Libertarianism: what is it?

Hypatian wrote:

That's a very simplistic breakdown, honestly. I don't think "people now understand" etc. is correct. I think "this is a better way to break down questions of policy" is correct—but there are significantly more dimensions than that.

I certainly agree (and I realize my earlier post does not make this clear): it's a horrible oversimplification. It breaks down terribly in the face of nuanced political perspectives that most real humans actually have.

I think it's still a useful illustration in response to CheezePavilion's original post, though. Even a gross oversimplification makes it pretty obvious that the there is no platonic "Libertarian" ideal that a self-described Libertarian must attempt to replicate. Rather, it's a general sort of philosophy that leans towards freedom, but individuals will embrace various aspects of this ideology to varying degrees.

If taken to its logical extremes, the purest form of Libertarianism is simply anarchy, so even (e.g.) the Libertarian Party official platform has a bit more nuance to it than simply "ALL PEOPLE ARE FREE TO DO EVERYTHING ALWAYS."

Given that Ron Paul is headlining most libertarian discussions these days, I though this chart from Mother Jones was useful:

IMAGE(https://motherjones.com/files/images/venn-of-paul.jpg)

It helped me define the practical overlap between the traditional Right, Left, and Libertarian ideals.

Edit: caveats for inflammatory language (e.g. "pro-war", "pro-welfare state").

At least part of that chart isn't accurate. Libertarian's aren't really pro-NAFTA. They believe in free trade, not some nations having free trade with the united states.

Hypatian wrote:

Um. Why is "willpower" an "issue"? I'm just saying in the one case that we certainly can work against our own self interests as we perceive them, and in the other case that saying that "that's technically self-interest" about charity is dismissive and missing the entire point of charity.

Because when you see someone acting against their self-interest what you could be seeing is a lack of willpower. Translating a belief into an act requires willpower. When someone acts against their self-interest, that's probably someone without the willpower to choose differently.

Let's see if I can illustrate. I don't have a good direct example ready about the difference between charity and "self interest in feeling good about doing charity", but perhaps this will demonstrate the overall idea.

...

Now, I'd like to suggest that the division between "charity because somewhere deep down you expect a reward, even if it's simply the reward of feeling good about doing good" and "charity with no expectation of any reward whatsoever" is very much equivalent to the difference between "being carried away because you chose to be carried away" and "being carried away against your will".

The problem with that is whenever we do charity we *choose* to do charity. Charity is a chosen act, so it can't be equivalent to something that happens to you against your will. I understand the experiences are different and I agree with you about how some experiences cannot be chosen, but if we're talking about charity we're always talking about a choice.

The closest equivalent I can think of to your 'waterfall against my will' experience is...TAXES : D

Like when they make you pay taxes you don't want to pay, but they build something you're glad they built.

And yes, I think that makes the world a grayer place. A place in which self-interest and will rule, and goodness and romance fade.

I actually think it's a more romantic world where even duty is a matter of self-interest, where duty is less obligation, and more a matter of sympathy with another living soul.

DSGamer wrote:

I find it funny that so many people like to tell self-professed Libertarians who they are and whether they're true Libertarians or not.

Why? If people are going to call themselves Libertarians and then not tell anyone what Libertarianism is..."bitches don't know 'bout by Libertarianism" doesn't clear anything up.

CheezePavilion wrote:

Because when you see someone acting against their self-interest what you could be seeing is a lack of willpower. Translating a belief into an act requires willpower. When someone acts against their self-interest, that's probably someone without the willpower to choose differently.

So.... people only act in their own self-interest... except when they don't. Gotcha.

(Will come back to this after doing some work. For, you know... work.)

gore wrote:

I think it's still a useful illustration in response to CheezePavilion's original post, though. Even a gross oversimplification makes it pretty obvious that the there is no platonic "Libertarian" ideal that a self-described Libertarian must attempt to replicate. Rather, it's a general sort of philosophy that leans towards freedom, but individuals will embrace various aspects of this ideology to varying degrees.

gore, I wasn't arguing it was an ideal, I was arguing it's belief that the Principle of Non-Aggression trumps all. Am I explaining the difference clearly? I'm not talking about resembling some archetype, I'm talking about not running afoul of a single, clearly understandable principle.

Where are you getting the idea that it's a "general sort of philosophy" from? I'm saying it's not general at all: it's the embrace of a single principle. And there are a lot of philosophies that lean towards freedom, so what distinguishes Libertarianism?

I mean, the way you and DS are talking about it, I think I'm a Libertarian too.

Hypatian wrote:

Because they are good. Because the very definition of being good is doing those things [em]because they are right, without any regard for a reward[/em].

One idiosyncracy with this forum is the inescapability of value judgments regarding what I would consider neutral statements. Race cannot simply be, for example, it has to be good or bad. Charity work cannot be an evolved trait: it has to be good or bad. In what way does ascribing a motivation to charity (i.e., doing it makes us feel good) somehow make charity bad?

DSGamer wrote:

I find it funny that so many people like to tell self-professed Libertarians who they are and whether they're true Libertarians or not.

I want to legalize pot, void seatbelt laws, and repeal the Patriot Act and a stop to all warrantless surveillance. I'm a libertarian that support public schools, nationalized healthcare, the EPA, the FDA, OSHA, and federal investment in public transportation.

I'm a libertarian that believes in taxes (to be paid at the end of a barral of a gun) to pay for police and fire protection. I'm libertarian that wants taxes for libraries and public parks.

I'm a libertarian that wants regulations on fuel milage allowed in our vehicles and safety inspections for them to be licensed on the road.

It's awesome to be a libertarian, because you can believe in anything, and it is really just code for "I'm enlightened and smarter than you."

Hypatian wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

Because when you see someone acting against their self-interest what you could be seeing is a lack of willpower. Translating a belief into an act requires willpower. When someone acts against their self-interest, that's probably someone without the willpower to choose differently.

So.... people only act in their own self-interest... except when they don't. Gotcha.

(Will come back to this after doing some work. For, you know... work.)

No, people only act in their own (perceived) self-interest when they can, and when they can vs. when they can't has to do with willpower.

Also, remember that the math on self-interest can change: short-term benefits look a lot more beneficial before you take them than after in many cases.

CheezePavilion wrote:
DSGamer wrote:

I find it funny that so many people like to tell self-professed Libertarians who they are and whether they're true Libertarians or not.

Why? If people are going to call themselves Libertarians and then not tell anyone what Libertarianism is..."bitches don't know 'bout by Libertarianism" doesn't clear anything up.

I'm not even sure what that last sentence means.

CheezePavilion wrote:
Hypatian wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

Because when you see someone acting against their self-interest what you could be seeing is a lack of willpower. Translating a belief into an act requires willpower. When someone acts against their self-interest, that's probably someone without the willpower to choose differently.

So.... people only act in their own self-interest... except when they don't. Gotcha.

(Will come back to this after doing some work. For, you know... work.)

No, people only act in their own (perceived) self-interest when they can, and when they can vs. when they can't has to do with willpower.

Also, remember that the math on self-interest can change: short-term benefits look a lot more beneficial before you take them than after in many cases.

But doesn't the idea of relying on self-interest fail when people don't actually do it? Who cares if it's willpower or not? What's the point if it doesn't happen?

DSGamer wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
DSGamer wrote:

I find it funny that so many people like to tell self-professed Libertarians who they are and whether they're true Libertarians or not.

Why? If people are going to call themselves Libertarians and then not tell anyone what Libertarianism is..."bitches don't know 'bout by Libertarianism" doesn't clear anything up.

I'm not even sure what that last sentence means.

It means what Jayhawker is getting at: Libertarianism is becoming this fuzzy idea, so that it seems to be a word people are just tacking onto their beliefs anytime they choose liberty over something else to make it sound better.

You don't have to be a libertarian to believe that "more liberty" is the right choice in any specific situation. That means that just because you believe "more liberty" is the right choice in any specific situation, that doesn't automatically make you a libertarian.

Being a self-professed Libertarian has to be about more than just professing to be a Libertarian, otherwise it's just a brand name. You say you don't want people to tell you who you are, so then tell us: what makes you a Libertarian?

gregrampage wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
Hypatian wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

Because when you see someone acting against their self-interest what you could be seeing is a lack of willpower. Translating a belief into an act requires willpower. When someone acts against their self-interest, that's probably someone without the willpower to choose differently.

So.... people only act in their own self-interest... except when they don't. Gotcha.

(Will come back to this after doing some work. For, you know... work.)

No, people only act in their own (perceived) self-interest when they can, and when they can vs. when they can't has to do with willpower.

Also, remember that the math on self-interest can change: short-term benefits look a lot more beneficial before you take them than after in many cases.

But doesn't the idea of relying on self-interest fail when people don't actually do it? Who cares if it's willpower or not? What's the point if it doesn't happen?

No, because this is a criticism Hypatian had of the idea that we never do anything morally good that's not in our self interest in some way.

CheezePavilion wrote:
DSGamer wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
DSGamer wrote:

I find it funny that so many people like to tell self-professed Libertarians who they are and whether they're true Libertarians or not.

Why? If people are going to call themselves Libertarians and then not tell anyone what Libertarianism is..."bitches don't know 'bout by Libertarianism" doesn't clear anything up.

I'm not even sure what that last sentence means.

It means what Jayhawker is getting at: Libertarianism is becoming this fuzzy idea, so that it seems to be a word people are just tacking onto their beliefs anytime they choose liberty over something else to make it sound better.

I didn't see what Jayhawker wrote. I think you're inferring a lot there on the motivations of people and why they believe what they believe. I didn't choose Libertarianism as a rough idea of where I sit. It's something I came to. I grew up as a classic "liberal" as a kid. I went to college and saw the extreme end of Liberalism in the 1990s and had interesting debates with my best friend, an old school conservative. I have since then tried to be open minded to other political views with the end goal being what worked best in terms of governance.

That's far different from "tacking" something onto your beliefs.

You don't have to be a libertarian to believe that "more liberty" is the right choice in any specific situation. That means that just because you believe "more liberty" is the right choice in any specific situation, that doesn't automatically make you a libertarian.

Absolutely not. In fact, there was a time when many liberals fell more squarely in the "more liberty" camp. There was a time when old school conservatives fell more squarely in the "more liberty" camp.

Being a self-professed Libertarian has to be about more than just professing to be a Libertarian, otherwise it's just a brand name. You say you don't want people to tell you who you are, so then tell us: what makes you a Libertarian?

I'm sure you know this, but this is why people do this. This message board isn't my life. I have a wife, hobbies, a career. We use short-hand terms when communicating because it's often better than going into complete detail. Asking someone to go into every nuance of their political views all of the time is time-consuming. So sometimes we use labels that roughly apply.

Basically what I'm saying is that it gets a bit pedantic to challenge someone to explain their entire philosophy so that you can argue against it. Since this thread is about what a Libertarian is, though, I'll give a quick list of what I believe followed by a list that probably moves me down the Libertarian scale. I realize that even mentioning that I believe in some level of government may strike down as being truly Libertarian, but that's why I said I think this is a sliding scale.

- I believe in minimal government
- I believe in government being more local
- I believe in the rights of individuals to speak freely without being censored, to travel freely and to conduct their lives as they see fit as long as it doesn't harm others
- I believe in the right to a fair trial and the right to due process
- I believe it's unreasonable to assume that we could be protected from the harm of others without some level of government, police, etc.
- I believe that those services do require a level of taxation
- I believe while some level of taxation is required, that social engineering via the tax code isn't free. I would personally love to see all exemptions for charitable giving, having children, buying a home, etc. stricken from the tax code and the tax code simplified to almost nothing
- I believe that there are some things that fall in the domain of the common good (setting aside natural resources, for example)
- I believe that nations will have to provide for a common defense and that a small, sensible military may need to be kept at all times, only going to war at the consent of the people and only when absolutely necessary

There's more to it than that, of course. But to hit it quickly that's basically it. I believe in some level of government to protect us from external threats and to ensure that people don't harm one another, but my default philosophy is that the tie should go to as little regulations as you can get away with while ensuring this.

So for a start, you want to get rid of the FDA, FAA, FDIC, EPA, the social security administration, medicare, unemployment insurance, and eliminate anti-discrimination laws?

DSGamer wrote:

I realize that even mentioning that I believe in some level of government may strike down as being truly Libertarian, but that's why I said I think this is a sliding scale.

This is a core problem with Libertarianism. Everyone is seems free to make up their own definition of what Libertarianism actually means (and then get upset when someone has a different definition than they do).

It strikes me as being very similar to Christians who say the the Bible is the direct word of God and yet filter out all the crazy and contradicting bits: "Oh, no! *That's* not Christianity. *This* is Christianity. You can just ignore those other things. God didn't really mean them."

It's very hard for non-Libertarians to discuss things with Libertarians because one Libertarian could believe that "minimal government" effectively meant no government outside the courts and police and another Libertarian could believe it meant "any size government just as long as it was a little smaller than what we have right now". There's a gaping chasm of difference between the two, but they would both firmly believe they were Libertarian (and likely the one true version of Liberarianism).

It's hard to place Libertarians on the political spectrum because the other two political parties really don't allow that level of internal contradiction. You'd be hard pressed to find a Republican who was all in favor of more government regulation and stricter oversight just like you'd be hard pressed to find a Democrat who thought that Medicare, Social Security, and the other social safety net programs were a massive waste that should be gotten away with. The closest thing I could think of were Log Cabin Republicans and I *really* don't understand those folks.

In other words we've collectively defined what the core values of Republican, Democrat, conservative, or liberal are over the decades. If someone self-identifies as Republican we immediately have a reasonable understanding of what their beliefs and value structure are likely to be. Libertarianism hasn't gone through that process and so people really have no idea what Libertarians stand for or how to view them.

- I believe in minimal government
- I believe in government being more local
- I believe in the rights of individuals to speak freely without being censored, to travel freely and to conduct their lives as they see fit as long as it doesn't harm others
- I believe in the right to a fair trial and the right to due process
- I believe it's unreasonable to assume that we could be protected from the harm of others without some level of government, police, etc.
- I believe that those services do require a level of taxation
- I believe while some level of taxation is required, that social engineering via the tax code isn't free. I would personally love to see all exemptions for charitable giving, having children, buying a home, etc. stricken from the tax code and the tax code simplified to almost nothing
- I believe that there are some things that fall in the domain of the common good (setting aside natural resources, for example)
- I believe that nations will have to provide for a common defense and that a small, sensible military may need to be kept at all times, only going to war at the consent of the people and only when absolutely necessary

In all seriousness, there's nothing in here that an Eisenhower Republican or a political Independent could not get behind. So what makes it Libertarian instead of American Centrist?

DSGamer wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

It means what Jayhawker is getting at: Libertarianism is becoming this fuzzy idea, so that it seems to be a word people are just tacking onto their beliefs anytime they choose liberty over something else to make it sound better.

I didn't see what Jayhawker wrote. I think you're inferring a lot there on the motivations of people and why they believe what they believe. I didn't choose Libertarianism as a rough idea of where I sit. It's something I came to. I grew up as a classic "liberal" as a kid. I went to college and saw the extreme end of Liberalism in the 1990s and had interesting debates with my best friend, an old school conservative. I have since then tried to be open minded to other political views with the end goal being what worked best in terms of governance.

That's far different from "tacking" something onto your beliefs.

I think we've gotten to the heart of the matter. Libertarianism does not have as the end goal what works best in terms of governance. Libertarianism is about a specific type of governance--freedom from physical coercion.

I'm sure you know this, but this is why people do this. This message board isn't my life. I have a wife, hobbies, a career. We use short-hand terms when communicating because it's often better than going into complete detail. Asking someone to go into every nuance of their political views all of the time is time-consuming. So sometimes we use labels that roughly apply.

The thing is, that label has two different meanings, then. It includes people who argue a specific type of government is the only choice, and people like you who think something similar to that type of government is the best choice.

Basically what I'm saying is that it gets a bit pedantic to challenge someone to explain their entire philosophy so that you can argue against it. Since this thread is about what a Libertarian is, though, I'll give a quick list of what I believe followed by a list that probably moves me down the Libertarian scale. I realize that even mentioning that I believe in some level of government may strike down as being truly Libertarian, but that's why I said I think this is a sliding scale.

And this is the argument I'm trying to make: Libertarianism is not a scale. It's not a collection of beliefs, it's a single belief from which many political decisions flow. My issue is that you've added a kind of 'harm' that is not found in Libertarianism--that is indeed anathema to Libertarianism--onto your list: the idea of a common good that is acceptable to protect with government action.

Maybe we should call people like you Libertarians; however, what then do we call the people I'm talking about?

Maybe we should call people like you Libertarians; however, what then do we call the people I'm talking about?

Since your definition "freedom from physical coercion" excludes government...

OG_slinger wrote:

It's very hard for non-Libertarians to discuss things with Libertarians because one Libertarian could believe that "minimal government" effectively meant no government outside the courts and police and another Libertarian could believe it meant "any size government just as long as it was a little smaller than what we have right now". There's a gaping chasm of difference between the two, but they would both firmly believe they were Libertarian (and likely the one true version of Liberarianism).

Robear wrote:

In all seriousness, there's nothing in here that an Eisenhower Republican or a political Independent could not get behind. So what makes it Libertarian instead of American Centrist?

Malor and I had a discussion where this issue came up--what's the more Libertarian position: to spend more taxes on cops and jails, or less taxes on social workers and welfare? Is it more libertarian to take less of your money but make you run a greater risk of being the victim of a crime, or to take more of your money to try and prevent both you being an innocent victim and someone else becoming a criminal who increases the use of force--both legitimate and illegitimate--in society.

Libertarianism is "leave-me-alone-ism" in its ideal.

Libertarianism is often "leave-me-alone-except-I-can-cry-for-help-with-overblown-dramatics-and expect-immediate-compensation-when-something-outside-my-narrow-world-view-happens-ism" in its pure form.

Since this is the direction the thread is taking I'll just post from Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism

Libertarian schools of thought differ over the degree to which the state should be reduced. Anarchists advocate complete elimination of the state. Minarchists advocate a state which is limited to protecting its citizens from aggression, theft, breach of contract, and fraud. Some libertarians go further, such as by supporting minimal public assistance for the poor.[1] Additionally, some schools are supportive of private property rights in the ownership of unappropriated land and natural resources while others reject such private ownership and often support common ownership instead.[2][3][4] Another distinction can be made among libertarians who support private ownership and those that support common ownership of the means of production; the former generally supporting a capitalist economy, the latter a libertarian socialist economic system. In some parts of the world, the term "libertarianism" is synonymous with Left anarchism.[5]

Libertarians can broadly be characterized as holding four ethical views: consequentialism, deontological theories, contractarianism, and class-struggle normative beliefs. The main divide is between consequentialist libertarianism—which is support for a large degree of "liberty" because it leads to favorable consequences, such as prosperity or efficiency—and deontological libertarianism (also known as "rights-theorist libertarianism," "natural rights libertarianism," or "libertarian moralism"), which is a philosophy based on belief in moral self-ownership and opposition to "initiation of force" and fraud.[6] [7] Others combine a hybrid of consequentialist and deontologist thinking.[8] Another view, contractarian libertarianism, holds that any legitimate authority of government derives not from the consent of the governed, but from contract or mutual agreement,[9][10][11] though this can be seen as reducible to consequentialism or deontologism depending on what grounds contracts are justified. Some Libertarian Socialists with backgrounds influenced by Marxism reject deontological and consequential approaches and use normative class-struggle methodologies rooted in Hegelian thought to justify direct action in pursuit of liberty.[12]
In the United States, the term libertarian is commonly associated with those who have conservative positions on economic issues and left-wing positions on social issues.[13]

CheezePavilion wrote:

It means what Jayhawker is getting at: Libertarianism is becoming this fuzzy idea, so that it seems to be a word people are just tacking onto their beliefs anytime they are pissed at the government and want an excuse not to participate.

FTFY

Apologies for jumping out so abruptly before. Had to leave the office for a meeting, etc. etc. Of course, that's kind of what I should be doing at work. Waiting for some damned long running tests to run, though.

CheezePavilion wrote:

The problem with that is whenever we do charity we *choose* to do charity. Charity is a chosen act, so it can't be equivalent to something that happens to you against your will. I understand the experiences are different and I agree with you about how some experiences cannot be chosen, but if we're talking about charity we're always talking about a choice.

The closest equivalent I can think of to your 'waterfall against my will' experience is...TAXES : D

Like when they make you pay taxes you don't want to pay, but they build something you're glad they built.

Yeah, sorry. You're conflating the two things I was talking about. I was saying that "the difference between willed-experience and experience-thrust-upon you" is like "the difference between charity-for-self-interest and charity-for-itself". Not that will and charity have anything to do with each other. Both distinctions have to do with a somewhat ineffable sense of the foundations of human agency—but they're totally not related to each other. I was just using the "will" example because I already have a metaphor for that to hand, and I haven't been able to come up with a good one for "goal-motivation vs process-motivation" yet. I just wanted to illustrate a kind of distinction that's just as tricky and hard to map out.

CheezePavilion wrote:
And yes, I think that makes the world a grayer place. A place in which self-interest and will rule, and goodness and romance fade.

I actually think it's a more romantic world where even duty is a matter of self-interest, where duty is less obligation, and more a matter of sympathy with another living soul.

Okay. We have dramatically different ideas about the world. I don't see why obligation should enter into things at all: if charity is obligatory, it's not as good. If duty cannot be shirked, doing it is not really dutiful. (Which, actually, matches a bit with the libertarian idea about coercion: if you are coerced into doing something, you're not really doing it. The difference, of course, is the question of whether it's more important that you do it freely or it's more important that it actually get done. Hence: My arguments from the historical record that when we don't require (coerce) certain kinds of behavior, the actual result is not that people do it of their own accord, but that it doesn't get done at all—resulting in more important harms than harming individuals' ability to volunteer.)

And note, by the way, that I didn't intend to suggest that good acts can't be good at all if they're motivated by something else. I sort of hand-waved there, because I didn't want to make an even longer wall of text. There are clearly degrees and degrees. I would argue, however, that the highest good is to do good not because it is expected of you, or because it will make you feel good, or because you will be rewarded for it in any way or punished in any way for not doing it. The highest good is to do good for good's own sake. That's related to why I actively [em]like[/em] the idea of there being no God, even though I do believe in the existence of a universal moral truth. Because having a final judge who will reward or punish my actions [em]lessens[/em] those actions by not allowing me to take them for their own sake purely. (Of course, if a God exists but I cannot know that God exists, that can make a difference, too. My stance would be: I will do good regardless, because I choose to do good—regardless of any divine law, I will act in the way I believe to be right.)

--

Okay, will stop there on that. I think that it's a very fine (as in "tiny, difficult to observe") philosophical point. It may have tremendous importance from the point of view of somebody like me, and may inform some of the root ideas at the heart of various political theories... but the gross (as in "large, easy to observe") features we are discussing do not obviously require immediate examination at that level.

Paleocon wrote:

Murray Rothbard is pretty much the intellectual progenitor of economic libertarianism and he was the one who coined the term "anarcho capitalism". When folks talk about ending the Fed and abolishing government currency, they inevitably end up quoting Uncle Murray as their intellectual source.

In describing Libertarianism, he wrote: "Capitalism is the fullest expression of anarchism, and anarchism is the fullest expression of capitalism."

So don't take it from me. Take it from the source.

Libertarian = Anarchist.

When you are talking about economics, which I believe Rothbard is referring to in his quote, I agree fully. The less government intervention in economic affairs between two parties the better.

That doesn't mean I don't believe in local, state, or federal governments though.

DSGamer wrote:

Since this is the direction the thread is taking I'll just post from Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism

I think you're proving my point here for me, DS. Who *isn't* a consequentialist libertarian according to that entry? Like I said above, the only groups I can think of are Fascist and Communists. Throw out Theocracy and a couple of outliers too, and it looks like we're all libertarians according to that definition.

Apologies for jumping out so abruptly before. Had to leave the office for a meeting, etc. etc. Of course, that's kind of what I should be doing at work. Waiting for some damned long running tests to run, though.

People should recognize the Apollonian power of your thoughts and get the hell out of your way when you are intellectualizing on the internet, that's what I say!

Hypatian wrote:

Yeah, sorry. You're conflating the two things I was talking about. I was saying that "the difference between willed-experience and experience-thrust-upon you" is like "the difference between charity-for-self-interest and charity-for-itself".

...

I would argue, however, that the highest good is to do good not because it is expected of you, or because it will make you feel good, or because you will be rewarded for it in any way or punished in any way for not doing it. The highest good is to do good for good's own sake.

Okay--does "charity-for-itself" and "good (done) for good's own sake" exist? My thought is that any example we offer, we can find some kind of direct emotional benefit involved.

That's related to why I actively like the idea of there being no God, even though I do believe in the existence of a universal moral truth. Because having a final judge who will reward or punish my actions lessens those actions by not allowing me to take them for their own sake purely. (Of course, if a God exists but I cannot know that God exists, that can make a difference, too. My stance would be: I will do good regardless, because I choose to do good—regardless of any divine law, I will act in the way I believe to be right.)

I have a lot of the same thoughts, only try this: we are all our own final judge of all our actions at all times. We reward or punish ourselves with the knowledge that we did a good or bad thing.

CheezePavilion wrote:

People should recognize the Apollonian power of your thoughts and get the hell out of your way when you are intellectualizing on the internet, that's what I say!

Please. I am a Dionysian. ;>

(I wink, but that distinction is [em]precisely[/em] at the heart of the waterfall metaphor.)

CheezePavilion wrote:

Okay--does "charity-for-itself" and "good (done) for good's own sake" exist? My thought is that any example we offer, we can find some kind of direct emotional benefit involved.

That would be the big question, yes. I believe that such things do exist, and that the assumption that there is some benefit (such as the direct emotional benefit you posit) is reductionist. But this is why these are metaphysical questions and not physical ones: why this is philosophy and not science. (And why atheism does not imply a lack of need for metaphysics.) I cannot demonstrate by a physical test that this is true, I can only attempt to expose its truth by thinking hard about the implications of the two possibilities and what they mean. I would argue this, though: When I think about what a perfectly moral being would do, the being I imagine does good purely because of the moral dimension of the act--it does good for the purpose of doing good. There may be rewards or penalties that follow from the act, but those play no part in the decision to act morally. The only considerations this moral being takes into consideration are the moral dimensions of the question. If the being's biology punished it instead of rewarding it for behaving in a benevolent manner, it would still act the same way.

For myself, consider the argument for morality from God: even if I knew God existed, I would pay no heed to God's dictates, only to my own moral sense. I would rather spit in God's eye and burn in Hell for eternity than let myself be swayed from my own vision of morality. And: why should I allow my biology to dictate my behavior to me any more than I would allow a deity to dictate it? In either case, God or biology, it may be that oftentimes the dictated morality and my own morality align. However: I do not take that into account when I make my choice. I do not choose to do good for the purpose of a reward. I choose to do good because it is good.

And importantly: A being that is capable of doing good [em]despite[/em] being biologically inclined to act differently--or more generally, a being that will do good even when it is actively against its own perceived self-interest--is capable of doing more good than a being that requires some explicit or implicit reward. Such a being is capable of [em]rising above[/em] what is expected of it--be it by duty, or by biology. I believe that we as human beings are capable of aspiring to that, and should aspire to that.

That's about the best argument I can make right now. *shrug*

Anyway, way way way off-topic. So let's stop there.

Let's be clear - if you're building Libertarian ideals up from the idea that coercion is evil, then you're basing it on anarchism. If you are however willing to submit to coercive force for some things, but not others, then a dislike of coercion is not the primary motivation - that's negotiable in that kind of system. This is why I jump on people who *insist* that they don't like coercion from government, but don't mind police forces. You can't base an argument on an *absolute* dislike of coercion unless you're an anarchist - and if the absolute is not available to you, then when and where coercion is acceptable is a matter for discussion and debate, not one to be discussed with absolutist certainty. You can't be absolutely against coercion in one area, and accepting of it in another, not without admitting that okay, coercion is not the big deal, it's the social policy or rules that actually drive the distinction.