Conventional Illiberalism

I blog anonymously because I want to remain free to engage in preference falsification in the future.  I want to say things as a brash young man (barely) in my early 20s which I may otherwise regret as less brash young man in my late 20s who really needs to bullshit those he wants to employ him.

This I think is important.

When Chris says New Labour’s authoritarian streak merely reflected society’s illiberalism I think he underestimates the extent to which New Labour reinforced the public discourse to which people adhere.

There is nothing outlandish in the idea that the financial sector is a coddled, subsidised, clusterfucker of my generation’s life chances, nor that taking drugs is fun, but to express these opinions in public alone may not be wise.

In the most part the market disciplines social conformity, to have the state doing so too constitutes a double whammy. In the 60s the state spearheaded rather “elitist” projects, like not flogging gays or having the state murder people for revenge, [1] today the state reinforces prejudices where it feels it can court public support.

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[1] If you think people should die for the crimes they’ve committed then man up; kill them yourself and take the consequences. Don’t try and rig the machinery of the state to do your dirty work for you, coward.

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29 thoughts on “Conventional Illiberalism

  1. Many people would happily kill the murderer or rapist of a friend or family member. This is a natural reaction and the desire for retribution is perfectly understandable and legitimate. The reason that this natural response doesn’t take place more often is that the state criminalises and thus prevents it. The “consequences” in the case of killing a murderer are entirely artificial.

  2. Just as you are justified in protecting your life with lethal force so the heirs of a murdered person are entitled to exact punishment up to and including that which is proportional to the crime. If you murder someone then a punishment in proportion to the crime is death. The right to retributive justice is inherent in the individual, not the state.

    1. Just as you are justified in protecting your life with lethal force so the heirs of a murdered person are entitled to exact punishment up to and including that which is proportional to the crime.

      Non sequitor – self defense and revenge are seperate categories, what you argue does not follow.

      However, think about it, even if I concede that “the right to retributive justice is inherent in the individual, not the state” then death penalty advocates are still in the wrong. If you think only a person’s blood can sate your bloodlust fine, but don’t expect the state to help. You should expect the state to treat you as the murderer you are. Don’t co-opt the state into sick revenge fantasies.

  3. Self defense and retribution/restitution for crime are both justified in the same way and belong in the same “category” (odd expression). Both constitute violent defense of person or property in response to violent attack. Defense includes getting back at least what you lost from the person that took it.

    I don’t expect the state to carry out the death penalty on my behalf if I am wronged to an extent that merits it. I don’t expect the state to do anything at all.

    Desiring punishment in proportion to the crime committed does not constitute “sick revenge fantasy” for most people. It is simply defense of private property and is perfectly natural to most people.

    1. “Defense includes getting back at least what you lost from the person that took it”

      You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

      Also, you seem to think that a dead victim’s family killing the murderer means they “get back” what the murderer took. What exactly do they get back? The victim? A +1 to cancel out the -1 of the original murder? Life isn’t a video game.

      “It is simply defense of private property”

      Another example of libertarianism being feudalism in disguise. What has private property got to do with anything? Last time I checked, murder victims don’t tend to have been owned by their families before their death.

      “is perfectly natural to most people”

      Congratulations, you’ve managed to squeeze two logical fallacies into ix words there – the naturalistic fallacy, and an argumentum ad populum.

  4. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    If someone takes your property then rightful defense of that property includes taking it back. If someone takes a life (which is the property of another) then they forfeit their own right to life.

    “Also, you seem to think that a dead victim’s family killing the murderer means they “get back” what the murderer took. What exactly do they get back? The victim? A +1 to cancel out the -1 of the original murder? Life isn’t a video game.”

    A person is justified in protecting their own life with lethal force if they are attacked. You seem to be arguing that if their attacker is successful and the victim is killed that this right to defend life with lethal force just disappears. I don’t see why that would be the case.

    “Another example of libertarianism being feudalism in disguise. What has private property got to do with anything? Last time I checked, murder victims don’t tend to have been owned by their families before their death.”

    Every man has a property in his own person, etc. All crime is violence against private property.

    “Congratulations, you’ve managed to squeeze two logical fallacies into ix words there – the naturalistic fallacy, and an argumentum ad populum.”

    I’m not arguing for moral correctness based upon the fact that proportional punishment of crime is both natural and popular. I’m just observing that it is, i.e. providing evidence that it does not constitute “sick revenge fantasy”. Observing the world as it is doesn’t constitute any kind of logical fallacy.

    1. “If someone takes your property then rightful defense of that property includes taking it back. If someone takes a life (which is the property of another) then they forfeit their own right to life.”

      Again, that is a non sequitor! Even if defense includes taking something back, you can’t take back a life! It isn’t equivalent.

      “A person is justified in protecting their own life with lethal force if they are attacked. You seem to be arguing that if their attacker is successful and the victim is killed that this right to defend life with lethal force just disappears. I don’t see why that would be the case.”

      Because the person is dead, you can’t have rights if you’re dead because…you’re dead. You are now talking about what rights other people have. That does not include the right to murder someone.

    2. I find it odd (but not surprising) that Flying Rodent’s formulation of libertarianism seems to have found such currency in the liberal blogosphere. Personally, far from being a Trojan Horse for feudalism, I regard libertarians as entryist radicals, and libertarianism a particularly concentrated form of liberal ideology. But then, disputes and matters of taste, etc, etc.

      1. Flying Rodent and I reached this analysis of Libertarianism separately. I think that bolsters its credibility.

        Where he and I differ is that I think that “Libertarianism” does exist and that lots of people believe its tenants but that they only really do fuck all about it when it is in their – or the group they identify with, often white, in-group males – interests.

        For example, witness Libertarians’ willingness to concede we have to have immigration controls because immigrants are so illiberal even though most people are “so illiberal” compared to what Libs proclaim. They’re not hypocrites per se, or neo-feudalists but asymmetric.

        1. It does suggest what in social-science geek-speak might be referred to as “inter-rater reliability”.

          In my experience, libertarians never concede the necessity of immigration controls on any basis whatsoever, to the point of irrational attachment to an article of faith–but perhaps I’m not sampling the total variation of the population. I mean, I certainly hope so, but from what I’ve seen their views are conventional liberal on this issue, and, indeed, on most issues.

          White males standing up for the interests of white males qua white males is obviously not a very liberal position, though. I’d be interested in seeing some examples–are you thinking of anything specific that you could link to?

  5. “Again, that is a non sequitor! Even if defense includes taking something back, you can’t take back a life! It isn’t equivalent.”

    Obviously defense involves taking back what was taken. How could it be otherwise? It still belongs to the rightful owner after all. The heirs of a murdered person can take back a life in return for one taken since they are now owners of the estate of the deceased, including his rights to lawful defense of person and property. Doing so is known as retribution.

    “Because the person is dead, you can’t have rights if you’re dead because…you’re dead. You are now talking about what rights other people have. That does not include the right to murder someone.”

    Rights pass to heirs. Criminals do not get away free of their rightful punishment if they are successful in their original crime. Since we are all justified in using lethal force in protecting our own lives the full punishment for murder is death.

    1. Killing anyone is wrong.

      Okay, if you won’t confront my mum, how about Gandhi?

      Are you not worried this will set off some sort of blood war? As Gandhi says “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

      Even if you have the right to kill a murdered they have the right to protect their own life (see Hobbes’ Leviathan for an analogous discussion on the right to rebel agaisnt a sovereign), and so is set off a long, never ending, line of people who have the “right” to kill someone else.

      Thats a reductio ad abusrdum of your position. Like what you see?

  6. People who have violently attacked the property of another do not have a right to defend themselves from retaliation.They may try but the right is with the injured party.

    1. But you’re saying that sometime after the event it is permissible for the “heirs” (somewhat loosely phrased) of a murder victim to kill the perpertrator and that the murderer would have no right to self-defense.

      I don’t think I’d look upon it in a particularly good light, but the original attack and the revenge killing are too far seperated for you to assert that a person would lose a right to self-defense.

  7. Crimes do not fade with time. The rights of victims do not ebb away as time passes. Violence against person or property still happened and victims still have a right to take back at least what they lost.

    1. Competing rights exist. Even if someone has a right to kill someone, they can retain the right to defend themselves. Given your premises some one may have the right to kill someone (i.e. right to take an action and not be subsequently censured) but cannot hold the right to take an action against another human being and expect absolute asquiesence.

      There’s little you’ve said to convince me however that the state has the right to kill someone, only that revenge attacks may be based on some odd reading of absolute property rightsism.

      All you’ve argued is that murders can only be justly dealt with in a duel.

      You’ll notice that I’ve conceded every strange deontological point you put forward and yet you still are not winning this argument.

  8. New Labour’s “authoritarian streak” is really the apotheosis of society’s liberalism rather than a negation of it. Dillow’s own investment in the dominant ideology of our time naturally prevents him from glimpsing the bigger picture–being, as it were, too close to the trees.

    Paleoconservatives coined an apt and useful phrase for this dynamic: “anarcho-tyranny”. The idea being that the State is indifferent to the big crimes that matter (such as preventing riots on the streets of London) but comes down ruthlessly on crimes that are largely spurious in nature (like not nominating a keyholder for your burglar alarm when you are on holiday).

    The Imaginary or Ideal City must be built, and that requires an active engagement on the part of liberals (particularly “liberal elites”). To this end, there is both the stick of legislation and the carrot of education and popular culture. I do not see that the government does much reflecting of society’s illiberalism. Rather, it follows Brecht:

    After the uprising of the 17th June
    The Secretary of the Writers Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had forfeited the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?

  9. The idea being that the State is indifferent to the big crimes that matter (such as preventing riots on the streets of London) but comes down ruthlessly on crimes that are largely spurious in nature (like not nominating a keyholder for your burglar alarm when you are on holiday).

    Pfft!

    One, I think you and paleoconservatives are anthropomorphising the state too much, “it” is really a multitude of competing groups.

    Two, the riots weren’t not prevented because the state didn’t care, but because people fucked up. There were minor riots a few months before that didn’t spread, a unique confluence of events left the Met unprepared. Once they knew they had to take things seriously things were sorted relatively quickly.

    Three, the state is somewhat vindictive about the little things, but that is because it is a bureaucracy and they give people license to act like dicks and the means, and at times requirement, to do so. The idea that the state is on some mission to penalise regular joe is a fabrication of the populist right.

    I’m not really following your argument though. Could you elaborate?

  10. “it” [i.e. the State] is really a multitude of competing groups.

    I certainly do not disagree with that. Nevertheless, there is an entity called the state; it acts; it has particular characteristics; it evolves over time; and so on. Why does it act, and why does it develop particular characteristics? But wait–here we are again anthropomorphising the state! Really though, I think in the comments section to a blog, we can afford to generalise for the sake of conversational flow. Otherwise, what is there–we’d just be trying to post boring-ass selecorate theoretical models of political economy, and you don’t even have LaTeX.

    Anyway, you laugh at the idea that “the State” is indifferent to some crimes and obsessed with others, Because, what is the State? It’s just a mass of competing groups. But still it acts as the State.

    As an example, let’s say that the State persecutes a particular minority. Logically, you should object to this sentence because it implies that “the State” is a unitary actor. The State cannot persecute particular minorities, because the State doesn’t exist as such, only different groups competing within it exist. Similarly, we couldn’t talk about a reactionary State or liberal State or imperialist or socialist or anything State. But I can’t imagine that you want to argue that.

    The riots were only an example, and weren’t meant to be definitive. What I was trying to elucidate was the idea that there is two types of crime: one, the violent, anti-social type that makes peoples’ lives miserable; and two, the harmless and unnecessary type that new Labour seem to have created. I could find many examples of both.

    To address the riots specifically, my reading is rather different. In my view, the riots ended because the rioters ended the riots unilaterally. The Met an the politicians then predictably stood around patting each other on the back and congratulating themselves on their Big Success at being Tough on Crime. (“Robust” was the euphemism of the day–everything was going to be extra “robust”, and once the rioters realised that extent of the authorities commitment to robust this and robust that, they rediscovered their place in the social order, and stopped setting fire to England and stood down. Really, the whole episode is a fascinating case study in delusion.)

    The riots were not prevented because the authorities are congenitally incapable of preventing riots. On what basis could they do so? With what means? On the right of the ruler to rule, and with the use of force. But this is antithetical from the perspective of modern liberalism, which seeks rule by consent. No consent, no rule. What moral right do we have to tell the rioters not to loot and burn our cities? Whatever that might be, it certainly does not include enforcing the law with force of arms and maintaining an effective monopoly of violence; traditionally, the State’s primary task.

    Sadly, the idea that the State persecutes the average Joe is not at all a fabrication, if you simply measure relative to how it persecutes violent criminals, or how it reacts when “scary” teenagers decide they want to go on the rampage and smash up shopping centres all over the country for days and days. Thus, murderers go to jail for meagre amounts of time for crimes of despicable savagery; meanwhile, the government is legislating for how long your dog-lead should be. Crazy, but also reality.

    And how should we deal with this crazy reality? One way is to blame this on the red-tops. If only people would stop talking about it, it would either stop being reality, or stop being crazy. People only think there is a lot of crime because they read about it in the Daily Mail. People are only shocked about the riots because they don’t realise how normal it is to have people sack your major population centres every now and again.

    But this is the Ideal City in its essence: it doesn’t exist, it must be made to exist. “You’ll never see the hacienda. It doesn’t exist.The hacienda must be built.” Indeed.

  11. “Competing rights exist. Even if someone has a right to kill someone, they can retain the right to defend themselves. Given your premises some one may have the right to kill someone (i.e. right to take an action and not be subsequently censured) but cannot hold the right to take an action against another human being and expect absolute asquiesence.

    There’s little you’ve said to convince me however that the state has the right to kill someone, only that revenge attacks may be based on some odd reading of absolute property rightsism.

    All you’ve argued is that murders can only be justly dealt with in a duel.

    You’ll notice that I’ve conceded every strange deontological point you put forward and yet you still are not winning this argument”

    You don’t appear to understand what rights are. Rights do not imply aquiescence.

    I’m not arguing that states have the “right” to kill people because to do so would be ridiculous.Only people have rights.

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