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Posts Tagged ‘Libertarianism’

Jon Stewart on the unabashed Republican and Fox News bias against Ron Paul. Congressman Paul’s conspicuous treatment (or lack thereof) at the hands of conservative pundits and the conservative media is especially curious considering the popularity of the so-called Tea Party. Ron Paul, perhaps more than any other politician, has indefatigably and consistently argued for the well-established merits of the free market and the implementation of greater fiscal discipline in government operations & a revision of the Federal tax codes, causes to which Tea partiers have paid much lip service. As Stewart says, Ron Paul is Tea Party ‘patient zero’ who ‘planted the seed of the grass root movement.’ (I would argue that the Tea Party is no more libertarian than George W. Bush, but whatever.) It is only after the (what I consider) empty popular uprising termed the ‘Tea Party’ have politicians like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and Mitt Romney, to name only three, jumped on the limited government bandwagon.

Media bias is to be expected; in fact, I think, given the varied sources of information available, media bias is beneficial; but the mistreatment of Ron Paul by the conservative media is pernicious. Paul is by far the most- indeed, the only- ideologically consistent politician of the two primary parties, yet he is a man without a home, so to speak. As a libertarian (I would wager I am probably more militant in my libertarian political philosophy than Paul- at the end of the day, I self-identify as an anarcho-capitalist), I can empathize with Paul here. Libertarian social policy is, if consistent with its starting principles, far more ‘liberal’ than its progressive counterpart’s, while libertarian economic policies are far more consistent with free markets than the economic policies of social conservatives, and thus libertarians are often erroneously identified as ‘conservaitve’. Hence, social conservatives are apt to view libertarians as too liberal and liberals are apt to view libertarians as too conservative. Nevertheless, insofar as the media do not present Paul, despite his obvious popularity, on an even platform, they are snuffing out what ought to bloom into a fruitful philosophical discussion: broadly, the nature and proper role of government. Representative Paul does not equivocate, alter his views per the whim of his audience, and does not shy from poignant discourse. His counterparts, however, run the standard politician line and provide one empty slogan and ambiguous catchphrase after another. What the media are doing is unethical and really ought to be denounced.

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While searching through old posts at Against Politics, one of my common haunts, I came across an interview featuring Jan Narveson, professor of philosophy emeritus at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Narveson, whose work I encountered via the work of Robert Nozick and David Gauthier, is an anarcho-capitalist and the author of the influential The Libertarian Idea. Among other things, Dr. Narveson addresses in the interview why natural rights should be rejected and offers his list of the most influential texts in libertarian political philosophy. Here is the link to the interview, a significant portion of which I excerpt here:

The contractarian and utilitarian approaches to libertarianism are often confused. What are the differences between these two views?

Contractarian is not the same as utilitarian, and does not give similar results. The Utilitarian, as in Bentham and Mill, holds that (1) everyone’s utility is cardinally measurable, in principle, and (2) for social and moral purposes, we should count an equal amount of anyone’s utility as equal to anyone else’s, intrinsically.

Utilitarianism is, actually, equivalent to another natural rights perspective—that’s why I stopped being a utilitarian.

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In the Second Treatise, John Locke posits the concept of self-ownership: “… every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body had any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his,” upon which he bases his labor theory of property (LTP). In brief, since one properly owns one’s body, and thus labor, one acquires ownership over a material object because one invests one’s labor in the material object. Ownership, so to speak, transfers from agent through the labor into the material object. So, e.g., one may come to own a flask of wine by investing one’s labor in the growing and harvesting of the grapes, their vinification, and the construction of the flask. A corollary of the LTP is that one may also acquire ownership via trade, wherein one voluntarily exchanges a material object for agreed upon remuneration, gift, and compensation for material transgressions. Although, ideally, if one were to trace the genealogy of an object’s ownership, whether via gift, trade, or compensation, one will find that it begins in original labor investment. In spite of its prima facie strengths, as formulated by Locke, the LTP admittedly suffers from many difficulties, and thus requires modification. When suitably modified, I would argue, the LTP is essentially correct, but its correctness will not concern us at the present moment. Rather, what will concern us here is the plausibility of the self-ownership concept itself, for if the concept of self-ownership proves to be implausible, so too then does the LTP. (However, this last point is contentious; many proponents of the LTP do not postulate self-ownership, but for reasons I shall not state here I think they are wrong not to do so.) While this post does not address every criticism of self-ownership, it addresses the most significant one.

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