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1 posted on 02/04/2002 12:00:15 PM PST by ouroboros
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To: Mercuria;diotima;sheltonmac;Askel5;DoughtyOne;tex-oma;A.J.Armitage;x;Campion Moore Boru;junta...
ping
2 posted on 02/04/2002 12:31:25 PM PST by ouroboros
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To: ouroboros
He confused the subjective theory of value with relativism to his own advantage. The two are not the same. His refutation of the subjective theory of value doesn't cut it, either. Of course valuations of goods aren't made by some disembodied, radically individual intellect. The will is determind by wants, and wants are heavily influenced by things external to the person himself; this in no way undermines the subjective theory of value, and I can prove it. He left out a major determining factor in how people assign value to a good: number. The more there are, the less highly it's valued. It's called marginal utility, and it was proposed along with the subjective theory of value (and is dependent on it) by Karl Menger.
3 posted on 02/04/2002 12:57:50 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: ouroboros
The article is a mishmash of mischaracterizations masquerading as refutations.

Fleming starts off by dismissing Walter Block’s (admittedly-bizarre) theory of fetal ethics by claiming that mothers and fathers are property. “An animal coming out of nowhere is an uncommon experience, and children—whether the identity of mother and father is known—have two parents. In fact, the proper point of comparison is with calves that belong to the people who own the cow and the bull”. Of course he never answers the obvious questions. Who are people the property of? Does the owner have the right to do what he wants with the foetus? Whatever you might think of Block’s case, this is not a refutation, unless you accept the argument that all people are slaves.

Having thus disposed of Block, Fleming then sets him up as a strawman who he uses over and over again to impugn all of libertarian theory. His refutation of Block lead inexorably to “if the general theory is false and evil, the economic version of it must be—however much we might want to believe otherwise—equally false and equally evil.” Neither the premise nor the conclusion is correct. He did not refute the general theory and, even if he had, the specific theory could still hold true.

Having now proven to his satisfaction that all of libertarianism is false, the next statement follows easily. “People loved liberty, even economic liberty, long before Adam Smith (much less Ludwig von Mises) ever propounded his fallacies”. This is the article’s only reference to Smith and his “fallacies”.

Fleming then spends several pages expounding on Mises’ theory of value. Mises’ theory was actually quite simple, almost a tautology. People want what they want and they make choices based on their wants. Fleming’s description of Mises is reasonably accurate, if loaded with negative buzzwords and phrases. Personally I find it almost impossible to see how someone could argue with Mises’ characterization. It is a self-evident truth, an axiom of the behaviour of the reasoning man.

Fleming does argue though because, as we all know, people are property like cattle.

This is where he starts to seriously get off track. He claims that people make decisions, not based on their wants, but on their values. “Only a few trivial points—a fondness for pink shirts or skinny neckties—can be attributed to his individual eccentricities or peculiar experiences. For the most part, then, what Mises regards as judgments of subjective valuation are really an expression of either natural necessity or broader social values. The individual’s subjective contribution would seem to be negligible.”

This actually is true. But it is in no sense a refutation of Mises. What is the difference between a ‘value’ and a ‘want’? Why do people hold the values that they hold? Fleming never asks these questions, let alone answering them.

Instead he says that “in abandoning the West’s moral, social, and cultural traditions, liberals make it impossible either to defend the liberties we have left or to recover those we have lost.” (Notice the conflation of libertarian and liberal, a sleight-of-hand in which Fleming indulges repeatedly. The modern liberal is really a bastard son of classical liberalism - AKA libertarianism - and Rousseau's theories of the benevolence of the state).

But Fleming has it completely backwards. It is in abandoning liberty that conservatives make it impossible to defend those Western moral, social, and cultural traditions we have left or to recover those we have lost.

Which leads inexorably to his final and greatest error: his complete misunderstanding of the message of Hayek’s The Fatal Conceit. By the end of his life Hayek had become a humble individual. He rejected both the labels conservate and libertarian, describing himself as an “Old Whig”. By this, he meant that he was a believer in the ethics of our ancestors, taking the year 1800 as a snapshot of history. Fleming may well agree with Hayek on this point. This is why some conservatives claim Hayek as one of their own.

There is, however, a key difference between Hayek and modern conservatives like Fleming. Hayek did not believe in the old traditions because they were “right”. He believed in them because they were. Fleming says “They are the hard-won cultural achievements of the Greek and Roman, English and American political thinkers who discovered and expounded them and of the soldier-farmers who defended them.” Maybe so, but why did they “achieve” these particular values and fight for them?

Hayek has the answer with yet another apparent tautology. They chose them because they work, and he believed in them because they chose them. So how do we know they work? Because they were tested in the marketplace of ideas and cultural memes. Hayek said “between our instincts and our reason, we have our tradition”. Our traditions are the distilled wisdom of the ages. That which works is that which survives to be re-used by other men. That which doesn’t work disappears into the dustbin of history.

The grease that the marketplace uses to sort good ideas and bad ideas is called “liberty.” Men must be allowed the right to determine what works best by trial and error. Successful ideas and memes flourish. Bad ones die.

Frank Meyer understood that libertarianism and conservatism worked together. He failed, though, to understand why. Liberty is not more important than other values. Family, community and what used to be virtue are all more important. Conservatives understand this, as too many libertarians do not.

While other values may be more important to running our lives, liberty is unique in it is the foundation on which the other values stand. Unless an individual has the liberty to determine what is right and wrong for himself, he is not a man. What's more he ceases to be virtuous and his faith in his family and community fade. Lose liberty and you lose all.

I would argue, and I think that Hayek would agree, that the decline in Western values over the last two centuries is due precisely to the lack of marketplace discipline. The West has become fat and lazy because of the huge advance it enjoyed over other civilizations. As new cultural memes are introduced, they spread without check. The state abets the spread of those memes which have the most popularity or the most political influence. The issue of whether they actually work is secondary if, indeed, it is considered at all.

The fundamental mistake of modern conservatism is to turn to the state – that tool of the socialists – to impose that which is moral, instead of leaving it up to the market to do so. No Burkean would ever have claimed that the answer to drug abuse is to imprison the abusers.

4 posted on 02/04/2002 1:19:23 PM PST by Architect
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To: ouroboros
Block is nuts. I would hate to oive in the world Libertarians wish for. It would be 1/4 Hugh Hefneer, 1/4 drugs, 1/4 anarchy, and 1/4 human predatores.
8 posted on 02/04/2002 2:53:26 PM PST by RLK
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To: ouroboros
Good essay. It's why I prefer Roepke to Mises.
14 posted on 02/04/2002 11:32:01 PM PST by Pelham
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To: ouroboros
One thing, lately, has been troubling about the paleo insistence that libertarians are for 'open borders,' and then they decide to define it downwards as for "support of cheap labor" coming across the border. The politcal speak continues into trans-national corporation and the natural economic behavior they take with an interest in the bottom line and the stock holder, without regard to the 'culture tax' it imposes when a manufacturing plant leaves a town to head for the cheap labor of Mexico.

On the surface, a fair political argument, but a libertarian who thinks about the issue will not start downward like a gun-grabber asking a 2nd Amendment Absolutist whether they support individual ownership of nuclear weapons. The libertarian would structure the question as, should individuals be free to leave, i.e. Is an 'exit tax' Conservative? (Republicans support an exit tax for individuals but not corporations, but that is common ground for paleo's and libertarians alike.)

I think that line of thought will reveal some true differences between Conservative and Libertarians on equal political ground rather than a battlefield of the authors choosing where he makes the libertarian seem like a utopian fool.

And yes, for full disclosure, I'm a Chronicles subscriber.

19 posted on 02/05/2002 1:09:03 PM PST by JohnGalt
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To: ouroboros
The interesting thing is that one need not even reach for traditional morality (institutional Christianity) to disagree with Libertarians. If enough educated voters in a state, municipality, or country find prostitution odious, they can make it illegal. Ultimately, they may find arguments from Natural Law or from sacred scripture, but you need a plurality among voters and jurists to maintain legal penalties for immoral activities considered injurious to society. You can complain about things like abortion until you're blue in the face, but, given the perils of social democracy, if you don't have enough votes to back up your position, the vulgar, immoral, or infanticidal majority will prevail.


52 posted on 02/15/2002 1:24:44 PM PST by HowlinglyMind-BendingAbsurdity
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