Fighting hate. Even when it’s hard.

Fighting hate. Even when it’s hard.

I spent a long time deciding whether or not to post this. I don’t expect it will make my friends on the right or the left happy. But after reading a complete list of the murder victims of the Christchurch terrorist attack last week, I see something constructive (albeit small) that can be done.

So I’m addressing myself to two camps who don’t see each other as allies but should try to find more common ground—especially here.

Marketing Hate: Inside Identity Evropa’s Neo-Nazi Messaging

We don’t have to listen to every seminar or comb through the Slack logs of self-professed white supremacists (that sounds depressing), but we should take the time to understand their strategy and what it’s meant to accomplish so that we can do our best to make sure it’s not successful. Read more

Why we should teach girls (and boys) to be feminists AND individualists

Why we should teach girls (and boys) to be feminists AND individualists

“Free people trade. They form associations. They employ one another. They create communities. Even “atomized individuals” tend to form molecules.”Virginia Postrel

“It is thus that man, who can only subsist in society, was fitted by nature to that situation for which he was made. All the members of human society stand in need of each other’s assistance, and all are likewise exposed to mutual injuries.”Adam Smith

FEE recently published Why We Should Teach Girls to be Individualists Instead of Feminists. Unsurprisingly (sigh.) it has been doing exceptionally well on libertarian social media. But replace every instance of “feminist” in the piece with “Christian”, “Jew”, or “Muslim”, and it should quickly become obvious that a blanket condemnation of groups isn’t necessary or even helpful for libertarians.

The selective distaste for feminism among libertarians, even those who aren’t particularly conservative or right-wing, is not only inconsistent (normally a deal breaker for this particular coalition), it is ahistorical. See also here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and… look, you can use Google, right?

Feminism has been a part of liberalism for a very long time—including the radical liberalism that makes up much of the history of libertarianism—because liberals believe in the importance of the individual. There are feminists who reject or undermine the role of individualism. There are members of most groups who do so. But though libertarians might eventually convince feminists otherwise with enough indignant foot stomping, there’s nothing inherently collectivist about feminism.

What pieces like the one in question forget when they insist that there’s no place for something like feminism in libertarianism forget is that liberals also believe in the importance of groups.

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Biotech and repugnance

Biotech and repugnance

Re: MIT Technology Review: China’s CRISPR twins might have had their brains inadvertently enhanced.

Imagine there was a vaccine that pregnant women could get that would make their babies immune to HIV/AIDS, make their brains more resilient to suffering a stroke, and make it easier for them to learn and form memories.

We would rightfully regard someone who reacted with “visceral repulsion and sadness” to healthy, happy twin baby girls whose mother received this vaccine as, well, viscerally repulsive and sad. He’d be lumped in with hardcore anti-vaxxers and we’d all move on.

We would call for steps to make this vaccine universally available, but wouldn’t want it banned because not everyone would have access—after all, the distributional effects of new technology are something we can usually address. Almost all (all?) technology becomes democratized over time. It’s why Jeff Bezos’ phone is probably not that much better than yours, if it’s better at all. Read more

Hayek was not a conservative. Here’s why.

This post originally appeared on 22 April, 2016 at (Mostly) Free.

Hayek’s essay ‘Why I Am Not a Conservative‘ is often misremembered as a defensive claim that says conservatives are invested in traditions while liberals want to move forward, and since Hayek considers himself a liberal (in the original sense of the word), he does not want to be mistaken for a conservative. Because Hayek was an advocate of emergent orders who argued against remaking them wholesale, this argument would set him up to fail. But it’s not his argument.

‘Liberal’ and ‘conservative’ as they’re used colloquially don’t fit Hayek’s definitions. As political identifiers, both are increasingly vacuous. These terms need to be defined, not because one is good and the other is bad, but because both are useful. The essay isn’t mounting a defence, it’s setting out definitions.

If you could say to Hayek, “But you aren’t describing what conservatives believe now!” I think he might respond, “Of course not. That’s why I wrote the essay.” Conservatism has real meaning, but it doesn’t imply a timeless set of concrete policy proposals. Read more

Immigration and unicorn thinking

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There is a popular myth among some libertarians and many conservatives that restricting immigration is something that’s consistent with the ideals of small government. Immigration policy, they say, is about policing of the border and regulating foreigners, not about infringing on the property and individual rights of citizens. To the chagrin of some, I concede that this is a consistent belief for a libertarian to hold.

But it’s a belief based on “unicorn” policy, not reality. It’s akin to our friends on the left who believe in helping low-income people by raising the minimum wage. Consistent, but based on how they imagine it should work rather than on what both theory and experience suggest. The simple fact is that you can’t control immigration without controlling the citizens of a country. Read more

Bernier’s bad bet

Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

Maxime Bernier is taking a gamble. He believes that there is a large, disenfranchised voting bloc in Canada on which he can capitalise to form a new party that, he says, will focus on smaller, constitutional government that respects taxpayers and opposes economic favouritism—though he’s spent more time in the news for culture warring.

His gamble seems to be that the anti-immigration and anti-political correctness crowds to whom he’s been throwing bones will (a) make up a part, but not the basis, of his political coalition, and (b) be willing to make concessions on these issues to support a core mission of smaller, constitutionally restrained government.

Unfortunately for Bernier, if he’s sincere that this is his goal he’s made his gamble based on an out-of-date understanding of politics in Western countries. The political climate in which this was likely to succeed—the one in which Bernier has spent his political career—is changing.
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The wrong kind of anti-democratic

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has announced that it will cut the size of Toronto’s city council almost in half.

This odd decision (mid-election, it’s an expensive one) creates an opportunity to address an interesting quirk about Ontario’s right-of-centre party. Sometimes people will say something along the lines of, “LOL!! Progressive Conservative? Sounds like an oxymoron to me!”

A better understanding of early 20th-century politics, progressivism, and conservatism can show us why it’s not. It also helps us explore why the Ontario PCs might support smaller municipal councils and why doing so might be a mistake.  Read more

In Fostering Free Speech, Communication Is Key

The campus free speech debate is an important one, but it has unfortunately been hijacked by two opposing sides that hold two polarizing positions. On one side, there are the people who firmly believe speech can cause harm, and anything perceived to be hate speech must be shut down by any means necessary, including sometimes by violence. On the other side, there are people who firmly believe there is a free-speech crisis on campus led by post-modern neo-Marxists with the goal of shutting down only the speech they deem offensive.

Yet it’s wrong to see the free-speech debate as only containing two arguments. There is an alternative view. That view posits that there simply isn’t enough communication between those who take issue with offensive speech and prefer to shut it down, and those who believe “social justice warriors” are bringing about the destruction of free speech. Instead of actually speaking to one another, they shout, they break things, and they call each other names. They even accuse each other of contributing to the destruction of modern civilization, among other overly-dramatic claims.

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Ayn Rand, Donald Trump, and Lex Luthor Walk into a Bar…

What does the author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead have in common with a couple of garden-variety supervillains like Donald Trump and Lex Luthor? Well, if you haven’t actually read anything she wrote and are going solely by hearsay and conjecture, it’s easy enough to blame Ayn Rand for all the ills of the world. The truth of the matter, though, is that she was extremely concerned about morality, and gave the subject a great deal of thought. Critics may disagree with her conclusions, of course. But only if they have an accurate understanding of what they are in the first place.

Lex Luthor, for example, is not a Randian hero. He thinks he’s better than the rest of humanity and wants to rule the world as a consequence. He doesn’t much care whom he destroys as he claws his way to the top, either. And he has a particular hate on for that uppity alien, Superman.

In contrast, an Ayn Rand hero, while supremely confident in his or her abilities, simply wants to get value for value, exchanging goods and services for money in voluntary transactions, and has no interest in ruling anyone. A trader with a benevolent sense of life, he or she explicitly rejects the master-slave dichotomy, intent on meeting others as equals before the law. Rand furthermore wrote a scathing essay condemning racism as the lowest form of collectivism, and she would no more judge a person by the indestructibility of his skin than by its colour.

Donald Trump, for his part, despite having surely done some good through deregulation and tax cuts, has also done plenty of bad. To take just one issue, he could not be more wrong on international trade. Whether with your neighbour across the street or a stranger on the other side of the planet, unfettered trade is a positive-sum affair, with both parties generally coming out ahead. Open commerce furthermore spurs people to be more productive and innovative. Make it more difficult or expensive to trade—say, with a tariff—and everyone but the specific beneficiary loses.

Rand understood this perfectly, and in fact expertly dramatized the issue in Atlas Shrugged. That book’s protagonists are fighting for the freedom to engage in unfettered trade, while its villains are pleading for special favours and restrictions on their competitors, messing with the steel market specifically, in fact.

You don’t have to like Ayn Rand’s work. A lot of people find enormous value in it, myself included, but it’s not for everybody. Still, to make a useful contribution to humanity, as opposed to just parading one’s ignorance around for all to see, at least a passing familiarity with the object of one’s criticism is required. Anything less is just a joke.