Monday, December 29, 2008

An Incoherent Riff on What JL Wilson Said

JL Wilson has another of his thoughtful posts:

Apparently, he has been kicked off the left libertarian island because of his opinions on gay marriage (opposes on nonbigoted grounds), immigration (advocates restrictions on nonracist grounds), and regulation of imports (favors in some circumstances). I suspect that he has found himself labelled a bigot, a racist and a protectionist from time to time. I doubt very much that Wilson is any of these things.

I consider myself a lefty anarchist, and I disagree with Wilson on some things. I agree with him that marriage and the state shouldn't have anything to do with each other, and I'd just as soon see the state get out of the business of regulating personal relationships. But I disagree with Wilson about expanding marriage to include other kinds of couples because I reckon that, if you're going to have marriage, it should be fair and available to everyone without discrimination. As it stands, marriage is worse as an institution in my opinion because it prefers some couples over others for no good reason. For my part, I would favor one of the following alternatives: (1) abolish marriage, or (2) extend marriage rights to same sex couples.

As for immigration controls, I'm not particularly consistent in my views. I'm not happy with what happened to my country in the abstract in the aftermath of an influx of Irish folks in the wake of the Potato Famine or the entry of lots of exotic peoples through Ellis Island, but I've never had a problem with an actual immigrant I've met . I'd like to see the state disappear and hence the need for immigration controls, but as long as we have a state I'd prefer that it manage immigration humanely, fairly and on the basis of rational policy considerations. If laws are enacted, let them be administered fairly and consistently instead of capriciously.

If we're going to regulate my neighbors' business activities for the purpose of safety and health or other policy considerations other than favoring local enterprise, is it fair to give his foreign competitors a pass on such regulations? I think not. Maybe that makes me "protectionist" in the eyes of some, but I think of protectionism as restricting imports mainly to protect domestic businesses from competition. Maybe it's a a finer line than I believe. Certainly, requiring foreigners to meet many of the same standards that domestic businesses have to meet will have the effect of protecting the domestics from competition to some degree, but standing pat on libertarian principles in such a case would mean advocating an unfair advantage for the foreign enterprise.

Let's face it. The end of the state is not going to happen in our lifetimes. It may not happen for eons. The minimal state isn't about to happen any time soon either. The state, our enemy, is stronger than ever and is really just getting started. Whatever policies we advocate as libertarians, we should keep in mind that they will be enacted (in our dreams) in the context of the state and not in an abstract stateless ideal.

Wilson is right that our enemy is the state. He is wrong, however, that right wing nutzoids are not our true enemies. They are very much our enemies, and they aim to use the state to impose their will on the rest of us. The state is a tool.


D. Saul Weiner said...

The application of standards to foreign producers is a difficult issue to contend with, though I see your point. Aside from the charge of protectionism, it can lead to world government, to the extent that countries go on to "harmonize" their regulations.

I wonder about the idea of states just warming up too. Are they (at least the U.S.) really just like the auto companies in the 1960's, on top of the world, but ready for a big fall? In one sense, that seems to be the case, but it is unclear how much that fall will cause necessary retrenchment versus more tyranny.

James Leroy Wilson said...

I haven't received any personal attacks myself, but eventually got annoyed with rhetoric from various sources that seem more focused on the right-wing enemies of libertarianism rather than on promoting constructive pro-freedom solutions to what ails our country and world. I have made further clarifications in the comments section of the post.