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Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. –H.L. Mencken

Provocations and Postulations: More Thick and Thin


Episode the Second, in which Aaron attempts to make common cause.

A quick addendum to my post from last week. I was listening to an episode of Jeff Riggenbach’s underappreciated audio series, The Libertarian Tradition recently. In this particular episode, Riggenbach is discussing Mark Lilla’s article in the New York Review of Books entitled “The Tea Party Jacobins”. Lilla’s article is very good, when it is not mistaking Glenn Beck for a libertarian and libertarianism in general as a populist movement. There a few other bad points, but you can listen to Riggenbach to get the entire picture.

While listening to “The New Libertarian Generation”, I started thinking about the Thick versus Thin debate again. Poor definitions of the word ‘libertarian’ are just as abundant in that debate as they are in Lilla’s article. The “Thick” argument still seems, to me, focused on defined steps toward enlightenment and/or control of the populace. To say that your conclusions and beliefs are so valuable they justify a government apparatus to promote them or to suggest that everyone must follow the same line of thinking is to negate the very idea of independent thought that is our starting point. I would argue that the problem with ‘thickism’ is the same problem that Riggenbach diagnoses in Lilla’s article:

“I am sure you’ll have guessed by now that the final major flaw in Mark Lilla’s otherwise excellent and provocate article on the Tea Party Jacobins from the May 27th issue of the New York Review of Books is its smug assumption that people like Mark Lilla really do know more than you do about how to best run your life and that they therefore have the right to force you to take their advice and run your life their way whether you like it or not. The fact is that, exactly as Mark Lilla fears, when people distrust authority in a generalized way and start thinking for themselves – often without much relevant information to guide them –  they’ll make many decisions that they’ll later regret. But whose decisions are they to make? Is it your right to make your own decisions about how you’re going to live your life  or does that right belong to Mark Lilla and his fellow progressives, because they smugly know that they’ll do ever so much better with it than you will? That’s the issue.”

Rather than debating about what to pair with the non-aggression principle to make the perfected version of libertarian philosophy, let’s all agree to leave libertarianism and the principle alone. Let’s use the non-aggression principle as the idea we can all rally around. Later, when the libertarian utopia is set up, you can choose whatever is best for you and I will choose whatever is best for me.

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