Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Libertarian Case For Government

Mark S Weiner over at Cato Unbound makes that case in The Paradox of Modern Individualism.  His thought seems to be that only the state can restrain the clan, and clan government in all its forms - drug cartels, mafia - is worse.  He sees us in danger of reverting to clan government. Arnold Kling has a response Human Nature Vs Libertarian Ideals, and other responses are expected in the next few days.

Kling's response goes into larger issues than I was considering, but parts of it were along similar lines.  BTW, he references America 3.0, a book by contributors over at Chicago Boyz (sidebar), where commenter David Foster also posts.

It's a fascinating original article, and I do always pay especial attention to contrarians from within a philosophy.  The libertarian speaking in favor of government does seem at first to be like an atheist who thinks we should support religious schools or a white supremacist who supported Obama.  (I have run across both in print, BTW.)  One has to give them credit for at least rethinking their own premises.  It is rather like the rabbinic principal of pilpul: perhaps the opposite is also true.

I think Weiner fails to make his case. I liked Kling's response better. Weiner identifies three types of clans, and shows how clan-government can be worse for individual liberty than state power.  But all his negatives are drawn from the first two. I don't predict the future very well, but I don't see America, or any western nation, in much danger of becoming like Lebanon or the Philippines, let alone Somalia or Afghanistan. Europe retains a good deal of tribalism (and the Anglospheric colonies have made new tribes on somewhat different bases), but hasn't been clannish in that sense for a thousand years, except on the periphery. We can rest easy there, I think.  Weiner's third type of clan seems to involve a lot of vague handwaving - racial identity groups, multinational corporations. Those are incantations of what we fear in the world, but I don't see that they hold up as clans.  IBM has a half-million employees, but less than 1% of them have a clan-like loyalty to Big Blue.  People leave Walmart to work for Target - or San Jose State, or the Dept of Defense, or whatever - every day without a second thought.  As for racial identity groups, solid African-American support for the Democratic Party hasn't translated into a reduction of black-on-black crime or an increase in mutual support groups.  Hispanics from different Latin American countries don't have a lot of solidarity outside of the staffs of the advocacy groups. I don't know much about the growing Middle-Eastern population in America, but I'm betting there aren't a lot of Pakistani-Turkish barbeques on Wednesday nights.  I suggest Weiner's third category of clans, the only one which looked like it might have some bearing on us, doesn't exist.

That some government is actually better than anarchy is something that even libertarians subscribe to.  Rumors to the contrary come mainly from opponents setting up strawmen.  One occasionally encounters an anarcho-syndicalist or something, but I don't think they've been elected to any Boards of Selectmen lately.


Texan99 said...

Funny, I think of clan-like structures as the principal guard against tyrannical government.

james said...

I think you can still call a group a clan if they are more or less related, even if they don't treat each other very well, so long as they stand together against outsiders.

Donna B. said...

That's interesting, Texan99. I'm not sure what you mean.

I certainly don't understand 'clan' as hbd chick does. Nor do I understand the Scots version of Clan other than 'hey, we have a common ancestor somewhere'.

What I do understand is how differently my mother's family and my father's family treat outsiders.

In my mother's family, one is an outsider unless there's a direct blood link and even then, one must be accepted by the elders. If you marry into the family, you are an outsider until you prove your submission. It's brutal.

In my father's family, if you marry a member you are immediately accepted and (unless you murder someone or harm a child) you are always family even if you divorce the member you married. It's like the Hotel California in that you can't leave.

My Mom's family is changing a little bit. And though it's fashionable to 'hate' Facebook, it has facilitated connections with previously 'disowned' family members.

Perhaps neither my mother's or my father's family are typical 'clans'. If either are, I can only see my father's type clan as being detrimental to tyranny. My mother's type clan would be beneficial to it, I think.

So... am I totally off track here... not understand anything?

Texan99 said...

We're probably thinking of different kinds of clans. The bad rap clans get is that they're too authoritarian internally and too cold and harsh to outsiders. I'm thinking of clans in the wider sense of private institutions: voluntary associations of individuals committed to each others' care and welfare on terms chosen by themselves. I've long thought that associations of that kind--from families to churches to guilds--were crucial to a humane society and an important guard against the temptation to totalitarianism that seeps into all government.