The Nine Circles of Libertarian Hell

And now for something completely different. Read with tongue ever-so-slightly in cheek.

First Circle—The Virtuous Heathens: Those who care strongly about liberty in one particular sphere (e.g. freedom of speech, freedom of religious practice, the drug war, etc.) but don't care much about it other spheres. These people are infuriating for their lack of general theory underlying their politics, but at least they've sorta got the right idea and can make themselves somewhat useful. This circle contains members of the NRA, ACLU & other such single-issue organizations, and is guarded by John Stuart Mill.

Second Circle—The Lustful: Those who fall madly in love with a dim vision they have of a more egalitarian society and then hastily rush off to elope with it, without giving much thought about just how much promise there really is in the relationship. These people's hearts are often in the right place but they show a frightening lack of concern for whether or not the policies they endorse are actually likely to accomplish the goals they desire. This circle is filled with innumerable bleeding-hearts and is guarded by Thomas Sowell.

Third Circle—The Gluttonous: Those who support illiberal policies simply out of percieved self-interest, and like to paint themselves as victims despite living at a level of material comfort that most previous generations would consider luxurious. Immigration & outsourcing restrictionists, farmers, labor unions, people who want to be insulated from the costs of their health care, etc. This circle is guarded by Benjamin Franklin.

Fourth Circle—The Greedy: Lobbyists who think their peculiar obsession should be the government's top priority. Corporations pleading for protectionism, finger-wagging nannies on a crusade to enforce "public virtue", and generally anyone who wants everyone else to suffer for their sense of ideological privilege. This circle's most recent acquisition was the execrable Jack Valenti, and is guarded by Milton Friedman.

Fifth Circle—The Wrathful: People who are socialistic primarily out of an ugly resentment of the wealthy or anyone else they percieve as enjoying benefits they privately wish they could enjoy. Their instinct is not so much to see everyone doing well as to see those currently best-off doing much worse. This circle is guarded by Ayn Rand, which I think is a suitable punishment for both parties.  

Sixth Circle—The Heretics: People who do seem to generally care about liberty but have an anomalous and largely sentimental attachment to illiberal policies in at least one sphere. They support freedom except the freedom to do drugs, or get an abortion, or freely migrate, or do anything they imagine undermines the war effort, etc. This circle is guarded by Ron Paul.

Seventh Cirle—The Violent: This circle is packed with tyrants large and small, politicians, bureaucrats and thugs—those who unquestionably do active violence to human freedom. (I would also add overdominant parents to this list.) They're enabled by the members of other circles, but these are the ones who do the actual trigger-pulling. This circle is guarded by Thomas Jefferson.

Eighth Circle—The Fraudulent: The Malebolge of public intellectuals—those who have a sphere of influence greater than most of us, and are negligent in their exercise of it by contributing to the darkness and confusion. This sphere contains everyone from know-nothing idiots like Lou Dobbs of CNN and Bob Herbert of the NYT, to people who are really smart enough to know better yet resolutely avoid any systematic examination of their moral premises, like Matthew Yglesias and Reihan Salam. This circle is guarded by, who else, Friedrich Hayek.

Ninth Circle—The Traitors: Here lie lawyers & law professors, and also a significant number of economists, who have some degree of influence over actual legislation and policy. Particularly the ones like Orin Kerr & Brad DeLong who are smart, reasonable, and may even have some pro-liberty sympathies, but when the rubber hits the road they do some showy handwringing before siding with illiberal policies. This circle is guarded by David Friedman.

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I just read Dante's Inferno
for the first time last week--
'tis nice to see this modernization to his allegoria.

/Was that a proper tercet? 

Ben Franklin?

Ben Franklin was an immigration-restrictionist, as he pointed out in his 1751 essay, for roughly the same reasons as me -- affordable family formation.

How Ironic

Seems ironic that you placed Ron Paul guarding "those who support freedom except the freedom to ... freely migrate". Ron Paul isn't exactly the Open Borders type.

David Masten

What's your beef with Bob

What's your beef with Bob Herbert? His journalistic regarding Tulia Texas was outstanding.

I'd be honored to meet Bob Herbert. You? Perhaps yet another internet jackass.

Bob Herbert is too a ninny ....

... who's never crafted a witty sentence in his life and who breaks away from the most banal of liberal thinking about once every six months, and then usually only grudgingly.

As I understand it, Ron

As I understand it, Ron Paul's immigration policy is a reaction to the welfare state, not a hostility to immigration itself.

Ron hunting season

Well, that's a relief. I have been lately advocating a Ron hunting season, during which it is legal to hunt people named Ron, but I was having trouble explaining that this wasn't due to a hostility to people named Ron but was a reasonable measure to advocate in reaction to the welfare state. Fortunately now I can direct people to Mr. Paul's views on immigration.

Ron hasn't called for

Ron hasn't called for stopping all immigrants, only those immigrants who have no plan to provide themselves with a means of living after arrival.  You're creating a false dilemma between open borders and a complete ban on immigration.

 To put it in the terms of your metaphor, there's a difference between an Osama hunting season where you can hunt anyone named Osama and issuing a bounty on Osama bin Laden.  The latter is hardly evidence of animosity toward people named Osama, and it's disingenuous to portray it as the former.

No false dilemma here

You're creating a false dilemma between open borders and a complete ban on immigration.

Notice that I have nowhere specified "a complete ban on immigration."


No, but you compared his

No, but you compared his position to running around shooting anyone with the name Ron.  It's a lousy metaphor to begin with, but unless you're trying to characterize him as being against all immigration, the metaphor makes even less sense.

No I did not

It was neither a metaphor nor a comparison, it was a reductio ad absurdum of your own implied logic. Here's how reductios work. From Wikipedia:

The following dialogue is an example of reductio ad absurdum:

Father- Why did you start smoking?
Daughter - All my friends were doing it.
Father- You're saying that if all your friends jumped off a cliff, you would do that too?

Here, the father refutes the daughter's justification by showing the absurdity of its consequences.

The father is not comparing jumping off a cliff to smoking. What the father is doing is re-applying the daughter's implied logic to a distinct hypothetical situation. The logic is, "if all my friends are doing something then I will do it too." The father could equally well insert any number of hypotheticals into that logic. Nor is this operation metaphorical.

Now, it might of course be possible that you are employing a so-far-unrevealed key assumption in your explanation of Ron's position that would render my reductio inapplicable. Which would be a good thing: one of the uses of reductios is to elicit hidden assumptions which would save the original reasoning. But you haven't revealed any such assumptions yet.



The key assumption you're

The key assumption you're missing is there's a difference between saying 'certain members of group X are acting in a immoral manner, thus we should keep that subset from coming here' and an indiscriminate 'get rid of any member of X you happen to come across'. Comparing Ron Paul's immigration policy to your metaphor is treating the two as equivalent.

You are arguing in circles

I already pointed out that, and why, my argument was neither a comparison nor a metaphor. And you are still arguing on the basis of your own false and disproved belief that it is a comparison and a metaphor.

Suppose that I want to visit the state of New York. I get in my car and drive there. If someone prevents me from entering New York, he is violating my rights. If he needs to see my passport and will let me through only on condition that my passport is valid, he is violating my rights whether or not he ultimately lets me through, because placing a condition on my passage violates my rights. If he needs to hear my plan for my future and will let me through only on condition that he likes what I'm telling him, he is violating my rights. If he defends his conduct by saying that he is reacting to the welfare state in New York, he is nevertheless violating my rights.

These are trivial truths that require mainly a mental resistance to the pressure of the familiar. The only reason we have come to expect and live with passports and visas and taxation and the drug war and government control of banking and so on and so forth is that we adjust to the impositions on our liberty small and large. Try not to let the familiarity, the everydayness, of the violations blind you to what they really are.

But regardless of your view on whether these are trivial truths, the particular argument offered in defense of Ron Paul's policy fails. If you agree with me that restrictions on movement are a violation of rights - i.e., if you believe that the state has no right to restrict movement - then in particular, the government has no right to quiz travelers about their plans, any more than Bob has a right to quiz Mary before she enters Jack's house. It is simply not Bob's place to be Jack's doorman or bouncer.

If, however, you disagree, and you believe that the government has a right to play doorman or bouncer for the territory of the United States, then - in the absence of further explanation as to the scope and nature of this right of the state to control who comes and goes - it follows from this general right that the government in particular has the right to base its policy of refusal on any criterion it likes. It might selectively allow attractive travelers, as bouncers are reputed to do at nightclubs. Bringing up the welfare state in this regard is superfluous, pointless, moot. If you think government has the right to bar entry, which implies that the government has some special proprietary relationship to the territory, then there is no need to bring up the welfare state as an excuse.

What I am saying here is that bringing up the welfare state does not create a right to stop people at the border. Either this right already exists - in which case the welfare state might constitute a reason for doing this but would not create a right since it already exists - or else this right does not exist, in which case the fact of the welfare state does not create the right. So the welfare state simply does not work as an excuse for Ron Paul's position.

In comments following up on your initial comment, you seemed to try to portray selective admission as some sort of crime fighting measure. But the crime in question has not occurred yet at the time of the travel. It is a future crime, and so you are talking about pre-emptive crime prevention. Whether or not you like pre-emptive crime-fighting, it is not very libertarian - specifically, it is not very open-borders. And the issue here wasn't whether Ron Paul is right or wrong in his Bush Doctrine-like approach to crime fighting (i.e., pre-emption of crime). Maybe George W. Bush is right about the rightness and effectiveness of pre-emption of evil and maybe Ron Paul is right in following in George Bush's footsteps on this matter. But regardless, Ron Paul isn't being very open-borders.

I suppose that Ron Paul can nevertheless be rescued as an open-borders type if he advocates pre-emptive crime-fighting generally and if he advocates the presumption of guilt and the responsibility for the individual to prove his innocence (which is what your description of Ron Paul's border policy amounts to). In that case he is not targeting people crossing the border. So if Ron Paul believes in universal the presumption of guilt for future crimes (e.g., if Ron believes that you should be by default considered a future rapist and that it is up to you to prove that you are not going to rape anyone in the future), then I will retract my comments regarding his border policy.


It has to be hostility to

It has to be hostility to immigration itself. The state is the only agressor when it taxes to distribute "welfare", the immigrants take no part in this agression. Why retaliate on the immigrants for the crimes of the government? This is hostility to immigrants. The consequentialist view is merely a disguise since the real effect of immigrants arriving is actually to reduce the incentive people have to vote for a welfare state.

So, which of the Nine Circles...

... do people who hold purity standards so high that they consistently lose elections to hyperstatists get sentenced to?

It's awfully interesting

It's awfully interesting that your Second Circle is "guarded by Thomas Sowell", he of the America-needs-a-military-coup-real-bad philosophy.

Great Blog


I just wanted to say I burnt out on the LP back in the late 80's. I did not stop believing, just burnt out. I do not read a lot of blogs. A friend sent me yours. I love it. Maybe you can get me to start caring again.

Pulling on Superman's Cape
(PS I haven't updated my blog in a while. I can't acess it since they migrated to and I haven't had the energy to fight with them.)

From what i can see, there

From what i can see, there are many ways of looking at the nine circles. You can look at it like todays modern world, such as lawyers, politics, etc,and you can also look at it (in a small comparison) to 'Devil May Cry'-- as if demons guard the circles, and torture the souls that have betrayed God, others, and other sins. however, what i dont understand is with the infants (children) i know that theres no way of changing that, and i dont even know if this is true (no one does) but they have no chance.they dont have a chance to learn about my parents said, every child is born a sinner.