of awesome, since she’s just one of those people who can rant in an endlessly amusing way.

    Sounds like the perfect excuse to start a blog in which one deconstructs a popular genre of literature.  

    I hear they can be quite amusing.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Sounds like the perfect excuse to start a blog in which one deconstructs a popular genre of literature.

    Yeah, but who does THAT?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Honestly, I doubt anyone would be interested in reading something like.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    It’s Ana Mardoll!

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    It’s Ana Mardoll!

    I…I do not know who that is…

  • hapax

    http://www.anamardoll.com

    She comments here and at the slacktiverse frequently.

    She is currently engaged in deconstructing TWILIGHT, the Chronicles of Narnia, the CLAYMORE anime series, and various other one-offs.

    Funny and thoughtful, and HIGHLY recommended

  • Lori

    Same thing with privatized schools. People who have to pay extra for
    their kids’ education often don’t accept “this is the way we teach so
    shut up” as a good policy.

    It works that way in some cases, but not by any means in all cases. There are plenty of charter schools that basically tell unhappy parents to like it or lump it. There are also plenty of public schools that are very responsive to parents who bother to get involved in their kids’ education.

  • Lori

    Oh yeah, local politics is so much less coercive than the federal level.

    http://www2.insidenova.com/news/2011/dec/29/va-gop-require-loyalty-oath-presidential-primary-ar-1574984/

    Remind me again why we keep having this conversation framed in terms of “state & local government good (or at least acceptable), federal government bad? There is good governance and bad governance and both can occur at all levels.

  • Anonymous

    Lori: Aww, so you do keep reading the threads after you [share an opinion on a political issue — an opinion that differs from the majority view of the participants on an overwhelmingly liberal blog]. You just don’t respond when people [… respond with valid contrary evidence, or respond with righteous indignation at you for daring to disagree, or respond with gratuitous ad hominem attacks on your character, or (as in the comment by the prior poster,) condescending sarcasm] … What[‘s the reason that you don’t respond]?

    I do respond … when I feel that I can further contribute to the discussion.  There have been a number of instances when I have had a lengthy discussion on a number of issues.  The Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the use of interrogation techniques deemed “torture”, the health care mandate/Happy Meal bans come to mind.

    Sometimes I want to give my perspective but just don’t want to get into a lengthy argument.  (Especially when it’s one against ten or more — and I am not going to answer every comment that provides an opposing view.)*   Or I don’t have the time, or the passion to go several rounds on a particular issue. Maybe my expression of a dissenting view will give at least one reader something to consider.

    I realize that my participation on this blog can put me in a no-win situation.*  If I don’t respond, I’m accused of something like being “not brave enough to actually discuss issues.” If I do respond, I’m accused of diverting the subject of the post, dominating the thread, or — ultimately — refusing to accept the (allegedly) superior evidence and proof that my opponents have provided for the inferiority of my position.  (I’ve been accused of each multiple times.)

    And I’ve learned a lot from many of the responses. Sometimes I’ve changed my position on an issue. Often, even when I don’t change, I get a better understanding of an opposing view, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of my own argument.

    Anyway, Lori, thanks for asking.

    * And please don’t take this to mean — as others have condescendingly suggested — that I’m whining or complaining.  I’m not.  If I only wanted my views validated and never challenged, I wouldn’t read this blog or participate here in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    If you’re going to post your opinions when they aren’t likely to be agreed with and you want them to be taken seriously, it’s best to give some reasoning behind them.  Anything will do, really.

  • Murfyn

    There’s far more to society than just the individual and The State
    I’ve never been able to put it into words, but this is what is wrong with Orwell’s 1984.

  • Anonymous

    When I think it will matter, I do.

  • Anonymous

    Well, it matters all of the time.  If you don’t it just makes you look like a glib jackass.

  • Lori

    This is quite untrue. When he makes polite, on-topic comments (in Left
    Behind comment threads, because I can’t remember ever seeing him do so
    on other types of comment threads), people respond pleasantly or not at
    all. As Tonio noted, in other comment threads, whenever people make
    comments critical of right-wing politicians regardless of how atrocious
    their behavior is, if aunursa comments at all, his comment is guaranteed
    to be some variation on “So’s your old man.”

    This. Considering the number of times he’s made rude, inaccurate and/or completely illogical statements, especially about politics, it speaks well of the group that he gets as much positive response as he does.

    The fact that he’s playing the misunderstood victim in this thread doesn’t mean that he actually is a misunderstood victim.

  • Anonymous

    The fact that he’s playing the misunderstood victim in this thread

    This is truly perplexing.  If I don’t respond to hostile comments, then I’m “not brave enough to discuss issues.”  On the other hand, if I do respond and continue to respond, then I’m guilty of making multiple “rude, inaccurate and/or completely illogical statements, especially about politics”.  Now I am to understand that if I explain myself and seek to burn straw men and correct misconceptions about my position, then I’m “playing the misunderstood victim”?

    Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

  • Lori

    There is a great deal of difference between engaging with an argument (which you do not do) and whining about how people react to your political posts. Not all responses are created equal.

    I can certainly believe that you’re dizzy, but my intellect has nothing to do with that.

  • James Hanley

    Mr. Clark,

    As long as your only introduction to libertarian thought is through the lens of its critics, you are engaging in dishonesty every time you criticize it, because you do not actually ever engage what libertarians themselves actually say.  I find this disappointing, but of course I recognize that you are, as are all of us, only human.  I just wish this particular blindness was not one of your human imperfections.

  • Lori

    Obviously ou are making assumptions about Fred’s knowledge of libertarian thought, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there. If you have something to say about libertarian thought James, just say it. Concern trolling is not helpful and I’m sure we all wish it wasn’t one of your human imperfections. 

  • Rob Brown

    Okay.  Well, perhaps you can answer a question about libertarianism for me.

    I’ve said on a number of occasions that based on his stances I would trust Ron Paul 100% if he were in charge of only foreign policy, but that I wasn’t so sure if he’d be good as far as domestic policy went.  Libertarianism as I understand it means that basically the government shouldn’t be hurting you or helping you.  I’m all for the “not hurting you” part, but the “not helping you” thing I have doubts about, because there are some people who are not able to get a job and earn a living.  People with mental health issues, for example.  They didn’t ask for their conditions, but they have them, and if such a condition prevents anybody from wanting to hire them or prevents a person from being able to get a diploma, then what do you do?  I don’t have a problem with them receiving welfare, or–as is the case here in Canada–inexpensive medication to help them function.  (If that last sentence has anybody scratching their heads about my earlier comment re. not voting for Obama again: dual citizen here.)

    Some people, I’d argue, need help.  I’d further argue that they won’t get the help they need from other charitable citizens; if you always could count on people to lend you a hand when you weren’t able to make it on your own, then nobody would ever end up homeless.  So while a libertarian might–and correct me if I have this wrong–see taxation as infringing on her rights to keep what she’s earned, I would say that if it keeps people from living on the streets or dying then it’s worth it.

    What do you think?

  • Donalbain

    Yes it is. My gypsy friends refer to themselves as Gypsies. They expect me to refer to them as Gypsies. I will continue to refer to them as Gypsies.

  • Anonymous

    You do realize you’re saying the equivalent of ‘I, a white person, have black friends who don’t object to my calling them the N word, and therefore the N word is not a slur’, don’t you?

  • Lori

    “They expect me to call them X” is not (necessarily) the same thing as “they don’t object to me calling them X”.

    I suppose expect in this context could mean “they know that I don’t know any better and just can’t be arsed to get worked up about it”, but it could also mean “this is what they’ve told me they wish to be called”. If it’s the latter then refusing to use the requested term would be just another version of a white person telling them what they should be called. 

  • Anonymous

    Point taken. But Donalbain’s Romani friends would be literally the only Romani people I’ve ever heard of who DON’T object to the term, so it’s ringing very much to me like “I can’t be racist! I have black Romani friends!”

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I’m a queer man who doesn’t object to being called “queer.” I acknowledge that there exist people who object to being called “queer”. 

    I endorse not calling those people “queer,” and I endorse calling me “queer.” That said, there are contexts where, if you called me “queer,” I would be hurt. (There are also contexts where, if you refused to call me “queer,” I would be hurt.)

    So, is “queer” a slur? Well, I would say that sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. It depends on the people it’s being said to, and the people it’s being said by, and the context it’s being said in.

    This should not be surprising. Most words are like that. Meaning frequently depends on context.

    It’s useful to have rules about when to use certain words, because following those rules is an easy way to signal the fact that I don’t intend to be hurtful. If someone refuses to call me “queer” because they believe “queer” is a slur, for example, I’m less likely to be hurt by that than if they refuse it for various other reasons.

    But the purpose of the rules is to minimize the pain we cause one another. It would be a pity if we lost sight of “don’t treat people in hurtful ways” because we got too caught up in trying to make and follow rules about when to use certain words.

  • Anonymous

    Thing is, ‘queer’ is still a slur. It’s just that it’s been almost-entirely-successfully reclaimed. I know of no indication, bar Donalbain’s friends and that blog Donalbain linked, that the G word is a slur that Romanis are trying to reclaim.

  • Anonymous

    One of the commenters on EllieMurasaki’s link is rightfully concerned that getting everyone to use ‘romany’ might just result in ‘romany’ becoming a slur…

    I remember seeing an article that mentioned a man with a leg that doesn’t function too well saying he actually preferred to be called an old-fashioned and now-deprecated term rather than ‘disabled’.  The term was either ‘lame’ or ‘crippled’, I forget which.  He liked it better because he thought that ‘disabled’ suggested he was incapable of anything, whereas the other term was more specific and suggested (he thought, anyway) he just couldn’t walk…

  • Donalbain

    You do realize you’re saying the equivalent of ‘I, a white person, have
    black friends who don’t object to my calling them the N word, and
    therefore the N word is not a slur’, don’t you?

    No it isnt. It isnt even close to that. I have never met a single Romani Gypsy who ever objected to being called a Romani Gypsy. Indeed, their main complaint has been when people who are not Romani Gypsies are called Gypsies. See, for example My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, which was mainly about Irish Travellers.

  • Anonymous

    http://romany-women.livejournal.com/38031.html

    Rereading the comments, I retract my earlier remark about never having encountered a Romani with no objection to being called a gypsy. I’d remembered the post content but not that of the comments.

  • Rob Brown

    In that case, Donalbain, I’d suggest referring to the ones who want to
    be called “gypsies” as “gypsies”, but not calling any other Romani
    person you meet the same thing unless they tell you it’s okay.

    I actually had no idea it was a slur myself, but I’ll avoid using it just to be on the safe side from now on.

  • Donalbain

CLOSE | X

HIDE | X