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Commentary and debate on politics, economics and culture from a libertarian perspective. To Libertarian Alliance Website >


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hypocrisy

Philosophy Posted on Thu, April 03, 2014 14:57:26

hypocrisy From the Greek for acting a
part, in particular today simulating a virtue with the intention of misleading
others. But in a broader sense it is simulating anything deceptively, even a
vice: Cecily was right when she said, “I hope you have not been leading a double
life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be
hypocrisy” (The Importance of Being
Earnest
, by Oscar Wilde). A liar is ipso facto a hypocrite with respect to
the lie. And *proactive
lying is in itself at least somewhat *illiberal (see *honesty). But a liar might thereby be upholding a more
important *moral value
than honesty, such as even politeness can sometimes be. Thus hypocrisy is
certainly not always immoral.

However, merely failing to reveal one’s, supposed,
moral (or other) faults, without affecting not to have those faults, is not
hypocrisy. Nor is it hypocrisy to give advice that one does not pretend to live
up to oneself, as famously observed by Samuel Johnson (1709-1784). Nor is it
hypocrisy to have ‘double standards’ (to *discriminate) with respect to the
treatment of different, groups of, people. These points are contra the,
muddled, *commonsense
understanding of ‘hypocrisy’. Furthermore, this *meme is very often used as an ad
hominem fallacy. For it is simply not relevant to the *truth or
morality of what someone says that he might be a hypocrite (except in certain
self-referential cases).

A *libertarian *anarchist is not inherently
hypocritical (or even morally culpable if he were) for using *tax-funded
resources or working for the *state. He can hardly avoid using *coercively *monopolized,
tax-funded streets and there is no reason that he should: he merely asserts
that it would be better if the streets were anarchically owned. He can honestly
replace a statist *academic by joining a predominantly tax-funded *university.
He can work for a tax office with a view to, at least later, helping others to
minimize their tax-*extortions. A fortiori, he can unhypocritically live
on tax-extorted handouts given that he is in effect *punished by
state-extortions and rules if he does work, *bribed with *government
benefits if he doesn’t work, and that he is thereby tax-punishing almost only *statists (in
principle, perhaps he should offer his infinitesimally small share of state
handouts back to the tiny number of libertarian tax-extortees, but then equally
so should the libertarian academic and tax official). It seems that a
libertarian can unhypocritically take most state grants or subsidies on this
basis. Moreover, money cannot be legitimately owned by the state. And the more
one takes, the less it leaves the state to spend on its *criminal
activities.

There must, however, be grey and black areas of state
handouts and employment that it would be hypocritical to accept while averring
libertarian morals. It is hard to see how one can take tax money for armaments
or *arms
research, or be an *immigration or customs officer—unless, perhaps, one is
taking bribes to let people and products in (see *corruption). What of a torturer or a politician? (The
latter usually being responsible for indefinitely more suffering, albeit often
in diffuse *opportunity
cost form: he reduces *utility far more compared to what it would have been,
but with the loss broadly spread.) Neither position would seem to have any
libertarian excuse, unless it were a genuinely libertarian politician whose
real purpose were to *depoliticize.

Despite the fuss that people make about it, it is
usually completely irrelevant, or at most trivial, whether normal statist
politicians are hypocrites or not. What matters is the *objective
damage to *liberty and *welfare that
they assist the state in causing.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism



critical-rationalist libertarianism

Philosophy Posted on Thu, April 03, 2014 12:34:35

critical-rationalist
libertarianism
Many, probably most, *libertarians think
they need some form of *justification, foundation or support for their *ideology. Various
attempts include basing it on *autonomy, *contractarianism, *natural law, *utilitarianism or
some other form of *consequentialism, and, of course, empirical evidence. Although
one can subscribe to, or simply use, any of these to defend, or criticize, libertarianism
without also being a justificationist.

There is an explicit non-justificationist alternative: *critical-rationalist
libertarianism. If someone asks a critical-rationalist libertarian to justify
his views, he would probably decline to attempt this as he thinks it
impossible. He does not adhere to libertarianism on any basis whatsoever. Like
all theories, it is ultimately a mere conjecture. All one can do with a
conjecture is test it with empirical evidence and intellectual criticism; both
of which must also involve conjectures that themselves always remain open to
testing. Thus the only *reasonable policy is to look for the best tests or
criticisms available.

If it comes to convincing a critic, this can only mean answering his
specific *criticisms as far as possible. Even if this were eventually done to the
satisfaction of the critic, it remains just as much an unjustified conjecture
as before. It simply wastes time to attempt a futile justification when one
will have to answer the specific criticisms of all comers anyway; yet one can
also usefully think up criticisms for oneself and attempt to answer them.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism



critical rationalism

Philosophy Posted on Thu, April 03, 2014 12:32:33

critical
rationalism
Put simply and starkly, this is
the view that absolutely all alleged knowledge is ultimately only fallible
theory: mere guesses that we can test but which never become more probable by
passing those tests. No truth is ever established to any degree at all. What
follows can only outline an explanation of this counterintuitive view.

It is part of *common sense for people to demand that unusual views,
such as *libertarian *anarchy, must be proved, verified, *justified or at
least somehow supported (if they are not simply dismissed outright for being
‘absurd’ or *extreme); however, no such demands are usually taken seriously with most
people’s own favored views. If Karl Popper’s (1902-1994) critical-rationalist
epistemology is correct, then they are demanding what is logically impossible

Popper was originally interested in
the demarcation between science and non-science (not science and nonsense, as
is sometimes thought). It cannot be true that scientific theories are
epistemologically verified or justified (the general term he prefers to cover
all types of foundationalism: the view that knowledge is supported in some way),
because such universal (hence infinite in scope) theories could never be
supported by a finite amount of evidence—even if all that evidence were unproblematically
accurate. Thus there is no solution to David Hume’s (1711-1776) restatement of
the epistemological problem of induction. Induction as an epistemology is a
myth, just as was its original logical form in Aristotle (c384-322BCE) as the supposed
inverse of deduction. The popular insistence that there is some form of
induction and justification nevertheless, is a futile attempt to refute with
common sense a *philosophically argued conclusion.

But Popper noticed a crucial asymmetry: the falsification of universal
theories is logically possible; we need just one counter instance. ‘All swans
are white’ cannot be verified by any finite number of positive instances of
white swans. It can be falsified by one instance of a non-white swan; as this
‘well-supported’ theory eventually was falsified by the discovery of black
swans in Australia.
So, methodologically, we can make a virtue of producing bold universal
conjectures that we do not pretend are ultimately supported by evidence and
then test these conjectures as severely as we can: both by observation and
criticism. We can happily admit that, in principle, we might be mistaken about
any theory regardless of the amount of testing. This became known as ‘falsificationism’.

Consider
some relevant implications of this view. There is no reason to think that we
are in fact mistaken about any particular theory unless we find an apparently
good counter instance or criticism of it. So skepticism must be maintained in
the sense that *knowledge is always uncertain, but not in the sense that knowledge is
impossible: we often possess theories that are true. Metaphysical theories are merely empirically unfalsifiable but they may
be true. And all scientific theories have metaphysical presuppositions or consequences.
Apparently singular observations are also both theory-laden and have infinitely
many consequences. Thus they too are in the situation of not being verifiable; though
Popper himself sometimes writes of the ‘confirmation’ of single instances. This
view is not to deny that probabilities exist, but only to imply that they too do
so within the framework of what are ultimately mere conjectures. Critical
rationalism is both descriptive and prescriptive. It describes what we have to
be doing to do science at all: conjecturing and testing. But it also prescribes
how to do science better: bolder conjectures and more rigorous tests.

Critics sometimes suggest that
falsificationism is not falsifiable, and so fails by its own standards. It is true
that it is not empirically falsifiable, though it is criticizable, but an
epistemological theory is not supposed to be a scientific theory. Philosophy is
not science. Some critics also object that one cannot conclusively verify the counter
instance either, so falsification is also impossible; alternatively, that if
falsification is possible then to falsify a universal theory is thereby to
verify its negation, so that some verification is possible too. However, it is part
of falsificationism that a ‘justified’ falsification is not possible. Putative
falsifications are themselves conjectures that remain open to testing; though
we can test only one thing at a time and all tests assume much. The point is
that we could, in principle, observe a single counter instance of a universal
theory (see a black swan) while we could not, in principle, observe verifying
instances (see all swans, at every time and place, being white). So as a
falsification is at least possible we are, as before, entitled to conjecture
that we have discovered a falsification if we cannot seem to refute it. But we
never leave the realm of conjecture.

Partly thanks to the critical work of
other philosophers than Popper, this falsificationist epistemology has been extended
to mathematics, logic, *morals and every other area of knowledge; and has
become known as ‘critical rationalism’. Outside the empirical sciences the
method is about actively and unceasingly seeking criticism with the rejection
of any kind of epistemological foundations; even in logic and mathematics: a
valid proof has no more force than its assumptions. Assumptions or conjectures
are all we have to go on in all areas of knowledge.

It is possibly pedantic to eschew all ‘justificationist’ expressions in
everyday speech, especially arguing ‘for’ (i.e., supporting) a theory: it would
be like refusing to say ‘sunrise’ because that contradicts the idea that the
Earth goes around the Sun. It is sufficient that one understands and makes
plain that a theory can ultimately remain only a conjecture and that such
arguments can only properly elaborate the consequences of, or apparent evidence
about, a theory; which is useful for understanding it and stimulating
criticism. Many alleged ‘justifications’ are merely just such explanations and
elaborations.

Perhaps there is at least one non-foundationalist usage of ‘justified’
that critical rationalists can use consistently. This is simply in the sense
that some thesis has been ‘squared’ with the apparent facts and any criticisms.
In other words, the thesis appears to be without problems. But this is not to
say that it is positively supported in any way or that it will remain
apparently ‘justified’ even in this sense.

If critical rationalism is thought not, exactly, right, then seeing
which theories withstand critical scrutiny can still be accepted pragmatically
as a useful way to deal with theories; even by justificationists who cannot
agree about which theories are justified and how. This practical point is not
to minimize the theoretical differences. The classical view of knowledge is of
justified, true belief. Critical rationalism denies that justification is
possible, observes that most important scientific theories will not be true,
and holds that belief is irrelevant. Thus the critical rationalist view of
knowledge has been humorously explained as unjustified, untrue, unbelief.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism



arts and sciences

Arts Posted on Thu, April 03, 2014 12:27:44

arts and
sciences
Do the arts and sciences depend on the *state? There
is no good evidence that there would be insufficient investment in the arts and
sciences if they were left to the *free market and *charity. Indeed, the arts
and sciences both began and flourished long before state involvement. And many
of the greatest scientists and artists in history did some of their greatest works
without state ‘help’, and even in the face of state *persecution.
The state often tries to jump on a bandwagon and take some of the credit, but
it inevitably crowds out the competing alternatives and so people cannot see
what best alternative would otherwise have existed (the *opportunity
cost). Thus even any occasional state-funded ‘successes’ will on balance be at
the expense of greater lost opportunities.

In
the unlikely event that the market and charity left the arts and sciences
languishing, there is nothing sacred about these activities such that they
axiomatically deserve to be funded by *tax-*extorting *money from people who patently do not find them worth
paying for in their current forms. In reality, state involvement results in *political
bias and *aggressive *monopoly replacing diverse and efficient free *competition
among would-be supporters and would-be practitioners. One cannot seriously
maintain, for instance, that new art has wonderfully improved since the Arts
Council of Great Britain (now of England) was formed (1946). A lot of it seems deliberately
to insult the public’s intelligence or values at the public’s *proactively
imposed expense. Contrast this with design, which has flourished almost
entirely on the free market.

At the *statist extreme, we see an atrophy of art and science
as they are perverted into little more than state *propaganda
and other purposes, as seen in the worst excesses of the old *totalitarian
*regimes
of China
and the USSR.
Art and science might sometimes have given the appearance of thriving under
political patronage such as in the Renaissance, though a lot of this was really
private or semi-private. But that cannot defend any extortion that paid for
this. And there is no reason to doubt that the richer people and richer
businesses that would have existed without taxation would have spent even more
on, and on a greater variety of, art and sciences.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism



democracy

Politics Posted on Thu, April 03, 2014 12:23:39

democracy There are few ideas about which
there is more *commonsense confusion and *political *hypocrisy than
democracy (*‘liberty’ is a rival in this). Etymologically, ‘democracy’ means ‘people
rule/power’. The original democracies in Greek city-*states involved voting
on important matters for all *citizens—which at that time
excluded women, slaves and metics (guest workers). A *civil organization
that freely chooses to adopt some form of voting as a decision procedure is not
thereby democratic, as voting itself is not inherently political (i.e., about state
rule).

Most Western *nation-states today claim to have ‘*representative
democracies’, which are asserted to be a kind of ‘indirect democracy’. But the people manifestly do not rule or have power.
Therefore, this is somewhat like calling slavery ‘representative
self-ownership’ or ‘indirect self-ownership’. For these so-called
democracies are, in fact, elected oligarchies merely posing as democracies; because
of the *legitimization that is afforded by the false *propaganda that
‘the people are ruling themselves’ in this way and so somehow *consent to the
consequences. That is, most adults have a vote that *collectively decides
who is elected (which is the one rare and
fleeting moment that a glimmer of democracy might be asserted to exist), and then the
elected oligarchs do whatever they want, if they have a majority, until the
next election possibly changes the majority party or coalition. However, even most
such would-be ‘oligarchs’ are themselves, in effect, political eunuchs (or ‘lobby
fodder) unless they are also elected among themselves, or appointed to high
office, or (threaten to) collectively rebel by voting against the *government. (On the
complete worthlessness of an individual *subject’s political
vote in this system see *voting.)

A slightly more democratic, and possibly safer, sense of ‘representative
democracy’ (really still oligarchy) would be sortition, whereby a lottery
decides which, say, five hundred people rule for some period; with a trickle
constantly joining and leaving to ensure some continuity. This is more representative
as, over time, it must take a statistical representation of all types of subject.
But an enthusiastic minority would inevitably still dominate the proceedings
and most people would probably see it as too onerous a disruption to their
lives, unless it paid much better than they earned otherwise.

‘Delegational democracy’ means that people are elected to implement the
actual wills of their electors. And this would be a sort of democracy. But it
is a mystery how the delegates are supposed to know what the electors want
beyond a few issues. If the delegates are going to do regular surveys and
adhere to the results, then why would they be needed as delegates? Some form of
full-blooded democracy, with people directly voting on any number of issues,
would easily be practicable; though having all able actively to participate in
the debate is more problematic.

So it is clearly possible to be far more democratic than we are now, but
politicians do not want democracy. This might partly be because they see the pitfalls
of rule by an uninformed and capricious
majority, but it must also be for the obvious reason that they prefer to be elected
as oligarchs with the *power, prestige, and pelf this personally gives them.
Luckily for them, most members of the public lack any real interest in, or
understanding of, politics; so the public do not seek any serious democratic
involvement.

None of this is intended to argue for real democracy. Any more-serious
form of democracy would almost certainly be more danergously *authoritarian, even
*totalitarian, than
elected oligarchy. Democracy as such is inherently a form of *majoritarianism. There
is no democratic principle limiting what democracy can interfere with. However,
any attempt at democracy would probably soon collapse into a less dangerous
oligarchy following Robert Michels’s (1876-1936) “iron law of oligarchy”; as
career politicians come to dominate the *rationally *apathetic masses.

Like elected oligarchy, all forms of democracy are the continuation of *‘civil war’ by other
means (see *cold war). One side
*proactively imposes
on the other by threat of force but without actual bloodshed. Thus democracy is
an enemy of liberty and also *welfare; not least as it
flouts the efficient *economic calculation of the *market. A ‘*liberal democracy’ is
more or less a contradiction in terms, at least insofar as ‘liberal’ refers to
liberty. The more it is liberal, the less it is democratic. A completely
liberal system would be a *libertarian *anarchy.

For the political systems of the *UK and the *USA, see those respective entries.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism



state

Politics Posted on Thu, April 03, 2014 12:18:48

state As this is not a
dictionary of word usage, the historical etymology or alleged essential meaning
of the word ‘state’ need not constrain us. *Libertarians mean
to refer to any dominant *political *organization in a *country, which we have no practical trouble indentifying and for
which ‘state’ is merely a handy label.

A state is not a *nation or a *country. A state is
an organization of people with the *authority to rule
by *aggressive *coercion over some
definite regions. Having the *power to *proactively impose with
impunity, a state has ultimate control of all *persons and *property in its domain;
though its *subjects are not thereby *slaves. States rely on general
*public acceptance
or acquiescence, which occurs if only because most people assume it necessary
that some organization must *run the country. Such general support does not mean
that states and their activities are, tacitly, *consensual or *contractual, even
when *‘democratic’. A consensual or contractual state would be analytically
absurd (as there would be no proactive imposition), like a ‘married bachelor’
(but not as obviously inconsistent). Even if a state-like organization were
genuinely contracted into by all adults in some region, this would not bind
children below the *age of majority or any *future generations.

The origins of a state are
invariably by conquest, whether from within or without the regions *oppressed. “War is
the health of the state” in that states tend to grow larger and stronger relative
to their subject populations by going to *war; even a losing
state. There are no services that are essential to a state; not even the
provision of *law and *national defense. The state, qua state, rules rather than serves. In
exercising its rule, there are four distinguishable broad aspects that are
severally essential to, and all typical of, the state: *parasitism, *persecution, *privilege and *Procrusteanism. In
practice, all these activities are described using *legitimizing *propaganda. Without
at least one of these there would not be a state; or it would exist in a
dormant way, at most. Any other aspects of the state are *economic and so
would exist more efficiently without state interference; by the *market or *charity. Thus a
state is a kind of dominant *criminal organization but with a popular legitimacy
that completely obscures this *fact for most people.

Modern states usually include an
executive, legislature, judiciary and courts, *local governments,
a *bureaucracy, armed
forces, state *police, state *schools and various *‘nationalized’ production
and service industries, which also rule to varying degrees though power flows
down from the top of the *hierarchy. What remains is *civil society.

Note that the above account is
a non-normative theory, in outline, of what states are, and not a definition (whether
stipulative or of usage). See also *Mafia; *politics; *sovereignty.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism



politics

Politics Posted on Thu, April 03, 2014 12:14:15

politics The word ‘politics’ comes from the Greek
‘polis’ meaning city-*state. In the modern sense, politics is about what
states do, or the *factual or *moral study of
this. Only in a metaphorical sense can there be said to be ‘politics’ in an
office, *school, etc. The *politically correct idea that *everything is
political is a *totalitarian aspiration rather than an accurate description.

It is irresponsible to be *apathetic and cynical about
politics: it is better to be antipathetic and damning. Politics is the *crime of *organized *license by the
state; and the majority of crime in any *society with a
state. Politics is the war of all against
all that Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) mistakenly took *anarchy to be: one man’s gain in politics is another
man’s loss; unlike the market where both sides gain in a trade. Politics is
mainly what is morally wrong with the world. Without politics we would all be
considerably better off in almost every aspect of our lives, as its destructiveness
is compounded year on year. The four horsemen of the political apocalypse are *parasitism, *persecution, *privilege and *Procrusteanism. In
practice, a state cannot be found that does not have all four to some degree. And,
analytically, at least one must exist for it to be a state at all. In more
detail, the whole of this dictionary deals with the evil and *waste inflicted by
politics.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism



liberalism

Liberty Posted on Thu, April 03, 2014 12:10:05

liberalism In the classical sense, liberalism is *libertarianism; though
the misleading etymological route of ‘liberal’ relates to generosity rather
than *liberty. People sometimes assert or assume that classical liberalism is
not as *extreme or as theoretically rigorous as libertarianism. But there were
some classical liberals who were, at least for some time, more or less *anarchists (though
not always using or accepting the label, e.g., Lysander Spooner [1808-1887], Gustave de Molinari [1819-1912],
Herbert Spencer [1820-1903], Auberon Herbert [18381906)], Wordsworth Donisthorpe
[1847-1913], Benjamin Tucker
[1854-1939]) and some had elaborate theories (often being the same
people). And there are many (most?) libertarians who are not anarchists and many
have a paucity of theory (often being the same people). It might still be
suggested that a distinction can be made in that classical liberalism is
broader than libertarianism because it goes well beyond *minarchy. But many
self-described ‘libertarians’ go well beyond minarchy too, so this would mean
rejecting their self-descriptions for no apparent reason beyond attempting to
introduce a distinction.

The main reason for using ‘libertarian’ instead of ‘liberal’
is the risk of confusion with ‘modern liberal’ (especially in the U.S.). And
‘classical liberal’ can sound obscure or old-fashioned. The rise of modern
liberalism began as those who called themselves ‘liberals’ started viewing the *state as also a route
to liberty, but often in some alternative sense of that word, rather than
merely the main obstacle. This has evolved, or degenerated, into an increasing *ideological muddle that
includes parts of classical liberalism, *democracy, *egalitarianism and *political
correctness.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism



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