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Samizdata quote of the day

Every political vision is a method of not seeing other political visions. Hayekianism calls for multiplicities instead of a singular political chorus. For those singing this tune, Hayek is an existential threat.

Will Rinehart

7 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    I am not sure what this post means – so I will try and examine it.

    The United States is not lines on a map it is, as Mrs Thatcher said, an “idea”.

    What is that idea?

    The idea is the philosophy of the Bill of Rights (the same philosophy of the Old Whig philosophy of the British Bill or Rights – of Chief Justice Sir John Holt and co), the philosophy that it is “self evident” (in the terms of the Scots Common Sense philosopher Thomas Reid) that human beings can, with effort, tell moral right from moral wrong – and, again with effort, choose to do what is morally right against our desire to do what is morally evil.

    As John Adams said the Constitution is designed for such a people – it will suit no other (certainly not the flesh robots of Mr Hobbes and Mr Hume – one can not get to the Bill of Rights from the philosophy of either of these men).

    Did F.A. Hayek support this philosophy – this “vision”, or not?

    One can not be on both sides at the same time – one can not support those who favour the Bill of Rights and those who would destroy the Bill of Rights.

    And the political “vision” of the Bill of Rights is based upon a philosophical “vision” of what a human is – i.e. a person, a being. Someone (not something) capable of knowing moral right from moral wrong – and capable of choosing what is right against the “passion” to do wrong.

    Yes, absolutely yes, Freedom of Speech includes supporting the Freedom of Speech of those who would DESTROY Freedom of Speech – that may be what is meant by a “multiplicity of visions”. But when the bullets start to fly, and in the end they always do, one is either on one side or the other – one can not be on BOTH sides at the same time.

    This political vision (a political vision one may have to kill or die for) is based upon a view of what a “human” is – a person, a moral agent. It is a political vision that is saying that Ralph Cudworth and Thomas Reid and so on were correct about this specific thing (not that they were right about everything – most certainly not), and that Thomas Hobbes and David Hume and so on were wrong about this specific thing in philosophy. That the “I” does (not does not) exist, that the “Leviathan” of Thomas Hobbes and the “euthanasia of the constitution” of David Hume are wrong.

    And, no, this does not depend on religion – even back in the days of the great “Commentator” on Aristotle, Alexander of Aphrodisias, there have been those (including Alexander “the Commentator” himself) who held that the soul (the “I” – moral agency, free will see “On Fate”) died with the body.

    One does not have to believe that the human “I” is immortal – only that it (moral agency – free will) exists. That is the philosophical bedrock of the Bill of Rights. Old Whig politics stands, or falls, with Old Whig philosophy – with the conception of what a “person” is.

    If “freedom” is, as Thomas Hobbes claimed, just an absence of external restraint, like a wall of water after a dam is blown up, then Mr Hobbes was CORRECT to oppose freedom. If freedom is not the capacity for moral choice (moral responsibility) if it is just a mindless wall of water (smashing everything) after a dam has been blown up – where is the moral value in freedom?

    As for modern thinkers – even the ultra modern Karl Popper and Antony Flew both believed in moral agency, the existence of the human person (that it was not an “illusion”), free will.

    It is not just a matter of old Common Sense philosophers such as James McCosh, or of Aristotelian thinkers such as Ayn Rand.

    F.A. Hayek spent much of his life trying to convince those who had been taught the same determinist philosophy he had been taught in his youth to share his limited government politics – he almost always FAILED to convince them. And for a very good reason – it was they (the determinists who were also socialists) who were being consistent – and it was Hayek who was contradicting himself (both in a simple meaning of “contradicting himself” – in that his philosophy and his economics and politics did not fit together, and in a more complex meaning of “contradicting himself” as he was contradicting, denying, “himself” his own self awareness).


    Let us imagine that one is a determinist who supports the political philosophy of the Bill of Rights (British and American – and of all 50 States).

    I would argue that their philosophy and their politics are in contradiction – but LEAVE THAT ASIDE.

    One still does not have a “multiplicity of visions” – one has ONE political “vision”, that the Bill of Rights is correct.

    Of course one can say “people should be allowed to speak against the Bill of Rights” – I totally agree.

    But when it comes to more than “speaking” against it – then one must be prepared to act against them in the war-by-other-means that is politics.

    There is no “mulitiplicities of VALID visions” – one is on one side or the other.

    In one “political chorus” or the opposing one.

    When the bullets start to fly (and, in the end, they always do) one can not be on both sides at the same time.

  • Paul Marks

    “No Paul – I did not mean multiplicities of POLITICAL visions, I meant allowing different ways of like such as the Amash and so on”.

    Oh, O.K. then.

    Sorry for misunderstanding you.

  • Paul Marks

    Still to get back to politics (the post did say “political” visions), I “see” the political visions of the left and the “Alt Right” very well.

    It is not that I can “can not see” the political visions of the left and the “Alt Right” (the Red Flag people and the Black Flag racial collectivists) – it is that I hold these “visions” to be evil. And I am correct to do so.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Let’s not get too abstract; everyday politics is about who gets to use force to produce income for the controllers.

  • RRS

    Much as Hayek has poured into my understanding, it is “tempered” by the scholarship of Isaiah Berlin.

    Monisms are to be avoided.

    While it is a very broad generalization, it does seem that minds and personalities of a libertarian “bent” are less inclined to Monisms.

    In observing the “History of Ideas,” we can learn much about what particular ideas (and concepts) have meant to people over time and of meanings that have changed or been lost.

    Given mankind’s history of searching for “knowledge” through acquisition of information and finding connections amongst those bits of information, ideas on information, its accumulations, distributions (networks) under the rubric “Cyber,” (including those of autonomy and automatics) will not fit a monism.

  • I’m not sure the quote is exactly right as phrased.

    If the quote is true, it is true at a meta-level. For example, Thomas Sowell tries hard to be fair to both sides in his book “A Conflict of Visions”. The surest way to deduce which vision is his from just that book is that he deduces that one vision will (logically, given its premises) seek to teach students to think, and so will tech them to know both visions, whereas the other will (as logically, given its premises) seek to teach students to believe in its vision, so will ignore or denigrate the rival vision. For an reader who did not already know, applying this logic to his book tells you which vision is Mr Sowell’s.

    Hayek has the same meta-logic. Hayek was generous to his opponents’ intent – “Idealists whose sincerity cannot be doubted” was one of the phrases he used about them – but was in return hated by them in the usual way, treated as evil for daring to disagree, etc., and ignored as much as possible Hayek had a specific vision of how things worked, not a multiplicity of visions. His vision gave him a view of his opponents’ vision. “Right-wingers think left-wingers are mistaken; left-wingers think right-wingers are evil” certainly fits Hayek.

  • Brad

    A problem (not so small) in comparing political ideologies is that those ideologies are not static, even within individuals who hold those ideals, or more correctly stated – they have two faces. Just about every ideology I’ve come across simultaneously regards the “masses” as the salts-of-the-earth while seeing them as beasts to be feared. In the abstract, when Philosopher King X is as theoretical as can be and paints in broad strokes, and is in a pleasant mood – the masses are goodly folk and represent the positive aspects of said Philosopher’s beliefs. But when broken down into individuals, and familiarity breeds its contempt, the very same people become vile threats to the idealized order. Every ideology is planted in the best hopes for the most people, but – when particularly rooted in superstition and feeble economic principles – those very same people will inevitably become – put crudely – resource-depleting-shit-makers. It’s precisely how the most wonderful societies on paper become the vilest human-being-grinders in practice. And it’s also why people of different ideologies talk past each other. It’s an endless hash of ideals for one measured against the practical failures noted by the other, and vice versa. The very process of discourse proves out for both how the beasts are attacking their “best for everyone” order.

    For those for whom Force, in its broadcast – and mindless – use is judged to make bad situations worse, it is disheartening to see several ideologies compete against each other, all at once, for the right to gain hold of the institutions of Force, yammering at each other all the while, but ultimately united against the masses they purport to “love”. They all have come to the agreement that centralized Force an inherent good, and while they disagree with each other, they continually add myriad ways to “mail fists” against the defenseless masses. They figure that such broadcast use of Force, while MAYBE friendly fire for some of the ideological adherents, is harming the wrong thinking people more. In short, the State is filled with ideologues who compromise with each other to be as maximally wicked, in toto, toward the very people they hold so dear. It’s functionally built in from the very start.

    Of course, those too superstitious to see that deserve this form of government “good and hard”, as the old saying goes. The saddest part, that for every Philosopher King just trying to help, there’s a thousand sheep hungering for a shepherd to make the fears go away. And the beatings and maltreatment are necessary, and a small price to pay.