Rothbardians Cannot Consistently Support Increased Enforcement of Immigration Restrictions

The libertarian argument against open immigration, and in favor of increased efforts in keeping illegal immigrants from getting into the country, goes something like this: These illegal immigrants are mostly just unproductive leeches seeking to live the good life of an American welfare dependent. Since we native-born Americans, as taxpayers, are forced to pay for a whole host of social services, we can think of this set of social services (which includes, but is not limited to: public schools, hospitals, retirement funds, public roads, public parks, and so forth) as collective property owned by taxpayers. In other words, we taxpayers who have paid into the system have a greater claim to this property than do citizens of other countries who did not pay into this system. We can therefore treat this collective property as if it were private property, owned by the taxpaying aggregate, and we can therefore legitimately exclude those outside our group from entering the country and stealing our collective stuff.

Of course, these libertarians argue, in a perfect world, there wouldn't be any public (i.e. state-controlled) property, so there wouldn't be any need to exclude non-natives from crossing the border. But we don't live in a perfect world, so we have to make do with the options available to us. As long as public property exists, we must treat it as if it were private property collectively owned by taxpayers, and we do this by protecting the border.

Note that libertarians who oppose immigration use this argument not only to justify the status quo (i.e. keep the current level of immigration fixed), but go even further and argue for an additional crackdown to reduce the current level of illegal immigration.

So you can imagine how pleased I was to read the following on the LewRockwell.com blog:

Unfortunately, large chunks of the libertarian movement continue to ignore Rothbard's strategic insights, particularly the importance of never advocating increases in state power. For whatever short-term gains one may think one is making by watering down the libertarian message or accepting increase in state power A in exchange for reduction in state power B, is more than outweighed by long-term losses from, among other things, confusing the public as to whether or not libertarians really are consistent advocates of liberty.

The implication should be obvious. Regardless of whether you think the tradeoff is worth it, limiting immigration necessarily entails increasing state power, period. Whatever short-term gains one may think one is making, these gains are more than outweighed by long-term losses from, among other things, confusing the public as to whether or not libertarians really are consistent advocates of liberty.

Consistency, please?

Update: A few hours after writing this post, while researching a different subject, I came across an interesting tidbit in Bryan Caplan's intellectual autobiography. Apparently, great minds think alike.

I lost a lot of respect for Rothbard around 1990 when he reversed his lifelong support for free immigration. If anything ever deserved Rothbard's classic "monstrous!" denunciation, it is our "kinder, gentler" Berlin Wall built to keep people from living and working in the U.S. because they happened to be born elsewhere. Rothbard had always refused to justify one injustice with another, but overnight the welfare system became his rationale for cutting immigration below its already heavily restricted level. When Libertarian Party presidential candidate Ed Clark made the same argument in 1980, Rothbard was outraged, citing it as "probably the greatest (or perhaps the second greatest) single scandal of the Clark campaign":

Note, also, how Clark has been brought to this shameful point of having locked himself into a measured, prepared order of destatization. He has already asserted that we can't slash the welfare state until we have achieved "full employment"; he now adds that we can't have free and open immigration until we eliminate the welfare state. And so it goes; the "gradualists" lock us permanently into the status quo of statism.

Rothbard also noted the empirical weakness of Clark's position: "Undocumented aliens, including Mexicans, have not gone on welfare for the simple reason that they would have exposed themselves to arrest and deportation. These 'illegal' aliens, as in the case of most immigrants in the past, have proved themselves to be among the most productive, hard-working members of society. Clark kicks them in the teeth, and unjustly."

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"For whatever short-term

"For whatever short-term gains one may think one is making by watering down the libertarian message or accepting increase in state power A in exchange for reduction in state power B, is more than outweighed by long-term losses from, among other things, confusing the public as to whether or not libertarians really are consistent advocates of liberty."

I'm not confused about whether or not LRC is really a consistent advocate of liberty.

Burn!

Burn!

I never heard of Lew

I never heard of Lew Rockwell until I saw a bunch of posts at No Treason trashing it. There was so much trashing of Lew Rockwell at No Treason mostly written by somebody called Sabotta that I stopped reading No Treason, because it seemed like a complete waste of time for libertarians to trash other libertarians.

\\\"There was so much

\\\"There was so much trashing of Lew Rockwell at No Treason mostly written by somebody called Sabotta that I stopped reading No Treason, because it seemed like a complete waste of time for libertarians to trash other libertarians.\\\"

Then you should probably avoid Mr. Ghertner\\\'s posts.

My purpose here is not to

My purpose here is not to trash other libertarians (I agree with the argument made in this essay), but to pursuade certain people to change their minds. I think I have identified an inconsistency in maintaining two mutually exclusive beliefs: The Rothbardian strategy outlined in the linked post, and the belief that the current level of enforced immigration restrictions should be increased. My goal is to create a certain level of cognitive dissonance in these people's minds, and hopefully, they will address this dissonance by modifying their views on immigration, and not by rejecting Rothbard's political strategy.

Sorry no cognitive

Sorry no cognitive dissonance detected in my brain. I didn't lean towards libertarianism because I had the preset goal of eliminating all government, or not paying taxes, or not supporting wars. I did so because they made good arguments, and ones that could be generalized. Thus, I can read William Tucker on homelessness and housing policy and see how that applies to other price control schemes.

I do however have problems with Libertarianism. I think there is way too much faith in the movement that you can deduce the correct action without making a mistake. I have very little faith in the ability to use pure deduction to solve complex problems in the real world. People are fallible and often make mistakes in identifying the proper assumptions, making the proper deductions, predicting human behavior, weighing the factors properly, constructing the proper model, and simulating the chosen model properly. Because of these errors it is very important to verify against empirical data.

Often such verification is going on but the libertarian denies it. For example, Mises's idea of praxeology is claim to gain knowledge by pure deduction. There is absolutely no way that he deduced his entire system based on axioms the way he describes. The fact is that Austrian economic theory was developed over time and was taking empirical evidence into consideration, and adapting to that information.

It is disturbingly similarly to objectivism in this regard. Ayn Rand liked to claim that her stuff was made from whole cloth. A philosophy that was deduced from axioms. She was very jealous about giving credit to past thinkers. Her stuff was foundationalist and not open to empirical testing.

I believe that all knowledge is based on "trial and error". We tentatively guess at answers then correct based on feedback derived from checking it against reality. All information is gained on that basis. Even our discovery of inductive and deductive logic was gained via trial and error. Both we really hold as tentatively valid to use since they have yet to fail us. Even the idea that there can be no contradictions is a guess and one that so far we have not found a counterexample to.

Knowledge is merely well tested guesses. That even includes knowledge we gain from our senses since a process of trial and error, natural selection, produced our senses themselves. All knowledge is to some degree suspect and we should be open to the possibility of error should there be credible evidence that such error has occurred.

There are many processes that are utilizing this trial and error mechanism to discover information about the world. The main three are genetic, cultural evolution, and individual learning. Cultural evolution includes evolutionary processes occurring in religion, science, technology, the arts, social institutions, economic entities, political structures, law, etc.

These processes are well beyond the ken of any single individual. Even though the process of trial and error is fairly simple it is also extremely powerful. So powerful in fact that it's creations were observed by man and thought to have been created by an all-powerful god.

Now this whole issue of open borders immigration is something that was deduced by some libertarians from first principles, certain assumptions, and the belief that they have got the right model of human behavior.

On the other hand, open immigration is something that is a very rare cultural phenomenon. It would seem that our territoriality serves some purposes perhaps that we are not aware of. I think that it is clear that we know some purposes, which it serves. It retains cultural identity, prevents hostile invasion, prevents freeloading, allows for concentration of genes, allows for concentration of memes, and reduces transmission of disease and pests.

Screwing with this is fraught with danger. Doing so based on someone’s armchair deductions is reckless. We do not know the effects it will have but we do know that those results are not reversible once it has been done. We need to proceed with caution.

Now the full libertarian agenda has not been tried. It is similar to designing a brand new organism completely on paper. A set of genes being specified without any attempt at testing intermediate organism in a process of trial and error to get there. This is a fool’s errand.

Libertarian also seem to only concern themselves with the nucleic genes and not the protoplasmic environment and extra nuclear genetic information. They only concern themselves with the genetics of the political environment and it seems no consideration is given as to social and institutions, nor individual beliefs. It may just be that a certain sequence of nucleic information will not operate properly without matching protoplasmic and extra nuclear information. Thus we have the specter of newly capitalistic states not working because the individuals who populate them just don’t have the right cultural traits.

Open borders is about as drastic a move as one can possibly make. It is analogous to an attempt to do away with the genetic information that encodes for the cell membrane. Borders are a membrane that has held sway in one-way or another for recorded history. If not in the borders of nation states, at least in the tribal, clan and language borders that have existed in the past.

Cell membranes serve purposes very similar to those cultural boundary controls that operate in human culture. They keep the contents of the cell concentrated and unmixed with outside influences such as foreign genetic material, they protect sensitive contents from the environment, prevent invasion, protects internal resources from outside use. These are analogous to the know purposes for having closed borders.

The reason membranes arose is because genes, replicative entities, are competitive and must defend against the strategies of other genetic cooperatives. This is the same reason cultural borders arose, because cultures are competitive also. Any culture that hopes to survive the struggle must have some mechanism to prevent alien cultures from being parasitic or saprophytic, without preventing mutualism where beneficial. Cell membranes are not hermetic barriers and instead serve as gateways to control the flow of resources into and out of the cell.

I see open borders as a reckless attempt to discard the membrane without full consideration of what effect the flood of extra-cellular fluids will do to the cell. This is especially alarming given the fact that other cultures will not be opening their borders. Their cellular contents, resources and genes will be safely ensconced inside their membranes while ours will be open to plundering and hijacking of our genetic replicative apparatus. With absolutely no controls other cultures will be free to invade and exploit our resources to replicate their cultural heritage. Diluting ours in the process perhaps to the point of cultural failure. They will be free to attack and spy on us. They will be free to subvert our political process.

In the meantime we will have no leverage to spread our culture to their shores. There would be in effect a double standard regarding immigration. Many of these countries have in place very tight controls for eliminating foreign influence. These controls take many forms, criminalizing missionary work, arresting foreign agitators, blaspheme laws, death penalties for converts, uniform racial makeup, ideological persecution, etc.

If you are wrong and the west falls because of what is essentially Rome inviting in the Vandals (or was it Visigoths) then there isn’t going to be a second chance. That our culture evolved to this point was a long process and it was not done on an “open borders” agenda. Immigration was always controlled in one way or another, with a constant struggle against other cultures during the process.

I see the increasing of border control as similar to the repair of the cell membrane. If that requires the state to have more power then so be it. I was never against state power merely for the sake of being against state power in the first place. I was against state power where it did not make sense. States do not need to control prices, but they do need to provide defense and border control. So there is no cognitive dissonance on my part and I think you are playing with fire. Quite foolishly I might add.

Brian, your entire, lengthy

Brian, your entire, lengthy post, which I'm sure took you much longer to write than it took me to read, is one huge non sequitur. It's as if you were responding to a completely different argument than the one I presented above.

From what I can tell, the only claim I made is this: One cannot simultaneously believe in both Rothbard's political strategy as outlined in the linked post and also believe that it is okay to increase state power to keep immigrants from crossing the border.

In other words, it cannot be the case that both P and not-P are true. That is a contradiction. Contradictions are false.

No where in my post did I claim that logic alone can tell us everything we need to know about the world, without a need to make any empirical observations. All I claimed is that logic alone can tell us when a set of propositions is contradictory and therefore at least one of those propositions is false. If you deny that the previous sentence is true, I'm not really sure what to tell you, since a prerequisite for us to even have a conversation is that both of us speak in coherent sentences. If you choose to reject this, and instead speak in incoherent sentences, I might as well be conversing with the plaster on my wall.

So, to sum up:

1. Do you believe that Rothbard's political strategy as outlined in the linked post is correct; that is: Do you believe in the "importance of never advocating increases in state power"?

2. Do you believe that the U.S. government should excercize more power in preventing immigrants from crossing the border?

If you believe in only proposition 1 and not proposition 2, you are at no risk of suffering cognitive dissonance from this particular issue and my argument is not addressed to you. Similarly. if you believe in only proposition 2 and not proposition 1, you are at no risk of suffering cognitive dissonance from this particular issue and my argument is not addressed to you.

My argument is only addressed to people who believe in both proposition 1 and proposition 2.

Incidentally, if I were to

Incidentally, if I were to spend the time responding to your post, despite the fact that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand, I think I'd first start out by suggesting you replace every occurance of the phrase "open borders" or "open immigration" with the phrase "free trade of goods and services across borders" and see how much of your argument remains the same. I suspect you would find that all of your worries about the free movement of people apply in exactly the same way to the free movement of goods and services.

And then I suspect you might wonder what kind of person is so terrified by the prospect of free movement of goods and services across borders. You might then wonder if you are that type of person; if that set of beliefs coheres with the rest of your beliefs.

That might lead to some cognitive dissonance. But luckily for you, I'm not going to spend the time responding to your post, since it is off-topic in this thread, so your brain is safe for now.

Geez, Brian's strong point

Geez, Brian's strong point surely isn't brevity. Next time, feel free to plagiarize this version: "If people are allowed to cross borders, the results may not be to my liking. Therefore, the government should use violence to deter such border crossings."

Anyway, Micha, your remarks are spot on, but why do you think the Rockwell crowd will take them seriously this time? Lots of libertarians (The No Treason gang, Walter Block, Bryan Caplan, etc) have made libertarian arguments for open borders and the responses of the (otherwise very astute) Rockwellians have taken delibarate obtuseness to a new level.

I think there are lots of

I think there are lots of honest people among the "Rockwell crowd", as you call them, just as there are lots of honest people among the ARI crowd. The more we point out seemingly glaring contradictions, the more likely those who recognize cognitive dissonance within their own conceptual scheme will feel compelled to modify their beliefs. I have a hard time believing that there are so many people out there who are dishonest enough to tolerate cognitive dissonance without doing something to change it.

Micha, I think you've

Micha,

I think you've ignored Brian's answer. In fact he sidesteps your argument. Your argument was based on the assumption that the argument against open immigration is welfare - your argument was a variation of two wrongs don't make a right, with a cite from Rothbard to back you up. But Brian disproved your assumption. He has a quite different argument against open immigration, which involves an analogy to biological systems. Since your assumption was disproven, your argument was invalidated at least as it applies to Brian.

Brian even goes so far as to say flat out that "I do however have problems with Libertarianism." Obviously if that's his position then you can't use libertarianism as a stick to beat him into agreement with, as you're trying to do.

By the way I disagree with Brian. I'm for open immigration.

Brian, I can't convince you

Brian,

I can't convince you with brief words but I can explain why I am not moved by your arguments.

Your two main arguments, to put it briefly, are that open immigration is an untried crazy idea invented by libertarians who have their heads in the clouds and we should look before we leap, and that societies are like biological organisms that profit from having membranes to separate them.

I don't find either claim compelling. The US had very close to open immigration for a long time, then closed it down, and not, so far as I have been able to determine, for very good reasons, nor have I been able to discern any benefit to our society from the closing down of immigration.

I am exceedingly cautious about any analogy between societies and biological systems. Hasty analogy between societies and organisms is one of the wellsprings of collectivistic thinking. In fact it's hard to avoid collectivism if you think from such analogies, because the essence of an organism is that all its parts cooperate to a common end (its survival and reproduction), and so by applying the analogy you can hardly avoid carrying over to society concepts that are appropriate only to a whole whose parts cooperate to a common end. In a nutshell, I think such analogies are inappropriate more often than not, and so I avoid them. I think people use them because we understand organisms and we hope that we can carry over some of that understanding to societies, but really I think the analogy is more a source of error than a source of enlightenment.

Nor am I particularly impressed by societies that restrict foreign influence. North Korea does. Big whoop. And how has that worked out for them? It's worked out great for the dictator, whose slaves don't know what they're missing. Saudi Arabia does. And how exactly is the average Saudi benefitted by this? I'm sure the Saudi king is pleased by the uniformity that he has imposed, but I don't care about the king. The French protect the French language, or try to, from foreign influence. Again, how exactly is that something to admire or to want to copy?

Is American cuisine so wonderful that I want to protect it from being polluted by Indian cuisine or Chinese cuisine? Think so? Think again. And pass the double-cooked pork.

I think you’ve ignored

I think you’ve ignored Brian’s answer.

I think so too. In fact, I was pretty clear that I was going to ignore his lengthy response since it has little to do with my original post.

Your argument was based on the assumption that the argument against open immigration is welfare

No, my argument was not based on that assumption, though I can see in retrospect how readers might get that impression. I should have been more clear in my language: Instead of writing, "The libertarian argument against open immigration...", what I meant to write was, "One libertarian argument against open immigration..." (emphasis added).

My mistake was implying that there is one and only one libertarian argument against open immigration. I made this implication because this is in fact the one major argument that opponents of immigration associated with the Mises Institute use, and these Mises Institute critics happen to be the largest and most vocal example of libertarians who oppose immigration.

Of course, there is no way I would ever intend to or even be able to respond to all the possible (and, in my view, incorrect) arguments self-proclaimed libertarians might use against free immigration in a single blog post. And I don't think any reasonable reader who grants interpretive charity would expect that this impossible task is what I meant when I wrote the first sentence above.

Brian even goes so far as to say flat out that “I do however have problems with Libertarianism.” Obviously if that’s his position then you can’t use libertarianism as a stick to beat him into agreement with, as you’re trying to do.

That is clearly not what I am or was trying to do. I have no interest in discussing within this thread all of the possible arguments one could make in favor of immigration restrictions, especially not arguments coming from someone who wishes to distance himself from libertarian thought. My point, as stated repeatedly in the original blog post and my subsequent responses, has been and continues to be that this particular argument against immigration, which happens to be the one used by those critics associated with the Mises Institute, is incompatible with Rothbard's political strategy as outlined in the linked post.

If Brian, these critics, or anyone else who might suffer from this same contradiction, wants to distance themselves from either the first or the second proposition, or both, I say to them: Go in peace; this argument is not directed against you. This argument is only directed at those who did believe in both of these propositions, and my goal is simply to convince them to abandon one or the other. It is my hope that such a person would abandon the proposition that the U.S. government should excercize more power in preventing immigrants from crossing the border, and hopefully not abandon the proposition that Rothbard’s political strategy as outlined in the linked post is correct, but either choice is their prerogative, and either choice saves them from and excludes them from my criticism.

Constant, I agree with many

Constant,

I agree with many of your arguments. I am not for closed borders. I am however not for completely open borders either.

I will disagree with one thing however. We in fact did not have essentally open immigration. I do not see how you can say that, especially considering the experience of the Chinese. There were many positive economic effects in having a large number of immigrants come into a sparsely populated country. I am not so sure that still holds. There were also bad cultural effects. Socialism made broad progress in these immigrant classes and is part of the reason why the winds turned on our political experiment from classical liberalism to the welfare state.

I guess it all depends on what you consider "open borders". I don't consider allowing anyone to come who is willing to agree to learn and abide by certain social conventions being "open borders". Open borders to me means that anyone who can physically get here will be granted full citizenship on the mere issue that they found transportation.

Yes, using analogies can lead one into mistaken territory. One can look at an ant colony an make some serious mistakes as to how human society should be structured. Just because we do not act collectively in the way ant colonies do, or cells in the body, or genes in the cell that doesn't mean we act purely as individuals either. Unfortunately for some libertarian theory, the fact is that humans do act as collectives. I guess that is disagreeing with two things.

Is that an intentional

Is that an intentional Hofstadter reference in the title ("Lucas cannot consistently assert this sentence")?

Micha, I like Rothbard, I

Micha,

I like Rothbard, I really do. That doesn't mean I take his every word as infallible. I think his assumption that fractional reserve banking is always fraudulent with a grain of salt. Also, my goal isn't so simple as "reducing government". That's just silly. There are certain functions of government that I cannot do without and am not sure will work otherwise. Certainly any economic function that does not entail the use of force should not be handled by the government. This would vastly reduce the size of government, even if done simultaneously with increased border control (which in reality isn't done only or mostly at the borders).

I did go through a phase where I found Rothbard more compelling and might have been along side him accusing Friedman and the like as being "Socialists!". I'm not there now. If anything is going to give by your argument it is likely to be Rothbard worship. I'm certain Rothbard would call me a socialist at this point.

James, And you feel free to

James, And you feel free to use this argument:
"If the government is allowed any power, the results may not be to my liking. Therefore, the government should not have any power."

The reason I am lenghty on this issue is because Micha has in the past mapped all opponents arguments to racism. I believe that in the past I saw him claiming that all anti-open borders arguments were tantamount to racism.

I happened to like our society better than others. I certainly would not like to have a Mexican style society. I understand our society already is going to evolve in ways I cannot control. Just like the fact that my childrens lives will unfold outside my control. I think it reasonable however to want my children to be my own and not be cuckolded by some interloper. I have the same attachment to my culture, and do not want to see it supplanted by another utilizing it's own resources.

I can see the point of view from outside my perspective but that really doesn't help me. I am what I am. A rabbit may be able to see from a higher level perspective that the fox needs to eat too, but that doesn't mean he is willing to be the dinner. I am not going to be persuaded by the fox that I should be on the menu especially when he does not reciprocate and agree to being on the menu for the bear.

Other societies have mechanisms in place to preserve their own cultures. I don't see why I can have mine too. Anything else is a double standard.

Don't know what Micha was

Don't know what Micha was referring to, but such paradoxes remind me of this recently learned fact:

Chuck Norris can create a rock so heavy that even he can't lift it. And then he lifts it anyways, just to show you who the fuck Chuck Norris is.

Constant, Regarding the

Constant,

Regarding the North Koreans, Saudis, and French. The fact of the matter is that borders are doing their jobs in some of those cases. The problem is not with the borders protecting but what they are protecting.

It's as if you were arguing to me that I should do away with my skin because armadillos and worms have skins saying ".. and look at what lowly creatures they are". You are ignoring my point which is that armadillo skins protect armadillos, worm skins protect worms, and human skins protect humans. Yes, I would be pretty ugly if I took on the skin of the armadillo, but that's not the same as retaining my human skin.

No one enforces cuisine on the basis of borders so I don't have any clue why you brought that up. That is not the culture I am concerned with. Nor do I feel happy when a McDonalds is built in France. Likewise if I was French I wouldn't be concerned about wine. In fact, I am concerned that the opposite could occur under certain circumstances with open borders. If enough muslims invade European countries they might just outlaw pork.

Micha, Your defense is

Micha,

Your defense is baloney. Your article is about libertarians. That you have mistitled it is beside the point. In fact towards the end you use Rothbard to repremand Libertarians.

The implication should be obvious. Regardless of whether you think the tradeoff is worth it, limiting immigration necessarily entails increasing state power, period. Whatever short-term gains one may think one is making, these gains are more than outweighed by long-term losses from, among other things, confusing the public as to whether or not libertarians really are consistent advocates of liberty.

Consistency, please?

It's as if you titled your article "Goldfish can't swim" and then wrote a whole article saying "Fish can't swim".

Gentlemen, Neither one of

Gentlemen,

Neither one of you is fault---there simply was no meeting of the minds. Micha was writing about Rothbardians, Brian thought he was reading about libertarians in general. Misunderstanding, and nothing more.

Things would be best if you both recognized the other party as making an honest misunderstanding---and then moved on to more productive areas, since you're both too bright to waste time on squabbling.

Micha, Scott, Sorry, I

Micha, Scott,

Sorry, I should have phrased that more politely. I should have told you why I thought it was about libertarians and then stated "I hope you can see why I was confused". I don't always read the titles.

Whether I am a Rothbardian depends on how you define the term, and according to some I'm not a Libertarian either.

...and according to some

...and according to some I’m not a Libertarian either.

Then you're in good company. Welcome home.

It’s as if you were

It’s as if you were arguing to me that I should do away with my skin because armadillos and worms have skins saying “.. and look at what lowly creatures they are

No, my argument is not like that at all. My argument was that the "skins" were actively hurting the respective societies. They were not protective "skins" at all (for the societies). If anything they protected particular interests, and did so *against* the interests of others. It's the argument against protectionism all over again. Protectionism protects some industries against foreign competition, acts as a "skin" for them, but does so only by hurting the rest of society.

No one enforces cuisine on

No one enforces cuisine on the basis of borders so I don’t have any clue why you brought that up.

If you limit immigration from a country then obviously an indirect effect of this is to limit the cuisine from that country.

That is not the culture I am concerned with.

I'm not a mindreader. You said you were concerned with culture.

Macker, The argument you

Macker,

The argument you suggest, “If the government is allowed any power, the results may not be to my liking. Therefore, the government should not have any power.” is a mischaracterization of my position. My objection to government power is not based on a personal dislike of the consequences. As you admit, your opposition to immigration is.

James, Sure it is. Even

James, Sure it is. Even if you object on moral grounds. Ultimately, moral grounds come down to consequences, even if it's as small-minded as making it into heaven, or making yourself feel good. Why else would you desire to change the way things work if not for the consequences?

Micha, I have a hard time

Micha,

I have a hard time believing that there are so many people out there who are dishonest enough to tolerate cognitive dissonance without doing something to change it.

If someone's goal is to convince lots and lots of other people of the correctness of certain things (i.e., some sort of Rothardian revolution, libertarian evangelism) then it seems to me that the best way to do do that is to formulate effective arguments.

Given that the most effective arguments aren't the most rational (proof: converts via Catallarchy.com versus converts via the Reverend Moon), what's the best evangelical strategy? Seems to me the answer is to formulate irrational but persuasive arguments. And what's another word for putting forth an argument you recognize as being flawed yet persuasive?

Dishonesty.

So it seems like there's plenty of incentive for libertarian evangelists to ignore whatever cognitive dissonance you conjure up.

Given that the most

Given that the most effective arguments aren’t the most rational (proof: converts via Catallarchy.com versus converts via the Reverend Moon), what’s the best evangelical strategy? Seems to me the answer is to formulate irrational but persuasive arguments. And what’s another word for putting forth an argument you recognize as being flawed yet persuasive?

I don't know. I think truth tends to win out. Evolution's been accepted on a wide scale, most people realize the solar system's heliocentric and the Earth is flat.

Plus, you shouldn't be dishonest.

Given that the most

Given that the most effective arguments aren’t the most rational (proof: converts via Catallarchy.com versus converts via the Reverend Moon), what’s the best evangelical strategy?

Over the long term, rationality wins out. Progress wouldn't be possible otherwise. We'd still be living on the savannah.

the Earth is flat. Bullshit.

the Earth is flat.

Bullshit. There's mountains and stuff.

Over the long term,

Over the long term, rationality wins out. Progress wouldn’t be possible otherwise. We’d still be living on the savannah.

Yeah, but how much of that is from argument and how much of it is from something other than argument? People who use airplanes don't use them because a professor of physics convinced them that airplanes fly.

Yeah, but how much of that

Yeah, but how much of that is from argument and how much of it is from something other than argument? People who use airplanes don’t use them because a professor of physics convinced them that airplanes fly.

Not everyone needs to know the physics behind flight. But, rationality is what it took to discover the laws of physics and what enabled engineers to design planes in the first place, and what the average non-physics-knowing person uses when appraising the chances that his next flight will crash into the ocean.

If rationality didn't win out over the long term, we wouldn't have flight at all.

If rationality didn’t win

If rationality didn’t win out over the long term, we wouldn’t have flight at all.

Rationality had nothing whatsoever to do with the evolution of flight in birds. And it has less to do with technological advancement than one might suppose.

I wasn't referring to birds.

I wasn't referring to birds.

Wilde, Over the long term,

Wilde,

Over the long term, rationality wins out.

Only if there's feedback. On the savannah, ignoring reality means a quick death. In the market, making good decisions means making more money. In collective politics, making irrational decisions gets you the same government as making rational ones does - no feedback. Do you get a better President if you think hard about it?

Individuals don't bear the costs of their irrational political decisions, and so have little motivation to make rational decisions. That's why attractive nonsense sells in politics.

I wasn’t referring to

I wasn’t referring to birds.

I didn't say you were.

Scott, I don’t know. I

Scott,

I don’t know. I think truth tends to win out. Evolution’s been accepted on a wide scale, most people realize the solar system’s heliocentric and the Earth is flat.

Will truth win out in the 2008 election?

Plus, you shouldn’t be dishonest.

I'd say that making dishonest arguments is a vice. But vices are often hard to uncover in others.

That’s why attractive

That’s why attractive nonsense sells in politics.

It doesn't matter what people think, only what rules. Back when people thought the Earth was flat, it was still round. People thought socialism was going to bury capitalism, and it wasn't the rationality of capitalism's advocates that proved them wrong: it was the reality of capitalism itself. Capitalism survived and flourished, and Soviet socialism collapsed. Not because of any arguments anyone made, but because it was what it was.

Will truth win out in the

Will truth win out in the 2008 election?

Well, yes, in some sense. The man who gets elected is certainly not going to believe the world is flat, though I suppose he might be a creationist. At any rate, I think he'll believe more true things than the man who was elected two hundred years prior. And in two hundred years, if democratic elections are still around, I imagine the victor will know even more truth than the 2008 winner.

Regardless, I'm certainly not making the claim that in every situation the truth will win, otherwise I wouldn't have qualified my claim with a "tends to."

I'm not sure what Constant's arguing---but if the choice is between evolution and rationality, I'd bet on rationality making the quicker progress.

Brian, No, my objection to

Brian,

No, my objection to government power is not based on a personal dislike of the consequences. You've already embarassed yourself enough with your blood-and-soil rantings. Don't make it worse by attributing to me a view that I don't hold.

I’m not sure what

I’m not sure what Constant’s arguing

When the Allies won WWII, it was not by persuading Hitler with their superior wisdom.

WWII was a political contest

WWII was a political contest - between fascism and freedom. It was not won by winning a rational debate.

WWII was won in part by the

WWII was won in part by the superiority of capitalism, as was the cold war. Not by means of rational argument. I am sending these tiny comments out because the moderating software is acting up again.

Even though capitalism won

Even though capitalism won by means other than reason, it did not win on the basis of lies, but on the basis of real superiority. Similarly, the wings of birds evolve by means of natural selection, which does not involve rational debate. The wings of birds did not evolve by means of lies and deception. So the choice is not rational persuasion on one side versus lies and underhanded persuasion on the other. There is another mechanism for victory.

John, I agree with

John,

I agree with everything you say. But it's not all or nothing. There are degrees of rationality and irrationality. There is more feedback in liberal democracy than there is in dictatorship. Individuals with a knack for rationality and skepticism are much more likely to find it today than a hundred years ago. And even more will find it a hundred years from now. I'm pretty sure I won't be tortured or killed for my religious beliefs during my life. There'd be a decent chance I would have had I lived during the Middle Ages. It'd be a near certainly a couple of millenia ago.

The story of civilization is rationality slowly winning out over instinct.

The story of civilization is

The story of civilization is rationality slowly winning out over instinct.

Democracy isn't the conduit of rationality. People will put less thought into who they vote for than they will put into what to have for lunch.

Democracy isn’t the

Democracy isn’t the conduit of rationality. People will put less thought into who they vote for than they will put into what to have for lunch.

That's because lunch is a private good whereas good government is a public good. But even so, modern liberal democracies that allow for mixed-economies to exist in a system of pluralist government and separation of powers are wider conduits of rationality than any other type of government that has existed in the past. They may not be anything to write home about, but if we believe that degrees matter and shades of gray exist between white and black, they are better for the emergence of rationality than the governments that 99% of people who have ever lived were privy to.

James, You think that

James,

You think that attributing false statments to others makes things worse and yet here you are claiming I made a "blood and soil" rant. Something I never did. Which makes you a hypocrite. You have no clue, really. Is everyone who disagrees with you a Nazi?

Would it surprise you to learn that I was for open borders six years ago? I have since matured a little. I actually wouldn't mind lots more immigration if there were processes in place. Since you don't have a clue as to my full position on immigration you wouldn't know that would you.

There is not an ounce of racism in my position. I take great offense at your implication. This sadly is a standard tactic of people who cannot support their arguments. Godwin alert!

There are people of all races that share my cultural beliefs. I'm talking about cultural beliefs like not believing in this letter to the Lansing State Journal:

Islam or death

I read Le Roy Barnett's letter ("Muslims, speak up," June 26) about Muslims' opinion on Abdul Rahman's conversion to Christianity.

Islam is not only a religion, it is a complete way of life. Islam guides Muslims from birth to grave. The Quran and prophet Muhammad's words and practical application of Quran in life cannot be changed.

Islam is a guide for humanity, for all times, until the day of judgment. It is forbidden in Islam to convert to any other religion. The penalty is death. There is no disagreement about it.

Islam is being embraced by people of other faiths all the time. They should know they can embrace Islam, but cannot get out. This rule is not made by Muslims; it is the supreme law of God.

Please do not ask us Muslims to pick some rules and disregard other rules. Muslims are supposed to embrace Islam in its totality.

Nazra Quraishi
East Lansing

I don't think the West can sustain a large influx of such people and continue peacefully. It isn't because of their skin color. It's because of their beliefs.

Under other circumstances I might feel differently. I certainly wouldn't care about the issue if Islam was peaceful or if our southern neighbor didn't have historical claims on U.S. territory, and feelings of entitlement. I'm concerned about those kinds of cultural dynamics, among others.

I'm familiar enough with Libertarianism to know the standard arguments against government power. They are all depend on consequences. In fact you are going to have to be very imaginative to come up with one that isn't regardless of your political bent. Obviously, you can't put your money where your mouth is. You can't prove that my summation of your position was equally valid as yours of mine.

I care about consequences, so what. It's quite a different thing to imply I am a racist. I now think you are a intellectual weakling who has to resort to bullying.

Wilde, I agree with

Wilde,

I agree with everything you say. But it’s not all or nothing. There are degrees of rationality and irrationality.

But if your goal is political change via persuasion, you're no better off politically by offering good arguments as opposed to bad ones. In fact you'll probably see better political results in your lifetime by offering bad arguments. Spooner is obscure, Marx is famous.

I'm only saying that libertarian evangelists have a huge temptation to use bad arguments, because bad political arguments work better than good ones, and thus I'm unsure that Ghertner's going to convince much of anyone to drop their contradictions.