Saturday, June 21, 2014

More on Hobbesean Libertarians

Yesterday I discussed two kinds of libertarians: Hobbesean and non-Hobbesean libertarians. I want to discuss this idea a bit more.

The difference between Hobbeseans and non-Hobbeseans boils down to whether you think humans in their original state were isolated individuals who have had to be organized or if you think humans in their original state were social and that social order and organization are natural, respectively.

Hobbeseans believe that humans have to be organized to be made social. How that happens may be from people doing the will of God and creating that order or from people using reason to create that order. In either case, social order comes about from the top-down, and all evidence of order is evidence that there is someone somewhere creating that order.

Now, most people think that social order is good. The left and the right may disagree about which particular way to order people is the best and right one, but both are in complete agreement that someone somewhere has to do the ordering. Both believe people are naturally nasty, brutish isolated individualists who have to have their nasty tendencies reigned in and their individualism suppressed for the greater good. For them, planning society is not just possible, but desirable.

However, there is another group of Hobbeseans who think that social order is bad. These people tend to think that all social order is indeed created by someone somewhere. Planning for them is possible, but not desirable. There is a tendency for such people to believe in grand conspiracies, that there is some man behind the curtain pulling all the levers. They tend to argue even against social pressure against practically any activity. They want to get rid of government because they equate government with society, and they want to get rid of society so they can do whatever they please without judgement. These people tend to identify themselves as libertarians, though their libertarianism is not necessarily informed by economics, and it is driven not by improving society, but by bringing society as such down to bring back the Hobbesean jungle.

That leaves us with the non-Hobbeseans, who I already discussed yesterday.

Non-Hobbeseans tend toward classical liberalism, believing people are naturally social, and that it's through our social networks that we individuate. The two are co-dependent and not at all at odds, as the Hobbeseans believe. Social order is natural and emerges naturally. Social pressures are to be preferred to legislation because people are then free to change, evolve, and move.

The Hobbesean libertarians and the non-Hobbesean classical liberals are in many ways incompatible. Indeed, almost all of the conflicts I have seen within libertarianism boil down to this underlying incompatibility. You have the "brutalists" and "conspiracy theorists" on one side and groups like the Bleeding Heart Libertarians and other classical liberals on the other. One is anti-order; the other is pro-order.

One can probably pick apart at the edges and borderlands of this model, but the exception doesn't negate the rule. The fact that there exists these two general groups suggests that the deep conflicts in libertarianism will continue so long as the two identify with each other under the same label.

No comments: