"Aren't we getting closer and closer to, like, socialism, and stuff?"

Jon Stewart, like Lord Acton and Hayek before him, recognizes the absurdity of mainstream libertarian/conservative fusionism, which these days seems to take as its motto, "Standing athwart history, yelling To a gas chamber — go!" - a conglomeration of the worst aspects of both.

Wrote Hayek, in Why I Am Not a Conservative:

[T]he conservatives have already accepted a large part of the collectivist creed - a creed that has governed policy for so long that many of its institutions have come to be accepted as a matter of course and have become a source of pride to "conservative" parties who created them. Here the believer in freedom cannot but conflict with the conservative and take an essentially radical position, directed against popular prejudices, entrenched positions, and firmly established privileges. Follies and abuses are no better for having long been established principles of folly.

Though quieta non movere may at times be a wise maxim for the statesman it cannot satisfy the political philosopher. He may wish policy to proceed gingerly and not before public opinion is prepared to support it, but he cannot accept arrangements merely because current opinion sanctions them. In a world where the chief need is once more, as it was at the beginning of the nineteenth century, to free the process of spontaneous growth from the obstacles and encumbrances that human folly has erected, his hopes must rest on persuading and gaining the support of those who by disposition are "progressives," those who, though they may now be seeking change in the wrong direction, are at least willing to examine critically the existing and to change it wherever necessary.

The future of liberty lies with the left - with persuading and gaining the support of Daily Show progressives. The "South Park Republican" marriage, like Kenny McCormick, must be killed again and again, you bastards.

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Wait what ?

The future of liberty lies with the left - with persuading and gaining the support of Daily Show progressives. The "South Park Republican" marriage, like Kenny McCormick, must be killed again and again, you bastards.

So the libertarian-republican marriage is unholy but going to bed with the left is somehow normal and acceptable. You have to explain this one.

As far as I'm concerned, the main divide between the right and the left is conservativisim vs progressivism. The first claims that social changes when they happen should be organic, the second that they can and should be orchestrated through politics. While libertarianism is definitely not conservativism, it's a hell lot closer to it than any progressive agenda.

What is deplorable today is that the right has been moving away from conservativism.

You may believe, as I do, that making the society libertarian requires radical changes that cannot happen organically, that conservative will work against libertarianism to protect an established order, but do you honestly believe the changes we want can be brought upon by politics?

If history is any indication, the political trend in any country clearly negative. I am saying political trend, some non political process can create jumps... a country becoming independent, a regime being toppled by force etc. Given this trend, would you rather have in office people who want stability, or people who want social change ?

What Arthur said.

What Arthur said.

What Hayek said.

What Hayek said.

Did it ever work ?

Did it ever work ?

Hella Weak

But that's not accurate, or if it is, Hayek is using the term "conservative" in a personal fashion that does not line up with the type of conservatives you're speaking of.

Conservatives, the real, non-idealized group, don't exhibit any greater status quo bias than liberals--they want to move things, to be sure, often regressively, but move them nonetheless. They deregulate, for example. They speak of social security privatization. They invade countries preemptively. And progressives are quite happy with huge chunks of the current apparatus, and want them stuck precisely as they are. Title IX's just swell. The loss of internal checks on federal power is how things should stay. Progressive taxation, a-ok.

Conservative and progressive are labels, shorthand, but the more complicated and obvious truth is that both want to retain certain features of the current system, and change others.

But arguendo, let's take Hayek's dichotomy as he states it: a conservative is someone who wants things to stay as they currently are, and a progressive is someone who wants things to change in the wrong direction. Hayek's argument is that:

(the amount of effort taken to convince a progressive to change their progress toward the right direction)

is less than

(the amount of effort taken to get a conservative to start moving period)

That's hardly an uncontroversial statement--and, personally, I doubt it.

Appeals To Authority Are Fun

If Hayek's not your bag, can I interest you in some Mises?

The characteristic mark of ultimate ends is that they depend entirely on each individual's personal and subjective judgment, which cannot be examined, measured, still less corrected by any other person. Each individual is the only and final arbiter in matters concerning his own satisfaction and happiness.

As this fundamental cognition is often considered to be incompatible with the Christian doctrine, it may be proper to illustrate its truth by examples drawn from the early history of the Christian creed. The martyrs rejected what others considered supreme delights, in order to win salvation and eternal bliss. They did not heed their well-meaning fellows who exhorted them to save their lives by bowing to the statue of the divine emperor, but chose to die for their cause rather than to preserve their lives by forfeiting everlasting happiness in heaven. What arguments could a man bring forward who wanted to dissuade his fellow from martyrdom? He could try to undermine the spiritual foundations of his faith in the message of the Gospels and their interpretation by the Church. This would have been an attempt to shake the Christian's confidence in the efficacy of his religion as a means to attain salvation and bliss. If this failed, further argument could avail nothing, for what remained was the decision between two ultimate ends, the choice between eternal bliss and eternal damnation. Then martyrdom appeared the means to attain an end which in the martyr's opinion warranted supreme and everlasting happiness.

As soon as people venture to question and to examine an end, they no longer look upon it as an end but deal with it as a means to attain a still higher end. The ultimate end is beyond any rational examination. All other ends are but provisional. They turn into means as soon as they are weighed against other ends or means.

Means are judged and appreciated according to their ability to produce definite effects. While judgments of value are personal, subjective, and final, judgments about means are essentially inferences drawn from factual propositions concerning the power of the means in question to produce definite effects. About the power of a means to produce a definite effect there can be dissension and dispute between men. For the evaluation of ultimate ends there is no interpersonal standard available.

Choosing means is a technical problem, as it were, the term "technique" being taken in its broadest sense. Choosing ultimate ends is a personal, subjective, individual affair. Choosing means is a matter of reason, choosing ultimate ends a matter of the soul and the will.

Future of liberty is in our hands, there is no spoon.

The future of liberty lies with the left - with persuading and gaining the support of Daily Show progressives.

I would say the future of liberty stands with the few liberty minded who attempt to educate all rational individuals withing their reach, regardless of labels and creeds.

You may believe, as I do, that making the society libertarian requires radical changes that cannot happen organically

Oooh, like what? You say such interesting things but you never elaborate when I ask. :(

Oooh, like what? You say

Oooh, like what? You say such interesting things but you never elaborate when I ask. :(

For example, I don't think we can simply move towards a more libertarian order with the current institutions because of government reliance on credit. At this point, I don't believe economic austerity will work, for one thing because it would be killed politically within 4 years. Defaulting on the government debt is in my opinion the best and most moral option, and it's definitely not conservative.

I don't see changes in immigration policies happening organically either.

The more interesting

The more interesting question is how long into an Obama presidency with a filibuster-proof majority would it take for this vision of a left/libertarian alliance to shatter into dust. Personally, I give it about six months.

It will be a lot sooner than

It will be a lot sooner than that before the "new" leadership reinstates some form of the Fairness Doctrine. A capital gains tax increase is not out of the question; it depends on whether or not there's a public outcry. Either way, it will happen sooner.

So yes, the question is how long will Micha maintain that position.

It occurs to me that we

It occurs to me that we don't have to idly speculate about this. We have plenty of states, the laboratories of democracy, to look to. So, I'll throw it out there: Is there any evidence that states which are solidly Democratic (full control of the legislature and governorship, etc.) are in any appreciable way more libertarian than others? Or that the leftist people living there are open to persuasion or alliance with libertarians?

From my vantage point in Illinois, that all sounds pretty laughable. But I'm open to persuasion otherwise.

P.S.: Seven registered users online? Is that some sort of record?

Personally, I give it about

Personally, I give it about six months.

Oops, I was off by two months.

Right, because we all know

Right, because we all know the conservative-libertarian alliance of the past several decades would have shattered into dust had there been a single disappointing Republican presidency with a congressional majority, yes?

Left-libertarianism, like right-libertarians is all about - and only about - what we think of Republican and Democratic presidents. For sure.

Where will our friends

Where will our friends eventually come from? I think Micah is correct in looking at the young, smart, critical progressives. Though I worry that he's making the same mistake he accuses paleo-libertarians of making--drinking too much of the cool-aid statists offer in the hope of expanding appeal and reflexively vilifying and condemning the other side.
Sure the John Stewart liberals are great, as are the crunchy, anti-authoritarian, far-left, but I'm just as much a fan of the hardcore decentralists and traditionalists in the conservative corner. It won't pay to over-commit or get our hopes up to high either way. We should have learned that the first time.

Tu quoque is a fallacy even if Jon Stewart uses it

Jon Stewart is on the side Present Obama and Past John McCain and against Present John McCain and the student. Read the transcript carefully. Jon Stewart expresses agreement with Past John McCain when, to describe Past John McCain, he uses the word "realized" (as opposed to, say, "erroneously held when he resisted the student's astute instinct to call a spade a spade").

This is calling a spade a spade:

Are we getting closer and closer to, like, socialism?

Why, yes! Yes, we are! But, according to Jon Stewart, Jon McCain "realized" that to call this "socialism" is a "bankrupt tactic."

Jon Stewart, by attacking an attack on Obama's tax plan, is defending Obama's tax plan, and therefore is defending socialism.

Jon Stewart does not leave it at that. He refuses to call anything socialism. He carefully words his statement. He does not say, "this country has dabbled in socialism." He carefully says, "you can argue that this country has dabbled in socialism." He is refusing to echo the student's sentiment. That's a smart thing for him to do, because truth is its own defense. If it is true that this country has dabbled in socialism ever since the income tax was introduced, then it is true to say that Obama's plan is yet more socialism. Stewart cannot admit that it is true, because even clever as he is it would be hard for him to argue that the simple truth is a "cynical ploy".

His purpose here isn't to argue that, yes, Obama is a socialist and so is McCain, they both suck. His purpose here is to agree with and support Present Obama, and he does so by agreeing with Past McCain.

That ludicrous picture of Past McCain as a socialist leader is an argument in itself. The argument goes like this:

This picture expresses the claim that McCain was a socialist.
This picture is absurd.
So the claim is absurd.
The student suggested that McCain's position was socialist.
That student's suggestion is absurd.

The truth is that few if any politicians are entirely innocent of supporting socialism. Therefore there is necessarily some element of hypocrisy whenever any politician criticizes another politician's policy of being socialistic. But what Jon Stewart is trying to do here is to use this in a tu quoque (and fallacious) attempt to invalidate the criticism. If Jon Stewart gets his way, then McCain, and, by extension, all or virtually all politicians, will be barred from warning us that a politician such as Obama is leading us down the path to socialism. The only reason Jon Stewart would want to do this is to help the politician who is leading us down the path to socialism. Jon Stewart could have argued differently. He could have pointed out that, indeed, Obama is a socialist but as the student's question rightly recognized, so is McCain. That's not what he did.

Here's the transcript (borrowed from here):

Stewart: "Now you can argue that this country has dabbled in socialism ever since the income tax was introduced, and that calling Obama's plan 'socialist' is a cynical ploy that even McCain realizes is a bankrupt tactic. Or, should I say, realized."

Audience member: "Why is it that someone like my father who goes to school for 13 years gets penalized in a huge tax bracket because he's a doctor."

McCain: "I think it's to some degree because we feel obviously that wealthy people can afford more."

Audience member: "Are we getting closer and closer to, like, socialism?"

McCain: "Here's what I really believe: That when you reach a certain level of comfort, there's nothing wrong with paying somewhat more."

Stewart: "That, of course, is the late socialist leader John Mccain. I believe he passed away during the Republican primaries. He will be missed."

My wild-ass guesss as to...

...the cross-over between Southpark Republicans and Daily Show progressives is 80%. They're the same people.

South Park versus Daily Show

In the spirit of "Blink", I have a few tests that help me to quickly assess where a person is in the political spectrum. Two are: what do they think of Al Gore, and what do they think of individual gun ownership.

South Park ridicules Al Gore. The Daily Show kisses his ass. The Daily Show ridicules gun owners. South Park ridicules the ATF. South Park passes both tests; Daily Show fails both tests.

Another good libertarian show: Pen & Teller. Passes both tests.

Most of the people I know fail both tests.

The future of libertarianism

The future of libertarianism lies with heavy drinking.

You mean the future of

You mean the future of libertarians?

Human Capital

I think the future of liberty lies in Human Capital --the education level, experience and attitude of the citizenry. The fact is that the more educated and capable people *feel* the less likely they are to want to be controlled, told what to do, have their spiritual or economic interests dictated to them.

I believe that there are people out there who genuinely want to either be controlled by others or do the controlling. These people can be on either side of the isle. On the right, you see these people often in a church and they are doctrinaire about it.

I do, however, feel that the strongest segment of the US population that still has some ideological commitment to preserving the preciously few remaining institutions (public and private) that operate independently of the federal government tend to be "on the right," even if a little wacky sometimes like Ted Nugent. There's such a strong tendency among the mainstream left to feel that the US should be modeled after Europe. Remember, the majority of the population (left or right) don't think of or request fresh new ideas as a political guide, they typically look for other working, run-of-the-mill examples of what they believe in and use *that* as their guide. The primary group of people in our country that have been the only effective stalwart to the trend of European-izing the US have been the mainstream conservatives. And they were given the biggest injection of intellectual credibility by people like Milton Friedman and Hayek (because they are the only group who took these ideas seriously).

I think this class of people have taken an unfair beating from the media for their sometimes "irrational" beliefs. Which is more important though? Ideas or successful institutions? Beliefs or results?

Whereas I sincerely sympathize with Hayek's sentiments above, I sympathize even more with his observations of the naivety of "intellectuals" who genuinely believe that things would start going right if only *they* were given the political freedom to remake institutions in some other image. I don't think this notion is at the root of who most conservatives are in this country, even many of the wacky ones. This is still, however, pretty much the belief and behavior of the left in our country.

The only hope of bettering the current situation, at least marginally, might be things like term limits, consumption or flat tax and other measures to systemically reduce Washington's influence. Whether they work or not remains to be seen, but note who nearly always opposes these measures when they're proposed (for all the wrong reasons): the mainstream left and their supporters. These people genuinely believe that the Democratic party and the Federal government have been, as one recent book stated, "The Agent of Change" in our society, they believe in the UN just as much, and they will not stand for some law or constitutional amendment that would curtail their ability to act through the central governments in the world. This is not true of the average conservative (note the recent taxonomy of "libertarianism" posted: It takes quite a radical leftist to oppose the federal government's level of influence.) Note also that when libertarians speak, they are more likely to at least give pause to or receive consideration from Conservative commentators than liberal ones. And yet even many libertarians laugh and take heart in the beating the conservative movement takes from the Daily Show and Comedy Central (why aren't the irrational beliefs that no doubt many democrats support paraded about and jeered at by these guys?) and they are glad to fiddle along with the left while Rome burns. Is the desire to be down with the "in" crowd that great?!

McCain and Palin may suck really hard. But at this time the non busybody middle class who have at least some remaining skepticism about the march towards European-ization, who are skeptical of the government's activities through Fannie and Freddie, need as much intellectual/moral support as possible from others who agree lest they finally falter under public/media pressure and start singing the opposite tune. At the highest levels of prominence in our country the only people willing to give any voice whatsoever to these people are typically considered "Conservative."