Tag: Ideas

The Art of Pursuing Knowledge

Ian Brzeski | United States

Imagine a society where people did not strive to obtain knowledge, where people did not try and better themselves and society as a whole due to laziness or negligence. There would be no intellectual debate or discussion amongst peoples; there would not even be the high level of society we live in today. From generation to generation, society has progressed and there is no question about it. Life expectancy has gone up tremendously, and the impoverished are nowhere near the level of terrible poverty that they once endured. All of this progress comes from our desire to learn, our desire to improve, and our desire to make our lives easier and better. Without these desires, nobody would care about anything and we would have never achieved this progress. Without this desire, who knows where we would be at in society today. Would we still be stuck in the Dark Ages? Maybe it would be worse; perhaps we would still be neanderthals who have yet to invent the wheel.

The ability to learn is the most underappreciated and undervalued skill that people possess. Choosing to acquire knowledge in a particular subject is bound to shape who we are as a person. The saying “knowledge is power” holds a tremendous amount of weight. Knowledge opens up worlds of opportunity. It liberates our minds from the thinking of the masses. It allows us to think critically, analyze ideas, and develop our own conclusions from said ideas.  From the eagerness to learn comes knowledge and from knowledge comes wisdom.

The Importance of Reading

The best way to obtain knowledge is through reading. Reading is simply a wonder. Regardless of the subject matter, you can always learn something from a good piece of literature. Fiction, non-fiction, politics, sports, or history, the subject does not matter. Harvest the knowledge that comes from all these readings. There are always going to be facts to learn, concepts to grasp, morals to uncover, and ideas to critique through reading.

Reading a book may motivate you, relax you, give you information to better yourself as a person, or even give you random bits of information that you find interesting. No matter what you are reading, it will always help you. Reading poorly written books or conceptually poor books also have some benefit because you would be able to distinguish and analyze the faults of these books. If none of the prior reasons convinced you to pick up a book and start reading, remember that reading is overall inherently fun. When picking up a book, you never really know what to expect. The stories you read or the facts and opinions portrayed could be just full of surprises. Reading could change your life.

You are What You Read

What you choose to read stem from your interests and beliefs. If you read books and articles about politics and more specifically libertarianism, you are interested in politics and are probably a libertarian. While this claim is a given and is true most of the time, your interests and beliefs also stem from the books you read as long as you go into the book with an open mind. Reading with an open mind will help shape your political ideology and who you are. It will increase your understanding of different positions and mold you into a person who you would want to be.

When reading books about politics or political theory, it is just as important to read opposing views as it is to read the views you agree with or the ones you are most comfortable with. The books we read shape our persona and develop our livelihood and our way of thinking. Think about everything you can learn from reading. Think about the different viewpoints and understanding and knowledge you will obtain from reading your opposition. You will undoubtedly learn a lot and be incomparably more educated than the person who only reads Rothbard or the person who only reads Marx.

Read Differing Opinions

If you only read Marx or Baudrillard, you are still ignorant. If you only read Rothbard or Hoppe, you are still ignorant. This goes for anybody who reads only one side of things. These people will have no understanding of their political counterparts. They will sound stupid, ignorant, and hateful, inevitably leading to an abrupt halt to any political discussion. Civil discourse will be virtually nonexistent.

This is why it is so important to read your opposition. If we want to continue progressing as a society, we must be able to develop an understanding of different views and opinions. People must be prepared to understand and listen to different opinions if we want to maintain any civil discourse. Allowing for civil discourse makes way for a more transparent and more efficient exchange of information and ideas. Civil discourse will undoubtedly lead to a quicker progression in society.

Reading differing opinions is better than reading books with opinions in which you agree with. It will challenge your way of thinking while giving you more of an understanding of different opinions, making you more compassionate and sympathetic to people who think differently from you. Your critical thinking skills and levels of analysis will certainly improve by challenging your opinions and allow you to form your way of thinking in a more articulate manner.

Read Rothbard, read Marx, read Zizek, read Nozick, read Chomsky, read Orwell, and read Konkin. Read from all the brilliant minds who were able to develop and create discussion in politics. Especially read from the people who you disagree with or are maybe disgusted with. It is essential to do this in order to be able to formulate and strengthen your position. Keep on reading for the knowledge and wisdom that you will inevitably gain.

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Being a Writer in the Liberty Movement

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

Difficulties as a writer are abundant and come as no surprise to most, and yet we are often finding ourselves in times of struggle in getting our work out to the masses. Most writers will also feel more validity when they see they have more ‘likes,’ ‘thumbs-up,’ ‘follows,’ ‘hearts,’ ‘shares,’ and ‘reads,’ even when it means zero financial gains from the increased viewership.

In the Liberty Movement, one can easily Google libertarian writers and articles and find a plethora of quality material available on the web and in print. We may even find ourselves competing with those other writers, and that is ok to a healthy extent. This is a natural part of the marketplace, where we compete for better writing and getting our messages out to the masses. Competition can make us better as writers and individuals, as it also helps to find the areas that will help our shared messages reach those that were either unwilling or unaware of the concept of Liberty.

In order to become a better writer in the Liberty Movement, we should be eager to read the great works of those we love and admire, as well as countless hours of gruesome reading of those we are not in agreement with. Knowing the way the opposing side thinks helps us become stronger, and it makes better writers when we know how to argue against those arguments. Some of the works of our supposed enemies are, in fact fantastic, and creative in their ways of articulating and deceiving the masses out of Liberty and Freedom.

Many amazing artists, musicians, and writers were never famous or popular during their time alive. Rather, they became validated and popular posthumously. Such people as Edgar Allen Poe, Oscar Wilde, Johann Sebastian Bach, Galileo Galilei, Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Vincent Van Gogh, and many others. I am sure the same applies to the amazing works of Bastiat, Spooner, and the many others.

The validity of one’s writing, specifically, is not determined by the number of copies sold, the number of reads or views, or the popularity of the work produced. To appeal to such is a logical fallacy known as “Argumentum ad Populum,” (i.e. “Argument to the People”), or more commonly referred to as “Appeal to Popularity.” According to its definition, “This fallacy is similar in structure to certain other fallacies that involve a confusion between the justification of a belief and its widespread acceptance by a given group of people. When an argument uses the appeal to the beliefs of a group of supposed experts, it takes on the form of an appeal to authority; if the appeal is to the beliefs of a group of respected elders or the members of one’s community over a long period of time, then it takes on the form of an appeal to tradition.”

(Image citation: https://edu.glogster.com/glog/appeal-to-popularity/24j7txo2ffq )

If we settle with the validity of a person’s argument solely based on their popularity, then surely every dictator, tyrant, totalitarian, or Statist who has ever written anything is far more logically superior to that of everyone that speaks in defense of Liberty.

Adolf Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, has sold millions of copies, and has surged in Germany in more recent years; the various works of Joseph Stalin have sold millions; Mao’s little red book sold millions; Marx continues to influence people today with millions of books sold, etc. The sheer number of books sold by each of these monstrous leaders does not grant them superiority in logic or provide their arguments extra validity. Simply put, more people read their work, and that is all that can be said about their book numbers. Mein Kampf:

The best thing that each of us can do in the Liberty Movement, as writers, is to continue reading, speaking, debating, discussing, and writing. In order for our naturally positive and realistic messages to gain ground with those in direct opposition of Liberty, we need to stay on top of our understanding, remain decent in our approaches with others, diligent and consistent in our philosophy and politics, and find more creative ways to reach the masses. As we each work in direct competition with the next libertarian writer and those that oppose Liberty, we are also working together with those fellow libertarians as Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” in getting our letters of Love, Liberty, Freedom, and Peace out to the world.

Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep writing. Never cease.

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Dreams Of A Post-Partisan World

By Craig Axford | United States
I’ve been a Green Party candidate for the US House of Representatives and a Democratic National Committee organizer. In spite of my partisan past, or maybe because of it, these days I increasingly find myself thinking political parties have outlived their usefulness, and instead hoping we can find a path to a post-partisan politics that focuses more on ideas and less on group identity.
Political parties offer a number of services to candidates that make them appealing. They function a bit like insurance companies, only instead of paying out in the event of a disaster they distribute resources when candidates receive their nomination. Contrary to the public’s perception of party organizations, these benefits don’t just come in the form of money. In fact most candidates receive little to no direct financial assistance from their party. The aid usually comes instead in the form of data, volunteers, trained organizers, and the chance to leverage long established networks.

However, first and foremost a party is a tribe that candidates can count on. This benefit has become even more salient as society has polarized and hostility toward partisans identifying with the opposition has hardened into a norm. A candidate can now expect an even higher level of support than they used to just for receiving their party’s nomination. As Roy Moore’s US Senate bid demonstrated, in a state that heavily favors your party from the start it takes an awful lot of scandal to yank defeat from the jaws of victory.

Donald Trump also recognized the power of tribal loyalty when he stated that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone without jeopardizing the support of his voters. That he paid no political price for this public insult regarding his supporters’ apparently low moral standards only served to prove his point. Trump intuitively understood that those rallying behind him had coalesced into an army of committed warriors that had already put their personal reputations on the line by supporting him. For these voters there was no turning back.

This phenomena is hardly exclusive to Republicans. Research shows that members of both political parties are likely to be wearing blinders, or at least pretend to have blinders on, when it comes to expressing approval for their particular team and denigrating the other side. The difference between the two groups isn’t that one is biased and the other isn’t. The difference lies in what they are likely to be biased about.

In a 2013 paper entitled Partisan Bias in Factual Beliefs about Politicsresearchers found that when Democrats were asked whether inflation and unemployment had risen under Reagan and Republicans were asked whether deficits had risen under Clinton, both sides gave the wrong answer by overwhelming margins. The answer is no in both cases.

However, when partisans were asked questions that provided an opportunity to portray the opposing party in a negative light but were given a financial incentive if they gave the correct answer, “The payments reduced observed partisan gaps by about 55%.” In other words, the vast majority of respondents know the right answer. When the incentive is expanded to also include a reward for a respondent if they admit they don’t know the right answer, the partisan gap was “80% smaller than those that we observed in the absence of incentives.”

The researchers concluded the problem here isn’t that Democrats and Republicans are ignorant of the truth. What they’re doing when they give pollsters the wrong answer is taking the opportunity to cheer for their team either by exaggerating their party’s success or minimizing/denying the accomplishments of the opposition. In other words, partisans are little more than cheerleaders who are willing to wave distracting pompoms and do intellectual flips no matter what the scoreboard says. Anyone who has had to listen to a Trump voter explain away his lies and misogyny as “authenticity” or endure a diehard Hillary supporter insist in spite of all evidence to the contrary that she really ran a good campaign knows what I’m talking about.

As Steven Pinker puts it in his most recent book, Enlightenment Now, “Reason tells us that political deliberation would be most fruitful if it treated governance more like scientific experimentation and less like an extreme-sports competition.” Pinker goes on to ask if we can “imagine a day in which the most famous columnists and talking heads have no predictable political orientation but try to work out defensible conclusions on an issue-by-issue basis?” I can imagine it, but is such a dream realistic?

No country has so far avoided the “extreme sports competition” of party politics without resorting to authoritarian rule to do it. Perhaps in some cases elections are more like gentile games of cricket and less like professional wrestling. In those instances the discourse is definitely more civil, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into more reason. The same biases probably just tend to get expressed more politely.

Perhaps it isn’t important. The psychologist Paul Bloom doesn’t seem to think it is. In Against Empathy: The Case For Rational Compassion, Bloom contends that “Political views share [another] interesting property with views about sports teams — they don’t really matter.” What Bloom is arguing is that “they don’t really matter” at the individual level. “This is certainly true as well for my views about the flat tax, global warming, and evolution,” Bloom explains. “They don’t have to be grounded in truth, because the truth value doesn’t have any effect on my daily life.”

Bloom is right. At least he is up to a point. What one person, or maybe even a few dozen or a few hundred people think about these issues doesn’t really matter. But at some point enough people thinking the same thing, or just acting as though they think it because certain ideas are what fans of their political team are supposed to cheer for, does begin to have an impact. If the outcome of all this cheerleading means putting one person in the White House or a significant number of people into the House and Senate that vote accordingly, even Bloom would have to agree that’s significant. Whether we do or don’t think global warming is a Chinese hoax doesn’t really matter in our daily life. But what the person occupying the Oval Office thinks on the subject can change the course of history.

That said, Paul Bloom’s argument does force us to confront the relevancy of political parties head on. If political views held by the average voter don’t matter any more than sports teams do in a person’s daily life, and voters tend to treat political parties like a favorite sports team, what’s the point of political parties? If we don’t want our politics to be like an “extreme sports competition,” wouldn’t getting rid of the teams be the first step? Our political views wouldn’t matter anymore or less than they do now, but at least we wouldn’t feel compelled to lie to pollsters or vote against our own interests just to win. Encouraging a more rational approach to politics seems more likely to have a positive cumulative impact than mindless acclaim for our side and disparagement of the other.

Our right to freely associate with the individuals and institutions of our choice takes precedence over any benefits that may come society’s way in an idealized post-partisan world. I would be the first to call a constitutional foul on the state if it banned political parties.

However, as individuals we can make a more conscious effort to give all candidates appearing on our local ballot more scrutiny instead of simply going with the one with a D or R after their name, or a G or an L for that matter. The media can also do a far better job of including all the candidates in their coverage so voters know what the people running to represent them are thinking. While the focus on the top two candidates is understandable, the notion that there’s a duopoly on ideas is patently absurd. A minimum of one live prime time debate between all the candidates, or at least all those not polling above 10% or so, should be a condition of any license given out for use of our public airwaves.

Politics shouldn’t be just another game. Ideas really do matter and America desperately needs to begin thinking seriously about them again. For that to happen we’ll each need to stop being fans eager to show off our clever protest signs and funny memes mocking the other side. We’ll need to become citizens.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com

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It’s Time for the Libertarian Party to Give up on Elections

By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial

The perpetual war between liberty and state control rages on day-by-day, year-by-year, and era-by-era. The United States of America was founded with the intention of creating a government that would limit itself and yet here we are with the largest centralized governance in the history of our nation.

Continue reading “It’s Time for the Libertarian Party to Give up on Elections”

Bernie Would Slaughter

I really do not like Bernie Sanders. And I mean really.

As ferociously as I promote civil, well-reasoned, dispassionate political discourse, I admit that I have a hard time keeping my cool when the Vermont Senator is a part of the subject matter at hand.

Bernie Sanders politics are almost entirely antithetical to what I believe in. Even when we overlap, it tends to be for wildly different reasons.

In February, Sanders proposed legislation to allow Americans to purchase pharmaceuticals from abroad (it would eventually fail in the Senate). At the moment, many of these purchases are abridged or prohibited due to trade barriers that are in place thanks to lobbying from Big Pharma. The result of this protectionism is artificially high drug prices at home in the US. I imagine that Sanders wants to tear down these walls as a way to punish Big Pharma and because, in this instance, he feels there are benefits to permitting consumer choice.

I, on the other hand, believe that government has no business telling Americans what they can and cannot buy nor whom they can buy from, so Bernie Sanders’s seal of approval should be irrelevant. Free trade is a boom to economic growth and keeps prices low in general. Sanders thinks government should determine when to allow the free exchange of goods and services across national borders because big government knows best.

Beyond politics, I believe Bernie is a hypocrite, a horrendous role model, and a demagogic snake.

Sanders claims to stand for the working class and the poor, yet he owns three houses and has never had a real job. Instead of getting his hands dirty as a public school teacher, putting his life on the line as a fireman, or otherwise directly contributing to making the world a better place, Sanders has spent nearly four decades collecting a generous, tax-payer-funded paycheck in various positions of government. He earned over a million dollars in 2016.

I want to believe that to the general public of the United States of America, Bernie Sanders is as much of a joke as he is to me. I also want to believe that America could never fall for the manipulations and obfuscations of a weasley democratic socialist. Furthermore, I want to believe that Americans understand their rights and are aware of the devastation Sandersian policies have caused throughout the 20th Century. In fact, these same policies are on display now in Venezuela, and are failing again.

But I don’t.

I don’t believe any of those things intuitively, and I don’t believe them based on the available data.

The Mainstream Media, suffering from massive quantities of cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias, have compensated for their false assumptions and failed polling data by manufacturing fictions about Nazi uprisings and Russian meddling to explain Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton.

But the way I see it, the story is quite simple:

After 16 years of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the American people, especially lower-income Republicans and Progressives, were angry.

Republicans were angered by Bush’s complete failure to be a Conservative as well as his sending their children off to fight pointless, endless wars. They were angry at Obama for his Global-Citizen (as opposed to patriotic American) speeches, his palling around with people who ridicule them, and his policies and warmongering in general.

Progressives were angry at Bush for everything, and they were angry that Obama did not bring about the Utopia of “Hope and Change” they had been promised.

As a result of this anger, Trump’s populism won the GOP nomination, and Sanders’ populism came close to taking down the seemingly unbeatable Clinton machine.

In the general election, Trump and Clinton both lost sizeable shares of their parties. Aside from those, like Dennis Prager, who believe that Leftism is such a great danger to America that any Republican would suffice, or, in other words, aside from those who subscribe to the acceptance of the lesser-of-two-evils, Constitutional Conservatives, movement Conservatives, and Liberty-leaning Republicans refused to vote for Trump in droves. Some, like P.J. O’Rourke, preferred Clinton as the devil you know, some went for third-party candidates like Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin, and some probably didn’t vote at all.

Clinton lost Progressives who couldn’t stomach her interventionism or support for multinational trade agreements, minorities who only voted for Obama because of his race, and some of the disappointed youth voters that Sanders had energized.

Likely most consequently, Clinton lost a chunk of white working class voters who supported Obama four and eight years earlier. These voters are fearful of traditionally Conservative economic policies that sometimes cost them their livelihoods, but also fear mass immigration for the same and other more tribal reasons. Moreover, these Americans are not persuaded by multiculturalism or hyper-progressive social initiatives like allowing children to choose which school restroom to use based on what gender they feel they are.

While it’s unlikely that Trump picked up many members of the first three demographics I mentioned, he got the working-class whites. By making immigration and trade reform his most prominent issues, by promising to leave Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid intact, and by saying he’d swap American interventionism for “America First,” Trump had put together a winning formula. He even managed to get one out of every ten Bernie Bros according to the available polling data and, to be fair, common sense.

But Trump is no lock to win again in 2020.

If Bernie Sanders decides to run again and wins the Democratic Primary in 2020, even if he’s 150 years old, he’ll beat Trump in an absolute landslide.

Bernie Sanders would bring together the automatic Democrats, the principled Progressives, the Obama minorities, the frustrated youth, and the white working class. Every left-leaning demographic that Hillary Clinton lost and every unprincipled demographic that Trump and Bernie agitated into the political sphere in 2016 would be Feeling the Bern.

Trump’s support would be reduced to automatic Republicans, anti-Progressive nationalists, Trump diehards, and those who feel that anything is better than Socialism. And that will not be enough to constitute a voting majority in the purple states.

The only thing that could derail a Sanders presidency if he decides to run for and wins the DNC nomination (neither of which are guarantees) would be a Jill Stein from the other side. In other words, if the Democratic Party were fractured by an insurgent anti-Sanders group, it could peel away enough voters to give Trump the edge.

What kind of insurgency would this be? I imagine a third-way feminist revolt. Sanders and his supporters were smeared as sexists from within their own party during and after the last election, and this tactic will be used again. If some on the left are too committed to getting a woman or minority into office, Trump will have a shot at beating Bernie.

I write none of this in celebration. There is no glee in these words. But I am committed to telling what I believe to be the truth. And the truth is that the America our Founding Fathers fought and died for is seldom persuasive to a voting majority of human beings in America or anywhere else around the world.

Let’s hope I’m wrong.


Image Source DonKeyHotey on Flickr

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