Many of my posts exists within a dialogue-debate between my siblings. Lately, I realized I’ve been posting few thoughts on this blog because they were all going into reply-comments on Facebook… So I’m going to try to post more of those here, where I hopefully will have a little better access to them in the future… (after all, this is, basically, my journal…). So here’s one of those that arises out of Facebook comments…
My brother re-posted this from Nassim Nicholas Taleb:
The Golden Rule (do to others what you want them to do to you) is an invitation to interventionism, utopianism, and meddling into other people’s affairs, particularly poor nations, as represented by the the NGO clowns at TED conferences trying to “save the world”, and causing more harm with unseen side effects. Remember that Mao, Stalin, Lenin, and were following the positive Golden rule. At the personal level, I may feel good trying to nudge a vegetarian to eat raw kebbeh (Lebanese steak tartare) because I like it myself.
The Silver rule (do NOT do to others what you don’t want them to do to you) leads to a systematic way to live “doing no harm” and gives rise to a liberating type of ethics: your obligation is to pursue your personal interests provided you do not hurt others probabilistically unless you are yourself exposed, & not transfer risks to others (skin-in-the-game at all times). But, and here is the key, should there be a spillover, it will necessarily be positive. It is therefore convex.(Typical via negativa rules are convex). It separates the “self-interest” in Adam Smith from the “selfish” version. And if you want to help society, just try to benefit WHILE at least harming no one.
This distinction puts a lot of clarity behind the idea of free markets and morality. You should never have to prove that what you do is GOOD for society (hard to express in words and rationalistic framework), but you can certainly show you are NOT hurting others more than yourself via skin-in-the-game.
My brother only added the comment, “Gold or Silver?” As usual, I’m not 100% sure what he wants to say – or wants his audience to get. More importantly, as I generally agree with Taleb and have cited Taleb to my brother in our debates, I feel the need to explain how Taleb’s comment is not actually in-line with Ayn Rand Libertarians. My response to my brother was this:
While I agree with the general concept, I want to point out that there is, absolutely, a COLLECTIVIST aspect to “The Silver Rule.” You cannot judge whether or not you are “doing no harm to others” objectively without drawing on the perceptions, considerations, opinions, and (potentially) tyranny of others. I throw in that last “tyranny” one just for you, since you seem to believe The Silver Rule – and definitely believe other Libertarian ideals – are some how the opposite of Collectivism – yet the Tyranny of The Majority – just as the Tyranny of a Monarch – is inherent within any political system that seeks to two or more people to “live” together – it is all a matter of degrees.
Automatically, anytime anyone speaks of “objective’ truth (using whatever terminology) they are invoking socialized arbitration of reality – a position where each individual BY DEFINITION “subjects themselves” “TO” “REALITY” – but where, of course, “reality” is always, everywhere, a social construct.
Do no harm? GREAT! However, people will disagree about what harms and what does not.
If you find yourself irritated that your Libertarian freedom is under attack here – just imagine the way out. It is educational to do so. There is a way out of this collectivist trap – but it comes with cosmic unintended consequences:
===== The Libertarian Paradise =====
Choose not to care.
Choose to put blinders on, and focus only on your own self-interest.
Does someone think something you did harm them? Say you don’t care. Tell them they can try to do the same back to you, but since you refuse to accept any kind of left-wing, socialistic, collectivist dealing or bargaining or the slippery slope of validating any social considerations…. tell your complainants that you are FORCED 🙂 to not care about any alleged harm they say you caused.
What does that kind of reality look like? Well, for one thing, it’s a SUBJECTIVE reality where each individual is “FORCED” to choose not to consider the perspective of others, and thus must suppress the notion that any objective (which, in this view, is just code for COLLECTIVE) facts exist. Everything is opinion (not just perception – but subjective perception), and since in a Libertarian paradise, all opinions are equally valueless, there are no facts but those you CHOOSE to accept as truth.
Okay, switching back to my own voice now (rather than The Libertarian Paradise…)
This is precisely what Taleb was talking about – this is that dividing line between “self-interest” and “selfishness.” But I’m trying to show you that your views often draw from the “selfish” side of this line, often ignorant that the line even exists: You cannot have philosophical Unobtrusive Self-Interest without a very healthy dose of Collectivism. There’s no way to purify one from the other – the blend of the two is what DEFINES the dividing line.
Acceptance of this realization is why I’ve become a “Liberal” and vote for “Liberals” – and why I say not only are Conservatives in error, but Ayn Rand and philosophical Libertarians and Austrian economic idealists, too.
The only way to avoid the problems of Collectivism (and they certainly do exist! I’m not denying that) is to find yourself in a situation where you are truly disinterested in everything around you, and even disinterested in your past and future. Only then are you free from the constraints – the dictates – of others. (Any addict can tell you that even our own minds dictate to our “selves” – but not just pathological addicts – we’re all “addicted” to air, water, and sustenance – and most of us are addicted to self-preservation, most of the time).
If you see notes of Zen Buddhism here, you’re on the right track – and yes, I am aware of the link. It is absolutely true (I’d say “self evident – but with difficulty“) that we can only achieve total freedom by giving up all desires. And from that arises the paradox: what is the point of freedom if, in giving up all desires, you can no longer CHOOSE TO DO ANYTHING WITH IT?
To that, I say, “Exactly.”
Libertarianism is a slippery slope to pointlessness.
Literally. And I really do mean LITERALLY.
In all of these philosophical links you can see the music of modern libertarian conservatives:
– lack of empathy for those that disagree with them
– lack of desire to negotiate policy
– rejection of “science” and “academia”
– rejection of collective judgements, except for claims of NON-infringement
– pursuit of hyper-rationalism (only through rational calculations can you have preferences without actually caring)
– tone-deafness to the disagreement between human realities and rational ideals