We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Blogs need to have bouncers

A few weeks ago when we culled the so-called race realists (neo-fascist racists) that were camping in Samizdata.net’s comment section, it became clear to me that if you let ill mannered loud mouths use your venue to try and shout down discourse and endlessly turn unrelated topics to their pet thesis, all you do is attract more ill mannered loud mouths who will do the same.

Everyone has their techy days in the comment section but when a person makes a habit of being obnoxious and immune to rational argument, I see no reason to indulge them or tolerate them. This is not a forum and this is not a chat room, it is a blog, which is quite different. Many blogs do not even have comment sections.

When you open your house to visitors, you do not give up the right to kick people out if they start insulting other guests and spray painting their opinions on the wall. Of course some people would say, “Oh but that is censorship if you stop them”. Er, no, it is just maintaining control over what is and is not acceptable on your private property… but of course some people, the sort that I am now far quicker to ban, do not actually believe in private property (not when you pin them down), and often cannot see that censorship by the state of private media channels and editorial control over a private media channel (such as a blog, for example) are materially different things. But then to someone who thinks all interaction should be political (the usual term used is ‘democratic’ these days), such distinctions make little difference to them. I am not referring here to specific people but rather the general class from which our ‘problem commenters’ tend to spring.

Some cannot see that they are not being ‘censored’ because of whatever their views are, any more than a man who gets on a table in a restaurant, drops his draws and starts calling for the darkies to be thrown out of Britain or for the middle class to have their homes confiscated is being ‘censored’ when he gets thrown out by a bouncer for being an jackass.

If I have any regrets it is that I have been too indulgent of endlessly poorly argued and often off topic drivel posted by a small minority of serial commenters in the past. I have no objection to vocal dissent from the ‘Samizdata.net world view’ (whatever that is), I just object to a constant stream of unsupported contentions delivered by megaphone that makes no attempt to actually engage in discourse. We have lots of dissenters who comment here regularly that I would not dream of banning.

So yes, there is a new hard line. Trolls and blogroaches will not be indulged and will be ejected rather swifter in future.


43 comments to Blogs need to have bouncers

  • Julian Morrison

    The trouble with a “shoot on sight” policy, is that big-statist types tend to arrive ranting and knowing everything – and can sometimes learn better if they’re amenable to discussion. Ranting is kind of, “the normal means of political discourse”, in some circles, and I don’t think they quite recognize they’re doing it. Blowing them away after their first offense could be counterproductive in the long run.

  • Perry,

    You write that:

    I just object to a constant stream of unsupported contentions …

    As we are both followers of the great Karl Popper I should remind you that all contentions are necessarily unsupported. We should seek to criticise contentions not try to support them; which is a logically futile task.

    Whatever your objections to certain postings it cannot be that they are unsupported.

  • Well Paul, then let me rephraze it as ‘contentions unsupported by useful arguments’.

    Popper pointed out that knowlage is conjectural, but those conjectures need to be supported by some sort of rational argument rather than just be shouted out on the assumption that as the underpinning axioms are beyond debate (rarely the case), they must just be accepted as self-evident.

  • Rational argument is very important but it cannot be used to support a contention, only to critically evaluate it. I think what you are objecting to in certain postings is not that some commenters fail to support their contentions but rather that they will not open themselves to critical debate.

    We can use our imaginations to assert any theory we like but we must take the resulting criticism seriously. Support for a theory of point of view is unnecessary since it is possible that a child may hit on the truth in his first guess. The truth will withstand all criticism and no “support” is needed.

  • What you said Perry.

    If I have any regrets it is that I have been too indulgent (…)

    I know we had that conversation privately before, but on the contrary, I’ve always admired the extent of your patience and tolerance on this matter.

    I, for one, shoot at first sight without warning, explanation or apology.


    big-statist types (…) can sometimes learn better if they’re amenable to discussion.

    Point taken, but I guess that deciding if Samizdata is assigned the sacred pedagogic mission of enlightening the ignorant should be left to the editors. After all, as the social responsibility statement goes: “this blog does not have wheelchair ramps for the ‘intellectually challenged’.”

  • At the risk of veering off topic, I often wonder whether the Blogosphere is inherently libertarian, or whether it will in short order, as soon as the Majority Viewpointists have all discovered it and learned its ways, revert to political Majority-ness. Posts like this make me think that there perhaps IS something inherently – if not “libertarian” – then at least “propertarian” about the Blogosphere. Just as you can’t run a club without bouncers, so you can’t run a blog (with a comments section) without de-roaching from time to time.

    Trouble is, the same thing applies to old-fashioned newspapers. People who oppose the principle of property being applied to people generally, but insist upon it applying to themselves and to their own property are, alas, quite plentiful. These are the Effective Socialists, and how I wish they would all of them apply their general principles to their own particular arrangements (thereby wrecking them), instead of some of them not doing this.

  • It is not “un-libertarian” to police these people off of Samizdata. The way I put it on our blog, is that the comments section is like our front porch. It faces the street. You may drop in and join the conversation. But you are on our property and if you cannot respect the basic rules of civility you will be asked to leave or if necessary compelled to leave. There is speech which invites a conversation or at least a response in kind, and there is “speech” which is nothing more than vandalism. We harm rather than help the cause of free speech if we pretend the latter should be given the same respect as the former.

    Bully for you on your new policy.

  • Rob Read

    Instead of deleting comments just put them in un-readably small text (+warning), so those with the inclination can cut paste and read them?

  • Hear, hear. It took us a while to get there but the Editorial Patheon has spoken…

  • Well the first comment on Brian’s post on Zimbabwe above is probably one of the most blatent and absurd trolls I’ve ever seen. I would recommend the editing pencil for that one.

  • R C Dean

    If I may summarize the official position:

    “Get your own blog.”

    Of course, I was recruited from the commentariat, so I am all in favor of comments. I often post just to see what the comments will bring. I am also easily baited by trolls. All told, the new policy strikes me as being about right.

  • Paul: I am inclined to agree with snide that it was absurdist satire. I doubt anyone not in Mugabe’s pay is really that bonkers.

  • I use the party analogy. If I was throwing a party at my house, and they were acting that way, would I boot them out the door?

    For example, I don’t boot someone from a party for changing the subject. I expect the subject to be changed. However, if everytime someone else changed the subject, some jackass started repeating his pet argument that has nothing to do with the new subject over and over and talking over other people, he’s going to be partying somewhere else. If there was a group that did that, they would be told to go make thier own party someplace else.

  • Darth Snarky

    Not really Paul, an unsupported contention “the moon is made of cheese therefore the moon landing was bogus because the legs of the LEM would have sunk into the cheese” is an unsupported contention unless I explain why thinking the moon is made of cheese is a reasonable theory.

    It is hard to falsify something without asking lots of question that are really too much for a measly comment pop-up, so a supporting proposition or two really is needed rather than declaiming self-evident statement like so many seem to do here that this or that article on the blog is wrong and it supporters are ‘selfish’ without explaining why it is wrong or even why being ‘selfish’ is bad…unless you have some idea what the idiotic counter-theory is based on, it is hard to usefully debunk (falsity) it.

  • Chris Goodman

    Popper is not a thinker of any consequence. To seek to justify a free society by appealing that that intellectual lightweight we are in trouble. For example a free society is NOT an Open Society. At the very least it is dedicated to the end of upholding a free society.

    I would argue that in order to justify a free society it is necessary to invoke objective but transcendent ideals, but that is another story. I will simply limit myself to saying that a free society requires that its members submit to the practices that sustain its existence.

    This is even more the case with the plurality of autonomous communities that make up a free society. Indeed I would argue that the primary liberty of a free society is not individual freedom, but the freedom of dedicated communities to pursue their own ends in their own way – so long as they are consistent with the rules and practices of a free society.

    If the editors of Samizdata believe that Zion Parklet has violated the practices of this community, he, especially since he has been repeatedly told what is and is not acceptable, has effectively excluded himself.

    Popper was also wrong on the justification issue. Of course you can never be absolutely certain about the validity of a claim, but so what. You cannot be absolutely sure of the validity of refutations either. When we convince each other (or otherwise) we appeal to all sorts of things. The ultimate ground is our shared experience of the universe.

    Of course all points of view are limited and situated, not even Zion Parklet has a hot line to God, it is the primary reason why we have a free society, but to say that because you cannot sort out who to believe by appealing to absolute principles (which as a good Logical Positivist Popper does – except of course he believes these rational principles can refute but not confirm an assertion) you cannot justify your assertions is utter Poppercock.

  • You cannot be absolutely sure of the validity of refutations either.

    Yeah, that is why theories are conjectural. It seems you are a Popper fan and not a Popper pooper after all.

    When we convince each other (or otherwise) we appeal to all sorts of things. The ultimate ground is our shared experience of the universe.

    Meaning what exactly?

  • Endymion

    Editor’s note:

    Comment deleted.

    Bugger off, Scott.

  • EddieP

    Nothing wrong with diverse opinions expressed by those who believe their positions need to be argued. But, loud, obnoxious, rude, juvenile, automatons have no place at a party of mine.

    Thanks, Perry

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Perry, well done. I must say I was beginning to get a bit worried that Samizdata was being targetted by some seriously misanthropic types. It is odd, but some of the most vicious comments have come in response to the most optimistic, life-affirming posts, whether they are about the impact of western culture, the SS1 venture, etc. Optimism seems to be a red rag to folk.

  • Chris Goodman

    Popper thought there was a METHOD with which a theory could be tested – indeed he thought that for something to count as a scientific claim such a method has to be applicable.

    He claimed that we cannot confirm a theory but we CAN refute it i.e. there are conjectures and refutations.

    But if your refutations are as uncertain as your conjectures – i.e. that all so called refutations have to be interpreted – this undermines the notion that we cannot confirm but we can refute.

    In order to get you to agree with my interpretation, I will try to appeal to common ground. This common ground may be shared interpretations about the nature of the universe, but it does not follow [as Popper correctly pointed out] that all justification stops at interpretative frameworks – and therefore if we dwell in incommensurable frameworks debate is pointless. ULTIMATELY I appeal to our shared experience of the world.

    By experience I do not mean lumps of sense date nor do I even claim that it can be wholly explicated. In the absence of their being this shared experience rational debate – and a free society – would indeed be pointless. To put it in political terms – why have a free society rather some other sort of society e.g. a fundamentalist Islamic society such as Iran?

  • “Many blogs do not even have comment sections.”

    I had comments on my old blog, but decided against them on the new one. When people go to the trouble of sending you emails instead, they tend to take what they are doing more seriously and be aware that they are engaging in communication with a real person, rather than just using a free space to assert their opinion on something. I prefer less correspondence of higher quality, which can then be discussed either privately or in a new post.

    However, Samizdata is a group blog which encourages public debate: many of the posts here are more openers to discussion than comprehensive arguments in themselves. Many of the comments which are still allowed (the Mugabe one above is a case in point) are far more hostile-sounding than plenty of other bloggers with comments would ever allow.

    I think there is a place for that kind of dicussion, but I also think that blogroach handling is a skill which the Samizdata editors are going to continue to have to use because of the nature of this place. If one encourages this kind of vigorous argument and then allows people to join in for free, on one’s own property, then undesirables are always going to try to exploit that.

    So, continuing good luck … 🙂

  • Chris Harper

    The issue can be summed up in two ways –

    1, I may not interfere with your freedom of expression, but I am under no obligation to provide you with a platform.

    2, I respect your right to believe any silly thing you wish, but I am under no obligation to respect the silly beliefs you have.

  • ernest young

    Of course there are others who abuse the free space on offer, by subtly – or sometimes not so subtly, directing readers to their personal blogs, thereby boosting their hit ratio to a level which they are unlikely to reach by their own efforts.

    While not being so annoying as the usual ‘roach’or troll, their condescending, preachy, pompous comments are never-the-less, irritating and would seem to be a throwback to the old days of bulletin boards and user group commenting of the ‘hear, hear’, or ‘good post’, variety, and add nothing to the debate.

    These folk are also guilty of commenting for the sake of seeing their trite remarks in print, and of riding the coat-tails of the more talented.

  • I must say that in my own Samizdata posts, I do like lots of feedback- I often advance ideas which are slightly ‘different’ so to speak, and since there are plenty of very smart folks here, I know that any idea I advance will come under well-reasoned scrutiny. And the comments section is the ideal place for feedback and other points of view.

    It is a great way to learn.

    So comments are important to me, and I do not care for them to be infested with confounded infernal digressions, or abuse. I’ve been fortunate so far in that my own posts have not had this problem, but I’ve seen in on plenty of others. Therefore, I welcome this new policy.

  • Hoo bloody ray. Sorry that I can’t be bothered to put forward a cohesive argument in support of your stance but I believe that if something is self evident, it’s, well, SELF EVIDENT

  • Graham A

    “the so-called race realists (neo-fascist racists)”

    Hmmm… I haven’t read these comments, and I count myself a race realist. What a pity if this respectable intellectual stance, which as I understand it simply means using standard methods of argumentation and logical reasoning when discussing race, and not being intimidated by cries of ‘racist’, has been commandeered by fascists. Or neo-fascists – but I thought most of them were not bright enough to make any sort of coherent argument, or find this site on the web.

    I won’t attempt to make a case for race realism here. It is ably done by Steve Sailor at isteve.com and by the folks at Gene Expression, which sits very close to Samizdata on my favourites list. Chris Brand, who I think invented the term ‘race realism’, is well worth reading, if intemperate at times.

    Being realistic about race goes with realism about other spheres of life, particularly economics, politics and the philosphy of science.

  • Alice Bachini


    You win! I won’t comment here anymore. I prefer places where people don’t attack me, and as this is the only place I go where it happens, the solution seems obvious.

  • PaleoMan

    Gaham A: There is a libertarian race- realist school, led by Prof. Michael Levin. But in the eyes of our moderator, Perry de Havilland, you can’t be a true libbo/”minarchist” unless you agree with marxoids that race is a “pre-modern” illusion. Which would surprise all those who are mapping the human genome and finding DNA and MRI confirmations of the classical-anthropological taxonomy of human subspeciation.

    Medical researchers are already benefiting by these findings. The idea that “race is a social construct” ends at the doors of the casualty ward. And if you use PC (and scientifically preferable) terms, such as “ethnicity” or “population group”, you can talk more freely about race in higher academic circles than for some years past. Of course the change in the weather will take a while to percolate down to the blogosphere, but that’s what the internet is for.

  • For a start I think that the vast majority of ‘race realists’ are actually just bigots who have cottoned on to the minor differences that actually have anything to do with ‘race’ genetically and use it to prop up views that when closely examined are just warmed over racist collectivism. Does that mean all ‘race realists’ are just crypto-fascists? No… but I would say 80% of them are indeed just KKK style wackos and goodly number of the 20% who do *not* draw political collectivist conclusions from their science based views are nevertheless credulous fools when it comes to realising the nature of their fellow travellers. I for one am not fooled. The great majority of self-described ‘race realists’ and just bigoted political collectivists of the old school in a new uniform.

  • Perry,

    Bravo. I opened comments on my blog for the first time a couple of weeks ago (sorry, Ernest, but it’s germane to the issue), and when the paleo-cons started spouting their anti-Semitic nonsense, and liberals their “Bush is Hitler” crap, I was at first polite — refuting the arguments as I went along — then irritated, because they’d just change the subject and continue pushing their main theme. Finally, I lost all patience, wielded the ban cutlass and smote them mightily.

    My regular Readers came back, and my traffic increased.

    They didn’t want to read all that cant, they wanted to read about guns and if political issues, my specific take on them, because it mirrored their own.

    Blogs are not Speaker’s Corner, where anyone can shout their stuff. People come to a blog because they like the content; they don’t come to be hectored by these loudmouthed types.

    Let them eat cake, or, preferably, cyanide.

  • PaleoMan

    A difference in average IQ of 30 points between African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews in the USA is not “minor”: it has immense explanatory power in accounting for the differential impact on these ethnic groups of such statist devices as welfare schemes or college and job quotas.

    Nor can all physical differences between races be dismissed as minor. Some are near-absolute, e.g. lactose tolerance. The wrong blood group used in a transfusion can kill a black person. A given amount of alcohol makes orientals drunk faster than whites. Refusing to make proper allowances for human biodiversity, by maintaining that such variances are randomly distributed across 6bn individuals, is myopic.

    It is curious that Samizdata, which devotes so much space to defending the rights of nation states against internationalist and globalist encroachment, is so reluctant to recognise the biological underpinnings of discrete national cultures.

  • It is curious that Samizdata, which devotes so much space to defending the rights of nation states against internationalist and globalist encroachment, is so reluctant to recognise the biological underpinnings of discrete national cultures.

    Oh please. There is not’ biological’ underpinning to culture, just evolutionary factors which are accidents of history underpinning cultures. And how ‘discrete’ are cultures really? I am sure that Imperial Roman ‘race realists’ would have though the Britons congenitally inferior too. Within a given race, there are great physical differences, and that proves… there are great physical differences. Wow. The implications are what exactly?

    As I have met cretins, bigots, buffons, morons, jerks, liars, criminals and ignoramuses the world over, it seems to me that the evidence that race is not germane is overwhelming, other than in the minds of the racial phrenologists. The real issue is ‘does the biology of race have objective political implications’? And the only rational answer is NO.

    That is why when Hans Herman Hoppe predicts a true free society will involves racial groups excluding other racial groups, he reveals himself for what he really is and projects his own prejudices as being in fact the ‘natural order of things’. Yet I would say the evidence suggests otherwise.

    In fact I think the onus is on ‘race realists’ who actually expect to be engaged in reasonable discussion to demonstrate they are not just bigoted ‘white sheet over the head’ types who are just singing a new jingle. This may seem harsh, but when one after another, after another, when you scratch hard enough, turn out to be a racial collectivists (little more than Nazis really), I am not inclined to assume the contrary automatically.

    But of course, I believe it was Churchill who said, a fanatic is someone who will not change his mind and will not change the subject. It is amazing how the subject of race always comes up with the people obsessed by it, regardless of the subject.

    And we do not support the rights of nation states against globalists, we just don’t like international (UN) and supernational (EU) bodies which lock in statism and make rolling it back even harder by being more remote. We are in favour of laissez faire international trade and free peaceable movement of people and a nice little nightwatchman state.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    I won’t be too certain that they are absolutely no significant genetic differences between racial groups. From a scientific viewpoint, we should not succumb to the naturalist fallacy. We’re not talking about what should be; we’re talking about what is.

    It may well turn out that the IQ difference found between racial groups isn’t due to environmental differences, but rather written in the genetic code. Nobody likes genetic determinism, but if it exists, then it exists. No amount of saying otherwise would make it go away.

    Still, the evidence is rather piffly. I’m not convinced personally of the genetic differences between racial groups leading to differences in IQ yet. You’ll need to carry out long term experiments involving children in identical growing environments for it to be conclusive. I suspect such research has ethical and moral obstacles that’ll never allow such experimentation.

    Then even if there is a significant difference, does it matter? Or, as Perry put it, ‘does the biology of race have objective political implications’? I rather believe it might. If the theory proves true, it may yet explain the plight of Africa, the relative successes of different racial groups around the world, the various development of civilizations.

    Even if the theory of race-realism sounds wrong, we shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand because it does not conform with our view of the world. We have to consider the evidence and implications rationally.

    An tangential topic is gender-realism. Nobody denies that there are physical differences between the sexes. Has this led to significant implications for society? You bet it does.

  • PaleoMan

    Wobbly Guy: The extreme feminism of the early 1970s tried to obliterate sexual differences by ascribing them all to prejudice which could be unlearned. This has largely been laughed out of existence. We don’t see huge numbers of women firefighters or combat soldiers, for example, if only because most women never bought the argument that equality connotes identicality.

    “Race” is harder to deal with because genetic differences between members of ancestrally separated populations are less conspicuous and important than those between sexes. (BTW, Wobbly Guy, it’s not a matter of “determinism” but influence– no serious geneticist thinks environment counts for less than a lot.) It’s only when previously separated populations begin to intermingle that race becomes much of an issue. At that point some people try to pin down the differences and whether they matter in practice, while others such as Perry dismiss them a priori by using the straw man argument that there’s good and bad, bright and stupid, the world over.

    However, the question is what sorts of good, bad, etc. Have there been systematic mental and moral as well as physical adaptations since homo sapiens emerged? Living conditions have varied enough to make this conceivable, and to cast doubt on the pseudo-Lamarckian (or Lysenkoite) idea that an individual can totally override his inheritance. Evidence from multiracial societies (which form a rough and ready test bed for the results of subjecting different genomes to much the same environment) is that people with different ancestries often do respond *somewhat* differently to shared conditions, and tend to remain somewhat clustered, e.g. in so far as reproduction is not indiscriminate between “races”. There is also a weight of political evidence from the past century that people prefer to live in autonomous polities more congruent with their ancestries than concoctions such as the European colonial empires, the USSR, Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia.

    Libertarians have a Rousseau-esque faith that if each of us were left to our own devices or merely taught faith in our uniqueness, we would all be much happier and would converge towards a platonic ideal of modernity, democracy, etc. Libertarians such as Rand don’t admit the possibility that homo sapiens remains something of a pack animal. Is it this idealistic refusal of biology– which is only the encoding of “evolutionary factors which are accidents of history”– that helps relegate libertarianism to a parlour game on the sidelines of red-meat politics? OTOH, if we succeed in gauging the limits placed on us by our ancestries more precisely, we can deploy the wide and undeniable (and, perhaps, genetically enlargeable) scope for individual thought, choice and action more effectively.

    Understanding the “racial” dimension, like other evolved influences on present-day mankind, is a precondition of the “transhumanist” drive Philip Chaston commends elsewhere. Modifying our own genetic make-up will be a useless and dangerous enterprise unless we first compile an accurate map of the terrain. However, given the boss’s aversion to the subject, I will say no more.

  • Nobody denies that there are physical differences between the sexes. Has this led to significant implications for society? You bet it does.

    Er, no it hasn’t. The question is not whether there are differences between individuals – of one sex or another, or of one “race” or another – but whether individuals should have a reasonable expectation of being treated as an individual instead of as part of some (abitrarily defined) group.

    One of the many errors the race (sur)realists make is to assume that libertarians have some sort of optimum society in mind and that there is some flaw in a libertarianism which doesn’t take into account factors which could influence this utopia. The thing is, this is just applying a statist, collectivist frame of thinking on libertarianism. The libertarian argument says two things

    1) “Society”‘s rights do not trump those of the individual.

    2) As it happens, curiously enough, societies which respect individual freedom, just happen to have greater overall utility than those which don’t.

    The important argument to libertarians is the philosophical one: 1). The utilitarian argument 2) is just a happy consequence and a good way of winning people over to 1).

    Any argument which purports to refute 2) or at least propose an alternative – such as “Greater overall utility for society may be achieved by method X” – is not going to persuade a libertarian to abandon 1)

  • However, given the boss’s aversion to the subject, I will say no more.

    Which is rather a pity but in my experience such discussions bring the bugs out from under the rocks like almost nothing else and I am keen to avoid the comment section turning into a venue for cross burnings yet again.

    Reasonable conversations on the subject are almost impossible because most of the people interested in the subject are not reasonable people. Sad but true.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Frank: I’m not advocating any statist control or policy, and neither does PaleoMan(I think), although it’s fairly certain the government will try to use such data if available. What we need to know is just how far we ourselves are affected by our ancestries, and how we as individuals, having this deeper understanding of our own genetic tendencies(if there’s such a thing), can apply ourselves more effectively. Or to educate others in these differences such that they can overcome them.

    Information is power. Who are we to decide that this information does not exist? Researchers are working on it, and we might know if there is any truth to the matter in the next two decades. And if there is, then this is good information to have for everybody, rather than just sweeping it under the rug and pretending it does not exist.


  • I’m not advocating any statist control or policy, and neither does PaleoMan(I think)

    That’s how it starts, but then inexorably “I” turns into “We” and pretty soon you have:

    how we as individuals,[..] can apply ourselves more effectively. Or to educate others in these differences such that they can overcome them.

    If any individual wants to discover more about what are the implications of their own genetic recipe, I am blissfully indifferent: go nuts, knock yourself out. The problems arise when you start talking about “educating others in these differences” and seeking to “improve” all of society with the “benefit” of this information. It doesn’t take too long for those who have been seduced by the race (sur)realist theory to develop a penchant for social engineering.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Just because almost any type of information or technology can be subverted to the state’s control, as toolkien mentioned in another thread, does that mean we should just ignore it? This is burying your head in the sand.

    Educating people in these differences could mean nothing more than allowing free access to this information. But the correct information, if it exists, must be made available first.

  • PaleoMan

    Knowledge derived from DNA analysis will mean that eventually (and maybe sooner than we expect) individual people will be keen to modify their own and their children’s (born or unborn) genomes. Designer babies and all that.

    Some countries which are less squeamish about human rights than those of the West– such as China and possibly India with its caste mentality– will try to engineer flaws out of their populations and raise their cognitive capacity by direct manipulation of the genetic hapmap.

    Libertarians would presumably tolerate anybody purchasing such treatment for himself (and for infant children?) but would oppose any scheme with an element of compulsion– cf fluoridation and conscription.

    However, the slippery slope from choice to compulsion is not as obvious as Frank McGahon suggests. Some people will fear the consequences of mishaps, and there will be disagreement about what constitutes improvement: some deaf parents refuse cochlear implants for their children. Pluralism is itself a sturdy barrier. For instance, we don’t have compulsory screening and abortion for defects such as hare lips or Down’s Syndrome; we can have assisted suicide without euthanasia; we don’t have a Chinese-style one-child policy based on rationing welfare benefits.

    If our moral buttresses against bullying are strong enough, we can confidently allow dissemination of knowledge about how humans are composed without fearing that Huxley’s Brave New World lurks round the corner.

  • Luniversal

    “The libertarian argument says two things

    1) “Society”‘s rights do not trump those of the individual.

    2) As it happens, curiously enough, societies which respect individual freedom, just happen to have greater overall utility than those which don’t.

    The important argument to libertarians is the philosophical one: 1). The utilitarian argument 2) is just a happy consequence and a good way of winning people over to 1).

    Any argument which purports to refute 2) or at least propose an alternative – such as “Greater overall utility for society may be achieved by method X” – is not going to persuade a libertarian to abandon 1)”

    (Frank McGahon)

    But if people acquire a belief in libertarian doctrine because it “works” (i.e. prop 2) they can just as easily lose it once it appears to stop working.

    This is what happened in the mid-19C when laisser faire industrialism seemed to be generating too much needless misery, and in the early 20C when free trade seemed to be strangling British industry. Whether the diagnoses were correct is beside the point; voters thought they were, and put their weight behind an interventionist state. We are still stuck with it, as with the “government should do something about it” reflex which upholds the big state.

    OTOH, if we abandon the attempt to persuade people of a transcendent truth (prop 1) via pragmatic illustrations of its power to make specific aspects of life better (prop 2), we face the difficulty of all a priori reasoning: it seems too “pie in the sky”, too much of a leap in the dark from today’s 30-40%-of-GDP state. Libertarianism as a popular cause is a non-starter. It becomes a comfort blanket for those who think themselves superior.

    Moreover, prop 1 begs the enormous question of chicken and egg. Do “individuals” really come first and last and merely agree to abrogate part of their freedom for limited common advantage? Or do the pack, the tribe, the sect, the class, etc precede and circumscribe the individual, thereby defining him? (Freedom as the recognition of necessity.)

    It appears that up to date most people, without ever giving the question much thought, have opted for a definition of individuality which owes more to the latter assumption. They feel the case for personal freedom has to be argued instance by instance, not taken as read. This may be an expression of solidarity no less programmed by biology than the wish to be left alone. People define themselves as members of a family, a race, a religion, and in a national or supranational context this may be all the “difference” most need to conceive of themselves as agents, especially nowadays when such allegiances are largely voluntary. Most people just don’t feel different enough from everybody else for libertarianism to strike a chord.

  • Do “individuals” really come first and last and merely agree to abrogate part of their freedom for limited common advantage? Or do the pack, the tribe, the sect, the class, etc precede and circumscribe the individual, thereby defining him? (Freedom as the recognition of necessity.)

    This is hardly the point. I don’t make the claim that everybody is a “sensible” libertarian, I just make the point that for libertarians or classic liberals (or whatever label you choose) the important point is 1) and that the mistake made by social-engineering “race realists” is to imagine that the important point is 2) and assume that libertarians may be persuaded of the merits of “race realism” because of the myriad opportunities they allege such crude categorisations provide to “improve” society.

    Please note that I don’t make any objection to any scientific research or any DNA analyses. I do consider much of “race realism” to be quackery whose purpose is to provide a veneer of scientific plausibility for ignorant bigotry. One doesn’t need to place one’s head in the sand to conclude that. Indeed it is many of the fixated racists who adopt the ostrich pose in ignoring that which surrounds them and contradicts their pet theory.

  • Ironchef

    Your blog, your rules, whatever.

    Either way, your much more accepting of opposing viewpoints on this forum than democraticunderground.com

    I lasted 3 posts there, then was banned. All for posting anti-government comments.