Thom Stark: Lela on Liberty   Leave a comment

Last week’s conversation with Thom Stark ended with him asking me if I’d ever read Plato’s Republic and giving us his take on it. This is my reply. Lela

DSC01494Thom, you and I have agreed on more things than we disagreed so far. For instance, we both view Plato’s Republic negatively. Correct me if I’m misjudging you, but I think you were disgusted by the elitism espoused there. I agree, but I would carry it further. Plato appears to have been the first (recorded) government planner – deciding who will have and have-not and fill what roles in society, regardless of what their personal choices might be. That sounds a lot like Marxian socialism to me. It is a world where individual choice is completely subjgated to the perceived “good” of humanity and so far, real-world examples have always led to totalitarianism because, I think, people just aren’t made to live in that sort of top-down world.

Which is why I hung up on the phrase “elected officials in a democracy have a duty to strive for political solutions that provide the greatest benefit for the largest number of their fellow citizens.” You coated it with some honey by saying “without thereby infringing on the rights of the minority.”

Shouldn’t I be a good American and wax poetic about the rights of the minority? I guess it depends on the definition of minority. I’m definitely all about the rights of the individual as the smallest minority. The idea that you must protect the rights of a select minority group through the infringement of the rights of individuals who are not members of those special groups reads like tyranny to me.

And that’s where I stumbled over your phrase because when people start talking about democracy striving for greatest benefit, I start hearing a voice-over of Leonard Nemoy saying “The needs of the many must outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.”

Chuck that! It’s a great-sounding death scene in a sci-fi movie, but it’s also the argument of tyrants everywhere. I like democracy in theory, but in practice it is more often than not two lions and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner. It never works out well for the lamb. We can say we’re instituting some infringement of individual liberty for the protection of this or that group, but it really comes down to a coalition of minority groups (thus forming a statistical majority) subjugating the individual to its voter-approved will. Tyranny by any other name is still a steaming pile of stink. Explain what you mean by the phrase and we may find we agree and it’s all a matter of semantics.

Thom StarkSo, when you used the term “radical centrist”, I was thinking centrist in the left-right spectrum manner of speaking (ala Bill Clinton), sort of forgetting that libertarians use the phrase to mean “liberal” in the classical sense — in a nutshell, the consistent presumption of liberty in human affairs. I would not chose to be a centrist in the left-right spectrum because it would mean constantly shifting between ideologies of tyranny, but I definitely have strong libertarian and voluntaryanist viewpoints. Some would say that’s an ideology of the right, but I think it may actually stand outside of the left left-right spectrum.

So which type of centricism are we talking about here?

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