Saturday, August 26, 2017

Libertarianism as a centrist ideology

In our current political situation in the US, where the left and right of the political spectrum appear as noisy fringes of Alt-Left and Alt-Right,
there is a lot of space in the center. Therefore, Libertarians have a chance to be seen as a centrist and moderate ideology.

And it is not a false choice. Libertarianism is clearly the core American ideology - one where the protection of individual liberty and autonomy of choice is the founding principle of the nation. Presently, many have lost sight of that fact.

To broaden the appeal of their ideology libertarians need to assert principles that appeal to their potential, and at once sympathetic and skeptical, wings.

The main principle was well stated by Penn Jillette, more or less so, - "if you think about solving a certain problem think how could you solve it by giving people more freedom". This applies to drug prohibition, health care and school choice. This is the core libertarian principle.

To reach the liberal left libertarians ought to assert the John Rawls principle - that change will cause no harm to the weakest in society. Not to "marginalized groups" but to those actually economically and politically weakest - the homeless, those afflicted with illness, single parents, the unemployed. The status of the weakest will not suffer setbacks as a result of policy.

To reach the conservative right libertarians ought to assert the conservation principle. That would mean that beneficial outcomes that have been already reached shall be protected. This means to protect the good things about the system that has been created. This means, for example, tax-protected retirement arrangements and availability of medical care.

Therefore we have three things:
  • be pro-liberty - this is the libertarian no-brainer, because - duh - it's in the constitution
  • protect the weakest - compassion in governance, the "liberal" principle
  • protect the gains - any future solution, market-based or not, will not compromise the existing beneficial outcomes

Professing such ideas, broadening the standard message of liberty, Libertarianism will have a chance of entering the center field of US politics.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Alt Left and Right and their maternal politics

Antifa and Alt-right - two twins (call them Alter-R and Alter-L) - both longing for the mother, for the maternal system of politics.

The mother is inclusive. But to be inclusive she needs to exclude properly - to discriminate. And here the Alter-R and Alter-L differ. For the Alter-L she only includes those she likes - those that have no fascism, no racism, no xxx-phobia, no hate. For the Alter-R she discriminates  on the basis of "blood and soil". There is a purity test in maternal politics. The impure shall be expelled.

Mother has to include and discriminate because she has only one womb. The beings that share it will be indulged in boundless communion with her body and other bodies like themselves. This is the fantasy that Freud viewed as the foundational human desire.(*)

But those of us who are not the Alter twins - are post-Oedipal. We are all different. We can be called all different names - conservatives, liberals, libertarians, traditionalists. We want a different system of politics. One where all the different people can commune and interact out of their choice. Out of their free choice because they each occupy their own apartment in the political space. In psychological terms that apartment is called the ego, in terms of personal power it is called "boundaries", in terms of politics it is called basic human rights.

I would call it the paternal system of politics. This term is inspired by Judeo-Christianity which is foundational to our civilization. The father is symbolic, he does not have a single womb - but a house with many apartments - as it says in the Gospel of John. We are gladly adopted children, individually adopted on the basis of accepting grace. This allows us to claim our "human rights." (**)

Some call this system, system that protects our individual liberties, an odious patriarchy. But in fact it is not at all male-dominated. It is the system where the male energy self-regulates by inhabiting the domain of the Word, the Logos. Consequently, the Logos regulates access to the Mother, to the place of desire. It's a post-Oedipal system. The satisfaction of desire, access to knowledge and power, are all negotiated by the word rather than conquered by force or obtained by a pious purity test.

The maternal politics project of Alter twin brothers is fundamentally aimed against the Logos. It is for people who are all alike to live in the unity and purity of the communal womb of the state. In essence it is fascist.

The paternal world is for a lot of different people to live independently and peacefully together and be able to approach each other safely by traversing the construct of the Logos. It is essentially liberal.

(*) Freud's identification between the mother and unconscious desire is confirmed by the unceasing popularity of the word "motherfucker".
(**) The father as a symbolic function has been developed in Lacan's psychoanalysis which modernized the work of Freud. Freud discussed a primordial fantasy of murdering the father to gain access to the space of desire, a story paralleled by the myth of Oedipus.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Misguided attacks on postmodernism

Current conservative and libertarian repudiation of postmodernism is unwarranted and arrogant. Actually also ignorant. The term "postmodernism" has been in circulation since around 1980 and associated with Lyotard's proclamation of distrust toward "grand narratives." Yet the distrust has been in fact brewing for more than 200 years.

Since the time of Enlightenment a new direction of thought has been initiated - a direction dedicated to serving the question about how it is that we know rather than discovering and explaining what we know. This was the Kantian revolution, which Kant himself called Copernican, that put all knowledge in question and created the foundations of the endeavor called science. Yet at the same time Hegel dedicated his work and talents of persuasion to modernizing the older great questions of philosophy and gave rise to Marxist thought.

These two streams of post-Enlightenment philosophical thought have been with us for the last 200 years and both are in some way embedded in what is now called the postmodern philosophy. American political ideology seems disdainful of both since it is mostly founded on thought just prior to the 1800s and has been enormously successful in history. Marxism and Hegelianism maintain that we are determined by the circumstances of history and social situation and our project ought to be to understand and possibly influence those conditions. The Kantian lineage emphasizes epistemology, or the science of getting to know and value things, which studies various aspects of human experience.

After 1900 Marxism has been tainted by political regimes that embraced its versions to enslave millions. In its more benign editions Marxists pursued adaptation to existing political systems (e.g. the Frankfurt school) - seen by their foes as relativism. Yet also in 1900s a new impulse was given to the Kantian flank by Husserl who initiated a new program of phenomenology while Freud started talking about the unconscious. Phenomenology is the rightful descendant of the Kantian revolution and the progenitor of existentialism with Heidegger and Sartre being its main exponents. While these two existentialist standard bearers professed variously Fascism and Marxism the fact remains that their work was mostly dedicated to the Husserlian program of study of the depths of human experience - wherever that study took them. Quite often, and absurdly so, it led many to Marxism, through its attractive call to action to enact the ideal, - which is these individuals' unconscionable error.

To our contemporary classical American liberal, libertarian or conservative, postmodernism's main faults are its denial of "objective reality" and its presumed embrace of relativism. The examples of that are the tenets of gender theory that seem to contradict firm scientific facts of microbiology and physiology and the dead-ends of identity politics where individuals are captives of their social, racial and infinite other intersecting situations. Yet the same liberals and conservatives would be hard pressed to justify human rights or the idea of equality before the law by recourse to science or objective reality. They would have to reach back to Locke for natural law or to God. Here postmodernism with its emphasis on the subjective is really a strong ally of classical liberalism.

Let's play postmodernists now. Objective reality is only objective as far as the subjective constitutes it as such. Hannah Arendt so explains Husserl's discovery: "just as every subjective act has its intentional object, so every appearing object has its intentional subject." Objectivity is a social and subjective convention while reality is not. But we do not have access to reality other than mediated by social constructs such as language. I could quote Lacan or Derrida here. The exceptional situations where we access raw reality is sex, death as well as intense pleasure and suffering. Outside of those situations we filter reality into facts that can become objective so that we can construct knowledge as well as values. Nature, or reality, does not care about our facts, be they objective or not. Nature does not care how we interpret her gifts and torments. Nature does not care about our knowledge of reality.
How do we know that? Well, postmodernism is still working on the question.

The capacity to create and discern objects in uncreated reality is a unique faculty of the subjective. The subjective faculty demands a standing as a human right and the full protection of the law. Perhaps the subjective is what is unconsciously talked about in the US Declaration of Independence as the "pursuit of happiness"?

Postmodernism is largely concerned with the structure of the subjective human experience which is more "absolute", more commanding, than objective reality. That subjective experience also demands protection as a human right, broadly expressing a call to sexual freedom, - manifested currently loudly by the Left through identitarian LGBTQ demands.

The classical liberal or conservative decrying and ridiculing postmodernism should ponder the idea that perhaps just because certain notions are socially or subjectively constructed rather than naturally arising it is not easy or painless to shift them for an individual or for a population.

Let us take up two concepts, variously dear to and hated by, both conservatives and leftists.

Gender is a social construct. It is a social presentation of a subjective sexual desire. That sexual desire has a source in reality - but, as subjective beings, we don't know as a matter of experience while actual biological science has a pretty good handle on the issue thanks to the objective science of chromosomes. Science is objectifying us in its theories while we do that through gender which for the Left generates some type of LGBTQ creature - while on the other end of the spectrum - a husband or wife - another socially constructed gender role. I am sure Camille Paglia would agree.

Property is clearly not a law of nature. It is a social construct expressing our subjective desire to be in control of our life, its limited span and of the production and consumption of goods that support it. Animal in the forest has no career, no property, does not make a living and leaves no estate to its descendants. Property is a subjective construct which we make function with the force of reality. Objective force of reality - in this case known as economic power. I am sure Mises would understand.

For the classical liberal and libertarian postmodernism should not be a challenge but a perspective and a methodology to see the issue of political and human rights as the right of the subject to constitute the objective world.