Contrasts of black and white can be wonderful, but they are not a useful pattern to grasp freedom. Image credit.
As with a number of other ideological staples of certain brands of demagogic libertarianism, I have come to oppose also their contempt of democracy. Like anarcho-capitalism and crypto-anarchism, both of which many libertarians subscribe to, we are dealing here with bundles of attitudes that purport to favour freedom while, in fact, they are incompatible with her.
A free society is unthinkable unless all citizens have access to the processes of (a) government and (b) the control of government. Political participation is as vital to freedom as it is complex, multi-layered, ambiguous and often messy and woefully imperfect. However, these deficiencies are only additional reasons for the need to defend freedom through the political processes of an open, democratic society.
Underlying libertarian contempt for democracy is an unwillingness to acknowledge the presence of political scarcity, i.e. the presence of political ambitions that are fiercely rivalrous, that is: the presence of diverging political values and aims that are intensively desired, yet incapable of being met simultaneously.
There are vast fields of political scarcity in a modern society, in fact, in any type of society. The libertarian conceit is that markets or market-type bilateral and mutually consenting transactions can successfully overcome political scarcity. The fact of the matter is, however, they cannot.
Libertarians of the anti-democratic bent manage to misunderstand both
the nature of markets, which are NOT conflict-mitigating institutions, but expressions of the absence of conflict with regard to the specific contents of a certain transaction between trading parties, and
political processes outside of and unreplicable by the world of markets, including the political processes of a "composite republic", or to put it differently, a "republican democracy", which are intended to act as conflict-mitigating institutions.
The often triumphantly evoked fact that the constitutional texts do not contain the word "democracy" is spurious. The American Constitution is a product of democracy, and it is purposefully enmeshed in a network of democratic processes, or as Akhil Reed Amar writes in his magisterial America's Constitution. A Biography:
It started with a bang. Ordinary citizens would govern themselves across a continent and over the centuries, under rules that the populace would ratify and could revise. By uniting previously independent states into a vast and indivisible nation, New World republicans would keep Old World monarchs at a distance and thus make democracy work on a scale never before dreamed possible.
See below Philip Pettit's lecture recently held at University College Dublin, in which he outlines the contours and challenges of republican democracy - the lecture itself commencing at time mark 04:00:
Oh, that's what it is. I guess we would have called it hard rock, in my days. The 20-year-old sun of a friend of mine has been to a "metal" concert recently, and I want to be sure I know what he is talking about. Not much different from rock as I knew it during the 1970s, "metal" seems to be perhaps more versatile, more eager to interpret different musical styles from classic music to German folklore or soft rock classics such as "Popcorn", though even such diversification was not uncommon in my youth.
Until just over a century ago, the idea that a company could be a criminal was alien to American law. The prevailing assumption was, as Edward Thurlow, an 18th-century Lord Chancellor of England, had put it, that corporations had neither bodies to be punished nor souls to be condemned, and thus were incapable of being “guilty”. But a case against a railway in 1909, for disobeying price controls, established the principle that companies were responsible for their employees’ actions, and America now has several hundred thousand rules that carry some form of criminal penalty. Meanwhile, ever since the 1960s, civil “class-action suits” have taught managers the wisdom of seeking rapid, discreet settlements to avoid long, expensive and embarrassing trials.
The drawbacks of America’s civil tort system are well known. What is new is the way that regulators and prosecutors are in effect conducting closed-door trials. For all the talk of public-spiritedness, the agencies that pocket the fines have become profit centres: Rhode Island’s bureaucrats have been on a spending spree courtesy of a $500m payout by Google, while New York’s governor and attorney-general have squabbled over a $613m settlement from JPMorgan. And their power far exceeds that of trial lawyers. Not only are regulators in effect judge and jury as well as plaintiff in the cases they bring; they can also use the threat of the criminal law.
Art is costly, art is scarce -- what capitalism does it drives down costs and it helps reduce and better manage scarcity.
As a result, under capitalism we are being inundated with art, with beauty or at least with enormous arsenals of objects and impressions in which to look for and find - based on personal standards - high aesthetic quality in plentiful supply.
The greatest contemporary source of art is the free market and the increased wealth derived from it that gives ordinary human beings hugely enhanced options to beautify their environment both by their private activities as well as in their professional capacities. Only, we tend not to notice this wonderful source of art.
The artful has become a normal ingredient in serving the masses of consumers; art is used to advertise other goods, and it is an auxiliary service or benefit built into commercial products, rendering obsolete the need to make art itself the object of advertisement.
Freedom has largely destroyed a world where art could be enjoyed and produced only by small, privileged elites.
However, the modern art establishment endeavours to perpetuate the bygone air of exclusivity. Modern "shock art", as characterised in the video, seems to me to be involved in a losing rearguard battle intended to defend the exclusivity of art in a world that produces beauty en masse, being driven in this commendable tendency by the rewards from supplying the broad population with products of integral or incidental artistic value.
Freedom democratised the ability to produce beauty -- just compare what the average house owner/occupier today is able to accomplish to make his dwellings more beautiful compared to a hundred, or two hundred years ago.
Modern cities are treasures of beauty. To me, at least, a clean and neat town is a piece of aesthetic delight; how much more dirty and grotty than today were towns only 30 or 40 years ago.
I agree with most of what the gentleman in the below short video has to say, though I am not sure I am entirely clear as to what objective standards of beauty may consist of. He does not mention one of them.
While I do not have a theory what beauty is, I know that I am surrounded by it more than ever - thanks to freedom.
My interest kindled by Ed Steven's post Burke and Paine ... Together Again quite some time ago, I still have not found the time to read Yuval Levin's book. In the meantime, I am glad to take advantage of a short cut to The Great Debate's narrative and some of its messages. Enjoy:
Robert Schumann (1810-1856) - Adagio and Allegro in A flat major for horn and piano, op. 70
A friend just asked me what kind of a connection I might hope to insinuate between the image of the beach and the Schumann piece.
When pairing image and content in a blog entry, I always intend a certain suggestiveness. However, the association can be more or less equivocal; and though the linking thoughts can have a precise meaning to myself, they may be impossible to guess for my readers.
Thus, in the present instance, I was thinking of slow (adagio) scenes in a sea of vivacity (allegro), such as might be observed on a beach, at the end of summer.
Incidentally, since about the middle of a cold and rainy August, we've seen an early autumn slowly colouring this part of Germany.