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2012 February 05 Sunday
Troubled Youth: Mislabeling?

In our era when bad kids do bad things they are often referred to as troubled youth. This seems Orwellian. At Merriam Webster the first definition for troubled is "concerned, worried" and that's the definition I would expect. Since lots of youthful criminals are notably lacking in concern for others or worry about their own behavior I see the term "troubled youth" as basically misleading propaganda. They are trouble, not troubled.

The second definition, "exhibiting emotional or behavioral problems" seems more modern. When ideologues abuse a word for propaganda value eventually the dictionaries try to catch up. But the first evoking mental images centered around the original first meaning gives the propagandists their desired result.

By Randall Parker    2012 February 05 10:49 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2011 December 18 Sunday
OWS: Leftists Returning To Anarchy?

In a profile of Tyler Cowen by Patrick Corcoran in the Washington Diplomat Tyler takes a rather dismissive position on Occupy Wall Street. (the article's main focus is his "Great Stagnation" argument)

But on the Occupy Wall Street movement, he's equally dismissive. "It seems pointless to me. They don't know what they are doing, they don't know what they want."

While I wouldn't call Tyler a capital "L" Libertarian he certainly continues to be heavily influenced by libertarian thinkers. Yet while he'd like to see a reduction of government regulations in some areas I think it would be fair to say he doesn't see a libertarian utopia as feasible. On OWS his views are similar to my own. If there's something fundamentally wrong with the structure of American governance then the OWS people don't know what it is or how to fix it.

By contrast, Ray Sawhill finds the OWS movement much more appealing (and has visited them in NYC and talked with them for hours). He thinks it is constructive to be against something even if one doesn't propose a workable replacement. He points me to a piece by David Graeber in Al Jazeera (really) about how Occupy Wall Street is animated by an anarchist viewpoint. Now that the big wars and Cold War of the 20th century have ended anarchy as a leftist political program might be making a comeback.

Anarchism was also a revolutionary ideology, and its emphasis on individual conscience and individual initiative meant that during the first heyday of revolutionary anarchism between roughly 1875 and 1914, many took the fight directly to heads of state and capitalists, with bombings and assassinations. Hence the popular image of the anarchist bomb-thrower. It's worthy of note that anarchists were perhaps the first political movement to realise that terrorism, even if not directed at innocents, doesn't work. For nearly a century now, in fact, anarchism has been one of the very few political philosophies whose exponents never blow anyone up (indeed, the 20th-century political leader who drew most from the anarchist tradition was Mohandas K Gandhi.)

Yet for the period of roughly 1914 to 1989, a period during which the world was continually either fighting or preparing for world wars, anarchism went into something of an eclipse for precisely that reason: To seem "realistic", in such violent times, a political movement had to be capable of organising armies, navies and ballistic missile systems, and that was one thing at which Marxists could often excel. But everyone recognised that anarchists - rather to their credit - would never be able to pull it off. It was only after 1989, when the age of great war mobilisations seemed to have ended, that a global revolutionary movement based on anarchist principles - the global justice movement - promptly reappeared.

It is an interesting idea. One could argue that the era of wars built up the power of governments. World War II enabled the US government to implement income tax withholding that funded the post-WWII welfare state. But such a theory has to contend with Sweden that pretty much sat out the world wars and Cold War and yet still built up a huge state apparatus.

The late Christopher Hitchens was intensely leftist and yet, especially later in life, demonstrated strong libertarian leanings.

I had been interested in libertarian ideas when I was younger. I set aside this interest in the 60s simply because all the overwhelming political questions seemed to sideline issues of individual liberty in favor of what seemed then to be grander questions. I suppose what would make me different now is that I am much more inclined to stress those issues of individual liberty than I would have been then. And to see that they do possess, with a capital H and a capital I, Historical Importance, the very things that one thought one was looking for.


Karl Marx was possibly the consummate anti-statist in his original writings and believed that the state was not the solution to social problems, but the outcome of them, the forcible resolution in favor of one ruling group. He thought that if you could give a name to utopia, it was the withering away of the state. Certainly those words had a big effect on me.

Keep in mind that Hitchens was a bundle of contradictions. He is someone I wanted to meet and ask some hard questions. Too late now. But perhaps advances in neuroscience will some day explain why some people hold so intensely and invest so much in their faith, whether religious or secular.

So then is left libertarianism going grow in popularity? What about support for anarchy? Will the level of armed conflict between states get so low that human impulses for battle will focus more on battle with their own state?

Since my view of human nature is sufficiently dim I don't see anarchy as workable. We need The Leviathan to protect us against amoral predators.

By Randall Parker    2011 December 18 09:57 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (11)
2010 November 25 Thursday
Janet Napolitano Eyes More Places To Frisk You

If you thought that staying Earth-bound would allow you to avoid the Department of Homeland Security, well, not for long. The madness may spread.

I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime. So, what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?

Really, we are at great risk of getting on a commuter bus? Seriously? There's an anti-terrorist madness afoot where the Department of Homeland Security thinks its responsibility is to eliminate all terrorist threats regardless how remote the threat and how high the cost.

If the threat to our airlines is really as high as the government makes it out to there are easier ways to cut the risk. But our government refuses to keep Muslims from immigrating to the country and refuses to profile for young Muslim males most at risk of being terrorists. So TSA inspectors fondle or x-ray little children and old folks. This is an outrage born from political correctness. All are now suspects. All are seen as capable of thought crimes that could lead to actual crimes. Real causes of terrorism are ignored because all must be treated as equal in ways that would have puzzled the Founding Fathers.

By Randall Parker    2010 November 25 01:08 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
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