Classical (Laissez-Faire) Liberalism discussion

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message 1: by Quee (last edited Jun 27, 2008 09:26AM) (new)

Quee | 31 comments
Funniest Video:

"Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie: The Subject of Language"

Saddest Video:

"A Tribute to Communism"

message 2: by Guy (new)

Guy Scotton I have to quote this comment underneath the "A Tribute to Communism" video:

"The truth is we don't know if true communism would work on a larger scale because it has not been tried yet. It seems likely that it would be difficult on a larger scale, but we are looking too far into the future, we need to go one step at a time. Though I agree that the word "communism" has so many negative connotations it is hard to even get started, just read a few of the comments and people immediately assume a communist wants to kill millions of people or something - we just want equality."

The perennial comeback, huh? Kind of hard to imagine the communist experiment on a larger scale than the USSR and China. Kind of hard, too, to claim the death of millions as an “assumption” and not simply an “observation”, to which the footage in that very video attests.

This is, of course, rather unfair on the poster, JohnSNeely, who is presumably sincere in his good intentions of not repeating socialism’s past errors. However, the “good intentions fallacy” – the idea that the dangers of centralised power could be overcome, if only the “right people” could get the job, or otherwise that the state could be kept in check if enough people have “good intentions” – strikes me as simultaneously the most common and serious mistake in thought about socialism and centralised power in general.

To contribute a video – I highly recommend The Vice Guide to North Korea, if you haven’t seen it. It is truly terrifying, and I agree with Christopher Hitchens that, no matter how much one wants to resist cliché, North Korea simply demands to be compared to Nineteen Eighty-Four. Indeed, I got the exact same feeling of cloying dread from watching this as I did from reading it:

message 3: by Quee (last edited Jul 27, 2008 02:20PM) (new)

Quee | 31 comments That was a pretty hair-straightening one. Good choice. When you think about Hitchens's admiration for socialism, I think it shows how important it is for us to able to explain, in a short and pithy way, why it is that socialism is illiberal inherently, and not just coincidentally or statistically.

One way I have tried to make this point really extra pithy is to point out that since socialism by definition is the control of production by the government, and since government by definition is that institution in a society which enjoys a legal monopoly on the initiation of force and violence, then socialism by definition is the control of production by that institution in a society which enjoys a legal monopoly on the initiation of force and violence.

And since to control and direct all production is to control and direct all the people too, socialism entails the control of all people by the one institution in a society which enjoys a legal monopoly on the initiation of force and violence.

There have been plenty of "communal" living experiments in the US, but without the power of the State and/or a lot of barbed wire to keep people in, the inmates tend to flee the commune. The essence of slavery isn't that you have to work for a living, or that your boss is annoying; the essence of slavery is that if you decide your boss is a jerk and you leave, they hunt you down with dogs and guns and bring you back.

message 4: by Guy (new)

Guy Scotton Of course. Nonetheless, pointing out the dangers of statism never seems to impress socialists, since they tend to consider it very much a mere potentiality against the actuality of corporate hegemony. Nor does pointing out the historical actuality of the consequences of centralisation seem to win much credit. In this sense a lot of the socialist sentiment I have encountered seems to consider itself an indignant pragmatism of the present moment - the "something must be done right now" mentality. It has a certain automatic authenticity to it since it is aligned to what are undoubtedly often instances of actual suffering and injustice.

The difficulty is that, in the short term, any given proposal that comes out of this attitude may well be vindicated. Consequences of principle are usually quite a while in the making. The real argument, I suppose, is not so much a matter of presenting alternate data as suggesting a shift of scope, which is always going to be a more delicate task. All the more so if we are arguing, ultimately, from utility, since we ought not to lose sight of our own scale of pragmatism.

Regarding Hitchens, there is an interesting interview with him on the website for the PBS miniseries based on Joshua Muravchik's book, Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism: (I haven't been able to see the documentary yet but I've read the book, which I enjoyed)

message 5: by Quee (new)

Quee | 31 comments Here's a little old gem, called "Make Mine Freedom":

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