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Any common ground?

Talking of protests – see Perry’s post immedately under this one – there are a number of protests going on in London to coincide with the pointless and expensive Group of 20 meeting of major industrialised and developing countries next week. There could be some serious clashes. It makes me wonder, given the Tea Party anti-bailout protests in the US at the moment – which are starting to get more coverage from the MSM – as to whether there is any understanding on the part of the G20 protesters that they actually might share some common ground with the free marketeers of the Tea Partiers. After all, do the anti-globalistas understand the rage that many Tea Partiers feel at having their hard-earned cash used to bail out banks that were run by often quasi-state institutions and highly paid executives? Of course, a lot of the G20 protesters are Naomi Klein-type socialist buffoons who want to replace what they mistakenly think of as “unregulated capitalism” with central planning etc, but it seems to me that the might be a section of the protesters who might be open to understanding the real causes of the crisis and understand also the injustice of the prudent bailing out the imprudent.

Of course this may be unwisely optimstic and that all of the G20 protesters are statists of one sort of another, out to bash at a “system” that they do not comprehend. If there are ugly scenes in these protests and people working for banks are targeted and hurt, I hope that Gordon Brown, a prime minster of a government that once used to fete the City when it suited, feels suitably ashamed for pilloring those same bankers now that the credit crisis has hit. It is now another reason why my loathing of Gordon Brown and his brand of politics has reached hurricane-force level.

30 comments to Any common ground?

  • Adrian

    In my experience protesters on any side are not seeking develop an ideology in order to solve a problem, they are looking for a problem as an opportunity to impose their ideology.

  • Adrian

    Please don’t read my post as denigrating protesters as such. They play a vital part in democratic debate and may the best ideology win!

  • Ian B

    I daresay classical liberals among the G20 mob will be rarer than hens teeth. The same will go for the people at the meeting 🙂

    It’s baffling, really, the attitudes of lefties. I’ve said before, for much of my life I considered myself some kind of leftie, largely by a process of elimination- I wasn’t a conservative, must therefore be a leftie of some type- but what swerved me into libertarianism was, among other things, talking with “liberals” on the internets and realising I had nothing in common with these people at all. Long before I read Rothbard or Hayek or anything, for my entire life, freedom has always been my fundamental core value. In my ignorance I thought that somehow mildly leftie policies could increase freedom, but as my increasing cognitive dissonance led me to question things and seek answers, it became apparent to me that this was not the case. It was thus not difficult to declare myself part of a different camp. What I naively thought for some time after was that many on the left, like me, were “freedom lovers” who were misled or ignorant or who hadn’t thought it through and, naively again, that presenting them with e.g. the explanation that you can’t have general freedom without freedom in the important sphere of economic activity would sway them. It seemed so obvious. The “killer argument”. I felt that the only reason I hadn’t really understood that for so many years was that I hadn’t been exposed to the idea.

    Needless to say I was very disappointed, hah. Part of my reason for banging on about class interest and moral hegemony was the gradual dawning of the understanding that these people didn’t want different answers. They aren’t left wing because of reason; it’s a moral standpoint, a belief system. I’d never had that moral belief. My moral belief was freedom and individualism based, whereas theres is rooted in the fundamental belief in the moral goodness of collectivism. The arguments that swayed me would never sway them. Which is why perhaps I’m sometimes rather negative. And why I think we need to attack that moral hegemony at root- and if I sound too gramsco-marxist, bear in mind that that’s basically what Ayn Rand was saying (amongst other things)- that while “altruism” is promoted and imposed as a society-wide moral value, freedom will be eviscerated.

    The ability of the Left to live with cognitive dissonance and contradiction is astonishing. They manage it by clinging to that central moralism. I rarely argue with lefties these days, I admit, but spent a long while on a website with a largely american liberal commenteriat and had countless arguments. And I would say to them something like, “You are constantly complaining about GW Bush, about the “fascist” regime he has introduced, the Patriot Act, the wars, the Feds taking kids out of school for writing something unpatriotic, and your solution to this is more government? Can you not see the contradiction?!”

    And the answer, boiled down, was always the same- “we don’t mind being absolutely ruled, so long as it’s by our guy“.

    They aren’t a lost cause, but it’ll take a lot to turn most of their heads. That moral code of theirs is entirely defiant of logic.

  • Nailed it, Ian. I still don’t see though what any of this has to do with class interests, except for the political class (which includes the media and the academia, obviously).

  • Adrian

    I agree, Ian B, but I doubt anyone frozen and sodden in Hyde Park right now would be amenable to your arguments but the battle isn’t won or lost there. It’s in the centre among the vast silent majority that you need to be making the case.

  • I did suggest on the Libertarian Alliance Forum earlier that maybe we should hold a counter-protest, on a different day, in which we amble up Threadneedle street impeccably dressed and handing out polite, well written pamphlets explaining the real causes of this, perhaps encouraging some bankers to take up the cry for “free money” as a better solution. Sean suggested using the text of Kevin Dowd’s lecture as a starting point.

    I’m only surprised that the mob hasn’t started to claim they are necromancers who abduct infants in their spare time.

  • Ian B

    Well Alisa, I think understanding the behaviours of the various groups (classes) in our society can be usefully analysed in terms of class interest- from a general division between the “Insider” (them) and “Outsider” (us) classes down to specific class actions- e.g. educationalists driven to expand education, the medical class expanding medicalisation of the population, and so on and as I’ve discussed at some length in other comments, the idea that the Great And Good must reform the lower orders which is a very major component of what we might term “anglosocialism”[1].

    As Johnathan ticked me off the other day, it’s not the only analysis and it’s a mistake to claim that this kind of analysis, like any other, is the only one. But I think it is useful, and I tend to emphasise it because others don’t pay it so much attention. I don’t see a class-type analysis as competing with other understandings of our political situation, but as complementary.

    [1] I would suggest the term “Anglosocialism” might be a useful label for that type of progressive-moralist-corporatist social model which afflicts the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, etc and which, following the collapse of communism, has grown to be the predominant form of socialism in the developed world.

  • Ian B

    Well I’m game Jock, though I’m afraid I’d rather fail the “impeccably dressed” part.

  • Ian, pointing out interests as motivating politics is certainly very useful. I just don’t see why people who advocate these interests should be, well, classified. I have a very good friend who works for a state run “educational” TV station here in Israel. It’s a station almost no one watches any more, and so there is periodically recurring talk about closing it down, and of course this otherwise perfectly sensible woman is up in arms every time that happens, spewing nonsense about how the world is going to end if they stop airing all those BBC-produced documentaries that we can all watch on BBC anyway. Which is quite understandable, seeing as she is up to her neck paying off the debts of her husband who used to be self-employed and went bust a few years ago, not to mention having to support a small child. There is pure individual human interest for you, no need for any kind of class analysis.

    There is nothing wrong with expanding education (the real one, not what we have now), ditto good healthcare, as long as the state is not involved in any of it. That’s why I said that the only class distinction that may matter even for purely analytical purposes is that of political class vs. everyone else, as these are the only people who are doing what they are doing for the sake of power over others and nothing else. But even there one has to be careful, as even there there are exceptions.

  • Ian B

    Alisa, it depends what you mean by the word “class”. It can mean “bourgeois and proleteriat” or it can mean “a group of people with a common interest”. It’s that latter meaning that applies most usefully. The point is that people act in self interest. If they can’t apply that directly to themself, they will apply it at a class level, promoting their class in general (and thus benefitting as they are on the same bus).

  • Ian, I expected you to give me a bit more credit than that:-) There is a fine line between people forming groups according to common self-interests, and collectivism. It is true that the only means to fight collectivist threats are collectivist ones. But first you need to make sure that it is indeed collectivism that which you are fighting, otherwise what you are doing is imposing collectivism where there wasn’t any to begin with.

  • Ian B

    Alisa, I do give you a lot of credit 🙂 But I don’t really want to get into another long winded discussion of class interest and suchlike in this thread, which didn’t start off about it. I’m in danger of it becoming my “land value tax” or “fractional reserve banking” 🙂

    Forget I mentioned it. My first comment was about socialism being a belief system and thus socialists are more difficult to convert than if it wasn’t, more than anything else.

  • I’m in danger of it becoming my “land value tax” or “fractional reserve banking” 🙂


  • No common ground whatsoever. It is a march by parasites various ilk demanding more of other people’s liberty. A pox on every one of them.

  • We have a “G20 summit” and we have “G20 summit protesters”. The troubling thing is that out of those two groups of people, I cannot figure out which I despise more.

  • Kevin B


    I was reading on Douglas Carswell’s blog, (via legiron) that a number of the organisations that are driving the G20 protests are funded by, in his words:

    “…official bodies and international agencies, including the EU, UK government, USAID, UN, World Bank”.

    So I reckon despising them both equally is called for since both sets of parasites are leeching off us.

  • Mole

    I just cant get my head around the contradictions contained in this little statement on the guardians “comment is free” section.

    “Thousands will join the Put People First march through London today for real action on the economy and climate change”

    Are they marching for the introduction of green policies that will add to poverty?

  • Ian B

    Mole, you have to remember the difference between free marketeers and socialists. The former think the market is a good thing because it provides people with what they want. The latter believe the market is a bad thing because it provides people with what they want.

    These people believe a better economy will be one in which people are provided with that which they are told they need. That’s what they’re after.

    That’s why we can’t win the economic argument with them. They don’t want people to be free and wealthy. Our economic success is their economic failure, and vice versa. Same language, opposite meanings.

  • I too was a leftie in my yoof. In fact, it wasn’t until I read Ayn Rand (in my 50s) that I realized how wholly soaked my brain had been by the predominantly socialist ideology of Britain in the years I grew up there. As Johnathan put it,

    a lot of the G20 protesters are Naomi Klein-type socialist buffoons who want to replace what they mistakenly think of as “unregulated capitalism” with central planning

    but until they realize that they are actually asking to replace central planning with MORE central planning, and that central planning is the Road to Serfdom, their ideology won’t shift.

    Joining a mob in the streets is one way of protesting (the Cato Institute tried a different way(Link)). But to the media and much of the public won’t this look like what Ayn Rand called “gang warfare”? A big crowd should get what they demand because they’re a big crowd? How about 100,000 individuals wandering around London on the same day, handing out the same pamphlets, but in groups of no more than 4? Then it wouldn’t matter how they were dressed. (Link)You’d need some kind of gimmick to get noticed by the media, tho.
    I like libertarian/Austrian economist Walter Block’s explanation of why libertarianism and free-market economics need to be learned from a book (Link)or a class: “because it’s counter-intuitive” (from 5:20 in this video interview(Link)). Maybe we libertarians should be spending more time on leftie blogs instead of here!

  • Michael,

    The troubling thing is that out of those two groups of people, I cannot figure out which I despise more.

    Kate at Small Dead Animals(Link) summed it up well:

    When the Communists show up to protest the Nazis, you’re supposed to pray for an asteroid, not pick a favourite.

  • Ian,

    I came at it from the opposite direction. I knew I was no socialist, or any other type of leftist, and I identified with the right. My disengagement came about because so much right wing opposition to socialism was a matter of degree, not principle.

    Of course, it helped that my original teacher, Prof. Bernado de la Paz, took me in hand at a young age.

    The cognitive dissonance you speak of is found on the right as well, it is not confined to the left. Actually, the problem is, there is no dissonance, there is an honest and fair dinkum doublethink, with no internal conflict.

  • drscroogemcduck

    are people really going to be dressing down this week out of fear of becoming a target of these hooligans?

  • Bod

    I find that my road to enlightenment is very similar to Countingcats, except that I experienced the depravity of the left-activists by being brought up in a family full of card-carrying trades-unionists.

    Recently I’ve burned a few copies of a CD I authored a while ago that contain readings of Heinlein’s “The Door Into Summer”, and “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, along with ‘Atlas Shrugged’, and given them out to people I know who have long commutes into NYC.

    Curiously, I’ve had people ask me why I put those three together on the same disk. I guess I need to be more obvious and try and cram some Hayek on there too.

  • tdh

    Doublethink isn’t cognitive dissonance, true, but the latter arises from challenges to the inconsistencies with reality within the former.

    I don’t see self-identified conservatives, no matter how socialist they are nor how vacuous the term “conservative” is, demanding that the free speech of others be stifled. Rather, their counterpart to the leftists’ intolerance of ideas tends to be one of pointing out the moral repugnance of institutions that spend money on (evil) leftists, or especially that while doing so protect them from challenge, at most trying to shame those institutions into acting more responsibly.

    If we don’t see an outlash from so-called conservatives, either they are not experiencing the same violent emotions, perhaps by not being challenged in areas of core concern to their belief system, or they are too well-bred to act otherwise. To believe the latter is to believe that leftists are significantly more likely to be trash than are the merely muddled. This is, I suppose, possible, but it seems unlikely.

    If you take out of the picture their incoherent, self-defeating opposition to abortion, the attachment of self-identified conservatives to the most destructive parts of their belief system are, I submit, weak. Their belief in, for example, a theocracy imposing Christianity is far weaker than a Fuehrer-liebenden leftist’s devotion to submission.

    That is, I suppose, why those leftists who might be reachable need to be reached in a rational-utilitarian way, pointing out that what they advocate brings poverty and, ultimately, far worse. People whose belief in the virtue of poverty might be alienable in its opposition to those deeply-held desires that depend on material well-being would need at first to see that the possibility of error is deeply important to them. The ones who deeply believe in poverty and self-destruction are not reachable by rational means.

    IMHO the process of converting the majority of reachable leftists can only be indirect, because of cognitive dissonance, and needs to have a social aspect in order to have a chance of strengthening them against the inevitable tribalistic reaction from their milieu. This bears a striking resemblance to the Biblical parable of the sower.

    But IMHO the trends toward immolation are too strong for society not to at least toe up to the precipice of an unprecedented dark age. Something systemic or at least pandemic needs to be injected into the mix. Whatever this might be, if it comes, it will likely be a surprise.

  • Midwesterner

    If you take out of the picture their incoherent, self-defeating opposition to abortion, …

    As perhaps the most outspoken advocate for agnosticism as the default belief system for resolving human conflicts, I find the obsession of some libertarians with performance testing human beings before allowing them habeas corpus to be inconsistent at the least. When these libertarians claim a monopoly on reason by saying opposition to abortion can only be for religious reasons, they are disingenuous and dishonest. Not even the RCC opposes abortion on theological grounds. They oppose it because their science advisers tell them that a human’s life begins at conception.* In the case of any other implied contract where the interpretation meant the life or death of one of the parties, these same libertarians would be screaming for due process.

    With so many libertarians insisting (among other doctrinal purity tests) that the morality of abortion is not even open to debate, much less disagreement, is it any wonder that libertarians are a laughable farce at election time? You want “self-defeating” ?

    The rest of your comment also demonstrates a completely mistaken (MSM scripted?) notion of conservative Christianity. For a faith based religion that requires voluntary acceptance as its core tenet, refraining from attempting “a theocracy imposing Christianity” is not weakness.** “Imposing” Christianity would be a complete violation of their theology. And before you start citing historical ‘Christian’ theocracies, understand they are about as ‘Christian’ as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are ‘free enterprise capitalism’.

    *RCC opposition to condoms and masturbation is theological and is based on a biblical injunction against wasting ‘seed’. They believe abortion is wrong because a human’s life begins at conception. A great many libertarians – theist, atheist and agnostic – share that conclusion.

    ** Are you trying for a Godwin with your use of “Fuehrer-liebenden” to compare leader-loving leftists with Christians? Curious, your hybridizing of nazi descriptors and leftist ideologues. But shear genius to describe Christianity as a far weaker form of that hybrid. Now Christians and all other opponents of abortion are sure to take you seriously.

  • Ian B

    Well MW, I’m a libertarian and I’ve made myself unpopular controversial by arguing here on this very website that libertarianism does not predicate support for abortion. Indeed, if one takes the not-unreasonable view that a foetus is a type of human being, then abortion is murder and quite clearly incompatible with libertarian thought. “Right to life”? That’s a basic of libertarianism isn’t it? Does a baby’s inconvenience give another person the right to kill it? That doesn’t seem at all libertarian, does it?

    The argument regarding a woman’s right to choose being an absolute right is anacrhonistic, since it only takes one of the parties into account. One would not assert a right to choose the death of another person in any other context. But well, I typed many Ks of text before supporting this view, so won’t bother again.

    FWIW, I’m an atheist.

  • Burn the Witch

    If you take out of the picture their incoherent, self-defeating opposition to abortion… Their belief in, for example, a theocracy imposing Christianity is far weaker than a Fuehrer-liebenden leftist’s devotion to submission.

    As an agnostic, I’m even a little baffled by this one. I enjoyed the rest of the post, but this at least needs clarification. For one, I don’t find incoherence or a self-defeating character to the stance above. And as MW pointed out, the “theocracy imposing Christianity” seems a wee bit of an overstatement. Perhaps way over on the right wing maybe, but they’re the least of anyone’s worries.

  • tdh

    I’m not going to get into a debate regarding abortion. There is no coherent position in opposition to abortion; none is even close. There are plenty of incoherent positions in support of abortion, too, but that is beside the point. The facts are that when dealing with self-identifying conservatives you essentially cannot avoid a heated discussion in this area, and that this area is irrelevant to the things that make civilized life possible.

    The fact that Midwesterner went off the deep end in misrepresenting what I wrote as being an insult or a misrepresentation of Christianity just goes to show that where the issue of abortion arises, far too often self-identifying conservatives would rather burn down the world than let a few homo-quasi-sapiens-DNA-bearing cells die; this is at once what is both nerve-wracked and self-defeating about it. The ability of leftists to destroy civilization has been greatly enhanced by the aversion of voters towards electing people whom they fear would attempt to re-impose a ban on abortion. This aversion has bled over into opposition to similar candidates who do not share such a stance.

    Whether you consider self-identifying conservatives as truly Christian or not, you cannot deny that far too often they attempt to equate law with morality, advocating all sorts of pernicious nonsense rooted more often in the Old Testament rather than in the New, and sometimes even going so far as to claim something along the lines of this-is-a-Christian-country-so-imposing-morality-is-OK (and, more rarely, descending into blanket opposition to non-Christian immigrants). Nevertheless, this area is not a hot button preventing rational argument with such conservatives; you might hit a wall of irrationality when it comes to re-legalizing illegal drugs, or any number of things, but it won’t set off hormonal alarm bells.

    Even ignoring the various Christian mobs that have behaved in what I, too, would consider an un-Christian manner in an original sense, this tendency among Christians themselves is weak — far weaker than the corresponding tendency of certain people-of-one-book to impose their cherished abomination, and far weaker than the modern eco-Nazi or anti-capitalist’s devotion to their causes. I say this, BTW, as someone some of whose ancestors got chased out of Catholic France and out of Puritan Massachusetts.

  • Nothing is going to happen among the summiteers that couldn’t be done on skype.

    It’s not expensive AND pointless. The expense IS the point. It’s not waste, because someone gets the money. Even a trip like this is by itself a power base expander- those hoteliers, drivers, guards, reporters, protesters- they all love the fact of the summit.

    The expense IS the point .

  • Midwesterner


    I’m not going to get into a tolerate any debate regarding abortion.

    There. Fixed that one.

    There is no coherent position in opposition to support of abortion; none is even close. There are plenty of incoherent positions in support of opposition to abortion, too, but that is beside the point. The facts are that when dealing with self-identifying conservatives collectivists you essentially cannot avoid a heated discussion in this area, and that this area is irrelevant to the things that make civilized life possible.

    As corrected it now exactly describes my experience when ‘debating’ abortion advocates.

    Many of us believe human life begins at conception. Most libertarians believe that humans, while not necessarily always entitled to life, are always entitled to recognition and to receive due process of laws before force can be used against them. There are many of us who believe that a new life, and therefore a right to habeas corpus, begins when a new and unprecedented human genome is formed. I have yet to hear an argument supporting abortion the doesn’t either depend on unsupported assertions or depend on arguments that, barring arbitrary stipulations, can be used to excuse imposed eugenics. The assertions generally start by saying we should “let a few homo-quasi-sapiens-DNA-bearing cells die”. Once that description is applied to a unique human genome, humanness becomes an amorphous scale of performance testing.