Roger Ebert gives his two cents (for what that’s worth these days; thanks Fed!) on the Occupy Wall Street movement, if you care to subject yourself to the inane political views of a mainstream-leftist movie reviewer. What I found interesting was the comic at the end of his article:
One would think the left-liberals in this country would understand that better than most. Obama was their great Hope-and-Change candidate, an alleged outsider destined to change the way corrupt Washington works, and look how he turned out: Bush 2.0. But I guess the memories of unthinking, incorrigible statists are short — extremely short. Their great self-delusion: If only we can get the right people into power…
My fellow TLS blogger Norman Horn’s recent speech, What you can do to promote liberty, called to mind some things I’ve blogged about before. In Nock and Leonard Read on “One Improved Unit” and the Power of Attraction, blogged previously here, I discussed the idea advocated by Albert Jay Nock and Leonard Read, that your primary task is to improve yourself–to strive for excellence in yourself. Then you become a bright light that attracts people; they see you are good, and successful, and worth emlating or listening to–so you win people over by the power of attraction. They come to you, and then you have more success spreading the ideas of liberty than if you go around being a boor. More detail, including excerpts from Nock and Read, are in that post.
The other post, previousyl blogged elsewhere, is reproduced in full here:
Career Advice by North
Gary North delivered a wonderful lecture last month during Mises University 2009 (the same day I gave my own speech), “Calling and Career as an Austrian School Scholar” (a shorter version of this was in the LRC podcast 127. Gary North: Making a Difference, Making a Living, which is also excellent). North talks calling and occupation. Calling is “the most important thing you can do with your life in which you are most difficult to replace.” Occupation is “how you put food on the table.” Occasionally they are the same, but often not; but there is no reason not to arrange your life so as to have both. He talks about how to combine them or at least have both in your life, and centers his talk around some examples, notably Burt Blumert and William Volker.
Also see Paul Graham’s “What You’ll Wish You’d Known (“I wrote this talk for a high school. I never actually gave it, because the school authorities vetoed the plan to invite me.”)
English libertarian Sean Gabb recently gave an excellent speech, “Libertarianism: Left or Right?”, to the Manchester Liberty League; his blogpost is reproduced below. The the audio file is here, and also streaming below.
Sean Gabb, speaking to the Manchester Liberty League on the 2nd December 2011.
In early 19th century England, radical liberals – who may be regarded as libertarians on account of their views - were often in sharp opposition to conservatives. As such, always allowing for the overall lack of meaning to the term, these people were on the “left.”
By the end of the 19th century, people holding the same views had often closely associated themselves with the conservatives.
The reason was that the growth of municipal socialism and the increasing volume of collectivist legislation – usually brought in by Liberals. The Liberty and Propery Defence League was set up by conservatives and classical liberals to resist this growth of statism; and our libertarian ancestors became identified, and identified themselves, as on the “right.”
This identification was completed by the state socialist revolution in Russia. Between 1920 and 1990, politics became a tug of war. You could choose your ideological views. Once this was chosen, however, you gave up all control over which end of the rope you would be pulling. You also gave up any choice of allies.
This has changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The tug of war is over. We are free at last to have a good look at our allies; and big business is not particularly libertarian. Actually existing capitalism is largely the economic wing of an exploitative ruling class. It benefits from limited liability laws, infrastructure subsidies, and tax and regulatory systems that favour large scale business.
Now that we no longer risk becoming useful idiots for the Communist Party, we should be reaching out to ordinary working people and explaining how big business and big government stand in their way.
So far as left and right have any real meaning, libertarians should align themselves on the left as well as on the right.
Not long ago when we had friends and family over it came up that I was a political “atheist,” someone who opposed the existence of the state and wished for political power and authority to disappear so that the prosperity of the market can bring us ever higher standards of living. “I don’t agree with his theories” a family member said. Fine. This is to be expected. After all, the radical libertarian anarchist view is an extreme minority opinion. Yet the vast majority of people with whom we interact are clueless and wobbly on their own views.
At first the statist position seems to be coherent: the power of the many to benefit the few, the respect for the government, the love for law and order, the supremacy of democracy–essentially a rehash of the status quo becomes mainstream reply. Still, one must ask: what, then, dear vulgar citizen, is your hopefully coherent theory? It would necessarily have to be one that allows more or less the same things that exist now because the vast majority of folks though they complain about the details of the political establishment they don’t oppose the basics. For example, in my encounter with left-liberals I find it particularly interesting that often the primacy of democracy is seen as a goal but other times it is a means. Or when the same folks complain when people vote “the wrong way.” Over the last few years the issue of homosexual marriage has come up for vote. If the vote fails, does this mean that democracy has failed? Rarely (or, at worst, barely–there is still support for that institution). What if the courts fail to recognize that issue as a right? Should courts be abolished? Nah, they will say–more political action and education is needed, or reform the court. Most of the remedial proposals have to do with changing not the underlying system (the one that nonetheless perpetually frustrates everyone) but to change everyone and everything else.
Legislative matters like gay marriage is just one issue. Going deeper, things become even messier. How does one measure the value of the good that a piece of legislation imparts on society? What if that good is a bad for some? What if the good is not as good for everyone to the same extent? What if people change their minds? What if they change their minds right after an election? Were it subject to quantification, what if one person has 100 units of displeasure and 99 people have one unit of pleasure each? How can we measure the greater good? What is “the” good? These might seem contrived questions, and yet they are the core of it all. Not only is the mainstreamer advocating and justifying the existing system in a vulgar, offhanded, manner but also insisting that the social and economic calculations necessary to bring about general prosperity can be performed. And regardless of whether such a calculation is possible, the fact that the advocate of the existing system so vehemently opposes the libertarian view while barely offering a sensible grounding shows intellectual laziness. It is the equivalent of saying “this is what exists, therefore it is what should exist.” As the saying goes, LOLWUT!?
I am reminded of what Murray Rothbard once said: “It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.” In my opinion Rothbard’s sentiment applies to politics as well.