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September 14, 2012


Philip Walker

I'm not persuaded by grandiose theories of human nature at the best of times, but on this occasion I can explain a little of why. At least one of Haidt's list of six basic moral principles is seriously flawed: authority is far too contentious a principle to be considered properly basic. The other five, at least as abstract ideals, would all be considered good. (And as you suggest, Chris, there may be a good moral case for 'efficiency', too. So Haidt's list may well also be missing at least one principle.)

Some, no doubt would see authority as a good thing in itself: but there would be a split in the vote, a split of a scale which simply wouldn't sustain the idea that authority is a fundamental moral value.


Maybe the public is potentially more receptive to left-libertarianism than what you claim. The biggest problem of left-libertarianism is that you won't find many proponents of that ideology who will be ready to make sacrifices and take risks to promote it (apart possibly from bloggers, whose motivations remain to be explained).

This is something you might relate to one of your previous post, Adverse selection in political discourse (or something like that). You said "Fanatics think their beliefs are so important and true that they set up lobbying groups and think-tanks to promote them, whilst rational people devote less time and organization to pushing their opinions."
Or, as I commented then: you can't imagine atheist missionaries.

Besides, it looks logical that anti-authoritarian people don't do much politics, since politics can be perceived as a fight for authority.

Luis Enrique

I think you're on to something here - some types are drawn to libertarian ideas and others types to lefty ideas but there appears to be something incompatible in practice if not in theory


Because, in practice, all this stuff about devolving chunks of the NHS and free schools looks like

a) privatisation
b) closure
c) enormous administrative cluster fuck

You may just have to accept that some of your ideas got tried and they sucked.

Now, there's an objection that the Tories aren't acting in good faith here.

But there's a better objection, which is that left-libertarian micropolicy gets crushed under the tracks of Tory macropolicy. The big society, the third sector, etc. are either dependent on substantial state funding (the New Labour solution) or else they are nice-to-have frills, useful to get at odd little corner cases in a full employment environment but just nowhere near enough or evenly distributed enough to matter in a recession.

The old-lefty objection that all these charities are honk and if you really want to solve a problem, you put it on the rates and/or build a ministry, appears to be right. Like so much old lefty stuff.


Another, tactical, point is that everyone who might be sympathetic to the Left hates libertarians.


@ Alex - I don't regard free schools and NHS reform as central parts of left libertarianism - and not in the way Tories are doing them. It's basic income and shifting the tax base that are more significant, to name but two.
And anyway, the merits of a political idea and its popularity are surely two different things, which are not well correlated.

Account Deleted

We can empirically prove that our tongues have taste receptors, but we cannot prove that our minds have a consistent set of moral receptors. This is no more scientific than a belief in the four humours.

Most of Haidt's proposed polarities are social in nature, and embody a conservative conception of society, which puts any individualist philosophy at an immediate disadvantage. But that is problematic for libertarianism only when it is divorced from any social context.

For example, a basic income only undermines reciprocity if you believe that the latter is always a fair, equivalent and (usually) synchronous exchange. This is a modern (i.e. C16th+ European) invention. Historically, reciprocity was asynchronous. In the good times you gave more, in the bad times you took more. You cast your bread upon the water, you trusted to your fellow man.

Left libertarians are too often anarchist wallflowers.

Donald Pretari

Good Post.

gastro george

Alex is right. Having been involved in left-libertarian and anarcho circles, and indeed the old free school movement, many years ago, the main problem I came up against was universality. The micro doesn't translate well to the macro. You can argue that a lot of Green activists have the same problem today.

What left-libertarians do bring to the table is a good analysis of power, as opposed to a purely economical analysis of politics.

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