I often get asked about what I actually advocate. People elsewhere say I criticize a lot of things but do not offer any suggestions or alternatives. I admit this is true enough. So, for those interested, here’s a little bit of my personal philosophy, along with links to posts I have written in the past to get a more in-depth understanding.
First of all, let me say I consider myself a libertarian. Particularly, I would say I am strong civil libertarian; I believe firmly in civil liberties and negative rights. For example, I believe it is the right of women to get abortions, that people should be allowed to sell and purchase organs for medical purposes, that the state does not have the right to murder its citizens (e.g. in capital punishment), that people have the right to speak their mind, that pornography should be legal for adults, that the War on Drugs is misguided, that gay rights should be observed, that torture is never right, that social rights are among the most important of our rights, and so on. I believe there are strong deontological justification for these beliefs, though I recognize utilitarians might say the same about their own moral theory (I consider myself a deontologist).
If you look at a political compass such as the one above, I would say I’m close to the bottom on it. As such, I consider myself a libertarian, actually fairly close to anarchist. I find it highly questionable that states contain legitimacy and that “social contract theory” may very well be a bad theory. I believe all authority should be presumed illegitimate and that it is up to those who wield the authority to prove that it is legitimate (including even non-statist authority). So I find states to be illegitimate by assumption, as they are the very essence of an authoritarian institution. Too borrow the words of Marvin Harris, “In many ways, the rise of the state was the descent of the world from freedom to slavery.” In this way I am suspicious of states and their exercise of power.
So how do I reconcile these beliefs with my economic beliefs? First, where do I stand on economic issues? I think it’s hard to say, but I think I might consider myself a centrist. I recognize the limitations that completely free capitalistic markets have (so I’m not far-right), but I am also somewhat suspicious of leftist economic theories (e.g. that workers should own the means of production), particularly for a lack of empirical support (so I’m not far-left). (By “left,” I mean the traditional understanding of leftism, not how “leftism” is defined in American politics, e.g. the Democratic Party. Here I mean the left that opposes both government and completely unregulated and private corporations running the economy.) When it comes to economics, I prefer to observe the way it’s practiced and comment on that. For example, I observe that all modern and highly developed economies (i.e. the West) have achieved this through radical violation of free market principles. I observe that America has never been “free market,” despite claims by some on the right, and that it is actually a strongly state capitalist society that is defined by a sort-of “lemon socialism” and is involved in the market quite heavily. I also believe that decisions guided solely on profit-maximization (i.e. the profit motive) and self-interest (or egoism) are not in the best interest of society and lack moral justification, just as classical economists like Adam Smith and others keenly pointed out in their time. So if free and unregulated markets do not always lead to efficient or desirable outcomes and if the theories of the libertarian left are questionable, what alternative can we turn to? I don’t pretend to know the answer to this. If I were that smart, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog. I recognize that state capitalist systems have become abundantly wealthy, but also that there exist profound inequalities and sharp disparities within these systems, which breed conflict and economic inefficiency. Often, state power is wielded to the benefit of large corporations and the business class; I believe that if state power is to be used, it should be used to correct for obvious market failures (e.g. in climate change) and ensuring the most disadvantaged within society are afforded some protection.
Finally, I strongly support the anti-war movement and believe we ought to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy. I believe the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War were not only mistakes but also fundamentally wrong. I believe that jingoism is dangerous and that we should apply to ourselves the standards we apply to others. As far as Middle Eastern politics are concerned, I believe that we ought not to be so confrontational with Iran and that we should stop supporting Israeli war crimes (and I applaud the efforts of SCSU student Amber Michel and SCSU professor Fouzi Slisli to raise awareness for this issue).