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Defending the Undefendable

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  • Defending the Undefendable

    Perhaps the most politically provocative book I have ever come across is Walter Block's Defending the Undefendable. While the book as a whole defends a swath of consistently libertarian positions, the section that most interests me is that on speech. Block (correctly, in my view) notes that most people do not consistently believe in freedom of speech, and takes aim at those areas where people make exceptions, defending those areas. Thus, there are chapters defending blackmailers, slanders/libelers, people yelling fire in a crowded theater, and others. I confess I do not find his arguments compelling (such as his resorting to people having the right to enjoy masochistic enjoyment from being crushed in a crowded theater), but the book is worth a read, or at least individual chapters one is curious about.

    The text is available here: http://mises.org/document/3490/Defen...e-Undefendable (This is the publisher's website so there shouldn't be any copyright concerns with me posting it)

    The rest of the book (non-free speech) has mixed results in my view. I don't have a problem with ticket scalping; I do have a problem with pimps.
    Last edited by KingsGambit; 03-27-2014, 09:36 AM.
    "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

  • #2
    Sounds interesting. Thanks for highlighting it.

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    • #3
      "The text is available here: http://mises.org/document/3490/Defen...e-Undefendable (This is the publisher's website so there shouldn't be any copyright concerns with me posting it)"

      The Mises Institute is pretty much against copyright entirely and has all their stuff under open licenses. Both the content on the website and the websites source code IIRC.

      Edit:

      Walter Block has written a lot of articles of various kinds of controversial issues.
      Last edited by Kristian Joensen; 03-27-2014, 02:24 PM.

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      • #4
        I haven't read much of Block's writings. I've heard libertarians say that some of Block's writings are controversial even among libertarians.

        I just read the section on crying "Fire" in a theater.
        KingsGambit, your brief comment is a bit misleading. Block's primary argument there is that there is no conflict of rights here at all if we recognize the contractual agreement between the theater owner and the customers, requiring the promised entertainment without disruption.

        He later makes a secondary/supporting argument by saying that in the case that a masochists wanted to explicitly pay for the experience of being in a stampeding crowd, that such contracts should be legal. That is, even intentionally creating a stampeding crowd can possibly be just, in the case that all those involved in the crowd are consenting adults. (And thus a blanket legal prohibition would be unjust.)

        If you disagree with this supporting argument, that doesn't take any weight away from the primary argument.

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        • #5
          Mises is an excellent place to start on the journey toward the light, but it pays to remember that those who read him honestly will find themselves drawn to Carlyle:

          Originally posted by Mencius Moldbug
          The problem with Mises as guru is that Misesian classical liberalism (or Rothbardian libertarianism) is like Newtonian physics. It is basically correct within its operating envelope. Under unusual conditions it breaks down, and a more general model is needed. The equation has another term, the ordinary value of which is zero. Without this term, the equation is wrong. Normally this is no problem; but if the term is not zero, the error becomes visible.

          Just as Newtonian rules only make sense at low speeds, Misesian rules only make sense in a secure order. Mises himself once wished for a praxeology of war, which is fairly good evidence that he didn't have one. Carlyle was not a place he would have looked. Carlyle was taken - Carlyle, the statist, the royalist fascist and the royalist progressive, was the prophet of those (on both sides of the Atlantic) who had no place for Mises. To say the least!

          Einstein once said: a theory should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. As a Carlylean libertarian, I would say: government should be as small as possible, but no smaller.

          You'll notice, for instance, that, Mises is almost never normative. He will never tell you that the fashionable interventionist policies of his era are bad. He will tell you that they will not produce the results purportedly intended, or that they will have some other unadvertised effect. He will tell you, in other words, that the political reasoning behind them is bad. And as always, Mises will be right. But he does not prove that the policies are bad - just supported by bad reasons...

          ...Mises, being a liberal, is operating whether he likes it or not in the Benthamite tradition. He does not tell you that central planning is impossible; he tells you that central planning by objective process, ie public policy in the modern American sense, is impossible. The alternative of human judgment is one that he does not consider - both because this alternative is ideologically repugnant to him, and because his own generation had an extremely bad experience with it.

          So, for instance, a typical neo-Benthamite public-policy construction needs a measure of national utility, such as "GDP" (roughly, net business-to-consumer sales). Both Mises and Carlyle will tell you (a) that there is no conceivable quantification of national utility, and (b) this measure, or any other, is of no use whatsoever. A policy that decreases GDP may be good; one that increases it, evil.

          To a Carlylean, any such policy of government-by-steam is a simple declaration of surrender to Satan, like leaving port 23 open on your e-commerce server. For instance, America has built an enormous debt by consuming beyond its income - thus maximizing GDP. Oops.

          Good does not tolerate evil, but drives it out entirely. If you see a process inviting further evil, it may well be compromised itself. Chaos breeds more chaos; order must extirpate it entirely, or surrender to it. So again, Carlyle and Mises get the same results. If in very different ways...

          ...What my conversion to the cult of Carlyle has changed - completely - is my understanding of the means by which this free society must be achieved. If it exists, it must be preserved: by any means necessary (as Malcolm X used to put it). If it does not exist? Bueller? Bueller?

          It is easy to see that libertarians have trouble with the means part, because they have never come anywhere close to succeeding. There is a reason for this.
          But don't let me keep you from reading the entire post, it contains much more in that same spirit and you will not find a dull passage in it.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Epoetker View Post
            Mises is an excellent place to start on the journey toward the light
            The light of the fires of Hell, maybe. If the starting point is post-Enlightenment, it's the wrong starting point.
            "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." Isaiah 3:12

            There is no such thing as innocence, only degrees of guilt.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Darth Executor View Post
              The light of the fires of Hell, maybe. If the starting point is post-Enlightenment, it's the wrong starting point.
              I'm fairly certain that the reason this movement labeled itself 'The Dark Enlightenment' was precisely as a dig against it, and its standard-bearers tend not to be shy in denouncing its partisans

              (And credit where it's due, our very own JP Holding was calling it "The Endarkenment" long before it was cool.)

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Epoetker View Post
                I'm fairly certain that the reason this movement labeled itself 'The Dark Enlightenment' was precisely as a dig against it, and its standard-bearers tend not to be shy in denouncing its partisans

                (And credit where it's due, our very own JP Holding was calling it "The Endarkenment" long before it was cool.)
                All the more reason not to consider a product of the Enlightenment like Mises an "excellent place to start".
                "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." Isaiah 3:12

                There is no such thing as innocence, only degrees of guilt.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Darth Executor View Post
                  All the more reason not to consider a product of the Enlightenment like Mises an "excellent place to start".
                  Anyone who at least attempts to keep a position as consistent with his beliefs as possible can be a starting point on the journey toward the truth, simply because they will consistently get the same things wrong, and this consistency assists immensely when it comes time to correct a mistake.

                  You, or Moldbug can find and correct the mistakes of Mises in short order, because he has done us the courtesy of being clear and consistent in his beliefs.

                  You cannot find and correct the mistakes of a Barack Obama, a Michael Mann, or your average journalist in short order, because they did not believe in their positions in the first place, see them only as tools to get money, position, or power, and will either use the vaguest terms possible or change their words and terms on the fly based on how they sense the political climate in the immediate area turns in their favor.

                  This is, of course, the main difference between one seeking truth, and one whose human instinct to search and worship is focused on 'getting' the Zeitgeist, the Spirit of the Age, or if we're using the Biblical term, "The Prince of the Power of the Air." It is they who turn mere mistakes in experience or understanding into self-perpetuating sin factories, and they who rage against those who attempt to correct the errors they build their livelihoods upon.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Epoetker View Post
                    Anyone who at least attempts to keep a position as consistent with his beliefs as possible can be a starting point on the journey toward the truth, simply because they will consistently get the same things wrong, and this consistency assists immensely when it comes time to correct a mistake.
                    Another example of someone who attempts to keep a position as consistent with her beliefs as possible:

                    http://www.occidentaldissent.com/201...aped-in-haiti/

                    Two weeks ago, on a Monday morning, I started to write what I thought was a very clever editorial about violence against women in Haiti. The case, I believed, was being overstated by women’s organizations in need of additional resources. Ever committed to preserving the dignity of Black men in a world which constantly stereotypes them as violent savages, I viewed this writing as yet one more opportunity to fight “the man” on behalf of my brothers. That night, before I could finish the piece, I was held on a rooftop in Haiti and raped repeatedly by one of the very men who I had spent the bulk of my life advocating for.

                    It hurt. The experience was almost more than I could bear. I begged him to stop. Afraid he would kill me, I pleaded with him to honor my commitment to Haiti, to him as a brother in the mutual struggle for an end to our common oppression, but to no avail. He didn’t care that I was a Malcolm X scholar. He told me to shut up, and then slapped me in the face. Overpowered, I gave up fighting halfway through the night.
                    Spoilers: the White Man is to blame for it. If that's not consistency I dunno what is.

                    Radical anti-rayciss feminism appears to also be an "excellent place to start". But why stop there. By your definition just about anybody can be an excellent place to start as long as they cling to massive and pervasive idiocy and evil in a consistent manner. Might as well skip his minions and head straight to Satan himself for an excellent starting place. He's been nothing if not consistent from the beginning.

                    You, or Moldbug can find and correct the mistakes of Mises in short order, because he has done us the courtesy of being clear and consistent in his beliefs.
                    Much of the same can be done with people of any ideology, as they all have individuals who are clear and consistent in their beliefs.

                    You cannot find and correct the mistakes of a Barack Obama, a Michael Mann, or your average journalist in short order, because they did not believe in their positions in the first place, see them only as tools to get money, position, or power, and will either use the vaguest terms possible or change their words and terms on the fly based on how they sense the political climate in the immediate area turns in their favor.
                    Barack Obama has never said or written anything of note on Progressive policy, but others have. I would nevertheless advise people to steer away from Progressivism as a starting point, regardless of how many honest, consistent idiots adhere to it.

                    This is, of course, the main difference between one seeking truth, and one whose human instinct to search and worship is focused on 'getting' the Zeitgeist, the Spirit of the Age, or if we're using the Biblical term, "The Prince of the Power of the Air." It is they who turn mere mistakes in experience or understanding into self-perpetuating sin factories, and they who rage against those who attempt to correct the errors they build their livelihoods upon.
                    Seeking the truth is overrated. Hardly anybody has the brains to find it, and even then it's more about luck. Much better to seek what is useful. The truth will then reveal itself naturally.
                    "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." Isaiah 3:12

                    There is no such thing as innocence, only degrees of guilt.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Much of the same can be done with people of any ideology, as they all have individuals who are clear and consistent in their beliefs.
                      And it is them and those who follow them whom I'm interested in. Those with weak wills will sway to and fro with the herd from one philosophy to another, those who seek truth will build structures and institutions to channel that will in the right direction. It is exhilirating to ride the storm, but at the end of the day you need a safe place to rest your head, a community where everyone knows your name, and a standard, path, and goal to measure yourself by. Otherwise you'll double down on whatever extreme novelty has captured your heart at the moment.

                      Barack Obama has never said or written anything of note on Progressive policy, but others have. I would nevertheless advise people to steer away from Progressivism as a starting point, regardless of how many honest, consistent idiots adhere to it.
                      Indeed I would, as well. Most of it is too emotive and too focused on winning present political victories to have any consistency. The libertarians at least have enough uncoolness and enough of a losing streak to actually care about philosophical consistency.

                      Seeking the truth is overrated. Hardly anybody has the brains to find it, and even then it's more about luck. Much better to seek what is useful. The truth will then reveal itself naturally.
                      The point about seeking the truth is that when you find something that is true, it is, at least casually, connected to everything else that is true. When you find something useful, you often can't quite tell exactly how useful it is or how long it will be useful until you've been using it as a crutch for so long it breaks under your weight.


                      It is useful and quicker to memorize the answers for the test rather than learning and understanding the concept to the point where you can model it in your head, but if it's something that other people's lives depend on in the future, you may actually save those lives rather than having to learn the more useful and quicker skill of blaming your tools, subordinates, bosses, bad luck, conservative Rethuglicans...

                      I don't denounce Darwinism and reductive evolutionary thinking just because I'm a paid stooge for the Discovery Institute, you know. There are real-life consequences to not working with paper on one's knee, and my hope is that the next wave of Germanic barbarians will seek out how to make their own relics, rather than simply tacking on the mysteries of ages past.

                      Politics and other popular forms of fraud and force are not a vocation, an aspiration, or a divine calling. Their victories and defeats teach nothing lasting to their participants. They are, at best, means to a hopefully better end.

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