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MLK and non-violent protest

October 19th, 2011

Yesterday in DC, the Martin Luther King memorial was officially inaugurated. I was lucky enough to be invited to a lunch celebrating the event afterwards, where the speakers were veterans of the civil rights movement Andrew Young, John Dingell, and Harris Wofford. Video here

There were some interesting recollections of Dr King and his struggles, but not surprisingly, much of the discussion focused on the events of today, particularly the Occupy Wall Street movement. One of the speakers made the point that the Tahrir Square occupiers had been inspired by the example and ideas of Martin Luther King.

Now, of course, the circle has been closed with the example of Tahrir inspiring #OWS. There has been more direct inspiration too. When I visited the Washington occupation in McPherson Square to drop off some magazines for their library, I picked up a reproduction of a comic-book format publication of the civil rights movement (cover price, 10 cents!), describing the struggle and particular the careful preparation given to ensure a non-violent response, even in the face of violent provocation.

And that brings me to the question I want to discuss, one that is as relevant today as in the civil rights era.  When is violence justified as a response to manifest and apparently immovable injustice? My answer, with Martin Luther King is: Never, or almost never.[1]

In large measure, my reasoning is consequentialist. Violence directed against established authority rarely works, and hardly ever produces enduring gains. Most revolutions fail, and most successful revolutions produce a new tyranny, often worse than the old, followed eventually by a return to the status quo ante.

Symbolic violence is almost invariably ineffectual or counterproductive, precisely because it derives whatever force it has from the implicit or explicit threat of revolution, which most people rightly view with fear and horror. Since symbolic violence the only kind of violence that is likely to arise in the context of the current #OWS protests, it’s important that it should be avoided as far as possible, and condemned, without qualification or excuse by reference to police violence, when it does occur.

 But those aren’t the only arguments. Symbolic violence involves essentially random harm to people or destruction of goods or productive capacity. Even where a case can be made that the targets are in some sense deserving, random and capricious punishment is always unjust. And the obvious enjoyment that so many of those who engage in symbolic violence take in the activity is morally indefensible.

Violence on a scale sufficient to effect political change is bound to lead to the deaths of innocent people, both directly and indirectly.

Directly, the immediate victims of political violence are likely to be working people – police or soldiers (often conscripts). Once deadly violence has been adopted as an instrument, whether by a state, a nationalist movement or political organization, the class of ‘legitimate’ targets expands steadily, to include alleged propagandists, collaborators and so on, and then to would-be neutrals. Moreover the tolerance for “collateral damage” invariably increases over time.

Typically, these direct deaths are only the beginning – retaliation from the other side, especially from a state against a revolutionary movement, is usually far more deadly. Attempts to disclaim moral responsibility for the predictable outcomes of a resort to war or violence (see, for example, Norman Geras on the Iraq war), are dishonest and dishonorable.

A further important point is that the belief that injustice is immovable is often wrong. The advocates of the Iraq War argued that Saddam’s regime was immovable, and that the inevitable death and suffering associated with an invasion would be less than that from leaving the regime in power for decades to come. The Arab Spring has shown that claim to be, at best, highly questionable.

How far does this argument go? Not to the point of denying a right of self-defence against an attacker who is trying to kill or maim you, or (with more qualifications) to defend others against such attacks. Or to the point of disallowing resistance to slavery by whatever means necessary.

I don’t have a final position on this, beyond saying that the presumption against violence ought to be much stronger than it has generally been. Following on from the marathon Pinker thread, I hope and believe that understanding of the futility of violence has increased over time, if only because the lessons of the first half of last century were so hard to ignore.

fn1. I hope it goes without saying that war in pursuit of “legitimate national interests”, as opposed to self defence is almost always foolish and never justified. Even in the US, this lesson seems to be coming home.

 

 

Posted via email from John’s posterous

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  1. Mulga Mumblebrain
    October 19th, 2011 at 11:59 | #1

    The ‘Arab Spring’ of course, it is now plain, was a con-job from the beginning. The US threw Mubarak overboard, as they did the Shah, Suharto, Noriega, Saddam etc, when his usefulness was over. Egypt is now being steered to a new pro-US tyranny, with the US trained and financed military, every bit as corrupt as Mubarak, being prepared for the task. Even if there is a sham election, there will be massive Western interference by the NED and similar interferers from the US, and various other Western subversives plus the usual NGO culprits. A ‘colour revolution’ is certain, with vote-rigging if necessary. Same scenario in Tunisia, and Yemen and Bahrain remain bloodbaths as the US steadfastly supports brutal despotisms, aided and abetted by the Saudis and other Gulf tyrannies. And if Turkey doesn’t watch itself Erdogan will discover that annoying the Zionists can have dire consequences.
    No, I’d say the whole farce was a facade behind which the real work, the destruction of the Libyan, Syrian and Iranian regimes was to progress. This is Oded Yinon’s ‘Zionist Plan for the Middle East’ meeting Dick Cheney’s plans to seize control of the region’s hydrocarbon riches. The brutal NATO onslaught in Libya (50,000 dead, the UK actually running out of ‘ordinance’)has installed the same type of salafist murderers who have served the Empire with such enthusiasm before, in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya and Algeria, so Libya’s hydrocarbons are once again made safe for looting by the West. The aggression against Syria has failed in its diabolical intent to foment civil war, so far, thanks to Russia and China drawing an overdue line against Western regime change. And Iran is being fitted up for a mob hit with propaganda so crudely unbelievable that only the reptiles of the Western MSM could peddle it without conscience or laughing out loud. I did enjoy the spectacle, surely one of the pinnacles of hypocrisy in all human history, of Hilary Clinton abusing the Iranians for their ‘use of violence’. Priceless!

  2. TerjeP
    October 19th, 2011 at 12:59 | #2

    And that brings me to the question I want to discuss, one that is as relevant today as in the civil rights era.  When is violence justified as a response to manifest and apparently immovable injustice? My answer, with Martin Luther King is: Never, or almost never.[1]

    That kind of mirrors the libertarian question about when government involvement in some sphere of life (ie violence or the threat of violence) is justified. Never or almost never.

  3. Julie Thomas
    October 19th, 2011 at 13:20 | #3

    Terje please explain the disdain for governments that seems to be the only thing that unites libertarians? Historically and philosophically, from whence comes this conviction that the state is necessarily against human progress?

    I am with Spinoza when he says that he does the best he can for the well-being of the state in order to derive for himself, the maximum of happiness and safety. Oh right, you libertarians value freedom, not safety and happiness.

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain
    October 19th, 2011 at 15:56 | #4

    Governments, notionally, represent the popular will in democracies. Libertarian hatred of Government is simply their hatred of others (including one another and themselves) made manifest. There was an interesting doco on SBS last night which featured the libertarian deity Ayn Rand. Plainly a psychopath, poor dear, surrounded by dullard sycophants who imagined her to be a genius, she made little attempt to disguise her visceral contempt for others (including her tiny coteries of acolytes, I would imagine). She spouted a deal of puerile crap about freedom and will and the virtues of self-interest. Altruism came in for a kicking, and Rand opined that she was one with some dead Greek in believing that the world would end upon her death.
    Alas, we are still here, thirty years after Rand paid her debt to nature. Thesis disproved, I would say. Of course many others have come to the conclusion that death is the end for the individual, but not many have decided to, therefore, hold humanity in such active disdain. They go on working for human betterment if only for the sake of their children, let alone others’. Call it bias, but I find their toil in the face of annihilation, to ensure a better life for those who will be extant when they are dead, somewhat nobler than Rand’s nihilistic misanthropy.
    Poor old Ayn yearned to be loved, but, in rejecting altruism, real selfless love becomes a little difficult. The end of her love affair with a colleague brought an end to the gilded circle who surrounded her and who met in an adjacent phone-booth from time to time, to hone their contempt for the moochers. You’d almost pity the libertarians, wasting their one life on such pathetic ego-trips, if they were not so utterly pernicious and dangerous and were not their death-cult grown to be such a threat to humanity’s survival. After all, if the omniverse ceases to exist when you cash in your chips, why be concerned over non-events like ecological collapse and mass death?

  5. JamesH
    October 19th, 2011 at 16:18 | #5

    Where does this analysis leave Libya?

  6. Dan
    October 19th, 2011 at 16:28 | #6

    Julie: it’s a really silly, narrow, ahistorical definition of freedom.

    As for their precious non-coercion principle – haven’t seen any of them follow it – eating steak, wearing shoes made in sweatshops, working for oligopolistic enterprises. In short, hypocrites.

  7. Julie Thomas
    October 19th, 2011 at 17:25 | #7

    Mulga I did see the doco. I thought it was brilliant. They managed to say so much with the images, that words were unnecessary – particularly the footage of Clinton flirting with three teenage girls.

    It was quite clear from the footage showing Ayn’s disordered eye movements and the tension in her body that there was something ‘wrong’; that she was a ‘troubled’ woman and nobody recognised how needy she was; they saw her as a hero! The power of the psychopath to fool people is truly awesome, but also, as a Russian her views must have been useful for those who wanted a symbol of the superiority of American capitalism.

    The doco makers also managed to show, without many words, that both of her former friends who were interviewed, had actually felt empathy for her and had acted altruistically toward her. Her manipulative and narcissistic tendencies were so obvious in the way she took her female friend’s lover for her own; but you know, she didn’t ‘force’ anybody and it was a ‘rational’ thing to do.

    I wonder if Terje and his band of freedom loving individuals have any qualms about characterising this woman as a ‘philosopher’ and lauding her contribution to humanity?

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain
    October 19th, 2011 at 18:28 | #8

    Julie, Rand was, in my opinion, a psychopath, and her ‘philosophy’ appeals in particular to the greedy rich, particularly the nouveau riche ‘entrepreneurs’ who imagine that their business success indicates their superiority to the rabble. Unfortunately, success in business is more often due to financial manipulation and other forms of finagling, that most would abjure because they have scruples, moral and ethical. The successful entrepreneur or business leader, most of whom are, in my opinion, more or less florid psychopaths, feel no such compunctions, being only interested in their own greed and hypertrophied egos. They were and are perfectly suited to a cult like Randian libertarianism predicated as it is on absolute contempt for the rest of humanity.

  9. cp
    October 19th, 2011 at 18:40 | #9

    Pr Q, an interesting and thoughtful discussion. What are your opinions about Ciaron O’Reilly and the ANZUS/Jabiluka/Pitstop Ploughshares’ activities? Would you count their actions as “symbolic violence” or something different? I’m not so sure; it did not appear random or capricious, but was certainly symbolic (and somewhat effective).

  10. Dan
    October 19th, 2011 at 18:48 | #10

    Mulga – hmm, perhaps, imo moreover severely limited ability to see and acknowledge broader social and historical factor in any individual instance of success. A particularly annoying and damaging manifestation of the well-observed psychological phenomenon of people taking credit when they succeed at games of chance.

  11. Peter T
    October 19th, 2011 at 18:58 | #11

    Returning to JQ’s post, I can agree that the bar on violence ought to be very high. But I would not put it as high here as he does. The examples cited hardly show much understanding of the role implicit and explicit violence has played in winning a more just order – or of the role of overt violence in maintaining injustice. In particular, the assertion that “most successful revolutions produce a new tyranny, often worse than the old, followed eventually by a return to the status quo ante.” is cavalier almost beyond belief – a staple of Whig history that simply does not bear examination. It does not even apply to Britain unless your history is straight from Macaulay (successful violent revolutions in 1640-45 and 1688, violent suppression of the peripheries for most of the next century, reform driven by fear of violent revolution after 1815, liberation of Ireland by violent revolution 1920….). Time for a few serious history classes?

  12. TerjeP
    October 19th, 2011 at 20:20 | #12

    Julie Thomas :
    Terje please explain the disdain for governments that seems to be the only thing that unites libertarians? Historically and philosophically, from whence comes this conviction that the state is necessarily against human progress?

    Government equals violence and coercion. The legal right to use violence and coercion is what sets government apart from every other social institution. Government brings nothing to the equation that could not be done by other institutions except for violence and coercion. In general society and human relations are healthier when there is less violence and less coercion. So we should have a limited small government. The minimum necessary for law and order and no more. Libertarians believe that voluntary action is a far better organising principle for society. The concept really isn’t that hard. Libertarians also have consequentialist arguments based on the empirical evidence that government involvement, in spite of good intentions, frequently leads to inferior outcomes or undesirable consequences.

    I don’t hate anybody. Occasionally I might get cranky with somebody but I lack the emotional energy for anything like sustained hatred. I might disagree passionately with some people regarding some things but it’s not personal. If you love violence as an organising principle for society I think that is sad but I’m not going to hate you. I’m more likely to pity you.

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain
    October 19th, 2011 at 20:25 | #13

    Dan, every human achievement is built on the work of generations of others, now a-moulderin’ in their graves. And our very existence depends on the co-operation and toil of myriad others currently extant. To live as an island, if only in one’s own deranged ego phantasies, simply makes no sense, whatsoever.

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain
    October 19th, 2011 at 20:31 | #14

    There seems to be some disconnect between ideal ‘libertarians’, who are made to sound like anarchists,( a much more benign type in my opinion), and really existing libertarians, who have no real problem with violence, so long as it is largely privatised to the likes of Xe (former Blackwater) and mobilised strictly to keep the rabble in line and protect the rich libertarian’s property. State violence in pursuit of global empire seems not to trouble most really existing libertarians, either.

  15. TerjeP
    October 19th, 2011 at 20:43 | #15

    Mulga – in the USA the vast majority of libertarians opposed the Iraq war. Libertarian figures like congressman Ron Paul voted against the war. The US Libertarian Party was opposed. The website antiwar.com is libertarian. And I personally opposed the war on this very blog at the time. In short you are talking sh!t.

  16. TerjeP
    October 19th, 2011 at 20:50 | #16

    p.s. The following link is a discussion of anarchy by some Aussie libertarians:-

    http://blog.libertarian.org.au/2009/12/14/another-look-at-anarchy/

  17. Christopher Dobbie
    October 19th, 2011 at 21:08 | #17

    This is kinda like trying to extrapolate an individuals demand curve…

    Of course you can’t condone acts of violence but when there is a systemic failure which leads to a revolution it’s understandable.

    Funny world isn’t it.

  18. October 19th, 2011 at 21:34 | #18

    @Julie back at #3 — Does much of people’s happiness really come from the government? Of course we’d be unhappy without some protection from coercion by other people, but libertarians don’t disagree with that. The government has one idea of ‘safety’, but you may have another — for instance you can’t sell unpasteurised milk. If you do, the state will fine you, and if you don’t pay the fine they will send you to prison, using as much force as is required to get you there.

    The state uses the threat of violence to stop people enjoying relatively harmless drugs, and to stop people who would be good, peaceful citizens coming to this country. In the past they’d use violence to stop homosexual sex.

  19. Ikonoclast
    October 19th, 2011 at 21:53 | #19

    Paradoxically, advocates of non-violent protest can also play a role in causing deaths; deaths of their own followers. That too is a kind of collateral damage.

    Though most well socialised civilian people appear to be relatively timid, non-violent and compliant most of the time, they have enough repressed anger and innate aggression to react violently when pushed too far for too long. Regimes who push too far find this out sooner or later.

  20. October 20th, 2011 at 05:40 | #20

    I recall the effect on me when i first read about the iterative prisoner’s dilemma. One of the commentators on the (surprising to many) tit-for-tat results pointed out that there have been some very outstanding examples of the application of these principles. King was one of the examples given as was Gandhi. I’d read much on Gandhi and had found him inspiring but i’d not read much on King so off i went to see what his inspiration was and whether he was moved to his solution by pragmatism.

    What i discovered altered the way i saw Christianity – until then i had assumed that Jesus had brought nothing new to human knowledge having only reiterated much of what great thinkers of his era had already provided. I came to the conclusion that Jesus had solved (or found, learned the solution for) the problem of tit-for-tat and that in this and only this he had departed from the code of Jewish Law – because Jewish Law demands an eye for an eye.

    King was a Christian – through-and-through.

    I’m not Christian but i recognise that non-violent protest and to “turn the other cheek” is the only viable solution for confrontation between approximately equal parties. Of course total annihilation is the best solution if you are the stronger and if you can be sure of a thorough job.

    I also recognised at that time that because neither Muslims nor Jews would ever adopt the solution for the dilemma (it being decidedly Christian), we’d never see a solution to the “problem of Israel”. They will be stuck in tit-for-tat forever. The Israelis do have a lot of games theorists though so maybe there is hope yet.

    Martin Luther King – what a truly inspiring human being.

    Would that there be many many more like him.

    pop

  21. Tom
    October 20th, 2011 at 09:25 | #21

    TerjeP :

    Julie Thomas :Terje please explain the disdain for governments that seems to be the only thing that unites libertarians? Historically and philosophically, from whence comes this conviction that the state is necessarily against human progress?

    Government equals violence and coercion. The legal right to use violence and coercion is what sets government apart from every other social institution. Government brings nothing to the equation that could not be done by other institutions except for violence and coercion. In general society and human relations are healthier when there is less violence and less coercion. So we should have a limited small government. The minimum necessary for law and order and no more. Libertarians believe that voluntary action is a far better organising principle for society. The concept really isn’t that hard. Libertarians also have consequentialist arguments based on the empirical evidence that government involvement, in spite of good intentions, frequently leads to inferior outcomes or undesirable consequences.
    I don’t hate anybody. Occasionally I might get cranky with somebody but I lack the emotional energy for anything like sustained hatred. I might disagree passionately with some people regarding some things but it’s not personal. If you love violence as an organising principle for society I think that is sad but I’m not going to hate you. I’m more likely to pity you.

    So, in your ideal Libertarian society assuming that if minimal laws were to prevent violence and other social harmful behaviour such as selling drugs etc.

    Would business owners’ “volunteer” give pay increase to reward the improvements of workers?

    Assuming that investors’ exist because funds are needed to start up a business or invest in large projects, would they “volunteer” to allow executives to give workers pay rise to cope with inflation even if it will harm their return of investment?

    Would landlords and food providers “volunteer” to not inflate their prices because they know that wage level of the average worker will not rise?

    Would universities, hospitals and transport service etc (providing public transport does not exist because minimum government interference in the economy), “volunteer” to provide services to the young generations that have no required skills/age to work and pay for the services if government do not give a loan to the young generations or provide public services?

    Would landlords and food provides “volunteer” to give pensioners, disabled people free goods and services because of their inability to work?

    Would the government have money to spend to assist all the people mentioned above if no tax were implemented in the society?

    Did your ideal Libertarian society ever existed in the past or current?

  22. miles
    October 20th, 2011 at 12:38 | #22

    My wife said something to me the other day that brought all this into perspective for me.

    She was talking about militant feminists at the time and she said they have this outlook where they live in a world where all the power is owned by men. They don’t want these men to have power over them, so therefore they want to take that power off them.

    Subtly but importantly.. completely misguided.

    I always thought the idea “Peak Oil Poet” just talked about was THE central part of Jesus’ teaching… earth changing stuff. I first had this inkling when my english teacher told me the central theme of ’1984′ was how important it was to have power over other people. She was such a bitch.

    But I never ‘really’ understood it. It really is very simple game theory. If I want self-determination.. power over myself.. I must make it abundantly clear that I will not take power from other people. Otherwise we devolve into an arms race. I also must make it abundantly clear I will not give up power over myself. Otherwise we end up with a dictator.

    You have a real responsibility to not be a bully nor to be bullied.

    The same idea is central to democracy. Basically, I will have my opinions and not give up on them, but I will agree to go along with the majority even if I do not like what they say. That said, I will still do everything I can to persuade them short of taking their power to make their own decisions from them. ie. I will not kill them, I will not lie to them.

    It is a gentlemen’s agreement and it is a house of cards, it is not perfect or even stable, but it works.

    In a perfect world I would actually extend John’s non-physical-violence to non-anykindof-violence – basically anything which wrests someone’s power from them is a kind of violent act. This is probably difficult to achieve. In this world, I just try to use violence only in immediate defence of someone’s life. I have never had to do this, I hope I never will.

  23. Watching the deniers
    October 20th, 2011 at 12:51 | #23

    TerjeP :

    And that brings me to the question I want to discuss, one that is as relevant today as in the civil rights era.  When is violence justified as a response to manifest and apparently immovable injustice? My answer, with Martin Luther King is: Never, or almost never.[1]

    That kind of mirrors the libertarian question about when government involvement in some sphere of life (ie violence or the threat of violence) is justified. Never or almost never.

    Yep, roads are totally evil and intrusive. And public libraries. Close them all. Schools as well. If you can’t pay for it, bad luck! Free vaccination. Another intrusive evil.

  24. Watching the deniers
    October 20th, 2011 at 13:03 | #24

    …my point being:

    Libertarians have enjoyed the luxury of publicly funded projects and programs for decades, but refuse to acknowledge just how much they underpin the functioning of a modern, technology society.

    Public sanitation? Investments in port facilities? And that little thing called “da interwebz” that grew out of government funding (academic and military in the US).

    There is a delicious irony in libertarian posters and bloggers decrying the role of government on a platform built by government.

    Most amusing :)

    And don’t get me started on Ryan and her cult of personality… Remember, it was the right-wing libertarians who opposed vaccination and fluoridation in the US during the 1950s.

    They all saw it as part of a communist/socialist plot. Just like they see climate change as well.

  25. Julie Thomas
    October 20th, 2011 at 13:43 | #25

    Terje, it is this belief that government necessarily equals coercion and violence that I would like explained. What is the basis for this belief? Who are the philosophers you read who have considered the nature of government and the relationship between government and the people? Hayek’s arguments just do not cut the mustard in this area. His ‘consequentist’ arguments are not at all convincing. Fundamnetally, his undertanding of ‘human nature’ or psychology was flawed. His assumptions about these things are contradicted by the latest scientific knowledge and therefore his arguments are not valid. Can you not see that if the foundation of his argument – his premises – are faulty then his conclusions are suspect?

    Have you ever read any of the ‘real’ enlightenment philosophers or any Chinese philosophy? Can you point to any historical evidence that shows that governments will always tend toward totalitarianism? Surely in these days of such plenty in terms of the availability of knowledge, one has an obligation to consider a wide range of ideas, and consider alternative possibilities, rather than being so certain that one has found the truth. I am not saying that you haven’t read widely and cross culturally but I see no evidence of any ‘philosophy’ the underpins your assumptions, other than that of Hayek and Rand and these people are just not up to it.

    For example, Rand defines the concepts of violence and coercion in a particular way and she was ostensibly very much against them, and yet, in her personal life she was violent and coercive. She also manipulated people and used them for her own ends, The psychological effects of this type of ‘underhanded’ exploitation can be as harmful as actual violence. Emotional abuse of children can be just as damaging as physical abuse. It can ‘cause’ death via suicide, just as physical violence can ‘cause’ death.

    It is simplistic and possibly arrogant – or just silly? – to believe that you can assess ‘undesirable consequences’ and ‘inferior outcomes’. I think it is quite clear that I would have a different idea about these things. Spinoza said, to see the truth, one needs to have no opinion either for or against anything. This and other ideas he had about human nature, are consistent with current knowledge of the way the human brain works and that is one of the reasons that I value Spinoza’s ideas more than I value Hayek’s.

    I do not think that you hate or self-hate. I do think it would be a good thing for the world and yourself, if you could free yourself from the bonds of your existing brain chemistry. Do some brain exercises that will develop your ability to appreciate complexity and uncertainty.

  26. Julie Thomas
    October 20th, 2011 at 14:13 | #26

    Tom Davies, Surely we are talking possibilities for government and not about the actual governments that we have? Although I am so off topic, and indulging my own particular obsession, the background of the OWS as a movement toward a different kind of government, is germane, no?
    So, the thing to do is to sort out the fallacies about ‘states’ or ‘governments’, in the abstract and the blanket prohibition that libertarians have against governments being able to provide happiness and safety for the people, is an obstacle to such a discussion.

    Your example of selling milk is actually very relevant because I do buy unpasteurised milk from a local dairy farmer. Heaps of the conservatives out here where I live, also break the law in this way. It is great milk, takes so much better; it’s cheaper and the money goes to the farmer, not the supermarkets. We all take this freedom upon ourselves, risk our health and safety because we trust the farmer. I get the best of both worlds I think; the government provides a set of regulations that ensure my health and safety and I can disobey if I want. There will be very little force or coercion applied to me if I am ‘caught’; or possibly none. I think it would be the farmer who takes more of a risk, but that is his business.

    The state doesn’t use violence to stop people enjoying smoking dope. You only get busted if you draw attention to yourself and make it impossible for them to ignore you, or do something else that is regarded as anti-social. I would be extremely surprised if the local cops would bother exerting any force against me, even if somebody phoned them up and said ‘this woman is smoking drugs’.

    And if that happened, it would be a good thing because, I suspect that it would add to the feeling the locals have that the law does need to be changed on this issue. They do know I am a ‘greenie’ but I contribute to the community so they accept me and even value me; lol I even had an invite to the mayor’s morning tea in return for my voluntary community work. So, if force was used against me, this would motivate the people to change the way the government responded to this issue.

    Your arguments against government show a lack of imagination and seem to me to have no foundation in reality.

  27. may
    October 20th, 2011 at 14:18 | #27

    i tried reading Spinoza once–wurgh.

    and left it to those of larger brain.

    but even a minor intellect such as mine can see that there are areas in any society where the market has no business.

    such as health.

    a business that profits from sickness requires sickness.

    the more sick people the more profit.

    tests and treatment are not predicated by need but profitability.

    people without assets are not profitable and have no place in the business.

    where this service is provided from the public purse the focus is not to increase treatment and tests but to find the most efficient and economical path to the restoration of health.

    the public health system focusses on less sick people in society.
    the for profit system focusses on the more cashes up or insured sick people the better.

  28. Tom
    October 20th, 2011 at 14:36 | #28

    @may

    Strongly agree, I have old relatives from China that are considered as common in the health status (not particularly health or unhealthy). Everytime they go and see the doctor, they will get them to do scans, tests and checks which then ends up with a medical bill of five digits RMB (median income in China is similar or lower than Australians in “money amount” e.g. 2000 RMB:2000 AUD); not only that they prescribe literally a “box” full of drugs and medicine as if as long as it won’t kill you, it’s fine to do that. I know that this is also happening in the US, I hope it doesn’t happen here in Australia.

  29. Dan
    October 20th, 2011 at 14:58 | #29

    Spinoza is my favourite philosopher and for me really nailed better than anyone the links between the universal and the particular.

    I think at a vague, hand-waving, metaphysical level, libertarians are limited by their place in history and can only think in terms of the particular – assuming that all phemomena can be explained purely in terms of aggregating individual phenomena, rather than there being different, larger, more ineffable forces at play. Essentially it’s positivism run amuck.

  30. Dan
    October 20th, 2011 at 18:12 | #30

    Julie: the relevant example for Terje will probably be taxation.

    Yes, it is coercive – if you do not pay it, and if the system’s working the way it’s designed to, eventually get prosecuted and be punished.

    The libertarian, however, does not truly understand that with rights come responsibilities; not just in the sense of, “If I pay tax, maybe it’ll be worth my while (or maybe not)”, but in the sense of *this is what is required to keep societies and economies ticking over* (yes, there are public goods that the private sector just doesn’t deliver – check around chapter 11 of your micro textbook, Terje): if you run down your infrastructure, your health system, your education system, your national defense, not only do you and your country lose today, but tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow… maybe forever.

    Most of the libertarians I know – I’d count a couple of them as friends – are actually outright anti-democratic, as they see no reason for individual choices to be trampled just because they are in the minority. But they have no solution for how decisions that affect and need to be made by groups should be made (seriously – they just come up blank, and mutter about “the best we can do with what we’ve got”, which is side-splitting after they’ve been on rants about completely normative, utopian ideals).

    Interestingly, I don’t know any poor libertarians or vegetarian libertarians: apparently being made to pay taxes is coercive, but killing defenseless animals isn’t.

  31. Dan
    October 20th, 2011 at 18:18 | #31

    Off topic, but has anyone read this? http://www.bloomsburypress.com/books/catalog/23_things_they_dont_tell_you_about_capitalism_hc_666

    I recall the small amount of Chang’s work that I’ve read as being quite compelling.

  32. October 20th, 2011 at 18:32 | #32

    @Dan

    Libertarians

    The first Libertarian i ever met was and has been for more than 40 years – a vegetarian

    i also know poor Libertarians

    the problem is that “Libertarian” has been captured and twisted to new meanings mostly by people who call themselves Libertarian

    The Libertarians i know are not anti Democratic – far from it – and in explaining it answers your questions but what Librarians do when needing to deal with issues that need a group to solve – they form groups. There’s nothing wrong with forming groups of any size as long as the purpose of the group is to solve the problem and nothing else. Maybe new problems will result in the group reforming – anything is possible.

    The main thing about Libertarians is that they do not believe in any more government than is needed to maintain courts of Law

    they believe that if you vest permanent power in any group then that group will be corrupted and will abuse its power

    Libertarians do not believe in taxation – because taxation is always channeled to abuse of the freedoms of others

    I’m not Libertarian but most of what i read here i terms of criticism of Libertarians is simply misinformed or is based on those “Libertarians” who define themselves in some way related to Aynn Rand or some of the more extreme Americans of the Rush Limbaugh type.

    Just as some of the people i know who call themselves “democrats” or “republicans” or “socialists” or whatever are completely uninformed about those they class as enemies, it’s typical of people to cast themselves permanently in some mold and to remain for their whole lives ignorant of anything else. Christians ignorant of Islam, Muslims ignorant of Buddhism etc etc.

    The scientific principle – to try forever to destroy your own theories and to constantly attack your own assumptions – this is something those in the political sciences could learn from

    radicals only attack other peoples ideas and never ever ever really turn a critical eye on their own beliefs

    and that leads to wars

    and hatred

    pop

  33. Dan
    October 20th, 2011 at 18:50 | #33

    Ah! You have found a better class of libertarian than I :)

    If your implication is that I am a radical, try again – I’m just a social democrat.

  34. October 20th, 2011 at 19:44 | #34

    @Dan

    no/yes, i agree, you are not a radical

    but all of us have an element of the fundamentalist/radical in us at times – there will be something that you believe without question – and it’s very hard to see such beliefs they are so “fundamentally” a part of us

    lots of people call for fairness – yet think nothing of owning material goods that only exist because somebody somewhere is being exploited – mobile phones, computers, cars

    I’m surprised that you know any Libertarians at all – there’s not many of them about – there’s more chance of meeting anarchists – who differ from Libertarians only in that they do not believe in formalised permanent courts of law

    I’m very anti government because every government i have ever lived under except in NZ for a short period has contributed heavily to what i consider to be atrocities – eg invasion and destruction of Iraq

    I object to having to pay taxes when i have no real control over where those taxes get spent – my choices are limited to them being spent by one set of corporate cronies or another set

    but there’s little i can do about it

    pop

  35. alfred venison
    October 20th, 2011 at 21:03 | #35

    dear cognoscenti
    has there been only one school of libertarian thought? and, to my point, what is the libertarian take on compulsory voting – on “compulsory suffrage”, a “free vote, compulsorily cast”, as it were? or are there a number of libertarian takes on compulsory voting?
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  36. Donald Oats
    October 20th, 2011 at 22:02 | #36

    To the central thesis, that use of violence is (almost) never justified…
    I would say that a situation such as existed in Libya probably justified violence, but then I never lived there, so I don’t really know whether it was intolerable or not.

    In the case of the Soviet Union, when Lenin, and then Stalin, had huge purges, perhaps that would be adequate justification for rising up. In fact, I guess that the purges could in some way be defined by their instigators as putting down perceived uprisings—historians please take mercy on me :-)

    The great difficulty in deciding where the line is to be drawn is that it can place, at first blush, some rather surprising candidates on the wrong side of said line: for example, a regime that has mock elections whilst merely passing power back and forth from one member of the elite to another; that exploited the population as a mere resource for ever growing accumulation of wealth concentrated on the elite; that secretly captures and tortures members of its population, without fear of prosecution; etc. The USA is such a place, and yet there is much to admire about it as a country.

    My concern with the #OWS situation is that at some point the practice of infiltration may be employed, and that these infiltrators egg on or even initiate acts of violence and intimidation against the state. We all know the next step, namely that infiltrators point out the supposed ringleaders, who are later seized by the men in black. In some cases, anticipated to rile protestors further, the supposed ringleaders are picked up in public. The whole thing ratchets up, one predictable notch at a time, until something implodes…

    The McCarthy Era in the USA was one such period in history, where the USA took a big step towards the abyss; today there are some equally dangerous politicians in the USA, they never really went away.

  37. quokka
    October 20th, 2011 at 22:33 | #37

    @The Peak Oil Poet

    Libertarians do not believe in taxation – because taxation is always channeled to abuse of the freedoms of others

    Oh really. I suppose universal health care and universal education are an “abuse of the freedom of others”. And that’s just for starters.

    It is exactly this sort of unmitigated nonsense that the majority of the population can see through in the blink of an eye that will forever consign Libertarians to the political fringe with a role of little more than providing ideological cover for quite identifiable class interests.

  38. alfred venison
    October 20th, 2011 at 22:53 | #38

    dear Donald Oats
    “at some point the practice of infiltration may be employed.”
    yes indeed! i’m also concerned at the prospect of the state deploying channels of misinformation into their facebook pages, twitter feeds, and other information media they use. feed misinformation & debauch the currency, as it were. introduce suspicion & undermine trust. if they aren’t already.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  39. John Brookes
    October 20th, 2011 at 22:56 | #39

    Humans are intensely social creatures. That we are “rugged individuals” is a nice illusion. Libertarians believe the illusion.

  40. TerjeP
    October 21st, 2011 at 05:58 | #40

    John Brookes :
    Humans are intensely social creatures. That we are “rugged individuals” is a nice illusion. Libertarians believe the illusion.

    This is rubbish. Libertarians are just as sociable as any other group of people. Libertarians want smaller government and stronger society. They recognise that powerful government ultimately over time weakens the bonds of community.

  41. October 21st, 2011 at 06:35 | #41

    @quokka

    to keep it really simple – the answer is yes – if your “free” healthcare comes at the cost of having to support the death and destruction of others then if i was a Libertarian i would be against it.

    I see it like this – if we give the mob bread, and circuses (and the illusion of free health care etc*) we can get away with anything

    i visualise you and i walking across a field of bloody stinking corpses that stretches to the horizon – we are having a chat about some finer points of “freedom” and “fairness” – we are actually arguing too because i am claiming that your ideas are not generous enough – neither of us can actually see the bodies under our feet – we suffer from cognitive dissonance – they do not register in any way at all – in the middle of the conversation your iPhone rings and you break off for a mo then ask me if i’d care for a latte – i answer ‘sure’ – and we walk off into the (blood red) sunset still quibbling over the finer points of fairness

    pop

    http://thepeakoilpoet.blogspot.com/

    footnote * – consider all those poor old people on waiting lists – i know a few – they will tell you straight up your universal health care is an illusion

  42. adelady
    October 21st, 2011 at 06:53 | #42

    Weakens the bonds of community? I rather thought that one thing most libertarians object to is regulation of labour. That employers and employees should ‘freely’ enter into ‘mutually agreed’ contracts.

    We know full well what happens to ‘community’ when employers have total freedom to impose whatever working conditions they like in the the contracts they ‘offer’ to prospective employees.

    Try organising a working bee at a school or kindy. Try and find someone, anyone, who can commit to every Thursday afternoon after school to coach a sports team. What time and day can we set for choir or band practice? What about helping with reading or other school-based assistance, or helping out at the local aged care facility – if you can’t be reliable you’re no use to a needy child or lonely pensioner. None of these worthy community activities are possible when the vast majority of employees are at the beck and call of employers changing rosters or arbitrarily disallowing previously arranged absences – powers set by them in contracts.

    I have yet to understand any proposals put by anyone that allows any co-existence with unregulated commercial conduct and real community commitments.

  43. Dan
    October 21st, 2011 at 07:09 | #43

    Yes, and those pesky child labour laws – really dick everyone’s freedom, interfered with the free market, and truly perniciously: “weaken(ed) the bonds of community”.

    It would be a shame if the countries that haven’t introduced them do :P

  44. Dan
    October 21st, 2011 at 07:10 | #44

    Terje – I’d be interested to see your response to #30.

  45. Dan
    October 21st, 2011 at 07:25 | #45

    adelady@41 – libertarians don’t actually understand the ruthless logic of the market they advocate.

    They don’t recognise that pure capitalism is a race to the bottom (wages, conditions), the purpose of it is to achieve monopoly, or that well before that point, demand has been demolished by said race.

    Furthermore, they are historically blind to the fact that a huge amount of government intervention is not stifling free enterprise, but *making it possible* (eg. antitrust legislation, competition law – awfully coercive, those) and civilising it (minimum wages, fair IR laws, social insurance, redressing market failures in health and education). And that, after all, we live in societies, not economies anyway.

    Sure – governments do bad things and make mistakes; but the notion that, left to their own devices, people won’t, or at least things will be better, or problems will evaporate, is just wishful thinking.

  46. October 21st, 2011 at 07:39 | #46

    @Dan

    I think Dan that if you ever lived in a place where corporations were unknown you’d click. Where there are no big companies there is far less inequality and far more community. I think about peasant rice farmers living on like $8K a year and getting by and all pulling together whenever things turn to poo. They don’t have iPhones and they tinker with their cars year in year out to keep them running for 30 or 40 years or more and only use them to fetch things from local markets.

    Then along comes government – and the first thing it does is give free medical – and blam – people stop saving for medical and start buying Toyotas and iPhones and start moving away from community and into the big city and before you know it they are enslaved to big corporations.

    I know i’m simplifying – i’m trying not to appear to be an ideologue – i am not actually pushing any system – i’m just trying to get across the idea that to hold any system up as perfect is silly – or even to suggest that any system like Libertarianism (or Socialism or Sharia Law or free kool-aid) is inherently (more) flawed (than any other system) is to act out of some degree of blindness – or faith (of the fundamentalist variety)

    pop

  47. Dan
    October 21st, 2011 at 07:47 | #47

    So basically you’re arguing in favour of social/policy agnosticism.

    That’s completely unhelpful.

    And yes, you are simplifying; give me first-world over third-world life expectancies any day.

  48. Julie Thomas
    October 21st, 2011 at 08:47 | #48

    I thought I had posted this earlier but it doesn’t seem to have happened. Blame it on youngest son who is doing stuff to my pc

    POP
    The first ‘libertarians’ I knew were hippies who were disillusioned by the ‘stupidity’ of the air-head flower children, and then 2 decades later, I encountered another generation of libertarian types among the IT blokes at Uni. In both cases, it seemed to me, that the motivation for their dislike of government was that governments ‘force’ them to do things they don’t want to do, like paying to look after the rest of us who are just ‘stupid’. We must be stupid if we don’t see things their way.

    And POP, you say that radicals only attack other peoples ideas and never critically examine their own beliefs; this describes all the libertarians, I have ever met. They deliberately avoid reading anything that challenges their belief system or ever acknowledging any error of judgement when their claims have clearly been shown to be wrong.

    I think Robert Trivers, in his book, “Deceit and Self-deception” explains this behaviour. His premise is that if we can only see our own point of view, we can authentically argue our case because our deceits blind us to the truth.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/oct/07/deceit-self-deception-robert-trivers?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

    And POP, as you say, it is a good thing to form groups to solve problems. But it seems to me that libertarians miss the most important principle of ‘self-organisation’. You don’t see that the system can only self-organise when there is a mutual goal and self-interest isn’t a mutual goal. The state is a group, formed to solve the problems that are created for the weak by the strong. The strong are motivated by their particular type of brain to look out for their own self-interest but some of us – because of evolution and the need for diversity, have the type of brain that won’t or can’t compete with your type of brain; not because we are stupid, but because we are different. I need protection from your ‘strength of mind’ just as I need protection from those with the physical strength to take stuff from me.

    You say that power in any group will be corrupted and that is just what I see has happened in the self-organised group we are calling the 1%. But it is not necessary for power to be corrupted. There is a lot of knowledge out there about how to ensure that governments do not become too corrupt.

    I keep asking for some historical and philosophical basis for your theory, apart from Hayek and Rand but you are not responding to this request.

  49. Dan
    October 21st, 2011 at 09:37 | #49

    Julie: Rothbard is the other lightweight they often mention. Suffers from the same deficiencies you’ve noted above.

    Unfortunately, I had to read part of Milton and Rose Friedman’s *Free to Choose* for one of my uni subjects. I gave it a scathing review on FB, I’ll see if I can find it to re-post here.

    Incidentally Hayek described himself as being in favour of a comprehensive system of social insurance, and Adam Smith was nowhere near as doctrinaire as he is usually interpreted as. In comparison, contemporary libertarians really are ideologues.

  50. Julie Thomas
    October 21st, 2011 at 11:35 | #50

    Dan, perhaps some of them – the nice ones – are deluded. Deliberately as a defence mechanism, they delude themselves so that they can continue to believe that they see things in a rational way, and the rest of us are not able to see the underlying rationality. Ayn Rands disciples totally believed in her ‘superior strength of mind’ and believed her flawed reasoning to be ‘rational’. A tendency toward hero worship is another trait that seems widespread among that type of mind.

    Is Rothbard an economist? Hayek did say some things that might suggest that he had some compassion for those of us he didn’t value. He was prepared to tolerate ‘some provision for those threatened by the extremes of indigence or starvation, be it only in the interest of those who require protection against acts of desperation on the part of the needy; see “The Constitution of Liberty”, chap. 19.

    The way I understand it, libertarians take Adam Smith’s ideas out of the christian context in which he situated them. So I don’t think their interpretation of this philosopher is going to be anything but cheap and nasty, more self-serving crap.

  51. Julie Thomas
    October 21st, 2011 at 11:54 | #51

    POP you wrote “They don’t have iPhones and they tinker with their cars year in year out to keep them running for 30 or 40 years or more and only use them to fetch things from local markets.” That sounds just like me and I can only do that because I have a government who looks after me. My aim is to do without corporations, not government.

    Governments in the rice growing areas that I think you are referring to do not provide health care and the peasants never did save up for it. Good grief, I have heard that young people know nothing about history but I am still surprised at your apparent ignorance.

    It is the desire for stuff, that comes with the corporations and their advertising, that disrupts the family and induces the young and foolish to venture into the cities in search of material goods that promise so much and deliver so little.

    It is not silly to present a logical argument with valid premises against things like Sharia law and libertarianism. That is what needs to be done to encourage people like you to discriminate between the ideologue and those rational men who do look at both or all sides of the issue.

    I’m not sure about your free kool-aid thingy – how would that work? Say something sensible next time.

  52. October 21st, 2011 at 12:24 | #52

    @Julie Thomas

    Apparent ignorance? you dropped a bit of a brick there i think – we live in precisely the area i’m talking about except when we are in Australia – which is a bit of a juggle at times

    And the government does provide full health care – free for nationals and dirt cheap for foreigners (i cut my hand with a sickle, had to have stitches, from the time we arrived at the hospital until we walked out was about 30 minutes – they charged me $13 and the job was so well done i have no visible scar – that was a few years ago)

    and the fact is that before the new health care system they did in fact save for it – they saved for everything but health was very high on their agenda – and they still save – it’s makes our behaviour look pitiful because they save the equivalent of our cents judiciously.

    and the pay cash for everything – the idea of a debt is foreign, anathema

    i find it interesting that you seem to think so highly of your education sufficient to assert that i am ignorant of something i know a LOT about – i married into the culture, raised kids, taught and spent a long time living like a peasant – working, eating offal, drinking home made and interacting with everyone from the poorest to the most well off in the region – none of whom i’d imagine fit people’s idea of a capitalist running dog

    as for the stuff thing – on that you are right – the regions i refer to were fine until they got TV – and until the kids of locals who had gone to live in the capital started coming home with all the wiz bangs – it did not effect the older people much but kids just went for it like they do to ice cream

    i brought two of those kids (and i’m bringing more soon) to do 5 years school here – from rice farmer girls to computer experts in 3 years – now when i first met them they were lovely quiet polite hard working little angels and now they are getting to be like you

    pop

    ps

    are you the same person by name employed by the state government? If so I wonder that you get to spend so much of the tax payers money doing this sort of thing. It’s a bit of a time waster and i barely get time to scan posts let alone comment on everything i read

    p

  53. Dan
    October 21st, 2011 at 12:46 | #53

    Here we go!

    “Dan’s course reading reviews: the chapter on prices from Milton and Rose Friedman’s *Free to Choose* – an embarrassingly naive economic analysis (conveniently, completely ignoring social and environmental externalities) is made additionally dubious and feeble by ugly and transparent attempts to smuggle in regressive prescriptions (against, for example, inheritance tax) that have no relevance to the stated topic. The result is as stupid and venal as its intended readership. Zero out of five.”

    To which my friend Henry said: “I’m so glad you’re reading this rubbish so that we don’t have to :)

    To which I said: “Yeah, well, that makes one of us.”

  54. October 21st, 2011 at 12:54 | #54

    @Dan

    my ma would cringe at me speaking ill of the dead so i wont

    what i will say about Friedman is something i don’t have a ref for so it might not be true in which case consider the comment terminated here >.

    but just on the off chance it is true

    apparently shortly before he died he said something along the lines of (my wording)

    “there can never be true democracy in the systems i have spent my life promoting – for the simple reason that if the masses had a fair vote they would promptly vote themselves sufficient of the wealth of the rich to make everyone equal”

    when i read it i interpreted it as being an apology – for him supporting some of the most heinous regimes of all time

    not that it has done any good for those who suffered as a consequence of him and his more famous students

    pop

    (ps, maybe it was a Naomi Klein ref, i simply can’t recall)

  55. Dan
    October 21st, 2011 at 13:11 | #55

    POP: …and that’s *exactly* what Krugman means when he says stuff like – I’m paraphrasing – at a deep level, the 1% know that their position is morally untenable.

  56. October 21st, 2011 at 13:30 | #56

    @Dan

    no argument from me

    but i’m still anti government :-)

    simply because the systems people like Friedman and Sachs aided in every way would not exist on such scales if we had no government to empower them

    life would be smaller, simpler and there’d be a whole lot less people in the world

    because we’d never have been able to have the green revolution or any of the other high tech population stimulants we’re so terminally hooked on

    i’m off now – have a good WE

    pop

  57. Dan
    October 21st, 2011 at 13:56 | #57

    Cheers POP, you too.

    Julie, yes, Rothbard was an economist of the Austrian school (though he was from the Bronx). Popularised anarcho-capitalism. I can’t put this clearly enough – it’s no straw-man argument to say that he thought that if you let the markets rip, they’ll deliver the best possible outcomes for everybody and – this is a thigh-slapper – monopoly will just go away. Obviously this flies in the face of the good society envisioned in the institutional approach advocated by, say, Galbraith.

    The key thing in taking down libertarianism, I think, is to distinguish the political project – greater “freedom” (freedom to) offers the best possible solutions in all instances (horsesh*t) from the economic project – basically, the efficient markets hypothesis amongst other debunked rubbish – which is also horsesh*t and which John Q’s recent book dismantles comprehensively. The two projects mutually reinforce and once one goes away, the other inevitably does too.

    At that point, libertarians revert to a moral vision of non-coercion which is at best purely normative and, if it was at all convincing for most people, self-identified Libertarian parties wouldn’t turn in such pitiful polling results (I wonder if they think all the rest of us are stupid, or, ala Marxism, falsely conscious?)

  58. Julie Thomas
    October 21st, 2011 at 15:31 | #58

    lol Dan I don’t think libertarianism is for the taking down if the host of current evidence is not sufficiently convincing. It is a very seductive idea and as Pop goes the Weasel demonstrates, logic and rationality are not really the point. For some, I think, the attraction has to do with wanting to be ‘different’, not ‘ordinary’ and definitely not ‘one of the sheep’; the only thing to do is gently and respectfully encourage them to seek ‘therapy’ :) and gain some self-insights.

    I like to keep checking though, just in case they have come up with something useful and I have missed it because of my own biases against their adolescent nonsense.

  59. Dan
    October 21st, 2011 at 15:52 | #59

    I didn’t mean out-arguing libertarians individually, I meant out-arguing it in the public sphere so that it stops degrading our civic institutions and our aspirations to the Good Society.

  60. Freelander
    October 21st, 2011 at 16:28 | #60

    Libertarianism is especially appealing to the ‘Archie Bunker’ ‘Alf Garnett’ type, that is, the type of person who aspires to be a member of the one percent and deludes themselves about the likelihood of that happening. Unfortunately, the numbers of those, so deluded, has exploded massively in recent years as evidenced by the way everyone nowadays seems to consider themselves a celebrity. If you see yourself as the one holding the whip rather than receiving the lashing you have a different perspective on right and wrong.

  61. Mulga Mumblebrain
    October 21st, 2011 at 20:48 | #61

    MLK was a complete failure politically. Not only was he lynched, like so many other black Americans, but his legacy was virtually inconsequential. The emancipation of the African-Americans, after a century of betrayal, was quickly reversed by the simple measure of criminalising black men, and incarcerating millions of them in the ever burgeoning prison-industrial complex. Virtually the only way to avoid being locked up, often for decades, is to join the US military, and do Uncle Sam’s imperial dirty work. African-American wealth, pitiful as it was, has been devastated since 2005 with an around 50% decline, and African-American unemployment, poverty and want are all increasing and stuck at levels far above those of other communities.
    Even worse, MLK’s radical political positions have been buried down Big Brother’s ‘memory hole’ and his legacy appropriated by confidence-men and sell-outs like the odious fraud Obama.

  62. Mulga Mumblebrain
    October 21st, 2011 at 20:52 | #62

    Milton Friedman pushed the ‘free market’ bunkum because he believed that whatever else transpired, it would be ‘good for the Jews’ ie that they would prosper under it. Now there’s a discussion nobody’s allowed to initiate.

  63. Julie Thomas
    October 22nd, 2011 at 09:22 | #63

    So sorry Pop I missed your post yesterday in which you tell me off for making assumptions about you and now you’re gone to have a good weekend. In the spirit of MLK I apologise for my ‘violence’. I am also sorry if it was my ‘education’ that led me to dismiss you as ‘ignorant’; it was based on the vagueness of your ‘argument’.

    I did not mean to patronise you; this is a human characteristic that we all suffer from to some extent and jumping to conclusions is the only exercise a lot of us get in the wonderfully ‘easy’ but fundamentally unsatisfying, life that capitalism has provided for us.

    I am not any of the Julie Thomas’s that you can find if you google my name; I have looked myself and I couldn’t find anything about me. I do have a couple of publications in ‘reputable’ psychology journals but they are incredibly boring and I couldn’t find them online. My PhD project was to model or describe human movement using dynamical systems theory. After that, I dropped out of academia and now, with all the offspring grown and self-supporting, I am indulging my desire to be an ‘artist’ in a rural area of Queensland.

    We all have a tendency to negatively characterise those who do not agree with our own worldview and I will continue to be negative about both sharia law and libertarianism. They are both ideologies that have been shown to be harmful to human progress.

  64. Julie Thomas
    October 22nd, 2011 at 09:27 | #64

    Dan How does one discredit libertarianism, when the media owners are of that inclination? It seems to me also that probably a great many journalists, despite being characterised as ‘left wing’, do have a vague idea that there is some essential truth in the ideology.

  65. Mulga Mumblebrain
    October 22nd, 2011 at 09:31 | #65

    Anybody who characterises the product of the Western MSM, and its producers, as Leftwing’ is a cynical liar, or deranged.

  66. kevin1
    October 23rd, 2011 at 05:16 | #66

    Julie Thomas :
    Terje, it is this belief that government necessarily equals coercion and violence that I would like explained. What is the basis for this belief? Who are the philosophers you read who have considered the nature of government and the relationship between government and the people? Hayek’s arguments just do not cut the mustard in this area. His ‘consequentist’ arguments are not at all convincing. Fundamnetally, his undertanding of ‘human nature’ or psychology was flawed. His assumptions about these things are contradicted by the latest scientific knowledge and therefore his arguments are not valid. Can you not see that if the foundation of his argument – his premises – are faulty then his conclusions are suspect?
    Have you ever read any of the ‘real’ enlightenment philosophers or any Chinese philosophy? Can you point to any historical evidence that shows that governments will always tend toward totalitarianism? Surely in these days of such plenty in terms of the availability of knowledge, one has an obligation to consider a wide range of ideas, and consider alternative possibilities, rather than being so certain that one has found the truth. I am not saying that you haven’t read widely and cross culturally but I see no evidence of any ‘philosophy’ the underpins your assumptions, other than that of Hayek and Rand and these people are just not up to it.
    For example, Rand defines the concepts of violence and coercion in a particular way and she was ostensibly very much against them, and yet, in her personal life she was violent and coercive. She also manipulated people and used them for her own ends, The psychological effects of this type of ‘underhanded’ exploitation can be as harmful as actual violence. Emotional abuse of children can be just as damaging as physical abuse. It can ‘cause’ death via suicide, just as physical violence can ‘cause’ death.
    It is simplistic and possibly arrogant – or just silly? – to believe that you can assess ‘undesirable consequences’ and ‘inferior outcomes’. I think it is quite clear that I would have a different idea about these things. Spinoza said, to see the truth, one needs to have no opinion either for or against anything. This and other ideas he had about human nature, are consistent with current knowledge of the way the human brain works and that is one of the reasons that I value Spinoza’s ideas more than I value Hayek’s.
    I do not think that you hate or self-hate. I do think it would be a good thing for the world and yourself, if you could free yourself from the bonds of your existing brain chemistry. Do some brain exercises that will develop your ability to appreciate complexity and uncertainty.

    Terje, you have not responded to this – no arguments??

  67. Dan
    October 23rd, 2011 at 09:52 | #67

    Julie@14: I think that is overstating the case somewhat. Even a lot of people who *buy* Murdoch papers are quite aware it is partisan horsesh*t. And there are so many alternative news sources – the Grauniad for news and Counterpunch for analysis are my favourites, and both offer enormous amounts of free content online.

  68. John quiggin
    October 23rd, 2011 at 10:03 | #68

    @Mulga Mumblebrain
    Indeed no one is going to discuss that here. Please take a week off to think about it. Anything more like that will result in a permanent ban as will any dispute or premature return to posting

  69. Dan
    October 23rd, 2011 at 11:12 | #69

    ^^^ I don’t think that’s really John.

  70. Julie Thomas
    October 23rd, 2011 at 15:44 | #70

    Dan yeah overstating the case, I do that; just a brief mental despair moment.

    I do enjoy the alternative news sources and one can even get academic content without uni access. Some great blogs out there also and recently we got upgraded so much faster searching and downloading.

    Not many of my conservative voting neighbours, do much searching for alternative news sources though.

  71. Fran Barlow
    October 24th, 2011 at 21:39 | #71

    When is violence justified as a response to manifest and apparently immovable injustice? My answer, with Martin Luther King is: Never, or almost never

    It’s gthe equivocation that destroys your answer.

    I have no problem ageeing that violence is always costly, including of course for those pursuing legitimate grievances. Sometimes, however, there’s really no good alternative, because all non-violent methods of redressing a compelling grievance have been ruled out, and one must therefore choose not between violence and non-violence, but between violence in pursuit of justice and suffering in the name of non-violence.

  72. adelady
    October 25th, 2011 at 12:27 | #72

    Fran “… one must therefore choose not between violence and non-violence, but between violence in pursuit of justice and suffering in the name of non-violence.”

    That’s where I always finish up when I think what I might have done had I been a black South Africa during apartheid or in half a dozen other situations.

    But I rather think violent action as a first resort, or a preference, is almost always wrong. It has the seductive appeal of immediate, vigorous, exciting action with a specific, limited focus …. but it has the very high danger of losing its proper focus towards the initially desired long-term change. Community development, legal processes, civil rights actions may seem tedious, thankless, grindingly slow or just hard slog. But those processes don’t have the lasting negative effects that violence, and its usual tit-for-tat element within and between groups, has on the larger society once hostilities have technically ended.

    There’s always someone with a (completely understandable) grudge about death or violence suffered months or years ago by an uncle, sister, village. The fact that this was a response to violence by one’s own relatives or neighbours days or weeks before the horrible event seems to vanish in the passions aroused. If we can avoid the whole violent transaction in the first place, we’d usually be much better off.

  73. Fran Barlow
    October 25th, 2011 at 21:33 | #73

    @adelady

    Whether one uses violence or non-violence is not a matter of general principle, but a matter of utiility. Some resorts to violence do serious and lasting damage to the possibility of human community, and therefore should be contemplated when refraing from such violence would prejudice this even more. That is of course, always a guess, because we are dealing with uncertainty, but there are clearly times when violence, of some kind or another, is likely to represent the least of all harms.

    One should not fetishise non-violence or make light of suffering imposed upon ordinary people by it. While it may well be true that justice may follow in the long run if one simply endures, justice delayed is also justice denied. The Gaddhafi regime endured for 42 years — a lifetime for everyone born in the year I was — 1958. The best years of all the lives of people born in the 1950s have been consumed under the rule of a tyrant. That they may now live long enough to see a just Libya (and that is still less rather than more probable in my opinion) is cold comfort for the 42 years they have lost.

    Part of the problem is that violence covers a multitude of things — some of which would be criminal in any jursidiction, and some of which are defencible under certain circumstances. When a tyrant declares by deed that you can choose between suffering under the metaphoric lash and pressing your just claims, he declares, that one may fairly press one’s claims with violence, self-respecting persons will infer that they are entitled to make use of violence and coercion wherever it is used against the tyrant. They may choose not to do so, but if they do, the tyrant and his defenders dare not complain for the rules were of their choosing.

    So while one should think very carefully before resort to violence, and err, if one must, on the side of caution, one should always be willing, where justice demands it, to use only so much as is sufficient to attain just ends and no more.

  74. Julie Thomas
    October 26th, 2011 at 08:09 | #74

    I’m thinking that ‘natural inequality’ – conceived of as the different distribution of human capacities – has some influence on the decision that we make about the use of violence. I’m thinking that our individual psychology/character will be a significant factor in the way we conceptualise both the problem and the solution that we prefer.

    Those with a ‘personality’ biased toward producing more of the brain chemicals that contribute toward that ‘strength of character’ and ‘determination to succeed’ that Hayek so admired, would more easily conclude that violence was the best solution. Whereas someone who has the type of personality that is uncomfortable with conflict will be biased toward choosing to suffer.

    Both strategies must have been successful for the survival of the group or one would assume that the non-violence ‘genes’ would have died out? I’m not sure how this suggestion helps anyone make the decision about what the best choice is and Fran’s final sentence works for me. But perhaps seeing things in terms of innate individual differences being ‘adaptive’, is useful as a way of refraining from making automatic ‘pejorative value judgements’, about the choice that individuals do make.

  75. October 26th, 2011 at 08:49 | #75

    @Julie Thomas

    i’d have thought that what we learn from things like this Stanford prison experiment and many other studies into the way humans, other primates and mammals interact would suggest that if you have the upper hand you are more likely to be “violent” and if not you will be submissive.

    i doubt there is such a thing as “non-violent genes” – we have genes that are triggered to influence development if the right environmental factors are present at the right time – enabling modules to have access to control and resources in ourselves

    put stress on a population and you see more variation in personality and character as this plays out in the phenotypes

    i see the problem as one that is hard to deal with as an individual because we are within the picture and can’t step back to see what it really is

    we can however look at our cousins and see how they behave

    and what we learned was that violence and war is the norm – bit of a shame really, we were so so sure that chimps and gorillas would teach us that the norm was gentle cooperation

    but it’s not

    bummer

    let’s hope we can transcend our animal nature and learn to share (ha ha no aint that a joke)

    pop

    Equality

  76. adelady
    October 26th, 2011 at 09:05 | #76

    Julie, I’m not so sure about the individual character side of things.

    I’m generally speaking in favour of non-violence …….. but I’m also a mother. The mildest woman can become a fearsome fighter when her children are threatened. I’ve never been in that position, but I’d not give any guarantees that my usual attitude would prevail in the face of deadly threat to little ones. ‘Choosing to suffer’ is probably not my first option.

    It’s circumstance as much as personality that can shape such reactions. Of course, personal inclination isn’t really the topic when we’re thinking about how a community or country would or should respond to perceived threats.

    And I always finish up back where I started. Apartheid South Africa. What would I have done? What would I have encouraged, supported, enabled had I been there? Do I choose to sacrifice my safety or my life by involving myself and others in violence? Or do I choose to nobly suffer in silence and sacrifice hope for myself and for my children? Sacrifice is not an option – but there are different kinds of sacrifice. The mere fact of having to make such choices in those circumstances would change/bias/distort an individual inclination to pro or non-violence I think.

  77. Julie Thomas
    October 26th, 2011 at 12:07 | #77

    Pop, the Stanford experiment shows that if enabled, and when the social context approves of violence, those with a tendency to be authoritarian will induge this tendency and those with a tendency toward toward submission will submit. But the take home message from this experiment is that it is the social context that changes ‘good’ people into ‘bad’ people. This is similar to the tendency that you recognise further on in your post; that to put stress on people changes their ‘natural’ behaviour.

    http://zimbardo.socialpsychology.org/

    I think we look back in history and it seems that war and violence are a constant, but this is not the case. For a start, there is a lot of misunderstanding about about the violence that we find in the Australian Indigenous society. From my reading – I can find references for you but I have used all my quota for this month – there were no wars of conquest, inter-tribal conflict was resolved with a minimum of violence, and feuds were rare because of the way they handled the conflict resolution process. Justice was based on reciprocity not the idea of perpetator and a victim.

    Also, when you refer to primates, the evidence is more complex, context seems to be critical for how primates behave and there are large differences in the social organisation between different types of primates; bonobo’s are different from chimps. Also, it seems that primate behaviour can change significantly when the social conditions are changed. Apparently, in groups of chimps where there is no competition for resources, the group will change from being dominated by one dominant male into one in which a loose coalition of older females dominates the group.

    There is much to be learned about being human and I am not certain that agressive violence is an essential part of the human condition.

  78. Julie Thomas
    October 26th, 2011 at 12:33 | #78

    Adelady the more one thinks about it, the more complex the question becomes but violence in the protection of our children, in evolutionary terms, has to be not only acceptable but essential.

    As you say, making the decision for a community or national response is a different thing and Gandhi and MLK are the outstanding examples – or are they the only examples? – of a new way of dealing with oppression.

    I do not have any real understanding of the South African situation; but it was a difficult situation. Was there any ‘movement’ or basis that provided arguments for and supported a non-violent response?

  79. alfred venison
    October 29th, 2011 at 00:48 | #79

    dear Julie Thomas
    “are they [gandhi, king] the only examples?”

    no, looking back, there is a clear link with tolstoy’s anarcho-pacifism. while studying law in england, gandhi followed his mother’s parting injunction & upon arrival “over the seas” joined the vegetarian society, a hive of fabians. here he met louise & aylmer maude, tolstoy’s contemporary english translators (oxford) & regular correspondents with tolstoy since around 1889/90. through the auspices of the maudes, gandhi was introduced to tolstoy & they began a correspondence that lasted until tolstoy’s death.

    one of gandhi’s south african ashrams was named “satyagraha”, the other was named “tolstoy”.

    tolstoy’s “letter to a hindu” is addressed to gandhi & is available, with an introduction by gandhi here:-
    http://www.online-literatureDOTcom/tolstoy/2733/

    the manifestation, in the material world, of the principle of non-violent resistance, depicted through scenes in the careers of rabindranath tagore, leo tolstoy & martin luther king, all overseen by gandhi, is the subject of the 1980 philip glass opera “satyagraha”:-
    http://www.philipglass.com/music/compositions/satyagrahaDOTphp
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

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