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Does libertarianism promote the dignity of the poor?

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Fides_et_Ratio Posted: Sat, Jul 14 2012 9:21 PM

Download http://mises.org/books/defending.pdf
Read chapter 18 ("THE NONCONTRIBUTOR TO CHARITY").

The author (Walter Block) explicitly discourages people from donating to
charity because it interferes with Darwinian evolution. He says:
"[...] there are dangers in charity, and compelling reasons for refusing
to contribute to it. In addition, there are serious flaws in the moral
philosophy upon which charity is based. One of the great evils of
charity, and one of the most cogent reasons for refusing to contribute
to it, is that it interferes with the survival of the human species.
[...] if the Darwinian laws are allowed to work themselves out, [...]
negative traits will tend to disappear. But if charity is extended,
these harmful traits will be carried over to the next generation. While
charity of this type is undeniably harmful, when it is private, it is
limited in scope [...]"

Later he devotes a section to criticizing the whole concept of altruism,
and ends the chapter saying "In addition, the moral theory upon which
charity rests is riddled with contradictions and makes hypocrites of
those who are pressured by it."

And on page 14 the author defends abortion.

That book starts with a foreword by Murray N. Rothbard and a commentary
by F.A. Hayek. They both praise the book, and it is inconceivable they
weren't aware of how controversial chapter 18 would be. They knew very
well that their endorsement for the book would be interpreted as an
endorsement for chapter 18.

von Mises did not contribute to that book, but this is expected since he
had already passed away at the time the book was published.

So we have Walter Block, Rothbard and Hayek endorsing a book that
defends the application of "survival of the fittest" to humans.

To Hayek's credit, he did say

now I am occasionally at first incredulous and feel that “this is
going too far,” but usually find in the end that you are right.

Notice the "usually". So possibly he disagreed with parts of the
book. Still, I blame him for not making himself clear.

[EDIT]
As Smiling Dave posted below, it is possible that Rothbard
and Hayek were just being nice to a friend. However, I have
just listened to a talk with Walter Block and he says that
the only chapter which elicited controversy in the Libertarian
community was chapter 14 - "THE (NONGOVERNMENT) COUNTERFEITER".
See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCr0c-q_Gd8
From 35:50 to 36:36

"Many of these chapters have been under great criticism from people on
the Left, [...] the counterfeiting [...] chapter is the only one who
has had serious Libertarian criticism [...] so this chapter is perhaps
the most controversial in the Libertarian community"

This has significantly worsened the Libertarian reputation before my
eyes.

Regards

 

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Not all offspring of the poor become poor. There are many rich men that came from poor families.

“Since people are concerned that ‘X’ will not be provided, ‘X’ will naturally be provided by those who are concerned by its absence."
"The sweetest of minds can harbor the harshest of men.”

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According to the Darwinian

principle of the “survival of the fittest,” those organisms most

able to exist in a given environment will be “naturally selected”

(by showing a greater propensity to live until the age of procreation,

and thus be more likely to leave offspring). One result, in

the long run, is a species whose members have a greater ability

to survive. This does not imply that the strong “kill off ” the

weak, as has been alleged. It merely suggests that the strong will

be more successful than the weak in the procreation of the

species. Thus the ablest perpetuate themselves and the species

thrives.

 

Among a plethora of other things one can point out in Block's insane line of reasoning, is that this would essentially take vaccines, antibiotics, etc off the shelf.  Not only that, arbitriarily so, by no authority other than by some subsidized ethic and over concern about "breeding".

 

"The principles of Darwin" is simply a non starter

 

I am a bit surprised to find Hayek in agreement with Block, at least in regards to this hyper rationalistic approach and outre scientism

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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Random thoughts:

1. Note that Block clearly states in that chapter that a person has every right to do what he wishes with his money, including giving it to charity.

Also note that he does not say all charity is bad, only very specific cases.

2. That said, his arguments in that chapter are so full of holes they make a Swiss cheese look like solid rock in comparison. What was he thinking? David Gordon might have fun doing a Molyneux on it.

3. As for endorsements to a book, unless explicitly stated otherwise, they generally mean only that the author is a friend, or that he's a good guy, or that at least one page of his book is worth reading, possibly two or more. They are not wholesale approvals of every single line in the book.

For example, Bertrand Russell wrote that all great books have boring parts. Does that mean he would never recommend any book?

 

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As for libertarianism or even the market mentality "promoting the dignity of the poor":

No I don't really think it really does, it is "neutral".  What it does do however, is help keep intellectual classes / Platonic Universalists at bay from flat out abusing the poor with insane schemes and ideals that would help send civilization to a vast wasteland, which would be undesirable for lmost all but the upper class leftists who used the poor to achieve their arbitrary schemes.

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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Jargon replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 12:18 AM

 

On Block:

Don't assume him to be the representative of libertarianism. I take it, from the thread title, you assume that to be so.

On the thread title:

Libertarianism doesn't promote pictures in the way that other ideologies do. It does support the institutions of minarchy/anarchy, which are vastly more productive to the consumer than institutions other ideologies promote, which invariably seek to enrich one group at the expense of another. Its great champions are not aesthetists, but economists. It's proposal is the disassembly via gravity of the market kind of the many cathedrals other ideologies construct. So no, it does not 'promote the dignity of the poor' in the sense of a focused encouraging message, but it allow the market to materially provide for anyone who would work. One might say it's less dignified for the poor to be cheered on like greyhounds and should they fail, be coddled. If promoting dignity of the poor means making them not poor, then yes.

Land & Liberty

The Anarch is to the Anarchist what the Monarch is to the Monarchist. -Ernst Jünger

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Wheylous replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 5:08 AM

 

the strong will be more successful than the weak in the procreation of the species.

I see. That's why poorer countried have fewer children per-capita than rich countries. Got it.

/sarcasm

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3. As for endorsements to a book, unless explicitly stated otherwise, they generally mean only that the author is a friend, or that he's a good guy, or that at least one page of his book is worth reading, possibly two or more. They are not wholesale approvals of every single line in the book.

 

Hum, yes. Maybe I overreacted to the fact that the book is endorsed
by Rothbard and Hayek. Maybe they were just being nice to a friend.

Regards

 

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Torsten replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 8:45 AM

How does taxism, interventionism, regulationism, statism or despotism promote the dignity of the poor?

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> "How does taxism, interventionism, regulationism, statism or despotism promote the dignity of the poor?"

Well, I am not saying that I advocate Marxism. Marxism is an inhuman
ideology of hate.

But we could implement a third way. Some tremendous Catholic
intellectuals (such as Hilaire Belloc, G. K. Chesterton and
Gustavo Corção) have advocated something called distributism.

I have no knowledge of it so I can't comment. I will read on it in the
future.

But I do know that any political system must respect the principle of
subsidiarity. This means that international governance should
be fiercely opposed, and that, at the national level, we must respect
state's rights. States, then, have to respect city's rights, and the city
must respect family's rights.

In short, decisions should preferably be made at the level closest to the people affected
that has the means to act effectively.
 

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Autolykos replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 9:12 AM

Fides_et_Ratio:
This has significantly worsened the Libertarian reputation before my eyes.

Why is that, exactly?

The keyboard is mightier than the gun.

Non parit potestas ipsius auctoritatem.

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Smiling Dave wrote:

> Also note that he does not say all charity is bad, only very specific cases.

Hum, I have read that chapter for the third time, and Block clearly
opposes charity in general. He of course supports the _right_ to donate
to charity (or else he would not be Libertarian) but he says that

"[...] there are dangers in charity, and compelling reasons for refusing
to contribute to it. In addition, there are serious flaws in the moral
philosophy upon which charity is based. One of the great evils of
charity, and one of the most cogent reasons for refusing to contribute
to it, is that it interferes with the survival of the human species.
[...] if the Darwinian laws are allowed to work themselves out, [...]
negative traits will tend to disappear. But if charity is extended,
these harmful traits will be carried over to the next generation. While
charity of this type is undeniably harmful, when it is private, it is
limited in scope [...]"

Later he devotes a section to criticizing the whole concept of altruism,
and ends the chapter saying "In addition, the moral theory upon which
charity rests is riddled with contradictions and makes hypocrites of
those who are pressured by it."

But, in fact, his argumentation is not only morally unacceptable but has
serious logical holes (as yourself pointed).

> 3. As for endorsements to a book, unless explicitly stated otherwise, they generally mean only that the author is a friend, or that he's a good guy, or that at least one page of his book is worth reading, possibly two or more. They are not wholesale approvals of every single line in the book.

I have taken your point into consideration and edited the original post.

Regards
 

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gamma_rat replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 9:43 AM

I think charity is good, but it's not altruistic.

Altruism is impossible in terms of praxeology.  If all humans actions are to ease the actor's discomfort, then human altruism doesn't exist.

For example, a person feels guilt, which precipitates an act of kindness, which alleviates their own guilt, which is a form of discomfort.

Using religious metaphors, every good act helps ensure one's own salvation or place in heaven, therefore no good act can be selfless.

"The history of the world is the history of the triumph of the heartless over the mindless." - Sir Humphrey Appleby
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Autolykos replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 12:12 PM

>> This has significantly worsened the Libertarian reputation before my eyes.

> Why is that, exactly?

Why, because one Libertarian wrote a book with morally unnaceptable ideas,
including the application of "survival of the fittest" to humans, and
two very prominent Libertarians (Rothbard and Hayek) endorsed that book.
Then, the author said that the most controversial chapter of that book
within the Libertarian community, and the only one who received serious
criticism, is the chapter that defends money counterfeiting!

This makes it seem that the Libertarian community don't care if poor
people suffer.

Regards

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gamma_rat replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 12:43 PM

> I think charity is good, but it's not altruistic.

> Altruism is impossible in terms of praxeology.  If all humans actions are to ease the actor's discomfort, then human altruism doesn't exist.

> For example, a person feels guilt, which precipitates an act of kindness, which alleviates their own guilt, which is a form of discomfort.

But people can choose to bury that guilt on a dark corner of their mind
or they can choose to act on it and correct their errors.

> Using religious metaphors, every good act helps ensure one's own
> salvation or place in heaven, therefore no good act can be selfless.

But people who want to act evil can choose to bury their faith and
forget about the consequences.

I think that God makes Himself so "hidden" for a purpose: there are some
signs that God exists, but it is also reasonable to believe He doesn't
exists. Therefore, Faith is a choice.

I imagine that this theory about human nature is why Mises' book has been
disrecommended:

http://www.almudi.org/Libro/tabid/442/ctl/Detalle/mid/1030/pid/77317/ppid/0/Default.aspx

Regards

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vive la insurrection replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 2:41 AM

> As for libertarianism or even the market mentality "promoting the dignity of the poor":

> No I don't really think it really does, it is "neutral".  What it does do however, is help keep intellectual classes / Platonic Universalists at bay from flat out abusing the poor with insane schemes and ideals that would help send civilization to a vast wasteland, which would be undesirable for lmost all but the upper class leftists who used the poor to achieve their arbitrary schemes.

On one thing we can agree: Marxists don't respect the poor.  They use
poor people as pawns to build their engineered, materialist,
totalitarian society. Marxism is an inhuman ideology of hate and
destruction.

Regards

 

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Torsten replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 10:55 AM

Altruism is impossible in terms of praxeology.  If all humans actions are to ease the actor's discomfort, then human altruism doesn't exist.

In that case we may have spot a problem with praxeology. Easing discomfort can be one motivation for action. But I don't think it's the only one. That's why I prefer to talk about action to be motivated by realizing a mentally specified goal. Which can include easing present discomfort, but can include other motivations as well. An example here woudl be to support a worthy cause, but other positive motivated actions are possible as well.  

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In short, decisions should preferably be made at the level closest to the people affected
that has the means to act effectively.

 

Politically speaking, I think this should be the over-arching concern.  In this regars there are certain subsets of conservatism, liberalism,leftism, and libertarianism that are very much compatible, if they can make this the chief overarching concern.

But even here I would hold most of my reservations on leftism because it is most likely to be a "top down" intellectual class ("philosopher kings") managment system -that would ultimately be very destructive and ugly.

The best libertarians in this tradition you may find interesting usually approach it from a British naturalist respect, such as Hayek.  The big "British naturalist" name would probably be  Edmund Burke

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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Rcder replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 11:19 AM

Social Darwinism, as Vive has hinted at above, is a nonsensical sociological viewpoint because it is willfully oblivious to the fact that organisms (in this case, humans) can maximize their biological fitness through cooperation and its corollary, societal organization.  Moreover, "Darwinism" selects for different traits in different situations; while in the wild ruthlessness, violence, and strength were selected for, in the context of civilization intelligence, empathy, and charisma become much more relevant.  Block is also committing the naturalist fallacy by assuming that something is morally acceptable or proper simply because it occurs in nature.

So yeah, I really have no idea what he was going for in that chapter.

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vive la insurrection replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 1:58 PM

>> In short, decisions should preferably be made at the level closest to
>> the people affected that has the means to act effectively.

> Politically speaking, I think this should be the over-arching concern.  In this regars there are certain subsets of conservatism, liberalism,leftism, and libertarianism that are very much compatible, if they can make this the chief overarching concern.

> But even here I would hold most of my reservations on leftism because it is most likely to be a "top down" intellectual class ("philosopher kings") managment system -that would ultimately be very destructive and ugly.

The problem with Marxism is that it isn't just a philosophy of
government, it is a complete philosophy of human nature, history,
society, economy, religion and culture. And Marx got many things very
wrong.  A person who is contaminated by Marxism becomes horribly
alienated and possessed with hate. And since Marxism states that
_everything_ in the world is moved by class struggle, that everyone
either fights for the oppressed or fights for the oppressor, and that
there is no universal truth or logic (every "truth" is relative to class
interests) then it is impossible to communicate with a hardened
Marxist. You could use rigorous logic to prove that Marxism is wrong,
but the Marxist guy will say that "this is bourgeois logic", "you are
defending the oppressor", and will verbally abuse you (or worse).

Marxism is one of the greatest disgraces in human history.

> The best libertarians in this tradition you may find interesting usually approach it from a British naturalist respect, such as Hayek.  The big "British naturalist" name would probably be  Edmund Burke

Thank you for those recommendations, I may read them when I finish the
books I started.
 

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Torsten replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 12:04 PM

> But even here I would hold most of my reservations on leftism because it is most likely to be a "top down" intellectual class ("philosopher kings") managment system -that would ultimately be very destructive and ugly.

Excuse me, but isn't that how any management system is supposed to work? With supposedly smarter, more knowledgable, more reliable people on top and less knowledgeable/experienced people beneath them? Or at least with the theoretical work being done by the managers and engineers, while the rank and file does more practical and structured task?!

Anyway, show me how staterun bureaucracies do give more dignity to the poor then market and privately run initiatives. 
 

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Excuse me, but isn't that how any management system is supposed to work? 

How are these intellectuals getting any feedback, how do they know what "knowledge" is, what's more reliable is,etc?  It doesn't work in a void.  That's the whole 101 point of any libertarian critique against socialism.

An entrpreneur is taking a real risk,and meeting  real demands of people.  He can't live too abstractly, or be too lofty in his ambitions 

 

Likewise, it would be probably be much more difficult  for a city state to start abstracting real human actions and resources than a massive federilzed state.  Pure intellectual dictation needs a very large bureacracy and fuzzy dictation in order for it to not look as stupid and empty as it really is

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Altruism is impossible in terms of praxeology.

Careful with this,  Praxeology is a science of action.  Which means any methodology it employs will not allow for dichotomy, as the logic itself is (by neccessity) deterministic in nature - hence it will not allow a dichotomy of certain words.  "Selfish" in thiscase, would justbe an empty set place holder (like the number 1 in math).

Any conclusions you wish to draw from this are philisophical, not scientific

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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Torsten replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 12:56 PM

I wasn't talking about "socialism" or any state scheme. I was talking about virtually any real life organisation be it a company, a club, a church, a university or what ever. None of them is unable to overcome those real life problems you raised, which are certainly there and which is why managers need to be skilled and well-trained. 

And yes there are your more intellectually minded, more people oriented and also your more practically orientated people in any of those organisation. 

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Well,

The facts are alwayschanging in the such a world in this regard, so I have no clue what isor isn't needed there.  I have no concept in my mind what is or is not qualified for such a position, because I have no feedback mechanism.

Smart and qualified would be empty sets to me.

If you're saying we have a tendency to hierarchical type structures, I would agree to that - which is partly why I brought up the entrepreneur.

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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vive la insurrection replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 3:51 PM

>> Altruism is impossible in terms of praxeology.

> Careful with this,  Praxeology is a science of action.  Which means any methodology it employs will not allow for dichotomy, as the logic itself is (by neccessity) deterministic in nature - hence it will not allow a dichotomy of certain words.  "Selfish" in thiscase, would justbe an empty set place holder (like the number 1 in math).

I did not understand that, but I would like to. Can you rephrase it?

Regards

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Let me start off by prefacing that praxeology is a science,not a methodology

The Misean methodolgy is one such methodology that can be used in AE, which is a prioi in nature - which essentially makes it function like math.

Just using Misean methodology as an example -whatever word he wishes to use as the necessity of action (Man, the Individual, I, etc) could just be seen as a number, used to represent the logic of action.

As with math, you simply cant have a number contradict itself.  Ex: I can't have "Man" and "Not Man" floating around with the same meaning.  1=1, a=a, selfish=selfish. A square has 4 sides

Does that make sense?  Did that help?  It's just an empty place holder /' useful perameter

 

Once again, there may be selfish or egoistic implications or presuppositions at play, but in so much as we are in the science of action, we can not appeal to it - as it is a different category - that category would be philosophy

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

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Torsten replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 3:04 PM

>> But even here I would hold most of my reservations on leftism because it is most likely to be a "top down" intellectual class ("philosopher kings") managment system -that would ultimately be very destructive and ugly.

>Excuse me, but isn't that how any management system is supposed to work? With supposedly smarter, more knowledgable, more reliable people on top and less knowledgeable/experienced people beneath them? Or at least with the theoretical work being done by the managers and engineers, while the rank and file does more practical and structured task?!

I think he was referring to the following fact: Marxist intellectuals divide
the population in three partitions:
1. those who consciously participate in Marxist class strugle fighting for the oppressed
2. those who consciously participate in Marxist class strugle fighting for the oppressor
3. those who are politically alienated, thus serving the interests of the oppressor

Since the Marxist intellectuals are (allegedly) not alienated and (allegedly) fight
for the oppressed, then it is right and necessary for them to rule, _even if the
people do not want it_ - because remember, those who disagree with Marxism are
either oppressors or alienated. This is why Marxist societies become an
"intellectuocracy", that is, rule by the Marxist intellectuals. They call it a
"dictatorship of the proletariat", but their dictatorship is as beneficial to the
proletariat as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is popular and democratic. In
both cases, the reality is the precise opposite of the name.

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Torsten replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 1:59 PM

You are refering to Platos Politeia. There'd be more then one reading on this. I guess a "libertarian readong on Platos Politiea" would be a good idea, but a thread on it own. 

Now we are debating altruism. Could we also have a look at what "dignity" means? I guess it's different from material welfare. 

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 2:17 PM

@Fides_et_Ratio: I have a distaste for Blockean libertarianism, as well. Take, for example, Block's Defending the Undefendable - while he does make a great logical case that many dishonorable professions should not be illegal (e.g. pimping, drug dealing, etc.), he completely overlooks the social importance of not allowing certain kinds of behavior to be "above ground".

I still need to study the issue in more depth but I think prostitution may be a good example where in every society I am aware of there has tended to be a half-heartedly enforced illegality. I think what is going on here is that if prostitution were just above-ground, out there, no problems, can be advertised anywhere, etc. etc. it would have an erosive effect on the family structure, that is, the prostitution industry would succeed in reeling in men who - so long as they keep it out of mind - would rather not partake. But then, at the same time, prostitution is an integral part of human nature - every culture ever has had prostitution, legal or illegal. So, the "enlightened ruler" will find the compromise in formally prohibiting it (no advertisements, no obviously standing out on street corners showing your leg, etc.) but will informally turn a blind eye so long as it is not blatant enough to catch the attention of the bourgeois middle class.

But Block doesn't consider any of this. He just follows this lobotomized version of Rothbard's propertarianism - the pimp and the prostitute aren't violating anyone's property rights, so no one has any business doing anything against them. In fact, the pimp is to be lauded as a hero of the free market in that he risks his life and property in order to produce a service demanded by the market despite the constant threat of harassment and imprisonment by the State.

On the particular issue you raised, I have always felt that Block has a crypto-Randian air about him. Of course, the passage you cited is complete horse-shit. Private charity is absolutely not a violation of any kind of Darwinian principle of fitness unless - as vive pointed out - you're also going to espouse pulling anti-biotics and basically closing down every non-primitive economic activity as a "crutch for the weak." Think how much more evolutionarily fit we would be if we all had to walk everywhere instead of driving or flying!

As for your wider concern that this makes "libertarians look bad", I don't think Block is exactly a mouthpiece of the libertarian movement. One could argue that he is the heir of the propertarian wing of libertarianism as he is, I think, the closest living disciple of Rothbard. But propertarians do not comprise a majority even among anarchist libertarians, let alone libertarians generally.

I want to note that both you and Block are equally confused about the relationship between the Darwinian principle and the social order. Social Darwinism as a prescription is ridiculous. But Darwinism applied to the study of human social behavior is a branch of science called evolutionary psychology. This science is not prescriptive, that is, it doesn't say "the fittest ought to survive", it is descriptive, as in, "those who survive and reproduce are those that have been selected." This is definitional, so it's not even up for debate. Block is arguing that there is an ought element to this (we ought not give to charity because, Block is contending, it interferes with Darwinian selection).

In addition to evolutionary psychology, there is sociology or the study of the evolution of human society itself. Evolutionary psychology stops around 10,000 years ago at the Agricultural Revolution because human culture and technology began to change at a rate that far outstripped the capacity of genetic evolution to keep up*. Nevertheless, the selection principles at work on the kinds of ideas that survive (memetics) move just as rapidly as cultural/technological evolution. In fact, cultural/technological evolution can be thought of as nothing more than the evolution of ideas (and their effects in the material world, that is, the technological devices that humans produce with these ideas). Sociology is the branch of science that studies these fast-moving factors. And if we restrict our attention to just the voluntary aspect of human interaction within sociology, we are talking about the science of economics.

So, the market is absolutely a Darwinian process, just as social evolution (the evolution of ideas) is, just as the evolution of human nature (evolutionary psychology) is, and so on. Humans are not at all exempt from evolution. And ideas absolutely do have evolutionary consequences on the human population. Bad ideas even have bad evolutionary consequences (e.g. tax-funded welfare programs that subsidize birth rates among poor mothers). But I am shocked that Block would suggest that even private charity is a violation of the Darwinian principle - he needs his head examined for that one.

Clayton -

*This explains a lot of the suffering and misery in the world, by the way - our caveman brains literally do not know how to process our current environment.

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z1235 replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 2:33 PM

Fides_et_Ratio:

This has significantly worsened the Libertarian reputation before my
eyes.

Don't appeal to authority (logical fallacy). Libertarians (like all other humans) are free to subjectively value or dislike whatever they want, depending on their level of knowledge in each particular field. Block has rubbed me the wrong way more than once and sometimes I've found him to be borderline sociopathic. 

Ironically, in this case, Block is merely showing ignorance (narrow-mindedness, short-sightedness) about how complex biological systems adapt to (find fitness maxima in) a complex and dynamically changing environment. In optimization theory (genetic algorithms, etc.) it is a well known fact that diversity of features (i.e. inclusion of genome features beyond the ones which seem to be superior for the present environment) increases the adaptability of a complex system and also allows it to explore/locate better (more fit) maxima than the present. In other words: "What goes around, comes around". 

Charity is prevalent (and considered moral or "good") today exactly because the societies and humans who had practiced it through millenia are the ones who out-survived the ones who didn't. One could easily argue that charity (give first, and maybe receive something later) is a superior feature -- from a purely Darwinistic fitness perspective -- both at the level of an individual acting agent and as a widely accepted societal norm.

 

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Torsten replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 2:49 PM

[asjective] evolution =/= Darwinian. 

Charles Darwin is just the guy that postulated a complex hypothesis how biological diversity did arise by otherwise unintelligent processes (mutation, recombination + selection = biological variance and progress). That selection btw. isn't really value neutral, but actually elimination of the unfit from reproduction. 

While there is also change and selection taking place on markets, in politics and in society as a whole, it's for sure done by intelligent agents. So there is some remarkable difference between the two.  

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I'm in agreement with z1235.

To answer the question, in the title of this thread, I'll depart from the opinions of most of the posters by looking at things from a different angle. The question is "Does Libertarianism promote the dignity of the poor?". Most have pointed out that Libertarianism doesn't attempt to promote the dignity of the poor. Other ideologies attempt to promote the dignity of the poor, they attempt to make the poor better off, thinking that this genuinely does help the poor. Most common of these methods is redistribution of wealth. A person who isn't very economically literate will say, "Well this makes the poor better off, without redistributive policies or practices the poor would starve and face other unsavory hardships." Here is where the saying "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day but teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime." is worth mentioning.

To really help a person you must know the person's problem but also know why they are facing the problem in the first place. Something most charitable, good hearted people, overlook. Poverty is a problem but the root of it consists of psychological, sociological, and political conditions. One of which is low self-esteem, something that has many consequences, consequences which have a profound impact on a person's life. A person who believes they are worthless and incapable of being productive, independent people, only have that belief reinforced by many attitudes held by the people who are trying to help them. Simply giving them money won't help them in the long term, in the short term yes, but in the long term it actually hurts them. (In that they become dependent on other people.) The Libertarians on the other hand believe people should take responsibility for their own problems, instead of relying on others, this "tough love" is more likely to help the poor in that it forces them to become independent. In a way we are promoting the dignity of the poor more than anyone else.

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@Clayton

You call Rothbard/Block kind of Libertarianism "propertarianism".  What is the kind of
Libertarianism that you subscribe to? Does it have a specific name? What is your view
towards charity?

Private charity must of course be legal. But what kind of private charity do you think
is actually beneficial?

Is there a room in your world for government-enforced "charity" (I put it under quotes
because if it is involuntary, it is not proper charity)? If not, why not? And how
would the handicapped, orphans and other vulnerable people be provided for? Can we
trust wealthy individuals to be charitable enough?

Regards

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@ Serpentis-Lucis

I agree that certain ideologies - namely Marxism - which have ostensibly attempted to
help the poor actually make people worse off.

However, the disgrace of Marxism does not mean we should embrace anarcho-capitalism.

How are orphans, handicapped or other vulnerable people to be provided for?

Or, what if a man was simply born with a low IQ and he cannot produce enough money
to have a decent standard of living?

Would you not support the proposal of Milton Freedman, to give negative income tax
to the poor?

 

Regards

 

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 3:51 PM

@Clayton

You call Rothbard/Block kind of Libertarianism "propertarianism".  What is the kind of
Libertarianism that you subscribe to? Does it have a specific name?

I actually don't even like the label "libertarian"; if anything, I would call myself anti-state. Even that can convey the wrong meaning as I do not think elimination of the State is the highest value, merely that it's a goal that we would all greatly benefit from working towards, kind of like being anti-malaria.

What is your view towards charity?

Charity is multi-dimensional - it's a word that masks a lot of complexity.

Private charity must of course be legal. But what kind of private charity do you think
is actually beneficial?

Whatever kind the donor himself or herself believes is actually beneficial. Charity is partly a genetic phenomenon (kin-loyalty, tribe-loyalty, etc.) and partly a social phenomenon (the human brain is wired for sympathy towards our own kind). But the primary logistical problem facing producers of charity is a knowledge problem, just like the problem facing producers in any industry. This is why centrally-planned charity is such a dismal failure. Every dollar given to a mooching loafer is a dollar not given to a starving child. Don't you see that that is actually anti-charity? So, charity is as much a problem of knowing who not to give to as it is knowing who to give to, and for what.

Is there a room in your world for government-enforced "charity" (I put it under quotes
because if it is involuntary, it is not proper charity)? If not, why not? And how
would the handicapped, orphans and other vulnerable people be provided for? Can we
trust wealthy individuals to be charitable enough?

Well, can we trust wealthy individuals to produce the world's oil or run the Internet? The fact is, they don't. Millions of small investors pool their funds through stock shares to become part-owners in corporations that produce oil and run the Internet. Private charity operates in exactly the same way. The vast majority of charity comes from people who are not wealthy, at least, not relative to their country of origin.

There is no room for government-enforced "charity" - not only is it not charity as you note, it's actually anti-charity. Money is being diverted from the hands of private individuals - who would have given to charity anyway - and most of that money is being placed in the hands of people who are just mooching off the system. Almost no one who is receiving government welfare in the US would be at risk of perishing without it.

Clayton -

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I don't attempt to speak for Clayton, but here's how I feel on government-enforced "charity": absolutely immoral. If someone is starving, while one might consider it immoral to let them suffer, isn't it immoral to steal to redistribute wealth? 

People will help each other when they don't feel they are being robbed by a government, and then, I believe, this redistribution of wealth (done voluntarily) will help more than theft by bureaucrats. We don't need to rely on the very wealthy (billionaires) to help the poor. People that are moderately wealthy will help the less fortunate out. No, not everyone will, by there is no reason to believe that enough people will to take care of those in need. That's how it was I the united States before the income tax and the welfare/warfare state we know today. There was not many people dying of starvation or lack of medical attention or any other ailment that might "disadvantage" them. See Democracy in America by Tocqueville for a foreigner's perspective of this.

As others have said, while charity isn't always the best thing for the poor, government welfare programs/policies hurt the people they claim to be trying to help more than any other group of people. Think about it: even though we have food stamps, there are still people that go hungry. Why not just admit the program does not fight hunger, but actually promotes it and stagnates the increase in the standard of living of the poor?

The only one worth following is the one who leads... not the one who pulls; for it is not the direction that condemns the puller, it is the rope that he holds.

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But what kind of private charity do you think is actually beneficial?

No different than any other action, only voluntary actions have the potential to be beneficial. Again, the welfare/warfare policies (all enforced by coercion) are easy to cite as counter-examples. I can't think of any sort of forced action that can be more beneficial than an alternative without coercion.

And Clayton, fantastic description and elaboration on this concept!

The only one worth following is the one who leads... not the one who pulls; for it is not the direction that condemns the puller, it is the rope that he holds.

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@Clayton

I still fear that private charity could not be enough to provide a decent standard of
living to vulnerable people. I think it is fair to give guarantees.

Don't you support any kind of government involvement? How about the following
proposals:

1. A negative income tax for the poor.

2. Subsidized education, housing and healthcare for the poor.

3. A "minimum charity funding", that is, each citizen is required give a minimum
   amount to a certified charity.

4. When you donate $1 to a certified charity, the government gives another 50 cents.

5. Conventional government-run charity, but at the county level. Thus it would be more
   answerable to the taxpayers, would have better information about the local problems,
   and the competition between counties would greatly increase efficiency and diminish
   authoritarianism.

None of the  proposals above is acceptable?

Regards

 

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@ Phi est aureum replied on Sun, Jul 15 2012 6:52 PM

> I don't attempt to speak for Clayton, but here's how I feel on government-enforced "charity": absolutely immoral. If someone is starving, while one might consider it immoral to let them suffer, isn't it immoral to steal to redistribute wealth?


I'm no philosopher, and I certainly need to get better informed on this subject.  But
I believe that the right to property is not universal and absolute. I think it is fair
to tax 10% out of a millionaire's income and give it to orphanages. The life, basic
education and health-care of the orphans are more imporant than a man keeping the full
$1000000 he earns instead of keeping just $900000.

Regards
 

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