left-wing authoritarians

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tom w

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Mar 26, 2007, 10:56:40 PM3/26/07
to The Authoritarians
Dr Bob,

I read your book with great interest. As a libertarian I share your
concerns about the rise of authoritarianism.

However I was surprised by your claim that authoritarians are usually
right-wing, when I have come to believe that the most thoroughgoing
authoritarians are on the _left_. Let me provide some examples. It was
the left (not the right) that invented modern totalitarianism, in the
form of Stalinist communism. It's the left that supports institutions
like communes in which "there is no private life." It's the left which
first believed that their political ideals could only be achieved
through revolution, and through violent imposition. It was the left
alone which believed, and continues to believe, that the _whole_ of
social life should be organized according to their ideals.

Let me anticipate an objection to what I've just said. You may object
that leftists no longer believe those things. However it appears to me
that the leftist zeal for control remains much stronger than that of
their right-wing opponents. Let me provide some more recent examples
than 1930s leftist radicalism. A recent example involves Robert Reich,
former labor secretary under Clinton and leading left-wing ideologue.
Recently he published an article in "Hope" magazine advocating that
all young people should be "drafted" and forced to perform "compulsory
service" in the military or in Americorps. In other words, Reich
suggested that we should instate a draft which requires all people of
a certain age, under penalty of imprisonment, to be assigned to a camp
or communal living situation in which they will be forced to perform
labor. It should be perfectly obvious that what Reich has suggested is
that we institute forced labor camps. I am not exaggerating, and I
choose my words carefully. Of course Reich didn't call it that.
Instead, he preferred some euphemism like "community service centers"
or something similar. But that's not surprising; the proponents of
forced labor camps always use some euphemism. Isn't it more accurate
to describe involuntary confinement in a camp with forced labor, a
forced labor camp?

To my amazement, quite a few people on the left agree with him. In
fact, quite a few people on the left have recently called for re-
instating the draft. Recall that it was the Democrats, not the
Republicans, who have called for re-instating the draft. But they
don't believe in the war! Instead, they believe in forced internment
_for its own sake_. Or (worse still) for the sake of "fairness", for
the sake of subjecting _everyone_ to command rather than just some.

And that is not the only example of leftist authoritarianism. Another
example comes from Canada, where the author comes from. In Canada
there was recently a law preventing people from procuring private
health services to save their own lives. In other words the state
required certain people to die who otherwise wouldn't, in order to
support the leftist social ideal of "fairness". Happily the law was
overruled by the high court in Canada. Unsurprisingly, however, almost
the entire left joined together in castigating the court and
expressing support for the notion that the state should occasionally
prevent certain people from attempting to preserve their own lives. Of
course they don't call it "state-sanctioned murder". When the
authoritarianism is their own, they prefer pleasant-sounding phrases.

These days, nobody on the right, no matter how extreme, has dared
suggesting anything so frankly authoritarian as labor camps or state-
sanctioned murder of people not convicted of any crime. Not once,
during my entire life, has such a thing emanated from the right.
Nobody on the right has ever suggested that an authority should be
given complete control over social life. Even the onerous restrictions
and powerful authorities of the traditional order, which reactionaries
wish to resurrect, grant far more liberty to the individual than any
socialist utopia. In fact, many leftists want to overturn the
traditional restrictions only to impose far more comprehensive
restrictions of their own.

I find it strange, therefore, when leftists castigate the right for
"authoritarianism" while remaining completely blind to their own
authoritarianism. That blindness was apparent in the otherwise-
excellent book, in which right-wing authoritarianism ("I believe
people should be forced by authority to adhere to the true religion")
is carefully examined but left-wing authoritarianism ("I believe
people should be forced by authority to adhere to my notion of the
Great Society") was ignored.

...The reason I bring this up is because I'm a libertarian who feels
he must vote Republican in order to avoid the extreme authoritarianism
of the left. I choose the lesser of two evils, the lesser
authoritarianism. And I suspect that most libertarians (who represent
about 14% of the population) vote Republican for that reason alone.

Which brings me to my final point. For the last few years,
authoritarianism on the right has been increasing, especially with
regard to the war on terror etc. This development has tempted many
libertarians to abandon the Republican party and perhaps vote
Democrat. In that vein, a cato scholar wrote an open letter called
"liberal-tarian" in which he suggested that libertarians would happily
vote for the left (and give the Democrats a majority) if the left
would simply abandon their own authoritarianism and stop talking about
the "Great Society", and stop pushing for the view that "The State
Should Control the Commerce (and the Health)" or whatever else. The
letter suggested that the libertarians and the democrats could unite
to expand social freedom and end the war. In response, the leftists of
the New Republic (where the open letter was published) suggested that
if the left _must_ make concessions to gain votes, it would be better
to court the religious right than to consort with free-market
libertarians. It appears that the editors of the New Republic would
rather have authoritarianism of all kinds than abandon their own kind.

...The book made some excellent suggestions about how to combat
authoritarianism. But most of those suggestions involved trying to
persuade religious fundamentalists to change their beliefs--a very
difficult task. Instead, perhaps you should try to convince the _left_
to change their beliefs? Or even change your own beliefs?

I don't believe the left or the Democrats could ever triumph against
authoritarianism if they make exemptions for when they do it. "Oh, but
that's _different_; when we do it, it's for _fairness_." In other
words, they support authoritarianism, but for their own program, not
their opponents' program. But that's not a very strong condemnation of
authoritarianism. If both sides agree on authoritarianism, then
they'll get it. They may disagree on how it should be used, in which
case one side will end up dominating the other, and the loser will
just have to live with it.

...If the Democrats abandoned their own authoritarianism then many
people who now vote Republican could switch parties. By abandoning
their own authoritarianism, the Democrats may discover some
unsuspected allies. The Democrats might even win more elections, who
knows. Perhaps the only thing necessary to defeat authoritarianism is
not to practice it.

Jeremy Salmon

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Mar 27, 2007, 1:45:31 AM3/27/07
to theautho...@googlegroups.com
>In Canada
>there was recently a law preventing people from procuring private
>health services to save their own lives. In other words the state
>required certain people to die who otherwise wouldn't,

hahahahaha

Yes, thank you for playing.

j

woozle

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Mar 27, 2007, 7:43:02 AM3/27/07
to The Authoritarians
You make some good points, tom w.

Dr. Bob said in at least one or two places (if I'm correctly
understanding him) that authoritarians tend to look toward the
dominant party -- or perhaps more particularly the "party of
authority", the party which most heavily plays on authoritarian drives
such as safety, leader dominance, unswerving loyalty, etc. -- which in
the current political era is the right wing, in both the US and
Canada.

He did also mention the existence of left-wing authoritarianism, and
mentioned some of the older examples you cite. The newer examples are
interesting, and worth keeping an eye on, and support your point
(which I think we're all agreed on, more or less) that
authoritarianism exists on both (or all?) sides of the political
spectrum.

It seems to me that political parties, by their very nature, are going
to attract some degree of authoritarianism in their core leadership.
This is also true of special interest groups. I have found it very
disappointing that neither any of the political parties nor any of the
special interest groups with any clout have seen fit to make use of
the forum technology on their web sites (where they've bothered to
install forums at all) to open up the question of "what do we believe
in?", tending instead to stick to "how can we make sure the laws *we*
want get enacted?" (at best) or "how can we get more money to pay
lobbyists?" (more commonly).

As a (slightly reluctant) member of the US Democratic party, I often
disagree with the Dems on various issues but at a much lower level
than the level of my disagreement with the GOP. If I had to choose
between illegalization of homosexuality/abortion/divorce/whatever and
excessive government Subsidization of Everything, I'll take the latter
-- but I'd be happier not having to support either one. I suspect that
the authoritarian-leader types on all sides are well aware that their
control rests partly on requiring people to stick to a menu of pre-
selected options (think "wedge issues" -- emphasis on carefully-chosen
but essentially irrelevant issues can send voter-sheep over to your
side in droves).

I think those of us who care about making up our own minds --
*regardless* of political position -- need to be gathering somewhere
online (preferably with a rich set of tools including forums, wiki,
and realtime chat) and working out what we agree on. Does any such
venue exist?

--

Had to respond to something you said, though: "Nobody on the right has


ever suggested that an authority should be given complete control over

social life." Isn't this exactly what the religious fundamentalists,
including GWB, want? This is very much why I fear the Right. Prove me
wrong, and I'll be much less worried.

chriscol

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Mar 27, 2007, 11:14:22 AM3/27/07
to The Authoritarians

On Mar 26, 11:45 pm, "Jeremy Salmon" <jdsal...@gmail.com> wrote:

> Yes, thank you for playing.

I tend to agree.

Hmmm.

(rummage, rummage)

I think I have a recipe for Troll Soup here somewhere.

(rummage, rummage)

Yes, here it is:

Take 1/4 cup reality. (see woozle below.)
Add 6 quarts fantastical broth.
Add 2 c paranoia and stir briskly.
Wait for flames....

robertdfeinman

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Mar 27, 2007, 12:05:43 PM3/27/07
to The Authoritarians
There has been some discussion about whether "right wing" is the
correct term. There have been many societies where the followers have
supported authoritarian leaders where the political outlook is not a
left-right matter. To take some examples:

The USSR. Those in the US who supported the USSR were (in general)
poorly informed as to what was going on internally. What they
supported was their vision of a utopian society based upon some
version of Marxist ideology. When they noticed discrepancies between
the actuality and the propaganda they tended to justify the abuses
with an "end justifies the means" rationale. Even though the USSR used
left wing terminology it was (under Lenin and Stalin) a typical
authoritarian dictatorship. In its later stages it was also a classic
kleptocracy with the ruling class getting benefits not open to others.

China. Under Mao the same dynamic existed as in the USSR. A strong
leader who required blind obedience and nationalized industry and
agriculture. The focus was not on the economic model but on the cult
of personality. The problems were more openly addressed in the US
after 1948, probably because there was no large group with historical
ties to China the way the old left had with Russia.

Nazi Germany (and Fascist Italy). These are taken as more right wing
because the governments created alliances with industry rather than
taking them over. The focus, however, remained the same - the fearless
leader.

So what authoritarian societies have in common is not the economic
system, but the focus on a strong leader and the requirement that this
person's orders be unquestioned. In extreme cases the penalty for
disagreement is imprisonment or death. The societies also have a
strong belief in the status quo and to that extent they can be
considered right wing as opposed to "progressive".

Libertarians cut across the left-right spectrum because their form of
utopianism is based upon a belief in a certain model of human behavior
(selfishness) which is as unverified as the Marxist or Nazi views of
the perfectibility of mankind. There biggest failing is not noticing
the contradiction between the claim for personal freedom and the
rights of personal property ownership, which need to be enforced by a
strong government.

I hope that this forum gets more libertarian visitors and that those
who disagree with them don't resort to insults or cheap shots, there
is plenty of this elsewhere.

I have a couple of essays on my web site about both the logical
inconsistencies of libertarianism and the need for a new way of
looking at social issues beyond the traditional left-right breakdown.

Here's a link to the top level page:
http://robertdfeinman.com/society

Freedem

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Mar 27, 2007, 1:43:22 PM3/27/07
to The Authoritarians
Having had a long email discussion with just such a Cato Scholar (two
computers ago, and I can't remember the name) about exactly that point
in early 2001, all the points Dr Bob hits on were coming out.

I finally managed to get him to agree to two different types of
Libertarian (for discussion purposes) one that saw only official
Government as the problem (type a) and those who saw any concentration
of power like MalWart, or regular government, as the problem (type b).
He insisted that most members of Cato were of the Type b sort, but
could not get away from being type a, and Cato has consistently been
in the type a camp.

I also have many discussions about the implications of type b on my
web page http://freedemocrat.blogspot.com/.

As to the original thoughts in the first post, there is a very huge
difference between participation and subjugation. As Dr. Bob (and
others) have pointed out it is in the nature of RWAs to miss this
point, and is key to knowing that most of the "authoritarianism" on
the left that you see is bottom up leadership while actual
authoritarianism is top down.

Insisting that everyone participate in decisions and the results of
those decisions, ensures that there will be better decisions, than
allowing them to be made without consequence to the "Decider". Like it
or not we in the US are part of the Enterprise called the United
States, as every living human is a part of the Enterprise called the
World, and we and our children will reap the results of our actions.
You might well object to our wanting to make it a nice place to live,
but none of us are likely to escape our membership in those
Enterprises.

On Mar 27, 12:05 pm, "robertdfeinman" <robert.fein...@gmail.com>
wrote:

Message has been deleted

rtqn

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Mar 28, 2007, 8:06:52 PM3/28/07
to The Authoritarians
Chapter 6 was dedicated entirely to the relationship between
authoritarianism and political orientation. Do you have any comment on
the political survey data correlating RWA scores with the party
orientation of elected officials? The RWA scores of right-wing
politicians seemed to be rather consistently higher than those on the
left. (cf the charts on pages 5 and 12)

As to Reich, I quite agree that compulsory service is an utterly
wretched idea, however it is hardly as uncommon within Western
democracy as your alarmist tone would seem to imply.

tom w

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Mar 28, 2007, 11:01:41 PM3/28/07
to The Authoritarians
On Mar 27, 4:43 am, "woozle" <wooza...@gmail.com> wrote:

> Special interest groups with [...] clout have seen fit to make use of


> the forum technology on their web sites (where they've bothered to
> install forums at all) to open up the question of "what do we believe
> in?", tending instead to stick to "how can we make sure the laws *we*
> want get enacted?" (at best) or "how can we get more money to pay
> lobbyists?" (more commonly).

Indeed, I've witnessed that too. I've noticed that if I visit either
left-wing or right-wing forums and post even a slightly dissenting
view, my posting privileges will quickly be revoked. Even when I'm
very careful not to be inflammatory, my posting privileges are still
revoked. Of course, they own the forum and it's their right to
regulate content. Nevertheless, I think it supports Dr Bob's
contention that authoritarian people tend to hear only one viewpoint,
and like to stick to their own kind.


> If I had to choose
> between illegalization of homosexuality/abortion/divorce/whatever and
> excessive government Subsidization of Everything, I'll take the latter
> -- but I'd be happier not having to support either one.

I definitely agree with that, insofar as the illegalization of (say)
homosexual behavior entails a coercive intrusion into private life,
whereas subsidization involves only money.


> I think those of us who care about making up our own minds --
> *regardless* of political position -- need to be gathering somewhere
> online (preferably with a rich set of tools including forums, wiki,
> and realtime chat) and working out what we agree on. Does any such
> venue exist?

I've never encountered any such forum, other than this. I'm sure they
exist, but they probably get drowned out numerically by the many
forums which exist to reinforce already-held ideas in the minds of
believers.


> Had to respond to something you said, though: "Nobody on the right has
> ever suggested that an authority should be given complete control over
> social life." Isn't this exactly what the religious fundamentalists,
> including GWB, want? This is very much why I fear the Right. Prove me
> wrong, and I'll be much less worried.

I don't think any right-wing person has gone that far, although their
suggestions are disturbing enough. Right-wingers may want to ban
pornography, ban homosexual relationships, require prayer, ban this,
require that, etc, etc. Still, there remains some domain in which the
individual can live and act. Even extreme right-wing religious
fundamentalist regimes allow well-defined rights for people, even if
those rights are fairly narrow.

On the other hand, I think it was the extreme left which first
suggested (at least in modern times) that there should be _no_ private
life, that the authority (as long as it was initially elected by a
majority) should be able to command anything whatsoever. I realize, of
course, that those leftists are numerically insignificant whereas
religious fundamentalists make up something like 25% of the country.
Still, I believe that those leftists are the more extreme
authoritarians.

tom w

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Mar 28, 2007, 11:11:44 PM3/28/07
to The Authoritarians
On Mar 27, 9:05 am, "robertdfeinman" <robert.fein...@gmail.com> wrote:

> So what authoritarian societies have in common is not the economic
> system, but the focus on a strong leader and the requirement that this
> person's orders be unquestioned. In extreme cases the penalty for
> disagreement is imprisonment or death. The societies also have a
> strong belief in the status quo and to that extent they can be
> considered right wing as opposed to "progressive".

Indeed, even when the authoritarian society was initially set up in
pursuit of an economic objective (as was the USSR), soon enough the
economic features became less prominent.

> Libertarians cut across the left-right spectrum because their form of
> utopianism is based upon a belief in a certain model of human behavior
> (selfishness) which is as unverified as the Marxist or Nazi views of
> the perfectibility of mankind. There biggest failing is not noticing
> the contradiction between the claim for personal freedom and the
> rights of personal property ownership, which need to be enforced by a
> strong government.

I should point out that I'm not proposing a utopia. And I'm not a
libertarian in the extreme sense of advocating no government
whatsoever. I'm a libertarian in the sense that I wish to prevent to
the concentration of economic, military, and political power within a
single agency. I'm a libertarian in the sense that I believe in
distributed

> I have a couple of essays on my web site about both the logical
> inconsistencies of libertarianism and the need for a new way of
> looking at social issues beyond the traditional left-right breakdown.
>
> Here's a link to the top level page:http://robertdfeinman.com/society

I read some of your essays. I found them quite interesting even when I
didn't agree fully. I'll read the rest when I have enough time.

tom w

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Mar 28, 2007, 11:31:32 PM3/28/07
to The Authoritarians
On Mar 28, 5:06 pm, "rtqn" <yottame...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Chapter 6 was dedicated entirely to the relationship between
> authoritarianism and political orientation. Do you have any comment on
> the political survey data correlating RWA scores with the party
> orientation of elected officials? The RWA scores of right-wing
> politicians seemed to be rather consistently higher than those on the
> left. (cf the charts on pages 5 and 12)

I do have one remark. Many of the questions on the RWA seem to
identify right-wing attitudes like religious fundamentalism. Therefore
it's unsurprising that ring-wingers will score higher on it. If it
were a test of authoritarianism in general (without regard to, say,
either religious fundamentalism or Marxism) then the scores could be
different.

> As to Reich, I quite agree that compulsory service is an utterly
> wretched idea, however it is hardly as uncommon within Western
> democracy as your alarmist tone would seem to imply.

Although compulsory service is common in western democracies, I
believe Reich was the first to suggest that it should be instituted
for its own sake even when there is no defensive reason for it.

I should also point out that compulsory service was first instituted
by the very European countries which succumbed to authoritarianism. In
fact, I'm relatively sure that that universal compulsory military
service, that the idea of making "every man a soldier", was either a
prussian or pre-nazi german invention. That fact may be more than just
coincidental. Of course, I'm not saying that compulsory military
service would turn us into Nazis or would inevitably lead to Nazism or
anything like that. Nevertheless, I think it's quite possible that
compulsory military service contributed to the rise of
authoritarianism in mid-20th century Europe. After all, can we be
surprised if young people in 1930s Germany, who were herded like
cattle themselves, for whom morality had already been reduced to
obedience, for whom personal goals must give way before the impersonal
machinery of the state, reacted by obeying the command to treat others
like that? I believe those young people may have been more resistant
to authoritarianism if they had grown up in an individualist
environment in which rights (including theirs) were respected.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that we're on the verge of some nazi
takeover or anything like that. I too resent people who say "IT COULD
HAPPEN HERE" which of course is an exaggeration. Or at least, it isn't
imminent.

Nor do I believe that compulsory military service in continental
europe is a serious danger to democracy there. However I do believe
it's a step in the wrong direction.

Ron Shepston

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Apr 8, 2007, 12:51:43 AM4/8/07
to theautho...@googlegroups.com
You make some good points if you lived in another time. Time to wake up. You're kinda outta touch with what's happening on the left as a reaction to the the rise of neocons . I suggest that you drag yourself to the present. While the past should not be ignored nor should the present and if you look around you won't find the authoritarians on the left among the leaders or prominent followers.

You do provide a good explanation for me. I've been actively involved in politics only since 2000 when I witnessed the rise of the neocons and the theocracy crowd. I've wondered how libertarians could possibly vote Republicans after seeing what's been happening for 6 years. How could you possibly miss that or think that it's going to change. You've seen the change on the left but you continue to believe and act as if nothing has changed. It's understandable but I'd expect a lot more from someone who does have a command of a fair amount of facts even if they are a bit old and based on outdated modes.


On 3/26/07, tom w <twe...@hotmail.com> wrote:

Ron Shepston

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Apr 8, 2007, 12:53:29 AM4/8/07
to theautho...@googlegroups.com
You really don't believe it can happen here?

Henry See

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Apr 11, 2007, 8:34:07 PM4/11/07
to theautho...@googlegroups.com
It has already happened "here".

Just don't expect that the scenario is word for word or that an
American manifestation of fascism will sport the same uniforms as
German fascism. The American character is different from the German
character. The conditions in the US today are not the conditions in
Germany in the thirties. Germany had been crushed by the Treaty of
Versailles. The US is the supposed lone "superpower". Germany had been
humiliated and bullied. The US humiliates and bullies.

When the Nazis came to power, they needed to use force against the
communists and socialists because there was an existing organized
opposition that had to be crushed. There is no opposition in the US,
organized or otherwise, so there is no need for open black boot
tactics. The two political parties are Tweedledum and Tweedledee,
playing good cop/bad cop as the script calls for it.

There have been, however:

Two rigged presidential elections that put Bush into office.

9/11 as the Reischtag fire.

The Patriot Act.

An illegal invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, killing
over 600,000 Iraqis and probably over 10,000 US soldiers (you don't
believe the official US casualty figures, do you?)

An international system of illegal and secret detention centres.

Torture.

A compliant media that perpetuates outrageous lies uncritically.

Spying on American citizens.

A phoney enemy whipped up to create a climate of fear in which the
above could take place: Arab terrorists and Islamofascists.

And a population that thinks "it can't happen here" to provide the
perfect cover. This assumption is so ingrained in so many Americans
who still believe they live in the freest, most democratic country in
the world, that it will take a tremendous shock, psychological or
other, to snap them out of it.

Mussolini defined fascism as the merging of corporations and the
state. Sounds spot on as a description of the US to me.

KAlmquist

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May 21, 2007, 9:39:41 PM5/21/07
to The Authoritarians
Two points. First a specific one.

> In that vein, a cato scholar wrote an open letter called
> "liberal-tarian" in which he suggested that libertarians would happily
> vote for the left (and give the Democrats a majority) if the left
> would simply abandon their own authoritarianism and stop talking about
> the "Great Society", and stop pushing for the view that "The State
> Should Control the Commerce (and the Health)" or whatever else. The
> letter suggested that the libertarians and the democrats could unite
> to expand social freedom and end the war. In response, the leftists of
> the New Republic (where the open letter was published) suggested that
> if the left _must_ make concessions to gain votes, it would be better
> to court the religious right than to consort with free-market
> libertarians. It appears that the editors of the New Republic would
> rather have authoritarianism of all kinds than abandon their own kind.

The Cato scholar is Brink Lindsey, and the response was written
by Jon Chait. Chait works at The New Republic, but the only
thing we can infer about the views of the other "leftists" at
the New Republic is that they thought the articles by Lindsey
and Chait were both worth publishing. The closest Chait comes
to saying it would be better to court the religious right is the
following:

In fact, the politically fertile terrain seems to lie in the
anti-libertarian direction. The most impressive Democratic
performances in 2006 came from candidates like Bob Casey,
James Webb, and Heath Shuler, who combined economic populism
with social traditionalism. The ideological counterpart to
this strategy would be to flesh out a kind of liberal-populist
fusionism, rooted in fighting the ways that massive inequality
and income fluctuation have undermined traditional family life.

Chait's basic assertion is that "wooing a small bloc with
unpopular views is not a sound political strategy" because it
is likely to alienate more voters than it gains. For example,
a Democratic candidate who opposed Social Security would likely
get more votes from libertarians, but fewer votes overall,
because Social Security is a very popular program. In the
passage I quote above, Chait is expanding on this theme. He's
not expressing a policy preference; he's talking about what type
of strategy might be effective in getting votes, and saying that
moving in a libertarian direction isn't it.

My second point is that when Bob Altemeyer talks about
authoritarianism, he's not talking primarily about political
views. As Altemeyer explains on pages 9 and 10 of his book:

A right-wing authoritarian follower doesn't necessarily have
conservative political views. Instead, he's someone who
readily submits to the established authorities in society,
attacks others in their name, and is highly conventional.
It's an aspect of his personality, not a description of his
politics. Right-wing authoritarianism is a personality
trait, like being characteristically bashful or happy or
grumpy or dopey.

You could have left-wing authoritarian followers as well,
who support a revolutionary leader who wants to overthrow
the establishment. I knew a few in the 1970s, Marxist
university students who constantly spouted *their* chosen
authorities, Lenin or Trotsky or Chairman Mao. Happily
they spent most of their time fighting with each other, as
lampooned in Monty Python's Life of Brian where the People's
Front of Judea devotes most of its entery to battling,
not the Romans, but the Judean People's Front. But the
left-wing authoritarians on my campus disappeared long ago.
Similarly in America "the Weathermen" blew away in the wind.
I'm sure one can find left-wing authoritarians here and
there, but they hardly exist in sufficent numbers to now
threaten democracy in North America. However I have found
bucketfuls of right-wing authoritarians in nearly every
sample I have drawn in Canada and the United States for the
past three decades.

I think it is possible for a libertarian to be an "authoritarian
follower." Let's take a look at the case Brink Lindsey made
for attacking Iraq <http://www.reason.com/news/show/32065.html>.
The fact that Lindey supported the war doesn't tell us anything
about whether he is an authoritarian follower. If we look at
his reasoning, though, we get some clues.

In answer to the question of why we should rush to war now,
Lindsey cites North Korea:

In 1994 President Clinton, with the help of former President
Carter, swept the Korean threat under the rug and trusted
that "nature," or something, would deal with that "devil du
jour." Now North Korea's psychopathic regime informs us
that it has nuclear weapons--a fact that vastly complicates
any efforts to prevent the situation from getting even worse.

This is largely fiction. Clinton addressed the Korean threat by
getting North Korea to cease producing weapons-grade plutonium.
North Korea did not declare that it had nuclear weapons.

Nor does it make any sense. We had assumed that North Korea
posessed a few nuclear weapons. A formal declaration by North
Korea to that effect would make no difference.

Remember the experiment which began with the Warsaw Pact making
some ambiguous moves? The low RWA teams took a wait and see
attitude, whereas the high RWA teams escalated. Lindsey
apparently thinks we should have gone to war with North Korea
in 1994, even though he can't identify a single advantage to
fighting a war in 1994 rather than later. This suggests that
Lindsey may be an authoritarian follower.

Lindsey went on to write a paragraph about Radical Islamism
in which he asserts that, "This is a fight to the death,"
but provides no argument to support that claim. There is no
indication anywhere in the article that Lindsey is even aware
that al Qaeda asserts that it is acting in self defense. While I
cannot prove this, my impression is that his opinions of Radical
Islam derived primarily from his imagination rather than from
an examination of the evidence. That is not to say that he is
wrong--the issue is not the content of his opinions, but how
those opinions were formed.

One reason Lindsey gave for attacking Iraq was:

If we proceeded to remove the Baathist regime from power, we
would make it extremely clear that the United States means
business in dealing with terrorism and its sponsors. All
those countries that continue, more than a year after 9/11,
to demonstrate their incapacity or unwillingness to root
out the terrorists in their midst (e.g., Iran, Pakistan,
Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, etc.) would have newly
strengthened incentives to do the right thing. On the other
hand, if all the tough talk against Iraq turned out to have
been hot air, U.S. credibility would sustain a major blow.
Al Qaeda would be emboldened by perceived American weakness,
and countries that have to balance fear of the United States
against fear of Islamists at home would all take a big shift
toward taking U.S. displeasure less seriously.

In a variant of the NATO/Warsaw Pact simulation experiment, the
Warsaw Pact was given a perfect ABM defense. This resulted in
an increase in agressiveness by the NATO teams, who usually
explained their actions by saying that "they wanted to send a
signal that they would not be intimidated just because they were
at a (hopeless) disadvantage." This concern with signalling and
intimidation seems to be a characteristic of authoritarian
followers.

Lindsey concludes:

Mueller's "What, me worry?" attitude captures perfectly the
prevailing opinion about Afghanistan circa September 10,
2001. The Taliban were more a punch line than a serious
foreign-policy issue; only the most fevered imagination
could see any threat to us in that miserable, dilapidated
country. The next day, three thousand Americans were dead.

We can't let that happen again.

It didn't take a fevered imagination to recognize, on September
10, 2001 that al Qaeda was a threat. It did require knowledge,
and prior to the 9/11 attacks relatively few people knew much
about al Qaeda. It also required the ability to put aside the
preconception that only entities strong enough to attack the
United States were other countries.

As for the Taliban, treating them as a punch line suggests a
certain callousness towards the Afghan people, but the Taliban
was no threat to the United States.

What Lindsey is really saying, if I am interpreting him
correctly, is that something bad happened that Lindsey didn't
expect, and that therefore we should be paranoid. Look at
the list of countries in the quote I gave earlier. Lindsey
is concerned not just about countries like Saudi Arabia and
Pakistan, where al Qaeda has gotten support, but also countries
like Iran, Syria, and, believe it or not, Lebanon. So I think
it is reasonable to conclude that what Lindsey is expressing is
not so much fear of al Qaeda as a more generalized paranoia.

In 2006, before writing his "Liberaltarians" article, Lindsey
indicated that his views had evolved.
<http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2006/07/25/confessions-of-a-former-and-
maybe-future-hawk/>

He says he's not sure whether he would support the invasion if
he had a chance to do it over again. He favors withdrawing from
Iraq, and no longer supports invading Iran.

He claims that, "As a libertarian, I have a healthy appreciation
of the law of unintended consequences." Never the less, in 2002
he didn't consider the possiblity that invading Iraq might help
al Qaeda, and in 2006 he still seems to be oblivious to that
possibility even though experts like Richard Clarke have said
that that is exactly what has happened. Authoritarian followers
seem to instinctively believe in aggression and have a hard time
assimilating evidence indicating that aggression may be
ineffective in particular circumstances.

Obviously I can't say for sure that Lindsey is an authoritarian
follower, but the ways in which his writings fit the authoritarian
follower pattern should make clear that there is no inherent
contradiction between being an authoritarian follower and being
a libertarian.

Kenneth Almquist

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