Are Libertarians Selfish?

I just came across this article on I’m mostly posting this to help myself refer to it when somebody accuses libertarianism of being primarily an expression of anti-social selfishness. It’s really not. I wasn’t aware of the Oscar Wilde quote, but I like it:

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. And unselfishness is letting other people’s lives alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognizes infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it.

Of course, that only captures part of the story.

It isn’t selfish to respect everybody’s right to be free of coercion. It’s selfish to deny it, and forcibly impose your own schemes upon others who disagree with the policies. (It’s not only selfish, it’s also arrogant and foolish…)

I also agree with the point that just as it’s a mistake to assume libertarians are acting in bad faith, it’s also a mistake to assume that non-libertarians are acting out of a desire to “domineer and control” rather than out of the mistaken idea that state is the best way to achieve attractive social goals. We can and should argue about the means, but not automatically assume bad intentions.

Bullshitter In Chief

Donald Trump is a Bullshitter. He doesn’t just say things that he knows to be false; he says things without concern for whether or not they are false. He says things because he thinks it’s convenient at the moment to say them.

The most recent dust-up in this respect is his denial that he ever called Meghan Markle “nasty”, even though there is clear audio evidence that he responded to information in an interview about things she said about him with: “I never knew she was nasty.”

Now, I suppose it’s possible to parse that response as something other than “calling her” nasty (à la Bill Clinton quibbling about what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is). But, I don’t think that’s what the dispute is about.

I think Trump didn’t want it to be true that he called her “nasty”, so he forcefully denied having done it. This is different from lying, and I think it could be worse.

Like Winston Churchill, I think democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried from time to time. We often do not get people who are good at performing the duties of the office. We get people who are good at campaigning; and, that’s a completely different skill.

The main benefit of democracy is that it allows for error correction. If current office holders are objectively bad then a majority is likely to realize it and be motivated to correct the previous error and replace them with (hopefully) better candidates.

That is, of course, assuming that the electorate actually cares about what’s better, what’s worse, what’s true, and what’s false. If they stop caring about that, and only care about whether their team is “winning” (or, as is often the case, whether the other team is “losing”), then things can go horribly wrong without getting corrected.

That’s the danger with Trump and his supporters. If they deny facts, and lose all concern for whether or not they are true, then things can get very, very, bad.

It would be one thing if it were just some blowhard in a bar trying to impress his foolish friends. But, it’s a serious problem to have the words of the Commander In Chief be so unreliable that foreign governments learn to ignore them. Many people can die over lack of clarity of this sort.

Trump isn’t the only politician who bends the truth for his own convenience, but he seems to be unique in his success at cultivating a base of support that seems impervious to evidence and devoid of concern about what the actual truth of the matter is. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, for example, say things that are dangerously wrong all the time, but I think that their supporters believe they are true, care about them being true, and would be affected by evidence that they are wrong.

I’m not sure what the worst outcome for the country is (there’s a lot of competition for bad outcomes and a lot of uncertainty), but cultivating a lack of concern about the truth is a very bad one.