Posts Tagged ‘Libertarianism’
Posted on May 31, 2013 at 10.29 am
Q. What do you think of feminism? — skepticalyouth, from tumblr.
A. I delayed answering this because 1) it’s super broad and a lot could be said in response, and 2) right around the time you sent it, a start-up magazine in the UK did an email interview with me on related topics. Since then, it seems like the magazine won’t be publishing that interview, so I’ll just post some of what I wrote for them here. Also, if you’re interested in reading the work of a libertarian feminist (a label I don’t claim), check out this blog.
➲ Do you think there will come a point at which feminism will have achieved its goals for the most part, and what do you think should be done to help advance the goals of feminism?
That depends on what you mean by the goals of feminism.
First-wave feminism’s goals are by and large achieved in the Western world. Women have the right to vote, hold property, testify in court, etc. in the United States. Personally, I think that achieving that baseline for women around the world by working peacefully with local activists should be a top feminist priority today.
I also think the attention feminists have brought to victim-blaming is important, and actually very compatible with libertarianism — it’s quite analogous to the attitude the government often takes in foreign policy in particular:
- “I wouldn’t have raped you if you weren’t in the wrong bar at the wrong time, looking like a slut in your skimpy clothing.”
is eerily similar to:
- “We wouldn’t have droned you if you weren’t in the wrong house at the wrong time, looking like a terrorist with your Muslim clothing.”
As for achieving and advancing feminism’s other, later goals, I can’t claim any special expertise on what we’ll see in the future. My main interest, as it would be with any social movement, is that needed cultural change is effected through peaceful, voluntary action, not government mandate.
➲ The GOP at the moment seems to be cooking up policies in which women’s rights are being demeaned and infringed upon — do you think this is true?
I think both major parties do a lot to infringe on women’s rights, not just the GOP. Both support policies like indefinite detention (NDAA); spying on our private lives without a warrant (PATRIOT Act); censoring our internet usage (SOPA/CISPA); regulating what we put into our bodies (drug war, fat and soda bans, smoking and drinking limitations); killing civilians (drone strikes and undeclared wars in the Middle East); devaluing the money in our pockets through inflation and deficit spending; and much more. All of these policies are demeaning to women.
It’s not a question of whether one party or another is anti-women’s rights. That focus totally misses the point. These policies are broadly supported by the establishment of both parties—and they’re not just anti-women; they’re anti-human.
➲ Do you think that women should become more active in the libertarian movement and what would be your pitch?
Yeah, absolutely. The liberty movement is young collectively and in terms of the age of its members, and it’s rapidly growing and diversifying. That’s fantastic.
As for a pitch to get more women involved, I don’t think there’s any single pitch that would appeal to all women, and I don’t think we need one. Rather, I’d say we need good marketing all around—an understanding that having great ideas isn’t enough; we also have to present our ideas in an attractive manner. And that entails a lot of things, like starting with common ground and explaining the practical benefits of our ideas instead of just categorically announcing they’re true. In many ways, this is really an intra-movement discussion at this point.
➲ What is your opinion of the left wing and their policy when it comes toward women?
Well, “the left wing” is a pretty broad term, so I hesitate to generalize. That said, I will comment that there’s a serious cognitive dissonance in those on the left (which is not everyone, but certainly some) who tout their support of choice when it comes to abortion but have no similar interest in choice when it comes to food, drink, smoking, insurance, light bulbs, unions, drugs, and schools.
It’s patronizing at best to say that women are capable of deciding what to do about an unwanted pregnancy but not capable of deciding what size soda is right for them.
Posted on March 20, 2013 at 12.54 am
I recently answered a question on tumblr about inspirational women, and I had trouble coming up with much of a list. But this evening, I thought of someone who definitely should have been included: Zora Neale Hurston.
Now, I’ll be honest: I read Hurston’s most famous work, a novel called Their Eyes Were Watching God, in high school, and I absolutely hated it. Whether that was because I was in high school or because I legitimately don’t like the book, I don’t know — I haven’t reread it since.
But my 16-year-old tastes in literature aside, Hurston was a staunch libertarian. She could also wear the heck out of a hat, as evidenced above, and here:
But back to the libertarianism. Hurston wrote with passion against both the injustice of the Jim Crow Laws and the intrusive growth of government in federally mandated integration, asking, “How much satisfaction can I get from a court order for somebody to associate with me who does not wish me near them?” (She also cheekily commented, “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”)
Strongly individualist, Hurston opposed the growth of the warfare and welfare states alike. She had sharp criticism for FDR’s expansion of social programs and for anyone who claimed to support liberty abroad but did not do so not at home:
People who claim that it is a noble thing to die for freedom and democracy wax frothy if anyone points out the inconsistency of their morals… [The U.S. government which condemns others’ imperialism and dictatorships] consider[s] machine gun bullets good laxatives for heathens who get constipated with toxic ideas about a country of their own.
Especially on this tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Hurston’s critique is just as relevant today.
Sadly, Hurston lost prominence as she grew older, working as a maid to support herself, and ultimately dying in obscurity to be buried in an unmarked grave in 1960.
While not well-remembered for her libertarianism today, Hurston certainly deserves a place among Rand, Lane, and Paterson as a “founding mother” of modern American libertarianism — and I really should give Their Eyes Were Watching God a second chance.
Posted on March 19, 2013 at 9.33 pm
Q. Who do you think are the top ten most influential libertarians? — wechoosewhatwelosefor, from tumblr.
A. Oooh, that’s tough.
Since you didn’t specify, I’ll assume you mean that anyone, living or dead, is fair game. Also, I’m going to treat the “libertarian” category a little loosely, and I’ll probably be dissatisfied with this list as soon as I publish it, but here goes (in chronological order):
- John Locke. While not a libertarian per se, the influence of the father of classical liberalism, particularly here in America, is huge.
- Adam Smith. Also a classical liberal, Smith’s “invisible hand” metaphor and other ideas in his The Wealth of Nations have been incredibly influential. Even Murray Rothbard, who was quite critical of Smith’s most famous work, couldn’t deny its “colossal impact.”
- Frédéric Bastiat. Author of The Law and the parable explaining the broken window fallacy. Enough said.
- Ludwig von Mises. And with Mises, of course, comes Murray Rothbard. While these Austrian Economists are not famous among the general public, their influence has still been significant. Lew Rockwell, founder of the Mises Institute, is something of a modern successor. (I know, it’s kind of cheating to list them all at once.)
- Henry Hazlitt. Hazlitt was a journalist and able popular apologist for libertarianism in the 20th century. While Hazlitt is now best remembered for Economics in One Lesson, he was widely known in his writing heyday as a prominent libertarian voice. New York Times bestselling author Tom Woods is something of a modern Hazlitt, albeit without the regular gig at Newsweek or its equivalent.
- Freidrich Hayek. I’m not a huge Hayek fan — consistent he most certainly was not (come on, Pinochet? Really? Not to mention the support for redistribution) — but the man won the Nobel Prize and reached many with The Road to Serfdom, which continues to be a bestseller 70 years after publication.
- Isabel Paterson. Along with Rand and Lane (below), Isabel Paterson is one of the three “founding mothers” of modern American libertarianism.
- Ayn Rand. As I’ve recently mentioned, Ayn Rand is not my cup of tea, but her influence can’t be denied. Actually, she’d be quite angry to be listed as an influential libertarian, which amuses me.
- Rose Wilder Lane. See above.
- Ron Paul. Duh.
- Rand Paul? Much too soon to tell. We’ll see.
I could easily go on, of course: Albert Jay Nock, Jacob Hornberger, Lysander Spooner, Glenn Greenwald, Zora Neale Hurston…there are so many others who, in one way or another — and whether they would call themselves “libertarian” or not — have done much to advance the message of liberty.
For most of those alive today, of course, it’s really too soon to tell. That’s why, at risk of verging into the same kind of foolishness that led Time to name “You” the Person of the Year a few years back, I’d add our generation to the list. There’s a real sense in which our generation is being “raised libertarian,” and I suspect and hope that this list will be much more difficult to make (and much more diverse) 30 years from now.