Monday, December 27, 2010

Political Blog Tip #3,501

You will not overcome an idealist by deferring to the probability of their vision taking actual form

...present company included.

Over at Cafe Hayek there has been some squabbling regarding some comments about health care being perceived as a "right." Needless to say I generally agree with the sentiments of the author - and I've certainly made similar points several times. Something somewhat unique about this post is one of the commenters (I'll let you spot him/her for yourself) who seems to be giving some of the regulars a rather hard time. And I don't mean a hard time in the usual sense - which usually involves a speudo-intellectual progressive throwing things against the wall to see if anything sticks.

I spotted him/her immediately as a left-leaning anarchist (a la Proudhon). No one else seemed to pick up on that (or at least they chose to be silent about it). That surprised me somewhat at first. It took several responses for me to realize they had no idea where he was coming from, and they were starting to spin their collective wheels in search of a response. At least one of them seemed to resign himself to the last-ditch effort of the "the real world can't work like that" argument. And, of course, this isn't immediately persuasive to the more idealist among us.

The problem, of course, is that an anarchist of that breed has read Proudhon and George and had (at some point) pushed prevalent political questions back to principles that have remained somewhat unquestioned by the other commenters - not so different than the way in which they so often dispatch typical liberal-progressive types with lines of questioning which average leftists probably don't take the time to consider. Against the anarchist, however, they seemed impotent at best.

At the core of the squabbling was the idea of property itself. It was clear that most of the commenters had simply taken the concept of property as a given, and never had stopped to consider that such a concept is purely abstract, and derived from social interaction and tradition. And once the rug of "property" was being pulled out from under them, they had little left to stand on.

Of course, there are some excellent defenses of the concept of property rights - and much better than the religious ones provided by Locke et al. A formidable ANCAP (say, Rothbard) could more easily grapple with the question at hand (as he did, actually, in For a New Liberty). But without the drive to question not only yourself but the beliefs you hold dear, you're subject to having that ideological rug pulled out from under you. And seeing so many people fumble with what, at least in name, is something so fundamental to them, it only goes to show that sometimes we're too docile when it comes to the ideas we ultimately adopt.

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