Saturday, April 17, 2010

I Only Talk to People & Get My News from Sources Agreeing with Me. Who Needs Reality?

A long time ago, a commenter on a blog thread (I no longer remember which blog or thread--sorry) asked me to comment on libertarianism. At the time I didn't know anything about the subject, so I said nothing. If you're in the mood for a rather involved but quite rewarding/entertaining exploration of the subject, here's an argument (not mine--I'm just a spectator) to follow:

A post on a libertarian website bemoans the supposed loss of freedom in American life since the late 19th century--neglecting to notice the dramatically improved status of black people, women, Asians, Hispanics, Jews, Italians, etc. since then. This has led to an involved debate on a bunch of blogs devoted to philosophy and politics which I find interesting, illuminating and, at times, very amusing.

John Holbo reviews the ensuing debate, noting an obvious blind spot among many libertarians. He then follows up, citing Jacob Levy on the role played by ideological blinders in these peculiar omissions among many libertarians.

Then John Quiggen steps in with some delicious snark about the predictive powers of libertarian hero Friedrich Hayek's theory about the relationship between laissez-faire economics and freedom.

Bryan Caplan then tries to defend libertarianism, but does so, as Holbo observes, in a way that demolishes his whole argument.

But wait! There's more! Megan McCardle steps in with that old conservative chestnut, conservatives are being excluded from academia. Except she argues by claiming equivalence between that supposed exclusion and the exclusion of black people from business leadership, both of which, she asserts, occurred via "things like social networks, subtle bias, and tacit norms about what constituted the boundaries of acceptable traits" for inclusion. This, of course, omits those minor details, Jim Crow and de facto racial discrimination, notes Michael Berube. Hmmm... We're right back at the beginning with those libertarian blind spots.

Speaking of blind spots, Julian Sanchez considers the conservative echo chamber with reference to the concept of "epistemic closure."