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The First Church of Mises

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Clayton Posted: Sat, May 5 2012 11:55 PM

tl;dr - Jump down to the end

OK, I watched a bunch of lectures by Daniel Dennett today and I'm kind of steamed up. Dennett has some of the most astounding insights on the nature of human society, religion and so on but he also has this amazing blind-spot toward his employer, the State.

In one lecture I watched, Dennett speculates on ideas for how atheists might go about replacing religion - or at least the objectionable parts of religion while keeping the good parts - with a credible alternative. At the conclusion of the talk, he holds up the TED conferences as an example of an organization with amazing success in simply spreading truth. My view of the LvMI is every bit as high.

But there's something missing in the LvMI. Its primary focus is academic - which is great as far as it goes. But it doesn't go far enough. What I believe is needed is an organization that reaches out to the masses in a direct form, in the way that churches do by providing regular instruction and community interaction.

In another talk, Dennett discusses folk tunes and words as "undomesticated memes" - they serve no particular purpose except their own existence and they are indifferent to the ends of individual humans. These are different from memes such as religious beliefs which can induce the bearer of the meme to sacrifice his own ends and serve other purposes, much in the same way that a parasitic virus can drive its host to suicidal actions that serve the reproductive purposes of the virus but are detrimental to the survival of the host.

Curiously, Dennett never mentions the parasite par excellence - the State. Unlike the State, churches do not tax you, and those that do always do so with the assistance and cooperation of the State, essentially making them just another organ of the State. Taxation is obviously parasitic and clearly distinguishable from other forms of transactions in which all parties to the transaction willingly agree to enter into it. (We can nitpick over the gray areas of private monopoly privilege and the extent to which that removes the de facto voluntariness but the core issue of what is really voluntary versus involuntary remains crystal clear).

But these are all purely analytical considerations. Part of my interest has to do not only with how we know what is good for us but how we feel it, as well. One of the roles of religion is to act as what Dennett terms a "moral team" - it's a group of people who "believe in" a set of values. In this way, one's value are not only analytically assented to but they are also viscerally felt.

Most people are not moral philosophers, so they do not spend a lot of time reflecting on what constitutes good versus evil. That is, they are not specialists in morality. The decision to belong to any given moral team is largely based on other factors - prior membership of one's family or friends, good PR, reputable and famous teachers, good slogans, and so on. These are the "packaging" on the product. What's inside isn't always what was advertised but the point is that people do not choose their "moral team" on the basis of weighing the product itself so much as the packaging.

Also, I think that we can tend to underestimate the extent to which "gut feeling" is the real determining factor in our choices. Even if you carefully study a menu at a restaurant on one visit, that is no guarantee that you will study it as carefully every time, or that you studied all the menuse of all the available restaurants in the area before making a purchasing decision, and so on. We're always acting on incomplete information and the "gut instinct" plays a role in providing heuristics in that information vacuum that keep us from making really bad mistakes almost all of the time.

The only correct basis for methodical decision-making is individual self-satisfaction. But what satisfies us is not solely or even mostly a function of internal factors within the self. The state of satisfaction itself is completely subjective but the conditions which bring about satisfaction are not solely or even mostly internal. The conditions of satisfaction may be amenable to conscious influence to a degree but the majority of the conditions for satisfaction lie outside of the self. In fact, they reside mostly within the social order itself.

How we expect people to respond to our own actions (versus how they actually do respond) is the single largest component in determining our state of satisfaction. This can be seen to be true by following the preconditions required to eat your breakfast. At every step of the way, you must interact with someone and you must please them well enough that they will render a service to you in exchange - such as the sale of groceries or the writing of a paycheck.

But feeling what is the correct path to attaining one's satisfaction is even more difficult than analyzing it. If you spend enough time analyzing the problem, you will probably come out with pretty decent answers. The only trouble is that the majority of your life will be consumed with such analysis, which is a very high cost to avoid mistakes that could probably be avoided much more cheaply.

One of the primary ways that humans learn is by emulation of their peers. Churches definitely provide this sort of instructional environment. You don't have to study the Bible to get the gist of what kinds of actions are desirable or undesirable for the Christian believer. Even if you were from a culture where there was nothing like organized religion, all you need to do is watch and learn, listen and imitate and you will be up to speed in very short order.

The only problem is that most churches inculcate really bad values - that is to say they inculcate statist value systems. In particular, they teach moral systems that are parasitic memes, moral systems that teach you that your satisfaction is the worst possible basis on which to make decisions - the exact opposite of reality.

Dennett never explicitly identifies the State as a culprit in memetic engineering and I remain perpetually mystified as to why Dennett/Dawkins/etc. lay the blame for wars on religion when it is obvious that the generals and Presidents are the immediate organizers of war.

Another role that these "moral teams" perform is filtration of the wider culture. The vast majority of cultural memes are at best deadweight - they may not be detrimental to you but they are not enhancing to your well-being, either. Organizations like the LvMI help perform this filtration at a scholarly level but we also need filtration of the popular culture and this function is best performed by the laity itself - movies, music, etc. recommendations or un-recommendations.

This is a point that I think a lot of secularists get completely wrong. In their campaign against State censorship, they forget that the vast majority of the media that is produced is deadweight and much of it is toxic and harmful. Ecumenism as a matter of policy is fine but not as a matter of social order. We need a "membrane" that pulls in nutrients and pushes the waste out.

(tl;dr) This brings me to the First Church of Mises. Obviously, the title is facetious but I think a case can be made for an organization which retains some of the attributes of religion - regular moral instruction, singing and community events - and dispenses sound moral instruction. What is sound moral instruction? Basically, the working out of the consequences of Epicurean/Misesean ideas on the only correct basis of decision-making: one's own satisfaction.

This meme - that one's own satisfaction is the only correct basis for decision-making - is to the mainstream moral dogmas of self-sacrifice, obedience and subjugation as the body's T-cells are to a viral infection. That is, it acts as an immune response that confronts and destroys the parasitic memes that drive suicidal (what I term 'self-treacherous') actions within their hosts, such as the enthusiastic payment of taxes or zealous obedience to commands from self-appointed authorities.

But academic instruction or even popular media are not sufficient to really inculcate this meme into the public at large. What is needed are flesh-and-blood organizations - communities - that meet face-to-face and reinforce these values through ordinary social mechanisms so that they are felt as well as realized intellectually.

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bloomj31 replied on Sun, May 6 2012 12:12 AM

I actually read this whole post.

Are you a religious person Clayton?

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Clayton replied on Sun, May 6 2012 12:18 AM

@bloomj: Not any more. I was raised devoutly religious, however.

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Clayton, are you familiar with Robert Nisbet? He argued that much of the influence of the state arose from the rise of individualism which broke apart the communities of former times and ultimately resulted in their replacement by statism rather than actual individualism.  It seems that you are arguing with him that in order to eliminate the destructive, false community of the state, it is firstly necessary to create healthy communities based on evolving knowledge and customs conducive to well-being.  This is also very close to the thought, for example, of Anthony de Jasay.  The question is, how is such a community developed?

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Clayton replied on Sun, May 6 2012 2:12 AM

Clayton, are you familiar with Robert Nisbet? He argued that much of the influence of the state arose from the rise of individualism which broke apart the communities of former times and ultimately resulted in their replacement by statism rather than actual individualism.  It seems that you are arguing with him that in order to eliminate the destructive, false community of the state, it is firstly necessary to create healthy communities based on evolving knowledge and customs conducive to well-being.  This is also very close to the thought, for example, of Anthony de Jasay.  The question is, how is such a community developed?

I've heard of Nisbet and I began reading de Jasay's The State but had to put it down due to time constraints (work, side projects, family life).

I absolutely believe that individualism can be of a virulent, anti-family/anti-community type that breaks down the social fabric and renders the individuals - deprived of the natural safety net of family and genuine friends - vulnerable to systematic predation by the State.

As for the question of how, I think there are two routes, analogous to those being pursued in politics by LvMI on the one hand, and Ron Paul on the other.

The first (high) route would be to found an institute whose stated purpose and goal is to seed such community organizations from scratch. This institute could do facilitative things like creating online Meetup groups, publishing information on how to rent facilities and file for 501(c)3 status (although this potentially has speech-muzzling implications), "ordaining" speakers/activists (reputation network), and so on.

The second route would be to found a "theological LvMI" and simply "infiltrate" existing religious organizations, particularly those that are already liberalized to some extent (e.g. some Lutherans, Anglicans, etc.) As long as this "infiltration" is not covert - ala the Jesuits - it is not insidious. I think the Reconstructionists have pursued this strategy to an extent; I don't know about their level of success but I find their ends to be dubious anyway (sorry Gary North, Rushdoony, et. al.) as they are not so much anti-state as anti-this-state, which is not very remarkable. Probably the closest thing to this kind of anti-statism through a theological/religious-people's movement was that led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I think his death is a testament to just how effective this strategy could be in the right hands.

As for religiosity itself, I am not atheist. I don't think that atheism is a prerequisite to anti-statism; many of the anti-statists I talk to seem to feel this way. Neither do you need to be anti-religion. In fact, I find anti-religionism puzzling since religion that isn't monopolized by the State is voluntary, even if quirky. You don't even have to be anti-Christian except that a lot of Christian dogma is anti-historical, which is difficult to reconcile with a creed of honest truth-seeking - but there is a long and somewhat suppressed (in Germany, Austria's neighbor) traditional scholarship called the Higher Criticism that was reforming Christian dogma through the application of scholarly historicism. The interpretation of the Higher Criticism as atheistic is mistaken. The founder of the Tubingen School was himself a theologian. Maybe that's just what we need - a Baur Institute... :-P And note that - just like the Austrian School of economics - the Higher Criticism is not dead, it's just been marginalized for a very long time.

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In fact, I find anti-religionism puzzling since religion that isn't monopolized by the State is voluntary, even if quirky.

I'm more specifically anti-judaism-islam-christianity, which are harmfully stupid.  Voluntary stupidity is not redeeming.  "Quirky" is something like drinking juice with several straws.

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After watching these Dennett videos you posted, I have to say I'm thoroughly confused.  He missed the most important aspect of my relationship with God and that is the awareness and fear of my own mortality.   Such a crucial aspect of so many religions in general and my experience of God in particular, I'm amazed he never talked about it once.

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Clayton replied on Sun, May 6 2012 2:30 AM

Accustom yourself to believing that death is nothing to us, for good and evil imply the capacity for sensation, and death is the privation of all sentience; therefore a correct understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not by adding to life a limitless time, but by taking away the yearning after immortality. For life has no terrors for him who has thoroughly understood that there are no terrors for him in ceasing to live. Foolish, therefore, is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer.

But in the world, at one time men shun death as the greatest of all evils, and at another time choose it as a respite from the evils in life. The wise man does not deprecate life nor does he fear the cessation of life. The thought of life is no offense to him, nor is the cessation of life regarded as an evil. And even as men choose of food not merely and simply the larger portion, but the more pleasant, so the wise seek to enjoy the time which is most pleasant and not merely that which is longest.

- Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus ca. 300 BC

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That really doesn't answer why he doesn't even talk about it.

He talks about other aspects of religion such as his analogy of the dog barking at the roof.  

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He missed the most important aspect of my relationship with God and that is the awareness and fear of my own mortality.

Just wait a few more decades for gene therapy.wink

What is needed are flesh-and-blood organizations - communities - that meet face-to-face and reinforce these values through ordinary social mechanisms so that they are felt as well as realized intellectually.

That is not a novel idea.  The problem is getting outsiders into it.  But, it does happen at events like LSS and Bureacrash.  There are even *gasp* females at such events.

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Clayton replied on Sun, May 6 2012 2:40 AM

He talks about death a little here:

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singing

The foolish man built his house upon the Fed...  the foolish man built his house upon the Fed....  the foolish man built his house upon the Fed, and the interest rate came tumbling down.

Oh, the interest came down and the inflation went up...

"The history of the world is the history of the triumph of the heartless over the mindless." - Sir Humphrey Appleby
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Most powerful aspect of religions is fertility and demography. You can see it on Mormons, Amish and others who have high fertility and retention rates, they just grow. We really need a Libertarian natalist-movement, that would secure the triumph of liberty.

-- --- English I not so well sorry I will. I'm not native speaker.
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Clayton replied on Sun, May 6 2012 12:00 PM

The foolish man built his house upon the Fed...  the foolish man built his house upon the Fed....  the foolish man built his house upon the Fed, and the interest rate came tumbling down.

Oh, the interest came down and the inflation went up...

Oh man, that really made me lol - apologies to any of you that didn't go to Sunday School and thus won't get the joke.

In one of those lectures, Dennett talks about the insipid quality of many of the Universal Unitarian hymns which use the old tunes and meters but replace the words with dull, wooden knock-offs.

Probably better would be to pay bands to come and perform but not to "put on a show" so much as to encourage people to sing along and dance. We've all but lost our folk tunes which is a very dangerous place to be in. While the vast majority of music is naturally apolitical, the power of political satire in folk music is astounding:

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Clayton replied on Sun, May 6 2012 12:41 PM

We really need a Libertarian natalist-movement, that would secure the triumph of liberty.

I've thought about that and I don't think it's true. I think that movements which have something to "push" (namely the duty to engage in proselytization) are not primarily concerned about honesty and truth-seeking. Hence, they actually experience a high attrition-rate as people join and then realize they're being sold a pile of steaming crap. The conscientious strategy of natalism of the Mormons and other religions is driven by the need to maintain a growing "core" of committed "believers." I don't think we need "believers" because we're not asking people to believe (take on faith) anything.

However (I love that word), I think we need to keep the "rugged individualism" of a lot of libertarians in check - it easily becomes erosive to family (and thus, community) order. I think a lot of people who are attracted to libertarianism are attracted precisely because they are more or less alone in the world or wish to be alone (have little to do with their family). Look at Molyneux's horde of adolescent admirers. He's not just teaching liberty, he's their group therapist. I think that's really, really unhealthy. Instead of logging onto YouTube and feeling like someone like Molyneux - who's never even heard or read their name - cares about them and understands their problems, they should be meeting people, building social networks, etc.

(Slightly O/T): I also have developed a philosophical issue with liberty as an end. With liberty, it is possible to say things like "Live Free or Die", a motto which Dennett rightly mocks as just another idea to die for, alongside patriotism or social justice or whatever. This is possible because liberty is something outside of and greater than yourself. It doesn't just mean liberty for yourself, it means liberty for "all people" or all the people in your country, or whatever. But this is precisely the problem: self-sacrificial (what I call self-treacherous) ideas that latch onto their host and drive them into giving up their own satisfaction for that of another. At all points, the only correct basis for methodical decision-making is one's own satisfaction.

What I think is needed instead is satisfactionism. I would say hedonism but that already has another connotation. Perhaps we could reach back into ancient history and call it ataraxism after Epicurus's ataraxia.

The triumph of a "religion of atarxism" is, I think, secured much more easily than the triumph of other kinds of religion (especially the religion of statism). Unlike the parasitic memes of other religions, ataraxism is not fighting gravity. You are born an ataraxist. A lot of what you learn as a child is how and why to abridge your uncompromising commitment to your own satisfaction. A great deal of this learning is absolutely necessary in that it is a higher form of ataraxism.

Consider basic etiquette - please, thank-you, table manners and so on - for example. As a child, these etiquette behaviors are onerous and abridge your natural instinct to self-satisfaction. But, as an adult, you will be glad that you learned them as a child. They are like grease that smooths your movement through the social order in a mostly painless and conflict-free manner. Without it, you would be ground to powder by the constant push-back of your peers offended by your uncouth behavior.

Self-sacrificial religious ideas, especially statism, "free ride" on this already existing mechanism for teaching children to abridge their natural instincts (for greater satisfaction later in life) but, unlike the natural ideas inculcated in youth, they are fundamentally opposed to the well-being of their host. One of the key steps to freeing people of the hold that statism and anti-ataraxic memes have on them is to identify the difference between self-sacrifice for the purpose of attaining greater satisfaction in the long-run, versus self-sacrifice on the behalf of an external beneficiary (parasite).

In fact, the key defense mechanism of all the great anti-ataraxic memes is to scramble the ability of people to think clearly about this very point. We invariably confuse voluntary action on the behalf of another (which is necessarily motivated by self-satisfaction) with the abnegation of self-satisfaction itself (breakdown of purposeful action that renders the individual vulnerable to external parasitism). How can people possibly confuse tax-funded welfare with charity?? The two are in no way related! Yet, the level of confusion surrounding such a basic point is staggering. So, Job #1 of anyone who thinks that anti-ataraxic memes need to go is to directly attack their defense mechanisms.

Returning to the point of natalism, I think that what is needed is instruction in what I'm calling ataraxism, especially for people who are parenting. Any adult is going to have to go through a process of "reversing" the programmed patterns of thought that anti-ataraxic memes have inculcated but we also need parents who know the difference between necessary self-sacrifice for long-run self-satisfaction versus abnegation of one's own satisfaction. We need parents to work to filter the things they teach their children to those which are consistent with their child's long-run ataraxia and shielding them from those which are not. So, there is definitely a role for the development of ideas directly targeted to helping parents educate their children in a healthy manner. I don't think this is a "make or break" issue, though. It's just one more thing that is needed.

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I've only read through half the OP. I'll have to finish it when I have time. That said, I LOVE where you are going with this (I say this as a non-religious atheist).

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Sorry Clayton for my short answer, I will mostly comment your first paragraph. Writing in English is not my best skills.

I've thought about that and I don't think it's true. I think that movements which have something to "push" (namely the duty to engage in proselytization) are not primarily concerned about honesty and truth-seeking. Hence, they actually experience a high attrition-rate as people join and then realize they're being sold a pile of steaming crap. The conscientious strategy of natalism of the Mormons and other religions is driven by the need to maintain a growing "core" of committed "believers." I don't think we need "believers" because we're not asking people to believe (take on faith) anything.

It doesn't have to be as strong movement as Mormons or other religious groups. Libertarians generally don't understand how important factor demography is in defining future of societies, and some little "movement" might open their eyes. It seems to me that many libertarians just want to live "free" without family etc. and if they do something, it's promotin liberty by participating L-party-activities or making Ron Paul signs after workday. This works to some extend, but it's not fully efficient. I think it's have been debated quite a lot about changing public opinion - yes, even though it's needed, it's pretty hard and time consuming. I think that having a family is another good strategy. Political opinions tend to be inherited, so you don't have to brainwash your children or to do anything like that. Kids love to imitate their parents, so if you use your leisure to campaing for Ron Paul, read Mises etc. after few years you have your own little army of Misesians following you.

I'm not saying that we must go all-in, I just say that natalism is underrated.

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I think Dennett is wrong on the meaning of 'Live Free or Die', as much as I like him (I studied evolutionary theory long before economics and have a familiarity with his work on this topic).  It does not refer to one laying down his life for a greater cause, as in Patrick Henry's 'give me liberty or give me death'.  What it means is that living in a general state of slavery could be so unpleasant that one would favour death than to continue the pain of such an existence.  Thus, live free or suffer.  See the USSR for some examples of this...

On the issue of modern precepts towards the attainment of eudaimonia and ataraxia (which in Epicureanism are the same end), I think that Harry Browne's How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World is the most important work on this topic and deserves to be much better known than it currently is.  This could be the germ of the Free Community.  Link - http://www.bazkhani.com/wp-content/uploads/freedom_in_an_unfree_world.pdf

As a classicist, I was an Epicurean long before I became interested in economics.  It's interesting how things all fit together.

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Clayton replied on Mon, May 7 2012 12:00 AM

I think Dennett is wrong on the meaning of 'Live Free or Die', as much as I like him (I studied evolutionary theory long before economics and have a familiarity with his work on this topic).  It does not refer to one laying down his life for a greater cause, as in Patrick Henry's 'give me liberty or give me death'.  What it means is that living in a general state of slavery could be so unpleasant that one would favour death than to continue the pain of such an existence.  Thus, live free or suffer.  See the USSR for some examples of this...

I agree - I have noticed that some frequenters of this and other boards still haven't shaken the need to belong to a "greater purpose" and I think they ascribe to a kind of collectivist-libertarianism.... either we're all free or we need to be prepared to die. Libertarianism as a "cause greater than oneself" is a mistaken view. Liberty, too, is a means to an end, not an end in itself. It is simply the freedom of the will so that it can act to bring about its chosen ends. I think we can state it this way: wherever there is individual satisfaction, there must liberty (else people could not have acted to attain their satisfaction). But it always remains satisfaction/happiness/ataraxia/whatever-you-want-to-call-it which is the final end, the end which is never a means to any other end, the end-in-itself.

On the issue of modern precepts towards the attainment of eudaimonia and ataraxia (which in Epicureanism are the same end), I think that Harry Browne's How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World is the most important work on this topic and deserves to be much better known than it currently is.  This could be the germ of the Free Community.  Link - http://www.bazkhani.com/wp-content/uploads/freedom_in_an_unfree_world.pdf

I've read the first couple chapters and skimmed the rest of that book. I love the idea of the book but I do have gripes with its execution: he gets a tad preachy in places, he can be a bit myopic on his conceptions of what constitutes the ideal lifestyle, and the latter sections of the book come across as advice-you-didn't-ask-for.

But we definitely need a science of right-living that doesn't just sketch out broad principles but attempts to provide some kind of specific moral advice that is persuasive on the basis of its methodology and humility. But I think we don't even have a credible methodology yet - as David Friedman says:

A … reason to use practical rather than ethical arguments is that I know a great deal more about what works than about what is just… I think more is known about the consequences of institutions than about what is or is not just–that economics is a much better developed science than moral philosophy. (MoF)

I think that the Renaissance was onto something big - I think that the methodology of moral science has to center around an obsession with man himself, and its communication must be immersive (humanities, culture itself). I am of the opinion that a healthy love even of the human form, for example, must characterize true moral science.

Physical science is characterized by a love of the physical world, love of the Earth and all life within it. This is fine as far as it goes but I believe its dominance has given us a religion of the Earth (environmentalism) that has become twisted around into misanthropy. I believe there is a causal connection.

Without a deep-rooted love of humanity, would-be moral scientists are not equipped with the necessary character and virtues required to actually do it. It's like being a scientist who is more interested in science-fiction worlds than the real world... not a very motivating basis for investigation of the natural world with integrity and a commitment to honesty and truth. Just like Dennett sees himself as a slayer of bad reasoning, dishonesty and factual errors motivated by his love of physical science, so the moral scientist has to be someone who is a slayer of misanthropy, motivated by his love of man.

As a classicist, I was an Epicurean long before I became interested in economics.  It's interesting how things all fit together.

It was the other way around for me. What is astounding to me is how absolutely ancient these ideas are and yet how little they have managed to spread despite their manifest truth. This is part of why I'm interested in the memetics thing and Dennett's ideas on it because I think there must have been an "unconscious selection" within the meme population that has been going on for a very long time against the ideas of Epicurus and related ideas. Maybe all that is needed is a little bit of "memetic engineering" to package the ideas of Epicurus, Mises, et. al. into a form that is more vigorously self-propagating and resistant to being supplanted by other memes.

I'm an engineer for one of the largest tech corporations in the world. One of the things I learned very quickly is that it's not enough to be right. If you're right and you want to change people's minds, you have to think about who is going to try to stop you from changing their minds, how they're going to try to stop you, why they're going to try to stop you and what you have to do to get around their impedance. Unfortunately, it is really easy to fall into an end-justifies-the-means mentality once you start thinking this way. This goes back to the character issue. We need people with the character to both think about how to defeat bad ideas and at the same time not fall into the abyss of postmodern "lie, cheat, steal, whatever-it-takes to make your point and destroy the point of your opponents".

</interminable rambling>

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bloomj31 replied on Mon, May 7 2012 12:13 AM

In the world of ideas it doesn't even seem necessary to be right.  It seems like it's more important to sell the idea well; to connect with the audience.

The real challenge for the Church of Mises is finding a way to take a set of ideas that might sound truly awful to some people and yet find a way to make them relatable.  To focus on aesthetics as well as fundamentals.

On its face libertarianism can sound incredibly harsh and indifferent.  That's why I like Walter Block.  He's very rabbinical and his charm takes the edge off the ideas for me.  The opposite is true of Tom Woods for me.  I like his sense of humor but I hate his stupid fat face so I can't watch a video of the guy.

Dennett basically looks like Santa and he's easygoing and actually quite funny so I am able to watch these videos without too much trouble.

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Are you familiar with any of Jasay's writings on justice and the presumption of liberty?  I know I keep bringing Jasay up but I think he's one of the most important to read, especially since he comes at the problems - both political and economic - from a different angle than that, for example, of Mises and Rothbard.  When I turned to his works I found in them many ideas that I had in a basic form, just articulated better by Jasay and with a more solid logical reasoning.

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Jargon replied on Mon, May 7 2012 12:16 AM

Clayton:

I agree - I have noticed that some frequenters of this and other boards still haven't shaken the need to belong to a "greater purpose" and I think they ascribe to a kind of collectivist-libertarianism.... either we're all free or we need to be prepared to die. Libertarianism as a "cause greater than oneself" is a mistaken view. Liberty, too, is a means to an end, not an end in itself. It is simply the freedom of the will so that it can act to bring about its chosen ends. I think we can state it this way: wherever there is individual satisfaction, there must liberty (else people could not have acted to attain their satisfaction). But it always remains satisfaction/happiness/ataraxia/whatever-you-want-to-call-it which is the final end, the end which is never a means to any other end, the end-in-itself.

I kind of have a problem like this. I realize that liberty rightly understood is a means to an end of a happier life. I try to argue for it because it's opponents seem to me to be incorrect. I still have misgivings about the general end though, which is the free-market paradise.

What happens to you when you live in Libertopia? If it were to be achieved I don't really know what I would do with myself as it would seem like the historical struggle would be over, the struggle against the state that is. This probably stems from an unwarranted sense of self-importance or maybe self-destruction but what would life be without a good struggle? What would be the frontier? Wouldn't we just sink into materialistic complacent lifestyles?

The literature coming from Russia in the 19th Century is reflective of a fucked up society. Their thinking was born of a certain suffering. Hemingway's writing too was born of a certain suffering. Perhaps this doesn't have to do with the progressive eradication of struggle but something else. I don't know what I'm talking about.

 

EDIT:

bloomj:

The opposite is true of Tom Woods for me.  I like his sense of humor but I hate his stupid fat face so I can't watch a video of the guy.

OUCH!

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Clayton replied on Mon, May 7 2012 12:21 AM

Jasay's writings on justice and the presumption of liberty?

I've only read parts of The State and I was thoroughly impressed. Any links are appreciated.

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Justice and its Surroundings - http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1306&Itemid=27

If you have JSTOR, his articles 'Freedom from a Mainly Logical Perspective' and 'Property and its Enemies' are available on it.

Some articles of his here (they are mainly about the European economy, but see 'Property and its Enemies' parts 1-3 and 'Your Dog Owns Your House'): http://www.econlib.org/library/Browse/articlearchivebyauthor_J.html

Political Philosophy, Clearly (2010) is a collection of essays dealing with justice, liberty, and their self-enforcement through custom. $14.50 on Amazon.

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Merlin replied on Mon, May 7 2012 9:22 AM

Chyd3nius:

Most powerful aspect of religions is fertility and demography. You can see it on Mormons, Amish and others who have high fertility and retention rates, they just grow. We really need a Libertarian natalist-movement, that would secure the triumph of liberty.

 

Seconded. There no better way to spread you memes (and genes!) that good old parenting. It should be an easy enough strategy in the decrepit, below-replacement-rates societies of the west.

 

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Clayton replied on Mon, May 7 2012 1:17 PM

There no better way to spread you memes (and genes!) that good old parenting.

I think that effect is undeniable but I also think the whole subject deserves more study. The State has an erosive effect on family solidarity and I'm not convinced that there isn't a link between this fact and the fact that the State exists at all. To put it bluntly, the State is the beneficiary of memes which induce people to forsake their families and sacrifice their well-being on behalf of genetic strangers instead (almost a kind of willing self-cuckoldry). Perhaps it is the greater efficiency of the State in propagating these memes than families are in propagating pro-family, pro-self/kin-interest memes that is responsible for this fact.

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Clayton:

[...]

But academic instruction or even popular media are not sufficient to really inculcate this meme into the public at large. What is needed are flesh-and-blood organizations - communities - that meet face-to-face and reinforce these values through ordinary social mechanisms so that they are felt as well as realized intellectually.

Clayton -

 

It's occurring. The austro-libertarianism is being commercialized and serving as the foundation for communities/societies; you've got LibertyManiacs, Schiff Radio, Society of Libertairan Entrepreneurs, and Hoppe's thing in Turkey. It'll continue to grow. 

Home schooling would be a great avenue to introducing kids to the message. However, you can't give Human Action scholar's edition to 5 year-old; we need to produce pop-up books and short books with great art work. iPad apps would be great too; might as well gamify the learning experience.

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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Clayton replied on Mon, May 7 2012 2:29 PM

I'm having trouble finding a good scholarly discussion of memes online. Here's a pretty good article. He makes a crucially important observation that I don't hear from Dennett and other experts on memes:

or memes that describe methods or procedures for doing something, their practical effectiveness is apparently most important. When someone invents a new method for producing some chemical and publishes it, the meme becomes widespread if the method has benefits like producing better quality, being cheaper, etc. This is one of the key areas of that part of human behavior that can be called rational.

He mentions that there are other animals that have memes - birds with bird songs, for example (Dennett mentions beavers with their dams; not all of the knowledge of dam-building is innate). I can imagine a scenario where memes became common in our ancestors along-side the evolution of our ability to manipulate the world (there is a book to this effect, essentially claiming that the entirety of human culture is down to the particular evolved shape and capabilities of the hand).

Anyway, my point is that the fitness of memes is only locally determined by their "rehearsal fitness", that is, their amenability to being rehearsed in our own mind and repeated by word-of-mouth to others. From a global view, physical resources still matter. A dead person cannot propagate a meme. From the global view, the suitability of a meme to enabling its "infected" population is related to its effect on their material wealth. A poor person is closer to starvation than a rich person. Memes that make people poor make them closer to starvation. In order to survive and flourish, such a meme must be increasing its propagation through some means that is more effective than the word-of-mouth that has been lost as a result of the privation it has brought on its hosts.

For example, imagine a meme that says that self-sacrifice to build the Great Temple of the gods is rewarded by eternal life. In fact, it is rewarded by privation as the energy of the infected hosts that could have gone to sustaining themselves and their genetic offspring is instead devoted to the building of the Great Temple which does not give any perceptible material benefit to those making such sacrifice. As a result, people who host this meme are less wealthy and healthy, die younger, have fewer children and are thus less fit to propagate any meme by word-of-mouth, including this one.

But the temple and the priesthood themselves are a meme-representation. They propagate the very meme which is creating them and they do so very efficiently. One man may spread his faith in the Great Temple to a few of his friends and associates. But his ability to transmit a meme is very localized. A massive temple and impressive priesthood, on the other hand, can propagate the very same meme to thousands, even millions of people. It is so much more effective at transmitting the meme that the reduced meme-transmitting potential of its hosts - brought on by the privation that it inflicts on them - is more than made up, thus ensuring the meme's survival.

And I think this is the key issue - memes have transcended the genetic propagation mechanism that limits other viruses to messing with DNA. Memes can be vectored from art, songs, books, architecture, armies (just the assembly of a large group of people is itself a meme-representation), and so on. The difference between the efficiency of these meme-mega-representations versus the efficiency of simple word-of-mouth transmission by individual hosts is, I believe, partly responsible for the widespread existence of parasitic social structures.

But just like we can clearly identify parasites as a pathology of their hosts that natural immunity seeks to protect against, we can identify these parasitic memes as pathologies of the human condition. It's not "just how it is", it is really not good for us, both individually and as a species. The development of new ideas that grant immunity to these meme mega-vectors (Hollywood, architecture, social status, space programs, etc. etc.) have the potential to restore homeostasis both to individuals and to human society as a whole. Perhaps it would be a good investment of resources aimed at increasing human liberty for us to pitch in to building a giant, novel, attention-getting monument to the ideas of Ludwig von Mises. This could act as a memetic vector, attracting people to come see it and be infected with the ideas it represents. We need to build "meme-generating machines" that can produce memes as effectively as those of our opposition without enslaving people.

Along these lines, I once had a cool idea of building a gigantic monument in the desert - something to rival the Great Pyramid of Giza - but built entirely from sponsored bricks. Such a monument could be a testament to man and Nature, dedicated to preserving in stone the greatest ideas which human beings have ever devised, particularly the ideas of social science and economics which made the building of such a magnificent structure through completely voluntary means possible. If the GreatPyramid is a testament to the glories of Keynesian economics and central-planning (note that Egypt virtually collapsed after they were built), this would be like the "anti-Pyramid". Anyway, just another one of my crazy ideas.

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Merlin replied on Mon, May 7 2012 3:07 PM

 

I think Hayek, having been the first (to my knowledge) to bring the idea of memes to the field of libertarian analysis, deserves to be considered. Though I now see that, by Dawkins’ standard Hayek’s theory of cultural evolution would be classed as a ‘group section’ theory, hence incomplete at best. A revision of the Hayekian paradigm along the lines of the Evolutionary Stable Strategies would be of great help, I think.

To return to the main theme of the thread (by the way, great threat Clayton!), I’m must add two points:

1)      We should be careful in classifying certain social structures as parasitic. Perhaps the state is parasitic by our standards, but I believe that it still is a far less parasitic structure in comparison with those that it supplanted.

 

2)      I do not believe in the conversion power of church-like organizations, not for libertarian ends, at least. I think that churches step in when families fail to provide the child with any kind of cultural education. Having a kid who’d otherwise end up as thief or beggar in the streets receive some sort of culture by a large organization is a clear improvement. But this just will not compete against a normal education in the nuclear family.

 

 So, if some church or school-like libertarian organization ever succeeds in attaining a church-like influence by church-like means, this by definition will mean that its adherents will be people of a scant cultural education, and bearing large emotional scars. Not the kind of people you’d like in a free society. Molineux’s followers where mentioned here as an example. I may add the Objectivist circles. I, for one, would be scared to live in a society made up of these two groups.

 

So, I myself insist on the virtues of a nuclear family transmitting liberation memes, and of libertarian originations as ‘mere’ intellectual clubs where grown libertarians can communicate with each-other. That is a far cry for ma modern church or mass school.

 

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Clayton replied on Mon, May 7 2012 5:56 PM

I, for one, would be scared to live in a society made up of these two groups.

+1

So, I myself insist on the virtues of a nuclear family transmitting liberation memes, and of libertarian originations as ‘mere’ intellectual clubs where grown libertarians can communicate with each-other. That is a far cry for ma modern church or mass school.

Hmm, I think that's a bit Luddite. I agree with you that one function of churches is to act as social scavengers or "cultural charities" that fill the cultural void where family has broken down. However, I think that there is a circular relationship between the spiritual* health of society and the spiritual health of the family (and the spiritual health of the individual). They have to be healed together because the health of each is dependent to one degree or another on the health of the others.

There are hundreds of millions (billions?) of families on the planet. Obviously, you cannot visit each one, explain to them why they would benefit from strong family cohesion and then expect the world to change. Some kind of force-multiplication or leverage must be used. This is properly the role of cultural leaders and I think we need to go back to a social structure where families are bound together by (ideally non-binding) social leadership which, in turn, is bound together by its own meta-leadership, and so on. This is how many clan/tribal cultures are organized - the Somalis, the Afghans, etc. Say what you want about their abject poverty, their social structures have proven to be all but nuclear-bomb-proof.

I think we are victims of the power of modern meme-representations (books, electronic transmission, recording, even architecture, etc.) to uniformitize. In the process, what is lost is that the leaders are simply leading too many people - they don't know their names and individual circumstances in enough detail to possibly be able to provide leadership that is in any way useful to those being lead. There is a knowledge vacuum at the top combined with a pretense of knowledge (h/t Hayek) being projected by the memetic regularization of society. It appears that our leaders know what they are doing. After all, we all listen to the same music, watch the same TV shows and ride the same yellow school buses yet the sky has not come crashing down. In fact, they haven't got a clue what they are doing because they can't possibly know the relevant information regarding the consequences of their leadership decisions and because those they lead are given little choice regarding who they are led by and (thus) how they are led. The slaveowner is not a social leader.

I do believe that religions/clan leaders/chiefs/medicine-men/etc. played this social leadership role in a healthy way, at least prior to the advent of the State and imperialistic religion. I'm speaking of "wild" religions, to borrow Dennett's terminology... religions that haven't yet been turned to use by the priestly class and the State. This is why I believe the way forward must lie through secession and political/cultural localization combined with the emergence of a credible global marketplace in law, language, commerce, and so on. Order (central-planning) in the small and chaos (marketplace, "invisible hand") in the large. This, I believe, is the only healthy future for human society and human flourishing. Social leaders who actually know a lot of the people they are leading by name would be a big improvement.

The critics of such a path will call it "feudalism" but I think that is mistaken. If a world of small, politically and culturally diverse communities is "feudalism" then the modern nation-state is simply mega-feudalism. What I want to see is a reversal in the trend of political aggregation into ever-larger political units and a revival of political disintegration until we reach social structures whose size lends some reason to believe that they may actually be good for the individual people who comprise them. I don't want to sharply disagree with you but there is nothing non-parasitic about Washington, DC.

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*I use this term advisedly to refer to that part of human well-being that cannot be measured with a medical test

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Merlin replied on Tue, May 8 2012 1:51 AM

Clayton:

This is why I believe the way forward must lie through secession and political/cultural localization combined with the emergence of a credible global marketplace in law, language, commerce, and so on. Order (central-planning) in the small and chaos (marketplace, "invisible hand") in the large. This, I believe, is the only healthy future for human society and human flourishing. Social leaders who actually know a lot of the people they are leading by name would be a big improvement.

Several-folded

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Merlin replied on Tue, May 8 2012 2:01 AM

Clayton:

Hmm, I think that's a bit Luddite. I agree with you that one function of churches is to act as social scavengers or "cultural charities" that fill the cultural void where family has broken down. However, I think that there is a circular relationship between the spiritual* health of society and the spiritual health of the family (and the spiritual health of the individual). They have to be healed together because the health of each is dependent to one degree or another on the health of the others.

It probably is somewhat luddite. But my idea is that you discover libertarians, you do not make them. You can make libertarians of you kinds and of them alone, everyone else has had his ‘political’ paradigm firmly drilled into his head by the time you get to debate with them (Molineux got this right).

This is why I see no use for a libertarian institution as a conversion base. Just a place when people can go to discover they are libertarians, and help each-other in intellectual and/or practical stuff. I always saw the LvMI as just such an institution, which gave me back in the day the intellectual munitions to accept I was a libertarian. Truth be told, Molineux might be doing much of the same, although he’s also doing some other things which are of no interest to us.

In time, we can only out-grow statist, you cannot convert them.

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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iPad apps would be great too; might as well gamify the learning experience.

Speaking of which, I've laid out design ideas for a few types of games.  I don't have the coding knowledge at this time to finish something on my own.  I need a CGI artist and hardware API coder.  I'm also working on a TV series.  We're aiming to starting shooting this summer.

Dennett basically looks like Santa and he's easygoing and actually quite funny so I am able to watch these videos without too much trouble.

You seriously crack me up.

However (I love that word), I think we need to keep the "rugged individualism" of a lot of libertarians in check - it easily becomes erosive to family (and thus, community) order.  I think a lot of people who are attracted to libertarianism are attracted precisely because they are more or less alone in the world or wish to be alone (have little to do with their family).

You may have cause and effect mixed up a bit there.  For progress to be made someone must stick his neck out against prevalent group think.  We can't all be choir boys.

If by "family" you mean the Christian system, no can do señor, that is anti-ataraxic for me.

Regarding the Dennett talk, he makes a mistake.  There is a good reason that there are no churchy things in other types of organizations.  Those things are cognitively associated with the negative emotions toward the bad aspects of traditional churches.  If you used a symbol similar to the Swastika and a brown-black-red color scheme for your organization you would have problems.  I've always used pipe organs heavily in my music because I think it's the best sounding natural instrument.  I sent one of my early compositions to a girl.  She said, "I hate it.  It sounds like church music."  Anyway, I already write churchy sounding philosophical songs.  I wrote a libertarian rap years ago and I recently started doing lyrics for my new conventional music.

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z1235 replied on Tue, May 8 2012 7:10 AM

Merlin:

Clayton:

This is why I believe the way forward must lie through secession and political/cultural localization combined with the emergence of a credible global marketplace in law, language, commerce, and so on. Order (central-planning) in the small and chaos (marketplace, "invisible hand") in the large. This, I believe, is the only healthy future for human society and human flourishing. Social leaders who actually know a lot of the people they are leading by name would be a big improvement.

Several-folded

+1. 

Beyond Democracy, an excellent little book (I know, plug #6 or so here) also comes to the similar conclusion. I think the path to freedom and against parasitism could be distilled to a juxtaposition of political localization against political globalizaiton. After all is said and done, the size of the structure may be all that matters. 

 

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This is why I believe the way forward must lie through secession and political/cultural localization combined with the emergence of a credible global marketplace in law, language, commerce, and so on. Order (central-planning) in the small and chaos (marketplace, "invisible hand") in the large. This, I believe, is the only healthy future for human society and human flourishing. Social leaders who actually know a lot of the people they are leading by name would be a big improvement.

I agree on cultural localization and secession. Long-term plan would be regional clusterization, natalism within this group and producing/consuming libertarian influenced culture. This isn't against "meme-generator", both strategies can live in harmony and support each other. Free State Project combined with natalism would be one of the best things that could happen to liberty in our century. This is the main reason why I hate F4M, he makes very bad press for FSP...

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Clayton replied on Tue, May 8 2012 3:17 PM

 Long-term plan

I have a mild allergy to the word "plan"... I think it's more of an issue of what social order is "realizable" and understanding what are the conditions under which such a social order can develop. What we are really trying to do is set off a chain-reaction or seed fertile ground. Society itself will take care of the rest.

I do not believe that our goal is to create a society of libertarians or even a majority of libertarians. Rather, we need to stop the ideological/memetic pre-conditions of the material plunder of the masses by the Elites. This plunder is made possible only by the complicity of the masses in their own despoilation (de Boetie). In order to reverse this, we must spread the - very natural and healthy and, most importantly, true - idea that one's own satisfaction is his highest end or purpose.

Most people have really unhealthy ideas about the moral status of frankly pursuing their self-interest, confusing this with selfishness, miserliness, anti-community and a host of other vicious attitudes. The memes responsible for this confusion use it as a shield or defense mechanism against dispassionate arguments that explain the fact that self-interest is the necessary precondition to any action. Self-ownership is self-interest. The only way to rid yourself of self-interest is to become the property of someone else, which is arguably not even possible.

As healthy ideas about the actual role of self-interest in decision-making spread, the power of the self-sacrifice/slavery memes automatically begins to be sapped. As people become less complicit in their own exploitation, there are fewer resources available to the central transmitters of the self-sacrifice/slavery memes. These memes become less efficient at self-replication, further reducing the resistance to the healthy ideas regarding the natural role of satisfaction in decision-making.

I'm not going to make any predictions because predictions are dangerous but I do believe we've actually witnessed a small taste of the potential for a collapse of the Establishment's memes with the 2012 Ron Paul campaign. The energy level has just increased and increased. It is conceivable that we could witness a kind of raging, ideological prairie fire sweep across the globe. It's happened before - what do you think the Protest Reformation was? It happened so fast - ideas that had been long-standing for centuries in Catholicized Europe began to collapse virtually overnight. The printing press clearly played a role in this collapse but how much more awesome is the power of the Internet in transmitting unauthorized ideas than the printing press.

The moment I post this to the Mises website, it becomes viewable from almost anywhere in the globe and can be accessed in a few hundred milliseconds. The ideas and information of the Ron Paul/End The Fed/Tenth Amendment/Etc. movements are already spreading like wildfire. But for all the successes that liberty has had in the last few years, my hope is that we are just seeing the first few embers of an ideological conflagration that exceeds our ability to imagine.

If historians allow us any say in the matter, I would like to call it Mises's Revenge.

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I'm highly sceptical about an overnight change. Yes, Internet has changed rules like it did with printing press - libertarianism has exploded since 90's, especially Austrians who rose virtually from nothing. I agree that the amount of libertarians will rise more, but still I'm sceptical and see this as a more uncertain "plan". Natalist/segregationist "plan" is more secure and certain, but slower. I see it as a sort of backup. Maybe it's too slow for the technological development, who knows. But I'm not trying to put these "plans" against each other, they work best if they're combined. Think about if most of libertarians in US would move to the New Hampshire, to the specific towns - it would be indeed be Mises's Revenge.

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Clayton replied on Tue, May 8 2012 4:52 PM

I am skeptical of any movement that claims to be about liberty yet entails making any kind of "sacrifice". Moving to NH for anything other than economic and/or lifestyle reasons is a bad choice, in my opinion. For those who feel so strongly about the FSP that they choose to move, that's fine, it's their choice. But I wouldn't encourage anyone to do it.

As far as natalism goes, I think that FSP is small potatoes - it's a failure to really think at the correct scale. One of the social roles performed by churches (in my opinion, there's really no scholarly research to back this up AFAIK) is to act as "reproductive clubs" - it's much safer to marry your daughter off within the confines of a church congregation than to let her try to make her own way through the "singles scene." But the certification of suitors through the auspices of religion has never been a completely face-to-face system. People send out letters saying, basically, "I am a young man looking to marry and would like to visit your church to see if it is God's will that I marry one of the young women in your church." They still do this, by the way, a fact little known outside fundamentalist Christian churches. Often, they will ask their Pastor to either sign the letter or to write a generic referral letter to go along with it, certifying that they are upstanding members of the church and perhaps some special recommendation if they are especially well known to be virtuous and so on. I've seen it with my own eyes on multiple occasions.

This goes right back to my OP. Rather than asking people to move to a specific geographical location for the purposes of constructing libertarian families, perhaps a better solution is to set up an institute that helps people begin building a socio-cultural network whose primary purposes mirror those of traditional reigions (without pretending to be a continuation of any particular traditional religion): moral instruction, community events, officiation of festivals and holidays and general reputation networks, especially with respect to business and marriage.

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Clayton replied on Tue, May 8 2012 5:18 PM

Here are some proposed tenets:

- Religious belief is a personal matter. Equivocation of different religious beliefs, however, is insulting and condescending. Hence, this organization is not secular but neither does it espouse any particular set of religious beliefs.

- I know a lot more about what is good for my neighborhood and my community than what is good for people who live thousands of miles away and may speak a different language. Hence, I should not impose my ideas about what makes a good neighborhood or community on those who live far away from me or who live in a significantly different culture from my own.

- Those who hold political power are human beings like anyone else and they, too, know a lot more about is good for their immediate neighborhood and community than about what is good for people who live thousands of miles away or are very different from them. I should not ask those who hold political power to impose their ideas or my ideas about what makes a good neighborhood or community onto those who are very different from us.

- Real leadership is based on recognition of excellence, not imposed authority. Hence, this organization does not seek to influence society through the political apparatus. Rather, as an organization that seeks to identify, develop and facilitate social leaders, the focus is on understanding what the essential attributes of leadership are and helping people to recognize those among them with the gift of leadership.

- Changes to the law often have unpredictable consequences or, even worse, predictably negative consequences. For this reason, I should be hesitant to advocate for drastic alterations of the law. There are many problems in every legal system in the world and these need to be identified in a careful, reasoned manner so that they can be changed in a responsible and measured way rather than through violence and revolution.

- Social leadership touches every aspect of the human condition. Fostering the social ties of local membership through community activities helps to reinforce social bonds, create reputation and referral networks, social safety nets and provide a context for the enjoyment of life with friends and family.

That's the sketch outline of what I'm thinking. I don't think you need to meet once every weekend in a brick building and play the organ. In fact, that would probably conflict with many people's existing religious commitments. Yes, there are lots of unsolved problems but I still think the core idea is sound.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
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Very good, Clayton.  At its core though the community has to have some recognition of justice (which is essentially the NAP) as its central value.  Essentially the purpose is to rebuild on a more solid basis the important community aspects that have atrophied due to the growth of the state.

Also, what actual activities do you see this group engaging in apart from general gatherings? Charity (including fund-raising), running classes?  Which existing organisations can we pilfer ideas from?  The Freemasons, the boy scouts?

 

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