Libertarianism and Nihilism: A Reply

As you may recall, in my previous post, I addressed a post at Old Right Musings. The author of that blog was kind enough to reply with a post of his own. And to that post, I will now reply. (People easily exchanging words and ideas, this is why I like the internet.)

To begin, the author of Old Right Musings wondered if we had met before. Not to my knowledge. A link to his post was on a WordPress page I was perusing, and I decided to respond.

Anyway, he takes issue with me noting his lack of examples.

The purpose of my post was gravely misunderstood if a lack of objective “evidence” is seen as some sort of indictment. I said quite clearly at the beginning of my post that I was speaking of “many self-identified libertarians I have met.” That is to say, I am relaying to you, the reader, my personal experience. That is my evidence. If you want to assume that I am a liar, or mistaken in my memories, you are of course free to do so.

I was not looking for an academic level of cited quotations. Nor was I attempting to say the author was not telling the truth. But some examples of what these self-identifies libertarians had said that had then led to the conclusion that they were “moral nihilists” would have been helpful. The post otherwise just seems to make assumptions and accusations without providing any logical support for such.

Next he addresses what he considered to be the damage done by open borders. His argument seems to essentially be that immigrants coming to the U.S. cause ruin by using welfare system resources, by not supporting the idea of natural rights, and by voting Democrat. One, as I said before, claiming immigrants are a drain of welfare system resources is an argument against the welfare system, not against immigration. Two, I do not agree that all the immigrants or even the vast majority of the ones who come here are all big government, left-wing types. I know some are. But many are also very hard working, individualist types who seek only opportunity to improve the financial situation of themselves and their families. If we would get government out of the way, many people who come here to work would also go back to their home countries after a time. And many who come here and get fake I.D.s so they can work and live would come here and have legitimate I.D.s and pay taxes. So I find the arguments made by the author of Old Right Musings to be unpersuasive.

He does address the issue of the welfare system issue thus:

There is certainly plenty of blame to go around. But I wouldn’t include myself in that “we.” [By which he means the “we” of my comment that we citizens are expanding welfare not immigrants.] Secondly, the welfare system isn’t going away overnight. Like Ron Paul, I support a transitional program, a gradual move away from welfare dependency with those who need it least getting removed from it first, and vice-versa. This process will never get underway as long as millions of people continue taking advantage of public services that ought to prioritize citizens first.

Of course the welfare system is not going to go away overnight, but that does not make immigrants responsible for the problems inherent in the system we created. The welfare system will not be repaired and/or repealed until we stop voting people into office who insist on protecting and expanding it, and that includes both Democrats and Republicans.

Then he reveals, indirectly, what is, in my opinion, the major flaw in his position on immigration.

The massive influx of poor immigrants exacerbates an already severe problem. But that doesn’t mean I am opposed to all immigration: give us your skilled, your propertied, your self-sufficient masses. I’m ok with that. Next:

To say that a defense of liberty necessarily requires expansive and tight government control over the borders and immigrants, in my opinion, is not a reasonable position.

I never said that. Repealing the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act would be a good start. Establishing criteria and quotas for self-sufficiency would also be a good step. A reasonable number can be reached, based upon the current needs and capabilities of the country in a given year. How many do we need? How many can we absorb? It is unreasonable not to consider such things.

Apparently he believes the government can do for immigration what it cannot do for any other part of society: effectively and accurately determine ahead of time what society needs and how it should behave regarding those needs. The government cannot do this any more than it can determine how many chickens or paper or cars we need. The government is, after all, only made up of people. Immigration is, to a large degree, a part of the trade in labor among human beings. This is a part of our economy as much as selling chickens or paper or cars. The government cannot determine what the market will demand because no one knows. Asking the government to try to exercise that level of control is asking for it to do something humans cannot do. And already we have quotas in the immigration system, and what we see is that people who are not allowed in by the quota often choose to risk death and imprisonment to sneak across borders to gain the financial opportunity to trade their labor here. In other words, the attempts by the government to control immigration the way it cannot control other parts of the economy is a failure. I have seen no reason to believe that similar attempts in the future would in any way have a chance of success.

In regard to my question “What is strict immigration control if not social engineering,” he responds:

I make a distinction between cultural preservation and social engineering. Limiting immigration is an example of the former. Attempting to redefine marriage is an example of the latter. Our culture is ultimately what is responsible for our conceptions of liberty. If the culture dies, so does liberty.

He may make such a distinction, but I do not see it. Or, put another way, what is cultural preservation if not social engineering? It is an attempt to engineer the fabric and nature of society from the top down. But to be fair, what we need are definitions of what he means by culture and preservation. He is not, so far as I can tell, making a direct argument for cultural purity, but his arguments seem to support the idea that there is some purity of culture that he intends we should preserve. I see culture as something that is in a constant state of change and evolution. I am more concerned with preserving ideas and truth than culture. But that is a whole other discussion.

Moving from immigration to the moral issue, he says:

I don’t think you have to be a moral nihilist to praise immoral behavior. As for the examples, I mean positive affirmations of drug abuse, promiscuous sex, prostitution, etc. It is one thing to say that they should be legal, and another thing to say that there is “nothing wrong” with them or that they are even good, as I did see, quite a bit. When? Where? Facebook, comment boxes, message boards, real life. I thought this would be a given.

This requires, I think, asking the question, are things like prostitution and the recreational use of drugs immoral. Obviously the author of Old Right Musings would answer yes. But many people would disagree. (Myself, while I think prostitution, something that should be legal, is immoral, I am not convinced drug use is immoral.) That does not mean those people are intending to praise immoral behavior or that they are moral nihilists.

More to the point, many self-identified libertarians I have met often do speak as if morals do not exist or are completely irrelevant.

Here is where some specific examples would help in understanding what he means. He offers a generalization instead:

Finally, even the morally conscious libertarians usually limit their moral condemnations to acts that violate the non-aggression principle. And yet there are many acts that don’t violate the NAP and which are nonetheless worthy of moral condemnation, if not legal prohibition. Excessive drug use, exploiting women for sexual pleasure through prostitution and pornography, divorce, fornication, adultery, so called “gay marriage”; even if I don’t believe people should be imprisoned for such things, I still believe they are wrong and ought to be identified as such. But this is often too much for many libertarians I have met.

I am not sure that actual exploitation of women via prostitution and pornography would not qualify as not violating the NAP. But again, I need definitions. What does he mean by exploitation?For example, many would say a woman forced into prostitution working for a pimp would be en exploitation that violates the NAP. But what of a woman who freely chooses to sell sexual services for money and has no pimp? Is that exploitation?

Also, other people being reluctant to label certain behaviors as wrong is often less moral nihilism and more moral relativism.

To be fair, he also said this:

And you know what? That’s fine. If that’s what makes a libertarian a libertarian, great. It’s just not for me. We can be friends on free markets and the Bill of Rights, on non-interventionist foreign policy – great. And we can just agree to disagree on the rest of it.

I would not say that moral relativism is what makes a libertarian a libertarian, because many of of us are also practicing Christians or Jews, or part of other religious groups with moral codes. But I respect the agreeing to disagree. I much prefer that to the attitude of some, cough-Obama-cough, who seem to think we should all be made to agree about all things political.

Personally, I think libertarianism is rooted in a moral code. It is perhaps not an all encompassing moral code as one gets in Christianity, but then libertarianism is not a religion. It is a political philosophy. This is, I think, an important distinction.

Well I am off to get some food and to relax for a bit. I intend to make more posts later. Ta ta for now.

5 Responses to “Libertarianism and Nihilism: A Reply”

  1. […] Liberate One has replied to my reply of his initial critique of my post about the libertarian label. Here is my reply, and don’t worry if you haven’t read all of the previous back and forth; there’s plenty of interesting information here regarding demographics, immigration, culture and other juicy topics for the general reader. […]

  2. Virgina Gorius Says:

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