Libertarianism and PCT

[From Bill Powers (2007.09.21.0655 MDT)]

It seems to me that libertarianism shares many underlying premises with PCT, as Mike Acree has been pointing out for some years. My objections to it have to do with its failure to address problems of social interaction in a way that avoids the blunder of conflict. Libertarians seem unpleasantly unsympathetic to the idea of human suffering other than their own, of the idea that for every economic winner there are economic losers, of the reality that some people, through no doing of their own, are less capable than others. The expression, I believe, is "I've got mine, Jack, you get yours." This is a recipe for continuous rebellion and repression to which there can be no end. It is also a very childish position, which is not to say it is uncommon among adults. Behind it is fear, uncertainty, and self-doubt, which cause selfishness.

I think this attitude shows a lack of awareness of system concepts, by saying which I charitably reject the alternative, which is that it shows a singularly self-centered system concept, the view I associate with right-wing Republicans and the very rich, not to mention Ayn Rand. It is a perversion of the idea of individual autonomy, used as an excuse for those with a little power to gain more, and for those with a lot of power to do anything they please. The power I refer to is, of course, the power to control or overwhelm other people's efforts to control what happens to them, the very kind of social action that libertarians supposedly reject.

This power arises from our present socioeconomic system, and apparently from any socioeconomic system so far tried. Economic power can easily be converted into social power (and vice versa), through the hiring of private armies and goon squads and the ability to hold out the promise of large rewards to those who will act as one's agents. Acquiring power is often done behind the shield of individual autonomy and consequent freedom from regulation and oversight. It is then used to limit the autonomy of everyone else. Since others do not like to have their autonomy limited, either, the result is a constant ferment among those without power, as they scheme and plot to gain it and depose those who presently have it. You will notice that I make no mention of government here. Private enterprise works exactly the same way. The design of this system is inherently unstable. It offends my engineering sensibilities.

Obviously libertarianism and all other political isms arose without benefit of PCT. I think we can take it for granted that this means they all have deficiencies because of an incomplete understanding of human nature. Rather than either attacking or defending libertarianism or the other isms, I suggest that we just abandon them as more of many partial solutions to human problems, and work on substituting something more in line with how people really work, and how they really behave right now. We can build on what good there is in any previous concepts, but the worst thing we can do is defend some previous concept just because it exists. Everything should be on the table: every premise and every supposed fact. We have to go back to the situation when there were no experts, and try to develop a new expertise.

As our old friend Ed Ford keeps saying, we have to prioritize. Here is my list:

1. PCT.

2. Everything else.


Bill P.