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Comment on this entry

Libertarians and Conservatives must choose: Competitive Enterprise or Idolatry of Property

David Brin

Contrary Brin

September 22, 2011

There is a cancer within American libertarianism and conservatism.


Complete entry


Posted by iPan  on  09/22  at  12:47 PM

Although I personally feel you place just a touch too much emphasis on competition, overall this was a good read.

I think that the only thing that will alter our current course is open source/access. I tend to think of open source as capitalism-on-crack, not as socialism as some tend to view it. It’s not about the free stuff that is given away, but rather about getting all goods to flow faster and faster. Circulation. The faster goods circulate, the more creative and productive we get with those goods. It empowers more people to do do and produce more stuff. It’s a positive feedback loop. Hence “capitalism on crack”.

The other thing is transparency. Secrecy is the bane of free societies everywhere.

So, there you have it in a nutshell. Open source and transparency. Voluntarianism. Anarchy.

I don’t think anyone is going to make any progress in America any time soon. People are still too delusional, and yet our lifestyle is pretty comfortable. Things aren’t that bad here…..yet. People won’t get angry until life gets hard. Much harder.

But keep up the good fight regardless, I’ll be sharing this post.


Posted by TKF  on  09/22  at  03:20 PM

Competition - the libertarian ideal, is THE system that constantly questions the wealthy and power by anyone with better ideas, new infrastructures, cleaner fuels or stronger materials.

The wealthy and power would gladly pay to keep us peasants believing that votes against the status quo is a waste. They pay because they fear an uprising - that our votes may replace their politicians with true representatives OF THE PEOPLE - a libertarian. Representatives that would repeal their precious edicts, policies, legislation and political ways that protect their unfair advantages. They know a new “king of the hill” will dilute their power and their wealth.

You see, the problem is NOT libertarianism . . . it’s taking a Republic and allowing democracy to change its face by ignoring the rights that freedom should guarantee to all individuals (including by extension, the right to compete)!

Posted by Shane Gillis  on  09/22  at  03:46 PM

Good essay, gives me a lot more to read.

Posted by post-post  on  09/22  at  04:08 PM

“People are still too delusional”

And thinking far too distantly in the past:
the compass points towards 1776, not 2011.

Posted by post-post  on  09/22  at  04:27 PM

libertarianism would be viable if most didn’t want power more than freedom; at this time men want power as they want the air they breathe.
It will be decades before this changes—what timeframe no one can say.

Posted by post-post  on  09/23  at  04:25 PM

Most Americans don’t even know what libertarianism is, they might think it means they have the right to get drunk or buy marijuana, or something. Though there are many progressive locales in New England; many progressive locales on the West Coast; the rest of this country—most of America—is interested in Jesus H. Christ Incorporated, not technoprogressivism. Most people are too busy thinking about their lives; their families, they mostly only know what they hear on TV.
In fact one might say America isn’t really dominated by the wealthy, it is de facto controlled by old fashioned (not ‘conservative’) citizens who simply don’t know any different or any better.

Posted by Peter Wicks  on  09/24  at  12:21 PM

I love this essay as well. It seems just about spot on. If it places “just a touch too much emphasis on competition”, as iPan notes, that’s (as I understand it) because David is deliberately arguing from the perspective of Smith’s and Hayek’s insights.

Today’s “blind faith in free markets” is fundamentalist, in the sense that it’s a neurotic reaction to lack of evidence in favour of traditional beliefs. In the US (unlike in continental Europe, where it’s the preserve of liberal, not conservative parties, and the UK where the conservative movement is not especially religious) it’s also bound up with Christianity, another belief system suffering from a lack of evidence. When we are emotionally attached to beliefs that lack a solid evidence base, we develop neurotic defence mechanisms, leading to irrationally and bad decisions.

Posted by post-post  on  09/24  at  05:41 PM

You got it, Pete.
There’s so much religion, and so much bad religion, in America, it is scarcely worth attempting to communicate. Religion in the UK evolved going back to at least 1066; here it has only been since circa 1620, America has a long time to go before its bad religion reaches the quality of bad religion in Europe.
However we have largely switched from outright violence to economic violence, with religiosity, no matter how tasteless, to cover it up: though people are pushed into the gutter they can live in homeless shelters, eat at soup kitchens, hear sermons on how God has punished them by casting them down- plus as the woman in ‘Eraserhead’ sang,
“in Heaven, everything is fine.”

There is always tomorrow.

Posted by post-post  on  09/24  at  06:31 PM

...come to think of it, religion in Britain has evolved since Roman times—that’s how far ahead of us you are in the amelioration of bad religiosity. But we are all complicit. During the Holiday Season we ought to be brave about it; we should try to be forceful to the old folks about criticizing the Holidays—without actually shouting “Humbug!”
We can say, “Do what you want, yet what you are doing is pouring the new wine of modernity into the old wineskin of religion—the Good Lord might not approve. Amtrak’s final stop isn’t Heaven; Pan Am doesn’t fly in that direction.”
Greyhound doesn’t go there…

Posted by Peter Wicks  on  09/25  at  09:29 AM

It’s always a bit of a dilemma for me: how to engage with religious people, how to strike a balance between empathy and assertiveness. Well, striking the right balance between empathy and assertiveness is a more general challenge of course, but when dealing with religion it’s particularly acute, because you are dealing with beliefs that often serve an essential psychological need for people.

And I think this is the key to curing the “cancer” to which David refers. We have to understand, and indeed empathise, with the psychological needs that are served by the blind (but also inconsistent) faith in markets displayed by (some) conservatives and libertarians. While at the same time being tireless in pointing out that they are wrong.

And also, perhaps, asking ourselves in what sense they are right: what we can learn from them. For example, the tendency of religious believers to console themselves with ideas of heaven can also inspire the rest of us, help us to lift ourselves (from time to time) out of the doom and gloom that penetrates the Western media-fuelled worldview. (Unlike in China, where they listen to government propaganda and are reassured.) Perhaps what we can learn from neurotic “conservatives” (who are not really conservative at all) is e hope that one day we will be able to create markets that really can be left to run themselves, to the benefit of all.

Posted by post-post  on  09/25  at  10:12 PM

“hope that one day we will be able to create markets that really can be left to run themselves, to the benefit of all.”

Sounds promising. And it’s not their ignorance, it is the ferocity of their pushing their memes. ‘Ignorance’ is subjective however the mailed fist of visceral bellicosity is unmistakable, Pete.
You are crucially correct on how we are “dealing with beliefs that often serve an essential psychological need for people”; those needs are not difficult to decipher: families have norms in their lives which are secured via those beliefs. Such has never been in doubt. Yet if it needs to be reiterated, the uncontrollable viscerality of their reactions, their defensiveness, IS in doubt.
It is mildly amusing but only because the jest is often at someone else’s expense smile

Posted by Neil Craig  on  09/30  at  12:34 PM

what matters is what works. As with other sciences results trump theory. There is no questio0n that there is a close statistical correlationn between economic freedom, particulalrly changes in economic freedom and growth rates.

At one time the “left” were, at least in intent, progressive but since central planning by politicians on ideological grounds has so obviously failed they have rejected progres in favour of ideology.

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