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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Two philosophies defended

Larry’s discussion of the different conceptions of capitalism and stateless society in his tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin reminded me of the discussions of capitalism and utopia in G.A. Cohen’s Why Not Socialism? and Jason Brennan’s Why Not Capitalism?

Cohen’s tiny book is a classic and an ambitious one. Though it barely clears 80 pages, it sets out to make the case that the utopia that we should wish for—even strive for—is a socialist one. As Brennan points out in his 99-page response, for many years Cohen’s opponents granted his claim that socialism doesn’t and can’t work, but if it could, and if we were good enough, it’s the morally best system to embrace.

Brennan makes it clear—more clear than Cohen does—that this is all Cohen argues for. He grants that the “design problem” of coming up with a workable economic system to replace capitalism might be one that we can’t overcome. All Cohen asks is that we want to overcome it, that we want to do better than capitalism. But this is ground that Brennan refuses to cede.
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Ursula K. Le Guin, An Appreciation

Ursula K. Le Guin. Meet-the-author Q&A session; Bookworks bookstore, Albuquerque, NM, USA; July 2004. Photo taken by Hajor, 15.Jul.2004. Released under cc.by.sa and/or GFDL.Ursula K. Le Guin did not care for capitalism.

What have I, a pro-market libertarian, to do with Ursula K. Le Guin, and what would move me to write an appreciation of her work?

Le Guin, who died last week at the age of 88, was an American novelist (her preferred designation) who mostly wrote science fiction and fantasy but also wrote poetry, “young persons’ fiction” and essays. Her novels won her five Locus, four Nebula, two Hugo, and one World Fantasy Award. Unsurprisingly she was also granted a number of lifetime achievement awards, all of them richly deserved. She was a feminist and an environmentalist, whose fiction pioneered themes of gender equality.

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Libertarianism: the Jaworski definition

Several years ago, Peter Jaworski sketched out a definition of libertarianism that I’ve since come to think of as the only workable definition. I’m reposting it from Facebook.

The definition was fleshed out in response to (yet another) debate—this time involving Stephan Kinsella, but replayed many times between many people—about who “counts” as a libertarian.

The old accusation was that someone who doesn’t base their morality on the non-aggression principle can’t be a true or at least not truly committed libertarian. This accusation is bound to rile up some anarchist consequentialist, but more importantly, purges from libertarianism figures as important as Hayek, Mises, and Friedman. Today there are others who would like to disqualify from libertarianism those who worry about such distasteful goals as pursuing economic nationalism or those with more mainstream views on border controls and immigration. I wouldn’t say that these people are part of the same political project as I am, but (alas) I don’t think their underlying reasons for smaller government disqualify them from the label.

This is the strength of Jaworski’s definition: it moves libertarianism away from purity tests and purges and instead allows for a sort of pluralism within libertarianism and accommodates the many different and even disparate missions that libertarians pursue. Read more