Saturday, December 05, 2009

French right: "We must impose parity"

The governing party of France is the UMP (Union for a Popular Movement). It's a coalition of forces on the right of French politics.

But just because it is on the right of French politics doesn't mean that it's genuinely conservative. The party is sponsoring legislation that will make it compulsory for French companies to have women as 50% of their board members by 2015.

Why make it compulsory for board directors to be 50% female? Why not just allow companies to select whoever they think is best to fill these positions?

The answer is that under the logic of liberalism gender must be made not to matter.

Liberals take autonomy to be the highest good in society. Therefore, they favour what is self-determined, rather than predetermined. Our sex is not something we get to choose for ourselves - it is predetermined. Therefore, liberals take the fact of sex distinctions to be a negative impediment to individual freedom that must be made not to matter.

Liberals once thought that equal opportunity would do the trick. They assumed that men and women were by nature the same, so that if there were equal opportunities women would end up doing what men did in equal numbers.

But it hasn't turned out that way. Even though women are favoured in getting onto company boards, there aren't as many women who compete to do so. So even with equal opportunity and affirmative action gender still matters. Therefore liberals are increasingly turning to the blunt instrument of the law to get what they really want - equal outcomes, regardless of merit or fairness.

The president of the UMP, Jean-François Copé, made this perfectly clear when he said,

We must do to companies what we did in the public domain a few years ago and impose parity.

Equality of outcome is to be imposed by a party of the right. So much for the idea that liberalism is a neutral philosophy that leaves people alone to run their own affairs. We have well and truly reached the phase of liberalism in which the state intrusively engineers social outcomes.

As for liberals recognising that equal opportunity wasn't working as they'd hoped, listen to the views of this French woman:

Véronique Préaux-Cobti, a leading businesswoman, said the discussions were a sign that times had changed.

"In 2002, a huge majority would have been against," she told Le Figaro earlier this year. "Now, after years of good will with no change, there is a real realisation that things are not going to change on their own."

What a quote. She recognises that businesswomen have faced "good will" rather than hostility and opposition, but that things haven't changed (i.e. gender still matters). She then says that there has been a change in view as people have realised that "things are not going to change on their own" - which is a nice way of saying that people (liberals) now want things changed forcibly by state coercion.

So equal opportunity isn't enough for liberals. Even when businesswomen were treated favourably the result was not boardroom parity. The fair treatment of women in business is made clear in a large-scale study of executive pay tracking the earnings of 16,000 executives over 14 years. The research showed that,

At any given level of the career hierarchy, women are paid slightly more than men with the same background, have slightly less income uncertainty and are promoted as quickly.

In other words, women in business were treated better in general than similarly qualified men.

There's evidence too that some less qualified women are already being appointed to company boards in order to change gender ratios. Chris Thomas, a partner with an executive head hunting firm, has stated that,

if some of the women on boards today were men, they would not be directors. If the sorts of discussions that go on around the choices made were taped, they would be embarrassing. (Herald Sun, "Time to get on board," 5/12/09)

According to an insider like Chris Thomas, women are cynically being appointed to directorships over better qualified men, in order to bolster the number of female board members.

A lot of men may shrug their shoulders at this. Most of us won't be competing for these directorships anyway. But we have to realise that once the principle is accepted it will work its way through society as a whole.

If the state can act coercively to force a parity in outcomes between men and women, then get ready for some radical social engineering. Expect, for instance, for it to be made compulsory for men and women to have an equal number of months of paid parental care. Expect the level of superannuation paid to women and men to be made the same, regardless of contributions. Expect the level of lifetime earnings to be made the same, regardless of hours worked or the nature of the work undertaken. Expect a mandatory 50% of non-combatant officer positions in the armed services to be reserved for women. And so on.

All of this will present opportunities for traditionalists. There will certainly be men who will understand that less qualified women are being promoted ahead of them. This can only weaken the allegiance of men to a liberal order.

The problem we have is that the men who finally do break faith with liberalism are often so demoralised that they simply opt out and give up on their own civilisation rather than turning to an active and principled opposition. But some men will be spirited enough to consider a traditionalist alternative.

We need to present to these men a very different understanding of gender and freedom. Freedom for traditionalists is a freedom to act as we are really constituted, i.e. as men and women, as members of distinct communities, as moral beings and so on. So it is a more important good to be allowed to fulfil our distinct natures as men and women than to force a parity of outcomes through state coercion.

45 comments:

  1. Not intended as an attack (I am a libertarian, and that brings me close to your positions), but what is this 'conservatism' you speak of?

    Conservatism may have had the meaning that you assign to once, but now the word 'conservative' has been hijacked by the people you call right-liberals, and the word is never going to come back. I notice that you use the word traditionalists - that could work, although that word could carry it's own baggage.

    A lot of these things are problems because it comes from government coercion. Government is involved in all kinds of things they shouldn't be involved in, which is why they can come up with plans like the one you describe in your post. Conservatism, as I understand it, would not prevent such coercive government actions from happening because conservatism does not reject such actions in principle. People left to their own devices, as in a society organised along libertarian lines, would organise automatically and organically. Deviations like feminism, white privilege ideology, etc, would be strictly private enterprises, and would likely wither on the vine without the massive support it gets from the state.

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  2. I suspect that a lot of women would rather rule from the bedroom than the boardroom.

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  3. Matthew, I agree with you about the problem in describing a "traditionalist" politics.

    Ideally, we would oppose the term liberal with the term conservative and the term modernist with the term traditionalist.

    However, both terms are problematic. The term "conservative" is often applied in the mass media to the mainstream right liberal parties. And the term "traditionalist" can imply just being old-fashioned, rather than having a principled political position.

    But I haven't been able to come up with anything better.

    As for libertarianism, it's true that a strict libertarianism wouldn't endorse state coercion in such matters as gender ratios in company boardrooms.

    It's true as well that traditionalists, just like libertarians, want a much less intrusive central state than we have now.

    So perhaps there are issues we can find some political overlap on.

    The problem is, though, that libertarians aren't usually content with the idea that people should be left free of an intrusive, centralised state to develop, in a natural and organic way, decentralised, traditionalist communities.

    Most libertarians I've read are more aggressively individualistic. They view any kind of collective goods as a threatening imposition on the individual.

    For the same reason, most libertarians seem to adopt an abstracted, deracinated view of the individual - an individual who has no natural ties or connection to any particular community or tradition.

    Let's say for the sake of argument that the federal government collapsed, leaving people to establish their own communities.

    What would lead a libertarian individual to self-consciously seek to restore his own traditional community? Why would he make sacrifices for it? Why would he want a particular community to endure?

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  4. Expect a mandatory 50% of non-combatant officer positions in the armed services to be reserved for women.

    This is already pretty much true in the US military. Not in numbers, because there aren't enough women to make them 50% of positions, but because men, but not women, can be ordered into combat positions. Women, however, can only be asked to take a combat position, and they nearly always refuse.

    In the Navy, shore billets are coveted as rest and relaxation positions. Normally, sailors rotate between shore and shipboard positions. Because so many Navy women get pregnant during cruise, causing their mandatory evacuation from ship, they get first shot at the short billets, leaving weary men no choice but to remain at sea. I am certain Navy women know this, and intentionally get pregnant to escape shipboard duty.

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  5. 'Opting out' is sometimes the only option. I don't even think its a conscious option, just an ingrained response to totalitarianism.

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  6. Mark, I agree that there are libertarians like that. I think that is because some self styled libertarians are not really rigorous in their application of libertarianism. Some reject any group action at all. In reality, group action is fine as long as it is not coerced.

    It can be frustrating to see self styled libertarians support completely open borders, or see them say that immigration should be controled by the labor needs of business.

    I think a sincere libertarian recognizes that residency or citizenship given to a foreigner is a privilege or gift given by the state and is thus not in line with libertarianism. Perhaps the Swiss system of granting citiZenship is close to libertarianism.

    Anyway, the problems we face cannot be solved by a simple change in government. The institutions themselves, the organs of government, are rotten and need to be dismantled. If the infrastructure remains in place while the government changes, then any gains in the short term will be for naught.

    How will you deal with government universities teaching white privilege? They do so because they collect free money from the state. Would kids and parents pay for learning how to hate themselves as white people in a free market? Unlikey.

    Imagine if all these groups got cut off. First all these people would have to get real jobs and have to commit their treason part time as a hobby, rather than as a highly paying full time job. That would be worth the price of admission itself!

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  7. Mark, I agree that there are libertarians like that. I think that is because some self styled libertarians are not really rigorous in their application of libertarianism. Some reject any group action at all. In reality, group action is fine as long as it is not coerced.

    It can be frustrating to see self styled libertarians support completely open borders, or see them say that immigration should be controled by the labor needs of business.

    I think a sincere libertarian recognizes that residency or citizenship given to a foreigner is a privilege or gift given by the state and is thus not in line with libertarianism. Perhaps the Swiss system of granting citiZenship is close to libertarianism.

    Anyway, the problems we face cannot be solved by a simple change in government. The institutions themselves, the organs of government, are rotten and need to be dismantled. If the infrastructure remains in place while the government changes, then any gains in the short term will be for naught.

    How will you deal with government universities teaching white privilege? They do so because they collect free money from the state. Would kids and parents pay for learning how to hate themselves as white people in a free market? Unlikey.

    Imagine if all these groups got cut off. First all these people would have to get real jobs and have to commit their treason part time as a hobby, rather than as a highly paying full time job. That would be worth the price of admission itself!

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  8. "Imagine if all these groups got cut off. First all these people would have to get real jobs and have to commit their treason part time as a hobby, rather than as a highly paying full time job. That would be worth the price of admission itself!"

    It is an awkard position. The institutions of the state get captured by a political ideology and so we should do away with the institutions of the state?

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  9. Matthew, you sound like a thoughtful Libertarian.

    Libertarian (aka liberal) is in opposition to authoritarian.

    Reactionary (or traditionalist) is in opposition to progressive, with conservative somewhere in the middle.

    The reason conservative is properly applied to what you call "right-liberals" is because conservatism essentially means preserving the status quo, and the status quo is more progressive and totalitarian than it has been in the past. Yesterday's progressive is today's conservative and tomorrow's reactionary.

    The reason the term liberal is used to describe progressives is because the postwar progressive movement was initially libertarian in nature, aiming to strike down laws that maintained the social order. Having mostly accomplished that, the progressive movement then turned to more authoritarian means of achieving social change, but the "liberal" name stuck.

    That's how we get people like Mark saying "Liberals believe in individual autonomy... that's why they use government power to enforce desired outcomes" and thinking that it makes sense.

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  10. That's how we get people like Mark saying "Liberals believe in individual autonomy... that's why they use government power to enforce desired outcomes" and thinking that it makes sense.

    Anonymous, I do understand the contradiction within liberalism here. It's very much like the contradiction you get when liberalism is applied to the lives of women (i.e. feminism).

    The liberal (and therefore feminist) aim is to maximise individual autonomy for women.

    But this aim is difficult to apply coherently.

    On the one hand, maximising individual autonomy would mean allowing women to choose for themselves what they do.

    On the other hand, maximising individual autonomy would mean women pursuing careers independently of men.

    So what do you do with women who want to be stay at home mums? Is it liberal (maximising autonomy) to let them freely choose to do so? Or is it liberal to implement policies which effectively push them into the workforce (maximising autonomy)?

    There are countless arguments about this within feminism. But, over time, both the culture and the social policy move inexorably toward the latter option. Because staying at home is considered to breach the autonomy principle, it is increasingly squeezed out as an effective choice for the average woman.

    Maximising individual autonomy could only work coherently as a principle if it really were the case that people took autonomy as the sole and highest good in their lives. If that were the case then you could leave people to their own choices and the result would be the maximisation of autonomy in society.

    But people take other goods to be significant, such as those relating to family, morality and community - so there is no consistent way to maximise autonomy - either you breach autonomy by not letting people choose for themselves - or you breach it by letting them choose goods that fail to maximise autonomy.

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  11. The reason the libertarian right hasn't been very helpful in restricting liberalism to equality of opportunity is because they either believe in equality themselves or are too scared to speak up against it.

    If you believe in equality, then it is to logical to assume that if people are given equality of opportunity then eventually there will be equality of outcome, and if there isn't it must be due to oppression.

    People will only accept inequality of outcome if they accept that their are genetic differences between people, and only the occassional right liberal like Charles Murray or John Derbyshire actually acknowledges inequality.

    Indeed, the liberal right is getting even worse than the liberal left in terms of denying racial and sexual differences - Fox news commentator Glen Beck for example recently stated that he wasn't white, to which a black person humorously replied - 'you look pretty white to me'.

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  12. There's another problem within liberalism here.

    Why is it that liberals take autonomy so seriously? In part, it's because they think it's the quality which makes us human. Therefore, if autonomy is not held equally amongst people, then some people are being treated as more human than others.

    So liberal "freedom" must be "equal freedom" if it is not to breach a serious standard of human equality and injustice.

    But how are you to get this kind of equality? If money, power, careers, education and social status bring autonomy - then these things must be made equal between people in society.

    If power relations must be made equal then no group in society must be dominant, not even in the sense of dominating the culture by weight of numbers.

    And how is such equality to be brought about? How, for instance, are you to arrive at the situation of women earning as much as men? Or American blacks having the same educational outcomes as whites? Or Amercian whites not "dominating" society through their majority status? And so on.

    Many liberals conclude that the state must act to rectify the great "social injustices" through radical measures of reform, otherwise the society stands condemned by its "racism" or its "sexism" in which some are "privileged" and treated as more human than others etc etc etc.

    This is an outlook especially prevalent amongst left liberals, but because right liberals share so much of the underlying philosophy they are not an effective counterforce to it.

    A left liberal will typically say "we need a state imposed quota now". A right liberal usually won't oppose what is being aimed at in principle, but will prefer voluntary or unofficial quotas.

    But as we've seen, the right in France has even moved away from this approach (i.e. we support the idea of 50% of women being board members but we'll leave it to voluntary industry codes of conduct to achieve the target) to the more left-liberal one of straight out state coercion.

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  13. "The reason conservative is properly applied to what you call "right-liberals" is because conservatism essentially means preserving the status quo, and the status quo is more progressive and totalitarian than it has been in the past."

    I think conservatism as a political idea is much more than maintaining the status quo. Its about protecting the essential elements of life, society and the higher virtues. Conservatism as a mere "don't change" isn't a political idea its just inertia.

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  14. "The institutions of the state get captured by a political ideology and so we should do away with the institutions of the state?"

    That's sort of what Howard did with the Universities. He said oh they're so left wing lets cut their funding. At the same time we'll let them pursue autonomy and their own thing (more overseas students). Result was more immigrants, equals bullshit.

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  15. Mark:

    "On the one hand, maximising individual autonomy would mean allowing women to choose for themselves what they do."

    Yes.

    "On the other hand, maximising individual autonomy would mean women pursuing careers independently of men."

    No, this is not necessary. I suppose it would be necessary that the government not make it illegal for women to work. But if a woman chooses to get married or live as a slattern on the street, that is acceptable by liberal standards.

    "Many liberals conclude that the state must act to rectify the great "social injustices" through radical measures of reform, otherwise the society stands condemned by its "racism" or its "sexism" in which some are "privileged" and treated as more human than others etc etc etc."

    This is not "a contradiction within liberalism". It's authoritarian progressive utopianism. It might seem pedantic, but I think it's important to correctly identify what you're fighting against. The Left gets a lot of mileage out of calling itself "liberal", when as you've shown it is usually quite authoritarian.

    Re: Matthew

    "People will only accept inequality of outcome if they accept that their are genetic differences between people, and only the occassional right liberal like Charles Murray or John Derbyshire actually acknowledges inequality."

    It's not just about acknowledging inequality, it's about accepting it. The turn-of-the-century progressives believed in genetic differences. Their solution was Eugenics. Thus, Hitler and Planned Parenthood. Libertarians and conservatives are willing accept inequality or let it work itself out.

    Re: Jesse

    "I think conservatism as a political idea is much more than maintaining the status quo. Its about protecting the essential elements of life, society and the higher virtues"

    The key words are "maintaining" and "protecting". If you have it, keep it. But if you've lost it, you have to get it back. Conservatism is not enough in that case.

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  16. "On the one hand, maximising individual autonomy would mean allowing women to choose for themselves what they do."

    That's not what a liberal means by "autonomy", otherwise they wouldn't be throwing around so much money to subsidize women. What the liberal means is that women should be completely insulated from the consequences of their choices. Hence, if a woman should make a choice, but cannot afford that choice on her own, the liberal will steal from others so she can.

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  17. "If power relations must be made equal then no group in society must be dominant, not even in the sense of dominating the culture by weight of numbers."

    This is bizare. But in practise it only applies to the traditional white culture. Its "liberal" to allow other cultures freedom to do whatever they want.

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  18. But in practise it only applies to the traditional white culture.

    Yes, that's mostly the case Jesse. That's because whites have been tagged as the dominant oppressor group.

    Lawrence Auster has described the way that liberals follow a script in which there are three "actors": liberal whites, non-liberal whites and non-whites.

    The good moral agents in this script are the liberal whites whose promotion of liberal principles of non-discrimination and inclusion make them shine in comparison to the non-liberal whites, who are the bad moral agents.

    The non-whites are there not as moral agents, but as the object upon which the drama of liberal white morality is played out.

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  19. I think we should encourage France and the rest of the EU to adopt 100% of the progressive agenda. The world needs a cautionary example, and it's not like the EU is our friend.

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  20. Anonymous,

    Thanks.

    Libertarianism stands at utter odds with virtually every liberal ideology you can think of. Unfortunately, stuff like legalization of drugs (anti-prohibition) tends to alienate conservatives, both of the traditionalist type and the right liberal type.

    Think of any feminist, socialist, or liberal sacred cow - libertarianism stands against them all. The glass ceiling? Libertarianism has both a counter argument to it's existence, and also a reason for the disparity. Disparity in outcomes among different races? Libertarianism has answers for that, and is unapologetic for disparities.

    Conservatives need to decide what kind of people they want to be. Do they want fairness, or do they simply want to wield the club currently held by the left liberals? Do conservatives stand against political correctness, or just want to replace left political correctness with right political correctness?

    Jesse_7, I worked for 5 years in the "education export industry" that you are speaking of. It is not schools seeking foreign students that caused the increase in immigration, but the gift of permanent residency that the state decided to confer on foreign graduates of Australian universities. Without that massive incentive, there would not have been that massive increase in immigration via education.

    That being said, universities did lobby for such privileges to be granted to foreign graduates. But universities are not the only ones. The Australian Hotels Association is another group (that I have had dealings with professionally) that lobbies for student migrants, claiming (falsely) that there is a labor shortage in their sector. Again, they are not the only ones, and not even the worst ones.

    We need to face down these elite business interests. In principle business interests would not be attacked by libertarians, but neither could they obtain any special right or privilege beyond that possessed by any other citizen.

    Much of the government we have today goes far beyond what can be considered legitimate, and there would be little lost cutting off these diseased limbs. Government employees, almost all of them, are left liberals. They are a powerful vested interest. Change cannot be accomplished without completely dismantling the institutions they dominate, and doing so permanently.

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  21. "We need to face down these elite business interests."

    Hear, hear.

    "Change cannot be accomplished without completely dismantling the institutions they dominate, and doing so permanently."

    One group of people who I think are relatively left is Registered Nurses. A couple of times I've been in hospital with the army and it didn't take much to get them going. However, afterwards they will look a little shamefaced. Not just because they realise they shouldn't expect all soldiers will be left wing but also they realise that they're not there to preach. Their job is apolitical and its not really appropriate for them to go on. Having said that it is a free country and people are entitled to their views although most would agree that it shouldn't really affect their work.

    I think in every work environment some people will be political (perhaps more so in certain jobs) but many won't. They'll be apolitical, neutral or uninterested. They probably won't rock the boat either way. These people are generally popular because they're easy going and they don't foist their views on others. The strike co-ordinator is usually one or two bad days away from a nervous breakdown.

    We still need nurses. Hopefully they won't be judged or promoted for their political views but for their skill on the job. Yes it is human nature for people to want to pursue politics and there will always be some bleed over, but generally, unless you're a university academic in the humanities (and even there there are limits) it is generally regarded as inappropriate to be too political at work. So I don't see how dismantling a lot of public institutions would be helpful. Although I do appreciate the fact that certain occupations can definitely allow or encourage certain politics to flourish.

    "Conservatives need to decide what kind of people they want to be. Do they want fairness, or do they simply want to wield the club currently held by the left liberals?"

    I think that is a good question. Personally I'm not sure how far state intervention should go of any political stripe, however, I'm not convinced that the government should be a non actor in society either. I'm not fully decided what the bounds should be although I am generally irritated by the way the left conducts business.

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  22. "Government employees, almost all of them, are left liberals. They are a powerful vested interest."

    This is unfortunate, strikes go up when labor is in power because they think they can blackmail higher wages from their buddies. However, they're still only one constituency among many. The public service used to vote liberal, so maybe its not impossible they will so again.

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  23. Matthew, I usually don't even bother arguing against libertarianism, as most libertarians are generally worse than mainstream liberals in what they advocate.

    Your own position deserves more consideration. I'm off to work now and can't reply at length, but my immediate response is that you're holding out a kind of oblique way for traditionalism to get a boost rather than a direct way.

    But we do need traditionalism to be argued for directly. For too long, there has been no voice criticising the actual principles on which liberalism is based and arguing for a traditionalist alternative.

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  24. Matthew,

    Do you agree that many are more powerful than one? If so and if being powerful is a good thing which I would argue it is, then we need some sort of society in which to conduct our buisness. Society will have rules of some sort, hopefully not too rigid because that would be stifling. How can we have society if everyone does their own thing which is what I interpret libertarianism to be (subject to the minimum standards of human interaction, do no harm, obey the law etc)? Isn't it a fact that if everyone does their own thing then in some instances society will benefit but in many other instances society won't?

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  25. Also you say we should do away with state institutions (or largely curtail them) because they are too left wing. Isn't the rise of state (left wing) institutions a direct consequence of an increasingly liberal society? Nobody looks after old people so we need the state to do it, we need the state to help with babysitting, we need the state to do this and that. Not to mention be a strong law and enforcement presence because everyone is out there pushing the envolope and not being so restrained by their community and its standards. Large scale self reliance will work for some (perhaps many) people in some/many situations but it can hardly be the rule for society as a whole.

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  26. "Much of the government we have today goes far beyond what can be considered legitimate, and there would be little lost cutting off these diseased limbs."

    I think most people would agree with you. However, our answer today for everything is bureaucracy.

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  27. Great discussion. I just wanted to add to Jesse's remark:

    Isn't the rise of state (left wing) institutions a direct consequence of an increasingly liberal society?

    Good point, and this is why mainstream Libertarianism fails. It seems to forget that all humans aren't fit 25 year olds. Some are babies; others are great-grandpas; and most cannot be completely independent and still survive, let alone live well.

    How long do the Libertarians suppose a society full of neglected infants and starving grandpas lasts?

    Nobody wants to see half the population starving on the streets, hence they either take care of them themselves (a violation of their autonomy) or they seize other people's money to build left-wing institutions (a violation of everyone's autonomy).

    I'm critiquing the usual Libertarianism, not Matthew here.

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  28. But I do have a question for you, Matthew, and I too don't mean this as an attack. When you talked about your opposition to "coerced group action" that struck a chord in me because a.) I don't like that either, but b.) I don't see how, because of human sin, any society can do without it.

    For instance, the following persons usually consider themselves "coerced" and resent it:

    1.) The typical Western 15 year old right after his mother has asked him to take out the trash or his father has asked him to turn his music down

    More seriously,
    2.) Objectors in a small community under military attack after the other men have forced them to fight on pain of death.

    I wonder, was the 15 year old coerced? The objectors? If so, is that OK anyway? Doesn't Libertarianism, as you said, always reject coercion no matter the justification?

    But isn't the justification for it, at least in these two examples, pretty sound?

    If such coercion violates the objectors' "freedom" then what about the warriors' blood? Why should the warriors defend the objectors and what if such defense costs the warriors their lives? With what and how does the objector compensate the departed warrior for the protection purchased by his blood?

    Shouldn't the objector pay for that protection with his own blood? How, without coercion?

    I could think of more examples, but I think you get the point. Sometimes, I think coercion is necessary.

    Can you explain to me how your position would deal with real-world problems like these without coercion?

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  29. Intread of traditionalist conservative why not call yourself a traditionalist libertarian?

    I don't see much benefit in being "Conservative" in a world which has values I don't wish to conserve.

    The State continues to grow bigger, and the bigger it grows the more freedom it takes away, this freedom is used by most people to follow the paths which are natural to them, paths which are inherently traditionalist in nature because they are affected primarily BY nature.

    Whaddya think? I would sign on under that label.

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  30. Bartholomew,

    Thanks.

    With the 15 yr old situation, I would say this is a case of "my house my rules", that could apply to any individual, including a 15 yr old.

    The demand to take out the rubbish seems coercive on the face of it, but the non-paying tenant (in this case the 15 yr old but could be anyone, including a friend or relative) can remove himself from the situation at any time by moving elsewhere, where the conditions are more to his liking. There are many such coercive situations. You may not like socializing with your boss, but the conditions at work are better than you can get elsewhere, so you consider it part of the cost of working there. If the socializing with the boss is too onerous, you can get employment elsewhere.

    There are other types of situations that have a coercive flavor, but are valid under libertarianism. A friend may ask you a favor, and threaten to withdraw that friendship if you do not accede to the favor. This seems on the surface coercive, but it is just people exercising their freedom of association.

    In the situation of objectors, yes, I think they absolutely have a right to object, and should not be punished for it.

    However, I do have a little bit of faith in humanity. Objectors appear most often when people have no idea what they are fighting for, or when they realise that the cause their nation is fighting for is unjust. In cases like these, objectors serve as the conscience of the nation against a war of aggression that their nation is fighting.

    When a country is genuinely facing a situation of invasion by another country, how many objectors will appear? I would think very few.

    On the other hand, warriors have no obligation to defend objectors against foreign aggressors. While it is possible that objectors might benefit from the labor of others, in an invasion situation the warriors could certainly refuse to defend objector neighborhoods.

    Again, I doubt objectors could be a serious problem for a nation under genuine threat.

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  31. Mark,

    "Your own position deserves more consideration. I'm off to work now and can't reply at length, but my immediate response is that you're holding out a kind of oblique way for traditionalism to get a boost rather than a direct way."

    There is a reason for this. I think that given a chance, people would opt for normalcy, rather than the deviancy that we see today. If we are at the stage where traditionalism has to be imposed on the masses, then we have lost already.

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  32. How long do the Libertarians suppose a society full of neglected infants and starving grandpas lasts?

    What libertarianism are you reading about that prohibits voluntary charity?

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  33. "What libertarianism are you reading about that prohibits voluntary charity?"

    Voluntary charity is all well and good, but a "duty to give" is better. I'm not saying that libertarianism is inconsistent with charity but if your priority is you, giving will be a lower order concern.

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  34. "Isn't the rise of state (left wing) institutions a direct consequence of an increasingly liberal society?"

    This is what I've found to be the blind spot of today's self-styled libertarians. It is very easy to look at, say, 1950s America and say "we don't need the government, these people can govern themselves". But the order that existed in that society was the result of extragovernmental forces - religion, tradition, community, etc. To his credit, Matthew seems to recognize that the government simply cannot and should not be asked to replace these institutions.

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  35. "But the order that existed in that society was the result of extragovernmental forces - religion, tradition, community, etc."

    Agreed. For instance in a stable and static community its fun to make fun of rules and taboos, because lets face it you might squeak out some room out around the edges but society isn't going to change very much so relax and go with the flow. In the comedy circuit the good old formula of making fun or rules and taboos doesn't work so well when anything goes and everything’s been done. Surprisingly now in comedy its a bit "edgier" to promote conservative values. They wouldn't have seen that one coming.

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  36. "Isn't the rise of state (left wing) institutions a direct consequence of an increasingly liberal society?"

    Jesse, I don't know, chicken or egg?

    Take for example single motherhood. Now, there have always been single mothers in the past, just a lot less of them than now. However, no doubt it was thought of as a problem that needed to be solved. Even a conservative or traditionalist (or perhaps ESPECIALLY a traditionalist) might say 'we need to help these kids regardless of the poor judgment of their mother', and set up social welfare for single mothers.

    What then happens is that single mothers are supported by the state, and then single motherhood explodes because single mothers are insulated from the economic consequences of their choices. That is what has happened now.

    Strangely enough, single mothers and their families have become a self perpetuating political constituency. What starts as a small problem inevitably grows once the government starts to 'help'.

    Did a liberal society cause single motherhood to become acceptable, or did the government sponsored growth of single motherhood create single mothers in such numbers that single motherhood was normalized? It is a question worth asking.

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  37. I think that traditionalist charity isn't free. Its based on the assumption that you kind of stuffed up and hopefully you'll (or you should) start to make amends. So you get a punch in the guts shame wise. Left wing charity or state support is based on the assumption that you deserve it and much more besides. You're sort of encouraged to be on it from a psychic point of view (although I imagine the actuality of it would be quite irritating, what with all those forms to fill out). So we endlessly hear "oh this state support isn't enough to live on blah". Maybe it isn't but your expectations are fairly high.

    Sure economic choices/factors influence behaviour but so do social factors. If anything goes then anything goes.

    "Did a liberal society cause single motherhood to become acceptable, or did the government sponsored growth of single motherhood create single mothers in such numbers that single motherhood was normalized"

    I think first it was normalised and then the numbers grew. Being a single mother isn't the end of the world but its hardly ideal.

    If we say we deserve a good standard of living, which is a libertarian position (or at least that we should be free to strive for it), then when we can't achieve it we look to the state to supply it. We don't look to our family or others in the community. We may say we look only to ourselves but this can be balanced by saying, oh I've paid taxes so I deserve this, its only smart to maximise my opportunities. Libertarianism doesn't support state support but it does encourage the idea that we should have strong lives independent of people around us. When people falter therefore its not such a big step to ask the state as last resort and first response to step in because there's no-one else.

    It also supports the notion that everything is economic relations. So political calculations in practise come down to this: Its in my economic interests to a) pay no tax if I have no need, b) receive lots of beneifts if I have need. Haggling go on.

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  38. Matthew, thank you for your answer. I admit that on the face of it the two scenarios I asked you to consider seemed very unrelated, the first almost trivial in comparison with the second. But there was a common thread running through them that I'm not sure you identified completely.

    You were correct when you wrote in answer to the first scenario, "my house my rules." But you gave a very different answer in response to the second: "I think [war objectors] absolutely have a right to object, and should not be punished for it." In other words, if I might paraphrase, "No one's house, anyone's rules."

    But is this true? In the same way that individuals in a family voluntarily constrain the free exercise of their wills in the interest of the family, so too do individuals in a community voluntarily constrain theirs.

    Now "voluntary" does not mean "volitional." It does not mean merely a product of one's own will. The 15 year old likely would not have come up with taking out the trash all on his own, correct? That was his dad's idea, his dad's will. But the teenager submits because, as you pointed out, the family which sustains him requires his submission.

    When traditionalists speak of coercion, for instance, against objectors or anyone else in larger society, this is the kind they mean. No gulags here. Rather, the social opprobrium that shames and prods us into doing what we ought in a context of love and mutual dependency, much like what one sees in a healthy family.

    Your answer that the warriors of a community are under no obligation to defend an objector is a bit like saying that dad is under no obligation to pay for junior's water or electric consumption. Some (and only some!) goods are simply collective and it would be impracticable and self-defeating to individualize them. And it is immoral and self-defeating to make the maintenance of such goods the sole burden of the willing, that is, to put it in libertarian economic terms, to privatize the losses and socialize the profits.

    Finally, when I say "dependency" I refer only that concept as it is realized in the healthy family in which everyone does his part and needs the rest to do theirs.

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  39. "Isn't the rise of state (left wing) institutions a direct consequence of an increasingly liberal society?"

    No, because the state is increasingly authoritarian not liberal (i.e supportive of individual freedom of association and speech).

    "The Bastardy Clause absolved the putative father of any responsibility for his bastard child and socially and economically victimized the mother in an effort to restore female morality. Its enactment fomented the growth of a modern and murderous form of an old institution, baby farming, which preyed on the infants of these humiliated and alienated mothers. Despite the tremendous toll it took on the lives of innocent children, the Victorians' fear of government intervention into social reform and the Victorian ideal of the inviolability of the family prevented its reform until the end of the 19th century."

    Here is an example of a very liberal society, Victorian England, who valued non-intervention of government to such a degree that they allowed infanticide of illegitimate children, in foundling hospitals, to escalate to 80-90% of the children placed there by their mothers.

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  40. "in an invasion situation the warriors could certainly refuse to defend objector neighborhoods."

    The moment soldiers can say where and when they won't fight the war's over. Its the death of coherant collective action.

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  41. No offence but I would have thought that point would be so obvious its embarrassing even to discuss it.

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  42. I don't know if its authoritarian but its certainly impersonal.

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  43. Sorry in relation to "No, because the state is increasingly authoritarian not liberal".

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  44. "Isn't the rise of state (left wing) institutions a direct consequence of an increasingly liberal society?"

    I don't know if this is directly on topic or not but I think one of the best things you can do for society is to be good or really good at your job. To be really good at something requires more than just intelligence or aptitude it requires dedication. If people's idea of work is "only do enough" or "will work for a million dollars" but otherwise I don't want to, you're not going to get that dedication.

    High standards in work will surely only come when we have community and social expectations as well as pride in these standards. If we say everyone do your own thing, energy will be dissipated, different priorities will come to the fore and that will be reflected in the results. Alternatively if we say "only results matter", (eg money, position) then we'll be tempted to cut corners or act unethically.

    Today people are suspicious of individuals abilities or dedication. They want everything regulated or overseen. The idea of inherent professionalism or dedication is going by the board and we look to others to make sure stuff is done. Surely this explains in part the rise of large scale institutions?

    I find when I do meet highly competent people they are usually fairly “civilised”. Meaning they can do more than tick boxes and cite regulations. They are aware of how the pieces fit, of how what they do affects people’s lives. They usually have fairly good people skills. To be such a person I think requires you to have an eye, so to speak, on society with its allied rules of decorum, awareness of function, duty and sense of appropriateness. To focus only on the task in isolation or to be concerned largely with yourself may be good enough for work at a basic level but not for achievement at higher levels. This is not something that you can just throw money at to fix. The desire to do things well I believe is a trait associated with a traditionalist or conservative outlook (although not only this outlook).

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  45. I ALWAYS LAUGH when a person call themselves '' Fiscal conservative/Social liberal ''

    Social liberalism IS inherently psychotic and WILL damage fiscal conservatism

    Look what has happened to Governor Arnold from California ... his social liberal policies destroyed his fiscal conservatism

    But I understand that not all social conservatism is right ( thought a huge bulk of it is )

    The ONLY alternatives is being a Fiscal conservative/Social libertarian OR Fiscal conservative/Social moderate

    Since fiscal conservatism concentrates on liberty and free markets so should the social policies be structured to be local , state and have less government and be more libertarian in nature ( anything goes )

    In the time of USA this may be it's only hope and I'm not even American

    I seriously despise social liberalism ... it creates politicized colleges , laziness AKA lack of personal responsibility and disorder

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