Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Defense of Liberty: Libertarianism and the Public Square
Free Republic ^ | January 20, 2002 | Annalex

Posted on 01/20/2002 2:12:45 PM PST by annalex

Libertarianism and the Public Square

by Annalex

A city has areas of unrestricted common access: streets, parks, squares, and sidewalks. Presently they are publicly owned and the City Hall has control over events that people stage there. Let's call all such areas public square and let's call the events in question cultural expressions. They may be religious or secular in nature, permanent or temporary: Christmas trees and menorahs, flags, statues, crosses, Stars of David, and walking Darwin fish, musical or theater performances, parades, signs, billboards, graffiti, people with boom boxes, sidewalk art exhibitions. Some of it may offend others for a variety of reasons: poor quality, obscene, vulgar, blasphemous, direct insult of passers-by.

A related category is cultural expressions that are stationed on private property but project publicly: loud speech or music, billboards, store windows. Presently, they are regulated by the city hall just the same. I would count those cultural expressions as part of the public square. Clearly, no meaningful distinction exist between a street musician who owns himself as he projects his music onto the passers-by, and a business that owns a store and projects its content through signs and store windows.

Another related category is museums or schools that receive public funds. I would not include those in the definition of the public square, in order to limit the discussion to expressions that reach the general public without being solicited by it. I also believe that there is little to discuss about publicly funded schools and museums since no reasonable argument exists for the continuation of the practice.

I will speak in terms of "city government" in order to keep the "public square" metaphor intact, although the discourse would really apply to government on any level, just like it would apply to network television or advertising and not only to cultural expressions tied to a physical street or square.

What should be the proper libertarian position with regard to the city government's cultural policy in the public square?

Let me outline the present policy that prevails in America: traditional cultural expressions are generally allowed; particularly offensive or disruptive expressions are generally not allowed; there is a noticeable bias against the white Christian cultural expressions and in favor of exotic, either in terms of geography or in terms of tradition, expressions. The bias is particularly strong when the government owns the venue of the expression. Thus a Christian message on a privately owned billboard is tolerated by the government, but Christian messages on the city property are tolerated only in their most secularized form, if at all. Christmas trees are still on the public squares; nativity scenes are becoming rare; a cross has been completely driven off the square. Whenever a watered-down Christian message is allowed to stand, the city makes sure that a similar in character non-Christian message (e.g. a menorah on Chanukah) is equally prominent.

At the same time, the public decency standards are gradually relaxed. While the trend seems to be driven by the public will more than by cultural policy, whenever the government has a chance to tighten the standard through regulation of mass media or vagrancy laws, it fails to do so. This entire complex of laws, policies and attitudes goes by the name of "multiculturalism".

The standard libertarian response to the cultural policy issues is culturally blind. It rests on two principles: that the government should not be making any value judgment when dealing with culture, and that the public square should be privatized, at which point the cultural issues would be to the individuals to sort out.

I believe that this libertarian response is inadequate. It doesn't explain how the cultural blindness principle follows form the core libertarian belief that the proper function of government is protection of individual rights. The dismissal of cultural issues as another negative effect of the commons often looks like plain evasion. It doesn't offer any guidance to a present-day libertarian politician in a non-libertarian world; since the public increasingly views the cultural issues as pivotal in determining how it votes, it is no wonder that libertarians win so few elections. The proper answer should come form the perspective of a libertarian mayor or a libertarian commentator who can influence the cultural policy but cannot accomplish his true preference, privatization. Moreover, it is not immediately clear why privatization should be able to solve any of these issues, since the essence of cultural exchange is in unsolicited messages crossing property lines.

This article reviews the policies of the public square from the perspective of individual rights; it makes an assumption that it is proper for the government to protect individual rights regardless of the magnitude of the violation. I would acknowledge that in practicality it would be wiser to keep the government out when the rights violation, albeit real, is negligible. However, the passion evoked by public cultural policy discussion, as well as the existence of very real armed conflicts today that cannot be understood apart from the cultural identity of the combatants, point to the fact that rights violations inherent is some cultural expressions are not necessarily small in magnitude.

The quintessential issue is this.

Imagine a public square in an American town with a libertarian in charge of the town government. Let us get past the fact that the libertarian mayor would prefer there to be no public square at all, -- its existence is a given within the available time frame.

Christmas comes along and the Christians in town want to erect a Christmas tree and a Nativity scene for the season. The mayor sees no violation of rights in that: the non-Christians can ignore the display if they don't like it.

Chanukah comes along and the Jews erect a menorah. Again, no problem. (Or a solvable placement and scheduling problem).

Now a Satanist wants to display a Satanic message in the public square. What would the libertarian mayor say?

A culturally blind libertarian mayor would not see the difference between the Satanist and the others and would allow the satanic display. If some town residents prevent the Satanist from doing his display, the culturally blind libertarian mayor would use force to protect the Satanist, just as he would protect any other cultural messenger. At that point, traditional American pluralism is dead and multiculturalism prevails in that town.

In order to realize that the mayor is wrong we need to notice that a satanic display is offensive to Jews and Christians in a different way than religious displays can be: due to its blasphemous nature it cannot be ignored by them. But this judgment is only possible if one is aware of the cultural realities in today's America, where Jewish and Christian cultures coexisted for centuries and learned to be mutually inoffensive. But our libertarian is schooled to think that culture doesn't matter, it is an individual affair to which government should be blind. Hence, while the libertarian principles do not contain an endorsement of government-imposed multiculturalism, they can be easily corrupted so that the libertarian practice would in fact lead to it.

The conservative critique of multiculturalism centers around the concept of community standard, which is often confused with majority rule. In fact, community standard is based on the Golden Rule. To realize that, one has to be cognizant of the cultural view: what cultural expression offends whom and in what way. In this simplified example, it so happens that Jewish cultural display doesn't offend a Christian, but a Satanic cultural display does; hence one is consistent with (a) the libertarian principle of the Golden Rule, (b) community standards prevailing in most American cities, and (c) American national character as a pluralist society of certain racial and ethnic stock that is an amalgamation of Western cultures, by a historical circumstance inclusive of virtually any Christian culture, Jewish culture and of African slave culture, but not of Muslim, Oriental or atavistic cultures.

Of course, other examples could be built, where, depending on venue and context, Jewish expression or even a different Christian denomination's expression would offend, or when an exotic cultural expression, including a Satanic display, would be welcome.

Libertarians would typically focus on the statist aspects of multiculturalism. As a solution to cultural disputes that involve government property, libertarians would recommend privatization; to the extent that privatization is not possible, either one of the two logically possible culturally-blind approaches would be recommended: (A) banning all cultural expressions in the public square (a completely illogical but popular flavor of this suggests banning only "religious" ones); or (B) lack of government involvement beyond vandalism, physical obstruction or assault. The latter, of course, translates into offering government protection against vandalism, physical obstruction and assault for all kinds of cultural expression regardless of content. Another popular cop-out is to recommend putting each cultural expression to a referendum and require universal consent -- policy A in disguise.

I believe that both those approaches, with all their weasely flavors, are unjust and such government would fall short in its mission to protect individual rights. That is because even though no physical damage may accompany a cultural message, it may still violate rights of the spectators, passers-by, or other messengers. Here are examples:

A just disposition of cultural grievances by the government is part of its legitimate as per libertarianism function. Such disposition is not possible without looking into two factors: the content of the offensive message and tradition. In other words, the town hall must take on a cultural outlook. Let us revisit the scenario with the satanist. A satanic display would be inoffensive in some contexts, for example, as part of an exhibition on religions of the world, or to those who choose to view it (that is, behind closed doors). However, in proximity to a Christian display it would cancel out the Christian message by its very nature of defying the existence or the power of God. It would then violate the expression rights of the Christian messenger. (Note that I am not speaking of cute little devils that are mascots of some sport teams or FreeBSD operating system). Because satanism is not part of our tradition, the passers-by don't expect it; what was planned as a pleasant stroll in the public space may turn out to be a frightening or disturbing experience. Thus it would violate the rights of passers-by. Could a Christian or other traditional for the locale religious message be a violation of rights of an atheist or a non-Christian? Not in a public square, because Christian messages are traditional and should be expected in public space. In America today, Jewish religious display is not offensive to Christians and Christian religious display is not offensive to Jews. As long as they are not intended to threaten or ridicule another religion they are not offensive to anyone, including a Satanist, simply because we (including Satanists among us) are used to them.

Another example of a cultural message that violates rights while not involving initiation of physical force. Free Republic had its (or Jim Robinson's to be more precise) rights violated by some disruptors. The nature of an Internet forum is such that one can easily defy a ban, keep re-registering and disrupt threads with inane, rude or bandwidth-heavy messages. Jim ended up suing one such character. No matter how the case ended up, you would agree that it was a reasonable lawsuit, -- Jim had no recourse of his own to protect his rights as the forum owner. Well, if it was a reasonable lawsuit, there must be a reasonable law that regulates cultural disruptions, even though no physical obstruction or use of force accompanied the disruption. The restrictions that governments place on cultural messages, even those messages that originate in privately owned space, that can be potentially disruptive are a legitimate attempt to formulate such law. While we can dispute every such law on its merits, we should realize that cultural policy is a proper arena of government regulation in a free society.

Let us generalize thusly: a cultural expression is unrightful with respect to its recipient if it offends him over the sensitivity threshold that exists in the community. That standard shifts with time and geography. Sloppy attire was considered a serious offense not that long time ago in America. Today's standards are extremely relaxed, however, a direct insult or gross indecency are a violation of rights if they are unanticipated. Thus flashing or verbal abuse are considered a form of assault.

A cultural expression can also be unrightful with respect to other messengers if it cancels out (or partially cancels out) their rightful message. It may cancel out the message even when no physical obstruction takes place. For example, a condom distribution event outside of a church destroys the pious mood that the church service worked to create; it is therefore unrightful even though it takes place off the church grounds and the service attendees are not physically touched or threatened.

So, is there a general rule to legislate against offensive content? Several principles suggest themselves.

First, when looking for violation of rights, it is not sufficient to only look for physical obstruction or harm. We all recognize that the release of some messages is unrightful even though no proximate physical harm results form the message. For example, if I were to publish a plausibly-looking scientific paper that would make a bogus claim in fundamental natural science, that would be fraud even if no measurable physical harm would proximately result from people reading it. We should then allow for the possibility that some cultural (and so not falsifiable) messages also can violate rights.

Secondly, let us disabuse ourselves of the notion that unanimous consent to cultural content must be sought. The unanimity standard only makes sense when a right is being relinquished to a legislation, and even then it only can be applied to the legislative process, but not to a specific legislative outcome. In an overwhelming number of cases no one's right is being violated by cultural expressions, even when a cultural expression is not welcomed by some and would fail in a referendum. It is therefore bogus to apply the unanimity standard to cultural disputes. The proper standard is to analyze the expression and see if it objectively violates the rights of other messengers or the recipients.

Another misconception is that private property rights are sufficient to resolve cultural issues. While privatization of commons is generally desirable for a number of reasons, it doesn't resolve all cultural disputes. That is because a society needs areas of open access where various cultural players can project messages across property lines. It is therefore irrelevant how those property lines are drawn. For example, it is often said that it is up to the store owner to allow or ban cultural expressions inside the store. That is only half accurate: he can ban cultural expressions at will, but he cannot allow a cultural expression which violates rights any more than he can allow a murder to happen in his store.

On the other hand, both local majority and local tradition have a role to play in determining a rightfulness of a message. That is because tradition and majority have the ability to make a message expected, thus giving a person who would rather avoid the message to take steps toward avoidance. For example, I know that traditionally a menorah is erected at our shopping mall each Chanukah (the owners are Jewish). If I wanted to avoid Jewish cultural expressions I could schedule my shopping around it, or be ready with answers if my children ask me why don't we have a menorah (we are Christian). Similarly, if I were a Jew who wanted to avoid the majority-Christian culture I could move to an area where Jews are in majority. In contrast to that, a unanimity principle wouldn't allow a formation of cultural enclaves and lead to a true cultural tyranny. Does it mean that equally inoffensive cultural messages should receive equal treatment? Yes, usually, but there is one exception: when a message is placed in a context when it becomes a symbol of the entire nation, only an message reflective of the absolute majority will do. American tradition uses Masonic or irreligious imagery for its currency and various seals of office; Christian symbolism is also present (e.g. as a Christian Bible or a Christian prayer at official ceremonies); Jewish symbolism would not be equally permissible if used in a way as to identify the entire American nation.

In conclusion: any cultural expression in the public square that does not require special resource from the government, causes no physical obstruction of traffic or other cultural expressions, is rightful even in absence of unanimous consent, as long as it does not violate the community standard of offensiveness and does not cancel out other messages by its content. The form of expression is irrelevant, and so is the private ownership of the origin of the expression. Permanence (that is, the distinction between a statue and a Christmas tree) is relevant inasmuch as a permanent display may forever cancel out another rightful message. Thus an overtly religious message may become questionable if displayed permanently in a way that dominated the entire public square. Offensiveness matters very much, thus pornographic, violent, or blasphemous messages in excess of the community standard are unrightful anywhere when they are not expected (that is, they should be off the public square). Religious content doesn't matter per se, although traditional religious perceptions of the locale define the community standard and therefore will be perceived as dominating it. It is a common fallacy (advanced by both liberals and libertarians) to detect a religious underpinning in a cultural bias of a community, and reject the bias on that ground. The truth is that the dominant religion or religions dictate the community standard of offensiveness, and the standard, with all its inherent biases, rules.

It is notable that the proper perspective of individual rights in cultural policy that I just outlined yielded no surprises and vindicated the traditional American cultural policies that prevailed in this country through the early Sixties.

All rights reserved. Reproduction is authorized with attribution to Annalex and the Free Republic.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Editorial
KEYWORDS: libertarians
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-95 next last
The previous articles in the series were on the Twin Towers massacre and its aftermath:
Defense of Liberty
Defense of Liberty: The Contours of Victory
Defense of Liberty: Two Articles On Anti-Terrorist Policy by Peikoff
Defense of Liberty: Just Intervention
Defense of Liberty. Philosophy: Who Needs It?
Defense of Liberty: Attila In a Boeing
Defense of Liberty. National Self-Determination: An International Political Lie
Defense of Liberty: Foreign Policy and Natural Law
Defense of Liberty: Freedom and War

This article is a rehash of the comments I made on this thread: Year Ahead: The future of multiculturalism.

Another article of mine devoted to critique of libertarian approach to cultural issues is Pursuit of Liberty: The Culture War and Individualism.

1 posted on 01/20/2002 2:12:45 PM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Agrarian; A.J.Armitage; AKbear; annalex; Anthem; aquinasfan; arimus; Askel5; Boxsford; Carbon...

Canaletto (1697-1768). San Marco Square.


2 posted on 01/20/2002 2:16:58 PM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: annalex
Thanks for the bump. Interesting concepts.
3 posted on 01/20/2002 3:06:33 PM PST by dcwusmc
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: annalex
"It is a common fallacy (advanced by both liberals and libertarians) to detect a religious underpinning in a cultural bias of a community, and reject the bias on that ground. The truth is that the dominant religion or religions dictate the community standard of offensiveness, and the standard, with all its inherent biases, rules."

--------------------------------------------

It is a common fallacy that libertarians try to detect a religious underpinning in a cultural bias of a community, and reject the bias on that ground.
-- It is, in most cases, forced on them.

The truth is that the dominant religion or religions attempt, all to often, -- to dictate the community standard of offensiveness, and the standard, with all its inherent biases, then rules. - Virtually without local appeal. -- This is not how a republican form of government works, -- or should work.

States or localities do have the power to set & regulate community standards. --- But these standards cannot violate the individuals rights to life, liberty, and property without due process.

- Thus, when an individual is charged with violating a community 'standard', or regulation to any more than a minor offense, a misdemenor, s/he must be given a trial by jury.
Such a jury must be able to judge both the law & facts of the case, and be so instructed.

This is not being done under our present system.

4 posted on 01/20/2002 3:30:53 PM PST by tpaine
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: annalex
The dismissal of cultural issues as another negative effect of the commons often looks like plain evasion. It doesn't offer any guidance to a present-day libertarian politician in a non-libertarian world; since the public increasingly views the cultural issues as pivotal in determining how it votes, it is no wonder that libertarians win so few elections.

Although I disagree with several points of this article, this statement is extremely perceptive. The Libertarian Party cannot succeed in a democratic government, period. Democracy, by its nature, collectivizes property and moves everything into the public square. The failure of the Libertarian Party to take a firm stance on issues of culture makes them a party with no issues stance at all.

On the other hand, the libertarian is quite correct that the controversy surrounding cultural issues is a direct outgrowth of the existence of the commons. Obviously, it is a tragedy if the community is balkanized by a holiday display that contains a sap to every philosophy under the sun. No meaningful community can come from a "celebration of diversity" -- for that is a celebration of disagreement, of un-likeness. But if only the dominant members of a community are given a voice, the minority is now supporting a commons that does nothing for them. Neither of these situations is just and arguing over which view of the commons is "less unjust" is worthless.

Minority groups were able to flee a poorly run commons in the past. But as America's frontier closed, the cost of moving away from bad government began to exceed the gain. Since secession is unavailable as an option, the underrepresented minorities now began to agitate for more say in how the commons was used. The civil rights movement can be seen as a direct result of the closed frontier combined with the perceived illegitimacy of secession. The ongoing culture wars are part of this process.

As one the Founders pointed out (perhaps someone can remind me which one), there has never been a Democracy that did not destroy itself. Modern America is in the process of proving that. Essentially, those who consider the rights of the minority paramount will have victories until they have purged the culture of any real substance. Then those who consider the rights of the majority to have been disregarded will "restore order." Decadence will be followed by Dictatorship.

Anyone wanting to break this cycle will first have to admit that society does not need "areas of open access where various cultural players can project messages across property lines." Property defines boundaries, it makes the distinction between what is respectful and what is disrespectful clear.

Free Republic itself is a clear example of this ideal. FR is a forum of ideas, but it has rules of decorum and clear standards. This is precisely because FR is not a commons. The fact that FR is privately owned doesn't diminish its capacity to be a place where "cultural players can project messages" but it does allow for a just means of regulating how those messages are projected -- a feat which a commons in fundamentally incapable of producing.

5 posted on 01/20/2002 3:41:49 PM PST by Entelechy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: annalex
Another example of a cultural message that violates rights while not involving initiation of physical force. Free Republic had its (or Jim Robinson's to be more precise) rights violated by some disruptors. The nature of an Internet forum is such that one can easily defy a ban, keep re-registering and disrupt threads with inane, rude or bandwidth-heavy messages. Jim ended up suing one such character. No matter how the case ended up, you would agree that it was a reasonable lawsuit, -- Jim had no recourse of his own to protect his rights as the forum owner. Well, if it was a reasonable lawsuit, there must be a reasonable law that regulates cultural disruptions, even though no physical obstruction or use of force accompanied the disruption.

Many forms of theft entail no initiation of physical force, yet libertarians claim to oppose these on principle. The above example though perhaps involves fraud, and so we could declare it covered by our opposition to the "initiation of force or fraud". I see the above as an example of theft, and not simply one of cultural disruption. Jim's house, and he need offer no reason for excluding anyone.

6 posted on 01/20/2002 4:39:01 PM PST by secretagent
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: annalex
Nice article. If we presume that a libertarian society has a court system, it would have a courthouse and courthouse square. The idea that everything should be private and nothing public, doesn't seem to be tenable in the end. Such a society would have to have some mechanism for protecting itself against criminals. It would probably want to have this done in a public fashion, so that a dual burden is not imposed on the victims of crime.

The idea that one could completely do without public institutions reflects a departure from the "back to the founders" idea that many identified with libertarianism. The founders don't seem to be anti-statist enough for some libertarians. The problem is that societies with no sense of the public may find it hard to defend themselves against foreign or domestic enemies. They may also find it difficult to rise above the rivalries of clans, factions, or tribes to the kind of impartial sense of rights, duties and obligations that characterize freedom and modernity.

With regard to the specific question you address, it seems to have a lot to do with the modern concept of the public square and with contemporary patterns of migration. Prior to the 1960s a public square would likely contain a war memorial or other monument. It might well have contained a temporary creche or candle display sponsored by some non-governmental institution. It would probably would not have contained individual artists' self-expressions. This is I think something new. The older idea was that such sculptures were representative of the community's ideals.

If the idea of "the community" having ideas of its own has disappeared, one reason is that affluence has made us more individualistic. Another is that totalitarianism has made us more distrustful of such singlemindedness and more determined to assert that individualism.

The third reason is that recent immigration has done away with the idea that we could have any single "culture" -- though technology, media, and economics do a lot to make us more uniform. An earlier America or an earlier West could proclaim the naked public square because it was presumed that society was Christian anyway. In a more "ethnically diverse" land, rivalries between groups do tend to become disputes over the public square.

Libertarian societies tend to be successful at attracting people from many different cultural backgrounds. The problem is that once groups reach a certain critical mass, they want society to reflect their own group norms, or at least give more weight to them. This is the downfall of libertarian polities, and one saw such developments in Britain, Austria-Hungary and elsewhere at the beginning of the last century, after decades of relatively liberal (in the classical sense of the word) economic and political policies.

BTW, William Ebenstein's classic introductory work Today's Isms has been revised and reprinted by his son with a chapter on libertarianism.

7 posted on 01/20/2002 4:51:34 PM PST by x
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: annalex
In conclusion: any cultural expression in the public square that does not require special resource from the government, causes no physical obstruction of traffic or other cultural expressions, is rightful even in absence of unanimous consent, as long as it does not violate the community standard of offensiveness and does not cancel out other messages by its content.

Good essay. And you nicely brought out the problems inherent in a public square. But your proviso about "offensiveness" opens up an almost infinite source of disputes. Which we're living with now. I dislike having government be the instrument for deciding these things. But I haven't figured out another way.

8 posted on 01/20/2002 5:27:06 PM PST by PatrickHenry
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry; annalex
I dislike having government be the instrument for deciding these things. But I haven't figured out another way.

Seems to me that on the local level, in a democratic system such as ours, it is somewhat more managable. We recently survived a high school mascot (indians) controversy. The larger the government, the larger the problem. However, I also think the larger the government involved, tne less value that is derived from the "public" square in the first place. A local town square has value, IMO, which is worth the occasional grief.

9 posted on 01/20/2002 6:37:09 PM PST by Huck
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Huck;annalex
Good essay and a good response.
10 posted on 01/20/2002 7:04:43 PM PST by Free the USA
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: annalex
How would you use these principals to resolve this debate?
FreeRepublic thread on a prison Chaplin who is a witch.
Which prison chaplain is witch?
11 posted on 01/20/2002 9:37:38 PM PST by Fish out of Water
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Entelechy; yall
This one line of yours struck me as sort of defining our constitutional issue here:

"Essentially, those who consider the rights of the minority paramount will have victories until they have purged the culture of any real substance."

I have seen no such decadence, no 'purging of substance' taking place, yet the majority is very busy 'restoring order', and on the road to dictatorship, imo.

Our republic is set up, supposedly, to defend everyones rights against all tyranny, -- even a so-called benign tyranny of the majority. This constitutional principle is being ignored.

12 posted on 01/21/2002 4:42:21 AM PST by tpaine
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
Good essay. And you nicely brought out the problems inherent in a public square. But your proviso about "offensiveness" opens up an almost infinite source of disputes. Which we're living with now. I dislike having government be the instrument for deciding these things. But I haven't figured out another way.

The missing 'way' of deciding these things is by restoring the power of jury nullification. Government hates this power, and has effectively removed it from our system by judicial decree.
Judges are actually instructing juries that they cannot factor the justness of a law in making their decisions as to the facts of a specific case. This is a travesty of justice.

13 posted on 01/21/2002 5:09:51 AM PST by tpaine
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: tpaine
I have seen no such decadence, no 'purging of substance' taking place, yet the majority is very busy 'restoring order', and on the road to dictatorship, imo.

There are two kinds of libertarians: liberals who rejected socialism and conservatives who rejected Republicans. I'm guessing you're of the former variety.

There is an alarming amount of homogeneity in American culture today. Regional differences are minor. America is tied together by the common blanket of faux rights given to us by the EPA, the ADA, etc. People think they share a common culture because they both watched Law and Order the previous night.

You may, however, be correct that the restoration of "order" is now in its beginning stages.

14 posted on 01/21/2002 9:05:49 AM PST by Entelechy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: x
If we presume that a libertarian society has a court system, it would have a courthouse and courthouse square. The idea that everything should be private and nothing public, doesn't seem to be tenable in the end. Such a society would have to have some mechanism for protecting itself against criminals. It would probably want to have this done in a public fashion, so that a dual burden is not imposed on the victims of crime.

The word public has a number of senses. First is public in the sense of "open to just about everyone." Second is public in the sense of state-owned. Third is public in the sense of common property. It seems to me you're conflating these meanings. Just because a property is privately owned does not exclude it from being public in the first sense.

Also the notion of law as a creature of tradition rather than a product of legislation seems foreign to you. This is unsurprising given the gutting of common law in recent decades. It is difficult for me to see how criminal justice requires property that is public in the second sense (state-owned) in order to function. Do we really require politicians in order to have law?

And what exactly do you mean by a double burden? Are you saying that you think a person could not purchase police services without the existence of state-owned property?! This seems so odd as to verge on non-sequitur. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your point.

15 posted on 01/21/2002 9:51:17 AM PST by Entelechy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: tpaine
I think that any cultural or religious majority will establish the de-facto community standard without any use of force or government coercion, just because they are majority.

Next, laws will be passed that ban what the majority thinks is offensive.

Next, a minority that is uncomfortable with that should sue to repeal or correctly interpret these laws. A jury will then decide if the offensiveness is objectively there or if the majority simply doesn't like the minority cultural expression, but cannot be offended.

At this point the standard is objectified through the tests in court and rules.

The present system stands all this on its head. The jury,. for most part, is out of the picture, supplanted by the executive branch. Instead of proposing a standard, looking for a court challenge, then seeking to adapt the standard, the government simply assumes that all expressions are rightful as long as they are minority, because they bring diversity. The government doesn't go to bat for extreme offensiveness, such as public pornography, not because it understands that pornography is offensive, but because it knows it can't win, not yet.

16 posted on 01/21/2002 9:52:04 AM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Entelechy
Anyone wanting to break this cycle will first have to admit that society does not need "areas of open access where various cultural players can project messages across property lines."

Free people in a free society will quickly make a public square out of nothing, because they will attempt to make conversations, exchange messages and do commerce. Regardless of who owns the physical square, the issues of cultural offence will not go away. For example, shopping malls (even the areas between individual stores) are private property. What does it change in terms of what is and what isn't allowed in those passageways? Precisely nothing. If a mall restricts some expressions -- for example, a political demonstration or an art show -- people just go somewhere else to do those things, and the owner of that place will face the same dilemmas of cultural policy the city government faces today.

17 posted on 01/21/2002 10:01:38 AM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: annalex
Free people in a free society will quickly make a public square out of nothing, because they will attempt to make conversations, exchange messages and do commerce. Regardless of who owns the physical square, the issues of cultural offence will not go away.

True.

For example, shopping malls (even the areas between individual stores) are private property. What does it change in terms of what is and what isn't allowed in those passageways? Precisely nothing. If a mall restricts some expressions -- for example, a political demonstration or an art show -- people just go somewhere else to do those things, and the owner of that place will face the same dilemmas of cultural policy the city government faces today.

Except that in the private property instance no rights are violated by the exclusion of certain solicitors. In a public square, everyone is presumed to have an equal say in what goes on there. An act of exclusion cleary says otherwise and transforms the commons into state-owned property governed by the mayor, town council or whatever political body has assumed de-facto ownership.

Furthermore, since you have now asserted that cultural conflicts will exist regardless of the ownership of the public space one has to wonder what the benefit of a commons is. In fact, the privately owned public space has advantages over the commons -- once the owner says "no" to Satanist holiday displays, the issue is dead. The ownership paradigm you support leaves this a permanent point of contention.

18 posted on 01/21/2002 10:23:43 AM PST by Entelechy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: secretagent; Jim Robinson
I see the above [disruptors at FR] as an example of theft, and not simply one of cultural disruption.

Still at the root of it it is a cultural disruption, not theft. Jim framed his forum so that disruptions can be resolved through the mechanism of private property, which is to his credit. Someone else would make a forum where, by contractual promise, anyone is allowed to post anything, so there is no mechanism to reduce disruption to the owner's will. Disruptive posts would stil violate the rights of other posters.

Jim, I am just using your past predicament to illustrate a theoretical point, no judgement on your policies is intended.

19 posted on 01/21/2002 10:34:12 AM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: x
x in 7: The idea that one could completely do without public institutions reflects a departure from the "back to the founders" idea that many identified with libertarianism.

Entelechy in 18: one has to wonder what the benefit of a commons is.

My contention is that if the commons is somehow prevented from happening (e.g. forbidden by the constitution), a private commons will be created to fill the need for unsolicited exchange; the owner of such private commons will have to resolve cultural disputes based on whether they actually disrupt, and not based on "because-I-say-so".

20 posted on 01/21/2002 10:46:34 AM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
I dislike having government be the instrument for deciding these things. But I haven't figured out another way.

Somebody has to do it. I suppose, were we on some other historical trajectory, a private entity would do the sorting-out. My point is not that we need a government in order to have culture, but that we need to extend the notion of individual rights into the cultural sphere in order to have culture.

21 posted on 01/21/2002 10:50:25 AM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Huck
in a democratic system such as ours, it is somewhat more managable.

I have very little faith in the usefullness of democracy, but I would agree that it is about the best role a democracy may have: defining the leading culture.

The problem with liberalism is that it doesn't mind tyranny of the majority where it does all of its harm, in the area of economic life, and it decries it where it actually does something good, -- in cultural life.

22 posted on 01/21/2002 10:56:37 AM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Fish out of Water
You link is bad.

I ommitted from the article my comments about military chaplains, that would also apply to prison chaplains. Here they are:

The military is not the public square, because its men contractually relinquished their rights of free expression. The cultural policy of the military is therefore procedurally determined top-down by its commanders with the single goal of military effectiveness. This goal would dictate to avoid the following two extremes. A harsh and cold to the cultural (and in particular, religious, given the proximity of death) needs of the soldiers would diminish the military's ability to recruit and the soldier's dedication. Thus, a complete absence of chaplains (or Bob Hope's) would be contrary to the military's charter. On the other hand, an attempt to accommodate every minority would be a burden, so the military is better off in losing the support of adherents of rare religions rather than having Wiccan chaplains.
Similarly, cultural policy in prison needs to balance the prison's goal of combining punishment, isolation from society and rehabilitation, against the legitimate spiritual needs of prisoners. I would recommend wiccans stay out of crime since a witch chaplain may not be available for them.
23 posted on 01/21/2002 11:04:23 AM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Entelechy
This one line of yours struck me as sort of defining our constitutional issue here:

"Essentially, those who consider the rights of the minority paramount will have victories until they have purged the culture of any real substance."

I have seen no such decadence, no 'purging of substance' taking place, yet the majority is very busy 'restoring order', and on the road to dictatorship, imo.

Our republic is set up, supposedly, to defend everyones rights against all tyranny, -- even a so-called benign tyranny of the majority. This constitutional principle is being ignored. - 12 posted by tpaine

There are two kinds of libertarians: liberals who rejected socialism and conservatives who rejected Republicans. I'm guessing you're of the former variety.

-- Hmmmm. Should I be flattered that you want to type me? -- Why? - Your 'guess' is right, but snide in itself. Do you fancy yourself a superior being?

There is an alarming amount of homogeneity in American culture today. Regional differences are minor. America is tied together by the common blanket of faux rights given to us by the EPA, the ADA, etc. People think they share a common culture because they both watched Law and Order the previous night. You may, however, be correct that the restoration of "order" is now in its beginning stages.

Well thats a relief, -- that you think I may be right about something.
Tell me, why did you bother to reply? -- Essentially, you made no response to my points.

24 posted on 01/21/2002 11:16:55 AM PST by tpaine
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: annalex
My point is not that we need a government in order to have culture, but that we need to extend the notion of individual rights into the cultural sphere in order to have culture.

I donno. Suppose my neighbor likes to watch old Flintstones reruns, and he keeps the volume up loud. He has his culture and I have mine. This is really a property rights situation. The best answer for us sensitive types is probably to have a lot of property surrounding our homes. If we want to save money on such things as large gated estates, we accept the tradeoff of obnoxious neighbors.

25 posted on 01/21/2002 11:19:21 AM PST by PatrickHenry
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: annalex
The problem with liberalism is that it doesn't mind tyranny of the majority where it does all of its harm, in the area of economic life, and it decries it where it actually does something good, -- in cultural life.

That's a great line.

26 posted on 01/21/2002 11:19:53 AM PST by Huck
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
he keeps the volume up loud. He has his culture and I have mine. This is really a property rights situation.

If he disrupts your Bach with his Flintstones then it's an offense regardless of property. You can mitigate it with property, but the offense is there.

27 posted on 01/21/2002 11:25:17 AM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: annalex
If he disrupts your Bach [country & western] with his Flintstones then it's an offense regardless of property.

Ah, but if I blast my "culture" out the window, and he blasts his "culture" in my direction, which is the offense? I say it's the volume, not the quality of the culture. Hence the solution is either a "volume control constabulary" or a large country estate.

28 posted on 01/21/2002 11:33:06 AM PST by PatrickHenry
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: annalex
I think that any cultural or religious majority will establish the de-facto community standard without any use of force or government coercion, just because they are majority.
Next, laws will be passed that ban what the majority thinks is offensive.

--- The 14th amendment, in effect, says that states/communities cannot ban, they can 'regulate' public behaviors & uses of property, but they must use due process, - not prohibitive decrees.

Next, a minority that is uncomfortable with that should sue to repeal or correctly interpret these laws. A jury will then decide if the offensiveness is objectively there or if the majority simply doesn't like the minority cultural expression, but cannot be offended. At this point the standard is objectified through the tests in court and rules.
The present system stands all this on its head. The jury,. for most part, is out of the picture, supplanted by the executive branch. Instead of proposing a standard, looking for a court challenge, then seeking to adapt the standard, the government simply assumes that all expressions are rightful as long as they are minority, because they bring diversity. The government doesn't go to bat for extreme offensiveness, such as public pornography, not because it understands that pornography is offensive, but because it knows it can't win, not yet.

-- Not yet? Good grief. - Sorry, but I'm outa here, on that note.

29 posted on 01/21/2002 11:52:35 AM PST by tpaine
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: annalex
read later
30 posted on 01/21/2002 11:59:57 AM PST by m1911
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
The best answer for us sensitive types is probably to have a lot of property surrounding our homes.

Or become good neighbors, or have neighborhood associations and property covenents. In the absence of laws requiring people to behave themselves, people are more likely to voluntarily seek harmony with their neighbors than not.

I need never get to know you right now if you move in next door. If you put up something tacky on your lawn or play your music too loud, I can just call the police and have them hassle you for breaking noise or zoning laws.

Absent that option, it becomes incumbent on me to seek harmony and good relations between us.

It's one more way in which the state erodes the quality of human life and human interaction.

31 posted on 01/21/2002 12:01:55 PM PST by Doctor Doom
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: annalex
My contention is that if the commons is somehow prevented from happening (e.g. forbidden by the constitution), a private commons will be created to fill the need for unsolicited exchange; the owner of such private commons will have to resolve cultural disputes based on whether they actually disrupt, and not based on "because-I-say-so."

Hmm. I think I need to clarify your position. If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying that a purely private property society may be desirable but that until then, we still need to define the proper use of our remaining public space.

This is a fine idea, but problematic in practice. To be a commons (public in the sense of unowned) a property must either be unused or freely used by all. The first is a waste, the second a potential disaster. Once use restrictions are imposed, the government (state, town, whatever) has claimed that property and is now its owner. The question now is whether the management of a resource is most efficient in the realm of politics or the realm of the private market. We all know the answer to that -- the market will deliver the better outcome.

It might be better to say that the assault on public morality by multiculturalism is facilitated by the attempt to treat public property as a commons when in reality it is state-owned property. To say that a governing body should manage a public space wisely is no different from saying that a private owner should do so. The question is which owner (the transitory members of a town council or a private landholder) has the proper incentives.

32 posted on 01/21/2002 12:34:03 PM PST by Entelechy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: tpaine
Good grief indeed. That's right, regulate is the proper word, generally speaking, and due process is part of it.
33 posted on 01/21/2002 12:37:15 PM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 29 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
I'd say it's mostly volume in your example (because there is nothing offensive about Flintstones or country western but volume), but it's content as a general rule. If your neighbor's music consists of "me so horny die bitch die", then it doesn't need to be loud to be offensive at least for some folks. See my example with condom distribution near a church.
34 posted on 01/21/2002 12:42:02 PM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 28 | View Replies]

To: Entelechy
If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying that a purely private property society may be desirable but that until then, we still need to define the proper use of our remaining public space.

No, in the quoted by you statement I am saying that regardless of whether we have a purely private property society we need to define the proper use of the space that welcomes unsolicited cultural messages; and that such space will become available from either a government or a private party.

35 posted on 01/21/2002 12:49:31 PM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 32 | View Replies]

To: tpaine
Should I be flattered that you want to type me? -- Why? - Your 'guess' is right, but snide in itself. Do you fancy yourself a superior being?

tpaine, I should have known you'd take that the wrong way. My intention was not to be snide, merely to point out that your tendency to ignore the "purging of substance" is due to your cultural background. Just as libertarians of the right sometimes come across as militaristic or theocratic.

Essentially, you made no response to my points.

On the contrary, I pointed out the lack of regional diversity in the U.S. (now replaced with ceremonial diversity, in which the people are of different races or ethnic backgrounds but the cultural messages are all the same). This goes directly to your comment that you have "seen no such . . . purging of substance."

The federalism of the Constitution, as written, would definitely help these matters. But the Constitution, although a noble attempt, is flawed. It is a document intended to restrain a State -- an impossible task. We know that today, as we see tyranny congeal around us. The Founders tried and failed. We could restore the Constitution, but I'm certain that within 150 years we'd be back to Fed-approved church burnings and bombing aspirin factories.

36 posted on 01/21/2002 1:11:07 PM PST by Entelechy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: Entelechy
What's your 'guess' as to my cultural background? -- Amaze & edify me.
37 posted on 01/21/2002 1:32:20 PM PST by tpaine
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 36 | View Replies]

To: annalex
I'd say it's mostly volume in your example (because there is nothing offensive about Flintstones or country western but volume), but it's content as a general rule.

Okay, no volume. My neighbor has a hemomgous porn collection. He's told me about it. He's a creep. Now are we still concerned with the substance of his "violation"?

38 posted on 01/21/2002 1:38:21 PM PST by PatrickHenry
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 34 | View Replies]

To: annalex
we need to define the proper use of the space that welcomes unsolicited cultural messages;

This only becomes an issue of individual rights if we assume that public spaces must be treated as a commons (something I think we both reject). In any other circumstance, there is a landowner (either the govt. or a private individual) and that person or people has control over use of the public space.

Now it may be more civil to conform to the greater community when managing a public space -- but it is not a rights violation to do otherwise.

39 posted on 01/21/2002 1:44:39 PM PST by Entelechy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 35 | View Replies]

To: Entelechy
libertarians of the right sometimes come across as militaristic or theocratic.

Yours truly, Bible thumping imperialist.

40 posted on 01/21/2002 1:51:02 PM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 36 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
I don't see a violation if he merely told you the porn collection exists. If he beams its content into your living room (through whatever technical means as long as you can't turn it off) then I see a violation, yes.
41 posted on 01/21/2002 1:53:40 PM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 38 | View Replies]

To: annalex
I think of it as being more akin to pompous assism.
42 posted on 01/21/2002 1:55:00 PM PST by tpaine
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 40 | View Replies]

To: tpaine
My guess was that you evolved into a libertarian after orignally considering yourself a liberal and/or that you come from a liberal family background and later became a libertarian.

A guess which you confirmed was right in post #24.

I don't see why this is upsetting you so much. I'm not claiming clairvoyance here, I'm just pointing out that I thought your rhetoric had the feel of someone who came into libertarianism from the left -- and thus you may be disinclined to view the advances of the cultural left as a power grab.

43 posted on 01/21/2002 1:57:23 PM PST by Entelechy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 37 | View Replies]

To: Entelechy
What I am saying is this: in a fully privatized environment, an entrepreneur will come along and offer a space for unsolicited messaging on his private property, San Marco Square, Inc.. Because there is a market for it, he will strive to allow as much liberty to the messengers as consistent with the individual rights of the messengers and messengees. He doesn't have to do that, but if he doesn't, all the participants will go to his competitor who does. Then, that entrepreneur as well as his competitors will face the same dilemmas the government faces today.
44 posted on 01/21/2002 2:00:03 PM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 39 | View Replies]

To: annalex
Then, that entrepreneur as well as his competitors will face the same dilemmas the government faces today.

I know, I got that part. I'm just arguing that it is inaccurate to say that having a location be open to the public does not grant the public rights to that location. Ownership is retained by the owner no matter how many people are allowed to enter the property.

Furthermore, I'm arguing that a government owned property will be poorly managed because the owner has no incentive to preserve the resource -- why be too concerned with the state of a property you are eventually going to turn over to your political opponents? The only exception to this rule would be if the government owner was a hereditary monarch -- in which case his behavior would be much like that of a private landowner.

45 posted on 01/21/2002 2:11:15 PM PST by Entelechy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 44 | View Replies]

To: Entelechy
As one the Founders pointed out (perhaps someone can remind me which one), there has never been a Democracy that did not destroy itself.

"Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."
James Madison, Federalist No. 10, (1787)

46 posted on 01/21/2002 2:14:54 PM PST by philman_36
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Entelechy
oops that should be:

I'm just arguing that it is inaccurate to say that having a location be open to the public grants the public rights to that location.

47 posted on 01/21/2002 2:20:51 PM PST by Entelechy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 45 | View Replies]

To: philman_36
Thanks!

The best point is that "democracies . . . have ever been found incompatible with . . . the rights of property"

Never allow others to vote on the extent of your rights.

48 posted on 01/21/2002 2:23:36 PM PST by Entelechy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 46 | View Replies]

To: Entelechy
Agree, particularly to the monarch part.
49 posted on 01/21/2002 2:28:14 PM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 45 | View Replies]

To: Ragin1
You commented on the thread that was an impetus for this one. Bump. (Others that commented there are on my regular bump list).
50 posted on 01/21/2002 2:44:28 PM PST by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-95 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson