User:Leucosticte/9 January 2014 email to Susan Hogarth

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Hi Susan,

I was looking through some more of those usenet flamewars in which you were involved (yeah, I got bored again yesterday). In many cases, I was like, "Is there no other voice of reason here (aka, is there no one else in this conversation I agree with) besides Susan? Why does she always stand alone?" But maybe you seek out those types of situations, so that you're not preaching to the choir.

It could also be that libertarians often rapidly get burnt out on those kinds of discussions, and leave, rather than stick around long enough to accumulate numerical strength in those forums; another libertarian will come along and burn out, and then another, etc. so that it's kinda like snowflakes that melt when they hit the ground rather than glomming together and sticking (a chronic frustration to me in my school years, when I was hoping they would either delay school, cancel school, or let out school early due to inclement weather).

Anyhoo, they were promoting paternalism while you were standing up for the right of the individual. I think the logic behind paternalism is that one person can easily make a mistake, but if we pool our sovereignty (or perhaps I should say, if we are compelled to surrender our sovereignty to the collective), then the majority will serve as something like a checksum or parity bit to correct the errors of the individual. A libertarian society is like a series circuit or a RAID 0 setup, in their view. If one person errs and crashes, then he takes the rest of society with him.

So, they want to have a centrally-planned system; but then that creates a single point of failure. It's kind of like how the rest of your body can be perfectly healthy, but if your brain fails, then you fail as an individual (although if you're an organ donor, upon your death maybe your body parts can be transplanted into more successful individuals). Really, the main questions are, (1) can the individual fail without bringing down a whole bunch of other people; and (2) can the government cost-effectively stop the individual from failing without causing a whole bunch of other unintended consequences that are worse than the problem they're allegedly trying to solve?

In the course of mining for other nuggets of wisdom (my euphemism for "google-stalking"), I also came across some discussions in which people were criticizing your (and others') troublemaking, causing divisions, etc. within the LP by expressing dissident opinions. It seems to me that the whole point of having delegate bodies, committees, etc. rather than just one dictator over the party is so that we can have arguments over what is the best way to proceed. If we left it up to one person, then there would be no arguments, but it would be a single point of failure. However, if we have a pseudoconsensus by acting like we agree on stuff, for the sake of not upsetting people or "wasting" time arguing, then we defeat the whole point of having more than one decision-maker involved.

Thomas Jefferson famously said, "God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion". I think every once in awhile, most organizations, movements, companies, etc. need a good schism to stir things up a bit, if the creative destruction of outsiders doesn't suffice to get rid of the old and bring in the new. Organizations get bureaucratically complacent and stop being tolerant of dissenting opinions, so people have to break away. It happens pretty quickly sometimes; the Alien and Sedition Act was passed pretty early in the republic's history.

What bothers me most of all is that most libertarians don't seem to put a high priority on standing up for free speech, unless it's their own speech. If you're a dissident, you don't win, but at least you can make statements that will remain in the archives for someone like me to dig up later. As Charles Evans Hughes commented, "A dissent in a court of last resort is an appeal to the brooding spirit of the law, to the intelligence of a future day, when a later decision may possibly correct the error into which the dissenting judge believes the court to have been betrayed."

But if it's censored, then it won't even show up in the archives. So, the information is lost. What could be a worse evil than censorship? But there are people who see it happen and say and do nothing about it, lest they attract the same hostile reactions as those who were censored.

Cool, this email has reached essay length, so I can now refactor and post it elsewhere as such.