Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Evolutionary Liberalism

Although this blog is named "The Radical Liberal," my thinking has taken a decidedly evolutionary turn. In a sense that turn is even more radical, but I think that it is time for me to attach a more descriptive term than "radical" to this liberalism—"evolutionary."

The characteristics of evolutionary liberalism are that it embraces universal Darwinism and takes trial-and-error, evolutionary learning as the only way forward for humanity. It argues that the pursuit of such learning is inhibited by what people call "government" or "the state"—that the state is itself a failed experiment.

The social embodiment of this learning process is what is generally called "the market," discussed previously in my paper "Let Go and Let the Market," referenced in another post on this blog. The ideas in that paper have been developed further, and money profit identified as the selection mechanism for societal evolution.

The philosophy of evolutionary liberalism is heavily influenced by the scientific philosophy of Karl R. Popper (not his generally-flawed political and economic thinking) and the economics of the Austrian school, as elucidated by Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. These thinkers are influences and there is no argument that they would agree with or support evolutionary liberalism. This is not a project to argue about what they thought, but to use use their work as inspiration for ever bolder conjectures.

I am quite sure that I many people are circling around these ideas, including Matt Ridley and Daniel Dennett. Although they are far more well known and knowledgeable than I, they seem to have missed the basic problem of the state and its "solution." When it comes to them, or other widely-read thinkers, we might have a renaissance of true liberalism.

Contra Hayek, Cultural Evolution IS Darwinian

In Hayek's The Fatal Conceit (1988) there is a section titled "The Mechanism of Cultural Evolution Is Not
Darwinian." Within the section Hayek takes the position that Darwinian theory applies only to biological and not cultural evolution. He writes that "cultural evolution simulates Lamarkism" (25).

However, when we take an abstract view of Darwinism—variation, selection, and retention—we see that Hayek is mistaken. The problem of Lamarkism is not that characteristics are acquired, as characteristics resulting from mutations are also acquired; but that there is no mechanism of retention. Rather than DNA, it is the institutions of society that pass on the mutations of society—the new ideas, technologies, and customs. The mechanism of cultural retention is what Karl Popper called World 3 (1972).

The mention of World 3 prompts the suggestion that DNA is also a World 3 phenomenon created by processes in the cell for purposes of retention. Where this suggestion leads is anybody's guess.


Hayek, F.A., 1988, The Fatal Conceit, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
Popper, K.R., 1972, "On the Theory of the Objective Mind" in Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford University Press, 153-190.

Monday, February 13, 2017


Portrait of John Locke, by Sir Godfrey Kneller...
Portrait of John Locke, by Sir Godfrey Kneller. Oil on canvas. 76x64 cm. Britain, 1697. Source of Entry: Collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, 1779. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
John Locke seemed to think the same way about Papists (Catholics) as many Christians think about Muslims:

As to the papists, 'tis certain that several of their dangerous opinions, which are absolutely destructive of all governments but the pope’s, ought not to be tolerated in propagating those opinions; and whosoever shall spread or publish any of them the magistrate is bound to suppress so far as may be sufficient to restrain it…Papists are not to enjoy the benefit of toleration, because, where they have power, they think themselves bound to deny it to others…It being impossible, either by indulgence or severity, to make papists, whilst papists, friends to your government, being enemies to it both in their principles and interest, and therefore considering them as irreconcilable enemies, of whose fidelity you can never be secured whilst they owe a blind obedience to any infallible pope, who hath the keys of their consciences tied to his girdle, and can, upon occasion, dispense with all their oaths, promises, and the obligations they have to their prince, especially being (in their sense) a heretic, and arm them to the disturbance of the government, [I] think they ought not to enjoy the benefit of toleration. -- John Locke,  An Essay on Toleration (1667)

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Facebook [Bad] Memories

This memory from 2013 popped up on my Facebook timeline, and I thought it was worth sharing:

I have had it up to here (motioning to just below my chin) with those, generally championing leftist positions, who think that any disagreement comes from ignorance and/or malevolence. I recently shared an article about climate change that made the argument that mitigation costs would primarily be born by the poor as they were prevented from having the access to energy that the wealthy have already acquired. Admittedly, the underlying source article was skeptical (justifiably, in my view) of the science as well. A relative of mine, who was only "friended" because he is a relative, objected to the article and then suggested that a response by another friend was "racist."
I noticed that this relative, who I will call "Joe," had posted a number of times to his wall since his responses and thought I would take a look. I was hardly surprised to find that he was trashing me, although not by name, as not knowing the scientific method "if it bit [me] in the ass" and complaining about having to defend science to ignorant "backwater" types.
Joe seems to live in a perpetual red mist, suggesting that the politicians he doesn't like be made into food, that he would only find use for an "assault weapon" on 7th Day Adventist trespassers and climate change deniers, and that economists should be made into Soylent Green. On his wall he urges his friends to support his being "pissed off" at people like me who don't understand or know anything about the scientific method.
Well, the funny thing is that, whether I understand it or not, I'm very interested in the scientific method (primarily as expounded by Karl Popper) and actually believe that it is the only thing we have to cling to. No God, no absolute morality, no nothing but trial and error to figure out what works. The one thing that I don't believe is that it involves "consensus," which is a political, rather than scientific term. It does involve "skepticism," of which Joe seems to have little.
Joe has been "unfriended," and I hope I don't hear from him again.
To this point, thankfully, I haven't heard from him.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Political References in Popular Science Writings

While reading Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Danel C. Dennett, in a discussion of possibilities, I was brought up suddenly by the following:
Historical impossibility is simply a matter of opportunities passed up. There was a time when many of us worried about the possibility of President Barry Goldwater, but it didn't happen, and after 1964, the odds against such a thing happening lengthened reassuringly.
 One wonders why he didn't use the worry about a second term for Lyndon B. Johnson, which split the Democratic party and led to the election of Richard Nixon. The fear there was that the Vietnam War would continue unabated, fomenting increased social unrest and costing the U.S. more blood and treasure. Johnson's decision not to run created that particular historical impossibility--a second term. But clearly, Dennett is signalling something--his membership in the sensible people of the center left.

I encountered this same sort of thing in Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. Dawkins frequently brought up his support for the Labour Party as a salve to his readers who might otherwise think he was some kind of mean Conservative.

Now Michael Shermer is libertarian(ish), and I don't remember seeing such stealth signalling in The Mind of the Market. In fact, Shermer describes his libertarian background extensively, and then goes on to write in a way that panders to center-left thinking, promoting "free and fair markets." No true libertarian would be concerned that free markets wouldn't be fair.

Much has recently been made of the bias in academia (see Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind), and that bias has certainly leaked into popular science literature. It behooves us to be careful of these concealed nudges to the left.

Finally, I have to say that Barry Goldwater was my last political love affair. That put me on the road to conservatism, then libertarianism, and now market anarchism with a heavy flavoring of evolutionary epistemology. I escaped from politics in January, 1967, with the help of Robert LeFevre, and never have cast a ballot to choose my master. I owe the start of my journey to my Sue Dame, now Sue Montgomery, whom I will never forget.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

If x were true, the World would have imploded by now.

This essay, Why Libertarians Should Support Many Forms of Government Intervention, showed up in my Facebook feed recently. It was shared by a woman I met at FEE's "Advanced Austrian" (economics) seminar back in 2011. In our back and forth she threw this out:
As Frank argues above, if every regulation were the path-dependent slippery slope that some folks suggest, the world would have imploded a long time ago.
My response was as follows:
I think that I will have to write an essay on that--"If x were true, the world would have imploded a long time ago." My standard for "implode" may be a little lower than Frank's. It seems we had an implosion as regulations like Smoot-Hawley Tariff created/extended the Great Depression. There was an implosion in the 1970s that led to wage/price controls and "stagflation." There is the current Great Recession brought on by bank/housing/security regulations, and the "recovery" hampered by even more regulation and Federal Reserve policy. Was the U.K. before Thatcher an implosion? Have Argentina and Brazil imploded? Venezuela?
And if you set a higher bar (civil war, violent regime change, etc.), the Soviet Union didn't "implode" for over 70 years. Millions of people systematically starved to death and murdered, but it didn't implode. Cuba and North Korea haven't imploded. I guess that they all must be happy that they arrested the slide down that slippery slope!
And finally, if it is truly the world that is the criterion--that the world must implode--then even the deaths of 262,000,000 people at the hands of their governments in the last 115 years didn't cause the implosion (https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NOTE5.HTM). The world still turns, and people still live their lives.
My real problem is that the people who say such things as "if x were true, the world would have imploded a long time ago" have no suggestion as to the negative feedback mechanism that will stop that from happening. Their only negative feedback mechanism IS the implosion. All their platitudes about how they are "libertarians" and worry about excessive regulation will have little effect as the fall from a great height nears its end.
Her answer was to ask me if I had ever been to Cuba (I have not), never responding to my post.

Ludwig von Mises's argument was that each intervention would lead to additional interventions in order to correct the unintended consequences of previous interventions. The alternative would be to reverse the intervention. Certainly, the first intervention is not the guarantee of a collapse, just as the ingestion of the first gram of lead does not lead to the death of a child. At any moment there might be the reversal of an intervention or a number of interventions, and society makes a bit of recovery--see for instance, Margaret Thatcher. But without the realization that interventions upon interventions produce a steadily worsening situation for society, the end is clear--if not implosion, then widespread misery and stagnation.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Thoughts After the Orlando Massacre

I think we are entering a time when we must take self-defense seriously. I mean concealed carry and/or open carry among those who are willing, and a call for businesses that disallow weapons to reverse their policies. It is a cost that I'd rather not bear (I have a CCW, but I hardly ever carry), but we are in a deteriorating world where our government continues to poke at the wasp's nest of the Middle East and turn out, through public education, aimless, shiftless drones who have no future to look forward to. Add to that the manufacturing of crime related to the so-called "drug war" and no person can feel safe outside of his home.

I believe that guns will someday be unnecessary, but at the moment the trend is in the opposite direction.