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Thursday, June 12, 2008 - 9:59amSanction this postReply
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Dr. Machan,


Thank you for this excellent and highly relevant article. The resurgent menace of collectivism needs to be opposed with all available intellectual resources.

 

Your article served as an inspiration for a brief commentary of mine on “The Threat of Collectivism in Our Time.” I hope that it will further inform the public of what we stand to lose if the collectivists’ agenda is realized.

 

Sincerely,
Gennady Stolyarov II
Editor-in-Chief, The Rational Argumentator: http://rationalargumentator.com
Writer, Associated Content: http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/46796/g_stolyarov_ii.html
Author, The Best Self-Help is Free: http://rationalargumentator.com/selfhelpfree.html      
Author, The Progress of Liberty Blog: http://progressofliberty.today.com/       




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Post 1

Thursday, June 12, 2008 - 3:10pmSanction this postReply
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Rebranding the Emperor's Couture

This "positive liberty" nonsense and other such pseudo-ideas as "intelligent design" (creationism) and "affirmative action" (race preferences) are not in any way new ideas, nor are they even meant to be taken seriously as new ideas. Everyone knows that this so-called positive liberty is the same as welfare, big government, the "new deal," the "four freedoms," the "square deal." A raw deal for all - except for the paid advocates of socialism and those who expect to distribute and pocket its largesse.

We know and they know that this is the same old socialism that has been advocated for the last two decades, the last two centuries, the last two millennia, the same panem et circenses that the Roman dictators used to buy off the mob in order to seize and retain power. There is nothing new under the sun.

The real point in rebranding these policies is to smother us in double-talk.

Okay, they will admit, Hillary Care a la 1993 was a bad idea. But we really do need some sort of blah blah blah...

They expect to win by default. They expect the advocates of liberty give up in disgust at the pseudo-idea tsunami they unleash, unendingly, wave after wave, burying us in mental rubble against which we no longer wish to struggle. Picture Obama's undertaker smile as you read this.

When I hear such ideas, my mind says "been there, done that" and I just want to change the channel. It's the MadTV Vancome Lady method of success. The liberals will never shut up. One can only take so much. Thanks, Tibor, and the rest of you who never tire of pointing out how this years' line of new emperor's clothing is just as invisible as the last.

(Edited by Ted Keer on 6/13, 11:49am)




Post 2

Friday, June 13, 2008 - 5:08amSanction this postReply
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TIbor -- great article. Would you mind if I posted this article with attribution the next time this notion of "positive liberty" is raised by one of the statists infesting Reason.com?

And, of course, sanctioned it.

And another sanction to Ted for mentioning Obama's "undertaker's smile", though I would note that the same dismayed feeling comes over me watching McCain in action (inaction?)



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Post 3

Friday, June 13, 2008 - 10:49amSanction this postReply
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 While I agree with what you're arguing for, I disagree with the way you did it.

I, like you, am an opponent of collectivism. I feel, however, that we do ourselves a disservice by simplifying or misrepresenting such beliefs, which I feel you did. You effectively lumped all forms of collectivism together with all believers in positive rights. Ironically enough, collectivist groups have very different beliefs and arguments. Consider that both anarchists and the far left socialists use arguments of positive liberty.

"collectivists, people who believe we all belong to one large group and everyone must pull together to make everyone get what he or she needs or wants. Never mind consent!"

There are several counter-examples here. Most Marxist groups and several other groups favor communal ownership to varying degrees by common consent – meaning that it is purely voluntary.

"Individuals are a fiction, anyway, the story continues."

Come on, this is a straw man. I would say that an extremely small minority of people arguing for positive liberty or collectivism in the United States hold this belief. It may be more common in other parts of the world, like Asia, but the positive liberty argument is rarely used explicitly in such cases. It bothers me that we are so quick to call out flaws in how our philosophies are represented by others, yet we fail to offer others a fair representation.

The first step to a credible argument is an accurate representation of the other side, which you failed to offer. I am certain that someone more passionate about collectivism could show more examples of how you misrepresented their beliefs. What follows in your argument has value, but is ultimately hollow.

As a side note, it also bothered me that you classify the "American Founders" as if they had only one idea. This is a mistake that is commonly made; to turn such a diverse group of thinkers into a single entity shows a lack of understanding.

Edit:  To show quotations more clearly

(Edited by Joseph Funk on 6/13, 10:51am)




Post 4

Friday, June 13, 2008 - 12:23pmSanction this postReply
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Applause, Dr. Machan !



Post 5

Friday, June 13, 2008 - 1:06pmSanction this postReply
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It's sad that such dogmas are the default position that most people in so-called intellectual circles take, because if such ideas were the default centuries ago when Leonardo Da Vinci or any other thinkers were puzzling over their own works they probably would have never been made or investigated at least. The very idea of obligated "liberty" on the back of another is something that has the tone of something quite sinister since it's the implicit 'nod' to human sacrifice that many thousands of years ago was found to be sickening to our ancestors. Yet, in this new package of new words in bright lettering and snazzy slogans it's being treated as a moral good. Human sacrifice a moral good, I never thought I would see that in a sentence today. Clearly it's wrong, it's just the fact that others think it right is what leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

-- Brede



Post 6

Friday, June 13, 2008 - 2:07pmSanction this postReply
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Inaction? Jim, did you miss TCM's recent showing of Machine Gun McCain?

I am no McCain supporter, but now is the time to let Senators Harpy of NY and Sphinx of IL continue making their own side look bad. McCain should just come up with a good VP, some unassailable campaign pledges, and sit back and watch the Dems get themselves in trouble.





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Post 7

Friday, June 13, 2008 - 5:21pmSanction this postReply
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Just to rebut one thing, Marx believed that there will be no room for anything like consent in the world of the new man. The new man will automatically contribute only to the public good, will be, like ants or termites, a public interest machine (with intelligence) . And Marx believed that the individual is but a fiction but a necessary one that the bourgeois ideology devised so as to advance capitalist production until socialist production will take its place.



Post 8

Friday, June 13, 2008 - 7:58pmSanction this postReply
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Machan,

Thank you for clarifying that point.  I didn't mean to imply that Marx himself held or did not hold any ideas, and representing Marxism was not the purpose of my post.  I was mostly just taking issue with the unwarranted and unjustified blanket statements, stereotypes, and straw men.  Thanks for helping us avoid any confusion there.




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Post 9

Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 3:46amSanction this postReply
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Pretty strong words, these: "I was mostly just taking issue with the unwarranted and unjustified blanket statements, stereotypes, and straw men." I do take issue with the claim, implicitly made, that what I wrote included "unwarranted and unjustified blanket statements, stereotypes, and straw men."   



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Post 10

Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 4:30amSanction this postReply
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I was mostly just taking issue with the unwarranted and unjustified blanket statements, stereotypes, and straw men.


Translation - the real world..... your claim of what socialism is - is fantasy, the propaganda pushed to justify ignoring the reality of it......




Post 11

Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 5:08amSanction this postReply
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A different, individualistic concept of positive liberty (called material liberty) is put to work here.

 

A discussion of the distinction between positive and negative rights is to be found

here and here.




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Post 12

Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 8:03amSanction this postReply
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Joe F., harping on the issue of misrepresentation, misrepresented Marxism when he said:
I, like you, am an opponent of collectivism. I feel, however, that we do ourselves a disservice by simplifying or misrepresenting such beliefs, which I feel you did. ...

Most Marxist groups and several other groups favor communal ownership to varying degrees by common consent – meaning that it is purely voluntary.


Dr. Machan, noting the misrepresentation of the avowed anti-misrespresentation champion (Joe F.), said:
Just to rebut one thing, Marx believed that there will be no room for anything like consent in the world of the new man. The new man will automatically contribute only to the public good, will be, like ants or termites, a public interest machine (with intelligence) . And Marx believed that the individual is but a fiction but a necessary one that the bourgeois ideology devised so as to advance capitalist production until socialist production will take its place.

Then, Joe F. back-peddles with:

I didn't mean to imply that Marx himself held or did not hold any ideas, and representing Marxism was not the purpose of my post.
Translation:

I would like to be able to criticize you without holding myself to that same high standard. I would like to be a reproacher-above-reproach. Can't I just throw fables and truisms at you with a sense of self-righteous superiority, and not have to be held intellectually accountable myself? After all, I'm just "one small voice" (of reason), right?

Joe, advice is worth what you pay for it. That said, here's mine (free of charge): Get your house in order and dusted-out before "inspecting-with-impunity" the creations of others -- with this kind of a sergeant's "white glove test." Judge, but prepare to be judged. Don't cop-out like you did when you said that your mis-representation grievance doesn't apply to you. I agree with the general truism you bring up about representation of others views (I wrote my first article about it). I disagree with your shoddy method here, though.

Ed
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 6/14, 8:25am)




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Post 13

Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 8:24amSanction this postReply
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Dr. Machan,

But it used to be understood, maybe still is normally, that to get this kind of freedom or liberty one needs to earn the funds to pay instead of take it from other people by way, of say, taxation. But that is now challenged by the idea that what we lack but need or want is something we are entitled to from others and governments exist to serve us by obtaining it all from these others and they have no say in the matter.

Government as a means to violate individual rights! What a concept! Entitlement is the historical trend -- e.g., kingships, lordships, nobles, serfs, paupers, princes, castes, annointeds, etc. -- to which American government was created as an antithesis. Aristotle, Aquinas, Grotius, Locke, and Paine all had the intellectual where-with-all within them to note that man freely forms associations like governments for the purpose of improving his general environment, not for making it worse off for some folks (and better for others). Making it worse off for some while better for others is the lion-eat-gazelle jungle-law that we transcended, when we freely formed our government here in this country. Collectivists can't (or won't) see that truth.

 

Individual rights are nothing but periodic grants of the group to some members if there is public benefit from it.  Even freedom of the press is defended this way by many political thinkers—people have it only because it advances the public interest! Indeed, by this view one’s rights come from the government instead of, as the American Founders held, the government serves us by securing the rights we have by virtue of our human nature.

Great point about the hazards of justification via mere instrumental benefit and individual and public interest (utilitarianism; or unprincipled consequentialism) -- with no regard for the nature of man.

 

And, normally, when such help of the needy is forthcoming, those who extend it are given thanks. But when others do not interfere with us, do not murder, assault or steal from us, no th[a]nks are due! That’s because we have the right to live and be free and this freedom is not some gift from other people we need to be grateful for.

What a great way to bring this point into a common perspective!

 

Ed




Post 14

Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 3:43pmSanction this postReply
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On Cabbages and Kings

In the Indo-European tradition, the king served two early and one later purpose. Originally kings (reges) were high priests, and they were commanders-in-chief in time of war, but otherwise they were equals, not ruling by birthright, and their word was law only so long as they could convince others to follow them. There was no oriental despotism. This was so with the Celts, the Germans, and the Romans.

Later, especially in feudal times, the right of appeal to the king was a brake on the power of the nobility, a defense for the commoner against his lord. This function can even be seen in St Paul's appeal to be tried by the Emperor, rather than the local strongman.

The divine right of kings was an oriental idea, one that gained currency only late in the Empire and again only late in early modernity when Charles I in the 1600's and the Bourbon Kings of France tried to rule without the approval of parliament.

If one thinks of the common men as cabbages, and the petty nobility as cattle eating the cabbages, a lion eating the cattle can be the champion of the common man.

(Edited by Ted Keer on 6/14, 3:44pm)




Post 15

Sunday, June 15, 2008 - 12:55amSanction this postReply
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It is thrilling to be sent to an on line encyclopedia on the topic of rights and find that nothing one wrote on the topic is mentioned or listed in the bibliography, even though one wrote the pretty comprehensive “Some Recent Work in Human Rights Theory,” American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 17 (1980), 103-115." and two books on the topic.  Just goes to show you how one's hard work manages to reap fruit, even among like minded folks.



Post 16

Sunday, June 15, 2008 - 1:56amSanction this postReply
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Tibor, I have a rule of thumb. If the index mentions Rawls, but not Rand, the book is not worth buying. Don't take it too bad, since Rand herself is just about never mentioned in any general work on philosophy.



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Post 17

Sunday, June 15, 2008 - 4:19pmSanction this postReply
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I must 2nd Joe Funk's point that the founding father have been mashed into a multi-headed, single-bodied entity, cherry picked to high-heaven to make conflicting messages seem aged in fine oak.  This idea has been on my head for some time.

How can we possibly bridge the Hamilton-Jefferson debates into a single ideology?!  Indeed, it is almost just as silly to think of Jefferson as perfectly represented by a belief system.  We need not make history a cartoon if our ideas stand on their own.

This fiction is usually summoned by the modern conservative movement.  And needs to lie dead along side McCain's political career.




Post 18

Sunday, June 15, 2008 - 10:31pmSanction this postReply
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More on my thought in post 17.

You can always spot a victim of conservative propaganda when, having asked if you've ever read the founding documents, they hand you a pocket sized copy of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.  "What, no Federalist Papers?"  It's too common a belief that the founders' vision was so clear and unanimous.  One I held for a long time.

These were noble documents for sure.  But they have no privileged status as more foundational than some other writings that helped pass the Constitution.

If memory serves, wasn't there some debate over slavery during the constitutional convention?  Romanticizing the founders-all is surely too generous if I'm correct.




Post 19

Sunday, June 15, 2008 - 10:37pmSanction this postReply
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What, no Federalist Papers?"

Even moreso - "What - no Anti-Federalist Papers???"




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