Arnold Kling  

Mencius Moldbug Asks Some Questions

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He writes,


given your rather vehement views on the Ron Paul controversy, I am curious as to how you might answer the following questions.

I would not describe my views on Ron Paul as vehement. His supporters are vehement. I have mixed feelings, but they have always leaned somewhat negative. But the questions Moldbug raises are not specifically about Ron Paul, and instead are more generic.

I'll take them in reverse order.

10. I do not ride the Orange line to work. I have no office. Cato paid me a small amount in 2005 and 2006, when I was writing Crisis of Abundance, but not since. I support myself on the basis of past earnings, primarily from a fortuitously-timed Internet venture. I live in Wheaton, Maryland, about a mile from the Red Line, which I use on average about once a month to attend an event downtown, at AEI or Cato.

9. If the present American system is replaced by a libertarian movement, I will be viewed as someone who pretty much accepted the system rather than took radical action against it. My guess is that if people are denouncing me as a "toady," then we will not be living in a libertarian regime, but in some Reign of Terror phase of revolution.

8. I do not know enough about the internal dynamics of the Soviet system to know whether its fall was due to the actions of the uncompromising opponents, those who worked within the system for change, both, or neither.

7. I consider myself an uncertain libertarian. Like Tyler Cowen, I praise uncertainty. I also praise libertarianism.

6. I think that the beliefs of the mass public in America are often wrong. So are the beliefs of many intellectuals. I am willing to speak out against anyone's conventional beliefs. I am used to having my views denounced by ordinary people, intellectuals, and libertarians. I think that if I ever am physically assaulted for my beliefs, it will be for my skepticism on global warming. But so far, fears for my physical safety are not sufficient to cause concern.

5. I know less about human genetics than someone who has actually taken a modern biology course.

4. I believe that the Soviet Union did more harm than the apartheid government of South Africa. But the Soviet Union arguably did more harm than any government in history, including the German government that murdered some of my relatives in the 1940's.

3. I do not like the notion of thought crimes.

2. I can imagine a world in which people are ostracized for believing in socialism. I can imagine a world in which people are ostracized for believing in any of the state-romanticizing faiths. I think that if the form of ostracism were severe, it would strike me as non-libertarian, which might raise questions about ends vs. means. But that's pretty hypothetical to address.

1. It is difficult to compare socialism with racism in terms of harm.

If we're just sitting around talking, and you say, "I think those people are inferior," you are more likely to hurt someone's feelings than if you say, "I am for socialism."

If we have two countries, and one of them implements socialism without racial discrimination and another country implements racial discrimination without socialism, then if I were not the one discriminated against I probably would prefer to live in the latter country. So you could argue that from that perspective I see socialism as the worse evil.

In between just talking and actually implementing, there is advocacy for socialism and advocacy for racial discrimination. It is hard to say which form of advocacy is worse.

From my perspective, this country has way too much socialism. There is also too much focus on race. I think that people should be treated as individuals.

Going back to Ron Paul, I do not think that he reflects my uncertain libertarianism. I would like to try to move cautiously in the direction of dismantling Social Security, Medicare, and public education. I do not think that supporting Ron Paul is either necessary or sufficient for generating movement in that direction.


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (8 to date)
Alex J. writes:

I once heard a radio story about a family which legally emigrated from communist Cuba to the US. Since the state claimed ownership of all property, the mother had to surrender her wedding ring (along with the rest of the family's property) to the Cuban government before it would allow them to leave.

"Do what I say or give me your wedding ring," would probably cause more hurt feelings than either "I think your people are inferior," or "I am for socialism."

Alex J. writes:

Confiscation of the property of emigrants is Communist Manifesto plank 4. Plank 8 is "Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture."

Along the same lines as my previous point, "I think you should be forced to work on a plantation. If you try to leave you should be shot." Is rather more hurtful than "I think your people are inferior."

Rimfax writes:

For the most part, these are bullshit questions. Who was worse, Jim Jones or Andrei Chikatilo? Well, Jones was responsible for more deaths, but Chikatilo actively killed more people. It is sufficient to say that they were both horribly evil and that any contrived situation that forced you to choose one over the other is bullshit. Just because Crick was a brilliant biologist doesn't mean that he knows diddly squat about legitimate differences between human "races".

The issue of crimethink has nothing to do with the Ron Paul newsletters. We aren't discussing criminal proceedings, we are discussing the merits of a candidate for office. The name of his dog is relevant if the voters think it is, so, yes, the nature of the speech that he has actively sponsored is relevant, too. The same can be said of ostracism or social pressure.

dearieme writes:

Rimfax, what are "legitimate" differences between races?

Rimfax writes:

Rimfax, what are "legitimate" differences between races?

How about some synonyms: real; genuine; not false, counterfeit, or spurious.

PiffleDragon writes:

Actually, Mao managed to double Stalin and so, at least in my book, would be the worst. Here are the links, an interesting site detailing deaths from oppressive regimes and wars from the 20th century:
Mao:
http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat1.htm#Mao

Stalin:

http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat1.htm#Stalin

Rimfax writes:

PiffleDragon,

But is comparing body count a serious way to weigh relative evil? Mao was macroeconomically stupid and somewhat inadvertently caused the majority of his damage. Most of his evil lacked malice. Mehmed Talat, on the other hand, had clear malice against the Armenians whose deaths he caused. It would be foolish to suggest that this excuses Mao in any way.

My point is that the exercise of comparing evils in the context of political expediency is a fools errand. You're going to find yourself making deals like Ron Paul did with Lew Rockwell.

Adam writes:

I'm not sure what the point of uncertain libertarianism is. What are you uncertain about? Do you think that socialism might actually be better than capitalism? Find out! Doubts exist to be annihilated.

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