Category Archives: Libertarianism

My public talks currently scheduled for 2018

Public Talks for 2018

“American Philosophy: it’s originality, and practicality, from progressive education to science, law, and democracy.” Gold Coast Library, 1/17 7pm.
There is much that is unique about the development of the United States of America, as well as much that is not. Original visions have struggled with quite traditional values and attitudes throughout our history. American Philosophy, in giving voice to the possibilities of America has made original contributions to Western Philosophy, developing our ideals while critically analyzing our limitations. Touching on a wide range of areas, from education and politics, to religion and science, we will provide a perspective on this development, and suggest some of the fault lines that mark contemporary experience.

“Making Sense of Recent Elections: what can we learn from the unexpected election results in America, Britain, and elsewhere?” South Huntington Library, 1/24 7pm
First the British vote to withdraw from the European Union, then the American election of Donald Trump startled experts and deranged established political expectations and institutions. Similar forces have seemed to be at work at other European countries, though with modified results. What are we to make of these election results, and what do they portend for the future of Western liberal democracies? These are the kind of issues we will seek to address.

“Trump’s America: what is its vision, program, and the nature of its support.” Gold Coast Library, 2/7 at 7pm
We will explore the significance for America of the election of Donald Trump. What were the conditions that laid the groundwork for his election? Who voted for him, and why? And what are the possible consequences?

“Fantasyland: Reflections on America’s Character and Culture”
3 lectures at Hutton House, LIU Wednesdays 2/14-28 from 1-3pm.
In these Reflections on America’s Character and Culture, we will explore:
Who we are. The cultures, ethnicities, and belief systems that have built the U.S. How we developed. Some of the major challenges we have faced, and how we addressed them. Our growth, expansion, and Manifest Destiny. The emergence of the “cultural Cold War” that has come to dominate our politics. The Trump phenomena. And the divergent paths now before us.

“Manifest Destiny and the Meaning of America: thinking about our history and its contemporary relevance.” Syosset Library, 3/1 at 2pm.
Americans have always believed that we are an exceptional people. From the Puritans landing at Plymouth Rock, seeking to build “a city upon a hill” that all the world would view as an example of how all should live, through the 19th Century notion that we had a “manifest destiny” to occupy the entire North American continent “from sea to shining sea.” As a nation, we continue to believe “that God shed his Grace on thee.” We joined WW1 “to save the world for democracy,” and continue to believe that we are the beacons of “The Free World,” with an obligation and responsibility to preserve the values that have made us great. What is that belief system? What are its origins? How has it operated to guide our history? And what are its implications for us as a nation today? These are the issues I hope to address.

“The American Dream: what it means and what are its prospects.” Elmont Memorial Library, 4/6 12:30 pm
Since its inception, one of the central meanings of America has been the opportunity to make something of one’s life. America offered the promise, and quite often the reality, of a continually improving standard of living for oneself and for one’s children. This sense of individual possibility, rooted in personal freedom and basic human rights became a beacon for people across the world. That became the wider significance of the claim that we were « as a city upon a hill » for all the world to see what life could become. In recent times, however, this vision has become increasingly uncertain. What has been happening to the American Dream? Why is that? And what can we do about it?

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On the Illusions of Libertarianism

On the Illusions of Libertarianism

Richard Koubeck commented suggestively on my critique of those who might consider voting for the Green candidate for President, that I should have included in my critique those who were considering voting for the Libertarian candidate. They, too, ought to realize how ill-informed and destructive their action would be. And Dick is, of course, correct, but not for the same reasons.

Libertarians act as if we are all isolated individuals, who come with a more or less inherently fixed nature, and are basically in complete control of our choices, and fully responsible of what we make of our lives. And they tend to see the government — almost always the national government — as the primary threat to our individual liberty: Taking through taxes the money that we have earned through our initiative and hard work and re-distributing it to undeserving others; or telling us how we should live our lives, thus constraining our individual freedom of choice. Gary Johnson, Libertarian Presidential candidate gives voice to these views by opposing, among others, a minimum wage, government mandated health insurance, practically all environmental regulations, and the government operated safety net, including Social Security.

But the entire Libertarian enterprise is misconceived, from the bottom up. It begins with a world view that makes no sense. It completely fails to appreciate the extent to which the human being is by nature a social being, whose basic feelings, thoughts, values, and actions are shaped by the moral and institutional contours of the wider society. Libertarians act as if government is the only significant institution that constrains the actions of the autonomous individual, but that is absurd. We are constrained, shaped, supported, sustained, and guided by institutions — formally and officially organized or informally enforcing rules and guidelines of “normal” behavior, and even of thought — practically every moment of our lives. Even more, there are numerous legally established institutions, such as corporations, as well as the conditions for the obtaining, maintaining, using, and transferring private property, that shape our social status, wealth, power, and life’s resources and opportunities at least as pervasively as do the official actions of government.

In fact, the so-called and celebrated “free market” is a giant illusion, and con game. There is no such thing as a “free market.” All markets are CONSTRUCTED, the result of numerous actions of society and government, as to how property can be obtained, maintained, transferred, taxed, and protected.

Even more, there is a very good reason why internationally we are so concerned about “failed states”. Not only can they become the breeding ground of piracy and terror, but, as Thomas Hobbes made so patently clear already in the 17th Century, without effective government, all human relations tend to degenerate into a “war of all against all” in which the life of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” What Libertarians have done is confuse the completely legitimate and defensible moral concern for, and even celebration of, the value of individuality, with the completely non-sensical “metaphysical” claim of the unbridgeable freedom of the so-called autonomous individual celebrated by the perverse doctrine of Individualism. But of that, more at another time — though one can check out Chapter 7 of my “Critique of Western Philosophy and Social Theory,” which addresses these issues in detail.