Couple of totally random political philosophy thoughts

So I wrote a post awhile back where I said that libertarians, conservatives, and the free market movement in general should be supportive of a universal basic income, probably via some sort of negative income tax. One of the reasons I was supportive of it was because that we can’t really take advantage of our negative rights–basic freedoms to do what we want, which libertarianism champions–if we’re homeless and starving.

Anyways, I was looking for a book a friend of mine recommended to me to add to one of Amazon’s wish lists–the one that will never be fulfilled because I will probably never order (and thus read) the books on there, but oh well–and I stumbled across Norms of Liberty: A Perfectionist Basis for Non-Perfectionist Politics by Douglas B. Rasmussen and Douglas J. Den Uyl (the Doug & Doug show). What I found interesting was the book’s description. It’s a bit wordy, but you can safely focus on the bit in bold:

How can we establish a political/legal order that in principle does not require the human flourishing of any person or group to be given structured preference over that of any other? Addressing this question as the central problem of political philosophy, Norms of Liberty offers a new conceptual foundation for political liberalism that takes protecting liberty, understood in terms of individual negative rights, as the primary aim of the political/legal order. Rasmussen and Den Uyl argue for construing individual rights as metanormative principles, directly tied to politics, that are used to establish the political/ legal conditions under which full moral conduct can take place. These they distinguish from normative principles, used to provide guidance for moral conduct within the ambit of normative ethics. This crucial distinction allows them to develop liberalism as a metanormative theory, not a guide for moral conduct. The moral universe need not be minimized or morality grounded in sentiment or contracts to support liberalism, they show. Rather, liberalism can be supported, and many of its internal tensions avoided, with an ethical framework of Aristotelian inspiration-one that understands human flourishing to be an objective, inclusive, individualized, agent-relative, social, and self-directed activity.

So basically, if I get this right, the basic function of any political system is to protect one’s negative rights and individual liberty. Well, if you’re on the street, starving and homeless, with your negative rights being of no use to you…are they under attack?

That’s a very bad argument, I know. But I still think there is something there, something that my tired brain at just past midnight can’t articulate. I think there is something that can be a good justification for a universal basic income from a libertarian/classical liberal standpoint, and which I think will make the libertarian/classical liberal/neoclassical liberal argument that much more appealing to anyone who isn’t on the far left.

PS: The book I was looking for was Liberty and Nature: An Aristotelian Defense of Liberal Order, an attempt to kinda sorta merge deontological ethics with virtue ethics; or to defend a system of natural rights (or “side constraints”) within a wider system of virtue ethics. Yes, me and my friend get quite intellectual at times.

My preliminary rant on the Baby Boomer generation

I was going to write a longish post on the issue, but that will take some time. In the meantime, enjoy this rant I had on Twitter today about the Baby Boomer generation and why I they frustrate me to no end. This is only a taste of the full post that will come.

Preliminary rant that will serve as the nucleus for a potential future post on the baby boomer generation and why I find them so goddamn frustrating.

“Wayne Kerr” on Anarcho-Capitalism

A very intelligent man, who wishes to go by the name “Wayne Kerr,” has this wonderful comment on anarcho-capitalism:

“Anarchism is the center-right equivalent to academic Marxism. A farcically impractical political agenda that would almost certainly lead to mass suffering, perpetuated by moralizing armchair philosophers and overzealous students. In the end it only detracts from those of us actually trying to advance human freedom.”


OTB Comment: Really Only One Way to Save the #GOP

Here’s a comment I wrote for James Joyner’s post on David Brooks’ proposal for a “Republican-lite” party. It’s so long I thought it might be worth it’s own little post:

Look, there’s really only one way to save the Republican Party, and that’s to become more libertarian. Dropkick the social conservatism out the door. You can’t have a party that says it will stay out of the boardroom invade the bedroom, and you can’t do that to foreign countries either.

Stop bailing out corporations and the banks. Stop the cronyism. Stop the subsidies to keep food prices high. Stop being pro-business and start being pro-market. Look for ways to break down the barriers holding people down and increase income mobility (forget about income inequality, it’s meaningless). Stop denigrating the poor and help them help themselves. Start getting serious about entitlement reform, because we’re already pass the point of no return, and now it’s just a question of how hard we’ll hit. Also, and this one is probably going to be very controversial, but it’s time to look at radical welfare reform. Whether that’s a negative income tax or a basic income, we need to replace the bloated mess we have today, but we do need to establish some sort of minimal safety net or floor so that people at least have a launchpad to get their lives started(and, for those Objectivists, don’t drag on the rest of us).

Stop being hypocritical on government spending: government spending is government spending. That means that you have to take cuts to defense spending too. Stop trying to take that stuff off the table. It’s stupid and makes you look like fourth-graders. If we’re going to cut government, we’re going to cut all of it, not just the parts you don’t like.

And for the love of jesus, stop being so virulently religious. Atheists and the nonreligious are one of the fastest growing demographics today. What’s interesting is that a lot of them are, if not the garden variety conservative, are more free market than people think. They’re not automatically godless Communists. I would say 50-60% are free market libertarians. Enough with the Christian rhetoric in your speeches. You don’t have to be a god-fearing Christian to believe in free markets and individual responsibility. That theoconservatism, combined with the social conservatism, is the #1 reason why the GOP brand sucks today. A lot of people don’t mind the free market and are cool with working for themselves and making some money to get ahead. But they can’t stand the religious crap, even if they are Christians. Nobody is that hardcore outside of Alabama and Georgia, and you can’t win elections with just two states.

Enough is enough is enough.

How you know politics is beyond stupid

From some random reading on Wikipedia:

2009 – Dale Swenson, Kansas State Representative from Wichita switched January 12, 2009 moments after being sworn into office as Republican for eighth term [48] In 2010, Swenson’s Democratic opponent in 2008, Leslie Osterman, switched to Republican and defeated Swenson.[49]


That’s right. Candidate A switches from Republican to Democrat. Candidate B, his opponent, then switches from Democrat to Republican.

And you think the two parties are actually different.

Welcome to the Future, Part 2

Welcome to the Future. Again.

Earlier, I wrote about how technology was advancing, and because of that advance, we were well and truly in the future. Now, I want to write about something much more pedantic:

Now that we’re in the year 2013, we are officially in the future.

I know it sounds really silly, but think about it. In science fiction, particularly television shows, the 21st century was always “the future.” It was always 20XX (some older shows were based in 2001, 2006, 2010, or even 2012, but it usually it was around 2020 or later.) For some reason, that first “20” was both insulatingly distant and yet tantalizingly close. The 22nd century of the original Star Trek, or the 4th millennium (so, 3000-4000 if my math is right) were just a bit too distant for the same feeling.

The feeling that this was going to be us soon. It wasn’t going to be some fictional land. It was going to be us.

Naturally, most of those visions never panned out, and thank goodness for that. Many science fiction writers were small-minded, pessimistic eco-socialists, and so penned many a story with giant megacorporations pillaging the common man and ruining the Earth. Fortunately, though, the future has turned out to be far better; even with the cronyism run amok in the country’s financial industry, which led to a catastrophic and disastrous recession, we now have iPhones which contain the entirety of human knowledge in the palms of our hands; our economic liberties–while having taken a beating–are not out of the fight; our planet is actually as beautiful as ever (thanks to rapidly developing recycling, cleaning, and energy technologies); and though I am deeply disturbed about our personal and civil liberties taking one shellacking after another by consecutive Republican and Democratic administrations, I am still optimistic in the long run they will be fine.

And here we are, in 2013, a realm of limitless possibilities. We’re in the Future. All those science fiction stories you read when you were younger are us today. Make the most of it.

Comment on BHL Blog: Science, Religion, and the Great Stagnation

Seems to be the comment system over at BHL is eating up my comments. Ah well. Here is what I’ve been trying to say on this post:

Original comment got eaten. Aaargghhh….

1 – I’m not sure if science and theistic religion are really all that compatible. Theism, in all its myriad ways, purports that there is an omniscient deity that not only created the universe, but gets involved in humanity on a daily basis (or some other time interval.) As the intelligent design argument has shown, science has effectively ruled this out completely. You can’t really talk about physics and biology and then say there is some deity pulling all the strings so we look exactly how we are now.

2 – *Deism*, on the other hand, may be a different matter, because all deism is about is that there is a god, who created the natural laws that lead to the universe, and then was never seen again. Although there are problems with this view too (Austin Cline notes that the universe appears much more dynamic and chaotic than one would suppose it would be if it were designed) I think deism and science are fairly compatible, and indeed, deism could easily become the new religion of the US as trends continue.

3 – As for the social status of scientists, I don’t really think that’s the basis for the problems we face today. Leaving aside the matter of if we have a great stagnation or not, it seems clear to me that the problems really stem from cronyism, fiat monetary systems, and special interests gaming the market to the point where it is more like participatory fascism, as Randall Holscomb puts it. While there are certainly problems with science today–namely how it has been politicized over climate change and environmentalism, to the point where it has sustained serious damage to its credibility–I don’t think the lack of “Likes” on scientists’ Facebook fan pages is the reason for the problems and difficulties we’re facing today. I mean, we’re churning out new products and technologies all the time. Hell, in 20 years, we might even have an outpost on Mars, for all we know.

EDIT: Aha! And now the comment system is back, meaning my original comment is up there, but this one, which retrospectively feels superior, is not. Blast it, Zwolinski, are you trying to confound me?