On the last Friday of May, May 31, the Friday coming up, which happens also to be the last day of May, the speaker at my regular Last-Friday-of-the-Month meeting at my home will be Aiden Gregg.
I bumped into Aiden Gregg at another talk we both attended at the Institute of Economic Affairs, and quickly discovered two things about him. He is an academic psychologist, to be more specific: a lecturer at Southampton University. And, he is a straight-down-the-line, uncompromising libertarian. Those two facts alone were enough to get me inviting him to give a talk at my place. Libertarian economists are, if not two a penny, at least quite numerous, hence the existence of such institutions as the Institute of Economic Affairs. But libertarians in other academic specialities are much rarer, and we must, I think, do everything we can to encourage and make much of such people.
Just being a libertarian, and mingling and continuing to mingle with the kind of academics who are just about never libertarians and who in many cases have no idea that such a thing even exists, is itself something of an achievement. Even if you say very little about your libertarianism, and perhaps especially if you say very little, this can have all kinds of consequences. One particular consequence is that knowledge of what academic psychology typically consists of will be drawn into the libertarian movement. They may not learn much about our opinions, but we are far more likely to learn about theirs. As the late Chris Tame used to say, we need our people everywhere. And by that he meant especially everywhere in academia.
So, my attitude to Aiden Gregg is: well done mate, for just being what you are, never mind whatever else you might manage to do for the cause of liberty by actually saying stuff to your academic colleagues, and publishing things.
In that spirit of admiration, I said to Aiden Gregg, just talk about whatever you want to talk about.
Here is the email he sent me in which he said what he will be talking about:
The title of my talk will be “Sax and Violence”. “Sax” is not a typo but a contraction of “sex and “tax”!
In the talk I shall argue that, ethically speaking, the proactive seizure of one’s body and property by others, including for the greater social good, are analogous at an fundamental level.
According, it is either the case that both are generally legitimate, or that neither are generally legitimate, but not the case that one is generally legitimate but the other is not.
In Western cultures, however, the proactive seizure of a portion of someone’s property (or income, its monetary representation), for the purposes of enriching some while impoverishing others, if democratically elected rulers so dictate, is readily accepted by most democratic voters, and is seen not only as permissible, but also as obligatory, or at all events, regrettably necessary.
In contrast, in the same cultures (though not others), the proactive seizure of a portion of someone’s body, for the purposes of sexually satisfying some while sexually dissatisfying others, if democratically elected rulers so dictate, is firmly rejected by most democratic voters, and is seen as not only forbidden, but also as repugnant, and in any case, wholly unnecessary.
If, ethically speaking, it is not the case that one is legitimate but the other is not – and I shall attempt to rebut several key objections – then the acceptance of the first, but the rejection of the second, is an ethical bias stands in need of explanation.
One theoretical approach to accounting for such a bias would be system justification theory, developed by left-liberal thinkers to explain the persistence of social hierarchy, but arguably even better suited to explaining the perceived legitimacy of statist authority.
So, the talk will feature some ethics and some psychology.
So, this will be a talk that is in several ways outside the usual libertarian boxes, both in terms of who is giving it, and what it will be about. Good.
If this or any other of these meetings are of interest to you, and you aren’t already on my email list, get on it by emailing me. Click where it says “Contact”, top left, here.