04
Nov
11

A short liberaltarian manifesto

I’ve just spent the day converting 3000 lines of C99 code to something that won’t cause what I’ll charitably call a legacy compiler to choke and die.  My finger-extensor tendons are not happy.  So rather than type up a whole post from scratch, I thought I’d recycle another comment from over at the League:

——

Both liberalism and libertarianism stem from the observations that (a) there’s a lot of injustice out there that comes from the powerful abusing the weak, and (b) we should fix that by mitigating the power differential. The only question is how we should go about (b).

Libertarianism, at its best, tries to remove violently coercive tools from the powerful (e.g. Apple’s ability to call the cops on Gizmodo editors, or a sweatshop’s ability to get local cops to beat up union organizers) while increasing the power of the individual by providing better BATNAs. Liberalism, at its best, tries to provide a countervailing power (government) to preempt or punish the worst abuses of the powerful, while increasing the power of the individual through positive government supports.

Libertarianism, at its worst, justifies indifference to the abuses of the powerful in the name of voluntary choice. Liberalism, at its worst, provides the powerful with more tools through regulatory capture.

——

The above seemed to be pretty well-received, but curiously nobody called me on the major, obvious, glaring omission: Liberalism sets up government specifically as the biggest kid on the block and assumes away the need for any other institution to hold power over it to keep it in line.  The very existence of a sovereign regulatory body suggests that powerful actors (occasionally) need to be bullied into behaving themselves, but the only provision for bullying that sovereign body into behaving itself is a vague wave of the hand at “elections” and “democracy”.  Sure, that works well in this best of all possible worldsQuis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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8 Responses to “A short liberaltarian manifesto”


  1. 1 perlhaqr
    November 4, 2011 at 17:38

    *contemplates a new t-shirt design*

    “Ego custodiet, motherfucker.”

  2. November 7, 2011 at 10:39

    ‘the only provision for bullying that sovereign body into behaving itself is a vague wave of the hand at “elections” and “democracy”’

    I think you forgot “the constitution”, no?

    • November 7, 2011 at 11:13

      I don’t usually see progressives hand-waving at the constitution — which in any case is inimical to the idea of setting up the government as the biggest kid on the block.


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